Thursday, November 24, 2011


Erev Shabbos Kodesh Parshas Toldos/ Mevarchim Chodesh Kislev

28 MarCheshvan 5772/November 25, 2011

This past Sunday morning as I was delivering my weekly Rambam shiur after shacharis, my family neighbor from my youth, R’ Akiva Lane, walked in and sat down to listen. At the end of the shiur, he handed me a small notebook and said, “We were cleaning out our basement and we found this; it belongs to you.” I peered down at the cover of my fourth grade notebook! I should mention that the Lane family made aliyah a number of years ago. I have no idea how my notebook ended up in their home in the first place, but somehow it remained with them all these years.

By nature I am a copious note-taker and have many binders and notebooks full of notes from classes and lectures I have heard over the years. I try to write my notes in a manner that others could read my writings and understand them. Part of my inspiration for writing in such detailed fashion comes from my Zayde. Truthfully, it is not because he had such beautiful notes, but rather the opposite. His handwriting is very difficult to decipher, and he wrote brief thoughts on any pieces of paper he had available. There are short thoughts jotted on the back of invitations, tax forms, school papers, and advertisements. Those papers were left in his sefarim.

Over the years I have spent considerable amounts of time trying to decipher his writings. I have been successful in understanding some of them, but there is so much more that I still can’t quite make out. Whatever I have been able to understand is extremely precious to me.

Ben Franklin famously wrote:

“If you would not be forgotten, As soon as you are dead and rotten;

Either write things worth reading, Or do things worth writing.”

The Mishna in Avos states וקנה לך חבר" – Acquire for yourself a friend.” One of the commentaries offers a novel interpretation of these words: A קנה can also be translated as a reed, which used to be used as a quill for writing. Thus the Mishna is saying, “Your pen – will be your friend.”

When something is written, it’s documented forever (as long as you don’t lose it). I have letters that I received from my Grandmothers when I was a camper in camp as a child which are so precious to me, as well as letters from my parents, and even copies of letters I sent to others. The memories contained in those writings are invaluable. When I read them I find myself momentarily transported back to a different time and place in my life.

It was a fascinating experience to open the notebook and see my writings from so many years ago, from such a vastly different stage in my life.

That is a bit of the feeling I had when I opened up my fourth grade notebook with my old address - 19 Echo Ridge Rd - and our classic phone number 578-5787 (what a phone-number!) written in my nine year old handwriting on the front cover. That notebook had the steps of the korbanos which were brought in the Mishkan. Rabbi Shlomo Breslauer, my fourth grade rebbe, had us memorize all the steps, many of which I still remember.

It’s amazing how many memories are hidden away in old letters and an old notebook.

Shabbat Shalom & Good Shabbos,

R’ Dani and Chani Staum