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Rabbi's Blog

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

one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind

I couldn't speak and I couldn't stay silent after Shabbos. I therefore wrote something short as a Facebook post.

‘This afternoon, a community member came to our home to tell us about the tragedy in Pittsburgh.
Shabbos ends, and I have a text to discuss shul security.
I got a call from a local clergy letting us know if we need any support they will be there for us and the community.
I was raised to respond to darkness with light, to respond to evil with good.
Find a random act of goodness and kindness that you can do,
Heck, find 11 acts of goodness and kindness that you can do. Help someone, reach out to someone who may be lonely, make a contribution to a worthy cause.
Every act of kindness makes the world a place of light a place of love and a better place for all of us to live!
Post your act(s) of kindness in the comments’

Responding to calls from community members and leaders of all faiths showing their care and concern, we guided them to do acts of kindness as opposed to bringing flowers.

We met with locals who are security experts, and have been in touch with law enforcement, to ensure additional safety at Chabad.

On the spiritual front, Rabbis in Pittsburgh started a mezuzah campaign to check your mezuzah or to put one up if you do not have one. Their goal: to reach at least 1,100 doorways – corresponding to our 11 brothers and sisters who were massacred in cold blood in Pittsburgh. Let me know how you can be counted to join the campaign.

In this week's Parsha, we read how Abraham describes G-d not only as the G-d of the heavens, but also as the G-d of the earth. How did He suddenly become also the G-d of the earth? Because of the many small steps Abraham took to change the perception of the world to include monotheistic teaching.

How does a piece of parchment and a bunch of disparate letters become a mezuzah? Through a scribe writing the letters properly and in the right order so that they create the correct words, ultimately completing the message of the Shema that hangs rolled up on your doorpost.

To make the world a more holy place, it will take more than a one-time act. However, many small acts are what will make the difference.  

  • Consider checking your mezuzah or adding a new one to your home.
  • Consider coming to a Torah class.
  • Consider adding a pushka, charity box, to your home and giving a coin, or a few, every day (excl. shabbat and holidays).
  • Consider coming to services more often.

Avraham changed the world one mitzvah at a time; we can add light into the world one mitzvah at a time.

Have a great shabbos,

Rabbi Kushi Schusterman 

Are you perfect?

Most of us will say that we have made some degree of a mistake at one point during our lifetime. 

It is ok to make mistakes. However, when we do, we need to recognize that we erred and not run away from it. We need to identify what is it that caused us to make a less than noble decision. Is it something internally that I need to get away from or something in my surroundings that I need to change? Do I need to find a completely new environment?

Besides for recognizing our mistakes and making the required changes, we need to remember to "not look back". Once we make the required changes, which we are in control of, we should not define ourselves by that which has happened in the past. 

This does not absolve you of being held accountable in any way. Yet, you do not need to live in your past identity. You can now live in your current better identity, understanding that the negative behavior made you who you are today.

Be accountable but you are no longer responsible. You are now a new person.

Perhaps this is what the verse means when saying that Lot's wife "She looked from behind, and she became a pillar of salt (Genesis 19:26).". She allowed her past negative behavior to define her entire self as salt instead of letting the past experiences to be like a pinch of salt, adding taste into her new experience.

Have a tasteful Shabbos (and feel free to join us and meet my parents),

Rabbi Kushi Schusterman

Mistaken Identity?

When 19-year-old Robert Shafran drove from his home in Scarsdale, NY to the Catskills for his first day at Sullivan Community College in 1980, he was shocked to find that everyone already knew and adored him.  Finally, a fellow student, Michael Domnitz, connected the dots after asking if Shafran was adopted: “You have a twin!” he said…. This is the beginning of an article about the documentary “3 Identical Strangers”.

Two kids named Wes Moore were born blocks apart within a year of each other. Both grew up fatherless in similar Baltimore neighborhoods and had difficult childhoods; both hung out on street corners with their crews; both ran into trouble with the police. How, then, did one grow up to be a Rhodes Scholar, decorated veteran, White House Fellow, and business leader, while the other ended up a convicted murderer serving a life sentence?  - Description of the book “The Other Wes Moore”.

Rashi says that Lot looked like Avraham, they resembled each other in their facial features.

But Lot’s values and Avraham’s values were polar opposites! Avraham asked lot that they separate as he did not want people to confuse Lot’s actions as his own. He wanted it to be clear that what Lot does is his choice, and although they are relatives and similar, Avraham is a moral and upstanding person.

As people, we are created in the image of G-d and represent Him in how we act, whether we like it or not.

As Jews, we represent the entire Jewish people. When we act properly, we help the world see the Jewish people in a good light, and when G-d forbid, we act inappropriately…

Let us recognize and accept this responsibility that comes with who we are, ensuring the good reputation of our people.

Rabbi Kushi Schusterman

Local Hurricane?

 

 

We are keeping in touch with Chabad of Pensacola to ensure they have everything they need to help the community through Hurricane Michael.

On some level we are all going through a Hurricane, as will be explained below. But our hurricane is not a season, it's daily life. 

Creation is told in a few verses, the flood of noah many more, Why? 

Perhaps the reason for this disparity is that creation represents arrival into this world which is an important event to be sure, but one that takes up a mere fraction of our lives. On the other hand, living in the world, dealing with the floods of life is where the purpose of creation comes into play.

To explain; King Solomon says “many waters cannot extinguish the love”. The love he speaks about is our souls yearning for purpose and connection. The underlying consciousness of wanting to live higher, to live for more than the mundane and self interest.

The many waters are the storms that brew around us. Firstly, the challenge of making a living, getting up each morning, putting in the time, the brain work, the sweat etc. in bringing home the bread to provide for ourselves and our families. It also refers to raising our children, nurturing important relationships, dealing with health matters and all the other storms that brew around us.

King Solomon assures us that the storms are there to bring out something profound inside of us – our love for G-d and our inner potential. Since they are there for that purpose they can’t on their own extinguish that yearning.

To be sure we can extinguish the consciousness of that love and purpose if we stop trying. On its own however, since the storms are there for the purpose of revealing, they can’t extinguish.

To put it in other terms; the challenges we face are designed to bring out the best of us and the best in us. If we face challenge it means that there is something good brewing beneath the surface.

How many of you dear readers can say that you are above experiencing these storms of life? How many of you are exempt from these storms

Precisely.

It is perhaps therefore, that the Torah dedicates almost an entire portion to addressing the storms of life and the tools with which to stay fortified.

What are those tools?

Ark in Hebrew is Tayvah. Tayvah means words. It is the words of prayer that fortify our bond with G-d and it is the words of Torah that give us the understanding of our journey through the storms.

If the storm is brewing, enter the Ark and be fortified.

Have an amazing Shabbos!

 

Taking Responsibility

Have you ever made a mistake? A big mistake that you were embarrassed about? One that you did not want to admit to yourself that you made?

In this week's Torah Portion, Adam, Eve and Cain each made their own mistakes; big mistakes that altered the future of humanity. Despite the gravity of their error, each one does not take responsibility for it.

Hashem asks Cain: where is Hevel your brother? Rashi comments: to enter with him into mild words, perhaps he would repent and say, “I killed him, and I sinned against You”. 

I have made mistakes. Sometimes I prefer to shirk responsibility and say, like Cain, "I do not know. Am I my brother's keeper?"

However, I endeavor to be better. I try to remember one of the lessons of this week’s Torah portion; the one that helps me say: I am sorry, I did not intend to hurt you. I did XYZ and I sinned against G-d and my fellow.

With our children, when they apologize, we help them use similar words to Rashi's; to acknowledge what they did and to apologize. “I took away your toy and I am sorry for hurting you”.

Do you struggle with taking responsibility? Always? Sometimes? Never?

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