Tuesday, April 3, 2012



Erev Shabbos Kodesh/Erev Pesach

14 Nissan 5772/April 7, 2012

This year I have the privilege to write a weekly column in Hamodia of brief thoughts based on the weekly parsha. Although it is a bit of a challenge to remain 3-4 weeks ahead - such as writing about Pesach the week before Purim - it has been a rewarding experience. The only real significant challenge I have had to contend with is the word-limit.

Readers of Stam Torah are aware that my writings are not exactly short. The length of Stam Torah can range from 1400 words to upwards of 2200 words. In my Hamodia column I am limited to absolutely no more than 800 words, including sources and my short bio. There are weeks when I have to painstakingly review my article a few times in order to minimize words to fit my quota. It is not infrequent for me to have 799 or even 800 words.

The experience has definitely helped me appreciate the value of every single word!

The Ben Ish Chai notes that the word ‘Pesachis a conjunction of the words Peh Sach – a soft tongue. One of the greatest challenges of the Egyptian exile was that it robbed the Jews of their ability to pray. They were unable to express their inner pain or pour out their hearts to G-d. The redemption granted them not only physical, spiritual, and psychological freedom, but also the ability to express their innermost feelings.

He adds that it is for that reason that we refer to the holiday as Pesach even though the Torah refers to it as Chag Hamatzos. All of the many mitzvos of Pesach have specific requirements, measurements, and limitations involved in their fulfillment. This includes matzaoh from which one must eat a certain amount and within a certain time-frame. The title Chag Hamatzos connotes the limitations involved in the matzah, while the name Pesach symbolizes the newfound unbridled freedom of expression which was granted to the nation at the time of the exodus.

One of the hallmarks of a Jew is his adeptness and adroitness with words. A Jew is a master of speech. He knows how to encourage others, how to give chizuk, how to pray, and how to express his deepest thoughts – in Torah and personal in articulate eloquence. As our patriarch Yitzchok said, “The voice is the voice of Yaakov”, the power of the mouth is the domain of the Jewish People.

That great ability is something we need to reclaim.

A recent study showed that the vast majority of teens admit that they would rather text their best friend then speak to them face to face. As people rely more heavily on gadgets to communicate, including using emoticons to express feelings, there is a diminishment in the ability to aptly express one’s inner feelings. Udies show that there are even disruptions in thought patterns in the brain.

Slavery rendered us speechless; redemption gave us back our speech.

Today we are again in danger of losing our speech. “The hands are the hands of Eisav” – when our speech comes from means that are in our hands we are in great peril of forfeiting our most potent tool.

“Whoever increases in telling over about the exodus from Egypt is praiseworthy.” On Seder night there is no word-limit. But its not enough to read the text. We have to relate and convey stories, beliefs, feelings, and values, and to do so we must have the words to express ourselves!

Shabbat Shalom & Good Shabbos

Chag Kasher V’samayach,

R’ Dani and Chani Staum