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ב"ה

Rabbi's Blog

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

The secret of thanks

It's Thanksgiving. A time when many feel an extra need to say thank you.

We need to thank G-d for the good in our life. Even if Gd forbid life is not that great, at the moment, we should be able to find some good to be thankful for!

There are two levels of appreciation. One is to be thankful for what we deserve; I have a job and am thankful that my employer pays me. Between you and me, I deserve it; I worked and got paid. The second, higher level of appreciation is the gratitude we feel when we get an underserved or an unexpected bonus. 

We should recognize that what we deserve is also a bonus. Being alive and healthy enough to be able to work to earn a paycheck (which we deserve), should not be taken for granted. That is a higher level of thanks and appreciation.

Gal Gadot, AKA Wonder Woman, told Vanity Fair:
“I am lucky. I say thank you every morning. In the Jewish culture there’s a prayer that you’re supposed to say every time you wake up in the morning to thank G-d for, you know, keeping you alive and dadadada.

“You say ‘modeh ani,’ which means ‘I give thanks,’ ” she says. “So every morning I wake up and step out of bed and I say, ‘Thank you for everything, thank you, thank you, thank you, thank you.’ ” She closes her eyes a moment, as if saying the prayer all over again. “Nothing is to be taken for granted.”

The title Jew comes from the name Judah. Judah was thus named because his mother, Leah, felt the need to give thanks. Knowing Jacob would have 12 children and 4 wives, when Leah had her fourth son, she said “This time, I will thank, since I have taken more than my share. Consequently, I must offer up thanks."  Each child was a blessing for which she was grateful. However, when she got a bonus, "more than her share", she was extra thankful.

This thanksgiving, let’s commit to being more thankful daily. 

The secret of thanks is to express it daily!

Click here and print this card. Keep it by your bedside.
Every day, upon waking up, say the words on the card.
Be thankful! I cannot take this new day for granted. It's an extra day that I didn't deserve. Thank you G-d, I will make today count.

Have an amazing Shabbos holiday weekend and stay safe.

Rabbi Kushi

Scam Likely

I got a new cell phone. Every so often I get a call from ‘Scam Likely’.

In this week’s Torah portion, we learn how Jacob tricks his father, Isaac, into giving him the blessings. These were blessings for physical abundance. Why the need to scam? Why couldn't Jacob just ask for it?  Isaac himself acknowledges the scam to Esau: "Your brother came with cunning and took your blessing" (Genesis 27:35). All around, it was an exposed scam.

Everything written in the Torah is a lesson for us. The Baal Shemtov teaches that everything that we see is a lesson for us.

Our relationship with material abundance should be one that we are scamming the physicality to make it spiritual.

To the outsider, it looks like we have financial success. We are eating, exercising etc. so we can take care of ourselves. It looks selfish. However, we need to be scammers. We need to fool the material world and have the intention to use it for good.

I work to have financial success so that I can make the world a better place - I know an organization that can help if needed :).
I exercise to have a healthy body to be able to serve G-d.
I sleep well so I can productively help the people around me.
I eat well so my body can live longer and make a bigger impact on the world.

Jacob did not want to ask for a relationship with the physical for mundane or personal pleasure. Jacob wanted the physical and mundane to be something he has so he can scam it into being spiritual, despite its innate self-interest.

There is a quote in the Hayom Yom, a book of concise thoughts collected by the Lubavitcher Rebbe: “The Alter Rebbe (the first Chabad Rebbe) said: Jewish physical matter is spiritual. Gā€‘d gives us material bounty for us to transform it into something spiritual…”

My phone reminds me that I didn’t get a new phone to indulge in the latest technology. I need to ‘scam likely’, scam the new device to be a tool to make it easier to change the world for good!

May G-d bless all of us with material bounty to transform the world into a better spiritual place.

Good Shabbos

Rabbi Kushi Schusterman 

You Can Escape

Addicts try to escape, to escape the feeling of self. They want their entire existence to disappear and therefore they escape to the addiction (alcohol, drugs, sex, porn, food etc.). Temporarily, the high numbs their feeling of self. 

This is not a new issue. It started on the first day that humans were placed on this earth. On their first day in the Garden of Eden, Adam and Eve ate from the tree and they became aware of their own existence. Before eating from the tree, they had a lack of self-awareness. 

Noah after the flood had the same issue. He wanted to escape the feeling of self, so he got drunk. Alas, it did not last. Noah sobered up and realized that he still exists.

The solution is not to overdose. The solution is to transcend yourself to get over your own desires. To connect with something higher to do the things you don't want to do, in order to make the you a better you while it not being about you. 

To quote Lord Jonathan Sacks, who passed away this past Shabbos: “There was once a man who took G-d so seriously that he didn't get a chance to take himself seriously.”

Often, we look at the world from our own prism instead of from the perspective of G-d. Ask not how the world makes me feel, but what feeling do I create in the world.

We are all addicts. Addicts to our ego. Addicts to the way we want the world to see us. We want to escape the self and therefore, at times, we do things that are not good for us just to feel less. When you want to escape into your addiction, realize that instead of trying to get rid of the self, go beyond it and connect with a higher reality. 

The best escape is to do for others; find someone in need and help them. As always let us know how we can help :)

Rabbi Kushi Schusterman 

Be kind

While rebelling against G-d is a sin, it pales in comparison to lack of respect for your fellow person. It is not just wrong; it is unacceptable and must be eradicated.

We see this in the story of Sodom and Gomorrah. There were 5 cities slated to be destroyed. Only 2 were completely obliterated and eradicated. In the other 3 cities, people were not “religious” however, they were nice to others and therefore while they were ruined, they were not destroyed.

In Sodom and Gomorrah, they tell a story about a girl named Plitith who lived in this hostile and unfriendly town. The laws of this town included things like one may not have any consideration for the poor, one may not offer hospitality to the passing stranger, selling food or water to a foreigner is forbidden. Plitith was caught secretly giving food to a stranger who was near starvation and was subsequently burned in public. Another young girl, caught feeding a starving beggar, was smeared with honey, and placed upon the city wall. She died from the stings of the bees attracted to the honey.

The people in the saved cities were not religious yet were kind and friendly. They might have hated G-d but they loved their neighbors. On the other hand, the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah were evil to their fellow humans.

While lack of following G-d can bring us to lack of success or even to death, it will not obliterate everything. However, when the fabric of our society is destroyed, when we no longer take care of our neighbor, then total annihilation and destruction occur.

While rebelling against G-d is a sin, it pales in comparison to Sodom and Gomorrah. Sodom and Gomorrah is the story that must never be repeated. Lack of respect for your fellow man is not just wrong, it is unacceptable and must be eradicated.

 

Be nice to others

There is a story told about a girl named Plitith who lived in a hostile and unfriendly town. The laws of this town included things like: one may not have any consideration for the poor, one may not offer hospitality to the passing stranger, selling food or water to a foreigner is forbidden. Plitith was caught secretly given food to a stranger who was near starvation and was subsequently burned in public. Another young girl, caught feeding a starving beggar, was smeared with honey and placed upon the city wall. She died from the stings of the bees attracted to the honey.
The name of this town was Sodom. Pltith was Lot's daughter and Abraham's great niece.
Many people know the story of Sodom and Gomorrah; a region of depravity and moral decay. The only thing to salvage it was to overturn and destroy the entire region. Abraham pleaded with G-d to save it but could not find 10 righteous people in the region for whom to find merit for.
While the story is referred to as the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah, in truth it included the cities of Admah, Zeboim and Bela (Bela/Zoar was saved due to Lot's request). We see that these cities were allied politically in last week’s Torah portion where it named their kings, "Bera the king of Sodom and with Birsha the king of Gomorrah, Shineab the king of Admah, and Shemeber the king of Zeboiim, and the king of Bela, which is Zoar".
However, the story is known as the destruction of "Sodom and Gomorrah" and not the destruction of the four/five cities. Sodom and Gomorrah also received a bonus of brimstone and fire before being overturned (genesis 19 24-25). We may want to simply explain this as a technicality. Perhaps they were the larger cities or maybe they were the capital cities of the region.
There is a more practical explanation that can bring a meaningful and relevant message to us in the modern day. The cities of Shineab and Admah were not religious but they were kind and friendly. They hated G-d but loved their neighbors. On the other hand, the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah were evil to their fellow humans.
We see this by the names of their kings; Bera - he was twice evil, (Bet Raah) to Heaven and to people. Birsha - he was elevated in wickedness (Rasha). Shineab - he hated (Soneh) his Father (Av) in Heaven. Shemeber - He made (Sum) wings (Ever) to fly and to spring and to rebel against the Holy One, blessed be He.
While lack of following G-d can bring us to lack of success or even to death, it will not obliterate everything. However, when the fabric of our society is destroyed, when we no longer take care of our neighbor, then total annihilation and destruction occur.
While rebelling against G-d is a sin, it pales in comparison to Sodom and Gomorrah. Sodom and Gomorrah is the story that must never be repeated. Lack of respect for your fellow man is not just wrong it is unacceptable and must be eradicated.

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