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