Thursday, December 29, 2011


Rabbi Doniel Staum, LMSW

Rabbi, Kehillat New Hempstead

Social Worker, Yeshiva Bais Hachinuch

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When my wife and I married in February 2002/Adar 5762, we enjoyed many beautiful Sheva B’rachos hosted by friends and relatives, including one hosted by my Yeshiva, Shaarei Torah in Monsey. Shaarei Torah was a second home for me and sharing that simcha with my friends, Rabbeim, and fellow talmidim was very special to me. Although the actual meal and Sheva B’rachos was only attended by my closest friends, the dancing that followed included many of the students of the yeshiva.

As my kallah and I were preparing to leave the Yeshiva afterwards, my Rebbe, Rabbi Yitzchok Heimowitz1, met us at the door and said, “Doniel, I just want to share with you a quick thought. A few moments ago, we recited Sheva B’rachos. It’s interesting to note that there are two blessings that describe and thank Hashem for fulfilling two distinct and diverse roles, as it were: “Boruch atah Hashem misamayach tzion b’vaneha- Blessed are you Hashem who brings joy to Zion and her children” and “Boruch atah Hashem misamayach chosson v’kallah- Blessed are you Hashem who brings joy to the groom and the bride.” In the first blessing we thank G-d for fulfilling a more global role of comforting and strengthening all of Zion. In the latter blessing we thank G-d for specifically bringing joy to the groom and the bride in an exclusive manner. Indeed, G-d relates to us and blesses us both as a nation and as individuals.

“Doniel, you have a strong connection with many boys in the Yeshiva and you love to schmooze with younger boys and to encourage them when you can. However, now you have a different responsibility. Now is not the time for you to bring joy to the collective, “children of Zion and her children.” At this juncture, your sole responsibility is to bring joy to your new wife and to thank G-d for the blessing of finding your zivug (sole mate). That must be your main focus at the beginning of your marriage. Your primary focus must be on your new wife, to a certain extent to the exclusion of everyone else.”

With that, a warm handshake, and another blessing of Mazal Tov, my Rebbe waved us off.

When Yosef could bear his inner resistance no longer he felt the time had come to reveal his identity to his brothers. (45:1) “And Yosef was not able to restrain himself in the presence of all those who were standing there, and he called out ‘remove everyone from before me’, and no man stood there when Yosef revealed himself to his brothers.” And he raised his voice and cried and all of Egypt heard and the entire house of Pharaoh heard.”

Why did Yosef feel the need to dismiss all his ministers and officers when he revealed himself to the brothers? The verse says that when he revealed his identity to the brothers he wept so loudly that the whole palace heard. If they knew what was happening anyway, why did they have to exit the room?

Rabbi Avigdor Miller zt’l offered a poignant explanation: The Gemara2 discusses how the Kohanim alternated among themselves who performed the Avodah in the Bais Hamikdash. The Kohanim were divided into twenty-four groups known as mishmaros. Each mishmar would work in the Bais Hamikdash for a week at a time. Their tour of duty began with the onset of Shabbos and concluded the following week, just prior to Shabbos. As one regiment of Kohanim departed, the next group entered. As they passed each other, the departing group conferred upon his entering kinsmen the following blessing: “He Who causes His Name to rest in this House, He should cause to dwell amongst you love, brotherhood, peace, and friendship.”

One would think that the blessing should include a blessing that they perform their holy tasks faithfully and properly, or that G-d be pleased with their service. What is the meaning behind this blessing?

The highest from of Divine Service is accomplished when there is peace and brotherhood among G-d’s children. All of the effort and Service that the Kohanim performed was ultimately to arouse a spirit of pleasure to G-d, as it were, so that G-d’s presence would dwell amongst his people, particularly in the Bais Hamikdash itself. The most direct manner to accomplish that goal was by promoting an atmosphere of harmony and brotherhood. Thus, the departing Kohanim would bless the new group that they accomplish their goals in the most utopian manner possible, with a spirit of peace and unity amongst each other.

The haftorah of Parshas Vayigash discusses the exile of the ten tribes prior to the destruction of the first Bais Hamikdash. The second Bais Hamikdash never reached the level of sanctity and holiness that was present in the first Bais Hamikdash. The Gemara compares the Divine Presence of the first Bais Hamikdash to a lion and the Divine Presence of the second Bais Hamikdash to a dog. The reason for the diminution in holiness was because the ten tribes did not return with the rest of the nation. If Klal Yisroel is incomplete, the Shechina can not return to its previous Glory.

The Gemara Shabbos3 relates that a convert once approached the great sage Hillel requesting that he teach him the entire Torah ‘on one foot’. Hillel replied: “Do not do that which is hateful to your brother. That is the whole Torah; the rest is commentary, go and learn it!”

Hillel’s response was that loving one’s fellow Jew plays a pivotal role in one’s commitment to Torah and mitzvos. This idea was apparent at Sinai when the nation stood at the foot of the mountain ‘like one man with one heart’.

A gentile was not allowed to traverse the fence called the ‘Chayl’ on the Temple Mount. When the Greeks invaded and seized control of the Temple, prior to the miracle of Chanukah, they breached the Chayl thirteen times to symbolize the removal of the barriers between them and the Jews, who they claimed were no longer the Chosen Nation. The Divine Presence that was manifest in the Bais Hamikdash was an expression of G-d’s love for His people, which the nations of the world are not privy to. Therefore, it was inappropriate for them to be in the presence of that exclusive ‘Divine Embrace’.

When Yosef decided to reveal his identity he realized that there would be a tremendous display of emotion, and eventually - after the brothers recovered from the shock and were able to be convinced that Yosef truly harbored no resentment toward them - there would be a tremendous outpouring of love. At that moment of intense unity and love, the Shechina would surely be present. When there is such an intense level of Divine Presence that emanates because of the unity of G-d’s Chosen Children, a gentile may not be present. Therefore Yosef dismissed everyone from the room.

Today in exile, we lack the intense revelation of Shechina that was omnipresent in the Bais Hamikdash. However, we can still feel that level of Divine Embrace when Jews promote peace and unity. G-d has tremendous pleasure, as it were, whenever his children are united.

Rabbi Miller concludes that landlords should strive to get along with their tenants, and neighbors should work on getting along with each other. The Gemara states that if there is peace in a home the Divine Presence resides there too.

It is not easy for people to put aside their differences for the sake of peace, but it is for that reason that such personal sacrifice warrants and merits an increased level of Shechina.

The one thing we can be certain of is that unity will never be fostered by rock throwing, spitting at others, or calling others despicable names4. The Divine Presence resides when there is unity which stems from genuine love and concern for others.

“He called out: Remove everyone from before me”

“That is the whole Torah; the rest is commentary”

1 In my years in Yeshiva, I had a special kesher with Rabbi Heimowitz. Aside for the numerous shiurim I heard from him, I consulted with Rabbi Heimowitz about many important life-decisions, including the challenges of dating and choosing the path towards my career.
2 Berachos 12a
3 31a
4 The greatest tragedy is when such things are done in order to ‘sanctify G-d’s Name’. There are certain methods a Jew should never employ.



Erev Shabbos Kodesh Parshas Vayigash

4 Teves 5772/December 30, 2011

Jeff had always wanted to be an army-pilot and now his dream was finally becoming a reality. In another week he would set off to the army base to begin the exciting new stage of his life. Although he didn’t want to admit it Jeff was very nervous. The prospect of entering hostile enemy territory and engaging in constant combat was daunting to say the least. He knew there would be dark and lonely days ahead. Still Jeff was confident that his years of training and ongoing support from his generals and fellow soldiers would give him the encouragement to stay the course.

During the week before his departure, friends and family members gathered around him to toast him, wish him well, and tell him how proud they were of him. Most precious of all was the advice and encouragement from Uncle Barry. A former general, Barry had proven himself to be an adroit soldier. Uncle Barry spoke to Jeff about his own experiences. He told Barry that it was inevitable that he would make mistakes, which at times could even be costly. But a real soldier doesn’t allow himself to wallow in self pity. Most importantly he told Jeff that he had to learn to trust himself and believe that he had the tools necessary to succeed. Even in the bleakest situations he had to trust the monitors and gauges before him. He had all the tools he needed; the test would be whether he could access those tools in moments of need.

The conclusion of Chanukah is always somewhat bittersweet. For eight nights we gather together with our families to reflect upon the blessings G-d endows us. We sing in the glow of the dancing flames which remind us that throughout our history our flame continues to burn, despite the storms and tempests that tried to extinguish it. The beautiful customs and unique foods endemic to Chanukah add to the spirit of the holiday.

When Chanukah ends it not only marks the conclusion of this most beautiful holiday, but it also ushers in the darkest and coldest stretch of winter. Within a week of Chanukah’s conclusion is the eighth of Teves, that day the Septuagint was written. It is a day when the Gemara says darkness descended into the world for three days. Chanukah generally ends during the Christian holiday season or prior, which historically is a difficult period for Jews. The Septuagint also has much to do with the eventual writing of the New Testament, the foundation of their religion. Two days later we fast to commemorate the beginning of the siege of Nebuchadnezzar around Jerusalem prior to the destruction of the first Bais Hamikdash. The weeks of Shovavim, a period of repentance and introspection (during the weeks of the reading of the first six parshios (in a leap year eight parshios) of Chumash Shemos), also begin within two weeks of Chanukah.

These events do not abruptly and rapidly eradicate all traces of the joy of Chanukah. In fact the opposite is true. The holiday of Chanukah provides us with encouragement and spiritual warmth to weather the challenges of the upcoming weeks. The Yom Tov grants us the tools to find fulfillment even in darkness.

The Yom Tov of Chanukah cannot end when the Menorah is placed back on the shelf. We must continue to hear its message, feel its warmth, and see its light throughout the winter. The Menorah and the eight days of hallel and hoda’ah have given us the tools we need to plunge ahead into the months of Teves and Shevat. The only question is if we can access those tools in our moments of need.

Shabbat Shalom & Good Shabbos,

R’ Dani and Chani Staum

Thursday, December 22, 2011


Rabbi Doniel Staum, LMSW

Rabbi, Kehillat New Hempstead

Social Worker, Yeshiva Bais Hachinuch

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In 1948 the Israeli forces consisted of 17,600 rifles, 2,700 steno guns, 1,000 machine guns, and 45,000 soldiers. The Air Force originally consisted of a few Piper Cubs loaded with grenades1. 650,000 Jews, many Holocaust survivors, were surrounded by nations populated by fifty million Arabs with fully mobilized armies, replete with tanks and heavy artillery.

Azzah Pasha, the then Secretary General of the Arab League, proclaimed over the radio: “This will be a war of extermination, and a momentous massacre.”

According to the natural rules of war, Israel had no chance for survival.

By 1967, there were three million Jews living in Israel surrounded by 100 million Arabs. The Jewish Day Schools in the United States held campaigns to gather bed sheets to be airlifted to Israel in anticipation of the horrific magnitude of casualties that were inevitable. Israel would have to fight on at least two fronts: in the North against Syria and in the south against Egypt. When Jordan refused to back down, Israel had to fight them on the east as well.

To protect its survival, Israel launched a pre-emptive strike. Within the first six hours of the war, almost the entire Egyptian Air Force was wiped out. Israel conquered huge tracts of the Sinai, took over the Golan Heights, and reclaimed Yerushalayim, with relatively remarkably minimal casualties.

An article written in Time Magazine after the war told the following story: “The West Point Senior cadets were given a project. They were to devise the most effective strategy for taking the Golan Heights. They were given maps of the Syrian strong points and the Israeli forces assigned to the battle. Because it was a senior thesis, they were given access to the most sophisticated computers available at the time. They had three months to devise their strategy. Within a short time they returned to the professor saying it was not possible. Based on the sheer heights of the cliffs and the strength of the Syrian fortifications, it was not possible to plan the taking of the Golan Heights, because it just couldn’t be done.”

In 1991, Sadam Hussein fired 39 Scud Missiles against Israel. Cooped up in air-tight, sealed off rooms, wearing gas masks and listening fearfully to the radio for the ‘all-clear’ signal, the entire country was gripped with fear. Miraculously, there was merely one tragic death directly caused by all of those missiles, despite the millions of Shekels worth of damage to buildings and property. Yet, when one Scud hit an American Army battalion camped in Saudi Arabia, 19 soldiers were tragically killed immediately.

When the brothers came down to Egypt to try to procure food from the viceroy of Egypt they were shocked by the harsh treatment they were subjected to.

ויכר יוסף את אחיו והם לא הכירוהו - Yosef recognized his brothers, but they did not recognize him.2” The Ba’al Haturim explains that the brothers didn’t recognize him because ‘it didn’t enter their mind’ that Yosef could achieve such prestigious greatness.

Yosef was able to recognize his brothers immediately because he was looking for them. They however, couldn’t recognize him despite the fact that he must have looked different than all of the ministers and dignitaries in the palace, because they couldn’t fathom that it was Yosef. They could not, and perhaps did not want to, believe that the viceroy of Egypt was Yosef.

When one does not want to see something, even if it’s staring him in the face, he won’t recognize it.

We tend to think that if G-d would reveal himself to us and we would see clear revelations and manifestations of His Greatness, then we would be holier people. But history has taught us that this is not the case.

The Egyptians who were subjected to incredible supernatural retribution prior to and during the exodus witnessed blatant revelations of G-d’s Omnipotence. Yet that did not impede them from following Pharaoh in his pursuit of the Jewish Nation immediately after the exodus, on a journey that landed them in the bowels of the sea. Despite all they had been privy to they continued to obdurately deny the existence of G-d.

After the miracle of Purim, the Megillah relates there was an atmosphere of fear and admiration for the Jews that gripped the world. As a result there was a large wave of converts to Judaism. After the miracles of Chanukah occurred however, we are not told of any such mass repentance among the hellenized Jews3. Despite the miraculous victories in battle and the miracle of the candles, the majority of those who left the fringe of Judaism, did not return.

The truth is that we see miracles constantly throughout our own lives4. The truth can be glaring in front of someone’s face and yet he can give, what he feels, is a rational and logical explanation to prove otherwise.

Rabbi Elchonan Wasserman zt’l noted that, as a field, science tenaciously negates the existence of G-d5. The reason is if there is a G-d then there is a code of laws and ethics that must be followed. If the world is governed by laws of nature then one is free to act as he pleases without the constraints of conscience or guilt.

The Hellenists, lured by Greek culture, methodology, and lifestyle, did not want to return to a Torah lifestyle. They did not wish to see the truth and, therefore, the miracles did not have any effect on them.

The greatness of the human mind is that unless one allows himself to open his heart and mind, he can stare truth in the face and still deny it! Rabbi Wasserman questions how the Torah can command every Jew to unequivocally believe in G-d. How can we be commanded to believe in something/someone that one simply doesn’t believe in?

He answers that truthfully the Torah is not commanding us to ‘believe’, per se. Rather, the commandment is that we allow ourselves to view things objectively, to be open-minded to realize the truth. If one looks at the world, its beauty, complexity, diversity, and everything that occurs with that mindset, it is not possible to not recognize the G-dliness and ‘Divine Touch’ that affects everything and everyone.

This week Christopher Hitchens, one of the most noted atheists, died at the age of 62. Hitchens was legendary for his acerbic wit and strong opinions. He published a book which openly attacked religion and faith, and debated many religious scholars, espousing his vehement opposition to religion6. Now that he has died it has sparked countless articles pondering what happens to an atheist when he dies. I surely don’t know the answer, but I would imagine it’s a traumatic ordeal.

A human has the capacity to convince himself anything he wants through polemics and rational debate, but all arguments notwithstanding, the truth remains the truth.

The Mishnah7 relates that at the festive Simchas Bais Hashoayvah8 that was celebrated each night of the intermediary days of Succos, the Kohanim would erect a massive candelabra which emanated sufficient light to illuminate every courtyard in the vicinity.

The radiant light of Succos is symbolic of the plethora of Divine Blessing and spiritual greatness that is palpable during the holiday. Succos, and all of the major holidays, recall the manifest miracles that G-d performed for His beloved nation.

In contrast, the lights of Chanukah are far smaller and do not radiate great amounts of light. In fact, they appear as sparks twinkling in the window. But those little lights encourage the hearts of Jews throughout the generations and throughout the Diaspora. The small lights of Chanukah are hardly noticeable unless one is looking for them.

Chanukah is the celebration of our ability to serve G-d as He demands in the Torah. We bear that yoke like a badge of honor and rejoice in the opportunity afforded to us.

Our small Chanukah lights may seem insignificant, but they have withstood the test of time, and continue to glow in the darkness.

When we recite the worlds, “הנרות הללו אנו מדליקין - These candles we are lighting…” we celebrate not only what the lighting of the candles represents, but also the fact that WE are lighting. The fact that we – Klal Yisroel – continue to light those candles the world over and throughout the generations during Chanukah, despite all we have endured and suffered, is the greatest miracle of all9.

“Yosef recognized his brothers, but they did not recognize him”

“These candles that we are lighting”

1 They were later replaced with machine guns
2 42:8
3 If there is any source that there was such a wave of repentance I am unfamiliar with it.
4 Rav Shach zt’l would say that he doesn’t understand why people need to work on having more faith in G-d, “Just look at the Divine Providence that went into your union with your wife.”
5 Although it can be argued that scientists are expected to teach about science and not theology, it would behoove those who possess an added understanding of the awesome workings of the world to be unable to marvel at the fact that there must be a Supreme Being behind all this. In fact, we find such sentiments expressed by the minority of scientists who are believers.
6 No surprise that Hitchens was a Jew
7 Sucah
8 ceremonial drawing of the water and libation
9 This beautiful closing thought was related by Rabbi Yisroel Saperstein at the New Hempstead community 3 part shiur this past Sunday. The video/audio can be viewed at


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Erev Shabbos Kodesh Parshas Miketz – Shabbos Chanukah

27 Kislev 5772/December 23, 2011

I’m typing this quietly because I don’t want my car to hear. My faithful Hyundai Sonata – may it live and be well until 120,000 and more (it’s not too far off) - is still going strong b’h. But, as I mentioned a few weeks ago, it’s showing its age and wear and tear. It has many wrinkles, coughs a bit, and can be bit grumpy in the morning. It’s also an experience to drive down the highway. As the speedometer passes 60 it starts to feel like the car is about to take off. Passengers have voiced their annoyance that complimentary peanuts are not served.

So the other week when we were visiting my in-laws, the topic of discussion turned to car salesmen. [I don’t know why these car establishments all have ‘used’ car-salesmen. Why can’t they find new salesmen?] When Chani mentioned that she had seen a great deal advertised for a car, my father-in-law countered that the advertised deal usually refers to one specific car which is has almost no features, including no CD player or power windows. Their goal is to get you to come down to the dealership. Once they get you to ‘stick your foot in the door’ they use their wily and slimy influence to ‘interest you in something else’, luring you into spending more on features you don’t necessarily need in order to upgrade to a more expensive purchase.

The ‘foot in the door’ technique succeeds due to a basic human reality referred to by social scientists as ‘successive approximations’. The more a subject agrees to small requests or commitments, the more likely he is to continue in a desired direction of attitude or behavioral change, feeling obligated to adhere to greater requests.

This technique is the logic used in car dealerships, providing a free sample of a product, window advertising outside a store, vendors asking people to fill out an optional questionnaire or survey, and agreeing to view a brief sales presentation in order to collect a free vacation (ever go to a Timeshare meeting?...)

Sfas Emes explains that the mitzvah of lighting Chanukah candles was enacted to be in the doorway opposite the Mezuzah in the doorpost (most people today light in the window facing the street, but there are some people who light at the door). The Syrian-Greeks had a particular obsession with destroying doorways. The Mishna relates that they made thirteen breaches in the Soreg, the fence which was the dividing line prohibiting gentiles from proceeding further in the Bais Hamikdash. He also explains that the three mitzvos they prohibited Shabbos, circumcision, and Rosh Chodesh are ‘gateway’ mitzvos, i.e. mitzvos that lead to higher levels (see Sfas Emes, Chanukah 5642-5643).

The Torah says (Bereishis 4:7) “Sin rests at the door”. The Evil Inclination seeks merely to get his foot in the door. Once he’s in, he employs ‘successive approximations’ to expand his welcome. In our time the Evil Inclination has found ways to penetrate our homes by bypassing the doors, and we must be wary of those dangers as well.

Chanukah is a holiday when we spiritually fortify our doorways, being careful to not allow negative influences to penetrate our homes so that our homes are islands of morality and Torah values.

In the meanwhile I ask everyone to please pray for the health and longevity of ‘Sonata shel Dani’. May the miracles of Chanukah apply to my car, keeping it going well after its parts should have ceased to work.

Shabbat Shalom & Good Shabbos

A happy and lichtig Chanukah,

R’ Dani and Chani Staum

Thursday, December 15, 2011


Rabbi Doniel Staum, LMSW

Rabbi, Kehillat New Hempstead

Social Worker, Yeshiva Bais Hachinuch

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On May 13, 1940, Sir Winston Churchill delivered his first speech as Prime Minister to the British Cabinet. During that speech he stated the now famous words, “We have nothing to offer but blood, toil, tears, and sweat.”

At that perilous juncture in World history, Mr. Churchill’s assessment was very accurate. At the time, the Axis powers were enjoying uninhibited military success and the situation was very ominous.

Churchill continued, “You ask, what is our policy? I can say: It is to wage war by sea, land, and air, with all our might and all our strength that G-d can give us….What is our aim? It is victory, victory at all costs, victory in spite of all terror, victory however long and hard the road may be; for without victory there is no survival.”

His words have gained fame because his unyielding persistence paid off. The blood, toil, tears, and sweat of the British forces did indeed lead to victory and ultimately, they successfully halted the Nazi War Machine and destroyed it. But had history been different, we can speculate whether his remarks would have gained such notoriety? Would those words have been immortalized in the same manner, had Britain, Heaven forbid, not withstood the onslaught of the German blitzkrieg? In a world where success and accomplishment is all that is valued, does toil and effort that does not breed success count for anything?

The spiritual world however, has a different set of priorities and values. In fact, Churchill’s words could not have been said more eloquently in regard to man’s quest for spirituality. “We have nothing to offer but blood, toil, tears, and sweat.” Not only is that all we have to offer, but that is all that is demanded of us. “It is not incumbent upon you to complete the work, but nor are you free to withdraw from it.” One is only expected to exert himself as much as he is able.

When Basya, the daughter of Pharoah, descended to the Nile to bathe, she noticed the floating crib of a Jewish baby caught in the reeds. Rashi notes that the little crib was well beyond her grasp but, when she stretched out her hand, it miraculously extended until she was able to reach it.

Rabbi Chaim Shmulevitz zt’l explains that G-d performed the miracle for Basya because she did all that she was physically able to do to save the baby. Had she not stretched out her hand to reach it, the miracle would never have occurred. Rabbi Shmulevitz explains that in our lives we often aspire for spiritual growth and greatness that is beyond our reach. The lesson of Basya is that as long as we are doing our part, G-d will help us. However, if one resigns himself to the fact that it’s out of his reach his words will tragically develop into a self-fulfilling prophecy.

With this idea in mind, we can understand why the Gemarah1 juxtaposes two statements that, at first glance, seem to be completely unrelated. “Rav Kahana said: Rav Nassan bar Manyumai expounded in the name of Rabbi Tanchum: A Chanukah light that one placed above twenty Amos is invalid, like a sukkah and a mavoi2. And Rav Kahana said: Rav Nassan bar Manyumai expounded in the name of Rabbi Tanchum: What is the meaning of the verse, “And the pit was empty; no water was in it3”. From the plain meaning of what it stated “And the pit was empty” do I not know that there was no water in it? Rather, what teaching does the Torah wish to convey when it states redundantly, “No water was in it”? Water was not in the pit, but snakes and scorpions were in it.”

What is the connection between the pit of Yosef and the maximum height for lighting the Menorah?

The Kesav Sofer4 explains that the prohibition to light the Chanukah candles too high, symbolizes that one should not rely on miracles that are beyond the realm of nature. Rather, one should prepare himself by doing whatever possible to accomplish his goals, even if he knows for certain that he can only be successful with Divine Intervention. From where do we learn this lesson? Reuven knew that he could not deter his brothers completely from meting out some level of retribution against Yosef. Still, he was able to mitigate the need for Divine Intervention by convincing them to cast him in a pit. Once he did all he could, he was able to confidently leave the rest to G-d.

The holiday of Chanukah is the result of the efforts of those who dedicated themselves to their cause with utmost selflessness. When the Maccabees waged war against the Syrian-Greeks they were hopelessly and pathetically outnumbered. In essence, they were fighting a suicide mission and they knew it. But G-d intervened and they achieved unimaginable miraculous victories.

Spiritually, they were faced with the same challenge when they reentered the Bais Hamikdash. When they found that single jug of oil they realized that again they had no chance of carrying out their goals. Nevertheless, they sought to accomplish as much as they were able to, and then G-d again intervened.

This is another reason why Chanukah is celebrated for eight days despite the fact that it seems that the miracle only occurred for seven days, since they had sufficient oil to light the Menorah for one day5. Indeed there may have been no miracle that occurred on that first day whatsoever. But on that first day we celebrate and commemorate the zeal and passion of the Chashmonaim. Were it not for their uncontainable devotion to light the Menorah as soon as possible, the miracle could never have occurred. The first day of the holiday of Chanukah celebrates our nation’s commitment to serving G-d with every fiber of its being. Whenever a Jew serves G-d with unmitigated passion and devotion, it is cause for celebration. This is especially true on Chanukah because the miracle could never have occurred were it not for that passion.

There is a dispute recorded in the Gemarah6 if one’s Chanukah candles were extinguished within the first half hour after they were lit, if one is obligated to relight them7. The Gemarah rules that the law is that one is not obligated to relight them. The B’nai Yissoscher comments that there is an important philosophical message contained in this ruling. The Gemarah is teaching us that if one did all he could to ensure that the candles would burn for the allotted time, i.e. his wicks and oil were of top quality, and then it went out, he should not feel discouraged. What happened later was beyond his control; he had done all that he could and therefore, he has fulfilled his obligation in the best manner possible. So too, when our Yetezr Hara seeks to discourage us with his arguments that we are going to forget our learning or that our enthusiasm will soon wane so why bother, the response is “Kavsah ayn zakuk lah- If it becomes extinguished we are not bound to it.” If we have fulfilled our obligation then we should not allow ourselves to be discouraged by the wily tactics of our Yetzer Hara.

When he records the laws of Chanukah, the Rambam writes an unusual - almost emotional - declaration. “The commandment regarding kindling the lights of Chanukah is extremely beloved.” Part of the idea that the Rambam wished to convey is that the mitzvah of lighting Chanukah candles has a special place in the hearts of its people in exile. The message of Chanukah and the Menorah is that, despite the fact that we are so far from our once glory and prestige, and despite the fact that we lack the leadership we once had, and despite the fact that there is no Kohain Gadol or Bais Hamikdash, still-in-all, we have remained the great nation of Klal Yisroel. The reason is that our obligation is to accomplish whatever we can and to serve G-d in the best way we know how; beyond that, is G-d‘s domain.

After the horrific attacks of September 11th, 2001, there was a bumper sticker that summarized it best: “All gave some but some gave all!”

“It is not incumbent upon you to complete the work.”

“We have nothing to offer but blood, toil, tears, and sweat”

1 Shabbos 22a
2 An alleyway, a term used in the discussion of the laws of Eiruv
3 Bereishis 37:24
4 Oh’c 136
5 This is known as ‘the famous question of the Bais Yosef’
6 Shabbos 21a
7 kavsah zakuk lah oh ayn zakuk lah


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Erev Shabbos Kodesh Parshas Vayeshev

20 Kislev 5772/December 16, 2011

Here it is Americans; the present you’ve all been looking for: “The Hanukkah Tree Topper! Celebrate the warmth and wonder of both Hanukah and X-mas. A must have for interfaith families. Available in silver metallic coated, textured plastic, with a steel coil for easy sturdy mounting.”

A Jewish woman once told me that she and her Catholic husband work very hard during the holiday season so that their children feel privileged that they can celebrate both Hanukkah and X-mas.

The notion of trying to blend two mutually exclusive faiths is itself a tragedy. The very concept of the ‘Holiday Season’, as if insinuating that there is any remote connection between the two holidays, other than the fact that they sometimes overlap, is a sad misunderstanding.

But the fact that this befuddlement of ideals and values occurs with the holiday of Chanukah is a complete distortion of what the holiday is about.

Rambam writes, “The Chanukah candles are exceedingly beloved.” It is an unusual emotional declaration to be found in a treatise dedicated to the bottom line of the law. In fact the Rambam does not express such a strong sentiment in regards to any other seasonal mitzvah.

Chanukah is the result of the efforts of our ancestors who would not compromise on their ideals and fought to keep the Torah in its pristine purity. This was symbolized by their obdurate refusal to use any of the oil that had been (purposely) contaminated by the Syrian-Greeks.

Thus, Chanukah is a victory and holiday of separation. It was a time when our forefather pledged ‘their lives and their sacred honor’ for the right to be different, and not allow calls for equality to contaminate their existence.

Erecting a Hanukkah Bush or placing a Jewish symbol of a tree is analogous to celebrating American Independence Day by hoisting the British Flag above the White House with a little picture of George Washington on top. The whole point of the American Revolution was to sever the ties between the colonists and the English Monarchy.

Trying to merge two disparate entities is not a promotion of peace but a destruction of both entities.

Still we must not become too discouraged with how the holiday is celebrated outside the Torah-observant world. Chanukah is the holiday of light – and that includes the inner light of our souls. Somehow the Chanukah lights beckons even to the most distant Jews and tugs at their heartstrings. They may not even realize it, but somehow those little candles sear through the vapid falsities they have been taught, to keeps a spark of truth glowing within.

“These candles are holy… to praise and express gratitude to Your Great Name.”

Shabbat Shalom & Good Shabbos

A happy and lichtig Chanukah,

R’ Dani and Chani Staum

Thursday, December 8, 2011


Rabbi Doniel Staum, LMSW

Rabbi, Kehillat New Hempstead

Social Worker, Yeshiva Bais Hachinuch

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Rabbi Yaakov Kamenetsky zt’l1 was frequently asked to serve as Sandek2 for the sons of his students, family members, and admirers. A disciple once asked Rabbi Kamenetsky that being Sandek is fortuitous for one to be blessed with wealth3. If so why wasn’t Rabbi Kamentesky a wealthy man? Rabbi Kamenetsky smiled and replied, “For what I consider to be wealth, G-d has blessed me many times over.4

After thirty-four years from his escape from Eisav’s wrath, Yaakov was finally gearing up for his meeting with Eisav. Yaakov dispatched messengers to convey the following message: “To my lord; to Eisav, so said your servant Yaakov; I have sojourned (garti) with Lavan and have lingered until now. I have acquired oxen and donkeys, flocks, servants, and maidservants, and I am sending to tell my lord to find favor in your eyes.5

Rashi notes that the word garti contains the letters that compose the word ger, sojourner. Yaakov was hinting to Eisav that during his years in Lavan’s home he was not appointed to any position of greatness. The entire time he was there he remained a mere sojourner. Therefore, Eisav shouldn’t bear any grudge against Yaakov for usurping their father’s blessing, since the blessing6 did not come to fruition.

Yaakov’s message is difficult to understand. How could he try to convince Eisav that their holy father’s blessing was not worth being jealous of because it wasn’t fulfilled?

Rabbi Moshe Feinstein zt’l explains that Yaakov was speaking to Eisav based on Eisav’s value system. From Yaakov’s point of view the blessings were indeed fulfilled. Despite the fact that he lived in the home of the duplicitous Lavan, he was able to observe every one of the 613 mitzvos. Since his life was dedicated to the fulfillment of Torah and mitzvos, the only material commodities he needed were those necessary for him to serve G-d and do the mitzvos. Since Yaakov was able to maintain every mitzvah even in Lavan’s home, to him Yitzchok’s blessing for material prosperity had been fulfilled. But from Eisav’s vantage point, material prosperity entailed being able to afford and indulge in material pleasures. The physical materials available to Yaakov would not nearly have sufficed to make Eisav happy. Thus, from his perspective the blessings were not fulfilled.

Rabbi Feinstein continues that when Yaaakov and Eisav met, their diverse outlooks manifested itself in their dialect. Eisav boasted to Yaakov, (33:9) “I have plenty” on which Rashi comments “I have much more than I need”. The implication is that despite what he had, he could still use more. Yaakov, on the other hand, replied (33:11) “I have everything”. He felt that G-d granted him everything he needed to serve Him and therefore, he didn’t need anything more than what he already had.

After Yaakov and Eisav finally met, Eisav’s looked at Yaakov’s family with surprise. (33:5) “And he lifted his eyes and he saw the wives and the children and he said, ‘Who are these to you?’ and he (Yaakov) said, ‘They are the children whom G-d has graciously given your servant.’”

Yaakov’s response does not seem to adequately answer Eisav’s question. Eisav inquired about Yaakov’s wives and his children, but Yaakov only responded about his children? Also, what is the meaning behind the terminology of Eisav’s question, “Who are these to you?” Why couldn’t he simply say, ‘Who are these children?’

After Leah, Rachel and the Tribes bowed before Eisav, Eisav again asked Yaakov, (33:8) “Who is to you that whole camp that I met?” to which Yaakov responded, “In order to find favor in the eyes of my master.”

The Kedushas Levi, Rabbi Levi Yitzchok of Barditchev zt’l, explains that there was a deep philosophical debate between Yaakov and Eisav. Yaakov and Eisav had agreed to divide the two ‘worlds’. Eisav would possess dominion over the physical world, while Yaakov would have dominion over the World to Come7. When Eisav realized the wealth and affluence Yaakov achieved he was perplexed. He curiously asked Yaakov, “Who is to you all of the camp that I have met?” In other words, “We agreed that this was my world, so what are you doing with so much wealth and prominence?” Yaakov replied, “It is merely to find favor in the eyes of my Master.” The Master to which Yaakov referred was not Eisav, but rather G-d Himself. Yaakov was saying that he had only rejected the physical world as an end unto itself. He did not wish to partake of any benefits that are restricted and limited to the here and now. However, he never rejected what this world has to offer as a conduit and entranceway into the World to Come.

The Mesilas Yesharim8 explains that our purpose in this world is to gain entry into the World to Come. The medium to gain entry is Torah and mitzvos, for which one can only achieve reward in this world.

Therefore, anything that can be used as a means to enter the World to Come is still within Yaakov’s reign of dominance. Yaakov was telling Eisav, “All of the wealth that you see, I use solely for the purpose of finding favor in the eyes of my Master, the Eternal and Omnipotent Al-mighty, and therefore it remains within my purview.”

With this in mind, the Skulener Rebbe, Rabbi Eliezer Zusya Portugal zt’l9, explains that when Eisav saw the wives and children of Yaakov he couldn’t understand how they were ‘conduits’ for the World to Come. To Eisav a wife was an object of beauty whose purpose is to be subservient to her husband. Similarly, one has children in order to perpetuate his legacy and to have helpers who will make his life easier. To Eisav, women and children can not help a man gain entry into the World to Come.

Yaakov replied that the purpose of children is not for our own benefit. Rather, they are given to us so that we can have the opportunity to teach them the values of Torah and how to live life as a G-d fearing person. Through our children we have the distinct privilege of perpetuating our traditions to future generations who will uphold the dictates and laws of the Torah. Child-rearing takes on far different meaning when it is viewed in that light. When Yaakov replied to Eisav,”They are the children whom G-d has graciously given your servant,” he was saying that the children were a gracious gift of G-d, for he is responsible to educate them and to help them realize their potential greatness.

Yaakov did not overtly respond to Eisav’s question about his wives however, because Yaakov knew that Eisav could never comprehend the notion that a wife too is a conduit for holiness and entry into the World to Come. The notion that physical pleasure could be utilized for spiritual needs, was completely taboo to Eisav. He could never appreciate the sanctity of a Shabbos meal, the sublime joy of shaking a lulav and esrog, the holiness of a Seder on Pesach, the joy of a festive Purim seudah, or the holiness of marriage. To Eisav spirituality is synonymous with suffering and physical discomfort, such as Yom Kippur.

Yaakov and Eisav lived in the same world but their perception was vastly different. The blessings of Yitzchak would be insufficient to satisfy Eisav who always wanted more.

Yaakov however, viewed this world as a world of opportunity. On its own, this world is a place of senseless void, but when viewed as an anteroom before the banquet hall10, this world is full of opportunity and potential greatness.

The fundamental philosophical disagreement between Yaakov and Eisav surfaced again during the era of Greek dominance. World history views the ancient Greeks as liberators, those who furthered the development of man’s world. They brought culture, education, and philosophy to the countries they vanquished. However, we view the Greeks with a measure of resentment.

In truth, the Torah places great value in beauty and wisdom. However, the Greeks saw beauty and culture as a goal. Aesthetics and the human body contained a degree of divinity and philosophical debates were to help man realize his place in this world. The Torah however, values beauty, aesthetics, and culture only as a means to appreciate G-d’s wisdom.

The Chanukah miracle transpired due to the efforts of those who stubbornly clung to the philosophy of their forefather and would not allow their unadulterated heritage to be tainted by novel ideas.

We indeed value much of the contributions of the ancient Greeks. However, there is one integral difference: To us it is all part of the anteroom; to them it is part of the banquet hall.

“With Lavan I sojourned, yet the 613 mitzvos I preserved”

”The children whom G-d has graciously given your servant”

1 The beloved Rosh Yeshiva of Torah Vodaas
2 the one who holds a baby during his b’ris
3 The sandak is equated to the kohain who offered the daily incense on the Altar in the Bais Hamikdash. Therefore, just as the kohen who offered the incense would be blessed with wealth (see Yoma 26a), so too a Sandek is blessed with wealth (Rama, Yoreh Deah, 265:11).
4 The Kamenetsky family has produced many scholars and Torah leaders.
5 32:5-6
6 (27:29) “Be a lord to your kinsmen”
7 See Ba’al Haturim
8 Chapter 1
9 Noam Eliezer
10 See Avos 4:21


Erev Shabbos Kodesh Parshas Vayishlach

13 Kislev 5772/December 9, 2011

Aside for being renowned for the famous yeshiva, Bais Medrash Govoha, and for being the residence of my in-laws, the city of Lakewood, NJ boasts its own Jewish radio station. The station 107.9 FM WMDI is all Jewish all the time 24/6. On Shabbos the station plays nothing but static throughout the day.

As we were leaving Lakewood after spending a few days of Chol Hamoed Sucos at the home of my in-laws we were interested to see how far the Jewish station would reach. At the time the station was airing a shiur on Mishnayos. We were still able to hear the shiur as we drove all the way down Squankum Drive, and even onto the I-195. Then, after a momentary dulling, the station abruptly changed programming. Suddenly we were hearing a typical FM station where someone was singing about how incomplete their life is because someone else had abandoned them… It was then that we turned on a CD.

An FM radio station actually is not limited by a certain amount of distance, but by mutual interference of another program. Most stations reach a distance of about 28 km (as regulated by the FCC). However, in areas where there is no interference, such as Wyoming, a station can be heard at a distance of 139 km. But once an interfering station begins vying for the sound on your radio, it is the program which is closer to its transmitter which will dominate.

Our soul works in similar fashion. The more connected we are to our source the clearer we will hear the ‘voice of our soul’. But as soon as we travel beyond range, we enter the airspace and dominance of other programs and the sounds we hear will be vastly different.

When the Germans invaded Russia during World War II they were determined not to make the same mistake as Napoleon did a hundred and twenty years earlier. Napoleon’s superior army was destroyed by the sheer brutality of the Russian Winter, for which the French soldiers were ill prepared. Hitler was foolishly confident that the invasion would be over long before winter. The German invasion of Russia - Operation Barbarossa – in June 1941 was initially a great success for the Germans. The Russian forces collapsed under the onslaught. But as the Russians retreated they destroyed everything in their path, a tactic known as ‘scorched earth’, leaving the Germans no supplies. The German supply lines ran all the way across the Russian border, through Poland, and back to Germany. When winter finally arrived it was one of the most brutal ever, with temperatures dipping 40 degrees below zero. Once again the forces seeking to conquer Russia were destroyed by “General Winter”.

In the spiritual world, as in the physical world, one cannot venture to far from his ‘supply lines’. It is simply too dangerous for one to expose himself to the elements. If we want to ensure that the sounds which resonate within us is that of our pure souls, we must ensure that the connection to our source is vibrant and that we don’t allow other forces to interfere.

Shabbat Shalom & Good Shabbos,

R’ Dani and Chani Staum

Thursday, December 1, 2011


Rabbi Doniel Staum, LMSW

Rabbi, Kehillat New Hempstead

Social Worker, Yeshiva Bais Hachinuch

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At the Torah Umesorah Convention in May 2007, Rabbi Asher Weiss shlita, an erudite scholar from Yerushalayim, addressed the men during Shalosh Seudos on Shabbos afternoon. In his lecture he emphasized the importance of preserving the dignity of our children/students, even - or rather especially - when we need to discipline or admonish them. During that lecture, he related the following personal anecdote:

“When I was in elementary school, my Rebbe hosted a contest to encourage us to review at night what we had learned during the day, and to daven shacharis with a minyan. If you learned at night it was worth a certain amount of points, and if you davened with a minyan it was worth a different amount of points.

“What should I tell you, my friends? I lied! I hardly davened with a minyan or learned at night but I would always tell my Rebbe that I did. I quickly became one of the leaders in the contest.

“One morning, I was called to the Yeshiva’s office. I knew you weren’t called to the office so that they could tell you how wonderful you were doing and I was very apprehensive. When I got there, my mother and my Rebbe were waiting for me. I immediately looked down; I could not face them. “Asher,” my Rebbe began, “Did you learn last night?” I didn’t answer; I continued to stare at the floor. “Asher, did you daven with a minyan this morning?” Again I didn’t answer. I was mortified and I just stood there, not moving a muscle. After a painful thirty seconds, my Rebbe said, “Okay Asher, go back to class.”

“I went back to class but I was very anxious about what my consequences would be. However, when my Rebbe came back into class few minutes later, he resumed teaching as if nothing happened. Throughout the day, he did not say anything about the meeting or about the fact that I had cheated on the contest. Nevertheless, I was still afraid of what my mother would do to me when I got home. But she too, never said a word to me about it. In fact, to this day, neither of them has ever said anything more about what I did.

“These two phenomenal educators understood that there was no need to punish me. They knew that I had gotten the message. They were careful to preserve my dignity and I recognized it and I remember it vividly until today.”

When Yaakov Avinu first arrived in Charan, he approached the well where all of the shepherds were sluggishly laying around with their sheep. Yaakov addressed them, (29:4) “My brothers, from whence have you come?” Rabbi Yaakov Kamenetsky zt’l1 is troubled by Yaakov’s formal greeting. Why would Yaakov refer to a group of strangers as, ‘my brothers’?

Rabbi Kamenetsky explains that many people think that when the Torah commands one Jew to rebuke another2, it is a mitzvah that falls into the category of, ‘between man and his Creator’3, because the purpose of the commandment is to ensure that all mitzvos are being properly adhered to by all Jews. Therefore, one who sees another Jew who is not fulfilling the Torah as he should has the responsibility to admonish him, in order to promote and defend the Glory of G-d, as it were. If this was true however, then one should be obligated to rebuke his friend even if it entails humiliating him, which is clearly forbidden4. If the purpose of this mitzvah is for the preservation of G-d’s Glory, why should there be any limit? One is not exempt from wearing tefillin if someone will smack him or curse him for doing so. Why should rebuking be any different?

Rabbi Kamenetsky explains that our premise is mistaken. The mitzvah to rebuke another falls into the category of a mitzvah ‘between man and his fellow man’5. In other words, the purpose of rebuking someone is to help him realize the error of his actions. It is for this reason that the Torah juxtaposes the commandment to rebuke with the commandment that one love his fellow man6, because the only way one can successfully rebuke someone, is if the sinner understands that he is being rebuked out of sincere concern. In Rabbi Kamenetsky’s words, “The sinner must feel as if the rebuke is helping him find an object that he himself has lost”.

Rashi points out that when Yaakov Avinu saw the shepherds languishing near the well he was bothered. There was plenty of plenty of time remaining, so why were they gathered there as if the day was done. However, he knew that as a stranger he could not rebuke them. Therefore, Yaakov addressed them amicably as “my brothers” in order to foster a feeling of connection. Only then could he rebuke them.

Rabbi Shalom Schwadron zt’l7 notes that it is possible for a person to admonish a fellow Jew for desecrating Shabbos and to be held accountable in the celestial courts for disturbing the peace of mind of the sinner by preventing him from enjoying the sin he was committing!

At first glance, this statement sounds ludicrous! If the rebuke was given in private to ensure that there would be no public embarrassment, it would seem that the one offering the rebuke has fulfilled the Biblical commandment to rebuke another Jew in the best possible manner. How could the celestial courts have any complaint against him?

Rabbi Schwadron explains that before one can admonish another person, it is imperative that there be a pre-developed rapport and positive relationship. Only when someone feels that he is being rebuked by someone who truly cares about him and is interested in his welfare, is there a possibility that he may hearken to the rebuke. However, when one feels that he is being personally challenged, his ego will be too hurt to accept what his being told. Such rebuke will not achieve its desired goal, and will probably be counterproductive.

Rabbi Schwadron continues by explaining why people so often rebuke others in an insensitive manner. At the core of human behavior is every person’s motivation to nurture his/her ego. One of the easiest ways for one to feel good about himself is by denigrating others and minimizing their ego. When one rebukes another in a condescending manner, it gives him the feeling that he is more righteous and holier-than-thou. Such rebuke is not a fulfillment of any mitzvah; in fact, au contraire, it is selfishly motivated.

It is for this reason that the person who rebukes the fellow who was smoking on Shabbos without sufficiently knowing the person and having a positive relationship with him, has done no more than causing another Jew unnecessary aggravation. The one offering such rebuke has not fulfilled a mitzvah, because his rebuke only accomplished the furtherance of his own ego since the ‘sinner’ will almost inevitably not pay heed to what he was told.

In Mishley (9:8), the wisest of men wrote, “Do not admonish a mocker perhaps he will hate you; admonish a wise person and he will love you.” The Shelah Hakodosh explains that when one wants to rebuke another, he should not berate the sinner or make him feel lowly. Chastising in such a manner will cause the sinner to hate the chastiser. However, if he extols the virtues of the sinner and then notes how the sin was unbecoming a person of his stature, then he will love him and appreciate the sincere concern.

In his bestseller, “The seven habits of highly effective people”, Stephen Covey introduces an integral idea he calls the ‘Emotional Bank Account’:

“We all know what a financial bank account is. We make deposits into it and build up a reserve from which we can make withdrawals when we need to. An Emotional Bank Account is a metaphor that describes the amount of trust that’s been built up in a relationship. It’s the feeling of safeness you have with another human being.

“If I make deposits into an Emotional Bank Account with you through courtesy, kindness, honesty, and keeping my commitments to you, I build up a reserve. Your trust toward me becomes higher, and I can call on that trust many times if I need to. I can even make mistakes and that trust level, that emotional reserve, will compensate for it. My communication may not be clear, but you’ll get my meaning anyway. You won’t make me an, “offender for a word.” When the trust account is high, communication is easy, instant, and effective.

“But if I have a habit of showing discourtesy, disrespect, cutting you off, overreacting, ignoring you, becoming arbitrary, betraying your trust, threatening you, or playing little tin god in your life, eventually my Emotional Bank Account is overdrawn. The trust level gets very low. Then what flexibility do I have?

“None. I’m walking on mine fields. I have to be careful of everything I say. I measure every word. It’s tension city, memo haven. It’s….politicking. And many organizations are filled with it. Many families are filled with it. Many marriages are filled with it.”

The rule is that before one can make a withdrawal, i.e. rebuke, admonish, or chastise, there must have already been many deposits into that bank account. The child/spouse/friend/employee etc. must be confident that the rebuke is not a personal attack but rather an effort to help guide him/her in the right direction to become a better person. Only then is there a chance that the rebuke may achieve its desired effect.

Otherwise one must subjugate himself to the wisdom of the Sages who stated8, “Just as it is a mitzvah for a person to say something that will be accepted, so it is also a mitzvah not to say something that will not be accepted.”

“My brothers, from whence have you come?”

“Admonish a wise person and he will love you”

1 Emes L’Yaakov
2 See Vaykira 19:17
3 Bayn Adam L’makom
4 Furthermore, the Gemarah (Archin 16b) records a dispute as to what extent one must go in order to rebuke another. One opinion is that he must rebuke until the sinner smacks him; the second opinion is that the obligation to rebuke continues until the sinner curses him.
5 Bayn Adam L’chaveiro
6 “V’ahavta l’rayacha kamocha”
7 , parshas Vayetzei
8 Yevamos 65b


Erev Shabbos Kodesh Parshas Vayetzei

6 Kislev 5772/December 2, 2011

It’s not easy being a New York Mets fan these days. The Mets have become the nebuchs from Queens, the team that just can’t get it together. A billboard hanging right near the Brooklyn Bridge preaches the greatness of New York as being ‘the city that hosts six professional sports teams, and the Mets’. Ouch!

Just recently the Mets organization leaders convened to discuss what they can do to boost their hapless team. How could they get their players to hit more home runs? There are All-Star players whose annual numbers of homeruns have dropped precipitously during the last three seasons since the Mets moved to their new home at Citi-Field. Why can’t they get it Wright?

The organization came up with a brilliant solution. They decided to lower the outfield walls by seven feet, and to bring in the right field wall by 17 feet. Now fly balls that would have been caught in the outfield, or would have bounced off the wall, will be deemed homeruns. That should definitely solve the Mets’ woes.

Whenever one is faced with feelings of inadequacy or lack of fulfillment because he has not achieved his self-imposed goals, he has two options: He can either reassess his efforts and ambitions and recommit himself to meeting his goals with renewed vigor, or he can settle for the path of least resistance by minimizing his goals and allowing himself to be satisfied with what he has already achieved.

This is true in regards to all areas of life, but especially in regards to spiritual matters. It’s been said that if a child is trying to kiss a Sefer Torah as it is being carried to the bimah, it’s better to raise the child to the Torah than to lower the Torah to the child. The symbolism is that we must never rest on our laurels or compromise on our values. The Torah stands on its lofty pedestal and we must raise our standards to be in tandem with its mitzvos, even at the cost of self compromise and sacrifice.

We have to figure out a way to live by its boundaries and parameters, and at times that requires spiritual exercise and growth. But we can never cut corners to make the Torah suit our needs, or to fit our agenda.

The Mets may be enjoyable to watch (especially if you’re the opposition) but this is one lesson not to be learned. It’s always better to build your muscles than to chop down the walls.

Shabbat Shalom & Good Shabbos,

R’ Dani and Chani Staum