Rabbi's Blog

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

Women don't belong in a Box

By Mrs. Dena Schusterman - Chabad Intown Atlanta GA

In case you did not read the Torah portion, yet---- it is about the abduction and rape of DENA. What a legacy.... right?

Well, what does Chassidic thought reveal about the inner dimension of DENA?

Dena represents the Jewish woman who does not belong barefoot in the kitchen, in the background and most definitely not locked in a box--- where her father put her when he went to greet his brother Esav, out of fear of his brothers ill intentions toward her. Jacob, her father is criticized for this move.

The sages say that had he allowed Dena to shine in all her feminine outgoing-glory she would have been the catalyst for change for the sinner Uncle Esav. While I completely understand where Jacob was coming from, living in the times that he did live in.

I also appreciate the lesson about a woman's charm, wit and intelligence to move and shake things up, that is different from a masculine approach. 
The deeper dimension to Dena's personality is that women have their own unique way about them, and our sparkle should not be locked up or shunned or mitigated. But celebrated.

Women are in their essence different from men. We come to the table with our own unique set of feminine talents, we don't need to be like men to matter or have a place at the table.

We make a difference just as we are.
Dina Dena Deena Dinah no matter how you spell it, this is your week .

It's my birthday and ....

Today, Thursday 5 Kislev, is my Hebrew Birthday. The Jerusalem Talmud tells us that on a birthday one’s Mazel, particular spiritual source of your soul, shines powerfully. For this reason, I want to take a moment to bless you with revealed good; physically, spiritually and emotionally. You should be blessed with the ability to express your true self. I also want to thank you for being a part of my life and the life of the Harford county Jewish community!

There is a custom on one's birthday to make a reckoning, a soul analysis, asking what did I do well and where can there be improvement. 

As humans, we are creatures of habit. According to a 2011 study, approx 40% of our daily activities are based on our habits. One of the things I plan on working on this year is to be more conscious about the how and why I am doing what I need to do.

Perhaps the shepherds of Charan were able to move the rock. However, as their routine and habit told them that they can't, they did not even try! The story is read in this week's Torah Portion: the shepherds would gather at the well and wait until all the flocks would be there. Then, all the shepherds together, would remove the rock covering the well. Jacob moved the rock himself! (see the full verses it in the PostScript)

Was it a miracle? Was Jacob able to do that which took the strength of many people? Possibly. But perhaps he was simply doing something that others were telling him that he could not do. Maybe he believed in himself and therefore did "the impossible".

If we try to do something we always told ourselves we could not do, whether due to a thoughtless habit or psychologically we said to ourselves that we would "never do that", perhaps we can do it! Jacob shows us that despite what “others” say, we should try to do it anyway, and there is a big chance that we will be successful! 

We can make a difference! Touch one soul, one person, and make a difference in one life. Prove that it is possible and then we can do it again and again!

The world of goodness is made up of 1000s of singular acts of kindness.

Have a great Shabbos!

There WILL BE Shabbat services at 10:00 am. There WILL NOT be kabbalah and coffee this week.

Rabbi Kushi Schusterman

P.S. And he looked, and behold! A well in the field, and behold! Three flocks of sheep lying beside it, because from that well they would water the flocks, and a huge rock was upon the mouth of the well. And all the flocks would gather there, and they would roll the rock off the mouth of the well and water the sheep, and [then] they would return the rock onto the mouth of the well, to its place.   .... And he said, "The day is yet long; it is not the time to take in the livestock. Water the sheep and go pasture." And they said, "We cannot [do that], until all the flocks are gathered together, and they will roll the rock off the mouth of the well, and we shall [then] water the sheep." While he was still talking with them, Rachel came with her father's sheep, for she was a shepherdess. And it came to pass when Jacob saw Rachel, the daughter of Laban, his mother's brother and the sheep of Laban, his mother's brother, that Jacob drew near and rolled the rock off the mouth of the well, and he watered the sheep of Laban, his mother's brother. (Genisis Chapter 29) 

NY Musings, Will you accept the mission?

Here I am, in NY, amongst thousands of Rabbis known as Shluchim, emissaries. We are the Chabad Lubavitch Shluchim running Jewish centers worldwide where we focus on giving peoples’ souls the opportunities to express themselves and giving Jews the inspiration to do many of the 613 mitzvahs and gentiles the knowledge to observe the 7 Noahide mitzvahs.

Over the next 100 hours, we will explore, debate, study and encourage each other with best practices and methods to inspire our fellow man. We will discuss fundraising and friendship, we will pray and study together and also have a good ol' fashioned good time with friends.

The title that "Chabad Rabbis" and their better half's were given is Shluchim, emissaries. It seems to be a bizarre title. After all, were we "sent" or did we choose to go? Even in the 1950s, when the Lubavitcher Rebbe OB”M, was actually inviting couples to his office and encouraging them to move, it always had to be consensual; both spouses needed to want to go as well as many times it required parental consent!

One possible answer can be found in this week’s Torah portion. This is the first time an independent person was sent on a mission.  The Torah tells us: “And Isaac called Jacob and blessed him... And Isaac sent Jacob, and he went to Padan Aram”. 

In order to be an emissary, to properly represent the sender and act as if you are them (in Talmudic language: that the emissary is like the sender), you first need to be an independent and separate existence; you need to be able to choose, by your own volition, to dedicate yourself to the mission at hand.

Even before you accept the mission, you are guaranteed blessings! The verses state and 1) he blessed him 2) he sent him and 3) he accepted and went to Padan Aram. 

Each unique individual has the choice to accept the mission that was given to them by G-d. G-d blesses us and asks us to do more mitzvot and to study more Torah. The blessings are there! The question remains: will you accept the mission?

Have an amazing Shabbos,

Rabbi Kushi Schusterman


Servitude is the Greatest Liberation


By Rabbi Eliyahu Schusterman Chabad Intown

Do you ever want to take a break from yourself? A break from thinking? A break from feeling? The more sensitive and in touch you are, the smarter you are, the greater the desire to take a break, to greater the need to just still the mind.

Yoga, mindfulness meditation and regular meditation are all helpful to this end. But imagine living the paradox, where you feel and think and still experience peace of mind and heart?!

Meditate on that for a bit :-)!

There is help and it comes from an unlikely Biblical figure – Eliezer the servant of Abraham. In Chabad philosophy, Eliezer represents the ideal messenger, messenger of Abraham. When identifying himself to Isaac’s future wife Rebecca’s family he says “eved Avrohom anochi – I am a servant of Abraham”. That’s his identity. It’s uncomplicated. It’s pure and it epitomizes the ideal of service.

When we are caught up with our own feelings and thoughts because they are our thoughts and feelings, we will eventually be worn down (unless one is a true clinical narcissist, then we have bigger problems). Our ego is never satisfied as long as we are feeding it.

Eliezer identifies as a servant of Abraham. His whole identity is service. The Torah tells us in great detail TWICE! how Eliezer strategized how to identify the right wife for Isaac. The Torah tells us at great length TWICE what Eliezer felt during this episode. His thoughts and feelings were not about him, they were about the mission. When we harness the ego in the service of something bigger than it, it becomes a powerful source to help us achieve that goal. When we focus our ego to service, then thoughts and feelings are liberating not exhausting.

Have you ever been involved in an event or activity in the service of others that required a lot of work on your part? Do you remember how when the mission was accomplished or the event completed and you were physically exhausted, at the same time you were exhilarated?! This is the idea of service being liberating.

This is what we as Jews are called upon to do since the time of Abraham and Eliezer. Live our lives, live good lives materially and spiritually, but all of it should be in the service of G-d and Humankind. It’s a sure way to live a liberating life!

Have a good Shabbos!


You can make a difference!

Sometimes, people think: I am just one person and the world is conspiring against me. Can I be the one to change the world? Who am I?

The answer is YOU can make a difference!

A few thousand years ago, there was this boy born to his parents when they were already quite old. His parents were very well respected in the community yet the local bully made fun of him at his own bar mitzvah! The bully claimed to be able to crush the boy with his fingers. The bully attempted to prove that the young kid would never fulfill his parents dream for him to be a force that can change the world. The bully would say: “Me, I am already grown, I am strong and I will change the world to fit my view of what humanity should look like!”

What happened? Little Isaac grew up, and his descendants were the most influential group in history, namely, the Jewish people! As a people, the Jews have been changing the world by doing Torah and Mitzvot, one mitzvah at a time. The bully, Og the giant, was eventually killed by Moses, a descendant of the Bar Mitzvah boy, and Og’s mark on the world has been long forgotten.

So remember, your actions can make a difference regardless of how small or young you may be. And of course, do not let the bullies or the nay-sayers get you down!

Have an amazing Shabbos!

Rabbi Kushi Schusterman 

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