Thursday, March 14, 2019

PARSHAS VAYIKRA/ZACHOR/PURIM 5779


STAM TORAH
PARSHAS VAYIKRA/ZACHOR/PURIM 5779
“INDOMITABLE SPIRIT”[1]

A fellow meets his elderly neighbor Bernie, one afternoon, and they begin conversing. Bernie starts telling his neighbor about a new class he and his wife were taking. “You know, how we are getting older, and sometimes we tend to forget details, events, and even names. So, we’re taking a class called memory by association. If you can’t remember something, you remember something else associated with what you are trying to remember and that helps jar your memory.”
The neighbor is impressed. “My parents are getting older and I think they could benefit from such a class. What’s the name of the instructor?”
Bernie thinks for a second. “Well now is a perfect time for me to show you what I’ve learned. What’s the name of that beautiful flower, it comes in different colors, and people like to give red ones to someone they love?” The neighbor replies, “Do you mean a rose?” Bernie nods and smiles, “Yes, that’s it!” Then Bernie screams into the kitchen, “Hey Rose, what’s the name of the instructor of the association class we’re taking?” 

“Remember what Amalek did to you on the way when you were leaving Egypt.”[2]
What is it about Amalek and their attack that we are obligated to remember? 
In addition, why is Megillas Esther specifically named for Esther? Granted, she was a heroine in the story, but couldn’t it have been called Megillas Mordechai or Megillas Purim?

The gemara[3] relates two opinions about Esther’s physical beauty. The first opinion is the classically known view that she was very beautiful. The gemara then quotes a second opinion that Esther had a pale complexion and wasn’t all that attractive. Still, she had a certain charm and regal bearing to her that made her exceedingly attractive to Achashveirosh. 
Why does the gemara relate the second opinion which seems degrading about Esther?
The Vilna Gaon explained that originally Esther was indeed exceedingly beautiful and attractive. However, being forced to remain in the harem of Achashveirosh had a detrimental effect upon her. Esther was a person of depth and lived with higher values and aspirations. The women in the palace on the other hand, spent their days consumed in beautifying themselves, dousing themselves in oils, creams, and lotions.[4] Their conversations were all about their physical appearance and how they could make themselves even more attractive. For Esther living among such superficiality was mental torture. Being in such an environment for a prolonged amount of time had a physical effect upon her and made her appear pale.
The gemara relates that fact to demonstrate her depth and righteousness.

The gemara[5] notes that Vashti’s humiliating end was a worthy punishment for her, because she would force the Jewish girls to undress and work on Shabbos. That was why she was summoned to appear before the king undressed on Shabbos.
Vashti didn’t literally force the Jewish girls to undress. Vashti was the queen and celebrity that every girl aspired to be like. She was beautiful, powerful, and royal.[6] She was also an immodest woman who dressed provocatively to garner attention.[7] Being that all the girls looked up to her, they also imitated her mode of dress. Invariably this effected the Jewish girls as well. This is what the gemara refers to as “stripping the Jewish girls”. By dressing inappropriately, she served as a negative role model to violate the standards of modesty and decency. [8]
Esther was the antithesis of Vashti. Esther was sickened to her core by the immodesty that Vashti personified.

Rabbi Gamliel Rabinowitz shlita[9] explains that when one devotes themselves selflessly to a cause, it is remembered and referred to in their name. The Torah is referred to as “Toras Moshe”[10] because Moshe Rabbeinu devoted his heart and soul, and even his physical self, to teaching and transmitting Torah to Klal Yisroel.[11]
At the beginning of Mishlei, Shlomo Hamelech states: “Listen my son to the discipline of your father, and do not forsake the Torah of your mother.”[12] Why is the Torah referred to as the “Torah of your mother” when a woman isn’t even obligated to learn Torah? The most important component in conveying Torah to one’s children isn’t the actual wisdom of Torah, as much as it is the influence of Torah. That influence is instilled into the home by the woman of the home who inculcates the values and love of Torah into her family.[13]
During the unfolding of the Purim story, there was no one who devoted themselves more selflessly to the Jewish people and to their salvation than Esther. It was Esther who lived in the palace away from her loved ones, had to put her life on the line for her people, and remained married to the wicked Achashveirosh for the rest of her life, even after the miracles of Purim occurred. Therefore, the megillah is named after her.
Esther was also a worthy role model for Jewish women, personifying modesty, selflessness, devotion, and boundless love for her people. There was no one who offered herself so completely on behalf of her people. That is the meaning behind the words we sing,[14] “Blessed is Esther on my behalf”.

In the prayer Uva L’tzion we state: “As for Me, this is My covenant with them, says G-d: My spirit that is upon you, and My words that I have placed in your mouth, shall not depart from your mouth, nor from the mouth of your children, nor from the mouth of your children’s children, says G-d, from now for eternity.” To convey Torah values and Torah living to our children, we must invest in them the ‘spirit’ of such values. It’s not enough to fulfill the Torah and mitzvos, we must live them and convey the spirit of the law. That spirit is chiefly created by the woman of the home through her love, devotion, and emotional warmth.
It is that spirit that Amalek sought, and seeks, to destroy. Amalek is the consummate scoffer who mocks, minimizes, and degrades all that is sacred. When we emerged from the splitting of the sea, we were emotionally fired-up and felt deeply connected with G-d. Amalek’s attack may have been a military failure, but their desire to destroy our spiritual momentum and break through our aura of invincibility was a booming success.
All the miracles and the entire Sinai experience was to foster that spirit within us. In one fell swoop Amalek let the air out of the tires, causing spiritual and psychological damage that can never be fully repaired.

A tenth-grade boy who had always done well in school and had been the pride of his family, suddenly had a terrible slide. In a short time, he became involved in negative and risky behaviors and kept pushing the envelope.
One evening the boy’s father took him on a long walk for a crucial heart-to-heart conversation. During that talk the boy admitted that a few bad friends had been having a terrible influence upon him. They prevailed upon him to experiment with different things, claiming that it was no big deal, and everyone was doing it. They introduced him to places and things he knew were wrong for him to be involved in but he couldn’t face up to the peer pressure.  
The father looked his son in the eye and said, “Son, your life is in your hands. No one can stop you from these behaviors or from these friends, except for yourself. Just remember your dreams and what you want to become. Think about the path you’re on now and where it may likely end up. Recapture your dreams before it’s too late!”
Thankfully, the son hearkened to his father’s message and extricated himself from those friendships and got himself back on track.
Then, when the boy began eleventh grade, and then again at the beginning of his senior year, when he began college, and then again when he moved into his own apartment, the father gently told his son, “Remember what happened during your sophomore year. There will be others who will try to do the same, and if you forget the lesson you learned then, you may quickly find yourself back in the same predicament, and perhaps even worse.”

Remember what Amalek did to you! Remember what they robbed you of – your pride, and your indomitable and unyielding spirit and faith in G-d. Remember how they tried to deflate your inner fire and passion, to make you feel like we weren’t special and unique.
Remember - because if you forget, Amalek has many disciples and permutations and will attack again!

Purim is a celebration of reigniting of that inner fire!
Chumash Vayikra is the book of the Torah that relates the laws of offering korbanos to Hashem. Today, in exile, our heart is our sanctuary, and we offer our very souls to G-d.[15] 
On Purim we offer our very selves to G-d through joy and fiery passion. That is the greatest revenge against Amalek and that is the ultimate way to remember what they perpetrated against us.
Beyond the wonderful laughter and gaiety of the day, one is remiss if he doesn’t feel intense pride and intense joy in being part of the chosen, eternal people.

“Remember, what Amalek did to you.”
“My spirit that is upon you shall not depart for eternity”


Rabbi Dani Staum, LMSW
Rebbe/Guidance Counselor – Heichal HaTorah
Principal – Ohr Naftoli- New Windsor


[1] The following is the lecture I delivered at Kehillat New Hempstead, Parshas Vayikra/Zachor 5776
[2] Devorim 25:17
[3] Megilla 15a
[4] One would think that the women vying to be queen would spend their days learning about royal etiquette and expectations. But the megillah relates that their sole preoccupation was on their physical looks. That was the criteria that Achashveirosh would base his decision on. That speaks volumes about what kind of a person he was.  
[5] Megilla 12b
[6] She was the featured picture of every magazine in “Shushanawood”
[7] The gemara relates that Vashti was only too happy to appear naked before the drunken men, until she realized that she was suddenly besieged with unsightly marks all over her body.
[8] I heard this from my rebbe, Rabbi Mordechai Finkelman. I was not able to ask Rabbi Finkelman who he said this over from.
[9] Tiv HaPurim
[10] Malachi 3:22 “Remember the Torah of Moshe My servant”
[11] Mechilta d’Rabbi Yishmael 15:1
[12] Mishlei 1:8
[13] Ibn Ezra "כי האשה חכמה מורה דרך הישרה לבנה"
[14] In ‘Shoshanas Yaakov’
[15] Rabbi Elazar Azkari in Sefer Hachassidim expressed this idea very movingly: "בתוך לבי משכן אבנה לזיוו, קרבן תקריב לו נפשי היחידה" – In my heart I will build a sanctuary to His splendor; I will offer to Him the depths of my soul” .Rav Yitzchak Hutner zt’l wrote a well-known variation based on these words which was composed into a very moving song called ‘Bilvavi’

Thursday, March 7, 2019

PARSHAS PEKUDEI 5779


STAM TORAH
PARSHAS PEKUDEI 5779
“HERO MENTALITY”[1]
NYT - The Real Victims of Victimhood
Dec. 26, 2015
…“Victimhood culture” has now been identified as a widening phenomenon by mainstream sociologists…
So who cares if we are becoming a culture of victimhood? We all should. To begin with, victimhood makes it more and more difficult for us to resolve political and social conflicts. The culture feeds a mentality that crowds out a necessary give and take — the very concept of good-faith disagreement — turning every policy difference into a pitched battle between good (us) and evil (them).
Consider a 2014 study in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, which examined why opposing groups, including Democrats and Republicans, found compromise so difficult. The researchers concluded that there was a widespread political “motive attribution asymmetry,” in which both sides attributed their own group’s aggressive behavior to love, but the opposite side’s to hatred. Today, millions of Americans believe that their side is basically benevolent while the other side is evil and out to get them.
Second, victimhood culture makes for worse citizens — people who are less helpful, more entitled, and more selfish. In 2010, four social psychologists from Stanford University published an article titled “Victim Entitlement to Behave Selfishly” in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology. The researchers randomly assigned 104 human subjects to two groups.
Members of one group were prompted to write a short essay about a time when they felt bored; the other to write about “a time when your life seemed unfair. Perhaps you felt wronged or slighted by someone.” After writing the essay, the participants were interviewed and asked if they wanted to help the scholars in a simple, easy task.
The results were stark. Those who wrote the essays about being wronged were 26 percent less likely to help the researchers, and were rated by the researchers as feeling 13 percent more entitled.
In a separate experiment, the researchers found that members of the unfairness group were 11 percent more likely to express selfish attitudes. In a comical and telling aside, the researchers noted that the victims were more likely than the nonvictims to leave trash behind on the desks and to steal the experimenters’ pens.
Does this mean that we should reject all claims that people are victims? Of course not. Some people are indeed victims in America — of crime, discrimination or deprivation. They deserve our empathy and require justice.
The problem is that the line is fuzzy between fighting for victimized people and promoting a victimhood culture. Where does the former stop and the latter start?...

“When the month of Adar enters, we increase joy.”[2]
The joy of Adar is rooted in the fact that at the time of the malicious and nefarious decree of Haman, the nation did not succumb to melancholy or terror. They did not lose their composure and collapse. They rallied behind Mordechai and Esther and rose to the occasion to create the incredible outcome which we celebrate on Purim.
One of the greatest impediments to joy is having a victim mentality and feeling no control over his life.
The gemara[3] relates the story of Elazar ben Durdaya, a man who was swept away by temptation and became addicted to immoral pleasures. This was clearly demonstrated when he undertook a difficult journey and was willing to pay a high fee to be with a specific woman of ill repute.
At one point during their ‘meeting’, the woman blurted out that Elazar would never be able to repent for his sinful indulgent ways[4]. Elazar ben Durdaya was so shaken by her words that he left her and sought to repent. The gemara recounts in detail his ‘teshuva process’ which entailed calling out to various natural forces to come to his aid.
The commentaries explain that when Elazar ben Durdaya appealed to the forces of nature, it was actually his way of attempting to shift the blame.
The Hebrew word for mountain, harim, is similar to the word horim, parents. Elazar ben Durdaya sought to blame his parents for his sinful lifestyle. He reasoned that it was obviously a deficiency in the way they raised him that caused him to seek pleasure in sinful manners.
When he realized that blaming his parents wouldn’t help him, he turned towards the heaven and earth. The heaven is symbolic of the generation’s spiritual leaders. Elazar ben Durdaya pointed to his teachers as the source of his problems.  If only they had understood me better… If only they were better educators… If only they knew how to relate to me better…
The earth represented his environment, which included his friends and social milieu. He sought to blame their negative influence for who he became.
Then he turned towards the sun and the moon, representing the glamour of society. There were too many immoral attractions luring me. What can be expected of a person living in a world which venerates money and pleasure?   
Lastly, he turned towards the stars and the constellations. He declared that he was not able to control his lustful tendencies because he was born under the wrong star. He was destined to be who he became and there was nothing he could have done to change it.
When Elazar realized that none of his excuses were valid justifications, he finally came to the correct conclusion that his destiny and choices were his alone. At that point he broke down and wept declaring, “the matter is only dependent upon me”. He continued to cry until his soul left him.
Rabbi Elazar ben Durdaya[5] merited achieving complete repentance in his last moments on earth, when he took responsibility for himself, and stopped blaming everything and everyone else for his struggles and troubles.

During a Commencement address, delivered at Harvard in June 2008, noted author J.K. Rowling[6] discussed the challenges she faced to become a writer, despite her parents wishes that she pursues a different career path.
Rowling quipped, “I would like to make it clear, in parenthesis, that I do not blame my parents for their point of view. There is an expiry date on blaming your parents for steering you in the wrong direction; the moment you are old enough to take the wheel, responsibility lies with you. What is more, I cannot criticize my parents for hoping that I would never experience poverty. They had been poor themselves, and I have since been poor, and I quite agree with them that it is not an ennobling experience. Poverty entails fear, and stress, and sometimes depression; it means a thousand petty humiliations and hardships. Climbing out of poverty by your own efforts, that is indeed something on which to pride yourself, but poverty itself is romanticized only by fools.
“What I feared most for myself at your age was not poverty, but failure.”

 “They completed all of the service of the Mishkan, Tent of the Meeting, and B’nei Yisrael did like all that Hashem had commanded Moshe, so they did.”[7]
What is the reason for the Torah’s glaring redundancy in saying “so they did”?  
Th Chasam Sofer explains that until the Mishkan was completed, the Avodah was performed by the firstborn of each family[8]. As soon as the Mishkan was erected and initiated, the Avodah was transferred to the Kohanim and Leviim. It would be understandable for the nation to be pained by the loss of the service from a member of each family, just as Korach complained about his not being appointed to a higher level of authority.
The pasuk is revealing that although “all of the service of the Mishkan was completed” which meant that the service was permanently removed from the firstborn of each family, nonetheless, “like all that Hashem had commanded Moshe, so they did.” Just as Moshe rejoiced in his special opportunity to perform the duties of the Kohain Gadol for seven days[9], so did the B’nai Yisrael rejoice in the initiation of the Mishkan, despite the personal loss that it entailed.

In March 11, 2016, Yisrael Kristal was officially named the world's oldest living man by the Guinness World Records. At the time, Kristal was 112 years, 178 days old.
Kristal, a religious Jew, lived through both world wars and survived Auschwitz. In an interview he said, "I don't know the secret for long life. I believe that everything is determined from above and we shall never know the reasons why.
"There have been smarter, stronger and better-looking men then me who are no longer alive. All that is left for us to do is to keep on working as hard as we can and rebuild what is lost."
Kristal was born to near the town of Zarnow in Poland in 1903 – the year Stalin joined the Bolsheviks in Czarist Russia, Ford produced its first car and King Edward VII was made British Emperor of India.
He survived the First World War after becoming separated from his parents when he was just 11. In 1920 he moved to Łódź in Poland to work in his family confectionery business. Following the Nazi invasion of Poland and the occupation of Łódź, Kristal was forced into the Łódź ghetto with his family in 1939.
Four years later he was sent to Auschwitz. Kristal lost his wife, Chaja Feige Frucht, and their two children in the Holocaust.
Kristal himself survived, performing back-breaking slave labor in Auschwitz and other concentration camps. He was rescued from the brink of death by the Allies in May 1945, weighing only 37 kilos.
A sole survivor of a large family, he emigrated in 1950 to the city of Haifa in Israel with his second wife and their son. Since that time, Kristal continued to grow both his family and his successful confectionery business until his retirement.
Kristal never had a bar mitzvah, due to the hardships of the First World War. However, he has never missed a day of wearing tefillin, with the exception of the Holocaust and the first world war.
After being crowned the world's oldest man, Japan's Koide credited his longevity to[10] abstinence from alcohol and cigarettes. But in a 2012 interview for Haaretz, Kristal gave no such advice, instead saying: "It's no great bargain. Everyone has their own good fortune. It's from heaven. There are no secrets."
His daughter, Shula Kuperstoch, told The Jerusalem Post that her father has kept his faith throughout his life, adding: "The Holocaust did not affect his beliefs. My father is someone who is always happy. He is optimistic, wise, and he values what he has.
"His attitude to life is everything in moderation. He eats and sleeps moderately and says that a person should always be in control of their own life and not have their life control them, as far as this is possible.
"He believes he was saved because that's what G-d wanted. He is not an angry person, he is not someone who seeks to an accounting, he believes everything has a reason in the world."

Life inevitably presents us with challenges that are often incomprehensible and overwhelming. The difference between someone who grows from such experiences and someone who becomes paralyzed and stymied, is often based on their perspective – do they fall into a victim mentality or are they able to embrace the challenges despite the pain.
Many people live their lives blaming everyone else for their shortcomings, circumstances, and struggles. The truth is that in many situations they may very well be right.  But such an attitude and perspective ensure that they will never transcend those impediments.
The most inspiring people are those who have all the excuses in the world, and yet somehow pushed past their limitations and achieved any level of success and greatness. The survivors of any trauma who not only don’t allow themselves to wallow in the pain of their past, but even utilize their terrible circumstances to help others and grow from their painful experiences.  
The completion of the mishkan was celebrated with great excitement and devotion, despite the personal loss it presented to the nation. That is also why Purim is a holiday of such intense external joy. In the face of the greatest danger our ancestors ever faced since the inception of our nationhood, they rose to the occasion and refused to allow themselves to wallow in self-pity.
Purim is a celebration of a nation that transcended a traumatic experience and used it to become greater and better people.   

“The matter is dependent only upon me”
“They completed the service of the Mishkan… so they did”


Rabbi Dani Staum, LMSW
Rebbe/Guidance Counselor – Heichal HaTorah
Principal – Ohr Naftoli- New Windsor



[1] The following is the lecture I delivered at Kehillat New Hempstead, Parshas Pekudei 5776
[2] Ta’anis 29
[3] Avoda Zara 17a
[4] This was part of her tactic to lure him into enjoying the experience. She reasoned that since he anyway would never be able to rectify his wrongs, and he had already sunk so low, he might as well allow himself to become completely swept away in this sin. This is part of the lie our evil inclination tells us constantly. That is why the gemara makes it a point t relate this detail. The greatness of the story is that Elazar ben Durdaya did not succumb to her tactic, and in fact the opposite occurred, as it stirred his latent soul and moved him to want to rectify his ways.
[5] Because he repented, he merited being called Rabbi in the gemara
[6] Author of the Harry Potter series; Rowling’s story is one of rags to riches, complete obscurity to great fame
[7] Shemos 39:32
[8] See Zevachim 112b
[9] During the seven days of ‘Milu’im’, the seven days of preparation before the first day of Nissan when the avodah of the Mishkan began in earnest with Aharon as the Koahin Gadol and his sons as the Kohanim, Moshe performed the duties of the Kohain Gadol.
[10] Sadly, Yisrael Kristal passed away in August 2017 at the age of 113.

Thursday, February 28, 2019

PARSHAS VAYAKHEL-SHEKALIM 5779


STAM TORAH
PARSHAS VAYAKHEL-SHEKALIM 5779
“GET INVOLVED”[1]

Mr. Alan Rosenstock is the President of Tomchei Shabbos in Rockland County. One morning a few years ago, when I was still a rebbe there, Mr. Rosenstock spoke to the students of Ashar. I was very moved by his message, the gist of which follows:
“I often ask people what they think the message of Tomchei Shabbos is. Most people don’t get it. It’s not only about the many food packages we deliver to people who need it each week, or the tzedakah given, or the many acts of discreet chesed that are performed.
“The main message of Tomchei Shabbos is about participation and becoming involved. The Jewish people need the diverse talents, abilities, and efforts of every single Jew. Everyone has something to give.
“Tomchei Shabbos is not comprised of people who do what they can do, but of people who do what they need to do!
“One of the classes here in Ashar collected 660 cans for Tomchei Shabbos. Tomorrow morning, hundreds of families who wouldn’t otherwise have breakfast, will be enjoying the cans that were collected. If I asked those students before they started if they thought they could collect 660 cans, I would imagine most of them would have replied that there was no way. But that class did what they needed to do.
“For a few years, I had the zechus to be a personal driver for Rav Shimon Schwab zt’l. His shul, K’hal Adath Jeshurun in Washington Heights, had a choir that would perform every other year at a concert that took place in the shul’s social hall.
“Following one of the concerts, Rav Schwab explained that we recite in Shema, “You shall love Hashem, your G-d, with all your heart, and all your soul, and all of your [2]מאד.” מאד refers to anything that a person feels very connected to; anything that is “very much” for that person. i.e. whatever talents and capabilities one has, they must be channeled and used in the service of Hashem, which includes bringing joy and benefit to others.  
“When I was driving Rav Schwab afterwards, I asked him why in the second paragraph of Shema, it repeats that one must serve Hashem with all his heart and soul, but doesn’t include that one must serve Hashem with all of his מאד?
“He replied that whereas the first paragraph of Shema is speaking to the individual, the second paragraph of Shema is directed at the collective whole. Every individual has unique talents, and the Jewish people need the investment of every one of those talents. Our role is to figure out what unique contribution we have that can benefit the public. The mandate to give מאד was specifically instructed to each individual.”

What is the ideal manner in which one should serve G-d?
“Take from among you donations for Hashem, anyone whose heart elevates him shall bring for the donation of Hashem, gold, and silver, and copper…”[3] There were a total of thirteen materials that could be donated to the Mishkan. Of those materials, anyone could donate as much as he wanted. The only exception was silver, from which there was a mandated silver half-shekel that had to contributed.[4]
Sfas Emes notes that the word kesef (silver) is similar to the word kisuf (yearning). By nature, every Jew is created with an innate feeling of love for Hashem. The only reason a person may not feel that love, is because he has dulled it or buried it beneath the morass of sin. But if one repents, he will rediscover that the innate yearning to connected with the divine. Every Jew had to contribute an equal amount of kesef symbolizing every Jew’s innate kisuf. All other materials, representing all other talents, could be contributed at will. Every person has his own unique talents and resources and those are up to him to decide how much to donate.

Every Friday night, a woman lights the Shabbos candles ushering in the sanctity of the holy day. Then, she recites a beautiful tefillah, praying for the spiritual growth of her children[5]. “May I merit to raise children and children’s children, wise and understanding, lovers of G-d, those who fear G-d, men of truth, holy progeny, who cling to G-d, and light up the world with Torah and good deeds, and all of the work of the service of the Creator.”
At last year’s Agudah convention, Rabbi Moshe Tuvia Lieff related the following poignant thought in the name of Rav Motta Frank:
Our greatest value is Torah study. We recite each day, “Talmud Torah k’neged kulam – Torah study is equal to all of the rest of them[6]”. When a woman prays for her children, it would seem appropriate that she conclude by praying that their children light up the world with Torah. Why does the prayer continue that her children light up the world with “good deeds, and all of the work of the service of the Creator”?
In conveying the answer, Rabbi Lieff raised his voice, “My friends, the very question demonstrates a deficiency in us. What have we done to ourselves? We have undermined the contributions and efforts of many wonderful people. What about the young man who does not have the capability to sit and learn all day but performs acts of chesed?! Does the fellow from chaverim who comes to change your tire on the side of the road at 1 a.m. not light up the world?! Yes, our ultimate dream is for our children to be Torah scholars. But there are other forms of the service of the Creator, and we dare not undervalue and underappreciate them.
As a woman lights the Shabbos candles, she beseeches G-d to help her children light up the world, foremost in Torah, but beyond that, in any manner and form of service to G-d.

The message of the mandatory half-shekel tax is that we all need each other. On our own, we are halves lacking completion. We need the contributions of every single Jew in fulfilling “all the work of the service of the Creator”. The most basic trait we must externalize is our yearning for greatness and connection with G-d. Once we are in touch with that natural emotion, we can bring forth the other materials/talents we uniquely possess – each on his own level.
The Mishkan was built by a nation whose hearts were elevated to participate. We continue to maintain the communal sanctuary of the Jewish people through our collective efforts.

“You shall love Hashem with all of your ‘very much’”
“Who light up the world with all the service of the Creator”


Rabbi Dani Staum, LMSW
Rebbe/Guidance Counselor – Heichal HaTorah
Principal – Ohr Naftoli- New Windsor



[1] The following is the lecture I delivered at Kehillat New Hempstead, Parshas Vayakhel/Shekalim 5776
[2] The actual meaning of מאדך refers to one’s resources, that one must love Hashem with all of his money/resources. Rav Schwab’s explanation was based on the literal translation of the word מאד – very much.
[3] Shemos 35:5
[4] Rashi (Shemos 25:3) explains there were three separate portions of silver donated. The first was the mandatory half-shekel given by every Jew, which was used to create the silver sockets that supported the massive beams which surrounded the Mishkan. The second was the annual mandatory half-shekel given by every Jew which was used to purchase the communal offerings brought in the Mishkan. The third portion was optional donations of silver which were used to create the various silver vessels used in the Mishkan.
[5] Men are grateful to R’ Baruch Levine who enlightened us to the text of this powerful tefillah through his well-known, moving song to these words. Before that song was produced most men weren’t aware of the tefillah.
[6] i.e. all of the other virtues and mitzvos enumerated in that Beraisa (Shabbos 127a)