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Rabbi's Blog

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

Change makes noise!

 Our relationship with G-d is very personal.  On one level it is essential, meaning that each of us have the same essence based connection.  However, each of us are also are independent beings with our own emotional and intellectual systems as well as our unique life experiences.  Accordingly, we each relate to G-d through our own lenses and perspectives.

Accordingly, the events of this week's Parsha beg explanation.  The Torah sets the scene of the Sinai Revelation.  "And it was on the third day in the morning and there was sounds and lightning..." There was a full on thunder and lightning show. "And the people in the camp shuddered".  

Was not the revelation of G-d Himself on Sinai enough to create awe and fear and shuddering in the camp?  Why the need for the thunder and lightning.  

The answer goes to the heart of what transpired at Sinai. This wasn't just a one time event.  The events of Sinai created a transformation in the world.  The physical world until that point didn't have the tolerance or ability for G-dliness to permeate it.  There were no holy objects.  Even the holy places ceased being holy when G-d removed his revelation.

But at Sinai all of that changed.  Physical objects become infused with holiness when we do a Mitzvah with them.  Physical spaces become sacred when holy events take place there.  The physical reality changed to have the ability to absorb holiness into it.

We experience noise when an experience is experienced for the first time. A new born baby - Mazal Tov! A new marriage - Mazal Tov.  NEWS! It makes noise.  The light of Hashem breaking through the physical reality wasn't to cause fear but it was an actual change to the physical reality experienced by all. That change makes noise.  The Jewish People experienced that change with all of the noise that it came with.

The message for us is that our experience of G-d, G-dliness and our relationship with Hashem, Torah, Mitzvot and Judaism has to permeate our reality and consciousness in a very real way.  We need to absorb it into our being.  When we do we become a living example of the intention and revelation of Sinai.

Have a great Shabbos!  

Split your own sea

Things are going well and suddenly you hit a roadblock! 

You know where you are going. To the promised land with a stop at Mount Sinai to receive the Torah. Behind you are the Egyptians and in front of you is the sea.

We have all had situations like this. We are doing the right thing, heading in the right direction. We are finally free. And then, our demons from our past creep up behind us and we find ourselves before some roadblock.

What do you do?

Some very religious people think it's time to pray! But G-d told Moses – nope, not time to pray. Time to move forward towards where you need to go! 

There is a roadblock? Just go above it!

The 4th Chabad Rebbe, the Rebbe Maharash, would say: The world says that if you cannot crawl under an obstacle, try to leap over it. However, I say, leap over it in the first place!  

Yes, the roadblock seems real. The challenge in front of you seems genuine.beautiful-beauty-blue-bright-414612.jpg

Nachshon ben Aminadav, facing the sea, went into the water when G-d said to keep moving forward toward Mount Sinai, and then the water split for the Jews to walk through.

We need to keep moving toward Sinai, our connection to Torah, and the roadblocks will evaporate or at least split to allow us to go through them.

Have a great Shabbos,

Rabbi Kushi Schusterman

P.S. Join Us
Friday
Soup and Scotch 5:30 PM

Shabbos 
10:00 Minyan 
10:30 Family Shabbat
7:00 PM Precious Souls, a Chassidic gathering

Sunday 
8 AM Teffilin Club
10 AM Hebrew School 
7 PM Tu Bshvat Paint Night 

Gotta do the work

While the Torah comes from Heaven, it was given on this Earth.  It can be tempting to want to soar heavenward in our pursuit of spiritual fulfillment.  In many ways it is easier to get lost in a spiritual high or in a spiritual event.  It's less demanding and doesn't require the inner work we need to put in to truly create transformation.

While doing the day to day hard work of personal transformation and engaging with the physical reality may seem to be the work of the unholy, it is in fact the most holy.  It is a simple act of kindness, a small victory over our negative spirits and the small act of a mitzvah that achieves the highest of spiritual connections.

When The Torah speaks about the plague of darkness.  The Torah says that the darkness pervaded over Egypt for three days. Rashi explains; this is because while the darkness was at play the Jews sought out where the Egyptians kept their riches. So that when they left Egypt the Egyptians were not able to deny that they possessed these riches because the ews had already seen them and identified them.

There are two reasons the Jews needed to take these riches with them.  The first is to fulfill the promise that Hashem made to Abraham when He told of the Egyptian slavery "and afterwards they will go out with great wealth".  The second is that the wealth represented spiritual sparks and energies that were captured by the unholy forces that were Egypt at the time.

Accordingly, the Exodus and the removing of this wealth was a fulfillment of G-d's instruction.

Rashi is teaching us that when it comes to fulfilling Hashem's commandments, we have to work hard to seek out the spark and fulfill it on natural terms.  While Hashem set the stage in a miraculous manner, (as He always does), the Jews still needed to do the hard work of searching and seeking in order to fulfill their Mitzvah.

It's always rewarding to do the work when fulfilling a mitzvah.

Good Shabbos!

Rabbi Kushi Schusterman
Edited from an email by Rabbi Eliyahu Schusterman 

 

Well-behaved women seldom make history

Question of the Week:

My name is Adina. I have always been proud of having a Hebrew name, and I love its meaning ("delicate"). But someone asked me who the original Adina was. And I had no idea what to answer. Is it a biblical name? I don't remember hearing of an Adina in the Torah. So where is my name actually from?

Answer:

You may be surprised to learn the origins of your name. The first Adina was none other than the wife of Lavan the Aramean. That is Lavan the famous fraudster, sorcerer and crafty crook, about whom we read in the Haggadah on Pesach: "Lavan wanted to destroy everything." 

Lavan was not known for his good moral values. And yet, this piece of work was the father of Rachel and Leah, the righteous matriarchs of the Jewish people. How did such a shady character have such wonderful children? This was most likely due entirely to his delicate wife, Adina. 

All we know about her is her name. And that's all we need to know. Adina the delicate one. Don't be fooled by her soft and gentle nature. With her subtlety and quiet strength, she had the power to counter her husband's negative character, and bring up children who enlightened the world.

So that's where your name comes from. The delicate woman who single-handedly instilled her children with good character, and thereby shaped the Jewish future forever. She did it without her husband's support. Imagine what a like-minded couple can do. 

She wasn't well behaved according to her husband, but G-d would say she made history - Rabbi Kushi

Good Shabbos,

Rabbi Moss 

Source: 
Sefer Hayashar, quoted in Seder Hadoros Year 2164. See also Year 2217, where it mentions another Adina, wife of Levi, daughter of Yovav ben Yoktan. This second Adina, unlike the first, joined the Jewish people, which is probably how the name became popular. We can only imagine how Leah felt when her son Levi married a woman with the same name as her mother. 

 

To subscribe to rabbi moss's weekly email, email rabbimoss@nefesh.com.au

I Can't? Yes You Can!

When given a job, have you ever asked yourself why the person giving you the task didn’t give you the resources to accomplish it? And then, as the job progressed, you realized that you had everything you needed although it may not have been the conventional tools.

When G-d turned to Moses and asked him to redeem the Jewish people, they have a whole dialogue during which Moses turns to G-d and says: who am I to redeem the Jewish people? “I am heavy of mouth and heavy of tongue”.

G-d answers him: “Who gave man a mouth…Is it not I, G-d? So now go!...“

G-d’s answer is relevant to each of us when we are on a mission. G-d, as the creator of the universe, ensures that we have everything we need to fulfill any mitzvah that He wants us to fulfill. While at times it may seem that we don’t have the tools to accomplish our mission, like Moses not being a great orator, G-d is telling all of us that He ensures that we have everything we need. It may mean that we need to be creative and resourceful to use what we have and what G-d has given us to accomplish our mission.

Go accomplish your mission!

Have a good Shabbos,

Ranbi Kushi Schusterman 

All Kids Complain

From time to time, one of the kids comes to Fraida or myself with a complaint. We expect them to do something, yet they don’t see us doing the same when in a similar situation.

We find this complaint in the Torah. Jacob is on his death bed and is excusing himself to Joseph. He asks Joseph to take him up to the land of Israel to be buried, knowing that Joseph was upset that he didn’t do the same thing when Rachel died years earlier. Jacob acknowledges Joseph’s complaint: “As for me, when I came from Padan, Rachel died to me in the land of Canaan on the way, when there was still a stretch of land to come to Ephrath, and I buried her there on the way to Ephrath, which is Bethlehem." 

Rashi explains Jacob’s response: I know that you hold it against me; but you should know that I buried her there by divine command, so that she would be of assistance to her children. [G‑d, indeed, sent the Babylonians to destroy the temple and bring the Jews back with them to Babylonia, as they were going to Babylonia, the broken, desperate Jews crowded around Rachel’s grave and cried their hearts out.]

As I studied this passage, I started musing…

Jacob validated the complaint of Joseph, but gave him understanding. At the same time, Jacob didn’t explain this to Joseph when he was younger but waited till it was relevant.

I wondered why didn’t Jacob explain this to Joseph when he was a child

When raising my children should I answer their complaints? If I have a complaint against my parents should I reach out to them? Should I expect an answer?

What are your thoughts?

Have a good Shabbos,

Rabbi Kushi Schusterman

I talk to Gd like he is my best friend

I talk to Gd like he is my best friend - Dolly Parton.

Many people view prayer as a ritual, as something that "religious people do". This past Shabbos Fraida and I were in Montreal. At the Chassidic Farbrengen (gathering) following the service the Rabbi turned to a few of us and said, "Davening and Torah study, but really davening is most important".

He went on to explain that while it's important to study, it's more important to have a relationship with Hashem, with G-d, to talk to G-d like He is your best friend.

Rabbi Ringo spent some time talking about the importance and value of Torah study, even if for just a few minutes in the morning and evening. It can be listening to a podcast, a lecture online or attending a class.

Prayer, is not just saying words. Its connecting. It's "having a beer" with G-d. Yes, the prayer book is scripted. Yet when praying correctly, you are connecting with these words. The meaning of the words being super powerful.

When one congregant claimed no time to invest the hours in praying every day, Rabbi Ringo told him the following story.

In Tishrei 1979, Rabbi Schneur Zalman Gafni was privileged to travel to the Lubavitcher Rebbe from Israel. He was granted a private audience a ‘yechidus’.

The Rebbe took considerable interest in the yeshiva Rabbi Gafni had established at the Rebbe’s suggestion. Rabbi Gafni complained that in the past he could daven at length and had a precise schedule of Torah study. Now, however, his day is totally occupied with giving shiurim and holding private discussions with the students.

“I’ll never forget that ‘yechidus,” Gafni said. “The Rebbe spoke at length about the obligation for complete devotion to the students. Afterwards, he stopped speaking for a moment. I thought that after such a ringing declaration, the Rebbe would at least release me from the need for lengthy davening. However, I was quickly proven wrong. The Rebbe said that I must find a way to continue in proper prayer even praying one section without compromise, and the rest of the prayer just saying the words.”

So that was last week’s farbrengen.

Hope you can join us for soup and scotch Friday 5:30 or Shabbos morning 10 am and we can farbreng further :).

Rabbi Kushi Schusterman

P.S. today is 5 teves a special day - learn more here 

What is the menorah whispering?

What is the secret the burning flames of the Menorah whisper to you?
What is the message contained in the flicker and dance of the kindled lights?
What is the story the candles; 1-2-3-4-5-6-7-8 are telling you and me dear reader?

As the year has its seasons so does life.  Each of us journey through our own personal year, our own personal decade and our own personal seasons of the time that we are allotted.

The eternity of Torah carries a message for each physical season and each personal season.  Unique to you and me, in each particular time.

The only constant is change, and as such each of us are either up on our journey or down on our journey.  

Wherever we are up to the Menorah tells us to light a little more today.  Even though after yesterday's flames went out the darkness ensued again, tonight, today, we can bring light into the world again and in fact we can be a light unto the world again.

The Menorah's message goes further.  Yesterday you brought light to the world.  You may have had a step down after as darkness descended and the light, your light diminished.  Today you have picked yourself up and embraced your job on this earth, you're ready to offer your light again.  You can and must offer more light than you did yesterday.  You have that inner reservoir and therefore despite your shortcomings, despite the darkness that comes with the seasons, you have the ability to do even more than you did yesterday.

This is the message the candles are whispering to me.  This is the recurring message I see each night as the Menorah has a light added to it.  

What is the Menorah whispering to you?

Honestly Honest

 Each generation of youth bring a new energy to society. They challenge the status and make change. Sometimes for good and sometimes for what may seem to be the opposite of good. That is the way of the world. It is the evolution of history that often allows for us to look back and see how the rebellion of a particular era of youth led to positive change in the world.  

Among the many qualities and challenges today's youth generation bring to the table is a type of honest and a bucking of tradition. They don't follow traditional structures that their parents belong or belonged to. They speak openly about things a prior generation may have brushed under the carpet. They disrupt the status quo.

Is this honesty a good thing? 

An interesting commentary (Rashi) on a verse in this week's Parsha addresses this question.

In the Parsha we are introduced to Joseph and the tension he experienced with his brothers. His behavior irks his brothers. His fathers special love for him makes his brothers jealous. The Torah tells us that "they hated him and were not able to speak peacefully with him".  

Rashi comments; from the Torah's criticism of the brothers we learn their praise. That is, to teach us, that they didn't speak one thing in the mouth and another in the heart.

In one word the Torah tells us their criticism and their praise. Their inability to speak nicely to him which is a negative also reflects the positive. That is that they were authentic and transparent.

It's not always pleasant to hear what the other thinks of you or of the state of society. But speaking the truth is the only way change gets made.

So, it may be frustrating to hear it spoken openly and it may not all be a correct perspective but it is authentic and that is how change is made.

Have a great Shabbos!

Get in the zone

There are two ways to do something that you "don't want to do".

Think exercising. For many people they don't want to exercise yet they do it anyway.

Either by forcing themselves; setting the alarm, adding it to their schedule, etc. Or, by getting into the zone; reminding themselves why they are on this good health journey and get themselves excited to have better health. Oh, and go to the gym.

In the Torah portion, Jacob sends "Melachim" to his brother Esau. Rashi, one of the foremost commentators tells us, don't translate the word "Melachim" as messengers but as angels. The Maggid of Mezritch says, he sent angels, but their angelic souls remained connected to Jacob.

We all want to serve Hashem more! We all want to do more mitzvot. Sometimes it feels difficult. We give ourselves a million and a half reasons why we "can't" start keeping kosher better, or Shabbat more often, etc.

We can move forward in two ways. Either by forcing ourselves or by getting into the zone. We can remind ourselves that we are on a journey to have a closer relationship with Hashem and this is something we can do to enhance that relationship.

This is important for me personally as well. I am here in Harford County as a Shliach, a messenger, a representative of the Lubavitcher Rebbe. At times there are things in this "Rabbi job" that are not so exciting to do, or things that I must question is this what I should be doing as a Rabbi. At those times I ask one question: am I connected to the "Jacob", the Rebbe, who sent me on this mission to engage all the Jews and non-Jews of Harford County and inspire them? If the answer is yes, then I am in the zone and don't have to force myself to do it. It becomes a delight.

Are you connected to Hashem who sent you to this world on a mission? When focusing on that connection does it get you in the zone?

 

Black Friday, Cyber Monday, Giving Tuesday and Torah Thursday

Black Friday, Cyber Monday, Giving Tuesday and Torah Thursday!

Who has not been bombarded with emails for this deal or that, this opportunity for giving or that, during these past 7 days?! 

$7.2 Billion online on Black Friday, $9 Billion online on Cyber Monday, and who knows the total of Giving Tuesday.

The prophets of doom will tell us that profits, consumerism, materialism drive the day and that we are on a hopeless spiral downwards.

I believe the opposite is true. We are finally coming to a greater appreciation of what the material world is all about; a reflection of G-d's infinite ability manifest in the most radical expression of that infiniteness - the physical creation, creation ex nihilo or something from nothing!

I'm not saying that every indulgence is a G-dly event or even a spiritual one. I'm saying that the fact that we have been given so much in our times, can potentially be the greatest opportunity for uncovering the G-dliness in this world.

In this week's Torah Portion Jacob goes to Charan. There he marries and amassed great wealth.  The teachings of Chasidus tell us that Jacob was really on a journey to collect the Divine sparks and uncover the G-dliness found in Charan.  

The journey was not an easy one for no meaningful endeavor in life is. But Jacob was successful as the Torah tells us with seemingly great fanfare that Jacob returned having amassed great riches.

When you look at light it is evident that there must be a source to that light.  But when you look at a table, a dollar bill, a tree, or any other physical object there is no evidence that there is a Divine Source.  There is no indicator that what meets the eye requires an energy to sustain it.  So in fact the physical object is almost making the exact opposite statement; "I exist, I am self made".  

The Human Being is an even greater expression of this.  The person with his/her intellect have the ability to understand that there is a Primordial source to their existence, but instead we often go about our business as if we are in control of everything; panicking when things don't go right and celebrating ourselves when they do.

Combine this human condition with every physical object and every physical interaction or acquisition and we have a potential recipe for total denial of G-d.  And yet, when we take those very physical objects and use them out for good and for holiness, we are truly expressing Hashem's greatness on this earth.

This is true of every physical interaction but even more so when it comes to giving of Tzedakah, giving of our hard earned money which we can use to buy our own indulgences and give it away to worthwhile causes.

So don't be a prophet of profit, be a prophet of G-d and see the material opportunities in front of you as opportunities to bring the manifestation of Hashem into this world.

Think about this when you get email #613 this month of December requesting assistance for your favorite non-profit!

Have a great Shabbos!

Rabbi Kushi Schusterman 

Are you celebrating Thanksgiving?

Many people asked me "Are you celebrating Thanksgiving?” 

They weren’t sure if it was a Jewish holiday. (It’s not.)

But it kind of is.

The name “Jew” comes from Judah.

Which means to thank.

We are a nation that constantly thanks.

Much of our prayers is about thanking

Truly “giving thanks” means that you realize that you don’t take the gift for granted.

If you earned the gift, then you’d be less thankful.

I want you to know that Fraida and I do not take your involvement for granted at all.

We don't take your reading this email for granted! 

We value you, your friendship, and your support of Chabad and your unique perspectives and talents.

We value your feedback and holding us to account, and you're willingness to reach out to someone else and ensure they too can connect with Chabad for spiritual and Jewish inspiration. 

So while the USA is celebrating Thanksgiving weekend, allow me to say this.

Thank You! We are thankful for you.

Shabbat Shalom,

Rabbi Kushi and Fraida Schusterman

This weeks Dvar is inspired by and adapted from
Rabbi Elazar  & Shira Green of Chabad of Lancaster, PA

We are all in this together

As I sit in NY for the annual conference of Chabad Rabbis. I think of my mission to Harford County.

My job is to represent, not some conglomerate of the Jewish establishment, but to create a grassroots organization where Jews and Non-Jews of all backgrounds and faiths, make this world a goodly place and a G-dly place.

Harford Chabad’s mission is not to make Chabad wonderful. Chabad’s goal is to make each individual fantastic!  Turn to a fellow Jew, who may not talk to someone who is “religious”, and encourage them to be more involved in their faith. Turn to a Non-Jew and connect them with Jewish
values while respecting the values they bring.

The only way to do this is to not try to make yourself great but to make others better. Similar to Eliezer, the “servant of Avraham”. When asked who he is, he responded: “I am a servant of Abraham” (Genesis 24:34). And indeed, throughout his journey, he is consistently referred to as “the servant”.

This was not about Eliezer the person. This was about the mission Eliezer was on and at no time did he allow his own self-interest to get in the way of fulfilling that mission. He was a mere servant, an extension of Abraham’s hand.

My official title, is The Rabbi. But it’s not about me. It’s about all of us coming together and recognizing we all play a role in making the world a more goodly and G-dly place. Each and every one of us. Without letting our ego get in the way.

Have a humble Shabbos,

Rabbi Kushi Schusterman

Keep Digging

Watching kids at play; they take their little shovels and dig. They make a small hole in the ground, not much bigger than a pothole on the street. And then, they are done digging.

Watching the people doing construction on houses/businesses/developments around town it looks a bit different; big tractors making deep holes in the ground.

Both experiences are watching people move dirt, rocks, and mud. 

We find the same in this week's Torah portion. Yitzchak/Isaac digs wells and throughout his life, he is digging wells to reveal the water underground. His wells get covered up and he keeps digging new ones! His well gets given to an enemy and still he keeps digging. 

Everything in Torah has a message. One of the messages of this story is Yitzchak's dedication to focus, staying the course and uncovering the water beneath the surface. Sometimes we meet those who have water, a life-giving substance, generally known as a soul, yet it is covered up by dirt, mud and rocks. At times these people do NOT want to engage in their Jewish heritage. We look at them and all we see is dirt. To the outsider, they look like a "lost cause". There is no point in even trying to engage them!

To this Yitzchak teaches us that it is our responsibility to dig wells, to find a way to engage your fellow. They are not interested in joining you for a program at Chabad? Remove the thing covering over the soul and have them over for a Shabbat dinner. Invite them to join you for latkes and menorah lighting. Dig and remove some dirt. Remove some of the things that are covering their pure soul and reveal it. It will be like refreshing water, reviving for them to reconnect. 

You tried and there was still dirt? The well got covered up again? Learn from Yitzchak and keep digging.

Have a digging week, 

Kushi

Shabbat is driving me crazy

Have you ever been sold something and then had buyer’s remorse? Did you think to yourself - that salesman sold me a bill of goods!

As a Rabbi, I "sell" a relationship with G-d, Israel, and our fellow Jews. When trying to encourage you to do a mitzvah, often I will talk about the benefits of the mitzvah, a Friday night meal together with family, Shabbat - a break from technology, etc.

Then, when you implement these changes, at times, you may say: yes, a break from technology is great, but this long Shabbat in the summer with no driving, TV, Netflix, Facebook, etc. is driving me crazy.

Hashem knows that some mitzvahs can be more challenging than others. Hashem knows that change is difficult. Hashem knows that at times, doing certain mitzvahs can cause physical changes and therefore He sets the groundwork with the first mitzvah.

The first mitzvah given to any Jew was the mitzvah of circumcision given to Avraham. A mitzvah that causes physical pain, showing us that although a mitzvah can sometimes be painful or challenging, we still strive to fulfill the mitzvah. Not only fulfill it, but to do so with joy just like Avraham!

Circumcision does have health benefits (like the tech Shabbat) but we do so because Hashem commanded us to, for spiritual reasons. Simultaneously, everything that has spiritual benefits also has physical benefits - some, more noticeable than others.

So next time you are working on doing a mitzvah, and a challenge comes your way, try to be like Abraham. Smile. Know you are building your relationship with Hashem. Be aware of the physical benefits that you will get from this experience.

Have an amazing Shabbos, 

Rabbi Kushi Schusterman

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