Rabbi's Blog

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

Spiritual social media

This is not about whether someone should or should not be on social media. At Harford Chabad our goal is to increase the spiritual connection for everyone locally. To do that, we need to try different marketing strategies, etc. to see how to attract people.

One of the tests we did was working with Daniel Gavin and William Zahn from the C.T. Bauer College of Business. Their students ran a few weeks of strategic social media marketing. There were many lessons we learned from the team, but the most common message for Harford Chabad was "don't use stock images" and don't use "stock messages". 

The Baal Shem Tov’s cardinal teaching that one should learn something from everything he sees and hears was very noticeable here. As we approach Lag Ba’omer, when we celebrate the life of Rabbi Shimon Bar Yochai, the author of the Zohar and founder of Kabbalah, I realized this is one of the keys to Jewish spirituality. 

Much of Judaism has to do with laws; defined spiritual practices known as Mitzvot. They have an exact science. This is how you connect, this is how you get your connection in place. In social media, it would be called "posting", whether it is on Facebook, Instagram or Twitter.

To strengthen a spiritual connection, make sure your connection is not some stock post. One shouldn’t pray the same way every day or study using one's "stock template" to connect with G-d.

To create a real relationship, to really connect and follow G-d, one needs to invest more of their REAL self. We should pray to tell G-d why we are angry at Him or to thank G-d for the good in our life. When studying, use variety in the style of how you learn as well as what topics you explore. Watch, read or listen to a Torah/bible class, Chassidic thought, or Talmud dissertation etc.

Do this and your spirituality will have a great ROI. Do this in your social media and you will have a great ROI as well. 

Oh and one more message from the study: do it consistently, daily and even a few times a day - which applies to social media and spirituality as well.

Have a spiritual day and change the world :),

Rabbi Kushi Schusterman
P.S. Thank you to the MS Marketing ‘21  students who worked with us throughout this process: Sri Sridhar, May Tran, Rachel Clarke, Maddie Deane, Yang Hu.

Create a better world

When you were a kid, did your mother ever tell you to pick up a piece of garbage on the floor in a room you had just walked out of?

“But I’m not the one who put it there!” you protested.

She shook her head. “Yes, but it doesn’t matter. You should always leave a place better than you found it.”

Someone stole something. The judge told them to return it. The thief said he couldn’t as the item was destroyed.

Judaism teaches us that the individual needs to make amends not only because they need to return the stolen item, but because they are living in a world where a person can steal. A world which they are essentially announcing has no leader, no higher power and no guide.

When someone steals in secret, they are saying that G-d doesn’t see them and they can do whatever they please. Why? Because I can!

The Talmud compares theft to idol worship. Idol worship is saying that there is something that is real and controls the world that is greater than G-d.

When we act in a way that allows theft, we are allowing ourselves to live in a world where G-d isn’t allowed.

The global pandemic showed us how suddenly and radically the world can be rewired because of a virus that originated in a bat.

Why not for the good?

We are each unique individuals but our actions have an effect on the world around us. Just like the thief creates a world where “G-d isn’t allowed”, we can create a world of goodness where G-d is in charge.

We do this by doing daily acts of goodness and kindness and/or by acknowledging the acts of kindness done by others and by judging people favorably.

What are you doing to create a better world around you?

Rabbi Kushi Schusterman

Authentic Forgiveness

Dear Rabbi,

As you know before one goes to sleep, they make an examination of the entire day, checking in on one’s relationships and forgiving by saying:

“Master of the universe! I hereby forgive anyone who has angered or vexed me, or sinned against me…” (see below for the full prayer said before going to bed).

I believe that I am an authentic individual. How can I say this prayer forgiving someone and then, when I see them next, I am still angry at them? They stole money from me in business and besmirched my reputation.

Your Friend,

Still hurting 

Hey Still hurting,

I think there are two parts to this. One is how to protect yourself; are you required to continue to do business with someone who has hurt you? Are you required to remain in an unhealthy relationship, in the name of forgiveness?  To that question the unequivocal answer is no! The Torah requires that we protect ourselves and keep ourselves healthy and safe. This includes being emotionally safe.

Forgiveness means that you take the personal anger out of the equation. For whatever reason, you were not supposed to receive the funds that that person scammed you out of. You can be angry that you lost the money yet recognize that having those funds was not part of the divine plan.

Forgiving means trusting that Hashem has a plan (this is not easy and a lifelong journey that we all go through) and believing that no human being has power over me. Forgiveness is really trusting in G-d and letting go of that other person’s baggage. Freeing yourself to live a truly authentic life with a real relationship with Hashem.

It’s a much larger discussion, but does this answer your question?

Rabbi Kushi Schusterman 

Text of the prayer in english - from the Tehillat Hashem Siddur:
Master of the universe! I hereby forgive anyone who has angered or vexed me, or sinned against me either physically or financially, against my honor or anything else that is mine, whether accidentally or intentionally, inadvertently or deliberately, by speech or by deed, in this incarnation or in any other—any Israelite; may no man be punished on my account. May it be Your will. Lord my God and God of my fathers, that I shall sin no more, nor repeat my sins; neither shall I again anger You, nor do what is wrong in Your eyes. The sins that I have committed, erase in Your abounding mercies, but not through suffering or severe illnesses. May the words of my mouth and the meditation o f my heart be acceptable before You, Lord, my Strength and my Redeemer.־ - Followed by the Shema

Don’t go kosher but eat kosher

Dear Rabbi,

When we spoke, you said I may want to start looking for Kosher symbols on the food I buy. You also said even if I don’t “go kosher”, I can start to “eat kosher”. Isn’t it all or nothing? Is there such a thing as a partial mitzvah?


N.S.K. (Not So Kosher) 

Dear N.S.K.,

I did say that. Kosher isn’t all or nothing. It is a process. The concept of going kosher means that you need to start and then continue as you are ready. It is this way with all mitzvos – you gotta start somewhere! Then, keeping your eye on the goal, keep going in the right direction. Since you said you are committed to the goal of buying only kosher products, that is a great start! You have begun the process.

So looking for Kosher symbols is ok if it is 100% commitment. If it is a half/partial commitment, then…. We need to talk about it again face to face ;).

So where do we get together next? Coffee with masks or a supermarket tour? 

Rabbi Kushi Schusterman

P.S. I don’t remember if you were raised keeping kosher or are you starting to discover what it is all about?

Here is a PDF of kosher symbols 

Learn more about kosher here

If you want to go all in look at these two books:
Going Kosher in 30 Days”   
The Kosher Kitchen 

Have an amazing and kosher Shabbos,

Rabbi Kushi Schusterman

Relationships require risk

“Those who have a 'why' to live, can bear with almost any 'how'.” Victor E. Frankl

To take the risk of being vulnerable there has to be a why.  Why is this relationship worth it? In dealing with human relationships the answer is clear.  The relationship with my spouse, parent, child, co-worker IS worth it. So, I will risk the vulnerability commensurate with the depth of the relationship I want to have.

But what of our relationship with G-d? Does it work the same way?

These final two days of Passover that begin Friday night answer this question and brings forth this idea in a meaningful way. 

The Jews stood at the edge of the sea. Behind them their captors for 210 years - the Egyptians.  There weren't many options.  In fact all of the anxieties and their voices that could surface, did. 

  1. Commit suicide - never give in.
  2. Give in to our captors and return to Egypt - we are after all inherently slaves. 
  3. Fight them - even to death just so not to go down like sheep to the slaughter. 
  4. Pray to G-d - He is the only one that could help. 

Do you see yourself in these angsts?

Only one person was willing to face his vulnerabilities.  His name was Nachshon.

Nachshon said, yes these are strong feelings all of them.  I should get them analyzed and checked out with a therapist as to why I have such strong feelings.  But right now it's a time for action.  Right now there is a relationship to be had and so I need to take the risk and be vulnerable.  And he did. He marched forward into the water not knowing how it was going to end and of course the rest is history. 

Why did he do it?

Because, even a relationship with G-d requires risk and vulnerability. G-d said to go to Mt. Sinai and so Nachshon says I must go. But there is an ocean in the way, there are obstacles to this relationship, there are world views and perspectives that I've adopted, and all of this goes counter to one thing; moving my relationship with G-d forward.

The proof is in the pudding, the sea split, the Jews crossed over and arrived at Sinai materially and spiritually richer for it, in a more profound relationship with G-d.

The why is what drives us.  We don't see G-d and in fact sometimes the challenges can be so great like an ocean in front of us that cause us to question the entire foundation of this relationship.

Asking ourselves Is this something I even want to be invested in?

Like every relationship we'll get out of it what we put into it. 

Are you willing to take the risk for a close relationship with Gd?

Have a good Shabbos and a good Yom Tov.

Rabbi Kushi Schusterman

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