Thursday, May 26, 2016


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


The Gold family was sitting shiva for their revered father, Mr. Jack (Yaakov) Gold in October 1976. Rabbi Yaakov Pollack, Rabbi of Congregation Shomrei Emunah in Boro Park and a Maggid Shiur at Yeshiva University, entered the house and sat down. He said to the mourners, “You’re probably wondering why I came to be meanchem avel[1] Avie Gold, son of Jack Gold, when neither of them ever davened in my shul. I’ll explain it to you by relating the following story:
“Many years ago an Orthodox Jewish man was driving in Queens near a Jewish cemetery when he noticed an elderly lady standing under a bus shelter. He pulled over and asked her in Yiddish where she was heading. She answered that she was going home to Brooklyn, and she told him where she lived. He replied that he was heading to the same neighborhood and he would be happy to drive her home.
“During the drive to Brooklyn she explained that she had yahrtzeit and had come to the cemetery to daven. She had been waiting for the bus to take her home. They cordially conversed until he dropped her off in front of her home.
“Almost a year later the man called the elderly women, “Since we both have yahrtzeit on the same day and we live so close to each other I’m going to pick you up on the yahrzeit and we’ll go to the cemetery together, and then I’ll drive you home.”
“The scene repeated itself for a number of years until the elderly women passed away.
“Before she died, the women mentioned the story to her son and told him the name of the man who drove her to the cemetery every year on the yahrtzeit.
“The elderly women in the story was my mother, and the man was your father. So when I heard he passed away I came to express my gratitude and to tell you how special your father was.”
The mourners were moved by the story, but they realized that the story was far greater than he had realized because their father had not lived anywhere near her, nor did he have yahrtzeit on the same day as she did.
It is one thing to do a chesed for someone one time or to do a chesed when it is convenient. But for a person to go a few hours out of his way every year for a stranger demonstrates incredible selflessness. And what’s more amazing is that he never told anyone – not even his own family – about the story. Were it not for the fact that Rabbi Pollack told the Gold family the story, no one would have ever known. If Jack Gold did such clandestine chessed, there must have been many other stories that we will never know of[2].

“If your brother becomes impoverished and his means falter in your proximity, you shall strengthen him – proselyte or resident – so that he can live with you.”
The gemara[3] quotes Rabbi Yitzchak who said, “Anyone who gives a perutah (small copper coin) to a pauper is blessed with six blessings… and anyone who comforts him with words is blessed with eleven blessings.[4]
Why is one who encourages a poor person considered so much greater than one who actually gives money to a poor person?
Rabbi Yisroel Yaakov Lubchansky zt’l explained that time is the most precious commodity we possess in the world. Time contains potential and opportunity for anything we want and hope to accomplish.
Someone who is willing to give up of his precious time to lend an ear and to give his attention and heart to another has given away of his most precious commodity in the world, and that is the highest level of charity.

When Moshe Rabbeinu ascended Sinai the Torah states, “Moshe arrived in the midst of the cloud and ascended the mountain; and Moshe was on the mountain for forty days and forty nights.”
Ibn Ezra comments about those forty days in which Moshe did not eat or drink that “this was a great wonder; there was none like it before.”
Although Moshe’s ascension to heaven and his abstention from eating and drinking for forty days was surely a great miracle, was it greater than the miracles in Egypt or at the Splitting of the Sea?
Rabbi Chaim Kreisworth zt’l[5] explained that during those forty days Moshe became a quasi-angel, and that is why he did not need to eat or drink. During that time he did not have the challenges and struggles of this world because he was living an ethereal existence. However, if he did not have the struggles of this world he also could not obligated in the daily performance of mitzvos as they apply to mortals. He could not receive reward for his actions because he did not have to overcome his free choice in order to perform them.
The fact that Moshe Rabbeinu, who understood the unimaginable reward for the performance of every mitzvah better than anyone else, was willing to give up forty days of that reward so that he could learn and teach Torah to Klal Yisroel is absolutely incredible. It is about that uncanny altruistic sacrifice that Ibn Ezra writes was a greater wonder than anything that occurred until then. 

One of the hallmarks of our Torah leaders is their profound understanding of the value of time. They are people who optimize their every minute and never have enough time for Torah study and their other various efforts on behalf of their people. Yet perhaps the most common feeling expressed by those who have the opportunity to spend even a few minutes with such leaders is an awed appreciation of how he made them feel special. “He spoke to me like there was nothing else in the world that mattered, like my issue was paramount in his mind.”
Rabbi Reuven Feinstein shlita related that he once came to discuss a pressing matter about the yeshiva with his illustrious father, Rabbi Moshe Feinstein zt’l. Before he had a chance to begin a well-dressed woman entered Rabbi Moshe’s office and began pouring out her troubles. It was quickly apparent that the woman was deranged. She related to Rabbi Moshe her harrowing experiences with aliens pursuing her. After a half-hour Rabbi Reuven prepared to stop her for his father’s sake. Rabbi Moshe stopped him and said, “Zee hot keinem nisht ihr ois tzuheren azeleche zachen – She has no one who will listen to her tell of such things.”
She continued talking for an hour and a half and only stopped because it was almost nightfall and that was when the aliens came out[6].
This all from a man who literally valued every moment of his life.

“You shall strengthen him”
“Anyone who comforts him… eleven blessings”

[1] “Console the mourner”
[2] I am deeply grateful to Rabbi Noach Sauber (a rebbe and mentor from Camp Dora Golding) who related this story to me. I am particularly grateful because Jack Gold is my great-uncle (father’s mother’s oldest brother). I verified the details of the story with my cousin, Rabbi Avie Gold, a noted writer.
[3] Bava Basra 9b
[4] Tosafos note that one who gives a pauper both money and encouragement merits all seventeen blessings
[5] Quoted in Ohel Moshe (Rabbi Moshe Sheinerman)
[6]  From “Reb Moshe” by Rabbi Shimon Finkelman

Thursday, May 19, 2016


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


Imagine there is a bank that credits your account with $86,400 each morning. It carries over no balance from day to day, and every evening it deletes whatever part of the balance you fail to use during the day. Wouldn’t you try to use every cent?
Every day has 86,400 seconds. Every second used well is yours forever. Every second wasted is lost forever.
Time waits for no one. Yesterday is history. Tomorrow is a mystery. Today is a gift. That's why it’s called the present.[1]
The clock is ticking.

Throughout my High School years, somewhere towards the end of May, on the upper right-hand corner of the board in front of the classroom was posted the countdown of how many days were left until graduation. I remember watching the decreasing numbers enviously. Finally when I was a senior my classmates and I enjoyed the experience for ourselves. As the numbers decreased our excitement proportionately increased. Then on the morning before graduation there was a big number 1 that stood proudly in the box – just one more day; we had made it!
Truthfully, I loved High School, including my classmates, the student body, my rabbeim, and the atmosphere that pervaded the yeshiva. It was a special four years and an experience I knew I would miss. But graduation is an exciting milestone and so I couldn’t help but get swept up in the graduation fever and the final countdown.

Unlike all other holidays, Shavuos is not identified by a calendar date, but rather as the fiftieth day of the Omer count[2].
“You shall count for yourselves… seven weeks they shall be complete. Until the morrow of the seventh week you shall count, fifty days; and you shall offer a new meal-offering to G-d.[3]
The Sefer Hachinuch[4] explains the purpose of the counting of the Omer: “We are to count from the day after the first (day of the) Yom Tov of Pesach until the day of the giving of the Torah (i.e. Shavuos) to demonstrate in our souls our tremendous desire for the honored day, for which our hearts pine like a servant yearns for shade. He should count constantly in anticipation ‘when will that desired time come when I will achieve my freedom?’ Counting demonstrates to a person that all of his hope and desire is to arrive at that time.”
There is a glaring question that emerges from the Sefer Hachinuch’s beautiful explanation of Sefiras Haomer: If the point of counting is to demonstrate our passionate and unbridled excitement for Shavuos, the anniversary of the day we received the Torah, why are we counting upwards? If our focus is only on our destination in time then the time that passed is seemingly irrelevant[5]. Would it not be more logical to count how many days are left?
Rabbi Shimshon Pinkus zt’l explains with a parable: If a desperately impoverished man wins the lottery and is informed that in thirty days he will receive a million dollars in one lump sum, those thirty days will feel like an eternity to him. The only thing between him and the money is the passage of the requisite amount of time, and so he will impatiently wait for those days to pass. 
However, if the impoverished man who won the million dollar jackpot was told that he will receive ten thousand dollars a day for a hundred days, to him the days will pass all too quickly. The experience of getting such a significant amount of money each day is so enjoyable that he will savor the experience. Each day equals another ten thousand dollars in his pursuit of the full million. To him the days aren’t a mere period of waiting but a continual process of receiving his newfound fortune. Every day is invaluable to him.
The forty-nine day count to Shavuos and the receiving of the Torah is not merely a countdown of time. Rather, each day is a period of growth, a continuous amassing of spiritual greatness in preparation for our reacceptance of the Torah. The days of the counting of the Omer represent forty-nine days of spiritual treasures.

Rabbi Avigdor Miller zt’l[6] noted that Sefiras Haomer teaches us that we must count our days for each day is invaluable. “Every day is a precious bauble. Whether it is raining outside or snowing, the day is a precious opportunity. There is no such thing as spare time. If a person should live to the age of one hundred and twenty, when he reached his last day, he would still believe it had come too quickly. Think – what would you do if you only had one day of life? How valuable would that one day be?”
Rabbi Chaim Volozhiner zt’l would say that the greatest mussar shmooze (ethical discourse) in the world is a ticking clock. The clock continues to tick moment after moment, indicating the constantly fleeting passage of time.
Dovid Hamelech beseeches G-d[7], “Teach us to count our days, then we shall acquire a heart of wisdom.” He who knows how to take advantage of his time truly possesses a wise heart.

During the 1500s a Jewish man was arrested on trumped up charges. Despite the brutality of the prison the warden offered to grant him any one day to leave jail to pray in a synagogue.
The prisoner’s first thought was that he should choose Yom Kippur so he could spend the holiest day of the year in shul. Then he thought perhaps Pesach the holiday of our national freedom and the night of the Seder presented the greatest need for community. On Purim he might not have the chance to hear the Megillah unless he was in a synagogue.
The prisoner sent his question to the Radvaz[8]. The Radvaz replied that he should request his amnesty for the following day! There is no greater opportunity than the present. If he has the chance to daven with a minyan he should do so at the next available chance he has[9].

Rabbi Shach zt’l[10] commented that from when he reached the age of fifty he would say to himself every morning, “Lazar, remember today may be your last day. Make the most of it.”
The lesson of Sefiras Ha’omer is timeless: “Don’t count your days; make your days count!” After a week of weeks trying to internalize the incredible value of every day and every moment, then we are ready to receive the eternal transcendent Torah anew.

“You shall count for yourselves”
Then we shall acquire a heart of wisdom.”

[1] A different version: "Yesterday is a canceled check; tomorrow is a promissory note; today is the only cash you have - so spend it wisely" (Kay Lyons)
[2] which begins on the second day of Pesach, when the Omer offering was brought upon the altar
[3] Vayikra 23:15-16
[4] Mitzvah 306
[5] Such as when we were counting towards graduation we didn’t start fifty days before and count upwards to fifty, we counted how many days were left!
[6] “The Path of Life”, parshas Emor
[7] Tehillim 90:12
[8] Rabbi Dovid ben Zimra (1480 – 1573) Chief Rabbi of Egypt, Teshuvos HaRadvaz 13
[9] The Radvaz bases his response on the rule of “Ayn ma’avirin al hamitzvos – we do not pass over an opportunity to perform a mitzvah”. Therefore one must take advantage of the first available opportunity to perform a mitzvah that becomes available to him; also see Chacham Tzvi 106 who questions the Radvaz.
[10] Rabbi Eliezer (Lazer) Shach zt’l was the acknowledged Ponovezher Rosh Yeshiva and leader of the Yeshivah world who lived to 108 years old.

Thursday, May 12, 2016


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


Elderly woman breaks student's nose for failing to give up bus seat
Julian Ryall in Tokyo, 09 Jul 2010
Tamiko Masuta, 66, the manager of an apartment complex, was arrested after assaulting a teenager on a bus with her umbrella. According to witnesses, she flew into a rage when the student did not stand up and offer her his place, designated as a "silver seat" for elderly passengers. As well as striking him with an umbrella, the pensioner kicked the 18-year-old student and inflicted bruising as well as the broken nose.
Police said she has refused to either admit or deny the charges against her, but added that she has been questioned previously over assaults on students in buses in the city and been given verbal warnings about her conduct.
The incident in Nagasaki is symptomatic of the widening chasm between the generations in Japan, with older people continuing to expect young people to show the respect that is traditional in Japanese society for the elderly.

The Torah demands that we honor and show respect to the elderly and to one who has attained laudable levels of wisdom. “In the presence of an old person you shall rise, and you shall honor the presence of a zakain (sage).”[1]
The gemara[2] explains that ‘zakain’ refers to ‘zeh shakana chochma – this (one) who has acquired wisdom’. The word zakain only hints to ‘zeh shakanah’; how does the gemara know it refers to wisdom? 
Chasam Sofer explains that by the world’s standards the more current or contemporary something is the more valuable and accurate it is. This is true in virtually all facets of knowledge - including science, medicine, technology and political science. What was once new and exciting quickly becomes archaic and outdated.
The notable exception is Torah. We make it our mission to try to understand the Torah as closely to its pristine form as possible. All of the explanations advanced in the last three thousand years, are only to gain deeper insight and understanding to the Torah as taught to Moshe Rabbeinu on Har Sinai. In fact, the greatest encomium is for one to say that a Torah thought is “Toras Moshe MiSinai”.
This is how Chazal derived that this pasuk must be referring to a Torah sage. The beginning of the pasuk refers to the honor that must be accorded to an older person. The next clause states that one must honor “one who has acquired”. What has he acquired? It must be referring to someone who has acquired something which, the older it is the more respect it deserves. That can only refer to the eternal wisdom of Torah.  

In Parshas Vayigash, after Yosef reveals his true identity to his shocked brothers, he instructs them to hurry back to Canaan to bring Yaakov Avinu to Egypt. He sends with the brothers a gift for his father consisting of, “ten he-donkeys laden with the best of Egypt.”[3] The gemara[4] explains that Yosef sent his father ‘aged wine which pleases the elderly’. Maharsha explains that the elderly enjoy aged wine because it warms them.
Rav Shmuel Rozovsky zt’l explained[5] that as people age they feel their vitality wane. They don’t have the energy they once had, and they lack the agility of their youth. In the words of Koheles[6]: “The years will arrive when you will say ‘I have no pleasure in them’.” 
It is for this very reason that the elderly have particular pleasure from aged wine. Unlike other foods and beverages which decay with time, the taste and value of wine only improves with age.
Yosef sent Yaakov a tremendous amount of aged wine to symbolize how invaluable Yaakov would be for Yosef, his family, and for all of Egypt. Yaakov would be the “aged wine” of all of Egypt.
Why there is such a breakdown of respect in our society is the subject of much discussion and debate. One component has to do with what we idolize and revere. In a society which venerates youth and external appearance, those who possess wrinkles and are no longer physically fit do not possess the value of athletes and celebrities. That’s a consequence of a superficial society, more interested with external appearances than attainment of depth and meaning.
The Torah however, supremely values wisdom and its pursuit. The gemara[7] relates that Rav Yochanan would stand up for every elderly person – even non-Jews because living life entails learning its lessons and gaining life experience, and that itself makes them worthy of respect.
Another reason for the breakdown of respect is that we are raising a generation who feel a strong sense of entitlement. 
Psychologist, Dr Aric Sigman noted that, “Authority is a basic health requirement in children's lives. Children of the spoilt generation are used to having their demands met by their parents and others in authority, and that in turn makes them unprepared for the realities of adult life…This is partly the result of an inability to distinguish between being authoritative versus authoritarian, leaving concepts such as authority and boundaries blurred.”
The fact is that many children today lack proper boundaries, which leads to a lack of respect.
One of the fundamental ideas in the Torah is to be thankful for those who help us in any way. One who is humble and thankful is respectful as well. 
The gemara[8] states that in the generation prior to the advent of Moshiach chutzpah will be prevalent. That surely does not mean that we should succumb to it. Rather, we must invest more effort to be respectful, and to teach our children that the Torah obligates us to be respectful.
There is no other country in the world besides Eretz Yisroel where the public transportation busses have a little sticker behind the driver on which is written the words of the pasuk, “In the presence of an old person you shall rise”. It is more than one of the commandments, it represents a basic value for Torah living – respect for wisdom and those who have attained it, even if only from life experience. 
 We owe great respect for those who, through their wisdom and years, connect us to our illustrious past. Those connections are vital in our desire and effort to connect ourselves with the greatest even of all – Kabbolas HaTorah. 

“You shall honor the presence of a zakain
“Laden with the best of Egypt

[1] Vayikra 19:32
[2] Kiddushin 32b
[3] Bereishis 45:23
[4] Megillah 16b
[5] Quoted in Ohel Moshe (Rav Moshe Scheinerman)
[6] 12:1
[7] Kiddushin 33a
[8] Sotah

Thursday, May 5, 2016


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


Chrysler recall of vehicles for possible brake failure
By Peter Valdes-Dapena, senior writer January 19, 2010
NEW YORK ( -- Chrysler Group is recalling about 24,000 late-model Chrysler, Dodge and Jeep vehicles to fix a defective part that could cause sudden, unexpected brake failure…
Some of these vehicles could have an improperly formed brake booster rod retaining clip, and some Ram trucks may have been built without the piece. The part is necessary for consistent and proper functioning of the brakes...


Now It's the Brakes on the Prius, as Toyota Recall Spreads to Japan

Japanese Government Asks Car Maker to Investigate Brakes on 2010 Prius


Feb. 3, 2010
The Japanese government has called on Toyota to investigate a number of complaints about the 2010 Prius in North America and Japan, potentially spreading the carmaker's largest recall ever to its home country.
"While I was trying to park the car at home, I stepped on the brake pedal but didn't stop and I ran into my house," read the details of a complaint as translated on the Ministry of Transport's homepage.


Toyota’s Top Executive Under Rising Pressure

By Hiroko Tabuchi and Bill Vlasic - NY Times

Published: February 5, 2010
NAGOYA, Japan — When Akio Toyoda took control last summer of the company started by his grandfather, his challenge was to lead Toyota out of its worst financial crisis in half a century.
That, it turned out, was the easy part.
Since last fall, Mr. Toyoda and his top United States executives have been struggling to find the words to calm consumers about the safety of Toyota’s cars, and it is proving to be a far more difficult task than fixing the company’s finances.
After the first big recall of Toyota vehicles last fall, Mr. Toyoda said publicly that the company was a step away from “capitulation to irrelevance or death.” The company, he added, was “grasping for salvation.”…
The company has recalled about nine million cars worldwide, and reports are growing of fatal accidents involving possibly defective Toyota vehicles.
Published: March 17th, 2010
A recall is being issued for approximately 412,000 Honda Odyssey minivans and Honda Element sport utility vehicles (SUVs) due to brake problems that have caused a number of crashes. 
The Honda brake recall was announced on Tuesday by American Honda Motor Co., Inc. after the Japanese automaker received complaints that the brakes in certain 2007-2008 model year vehicles felt “soft” and lost effectiveness over time.
Defective manufacturing allows air to slowly enter into the Vehicle Stability Assist (VSA) modulator, which is part of the brake systems of the recalled vehicles, Honda said. This results in the brakes not engaging until the pedal is pushed closer to the floor than usual, and the Honda brake problems may worsen over time.

The Torah introduces its discussion about the details of the Yom Kippur Service performed by the Kohain Gadol by stating that G-d instructed these laws to Moshe, “After the death of the two sons of Aharon, when they approached before G-d, and they died[1].”
The Torah seems to be conveying that there is a vital lesson to be learned from the death of the sons of Aharon that must preface the unique and holy Yom Kippur Service. What is that underlying message?
The commentators offer numerous explanations for what exactly was the sin that Nadav and Avihu, the two righteous sons of Aharon, committed that warranted immediate death in the sanctuary. The Torah states, “Nadav and Avihu died before G-d when they offered an alien fire before G-d…[2]” Righteous and holy as they were, Nadav and Avihu were guilty of overzealousness. In their unyielding excitement and burning desire to serve G-d they performed an act which had not been authorized by G-d.
Their death served as a vital example that one cannot dictate G-d’s Will. It is not within our purview to compose our own dictates and laws, and we have no right to add to His Commandments. Rather it is incumbent upon us to adhere to the laws and commandments of G-d as He commands them[3].
This idea had to be understood before Aharon could be instructed about the Yom Kippur Service. On the holiest day of the year the holiest man in the world was to enter the holiest place on earth. At such an intense moment he may be tempted to add to the Service. He may be seized with such feelings of devotion and love to G-d that he may want to do more than what he was instructed. Thus does the Torah commence its narrative of the Yom Kippur Service by invoking the memory of the tragic death of Nadav and Avihu. He must remember that the Service is Divinely ordained. The Kohain Gadol would only be able to achieve penitence and forgiveness for the nation if he followed the prescribed modus operandi.

In the Hagaddah we quote the verse[4], “And I passed over you and I saw you downtrodden in your blood and I said to you: “Through your blood shall you live!” And I said to you: “Through your blood shall you live”.”
Rashi explains that the prophet repeats the words, “In your blood you shall live” in reference to the ‘two bloods’ in whose merit our forefathers were redeemed from Egypt: the blood of the Pesach sacrifice and the blood of circumcision[5].
However, the Torah records a different merit for which they were redeemed from Egypt, “This shall be your sign that I have sent you: When you take the people out of Egypt, you will cause them to serve G-d on this mountain[6].” In other words, the Jewish people were redeemed from Egypt because they were destined to receive the Torah at Sinai. If so, why did they need the merits of the blood of circumcision and the blood of the Pesach offering?
Rabbi Yaakov Galinsky zt”l explains with a personal anecdote:
“I was once traveling on a bus from Tel Aviv to Rechovot to teach. Next to the driver there was a sign posted which said the following: “Driver, check the belamim before you go on your way.” The sign was signed by ‘the committee for the prevention of car accidents’.
I asked the driver what the sign said. He replied, “Don’t you know Hebrew?” I answered that I was from B’nei Brak and only knew Biblical Hebrew. The word בלמים was a Modern Hebraic word.
The driver was only too happy to explain, “You see every car has בלמים, what you call ‘brakes’. At times the brakes can become jammed or disconnected making it impossible to stop the bus, which can cause an accident. Therefore, the sign reminds all drivers to be proactive, by making sure the brakes are in perfect working order before they pull out of the parking lot.”
I nodded, “Now I understand. But tell me; is the sign for people too?” He looked at me with a look of perplexity. I explained, “Every person also travels along a road. It’s a long road which begins in our youth and continues into our old age. Our brakes are our power of restraint, our ability to hold ourselves back from wrongdoing and to swallow our pride when necessary. How many ‘accidents’ happen because people fail to test their brakes and make sure they are greased and in good working order before they get onto that road? What a great and profound reminder; we always have to check our brakes before we begin our journey down the roads of life.”

Based on that story, Rabbi Galinski explained that in truth our ultimate merit for leaving Egypt was because we were going to receive the Torah at Sinai, as promised to our ancestors. However, before we could begin our trek towards that acceptance we had to ensure that our brakes were in perfect working order. Did we have the fortitude and courage to say no, i.e. to defiantly reject the culture and belief system of our captors who enslaved us for over two centuries? We had to prove ourselves worthy to receive the Torah.
We proved that we were committed by circumcising ourselves and thereby engraving the mark of distinctiveness into our bodies, and by slaughtering the lamb, the god of the Egyptians. Only when we had proven that our brakes were vibrant and strong were we ready to exercise our true merit, the fact that we were destined to become the Torah nation.

Before the Kohain Gadol could begin the elite Yom Kippur Service he had to ensure that he understood his limits. He could not allow himself to be overcome by passion and love. He had to know his boundaries and the laws which governed his every action during those most intense moments of the Holy Day.
And before Klal Yisroel could leave Egypt to accept the Torah they too had to know the limitations and boundaries. The Torah is not an added set of laws and dictates which must be adhere to but a completely different way of life. It represents a new direction on a completely new road. Before heading down that road they had to ensure that they were prepared to undertake that challenge; they had to ensure that their brakes were strong.

After a baby is circumcised the Mohel calls out, “זה הקטן גדול יהיה – This small/young one, shall become great.” Now that he has been entered into the covenant of our patriarch Avrohom, he has been indelibly marked with the symbol of the distinctness and diverseness of a Jew. In doing so he has begun his quest to become a גדול.
On the tenth of Nissan when the Jewish people heeded G-d’s command to transcend their fear and set aside a lamb for its eventual slaughter in full view of the Egyptians, that too was a mark of greatness. The Jews had demonstrated that they dared to be different, and that transformed them into גדולים - great people.
The courage to be unique and different, to not succumb or submit to the surrounding culture, and to be able to ‘step on the brakes’ vis-à-vis the trends of the times, is a symbol of greatness. Therefore, the day when Klal Yisroel set aside the lambs following their circumcision, was a day of transformation when they became גדולים - great people. How apt then that the Shabbos prior to Pesach is titled, ‘Shabbos Hagadol – the great Shabbos’ or ‘the Shabbos of the great’. It is the Shabbos when we set out on the path towards greatness by demonstrating our national maturity as a special and unique nation.     

“After the death of the two sons of Aharon”
“Through your blood shall you live”

[1] 16:1
[2] Bamidbar 3:4
[3] This should not be confused with customs and personal/communally accepted stringencies which are important and necessary. Here we are discussing adding to G-d’s commands, as opposed to differences in understanding of what the command is, or going beyond the letter of the law.
[4] Yechezkel 16:6
[5] In order to partake of the Pesach offering all males had to be circumcised. Since the overwhelming majority of the nation had never been circumcised during the Egyptian exile they had to do so just days before the redemption. Then on the day prior to the exodus they slaughtered the Pascal lamb, despite the fact that the lamb was the god of the Egyptians. They then smeared the blood of the offering upon their doorposts. It was in the merit of these two acts which involved the flowing of blood that we ‘lived’, i.e. were redeemed from Egyptian bondage.
[6] Shemos 3:12