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ב"ה

Rabbi's Blog

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

Psst, I have a bribe for you.

You are grateful and appreciative when someone helps you out, allowing the relationship to grow.

The Torah tells us that G-d can't be bribed. The Midrash says that if we return to our essence (also known as repentance) and give up on our foolish non-G-dly pursuits, then Hashem forgives us. The midrash calls this a bribe.

If G-d forbid someone steals then pays back what they stole, that is a fair exchange. However, if you accept a penny on the dollar, it can be called a bribe.

On one’s ultimate day of judgement, G-d doesn’t accept bribes. No deals. One is paid in full for their good deeds, and makes full amends for their mistakes. However, when a person is alive and on the road to recovery/repentance, Hashem is willing to cut a deal, a penny on the dollar, an unfair exchange. We just need to start on our journey toward a better life, and He accepts our change despite our minimal but sincere effort. G-d allows himself to be bribed by our sincere efforts to make amends, no different than the thief who’s able to cut a deal with his debtor.

So here is the secret: you can bribe G-d. It takes at least a little work but it is a good investment. Your ’little effort’ reaps boundless rewards, and the "new you" will be more fulfilled as well.

Have a good Shabbos,

Rabbi Kushi Schusterman

Community First

True leadership requires self-sacrifice.

When a leader makes a decision, often we suspect that they are doing so for personal gain. Every person finds himself in a leadership role in some capacity or another. When we are in "leadership mode", we need to ask ourselves, “Am I acting like a proper leader?”

Often, when studying this week’s Torah portion about Moses begging G d to allow him to enter the Land of Israel, we understand it as a leader made a mistake and now he is paying the price and hoping to change the outcome. Simple as that. 

However, the Malbim gives a deeper explanation: Had Moses led the people into the Land of Israel, he would have ushered in the Final Redemption, the culmination of human history. All of humankind would have been impacted by the enlightenment of the Messianic Age that would have ensued, but there was a cost.

Moses had to make a choice.

If he enters the land, the messianic era arrives but the generation that he led out of Egypt would not join him in the land, ever. 

If he does not enter the land, he will only see the fulfillment of his lifelong dream thousands of years later when Moshiach arrives, may it be soon.

Moses took a leadership role. He sacrificed his own wellbeing, so the Jews of the desert can enter the land.

We all need to learn from Moses when making decisions. Are we asking ourselves, what’s in it for me?  What’s in it for MY company or for MY community? Or, are we asking the correct question: What is good for the people, the community at large? Am I willing to make sacrifices, real personal sacrifices, "for the people"?

I want to share a powerful Chassidic story that reiterates this point.

One of the Alter Rebbe’s wealthy chassidim’s business affairs took a sharp turn for the worse. Instead of being affluent, he found himself in debt and unable to meet his commitments. Before his financial situation became public knowledge, he hurried to receive advice and blessings from the Alter Rebbe.

At a private audience, he poured out his heart to the Rebbe. The Alter Rebbe responded: “You are speaking about what you need. But you have not given a thought to what you are needed for.”  The chassid fainted. When he came to, he began to devote himself to prayer and study, without thinking of his business concerns.

After the chassid had conducted himself in this fashion for some time, the Alter Rebbe sent for him. Standing before the Rebbe, the Alter Rebbe spoke to him gently: “Now you appreciate G‑d’s truth.... You can return home...; may G‑d grant you success.”

The man made his way home and discovered that the gloomy financial straits in which he found himself could be turned around. Shortly afterwards, his business took off again and he was back to helping others as a wealthy man. 

When one is a true leader with a sense of mission, is helps them see what they are needed for. This awareness helps them think about themselves less. Their commitment to a purpose beyond self, empowers them to make “Moses like decisions” where the benefit of the community is the priority.

Have a good Shabbos! 

Rabbi Kushi Schusterman

are our leaders presumptuous?

A young yeshiva student who has never played piano walks into a hotel and sits down near the beautiful grand piano. Someone turns to him and asks: do you know how to play? He replies ‘mistame’, which translates as most probably.
Similarly, many times, we are asked for information, and we think most probably I can come up with an answer. But is it the right answer?
In rabbinical school, they taught us that our expertise is Rabbinics. Not psychology or something else. When people ask us questions, if it is a rabbinical question, we need to be able to answer correctly. Sometimes we must say the truth; “I don't know” or “I will look it up” as well as referring to a professional in that field.
When studying this week, it made me wonder; did our greatest Jewish leaders struggle with their inability to recognize their own lack of ability (aka the Dunning-Kruger effect)?
Rashi seems to comment that yes, they didn't realize.
Moses said to the judges if the case that is too difficult for you, bring to me, and I will hear it."
Because of this statement, Moses forgot the law regarding the daughters of Zelophchad [in Num. 27:1-5](San. 8a).
Similarly, Samuel answered Saul and said, “I am the seer.”
Whereupon, the Holy One, blessed is He, said to him, “By your life, I will let you know that you do not [always] see [with the holy spirit].” And when did He let him know [this]? When he came to anoint David, “And he saw Eliab [and] he said, ‘Surely, before the Lord is His anointed’ ”. The Holy One, blessed is He, said to him: “Did you not say, ‘I am the seer?’ Look not upon his appearance.” (Sifrei)
Moses was the most humble person alive. Samuel is referred to as the small one. How were they presumptuous to think that they know that they are the seer?
Since studying this, this has been on my mind. What do you think, how were they presumptuous?
I came up with an answer, but I am not sure it's correct. Perhaps the message here is to remind us that when we are overconfident, it's ok. Even Moses and Samuel had their moments. However, like Hashem reminded them to be humble, we need to remind ourselves before Hashem "lets us know".
There are no services this week
Rabbi Kushi Schusterman

3 steps to the holyland

Don't compare your chapter 1 to someone else's chapter 20 - Author Unknown.

We all are on a journey. Each step is another growth moment. Each growth moment is moving out of a previous comfort zone, a previous restriction, either self-imposed or imposed by others/society.

3 steps to get to your destination: 

Plan
To go on a journey, we need to plan. Where is our holyland and how do we reach it? 

Humility
We also need to find ways to stay happy and humble. We can't get depressed that there is more to accomplish or more journeys to take to reach our destination. We also shouldn't feel haughty at how far we’ve come. 

Uniqueness

Each of us has our unique journey. Someone said to me this week "you don't need that support system". What do they know about my journey? I know I need the specific support system I have in place. I was jealous of a friend’s success in a specific area until I recognized that I am at a different stage in my journey then he is. We all have a destination. We are all heading toward our "holyland".

We each need to remember not to take on the whole journey at once. Go one step, one stage at a time. Set your goals on the next stop and eventually you will arrive at your holy land. 

Rabbi Kushi Schusterman

 

 

Consistency

I enjoy looking at data and figuring things out. The most important thing with any grouped information is consistency. Make sure that when you’re writing a number you are using the same format, whether it’s 1, one or I, keep them all the same.

There’s an argument in the midrash about which verse in the Torah is the most important. From the very first verse in Bereishis where it speaks about G-d creating the heaven and earth to the Shema, where it talks about the oneness of G-d.

The winning verse is about the daily sacrifice; bring a cow in the morning and a cow in the evening. This verse supersedes the others because the most important thing in a healthy relationship with G-d is consistency. Ensure that you do the things to build your relationship when things look good, in the morning, and when all you see is darkness on the horizon, in the evening. Surrounding events should not interfere with your connection to G-d.  

If you don’t yet, light Shabbos candles and then make it a consistent behavior. Details at www.harfordchabad.org/candles

Wishing you a wonderful Shabbos.

Rabbi Kushi Schusterman

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