Rabbi's Blog

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

You = A Beautiful Etrog

You = A Beautiful Etrog

Have you seen someone searching for an Etrog? Many people go around to different Etrog dealers looking for the most beautiful Etrog; oval in shape, the pitom intact and with a skin bearing no blemishes.

The Etrog is part of the mitzvah of "Lulav and Etrog" - to take a Myrtle, willow and Lulav (palm frond), and shake them together with an Etrog (citron). - The Etrog is the most expensive and trouble-prone commodity. (FYI we have one more set available for $54 - Reply to this email if you want it!)

We can be similar to the Etrog in one of 2 ways: we can be "the most expensive" or the "trouble prone commodity". There is a thought attributed to the Baal Shem tov that the initials of the word Etrog represent the Hebrew verse "Al Tevoaini Regel Gaava" - Let not the foot of pride overtake me – Psalms 36, 11.

As we spoke by High Holiday services; pride and ego are a spiritual malady that affects a person. While humility - true humility - is one of the most expansive and life-enhancing of all virtues. It does not mean undervaluing yourself. It means recognizing that your gifts are G-d given. It means having a beautiful Etrog - because we want to beautify the mitzvah - not to show off.

If we don't accept others, if we are arrogant because of "our accomplishments" without realizing that they are an outcome of our work AND our G-d given talents coupled with G-d's blessing, we are like a trouble prone Etrog. Like someone who shows off the beauty of their Etrog.

This sukkot, don't allow the "high holiday spirit" to wear off. Become "A Beautiful Etrog" - not allowing pride to get in the way of growing spiritually!

How will you "try" to help yourself grow spiritually? Need Ideas? Email me

Have a great Shabbat and hope to see you by services,

Rabbi Kushi Schusterman

I'm Sorry

I'm Sorry

As Yom Kippur approaches many communities have a tradition to ask of each other for forgiveness.  If I have wronged you, tradition tells us that you must get reconciliation from the one you wronged.  Only then can you turn to G-d to get His forgiveness. 

As a child it was cute fun to go from one person to another and say "do you forgive me, do you forgive me?".  I remember once, approaching an older Chosid (hassid) with this question. He looked at me with a smile and said, "Chassidim don't ask for forgiveness before Yom Kippur".  I asked him why and he said, "how can a Jew approach G-d with resentment towards another and expect that G-d will forgive them for their offenses to the Almighty.  In other words, if we carry some resentment towards another that requires them to ask us for forgiveness that means that we are carrying a lack of Ahavat Yisroel (love for a fellow) in our hearts.  Accordingly, how could we possibly stand before G-d to ask Him for forgiveness?

I am not suggesting that we all follow this Chasids advice to the extreme.  If you know that you have wronged someone in particular, please make it your business to receive their pardon.  More importantly though, there is a powerful message about forgiveness in this story.

When we love another, when we are connected deeply to another, then forgiveness is automatic.  If we truly love someone, than we love them with their shortcomings.  Those shortcomings include the offenses they have made against us.  Love should be blind, love should overlook, love should be complete.

When we stand before G-d on Yom Kippur we ask for forgiveness.  If our focus is on the transgressions than we open ourselves up to scrutiny of the specifics.   If however we approach G-d on this most holy of days, this day of At-One-ment, when we are one with G-d, all five aspects of our souls, like angels without food or water, in the spirit of Love to our Creator and evoking His love in response, than we are assured that the forgiveness will be complete.

There is no better way to evoke that love than through finding that love within our hearts to those that have perhaps wronged us. Go find the love and may it be a truly loving year!

May we all be inscribed and sealed for a year of revealed good!

Have a Great Shabbos,

Rabbi Kushi Schusterman 

A Small Jew

 A Small Jew

A young Jew living in a distant Island in the Caribbean wrote to the Rebbe in the 1970's thanking him for his intervention on his son's behalf thereby helping "a small Jew in the Caribbean." 

In his reply to the individual, the Rebbe accepted his thanks but took issue with his closing remark because "there is no such thing as a small Jew." 

A week does not go by that I don't hear a confession that "I'm a half Jew" "I'm not the real thing" or of course the all time classic "I'm not a good Jew." 

Apparently, the Rebbe disagrees with all those opinions and as a Shliach (emissary) of the Rebbe I hope that I reflect the same. 

A Jew is a Jew is a Jew.  

This week's Torah portion begins "You are all standing this day before the Lord, your God the leaders of your tribes, your elders and your officers, every man of Israel, your young children, your women, and your convert who is within your camp both your woodcutters and your water drawers that you may enter the covenant of the Lord, your God, and His oath, which the Lord, your God, is making with you this day" 

Everyone was there for Moses's final address. "The leaders and elders" to the simple day laborer; "the woodcutter and water drawer". Yet Moses, a few verses later, says "Not only with you am I making this covenant and this oath, but with those standing here with us today before the Lord, our God, and [also] with those who are not here with us, this day."

Who was he referring to? Who wasn't there?

The short answer is that Moses is reffering to YOU & ME!

We may not have been there in the desert. But even today, when we  make a resoultion to study more Torah and perform more of its Mitzvahs. This immediately unites us with every Jew in the world, every Jew of the past and every generation of the Jewish people in the future. They are our connection and they act as our support team to help us keep our resolution.

So there is no such thing as a small Jew - we are all connected!

Have a great Shabbos,

Rabbi Kushi Schusterman

Chai (Life's) Ups and Downs


Chai (Life's) Ups and Downs :

There is a time to weep; there is a time to laugh... The year is filled with its ups and downs, good days and bad days, easy moments and challenging ones.

Our own personal journey of return during this High Holiday season can also be filled with ups and downs.

Can we talk openly?

If we make an honest assessment of what the last 11 1/2  months looked like and evaluated that against our true potential, it may not look all that pretty. I think you'll agree?

So if you have been taking stock of your relationship with the Master of the Universe and you aren't feeling all that good about yourself, I have some good news for you.

Yesterday Wednesday was Chai (18) Elul. The Chasidic adage says that Chai Elul infuses life into the spiritual service of Elul. This is the day of the Baal Shem Tov (the founder of the Chasidic movement) was born and the day that he began his efforts in spreading the teachings of Chasidut (Chasidic Philosophy).

With an understanding of our true purpose on this earth and a glimpse into G-d's master plan, we can be more at peace with ourselves and accepting of our shortcomings. But not in a manner that we become complacent but that we become empowered to do more. Put it in these terms: G-d finds us important enough and significant enough in His master plan that our actions both good and bad are relevant to Him.

So if you are feeling down, it's time to shift focus. The fact that you have been created and placed upon this earth is G-d's way of saying - YOU MATTER! That's an empowering thought!

Also, Chai (18) Elul, is the birthday of the Alter Rebbe (founder of the Chabad Movement) find out more here

Have a wonderful Shabbos,

Rabbi Kushi Schusterman 

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