Rebbe Reb Zusha

“Zusha, why weren’t you the best Zusha you could be?”

Rebbe Reb Zusha:
Today is the yahrzeit of Rebbe Reb Meshulem Zusha of Anapol. Of course, this is personal for me, since my son is named after this incredible leader! Why did my wife and I choose this name for our Zushale? Reb Zusha wrote no books and never amassed a large following. Yet, in his signature, understated way, he contributed greatly to the emerging Chassidic movement.

Here is a story I told my wife once that planted the seed for this name:

Reb Zusha was quaking with fright on his deathbed. His students asked, “Rebbe, what’s wrong? Is there anything we can get you?”  He replied, “I am afraid I will be turned away from heaven.” They replied, “You are a great leader like Moshe was!” “I am not afraid of being asked why I was or was not like Moshe or Avraham or anyone else,” he explained to his students. “After all, G!d already has a Moshe. I am afraid, however, of being asked, ‘Zusha, why weren’t you the best Zusha you could be?’ 

Reb Zusha was a true baal teshuva (lit. master of repentance). Throughout the day, he would record his “failings” in a notebook. Each night, before going to sleep, he would cry and plead for forgiveness until his tears had washed away whatever he had written. He is known for his teaching that the Hebrew word teshuva, translated as “return” or “repentance,” is an acronym for five elements and methods through which to seek renewal

T: Tamim – “Be sincere (tamim) with the Eternal, your G!d.”
Sh: Shiviti – “I have set (shiviti) G‑d before me always.”
U: Ve-ahavta – “And you shall love (ve-ahavta) your fellow as yourself.”
V: Bechol – “In all (bechol) your ways, know Him.”
H: Hatzne-a – “Discreetly (hatzne-a) walk with your G‑d.

Parsha in Four Words:

Va’eyra = “Let My People Go!”

Meanwhile in Jerusalem:

On this day in 3688 JST /73 BCE Shlomtziyon Hamalkah (a.k.a. Salome Alexandra or Alexandra of Jerusalem) became the Hasmonean (yup from Chanuka!) Queen of Judea. She succeeded her violent and antisemitic husband Yannai Hamelech. She supported the Pharisees during those divisive and contentious times; her brother Shimon ben Shetach was one of their leaders.

Authors Notes:

With gratitude to Manny Saltiel for sending out a weekly newsletter of Jewish history that helps inspire these thoughts. Also a big shout out to Wikipedia for all the endless blackholes of history. If you have any feedback on this new feature please let me know!

Alex is the Operations Director at TJE. With a degree in History (B.A.) and a schmaltz in Judaism (N.J.B.), this weekly “Blast from the Past” is a fun way to combine and share how the past can inform our future.