Hacking Yom Kippur

Today was truly a special day. Beyond the crisp blue sky and perfect weather, and beyond the delicious buffet of delectable brunch food, even beyond the welcoming of a brand new Torah into our midst, and the celebration surrounding the completion of this Torah and dedicating the Chabad building, today was special because today we “hacked Yom Kippur.”

I bet you never heard about hacking Yom Kippur, so let me share with you the secret. These are original thoughts I shared at the Torah dedication, and my writing some teachings of Rabbi Shais Taub of Soulwords.org who clairvoyantly gave a Torah class on last week’s Torah portion that captured the essence of what I have been feeling and providing the sourcing for this thought.

The fact of the matter is that as we near Yom Kippur, there is a sense of dread and awe that overtakes us. I personally don’t particularly like that feeling but I understand that it is a required step that brings us to the festive part of the month, like Sukkot and Simchat Torah.

However, there is a “hack” for that. (My kids call me a boomer (as in baby boomer), even though I am too young to be a baby boomer. It is their way of telling me that I am too old to understand certain things or terms. So for the boomers out there, a “hack” is when you can find a shortcut or a work-around in a program of technology or other things that can help you circumvent that longer process and get the same thing done in a shorter amount of time.) The hack is to get to the core of what Yom Kippur is really about and then your can get to Simchas Torah without the dread of Yom Kippur. You still have to fast and do the prayer etc. but when you know the why of what you are doing and the destination that it leads to it helps lessen the intensity when you are doing it anyway.

The core of Yom Kippur, to steal the analogy from Rabbi Taub, is the serious part of the wedding, the Chuppa, when you are pensive and thoughtful and introspective, which is prelude to the exciting and celebratory part of the wedding, where the dancing and festive part happen.

One is not a contradiction to the other. In fact, the first part is necessary to get us to the second part. 

However, if you can shortcut the beginning (not cut it out, but reach Simchas Torah early, well, then while we still must observe Yom Kippur but we can feel celebratory in our hearts.

Today we did just that. We celebrated the Torah as if it was Simchas Torah, because, well, it was Simchas Torah. We took a parchment, and turned it into living breathing, healthy and kosher and functioning Torah. (For those who were there on the holiday, we talked about the leap from 0 to 1 being infinitely greater than the leap from 1 to 2.) 

For this reason, we didn’t say the tachanun (supplication) prayer today and we read the verses of Ata Horeisa as we do on Simchas Torah, and for this reason we danced with the Torah under a chupa to the sound of live music and had a full festive meal, complete with rainbow colored bagels. We invested that effort and energy because it is the only fitting way to honor the brand new Torah that joined our ranks today.

That was our “hack.” We bypassed, even if it was just for a short time the 10 days of repentance and even Yom Kippur and went straight to Simchas Torah. Sure, we will have to double back and get back in the zone and fast and do all the Yom Kippur requirements, but our souls had an actual taste of the end game, and that is Simchas Torah.

So, here is a link to a famous story where a great Jew actually bypassed Yom Kippur and went right to Simchas Torah https://www.chabad.org/library/article_cdo/aid/3090/jewish/The-Yom-Kippur-Drunk.htm , and in our way, we did the same today, so MAZAL TOV TO US, To our local Jewish community and hacking Yom Kippur and may it truly be a year of health, happiness, and much blessing, dancing and joy for all of us.

Thanks for those who came out today and here is a linkhttps://www.facebook.com/rabbinechemia/videos/4414665961923992/  for those that missed it.


Rabbi Nechemia & Raizel Schusterman

We Blew It – Mirroring Energy

WE BLEW IT! Mirroring Energy

WOW! What a Rosh Hashanah that was. It actually felt (a bit) like the “good ol days.” Thanks to you, WE BLEW IT! The Shofar that is… in a most exciting manner.

With an overflow attendance at Rosh Hashanah services in the Chabad Tent, many more than expected (and RSVP’ed) showed up to pray, in person, in an open and spaced out safe way.

It just goes to show that people really do want to be together and that there is room in our tent for everyone. The crowd was into it and the energy was good. There was an energy that I drew from the crowd that I haven’t felt quite so intensely for many years.

Was it the fact that people felt pent up and they were finally burstin out? Was it the fact that people just wanted to be with one another? Was it the energy that they were sharing with me and I was mirroring back at them?

I can’t tell you for sure but it certainly reminded me of a great chassidic story (one of my favorites) that I heard from Rabbi Kesselman, the Mashpia (spiritual mentor) of the Yeshiva in South Africa where I spent two years as a student shliach, helping the community and studying to be a rabbi along with 9 other colleagues.

He related the following to us (repeating in my own words as I recall them. I heard this story over 25 years ago.):

The Rebbe Rashab – Rabbi Sholom Dovber Schneerson – the 5th Chabad Rebbe 1860-1920 once was in Vienna and was staying in an upscale hotel. The Rebbe would travel often at times for communal matters and at other times for medical treatments that couldn’t be found in the more suburban areas where he had set up his Chassidic court. This time, while in Vienna, his son, Rabbi Yosef Yitzchok Schneerson, later to succeed him as Rebbe, came into his fathers hotel room to find his father sitting on his chair with his eyes closed in a what appeared to be a state of dveykus (a trance like state of deep thought and reflection).

Not wanting to disturb his father, he stood silently by his side awaiting him to come out of his dveykus. While standing there he heard soft sounds of music coming up from the main ballroom where the orchestra was practicing for an evening concert. Surprisingly, as soon as the band finished that set, the Rebbe (RaSha”b) opened his eyes and was no longer in that trance. When the Rebbe saw his son Yosef Yitzchok, he told him to go down to the conductor and tell him that his father was upstairs in the hotel and was listening to the music and really enjoyed it, and that he noticed that at a specific point during the music, the orchestra missed a note and did not hit the crescendo.

The young Yosef Yitzchok went immediately as instructed and reported this information to the conductor. The conductor was very impressed at his fathers very sensitive ear to be able to hear this subtlety and he told Yosef Yitzchok two things. 1) “Here are tickets for the concert, I’d like to invite your father as my guest. “and 2) “tell him that there are certain notes that are in the music sheets and can be read and played by the orchestra if they follow the notes. However, beyond that, there is a note that is not on the music sheets, it is an energy that the orchestra feels from the crowd that is reflecting the music back to them. When the musicians feel that energy they play with even more enthusiasm and they are able to hit a deeper note that can only be reached in a live concert with a live audience and only when the crowd is feeling that energy. It is not a note on the music sheet, it is a note in the soul.

Not to compare myself to the holy Rebbe in any way, but that was the energy I felt on Rosh Hashanah. It wasn’t me or anything I had done differently, it was the mirroring energy that was coming to me from the crowd.

So, thank you for lifting me up this holiday, and hopefully, you were lifted up as well.


There is a fairly controversial book that came out in the past few years entitled, The Surrendered Wife (2001), and it’s follow-up-book, The Empowered Wife (2017).

The premise of the book is that essentially if the wife surrenders to her husband, he will have no choice to reciprocate her love and affection and she can single handedly save a bad or broken marriage. 

Naturally, our egalitarian society doesn’t like the notion that a woman must “subjugate” herself even in the effort to save the bigger picture of a marriage. 

I am not here to approve of the book or knock it, only to learn a deep and powerful lesson from it as it relates to Rosh Hashanah and the High Holidays.

The Hayom Yom of yesterday, the 26th of Elul reads as follows: It is written, Atem nitzavim hayom, “You stand this day.” This day refers to Rosh Hashana which is the day of Judgment. Yet you remain standing firmly upright (nitzavim), meaning – you will be vindicated in judgment.

Essentially, what it is communicating is that we should stand upright and confident (Nitzvavim) on this day (of Rosh Hashanah) Note: This portion is always read in the lead up to Rosh Hashanah, and that is intentional and by design. Basically, it is saying, stand strong and confident because Gd is assuring us that you will be vindicated in judgement.

Now, that isn’t a great arrangement? If Gd wants to repent and repair ourselves, why are we being told in advance of the day of judgement, “oh, don’t worry, you will be vindicated? How does that motivate us to do good and heal our relationship?

The answer is, similar to the concept conveyed in the “surrendered wife.” It is not about her being weak or “less than” it is about the fact that no (mentally healthy) person can withstand the unconditional love and affection of another and not be moved enough to get over themselves and reciprocate.

If this is true among friends, couples, it is most certainly true when dealing with a relationship with Gd. The Chassidic masters are assuring us that Gd will vindicate you. They are not saying it so that we will become lazy and sit on the couch and say that we don’t need to show up at Shul because the job is done already?!

They are saying that Gd is giving us the greatest gift of unconditional love and unconditional forgiveness. That love inevitably awakens within us deep feeling of reciprocal love and we are pulled into Gd’s vortex and almost cannot help ourselves but to want to go and love Gd back in His language. The language of prayer, repentance, Torah study and good deeds.

So, lets enter the pre-Rosh Hashanah Shabbos with the confidence that comes with the assurance that we are going to be forgiven for all misdeeds and reciprocate that Divine gift, with a divine gift of our own!

Good Shabbos