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Rabbi's Blog

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

Don’t Judge Me!



No one likes to be judged! In fact the Mishna says, don’t judge another because there is only one True judge. So why the New Year’s celebration?! Indeed it is a day of awe but when the service is over we are instructed to go eat and feast and celebrate.

Let’s break it down. Why don’t we like to be judged? Here are a couple of reasons:
1. We don’t think the other person has our best interests at heart
2. We don’t think the other person really understands us and our circumstances and is passing judgement unfairly
3. We don’t want to make the changes the judgement demands of us

The fact is that most of the time the people who are passing judgement are guilty of one or all of the above (and then some). But imagine if someone loved you so much, and so unconditionally, that they did have your best interests, they do understand your circumstances and inspire you to change? We would welcome such judgement!

This indeed is what happens on Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur. We are being judged by Hashem – G-d Himself who qualifies for all of the above (and then some). Hashem only wants what is best for us, knows us through and through and inspires us with His love to change for the better.

All that is asked from us is to show up and let Hashem embrace us. Let ourselves be judged. This is cause for great celebration! To be judged by someone who loves us so much and as a result to be inspired to become a better person, what greater cause can there be for celebration?

So, as we approach the days of Awe and the days of Judgement, let’s celebrate the love of G-d and this auspicious special day of joy!

Best wishes to you and yours for a Shana Tova!


3 steps to personal growth

Written by Rabbi Michoel Gourarie,
Sydney Australia

The upcoming Jewish month of Tishrei, is a time of spirituality and strong Jewish experience. During this period we all endeavor to feel inspiration and connection to our inner soul. It is a time to reflect on the past and plan for a stronger future with meaning, purpose and growth.

As part of this journey we celebrate the three festivals of Rosh Hashanah, Yom Kippur and Sukkos. These three festivals are not independent celebrations that happen to fall out in the same month. They are all part of one process.  Together they create a three part model for effective change, spiritual growth and personal development.

Rosh Hashanah - Fundamental commitment: On Rosh Hashanah the prayers do not mention any specific deficiencies or failings. We blow the simple sound of the Shofar, representing a deep cry and yearning of the soul to move beyond our comfort zone to a better year. Before focusing on any specific behavior or personality we must first want to change. In order for our resolutions to be meaningful and sustainable we begin with a fundamental deep commitment to change and an intense determination not to be complacent or apathetic. On Rosh Hashana we declare our readiness to embark on that journey of growth and improvement.

Yom Kippur - Practical growth: Now that we have expressed the desire to improve we need to design a practical plan. The Yom Kipppur Machzor (prayer book) deals extensively with a long list of specific areas of weakness. Yom Kippur is the day to devise a detailed, manageable program of growth for the next year. This plan needs to be practical, manageable and realistic, but one that demonstrates real improvement. We need to identify a few areas in our relationships and Mitzvah observance, and develop all the steps that will help us reach the desired goals.

Sukkos - Optimism and joy: This is perhaps the most important step of all. Growth can only happen with happiness, optimism and confidence. Sadness and depression breed insecurity, overwhelm the individual and create spiritual paralysis. Sukkos is a time of great celebration. It is a time to nurture a feeling of happiness with our life and its purpose. It is a time to declare that personal growth and spiritual aspirations are not a burden or an imposition, but rather a celebration of life filled with meaning and depth. The sources refer to this festival as "the time of our joy". We celebrate the opportunity to be closer to G-d throughout the next year and He celebrates and treasures every positive move that we make. Like at a wedding reception we dance, sing and say L'chaim getting ready to enjoy each others company for yet another year.

Faith, Stress?

I was sitting in the planning and zoning office, waiting to get the use and occupancy permit for the new Chabad center. When another customer said to me, don't worry if it will be approved in time for your grand opening, have faith. While I left with the permit. I was thinking, do we really just have faith? 

a short while later I read this email from my brother in Atlanta 

Ever lose a dollar or five or a twenty? You realize it must have fallen out of your pocket at the grocery store when you pulled out your wallet or when you needed to show your license.  It’s frustrating but manageable (as long as it is not $100 or maybe more).

Wouldn’t it be nice to know that the five or twenty was picked up by someone who really needed the money and it helped them buy a loaf of bread that they might have otherwise not been able to afford? It sure would alleviate the frustration knowing that it was used by someone truly in need.

In this weeks Torah portion we’re introduced to the Mitzvah of Shikcha – forgotten wheat.  If one forgets a sheaf in the field when they are doing the harvest, the commandment is to leave it there for the poor.

The Torah is telling us that deep down each of really desire to do the mitzvos and engage in acts of kindness.  So even when it happens without our consciousness it is a reflection of our true desire.

Additionally, we actually receive a Mitzvah for having done so. In fact, if a coin or the aforementioned dollar or five, etc. fall from our pocket and a poor person picks it up we indeed receive a Mitzvah for this.

So the next time you lose a dollar instead of being frustrated about its loss pray that it is found by a poor person. It will reflect your true desire.

It taught me, that it's not only about having faith, you must do your part to get the permit in time etc. (or the equivalent in your life) That being said, if things seem not to go as planned, it may be a mitzvah in disguise or some other part of Gds grand plan. so don't fret.

Have a good shabbos,

Rabbi Kushi Schusterman
P.S. Services will take place on shabbos at 15 N. Bond St. in Bel Air

P.S.S. My editor didn't get to this email so please forgive any errors. 

Too blessed to be stressed

Last week some workers in our house had some music playing. The lyrics caught my ear: Too blessed to be stressed. I now know that this is a pretty popular line and meme out there. The specific lyrics of this particular group were a little too funky and hipster for me to fully comprehend but the punch line – too blessed to be stressed, got me thinking.

In this month of Elul we focus on our relationship with G-d. As in any relationship, it is a two way street. There is what we do for G-d and what G-d does for us. There are the things that we do that makes G-d happy and there are things that G-d does for us that makes us happy. Those are the things of an easy, smooth flowing relationship.

Then there are the things that we do that perhaps make G-d not too happy and there are things that G-d does that make us not so happy. Life is not always so perfect. Things are not always easy and sometimes they are outright difficult and hard to see any good in it.

If we are too blessed to be stressed then we can navigate through that dimension of the relationship as well.

Let me explain.

When you are unsure of someone’s love for you, their actions that seem to be unpleasant, or hurtful, need explanation. Why did you...? However, when you are 100% sure of the love that the other person has for you, you are absolutely secure in the safety and security of the other person’s embrace, then you do not need (although sometimes it is helpful) the explanation. Because you know that anything they are doing is completely in your best interest and for your good.

When we are blessed because we know we are in a relationship with G-d, who loves us completely and entirely, who has us in His eternal embrace, then we are too blessed to be stressed. We are confident in the difficulties and challenges of life to know that they are for our good; they are in our best interest and indeed they are really good even if they are concealed good.

(This does not preclude our right and responsibility to ask of G-d to allow for things to be good in a revealed way that we can comprehend them. But it does allow for us to be safe and secure in our relationship.)

This month of Elul is a time for us to focus on the core relationship, to reconnect with the “too blessed” part. To know that we are indeed connected at our very essence with G-d who embraces us unconditionally and loves us eternally.

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