Rabbi's Blog

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

Your choices decide the future

Wondering How You Got Here?

Do you ever scratch your head and wonder “how did I get here?” How did I end up in this situation?! Or perhaps your question is a faith-based one “why did things get orchestrated the way they did for me to be in this situation?”

When things are going good, we tend not to pause to ask those questions. It is usually in frustration or exacerbation that these questions are expressed or contemplated.

In this week’s Torah portion, Jacob sets into motion a series of events that are to determine the destiny of the Jewish People. It all starts with a simple request that Jacob makes of Joseph: “go seek out the welfare of your brothers (who are shepherding the flock) in Shechem”.

Joseph arrives as the brothers put into motion their plan to have him killed. Fortunately, they do not kill him but rather sell him into slavery which lands him in Egypt. After a series of events, over many years, Joseph becomes the Viceroy of Egypt, saving the country from famine. Eventually, the brothers come down to Egypt looking for food and this brings to reconciliation between them and ultimately the descent of Jacob into Egypt. The Jewish slavery commences after the passing of the brothers and years later, guided by Moses, the Jewish People are liberated and brought to Mt. Sinai to receive the Torah.

I encourage you to read the weekly Torah portion. It is a good read and does not get old even though you may have read it last year or the one before that.)

This entire journey of the Jewish People started with the simple request that Jacob makes of Joseph.

Joseph accepts his father’s request and then the Torah says, and Jacob sent Joseph from the “depths of Chevron (Hebron)”.

Our Sages say that the depths of Chevron is a reference to the counsel of the wise one buried there. This is a reference to Abraham, to whom G-d promised that his children would be strangers in a strange land and then they will be redeemed and given the Torah and the Land of Israel.

What seems to be a simple request is actually quite a cosmic event and is transformative to all of Jewish history, and indeed all of world history.
Indeed, Jacob and Joseph, and the stories of the Torah, are fundamental and cosmic. But, in reality, each of our little choices is cosmic. Each of our choices sets into motion a series of reactions and results that have long-term impacts and consequences.

Our job is to use our best moral and ethical judgment in making the decisions we make and then we can sit back and relax knowing that all of the other things happening around us are the workings of G-d above.

Have a great Shabbos!

Thank You!

2018-10-21 15.33.20 (1).jpgWe love Muriel. She just celebrated her 99th birthday and lives in an assisted living facility. She grew up in Boston and is used to a much larger Jewish population. She once remarked, "I feel like the only Jew in

Harford County."
Well now, the girls visit her every Sunday and she loves watching the kids play and discussing life's lessons with Fraida. You create community. You help Muriel feel less lonely and a lot more connected to the Jewish people.
Thank you!

Go Change the World

Have you ever wondered about those people who have made a major impact on the world?

Did you ever think “if only I can be one of those people”?

You can! It is a 3 step process:

1)      Leave your comfort zone
2)      Pray that you withstand the tests
3)      Take additional actions to perpetuate your mission of making the world around you a place where G-d, Torah and Mitzvahs and spirituality are more welcome.

Abraham and Isaac were spiritual leaders. They were righteous and giants of holiness. Living in Abimelech’s territory, they made a pact that he would allow them to explore their spirituality. The name of the city was called Be’er Sheva – because there they made a pact.

Ultimately the agreement was one of live and let live. I will not mix into what you are doing and you will not mix into what I am doing.

Jacob was also a spiritual giant. However, he wanted to change the world. He left calm, comfortable Be’er Sheva to go to Charan, the target of G‑d’s fury in the world (Rashi on Bereishis 11:32: playing on the Hebrew name of the place Charan, charon-af shel [Makom ba]-olam).

Jacob went into the spiritual war zone of the world. He went to a place where most people like you and me live. He went to a place of struggle; a place where we sometimes are successful in doing the correct thing and at times struggle to do the right thing.

On his way to the war zone, Jacob prayed.

Why pray? What is prayer anyway?

I used to struggle with prayer; a bunch of words, saying the same thing every day... Does G-d really need our praises? Eventually, I learned (and am still learning) that prayer is something else entirely. Prayer is a connection with Something Greater. It is recognizing that I am not a small insignificant person, I matter. I can make a difference. I can change the world. And not only can I, I must! The Creator of the world is relying on me to make an impact. How can I renege on this mission?

Prayer, in a nutshell, is saying: G-d, You are great and thank you for choosing me to do this mission that you gave me. I am ready for the mission. If you give me financial success, I will use it for charity. If you give me wisdom, I will use it to teach Torah values etc.

And then Jacob went to Charan and created a Jewish family. It did not happen overnight. It took many years to see positive results. Laban was still not the good kind of person that Jacob hoped for him to become. However, Laban's children were part of those who the Torah calls a light unto the nations.

Good Shabbos and go change the world!

Rabbi Kushi Schusterman 


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