Thursday, November 29, 2018



Rabbi Moshe Scheinerman[2] related:
When I was learning in the Ponovezh yeshiva in B’nei Brak, I once ate a Shabbos seudah at a fellow named Hershkowitz who lived on Rechov Chazon Ish. During that seudah he related the following personal anecdote:
“When I was a bochur, I learned in yeshiva Ohr Yisrael in Petach Tikva. One day during our lunch break, I went with a friend to visit the Chazon Ish[3] in B’nei Brak. Our mashgiach, Rav Yaakov Neiman zt’l, was very particular that we begin seder[4] on time. So, after our visit with the Chazon Ish, we were desperately looking for a “druske” (horse and buggy) to bring us back to Petach Tikva. After not seeing one anywhere, we noticed in the distance on top of a hill there was a lantern swinging back and forth. Every druskeh had a lantern on the front that swung freely, so we assumed it was a druskeh.
We ran to the top of the hill, but when we arrived we saw that it was actually the Ponovezher Rav, Rav Yosef Shlomo Kaheneman zt’l, standing on top of the mountain, holding a lantern and looking around. When we saw that he was looking for something, we offered to help. The Rav replied that he was not looking for anything. Rather, he was looking at. We looked around but only saw stones. When we asked him what he was looking at, he replied “You don’t see the Bais Hamedrash over there that will house 650 students?[5] You don’t see the beautiful dining room which will allow the bochurim to eat well in yeshiva, and won’t have to embarrass themselves going into town to find meals?”
We were sure that the Rav who had gone through so much, and lost so much in the Holocaust had succumbed to his grief. We left feeling very sad for him.
A few years later, after the Ponovezher yeshiva was built in all its grandeur, I visited the yeshiva and approached the Ponovezher Rav. When I asked him if he remembered me from the top of the mountain, he looked at me excitedly, “You are that bochur? Of course I remember you!” Then he motioned for me to follow him. He began showing me the Bais Medrash, the dining room, the dorm rooms – each with a bed spread upon it[6]. After a few minutes I said, “Please stop! I don’t have money; I can’t give the Rav a check!”

His face turned pale. “Do you think this is a tour because I want your money? I remember you very well. I remember how you and your friend looked at me when I told you about the yeshiva when we were standing upon that mountain. You thought to yourself – how can an old man accomplish such feats? Indeed, it’s a good question, and I want you to realize that I could not and did not build this bastion of Torah. I want you to tell the next generation that if one puts his heart and soul into something, and yearns to accomplish for the honor of Hashem, Hashem will help him make it happen!”

As the story of Yosef began to unfold, as related in parshas Vayeshev, the situation looked abysmal at best. The Medrash[7] relates: “The tribes were busy with the sale of Yosef, Yosef was busy with sackcloth and fasting[8], Reuven was busy with sackcloth and fasting, and Yaakov was busy with sackcloth and fasting. Yehuda was busy trying to find a wife, and the Holy One, blessed is He was busy creating the light of Moshiach.”
This poignant Medrash contains the depth and beauty of the Jewish people’s unfaltering faith and hope. No matter how bleak a situation is a Jew always maintains a sense of sanguinity, because he knows that the darkness of today may very well be planting the seeds of tomorrow. The saga of Yosef seemed like the most hopeless situation. But G-d was majestically weaving and orchestrating the ultimate redemption.
The Kotzker Rebbe[9] notes that when Yehuda realized the catastrophic consequences of the advice he gave his brothers to sell Yosef, he felt he had as if he had forfeited his spiritual attainments. He felt like an abject failure who had done irreparable damage.
When a person reaches such a nadir, he is in grave danger of completely giving up. But Yehuda instead decided to begin anew. He searched for a wife and sought to fulfill the first mitzvah, to have children. His refusal to submit to his morbidity and his courage to begin again was so precious to G-d that Yehuda was chosen to be the ancestor of Moshiach.
The light of Moshiach is the light of hope that transcends despair. That light emanates from Yehuda who courageously embodied those characteristics. 
The Bais Yisroel of Ger[10] explains that the underlying message of parshas Vayeshev is that one must never allow himself to wallow in the morass of depression and hopelessness. Everyone encounters setbacks and challenges along the roads of life. One must always be able to strengthen himself to do his best to serve Hashem on whatever level he finds himself. Doing so will ensure that he continuously grow spiritually.
Rav Simcha Bunim of Pershischa[11] would comment that he constantly admiringly reflected upon the greatness of Yaakov Avinu for never losing an iota of his righteousness.  For twenty-two years when he was apart from Yosef and thought Yosef was dead, he deemed himself to be a failure in his mission to raise twelve righteous tribes. Because he was in a saddened state, throughout that time the Divine Presence did not rest upon him. Yet Yaakov maintained his devotion to Hashem, despite his inner brokenness and pain. That inner fortitude is incredible!

During World War Two, the Mirrer Yeshiva was the only yeshiva that was able to escape the Nazi inferno with the majority of its student body. Through the efforts of heroic individuals and incredible miracles, the yeshiva escaped east and was able to wait out the war in Shanghai, China.
In Shanghai the talmidim began receiving reports that their entire families and communities were wiped out in Europe, and they were the only survivors. It was a time of incredible anguish and pain.
In an effort to give the students some encouragement, the Mashgiach, Rav Chatzkel Levenstein zt’l,[12] delivered a schmooze:
Rav Chatzkel noted that the time prior to the Chanukah miracle was a period of tremendous pain and darkness. For 52 years the evil decrees of Antiochus were law, including that every bride had to submit to the general prior to her wedding, the most egregious breach of the holiness of the Jewish people. There was a sense of complete deflation, and that all was lost.
And yet, what became an incredible movement, began with the actions of one individual.  
"תסתכל - כיון שהיה בוער בו וכואב לו – כל הנס חנוכה מתחיל באחד. כשאחד מרגיש האחריות אין לו מגדלות!"
See how because it burned within them and pained them, what they were able to accomplish! The entire Chanukah miracle began with a lone individual. When one person feels a sense of responsibility, there are no boundaries to what he can accomplish.
Rav Chatzkel conveyed to the students that although they felt alone, and surely needed time to grieve their unimaginable losses, they shouldn’t lose sight of what they could accomplish. Each individual student had the ability to rebuild and accomplish incredible things.
That is the message of Chanukah! One individual can initiate a rebellion and overcome forces far greater and stronger than are humanly possible to beat.
The holiday of Chanukah is a celebration of hope in times of darkness and hopelessness. When the Chashmonaim set out for war they didn’t think they would be coming back. They knew they had no chance against the far superior well-trained Syrian-Greek armies. But they refused to succumb to the spiritual hopelessness of their situation, and were willing to die fighting for the honor of G-d.
The result was the great celebration of Chanukah, when darkness yielded to light.
Chanukah is a time of rededication of our selves. On Chanukah we remind ourselves that we can accomplish incredible things, if we feels a sense of mission and have the courage to pursue it.

“See how because it burned within them what they were able to accomplish!”
“And the Holy One, blessed is He, was busy creating the light of Moshiach”

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

[1] The following is the lecture I delivered in Kehillat New Hempstead, Shabbos Kodesh Vayishlach 5772
[2] Author of Ohel Moshe on Torah, and Rav in K’hal B’nei Hayeshivos in Brooklyn
[3] Rabbi Avrohom Yeshaya Karelitz zt’l (1878-1953)
[4] Learning sessions in yeshivos are referred to as ‘seder’
[5] At that time, in all of Eretz Yisroel there were only around 100 students – 40 in Chevron, 40 in Petach Tikva, and 20 in Eitz Chaim.
[6] Rebbitzin Kaheneman z’l was particular about that
[7] Bereishis Rabbah 85:1
[8] Over the pain of being separated from his father
[9] Ohel Torah
[10] בית ישראל תשי"ח - "וזאת הלמוד לכל אדם לכל הדורות אף שיש בעבודתו מניעות וממשש באפילה יתחזק לעבוד את השם באיזה מדריגה שהוא, ואח''כ יוכל לעלות"
[11] Quoted in Chidushei Harim al haTorah
[12] Recorded in Kuntrus ממזרח השמש

Wednesday, November 21, 2018



In 1900, there were over 50,000 horses transporting people around London each day.
To add to this, there were yet more horse-drawn carts and drays delivering goods around what was then the largest city in the world.
This huge number of horses created major problems, particularly the large amount of manure left behind on the streets. It attracted flies and also spread typhoid fever and other diseases.
 In New York the problem was more pronounced with a population of 100,000 horses.
This problem came to a head when in 1894 the newspapers predicted that in 50 years, every street in London would be buried under nine feet of manure. It became known as the ‘Great Horse Manure Crisis of 1894’.
The terrible situation was debated in 1898 at the world’s first international urban planning conference in New York, but no solution could be found. It seemed urban civilization was doomed.
But then Henry Ford came up with a process of building motor cars at affordable prices. Electric trams and motor buses appeared on the streets, replacing the horse-drawn buses.
By 1912, the once seemingly insurmountable problem had been resolved, as motorized vehicles became the main source of transport.
In the face of problems that seem to have no apparent solution, ‘The Great Horse Crisis of 1894’ serves as an inspiration that people should never despair. Oftentimes, necessity is the mother of all invention, and the solution is far greater than could have been imagined.

Yaakov Avinu prepared to meet Eisav by gearing up for battle, praying, and sending gifts to Eisav. Then, at night, Yaakov Avinu crossed the river alone to retrieve jugs he had inadvertently left behind. While there he encountered ‘a man’ who wrestled with him through the night. Rashi notes that ‘the man’ was the angel of Eisav who was trying to impede Yaakov.
What is the significance of that encounter? Why did Yaakov struggle with an angel?
The Torah relates that Yaakov emerged from the struggle limping because the angel had dislocated his sciatic nerve. Therefore, his descendants do not eat from the gid hanashe (sciatic nerve).
Why should the descendants of Yaakov abstain from eating something because of what happened to their ancestor?
The gemara[2] relates that Iyov sought to exempt the world from the exacting precision of divine judgement. Iyov reasoned to G-d, “You created oxen with split hooves, and You created donkeys with closed hooves. You created Gan Eden and You created purgatory. You created the righteous and You created the wicked.”  
The Maharsha explains that Iyov’s claim was that ultimately there is no free-choice in the world. Most people leave this world similar to the way they entered it. Some people are born with a temper, others are naturally full of hubris, and others are inclined toward gratification. But in the end, they are no different than oxen and donkeys. Some people will end up in gan eden, others in purgatory; but it’s all pre-ordained based on how they are created.  
The gemara continues that Iyov’s friends countered that G-d created the Torah as an antidote to the evil inclination. In other words, things are not etched in stone. Despite the challenge in doing so, one has the ability to challenge his nature and to grow beyond the confines and negative character traits he is born with.[3] 
An angel is by definition a fixed being. It is referred to as an “omaid – one who stands”, in the sense that it is ‘programmed’ to fulfil its mission and can hardly do otherwise.
The fact that Yaakov Avinu was accosted by an angel is symbolic of the fundamental dispute he maintains against Eisav. Yaakov was so named because when he emerged from the womb of his mother, he was grasping the heel (eikev) of Eisav. The name Yaakov symbolizes his perpetual quest for constant growth. The angel of Eisav blocks his way, as if to say that ‘we are equal; we both are pre-programmed and cannot change our current state.’ The angel struggling against Yaakov is personification of Iyov’s claim that man cannot be held accountable for his actions and mishaps, because everything is the result of how he was created.
Ultimately however, Yaakov emerged victorious. Although he was limping because he was injured, he was still able to continue on. “And Yaakov was הולך- going on the way”. Yaakov was not an omaid who is spiritually paralyzed, but one who constantly is on the move.
The greatness of mankind lies in its ability to continue to grow and accomplish, even when limping and struggling.
The B’nai Yisroel do not eat from the gid hanashe to symbolize that spiritual growth will always be challenging. But we don’t allow the times when we falter to discourage or overwhelm us. We cast those injuries aside and continue in our efforts to grow.[4] 

The claim of Iyov symbolized by the angel of Eisav continues to be made until our time. Robert Sapolsky, a noted scientist, and author of the book Behave, asserts that human beings are biological creatures: “The conjunctions and intersections of biology and culture can be studied rigorously. Every step of the way, biological and nonbiological (experience, culture) factors shape what humans do. This is a staunchly modulatory effect we can attribute to forces in the environment, the past, or the insides of the biological organism reduces the space for the homunculus to exercise its putative free will.”
The Torah categorically rejects such an approach as heretical and false. A human is not limited to his innate character and life experience. He can transcend and traverse, if he has the drive and investment necessary.

The haftorah for parshas Vayishlach is the one-chapter prophecy of Ovadya. Ovadya was a convert of Edomite descent. He lived during the reign of the evil King Achav and even more wicked Queen Izevel. Yet, he was not only righteous, he risked his life to personally protect and sustain a hundred prophets from the sword of the king and queen. 
G-d chose Ovadya, who lived among wicked leaders, and yet was not influenced by them, to prophesize about the downfall of his ancestor Eisav, who lived with his righteous parents, and yet did not allow himself to be positively influenced.
Ovadya symbolizes that a person can overcome all challenges and can become righteous despite his surroundings.[5]   

Every fairy tale begins “Once upon a time” and concludes “And they lived happily ever after.” But the truth is that there are two more words: “The end”. We all would like to live happily ever after, but that only happens when it’s the end. Life is about the struggle to grow, and never settle on past accomplishments.[6]
When a patient is lying in a hospital bed hooked up to heart monitors, the line on the computer constantly shifts up and down. That is the symbol of life. When it becomes a flat line, that means life has come to an end.
Life is not stagnant; things are constantly changing, often at dizzying speeds. What was unimaginable yesterday becomes passé a short while later. We, as people, can and should also be constantly seeking to grow and become better people. That is the legacy of Yaakov Avinu.

“Therefore, the B’nai Yisroel do not eat from the gid hanashe”
“And Yaakov was going on the way”

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

[1] The following is the lecture I delivered in Kehillat New Hempstead, Shabbos Kodesh Vayishlach 5778
[2] Bava Basra 16a
[3] Based on this gemara, Rav Leib Chasman noted that without the greatness of Torah to help one change and improve himself, Iyov is correct.
[4] The previous thought is from a lecture by Rav Noach Isaac Oelbaum
[5] Vayikra Rabba 29:2
[6] Heard from Rabbi Pesach Skulnik, who said it over in the name of his mother-in-law, Rebbitzin Esther Tendler a”h, whose first yahrtzeit was this week.

Thursday, November 15, 2018



One day a father was walking with his son when they encountered a man who looked like he was ancient huddled on a park bench. The father saw an opportunity to teach his son about values. He sat down next to the man and asked him the secret to his longevity. Through his yellowed teeth he weakly replied that he drank a bottle of vodka every morning and every night, smoked three packs of cigarettes a day, and ate donuts and fried foods for breakfast, lunch, and supper. The son was amazed. “You did all that and you lived to be so old?” The man looked at the youth and replied, “I’m 28 years old!” 
Age is not necessarily based on chronological years. There are people that are 95 years young, and other people that are 15 years old. Whether one is old or young has more to do with their attitude, and ability to be flexible and not rigid and fixed. One who is young at heart is always seeking to grow and accomplish, while one who is old feels there is no more room for change or growth.

When Yaakov fled the wrath of Eisav at the beginning of parshas Vayetzei, he was 63 years old. One pasuk later, fourteen more years have elapsed, and Yaakov was 77[2].
During the first seventy-seven years of his life, Yaakov lived – and excelled – in a certain mode of lifestyle. He was the righteous scholar, unaware and uninterested in anything beyond his holy books. He lived in the spiritually serene surroundings of his righteous parents, and was able to advance his spiritual pursuits with complete devotion.
Yet at this juncture, he would have to severely alter his mode of living and adapt to a totally different approach. Not only would he no longer be able to study all day, he had to become a laborer for a notorious conniving swindler, his father-in-law Lavan.
Yaakov could have easily become depressed about his newfound situation. When he had studied Torah all day in his father’s home, and during the years in the academies of Shem and Ever, his life was purposeful and meaningful. But working for Lavan may have felt like a futile endeavor. But Yaakov was undaunted and rose to the challenge. He embraced his new role and fulfiled it with incredible devotion. He was honest to a fault, and completely faithful. 
Before arriving in Charan, when he was atop Har HaMoriah, Yaakov declared “Truly Hashem is in this place, but I did not know.” The pasuk continues, “He became very afraid and he said, ‘How awesome is this place; this is none other than the House of Hashem and this is the gateway to heaven’.”
Perhaps Yaakov was not only referring to the actual sacred ground he was physically standing on at that moment, but also to his newfound situation and expectations for the home of Lavan and beyond. 
Often individuals who have spent their formative years learning diligently in yeshiva surrounded by rabbeim and friends, feel pangs of guilt and discontentment when the times come for them to leave yeshiva and seek a means of livelihood for their families. They wonder to themselves what meaning they can find in their office and in the business world, as compared to their former life in the Bais Medrash. Can closeness with Hashem be attained in the workplace? Can one continue to grow in the home of Lavan and when struggling with Eisav?  
Yaakov Avinu declared, “Truly Hashem is in this place, but I did not know.” In whatever place one finds himself, Hashem is to be found there, if he is sought. “How awesome is this place” – even beyond the confines of the Bais Medrash one can grow closer to Hashem in incredible ways if that is his aspiration and desire.
Yaakov Avinu remained the same faithful servant of Hashem in the home of Lavan, albeit in a different manner than he had done for the first seventy-seven years of his life. 

In 1929, Rabbi Chatzkel Abramsky zt’l was arrested by the NKVD in Soviet Russia and sentenced to five years of hard labor in Siberia.[3]
Years after his release, Rabbi Abramsky related to his students: “During my time in Siberia I woke up in the morning and began reciting ‘Modeh Ani’ – I am thankful before You – living and enduring King - that You returned to me my soul“, but then I stopped. My entire body ached from the severe labor I was subjected to daily, and from the severe blows the sadistic guards dealt us constantly. Was I really thankful to Hashem for returning my soul to me under such inhumane conditions? I was unable to learn Torah properly, I wasn’t permitted to serve Hashem, the constant beatings were intolerable, and there didn’t seem to be any light at the end of the tunnel. So why was I thankful for waking up?
“But then I concluded the prayer, “Great is Your faith”. For that alone it was worth enduring all the torture and suffering of Siberia – for the opportunity to connect with the infinite through faith. For that I was indeed thankful that G-d had granted me another day - even in Siberia.”
The Torah relates that after Leah had given birth to four sons, Rachel become despondent. “And she said to Yaakov, ‘grant me children, for if not I am dead’.”[4] The Torah relates that Yaakov became angry with Rachel and replied, “Am I in place of G-d who has withheld from you fruit of the womb?”
One of the commentators explain[5] that Yaakov was upset with Rachel for declaring that if she didn’t have children, she was dead. It was of course understandable that she desperately desired to have a child. But if the divine ordained that it was not to be, that her mission in life was otherwise, was she as good as dead? Could she not have any other purpose in life? Yaakov felt that the righteous Rachel, despite her pain, should realize that even when life does not happen the way we hoped or expected, Hashem has a plan for every person. The mere fact that Hashem has “returned my soul to me with compassion” demonstrates that Hashem has great faith in what we can accomplish.   

In the haftorah read on public fast days, the prophet Yeshaya states: “Let the foreigner who has attached himself to Hashem not say ‘Hashem will separate me from among His people”, and let the one unable to bear children not say ‘behold I am a dried out tree’.”[6] The Navi also declares, “The one who hopes to Hashem will renew his strength, he will ascend like the wings of eagles, he will run without becoming weary, he will proceed without tiring.”[7] 
A person may have lived many decades and yet be youthful if he maintains a freshness and excitement for what life has to offer. One who sees the opportunity in every juncture of life and in whatever situation he finds himself, maintains a spark that keeps him young.
When he arrived in Charan, Yaakov Avinu was seventy-seven. Despite his age, he embraced the significant transformation of the course of his life and was undaunted by the challenges that faced him. At that point, Yaakov Avinu wasn’t seventy-seven years old, but seventy-seven years young![8]

“How awesome is this place”
“He will run without becoming weary, they will proceed without tiring

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

[1] The following is the lecture I delivered in Kehillat New Hempstead, Shabbos Kodesh Vayetzei 5778
[2] Chazal relate that Yaakov went to learn Torah in the academies of Shem and Ever for fourteen years to prepare him for the spiritual challenges of being in the home of Lavan.
[3] Due to tremendous efforts of prominent Jews throughout the world, he was freed on Erev Yom Kippur 1931
[4] Bereishis 30:4
[5] I regret that I could not locate the source of this very poignant thought
[6] Yeshaya 56:3
[7] Yeshaya 40:31
[8] In parshas Vayigash, when Yaakov finally reunited with Yosef, he is introduced to Pharaoh. Pharaoh was intrigued by the appearance of Yaakov Avinu and he asked him his age. Yaakov replied in a manner which – on his exalted level – seemed to decry the travails he had suffered (Bereishis 47:8-9). For that, he was punished by losing a year of his life for every word of Pharaoh’s question and of his reply. In a sense, at that point Yaakov’s reply was that he was one hundred and thirty years old (See Ramban there). At that point Yaakov became old, whereas in parshas Vayetzei he was still young, in the sense that we explained above.

Thursday, November 8, 2018



My rebbe, Rabbi Berel Wein, relates that during the Holocaust a Nazi in the gehtto was grabbing Jewish children off the street and throwing them into the back of a waiting truck, to cart them off to their deaths.
As he picked up one child, the youth looked defiantly at the Nazi and said, “You’re Eisav and I’m Yaakov. And even though right now you’re stronger, I would still rather be Yaakov than Eisav!”

When the Torah records the death of Avrohom Avinu it says, “And they buried him, Yitzchok and Yishmael his sons, to the cave of Machpeilah…”[2] Rashi comments that the fact that the pasuk records Yitzchak before Yishmael indicates that Yishmael allowed Yitzchak to precede him with the burial, which demonstrates that Yishamel repented.
Rav Shlomo Wolbe zt’l[3] explained that the mere fact that Yishmael allowed Yitzchak to precede him demonstrated that Yishamel recognized Yitzchok’s greatness. That realization and acceptance was itself an inextricable part of his teshuva process. The prerequisite for repentance is recalibrating one’s values and priorities.
Rabbi Wolbe continues that throughout our lives we are constantly evaluating. We evaluate whether a food is tasty and whether it’s sufficiently cooked. When we speak to people, we evaluate whether they are as smart as we are, and whether they share our viewpoints.
Every person has a different value system. What one values strongly effects the lifestyle he pursues and the kind of person he develops into.
The fact that Yishmael allowed Yitzchak to walk before him at the funeral of their father, demonstrated that Yishamel recognized Yitzchak’s primacy. That symbolized that Yishmael had altered his value system and recognized that the path of Yitzchak was more admirable than the path he had embraced until that point.

When Eisav flippantly sold the birthright to Yaakov for a bowl of lentils, he too demonstrated that his value system had changed. He no longer recognized the value of the birthright, which he now viewed disdainfully, and was more than willing to part with it. “Behold I am going to die, what is the birthright for me?”[4]
The gemara relates that on that day – the day of Avrohom Avinu’s death – Eisav had committed five cardinal sins, immorality, idolatry, murder, denial of G-d, and denial of the resurrection of the dead. The shift in his values was at the root of why he committed such severe sins.    

On the morning of November 18, 2014/26 Cheshvan 5775, two Palestinian men from Yerushalayim entered Kehilat Bnei Torah, in Har Nof , Israel, and attacked the innocent congregants with axes, knives, and a gun.
Four men were immediately killed, while donned in their talis and tefillin - Rabbi Moshe Twersky, 59, head of the Toras Moshe kollel, Rabbi Calman Levine (55), Rabbi Aryeh Kupinsky (43), and Rabbi Avraham Shmuel Goldberg (68).
One of the injured victims, Howard (Chaim) Rotman, spent nearly a year in a vegetative coma due to multiple cleaver wounds to the face and head, died of his wounds on October 23, 2015.

The following article appeared the day after the attack:
Day After Deadly Attack, Family Holds Brit at Har Nof Synagogue
  27 Heshvan 5775 – November 19, 2014

 …Even with the cloud of sadness that descended on Jerusalem’s Har Nof neighborhood, as the community mourned the gruesome murders and the bloodied synagogue, there was a spark of happiness felt – in the synagogue itself.
Shula and Dov Sorotzkin, Haredi residents of Har Nof, decided to hold the brit mila or ritual circumcision of their son, Eliyahu Meir, at the Kehillat Bnei Torah synagogue, where the attack took place 24 hours earlier.
“We woke up yesterday to the sounds of gunfire,” Dov Sorotzkin told Tazpit News Agency. The couple, who live right next to the synagogue, decided that despite the bloody attack, their synagogue was the best place to perform the brit mila of their newborn son.
“We chose to do the brit here today because of the symbolism that this place holds, especially in light of this important religious ceremony for our people. The brit mila is about the covenant and connection between G-d and the Jewish people,” Sorotzkin told Tazpit.
“The rabbis who were here yesterday were killed in the middle of a conversation with G-d, but we are here today, continuing that connection,” said Sorotzkin…
For Sorotzkin’s father, Yosef, the brit mila of his grandson is a sign of faith. “We are doing what the Jewish people have done throughout history; every time there has been death and destruction, we keep moving and creating,” he told Tazpit.

Our response to the attacks was with the sounds of Torah and tefilla and b’ris mila the following morning. At the same time, Arabs were giving out candies to their children to celebrate the murders that had occurred.
It is a stark representation of Rabbi Wolbe’s insight. Our values determine and direct our behaviors and the way we choose to live.

The week following the horrific attacks, while the families were still sitting shiva, the four widows sent out the following message:
“With tears and broken hearts for the blood that has been spilled - the blood of the sanctified ones, our husbands, the heads of our homes - we turn to our brothers and sisters, everyone from the house of Israel, in whatever place they may be, to unite so that we merit compassion and mercy from on High.
“We should accept upon ourselves to increase the love and affection for each other, between ourselves and between different communities within the Jewish people.
“We beseech that every person accepts upon himself/herself at the time of the acceptance of Shabbos, that this Shabbos, Shabbos Parashas Toldos, should be a day in which we express our love for each other, a day in which we refrain from speaking divisively or criticizing others.
“By doing so it will be a great merit for the souls of our husbands who were slaughtered for the sake of G-d’s Name. G-d looks down from above and sees our pain, and He will wipe away our tears and declare 'Enough to all the pain and grief.' We should merit witnessing the coming of Moshiach, soon in our days, amen, amen.
-Chaya Levine, Breine Goldberg, Yakova Kupinsky, Bashi Twersky”

In life and in death, our primary concern is for the sanctification of Hashem’s Name. That value system contains the secret to our eternal greatness.

“Eisav disgraced the birthright”
“They buried him, Yitzchok and Yishmael his sons, to the cave of Machpeilah”

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

[1] The following is the lecture I delivered in Kehillat New Hempstead, Shabbos Kodesh Toldos 5775. It was the week following the terrible Har Nof massacre. It’s message about our response and perspective is especially resonant in light of the recent attacks in Pittsburgh.
[2] Bereishis 25:9
[3] Shiurei Chumash
[4] Bereishis 25:32