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Rabbi's Blog

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

Get uncomfortable, it's the way to grow

Sometimes I wake up on the wrong side of the bed.  It happens on occasion that without warning, in the middle of a day, I find myself off kilter, something is not feeling right.  I can’t seem to put my finger on it.  

As both neuroscience has evolved and as a deeper understanding of Chabad philosophy comes to light, I have found some relief.

Tu B’shvat, the celebration of the New Years for trees marked this coming Monday adds some depth to the relief.

When a seed gets planted in the earth, before it begins to grow, it decays.  It’s quite the paradox; in order to grow, I need to rot.  Not decompose, in a bad way like I become less than but rot in a good way, get perspective.  

As long as I’m feeling cocky, feeding my ego, thinking that I am G-d, any growth is going to be limited and fallible, very fallible.   But a little humility becomes a spring board for growth.

Those uncomfortable feelings I’m experiencing are my humanity.  It’s my animals’ reminder that it is an animal and that it needs tending, love and connection.  It doesn’t have to have an explanation any less than a little puppy or kitty cat that is crying needs love or when my little child is whiny and kvetchy.

When I accept that there is a part of me that is still a child, still a little puppy, and will always be that way, I experience humility.   That humility is the rotting that is needed before the tree sprouts forth. 

So I may be a big shot (or as my uncle Schwarzie used to say “a legend in my own mind”), but I am suddenly and without warning reminded that I’m still a child, I still have this little animal inside and that I have plenty more work to do.

The Torah says that “man is the tree of the field”.  As Chamisha Asar b'Shvat - better known as Tu B’shvat - approaches, this is a good reminder to remember that in order to produce happy and healthy fruit, I need to occasionally have some rot and embrace my limitations.

Have a good Shabbos and Happy Tu B’shvat

Rabbi Kushi Schusterman 

Land of the Free ...

Adapted from the writings of Rabbi YY Jacobson based on the Maharal's teachings

We are blessed to live in the United States where we can celebrate our Judaism. However, the Jewish people are still in exile. Jews have been celebrating Passover, their freedom, regardless of the lack of freedom around them.  They celebrated during the inquisition and during the holocaust. Obviously, the celebration of freedom is not simply commemorating the lack of oppression, the ability for frivolous self-indulgence, or getting rid of the yoke of responsibility.

In Egyptian society one was not allowed to dream of self-determination; everything was controlled by the Pharaohs. The freedom of Passover changed the way we think about ourselves. We have a choice to do the right thing, or the opposite. We can choose our future. We can celebrate our ability to be ourselves even when circumstances make it seem impossible. Why? Because we are free.

To quote Viktor Frankl: "Everything can be taken from a man but one thing: the last of the human freedoms—to choose one's attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one's own way."

One of the responsibilities of the Jewish people was, and is, to impart this discovery to all of humanity. We must preserve the freedom and dignity of every individual under the sovereignty of a free G‑d. A G-d who desired free human beings who choose to construct a world founded on

1)      freedom,
2)      the dignity of the individual and
3)      the moral calling to build a fragment of heaven on planet earth.

Our freedom from the Egyptian bondage, read about in this week’s Torah portion, forces us to see ourselves inherently as free. Our very being must cry out in protest against tyranny and cruelty and remain obsessed with the belief that the future must be different. Redemption is yet to come and that a society in which evil and corruption rules cannot endure.

Reading about the Jews leaving Egypt reminds us of the awareness and yearning of freedom, and the conviction that freedom is the innate right of every human being.

Man yearns to reflect G‑d. Man, created in G‑d’s image, yearns to be utterly divine, hence utterly free. It is this G‑dliness inherent in a human being that drives us to constantly challenge and transcend the limits imposed on us, including even the limits of our own nature.

Have a good Shabbos,

Rabbi Kushi Schusterman

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