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The Rabbi's thoughts culled from the "word from the Rabbi" in his weekly email

You Can't Change

Question

Dear Rabbi,

I saw a bumper sticker that said “Changing the world one mitzvah at a time” and it said Chabad Lubavitch in the middle. (image attached) You have told me before, that you don’t take responsibility for everything that every member of Chabad does. However I’d like to ask you. Do you think we can change the world? Do you see what goes on in the world? It’s a dark place…. 

R.U. Dreaming 
P.S. Here is the image

Answer

Dear R.U.,

We can change the world! You & I, and anyone willing to leave the status quo behind. The hard part about change is that it starts “at home”. So to change the world we need to begin with changing ourselves.

We find this in the 10 commandments of this week’s Torah portion. The 10 commandments begin “I am the Lord your G-d who took you out of Egypt” it does not say “I am the Lord your G-d who created the world”. For a G-d to create a world is easy. It’s the change of nature (even a nature that G-d created) that is amazing.

This took place when the Jewish people left Egypt. Our Sages relate during that time "not one slave could escape from Egypt", and against nature a whole nation went out. The sea split against its nature, to allow the Jewish people to go through it.

So too we can change the world and nature. How? G-d gives us the tools. One Mitzvah - One connection with the infinite – at a time. Leave your comfort zone and do a mitzvah - a good deed.

Hope this helps,

Rabbi Kushi Schusterman

Connect, Grow, Share

Question

Dear Rabbi,

I am offended! I saw your email about tu B’shevat and read a bit about it. What’s this that it says in Deut. 20;19  “for the man is the tree of the field”? I am not a tree, I am a person – not an animal, and definitely not a tree.

Sincerely,

Mr. Hu Man

Answer

Dear Hu,

You are right! This Shabbat will be Tu b’Shvat, the 15th day of Shvat, the New Year for trees. This holiday is not only for trees, or a botanist’s holiday, but it is a holiday for all people. Additionally, there is a Jewish tradition to eat fruits onTu b’Shvat.

While people are not trees, there are lessons that we can learn from trees about character traits that we do not have naturally.You see, the human does not always see his or her connection to G-d - his actual life force. A human stops growing in his teens and stops bearing fruit at a certain age. On the other hand, the tree is always connected through the ground to its life force, its roots. A tree grows and continues to grow during its entire life. Furthermore, a tree does not only grow but it gives fruit that can be shared and give pleasure for all of its years.

So while you may not be a tree, you should consider becoming one. How? By implementing these three characteristics: Connect, Grow, Share.

1.     Be connected to your life-force, G-dliness.

2.     Continually grow in your service of G-d.

3.     Share what has enhanced your spiritual life with others.

So now take the passion you had when you were offended and passionately share this message with someone else.

Rabbi Kushi Schusterman

P.S. Will we see you at Shabbat services?

Exclusive - Go Home

This Seder is exclusive, only those with tickets can come! 

 Pesach (Passover), the holiday commemorating the birth of theJewish people, seems to not celebrate a people but family. We see this in the times of the Temple that the Passover Lamb was only allowed to be shared with those who were assigned to it. Usually, each group comprised of family and extended family and at times two families joined together. Now, without the sacrificial limitations, we are still enjoined by the Torah to relate the story of Pesach to our children; keeping the tradition of 'family seders', as it is written: “You must relate the story to your child".

One of the lessons learned from this is that true freed begins at home. The family—not the Temple, nor the synagogue— is the center of civilization. It is in the home where people are molded. (Want to hear more on this? reply for audio of this weeks class.)

The Torah is telling us, that everything must begin in the home. It is at home that lessons are learned and love is nurtured.

Judaism understands that what matters most, occurrs not in boardrooms, but in kitchens; not on the desks of CEOs but in the arms of mothers and fathers cuddling their children and sharing with them the story of the human potential to liberate itself from the confinements of instinct, selfishness, hate and superficiality.

On Pesach (Passover) the Torah tells us: You want to become a nation and change the world? Go home!

See you on Shabbos

P.S. RSVP for your Public seder www.HarfordJewish.com/Passover

Rabbi Kushi Schusterman 

Service and Comfort Zone

 “Let my people go…” – it’s an inspirational message. There are those who say, that this quote from the Torah was the inspiration for the “abolitionist movement”. Looking at the end of that same verse it says “so that they may serve Me”.

Moses defined the goal of freedom from Egypt, in order to serve G-d. This is mentioned again later, as G-d himself says later “For the Children of Israel are My servants”.

What is service of G-d?

Serving G-d is more following the commandments of the Torah. That is being a slave to G-d. Serving G-d is doing something outside of your comfort zone. Its making the effort to do something that G-d wants, because that is what He wants.

Here is a link to a story that illustrates this point.

Have a good Shabbos and please join us 9:30am for a Rosh Chodesh – Shabbos service.

Rabbi Kushi Schusterman

A Mezuzah Story

In Montreal there is a Sofer, a Scribe who happens to be my brother in law. Last week when Fraida and I were there, visiting her parents, we had our Mezuzot checked.

In our home we have mezuzot on all our doors, excluding the restrooms.  Mezuzot are supposed to have a  maintenance checkup at least twice in seven years to make sure they are in working order. That the ink didn't rub off -no water damage etc., Thank G-d they were all fine except one that had a bit of water damage and needs a waterproof case.

While doing research on the mezuzah, I came across this fascinating story from 1900 years ago. Below are the pertinent details.  All the details click here.

Onkelos was a member of the Roman royal family. He traveled from Rome and started out for Jerusalem, in the land of Judah. Once there, he took upon himself the religion of the persecuted Jews and converted. He became a disciple of the great Rabbis who were disciples of Rabbi Jochanan ben Zakkai. He gave himself over entirely to the study of the Torah. His perseverance and dedication were so great that his teachers became concerned about his health, but Onkelos continued learning day and night until he became well-versed in all the secrets of the Torah.

After a short time the emperor Hadrian found out that his nephew Onkelos had accepted the Jewish religion and had become one of the foremost Jewish scholars. The emperor was beside himself with rage, and he sent a company of soldiers to arrest Onkelos and to bring him in chains to Rome.

Hadrian sent 2 troops who failed their mission and converted. when he sent the third troop he sent a company of troops with high officers at the head, with the express orders not to say one word to Onkelos and not to answer any questions, but to arrest him immediately.

The messengers arrived and started to carry out the emperor's orders without delay. They led him out of his. house. At the door Onkelos stopped, and joyfully kissed the Mezuzah.

The messengers gazed at him in wonder, and could not restrain themselves from asking him:

"What does that thing on the door symbolize, and why are you so happy at being taken to Rome, where your uncle will surely have your head chopped off?"

"I laugh at foolish people. A king sits in his palace and has guards around him to protect him from danger. But the Jewish King, the L-rd of the world, allows his servants to sit quietly at home and He protects them from outside. That is the Mezuzah on our door!"

The royal messengers fell entirely under the influence of Onkelos's words and it did not take long before they also became his faithful disciples.

What do you think the message of the mezuzah was to them that it had such an effect on them? Whats the message of this story for us?

Email me your thoughts 
or 
join us for TGI Shabbat, Friday night services 6pm followed by Chicken Soup and we will discuss it.

Have a good shabbos,

Rabbi Kushi Schusterman

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