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Rabbi's Blog

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

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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