Rabbi's Blog

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

Need Dusting?

Some time after the Previous Chabad Rebbe arrived in the United States, he sent Rabbi Shmuel Levitin to Chicago on a special mission: to locate a Jewish man, named Lisner, and tell him all about his Chassidic ancestors and to attempt to reconnect him to his heritage, Torah and Mitzvot.

After arriving in Chicago, Rabbi Levitin met Rabbi Yosef Weinberg (who passed away yesterday 6/27/12) and together they succeeded in finding Mr. Lisner and meeting with him. Mr. Lisner received them warmly and listened attentively to their stories. He was very interested in every detail and was affected by the encounter.

When they finished their recital, Mr. Lisner took out his checkbook and asked them how much they wanted, adding that he would give them whatever amount they specified. He had mistakenly assumed that the point of the visit was to solicit money, which he declared himself ready and willing to contribute.

The Rabbis explained that they had not come for money; they had been sent by the Previous Rebbe to reconnect him to his heritage and his Chassidic roots.

The local rabbi (who joined them for the meeting) then explained that the Hebrew word for Jew - Yisroel stands for “yeish shishim ribo osiyos la’Torah” – there are six hundred thousand letters in the Torah, corresponding to the souls of every single Jew. The letters of some Jews may appear to be almost completely erased, and their connection to Torah almost invisible, but the Lubavitcher Rebbe is the master scribe who can correct it.

The visit left a tremendous impression on Mr. Lisner, who slowly but surely reconnected to the community and a Jewish way of life.

When Rabbi Levitin returned to New York and gave the previous Rebbe a full report. Among other things, he repeated the Chicago rabbi’s explanation of the six hundred thousand letters of the Torah, and how he had characterized the Rebbe as the master scribe.

 To Rabbi Levitin’s surprise, the Rebbe was displeased and explained that the rabbi from Chicago was mistaken. There is no such thing as a Jew whose letter in the collective “Torah Scroll” could ever be erased, for these letters are engraved, not written with ink. In the same way that it is impossible to erase an engraving without damaging the stone, it is impossible to sever the Jew’s essential and eternal connection to Torah and to G-d, or even to cause the slightest damage. A Jew is connected to G-d by simple virtue of his being; the concept of erasure or separation doesn’t apply.

The only problem with the “letters,” as it were, is the possibility of their becoming covered with “dust.” But when the dust is cleared away, the essential relationship with G-d is revealed in all its glory. Indeed, this is the function of the Rebbe: to remove the dust and grime that obscures the Jew’s true being, and to uncover and strengthen his eternal bond with G-d and His Torah.

There are Rabbinical Students in town who are uncovering engraved souls until Sunday July 8th, want them to visit? Do you feel you need “dusting”?  Reply to this email and we will arrange a visit (or meet them by services).

Have a Great Shabbos,

Rabbi Kushi Schusterman

I Miss Him

Every now and then I am overcome with a yearning and longing for my teacher, the Lubavitcher Rebbe, who passed on the 3rd of Tammuz 5754 (1994). Granted, there is a strong emotional longing, similar to my longing for my late mother, who I miss dearly. But this longing is also for the Jewish people and for our world. As has been said so often, the Rebbewas much more than a spiritual leader for the Chabad-Lubavitch community.

The Rebbe was a light in the darkness of our world, a man who brought leadership to a world on the brink of despair.

A world of wars, pain, death and sadness. Oh, how often I look into eyes of people and see sadness. And in this darkness, those of us who have learned from the Rebbe's wisdom have gained a sense of hope and joy in our daily lives.

Look at what's happening in Israel, in Iraq, and in oh so many other places in the world. Look at the people you know at work. Look at your family. Look into your own heart. What is lacking in all of these places? Leadership! Sure, there are rulers and dictators in many places. In other places, there are "leaders" who are meant to represent a people, but have no moral backbone with which to do so. This is true in the global picture, and it's true in our own little worlds -- the worlds of our homes and our own person. How often do we act as dictators to our families? How often do we torture and punish ourselves for our own misdeeds? And how often, conversely, do we lack backbone and staying power in guiding those dependent upon us, or in controlling our own behavior and thoughts, speech and actions?

In the Book of Numbers we read how Korach takes Moses to task for assigning his brother Aaron as High Priest. He essentially challenges the leadership of Moses himself. "All of the people are holy, so why do you lift yourselves above the rest?" G-d's answer is that leadership, true leadership is not about an individual lifting him/herself above the rest. Rather, it's about identifying with the people in one's charge and dedicating one's life to nurturing that. Indeed, there are and have been very few Moses' in our history.

But the Rebbe was one such leader. The Rebbe was driven by the vision of a whole and complete world. A world healed from its wounds and sufferings. A Jewish people who were no longer sought out for death, but rather a people that would be sought out for life and love.

The Rebbe was a true leader. A selfless individual with high moral standards and the backbone to stand up for them. He reached out and loved all people, Jew and non-Jew, diplomat or day laborer, righteous or sinner. Yet his love didn't hold him back from saying what needed to be said, doing what needed to be done, for whomsoever it would benefit.

This is what I long for. Someone I can look up to to teach me by example what a leader should be. So that I can be a better leader of myself, of my family, my community and, in effect, the entire world. For each human being is a leader in the particular job for which G-d has put him or her in this world. Namely, to impact, inspire, transform and sanctify our world.

For more about the Rebbe and 3 Tammuz See Below

Shabbat Shalom

Whose Mistake Was It Anyway?

Many of you are aware that yesterday the Chabad office email was compromised. It was hacked by a person in Nigeria. I spoke with 2 people who work in Computer Service They wanted to figure out if my password was strong and if i had a virus on my computer. Thank G-d we determined that our website is safe and my regular email was not compromised. But the question we normally ask ourselves is – Who is to blame?

We have all asked this kind of question; we ask it when things go wrong. Am I to blame? Was it my mistake? Was it nature? Is there a message? Was it divinely orchestrated?

One of the hidden messages in this week’s Torah portion is that G-d is the orchestrator of all events. When something happens; we should not beat ourselves up or put blame on anyone. We should ask ourselves what we can do to prevent the mishap from happening in the future and we should hold the responsible party accountable (as I wish I could do with my friend in Nigeria).

However, the most important next step can be life altering, using this "negative" event as a paradigm shift, recognizing that this occurrence is a message for us. It is a message from the creator of the world with his infinite wisdom. Maybe it is a reminder that we do not run the world, maybe it is a reminder from G-d to take a break and spend more time with family, maybe its something else but there is a message.

What message do you think I should take from my email being hacked?

Hope you have a great Shabbos,

Rabbi Kushi Schusterman

Think Before You Speak

Many people have a tendency to editorialize and not take into account the power of their speech. for example a police officer can  say in court the same thing in 2 ways A)The driver reached for the glove compartment after being pulled over so that he could have his license and registration ready for inspection or B)that  the “suspect” was making “furtive movements” upon approach.

When Moses sent spies to Israel to scout out the land. The spies (not including Joshua and Caleb) were convinced that the land was unconquerable and that launching an attack against it was not wise. The spies were concerned with the well-being of Jewish people and likely did not notice their criticism of G-d’s Holy Land, but such is the nature of gossip. We never deliberately set out to cause pain; we engage in what appears at first innocent chatter, but by the time the damage is done it is too late to take it back. The pain we cause is rarely deliberate but it is always real.

Words are soft weapons and often dismissed, but soft as they are their potency is undeniable. They can damage and destroy, cause agony and pain. With words we can lift each other up and with words we can tear each other down.

We are told to respect each other as we respect ourselves. Just as we would not like to be picked apart by another’s attack so should we be concerned about the unintended consequences of our own words. Before allowing ourselves the luxury of speech it is important to notice it's possible pitfalls. To review our words before they are spoken to consider the harm they might cause another.

Think before you speak - try this for a week and email me how it worked for you.

Have a great Shabbos,

Rabbi Kushi Schusterman

Are You On Fire?

The light of the Menorah in the Beit Hamikdash, the Holy Temple, cast its glow on the world. This light was a spiritual and G-dly fire, manifest in a physical flame. The Talmud tells us that King Solomon designed the windows for the Temple to be narrow on the inside and wide on the outside. If the purpose of the windows was to bring exterior light into the Holy Temple the opposite should have been the case. (like most windows those days Click for image)The paradoxical shape of the windows communicated the message that the House of G-d required no light from the world but rather provided light (from the Menorah) for the universe.

As we don't have the Menorah today, it is up to us to spread the spiritual and G-dly fire in a way that it can be manifest in this physical world. It is easy to tell others what they are doing wrong but to be a light for others we need to make sure that we are on fire ourselves.

There are people who have this "fire" in them. Have you ever met someone who is passionate? They have warm blood pulsating through their veins. Before they even speak to you, you know they have a passion for what they are about to tell you. Take Josh, for example, who is into baseball. There is hardly a conversation you will have with him that he will not mention baseball. His passion is so strong, you notice it regardless of what he is doing, whether it is eating, drinking, walking or sleeping. He will even try to get you to go to a game regardless of your "anti-baseball ideology".

How do we develop this passion into a spiritual fire in ourselves? For this the Torah gives us practical steps. We take stock of our Shul attendance, can we come more often? Do we make it a priority? Do we make an effort to learn more Torah? Try the search feature on our website, there are literally thousands of Torah classes. Enjoy live classes better? Host one in your home for your friends - email [email protected] so we can find a time and subject that you enjoy. As in the temple, it is a never ending work, the menorah needed to be lit every day. It is the same when growing spirituality. It is a daily practice of transforming our lives to be more G-dly. Do we have other responsibilities? Sure! But think of "Josh" - he wouldn't miss a "game" for anything!

Are you gonna be a fan? Are you going to kindle your flame?

Rabbi Kushi Schusterman

Looking for older posts? See the sidebar for the Archive.