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Rabbi's Blog

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

Spirit + Ritual = Spiritual

“Imagine the sun above you, picture it radiating from within itself, shining its light out through space, through the layers of our atmosphere, through the clouds, through a skylight, through a thin curtain stretched across the skylight, through the space between the curtain and you and all the way into your skin and deep into you. Think of the light as a single reality in all of the above mentioned phases at the same time…”

I got this in an email from a friend, describing the innovation to Judaism of the fifth Chabad Rebbe, the Rebbe Rashab, who passed away in 1920. He was reminding me that it was the Rebbe Rashab’s birthday, born in 1860. For some reason, I couldn’t get the email out of my head.

Judaism has two parts; the ritual, the mitzvos, the set of practices that empower you to reveal the infinite light within your soul and to reveal the soul in everything around us. At the same time, the Rebbe Rashab revealed, not only are we revealing a light, but we are also creating a new energy when we put these rituals into practice. When we do another mitzvah, we actually create a new spark, a new warmth and a new energy in the world around us.

Spirit + Ritual = Spiritual 

Many people view Judaism as a culture. Others view it as a set of rules and laws. In reality, it is the fusion of ritual and the creation of spirit that unites the physical and the intangible. This combination gives us the ability to literally transform the world and create things out of thin air, to create an energy that makes the world around us a place where G-d will feel at home and where we express our truest identity.

As I spend some time this weekend with fellow Chabad rabbis from around the world, it’s an opportunity for each of us, as rabbis, to ensure that the light of our souls has not dimmed and that our communities are continuing to benefit from this light. We are consistently reminded that the ultimate goal is to make the world the place where G-d feels comfortable, and His essence can be revealed in a tangible way. The only way to do this is by each and every one of us creating this light, by doing another mitzvah.

Have a good Shabbos,

There will not be services at Chabad this week.

Rabbi Kushi Schusterman

Listen to Sarah - Disconnect to connect

Nate Burleson is a TV host who recently interviewed his daughter about social media use. A community member mentioned the interview to me and how apropos that it’s connected to this week’s Torah portion.

As a parent, the main question asked when making rules and boundaries etc. with your child is, what is best for this child?

Sarah and Avraham had a child named Yitzchak. His older half-brother Yishmael seemed to be a potentially negative influence on him. Sarah demanded of Avraham to expel Yishmael, along with his mother Hagar, from the household. Avraham had initial misgivings. However, G-d told him: "Whatever Sarah tells you, listen to her voice!"

As an adult, I too have negative influences in my life and my time. I give myself reasons and misgivings as to why I should continue to use them.

Avraham had holy reasons as to why Yishmael should remain at home. However, in this situation, G-d told him to listen to Sarah.

When we have a negative influence in our lives, or in our children’s lives, we need to listen to the Sarahs in our lives.

According to the Kabbalah, Sarah embodied the divine attribute of Malchus (royalty). In a nutshell, Malchus is the ability to take the original intention and transform it into the final manifestation. To take the huge idea and narrow it down to a meme fit for social media, while including the entire idea. When Malchus says get rid of it, that is the voice you should listen to.

How do you tap into your Malchus? Humility and listening. G-d tells Avraham to listen to her voice. Don’t just “hear her out”, listen and pay attention. Sometimes we need to expel the negative, sometimes we need to disconnect to connect, sometimes we need to accept constructive criticism so we can grow.

I use social media less than I used to and I am blessed with people who are honest with me and tell me where I need to get better.

What can you do to disconnect to connect to expel the negative influences from your life?

Have a great Shabbos (another time we disconnect to connect),

Rabbi Kushi Schusterman

Nate Burleson - Social media and its effects on youth development and mental health https://youtu.be/xvmeizvQILc

Video about connection and disconnection - https://youtu.be/-XiSIGPIi7s

Decentralize and find your promised land.

Avraham is told in this week’s Torah portion, Parshas Lech Lecha, to go out. To leave the centralized structures that he has built around himself. “From your land, from your birthplace and from your father’s house.”

So many things that we do is because that is the way culture taught us. Some are from the environment in which we were born, and some are from how we were nurtured.

During the 1960s, young people were becoming increasingly distrustful of parents and teachers. This led them to turn from the values and traditions with which they had been raised.

It seems they were following the instruction to Avraham to leave the constraints, the central structures that are around them.

The Rebbe viewed this as decentralizing the negative parts of Judaism. What one may call a shallow or watered-down Jewish experience.

The youth were searching for something deeper.

The Rebbe even wrote this in a letter

"We are seeing this awakening primarily among the youth, who experience everything with a greater depth and a greater intensity. Young people also have no fear of changing their lifestyle, as long as they are convinced that they are being given the truth, without compromise and equivocation...

..... if only they are given the truth in its purity. We have witnessed in actuality that those who are not intimidated and present the truth without equivocation have been met with a true response among the youth."

"History repeats itself" or as Ecclesiastes says, “There’s nothing new under the sun”.

Now is another time we need to ask ourselves: is it time for me to leave my view on religion, spirituality and G-d behind? The one I solidified 10 years ago or maybe 20, 30, of 40 years ago. The one that I bought into and codified as the official view.

Perhaps, if I am willing, when I leave MY land, MY birthplace, MY father’s house I will find more then I ever imagined. The journey may be arduous but, in the end, I will find MY promised land. The one that Hashem chose for me, based on Torah and Mitzvos.

Avraham was 75 when he started his journey. We can also take this journey. We need to be willing to make that leap of faith.

Have a Good Shabbos,

Rabbi Kushi Schusterman 

There is no such thing as a free lunch!

There is an expression "there is no such thing as a free lunch".

Everything comes at a cost. Sometimes, this means that saying “yes, I will help you" means saying “no, I can't help the other person".

If I attend something at 7:00 PM, I cannot help with bedtime. If I do bedtime, I can't be out at that time.

Unity in general is a very powerful tool. When we are unified, peace reigns and blessings flow.

Humanity tried to tap into this unity without sacrificing their ego. They got together to build a great monument that would help wandering shepherds find their way back to the city, while creating a sense of national pride. This was to be known as "The tower of Bavel".

There was only one issue, the group had no humility. They wanted the freedom to live their lives however they pleased, with no responsibility. This doesn't work. Unity only brings blessing when it is for the greater good. When you are humble enough to fight for the cause more than for your position. If I can do whatever I (the ego, royal I") want in the name of unity, it brings destruction.

In simple English: if you can't admit that you made a mistake and will try to rectify it because YOUR view is more important than the mission, then the unity is destructive.

There is no such thing as a free lunch. Unity comes at the cost of your ego. But the result is blessings. Is it worth the price? 

A meditation: G-d gives unlimited positive untapped energy. I can tap into that energy and convert that energy to anything in this diverse world. In order to tap into it and transform the energy, I need to ensure that my friendships and relationships (my personal unity) are not based solely on mutual benefit but on shared values and purpose. These values must reign supreme with me keeping my ego in check.

When I study Torah and pray or do good deeds, I will do them with humility, knowing that others can do the same.

Have a good shabbos,

Rabbi Kushi Schusterman

You are the world!

The world was created. G-d made birds, trees, and animals and then G-d created a human being.

Everything in the world was created in multiples. Numerous trees, birds and animals were created at one time. Besides for man. Man was created as a singular existence. Why?

My favorite answer is because the whole world was created for a single human being. YOU!

There are 3 messages that we can take from this:
1) You are the world; you are super important! All of existence was created for you!
2) You will be blessed with everything you need. After all, the world was created for you!
3) You carry a great responsibility. The world is waiting for you to elevate it for good, with additional acts of goodness and kindness.

A meditation from the Rambam:
A person should always consider the whole world as equi-balanced. Therefore, if one does an additional mitzvah, he places himself, as well as the entire world, in the scale of merit, outweighing the negative side.

May we all be blessed with a year of changing the world to be a better place, with the coming of Moshiach now!

Have a great Shabbos!

Rabbi Kushi Schusterman

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