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Thursday, 21 December, 2017 - 12:05 pm

I spent the last few hours excited because Sholom Mordechai Rubashkin, my friend's father and a member of the worldwide Chabad community, who was sentenced to an excessive sentence of 27 years, had his jail sentence commuted by Donald Trump.

Is Sholom Mordechai a saint? No 
Did he make mistakes in business? Yes
Was he convicted of fraud? Yes
Should he have been convicted? The jury is out; he was the target of a massive raid on his meat plant which forced them into bankruptcy. In addition, the government intervened in the bankruptcy sale, causing them to get less than it was worth, not allowing him to pay back his line of credit.

Once the news of his commutation became public, there was an outpouring of love across the Jewish world! Impromptu dancing and farbrengens, chassidic gatherings, took place out of excitement and thanks to Hashem for allowing him to go home. I was invited to a gathering of Chabad Rabbis in which we were encouraged to 1) ensure we have the faith and trust in Hashem to free us from our personal "prisons" and 2) to be happy for the good fortune of our fellow Jews, regardless if he is part of our "network" or "group".

Sholom Mordechai believed he would be let out of jail. He expected his release to come and actually looked forward to being set free, not as a pipe dream but a reality that will happen, and it did!

There are those who say the optics of people dancing that a convict was set free is not good. However, I see it as a testament to Jewish unity and a testament to the faith that Hashem has a plan.

We see something similar in this week’s Parsha. Joseph reveals his identity to his brothers. The reality of the situation was that this man, who was a ruler of Egypt, was steeped into the materialism of the time. The optics were such that the brothers could not fathom that Joseph the Righteous, who they knew as a kid, would become steeped in the material world. They could not believe that he can still be righteous while being involved in the global affairs.

But they were wrong! It was Joseph the righteous and Joseph the ruler; they were one and the same. He used the physical world as a tool to effect positive change on the world around him.

With Sholom Mordechai, I hope that his freedom will not only be a personal freedom for him, but a freedom for all; a freedom that forces our justice system to pursue true justice and impose fair sentences. I hope that the unity of his cause brings people from all backgrounds together to effect positive change in the world around us.

My greatest hope is that we are all freed from our self-imposed "prisons", the ones that do not allow us to express our true selves, where we express our unity of One People with One Torah while maintaining our own personalities, like Joseph did.

A beautiful painting is made up of different colors expressing themselves harmoniously. So too, we should all express our  unique identity while remaining harmonious, and together we will make this world a beautiful place.

Have a great Shabbos,

Rabbi Kushi Schusterman

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