Rabbi's Blog

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

I don't understand

There is a question that many ask: Why should I observe the mitzvot that I do not understand?

I recently received an email (from the Avner Institute), that included a transcription of a private audience that took place on May 21 1963, between the Rebbe and a group of teenage students.

I will share an exchange that I think answers this question.

Student: What has kept the Jews together and caused the Jews to last all these years? 

Rebbe: According to the approach of science to all historic events, we must study history and find out the common points and denominators that have not changed. If for 3,000 years we have withstood all the persecution and pressures, then there must be something special during all these 3,000 years. For if there was a period during which this “common denominator” was not present, then the Jewish people would not have been able to overcome the persecution during this period.

If we study Jewish history, we see that all things change – the language, territory, government, clothing,  culture and the outside world. The only unchanged thing in all these years is the daily observance of Torah and mitzvot. The Tefillin have not changed all these 3,000 years. The same goes for Shabbos and the Dietary Laws of Kosher. We have the same Chumash as 1,000 and 2,000 and 2,500 years ago.

Forty days after the giving of the Torah, a mighty group made the Golden Calf. During the time of the Temples there were idol worshippers. Since the time of the temple, there were other groups and individuals who deviated from daily Torah observance. Some of these groups were powerful, but no trace was left of them five or six generations later.

Strictly from a point of historical research, we must accept the facts even if we don’t understand them. This common denominator; of daily mitzvot observance, has kept the Jews to last all these years.

While there may be mitzvot we don’t understand, observing those mitzvot (and those we do understand), is a way to ensure Jewish Continuity.

What do you think?

Have a good Shabbos!

Rabbi Kushi Schusterman

use your influence

All of us have goals that we want to achieve. We each have different ideas on how to achieve them. One common goal of growing an organization or business, the ability of exponential growth. To paraphrase Michael Gerber: to be free from owning a job instead of owning a business.

The Torah gives us some hints on how to do this. One of them is to influence others to be ambassadors of your brand. 

By way of example: If I am the only person encouraging Jews in Harford County to reconnect with their heritage, I can only reach as far as 24 hours in a day and 7 days in a week and that is only if I do nothing else. However, thank G-d, I have been blessed with a body that I need to care for and a wonderful growing family that I need to provide for! 

So how do I fulfill my goal of touching every single Jew in Harford County? Is it possible? Can I do it alone? What does the Torah say? 

The answer is YOU! If I can inspire you to reach out to two Jewish friends or acquaintances who have not connected with their heritage in a while and to ignite their fire, their pintele yid, than  1 x 2 x 2 x 2 x 2 x 2 x 2 = 64 and it can grow exponentially from there.

The catch is that one must use influence and not power. Decisions need to be based on the mission and vision. We see this in this week's Parsha when Moshe goes to battle with Korach. Korach wanted to be a decision maker; he wanted to make the decisions of what is right and wrong based on his view as opposed to the view of Torah. In contrast, to allow others to influence even more people, Moshe was very happy when Eldad and Meidad were prophesizing in the camp.  Moshe told Joshua "Are you being zealous for my sake? Would that the entire people of G‑d could be prophets, if G‑d would but put His spirit upon them."

This has been tried and tested by the Lubavitcher Rebbe, whose 21st Yahrtzeit is commemorated this Shabbos! The Rebbe inspired over 4200 couples to move to all corners of the globe to spread the message of Torah and its relevance to every Jew and Gentile in the world, from Torah and Mitzvos to moral values. Take a moment and influence someone to do a good deed. You never know how far that influence will spread.

 Have a good Shabbos,

Rabbi Kushi Schusterman

do you believe it?

Can I believe one thing and do another? In the words of my friend on Facebook: ‘What people say they believe and what they actually believe are many times not consistent.’ How do you know what someone's true belief system is on any given topic.

A man met his rabbi on the street one Yom Kippur and told him: "Rabbi, you should know that I ate on Yom Kippur and did not observe any of the traditions because I am angry at G-d". The Rabbi responds: "Wow, You have a real relationship with G-d".

There is belief and there is what you do. A person’s likes, interests and desires are known based on their actions and interactions. Belief, on the other hand, sometimes remains aloofly transcendent instead of becoming integrated within one's conscious thinking processes. This is illustrated in the observation of the Talmud that a burglar at the mouth of his tunnel (or the doorway of his targets home) calls out to G-d to make his endeavors prosper!

Chassidus philosophy explains that this simultaneous self-contradiction does not mean that he is without belief. The problem is only that his belief remains vague, distant and academic, instead of becoming integrated into his conscious thinking.

What do you believe? Is it integrated?

Rabbi Kushi Schusterman

P.S. Join me Sunday 10 - 11:30 am at Harford Community College Fallston Hall, Room 203 where I will attempt to prove that the Torah is true*. I believe I can convince you with rational arguments that some 3,300 years ago, G-d revealed Himself to our ancestors at Sinai. Since this class is so fundamental to who we are and what we do as Jews, I am opening this class at no cost to those who have not signed up for the entire course. To join this chance to cement your Jewish beliefs (or doubts) with reason please reply to this email [email protected]

*This class will focus on proving the revelation at Sinai, not other fundamental beliefs such as the existence of G-d which requires a class of its own.

Parsha Insight

 Parsha Insight - By Mrs. Chana Rachel Schusterman

Parsha Behaalotecha begins with the commandment for Aaron, Moses’s brother and the Kohen Gadol (High Priest), to light the menorah in the Mishkan. The word used here for lighting is to “raise up” the wicks of the lights, interpreted by our sages as, until they are a flame of themselves. This teaches us to recognize the importance of Jewish education, to kindle the potential inherent in every child. Each of us has a soul energy which is meant to be realized in everyday life in the world. 
The menorah, the seven branched candelabra in the Mishkan, was not welded together but made of one block of gold. The oneness of our people is represented by that one block of gold. The menorah had to be shaped by hammering each branch, and drawing it out from the one piece, without separating it. The Torah is teaching us the awareness that people have different characters. The seven branches represent seven distinct natures of people. Each type of person can integrate his Torah learning in a way which “speaks” to him, in a manner that uniquely inspires and guides him or her.

Later in the parsha, the people leave Mount Sinai, where they had received the Torah, and begin their journey to the Promised Land. They took the Torah and the Mishkan with them. As a people, we are still on our journey to fulfill our purpose of bringing G-d’s light to the world. In addition, each of us personally goes through many journeys in life. A good and properly integrated education awakens us to the values and principles which give us the ability to take the “light of Torah” into our daily life.
Each of us needs to grow and move forward with vitality and enthusiasm. If we have a good education from our childhood, that is a tremendous gift. But every person needs to continue to learn. Each one of us has to find those teachers and mentors who can guide us along our personal way. Every person has the potential, through learning Torah and doing mitzvos with care and consciousness, to bring our inner light out until it illuminates the world. 


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