Rabbi's Blog

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

Did you do it?

Have you ever wanted to do something and then pushed off getting it done and then forgot to actually do it? It can be something like signing up for the Mega Challah bake, Shabbat100 or The TFG Comedy Night or it can be calling up a friend to see how they are doing.

What would you need to do to get that thing done? Simple , just do it! Simple, yet not necessarily easy.

When the Torah introduces us to Abraham, it tells us that he was born to Terach and then proceeds to recount events that happened to him at the age of 75. The Midrash fills in many of the details of his early life, some of it transcribed here However, the written Torah only begins at 75, with G-d commanding Abraham "go out from your land.... and I will bless you."

Why does the Torah begin to tell us about Abraham with this commandment and skip his early life story?

To teach us that while Abraham may have accomplished great feats and had religious fervor in his earlier years, that is not what makes him the first Jew and the father of monotheism. What made him so unique? Was simply doing it. Simply following the will of G-d. If G-d commands us to put on Tefillin, put up a Mezuzah, or light Shabbos candles before sundown, we do not only meditate on it, discuss it's benefits and learn about it, we actually follow G-d's will and do the physical act. The main reason why a Jew observes an actual Mitzvah is that they are like Abraham, they are merely fulfilling the action that G-d desired.

So, if you consider yourself a very religious Jew, remember that it is not about how holy you feel, it is about what you do.
If you consider yourself a very irreligious Jew, remember it is not about how you feel about it, it is about what you do.

In the words of Nike: Just do it!

In the words of Stephen Covey: The main thing is to keep the main thing the main thing.

In the words of the Torah: Go out of your land (your comfort zone) and go to where I will show you… and then I will bless you and you will be blessed! Says G-d.

Have a good Shabbos,

Rabbi Kushi Schusterman 

If you like the Rabbi... Read This

 Noach - By Rabbi Gershon Schusterman [Rabbi Kushi's Father]

This week’s Sidrah, (Parshah/Torah portion), Noach, tells of a mass holocaust that befell the world almost 5,000 years ago. A flood brought about by forty days of rain, followed by months of turbulent storms, destroyed the entire population and living creatures from the world. The only survivors were Noach and his family, and the living beings that were in the Ark with him.

Noach was saved because he was unique amongst the people of his generation. While the populace lived a corrupt, immoral life, Noach was righteous. The Torah uses words like Tzadik (pious, righteous) and Tamim (complete) in describing him'. In fact his very name, Noach, from the Hebrew root word for consolation, implied his role and mission to bring consolation to the Almighty and the world after the corruption brought about the inevitable holocaust.

And yet, Noach had his detractors too. Rashi, in his commentary on "(Noach was righteous| in his generation," brings a critical view, saying: "Compared to his generation he was righteous; however, had he been in Avrohom's generation he would have been insignificant." A very strong statement regarding one upon whom the Torah showers such superlatives!

In fact, this attitude is alluded to by the Prophet Yeshaya. The terrible flood is referred to as  "Noach's flood water," almost as if he were somehow responsible for the flood itself!

How so?

The Midrash tells us that during the 120 years that Noach was building the ark, he was regularly questioned by his fellow men "What are you building?" He would simply reply, "I'm building an ark to be saved in, when G-d destroys the world." While the message was clear to those who chose to hear it, it was passive and weak to those who weren't interested.

By contrast, Avrohom Ovinu, of kind nature, aggressively taught the principles of Judaism (monotheism and other principles of morality as incumbent upon "the children of Noach ) to his generation. Indeed, he oftentimes employed strong pressure tactics to evoke an acknowledgement of the Almighty's sovereignity on the world.

Perhaps this point is inherent in the same phrase “[Noach was righteous| in his generation." There is a positive inference, that he was amongst his people, and yet there is an indication of weakness too. As the Talmud says, quite factually: "A rabbi who is beloved upon the people of his city, it is not an indication of his good qualities, but rather of his failure to discharge his responsibility to rebuke his community."

Jewish leadership is not a popularity contest. A leader must create the tension, in his or her community, between idealism and pragmatism; between where the people are at, and where they should be. Anything less is an abdication of the leadership role.

The Talmud tells us that "A generation in which the Bais Hamikdash is not rebuilt should view itself as if it was destroyed in it." Similarly, Noach's responsibility, or lack thereof, in his times, came to the point that the flood bears his name to eternity-"Noach's Floodwaters."

Our generation today, too, has many similarities to Noach's times. The verses "For the world was filled with corruption and immorality" most aptly applies to our world. We, the descendants of Noach and Avrohom must learn from our grandfathers, from their accomplishments and their failings. We must follow in the footsteps of Avrohom, showing leadership even when it is unpopular and may not be received well. In doing so, not only will we be discharging our responsibility properly, but, more importantly, we will bring about the solutions to the problems facing our communities and bring blessing to, and avert disaster, from our environs.

A jolly border fiasco

On our way to Montreal for Simchat Torah, we had the wonderful opportunity to spend a day together as a family, in the van. Usually the trip takes about 9 hours of driving and 1 hour of stops. Good friends were visiting family who live ‘on the way’ and, being that it is Sukkot and we are careful to eat and drink only in a sukkah, we made an extra stop to see them for lunch and break up the trip.

Those who say l’Chaim on alcoholic beverages in Canada know that the taxes are exorbitant. Therefore, we stopped at duty free to grab a bottle and then headed to an alternate, less travelled border to save ourselves the “2 hour” delay at the main border.

Arriving at the border, there was a backup with over 100 cars and only one booth open. The two hour wait we had wanted to save ourselves got us a 4 hour delay before we finally crossed into Canada. Frustrating? Maybe. Tired children? Yes. Tired adults? Of course. But it was good and joyous. You see, while waiting we got to walk around on the shoulder and count the cars, we got to have some fresh air, we met people listening to the cubs games and some fellow Jews going to Montreal. We had the opportunity to dance; celebrating the Joy of sukkot - the festival of rejoicing.

I may never know why Gd’s plan was for us to hang out for 4 hours on a 1 mile stretch of highway but I realized something about Joy.

Joy is not crossing the border after a 4 hour delay,  joy is realizing that you are where you are supposed to be. Joy isn’t resigning yourself to your fate, joy is celebrating the situation. Joy isn’t kvetching, joy is kvelling – even in a less then optimal situation.

As my family and I celebrate in Montreal, join the Harford County Jewish community on  Thursday evening at 6:30 PM, in celebrating the holiday of Simchat Torah.

Join the crowd and dance the night away! My hope is to get back and hear “Rabbi, you thought it would be a short service? It turned into hours of dancing and celebrating”. I hope to hear “you missed the party, next year you got to stay!” That is my hope! Regardless of what happens, I will be full of joy, recognizing I am where I should be, celebrating the situation and kvelling.

A gut Yontif, and a gut Shabbos!

Rabbi Kushi Schusterman 

When it rains - eat in the sukkah

 By Rabbi Aron Moss


Question of the Week:

If it rains during Sukkos, we don't have to sit in the Sukkah, correct? So why have I seen people who continue to sit in the Sukkah, even when it is pouring?


Sitting in the Sukkah is the only mitzvah that if you're bothered by it, you're exempt from it. Usually, even if a mitzvah is hard, you have to do it. Like fasting on Yom Kippur. Some people are bothered by not eating or drinking for 25 hours. But you still have to do it. And yet if sitting in the Sukkah bothers you, like in wet weather, you can leave the Sukkah and eat inside the house. 

But many will never eat out of the Sukkah, no matter what the weather is. For them, eating inside in a dry home would bother them more than eating outside in a leaking Sukkah. When you understand what the Sukkah is, you'll see why.

The Sukkah is a holy space. You are sitting in a divine abode, under the heavens, with the stars shining down on you, surrounded by angels and the souls of our forefathers. Our sages teach that we are only worthy enough to enter the Sukkah straight after Yom Kippur, when our souls have been cleansed and we are at our spiritual peak. And the mystics say that the Sukkah may look like a hut made out of wood and branches, but in truth it is a made of holy names of G-d.

The weather may be a little unpleasant, it may be a little squashy in there, and your palm allergy may be flaring up. But the inner serenity, the love and feeling of connection with those around you, the sense of being embraced by G-d, all that should override any physical discomfort. If you're still not enjoying the Sukkah, then you're not really in the Sukkah in the first place, and you can go inside. But if you know what your missing, you won't want to leave.

There are moments when we are called upon to transcend the material world. Sitting in the Sukkah is one of those moments. A little rain, or even a lot, can't stop that.

Good Yomtov,

Rabbi Moss

NOTE: On the first night of Sukkos, even if it is pouring with rain, we make Kiddush and eat a piece of Challah in the Sukkah according to all customs.

To subscribe to the weekly Rabbi Moss email CLICK HERE or email [email protected] 



Looking for older posts? See the sidebar for the Archive.