Rabbi's Blog

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

Don't miss the gold!

Have you ever seen someone about to do something that you knew would not end well for them?
Did you tell them not to do it?
Did they respond with some variation of "YOU think it's not good for me, but I know it is good"?

We call this "alive in the grave". When we are not really alive, yet we think we are alive. When we do something stupid and think we are being smart.

The verse tells us in this week's Torah portion: "They went down to the grave alive". Can you imagine? They were in the grave and they thought they were still alive.

Sometimes we do not recognize the folly of our actions and mistake garbage for gold.

Today was the Rebbe's 26th yahrtzeit. The Rebbe encouraged us to get a mentor. To have someone, outside of us, who can mentor us and guide us. Someone who can advise us to slow down and think through that thing/action/move we think is amazing. Someone who can warn us that what we perceive as gold is in reality really garbage. The mentor helps us catch ourselves, so we don't stay in the "grave".

At the same time, the Rebbe encouraged us to see that there is "gold" everywhere. Each person you meet is a part of G-d. Each interaction you have (even negative ones) are part of G-d’s master plan. Each challenge is an exercise in growth.

So when I am hanging out in the spiritual "grave", my mentor is there to guide me on how to become "alive again". When I see something that is life, my mentor is there to ensure that I don't mistake it for a grave.

Do you have a mentor to guide you? If not, perhaps it is an opportune time to find one.

Qualifications to be a mentor. 

1) Can't be yourself
2) Needs to have your best interests in mind
3) Can't have ulterior motives
4) Needs to encourage you to grow spiritually 

Need Oxygen

Last week we discussed created a flame, a passion and a fire.

For a fire to survive, it needs oxygen. How do we provide fire with oxygen? We remove the cover, opening the container that the fire is contained in. We need to move our egos out of the way, so our internal flame can be a roaring fire of passion and connection with G-d.

We need to create a crack in our personal armor to allow otherness and G-dliness in.

To quote the love story from Song of Songs: “My beloved resembles a gazelle or a fawn of the hinds; behold, he is standing behind our wall, looking from the windows, peering through the crack

G-d, our beloved, wants to see our fire. G-d wants to have a personal relationship with each and every one of us. But we need to let him peer in, by creating a crack. 

“Where is G-d? G-d is only where you let Him in.” - The Kotzker Rebbe

Have a great Shabbos,

Rabbi Kushi Schusterman 


Where is your fire? Your passion? Your flame?

Where is your fire?
Your passion?
Your flame?

We all understand the need to make changes in our lives. To change, we need a why, a reason.

Now take a moment to think of a time that you knew intellectually you should change something, but you didn't do anything about it. Why not?

You wanted to get more involved in your Jewish heritage, yet actually making changes didn't happen. Why not?

Perhaps the reason why no change was made was because the desire was an intellectual one. The ‘why change?’ didn't permeate your heart. It didn’t cause you to jump with joy at the thought of connection or anger at the lack thereof. Or perhaps some other reason. Ultimately, the desire remained in your head.

When we look at the protests going on, they are an expression of a cerebral understanding - that existed for too long -, that there is inequality and racism amongst us. The protests were started because this understanding moved from our heads to our hearts making us boil with anger at injustice.

It's very different when you "know" something bad happens then when you feel it in your bones.

So, if you want to change yourself, or change society, you need to ask yourself, am I feeling it? Or do I think I want to change, but there is no fire in me yet to make it happen.

Rabbi Kushi Schusterman

P.S. Local women, if you don’t light shabbat candles (and want to change that) or if you do and want to  join our Shabbat candles "Candle lighting time text list" reply to this email (or text me) your cell phone numbers. (times are only for Bel Air, MD) Great Poem When I was a young man, I wanted to change the world. But, I found it was difficult to change the world, so I tried to change my country. When I found I couldn’t change my country, I began to focus on my town.  However, I discovered I couldn’t change the town and as I grew older, I tried to change my family.  Now, as an older man, I realize the only thing I can change is myself, and suddenly I realize that if I change myself, I could make an impact on my family.   My family and I could make an impact on our town.  Our  impact could change the country and I could indeed change the world. - Reb Yisroel Salanter

Exercise Equipment

I can’t do exercise as I don’t have the exercise equipment!

Many times, when we go on our spiritual path, we want to change yet feel we don’t have all the prerequisites required. So, change goes on the back burner.

We read in this week’s Torah portion that the Jews were in the wilderness where nothing grows. To go to the promised land, you need to have humility. One needs to be like a desert where your ego can’t grow.

Despite that being the ideal, we need to try to get to the promised land even before we are perfectly humble.

I was meeting with a personal trainer and he told me: “We will use whatever you have in the house, no need to get new equipment. However, you will still need to do the work required to help your health”.

Similarly, we need to use our strengths, even before we are perfect, and connect to Hashem with those strengths.

The story is told about Rabbi Laibel Kaplan OBM. As a young yeshiva student, he went into the Lubavitcher Rebbe for a private audience and asked: “how should I deal with my ego?” (He probably expected a full pathway in divine service.) The Rebbe simply answered: “zolst hoben mit vos”. Be the type of person who has what to be proud about. Use your pride as a motivator.

Use what you have and enhance your spirituality.

Do you need to be humble?

Should you wait till your humble to grow spiritually?

Looking for older posts? See the sidebar for the Archive.