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Rabbi's Blog

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

On a Mission

Be Wholehearted with the L-rd, your G-d. 

In his book, Nine and a Half Mystics, reform Rabbi Herbert Weiner recalls a private audience he had with the Lubavitcher Rebbe, in the mid-1950s. In an effort to understand the Chabad movement, he asked a few questions.

He writes: I pressed my question from another angle and told him that I sensed a desire in Chabad to oversimplify, to strip ideas of their complexity merely for the sake of a superficial clarity. As a matter of fact, I blurted out, all his Hasidim seemed to have one thing in common: a sort of open and naive look in their eyes that a sympathetic observer might call t'mimut (purity) but that might less kindly be interpreted as emptiness or simple-mindedness, the absence of inner struggle

I found myself taken aback by my own boldness, but the Rebbe showed no resentment. He leaned forward. "What you see missing from their eyes is a kera!"

"A what?" I asked.

"Yes, a kera," he repeated quietly, "a split." The Rebbe hesitated for a moment. "I hope you will not take offense, but something tells me you don't sleep well at night, and this is not good for 'length of days.' Perhaps if you had been raised wholly in one world or in another, it might be different. But this split is what comes from trying to live in two worlds."

 

One meaning of "Be wholehearted with the L-rd, your G-d" is that when you live with a mission, with a clear objective, a clear purpose, you do not need to fight your evil inclination. 

To be wholehearted can mean to be focused, purposeful and mindful.d then it will be easier to be with the L-rd, your G-d.

What is your G-dly mission? What world do you choose to live in? What do you do to sleep well at night? 

Have a great shabbos.

 

Rabbi Kushi Schusterman

P.S. Services are back on :) see you Shabbos Morning at 10:00 am.

The Great Expanse

IMG-20180808-WA0018.jpgAs we drove from Los Angeles to Sierra Vista, AZ to visit Fraida's sister, we noticed the expanse. The drive is long and the view is open. Lots of sand and much open space.

The Baal Shem Tov taught that one should learn something from everything they see and hear.

Driving through the desert, the open expanse reminded me of the fact that Hashem makes Himself more available in the month of Elul, when we prepare to meet Him in His "royal chambers" on Rosh Hashana. 

This Shabbos is "Rosh Chodesh", the beginning of the month of Elul (1 month to High Holidays). Hashem is making Himself available, all we need to do is reach out to Him. 

What do your High Holiday preparations look like?

Have a great Shabbos,

Rabbi Kushi Schusterman

It is in your hands

Regards from California, where we have gone to visit my parents. Over the past few days, seeing how I interact with my father and how my children interact with me, I notice the truth about a verse in this week’s Torah portion.

‘And now, O Israel, what does the Lord, your God, demand of you? Only to be in awe/fear of the Lord.’ (Deut. Ch. 10 v. 12) The sages comment on this verse: Everything is in the hands of heaven, excluding fear of heaven.

G-d cannot make us be in awe of Him. Nor respect Him or fear Him. Parents cannot force a child to respect them or treat them with awe. Respect/awe is something that is earned.

If we earn the respect of our children, the natural result is that they will be in awe and respect us. 

We can provide the external factors to facilitate that relationship, just as G-d provides us with health and sustenance, but ultimately the child will make his own choice.

What choice do you make in your relationship with Hashem? Are you in awe? Do you have respect for Him? Is it a relationship of fear? Other? It's in your hands. 

Have a great Shabbos!

Rabbi Kushi Schusterman
P.S. there are no Shabbos services this week at Chabad.

Secret of a good marriage

Last night we celebrated the wedding of my brother in law in NY. Yeshiva boys are in town to run Chabad events while we are away, let me know if you want them to visit.

The Shema is one of the most important prayers in Judaism. Hear O Israel the Lord is our G-d the Lord is One. We proclaim 1) the Lord is our G-d and 2) the Lord is one. When one gets married they do the same thing. You proclaim: YOU are my spouse and we are one. Prior to marriage, we are two separate people. After marriage, we maintain our separate identities but become a new unit called a family.

As Jewish people we recognize that we are unique individuals yet simultaneously say that the Lord is one; our identity can be a revelation of G-d’s oneness and G-d’s unity.

In a good marriage, the two individuals become better and greater and as a couple, they complement each other to be a better separate individual while making the new singular unit even better.

In a good relationship with G-d, we say: together we are better; G-d is better when we serve Him and serving Him makes us better as well. Additionally, it makes this new unity of oneness even greater.

Have a great Shabbos, 

Enjoy the Yeshiva Boys run service 10:00 am at Chabad

Rabbi Kushi Schusterman 

A war of Ideas

 Question of the Week:

I know that we pray for Moshiach to come and rebuild the Temple in Jerusalem. But isn't there a slight technical problem with that? Currently there is a building which stands on the Temple Mount that belongs to another religion. I somehow can't imagine that they would be willing to give up the real estate and knock down their house of worship to make way for ours... So what's the plan with this

Answer:

The rebuilding of the Temple is not just about renovating and landscaping. It's a complete renovation of the world's spiritual landscape.

The Messianic era, which we have been waiting for ever since the Temple was destroyed 2000 years ago, will usher in an unprecedented reign of peace. All nations will unite under one G-d with a singular moral purpose. There will be no more war, no famine, and no slow internet. While religious and national identities will remain, the hatred between them will be gone. 

No blood need be shed to achieve this. The force of ideas, not the force of weapons, will bring about the redemption. This means some ideologies will need to be adjusted and certain beliefs rejected. But this can be done through introspection from within rather than attacks from without. When truth shines, falsehood falls away. 

Sounds impossible? Look at history. Cultures do change. Even religions can reform. Within living memory Germany was a murderous terrorist state, and Japan was a mortal enemy of the west. Those two nations are nothing like that today. Okay, it took losing a World War to get there. But go back a bit further in history. Christianity once condoned the slaughter of non-believers, and that changed without a war. Had you lived in pre-war Germany or medieval Christendom you would have never believed that such change is possible. But it happened. 

The Jewish people have always known that the impossible just takes a bit longer. After 2000 years, the time is ripe. We are living in an age of surprises. So don't be surprised if Moshiach comes and renovates the landscape. Those who were previously classified as enemies will become allies. They will willingly and joyously watch the rebuilding of the Temple on its ancient site. 

Good Shabbos,

Rabbi Moss

To subscribe CLICK HERE or email rabbimoss@nefesh.com.au

Change or stay the same

Change or stay the same (or both)! 

IMG-20180710-WA0016.jpgTwo and a half days with 42 Rabbis at a conference in Lancaster PA; learning tools to be a better community leader, get better at maintaining relationships and being a better rabbi. This is how my week started.

We learned about many new ideas and tools to reach our goal. Statistics and stories were shared to support the theories. And then it hit me.

We did not learn anything new. Of course we learnt about new techniques and concepts, but nothing REALLY new.  As much as things change, they stay the same. But if you want to stay the same, you must change. 

We read about this idea in this week’s Torah portion: Moses wrote their departures according to their journeys… and these were their journeys according to their departures.

Your innovative ideas, your "departures", need to be anchored in the past, in the traditions. It is ok to be innovative in Judaism, as long as it remains within the confines of the Torah. Simultaneously, Judaism is not static; the tradition in Judaism is to depart, to innovate.

To be a better leader, one needs to have anchors and then innovate how to inspire.

To be a better relationship builder, recognize your own self-worth and then share it with others (you are greater than you think you are!) in meaningful new ways.

To be a better Jew, recognize that the Torah is the foundation and build, innovate and inspire with your foundation as the catalyst.

What would you do to inspire others in Torah traditions?

Have a great Shabbos,

Rabbi Kushi Schusterman

IMG-20180710-WA0019.jpg 

It's Yours

Baby boomers are set to pass on some $30 trillion in assets to heirs. Many firms find that roundtable discussions foster intergenerational communication about inheritance.

This week the Torah talks about inheritance and how to transfer land and money after someone passes on. 

Is this relevant? Excluding people planning their estate, like the person I was speaking with yesterday about Harford Chabad's planned giving initiative, who cares about inheritance and its laws? How does it affect my daily life? 

To this, the Torah tells us: It is YOURS. "The Torah that Moses commanded us is an inheritance for the congregation of Jacob." Devarim 32:4. 

The Torah is your inheritance; the $30 trillion in spiritual assets are being transferred to you! Now explore with your spiritual advisor how to best invest those assets. 

Explore your inheritance investment opportunities 
Torah and Mitzvahs
Prayer services 
Torah classes
Youth program

Make your inheritance grow and share it with the next generation, after all, it is their inheritance as well.

Have a great Shabbos.

Rabbi Kushi Schusterman 

Do not hate!

The primary elections were held this week. While I try to stay out of politics, I strongly believe our country needs to learn at least one thing from this week’s Torah portion:

Do not hate!

Hate makes respectable people do undignified things. When you post something to a friend or on a social media channel ask one question: What is my motivation for this post? If the answer is hate, you are not thinking straight!

We see that Balaam, a leader in the communities of his time, saddled his own donkey, something not befitting someone of his stature. Why? Rashi comments: "From here we learn that hate causes a disregard for the standard of dignified conduct, for he saddled it himself".

Without venom, without hate, have a healthy productive discussion regarding the issues facing our world, our country, our state, our community and our town.

Have a wonderful Shabbos,

Rabbi Kushi Schusterman

Take care of yourself!

So many of us are not getting enough sleep, not doing enough exercise and/or not eating properly. The justification we give is: I can't. There is so much I need to do. I do not have time to take care of myself; my business, family, community, non-profit need me.

All these excuses (let’s face it, that’s what they truly are) are correct. We are needed for 26 hours a day. Yet, there are only 24 hours in the day! However, if we are not taking care of ourselves, it will be no wonder that we are not a good boss, manager, parent, community leader, non-profit CEO etc. If you want to have a positive effect on other people, you do not need to be perfect, yet you do need to exist and be in a healthy state of mind. When I am suffering from one of the H.A.L.T. (Hungry, Angry, Lonely, Tired) conditions, I cannot give a good class, good advice or be patient etc. Conversely, when I take care of myself, when I am addressing my health, spiritually and physically, then I am operating at peak performance and can help purify the world, making it a better place. As Joe Apfelbaum, who was my business coach for a period of time, told me: "If you are dead there is no Rabbi to be a good Rabbi".

This is expressed in this week’s Torah portion when it talks about the ashes of the Red Heifer which purify others. It says to keep some ashes for safekeeping. Some of the "purifying dust" needs to be kept for yourself; ensure you are in a healthy place if you want to help others to be healthier.

Eight months ago, I started an almost daily study of Chassidus, Chassidic thought. One of the many benefits I’ve gained from this is that my spiritual health has improved, enabling me to share that spirituality with others.

Try it out! Sign up for the daily Tanya email from the Chabad.org team here, and see what the daily email does for you.

Have a spiritual Shabbos,

Rabbi Kushi Schusterman

Are you doing it right?

The ingredients of holy and proper spirituality:
Mix ritual with the right amount of spirit and you have spiritual.

Yup, that's it!

The big challenge is that many times we get the quantities wrong, or we skip a bit of one ingredient and we are left wanting; wanting more ritual, wanting more spirit, or wanting out of this lifeless search for spirituality.

The 3 most common mistakes when mixing this concoction are:
Cognitive dissonance, idealism, and sameness! 

Some people believe one thing but do differently.
A father once told me that he believes you must be honest, always. In the same conversation, he told me he was once working from home and when his boss had called as he was picking up a child from a sports game, he said that he was logged in to work. A blatant lie!  Why did he do this? He loves the ideal of complete honesty yet feels that sometimes it does not need to be practiced. He does not have enough ritual (action) to back up the spirit of his belief. 

Another one says that the world is corrupt and we cannot change it! The best is to not engage with the world. No ritual! Move to a beautiful place in nature, go off the grid and there find spirituality. 
While there is a lot of spirit there, (alcohol is called spirits perhaps because it also takes one "off the grid") there is no ritual! 

The third type goes the other way. They say it is all the same. I just need to act the right way. There does not need to be any spirit. While this works for a period of time, the ritual becomes lifeless. 

The correct amounts are recognizing that there is this need for balance. Using the balancing act to help us grow ensures that 1) our action exists, 2) it is in line with our ideals, and 3) is infused with the spirit, the meaning.

Enjoy the mixing and let us know how your spiritual journey works out.

 

Are you a spy?

Spy.jpgWhen someone says the word spy, what comes to mind? A guy in a trench coat? Someone who is doing something wrong? To me, a spy has a sinister connotation. Alternatively, when someone says scout, it conjures up an image of someone exploring ways to accomplish or conquer a challenge.

The 12 men sent by Moses to explore the land of Israel and see how to conquer the land that G-d has bequeathed to them, were they scouts or spies? Scout.jpg

The answer would depend on whether you asked Moses or those that were sent. Moses sent scouts who thought of themselves as spies. Moses sent people to answer the question "how can we?" They came back with the answer to "can we?" 

This distinction answers a question that is asked on Rashi, the foremost commentator of the Torah.

At the beginning of the Parsha, the Torah Portion, Rashi comments:  All of them were men of distinction... At that time, they were virtuous.  A short 24 verses later, Rashi comments: Just as their return was with evil intent, so was their departure [on the journey] with evil intent.

When did they become evil? They were chosen as men of distinction. When they departed on the journey it was already with evil intent? 

Another question that is bothersome: Why did Moses pray for Joshua "may G-d save you from the counsel of the spies"? If Moses knew of the spies’ evil counsel, he should not have sent them!

Perhaps the answer is that Moses knew there is a fine difference between scouts and spies. A scout is a person of distinction and not worried about the public opinion. Scouting is being dedicated to help others and to keep one’s self physically strong, mentally awake, and morally straight. (see https://www.scouting.org/discover/faq/question10/).

Spying is by default acting like who you are not, focusing on how you can help your superior and assist them in gathering intel. What others think of you is most important. 

Moses was saying: we are going into Israel, let us see how. The spies said: but what are people going to say about us? They were worried about the locals considering them as grasshoppers. 

Moses sent scouts and prayed that Joshua should be saved from the counsel of "spies", were they to go that route.

When we need to do something holy, when we need to see what we can do to reach our Holy Land, we should not worry about what people will say about us! We should proudly scout the spiritual landscape and conquer it to make it our own!

Happy Scouting!

Rabbi Kushi Schusterman

To be or not to be?

To be or not to be? That is the question! - Shakespeare

To be satisfied or not to be satisfied? That is the question!

In 1795, a young genius visited Rabbi Schneur Zalman of Liadi, the “Alter Rebbe”, in Lyozna, who told him that the answer is that you should do both.

Our sages say: who is rich? he who is happy with their lot. When talking about physical needs and material matters one should be satisfied with what they have.

Do not be satisfied when it comes to your spirituality and connection with Hashem! Furthermore, being complacent in spirituality leads one to fall spiritually.

The nature of the human is to strive for more! Curiosity is a healthy trait. Try to learn how to do better and never be complacent. When we use this drive for our material matters, we will never be satisfied. There is always someone who has more than us.

We see this in this week’s Torah portion. Despite the Jews having had all their needs met; the manna from heaven, no need to work, no need to bake, premade food, they still complained:  “we have nothing at all, besides this manna” (11:6).

In the words of Rabbi Yonatan Eibeschutz:  “A person derives pleasure from material things only in comparing what he has to what his neighbors have. So although they could enjoy every taste in the world in the manna, they derived no pleasure from it, since everyone had it . . .”

So should you be satisfied? In material matters one should always look at he whose situation is lower than one's own, and thank the good G‑d for His kindness to him.

In spiritual matters one should always look at he who is higher than oneself, and plead with G‑d to grant him the intelligence to learn from the other and the ability and strength to rise higher.

Have an amazing Shabbos!

Rabbi Kushi Schusterman

On Feeling Abandoned by Gd

 ON FEELING ABANDONED BY G-D…
By Rabbi Gershon Schusterman 

Originally Printed in Our Tapestry
An organization that gives support and comfort to families that lost a child.
http://ourtapestry.org
 

Dear Rabbi:

I, alongside my wife, have been working in Jewish outreach for twelve years with significant success and we have built up quite a following. We also have four children, B”H. Four months ago we had a child, a beautiful baby girl, who died quite suddenly and unexpectedly. Ever since then I have been quite miserable; my wife, I dare say, even more so. I’m mature enough to understand that this is to be expected and ‘this too shall pass.’ My question for you, dear Rabbi, is that my relationship with Hashem has been damaged. I feel totally cold towards Him. I feel that He let me down and I feel abandoned by Him. This is a time when I need Him the most but I can’t access Him. It affects my work as well. I used to be able to talk to those seeking Yiddishkeit with joyous enthusiasm, but today I can’t. If I were free to articulate what is really on my heart I would drive people away. Rabbi, what do I do?

Hurt and Perplexed Dad

Dear Hurt:

Let me ask you, quite personally, do you need an answer or a hug?

I want to tell you a story…

I recently visited with my grown son who, like me, is a rabbi. We went out one evening, just to talk, and he spoke to me passionately about his cousin, my nephew, who had been diagnosed with an incurable brain tumor. My son told me about how good his cousin is, how he has a young and growing family, how difficult this is for everyone and how unfair this is. I listened patiently as he poured his heart out.

As he was speaking, I began formulating my rabbinic response; after all, I’ve done this before. Then I realized, my son is a rabbi, too. He has been confronted with these very same issues and has much to offer as a response. So I said to myself, "What purpose is there in telling him that which he already knows?”

When I had an opportunity to respond, I looked into his eyes and said, “My dear son, do you want an answer or do you want a hug?” I caught him off guard and he took a few moments to respond.

His eyes filled with tears, and finally he said, “I want a hug."

When a person is in pain, what he really wants is for the pain to go away, and sometimes a hug accomplishes that much better than an explanation. Grown men may not know how to ask for a hug and they often camouflage their needs under the guise of wanting an answer.

Avos (3:18) says: “Do not comfort your friend while his deceased lies before him.” While this is stated quite graphically, it is also meant figuratively. This is why we have a custom not to visit the home of the bereaved to comfort them before the third day. Our sages understood that more time may be needed before the mourners are ready to hear the traditional phrase of consolation, “Hamakom y’nachem es’chem…”

But does one size fit all? Are three days, or even seven days, experienced the same way by everyone? Can one compare one loss to another? Hashem’s holy language, lashon hakodesh, has a different word for one who loses a parent (yasom[ah]), a spouse (alman[ah]) or a child (shachul[ah]) to indicate that each loss is distinct and different. Coming to terms with a tragic loss is highly individualized and may take three months for some, for others, perhaps three years… or longer.

Surely you know the Gemara (B”B 16b) that says ein adam nitfas b'shaas tzaaro; a person is not culpable for [even blasphemy] uttered in a time of pain [bereavement].” Such is Hashem’s understanding and empathy for one experiencing the pain of the loss of a loved one.

Whoever has raised children has experienced this scenario: A child, frustrated with his parent for having denied him the thing he wants and "needs" right now, has a crying fit and screams, “I hate you, Mommy!” Fast forward 60 seconds… the child is hugging the very same Mommy, his little head on her shoulder, finding comfort in her embrace.

We are Hashem’s children, He is our loving parent, even as we don’t understand His ways, and are pained beyond our capacity to bear pain.

Crying out from great pain and suffering, and having true faith in Hashem and His hashgachah pratis, are not incompatible. The tzaddik Harav Yosef Yitzchok Schneerson, known as the Frierdiker [Lubavitcher] Rebbe, recounted his thoughts in 1927 when he was arrested for promulgating Yiddishkeit in the Soviet Union. Imagining the feelings of his mother, wife, daughters, son-in-law and chassidim, he burst into tears.

Then the Rebbe states (in his diary), “Suddenly, as a lightning bolt, a thought hit me: Who did this? Who caused this to occur? It isn’t from anyone but Hashem! I did that which was my responsibility, and Hashem does as He sees fit. And at that moment I was elevated from my lowly situation and I ascended heavenward in thoughts higher than those who dwell in the physical world, with pure faith and complete confidence in the living G-d…”

When the Rebbe cried, it wasn’t for lack of faith, chas v’shalom. Even a tzaddik and a Rebbe can feel pain that is so real and intense that he can burst into tears. Then the painful challenge propels him to greater heights of emunah and bitachon. (“Suddenly… I was elevated...”)

People, especially when they are very agitated, sometimes need help to properly frame their feelings. This is often true even for adults.

My daughter and her family, including a bright and articulate three-year-old son, spent their winter vacation with us. Being quite upset about something one day, he proclaimed, “I’m angry,” and proceeded to throw things.

My wife, ever the educator, calmly told him that we don’t do that in our home. When he calmed down enough to listen, she asked him, “Are you sad that things didn’t go the way you wanted them to?” She paused. “So you feel you’re disappointed? Do you know what disappointed means? It means you’re not pleased that things are not going the way you would like them to go. So, instead of saying ‘I’m angry,’ you can say ‘I’m disappointed.’ Sometimes things don’t work out exactly the way you want them to. Later perhaps things will work out better.”

He learned more than a new word. He learned a new way of looking at and framing his life experiences as they were happening. In the next few days, when he felt upset, he said somewhat more calmly, “I’m very disappointed.” That is progress!

Inside each of us remains a child, and that child is tantrum-prone when he is hurt and disappointed, even as an adult. “We had such a beautiful dream for our life together as a couple, and now you died and I am left alone, bereft, and without a spouse.” Or, “My child was so good, so sweet and so special. She had a wonderful life ahead of her, and now all those possibilities are buried with her.” One can feel hurt. One can feel sad, very sad, and cry one’s heart out. Later on, one can be very disappointed, and have a need to talk things through.

Or, one can focus on feeling abandoned and having no one to turn to; one can become quite angry, often at the same ones who could have been a source of solace and a pillar to lean on. A person can roll up into a ball and lock everyone out and become more and more angry and despondent.

Yidden in pain pour their hearts out to Hashem out by saying Tehillim. It is not necessarily because the person expects to find a resolution to their problem in the words they are saying. In fact, many chapters of Tehillim are open-ended outpourings of the heart, channeling the words of the Psalmist, in which he finds consolation in simply expressing his pain and grief to Hashem and in feeling that He is listening and providing His embrace.

When driving a car, if one loses control and goes into a skid, instinctively one wants to direct the car in the direction away from the skid. Driving instructors will tell you that this will exacerbate the loss of control and therefore one should do the exact opposite. One should steer into the direction of the skid ever so gently and thus regain control.

Likewise with life, when things happen that are out of our control and we go into a skid, the best way to regain equilibrium is to recognize the source of the crisis, realize that the Master of the world is the one behind the scene, and to submit to Him.

In addition to your personal struggle you seem to be frustrated with how to continue your mission to educate and inspire others. You now feel inadequate to this task because:

...your relationship with Hashem has been damaged; you feel totally cold to Him; you cannot in good conscience talk about Yiddishkeit with joyous enthusiasm; in fact, if you were free to articulate what is really on my heart, you might drive people away.

Not to make light of something so serious, let me say that one should never let a good crisis go to waste (see Mishlei 14:23). Here is an opportunity to create a new, deeper, and more mature and meaningful relationship with Hashem. If you achieve this, you may be better equipped to continue your most vital mission.

Consider taking a sabbatical—brief or extended—as you work this through. You deserve it and need it.

Who can talk more sincerely about finding Hashem in the depths of despair, a young yeshivah bachur who became a suburban rabbi, or a Holocaust survivor who remained faithful to G-d as he started life again? Those forged by fire are stronger and their relationship with G-d deeper, having had their emunah tested and come through intact, sometimes with flying colors.

Think of the souls of those giants of spirit who went to the crematoria singing Ani Maamin.  Think of the bereaved and maimed in the terror attacks in Eretz Yisroel, who, while experiencing their agony, express sincere emunah, bitachon and ahavas Hashem even as they ask Hashem to bring a resolution to their travail. You have it in you to do the same, if you dig deeply enough.

Even sincere outreach workers can fall into a rut in their relationship with Hashem. When things are going well, we may take Hashem for granted and relegate Him to a passive, supervisory role. Paradoxically, we can teach Hashem’s Torah enthusiastically while neglecting our own personal relationship with Him; familiarity can breed content. Life is good, so we become complacent and even smug, thus blocking Hashem from having an active role in our lives.

A crisis changes that. A crisis shatters our smugness; it challenges our relationship with Hashem and forces us to reacquaint ourselves with our real selves more honestly. We may find ourselves wanting. The process is a difficult one, for it forces us to soul-search as never before. But when this process is undertaken with commitment, we often find that our bond with Hashem is (or needs to be) much deeper than it was up to now, and we feel the need to renew the bond in a profoundly different manner.

The realizations achieved by this experience can catapult us to a deeper relationship, substituting the need for answers with the sense of certainty that one’s suffering is purposeful in Hashem’s plan, even as it may remain unfathomable to the person. A child who falls and hurts himself will run to his mother for comfort, and after being held for a few moments he becomes calmer. The bruise hasn’t gone away, but the child’s sense of security is reestablished in his mother’s embrace. So it is with us, in dealing with our lives’ bruises, and chas v’shalom worse. We need, at all times, to maintain a close relationship with Hashem so that when we need Him, we can sense His embrace.

Sincerely yours,

Rabbi Gershon Schusterman

Rabbi Gershon Schusterman is originally from Brooklyn and was a Chabad Shliach in Southern California for 20 years. He is now in private enterprise and continues to give shiurim and lectures, and writes on Jewish topics. He is married to Chana Rachel Schusterman, a teacher and lecturer in her own right, and is the father of eleven children.

Is it what you do or who you are?

 What is the big deal that we received the Torah? Midrash tells us that our forefathers kept the entire Torah. This means that many of the laws of the Torah already existed before we received the Torah and the Jewish people had already learned many of them. Was it just the big event revealing what everyone already knew?

One answer I find meaningful is that we are celebrating integration. Until the first Shavuot, approx 3330 years ago, your spirituality could have no real long-term effects upon your reality. It was something you did, it was not who you are.

On Shavuot, Hashem allowed the Torah and Mitzvot, Judaism and Jewish values, to define who we are and to change us for the better. On Shavuot, we celebrate the ability to integrate it into our lives. 

Until Shavuot, Judaism was something we did, after Shavuot Judaism became who we are.

Come celebrate with ice cream and cheesecake on Sunday 11:00 am prefaced at 10:00 am by TEDShavuot with a variety of speakers giving 5-minute speeches.

RSVP NOT REQUIRED - After all it's who you are :) The address if 15 North Bond Street in Bel Air. 

What is one thing you do to integrate a Jewish value or tradition part of who you are?

See you Sunday, I hope.

Rabbi Kushi Schusterman
P.S. If you are out of town, see if there is a reading of the Big Ten with cheesecake nearby at www.HarfordChabad.org/Centers

Are you all in?

What’s on your mind? This is the question the Facebook status is supposed to answer.

Over the past week, we have been busy! Connected face to face with a Jewish person, who I met once, who lives in Bel Air. Looked further into a specific property to see if fit for Harford Chabad's permanent home. Discussed with a young couple the option of becoming youth directors at Chabad. Working on the "Harford Champions" Campaign, to take place next Tuesday and Wednesday, to stabilize the funding for the above work.

I am sharing this, although this email is not a Facebook status, because there are a few points in this week’s Torah portion that have made these multiple streams of action and impact easier to navigate. Perhaps, you can use these to help navigate the overwhelming parts in your life.

The first message I got was: if you champion something, are all in and committed to it, you will see success. After all, the verse says "If you follow My statutes and observe My commandments and perform them, I will give your rains in their time, the Land will yield its produce, and the tree of the field will give forth its fruit".  The Hebrew word used for statutes is Bechukosai, which can be translated as engraved. We can interpret the verse to say, "If you perform the commandments that they are part of you, you are all in and they are an engraved part of your existence, then I (G-d) will provide you with your needs".

And while the Parshah continues with some of the challenges that can befall the Jewish people if they do not follow the Torah and Mitzvos properly, it ends with: "I will not despise them nor will I reject them to annihilate them, thereby breaking My covenant that is with them, for I am the Lord their G-d." G-d is saying He is in this relationship despite the ups and downs.

Lastly, the Parsha ends with talking about people pledging to give to support the work of G-d: "Speak to the children of Israel and say to them: When a person expresses a vow, pledging the value of lives to the Lord..."

So while it is somewhat overwhelming to work on many projects at the same time, knowing that when you do good work, you have backing of the One who runs the world, knowing that G-d will stay by you even if you make mistakes, knowing that there is a community of supporters who ensure that the work will continue, is inspiring and helps overpower the overwhelm. 

Have a good Shabbos!

Rabbi Kushi Schusterman 

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