Thursday, May 30, 2013


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

L’zecher nishmas Ephraim Mordechai ben R’ Moshe Yitzchok Hakohain Yarmush a’h, a dear friend whose yahrtzeit is this Shabbos, 23 Sivan.


In his incredibly inspiring memoir, Out of the Depths, Rav Yisroel Meir Lau shlita recounts his experiences as the youngest surviving inmate at Bergen-Belsen. He relates that just before she was separated from him for the final time, Rabbi Lau’s mother told his older brother Naphtali to always take care of Lulek (as Rabbi Lau was then called). Somehow Naphtali managed to remain near his younger brother for most of the war. But as the Allies closed in on the Nazis the Nazis decided to relocate the inmates. Naphtali was convinced that he would never be coming back. He snuck over to his younger brother’s barracks to speak to him one last time:
Lulek, they are taking me. I hope, but I can’t be sure, that we will see each other again sometime. There is no way back from where they’re taking us. You’re a big boy now; you’ll be eight in a few months. I can’t and I won’t hide the truth from you. I see no chance of being saved from this hell. It’s the end of the world. We have no father, they took Milek as well, and I don’t know what happened to Mother. She probably thinks and talks about us all the time, but I’m not sure she’s alive. Now they’re taking me too, and you’ll be alone. I see that you have friends here… Maybe there’ll be a miracle and you’ll stay alive, and all this will end sometime. I’ve come to tell you that there is a place in the world called Eretz Yisroel. Say ‘Eretz Yisroel’ – the Land of Israel. Again. Repeat after me.
“Eretz Yisroel is the home of the Jews. The foreign nations exiled us from there long ago, and we must return. This is the only place in the world where they do not kill Jews. If you stay alive, you will surely meet people who will want to take you with them to other places, because you’re a nice kid. But you aren’t going anywhere else. Remember what I say, only Eretz Yisroel!2” 

The spies had returned from Eretz Yisroel and the nation eagerly awaited their official report. The results were catastrophic and history-altering. “The entire assembly raised its voice; the people wept that night.3
The gemara4 states that the night the spies returned and delivered their negative report was Tisha B’av eve. G-d said to them, “You cried a cry for nothing, and I will enact for you a cry for generations.” The sin of the spies was a root-cause for the destruction of both Batei Mikdash.
The gemara there also notes that in the first, second, and fourth chapters of Megillas Eichah5, the first letter of each verse is written according to the order of the Hebrew Alphabet. However, in the second and fourth chapters the letter פ (Peh) appears before the letter ע (Ayin). This is to demonstrate that the flaw of the spies was that they spoke about things they didnt see6.
Rabbi Shimon Schwab zt’l7 asks that the gemara’s condemnation about the spies report doesn’t seem justified, for every word they related was indeed what they had seen. While scouting out the land they had seen giants who made them feel puny and inferior.
Rabbi Schwab explained that our perception is based on our emotions. It is well known that ‘a person sees what he wants to see’. Two people can view the same situation and yet have radically different perspectives and conclusions about what they saw.8When a person gazes at something with a spiritual perspective he will see it far differently then one who is merely perusing for aesthetic pleasure. 
The sin of the Spies was that they were viewing Eretz Yisroel from a physical perspective. Had they entered the Land searching for the holiness invested there, the Land the Patriarchs had traversed and were buried in, the Land where the Akeidah occurred, the Land of the Future of Klal Yisroel, a place where “Living souls compose the air of your Land9”, they would never have been able to say anything negative about the land. Instead they would have returned to the nation and passionately preached about the holiness of every inch of the Land, and they would have fueled the excitement in the hearts of the nation to arrive there as quickly as possible.
The tragedy was that they sought the physical qualities of the Land and therefore they truly saw its trees, fruits, and stones. But looking at the Land through physical eyes is not really seeing it at all. They were charged to report back about the essence of the Land, which can only be realized if one is viewing the Land with spiritual eyes. Therefore, they were justifiably accused of speaking about what they had not seen. True, they had seen it with their eyes. But “they had seen the mountain and did not see the Divine Presence resting above it.” 
The tragedy of Tisha B’av is rooted in our viewing the world through physical eyes, by not recognizing the Hand of G-d in every thing that occurs in the world, and in every facet of our lives. A Jew is charged with viewing life through a spiritual prism, in which he tries to see the hidden Hand of G-d behind the concealment of nature. One who does not live his life in such a manner may see with his eyes, but he surely is not seeing with his soul.

The final gemara in Kesuvos10 relates the great passion and love that the Amoraim had for Eretz Yisroel: “Rabbi Abba would kiss the stones of Akko; Rabbi Chanina attended to the obstacles along the road; Rabbi Ami and Rabbi Asi used to stand up (during learning) and move from the sunlight into the shade and from the shade into the sunlight (so they shouldn’t feel the need to complain about the heat of the sun or the chill in the shade). Rabbi Chiya bar Gamda would roll in its dust to fulfill the verse11“For your servants desire its stones, and in its dust they will find favor.” 
Strangely, in his commentary there, Rashi records the verse from Tehillim without a heading12. Rashi’s objective is always to elucidate and clarify the words of the gemara. What is the point of recording verbatim the verse which was just stated in the gemara?
A teacher must sometimes work hard to foster feelings of love for a challenging student because the teacher knows that is the only way he can properly educate him. Parents on the other hand, don’t love their child because it is the only manner in which they can educate their child; that love is truly genuine. Parents love their children because that love is deeply rooted in them. 
Ba’al Shem Tov explains that Rashi is explaining the extent of the love and passion that the aforementioned Amoraim felt. The gemara states that Rabbi Chiya rolled in the dust to fulfill the verse which speaks about how the dust of the land finds favor in the eyes of the nation. Rashi is saying that Rabbi Chiya (as well as the other Amoraim) did not do what they did merely to fulfill a verse, but because they truly felt that sense of internal love and passion for the Land.
In our time, as it has always been, Eretz Yisroel is a far cry from Dr’ Suess’s Solla Sollew, the land where “they never have problems, at least very few.” But it all depends how one views the Land. If one sees Israel as a country in the Middle East, riddled with politics, disunity, and disappointment, and surrounded by virulently dangerous enemies, one feels that the Spies were, G-d forbid, justified in their assessment that “it’s a land which consumes its inhabitants13.”14
But if one is able to see the land as it truly is - a Land which only produces for its own people, which cannot tolerate sin, touches hearts and ignites souls, corresponds to Torah and where Torah comes to life, they will see a miraculous Land of eternity, which traverses time and defies natural law. 

“In its dust they will find favor”
“Remember what I say, only Eretz Yisroel!” 
1 Based on derasha given at Kehillat New Hempstead, Shabbos Kodesh Parshas Shelach 5772
2 In the end, Naftali miraculously escaped and survived
3 Bamidbar 14:1
4 Sanhedrin 104b
5 ‘Lamentations’; read on Tisha B’av eve. It was authored by the prophet Jeremiah prior to the destruction of the first Bais Hamikdash as a warning to the Jewish King Yochoniah of what would transpire oif the nation didn’t repent. Tragically his words fell on deaf ears.
6 The word ‘Ayin’ means eye, while the word ‘Peh’ means mouth. By placing the letter Peh before the letter Ayin the prophet was demonstrating that the spies – who were the initiators of all the future tragedies of Tisha B’av – had related their negative report about Eretz Yisroel, even about things they had not seen.
7 Ma’ein Bais Hashoeivah
8 As an example, Rabbi Schwab notes that when Avrohom arrived at Mount Moriah along with Yitzchok, Yishmael, and Eliezer in order to perform the Akeidah, he asked the trio what they saw atop the mountain. Yitzchok replied that he saw the Divine Presence, while Eliezer and Yishmael replied that they saw nothing unusual. 
9 "חיי נשמות אויר ארצך" – Rabbi Yehuda Halevi, Kinah (Tzion halo tishali) Tisha B’av
10 Kesubos 102a-b
11 Tehillim 102:15
12 i.e. without a ‘Divrei Hamaschil’. Rashi’s comments are always based on words of the Gemara. But here peculiarly, Rashi quotes the verse without it being based on any particular part of the text.
13 13:32
14 This is indeed a very serious problem in which many secular Israeli youths fail to appreciate why they need to deal with the vicissitudes of the Land and would rather escape it. That vital sense of idealism on which the Land (and the State) were founded, is severely lacking from much of today’s youth.


Erev Shabbos Kodesh Parshas Shelach
22 Sivan 5773/May 31, 2013
Pirkei Avos – perek 3

A few weeks ago I had the distinct privilege of being invited to address an esteemed Shmiras Halashon group. The group meets monthly in one of the member’s home and invites a speaker to give chizuk about the challenge and the importance of guarding our words.
When I began I noted my discomfort speaking about a topic which I do not feel I have mastered. But there is nothing that obligates compliance more than when speaking about a topic. So it was a great way to encourage myself in this vital endeavor.
This was just after we began doing work on our kitchen, and at the time our kitchen was nothing more than wood floors and bare walls. Chani had made supper on the grill, which included corn on the cob.
Later that night after I had returned home from the speech, to my chagrin, I saw that I had black charred pieces of corn shells on the top of two of my teeth. How embarrassing! One of the rules of public speaking is that you should always look in the mirror before beginning a presentation in which people will be staring at you for any extended period of time. I must have run out so quickly that I didn’t have a chance to get that last look.
I comforted myself that at least I didn’t have to worry about anyone gossiping about how my mishap (unless my speech was a total flop…)
During the lecture I noted how interesting it is that it only took the demolition crew one day to completely destroy and remove the entire kitchen which had been in place for over two and a half decades. Rebuilding and installing on the other hand, takes a few weeks!
It is a good reminder of how careful we must be when it comes to our interactions with others. It is frightening how easy it is to tear someone down and shatter them through an unkind and un-sensitive word. To rebuild and repair that damage which was wrought so effortlessly, requires exponentially more effort and time.
When the spies returned from Eretz Yisroel it only took a short time for them to overturn the nation’s excitement about the Promised Land.
Whether it’s about corn stuck in one’s teeth or whether it’s an assessment of another person’s looks, proficiency, acumen, or ability, the power of words should never be underestimated. 
The world says talk is cheap. The truth however is that, although talk is easy, it’s anything but cheap!

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

Thursday, May 23, 2013


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


In December 1944, the retreating Nazi forces launched a surprise counter-offensive against the Allied forces in Europe. During that time there was relentless inclement weather, including fog, clouds, and rain. The United States troops could not use any air-support and the German advance was very successful. At that point the weather was a critical factor.
United States General, George Patton, telephoned the Third Army Chaplain and asked him if he had a “good prayer for weather”, because, “we must do something about those rains if we are to win the war".
The following is the prayer composed by the Third Army Chaplain:
"Almighty and most merciful Father, we humbly beseech Thee, of Thy great goodness, to restrain these immoderate rains with which we have had to contend. Grant us fair weather for Battle. Graciously hearken to us as soldiers who call upon Thee that, armed with Thy power, we may advance from victory to victory, and crush the oppression and wickedness of our enemies and establish Thy justice among men and nations."
After Patton read the prayer he immediately ordered that 250,000 copies be printed and disseminated to every soldier in the Third Army.
On December 20, 1944 - to the consternation of the Germans and the surprised delight of the American forecasters who predicted continued inclement weather, the rain suddenly ceased and the fog lifted. For the better part of a week there were clear skies and perfect flying weather. The American jets roared across the sky bombing hundreds of German tanks, killing thousands of enemy troops, and effectively halting the enemy advance, as they scrambled futilely to bring up reinforcements.
General Patton prayed for fair weather for Battle. He got it.2
Prayer is undoubtedly of the most fundamental and basic tenets of any religion, and G-d hearkens to all sincere prayers. “For My house, ‘A House of Prayer’ it shall be called for all nations.3” How much more does any believing Jew recognize the centrality that tefillah has in his life.
Rambam’s opinion (Maimonides)4 is that prayer is biblically mandated, based on the verse “To serve Him with all of your heart5”, which obligates a person to pray to G-d every day. However, there is no definitive requisite amount of prayers that must be recited. The obligation is simply to pray to G-d, and in order to fulfill that obligation even the shortest prayer would suffice.
Ramban6 (Nachmanides) disagrees. In his opinion prayer is generally only Rabbinically mandated, with one notable and important exception. In the event that one finds himself in a perilous and distressful situation, at that moment he is Biblically mandated to pray to G-d for assistance and salvation. Particularly during a time of vulnerability one must demonstrate unyielding faith that only G-d can truly deliver him in his hour of need. 
Ramban derives his position from the verse, “When you go to wage war in your Land against an enemy who oppresses you, and you shall sound short blasts of the trumpet, and you shall be remembered before Hashem, your G-d, and you shall be saved from your foes.7” Just as they were obligated to blow trumpets during times of distress, so are we obligated to call out to G-d during moments of fear and uncertainty “so that our eyes and hearts will be unto Him alone, like a servant’s eyes are to his master.”
Rav Shimshon Pinkus zt’l8 noted that the Ramban’s ruling has an important practical halachic ramification. For example, if one has completed davening shacharis and while driving to work he feels a frighteningly intense pain, or he encounters traffic on his way to an important meeting, according to Ramban9 at that moment he is Biblically obligated to say a short prayer to G-d for Divine assistance10.  
Those who were close with the Brisker Rav, Rav Velvel Soloveitchik zt’l11, related that he would often state the verse “Lishuascha kivisi Hashem - For your salvation do I long, Hashem12”, even in the middle of a meeting with someone.
Rav Pinkus explained that the Brisker Rav was legendary for his extreme punctiliousness and meticulousness in regards to every iota of halacha. Therefore, if he felt the slightest tinge of discomfort he was stringent (in accordance with the view of the Ramban) and immediately recited a prayer. Even when consulted with for advice the Brisker Rav was so concerned that his response should be beneficial to the questioner that – mid conversation – he would stop to utter a momentary prayer to G-d that He put the right words in his mouth. 
In a similar vein, Rav Yosef Dov Soloveitchik zt’l13 explained that the Rambam and Ramban are not necessarily arguing. Both Rambam and Ramban regard prayer as Biblically mandated only in a time of ‘tzara’ (distress). Rambam understood that daily life, as well as our daily responsibilities and pursuits, are stressful and challenging. Feelings of angst, despair, meaninglessness, and lack of fulfillment are all par for the course of our daily struggles.
Rambam views ‘tzarah’ not merely as a state of external constriction or oppression, but even in regards to one’s inner fears and internal struggles, and the discomfiture of his soul. Thus, Rambam may well agree with Ramban that one is only obligated to pray in a time of distress, but Rambam is emphatic that such distress is part and parcel of our daily lives.  

Rav Pinkus zt’l14 explained that when praying during times of distress, most people focus deeply on the extent of their need. A little bit of kavanah (concentration) is expressed with a sentiment of “I kind of want it”, while a lot of kavanah is expressed with a sentiment of “I really need it badly.” In that sense intensifying kavanah implies intensifying one’s focus on what he needs. In fact, one could pray the entire Shmoneh Esrei in this vein. “Hashem, I really need understanding so I could learn Torah and do my work properly…. I really need my sick relative to feel better… I really need to make more money this month…”
But that is not what true kavanah is about. True kavanah is about communicating with G-d. It’s about knowing that you are speaking to a true and live G-d who is listening to every word you utter. The world and all of its resources are in His control, and He is the only one who can truly disseminate at will. During prayer our focus should be completely on Him: “Hashem, You are the healer of all flesh. You have six billion people in Your world and You love me. Only you have the ability to grant me the blessing of health.”
The more one strengthens his awareness of G-d the greater His kavanah. Thus, Kavanah is the result of deeply-rooted emunah, and, in turn, emunah is fostered when one has kavanah.

The daughter of a Rebbe of mine was a young mother with an infant son when she was diagnosed with a malignant brain tumor a few years ago. The doctors informed the family that she had to undergo immediate treatments.
My Rebbe was put in touch with Mr. Benny Fisher, the legendary community-activist in Eretz Yisroel who is very familiar with doctors and treatment plans. My Rebbe explained the situation to Mr. Fisher and sent him the MRI results. Mr. Fisher then informed my Rebbe that there was a hospital in Pittsburgh which he felt confident had the best resources to treat her tumor.
However, my Rebbe was also informed that he should consult with Mr. Shuki Berman, a community activist in America. Mr. Berman suggested that she go to a hospital in Seattle, Washington to undergo treatment. 
It was a terrible predicament. His daughter’s life was at stake but how could they know how to proceed.
My Rebbe went to discuss the matter with his Rebbe, Rav Shmuel Kamenetsky shlita. After Rav Shmuel heard the predicament he dolefully admitted that he did not know what to reply. They agreed that his only recourse was to visit the nearby graves of his parents to daven that they intercede on his behalf.
When he arrived at their graves he stood in front of them alone and cried out, “Mom and Dad, I have no idea what to do and I need your help. Your granddaughter has a tumor and we have two treatment options and have no idea which to choose. Please go to the Kisei Hakavod15 and beg Hashem to send us a sign as to which hospital we should choose.”
When he finished davening he got back into his car and began driving down the windy cemetery roads towards the exit. Before he left the cemetery (!) his cell phone rang. It was Benny Fisher. He informed my Rebbe that he did not know why but he had decided to return to the hospital to review her ‘tick’ - the file which held her MRI and other information. After doing so he decided that she needed a more aggressive treatment plan, which they would find under the care of a specialist who worked in the hospital… in Seattle.
With the help of Hashem, his daughter went to Seattle and underwent treatments. It was a long and difficult road, but she has since been given a clean bill of health and has been blessed with the birth of two more children.

“You shall sound the trumpet and be remembered”
“For your salvation do I long, Hashem”
1 Based on derasha given at Kehillat New Hempstead, Shabbos Kodesh Parshas Beha’aloscha 5773 (as well as the Model Lesson I delivered to the fifth grade students at Ashar – June 2012)
2 The True Story of the Patton Prayer- by Msgr. James H. O'neill
3 Yeshaya 56:7
4 Sefer Hamitzvos, Mitzvas Asei 5
5 Devorim 11:13
6 Glosses to Sefer Hamitzvos
7 Bamidbar 10:9
8 She’arim B’tefillah (“Bitzur”)
9 The Chinuch (mitzvah 433) rules in accordance with the Ramban
10 The only question is what defines a moment of distress which would warrant the biblically mandated prayer
11 1886-1959
12 Bereishis 49:18
13 Reflections of the Rav
14 Nefesh Shimshon - Emunah
15 G-d’s Heavenly Throne

Erev Shabbos Kodesh Parshas Beha’aloscha
15 Sivan 5773/May 24, 2013
Pirkei Avos – perek 2

There is no doubt that one who crouches humbly behind everyone else, and has a clear view of the goings on, will have a unique perspective on everything. That was the secret of acknowledged philosopher, Yogi Berra (who incidentally also played catcher for the New York Yankees). Among his other noted witticisms, Berra once quipped that ‘if you come to a fork in the road, take it!’
The crossroads of life are among the most confusing and challenging ordeals we inevitably encounter. We are forced to confront them at all stages of the life cycle, from youth and adolescence, to adulthood and family life, all the way through our golden years.
A number of years ago, I found myself at one such critical juncture of my life. I imminently had to make some difficult decisions which would affect my long-term future. At that time, a friend related to me the following poignant analogy which I have since thought of many times, and related to others as well:
While driving, when one arrives at an intersection with the intention of making a left turn, he first looks both ways carefully. At that point he has ample time to wait until he feels comfortable making the turn, without danger from oncoming traffic. But once he has made his decision to proceed and has begun accelerating, he must follow through. Once in the intersection, even if he realizes that it was a mistake to go, at that point he is better off proceeding than braking or trying to reverse. If, G-d forbid, there will be a collision, he will be better off trying to get out of the way as much as possible, than to stop and bear more of the brunt of the impact.
When we have a critical decision to make and must decide which direction to follow, we should take time to carefully contemplate and weigh our options. What will be the impact of our decision? Will it put us on a collision course? What are our choices? But once we decide to proceed, based on our contemplations and discussions with others, we should trust ourselves and proceed intrepidly with our decision.
I hope Mr. Berra won’t be offended when I argue that when you come to a fork in the road, you should first weigh your options carefully. But if afterwards you decide to proceed, by all means take it! 

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

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

Monday, May 13, 2013


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


In the year 1492, Columbus sailed the ocean blue.
This marvelous Italian fella so impressed Queen Isabella ...
she underwrote the daring trip every crewman, every ship.
I think if they had met today ... it wouldn't have worked out that way.
If Columbus called on Isabella in our world today
She's be busy on the phone and this is what she'd say ...

"Have a seat, she'd say to Chris ... Be with you when I've finished this."
Then Google exploration lists to her, one Columbus, Christopher:
"Ah, here it is!"

‘Christopher’ explains the queen ... ‘we've put your plans through the machine
And through some real time calculations ... we've a few perturbations.
First of all can an Italian operate a Spanish galleon?
As to those ships if you get any...three ships would be two too many.

East is east and west is west; to go east sailing east is best.
No expert do I claim to be ... but that is what makes sense to me
And I'm sure you understand ... that's how it seems to Ferdinand.

And so to help you with your mission, we've appointed a Commission
To analyze each pro and con, Whether your trip is off or on.
So come back in a year or two, And we'll decide what you should do.

Now if you'll excuse me Chris, I hate to brush you off like this
This day certain plans I've made, I'm going to a big parade.
What's the occasion? ...dare you say
Why,'s Columbus Day!’

Megillas Rus relates that after Na’ami returned from Moav accompanied by Rus, they sought the closest relative who would be willing to fulfill the mitzvah of yibum (levirate marriage)[2] through marrying Rus.
In order to have food for herself and Na’ami, Rus went to a local field to collect the portions that are mandated to be left there for the poor. Through Divine Providence, Rus ended up in the field of Boaz, a relative of her late husband. However, Elimelech had a brother who was still alive. Being that he was a closer relative than Boaz, the opportunity to perform yibum first fell to him. It was only when the brother refused to perform yibum, that Boaz was able to seize the opportunity and marry Rus. It was that union which eventually bore the Davidic dynasty, including Moshiach.
The name of Elimelech’s living brother was Tov. However, in Megillas Rus he is referred to as ‘Ploni Almoni – the anonymous one’[3]. Rashi notes that he is not listed by name because of his failure to perform yibum with Rus.
Rashi explains that Ploni Almoni refused because he was afraid for his progeny. The Torah prohibits accepting converts from Ammon and Moav[4]. At the time when Rus returned with Na’ami it was unclear whether that verse refers to all Moavites and Ammonites, or if just referred to men. Ploni Almoni feared that marrying Rus would cast aspersions on the lineage of his children, and that was why he refused to do so. Boaz however, understood that the Torah only prohibits the conversion of male Moavites. He therefore was willing to marry Rus[5].
If Ploni Almoni was afraid that marrying Rus might be a transgression, why is he punished with anonymity in the Torah? Wasn’t his refusal justified given the circumstances?

My friend, Rabbi Aharon Yitzchok Klein[6], recently related to me the following story:
“When I was eight years old, my family lived in Brooklyn. One Friday night my parents made a birthday party for my younger sister. My parents invited my aunt and uncle from across the street, and another aunt and uncle from Lakewood came for Shabbos, and we were going to have a small dessert party at the end of the seudah. At the end of the seudah my father said ‘There’s a man who moved in next door and he’s alone. Go over there, and invite him to the party.’
My sister and I felt uncomfortable knocking on a stranger’s door, but we invited him as we were told. He accepted our invitation and stayed for some time. After that he began coming more frequently. At times he would come for meals, at other times he would drop by just to schmooze.
One weeknight five years later he knocked on our door and asked my mother if my father was home. When she said he wasn’t he told her that she should please convey to him his message. He had gotten a new job and was about to relocate to Florida. But he wanted to tell them that five years earlier when he had first moved in next door, he had just finished dealing with a messy divorce. He wasn’t able to see his only child and he was forced to move in alone to that house in Brooklyn.
The first Friday night after he moved in was the first time he was alone for Shabbos in his life. He cried uncontrollably, feeling lonely and miserable. He finally pulled himself together, and ate a seudah by himself. But he told himself that Hashem hated him and this would be the last Shabbos he would observe. Less than two minutes later, there was a knock at the door, and the Klein children stood at his door inviting him for dessert. When he came he felt like a person again for a few minutes. He looked at my mother and said ‘I want you to know that I am religious today because of you. I wanted to thank you for that before I left’.

Nachalas Yosef explains that Ploni Almoni was not ‘punished’ with anonymity. Being mentioned in Scriptures is an incredible merit, and that merit is only conferred upon one who actually does something unique and laudable. Ploni Almoni may have been justified in his refusal, but he cannot receive distinction for something he did not do. He may not have done anything wrong, but in regards to this matter, he also did not do anything right.

Sifrei[7] famously relates that before G-d gave the Torah to Klal Yisroel, He offered it to every nation. Each nation demanded first to know the contents of the Torah. When told that the Torah would obligate them to challenge and rise above their nature they refused it. Only Klal Yisroel emphatically declared that they would accept the Torah unequivocally. A moment’s decision, but with perpetual consequences. 

  Rus and Orpah traveled the same road together. They both left behind the glorious life of a princess to marry scholarly Jews[8]. Both of their husbands died young and yet they decided to remain with Na’ami, their impoverished widowed former mother-in-law. However, when Na’ami prodded them to return to their homes and retake their place of prominence in the nation of their birth, one acceded and one obdurately pledged to remain. One fateful moment, one incredibly fateful decision!
Orpah went home and forfeited her place in the ranks of the great women of Klal Yisroel. In fact, au contraire; her forfeiture plunged her into the morass of depravity, as she was the ancestor of the blaspheming giant Golias.
Rus remained and pledged to be faithful to Na’ami and the Torah which dictated her life. She becomes a heroic matriarch of the Jewish people, mothering the eternal Davidic dynasty. Her descendant Dovid killed Golias.
One moment; one decision. One unwittingly chose anonymity which bred infamy, while the other chose to traverse the road less traveled, which led to eternity. 

Every person is presented with moments when he/she must make difficult decisions about how to proceed: Should I get involved or not? Should I join or not? Should I pledge assistance or not? Should I commit or not?
Such decisions are always difficult. But it is worth remembering that sometimes the difference between anonymity and eternity is decided in a fleeting moment.

          “I cannot redeem it, lest I imperil my own inheritance.”
“Orpah kissed her mother-in-law (goodbye), but Rus clung to her.”

[1] Based on derasha given at Kehillat New Hempstead, second day of Shavuos 5772
[2] If a married man dies childless, there is a special mitzvah for him to marry his wife’s sister. Although such a marriage is generally forbidden, in this instance it is a mitzvah of Yibum for them to marry. Ramban explains that the child produced from that union is considered the child of the deceased brother. Thus, Yibum is the ultimate act of chesed, granting a halachic legacy/progeny to one who is no longer alive.
Although Rus’ brother-in-law was also dead and could not perform Yibum, it was still considered a form of Yibum which would grant merit to her deceased husband by her marrying her deceased husband’s closest relative.
[3] Rus chapter 4
[4] “An Ammonite or Moabite shall not enter the congregation of Hashem.” (Devorim 23:4)
[5] Gemara (Yevamos 77a) relates that this became a heated debate during the reign of Dovid Hamelech. People were indeed claiming that he was not fit to be a king because his great-grandmother was a Moavite. At that time it was made clear that Boaz had been correct and Rus was allowed to convert and therefore Dovid’s lineage was not at all questionable.
[6] Rabbi Klein is the esteemed Fourth grade Rebbe at Yeshiva Bais Hachinuch
[7] Devorim 343
[8] This despite the fact that their father, Eglon, the king of Moav, had been killed by the Jewish judge Ehud Ben Gera. See Shoftim chapter 3. 

Erev Z’man Matan Toraseinu
5 Sivan 5773/May14, 2013
49th day of the Omer

“My grandfather told me that when he was in Russia in the 1800s if he was walking the streets outside his shtetl he could get beaten up.”
 “When I was your age in Poland during the early 20s, I used to walk six miles to school, in the snow, and we didn’t have boots…”
“When I was your age on the Lower East Side in the 30s, I had to catch the 6:45 trolley up Delancey street. It would take over an hour to get to school. But if I missed that trolley, oh boy!...”
“When I was your age in the Bronx in the 50s, we didn’t have remote controls. If we wanted to change the channel to our black and white TV, we had to get out of our seat and physically do it.”
“When I was your age back in the 80s if we wanted to make a phone call we had little booths, and we had to insert money into the phone in order to use it. Otherwise we had no way of making the phone call.”
“When I was your age in the 90s we would sign onto the World Wide Web and had to wait five minutes while listening to the annoying connection sounds until AOL opened up. Instant Messaging was the best way to contact my friends.”
“When I was your age we didn’t have Facebook, IPods, IPads, and Smartphones…. Life was so primitive and yet we survived…”
“My grandfather told me that when he was in Russia in the 1800s, he would wake up early, put on tefillin, and daven shachris. He only ate kosher, and observed Shabbos.”
 “When I was your age in Poland during the early 20s, I would wake up early, put on my tefillin, and daven shachris. We only ate kosher, and we observed Shabbos.
“When I was your age on the Lower East Side in the 30s, I would wake up early, put on my tefillin, and daven shachris. We only ate kosher, and we observed Shabbos.
“When I was your age in the Bronx in the 50s, I would wake up early, put on my tefillin, and daven shachris. We only ate kosher, and we observed Shabbos.
“When I was your age back in the 80s, I would wake up early, put on my tefillin, and daven shachris. We only ate kosher, and we observed Shabbos.
“When I was your age in the 90s, I would wake up early, put on my tefillin, and daven shachris. We only ate kosher, and we observed Shabbos.
“When I was your age, despite all of the distractions and temptations of society, we still woke up early, put on tefillin, and davened shachris. We ate only kosher, and observed Shabbos.”
Join us as we reaccept the Torah again this Shavuos for the 3325th consecutive year.
Be a part of something eternal!

Chag Sameach & Freilichen Yom Tov,
    R’ Dani and Chani Staum

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

Wednesday, May 8, 2013


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

          Rabbi Yisroel Reisman[1] related that after a few years of teaching he missed the intensity of learning on his own. He decided to take a year off so that he could sit in kollel and learn full time. That summer he presented his idea to his Rebbe, Rabbi Avrohom Pam zt’l. He was surprised that Rav Pam did not concur with his idea. Rav Pam explained, “Once you begin teaching, your focus should no longer be on your personal growth. You are now a Rebbe, responsible to your disciples.”
          Rav Pam noted that many great Torah leaders sacrificed much of their own Torah learning so they could teach others. The great Kaminetzer Rosh Yeshiva, Rabbi Boruch Ber Leibowitz zt’l, would tell his students, “Know that were it not for you, I could have studied all areas of Torah – and mastered them. It is for you that I have sacrificed this. I beg you to make sure that my sacrifice was not in vain.”
          There was another Rebbe who would constantly ask Rav Pam when he would have time to master portions of Torah that he had not yet had an opportunity to learn. Rav Pam’s response was emphatic and terse, “Now, your time is for your students!” The Rebbe was persistent, “But what will I reply to the heavenly tribunal after I pass from this world and they demand to know why I didn’t complete studying the entire Torah?” Rav Pam replied, “You’re an onus (you cannot be held accountable)”. The Rebbe asked if he could quote Rav Pam on that. Rav Pam nodded and replied, “one hundred percent”.  

          The first Rashi in Chumash Bamidbar explains that because G-d loves His Nation He constantly counts them. Therefore, when Klal Yisroel left Egypt, after the sin of the golden calf, and currently when G-d was about to rest His Shechinah (Divine Spirit) on them, He counted them.
Shevet Levi was counted separately from the rest of the nation, demonstrating their elevated status as the tribe who would perform the service in the Mishkan. Before the Torah begins its narrative of the counting process for Shevet Levi, the Torah lists a brief genealogy of the family of Moshe and Aharon.
“These are the offspring of Aharon and Moshe on the day Hashem spoke to Moshe on Har Sinai. These are the names of the sons of Aharon, the firstborn was Nadav, and Avihu, Elazar, and Isamar… Nadav and Avihu died before Hashem when they offered an alien fire before Hashem in the Wilderness of Sinai…[2]” Rashi[3] notes that although the Torah introduces the sons of Aharon AND Moshe, “It mentions none but the sons of Aharon. They are called ‘the offspring of Moshe’ because he taught them Torah. This teaches us that whoever teaches his friend’s son Torah, the Torah views him as if he fathered him.” What is the meaning behind the analogy of one who teaches someone Torah to fathering a child?
The verse in Malachi[4] states, “For the lips of the Kohain should safeguard knowledge, and people should seek teaching from his mouth; for he is like the angel of G-d, master of Legions.” Based on this verse, Rabbah bar Channah stated[5]: “This comes to teach us that if the teacher resembles the angel of Hashem, Master of Legions, then people may seek Torah instruction from his mouth. But if not, then they may not seek Torah instruction from his mouth”.
What message is the Gemarah trying to convey? In what way must a pedagogue be like an angel?
The Hafla’ah explains that teaching requires patience, skill, and innovation. When one is well versed in a certain subject and has even reached a level of expertise, it is a challenge to teach it to an individual who is completely ignorant of the subject matter. Not only must the teacher contemplate how to teach the subject but, at the same time, he must inhibit his own growth because, while teaching what he already knows, he cannot further his own knowledge.
Rabbah bar Channah was explaining that, “selfish learning does not merit the guiding Divine light”. A human being spends his life struggling against diametric forces within him of right and wrong. An angel has no such challenge. His pristine purity cannot be compromised by the forces of this world. However, his lack of challenge also precludes an ability to grow. An angel doesn’t aspire for eternal reward; he remains exactly as he was created, unfaltering yet stagnant.
For a Rebbe/teacher to be successful he/she must be willing to compromise personal growth in order to impart knowledge to students. Just as an angel is spiritually stagnant so too a pedagogue must be prepared to put his own learning on hold and remain ‘educationally stagnant’ in order to teach others.
In the vernacular of the Hafla’ah, “Even if he must remain spiritually devoid of personal growth, still-in-all, he should teach students in order to influence them through his Torah teaching, because it is a tremendous and invaluable mitzvah to be able to assist others.” This is the message of Rabbah bar Channah: if a Rebbe is analogous to an angel in the sense that he is willing to forgo his own growth, only then should students seek to learn from him.
A Rebbe who has been teaching the same chapter of Talmud for more than two decades or a Morah who has taught the same book of Navi for many years may begin to feel somewhat jaded. Rabbah bar Channah reassures them that the merit of their self- sacrifice is well worth it.    
The Gemara[6] states that in the future G-d will pacify the moon for minimizing its light at the time of Creation by labeling the great tzaddikim with the title of the moon ‘hakatan’, e.g. “Shmuel hakatan”, “Dovid hakatan”[7].
Chasam Sofer notes that it is only because the moon’s light was diminished that we can see the stars. If the moon’s light was as powerful as the sun, we would hardly know that stars exist. Similarly, our great teachers, who expend tremendous effort to teach and impart Torah and its values to their students, minimize their own growth. They are analogous to the moon for their sacrifice enables us to recognize the light of the ‘stars’, i.e. the next generation, whose light has not yet reached its zenith.
The greatest demonstration of this concept is that G-d Himself, as it were, did so when He left the holy upper worlds to give Klal Yisroel the Torah on Sinai. It was from G-d’s example that Moshe understood that, as the leader of Klal Yisroel, it was incumbent upon him to completely avail himself to the nation, even at the cost of his own deeper understanding of the intricacies and esoteric secrets of the Torah.
With this in mind, Da’as Sofer[8] offers a novel explanation of the aforementioned verse: “These are the offspring of Aharon and Moshe”, i.e. the physical offspring of Aharon and the spiritual offspring of Moshe who taught them Torah, “on the day G-d spoke to Moshe on Har Sinai”. The Torah makes it a point to tell us that it was on Har Sinai because it was specifically there that Moshe understood that it was his obligation to teach Aharon’s sons Torah. From the fact that G-d had taken the time and bother to speak to Moshe and to instruct him about the Torah, as it were, Moshe understood that he had to do so as well.
The Medrash[9] is troubled by the continuation of the verse which relates that the death of Nadav and Avihu transpired in the desert of Sinai. In fact, Nadav and Avihu did not die in the desert of Sinai. Why does the Torah say it was there? “Rather, this is to teach us that from Sinai came the root-cause (lit. the poison) of their death.” What does the Medrash mean?
Da’as Sofer explains with another Medrash[10] which states that Nadav and Avihu were killed because they never married and had children. The commentators explain that Nadav and Avihu were such great Torah scholars that they feared the responsibility of raising a family would impinge on their ability to study. They chose to remain bachelors free to devote their complete energy to Torah study. Therefore, the ‘poison’ of Nadav and Avihu, i.e. the root-cause of their liability for death, came from Sinai because they did not learn the lesson of Sinai. If G-d Himself was willing to lower Himself to teach Klal Yisroel Torah, how could Nadav and Avihu decide not to raise a family and educate them, even at the cost of self sacrifice?!
This is why one who teaches his friend’s son Torah is analogous to the father himself. Who else besides a parent is willing to sacrifice personal ambitions, aspirations, and goals for someone else? Who else beside a parent would forgo personal hopes and dreams in order to devote their energy to raising needy and at times obnoxious youths?
A teacher who is willing to forgo his/her own growth to teach and educate others is no less than a parent, whose unbridled love for their children overshadows the love they have for themselves.

“These are the offspring of Aharon and Moshe”
“For he is like the angel of G-d”

Today (Thursday, 27 Iyar) is the yahrtzeit of my father-in-law’s mother, Mrs. Rose Mermelsetein a’h, Rochel bas Yonah. This Shabbos (29 Iyar) will iy’h be the yahrtzeit of my mother-in-law’s mother, Mrs. Chayka Kauer a’h, Chaya bas Dovid. I never merited meeting either of these two outstanding women but yet I am somewhat familiar with them through the legacies they have left behind. “Asaprah kivodcha v’lo ri’eseecha- I relate your praise though I have never seen you”. I know these women because of the impression they have left on their children, grandchildren, great-grandchildren and friends who live and breathe their legacies.
If mothers generally are willing to sacrifice for their children, how much greater is the sacrifice of Jewish women who, not only sacrifice themselves to ensure the physical well-being of their children but also to ensure the spiritual growth of their children. What more can we say then, about Jewish mothers who raised their children after enduring the draconian terrors of the Nazi beast and the travails of World War II.
Babby Rose was beaten over the head by a Nazi during the war; she never fully recovered. Still-in-all, she somehow managed to raise her three children as proud Torah Jews. She loved her children and took great pride in their accomplishments. Our daughter (Aviva) Rochel proudly carries her name.
Babbah Chaya was a beloved neighbor and a devout friend. The quintessential Bubby, she could fill a house with a heavenly aroma of Yom Tov and fill a heart with the beauty of our people. At the end of her life, she moved to Lakewood and, with her husband, became pillars of the community.
May the memory of these two outstanding and unique individuals be a blessing for their families and may their neshamos be elevated to even higher levels of Divine Bliss.      

[1] Noted lecturer and Rav of Agudas Yisroel of Madison in Brooklyn
[2] 3:1-4
[3] quoting Gemara Sanhedrin 19b
[4] 2:7
[5] Chagiga 15b
[6] Chullin 60b
[7] i.e. the moon is called hakatan- the small one, for its light is dwarfed by the light of the sun
[8] Rabbi Akiva Sofer zt’l,
[9] Yalkut Shomoni 525
[10] Yalkut Shimoni 524


Erev Shabbos Kodesh Parshas Bamidbar
Rosh Chodesh Sivan 5773/May 10, 2013 – 45h day of the Omer
Pirkei Avos – perek 6 – Kinyan Torah

After ‘Frankenstorm Sandy’ the buzz question everyone was asking was “Do you have power yet?” In fact, people still discuss and compare how long their power was out after the storm.
That difficult period is still fresh enough in our minds that anytime a storm is predicted we become fearful of losing power. Still, it came as quite a surprise when two weeks ago on Thursday afternoon, as we were beginning our Shabbos preparations, our electricity suddenly went out. It was a beautiful day outside, and we had no idea what could have precipitated the outage.
Our first instinct was to call the electric company. Their recording began by asking us to determine the nature of the outage, including whether it’s a house issue or an entire area. It was clear that our whole area was down, so I called back.
By then, the answering machine had been changed and began with a recording informing us that they were aware of the situation and that the power would be back on in a few hours (1 a.m.!).
Meshech Chochma (Emor) explains that there is a fundamental difference between the nature of Shabbos and Yom Tov. Shabbos is dedicated to one’s personal connection with Hashem. It is a day of introspection and reflection on one’s own spiritual growth and determining whether he is fulfilling his aspirations and responsibilities, and whether he is living a purposeful life.
Yom Tov however, is dedicated to fostering relationships and camaraderie with one’s fellow Jews. It is a time to build our sense of community as a people. Therefore, in contradistinction to Shabbos, on Yom Tov one is allowed to cook and carry outside, because doing so enables people to rejoice together.
In a certain sense, Shabbos is about making sure that our internal power lines are hooked up to the main sources outside. Throughout the week, men wear tefillin which help them ‘plug in’ to a spiritual outlet, giving them a spiritual boost to carry them through the day. [Women don’t need to wear tefillin because, Chazal explain, they are more naturally ‘plugged in’…] On Shabbos we do not wear tefillin, because on Shabbos we ensure that the very source of our energy is firmly attached to it source. Shabbos is not just about plugging into the outlet, but about ensuring that the entire power box is receiving adequate electrical flow!
Yom Tov is about making sure that everyone is plugged in to our power grid, so that everyone can enjoy and benefit from the electricity together.
When one’s electricity comes back on it’s a great relief. One hopes that his neighbors and family will also get their power back as soon as possible. In the same vein, those who appreciate the incredible gift of Shabbos are not satisfied with their own ‘connection’, but wish they could spread that spiritual electricity to every Jew.
As the great Yom Tov of Shavuos approaches, may we all feel connected to Hashem and to each other.

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

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