Thursday, January 31, 2013


Erev Shabbos Kodesh Parshas Yisro
21 Shevat 5773/Febuary 1, 2013

The buzz is in the air. Get your hoagies and chips ready. It’s ‘Erev Super Bowl Sunday’. You may not even know which teams are playing; you may not even like football at all. But if you’re a good American, your gearing up for the great event.  
On Sunday our family enjoyed a pizza lunch with our friends, the Kraus family. They mentioned that after lunch they were heading to Saperstein’s Purim store to pick out costumes for their children. Later that afternoon I met my Rabbi Saperstein himself and I wished him a “Happy Erev Purim”. He smiled and replied that it has been Erev Purim for him since the last day of Chanukah.
A few hours later I met Menny Schwab, the director of Camp Fun. I wished him “Happy Erev Camp”. He smiled and replied that indeed that was true for him. He was busy with his reunion and was already accepting applications. This past Shabbos we hosted some friends from Camp Dora Golding, where we spend our summers. One of our guests was Binyamin Daiches, assistant director of the camp. Talking to him over Shabbos makes it apparent that it’s been Erev Camp for him for a few months already.
For many women the holiday of Tu B’Shvat ushers in Erev Pesach, as they begin to anticipate the great chometz purge. [I know there are women who begin Erev Pesach right after Chanukah, but we aren’t talking about those people right now. Their poor families are forced to live in a succah behind their home throughout the winter to ensure that they don’t bring any chometz into the house.]  
Although the word ‘Erev’ literally means ‘eve’, we refer to the entire excited frenzy that precedes any Yom Tov as ‘Erev’.
There are people who spend years thinking that they are ‘Erev retirement’, and that’s how they get through their day.
The most fulfilling life of a Jew is when he/she lives the entire week as if it’s Erev Shabbos. This does not necessarily refer to buying food, setting the table, or he other necessary physical preparations for Shabbos. Rather, it refers to one who lives his week in anticipation of the sanctity of the day and what it stands for, as well as in reflection of the growth of the previous Shabbos. 
Ultimately we know that the greatest merit is for one to attain the eternal shabbos, in a world where one spends eternity ‘delighting in the splendor of His Shechinah’ (Mesillas Yesharim – chapter 1).
The bottom line is that whatever we live our lives in anticipation of becomes our Erev. It’s that erev which ushers in the ‘boker’ – the subsequent day which lights up and becomes an integral part of our lives.

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

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

Thursday, January 24, 2013


Erev Shabbos Kodesh Parshas Beshalach (Shabbos Shirah/Tu B’Shvat)
14 Shevat 5773/January 25, 2013

I remember my Bubby – may she live and be well - once emphatically telling me that I should never trust Polish people. When I noted that she herself was Polish, she immediately replied, “And you think I trust myself? Not for a minute!”
This past Shabbos we were visiting my in-laws in Lakewood. Although it’s a relatively short walk to shul and although during a regular Shabbos morning I remove my hat before walking into shul (I wear my talis over my head during davening) I still wear my hat while walking to shul on Shabbos morning. But last week I left my hat in my in-laws home. After what happened last time I wasn’t taking any chances.
The last time we were in Lakewood for Shabbos a few months ago, upon arriving in shul Shabbos morning I placed my hat on the rack in the anteroom alongside many other hats. However, when I came to retrieve it after davening, I found that there was only one hat left and it didn’t look familiar. It was a Borsalino-Spinetta and there was no name inside. I immediately concluded that someone had switched hats with me. How annoying. Since most people had already gone home I could only hope that ‘the mysterious klutzy exchanger’ would realize his mistake later that afternoon and would return my hat to the rack. 
I came to Mincha a few minutes early, and waited. No one returned my hat. I began to carefully scrutinize everyone else’s hats. A few neighbors who knew I was on the prowl helped me in my search. But to no avail. Davening began and still no hat. I rationalized that is the exchanger was wearing my hat I could wear his. I put in and it fit perfectly. No wonder the exchanger made the mistake. It had the same design and was the same size as mine.
After I concluded Shemoneh Esrei I decided to look inside the hat one more time. There had to be some defining feature in the hat. As I stuck my hand under the rim I pulled out the tag still attached to the string. How do you like that? There was someone else besides me who left the tag and string inside his hat? What are the chances? Maybe he wasn’t such a klutz for making the mistake.
That’s when it dawned on me. The reason the hat shared so many features must have been because it was my hat! I never bothered to study the inside of my hat so carefully and didn’t remember the name of my hat.
As I left shul a few neighbors noted that they were happy I had gotten my hat back. It was easier just to nod and keep walking.
But when I returned to Lakewood for Shabbos this time there was no way I was going to wear my hat. How can I trust myself not to exchange my hat again? In the words of one wise man “Wherever I go, there I am!”
Human nature is that we spend much of our lives focusing on our own weaknesses and admiring other people’s strengths. We berate ourselves for our inadequacies and don’t give ourselves enough credit for our accomplishments. This is a sure way to keep us from feeling successful, and if we don’t feel successful we lack the inspiration to strive for greater growth and accomplishment. If we don’t recognize and believe in ourselves then who will? The painful truth is that if we don’t don our own hat it will just be left on the shelf, or worse it may just be left at home.

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

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

Wednesday, January 16, 2013


Erev Shabbos Kodesh Parshas Bo
6 Shevat 5773/January 18, 2013

The first day of ninth grade is unquestionably a big milestone. I remember my first day vividly. Yeshiva Shaarei Torah in Monsey would become my second home for twelve years, but on that first day it was anything but home.
After shacharis I walked into the gym/cafeteria feeling pretty good about myself, as I reached for the ladle to scoop up some orange juice to drink with my breakfast. Before I did another hand grabbed the ladle. I peered up into the eyes of a tall eleventh grader who looked down at me disdainfully. “Staum, first of all, I was here first. Second-of-all you’re a freshie. So get lost!”
I can’t say I wasn’t warned. Throughout eighth grade, my rebbe, Rabbi Yanky Horowitz, would often rib us, “You guys walk around this building like you’re so tough. I can’t wait until next year when you enter mesivta. Suddenly your bravado disappears as you cower before the older students.”
Truthfully, that represents the upward climb of life. We are constantly struggling to achieve, and when we finally reach a level of mastery, we find ourselves at the bottom of the next level. It’s like an apartment building where the top of one floor is the bottom of the next floor.
At that point we are faced with the choice of resting on our laurels or goading ourselves onward to the next level, accepting the renewed discomfort as par for the course of growth. 
A number of years ago I was part of an organization which had been very close-knit and friendly. As the organization began to grow they were looking into bringing in new members and new resources. At a luncheon during that time, the director lauded our accomplishments and successes, and also prepared us for the changes that were to come. He wisely noted that “With all growth comes a certain measure of distance.” There can no longer be the same camaraderie and closeness as there once was. Procedures and styles have to change. It is a further challenge of expansion and ascension.
Oftentimes we know we have to grow and change but we aren’t prepared to accept the inevitable challenges. Alfred Hitchcock, the noted playwright, spoke about a ‘MacGuffin’ as an important component of any good story. A MacGuffin is something that occurs which draws the hero/heroine into the story. It is what starts the process and gives it meaning, impelling the characters onto a journey from where there is no shying away.   
Often we don’t grow until a MacGuffin arrives in our lives. It is the proverbial kick in the pants. We often want to fight it, so that our lives can remain status quo, in the comfort zone we have grown accustomed to. But MacGuffins are persistent and force the journey upon us.
If you never undergo the challenges of ‘freshie-hood’ you can never become a senior. And if you never become a senior you never get to take orange juice first.

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

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

Thursday, January 10, 2013


Erev Shabbos Kodesh Parshas Vaera, Erev Rosh Chodesh Shevat
29 Teves 5773/January 11, 2013

As we were preparing for our shul Chanukah Chagigah in our home a few weeks ago, I went into the garage to find a rather heavy table that we keep there. Despite the bulkiness and heaviness of the table I have carried it up and down the steps myself numerous times, and I was confident that this time would be no different. I’m not sure if it was the added fatigue of the holiday or the extra latkes weighing me down, but as I turned to head up the windy staircase from our basement the table headed in the opposite direction. It went right through the wall with a terrific thud.
Aside for my ego, I thankfully was not hurt. Now it appears that we are extra stringent in the law which requires that one have a ‘zecher l’churban’ in his home.
There are times in life when we feel like we can handle things. We tell others that we have the situation under control and they need not be concerned about us; we can handle the pressure and everyone should stop making a fuss. But then without warning we can find ourselves overwhelmed, as pressure brings us to our knees.
It is at those times that one really needs the support of his/her friends and family. It is those who will rush to your aid in your lowest and most vulnerable moments that are your real friends.
I once saw a beautiful quote about friendship: “A friend is someone who really knows you, and likes you anyway…” Oprah Winfrey once quipped that “anyone will ride with you in the limousine, but only a real friend will walk with you in the pouring rain.”
A real friend will help you lift the table after you’ve unwittingly dropped it. Then they’ll open the table and sit next to you.
We know Hashem doesn’t test challenge a person with any test he can’t handle. Sometimes the ability to handle a situation may include his social supports.
The ultimate marriage is when spouses achieve that level of dedication and devotion for each other. During sheva berachos we describe the choson and kallah as rayim ha’ahuvim – beloved friends. We pray that throughout their lives they will support each other so that neither ever feels alone, that they carry their table together so that they can sit beside it together.
Mazal Tov Joe and Danielle!

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

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

Thursday, January 3, 2013


Erev Shabbos Kodesh Parshas Shemos
22 Teves 5773/January 4, 2013

Dear Principal
I am writing to you out of deep aggravation and frustration. Last night my son came home from school and reported to my wife that the boys in his class didn’t allow him to play in their game during recess. He said that his teacher made him miss the first few minutes of recess because she felt he was being mean to his classmates.
That itself is an outrage! When I asked my son to tell me what really happened he said that all he did was call another boy a loser a few times. So what if it was front of other kids, is that called being mean? Kids have to be able to deal with things. They gotta tough it up and be able to handle it. You really have to help out that kid.
But that’s a separate problem. Because my son was inappropriately denied his rights to recess, he came out late, whereupon his classmates told him he had to find someone else to split up with because they already made teams. I have no doubt that they knew all too well there was no one else to split with him.
I don’t know what you call that behavior, but in my book that’s called bullying. As you know, using any authority or power to get something unwarranted or to push around someone else is bullying. This includes using threats, ultimatums, or exerting strength or power to get what you want, without taking consideration of the victim or his perspective on the situation.
I don’t send my son to school so that his self-esteem could be shattered. How can a group of kids be allowed to gang up on my son and not allow him to play just because one of them was immature enough to complain about a harmless tease and he was forced to come out late?
The school claims that bullying is absolutely not tolerated. Is that just a nice quip you write in the handbook and preach to the parents? Where are you now that my son is being bullied?
I will absolutely not stand for this! I’ll have you know that if you do not act on this matter immediately to rectify this problem, I will publicize the incident. I will write to the local newspapers and tell them about this and my other grievances with the school, and your deficient handling of it. Other parents will join me in bringing this matter to the attention of the school board. So you better get to it and address the situation.
With everything else going on in our crazy society I cannot allow anyone to bully my son. I will not tolerate his being given any ultimatums or threats. So either fix it or face the consequences.
I wait to hear your response and I expect that everything will be taken care of immediately.

Inherent Paradox

Dear Principle: Don’t expect your child’s school to be able to teach your son lessons you don’t live by!

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

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