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Rabbi's Blog

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

What is in your spice cabinet?

Tonight, at sunset, the Hebrew date of Yud (10) Shevat begins. Tonight, Chabad Chassidim worldwide celebrate. We celebrate the anniversary of the passing of the previous Lubavitcher Rebbe and subsequent acceptance by his son in law, the Rebbe, of the leadership of the Chabad movement.

What makes Chabad unique? The spice and flavor it adds to Judaism.

The “bread and butter” of Yiddishkeit is the same for all since it is governed by Halacha, the Code of Jewish Law. This is the same for all Jews, regardless of the level of observance.

But the “spice” that can make or break the appetite or desire is the tribal and familial customs. Think salt or sugar to a steak or a cake. The right one makes it wonderful and delicious and has you begging for more, the wrong one will ensure that you never try it again.

Think about a person who considers him/herself a “3-day-a-year Jew”. These three days might be their bread and butter of their Jewish identity. Perhaps they got that from a revered grandparent or just old-fashioned guilt. However, without the spicing, it is not too flavorful. When that person decides to show up at another random time, whether it is for Purim or a Shabbat minyan, or does a simple good deed as a proud Jew, this Jewish act can be the spice that infuses his other activities with the Jewish life and spice to make seemingly mundane events that much more spiritual, tasty and meaningful.

This is what my wife and I endevour to give to our family and community. We give them the spice that the Rebbe inspired in us, namely; his non-judgmental love and kindness and his never-ending faith in the limitlessness of the human spirit and capability.

This spice reJEWvenates me, it is the fuel that keeps me going. Hence, I celebrate! 

What is it that reJEWvenates you?

Have a great Shabbos,

Rabbi Kushi Schusterman

P.S. See the original article here https://www.facebook.com/rabbinechemia/posts/10155567678427585

Are you scared of me?

When Moses informed Pharaoh about the impending tenth plague, the death of the firstborn, he adds: “There shall be a great outcry in the entire land of Egypt, such as there has never been and such as there shall never be again. But against all the Children of Israel, no dog shall sharpen his tongue, against neither man nor beast, so that you shall know that G‑d will have distinguished between Egypt and Israel.”

Our Sages tell us that as a reward for their not barking and their display of respect for the Israelites, the Torah awarded the dogs with a specific type of non-kosher meat. The meat of an animal injured by a predator is called treifah (from which the Yiddish word treif evolved to mean any non-kosher substance). The Torah declares: “Do not eat flesh that is torn off in the field. Throw it to the dogs.”  Our Sages (Mechilta, cited by Rashi) state that this was the reward for not barking when the Jews left Egypt.

Every year when we read this, I remember one of my favorite articles by by Rabbi Aron Moss, Rabbi of the Nefesh Community in Sydney, Australia where he explains why there are some people who are scared of rabbis and why many observant Jews do not have pets.

Question:

Why are religious Jews scared of dogs? Whenever I walk mine past an observant family, all the kids hide behind their mother's skirt in terror. Is there some curse on dogs?

Answer:

I know exactly how your dog feels. I often get a similar reaction from Jews. While many observant Jews are scared of dogs, many unobservant Jews are terrified of rabbis. There's something in common between dogs and rabbis that make us both objects of trepidation. And it's not the facial hair.

People fear the unfamiliar.

Most religious homes do not have pets. Perhaps because families with many kids are less likely to seek non-human companionship, perhaps because it can be tricky to care for animals on Shabbat, or perhaps it's just a cultural thing, but other than the odd goldfish, pets are rare in observant communities.

So those who are unaccustomed to canine company are often scared of dogs. People are scared of rabbis for the same reason. Both dogs and rabbis are loved by those who know them, and instill fear into those who don't.

But that's where the similarity ends. The underlying causes of these two fears are very different, almost opposite. The fear of dogs (cynophobia) comes from the fear of being bitten. Fear of rabbis (rabbinophobia) comes from the fear of being inspired.

What many Jews fear the most is that if they learn a little bit about Judaism they might like it. And if they like it they might want more. And if they want more they may have to live more Jewishly. This means change - and change, even for the better, is scary.

The cure for cynophobia is to play with a few dogs and see that there is no basis for your fear. But the cure for rabbinophobia is to look into Judaism and to actually let your greatest fear come true - you will like it, and you'll want more.

Have an amazing Shabbos,

Rabbi Kushi Schusterman 

 

a message from Kermit the Frog

Q: What is the difference between ignorance and apathy? A: I don't know and I don't care - source unknown

Animals can be broken down into three groups: those that benefit mankind, those that harm mankind and those that seem irrelevant to mankind.

The dog is man’s best friend. The mosquito is an annoyance. The frog seems irrelevant.

People can be broken down into three groups: those that recognize a Higher Power, those that deny a Higher Power and those that the whole discussion of a Higher Power is not relevant.

Person one and two are engaged (see stories below) in the Higher Power. The third type of person should learn from the frog.

The frog that seems irrelevant to man is used to teach Pharoah that there is a Higher Power. The frog, which is cold, sacrificed its life to enter the hot Egyptian ovens, to teach them an important message: G-d is relevant and meant to listen to even if it means going against one’s nature. Even when I feel cold, apathetic or ignorant, I can follow the message received from the Egyptian frogs, as eloquently stated by Kermit the Frog:

Take a look above you,
Discover the view,
If you haven't noticed,
Please do
Please do
Please do.

Have a great Shabbos,

Rabbi Kushi Schusterman 

P.S. The story I promised you:
Famed Talmudic scholar Rabbi Adin Even-Israel Steinsaltz invited a professor to his Talmud class at a Hebrew University in Jerusalem. He asked the professor: “Why don’t you join the class? All of your colleagues come. It’s in your building — right down the hall”. The professor responded: “I don’t belong in the class; we have nothing in common”. “What do you mean we have nothing in common?” asked the Rabbi. “You don’t understand!” said the professor. “I only eat pork! On Shabbat! Exclusively!” “Only on Shabbat?” asked Rabbi Steinsaltz. “Specifically! Spitefully! On Shabbat!” “Ahh, in that case,” said Rabbi Steinsaltz, “we do have something in common.” “What do you mean?” asked the professor. “I have my way of observing Shabbat and you have your way of observing Shabbat.” Both men are talking about celebrating Shabbat. Clearly, they both believe it is important or they would not bother to engage in the ritual and/or to object! So they actually agree on that point — Shabbat is important. They just do not agree on precisely what should be done about it!

Make a choice

In life there are annoyances. We all have experienced times that did not go as expected. Sometimes, the situation is one that we chose to go into and other times, we are there seemingly for no other reason but by chance.

Think of a child who was raised in a religious home, did he choose to follow the religion of his parents accept the difficulty with observing or is he observing by rote and complaining about the difficulty? When doubting or questioning the religion (all people do), does he then choose that faith or abandons it?

When I was 16 years old, I went to a mentor and discussed some of my challenges with the Jewish faith. His response: “AMAZING! Now you can start to have faith because you chose it as opposed to being raised with it”. It will be a mature faith as opposed to a childish faith. 

We see this with Moshe. Moshe, who unlike the other Jews in Egypt, was raised in Pharaoh's palace. He had to choose to worry about his brethren. When he was older, he went out one day and saw an Egyptian who had raped a Hebrew woman and hit her husband under the pretense that he was not working enough. Moshe then slew the Egyptian. Word of his deed reached Pharaoh and Moshe was compelled to flee.

Did Moshe complain that he had to escape? No. Because it was a consequence of a choice that he had made, not something imposed upon him by another. 

How much of what we do are we doing by rote, because we always did it that way? What, in our daily routine, do we do that we choose to do? This week, take a moment to choose. Choose to spend time with a loved one. Choose to do a mitzvah. Choose to make a blessing before eating. Even if you already do this, doing it with intention, by choice, will enrich the experience! Because you ‘own’ the experience by choosing to be there, you will only look for ways to enhance and improve it.

Have a great Shabbos,

Kushi

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