Rabbi's Blog

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

Get Out Of The (Shul) Tent!

Reading this week’s Torah portion about G-d speaking to Moshe in the “Tent of Meeting”, I tried to envision how the meeting went. Moshe gets a message that G-d wants to talk to him. He notifies his security detail and they enter the tent of meeting. Then, G-d talks. Was the room empty? Did G-d whisper or talk loud? What was the point of the “meeting room”? Can’t G-d talk to whomever, wherever, as He is the Omniscient, Omnipresent and Omnipotent?

It did not take much research to find out that G-d spoke in the same powerful voice that he spoke with at Mount Sinai. However, now it was only heard by Moshe’s ears. Someone standing next to Moshe did not hear a thing. Furthermore, Moshe heard Him only when he was inside the tent.

If I was writing a movie script, I knew all that I needed to know. However, I was still left with the question, why the meeting room?

To this the Torah says that G-d's speaking to Moshe in the "tent" is in order for Moshe to bring His message to the outside world - a place where others do not hear the voice of G-d. The place where a person has free choice to do whatever he wants. Over there, they should know G-dliness through man and not by G-d.

We cannot think to ourselves that our work is in the "Tent of Meeting ". I can be one with G-d and hear the voice of G-d while learning Torah all day.  It is of no consequence to me the events that happen outside the "tent". I have MY shul, MY Torah Class etc.

G-d speaks to each of us individually and tells us to uplift the world, through spreading Torah based values outside the Shul. We need to take His voice and message out into the physical world and make it a place where G-d will feel at home.

That is why the sound of talking with Moshe stopped at the entrance of the tent - so the world will remain unaffected. We then need to leave our "tents", our “spiritual bubble”, and share Torah and Mitzvot with others, making this un-G-dly world a home for G-d. 

What do you think?

Have a wonderful Shabbos,

Rabbi Kushi Schusterman

What Are You Worth?

The Cantonists are Jews who, by decree of Czar Nicholas I, had been snatched from their families when they were young children for a 25-year term of military conscription.

One such Jew, Eliezer Moshe, was a young boy and, although he had no Jewish education to speak of, he remained faithful to his Jewish roots. When given the opportunity, he would visit the synagogue to listen in to a class, often not understanding the content of the class. However, he felt that the lessons “revived his soul”. He would remain at his post and call out “Shcinta b’galusa” - the divine presence is in exile. 

Some may refer to Eliezer Moshe as a simple Jew. The Tzemach Tzedek, the 3rd Chabad Rebbe, referred to him as a Sefer Torah. When Eliezer Moshe would enter the Tzemach Tzedek’s Shul, the Rebbe would stand up out of respect.

In this week’s Torah portion we read the first portion in the book of numbers. We read how since the Jews were valuable to G-d, they were counted. The parable is given that similar to how one counts their money and valuable jewels, so too, G-d counted His people. However, each Jew was counted via a half shekel coin. Why? To show that the value of whom we are as a Jew is not defined by what we do or our Jewish education. We are all worth exactly the same to G-d.

While we should all grow in our Jewish practice, that is not what defines our worth as a person or even our worth as a Jew. We are each worth the same in the eyes of Hashem.

My question to you would be, can you see how a Torah class can revive your soul? Can you imagine being at your post in the middle of a freezing winter and what bothers you is that the divine presence is in exile?

Rabbi Kushi Schusterman

Be Proud of Who You Are!

The Talmud tells a story that in 70 CE the Roman Empire forbade the Jews from observing the Sabbath, circumcising their sons and keeping the laws of family purity. The sages, desiring to nullify the decree, sent Rabbi Shimon Bar Yochai to the Roman Emperor to placate him. When Rabbi Shimon arrived, the palace was in a state of commotion as the emperor’s daughter had fallen ill. Rabbi Shimon performed a miracle, thus saving the king’s daughter from an unknown fate.  In appreciation, the emperor brought Rabbi Shimon to the treasure house and said to him: I will give you any one item that you ask for. When Rabbi Shimon saw the written decree about the Jews, he asked for it. Rabbi Shimon then tore it up, hence nullifying it.

Although the Roman king respected and appreciated Rabbi Shimon, his life under Roman rule was difficult. The Romans imposed many decrees on the Jews. His great mentor, Rabbi Akiva , was brutally executed. Rabbi Shimon himself was persecuted; they sentenced him to death, forcing him to flee. Rabbi Shimon hid in a cave for 12 years with his son and survived on a diet consisting of carob and water from a spring. His life was a paradox! He was persecuted and respected at the same time!

This contrast in Rabbi Shimon’s life teaches us a message in our own lives. 

The world hates the Jew. Anti-Semitisim is still prevalent. As of 2013, Israel had been condemned in 45 resolutions by United Nations Human Rights Council since its creation in 2006. The Council had resolved almost more resolutions condemning Israel than on the rest of the world combined. The 45 resolutions comprised almost half (45.9%) of all country-specific resolutions passed by the Council. In the words of Rabbi Shimon: " Esau hates Jacob".  Simultaneously, and I quote Former Chief Rabbi Jonathan Sacks, “Non-Jews respect Jews who respect Judaism & Non-Jews are embarrassed by Jews who are embarrassed by Judaism.”

The Rebbe taught us how to fulfill “verau kol amei haaretz ki shem hashem nikra alecha” - let all the world see we are never ashamed to stand tall as Jews.

This is the message of Rabbi Shimon’s life: be proud of who you are and you will be respected!

Rabbi Kushi Schusterman

Got Troubles - Not To Worry

By Rabbi Nechemia Schusterman - Chabad of Peabody, Mass

How are you doing today? 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. (This year is actually a shmitta year, observed in Israel and places where Israeli produce is exported) 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.

Rabbi Kushi Schusterman

Is Inspiration Inclusive or Exclusive?

Have you ever been to an event where all the important people enter on the other side of the red velvet? Did you wish you were part of the “important” group?

Have you ever experienced when someone you know is on a diet and when you’re in their house you also can’t have any sweets? Did you wish you were on a diet as well?

These are two ways to inspire people: 1) Be Exclusive (the red velvet rope) 2) Be Inclusive (no sweets for guests)

In this week’s Torah portion we are taught about a law called Chodosh “new grain” the Torah says that grain (or flour) cannot be used until the Omer sacrifice is brought from barley. Like every sacrifice brought in the Beit Hamikdash, there is the act and the feeling it is meant to produce.

The feeling that the Omer is meant to evoke is that our best and our first should be dedicated to G-d. That everything we have to sustain us comes from G-d therefore G-d gets recognition and paid first.

In the Talmud there is an argument if those who live in “Chutz L’Eretz” a.k.a. not in the Land of Israel, need to be careful about the not eating from the “new” grain before the Omer sacrifice.

They are arguing how to inspire those outside of Israel to have this feeling? Include them or exclude them?

What do you think?

Have a wonderful Shabbos,

Rabbi Kushi Schusterman

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