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Rabbi's Blog

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

Creating Unity

Dollarphotoclub_58963152.jpgThere are many things that do not mix, either naturally or in our minds. Water and oil do not mix naturally and in our minds; peanut butter and jelly do mix well.

Water flows, it does not stand tall like a wall — except for when it did, at the splitting of the red sea. Amalek the nation that symbolically is the perpetual enemy of the Jewish people — and when needed the Jews engage Amalek in battle and are victorious.

In this week's Torah portion, Yisro, we read about the Jewish people receiving the Torah. The Torah tells us: "Now Moses' father in law, Yisro, the chieftain of Midian, heard all that G-d had done for Moses and for Israel, His people; that the Lord had taken Israel out of Egypt." One would typically assume that "all that G-d had done" includes everything, from the ten plagues to the splitting of the sea, from the Manna from heaven to the war with Amalek. 

Rashi, however, comments that it refers specifically to the splitting of the sea and the war with Amalek. Rashi is teaching us something integral; Yisro heard that the Jewish people were setting out to infuse the physical with a G-dly purpose. In things that are "indifferent" to spirituality and to the Jewish mission in the world, as well as engaging the "enemies of the Jews" so that the Torah can permeate all existence.

The water at the red sea isn't pro or anti the Jewish mission - but when needed it helped. Amalek is against the Jewish mission and when needed the Jews engaged with Amalek in war.  

The message for us is clear. When we bless G-d daily for giving us the Torah, we say "Blessed are you the one who gives the Torah" [in Hebrew grammar it is in present tense, the one who is currently giving the Torah]. Daily, we should try to make sure that we take something that "does not mix" with G-d and infuse it with G-dliness.

One may think that food is not, nor can it be, holy. Yet, when you eat kosher food and make a blessing, even if it's but once a day, you have unified the physical with the spiritual.

Can the weekend be holy? Yes! When you celebrate Shabbat — even if just the beginning with candles, Kiddush and Hamotzi or ending with Havdalah after sundown - you have unified the physical with the spiritual.

Go for it — create unity!

Have a good Shabbos

Rabbi Kushi Schusterman 

Are you properly armed?


Before going to war, one would arm themselves with intelligence and weaponry.  In the beginning of this week’s Parshah, it is written: "... the children of Israel were armed when they went up out of Egypt." The subsequent verse tells us: "Moses took Joseph's bones with him".

Torah comes from the root of the word Horaah which means “instruction.”   The Torah is exact in every detail. The verses being next to each other is not by chance but by design. The Torah is adding meaning and a message for all time. 

The word for bones in Hebrew is Atzmot (Ayin-Tzaddi-Mem-Vov-Tof). Instead of using a more respectful word to describe the transfer of Joseph's remains, words like casket, box or remains, the Torah uses the word Etzem - meaning bones. 

Etzem also means essence and core. We can now translate the verses in a different manner and use it to give us a life lesson: The children of Israel were armed, they took the essence of Joseph with them. 

The essence of Joseph is seen in his name: Yosef, add. His mother said G-d should add for me another child.   Joseph has the ability to make from an other - someone who is against - into a child.

When the Jewish people went into a "great and awesome desert, [in which were] snakes, vipers and scorpions, and drought, where there was no water;" they armed themselves accordingly. Similarly, when we enter a place where there are things contrary to Torah values, we need remain protected. We need to maintain the ability to make the adversary into a child, part of the family.

Joseph lived most of his life in Egypt and remained true to his values. Joseph used the adversarial Egypt to provide food for his family. We need to be part of the world, live in it and transform it into a child of G-d, a home for G-d.

Happy building (snowmen) and a home for G-d,

Rabbi Kushi Schusterman


Keep you and your friends warm!

Dollarphotoclub_69433952.jpgHave you ever been to an event where you were not dressed accordingly - under-dressed or overdressed? Most probably it was due to being uninformed regarding the event’s dress code. When we are not given the opportunity to properly prepare for an occasion, we tend to find ourselves in uncomfortable situations. From applying for a job interview to a student taking a test, proper prior planning is always necessary.

When G-d was taking the Jewish People out of Egypt, He did not want anyone to claim that they were taken by surprise. G-d told them to prepare a few days earlier by taking the sheep, worshiped in Egypt as a god, and tying them to their beds to be slaughtered as a sacrifice before leaving Egypt.  

Why did G-d want them to take it as a sacrifice? So they would not be unprepared to get the Torah. G-d prepared the Jewish People by giving them two mitzvot: 1) Brit Milah, circumcision, for the males and 2) partaking in the pascal sacrifice by everyone. These included two types of mitzvot 1) Do good - Brit milah and 2) separate from bad - slaughter the idols of Egypt. By doing this G-d was spiritually clothing the Jews with mitzvot so they would merit to be redeemed.

The 10th of Shevat (next Wednesday) is the day the Lubavitcher Rebbe, the leader of the Chabad movement, took on the leadership. You will find that at Chabad, one is encouraged to add a mitzvah, to add a piece of spiritual clothing. This can be by refraining from doing something contrary to Torah or by adding and doing something in line with what the Torah says to do. Why do we stress this? So that when Moshiach comes, we want everyone to have plenty of mitzvot; spiritually dressed appropriately.

The ability to encourage others to add in mitzvot is not limited to "community leaders". Everyone who knows how to perform a mitzvah, or how to refrain from something contrary to Torah, can encourage a friend to do so as well. Keep you and your friends warm!

Good Shabbos,

Rabbi Kushi Schusterman 


Not Even an Athiest


When a Jewish atheist heard that the best school in town happened to be Catholic, he enrolled his son. Things were going very well until one day the boy came home and said he had learned all about the Father, the Son, and Holy Ghost. His father, barely able to control his rage, seized his son by the shoulders and said: “David, this is very important, so listen carefully! There is only one G-d—and we don’t believe in Him!”

Earlier this week, at a meeting, the topic of belief in G-d came up. We discussed passionate atheists. 

You see there are 4 types of believers:

  1. I believe in G-d. He instructs and informs my life as well as is interested in what I do or don't do,
  2. There was a creator who is the "founder" of the world and is most powerful but He is not involved in the administration of the world, it runs on its own - in the words of the Talmud - the G-d of the Gods,
  3. There might be a G-d yet it is irrelevant to me; ‘I am a self-made man and I worship my creator’,
  4. The atheist who strongly believes and “knows” there is no G-d.

Only the third type of person is apathetic to G-d, whereas all the others have a relationship with G-d - either pro or against, but G-d takes up brain space. Pharaoh, in Egypt, asked Moses: "Who is G-d that I should listen to Him?" Pharaoh was not even an atheist - G-d was irrelevant in his world. To counterbalance Pharaoh’s indifference, G-d plagued the Egyptians "in order that you should know that there is none like the Lord, our G-d." 

Even the frogs, which seemingly have no purpose, were used to show Pharaoh that G-d runs the world. They were willing to go into the ovens, against their nature, if that is what G-d wants from them.

So if you are an atheist, let me know when we can get together for coffee. My guess is that I also do not believe in the G-d that you don't believe in.

If you think G-d no longer is involved in the world, let me know when we can get together for coffee. I am sure it would bring interesting discussion.

If you are apathetic, let me know when we can get together for coffee. Maybe we can see if a relationship with G-d can enhance your life.

If you are a believer, let me know when we can get together for coffee. I would love to hear about G-d’s involvement in your life.

Have a good Shabbos!

Rabbi Kushi Schusterman 


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