Rabbi's Blog

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

Welcome to being human

We all make mistakes. 

We say something we shouldn't have and unintentionally hurt someone we love. It happens that I send a solicitation email and forget to exclude those who asked to be marked "No fundraising" and I frustrate them. We drink too much at a party and feel we can't show our face. We sell our brother and are embarrassed to stand in front of him.

It's not ok to do any of these things. However, doing most of them are human and normal. Mistakes are natural.

The problem begins when we feel shame and embarrassment. When we define ourselves by the wrong thing we did. You made a mistake? Apologize, commit to trying to avoid a repeat performance and don’t allow the mistake to be a source of shame.

In this week’s Torah portion, we read how Joseph reveals himself to his brothers. Following his disclosure, he tells them: אַל־תֵּעָ֣צְב֗וּ, usually translated as don't be sad or don't wrestle. Joseph was telling his brothers that G-d has a plan, and your mistake is part of the plan. There is no need to wrestle anymore about what you did. Joseph continues to say that he understood that their mistake was in order "for it to preserve life that G-d sent me before you."

We should not allow our mistakes to be a source of shame. You made a mistake? OK! Apologize and try not to do it again. You are a good person who made a mistake.

Welcome to being human! Get rid of the shame.

Rabbi Kushi Schusterman

Get Fired Up!

When was the last time somebody went out of their way for you?

How did it make you feel?

Imagine the CEO of a major company leaving their ivory tower to reach out to you because you were struggling with a particular business issue. You would feel that they truly cared about you.

It's quite amazing. Every one of us has a soul, yet many of us are not in touch with it.

Our souls leave the comfort of basking in the light of G-d only to enter a lowly world in order to elevate it and make it a more spiritual and G-dly place.

Think about the sacrifices our souls have made so that we don't live a meaningless or a mundane life in this lowly world. 

Meditate about the journey our souls have taken into our bodies and the sacrifices that they have made! 

Let us show compassion to our soul and its journey and respond in kind with passion and gratitude. How can we do this?

When we get inspired, we get fired up. When WE get fired up, we need to use that inspiration to fire up others! This is the way that we are able to keep our own inspiration going and keep that inner flame alive. As we get closer to the end of Chanukah, let's fire each other up!

Our gratitude and emotional response should be one which should fire us up to ensure that our souls can express themselves and fulfill their missions of brightening up the darkness of the world.

Together, through acts of goodness and kindness, we can build a movement that is so on fire, it will melt all the apathy and the cold. It will light up the darkness, so that we can see how everything around us is even brighter than it was before we arrived.

Have an amazing, fired up Shabbos.

Rabbi Kushi Schusterman

Should we be as American as possible?

 Oh Chanukah, Oh Chanukah…  Ahhh, the sweet sounds of singing and the delicious tastes of latkes and doughnuts, the twinkling lights, joy and pleasure all around. 

We celebrate the miracle of the jug of oil lasting eight days instead of one and the military victory of the few over the many. There is, however, another entire component to the Chanukah story, as important if not more so than the things we celebrate today.

Did you ever wonder why the jug of oil, so central to the story of Chanukah had to be “pure” with the "seal of the High Priest"? And if some Greek soldier touched it and contaminated it, so what? It would still light and isn’t a contaminated flame on the Menorah better than no flame at all? 

On a very deep level, the Hellenistic goals for the Jews during the Chanukah story was to have them discard the ancient and fit in, as opposed to the Jewish insistence to maintain our very rich gift, a history and future of spiritual connectedness, despite the challenges that come with that. 

Thus the incredible importance and insistence that the only oil that could be lit in G-d’s home, the only light that we will gift to the world must be pure, holy, spiritual, clean Divine oil. Even the hint of influence from the outside was a threat to the eternal continuity of authentic Judaism. The light we were becoming unto the nations had to be a pure light of holiness and eternality.

This too is what we struggle with today here in America. With the frightening rise of antisemitism and high profile people spouting unabashed hate, often it is simply easier to compromise and try to “fit in” better even at the cost of using a little contaminated oil. Let’s just be as American as possible and perhaps they will finally leave us alone!

Chanukah is a call to recommit to the OG (Original Gangsta) Judaism - to borrow the woke American term. To be a Jewish American, rather than just an American Jew. The lighting of the Menorah is not only to commemorate the miraculous events that were, but the miraculous events that still could and need to be. 

To have pure, untainted, authentic, original oil lighting the night of secularism and assimilation. It is a time to “put on your Yamukah, let’s celebrate Chanukah '' and wear that Kippa loud and proud, light that menorah at home and attend a public menorah lighting telling the world that your pure oil burns for another generation.

Our people have been doing this since time immemorial and as we light the menorah and sing Chanukah songs, while munching on Chanukah delights, we can also remember that we are doing more than just celebrating historical events, we are simultaneously recommitting ourselves to the values of authentic Judaism at the same time. One candle, one menorah, one public display of Jewishness at a time.

Have an amazing shabbos!

Can't wait to celebrate chanukah with you.

Rabbi Kushi Schusterman

Is it a mitzvah?

What is a Mitzvah? 

Usually a mitzvah is translated as a good deed.


As in most cases, the translation of a Hebrew word is accurate but does not completely capture its meaning. 

A man comes to a marriage therapist and asks him: what do I need to make my wife happy? The therapist answered: I don't know, ask her! 

A man comes to a Rabbi and asks him: what do I need to do to make G-d happy? The Rabbi answered: I don't know, ask G-d!

What’s the answer? For your wife, ask her! 

They asked G-d, and the response was: Do my commandments as I told you in the Torah. 

The word mitzvah comes from the Hebrew word Tzav meaning commandment, as well as the Aramaic word Tzavta meaning connection. 

A mitzvah is an act that follows a commandment from G-d, doing G-d’s will, which results in a connection with G-d.

A mitzvah is not just a good deed done to get to heaven or to feel good or religious. A mitzvah is something done to be connected to G-d.

This is similar to a husband doing what his wife wants, because it is what she wants, even if he doesn't understand WHY she wants that.

See you on Shabbos, 

Rabbi Kushi Schusterman

P.S. this email was prompted by this email exchange –

Rabbi Kushi - Did you report your mitzvah at

M - Not yet. The definition of MITZVAH is a tough one.

I try to do good and help people every day. For instance, earlier this week, out of the clear blue sky, a guy called for advice on how to ...... How he got my number I will never know. I gave him every good tip and idea I had. I don't even know his name. Was that a mitzvah? It sure made him happy….

I try to be kind to animals, including my fellow man, and I try to forgive those who have done wrong, even if they are unrepentant. Are those mitzvot?

Say goodbye to “Oy Vey”


The story is told that in 1974, shortly after the Yom Kippur War, Rabbi Yisrael Lau (later to be Chief Rabbi of Israel) came to Brooklyn to visit the Lubavitcher Rebbe OB”M. During their conversation the Rebbe asked him what the sentiment was in Israel. Rabbi Lau replied that Jews were asking “what will be?” The Rebbe grabbed him by his arm and said: “Jews don’t ask what will be, they ask what they are going to do.”

The message is no more “oy vey”, only what will I do today to make the world a better place.

I learnt this last night with hundreds of others who joined a Hakhel a gathering to pray, study and give charity and positive vibes for Henya bas Chaya Devora Leah’s immediate recovery.

Mrs. Henya Federman is the Chabad representative to St. Thomas. Her 4-month-old baby fell into the water. Henya jumped into the water to save her baby and got stuck. She is currently in critical condition, and we pray for her immediate recovery. You can say a prayer for her healing here. Tragically, the baby passed away. We are thankful that Henya is alive and optimistic for a full speedy recovery!

How do we get away from the “oy vey”/no hope perspective, and ask what can I do?

By recognizing that everything we have and everything that happens is from G-d’s grace.

Difficult at times? Yes! But that does not define us. This is not easy! However, it is the ideal perspective to have. When we have such a viewpoint, recognizing that Hashem is kind and beyond understanding, we are more humble and more thankful for everything in our lives.

When we hit a roadblock or a challenge, we don’t throw our hands in the air and say “oy vey” what will be? as if this world has no master plan, we can take action and ask “What can I do today to revealed more good and light in this world”.

Have a good Shabbos,

Rabbi Kushi Schusterman

P.S. they created a mitzvah campaign page, please consider joining and add your mitzvah in honor of Henya’s speedy recovery.

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