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Rabbi's Blog

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

stock up for winter

 After the fast of Tisha b’Av this past Sunday night, I was very thankful!
    Thank G-d I do not know what true hunger means.
    Thank G-d I was afforded the opportunity to be a Chabad Rabbi and (backed by the support of the Chai Partners and many of you) am on the giving end of helping the homeless, the infirm and those in recovery.

Today (Friday) is the 15th day of the month of Av. The Talmud tells us that the best days for the Jews were the fifteenth of Av and Yom Kippur. Why is that? The 15th of Av is the last day on which wood may be cut for the Altar in the Bais Hamikdash. As the heat of summer starts to wane, and the rainy season begins, they did not want the (cut) wood to get wormy and/or moldy. The Jews made sure to stock up, in the summer to have enough wood to last the year.

There are many commentaries who explain why this was turned into a great celebration, yet we will focus on its lesson for us.

On occasion, we need to absorb and internalize a message so that we can fall back on it at a later time of need. When we are fired up and inspired, we need to grab that branch of warmth and passion, cut it down and keep it safe and dry. Keep it for a time later on when we feel cold and wet. At that later time we can use this inspiration to rekindle a fire and make it burn.  We can use it to make sacrifices and be passionate about our heritage.

So at the end of the fast, I took a moment to pack that appreciation away for a time when there will be challenges and to remember how blessed I am.

Count your blessings!

Take an inspired moment, make note of it and use it to be reinvigorated in a time of need.

Have a good Shabbos.

Rabbi Kushi Schusterman 

in order to rebuild

If one has enjoyed reading a book yet was left disappointed upon finishing the book, this may discourage him from reading the sequel. Our sages say; ‘Everything goes according to the end – HaKol holeich achar ha'chitum’. 

This week's Torah portion focuses on the many challenges the Jews faced during their 40 year sojourn in the desert as well as the mistakes they made "making G-d angry". However, the Torah portion ends off with Moses’s message to his successor Joshua, who will take the people into the Land and lead them in the battles for its conquest: “Fear them not, for the L‑rd your G‑d, He shall fight for you.”

In essence, what Moses is saying is that although we may have gone down a path less traveled and may have made mistakes, this was all part of the process of bringing us to the point of where we have the faith and the wherewithal to recognize that Hashem Yilachem Lachem – G-d will fight for you.

This is also connected with Tisha B'Av, where the Midrash tells us that while the Beis Hamikdash was destroyed; it was a demolition in order to rebuild. Hashem did not destroy the Temple for no reason but as a part of the rebuilding process. 

May we merit to not have to fast this year on Tisha B'Av with the coming of Moshiach Now.

If we do need to fast you can find the laws and customs here.

Rabbi Kushi Schusterman 

Journeys

Throughout life, we journey and move forward to work on spiritual growth whereas at other times, we camp out and plateau at our current comfort level with no further progress. Occasionally, we may have a journey backwards where we lose ground and regress. 

This week’s Torah portion is called (Matot) Masei – Journeys.  The name suggests that we would be reading about the travels of the Jews. In reality the portion speaks about the places where the Jews camped. Being that the Torah portion is named journeys, and not encampments, shows the importance of always traveling, moving and growing in one’s service of G-d.

A person must constantly be on the move, whether forwards or backwards, and not be satisfied or comfortable with the status quo. Staying put I leave for the angels (more on that another time)!

Rabbi Kushi Schusterman

Are you bias?

Have you ever seen a situation where the reality of what happened can be interpreted in two ways?  Have you ever attributed negative intentions to an act when it may have been done with the best intentions?

Many a time, it is our perception that changes when the facts remain the same. We all have preconceived notions based on life experiences which cause us to judge before we know all the facts. One person tells me that when he sees an observant Jew making too sharp of a turn or not being able to parallel park, he calls it DWO (driving while orthodox). The fact is that some people drive better than others; the driver being observant has nothing to do with his skill at operating a motor vehicle.

We see in the commentaries different intentions attributed to Moses as to why he deferred to G-d when questioned by Tzelofchad’s daughters . The reasons range from his extreme humility to G-d showing him that there are some answers that he would need G-d’s overt help.

Pinchas, in the beginning of this week’s parsha, is also challenged whether his moral war on Zimri  was an expression of morality or his predisposition to ruthlessness.

The Torah tells us that Pinchas had pure intentions. It got me thinking. When we see someone doing something and it can be interpreted in two ways, let us assume that they had the best of intentions and stop being bias; less prejudgment will make the world a better place.

Rabbi Kushi Schusterman

P.S. a story as an example

One day, a father told his seven-year-old son to take a coin from the desk and buy himself some candy at the grocery store. A few hours later, when the father went to take something from the desk, he noticed to his chagrin that the gold Napoleon was missing. After questioning his son, it became apparent that the child had taken the wrong coin. Instead of taking a simple metal chirale (a cheap metal coin), he took the Napoleon.

Now the father was in a rage. How could the grocer have taken such advantage of his son? The boy claimed that he gave a coin for the candy and received no change. This was highway robbery! Yet, the father - being a distinguished person - felt he could not go to the grocer and accuse him of taking advantage of his little son. This did not prevent the mother from going to the store and heaping accusations and scorn on the grocer, who vehemently denied receiving anything more than a chirale from the boy.

What really happened?  Three years after the tragic ending to the episode, in which the grocer’s reputation was tarnished.  The father received an anonymous letter from a young man who felt he had to finally confess to a terrible misdeed that he had committed three years previously. He had been overwhelmed with debt, with no visible means of supporting his starving family or paying off his debt. He saw a young boy playing with a gold Napoleon. Imagine, a coin that could pay off his debts and feed his family! He would "borrow" it from the child and pay it back one day. He did just that by convincing the child to exchange his Napoleon for a chirale - and the rest is history. Heartbroken and begging forgiveness for any problems it "may have caused," he was now repenting and returning the Napoleon.

Different or Wrong?

By now, most of you know that our fourth child, Binyamin, was born last week Tuesday. How did the other kids react? Each one in their own way.

There are certain instructions that apply equally to all the children; no touching the face, no raising your voice near the baby, wash your hands before touching the baby.  There are also things that apply to the specific child; one may be able to hold the baby while another may just show him a book.

This is one of the messages from the verse "Mah Tovu" – “How goodly are your tents, O Jacob, your dwelling places, O Israel!” The Talmud (quoted by Rashi) says: How goodly are your tents: For he saw that the entrances were not facing each other. 

How does G-d enter into one’s house? It depends on the specific person’s soul. There are certain things that apply equally to all people like daily prayer e.g. saying the shema twice daily, yet there are other things that vary by the person. For one, the method of saying the prayers/shema is slowly and/or quietly and for another it is said fast and/or out loud.

By placing the entrances to their tents so that each one had a unique path to their doorway, this teaches us that the Jews in the wilderness showed respect to the other’s individualized path to G-d.

Take a moment and recognize that different does not necessarily mean wrong.

Hope to see you soon,

Rabbi Kushi Schusterman 

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