Thursday, June 28, 2012


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


          A young man was in the process of registering his son in a local Yeshiva. Before he finished the process, he received a phone call from an irate relative who proceeded to list a plethora of virulent complaints against that particular Yeshiva. The man replied that, although he felt pained that his relative had had such a difficult experience with the Yeshiva, he did not see how it would affect him. But the relative was persistent and he continued to badger the man, dogmatically stating that he must not register his son in that Yeshiva. The relative went so far as to say that if he enrolled his son in that yeshiva it would be a personal affront to him. Over the next few weeks, the relative repeatedly called the man and continued to beleaguer his point. Finally, the man made it clear to his relative that his decision was final and that he should stop calling.
          A few days later the young man was contacted by his Rebbe, Rabbi Avrohom Pam zt’l, the beloved Rosh Yeshiva of Yeshiva Torah Voda’as in Brooklyn. Rabbi Pam explained that he had received a phone call from the man’s relative. “I was shocked by the conversation; it was absolutely astounding!” The man was sure that Rabbi Pam was shocked by the man’s irrationality and bitterness toward the Yeshiva. But then Rabbi Pam continued, “I was shocked to realize the depth of human sensitivity.” He explained that he could not get over just how personally affected one could be by a negative experience, to the point where he becomes nonsensical and unreasonable. Furthermore, it was uncanny that a person could be so consumed by an event that he sought to impose irrelevant and irrational demands on others who were completely impartial to his situation.
          Rabbi Pam advised his student to seek an alternative Yeshiva that would be suitable for his son. In this way, even if he was unsuccessful he could at least mollify his relative by telling him that he had tried. This would demonstrate sensitivity to the pain of the relative and show him that he took his feelings seriously. Rabbi Pam concluded, “You will see that by seeking a path of peace, you will be blessed with success.”
          Years later, the man told Rabbi Pam that his promise came to fruition and that his advice to adopt a policy of rodeph shalom- pursuing peace, was blessed with success many times over. When Rabbi Pam heard that, he wept tears of joy. 

          The lengthy sojourns of the Jews were finally nearing completion. Still, despite the fact that the weary nation was not far from the Promised Land, they still had to traverse a worthy distance. The pangs and challenges of their journey were far from over. (21:1) “The Canaanite King of Arad, who dwelled in the south, heard that Israel had come by the route of the spies, and he warred against Israel and took a captive from it.” The Medrash explains that the attackers were actually a battalion of Amalekites, the nemesis of Klal Yisroel. In order to prevent the Jews from praying for victory, the Amalekites spoke the language of the Canaanites. They hoped that the Jews would erroneously pray for salvation from Canaanites and, since they were not Canaanites, the prayers of the Jews would be ineffective and the Amalekites would be victorious. However, the Jews were perplexed by their attackers who spoke the language of Canaan but were garbed in the uniform of the Amalekites. Therefore, they prayed for salvation from “this nation”, and they prevailed.
          The Gemara[1] questions what exactly the King of Arad “heard” that gave him the confidence to attack the heretofore impregnable Jewish nation? The Gemarah explains, “They heard that Aharon had died and the Divine Clouds of Glory had departed (from the Jewish camp) and that they (therefore) had permission to wage war against Israel.” 
          The Ateres Mordechai, Rabbi Mordechai Rogov zt’l, explains that Aharon was the paragon and champion of peace in Klal Yisroel. As long as he was alive there was a strong sense of peace and brotherhood in the Jewish camp. Amalek, our ultimate foe, understood well that when unified, we are invincible and indestructible. But now that Aharon had died their impenetrable defenses were breached.
          The Mishna[2] states, “Hillel would say: Be among the disciples of Aharon, loving peace and pursuing peace; loving people and bringing them closer to Torah.” The commentators[3] explain the wily tactics that Aharon would utilize to promote peace, especially in the event of a feud. Aharon was legendary for going to any length to repair a damaged relationship or hurt feelings. Throughout his lifetime he ensured that in the camp of Klal Yisroel, there reigned a dominant sense of camaraderie and friendship. In the merit of Aharon’s efforts, the Divine Clouds of Glory were Omnipresent around the camp. Amalek understood that as long as those Clouds were present, an attack against Klal Yisroel was futile.

          In Tehillim (29:11) Dovid Hamelech writes, “Hashem will give strength to His Nation; Hashem will bless His Nation with peace.” Perhaps the juxtaposition of these two statements is to demonstrate that in order to merit the blessing of peace one must possess inner strength and fortitude. There is a price that one must be willing to pay for peace. At times one must be willing to forego his dignity and ego, sometimes he must be willing to forfeit money due to him, and sometimes he must allow himself to be inconvenienced. However, Chazal assure us that in the long run it will be worthwhile. One need look no further than the horrific stories that we often hear about people - even good people- involved in acrimonious imbroglios and disputes over - sometimes insignificant - matters.
It is very difficult to “let go”. But the feeling of inner strength and the blessing of peace will over-compensate the ego one loses by giving in. In order to bless His nation with peace, G-d must give us the strength to pursue it properly.
          The vernacular of the Mishna is very particular, i.e. a disciple of Aharon loves peace and then he pursues it. One must have an affinity for peace and he must appreciate the psychological, physiological, and mental benefits of peace. Above all, he must realize the spiritual blessings of peace and the pleasure that it brings to G-d, as it were, when His children are at peace with one another. If one does not love peace then he will not be able to adequately pursue it. After all, why should he admit defeat or error when he was indeed right or justified? A lover of peace is willing to forego his “rightness” for the sake of peace.
          The Ateres Mordechai continues that after the death of Aharon, divisiveness and enmity crept into the Jewish camp and the Clouds of Glory dissipated. At that point, Amalek realized the vulnerability of Klal Yisroel and immediately mounted an attack.
          In Eichah[4], the prophet Yermiyahu laments the fact that, “All of her pursuers overtook her ‘bayn hamtzarim’ between the boundaries”. The Ateres Mordechai explains that this is a reference to the disunity of Klal Yisroel at that time. When people became particular about their boundaries and would not allow neighbors to walk on their property, it was then that they became vulnerable to their enemies and were defeated.
          Similarly, the pasuk in Bereishis (12:7) states, “There was a quarrel between the shepherds of the cattle of Avrom (the patriarch Avrohom) and the shepherds of the cattle of Lot (Avrohom’s nephew); the Canaanites and P’reezeites were then in the land.”  What does the presence of the Canaanites and P’reezeites in the land have to do with the feud of Avrom’s shepherds and Lot’s shepherds? The answer is that the beginning of the pasuk is an explanation of the end of the pasuk. Why were the Cannanites and P’rezeites on the land at that time if the land had just been promised by G-d to Avrohom’s descendants? It was the quarreling and disunity that allowed the foreigners to have dominance over the land.
This message has not changed throughout our exile: When there is peace among the descendants of Avrohom, then we have complete sovereignty over our land and our people. But as long as we still harbor pangs of hatred and resentment against each other, we are subject to the domination, or at least the influence, of external authorities.

Rabbi Pam observed that Korach rebelled against Moshe because he recognized that the great leader Shmuel would descend from him. Had Korach not been overcome with jealousy his prophetic vision would have impelled him to become a more ardent follower of Moshe so that he would be a worthy ancestor of his esteemed progeny. However, his evil character traits overwhelmed him and he turned the vision of his progeny into a catalyst for disaster.
At the opposite end of the spectrum was Aharon HaKohain, the quintessential man of peace, whose position Korach coveted. Aharon merited to be the High Priest and to wear the golden chest-plate (choshen) above his heart because his heart was filled with love for his people.  In fact, when he was informed that his younger brother Moshe was to become the leader of Klal Yisroel, instead of feeling jealous he was overwhelmed with joy. A heart that harbors no jealousy or resentment is worthy of wearing the Divine Names close to it[5].

The parsha of Chukas is invariably read in the month of Tammuz, the month when the three weeks that mark our mourning of the destruction of the Basis Hamikdash, begins. The Gemarah relates that the second Bais Hamikdash was destroyed on account of baseless hatred. Thus, our ultimate redemption and the coming of Moshiach is contingent on our efforts to rectify that wrong which is still rampant in our hearts. However, this is far easier said than done.
In life we are often faced with the daunting question: Is it better to be right or to have peace?

“Be among the disciples of Aharon”
“Hashem will bless His Nation with peace”

[1] Rosh Hashanah 3a
[2] Avos 1:12
[3] see Avos d’Reb Nosson
[4] Lamentations 1:3
[5] Shemos Rabbah 3:17


Erev Shabbos Kodesh Parshas Chukas Pirkei Avos, perek 5
10 Tamuz 5772/June 30, 2012

It seems like a favorite pastime for people to talk about their former teachers and their unique idiosyncrasies, as well as the antics students pulled in class. Undoubtedly, one of my most unique teachers was ‘Rich’ (as he liked to be called). Rich was very into poetry – not the rhyming kind, but the kind you read as a high school student, and think that it’s complete gibberish, and laugh when the teacher is annoyed at you for not comprehending the deep meaning of the poem.
On one occasion Rich gave us a paper which had only three words on it. On top in big bold letters it said ‘HERE’. Towards the bottom right corner of the page it said in small letters ‘we are’. He was extremely frustrated when we all looked at each other blankly with snickers on our faces. “Gentlemen, I’ve been called a genius for this and you have no clue what it’s about!” He finally explained that his point was that very often we are not where we say/think we are. We like to believe that we have achieved certain things in our lives and have matured to certain levels, but frequently it is just not true.
I would like to piggy back on Rich’s point, albeit with one twist. I would spell the first word HAIR. In other words, sometimes one’s hair is no longer where it once was, as the hair line of youth recedes and thins. [I of course speak from observing others. Personally, I know nothing about this.] An older friend related that when he goes to the barber and asks for a haircut, the barber asks him which hair.
But here’s my observation: The halacha is that when a man dons his tefillin shel rosh each morning, the front of the shel rosh must be positioned at the place where one’s hair line was in his youth. Even if one’s hairline recedes, the positioning of his tefillin shel rosh remains in that original place.
In the physical world, as well as in society, the lines of acceptability and societal norms constantly shift with the times. What was once taboo may be completely acceptable today, and what was once innovative may now be completely passé. But in the spiritual world, the lines never change. Our barometer of morality and acceptability, have not altered one iota throughout – and despite – millennia in exile.
No matter how much the hairline moves, the tefillin remain where that line once was. Even if the physical hair is gone, the spiritual hairline never shifts!

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

720 Union Road • New Hempstead, NY 10977 • (845) 362-2425

Thursday, June 21, 2012


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

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          President Woodrow Wilson was the son of a minister. His father, who was tall and very thin, would often take young Woodrow with him on his parish calls, which he made by horse and buggy.
          One day, while on one such call, a parishioner asked Mr. Wilson, “Reverend, how is it that you are so thin and gaunt while your horse looks so healthy and sleek.” Without missing a beat Woodrow replied, “Because my father feeds the horse and the congregation feeds my father.”
          Moshe Rabbeinu was the quintessential leader, the humblest of men, worthy to transmit G-d’s Torah to Klal Yisroel, and a lover of his people above all else. Yet throughout their forty years in the desert, Klal Yisroel repeatedly tested Moshe’s patience and questioned him.
The Torah[1] states, “Whenever Moshe would go out to the tent, the entire people would stand up and remain standing, everyone at the entrance of his tent, and they would gaze after Moshe until he arrived at the tent.” Yerushalmi[2] offers two paradoxical explanations for their “leader-gazing”. The first is that they gazed at Moshe out of admiration and respect. The second is that they would watch him and comment, “Look at his thighs, look at his knees, see how corpulent they are; it’s all from assets that he took from the Jews”. The greatest leader of all time was not spared the audacious disrespect of the nation he so lovingly and selflessly devoted himself to.
During their sojourns in the desert, time and again the nation provoked G-d, as it were. More than once G-d told Moshe that He was poised and ready to destroy the whole nation. Each time, Moshe prayed before G-d until he was able to elicit G-d’s forgiveness. It became a tragic cycle: The people sinned, G-d’s wrath was ignited, Moshe interceded on their behalf, and G-d relented. However, there was one notable exception. There was one occasion when Moshe, not only did not intercede on behalf of sinners, but uncharacteristically implored G-d to turn away from the sinners and to deal with them harshly. This was at the debacle of the rebellion of Korach.
When Korach and his assembly challenged the validity of the leadership of Moshe and Aharon, Moshe turned to G-d and pleaded, “Do not turn toward their mincha offerings.”  What happened to the great defender of the Jews? It is difficult to say that the man about whom the Torah[3] states that he was the humblest of men was defending his own honor. Even in the face of such egregious sins as the golden calf, the slanderous report of the spies about Eretz Yisroel, the complaints against the manna, etc. Moshe sought the defense of Klal Yisroel. Yet in the face of a rebellion by a collection of rabble rousers Moshe was so shaken that he made an about-face and demanded that G-d decimate Korach and his cause.
Furthermore, why did he call on G-d to exact retribution against Korach in a supernatural manner? (16:28-30) “And Moshe said with this you will know that Hashem has sent me to perform everything that I have done, and that it was not from my own heart. If these men will die like all other men and what transpires to all men transpires to them, then G-d has not sent me. But if G-d will create a new creation and the earth will open its mouth and swallow them and all that is theirs and they will go down to their grave alive then you will know that these men have ignited the fury of G-d.” Why did Moshe not only not defend them but also seek supernatural intervention in their downfall?
The Malbim explains that the rebellion of Korach presented a more insidious threat to the posterity of Klal Yisroel as a nation than any other sin in the desert. Korach posed a challenge to the foundation of belief and compliance to Torah and mitzvos of that generation and all of their descendants. “The foundation of our belief in the veracity of Torah and its fulfillment for all generations is based on the fact that G-d descended on Sinai with signs and wonders and that the entire nation heard from the Mouth of the Holy One, Face to face that He appointed Moshe to be His emissary to transmit the Torah and mitzvos so that we fulfill them for all of eternity. He also commanded us to believe in all of the mitzvos that were commanded via Moshe from the Mouth of G-d, that they are all mitzvos of the Living G-d and not mitzvos created by mortals in their hearts. This all transpired in the candid presence of 600,000 men who saw this with their own eyes and heard it with their own ears, and there was absolutely no one who could deny or argue about these events. Based on that every Jew conveyed the experience he witnessed to his children, until it is as if every succeeding generation has a feeling that it was present at the revelation when the nation was chosen and witnessed these events.”
The Malbim continues that when Korach challenged the leadership of Moshe, he was not merely challenging Moshe as the regulator of the affairs of Klal Yisroel, but he was challenging the very transmission of Torah and Klal Yisroel’s entire connection to the event which is the basis of our belief. “Once they stated that the appointment of Kohanim and Leviim was done based on Moshe’s own volition, they could just have easily have also said that the entire Torah was also Moshe’s own doing. Thus would collapse the basis of belief in the generation of Moshe, and surely for the succeeding generations.” Therefore, Moshe demanded that Korach’s rebellion be upended in a supernatural fashion in the presence of the entire nation because that would serve to re-strengthen the belief of the nation and to repair the damage that Korach had done. Moshe cared little for his own honor and reputation. But he immediately realized the spiritual peril that Korach had placed the nation in. Challenging Moshe is akin to challenging the revelation of Sinai and the entire belief system of Klal Yisroel fro all time. The Torah that we observe is eternally known as the Torah of Moshe. “Moshe emes v’Toraso emes- Moshe is truth and his Torah is truth”; they are forever inextricably bound.

During the Mussaf prayer on Shabbos we state, “You established Shabbos and found favor in its offerings…Then at Sinai we were commanded about it…” Chazal state that the Jews were commanded about the observance of Shabbos while they were camped at Marah, before they even arrived at Sinai. If so, how can we state that we were commanded to observe Shabbos at Sinai, if we were already commanded about Shabbos prior?
Rabbi Chaim Kanievsky shlita[4] explained the prayer based on a passage of the Rambam. The Rambam[5] states that we observe all mitzvos simply because they were transmitted and commanded to Moshe Rabbeinu at Sinai. Thus, even though historically the Jews were commanded about certain mitzvos at various times prior and after Sinai, we observe them because they were taught at Sinai.[6] Rambam writes that this is a fundamental principle.
Based on this Rabbi Kanievsky explains that although technically Shabbos had already been taught in Marah, our contemporary observance of Shabbos is based simply on the fact that, “Then at Sinai we were commanded about it”.
By seeking to undermine Moshe Rabbeinu’s legitimacy as leader, Korach was essentially undermining the whole transmission of Torah. Hardly anything could be more pernicious to undermining our existence as a nation.

“Do not turn toward their mincha offerings”
“Moshe is truth and his Torah is truth”

[1] Shemos 33:8
[2] Bikurim 3:3
[3] Bamidbar 12:3
[4] Derech Sichah
[5] Pairush Hamishna - Chullin, end of perek 7
[6] The mitzvos taught prior were re-taught and the mitzvos taught later had already been taught to Moshe at Sinai.


Erev Shabbos Kodesh Parshas Korach Pirkei Avos, perek 4
2 Tamuz 5772/June 23, 2012

“‘It’s bad! It’s bad!’ says the acquirer; but when he leaves then he will praise.” (Mishley 20:14)
  As the school year begins to wind down I have often had the opportunity to accompany some of our students in Bais Hachinuch on their class end-of-the-year outings. It is a wonderful opportunity for me to join our youths in their natural habitat – i.e. outdoors and running around.
So when Rabbi Gradman, our esteemed sixth grade rebbe, asked me if I could join his class trip last week I readily agreed, without yet knowing where we were going. 
On the day before the trip I found out that we were going biking.
“Yeah, you know with pedals, wheels, handlebars…”
“Oooh, I haven’t done that in a while.”
It’s bad! It’s bad!’ says the acquirer.
When we arrived at the park it was raining lightly and the clouds looked menacing.
It’s bad! It’s bad!’ says the acquirer.
One of the boys told me it was a six mile trail. Six miles in the rain; here goes nothing.
It’s bad! It’s bad!’ says the acquirer.
Most of the boys were pedaling with ease, but some boys started to slow down and were having a hard time. “I am getting tired. I can’t do it.”
It’s bad! It’s bad!’ says the acquirer.
Without much recourse, they forged on.
Then I was informed that it wasn’t a circuitous route, and when we got to the end of the trail, we had to bike 6 miles back.
It’s bad! It’s bad!’ says the acquirer.
“I CAN’T! My feet are killing me.”
“Come on. Keep pedaling. Look how far we’ve gone. Don’t give up now!”
The last three miles were truly painful, and I was nervous that some of the boys (and one of their chaperones- who is typing this article) may not make it.
It’s bad! It’s bad!’ says the acquirer.
But then, as the sun began to shine drying our wet and muddied clothing, we crossed the finish line. Twelve miles! We had done it!
“But when he leaves then he will praise”
It was a major challenge. We doubted ourselves but continued on because we felt we had to. And in the end we prevailed. It was a great feeling.
“But when he leaves then he will praise”
I felt that the trip was a microcosm of the school-year. Truthfully, it mirrors any challenges we encounter in trying to accomplish anything. The journey is arduous and frustrating, and sometimes it can be downright painful. Along the way we doubt ourselves as we ponder the bleakness of our situation. But if we can maintain perspective on our goals, and remember that when it’s over we will feel incomparable pride, it can serve as inspiration to forge ahead.
“But when he leaves then he will praise”
Still, I feel compelled to admit that when the biking trip was over and I felt very proud of myself, I did not join the energy-ridden students who then proceeded to play an intense game of tag in the nearby playground.
What happened to good ol’ bowling?

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

Thursday, June 14, 2012


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


One Sunday afternoon, the Rabbi was showing six-year old Arnold around the Synagogue. They looked at the sanctuary, the women’s balcony, and the banquet hall downstairs. Afterwards, they were standing in the main hallway when Arnold noticed a large plaque filled with names. Arnold looked up at the plaque with curiosity, “Rabbi, who were all these people?” The Rabbi bent his head dolefully, “Arnold, this is a special plaque with all of the names of the brave men who died in the service.” Arnold and the Rabbi spent a long moment in silent contemplation, before Arnold looked up again. “Rabbi, did they die in the Friday night service or the Shabbos morning service?” 

          The Da’as Sofer, Rabbi Akiva Sofer zt’l, notes that there are three instances when the Torah uses the directive, “And you shall see.” The first time is in Parshas Shemos when the Torah describes the deteriorating condition of the Jews in the Egyptian exile. Pharaoh summoned the righteous Jewish midwives Shifrah and Puah[1] to inform them of his nefarious plan of mass infanticide. (Shemos 1:17) “When you deliver the Hebrew women, and you shall see [them] on the birthstool; if it is a son, you are to kill him, and if it is a daughter, she shall live.”
          The second time is at the beginning of Parshas Shelach when Moshe dispatched the spies to scout out Eretz Yisroel. (Bamidbar 13:18) “And you shall see the land- how it is; and the people who dwell in it- are they strong or weak? Few or numerous.”  
The final time is at the conclusion of Parshas Shelach when the Torah commands about the mitzvah of wearing tzitzis, and its significance. (Bamidbar 15:39) “It shall constitute tzitzis for you, and you shall see them and remember all the commandments of Hashem and perform them…”
Da’as Sofer explains that the Torah specifically uses the expression “and you shall see” in these three instances to allude to a fundamental concept regarding one’s Avodas Hashem (Service to G-d). He explains that there are Jews who feel that it is sufficient to be a “Jew at heart”. They rationalize that an Omnipotent G-d surely doesn’t care much about minuscule details and therefore it is enough that we believe in Him and His Torah. As for all of the details and laws, they are generally irrelevant since only internal feelings really matter.
This was, in fact, the attitude of the original reformers of Judaism who declared, “Be a Jew in your home and a non-Jew outside.” When Napoleon conquered much of Europe and tore down the ghetto walls, the Reform Jews felt that the solution to Anti-Semitism and the pangs of exile lay in the creation of the ‘new Jew’. They reasoned that if the Jews would shed their external differences, they would become a civilized and cultured nation in the world. Hitler and Stalin destroyed that notion a century later.
The Vilna Gaon notes that logically it is ludicrous for a baby to be born. The verse in Iyov[2] states, “Adam la’amal yulad- Man was born to toil.” The Gaon quotes the Gemara[3] which states that, while in the womb, the soul of every unborn fetus is privately tutored by an angel who teaches him the entire Torah. Then, as the baby prepares to enter this world, the angel taps it on the lip causing it to forget everything.
The Gaon notes that, if this is true, it seems counterproductive for a baby to be born. If he had already reached the apex of achievable knowledge prior to birth, what is the point of being born and forgetting everything? The Gaon answers that the Torah was not meant to be a theoretical or hypothetical book of academia. Rather, its purpose is, “Al m’nas la’asos- on condition that it be fulfilled.” Every word, dictate, and command of the Torah must be adhered to and followed. The knowledge of a baby in the uterus is worthless unless it subsequently has an opportunity to live what it was taught in a world of potential action and accomplishment. The very process and miracle of birth is antithetical to the notion that inner knowledge and belief are sufficient. In fact, the word “Amal- toil” is an acronym for the words, “Al m’nas la’asos- on condition that it be fulfilled”. Man was born to toil and fulfill all that he was previously taught.
This same idea is apparent from the exodus. Da’as Sofer quotes his father, the Shevet Sofer, who noted that the ultimate purpose of the exodus was for Klal Yisroel to eventually enter Eretz Yisroel and fulfill the mitzvos endemic to the Holy Land. He explains that if the purpose of the exodus was solely so that they could serve G-d, then the first plague (blood) would have been sufficient. Once the plagues began the harsh physical servitude ended and, technically, the Jews were free to serve G-d as they pleased. At that point they could have been perfectly good ‘theoretical Jews’ in heart and mind. The fact that there were nine additional plagues until Pharaoh chased them from the land, followed by the splitting of the sea and the utter decimation of Egypt, demonstrates that G-d’s Will was for the Jews to serve Him on a practical level by fulfilling all of the mitzvos, which was only feasible in Eretz Yisroel. 
With this in mind, we can understand the connection between the three verses which utilize the expression, “And you shall see.” To those who feel that it is sufficient to be a Jew at heart, the Torah counters, “and you shall see [them] on the birth-stool”, i.e. you shall contemplate and analyze the process of birth. Understand the fact that despite what a child learns in the womb he is still born and forgets everything he had learned so that he can struggle to fulfill it. Additionally, “And you shall see the land”, one should also contemplate the significance of capturing and inheriting the Holy Land and the central role it played in the Egyptian redemption. Despite the fact that the Jews could have served G-d in Egypt, G-d performed numerous additional miracles to ensure that the Jews would physically leave the country and eventually enter Eretz Yisroel. When one “sees” and comprehends the vital messages of any natural birth as well as the national exodus from Egypt, then one will also understand that the ultimate goal of a Jew is, “And you shall see them and remember all the commandments of Hashem and perform them”, i.e. that one must perform the mitzvos and LIVE as a Torah Jew in action and deed, not merely in thought and emotion.

With this in mind, we can perhaps explain the three seemingly random mitzvos that G-d instructed Klal Yisroel immediately after the disastrous debacle of the spies at the conclusion of Parshas Shelach. The commentators offer lengthy explanations of the rationale of the spies for offering their slanderous report about Eretz Yisroel[4].
Zohar explains that indeed the spies had noble intentions. Throughout the forty-year sojourns in the desert, the Jews survived because of constant miracles that accompanied them. In fact their whole existence in the desert was termed a, ‘hanhaga nisis- a miraculous lifestyle’. They were aware that upon entering the Holy Land they would no longer be privy to this constant miraculous intervention and they would be subjected to a ‘hanhagah tivis- natural lifestyle’. While still in the desert they were free to devote their days to Torah study and worshipping G-d. However, once they entered the land the yoke of livelihood and mundane responsibilities would be thrust upon them. Therefore, the spies felt that it would be more beneficial to keep the nation in the wilderness of the desert, living under the constant and direct Grace of G-d while satiating themselves from the spiritual greatness and leadership of Moshe Rabbeinu. Despite the challenges of a nomadic life in a forbidden wasteland, they felt it worth the sacrifice.
The fallacy of the spies was that they did not realize that, despite their noble intentions, that was not the Will of G-d. The challenge of life in this world is for one to develop himself into a Servant of G-d and to become a Torah-abiding Jew despite the challenges, vicissitudes, and travails of life. If G-d wanted, He could easily have brought the Jews into the Holy Land and maintained the miraculous intervention they enjoyed in the desert. However, “Adam la’amal yulad- Man was born to toil” and that toil entails producing despite adversity; keeping the mitzvos even when it is not easy and convenient to do so.
Perhaps the three mitzvos that G-d commanded the Jews immediately following the failed mission of the spies demonstrated this idea and helped the depressed nation understand the root of the erroneous thinking of the spies.
There were three constant vital miracles that sustained Klal Yisroel in the desert: the Clouds of Glory, the well of water, and the manna. The first mitzvah commanded was the wine libations which were to be offered in tandem with select korbanos on the altar. That mitzvah corresponded to the well of water. Unlike water which flows naturally, producing wine is a long and arduous process. Grapes must be harvested, pressed, and allowed to ferment under precise conditions in order to create a tasty wine.
The second mitzvah was the obligation that one separate “challah”, a measurement of dough that must be given to a kohain, when one bakes. This mitzvah corresponded to the manna which miraculously descended into the Jewish camp each morning. In order to bake bread a farmer must tirelessly work in his field for months plowing, planting, threshing, winnowing, grinding etc. before he has flour with which to knead into dough for the bread. Manna was miraculous but effortless while natural bread required tremendous exertion.
After discussing the punishment for one who desecrates the holy Shabbos, the final mitzvah at the conclusion of the parsha is that of tzitzis.[5] In the desert, the Jews were privy to the Clouds of Glory which provided them with great comfort, i.e. leveling mountains and valleys, maintaining comfortable temperature, and warding off dangerous animals that prey in the desert. When one gazes at his tzitzis, it is supposed to remind him of his daily responsibilities as a Torah-Jew. The tzitzis dangle freely but they are held in place by knots. This reminds a Jew that although he is free to act as he chooses, his holy soul is bound to its source and that connection can never be severed. The tzitzis are supposed to create within a person a sense of holiness and a spirit of Divinity, on a minor scale what the Clouds accomplished in the desert. Similarly, on the holy Shabbos, one should feel that he has been elevated to angelic levels and that he is closer to His creator, as it were. For the twenty-six hours of Shabbos, a Jew lives a different existence, immersed in a world called Shabbos where delectable foods, added sleep, and surely one’s spiritual endeavors are all elevated and sanctified.
These three mitzvos as well as the sanctity of Shabbos symbolize that, despite the great miracles that were omnipresent in the desert, G-d’s true desire is that man accomplish greatness and holiness through his own efforts to transcend the mundane.
The spies felt that serving G-d effortlessly was better than to serve G-d when challenged and under duress. However, they failed to realize that Torah Judaism is not a sinecure. It is a struggle and internal melee for one to be a holy Jew in an unholy world. But that is what is demanded of us. The more we persevere, the more we will be able to realize the holiness that lies within every one of us.
It comes easy to nobody, nor is it supposed to. Nevertheless, the holiness we generate through our mitzvos and Torah observance, the challenges of life and family notwithstanding, is far more precious than the holiness of angels to whom it comes naturally.

“And you shall see…”
“Man was born to toil”

[1] Who in actuality were Yocheved (mother of Moshe) and Miriam (sister of Moshe)
[2] Job 5:7
[3] Niddah 30b
[4] Despite the fact that they sinned, they were great men of lofty stature and they surely had a motive for speaking malevolently about the Promised Land.
[5] Prior to the mitzvah of tzitzis the Torah discusses the korbanos offered by an individual who errs. That concept seems apropos after the sin of the spies.


Erev Shabbos Kodesh Parshas Shelach Pirkei Avos, perek 3
25 Sivan 5772/June 15, 2012

Mitch Albom is a best-selling author, journalist, and broadcaster. His books have sold 30 million copies worldwide. His breakthrough book ‘Tuesdays with Morrie’ propelled him into stardom, remaining on the New York Times Bestseller list for 205 weeks, and selling 14 million copies.
Albom had heard about an interview with a sociology professor named Morrie Schwartz that had aired on The Today Show, in which Morrie spoke about living with ALS, a terminal disease he knew was killing him.
Albom had been a student of Morrie during his years at Brandeis University and had been close with him. When Albom heard about the interview and about Morrie’s situation he felt guilty for not having stayed in touch. He decided to rekindle their connection, and he began to visit Morrie every Tuesday. In 1997, Albom published ‘Tuesdays with Morrie’ in which he documented many of the poignant conversations they had about life and death.  
Almost any adult will agree that life seems to pass so quickly. Parents will agree even more. ‘It seems like it was just yesterday that…’ is a common refrain. But our daily schedules are so demanding and tiring that we just don’t know how to slow down the whirring daily merry-go-round.
I once asked Rabbi Mordechai Finkelman how he has time for his own family. Rabbi Finkelman, who I consider one of my foremost rabbeim and mentors in life, is not only the Mashgiach of Ohr HaChaim in Queens, but his sagacious advice is sought out constantly by myriads of people daily, and well into the night. He is invited to the weddings and simchos of students and friends on a nightly basis, and also gives many different lectures throughout the week.
Rabbi Finkelman replied that when it comes to one’s children quality is more important than quantity. He said that he makes sure to set aside a certain chunk of time with each of his children periodically. During that time, there is nothing else except for the child who is with him.
Many parents spend much more physical time with their children but, because their attention is so diversified, the child hardly gains from the experience.
During the last few months in our family we have established ‘Tuesday’s with Abba’. Each Tuesday I have breakfast with one of our children. During that time, it’s just me and the child. They choose the menu, we eat and schmooze, and then I drive them to school. It’s been a wonderful experience, and something each of them look forward to. When I went to eat with Avi, our four year old, for the first time, and I asked him about school, he shrugged, gave me a sly smile and said ‘I’m not telling’, and continued to eat in silence. I felt a bit funny but he was very happy with that. 
We can’t slow life down. But we can do our best to create memories and enjoy the experience.
Of course there is also the benefit that I have learned many important things about our children and about what’s going on in their lives. Most importantly, I learned that Shalom absolutely abhors when they put vegetables on his Hobo!  

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