Rabbi's Blog

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

Pardon Me Dear Turkey

Many around the world are very busy getting their turkey primed and ready. The stuffing, the cranberry, who is hosting whom, who is preparing which dish, it is a very busy time in many households. Not to mention, the critical rush to be the first on line for Black Friday.

Giving thanks, has become an American tradition, perhaps the most widely observed of all our US holidays. And for good reason. We all have what to be thankful for, even during the toughest of times, if we haven't found something, we just haven't looked hard enough.

I recently heard that the roots of the "Presidential Pardon" of the Thanksgiving Turkey ceremony, dates back to Abe Lincoln's pardoning the royal turkey as his son Tad had grown fond of the turkey and now considered it like a family pet.

So who pardons and who is pardoned? Naturally, depending on your religion, faith and level of observance you will get different answers to this question. However, as we take stock for what we have good in our lives and what has not gone so well, as we munch on a turkey scorned, let us remember, that as Jews, we have a unique approach to these major life issues.

G-d in His infinite wisdom decides "who will live, who die, who will be rich and who will be poor," (High Holiday Prayers) and to some degree we play a role in His decisions, "repentance, prayer, good deeds avert the severity of the decree" (More High Holiday Prayers). And to some degree we are forced to submit and surrender to a higher power and accept His will and ways. Much of the good in our lives is unearned and seemingly undeserved as well as much of the challenges of life is seeming unearned and undeserved.

But unlike the "lucky" pardoned Turkey that just happened to be at the right place and at the right time, we believe in a higher power, that is monitoring and is on top of what is taking place in our life and nothing, nothing, both bad and good is random.

Its a tough pill to swallow at times, but it is comforting and soothing yet the same to know that their is a Divine parent monitoring things and it is not just random.

Something to think about as your are basting your turkey.

Have a great holiday weekend.

Rabbi Schusterman

A bean


“Once a bean traveled the world to find you here", a sign on the window of Starbucks.

The Baal Shem Tov taught that every occurrence in this world is orchestrated as part of a Divine Plan. Even every leaf that falls from a tree is part of that plan. Every bean that travels the world, travels as part of the Divine Plan, even so far as to find YOU here. Everything is orchestrated for a purpose even down to the details of every leaf or bean.

The choice is given to each of us whether to utilize the bean or the action to make it in such a way that makes it a holy act. We can elevate the moment or opportunity, or we can just keep it mundane.

My cousin, Rabbi Levi Deitsch from Chabad of Tysons Corner passed away this past Shabbos afternoon. What I find remarkable about Levi was that he was a regular guy, but chose to act in a holy way. He was a human who lived on a very high level. Recently when a top doctor came to suggest that it was time to consider his "legacy," Levi spoke to the doctor about faith. He shared with the doctor that there is the natural world as people see it from a scientific perspective but that in reality G-d is the Creator of the world and it is up to Him to do what He wants. He knew that G-d runs the world totally, leaving nothing to chance. He kept this perspective and lived with true faith in the One G-d.

Let us each choose to add one act which we will do in a more G-dly way. Let's utilize even that bean which traveled so far for YOU. Let us recognize that there is a Source to all of creation and do what we can to view the world from a more G-dly perspective. Living in this way changes the world.

Have a good Shabbos.

Rabbi Kushi Schusteman

10 Million Yes but 10K no


Mr. Gennady Bogolubov a Ukrainian Billionaire now in the process of building the largest Jewish center in the world in Dnierperpotrovsk, himself a Shomer Shabbos, Kosher, Tzitzis and Kipa wearing Jew was a guest speaker this Sunday evening at the banquet culminating the annual Conference of Chabad Emissaries. (Can you imagine feeding that many people? well the NY Times did... read their article on that CLICK HERE)

I was in attendance at this conference and at the banquet together with 4500 other Shluchim and Chabad supporters. It was an amazing event as you might imagine. Powerful talks and video presentations giving encouragement and kudos to the Shluchim were the genre of the night.

Mr. Bogolubov however spoke of how he came to become a supporter of Chabad and particularly his personal affection and support of Shluchim themselves. He discussed his own journey from growing up in a secular home to become a successful businessman and now his generous support.

His first gift was $10,000 to the Chabad Rabbi in Dnieperpetrovsk. Since then he has given many millions including a $10Million gift to establish a Simcha fund to give a gift to every Shliach - Chabad emissary who make a simcha like the birth of a child or a wedding.

In reflecting back he made a powerful point. All of the many millions of dollars he has given in contributions he understands and would give again. The only one he doesn't understand is that first time he went into his pocket and did the opposite of everything his life was about.

My life, he said was about business. Bringing money into my pocket, into my bank account. For the first time in my life I took money from my pocket and gave it away. It made no sense to me, it was backwards and opposite. I don't understand, I still don't understand.

But it has brought me so much joy and I am grateful for the joy it has brought!

Giving can bring so much getting.

What have you given today? There are so many ways to give (and I am not just talking about money)!.

See a clip of Mr. Bogolubav speaking here.

Have a productive week.

Rabbi Schusterman

My Coffee

I’d like to share with you an experience I had this week. As I was sitting in a coffee shop preparing the weekly class, I noticed a strange phenomenon: a number of customers walked into the shop one at a time, chatted with the Barista and then all sat down at a table together without having placed an order. When a manager joined them, it was clear that they were trainees. The principal message imparted to the trainees was that customers coming in to get coffee, should get more then just receiving a drink. It should be, and I quote, ‘The Experience’.

The Baal Shem Tov taught that from everything that one sees or hears, one should try to learn a lesson. What could I learn from seeing this? Why did Divine Providence arrange for this to be shown to me while I was preparing a class? I realized that as a new Chabad rabbi, I am like a barista. I, too, serve a product, namely, “Torah Classes”, “Prayer Services,” etc. This incident taught me that I need to provide “The Jewish Experience”, not just to provide the product/service, but to offer each person the Jewish experience that warms the heart, makes the week go better, and gives inspiration. 

Henry Ford once said "If I had asked people what they wanted, they would have said faster horses." They would have underestimated what was possible. I would like to ask you to think outside the box and share with me how Chabad can enhance your Jewish experience. Would you like more classes? What day and time works for you? Would you like a lunch and learn? More hands on activities? Do you want something totally different? What is it that you would like? Click here to send us your feedback, so we can give you a Jewish Experience. 

Rabbi Kushi Schusterman

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