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

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