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Rabbi's Blog

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

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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.
  • Thank G-d I am able to be on the giving end of helping others.
  • Thank G-d I am not homeless, infirm, or struggling with addiction. 
  • Thank G-d many of you support our work via the Chai Partners and otherwise. 

Today, Friday, is one of the best days of the year. The Talmud tells us that the 15th day of the month of Av and Yom Kippur were/are the best days for the Jews.

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 enough wood in the summer to have enough to last the year. There are many commentaries who explain why this was turned into a great celebration.

Yom Kippur is a great day. At the end of the fast, we are pure from being forgiven and we are blessed for a good year. We are also able to be grateful for all the good that we have. We can pack that appreciation away for a time when there will be challenges and to remember how blessed we are.

On occasion, we need to absorb and internalize a message so that we can fall back on it at a later time of need. Just like the wood that was packed up in the summer for the alter.

When we are fired up and inspired, we need to grab that warmth and passion and pack it up, keeping it safe and dry. Holding on to it for a time when you will need it, when we feel cold and wet.

At that 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.

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

Count your blessings! 

Have a good Shabbos.

Rabbi Kushi Schusterman

 

TikTok and Tisha b'Av

"#thattiktokrabbi" will G-d willing be joining us this Shabbos, the 9th of Av, the day we mourn the destruction of the Beit Hamikdash.

TikTok is a social media platform which revolves around short video clips. 

When I think about social media, I see it as a place that can be used to share inspiring Jewish values and messages or a place that can be filled with hate and vitriol.

The reason the Holy Temple was destroyed was because of unfounded hatred. The way we will rebuild the third temple is by unfounded acceptance and love. 

That person you see on social media who made a stupid comment, judge them favorably. Maybe they are just having a bad day or perhaps they weren't educated. If you see something you can help with, help. 

Why? You don't need a reason. Just because.

Perhaps that will be that last act of goodness to tip the scales and redeem the entire world to the messianic age. 

Tik Tok* is (or at least should be) a platform where people share short inspirational videos. Let’s bring Moshiach, even before Tisha b'Av, by doing small little things to make the world a brighter place.

Kushi

P.S. come Shabbos for services at 10 AM followed by kiddush and hang with us and the tik tok Rabbi :)

*and every social media platform 

you can't look away or hide behind a golden curtain

The Jewish people are about to cross the Jordan into Israel (Cannan) and a few of the tribes approach Moshe asking for permission to remain in TransJordan. Their reasoning was that they were shepherds and that land had good fields for their animals to graze and pasture. 

Moshe was sharp with them "Your brothers go into battle and you will sit here?" (Numbers 32:6). 

In the modern world we can see what is going on across the world. From Ukraine to Syria, from China to Australia. The easy thing to do, and the natural instinct of most people, is to be sympathetic, shake our head, maybe make a small donation to a supportive cause and move on with our lives. 

Moshe was not satisfied with this! He expected more of the Jewish people. Not only do Jewish values require us to share our good or our wealth with those less fortunate, even more so we must share in the troubles of the unfortunate.

The Talmud says that every Jew is a guarantor for their fellow Jew. One Jew's peril is every Jew's concern. No Jew anywhere in the world can hide behind a curtain saying that their wealth or status insulates him from the problems plaguing other Jews. 

We may have great flocks and have found rich land, but Moshe teaches us this rule: "While our brothers are in peril, we cannot enjoy peace obliviously"!

Each of us knows someone who is in need. We have the option to look away, or to help.

Have a good Shabbos,

Rabbi Kushi Schusterman

Take Risks for What you Believe in

Moabite and Midianite women were seducing Jewish men and enticing them to idol worship. Pinchas, grandson of Aaron the High Priest, risked everything to stop this behavior and killed Zimri, the leader of the tribe of Simeon. He knew that publicly cohabiting with a Midianite princess, especially by a Jewish leader, was wrong. He also knew that the Torah allows a zealot to unilaterally execute the people involved in such behavior.

But to do that he needed to take a risk. A big risk. Rabbi Yocḥanan says: Six miracles were performed for Pinchas when he killed Zimri. Had one of the miracles not occurred, it would have been forbidden for him to execute him. Pinchas knew that he had to do something. He saw the travesty that was occurring and had to get involved despite the risks of 1) being tried for murder and 2) being ostracized by the community.

He was blessed by G-d that the miracles happened to him. 

In life we don't rely on miracles, but we need to take certain risks to ensure we perpetuate our values.  There are bigger risks and smaller risks. There are risks that are external (how others perceive us) and risks that are internal (how we perceive ourselves). E.G. The risk of closing your store on Shabbos - what will be with the money I get from Saturday sales?  What are people going to say about me? 

When we take risks, not for the reward but because it is indicative of our values, we receive priceless rewards. 

As we see in this week's Torah portion; G‑d praised Pinchas and rewarded his bravery by granting priesthood to him and his descendants. Pinchas was a grandson of Aaron but was not included in the original granting of the priesthood. He got a reward that you cannot buy in a store. A reward that he wanted but is priceless.

Have a good Shabbos,

Rabbi Kushi Schusterman

P.S. Maybe take a risk and join us for Shabbat services this week at 10:00 am?

Vacation or Holyday - Vacations, staycations and weekends away

The good old nursery rhyme that goes “No more pencils, no more books, no more teacher’s dirty looks” marks the beginning of summer.

As the rhyme evokes a sense of freedom and independence, many of us look at summer as downtime — vacations, “staycations,” weekends away. It’s a time to indulge a bit in what may be called self-care or, dare I say, self-indulgence.

Meanwhile, others are “stuck at work,” trying to make a living to pay the bills or earn some “extra money” to be able to take a nice vacation at the end of the summer.

Summertime has a whole different vibe than the rest of the year, one of a more laid-back time and atmosphere. However, the goal and feeling of summer relaxation should not be one that is self-indulgent.

A lesson in this matter is offered to us by Mark Douglas, the CEO of the Los Angeles-based digital marketing and advertising company SteelHouse. He requires his employees to go on two weeks of vacation every year. They get reimbursed for up to $2,000 of expenses for their vacations.

As always, there is a catch. They cannot take the money instead of going on vacation! They must take the time off and do whatever they want, just as long as it is not illegal. The result is that the company has found that people who come back to work tend to be recharged and more productive.

Hence, the goal of summer vacation is to recharge one’s batteries to be ready for the fall and winter. As we return to what’s known as “regular life,” we want to be invigorated and renewed, ready for the next chapter in our journey.

But if you do not take care of yourself throughout the summer and don’t eat well, sleep well, get exercise, etc., instead of coming back invigorated, you come back worn out “like a shmatte.” As we have all heard or said at some point, “I need a vacation to recover from my vacation.”

Similarly, Torah study and commitment to our Jewish values are not work, G-d forbid. As we say in the daily prayers, כי הם חיינו — for they are our life.
When we relax over the summer, we need to ensure that we breathe, take care of our physical health and take care of our spiritual health as well.
There are many ways to study remotely these days. Go to your shul’s website and see if they have any recorded classes (we are in beta phase of our adult ed website check it out at https://harcochabad.force.com/kja) . Or you can visit Chabad.org, Jewish.tv and many other sites as well.

Our Wednesday evening class at our shul is live-streamed - email me for the link

Take a vacation from work, but do not forget to live life! Happy vacationing! And make it, as they say across the water, a holiday “a HOLY day.”

Humble Leadership

Leadership is often described in terms of being the boss, the leader.

Many of the leaders we know are more bossy than a source of influence, egotistical and self-absorbed.

The truth about real leadership is that it’s about identifying with the people you are leading. Recognizing that you are only the leader if they are the people being led by you. A true leader doesn't take credit for themselves, they give credit to their team.

We see this type of leadership when the Torah tells us "Israel sent messengers to Sihon the king of the Amorites...” (Numbers 21:21)

We know that it was Moses who sent the messengers, so why does it say that Israel sent them? Moses was the most humble person. He identified with his people. So, Israel sent or Moses sent - as far as he was concerned it was the same thing. 

We all have times in our life when we are in leadership positions.

How can we be truly humble leaders?

Something I have been pondering, any thoughts?

Rabbi Kushi Schusterman

Are you a lamplighter?

Business is booming! Thank G-d we are blessed to help re-acquaint unaffiliated and disenfranchised Jews with their heritage. Thank G-d we are able to break some of the stigmas and help people get connected with their Jewish roots.

When I was a young child, 28 years ago on the third of Tammuz in 1994, The Rebbe - Rabbi Menachem Mendel Schneerson passed away. At the time, all the pundits said Chabad is over! The New York Times reported, “Observers of the movement believe that some sort of leader will be needed if the movement is going to weather the factionalism…"

In this week’s Torah portion, Korach tried to create factions. However, the Talmud (Bava Basra 74a) tells of an Arab who showed Rabbah Bar Bar Chana where the ground opened and swallowed Korach’s family. Rabbah Bar Bar Chana heard the cries “Moshe Emes V’Toraso Emes V’Heim Badayim” - "Moshe is true and his Torah is true and we are liars".

28 years later, the Rebbe's vision continues to shine, but each and every one of us needs to sign up to join the movement.

How to ensure that the sparks of interest in Jewish life are fanned into a roaring fire that will never burn out?!

Be careful not to grab people by the throat and drag them to connect to Jewish life. Encourage them by schlepping them by their lapels.

Interestingly on the third of Tammuz in 1941, just days after the Rebbe (The son-in-law and eventual successor of the previous Rebbe) had arrived on the safe shores of America, the Previous Rebbe shared the following story:

The Rebbe prayed for many hours that Shabbat morning, as was his manner. In the meantime, the Chassidim recited kiddush and consumed a quantity of l’chaims. Later, when the Rebbe had finished and they sat with him to the Shabbat meal, Reb Yosef Yuzik asked:

Replied the Rebbe: “A Chassid is a lamplighter. The lamplighter walks the streets carrying a flame at the end of a pole. He knows that the flame is not his. And he goes from lamp to lamp to set them alight.”

Asked Reb Yosef Yuzik: “What if the lamp is in a desert?”

Continued the Chassid: “What if the lamp is at sea?”

For a long while the Rebbe thought. Then he said: “Yes, this is a Chassid.”

Answered the Rebbe: “That is because you are not a lamplighter.”

“First, you must reject the evil within yourself. Start with yourself: cleanse yourself, refine yourself, and you will see the lamp within your fellow. When a person is himself coarse, G‑d forbid, he sees coarseness;">Reb Yosef Yuzik then asked: “Is one to grab the other by the throat?”

Replied the Rebbe: “By the throat, no;">Each of us, needs to reject the evil within ourselves and work on ourselves, and then join the movement that the Rebbe encouraged.

Have an amazing Shabbos.


Rabbi Kushi Schusterman

Are you a skeptic? - It’s time!

 Do you believe in miracles?

Is the good in your life just coincidence?

Are you skeptical when people tell you “your life is full of miracles”?

There was a friend of a Jew from Bulgaria who wrote to the Rebbe that his friend claimed that “when he sees miracles with his own eyes, he will become observant…”

The Rebbe responded: “Tell him this: Since you insist on being honest with yourself, take a good look at your own past, and you will recognize that you have already witnessed miracles and wonders. Do you really want to test G-d? Do you really want to be brought again into a place of mortal danger and have to be saved? You know very well the trauma that is experienced by being in danger, because you have been there. It is just the negative voice inside you trying to come up with an excuse to avoid observing G-d's commandments.”

The Rebbe then addressed the writer who would convey this message to his friend:

“The very fact that I write intimate details about the past of a Jew whom I have never met, that he was once in danger and was miraculously saved, should be proof enough for him to start putting on Tefillin, keeping kosher and observing Shabbos, immediately upon receiving this message.”

Regardless if you read this letter as a believer or as a skeptic, the Rebbe was right. Saying "I will be observant when I see miracles" is a cop out.

[As a believer: The Rebbe here openly admits to having prophetic vision. Reading the thoughts of a stranger, he knew that this unnamed Bulgarian Jew went through a traumatic life-threatening experience and supernaturally survived. The Rebbe showed him a miracle just by writing this letter!

As a skeptic: Everyone has a story, trauma, events in their past etc.]

If you are honest with yourself,  you too have experienced plenty of supernatural events in your personal life.

Stop making excuses. Your life is full of miracles. So, what are you waiting for?  It’s time to connect with Hashem on a deep meaningful level.

Hope to see you at Shul this Shabbos 😊.

Rabbi Kushi Schusterman

Adapted from an article by Rabbi Aron Moss of Sydney, Australia

Shine a little light

When you wake up and start your day, do you shine? Do you give light and warmth to others? What about when the evening comes about, do you still allow that shine to give light?

We all have those days when we really do not want to shine. We have "cloudy" days. Real cloudy days when it is dark and ominous. Even on those days the sun shines and so should we. 

This week’s Parsha starts with the lighting of the menorah, reminding us to be a light. Just as the sun shines into the night and gives light to the moon, we too have the power to be a light even when seemingly obscured.

What can you do to shine this week?

Have a shining sweet Shabbos,

Rabbi Kushi Schusterman

P.S. Are you into Jewish linguistics?

When the sun rises in the East (Mizrach), it shines (Zarach)
and continues to shine until it starts to set in the West (Maariv),
it becomes evening (Erev), making it harder to differentiate between the mixture (Eiruv) of right and wrong.

Since we have been shining all day, the nighttime and the moonlight can be sweet (Arev).

It's all about you!

Did you know that the English dictionary contains one word with secret powers?

It's a word that acts as an amplifier.

Add it to criticism, and the criticism will be much stronger. Add it to a compliment, and it can make someone's day!
The word is 'YOU.'

Try it yourself:

 

Suppose you are a teacher, and a student walks in late to class. Wanting to express your disapproval of this behavior, you tell him: "the class started five minutes ago!"

 

Most likely, the student will understand that what he did was not okay.

 

Now, try repeating it with the word 'you' in it.

 

"You are late!"

 

Oh wow. This sounds much scarier. I guess the student will think that the teacher is angry with them.

 

You can do the same with a compliment and get similar results.

 

Someone sent you a gorgeous bouquet of flowers, and you want to compliment them.

 

You can say, "the flowers were gorgeous!" I am sure they will appreciate hearing that.

 

Or you can say: "the flowers you bought me were gorgeous!" This will touch their heart deeper.

 

Too many people - me included! - tend to underuse the word 'you' when complimenting and overuse it when criticizing.

 

Remember this rule: Compliment with you, criticize without you 

According to Torah, we should do just the opposite!

 

Our Parsha contains the laws of Sotah (unfaithful wife). While discussing these laws, the Talmud makes the following statement:

 

"No human commits a sin unless a spirit of folly (Shtus) enters him!"

 

Think about this incredible statement. No human - no buts or ifs, simply no one - is committing a sin unless a spirit of folly enters them.

 

When a human thinks logically, they will never commit a sin. In other words, sins are simply a result of "losing it."

 

So when we criticize people, we speak about something they did, not who they are. In fact, they behaved this way only due to foolishness. For a moment, they lost sense of their true self and acted not in their own best interest.

 

But when we compliment, we talk about the good side of the people we communicate with. We speak about who they truly are.

 

May we always see the good side in everyone!

 

Have an amazing Shabbos,

 

Rabbi Kushi Schusterman

 

Pnimiyus

On Shavous we wish each other a Chag Sameach. The Lubavitcher Rebbe would add a special greeting: “Kabbalas HaTorah B’Simcha U’B’Pnimiyus”, may you receive the Torah with joy and in pnimiyus.

I often wonder what it means to receive the Torah with Pnimiyus.  Pnimiyus translates as inwardness or internally. This year I had an insight. When one receives the Torah with a joy that it permeates them and they feel like they have truly received a gift, then the Torah becomes a personal treasure, something they hold dear. 

A result of this perspective is that when it gets tough to feel joyous when observing the Torah commandments, we view and maintain the mitzvahs we do similar to other precious possessions, despite the effort involved and with joy.

All the gifts that we have in our lives take effort to maintain. Good relationships, our car, our health and our happiness, etc. all require effort to keep them functioning and meaningful.

The Rebbe’s blessing perhaps means to receive the Torah as a truly personal gift, in a way that it permeates our existence and naturally brings us joy to be able to maintain it regardless of the effort.

May we all be blessed to have a truly meaningful relationship with G-d and receive the Torah with joy and pnimiyus.

Rabbi Kushi Schusterman 

P.S. Schedule for this weekend.

Shabbat
10:00 AM Services

Sunday
10:00 AM Services 
11:00 AM 10 Commandments followed by buffet and kiddush 
11:00 AM Kids Program followed by Ice Cream Party

Monday
5:30 PM Yizkor Memorial Service

The big Ten!

In preparation for Shavuot, I was once again exploring the big 10.

Thinking about the 10 commandments they are seemingly quite basic. It's quite simple to understand that one should not murder. Yet, just this week we saw that a seemingly basic moral was violated at Robb Elementary School where 19 children and two teachers were murdered!

During the holocaust, millions of people, Jews, and Non-Jews, were murdered by "cultured" people.

The big ten starts with "There is a G-d". That is the foundation of all morality. There is a G-d that cares about how we behave and that we do the basic things of morality as well as treating our parents with honor. There is no excuse to murder, kidnap, bear false witness or covet.

G-d knows and cares that human society functions in a healthy way. It is the same G-d who wants us not to rationalize why it is "OK" to do these types of things.

If morality is not based on a fundamental truth like G-d, it becomes negotiable.

Have a good Shabbos and please say a prayer for the souls of those who were murdered!

Rabbi Kushi Schusterman

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 

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