Zooming in. Seeing the blessings amidst the craziness of life.

On a recent quiet day, my wife and I drove up to a gorgeous quarry and hiking trail up in the Rockport area. The idea was to spend some quiet time together, catch up a bit, as a life with kids, bills, and pressure often don’t allow for.

It was truly majestic. Gorgeous water pools, rock formations of the most exquisite shapes. Waves crashing against the different rocky shores, and lush green forest hiking trails leading you to these beautiful sites.

(I am a big believer of the importance of couples to take periodic time outs to reconnect with each other, away from the pressures and journeys of life. So a secular holiday where my children had school was the perfect opportunity.)

As we hiked and climbed, walked and jogged, picnicked and of course taking many pictures on our phones, I was suddenly struck with a very basic epiphany. (Can an epiphany be basic?) It wasn’t rocket science, but it was as brilliant to me, insofar as clarifying an idea much bandied about in modern day psychology, and even in Chassidus.

We were finishing our day of hiking, and began exiting the State Park via one of those deep green lush trails, where the tree’s almost met each other at the tops, forming a canopy, making it feel like we were walking through a tube of nature. I just had to take a picture of that.

It was then that it became clear to me. Someone, anyone, myself included, if they were to look at us at that moment, or were to look at a picture of that moment, they’d see pure happiness and bliss. Total serenity, and complete perfection. A life devoid of challenge and struggle, just a blissful and happy couple enjoying nature together.

While I wish that were true, sadly, I have not yet arrived at that nirvana. Yet, I myself felt totally at peace at the moment myself.

So which is the real truth? My temporary magical moment? Or my larger life that is far from tranquil?

The answer my friends, was being held in my hand. Hi hanosenes, the one that brought the question, gave the answer. The camera/IPhone that generated the question is the same camera/IPhone that gave clarity to the answer.

You see, when you hold your camera, you can zoom in and zoom out. Sometimes you see a beautiful sight or setting, and it is most magnificent and gorgeous. However, When you expand the picture, widen the lens, or zoom out, the same scene can get marred by the ugliness or the simple mundanity of what is in front of you.

The reality of what is there did not change. However, focusing on the specific item of beauty, allows you to zero in on the object of your affection or item of beauty. This is the beauty and power of the whole photography industry. To capture that magical moment amidst the myriad of moments of the dull and humdrum, or worse yet, amidst the ugly and profane.

This is the clarity that I observed at that moment. In life, we can get stuck on the big picture and be unable to stop and focus on the beauty, the miracles and the blessings that are abundant in our lives. Some call it “seeing the forest for the trees.” There is indeed great wisdom there.

There is an old chassidic expression, “ א חסיד, וואו ער איז , איז ער אינגאנעען” which translates to, “ A chassid, where he is, he is there completely.” In a general way that means, don’t be half-hearted. If you are invested in something (good) be invested all the way.

I take it to mean something a bit deeper. You can zero in on the things that are good in your life. And you can be there completely. You can put all the other distractions aside for those few precious moments that you are focused on the blessings of that moment.

Sure, you will have to zoom out and deal with the larger issues of life at a later point, even in a few minutes from now. But now, your job is to be completely absorbed by your blessings of this moment. Relish them, than Gd for them, and celebrate them.

This is not only good for your physical well-being, but it is good for your spiritual well-being as well.

36/52 Picture TripAdviser

How to educate a child with ADHD

ADHD is all the educational discussion these days. How do you educate a child with a different learning method without compromising the essence of the material  you must teach? One head of school put it to me thus, “trying to teach a child with ADHD in a typical classroom setting is like locking a tiger in a cage and expecting them to be OK  with that.”

Clint Pulver – His Viral Video

You must have seen that video of Clint Pulver, the child with ADHD whom with the guidance of a caring teacher, saved him from the judging and cruel world around him. Instead of reprimanding him for his fidgeting, he told him, after calling on him to stay after class one day, “I don’t think you are a problem, I think you are a drummer.”

(If you haven’t seen the video, take a moment to watch it. It will move you to tears https://www.westernjournal.com/l/slarson/little-boy-adhd-becomes-successful-musician-thanks-one-caring-teacher/)

This simple and moving video and story has garnered millions of views on social media, not because of its daredevil stunts or its novel invention, rather it is because it is a most basic fundamental teaching that is so rare in today’s society.

King Solomon says in Proverbs 22:6, quoted by the Alter Rebbe in the second section of Tanya, “Educate a child according to ‘his’ ways, and even when he is older it won’t leave him.” This verse has been the source of myriads of articles, lectures and ideas of not being judgmental of children who learn differently, rather to find that secret sauce that speaks to them.  

If you can accomplish this, then you will be an effective teacher and the student will be able to be the very best student that they can be. Helping a child who is a round peg in a square world thrive and reach their maximum potential.

Let’s dive a bit deeper into this for a moment. The Alter Rebbe continues in his essay to ask a basic question. If the way you are teaching the child is inauthentic and incomplete, since you must alter the “regular” or “natural” way of teaching, to help the struggling student comprehend, then what is the value of the latter half of the verse “even when he is older it will not leave him?”

Have you really done him a favor? You’ve altered or possibly watered down the teachings, in order that you can get through to him, but at the end of the day, what he has now been taught, is compromised material?

After a lengthy exposition, the A”R concludes, that in fact no such compromise has been made. There are different levels and methods by which to connect, love and comprehend (as it were) Gd, and by extension to understand any wisdom or information in this world.

There is the “traditional” method, that you study and you have immediate positive  results for your efforts. However, this traditional method is not so traditional. Most people don’t operate at that level. Only the truly righteous.

Most people work in a more contemplative and ongoing development modus operandi. Meaning, with slow and continued thought, one can develop a love for Gd. When one goes through the process – process being the key word – they can work their way up, stage to stage, level to level, to get to where they need to be in their academic journey.

 “As water reflects the face of a person, so too does the heart of man reflect what it is putting out.” Meaning, if we put out love to Gd, Gd will reflect that back to us. The point being that it is a educational process, not necessarily a destination. Your training the child in a system of thought, a process of knowledge attainment, will reflect back and reward him with success.

As such, if you teach the child according to ‘his’ way, and teach him to be contemplative, even if that is an alternative way from the traditional way, he will always be able to fall back onto that system of thought and be able to connect, study and learn.

This wisdom is ancient and modern all at the same time. King Solomon, the wisest of all men, knew what psychologists and educators today or just figuring out. If you try to force a child to study in a preordained proscribed format it will not only not work, it will backfire. The child will feel broken and depressed by their inability to “keep up” and will not learn the data being fed to them, and furthermore, they will quite possibly rebel, as no one wants to feel like a perpetual failure.

Yet, if you teach a child according to ‘his’ way, meaning, if you teach him, using language and systems that ‘he’ understands and connect with; if you teach him a technique that is basic and foundational upon which he can always fall back on when things aren’t going right, then “even when he gets old, it won’t leave him.”

You will have not only given him fish to eat, and not only a fishing rod by which to fish for his own fish with, but you will have taught him how to make a fishing rod when he has nothing!

Now that is a victory.

Blog 35/52 Photo Credit

Speech @ Rally for Good

Speech for rally

Thank you Mr. Mayor & Debbie Coltin of the Lappin Foundation, the soul behind this rally, the PCMA and specifically Joel Aderle and Richard Perlman, David Kudan for the great work you do for the community and the faith communities and all those from the various houses of worship in town. Thank to the Peabody Police and State police … your visits with your cruisers at the local Synagogues and my home is very comforting.

It means the world to myself, and my family personally, and to the entire Jewish community that so many organizations came out, including the CJP, ADL, Deputy consul General of the State of Israel and more…

However, more Specifically, I want to thank the residents of the city of Peabody and the surrounding communities. Thank you for showing up today and being counted, and standing by the local Jewish community, as I know you’d do for any faith that was attacked or maligned. This is a rally against anti-semitism, against intolerance, but it is not about me.

When I wrote the Facebook post that started all of this, it did not cross my mind that I would catch fire quite in the way it did.

But it is you, those of you who are present and those of you who could not make it, who chose to share it, like it, put a cry emoji on it, comment on it over 1000 times, that really pushed this whole thing forward.

If this incident, and my writing of it on Facebook, caused this rally FOR goodness, Mr. Mayor, you’ll forgive me for renaming this rally. It is not a rally against hate, but A RALLY FOR GOOD! …  and if there will be some actual substantive good things that will come out of it, more than simply saying “we won’t tolerate this,” , then as they say in the Passover Haggadah, Dayeinu … it would be enough.

While it is important for Jews to stand up loud and proud, wear their kippa and their Star of David , and to not cower in fear, and frankly that was the purpose of my post… if we look to history to be any sort of guide… it was the righteous Gentiles of the world that saved so many thousands of lives there in the darkest period in Jewish history , the Holocaust.  As many hundreds and thousands did then, so must many hundreds and thousands do  to today, and that is, to do something good in response to negative and hateful acts.

I will let the ADL tell you the statistics of hate, and the trends. Yes, they are frightening, and step one is to call it for what it is, but my, as a Chabad Rabbi and a student of the Rebbe, Rabbi Menachem Mendel Schneerson of Righteous memory, is to guide myself and others who wish to participate, in the appropriate response, and that is to increase in goodness.

When my wife and I moved out here, 16 years ago, with 2 children this was a city that prided itself on being a “NO PLACE FOR HATE” city. Now, 16 years later, and 5 more children later, that slogan is being put to the test.

I stand here before  you today, to say, that that has not changed! (applause line).

The City of Peabody is a city of love, tolerance, compassion, diversity, warmth and acceptance. We are still that city, and sometimes someone or something rattles our cages and makes us unsure if this is still the case, but I assure you, Peabody is a city where there is NO PLACE FOR HATE! (applause line).

Yes, I am a rabbi here in town, but I am a regular person, a human being, a father. I have a need to keep my family safe and protected. I don’t have my head buried in the sand about what happened and other dangers that Jews face. I simply choose to focus on solutions, not on problems.

In that regard, there is a lot of good already going on, and this has already generated more.

Among those hundreds of comments on facebook, I also got many private messages as well as emails.

One, from Rhona said, “I pass you and your family every Saturday as you are walking to your Synagogue, and I love to see a family in today’s day and age, that still has values and wants to go to their house of worship and pray to Gd. I also noticed that one of the little girls was walking a bit too close to the street, and her older brother, ran quickly to protect her, and bring her deeper onto the sidewalk. How do you make such children these days?

Then there was a note from a local religious leader of another faith who told me, “that what happened is not reflective of his faith, nor of any faith, and that he will be wearing a star of David in solidarity. “

There were many more, perhaps even 100 more, but one final one.

Mikey, emails me and says, “Rabbi, I am so sorry you had to experience that. I am not of the Jewish faith, but I have a lot of respect for the Jewish People. Growing up, I was a troubled kid, and it was Mr. Goldberg, in Revere, who took a chance with me and hired me when no one else would, and that helped get me, and my life back on track.

I realize that you and Mr. Goldberg are really the same. You both are just trying to help out your local community. And now it is my turn to be Mr. Goldberg. I am going go to my next door neighbor’s house. She is an elderly woman who has trouble keeping up. I mowed her lawn, and now I am going visit her regularly, since she is just so lonely.

Thank you for what you do, and thank you for inspiring me to do better myself.

Ladies and Gentlemen, Mikey really captured the essence of what this Rally for good is, what Peabody is, in my opinion.

We need to turn darkness into light. Sadness into happiness. Negative into positive.

How we react to negative things, is the ultimate differentiator.

Some are inclined to remove with the visible signs of their difference. Takeoff the yarmulke, hide the star of David, take their mezuzah off their door post. That works for some but that doesn’t solve the problem of hate. People of color cannot remove their skin. People of other oppressed communities cannot hide who they are.

So hiding your identity doesn’t fix anything. In fact, I think we need to do the opposite. We need to reinforce our individuality, stand louder and prouder in who we are.

The real solution however is to root out hate.

It needs to be in un-cool, un-woke, to hate.

It needs to become stylish, fashionable to do good. (More on that from Rabbi Baron in a moment.)


Back when Kennedy introduced Peace Corps, it became a good and noble and stylish thing to be giving to others. In Judaism we call that a mitzvah.

I call upon all those present and all those who will see or hear this at a later point, to do their part in rooting out that hatred by increasing in act of goodness.

Do a Mitzva! Replace the hate with something concrete…



Finally, hate begins at home… it is a learned trait… As I posted on facebook. we need to change the way children are educated. They need to learn that there are real people, real victims of who are impacted by what they say do and think, and there is life beyond video games and social media.

There was a movement in the past that I hope will be considered by the school committee boards to make a comeback. It was called a Moment of silence in our schools… you have heard about it in the news, when my colleague, Rabbi Yisroel Goldstein made it part of the national discussion, after being shot in the hands, defending his Shul in Poway California.

The idea is, students are asked to stop for a minute, no talking, no phones, nothing, just closing their eyes and realizing that they are not alone here on this earth. There is a higher power, whatever that power may be to them, and that they, each and every individual, child – and adult – matter. YOU MATTER, therefore, WHAT YOU DO MATTERS! There is a God and Creator … a reason that we exist… we are not random… and nothing is by mistake.

If we heal this at the bottom, it will improve at the top. It may take some time, but it will get done.

So, again, thank you to you all who took time to come out on a busy late Wednesday afternoon, fight the downtown traffic and parking, to rise up and rally against hate, anti Semitism and may this be the last that we have to do such a thing for any faith or form bigotry.


Blog 34/52 Picture Heather Gravalese Facebook

Exhausted & Sleep Deprived Heroes – A Shavuot Thought

As parents of a growing family, a good nights sleep is mostly a thing of dreams, pun intended. There is always a diaper that needs changing, a midnight drink for a parched throat, and of course the occasional illness that needs soothing.

It is rare that the interruptions come from above. Literally, above my head. The other night, As I was beginning to dive deep into my REM portion of my sleep when the smoke alarms around the house started up. It didn’t stay on for long, so after a brief check of the house I didn’t think much of it. When it started again about 20 minutes later, and stayed on long enough to frighten everyone into my bedroom for an impromptu overnight family sleep out at the foot of my bed, I decided it is time to take this more seriously.

However, again after an exhaustive search of the house, even the attic I decided I need to call the Fire Department. Could be carbon monoxide, who knows.

After their ceremonious arrival, and their deduction that it was a faulty unit, finally, 4:30 everyone was back asleep.

Everyone, except for me that its.

I’ll muscle through the day, and there is always to tomorrow night, being my mantra. Another day in the life of…

What is about sleep that so consumes us? The insomnia medicine market is a billion Dollar industry. Why? The human body was designed to get more sleep than just a couple hours a night, and consecutive hour/s not piecemeal.
So you think I am complaining? OK, maybe a bit, but there is a point at the end of this rant. Doing many (odd) hours awakings, and wondering if I will be able to function on fumes the morning after, got me thinking.

We are one week away from Shavuot, (June 9th and 10th to be exact) and we will have many wonderful services and parties, but there is a tradition that the night leading into Shavuot, June 8th in the evening, to stay up all night, and study Torah.

The reason? To “fix up” for the Jews who welcomed the Torah at Sinai by…. Wait for it… yup, SLEEPING!

So I don’t get it, you want to get ready for the greatest event of your life, they were going to experience Gd as humans never had prior, you’ve just spent the past 49 days counting down to this magic moment and when the big day comes, where are they? Sleeping?!

Now, I get it, when you are tired, you don’t function at your 100% optimum. I know, I’ve dropped a couple balls of my own in the past few days, but basic decency would suggest being present and awake when Gd is coming to meet with you. And even if you are bit wonky from tiredness, you still should get out of bed and show up?

Chassidism teaches that the Jews were preparing for Sinai in the way that they thought would be best. They figured, that when you are awake, your soul is stuck in your body, your body is an inherently selfish machine (always trying to do what’s best for it), and so they’d transcend their physical bodies by being asleep.

More than that, the soul, when the body sleeps, ascends to more heavenly spheres, hangs out in higher worlds, gets cleansed and polished while sleeping. So, in their perception, the best way to prepare for the giving of the Torah, was to be at their highest possible “personal self” and thus they were asleep.

And thus, we stay awake to correct their error. They may have been correct in theory, however, life exist in reality, not theory. In reality, you need to show up, even if it is not in your optimum state. You still need to be there.

And while we might be tired the next day, we are at least making sure that we there, present, and we showed up. Half the challenge for most things in life, is just showing up. Tired and all, warts and all, you gotta show up!

So, to our sleeping child, who finally went to sleep, but left us unable to do so, we thank you for keeping us awake, three nights in a row. We will get our revenge when you tell us that your kids kept you up all night. We are very patient ppl.

However, to the serious point, sleeping is important, kabbalah talks about the power of dreams that happen while you sleep as being the disjointed thoughts of your day getting expunged from your body. So sleep is necessary both biologically as well as spiritually. However, there is incredible value in being awake.

When you are awake, you do things. And this, is what makes us humans. Flawed humans are greater than perfect angels. Flawed and physical humans, do things and can break out of their personal limitation, angels, while perfect and flawless, are stuck in one spot.

That was the ultimate mistake of the Jews at Sinai, and that is what we flawed humans can fix. It is particularly in our physical reality, our vulnerability where Gd resides, and it is there that we are both human, and awesome!

So, whether it is a sleepless child, or a broken smoke alarm keeping us from our dream sleep, remember, that While sleep is the fuel to help us conquer another day of life, the goal is the awake hours where you do the real conquering.

Blog 33/52 Picture Raizel Schusterman