Thursday, June 26, 2014

Shabbos Kodesh Parshas Chukas 2014

Rabbi Doniel Staum, LMSW
Rabbi, Kehillat New Hempstead
Rebbe/Guidance Counselor – ASHAR/ Yeshiva Bais Hachinuch


On Friday evening at the end of the beloved tefillah, Lecha Dodi, we sing, "תוך אמוני עם סגולה בואי כלה בואי כלה" – Among the faithful of the treasured people; Enter, O Bride, Enter, O Bride!”
Why are we referred to as עם סגולה" - The treasured nation”, particularly here, as we welcome in Shabbos?

Just prior to the giving of the Torah, G-d instructed Moshe to inform the nation[1], “And now, if you hearken well to Me and observe My covenant, you shall be to Me, a treasure from amongst all the nations, for Mine is the entire world.” 
Rashi explains that just as kings store away in their treasure houses expensive vessels and precious stones, so will Hashem treasure us from amongst all the other nations of the world.[2]

At this year’s Torah Umesorah convention in May, at the Friday night seudah Rabbi Nate Segal recounted the following personal incident:
 “There’s a fellow who joined my shul around Tisha B’av this past year. He came regularly for a few weeks, and after Succos he announced that he was now going to be Shabbos observant. He works for P.C. Richard and Sons and he doesn’t make a lot of money.
“This year Thanksgiving coincided with Chanukah. On Thanksgiving evening (Thursday night) in shul, he informed me that that the following day was Black Friday, the biggest shopping day of the year, and for that week only he would see me on Saturday morning in shul, but not on Friday night. I tried to reason with him, and explain to him about Shabbos, and sacrificing for Shabbos, but he would hear none of it. It was by far the biggest profit day of the year. “I’ll see you Saturday morning,” he repeated.
“On Friday morning I was bothered that perhaps there was more I could to convince him to observe Shabbos that week. But I couldn’t think of anything. Then I remembered the classic story with Rav Aryeh Levine zt’l[3]:
On Friday afternoons, shortly before Shabbos, Rav Aryeh would leave to shul early so that he could pass by various stores and inform the store owners that they should make sure to close their store before Shabbos.
One Friday afternoon Rav Aryeh noticed a long line of customers waiting outside an ice cream store. Inside he could see the storekeeper busily serving one person after the next, without any thought of closing.
Rav Aryeh debated within himself, “If I was that storekeeper would I be able to withstand such temptation of so many customers? Would I be able to send them all away because of Shabbos?” But Rav Aryeh reasoned that despite his own thoughts, Shabbos was about to begin and he had to urge the storeowner to close his store.
Rav Aryeh then entered the store, put his streimel on a chair, and sat down calmly at a table. When the storekeeper noticed him he immediately approached and asked if he could help him. Rav Aryeh replied: “You certainly have a great test before you and I see that it is quite a challenge. But Shabbos is Shabbos.” With that Rav Aryeh politely stood up, donned his streimel and left the store. When he was already down the block, he turned around and saw that the customers were leaving and the storekeeper was pulling down the shutters and closing his store.
Some time later the storekeeper met Rav Aryeh. “Those few words which you said to me touched the depths of my heart. I realized that you knew and felt my thoughts and feelings, and yet you felt the pain of the honor of Shabbos. I felt that I couldn’t allow such a special Jew as you to suffer on my account. So I overcame the challenge and sent the remaining customers away.”
Rav Aryeh smiled warmly. “I believe that you are greater than I am. How can I know if I would have withstood such a test if I were in your shoes?” 
I’m not Rav Aryeh Levine and I didn’t go to the store just before Shabbos, but I did go that Friday morning. When he looked up and saw me standing there, he was shocked: “Rabbi what are you doing here?” I smiled politely and said “I came to see what it is that is so difficult and important that you would give up Shabbos for it?” His eyes filled with tears. “You came to see that?” Then he started to cry. He couldn’t get over it. “Rabbi, I was thinking that perhaps I should leave the store in time for Shabbos but I wasn’t completely sure. Your visit clinched it! I can tell you that I will leave the store by five minutes after four this afternoon, so I can get to shul for davening tonight.”
He usually made $30,000 in sales on Black Friday, and this year he only made $10,000 in sales. But that Friday night he walked into the shul. After Mincha I addressed the congregation and said: “Here’s a real live Maccabe! It’s Chanukah and here is a live demonstration of a Maccabe who won!” Then the shul erupted in a dance around him.[4]

With Rashi’s explanation and the aforementioned story in mind we can offer the following explanation: As we welcome the Shabbos on Friday evening we are surrounded by fellow Torah observant Jews who have put their lives on hold. Their businesses and endeavors that consume them throughout their week in their efforts to support their families all come to a screeching halt. Suddenly everyone is dressed in physical and spiritual regality and enveloped in divine serenity.
It is a testament to the fact that we are a people who treasure Shabbos above all of our physical pursuits. We are all called the Treasured Nation because Hashem treasures us, and when we show how much we love His Shabbos, we demonstrate that we treasure our being His Chosen Nation. At the onset of the holy Shabbos each week we melodiously proclaim “Among the faithful of the treasured people” – because we are in midst of the faithful who treasure the Shabbos, we are worthy to lovingly usher her in: “Enter, O Bride, Enter, O Bride”.   

[1] Shemos 19:5
[2] סְגֻלָּה. אוֹצָר חָבִיב, כְּמוֹ ”וּסְגֻלַּת מְלָכִים“ (קהלת ב:ח), כְּלֵי יָקָר וַאֲבָנִים טוֹבוֹת שֶׁהַמְּלָכִים גּוֹנְזִים אוֹתָם, כָּךְ אַתֶּם תִּהְיוּ לִי סְגֻלָּה מִשְּׁאָר אֻמּוֹת (מכילתא).
[3] from the book “A tzaddik in our Time”
[4] Rabbi Segal was speaking to a room packed with educators and concluded with the following poigniant thought: “Why did it happen? Because I followed Rav Aryeh’s example. Rav Aryeh taught us that the love of a rebbe for a student can come in many different ways. We can’t judge our students and we must feel their pain and struggles. We have to think out of the box and find creative ways to foster that bond and connection. When we do so there is no end to what we can accomplish with our students.”

Thursday, June 19, 2014


Rabbi Doniel Staum, LMSW
Rabbi, Kehillat New Hempstead
Rebbe/Guidance Counselor – ASHAR/ Yeshiva Bais Hachinuch


A stormy night, off the coast of Newfoundland, on the bridge of the USS Lincoln; a dim green blip suddenly appears on the radar screen:
USS Lincoln to Canadian Naval Authorities: Please divert your course 15 degrees to the North to avoid a collision.
Canadians: Recommend you divert YOUR course 15 degrees to the South to avoid a collision.
USS Lincoln: This is the captain of a US Navy ship. I repeat, divert YOUR course.
Canadians: No. I repeat; you divert YOUR course.
Canadians: This is a lighthouse. Your call….    

          Korach incited an overt rebellion against the authority of Moshe and Aharon, the selfless leaders of Klal Yisroel. Korach posed as a champion of the masses, in order to rouse the masses to join his cause.
He began his tirade with an exclamation intended to put Moshe and Aharon on the defensive, accusing them of selfishly garnering all of the nation’s power for themselves. Then, in order to curry the favor of the public he demanded that, since all Jews were equally holy, Moshe and Aharon had no right to usurp the highest positions for themselves.
Despite the fact that he was baselessly attacked, Moshe did all in his power to make peace with the rebels. But it was to no avail. They were bent on rebellion and would settle for nothing less.

The greatness of peace is constantly underscored by our Sages. “How great is peace; for prayer does not conclude with anything other than peace, and the Priestly Blessings do not conclude with anything other than peace.”[1] “Hillel said: One should be from the disciples of Aharon - love peace and pursue peace; love the creations and bring them closer to Torah.”[2] “Great is the blessing of peace which G-d granted Pinchas because the world runs on nothing other than peace. The Torah is solely peace as it says, ‘its ways are wars of pleasantness and all of its pathways are peace’.”[3]
In the tractate called Derech Eretz Zutah, the entire final chapter is dedicated to speaking about the greatness of peace and its importance. Among the other qualities mentioned is that the Name of G-d is Peace, the name of Moshiach is peace, and the name of Klal Yisroel is peace. The verse in Tehillim (29) states, “G-d will grant strength to His nation. G-d will bless His nation with peace.” In addition, the kaddish prayer concludes with a prayer for peace, “He who makes peace on high, He will make peace upon us, and upon all of Israel, and we will state: Amen!”
What is the great merit of peace and why is it so important?
Nesivas Shalom[4] explains that the need for peace was built into the very fabric of creation. The Koznitzer Maggid explains what it means that G-d’s Name is Peace. Every object in this world is composed of one, or some combination of more than one, of four base substances: Fire, spirit, water, and dust. The enigma of creation is that these four substances all oppose each other. Fire consumes, water floods, wind extinguishes, and dust conceals. Yet, when a precise measure of these substances is combined in perfect balance they create a world which sustains and nurtures life.
Truthfully, every force within creation stands in direct contrast to another opposing force. Night contrasts day and winter is the opposite extreme of summer. Every time a wave crashes against the shore, it threatens to consume the land and devour it into the infinite ocean. The world of science has demonstrated that all matter is composed of a balance of negatively charged electrons, neutral neurons, and positively charged protons which form the structure, depth, form, and density of all matter. It is that precarious balance - i.e. the peace – that exists between these diverse forces that enables the world to exist. Whenever G-d, in His infinite wisdom, decides to upset that balance, untold destruction and chaos ensues, bringing with it a wave of destruction and loss of life.   
It is for this reason that peace is so vital; for without peace the world cannot function! The continuity of creation and the perpetuity of life in our world are dependent on peace and harmony.
It must be noted that peace does not mean that every diverse component within creation must nullify itself by forfeiting its own uniqueness for the sake of peace. In fact, if that would occur the world would cease to exist within a short time. If winter and summer would both “compromise” so that there would be but one warm season, if night and day would “compromise” so that there would be only one elongated period of dusk, or if ocean and land would merge into one vast shallow body of water, nature would be destroyed.
Peace is not the result of disregarding individuality. Rather it is the result of the combination of all diverse forces uniting together, the synergy of all its parts.
Stephen Covey writes[5]: “What is synergy? Simply defined, it means that the whole is greater than the sum of its parts. It means that the relationship which the parts have to each other is a part in and of itself. It is not only a part, but the most catalytic, the most empowering, the most unifying, and the most exciting part…
“Valuing the differences is the essence of synergy – the mental, the emotional, and the psychological differences between people. And the key to valuing those differences is to realize that all people see the world, not as it is, but as they are…
“And unless we value the differences in our perceptions, unless we value each other and give credence to the possibility that we’re both right, that life is not always a dichotomous either/or, that there are always third alternatives, we will never be able to transcend that limit of conditioning.”

Nesivos Shalom continues that so many things bear the title “peace” because peace is a prerequisite for all creation and life, both in the upper worlds and in the lower worlds. Peace is the great unifier, the combiner all of forces into one incredible force dedicated solely to increasing the Glory of Heaven.  

In one of his classic discourses, Rav Shimshon Pinkus zt’l explained the Torah’s viewpoint about marriage. A husband and wife are often viewed as a single entity[6]. The Torah states, “Therefore, a man shall leave his father and his mother and cling to his wife, and they shall become one flesh“[7].However, it must be understand that the whole concept of marriage as two halves equaling one whole[8] is true only in regards to soul and purpose. On a spiritual level a husband and wife become one unit. On a practical and physical level however, marriage is a union of two separate individuals.  
Rav Pinkus explained by relating the following anecdote: “I am the Rav in a community called Ofakim in the south of Eretz Yisroel. The community has about two hundred families, where literally almost half are of Sephardic descent and half are Ashkenazic.     When the community was ready to build a shul I instructed them to build two separate shuls in one building. Each shul would daven according to its own traditions, but both would be housed under the same roof. When people heard my idea they countered that it would cause divisiveness. I replied that the opposite is true; for nothing leads to peace like diversity!
“In order for two people to fuse into one single entity each must forfeit half of its self. To be “one”, which implies that two halves have become enjoined and enmeshed, each side must ‘shed’ part of itself. To forfeit half of one’s essence and personality inevitably breeds resentment. If my wife and I are each only half of one whole, then if my wife purchases an expensive dress, I will have acrimonious feelings because my “half of our whole” doesn’t care about freely spending hard-earned money on an expensive dress.
“However, if each of us remains as an individual, albeit with the goal of uniting and helping each other meet our needs and grow as people, then there will be no resentment or ill-feeling. Although I as a man may not care for that dress, but my desire to preserve our union requires me to value what my wife values. The result of such as perspective will be true peace and harmony.
“As another example, I see my father as the father of our family and her father as the father-in-law of the family. If we are one entity there is no way to resolve that issue. But if we are two units living together in love and devotion then we are able to respect our differences and accept our diversities without contention. I can see my father as ‘the father’ and accept the fact that she sees her father as ‘the father’.
“It was for that reason that I told my community to build two shuls. When each shul is able to follow its own traditions and customs and thus maintain its uniqueness, then we can live together in love and peace.
 “In order for there to be peace one must recognize that the other ‘half’ is, in reality, its own whole!”

Rabbi Gedalyah Schorr zt’l explained that malchus (kingship/monarchy) is the unification of all different factions within a kingdom.
When everyone is rendered ‘intellectually sterile’, i.e. where their ability to think for themselves is stunted and they known nothing more than a bunch of facts dictated to them through a little red book[9] that is not true malchus. A true monarch is a king who reigns over a group of diverse individuals each with their own thoughts and ideas, yet who have recognized for themselves the legitimacy and greatness of their king and have accepted his leadership upon themselves.
True malchus is a result of shalom. That is why the name of Moshiach is peace. The Messianic era will be a time of spiritual bliss when all will recognize the truth and see that G-d is the true king. It will be a time of peace, under the united monarchy of King Moshiach.
On the other hand, when one allows his own personal feelings and differences to cause strife and divisiveness, and when one sees dissimilarities as a sign of inferiority, that is the antithesis of peace.
The debacle of Korach tragically symbolizes the dangers of man’s insatiable jealousy and quest for prestige, as well as the deleterious effect of dispute and quarrels. Korach was a prestigious and wealthy individual. But his envy caused him to see himself as inferior to Moshe and Aharon and not that he was simply playing a different, but equally vital role.
. By challenging the authority of the great leaders of Klal Yisroel, Korach and his followers sealed their own fate. The fact that they were willing to compromise their own lives as well as the lives of their families is proof that they were wholly confident that their cause was justified and that they were acting properly. Once they convinced themselves of the validity of their cause and that their behavior was warranted and justified there could be no rectification without harsh and painful retribution to squash the rebellion. 
Maintaining peace is not always easy, especially with difficult people and in challenging situations. The debacle of Korach and the Torah’s prohibition, “You shall not be like Korach and his congregation”[10], reminds us why it is so vital and well worth the effort!

 “The world runs on nothing other than peace”
“G-d will bless His nation with peace”

[1] Bamibar Rabbah 11:7
[2] Avos 1:12
[3] Bamidbar Rabbah 21:1
[4] Parshas Naso, “gadol hashalom
[5] The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People
[6] see Berachos 24a
[7] Bereishis 2:24
[8] Often romanticized by the refrain that marriage is “one plus one equals one”)
[9] The “little red book” was the title given by the West to the book that was required reading in China under the communist regime of Mao Zedong until his death in 1976.
[10] Bamidbar 17:5

Wednesday, June 11, 2014


Rabbi Doniel Staum, LMSW
Rabbi, Kehillat New Hempstead
Rebbe/Guidance Counselor – ASHAR/ Yeshiva Bais Hachinuch


A businessman found himself in some serious financial trouble. His business was in the red and his investments were failing miserably. He was in tremendous debt and saw no way out of his misery. In desperation he sought the council of his Rabbi.
The Rabbi listened quietly. He thought for a moment and then replied: “I have an idea for you. It may sound a little erratic but at this point you have nothing to lose. I want you to take a beach chair and a Chumash (Bible) and drive down to the beach. Take the chair and the Chumash to the water’s edge, open the chair, sit down, and open the Chumash on your lap. The wind will immediately rifle the pages. Wait until the pages stop turning and then look down at the open page and read the first thing you see. That will be your answer and you will know what to do.”
A year later, the businessman returned to the Rabbi. He was driving a Mercedes and wearing a custom made suit. His wife was wearing a mink coat. He pulled out a wad of big bills and handed them to the Rabbi as a ‘token’ of his appreciation. The Rabbi was taken aback, “You did as I told you?” The man smugly replied, “I sure did.”
“You went down to the beach with a Chumash?”
“You waited for the wind to stop blowing the pages?”
“Well, what were the first words you saw?”
The man smiled, “Chapter 11”.

The debacle with the spies who went to scout out Eretz Yisroel is one of the most tragic events in our history.[1] To Moshe’s dismay, the spies returned and offered a shockingly negative report.
G-d informed Moshe that because the nation had failed to appreciate the greatness of the Land that He had promised them, no one from that generation would live to enter it[2]. The nation would spend the next forty years wandering through the desert, in compensation for the forty days the spies spent in Eretz Yisroel developing their negative report.
When the nation was informed of their punishment they mourned exceedingly. “They awoke early in the morning and ascended toward the mountaintop saying, ‘We are ready, and we shall ascend to the place of which G-d has spoken, for we have sinned’. Moshe said, “Why do you transgress the Word of G-d? It will not succeed. Do not ascend for G-d is not in your midst! And do not be smitten before your enemies….” But they defiantly ascended to the mountaintop, while the Ark of G-d’s covenant and Moshe did not move from the midst of the camp. The Amalakite and the Canaanite who dwelled on that mountain descended; they struck them and pounded them until Chormah.”[3]    
It would seem that the actions of the ‘ascenders’ was an attempt to repent. Why did G-d not allow them to rectify their iniquity by demonstrating their complete devotion to the Land? G-d always assists the contrite penitent, so why here did G-d reject their efforts?
Ba’alei Mussar explain that the ascenders did not comprehend the process of repentance. They were under the impression that repentance means to simply alter one’s actions. “Until now I engaged in these sins and from now on I commit myself to abstain from these sins”. That is an insufficient approach to repentance. Gemara[4] states that no one sins unless ‘a spirit of craziness’ envelops him. Therefore, before one can repent he must analyze and consider what led him to sin? What was the impetus that prompted him to act with folly against his conscience? Only once he has realized and is willing to confront the root of his sin has he truly begun the process of repentance.  
 It may have been true that from an external perspective the ascenders were acting in a manner that countered their behavior when they sinned, however they failed to address the root of their sin. The spies had offered compelling arguments about the drawbacks of entering the Land. Nevertheless, G-d had promised them the Land and had stated that it was a great and special Land. The fact that they were able to cry upon hearing the report of the spies demonstrated weakness in their faith. Their ascent up the mountain was the greatest proof that they had failed to rectify that mistake. Their original sin was a lack of subjugation to G-d and the ‘follow-up sin’ was no different. Moshe had told them that G-d’s Presence would not be with them, and yet, they proceeded anyway.

This same idea manifests itself in the fallacy of the spies. At the conclusion of Parshas Beha’aloscha, the Torah relates that Miriam was struck with tzara’as for speaking loshon hora about her brother Moshe. Despite the fact that Miriam loved Moshe, and was speaking out of genuine concern for him to their other brother Aharon, and despite the fact that the humble Moshe took no umbrage from her words, G-d was upset with her. “In my entire House he is the trusted one. Mouth to Mouth do I speak to him, in a clear vision, and not in riddles, at the image of G-d does he gaze. Why did you not fear to speak against my servant Moshe?”[5]
If G-d wanted to chastise Miriam for speaking evilly about Moshe, why didn’t He simply say so? What is the point of the whole introduction about the greatness of Moshe?
After relating the event with Miriam, the Torah commences Parshas Shelach and the debacle of the spies. Rashi explains, “Why did the Torah juxtapose the narrative of the spies with the narrative of Miriam? Because she was afflicted on account of her speaking about her brother and these wicked ones (i.e. the spies) saw but did not take mussar[6]?
What is the connection between Miriam and the spies? Is it merely that they both spoke negatively?
Shlomo Hamelech states in Mishlei “ומוציא דבה הוא כסיל – He who utters slander is a fool.”[7] Harav Michel Barenbaum zt’l[8] explained that gossip and negative speech result from a lack of appreciation of the greatness of the individual slandered. Therefore, one who gossips is not necessarily wicked. Rather he has not sufficiently recognized the greatness of the person or group to whom he harbors negative thoughts and feelings.
Miriam’s sin stemmed from a subtle lack of appreciation for the greatness of her brother. Although she may have had a justifiable argument, if she would have properly recognized the extent of Moshe’s devotion as a servant of G-d, she never would have questioned his actions to Aharon.
The spies had the same failing. Their iniquity was not necessarily that they reported back negatively about the land, for that was their candid assessment of it. The problem lay in the fact that they saw the Land in such a negative light after G-d Himself had related its merit and greatness.

Repentance is not merely about declaring that “I will no longer do what I have done until now.” One who comes before G-d and files chapter 11, as it were, declaring himself spiritually bankrupt so that he can begin anew, is sure to fail[9]. In order to change, one must contemplate what motivates him to act sinfully. Each sin requires its own scrutiny.
One cannot properly eradicate Loshon Hora from his speech, unless he commits himself to seek out the good in people.[10]

Parshas Shelach reminds us that there can be no true rectification without serious contemplation. You have to know why you did what you did to figure out how not to do it again.

“Why did you not fear to speak against my servant Moshe?”
“A good land, a Land with streams of water”

[1] 23 Sivan is the yahrtzeit of my friend and chavrusa) Ephraim Mordechai Yarmush a’h.
A few years ago, Ephraim’s family published a beautiful sefer (Torah compendium) in his memory. The first part of the following thought is based on a paragraph in the sefer which commences with the words, “These were words that were frequently repeated by the deceased. They were written by one of the family members:”

[2] With the exception of Yehoshua and Kalev, the two spies who spoke positively about the Land
[3] 14:40-45
[4] Sota 3a
[5] Bamidbar 12:7-8
[6] i.e. they did not learn the lesson for they too spoke evilly - about the Holy Land
[7] Proverbs 10:18
[8] the late Mashgiach of Mesivta Tiferes Yerushalayim, Sichos Mussar
[9] That is one of the main reasons for the common annual frustration after the High Holy Days when, within a short time, most people give up on New Year’s resolutions and settle back into their daily morass.
[10] Surely, even one who holds himself back from gossiping without that proper step will receive reward beyond human comprehension. However, he will be unable to truly remove such speech completely without understanding its root.

Tuesday, June 3, 2014


Rabbi Doniel Staum, LMSW
Rabbi, Kehillat New Hempstead
Rebbe/Guidance Counselor – ASHAR/ Yeshiva Bais Hachinuch


          Louis “Buck” Newsom was a pitcher in Major League Baseball during the late 1930’s. He was fondly known as “Bobo” because that was what he called everyone else. He had a witty personality that led to some humorous anecdotes.
Bobo was given the honor of pitching the 1936 season opener for the Washington Senators with President Franklin Roosevelt in attendance. The owner of the team promised Bobo a new suit of clothes if he won the game. In the third inning his own third baseman fired a throw across the diamond. Bobo forgot to get out of the way and the ball smashed into the side of his face. Cluthching his head he staggered off the mound. The manager offered to take him out. “Naw”, replied Bobo, “Ol’ FDR came to see Bobo and he’s gonna see him all the way.” Later x-rays revealed that his jaw was broken in two places and had to be wired shut. But Bobo continued pitching and won the game 1-0. Afterwards the owner pressed some bills into his hand. “Keep the sugar,” Bobo said, “Bobo bought the suit before the game. The bill is on your desk.”
          In another game, after the home plate umpire repeatedly called some of his best pitches balls, he finally got a call strike. Bobo genially walked off the mound toward home plate, stood in front of the umpire, bowed to his waist, and said, “Thank you my dear fellow.” He was immediately ejected from the game.
          On one occasion when the mighty Yankees were in town, Bobo vowed that he was going to find Joe DiMaggio’s weakness and overpower him. He told everyone that DiMaggio couldn’t hit low curve balls. That day DiMaggio ripped two doubles off of Bobo’s low curve balls. After the game his teammates chided him by asking him if he had discovered DiMaggio’s weakness. Bobo unflinchingly replied, “Yep, I discovered that he has a weakness to hit doubles!”

          The firstborns were originally slated to be the elite kohanim of Klal Yisroel. However, when they participated in the egregious sin of the golden calf, they forfeited their status to the Levites. To assume their new status as the substitutes for the firstborn in serving G-d and transporting the Mishkan, the Levites had to undergo a one time sacrificial ritual.
After the Torah describes the consecration process it delineates the different tasks that the Levites had throughout their life. “This shall apply to the Levites: From twenty-five years of age and up, he shall join the legion of the Service of the Tent of Meeting. From fifty years of age, he shall withdraw from the legion of work and no longer work. He shall minister with his brethren in the tent of Meeting to safeguard the charge, but work shall he not perform.”[1]
Rashi notes that when the pasuk states that Levites over fifty years of age shall “no longer work” it refers to the ‘service of the shoulders’, i.e. carrying the vessels and performing the daily service, - אבל חוזר הוא לנעילת שערים however they would return to the task of locking the gates.”
          The Chiddushei Harim questions why Rashi specifically says that they would return to the task of locking the gates. The truth is that it was their responsibility to open the gates as well. Why didn’t Rashi simply say that they were in charge of managing the gates?

          The Medrash relates that before G-d offered Klal Yisroel the Torah, He offered it to every other nation in the world. Each nation responded by questioning its content. To each one G-d replied by telling them about a prohibition that countered their nature. To the descendants of Yishmael He replied that it was prohibited to steal, to the descendants of Esau He replied it was prohibited to murder, and to the descendants of Amon and Moav He replied that adultery was prohibited. Upon hearing the prohibitions each nation rejected the Torah, until Klal Yisroel proclaimed, “We will do and we will hear!”
          It seems unfair that each nation was challenged to accept the Torah except Klal Yisroel. Why did G-d not tell them that the Torah would challenge their nature as well, to see if they were truly accepting it?[2]
          Shem MiShmuel explains that G-d did indeed challenge Klal Yisroel from the outset. Prior to His revelation on Sinai, G-d commanded Moshe to explain to Klal Yisroel the enormity and greatness of the imminent event. “Let them be prepared for the third day, for on the third day G-d shall descend in the sight of the entire people on Mount Sinai. You shall set boundaries for the people roundabout, saying, ‘Beware of ascending the mountain or touching its edge; whoever touches the mountain shall surely die’.”[3] There was a fatal prohibition for anyone to ascend Mount Sinai while G-d’s Presence was on the mountain.
          Following that warning the Torah continues its narrative: “It was on the third day when it was morning, there was thunder and lighting and a heavy cloud on the mountain, and the sound of the shofar was very powerful, and the entire people that was in the camp shuddered….it’s smoke ascended like the smoke of a furnace, and the entire mountain shuddered exceedingly…. Moshe ascended the mountain into the smoke, G-d spoke to him and said, “Descend, warn the people, lest they break through to G-d to see, and a multitude of them will fall…Moshe said to G-d, ‘The people cannot ascend Mount Sinai, for you have warned us, saying, ‘Bound the mountain and sanctify it’.” G-d said to him, ‘Go descend. Then you shall ascend, and Aharon with you, but the Kohanim and the people – they shall not break through to ascend to G-d, lest He burst forth against them.”
          G-d repeated the warning no less than three times. Why was this prohibition so severe that it warranted so many warnings?
          Ohr Hachaim Hakadosh explains that at the time of the revelation of Sinai the people’s love and devotion to G-d transcended all else. Their supreme desire was to draw as close as they possibly could to G-d’s Presence. Therefore, the people might rationalize that it was worth it for them to ascend the mountain even at the cost of their lives just to have that momentary sublime connection with G-d’s Holy Presence. The nation had reached a level where they felt that there could be nothing greater than to die clinging to the Presence of G-d. Therefore, G-d repeatedly warned them that if they were to ascend the mountain, not only would they die, but they would “fall”. It would be a disastrous display of disobedience and treachery, not a passionate testament of their love and devotion. 
          This was a tremendous test for Klal Yisroel. For a nation whose greatest desire is to cling to G-d, bridling and restraining themselves was exceedingly challenging.
The potent message was that a Jew cannot lose himself to his emotions and passions, even when they are noble and worthy. Even his love of G-d must follow the dictates of G-d!
          Chiddushei Harim explains that although the elderly Levites also opened the gates of the Temple, Rashi only notes closing the gates to allude to a very profound idea: The elderly Levites had a responsibility to teach the younger generation about how to properly curb their emotions. A young kohain who was so excited about performing the Divine Service that he decided to add to it would die on the spot[4].
The verse states, “מה יפו פעמיך בנעלים בת נדיב – How beautiful are your (pa’amayich) footsteps in the (na’alayim) shoes, O daughter of nobles.”[5] Chiddushei Harim notes that the word “pa’amayich” can also refer to heartfelt devotion and an awakening of the heart, and the word “na’alayim” can also refer to locks. Thus an alternative understanding of the verse is that it is saying, “How beautiful is your passion and excitement, when it is locked, i.e. when it is grounded and maintained, in the proper perspective.”
The older Levites were to teach their younger brethren how to keep their passion to serve G-d in check. That is what Rashi refers to when he notes that they would ‘lock the gates’. Their role was to lock-in and safeguard the passion and devotion of the younger generation.

          This is not merely a nice discourse. This idea is at the root of understanding some of the most heinous events that transpire in our world, on an individual and global level.
One of the most appalling anecdotes that I ever heard helps illustrate this idea. It is a story that often elicits a gasp from those who hear it:
          A man who had tragically lost a child a few months prior was talking in shul during davening. The fellow next to him turned to him and said, “Is it not enough that G-d took away one child from you that you’re still talking during davening?!”
          How could a person be so cruel and heartless? How could a person say such an insensitive comment to someone who had suffered so much? The answer is that he meant it “לשם שמים - for the sake of G-d’s Name”.
In fact, the most vicious and vile atrocities committed are done in the name of G-d. One needs look no further than at the pain and anguish we suffer at the behest of Arabs terrorist - may their names be erased - who purportedly acts “in the name of god”.
          It was with this in mind that the great Kotzker Rebbe quipped, that when the Mishna states, “כל מעשיך יהיו לשם שמים- all of your actions should be for the Name of Heaven,”[6] it means that “even your לשם שמים must be לשם שמים.” In other words, even - or rather - especially when one acts for the sake of sanctifying G-d’s Holy name, he better ensure that his actions are truly for the sake of G-d’s Holy Name, and not merely out of unbridled religious zeal gone awry.
          G-d wanted to instill this lesson in Klal Yisroel before they even accepted the Torah. One cannot and may not serve G-d in the manner which he deems appropriate. He must rigorously follow the guidelines and expectations that the Torah itself describes. Even something as vital and important as serving G-d with emotion and feeling is a potential weakness and danger.
Shavuos is the holiday when we reaccept the Torah with renewed love and passion. One of the hidden messages of Parshas Beh’aloscha, which is always read shortly after Shavuos, is that we must be careful not to “run away” with our passion. A strength can become a weakness if it is not kept in the proper perspective.  It requires the wisdom and insight of the elderly Levites to ensure that the younger generation does not become carried away with their own ideas and excitement. G-d did not give His beloved nation His Torah until they had learned this vital lesson.
Despite all of the outpouring of love that was present at the revelation of Sinai, without the accompanying awe and fear that the thunder and revelation provided the giving of the Torah could never have occurred. Love without limits and a certain measure of fear can be lethal!

“They would return to the task of locking the gates”
“That all of your action should be for the Name of Heaven”

[1] 8:24-25
[2] The truth is that the nations of the world deserved to be dissuaded the moment they questioned the content of the Torah. When G-d offers a priceless gift one’s initial response shouldn’t be to question it. Klal Yisroel, who immediately accepted the Torah exuberantly, were not deserving of the same dissuasion. Nevertheless, it seems logical that G-d would challenge them from the outset to determine the genuineness of their acceptance of the Torah.
[3] Shemos 19:11
[4] like Nadav and Avihu, the two sons of Aharon, had died when they offered their own fire on the altar
[5] Shir Hashirim 7:2
[6] Avos 2:12