Rabbi's Blog

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

A Real Relationship

A young man named David meets a young woman. They date for a few years and get to know each other. Suddenly, on a warm summer day as they stroll by the water he gets down on one knee and says the words, "Will you marry me?"

During their engagement, his fiancé tells him; "Dave, I want you to  know that in our house we won't have any beige curtains or rugs because I do not like them. and you must take out the garbage." They continue to plan the wedding.

Five years later, David sees beautiful beige curtains and having forgotten his wife's words, he brought them home. His wife was NOT happy about it and said to him, "David, my love for you is deeper than my "desires and rules" but in the future please don't bring home what I do not want".

Something similar happened with G-d and the Jewish people in relation to the giving of the Torah. The way the event is recounted brings out an interesting point. The Torah splits the narration of this event into two. The first part contains the rules (G-d's desired mitzvos/commandments), and then at the end of this week's portion it describes G-ds proposal by to the Jewish people, who then say yes.

This symbolizes two distinct relationships G-d has with His people: 1) I have desires and rules for staying married in peace and harmony  2) The essence of a lifelong, higher relationship which is beyond the do's and don'ts.

Nonetheless, this week's Torah portion which discusses the second type of relationship is still called "Mishpatim", laws. The reason for this is because although G-d’s love for us is deeper than anything, and His love is always present, still, when we desire what G-d desires, by following his “Laws” and fulfilling  his Mitzvos, the marriage becomes better and better.

May we all be blessed with what the Torah says. "And you shall worship the L-rd, your G-d, and He will bless your food and your drink, and He will remove illness from your midst."

Good Shabbos,

Rabbi Kushi Schusterman

Ben Franklin & The Constitution

Imagine if we had Benjamin Franklin, a founder of the Constitution to help us interpret it.

Imagine if we had Moses here to answer our questions about the Torah's meaning.

Some would say that would be amazing, others would say that it would be terrible.

Think of it like this. If Ben Franklin was here, he wouldn’t be able to understand the Constitution as it is reflected in the current climate. But he would be able to express “the spirit manifested in the debates”.

This was the subject of a deep discussion between Moses and his father-in-law. From the time of the Jews' exodus until this week's Torah portion, Moses was doing everything himself, from teaching, to judging. His father-in-law arrived and told Moshe that he was doing much more than one person could accomplish  .

The explanation was that because the people realized that Moses knows the answers and sees the issues on a deeper level, they relied on him totally. There had to be a way to bring answers to the whole people on all levels and at all times, even down to the mundane and basic. So Yisro guided his son-in-law, Moses, to bring the system of Torah guidance into a practical hierarchy for answering the questions people would have for all the generations. Moses set up a system in which the Torah, which is “the Eternal guidebook” can be accessed.  It is always possible for anyone to ask (according to the hierarchy that Moses put into place), and therefore to understand how the wisdom of the Torah applies to him in his particular situation.

Because of Yisro’s advice, Moses implemented a system by appointing captains of thousands, captains of hundreds, captains of fifties and captains of tens. With that system in place, all the people would know where to go when they needed guidance. If their superior needed guidance he would go to his “leader.” In this way, the Torah would accomplish its purpose, to descend  to the furthest reaches of our physical world where materialism and evil abound and to transform it to become G-dly.

Good Shabbos,

Rabbi Kushi Schusterman

Leaving Home

Leaving Home!

Vijai P. Sharma, Ph.D. Clinical Psychologist, wrote an article  In which she describes her brother leaving home for college saying: “About two weeks after my brother left home, his tear stained letter arrived telling how much he missed all of us. …..  I learned that the first year of college did not just involve going away to college; it was also about leaving home".

That brought up the question, what about the second year? Does this happen when  transferring from one college to another?

The next morning, while learning a Chassidic Discourse, there was an obvious and interesting answer.

(This discourse was said by the Rebbe when he accepted the leadership of the Chabad Movement in 1951)

The discourse says: It says in the Midrash (the classical collections of the Sages' homiletical teachings on the Torah): This world is G-d’s home. When we speak of welcoming G-d into His home in the world, it means welcoming G-d's revelation to us here.  (Of course G-d is always present.) In the words of King Solomon describing this world, he says it is “My (G-d's) garden". When Adam and Eve ate from the tree G-d left His home. He went on a journey further and further away. Then He started to travel back. When Moses and the Jewish people received the Torah He came home again. But, a short while later when the Jews made the golden calf (a sin that pushed G-d away), He left home again. Now in 2011, He is almost back home.

What brings G-d home is our doing mitzvah (ie, lighting Shabbat candles, charity, teffilin.) It is in our ability to welcome G-d's home.

Why is only the first travel away from home enumerated in detail? Because the hardest thing for G-d was leaving home. Once He was not home the other travels weren’t as hard.

So yes the first step away from home is hardest and the return home is most significant.

Let us put out the welcome mat for G-d, and welcome Him home this Shabbos. By lighting Shabbat Candles or even before Shabbat by learning Torah at the Wednesday class.

Rabbi Kushi Schusterman

A Jew is never alone!


Another "regular" day in the Jewish world that the Rebbe changed forever    

The Hebrew month of Shvat which we enterd into today, is an auspicious one for us Chabadniks.  The 10th day of the month marks the 61st anniversary of the passing of the previous Rebbe, Rabbi Yosef Y. Schneerson and the day the Rebbe assumed the leadership one year later.

The relationship between a Chasid and Rebbe is a unique one.  It is different than the relationship between a teacher and student, different than the relationship of master and servant, different than the relationship of father and son.  It can only be understood by one who has entered into that relationship which is one reason that many see the relationship as a curious one.  

In the case of the Rebbe however, while the Chasid/Rebbe relationship remains a mystery, the impact and influence of the Rebbe on the world and the Jewish world is readily visible.

It would take more than the space of this email to adequately capture this idea.  So please let the following anecdote suffice to express merely one aspect of this influence.

A Jew is never alone!

This Sunday I found myself in Knoxville, TN in the early morning as I traveled north to perform a Bris for a family who was connected to Chabad of Knoxville and were recently blessed with a baby boy.  As soon as the bris was over and I got into my car for the four hour trip home to Atlanta I received a call.  The call was from ZAKA in New York.  (ZAKA is an Israel based organization of observant Jews that is dedicated to the preciousness of the Jewish body.  In terrible times they are the ones who collect the body and body limbs etc. after the terrorist bombings that have taken place in Israel.  They have also been called on by other countries in times of crisis to help out with similar circumstances.)

The man on the other line asks me if I am the closest Chabad Rabbi to Grady Hospital.  I said I was. He proceeded to tell me that he was contacted by ZAKA in Israel by a couple who's daughter was hit by a car while on a visit to the US and all they knew was that she was admitted to Grady.  They had no idea what her condition was or even if she was alive.  They had contacted ZAKA in Israel who contacted ZAKA in the US who in turn turned to to find the closest Chabad center.

Being that I was out of town and Rabbi Sollish of Chabad Intown and Rabbi Lipskier of Chabad at Emory were also out of town, I turned to Rabbi Isser New of Chabad of GA.  He in turn contacted a doctor that he knew at Grady.  The doctor shared the news that the girl was alive and overall in decent condition but was going to need non life threatening surgery.

The news was relayed back to ZAKA in NY who in turn passed the news back to ZAKA in Israel who in turn passed the news on to the family, who were now able to breathe easier with the knowledge that their daughter was alive.

A Jew no matter where he/she is has never been alone.  Gd was always with us wherever we may have been.  Now the 1000's of Chabad Houses provide a home away from home and a connection to our extended family wherever they may be.  This home is there for spiritual nourishment, as well as physical comfort.  


This is the legacy of the Rebbe. 

Good Shabbos,

Rabbi Eliyahu Schusterman

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