Rabbi's Blog

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

What are you eating?

When eating, the most often asked questions are; how does it taste? Do you like the texture? The question ‘how does it chew?’ is never heard. While we need teeth to be able to eat solids, they are not perceived as part of eating. Teeth seem to be functionaries, something designed to cut, hold or grind food.

In the Purim story (Esther 3;8), Haman said to King Ahasuerus: "There is a certain people scattered and separate among the peoples throughout all the provinces of your kingdom, and their laws differ (שֹׁנוֹת) from [those of] every people, and they do not keep the king's laws; it is [therefore] of no use for the king to let them be."

For the word differ, the term shonot was used.  Shonot (שֹׁנוֹת)has the same root word as shinayim (שיניים) - teeth. The Midrash comments on this verse: because of their religion, they (the Jews) use their teeth differently than us (the gentiles) eating all the time: Passover - matzah, Shavuot - dairy, Rosh Hashana - sweet things and Sukkot - eat in a hut.  As the joke goes: how do you explain all Jewish holidays in less than 10 words? "They tried to kill us, we won! Let’s eat! The Midrash continues: G-d heard this and said -  I will add another holiday and they will have another festive meal.

The teeth are a function of eating but are not part of the enjoyment of eating. A function of teeth that infuriated Haman was that they are a wall.  Teeth block food from coming into the mouth.  How are Jewish teeth different? Before a Jew eats food, they check to see if it may pass this wall of teeth. Is it Kosher? "What blessing do I make on this food?" When a Jew is done eating, he thanks G-d for the food by saying Birkat Hamzon. (While there are 1000's of laws of Kosher - here is a book to get started "Going Kosher in 30 Days").

Take the Kosher Challange, add in your kosher observance for the next 30 days. Try it in different ways; only kosher meat from, only foods with a kosher symbol, not eating milk and meat together or before eating make a blessing

What do you think? If you are on Facebook, post the commitment publicly it will help you keep it :).

Have a great Shabbos and I hope to see you on Purim!

Rabbi Kushi Schusterman

A Holy Home

by Rabbi Eliyahu Schusterman

Home is where the heart is, a house is an edifice in which one lives.

The Mishkan, portable sanctuary that accompanied the Jews in the desert was intended to be a home for G-d.  As the Torah states, "make me for a sanctuary and I will dwell within them".  G-d desires to dwell within this house that we make for Him.

The home we make for G-d, is now the home that each of us live in.  How we treat our spouses and our children, the atmosphere of our homes, the values that guide the behavior and actions that we conduct while in our homes all of these are the pathways to making a home for G-d.

Imagine if you were having a very prominent and important person coming to your house for an extended visit.  You'd make sure that the physical atmosphere is up to snuff; ensuring that the paint is fresh, the furniture in the correct places etc. You'd also make sure that the pictures and books around are consistent with the message you wish to convey.

When our homes are designed and maintained in a similar fashion we make sure that G-d feels at home in our homes.  And when He feels at home in our home, He dwells in our home.

And when G-d dwells in our home, we can be sure it brings with it plenty of blessing.

How> Start with the Mezuza on your front door and work your way through the house and the actions that permeate it and let's make a home for G-d.

Good Shabbos, 

Rabbi Kushi Schusterman

Is Judaism a part of you?

Do you do Jewish things or is Judaism a part of who you are?

Am I “Jewish” when I am eating (any kosher food, not just lox and cream cheese on a bagel) or only when I am at shul? Am I “Jewish” when I volunteer at a Jewish organization or even when I give someone who I don’t know a ride home, because they are in need?

Are you part of Judaism or is Judaism a part of you?

To preface; as the Rabbi of a Chabad House for close to 5 years, I have begun doing a listening tour (reply to this email - if you are open to being interviewed). I meet with people for coffee/tea and ask them 40 questions about their perception of Harford County, the Jewish community and Chabad. Recently, I interviewed Stu Needel, the head of the Social Action Committee at HJC-Temple Adas Shalom in Havre de Grace. He shared with me a story of when he was in Java, Indonesia, in a small community top level of temple (Nirvana level). The people there were doing regular, mundane things like smoking, drinking, and people literally lying around. The message Stu took from this was that they felt at home in their temple.

We discussed that in Judaism we should seek more ways to bring Judaism into the ordinary acts of our daily life, and when we are at shul, we should feel at home (as well as make sure others feel at home) while still being respectful to its sanctity.

This is one of the messages of this week’s Torah portion. Immediately following “the Sinai/ten commandments” experience, the Torah shares with us the laws of moral living. Volunteer; help your neighbor, etc. why? Because it too; is the G-dly and Jewish way.

Have a wonderful Shabbos,

Rabbi Kushi Schusterman

Be More

Yisro tells Moses I am coming to you.  Moses bows upon meeting Yisro and they greet one another before entering the tent.  First they say hi and have some small talk and only then do they “enter the tent”.

Yisro is known as Kohen Midyan, lit; a priest in the country of Midyan. Midyan also means conflict and friction. Yisro was an expert at creating conflict; he believed that the spiritual practice of the day, the fad that he was then hooked on, was the only way.

The Torah tells us that when Yisro came to Moses, the first thing they did was greet one another. Yisro displayed that he had given up on his past ways of idol worship. He had given up serving multiple Gods and he understood that doing so only creates sectarian fighting and conflict. He showed that when we are open to others and not stuck in our own mindset, only then is unity possible. Yisro was a seeker.  Upon exploring every religion and every spiritual practice, Yisro concluded “Now I know that the Lord is greater than all the deities”.

As people, I think we all continuously search; we try this path to spirituality, another path toward a connection with G-d as we understand G-d to be.  Finally we arrive at a conclusion and become an expert that “this is the way” or “this way is not the way”. Furthermore, we tell ourselves “I am not spiritual so I can’t …” or “I am not religious so I won’t …”. Yisro teaches us that even if we are “experts”, we can change. We can have a meaningful relationship with Hashem by recognizing that Hashem made clear the way He wants to be connected to - through Torah and Mitzvot.

If only we realized that we can be something beyond who we are today, if we are merely willing to change and grow and that Hashem is greater than all the other “deities” we serve.

Have a good Shabbos,


Rabbi Kushi Schusterman

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