Sunday, March 24, 2013

Stam Torah Haggadah

Dear Stam Torah faithful amush,

The link below is a brief running commentary on the Maggid section of the Haggadah with text. [Please note that because the text was transferred from a different computer program to Microsoft Word, a minimal few of the vowels in the text can be a bit off]
As everyone knows, there are myriad explanations and commentaries on every passage of the haggadah. The goal of my commentary was to present one explanation that the leader (or participants) at the Seder can use and repeat as a brief explanation of each passage of the haggadah, and to get a basic understanding of what we are saying.
Please note that almost none of the explanations are my own. Rather, they are culled from many different sources which i have read or heard over the years.(unfortunately, I didn't have the time to record the source for each one...)
I hope it will enhance your Seder.
I welcome all feedback and comments.

Link: Torah Haggadah - 5773.pdf
(To Download: Right click and click "Save Link As")

Wishing everyone a chag kasher v'samayach,
Dani & Chani
Shalom, Aviva, AVROHOM YOSEF, & Chayala Staum

Thursday, March 21, 2013


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


          One Pesach, when he was a young boy, Rabbi Yonasan Eibschutz (1690-1764) ‘stole’ his father’s afikomen and refused to return it until his father promised to buy him some new clothes after the holiday. At first, Yonasan’s father refused, but as the midnight deadline neared, he begrudgingly agreed. Hearing that his demands were met, Yonasan gave his father the afikomen and his father disseminated the matzah to everyone at the table except Yonasan. When Yonasan motioned to his father that he had not received a piece, his father replied that he would only give him a piece if he released him from his promise.
Yonasan smiled. “I figured you would do that”, he said as he pulled a piece of the afikomen from his pocket and began to eat it.

          The Tur at the beginning of his discussion of the laws of Pesach[1] explains that the Shabbos before Pesach is known as “Shabbos HaGadol – the Great Shabbos” because of the great miracle that transpired on that Shabbos just prior to the exodus.
On the tenth of Nissan G-d commanded the Jews to choose and set aside the lamb they would offer as their Korbon Pesach. The exodus transpired on the fifteenth of Nissan which was a Thursday, so the tenth of Nissan was on Shabbos.
The Tur explains, “Every family gathered their own lamb and tied it to their bed-posts. When the Egyptians saw what the Jews were doing they demanded an explanation. The Jews explained that G-d had commanded them to set aside a lamb to be offered as a sacrifice to Him. When the Egyptians heard that the Jews were going to offer their god as a sacrifice[2], they became incensed. But their teeth were blunted and they were powerless to say, or do anything to impede the sacrifices from being offered. In commemoration of that great miracle, the Shabbos became known as Shabbos HaGadol-the Great Shabbos.”
          The commentators wonder why the Shabbos before Pesach was chosen as the day to commemorate the miracle. If the anniversary of the miracle was on the tenth of Nissan, why doesn’t that day gain elevated status? There seems to be a reason why the Sages felt that the commemoration of that miracle should specifically be on Shabbos.
          The Gerrer Rebbe points out that every Shabbos is called “Hagadol,” as we say in the prayer retzai added in Birkas Hamazon on Shabbos, “May You be pleased to grant us rest, Hashem our G-d, through Your commandments and through the commandments of the seventh day, this great and holy Shabbos[3]. For this day is great and holy before You…” Thus, when we deem the Shabbos before Pesach to be “Shabbos Hagadol” we actually mean that it is ‘gadol shebagedolim’, i.e. the greatest of the great!

          At the circumcision of every Jewish child, we confer upon the child the timeless blessing, “Zeh hakatan gadol yihiyeh” loosely translated as, “this small (child) should become bigger”. Rabbi Yosef Dov Soloveitchik zt’l offered a novel and insightful explanation of this blessing:
          Rav Tzadok Hakohain writes that if one wants to understand the true meaning of a word, he should analyze the context of the first time that the word is mentioned in the Torah.
The first time the words katon (small) and gadol (large) are used in the Torah is in reference to the creation of the sun and moon, on the fourth day of creation. The verse[4] states, “And G-d created the two large luminaries; the large luminary (hama’or hagadol) to dominate the day and the small luminary (hama’or hakaton) to dominate the evening, and the stars.”
The relationship between the sun and the moon is a relationship of give and take. The sun has its own inherent light that illuminates and warms the world through its resplendent rays. The moon however, is merely a reflector. All day long it is the recipient of the sun’s light and when the sun descends it emerges and reflects the light it received from the sun. Therefore, the word gadol, which first appears in the Torah as referring to the sun, connotes a being or an object that reflects its own inherent light and greatness. The word katan on the other hand, whose first usage in the Torah is in reference to the moon, refers to a being that does not possess its own light, but rather reflects whatever greatness or light it receives.
          At a circumcision we celebrate the initiation of a young new member into the covenant of Avrohom Avinu and hope he will take his place among the ranks of Klal Yisroel. The eight day old infant does not possess any knowledge or understanding at this point of his life. For the duration of his youth and adolescence, the child is a receptacle that will be molded by the education he receives from his parents, teachers, mentors, and friends. We bless the youth that “Zeh hakatan Gadol Yihiyeh”, although at this stage he is merely a reflection (katan), we pray that he will develop into a gadol, one who possesses his own greatness, his own wisdom, and his own ambitions. We hope that this child will become a role model and a ‘reflector’ for others.

          Shabbos is not only the culmination and conclusion of the week, but it is also the commencement of the following week. The Sidduro Shel Shabbos[5] explains that one must strive to maintain the sanctity he feels on Shabbos throughout the six mundane days of the week. The Gemara[6] states, “If only Klal Yisroel were to safeguard two Shabbosos properly, they would immediately be redeemed.”
Sidduro Shel Shabbos explains that this means if Klal Yisroel were able to maintain the heights and lofty levels that they gained during the previous Shabbos throughout the entire week, and enter the following Shabbos still clinging to the spiritual greatness of the previous Shabbos, they would reach such an elevated level that they would be worthy of redemption.
          If “gadol” connotes inherent light and greatness, then there is nothing more worthy of the title gadol than Shabbos. The very day of Shabbos infuses a Jew with spiritual vigor and rejuvenation to transcend the vicissitudes and challenges of the upcoming week. Therefore, it is highly apropos that we refer to Shabbos as, “HaShabbos hagadol v’hakadosh hazeh”. 
          The purpose of the redemption from Egypt was solely so that Klal Yisroel should accept the Torah at Sinai and become a ‘light unto the nations’. Being a Jew often entails going against the tide. We must be willing to stand up to the luring hedonism of society and proclaim our defiance.
          Although Klal Yisroel did not truly become the Chosen Nation until they received the Torah at Sinai, the trajectory which set that process in motion began on the tenth of Nissan. When Klal Yisroel tied their lambs to their bed posts in full view of their former oppressors it demonstrated their preparedness to risk their lives to fulfill the Service of G-d[7].
          Klal Yisroel is not merely a nation among other nations. We are commissioned to be the guiding light, the example to the world of ethics and morality. In that sense, we are a Great Nation, an “am Gadol” who reflect the will of G-d.
          Klal Yisroel can only fulfill its mission of being the Chosen Nation with the sanctity and holiness of Shabbos. Shabbos grants spiritual vitality to its adherents, and that is what Jew seeks to symbolize to the rest of the world. A Jew must personify in personality the holiness that Shabbos reflects in time.
Therefore, the celebration of the tenth of Nissan and what it represents - our complete dedication to the Will of G-d, is most appropriately celebrated on Shabbos. On the tenth of Nissan, Klal Yisroel began the process which culminated at Sinai.  Every Shabbos, a Jew does the same spiritually. Shabbos is a, “day of Gadol” because the rest of the week nurtures itself from its inherent greatness. Klal Yisroel is a, “nation of Gadol” because the rest of the world nurtures itself from our inherent greatness.
On the Shabbos when Klal Yisroel set out on its mission, the day truly is, “gadol shebagedloim- the greatest of the great day of Shabbos”.

“The small should become bigger”
“This great and holy Shabbos”


[1] Siman 430
[2] the lamb was the god of Egypt
[3] HaShabbos hagadol v’hakadosh hazeh
[4] Bereishis 1:16
[5] In his introduction
[6] Shabbos 118b
[7] The Jews had no way of knowing that a miracle would occur


Erev Shabbos Kodesh Parshas Tzav/Shabbos Hagadol
11 Nissan 5773/March 22, 2013

Do you know who I wish I could be like on Seder night? Walter Mitty! “The secret life of Walter Mitty” is a story written by James Thurber in 1939. It was made into a film in 1947.
Walter Mitty has a vivid imagination. In fact, he gets utterly lost in his fantastical imagination. Anything he sees can trigger him into a fantasy world where he takes on the character he imagines. In a few dozen paragraphs he imagines himself as a wartime pilot, an emergency-room surgeon, and a devilish killer. He becomes so engrossed in his daydream that he loses sight of where he is or what he’s doing.
His name has come to characterize people who become too absorbed in daydreams and fantasies. In Fact, the American Heritage Dictionary defines a Walter Mitty as "an ordinary, often ineffectual person who indulges in fantastic daydreams of personal triumphs".
Hanging on the wall of the shul in Ashar is a beautiful panoramic picture of Sha’ar Yaffo lit up at night. During davening, especially when mentioning Yerushalayim, I often look at the picture and wish I could lose myself in it like Walter Mitty.
Ba’alei Mussar note that our koach hatziyur – our ability to imagine and picture things, can be a powerful tool in regards to elevating our Avodas Hashem. When one davens he should picture himself standing before a king, and when one learns Torah he should imagine Hashem watching proudly, along with legions of angels.
On Seder night we strive to lose ourselves in the pages of the haggadah as the story comes alive before us. On this one night the Haggadah itself exhorts us to be like Walter Mitty, jumping into the pages of the text before us in the epic account of exile and redemption.
But what if I am not as imagining as Walter Mitty and cannot picture ourselves as slaves in Egypt? What if I can’t bring myself to experience the pain of the servitude in behind the iron crucible of Egyptian exile, or the joy of being freed from bondage?
The word ‘Mitzrayim’ literally means boundaries. On the night of the redemption, our ancestors were able to penetrate and break free of the shackles of exile which spiritually paralyzed them for more than two centuries. On that night they were able to become who they really wanted to become. They were finally free to serve G-d as He demanded.
The redemption symbolizes to every one of us that we too have the ability - with G-d’s help - to traverse and break free of the limitations and boundaries that restrain us from being who we really pine to become. We too can triumph over the Pharaohs which shackle us from overcoming the boundaries which constrict and restrict us. If G-d took out a hapless defenseless nation of millions from the nefarious clutches of the most powerful and domineering nation on earth, He surely can redeem us from our personal struggles and vicissitudes as well.
You don’t need to have a vivid imagination to picture yourself leaving Egypt. All you need is belief in yourself to begin the journey, and faith that G-d will lead you to your Promised Land.

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

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

Wednesday, March 13, 2013


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


          Rabbi Mendel of Rimanov zt’l[1] once mused, “When there were no roads, one had to cease all travels at sundown. The weary traveler had the leisure to recite a few chapters of Tehillim, immerse himself in Torah study, and converse with those around him. Today, one can travel the roads throughout day and night. There is no longer any peace of mind.”

          Chumash Vayikra commences with a lengthy discussion of the various korbanos- offerings brought in the Bais Hamikdash. Each offering was unique, requiring particular adherence to minute detail and the particular laws endemic to that offering. If one were to deviate one iota from the meticulous requirements of his particular obligatory offering, not only would he render his offering invalid, but he would be placing his life in great peril.
          There was one ingredient that had to be added to all offerings, salt! “You shall salt every meal offering with salt; you may not discontinue the salt of your G-d’s covenant from upon your meal offering – on every offering you shall offer salt.[2]” The Medrash explains that when G-d divided the heavenly waters above the firmament and the earthly waters on the second day of creation, the earthly waters protested. They too wanted to remain in close proximity of G-d. To assuage the lower waters, G-d assured them that they would have a share in the service of the Bais Hamikdash. Salt, which comes from the sea, would be an integral additive to every offering. [3]
          Rabbi Samson Rafael Hirsch zt’l explains the reason why salt is the agent which was used to appease the lower waters. He explains that aside from salt’s practical use as an indispensable enhancer of taste, it is also used as a sterilizing and neutralizing agent. A field sown with salt will cease to produce.
On the other hand, salt is also a preservative, and will help maintain a food’s freshness from rotting. Salt represents immutability and resistance to change. A covenant, which represents an eternal bond, is appropriately represented by salt, which symbolizes consistency and unchanging constancy.

          For over two centuries the burgeoning Jewish nation remained enslaved to Pharaoh in oppressive draconian servility. Yet, the millions of enslaved Jews never organized a protest or revolution. There is no record of any mass assemblies, Jewish unions, or agencies. Nor do we find any mention of Jews gathering to contemplate why G-d was allowing them to suffer so. There were no appeals outside foreign embassies asking for intervention from the U.N. Security Council, or million-man protest marches on Cairo or prayer vigils outside Pharaoh’s palace. 
Mesillas Yesharim[4] explains that Pharaoh understood that the key to growth stems is constant introspection, and sincere desire to grow spiritually. Pharaoh knew that the only way to curtail that growth was by not allowing the Jews to contemplate their spiritual status. It was for this reason that Pharaoh ensured that the servitude include unbearable quotas. “Intensify the men’s labor and let them not gain hope through false words”[5].
In the vernacular of the Mesillas Yesharim, “His intention was not merely to deprive them of all their leisure so that they would not come to oppose or plot against him, but he strove to strip their hearts of all thoughts by means of the enduring, interminable nature of their labor.”
Mesillas Yesharim continues, “This is precisely the device that the evil inclination employs against man; for he is a warrior, well versed in deception.” Our evil inclination does not merely seek to impede our performance of mitzvos, but rather he goes for the juggernaut by challenging the source of all spiritual growth. He ensures that we are so involved and overwhelmed with the demands of daily life that we lack time and ability for introspection and self-assessment. We thus lose perspective of our goals and personal aspirations, instead fading into monotonous passivity of our daily affairs.   
          The commentators question the justification for Pharaoh’s austere punishments during the ten plagues. What justification was there for G-d to harden Pharaoh’s heart and then to punish him for being perfidious? Is it fair to punish someone for doing something he was compelled to do?
           My Zayde, Rabbi Yaakov Meir Kohn zt’l, related an explanation offered by the Ba’alei Mussar[6]: In truth, Pharaoh was being treated in the same manner that he treated the Jews, middah k’negged middah – measure for measure.  When Pharaoh overburdened the Jews with unbearably harsh servitude and body-breaking labor, he essentially robbed the Jews of their ability to think. Doing so was akin to removing their free choice, because without reflection and introspection a Jew is easy prey for his trenchant evil inclination. Therefore, it was perfectly fair for Pharaoh’s free choice to be suspended so that he should be forced to suffer the consequences of his folly.
With this in mind, we can offer a novel reason why we dip the karpas vegetable into salt water at the Seder[7]. Salt, the neutralizing agent, represents the secret to Pharaoh’s entrapment of the Jews in Egypt. Pharaoh understood that if he was able to strangle and impede the Jews’ spiritual growth, they would be at his mercy. Salt, which represents stagnancy and torpidity, also represents the suspension of the Jews’ ability to pray, reflect, and hope. In a sense, salt water is symbolic of the root of the entire exile and servitude. How apropos that the representation of Jewish tears and inner pain is also a reflection of the spiritual choke-hold that the Jews’ found themselves in at the behest of Pharaoh in Egypt.

If Rabbi Mendel of Rimanov was apprehensive about people’s mental state in his day, what would he say about our volatile generation? We have cars that go from 0 to 60 M.P.H. in less than five seconds, jets that can traverse oceans in a few hours; we have landed men on the moon and sent unmanned rockets to the ends of the Milky Way. We have discovered new medical procedures, including non-invasive laser surgery, and technological advances that allow us to communicate from one end of the world to the other efficiently and with ease. Yet, we feel less fulfilled, depression abounds, and anxiety is almost as common as the flu.
The irony is that the faster technology becomes and the more efficient our world is, the greater the expectation and demand, and the less time we have. Reflection, introspection, the art of dialogue, and the vital ability to be patient with others and ourselves, is rare.
Physically, Pharaoh may be long gone but his legacy is alive and well. If the Jews at the time were stuck in the morass of stagnancy, we are sinking in it. The ability to grow spiritually is contingent upon our ability to reflect upon our past accomplishments and to consider what we still need to accomplish. In today’s day and age stopping for anything is a challenge, even a red light. 
The holiday of Pesach celebrates our emergence as a dignified people from the depths of Egyptian exile and persecution. A baby needs constant devotion and attention and no machine can fill the shoes of a loving parent. If Pesach celebrates our birth and maturation from infancy, than it also celebrates the nurturing love that G-d granted at the time of the exodus. If the exile was due to stagnancy, the redemption was a result of G-d’s devotion and love. The antidote for our generation’s personal stagnancy and antipathy is also with love, patience, devotion, as well as introspection and reflection.   

 “Let the work be increased upon the men”
“On every offering you shall offer salt”

[1] one of the great Chassidic Masters of the late eighteenth century,
[2] Vayikra 2:13
[3] In addition, there would be a special water libation offered on the altar during the Yom Tov of Succos.
[4] chapter 2
[5] Shemos 5:9
[6] Master Ethicists
[7] The noted reason why we dip the karpas into salt water is because salt water is reminiscent of the tears the Jews shed because of the unbearable Egyptian oppression


Erev Shabbos Kodesh Parshas Vayikra
4 Nissan 5773/March 15, 2013

In case you didn’t know, the United States celebrates National Potato Chip Day on March 14. Not that I think Americans need any added excuse to consume potato chips, which are the largest selling segment of the salty snacks market ($6.8 billion in sales in 2010).
But I think a lot of people wonder how much of that $6.8 billion was spent on chips, and how much on the air that fills half the bag. It seems that a lot more chips can easily be stuffed into the bags. Is it all a scam?
Potato chips companies argue that the air is necessary for the quality of the chip. If the bag would be completely filled, the chips inside would end up being very crummy. The air in the bag serves as a cushion to protect the chips from crumbling. In fact, the FDA allows some air as food protection. [The question becomes if they are adding more air than necessary.]
At this time of year, as we gear up for the annual chometz war, the concept of air in food is significant. Matzo and bread contain the same basic ingredients, are both baked in an oven, and are both very nourishing. The significant difference is that matzah remains flat, while bread is given time to rise and fill with air.
One of the greatest lessons to be derived from Pharaoh’s downfall is the power of arrogance. His country and people were on the brink of utter decimation, yet he would not back down.
A person who is so focused on himself that he cannot see beyond, is trapped in the symbolic arrogance of chometz.
The truth is that our ego plays a vital role. We need to appreciate ourselves and understand the incalculable value that we possess in order to utilize our capabilities properly. But before one can have a healthy sense of ego, he has to be able to be able to see beyond his ego.
Pesach is a training period where we symbolically remove all traces of “I” so we can fully focus on the salvation G-d granted us. Only after spending a week focusing on that point are we confident that we can maintain a healthy sense of ego, and introduce chometz back into our homes. Much like the air in the potato chip bag, which when used in moderation protects the freshness and quality of the chip, so does a healthy ego leads a person to be caring and sensitive to others. But when there is too much air and the bag becomes inflated with vapid nothingness, it becomes nothing more than wasted space which frustrates everyone.
One of the most humble people I knew was my Sabbah, Mr. Abe Staum a’h. He was a prince of a man, with a genial laugh, and a kind word for everyone. His yahrtzeit, 4 Nissan, is always during the season when we rid ourselves of chometz. [The fact that his yahrtzeit coincides with National Chip Day this year is just a coincidence, though Sabbah would have gotten a good laugh out of it…] Sabbah remains an example of true humility – a healthy sense of self which allowed him to live a life beyond himself, a life immersed in chesed. 
I conclude with the timeless wisdom of one of the great philosophers of yesteryear, Lou Costello, who once asked his erstwhile companion: “If hot air makes a balloon go up, tell me what’s holding you down?”

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

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

Thursday, March 7, 2013


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


          It was the final day of the semester. The proctor placed an exam on every desk, facing downward. The nervous students fidgeted quietly in their seats. The proctor completed her round and returned to the front of the room, “You will have exactly one hour to complete the exam. At that time, you must hand in your test. Any student failing to do so, will automatically fail. You may begin now.”
          Well before the hour was over, most of the students had completed their exams and left. When the hour was up, the remaining few handed in their tests and exited. The proctor was preparing to leave when she noticed one student still working feverishly on his test, oblivious to his surroundings. The proctor sat down and patiently waited. Another forty-five minutes went by before the student finally put down his pencil and made his way to the front of the room.
          By now the proctor was quite agitated, “Young man, I hope you realize that you will be receiving an ‘F’ on the exam.” The student looked at her nonchalantly, “Ma’am do you know who I am?” The proctor shook her head. “Do you know who my father is?” The proctor began to gather her belongings. “I don’t know who your father is, and frankly I don’t care.” The young boy edged toward the pile of exams, “You’re sure you don’t know who I am?” The proctor firmly shook her head. “Good!” he replied, as he shoved his paper in the middle of the pile of tests and ran out of the room.

           “These are the reckonings of the Mishkan, the Mishkan of Testimony, which were reckoned at Moses’ bidding… Bezalel, son of Uri son of Chur, of the tribe of Yehuda, did everything that Hashem commanded Moshe.[1]
          Why does the Torah make it a point to repeatedly note Bezalel’s extended pedigree[2]?
          Rashi explains that the Mishkan is called the “Mishkan of Testimony,” for the fact that G-d’s Presence rested there, served as testimony that G-d had forgiven Klal Yisroel for the sin with the golden calf.
          If anyone had reason to want to abstain from assisting with the construction of the Mishkan, it was Bezalel. The Mishkan served as a testimony that G-d had pardoned Klal Yisroel for the heinous sin that included the murder of his righteous grandfather, Chur. The blood of his Zayde cried out from the walls of the Mishkan[3].  
          Meshech Chochma[4] explains that it was specifically Bezalel who was commissioned to construct the Keruvim above the Aron. After the nation had constructed and served the Golden Calf, how could G-d instruct them to place golden Keruvim in the Holy of Holies? Perhaps they would end up deifying them as well. It was only Bezalel, who was so manifestly pained by the sin of the Golden Calf, who could be trusted to create the Keruvim with pure intentions.
          By overcoming his personal feelings, Bezalel demonstrated an incredible dedication to the unity of Klal Yisroel. Bezalel understood that if Klal Yisroel required atonement than he did as well. As a nation, Klal Yisroel rises and falls together.

          Haman, the instigator of the Purim miracle, understood this idea well. When he approached King Achashveirosh to proposition him to eradicate the Jews, he offered him ten thousand silver talents to compensate for any loss the destruction of the Jews would incur.
Tosafos[5] notes that Haman gave precisely ten thousand silver talents to counter-balance the half-shekalim given by the six hundred thousand Jews in the desert[6].
          Rabbi Shlomo Alkabetz zt’l explains that the reason G-d commanded every Jew in the desert to contribute a half shekel - no more and no less[7] - was to symbolize that every individual Jew is a part of a bigger whole.
          The Gemara[8] records that when Haman went to seek Mordechai in order to parade him through the streets of Shushan, as per Achashveirosh’s instruction, Mordechai was learning with his students. Mordechai was sure Haman had come to kill him, and he urged his students to flee. They insisted on staying at his side, and Mordechai continued his Talmudic lecture.
Haman waited respectfully until Mordechai finished, and then asked him what he was studying. Mordechai explained that that day was the sixteenth day of Nissan and the second day of Pesach. When the Bais Hamikdash stood, the Kohanim would offer the Korbon Omer that day[9]. The designated Kohain would remove a fistful from the Mincha offering to be burnt on the altar, and what remained in the bowl was eaten by the Kohanim. Haman replied that Mordechai’s fistful of flour had outweighed the ten thousand silver talents he had offered Achashveirosh to destroy the Jews.
          What did Haman mean?
          Chazal explain that one of the chief motivations of Achashveirosh’s seven day feast for all of the inhabitants of Shushan was to lure the Jews into sin, so that they would be worthy of punishment. This was actually Haman’s plan, which he convinced Achashveirosh was flawless. When the vast majority of the Jewish inhabitants defied Mordechai’s explicit instruction that they not attend the feast, they were indeed held culpable in the celestial court.
Alshich explains that when Haman heard Mordechai’s explanation about the Minchah, he saw in it the symbolic undermining of his arguments to Achashveirosh. The rule is that as a collective people, the Jews are held accountable for individual sins only if no one protested the sin. If the leaders protested however, the rest of the nation is not held accountable.
          While only a small fistful of the Minchah was offered on the altar, that fistful was sufficient to permit the remaining majority for consumption by the Kohanim. Haman understood that because Mordechai and the other sages had protested Klal Yisroel’s attending the party of Achashveirosh the nation could not be completely liable for attending.
          The Purim miracle and its salvation came about because of the unification of the Jewish people in their darkest hour.
          The Kotzker Rebbe notes that Haman told Achashveirosh that the Jews were, “A scattered and diverse nation.[10]” The rectification for their flaw of disunity lay in Esther’s clarion call to Mordechai to, “Gather all of the Jews together[11].”
          Klal Yisroel had not heeded Mordechai’s warning to keep their distance from Achashveirosh’s party. They rectified that sin by surrendering themselves to his instruction to fast and repent.
          Tanna D’vei Eliyahu[12] writes that during the Egyptian exile, the hapless, persecuted Jews made a treaty to do kindness with each other[13].
When the nation stood at Sinai they surrounded the mountain “like one man with one heart”. The key to redemption, and the perquisite for receiving the Torah, is unity. 
The Mishna[14] quotes Hillel who stated, “Do not separate yourself from the public”. One who distances himself from the public risks individual scrutiny. But one who ‘slips his paper in the middle of the pile’ by negating himself to the ‘Klal’ will merit salvation along with all of his brethren.  
The holiday of Pesach is a national celebration. In the time of the Bais Hamikdash the nation would gather together in Yerushalayim, and offer their Pesach sacrifices together. Then, on the eve of the Seder, after they had completed their meals, every family would ascend to the flat rooftops of the Holy City, and they would sing hallel in unison. The gemara records that the melodious hallel was so powerful that it would metaphorically ‘break the rooftops’[15].
The reading of Parshas Hachodesh recounts all of the laws pertaining to the offering of the Korbon Pesach on the eve of their redemption. We hope and pray that this very year we will yet merit to sing hallel together with all of our brethren in Yerushalayim, praising G-d not only for the miracles of then, but also for the miracles of now!

            ”Bezalel… son of Chur… did everything Hashem commanded Moshe”
“Like one man with one heart”

[1] Shemos 38:21-22
[2] see Shemos 31:2 and 35:30
[3] The gemara (Sanhedrin 7a) relates that when the Eiruv Rav came to the conclusion that Moshe was not returning from Sinai, they aggregated around Chur demanding that he do something. Chur vociferously countered that Moshe would return and they should disperse. They responded with a mass upheaval that resulted in Chur getting stoned to death. It was only when Aharon saw his nephew murdered in front of him that he fearfully sought to detain the evil aggregate by telling them to amass all the gold and jewelry they could find, which ultimately led to the emergence of the Golden Calf.
[4] Shemos 37:1
[5] Megillah 16a
[6] See Hagahos haBach who explains how Tosafos understood Haman’s calculation
[7] see Shemos 30:11-16
[8] Megilla 16a
[9] Its base ingredients were flour and oil, like any Korban Mincha
[10] Esther 3:8
[11] 4:16
[12] T.D.E. Rabbah, end of perek 23
[13] They didn’t just pledge it; they forged a treaty with each other!
[14] Avos 2:5
[15] In America we would say it ‘raised the roofs’.


Erev Shabbos Kodesh Parshios Vayekhel-Pekudei/Hachodesh
26 Adar 5773/March 8, 2013

How many Dani Staums does it take to change a light bulb?
Although I have been blessed with certain talents and capabilities, construction and home improvement are not on that list. In that regard, the good Lord has endowed me with two left hands. While I have some friends who absolutely love stores like Home Depot and Lowes, I have anxiety attacks when I have to go into one of those stores. I have a tool box at home that I received as a housewarming gift from a friend, but I am not really sure what to do with it (a wrench is a decent paperweight).
I also have a very hard time picturing things. When we were looking at houses a few years ago, and even now whenever we are doing any home improvement which requires some imagination of what the finished product will look like, I have a very hard time. I just can’t picture things that don’t yet exist.
It becomes a point of frustration whenever Chani excitedly tells me about her plans for something and I have the look on my face of a third grader sitting in a college level calculus class. Still, I do my best to try to pay attention (sometimes).
For example, iy’h in the near future we plan to redo our kitchen. I try to listen to the plans and picture what it will look like. I must admit that from my mental images, I have a hard time understanding why we are putting the dishwasher on top of the fridge, or why we are placing the milichig sink next to the fleishig oven, with “plenty of place for storage”. But I just nod my head and try not to interfere.
Even though it’s a challenge, since it’s important to her I try to make it important to me.
The parshios at the end of Chumash Shemos are particularly challenging. It’s not easy to follow the depictions and descriptions of the Mishkan, or its vessels and vestments, from a cursory reading of the verses. Even with the wonderful resources available today, including pictures and interactive CD-ROMs, it’s still a challenge to follow the pesukim.
In a certain sense, investing effort to understand these parshios is a greater testament of our love and loyalty to Hashem, than other parshios which contain intriguing stories, or contemporary lessons.  
Why should I bother to try to understand what the mizbeiach (altar) looked like, how the eiphod (Kohain Gadol’s ‘apron’) looked, or how the kerashim (boards) were placed in the sockets surrounding the Mishkan? Only because it is the House of Hashem, and therefore I make it important to me!
So while I don’t know how many Dani Staums it will take to change a light bulb, I will say this: Don’t try to describe to me where the bulb is that needs changing, or you might just end up with a bulb affixed inside your garbage can.
Home Depot says “you can do it we can help”. I say if you can help why should I do it?

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

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