Rabbi's Blog

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

Light the candles


The lighting of the Menorah seems to be a task reserved for the Kohen and does not concern the average Jew. We know that Torah is exact in its wording and no word is extra. Why then does the Torah, which is applicable to all Jews, repeatedly emphasize the significance of lighting the Menorah in detail?

One important message conveyed is the value of inspiring and uplifting others, a responsibility we all share. This week's Torah portion begins with "When you raise up the lights..." This means that when lighting the menorah, the Kohen needs to ensure that the flame continues to burn on its own.

When we want to uplift and strengthen others, we need to help them recognize their own light and potential. Realizing how strong and beautiful our own light is gives us the ability to shine and illuminate the outside world.

The Torah repeatedly mentions this lighting, teaching us the importance of inspiring others. We shouldn't just provide temporary inspiration, instead, we should uplift others to the point where they can recognize their own leadership qualities and shine independently.

When our goal is to uplift others, we should empower them to shine on their own, even when the initial burst of inspiration fades away.

Wishing you an inspiring Shabbos,

Rabbi Kushi Schusterman

P.S. This is an interesting relevant snippet from Israeli Ambassador Yehuda’s meeting with the Lubavitcher Rebbe in 1978.

“I will tell you what I’m trying to do . . . Reb Yehuda, imagine you are looking at a cupboard, and I tell you to open that cupboard. You open the cupboard, and you see there a candle, but I tell you that it is not a candle—it is a lump of wax with a piece of string inside. When does the wax and the wick become a candle? When one brings a flame to the wick. That is when the wax and the wick fulfill the purpose for which they were created.

“And that is what I try to do—to help every man and woman fulfill the purpose for which they were created.”

I was sitting there listening to him, impressed by the authority in his voice. And then he said these words:

“Ha-esh, zeh esh ha-Torah—the fire is the fire of the Torah. When one brings the flame to the wick, one ignites the soul—for the wick is the soul—and it gives life to the body, which is the wax. And then the body and the soul fulfill the purpose for which they were created. And that happens through the fire of Torah.”

By the time my meeting with the Rebbe was over, it was past two in the morning. For the last hour, a buzzer had been buzzing intermittently, and only later did I realize that the door couldn’t be opened unless the Rebbe released the latch from the inside. But he didn’t. He merely said, “Al tityaches—don’t pay attention.”

Finally, I rose and he escorted me to the door. He took hold of both my hands to say goodbye, and I said, “Has the Rebbe lit my candle?”

He answered, “No. I have given you the match. Only you can light your own candle.”

 Excerpt from


Home Sweet Home! Back from vacation! Recharged!!

We got back late last night from a quick trip to Montreal. Thank G-d it was for good things, the wedding of our niece. Going away was great, but it was so nice to be back in my own home.

The summer season is upon us and with its arrival, for many, travel is on the agenda for these months.  If you are going to the beach or the lake, or traveling across the sea, you are probably looking forward to a change of scenery and an opportunity to recharge.

It’s interesting to note an interesting paradox.  We travel to recharge ourselves, and to get away from the normal flow of life. And yet, in order to do that we leave the material comfort of home and our familiar surroundings.  

Of course, there are times when our travels bring us to very luxurious places, even possibly more luxurious than home.  However, we always enjoy coming back home to our own home, to our comfortable and familiar surroundings.

The Rebbe teaches a lesson from this; to really connect with ourselves we have to let go of the familiar and materialism that defines our lives.  When we do that we are able to dig deeper inside of ourselves and connect on a much deeper level. When we come back to the familiar, it is the same - but charged with a stronger energy!

To empower us to do this there is a tradition to study “Pirkei Avot '' a tractate of Mishnah with ethical instruction through the summer months until Rosh Hashanah.

If you are interested in a 6 week Pirkei Avot 30 minute video series, reply and we will see if make it happen.

Rabbi Kushi Schusterman

Spirituality or Ice Cream? What do you think?

 I got an email from a friend this morning that started off with:

“Are you proud to be Jewish?
Do you fast on Yom Kippur?
Do you like good, homemade cheesecake?
If you answer yes to any of the above, this celebration is for you!"

Shavuos is a very Jewish event! We celebrate with delicious dairy foods, ice cream, cheesecake, blintzes, etc. We are commemorating a day 3335 years ago, when the Jewish people received the 10 commandments from Hashem. It's the day that Hashem said, you are my people. It's the day that we entered and created a relationship that can't break. It's the day that regardless of my level of observance of the mitzvot, I celebrate being part of the Jewish people.

Shavuot is also the day we chose to be Jewish and accepted to do as many mitzvot as we can. It's the day that we said our children will be the guarantors of Judaism's survival.

I realized we are marketing it all wrong. We are marketing the physical enjoyment and pleasure of the Shavuot celebration. Perhaps it would be better to market Shavuot as the day you celebrate the anniversary of your connection with Jewish spirituality.

What do you think about which marketing works better?

I hope you can make it this Friday at 5:00 PM at Chabad.

Not in town? find a Chabad nearby to hear the 10 commandments at (their service may be at a different time).

May we all merit to receive the Torah with joy and may it have a personal impact on our spiritual journey.

Rabbi Kushi Schusterman

Warning: Your spiritual path may be fatal for someone else

 Many religious services include a cup of wine; the seder, Kiddush, Havdalah, a wedding, a bris, etc. However, for the alcoholic, drinking a cup of wine can lead to death. The path to recovery from alcoholism is long and avoidance of drinking is the key to success. Even one drink can lead the alcoholic down a path to more and more drinks.

Drinking wine is important and a mitzvah for some, and a major transgression for another. In Judaism, every person has their own spiritual path to G-d. The framework for everyone is the same, Torah and Mitzvot. However, for you the path may be more focused on prayer, and for someone else it may be Torah study. For you it might be charity with money and another through volunteering their time.

Each of us needs to protect our own spiritual path, lest we fall into a spiritual path that doesn't work for our souls. This is one of the messages from the verse in this week’s Torah portion: "You shall appoint Aaron and his sons, and they shall keep their kehunah (Priesthood); any outsider (non kohen) who approaches shall be put to death."

If you are a Kohen, your path to G-dliness includes specific behavior which for a non-Kohen is dangerous, and lethal, similar to alcohol for the alcoholic.

The G-dly way is to protect your path, and respect the path of others, when both are guided by Torah.

Have a good Shabbos,

Rabbi Kushi Schusterman

Doing Well? Thank Gd! Struggling? Thank Gd

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,  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, 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 one 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. or  How am I? Amazing, thank G-d. Everything is going well. Regardless, thank Gd 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 and 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 Good Shabbos,

 Rabbi Kushi Schusterman 

The secret to better relationships

The secret to growth is a dead mitzvah.

The effect of doing a mitzvah is a connection with G-d. The word mitzvah, literally translated as commandment, is derived from the root word tzavsa, meaning attachment.

If I want to have a good relationship with my wife, I need to not only do the things I enjoy, that are easy and fun, but also the things that are boring, annoying, and ignored.

If you want to enhance any relationship, do the things that no one else is noticing or doing. Instead of getting roses, the ‘typical’ flower, notice that your wife likes tulips and get her those. Even more meaningful would be to notice the color she prefers them.

In Judaism, a Kohen is not allowed to come in contact with a dead body. However, when it comes to an unidentified, unclaimed dead body, even the High Priest can become impure to bury such a person. 

This unclaimed body is referred to in Hebrew as a ‘mes mitzvah’, literally translated as a dead mitzvah. When you want to grow, find a mitzvah that is unidentified and unclaimed. A mitzvah that you don't want to deal with or explore. Try out the mitzvah that perhaps you only found out about recently and ensure it has a respectable resting place, in you. 

Hashem notices that you got Him the "tulips" instead of the roses because you care to enhance your relationship with Him.

Not sure which mitzvah? Get in touch and we can discuss an idea that works for you. Heads up: it may take you out of your comfort zone. That is how growth happens!

See you soon, G-d willing.

Have an amazing Shabbos,


Look at it this way - make it as permanent as a tattoo.

You shall not etch a tattoo on yourselves. I am the L-rd. Leviticus 19:28

Q: I have a tattoo, can I be buried in a Jewish cemetery?

A: In years past, some burial societies had their own covenants (not required by Jewish law) that they wouldn’t bury tattooed individuals in a Jewish cemetery. 

Q: Aren’t you sanctioning bad behavior by not “punishing” them for violating Jewish law?

A: First of all, Judaism never hired me to do enforcement, I was hired to inspire. Second, Jewish tradition does not make us the judge of others. Most people, myself included, do things that they shouldn’t. None of us are perfect. 

The perspective we need to have of others is a soul perspective. They are a piece of G-d. They are inherently good. We all are, at our essence, one and G-dly. 

When one makes a mistake, we need to help them come back toward their soul identity.

When I break my diet, if I beat myself up and decide I am bad and “punish myself”, what would the result be? Would I keep it better or worse going forward?

If I “punish” the person with the tattoo and ostracize them, in life or in death, will they have a stronger relationship with G-d or not? Will they do more mitzvahs or fewer? Am I really sanctioning bad behavior by accepting that it was done? 

Have a good Shabbos! Let our sole perspective of other people be looking at their soul.

May that perspective be as permanent as a tattoo. 

Rabbi Kushi Schusterman

The Secret of Shabbos Candles

Did you know the reason for the mitzvah of lighting Shabbos candles? It is written in the Shulchan Aruch (code of Jewish Law) that the reason is to ensure that there is light in the house so people don't trip on a stick or stone. We may ask, am I exempt from lighting if there aren't any sticks or stones in my house? The answer, of course, is yes. There is another purpose Shabbos candles serve. This is to bring peace to the home. Light at times is very good, it allows us to see what is going on. At other times, light allows us to see some of the ugliness that is hiding under the surface. Since Shabbos candles are the light of a mitzvah, they automatically only reveal G-dly light.

In this week's Torah portion, we talk about the darkness of the metzorah. A metzorah creates fighting and discord through their gossip and talk about others. How long does he/she need to be in a house for the impurity to transfer to the home? As long as it takes to light Shabbos candles.

Why? Because the antidote to fighting is the light of the Shabbos candles.

What is the root cause of fighting? When we worship ourselves and see ourselves as greater than someone else. In order not to trip on our man-made idols (of sticks and stone), we need the light of a mitzvah to shine. Not just the spiritual light of any mitzvah, but the light of a mitzvah that has a physical shining in our physical world.

Light Shabbos candles this week by 7:31 pm (in Harford County)  and you will add to the peace in our world.

Rabbi Kushi Schusterman

P.S. At Harford Chabad we have a Shabbos candle reminder text service. To sign up, text the words Shabbos candles to 443-353-9718.

Are you going to show up in your pajamas?

The parable is told about 2 brothers who got into an argument and stopped talking to each another.

Years passed and the older brother was marrying off his son. The younger brother was torn. Part of him wanted to attend the wedding, but after all these years? The wedding day arrived, and he decided to be “strong” and not go. To make sure he wouldn’t change his mind, he got into pajamas early that afternoon and climbed into bed. Evening came, and suddenly he heard live music right outside his bedroom window. His brother had brought the whole wedding band to his house, with instructions to play a beautiful tune from their father’s Shabbos table.

The younger brother tried to block his ears, but to no avail. The music entered his ears and his heart. Overcome with emotion, he went outside to embrace his brother with tears in his eyes. His older brother was overjoyed, but looked at him and said with a smile, “I’m so happy you came to the wedding, but why’d you come in pajamas?”

The last day of Pesach, the 8th day, is known for the custom that the Baal Shem Tov established to end Passover with a Moshiach meal. If you’d like to join us for our Moshiach meal, reply to let us know before 2PM tomorrow (Tuesday 4/11/2023).

This parable about the two brothers is often used to describe us. We get stuck in the world of exile. We "stop talking" about the messianic era, when we will all have one desire to have a true meaningful relationship with G-d. Sometimes we block our ears and put on our pajamas. But on the last day of Pesach, we can hear the music. We hear the song that our redemption from Egypt was a long time ago, but we are ready to sing again in the messianic era. We are on our way to the final redemption.

The only question we need to ask ourselves is, will we come dressed properly or will we be in our pajamas?

The choice is ours!

Happy last days of Passover.

Hope to see you (schedule below),

Rabbi Kushi Schusterman

Freedom to choose

True Freedom

I just want to do whatever I want, is not freedom. It’s liberating to know you can make an impact, make a difference, and create change in the world around you, and in yourself.

On Passover the celebration of freedom is not simply commemorating the lack of oppression, the ability for frivolous self-indulgence, or getting rid of the yoke of responsibility.

In Egyptian society one was not allowed to dream of self-determination; everything was controlled by the Pharaohs. The freedom of Passover changed the way we think about ourselves. We have a choice to do the right thing, or the opposite. We can choose our future. We can celebrate our ability to be ourselves even when circumstances make it seem impossible. Why? Because we are free.

One of the responsibilities of the Jewish people was, and is, to impart this discovery to all of humanity. We must preserve the freedom and dignity of every individual under the sovereignty of a free G‑d. A G-d who desired free human beings who choose to construct a world founded on

1)      freedom,
2)      the dignity of the individual and
3)      the moral calling to build a fragment of heaven on planet earth.

Our freedom from the Egyptian bondage, forces us to see ourselves inherently as free. Our very being must cry out in protest against tyranny and cruelty and remain obsessed with the belief that the future must be different. Redemption is yet to come and that a society in which evil and corruption rules cannot endure.

Commemorating the liberation from Egypt reminds us of the awareness and yearning of freedom, and the conviction that freedom is the innate right of every human being.

Man yearns to reflect G‑d. Man, created in G‑d’s image, yearns to be utterly divine, hence utterly free. It is this G‑dliness inherent in a human being that drives us to constantly challenge and transcend the limits imposed on us, including even the limits of our own nature.

Have a good Shabbos,

Rabbi Kushi Schusterman


Blessings of a Baby

Thank you for all the mazel tov wishes on the birth of our son, this past Monday. We are looking forward to seeing those of you who could make it to the bris this upcoming Monday.

We also wish a mazel tov to Michael and Robyn Barnett who are sponsoring this week’s kiddush in honor of their granddaughter’s baby naming (Shabbos @10 am).

The traditional blessing after the birth of a child is "May you raise him/her to Torah, the marriage canopy, and good deeds/kindness".

This blessing contains many hidden messages. Among them is to be like our forefathers Jacob, Isaac, and Abraham. There is meaning to the order in which the blessing is given; first Torah, then marriage, then good deeds/kindness.

Kindness represent charity, giving to others. This must be prefaced by boundaries, like a wedding canopy where the bride and groom commit to the boundaries of marriage. However, boundaries are not arbitrary, they must be based on Torah – G-d given values.

Each child is a blessing. I pray for our children, and all of our community, that we set a good foundation of Torah values, which informs the boundaries that are set in order for us to be generous to all who we come in contact with.

Have a good Shabbos.


Forgive me!

We all make mistakes.

Sometimes we slip up and offend people that we love.


Many years ago I saw this picture of a sign in a flower shop saying:
How mad is she?
A. Small flower
B. Bigger bouquet etc.


It is a joke, although probably good marketing to someone who is looking to correct a misdeed.

The book of Leviticus, which we begin to read this Shabbos, mostly covers the sacrifices that we would bring to Hashem. Among which are the sacrifices brought for seeking forgiveness from Hashem.

Why does G-d forgive?

Because we are His children. The love a parent has for their child is unconditional, regardless of his behavior. Similarly, G-d’s love for the Jewish people is so intense that He does not differentiate between Himself and them. G-d’s essential connection with His children remains strong and even when they make an egregious mistake, he forgives them.

Why should we forgive? Because we should learn from G-d's example.

Our love for our fellow should be so strong that when they hurt us by mistake, we should forgive them wholeheartedly. Doing it for ourselves because of our inherent connection to them.

When we make a mistake to our fellow, the question shouldn't be "How mad is she?" but how has this affected our relationship and how can I repair it? Which "sacrifices" do I need to make to awaken the deep connection between us and be forgiven.

With G-d, we ask which mitzvah (from the word connection), with a person we look for which connection behavior will reaffirm our relationship.

Have a connected Shabbos,


It's OK that you are not perfect, it's by design.


We are not perfect.

The Jewish people are tasked with being a light onto the nations. Every Jew is a part of this mission, simply by being part of the Jewish people.

By being a light onto the nations, we make the world a place where G-d is comfortable. None of us are too high or too low on the ladder of spiritual status to work together with another.

A community is a group of individuals. Each and every individual is essential to the community. Just as every detail of the Mishkan (Tabernacle) was essential to its operation, so too each and every one of us are essential to this mission of operating a G-dly world.

We are all unique. We each bring our individuality and intrinsic worth to the world. However, the whole is greater than the sum of its parts. Just like two people can lift more than the sum of each one separately, we are also better together when identifying with the entire Jewish people as a whole. The individual parts of the Mishkan (Tabernacle) did not begin to function until the Mishkan was completed. The same way, we can't really transform the world until we are all doing it together.

Lastly, and dare I say most importantly, the Torah instructs how to build the Mishkan and then repeats those instructions when the Jewish people actually built it. The Torah repeats itself to show us that even though implementation might be different then the perfect G-d given plan, the imperfect version is where G-d’s presence rested. So too, despite our own shortcomings and imperfections, we should never feel too inadequate to fulfill what G-d wants, as G-d wants us with our blemishes.

It was the real-world imperfect Mishkan that the people built that G-d chose to dwell in. Being imperfect is not only ok and part of the G-d designed nature and reality we live in, it is where G-d wants to live. In our imperfection!

If we act with warmth, sincerity, and enthusiasm, G-d crowns our efforts with success and dwells in the Tabernacle that we build for Him in the way we live our lives.

So don't be perfect. Join your fellow Jews in building the best home for G-d.

Have a good G-dly Shabbos,

Rabbi Kushi Schusterman

Don't observe Judaism?

Don't observe Judaism, celebrate it! - Shlomo Schwartz AKA Schwartzie

One can look at the tasks required to raise healthy, independent children (cleaning, cooking, diaper changing and bed making etc.) as chores, as things I have to do. Alternatively, one can look at them as something to celebrate! If I choose to celebrate raising children than I am not cleaning, I am raising children who are responsible, I am not making beds, I am creating a generation that values being neat.

When we treat the tasks we need to do with an excitement and happiness, those who look up to us want to follow in this path. When we view it as a chore, we risk imparting the feeling of "do as much of it as we absolutely have to to survive" and "get away with as little as you can".

The same thing is with Judaism. When we just observe Judaism, without celebrating it, we sometimes do as little as we can get away with. Think about the message we are giving off?  Is it how little observance can I get away with "observing Judaism" and still say I am involved? What is the minimum I can get away with? Can I get away with less?

However, when we celebrate Judaism, while we may be doing the same mitzvah, it's a whole different experience. The celebrating of the mitzvah shows us, and those around us, that Judaism isn't something imposed upon us, but an expression of ourselves, our inner core. We are showing how to celebrate Judaism as much as we can! After all, if my soul wants to celebrate Judaism, and my soul is my core identity, who doesn't want to celebrate themselves.

So focus on the JOY instead of the OY!

Have a great Shabbos!

Rabbi Kushi Schusterman
P.S. to sum it up, replace “S’iz shver tzu zein a Yid” (It’s hard to be a Jew) with “S’iz gut tzu zein a Yid” (It’s good to be a Jew).

“S’iz shver tzu zein a Yid” was coined in 1920 Yiddish-language comedy play by Sholom Aleichem and the Lubavitcher Rebbe encouraged people to replace it with with “S’iz gut tzu zein a Yid” 

What are you wearing?

The effects of a person’s attire have been studied outside the doctor’s office. Clothing have been claimed to have some influence over numerous factors.  Most notably, it is clear across a number of contexts, that more formal attire generates an impression of status and power. 

This week's Torah portion talks about the clothing that is worn by the Kohen in the Holy Temple during the performance of their duties. These clothing were specific to their service, and not worn at other times.

Different clothing are worn at different occasions and circumstances. From PPE in the hospital to jeans when working in the field. The clothing we wear tells others a lot about us.

One needs to ask themselves:

  • What am I wearing? 
  • What is the message that my clothing is giving off? 
  • How do my externals affect what’s going on inside?
  • How do my externals reveal what’s going on inside? 
  • Are there times that I need to dress differently to help me act differently?

In the Kabalistic terminology: our thoughts, speech and action are like clothing. They are external and can be changed liked clothing.  

  • What are we thinking about? 
  • What are we speaking about? 
  • What are we doing? 

Which of those need to be changed or modified to make sure that they are in line with the person who we are and the person that we want to be?

Looking forward to seeing what you choose to wear this Purim😉

Have an amazing Shabbos!

Rabbi Kushi Schusterman

Here is a quote from the book Positivity Bias which shows how the words we use shape our internal.

"The Rebbe consistently sought to avoid locutions that expressed attitudes of contempt, derision, or negative judgment. Even more strikingly, he would actively rephrase common words and colloquial phrases that many of us speak or write without a second thought.

For instance, he disliked the word deadline, with its connection to death, preferring due date, with its connotation of birth. He wouldn’t call a spiritual getaway a retreat, because “retreat” connotes regression and surrender; in the Rebbe’s playbook, there was only one direction: onward and upward. He didn’t “undertake” projects, possibly because he saw a connotation to half-heartedness in the prefix under or because he associated the word undertaker with death."

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