Thursday, September 27, 2012


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




          The Duke of Manheim once met Rav Tzvi of Berlin and asked him why the Jews recite the Four Questions on Pesach night and not on Succos night? It would seem that leaving the warmth and comfort of home to sit outside in a flimsy succah is peculiar enough to warrant questions and explanations.
          Rav Tzvi replied that on the night of Pesach when the child sees the table set with beauty and elegance, he is perplexed. What is the meaning behind this regality while we are yet in exile? On the night of Succos however, when the child finds his family exiled from their home and left to the mercy of the elements, he is not surprised. After all, throughout the centuries of exile, that’s what Jews have always been forced to do!

          The Tur[1] records that the Succos (huts) we constructfor the duration of the seven-day holiday commemorates the Divine Clouds of Glory that enveloped and protected Klal Yisroel during their forty year sojourn in the desert.
The Bach notes that as a rule, the Tur only records the letter of the law and does not include the reasons and logic behind the laws. However, in regard to Succah he makes an exception and records the reason for the mitzvah. He does so because the Torah itself found it necessary to record the reason: “So that your generations will know that I caused the children of Israel to dwell in booths when I took them out of Egypt.[2]” Therefore, the Bach rules, that one only fulfills the mitzvah of Succah if he bears in mind the reason for the mitzvah.
          Truthfully, the Gemarah in Succah records a dispute between Rabbi Eliezer and Rabbi Akiva as to what is the true reason for the mitzvah of succah. The Tur only mentions the aforementioned opinion of Rabbi Eliezer that it is to commemorate the Clouds of Glory. Rabbi Akiva however, opines that our succos serve to commemorate actual succos (huts) that Klal Yisroel constructed and lived in while they were the desert.
Why does the Tur completely ignore the opinion of Rabbi Akiva?
Furthermore, what is the logic behind Rabbi Akiva’s opinion? If they ate watermelon in the desert should we observe a seven-day watermelon party? Why should we sit in huts because they did?
The Rokeiach explains that Rabbi Akiva is referring to huts that the nation constructed built specifically when they went to battle the mighty armies of the great giants Sichon and Og.
During war, soldiers try to camouflage themselves as much possible, and remain low key. Why would Klal Yisroel build huts during a time of war?
Chazal say that the Clouds of Glory protected Klal Yisroel from enemies, elements, and surrounding predatory animals. At the foot of the Sea of Reeds when Klal Yisroel were trapped between the Sea and the oncoming Egyptians, the Clouds of Glory caught the arrows of the Egyptians and spit them back at the attackers. However when Klal Yisroel went to fight Sichon and Og they left their wives and children behind and had to leave the camp. How were they protected, especially in their vulnerable huts?

Rabbi Moshe Wolfson shlita quotes Sefas Emes (5637) who says that through living in the Succcah for the seven days of Succos one is blessed with Divine protection throughout the year. Through one’s observance of the holiday he will capture the feeling of trust in G-d and bring that security back into his home when the holiday is over.
Throughout the holiday of Succos during those times when one is permitted to be outside the succah, e.g. when one goes to shul to daven, or when one goes for a walk, it is still as if he is under the s’chach. The obligation of living in the succah is, in the words of Chazal, ‘tayshvu k’ayn taduru’ to dwell there as you live in your home. Thus, there are times when one leaves his normal home too though he is still the resident of his home[3].
The root of this idea stems from the Clouds of Glory themselves. When Klal Yisroel departed from the main camp, the Divine protection of the clouds continued to envelop them and protect them from the enemy even beyond its actual confines. They were able to set up huts right in the middle of the war because the Divine protection of the Clouds accompanied them in the merit that they retained their levels of holiness.
It is these huts that Rabbi Akiva refers to. Our succos serve to commemorate the fact that Klal Yisroel was able to retain the Divine protection outside the actual clouds. Ultimately our goal too is that when the holiday of Succos is over we too will be able to take the holiness and security we feel in the succah into our homes.
In that sense Rabbi Elazar and Rabbi Akiva agree that the underlying point of succah is to commemorate the Clouds of Glory. They disagree only about which aspect of the Clouds deserves our main focus – the actual Clouds themselves or the protection that the clouds afforded even beyond itself. It is for this reason that the Tur only mentions the Clouds of Glory, for that is the ultimate point of the holiday according to both opinions.

In this sense, the fragile succah is the only true dwelling place a Jew has in exile. An infant in his mother’s arms is unaware if he is in Russia, South Africa, Antarctica, or New York. As far as the child is concerned his location is in his mother’s arms, and nothing else really matters. The same is true in regard to the succah. No matter where in the world a Jew constructs his succah, he is joined with every other Jew sitting in succos throughout the world – under the protection of Hashem.
          When my alma-mater, Yeshiva Shaarei Torah, was being built during the 1970’s regular domestic wood was obtained for the building. One of the parents of the Yeshiva approached the founding Rosh Yeshiva, Rabbi Berel Wein, and told him he could obtain better quality wood from Finland at a cheaper rate. The latter wood was far more durable and was expected to last 150-200 years as opposed to the domestic wood, which was expected to last only 90 years. Rabbi Wein however refused the Finnish wood and insisted that the regular wood was sufficient. He told the surprised parent, that in America we build too well and for too long. Things move fast and it’s hard to make calculations for 200 years from now. We don’t need wood that will outlast our grandchildren’s grandchildren. Historically, there are very few Jewish buildings which remain in Jewish hands after 90 years.  
          Unfortunately his words ring true not only in the decimated smoldering ruins of shuls and yeshivos in Europe, but even of shuls in this country. My Zayde, Rabbi Yaakov Meir Kohn zt’l, was the Rabbi of Kehillas Anshei Slonim on the Lower East Side, a renowned shul during the 1970s which had a capacity that exceeded over a thousand seats. Today the building has been converted into an Italian theater with nary a trace remaining of all the tefillos and Torah learning that took place there.

The Succah contains the holiness of Yerushalayim as we recite in the evening prayers of Shabbos and Yom Tov, “He (G-d) spreads His succah of peace upon us and all of his nation Israel and Yerushalayim.” Ironically, while the location of the succah is temporal and fleeting, the holiness and spiritual fortitude it infuses us with is lingering and transcendent, if only we can have the wisdom to know how to internalize its eternal message.
”To dwell there as you live in your home”
“So that your generations will know”

[1] Siman 625
[2] Vayikra 23:44
[3] see Divrei Chaim al haTorah, Inyanei Succos


Erev Shabbos Kodesh Parshas Ha’azinu/Succos
12 Tishrei 5773/September 28, 2012

According to today’s second leading knowledge authority, Wikipedia, (the number one leader is cha-cha), “Betta is a large genus of small, often colorful, freshwater ray-finned fishes in the gourami family.” But a few years ago there was a Betta fish in the Staum family (the gourami’s never complained to us about it).
The fish was a gift given to our then 3 year old son Shalom by his friend Yoel Weinraub who had two of them. Betta fish are not too fond of each other so it’s best to keep them apart (sounds like your house?) and so we adopted Mr. Betta, who we fondly called “Fisha B’av”.
We didn’t think Fisha B’av would last all that long, especially in his 2 inch by 2 inch tank which he practically filled. But somehow, as fish years go, he had arichas yamim (longevity) and remained with us for over two years. When we went away for Shabbos and Yom Tov we had no choice but to take F.B. with us. So while I drove, instead of a coffee or a soda in the cup holder next to me, F.B. would swim around in his mini tank. When we arrived at our destination F.B. came in with us and was deposited on a dresser for the duration of our stay.
One Pesach morning while visiting my in-laws in Lakewood, I was getting ready to leave for shul when I heard a shriek erupt from upstairs. I ran upstairs to see Shalom standing next to the dresser with a look of horror on his face. The tank was overturned and F.B. was nowhere to be found. What’s more, at the time Shalom often confused his words and he kept repeating “I did it by purpose! I did it by purpose!” This was no time to point fingers. It was time for an immediate ‘bedikas Fisha B’av’. The story does have a happy ending (for Shalom that is). I found F.B. lying on the floor underneath the dresser. I quickly filled his tank and deposited him back inside, where he immediately sprang back to life without any CPR or mouth-to-mouth necessary.
The succos-huts that we move into for the seven day holiday are much smaller than our homes and we give up many amenities and conveniences to be there. Yet there is a sense of jovial tranquility that permeates the succah.
The succah reminds us that no matter where we are in the world, ultimately our only real protection comes from Above. Sometimes we may think that if only we can escape the confining succah and run into the world beyond the s’chach there we will find excitement and fun. Perhaps that is true, but the cost of such an escape is a forfeiture of life itself.
It’s no coincidence that the holiday which celebrates leaving our homes and placing ourselves at the mercy of G-d’s elements, is also the holiday of joy. It’s the joy of being home, even when we are far from home.

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

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

Monday, September 24, 2012


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

YOM KIPPUR 5773[1]

          A woman once approached Rabbi Yosef Dov Soloveitchik zt’l and told him that she wanted to begin wearing tzitzis in order to feel more spiritual and closer to G-d.
Rabbi Soloveitchik replied that growth is achieved incrementally. Therefore, she should first begin wearing the four cornered tzitzis cloak without the strings for a few weeks and then report back to him.
After a few weeks she returned and reported that she indeed felt holier and was now ready to achieve the full tzitzis experience by inserting the strings.
Rabbi Soloveitchik replied, “The only thing you accomplished over the last few weeks is that if you were a man you would have transgressed a Biblical prohibition by wearing a four cornered cloak without tzitzis. Apparently, you don’t really know what spirituality is. Perhaps you would be better off fulfilling those mitzvos that are incumbent upon you for that is the real path to spirituality.”

          The very words “Kol Nidrei” evoke very distinct mental images in our minds. The shul cloaked in a sea of angelic white and the chazzan chanting the hauntingly penetrating ancient tune of Kol Nidrei. It is a prayer so powerful that the night derives its title from it - ‘Kol Nidrei night’. There is no dearth of stories of straying or unaffiliated Jews who have returned to their faith because they were so shaken and moved by the sanctity of Kol Nidrei.
Yet, Kol Nidrei is no more than a declaration of an annulment of our vows. It is nothing more than a public repetition of the prayer we recited individually Erev Rosh Hashanah. What then, is the awesome significance of the Kol Nidrei prayer and why is it the introduction to the awesome day of Yom Kippur?
          Before Kol Nidrei it is customary to recite Tefillas Zaka, a penetrating prayer expressing our deep remorse for all of the sins we committed. At its conclusion we add the Viduy d’Rabbeinu Nissim Gaon. One segment of the viduy states, “I have been lenient in that which You were stringent and stringent where You were lenient; I have permitted that which You prohibited and I have prohibited that which You permitted.” It is understandable why we need to confess inappropriate leniencies but what is wrong with being stringent and overly cautious?
          All of the karbonos offered on Yom Kippur came to atone for tumas Mikdash uk’doshov (defiling the temple). While it is true that defiling the temple is a serious offense punishable by Kares, one would think that there are more egregious sins that the korbanos of Yom Kippur should atone for, such as idolatry or immorality. What is the significance of tumas mikdash on Yom Kippur?
          When the Torah records the laws and guidelines for the unique service performed by the Kohain Gadol on Yom Kippur, it begins by stating that these laws were taught, “Acharei mos shenei b’nai Aharon- After the death of the two sons of Aharon.” The Torah is drawing our attention to an obvious connection between the tragic death of Aharon’s two sons and the Yom Kippur service. What is the connection? 

          In order to understand the essence of Yom Kippur we must comprehend what transpired during the initial Yom Kippur. Moshe Rabbeinu ascended Har Sinai after the Torah was given on Shavuos and remained there for forty days. On the seventeenth of Tammuz he descended, luchos in hand, to find Klal Yisroel dancing around the golden calf. After pulverizing the calf and exacting retribution from the perpetrators, Moshe re-ascended Har Sinai to plead the nation’s case before G-d. On Yom Kippur, after being promised that G-d would forgive them, Moshe returned.
          Although they surely had rationalizations and justifications for their actions, the Golden Calf was a form of blatant idolatry.
Chazal say that there can be two motives for idolatry. A Jew who is frustrated by the restriction and rigorous daily demands of the Torah may turn to idolatry simply as a pretext to indulge in forbidden pleasures[2]. While this form of idolatry is a serious breach of faith, it is not as egregious as the second idol-worshipper who does so out of mistaken ideology. This Jew who falsely concludes that there is another power besides G-d, has committed a far more spiritually damaging sin. The former idolater knows in his heart that his actions are wrong and therefore there is hope that he will eventually repent. The latter idolater however, is convinced that his idolatry is correct. In his search for spiritual fulfillment he has mistaken ersatz spiritualism for true G-dliness. It is far more difficult for one to repent when he is convinced of the veracity of his ways.
When Moshe Rabbeniu first descended Har Sinai and saw the Golden Calf he was unsure which classification of idolatry it stemmed from. But when he saw that they were dancing and rejoicing over it he understood that it was the more egregious form of idolatry. Only one who feels justified in his actions would espouse them and rejoice wholeheartedly. That is why the verse[3] states, “And it was when he (Moshe) approached the camp and he saw the calf and the dancing, and Moshe’s anger flared; he cast the luchos from his hands and shattered them at the foot of the mountain”. It was only when Moshe saw the dancing that he shattered the luchos because that proved to Moshe the true severity of their sin. The golden calf was not merely a hedonistic pretense for sin, but it represented an erroneous understanding of their relationship with G-d.
Therefore, when G-d forgave them on Yom Kippur it was for that mistaken outlook. In other words, the root of Yom Kippur is forgiveness for mistaken ideology and misunderstanding of true spirituality.   
Nadav and Avihu, the great elite sons of Aharon, who were worthy to become the successors of Moshe and Aharon, did not sin with materialistic motives. Their error lay in their misconstruing Divine service by adding unwarranted incense.
Their death is therefore the perfect introduction for the Yom Kippur service. The korbanos of Yom Kippur do not atone for hedonistic and materialistic sins because that is not at the core and essence of the day. One who is immersed in carnal pleasures has hope of repenting on his own accord. Rather, Yom Kippur atones for false impressions of spirituality and mistaken modalities in serving G-d.
This is also why we must confess for being overly stringent. If one does not follow the dictates of the Torah and lives a lifestyle beyond the parameters of the Torah - even by being more stringent - he has lost touch with what Judaism really is. An extreme example of this concept would be one who decides to keep a second Shabbos each week on Tuesday. Not only does his Tuesday observance not add to his Shabbos observance but he has diminished his regular Shabbos observance too. By adding to Shabbos he has demonstrated that he observes Shabbos according to his dictates, and therefore even the Shabbos he does keep is not a testament of his belief in G-d.
          The Gemara[4] compares one who makes a vow to one who constructs a bamah[5]. The Ran explains that just as a person who erects a bamah is deluding himself into thinking that he is accomplishing something of value by adding more altars and sacrifices than the Torah requires, so too someone who vows to adhere to self imposed restrictions and believes he is doing something meritorious by adding to the Torah.
There is no prayer more appropriate to commence the solemn day of repentance than a prayer which declares the annulment of all vows. On Yom Kippur we reaffirm ourselves to G-d’s will as the Torah commands. Repentance implies complete self abnegation to the Torah. Our own opinions are nullified before that sole truth. Kol Nidrei serves as the introduction of Yom Kippur because it sets that tone.
          We live in a world that seeks fulfillment and spirituality. Our society is a testament that fame, glamour, wealth and paparazzi cannot sooth the inner call of the soul yearning for fulfillment and growth. Yom Kippur’s message is that the only way a Jew can achieve fulfillment is by living according to the Torah.
It is vital that we understand that holiness is not translated by our definitions and how we envision it. As an example, it is late Yom Kippur and the day is waning. A man is in the back of shul feeling feeble and dizzy. He approaches the Rabbi and says that he can either fast or pray but he cannot do both. We may not think that lying in bed at the crescendo of the holy day is worth much, but that is what the Rabbi would tell him to do. The main mitzvah of Yom Kippur is to fast even if it means at the sacrifice of davening.
          So many Jews, even Torah Jews, delude themselves into thinking that they can become “spiritual” and “holy” based on their own agenda. Yom Kippur reminds us that holiness results from adhering to the Torah, and nothing else. It is a day of atonement for our ‘sticking our nose into G-d’s business’, i.e. by thinking we can improve and add to His work. It is only when we have accepted G-d’s word as unyielding and true that we can appreciate and bask in the genuine embrace of G-d and His holiness in the Succah during our festival of joy[6].
          “After the death of the two sons of Aharon”
          “I have prohibited that which You permitted”

[1] Stam Torah on Yom Kippur is lovingly dedicated to the memory of R’ Alexander ben Nutah Yitzchak z’l, Mr. Sender Mermelstein a’h, who was niftar, “B’ays ni’elas sha’ar” 1980/5740. Yehi zichro baruch!

[2] The Gemarah Sanehdrin 63a states that, “Klal Yisroel only worshipped idols to permit themselves to indulge in immorality.”
[3] Shemos 32:19
[4] Nedarim 22a
[5] A private altar outside the Bais Hamikdash
[6] This idea was gleaned from an essay in Time Pieces by Rabbi Aharon Lopiansky (Targum Press, 1995), a collection of penetrating essays on the Jewish year.


Erev Yom Kippur
9 Tishrei 5773/September 25, 2012

It’s never a good thing when your vacuum cleaner, not only stops cleaning the floor, but also begins regurgitating what it previously suctioned.
That’s exactly what happened in the Staum house Erev Shabbos last week. So with no recourse I surgically opened the bowels of the machine to try to figure out what had gone wrong. The bag wasn’t full and the main part of the machine seemed fine. So, my dear Watson, I surmised that there was obviously something wrong with the hose.
We (yes we, I had to call Chani in for backup…) realized that somebody (somebody to whom we pay money to clean our home!) had vacuumed up something big which had now wedged itself inside the hose, completely obscuring the air suction. The anonymous perpetrator herself brought the problem to my attention the next time she tried to use the machine.
We finally realized that it was a makeup brush that was stuck inside the hose. Now I don’t really know what a make-up brush is for, but I do know that it’s big enough to render our vacuum cleaner ineffective. Logic would dictate that if it was able to get in it should be able to come out, but thus far we have been unable to pry it out. (Sweeping the carpet is annoying)
You may be thinking that I’m going to use this anecdote to emphasize that Yom Kippur is a day to ‘makeup’ and rebuild relationships that have become ‘stuck’. There is definitely truth in that observation, but I have a different point in mind.
Every morning we declare before our Creator that ‘the soul that You have placed inside of me is pure.’ Our soul is a piece of divinity, an untouchable spark of holiness embedded in the core of our essence. When one performs mitzvos and acts in accordance with the Torah that spark becomes strengthened and we are further drawn to Torah and mitzvos like a spiritual magnet. We pine for even greater spiritual accomplishment and connection.
When we sin and do not act properly on the other hand, that connection becomes enervated and we start to feel spiritually numb. There is an empty sense of disconnect, like a barrier has been erected between us and what we intellectually know is right. But unlike our vacuum which became completely blocked and totally ineffective, Chazal tell us that the spark within us never becomes extinguished. The plug never falls out and the connection is never completely severed. Dimmed and numbed – yes, but always glowing beneath the muck and grime of our hindering foolish actions.
The great gift of Yom Kippur which Hashem grants us with love is an opportunity to clean the hose and – with proper repentance – instantly clear the channels so that the spark within us can again glow to its full capacity and draw us into its hypnotic spiritual embrace. Metaphorically, we need only to open the mechanism so that Yom Kippur itself will yank out the hindering debris, so that we can again feel the spiritual draw of our soul.
Forget Orrick, Hoover, and Electrolux. The joy and purity of Yom Kippur is the greatest cleanser of them all.

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

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

Wednesday, September 12, 2012


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


          It was a beautiful August day in Camp Dora Golding, during the summer of 2000/5760. I was walking from the Dining Room to learning groups with my Rebbe and a few other staff members. As we passed the lake, I felt a sting on the back of my neck. I instinctively slapped at my neck but, in the corner of my eye, I saw something fly away. It felt like a good pinch and it hurt quite a bit but I didn’t think much of it, and so I continued walking. I stopped by my bunkhouse where I was the counselor, to shoo some of my campers out to their learning groups. Then, I went to the staff learning group and sat down in my usual seat in front of my Rebbe.
While my Rebbe was taking attendance, my face began to feel hot. A friend sitting next to me, asked me if I was okay pointing out that my face had turned dark red. I replied that I thought I was alright but I wasn’t sure. He immediately jumped up and ran out to flag down one of the Camp Administrators who had an in-camp vehicle. Meanwhile, my feet began to itch uncontrollably and I began to feel dizzy. I quietly walked out of the room and waited outside.
A long minute later, one of the Division Heads drove up and I jumped on. Although the drive to the infirmary takes about two minutes, it was one of the longest drives of my life. By the time we reached the infirmary, I was completely dizzy, my vision was clouded, and I only saw black and white. The most alarming symptom however, was that I felt my neck begin to close up.  
The nurses who had already been alerted about my condition via radio, immediately called 9-1-1. When I came in to the infirmary, one of the nurses sprayed my neck with an anti-inflammatory spray and gave me two Benadryl tablets to take orally. However, it would take a few minutes for the Benadryl to kick in and, meanwhile, it was becoming increasingly difficult for me to breath. I remember vividly that the room began to swim as the nurse administered an Epipen into my leg.
A few minutes later, an ambulance arrived and the medics rushed to take my pulse and vitals. They quickly strapped me to a stretcher and wheeled me into the ambulance. As the ambulance roared down the old country rood with its sirens blaring, they hooked my arm to an intravenous. By the time we arrived at the Emergency Room of Pocono Medical, I was beginning to feel better. Still, I was hyperventilating out of panic from the whole situation. After a few hours of being monitored to ensure that there were no further complications, I was released that same afternoon and I returned to camp.
A few days later, the medic who accompanied me in the ambulance, came back to camp to tend to another emergency. When things had calmed down, I approached him to thank him for his help. I mentioned how lucky I felt because of what could have happened had I not received that Epipen shot within a few minutes. He looked at me and replied, “Son, you were lucky by less than a few minutes!”
Whenever I reflect upon that frightening experience, I cannot help but be amazed by the fact that a minuscule insect, probably no bigger than my fingernail, almost killed me!   

On the second day of Rosh Hashanah, we read the Torah’s account of the Akeidah. In addition, numerous times during our Rosh Hashanah prayers, we invoke the merit of the Akeidah. However, after the conclusion of the Torah’s recounting of the Akeidah, the day’s Torah reading continues with a short sequel of the Torah’s discussion of the descendants of Avrohom’s brother, Nachor.
And it was after these happenings (i.e. the Akeidah), it was told to Avrohom saying, ‘Behold! Milkah has also begot children for Nachor your brother. Utz his first born, and Booz his brother, and Kemuel the father of Aram. And Keshed, and Chazo, and Pildash, and Yidlaf, and Besuel. And Besuel begot Rivkah; these eight Milkah has given birth for Nachor, the brother of Avrohom. …[1] It is essentially nothing more than a list of names of Nachor’s children and grandchildren.
This seems to be an incredibly anti-climactic sequel. After recounting one of the greatest acts of selflessness in the history of the world, why is it necessary to list the whole family tree of Nachor on the second day of Rosh Hashanah[2]?

The Akediah concludes with a beautiful blessing that G-d promises Avrohom, “For I will surely bless you, and I will increase your children like the stars in heaven, and like the sand on the shores of the seas, and your children will inherit the gates of their foes. And through your progeny all nations will be blessed, because you have listened to My Voice.[3]
Almost immediately after recording this magnanimous blessing, the Torah segues into its recounting Nachor’s many children and grandchildren. One must wonder, what happened to the blessing of Avrohom? The great Avrohom has one unmarried son while Nachor is enjoying numerous grandchildren.
On the concluding words, “And Besuel begot Rivkah”, Rashi states, “This entire lineage was only written because of this pasuk.” Utz and Booz and all of their brothers would have remained obsolete were it not for the fact that they had a niece named Rivkah who would become a matriarch of Klal Yisroel.
In explaining the purpose of these verses, Rashi is revealing a fundamental insight. When G-d promised Avrohom that his children would be like the stars and the sand, He did not necessarily refer to a quantitative counting. Klal Yisroel is a nation of qualitative eternity, which can not be measured in human terms. The verses following the Akeidah demonstrate this concept. True, Nachor had far more descendants than Avrohom, but all of them were only worthy of mention because of Rivkah.

Rosh Hashanah is G-d’s re-coronation over the universe, as it were. Chazal teach us that we do not recite supplications on this awesome Day of Judgment, despite the fact that our futures hang in the balance. The day is dedicated to prayers imploring the Almighty to reveal His Presence to the world so that all of mankind will learn to praise and serve Him in unison. The greatest merit we can have during the awesome judgment is to demonstrate that our sole concern is for the Glory of G-d. We are ready to put all of our personal petitions and requests on hold, to prioritize our hopes for universal realization of the omnipotence of the Almighty King of Kings.
Rosh Hashanah is the anniversary of the creation of mankind and therefore is also the day that the Kingship of G-d was established. Only when mortal man accepted the Yoke of G-d, was His Kingship vindicated, as it were. Therefore, on the anniversary of its establishment, it is appropriate for man to declare his continued steadfast dedication to the Eternal Monarchy. One of the reasons the shofar is sounded, is to reflect the coronation, much like trumpets are sounded on the day of a human king’s coronation.
The overwhelming majority of humanity is completely unaware that anything significant is transpiring as they go about their routine business on Rosh Hashana. It makes us wonder: if the purpose of the day is to reestablish the kingship of G-d, can that be accomplished by a handful of Jews?
The answer lies in the eternal words of Rashi, “This entire lineage was only written because of this verse.” The re-coronation is indeed accomplished by a small percentage of humanity.
We state in the Mussaf prayer of Rosh Hashanah, “Hayom haras olam- Today is the anniversary of the world”. Perhaps, a brief study of geology and astronomy will convince us of the veracity of this concept:
Our solar system, the Milky Way, is hardly a speck in the universe. Within our galaxy, there are (as of this writing) eight planets and countless asteroids, moons, shooting stars etc. floating through space. Of all of the myriad objects floating through space, only one small planet has the capacity to sustain life. All other planets are either too close to the sun or too far away.
On planet earth itself, there is a relatively miniscule surface area on which mankind can survive. Planes do not fly above the Troposphere, the lowest level of the atmosphere, less than ten miles off the ground. Yet, planes require pressure and temperature controlled cabins because of the lack of oxygen and sub-freezing temperatures at that altitude.[4]
Below the crust of the earth, there is a ‘mantle’, a layer of rock so hot that it has the texture of melted plastic. Below the mantle is the core and, below that the inner core. The inner core is a solid size crystal, the size of the moon. The Mariana Trench is the deepest part of the Pacific Ocean and reaches a depth of 36,205 feet. It is a mile deeper than Mount Everest, at whose altitude one requires a metallic mask to protect from radiation and frost bite. At a depth of 12,000 feet into the ocean, the pressure is equivalent to the weight of five battleships. IF one would be able to descend to the Mariana Trench, the pressure would be absolutely unbearable. Still, the Mariana Trench remains above the mantle, under which lie two more layers.
Even earth, the only place in the universe capable of sustaining human life, is itself only able to promote life in a relatively insignificant area. Yet, the whole world, with all of its galaxies in a yet expanding universe, was only created for that one small area where human beings can live.
On the birthday of the universe, the universe itself is a living example of the potency and importance of Klal Yisroel. One nation among billions, who uphold their centuries-old traditions, and for them alone the world endures.
The creation is our parable and we are the moral of the story. We are the infinite descendants of Avrohom which G-d promised after the Akeidah. Perhaps, small in number but of infinite value!

Perhaps, this is why we read this sequel on Rosh Hashanah day. Just prior to the recitation of Mussaf when we proclaim our allegiance to the Majesty of the Eternal G-d, we strengthen ourselves by reminding ourselves that the continuation of the entire universe rests upon our efforts. We, the qualitative equivalent of stars and sand, carry the world on our shoulders.

In our world, we do not need to be taught about the powerful effect individuals can have on the whole world. In the twentieth century, two of the worst human beings in the annals of mankind, Adolph Hitler and Joseph Stalin, were responsible for the deaths of over fifty million people.[5] In contemporary times, nine wicked individuals shook the world, when they hijacked four planes on September 11th, 2001, using box cutters. However, their nefarious deeds taught an invaluable lesson about what a few people can accomplish with determination and courage!
In the completely opposite manner, we have that same ability. We remind ourselves of this at the conclusion of the Torah reading on the second day of Rosh Hashanah.

“Today is the birthday of the world” and all of it
…“was only written because of this verse!”

[1] Bereishis 22:20
[2] We could have easily worked out five aliyos (men called to the Torah) within the recounting of the Akeidah itself?
[3] 22:17
[4] The highest level of the atmosphere, the exosphere, begins three hundred miles from the ground and cannot maintain life
[5] Fifty million…the number is unfathomable!