Rabbi's Blog

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

The Rusty Penny

This Story is one of my favorite. It's about charity, this week's Torah potion is about donating to charity, so I am sharing it.

Rabbi Schneur Zalman of Liadi (1745–1812, founder of Chabad Chassidism) was raising money to ransom Jewish prisoners.

He went first to a city that was famous for its miser. It seems that this stingy man, despite his considerable wealth, was loath to share his blessings, no matter how worthy or urgent the cause. Rabbis and beggars alike avoided his home. Anyone who did unwittingly end up on his doorstep was offered a single rusty copper coin, which even the most desperate pauper would promptly refuse.

When Rabbi Schneur Zalman arrived in the town, the elders of the community graciously received him. But when he announced that he wanted to visit the house of the miser and wanted two rabbis to accompany him, he was met with serious resistance. The rebbe was adamant, however, and they finally acquiesced and gave him the escort he requested.

The next afternoon the three of them were standing in front of the miser’s mansion. Before knocking on the door, the rebbe turned to his companions and requested that they not utter a word, no matter what they hear or see. Several moments later they were sitting in the luxurious front room, and the owner was returning from his safe with a small velvet money pouch.

“Yes,” said the rich man. “A touching story indeed! Widows and orphans in captivity. Ah, the suffering of the Jewish people! When will it all end? Here, Rabbi, take my humble donation.”

To the miser’s surprise, the rebbe seemed pleased by the gift. He was actually smiling at him warmly as he put the coin into his pocket and said, “Thank you, Mr. Solomons. May G‑d bless and protect you always.” The rebbe then proceeded to write him a receipt, adding all sorts of blessings in a most beautiful script.

“Thank you again, my friend,” said the rebbe as he stood and warmly shook the man’s hand, looking him deeply in the eyes with admiration. “And now,” he added, turning to his two companions, “we must be on our way. We have a lot of collecting to do tonight.”

As the three rabbis walked to the door, the rebbe turned and bade his host yet another warm farewell. “You should have thrown it back in his face,” hissed one of the rabbis after they heard the door close behind them.

“Don’t turn around and don’t say a word,” whispered the rebbe as they walked down the path to the front gate.

Suddenly they heard the door opening behind them and the miser calling: “Rabbis, rabbis, please come back for a minute. Hello, hello, please, I must speak to you, please . . . please come back in.”

In a few minutes they were again sitting in the warm, plush drawing room, but this time the rich man was pacing back and forth restlessly. He stopped for an instant and turned to the rebbe. “Exactly how much money do you need to ransom these prisoners?”

“About five thousand rubles,” the rebbe replied.

“Well, here is one thousand . . . I have decided to give one thousand rubles; you may count it if you want,” said the miser as he took a tightly bound stack of bills from his jacket pocket and laid it on the table. The other rabbis were astounded. They stared at the money and were even afraid to look up at the miser, lest he change his mind.

But the Rebbe again shook Mr. Solomons’ hand, warmly thanking him, and wrote him a beautiful receipt replete with blessings and praises, exactly like the first time.

“That was a miracle!” whispered one of the rabbis to the rebbe as they left the house and were again walking toward the gate. Once more the rebbe signaled him to be still. Suddenly the door of the house again opened behind them. “Rabbis, please, I have changed my mind. Please come in once more. I want to speak with you,” Mr. Solomons called out.

They entered the house for a third time as the miser turned to them and said, “I have decided to give the entire sum needed for the ransom. Here it is; please count it to see that I have not made a mistake.”

“What is the meaning of this?” wondered the rebbe’s astonished companions after they had left the rich man’s home for the third time that evening. “How did you get that notorious miser to give 5,000 rubles?”

“That man is no miser,” said Rabbi Schneur Zalman. “No Jewish soul truly is. But how could he desire to give, if he never in his life experienced the joy of giving? Everyone to whom he gave that rusty penny of his threw it back in his face.”

use the nuclear option

Have you ever tried to get an in with someone but didn’t find a connector?

Have you ever tried to get an in with someone and realized that you had a liability that will stop you from connecting?

You are not alone. This has happened before. Queen Esther wanted to visit King Achashverosh. She knew that it would be a liability. She assumed, as was the custom in those days, that going to the king uninvited was risking her life. Generally, this is explained as the pivotal moment when you must take a risk, even risking your life, for something which is super important which expresses your values. Our first responders face this risk, putting their lives on the line every day to ensure that we stay safe.

There is a deeper explanation. One that defines Esther’s choice as one that is relevant to every single person. We ask ourselves how can I approach G-d? I am not perfect. I have liabilities. How can I approach the king with requests for health, happiness, etc. when I don’t follow Torah and mitzvot 100%? And what I do manage to do, I sometimes struggle with.

Chassidic masters explain the verse from the megillah “…and I will come to the king illegally and whatever I will lose, I will lose”, to mean that every human being approaches G-d and makes their request saying “I may not be perfect or righteous but it’s worth it for you, G-d, to fulfill my request so that I can serve you and have a close deep relationship with you. If you choose to reject me, that’s your choice. The relationship is so important that I am willing to use the nuclear option. I am willing to risk my life in order to build a deep meaningful relationship”.

Perhaps this is why Yom Kippur is called Yom Hakippurim, a day which is ‘like Purim’. On Purim we reveal this deep level connection with G-d. While Yom Kippur is important, Purim on some level is a day that is more important, the day we reveal a deeper quintessential bond.

This Purim, I would like to invite you to join us in celebrating this bond. See more info at

Have an amazing Shabbos,

Rabbi Kushi

Change makes noise!

 Our relationship with G-d is very personal.  On one level it is essential, meaning that each of us have the same essence based connection.  However, each of us are also are independent beings with our own emotional and intellectual systems as well as our unique life experiences.  Accordingly, we each relate to G-d through our own lenses and perspectives.

Accordingly, the events of this week's Parsha beg explanation.  The Torah sets the scene of the Sinai Revelation.  "And it was on the third day in the morning and there was sounds and lightning..." There was a full on thunder and lightning show. "And the people in the camp shuddered".  

Was not the revelation of G-d Himself on Sinai enough to create awe and fear and shuddering in the camp?  Why the need for the thunder and lightning.  

The answer goes to the heart of what transpired at Sinai. This wasn't just a one time event.  The events of Sinai created a transformation in the world.  The physical world until that point didn't have the tolerance or ability for G-dliness to permeate it.  There were no holy objects.  Even the holy places ceased being holy when G-d removed his revelation.

But at Sinai all of that changed.  Physical objects become infused with holiness when we do a Mitzvah with them.  Physical spaces become sacred when holy events take place there.  The physical reality changed to have the ability to absorb holiness into it.

We experience noise when an experience is experienced for the first time. A new born baby - Mazal Tov! A new marriage - Mazal Tov.  NEWS! It makes noise.  The light of Hashem breaking through the physical reality wasn't to cause fear but it was an actual change to the physical reality experienced by all. That change makes noise.  The Jewish People experienced that change with all of the noise that it came with.

The message for us is that our experience of G-d, G-dliness and our relationship with Hashem, Torah, Mitzvot and Judaism has to permeate our reality and consciousness in a very real way.  We need to absorb it into our being.  When we do we become a living example of the intention and revelation of Sinai.

Have a great Shabbos!  

Split your own sea

Things are going well and suddenly you hit a roadblock! 

You know where you are going. To the promised land with a stop at Mount Sinai to receive the Torah. Behind you are the Egyptians and in front of you is the sea.

We have all had situations like this. We are doing the right thing, heading in the right direction. We are finally free. And then, our demons from our past creep up behind us and we find ourselves before some roadblock.

What do you do?

Some very religious people think it's time to pray! But G-d told Moses – nope, not time to pray. Time to move forward towards where you need to go! 

There is a roadblock? Just go above it!

The 4th Chabad Rebbe, the Rebbe Maharash, would say: The world says that if you cannot crawl under an obstacle, try to leap over it. However, I say, leap over it in the first place!  

Yes, the roadblock seems real. The challenge in front of you seems genuine.beautiful-beauty-blue-bright-414612.jpg

Nachshon ben Aminadav, facing the sea, went into the water when G-d said to keep moving forward toward Mount Sinai, and then the water split for the Jews to walk through.

We need to keep moving toward Sinai, our connection to Torah, and the roadblocks will evaporate or at least split to allow us to go through them.

Have a great Shabbos,

Rabbi Kushi Schusterman

P.S. Join Us
Soup and Scotch 5:30 PM

10:00 Minyan 
10:30 Family Shabbat
7:00 PM Precious Souls, a Chassidic gathering

8 AM Teffilin Club
10 AM Hebrew School 
7 PM Tu Bshvat Paint Night 

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