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Rabbi's Blog

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

You are Holy!

I was sitting down for coffee with a dear friend; we were speaking about respecting others and not judging them. We spoke about those who are observant and those who are less observant and how each one has their story and it is not our place to judge them. We need to love our fellow. We need to respect and understand that we are here to help them grow in a positive manner, not to judge them or drag them down.

He asked: "how does one become non-judgmental?"

While I did not answer him at the moment, we can find an answer here: How do you judge someone who is holy? 

 

Allow me to explain, Rabbi Shlomo Yitzchaki, also known as Rashi, shares that the fundamental teachings of the Torah are dependent on all of us knowing that “You shall be holy, for I, the Lord, your God, am holy”.

We need to know that we are holy (yes, we can be holy!) and our fellow is holy because G-d is holy!

When you see your fellow Jew who seems to observe less Torah and Mitzvot then you do, you may say to yourself (in your mind) "I am holy, this guy is a heretic". Eradicate that thought from your mind! As the entire congregation is Holy.

The Torah tells us that Moshe was commanded: "speak to the entire congregation of the children of Israel" to tell them that they are Holy. The entire congregation, the men women and children are holy. The fundamental teachings of the Torah are dependent on this! If we are not holy, if we are just people, then why even try to do the impossible, connecting with the divine? However, if we are holy (albeit, perhaps with a little grime covering) then we can reach the divine! The Torah gives us the method to achieve this; increase in Mitzvot and Torah study. 

Have a Holy Shabbos,

Rabbi Kushi Schusterman

What are you passionate about?

I sent my family a link to a blog listing things one should do daily for a happier life: cut out sugar, white flour and caffeine, journal, do something scary, eat 20g of protein, make up with your parents... And the list goes on and on, OMG.

One of my brothers said that the pressure and the demands of this blog, the things that one would need to do to live this content life, can make you unhappy just from the thought if it! Shortly afterward, he said: you know, it is not an all or nothing game, but rather it is about investment.

Whatever you are invested in is what will occupy your heart, mind, words, and actions.

If you are a sports fan, then you wake up in the morning and want to know the latest scores. You break for lunch and find out which game is coming up. You look for opportunities to go to the stadium and watch your favorite team. You get together with likewise passionate people and watch games together.

If you are a passionate real estate investor you explore the latest deals. You read the blogs and the newspapers. You’ll explore the next big opportunity and research interest rates. You’ll hang out with people who are likewise invested so you can learn new techniques and ideas to maximize your dollars.

In other words, what you are passionate about feeds what you do and what you do feeds your passion.

Similarly, what you invest in spiritually will impact the kind of things you do and in turn, your passion will be fired up spiritually by what you do.

If you wake up in the morning and learn a Chassidic discourse, you will pray with more spiritual passion. In turn, you will look at the world in a more refined manner. Then you will eat breakfast in a more purposeful and spiritually conscious manner. Your interactions at work will be more patient, calmer and you will rise above the pettiness of the things that otherwise may get under your skin.

During your lunch break, you may want to read an essay or listen to a class of a spiritual nature. You will incorporate those ideas into the afternoon as the day wears on and you become more worn out and you will be energized again to make the most of the hours left.

When you come home from work you will be happy to see your loved ones. You will be more present. When you sit together to eat dinner, the conversation will revolve around how everyone made meaning of their day. You will shift the conversation to talking about ideas instead of people and things.

As the evening sets in you will spend your time in intellectual and spiritual pursuits; studying, reading, doing things of long-lasting value.

Before you go to sleep, you will reflect on how grateful you are for your blessings and how much you benefited from having a G-d and spiritually focused day. You will resolve to do the same the next day only better, deeper, and more connected.

With that, you will recite the bedtime Shema and you will drift off into a meaningful sleep which will give birth to a new day of purpose and spirituality.

In this light, it is not about what you need to do as much as what is it your invested in. When you are invested and passionate in and about leading a fulfilled life you do not feel pressure from the things you need to do to achieve this goal. It is your passion after all.

Have a great Shabbos!

Rabbi Kushi Schusterman

P.S.During the period between Pesach and Shavuot we count the Omer. In Hebrew the word to count is Sefira. The root word also means sapphire – to shine and sipur – to tell or story.

When your days are filled with passion for leading a spiritual and G-dly life, when you count your days to make meaning out of each one, then your days shine and then tell a story. It is a story of purpose, meaning, happiness, light, joy, family, love and all the other things we yearn for.

Connect with respect

The mission of Facebook is to connect everyone and bring the world closer together. This is according to the testimony given in congress this week by Mark Zuckerberg, the founder of Facebook.

There are many people who will tell you that technology does not bring people together. Others may say, that while technology may bring people together, it is not worth the cost to their privacy. Personally, I enjoy reading technology news and see both sides of this debate having merit.

Additionally, I read up on the "news" of Mark Zuckerberg’s testimony, wondering what will change - if anything - in protecting people’s privacy; both from the consumers’ actions to protect their own information and from Facebook and other tech companies to safeguard personal information.

Currently, we are in middle of a period called Sefirat Haomer. It is a time when Jewish people worldwide refine themselves and prepare for Shavuot, to be spiritually prepared to re-accept the Torah for the 3330th time. Seeing this debate about connections and privacy, about sharing and at times not oversharing, I could not help but think how apropos.

One of the things that we focus on during this time period is Jewish unity. The big celebration takes place on Lag BaOmer with a communal event - at Harford Chabad with a community cookout.

When looking to connect with others one needs to be cognizant of 1) they, like myself, would like to be part of a community, 2) they may serve G-d in a way different then I do and 3) they may, in good faith, have different ideas as to how to solve issues and may disagree with me politically. We need to both connect as well as respect their privacy.

We must be careful not to cross the boundaries; respect the space they are in and recognize that they have their personal information that may not be ours to share. 

By doing this, we create not only connections and community, but we do what Mark Zuckerberg hopes to accomplish, and I quote: It is not enough that we just connect people. We have to make sure those connections are positive.

Have a connecting Shabbos and feel free to connect with G-d at Services 10 am at Chabad :)

Rabbi Kushi Schusterman 

My path is always blocked, please help

By Rabbi Aron Moss - Nefesh Shul • Sydney, Australia 

Question of the Week:

My spiritual life has come to a standstill. Every time I try to take a step up, I get a hit. I have committed to keeping Shabbos, and now I am having trouble at work. I have started keeping kosher but my family is resisting big time. It seems my path is always blocked. Will this ever end? 

Answer:

You need a Red Sea moment. You are like the Israelites being chased by the Egyptians from behind, blocked by the sea in front. Their past is haunting them, and their future is eluding them. You know what happened next? Well it can happen to you too.

In what seems to be a strange addition to the story of the splitting of the sea, the Talmud states that not only did the water of the Red Sea split, but in fact every body of water in the entire world split. This would include the Yangtze River in China, Copacabana Beach, a cup of coffee in Swaziland, and a swimming pool in Malibu. Every single body of water in the entire world split into two.

What would be the point of that? The Israelites needed of the Red Sea to split because it was blocking their way to Mount Sinai. But why would all of the water in the world also need to split?

The miracle that happened at the Red Sea was not just a one-off event. Not only did the sea split, but along with it, every blockage to every spiritual path for every person in every place for all times split wide open. 

Anyone who sets out on a true spiritual journey should know that sooner or later you will come to an impasse. The world will not give you free passage to reach your soul's destination. Obstacles will be thrown at you, roadblocks will put in your way. You are being tested. If your desire for truth is real, then you will keep on going. Walk into the water. Don't run away. Face the roadblock head on. 

It is going to get tough. Nothing will change at first. It is then that you must remember, when the Red Sea split, all seas split. Every blockage in the world is only there for you to overcome it. Keep on marching into the water. Even if it comes up to your neck, just march on. The waters will split and you'll get through. The miracle has already happened, the path was opened for you thousands of years ago. There is nothing in the world, not an ocean or a river or a cup of coffee, that can stand in the way of you reaching your mountain. 

Good Yomtov and Good Shabbos,

Rabbi Moss

Sources:
Shmos Rabba 21:6
R' Sholom of Belz

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