Wednesday, December 26, 2012


Erev Shabbos Kodesh Parshas Vayechi
15 Teves 5773/December 28, 2012

Mr. Alex Gold, the indefatigable and devoted director of Camp Dora Golding began his orientation to the campers this past summer by recounting the following personal vignette:
One day I was walking towards my car in Brooklyn, and as I took my car keys out to open the car door the keys slipped out of my hand and fell straight down into a sewer. I was able to see my keys just sitting there, but they were out of reach and there was nothing I could do. It wasn’t like I could just have another key made because the key has a magnetic computer chip inside it and costs $300 to replace.
I was quite frustrated as I called Chaveirim for help. Within a few minutes a representative showed up. He reassured me that this happens all the time and he would be able to retrieve my keys within a minute or two. Sure enough he lowered a powerful magnet attached to a cord, hooked on my keys and handed them back to me.”
Mr. Gold concluded his story in his inimitably witty manner by saying, “Why did I tell you this story? It really has nothing to do with what I want to talk about now. But I got all of your attention, so now I’ll begin.”
In my opinion however, there is a beautiful message contained in this story (aside from the obvious J…)
Rav Avrohom Pam zt’l related that in the shtetles in Europe the impoverished Jews would say that in America there is gold and diamonds in the streets. Rav Pam explained that the statement is indeed true. But it is not something to be proud of. Many of our young men and women have been exposed to the relentless depraved influence of the streets and have been drawn to it. They are the gold and diamonds that are in the streets. Our job is to get them out of there; to reach out to them lovingly, to draw them back to a life of Torah and mitzvos. 
Tragically, many of our children live in the doldrums of spiritual void. The keys to their souls have fallen into the muck of the sewers. But we know that no Jewish soul is ever lost.
In camp there were campers who listened to the music of a particular Jewish singer whose lyrics are not very Jewish, to say the least. When a camper told the camp Mashgiach, Rabbi Mordechai Finkleman, that it was ‘Jewish music’, Rabbi Finkelman replied that the fact that a Jew sins doesn’t mean that we should join him. Rather, we should pray for him when we say the blessing of Hasheveinu (Repentance) in Shemoneh Esrei.
It takes an adroit person who has the expertise, and more importantly the love and devotion, to reach down into the sewer and draw out those keys. But once the keys are in the right hands, there is no limit to how far they can go.

Shabbat Shalom & Good Shabbos,
   R’ Dani and Chani Staum

720 Union Road • New Hempstead, NY 10977 • (845) 362-2425

Friday, December 21, 2012


Erev Shabbos Kodesh Parshas Vayigash
8 Teves 5773/December 21, 2012

The Jewish people always have the last laugh. Sometimes it takes a lot of patience to recognize it, but it never fails.
Pharaoh tried to control our population by forcing us into extreme slave labor, but the more he oppressed us the more our population exploded. Haman tried to destroy us and plunge us into national melancholy, and his efforts resulted in Purim, a deeply joyous celebration of our national survival. Antiochus tried to eliminate our spiritual Avodah, including stopping the Menorah from being lit in the Temple, and as a result there is a menorah lit in every Jewish home for millennia throughout the world for over a week. Hitler tried to eradicate us and all of Jewish life, and here we are, with more quantitative Torah study than ever before in our history.
I would like to add an additional ‘last laugh’ to the Chanukah holiday. It is well known that the ancient Greeks had great respect for the external human body. Spartans prided themselves on their might as fierce soldiers, and Greek culture placed great emphasis on the gymnasium and being trim and fit. So we spend eight days of Chanukah eating latkes and jelly donuts fried in oil so that by the time Chanukah is over we all resemble a Jelly donut, much to the chagrin of our Greek adversaries. Take that you silly Greeks! 
Whenever a holiday comes to an end we have to question what we are taking with us from the holiday. What indelible impression has the holiday made upon us that will continue to inspire us throughout the year? Is it merely added calories and a bulging waist that we take with us (a waste indeed), or have we nourished our soul as well?
Rav Avrohom Yitzchok Kook zt’l wrote (Arpilei Tohar) “The pure and righteous – don’t complain about wickedness, rather they increase righteousness; they don’t complain about heresy, rather they increase faith; they don’t complain about foolishness, rather they increase wisdom.”
When Chanukah ends the fast of Asarah B’Teves is not far behind. The gemara states that on the eighth of Teves when the Septuagint was created “darkness descended to the world for three days”. The only way to counter that darkness is with the symbolic light of Chanukah. Chanukah is a celebration of light – of courage to stand up for our mission to serve Hashem and remain steadfast in our unyielding dedication to unadulterated Torah observance. The dark days of Teves mourn our loss of that dedication. 
Our world became darker this week. It is appalling and frightening that a person can be so narcissistic that he can mercilessly snuff out the lives of multiple children. Our response must be to add more light. Ultimately discussing the horror that occurred will not change anything. But another good deed, another prayer, another few moments of Torah study, another mitzvah, another kind word, that will return some of the light we have lost.
Even as we return our Chanukah menorahs to their shelves, we can hardly afford to allow its light to darken. It must continue to illuminate our lives and our world. That is the only way we can fight the darkness.

Shabbat Shalom & Good Shabbos,
   R’ Dani and Chani Staum

720 Union Road • New Hempstead, NY 10977 • (845) 362-2425

Thursday, December 13, 2012


Erev Shabbos Kodesh Parshas Miketz – 6th day of Chanukah
Rosh Chodesh Teves 5773/December 14, 2012

I love bakeries. I love the rows of pastries, each in their own shape and colors. But most of all I love the smell. When I go to the bakery and it’s my turn on line and I am asked what I would like to order, I often reply that I want ‘whatever it is that is making that smell.’
I have to also say that I like when a baker is – I guess the best word I can use is the Yiddish word - ‘zavtig’, loosely translated as ‘pleasantly plump’. I want to see a baker who appreciates what he is selling, and in fact loves it so much that he can’t stop sampling the goods. That’s the best advertising, because it tells me that these pastries are seriously delicious. When a baker is skinny on the other hand, I often think that if he won’t eat his own products maybe I shouldn’t either.
I think most people would agree with my point. You wouldn’t want to use a dentist who had rotted or crooked teeth. Nor would you use a doctor who chain smokes, drinks, or abuses drugs.
Before our wedding, when we were looking to hire a band, my father suggested a certain musician. I was surprised that he had wanted to suggest anyone. He explained that he had seen that musician play at other weddings and that he looks like he enjoys what he’s doing. At some weddings a musician may appear bored and uninterested while playing, and it is clear that he is only doing it for the money. My father was insistent that we hire someone who enjoys what he does and smiles occasionally while he plays, because you can feel it in the music.
As Torah-Jews we have a responsibility to not only observe Torah and mitzvos, but to be ambassadors of Torah and mitzvos. Simply by our behavior and conduct we want others to be inspired and to want to join our ranks.
But if we walk around with a scowl on our face and don’t seem to appreciate the greatness of what we are doing everyday, we are not being very effective ambassadors. I have heard people complain that sometimes religious people look too serious. Without a doubt there is a certain seriousness we must maintain while engaged in our spiritual responsibilities. But throughout the rest of our day we have to ensure that we appear pleasant and ebullient, that we enjoy what we do.
When we light the Chanukah candles we are symbolizing ourselves. Our mission in this world is to spread light in an unsatisfied and unmotivated world, which is full of darkness, emptiness, and misery.
That light has to shine and resonate from within us. We have to look like we enjoy what we do, so that everyone is going to want to buy what we are selling.

Shabbat Shalom & Good Shabbos/Good Chodesh
Lichtige Chanukah/Chag Orot Samyach,
   R’ Dani and Chani Staum

720 Union Road • New Hempstead, NY 10977 • (845) 362-2425

Friday, December 7, 2012


Erev Shabbos Kodesh Parshas Vayeshev
23 Kislev 5773/December 7, 2012

What a delightful Holiday Chanukah is; a holiday of light and a celebration of the divine. The customs and traditions of Chanukah add to the joy of the day, as we play dreidel and then eat latkes and donuts until we ourselves feel like an unbalanced dreidel.
But I would like to call your attention to the week before Chanukah when there is an extraordinary series of days which most of us hardly think to associate together:
The nineteenth of Kislev is a day of great celebration for Chabad Chassidim. It is the anniversary of the release of the first Lubavitcher Rebbe, the holy Ba’al HaTanya, Rav Schneur Zalman of Liadi, from jail in 1798. Lubavitcher Chassidim consider the day the ‘Rosh Hashana of Chassidus’ and celebrate it with great fanfare. [In addition it is the yahrtzeit of the Maggid of Mezritch, one of the greatest students of the Ba’al Shem Tov, who died on 19 Kislev 26 years before the Ba’al Hatanya’s release from prison.]
The twentieth of Kislev is the yahrtzeit of Rav Yitzchok Hutner zt’l, the legendary Rosh Yeshiva of Yeshiva Chaim Berlin. Rav Hutner was a deep and profound thinker who inspired thousands of students through his unique and penetrating analysis of many ideas contained in the Torah, specifically connected to the holidays. Rav Hutner possessed a regal bearing and exuded the majesty of Torah.
The commemoration of his yahrtzeit is not only observed in Yeshiva Chaim Berlin but also has connection with other yeshivos founded by Rav Hutner’s disciples, such as Yeshiva Sha’ar Yoshuv in Far Rockaway, founded by his student Rav Shlomo Freifeld zt’l, and Aish HaTorah in Jerusalem, founded by his student Rav Noach Weinberg zt’l.
The twenty first of Kislev is a day of celebration for Satmar Chassidim. It is the anniversary of the day of the release of the Satmar Rebbe, Rav Yoel Teitelbaum zt’l, from the Bergen-Belsen Concentration Camp on December 4, 1944. The Rebbe was one of 1,685 people who were part of the famed ‘Kastner train’ which Dr. Rudolph Kastner arranged through clandestine negotiations (bribing) with the infamous Nazi, Adolph Eichmann.
[On a more humorous note, this year the night of December 4th coincided with 21 Kislev. In ma’ariv prayers of that night we began reciting ‘V’sayn Tal Umatar’ during Shemoneh esrei, an addition of two words. It has been said that on that night Yekkishe Jews1 tell their wives that they will return home from ma’ariv late due to the insertion of two added words…]
For some time my Zaydei, Rav Yaakov Meir Kohn zt’l, was the Rav of the Slonimer Shul in New York’s Lower East Side. On one occasion he was invited to speak at a sheva berachos of a most unique marriage. The groom’s side was of Satmar Chassidic descent, while the Bride’s side was a blend of Litvishe and Chabad descent.
My Zaydei noted that their marriage granted him a new insight into the great dream of Yaakov Avinu (recorded in Parshas Vayetzei, Bereishis 28:12-17). The verse states that in his dream Yaakov envisioned a"סלם" (sulam - ladder) that was implanted in the ground with its head reaching the heavens. My Zaydei explained that he noticed that the first letters of the word sulam are an acronym for Satmar, Lubavitch, Misnaged2”. In his dream Yaakov envisioned the unity of these three groups, and that was at the root of the ladder which leads to the heavens.
In the week before Chanukah there are consecutive days of celebration/observance for these three groups. Each of these groups, along with every other sect of Torah-Jewry are a lamp upon G-d’s Menorah. It is incumbent upon us to respect the light of each of those candles. We may not agree with each other nor do we observe each other’s customs, but we have to respect the light they add to G-d’s Menorah. 
That indeed is the ladder that leads to heaven, and the key to the ethereal light hidden in the Chanukah candles.

Shabbat Shalom & Good Shabbos
Lichtige Chanukah/Orot Samyach,
   R’ Dani and Chani Staum

720 Union Road • New Hempstead, NY 10977 • (845) 362-2425
1 i.e. Jews of German descent known for their exactness and punctiliousness
2 The Jews of Lithuanian descent were often called Misnagdim – ‘opposers’, because of their early opposition to the Chassidic movement during its early years.

Thursday, November 29, 2012


Erev Shabbos Kodesh Parshas Vayishlach
16 Kislev 5773/November 30, 2012

“A Day in Court”
Scene One
Warning: The following scene can be disturbing to some viewers. Discretion advised.

The atmosphere in the courtroom was tense. The judge peered intensely at the litigants, as he listened to the defending lawyer’s closing arguments. The defendant himself had boldly presented his position and had represented himself well. He also knew that the judge sincerely cared about him and wanted to help him. Still the defendant knew he needed all the help he could get.
The defending lawyer was adroit and astute, legendary for never losing a case! He knew how to appeal to the emotions of the judge and jurors so that they concluded that there was benefit in granting the defendant - not only clemency - but also court obligated assistance to help him in his private endeavors.
The judge was clearly moved by the lawyer’s arguments and the lawyer was confident that they were about to win the case.
But then suddenly the judge’s face darkened and his complexion changed. He slammed down his gavel angrily and bellowed, “This court hereby finds the defendant in contempt of court. I am ordering a motion to postpone this case until the defendant can learn proper conduct in a court of law.” With that the judge stood up and marched out in a huff.
The lawyer was stunned. What had happened in those final moments? When he questioned his client, the defendant shrugged meekly. “I don’t really know. While you were arguing my case I was talking to my friend behind me about the game last night. It was an amazing comeback and we were marveling about it. Then I mentioned some of the financial hardships I am dealing with lately, and he told me some of the problems he’s having at home. We were talking very quietly and it didn’t disturb the proceedings or anyone else. I think the judge needs to chill. Worse things have happened.”
The lawyer just stared at his client with his mouth agape, not knowing how to respond.
End of scene One 

Judge – Hashem
Defendant – not me or you (hopefully)
Lawyer – Chazzan reciting Chazaras Hashatz (repeating Shemoneh Esrei in shul) twice daily

Shabbat Shalom & Good Shabbos,
   R’ Dani and Chani Staum

720 Union Road • New Hempstead, NY 10977 • (845) 362-2425

Friday, November 23, 2012


Erev Shabbos Kodesh Parshas Vayetzei
9 Kislev 5773/November 23, 2012

Did you get that text message on Tuesday night? Did you get it from numerous people?
“Please set aside two minutes of your time! The army is entering Gaza. Rabbanim are asking everyone to say Tehillim 130, 121, 83, 20, 91, 143. Fwd 2 whoever u can. Ty.”
For one, there was is the blatant problem that the text was disseminating information that was simply untrue. The invasion did not occur b’h. Making people more nervous than they already are is not to be taken lightly. For those who have family members who are soldiers, and even all of us who are davening and hoping for the welfare of our brethren, it compounded our fear for no reason.
Personally I am also bothered by the ‘text craze’. It isn’t uncommon to receive a text from someone with an urgent message with no author attached to it, that has been forwarded many times over, and ends with the words (as this one did) “Don’t break the chain.” No one wants to be the malevolent evildoer who breaks the chain, so everyone keeps forwarding the text to everyone on their contact list.
I remember a certain Rabbi once saying that he feels that it is meaningless for a man to give his wife flowers every single week. He argued that when it becomes a standard gift each week it loses its appeal. It becomes expected and is no longer valued for its sentiment.
Whether you agree with his point or not, it is thought-provoking. Something that seems to constantly happen and doesn’t entail much thought or innovation lacks poignancy.   
I certainly have nothing against people davening for someone who is sick or in a desperate situation. Au contraire; there is nothing greater than the power of tefillah. If we can convince others to daven as well we should always try to do so. But from personal census I have found that people feel that they have done their share by forwarding such texts even without adhering to its message to actually daven. And because we get such texts so often and they are so easily sent around without anyone seeming to know who sent them, they quickly lack their ability to emotionally move us.
The Kotzker Rebbe lamented the fact that people seem more dedicated to minhagim (customs) than halachos (laws). He suggested that if G-d would have given us ‘the Ten Minhagim’ in the luchos at Sinai, people would be much more apt to keep them properly.
When these text messages go out everyone feels they must immediately forward them. We fear the accusing angel coming to us in our dreams waving an accusatory finger at us and saying “YOU! You were the one who broke the chain!”
Perhaps we should send urgent texts each morning that z’man kriyas Shema is in just three minutes: “Urgent. You only have three minutes left to say Shema before the z’man. Rabbonim ask that you please say all three parshios asap. Please fwd 2 as many people as you can. Don’t break the chain. OMG wants us to do so.”
I fear that people may perceive the wrong message from what I am writing. If someone is in need of assistance or prayers within a community, texting/emailing is a wonderful means to get that message out to the community as quickly and efficiently as possible. The same holds true within a family, G-d forbid. But I question the effectiveness of such texts and emails on a mass scale, especially when no one knows the source.
May we only need to share and hear good – and accurate – news.

Shabbat Shalom & Good Shabbos,
   R’ Dani and Chani Staum

720 Union Road • New Hempstead, NY 10977 • (845) 362-2425

Wednesday, November 14, 2012


Erev Shabbos Kodesh Parshas Toldos
2 Kislev 5773/November 16, 2012

In case you are concerned that this country has a lack of faith, especially with recent efforts to take G-d out of the Pledge of Allegiance, let your heart not be troubled. Insurance companies are insistent that they will not compensate for ‘an act of G-d’, which includes the recent hurricane. [Isn’t blind faith beautiful?!]
I was told that the morning after the storm, the headlines on one of the local newspapers read “G-d hates us!” While it is definitely encouraging to note how they believed it to be in act of G-d, one must wonder what happened to all the agnostics. Shouldn’t the headline have read “Random hates us!” In addition, on a beautiful summer day when the markets were up and things seemed peaceful, was there ever a headline that read ‘G-d loves us!’
But it seems not everybody believes in G-d. This week when we received our bill from the electric company we noticed that they charged us a late fee for last month. Guess why we paid late? Because we had no electricity! What a brilliant tactic! So while banks are allowing a grace period because of the storm, the electric company is not. I guess they live by the old creed ‘In G-d we trust; all others pay cash!’  
As believing Jews we turn to our faith as we helplessly hear about the trauma and tragedy that ravaged the homes of our brethren in Far Rockaway, Seagate, Bayswater, and other communities. The beauty of our people shines through as busloads of people from surrounding communities, and even as far away as Baltimore, altruistically gave of their time and efforts to help fellow Jews. But for those who have to be the recipients of that altruism the pain must be overbearing. We must at least think about their pain and keep them in our tefillos. At least our lunch shouldn’t taste as good knowing how much they have lost.
I believe that the best perspective on the recent events was summed up by R’ Eli Oelbaum, one of my in-laws’ distinguished neighbors in Lakewood, who – when asked during the week of the storm if he had power – replied, “I have electricity, but I learned this week that I have no power!”

Shabbat Shalom & Good Shabbos,
   R’ Dani and Chani Staum

720 Union Road • New Hempstead, NY 10977 • (845) 362-2425

Thursday, November 8, 2012


Erev Shabbos Kodesh Parshas Chayei Sarah
24 Cheshvan 5773/November 9, 2012

A few years ago Chani and I spent some time vacationing on Cape Cod. During one of those days we took a ferry to Martha’s Vineyard where we rented some bikes to pedal along a beautiful trail that ran alongside the bay. As we proceeded we enjoyed the scenic panorama all along the way. A few times way we stopped to rest, take a breather, and take a picture or two. Each time Chani asked me if we could meander around the area and enjoy the views in the serene setting. But I was set on getting to the end of the trail in the village of Eatontown. I was sure the sight at the end of the trail was most breathtaking of all and would be worth the extra exertion to get there.
When we got to Eatontown we were quite disappointed. It was indeed a peaceful and pleasant town bordering the water. But it was nothing like the idyllic vacant path we had just traversed. There were stores, restaurants, cars, and regular pedestrian traffic, as in any town. I had foolishly forged on to complete the path, but in doing so I had forfeited the enjoyment we could have had if I would have allowed myself to enjoy the moment.
Isn’t that the story of our lives? Aren’t we always thinking that just around the next bend is the key to happiness?
Someone once noted that people often rationalize that at the next stage of life they will be able to appreciate what they have. A child feels constrained and thinks his adolescent years will grant him maturity and identity. The adolescent pines for early adulthood when he will have free reign over a car, set his own guidelines and live a blissful, self-regulated life. The young adult who is dating and/or trying to make a living is certain that as soon as he/she finds a spouse and a good job life will be set. Then children come along with all the challenges of child-rearing along with its tremendous responsibilities. The parents are sure that as soon as the children are married and self-sufficient, they will be able to retire and enjoy their golden years. When those years finally arrive, even if one is blessed with self-sufficient children who have families of their own, he/she cannot help but wonder where life has gone, and what has become of the wonderful memories of years gone by. “Why didn’t I appreciate it then?!”
Hurricane Sandy was very challenging, and for many its devastating effects will linger for a long time. During such trying moments one can only focus on one day at a time. No one knows when power will go back on, whether businesses and schools will open tomorrow, or whether the gas crisis will finally resolve itself. Even an imminent landmark presidential election with massive ramifications which has riveted the attention of the nation for months, was temporarily put on hold as people focused on survival and basic needs.
The refrain expressed repeatedly is “we lost a lot but thank G-d we are all safe.” The moments when people heroically rise to the occasion, appreciate what they have, and live in the moment also linger for a long time.
Surely we do not want such tragedies to ever strike us. But if somehow we can hold onto that appreciation for the moment we would live more enriched and happier lives.
Last week our community lost a mentor who taught us this lesson by example. Howard Israel a’h, was a dear friend, who seemed to have a perpetual smile etched on his face. At his funeral his wife Susan remarked that she remembers only 4 times (!) during 31 years of marriage when she saw Howard become angry. And each time he calmed down relatively quickly and it was over. Another son noted that he had never seen his father get angry - ever!
Even during his last two years while he was ill and feeble he never lost his drive and zest for life. No matter how physically drained he was from treatments and surgeries, when asked how he was his answer was always the same – ‘fantastic’! He was never willing to capitulate. Shortly after completing brain surgery this summer, the day he was discharged from the hospital he walked in to shul for Mincha with that omnipresent smile on his face, to the shock of the kehilla.
We will miss him not only as a beloved neighbor and friend, but also as one who taught us not only how to count our days, but also how to make our days count by appreciating all of the blessings of life, including life itself.
Yehi zichro baruch!    

Shabbat Shalom & Good Shabbos,
   R’ Dani and Chani Staum

720 Union Road • New Hempstead, NY 10977 • (845) 362-2425

Friday, November 2, 2012


Erev Shabbos Kodesh Parshas Vayera
17 Cheshvan 5773/November 2, 2012

By now Sandy has commandeered most of our conversations. We cannot help but marvel with awe at the ravages of destruction she wrought. With whipping winds in excess of 90 m.p.h. Sandy tore through our area, flooding tunnels, gushing through homes uninhibited, and uprooting trees along with their roots. For a night the bustling city-life was brought to a standstill.
The storm has passed and now we are faced with the momentous task of the great cleanup. Gas lines are monstrous, reminiscent of the oil embargo of the 1970s. We are thankful that we are safe, but for those of us in the dark and cold, we anxiously await the return of our electricity. In Monsey/Spring Valley, our electric is provided by “O & R” (Orange and Rockland), and now all eyes are upon them.
With schools closed all week, for the last few days we drove around the battered streets of Monsey trying to keep our children busy and warm. As we did so we searched for our heroes - the workers of O & R who, we are told, are working around the clock to restore our power. If only we could look upon the lines and see the workers atop their cherry-pickers, it would bolster our confidence in their efforts. But alas, we have not seen any! Not even one! We have seen numerous Verizon and Optimum trucks, the mail was delivered, and our garbage was collected, but no utility workers in sight. Someone told me he saw one utility worker sipping a coffee, and someone else told me he saw a worker rolling out the yellow tape in front of a fallen tree. But no cherry-pickers.
I was informed that the workers have to do ‘internal work’ before they can begin work on the poles, and that is why we haven’t seen them up and about.  
I found the concept intriguing. While I surely believe that introspection is important, and the desire for ‘internal work’ is certainly commendable, I believe their priorities are backwards. Chazal indeed say (Bava Metzia 107b) “Adorn yourself and then adorn others”. However, the Chofetz Chaim taught us that during a time of crisis when all hands are needed on deck, everyone must join the rescue efforts, even one who has not personally achieved that requisite level (See Stam Torah, Lech Lecha 5771).
If the Chofetz Chaim said that regarding spiritual matters, then it surely applies to physical matters as well.
Someone should tell the O & R workers that there will be plenty of time for them to do ‘internal work’ as soon as the aftermath of Sandy is behind us. But until then, they should get out there and get our lights and heat up and running!

A bright and warm –
Shabbat Shalom & Good Shabbos,
   R’ Dani and Chani Staum

Please remember that this was written for entertainment and moral value purposes.
We salute all of the herculean efforts – including those of O & R - to return us to normalcy.

720 Union Road • New Hempstead, NY 10977 • (845) 362-2425

Friday, October 26, 2012


Erev Shabbos Kodesh Parshas Lech Lecha
10 Cheshvan 5773/October 27, 2012

Surely you’ve heard of Country-Yossi and the two most famous Shteeble-Hoppers in the world - Kivi and Tuki. Tuki is self-described as “kooky but not a little fluky”, while Kivi ‘knows more Torah than my Morah’.
On their original album, Country Yossi challenges Tuki to tell him about a mitzvah he did that day. After Tuki unsuccessfully tries to convince Country Yossi that reading a Superman comic book is a mitzvah, Tuki says ‘I kissed my Bubby’. Country Yossi replies, “That’s not a mitzvah.” Tuki is surprised, “It’s not?”, to which Country Yossi replies, “It’s nice and everything, but it’s not a mitzvah.”
I have to say that I agree with Tuki on this one. Is kissing your Bubby not a mitzvah? To be fair, I imagine Country Yossi was referring to a mitzvah written explicitly in the Torah, and indeed it never says “Thou shall kiss your Bubby” in the Torah. But as far as the Torah’s unwritten - yet strongly emphasized - demand for mentchichkeit and respect, undoubtedly kissing one’s Bubby is a mitzvah.
Why is there a magical connection between grandparents and grandchildren? I am fond of the late Sam Levenson’s quip that Grandparents and grandchildren get along so well because they share a common enemy. Grandparents see in their grandchildren the fulfillment of their ultimate desire to leave behind a future that will carry out their legacy and remember them. And because every grandparent is blessed with the most perfect, cute, and wonderful grandchildren, that blessing is truly magnified.
The nostalgic memories of visits to the homes of grandparents often leave the strongest indelible memories throughout one’s lifetime. The feeling of complete security where that one can do no wrong is unparalleled anywhere outside of a grandparent’s home.
I have been blessed that I can still kiss my Bubby. She now lives local and I try to see her at least once a week. She is a connection to a forgotten world and I treasure the fact that my children are able to know her. She is the Matriarch of our family and continues to inspire us b’h.
But what wouldn’t I give to be able to kiss my Savta one more time! And what wouldn’t I give to kiss my Zaidy and my Sabbah one more time! Personally, the month of Cheshvan is always a time when I think a lot about my grandparents, because both my Savta’s and Zaidy’s yahrtzeits are during Cheshvan (17 and 27 Cheshvan respectively).
So whether it’s a mitzvah or not, Tuki, give your Bubby a big kiss, and appreciate the incredible gift that you have to kiss a living connection to the past; one who sees in you the fulfillment of the greatest dreams for the future.

Shabbat Shalom & Good Shabbos,
   R’ Dani and Chani Staum

720 Union Road • New Hempstead, NY 10977 • (845) 362-2425

Wednesday, October 17, 2012


Erev Shabbos Kodesh Parshas Noach
3 Cheshvan 5773/October 20, 2012

“C is for Cookie, that’s good enough for me.” He’s blue, furry, googly-eyed, and can’t get enough cookies. He’s a legend in America and has been inspiring children everywhere for decades. He’s the one and only Cookie Monster!
But in recent years his inspiration has been called into question. Child psychology experts and parents throughout the world have begun to wonder whether Cookie Monster is playing a role in the obesity epidemic ravaging Western Society.
Innocent children are being exposed to this beloved puppet who can eat as many cookies as he wants without compunction. What’s more, he eats his cookies with animalistic and crazed fervor and like a complete slob, sending crumbs flying in all directions. How can we expect our children to grow into fine, decent, health-conscientious, productive members of society with such terrible role models like Cookie Monster?!
And so in their brilliance and foresight, the creators of Sesame Street have added vegetables to Cookie Monster’s diet. Yes, he still enjoys a tasty cookie. But he also enjoys a good piece of carrot and broccoli. His new song is “A Cookie is a sometimes food”.
Kudos to the experts who have come to the conclusion that children’s eating habits can be influenced by television, even by a Muppet-monster that every child knows isn’t real. The fact remains the same: children are very impressionable.
At the same time it’s fascinating to note the increase of children exposure to television. And the television of today is very different from that of the past. Hardly a commercial doesn’t have an innuendo, and hardly a show on TV doesn’t have scenes of relationships that any decently moral person would be disgusted by, or a scene of violence depicting shootings and blood that we would be horrified to ever see in real life.
I read recently that if an average child/adolescent is asked to guess how many times he/she thinks a police officer fires off a gun during his career on the force, most would answer upwards of 50. In truth the overwhelming majority of police officers NEVER fire their gun throughout their career. The fact that police officers are almost always drawing their guns on TV probably has absolutely no bearing on that mistaken idea.
The effects of continued TV exposure have been shown to increase anxiety, social withdrawal, social incompetence, and attention deficits, to name a few. This is all based on studies done in the general society. As Torah Jews we have other vital concerns to contend with as well.
So in conclusion I just want to express my happiness that Cookie Monster has realized the need to include salad in his diet. Let him go back to eating only cookies and parents all over America may decide that it’s time to pull the plug on the blue beast. But let Cookie Monster shoot someone who tries to steal his cookies (with the salad on top), and that would seem to not be as much of a concern. After all, that type of stuff is entertainment, and what could be wrong with a little entertainment?

Shabbat Shalom & Good Shabbos,
   R’ Dani and Chani Staum

720 Union Road • New Hempstead, NY 10977 • (845) 362-2425

Thursday, September 27, 2012


Erev Shabbos Kodesh Parshas Ha’azinu/Succos
12 Tishrei 5773/September 28, 2012

According to today’s second leading knowledge authority, Wikipedia, (the number one leader is cha-cha), “Betta is a large genus of small, often colorful, freshwater ray-finned fishes in the gourami family.” But a few years ago there was a Betta fish in the Staum family (the gourami’s never complained to us about it).
The fish was a gift given to our then 3 year old son Shalom by his friend Yoel Weinraub who had two of them. Betta fish are not too fond of each other so it’s best to keep them apart (sounds like your house?) and so we adopted Mr. Betta, who we fondly called “Fisha B’av”.
We didn’t think Fisha B’av would last all that long, especially in his 2 inch by 2 inch tank which he practically filled. But somehow, as fish years go, he had arichas yamim (longevity) and remained with us for over two years. When we went away for Shabbos and Yom Tov we had no choice but to take F.B. with us. So while I drove, instead of a coffee or a soda in the cup holder next to me, F.B. would swim around in his mini tank. When we arrived at our destination F.B. came in with us and was deposited on a dresser for the duration of our stay.
One Pesach morning while visiting my in-laws in Lakewood, I was getting ready to leave for shul when I heard a shriek erupt from upstairs. I ran upstairs to see Shalom standing next to the dresser with a look of horror on his face. The tank was overturned and F.B. was nowhere to be found. What’s more, at the time Shalom often confused his words and he kept repeating “I did it by purpose! I did it by purpose!” This was no time to point fingers. It was time for an immediate ‘bedikas Fisha B’av’. The story does have a happy ending (for Shalom that is). I found F.B. lying on the floor underneath the dresser. I quickly filled his tank and deposited him back inside, where he immediately sprang back to life without any CPR or mouth-to-mouth necessary.
The succos-huts that we move into for the seven day holiday are much smaller than our homes and we give up many amenities and conveniences to be there. Yet there is a sense of jovial tranquility that permeates the succah.
The succah reminds us that no matter where we are in the world, ultimately our only real protection comes from Above. Sometimes we may think that if only we can escape the confining succah and run into the world beyond the s’chach there we will find excitement and fun. Perhaps that is true, but the cost of such an escape is a forfeiture of life itself.
It’s no coincidence that the holiday which celebrates leaving our homes and placing ourselves at the mercy of G-d’s elements, is also the holiday of joy. It’s the joy of being home, even when we are far from home.

Shabbat Shalom & Good Shabbos
Chag Sameiach & Freilichen Yom Tov,
   R’ Dani and Chani Staum

720 Union Road • New Hempstead, NY 10977 • (845) 362-2425

Monday, September 24, 2012


Erev Yom Kippur
9 Tishrei 5773/September 25, 2012

It’s never a good thing when your vacuum cleaner, not only stops cleaning the floor, but also begins regurgitating what it previously suctioned.
That’s exactly what happened in the Staum house Erev Shabbos last week. So with no recourse I surgically opened the bowels of the machine to try to figure out what had gone wrong. The bag wasn’t full and the main part of the machine seemed fine. So, my dear Watson, I surmised that there was obviously something wrong with the hose.
We (yes we, I had to call Chani in for backup…) realized that somebody (somebody to whom we pay money to clean our home!) had vacuumed up something big which had now wedged itself inside the hose, completely obscuring the air suction. The anonymous perpetrator herself brought the problem to my attention the next time she tried to use the machine.
We finally realized that it was a makeup brush that was stuck inside the hose. Now I don’t really know what a make-up brush is for, but I do know that it’s big enough to render our vacuum cleaner ineffective. Logic would dictate that if it was able to get in it should be able to come out, but thus far we have been unable to pry it out. (Sweeping the carpet is annoying)
You may be thinking that I’m going to use this anecdote to emphasize that Yom Kippur is a day to ‘makeup’ and rebuild relationships that have become ‘stuck’. There is definitely truth in that observation, but I have a different point in mind.
Every morning we declare before our Creator that ‘the soul that You have placed inside of me is pure.’ Our soul is a piece of divinity, an untouchable spark of holiness embedded in the core of our essence. When one performs mitzvos and acts in accordance with the Torah that spark becomes strengthened and we are further drawn to Torah and mitzvos like a spiritual magnet. We pine for even greater spiritual accomplishment and connection.
When we sin and do not act properly on the other hand, that connection becomes enervated and we start to feel spiritually numb. There is an empty sense of disconnect, like a barrier has been erected between us and what we intellectually know is right. But unlike our vacuum which became completely blocked and totally ineffective, Chazal tell us that the spark within us never becomes extinguished. The plug never falls out and the connection is never completely severed. Dimmed and numbed – yes, but always glowing beneath the muck and grime of our hindering foolish actions.
The great gift of Yom Kippur which Hashem grants us with love is an opportunity to clean the hose and – with proper repentance – instantly clear the channels so that the spark within us can again glow to its full capacity and draw us into its hypnotic spiritual embrace. Metaphorically, we need only to open the mechanism so that Yom Kippur itself will yank out the hindering debris, so that we can again feel the spiritual draw of our soul.
Forget Orrick, Hoover, and Electrolux. The joy and purity of Yom Kippur is the greatest cleanser of them all.

              Shabbat Shalom & Good Shabbos
              Gmar Chasima Tova,
                R’ Dani and Chani Staum

720 Union Road • New Hempstead, NY 10977 • (845) 362-2425

Wednesday, September 12, 2012


Erev Shabbos Kodesh Parshas Nitzavim Pirkei Avos, perakim 5-6
27 Elul 5772/September 14, 2012

This week, on the eleventh anniversary of the September 11th attacks, I was recounting to my fifth grade Ashar students my personal memories of that horrific day. I mentioned that it was the first time in my life that I, and many of my friends, felt genuine fear.
I also related that immediately after the attacks, there was a sudden surge of patriotism that swept the country. Suddenly almost every car had an American flag attached to its antenna, or bumper stickers depicting flags and slogans of American pride and courage. Flags couldn’t be produced and sold fast enough to keep up with the influx of demand.
I asked my students – who were not yet born at that time – why they thought that occurred. Why the sudden surge of patriotism? They offered some insightful comments, and then I added my own. I pointed out that as I was speaking to them I was holding a pen in my hand. I wasn’t holding the pen too tightly and I wasn’t paying much attention to it.
Then I asked one of the students to grab hold of the pen and try to pull it out of my hands. As he did so, I asked him what my reaction had been. He replied that I had immediately tightened my grip and was pulling back even harder.
I explained to the class that we are all content and happy with the freedoms afforded to us in America. But the bustle of life and the lure of our electronic gadgets divert our attention from truly appreciating those rights and thinking much about them.
On September 11th, Islamic terrorists tried to yank away from us our freedoms and all that America stands for. Our immediate national reaction was to tighten our grip on all we take for granted. We declared our pride and our indomitable will to defend our freedoms with passion and allegiance. Thus, the eruption of patriotism was a direct response to the nefarious efforts to destroy what we forgot to appreciate.
I then related to my class that as Torah Jews we often fall into the same trap. We take our ability and freedom to keep Torah and mitzvos for granted. There are countless stories of Jewish heroes who were ready to give up their lives and endure torturous suffering to preserve one mitzvah or to learn just a few words of Torah. During Crusades, pogroms, expulsions, Auto-da-fes, in Siberia and Bergen-Belsen we refused to capitulate. But in the freedom of America we often fail to appreciate how lucky we are.
We shouldn’t wait until, G-d forbid, our enemies try to yank away those freedoms. We must maintain our Jewish pride and proclaim our privilege at being the Chosen Nation and our unyielding allegiance to Torah and mitzvos.
That is essentially our task on Rosh Hashana. It is a day when we contemplate and accept upon ourselves the coronation of the King of kings. The call of the shofar is also a call of triumphant joy, a call of honor and glory, which emanates from the recesses of the soul of the blower. It is a proclamation that we are proud to be the bearers of the greatest and most sublime responsibility in the world.    

              Shabbat Shalom & Good Shabbos
              Kesiva Vachasima Tova & Shana Tova,
                R’ Dani and Chani Staum

720 Union Road • New Hempstead, NY 10977 • (845) 362-2425