Rabbi's Blog

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

Be Selfish - Really?


Dear Rabbi,

 With all due respect, last week’s email (Be Selfish) seems to say that intentions don’t count. To quote: “Don't get too preoccupied with intentions. Actions count more.”

Do you really believe that? When I light Shabbat candles, should I not think about the greatness of Shabbat? I usually use this time to meditate on the following:


Not Sure


Dear Not Sure,

Actions do count more. Meaning, better light the candle without the meditation then to meditate without lighting the candle.

It is good to meditate before doing a good deed. Ideally, before doing any Mitzvah we should think about the meaning of the blessing we recite. Meditate on the words “asher kidishanu b’mitzvotav” - Who has made us holy with His commandments.

G-d chooses us to be a vessel for spirituality. When we do a Mitzvah, we connect with a power greater then ourselves.

If we can make the time to meditate, we should meditate on the specific mitzvah (similar to your Shabbat meditation above) or on the connection with G-d we are having through doing the good deed.

You are welcome to join the women lighting the Shabbat candles by Friday night services this week.  Services begin at 7:00pm.

Hope to see you then.

Good Shabbos.


Rabbi Kushi Schusterman

Be Selfish


Dear Rabbi, 

I do good deeds yet have ulterior motives. Does it make me a bad person?

Your Selfish Friend


Dear Friend,

I will quote a story I received from my colleague Rabbi Moss from Sydney when he was asked a similar question.

A philanthropist once came to Rabbi Schneur Zalman, the author of the Tanya, to complain that he felt he was giving charity for the wrong reasons. The man lamented before his Rebbe, "I am indeed generous toward the poor, but it is without any sincerity."

"Without sincerity? Nonsense!" replied the Rebbe. "There is plenty of sincerity. Perhaps you are not sincere in giving charity. But the poor are very sincere in receiving your charity. Even if you don't mean it, they do!"

Don't get too preoccupied with intentions. Actions count more. If you are doing good, even for selfish reasons, it is still good. If selfish motives are what it takes to keep you doing good, so be it.

Hope this helps,

Rabbi Kushi Schusterman

Same Joys, Same Oys


Dear Rabbi,

I am sick of doing the same thing every day. I realized today that that I am going to be doing the same thing everyday for the rest of my life. The same outings the same routine when I wake up. I'm sick of it. I'm bored out of my mind 

I want something different. 

 puǝıɹɟ pǝɹoq ɹnoʎ


Even if today is just like yesterday, the opportunities to fill today with goodness and G-dliness abound.

We can see this from the end of this week's Torah portion. In it we read of the gift that the leaders of Israel offered at the dedication of the Mishkan (the portable sanctuary that accompanied the Jewish people in the desert).

 The Torah is very careful to ensure that each letter is exact and necessary.  Yet here in this discussion the Torah finds it necessary to repeat each and every gift of each and every leader although they are all exactly the same! The Torah could have saved quite a bit of verses by summarizing and saying these are the leaders of the Tribes and they brought the following offering each and every day of the days of dedication. 

Today is just like yesterday, same joys, same oys. but life is  exciting, it's dynamic it's not just a repeat of yesterday. The opportunities to fill today with goodness and G-dliness abound.It's up to us to decide if today will be Groundhog Day or if today is a brand new day!

The choice is ours.

Rabbi Kushi Schusterman

Got Milk?


Dear Rabbi,

I look forward to seeing you Shavuot day, the 15th at 5:30 pm.

Growing up, we did not celebrate Shavuot and I never heard of this dairy obsession. Can you tell me its significance?




Dear Dee,

There is a story told that one year in ‘Tomchei Temimim’, the Yeshiva founded by the 5th Lubavitcher Rebbe, there was a rift amongst the students. Some of the older students, not willing to harbor hard feelings, called a clandestine meeting in middle of the night, to iron out their differences. Sure enough, resolutions were adopted so that the spirit of camaraderie would return. Due to the late hour, and that classes would begin early the next day, most wanted to take a power nap. One of the students, Chaim Shaul Bruk, got up and asked: ‘Why do the Jewish people eat dairy products on Shavuos?’ The others replied that they will answer in the morning. Chaim Shaul made clear that there was more to his question. The others gave the traditional answer that the Jewish people had just accepted the Torah laws and did not yet know how to implement the laws of kosher and therefore abstained from eating meat. Until learning the complex laws of proper slaughter and of the meat preparation, they limited their diet to dairy foods.

Chaim Shaul responded that there was what to learn from this. The Jewish people did not have ‘the last supper’ and then began their kosher diet the next morning. They implemented their acceptance of the Torah immediately. He continued saying that these steps that they took upon themselves to ‘love our fellow as ourselves’ cannot wait until they would wake up from their nap but must be implemented promptly.

The significance of the dairy foods on Shavuos is to begin doing the Mitzvot that we take upon ourselves immediately and not wait ‘until the morrow’.

I know you are traveling but if you are in town shabbat day services begin 9:30 :)

Good Shabbos

Rabbi Kushi Schusterman

Question - How Are You?


Dear Rabbi,

As the summer begins, are we supposed to go on vacation? Whats the Jewish view? 


How are you?"How often do you get that question? A dozen times a day? Sadly, this has become a meaningless question, which actually doesn't even beg a real answer. Try this some time just for fun.

Someone asks you "How you doing today?" You respond, "Actually, I am doing lousy, I had a bad nights sleep, I had a bad week last week, my head hurts and finally IT'S ONLY MONDAY!" You will, most probably, have a dropped jaw staring back at you. 

My friends, we all have our moments, some that we will gloat about and others that we will kvetch about. Every day, week or even year, is defined by certain events. Hopefully they are positive, but at times actually negative and/or sad. 

We have our successes and our failures. One day we are on top of our game and feel like we are on top of the world. Perhaps we closed a good deal or our stocks went shooting through the roof. On other days we feel like a loser and a failure. We got caught up at work and missed an important event at our child's school or are toiling tirelessly on a particular effort and we can't get it done. Perhaps we are hit with large and unexpected expense or we have a bout with a health issue that knocks us off our axis.

The bulk of this week Torah Portion, Behar, talks about the Shemitah or the Jubilee year. Briefly, we are commanded to till the fields for seven years and then in the eighth year, let the land lie fallow. Anything that grows (beyond what is needed for the owner's family) is available to all as charity and prohibited from being sold. The reward for this is, that in the ninth year, (the first of the new cycle) enough produce will come forth to sustain us for that year, where new planting begins, and the next year as well.

Essentially, what is being told to us by the Torah, is that every once and a while, one must kick back and relax, as it were, and realize that the success of their production (produce), comes from G-d. Indeed, we must till the land, we must make a vessel, we must go to work, but at the end of the day, it is "the blessings of G-d that make on rich".

So often, we get so caught up in the day to day grind, perhaps it is auto-pilot or simply sheer need, that we don't stop moving for long enough to realize that when you ask someone, how are you doing today? It is a real question, and deserves a real, thought out answer, (even if it will be negative) followed by a "Boruch Hashem" - thank G-d. I.e. How am I? Lousy, thank G-d. Since everything even that which is difficult and challenging, comes from G-d.

The portion teaches us that, regardless if you do this on your own or not, G-d will force you to take some time off to smell the breeze or its spiritual equivalent = appreciate that which is important versus that which is not. Thank G-d for that which he has given you and revel in that and not in the other stuff.

So next time you are in the shop, for your car or any other physical item, hopefully you will remember the message of the Jubilee year, that this too is from G-d, and this too is for good, and finally thank G-d that our troubles usually last only for an hour or two or even a week or two and not a whole year.

Have a great week

See you on Shabbat (Friday Night and Saturday see details below)

Rabbi Kushi

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