Printed from HarfordChabad.org

Rabbi's Blog

Rabbi's Blog

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

Sold My Soul

Question

Dear Rabbi,

I was listening to a freakonomics podcast about selling your soul. There was one man who throughout his life was willing to buy the soul of any atheist for $50. After many years, he finally found a seller. A paper was signed stating that the soul was purchased. It got me thinking; do Jews believe in souls? If yes, what is the Jewish view?

Sincerely,

Sold My Soul

 Answer

 Dear SMS,

That story is really interesting. I wonder why most atheists, who claim that there are no souls, would not sell theirs to him. Judaism believes in at least two souls; the life giving soul, a.k.a the selfish soul, and the G-dly soul that is spiritually focused, G-d focused.  The selfish soul is the one who gives us drive; a will to live and an interest in making progress. The job of the G-dly soul is to educate and teach the selfish soul that a relationship with G-d is one of the most enjoyable feelings a human being can experience. So can you sell your soul? Every choice we make throughout our day and throughout our week, we have to ask ourselves “am I selling my soul?” Is what I am doing a selfish act or will it make this world a better place and/or enhance my relationship with G-d.

Enjoy the yeshiva boys this Shabbos,

Rabbi Kushi

I'm Good Without G-d

Question

Dear Rabbi,

I wanted to ask you a question. I am not religious and I do not believe in G-D! I am a good person, honest in my business, a good husband and I volunteer.

What does G-D have to offer me that I don’t have already?

The skeptic

Answer

Dear skeptic,

You are a good person. The question is, WHY are you a good person? WHY are you honest in your business dealings? Is it because it is the societal norm?

When someone does a good deed, for example giving money to a needy family, why do they give it? Is it because it helps that specific person or because it makes the world a place where kindness is shared.

The famous ‘yiddishe mama’ tells her children: “finish your dinner, the kids in Africa are starving”. The children’s reaction: finishing my dinner won’t help the kids in Africa!

What does a relationship with G-d achieve? It adds meaning to the good that you do. By way of example; when an employee in a car factory, who has the job of connecting the brake pedal to the brake pads, sees himself as part of the car creation process, then he takes pride in his job. If not, then he can (and probably will) not hold himself up to the quality that his employer wants and may be the cause of an accident. When we do a good deed and see ourselves as part of G-d’s master plan, we realize that my good deed, in Bel Air, actually affects the hungry child in Africa. It is no longer an independent good deed, but one of the many good deeds that make this world into a better place.

 Have a great Shabbos,

Rabbi Kushi Schusterman 

Candle Lighting

Question

Dear Fraida (and Rabbi Kushi),

I noticed that by the Friday night candle lighting you covered your eyes and swayed. Is that a family custom? A Jewish tradition?

Lisa

Answer

Dear Lisa,

Shabbat candles represent and bring Shalom Bayit - peace in the home. Shabbat candles are a spiritual light, a light of holiness, as well as a physical light.

Many people take this moment of holiness to ask G-d for good things, peace in the home and/or any special request they may have. So yes, I think it is a nice tradition.Here is a story my cousin emailed me about the powers of Shabbat candle prayers.

Fraida

P.S.

Shabbat candles are also connected with this week’s Torah portion where we read about the metzorah, someone inflicted with the spiritual tzaraas malady.

The Mishna teaches that the entry into a building by a “metzorah” makes the building impure. The only time this is not so is when the owner of the house shows his displeasure in the metzorah being in the house. The owner must show his displeasure in ‘the amount of time it takes to light a candle’ (mishna negaim ch. 13).

Why is the impurity duration determined by the length of the candle lighting time? The commentators’ explain that maybe the landlord was lighting Shabbat candles and therefore could not turn to the leper and remove him. Hence, extra time is given to show displeasure. This time limit is determined as the timeframe to cause impurity in such situations.

In Torah everything is accurate. The fact that candle lighting prevents impurity reflects the inner relationship between the two.

As mentioned previously, Shabbat candles bring Shalom Bayit - peace in the home. Leprosy is caused by defamatory speech, the opposite of peace. Defamation causes separation and controversy. Shabbat candles - matters of peace - protect the home from being tainted by leprosy – relating to controversy and hatred.

This commandment brings physical light into the house; a Mitzvah that brings with it peace into the home. It also has the power to stand against impurity and protect the occupants from disagreement and hatred.

If we keep the commandment of Shabbat candles, the following verse will be fulfilled: "If you preserve the Sabbath candles – I will show you the Candle of Zion" very soon, in the Third Temple, G-d willing now!

Hope this helps

See you Shabbat morning

Rabbi Kushi

Weird Works

Dear Rabbi,

Thank you for everything. As you know I still do not have a permanent job, but I appreciate your efforts to help me with this.

            Thanks,

                 Still looking for work

Dear Still looking,

1)      Please resend your updated resume. The one I have is 5 months old.

2)      Be weird. It works.

Let me explain by sharing a story I heard when I was in Atlanta at Chabad Intown with my brother Rabbi Eliyahu for the last days of Passover.  While there I heard a story that I would like to tell you.  At lunch, my brother asked people to share something with the community. One man got up and said that after being unemployed for a long time, he got a job. He then thanked Rabbi Eliyahu for his intervention.

When asked how the Rabbi had helped, he replied that the previous week my brother had asked him to join the Chai Club, to make a commitment to donating regularly to the synagogue.  My brother had explained to him that we need to leave our comfort zone and to do something above and beyond (by committing to charity even when they don’t have money or even a job,) and G-d will go above and beyond in helping us. The challenge is that we need to take the first step. He did… and the very next day he was offered his present job. Weird works.

Weird works because it taps into a level above the normal cycle. As the Kabbalah explains, seven is a natural cycle. There are seven days of creation, seven days in a week, which is seven different ways in which  G-d expresses Himself. These are the  seven Middot (attributes of the emotions.). Eight is the experience of going above and beyond.  Our going beyond can elicit G-d's response. That can make all the difference.

I hope you find a job soon and I hope to be able to help. 

As always, don’t hesitate to contact me if I can be of any assistance.

              your friend, 

Rabbi Kushi

P.S. I know this concept may seem a bit weird, but weirdos outperform normals. See this article to find out more.

A Different Night

Question of the Week:      

So it's Pesach again. Another Seder night where we meet up with distant relatives we almost forgot about, to tell a story that we aren't allowed to forget about. Is it really necessary more than 3000 years on to still commemorate our ancestors' freedom from slavery in Egypt? Can't we move on to more pressing and contemporary issues?

Answer:

My friend, you are reading the wrong Haggada. The Seder is not just a memorial to events of the distant past - it is a dynamic process of freedom from the challenges of the present.

We are slaves. Slaves to our own inhibitions, fears, habits, cynicism and prejudices. These self-appointed pharaohs are layers of ego that prevent us from expressing our true inner self, from reaching our spiritual potential. Our souls are incarcerated in selfishness, laziness and indifference.

Pesach means "Passover". It is the season of liberation, when we pass over all these obstacles to inner freedom. On Pesach, we give our souls a chance to be expressed.

Reread the Haggada. Every time it says "Egypt" read "limitations". Replace the word "Pharaoh" with "Ego". And read it in the present tense:

"We were slaves to Pharaoh in Egypt" =

"We are slaves to our egos, stuck in our limitations."

How do we free ourselves? By eating Matzah.  After eating Matzah, the Israelites were able to run out of Egypt and follow G-d into the desert. Because Matzah represents the suspension of ego. Unlike bread, which has body and taste, Matzah is flat and tasteless - the bread of surrender.

Usually, we are scared to suspend our egos, because we think that we will lose ourselves. On Pesach we eat the Matzah, we suspend our egos and find ourselves - our true selves.

This night is different from all other nights, because on this night we let ourselves go, we liberate our souls to follow G-d unashamed. We say, "I may not understand what this means, but I have a Jewish soul, and somehow that is the deepest layer of my identity."

That soul is the innocent child within us is waiting to be free. This Pesach, let's allow that child to sing:

Ma Nishtana Halayla Haze...

Good Shabbos and Happy Pesach,

Looking for older posts? See the sidebar for the Archive.