Rabbi's Blog

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

Emulating Moses - Day of Good Deeds

When the Jews approached the land of the Emorites, which lies on the east bank of the Jordan River, they sent a message to Sichon, king of the Emorites, asking permission to pass through his land to reach Canaan. Sichon refuses and instead masses his armies and attacks the Jews.

The Torah begins this narrative with: “Israel sent messengers to Sichon...." (Numbers 21:21)

When Moses repeats the event to the Jewish people he says: “So I sent messengers from the desert of Kedem to Sichon …” (Deuteronomy 2:26).

Reading these texts, one cannot tell who sent the messengers, whether it was Moses or the Israelites.

Rashi explains: “These verses supplement each other; one holds back [information by not informing us who authorized the sending of the messengers] and the other reveals [that Moses sent them]. Moses is Israel, and Israel is Moses, to teach you that the leader of the generation is equal to the entire generation, because the leader is everything”.

Moses was the leader of the Israelites. His leadership role is what motivated him and gave him his joie de vivre. Therefore, the Torah does not need to differentiate whether it was Moses or the Israelites who sent the messengers as they are one and the same. Moses had no self-identity. The Israelites was his life; they were his essence.

Moses and the Israelites were one and it was not possible to separate and distinguish them.

This Tuesday will be the 20th Yarhtzeit of the Lubavitcher Rebbe.

Similar to Moses in his generation, the Rebbe is the leader of our generation.

The Rebbe held every Jew, and in truth every human being, as precious. Not only a congregational rabbi or Israel's prime minister, yet even a difficult person or a prisoner sitting in prison. They are all irreplaceable parts of our people.

The Rebbe expressed his desire and obligation to take care of his flock. The Rebbe charged people to pay attention to the physical well-being as well as the spiritual well-being of their fellow community members.

Just as Moses had no independent identity of his own and was concerned about “not only the people of Israel but even Mr. Israel”, the individual Jew, so too, the Rebbe sent his emissaries to every corner of the globe to ensure that each and every individual is taken care of.

The job of the local Chabad House, or the Roving Rabbis, is to provide for the needs of the local community. Whatever spiritual or physical needs the individual may have, they aim to be there for them. It can be tefillin or directions to an AA meeting, a Shabbat experience or putting food on the table.

We, being one with Moses, should emulate him. Harford County proclaimed this Tuesday as a Day of Good Deeds (see the proclamation here). Please join the movement. Find someone that needs support and encouragement and provide it for them.

Reply to this email or join the Facebook event.

Have a wonderful Shabbos,

Rabbi Kushi Schusterman

It is good to have dreams!

Korach, Moses's first cousin, staged a rebellion against Moses and Aaron. Together with a few ringleaders, he gathered 250 men of renown and accused Moses and Aaron of power hoarding: "The entire congregation is holy, and the L-rd is in their midst. So why do you raise yourselves above the L-rd's assembly?"

For all time, Korach is remembered as the rabble rouser. So much so, that according to the Talmud, when the Torah wishes to warn against the agitation of dispute and disunity, it does so by instructing "Don't be like Korach..."

Why do we memorialize such a person? Why honor him by naming a Torah portion in his name? The answer is that there is another side to Korach. Korach desired spirituality.

Korach, searching for a spiritual high, craved the position of High Priest. Despite having a positive vision, his method of reaching that dream position was erroneous. Korach refused to accept that it was by G-d’s instruction that Aaron, and Aaron alone, should be the High Priest, and resorted to mob-like tactics causing strife and divisiveness.

The Torah portion is named after Korach, for time immemorial, to encourage us to be constantly striving for spiritual growth. The best way to do that is by following G-d’s instructions and respecting the diverse talents He gave each individual.

How are you moving your dreams forward? Are you respecting others uniqueness in the process?

Have a good Shabbos,

Rabbi Kushi Schusterman

What are your priorities?

This week's Torah Portion tells us how Moses sends twelve spies to the land of Canaan. They were told to find out if “the nation that dwells in it—is it strong or weak? Is it few or numerous? … the land in which it dwells—is it good or is it bad… Is it fertile or lean?”

The spies come back and begin to answer the questions. They reported about the richness of the land and the might of its inhabitants, precisely the issues which Moses had asked them to determine. 

Before they said anything negative the Torah tells us Calev silenced the people to [hear about] Moses, and he said, “We can surely go up and take possession of it, for we can indeed overcome it.” (Numbers 13:30) 

It is only in the next verse, following Calev’s speech, where the spies make their heretical statement that G-d’s promise of the Jews’ conquering the land of Canaan could not be fulfilled. What did Calev sense in their earlier words that caused him to interrupt them? 

The answer is priorities. 

A careful reading shows that when describing their fact-finding mission, Moses’s first concern was: “the nation that dwells in it—is it strong or weak? Is it few or numerous?” And only then, “the land in which it dwells—is it good or is it bad… Is it fertile or lean?”

Moses’s focus was first and foremost on how to go about the task at hand, the conquering, and only then to learn about the reward, the quality of the land that would soon be theirs. Calev sensed from early on in the spies’ response that their priorities were starkly different to Moses’s. The spies spoke first of the prize their efforts would yield, “the land flows with milk and honey, and this is its produce”. Only then did they address the challenge of what was expected of them, “But the nation that dwells in 
the land is very powerful….”

Calev immediately realized that they were making a dreadful mistake. For when one serves G-d for the sake of the rewards he will receive in return, the service itself becomes gauged on his interest in the incentive. A reward that “warrants” a lighter effort, doesn’t necessarily “justify” the strain of a more challenging and difficult task. And once each task is evaluated by its level of difficulty, it isn’t long before one makes the awfully mistaken conclusion that even if commanded by G-d, some things are simply impossible, “We are unable to go up against the people, for they are stronger than we.” 

Calev was hoping to preempt this pitfall, reminding us that if one wants to serve G-d for the sake of serving G-d, then nothing is impossible. The only question is how! 

See you Shabbos Morning (or tonight at Barnes and Noble), 

Rabbi Kushi Schusterman 

Based on an email written by Machon Or Hachasidus

Where is Sinai? In your Heart!

Tonight is the holiday of Shavuot, the festival of the giving of the Torah, the day G-d came down on Mount Sinai.

Where is Mount Sinai, what is its exact location?

Torah has no precise description of where this mountain is. Researchers of recent generations point to several possible mountains and identify them with the biblical Mount Sinai: Jebel Musa, Ras Safsaf, Jabal al Halal and more.

At the beginning of 1956, Egypt closed the Straits of Tiran to Israeli vessels and thus paralyzed the port of Eilat. Egypt nationalized the "Suez Canal" which was under the control of Britain and France. This led Britain and France to persuade Israel to go to war against Egypt. The State of Israel went into the battle, known as Operation Sinai, during which she captured the Sinai Peninsula, damaging the Egyptian military infrastructure. Several soldiers came to a mountain, in the opinion of some researchers, known to be the biblical Mount Sinai.

One of the Israeli soldiers to arrive there was Dr. Moshe Baharev. Moshe was excited to go to the spot where perhaps our forefathers stood before three thousand year, where they received the Torah and became the Jewish People.

However, while ascending the mountain, contrary to his expectations of feeling spiritually uplifted, he did not feel anything in particular. Moshe had a sense of disappointment; he did not feel that this mountain was Mount Sinai. After he returned home, he sent a letter to the Rebbe in which he expressed his feelings about the identification of the mountain.

The Rebbe responded: This that you write that you did not feel that this is the mountain, obviously, for a person of your stature, it is extraneous to stress that the importance of Mount Sinai is that on it the Jewish people accepted the Torah. That importance is given meaning when the Torah is observed properly.

That we received the Torah on Mount Sinai is of importance as it guides our lives. Yet, the physical identification of the mountain has no special meaning.

The truth is, the Rebbe goes on to write to Moshe (the soldier), that all Jewish souls are connected to the Torah and are bound as one with it. True, sometimes people act as if they do not have a relationship with the Torah, but in their soul - every Jew has a strong bond associated with the Torah.

Therefore, the Chassidic method is to inspire all Jews to reconnect with their heritage and reveal their connection to the Torah that was given on Mount Sinai. Not, G-d forbid, forcing them to do something new, just to reveal that which belongs to him and remove the things that cover over their real connection with the Torah that was revealed at Sinai 3,326 years ago.

Our job is to find ways to bring the Torah into our lives by observing another mitzvah and revealing that (sometimes) hidden connection.

So if they ask you where exactly is Sinai, what is its exact location - you can point to the center of each of our hearts. It is in our hands with which we do Mitzvot. It is in our souls. It is in the Torah which is MY Torah!

With blessings to receive the Torah joyously and (in an "inner" way, i.e.) deeply,

Rabbi Kushi Schusterman

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