Rabbi's Blog

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

A forgiving Shabbos

Some people are passive, others are aggressive. Yet others are passive aggressive.

Some people are hard on themselves, easy on others. Hard on others, easy on themselves.

The "hard on themselves" people are pushing themselves constantly and are very unforgiving for their shortcomings. The easy people seem to float through life. They don’t seem to internalize any of it.

In just a few days the holy day of Atonement, the day of Yom Kippur will be upon us. Each year between Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur we have a Shabbos. Shabbos possess a unique harmonizing power. It helps us harmonize the past week with the new week. It helps bring together the mundane and the spiritual. It helps us find harmony within our inherent conflict of body and soul.

This Shabbos being between the days of Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur brings together a unique harmony of the two holidays.

Rosh Hashanah is about our inherent connection with G-d. Yom Kippur is about atonement for our shortcomings.

A person who is engaged in serving G-d, engaged in Avodah (character development in G-dly pursuit) may find themselves during these days despondent. The person may find themselves realizing that they’ve fallen short of their inner potential. The reaction can be an intense one, renewed resolution, rebound, strong commitment. Or it can be the opposite; depressed, bitter, negative, hopeless, helpless.

Neither of these approaches are harmonious and neither is productive. Most importantly, neither is an authentic expression of our relationship with Hashem.

If we think of our relationship with G-d like a relationship with a parent, contemplate what a good parent would expect of us. Would a parent want us to beat ourselves each time we fall short? Or would a good parent want us to pressure ourselves to take on unreasonable goals?

I think a good loving parent would want us to make good resolutions, reasonable resolutions, attainable resolutions. The good parent would want us to recognize honestly about ourselves that we are finite beings with a limited ability to accomplish everything we wish we were. So the good parent would want to see us growing each day, each year, but in a reasonable manner.

This Shabbos, the harmony between Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur is about finding the balance between our awareness that Hashem loves and at the same time recognize that reasonable commitment to change in our lives is important. With the knowledge that we are safe in Hashem’s love and that what is expected of us is normal human accomplishments, not supernatural angelic victories, we can be at peace this Shabbos and enter into Yom Kippur feeling the Divine Embrace and being assured that the New Year will be a blessed one.

Good Shabbos and Gmar Chasima Tova!

Rabbi Kushi Schusterman 




Apple vs Leek

They say that there are those who have the custom to eat raisins and celery on the night of Rosh Hashanah and to say may it be your will that I should have a raise in my salary.

This is an ancedote based on what it says in the code of Jewish law: 

On [the eve of] Rosh HaShanah, one should observe the custom of eating leek, beets, dates, squash, fenugreek, and any other foods whose name implies increase, in the language spoken locally. The people of each country should eat the foods whose name [leads to such associations] in their language.

Before one eats fenugreek (Rubia) or the like, he should say, “May it be Your will that our merits (Yirbu) increase.” Before he eats leek (Karti), he should say: “May it be Your will that those who hate us be (Kores) cut off.” Before he eats beets (Silka), he should say: “May it be Your will that our foes be (Yistalek) removed.” Before he eats dates (Tamari), he should say: “May it be Your will that those who hate us (Yitamu) perish.” And before he eats squash (Kara), he should say: “May it be Your will that the verdict rendered against us be (Yikra) torn, and our merits be read in Your presence.”

Some people are accustomed to partake of a sweet apple dipped in honey, and to say: “May the renewed year be sweet for us.” A blessing should be recited over the apple, and not over the honey, since the honey is ancillary to the apple.

There are people who follow the custom of eating fish [thereby expressing the hope that] they will be fruitful and multiply like fish. [The fish] should not be cooked in vinegar. - Shulchan Aruch Chapter 583

Most Jews around the world eat the apple dipped in honey and say "May the renewed year be sweet for us". Very few (that I know) eat leek, beets, dates and say the other ones about those who "hate us" or "our foes" etc. 

Perhaps the omission is part of the message for the New Year: 

May this year be a sweet year, one that we do not even need to negate those who hate us.

May this year be super sweet with revealed good for all!

Shana Tova,

Rabbi Kushi Schusterman 

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