Rabbi's Blog

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


How do we get out of the way and let G-d into our lives.  It begins with humility. Humility is not an easy accomplishment, after all our first reality is ourselves.  This was so when we were born and continues to be in adulthood.  We wake up every morning first conscious of ourselves and then of the world around us.

Humility is not about eliminating ourselves from the picture, humility is understanding exactly how we fit into the picture.  Understanding that the entire world was created for me (as the Talmud states) is only a problem if you stop there.  But, it begs the question, if indeed the world was created for me, then why? Why indeed was it created for me? What am I supposed to do with it?

Or in other words, if you wake up in the morning and are caught up in yourself, at some point a thinking person needs to stop and ask why do I do this day in and day out? 

The answer to that question will either birth humility or feed ones ego.  If the answer to that question is that I am here to serve a higher purpose, then I become very relevant and very important insofar as I have been chosen and have a role to play.  As long as I am playing that role I am fulfilling my purpose and that itself breeds humility.

You won't wake up one morning and be focused on your purpose. There is no short cut to achieve humility other than meditating and praying with a focus on G-d and His relevance and presence in our lives.  The more one focuses on G-d the more He becomes relevant and present in ones life.

Put in other words humility is not about thinking less of yourself, but thinking of yourself less.  This is only achievable if one replaces the empty space inside that gets filled with self, and filling it with something higher and eternal.

Have an amazing Shabbos,

Rabbi Kushi Schusterman

P.S. no services this week as Fraida will be in NY with the teens at the International cTeen Shabbaton, join them virtually Saturday Night at 8:45 PM at


Should you take things to heart?

Should you take things to heart?

I was having a discussion about increasing observance of a specific mitzvah; the whys and hows, plus the spiritual benefits. At the end, the other person said: I am an intellectual and an academic so while I understand it intellectually, I do not feel it.

When we do mitzvahs, one of the qualities that we need is joy and passion. Why? For when someone is passionate, they feel it in their kishkes, in their bones, in their insides. We cannot just allow a mitzvah to live in our head; we need to feel the mitzvah, and then we will do the mitzvah and be careful to do it properly. To make mitzvah observance meaningful, one needs to feel it and make it personal, relevant to him.

Today is Rosh Chodesh Adar, the beginning of the Hebrew month of Adar. The Talmud tells us: Mishenichnas Adar Marbin B'Simcha - when one enters into Adar, we increase our joy (Taanis 29A). In Hebrew, there are many words for joy: Gila, Sasson and Simcha to name a few.

Gila - peak moments of joy 
Sasson - happiness tinged with sadness
Simcha - enduring happiness

Why do we increase in Simcha style joy? I think it is because we are taking what we know in our head and making it personal, creating a special type of joy and passion.

The Zohar tells us that the word Simcha is a cognate of the words sham [there] and moach [head]. We understand it as joy based on where your head is at.

So take that Torah thought and get it out of your head and into your heart - take it to heart and make it personal and you will feel Simcha - enduring happiness! 

After all Mishenichnas Adar Marbin B'Simcha - when one enters into Adar, we increase our Simcha!

Rabbi Kushi Schusterman 

Sorry, It wasn't me, really

When we make a mistake, we need to fix it. Sometimes we say “I am sorry for hurting you”. Many times, these words are said as “I am sorry if you were hurt by my actions”.

I always wondered if that is a disingenuous apology. If you were really sorry, say you are sorry for hurting the person, not sorry that they were hurt.

An answer can be found in this week’s Torah portion, when it discusses someone who inadvertently kills another. The Torah says: “And he who did not ambush, but G-d caused it to happen to him, I shall provide you a place to which he shall flee. (Exodus 21:13)

It seems like he is being let off the hook; he did not kill the person, G-d caused it to happen to him. He still needs to make amends, so G-d provides a place to flee to (the city of refuge).

The message here is that a person, while they are in touch with their true soul identity, cannot do a sin, something that is against the will of G-d, even inadvertently. Hence, if he sinned, it must be something external to his true self that caused him to do it (and it was caused by G-d). However, since YOU did it, YOU need to atone.

Additionally, the two souls, the G-dly soul and the animalistic selfish soul, are affected by the sin. Therefore, G-d says: I will give YOU, the G-dly soul, a place where HE, the animal soul, can flee and rectify the damage caused.

Sorry if you were hurt by MY actions, can mean: I take full responsibility for what I did, but know that it was the external part of me - my core soul is still deeply connected. I never would cause you any pain if I was in touch with my truest self!

Have a great shabbos.

Rabbi Kushi Schusterman

P.S. No minyan this week

Can you visualize it?

 “It’s easy to give kids a video game, smartphone, or a tablet computer to keep them busy so you can focus on driving” is how the article about family road trips begins.

The article goes on to give 3 tips: 1)Car Time Is Family Time, 2)Incorporate Education and 3)Stop for Exercise – to ease the trip and make it a bonding experience. The advice is good. What do you do when you travel with your children 2 hours each day, to get them to school and back?

There are options out there. Recently, Fraida and I have been listening to Rabbi Burston’s Torah Stories ( together with the kids.

What makes Rabbi Burston’s storytelling different than mine? The visuals and the added details. For example, while I would say “The man came to the small broken house”, Rabbi Burston says: “The man wrapped in his coat, shivering from the cold, walked down the path. He knocked on the cracked door. The door opened but almost fell off its hinges and the wind howled through the broken windows”.

The Torah is a book of law and a book of important Torah messages. Simultaneously, the Torah tells stories and, while the Torah is careful not to add words, at times it adds descriptive text so we can visualize what happened. In this week’s parshah, the Torah tells us that when the Torah was given, “the entire Mount Sinai smoked because the Lord had descended upon it in fire, and its smoke ascended like the smoke of the kiln, and the entire mountain quaked violently.”

The smoke on Mount Sinai was greater than the smoke of a kiln, but the Torah wants us, the human, to be able to visualize the experience that the Jews went through when G-d gave the Torah and therefore adds the words so that it will resonate.

The Torah and Rabbi Burston both use descriptive text to ensure we remember and are able to relate to what is being taught.

What do you do to visualize and envision the stories of the Torah for yourself?

Have a great Shabbos,

Rabbi Kushi Schusterman

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