Rabbi's Blog

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

We are in the wilderness

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Last year, before moving to Harford County, a local Jew wrote to me: ‘You must like to be in the wilderness, it isn’t the Promise Land’. While learning this week’s Torah portion, which is titled Bamidbar - in the wilderness, I remembered this e-mail and realized how right he was. 

Two of the unique qualities of the wilderness for which G-d has chosen to give the Torah specifically there, apply to us here in Harford County.

 The wilderness is a clean place, untainted by the trappings of ‘settlers’. The Torah was given in the wilderness to tell us that the Torah thrives despite the society or country that a person may live in. In the wilderness we don’t need to fit in, so too here, we can be our true selves, true to ourselves and connect to Hashem (G-d) in the way that works best for us.

You may ask the question “I cannot connect or I am not spiritual, how does this apply to me?”

The answer is that being that our connection began in the wilderness, a desolate place, this teaches us that even when we find ourselves spiritually desolate, the connection is still there. The Torah is there for each and every one of us, to enhance our lives.

So yes, together we can transform this ‘wilderness’ into the ‘promised land’.

Have a wonderful Shabbos,

Rabbi Kushi Schusterman

My Bubby

My Bubby passed away last week on Wednesday in her honor, I am posting an article about her life instead of my weekly thoughts.

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Mrs. Henya Chasha Schusterman, a respected member of the Chasidic community and the matriarch of a prominent Chabad family, passed away Wednesday, May 11, 2011. She was 90.

Born in Shumyachi, Russian, Henya endured the terror of Soviet religious oppression.

When Soviet purges became more frequent, Shumyachi’s Jews fled to the larger cities of Moscow and Leningrad, where they could more easily practice their religion, but Henya’s father Zusman Fradkin, remained behind. A schochet, (ritual slaughterer) and thus the sole provider of kosher meat for the Jews of Shumyachi, he felt a obligated to remain. The Fradkin children were the only religious family to remain in the shtetle, and Henya the only girl.

On  a trip to Moscow, Henya’s mother Feigel met Mordechai Schusterman, a young student of the clandestine network of Lubavitcher Yeshivos. He was soon introduced to Henya, and on July 15, 1940, they were married.

When the Germans invaded their Soviet allies in June of 1941, in what would be known as Operation Barbarossa, the Schustermans fled deep into the Russian interior. Arriving in Uzbekistan, they reunited with other Lubavitcher Chasidim in the cities of Tashkent and Samarkand, where, at a relatively safe distance from the watchful eye of the Kremlin, conditions for practicing Judaism were somewhat easier.

In 1945, an opportunity to escape the Soviet Union presented itself to Russia’s Jews. With WWII’s end, the thousands of Polish Jews that had fled the advancing Nazi army, were able to return to their homeland. Under the guidance of legendary chasid Rabbi Mendel Futerfas, hundreds of Chabad Chasidim, including Mordechai, Henya and their two daughters, crossed the border as well, entering the Ukrainian town of Lviv in 1946.

From Poland, they traveled to Poking, a German DP Camp, until they could find a more permanent home. Finally in 1947, the Schustermans came to America, settling in the Crown Heights neighborhood of Brooklyn. There Mordechai worked as a printer, as well as an expert Torah reader for Shabbat and Holiday services, while Henya taught in the local schools.

Henya became active in communal affairs, taking special interest in newcomers to the Crown Heights community, helping them integrate into the community.

Her grandson, Rabbi Kushi Schusterman, the Chabad emissary to Harford County, MD, recalls a modest woman dedicated to helping others.

“My grandmother never looked for self-aggrandisement,” Schusterman recalls. “She was a woman of immense personal strength, completely dedicated to helping others.”

She is survived by her children Mrs. Laya Klein, Mrs. Miriam Nemenov, Rabbi Gershon Schusterman, Mrs. Faigy Wolf, and Mrs. Zysel Gurevitz. Her daughter Nechoma Greisman, a noted writer and Chabad emissary to Israel, passed away in 1992. She is also survived by a few hundred grandchildren, great-grandchildren and great-great-grandchildren, many of them Chabad-Lubavitch emissaries. (


Eyes Checked

This week Fraida and I went to get our eyes checked. Going for the exam, made me realize the significance of seeing clearly. Every morning in the morning blessings, we thank G-d for allowing us to see. Realizing the importance of clear vision can change our perspective on events in our lives.

Try this out and you will see why. 

1) Close your eyes (or get blindfolded). 
2) Ask someone to take you to another room. 
3) Ask them to turn you around so you don’t know which room you are in and which way you are facing. 
4) Try to find the light switch in the room you are in. 
5) Open your eyes or take off the blindfold.

Do you see it?

While doing this exercise did you mistake an electrical outlet for the light switch? How about a shelf for a table? When we can not see clearly we may identify things for what they are not.  Furthermore, when we do not see the ‘whole picture’, we can misinterpret what we are looking at. In that case, we would need to get “glasses” so that we can begin to look at and perceive things in the right way.

A man walks into a room and sees 10 masked men with knives and a person covered in blood on the table. 

Are the ten masked men murderers? 
Are the ten masked men surgeons?

Realizing that our vision is limited will lead us to judge every person to the side of merit. For more on this click here.

Have a wonderful Shabbos and feel free to join us for tonight’s class the Kabbalah of taking interest payments.

Rabbi Kushi Schusterman 

Bin Laden's Burial

It has been headline news for the passed few days that Osama Bin Laden was killed.  After he was killed, the military did their best to bury him within 24 hours. Their goal was that his burial should be in accordance with the Muslim law, his religion. Why? Why accord a terrorist the luxury of a respectful burial? Why did they care? Didn’t they just kill him? Don’t they want him to suffer?

I would venture to say no. Looking at this from a different perspective, we can say that the goal of the mission was not one of revenge, rather to eradicate evil.

Osama Bin Laden embodied evil by perpetuating countless acts of violence against innocent civilians and calling for others to do the same. His goal was evil. The Navy Seals who carried out this mission were men of faith, strength, courage and integrity. Their goal was to find the disease, in this case evil, and destroy it. Their value is freedom. Once the evil was removed, this corpse becomes no different then any other corpse that deserves a burial required by its religion.

The Baal Shem Tov says that we can learn a lesson from everything we see or hear. What lesson can we learn from the Navy Seals?

Throughout our lives, we encounter evil. Hopefully it is not of this magnitude. When fighting with or destroying evil, we can get dirty and our values can get skewed. Let us learn from the Navy Seals to have a clear goal of removing the evil without losing our values.

I can go a bit further and consider these Navy Seals to be a beam of light in a dark place. To remove darkness, all you need is a little bit of light. This Friday night you too can join our mission of removing darkness from within our midst. By lighting Shabbos candles, you too can add light into your home and consequently the world.

Click here for a how to guide

Have a wonderful Shabbos,

Rabbi Kushi Schusterman

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