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


Post a Comment