Thursday, March 29, 2012



Erev Shabbos Kodesh Parshas Tzav/Hagadol

8 Nissan 5772/March 30, 2012

Are you losing your here? Do you feel like you’re looking older and becoming lonelier because of your here loss?

If so, you need ‘Here Restoration’ with ‘Regain’. Smear a healthy coating of Regain on your head and youll see instant results. Your Here’ will immediately become rejuvenated, making you feel and look years younger and healthier. Results guaranteed or your insanity back.

One of our generation’s greatest problems is that we don’t live in the present. Our minds are so fragmented and we are in so many places at once that we can hardly focus on what we are doing. The Chovas Halvovos relates that a saintly man would pray המקום יציני מפזור הנפש"- The Omnipresent should save me from ‘scatteredness’ of the soul”, better known as fragmentation.

Dr. Ed Hallowell has coined the term ‘email voice’ or EMV to describe the unearthly tone of voice one uses when talking to someone while reading an email or doing work on the computer. How often do we talk to the people we love and cherish with EMV.

Last week, Klal Yisroel suffered the loss of one of its greatest leaders, Rabbi Chaim Pinchos Scheinberg zt’l. He taught Torah for over 85 years, and until his passing at 101, he was still teaching and inspiring.

I had the opportunity to hear him speak a few times. His message was virtually always the same. He would relate that he was raised on the Lower East Side, where he played ball with his friends. In fact, they would call him ‘Lefty Scheinberg’. But he gave it all up to devote himself to learn Torah and serve Hashem as much as he was able. Rav Scheinberg would then repeat one word over and over: “Time! Time! Time!” He would then emphasize that it’s the greatest gift we have, and we have to know how to use it wisely.

We have forgotten how to live in the moment, to appreciate what we are doing, and to truly experience what we are involved in.

Before our wedding, someone suggested to us that in the middle of the wedding we stop and take a moment to contemplate where we were and what we were doing. We were able to do so and it was one of the greatest memories I have of the night. For two minutes, we selfishly made all well-wishers wait, ignored the urgings of the photographer and caterer, and marveled about the fact that we were at our wedding!

Too often we only think about experiences after they are over.

This week, Eva Sandler, the widow who lost her husband and two children r’l in the horrific massacre in France, was interviewed. She noted that the evening before the shooting she had commented to her husband that she had not said Shema Yisroel with her children before putting them to bed. She was always particular to do so but the previous few days had been hectic and she had not had the chance. She resolved to make sure to get back on track the following evening.

Mrs. Sandler then requested that every parent make sure to spend those few precious moments each night with their children. Parents are busy with so many things – phone calls, emails, appointments, and sometimes they are just tired after a long day. “But” she said “put it all aside for your spouse and your children.”

The Seder is one of the most sublime spiritual experiences of the year. We should make sure to live in the moment – to appreciate the plethora of blessings that we are blessed with around (and on) our Seder table.

A slave has no control over his time, nor does he have the ability to exercise his own choices. Redemption is the ability to choose and to take advantage. It’s the ability to regain our here.

Shabbat Shalom & Good Shabbos,

R’ Dani and Chani Staum

Thursday, March 22, 2012



Erev Shabbos Kodesh Parshas Vayikra/HaChodesh

Shabbos Rosh Chodesh Nissan

I Nissan 5772/March 23, 2012

Someone once related to me that he has a hobby, almost to the point of obsession, for metal detecting on beaches after hours. He bought himself an expensive detector and walks around areas which were heavily populated during the day. He told me he has amassed a small fortune’s worth of valuables including jewelry and cash over the years. What’s more, there is an art to metal detecting and those who take it seriously know exactly how to do it and where to go. There is even a magazine which has all sorts of ideas and tips for successful metal detecting.

But even that is not as fascinating as Raffi Stepanian, who finds valuables on 47th Street in Mid-Town Manhattan using nothing other than his eyes.

Stepanian told a reporter that "The streets of 47th Street are literally paved with gold." The reporter discovered Stepanian on all fours - armed with tweezers and a butter knife, digging through cracks in the sidewalk in a driving rainstorm.

The freelance diamond setter explained that he was sifting through "very valuable" New York City mud for tiny diamond and ruby chips, bits of platinum, white-gold industrial loops for jewelry assembly, and gold earring backs and loops from broken chains, watches, broaches and necklaces, all carelessly dropped.

He explained that material falls off clothes, from the bottom of shoes, drops off jewelry, falls in the dirt, and sticks to the gum on the street.

Over six days he collected enough gold for two sales totaling $819 on 47th Street.

Stepanian explained that it’s no different than collecting cans on the street and redeeming them for nickels. It's redemption of reusable gold. This is the gold that has been on this street for 60 years.

In his words, "You just have to get down on your knees and get it."

The significance of Stepanian’s story is that it brings to life one of the classic parables of the Chofetz Chaim. In part, it is the story of an impoverished fellow who travels to a distant island where there are diamonds in the streets, but people fail to see their value. Over time, the silly fellow forgets his purpose in coming to the island and becomes involved in futile pursuits which have vale only on the island. He nonchalantly steps on the diamonds along with everyone else.

The Chofetz Chaim explained that in this world opportunities to perform mitzvos and Avodas Hashem abound. But oftentimes we follow the masses who don’t have the time, patience, or wisdom to take advantage of the plethora of diamonds in the streets.

Pesach and Spring are times of renewal. It is a time when we take stock of our goals and dreams and remind ourselves not to step on priceless opportunities like everyone else

How eloquently applicable are Stepanian’s words: “The streets are literally paved with gold…You just have to get down on your knees and get it.”

Shabbat Shalom & Good Shabbos

Good Chodesh,

R’ Dani and Chani Staum

Thursday, March 15, 2012



Erev Shabbos Kodesh Parshios Vayakhel-Pekudei/Parah

Mevorchim Chodesh Nissan

22 Adar 5772/March 16, 2012

It is no coincidence that Purim precedes Pesach, and it’s not just to test women’s nerves to see how fast they can get rid of all the shalach manos they just received before Pesach.

Chazal explain that Pesach is the anniversary of the birth of our nationhood. When G-d took us out of Egypt, more than physical redemption it was spiritual liberation. A nation of slaves was suddenly transformed into an elite and holy people.

When a baby is born all its food must be sterilized and it has a very limited diet. So too on Pesach we cannot partake of most of the foods we eat all year, for on Pesach we are like newborns emerging from the womb.

I have often thought that if Pesach is our national birth than Purim is the pre-natal vitamin’ which the mother takes while she is expecting to ward off all infection.

Amalek is the ultimate spiritual infection and faith in Hashem is the antidotal vitamin which strengthens our spiritual immune system. Purim and the story of Megillas Esther train us to seek out the hidden hand of Hashem beneath the surface. It is a story of divine subtleties, noticeable only to the discerning eye of one who understands that G-d is King, not Achashveirosh.

Rav Shimshon Pinkus zt’l notes that the Matanos Laevyonim and Shalach Manos we give to others on Purim reflects what G-d grants us constantly. The basic necessities of life – food, clothing, and health are His Matanos Laevyonim to us. Everything beyond that is the Shalach Manos He grants us, solely out of love.

Last week I went to Costco to purchase a new video camera so we could have it for Purim. I bought the only camera of that quality that they had left. It was marked down 80 dollars because it was the one that was on display. When I took it out of the box later that night I found that all the wires and accessories were there save for the charger. What good is a camera if it’s dead?

So the next day Chani went back to Costco. The saleswoman recognized the camera and quipped ‘Oh your husband bought it yesterday’. But she insisted that all the parts were there. A second salesman came by and he too said that if it wasn’t in the box they didn’t have it because they never leave the charger in the display case. He said she could return the camera but that was the best they could do. As the three stood there, Phil, a third salesman, happened to walk by and notice the camera, “Oh you came back for the charger? I figured you would.” It turns out Phil had noticed the charger at the display case earlier that day. That he happened to see it in the case and that he happened to walk by at just that moment – what are the odds? That was simply Shalach Manos from G-d.

Purim is the vitamin of faith we ingest so we can proceed en route for our birth on Pesach.

As we put away all the Shalach Manos we have received we must hold onto the spiritual Shalach Manos and lessons of Purim, and take them with us into the great days of redemption that lie ahead.

Shabbat Shalom & Good Shabbos,

R’ Dani and Chani Staum

Wednesday, March 7, 2012


Shushan Purim-Erev Shabbos Kodesh Parshas Ki Sisa

15 Adar 5772/March 9, 2012

This year Chani and I had the opportunity to spend a Shabbos in Miami Beach during the winter (thank you Citi-cards Points Rewards). The weather was pleasant leveling out at 80 degrees from when we arrived early Friday morning, although it was partly to mostly cloudy. It remained that way through Shabbos and Sunday.

We were leaving Monday evening so we were disappointed when we woke up to a steady rain on Monday morning. The forecast was calling for rain all day.

The trip had been relaxing and enjoyable, but we feared that it was for naught. Why? Because we know what everyone looks for when someone comes back from a trip to Florida during the winter. We were already anticipating the comments, “You weren’t in Miami - where’s your tan?” “Where did you really go?”

The tan is like your proof of purchase announcing to everyone ‘while New York is bundled up with its teeth chattering, we were walking around in short sleeves, wiping sweat off our faces.’ But if you come home without a tan, what’s the point of going in the first place?

At that point we nervously began contemplating our options: We could stick our face in a hot oven, we could color our faces with a red marker, or we could walk around for a week with streaks of sun-resistant lotion on our face so everyone would think the lotion blocked the tan. We were getting desperate.

But then in the late morning the heavens hearkened to our plight and the skies parted. Beautiful rays of sunshine beat down upon our thirsting faces. It was amazing that only a few hours walking and enjoying the sun was enough to leave its mark.

When we boarded the plane that evening we didn’t need any markers or ovens. It was clear that we had been down south where the sun was shining.

Indeed the following day back at work in the halls of yeshiva, a young student looked at me and said, “Rabbi Staum, what happened to your face? Are you feeling hot or something? Your face is all red!” It was the nicest thing anyone said to me all day.

Every Shabbos and every Yom Tov carries with it beautiful streaks of spiritual sunshine that infuses us with added spiritual strength, faith, and passion. But in order to enjoy those blessings one has to avail himself to the holiday’s warming rays.

We must celebrate every Shabbos and every holiday in a manner which ensures that we are drawing the chizuk of the day as much as possible. When the sun sets at the conclusion of Shabbos or Yom Tov the effect of the holy day must resonate so much that it is recognizable in our performance of Torah and mitzvos. That lingering vitality is the tan that the sunshine of the holy day leaves upon our countenance.

Our goal is that when the holiday ends it is clear on our faces that we had been spent the last day basking in its spiritual sun. And the more we absorb the longer that tan will last.

Got tan?

Freilichen Purim for all year

Shabbat Shalom & Good Shabbos,

R’ Dani and Chani Staum

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Parshas Tetzaveh – Parshas Zachor

Erev Shabbos Kodesh Parshas Tetzaveh – Parshas Zachor

8 Adar 5772/March 2, 2012


In honor of Purim we open up the archives and bring to you some of the classic sheilos rabbanim have been asked this year…

Dear Rabbi

My cleaning lady (who just happens to have been born in Poland) is not exactly the ‘Windex of cleaning ladies’ if you catch my drift. The other day she filed a report against us at the police station claiming that we were trying to have her fired without pretense. Her proof? A bottle of ‘Polish Remover’ which she found under the sink.

Last week she opened a box of matzah that we had put away for Pesach and she dropped a hamanatsh into the box. Do we have to put the hamantash away for Pesach or are we obligated to burn the hamantash together with the matzah?

Dear Sophie

You have to put your cleaning lady away for Pesach. Give her the hamantash so she doesn’t starve until then.


Dear Rabbi

I am going a little crazy with my wife, and I really need your advice. We now have subscriptions to every Torah magazine out there – Ami, Binah, Hamodia (Minyan, Binyan, Kinyan, and Pidyon), Jewish Action, Jewish Press, Mishpacha, Yated to name a few. The problem is that my wife reads each one cover to cover and seems to ingest all the information she reads. She also recently learned (from an article in one of the aforementioned magazines) that when one relates something in someone’s name he brings redemption to the world. So now every new dish she serves on Shabbos is accompanied by a discourse on which magazine she saw the recipe in, why she chose this recipe over another one, and all of the nutrition information about the dish. When we discuss anything regarding our children I am inundated with the responses of every chinuch article from any of the magazines during the previous 6 months. When one of our children tries to say a vort she jumps up and excitedly tells us in which magazine she read that same vort. When we try to talk about current events we are bombarded with the viewpoints of every columnist out there.

The worst is when I tried explaining to her why I was so frustrated and annoyed with all this, she began telling me what the Rebbitzin’s column had to say about working on your middos and not becoming frustrated or angry. Should I stop all her subscriptions or is this something I must learn to live with?

Dear Harried in Boro Park

That’s really a great question. I think you should submit it to the Yated Roundtable. Your wife will tell you what they say.


Dear Rabbi

Yesterday, my neighbor told me an amazing insight into the Megillah which I never heard before: He noted that the Megillah alludes to the source of Achashveirosh’s wickedness. The root word "chama" (literally meaning "anger") appears three times in the Megillah in reference to Achashveirosh (1:12, 2:1, 7:7). In Hebrew, the word "Chamoso" refers to one’s mother-in-law. If the word is written three times in the Megillah, we must conclude that Achashveirosh had three mothers-in-law. Well, what would you be like if you had three mothers-in-law?!

This got me thinking, if we are obligated to reach a level of sublime joy on Purim am I allowed to have my mother-in-law at my Purim seudah?

Dear Shlomo

That’s why there’s a mitzvah to drink of Purim, to help ease the tension. But if you have drunk so much that you can no longer tell between your mother-in-law and wife, then for heaven’s sake, stop drinking!

Shabbat Shalom & Good Shabbos

A Freilichen Purim to Klal Yisroel,

R’ Dani and Chani Staum