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Rabbi's Blog

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

Three tips for your Thanksgiving dinner

As we gather together on Thanksgiving there is always noise.

An important thing we should think about is the impact of what we say. There are always stories, gossip, politics etc. that can ruin a good experience. Our job is to be very careful not to share these types of stories even when they are true.

We see this in this week's Torah portion. It tells us "It came to pass when Isaac was old, and his eyes were too dim to see". Isaac at the time was only middle aged (for that time) and remained blind for the last third of his life. The commentaries say one of the reasons that G-d made Isaac blind was in order for Jacob to receive the blessings. G-d could have told Isaac the truth about Esau, that he serves idols and is inappropriate. But instead, G-d wanted us to remember that it is worth it for Isaac to be blind so long as we do not slander Esau, despite the fact that he was not a good person.

So, the first thing to discuss on Thanksgiving:

Talk - How we can talk nicely about others. Perhaps try this story "A pillow full of feathers"

Share - Tell a Torah thought - you can find one here

Thank - Don't forget to make blessings on the kosher food. There is always some kosher food at the meal. Make a blessing on those foods even if at the moment you aren't yet fully kosher here is a link to the blessing.

I am thankful for you!

Have a good Shabbos and join us for a baby naming and yummy dairy kiddush in shul

Rabbi Kushi Schusterman

Is G-d stuck in traffic?

In a fascinating change from the typical short form of the Torah, this week’s Torah portion spends 67 verses talking about Eliezer, the “servant” of Avraham, searching for a bride for Isaac.

It tells us the story in detail twice.

Why? 

Many people see G-d as part of their life in the synagogue. During a Torah class. Or, even when eating a Shabbat meal.

But traffic? Travels? The delay? Arriving early? Where is G-d there?

One of the reasons the Torah gives this extra-long story in detail, and repeats it, is to teach us that G-d derives a special pleasure from His partnership with us as we go about our daily lives, integrating and finding G-d in the most simple and mundane details of our daily narrative.

There are no services this week as I will be in NY for the International Chabad Conference. Tune in Sunday evening 5:00 PM at HarfordChabad.org/Live.

Have a good Shabbos,

Rabbi Kushi

What's your strategy against apathy?

See something? Say something!
Don't be a bystander!

A woodsman was once asked, “What would you do if you had just five minutes to chop down a tree?” He answered, “I would spend the first two and a half minutes sharpening my axe.”

When we see a problem, the first thing we need to do is create a strategy. Often, we want to take immediate action. However, before we act, we need to ensure that we are moving things in the right direction.

If there is a fire burning, before we throw liquid on the fire, we need to ensure it isn't flammable.

Rashi comments that when Abraham was told by G-d that He wants to destroy Sodom and Gomorrah, he "approached" G-d. This approach obviously cannot be physical as he was already standing before G-d. 

Abraham created a 3-pronged approach: To speak with passion where he may come off as harsh, to try and placate G-d and to pray.

Once he had his strategy organized, Abraham started throwing shade on G-d’s plans. "Will You even destroy the righteous with the wicked?"

We all know someone who is less connected to their Jewish roots. Their Jewish soul is not on fire, and we want to cure the crisis of apathy. 

We need to take a page out of Abraham's playbook. Be passionate about your Judaism. Give your friends Jewish gifts that may take their dormant spark and reignite the flame and lastly to pray.

Will you be successful? Maybe and maybe not (Abraham wasn't with Sodom and Gomorrah). But this is the Jewish strategy: Live passionate Judaism, gifts, and prayer.

What other strategies can you think of to engage your fellow Jew who isn't Jewishly engaged?

Have a good Shabbos,

Rabbi Kushi Schusterman

Can you pray that I win the lotter?

The lottery has ballooned to over 1 billion dollars (with a B)! Many people, even those who usually do not play the lottery, are buying tickets. How do they expect to win? Hasn’t our financial well-being already been decided on the High Holidays? 

Most people will not win. They are purchasing permission to dream. However, we can pray that even if G-d didn't ordain us to become millionaires, He can change his mind and confer that money to us. (Note: Many lottery winners go broke within 5 years.)

A blessing and a prayer are different. 

Generally, according to the mystics, a blessing simply reveals what is already ordained. A blessing transfers from potential to reality. I bless you that you reveal your hidden talents.

A prayer on the other hand, often starts with "May it be your will L-ord our G-d king of the universe". The reason they start like this is because we are asking G-d to create a reality that did not exist before. 

Are we limited by what we are destined for, based on what was decided on Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur? Yes. Can we override that ruling? Yes. Through prayer. Prayer can create a new and better reality.

If you were ordained to become a millionaire or a billionaire on the High Holidays, I bless you to win so it's easy to reveal that. If not, I pray that if it will positively impact your life and the lives of those around you than you should win.

If that kind of wealth isn't something you want, don't waste the money buying a ticket. 

Have a good Shabbos.
Rabbi Kushi Schusterman

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