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

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