Rabbi's Blog

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

Do not hate!

The primary elections were held this week. While I try to stay out of politics, I strongly believe our country needs to learn at least one thing from this week’s Torah portion:

Do not hate!

Hate makes respectable people do undignified things. When you post something to a friend or on a social media channel ask one question: What is my motivation for this post? If the answer is hate, you are not thinking straight!

We see that Balaam, a leader in the communities of his time, saddled his own donkey, something not befitting someone of his stature. Why? Rashi comments: "From here we learn that hate causes a disregard for the standard of dignified conduct, for he saddled it himself".

Without venom, without hate, have a healthy productive discussion regarding the issues facing our world, our country, our state, our community and our town.

Have a wonderful Shabbos,

Rabbi Kushi Schusterman

Take care of yourself!

So many of us are not getting enough sleep, not doing enough exercise and/or not eating properly. The justification we give is: I can't. There is so much I need to do. I do not have time to take care of myself; my business, family, community, non-profit need me.

All these excuses (let’s face it, that’s what they truly are) are correct. We are needed for 26 hours a day. Yet, there are only 24 hours in the day! However, if we are not taking care of ourselves, it will be no wonder that we are not a good boss, manager, parent, community leader, non-profit CEO etc. If you want to have a positive effect on other people, you do not need to be perfect, yet you do need to exist and be in a healthy state of mind. When I am suffering from one of the H.A.L.T. (Hungry, Angry, Lonely, Tired) conditions, I cannot give a good class, good advice or be patient etc. Conversely, when I take care of myself, when I am addressing my health, spiritually and physically, then I am operating at peak performance and can help purify the world, making it a better place. As Joe Apfelbaum, who was my business coach for a period of time, told me: "If you are dead there is no Rabbi to be a good Rabbi".

This is expressed in this week’s Torah portion when it talks about the ashes of the Red Heifer which purify others. It says to keep some ashes for safekeeping. Some of the "purifying dust" needs to be kept for yourself; ensure you are in a healthy place if you want to help others to be healthier.

Eight months ago, I started an almost daily study of Chassidus, Chassidic thought. One of the many benefits I’ve gained from this is that my spiritual health has improved, enabling me to share that spirituality with others.

Try it out! Sign up for the daily Tanya email from the team here, and see what the daily email does for you.

Have a spiritual Shabbos,

Rabbi Kushi Schusterman

Are you doing it right?

The ingredients of holy and proper spirituality:
Mix ritual with the right amount of spirit and you have spiritual.

Yup, that's it!

The big challenge is that many times we get the quantities wrong, or we skip a bit of one ingredient and we are left wanting; wanting more ritual, wanting more spirit, or wanting out of this lifeless search for spirituality.

The 3 most common mistakes when mixing this concoction are:
Cognitive dissonance, idealism, and sameness! 

Some people believe one thing but do differently.
A father once told me that he believes you must be honest, always. In the same conversation, he told me he was once working from home and when his boss had called as he was picking up a child from a sports game, he said that he was logged in to work. A blatant lie!  Why did he do this? He loves the ideal of complete honesty yet feels that sometimes it does not need to be practiced. He does not have enough ritual (action) to back up the spirit of his belief. 

Another one says that the world is corrupt and we cannot change it! The best is to not engage with the world. No ritual! Move to a beautiful place in nature, go off the grid and there find spirituality. 
While there is a lot of spirit there, (alcohol is called spirits perhaps because it also takes one "off the grid") there is no ritual! 

The third type goes the other way. They say it is all the same. I just need to act the right way. There does not need to be any spirit. While this works for a period of time, the ritual becomes lifeless. 

The correct amounts are recognizing that there is this need for balance. Using the balancing act to help us grow ensures that 1) our action exists, 2) it is in line with our ideals, and 3) is infused with the spirit, the meaning.

Enjoy the mixing and let us know how your spiritual journey works out.


Are you a spy?

Spy.jpgWhen someone says the word spy, what comes to mind? A guy in a trench coat? Someone who is doing something wrong? To me, a spy has a sinister connotation. Alternatively, when someone says scout, it conjures up an image of someone exploring ways to accomplish or conquer a challenge.

The 12 men sent by Moses to explore the land of Israel and see how to conquer the land that G-d has bequeathed to them, were they scouts or spies? Scout.jpg

The answer would depend on whether you asked Moses or those that were sent. Moses sent scouts who thought of themselves as spies. Moses sent people to answer the question "how can we?" They came back with the answer to "can we?" 

This distinction answers a question that is asked on Rashi, the foremost commentator of the Torah.

At the beginning of the Parsha, the Torah Portion, Rashi comments:  All of them were men of distinction... At that time, they were virtuous.  A short 24 verses later, Rashi comments: Just as their return was with evil intent, so was their departure [on the journey] with evil intent.

When did they become evil? They were chosen as men of distinction. When they departed on the journey it was already with evil intent? 

Another question that is bothersome: Why did Moses pray for Joshua "may G-d save you from the counsel of the spies"? If Moses knew of the spies’ evil counsel, he should not have sent them!

Perhaps the answer is that Moses knew there is a fine difference between scouts and spies. A scout is a person of distinction and not worried about the public opinion. Scouting is being dedicated to help others and to keep one’s self physically strong, mentally awake, and morally straight. (see

Spying is by default acting like who you are not, focusing on how you can help your superior and assist them in gathering intel. What others think of you is most important. 

Moses was saying: we are going into Israel, let us see how. The spies said: but what are people going to say about us? They were worried about the locals considering them as grasshoppers. 

Moses sent scouts and prayed that Joshua should be saved from the counsel of "spies", were they to go that route.

When we need to do something holy, when we need to see what we can do to reach our Holy Land, we should not worry about what people will say about us! We should proudly scout the spiritual landscape and conquer it to make it our own!

Happy Scouting!

Rabbi Kushi Schusterman

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