Thursday, February 23, 2012


Rabbi Doniel Staum, LMSW

Rabbi, Kehillat New Hempstead

Social Worker, Yeshiva Bais Hachinuch




“Please find a place to read the next few pages where you can be alone and uninterrupted. Clear your mind of everything except what you will read and what I will invite you to do. Don’t worry about your schedule, your business, your family, or your friends. Just focus with me and really open your mind.

“In your mind’s eye, see yourself going to the funeral of a loved one. Picture yourself driving to the funeral parlor or chapel, parking the car, and getting out. As you walk inside the building, you notice the flowers…You see the faces of friends and family you pass along the way. You feel the shared sorrow of losing, the joy of having known, that radiates from the hearts of the people there.

“As you walk down to the front of the room and gaze at the name of the deceased, you see your own name on the casket. This is your funeral, three years from today. All of these people have come to honor you, to express feelings of love and appreciation for your life.

“As you take a seat and wait for the services to begin, you look at the program in your hand. There are to be four speakers. The first is from your family, immediate and also extended- children, brothers, sisters, nephews, nieces, aunts, uncles, cousins, and grandparents who have come from all over the country to attend. The second speaker is one of your friends, someone who can give a sense of what you were as a person. The third speaker is from your work or profession. And the fourth is from your… [Shul] where you’ve been involved in service.

“Now think deeply. What would you like each of these speakers to say about you and your life? What kind of husband, wife, father or mother would you like their words to reflect? What kind of son or daughter or cousin? What kind of friend? What kind of working associate?

“What character would you like them to have seen in you? What contributions, what achievements would you want them to remember? Look carefully at the people around you. What difference would you like to have made in their lives?

“Begin with the end in mind!1

“Hashem spoke to Moshe saying: Speak to the B’nei Yisroel and let them take for Me a portion, from every man whose heart motivates him you shall take My portion.2

S’forno explains that the need for the Mishkan was a result of the sin of the Golden Calf. Ideally, after the Revelation of Sinai the Mishkan should have been unnecessary. At Sinai, each Jew had achieved a level of prophesy and was worthy of the Divine Presence resting upon him individually. However, when the Jews committed that egregious sin, they forfeited a great level of that inner holiness. At that point, it became necessary for there to be a centralized place where the Divine Presence would be ever-present.

The materials, parameters, designs, craftsmanship, and dimensions of the Mishkan are meticulously outlined in the verses. Because the sin of the Golden Calf was a transgression of the Word of G-d, the Mishkan - which came to rectify that sin - had to be designed and constructed with precise adherence to G-d’s exact commands.

When one reviews the Torah’s instruction regarding the construction of the Mishkan, there are several questions that arise:

The parsha commences with a list of materials that could be donated for usage in the Mishkan. Rashi (25:2) writes that, in all, there were thirteen different materials that could be donated. However, if one counts the materials listed there are fifteen materials mentioned? Also, the vernacular of the opening verse seems strange. What does it mean to, “Take for Me a portion”? Doesn’t one usually give or donate a portion?

In constructing the structure of the Mishkan and all of its vessels, there were three vessels that had to be hammered out of one block of solid gold: The Keruvim that rested atop the Holy Ark, the Menorah, and the golden Trumpets3.

What is the significance of these three vessels that they had to be painstakingly chiseled from one solid block and could not be molded or cut?

Medrash Tanchuma writes that the construction of the Menorah from one solid block of gold was so difficult that Moshe could not visualize how it would appear. G-d showed Moshe a Menorah of fire, but even then Moshe despaired that he would be able to construct it properly. Finally, G-d told him to just throw the gold into the fire, and the completed Menorah emerged miraculously.

If at the end the Menorah had to be constructed miraculously, what was the point of showing Moshe the image of the Menorah out of fire?

On the aforementioned pasuk, 25:40, “See and make, according to their form that you are shown on the mountain”, Ba’al HaTurim notes that there are three times in Scripture that the word “וראה- And see” appears. The first time is here in regard to the Menorah. The other two are found in Tehillim: (139:24) “וראה אם דרך עצב בי - And see if there is a path of sadness within me” and, (128:6) “וראה בנים לבניך – And your sons shall beget sons.” What is the connection between these three verses?

Whenever one sets a goal for himself it is vital that he maintain a vision for what he hopes to accomplish. Just as one does not embark on a journey without first having an idea of where he wants to end up and how he plans on getting there, so too one cannot venture out onto the roads of life without first envisioning what he hopes to accomplish Only when he has that vision is he ready to pursue his dreams and aspirations. Perhaps he won’t accomplish everything he intends to, but it is a far easier journey when one has some sense of direction.

Truthfully, it was impossible for Moshe to construct the Menorah with all of its different components and intricate designs from one block of gold. However, G-d insisted that Moshe develop a vision and a plan for what he was trying to create.

There is an old quip that “heaven helps those who help themselves”. If one sits around listlessly awaiting Divine Intervention, it may never come. It is only when one initiates the effort and sets out to fulfill his plans that he can be worthy of Divine Intervention and Guidance.

The verse mentions the word ‘וראה - and see’ in regard to three vessels which symbolize three important concepts. The Menorah symbolizes that one must always have a vision. The second mention of the word is in regards to sadness. Life invariably contains moments of disappointments, frustrations, and sadness. Dovid Hamelech declared that G-d always helps one in a sad and difficult situation. But that help is contingent on “And see”, i.e. the vision of the future and one’s hopes for improvement when he/she emerges from their difficult predicament.

The final mention is in regard to child-rearing. Raising children is a daunting task. Even children from the best families who received the best education and had decent friends, sometimes do not develop as their parents hoped. Nevertheless, one must begin with a vision of what he hopes his family will look like. Especially when one begins a new family, there must be goals and aspirations - a path with a destination. That path will inevitably be filled with impediments and circuitous turns, but the path must be in place nonetheless, if there’s any hope for success.

If one analyzes the fifteen materials that could be donated for use in the Mishkan, there are two which should not have been available to them in the desert. One of the materials was Shittim wood. Why would they have Shittim wood in the desert; there were no trees there?

Rashi quotes a Medrash which explains that many years prior, our Patriarch Yaakov foresaw that his descendants would construct a Mishkan in the desert and would need Shittim wood. Therefore, he planted cedar trees that would bear Shittim wood and instructed his children to bring the cedar trees down to Egypt and replant them there. When the Jews left Egypt, they took those trees along with them. In other words, the Shittim wood was a product of the foresight of Yaakov Avinu!

Another one of the materials to be donated was the ‘Techasim’ skin. Rashi explains that the Techashim was a type of beast which was only created so that its skin could be utilized for the Mishkan. The whole purpose of the creation and temporary existence of the Techashim was only so that it would be available to produce a covering for the Mishkan. Thus, as opposed to the other thirteen materials, these two were only accessible through foresight and Divine Intervention. The message of the Shittim wood and Techashim skin is the importance of having a vision and preparing for the future. Once that is accomplished one must pray for Divine Assistance and Guidance to help him accomplish his mission, just as the Techashim were only available through Divine Intervention.

This is the message of the opening pasuk of the parsha. “Speak to the B’nei Yisroel and let them take for Me a portion”. When building a Mishkan it is not sufficient to merely give, it must be an emotional experience wherein one takes and draws from within his inner self. To build a structure of holiness requires an internal vision and understanding that ultimately, without Divine Assistance, we can’t accomplish anything.

There were three materials that had to be chiseled out of one block of pure gold, because they each symbolize things that must retain their pristine form. The Keruvim which had the angelic form of children, symbolize educating and preparing our children for the future. The golden Menorah represents the Torah, the ultimate authority that dictates every facet and nuance of our lives. The golden trumpets which were blown to alert the people that it was time to travel, represents the sojourns one endures along the paths of life.

Every time gold is melted the quality weakens somewhat. These vessels had to maintain their original vitality and purity to symbolize that, in regard to children, Torah, and traversing the vicissitudes of life, there are no shortcuts. The only way to be successful is through foresight, vision, and an unwavering belief In G-d4.

“Of pure gold, hammered out”

“Take for Me a portion”

1 Stephen Covey, “The 7 habits of highly effective people”, Habit 2
2 The following is the text of a speech delivered by our family friend Rabbi Leibi Grohman. in honor of our Sheva Berachos on the evening of 9 Adar 5762
3 Bamidbar, 10:1-10; the trumpets were used to alert the nation that the Divine Presence had begun to travel and they had to break camp and follow
[Rabbi Grohman concluded his speech by connecting it to our simcha with a fantastic gematriah (numerical value). I would be remiss if I quoted his speech and left out his conclusion:
The gematriah of the words, “V’asu li Mikdash (and they shall make for me a sanctuary)” (866) plus the 15 materials used for the construction of the Mishkan is 881, the exact gematriah of “Doniel Alexander haLevy Chanah Rivkah”.
Rashi on the aforementioned words, “V’asu li Mikdash” writes, “V’asu lishmeey bais kedushah (And you shall make for the sake of My Name a House of Holiness)”. The gematriah of those words is 1589, the exact gematriah of “Hachosson Doniel Alexander haLevy v’hakallah Chanah Rivkah Staum”.]


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Erev Shabbos Kodesh Parshas Terumah

Rosh Chodesh Adar 5772/February 24, 2012

New Yorkers have found out that there is a New York NBA team after-all. They found it out because of a 23 year old Asian-American named Jeremy Lin.

It’s been a while since New York basketball fans have had much to cheer about. The postponed beginning of this season because of financial greed didn’t help matters, and when the Knicks began with a dismal start falling well below 500 there was even less for fans to be excited about.

But then suddenly a player arose, literally from the shadows. In fact Lin had been around for some time but had never had the opportunity to prove himself. After receiving no athletic scholarship offers out of high school and being undrafted out of college, Lin headed to Harvard University (!). After graduating he signed a partially guaranteed contract deal with his hometown Golden State Warriors.

Lin made the Warriors' opening day roster for the 2010–11 regular season, but received little playing time during the season. In December Lin was claimed off waivers by the Houston Rockets. After playing seven minutes in two preseason games the Rockets waived him, at which point the Knicks claimed him off waivers to be a backup.

The Knicks considered releasing Lin before his contract became guaranteed. However, after the Knicks squandered a fourth quarter lead in a February 3 loss to the Boston Celtics, coach Mike D'Antoni decided to give Lin a chance to play. "He got lucky because we were playing so bad," said D'Antoni. Lin had played only 55 minutes through the Knicks' first 23 games.

On February 4, 2012, Lin had 25 points, five rebounds, and seven assists—all career-highs—in a 99–92 Knicks victory over the New Jersey Nets. During the next 6 games Lin was lights out, leading the Knicks to six consecutive victories, and enthralling fans by his galvanizing leadership on the court.

Much has been written and discussed about Lin’s extraordinary fairy-tale like story, about how one never knows what can happen. I believe there is another important lesson here:

In 1978, Michael Aun won the Toastmaster’s International Speaking contest in Vancouver. When he speaks he remarks that although he is well-known for winning the contest in 1978, he lost it in 1977 in Toronto, because he went seven seconds over his allotted time. In his words, “Do you know what you do after you lose a contest because of seven seconds? You go up to your hotel room and you cry. But after a while, you realize that you can go for it again. A year later I won it in Vancouver. I often say that we have to remember that you often have to go through Toronto in order to get to Vancouver.

Rabbi Dr. Twersky, noted author and lecturer has written over 60 books. He relates that when he was ready to publish his first book during the 1970s he was rejected by 30 publishers.

In an age where production and accomplishment are all that are valued, there is little patience for fruitless effort and failures. But the facts of life are that one cannot be successful until they have struggled, made mistakes, learned to be patient with himself, and have accepted that he is not perfect. Any success not achieved through grit and challenge is ephemeral and transient.

You can’t publish books without getting rejected first, you can’t go to Vancouver until you’ve gone through Toronto, and you can’t become great without learning how to sit on the bench and watch the spotlight pass over you. But if you have the patience and endurance to stay the course, the road eventually leads towards the fulfillment of your dreams and hopes.

Shabbat Shalom & Good Shabbos,

R’ Dani and Chani Staum


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