Rabbi's Blog

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

Do You Want a Hug?

Do you crave the connectedness and friendship that a hug conveys?

The good news is that there is a giant bear hug on the horizon. The sukkah is described as G-d’s embrace, as He cradles us in His metaphysical arms, safe and secure in His presence.

Ready to experience this Divine hug? Now is the time to get building!

The main mitzvot of Sukkot are spending time (especially eating) in the sukkah and waving the Four Kinds (lulav and etrog). If there is any way we can help you (or anyone in the community) perform these mitzvahs, please hit reply and let us know.

Tradition describes Sukkot as the “time of our rejoicing.” And with G-d’s help, we will celebrate to the best of our ability.

To help you celebrate Sukkot with joy and unity, here are some articles, videos, and stories just for you. We hope they come to good use.

You are also invited to join any of the sukkot events, or let us know and just come by to hang in the sukkah. 

Sending you a hug!

Rabbi Kushi and Fraida Schusterman

P.S. Check out these links below :) 

see G-d every day

It is easy to focus on the big moments in life, like Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur, and forget that G-d is present in our everyday lives as well. Yet, when we take the time to slow down and pay attention, we can see G-d's hand in everything; from a chance encounter with a friend to a beautiful sunset.

This week I am reflecting on the week between Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur. A time when we are in limbo, waiting for our verdict from G-d which happens on Yom Kippur. This is a time when our relationship with G-d is at its strongest.

It is clear how G-d guided my steps this week. I went to talk to the school board about keeping Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur as days off (Please fill out the survey here). I also spoke to the Great Wolf Lodge about getting a sukkah for their Jewish clientele. Neither meeting was on my calendar. However, G-d guided me to end up there. These are two very different things, but both show that G-d is working in my life, even in the small and seemingly insignificant moments.

It’s important to work on seeing G-d in the ordinary. It is a reminder that G-d is always with us, even when we don't feel it. And it is a challenge to us to be open to G-d's guidance in every aspect of our lives.

As you reflect on your life, try to see where G-d has been leading you. Be grateful for the many ways that G-d has blessed you (and challenged you), both big and small.

I am writing this in a coffee shop, where I didn't plan on being, waiting for a flight to arrive. Why? Hashem wanted me here!

Do you sometimes see G-d in the mundane, simple parts of life?

That is what I am reflecting on these days. What are you reflecting on?

Have a good Shabbos,

Rabbi Kushi Schusterman

Turn it into something sweet

A bee is a little insect, and it's not considered "kosher", however on the special day of Rosh Hashanah, we eat honey that comes from bees.

Sometimes in life, we do things that aren't so good, like the non-kosher bee. And sometimes, we have tough experiences that feel like stings too. But just like we use bees to make sweet kosher honey, we can turn those not-so-good things into something sweet.

On Rosh Hashanah, we try to become our best selves, like going back to our true and good inner selves. We talk to G-d and say, "If I did things that weren't so good, help me transform them into something sweet like honey." And we also say, "If life gave me tough times, I'll try my best to make them better, just like turning stings into honey."

There's a lady in our community who lost her job, and it was really hard for her. But after a little while, she saw that losing her job might have actually been a good thing. She became calmer and happier. She started doing things she loved, like spending time with her family, helping others, and enjoying hobbies she had forgotten. She also spent more time thinking about and talking to G-d.

We hope that we won't have to deal with bad things or stings in the coming year. But if we do, we hope we can turn them into something sweet, like a strong connection with G-d.

We send our best wishes for a Happy and Healthy New Year that's full of sweetness.

Rabbi Kushi Schusterman 

Leave the negativity behind


Before Rosh Hashanah we take stock of our year. We take account of what we need to improve in and make resolutions to make amends.

One of the things that frustrates me is hearing people speak negatively about others. It can be about the friend they got into a fight with, an organization that is too liberal or not liberal enough or the community member that is being spoken about as a covert mouthpiece for a specific political party.

We need to recognize that we are one people! We do not speak badly about those who are close to us. Just as we do not speak negatively about our children, we cannot speak negatively about our fellow Jew.

In 1990, an Orthodox Rabbi spoke publicly and not positively about his fellow Jews. That Shabbos, the Rebbe responded (this is an excerpt from the endnotes of the book “Rebbe” written by Joseph Telushkin):

‘We must remember that all Jewish people are one single unified entity... We must appreciate the importance of speaking positively and the detrimental effects of speaking negatively.... Criticizing or speaking unfavorably about any portion of the Jewish people is like making such statements against G-d Himself…

… Those who were spoken negatively of should know that these words will have no effect on them. On the contrary G-d will bless them both in material and spiritual matters with good health and long life.’

This upcoming year, I invite you to consider leaving all the negativity behind.  Try to lay aside the fights and disagreements. At the minimum, do not let them leave your lips. And then, we will be blessed as a people with success, both in material and spiritual matters, with good health and long life.

Have an amazing Shabbos,

Rabbi Kushi Schusterman


i confess I am amazing

One of my favorite lessons from this week’s Torah portion is that Jewish confession sounds something like “I am amazing”.


In most cases, confession is saying I made a mistake, I am bad. Jewish confession is the opposite. It is along the lines of I am a child of G-d, I am amazing, I am worth investing in, I am doing my best, and when I make a mistake, it is noticeable. 


My niece Sara got married last night to Berri Dworkin in Atlanta. The bride looked amazing. If there was a stain on her dress, it would have been noticeable. 


The first step in Jewish confession is to realize that we are a part of G-d Almighty. What we do matters! We are like a bride on her wedding day. Once we have that foundation in place, we can deal with it if, G-d forbid, we cause “dirt” to be seen.


We see this at the “confession of the tithes” in this week’s Torah portion. The person confessing doesn’t say I am bad. All he says is “And now, behold, I have brought the first of the fruit of the ground which you, O Lord, have given to me."


The confession is i did what is right.

Two ways to get spiritual consciousness

We're all interconnected with the Divine through our essence, our souls. The Hebrew word for soul, neshama, shares the same origin as the term for breath, neshima. Every breath we take unites us with our soul.

However, there are moments when we detach from our oneness with the Divine. The world's attractions lead us astray, fostering a false sense of separation from the Divine. During these times, our task is to struggle against these worldly influences and rediscover humility, thus reestablishing our connection with the Divine.

We can do this by seeking out the dormant fragments of Divine essence in the physical world around us. Our attraction to these fragments is not solely due to their physical appeal, but even more so because they hold a spark waiting for us to elevate. Through using these physical objects for a Divine purpose, we transform them into conduits of Divinity and we uplift and liberate those dormant Divine sparks.

There are two primary approaches to achieving this: confronting our internal struggle or embodying G-dliness so profoundly that we naturally elevate the world around us.

The Chassidic masters guide us in understanding that Torah study brings us closer to Divine awareness, causing negativity and lack of G-dly awareness to disappear from our surroundings. Nonetheless, combating our internal struggle at times demands direct engagement, and this is where prayer comes in. Prayer calls for our exertion, a battle with our egos, and self-transformation to heighten our Divine consciousness and diminish self-centeredness.

Ideally, adopting the "Torah study approach" is more pleasant. However, when that's not feasible, we must persevere in the struggle and turn to prayer.

In essence, a balanced approach involves both study and prayer.

Which method resonates with you for attaining heightened spiritual consciousness?

Wishing you a peaceful Shabbos,

Rabbi Kushi Schusterman

How to be a leader?

Often when one is in a position of leadership, it seems like we don’t have a life of our own. We are just living for others. For our boss, for our parents, for our kids, and for our clients. When we lose sight of ourselves it's easy to experience burnout.

In this week's Torah portion, it warns that a Jewish king is not to accumulate wealth, not to wield power, and not to show off. If he is consumed with himself, he will destroy his soul and the country together.

What, then, is his purpose? Isn’t the goal of government leadership to become rich, powerful, and famous?

Moshe tells us that a king must “write for himself two copies of this Torah... And it shall be with him, and he shall read it all the days of his life, so that he may learn to fear the L-rd, his G-d, to keep all the words of this Torah and these statutes, to perform them….. So that his heart will not be haughty over his brothers, and so that he will not turn away from the commandment, either to the right or to the left, in order that he may prolong [his] days in his kingdom, he and his sons, among Israel." 

Moshe tells the king to live as a humble servant. One whose mind and heart are permanently open to Hashem and His Torah. Only when you are truly connected to a higher power, then and only then are you truly powerful. Only then can you be fearless!

When your power is the might of the “All Mighty G-d”, you aren’t using your own limited control, then burnout is not an issue. When you are deeply connected and feel honored that Hashem has trusted you with this role, you will be genuinely humble. Your behavior will be a model for the Jewish people, providing them a living example of how to live as a Jew.

A true leader is a conduit for something greater than themselves and one who feels honored to be given their role, be it a parent, spouse, employee, boss, child, client etc.

Isaiah describes the Jewish people as righteous while Moses designates them as royalty.

We are all kings. We have some control over our lives, our destiny, and our resources. When we view ourselves not as the person in control, but as a humble leader connected to Hashem and ready to implement His purpose for us, we become much bigger than ourselves. We practice both our business affairs and our Judaism proudly, fearlessly, honestly, and humbly.

We will give generously of the time and resources that Hashem has provided us. And we will feel honored to do so.

Are you ready to make the mind shift? Are you ready to act as a leader?

Have a good Shabbos!

Rabbi Kushi Schusterman

Turn the lights on

During the storm earlier this week, our power went out. One of my kids asked me to “just turn the lights on”. Being that that is BGE’s department, it took a few hours instead of a few minutes. We were blessed that it was a relatively short period of time. When the power went out again on Wednesday, thank G-d for a short duration as well, my son once again couldn’t understand why I wasn’t just turning the lights back on, although I helped with a flashlight ;). He is young and still doesn’t understand these things.

There is an adage attributed to the Baal Shem Tov; “one should learn something from everything he sees and hears”.

When this happened, I told myself, “I have my weekly email”. Whether it would be for a few minutes or a few days, I needed to stay calm and ensure that the kids were fed and taken care of.

When our spiritual lights are off, we do not feel connected to G-d. When we turn to our regular support team, and they are not able to light our spark, we just need to wait for the lights to turn back on. The question is how we deal with the time when it feels dark. Do we take care of things so that when the lights turn back on there is no long-term damage? Or do we throw a spiritual tantrum?

A couple days later, while studying this week’s Torah portion, the topic of severance pay came up. The Torah discusses whether a slave is required to be compensated when set free. The question then is asked if severance for a regular employee is required by Torah law? A lesson derived was that even if you aren’t required to give severance, it is a good and kind idea. It keeps the goodwill and appreciation for the good work that was done alive.

The spiritual message we can take is that even when someone doesn’t deserve severance, even when they are not involved spiritually, you should still give them something to make sure their connection to spirituality is not severed. Even when the “spiritual” lights are out, and you can’t turn them on, make sure you are a flashlight, lighting up their darkness.

Have a good Shabbos,

Rabbi Kushi Schusterman

It’s the Little Things That Count


There are two well-known expressions: ‘Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff’ and ‘It’s the Little Things That Count’. The words small and little are synonyms, they mean the same thing. Something that is not the usual size is small. That mitzvah that I have not done in a while is one of the “small stuff” that I did not sweat. However when I do sweat it, when I actually perform the mitzvah, it changes into one of those little things that count. It may be “a small step for man, but it is a giant thing for all mankind”.

The same can be applied to raising children. We all want our children to be passionate about their heritage so we do big things with them; a big Bar or Bat Mitzvah, we make a big deal about a Jewish holiday or two etc. Yet, sweating the “small stuff”, like kosherShabbattefillin and tzedakah, we often overlook.

When trying to teach children to speak, the experts say there is no such thing as too much exposure. We see this as well when trying to inculcate a love for yiddishkeit; the best way is exposure, and lots of it. When our children hear us speak words of Torah, they will follow suit.

When our children see us sweat in order to do the “small stuff”, they learn that it is of value to us and that it counts.

In this week’s Torah portion (and in the 2nd paragraph of the Shema) it says “And you shall teach them to your children to speak with them”. Them refers to the words of Torah. We are taught to teach our children how to speak by using words of Torah and not via baby Einstein or any other product. Disclaimer – it is never too late: If your children are older (even if they won’t admit it) they still look at what you do and emulate you. You can still instill in them Torah values.


Share with them a short Torah thought relevant to the issues they are dealing with. Search the subject of your choice here. 

Rabbi Kushi Schusterman


Sit Back, Relax and Laugh

Do you ever find yourself in a really tough situation and suddenly you sit back and laugh? I didn't think so. It's not a common occurrence. But, maybe it's a practice we ought to adopt. Try this; the next time things are really going rough, you are frustrated with G-d that He is putting you through a seemingly overpowering challenge; you are ready to pull the hair out of your head... Now, sit back with a cup of cold lemonade in your hand, and LAUGH! Laugh at the situation, laugh at how one day you'll look back and see how you were overwhelmed by the circumstances and how you thought it would never work out and it did. Or laugh at the how one day you'll realize that this challenge was a tremendous blessing to help you get to a place you didn't even know you had the potential to reach. Oh, and the more you laugh the better you will deal with the situation.

How do I know this? For that please bring your lemonade onto the porch and I'll tell you a story.

It was sometime after the destruction of the Temple in Jerusalem. (We just completed the three week period where we commemorate the final battle for Jerusalem and the destruction of the Temple.) Rabbi Akiva and his colleagues were walking towards Jerusalem and had arrived at Mt. Scopus. There below, they saw the site of the destroyed Temple. They tore their clothing in mourning. Later they approached the actual site of the Temple and they saw a fox emerging from the Holy of Holies. Rabbi Akiva began to laugh, while his colleagues began to cry. The Rabbi's turned to Rabbi Akiva and asked, "Why is it that you laugh?" To which he responded, "why is that you cry?" They answered, "for the Torah states that Jerusalem will be like a plowed field". To which Rabbi Akiva said, "it is precisely for that reason that I laugh. For I see that just as the prophecy of Jerusalem's destruction has come to pass, so too the prophecy of its rebuilding will come to pass". Rabbi Akiva was not belittling the destruction; rather he was calling on a deep inner strength, conviction and faith in G-d that in time G-d's master plan will be revealed.

When we are facing challenge the normal thing is to tear our clothing and cry. Why G-d? Why me? Why this? And that's ok (after all even Rabbi Akiva tore his clothing). But after you are done crying and fretting, step back and call on your inner faith and confidence. This is the faith and confidence that G-d is a good G-d that wants only the best for us. That our situation is really a blessing in disguise and in time it will be revealed. And that until that time our strong faith alone is reason to celebrate, the fact that we have a G-d that loves us and cares for us and wants to help us to greater heights.

Enjoy your lemonade and have an amazing Shabbos.

Rabbi Kushi Schusterman 

Challenges are simply opportunities

My cousin, Rabbi Mendy Deitsch from Chandler, was on a panel of leaders. One of the questions they asked him was “How do you deal with challenges?”. He replied that it's a deep topic, however, he doesn't really see challenges as challenges. “To me”, Mendy said, “they are more like chances for us to learn and grow.”

Even when life gets tough, there's always something we can take away from it, some hidden blessings or lessons waiting for us.

This is especially relevant as the Jewish people are in the midst of observing the “9 days” on the Jewish calendar, remembering the destruction of the first and second temple.

Yes, the destruction was real, and we mourn it. But the 9 days can also be a time when we reconnect to the Holy Temple and other Jewish people.

Let's use this time to grow spiritually and connect with our faith.

Who knows, maybe instead of mourning the destruction, we will be celebrating the rebuilding of the 3rd temple with Moshiach even before the fast of the 9th of Av.

Have a restful Shabbos.

Rabbi Kushi Schusterman

P.S. There are no services at Chabad this week.

Even when I'm empty, I'm full of potential

The Baal Shem Tov often said, "Everything one sees or hears is to be taken as a lesson in how to better serve the Creator."


We ordered a new replacement shelf for the refrigerator (climbing kids can cause a plastic shelf to break!). The new shelf arrived, and the box had this message written on it: "Even when I'm empty, I'm full of potential. Please use or recycle me."

 At times during our spiritual journey, we may feel empty. Sometimes, our previous practices and efforts fail to fill our cup, leaving us longing for a stronger connection to Hashem. Other times, we may find ourselves in a spiritual low due to the ups and downs of life.

I believe this message is incredibly powerful. When we feel empty, it is crucial to recognize it as an opportunity. We can let go of preconceived notions and realize that we are full of potential. We have the ability to explore additional paths on our journey of connecting to Hashem or to continue walking the path we are on.

To do this, we must take action. We can use this emptiness as a launching pad for a new path or recycle the old tricks of spiritual connection that have worked for us in the past.

As I pondered this, I realized how well it aligns with this week's Torah portion, which discusses the Jews' journeys in the desert. There were times when the Jewish people experienced great spiritual highs, such as at Mount Sinai, and times when they faced spiritual lows, like the aftermath of the spies' saga.

We are all on a journey, and it is important to remember that even when we feel empty, we are full of potential. We can use what we have or reuse what has worked for us in the past as we continue our upward journey toward the promised land.

Rabbi Kushi Schusterman

Can't I just flick a switch?

Question of the Week 

As you know, my wife is a little behind me when it comes to religious observance. One thing she challenged me on and I didn't have an answer. Last week I forgot to leave the light on in the bathroom before Shabbos. She wanted to turn it on, but I said to leave it.  So she asked, What is the big deal if I switch on a light on Shabbos? It isn't such hard work to flick a switch. Will the day of rest be totally disturbed by by me turning a light on? I wasn't sure what to say....


Here's something I think your wife will relate to. 

You are out for a romantic dinner, just the two of you. You make a reservation at a fancy restaurant, a quiet table for two in the corner. Gentle music is playing, lights are dimmed, and the ambiance is just perfect for an evening of romance. 

You resolve not to talk about work, not to talk about the kids, rather to take the time to really connect and enjoy each other's company. You laugh together, chit chat, and give one another complete focus and attention. 

Then suddenly you say, "Oh, I just remembered something." You take out your phone and call your business partner to remind him to send a report you are waiting for. It all took no more than fifteen seconds. You quickly put your phone away and smile at your wife. 

But she's not smiling. You just ruined the moment. You destroyed the atmosphere. Until now it was all about the two of you. As soon as you took out your phone, the ambiance was shattered. You brought the outside world into your intimate space. 

You could try explaining that it was just a little phone call and is really no big deal. Good luck with that. If you think you can make a business call on a date night, you just don't get what it means to create an intimate ambiance. 

The Shabbos laws are all about creating an ambiance of rest, a moment of spiritual intimacy, when we appreciate G-d's creation as it is without trying to change it. The state of the world when Shabbos comes in is the way it remains, and we do not interfere. If the light was off, it stays off. The flick of a switch, as insignificant as it may seem, would change the ambiance and ruin the moment. 

Someone who has never fully kept Shabbos may find this hard to understand. But if you've tasted the profound sense of restfulness that Shabbos can bring, you know how even a slight interruption can make a difference. 

We all need date nights and we all need Shabbos. And we need to protect the intimacy of these sacred moments. 

Good Shabbos,

Hope to see you at shul shabbos, even if the lights are off ;)

Rabbi Kushi Schusterman 

This article was written by Rabbi Aron Moss is rabbi of the Nefesh Community in Sydney, Australia, and is a frequent contributor to His latest book is "Can I Name My Dog Israel? Life Questions That Aren't So Black & White".

Do you know of any kid goats?

Campers had a fun packed first week at Harford Chabad Camp Gan Israel - Summer Camp!

A fellow clergy member asked me this week:

Kushi, it's not like you have a camp of 50 kids, even your Hebrew school isn't that big, is it worth it to run a camp and invest so much for the children? 

I didn't answer as I, myself, was wondering the same. By divine providence, shortly thereafter, I was listening to a podcast about the liberation of the Previous Rebbe from Soviet prison, which we celebrate tomorrow (more on that here).

The main reason for the Soviet anger at the Previous Rebbe was because of his encouragement of children's Torah study. Children who are not even obligated to observe any of the Torah and Mitzvot. It would seem preferable to cater to adults. However, the Previous Rebbe acted similarly to what it talks about in this week's Torah portion, Parshas Chukas. Not everything we do needs to make perfect sense. Some things are done because that is what G-d wants.

The previous Rebbe acted with self-sacrifice. Risking his life, above logic, simply to do what G-d wants. He knew that as a leader of the Jewish people, he was responsible for the continuity of the Jewish people. True, children are not obligated to celebrate their Judaism, but Jewish continuity depends upon the Torah study of children. Our Sages tell us, “If there are no kid goats, there will be no adult goats”. Educate the children about the importance of Judaism so that as they get older, they will grow up as proud Jewish adults!

In Soviet Russia it took literal self-sacrifice, you could have been arrested and killed. In the land of the free and home of the brave, it needs focus, and sacrifice of time and sometimes of finances.

Let us partner together in this mission. Camp is continuing for another week, and Hebrew School starts after Labor Day. We are also trying to restart our teen program. If you know of any Jewish children from ages 0-18, for whom these programs might benefit their Jewish pride, let us know about them and let their parents know about us.

Let us work together to make it happen!

Thank G-d we don't need to risk our lives, but we do need to invest in our children.

Have an amazing Shabbos and celebrate the liberation of the previous Rebbe after services tomorrow at 10:00 am. 

Rabbi Kushi Schusterman

Change must come from within

A Zen master visiting New York City goes up to a hot dog vendor and says, "Make me one with everything."
The hot dog vendor fixes a hot dog and hands it to the Zen master, who pays with a $20 bill.
The vendor puts the bill in the cash box and closes it. "Excuse me, but where’s my change?" asks the Zen master.
The vendor responds, "Change must come from within."

Korach incites a mutiny in this week's Torah portion, challenging Moses’s leadership and the granting of the kehunah (priesthood) to Aaron. He is accompanied by Moses’s inveterate foes, Dathan and Abiram. Joining them are 250 distinguished members of the community, who offer the sacrosanct ketoret (incense) to prove their worthiness for the priesthood. The earth opens up and swallows the mutineers and a fire consumes the ketoret-offerers.

Did you know that the prophet Samuel was a descendant of one of Korach's sons? Interestingly, during the revolt, the sons of Korach experienced a change of heart, accompanied by internal regret and remorse, but they continued to fight. This form of repentance, referred to as "Hirhur Teshuva" in the Talmud, involves contemplating the need for repentance.

Is there a point in contemplating change but not implementing it? Is real change possible?

None of us are perfect. We all make mistakes. Sometimes, we find ourselves on the verge of doing something we know is wrong and we experience a twinge of regret even before committing the act. This feeling of regret is the key to change. It is the starting point, no matter how insignificant it may seem, that opens up the possibility for transformation.

We ought to acknowledge and support this sense of remorse and, of course, strive to transform it into meaningful action. Eventually, even an imperfect person who merely contemplates repentance can become the catalyst for greatness, as exemplified by the emergence of a prophet like Shmuel from the son of Korach.

If you ever find yourself burdened with remorse, remember that you possess incredible potential! It is the first step towards change.

Is change possible? If you acknowledge its necessity, then yes, it is.

Wishing you a wonderful Shabbos,

Rabbi Kushi Schusterman

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