Rabbi's Blog

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

Make amends

Today is Chai Elul, the 18th day of the month of Elul. It is the birthday of the founder of Chassidism, Rabbi Israel Baal Shem Tov, born in 1698. It is also the day on which his "spiritual grandson," the founder of Chabad, Rabbi Schneur Zalman of Liadi, was born, in 1745.

Chai means life. It is also the number 18 in Hebrew. 

Chassidim are known to say, “Chai Elul gives life to the month of Elul” and “that each of the 12 days from Chai Elul until Rosh Hashana represents fixing another month of the past year”. 

Each day we get to think back to last year and try to rectify any mistakes from that month. Doing so breaths a new life into the month Elul, the month of closeness to G-d and introspection to foster a healthy relationship with G-d.

The work of the month of Elul is not just lip service, it's about making amends.

Perhaps, borrowing from the 12 step programs, at the beginning of the month we work on step 4, make a searching and fearless moral inventory of ourselves.

Then, from Chai Elul onward, we work on steps 8 and 9, make a list of all the people (and G-d) we had harmed and take steps to make amends with them wherever possible (except when to do so would injure them or others).

What do you think? 


P.s. for reference 

18 Elul Today = Tishrei
19 Elul Friday = Cheshvan
20 Elul Shabbat = Kislev
21 Elul Sunday = Tevet
22 Elul Monday = Shevat
23 Elul Tuesday = Adar
24 Elul Wednesday = Nissan
25 Elul Thursday = Iyar
26 Elul Friday = Sivan
27 Elul Shabbat = Tammuz
28 Elul Sunday = Av
29 Elul Monday = Elul

Time to pay up!

Someone gave me a lot of good this past year. I have been blessed with another child and blessed with health during a pandemic. I am blessed with a wonderful community that has embraced us and blessed with a new Chabad house/capital campaign that is moving along. The community is blessed with our largest Hebrew school year in the history of Harford Chabad.

All of this was given on credit. I just got a text from The Creditor saying, "Kushi, your loan is due. It's time to pay up for all the goodness I bestowed upon you and the community.”

I wrote back: "Dear G-d, I am here! I am ready to return the goodness that you have bestowed upon me, my family, and my community. I plan on paying it back by returning to who I am at my core! I am going to recommit to following the mitzvot you have asked of me! I know I slipped at least a few times over the past year, and for that I apologize and will work on improving. They say that for the next few weeks, you are allowing meetings with everyone, I look forward to hanging with you. - Kushi"

Not a minute later and I got a text back, "Kushi, we are good. You work on getting to your core, and on Rosh Hashana I will wipe out the loan and give you more good things on credit. Try to stay true to your soul identity. - G-d"

Count your blessings and pay back The Creditor. He will forgive part of the loan plus give you more goodness on credit.

Good Shabbos,

Rabbi Kushi Schusterman
Based on a Chassidic Discourse Ani L’dodi 5734


you can't wait until life isn't hard anymore before you decide to be happy!

Jane Marczewski, who goes by the stage name Nightbirde won the hearts of the judges of Americas Got Talent. She sang a song which describes her battle with cancer. She wasn't able to make it to the finals because of the cancer. Please say a prayer for her.

When she won the "golden buzzer", she said "You can't wait until life isn't hard anymore before you decide to be happy!" Nightbirde - Jun 8, 2021.

In the Declaration of Independence we are told "they derive rights inherent & inalienable, among which are the preservation of life, & liberty, & the pursuit of happiness;". However, as Nightbirdie said, happiness is a choice.

Jane says she has a chance at living. Jane has beaten cancer before!

All day, all night, now I can't hide
Said I knew myself but I guess I lied
It's okay, it's okay, it's okay, it's okay
If you're lost, we're all a little lost and it's alright

We do not have a TV at home and I rarely hear news from AGT. The Baal Shem Tov teaches that "Every single thing that a person sees or hears, is an instruction to him in his conduct in the service of G‑d." Reading about Nightbirdie and her story as we began the month of Elul, the month of introspection and preparation for the High Holidays, it made me think:

Said I knew myself but I guess I lied. Do I know myself?

The pursuit of happiness is a misnomer. You have a right to be happy. If you choose to be, you can be! 

Are we all a little lost? Is it alright? Should we be trying to find our way back?

When she says it's alright because we are all a little lost? Is it alright?

What do you think?

Have a good Shabbos,

May you be inscribed and sealed for good,

Rabbi Kushi Schusterman

Not more and not less

I have a Rabbi with whom I consult with when there is a halachic matter that is 'above my paygrade'. I don't recall the issue that had come up, but let's say it was that I mixed the chicken soup with a dairy spoon. Doubting the kosher status of the soup, I asked my Rabbi if it was allowed to be eaten. He told me it was kosher. I was uncomfortable with the diagnosis; that something clearly having some non-kosher status was being permitted. I mentioned my hesitation to the rabbi, and he said (I am paraphrasing): It's kosher and not eating it is wasting it. Don't be holier than G-d. 

As we grow in our spiritual journey, we often decide to be holier than G-d. For example, not being comfortable with a specific permitted, or even required, spiritual practice which seems benign. Jewish law requires you to act like a mensch. This may, at times, come at the expense of other important spiritual pursuits. Do I attend the Torah class or help with bedtime? Both are important. Which one is the one that G-d wants from me now?

When I read the verses 'Everything I command you that you shall be careful to do it. You shall neither add to it nor subtract from it.' (Deut 13;1), I recognize that this is an important piece of the journey.

We need to be careful to do what G-d wants. Just as it is important not to subtract from what G-d wants, it is just as important not to add. Don't make a mitzvah out of being holier than G-d. If the soup is kosher, it is your responsibility to elevate it. If it's not kosher, you cannot eat it. 

So now - go do what G-d wants!  Not more and not less :)

Have a good shabbos,

Rabbi Kushi Schusterman 

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