Thursday, December 7, 2017

PARSHAS VAYESHEV 5778

STAM TORAH
PARSHAS VAYESHEV 5778
“TIME AND PLACE”[1]

Last year, as he was beginning his remarks at a fahrbrengen[2] he was leading, Rabbi YY Jacobson related the following:
“I didn’t think I was going to be able to make it here tonight. I was in Aventura, Florida for an educator’s convention, and had a flight that was due to land back tonight in New York at 6:13 p.m. I was concerned that landing so late would not leave me ample time to make it here, so I switched to an earlier flight.
“However, when I arrived at the airport that flight was delayed. Then it was delayed again, and then it was delayed a third time, following which they told everyone to exit the plane. It seemed clear that I wasn’t going to make it back. Surprisingly, a few minutes later, they announced that everyone should re-board. We were cleared for takeoff, and landed in New York… at 6:13 p.m. I came straight here, and arrived just minutes ago.
“This whole experience reminded me of another event that happened to me a few years ago, that changed my perspective on traveling and delayed flights.
“I was heading to Ottawa for a large speaking engagement, and then too, my flight was delayed a few times, and I realized there was no way that I was going to make it to the speaking engagement. I called the Rabbi who had invited me and arranged it and informed him of the bad news. He was incredulous. He told me that there were so many people coming, and I had to figure out a way to get there. I told him that even if I drove I wouldn’t make it, and there were no other options for any outgoing flights that could get me there sooner.
“My mind was still racing when I hung up, as I continued to contemplate if there were any other possibilities. Then I noticed an elderly chossid sitting nearby, calmly peering into a sefer. I asked the chossid where he was heading, and he replied that he was going to Ottawa to be sandek at his grandson’s bris. I looked at my watch and replied that it was almost sh’kiah (sunset); there was no way he was going to make it. The b’ris had to be performed on the eighth day and couldn’t be delayed. The chossid nodded calmly.
“I couldn’t believe it. “You’re okay with missing the opportunity to be sandek at your grandson’s bris?” The chossid replied, “You don’t know the vort of Rav Chatzkel of Kuzhmir?”
“When I admitted that I didn’t, he told me that every morning we recite the beracha thanking Hashem “hameichin mitzadei gaver – who prepares the footsteps of man.” Rav Chatzkel noted that anyone who recites that beracha and doesn’t have in mind that wherever he ends up that day is all b’hashgacha p’ratis, is saying a beracha levatalah.
“The chossid continued, “I said that beracha this morning. I thought that I was going to be in Ottawa for my grandson’s bris, and I was very excited about it. But the Master of the World obviously had other plans. So that’s the end of the story.”
With that, Rabbi Jacobson concluded his story, and began the fahrbrengin. 

In the home of my Zaydei[3], I found a sefer called Rachshei Ilan, a collection of the schmoozen (ethical discourses) given by Rav Yosef Leib Nenedik zt’l hy’d, the Mashgiach in the famed Kletzker Yeshiva, who was murdered by the Nazis.
In the back of the sefer, the author printed a letter my Zaydei sent him, in which my Zaydei recounted a schmooze that he recalled from his years in the yeshiva. The following the basic idea he recorded:
The pasuk in Hoshea[4] states “For the ways of Hashem are straight; the righteous will go in them, and the wicked will stumble in them.” A person has the ability to choose his actions and to decide whether he will adhere to the mitzvos, or transgress them. However, he must know, that no matter what he decides to do, the Will of Hashem will ultimately be carried out.
The classic example of this is from the events with Yosef Hatzaddik. He dreamed that his brothers would bow before him and he would be their leader. They were angered by his dreams, and did all in their power to ensure his dreams would never be able to come to fruition. They cast him into a pit full of snakes and scorpions, and then sold him like a lowly slave. However, all their efforts to stifle his dreams, only set in motion the trajectory which eventually culminated in the dreams being fulfilled. It was only because he had been sold down to Egypt that he eventually became its leader.[5]
The ways of Hashem are straight, in that nothing we do will ever be able to impede His Will from being carried out. The only question is what will our role be regarding the fulfillment of His divine plan? Will we do what is correct so that Hashem’s plan will come about through us, or will we seek to fight it, in which case the plan will come about anyway, with us being left culpable?[6]

The whole story of Yosef’s life came about because he was in the right (or wrong) place at an exact time. When he approached the brothers in the field, they saw it as the perfect opportunity to kill him and stage that he was ripped apart by an animal. Potiphar’s wife arranged for the perfect opportunity to be alone with him to finally seduce him. The Sar Hamashkim ‘just happened’ to be with Yosef when he had his dream that Yosef was able to interpret.
It was a long, lonely, and arduous journey for Yosef Hatzaddik, but it became clear afterwards that every step of the way was exactly as Hashem orchestrated. Everything in its time and in its place.  

Regarding the laws of Chanukah, there is also a clear emphasis on time and place. We never find so much particularity about both of these components regarding any other mitzvah.
The candles should ideally be lit at a height of between three and ten tefachim, and should be lit by the door, or by the window, or by the gateway outside. They are supposed to be lit from sunset until a half hour later[7].
Other mitzvos that must be performed during the day or night, can be performed throughout that day or night. But regarding Chanukah candles, there is a very particular limited window[8] of time for the lighting.
Rabbi Tzvi Sobolofsky notes that in regard to offering korbanos in the Bais Hamikdash, there was also a strong particularity on time and place [9]. The service of the korban was extremely precise and had to be performed exactly as the Torah commands. Those Korbanos whose meat was eaten, were only allowed to be eaten within a specific amount of time and within certain parameters, depending on what type of korban was offered.
During the time prior to the Chanukah miracle, the Syrian-Greeks sought to destroy the sanctity of Judaism and the Jewish home.
Therefore, when the Sages established the holiday which celebrates the defeat of the Syrian-Greeks, they added great emphasis on strengthening and celebrating the sanctity of Judaism and the Jewish home. They sought to create a connection between the mitzvah of lighting Chanukah candles which we perform within our own homes, with the avodah performed in the Bais Hamikdash.
In doing so, it fosters within us the awareness that our homes are holy, and we strive to live holy lives. The gemara[10] states that the basic mitzvah of lighting Chanukah candles is “Ner ish ubayso”, loosely translated to mean that there must be one candle lit in one’s home each night of Chanukah. The literal translation however, is “the light of a man and his home”. It is hinting to us that we, the inhabitants of our homes, are the source of the light within our homes.
It is that holy light generated through our performance of mitzvos and Torah learning within our home, that we seek to spread outwards into the darkness during Chanukah. 
Through the mitzvah of lighting Chanukah candles, reciting hallel and expressing our gratitude for all of the miracles Hashem performed for our ancestors then, and continues to perform for us each day, we strengthen within ourselves the knowledge that Hashem is with us in all times and places. That is the light that shines in the darkness.

“Who prepares the footsteps of man”
For the ways of Hashem are straight”





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


[1] Based on the lecture given at Kehillat New Hempstead, Shabbos Kodesh parshas Vayeshev 5777
[2] Farbrengen in Yiddish means "joyous gathering". The term is used by Chabad-Lubavitch, and is the equivalent of what other sects of chassidim call a tish. It may consist of explanations of general Torah subjects, with an emphasis on Chassidishe philosophy, stories, lively singing and dancing, and often with refreshments.
This particular farbrengen was in honor of Yat Kislev (19th of Kislev), the day the first Lubavitcher Rebbe, Rabbi Schneur Zalman of Liadi, was freed from prison. Chabad celebrates the day as the ‘New Year for Chassidus’.  
[3] Rav Yaakov Meir Kohn zt’l, Rav of Anshlei Slonim in the Lower East Side.
[4] 14:10
[5] The brothers of Yosef were undoubtedly tzaddikim of the highest level. The Mashgiach must have meant that in regard to the fulfillment of the prophetic dreams of Yosef they were ‘wicked’ in the sense that they sought to destroy those dreams. Chazal explain that the brothers had righteous and justified intent in trying to kill Yosef. Nevertheless, in the bigger scheme of what occurred, it retroactively became clear that they were wrong. 
[6] I wonder how much chizuk my Zaydei personally derived from this thought, and if that might be why it was the schmooze he chose to recount. My Zaydei’s father was the Rav of his town – Seltz, and was brutally murdered by the Nazis, as was my Zaydei’s mother and sister. Zaydei, a lonely orphan, somehow escaped, until he eventually somehow landed up in Samarkand, where he met my Bubby (may she live and be well until 120). He never disclosed about his experiences during that frightful time, but we know that his emunah in the ‘straightness’ of Hashem’s ways never wavered.
[7] During the time of the gemara, after the first half hour after sunset when it was dark outside, people were no longer travelling the roads. Today however, when the roads are filled with people on average until 11 p.m., until then is still considered the ideal time to accomplish ‘persumei nisa’ – publicizing the miracle, which is the main objective for lighting Chanukah candles.
[8] Pun intended
[9] The opening laws discussed in Maseches Zevachim (which is about the laws of slaughtering korbanos) are about the validity of an offering in which the Kohain sprinkling its blood on the altar did so with improper intent about eating from its meat beyond the allotted time, or outside the permitted area. 
[10] Shabbos 21b

Thursday, November 30, 2017

PARSHAS VAYISHLACH 5778

STAM TORAH
PARSHAS VAYISHLACH 5778
“ULTIMATE INFLUENCE”[1]

The Chofetz Chaim related a story about “chossid echad”[2] who set out to influence the world. He arrived in a city and offered to speak, but was surprised to find the people to be disinterested. “How much are you charging?” “Why should we listen to you?”
He left that city and arrived in a second city and made the same offer. He was disheartened when he was met with the same pessimistic resistance. The same occurred in the third city he went, and even in some smaller villages. 
Instead, he decided to sit down in a Bais Medrash and study Torah. He hoped to influence the masses in that manner. He indeed had a profound influence upon his surroundings, not through his speeches, but through his example.
The Brisker Rav related that he has a tradition that whenever the Chofetz Chaim spoke about “chossid echad”, it referred to the Chofetz Chaim himself![3]


After Yaakov struggled with the Angel, and then emerged unscathed from his encounter with Eisav, the Torah states: “Yaakov arrived complete in the city of Shechem… and he camped at the entrance of the city.”[4] 
Ramban explains that the day Yaakov arrived at the entrance of the city was Erev Shabbos, so he immediately set up techum Shabbos.
The Gemara[5] relates that Avrohom fulfilled the mitzvah of eiruv tavshilin, whereas Yaakov created techumin.
Meshech Chochmah explains that these two mitzvos contrast the different approaches in avodas Hashem of Avrohom and Yaakov. Each was a conduit for spreading and teaching about the Glory of Hashem in this world, but each did so in his own unique manner.  
The mitzvah of eiruv tavshilin allows a person to cook on Yom Tov for Shabbos, thereby enabling him to invite guests to join him.
Rambam[6] explains that Avraham would gather masses of people to publicly prove to them about the existence of the one true Creator.
Avraham performed eiruv tavshilin, an allusion to his inviting guests to partake of his food so he could teach them about Hashem. He would indulge them with delectable food and then convince them to thank Hashem for the enjoyment they experienced.
Yaakov Avinu utilized a vastly different approach. The Torah describes him as a yoshev ohalim – one who dwelled in tents and studied Torah. Yaakov didn't go out to influence the rest of the world per se. He foresaw that he was to father the twelve tribes, which would comprise the Jewish People. Therefore, he understood that his ultimate role was to prepare his progeny for the integral role they would fulfill. He could only do so, by setting parameters and boundaries to protect them from the negative influences surrounding them.
Yaakov had to engage in enacting techumin – boundaries, to prevent outside influences from penetrating the home he was building. Instead of bringing the Shechinah to others, he made his home a place for the Shechinah. 
We see this same pattern in other examples throughout their lives. Avraham Avinu went down to Mitzrayim to influence people. Yaakov, on the other hand, was resistant to allowing his children to descend to such an immoral country. Yaakov was upset when he was accused of stealing his father-in-law’s idols, because unlike Avrohom who engaged and persuaded idolaters, Yaakov kept completely distant. When he met Eisav, Yaakov hid Dinah, because he did not want to risk him seeing her and wanting to marry her.  
Yaakov sought to separate himself from the outside world, and to build from within.
Ramban[7] explains that each of the Avos sanctified the Name of Hashem. The Torah states numerous times that Avraham called in the Name of Hashem, and it says it once about Yitzchak. Regarding Yaakov, however, the Torah never says that he called in the Name of Hashem, because he sanctified Hashem in a different manner.
Yaakov spread emunah by devoting himself to instilling that faith in his own family.[8] There can be no greater publicizing of emunah than that. Building his own family bred continuity, creating a nation that would follow the ways of Hashem for all generations.
Yaakov didn't have to go out and actively influence people, because people were influenced by the example that his family demonstrated wherever they were.  

Often, when people begin to improve in a certain area, whether in areas of health, such as a diet, or in religiosity, such as when they assume greater levels of stringency or punctiliousness in their observance, they feel inclined to preach about it to others.
Rabbi Mordechai Finkleman[9] relates that, when he was an elementary school Rebbe, each year he was able to influence a few talmidim to give up watching television. He would always emphasize to them that they should not go home and preach to their parents and siblings about the negative effects and spiritual damage that television causes. Rather, they should merely walk by the room and not say anything. The greatest message is conveyed by one’s quiet and pleasant example.
In Tehillim, Dovid Hamelech states: “Ahalelah Hashem b’chayei azamrah leilokai b’odi – I will praise Hashem with my life, I will sing to Hashem with my existence.” Rabbi Finkelman explained that Dovid was saying that, not only would he constantly praise Hashem while he was alive, but on a deeper level, his very life and his very existence would praise Hashem. By living correctly and observing Torah and mitzvos, that in and of itself would serve as a living praise of Hashem.
One of the hallmarks of Chanukah is the mitzvah of perusmei nisa – spreading and publicizing the miracles that transpired. The gemara states that the basic mitzvah is “ner ish ubayso – a candle for each man and his home”. The mitzvah of reflecting divinity outwards begins from the sanctity within our own homes.
Like Yaakov Avinu we seek to ignite the spiritual light from within, and then that light can radiate and resonate outwards.
Our society expends tremendous effort and resources to publicize and advertise. Most of what they are advertising in antithetical to what we seek to advertise and publicize with our Chanukah candles. But we are strengthened by the fact that our little candles have withstood the test of time, and continued to burn in the face of the greatest and most ominous darkness.
We have no doubt that they will continue to burn, and their message will ultimately outshine all the other messages we encounter constantly.

“Yaakov camped at the entrance of the city”
“A candle for each man and his home”

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




[1] Based on the lecture given at Kehillat New Hempstead, Shabbos Kodesh parshas Vayishlach 5777
[2] “one chassid”; chasid not in the sense of one who is a proponent of the Chassidic movement, but one who is extremely pious and meticulous in his mitzvah obersvance
[3] Heard from Rabbi Ephraim Wachsman
[4] The following ideas are based on a schmooze from Rav Meir Wahrsager of Mir Yerushalayim
[5] Yoma 28b
[6] beginning of Hilchos Avodah Zarah,
[7] Bereishis 12:8
[8] שהוליד בנים רבים כלם עובדי ה', והיתה לו קהלה גדולה נקראת עדת ישראל ונתפרסמה האמונה בהם, ונודעה לכל עם.
[9] Mashgiach in Ohr Hachaim in Queens, NY, and a personal rebbe

Wednesday, November 22, 2017

PARSHAS VAYETZEI 5778

STAM TORAH
PARSHAS VAYETZEI 5778
“ULTIMATE CURRENCY”[1]

Rav Matisyahu Salomon shlita notes that every year, as we read the parshios in Bereishis, we enjoy discussing the profundity and extent of Avrohom Avinu’s chesed. There always seem to be new explanations and perspectives which expound upon how selfless and extreme the chesed of Avrohom was.
Rav Matisyahu explains that we need to have the same discussions and analyzation about the exemplary integrity and work ethic of Yaakov Avinu, while he was working for Lavan. The Torah demands the highest levels of ethics and responsibility regarding the workplace. It’s a value we don’t sufficiently emphasize. A Torah Jew is obligated to be wary of his financial responsibilities, and he must be honest to a fault.

In America, standard currency is the dollar, in Britain it is the pound, and in Japan the yen. Gold, diamonds, and pearls have universal value, as does real estate. These are commodities that ‘make the world go around’. In the words of Shlomo Hamelech, “Money answers everything.”
In the celestial World of Truth, undoubtedly Torah and mitzvos are the ultimate currency. But might there be another commodity that ‘opens doors’ in that world? Is there something which causes the angels to bow deferentially before it, as it were, in a similar vein to how people ‘bow’ deferentially before wealth in this world?     
After Leah Imeinu gave birth to four sons, and Rochel saw that she was not being blessed with a child, she took an extreme measure. She offered her maid Bilhah, as a wife to Yaakov. Rashi explains that Rochel learned the concept from Sarah Imeinu, who gave her maid Hagar to Avrohom to marry.
What merit was there in giving a maid as a wife?
Rav Shlomo Wolbe zt’l explained that spiritual growth requires mesiras nefesh, self-sacrifice. In the physical world, success is often achieved through unyielding ambition and uncompassionate drive to reach the top. The world of finance is one of extreme competition, where there is no room for compassion or consideration for the feelings of others. A sign above a major highway reads: “If you don’t purchase this space to advertise your company, your competitor will first.”
The spiritual world is the polar opposite. One climbs the ladder of greatness by putting his own needs and desires aside, to help and build others. The more one places others before himself and sublimates his own ego, the greater he becomes.
For a woman to allow her husband to marry another woman is an extreme act of mesiras nefesh. For a woman to offer her maid to be her husband’s second wife is the ultimate act of mesiras nefesh.
The ultimate currency in heaven is mesiras nefesh! Torah and mitzvos performed with self-sacrifice and complete dedication is the ultimate currency in the World of Truth.

Dayan Aharon Dovid Dunner of London, England, is a well-known Rav and lecturer throughout the Torah world. As a Dayan, he is accustomed to receiving unusual halachic questions. But every now and then he receives questions that surprise even him.
A man related to Rav Dunner that his grandfather was a holocaust survivor. Somehow, he had smuggled his tallis with him wherever he was sent, including into Buchenwald. Amazingly, he never missed a day of wearing that tallis. After liberation, he continued wearing that tallis every day of his life. In his tzava’ah (will) he asked to be buried in the tallis. But when the grandfather died, they forgot!
It was almost his first yahrtzeit, and the family was regretful that they had not fulfilled his instruction. At that time, his grandmother was dying, and the inevitable was imminent. The question was could they bury the tallis with the grandmother, who was to be buried alongside her late husband? Would that count as fulfilling his will? 
Dayan Dunner decided to send the question to be asked of Rav Chaim Kanievsky. The answer he received stunned him. Rav Chaim replied that the tallis should not be buried with the grandmother. Rather, they should open the kever of the grandfather, and place the tallis in there, as he had requested.
Dayan Dunner called a few local chevra kadishas but all of them were squeamish and uncomfortable about doing it. The man himself did not want to give his grandfather a second burial. Couldn’t they just bury it with the grandmother?
Dayan Dunner asked the question to be presented to Rav Chaim again. His response remained the same. But he added, that if they didn’t want to open the kever, they should dig a hole as close to the kever as possible, and place the tallis there.
The family was still uncomfortable, but they agreed to do it. However, they still wanted to know why it was so important to bury it as close as possible to their grandfather.
When Rav Chaim was asked about it a third time, he replied “In the upper courts, the most valuable commodity is mesiras nefesh. The man’s tallis is his greatest testimony about his incredible mesiras nefesh. His family must therefore, make every effort to place at as close as possible to him, so he has it by his side in the Next World.”[2]

When negotiating with the B’nei Ches, Avrohom Avinu stated, “If it is your desire to allow me to bury my dead from before me, listen to me, and allow me to meet with Ephron ben Tzochar.” The word Avrohom uses for desire is “nafshechem”, which literally means ‘your soul’. What we desire is part of our essence. To place those desires aside for the sake of others, is mesiras nefesh. The ultimate mesiras nefesh is for one to give up his life to sanctify the name of G-d. But, it is often more challenging to live with mesiras nefesh in the mundane day-to-day of our lives.
When we are busy doing something we need to finish and put it aside to daven mincha, when our child asks us to help with her homework and we are tired and muster up patience to help, when a neighbor or friend asks for a favor and we are not in the mood of helping and we agree to help anyway, when we drag ourselves to a shiur or to learn with a chavrusa at the end of a long day, when we listen to a griping friend who needs chizuk though we have ten other things to do - these are all examples of mesiras nefesh.[3] 
Our yetzer hara likes to minimize such feats by convincing us that real mesiras nefesh entails doing something profound. But that is untrue. Every time we push ourselves beyond our comfort zone, it is an act of mesiras nefesh.
The holiday of Chanukah, which is rapidly approaching, is a celebration of mesiras nefesh! The Maccabees went to war to ensure our ability to serve Hashem and guard the Torah in the most holy and pristine manner. They reasoned that a life devoid of Torah is not worth living, so they set out for battle with little hope for victory.
Their incredible mesiras nefesh, first on the battlefield, and later to perform the mitzvah of lighting the menorah with pure oil, served as the catalyst for the miracles that transpired.
They went well beyond the natural norm, and Hashem granted them miracles, well beyond the natural norm. It’s a holiday that celebrates, not only supernatural occurrences, but our ability to be supernatural, which is the secret of our national eternity.

“And she said, behold my maid, Bilhah… I will build from her.” 
“If it is your desire”


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


[1] Based on the lecture given at Kehillat New Hempstead, Shabbos Kodesh parshas Vayetzei 5777
[2] This story appeared in Ami-Living, November 30, 2016, by Rabbi Yoel Gold.
[3] It is important to note that if one agrees to do things only because he is unable to say no, out of feelings of guilt or not wanting anyone to be upset at him, that is a deficiency. There are times when it may be correct and proper for us to say no, sometimes for our own well-being. The point being made here is about one who, when overcoming his immediate desire for comfort, will feel gratified and happy afterwards with his decision, not resentful and indignant.

Thursday, November 16, 2017

PARSHAS TOLDOS 5778

STAM TORAH
PARSHAS TOLDOS 5778
“VALUE SYSTEM”

The following story was published in Hamodia, Tuesday, August 9, 2016:
Under the circumstances, the very fact that such a conversation even took place is astonishing.
On a cold day in the fall of 1944, in the constant shadow of terrible death surrounded by unspeakable horror, when Aviezer Burshtyn whispered to Yossel Friedenson, “We have been presented with a great mitzvah,” the latter was all ears.
The two inmates of the Auschwitz extermination camp were close friends, and both had been assigned to a crew whose job it was to clean barracks and collect garbage in various parts of the huge death camp.
Aviezer related that he had been sent to one of several women’s camps to clean. There, he was approached by a young girl, 15 or 16 years of age, who asked for sweater. Though it was only September, it was already quite cold in that part of Europe, and the malnourished girl, wearing only the thin concentration camp uniform, was shivering.
“You have a wife in the women’s camp,” Aviezer told Yossel. “Perhaps you can obtain a sweater for her?”
Both were aware that acquiring a sweater in Auschwitz would be very difficult, if not impossible. Only twice during the entire time he was in Auschwitz had Yossel been able to visit the women’s camp where his wife was held. To obtain an article of clothing in that section, smuggle it into the men’s camp and then sneak it back to where the girl was being held seemed like an unrealistic challenge.
The following day, however, they were assigned to clean an area where clothing was stored. Aviezer was able to get his hands on a ladies’ sweater, which he hid under his own clothing. Then the two young men waited for the first opportunity to bring it to the girl. A few days later, Aviezer was able to join a cleaning crew assigned to work in the camp where the girl was held.
When Aviezer returned, his eyes were filled with tears. “She didn’t want a sweater!” he emotionally told Reb Yossel. “She wanted a siddur!”
When he tried to give her the sweater, the girl had begun to cry. “I asked for a siddur, not a sweater! It is soon Rosh Hashanah. I need a siddur or a machzor,” she told him. “I heard by the men there are siddurim…”
The young girl refused to accept the sweater, fearing that if she took it, the men would no longer try to bring her a siddur.
Both men survived the war. Rabbi Aviezer Burshtyn, z”l, moved to Eretz Yisrael, where he served as a menahel and noted author, and Reb Yossel Friedenson, z”l, became a pre-eminent Holocaust historian, Agudah leader, and the legendary editor of Dos Yiddishe Vort, a publication he established in a DP camp in 1946 and proceeded to publish for nearly seven decades. Neither of them, however, knew the name of the girl who asked for the siddur, and her fate is unknown to this day.

When the Torah introduces Eisav it uses the adjective ‘ish – man’ twice. However, in regard to Yaakov it says it only once. “The youths grew up and Esav became a man who knew hunting, a man of the field; but Yaakov was a wholesome man, dwelling in tents.”[1]
Rav Chaim Kaufman zt’l[2] related that when the idea of sending a man to the moon first began circulating, years before it actually occurred, Rav Shalom Shatz zt’l declared that it could never happen because the pasuk says “The heavens are for Hashem, while the earth He gave to mankind”. Beings placed on earth cannot be in heaven.
Shortly after the Apollo-11 landed on the moon in July 1969, Rav Kaufman met the Biala Rebbe and recounted Rav Shatz’s statement. The Rebbe replied that Rav Shatz wasn’t wrong. In order for the astronauts to ‘walk’ on the moon they needed to transport and encase themselves within a tremendous amount of equipment, which included oxygen. They were surrounded by a makeshift suit which contained the basic elements that a person needs for survival on earth. Essentially an enclosed piece of earth walked on the moon. Rav Shatz meant that it is impossible for an earthly being to become a permanent resident of the heavens because he was created for an earthly existence. In that sense he was correct. 
Rav Kaufman continues that the underlying message to us is that the place from where one draws his strength and energy that is his true ‘place’ which helps define him. Conversely if he cannot live somewhere that is not his place. This idea is true in the spiritual realm as well. If one’s energy in life emanates from the time he spends in the Bais Medrash learning Torah, that demonstrates that his place is the Bais Medrash. Although he may not be able to spend his entire day there, since that is his life-source it is still considered his place.
Regarding Yaakov Avinu the pasuk says that he was “a wholesome man who dwelled in tents”. Since Torah study was his ultimate passion, he was defined by his Torah study in the Bais Medrash. Eisav however, had a dichotomous personality. On the one hand, he was ‘a man who knew hunting’, which Rashi explains means that he knew how to dupe his father by presenting himself as a Torah scholar. But on the other hand, he was a ‘man of the field’, who dwelled far from the tents of Torah in the fields of iniquity and immorality. The pasuk uses the adjective ‘man’ twice regarding Eisav because he was defined by both paradoxical extremes. 
What genuinely defines a person is inextricably bound to what motivates and energizes him.          

Under the direction of his mother, Yaakov is instructed to usurp the berachos from Eisav. The Torah relates: “He drew close and kissed him; he smelled the fragrance of his garments and blessed him; he said ‘See, the fragrance of my son is like the fragrance of the field which Hashem has blessed’.”[3]
In Ateres Mordechai, Rav Mordechai Rogov zt’l, notes that right after fruits are plucked off a tree they are fresh and delectable. But as time goes by the fruit begins to lose its freshness and desirability. After some time has passed, a storeowner will have a hard time selling those fruits. He will have to resort to tactics that make the fruits look more appealing than they really are.
There are people who never lose their zest and vibrancy for life. No matter how old they become and how challenging things are they always seem to possess an internal vitality and a spring in their step. Such people are able to maintain the excitement of their youth by preserving their youthful vigor. The Torah that they learned in their formative years remains their driving force and ultimate passion.
But then there are others who have a vastly different life experience. The vicissitudes of life wear them down and they become bitter and rancorous. They are unable to maintain that connection with the spirit of their youth, and the tempests of life leave their insidious mark.
Just prior to giving Yaakov the blessings, Yitzchok remarked, “See, my son, the smell of freshness and vibrancy of the field that you now possess. Realize the passion and vigor you feel as you dwell in the tents of Torah. It is your deep connection to the source of purposeful life that gives you that scent. Never allow it to fade despite the vagaries of life.
Yaakov and Eisav, twins who emerged from the same womb, set out on such diverse paths. Throughout all the challenges and difficulties encountered throughout his life, Yaakov maintained the passion of his youth. His heart always remained connected to Torah. In the worst of times, Yaakov was comforted by his faith and his learning. Eisav cast off the yoke of his father and grandfather, and chose a path of spiritual anarchy and lawlessness. His legacy couldn’t be more different.
Maintaining a sense of youthful exuberance is of the greatest blessings one can merit.   

“She didn’t want a sweater… She wanted a siddur!”
“The youths grew up… Yaakov was a wholesome man, dwelling in tents”

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




[1] Bereishis 25:27
[2] Mishchas Shemen
[3] Bereishis 27:27