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Rabbi's Blog

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

What kind of gifts?

 

Joseph reveals himself to his brothers after 22 years. He instructs them not to tarry and to bring their father to Egypt. He sends them off with gifts so that they are provided for until their return. 

The Torah tells us that Joseph sent to his father ten donkeys carrying of the best of Egypt. What was "the best of Egypt"? According to the talmud, he sent aged wine and split Egyptian beans.

Why?

Joseph was sending a message to Jacob, echoing his comments to his brothers, that "you did not send me here, but G-d". This Egyptian bean was best eaten when it was split. Joseph was telling Jacob not to be sad regarding his being sold as it was G-d splitting/separating us in order to pave the way for us, and the rest of the world, to survive the famine.

Being that he had abstained from wine, Joseph sent aged wine, showing Jacob that throughout the years he had maintained the hope and trust in G-d that the day will come that he will be reunited with his family and drink wine again.

This message is for us as well. Although we are under the constraints of "Mitzrayim", our personal Egypt; the challenges of too much to do and not enough time, the lack of “Jewish environment” etc., we must remember that what happens to us is part of G-d's plan and we should maintain faith and hope that things will be good. 

Instead of looking to see if the "Egyptians" will approve of our serving G-d, we should do our best to continue to do as many mitzvot as we can and to learn as much Torah as we can. Through this, we will be blessed spiritually as well as in material matters. 

Have a wonderful Shabbos.

Rabbi Kushi Schusterman 

 

Oh Dreidel Dreidel Dreidel…

Yup Chanukah is here! Tonight, Jewish people all around the world light the 3rd candle on the menorah. Growing up, I was taught about the menorah and the triumph of light over darkness; the war of Chanukah and the victory of “the strong into the hands of the weak, the many into the hands of the few, the impure into the hands of the pure”. The triumph of good over evil. The dreidel, on the other hand, was just another game, a small part of the story yet fun for the kids.

What does the dreidel symbolize? One of the things it symbolizes is unity. The unity that exists when we work together while maintaining our individuality. To paraphrase Steve Jobs in the think different apple commercial: The round pegs in the square holes. The different colors that blend into one when they move fast on a color wheel (try the experiment here). The dreidel symbolizes making the square sides of the dreidel into a round circle yet maintaining the square identity. While the dreidel spins we are all one, when it stops we can see that each one is unique. While the dreidel spins the square sides look round, when it stops it looks like -|_>, round on the bottom and square in the middle.

In the Torah portion of these weeks, we see this type of unity. Each of Joseph’s brothers had their own way of dealing with him, his dreams and his rulership in Egypt. However, they all wanted him back and would do whatever it takes to make it happen. Every unique individual united for a common cause.

When we see another who seems different then us on the theological or political aisle, even a competitor in the same business, we can find unity by reaching out and seeing how we can revolve around each other, making a revolution of good in the world.

Happy Chanukah! Hope to see you Sunday in the park at 5:00 pm. It would be greatly appreciated if you can bring something for the SARC pantry (thank you to the our corporate sponsors 

Rabbi Kushi Schusterman

P.S. when posting Chanukah pictures on Facebook and twitter use the hashtag #sharethelights details of the Share the lights campaign http://www.sharethelights.org/

Chanukah Corporate Sponsors

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Be Inclusive!

I would never consciously hurt someone else!  Would you?

I am not perfect so how can I really affect other people in a positive way? Have you ever asked this question?

Don’t we all want to change the world and make it better? Is it even possible?

We turn to the biblical Yosef for direction and relevant lessons.

When Yosef was named, his mother said “Yosef Hashem li ben acher” lit; may G-d add to me another son. Acher means another; it can also mean an other - an outsider.

Yosef also cared for all ‘other’ people; those who were different as well as the outsiders. He reached out to these people and brought them close, making the acher - an outsider, into a ben - a son and part of the family. Yosef was truly a non-judgmental person; unifying people and making the world a better place.

The Torah tells us about Yosef that “Yosef had handsome features and a beautiful complexion.” Yosef was beautiful both inside and out. Rashi says that He made sure to maintain his beauty by combing his hair.  Yosef knew that if you want to have a positive effect on others, you need to maintain your “beauty” to ensure that you are constantly striving for and actively working on self-improvement.

If you do not want to work on self-improvement for your own benefit, do it so you can have a positive effect on others. You do not need to be perfect to affect people, yet you do need to be going in the right direction. Then it is a no brainer to be able to change the world and make it better; just be you and reach out to those who are “outsiders”, welcome them and make them feel at home.

Have a wonderful Shabbos,

Rabbi Kushi Schusterman

and then life moves on

 

Indeed, life moves on.  No, it's not that we are callous or insensitive.  It is precisely because we feel so deeply that we must move on.  To honor the memory of those murdered and to give value to their lives cut short.  This is the way of the Torah.  One sits Shiva for seven days and then gets up to continue with their life.  G-d has a way of healing our wounds, of making us dull to the profound pain, because otherwise we wouldn't move on. And move on we must.

Jacob sees his brother Esau in front of him and prepares in three ways: prayer, gift and war.  Jacob is faced with yet another challenge, for the life of the righteous is fraught with challenge.  This time it is not his tricky father in law Laban, but his very own brother who approaches with an army of 400 men.  Jacob is not afraid to lift a sword yet it is not his first choice.  He hopes that prayer alone will be sufficient to deter Esau.  If that won't work, diplomacy will be next; a gift.  But if that too fails, if it is clear as day that the enemy is not prepared to come around to the side of all that is holy and good, then we must be prepared to lift a sword.

If you are able to lift a sword, then in your own way, you ought to.  For me, for now, this is the role of our brave soldiers in the US Army and the Israel Army and allies of the free world.  

If you are able to use influence in diplomacy, you ought to.  For me, for now, this is the role of those leaders in Chabad, in the rest of the Jewish world and the leaders of any group that cares for all that we hold dear and holy.

If you have a mouth, you ought to pray.  I do, so I will.  I will also lift a sword and use diplomacy. For now, it is of a different nature. It is the sword, or the "torches" of light, the Mitzvah, the good deeds that each of us can do to make the world a brighter place, to chase away the negativity to chase away the darkness.  I will use diplomacy with the foreigners within myself; my evil inclination and animal soul, the parts of me that wish to prevent my efforts to be a better person and to make the world a better place.  

Although at the end Jacob’s prayer did work, he was still prepared to fight, and so we remain, unafraid but ready for a better outcome.

With blessings for a great week!

 

Rabbi Kushi Schusterman 

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