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Rabbi's Blog

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

you can't look away or hide behind a golden curtain

The Jewish people are about to cross the Jordan into Israel (Cannan) and a few of the tribes approach Moshe asking for permission to remain in TransJordan. Their reasoning was that they were shepherds and that land had good fields for their animals to graze and pasture. 

Moshe was sharp with them "Your brothers go into battle and you will sit here?" (Numbers 32:6). 

In the modern world we can see what is going on across the world. From Ukraine to Syria, from China to Australia. The easy thing to do, and the natural instinct of most people, is to be sympathetic, shake our head, maybe make a small donation to a supportive cause and move on with our lives. 

Moshe was not satisfied with this! He expected more of the Jewish people. Not only do Jewish values require us to share our good or our wealth with those less fortunate, even more so we must share in the troubles of the unfortunate.

The Talmud says that every Jew is a guarantor for their fellow Jew. One Jew's peril is every Jew's concern. No Jew anywhere in the world can hide behind a curtain saying that their wealth or status insulates him from the problems plaguing other Jews. 

We may have great flocks and have found rich land, but Moshe teaches us this rule: "While our brothers are in peril, we cannot enjoy peace obliviously"!

Each of us knows someone who is in need. We have the option to look away, or to help.

Have a good Shabbos,

Rabbi Kushi Schusterman

Take Risks for What you Believe in

Moabite and Midianite women were seducing Jewish men and enticing them to idol worship. Pinchas, grandson of Aaron the High Priest, risked everything to stop this behavior and killed Zimri, the leader of the tribe of Simeon. He knew that publicly cohabiting with a Midianite princess, especially by a Jewish leader, was wrong. He also knew that the Torah allows a zealot to unilaterally execute the people involved in such behavior.

But to do that he needed to take a risk. A big risk. Rabbi Yocḥanan says: Six miracles were performed for Pinchas when he killed Zimri. Had one of the miracles not occurred, it would have been forbidden for him to execute him. Pinchas knew that he had to do something. He saw the travesty that was occurring and had to get involved despite the risks of 1) being tried for murder and 2) being ostracized by the community.

He was blessed by G-d that the miracles happened to him. 

In life we don't rely on miracles, but we need to take certain risks to ensure we perpetuate our values.  There are bigger risks and smaller risks. There are risks that are external (how others perceive us) and risks that are internal (how we perceive ourselves). E.G. The risk of closing your store on Shabbos - what will be with the money I get from Saturday sales?  What are people going to say about me? 

When we take risks, not for the reward but because it is indicative of our values, we receive priceless rewards. 

As we see in this week's Torah portion; G‑d praised Pinchas and rewarded his bravery by granting priesthood to him and his descendants. Pinchas was a grandson of Aaron but was not included in the original granting of the priesthood. He got a reward that you cannot buy in a store. A reward that he wanted but is priceless.

Have a good Shabbos,

Rabbi Kushi Schusterman

P.S. Maybe take a risk and join us for Shabbat services this week at 10:00 am?

Vacation or Holyday - Vacations, staycations and weekends away

The good old nursery rhyme that goes “No more pencils, no more books, no more teacher’s dirty looks” marks the beginning of summer.

As the rhyme evokes a sense of freedom and independence, many of us look at summer as downtime — vacations, “staycations,” weekends away. It’s a time to indulge a bit in what may be called self-care or, dare I say, self-indulgence.

Meanwhile, others are “stuck at work,” trying to make a living to pay the bills or earn some “extra money” to be able to take a nice vacation at the end of the summer.

Summertime has a whole different vibe than the rest of the year, one of a more laid-back time and atmosphere. However, the goal and feeling of summer relaxation should not be one that is self-indulgent.

A lesson in this matter is offered to us by Mark Douglas, the CEO of the Los Angeles-based digital marketing and advertising company SteelHouse. He requires his employees to go on two weeks of vacation every year. They get reimbursed for up to $2,000 of expenses for their vacations.

As always, there is a catch. They cannot take the money instead of going on vacation! They must take the time off and do whatever they want, just as long as it is not illegal. The result is that the company has found that people who come back to work tend to be recharged and more productive.

Hence, the goal of summer vacation is to recharge one’s batteries to be ready for the fall and winter. As we return to what’s known as “regular life,” we want to be invigorated and renewed, ready for the next chapter in our journey.

But if you do not take care of yourself throughout the summer and don’t eat well, sleep well, get exercise, etc., instead of coming back invigorated, you come back worn out “like a shmatte.” As we have all heard or said at some point, “I need a vacation to recover from my vacation.”

Similarly, Torah study and commitment to our Jewish values are not work, G-d forbid. As we say in the daily prayers, כי הם חיינו — for they are our life.
When we relax over the summer, we need to ensure that we breathe, take care of our physical health and take care of our spiritual health as well.
There are many ways to study remotely these days. Go to your shul’s website and see if they have any recorded classes (we are in beta phase of our adult ed website check it out at https://harcochabad.force.com/kja) . Or you can visit Chabad.org, Jewish.tv and many other sites as well.

Our Wednesday evening class at our shul is live-streamed - email me for the link

Take a vacation from work, but do not forget to live life! Happy vacationing! And make it, as they say across the water, a holiday “a HOLY day.”

Humble Leadership

Leadership is often described in terms of being the boss, the leader.

Many of the leaders we know are more bossy than a source of influence, egotistical and self-absorbed.

The truth about real leadership is that it’s about identifying with the people you are leading. Recognizing that you are only the leader if they are the people being led by you. A true leader doesn't take credit for themselves, they give credit to their team.

We see this type of leadership when the Torah tells us "Israel sent messengers to Sihon the king of the Amorites...” (Numbers 21:21)

We know that it was Moses who sent the messengers, so why does it say that Israel sent them? Moses was the most humble person. He identified with his people. So, Israel sent or Moses sent - as far as he was concerned it was the same thing. 

We all have times in our life when we are in leadership positions.

How can we be truly humble leaders?

Something I have been pondering, any thoughts?

Rabbi Kushi Schusterman

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