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Rabbi's Blog

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

A Shining Day

Question

Rabbi can you tell me how to make my days Shine?

Answer

Make each day count or count each day.

In Hebrew the word to count is Lisph(f)or.   Notice the root of the word sphor or sapphire.  In Hebrew the two words (to count and sapphire) share almost all of the letters.   They are also related to the word for shining just as a sapphire shines. 

It is very evident that if you make each day count and meaningful then your days will shine.  How does one do this? 

For that we have yet another word in Hebrew with the same root - Sipur.  This word means a story or to tell a story.   Picture yourself at the end of the day taking a few moments to recount your story - the events of the day. The things you did and didn't do.  The things you wished you had done and the things you wished you hadn't.  Now picture yourself telling tomorrows story, how do you want it to be?  What are the things you want to be proud of in tomorrow's accomplishments?  What are the things you hope to avoid tomorrow?  Who are the people you want to be with tomorrow?   What are the personal struggles you hope to be victorious over tomorrow? 

From the second day of Pesach until the holiday of Shavout, we count the Omer.  In Hebrew Sefirat Ha'Omer - counting of the Omer (notice the root word here).   This is a personal journey from Passover to Shavout, a journey of counting and rewriting or writing our story.  

Try this for the next 47 days until Shavout - each evening count the number of days that have passed.   Count the number and then recount the events of the day.  Then take another moment and write your story for tomorrow.  

See what a difference it will make in your life. 

Read more about the Omer by clicking here. 

Shabbat Shalom (No Services this week)

Rabbi Kushi Schusterman

P.S. Regards from Atlanta

You're Not Free

 Question

Dear Rabbi,

With Passover only a few days away, the topic of freedom comes to mind regularly; the Jews were freed from Egypt, we are no longer slaves; we are FREE. Seven weeks later we received the Torah, which has 613 commandments, thus regulating practically every detail of our life.

Rabbi you are an "observant Jew", who is "restricted" with so much that you can do, you are not free . I am not so observant so I am free! Just a thought!

Menachem Rogers

Question

Dear Menachem,

Oxford Dictionary has ten definitions under the entry freedom. Here are two of them: (1) the power or right to act, speak, or think as one wants without hindrance or restraint and (2) the power of self-determination attributed to the will.

So while both are correct definitions of freedom, which one would make  us "free?" Is it (1) the ability to do what we want, when we want and however we want; or is it (2) a determination to live our lives by a set of standards, beliefs and commitment to the ultimate truth?

Well, you can ask a recovered alcoholic whether they would consider their current life of restraint 24/7 as freedom in comparison to their previous life; you can ask the unemployed if they enjoy their new-found free time or would they prefer the slavery of having to punch in precisely at 8:00 am. Similarly, you can ask an observant Jew who hasn't grown up that way, whether their current commitment to Torah observance is freedom, in comparison to their previous life.

Whether we admit it or not, we are all slaves: to our employer, to our family, to our community, to our body and many other "bosses." It is when we are living the life of Torah and every moment and every act, even one as mundane as tying our shoes, is done according to G-d's will, that we are infusing purpose, meaning and "freedom" into every second of every day.

Every Mitzvah, even if it's just one, or even just one time, elevates the person and adds to their freedom. It is not all or nothing. Life is like a ladder and every rung climbed brings us closer to G-d, closer to freedom.

So this Pesach, let's truly celebrate our Freedom.

Rabbi Kushi Schusterman

Meaningful Passover

Question

Dear Rabbi,

Thank You for putting together the arrangements for the HarfordKosher.com website. I made my first order. BTW I wouldn't have done it if not for your "kosher email" a few weeks ago.

Now that I’ve got the Shmurah Matzo, meat and haggadah, I’m all set for the seder, Any advice on making Passover more meaningful for my family?

Thanks Again,

A new kosher meat buyer :)

 

Thanks Again,

A new kosher meat buyer :)

Answer

Have you ever heard of Divine providence? Its the concept that every event in the universe and every experience in a person's life, and their every aspect, is specifically guided and determined by the Divine will.

Well i got this email from my brother in Atlanta and i think it can answer your question.

Usually it's dusty boxes of Matzah, some Tam Tams and an aging jar of Manischewitz gefilte fish that occupies the shelf of the "kosher section" of our local Publix.  But every year right around Passover a full display of Kosher for Passover items takes center stage.  This year is no different, and as I entered the store last Friday a full display greeted me.

And that's where I saw it.  I did a double take and the continued walking preoccupied with what I had just seen.  It wasn't that there was anything wrong with it, nor was there specifically anything right about it.  It was just odd! Boxes of Matzah and a bunch of Yurzeit candles.

And it got me thinking.  What is the connection between Matzah and Yurzeit candles?  My upbringing was one of constant analysis of life's experiences.  For in our Chabad teaching everything that one sees or hears needs to serve as a lesson in the service of G-d.  So what is the message or lesson that I can take from this seemingly strange or odd set up at Publix?

And then it struck me.  Passover and Matzah can be a dead experience or we can bring life and light to it.  Just like a candle can be lit to memorialize someone or it can be lit to bring light and life into the world.  Passover is now the most widely observed Jewish holiday - which is a good thing.  But in the constant generational roller coaster (one generation observes, the next rebels against their parents observance and observes very little, the next rebels against the watered down experience of the prior generation and observes again) we need to make sure that our Passover experience is a real one, not an oppressed one nor a meaningless one.  It needs to be an experience that has substance and content but is enjoyable.  The difference between the light of a Shabbos candle that brings light into the world or the light of Yurzeit candle that commemorates the past.

Some ideas: Plan some exciting but not superficial activities for the kids, prepare some stories and insights and don't rush through the Seder but don't drag it out too much either. Also, it is important to actually do the "steps" of the Seder including drinking the four cups of wine/grape juice, eating the Matzah, bitter herbs and Charoset.  It is the physical acts that remain in the nostalgic memory of the child that will motivate them to relive them in adulthood.

Have a great week!

Rabbi Kushi Schusterman

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