Rabbi's Blog

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

Jewish Spirituality - Fusing the Ritual and the Spirit

We all want to have meaning in our lives. Every person I know does not want to go to work merely to make money. We go to work to make an impact on the world. The Dr. wants to help people live a healthier and longer life, the lawyer wants his client to receive justice, the bagger at a supermarket wants the food packed correctly so the customer does not hurt their back with a bag that is too heavy nor the glass jars to crack.

In the non-profit world, they should, and many do, focus on their core mission. From an organization eradicating disease in a developing country to a synagogue/JCC providing access to Jewish experiences in a rural or not so rural community.

In our personal lives as well, we want to infuse our daily life with meaning and purpose. The Jewish people were blessed with a Torah, a guide book, to infuse our daily lives with uniquely Jewish ways of connecting with Hashem, creating the meaning and purpose our souls yearn for.  The Torah gives us a general outlook; we are responsible to be a role model of morality, a role model of kindness. “A light unto the nations.”

The Torah details how to do so; by following the details of the guidebook, doing our best to increase in our observance of the Torah and its Mitzvos. Fulfilling the rituals as defined by Halacha, together with the spirit behind the rituals, becoming truly spirit and ritual infused, known in modern parlance as spiritual.

When we view ourselves as a shining light, we automatically act more in line with our self-definition and act in accordance with that light.

A Jew in Harford County once told me that he is a “bad Jew” and I will only see him on Yom Kippur. My response: “You are a good Jew and I can prove it, I will see you on Yom Kippur”. I then continued that he can be a good Jew who does better by doing more the day after Yom Kippur; to infuse Judaism in their daily life even if I will not see him till the next Yom Kippur.  The specific example I gave was downloading the daily Torah study or the Rabbi Gordon app from and study daily on your commute.

Meaning comes by defining ourselves properly and then taking an action that proves that definition as true.

Have a Spi-rit-ual Shabbos,

Rabbi Kushi Schusterman 

See the light or be the light

(an excerpt from a talk I am giving Today at the APG Prayer Breakfast 2/21/2019)

Moses breaks the tablets and G-d tells him Asher Shibata, which the Talmud explains means Yaashar Koach, thank you for breaking them.

Why? Why would G-d say thank you? If Moses thought the Jews were not deserving, should he not give the tablets back? Why did he break them? Why did he not sell them on eBay?

Moses wanted to tell the world a message; sometimes you connect to G-d through whole tablets, yet at times, we connect to G-d through broken tablets. Moses was saying that even in one’s broken and incomplete moments, you can find G-d.

The famous Jewish mystic Leonard Cohen said:
Forget your perfect offering
There is a crack in everything (there is a crack in everything)
That's how the light gets in…

When we, in the United States, are experiencing conflict, at war, our soldiers and military bear the burden of sacrifice, of cracks and of brokenness.

I share with you, that despite the sacrifice and sometimes because of it, we can find light.

Moses teaches us that brokenness is not for naught. Even during times of challenge, when we recognize that I am where I should be by divine design, that in this moment of adversity I am connected with G-d who is greater than me, this awareness brings us a sense of meaning and joy. Joy does not mean fun! Life, while it is not always fun, can always be meaningful. 

Now the crack is no longer bad; it is an opportunity to allow the light of G-d in. For those experiencing conflict themselves, or supporting those that are, it is a moment that the light of G-d can illuminate the dark world. Now THAT is joy!

Yes, we pray for revealed good as we do not want brokenness. Yet it exists. Let us remember: the crack is how the light gets in.

See the light or be the light!

Have an amazing Shabbos!

Be a Mentch, regardless of how you're dressed

There is an old expression, “the clothing makes the man (person).” Google attributes this to Mark Twain, regardless, I beg to differ.

Oh yes, on a very basic level, if you dressed like a slob you will be perceived as being a slob, and if you are dressed in a nice suit and tie, clean, neat and perfect, you are associated with success, being organized etc.

That said, I think the person makes the person more than their clothes.

As parents on the relentless journey of raising a family we spend enormous amounts of time and money getting clothing for our children. Clothes that fit properly (and are then outgrown in what seems like minutes) and look good on our children, but still, it is not the clothing that make the man/kid.

When I hear from the teachers at school, that my kid left his lunch at home and his siblings all gladly ponied up something from their lunch box to make him whole, that to me is what a mentch looks like, regardless of what they are wearing. 

When I hear a story about a child of a family that I know that was “sneaking” extra snacks in her lunch to hand to a child from a less affluent family in her class, that to me is a what a mentch looks like, regardless of what they are wearing.

When I hear stories of one of my older kids, reading to their younger sibling, whispering, lets be quiet so mommy can sleep a little longer , that is what a mentch looks like. That’s what cool looks like. So if the shirt is a bit too big or too small, and the pants a bit rumpled, so be it. I will take the former over the latter, any day of the week. 

Of course there are times when being a dressed like mentch is out of place, like when you are shoveling snow, and there are times when being dressed down in the shmates is also out of place like when you are at a business meeting.

Indeed in this week’s Torah portion, where much of the discussion is about the clothing worn by the priests and high priests in the Temple, it is very specific. So much so, it would make a fashion magazine editor blush by its nuance. Now of course, like the “Royals” in England, our Priests are our representatives to Gd so we can’t let them go into the service looking plain and ordinary, so we have strict guidelines how they must dress.

That said, I suspect that while the Torah put rules and regulations on how the priests and high priests were to dress, it put just as large a premium on how they acted and if they were a mentch.

Rabbi Kushi Schusterman 

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