Thursday, February 25, 2016

KI SISA 5776

Rabbi Doniel Staum, LMSW
Rabbi, Kehillat New Hempstead
Rebbe/Guidance Counselor – ASHAR
Principal – Ohr Naftoli- New Windsor

KI SISA 5776

“In March 1988, Vendyl Jones and his team of Bnei Noah volunteers found a clay juglet about five inches in height in a cave in Qumran, just west of the northern end of the Yam HaMelach (Dead Sea). The juglet contained a reddish oil. It is believed to be the only surviving sample of the balsam oil that was prescribed in the Torah for anointing the Mishkan (Tabernacle) and its vessels, as well as the Cohanim-Priests and Kings of Israel. The oil, when found, had a honey-like consistency. The juglet in which it was found was wrapped in palm leaves and carefully concealed in a 3-foot deep pit which preserved it from looting and the extreme climatological extremes of the area.
“In April 1992, Vendyl and his team discovered 600 kilos of "reddish-brown organic substance" in a carefully sealed rock silo in another part of the Qumran cave complex. Subsequent palynological analysis determined that this reddish-brown substance contains traces of at least eight of the eleven spices that were used in the manufacture of the Pitum HaQetoret (Incense Mixture) and burned in the Temple.
“In 1994, the incense spices were presented to Rabbi Yehudah Getz of blessed memory, late Chief Rabbi of the Western Wall and Holy Places in Israel. A sample was also given to Rabbi Ovadiah Yoseph. Rabbi Ovadiah had his own chemist analyze the mixture to confirm its organic nature. Then both rabbis requested that Vendyl Jones "burn" some of the incense for scientific purposes (not with fire but with hydrochloric acid). At their suggestion, he had the spices combined together with the Sodom Salt and Karshina Lye which were also found stored separately in the cave in Qumran.
“The results were astonishing. Although the spices had lost some of their potency over the two millennia since their burial, it was still powerful. The residue of its fragrance lingered in the vicinity for several days following the experiment. Several people present reported that their hair and clothing retained the aroma. More amazing, the area in which the spices were burned changed. It had been infested with a variety of flies, ants, moths and other insects. After the Qetoret was burned, no sign of these pests was seen for quite a while. This is reminiscent of the Mishnah in Avot (5:5) which states that there were no flies in the area of the Temple, nor was a snake or scorpion ever able to harm anyone anywhere in Jerusalem as long as the Temple stood.[1]

G-d commanded to Moshe to create a compounded mixture of certain oils and spices that would be used to consecrate and anoint the vessels of the Mishkan, as well as the Kohanim, who would perform the Service.
“G-d spoke to Moshe saying: Now take for yourself choice spices: five hundred shekel weights of Mar D’ror – pure myrrh…[2]
The gemara[3] asks where there is an allusion to Mordechai, the progenitor and hero of the Purim story, in the Torah. The gemara quotes Rav Masne who explained that the fragrance “mor deror” is translated into Aramaic by Onkelos as “maira dachya”. When those two words are blended they sound like Mordechai.  
The fact that the allusion to Mordechai is to be found in the first ingredient used for creating the anointing oil is not haphazard. There is an important idea about Mordechai’s greatness and success as a leader that lies herein.
Rabbi Yosef Shalom Elyashiv zt’l[4] explains that as the drama of the Purim story reached its climax there was a fundamental dispute between the protagonists about how to proceed[5]. When Mordechai conveyed to Esther that he felt she must unlawfully approach Achashveirosh in order to intercede on behalf of her people, Esther reasoned that doing so was imprudent since it would almost invariably mean she would be killed instantly, depriving the nation of their last reservoir of hope. Mordechai emphatically countered that it was her responsibility to put her life on the line and to do what was incumbent upon her. What would result from her efforts was indeed beyond her purview; but she had to do whatever she was able.
Rabbi Elyashiv explains that Esther felt unlawful entry would be foolish. Barring miraculous intervention there was no doubt that Esther would immediately be charted off to death for her impudent entry. And if they were relying on the occurrence of a miracle, why was it necessary for Esther to place her life on the line at all? Surely G-d could perform miracles without Esther having to place herself at the mercy of the wicked king.
Mordechai however, felt that they had to do as much as they were able. Only when they pushed themselves to their limits could they throw up their hands and leave the rest to G-d.
Mordechai learned this lesson from Nachson ben Aminadav. When the Jewish nation, who had departed Egypt days before, were pursued by the Egyptian forces and they arrived at the sea they had nowhere to go. Nachshon proceeded to march into the raging sea until the water reached his nostrils. At that point he had done everything within his power and there was nothing more he could do. At that precise moment G-d split the sea.
This was what the gemara wanted to identify. Mordechai was confident that his instruction to Esther was correct, despite the fact that he was endangering her life. The gemara wonders what was the basis of Mordechai’s approach; i.e. where is such an attitude expressed in the Torah?
The gemara points to the creation of the anointing oil. The gemara[6] states: “The anointing oil which Moshe made in the desert, how many miracles were done with it, from the beginning until the end? They started with only 12 Lugim. See how much was absorbed into the pot (in which they cooked it), and how many of the roots were absorbed, and how much evaporated during the cooking. Yet, (with that paltry amount of oil) they anointed the entire Mishkan, its vessels, and Aharon and his sons, during all seven days of the Mishkan’s inauguration. And they used that oil to anoint all Kohanim Gedolim, and all the kings… and it is that oil which will used in the future which is to come.
The creation and preservation of the anointing oil required miraculous intervention. Yet, Moshe was commanded to do as he was told. The result was G-d’s concern, but Moshe had to do his part. 

Henry Louis Mencken, the long-time editor of the famous American Mercury magazine, once entered the office and shouted to his employees: “It’s coming in the doors!” Everyone stopped what they were doing and looked quizzically at their boss.
“It’s up to the bottom of the desk! It’s up to the seats of our chairs.”
“What are you talking about?” asked one of his confused colleagues.
“It’s all around us. Now, it’s to the top of our desks,” shouted Mencken as he jumped to the top of his desk.
“What do you mean?” inquired the newsroom staff.
“Mediocrity. We’re drowning in mediocrity!” Mencken shouted as he jumped from his desk and bolted out of the room.

After Klal Yisroel committed the sin of the golden calf, Moshe interceded on their behalf, imploring G-d to forgive His Nation. G-d agreed and instructed Moshe to write the Ten Commandments on a new set of Tablets of Stone (Luchos). Moshe descended on the tenth day of Tishrei bearing the new Tablets which he presented to the nation.
“When Moshe descended from Mount Sinai – with the two Tablets of the Testimony… Moshe did not know that the skin of his face became radiant...” The Torah relates that Moshe’s face had such a strong radiance that the people could not look at his face. When he addressed the nation he had to don a veil, so that they could look towards him without shielding their eyes.
It is noteworthy that Moshe’s face only began to shine now, when he recorded the second set of Tablets. The first tablets, which he brought down from Sinai, were written by the Hand of G-d, as it were. Logic would dictate that his face would have radiance when he carried the Tablets made by G-d.
The commentaries explain that although the first set of Tablets may have indeed contained a greater level of holiness, they did not have as much of an effect on Moshe as the second set, because Moshe invested effort in the second set. Holiness does not make an impression upon a person unless he personally struggles and works to achieve it. Spiritual growth and holiness are only attained with effort. Thus Moshe was more profoundly affected by the second set of Tablets – which he wrote, than by the first, which he only had minimal participation in.

The holiday of Purim came about because Klal Yisroel pushed themselves to their limits. Based on the instruction of Mordechai, every man, woman, and child fasted for three consecutive days and nights. They spent those days engaged in mass repentance and prayer, until they literally ‘broke the decree’.
The holiday of Purim is a jolt of spiritual energy and passion. After a long and cold winter, it is conceivable that we have lost some of our enthusiasm, dedication, and passion in our Torah and mitzvah observance. Purim comes to rectify that forfeiture. It is a day of intensely internal joy which manifests itself externally.
Purim is a celebration of the knowledge that despite all of our shortcomings and faults, we still possess a certain measure of perfection. We have to strive for that perfection and never settle for mediocrity and half-heartedness.

          This year we had an additional, albeit minor, celebration of Purim - this past Tuesday and Wednesday, the fourteenth and fifteenth of Adar I - Purim Katan & Shushan Purim Katan.
            The Jewish calendar is predominantly a lunar calendar, as our months are based on the new moon. However, in order to keep our holidays consistent with their appropriate seasons, the calendar contains a system of modification to keep the Jewish calendar, which has 354 days, in sync with the solar calendar, which has 365 days. That system is the added month of Adar in a leap year. Thus the added Adar is a process of rectification, ensuring that our calendar is perfectly synchronized.
            At a b’ris we declare, “Zeh hakatan gadol yihyeh – This small one will yet become great.” On Purim Katan we wordlessly declare those same words. This small Purim is ensuring that the great Purim will be celebrated in its proper time, thirty days before Pesach, in the season of spring.
Purim Katan is a holiday which helps us attain perfection, which, in turn, helps us achieve renewal.
            Zeh hakatan gadol yihyeh!

“Now take for yourself choice spices”
“Moshe did not know that his face became radiant”

[1] Excerpted from, “The Spiritual Significance of the Qetoret [Incense] in Ancient Jewish Tradition”, by Rabbi Avraham Sutton
[2] Shemos 30:22
[3] Chullin 139b
[4] Derech Agadah
[5] See Esther, chapter 4
[6] Horayos 11b

Thursday, February 18, 2016


Rabbi Doniel Staum, LMSW
Rabbi, Kehillat New Hempstead
Rebbe/Guidance Counselor – ASHAR
Principal – Ohr Naftoli- New Windsor


Naftali was a hard-working innkeeper - honest, respected, and well-liked. For years he made a respectable living and made sure to pay his rent to the Poritz on time. But then, all at once, business took a turn for the worse. People stopped flocking to the inn and one month Naftali found himself without money to pay the Poritz.
After years of faithful prompt payment the Poritz agreed to extend his debt for a few weeks. But when another month went by and things only became worse, Naftali began to feel desperate. He knew he only had one option, to run for his life.
He and his family furtively loaded a wagon with as much of their belongings as they could pack onto it. The Poritz had gone to a spa up north. They hoped to be far away before he returned.
However, after only two hours of travel, Naftali was seized with terror. On the road headed his way, was unmistakably the Poritz's elegant carriage. Suddenly an idea entered his head. He pulled the reins and drew the horse to a halt, and waited for the Poritz's carriage to reach him. He offered up a short prayer that his scheme work.
"We are just going to stay with relatives for the holiday. When we come back, I'll be sure to bring the money I owe to you," he told the Poritz.
"Holiday?" echoed the Poritz. "I thought I knew all about your Jewish holidays. What special day do you have now?"
"It's the Festival of Flight," answered Naftali.
"The Festival of Flight? I don't remember that one. It doesn't really matter; just make sure that you come to me as soon as you're back home."
The Poritz seemed satisfied so Naftali bid him farewell and quickly sped off. Before he returned home the Poritz stopped at the market. While there he saw many Jews conducting their business. He stopped one of them, "Tell me, when is this 'Festival of the Flight' that my tenant told me about, as he sped away to his relatives for the holiday? If it’s a holiday why are you all still working?”
The Jew quickly realized what had occurred and answered wittily. "The Festival of Flight is an unusual holiday, for each person must choose when to celebrate it. Your tenant obviously felt that this is the most opportune time for him to celebrate it. That's how the Festival of Flight is; each person knows when it's just the right time for him to keep it best."
“Now you shall command the Children of Israel that they shall take for you pure, pressed olive oil for illumination, to kindle the lamp continually. In the Tent of Meeting… Aaron and his sons shall arrange it from evening until morning, before G-d, an eternal decree for their generations, from the Children of Israel[1].” [2]
The Menorah is of the most cherished symbols in Judaism[3]. The light of the Menorah represents the spiritual light of Torah, the source of the vitality of Klal Yisroel.
In discussing the laws of the lightning of the Menorah, Rambam writes[4] “The cleaning of the Menorah and the preparation of its lights every morning and every evening is a positive commandment, as it says, “Aaron and his sons shall arrange it from evening until morning”. Rambam continues by discussing the process for cleaning the menorah and preparing the new candles.
It is fascinating that Rambam writes that it is not the lighting of the Menorah which is a positive commandment, but rather the cleaning out of the previous day’s candles in preparation for the new lighting that is a commandment. In fact, Rambam[5] rules that although only a Kohain is permitted to prepare the candles of the Menorah for the lighting, a non-Kohain is permitted to actually light the candles of the Menorah[6].
Prima facie, one would think the primary focus of the Menorah is the actual lighting of its candles. Thus if there were to be any part of the Menorah’s service which should require a Kohain’s involvement it would be the lighting itself. The preparation and cleaning out of the previous day’s ashes and wicks would seem to be no more than a means to enable the lighting to take place. Yet Rambam writes that the opposite is true.
What is the logic and deeper message that lies here?
Rabbi Chaim Vital zt’l explains[7] that there are four fundamental energy sources in this world that comprise all of creation: Fire, water, wind, and dust. Similarly, a person’s character traits are based on these energy sources[8].
The ‘fire’ of one’s personality has a positive component and a negative component. When used improperly one who possesses a fiery personality has an unmitigated temper which can flare easily and dominate his entire personality. When used properly however, such a person displays boundless passion and an unyielding drive and ambition for spiritual growth. He has, the proverbial, ‘fire in his soul’.
Fire is also a source of light. There are two ways for one to obscure the light of a fire: by extinguishing the fire with water, or by placing some sort of separation near the fire to blot out the light.
The amount of light that will be blocked depends on the separation. If one uses a threadbare cloth to block the fire a fair amount of light will continue to shine through. The thicker and coarser the cloth is the less light will be able to penetrate beyond it. 
 The fire in our souls is pure and holy. But one who chooses to surround and involve himself with the pleasures of this world can obscure the light that burns within him.

Perhaps the central point reiterated numerously in sefer Tanya[9] is that every person possesses an inner fire. We do not need love for Torah and G-d to be implanted within ourselves, because we already possess it internally. Our souls are “a portion of G-d above[10]”. Fire symbolizes our souls because just as a fire seems to dance upwards, so too our souls yearn to reconnect to their upper source. Therefore our task is to remove the impediments which douse our inner fire and enervate our ability to feel our innate drive for spiritual holiness. Therefore, we don’t need to create new fires; we merely need to fan the fire which is already there.
Our nature is that if we remain placid and stationary for too long we became overgrown and caked with grime and rust. Just as chimneys of old and kerosene lamps need to be cleaned, so too the fire in our souls needs to be kept pristine and pure.
In parshas Beha’aloscha the Torah repeats that Aharon must light the Menorah daily. “When you make the candles ascend, toward the face of the Menorah, shall the seven candles cast light.[11]” The gemara explains that the obligation was for Aharon to hold the fire next to the wick “until the flame rises by itself.”
The primary service of the Menorah was not to ‘put a new fire in’ as much as it was to ‘draw the fire out’, i.e. to enable the flame ‘to rise by itself’. The actual kindling of the candles of the Menorah did not require a Kohain because that was not the primary focus of the service. Rather, the main effort of the Kohain was centered on ensuring that there was no grime or leftover ash which might impede the new candle’s light.
The light of the Menorah reflects the light within every one of us. That light is pre-supplanted. Our task is to ensure that no foreign elements dim its ethereal glow.
A speck of dirt on one’s clothing is unsightly and annoying; a speck of dirt on one’s glasses however, is intolerable, because it affects everything he sees. The external dirt that remains in the cups atop the Menorah symbolizes the spiritual dirt we allow to gather around our internal spiritual flame.
The lighting of the Menorah symbolizes that we do not need to bring in inspiration as much as we need to keep out foreign influences. If a person allows his mind to become filled with nonsense and spiritual grime his inner light will easily became obscured. In order to stir the embers he must begin to remove those foreign materials.
The holiday of Chanukah in known as ‘the Holiday of Light’. However, before one can truly appreciate and take advantage of that light he must celebrate ‘the Holiday of Flight’. The more one is able to flee and divest himself of the impurities that abound, the more he will be able to connect and see the luminescent light that shines within himself.
“Aaron and his sons shall arrange it”
“Until the flame rises by itself.”

[1] 27:20-21
[2] The following thoughts are based on a lecture given by Rabbi Aharon Lopiansky in the Yeshiva of Greater Washington
[3] On the Arch of Titus in Rome there is a depiction of Jewish prisoners carrying the Menorah as they were being carted off to Rome as slaves. Outside Ben Gurion airport there is a Menorah (so that you can take pictures in front of it). Just before descending the “Rabbi Yehuda Halevi steps” from the Old City of Yerushalayim to the Kosel there is a massive golden Menorah. In addition, many shuls have a Menorah at the amud.
[4] Hilchos Temidin Umusafin 3:10
[5] Hilchos Bias Mikdash 9:7
[6] The only issue is that the Menorah was in the sanctuary and a non-kohain may not enter the sanctuary. But if he were able to find a long enough candle that would reach from outside the sanctuary to the menorah, a non-kohain would be permitted to light the Menorah.
[7] Sha’ar Hakedusha
[8] For example, a lazy person is dominated by ‘dust’, while an impulsive person is dominated by ‘water’.
[9] Authored by the great Rabbi Schneur Zalman of Liadi 1745-1812, the founder of Chabad Chassidus. The Tanya is said to be the equivalent of the “Written Torah” of Chassidic philosophy.
[10]  לקוטי מוהר"ן, חלק א', סימן רו
[11] Bamidbar 8:2

Wednesday, February 10, 2016


Rabbi Doniel Staum, LMSW
Rabbi, Kehillat New Hempstead
Rebbe/Guidance Counselor – ASHAR
Principal – Ohr Naftoli- New Windsor


“Papa’s favorite expression was, “I am a soldier of the Boss, and I obey His commands.[1]
“He was concerned with every phase of Jewish religious life in America. Papa’s indomitable courage, and his willingness to take up the defense of Yiddishkeit uncompromisingly, earned him ridicule and derision, but this did not deter him from his unswerving path.
“I recall when Papa came home from shul one Shabbos morning with the familiar gleam in his eye that spelled a fighting mood. “Aidel, I will be back soon,” he told Mama. “See that the guests start eating.”
“Mama gave Papa a worried look and quickly motioned to me, “Ruchoma, go with Papa and see where he is going. If anything happens to him, at least I will know.”
“I hurried after Papa and soon caught up with him. He smiled at me. “I see Ruchama, that Mama has sent you after me.”
“I could hardly keep pace with Papa as he strode down East Broadway. At the Young Israel synagogue, he stopped and said, “Wait for me.”
“Curiosity impelled me to follow Papa. I entered the corridor and peeked inside. The synagogue was packed to capacity. The reading of the Torah had just finished.
“Papa stood for a moment at the rear of the synagogue. Then he suddenly ran over to the pulpit, banged his hand on the table, and called out loudly, “You have a sign outside that advertises, ‘Young Israel Dance Tonight’. The Torah forbids mixed dancing. Either erase the words, ‘Young Israel’, or the word ‘dance’. Both cannot be on the same sign.”
“There was an uproar, and someone yelled, “Throw him out.” Two husky young men picked up Papa bodily and unceremoniously set him down in the street.
“Papa, don’t you feel ashamed that you were thrown out of a shul?” I cried.
“Not at all Ruchama,” Papa said calmly. “I do not know if they will take heed of what I said, but I had to register my protest.”
“Papa straightened his shoulders and clutched my hand tightly as we marched home to Mama and the guests.”  

The Torah had been given and the Nation had accepted it selflessly. The time had come to construct a Mishkan (Tabernacle), i.e. a symbolic abode for G-d, as it were, in the center of the Jewish camp. The Mishkan would continue to be used until the Bais Hamikdash would be constructed atop the Temple Mount in Jerusalem by King Shlomo over four hundred years later.[2]
G-d instructed Moshe exactly how to build the Mishkan, which materials were required, how they were to be used, and the exact dimensions of each vessel and garment.
One of the required materials was Shittim wood.
Rashi comments, “From where did they get Shittim wood in the desert? Rabbi Tanchuma explained: Our forefather Yaakov foresaw through Divine Inspiration that Israel was destined to build a Mishkan in the desert. He brought Shittim[3] trees to Egypt and planted them there, and he commanded his sons to take them with them when they would depart from Egypt.”
There is another Medrash[4] which notes that those trees have an even profounder history. Yaakov Avinu was not the original planter of those trees. When the Torah states regarding Avrohom Avinu[5], “He planted an aishel in Be’er Sheva, and there he proclaimed in the Name of Hashem, G-d of the universe.” it is referring to these Shittim trees.
Before Yaakov descended to Egypt he cut down the trees which his grandfather planted and had them transported and replanted in Egypt. When the time of the exodus arrived the nation carried those trees out with them. It was from those trees that the frame of the Mishkan was constructed. 
There was deep symbolism invested in the wood which composed the planks which surrounded the Mishkan. Avrohom Avinu was the paragon of chessed (kindness). He dedicated his life to altruistic loving-kindness, thereby making others feel special and valued. Despite being challenged and tested repeatedly Avrohom never abandoned his path of selflessness and love which he espoused to the world.
Yaakov Avinu was the paragon of Emes (truth). He lived his life with tenacious and steadfast integrity, even in the face of adverse challenges and personages who represented the antithesis of all he stood for. Yaakov was resolute and steadfast in his faith and conviction. The myriad vicissitudes he endured did not shake him as he remained the man of truth throughout his life[6].
The verse[7] states “Through kindness and truth, iniquity will be forgiven.” Similarly, the prophet[8] stated, “Grant truth to Yaakov, kindness to Avrohom, as You swore to our forefathers from days of old.”
When we follow the footsteps of our patriarchs who dedicated their lives to the pursuit of truth and the fulfillment of good deeds, we merit forgiveness and transcendence over our sins. The Mishkan afforded the nation the opportunity to feel an elevated sense of closeness with G-d. One of the greatest detriments to that feeling of connection is sin. Therefore, it was specifically on the altar in the Mishkan where one offered sacrifices to atone for sins he committed. The walls surrounding that structure were constructed from the wood planted by Avrohom and transported by Yaakov to symbolize the attributes they dedicated their lives to – truth and kindness.  

Perhaps there is a deeper significance of the fact that the Shittim wood which Avrohom planted was transported specifically by Yaakov.
When G-d first appeared to Moshe during the Egyptian exile and informed him that he was destined to be the emissary to lead the Jews out of Egypt, Moshe resisted. For a few days Moshe bargained and pleaded that he was not the right man for the job. Finally, Moshe implored G-d that He allow his brother Aharon to be the leader instead of him. At that point G-d informed Moshe that it was no longer up for discussion. “The wrath of G-d burned against Moshe and He said, ‘Is there not Aharon your brother the Levite?... He shall speak for you to the people; and it will be that he will be your mouth and you will be his leader.[9]
The gemara[10] notes that whenever the Torah records ‘burning with anger’ it denotes an anger that left a mark, by expressing itself in some form, i.e. as rebuke, curse, or a blow. The gemara quotes Rabbi Shimon ben Yochai who explained that by not accepting his role right away Moshe forfeited his rights to the Priesthood. Originally Moshe who was supposed to be the High Priest while Aharon was to be the Levite. Because G-d became angry with Moshe here the roles were reversed.
Rambam[11] additionally notes that whenever burning with anger is mentioned in the Torah it connotes some level of idolatry. Where was there any idolatry here?
When Moshe finally returned to Egypt Aharon went out to greet him. Despite the fact that his younger brother was given the role of leader over him, Aharon was genuinely happy for Moshe. The Medrash states[12], “About this (encounter) was written[13], “Kindness and truth met, righteousness and peace kissed.” ‘Kindness’ refers to Aharon… ‘truth’ refers to Moshe… ‘righteousness’ this is Moshe… ‘peace’ this is Aharon…”
Rabbi Shimon Schwab zt’l explained[14] that the Medrash is saying that when Aharon kissed Moshe it was far more than a physical kiss. That kiss symbolized the connection of peace and truth, and that is why the Torah records it. Moshe was the transmitter of the Torah, he was the leader who possessed an indomitable spirit and relentless effort to transmit the unadulterated Word of G-d. Aharon was the champion of love and peace, with a penchant for promoting brotherhood and unity among his brethren. When they embraced it was symbolic of the fusing of the character traits they embodied.
Rabbi Schwab continues that Truth and Kindness are the hallmarks of the Jewish People. However, there are situations when the two conflict, and one must decide which path to follow - the path of truth or the path of peace and love. For example, at times one may be faced with a situation which is in contrast with the dictates of halacha. The path of peace requires one to look the other direction and smile. But the path of truth requires him to stand up for his beliefs and cause a ruckus to defend the honor of the Torah.
The Torah teaches that truth must prevail. The greatness and importance of peace cannot be overstated. However, “peace must be subservient to truth, like a Levite is subservient to the Priest.” Thus, the verse[15] states that “Love truth and peace”; truth is mentioned first because it must be granted supremacy.
Originally, G-d wanted Aharon – the lover and the pursuer of peace - to be the Levite, while Moshe – the man of truth whose Torah is truth – was to be the High priest. But when G-d became angry with Moshe it had a lasting effect, in that Moshe became the Levite while Aharon became the High Priest.
That role reversal had a dramatic, if not catastrophic, result. Soon after the Torah was given, when the nation panicked because they thought Moshe would not be returning from Sinai, they aggregated around Aharon and demanded, “Get up and make for us a god”. Because Aharon was the champion of peace and because he was indeed the High Priest he could not detain them. The egregious sin of the golden calf resulted, which was tantamount to idol worship.
Had Moshe still been the High priest Aharon would have been able to detain them because he would not have possessed the authority to make such a decision. Thus there indeed was a form of idolatry that resulted from G-d’s anger with Moshe when he did not immediately accept his role.

According to Rashi, G-d authorized the construction of the Mishkan to serve as atonement for the sin of the golden calf. The sin resulted from the fact that there was a subtle prioritization of peace over truth. Perhaps that is why the perimeter of the Mishkan was constructed from wood planted by Avrohom – the champion of peace and kindness, but cut down and hauled away by Yaakov – the champion of truth. We are a nation that must live and personify both kindness and truth. But ultimately truth must lead[16].     

 “Righteousness and peace kissed”
 “Love truth and peace”

[1] This story is excerpted from Mrs. Ruchama Shain’s exemplary book, “All for the Boss” about her saintly father Rabbi Yaakov Yosef Herman zt’l.
[2] In fact, there were five different Mishkans constructed during that time until the Bais Hamikdash was built as a permanent structure. 
[3] Arazim is commonly translated as Cedar wood. However, the Gemara (Rosh Hashanah 23a) notes that there are ten varieties of the tree that are referred to as arazim.
[4] Bereishis Rabbah 94:4
[5] Bereishis 21:33
[6] The commentaries explain that ‘truth’ refers primarily to the study of Torah, where truth is to be found. It is for that reason that Yaakov is also the symbol of intense Torah study, as the verse (Bereishis 25:27)  states, “Yaakov was a wholesome man, abiding in tents,” i.e. the tents of Torah.
[7] Mishle 16:6
[8] MIchah 7:20
[9] 4:14-16
[10] Zevachim 102a
[11] Moreh Nevuchim 1:36
[12] Shemos Rabbah 5:10
[13] Tehillim 85:11
[14] I am grateful to R’ Menny Schwab for sharing this insight from his Zayde with me this past Shabbos. Menny noted that throughout his grandfather’s insights, he almost universally demonstrates how an event/encounter mentioned in the Torah which seems critical and negative really has a very positive twist. The following thought seems to be a rare exception to that approach.
[15] Zechariah 8:19
[16] As Rabbi Schwab once quipped on another occasion, “99% truth is 100% falsehood.”

Thursday, February 4, 2016


Rabbi Doniel Staum, LMSW
Rabbi, Kehillat New Hempstead
Rebbe/Guidance Counselor – ASHAR
Principal – Ohr Naftoli- New Windsor


 I have studied many times
The marble which was chiseled for me—
A boat with a furled sail at rest in a harbor.
In truth it pictures not my destination
But my life.
For love was offered me and I shrank from its disillusionment;
Sorrow knocked at my door, but I was afraid;
Ambition called to me, but I dreaded the chances.
Yet all the while I hungered for meaning in my life.
And now I know that we must lift the sail
And catch the winds of destiny
Wherever they drive the boat.
To put meaning in one’s life may end in madness,
But life without meaning is the torture
Of restlessness and vague desire—
It is a boat longing for the sea and yet afraid.

--Edgar Lee Masters[1]

After the Torah completes its description of the great revelation of Sinai, the Torah launches into a detailed exposition about the practical laws of daily interpersonal living.
Rabbi Avigdor Miller zt’l explained that the Torah immediately segues from the lofty revelation to these laws because ‘idealism without legalism will never endure. The idealistic aspects of the Torah are not enough; it must be cloaked within the mantle of the law.’

The first law which the Torah discusses is that of the Jewish slave. The slave is acquired until the Sabbatical year. During his years of slavery his master is permitted to marry him to his Canaanite maid so that the children produced will be future slaves. When the Sabbatical year arrives the slave is free to leave and return to his home and original family.
“But if the slave will say, ‘I love my master, my wife, and my children – I will not go free. Then his master shall bring him to the court and shall bring him to the door or to the doorpost, and his master shall bore through his ear with the awl, and he shall serve him forever.”
Rashi explains that it is specifically the servant’s ear which is pierced because, “The ear that heard at Mount Sinai ‘For the Children of Israel are slaves unto Me’ and he went and acquired a different master for himself, let it be bored.” 
What is the significance of the door and the doorway vis-à-vis the slave?  
A doorway symbolizes transition and change. One stands before an unknown doorway with a certain measure of trepidation, not knowing what lies behind the door and where proceeding through it will lead him. A door represents instability and diffidence.
When Cain was jealous and angry that Hevel’s offering had been accepted by G-d while his was rejected, G-d told him[2], “If you do not do good, at the entrance sin crouches; its longing is toward you, and you will rule over it.” Man’s free choice – to succumb to the blandishments of his evil inclination or to resist and overcome – is analogous to a doorway. In that sense what lies beyond the doorway is his prerogative. 
On Chanukah there is a mitzvah for one to light the menorah opposite the mezuzah on his doorpost[3]. The Mezuzah, which is affixed to our doorpost inclined inward, symbolizes the need for us to spiritually protect our homes from the luring impurities of the outside world. Our homes are to be citadels of holiness, not allowing our traditions to be compromised.
The Chanukah candles, which shimmer glowingly in the darkness outside, represent our mission to illuminate the outside world. Our mission is to be a beacon of light for the entire world, the bastion of morality and sanctity.
Rambam[4] writes that one of the Syrian-Greek’s nefarious decrees was, “One should not shut the door to the entrance of his home, lest he exploit the privacy of his home in the observance of mitzvos.” This decree was a terrible breach of the morality and modesty of a Jewish home. But on a deeper level it represented the inner struggle that each Jew maintained at his doorway. Does he succumb to the Greek’s aesthetic lifestyle, or does he remain behind the threshold, steadfastly maintaining the traditions of his fathers.
The Menorah is lit in the doorway to symbolize our desire to remain resolute in our convictions and not ‘waver in the doorway’.

Kli Yakar writes that the servant’s ear is pierced in the doorway because the Torah granted him ‘an open doorway’, i.e. he had a way to ascend and move beyond his pitiful lifestyle, but he allowed the door of opportunity to slam in his own face.
There are periodically doors that open before us in life. But it requires tremendous courage and conviction to leave the comfort of ritual, trite as it may be, to plunge into the potential of the unknown.
When the servant’s ear is pierced in the doorway it leaves a mark of blood on the doorway. This is reminiscent of an earlier time in our history. On the night before the Egyptian exodus, Moshe commanded the anticipating nation to host their first Pesach Seder. Earlier in the day they were to have taken the blood of the Pesach offering and smeared along their doorposts, symbolizing that their home was a Jewish home. That act symbolized a level of transcendence over their former captors.
Chazal relate that any Jew who did not wish to leave Egypt died during the plague of darkness, when the Egyptians could not witness what was occurring. In all, eighty percent – millions upon millions of Jews - died, just a few weeks prior to the exodus.
They died because they were unwilling to open the door and traverse the threshold. The prospect of leaving the comfort of Egypt, where they had recently become wealthy and powerful, to enter into the vast desert was too daunting and frightening. It was only those who smeared the blood on their doors, symbolizing their courage to open the next door and follow it who merited redemption.
The Jewish slave settled into a routine during his years of servility. But now the door of opportunity is open before him. He has the chance to begin anew, make amends, and make something more of himself. His decision to ignore the opportunity is a tragic failure.

In the timeless words of Shlomo Hamelech:
“I am asleep but my heart is awake. A sound! My beloved is knocking. “Open for Me My sister, My beloved, My dove, My perfection…” I have doffed my shirt how can I don it? I have already washed my feet how can I soil them?[5]” 
When opportunity knocks are we willing to open the door? Or do we allow the fear of the unknown to dominate us and compel us to remain paralyzed at whatever level we are on?

“His master shall bring him to the door“
“At the entrance sin crouches”

[1] This poem authored by Masters is entitled “George Gray”
[2] Bereishis 4:7
[3] Shabbos 22a; Rambam, Chanukah 4:7
[4] Iggeres Hashmad
[5] Shir Hashirim 5:2-3