Thursday, October 26, 2017



Last year, on Chol Hamoed Succos, our family went to Liberty Science Center, where we met up with my brother-in-law and sister-in-law and children. The Center has an attraction which allows you to sense what it’s like to be unable to see. You climb through on your hands and knees, keeping your hands affixed to the wall to guide you. Apparently, the real reason our wives convinced us to go in with our children, was so that they could sit on the side and laugh their eyes out while watching the video of us inside, blindly trying to maneuver our way through.
While waiting on line, we struck up a conversation with the fellow behind us who recognized my brother-in-law from years earlier during their yeshiva days. The fellow told us that he had once been in an amusement park and went on a ride through the scary funhouse. However, the lights inside the scary house had inadvertently been left on. So, when anything jumped out at him, it wasn’t scary at all. After the ride ended and he complained, they allowed him to go on again with the lights off. The second time however was no better, because now he knew what to expect. The ride ended up being a boring waste of time.
I thanked the fellow behind us for relating the story, which was unquestionably going to end up in one of my speeches.

On the opening pasuk of parshas Lech Lecha, “Hashem said to Avrom, 'Go for yourself from your land'"[2], the Medrash[3] relates:
Rabbi Yitzchok said: This may be compared to one who was passing from place to place and saw a (birah dolekes) fortress illuminated/burning. He said, "Will you say this fortress has no governor (manhig)? The master (ba'al) of the fortress peered out (hetziz) at him, and said to him, “I am the master of the fortress.”
“Thus, because our father Avraham said, "Can one say this world has no governor?" The Holy One, blessed is He, peeked out at him and said to him, “I am the Master of the world”.”
Avrohom saw a world with beauty, coherence, order, and stability. Avrohom questioned how it was possible for there to be such perfect precision and stability on its own? Avrohom’s emunah developed from a clear understanding and recognition that reliability, dependability, and order cannot emerge from chaos, without a supreme Power who created it all and directs it all constantly. Once he was convinced that there was a Supreme Power, he was prepared to faithfully follow that Power’s instruction through thick and thin.

Life is full of surprises and challenges, and we can never fully know what to expect. If we had clarity and understood how all was part of the Master Plan, it wouldn’t be as difficult. But the challenge of this world is to faithfully maneuver our way through the vicissitudes and vagaries of life even though the lights are often off.  
Last year, when honored with Chosson Torah on Simchas Torah, I had the following thought:
At the end of the final parsha in the Torah, Parshas V’zos Haberacha, the Torah relates that Moshe went up Har Ha’avarim where Hashem showed him the entire panorama of Eretz Yisroel.
Rashi explains that with each place Hashem showed Moshe, He also showed him all future events that would transpire in each of those places.[4] Moshe saw the Bais Hamikdash in its glory, and destruction, the conquering of Eretz Yisroel, and the nation being sent into exile, etc.
It would seem that if Moshe viewed all those events, he was also be able to understand why he was unable to enter the Land. With a clear view of the future and its divine course, it must have become clear to Moshe why everything happened the way it did. His deepest question of why he couldn’t go into Eretz Yisroel was no longer a question; now it was all crystal clear.
It is for this reason that pasuk says that, after Hashem showed Moshe the land, He stated: “This is the Land I promised to Avrohom, Yitzchok, and Yaakov. Now Moshe saw” - not just the physical land, but all its depth, meaning, and destiny. Then Hashem added, “And there you will not cross” – for now Moshe understood why he could not enter the land.
That being true, the only thing left to happen was, what is stated in the next pasuk – “Vayaman shom Moshe eved Hashem Moshe, the servant of Hashem, died there.” At that point, Moshe had to leave this world. Once everything was clear to Moshe, he no longer could remain in the world where “v’tzadik be’emunaso yichyeh – the righteous, by his faith he shall live”. Moshe no longer needed to have emunah, because it had all become logical and understandable.
The Torah commences with the words, “Bereishis bara Elokim”.[5] The Gemara Megilla relates that Ptolemy II Philadelphus[6] forced seventy elders to translate the Torah into Greek.[7] Each sage decided that they had to make certain changes to prevent the Greeks from heretical interpretations and misunderstandings of the text of the Torah. Miraculously, although they were all secluded, every one of them decided to make the exact same changes.
The gemara notes that the first change was, instead of writing “Bereishis bara Elokim’ which could be misconstrued to sound like “Bereishis (a deity) created G-d”, they wrote Elokim bara bereishis – G-d created, in the beginning.
The question is why doesn’t the Torah indeed begin that way – Elokim bara bereishis - to prevent heretical understanding of that first pasuk? Why leave the Torah open to misunderstanding?
Rav Shimshon Pinkus zt’l explains that the most fundamental component of our religion is that we must have emunah peshutah! That doesn’t mean ‘simple faith’, as much as it means ‘complete faith’. When we perceive things that logically seem to have been created by an all-powerful G-d, we don’t feel the need to constantly and relentlessly question it. It’s not blind faith, as much as it’s logical and well-rooted faith!
Therefore, the Torah does not care to justify itself before those who aren’t concerned with the real truth. The Torah is written for those who have emunah peshutah, and for them there is no concern that they will misunderstand the opening pasuk.
In other words, the Torah begins by taking emunah peshutah for granted. True faith is essential to properly understand the opening pasuk, and then continues to be essential for understanding every other pasuk in the Torah
When Moshe did not need to have emunah any longer, his life and mission in this world was over. That is how the Torah concludes.
Life isn’t easy, and we have many legitimate questions. The entirety of the Yomim Noraim and Succos was to bring us closer to Hashem and to strengthen our emunah in Him. Now, as we begin the Torah anew we take that perspective with us into the new year, with the hope that our emunah won’t be challenged this year. However, even if, G-d forbid, it is challenged, we will be able to withstand it all by maintaining our faith.
That is how Avrohom Avinu came to recognize Hashem, that is what he taught his disciples and his children, and that is the legacy he continues to bequeath to us. 

“The righteous - by his faith he shall live”
“I am the master of the fortress.”

Rabbi Dani Staum, LMSW
Rabbi, Kehillat New Hempstead
Rebbe/Guidance Counselor – Heichal HaTorah
Principal – Ohr Naftoli- New Windsor

[1] Based on the speech delivered at Kehillat New Hempstead, Shabbos morning, Parshas Bereishis 5777
[2] Bereishis 12:1
[3] Bereishis Rabbah 39:1
[4]  I conceptualize it as being similar to modern-day videos where you are looking at an empty landscape, and suddenly the screen changes displaying scenes of war that took place on that spot. Then, the scene fades again, and another event that took place on that spot thirty years later comes into view, etc.
[5] There is a custom to expound upon the connection between the end of the Torah and the beginning of the Torah. Parshas V’zos Habracha is essentially the parsha before Bereishis, because the Torah is a never-ending cycle of learning and growth.
[6] king of Ptolemaic Egypt from 283 to 246 BCE
[7] It became known as “Targum Shivim – translation of the 70”, known as the Septuagint. It was the first time the Non-Jewish world had access to the Torah, and was therefore the forerunner of the New Testament. Despite the great miracle that occurred, Chazal viewed the event as being a terrible tragedy, which caused “darkness to descend to the world for 3 days”. The day of the translation was the eighth of Teves. The third day following it is the tenth of Teves, a national fast.

Thursday, October 19, 2017



“Most people live the life that happens, instead of the life that they truly want.”[2]

Noach is described by the Torah as being, צדיק תמים  - perfectly righteous. Yet, he is always held up to the standard of Avrohom Avinu. Therefore, as great as he was, on some level he is viewed as having not fulfilled his complete potential; he wasn’t as great as he could have been.
Rashi writes that there is an opinion that Noach was only considered righteous in his generation. However, had he lived in the generation of Avrohom, he would not have achieved any level of greatness. "יש דורשין לגנאי – אילו היה בדורו של אברהם לא היה כלום"
Although he was personally righteous, Noach did not save his generation. In fact, he didn’t save anyone outside of his immediate family. Avrohom, on the other hand, created a tremendous movement consisting of multitudes of people to whom he and Sarah taught about Hashem.
Parshas Noach is therefore a parsha which contains the story of a hero who achieved greatness, and yet did not fulfill his potential. It is intriguing that the parsha seems to end with another such story of an individual who sought greatness and yet came up short:
After the Torah introduces Terach and Avrom, it tells us about Terach’s journey at the end of his life. “Terach took Avrom his son… and he went out with them from Ur Kadim to go to the Land of Canaan. And they came to Charan and they dwelled there.[3]” Then the final words of the parsha read, “Terach died in Charan”.[4] 
In his old age, Terach left with his family to go to Canaan. Seforno explains that Eretz Yisroel is a propitious place, where the very air is conducive to achieving holiness and developing greater closeness with G-d. It seems that Terach set out for Eretz Yisroel because he wanted to bask in the sanctity of the Land.
So, what happened?

New Yok Times Bestselling author, John Maxwell, relates:
Many tourists in Switzerland enjoy mountain climbing. They are not professional climbers who scale the world’s highest peaks, but amateurs who enjoy overcoming a significant challenge.
On the day of a climb, the group departs from a “base camp” at the foot of the mountain early in the morning. The goal is to make it to the summit by mid-afternoon, so they could set up camp well before dark.
About halfway up the mountain there is a rest area – a “half-way house”. The climbers all enter to find a cozy room with couches and a fire. A hot and fresh lunch is already cooking and the smell fills the hut. Everyone removes their gear and settles around the table jovially as they enjoy their lunch.
After about an hour and a half, the guide announces that they must move on if they want to reach the summit on time. Invariably about half of the climbers reply that they decided to remain in the half-way house, and they will rejoin the group the following day when they stop in on their way down.
Those who decided to go on put on all their gear and make their way out into the cold. The rest of the group who stayed joke around, play on the piano, sing songs, and tell stories, and have a wonderful time for a couple of hours.
Somewhat suddenly, around four in the afternoon, without anyone saying anything, one by one they start walking over towards the big window, and looking towards the summit where they can see the small figures of their group setting up camp. The mood in the hut becomes melancholic and quiet. For the rest of the night and the following morning there is not much conversing going on, and they mostly stand by the window and watch.
Then, around midday, the door swings open and the rest of the group who made it to the top enter. They are laughing, whopping, and high-fiving each other. They animatedly talk about what it was like at the top, the view, the group picture they took, the selfies they took, hoisting the flag at the summit, and what it was like sleeping out there. Those who remained in the hut smile sadly but politely and nod their heads without saying much.
After lunch, the entire group puts on their gear and heads down the mountain. When they reach the bottom, they are greeted by family members and friends who ask them about their trip. Those who went all the way to the top excitedly relate about their experience. But those who chose to remain in the hut quietly slip away into their cars, and drive home in silence.
Why? Because they know that they made a big mistake. They gave up a dream and goal for a little bit of comfort.

          Chazal say that at the end of his life Terach did teshuva. His desire to go to Eretz Yisroel would seem to be part of his efforts at repentance and growth towards the end of his life. So, he left Ur Kasdim and, together with his family, they undertook the arduous journey to Charan.[5]
          When they finally arrived in Charan, perhaps Terach announced that they would spend a week in Charan to rest and reenergize themselves for the remainder of the journey south to Eretz Yisroel. But then - as so often happens - life set in with its issues and complications. One week became two weeks, then a month, two months, a year, etc.
The most painful words of all are the final words of the parsha: “Terach died in Charan”. He never fulfilled his dream! He made it to the halfway house, but never got passed it.
What a tragedy!
In Parshas Lech Lecha, the Torah states about Avrohom Avinu: "ויצאו ללכת ארצה כנען ויבואו ארצה כנען" - He left to go to the land of Canaan, and he arrived in the land of Canaan.” This pasuk, which seems to just be telling us dry facts, is in fact relating something very profound. Unlike his father who never completed his journey, and was never able to fulfill his dream, Avrohom left on his journey and indeed completed the journey. There were so many challenges that he had to overcome in order to arrive, but he persevered. 
Unlike Noach who did not completely become and achieve as much as he could have, and unlike Terach who never fulfilled his dream, Avrohom makes it all the way to the summit. And that is why he is Avrohom Avinu, the first of the patriarchs.  

John Maxwell concludes: In life, so many of us make the same mistake as those mountain climbers who remained in the half-way house.
If we want to achieve personal greatness, we have to hold onto our goals and dreams, and be relentless in our pursuit of them. We cannot allow momentary laziness or comfort to impede our success. Every day is another step towards our personal summit.

“Terach died in Charan”
“And he arrived in the land of Canaan”

Rabbi Dani Staum, LMSW
Rabbi, Kehillat New Hempstead
Rebbe/Guidance Counselor – Heichal HaTorah
Principal – Ohr Naftoli- New Windsor

[1] Based on the speech delivered at Kehillat New Hempstead, Shabbos morning, Parshas Noach 5777
[2] Rabbi Dovid Orlofsky
[3] "ויקח תרח את אברם בנו...ויצאו אתם מאור כשדים ללכת ארצה כנען ויבואו עד חרן וישבו שם.
[4] ויהיו ימי תרח... וימת תרח בחרן"

[5] Although Ur Kasdim is in Mesopotamia and Charan is in Turkey, which means Eretz Yisroel is to the west of Ur Kasdim (and south of Charan), they had to follow the trade routes, which seemingly ran through Charan.

Wednesday, October 11, 2017



One year on Simchas Torah, the Chelkas Yaakov[1] noticed one of the members of his shul dancing with intense fervor and devotion. The man was not well versed in Torah, and didn’t learn much throughout the year. For some time, the Chelkas Yaakov watched in fascination as the man danced with the enthusiasm of a seasoned scholar, but after a while his curiosity got the better of him. He approached the man and politely asked him why he was dancing so passionately.
 The man replied, “Rabbi, a short time ago, on Yom Kippur I read the confession. One of the numerous sins delineated was that of accepting a bribe[2]. I am not a judge nor a Rabbi; when would I have the opportunity to accept a bribe? It seems clear that this is a communal confession, and I am confessing for the sin of a Rabbi who may have accepted a bribe. If I confess for the Rabbi’s sins, should I not be able to dance for the Rabbi’s Torah?”
With that the man walked back to the circle and resumed his fervent dancing. The Chelkas Yaakov admitted that it was a good rationale.

The month of Tishrei contains more holidays than any other month on the Jewish calendar. Even after the seven days of Succos have concluded, the final climactic day of Shemini Atzeres is dedicated to joy and celebration. Chazal compare the day’s joy to a king who invited his family to celebrate with him for some time. When the celebration was about to end, the king requested that they remain for one more day.
So too, G-d says to us, as it were, “We have spent so much time together throughout the last few weeks of Rosh Hashnah, Yom Kippur and Succos. קשה עלי פרידתכם  – Your separation is difficult for me. Please stay one more day”. Shemini Atzeres is therefore an added day, an opportunity to spend the day simply enjoying an intimate connection with G-d, and reflecting all that we have accomplished throughout the previous weeks.[3]
The Torah writes “Shivas yomim tochog laHashem Elokecha... V’hayisa ach samayach - For seven days you shall rejoice before Hashem, your G-d... and you shall only rejoice.”[4] The Gemara[5] explains that this verse is teaching us that there is a mitzvah of joy on the eighth day too (e.g. Shnmini Atzeres).
Generally, the word “Ach - onlyusually implies an exclusion, i.e. only this and not that. Why, in regard to Shemini Atzeres, does the verse teach us an inclusion, i.e. that the joy of the holiday applies to Shemini Atzeres as well, utilizing a word that generally implies an exclusion?
 The Gra explains that for the duration of Succos we have three major mitzvos to fulfill: Living in the succah, shaking the Four Species, and to be in a state of constant joy. On Shemini Atzeres there is no longer a mitzvah to sit in the succah[6] or shake the Four Species, we are left with only the mitzvah of being in a state of joy. Thus, the word “ach” indeed is exclusive, in that it excludes the other mitzvos of Succos. What remains is the mitzvah of being joyous, the only mitzvah that still applies to Shemini Atzeres as well.
The Gra’s explanation still does not adequately answer our questions. If the word ‘ach’ generally connotes a clear exclusion, why here does the gemara say it includes the mitzvah of joy on Shemini Atzeres? How does the Gra understand that the removing the other two mitzvos of Succos teaches us that there is a special mitzvah of joy on Shmini Atzeres?
The Gemara[7] states a general rule: We do not perform many mitzvos together. Tosafos[8] explains that each mitzvah requires complete devotion and concentration. If one performs multiple mitzvos simultaneously, he will be unable to give each mitzvah the proper focus.
On Succos however, we are instructed to perform many mitzvos at the same time. The inevitable result is that because we are so focused on the mitzva of succah and the Four Species, we are unable to devote our full concentration to the mitzvah of joy.[9]
On Shmini Atzeres when two of the mitzvos are no longer applicable, a person’s full attention is then directed towards the mitzvah of being in a state of joy. Therefore, the sole focus of the day is to rejoice in the knowledge that he is a vital part of the Chosen Nation, worthy of keeping G-d’s Torah and mitzvos.

An integral component of that joy is devoted to our celebration upon the completion of our annual cycle of Torah reading[10]. Our celebration on Simchas Torah seems peculiar: If Simchas Torah is indeed a celebration for our completion of the Torah, why don’t we learn the whole day, thereby proving our dedication and joy in Torah?
Rabbi Moshe Jacobson zt’l[11] explained that everyone has an equal share in the joy of Simchas Torah. Although not everyone is able to learn in depth, everyone can clutch the Torah tightly, and hold it close to his heart.
Simchas Torah is not merely a celebration for the study of Torah, but also for the fact that we are the Torah nation. Our uniqueness stems completely from our connection to Torah, and for that alone we rejoice. Therefore, even those who may not have a tremendous portion of Torah learning can rejoice with their connection to Torah living.
During the final year of his life, the Chofetz Chaim was bedridden. On Simchas Torah morning he informed his family that he wished to be transported to shul so that he could dance with the Torah. When the Chofetz Chaim entered the shul, the students who had been dancing, gathered around their revered Rebbe and danced with all their strength.
His beloved student, Rabbi Elchonon Wasserman zt’l began to dance in front of the Chofetz Chaim alone, with unparalleled fervor and enthusiasm. The Chofetz Chaim looked up from his coat and smiled. Then he gathered every ounce of energy, and, after not standing for weeks, stood up to weakly to dance with Rabbi Elchonon.
The joy of Simchas Torah is not something to be taken lightly. Our dancing represents our love and dedication to G-d. That joy is not limited to proficient scholars. Every Jew rejoices for his personal connection to Torah, and the uninhibited joy he feels in being a member of the Chosen Nation.

“For seven days you shall rejoice before Hashem”
“And you shall only rejoice”

Rabbi Dani Staum, LMSW
Rabbi, Kehillat New Hempstead
Rebbe/Guidance Counselor – Heichal HaTorah
Principal – Ohr Naftoli- New Windsor

[1] Rav Mordechai Yaakov Breish of Zurich, the Chelkas Yaakov (1895-1976). Following a life-threatening incident with the Nazis, who had just come to power, Rav Mordechai Yaakov and his wife decided to escape Germany. After a brief time in Lance, France, they settled in Zurich, Switzerland, where he nurtured the Jewish community for 40 years. In 1967, he established the Kollel Le’horaah Chelkas Yaakov in Bnai Brak.
[2]Al chayt shechatanu lifanecha b’chapas shochad’
[3] see Rashi, Vayikra 23:36
[4] Devorim 16:15
[5] Succah 48a
[6] Outside of Eretz Yisroel we sit in the succah on Shemini Atzeres because of ‘Sefaykah d’yoma – the doubt of the days’.
[7] Sotah 8a
[8] Moed Kattan 5b
[9] Although, joy is the inevitable result of performing the other mitzvos properly, it becomes the result, and not the sole focus.
[10] Outside Eretz Yisroel we observe Shemini Atzeres and Simchas Torah on separate days. However, they are inextricably bound.
[11] Chief Rabbi of Copenhagen Denmark

Tuesday, October 3, 2017


   Once upon a time, the world existed without Waze and GPS systems. People had to rely on finding out driving directions before they left on their destination. If they didn’t they risked getting lost. In that archaic world (from not-too-long-ago), the first part of the following scenario was quite common[1]:
   Moshe and his wife, Sara, were driving down an empty highway somewhere in upstate New York. It was obvious that they were quite lost. Sara was exasperated, “Didn’t I tell you that you should ask my father for directions before we left? Anyway, none of this would have happened if you agreed to pull over and ask a gas station attendant where to go. Why is it so hard for you to ask directions?” Moshe replied sharply, “I didn’t need to ask for directions then, because, at that point, I knew where I was going. But because you were yelling at me I became confused and went the wrong way.” Sara’s eyes widened angrily, “Oh, so now it’s my fault!!!”
   On and on they argued for thirty-five miles of open highway. They finally turned off the highway to ask for directions. When they pulled up to a red light, Sara turned to Moshe and said, “Maybe now would be a good time to pull over and learn that really difficult daf of gemara you were struggling with last night.” Moshe was beside himself, “Here on the side of the road in some lost town? That has got to be the wildest suggestion ever! How do you expect me to concentrate?”
The Gemara[2] cites a dispute between Rabbi Akiva and Rabbi Eliezer regarding what the succah commemorates. Rabbi Eliezer opined that the succah commemorates the Divine Clouds of Glory that enwrapped Klal Yisroel in the desert, smoothing the path in front of them, and protecting them for the elements in the desert. Rabbi Akiva countered that the succah commemorates the huts that the Jewish Nation constructed and dwelled in while traveling through the desert.
Both opinions are perplexing. Throughout the forty years that the Jews sojourned through the desert, they were privy to myriads of miracles. Manna fell from the sky each morning, water flowed from a rock, and their clothing grew with them and never wore out. According to Rabbi Eliezer, why do we not also celebrate the other miracles that were omnipresent in the desert?
The opinion of Rabbi Akiva is even more enigmatic. Why should we celebrate a seven-day holiday in commemoration of the huts that the Jews dwelled in while they were in the desert? What connection do those huts have with us and why should remember them in such a grandiose fashion?[3]
As I write these words, I am currently sitting in Copenhagen Airport in Copenhagen, Denmark waiting for a friend who is meeting me here[4]. About two weeks ago, that friend and former classmate[5] invited me to spend Succos with him in a yeshiva for Russian students in Copenhagen. It took a few minutes before he convinced me that he was being serious. After much planning, here I am in Copenhagen.
Truth be told, when the idea of traveling to Copenhagen for Succos was first mentioned to me, I had to look at a map to locate the country. It took me some time to locate Denmark above Germany. That was basically the extent of my knowledge about the country when I boarded the plane a few hours ago. Now, as I sit here in the airport, donned in my yeshiva garb, I feel quite lost. It’s one thing when you are lost in a town or state. But, at this moment, I feel lost in the world!
When Klal Yisroel marched forth from Egypt, they entered an arid and desolate wilderness. After hearing about all the miracles of the exodus, and knowing that the Jewish nation was heading towards the Promised Land, the nations of the world were frightened and maintained their distance, surely not offering any support or assistance. The hapless nation was truly on its own!
In a similar vein, Rabbi Yoel Teitelbaum zt’’l, the Satmar Rebbe, related, that after the Concentration Camp inmates were liberated at the conclusion of World War II, they were under the impression that after all they had suffered the world would rush to their aid. To their shock and chagrin, they were left to wander aimlessly, many languishing in squalid Displaced Person camp for many months before they were able to move on to begin a new life.  
When one doesn’t know where he is or where he is going, he is inevitably overcome with anxiety. It is hard for him to contemplate his next move, because he feels so alone and befuddled.
For a nation that had emerged from exile with nary any provisions or protection, it seemed that they wouldn’t be able to accomplish much until they arrived at their destination. However, it was in the desert that they achieved their greatest distinction - becoming the Chosen People. They accepted the Torah at Sinai, along with all its mitzvos and laws.
The greatness of those huts was not the flimsy building itself. Rather, it was the fact that they were able to feel settled and ‘at home’ in those makeshift huts. The fact that they felt so settled that they were able to achieve sufficient peace of mind to accept the Torah, despite the fact that they were a nomadic nation without provisions in a most dangerous territory, was miraculous.
Many years later, G-d lovingly reflected upon the tremendous faith that Klal Yisroel displayed upon leaving Egypt. “I remember the kindness of your youth; the love of your younger days. When you followed me into the desert, an unsown (undeveloped) land.” G-d repaid their faith by allowing them to feel comfortable and settled in that vast wasteland.

The pasuk explains that we dwell in succos, Because I enabled the Children of Israel to dwell in succos when I took them out of Egypt”[6]. Chidah notes that the pasuk doesn’t state “In succos I enabled them to travel” but “Hoshavti, (I enabled them) to dwell.” The Clouds of Glory were so tangible, that they literally enveloped the nation from all sides. Those who were worthy, were literally able to ‘ride the cloud’ as it carried them across the desert terrain.
Although everything that happened to Klal Yisroel in the desert was miraculous, the other miracles were necessary for the nation’s survival. G-d had to perform those miracles so that the nation didn’t die. The Clouds of Glory however, were provided solely as kindness from G-d. It greatly enhanced their traveling, but they could have survived without them.
The fact that G-d granted them those clouds demonstrated His boundless love for them. It is that love that we celebrate and commemorate on Succos.
After the awesome Days of Judgment have passed, we invoke the memory of the special closeness we attained with G-d in the desert. We rejoice for seven days in our succos, putting ourselves at the mercy of the elements, outside the protection and comfort of our homes.
On Succos, as we sit under the cover of the s’chach, we join with every Torah Jew throughout the world who is doing the same, whether in New York, Eretz Yisroel, South Africa, or Copenhagen. It is a holiday of joy and love, when we can feel at home, even if we are miles away from home.

   “I remember the kindness of your youth”
   “Because I enabled them to dwell in succos”

Rabbi Dani Staum, LMSW
Rabbi, Kehillat New Hempstead
Rebbe/Guidance Counselor – Heichal HaTorah
Principal – Ohr Naftoli- New Windsor

[1] I added this introduction this year (2017). Fascinatingly, a mere 17 years ago, when this essay was first written, it was unnecessary.
[2] Succah 11b
[3] The legend is that Martha Washington sewed the socks of the Colonist soldiers during the American Revolutionary War. Should there be an American custom to wear sown up socks on Independence Day?!
[4] This essay was written just prior to Succos 2000 (5760), before I was married.
[5] Rabbi Eli Berkowitz
[6] Vayikra 23:43