Thursday, February 23, 2012


Erev Shabbos Kodesh Parshas Terumah

Rosh Chodesh Adar 5772/February 24, 2012

New Yorkers have found out that there is a New York NBA team after-all. They found it out because of a 23 year old Asian-American named Jeremy Lin.

It’s been a while since New York basketball fans have had much to cheer about. The postponed beginning of this season because of financial greed didn’t help matters, and when the Knicks began with a dismal start falling well below 500 there was even less for fans to be excited about.

But then suddenly a player arose, literally from the shadows. In fact Lin had been around for some time but had never had the opportunity to prove himself. After receiving no athletic scholarship offers out of high school and being undrafted out of college, Lin headed to Harvard University (!). After graduating he signed a partially guaranteed contract deal with his hometown Golden State Warriors.

Lin made the Warriors' opening day roster for the 2010–11 regular season, but received little playing time during the season. In December Lin was claimed off waivers by the Houston Rockets. After playing seven minutes in two preseason games the Rockets waived him, at which point the Knicks claimed him off waivers to be a backup.

The Knicks considered releasing Lin before his contract became guaranteed. However, after the Knicks squandered a fourth quarter lead in a February 3 loss to the Boston Celtics, coach Mike D'Antoni decided to give Lin a chance to play. "He got lucky because we were playing so bad," said D'Antoni. Lin had played only 55 minutes through the Knicks' first 23 games.

On February 4, 2012, Lin had 25 points, five rebounds, and seven assists—all career-highs—in a 99–92 Knicks victory over the New Jersey Nets. During the next 6 games Lin was lights out, leading the Knicks to six consecutive victories, and enthralling fans by his galvanizing leadership on the court.

Much has been written and discussed about Lin’s extraordinary fairy-tale like story, about how one never knows what can happen. I believe there is another important lesson here:

In 1978, Michael Aun won the Toastmaster’s International Speaking contest in Vancouver. When he speaks he remarks that although he is well-known for winning the contest in 1978, he lost it in 1977 in Toronto, because he went seven seconds over his allotted time. In his words, “Do you know what you do after you lose a contest because of seven seconds? You go up to your hotel room and you cry. But after a while, you realize that you can go for it again. A year later I won it in Vancouver. I often say that we have to remember that you often have to go through Toronto in order to get to Vancouver.

Rabbi Dr. Twersky, noted author and lecturer has written over 60 books. He relates that when he was ready to publish his first book during the 1970s he was rejected by 30 publishers.

In an age where production and accomplishment are all that are valued, there is little patience for fruitless effort and failures. But the facts of life are that one cannot be successful until they have struggled, made mistakes, learned to be patient with himself, and have accepted that he is not perfect. Any success not achieved through grit and challenge is ephemeral and transient.

You can’t publish books without getting rejected first, you can’t go to Vancouver until you’ve gone through Toronto, and you can’t become great without learning how to sit on the bench and watch the spotlight pass over you. But if you have the patience and endurance to stay the course, the road eventually leads towards the fulfillment of your dreams and hopes.

Shabbat Shalom & Good Shabbos,

R’ Dani and Chani Staum

Thursday, February 16, 2012


Erev Shabbos Kodesh Parshas Mishpatim-Shekalim

24 Shevat 5772/February 17, 2012

“Did you hear what happened to my neighbors?” “No I didn’t hear anything. What happened?” “She wasn’t feeling well and her doctor told her she needed a certain medicine. After she began taking the medicine and began having severe headaches and seizures the doctor realized he put her on the wrong medicine.” “Did she sue? And is she feeling better?”

In America it seems the first question is always ‘did they sue?’

But here’s the fascinating truth. The risk of being sued for malpractice has very little to do with how many mistakes a doctor makes. Analysis of malpractice lawsuits shows that there are highly skilled doctors who are sued numerous times, and there are low profile doctors who make more mistakes and are never sued. In addition, most people who suffer injury due to shoddy medical care never sue at all.

Dr. Eric Campbell of Harvard Medical School recently conducted a survey of 1900 doctors and discovered that 20 % of doctors did not fully disclose a mistake to a patient, because they were afraid of being sued.

In his bestseller Blink, Malcom Gladwell notes that the reality is that patients who sue due so not only because of shoddy medical care, but also because they feel they were not sufficiently treated personally and courteously by the doctor. Patients don’t sue doctors they like. On average, surgeons who had never been sued spent more than three minutes longer with each patient than those doctors who had been sued did.

This concept rings true in the corporate world too. There is a definite bias towards employees who are more personable, friendly, and pleasant to be around. If a manager has to choose between two prospective employees, one of whom is slightly more experienced while the other is more likable and sociable, chances are the latter will land the job.

This all points to the old truism that we like being around people who make us feel good, and we don’t like being around people who make us feel uncomfortable.

When I discuss the concept of friendship with the fourth graders in Bais Hachinuch I note that a true friend is someone who – when you’re with him – makes you feel good about yourself!

The good news is that people are always able to improve socially if they are so inclined. Doctors may not need to have legible signatures, but there is definitely something to be said about his/her bedside manner.

Shabbat Shalom & Good Shabbos,

R’ Dani and Chani Staum

Thursday, February 9, 2012


Erev Shabbos Kodesh Parshas Yisro

17 Shevat 5772/February 10, 2012

Man's marimba iPhone ring stops Mahler symphony dead

“Do you ever forget to turn your cell phone off when you go to the movies or to a play? Someone did just that on Tuesday night, January 10, 2012, causing the New York Philharmonic conductor to put down his baton and stop the orchestra.

“Just as conductor Alan Gilbert was leading the orchestra through the final movement of Mahler's 9th, the culmination of the 82 minute long symphony, an audience member's cell phone rang.

"It was more than annoying. It was completely destructive. There was no way the music could go on," said Gilbert. "And I knew it was going to continue, because I have the same ring tone. I use the same tone for my alarm when I wake up in the morning.'

“It was identified as the Marimba ring tone, right in the front row. The maestro did something he has never done in his entire career. He put down his baton and stopped the show.

    In the ensuing pause, some in the audience reportedly called for blood, shouting: "Kick him out!" and "$1,000 fine!"

“Gilbert quietly employed shame until the offender confirmed that the phone was off.

"It's shocking when you do that, because you just don't expect the natural flow of the music to be interrupted, so I said, "I know it's embarrassing to turn it off. You're going to have to admit that it's your phone. Just do it so we can get back to the music.'"

"I think that people need to take that extra second, third look at their phone, because it can be incredibly disruptive, especially like Mahler," said one patron.

“Gilbert received a standing ovation following the performance.

“This was the first time Gilbert has stopped the orchestra for a violation of the "cell-phones off" rule, a media contact at the symphony said, but at least the second time that it has happened in the symphony’s history.”

Our Sages view davening as a symphony of celestial music. After reciting the Pesukei D’zimrah – Verses of Song in which we describe the mellifluous songs that the world sings by its very existence, as well as the melodious songs which flow from our soul, we continue by describing the songs of the myriads of angels before the Throne of Glory. Following that we recite the Shemoneh Esrei, our own private song of praise, supplication, and gratitude to our Creator.

There is no greater song than tefillah. If a ringing cell-phone was enough to cause the conductor to pull the brake on an entire symphony, what about a ringing cell-phone in the middle of davening?

To add, what would have happened if the fellow at the philharmonic would have answered his phone and made some grunting noises to show that he couldn’t talk at that moment? What about if he would’ve answered and replied in a rude undertone for a minute before hanging up?

Mahler’s 9th couldn’t handle the obnoxious interruption, should our 3 prayers each day be any less?

Shabbat Shalom & Good Shabbos,

R’ Dani and Chani Staum

Thursday, February 2, 2012


Erev Shabbos Kodesh Parshas Beshalach- Shabbos Shirah

10 Shevat 5772/Febuary 3, 2012

A number of years ago I was in Eretz Yisroel staying at the home of cousins for a week during this time of year. One Sunday evening my host invited me to join him for a Super Bowl party at the home of one of his neighbors. His wife explained that the party began at about 1 a.m. (remember there is a seven hour time difference). Her husband and his friends get together for a late night rendezvous, replete with hot dogs, hoagies, tons of chips and soda. They eat, cheer, and yelp until the wee hours of the morning. Then they spend the next day at work complaining that they’re tired and don’t feel well. I politely declined.

The Super Bowl is not only an American event, but it seems to capture the attention of millions of viewers the world over. Super Bowl XLV in 2011 set an all-time record with 111 million viewers (I counted).

The Super Bowl is not only about the game itself, but also all the hype surrounding it. A big component of that hype involves the commercials aired during the game. An average commercial, consisting of 30 seconds of air time during the Super Bowl, costs 3.5 million dollars.

Creating a commercial is serious business. Companies that purchase commercials do their utmost to get the most bang for their buck, trying to ensure that their product will resonate with the viewer long after the program ends. There is a tremendous amount of psychology employed in advertising to figure out how to create an impression in the mind of the viewer in so short a time. Also, at the present time commercials are louder than the program itself in order to capture the viewer’s attention. Just a few weeks ago, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) passed regulations that will go into effect in a few months requiring broadcasting stations to maintain constant volumes even during commercials.

The concept of commercials is poignantly analogous to our own lives. As the world moves more rapidly pulling us in so many directions, there seem to be more and more ‘commercials’ in our lives that detract us from our ‘main program’. The plethora of abounding distractions causes us to lose sight of our real goals and aspirations in life. Those distracting commercials are very glamorous, exciting, and alluring, and it is exceedingly difficult to ‘stick to the program’. They detract us from our spouses, children, prayers, mitzvos, Torah study, and sometimes cause us to unwittingly compromise on our values.

A Rebbe of mine once quipped that an American student conceptualizes purgatory as being forced to watch endless commercials, and never getting back to the main program. We can be sure that purgatory is far different, but unfortunately sometimes we live our lives in that manner – endless commercials, never getting back to the main program.

It is no simple feat to tune out when commercials of life appear with all of their noise and color. One must have tremendous self-control and focus wherever they go and do. But such people are great, in fact, they are giants!

Shabbat Shalom & Good Shabbos,

R’ Dani and Chani Staum