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Rabbi's Blog

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

Red Yellow Green

These days we sit and wait week after week thinking, when are we going to move from red to yellow and eventually from yellow to green? We know that these transitions are not dependent on us, but on factors that are out of our control. Yet, we hope that the situation will improve so that our lives can return to some normalcy.

This got me thinking—If I had to grade myself, what color would I give myself? Not in regards to corona, but in regards to Judaism. Am I a red, yellow, or green Jew?  

The Red Jew: You stop in your tracks. You are a Jew because you are a member of the tribe. You are the “chosen nation.” You might not be too sure what that really means but you know that if someone refers to a Jew, you know that they are referring to you. 

The Yellow Jew: You stop and take pause. You think about it once in a while. You might light the Shabbat candles, make Kiddush Friday night, or lay the Tefillin. You have a charity box in your home and pay synagogue dues. You have a mezuzah on your front door. You proudly identify yourself as a Jew wherever you go! 

The Green Jew: You are a Jew-on-the-go. You are always looking for a mitzvah to do. On an ongoing, daily basis you are thinking, planning, talking, and acting like a Jew. Perhaps you are even an activist on behalf of the Jewish people or some other Jewish cause. One thing is for sure, when it comes to Judaism, you are always on the go! 

Not Jewish? You can apply this to your spiritual Journey are you in the Red, Yellow or Green zone in your relationship with the creator of the world? 

As we prepare for the Shavuot holiday, let’s all be in the Green Zone, even if only spiritually. 

Shabbat Shalom,

Rabbi Kushi Schusterman 

no bad comes from above!

This is the first time in modern history (and perhaps ever) that in most synagogues the entire book of Vayikra (Leviticus) was not read from the Torah.  We went into quarantine as the book was beginning and this week, we conclude the third book of the Torah!  That itself is worthy of reflection.

In the final Torah portion, we read the Divine rebuke, that which will befall us if we do not follow Hashem’s instructions.  It is hard to read and even harder to swallow.
 
Our Sages say, “no bad comes from Above”.  What we experience that seems to be harsh is our inability to see the real good that is in it.  Like a child who is rebuked or punished by a loving parent to put them on the straight and narrow.  Or a parent who takes a child who does not yet understand, to the doctor for their vaccinations.

The child feels the pain and hurt but deep down feels that the parent is doing what is best and it is ultimately coming from a place of love.

This is a “hard Torah portion” because it is truly difficult to find the good in our challenging circumstances.   If we lean into Hashem’s embrace, we are more empowered to find the good in our circumstances and when we do, we know what we need to do to move forward.

Perhaps that is why this Parsha is read at the end of a  Book and we proclaim Chazak Chazak Vinischazek – be strong, be strong and be strengthened!
Because, we need Hashem’s help to navigate the circumstances and to find the strength to make the most of it.

So I say to you Chazak Chazak Vinischazek – be strong, be strong and be strengthened!

Good Shabbos!

Rabbi Kushi Schusterman

P.S. I feel for those that are struggling, the above is meant to empower you with another set of glasses to look at your circumstances.

I feel fortunate and I believe that my outlook compels me to recognize Hashem first and then ask myself what am I to do with this good fortune.

Do you feel fortunate?

 

Oops - Broken Link

Earlier this week was a day of global giving called "Giving Tuesday Now".

As I continue to try to make it easier for people to support our organization and make a strong impact on the local Jewish community, I arranged for the donate link to prepopulated with the donor information. It looked great! People wanted to make an impact! They put in the amount they wanted to donate, entered their credit card information and when they clicked submit… 

Yup, the air left the balloon. 
Instead of the great feeling of “Wow I made a difference” like this,
 unnamed (7).jpg

it said page not found. People felt like this:unnamed (8).jpg

The Baal Shem Tov has a teaching that one should learn something from everything he sees and hears.

The problem with the link was that it was missing the / at the end. To paraphrase Rabbi Aron Moss - Would anyone be so nitpicky as to differentiate between "yahoocom" and "yahoo.com"? Isn't it a bit ridiculous that you didn't get my email just because of a little dot?

The missing / seemed to be ridiculous.

But it’s not! Because the / is not just a /. It represents something. That dot has meaning far beyond the pixels on the screen that form it. To me it may seem insignificant, but that is simply due to my ignorance of the ways of the internet. All I know is that with the /, the donation arrives and people feel good and without it, the message is lost to oblivion, the page is not found.

In this week’s Torah portion we talk about the holidays and about Shabbos.

Does it make a difference if I light shabbat candles at 7:49 PM (this week) in Bel Air or at 8:30?

Who cares if I do the seder on the correct night, it’s generally the correct season.

Jewish practices have infinite depth. Each nuance and detail contains a world of symbolism. And every / counts. When they are performed with precision, a spiritual vibration is emailed throughout the universe, all the way to G‑d's inbox and change happens.

If you want to understand the symbolism of the /, study I.T.

If you want to understand the symbolism of Judaism, study it.

Thank you to those who made a contribution and figured out how to get around I.T. to get it done.  To join them visit www.HarfordChabad.org/donate.

Rabbi Kushi Schusterman

Write your story!

From the second day of Pesach until the holiday of Shavuot, the Jewish people count the Omer. In Hebrew Sefirat Ha'Omer - counting of the Omer (notice the root word here - Sefirah). This is a personal journey from Passover to Shavuot, a journey of counting and rewriting our story. 

In Hebrew, the word to count is Lisph(f)or.   Notice the root of the word sphor or sapphire. In Hebrew, the two words (to count and sapphire) share almost all the same letters.   They are also related to the word shining just as a sapphire shines.

It is very evident that if you make each day count and meaningful then your days will shine. How does one do this?

For that we have yet another word in Hebrew with the same root - Sipur. This word means a story or to tell a story.

During this pandemic, it is even more important to picture yourself at the end of the day and take a few moments to recount your story - the events of the day; the things you wish you had done and the things you wish you didn't [you are not alone, most people didn't get alot of "work" done].

Now picture yourself telling tomorrow’s story, how do you want it to be? What are the things you want to be proud of in tomorrow's accomplishments? What are the things you hope to avoid tomorrow? What are the personal struggles you hope to be victorious over tomorrow?

Each evening, take a moment and write your story for tomorrow, before it happens.

See what a difference it will make in your life.

Read more about the Omer by clicking here.

Shabbat Shalom

Rabbi Kushi Schusterman

Gd Heal Us!

We need a miracle!
Did you get tested?
Were you COVID-19 Positive?
Do you have the anti-bodies?
Are you staying sane in the house?

Interestingly, this Shabbos begins a new Jewish month, the month of Iyar. The Hebrew letters that spell the month of Iyar are an acronym for the phrase “Ani Hashem Rofecha”—“I am G‑d, your healer” (Exodus 15:26).

The names of the Hebrew months are not from the bible. The Torah refers to the months as the first month, the second month, etc. However, the names they are known by today, were used privately and started to be in common usage between the first and second temples.

While we continue to stand strong through this pandemic, we need to pray that G-d assist the doctors in healing us.  When we are left with side effects from an illness, this is not a complete healing from G-d. When G-d heals, it is as if the disease never came to the person. As the beginning of the verse in exodus states “If you hearken to the voice of the Lord, your God, and you do what is proper in His eyes…, all the sicknesses … I will not visit upon you.” Once you are healed it will be as if the sickness never came to you.

As we pray for healing in this new month of healing, we should remember that it is blessed by the previous month, the month of Nissan. Nissan is also known as the month of miracles as it is in this month that Hashem miraculously took the Jewish people out of Egypt. We need to remember that while we are healed by good doctors who are guided by science, simultaneously those doctors are creating miracles because they are being assisted by G-d, the true healer.

We all need to recognize that the same “I” who took us out of Egypt; “I and not an angel, I and not a seraf, I and not a messenger, I am the One and no one else” (Haggadah) is the same “I” that will heal us “I am G‑d, your healer” (Exodus 15:26).  When G-d heals there are no negative side effects.

Have a good Shabbos,

Rabbi Kushi Schuseterman

Put on your mask first

Are you going a little meshugah? a little cabin crazy?

I was. Being there for people during this crazy time helps.

Plus, when we used to fly on a plane they would say "In the event of an emergency, please put on your own oxygen mask before assisting others." 

You need to be sane and healthy in order to 

  • Serve Gd 
  • Serve your family
  • Serve your friends 
  • Serve your community

One thing I can advise is start with self-care!

Self-care comes in many shapes and sizes. Here are a few suggestions.

Physical Self Care

  • Go for a walk down the block - while maintaining social distancing
  • Do some exercise in the house
  • Drink water
  • Get enough sleep
  • Eat healthier
  • Take care of your health!

Spiritual Self Care

 Kindness

  • If your health allows - volunteer 
  • If your finances allow give charity - can be putting a few coins in a jar, or making a donation online 
  • If you have a phone - call (don't text) someone and check in on them 
  • Be positive - in your interactions on social media - think positive and exude kindness - more on that by my brother here

 Have an amazing Shabbos and a happy and healthy Passover!

Rabbi Kushi Schusterman 

Dear Diary - 2022

March 26, 2022

Dear Diary,

Kushi here again. I know I haven’t written in a bit, things have been busy but that is no excuse. Since the Corona virus ended nearly 2 years ago, I along with my fellow earth mates made a pact to hold on to the positive changes that resulted from those very difficult and painful times.

The world has been better, healthier, kinder and cleaner and people have been happier and nicer.

In fact, just today there were many examples of life AC - After Corona. Here are just a few.

I was driving on the Beltway, and remember the old days where people would cut on another off trying to get to work in a hurry? Remember how you had to speed up and slow down in order to squeeze your car into that space barely large enough for a match box car?

While no one does that any more since traffic is significantly lighter now that so many people work from home, and bosses are much more relaxed, focusing on simply making enough money to feed families and not the greed of BC (Before Corona), and in general bosses are much more understanding, still, today someone tried to cut off the whole line.

Initially, my blood pressure started shooting upwards and foul words entered my mind about what I’d like to say to that person, but then I remembered our pact. To love, and judge favorably and to give people the benefit of the doubt. Indeed, just a few minutes later, I caught up to that car as it was exiting Northern Parkway to go to Sinai Hospital. If I saw correctly, it appeared there was a passenger in the car that was ready to give birth to a new child.

Earlier in the same day, I woke up to see my 6 Year old boy and 2 year old girl, playing a board game calmly, letting the older people sleep. and not asking for devices. I guess it is true what the experts said, those couple months of quarantine really taught us how bad and dangerous all that screen time is. It is almost as if the children associate iPads and computers with anxiety (their own or their parents’) and school and they’d rather not have the reminder by using these devices first thing upon awakening. Or any time of day if they don’t have to.

Anyway, I got to my coffee meeting in Baltimore, and it was just wonderful, since less people travel into work, there was easy parking and the states new rules about a 15 minutes grace period on the parking meters, saved from a parking ticket, so that was good too.

After a successful meeting, I got back home, and instead of going back to work, I stopped at home, to have lunch with my wife, since AC we just know how precious time with our loved ones is and there really isn’t anything I “have” to do that is more important than those few minutes of quiet time, talking and connecting. Another positive result of the healthier new world. I speak to my friends and this scene is playing itself out in homes across the world. People stopping to smell the roses. Slowing down to allow the important things in life in, and savoring them as we never did in the past.

Back in the office, I prepared both my class and my sermon, as it is already Thursday and my class has increased in attendance, both the physical attendees and digital attendees so I want to be extra prepared. It appears that since Corona, people have realized that a good evening night out is better spent in a Torah class stimulating the mind and learning how better to connect with Hashem is actually better for them and more enjoyable than a movie and a steak. (It may also be connected to the fact that we now offer wine and cocktails in addition to the usual coffee, tea and cake that were available BC. )

Shabbat Shul attendance has also increased dramatically. It’s incredible, people really had their “come to Gd moment.” Not that they were frightened into a relationship, rather a couple of months of really having the mask of “certainty” removed and being forced to accept in a real and deep way that we don’t run the world or even our lives, it is Hashem that runs everything, that who gets sick and who gets healed is out of our control really propels us towards the Almighty being. Attendance is up Friday night and Shabbat day, even the Saturday pre-services Torah discussion has a large crowd in attendance. I must prepare properly so I can teach properly.

I think the biggest after the Corona change, however, is in myself. Less hurried and harried-ness. Less fretting over the small things. Less worrying over the things that I cannot change. More focus on my family. More focus on my children. More patience with them and all people. More keeping my eye on the real prize. The prize of happiness, tranquility, family, meaning and true GDly existence.

I don’t like the CoronaVirus. I don’t like the tragedy, chaos and tears it brought to this world, I do, however, like what it has done to us, as a society, as a people, and I like what it has done to me. I am a better person, a better father for all that we’ve been through. I really hope that part of the memory stays the same.

Ok, dear diary, it's been a while, and hopefully not as much time till the next time I write, but I just wanted to share that two years ago when all the intense change was happening, no one could have imagined that we would be experiencing good times again, in fact better times. Sometimes you need to spring to the future a bit, so you can have perspective on the past.

I think to myself, what a wonderful world...

Written by Nechemia Schusterman - Modified by Rabbi Kushi

You impact the entire world

In essentially a moment in time, a matter of days perhaps hours, our world view shifted. Our sense of security disappeared.

The lessons are many and will be learned and internalized across industries, governments, communities and families.

There will be time for that in good health, please G-d!

One of the most obvious lessons that remains relevant is the relationship we have to each other.

No longer can someone think that what goes on in their life has no impact or relevance on not just their immediate surrounding but all of humanity.

No longer can we think that we are not a taker and contributor from the individual across the globe.

No longer can we believe that our actions are not potentially a matter of life and death to someone who lives thousands of miles away.

No longer can we live in a bubble to think that humanity as a whole has an impact on us; that what happens in other parts of the world are irrelevant to us.

This week we read (at least at home) two Torah Portions - Vayakhel and Pekudai. What's interesting is that these two Torah portions have conflicting meanings.

Vayakhel means to gather. Pekduai means to count. Whereas gathering is bringing together the individuals, counting means to separate them out.

Indeed this carries the message of our times; we are a collective (gathered) humanity of individuals (counting). Our individual actions impact the whole and the whole impacts the individual.

We as individuals have the ability to change the world for the good with a simple action. One Mitzvah, one action, one gesture can be trans-formative.

And the well being of the world has an impact on us. The going-ons across the globe have a trans-formative effect on our little bubble.

As we conclude week one let us pray together for healing for all those that need it, for safety and good health to all. Let us think of small deeds we can do in the confines and security of our own homes to impact the world - literally!

Good Shabbos,

Rabbi Schusterman 

COVID-19 Update

 CORONAVIRUS ADVICE

  • Use common sense and follow medical advice from official sources, without losing perspective. Panic and hysteria are not helpful. 
  • If you are healthy you should continue attending Synagogue as usual, ensuring proper hygiene by washing hands regularly with soap, which is provided at the shul kitchen and in the bathrooms. 
  • If you are experiencing symptoms of the COVID-19 virus you should not attend Synagogue and should seek medical advice. Details of the symptoms and other relevant information can be found at - https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/index.html
  • If you have recently traveled or have had contact with someone with the COVID-19 virus, please seek medical advice before attending synagogue
  • The elderly or those with compromised immune systems should avoid crowds
  • Following advice of health authorities, we will avoid hand shaking and direct contact between people
  • Kiddush food will not be served this week. 
  • Please cover your mouth when coughing or sneezing with a tissue or your arm
  • IF YOU KNOW SOMEONE WHO IS VULNERABLE OR ALONE, REACH OUT TO THEM AND OFFER SUPPORT. IF YOU KNOW SOMEONE WHO IS QUARANTINED, CALL THEM AND BE A FRIEND.  

Question of the Week:

By Rabbi Moss

This coronavirus thing has really thrown me. I feel like I've lost all sense of certainty. No one knows what will happen next. How do we stay sane when we don't know what's lurking around the corner? 

Answer:

It is not that we have lost our sense of certainty. We have lost our illusion of certainty. We never had it to begin with. This could be majorly unsettling, or amazingly liberating. 

This tiny virus of 125 nanometres* has sent the entire world into chaos. All of our plans are up in the air, markets are going crazy, entire countries shutting down, and we have no clue what the future holds. 

But that is always the case. We never know what the future holds. We only think we do, and keep getting surprised when things don't pan out the way we expected. Now the mask is off. We have to admit our vulnerability. 

What will happen next? We don't know. Our experts don't know. Our leaders don't know. Only G-d knows. And that is the point. Only G-d knows. 

Close your eyes and feel the uncertainty, make peace with it, let yourself be taken by it. Embrace your cluelessness. Because in all the confusion there is one thing you know for sure. You are in G-d's hands. 

Keep calm. Panic and fear are also contagious. Take every precaution as advised by health authorities. Wash your hands well. And every time you do, remember whose hands you are in.

Good Shabbos 

Rabbi Moss

*A nanometre is one billionth of a metre. 

To subscribe CLICK HERE or email rabbimoss@nefesh.com.au

Com'n Just Bow - or don't

 

Question of the Week:

In the Purim story, Mordechai the Jew refuses to bow down to the wicked Haman. As a result, Haman enacts a decree to annihilate the entire Jewish nation. Did Mordechai do the right thing? Technically, bowing to a dignitary is not forbidden by Judaism. So even if Haman thought he was god, shouldn't Mordechai have bowed down to him rather than risk the lives of the entire Jewish people?

Answer:

In my youth I attended a non-Jewish school. Jews made up about ten percent of the student body, and we felt quite comfortable there. But sometimes we stood out.

It wasn't a particularly religious school, but on occasion they did hold prayer services, in a big hall with a huge cross at the front. At a certain point during the service, everyone was told to kneel and bow before the cross. So everyone did.

But I didn't. I don't know why, but as everyone else went down on their knees, I just sat there. I was a little nervous that I would be caught not kneeling. But then I realized that anyone who saw me not kneeling was themselves not kneeling, so I was safe.

Here's the funny thing. Looking around I saw I was not alone. Scattered around the hall were others who did not bow. In fact, about ten percent of the room were sitting upright. None of the Jewish kids would bow down. It was quite a sight - a sea of bowed heads, with a few Jewish heads sticking out like protruding icebergs. Or maybe Goldbergs.

On reflection, this is astonishing. Where did we get this defiance from? We were all from irreligious homes and were for the most part completely uneducated in Judaism. No one ever told us not to bow down. In fact, for some of those boys, this non-bowing may have been the only public statement of being Jewish they ever made. So what inspired us to be different?

I believe we got it from Mordechai, the Jew who refused to bow down. Somehow his story of defiance has permeated the Jewish psyche, to the point that even two and a half thousand years later, Jews know in the depth of their soul that we don't bow down to anyone but G-d. 

When Mordechai stood up to Haman, he wasn't putting the Jewish people at risk. On the contrary, he was saving countless Jews in all future generations who will be inspired by his singular act of bravery, refusing to bow to the forces that try to compromise our identity. 

Our enemies will hate us no less if we bow to them, and our friends will only think higher of us for refusing to bow to pressure. Regardless of what anyone thinks of us, our job is to stand tall and proud like Mordechai, unabashedly stating our Jewishness. When we do, we play our part in the epic Jewish story, the story of an eternal nation that survives every attempt to make us bow. 

Good Shabbos and Happy Purim!

Rabbi Moss

To subscribe, CLICK HERE or email rabbimoss@nefesh.com.au

The Rusty Penny

This Story is one of my favorite. It's about charity, this week's Torah potion is about donating to charity, so I am sharing it.

Rabbi Schneur Zalman of Liadi (1745–1812, founder of Chabad Chassidism) was raising money to ransom Jewish prisoners.

He went first to a city that was famous for its miser. It seems that this stingy man, despite his considerable wealth, was loath to share his blessings, no matter how worthy or urgent the cause. Rabbis and beggars alike avoided his home. Anyone who did unwittingly end up on his doorstep was offered a single rusty copper coin, which even the most desperate pauper would promptly refuse.

When Rabbi Schneur Zalman arrived in the town, the elders of the community graciously received him. But when he announced that he wanted to visit the house of the miser and wanted two rabbis to accompany him, he was met with serious resistance. The rebbe was adamant, however, and they finally acquiesced and gave him the escort he requested.

The next afternoon the three of them were standing in front of the miser’s mansion. Before knocking on the door, the rebbe turned to his companions and requested that they not utter a word, no matter what they hear or see. Several moments later they were sitting in the luxurious front room, and the owner was returning from his safe with a small velvet money pouch.

“Yes,” said the rich man. “A touching story indeed! Widows and orphans in captivity. Ah, the suffering of the Jewish people! When will it all end? Here, Rabbi, take my humble donation.”

To the miser’s surprise, the rebbe seemed pleased by the gift. He was actually smiling at him warmly as he put the coin into his pocket and said, “Thank you, Mr. Solomons. May G‑d bless and protect you always.” The rebbe then proceeded to write him a receipt, adding all sorts of blessings in a most beautiful script.

“Thank you again, my friend,” said the rebbe as he stood and warmly shook the man’s hand, looking him deeply in the eyes with admiration. “And now,” he added, turning to his two companions, “we must be on our way. We have a lot of collecting to do tonight.”

As the three rabbis walked to the door, the rebbe turned and bade his host yet another warm farewell. “You should have thrown it back in his face,” hissed one of the rabbis after they heard the door close behind them.

“Don’t turn around and don’t say a word,” whispered the rebbe as they walked down the path to the front gate.

Suddenly they heard the door opening behind them and the miser calling: “Rabbis, rabbis, please come back for a minute. Hello, hello, please, I must speak to you, please . . . please come back in.”

In a few minutes they were again sitting in the warm, plush drawing room, but this time the rich man was pacing back and forth restlessly. He stopped for an instant and turned to the rebbe. “Exactly how much money do you need to ransom these prisoners?”

“About five thousand rubles,” the rebbe replied.

“Well, here is one thousand . . . I have decided to give one thousand rubles; you may count it if you want,” said the miser as he took a tightly bound stack of bills from his jacket pocket and laid it on the table. The other rabbis were astounded. They stared at the money and were even afraid to look up at the miser, lest he change his mind.

But the Rebbe again shook Mr. Solomons’ hand, warmly thanking him, and wrote him a beautiful receipt replete with blessings and praises, exactly like the first time.

“That was a miracle!” whispered one of the rabbis to the rebbe as they left the house and were again walking toward the gate. Once more the rebbe signaled him to be still. Suddenly the door of the house again opened behind them. “Rabbis, please, I have changed my mind. Please come in once more. I want to speak with you,” Mr. Solomons called out.

They entered the house for a third time as the miser turned to them and said, “I have decided to give the entire sum needed for the ransom. Here it is; please count it to see that I have not made a mistake.”

“What is the meaning of this?” wondered the rebbe’s astonished companions after they had left the rich man’s home for the third time that evening. “How did you get that notorious miser to give 5,000 rubles?”

“That man is no miser,” said Rabbi Schneur Zalman. “No Jewish soul truly is. But how could he desire to give, if he never in his life experienced the joy of giving? Everyone to whom he gave that rusty penny of his threw it back in his face.”

use the nuclear option

Have you ever tried to get an in with someone but didn’t find a connector?

Have you ever tried to get an in with someone and realized that you had a liability that will stop you from connecting?

You are not alone. This has happened before. Queen Esther wanted to visit King Achashverosh. She knew that it would be a liability. She assumed, as was the custom in those days, that going to the king uninvited was risking her life. Generally, this is explained as the pivotal moment when you must take a risk, even risking your life, for something which is super important which expresses your values. Our first responders face this risk, putting their lives on the line every day to ensure that we stay safe.

There is a deeper explanation. One that defines Esther’s choice as one that is relevant to every single person. We ask ourselves how can I approach G-d? I am not perfect. I have liabilities. How can I approach the king with requests for health, happiness, etc. when I don’t follow Torah and mitzvot 100%? And what I do manage to do, I sometimes struggle with.

Chassidic masters explain the verse from the megillah “…and I will come to the king illegally and whatever I will lose, I will lose”, to mean that every human being approaches G-d and makes their request saying “I may not be perfect or righteous but it’s worth it for you, G-d, to fulfill my request so that I can serve you and have a close deep relationship with you. If you choose to reject me, that’s your choice. The relationship is so important that I am willing to use the nuclear option. I am willing to risk my life in order to build a deep meaningful relationship”.

Perhaps this is why Yom Kippur is called Yom Hakippurim, a day which is ‘like Purim’. On Purim we reveal this deep level connection with G-d. While Yom Kippur is important, Purim on some level is a day that is more important, the day we reveal a deeper quintessential bond.

This Purim, I would like to invite you to join us in celebrating this bond. See more info at www.HarfordChabad.org/Purim.

Have an amazing Shabbos,

Rabbi Kushi

Change makes noise!

 Our relationship with G-d is very personal.  On one level it is essential, meaning that each of us have the same essence based connection.  However, each of us are also are independent beings with our own emotional and intellectual systems as well as our unique life experiences.  Accordingly, we each relate to G-d through our own lenses and perspectives.

Accordingly, the events of this week's Parsha beg explanation.  The Torah sets the scene of the Sinai Revelation.  "And it was on the third day in the morning and there was sounds and lightning..." There was a full on thunder and lightning show. "And the people in the camp shuddered".  

Was not the revelation of G-d Himself on Sinai enough to create awe and fear and shuddering in the camp?  Why the need for the thunder and lightning.  

The answer goes to the heart of what transpired at Sinai. This wasn't just a one time event.  The events of Sinai created a transformation in the world.  The physical world until that point didn't have the tolerance or ability for G-dliness to permeate it.  There were no holy objects.  Even the holy places ceased being holy when G-d removed his revelation.

But at Sinai all of that changed.  Physical objects become infused with holiness when we do a Mitzvah with them.  Physical spaces become sacred when holy events take place there.  The physical reality changed to have the ability to absorb holiness into it.

We experience noise when an experience is experienced for the first time. A new born baby - Mazal Tov! A new marriage - Mazal Tov.  NEWS! It makes noise.  The light of Hashem breaking through the physical reality wasn't to cause fear but it was an actual change to the physical reality experienced by all. That change makes noise.  The Jewish People experienced that change with all of the noise that it came with.

The message for us is that our experience of G-d, G-dliness and our relationship with Hashem, Torah, Mitzvot and Judaism has to permeate our reality and consciousness in a very real way.  We need to absorb it into our being.  When we do we become a living example of the intention and revelation of Sinai.

Have a great Shabbos!  

Split your own sea

Things are going well and suddenly you hit a roadblock! 

You know where you are going. To the promised land with a stop at Mount Sinai to receive the Torah. Behind you are the Egyptians and in front of you is the sea.

We have all had situations like this. We are doing the right thing, heading in the right direction. We are finally free. And then, our demons from our past creep up behind us and we find ourselves before some roadblock.

What do you do?

Some very religious people think it's time to pray! But G-d told Moses – nope, not time to pray. Time to move forward towards where you need to go! 

There is a roadblock? Just go above it!

The 4th Chabad Rebbe, the Rebbe Maharash, would say: The world says that if you cannot crawl under an obstacle, try to leap over it. However, I say, leap over it in the first place!  

Yes, the roadblock seems real. The challenge in front of you seems genuine.beautiful-beauty-blue-bright-414612.jpg

Nachshon ben Aminadav, facing the sea, went into the water when G-d said to keep moving forward toward Mount Sinai, and then the water split for the Jews to walk through.

We need to keep moving toward Sinai, our connection to Torah, and the roadblocks will evaporate or at least split to allow us to go through them.

Have a great Shabbos,

Rabbi Kushi Schusterman

P.S. Join Us
Friday
Soup and Scotch 5:30 PM

Shabbos 
10:00 Minyan 
10:30 Family Shabbat
7:00 PM Precious Souls, a Chassidic gathering

Sunday 
8 AM Teffilin Club
10 AM Hebrew School 
7 PM Tu Bshvat Paint Night 

Gotta do the work

While the Torah comes from Heaven, it was given on this Earth.  It can be tempting to want to soar heavenward in our pursuit of spiritual fulfillment.  In many ways it is easier to get lost in a spiritual high or in a spiritual event.  It's less demanding and doesn't require the inner work we need to put in to truly create transformation.

While doing the day to day hard work of personal transformation and engaging with the physical reality may seem to be the work of the unholy, it is in fact the most holy.  It is a simple act of kindness, a small victory over our negative spirits and the small act of a mitzvah that achieves the highest of spiritual connections.

When The Torah speaks about the plague of darkness.  The Torah says that the darkness pervaded over Egypt for three days. Rashi explains; this is because while the darkness was at play the Jews sought out where the Egyptians kept their riches. So that when they left Egypt the Egyptians were not able to deny that they possessed these riches because the ews had already seen them and identified them.

There are two reasons the Jews needed to take these riches with them.  The first is to fulfill the promise that Hashem made to Abraham when He told of the Egyptian slavery "and afterwards they will go out with great wealth".  The second is that the wealth represented spiritual sparks and energies that were captured by the unholy forces that were Egypt at the time.

Accordingly, the Exodus and the removing of this wealth was a fulfillment of G-d's instruction.

Rashi is teaching us that when it comes to fulfilling Hashem's commandments, we have to work hard to seek out the spark and fulfill it on natural terms.  While Hashem set the stage in a miraculous manner, (as He always does), the Jews still needed to do the hard work of searching and seeking in order to fulfill their Mitzvah.

It's always rewarding to do the work when fulfilling a mitzvah.

Good Shabbos!

Rabbi Kushi Schusterman
Edited from an email by Rabbi Eliyahu Schusterman 

 

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