Rabbi's Blog

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

the 49 day challenge

Q: How does growth happen?
A: Slowly

The saying goes that it takes ten years to become an overnight success. In Jewish tradition, there are 49 days between the first Pesach Seder and the Shavuot Holiday. During these 49 days, Jews worldwide count up to 49, and on day 50 they celebrate that the Jewish people received the Torah 3330 years ago.

This counting is called sefirat Ha'omer; the counting that begins the same day that the Omer sacrifice was brought.

On a more spiritual level, it is the growth process from Egyptian bondage to receiving the Torah; the first detox in Jewish history. It is getting rid of our internal slave mentality to be able to be genuinely free and able to serve Hashem!

Each week of these seven weeks represents one of the seven emotions: 
Chesed - Giving/loving-kindness
Gevurah - Restrictive-power/strength
Tifferet - Beauty/Compassion and harmonious blending
Netzach - overpowering external limitations

Hod - overpowering external limitations 
Yesod - Connection
Malchus - Royalty  

So here is the 49-day challenge: 

1) Download the sefirah reminder app here 
2) Each night count the Sefirat Haomer - starting after nightfall Saturday night
3) Do an exercise each day of each week, e.g. working on becoming a healthy giver in week one and setting healthy boundaries in week two, etc.
4) Post daily (excluding Shabbat and holidays) on your social media channel and tag Harford Chabad and one friend. Challenge your friend to meditate on something you found meaningful and to challenge another friend. Let the growth begin!

Good luck and let us know how it goes!

With blessing for a Kosher and happy liberating Pesach!

Rabbi Kushi Schusterman 


Who do you know?

We’re all very familiar with the four sons or four children of the Seder (you can read a deeper insight into the Seder and the four sons by my sister in law Dena Schusterman from Atlanta here).

Did you know there’s a fifth son or fifth child? And I have news for you! You actually know that person.

You see the fifth child is the child who is not present at the Seder.

It’s not that they are not wise and have rationally concluded that there is no need to go to a Seder. Because they are wise.

It’s not that they are wicked and are intentionally not coming to the Seder. Because they are good people.

It’s not that they are simple and are not ‘with it’ enough to know where to find out about the Seder. Because they are plugged into the culture around us.

It’s not that they are spiritually immature and don’t know how to ask. Because they are quite developed spiritually.

The reason they are not at the Seder is simply because no one invited them.

You see, the fifth child knows they are Jewish but that’s all they know. No one told them that wisdom and spirituality, connection and profound meaning is found right in the very tradition that is their birthright. Deep down each of these souls are hungry for the Jewish connection and community you already know.

Now how many such Jews do you know? They are your neighbor, your co-worker, doctor, accountant, hair stylist and shelf stocker. They’re someone who is connected to your soul by virtue of your birthright.

This Passover, you will sit with your family at your Seder as will Jews all over Harford County. Let’s make sure that those fifth children are sitting at our tables too.

I heard that after World War II there was a thought to establish a new tradition to set a chair at the Seder but to leave it open. This would be a memorial for the 6 Million who will no longer sit at the Seder.

The Lubavitcher Rebbe was asked his opinion on this idea. The Rebbe answered that if we want to memorialize those that perished in the holocaust, and more importantly to perpetuate their memory, the way to do this was to fill that empty chair with someone who otherwise would not be at a Seder.

Next week, on Tuesday, March 27 we’ll celebrate the Rebbe’s 116th Birthday. Consider giving the Rebbe a gift this year. The gift of perpetuating Judaism by filling that seat at your Seder.

As you make your plans this week and next for your Seder, please set an extra seat and make sure that it is filled with someone who may not be at a Seder otherwise.

With blessing for a Happy and Kosher Pesach!

Rabbi Kushi Schusterman 

Ps. If you know someone who needs a Seder, please send them to us You can also sell your Chometz order kosher meat and more at that URL, additionally there are links to other pertinent Pesach info.



Be a Hero

A good story is made up of a villain, the person being negatively affected by that villain and the hero who saves the day.

In this week’s Torah portion we read about the sacrifices. The portion discusses the laws of what animal/bird to bring up, if/when/how to sprinkle some blood on the altar, whether a meal offering accompanies the sacrifice, etc. While it is nice as a law book, there is neither villain nor hero and essentially there is no story line. What we read can seem uninteresting or irrelevant to many of us.

This week we add a special portion in honor of the month of Nissan, called Parshat Hachodesh. We read about the first mitzvah the Jews received - to sanctify the new month via seeing the new moon. Once again, it seems very legalistic and not relevant in today’s day and age as we use a predetermined calendar due to the lack of a High Court.

Perhaps the answer to both of these is that the Torah wants to teach us that you are the hero!

G-d does not need our sacrifices. However, one of the ways to build a connection with G-d is to bring a sacrifice. We think of the receiver’s needs and wants when we give a gift. Similarly, a sacrifice is giving something of ourselves over to G-d, to thank him for the good we have, to apologize for a mistake or just because we are in a relationship with G-d as that is what He wants.

Now the story of the sacrifices becomes interesting; what to do when?

What is there to do with when once committed a sin? What to do when there is a lack of gratitude to G-d? How to repair our relationship with G-d? This is the suspense in the story.

The Torah resolves the suspense by telling us how we can resolve and repair the relationship with G-d. Whether it means bringing “roses and chocolate” (in Torah terms - a sacrifice) or  “tulips and chocolate” (in Torah terms - a different type sacrifice). When we bring the sacrifice we are the hero saving the relationship.

If we put ourselves in a situation where we have a gap in the relationship, we can think about what sacrifices we need to make to enhance the relationship.

The "new moon" is a similar story. When we want rebirth, we need to wait until the past is gone. The only way the "new moon" comes about is after the moment of it being completely hidden from our sight. One can only read the next chapter after the close of the previous one, it takes a hero to let the past go!

Take a moment and take this message to be heroic; apologize, rebuild a relationship, show gratitude, celebrate the rebirth and let the past be a chapter that you can choose to reread if it was good and leave behind if it was not.

Rabbi Kushi Schusterman

Got Power?

It is Friday afternoon; Shabbos preparation is at its peak. The wind is howling, the lights are flickering and suddenly the power is out!

And then, the calls begin. 2.5 hours before the onset of Shabbos, we are manning the phones, directing about 20 frantic individuals, with varying amounts of passengers with them. The story is the same; the bridges into MD are closed due to the high winds and they do not think they will make it to their destination (Baltimore, DC, Silver Spring, Germantown) in time for Shabbos. Being Shabbos observant, can they spend Shabbos with us?

Our response: SURE! Get over the bridge and head over, we look forward to hosting you. Alas, many of them spent Shabbos together at the Days Inn, some made a U turn and spent Shabbos with Chabad in Wilmington. We were honored to host 8 guests; 4 students from Yeshiva University and a family of 4.

The power on the other hand, was not restored. Not until Tuesday at 7:02 PM.

We did have power at Chabad, so most of the food was salvageable. Thank G-d we made it through and can look back and laugh.

There is a teaching of the Baal Shem Tov that one should learn something from everything he sees and hears.

A few lessons I learned from this experience:
1) Everything can change in an instant
2) You need to ensure you have access to the backup power inside of you
3) The physical luxuries that one has are external
4) Many of the things we take for granted; health, sustenance, nachas from our children and electric power are blessings and should be appreciated at all times

Now you "heard" the story - what would you learn from it?

Have a restful (hopefully warm and with power) Shabbos,

Rabbi Kushi Schusterman

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