Rabbi's Blog

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


Yesterday, January 25th, I had the good fortune to be able to join the WebIXI's NonProfit Advisory Group Happy Hour, honoring Advanced Eye Care as the philanthropic company of the year, James and Sheryl Kohl as Irene Chambers volunteers of the year and United Way for Central Maryland as the Mary Smith non-profit of the year.Those who accepted the awards, Lisa Kale Feulner, James and Sheryl Kohl and Caroline Adolph and Cecilia Helmstetter each spoke for a brief moment. Their thoughts shared a common theme: ‘I am grateful for the blessings in my life that others don't have’. Dr Feulner spoke about how thankful she is for the success that she has been blessed with. She is on the board of the Boys and Girls Club and spoke about changing the world, starting here at home; "changing lives ONE child at a time". Caroline Adolph spoke about how thankful she is to have a roof over her head, a warm blanket, a hot shower and a working warm car - this is after spending Tuesday with Project Homeless Connect, providing much-needed services to the homeless in Harford County. The Kohls spoke about their philosophy that they would rather give than receive and how grateful they are to serve. 

Pharaoh, in the Torah portions of these weeks, has a different philosophy; I am great, I got here myself, I did it on my own and I don't need to share. Moses and Aharon are trying to educate Pharaoh about the need to recognize that Hashem, G-d, grants us material success, health, and happiness. Like we saw with the honorees who recognize that they have received a gift from G-d in order to share it with others. We see this too in America’s Declaration of Independence: “We hold these Truths to be self-evident, that all Men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness...”

In Judaism there is a tradition that even before we get out of bed we say the "Modeh Ani", we thank G-d that we are alive. We are grateful for what we have, from simply being alive to all the greater blessings. Here is a card for you to print and put by your bedside.

Be grateful and have a great Shabbos,

Rabbi Kushi Schusterman

You don't have to always tell the truth!

Tomorrow is the inauguration of Donald J. Trump, the 45th US president. Some people are thrilled, while others are upset about his winning the presidency. When I check my Facebook feed, I see individuals who are going to the inauguration with happiness and excitement to celebrate the presidency of the person they voted for and others heading to protest or otherwise showing their discomfort with his becoming president.

As one who stays out of politics, I want to share with you a thought about people and social interactions. You do not have to always tell the truth!

When we go on Facebook, Twitter, etc. and we share a piece of information, pro-or-against anybody or their ideology, do we actually gain anything? Do we succeed in convincing our neighbor or friend to our way of thinking? Have we alienated friends who we love and care about for no good reason?

In this week's Torah portion Moses "teaches this" to G-d! The Talmud teaches (Brachot 9B) that when Moses told G-d that the Israelites would ask to know His Name, G-d told him to tell them that His name is: “I will be who I will be” (Ex.3:14). G-d was telling Moses to tell the Jews “I was with you in this enslavement, and I will be with you in the enslavements of your future exiles”. Moses protested: “Master of the World, it is enough for one affliction to be mentioned in its own time!” Therefore, G-d told Moses to tell the Jewish people that His name is "I will be" (sent me to you to redeem you).

I think G-d is saying to never tell a lie. However, just because it is true, does not mean you need to say it. That person, who is on a different side of the political or religious spectrum, love them, hang out with them and do not discuss the subjects that will cause a visceral disagreement.

Once the relationship surpasses the Facebook friendship, try sitting down for coffee and discussing your values, you will be surprised to learn that you and your friend agree on much more then you disagree about.

If you want to have a positive effect on others, sometimes the best thing is to say nothing - even the truth.

Have a good shabbos,

Rabbi Kushi Schusterman 



Don't you trust me?

Have you ever spoken with someone who you thought believed you? They ask that you do something, and after you agree, they request that you make a promise. That is almost offensive. Do you trust me? If yes, then why is my word not good enough? Why do you need a promise?

One of the reasons may be that while I trust you to do the right thing, realities can change and affect your ultimate decision. I want a commitment not only to do the right thing but to follow through on the specific action(s) of what we agreed upon, regardless of the circumstances and/or your personal understanding.

When Jacob tells Joseph to bury him in Israel immediately after he dies, Joseph gives his commitment "I will do according to your words". Jacob responds "Swear to me" and Joseph swears. Joseph and Jacob were on the same team with the same goal. However, Joseph was integrated into the modern society and elevated it from the inside, whereas Jacob was more detached from society. Jacob lived in a separate neighborhood even when he was in Egypt.  He wanted Joseph to ensure that he would leave Egypt, regardless of Joseph’s personal preference and understanding. Hence he made him swear!

The Jewish people were able to elevate and eventually leave Egypt by having a connection to Jacob who was buried outside of Egypt. As the Talmud says, a prisoner cannot free himself. 

This story is not only a promise for Joseph to "get Jacob out of Egypt/Exile", but it is a promise we need to keep in mind for ourselves.

While we may have a blessed life here in the United States, we always need to remember and look forward to the day when Moshiach will come when we will be able to rebuild our Holy Bet Hamikdash. We should not just be committed to it, "trust me, I want Moshiach,” but it should be ingrained in us as if we promised to our ancestor Jacob that we would take him and all his Children out of exile.

Have a great Shabbos,

Rabbi Kushi Schusterman


I have no choice but to care

In this week's Torah portion we read about the famous reconciliation between Joseph and his brothers. After having sold him into slavery 22 years prior, Joseph sees that they've repented and identifies himself as their long lost brother, and now with some time they work to rebuild their relationship.

However, prior to the reconciling, Yehuda is forced to confront Joseph (not yet knowing who is talking to) and threaten, beg, plead for Benjamin's life. He tells Joseph, "because I guaranteed to my father" that I'd protect and bring back your youngest son.

The sages learn the entire legal concept of guarantor-ship, including monetary guarantees from this verse. Furthermore, they quote from the Talmud, "that all Jews are guarantors for one another." 


This story conveys to us the spiritual, and legal obligation to stand up and not remain silent or hidden when our fellow is struggling or suffering.

Locally within our community, we all know people going through difficult times, be they financial, health or otherwise, and globally, our homeland, Eretz Yisroel is struggling against an international slew of anti-Israel and anti-Jewish actions. From the UN, to the upcoming Paris meetings and beyond. 

We are our brothers keepers. We are responsible for one another. We must not hide. We must stand up and help. If that means giving someone a lift to a doctors appointment, writing a check to help someone in dire straights, to attending a pro-Israel event or signing a petition, we must not forget that we are our brothers guarantor. 

Good Shabbos,

Rabbi Kushi Schusterman

P.S. Harford Chabad was supportive of visiting the IDF this past Chanukah here are some pictures


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