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Rabbi's Blog

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

The ingredients for a splendid day

In a healthy relationship there are a few important ingredients. High on the list are being appreciative and saying thank you, recognizing that you don't always have the answer or admitting to your mistake and saying sorry. 

With these 3 ingredients you can build a beautiful healthy relationship. 

The equation is 

Thanks + Surrender + Confession = Splendor

Today is known as Lag B’Omer, the 33rd day of the Omer. The energy we are working on is the G-dly attribute of Hod of Hod. The Hebrew word hod (which rhymes with Mode or Road) means splendor. Hod also means thanks, surrender and confession.

Thanks - Like in the modim prayer and the modeh ani

Surrender and confession - When the Mishna talks about one admitting guilt the word used is “modeh”.

The modeh ani prayer is usually translated as I thank you for giving me my soul back. However, it also means that I admit to G-d that You are in control if I wake up and I surrender to G-d, for without His help I cannot take on the day.

With these 3 ingredients I am going to have a splendid day.

This week let’s see how we can implement these ingredients so that we can experience the splendor of an intimate relationship with G-d. 

Have a splendid Shabbos,

Rabbi Kushi Schusterman

P.S. Download your modeh ani card here https://www.harfordchabad.org/media/pdf/868/NTRc8681234.pdf

The Power of Words

The words you use have an effect. 

When someone does something that we like and we smile, they react. However, when we show our approval with words, for example, that was very nice of you, it makes a more real impact. 

Think of the anecdote of the couple who went to a therapist. The wife asked why the husband never said I love you. To which the husband replied: I said I love you under the chuppah, if anything changes, I will let you know.

It's not so funny. Yet at times (especially with people we are close to) we forget to verbalize the things we feel, and this causes the positive energy to remain dormant.

When it comes to negativity, we are quick to say something not nice and give that negative energy a place to express itself.

This week, as we read the Torah portion of Emor - which means to talk, let us try to actively express positive words and bring that energy into the world and keep the negative energy from expressing itself in words.

Have a good Shabbos,

Rabbi Kushi Schusterman

B̶a̶l̶a̶n̶c̶e̶ Harmony

I had a meeting with Ivan Misner, founder of the business networking organization BNI. We discussed quite a few things. One of which was balance in life.

He told me that one will never achieve balance. The best you can ask for is harmony. That the yin and yang fit together. That you juggle well and don't drop too much. 

In the Sefirat HaOmer, we just finished the week of Tiferet - beauty.  Tiferet tells us that the most beautiful thing is when you have a diversity that complements each other. Tiferet tells us that with effort you can ensure that all the diverse things in your life, work, family, and spirituality can each be different pieces of a beautiful picture. 

In order to balance it all we need to have something higher that unites all the pieces. Think of it as the purpose of it all. The higher reason why we do what we do. 

To use the example of work, family and spirituality, while each are distinct (and sometimes in conflict) they all are in order to have a life where my purpose in this world is accomplished. At times that means that family takes priority over work, or that spirituality takes priority over family etc. As long as it is in line with achieving my purpose, it creates beauty. 

Have a beautiful Shabbos,

Rabbi Kushi Schusterman 

You Count

There is this concept of getting 1% better each day. When it starts, there is almost no difference. It is just a drop better today over yesterday. But as time goes on, the difference becomes very noticeable. If one gets better 1% each day for a year, at the end of the year they are 37 times better than when they started.
On Passover we celebrate the freedom from the tyranny of constraints toward the freedom of serving a higher power. This journey toward receiving the Torah and accepting the monogamous relationship with G-d is called Sfirat Ha’omer - the counting of the Omer that takes place during the seven weeks from Passover until Shavuot.
The Omer Journey is one of daily improvement, changing our behavior just a little bit. By the time Shavuot comes around, we are already a half time better than we were before. If we start with 1 we end with 1.63 (if my math is accurate) and if we do it for a year, we end with 37.78.
In order for us to grow, we need to start with recognizing our value. 1% of 0 is 0. So while humility is important, it’s more important to recognize that G-d chose us to be His people. He looks at each and every person and says YOU matter, YOU count. What have you done to make yourself just 1% better today?
Do a mitzvah and add a little light to the world today.
Have an amazing Shabbos!
Rabbi Kushi Schusterman

Are you willing to go out of your comfort zone?

A baby in its mother’s womb leaves its comfort zone to enter an unknown world.
A butterfly leaves its cocoon to fly away into the big wide world.
In business, most major growth comes after taking a risk.

Leaving Egypt for the Jewish people was a leap. From a slave mentality to one of freedom.

The end of Passover celebrates the splitting of the Red Sea and the Messianic era.

The end of Passover challenges us to break the laws of nature, including our own nature, to head toward a life of stronger spirituality. 

To do this we need to get out of our comfort zone and do something we never thought possible. 

It can be turning off our phone while praying or only eating kosher food.
It can be ensuring we celebrate Shabbat every Friday night with candles and a meal and no technology, to the full Shabbat experience.
It can be attending the weekly Torah class or requesting to study one on one at a more convenient time.

What is the thing that you would “never do”, so entrenched in your comfort zone, holding you back from reaching your true greatness?

Are you willing to move out of your comfort zone and split your sea? Are you willing to find the messiah in you? Your best life begins with that one step outside of your comfort zone.

Have an amazing end of Pesach. 

Want to join us for the Moshiach meal? 4/23/22 at 7:00 PM-8:30PM
Text or call the Chabad office at 443-353-9718

Rabbi Kushi Schusterman 

Beneath the emptiness

I have seasonal allergies. Each year, as the ground thaws from the winter cold and the flowers start to bloom, my nose and throat start to itch.

One of the requirements of Passover is that it be celebrated in the spring. This is why this year is a leap year (a second month of Adar was added). 

Many times there are moments in our lives that are "winter" like; the "growth" and the "trees" of our lives look bare, empty and lifeless. However, as "spring" arrives, we see that beneath the surface was a vibrant and beautiful life waiting to blossom.

The Jewish people in Egyptian bondage suffered from darkness and pain. It looked like there was no end in sight. Then, as the tree blossomed, so did the Jewish people. Beneath the emptiness was a nation getting ready to bloom. 

Passover reminds us that even when our spiritual lives seem empty and bare, hiding beneath the surface is our growth and our ability to blossom.

May we all experience true freedom this Passover. Freedom to blossom. 

Have a Happy and Kosher Passover,

Rabbi Kushi Schusterman

For the Passover Schedule click here

Strong Connections

With Passover right around the corner, this week started with getting some final things organized for Passover. 

On Monday night and Tuesday was my mother's 36th Yahrtzeit (thank you to those who helped me with the minyan).

Wednesday a bunch of the Chabad Rabbis in Maryland went to meet with the Governor to celebrate the Rebbe's 120th birthday. 

When one is connected with life, truly living and staying connected to their soul identity. and that connection breaks, they are considered Tamei - ritually impure.

Rabbi Adin Steinzaltz writes - The stronger the current of life, the more intense the tumah (ritual impurity) will be if and when that life is stopped and cut off. The more life force that exists in an entity, the more intense the  tumah (ritual impurity)  generated by the negation of that life force will be.

For me this week was a week of strong connections the connection with the  Passover rituals and the experience of Freedom, the relationship with my mother, and the relationship with my Rebbe and the opportunity to honor him.

If any of these connections broke the impurity would be great. 

What are some of your soul connections that are part of the current of your life? 

Have a soulful Shabbos,

Rabbi Kushi Schusterman


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What is the antidote?

We all have some level of ego. When our ego stops us from being able to see another person’s perspective, that is where problems begin.

There is a Chassidic story that can help us solve our "ego problems".

Rabbi Hillel of Paritch was one of the many great scholars of his day to join the Chabad Chassidic movement. As a young man, Rabbi Hillel heard of the founder of Chabad Chassidism, the Alter Rebbe (Rabbi Schneur Zalman of Liadi) and sought to meet with him. But the opportunity seemed to forever elude the young prodigy. As he would arrive in a town that the Alter Rebbe was visiting, he would be informed that the Rebbe had just left.

Finally, he managed to locate the Alter Rebbe's lodgings before the Rebbe was due to arrive. To ensure that he would not, once again, somehow miss his opportunity, Rabbi Hillel crept into the Alter Rebbe's appointed room and hid under the bed. In anticipation of his encounter with the Alter Rebbe, Rabbi Hillel had "armed" himself with some of his achievements in Talmudic study. At that time, the young scholar was studying the tractate Erchin, or "Appraisals", the section of the Talmud which deals with the laws of how to appraise the value of one's pledges to charity. Rabbi Hillel had an insightful question on the subject which he had diligently rehearsed to discuss with the Rebbe.

From his hiding place, Rabbi Hillel heard the Rebbe enter the room. But before he could make a move, he heard the Alter Rebbe exclaim: "If a young man has a question regarding 'Appraisals', he had best first evaluate himself."

Young children often seem egotistical, even when being nice. This is because they only see things from their own perspective. For example, a child might sympathize with an adult, trying to comfort them by offering a favorite toy, reasoning that what helps the child feel better will also comfort the adult. Egocentric thinking can also cause one to feel responsible if something bad happens over which they have no control.

EGO stands for Edging G-d Out. True haughtiness is when we think we are more important than G-d. When someone's ego isn’t in check, they may be afflicted with Tzarras of the head (the spiritual lesions similar to leprosy mentioned in this week’s Torah portion).

What is the antidote? Bittul – recognizing our true humble self-worth, beginning with evaluating ourselves (see story above). An honest appraisal of our own character and behavior will show how much we can learn from every individual. There are so many positive traits we can learn and emulate, if we are willing to be humble and accept the lessons from those who are supposedly 'inferior' to us. Simultaneously, we need to recognize that we have a true self-worth, which is given to us by G-d allowing us to be His messengers to transform the world.

Have a good Shabbos,

Rabbi Kushi Schusterman

Does Judaism come easy or hard for you?

There are two different types of Jews, particularly vis-à-vis their religious approach. one easily glides through his or her religious experiences. They pray and—boom!—they’re inspired. They study Torah, and immediately, they love it. Judaism is natural and enjoyable. They’re always ready to be in love with their Creator. One stroke, and they propel themselves forward with ease.

On the other hand, there is the Jew that has to work hard. Inspiration doesn’t come easy. To gain any meaningful momentum, they must put in a lot of hard work, step by step, and by the time they’ve achieved a trot or gallop, they’re huffing and puffing. Praying doesn’t come naturally, and studying Torah takes effort.

Who’s Better? Which is ideal? Which one are you?

Read More

plɹoʍ uʍop-ǝpᴉsdn sᴉɥʇ sunɹ ɯǝɥsɐH

Hashem runs this upside-down world.

It’s been a tumultuous 2 years; starting with corona and now as the war in Ukraine rages on.

Today is Purim. One of the messages of Purim is that Hashem, G-d, runs the world. Yom Kippur is called Yom Hakipurim, the day like Purim. On this day of Purim, we can accomplish the same energies as Yom Kippur through joy.

Following are the 4 Purim mitzvahs. See how many you are able to do today before sunset.

  1. Read or listen to the book of Esther Here
  2. Give 2 poor people money - you can literally save lives in Ukraine - click here or make a donation on our website and mark Purim
  3. Give a gift of 2 food items to a fellow Jew 
  4. Eat a meal including bread and drink wine - If you are in recovery DO NOT DRINK WINE USE GRAPEJUICE 

May we recognize that Hashem is in charge, and we can accomplish the impossible through remaining joyous through the tough times.

Happy Purim and good Shabbos,

Rabbi Kushi

Don't celebrate bland Judaism, add salt!

It's easy for life to be bland and tasteless. Especially when it comes to "religious" practices. As one community member said: every day, the same prayer?

When we try to connect with Hashem through rituals, often it can seem bland, boring and monotonous.

The sacrifices in the holy temple represent the service and rituals. The Torah tells us that all sacrifices require salt. Why is that? Because salt improves the sensory properties of virtually every food, from meat to bread.

According to kabbalistic teachings the "salt" is wisdom. Understanding the purpose of a mitzvah, from refining the human to connecting with G-d, turns a ‘bland’ mitzvah into a connecting opportunity.

There is a story going around the internet that I can't find the source for. It may not matter if it’s true or not, but it seems to encompass this feeling, I hope you enjoy it.

It was a busy morning, about 8:30, when an elderly gentleman in his 80s arrived at the hospital to have stitches removed from his thumb. He said he was in a hurry as he had an appointment at 9:00 am. The nurse took his vital signs and had him take a seat, knowing it would be over an hour before someone would be able to see him. I saw him looking at his watch and decided, since I was not busy with another patient, I would evaluate his wound. On exam, it was well healed, so I talked to one of the doctors, got the needed supplies to remove his sutures and redress his wound. While taking care of his wound, I asked him if he had another doctor’s appointment this morning, as he was in such a hurry. The gentleman told me no, that he needed to go to the nursing home to eat breakfast with his wife. I inquired as to her health. He told me that she had been there for a while and that she was a victim of Alzheimer’s Disease. As we talked, I asked if she would be upset if he was a bit late. He replied that she no longer knew who he was, that she had not recognized him in five years now. I was surprised, and asked him, ‘And you still go every morning, even though she doesn’t know who you are?’ He smiled as he patted my hand and said, ‘She doesn’t know me, but I still know who she is.’

The daily visit has no taste to the nurse but for the husband, it has salt. He expresses this in his words: 'She doesn’t know me, but I still know who she is'.

What salt can you add to your ritual observance?

Rabbi Kushi Schusterman

Do something crazy!

Last night Rabbi Yechiel Levitansky, Rabbi in Sumy, Ukraine spoke for over 1000 people on zoom. He spoke about his inner joy and calmness, while simultaneously sharing the struggle to figure out the right thing to do. Is his responsibility to remain in Sumy, Ukraine and support the community, or should he leave and have a bigger impact on getting them their basic necessities.

When asked if there is a special mitzvah he wants people to take on, he responded: “this war is an illogical war, it makes no sense, it’s crazy! Do a mitzvah that is crazy for you to do, one that makes no sense (Sorry Rabbis' I'm giving you more work)… ever thought of koshering your kitchen? It’s a crazy idea!  Me? Kosher Kitchen? But the way to fight crazy tyranny is with crazy good.”

I found this sentiment personally powerful. Trying to make a positive impact on everyone I meet, and on Judaism in Harford County, at times seems crazy. However, seeing the amazing good that has come from it, shows how inexplicable results can come from crazy positive behavior.

A wealthy man once offered a large amount of money to the Lubavitcher Rebbe to support “a big project”. The Rebbe told him to sponsor the Shmurah Matzah for the Pesach Seder project in Israel. G-d willing, this year we will do something crazier than ever before. Seeing how important it is to have Shmurah matzah, we plan on ensuring over 500 local Seders have handmade Shmurah Matzah.

It’s crazy. It’s expensive. But we got to do something crazy. As the old Apple ad says: Here’s to the crazy ones, the misfits, the rebels, the troublemakers, the round pegs in the square holes… the ones who see things differently — they’re not fond of rules… You can quote them, disagree with them, glorify or vilify them, but the only thing you can’t do is ignore them because they change things… they push the human race forward, and while some may see them as the crazy ones, we see genius, because the ones who are crazy enough to think that they can change the world, are the ones who do.

Join me in doing something crazy good! 

Have an amazing shabbos.

Rabbi Kushi Schusterman 

Use your talents - Woman of the year

Shternie Wolff Woman of the Year

My Cousin Rabbi Binyamin Wolff, suddenly passed away two years ago from a blood infection. His wife Shternie Wolff, 44 years old, was just chosen as "Woman of the Year" in Saxony, Germany's fourth largest state, by that state's largest newspaper. 

Shternie was born in Israel and is a Chabad emissary in Hanover. She continues the work with seven children at home, in addition to another daughter and her husband who recently moved in as well. She runs a Chabad house that hums with constant activity and she has become a significant local figure among Jews and non-Jews alike.

She has been sharing a message "The building of the Mishkan, the spiritual center of the nation during its sojourn in the desert, is described in this weeks Torah  portion. The Torah praises the efforts of the children of Israel in their construction of the Mishkan, with emphasis on the part played by the women through their alacrity and diligence. 

The women in the desert were highly gifted seamstresses, and demonstrated their talent and creativity in the sewing and embroidering of the Mishkan tapestries.

Our talents were given to us not only for personal development, but also to be utilized for the benefit of others, to increase light and holiness, to make the entire world into a Mishkan - a home - for Gd.

Shternie share that this message is for everyone, but especially for women, and particularly for this generation of women.

This is my mission in Germany and I am happy to accept this honor.

However, to utilize our special abilities in order to transform the world into a place of goodness and kindness is the mission of every one of us."

May we all take this message to heart and use our talents for good.

Have a good Shabbos.

Adapted by Rabbi Kushi Schusterman

from an article by Sivan Rahav-Meir which was translated by Yehoshua Siskin.

been there done that

 The Weekly Torah class takes place on Wednesday evenings. I do not teach the class (although I do come as a student). One of the benefits of having Mr. Michael Barnett teach the class is that he was not always observant. He has the perspective of the students and knows what it means to drive on shabbat or eat non-kosher. He was once there.

Upon seeing the Jewish people worshiping the golden calf, Moses throws down the tablets in anger. The Talmud tells us that anger is akin to idol worship.

Why would Moses get angry? Because he wanted to "be there", to truly "get it" and understand what it means to have experienced "idol worship" in a subtle form. In this way, he would be in a better position to help the Jews rehabilitate themselves.

The same thing happens with Esther in the megillah. She ensures that all the Jews are included in the miracle, even those who attended the party of Achashverosh. Esther knew their challenge and was able to empathize. Perhaps they didn't want to sin yet the temptation was too strong. Living in the house of Achashverosh, Esther understood the challenge of kosher, Shabbos etc. Esther knew how hard it was to withstand the test.

When you see someone doing something wrong and you want to guide them and help them heal, ensure you have the tools to understand them in a personal way. You can only guide, lead and if need be, chastise, if you've been there yourself.

This is the deeper secret we must understand. If we haven't walked that proverbial mile in another person's shoes, we dare not judge them. We must recognize that it is something we cannot relate to that led another to this place where they are.

It is only through love and understanding that we will ever be able to connect and identify. Holding a space in our hearts, allows them to see a kindred spirit there to help, and not a judging preacher there to lecture.

Try out our weekly class (email me to add you to the weekly class email) or just join us in person at Chabad or on zoom at www.harfordchabad.org/tszoom Wednesdays at 7:30 PM .

At the weekly class you can ask any question and the teacher knows what you are going through, he has been there.

Good Shabbos,

Rabbi Kushi Schusterman

What are you wearing?

Have you ever decided to just lounge around the house? Nowhere to go, so why get dressed? And sure enough you felt that way?

Or, you really were not in the mood to go out but you got all dressed up and voila, you got into the mood.

There are studies that tell us that patients are more likely to consider doctors trustworthy and knowledgeable if they are wearing the traditional white coat over formal clothing.

This week’s Torah portion is all about the Kohen’s (descendants of Aaron who serve in the holy temple) uniform.

We all play a role in doing what the holy temple did, bringing G-dliness into this physical world, uniting the spiritual and the physical.

What are we wearing? Do we dress the part? Do we convey to others that “this is what I do”?

According to Jewish mysticism, clothing is our thought speech and action. Inside we might be struggling to be content or happy, (sometimes you need therapy) yet we can think, talk, and act happy anyway. Like clothing, we are in control of our thoughts, speech, and actions.

The Kohen must dress the part of his specific role. Do we act the part of our role, or do we allow our insides to always show on the outside?

The best way is to always act as our best self. To dress the part.

Ask yourself, what am I wearing and what am I telling myself and others when I wear this.

Have an amazing Shabbos.

No services at Chabad this week.

Rabbi Kushi Schusterman

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