Rabbi's Blog

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

Are you celebrating Thanksgiving?

Many people asked me "Are you celebrating Thanksgiving?” 

They weren’t sure if it was a Jewish holiday. (It’s not.)

But it kind of is.

The name “Jew” comes from Judah.

Which means to thank.

We are a nation that constantly thanks.

Much of our prayers is about thanking

Truly “giving thanks” means that you realize that you don’t take the gift for granted.

If you earned the gift, then you’d be less thankful.

I want you to know that Fraida and I do not take your involvement for granted at all.

We don't take your reading this email for granted! 

We value you, your friendship, and your support of Chabad and your unique perspectives and talents.

We value your feedback and holding us to account, and you're willingness to reach out to someone else and ensure they too can connect with Chabad for spiritual and Jewish inspiration. 

So while the USA is celebrating Thanksgiving weekend, allow me to say this.

Thank You! We are thankful for you.

Shabbat Shalom,

Rabbi Kushi and Fraida Schusterman

This weeks Dvar is inspired by and adapted from
Rabbi Elazar  & Shira Green of Chabad of Lancaster, PA

We are all in this together

As I sit in NY for the annual conference of Chabad Rabbis. I think of my mission to Harford County.

My job is to represent, not some conglomerate of the Jewish establishment, but to create a grassroots organization where Jews and Non-Jews of all backgrounds and faiths, make this world a goodly place and a G-dly place.

Harford Chabad’s mission is not to make Chabad wonderful. Chabad’s goal is to make each individual fantastic!  Turn to a fellow Jew, who may not talk to someone who is “religious”, and encourage them to be more involved in their faith. Turn to a Non-Jew and connect them with Jewish
values while respecting the values they bring.

The only way to do this is to not try to make yourself great but to make others better. Similar to Eliezer, the “servant of Avraham”. When asked who he is, he responded: “I am a servant of Abraham” (Genesis 24:34). And indeed, throughout his journey, he is consistently referred to as “the servant”.

This was not about Eliezer the person. This was about the mission Eliezer was on and at no time did he allow his own self-interest to get in the way of fulfilling that mission. He was a mere servant, an extension of Abraham’s hand.

My official title, is The Rabbi. But it’s not about me. It’s about all of us coming together and recognizing we all play a role in making the world a more goodly and G-dly place. Each and every one of us. Without letting our ego get in the way.

Have a humble Shabbos,

Rabbi Kushi Schusterman

Keep Digging

Watching kids at play; they take their little shovels and dig. They make a small hole in the ground, not much bigger than a pothole on the street. And then, they are done digging.

Watching the people doing construction on houses/businesses/developments around town it looks a bit different; big tractors making deep holes in the ground.

Both experiences are watching people move dirt, rocks, and mud. 

We find the same in this week's Torah portion. Yitzchak/Isaac digs wells and throughout his life, he is digging wells to reveal the water underground. His wells get covered up and he keeps digging new ones! His well gets given to an enemy and still he keeps digging. 

Everything in Torah has a message. One of the messages of this story is Yitzchak's dedication to focus, staying the course and uncovering the water beneath the surface. Sometimes we meet those who have water, a life-giving substance, generally known as a soul, yet it is covered up by dirt, mud and rocks. At times these people do NOT want to engage in their Jewish heritage. We look at them and all we see is dirt. To the outsider, they look like a "lost cause". There is no point in even trying to engage them!

To this Yitzchak teaches us that it is our responsibility to dig wells, to find a way to engage your fellow. They are not interested in joining you for a program at Chabad? Remove the thing covering over the soul and have them over for a Shabbat dinner. Invite them to join you for latkes and menorah lighting. Dig and remove some dirt. Remove some of the things that are covering their pure soul and reveal it. It will be like refreshing water, reviving for them to reconnect. 

You tried and there was still dirt? The well got covered up again? Learn from Yitzchak and keep digging.

Have a digging week, 


Shabbat is driving me crazy

Have you ever been sold something and then had buyer’s remorse? Did you think to yourself - that salesman sold me a bill of goods!

As a Rabbi, I "sell" a relationship with G-d, Israel, and our fellow Jews. When trying to encourage you to do a mitzvah, often I will talk about the benefits of the mitzvah, a Friday night meal together with family, Shabbat - a break from technology, etc.

Then, when you implement these changes, at times, you may say: yes, a break from technology is great, but this long Shabbat in the summer with no driving, TV, Netflix, Facebook, etc. is driving me crazy.

Hashem knows that some mitzvahs can be more challenging than others. Hashem knows that change is difficult. Hashem knows that at times, doing certain mitzvahs can cause physical changes and therefore He sets the groundwork with the first mitzvah.

The first mitzvah given to any Jew was the mitzvah of circumcision given to Avraham. A mitzvah that causes physical pain, showing us that although a mitzvah can sometimes be painful or challenging, we still strive to fulfill the mitzvah. Not only fulfill it, but to do so with joy just like Avraham!

Circumcision does have health benefits (like the tech Shabbat) but we do so because Hashem commanded us to, for spiritual reasons. Simultaneously, everything that has spiritual benefits also has physical benefits - some, more noticeable than others.

So next time you are working on doing a mitzvah, and a challenge comes your way, try to be like Abraham. Smile. Know you are building your relationship with Hashem. Be aware of the physical benefits that you will get from this experience.

Have an amazing Shabbos, 

Rabbi Kushi Schusterman

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