Rabbi's Blog

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

Moshiach - It is real


On the last day of Pesach we read the haftorah about Moshiach.

One would think that the haftorah should begin with the first verse in Isaiah Ch. 11, talking about Moshiach: "And a shoot shall spring forth from the stem of Jesse, and a twig shall sprout from his roots."

In actuality, the haftorah begins with Isaiah Ch 10 v 32, with a message about Chizkiyahu. Chizkiyahu lost the opportunity to be Moshiach, in the last moment, when he didn't praise G-d for His help in winning the war with Sancherib.

One of the reasons why this seemingly historical account is how the haftorah begins, is to share with us the message that Moshiach is not only something we believe in, it is something real; something that almost happened yet lost at the last minute, as well as something that will happen any second.

Wishing you a redemption filled end of Pesach.

Hope you can join us for the Moshiach meal, Shabbat afternoon 4/30/16 at 6:30 pm, prefaced by a 6:00 Mincha.

Rabbi Kushi Schusterman

P.S. Read the whole haftorah here

P.S.S. My brother from Atlanta wrote a nice piece about why Chabad is obsessed with Moshiach, read all about it here.

G-d is in the couch crumbs

By: Rabbi Nechemia Schusterman
Peabody, MA

Today I spent the Rebbe's Birthday like I never did before. This is a day on the calendar when all those who consider themselves students/chassidim of the Rebbe, behave a little differently. A little "hecher," a little "higher" than usual. Followers who have dedicated their lives to spreading the message of joy, beauty & happiness of Judaism with the world, as he did, spend their times in study, good deeds, prayer, and an extra dose of spreading of light to the world. However this year, I feel like I honored his birthday, perhaps in an even greater way than I ever had before.

You see, today, I did a couple loads of laundry, I washed the dishes, I vacuumed out the couch, even got on my hands and knees, and helped vacuumed out the baseboards in the kitchen. Let me back up here a second. Last night one of my children woke up with a stomach bug, and I spent a bleary eyed few hours doing what you do and cleaning up what you do when your child has the bug. This morning the fun continued. I got a call first thing in the morning from our nanny/cleaning woman/babysitter our everything's husband, that she was ill as well and was not going to make it.

In nearly a decade of knowing her, I don't recall her ever missing a day due to illness.

So, my wife on her way to work, and a sick child at home, my plans for the day were over. I was not going to go to New York to visit the Rebbe's resting place. I wasn't going to continue distributing Shmurah Matzah, I wasn't going to put on Tefillin with people, I was going to spend the day at home with my son, getting ready for Pesach, until my wife returned from work, and we'd continue to do together whatever our cleaning help wasn't going to do.

This is that time of year, where the nanny/cleaning lady gets many many hours of overtime as we get ready for Passover.

Whether I liked it or not, and whether it was the Rebbe's birthday or not, Passover was still on its way, and I was still stuck at home and there was work to be done. So after throwing a tantrum, and gulping down a few coffees, I accepted my fate. Today was going to be a cleaning day. First by myself, and then joined by my wife when she got back home a few hours later.

As we found crevices in the cushions of the couch that we never even knew existed, and as I found dried food potentially from a decade gone by, I asked myself, is this the way to be spending the Rebbe's birthday?

I which point I realized, something I had read recently at one of the classes, fit perfectly at this moment.

In that talk, the Rebbe explains, that when one is engaged in the holy work of HaShem, bringing down the divine light of the Shechina down here on earth, then a mother preparing food for her family, or closing the windows so that there should not be a draft (for a sleeping child); This person is at that moment a Kohen, a Priest doing service in the Beis Hamikdash - the Holy Temple. Not simply "an excused absence" rather such a person is considered to have attended, and sitting front row in the class. A Kohen doing service in the Temple.

Believe it or not, cleaning and removing Chometz, (leavened foods, bread crumbs an cake,) and with a family of 6 children, that is not in short supply, is a mitzva. And climbing in small places to remove these offensive items, as preparation for Pesach, counts as work of Priest doing service in the holy Temple.

So, I didn't run around and distribute much matzo, and I didn't pray for an extended period of time as I had hoped to, I didn't study the holy works of the Rebbe, or even prepare for my Seder by pulling out books on the Haggadah or Pesach.

But by golly, did I ever celebrate the Rebbe's birthday.

I did it in a way far differently than I had ever done it before, but I did it in the way that one might say, perhaps, is more holy than ever before.

The holiness of making a dwelling place for the Divine, down here, in the lowest level possible, right down here on earth, beneath the cushions of my couch.

Happy Birthday Rebbe!

Rabbi Nechemia Schusterman 

The Kabbalah of Egypt and Tzara'at


Do you believe in G-d? Do you believe in an intelligent designer and creator of the world? Do you believe in both? Neither?

The Midrash says that the Jews were redeemed from Egypt in the merit of their belief in the L-ord. There are those who believe in G-d as creator of the world, using the logic that "nothing creates itself". The world and the human body, with all their complexities, must have had a creator. 

From a Kabbalistic perspective, this type of belief is called belief in the name of Elokim which has the gematria (numerical value) of Hateva – nature.
Elokim: alef-lamed-hei-yud-mem = 1 + 30 + 5 + 10 + 40 = 86 
HaTeva: Hay-Tet-Bet-Ayin 5 + 9 + 2 + 70 = 86

Another name of G-d, that we do not pronounce, is "Ha-vaye". This name is similar to the Hebrew words Haya Hove and Yihiyeh, which mean past, present and future, and it represents a G-d that is omnipresent.

Using the words G-d for Elokim - the way G-d is in nature and L-ord for the G-d that is above nature, we can understand this Midrash. 

When Moses and Aaron came to Pharaoh and told him: "So said the Lord of Israel: 'Send out My people, and let them sacrifice to Me in the desert", Pharaoh said: "Who is the L-ord that I should heed His voice to let Israel out? I do not know the L-ord, neither will I let Israel out.” Pharaoh new about "Elokim" but not about "Havaye".  We see this by the plague of lice: "So the necromancers said to Pharaoh, "It is the finger of G-d" but Pharaoh's heart remained steadfast, and he did not hearken to them, as the L-ord had spoken.

The Jews believed, and continue to believe, that life is directed by G-d expressed as Havaye, the L-ord that is above nature, and in that merit they were redeemed. 

When we read this week's Torah portion where it continues to talk about the Tzara'at (usually mistranslated as leprosy) and how it is healed, we recognize that Tzara'at is really a spiritual sickness. The Rambam writes that Tzara'at is a collective term including many afflictions that do not resemble each other. The general term of tzara'at is not a natural occurrence. Instead, it is a sign and a wonder prevalent among the Jewish people to warn them against lashon hora, "undesirable speech”.

When a person speaks lashon hora, the walls of his house change colors. If he repents, the house will be purified. If, however, he persists in his wickedness until the house is destroyed, the leather implements in his house upon which he sits and lies change colors. If he repents, they will be purified. If he persists in his wickedness until they are burnt, the clothes he wears change colors. If he repents, they will be purified. If he persists in his wickedness until they are burnt, his skin undergoes changes and he develops tzara'at. This causes him to be isolated for it to be made known that he must remain alone so that he will not be involved in the talk of the wicked which is folly and lashon hora.

Similar to the Tzara'at being a super-natural occurrence, the Jewish people believed that all that happens in this world is a supernatural Havaye experience. Similar to the Tzara’at being a pathway to recovery from lashon hora, "undesirable speech", so too everything that Ha'vaye allows to happen to us is for our good.

Wishing not only good, but revealed good and healing for all and blessings for a kosher a happy Pesach,

Rabbi Kushi Schusterman


Natural or work for it?

Thank G-d, Fraida and I are blessed with four children; each one being cute and unique. Rochel Leah, our first grader, has started to read. It seems that she is a natural reader. This past Shabbos, seeing Fraida reading a children's book about a classmate’s great grandmother, she wanted to read it as well. Rochel Leah spent most of Shabbos on the couch reading all 170 pages. There are other children in her class that are not natural readers but have other talents that Rochel Leah does not have. The big question is: what is better, to be a natural or to have to work for it?

The question is asked: "what is the connection of last week's Torah portion ending with the laws of Kosher and this week’s Torah portion beginning with the laws of human purity?"

We find in the Talmud an explanation from Rav Simlai who says this is normal, for after all, the creation of man also followed the creation of the animals in Berashis!

There are two types of skills a person has: one that is natural and another that is acquired through toil. When one has a natural skill it, does not necessarily become part of them and can remain dormant and unexpressed. However, when one works toward a goal of obtaining a skill, it becomes ingrained into them and becomes one with them.

The Midrash tells us: “if a person merits it, they say to him: 'you preceded all the works of Creation', but if not, they say to him: 'the mosquito came before you!’

Rav Simlai did not have an illustrious background, everything he knew he worked hard to obtain. Therefore, when seeing the question of the Torah portions, Rav Simlai stresses that even the mosquito came before man. He teaches us to do what we need to do to make ourselves into a better person. Rav Simlai knew that hard work can make someone who is not a natural do a better job than the one who "got it from birth".

In truth, this is something we all need to do. We cannot be satisfied just with our natural abilities to have a good effect on other people or the world at large. We must work hard to make the world a better place, to reach out to someone in need, to reconnect with Hashem and to do another mitzvah.

Enjoy the work :)

Rabbi Kushi Schusterman

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