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Rabbi's Blog

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

The Torah Inspired Marriage

In this week’s Torah portion, Naso, we read about a few concepts.

The Torah first teaches about the Sotah (an unfaithful wife), then the Torah tells us about sacrificial atonement offerings of the Nazir (someone who vows to restrain from certain physical pleasures). Following that, the Torah records the prominent priestly blessings that the Kohanim were entrusted with blessing the Jewish people. Lastly, the Mishkan is mentioned “And it was that on the day that Moses finished erecting the Tabernacle, he anointed it, sanctified it, and all its vessels, and the altar and all its vessels”. 

A Torah inspired marriage begins by remembering that if we don’t invest in our marriage, we can end up as a wayward wife. Investing means encouraging a connected relationship. Judaism that permeates the mundane with G-dliness is the ultimate, not separating ourselves from it. The Nazir is generally frowned upon and is required to bring a sacrifice of atonement for his sin of not sublimating the world. Enjoying the physical and material properly is the holiest of holy.

When dedication and using the physical properly exists in a marriage, G-d blesses the holy union, as it is symbolized and expressed in the priestly blessings of G-d.

Lastly, we are conscious that building a Jewish home is the equivalent of building a holy Tabernacle. A Jewish home/marriage is a sacred place for G-d, husband and wife to thrive and grow. This wholesomeness infuses the entire home with G-d’s revealed presence, to the extent that G-d can communicate with the couple, as the Torah portion concludes; “he (Moses) would hear the Voice speaking to him from the two cherubim above the covering which was over the Ark of Testimony, and He (G-d) spoke to him.

Have a wonderful shabbos,

Rabbi Kushi Schusterman 

Memorial Day 5775

By Rabbi Eliyahu Schusterman

Have you lost a loved one? How often do you think about them? How often do you remember them? I don't just mean remembering that they once were a physical part of your life, but actually focusing on remembering them?

This year by Divine Providence Memorial Day coincides with one of the 4 traditional Memorial days on the Jewish calendar (excluding those days associated with Israel's Memorial and Holocaust Memorial).  These are the days we recite Yizkor; Yom Kippur, Shmini Atzeres, Pesach (last day) and Shavous.

Why do we recite Yizkor (memorial prayers) on these days most of which are considered "Zman Simchaseine" - time of our joy?

Among the answers are that remembering doesn't have to conflict with joy.  If fact when capitlizing on the energy and theme of each of these holidays, remembering our loved ones can bring a deeper liberation which in turn increases joy. 

Let's focus on the theme and energy of Shavous.  Shavous is known as Zman Matan Torahseinu - the time of the giving of the Torah.  On this holiday we relive the giving of the Torah (join us on Sat. night 9:00 pm for all night Torah study and Sun. 11 am reading of Ten Commandments and Brunch). At the core of the celebration is the essential bond that came about through the Revelation at Sinai.  While the Torah is filled with Divine Wisdom, at its essence it is the marriage contract between the Jewish people and the Almighty.  

In fact there are times when the marriage gets bumpy, sometimes it's G-d's doing and sometimes it's our doing.  But regardless, the contract and the commitment to our relationship is deeper than the bumpy road.  At Sinai there was no transmission of any physical objects (like the Tablets - 40 days later and that's a long story, or the Torah scroll - 40 years later and that's also another story).  There was also not transmission of law as the Revelation was too intense for the physical mind to comprehend and for their bodies to contain - the Midrash says their souls left their bodies and were revived.

Sinai was a moment of intense intimacy that transcended all physical expression or limitations.

Indeed, the relationships we have with our loved ones are essential.  Our parents birthed us, we are part of them, they are a part of us (you don't get to choose your parents and parents don't get to choose their children).  This is true even if the relationship is a rocky and bumpy one.  

On Shavous when reciting Yizkor the Memorial Prayer, we remember the essential bond we have with our parents (see commandment #5), just like the essential bond we have with G-d (see commandment #1).

I hope you'll join me on Monday at 6:30 PM for a Yizkor service at Chabad as we remember and reconnect essentially with our loved ones that have departed.

May we all accept the 3327th giving of the  Torah and the recommitment to a good relationship with G-d in a joyous and personal manner. 

Rabbi Kushi Schusterman 

Gds BHAG

In the book ‘Built to Last: Successful Habits of Visionary Companies’, the authors James Collins and Jerry Porras suggest that companies and people create a BHAG - Big Hairy Audacious Goal and then take bite size steps toward that BHAG. We find this concept of having the end vision in mind before you begin a process in Kabbalah. G-d's BHAG to have a perfect world is the world of Moshiach. In kabbalistic terms it’s called Nautz Techilasan B'Sofan.               

Photo credit: lululemon athletica

Photo credit: lululemon athletica

We find this as well in the book of Leviticus, which we complete reading this week. Leviticus ends with a discussion about the mitzvah of tithing, giving every tenth animal to the Kohen (or 10% of one's earnings to charity). This same book begins with telling us that G-d called to Moses “Adam ki yakriv mikem karban l’Hashem,” literally meaning “when a man offers of you an offering unto Hashem.” Rabbi Schneur Zalman of Liadi explains this verse to mean that Adam ki yakriv — when a person desires to draw close to Hashem — there must be “mikem” — “from you” — part of himself (the transforming of his personal animalistic soul) in the offering.

When a person gives a tenth of his earnings, that he worked hard for with his sweat and blood, to a worthy cause [like Harford Chabad ;P], this is the epitome of giving a part of himself. 

So the beginning of Leviticus sets out the BHAG: get close and intimate with G-d by giving of yourself. The end of the book gives a practical step to get there: Tithe.

And with that I want to end off with thanking those who give of themselves and give of their hard earned money to be Chai Partners in the work that Harford Chabad does here in Harford County. 

Have a good Shabbos,

Rabbi Kushi Schusterman 

Mindfulness

Mindfulness is a word bandied about alot these days. The NY times recently posted an article called The muddied meaning of mindfulness, the synopsis of which is that mindfulness means a mental state achieved by focusing one's awareness on the present moment.

The Zohar tells a story of Rabbi Shimon Bar Yochai whose yahrtzeit (date of passing) is today Lag B'omer.

During a severe drought, a delegation came and requested of him to pray for rain. He started to lecture on the verse "Hinei mah tov..." ("How good and pleasant it is when brothers dwell together in harmony..." Ps. 133) and immediately, it began raining.

Recently, while studying Talmud (tractate Taanit), my study partner and I learned the story of Choni Hamaagel. One year, most of the winter’s rainy season had passed and it did not rain. They sent for Choni “the Circle Maker.” He prayed and the rains didn't come. Choni drew a circle, stood in it and said: “Master of The World! Your children have turned to me; I swear by Your Great Name that I will not move from here until You have pity on Your children (Talmud, Taanit 23a),” and the rains came down. This story, is among others that Talmud discusses of people praying for rain, and what they needed to do to cause the heavens to bring rain.

Usually, in order to cause the heavens to open and bring rain, the leader needed to do something dramatic: draw a circle, take off a shoe (a different story) and pray. With Rabbi Shimon it was different, he just started to teach Torah and, voila, it started to rain!

Why was Rabbi Shimon different? How did he effect change with such minimal effort? Because Rabbi Shimon's profession, talent and passion was Torah study; mindful Torah study and focused Torah study.

We all work on being focused and ignoring the buzz of the phone, the noise outside and the internal noises that help us be unfocused. Perhaps, the Zohar tells us this story to encourage and tell us that we too can change the nature of things by making the time we set aside to learn Torah sacred, untouchable and mindful. Even if life is so busy and we can only learn 15 minutes in the morning and/or 15 minutes in the evening, let us be mindful of that time and focus on the present moment ... you never know; it may change the nature of the world and fill it with the rains of blessing.

Have a wonderful "Lag B'omer" and a restful Shabbos,

Rabbi Kushi Schusterman

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