Rabbi's Blog

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

Consultants & New Years Resolutions

Have you ever spoken to a "consultant", ie, a business consultant? Their job is to enter a company, observe and talk to people while taking notes of their findings. Only after a few weeks would they offer suggestions. The goal is to improve the way the company does business and help them improve what they do. 

New Year’s Resolutions, on the other hand, do not work that way. We all know the drill about New Year’s resolutions; “This year I will ...” and it turns into a distant memory by February... (more on how to avoid that  here). I would like to share with you a different approach... innovative? maybe! crazy? I think not.

Let us take upon a monthly resolution. “This month I will...” thus, throughout the year, we would have "tasted" different options. We would see what works for us.

For example:

  • January - I will join the weekly class - the session begins Jan 2nd
  • February - I will learn to read Hebrew (email me for more info)
  • March - I will attend prayer services on Friday night 

The way I view it - We can take some small steps to see what we can sensibly add to our lives -making the daily grind more then just living; essentially being alive and adding a deeper dimension to our reality.  

Are you in?

While there are no services this week at Chabad, take a moment this shabbos and meditate about what YOU can do to ensure that every person in this community is touched to be a better person. 

Have a great shabbos and we will be thinking of you. 

See ya next week. 

Rabbi Kushi Schusterman

I want to take a moment to thank those who have joined the year end campaign - Thank YOU. We couldn't do it without you!

Sandy Hook - A Call To Action

Sandy Hook just a few days ago - Friday Morning last week... so fresh in everyone's mind.... as my sister in law posted on facebook on sunday morning "It's going to be tough to send my children to school tomorrow morning!"

In honor of the victim's

  • Do a good deed
  • Join us for services this weekend
  • AND please take a minute or two to read the article by Mrs Deren from Stamford, CT below and forward it to a friend



Driving Home from Newtown




A call to action from Sandy Hook

By Aviva Deren


Until this weekend I had never heard of Noah Pozner, or of his family. But Noah’s father, Lenny, has a friend, and the friend had heard of us and called.

“They need you. You can speak to them, you can relate to them. Come, please come.”

There isn’t much to say to a request like that. I knew why we had been called. It was not only because my husband is a compassionate and caring rabbi, who has brought comfort to so many hurting people. We were being asked to help because as bereaved parents ourselves, several times over, perhaps we had something more to offer—if only to be evidence that it is possible to breathe after the breath has literally been knocked out of you. With much trepidation, I traveled with my husband to the house where the Pozners were. I walked in with a prayer on my lips that whatever we say will bring comfort, and not, G‑d forbid, add to the unbearable burden these people were already carrying.

We were asked to help because as bereaved parents ourselves, several times over, perhaps we had something more to offer

We were brought to a quiet room, away from the hustle and bustle, to speak with Noah’s family. I found myself listening to a brokenhearted mother describing her little boy, Noah, one of the first-graders at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, who was the youngest of the victims in the shootings last Friday. Those are, and should remain, private conversations, the kind of conversations that no one should have to have, ever.

What I do want to share are some thoughts that came to me as the day wore on.

Noah. The themes of the biblical story kept playing in my mind. Noah. Someone described in the Torah as a tzaddik, a righteous person, “complete.” All of humanity are considered to be his descendants, bound in a covenant with G‑d, to partner with Him to create a world of peace and harmony, of justice, goodness and kindness. The almost universal symbols of peace, a dove and an olive branch, trace back to Noah and his story.

Lenny’s friend is not Jewish, but he is passionately committed to the Noahide Code, the covenant that the Torah teaches was entered into by G‑d and Noah after the Flood, a covenant that binds G‑d and Noah’s descendants for all time. These universal commandments are the antecedent of any formal religion. The Noahide code is based not on clergy or houses of worship, but on the covenant between the Creator and humanity, the foundation for all human endeavor. Seven principles, seven commandments, that if they were implemented would bring about a virtual utopia of human existence.

“Noah loved rainbows,” his mother is telling someone

“Noah loved rainbows,” his mother is telling someone. Rainbows! The sign of G‑d’s promise never, ever to bring a flood on the whole world again. A symbol of healing, promise, and optimism.

We have moved to the high school, where the president is going to meet with each of the families. Governor Malloy and his wife, Cathy, come into the room first. The governor speaks gently with each family member. He embraces my husband warmly, turning to the family—“This is my very good friend.” They speak briefly about how we go forward after this overwhelming tragedy. The governor asks my husband to be in touch within the next 24–48 hours.

The president enters with no fanfare or even an announcement, and without being told to do so, everyone rises. I am moved to tears watching him with these grief-stricken people. The power of this gesture is immense; he truly does convey the sense that the whole country is mourning alongside these anguished families. The way he bends down to speak with Noah’s twin sister, the way he comforts the grandparents and gently joshes the teenage siblings, the way he makes a point of saying, as he did later, that “we will be with you,” not just now, but for the long haul. The president met privately with every single family, and took time to speak at length with each bereaved parent.

I am moved to tears watching him with these grief-stricken people

Noah’s family did not stay for the vigil; we left the high school with them and the caring, close-knit circle of family and friends that surround them so tightly. On the way home, we listened to the president. I found his speech stirring, and even more than that, heartfelt. There was an authenticity in this speech that one does not often encounter in public life. In my opinion, the speech was simply magnificent. I hope that every classroom in our country will study those words and figure out how to translate them into real life. I hope that adults will hold those same conversations. Most of all, I feel that his words were a call to action to all of us, to access the best within us individually and as a country, to really, truly, once and for all do what has to be done so that our world is a place where things like this can never happen again. To take those words of “never happen again” out of the fairy tales and put them where they can make a difference.

There are, thank G‑d, enough of us on this planet to make sure that not one human being ever feels lost

Late in the afternoon it hit me: We need a flood! Not, G‑d forbid, a destructive flood—we’ve had more than enough of that. What we need is a good flood—a flood of kindness, of caring, of compassion, of goodness, of warmth, of benevolence, of support, of reaching out. There are, thank G‑d, enough of us on this planet to make sure that not one human being ever feels lost. We need a flood of connections. Not just the trickles that come from time to time, but everywhere, all the time. We need to be at least as aware of the ecology of human behavior as we are of the ecology of the physical resources of the planet. It has to penetrate all aspects of our world—the worlds of business, the media, education, culture, science, the arts, medicine—we need a flood, a good flood. Every single one of us has to know that we can make a difference, and we need to put serious thought to how we can best do that. “Noah’s Flood” could take on a whole new meaning.

My husband made a suggestion to the president, that in the effort to draw good from the unfathomable evil that occurred we should offer a “moment of silence”at the beginning of each school day. This “moment of silence” will allow those children who want to pray the opportunity to do so; it will foster discussion between parents and children of the spiritual values they hold dear as a family. This suggestion was first made years ago by the Rebbe, who always held the clear vision of a world perfected by the partnership of G‑d and human beings.

And here, Mr. President, if I may respectfully offer one change—no, make that one addition—to your words. Yes, G‑d has taken them home. But now it’s time for the rest of us to make sure that G‑d’s home is right here on earth; to make sure that we, all of us together, bring heaven down to earth.

And Newtown will then forever be known as the place where light triumphed over darkness, the place where the healing of our aching world finally began for real.




Ah what a time of year, Chanukah!  The smell of Latkes, the cool crisp air, the light of the Menorah shining in the window!  And for many - presents!

Chanukah is what has become called a minor holiday.   Rosh Hashanah, Yom Kippur, Sukkot, Passover and Shavout are the major ones with many Biblical obligations and prohibitions making it much like Shabbat.  Chanukah and Purim are in a category of their own.  We go to work and really but for the unique Mitzvot of the holiday it is very much the same as any other day.  In more recent years as the world around us has become more colorful with lights on houses, displays in the lawns, and the endless sales all advertised with the greed, red and white we the Jewish people have embraced some of those gift giving traditions as well.

I'm not the preachy type, but perhaps we should look at the special light of the Menorah and the contrast to the vast lights around us particularly during this season.  We pride ourselves with the knowledge that our little light represents something far more powerful than all the wattage contained in the many bulbs around us.  Well then, perhaps if we looked at the giving tradition of the holiday of Chanukah, we would see its power too.

The giving tradition of Chanukah is giving Chanukah Gelt.  Not the chocolate type, but real money.  For many the tradition was to give gelt once during the Chanukah.  The Chabad Rebbes would have a "latke uvent" (latke evening) on the fifth light of Chanukah where their families would gather, eat latkes, and share stories.  The Rebbe would give gelt to the family on the evening.  Our Rebbe encouraged that we should give Chanukah gelt every night of Chanukah, to all in our immediate sphere of influence, spouses, children and employees.

Why the big deal with money?  Chanukah means dedication.  It represents the rededication of the Temple in Jerusalem that had been desecrated by the Greek Hellenist Armies.  The Temple was an edifice made of stone, wood and gold all transformed into objects of holiness.  In a similar vein our Jewish lives are about taking the material world around us and dedicating it to holiness.  Money itself can often times be overlooked as a means to an end.  As the means to purchasing the material which is then transformed into holiness. 

Chanukah gelt represents taking the actual vehicle and by using it in the act of a Mitzvah or fulfillment of a tradition the money itself becomes holy.  Furthermore, we teach the children through this and dedicate them to our Jewish values and tradition.

The Rebbe added an element to this.  The Rebbe would give two coins, one for the child to give to charity and the other to do as he/she pleased.  In this manner the child became owner over the money felt the pride in giving away their money to a worthwhile cause but also benefited from the money.

So this Chanukah as we gather around the small but powerful light of our Menorah, let's reignite the tradition that is uniquely ours, the giving of Chanukah gelt!

Happy Chanukah!  

Rabbi Kushi Schusterman 

Gratitude & Chanukah

 Chanukah is here! Can you believe how fast time flies when you are having fun?

Among other themes, Chanukah is a time for gratitude.  It is a time for us to give thanks to G-d for the miracle of Chanukah and the freedom that we are privileged to be able to celebrate our heritage.

When it comes to giving thanks the question becomes how much are you willing to do to express that thanks. You join someone for dinner, you bring flowers.  A good friends birthday you bring a gift.  How far are you willing to go to show that thanks?  Are you willing to make yourself uncomfortable?  Are you willing to give up a good movie, a night out, a baseball game?  How much are you willing to challenge yourself to show appreciation?

In the story of Chanukah a small band of Maccabees challenged the mighty Greek Syrian Army and miraculously were victorious.  Later in the story the Jews found a small flask of oil and although it didn't make sense they lit it with faith in G-d and indeed it burned for 8 days and nights.  Do you see a pattern? The Jews broke through every rational comfort zone to do the right thing and G-d responded in kind. 

So, how far are you willing to go to show gratitude, to be a mentsch, to show appreciation?  Are you willing to challenge your comfort zone? Your rational self? How far would you go?

Have a good Shabbos - We look forward to seeing you over the weekend!ServicesParty for AdultsCommunity Menorah Lighting?

Rabbi Kushi Schusterman

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