Rabbi's Blog

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

Can we handle the unfiltered truth?

This past week on Tuesday, the 24th of Teves, December 28, we commemorated the 209th passing of the Alter Rebbe, the first Chabad Rebbe, while fleeing from the onslaught of Napoleon, whom he opposed bitterly. His ohel (resting place) is in the Russian town of Haditch.

Tuesday night I joined a chassidic gathering on zoom. The facilitator spoke about an adage “had the Alter Rebbe not required absolute truth, he would have had fifty thousand more Chassidim.  But, the Rebbe demands the trait of truth”. 

In order to grow spiritually, the first ingredient is unfiltered truth, self reflection, where you can recognize your strengths and deficiencies.

It's easy to claim to be supportive of a cause, but do you do something about it? 

Think about it in politics, if you "support a candidate" but don't actually go out and vote, your support is just lip service.

The Alter Rebbe wasn't looking for pseudo chassidim, those claiming to want a relationship with Hashem.

He wanted people who were willing to do the hard work, to build a relationship, including the true self introspection. 

Can we handle the truth?

Are we willing to join the Chassidim?

Rabbi Kushi Schusterman

Change. It's scary.

I had a meeting this morning with a community member. We spoke about some changes that need to be made to really cater to each individual; to deliver the correct Jewish experience for each person. If we can successfully deliver on this plan, we will encounter divinity revealed.

The Torah experience was never intended to be reserved for a select few. It is an opportunity that each and every one of us has the ability to engage in, if we only allow ourselves to.

When Moses first encountered the burning bush, his initial reaction was to flee. He recognized that it was a revelation of the Divine in this world and he was not sure it was meant for a human being to experience.

G-d’s first words to Moses were, “Remove your shoes for you stand on holy ground.” He did not tell him to avoid the revelation of spirituality in this world. G-d was implying that with the proper approach, anyone can experience and benefit from G-dliness.

With the correct attitude and preparation, we too can be privy to Divine revelation within the physical world that we inhabit. We just need to remember to ‘remove our shoes’ and not run away.

Good Shabbos,

Rabbi Kushi Schusterman

How do I reprimand someone?

Parents at times need to redirect their child. Sometimes in telling them they did something wrong, at other times, to give them guidance to not do the wrong thing.

Jacob is on his deathbed and calls for all his children. He starts to give them guidance for how they should live and reprimands them for mistakes they made.

How did Jacob’s children react? Rashi comments that "Because he rebuked the first three tribes in harsh terms Judah began to move away... Jacob therefore recalled him with words that would soothe him…”

Every story in the Torah has a relevant lesson for us. What is the message for us from this story? How do we guide our children on the correct path?

When you look at the conversation Jacob had with his children, it wasn’t one on one but all of them together. Judah heard the rebuke given to his older brothers, and they in turn heard the blessings of the younger children. Even though he calls out each one, the messages were to all of them. Most of the conversation is blessings and positive reinforcement while giving clarity of the standards and expectations of what it means to be ‘the children of Israel’.

When we need to rebuke someone, do we ask ourselves first if our standards and expectations are clear?

When we need to reprimand someone, do we ask ourselves if we are willing to have a 3-1 ratio, with more praise?

I am still in this process of "Rabbi"ing and parenting. I am still learning and far from perfect. But I think this is a good start.

What do you think?

Rabbi Kushi Schusterman

When you thought you were burying me, I was being planted!

Have you ever been hurt by someone else? 

Did something that someone else did seem to change the trajectory of your life in a big way or a small way? 

How do we deal with the anger, the disappointment, the frustration that someone else's actions caused to my life?

For this we turn to Joseph in this week’s Torah portion. 

The story in short is that his brothers hated him and sold him to the slave trade market, thinking that would be the end of him. The track of his life after that took him to jail, a dream interpreter and eventually after many years of anguish and languishing, he eventually makes his way to the top and becomes viceroy of Egypt.

A famine brought to him these brothers who changed his life seemingly in a negative way. He then had his chance to get the long-deserved revenge on his brothers. To right the wrong that had been plaguing him for decades. Instead, in a most unexpected plot twist, he tells his brothers, “You didn't send me here, G-d sent me so that I can provide life sustenance to you and the world."

Joseph was telling his brothers: you may have thought you were burying me, however, I was being planted. G-d tended to me so I would grow! You may have been the tool to seemingly ruin my life. I can see the bigger picture and realize that even your violations against me were part of G-d's master plan.

Maybe we could find a way to dig so deep in ourselves and forgive those who have wronged us.

How does one celebrate the wrong? Can we realize that in the Master Plan, this too was part of G-d’s blueprint to give me the life I need, not just the life I thought I wanted?

It is a major ask, but it is also a game changer. If only we could get to this holy space.

It's not easy, but we must try.

Rabbi Kushi Schusterman

Written by Rabbi Nechemia Schusterman
Inspired by Rabbi YY Jacobson
Besser Gemacht by Rabbi Kushi 


surviving? time to revive...

On Chanukah we celebrate the survival of the Jewish people when the Sadducees (Syrian Greeks) tried to destroy their soul. They outlawed many mitzvot that seemed to not make any sense; mitzvot like shabbat and bris milah (circumcision).

The word survive comes from sur – additional and - vive - living. On Chanukah, despite the challenges the Jewish people faced, we survived and continue to live. On Chanukah, the temple was rededicated and thank G-d, Judaism has an extra life.

There is another word that is similar, revive. re- back and vive – living; alive again.

This Chanukah, I prefer to focus on the revival of Judaism, not just the survival. On Chanukah, we celebrate not additional life, but going back to the life we once lived. The life that is soul focused. The life that mitzvot aren't done (only) because they make sense, but because they are the expression of who we are.

Yes, we need to survive. However, we also need to revive and refresh our souls. We need to focus on going back to our core.

According to certain kabbalistic sources, Chanukah is the very end of the High Holiday season. On Chanukah we go back to our core identity, not through fasting but as a result of reviving the soul that may have been dormant. On Chanukah we do teshuva (return to our core process) in a very joyous and light filled way that doesn't only affect us but also shines and puts a glow on the people around us.

So, revive yourself and shine!

Happy Chanukah

Rabbi Kushi Schusterman 


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