Rabbi's Blog

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

Sibling Rivalry

A Word From The Rabbi's Brother

By Rabbi Nechemia Schusterman Director of Chabad of Peabody and Certified Mohel

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I sit here at Toronto International airport returning from a quick trip to Toronto to perform the brisim (circumcisions (plural)) for my sisters' twin boys. It was a big honor to be able to perform these brisim and certainly got me thinking. Kids, boys, siblings, usually translates into a lot of excitement, hopefully positive, but often not so much.

Many kids usually equals many problems. If anyone thought that sibling rivalry was somthing unique to their family, they need not look farther than this week's Torah portion and the drama of Joseph and his brothers. Joseph is giving his siblings a run for their money for having sold him into slavery and telling their father that he must be dead.

Now, no matter how ugly any of our personal family disputes may have ever gotten, (and beleive you me, I come from a family of 11 so we had our fair share) I think one would be hard pressed to match the drama that took place in this week's Torah portion. Selling a brother, only after deciding that it was better to do than to kill him for "no profit." And then when the younger brother ascends to power, he plays games with them frightening them, imprisoning them, holding one hostage until the youngest sibling is brought down to Egypt all in the name of getting them to appreciated the gravity of their sin that they had perpetrated years earlier.  

And yet, it is these final words of this section that always gets me most "Now Joseph could not bear all those standing beside him, and he called out, "Take everyone away from me!" So no one stood with him when Joseph made himself known to his brothers

The story unfolds how Joseph makes his identity known to his siblings but cannot and will not allow for others to be present as he does so.

After all they had done to him, he could have had the "last laugh" and made them pay and tell his buddies, "watch their reaction when I tell them I am Joseph whom they sold into slavery." Instead, at the nadir of their frustration with him, he still wants to preserve their honor and integrity. "No one should be present" he declares "as I make my identity know to them... "

I think there is a very powerful message to behold here, we all have "issues" with our brothers, some biological, some of our fellow Jews and some fellow humans, but we have to constantly remember, that after all is said and done, they are our brother. And we aught not to add shame and ridicule on top of whatever existing problems exist. 

If we are big like Joseph, we will forgive them, and even that forgiveness we give with dignity. If we are not ready, or they are not ready for reconciliation, Joseph teaches us, to still protect their honor and dignity.

As we approach the NewYear, I propose we find just one of our "brothers" and forgive them, and start, as Joseph did, by turning a new page, and forgiving someone we never thought we could.

Shabbat Shalom and Happy New Year!

Rabbi Schusterman

Lamplighters and Free Song

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A Word From The Rabbi


to see pictures click image 
Chanuka Wonderland.jpg and Chanukahatp.jpg

Chanukah is the holiday of light and I would like to share with you an enlightening story.

In the olden days, there were no street lights and it was dark at night. But there was a person in every town who would light the street-lamps with a light he carried at the end of a long pole. On the street-corners, the lamps were there in readiness, waiting to be lit; sometimes, however, the lamps were not as easily accessible. There were rural places with few people and there was a need for someone to light even those lamps, so that they may fulfill their purpose and light up the paths for locals and visitors.

One of the messages of Hanukkah is that we must be lamplighters. Our job is to kindle souls. It is written, "The soul of man is the candle of G-d." It is also written, "A Mitzvah – a good deed - is a candle, and the Torah is light." Putting some of our personal affairs aside and setting out to revitalize our fellow is a Jewish value. This applies at all times, as we are always sharing the light of Torah and Mitzvot. There are always people whose souls are yearning - looking for a flame, craving for warmth or even a little light.

The souls are ready and waiting to be kindled. Sometimes they are close, nearby; sometimes they are far they may even be in a desert even or at sea. There must be someone who will forgo his or her own comforts and conveniences, and reach out to light those lamps. Divine Providence brings us to the most unexpected, remote places, in order that they carry out this purpose of lighting up the world. Let us take this holiday and commit to add light in someone else’s life.

May G-d grant that each and every one of us be a dedicated lamp lighter, and fulfill his or her duty with joy and gladness of heart.

Rabbi Kushi Schusterman

Click here for a free download of the song about lamplighters composed and sung by my dear friend Moshe Hecht


Real, Facts and Newt

A Word From The Rabbi

You got to be honest. Do not tell a lie. In the words of the Torah: "Distance yourself from a false matter" Exodus 23;7. In Harry Frankfurt’s book, titled On Bullshit (Princeton University Press; 2005), he helps define the meaning of the word. In a nutshell, it is characterized as deceptive misrepresentation, short of lying, especially by pretentious word or deed, of somebody’s own thoughts, feelings, or attitudes.

I do not like to discuss politics. However, I will bring an example from Newt Gingrich, who is a candidate for the Republican nomination in the 2012 U.S. presidential election. He told "the Jewish Channel": “the Palestinians are ‘an invented people’”. When challenged whether he really believes what he said, his response was: "Is what I said factually correct? Yes. Is it historically true? Yes”. He spoke about facts and history - some of which can be found here. The question remains whether he believes in what he said (I’ll leave that for the political commentators to answer).

There are those people who act like you are a good friend but in reality, the friendship is ‘a means to an end’. They want something from you. For you to buy their product, to donate to their organization, or for them to learn what you are doing that they are not (competitors do this), etc. Then there are other people who are dead honest - some may call them blunt - but when they befriend you they are a genuine friend. If they have an issue they will tell you and either you resolve it or your friendship is over. (Of course there are those in between as well).

In this week’s Torah portion it speaks of Joseph's brothers’ jealousy of the preferential treatment he received from their father. We also read about how Joseph relates to his brothers two of his dreams which foretell that he is destined to rule over them. This increases their envy and hatred towards him. The Torah goes on to say that Joseph's brothers could not speak to him peacefully. Why not? Because they did not say one thing with their mouth while thinking differently in their heart. We can learn from them and try to emulate them in this way.

We should learn to be genuine people. When we are friends with people it should be more then "facebook friends". We should be true friends in a real way. We should actually get to know them. True, it takes time and commitment. True, there will be painful breakups (see story of Joseph Part 1. But, there will also be powerful reunions (Joseph’s story Part 2).

Have a Great Shabbos!

Rabbi Kushi Schusterman

P.S. Please Join Us in Celebrating Chanukkah
Sunday Oct 18 1-4 pm at Chabad (More Info)
Tuesday Oct 20 4:30-5:30 pm (More Info)
can't make it? join the afterparty at Sean Bolans

Olive Oil

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 We are coming up to the holiday of Chanukah (Locally we are celebrating it with 2 events – Click Here for more info) during which we celebrate the miracle of the battle and the oil - we are going to focus on the oil for a moment but first let me share with you The story of Chanukah in a nutshell.

More than 21 centuries ago, the Holy Land was ruled by the Seleucids (Syrian-Greeks), who sought to forcefully Hellenize the people of Israel. Against all odds, a small band of faithful Jews defeated one of the mightiest armies on earth, drove the Greeks from the land, reclaimed the Holy Temple in Jerusalem and rededicated it to the service of G-d.

When they sought to light the Temple's menorah (the seven branched candelabrum), they found only a single cruse of olive oil that had escaped contamination by the Greeks; miraculously, the one-day supply burned for eight days, until new oil could be prepared under conditions of ritual purity.

To commemorate and publicize these miracles, the sages instituted the festival of Chanukah. At the heart of the festival is the nightly menorah (candelabrum) lighting: a single flame on the first night, two on the second evening, and so on till the eighth night of Chanukah, when all eight lights are kindled.

The Menorah was lit with olive oil. Why?

The Midrash tells us that the Jewish people are similar to olive oil in a few ways

  1. Olive oil only comes after the olive is pressed (see it live Dec. 18th)
  2. Olive oil doesn’t blend (like most liquids)
  3. Olive oil always rises to the top.

The same is true of the Jewish people

  1. The Jewish people have only reached their potential to be "a light unto the nations" after they were (op)pressed in galus - exile.
  2. The Jewish people have never successfully “blended in” with the rest of the world.
  3. The Jewish people always rise up.

Let us be proud that we are unique and share our message with the world.

Have a great Shabbos,

Rabbi Kushi Schusterman

NY and Birthday

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This past Sunday, Rabbi Jonathan Sacks spoke by the international conference of Chabad Shluchim (emmisaries) in NY. Jonathan Sacks has been Chief Rabbi of the United Hebrew Congregations of the Commonwealth since September 1991. His speech was great. However, the most important part was the message of his speech; to spread the love between you and your fellow.

You can listen (and download) the speech here .

Here are a few of my favorite quotes:
If a Jew is lost anywhere in the world, Chabad will find them - Rabbi Dr. Sacks
If you already love your fellow Jew love them more - Rabbi Dr. Sacks
The world respects Jews who respect Judaism - Rabbi Dr. Sacks
If the Rebbe says do it, you do it - Rabbi Dr. Sacks
The more I spoke the more they wanted to hear which proves they are not Jewish - Rabbi Dr. Sacks

Today (the 5th day of Kislev) is my Jewish birthday. We celebrate our birthday on the Hebrew date, commemorating the day we were born. Time is like a spiral, and annually, on the anniversary of any momentous event, we have the ability to tap into the same spiritual energy that originally caused that event (hence the concept of Jewish holidays).

When one is born, G‑d invests within them a soul and their mazel is shining at full strength on this day. That same energy is present once again today, for me, on my birthday. I would like to share a ‘soul moment’ with you and share with you a blessing: I would like to bless you and yours with success in everything you want and need physically and spiritually. Your soul should shine and you should find fulfillment in that which you do. May all your family be blessed with all good in a revealed way from the Source of all blessings.

Please give me a soul gift and learn something about Torah and Judaism. There are many articles here , please take a few minutes to read something.

Have a great Shabbos and I look forward to seeing you at TGI Shabbat this Friday at 6pm.

Rabbi Kushi Schusterman

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