Thursday, October 28, 2010


Erev Shabbos Kodesh Parshas Chayei Sarah

22 Cheshvan 5771/October 29, 2010

It is with utmost gratitude to Hashem Yisborach that we announce and celebrate the birth of our daughter this past Monday, 17 Cheshvan 5771.

When we were discussing the baby with our children a few weeks ago, our five year old daughter Aviva Rochel – paraphrasing the well known refrain with an addition of her own - declared that, “it doesn’t matter what it is, as long as it’s a healthy girl!”

More recently when we asked our three year old son Avi what he would do when he sees the baby he emphatically announced that he was going to give it a potch. When we asked him why he explained, “Because it kicks Mommy.”

The gemara relates that during the months before a soul descends into the world an angel teaches it the entire Torah. Then, just before it is born, the angel taps the baby on its lip causing it to forget all it learned. When we arrived in the hospital prior to the birth of each of our children I told Chani that in heaven they were reciting the hadran (the declaration recited at the completion of a tractate of gemara or an Order of mishnayos) at the celestial seudas pereidah (farewell meal ) for our soon-to-be-born child.

This past Monday morning we drove through a dense fog and arrived in the hospital at about 6 A.M. The baby was born at 8:41 A.M. However, as we did not know in advance how long the delivery would take, I felt that I should daven shacharis in the hospital.

I left the room where Chani was hooked up to the monitors recording her and the baby’s heartbeat and the intravenous. I went to a secluded corner and donned my tallis and tefillin.

Standing there clad in my “prayer uniform” it struck me. In our daily lives we are exposed to many spiritual poisons. I too was “hooked up”, receiving an injection through an intravenous, i.e. a spiritual injection through a spiritual intravenous. Each morning we connect ourselves to receive a spiritual anti-biotic to ward off those pernicious forces, as we monitor our spiritual heart rate.

In our technologically advanced world we busy ourselves with many electronic devices including phones, bluetooths, blackberries, cameras, and laptops. All those devices have a limited amount of available energy, and need to be charged periodically. So every night we connect our contraptions to long black cords that plug into the wall. Metaphorically every morning we connect our soul to “black cords” that plug us in to our spiritual source to bolster our spirit.

As a side point, when going to the hospital it’s a good idea to remember to take those black cords so that phones, cameras, and laptops don’t die during the day. I learned that lesson this week…

[Interestingly enough, in the October 2002 edition of Journal of Chinese Medicine there was an article entitled “Tefillin: An ancient acupuncture point prescription for mental clarity.” The article makes the case that the parts of the body on which the tefillin rest creates an outline much like an acupuncture pattern that would enhance mental clarity. The article adds that it is surprising that such a pattern can be found in a non-Chinese procedure dating back thousands of years.]

As we thank G-d for the past blessings and kindness He has bestowed upon us, we pray that He continue to shower us with blessings and help our newborn daughter - and her siblings - always feel connected to her true source.

May we always share Simchos!

Shabbat Shalom & Good Shabbos,

R’ Dani and Chani Staum

Thursday, October 21, 2010


Erev Shabbos Kodesh Parshas Vayera

15 Cheshvan 5771/October 22, 2010

Two years ago we erected our succah on our porch for the first time. Our porch, which is off our kitchen, is very high off the ground. It is also quite open, so that the wind is felt very acutely up there. When we arrived home during Chol Hamoed the s’chach of the succah had blown off, but as there had been a strong storm during Yom Tov I fixed it and wasn’t all that concerned.

That year we had four guests for Shemini Atzeres. The night meal was beautiful and we anticipated the same for the next morning. However, to our chagrin, when we arrived home from shul the s’chach had blown off the succah and was resting comfortably on the roof of the house.

We had no choice but to trek to our closest neighbor (our friends the Duskis family), a five minute walk away, and ‘borrow their succah’. [As this is not a halachic forum, if such a situation ever arises one should ask their Rabbi if, and how, the succah can be fixed.] With three strollers laden with food, including a crock pot full of cholent (it was also Shabbos) we made our way to their succah, where they graciously welcomed us in. They had already finished their meal and allowed us to make ourselves comfortable in their succah.

I remember thinking how strange it felt throughout the meal. It was our food, our family, and our company. My wife served the food and I conducted the meal. However, it was someone else’s table and someone else’s home.

Upon later reflection I realized that the feeling I had is actually the feeling we are supposed to feel every Shabbos. On Shabbos we enter a world of spiritual bliss wherein our entire lives are elevated. More specifically our dining room tables are transformed into G-d’s table, as it were. In that metaphysical sense, on Shabbos we are guests at our own table.

This idea is expressed clearly in the lengthy prayer recited by many after singing ‘Shalom Aleichem’ on Friday night. “And I have come to Your home to plead my supplication before You…” Even though we are still in our own homes, when the sun sets ushering in the sanctity of Shabbos on Friday evening, we have come to His house.

Based on this idea, Rabbi Shimshon Pinkus zt’l explained that even if one is alone for Shabbos he/she should dress in his finest, set the table royally, and eat delicacies on Shabbos, for the honor of G-d. No matter where one is in the world on Shabbos he is in the Home of G-d sitting at His table.

Still, it is a lot easier to be a guest at your own table, in your own home, as opposed to that of your neighbor.

Shabbat Shalom & Good Shabbos,

R’ Dani and Chani Staum

Friday, October 15, 2010


Erev Shabbos Kodesh Parshas Lech Lecha

7 Cheshvan 5771/October 15, 2010

They descended together, knowing where they were going, but understanding that this is where they needed to be. Still they never expected what occurred to happen. Trapped hundreds of miles below with nowhere to turn but the suffocated area they found themselves in blocked from every side, for there was no one to help them. Amazingly they gave each other encouragement in the worst of conditions and were able to maintain their hope, although it was so long.

Meanwhile well above the surface they were working feverishly to get them out. It would be an arduous and challenging undertaking but they would find a way.

When the escape plan was set into place everyone held their breath. Suddenly the world tuned in to this small, previously unimportant group and waited to hear what would become of them, and whether they could be rescued.

One by one they were lifted out of the murky, dingy and cramped world they had been stuck in. The ascension itself was fraught with difficulty and there was fear whether they would be able to make it out safely. But when they did the world was watching gleefully.

As each one emerged the assemblage cheered, and the dignitaries present embraced them. Their loved ones ran into their arms in a most emotionally moving manner. Throngs of journalists from all over the world, and every major media outlet were gathered there to witness the event. As they broke the story the emotion they themselves were feeling was discernible in their voices. “We feared that this would be a story of tragedy, but here we are celebrating success.” “Imagine what kind of place they are coming from, and now hastily thrust into the open arms of friends and admirers, as the world looks on.” “It’s just an astounding sight. The leader of the group insisted that he would be the last to ascend. He has now finally been brought up and now the mission is complete.” “It’s an overwhelming sight. We didn’t think this would truly happen. But it did!” “Suddenly the former captives are celebrities the world over.”

It’s an amazing and touching story. The world is riveted by the tale of a small group saved from tragedy after enduring so much. It’s a story that touches us so deeply because it connects with the universal human need to maintain hope and never give up.

In fact, the story is a classic example of foreshadowing. For in a deeper sense the above story has not yet taken place! Reread the story carefully and you will realize that the story is about us and our people. We will capture the world’s attention, at the time when we will finally be rescued from the spiritual, psychological, (and often physical) morass in which the world has trapped us.

“It’s an overwhelming sight. We didn’t think this would truly happen. But it did!”

“Then your light will break out the morning, and your healing will soon grow.” (Yeshaya 58:8)

Soon. Very soon.

Shabbat Shalom & Good Shabbos,

R’ Dani and Chani Staum

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

NOACH 5771

Erev Shabbos Kodesh Parshas Noach

1Rosh Chodesh MarCheshvan 5771/October 8, 2010

Anyone who lives in Monsey (or Rockland County) is familiar with the challenge of driving on the Palisades Parkway at night. During the day the parkway boasts beautiful scenery of passing trees, especially during the fall foliage season. But at night there is nothing to see but passing white lines, making the trip arduous and monotonous.

A friend of mine related that he was once driving down the Palisades very late one evening (to be more precise it was quite early the following morning). He was tired and eager to get home after a long day, and his hasty driving reflected it. Somewhere along the way, to his utter chagrin he noticed blaring lights in his rearview mirror, and he reluctantly pulled over.

After the cop asked him for his license and registration, my friend tried to bargain, “But officer I was only going with the traffic.” The cop laughed heartily and replied, “Son, at this hour of the night, you are the traffic!”

In one of his classic addresses in Yeshiva Shaarei Torah, my Rebbe, Rabbi Berel Wein, once quipped to a Study Hall full of teenage yeshiva boys, “Don’t go with the flow, you may go over the falls.”

The Mishna in Avos (2:5) advises that, “In a place where there is no man, strive to be a man!” In a situation where no one is willing to grab the reins and steer the horse forward, someone must be willing to bear the yoke of responsibility and goad the chariot ahead.

At the same time there are many situations when one should opt for a passive ‘back-seat’ role. When there is sufficient leadership there is a vital need for followers who are willing to subjugate themselves to the direction and leadership of others.

As of everything in life, the key is to understand this balance and to have the wisdom to know when to lead and when to follow. Following blindly at the wrong time may land you at the bottom of the falls, but leading blindly can earn you a hefty ticket.

Shabbat Shalom & Good Shabbos,

R’ Dani and Chani Staum