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Rabbi's Blog

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

Can you play with me?

It was 6:30 in the morning. Too early for a board game. Not for one of my beautiful children who asked if I can play a game with them. 

What to answer?
No, I have important things to do?
Yes, I want to play with you, however, first I need to pray?
Sure! (while thinking of the other things I need/want to accomplish)

Tough parenting decisions. Regardless of the answer, this moment is giving the child a message. Either I have important things to do, and playing with you is not one of them. Or, prayer needs to come first in the morning (this doesn't work if you aren't consistent in praying first daily). Or the message may be: I love you and I will prioritize playing with you (but be careful not to give negative energy off that you would prefer to be working).

This enigma applies not only to physical children but to spiritual children, students, and mentees as well.

What message are you giving them?
The Torah tells us, "And you shall teach them to your children, to speak with them".

Teach your children to speak using words of Torah (see the 12 passages here harfordchabad.org/323498).

Teach them to talk in a way that represents Torah. Speak respectful to their sibling and others, say please, thank you...

Teach them that you are thoughtful of the message you are conveying when answering their questions.

What message are we giving our children? When we speak? How we act? When we prioritize or don't prioritize our spiritual/religious life?

These are some of my recent musings on the Parsha! Do you agree? Disagree?

Have a great Shabbos!

 Rabbi Kushi Schusterman 

Mirror mirror on the wall

Mirror mirror on the wall, who is the greatest of them all

At times we think we are the greatest. One tends to think that because I am more knowledgeable in a specific subject, an "expert", it makes me most qualified to speak on the subject. For example, in prayer, the one who understands the meaning of the words, knows the Kabbalistic insights, his or her prayer would seem to be the ideal prayer. 

Is it truly so?

Maybe until the “expert” begins to consider themselves an expert. As soon as you think about yourself in this way, you no longer pray with the simplicity and deep connection of a person who comes to shul to just connect.

Speaking to a congregant, I asked: Why do you come to daven/pray? You don't read Hebrew (we can change that! See details in next week's email)? You don't understand the meaning of the words. What motivates you to pray with the congregation?

To which he responded; It’s an opportunity to connect with G-d, with the community, with my soul!

Whose prayer is "better", the more knowledgeable one or the connected congregant?

Chassidic thought says that it is the prayer of the connected congregant. Because the expert, as knowledgeable as he is, is self-focused, whereas the connected congregant is G-d focused.

What do you think?

Join us for services this Shabbos at 10:00 AM!

Rabbi Kushi Schusterman 

Would you give it all up?


Where do you draw the line? Logic says that we are to sacrifice for the things that are important to us in life. To provide a living for our families we work hard, giving up on potentially enjoyable vacations. We study late into the night to achieve our intellectual goals. We put aside our personal needs for our children. In the sacrifice we uncover potentials we never knew we had. However, how much sacrifice is enough?

In this week's portion, G-d tells Moshe to avenge Him through battling the Midianites. (The Midianites seduced the Jews into Idol Worship, thereby turning them from G-d.) G-d says to him matter-of-factly "avenge the vengeance of G-d against the Midianites and afterward, you will be gathered unto your people."  G-d was saying that after this battle your mission on this earth will be concluded and it will be time to return home (you will pass away). The Jewish people knew that this was Moshe's last "hurrah" and thus hesitated to go to war. Moshe, on the other hand, immediately began the battle preparations.

The Torah is telling us that sacrifice is total. There is no limit. To reach the greatest of heights you need to be willing to give up everything for that goal. As long as there is a self-imposed boundary that we won't cross, we are still driven by our ego. To reach the very essence of our potential, we need to transcend our self. 

At his very core, Moshe was a leader of his people. By going to war, Moshe knew that he would be giving up his leadership. However, that too, Moshe was willing to do because G-d had instructed him to do so. Moshe could have argued that he would be giving up his leadership by doing so. However, to reach the essence is to transcend, to walk across the line of total sacrifice. It was by doing this that Moshe became the most exceptional leader. His leadership lives on more so after his death, then even in his lifetime. Why? Because he gave everything up for G-d.

In life, we can calculate the return on investment of our sacrifices, "if I sacrifice this much, then I will get the following in return". Sometimes we are put to the test to sacrifice everything, counter to anything that makes sense. Moreover, that is where our essence comes out.

Are you willing to give it all up (whatever your "it" is)? If the ROI is your G-dly essence being revealed, then is it worth it?

Have an amazing Shabbos,

Rabbi Kushi Schusterman



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