Rabbi's Blog

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

Make it a win-win

Have you ever noticed that doctors/nurses etc. seem to never get sick? Often, parents, while taking care of a child with a cold, do not seem to catch it!

When you are out on a mission, negative energy doesn’t affect you. It’s like you have a protective shield. While this is true when you are trying to uplift the world around you, it is very noticeable when you are trying to uplift someone who is down and out.

Think of that person you help who is feeling under the weather, depressed or in the mood of complaining, by you being there for them, you actually make them happy. Simultaneously it’s a win-win as their melancholy isn’t contagious and you get uplifted by doing good!

When we focus on elevating others, instead of getting dragged down, we both get uplifted to reside at a higher spiritual level.

Join us for a spiritual Shabbos service at 10:00 am and leave uplifted.

Rabbi Kushi Schusterman

P.S.  Doctors also do some smart, practical stuff like wash their hands etc... see

Can we all just get along?

“People, I just want to say, you know, can we all just get along? Can we get along? Can we stop making it, making it horrible for the older people and the kids? … It’s just not right. It’s not right. It’s not, it’s not going to change anything. We’ll, we’ll get our justice … Please, we can get along here. We all can get along. I mean, we’re all stuck here for a while. Let’s try to work it out. Let’s try to beat it. Let’s try to beat it. Let’s try to work it out.” - Rodney King May 1, 1992

The LA riots took place when I was a young and impressionable child. When my siblings and I would squabble, my father would say "can we all just get along".

Today Thursday, May 23, 2019, is the relatively unknown Jewish holiday of Lag BaOmer. On this day we celebrate two events that took place approx. 200 C.E. The first being a plague that wiped out close to 24,000 students of Rabbi Akiva, a Talmudic sage, and the second was the passing of Rabbi Shimon Bar Yochai, student of Rabbi Akiva and a master kabbalist, the author of the Zohar. 

I am going to focus on the first one. Rabbi Akiva taught: "You shall love your fellow as yourself; this is a great principle in Torah." Despite this being one of his main teachings, 23,995 of his students passed away because they did not show respect for one another. It was not, G-d forbid, that they did not love each other, but because they cared so much for the others, they wanted to ensure that their friends were serving G-d the ‘right’ way. They were sure THEIR way was THE way to reach spirituality and connection with G-d, with Hashem. When their friends did not serve G-d in the way they understood to be the right way, they thought they went off the deep end instead of recognizing that serving G-d comes in different forms. Loving your fellow is not enough, we must also respect our differences even if we do not understand them.

We have certain immutable values, e.g. the Torah is true and everlasting. One should never give up on those values, however, we can treat someone who does not have those values with respect. 

The Lubavitcher Rebbe embodied this in his interactions with many Jewish leaders with whom he had differences of opinion with; the Rebbe would respectfully try to get them to see his viewpoint and at times said publicly, when trying to effect change, if using my name will help implement the needed change - great and if not, then do not use my name.

We see similar issues in the world around us today, from politics to religion. Families and communities are torn apart, not by some maniac (G-d protect us), but by thinking we know what is correct politicly, we know what Judaism really wants, we know how this community ought to be, etc. instead of allowing respectful, loving disagreement to occur.

As we move past Lag BaOmer, let us each resolve to love our fellow AND respect them! 

Have a great Shabbos,

Rabbi Kushi Schusterman

Do you Feel Like a Hamster on a Wheel?



Do you feel like a hamster on a wheel trying to keep sane? Between all the responsibilities we have in life today, combined with the incessant stream of information some worthwhile, some nonsensical, coming our way and then our own journey of personal development and growth, it is a surprise that any of us are sane. 

One of the ways to liberate ourselves from this craziness is to be clear about what is in our ability to control and change and what is out of our control. When we have that clarity we are able to only stress (if you choose to) about the things that we actually have control over.

The tension, lack of clarity and the place in which we take the most responsibility is in our own personal development.

Oftentimes we think that we have the full ability to change our character if we just try hard enough. And while it is true that we can always control what we think, say or do, we can’t always change who we are internally.

When we can let go of the result (the internal change) and focus on what we do have control over (our thoughts, speech and action) then we can liberate ourselves from the hamster wheel.

The secret sauce is captured in this week’s Torah portion in regards to the Mitzvah of counting the Omer, the days between Passover and Shavous.

The Torah instructs us to count from the morrow of the Shabbat. The Shabbat in this case being a reference to the first day of Passover. Among the reason why the Torah chooses to use these words is to capture the above message.

The period of the counting is a time of personal development. We grow each day as we count working our character. The goal being to be ready for the receiving of the Torah and the Revelation at Sinai on the 50th day.

One might think that they can be ensured success just by trying. Therefore the Torah tells us, that the success of the journey is dependent on us counting on the day after the Shabbat, we need the transcendent energy of Shabbat, the empowerment from Above, from Hashem to succeed at that inner transformation.

So the next time you are stressing over your inner transformation, take a moment and turn to the source of success and ask Hashem to help you through it. Then once you are done praying, focus on what is in your control to do to create that transformation, your thoughts, your speech and your actions.

Good Shabbos!

Rabbi Kushi Schusterman 


Annoyed? Look in the mirror!

The Baal Shem Tov taught that the world is a mirror and that the defects we see in other people are only a reflection of our own weaknesses.  We are likely to be oblivious to our own faults, but can easily detect shortcomings in other people.  The Baal Shem Tov instructs us to take such observations as indications that we have these shortcomings ourselves.

In this week's Torah portion we are told "When a stranger sojourns with you in your land, you shall not taunt him.... for you were strangers in the land of Egypt. I am the Lord, your God." Rashi explains this to mean, "don't taunt him with words" ...  [For instance,] do not say to him, "Only yesterday you were an idol worshipper, and now you come to learn Torah, which was given over by the Almighty God Himself! 

Why? "for you were strangers" Do not accuse your fellow man with your own defect. 

However, as the Baal Shem Tov taught, we all do this. We get annoyed when someone does something, only to realize that it's a mirror. This that I am noticing the other person's defect is just a way of revealing my flaw in order for me to fix it.

As we continue on this process of Sefiras HaOmer and refining ourselves, we should try to notice the things about others that bother us, and see if we also have that shortcoming in some way.

Have an amazing Shabbos,

Rabbi Kushi Schusterman

P.S.  Rabbi Dr. Twerski says a story of when the Baal Shem Tov did this himself. Once, the Baal Shem Tov saw someone doing something forbidden on Shabbos, and he promptly concluded that he himself must have been guilty of a Shabbos violation.  When a thorough soul-searching failed to reveal such a breach, he prayed for Divine help in discovering it, and it was revealed to him that he had once heard a Torah scholar being insulted and had failed to defend his honor.  Since the Zohar states that a Torah scholar has the sanctity of Shabbos, his dereliction was considered equivalent to a violation of Shabbos. (quoted from the Jewish Action magazine Spring 1996).


Is Change Possible?

Have you ever wondered if change is possible? 

We all know that fleeting change is possible. However, can "The fat guy" become a health evangelist?  Can the atheist become a religious leader? Can the person who does not enjoy praying start to enjoy it and share its value.

am not talking about forcing change, white-knuckling it, but changing who we are at our core!

I believe it is possible. But, it takes time and commitment to many many small steps to make it happen.

We are now during the time of Sefiras HaOmer, when we count up to Shavuos. Traditionally, it is time to work on growth.

There are two types of counting done; the daily count and the weekly count. We say today is 12 days which is 1 week and 5 days of the omer. The week count is only possible with the day count.

There are two types of change; the ones that are big changes and the ones that are small changes. Ultimately, the big changes are a result of the many small changes. True change is only possible with many small changes.

As we set our eyes on a major life change, remember do not jump into the deep end without a life jacket, take small steps in the right direction and after some time, you will arrive at a new place, and actually enjoy it.

I am working on being completely present when I am with someone. 

What change are you working on? 

Rabbi Kushi Schusterman

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