Thursday, February 10, 2011


Erev Shabbos Kodesh Parshas Tetzaveh

6 Adar I 5771/Febuary 11, 2011

A man was standing on the side of the river when he noticed his friend standing on the other side. “Hey buddy, how do I get to the other side?” His friend laughed mockingly, “You silly fool; you are on the other side!”

Someone once noted that anyone who drives slower than him is a turtle while anyone who drives faster than him is a maniac. Similarly, anyone who is more religious than him is a zealous fanatic, while anyone less religious than him is rebellious.

The Teaneck community is divided by Route 4. Those who live there refer to those who live beyond the highway as living ‘on the other side’. I often ask Teaneck residents whether they live ‘on the side’ or ‘the other side’.

[Although Lakewood is divided by a lake, everyone knows that the Yeshiva side is ‘The side’ and the other side is ‘the other side’. Even if one day they will have more residents than the yeshiva side, the other side will perpetually remain ‘the other side’.]

Our perspective of the world is tainted by our own egos and by the fact that we feel that we represent the perfect median. Therefore we have a hard time seeing things from anyone else’s perspective.

We also have a hard time being candid about ourselves. It’s hard for us to properly gauge ourselves. Consider the following quote: “I have spent the best years of my life giving people the lighter pleasures, helping them have a good time, and all I get is abuse, the existence of a hunted man.”

Those words were uttered by Al Capone, the most sinister gang leader in Chicago. Despite all of the hurt and damage he was responsible for, he actually regarded himself as a misunderstood and unappreciated public benefactor.

The Torah warns us about this danger. “It is not good for man to be alone.” A person must acknowledge the perspective of others, especially regarding himself. “How do I fit (or not) into society?” “How do I make others feel?” “Am I a friend that a friend would want to have?” “Do I act to my spouse as I would like my spouse to treat me?”

It has become an unwritten custom that during Sheva Berachos meals speakers laud the bride and the groom, speaking of their virtues, and how lucky they each are to have found such a worthy spouse.

I often say (only half-jokingly) that those speeches are integral. Now that the young couple has married they are beginning a new phase of life, where they have to learn to respect the feelings of another - even about issues they may feel are trivial. The first months after marriage can be very trying on the young couple as they struggle to acclimate themselves to each other’s idiosyncrasies, preferences, particularities, and personalities. It can often be somewhat jolting for them to discover that they are not as easy-going and amiable as they thought they were. There are parts of their personality that they have to work on after-all.

When they begin to feel dejected or frustrated with themselves (or with their spouse), they must remember their virtues that were recounted during Sheva Berachos, and realize that with a little effort they will acclimate and truly become greater people (IF that is their goal and ambition).

Alone we are a dangerous and unruly species. But when we realize that we are a work in progress and that it’s not ‘my way or the highway’ our potential is almost without limit, no matter which side of the river or highway we are on.

Shabbat Shalom & Good Shabbos,

R’ Dani and Chani Staum