Thursday, May 24, 2012


Erev Shabbos Kodesh Parshas Bamidbar (Erev Shavuos) Pirkei Avos – perek 6
4 Sivan 5772/May 25, 2012 (48th day of the Omer)

“Sometimes when I’m bored I turn my humidifier and dehumidifier on in the same room, and let them fight it out.” (Steven Wright)
As the weather turned warmer a few Fridays ago, I switched our home’s thermostat setting from heat to air conditioning just prior to Shabbos. Imagine my surprise then, when on Friday night as the air conditioning was blowing I heard the clinking of the floor radiator, signaling that the heat had turned on.
Apparently, in our state of the art home system, even when the thermostat is clicked to air conditioning, the heat sensor has to be turned down, otherwise the heat will still go on. It was some experience as the two systems battled it out all Shabbos long. When we received that month’s bill we realized that O&R (our electric company) had won!  
(For all you loyal readers and skeptics, yes, strange things do seem to happen to us - so that I have what to write about. You can’t make this stuff up…)
The Chovas Hatalmidim (chapter 4) writes that slothfulness is of the greatest impediments to spiritual growth. He also notes that there is a difference between laziness and lethargy. The lazy person will accomplish nothing at all, because he lacks the impetus to even bother. The lethargic person on the other hand, will indeed eventually get around to doing what he is supposed to, albeit only after a prolonged delay, and even then without passion or feeling.
While the lazy person seems far worse since he does nothing at all, in a sense he is better off than the lethargic person. The lazy person at least recognizes that he has a serious problem. Therefore, we can hope that one day he may actually receive the chizuk he needs to ‘get moving’. The lethargic person however, often feels that there is nothing wrong with his behavior. After all he gets the job done, so what’s the problem?
The Yom Tov of Shavuos awakens us to reaccept our daily mission and quest to be the Torah nation. But it’s not enough to ‘do’; we must also ‘hear’ the words of the Torah, in the sense that it permeates our essence and becomes part of us. We must live the Torah with passion and enthusiasm, and not as an ancient dry set of austere laws and regulations.  
As Torah Jews we keep the Torah every day of our lives. Thus the holiday of Shavuos must be more than just accepting the Torah. Rather it is a reminder that we must ‘turn up the heat’, live the words we read and hear, and engrave them on our hearts. One who is lethargic and ‘cold’ in his observance is losing out on the essence – not only of Shavuos – but also in the richness of true Torah living.
You just can’t turn up the heat if the air conditioning is still on!

              Shabbat Shalom & Good Shabbos
              Chag Samaych & Freilichen Yom Tov,
                R’ Dani and Chani Staum

Thursday, May 17, 2012


Erev Shabbos Kodesh Parshios Behar-Bechukosai Pirkei Avos – perek 5
26 Iyar 5772/May 18, 2012 (41st day of the Omer)

If April showers bring May flowers, what do May flowers bring? Pilgrims! (badda baddam)
Actually, at least as far as the Monsey community is concerned, May flowers brings Pirchei Sunday afternoon baseball. “Take me out to the ballgame (on the other side of town), take me out to the soggy rain-soaked field, bring along a folding chair, and extra Super Snacks, I hope it ends soon cuz I need to get back. It’s root, root, root, for my kid, if he strikes out it’s a shame, cuz it’s one, two, three, four, five, six, seven foul tips at the Pirchei games”
It’s a sight to see on Sunday afternoon as both teams converge on the field, readying the beginning of the game. These young men – our future – arrive wearing colored jerseys, caps, pants, and cleats, holding their gloves, with batting gloves sticking out of their pants. They also carry water bottles or Gatorade to keep the fluids pumping during the course of the intense showdown. Many players bring their own bats, which has just the right length and weight to compliment his batting style. The coaches arrive with duffel bags bringing all possible necessities for the game, including bases, helmets, catcher equipment, umpire’s face-mask, and some spare utility players (they stay in the bag unless needed). 
It reminds me of the time I was watching such a game set to begin with all of the aforementioned equipment (and then some). Finally the umpire gave the clarion call ‘Play Ball’, and the home team took the field. The fielders leaned in, poised and ready, as the pitcher arrived on the mound. The batter stepped in the box, gathered some dust, spit in his hands, and gripped the bat with menacing eyes. Yes, ladies and gentlemen, Casey was back in Mudville seeking revenge.
But then the pitcher called out “Where’s the ball?” The ball? Hello? Who’s got the ball? Oops, one minor detail. If you think about it, it’s the minutest part of the game. They had bases, bats, gloves, helmets. They had forgotten one thing. But without a ball, there is no game. So Casey, mighty Casey, couldn’t even get a pitch.
Rav Shimshon Pinkus zt’l noted that our generation boasts more Torah learning than ever before in exile. We have incredible chesed programs, and beautiful mitzvah observance with unparalleled stringency and alacrity. There is a plethora of taharas hamishpacha lectures, chinuch forums, and kiruv organizations. With all that we have achieved, we are only missing one thing, i.e. we have left out G-d. In his words, ‘We have cultivated a Judaism and have left Hashem out of the equation’. 
In baseball they say that the key to good hitting is to ‘Keep your eye on the ball’. We need to keep our eye on the proverbial ball by constantly reminding ourselves of the purpose of all we do: “Shivi Hashem l’negdi samid – I place G-d before me constantly.” We need to remember who we are davening to, why we live in the way that we do, and we need to speak about G-d throughout our day. There is nothing more important than that truth in our lives.
If we can maintain that focus than we are truly the winners.

              Shabbat Shalom & Good Shabbos,
                R’ Dani and Chani Staum

Thursday, May 10, 2012


Erev Shabbos Kodesh Parshas Emor– Pirkei Avos – perek 4
19 Iyar 5772/May 11, 2012 (34th day of the Omer)

One morning a number of weeks ago I had one of the experiences every homeowner dreads - water on the carpet in the basement. I was on my way out to learn before Shachris and at that point it was only a small puddle of water, so I hoped it wouldn’t get too much worse until I came home. When I arrived home two hours later however, I realized that we had a serious situation. The carpet was soaking up water quickly, and the boiler room floor was flooded.
Our plumber was kind enough to rush over. He surveyed the situation and immediately told us his grim prognosis – our boiler was kaput! He shut the water and drained the now defunct tank. He then discussed with us our options for purchasing a new tank based on size and price. Now I know not to take hot water for granted.
After the new hot water heater was installed, we still had to contend with the water damage. We borrowed a wet-vac to vacuum the running water, a commercial humidifier to draw the water out of the carpet, and a plug-in air freshener to combat the musty smell. Considering how much worse it could have been we were lucky. We caught the problem almost immediately before the whole basement became flooded.  
A few nights ago, our area was hit with the first thunderstorm of the season. Replete with thunder and lightning, soaking rains drenched the area overnight. The following afternoon when I walked outside into the sunlight, I had a newfound appreciation for the miraculous process of absorption. Not only did it not smell moldy and damp, the ground was completely dry, and the warm afternoon air was fresh and pleasant.
It’s an interesting thought. Any minimal amount of water inside my house was damaging and unwanted, while pouring rains outside was a beneficial blessing with hardly a trace remaining a few sun-filled hours later. The difference is simple. The carpet and floor in the basement cannot absorb the water, while the ground outside can. The rain naturally seeps into the earth nourishing trees, flowers, plants, animals, and ultimately, us.
Chazal (Shabbos 88b) say that one who bites his tongue, restraining himself from responding to insults is analogous to the life-giving rays of the sun at its zenith. When one trains himself to ‘absorb’ insulting and acerbic comments without responding, he not only builds himself, but he helps nourish his relationships. But one who refuses to allow any negative comment to ‘slide’, causes his relationships to become flooded with negativity, making the cleanup process all the more difficult.  
One of our tasks during these days of sefirah is to train ourselves to absorb. It makes it easier if we remember that it is the water the ground absorbs which enables the beautiful trees and flowers to grow above it.

      Shabbat Shalom & Good Shabbos,
      R’ Dani and Chani Staum

Thursday, May 3, 2012



Erev Shabbos Kodesh Parshios Acharei Mos-KedoshimPirkei Avos – perek 3
12 Iyar 5772/May 4, 2012 (27th day of the Omer)

You know what they say about a yeshivish car? The only thing that still works is the horn.
A friend of mine had one such car which ran on gas and prayer. One winter day as he was puttering along, he suddenly heard an explosion erupt from the back of his car. Although it was a bit unnerving, he bravely forged on.
But a few moments later when he heard a second such explosion, and then a third, he began to panic. He turned around and headed straight for his second home (a.k.a. his mechanic). Along the way a few more explosions rattled his nerves.  
The mechanic popped the hood, and then checked the tires and brakes, but he couldn’t find anything remarkably unusual. Still, the frenzied driver insisted that the mechanic check again. He was sure something was amiss, and he refused to drive the car until he was reassured that it wouldn’t explode in the middle of the street.
Finally the mechanic decided to search the trunk. It was there that he found the source of the disturbance. Underneath all of the trunk-junk he found a forgotten 12 pack of soda. He immediately realized what was happening in the winter cold the cans were freezing and subsequently exploding.
We all have issues and challenges that we don’t like to confront. We try to push them out of our minds, hoping that if we can cover them up they will go away. But, as one of my teachers once quipped, “the only way out is through”. If we try to drive away from our challenges, they will remain in the trunk under pressure like a tinder box. When the pressure becomes too intense, eventually the can will explode! At that point we will have no recourse but to open the trunk and figure out the real source of the problem.
This idea is true in regards to marriage, parenting, and personal growth. In order to improve in any area we need to understand the root of a problem. Otherwise we may address a symptom while ignoring the core issue: Why do I act the way I do? Why do I argue and become so hurt by seemingly innocuous disagreements? Why does my child not want to discuss things with me? 
Trunks are an invaluable asset to a car. Not everything needs to be on the car’s seats where everyone can see it. But explosive materials cannot just be thrown in the trunk. They need to be handled with care.

              Shabbat Shalom & Good Shabbos,
                R’ Dani and Chani Staum