Rabbi's Blog

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

What is the menorah whispering?

What is the secret the burning flames of the Menorah whisper to you?
What is the message contained in the flicker and dance of the kindled lights?
What is the story the candles; 1-2-3-4-5-6-7-8 are telling you and me dear reader?

As the year has its seasons so does life.  Each of us journey through our own personal year, our own personal decade and our own personal seasons of the time that we are allotted.

The eternity of Torah carries a message for each physical season and each personal season.  Unique to you and me, in each particular time.

The only constant is change, and as such each of us are either up on our journey or down on our journey.  

Wherever we are up to the Menorah tells us to light a little more today.  Even though after yesterday's flames went out the darkness ensued again, tonight, today, we can bring light into the world again and in fact we can be a light unto the world again.

The Menorah's message goes further.  Yesterday you brought light to the world.  You may have had a step down after as darkness descended and the light, your light diminished.  Today you have picked yourself up and embraced your job on this earth, you're ready to offer your light again.  You can and must offer more light than you did yesterday.  You have that inner reservoir and therefore despite your shortcomings, despite the darkness that comes with the seasons, you have the ability to do even more than you did yesterday.

This is the message the candles are whispering to me.  This is the recurring message I see each night as the Menorah has a light added to it.  

What is the Menorah whispering to you?

Honestly Honest

 Each generation of youth bring a new energy to society. They challenge the status and make change. Sometimes for good and sometimes for what may seem to be the opposite of good. That is the way of the world. It is the evolution of history that often allows for us to look back and see how the rebellion of a particular era of youth led to positive change in the world.  

Among the many qualities and challenges today's youth generation bring to the table is a type of honest and a bucking of tradition. They don't follow traditional structures that their parents belong or belonged to. They speak openly about things a prior generation may have brushed under the carpet. They disrupt the status quo.

Is this honesty a good thing? 

An interesting commentary (Rashi) on a verse in this week's Parsha addresses this question.

In the Parsha we are introduced to Joseph and the tension he experienced with his brothers. His behavior irks his brothers. His fathers special love for him makes his brothers jealous. The Torah tells us that "they hated him and were not able to speak peacefully with him".  

Rashi comments; from the Torah's criticism of the brothers we learn their praise. That is, to teach us, that they didn't speak one thing in the mouth and another in the heart.

In one word the Torah tells us their criticism and their praise. Their inability to speak nicely to him which is a negative also reflects the positive. That is that they were authentic and transparent.

It's not always pleasant to hear what the other thinks of you or of the state of society. But speaking the truth is the only way change gets made.

So, it may be frustrating to hear it spoken openly and it may not all be a correct perspective but it is authentic and that is how change is made.

Have a great Shabbos!

Get in the zone

There are two ways to do something that you "don't want to do".

Think exercising. For many people they don't want to exercise yet they do it anyway.

Either by forcing themselves; setting the alarm, adding it to their schedule, etc. Or, by getting into the zone; reminding themselves why they are on this good health journey and get themselves excited to have better health. Oh, and go to the gym.

In the Torah portion, Jacob sends "Melachim" to his brother Esau. Rashi, one of the foremost commentators tells us, don't translate the word "Melachim" as messengers but as angels. The Maggid of Mezritch says, he sent angels, but their angelic souls remained connected to Jacob.

We all want to serve Hashem more! We all want to do more mitzvot. Sometimes it feels difficult. We give ourselves a million and a half reasons why we "can't" start keeping kosher better, or Shabbat more often, etc.

We can move forward in two ways. Either by forcing ourselves or by getting into the zone. We can remind ourselves that we are on a journey to have a closer relationship with Hashem and this is something we can do to enhance that relationship.

This is important for me personally as well. I am here in Harford County as a Shliach, a messenger, a representative of the Lubavitcher Rebbe. At times there are things in this "Rabbi job" that are not so exciting to do, or things that I must question is this what I should be doing as a Rabbi. At those times I ask one question: am I connected to the "Jacob", the Rebbe, who sent me on this mission to engage all the Jews and non-Jews of Harford County and inspire them? If the answer is yes, then I am in the zone and don't have to force myself to do it. It becomes a delight.

Are you connected to Hashem who sent you to this world on a mission? When focusing on that connection does it get you in the zone?


Black Friday, Cyber Monday, Giving Tuesday and Torah Thursday

Black Friday, Cyber Monday, Giving Tuesday and Torah Thursday!

Who has not been bombarded with emails for this deal or that, this opportunity for giving or that, during these past 7 days?! 

$7.2 Billion online on Black Friday, $9 Billion online on Cyber Monday, and who knows the total of Giving Tuesday.

The prophets of doom will tell us that profits, consumerism, materialism drive the day and that we are on a hopeless spiral downwards.

I believe the opposite is true. We are finally coming to a greater appreciation of what the material world is all about; a reflection of G-d's infinite ability manifest in the most radical expression of that infiniteness - the physical creation, creation ex nihilo or something from nothing!

I'm not saying that every indulgence is a G-dly event or even a spiritual one. I'm saying that the fact that we have been given so much in our times, can potentially be the greatest opportunity for uncovering the G-dliness in this world.

In this week's Torah Portion Jacob goes to Charan. There he marries and amassed great wealth.  The teachings of Chasidus tell us that Jacob was really on a journey to collect the Divine sparks and uncover the G-dliness found in Charan.  

The journey was not an easy one for no meaningful endeavor in life is. But Jacob was successful as the Torah tells us with seemingly great fanfare that Jacob returned having amassed great riches.

When you look at light it is evident that there must be a source to that light.  But when you look at a table, a dollar bill, a tree, or any other physical object there is no evidence that there is a Divine Source.  There is no indicator that what meets the eye requires an energy to sustain it.  So in fact the physical object is almost making the exact opposite statement; "I exist, I am self made".  

The Human Being is an even greater expression of this.  The person with his/her intellect have the ability to understand that there is a Primordial source to their existence, but instead we often go about our business as if we are in control of everything; panicking when things don't go right and celebrating ourselves when they do.

Combine this human condition with every physical object and every physical interaction or acquisition and we have a potential recipe for total denial of G-d.  And yet, when we take those very physical objects and use them out for good and for holiness, we are truly expressing Hashem's greatness on this earth.

This is true of every physical interaction but even more so when it comes to giving of Tzedakah, giving of our hard earned money which we can use to buy our own indulgences and give it away to worthwhile causes.

So don't be a prophet of profit, be a prophet of G-d and see the material opportunities in front of you as opportunities to bring the manifestation of Hashem into this world.

Think about this when you get email #613 this month of December requesting assistance for your favorite non-profit!

Have a great Shabbos!

Rabbi Kushi Schusterman 

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