Rabbi's Blog

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

Calm before the storm

Sukkos is the end of the "holiday season". On some level it is the beginning of the year. As I think about my Sukkos this year, it has been relatively quiet. 

It's not just this year, due to COVID, that it's the calm before a year full of programs. Sukkos is always the calm which guides the storm, making everything work with purpose.

This year is a Shmittah year. When the Torah tells us the laws of Shmittah, the "sabbatical year", the Torah says "Speak to the children of Israel and you shall say to them: When you come to the land that I am giving you, the land shall be given a complete rest, a Sabbath to the L-rd.  You may sow your field for six years, and for six years you may prune your vineyard, and gather in its produce. But in the seventh year, the land shall have a complete rest, a Sabbath to the L-rd; you shall not sow your field, nor shall you prune your vineyard."

The Torah starts by telling us about the "sabbatical", the calm, at the end of the six-year period. This teaches us that first and foremost we need to recognize that Hashem is in charge of everything. Our purpose in this world is to commit ourselves to a higher purpose. First the calm, the holiness and spirituality, and only afterwards can you work the six years. The week can only get busy "making a living" if "in the beginning" you know it ends with Shabbos, Hashem.

Sukkos is the holiday of Joy, usually infused with big meals, lots of people etc. The message I heard this year is first recognize that the goal of everything is doing what Hashem wants. Sometimes this means a calm, not the myriad of programs we have planned. Only after that recognition can we get all the programs up and running. The goal of the programs is uplifting the world. 

So as medical science allows me to run services again, I invite you to join me on Shabbos for services at 10 AM, Tuesday at 7 PM for the yizkor memorial service followed by Hakafot, the Simchat Torah dancing, or Wednesday at 10 AM for services followed by Hakafot.

Can’t make it this week?
Text the word "events" to 443-770-2829 and see what it sends back and RSVP :) :) 

Have a good Shabbos,

Rabbi Kushi Schusterman 

My light


Between Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur, I am generally busy preparing for Yom Kippur and Sukkos. Which sermon to say when? How many people can we fit in the sukkah for dinner? Should we do another program?

Over the past year I heard many times, Kushi I don't know how you do it all. I’ll admit, it feels good to be appreciated. It feeds the ego to know you are doing more than many others. It's great for fundraising to be able to say your dollar goes further with Chabad. It also feels great to actually do more and be active.

This year, it's relatively quiet now. I am wondering why Hashem gave me Covid now? What does Hashem want from me? What is Yom Kippur supposed to look like at home? Away from our community, from shul?

I do not know what He wants from me. I think I might need to find meaning in the quiet, in the need for a break, in the ability to say I can't. To surrender. To focus more on prayer and my connection to Hashem.

• I can't do it all. I am not even supposed to.
• Fraida and I don't need to always do another program, just because it's a good idea.
• I need to learn to trust you, our community, more. That you will observe what you can, and you'll reach out if we can help.
• I must learn to focus inward, on praying when I pray, not doing other things “simultaneously”.

It is written in the Hayom Yom:
We are "day workers." Talmud Eruvin 65a. 
What does this mean? Day means light. 
Our work is to illuminate and enlighten the world with the light of the Torah. 
Besides the necessity of being what we ought to be, our whole service of G-d is to be privileged to develop students. Students who are devoted with heart and mind to the inner intention or purpose of our existence. 
Our disciples must know that it is not sufficient to study the Revealed Torah and to cherish the Sacred by observing mitzvot; there must also be avoda sheb'leiv, the service of the heart, namely prayer.

For this year,
• I hope that I could surrender and be more of a conduit, more of a light.
• I hope to be a light that shines because my inner light is glowing.
• I hope my light will be radiant during prayer as my relationship with Hashem deepens.
• I hope to be a light that knows when to say no. Sometimes a no now is a yes to something greater.
• I hope that this year the world sees no more covid and next year on Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur we can max out the capacity of the Haven for Harford, the new "Harford Chabad Center for Jewish Life".


Wishing you to be signed and sealed for a blesses year

 Rabbi Kushi Schusterman

P.S. See the Yom Kippur Schedule Below 

usurping power

Rosh Hashanah is the beginning of the new year. This Shabbos, the Shabbos between Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur, is known as Shabbos Shuva. The Torah portion that we read this week, begins with the word vayelech - and he went. Moses went to speak to the Jewish people.

The commentaries question why does it tell us that Moses went to speak and not just that he spoke to the Jewish people?

Joshua was already appointed as the next leader. Moses felt that he shouldn't usurp Joshua's power. Vayelech - and he went, shows that this was an active behavior and not business as usual, like the other times that Moses spoke to the Jewish people.

Perhaps that's one of the messages we can take from Rosh Hashanah. We've taken on good resolutions, things that we should do better. We need to make sure that our becoming better does not come at the expense of those around us.

Several years ago, I was encouraging a community member to continue coming to Shabbos day services, seeing that he enjoyed it yet was considering stopping to attend. When he mentioned that his wife did not appreciate him going to services, I told him that when he is able to come, he needs to ensure that his going to services inspires him to be a better husband, a better father, and more involved with the family the rest of that day.

Why do services need to directly connect with being a better husband?

The concern was that services seemed to be usurping the power of family. This way, coming to services will enhance the family energy.

When you review your new year resolutions, make sure they are also enhancing the experience of the people around you. Ensure that your good deeds enhance the power of others. In doing so, they will also become more invigorated.

Have a great Shabbos and may you be sealed for a good year!

Rabbi Kushi Schusterman

better judgment

Many of us wait until the last minute to file our taxes, give our charitable gifts for the year, as well as many other things.

We all know when Tax Day is and that donations postmarked by December 31st go toward that tax year, but alas we wait till the last minute.

To paraphrase a NY times article 

Etymologically, “procrastination” comes from two words:

"procrastinare" (Latin) - to put off until tomorrow and
"akrasia" (Greek) - doing something against our better judgment.

Procrastination is that I would prefer to feel good now rather than risk a negative feeling. For example: I will not make the donation now as I am afraid to lose the money. I know that giving the donation is the correct thing to do and I will be happy and feel good, in the long run, about helping others. However, pushing it off makes it easier to deal with the short-term feeling of loss.

As it says in the article "The particular nature of our aversion depends on the given task or situation. It may be due to something inherently unpleasant about the task itself — having to clean a dirty bathroom or organizing a long, boring spreadsheet for your boss. But it might also result from deeper feelings related to the task, such as self-doubt, low self-esteem, anxiety or insecurity. "

Rosh Hashanah begins Monday night. The king only has a few more days before He (G-d) goes back to His palace. Let us no longer procrastinate!  What we do to connect in preparation for the big day will help us remain connected long term.

During these last few days before Rosh Hashana, think about one or two things you can do to connect yourself to Hashem in a stronger way. Do what is in your better judgment and choose a path of connection with Hashem, connection with spirituality, connection with other people. Let us all be blessed with a year of revealed goodness, health and the ability to procrastinate less and do more good for ourselves, our families and for the community around us.

Good Shabbos,

Rabbi Kushi Schusterman

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