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Rabbi's Blog

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

The Jewish way to starve yourself

"A Jewish guy calls his mother and says, 'Mom! How are you?' And the mother says, 'Terrible. I haven't eaten in 38 days.' And he says, 'Why haven't you eaten in 38 days?' And the mother says, 'I didn't want my mouth full in case you should call."  

According to Chassidic teachings, Yom Kippur doesn’t “deprive” us of the pleasures of eating, drinking etc. The holy nature of Yom Kippur satiates us in a higher, more spiritual manner.

King David says, “Behold, G‑d’s eye is directed towards those who fear Him, to those who hope for His kindness, to rescue their soul from death and to sustain them in famine.” The Hebrew words for “to sustain them in famine”, להחיותם ברעב, can also be translated as “to sustain them with hunger”.

Spiritually, famine refers to the soul’s yearning for closeness to G‑d. A yearning which derives from the fact that the soul is a part of G‑d and, like a flame, desires to reunite with its Source.

On Yom Kippur, when the soul and its needs and wants are bared, this hunger alone, the quest for spirituality, is sufficient to satiate and satisfy a person.

We are in a body yet sustained from a non-body energy.

On the holiest day of the year we are fueled, not by bread or vitamins, but by the revelation of our very essence and its intrinsic relationship with G‑d.

The rest of the year we are also sustained in famine, להחיותם ברעב, in a completely different way. When we don't indulge in inappropriate talk, when we don't eat a non-kosher food, when we don't violate a shabbos rule (even if not fully shabbat observant), when we work on using nice words, when we withhold a negative thought, speech or action, we are also "hungry". We want/are hungry to indulge. However, we "starve" ourselves, and this withholding satiates us just as it does on Yom Kippur.

The word for hunger in hebrew is רעב. The word for sweetness is ערב.

When we make ourselves hungry throughout the year, G-d sends us sweetness.

May you be sealed for a good and sweet year,

Rabbi Kushi Schusterman 

Honey = transformation

A bee is not kosher. Bees sting. Yet, on Rosh Hashanah we eat honey which comes from a bee.

At times, we do things that are not "kosher". At times, we have an experience that feels like a sting but in the end, we transform it into honey.

On Rosh Hashana we transform ourselves back to the original. We go back to our soul entity, our truest spiritual source. On Rosh Hashanah, we tell G-d: any of the things I did that were "not kosher", not representative of my truest G-dly self, transform them into honey. In return, we tell G-d, any of the stings You gave me, I will transform them, to the best of my ability, into honey.

A woman in the community recently lost her job. It hit hard. A few days later, embracing the situation and recognizing that losing her job may have been to her benefit, life took a turn. She noticed how much calmer she was. Those around her noticed how much more present and relaxed she was. She now focuses on things that make her happy; her family, volunteering, hobbies long forgotten, etc. Appreciating that G-d has brought her to this place, she makes the time to focus more on Him. Whether it is praying or listening to a class on faith/trust in G-d. Speaking with her, the change is apparent.

May we not know anything ‘not kosher’ nor receive any stings. May we be successful in transforming anything that needs to be transformed into soul honey, a sweet connection with G-d.

Sending blessings for a Happy and Healthy Sweet New Year.


First Steps

Have you ever watched a child learn to walk?

The child begins to crawl then slowly learns to stand holding on. Once standing, often, the parent will stand in front of the child, and as the child takes a step towards him/her, the parent takes a step back.

I heard that the Baal Shem Tov said that this is what G-d does with us. He stands very close to us and as we take a step closer, sometimes, He moves back. Throughout this month of Elul, we have steadily been moving closer to G-d in our spiritual quest for closeness to The Divine. As we got closer, it sometimes felt like G-d has been taking a step back. G-d is smiling. He is helping us take our next step to get comfortable with moving forward in our relationship. 

As we take our steps in building this relationship, we need to remind ourselves that even if we fall from time to time; if we miss a mitzvah e.g. shabbat candles, or aren't able to do our mitzvah 100% yet, we are like children starting to walk. We fall, yet we get up and continue to move closer. 

If it feels like G-d is taking a step back, it is really just Him helping us along in our learning how to walk properly. Soon enough we will be able to walk, and even run and grab onto Him and not let go. 

As Rosh Hashanah comes upon us, let’s continue to take our steps; walking, running, falling, and getting up. Let us keep on connecting and getting ready to dance with Hashem as we are blessed with an amazing year!

Have an amazing last Shabbos of 5780!

With blessings for an amazing Shana Tova; a happy, healthy and sweet 5781,

Rabbi Kushi  

 

Fire at Chabad of UD

Fire at Chabad of UD

On Tuesday Aug 25th, close to midnight, a fire was started at the University of Delaware Chabad. The fire was set at the back of the house, but the damages spread throughout the entire property. This was not an accident. This was arson. This is bigger than just one house. This is about students losing their Jewish home away from home.

This is bigger than Chabad and UD. This is hatred and anti-Semitism. 

Let's explore the source of hate! 

According to the Chassidic masters, evil comes from untamed emotions.  Those untamed emotions can cloud our thinking and we do things that are wrong. 

Community members reached out and asked how do we fight evil? Why don't we go out to the streets and protest? 

I think protests, many times, lead to further untamed emotions. This causes people to do similar things that they are protesting against! If we get together and protest, perhaps we will end up burning down another house or two. We may feel justified and we may even be justified. However, it perpetuates the cycle of violence.

What can we do?  

1) We can make a contribution to help them rebuild a bigger and better "little blue house" at Chabad of UD at www.UDFireRelief.com.

2) We can work on being intentional. Are we eating because we are bored or to be able to serve G-d?

3) Be proud that your Jewish and show it with pride. Post on FB/IG a picture of your unlit shabbat candles with a link to harfordchabad.org/candles to show others how to light. Wear a kippa out in public or show it in other public ways. 

Most importantly do good, intentionally. Get your emotions worked up, but channel them to increase mitzvahs and good in the world.

Ultimately, darkness disappears when there is even a small light! Let’s add in light!

Rabbi Kushi

P.S. If you want to receive a weekly shabbat times text, let me know.

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