Rabbi's Blog

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

Whats News


Here are a few news items that are interesting

Current Event 1

U.S. government sensors are detecting traces of radiation believed to be from Japan's stricken nuclear plant. Last week the EPA said that "minuscule" amounts of radiation consistent with a release from the damaged Fukushima plant were detected in Sacramento, California.-Reuters

The distance between Sacramento and the Fukushima Reactor is 7,555 mi (according to google maps click here  and check out step 12 for a laugh.) 7,555 miles and the movement of air is making a difference. There is no reason for concern because the amount of radiation is miniscule. We can see that what happens in one part of the world makes a tangible difference in the air quality thousands of miles away.

Current Event 2

At least one terrorist infiltrated the West Bank village of Itamar, southeast of Nablus, late Friday night (11 March 2011) and stabbed to death Udi (36) and Ruth (35) Fogel, and their children Yoav, 11, Elad, 4, and 3-month-old Hadas. AP

 In response to the tragedy, Esther Cohen, from Birmingham, England,  2260 miles away, made a difference by creating a facebook group and inspired 23,651 people to light Shabbat candles, thereby adding light to the world in their memory.

Current Event 3

The 29th Cycle of learning three chapters of Mishneh Torah by Maimonides every day was completed yesterday on 29 March 2011.

Every time we learn from the Rambam, we make a physical difference in the world. The Talmud states that R. Yochanan said in the name of R. Shimon Bar Yochai: When the Torah teaching of a scholar is said in this world, quoting his name, then his lips move (saying the same words) gently in the grave. Thus we have the privilege of learning together with the scholar, who is even more connected to his teaching when we learn his words.

The Rebbe teaches that this means that by our learning we cause physical air to move in the Rambam’s grave in Tiberius, teaching us the lesson that wherever we are in the world, our actions can make a difference. (See the Rebbe’s talk with english subtitles by clicking here)

You can also start learning the Rambam’s works for the first time. They are available online in English on our website click here.

The Baal Shem Tov taught that whatever a person hears or sees,  should be taken as a lesson to add to their service of G-d. We all have different experiences. The question we need to ask ourselves is what can I do, whether something big or small, to change the world?

We change the world by doing good deeds. here are some exapmles; being nice to a neighbor, calling an elderly parent, lighting Shabbos candles or joining the campaign to learn the Rambam. 

Together we can continue to change the world one good deed at a time.

Wishing you a Wonderful Shabbos.

Rabbi Kushi Schusterman

The world ignores Itamar

By Rabbi Nechemia Schusterman

As the world watches gripped with terror atthe awesome events unfolding in Japan, thedevastation of the tsunami, nuclear reactors and the like, other major events are being overlooked.

Not to diminish the importance of these events, G-d forbid, but as Jews, the Middle East is an area that holds great importance to us all. I don’t refer to the other excitement in the Middle East, all the Arab uprisings, rather to a little settlement in Itamar on the West Bank.

On March 18, as many were finishing up their Shabbat meals and as others prepared for bed, a terrorist or terrorists infiltrated this village, entered the home of the Fogel family and perpetrated themost heinous carnage imaginable. They slit the throats of the mother, father and three of the six children (one was at a youth program and found her family killed, and two were in a bedroom and apparently overlooked by the invaders).

This barbaric act of venomous hate shocked the nation of Israel and Jews worldwide, yet so many do not know of the story because much of the media is just not reporting it. I get that the numbers just don’t match what’s happening in the Pacific, but then why is it that when Israel builds another apartment building or house, the whole world is able to take a break from their collective schedules to lambast Israel for being an enemy to peace?

What is wrong with this world?Is the hatred for Israel so deep that theslaughter of Jews barely gets a mention, yet the construction of a home – some cement and bricks in territory that is undisputedly theirs – reason for condemnation and riots?

In his shiva call to the Fogel family, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said, “They murder, we build. … and we will build.” That reminded me of another terrible attack and the response of  theLubavitcher Rebbe, Rabbi Menachem Mendel Schneerson.

In May 1956, in the village of Kfar Chabad, terrorists attacked Chassidim. They came from the orchards to the shul and shot six people dead, a teacher and five students. Many others were injured.

The Chassidim – a normally happy bunch who had finally learned to restart life after the misery in Europe – were broken and devastated. In the “new” Jewish land – in Israel, a place that belonged to the Jews – their European fear was back. Here too they were a target.

They sent a telegram to the Rebbe in New York, expecting a swift and inspirational reply – a plan of action, words of encouragement and an explanation for G-d’s mighty ways.

They waited one day, two days, three – and still no word from New York. What did the Rebbe have to say to uplift them, as he and his predecessors had done after previous tragedy and calamity?

Four days later a telegram arrived. Everyone assembled to hear whatthe holy Rebbe had to say. “Behemshech habinyan tinacheimu” – “by your continuing to build, you will be comforted.” That was theRebbe’s succinct reply.

Short, but powerful and to the point. The Rebbe turned the whole town from a band of broken souls to a bunch of people with a mission and goal.

We get knocked down, but we get up again. The way to get up again is to build: to have a plan for growth, a reason to live again. Indeed,the next day, in Kfar Chabad, everyone helped clear debris and create space for what would eventually become the trade school for which, among other things, Kfar Chabad is known. The light and joy, the fire and fervor, was back. The broken and bruised people arose once again.

Did it answer the big question of why? No. Did it bring the loved ones who were murderously taken back? No. But it did give a sense of purpose a way forward.

I hope that Netanyahu will keep his word and not be concerned about what the other nations say. Let us build. And with our building we will be comforted.

Rabbi Schusterman 

Losing Weight

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It’s hard! In order to lose weight the dieter needs to take the fat and burn it. They need to hold themselves back from the delicacies at an event. To lose weight a person needs to burn fat. The Torah teaches us that when we bring a Sacrifice to G-d it is to assist us in making amends for a mistake that we made.

The sacrifice must be brought by day, however the fats may be burnt a whole night. The lesson the Torah is teaching us is that we may enjoy different things in life. But although the sacrifice must be brought by day when we are “in touch” with our spirituality, the fats and “enjoyment” can be burnt even by night when we are not inspired.

It is said that the true secret to weight loss is to make small changes each and every day and you'll slowly (but surely) lose those extra pounds. The key is to forget about instant results and settle in for the long run.

The true way to God gain is not about the enjoyment (although at Chabad Jewish Center we make it fun and enjoyable), it's about doing what we need to do - helping a neighbor, learning Torah or any other mitzvah in order to connect to God and be connected not because we enjoy it. So make small changes each and every day and you'll slowly (but surely) gain that extra connection.The key is to forget about instant results and settle in for the long run.

Have a wonderful Shabbos!

Rabbi Kushi Schusterman

The Life of a Humble Leader

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He was adopted as a child raised in a non-Jewish home. His "foster grandfather" wanted to kill him. He was in exile. On his way back home he almost died. This is a short history of Moses, the leader of the Jewish people.

Moses was a great man who worked on himself and he worshipped his Creator.

In these times, Moses would be referred to as a man from a very assimilated background. Despite all that he went through, he became a true leader.  When he came to power, did he say, "I made it"? Did he say, "I am better or greater than those around me"? No. Moses said and felt that had other people been given his talents and circumstances they would have done better and accomplished more.

Reb Simcha Bunim of Psicha says, "When we are on a mountain, can we say that we are great because we are higher than other people?"  No, we need to  realize that the mountain is holding us up! Moses, in his humility, realized that G-d had given him these talents.

It says that Moses was the most humble man on the face of the earth.  There are two important lessons we can learn from this. Although he was in a position of power he acted with strength while simultaneously realizing that someone else could have done better.  He accepted his father-in-law's advice and acted upon it. In his humility, he was always open to learning while he knew how to go forward and accomplish his purpose as the leader of our people.

There are also 2 lessons for us. Regardless of our "background" we can still be a leader and communicate G-d's message to the world.  As we act with strength in  our "position of power" we must be humble, knowing that had someone else been in our situation, they could have on a better job.

Are you becoming a humble leader?  This is our opportunity and our responsibility.

Have a great Shabbos.

Rabbi Kushi Schusterman

T.E.A.M. = Together Everyone Accomplishes More!

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As a community we can't all have the same job! If we were all insurance agents (we receive a donation per quote) or coaches,

if we were all working for BRAC transition or for the Harford Jewish community, we wouldn't be able to have a working society. We need each of the different components of our labors to make the whole community into a society.

The Tabernacle (mishkan), was built by two artisans, Betzalel and Ahaliav and their workers, "the chachmei lev" (wise-hearted individuals).  Yet, the Torah says that the "Jews" as a whole people built it. This shows how each person with their involvement creates the whole and its accomplishment.

To take it a step further we each have our own way of connecting to G-d through Torah and Mitzvot. There are specific Mitzvot that only the "Cohen" can do in order to connect to G-d. If a non-Cohen tries to connect using the Cohen's "method" it becomes a blockage as opposed to a connector. There are 613 Mitzvot for Jews and 7 commandments for the nations of the world.  We all need to do what is our responsibility to do, but it is impossible for any of us to do all of them. There is no Cohen-Levite-Israelite-male-female-Jew-nonJew  all in one. But we come together to fulfill our purpose in the world when we each make our contribution. As the Talmud says, "every little bit adds to a large amount."

Have a wonderful Shabbos. I hope you will be able to join us for services as we pray at 10 am on Shabbat day when we will bless the month of Adar 2.

Rabbi Kushi Schusterman

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