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Rabbi's Blog

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

A jolly border fiasco

On our way to Montreal for Simchat Torah, we had the wonderful opportunity to spend a day together as a family, in the van. Usually the trip takes about 9 hours of driving and 1 hour of stops. Good friends were visiting family who live ‘on the way’ and, being that it is Sukkot and we are careful to eat and drink only in a sukkah, we made an extra stop to see them for lunch and break up the trip.

Those who say l’Chaim on alcoholic beverages in Canada know that the taxes are exorbitant. Therefore, we stopped at duty free to grab a bottle and then headed to an alternate, less travelled border to save ourselves the “2 hour” delay at the main border.

Arriving at the border, there was a backup with over 100 cars and only one booth open. The two hour wait we had wanted to save ourselves got us a 4 hour delay before we finally crossed into Canada. Frustrating? Maybe. Tired children? Yes. Tired adults? Of course. But it was good and joyous. You see, while waiting we got to walk around on the shoulder and count the cars, we got to have some fresh air, we met people listening to the cubs games and some fellow Jews going to Montreal. We had the opportunity to dance; celebrating the Joy of sukkot - the festival of rejoicing.

I may never know why Gd’s plan was for us to hang out for 4 hours on a 1 mile stretch of highway but I realized something about Joy.

Joy is not crossing the border after a 4 hour delay,  joy is realizing that you are where you are supposed to be. Joy isn’t resigning yourself to your fate, joy is celebrating the situation. Joy isn’t kvetching, joy is kvelling – even in a less then optimal situation.

As my family and I celebrate in Montreal, join the Harford County Jewish community on  Thursday evening at 6:30 PM, in celebrating the holiday of Simchat Torah.

Join the crowd and dance the night away! My hope is to get back and hear “Rabbi, you thought it would be a short service? It turned into hours of dancing and celebrating”. I hope to hear “you missed the party, next year you got to stay!” That is my hope! Regardless of what happens, I will be full of joy, recognizing I am where I should be, celebrating the situation and kvelling.

A gut Yontif, and a gut Shabbos!

Rabbi Kushi Schusterman 

When it rains - eat in the sukkah

 By Rabbi Aron Moss


Question of the Week:

If it rains during Sukkos, we don't have to sit in the Sukkah, correct? So why have I seen people who continue to sit in the Sukkah, even when it is pouring?


Sitting in the Sukkah is the only mitzvah that if you're bothered by it, you're exempt from it. Usually, even if a mitzvah is hard, you have to do it. Like fasting on Yom Kippur. Some people are bothered by not eating or drinking for 25 hours. But you still have to do it. And yet if sitting in the Sukkah bothers you, like in wet weather, you can leave the Sukkah and eat inside the house. 

But many will never eat out of the Sukkah, no matter what the weather is. For them, eating inside in a dry home would bother them more than eating outside in a leaking Sukkah. When you understand what the Sukkah is, you'll see why.

The Sukkah is a holy space. You are sitting in a divine abode, under the heavens, with the stars shining down on you, surrounded by angels and the souls of our forefathers. Our sages teach that we are only worthy enough to enter the Sukkah straight after Yom Kippur, when our souls have been cleansed and we are at our spiritual peak. And the mystics say that the Sukkah may look like a hut made out of wood and branches, but in truth it is a made of holy names of G-d.

The weather may be a little unpleasant, it may be a little squashy in there, and your palm allergy may be flaring up. But the inner serenity, the love and feeling of connection with those around you, the sense of being embraced by G-d, all that should override any physical discomfort. If you're still not enjoying the Sukkah, then you're not really in the Sukkah in the first place, and you can go inside. But if you know what your missing, you won't want to leave.

There are moments when we are called upon to transcend the material world. Sitting in the Sukkah is one of those moments. A little rain, or even a lot, can't stop that.

Good Yomtov,

Rabbi Moss

NOTE: On the first night of Sukkos, even if it is pouring with rain, we make Kiddush and eat a piece of Challah in the Sukkah according to all customs.

To subscribe to the weekly Rabbi Moss email CLICK HERE or email 



the world is pregnant


As we stand on the threshold of a New Year, we would like to capitalize on the powerful energy afforded us to offer our blessings and wishes to you and yours.

We say “Hayom Haras Olam”, today the world trembles, during Rosh Hashanah prayers. The word Haras also can mean pregnant and thus the passage translates as “today the world is pregnant”, pregnant with possibilities!

Our blessing to you and yours is that the possibilities G-d has afforded you, and continues to afford you, be capitalized to its fullest. May you see the inherent G-dly potential in yourself and take advantage of it to its fullest. May the potential you see in others empower you to uncover their inherent good. May your inner reservoir of good health, and of those you love, be released for continued sustained health and into healing where it is needed. May you make the most of the opportunities to amass material blessing.  May you use your blessings to do even more good and increase G-dliness in the world around you. May the inner oneness of our People be released to manifest true unity. And may the inner purpose of creation be actualized with the coming of Moshiach now!

K’siva V’Chasima Tova, Leshana Tova Umesukah – May you be inscribed and sealed for a good and sweet year! 

Best wishes,

Rabbi Kushi and Fraida Schusterman 


Speak nicely


Before Rosh Hashanah we take stock of our year. We take account of what we need to improve in and make resolutions to make amends.

One of the things that frustrates me is hearing people speak negatively about others. It can be about the friend they got into a fight with, an organization that is too liberal or not liberal enough or the community member that is being spoken about as a covert mouthpiece for a specific political party.

We need to recognize that we are one people! We do not speak badly about those who are close to us. Just as we do not speak negatively about our children, we cannot speak negatively about our fellow Jew.

In 1990, an Orthodox Rabbi spoke publicly and not positively about his fellow Jews. That Shabbos, the Rebbe responded (this is an excerpt from the endnotes of the book “Rebbe” written by Joseph Telushkin):

‘We must remember that all Jewish people are one single unified entity... We must appreciate the importance of speaking positively and the detrimental effects of speaking negatively.... Criticizing or speaking unfavorably about any portion of the Jewish people is like making such statements against G-d Himself…

… Those who were spoken negatively of should know that these words will have no effect on them. On the contrary G-d will bless them both in material and spiritual matters with good health and long life.’

This upcoming year, I invite you to consider leaving all the negativity behind.  Try to lay aside the fights and disagreements. At the minimum, do not let them leave your lips. And then, we will be blessed as a people with success, both in material and spiritual matters, with good health and long life.

Have an amazing Shabbos,

Rabbi Kushi Schusterman

Get in, now!

Last week, I visited an old friend and ended up having a chassidic farbrengen discussing a famous chassidic parable. Questioning the parable, my friend shared a powerful thought: where is the field that we need to go to see the king?

The parable goes like this: During the entire year, when the king is in his palace, there is no possibility for an audience with the king for most of the common folk. Of those who hope and apply for an audience, only a select few are actually granted one.

There comes a time, however, when the king is not in the capital city but out in the field. While there, every one of his subjects can go to greet him. The king graciously receives each one of them and shows a happy and radiant face, granting them their requests.

The king is then escorted back to the city by those who have come to meet him. Upon entering his palace, once again, only a select few are granted an audience. However, those dedicated subjects who greeted the king are now part of that exclusive group, and are permitted entrance into the throne room.

This parable parallels our relationship with G‑d during the High Holiday season.

Throughout the entire year, G‑d is reachable through following the Divine will: His precepts - the mitzvot, and immersing in His wisdom, the Torah.

An individual may feel, however, that he is not following the correct path; his passions are not holy and therefore he is not living according to G‑d’s blueprint. This individual is akin to the citizen who left the populated capital city and goes off to the unpopulated fields, or even further, into the woods or desert. He has wandered away from the King’s capital. Sensing how distant he is, he might feel totally estranged with no connection to the King.

In His great love for us, during the month of Elul, G‑d goes out to the fields making Himself available to all. This outpouring of love uplifts and encourages, even those of us who may feel very distanced due to our actions. When we see how G‑d graciously receives us in the field, smiling and granting our requests, we resolve to once again reconnect and conduct ourselves in a manner befitting a loyal subject of the King.

So my friend says to me: where is the field?? We need to go out into the field to greet the King! 

Then, answering his own question, he points to the table and says: here! Right here!

Throughout the year, we view the physical world as a barrier to G-dliness. We need to convert that barrier into a tool to infuse spirituality into the world. However, during the month of Elul, the physical world represents spirituality the way it is infused into the physical; it is no longer food but a tool to serve G-d, it is no longer a tree, it is G-d’s creation.

Will you view the world from this perspective? Do it now and you get to keep that perspective when G-d goes back into the palace.

The analog continues: come the High Holidays and we escort the King back to the capital to settle there once again. Furthermore, we can actually join Him in His inner chamber.

Have a good Shabbos!

Rabbi Kushi Schusterman 

Blow up the wall

In relationships, we often build walls between us and the ones we love. Those walls are made from single bricks, each brick related to a hurtful moment, a time when my spouse/friend/partner turned away from me. The walls can grow so big that you cannot look past it or get around it. The wall is built and you think the relationship is over!

While the wall is built gradually, the only way to get rid of the wall is to blow it up! Yes there will be a mess, there will be bricks and mortar that need to be picked up one at a time, but the explosion is instant.

We are now in Elul, a month of introspection. In Elul, we reach out to G-d to bring down the wall we have built throughout the past year. We’ve exhibited signs of ignorance, carelessness, at times we’ve neglected the relationship, approached Judaism with the wrong attitude, and our ego has helped us with self-justification every time we messed up.

So now, in the month of Elul, we tell G-d that we will blow up this wall that we built; today, I am a new man! Today I begin to pick up the pieces and rebuild my relationship with you!

How do we do this? 

1) By being more conscious and less careless 
2) By telling you daily that I want to have a relationship with you, by saying the Shema 
3) By adding oil to the lamp of our relationship 

The Zohar says: The body of man is a wick, and the light (soul) is kindled above it......"The light on a man's head must have oil, that is, good deeds".

So I will increase in the good deeds that I do to ensure there are light and heat in our joint home without a wall ;).

Have a good Shabbos!

Rabbi Kushi Schusterman

Why I Think Billy Joel Missed The Point

By Rabbi Nechemia Schusterman - Chabad of Peabody

Like many of you, my facebook feed was filled with people who shared that Billy Joel wore a yellow star at a recent concert, the kind worn by Jews during the Holocaust. He did this in solidarity with Jews, and against hate.

To be clear, I think the sentiment, that he stands with fellow Jews (it appears his parents are Jewish, making him Jewish) and against hate, and standing up in such a bold manner is incredibly powerful and brave. He is to be lauded to for standing against hate, in a hostile world that has anti-Semitism simmering just below the surface.

Having said that, I think he missed a really great teaching moment. Let me explain.

His point, was obviously to make a bold statement, that I am against hate, and I am supportive of Jews. However, as we’ve heard in politics so many times, you need to be the party that is for something, not the party that against things.

The Holocaust, is a critical part of our past, and a part of history, that is etched into our souls, that has spawned that "NEVER AGAIN" is the mantra that we live and repeat always. However, the core of our religion cannot be only that of "never again." You know why? Because, sadly, just 70 years after the horrific destruction wrought by the Holocaust, people, particularly, children, teenagers, yes, millennials too, have forgotten or don’t want to hear about it anymore. If they do, it is just the basics, they don’t want to hear all the gory details of what happened that lead to NEVER AGAIN.

At our Hebrew School, one parent chided me for frightening the children when I tried to very delicately discuss the generalities of what happened and why it is important to remember.

If our whole identity is wrapped in the that horror of the past, then we are guaranteed that it will not be NEVER AGAIN FOREVER.

Try this on for size, imagine Billy Joel had put in a Kippa instead? (Pun intended). Rather than telling the world what happened, he’d be explaining what we are for, and why NEVER AGAIN, should indeed never happen again. Not just because such despicable and wanton murder and plunder ought not be allowed to happen again, but more importantly, because, we the Jews stand for something.

We stand for Gd. We stand for values. We stand for living for a higher ideal. We are “light unto the nations” with a message for all humanity. We are here. We are here to stay. We have a message for all of you. We will speak loudly, clearly, boldly, unwavering an without a stutter, “We have a mission to heal this world and make a dwelling place for Gd above.”

It is not, Gd forbid that the yellow star did not make a good and salient point. Of course it did. It is just that the Yamukah would have made a much better and stronger point. It would have said what we are for, rather than what we are against.

This concept exists in every arena of life. Politics, family and business, and even Jewish life. We are not only Jews for the things that are the tragedies of life (what I will call the things we are against). Including when Holocausts (personal or public) Gd forbid arrive, or when there is marching in Charlottesville, or when someone passes away, or a serious holiday arrives (think Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur that are upcoming). 

We are Jews even when things are quiet, and no one is chasing us, and it is an ordinary Tuesday in middle of February. We are Jews then too. We tend to show up on the scary days-think Yom Kippur, but skip out on the fun ones! We are Jews on Simchas Torah and Purim too.

So, Mr. Billy Joel, you are to be commended for standing up in the face of bigotry and hate. For that I an many others, including Gd I believe, bless you.

However, to those of us hearing the message, see him in a bright yellow Kipah and not only the star, and then we will have really heard the message he was sending.

There is s story told of a prominent Jewish leader who suggested that the Rebbe tell all his Chabad followers to add an extra chair, that would remain empty, at the Passover Seder to commemorate those missing because of the Holocaust. The Rebbe wisely replied, that he would encourage an extra chair at every Seder, but to be certain to fill it with another person who'd otherwise not have been at the seder. Doing something commemorates those who perished, not an empty chair.

The point; Judaism must be about what we are for, not what we are against, that will ensure its continuity.

Good Shabbos, and Happy Chodesh Elul!

Rabbi Nechemia Schusterman

P.S. My good friend @Dovid Weinbacum posted this on Facebook 

Ethan Ertel you are one amazing kid... You are proud of who you are and what you stand for. As I was sitting at the US Open and watching you ball boy with your Kipah on your head I thought to myself there are so many adults who can learn from you of what it means to be a proud Jew. Thank you for teaching me. Jacques Ertel" 

Kippah at US Open.png

Can you fly?

Happy Thursday :) 

G-d willing tonight I will sleep in my own bed for the first time this week. Thank G-d it was a busy week; learning, teaching, helping other Rabbis and a CEO to enhance their synagogues and businesses respectively, and their lives as a whole.

My travels took me on 3 flights to 3 states. I noticed that on all three flights (note: these trips were alone without my wife and our children) the noisiest part of the flight was from takeoff until we broke through the clouds. There is a known teaching of the Baal Shem Tov: "Every single thing that a person sees or hears is an instruction to him in his conduct in the service of G‑d". 

Which got me thinking; what can I learn from this extra noise and why specifically at that part of the flight process?

Just like an airplane needs to combat the natural forces that would cause it to fall or remain on the ground in order to fly, so too we need to combat our natural force, our "ego" or "self", that does not allow us to soar spiritually. These forces can take on many forms like preconceived notions, self-talk, e.g. "I can never go kosher", "there is no way I can keep Shabbos", etc. or others.

When we start to fly and are struggling against those forces, there is a lot of noise. Sometimes, it is an external noise: "you eat kosher?!" or "I didn't know that you became more observant". Other times, it is an internal noise: "c'mon, just taste it" or "what will my friends say?" etc. It is true, for the first “10,000 feet” it is hard, it is noisy, you cannot use approved electronic devices, your seat belt must remain fastened etc. Then, the noise slowly fades and you keep climbing. You can now use electronic devices (excluding Shabbos). Having reached cruising altitude, you can get out of your seat and move around. Nonetheless, do not become complacent at your new level, if you are not vigilant, you may hit turbulence or other complications and you will need to refasten your seatbelts just to stay safe.

Ignore the noise, make sure you did the correct safety checks and get ready to fly, get ready to get high in honor of the High Holidays.

Rabbi Kushi Schusterman 

P.S. I found the technical answers to plane noises online, here


Fraida and I have been doing a bit of traveling with the kids over the summer. Travel is fun and exciting. For one child, the packing of her very own suitcase is thrilling, for another, it’s playing with cousins and for the third, visiting the beach is the highlight. Just visiting the west coast is an experience; add grandparents, aunts, uncles and some cousins and you just multiplied the enjoyment.

One of the challenges of traveling with a family is the baggage. The strollers, suitcases, food, etc. can be a lot to maneuver. And the two (if both are present) adults only have a limited amount of hands. In short, it can be a daunting task. 

When you arrive at the airport, you can pay a few dollars to rent a baggage cart that can hold your bags. Problem solved? Not entirely! The baggage cart can only hold so much. If you put too much baggage on the cart, the luggage will fall. 

In life, we all carry baggage; hurts, pains, old fights, resentment of things that happened many years ago, etc.

Over these trips, I have gained a new perspective regarding baggage. You can have baggage but you are limited in space. You can only carry a certain amount. If you want to carry some of your loved ones’ baggage, you can! If the load gets too heavy, you can get a luggage cart to help you manage it. Other people’s baggage? Please leave it on the baggage carousel; let them carry their own.

With High Holidays around the corner, it is prime time to think of some of the extra baggage you can remove from your life. Are you holding onto resentment that is causing harm to your relationships? Is something that you are carrying causing you to feel disconnected? Do you feel that the past is weighing heavily on your shoulders? Think of something you can do to relieve yourself of that burden. It is not baggage you should be carrying!

Have a ‘light’ Shabbos,

 Rabbi Kushi Schusterman 


Do you know the answer?

Currently, I am reading (Thank you Marianne for the suggestion) "The Confidence Game" by Maria Konnikova which explores the mind of the con man. At the end of the book, she shares her knowledge to help people stay ahead of scams and potential pitfalls. She writes "The final mode of attack - one that is, in many ways, fundamental, is knowledge, pure and simple."

This brings me to a thought on this week's Torah portion. Children question their parents about their beliefs, lifestyles and choices. Many times we do not have an answer to our children's questions and we tell them "I don't know". However, when we are prepared for the question and have time to formulate a good answer, that is ideal.

Some common questions: How do I know Judaism is true? What are all these rules and laws that Judaism imposes on us? Is it worth it?

Have an answer ready! "Because our ancestors, with a traceable chain, passed down the traditions from when G-d took us out of Egypt, gave us the Torah and brought us to Eretz Yisroel."

"We were chosen by G-d to have a relationship with Him that includes limiting our relationship with others. We need to make sacrifices to keep that relationship alive! While, it is not necessarily easy, it is absolutely worth it! The relationship is deep, meaningful, good for us and keeps us alive and vibrant."

This is how I understood the verses below: 

If your son asks you in time to come, saying, "What are the testimonies, the statutes, and the ordinances, which the Lord our God has commanded you?" You shall say to your son, "We were slaves to Pharaoh in Egypt, and the Lord took us out of Egypt with a strong hand. And the Lord gave signs and wonders, great and terrible, upon Egypt, upon Pharaoh, and upon all his household, before our eyes. And he brought us out of there, in order that He might bring us and give us the land which He swore to our fathers. And the Lord commanded us to perform all these statutes, to fear the Lord, our God, for our good all the days, to keep us alive, as of this day. And it will be for our merit that we keep to observe all these commandments before the Lord, our God, as He has commanded us." Deuteronomy Ch. 6, v. 20-25

How did you comprehend them?

Reply and let me know or comment on the blog

Rabbi Kushi Schusterman

P.S. Here is a link to a recent article abot ongoing scams you can educate yourself aboue 

the day the lights go on

By Eliyahu Schusterman

It’s always a little humbling when the lights go on. Suddenly you see how you really appear. It’s humiliating, embarrassing and most of all humbling.

I’m talking about perspective, worldviews, paradigms, etc. We think a certain way based on our upbringing, other influences and our own choosing. Of course, we have only those tools to work from. So we engage with the world from that vantage point. Sometimes that vantage point and paradigm is helpful and sometimes it becomes a point of tension and contention between us and others.

One day the lights go on! Suddenly you see a different world, a different perspective, a different paradigm. And in that new light you see how the way you related to the world brought frustration to you and others. You see in that new light that the way you related to the world prevented you from being your true You!

This Shabbos is known as Shabbos Chazon. This is on account of the Haftorah which begins with the words Chazon Yishayahu – a vision of Isaiah. Rabbi Levi Yitzchak of Berditchev says that this Shabbos each of us are given a vision of the Third Beis Hamikdash – the future Temple to be built in Jerusalem. We experience this in preparation for Tisha B’Av which we’ll commemorate Monday night and Tuesday of next week, when we observe a day of mourning over the destruction of two Temples in Jerusalem.

The vision of the Beis Hamikdash is actually a vision of a future time, a time when light will shine. The truth will be known to all, struggle will cease and peace will reign.

For us, this light going on is the opportunity to tap into a new paradigm. For this Shabbos only, the lights go on! If we choose to open our eyes we can see a new paradigm. This new paradigm can shlep us from the negative spaces we may find ourselves in and bring is to a new vantage point.

To do so one must enter into this Shabbos. Enter with joy and with focus and you’ll be able to tap into this powerful new world view.

Have a great and illuminating Shabbos!

Rabbi Kushi Schusterman
P.S. Let me know if you can make it to Shul! 


Thank you G-d for afflicting me, please hit me again!

By Chabad Intown

Said no one ever! Or maybe they did. There is a sentiment among certain religious groups to preach the idea that suffering is good, should be welcomed and thanked for. To be fair these are fundamental Jewish values as well and can all be sourced to the Midrash, Talmud and other good sources. But to say thank you?

Let me put the subtle distinction in context.

We all face challenges in life. When we experience challenge in life the growing person looks at the challenge and finds lessons to learn, ways to grown from the experience. Sometimes, the challenges give birth to revealed blessings in our lives that are transformative. When looking back at the challenge we may be grateful that we went through it, because the positive that we arrived at outweighed the negative.

What we are really saying is thank you G-d for the good that we have come to experience, not, thank you G-d for the bad/negative/challenge itself. Therefore, if we could get to the blessing without the pain, wouldn’t we rather that? Wouldn’t we want to arrive at the good without the bad?

The reality is that life doesn’t work that way. Life is filled with challenge and challenge brings blessing. Darkness comes before light – “and it was evening and it was day…”.

Imagine however, if we could actually see the blessing in the darkness itself? Imagine if we could truly see the world from G-d’s vantage point to understand how the blessing is not only in the positive outcome but in the challenge and suffering itself? That would truly be Messianic!

In fact the Prophet when prophesying about the Messianic era, says as much; “Odcho Hashem Ki Unafta Bi – Thank you G-d for afflicting me”. The Prophet is telling us that when Moshiach comes, we will have the ability to see the world (to some extent) as it is from G-d’s vantage point. We will then be able to see the suffering for what it is. 

These are important Jewish values to contemplate during this three week period when we mourn the destruction of Jerusalem, the representation of collective and individual Jewish suffering.

Notwithstanding the aforementioned, because we remain Human Beings in the pre-Messianic era, we don’t yet have those eyes. As such, we can never become callous to the suffering of others or to wish suffering upon ourselves.

In fact, I recall hearing the Rebbe quoting the verse above and as he was reciting the verse, he emitted a deep cry. I believe representing the perspective we ought to have now until Moshiach’s coming.

May that be speedily in our days, amen!

Have a great Shabbos,

Rabbi Schusterman 


He needs your prayers

In this week's Torah Portion we have a discussion between Moses and G-d (not direct quotes):

Moses: G-d, it is time to prepare a succession plan. After all, if I am not going to enter the Holy Land, there still needs to be a shepherd to tend to the flock.

G-d: True, you should appoint Joshua as the new leader. However, before we talk about the needs of the people, I want to tell you about my needs.

Moses: And what are those needs?

G-d: I would like there to be a daily sacrifice, every day of the entire year. The sacrifice should be the same whether it is a weekday, Shabbat, Holiday or workday. This consistency will show me that our relationship is strong, regardless of the vicissitudes and fluctuations of life. 

The message from G-d to Moses is that having a good leader is important, yet, the daily, consistent acts of love are more important.  In the modern day, due to the lack of the Holy Temple (which we are mourning these 3 weeks), the daily prayers are the "daily sacrifice". When one prays today on a regular Tuesday, they may have thoughts of self-doubt; how important is the prayer today? To which the answer is: to G-d, it is more important than appointing a new leader.

So take a moment and pray to G-d, do it for His sake, He needs it! 

Check out the commentary filled online siddur here - I am linking it to a commentary on the Shema however, feel free to browse around.

Have a wonderful Shabbos,

Rabbi Kushi Schusterman

not all honey is sweet

Mr. Houston was known for raising money for good causes, nudging the Greater Houston Partnership toward modernity and for forging compromises between local feuding fiefdoms. Seems like just the person you would want as part of your social circle, no? It turned out that this Mr. Houston was a fraud; all his good work was just a way to further his greed. The real name of this "Mr. Houston" was Ken Lay, the CEO who led Enron to its downfall in a massive corruption scandal in 2001.

Ken Lay was a taker, he was one of those people who will bless you, shower you with praise, donate and volunteer, all in order to further his nefarious schemes!

I recently read a book called Give and Take by Adam Grant, describes different types of people; givers, takers, and matchers. Ken Lay was a taker.

In this week’s Torah portion, the Torah warns us about takers. Balaam desires to curse the Jews and G-d says: Don’t go!  Don’t curse the people because they are blessed. Rashi explains that G-d was saying: The Jews do not need your blessing for they are blessed. As we say to the bee; ‘neither your honey nor your sting’.

Honey is a delicacy and a sought-after commodity that sweetens our lives. Most of us have honey in our pantry right now. As well, there are beekeepers who are more than willing to sustain bee stings as a way to procure this food. So can we say that we really do not want the honey because we are afraid of the sting?

Upon deeper reflection, it becomes apparent that the blessing of Balaam is not really honey; it is just another façade to obscure the sting. When an evil person blesses us, beware! It might be a subterfuge that, in the end, will prove to be a curse. Hence, the emphasis: “I don’t want your sting or your honey”. Honey, and even an occasional rebuking sting, from a well-intentioned person, is desirous. However, neither is welcome when it comes from a villain like Balaam. 

Be like the giving bee; nice and giving and people will welcome your honey. Furthermore, the necessary well-intended sting will be sweet.

Have a great Shabbos!

Rabbi Kushi Schusterman 



In Hebrew there is no word that is a single letter; there are words consisting of two letters but a letter alone is not a word. The Torah has thousands of letters - 304,805 to be exact. Each letter is carefully formed in order to complete the Torah scroll. If even one letter is cracked or missing, the scroll needs to be fixed. This is true even if the missing letter does not change the meaning of the word.

Each letter represents a person. In a community, we need to ensure that there is never a letter that is alone; no person should be alone.  Even if you are the only person who reaches out to them or they do not feel like they are part of it, you can ensure that they feel like part of a word, you can give them meaning and community.

You may "have everything you need" or may "already be part of a community" yet you must reach out to others nonetheless, show them the love and care.

In this week’s Torah portion, Moses tells Edom: If you let us pass through your land, we will not drink of the water of the well (20:17). The Midrash explains that the verse should have said “water of the wells”. Why does it say “the well”? Because Moses was saying: “Although we have with us manna to eat and the well of Miriam to provide us with water, we shall not drink from it. Instead, we will purchase food and water from you, to benefit you.”

Here the Torah teaches a rule of good conduct: If a man travels to a foreign country, though he may possess all his needs, he should not eat of what he has brought with him but should buy from the local shopkeepers, so as to benefit them.

This is what the Torah celebration taught me. We might think we are just visitors in a community for a limited period of time (how many locals do you know who say they are not here permanently, 30 years later). However, wherever we reside we should enhance it by making it a more G-dly place. The Jewish pride of carrying the Torah down Main St. elevated Harford County into a more G-dly place.

As we continue to endeavor to raise our G-dly consciousness for ourselves, we will benefit our community, our fellow Jew and our fellow man. We must remember to benefit all those who are around us by exhibiting Jewish pride and reaching out to those who may feel distant and encouraging them to become part of the community.

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