Thursday, March 29, 2012


Rabbi Doniel Staum, LMSW

Rabbi, Kehillat New Hempstead

Social Worker, Yeshiva Bais Hachinuch

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This Thursday, 12 Nissan, is the yahrtzeit of Harav Shimshon Dovid Pinkus zt’l, who, along with his esteemed Rebbitzin and daughter Miriam, were niftar in a fatal car accident twelve years ago. Rav Pinkus, the Rav of the community of Ofakim, is now renown throughout the Torah world through his sefarim on holidays, education, prayer, and Torah, (to date over 25 sefarim). Through reading his speeches once can almost feel his passion and emotion for Avodas Hashem. Rav Pinkus was a dynamite charge of spirituality with a contagious love for Torah and mitzvos. Though I never had the opportunity to personally meet him, I consider myself a disciple through his writings and recordings.

At the beginning of the ‘Rav Pinkus haggadah’ he recounts a powerful personal anecdote that gives us a glimpse of his greatness.

“When I was a Yeshiva student learning in the famous Brisker Yeshiva of Yerushalayim, I shared a dirah (apartment) with a group of yeshiva boys. On the night of Erev Pesach I was alone in the apartment and I realized that I would have to perform the difficult task of bedikas chametz[1] by myself. It was an exhausting task but after a few hours I finally finished and wearily sank into the couch to rest.

“Just then, to my chagrin, I realized that at the top of the building there was an attic shared by all the tenants. Although the halacha clearly states that one is obligated to check an attic for chometz, I wondered if the responsibility fell on my shoulders. After all, the other neighbors had an equal share in the attic and therefore had an equal obligation to perform the bedikah. But I knew that if I didn’t do it, it wouldn’t get done. So although I was extremely tired I mustered up the strength and went upstairs to do the bedikah.

“When I arrived at the attic and flipped on the light I couldn’t believe what I saw. The place looked like it hadn’t been cleaned in years. If I had any hope of doing a bedikah I knew I would have to clean the entire attic first. At that moment I had a terrible inner struggle. My body ached with fatigue and I needed sleep so that I would have strength for the Seder. Still, I decided to fulfill this mitzvah with every last ounce of energy that I had. I went downstairs, gathered a mop and some rags and went back up to start cleaning. The whole time I kept questioning myself and then reminding myself that I definitely was performing a mitzvah d’rabbanon[2] and had to go on.

“It was close to daybreak before I finished. I settled into bed to grab a little bit of sleep, knowing that I would have no time to sleep Erev Pesach and would come to the Seder fighting to stay awake.

“However when the Seder arrived, I felt a tremendous wave of inspiration come over me. I wasn’t the least bit tired. In fact, I felt an inexplicable charge of enthusiasm and emotion. I felt a tremendous light throughout the night. When I ate the matzah I felt like I was ready to be moser nefesh (give my soul) for it. I felt such closeness to Hashem that whole night that I felt like a different person. When the Seder was over I couldn’t sleep. I remained awake that whole night delving and studying Sippur Yetzias Mitzrayim. At first, I thought this special feeling was a gift that would only last that night. But then throughout the next day, through shacharis, Hallel, and the seudah I continued to feel that ‘spiritual embrace’.

“To my surprise throughout Chol Hamoe’d I continued to feel this sweetness, so much so that I could not pull myself away from my Gemarah. When Yom Tov was over I literally cried because I didn’t want to let go of the amazing experience. But then Shabbos came and I realized that the sanctity of Shabbos surpasses the sanctity of Yom Tov. On that Shabbos, for the first time I truly felt the sweetness of Shabbos and why Chazal refer to it as “Shabbos Kodesh”.

“At that moment my life changed. If I have become anything in life it is all because of the power of that one mitzvah d’rabbanon that I performed with mesiras nefesh one time!”

After the egregious sin of the golden calf, G-d instructed Klal Yisroel to erect a Mishkan (Tabernacle) to serve as a centralized location for G-d’s presence and a symbol of their atonement for the golden calf. A tremendous wave of national excitement was immediately stirred. The donations were beyond capacity, and Moshe had to insist that no more materials be brought.

On the twenty-third day of Adar, seven days before Rosh Chodesh Nissan, G-d instructed Moshe about the unique process of how to consecrate Aharon, the Kohanim, and the Levites for the Service they would soon begin.

The second half of Parshas Tzav discusses the unique sacrifices that were offered and the special process of purification and consecration that was performed during the seven inaugural days[3]. The following parsha, Parshas Shemini, commences with the events of the eighth day, Rosh Chodesh Nissan - the day the Mishkan was permanently erected. The Gemara relates that the day of Rosh Chodesh Nissan was so joyous before G-d that it paralleled the joy of creation[4].

The events of this joyous day are also mentioned in Parshas Naso[5] where the Torah recounts the special sacrifices that the tribal leaders offered during the first twelve days of Nissan. One tribal leader offered a personal sacrifice during each of those twelve days.

The Torah introduces their sacrifices by saying, (7:1) “ויהי ביום כלות משה להקים את המשכן וימשח אותו ויקדש אותו - It was on the day that Moshe finished erecting the Mishkan that he anointed it, sanctified it and its utensils…”

Rashi quotes the Medrash Tanchuma who notes that the Torah uses the word ‘כלות (finished)’ because it is similar to the word ‘kallah- bride’. The Torah is alluding to the fact that the joy of the day of the erection of the Mishkan was analogous to the joy a bride feels when entering her canopy (i.e. getting married).

What is the deeper meaning behind the connection between the erection of the Mishkan and a bride on her wedding day?

Rabbi Eliezer Menachem Man Shach zt’l explained that a bride is called a kallah because the word kallah means to finish, and at her wedding she is concluding a page of her life. It is obvious however, that when a kallah gets married she is also beginning a new period of her life. In fact, the focal point of a wedding is the new life that she and her new husband build for themselves. In agreeing to marry, they are leaving behind the narcissism of bachelorhood in order to devote themselves to each other.

In the same vein, when Moshe Rabbeinu completed the preparatory work for the Mishkan, that same day the Mishkan was permanently erected. There was no in-between period for leisure and relaxation. On the day the preparation was complete the Holy Service was initiated.

Rav Shach explains that a Jew’s life must contain constant growth. There is no such thing as spiritual stagnation. As soon as one masters one level of accomplishment, he must immediately begin striving for the next level of accomplishment. This is the reason for the custom that upon reciting a siyum upon the completion of one tractate of Talmud, we immediately commence the following tractate. It serves as a reminder that there is never a point of absolute completion in the life of a Jew. We conclude one level solely so that we can aspire and reach for the next level. We conclude one tractate so that we can begin the next one.

Rabbi Moshe Wolfson shlita[6] noted that there are four things that are titled kallah: Shabbos[7], the Torah[8], a bride, and the Mishkan/Bais Hamikdash.

According to the explanation of Rav Shach, we can understand why Shabbos is referred to as a kallah. It is understood that Shabbos is the climax of the week; a day of introspection for the previous week. However, Shabbos must also set the tone for the new week, beginning it with a spiritual bang. Shabbos is the end of one week, as well as the beginning of the coming week. “Come my beloved to greet the bride, the face of Shabbos we will welcome.” The face of Shabbos is our face which is transformed and elevated through our Shabbos observance and experience.

Perhaps, this is part of the reason why the Shabbos preceding Pesach is referred to as, ‘Shabbos Hagadol- the Great Shabbos’. The Gerrer Rebbe noted that every Shabbos is called “Hagadol,” as we say in the prayer retzay that we add in Birkas Hamazon on Shabbos, “May You be pleased to grant us rest, Hashem our G-d, through Your commandments and through the commandments of the seventh day, (HaShabbos hagadol v’hakadosh hazeh) this great and holy Shabbos. For this day is great and holy before You…” Thus, when we deem the Shabbos before Pesach to be “Shabbos Hagadol” we actually mean that it is ‘gadol shebagedolim’, i.e. the greatest of the great! In what sense is the Shabbos before Pesach the greatest of the great?

The Tur at the beginning of his discussion of the laws of Pesach records[9], “The Shabbos before Pesach is known as “Shabbos Hagadol-the Great Shabbos”. The reason for the unique title of this Shabbos is because of the great miracle that transpired during this Shabbos. In Egypt, on the tenth of Nissan just prior to the exodus, G-d commanded the Jews to choose and set aside the lamb they would offer as their Korbon Pesach.

The exodus transpired on the fifteenth of Nissan which was a Thursday, and the tenth of Nissan was on Shabbos. Every family gathered their own lamb and tied it to their bed posts. When the Egyptians saw what the Jews were doing they demanded an explanation. The Jews replied that G-d had commanded them to set aside a lamb to be offered as a sacrifice to Him. When the Egyptians heard that the Jews were going to offer their god as a sacrifice[10] they became incensed. However, their teeth were blunted and they were powerless to say or do anything to impede the sacrifices from being offered. In commemoration of that great miracle the Shabbos became known as Shabbos Hagadol - the Great Shabbos.”

To adhere to this commandment required tremendous courage and fortitude. The Egyptians had been their masters and captors for over two centuries. Even their grandparents had been born and died as slaves of Pharaoh’s regime. And now they were commanded to openly challenge their Egyptian-masters. For four days the Jews had to keep their lambs tied to their bed posts unsure if the Egyptians would exact revenge against them. In fact, it was only G-d’s protection that saved the Jews from the Egyptian’s wrath.

That Shabbos when the Jews hearkened to G-d’s command and prepared themselves to offer the Paschal Sacrifice they transcended slavery and began their quest toward becoming a free nation. Slave mentality dictates a slave’s fear for his master. Perhaps they were physically still in Egypt, but their actions demonstrated a level of spiritual freedom. The ultimate goal of the exodus was, “Hallelu Avdei Hashem v’lo avdei Pharaoh- Say praise (those who are) the servants of G-d and not (those who are) the servants of Pharaoh”. That essentially began on Shabbos Hagadol.

If Shabbos is a kallah in the sense that we graduate from one level of holiness and begin aspiring for a higher level, in this regard Shabbos Hagadol is “the greatest of the great”. Shabbos Hagadol is the anniversary of the spiritual conclusion of our national servitude and the commencement of our trek toward becoming the Chosen Nation and a Holy People. It is therefore apropos, that we do not celebrate the tenth of Nissan as the day that this transformation occurred, but rather during the Shabbos prior to Pesach. Every Shabbos is ‘Gadol’ when a spiritual transformation occurs. The only difference is that on Shabbos Hagadol that transformation was (and is) even more extreme.

With this in mind we can understand[11] why the Rema writes that there is a custom to recite a portion of the haggadah on the afternoon of Shabbos HaGadol[12]. Although the redemption did not physically occur until the fifteenth of Nissan, the ‘spiritual redemption’ began on the tenth of Nissan, i.e. on Shabbos HaGadol when they openly challenged their former captors. Therefore, although the real mitzvah of reciting the haggadah is indeed only at the Seder, we recite a portion of it on Shabbos HaGadol to emphasize the importance of the spiritual transformation that occurred on that day.

Pesach was far more than a physical exodus. It was a transformation of a lowly band of oppressed people into a nation of regal bearing and a light unto the nations. Every Shabbos presents an opportunity for such a transformation to occur within the essence of a Jew. On Shabbos HaGadol that opportunity is magnified many times over.

“On the day that Moshe finished erecting the Mishkan”

“Come my beloved to greet the bride”

[1] searching for chametz

[2] Rabbinic decree

[3] shivas yimei hamilu’im

[4] Megillah 10b

[5] Bamidbar, chapter 7

[6] Mashgiach of Yeshiva Torah Voda’as

[7] As we sing each Friday night “Lecha dodi likras kallah - Come my beloved to greet the bride”

[8] see Rashi, Shemos 31:18, “G-d gave the Torah as a gift like a bride gives to her groom”

[9] Siman 430

[10] the lamb was the god of Egypt

[11] This idea is from my rebbe, Rabbi Yitzchok Heimowitz shlita

[12] The Gra opposes this custom, pointing to the words we recite in the haggadah itself, “I would have thought to begin the recitation of the haggadah from Rosh Chodesh (Nissan)….therefore the pasuk says ‘because of this’ (which teaches us that the haggadah can) only be recited at the time when matzah and marror are resting before you (i.e. at the seder).



Erev Shabbos Kodesh Parshas Tzav/Hagadol

8 Nissan 5772/March 30, 2012

Are you losing your here? Do you feel like you’re looking older and becoming lonelier because of your here loss?

If so, you need ‘Here Restoration’ with ‘Regain’. Smear a healthy coating of Regain on your head and youll see instant results. Your Here’ will immediately become rejuvenated, making you feel and look years younger and healthier. Results guaranteed or your insanity back.

One of our generation’s greatest problems is that we don’t live in the present. Our minds are so fragmented and we are in so many places at once that we can hardly focus on what we are doing. The Chovas Halvovos relates that a saintly man would pray המקום יציני מפזור הנפש"- The Omnipresent should save me from ‘scatteredness’ of the soul”, better known as fragmentation.

Dr. Ed Hallowell has coined the term ‘email voice’ or EMV to describe the unearthly tone of voice one uses when talking to someone while reading an email or doing work on the computer. How often do we talk to the people we love and cherish with EMV.

Last week, Klal Yisroel suffered the loss of one of its greatest leaders, Rabbi Chaim Pinchos Scheinberg zt’l. He taught Torah for over 85 years, and until his passing at 101, he was still teaching and inspiring.

I had the opportunity to hear him speak a few times. His message was virtually always the same. He would relate that he was raised on the Lower East Side, where he played ball with his friends. In fact, they would call him ‘Lefty Scheinberg’. But he gave it all up to devote himself to learn Torah and serve Hashem as much as he was able. Rav Scheinberg would then repeat one word over and over: “Time! Time! Time!” He would then emphasize that it’s the greatest gift we have, and we have to know how to use it wisely.

We have forgotten how to live in the moment, to appreciate what we are doing, and to truly experience what we are involved in.

Before our wedding, someone suggested to us that in the middle of the wedding we stop and take a moment to contemplate where we were and what we were doing. We were able to do so and it was one of the greatest memories I have of the night. For two minutes, we selfishly made all well-wishers wait, ignored the urgings of the photographer and caterer, and marveled about the fact that we were at our wedding!

Too often we only think about experiences after they are over.

This week, Eva Sandler, the widow who lost her husband and two children r’l in the horrific massacre in France, was interviewed. She noted that the evening before the shooting she had commented to her husband that she had not said Shema Yisroel with her children before putting them to bed. She was always particular to do so but the previous few days had been hectic and she had not had the chance. She resolved to make sure to get back on track the following evening.

Mrs. Sandler then requested that every parent make sure to spend those few precious moments each night with their children. Parents are busy with so many things – phone calls, emails, appointments, and sometimes they are just tired after a long day. “But” she said “put it all aside for your spouse and your children.”

The Seder is one of the most sublime spiritual experiences of the year. We should make sure to live in the moment – to appreciate the plethora of blessings that we are blessed with around (and on) our Seder table.

A slave has no control over his time, nor does he have the ability to exercise his own choices. Redemption is the ability to choose and to take advantage. It’s the ability to regain our here.

Shabbat Shalom & Good Shabbos,

R’ Dani and Chani Staum

Thursday, March 22, 2012


Rabbi Doniel Staum, LMSW

Rabbi, Kehillat New Hempstead

Social Worker, Yeshiva Bais Hachinuch




At the previous Siyum Hashas[1] on March 1, 1995 in Madison Square Garden, Rabbi Matisyahu Salomon shlita, the Mashgiach of Bais Medrash Govoha in Lakewood, N.J., delivered the final address, in which he mentioned that the Siyum was dedicated to the memory of the six million who perished during the Holocaust. During that lecture he related the following story:

Rav Chaim Shmulevitz zt’l recounted that he once asked a survivor how he was able to bear five years in a forced labor camp and remain a believer? How could he have emerged with undiminished love for G-d?

The man replied, “They didn’t allow us to keep any mitzvos in the camp. They deprived us of Shabbos, Yom Tov, Torah, etc., and from early morning until late in the evening they guarded us closely.

“But there was one thing they could not take away from us – the moon! There were inmates among us who calculated when Rosh Chodesh was and when Kiddush Levanah[2] could be recited. On that night, as we would walk back to the barracks with soldiers on both sides, someone would whisper that it was time to recite Kiddush Levanah. We would hold hands and recite Kiddush Levanah, and that symbolized everything to us. "וללבנה אמר שתתחדש עטרת תפארת לעמוסי בטן שהם עתידים להתחדש כמותה ולפאר ליוצרם על שם כבוד מלכותו" – To the moon He said that it should renew itself, as a crown of splendor for those borne from the womb, those who are destined to renew themselves like it, and to glorify their Creator for the sake of His glorious kingdom.[3]

When Moshe Rabbeinu taught Klal Yisroel the laws of the offering of the Korbon Pesach in Egypt just prior to the exodus he introduced it with a statement about the greatness of the month of the redemption. “This month shall be for you the beginning of the months, it shall be for you the first of the months of the year.[4]

The Sages explain that every Rosh Chodesh symbolizes a new beginning, a chance to rededicate oneself to his ideals and his Service of Hashem with renewed vigor. Rosh Chodesh Nissan - the first Rosh Chodesh of the year - has an even greater propensity for renewal. It is the ‘first of firsts’. What is the meaning of this spiritual renewal?

In the Haggadah we quote the verse from the prophet Yechezkel[5] “I made you as numerous as the plants of the field.” Why is the growth of Klal Yisroel analogous to plants in the field?

The Ohaiv Yisroel explained that plants grow upwards defying the natural laws of gravity. The Medrash[6] explains that every single blade of grass has its own angel or constellation above which encourages it to grow. Because of the prodding of its celestial angel, the plant desires to reconnect with its spiritual root. Therefore, it pulls itself and grows upwards from the ground.

So too, the spiritual source of the soul of every Jew has its root beneath G-d’s Heavenly Throne, as it were. Thus when a Jew feels the ‘Light of G-d’s Countenance’, it fills his soul with an unbridled yearning and passion to reconnect with its source. Through that deeply-rooted desire one grows and is spiritually elevated.

The Darchei Noam[7] adds that as plants grow they produce fruits and new growth that did not exist prior. The potential for that production was always present, but until it emerged it was impossible to know it was there beneath the surface.

While Klal Yisroel wallowed in the elongated Egyptian exile it was impossible to see the incredible greatness that lay dormant within their souls. The redemption was like the sprouting of plants when suddenly one notices luscious fruits and beautiful vegetation that could not be imagined prior.

This is the profundity of the renewal of redemption. There is so much greatness inherent in the Jewish people, collectively and individually, which is not apparent and cannot come to fruition, because of the challenges and burdens of life in exile. But at the moment of redemption all of that latent greatness appears.

This is the meaning of the Medrash[8] which commenting on the verse, “this month shall be for you” states, “In me kings will reign”. Darchei Noam explains that every Jew is a king who possesses regal bearing. However, in exile that majesty is not always apparent, for it remains dormant inside him.

It is analogous to the king who was captured and taken prisoner. He was forced to wear sackcloth, eat inferior foods, not allowed to shower, and was beaten mercilessly, all to break his spirit. But those who were imprisoned with him would later remark that the demonstrated greater royalty during those trying days of imprisonment than he did when he sat upon his throne.

As the month of Nissan begins, symbolizing redemption and a new beginning, and surely on the night of the Seder itself, our inner greatness shines forth and we are able to see a glimpse of the royalty that hitherto remained latent within us. We sit as kings around the Seder table, because essentially we are all kings, albeit we are generally too spiritually weary to recognize it.

The Darchei Noam also notes that every redemption requires its own covenant. In Egypt the covenant was symbolized by the blood of the Korbon Pesach and the blood of circumcision[9]. At the time of the giving of the Torah at Sinai too there was a new covenant through the blood of their sacrifices[10]. The Prophet[11] also states that when Moshiach comes there will be a new covenant.

Blood contains the essence of physical life. When we refer to a deep connection with someone/something we say ‘it’s in his blood’.

Redemption is the revelation of inner greatness that was unrecognizable throughout the exile. Therefore that resurgence of life is aptly symbolized by blood, for redemption grants a person a new lease, and appreciation, of life. Redemption also allows one’s soul to reconnect with its Creator and pine for deeper connection. When one feels excited his heart beats more rapidly, pumping blood throughout his body with more feverish intensity. The covenant of redemption symbolizes that added spiritual intensity and inner revelation.

When G-d first appeared to Moshe to summon him for his lifelong mission, He appeared to him from within a burning bush. “Moshe thought, ‘I will turn aside now and look at this great sight - why will the bush not be burned?[12]’” Moshe saw a thorn bush with a fire raging in its center but, contrary to the laws of nature, the fire did not spread and the bush remained fresh and unaffected.

The commentators explain that G-d was demonstrating to Moshe that the Jews were more than what he saw on the outside. The Jews may have seemed unworthy, but that was only their exterior. In the center of the bush, beyond what the human eye could see, there was a raging fire within their hearts and souls. Moshe assumed that the fire had been extinguished, but G-d demonstrated that it had only been enveloped by decades of suffering and exile. At its core that fire was still as vibrant as ever, and when Moshe would fulfill his mission, that inner fire would surface and be apparent to all.

The most important step of the offering of any Korban was the ritual sprinkling of its blood upon the Altar by the Kohain. Based on the aforementioned idea we can add that when a person sins and is obligated to bring a Korban, as he watches the Kohain sprinkle the blood of his animal it causes him to reflect ‘on his own blood’.

If the covenant of redemption is symbolized by blood which represents an inner surge of life, a korban offered as atonement for sin represents the opposite. The sinner must realize that his blood ‘flowed too slowly’, i.e. he was not sufficiently passionate or vigilant with his mitzvah observance. The sprinkling of tgeh blood symbolized to him that he must awaken himself and internalize its message.

If he understands that message then the offering of the Korban will serve as a spiritually liberating event, a form of redemption. As the Torah says, “The Kohain shall provide him atonement, and it shall be forgiven him[13].”

“As numerous as the plants of the field”

“Those who are destined to renew themselves like it”

[1] Completion of the Talmud, once every seven and a half years

[2] ‘Sanctification of the moon’, recited when the new moon is visible after Rosh Chodesh each month

[3] From the text of the blessing of Kiddush Levanah

[4] Shemos 12:2; the special reading for Parshas Hachodesh begins with this verse

[5] 16:7

[6] Bereishis Rabbah 10:6, Zohar Chodosh - Bereishis

[7] Tazria/Hachodesh 5765

[8] Shemos Rabbah 15, 13

[9] See Rashi Shemos 12:6; Rashi explains that the redemption was contingent upon the performance of those two mitzvos. We express this idea in the Haggadah when we quote the verse in Yechezkel 16:6 “In your blood shall you live; in your blood shall you live.”

[10] See Shemos 24:5-8

[11] Yermiyah 31:30-31

[12] Shemos 3:3

[13] Vayikra – repeated a few times in the parsha in reference to different korbanos



Erev Shabbos Kodesh Parshas Vayikra/HaChodesh

Shabbos Rosh Chodesh Nissan

I Nissan 5772/March 23, 2012

Someone once related to me that he has a hobby, almost to the point of obsession, for metal detecting on beaches after hours. He bought himself an expensive detector and walks around areas which were heavily populated during the day. He told me he has amassed a small fortune’s worth of valuables including jewelry and cash over the years. What’s more, there is an art to metal detecting and those who take it seriously know exactly how to do it and where to go. There is even a magazine which has all sorts of ideas and tips for successful metal detecting.

But even that is not as fascinating as Raffi Stepanian, who finds valuables on 47th Street in Mid-Town Manhattan using nothing other than his eyes.

Stepanian told a reporter that "The streets of 47th Street are literally paved with gold." The reporter discovered Stepanian on all fours - armed with tweezers and a butter knife, digging through cracks in the sidewalk in a driving rainstorm.

The freelance diamond setter explained that he was sifting through "very valuable" New York City mud for tiny diamond and ruby chips, bits of platinum, white-gold industrial loops for jewelry assembly, and gold earring backs and loops from broken chains, watches, broaches and necklaces, all carelessly dropped.

He explained that material falls off clothes, from the bottom of shoes, drops off jewelry, falls in the dirt, and sticks to the gum on the street.

Over six days he collected enough gold for two sales totaling $819 on 47th Street.

Stepanian explained that it’s no different than collecting cans on the street and redeeming them for nickels. It's redemption of reusable gold. This is the gold that has been on this street for 60 years.

In his words, "You just have to get down on your knees and get it."

The significance of Stepanian’s story is that it brings to life one of the classic parables of the Chofetz Chaim. In part, it is the story of an impoverished fellow who travels to a distant island where there are diamonds in the streets, but people fail to see their value. Over time, the silly fellow forgets his purpose in coming to the island and becomes involved in futile pursuits which have vale only on the island. He nonchalantly steps on the diamonds along with everyone else.

The Chofetz Chaim explained that in this world opportunities to perform mitzvos and Avodas Hashem abound. But oftentimes we follow the masses who don’t have the time, patience, or wisdom to take advantage of the plethora of diamonds in the streets.

Pesach and Spring are times of renewal. It is a time when we take stock of our goals and dreams and remind ourselves not to step on priceless opportunities like everyone else

How eloquently applicable are Stepanian’s words: “The streets are literally paved with gold…You just have to get down on your knees and get it.”

Shabbat Shalom & Good Shabbos

Good Chodesh,

R’ Dani and Chani Staum

Thursday, March 15, 2012


Rabbi Doniel Staum, LMSW

Rabbi, Kehillat New Hempstead

Social Worker, Yeshiva Bais Hachinuch




Shortly after the end of World War II, Rabbi Mordechai Gifter zt’l was accompanying Rabbi Elya Meir Bloch zt’l[1] on a fundraising trip to New York. While there they stopped in a Jewish bookstore and Rabbi Bloch asked the elderly storeowner if he could purchase a volume of Ketzos Hachoshen. The elderly man climbed up a ladder and retrieved an old dusty copy of the sefer. It had obviously been there for quite some time.

Just as he was about to hand the sefer to Rabbi Bloch the storeowner pulled it back and looked at him intensely. Then he said, “I will sell you this sefer on two conditions. Firstly, I understand that you have lost your entire family and yeshiva in the European inferno, and that you are trying to rebuild here. For your own sanity, give it up. There is only so much heartache a man can take and you are setting yourself up for failure. There is no place for such a yeshiva in America.”

Rabbi Bloch listened silently as the man continued, “Second, let’s be honest. America will never have the Torah scholarship that was in Europe. What Hitler destroyed cannot be rebuilt. Treat the sefer you are holding as a relic, because it may very well be the last Ketzos Hachoshen that will ever be sold in America!”

Rabbi Bloch didn’t respond. He purchased the sefer and walked out. After a few introspective moments, he turned to Rabbi Gifter and exclaimed, “He’s right!” Rabbi Gifter was stunned, but Rabbi Bloch continued, “Logically, he is 100% correct for logically there is no chance that Torah scholarship and yeshivos can flourish in this country. And logically, this should indeed be the final Ketzos ever purchased in America.

“But Torah doesn’t adhere to the laws of logic! The greatness of Torah is that it can inconceivably perpetuate itself and rebuild despite all odds. You will see that Telshe will indeed be rebuilt here in America and there will be more volumes of Ketzos Hachoshen reprinted in this country than ever before.[2]

“Betzalel made the Ark of acacia wood…” (37:1)

The Medrash states: “At the time when G-d told Moshe to construct the Mishkan, he came and told Betzalel (about the instructions). He (Betzalel) said to him (Moshe), “What is this Mishkan?” He said to him, “In order that G-d will rest His Presence in our midst and teach Torah to the Children of Israel.” Betzalel said to him, “And where will the Torah be placed?” He (Moshe) said to him, “When we construct the Mishkan we will make an Ark.” He said to him, “Our teacher Moshe, doing so is not in accordance with the honor of Torah. Rather we should first create the Ark, and then build the Mishkan.” It was for this reason that the Ark was called by his name as it says, “Betzalel made the Ark”.”

Rabbi Mordechai Rogov zt’l[3] explained that the spiritual life of the Jewish people took root well before they were physically settled. When they received the Torah at Sinai they had absolutely no physical protection at all. In the vast desert they were surrounded by venomous snakes and scorpions, blazing heat, and an unstable environment. They had large families and no physical source for food or water. Yet they unhesitatingly accepted the Torah and passionately began to study its laws.

The prophet Malachi[4] said, “Remember the Torah of Moshe my servant that I commanded you in Chorev”. The prophet was exhorting the nation to recall that they accepted the Torah in an arid land of desolation[5]. They had no physical stability and they accepted Torah anyway.

That was the prototype for Klal Yisroel’s inextricable relationship with the Torah for all time. Our connection to Torah precedes our physical needs. Throughout the bitter exile our ancestors upheld the Torah in the most challenging and unstable times. Even when they lacked food and shelter, when they were persecuted and pursued they continued to study and upkeep the Torah.

Rabbi Shabsi Hakohen began writing his classic commentary on the Shulchan Aruch, the Shach, while he was fleeing for his life during the murderous pogroms of 1648-1649.

There is a long Tosafos in Bava Kamma (77a) that fills almost the entire page. There is a legend that that Tosafos was recorded by scholars who were imprisoned and waiting to be executed the following day. With no writing utensil they wrote the text… with their own blood!

This is the depth of the conversation between Moshe and Betzalel. When Moshe said that they would build the Mishkan and then the Ark so that they would have a physical structure in which to place the Ark, Betzalel countered that that is not the way of Torah. Torah transcends physical housings and therefore the Ark which represented Torah must be constructed prior to the Mishkan.

At the Pesach Seder, we refer to G-d as the Omnipresent, “ברוך המקום ברוך הוא – Blessed is ‘the Place’, blessed is He.” The Medrash[6] explains that G-d is referred to as ‘the Place’ for “He is the Place of the world but the world is not His place.”

Rabbi Avrohom Pam zt’l[7] related that Rabbi Shmuel Feivelson[8] once recounted to him a conversation he had with a recent Russian immigrant from the former USSR while traveling on a bus in B’nei B’rak. The Russian fellow told him the following: “Lenin taught all of Russia that the Jews are not a people. He defined a people as a group who possess a language, culture, and homeland. Since the Jews have no homeland that is proof that they are not a people. However, he was wrong, for in truth every Jew throughout the world has a designated place. No matter where in the Diaspora a Jew is, the omnipresent G-d is his place! A home is a place where one feels secure and comfortable. A Jew can feel that sense of comfort and security if he has proper faith, for wherever he goes he is still in the Hands of G-d!”

Rabbi Feivelson noted that this is an added meaning of the verse where G-d says to Klal Yisroel[9], “Now if you will hearken to My Voice, and safeguard My covenant, and you will be for Me for a treasure from all the other nations, for all the land is Mine.” G-d was saying ‘The whole world belongs to Me and therefore if you will keep the Torah, then no matter where you will be you will remain a treasured people, for I will be your place’.

Parshas Parah contains the laws of the Parah Adumah (Red Heifer), the process of its offering and the sprinkling of its ashes upon one who was ritually impure via a dead body.

Enigmatically however, the Torah introduces these laws with a declaration concerning the entire Torah. “Zos Chukas HaTorah – this is the law of the Torah”. Why does it not state more specifically “Zos chukas ha'Parah - This is the decree of the Parah”? There seems to be an inextricable connection between this mitzvah and the rest of the Torah. What is that connection?

We do not serve G-d because it makes sense to us or because it ‘speaks to us’. The premise is that we keep the Torah and mitzvos because G-d has instructed us to do so and therefore it contains the ultimate truth!

The laws of the Red Heifer whose reason remains a complete mystery to us is therefore the paradigmatic chok[10]. Our approach toward the entire Torah must parallel that of the Parah Adumah - a chok we adhere to simply because the Torah instructs us to do so.

The word chok also refers to something that is permanent. In Tehillim[11], King David declares about the creation of heaven and earth, “ויעמידם לעד לעולם חק נתן ולא יעבר - He established them forever and ever, He issued a decree that will not be broken.”

This too is the meaning of chok with regards to the entire Torah. Every mitzvah and every law is ‘chok v'lo yaavor – a decree that will not be broken’.

Torah is not merely the law of the land, for it is a law that transcends all lands, all times, all generations, and all situations.

After stating the laws of the Parah Adumah, the Torah states, “This is the (Torah) teaching regarding a man who would die in a tent.” (19:14)

The Gemara[12] derives from this verse that one can only truly internalize the words of Torah if he ‘kills himself’ over them. This entails giving up one’s physical comfort for Torah study. It must be paramount in one’s life and one must be prepared to sacrifice for its attainment.

Throughout the travails and trauma of exile we have always held the banner of Torah aloft and have never shirked that responsibility. From the day we became a nation as we embarked from Egypt, no matter where we have been forced to wander and what we have been forced to endure we have never forgotten who we are!

והיא שעמדה לאבותינו ולנו - It is what has stood for us and for our forefathers”.

“Betzalel made the Ark”

“Blessed is ‘the Place’, blessed is He”

[1] Rav Elya Meir Bloch was the uncle of Rav Gifter’s wife and the Rosh Yeshiva of Telshe, Cleveland. Rav Gifter himself later became Rosh Yeshiva
[2] From “Rav Gifter” by Rabbi Yechiel Spero, Mesorah Publications
[3] Ateres Mordechai
[4] 3:22
[5] Chorev is an expression of churban – destruction and desolation
[6] Bereishis Rabbah 1:9
[7] Haggadas Marei Kohain
[8] Rosh Yeshiva of Yeshivas Nachalas Naftali in Tzefas
[9] Shemos 19:5
[10] a chok is a law which we are not privy to its reason
[11] 148:6
[12] Berachos 63b


Erev Shabbos Kodesh Parshios Vayakhel-Pekudei/Parah

Mevorchim Chodesh Nissan

22 Adar 5772/March 16, 2012

It is no coincidence that Purim precedes Pesach, and it’s not just to test women’s nerves to see how fast they can get rid of all the shalach manos they just received before Pesach.

Chazal explain that Pesach is the anniversary of the birth of our nationhood. When G-d took us out of Egypt, more than physical redemption it was spiritual liberation. A nation of slaves was suddenly transformed into an elite and holy people.

When a baby is born all its food must be sterilized and it has a very limited diet. So too on Pesach we cannot partake of most of the foods we eat all year, for on Pesach we are like newborns emerging from the womb.

I have often thought that if Pesach is our national birth than Purim is the pre-natal vitamin’ which the mother takes while she is expecting to ward off all infection.

Amalek is the ultimate spiritual infection and faith in Hashem is the antidotal vitamin which strengthens our spiritual immune system. Purim and the story of Megillas Esther train us to seek out the hidden hand of Hashem beneath the surface. It is a story of divine subtleties, noticeable only to the discerning eye of one who understands that G-d is King, not Achashveirosh.

Rav Shimshon Pinkus zt’l notes that the Matanos Laevyonim and Shalach Manos we give to others on Purim reflects what G-d grants us constantly. The basic necessities of life – food, clothing, and health are His Matanos Laevyonim to us. Everything beyond that is the Shalach Manos He grants us, solely out of love.

Last week I went to Costco to purchase a new video camera so we could have it for Purim. I bought the only camera of that quality that they had left. It was marked down 80 dollars because it was the one that was on display. When I took it out of the box later that night I found that all the wires and accessories were there save for the charger. What good is a camera if it’s dead?

So the next day Chani went back to Costco. The saleswoman recognized the camera and quipped ‘Oh your husband bought it yesterday’. But she insisted that all the parts were there. A second salesman came by and he too said that if it wasn’t in the box they didn’t have it because they never leave the charger in the display case. He said she could return the camera but that was the best they could do. As the three stood there, Phil, a third salesman, happened to walk by and notice the camera, “Oh you came back for the charger? I figured you would.” It turns out Phil had noticed the charger at the display case earlier that day. That he happened to see it in the case and that he happened to walk by at just that moment – what are the odds? That was simply Shalach Manos from G-d.

Purim is the vitamin of faith we ingest so we can proceed en route for our birth on Pesach.

As we put away all the Shalach Manos we have received we must hold onto the spiritual Shalach Manos and lessons of Purim, and take them with us into the great days of redemption that lie ahead.

Shabbat Shalom & Good Shabbos,

R’ Dani and Chani Staum