Thursday, May 24, 2012


Rabbi Doniel Staum, LMSW
Rabbi, Kehillat New Hempstead
Social Worker, Yeshiva Bais Hachinuch

To receive Stam Torah via email each week, send an email to:


“The true test of success in life is if one’s grandparents and grandchildren are proud of him.” (Rabbi Berel Wein)
“The reason why grandparents and grandchildren get along so well is that they have a common enemy.” (Sam Levenson)

          Rema writes[1], “It is customary to spread branches of trees in our synagogues and homes (on Shavuos) in order to commemorate that which the sages say[2] on Shavuos the world is judged concerning (how many) fruits the trees will produce (that year).”
          The Satmar Rebbe, Rabbi Yoel Teitelbaum zt’l, questions this custom. The Mishna[3] states that Tu B’Shvat - the fifteenth day of the month of Shevat - is the ‘New Year for trees’. To commemorate the tree’s New Year, there is a prevalent custom to eat a variety of different fruits on Tu B’Shvat.
It would seem that the custom on Shavuos and the custom on Tu B’Shvat are inverted. Would it not be more logical to partake of various fruits on Shavuos, the day when the world’s fruit supply is judged, and to spread tree branches around our synagogues and homes on Tu B’Shvat, the New Year for trees? Why do we do the opposite?
          The Rebbe explained that the customs are indeed appropriate. On the day when trees are “judged”, we are interested in determining the success of the tree during the previous year. The value of a tree is determined by what it has produced. On the other hand, when our focus is on the fruit and we want to assess the delectability of the yet unripe fruits, we look at the vitality and vibrancy of the tree from which it grew. If the tree is strong and healthy, we can assume the fruits will be as well.
          The lesson that emerges from this custom is far more encompassing than mere fruits and trees. On Shavuos “we are judged for the fruit of the trees”. The lusciousness and palatability of a fruit is dependant on its source. If the tree is firmly rooted in the ground, exposed to an adequate amount of sunlight, and has the necessary water and nutrients it will to produce quality fruits.
In a similar vein, if we attach ourselves to our roots and connect ourselves with the unbroken chain of our ancient traditions, than we, “the fruits of their labor” will be able to become another vital link in the eternal chain of our mesorah (tradition). If we have an appreciation of who we are and the greatness we possess, than it is clear that the “tree of life” is still robust and vivacious and will continue to produce many more generations of fruits.        
          On Tu B’Shvat however, when the trees are judged, the quality of the tree is determined by analyzing its fruits. If the color of the fruit is bright and luminous and its taste is juicy and fresh, we can be certain that the tree which it grew on is healthy and vigorous.
Similarly, if we want to evaluate whether a person possesses love for Torah, mitzvos, and prayer, an appreciation for his heritage, and is passionate about being a Torah Jew, we need look no further than his children. If a man exudes a sense of joy and love for Torah and mitzvos it is indicative of the fact that there was an appreciation for those values in the home he was raised in[4].

          A young father once asked Rabbi Yitzchok Hutner zt’l when chinuch - the process of educating one’s children - begins. Rabbi Hutner asked the man how old he was. When the man replied that he was thirty two years old, Rabbi Hutner replied that the chinuch of his children had begun thirty-two years earlier. 

          The verse states, “The crown of elders is their children’s children; and the pride of sons is their fathers.” When the Maggid of Mezritch was a child his house burned down. When the young Maggid asked his mother why she was weeping so bitterly she replied that in the house were irretrievable documented records of the family’s esteemed lineage dating back many generations. The Maggid sought to console his mother and replied that he would initiate a new line of lineage so that their progeny would be proud to trace themselves to him and his mother.

          Our pedigree is a vital component of our greatness. We have endured despite the travails of exile because the tree which produced us, as it were, is still vibrant and strong. Our enemies sought to chop it down. Beyond that, even many of our own brethren, erroneously thought that they had to ‘redirect’ the source of our tree’s nutrition and sustenance. But we – those who have upheld the Torah in its pristine form – are the sole beneficiaries of the longevity and eternity of the tree. “It is a living tree for those who grasp hold of it and those who support it will be enriched. Its ways are ways of sweetness and all of its pathways are peaceful.”
          During the holiday of Shavuos, when we recommit ourselves to the Torah, the world’s fruit supply is judged. How is it judged? By analyzing the tree which produced it. If the tree is yet robust and vivacious, than we can be certain that the fruits will be delectable and delicious as well. If we have upheld the traditions and values of our ancestors, than we can be certain that we will merit becoming a link in the eternal continuity of our tree.

          The Mishnah[5] relates that the world is judged on four occasions throughout the year. On Pesach the world’s grain supply is judged, on Shavuos the world’s fruit supply is judged, on Rosh Hashanah the deeds of man are judged, and on Succos the world’s water supply is judged. During three of the four aforementioned times, there is a special prayer inserted in reference to the judgment occurring that day. On Pesach the “prayer for dew” is recited, for dew directly affects the future production from the earth. On Succos the “prayer for rain” is recited[6], and on Rosh Hashanah we repeatedly refer to the awesome personal judgment transpiring in the celestial courts that day. However, on Shavuos the judgment of the day seems to be completely omitted. Why do we not add a special prayer for fruit during Shavuos[7]?
          I humbly offer the following answer. Parshas Bechukosai commences with a detailed list of the beautiful blessings of prosperity and goodness G-d guarantees if we properly adhere to Torah and mitzvos. “If you will follow My decrees and observe My commandments and perform them. Then I will provide your rains in their time, and the land will produce and the tree of the field will give its fruit.[8]” Rashi explains that, “If you will follow My decrees” is a reference to engaging in intensive Torah study. Thus, when one commits himself to rigorous and exhaustive Torah study he is ensured that all of the blessings will follow.
If so, there is no reason to recite an extra prayer regarding fruits on Shavuos. The holiday itself is dedicated to our recommitment to intense Torah-study and the acceptance of the yoke of Torah in every facet of our lives. The very essence of the holiday itself is therefore the greatest merit for our fruits and all other blessings. “If you will follow My decrees, the tree of the field will give its fruit.”

          The holiday of Shavuos is about bringing the past and future together in the present. When we commit ourselves to the ideals and values of our predecessors, we simultaneously invest in ourselves and our progeny those same ideals and values. It is the continuation of the transmission of our heritage and the continued nurturance of the tree of life and the fruits it produces. It is the guarantee that our past greatness will eventually herald the greatness of the future which will overshadow all that we have merited until now. “And I will return the hearts of fathers to their sons and the hearts of sons to their fathers.” 

“On Shavuos the world is judged concerning fruits”
“It is a living tree for those who grasp hold of it”

[1] Ohr Hachaim, 494:4
[2] Rosh Hashanah 16a
[3] Rosh Hashanah 2a
[4] To be sure, in our time children can be influenced by external influences – positive or negative - beyond the home. Still, generally, to some extent, a child lives in the footsteps of his parents.
[5] Rosh Hashanah 16a
[6] on Shemini Atzeres
[7] This question was posed to me by my uncle, Rabbi Yaakov Cohn
[8] Vaykira 26:3-4


Rabbi Doniel Staum, LMSW
Rabbi, Kehillat New Hempstead
Social Worker, Yeshiva Bais Hachinuch

To receive Stam Torah via email each week, send an email to:


          One day a traveler was walking along the beach when he noticed a man walking along the sand scooping up starfish and tossing them into the waves. Curious, the traveler asked him what he was doing. The man replied, “When the tide goes out it leaves many starfish stranded on the beach. If they are left here they will die before the tide comes back in. So I am throwing them back into the ocean.
          The traveler asked the man, “But there are thousands of starfish stranded along the miles of beach. Why are you bothering to throw them in? What you’re doing does not really make much of a difference.” The traveler looked at the starfish in his hand as he cast it back into the ocean, and replied, “It makes a difference to this one.”[1]

          Rashi at the beginning of Chumash Bamidbar writes, “Out of his great love for Klal Yisroel, He (G-d) counts them constantly”.
Much of parshas Bamidbar is dedicated to counting the tribes of Klal Yisroel. The count is followed by a detailed listing of the formation of their marching in the desert along with the special flag endemic to each tribe[2].
          When the Torah records the counting of each tribe, it begins by saying, “Lib’nei- To the children of-” and then proceeds to list the name of the particular tribe[3]. When the Torah mentions the final tribe to be counted however, the verse states, “B’nei Naftali- The children of Naftali” without the prefix, “to (the children of Naftali)”. The AriZal explains that when the tribe of Naftali was counted all of the other tribes had already been tallied. Since they were aware of what the final amount would be, once they had the tallies of the other eleven tribes, they could have calculated that there were 53,400 unaccounted for, which obviously was the census of the population of the tribe of Naftali. The verse alludes to this by stating “B’nei Naftali” as if to say that the population of Naftali was obvious and did not really need to be counted.
          Rabbi Avrohom Schorr shlita[4] explains that this does not mean that the tribe of Naftali was not counted. In regard to Naftali the verse clearly states that the count was “according to the count of their names”, just as the verse says in regards to all of the other tribes. The wording of the verse has a different sequence of words to demonstrate that the purpose of the count was not merely to ascertain the population of each individual tribe. If that was the case, there would have indeed been no need to count the members of the tribe of Naftali. Rather, the point of the count was to instill in each Jew an appreciation of his personal value and uniqueness in the ranks of Klal Yisroel.
When G-d instructed Moshe to initiate the count, He instructed Moshe to “raise the heads of the B’nei Yisroel”. The count of the nation was inclusive of every single Jew; each was a vital component. It was not merely one collective group of 603,550 people. Rather, it was a composite union composed of 603,550 diverse parts. 

          My Rebbe, Rabbi Berel Wein, notes that we live in a world of profligacy where everything is replaceable. That attitude detracts from our ability to value and appreciate what we are blessed with. What’s even more detrimental is the fact that that feeling affects not only what we have, but how we view others as well.
          The previous century redefined the notion of mass-murder. World War I, the war of attrition, was known as the “Great War”. For four heinous years, tens of thousands of young men were continuously dispatched to the war fronts to replace their fallen comrades in a senseless war of attrition. When the war finally concluded the geographic borders of the warring countries had hardly changed. Europe lay in ruins, millions of men were dead, maimed, and injured, and nothing had been resolved.
A scant twenty years later, Hitler embarked on a campaign to restore the pride of Germany. The ‘restoration of German ego’ would cost the world over twenty million lives. The Nazis were also experts in the art of human debasement. The concentration camp inmates were stripped of any identity, reduced to an emotionless number emblazoned into their arms.
Stalin and Communism purged millions of people to promote an ‘idea’, which ultimately failed abysmally.
By the conclusion of the twentieth century, well over one hundred million people had been killed on account of war alone. 
          Rabbi Wein also notes that we conceptualize the Holocaust merely as the destruction of six-million of our brethren, and it becomes one painful and horrible – yet bearable number. “Six-million” is a collective, yet sacred, number for a mere number has no face; it is only a representation. But in truth it wasn’t ‘six million’ who were killed, but rather one plus one plus one plus one, six million times over, the incredible tragedy of what occurred becomes unbearable and we are inconsolable. When we recognize that every one of those victims was a unique individual who was a world unto himself/herself and a member of a family and community, we can hardly come to grips with the magnanimity of what we have lost.  
          The antidote for a society which values accomplishment and material possessions above all else is through recognizing and appreciating the uniqueness of each individual. In our contemporary world, no one is dispensable or replaceable. No Jew has the right to think or believe that his mitzvos, his Torah, and his Service to G-d is not of paramount value and importance. After all that we - a nation that is relatively diminutive to begin with – have lost, the contributions of every member of Klal Yisroel are vital. That sense of value must be conveyed and appreciated.

          Rabbi Schorr quotes the ruling of the Shulchan Aruch[5] that parshas Bamidbar is almost invariably read just prior to the holiday of Shavuos.
          In explaining the connection between parshas Bamidbar and Shavuos, he quotes the Medrash which compares the Jewish People to the stars. In Tehillim[6], Dovid Hamelech writes, “Praise Him all the stars that give light.” The Gemara[7] notes that although all stars give off light, we are not always privy to that light.
The Jews are analogous to the stars in the sense that every Jew inherently possesses immeasurable light and innate greatness. But sometimes the inner light remains latent and hidden within. We must know that there is a soul within that is waiting to be discovered, and that it is incumbent upon us to find and utilize those capabilities.  
          The Gemara[8] explains the verse[9] “Those who bring righteousness to the multitudes are like stars” that “this refers to those who teach young children”.
Rabbi Schorr quotes his esteemed father, Rabbi Gedalyah Schorr zt’l, who explained that many people think teaching young children is an inferior occupation, some even view it as menial and unrespectable. The Gemara compares teachers to stars to symbolize the connection between them. A star appears small and insignificant to the naked eye, although in reality it is a massive ball of illuminating light. So too, teachers of young children - even if they themselves are not wary of the greatness of their efforts -are analogous to that penetrating light. Not only are they themselves an illuminating light, they also foster and reveal the light that emerges from their disciples.
          In a similar vein, Shem MiShmuel notes that each Jew is compared to a star because each Jew possesses tremendous personal light and greatness, even if does not yet realize it.
The reading of parshas Bamidbar precedes the holiday of Shavuos in order to promote this idea. Before one can reaccept the yoke of Torah and mitzvos, it is imperative that he realize the value of his Torah and mitzvos. If one feels insignificant or valueless he will not be able to serve G-d with proper emotion, love, joy, and zealousness. Only when he realizes how pivotal he is can he properly accept the Torah anew.
          When we teach our children Torah we must instill within them the value of their Torah study and their personal uniqueness generally. Sometimes it can be difficult to help a child realize his innate greatness, but that is the responsibility of every educator.
This idea is encapsulated by a beautiful quote I once heard: “All children are gifted; some children open their gifts later than others.”
 “Blessed is our G-d Who created us to honor Him and He separated us from the erroneous ones and He gave us a Torah of truth and eternal life He planted within us”.
We are an incredible collective people with unyielding resilience and obdurate determination. But we are equally blessed as individuals with an exclusive mission and path of life.”  
When we appreciate both of those aspects of our greatness- as a nation and as individuals, we can properly rejoice in the words we recite in the Yom Tov prayers: “Hashem, our G-d gave to us with love, festivals of happiness, holidays and set times for rejoicing, this day of Shavuos, the time of our acceptance of the Torah, a holy convocation, in remembrance of the exodus from Egypt!”

          “A precise accounting of the stars”
          “According to the count of their names”

[1] Loren Eiseley, 1979
[2] Hence the secular title of chumash Bamidbar is “Numbers” in reference to the counting of the nation at this point and in parshas Pinchas.
[3] e.g. “lib’nei Reuven- To the children of Reuven”; “lib’nei Shimon- to the children of Shimon.
[4] Halekach V’halibuv 5761
[5] 428:4
[6] 148:2
[7] Pesachim 2a
[8] Bava Basra 8b
[9] Daniel 12:3

Erev Shabbos Kodesh Parshas Bamidbar (Erev Shavuos) Pirkei Avos – perek 6
4 Sivan 5772/May 25, 2012 (48th day of the Omer)

“Sometimes when I’m bored I turn my humidifier and dehumidifier on in the same room, and let them fight it out.” (Steven Wright)
As the weather turned warmer a few Fridays ago, I switched our home’s thermostat setting from heat to air conditioning just prior to Shabbos. Imagine my surprise then, when on Friday night as the air conditioning was blowing I heard the clinking of the floor radiator, signaling that the heat had turned on.
Apparently, in our state of the art home system, even when the thermostat is clicked to air conditioning, the heat sensor has to be turned down, otherwise the heat will still go on. It was some experience as the two systems battled it out all Shabbos long. When we received that month’s bill we realized that O&R (our electric company) had won!  
(For all you loyal readers and skeptics, yes, strange things do seem to happen to us - so that I have what to write about. You can’t make this stuff up…)
The Chovas Hatalmidim (chapter 4) writes that slothfulness is of the greatest impediments to spiritual growth. He also notes that there is a difference between laziness and lethargy. The lazy person will accomplish nothing at all, because he lacks the impetus to even bother. The lethargic person on the other hand, will indeed eventually get around to doing what he is supposed to, albeit only after a prolonged delay, and even then without passion or feeling.
While the lazy person seems far worse since he does nothing at all, in a sense he is better off than the lethargic person. The lazy person at least recognizes that he has a serious problem. Therefore, we can hope that one day he may actually receive the chizuk he needs to ‘get moving’. The lethargic person however, often feels that there is nothing wrong with his behavior. After all he gets the job done, so what’s the problem?
The Yom Tov of Shavuos awakens us to reaccept our daily mission and quest to be the Torah nation. But it’s not enough to ‘do’; we must also ‘hear’ the words of the Torah, in the sense that it permeates our essence and becomes part of us. We must live the Torah with passion and enthusiasm, and not as an ancient dry set of austere laws and regulations.  
As Torah Jews we keep the Torah every day of our lives. Thus the holiday of Shavuos must be more than just accepting the Torah. Rather it is a reminder that we must ‘turn up the heat’, live the words we read and hear, and engrave them on our hearts. One who is lethargic and ‘cold’ in his observance is losing out on the essence – not only of Shavuos – but also in the richness of true Torah living.
You just can’t turn up the heat if the air conditioning is still on!

              Shabbat Shalom & Good Shabbos
              Chag Samaych & Freilichen Yom Tov,
                R’ Dani and Chani Staum

Thursday, May 17, 2012


Rabbi Doniel Staum, LMSW
Rabbi, Kehillat New Hempstead
Social Worker, Yeshiva Bais Hachinuch

To receive Stam Torah via email each week, send an email to:


          In the back of his Haggadah, Maggid Mishnah, Rabbi Menashe Klein zt’l recounts some of his experiences during the Holocaust.
          He and his family arrived in Auschwitz-Birkenau on the first day of Shavuos. Although they were not yet aware of their fate, they felt as if they had entered the gates of Purgatory. Menashe, his parents, his sister, and her six children were greeted by Nazi barks of “Schnell! Schnell!” They quickly formed two lines and stood before the heinous Angel of Death, Dr. Joseph Mengele. He stood at the head of the line emotionlessly announcing ‘rechts’ or ‘links’ (right or left), motioning with his finger toward body-breaking labor or immediate death in the gas chambers.
          Within a short time, Menashe was separated from his family. As he walked toward the labor camp he turned to gaze at his family one final time as they headed toward the crematorium. He contemplated to himself, “Today is Shavuos when our nation received the most precious gift from G-d. Today G-d is receiving a most precious gift in return. My family will not merit having Jewish burial. Much like Nadav and Avihu, the sons of Aharon who died when a spiritual fire consumed them while they were performing the Divine Service in the Mishkan, they will ascend to heaven in a cloud of smoke, straight up to You, Hashem.”
          A short while later, Menashe was indoctrinated into Auschwitz when the numbers A8274 were branded into his arm. At a later point when he was transferred to Buchenwald, the numbers 121926 were branded into his arm. Menashe contemplated the hidden personal meaning of both sets of his numbers. He realized that if he added up the numbers of each set, both equaled 21 - the numerical value of one of G-d’s Divine names, “Ehekeh[1].
          Menashe reminded himself of this message every time he looked at the numbers on his arm throughout the war. “Ehekeh asher Ehekeh- I will be that which I will be”. No matter how bleak and ominous things seemed “I shall not fear evil because You are with me.”

          Parshas Bechukosai includes the “tochacha- rebuke” which includes all of the frightening retribution Klal Yisroel would suffer if they do not heed to Torah and mitzvos properly. Tragically, we have been witness to the veracity of every foreboding warning.
          In the middle of the tochacha, there is one verse which seems to be out of place. (26:42) “And I will remember My treaty with Yaakov, and I will remember My treaty with Yitzchok, and I will remember My treaty with Avrohom, and the Land I will remember.”
It seems that this verse is a call for consolation. G-d is stating that despite all that Klal Yisroel would suffer, He would recall the treaties He forged with the Patriarchs and ensure that the nation survive and endure.  After that verse however, the Torah adds a final verse of tochacha:, “And the land will forsake them…because My judgments they have repudiated and their souls have become repulsed by My laws.”
Following that final verse, the Torah guarantees the eternity of the Jews despite their tribulations and oppression. Based on the fact that the Torah places the verse which invokes the memory of His treaty with the forefathers before the conclusion of the tochacha that it is part and parcel of the tochacha[2]. How is this verse part of the curses of the tochacha? 
          At the conclusion of Parshas Emor, the Torah records the incident of the blasphemer. (24:10-11) “And there went out the son of a Jewish woman, and he was the son of an Egyptian man, and he quarreled in the camp…and he cursed the Name…”
Toras Kohanim questions the vernacular of the pasuk, “From where did he go out?” Torah Kohanim answers by quoting Rabbi Berachya who said, “He went out from the immediately preceding portion in the Torah.”
The blasphemer was disturbed by the previous verses which discussed the lechem hapanim[3]. The lechem hapanim were placed on the Shulchan at the onset of Shabbos and remained there until the following Shabbos, when they were replaced. The blasphemer was bothered by the fact that G-d was being “served” week-old bread. Shouldn’t the King be served fresh, warm bread, not bread that was out in the open for a whole week?
The Medrash states, “He had difficulty dealing with the concept of lechem hapanim, until he came to curse G-d.” What does the Medrash mean? 
Oznayim LaTorah[4] notes that had the blasphemer waited until the end of the week before ‘mouthing off’, he would have seen that the bread was not hard or stale. He would have seen that it miraculously remained perfectly fresh as the moment it was taken out of the oven. If he had waited until then, he would have had no questions and his whole attitude would have been different, and he would never have come to curse G-d.
The problem of the blasphemer was a question on the Divine, something that would have answered itself had he allowed himself the patience to investigate the matter properly. But he impulsively demanded an immediate answer which he could not find. When his question was not resolved he felt that his questions undermined everything about G-d.
Rabbi Yissochar Frand comments on Rabbi Sorotzkin’s words that there are many times in life when we cannot comprehend G-d’s conduct: “We don’t understand sickness; we don’t understand why the righteous suffer; we don’t understand things like Jewish history; we don’t understand the Holocaust! We don’t understand! It makes no sense to us. But the main thing to remember is “it makes no sense to us”. G-d, we believe, has His Master Plan.”       
          The first time that Moshe Rabbeinu appeared before Pharaoh in Egypt, demanding the release of the Jews, it was an abysmal failure. Pharaoh was angered by Moshe’s request and he increased their already unbearable workload. When their lives became more embittered the Jews rebuked Moshe for meddling. Moshe in turn, questioned G-d for not fulfilling the promises He had guaranteed him.
          G-d responded to Moshe, (Shemos 6:2) “I appeared to Avrohom, to Yitzchok, and to Yaakov as Kel shakkai, but with my Name Hashem I did not make myself known to them.” Rashi explains that G-d’s Name, ‘Hashem’, the name G-d used when He revealed Himself to Moshe, as it were, represents G-d as the One Who carries out His promises, for G-d was now prepared to fulfill His promise to redeem Klal Yisroel.
G-d was telling Moshe that although He had revealed Himself to the patriarchs utilizing the same title ‘Hashem’, the Patriarchs never merited witnessing the fulfillment of those promises, for the Holy Land was not inherited by their descendants during their lifetimes. Yet the Patriarch’s faith in G-d never wavered. Therefore, Moshe too should not be skeptical. 
          My Rebbe, Rabbi Berel Wein, explained that G-d told Moshe the story of the Patriarchs because He wants Moshe to realize and understand how He relates to and runs this world. Things do not happen based on our plans and calculations of how they should proceed. G-d runs the world with a Divine Plan that is - more often than not - beyond our comprehension. The measure of a person is based on how he responds to the situation that arises.
Although the promises were not fulfilled during their lifetimes the Patriarchs had no complaints, because they understood that G-d has a Divine Plan that is beyond human finite comprehension. They understood that G-d’s Word would come to fruition when the time was right.
          Perhaps, when the tochacha mentions the treaties with the Patriarchs, it is alluding to this idea. One of the most painful and gut-wrenching questions that people ask is, “Where was G-d during the Holocaust?” The truth is that the question is improperly phrased.
All of the anguish, pain, torments, and grief we have been subjected to is all written in the verses of the tochacha. The more appropriate question is, “How could G-d allow those things to happen?” There is no doubt that G-d was there and orchestrating all that occurred. The question rather is only why we were deserving of such a fate? The answer however, is beyond the grasp of our finite minds.
 One who possesses the faith of the Patriarchs understands this idea.  Although he will surely be deeply pained and haunted by the terrible events he witnessed and suffered, and will also be plagued by the question of “Why”, however he has some measure of comfort in knowing that there is indeed a reason, although it’s beyond him.. 
          “And I will remember My treaty with Yaakov, and I will remember My treaty with Yitzchok, and I will remember My treaty with Avrohom, and the Land I will remember.” G-d states that He will remember those who had faith in Him and were able to see past their own premonitions and questions. But those who do not contain such faith will be further plagued by incessant doubt and skepticism about G-d. That itself is one of the curses of the tochacha, i.e. to lack the ability to have faith!
          If only the blasphemer had patience to wait a few more days, his questions would have been rendered obsolete. If only we have the patience, our justifiable questions will soon be rendered obsolete as well.

“I will be that which I will be”
“And I will remember My treaty”

[1] In Parshas Shemos when G-d first “introduced” Himself to Moshe, as it were, He revealed Himself as “Ehekeh asher Ehekeh- I will be that which I will be.” Rashi explains that G-d’s message to Moshe was, “I am the same G-d who at certain points bestows limitless blessing on My People and at certain points seem to deal harshly with them and withholding goodness and blessing from them. I am the same loving G-d!” G-d was expressing to Moshe that despite the fact that the Jews were then suffering the travails of exile at the behest of the evil Egyptians, it was part of G-d’s Divine Plan, no less than the imminent glory of the Jews which was soon to be revealed at the time of the exodus.
[2] this is in fact how the holy Shelah understands that verse
[3] the twelve showbreads placed upon the golden Table in the Mishkan
[4] Rabbi Zalman Sorotzkin zt’l



Erev Shabbos Kodesh Parshios Behar-Bechukosai Pirkei Avos – perek 5
26 Iyar 5772/May 18, 2012 (41st day of the Omer)

If April showers bring May flowers, what do May flowers bring? Pilgrims! (badda baddam)
Actually, at least as far as the Monsey community is concerned, May flowers brings Pirchei Sunday afternoon baseball. “Take me out to the ballgame (on the other side of town), take me out to the soggy rain-soaked field, bring along a folding chair, and extra Super Snacks, I hope it ends soon cuz I need to get back. It’s root, root, root, for my kid, if he strikes out it’s a shame, cuz it’s one, two, three, four, five, six, seven foul tips at the Pirchei games”
It’s a sight to see on Sunday afternoon as both teams converge on the field, readying the beginning of the game. These young men – our future – arrive wearing colored jerseys, caps, pants, and cleats, holding their gloves, with batting gloves sticking out of their pants. They also carry water bottles or Gatorade to keep the fluids pumping during the course of the intense showdown. Many players bring their own bats, which has just the right length and weight to compliment his batting style. The coaches arrive with duffel bags bringing all possible necessities for the game, including bases, helmets, catcher equipment, umpire’s face-mask, and some spare utility players (they stay in the bag unless needed). 
It reminds me of the time I was watching such a game set to begin with all of the aforementioned equipment (and then some). Finally the umpire gave the clarion call ‘Play Ball’, and the home team took the field. The fielders leaned in, poised and ready, as the pitcher arrived on the mound. The batter stepped in the box, gathered some dust, spit in his hands, and gripped the bat with menacing eyes. Yes, ladies and gentlemen, Casey was back in Mudville seeking revenge.
But then the pitcher called out “Where’s the ball?” The ball? Hello? Who’s got the ball? Oops, one minor detail. If you think about it, it’s the minutest part of the game. They had bases, bats, gloves, helmets. They had forgotten one thing. But without a ball, there is no game. So Casey, mighty Casey, couldn’t even get a pitch.
Rav Shimshon Pinkus zt’l noted that our generation boasts more Torah learning than ever before in exile. We have incredible chesed programs, and beautiful mitzvah observance with unparalleled stringency and alacrity. There is a plethora of taharas hamishpacha lectures, chinuch forums, and kiruv organizations. With all that we have achieved, we are only missing one thing, i.e. we have left out G-d. In his words, ‘We have cultivated a Judaism and have left Hashem out of the equation’. 
In baseball they say that the key to good hitting is to ‘Keep your eye on the ball’. We need to keep our eye on the proverbial ball by constantly reminding ourselves of the purpose of all we do: “Shivi Hashem l’negdi samid – I place G-d before me constantly.” We need to remember who we are davening to, why we live in the way that we do, and we need to speak about G-d throughout our day. There is nothing more important than that truth in our lives.
If we can maintain that focus than we are truly the winners.

              Shabbat Shalom & Good Shabbos,
                R’ Dani and Chani Staum