Wednesday, March 20, 2019

PURIM/SHUSHAN PURIM PARSHAS TZAV 5779


STAM TORAH
PURIM/SHUSHAN PURIM
PARSHAS TZAV 5779
“FANNING THE FLAMES”[1]

Randy Pausch, a computer science professor, was diagnosed with terminal pancreatic cancer in September 2006.
On September 18, 2007, he delivered an inspiring lecture entitled "The Last Lecture: Really Achieving Your Childhood Dreams". The video of the lecture went viral and has been viewed by millions. Pausch subsequently co-authored a book called, “The Last Lecture” on the same theme, which became a New York Times bestseller. Pausch died on July 25, 2008.
The following quote is from his book:

“In 1969, when I was eight years old, my family went on a cross country trip to see Disneyland. It was an absolute quest. It was the coolest environment I’d ever been in.
“As I stood in line with all the other kids, all I could think was “I can’t wait to make stuff like this.”
“Two decades later when I got my PhD in computer science from Carnegie Mellon, I thought that made me qualified to do anything, so I dashed off my letters of application to Walt Disney Imagineering. And they sent me some of the nicest go-to-purgatory[2] letters I have ever received. They said they had reviewed my application, and they did not have “any positions which require your particular qualifications.”
“Nothing? This is a company famous for hiring armies of people to sweep the streets. Disney had nothing for me? Not even a broom?
“So that was a setback. But I kept my mantra in mind: The brick walls are there for a reason. They’re not there to keep us out. The brick walls are there to give us a chance to show how badly we want something…”

At the beginning of parshas Tzav, the Torah instructs that the first avodah performed each morning in the Mishkan/Bais Hamikdash was terumas hadeshen, removal of the ashes from the previous day’s korbanos. If the ashes remained upon the Mizbaiach the fire would dim. When the kohain removed the ashes, it enabled the fire to surge upwards and consume the new day’s korbanos.
Rabbi Meir Shapiro zt’l[3] explained that this avodah contains an important message: Every Jew has a spiritual fire within him. At times that fire can become dimmed because of sin or the rigors of life which dull his emotions.
The role of the kohain was to help the person whose fire has dimmed, by removing his spiritual/psychological ashes which are impeding his inner fire, so that his inner flame can surge upwards again. No matter how much one has strayed, his internal flame can always be stoked and revitalized. But the first step is to remove the ashes and spiritual debris that have amassed.
Every Yom Tov affords us a unique opportunity to fan our inner flame. But perhaps there is no time of year when that inner fire bursts forth and manifests externally as on Purim.

When Haman maligned the Jews to Achashveirosh, in building his case why the Jews should be eliminated, Haman noted that the Jews are eccentric and different. “Their laws are different from all of the other nations, and they do not perform the laws of the king.”[4] The gemara explains that Haman particularly noted that the Jews work productivity is subpar because they are always saying “Today is Shabbos; today is Pesach.”[5]
Why did Haman specifically point out these two holidays?
More than other holidays, these two special times entail tremendous preparation in order to observe them properly.
During the summer months, expert rabbinic personalities go out to the wheat fields to inspect the wheat that will be used to produce the flour for the next year’s matzah production. The actual baking of matzah begins Chanukah time.[6] Ridding one’s home of chometz is also a tremendous undertaking that requires time and effort. To properly observe Pesach, one also needs to be versed in the many nuances of the unique laws of kashering, cleaning, and preparing for the Seder. Pesach is not a one-week holiday. It requires months of prior preparation.
Shabbos too is not a one-day event at the end of each week. Every morning we recite the Yom[7], in which we refer to that day as part of “Shabbos”. The first three days of the week are still connected to the previous Shabbos, and we begin preparing in earnest for the upcoming Shabbos in Wednesday. Shabbos consumes the entire life of a Jew.
The mission of Amalek is to eradicate G-dliness from this world. The first step in doing so is to dull our excitement and devotion to avodas Hashem. Therefore, Amalek/Haman particularly challenges the holidays of Shabbos and Pesach because they are not merely celebratory events, but they become the entire focus of a Jew and fill him with a sense of complete subservience to G-d.

When Haman prevailed upon Achashveirosh to agree to the genocide of the Jews it was during the month of Nissan.[8] As soon as he received Achashveirosh’s signet ring that enabled him to enact the edict, Haman hurried to have it dispatched immediately. “The couriers went out in haste with the word of the king.”[9] If the decree wasn’t to take effect for another eleven months, why the rush to dispatch it?
Rabbi Chaim Kanievsky shlita explains[10] that Haman wanted to ruin the Jews’ celebration of Pesach. This is a tactic that Haman’s successors, the Nazis, utilized as well. They would purposely schedule selections, as well as impose other nefarious decrees and torture tactics, particularly during Jewish holidays, to break the spirits of the hapless inmates, and ensure that they would not be able to receive any inspiration from the holiday.

At the beginning of parshas Tzav the Torah instructs the kohanim about the procedure for offering the korban olah – the elevation offering, which was completely consumed upon the Mizbeiach. “These are the laws (procedures) of the Olah – the Olah upon the fire upon the Mizbeiach, the entire night until the morning, and the fire of the Mizbeiach shall burn upon it.”[11]
The Ben Ish Chai derives a lesson from these words:
When the pasuk says ‘this is the procedure of Olah” it is also asking what is the way for a person to grow and ‘ascend’ spiritually? The answer is, “It is the Olah upon the fire”, i.e. one must invest heart and passion into his divine service.
The Mizbeiach’s dimensions equaled 32 (לב) a hint to the heart of a person. One’s heart must be fired up throughout the nights, and challenging times, and remain that way until the morning sets in.

The gemara[12] relates that in a leap year, we observe Purim in the second Adar in order to juxtapose the redemption of Purim with the redemption of Pesach as much as possible. The calendar has done its part to help us connect Purim to Pesach. Now, it is incumbent upon us to take the excitement and emotional fire of Purim, to carry it over and fuse it into our celebration of Pesach in just a few weeks. 

“Remember what Amalek did to you”
“The Olah upon the fire the entire night until morning”



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 Tzav 5776
[2] My alteration of his words
[3] Imrei Da’as
[4] Esther 3:8
[5] Megillah 13b
[6] I’ve asked employees at matzah bakeries how they are able to eat matzah on Pesach after spending months producing matzah all day every day…
[7] The psalm that was sung by the Leviim in the Bais Hamikdash
[8] The decree was for the Jews to be killed eleven months later on the thirteenth of Adar
[9] Esther 3:15
[10] Ta’ama D’kra
[11] Vayikra 6:2
[12] Megillah 6b

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.