Rabbi's Blog

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

My Divine Mistake

This past Monday, while driving to NJ for a day of meetings, I got a call from Fraida asking where I left the van keys so she can take the kids to school.  Sure enough, I knew exactly where they were.  They were in the ignition of the car I was driving.  There was no backup set at home. After Fraida and I went through the possible options of how to get the kids to school and realizing that none were practical, Fraida told me it’s Hashgacha Protis, Divine Providence; we will spend the day at home and the kids will have a relaxing day.

The question arises: is that not just a way of shirking your responsibility? Why are you blaming G-d for your mistake? 

What is Hashgacha Protis? Divine Providence means that ultimately G-d is in charge of all that happens.  G-d allows the human to make mistakes yet the result and consequences of those mistakes are part of the Divine plan. In a practical sense, this means, if someone punches me, for my own spiritual service I should accept that G-d intended for me to receive that punch, however, the other person is still held accountable for their act of violence. (The same goes for taking away my client, undercutting me in a sale...)

Another important piece of the puzzle is to accept that we will not always understand the Divine plan. Why I took the keys? I do not know.  Why did the kids have to miss school? I also do not know. What I do know is that it resulted in my family bonding over hot cocoa and homeschooling. By Divine Providence, my mistake strengthened the family bond. Am I proud that I made the mistake? No. Have I since gotten a backup copy of the key? Yes. I held myself accountable and took steps to rectify, yet I recognize that it all worked out, and will always work out, according to the Divine Plan. As in this situation, I wish upon all of us, to merit seeing the good in everything that happens to us.

Have a wonderful Shabbos and a lovely thanksgiving weekend.

Rabbi Kushi Schusterman


Don't say anything, just visit

 Do you find it hard to visit a friend who is severely ill, to wish them well and spend time with them?

Personally, I find it challenging to dig up the courage to face someone who is in extreme pain, facing fear of their future, and to know how best to address them. What is appropriate to say? What if I say the wrong thing? Is my presence really going to make any impact?

The Torah speaks very highly of the Mitzva of Bikkur Cholim (visiting the sick), yet it is clearly quite challenging for many.

In this week’s Torah portion, Vayeira, we learn of a strange encounter between G-d and Avraham. G-d had commanded Avraham to circumcise himself at the ripe old age of 99, which Avraham did, gladly and promptly. After 3 days of Avraham being in pain, the Torah relates;

“G-d appeared to him (Avraham) in the plains of Mamre, and he was sitting at the entrance of the tent when the day was hot”.

Immediately after this sentence, the Torah goes on to describe how Avraham lifts his eyes, notices the 3 angels, and runs to greet them. There is NO description at all of any conversation that took place between Avraham and G-d. G-d appears, and that’s it, then He is gone. No fanfare, no commandment, no discussion!!

The reason for this the Talmud suggests, is to teach us a beautiful lesson. G-d did not come to talk with Avraham, He came for the sole purpose of “visiting the sick” and to provide comfort. He showed up, Avraham recognized that G-d cared, and then G-d left without a word.

The visit did accomplish something significant though, as Avraham was clearly healed when G-d left, as it says that Avraham “runs” to greet the angels that he sees from a distance, showing us that the pain had disappeared.

The Talmud goes on to say that the profound lesson in this story is that visiting someone in emotional or physical pain does not need to involve solutions or even words of wisdom. The mere fact of  you taking the time to visit someone who needs support, and just showing up, even if they cannot talk with you, is enough to heal them!!

When the person who is ill sees that you visited, it shows them that they are cared about and that they matter, which emotionally gives them the strength, hope, and determination to fight more for their health. In addition, when you see the ill person in pain, you recognize that there is nothing you can do to heal this person, and that it is in G-d’s hands. This recognition will hopefully inspire you to pray on the sick person’s behalf, begging G-d to heal him/her.

Community prayer on behalf of the sick has been proven to heal, and this arousal of urgency to pray will no doubt help secure a positive outcome.

May we all share only good & happy news with each other, and anyone that needs our prayers for G-d’s healing should be blessed with a speedy recovery!!


Shabbat Shalom,

Rabbi Ezzy & Nechama Schusterman 

Be a star - US Elections

 I did not get seriously involved in any of the political discussions throughout this election cycle, excluding some devil's advocate jibes to friends during discussions. Many people tried to get me on "their side" but I refused. I did vote and no I will not tell you who I voted for. I pray for the peace of the country and hope that there will be unity among friends regardless of politics. If you want to say a prayer, here is a prayer for the United States.

I have been asked many times WHY? Why don't you comment. At the break fast of yom kippur I was asked and I responded, "our goal here in Harford County is to spread the warmth and light of Judaism, my commenting and choosing a political party will NOT enhance your Jewish practice". 

Regarding specific issues, there is a Jewish view regardless of which party or candidate espouses that view.

I realized while reading this week's Torah portion, Gd took Avraham outside and said , "Look towards heaven and count the stars-if you can count them!" And He said to him, "That is how your descendants will be. The commentary (translated in the Kehot chumash) explains that all of the Jewish people, the descendants of Abraham are metaphorically compared to the stars that sparkle in the sky; their light is so bright that even those walking in the thick of night will not stumble. We are all "shining stars"; we all possess sufficient moral and spiritual fortitude to prevent those around us from stumbling and to exert a positive influence on them.

How are you a light? You light up like the stars in the night, you don't influence others by pushing your views on themyou influence others by shining. You show how you are a good person, in tune with your truest core identity, and that light will help them not stumble and it will have a positive influence on them.

Being a star means we shine, so be a star and light up the world.

To get in touch with your truest core identity, try one of these Ten Absurdly Simple Ways to Live Higher or join an event below.

Have a great shabbos,

Rabbi Kushi Schusterman 

...and just like that, real life started

...and just like that, real life started.

The month of Tishrei has come to a close and with it the Holidays seem like a distant memory. We're quickly thrown into the month of Cheshvan - a month without any holidays. So much so that the month has earned a prefix - Mar = Bitter, because of its holiday deficiency.

At the same time the Torah portion of the first week of Cheshvan is Noach which is quite the dreary story. It's hard to come off the high and right into the routine of life with this intense drop.

Indeed, this is the intention. As spiritually fulfilling as the High Holidays are and as joyous as Sukkos  was, life is lived in a different space. It is lived in the dreary space. The purpose is to change the dreariness into light. To chase away the clouds, get rid of the rain and bring forth the sun and rainbow.

In its own interesting way the story of Noach and the Ark teaches us this as well.

The Midrash tells us that the experience on the Ark was Messianic, with the wolf lying with the lamb. It had a sense of the Garden of Eden. So much so, that Noach needed a specific command to "leave the ark".

The Ark paralleled the wonderful days of the month of Tishrei with all its profound holiness and joy. Ultimately, however we must leave the ark and enter into the regular world to rebuild and bring light into the dark places.

But there is hope! Abraham is born at the end of this Parsha. And with Abraham's birth we are assured that all of our work will pay off. We will accomplish what we were sent to this earth for and we will return to the holy state of the Ark and the profoundly spiritual experiences of the previous month.

But when we return, we will return as experienced travelers! In here lies the secret of the journey, the secret of integrating the experience into the path!

Good Shabbos,

Rabbi Kushi Schusterman 


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