Rabbi's Blog

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

What is the antidote?

We all have some level of ego. When our ego stops us from being able to see another person’s perspective, that is where problems begin.

There is a Chassidic story that can help us solve our "ego problems".

Rabbi Hillel of Paritch was one of the many great scholars of his day to join the Chabad Chassidic movement. As a young man, Rabbi Hillel heard of the founder of Chabad Chassidism, the Alter Rebbe (Rabbi Schneur Zalman of Liadi) and sought to meet with him. But the opportunity seemed to forever elude the young prodigy. As he would arrive in a town that the Alter Rebbe was visiting, he would be informed that the Rebbe had just left.

Finally, he managed to locate the Alter Rebbe's lodgings before the Rebbe was due to arrive. To ensure that he would not, once again, somehow miss his opportunity, Rabbi Hillel crept into the Alter Rebbe's appointed room and hid under the bed. In anticipation of his encounter with the Alter Rebbe, Rabbi Hillel had "armed" himself with some of his achievements in Talmudic study. At that time, the young scholar was studying the tractate Erchin, or "Appraisals", the section of the Talmud which deals with the laws of how to appraise the value of one's pledges to charity. Rabbi Hillel had an insightful question on the subject which he had diligently rehearsed to discuss with the Rebbe.

From his hiding place, Rabbi Hillel heard the Rebbe enter the room. But before he could make a move, he heard the Alter Rebbe exclaim: "If a young man has a question regarding 'Appraisals', he had best first evaluate himself."

Young children often seem egotistical, even when being nice. This is because they only see things from their own perspective. For example, a child might sympathize with an adult, trying to comfort them by offering a favorite toy, reasoning that what helps the child feel better will also comfort the adult. Egocentric thinking can also cause one to feel responsible if something bad happens over which they have no control.

EGO stands for Edging G-d Out. True haughtiness is when we think we are more important than G-d. When someone's ego isn’t in check, they may be afflicted with Tzarras of the head (the spiritual lesions similar to leprosy mentioned in this week’s Torah portion).

What is the antidote? Bittul – recognizing our true humble self-worth, beginning with evaluating ourselves (see story above). An honest appraisal of our own character and behavior will show how much we can learn from every individual. There are so many positive traits we can learn and emulate, if we are willing to be humble and accept the lessons from those who are supposedly 'inferior' to us. Simultaneously, we need to recognize that we have a true self-worth, which is given to us by G-d allowing us to be His messengers to transform the world.

Have a good Shabbos,

Rabbi Kushi Schusterman

Does Judaism come easy or hard for you?

There are two different types of Jews, particularly vis-à-vis their religious approach. one easily glides through his or her religious experiences. They pray and—boom!—they’re inspired. They study Torah, and immediately, they love it. Judaism is natural and enjoyable. They’re always ready to be in love with their Creator. One stroke, and they propel themselves forward with ease.

On the other hand, there is the Jew that has to work hard. Inspiration doesn’t come easy. To gain any meaningful momentum, they must put in a lot of hard work, step by step, and by the time they’ve achieved a trot or gallop, they’re huffing and puffing. Praying doesn’t come naturally, and studying Torah takes effort.

Who’s Better? Which is ideal? Which one are you?

Read More

plɹoʍ uʍop-ǝpᴉsdn sᴉɥʇ sunɹ ɯǝɥsɐH

Hashem runs this upside-down world.

It’s been a tumultuous 2 years; starting with corona and now as the war in Ukraine rages on.

Today is Purim. One of the messages of Purim is that Hashem, G-d, runs the world. Yom Kippur is called Yom Hakipurim, the day like Purim. On this day of Purim, we can accomplish the same energies as Yom Kippur through joy.

Following are the 4 Purim mitzvahs. See how many you are able to do today before sunset.

  1. Read or listen to the book of Esther Here
  2. Give 2 poor people money - you can literally save lives in Ukraine - click here or make a donation on our website and mark Purim
  3. Give a gift of 2 food items to a fellow Jew 
  4. Eat a meal including bread and drink wine - If you are in recovery DO NOT DRINK WINE USE GRAPEJUICE 

May we recognize that Hashem is in charge, and we can accomplish the impossible through remaining joyous through the tough times.

Happy Purim and good Shabbos,

Rabbi Kushi

Don't celebrate bland Judaism, add salt!

It's easy for life to be bland and tasteless. Especially when it comes to "religious" practices. As one community member said: every day, the same prayer?

When we try to connect with Hashem through rituals, often it can seem bland, boring and monotonous.

The sacrifices in the holy temple represent the service and rituals. The Torah tells us that all sacrifices require salt. Why is that? Because salt improves the sensory properties of virtually every food, from meat to bread.

According to kabbalistic teachings the "salt" is wisdom. Understanding the purpose of a mitzvah, from refining the human to connecting with G-d, turns a ‘bland’ mitzvah into a connecting opportunity.

There is a story going around the internet that I can't find the source for. It may not matter if it’s true or not, but it seems to encompass this feeling, I hope you enjoy it.

It was a busy morning, about 8:30, when an elderly gentleman in his 80s arrived at the hospital to have stitches removed from his thumb. He said he was in a hurry as he had an appointment at 9:00 am. The nurse took his vital signs and had him take a seat, knowing it would be over an hour before someone would be able to see him. I saw him looking at his watch and decided, since I was not busy with another patient, I would evaluate his wound. On exam, it was well healed, so I talked to one of the doctors, got the needed supplies to remove his sutures and redress his wound. While taking care of his wound, I asked him if he had another doctor’s appointment this morning, as he was in such a hurry. The gentleman told me no, that he needed to go to the nursing home to eat breakfast with his wife. I inquired as to her health. He told me that she had been there for a while and that she was a victim of Alzheimer’s Disease. As we talked, I asked if she would be upset if he was a bit late. He replied that she no longer knew who he was, that she had not recognized him in five years now. I was surprised, and asked him, ‘And you still go every morning, even though she doesn’t know who you are?’ He smiled as he patted my hand and said, ‘She doesn’t know me, but I still know who she is.’

The daily visit has no taste to the nurse but for the husband, it has salt. He expresses this in his words: 'She doesn’t know me, but I still know who she is'.

What salt can you add to your ritual observance?

Rabbi Kushi Schusterman

Do something crazy!

Last night Rabbi Yechiel Levitansky, Rabbi in Sumy, Ukraine spoke for over 1000 people on zoom. He spoke about his inner joy and calmness, while simultaneously sharing the struggle to figure out the right thing to do. Is his responsibility to remain in Sumy, Ukraine and support the community, or should he leave and have a bigger impact on getting them their basic necessities.

When asked if there is a special mitzvah he wants people to take on, he responded: “this war is an illogical war, it makes no sense, it’s crazy! Do a mitzvah that is crazy for you to do, one that makes no sense (Sorry Rabbis' I'm giving you more work)… ever thought of koshering your kitchen? It’s a crazy idea!  Me? Kosher Kitchen? But the way to fight crazy tyranny is with crazy good.”

I found this sentiment personally powerful. Trying to make a positive impact on everyone I meet, and on Judaism in Harford County, at times seems crazy. However, seeing the amazing good that has come from it, shows how inexplicable results can come from crazy positive behavior.

A wealthy man once offered a large amount of money to the Lubavitcher Rebbe to support “a big project”. The Rebbe told him to sponsor the Shmurah Matzah for the Pesach Seder project in Israel. G-d willing, this year we will do something crazier than ever before. Seeing how important it is to have Shmurah matzah, we plan on ensuring over 500 local Seders have handmade Shmurah Matzah.

It’s crazy. It’s expensive. But we got to do something crazy. As the old Apple ad says: Here’s to the crazy ones, the misfits, the rebels, the troublemakers, the round pegs in the square holes… the ones who see things differently — they’re not fond of rules… You can quote them, disagree with them, glorify or vilify them, but the only thing you can’t do is ignore them because they change things… they push the human race forward, and while some may see them as the crazy ones, we see genius, because the ones who are crazy enough to think that they can change the world, are the ones who do.

Join me in doing something crazy good! 

Have an amazing shabbos.

Rabbi Kushi Schusterman 

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