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Rabbi's Blog

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

Wrong Place Wrong Time

Wrong Place Wrong Time
By Rabbi Kushi Schusterman

“I was in the wrong place at the wrong time”, ever heard that quote? Isaac/Yitzchak our forefather was in the wrong place at the wrong time. 

A little background - There was a famine in Canaan and Isaac escaped by traveling to Egypt via Philistine. G‑d told Isaac to remain in Philistine where the famine was not as severe as in Canaan and the land was infertile and not good for planting.

The Torah tells us “And Isaac sowed in that land, and he found in that year a hundred fold, and the Lord blessed him."

You tell me, an infertile field during a famine is a good time to start a produce company? Seemingly Isaac was in the wrong place at the wrong time. However, we see that miraculously, he harvests a hundred times more than a field's normal yield. Success!!

My cousin, Rabbi Eliyahu Wolff from Israel, shared with me a thought that resonated with me. He explained that this story of Isaac is my story, a story about a Chabad Rabbi in Bel Air, Maryland.

Fraida and I will be in New York, this weekend, for the International Conference of Chabad Emissaries. Over 4,000 Rabbis from around the world (and over 1,000 lay leaders, including our own Michael Barnett) will be gathering to reJEWvinate and get inspired. They will be coming from Katmandu to Cambodia, from Shanghai to Brooklyn, from Bel Air, Maryland to Bel Air, California.

Each of these Rabbis have begun sowing and tilling a land that when they arrived was “spiritually infertile” and during a “spiritual famine”. They arrived to the wrong place at the wrong time.

The cities and towns that these Rabbis and their families have moved to was a place that had no Jewish day school, no kosher restaurants and/or kosher food, no Jewish neighborhood and at times no Jewish community at all. The times that these Rabbis have moved was during a very narcissistic age; when people had no time for Judaism and no time to invest in creating a special relationship with their creator, Hashem.

These families move and begin plowing, sowing, planting, watering, fertilizing - working day and night, working continuously, sometimes even without financial support. They are driven by the pure faith that that is what God expects of them; to fulfill the mission the Lubavitcher Rebbe entrusted them with - to make the world a better place with more mitzvot being fulfilled.

Thank G-d, in the end, they get to see the realization of the continuation of the verse “and the Lord blessed him…and find a hundred fold” - a hundred times more success than they ever imagined in the area entrusted to their care.

At first glance it may seem that the chances of Chabad’s success are low. But the test of time has proven otherwise. When they go with determination and faith and invest their whole hearts – the Rabbis get to see success.

Look out for tomorrow’s email – Join one of the community events; a service, meal or class

Joseph Lieberman will be the Keynote speaker at the banquet this Sunday, culminating the conference. Watch it live at www.HarfordChabad.org/Live  at 5:00pm.

Have a wonderful Shabbos,

Rabbi Kushi Schusterman

P.S. My cousin went on about financially supporting Chabad centers - if you want to do that, make a donation at www.HarfordChabad.org/donate :)

Just Answer My Prayers

Samuel, a Jerusalem lawyer, was on his way to court for an important trial and sadly, got a late start to his morning. By the time he got to the court house, all the parking spots were taken. He drove around five minutes, ten minutes, fifteen minutes, and no luck. Twenty minutes passed and he began to get desperate. After thirty minutes of circling the parking lot and the adjacent neighborhoods in utter futility, the time for his court appearance fast approaching, he turns his head heavenward and shouts, "Master of the universe! I swear I will give 10% of my earnings to charity each year, pray three times a day, start a Torah study group in my home, I'll wait six hours between meat and dairy foods, only just this: I need a place to park right now!"

 Just as he finishes this heart-wrenching plea, a guy pulls out of a parking spot right in front of him.

 Samuel turns to G‑d and says, "Never mind, I found a spot!"

Another Story: Eliezer the COO of Avraham’s (our forefather) home went searching for a wife for Issac the son of his “boss”. He too turns his head heavenward and says Behold, I am standing by the water fountain, and the daughters of the people of the city are coming out to draw water. And it will be, [that] the maiden to whom I will say, 'Lower your pitcher and I will drink,' and she will say, 'Drink, and I will also water your camels,' her have You designated for Your servant, for Isaac, and through her may I know that You have performed loving kindness with my master."  Genesis 24;13

Even before he finished speaking, and behold, Rebecca came out, who had been born to Bethuel the son of Milcah, the wife of Nahor, Abraham's brother, and her pitcher was on her shoulder. 

And a 3rd story: Moses is challenged as a leader, Korach and his henchmen say he is unfit and is a power grabber. He gives them a chance to redeem themselves and they don’t :( . Moses turns his eyes heavenward and says “But if the Lord creates a creation, and the earth opens its mouth and swallows them and all that is theirs, and they descend alive into the grave, you will know that these men have provoked the Lord." Numbers 16;30

As soon as he finished speaking all these words, the earth beneath them split open.

And a final story: King Solomon is building the temple and wants G-d’s presence to shine. Solomon raises his eyes heavenward and says  And now, arise, O Lord God to Your resting place, You and the Ark of Your might; Your priests, O Lord God, shall be attired with salvation, and Your pious ones shall rejoice with the goodness. O Lord God, do not turn back the face of Your anointed one; remember the kind deeds of David Your servant." Chronicles II 6;41

And when Solomon finished praying, and the fire descended from heaven and consumed the burnt offerings and the sacrifices, and the glory of the Lord filled the House.

Here are 3 cases where the Torah (and Tanach) tell us that someones prayers were answered immediately. 3 stories where people are trying to effect, real G-dly change revealing G-d in the mundane world. and are answered immediately  
Solomon revealed G-dliness on the Temple mount. 
Moses revealed G-dliness in the Jewish leadership. Both are answered as soon as they finish speaking.

Issac was a holy man who grew up in a holy environment, Rebecca grew up in a very unholy environment. Rebecca leaves a mundane world to create a holy family - t facilitate this G-d doesn't even wait for Eliezer to finish praying Even before he finished speaking G-d answers. 

So when you want G-d to answer your prayers, let me suggest you learn from Samuel the lawyer, make this world a holier place. Pray to G-d for Health so you can make this world a holier place. Pray to G-d for financial stability so you can make this world a holier place, and then do it make this mundane world into a more G-dly world.

See you at the Shabbos minyan 9:30 am followed by a sit down Kiddush.

Rabbi Kushi Schusterman

How do you treat your guests?

 How do you treat your guests?

There is a story told about the birth of the Baal ShemTov, the founder of the Chassidic movement. Reb Yisroel, more commonly known as the Baal Shem Tov, was born on 18 Elul, 1698, in Okop, a tiny village in Poldolia, Ukraine. His parents, Reb Eliezer and Sara, were known far and wide for their generous hospitality. They would send people to search the countryside for beggars who were in need of a place to stay. Then they would bring them to their home and serve them a delicious meal. Before the guests left, they made sure to provide them with provisions and money that would last for several days.

Eliyahu Hanavi (Elijah the Prophet) was once sent to their home to test their sincerity. Late one Shabbos afternoon, Eliyahu banged on their door, demanding a meal and a place to spend the night. He had a staff in his hand and a knapsack on his back-clear indications that he had been desecrating the Shabbos.

Reb Eliezer himself opened the door. "Gut Shabbos," he warmly greeted his guest. "Welcome to my home." Although Reb Eliezer understood that the beggar had violated Shabbos, he pretended not to notice and quickly invited him inside.

"We're in the middle of eating shalosh seudos (the third Shabbos meal)," Reb Eliezer told his guest. "Please, come and join us."

The moment Shabbos was over, Sara prepared an elaborate meal for the guest and then provided him with a comfortable bed. The next morning, Reb Eliezer and his wife prepared to send the beggar off with a generous donation, as well as provisions for the way. Not once did they mention a word about their guest's lack of Shabbos observance the previous day.

Just as he was walking out the door, Eliyahu Hanavi revealed to Reb Eliezer his true identity. "Since you did not shame me when I came to your house," Eliyahu told him, "you and your wife will soon be blessed with a son who will illuminate the world with the depths of his Torah."

The following year, Reb Eliezer's wife gave birth to a son. Eventually he grew up to become the Baal Shem Tov, the founder of the Chassidic Movement.

A message that we can learn from this is that not only is it important to host guests, it is important to make sure they feel welcome and that they know they are wanted. The way Maimonides puts it – escorting your guests on the way out is more important than welcoming them on the way in.

When a guest is fed and taken care of but is given a cold “send off” the whole experience seems like they were a burden.

Next time you host an event, keep this in mind.

Rabbi Kushi Schusterman 

How to save Judaism!

Did you read about the Pew research study about Jewish life in America?

In short: less Jews are affiliating in the old fashioned “membership” synagogues, more are in interfaith marriages, “Orthodoxy” is growing etc. There are all the pundits out there; Shmuly Boteach with his “three ways to give mouth-to-mouth to our dying community”, Jeffery Salkin saying we need real repairs not “a little spackle here and there” or Tzvi Nightingale from Aish HaTorah saying they are missing the exploring Jew.

The Baal Shem Tov taught that from everything you hear or see in this world you must find a teaching in how to serve G‑d. Therefore, I’d like to share with you a story.

When I was in California 2 weeks ago, I attended a Farbrengen (Chassidic gathering) for young adults who grew up in the Lubavitch community and want their children to “affiliate” with Lubavitch. The speaker, Rabbi Bistritsky, gave them his recipe for raising their children to be Lubavitchers. I think that his solution for the micro – Lubavitch would work in the macro – Judaisim as well.

Rabbi Bistritsky gave a parable from sports. The majority of children follow the same sport and are the fans of the same team as their parents. Why? Because the parents sacrifice for their team; whether it is with time, money or passion. Even the busy parents make that sacrifice. Even the ones who tell the Rabbi I don’t have time for a class – those same parents have time for the Raven’s game.

Rabbi Bistritsky implored these 30 year olds to follow this method: 1)Think “what does it mean to me to “live as a Lubavitcher”? and 2) Act – What sacrifices will I make so that I can say I live as a Lubavitcher?

So what is the solution for the macro? 
1)Think - what does it mean to me to live as a Jew? 
2) Act – What sacrifices will I make so that I can comfortably say – I live as a Jew?

Do you have another solution?

What is the next Jewish event you are going to attend in Harford County? No affiliation required :). See upcoming events here.

Rabbi Kushi Schusterman 

Words Matter

Hospital – host …."institution for sick people" first recorded 1540s. (Source Online Etymology Dictionary)

In Hebrew, a Hospital is a Beis Cholim - House for Sick People. The Rebbe referred to it as a Beis Refuah - a house of healing. Why? Because it’s a house that does good deeds and heals – not just a “host” for sick people. It’s a more positive outlook as well.

Lesson: words matter – be nice and be positive!

In the Torah portion that is read this Saturday,  in synagogues worldwide, there is an interesting verse that says “Of all the clean animals (tahor ) you shall take for yourself seven pairs, a male and its mate, and of the animals that are not clean, (ainenu tahora) two, a male and its mate.” It should have been written “Of all the clean animals (tahor) you shall take for yourself seven pairs, a male and its mate, and of the animals that are dirty (tamei), two, a male and its mate. But the Torah goes out of its way to use more words in order to speak avoid using negative words.

The Talmud learns from this: speak longer but speak cleaner.

Lesson: words matter – be nice and be positive!

At the end of this week’s portion we read of the birth of Abraham.  “And these are the generations of Terah: Terah begot Abram, Nahor, ….”

Abraham is known as “HaIvri” which translates as “the contrarian” – the reason for this is because he lived on the other side of the river. However, there is a deeper meaning to this. He was a contrarian that he did not allow society to determine his values.

He did what was right regardless if it was popular.

In last week’s Torah portion, we learnt that Humans were created in the image of G-d. We need to speak in a G-dly manner, use a language that is befitting the royalty that we are. If it seems like we are not popular because of it, learn from Abraham and be a contrarian.

As the sign on the wall in my aunt’s kitchen says: “What is right is not always popular, What is popular is not always right”.

See you on Shabbos,

Rabbi Kushi Schusterman

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