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Rabbi's Blog

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

Ego!

Often times we are faced with a challenge that we can't seem to overcome and then out of left field a solution rises to the surface that resolves the whole thing.

The solution to a problem is often something totally unrelated to the problem itself.

The month of Elul, the month of preparation for the Days of Awe is arriving! Our focus has shifted to analyzing our character and working on bettering ourselves. All the character "deficiencies" that we work on cleaning up all have the same origin. If we could correct that origin all would be well.
In a word, EGO!

Now ego is not a bad thing. Without it some of the greatest accomplishments in life would not have developed. Without ego we wouldn't accomplish anything. We would always see ourselves as "nothings". Ego is an important part of who we are. But the flip side is that ego is also the root of everything negative. Anger, jealousy, selfishness, impatience, etc. all stem from ego.

  • Anger- How dare you do that to ME? Jealousy - Why shouldn't I have that?
  • Selfishness - Why should I share with you?
  • Impatience - Why aren't you hurrying up, I am waiting?

And the list goes on! Let alone the really bad evil stuff that stems from a really rotten ego. Evil - The way I see the world is the only way and anybody who doesn't do it my way has got to go!

So what is the solution? The Torah says that if one has a roof (which is on the high places of one’s house) and a individual is likely to fall of it, we are instructed by Biblical injunction to place a fence around that roof.

The roof is an analogy for our ego. The ego can be found on high places and we are likely on account of it to fall. Therefore the Torah tells us to put a fence around it. We are instructed to set for ourselves identifiers that will help us realize whether we are responding to our negative ego or if our behavior is coming from somewhere holy inside of us.

Try this at home:

  • Pick a behavior that you struggle with.
  • Identify its negative source in the ego.
  • Now set for yourself a sign for the next time this behavior appears, to stop and take 20 seconds to identify the source.

For example if the behavior is anger, the sign could be that your heart starts beating faster or that your face gets flushed. At that moment stop and ask yourself one question. "Is this coming from a holy place inside of me or from negative ego?" Then follow it up with this question, "Am I falling off the roof?"

Let's take some time during this time of spiritual stock taking to build some fences around our ego roof.

Have a great week!

May you be inscribed and sealed in the book of life.

Rabbi Kushi Schusterman

your little Moses

Reb Zusha of Anipoli was one of the early Chassidic masters. Humble and self-effacing, he is forever remembered in the many tales of his awe of G‑d and his deep love for His creations.

There is a famous anecdote that tells of Reb Zusha quaking with fright on his deathbed. “I am not afraid of being asked why I was not Moses,” he explained to his students. “After all, G‑d already has a Moses. I am afraid, however, of being asked; Zusha, why weren’t you Zusha?”

In this week's Torah portion Moses tells us “And now, Israel, what does the L‑rd your G‑d request of you? Only to be in awe of Him, and to follow His ways...” Deuteronomy 10:12.

The Talmud (Berachot 33b) famously asks “Is awe of G‑d a small thing?” What does Moses mean when he says, “What does G‑d ask of you (already)?” How can he minimize the matter of being a G‑d-fearing Jew?

And the Talmud answers, “Yes. For Moses, to be in awe of G‑d is a small matter.” For Moses, to be in awe of G‑d is a very modest accomplishment. However, Moses was talking to the Jewish nation. For most, being G‑d-fearing is not a simple matter at all. It is extremely challenging.

The first Chabad Rebbe explains that in every Jewish soul there exists a spark of Moses. When we look at our essence, we see that we are infused with G‑dliness just like Moses. When we scrape the surface of our inner self, then we will find a lot of spirituality and connectedness within us. And it is there for the taking. So yes, when we tap into our inner Moses, to be G‑d-fearing is a small matter.

At the end of the day, we will all be judged fairly and fittingly, according to our own strengths and weaknesses, successes and failures. As Zushe said "G‑d already has a Moses.” We will all be evaluated by our own personal talents, faculties, gifts, and potential—developed or dormant.

Simultaneously, we have a lot more potential than we can imagine. We can be G‑d-fearing individuals and so much more. We can come to love and appreciate the truths of Judaism and its traditions. We can enjoy a meaningful and spiritual relationship with G‑d, as well as an amazing life experience.

Because inside each of us is a little Moses.

Have a Good Shabbos,

Rabbi Kushi Schusterman

P.S. I once heard a Chassidic teaching.

The Talmud tells us "Everything is in the hands of Heaven, except for awe of Heaven" (Berachot 33a). Which is usually explained that "the only thing in the world that we control is our basic spiritual orientation towards the world". I heard (in line with this that everyone has a Moses in them) that the Reb Shmuel of Lubavitch, the Rebbe Maharash, explained "Everything is in the hands of Heaven" refers to if you are rich or poor, smart, or not, talented at art or at science. "Except for awe of Heaven" means G-d must give everyone awe of heaven regardless.

Inspired? Save it!

 

After the fast of Tisha b’Av this past Sunday night, I was very thankful!

  • Thank G-d I do not know what true hunger means.
  • Thank G-d I was afforded the opportunity to be a Chabad Rabbi.
  • Thank G-d I am able to be on the giving end of helping others.
  • Thank G-d I am not homeless, infirm, or struggling with addiction. 
  • Thank G-d many of you support our work via the Chai Partners and otherwise. 

Today, Friday, is one of the best days of the year. The Talmud tells us that the 15th day of the month of Av and Yom Kippur were/are the best days for the Jews.

Why is that?

The 15th of Av is the last day on which wood may be cut for the Altar in the Bais Hamikdash. As the heat of summer starts to wane, and the rainy season begins, they did not want the (cut) wood to get wormy and/or moldy. The Jews made sure to stock up enough wood in the summer to have enough to last the year. There are many commentaries who explain why this was turned into a great celebration.

Yom Kippur is a great day. At the end of the fast, we are pure from being forgiven and we are blessed for a good year. We are also able to be grateful for all the good that we have. We can pack that appreciation away for a time when there will be challenges and to remember how blessed we are.

On occasion, we need to absorb and internalize a message so that we can fall back on it at a later time of need. Just like the wood that was packed up in the summer for the alter.

When we are fired up and inspired, we need to grab that warmth and passion and pack it up, keeping it safe and dry. Holding on to it for a time when you will need it, when we feel cold and wet.

At that time, we can use this inspiration to rekindle a fire and make it burn. We can use it to make sacrifices and be passionate about our heritage.

Take an inspired moment, make note of it, and use it to be reinvigorated in a time of need.

Count your blessings! 

Have a good Shabbos.

Rabbi Kushi Schusterman

 

TikTok and Tisha b'Av

"#thattiktokrabbi" will G-d willing be joining us this Shabbos, the 9th of Av, the day we mourn the destruction of the Beit Hamikdash.

TikTok is a social media platform which revolves around short video clips. 

When I think about social media, I see it as a place that can be used to share inspiring Jewish values and messages or a place that can be filled with hate and vitriol.

The reason the Holy Temple was destroyed was because of unfounded hatred. The way we will rebuild the third temple is by unfounded acceptance and love. 

That person you see on social media who made a stupid comment, judge them favorably. Maybe they are just having a bad day or perhaps they weren't educated. If you see something you can help with, help. 

Why? You don't need a reason. Just because.

Perhaps that will be that last act of goodness to tip the scales and redeem the entire world to the messianic age. 

Tik Tok* is (or at least should be) a platform where people share short inspirational videos. Let’s bring Moshiach, even before Tisha b'Av, by doing small little things to make the world a brighter place.

Kushi

P.S. come Shabbos for services at 10 AM followed by kiddush and hang with us and the tik tok Rabbi :)

*and every social media platform 

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