Thursday, August 12, 2010


Erev Shabbos Kodesh Parshas Shoftim– Avos perek 1

3 Elul 5770/ /August 13, 2010

Camp Dora Golding in East Stroudsburg, PA boasts 156 acres of property. During the previous decade and a half tremendous effort has been expended to beautify and utilize the grounds as much as possible.

About two weeks ago, the camp leadership decided that a new parking lot would be beneficial to contain the large volume of cars on Visiting Day. The ideal location for such a lot was next to the entrance. The only problem is that there was a hill on the spot where they wanted the new parking lot to be conveniently located. What could they do about the trees, large rocks, and hilly terrain?

It turns out that it wasn’t a big deal at all. An excavation crew was brought into camp. The tall and mighty trees with their deep roots were uprooted and the large boulders cast aside seemingly effortlessly. The dirt that composed the mountain was carted away and plowed over. It was incredible to watch them literally level the mountain in a matter of days, and the added parking spaces were indeed helpful.

The prophet Yeshaya (Isaiah) foretold to the nation: (41:15-16) “Behold, I have made you into a serrated threshing sledge, new, with many teeth; you will thresh mountains and pulverize them, and you will make the hills into chaff. You will winnow them and the wind will carry them off, and a storm wind will scatter them, and you will jubilate in G-d, and praise yourself in the Holy One of Israel.”

Throughout history, and especially in recent times, there have been many ideologies and isms that have taken root and dominated the psyches of masses, and even entire nations. When Russia was overtaken by Communism during World War I, it eventually dominated Eastern Europe, barricading millions behind ‘the Iron Curtain’.

When Hitler usurped power in the Reichstag in 1923 and formulated the Third Reich, he asserted that it would stand for a thousand years. Truthfully when he began his conquest of Europe, Asia, and Africa with lightning speed, there was virtually no nation that could withstand his onslaught.

The Soviet Union and Nazi Germany were awesome mountains that were virtually impregnable. Yet within fifteen years there was nothing left of the Nazi regime. The mighty Soviet Union stood for seventy years until in 1990 it collapsed, and within a short time it was completely disbanded. They were both mighty mountains, yet within a short time, they were flattened, and their dust was carted off into the abyss. On some level we have witnessed the fruition of this prophecy.

“I raise my eyes to the mountains; from whence will come my help? My help is from G-d, Maker of heaven and earth” (Tehillim 121:1-2). Perhaps King David was not only referring to physical mountains, but also to the proverbial mighty societal, economical, and despotic ‘mountains’. The psalmist gazes upon these intimidating powers and wonders who will save us from them? But he is quick to answer his own question: G-d Himself will save us for He who has allowed those mountains to form, can surely destroy those mountains just the same.

The month of Elul is upon us and with it the call of the shofar. Rambam famously explains that the shofar of Elul serves to jerk us out of our slumber of monotonous rote and routine.

On a personal level the shofar acts as a quasi alarm clock, jolting us to realize the imminence of the Days of Judgment. On a global level the shofar of Elul reminds us that the mountains that surround us- mountains of capitalism, anti-Semitism, anti-Israel, terrorism, and Islamic Jihad can all be flattened and pulverized in a moment. We have witnessed the unthinkable collapse of such mountains in the past, and it is surely not beyond G-d to do so again.

[My Rebbe, Rabbi Berel Wein shlita, quipped that one knows that communism has fallen by seeing that former refusenik Anatoly Sharansky became an MK in the Israeli Knesset, while former Russian President Mikhail Gorbachev is driving a Volvo and doing pizza commercials.]

We pray that we witness the collapse of those nefarious mountains quickly in our time. And then, as we have so many times in the past, we will use the ruins of our former enemies to park ourselves upon them in triumph.

Shabbat Shalom & Good Shabbos,

R’ Dani and Chani Staum