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Rabbi's Blog

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

Working it out

This email is being sent today as tomorrow is the beginning of Sukkot.

On Sukkot, Jewish people eat in a sukkah. The sukkah is a walled hut with a roof that is made with an item that grows from the ground (called schach). At Harford Chabad we use bamboo and pine.  

For things to grow we need to work and exert ourselves. Even if it grows in the wild, it is work to cut it and get it up as the roof. You don’t get a break if you use last year’s sukkah; Jewish law requires us to lift it again and put it down again, requiring the human to exert themselves to get it done.

One message of sukkot is that when we do a mitzvah, even the ones we understand, we should do it 1) because there is a G-d above who has commanded us to do it. As we see by the schach which is above our heads – it is a mitzvah even if I don’t understand why we do it. 2) At the same time, we need to exert ourselves and invest in making the mitzvah happen; not to settle for blind faith or to just do it by rote.

When you look at your schach this year – think what am I doing to WORK on my connection with G-d? What mitzvah do I not yet do because I do not understand it and which mitzvos do I do by rote?

Have a happy Sukkot.

Join us Thursday for Soup and Salad in the Sukkah 5-7 pm.

Shabbos morning, Sukkot services are at 9:30 am followed by a Kiddush in the sukkah.

Rabbi Kushi Schusterman 

The best way to say sorry

Teshuva, in this context repentance has two parts to it; 1. regret about the past 2. resolve for the future.  Maimonides - Rambam writes that we know ones apology or regret is sincere when they have the opportunity to do the same wrong and they don't.  So saying sorry is important, but not doing it again is a sign of true remorse.

Teshuva has a deeper meaning and that is return.  Returning to oneself, ones true essence.  In this context by getting in touch with who you really are, the importance of the relationship (with G-d, spouse, children, friend or other) you are in and an understanding of the gap between where you are and where you can and should be, one evokes a level of remorse that is far more powerful and more impactful.

In this context the act of returning to oneself is the greatest apology unto itself.

By way of example; if a husband wronged his wife, or a child wronged a parent, one could focus on the wrong that was perpetrated.  In doing so the focus is on the act and on the hurt caused. Accordingly, what is needed is an apology for the act and an apology for the hurt that was caused.

The shortcoming with this approach is that when the hurt passes and the particular wrong forgotten it is very possibly and even likely that a new and different type of wrong might be perpetrated.

If however the husband stops to think about how his wife loves him so much, she cares greatly about him and her relationship with him is the most important one in her world and conversely the same about a child and their parent, this realization ought to evoke a remorse for having caused any kind of pain to ones beloved.  In this thought process the relationship is strengthened. because the outcome of the thought process is, I never want to do anything again that will interfere with beautiful and pure connection and love that exists between my spouse and I, my parent and I.

This is the Teshuva of Yom Kippur.  On Yom Kippur we return to our essence, our soul.  All of the prohibitions of Yom Kippur and the extensive prayer are designed to create space for the focus on our essence.  When we return to our essence we will have no choice but to realize that the relationship with the Almighty is the most important one we have, that Hashem loves us dearly and has already forgiven us.  What is left is for us to appreciate who we are and the gift we have inside of us.

This will in turn empower us to ensure that our consciousness of our relationship with Him throughout the coming year will be a much stronger one.  And when we express that remorse and the resulting consciousness of our relationship, Hashem will shower blessings on each and every one of us.

May your Yom Kippur be a meaningful one in the deepest sense possible and may you and all of the children the house of Israel be sealed for a happy and health new year!

Rabbi Kushi Schusterman 

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