Friday, May 28, 2010


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Erev Shabbos Kodesh Parshas Beha’aloscha– Avos perek 2

15 Sivan 5770/ May 28, 2010

The following thoughts were written in honor of the kehilla’s celebration of -

The 50th wedding anniversary of Sy and Sandy Freidbaum

The 25th anniversary of Nathan and Stacy Losman

The 50th anniversary of Jerry and Shelia Wolfset

When I was in Eretz Yisroel a few weeks ago, I spent the entire Erev Shabbos in the bustling neighborhoods of Meah Shearim and Geulah. I love walking through those areas, shopping the many sefarim and Judaica stores, and watching the impatient crowds. But nothing compares to Erev Shabbos when the masses come to do their Shabbos shopping.

For lunch my brother Yaakov and I met up with a few friends from camp in a pizza shop. Our lunch mates were all yeshiva bochurim, learning in local yeshivas. With my white shirt and black pants I blended in with them.

While we were eating, a tzedakah collector made his way through the little restaurant. When I handed him a dollar his eyes lit up and he blessed me, "יזכה לזווג הגון" – that I merit finding a good marriage partner. I replied that I didn’t think my wife would be very happy with that blessing and I had to discuss it with her and my children. He laughed and tapped my arm lightly and exclaimed, יזכה לכל טוב" – May you merit all good things.”

It was a cute story and it reminded me of a lesson that I learned when I was first married. One must merit finding a good marriage partner throughout his married life. In other words, one must pray that his marriage be elevated and peaceful and that (s)he find favor in the eyes of his (her) spouse throughout their lives.

In the Grace after Meals we ask G-d that we merit to, “find favor and good understanding in the eyes of G-d and man.” Being able to find favor in the eyes of others (not to mention G-d) is one of the greatest blessings. Sometimes a person can do everything right but for some inexplicable reason is unable to win the grace of others, including an employer or spouse. Therefore we pray that we indeed find favor in the hearts of others.

The Mashgiach, Rabbi Mordechai Finkleman related in the name of his rebbe, Rabbi Moshe Wolfson, that it is of special significance to recite Psalm 121 just before one recites the verse “Yehyi l’ratzon” and takes three steps back to conclude his personal Shemoneh Esrei prayers. The Psalm, begins with the words, “I lift my eyes to the mountains; whence will come'עזרי' ? 'עזרי' comes from G-d, the Maker of heaven and earth.” [Although the word ‘Ezri’ literally means “My help” it can also refer to “my helpmate”, i.e. one’s spouse. See Bereishis 2:18 where Chava is referred to as the ‘Ezer’ of Adam.] It is worthy of the extra minute to recite that psalm, bearing in mind that one is praying for a wonderful marriage of mutual friendship, respect, and love.

So no matter how many years G-d has blessed a person to be married, (s)he always needs the continual blessing that (s)he merit a good marriage partner. And of course the first step in finding a good marriage partner is trying to be one yourself.

Shabbat Shalom & Good Shabbos,

R’ Dani and Chani Staum

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Parshas Bamidbar 5770

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Erev Shabbos Kodesh Parshas Bamidbar – Avos perek 6

Rosh Chodesh Sivan (45th day of omer) 5770/ May 14, 2010

A number of years ago as we were preparing to head up to camp for the summer, our then four year old son Shalom asked me why we were putting clothes, seforim, and toys into boxes. I explained to him that we were getting ready to go up to the mountains for the summer. He replied rather emphatically, “Abba, I know why we are going up to the mountains; we are going to get the Torah!”

It is well known that the Torah was given specifically on Mount Sinai because of its humility. While the mountains of Tavor and Carmel were taller and more impressive, they were also more arrogant.

The opening words of Tractate Avos read, “Moshe received the Torah from Sinai”. The commentators explain that although the Torah came from G-d and not from Sinai, the Mishna records that Moshe received the Torah from Sinai to allude to the idea that Moshe merited being the transmitter of Torah on account of his extreme humility, just like Sinai itself. The opening words of the tractate devoted to Torah ethics and morals reminds us that for one to internalize the ideals of Torah he must be humble and unassuming.

Last week, Yeshiva Bais Hachinuch went on its annual Lag Ba’omer outing to Bear Mountain. While hiking up the mountain, I mentioned to some of the boys that although when we reached the peak I would see the same view as I saw last year, this year I would appreciate it much more. I asked them why they thought that was true. One of the boys replied that the year before I had driven up to the top of the mountain with the drinks and snacks, while this year I was hiking up with the rest of them. Last year I didn’t have to work to reach that beautiful scenic view. This year however, I would ‘earn’ it by trekking and sweating up the mountain with everyone else.

As everyone knows when you have to work for something you appreciate it much more. A good friendship or marriage, a coveted professional position, and becoming a good parent, all requires sweat and toil.

Similarly, achieving greatness in Torah requires perseverance and determination. One who seeks an easy path to Talmudic knowledge may indeed amass much Talmudic sagacity, but he will not become a Torah scholar. That designation is reserved for one who is willing to invest the requisite time and effort into his studies so that what he studies becomes an inextricable component of his personality.

Dovid Hamelech asks (Tehillim 24:3) “Who will ascend the mountain of G-d and who will stand in His holy place?” One who wants to achieve greatness must realize that it’s an uphill climb. But the view from the top is absolutely magnificent.

Good Chodesh to all

Shabbat Shalom & Good Shabbos,

R’ Dani and Chani Staum

Thursday, May 6, 2010


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Erev Shabbos Kodesh Parshios Behar-Bechukosai – Avos perek 5

23 Iyar (38th day of omer) 5770/ May 6, 2010

One night a few weeks ago I noticed that one of the front headlights on my car was out. Not wanting to be stopped by an aggressive cop, the next day I went to the mechanic and had the light changed.

That night as I was driving to shul for ma’ariv I noticed a police car at the intersection at the bottom of the hill near our home. I felt very cocky as I passed him, sporting my headlights and dutifully adhering to the speed limit. You can only imagine my shock then when, as I was about to turn into the shul’s driveway, I saw flashing lights in my rearview mirror.

It’s always fun for a rabbi to get pulled over just outside his shul. I rolled down my window as the cop jauntily asked for my license and registration. I honestly could not figure out why he had pulled me over. After handing him my information I asked him what I had done wrong. He replied that the light on top of my license plate was out. I was stunned. “Officer, I just had my headlight changed today. I didn’t even know there was a light by the license plate.” “Oh sure” he replied, “That light is what allows us to see your plates at night.”

After checking my record he handed me back my license and let me go. I quickly turned into the driveway and hurried into shul late and red faced.

In order to drive around our cars must have license plate which identify us to the outside world. In a similar vein, we all have personalities and character traits which define us. For a child to be successful he must have confidence in himself. He must have the courage to forge ahead down the ominous and unsure paths of life. That courageous attitude is like a headlight which illuminates the looming darkness. Just as without that light one would never be able to drive in the darkness, without that confidence a child cannot be successful.

For a child to develop that confidence he needs to have a cheerleading squad who believes in him, even when he doesn’t believe in himself. A great educator once quipped that children do not become what we think they can become, nor do they become what they think they can become. Rather, they become what they think we think they can become. As parents and teachers we need to demonstrate to our children that we believe in them. [As we know, it is the children who need it the most that get it the least!]

A child acutely senses how his parents and teachers perceive him and how much potential they feel he has. That optimism and belief in the child is the light which shines from behind. It illuminates the child’s sense of identity and gives him the fortitude to plunge ahead. A child who lacks that light cannot properly drive ahead. Even though his headlights may shine brightly in front of him, without the lights shining on his sense of identity, impediments can sneak up from behind and impede his progress.

So this week I finally went back to the mechanic and had the lights on top of my plates replaced. And that very night – I kid you not – when my wife was pulling out of the driveway I noticed that her front headlight was out!

Shabbat Shalom & Good Shabbos,

R’ Dani and Chani Staum