Sunday, July 15, 2012


Erev Shabbos Kodesh ParshaPinchos – Pirkei Avos, perek 1
23 Tamuz 5772/July 13, 2012

This Sunday morning, the fast of Shiva Asar b’Tamuz, I was waking up the campers in my divisions for shacharis, when I noticed two campers standing outside their bunk house with big smiles on their face. They explained that in nervous anticipation of the fast they had an epiphany. Being that the fast began at 2:48 a.m. (camp time) they ate an entire box of cereal before then, after which they stayed up the rest of the night. They figured that as soon as shacharis was over they could go to sleep for the rest of the day. By the time they would wake up the fast would be over.
They weren’t too happy with their division head who woke them up for learning groups and for mincha. It was interesting to see the Shavuos morning look in their eyes during mincha. But afterwards they indeed slept the afternoon away.
Chazal enacted fast days to jolt us out of our physical complacency. We are taught that the main point is not the fast but the repentance that results from the arduous day.
Nobody looks forward to, or enjoys discomfort or difficult moments. But there is a reason for everything that occurs and we grow from our experiences as we learn to deal with challenging, and frustrating moments.
In our world, there is a prevalent attitude of always trying to ‘beat the system’. We don’t quite break the rules, but we somehow circumvent the spirit of the law, albeit while still maintaining the letter of the law. One who sleeps through a fast day can not be accused of doing anything halachically wrong. But one who does so has ‘missed the boat’, for they have failed to realize the point of the day. In a sense, they have stayed on the road but failed to arrive at the predetermined destination.
In a similar vein, halacha dictates that during the three weeks of mourning for the Bais Hamikdash we do not listen to music. And so our world has produced myriads of songs that, although sound exactly like music, are technically not music. So we have again figured out a way to beat the system. We have preserved the letter of the law but discarded the spirit of the law. Chazal intended that during these three weeks we concentrate and feel the pain of exile, but we seek ways to bypass that discomfort. [It should be noted that Rav Belsky shlita, and other poskim, hold that if it sounds like music it is forbidden just as real music is.]
In order to grow spiritually and psychologically, we need to (metaphorically) ‘face the music’. Just as it is insufficient to merely be a Jew at heart who ‘feels’ his Judaism but doesn’t practice it, so is it insufficient to merely be a Jew in action but not a Jew at heart.
Sometimes the only way to ‘face the music’ is by shutting the music off.

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

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