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Rabbi's Blog

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

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,  http://adamgrant.net/.Adam 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 

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