Rabbi's Blog

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

Simplicity – It’s that simple.

This past Sunday, I had the honor and privilege to bring a few community members to NY on a Soul Trip. We visited the Ohel (the resting place of the Lubavitcher Rebbe), the library of Agudas Chasidei Chabad, the Jewish Children’s Museum and a Sofer, a scribe, who gave us a presentation about how he makes and writes a Torah, Mezuzah and Teffilin.

For many, the Scribe was the highlight of the trip. After all Gad, who is the founder of Oraita, was informative and went out of his way to make us feel welcome and comfortable. What struck me the most was his earnestness and simplicity. When asked why mezuzot are so expensive? He responded simply that they are a bargain because they are an insurance policy that covers everything; the letters Shin – Daled – Yud stand for Shomer Daltei Yisroel, that G-d guards the doors of His Nation.

We just entered the Hebrew month of Elul. During this month, there is a custom to blow the shofar daily. Why? As it is the simple sound of the shofar, sounding like the cry of a baby, that wakes people up to return to themselves.  It rouses us to the simplicity of a child; to have the most innocent belief and trust in G-d, to be able to dream about what we can become, to take on more mitzvot or to learn more, so that we come to High Holidays (like a child going to school on the first day) prepared for a wonderful year.

Simplicity, it’s that simple.

See you Shabbos morning!

Rabbi Kushi Schusterman

Note To Self: Return

This thought was written by Rabbi Eliyahu Schusterman from Chabad Intown Atlanta, GA

"The Season" is upon us. You know the season filled with dreadful hours sitting in services, replete with fire and brimstone sermons about eternal damnation? Ok, granted that's not the Jewish way, but often the High Holiday season (which essentially begins this week on Tuesday with Rosh Chodesh the start of the month of Elul, the final one of the Jewish calendar) can feel at best boring and draining and at worst a harsh or meaningless ritual.

Try this on for size.

The word for "repentance" - the buzz word for this season - in Hebrew is Teshuva. Yet the correct definition of the word is "return". Now that gives it a whole new meaning. Repentance evokes thoughts of sin, lowliness and a need to humbly beg for atonement. (If you are guilty as charged, then get on line.) On the other hand, the word return evokes something more profound.

Analogy: A king who is fed up with his daughter’s pickiness, marries her off to the next guy that walks through the door. Sure enough it turns out to be a simple peasant. She finds herself miserable in his company. Not so much on account of him, because he tries everything to make her happy, but rather on account of the environment that is so foreign to her.

Our soul, our Neshama, is a princess that is sent to marry the body, a coarse peasant. The princess is unhappy. We try to do all that we can to make her happy, (we feed her good food, try to live a materially compatible existence) yet the only thing that can really bring her happiness is a sense of home. Home is G-d or G-dliness.

During this month we have the opportunity to return home; to recognize that we need to return to self, to our own self. In doing so, we bring a deeper connection to our relationship with G-d and bring a sense of peace to our Neshama.

This year, as we enter into the High Holiday season, let us focus on returning to ourselves and our essence. A return to self is a return to G-d. Everything else (repentance and growth) stems from there.

May you be inscribed and sealed in the book of life.

Rabbi Schusterman


Sweat the Small Stuff!

There are two well-known expressions: ‘Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff’ and ‘It’s the Little Things That Count’. The words small and little are synonyms, they mean the same thing. Something that is not the usual size is small. That mitzvah that I have not done in a while is one of the “small stuff” that I did not sweat. However when I do sweat it, when I actually perform the mitzvah, it changes into one of those little things that count. It may be “a small step for man, but it is a giant thing for all mankind”.

Next time something “small” but meaningful comes your way, sweat it and make it into a “little” thing that counts.

The same can be applied to raising children. We all want our children to be passionate about their heritage so we do big things with them; a big Bar or Bat Mitzvah, we make a big deal about a Jewish holiday or two etc. Yet, sweating the “small stuff”, like kosher, Shabbat, tefillinand tzedakah, we often overlook.

When trying to teach children to speak, the experts say there is no such thing as too much exposure. We see this as well when trying to inculcate a love for yiddishkeit; the best way is exposure, and lots of it. When our children hear us speak words of Torah, they will follow suit.  

When our children see us sweat in order to do the “small stuff”, they learn that it is of value to us and that it counts.

In this week’s Torah portion (and in the 2nd paragraph of the Shema) it says “And you shall teach them to your children to speak with them”. Them refers to the words of Torah. We are taught to teach our children how to speak by using words of Torah and not via baby Einstein or any other product. Disclaimer – it is never too late: If your children are older (even if they won’t admit it) they still look at what you do and emulate you. You can still instill in them Torah values.


Share with them a short Torah thought relevant to the issues they are dealing with. Search the subject of your choice here. 

Sweat the little things because it is the small stuff that counts.

Rabbi Kushi Schusterman

Time to Be Comforted

By: Rabbi Eliyahu Schusterman

"May G-d comfort you among the mourners of Zion and Jerusalem".  This is the traditional blessing offered at the end of a funeral and at the home of the mourners sitting shiva.

What is the meaning behind this blessing and how does it bring comfort to the mourner?

Perhaps in our lifetime there has never been a stronger example of this.  

The kidnapping and murder of the three Yeshiva Boys, the murder and kidnapping of Hadar Goldin, the murders of Israeli soldiers and the constant threat of rockets falling overhead has put all of the Jewish people among the mourners of Zion and Jerusalem.  

Each and every loss in Israel is a collective loss for the Jewish people.  We may never have met any of the murdered, we may not even live in the land of Israel but it is our personal loss.  That knowledge brings a measure of comfort to the immediate families of the murdered because the meaning of comfort is the knowledge that we are not alone in our suffering.

This is in fact true every time a member of the Jewish people passes.  For each Jew is part of the whole of the body of Israel (people of Israel). 

This Shabbos is called Nachamu, Shabbos of comfort after the commemoration of the destruction of both the Bais Hamikdashs and the other tragedies that have befallen our people until this day.  The Haftorah begins with the words Nachamu Nachamu Ami - I will surely comfort My people.

The ultimate comfort will come when we see how G-d is indeed with us in our suffering.  For when G-d's presence in the suffering is revealed the suffering will cease to be suffering.

This will happen in full with the coming of Moshiach, may it be speedily in our days!

Rabbi Eliyahu Schusterman



Why Israel Searched For The Boys

The shloshim (the end of the thirty day mourning period) for Eyal, Gilad, and Naftali – the boys in Israel who were kidnapped and killed by terrorists last month – was yesterday. There is a question I have been wondering about ever since their bodies were discovered and the tape of their phone call to the police was released to the public: Why did Israel search for the boys if there were clearly gunshots in the background of the call? (Wasn’t the outcome obvious?)


Israel searched for the boys for the same reason that the Maccabees searched for oil when the Holy Temple was completely trashed and desecrated. They searched for the boys for the same reason Queen Esther went before Achashverosh to attempt to save her people from Haman’s evil decree even though appearing before the king was asking for a death sentence. They searched for the boys for the same reason a motley crew of Holocaust survivors and refugees in 1948 attempted to fight back when every Arab army surrounding them tried to destroy them.

They searched for the boys because the Jewish people lives with hope.

In the most impossible situations throughout our history, we have attempted the impossible time and time again and in some of those times miracles have occurred. Why have we always clung to hope even in our darkest hours? Because we cling to Hashem who is called “The Hope of Israel” (Mikvah Yisrael). 

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