Thursday, June 28, 2012


Erev Shabbos Kodesh Parshas Chukas Pirkei Avos, perek 5
10 Tamuz 5772/June 30, 2012

It seems like a favorite pastime for people to talk about their former teachers and their unique idiosyncrasies, as well as the antics students pulled in class. Undoubtedly, one of my most unique teachers was ‘Rich’ (as he liked to be called). Rich was very into poetry – not the rhyming kind, but the kind you read as a high school student, and think that it’s complete gibberish, and laugh when the teacher is annoyed at you for not comprehending the deep meaning of the poem.
On one occasion Rich gave us a paper which had only three words on it. On top in big bold letters it said ‘HERE’. Towards the bottom right corner of the page it said in small letters ‘we are’. He was extremely frustrated when we all looked at each other blankly with snickers on our faces. “Gentlemen, I’ve been called a genius for this and you have no clue what it’s about!” He finally explained that his point was that very often we are not where we say/think we are. We like to believe that we have achieved certain things in our lives and have matured to certain levels, but frequently it is just not true.
I would like to piggy back on Rich’s point, albeit with one twist. I would spell the first word HAIR. In other words, sometimes one’s hair is no longer where it once was, as the hair line of youth recedes and thins. [I of course speak from observing others. Personally, I know nothing about this.] An older friend related that when he goes to the barber and asks for a haircut, the barber asks him which hair.
But here’s my observation: The halacha is that when a man dons his tefillin shel rosh each morning, the front of the shel rosh must be positioned at the place where one’s hair line was in his youth. Even if one’s hairline recedes, the positioning of his tefillin shel rosh remains in that original place.
In the physical world, as well as in society, the lines of acceptability and societal norms constantly shift with the times. What was once taboo may be completely acceptable today, and what was once innovative may now be completely passé. But in the spiritual world, the lines never change. Our barometer of morality and acceptability, have not altered one iota throughout – and despite – millennia in exile.
No matter how much the hairline moves, the tefillin remain where that line once was. Even if the physical hair is gone, the spiritual hairline never shifts!

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

720 Union Road • New Hempstead, NY 10977 • (845) 362-2425

Thursday, June 21, 2012



Erev Shabbos Kodesh Parshas Korach Pirkei Avos, perek 4
2 Tamuz 5772/June 23, 2012

“‘It’s bad! It’s bad!’ says the acquirer; but when he leaves then he will praise.” (Mishley 20:14)
  As the school year begins to wind down I have often had the opportunity to accompany some of our students in Bais Hachinuch on their class end-of-the-year outings. It is a wonderful opportunity for me to join our youths in their natural habitat – i.e. outdoors and running around.
So when Rabbi Gradman, our esteemed sixth grade rebbe, asked me if I could join his class trip last week I readily agreed, without yet knowing where we were going. 
On the day before the trip I found out that we were going biking.
“Yeah, you know with pedals, wheels, handlebars…”
“Oooh, I haven’t done that in a while.”
It’s bad! It’s bad!’ says the acquirer.
When we arrived at the park it was raining lightly and the clouds looked menacing.
It’s bad! It’s bad!’ says the acquirer.
One of the boys told me it was a six mile trail. Six miles in the rain; here goes nothing.
It’s bad! It’s bad!’ says the acquirer.
Most of the boys were pedaling with ease, but some boys started to slow down and were having a hard time. “I am getting tired. I can’t do it.”
It’s bad! It’s bad!’ says the acquirer.
Without much recourse, they forged on.
Then I was informed that it wasn’t a circuitous route, and when we got to the end of the trail, we had to bike 6 miles back.
It’s bad! It’s bad!’ says the acquirer.
“I CAN’T! My feet are killing me.”
“Come on. Keep pedaling. Look how far we’ve gone. Don’t give up now!”
The last three miles were truly painful, and I was nervous that some of the boys (and one of their chaperones- who is typing this article) may not make it.
It’s bad! It’s bad!’ says the acquirer.
But then, as the sun began to shine drying our wet and muddied clothing, we crossed the finish line. Twelve miles! We had done it!
“But when he leaves then he will praise”
It was a major challenge. We doubted ourselves but continued on because we felt we had to. And in the end we prevailed. It was a great feeling.
“But when he leaves then he will praise”
I felt that the trip was a microcosm of the school-year. Truthfully, it mirrors any challenges we encounter in trying to accomplish anything. The journey is arduous and frustrating, and sometimes it can be downright painful. Along the way we doubt ourselves as we ponder the bleakness of our situation. But if we can maintain perspective on our goals, and remember that when it’s over we will feel incomparable pride, it can serve as inspiration to forge ahead.
“But when he leaves then he will praise”
Still, I feel compelled to admit that when the biking trip was over and I felt very proud of myself, I did not join the energy-ridden students who then proceeded to play an intense game of tag in the nearby playground.
What happened to good ol’ bowling?

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

Thursday, June 14, 2012


Erev Shabbos Kodesh Parshas Shelach Pirkei Avos, perek 3
25 Sivan 5772/June 15, 2012

Mitch Albom is a best-selling author, journalist, and broadcaster. His books have sold 30 million copies worldwide. His breakthrough book ‘Tuesdays with Morrie’ propelled him into stardom, remaining on the New York Times Bestseller list for 205 weeks, and selling 14 million copies.
Albom had heard about an interview with a sociology professor named Morrie Schwartz that had aired on The Today Show, in which Morrie spoke about living with ALS, a terminal disease he knew was killing him.
Albom had been a student of Morrie during his years at Brandeis University and had been close with him. When Albom heard about the interview and about Morrie’s situation he felt guilty for not having stayed in touch. He decided to rekindle their connection, and he began to visit Morrie every Tuesday. In 1997, Albom published ‘Tuesdays with Morrie’ in which he documented many of the poignant conversations they had about life and death.  
Almost any adult will agree that life seems to pass so quickly. Parents will agree even more. ‘It seems like it was just yesterday that…’ is a common refrain. But our daily schedules are so demanding and tiring that we just don’t know how to slow down the whirring daily merry-go-round.
I once asked Rabbi Mordechai Finkelman how he has time for his own family. Rabbi Finkelman, who I consider one of my foremost rabbeim and mentors in life, is not only the Mashgiach of Ohr HaChaim in Queens, but his sagacious advice is sought out constantly by myriads of people daily, and well into the night. He is invited to the weddings and simchos of students and friends on a nightly basis, and also gives many different lectures throughout the week.
Rabbi Finkelman replied that when it comes to one’s children quality is more important than quantity. He said that he makes sure to set aside a certain chunk of time with each of his children periodically. During that time, there is nothing else except for the child who is with him.
Many parents spend much more physical time with their children but, because their attention is so diversified, the child hardly gains from the experience.
During the last few months in our family we have established ‘Tuesday’s with Abba’. Each Tuesday I have breakfast with one of our children. During that time, it’s just me and the child. They choose the menu, we eat and schmooze, and then I drive them to school. It’s been a wonderful experience, and something each of them look forward to. When I went to eat with Avi, our four year old, for the first time, and I asked him about school, he shrugged, gave me a sly smile and said ‘I’m not telling’, and continued to eat in silence. I felt a bit funny but he was very happy with that. 
We can’t slow life down. But we can do our best to create memories and enjoy the experience.
Of course there is also the benefit that I have learned many important things about our children and about what’s going on in their lives. Most importantly, I learned that Shalom absolutely abhors when they put vegetables on his Hobo!  

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

Thursday, June 7, 2012


Erev Shabbos Kodesh Parshas Beha’aloscha Pirkei Avos, perek 2
19 Sivan 5772/June 8, 2012

This year Chani and I were privileged to be among the 1800 educators who participated in the annual Torah Umesorah convention a few weeks ago, at the Split Rock resort in the Pocono Mountains.
Late Thursday evening, our first night there, we realized that we had forgotten our cell phone chargers at home. The resort is quite large, and being that there are so many events happening simultaneously, when we wanted to find each other it would be inconvenient to be without a cell phone.
On Friday morning we contemplated our options, and after some inquires found out that Chani’s sister in Lakewood had an extra charger. Rabbi Rothstein, Bais Hachinuch’s assistant Menahel was leaving Lakewood to come to the convention a short time later. I called my brother-in-law and he graciously brought the charger to Rabbi Rothstein’s home just as Rabbi Rothstein was beginning to back out of his driveway.
When Rabbi Rothstein arrived I thanked him for bringing the charger and helping provide me with material for a Musings.
We all have a certain amount of energy and motivation which carries us through our daily affairs. But invariably we hit a point when we feel drained - emotionally and physically. Those are times when we need chizuk from others.
It’s often mentioned that we can never know just how much encouragement we can give someone else by listening to them, calling to see how they are doing, and sometimes even by merely smiling at them and offering a kind word. We all have moments or days when we feel down and alone. A real friend or close family will act as our ‘charger’ and provide us with a charge/boost when we lack our own.
It’s worthy for us to remember that so we can seek to provide our friends, neighbors, and family with a charge when they might need it.
In conclusion, I just want to add that I didn’t have a replacement charger, and my phone lasted until the end of the convention. Draw your own conclusions.  

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

Friday, June 1, 2012



Erev Shabbos Kodesh Parshas Naso Pirkei Avos, perek 1
11 Sivan 5772/June 1, 2012

There’s an old debate among American families whether or not to observe Mother’s Day and Father’s Day. Among the naysayers are families who argue that ‘every day is Mother’s and Father’s Day’ so why designate a special day for it? [Sometimes those who make such claims happen to be those who are looking for an easy way out of buying presents…]
This debate brings to mind two segulos that are well known in the Torah world. On the Tuesday of parshas Beshalach Parshas Haman (as in the manna which fell while the Jews traveled in the desert) is recited based on the segulah of Rav Mendel Rimanover, and on Erev Rosh Chodesh Sivan the prayer of the Shelah for the spiritual and physical growth of their children is recited.
During the last few years I have received a plethora of emails, texts, and reminders about those segulos on their respective days. No one wants to miss out on these once a year opportunities.
Far be it for me to discourage these two holy segulos, and please don’t misunderstand my point. But has anyone ever asked why we recite these prayers during these days. After all, ‘shouldn’t one daven for his livelihood and children every day?’ Truthfully, if one only prays for his livelihood only once a year – and certainly if one only prays for his children once a year, he’s severely remiss. I have no doubt the Rav Mendel Rimanover and the Shleh Hakodesh would be extremely disappointed.
Mishna Berurah (47:10) writes that one should pray for their children three times during the daily shacharis: “The prayers of the father and mother should always be fluent in their mouths, davening that their children should learn Torah, so that they should be righteous and have good character traits. They should concentrate particularly during the blessing of Ahava Rabbah and in Birchas HaTorah when they say, May we and our descendants learn Torah’, and also during ‘Uva LeTzion’ when they say, ‘ In order that we should not toil in vain nor give birth to confusion’.”
Perhaps part of the problem is that we do not recognize the value and power of our tefillos. But that is analogous to someone with a dreaded disease who won’t take the medicine he has in his hand because he doesn’t understand or believe that it works. He had better learn fast, because that’s his only hope!
Three times each day we have the opportunity to pray to G-d, and that is far greater than a segulah. May we have the wisdom to take advantage of those opportunities.

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