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