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

Family Unity

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I spent Monday with my family in Los Angeles; all 11 siblings and my parents coming together to celebrate my step-mother’s milestone birthday. It was a beautiful day that started with a hike and culminated with dinner.  It was really a pleasant day, celebrating and spending time with family.

What was most meaningful for me was the time we spent together, just being together. Not the hiking or eating, the singing or jokes, just the family unity and time as a family.

In this week’s Torah portion, the Jewish people cross the red sea and are finally alone as a nation, with no Egyptian taskmasters or Pharaoh there. The Jews together in unity, focused on being able to reach Mount Sinai to be united with G-d and G-dliness in a palpable way. In next week’s portion, they arrive at Mount Sinai “k’ish echad b’lev echad” as one people with one heart.

I realized that we need to spend time creating unifying moments with family and with G-d.  Purpose filled, intentional and mindful moments. Prayer and study, singing and jokes all devoted to unite us to be as one people with one heart serving one G-d.

Have a good Shabbos,

Rabbi Kushi Schusterman

The Black Boxes

Hi Rabbi Kushi, Mike here, you often ask me to wrap tefillin with you and have invited me to the Men’s tefillin club in the past. What is this tefillin thing? Why is it so important?

Mike

Hi Mike,

You are in luck, the next “Men’s tefillin club” is this Sunday at 8:00 AM (I hope you can make it).  Tefillin is one of the 613 commandments of the Torah. In this week’s Torah portion it is written “And it shall be for a sign upon your hand and for ornaments between your eyes”. When this was told to Moses, the details of the specifics were passed down orally and committed to writing only in the times of the Mishna and the Talmud.

 

A concise overview: there are two black boxes containing four portions of the Torah written on parchment. The boxes are placed on the upper arm, on top of the muscle, and on the head above the hairline, in the center of the eyes. While wearing Tefillin, we are taught to remember its sanctity and respect it.  

The kavanah, intention, is “I am putting on tefillin because G-d commanded me to wear tefillin  to demonstrate that I am binding my heart and mind to G-d and therefore minimize my indulgences in selfish acts”.

Why is it so important?

Because it is a mitzvah, a way to connect to G-d. There are two reasons I find it an especially important mitzvah; 1) Israel 2) personal spiritual growth.

Major General Ariel Sharon, Head of IDF's Southern Command during the Six Day War, puts on tefillin at the Western Wall

Israel – Tefillin protects and causes fear in the enemy 

In 1967, The Rebbe of blessed memory, launched a new campaign – the Tefillin campaign. He asked Chabad followers worldwide to go out to the streets and offer Jewish men and boys the opportunity to don Tefillin. This was based on the Talmudic statement that “one who puts on Tefillin, will live long.” And even more, the Rebbe pointed out, the Talmud says, “When one puts Tefillin on his head, he projects fear over our enemies wherever they are.” Ariel Sharon put on Tefillin at the Kotel (the western wall) shortly afterwards.

Personal Spiritual Growth

Doing an act as a daily ritual (excluding Shabbos and Holidays), showing the need to bind the heart (and all its desires) and the head (and all its meshugas) to G-d, helps us connect on a deeper level as well as gives us a reminder of who we are. When this is done in the morning, it gives focus to our whole day.

I hope this helps (see ya Sunday?)

Rabbi Kushi Schusterman

Passionate Frogs

Guest Article Rabbi Eliyahu Schusterman, Chabad Intown! Atlanta GA

 

Should you be excited or dispassionate?  Should you give it a cold shoulder or should you embrace?  Of course the answer depends on what it is that we are excited and embracing or dispassionate and cold towards.

When it comes to matters of importance, values, holy things, we should be passionate.  When it comes to materialistic things, that are necessities, we should be dispassionate.

When you have a fire burning in areas that we ought to be cold towards, we need a splash of coldness to cool it down.  When we see fire in the world for superficiality and meaningless pursuits, it is instructive towards us to increase our coldness towards those things, while at the same time replacing our passions for holy and meaningful pursuits.

The cold blooded frogs jumped into the unholy passionate Egyptian oven and at the same time, the Midrash and Chasidic teachings tell us, the frogs demonstrated self-sacrifice in order to cool the unholiness of Egypt.  

If frogs can pull that off, we surely can emulate them.

Ribbit!

Shabbat Shalom!

Rabbi Eliyahu Schusterman

 

Be Grateful

Pharaoh, the king of Egypt, was pompous, arrogant and ungrateful! He is quoted by Ezekiel, when referring to the Nile, saying: "My river is my own, and I made myself". The truth is that Jacob blessed Pharaoh that the Nile should rise as Pharaoh approaches.

We can all relate to this phenomenon.  We say to ourselves that something we accomplished was our own doing, without recognizing the blessings that G-d has bestowed upon our work. The Torah too recognizes the human tendency and therefore cautions us. When you will say to yourself "My strength and the might of my hand that has accumulated this wealth for me”, the Torah, in Deuteronomy directs us with, “But you must remember the Lord your G-d, for it is He that gives you strength to make wealth”.

One of the things we can do to prevent ourselves from being ungrateful is to print out this card and place it next to our beds. Immediately upon waking up, thank G-d for giving us another day to serve Him. The moment called now is called the present. Recognize that life is a gift.

Have a grateful Shabbos,

Rabbi Kushi Schusterman

Happy New Year

This week’s Torah portion starts off saying Vayechi Yaakov - and Jacob lived. The rest of the Torah portion tells us how he prepared to pass on.

Why would the portion that describes the end of Jacob’s life be titled ‘And Jacob Lived’?

This may be a source for the famous adage: Live your life the way you want to be remembered. For example; to be remembered as an involved parent, be involved in your children’s lives; attend Shul and sports with them. To be remembered as a generous person, be generous with your time, money, wisdom, etc.  To be remembered as someone involved in the Jewish community, get involved in your local Jewish community.

Yaakov lived a life the way he wanted to be remembered after he passed away. We too should live our lives the way we want to be remembered. As the New Year comes about, think how you will want to look back at the year 2015 on January 1, 2016 and live it that way. 

Hope to see you soon!

Rabbi Kushi Schusterman 

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