Wednesday, February 27, 2013


Erev Shabbos Kodesh Parshas Ki Sisa/Parah
19 Adar 5773/March 1, 2013

Late Purim afternoon, a close friend of ours came to deliver shalach manos to our home with his children. He had that frazzled look many of us have as we try to deliver as many shalach manos as we can, while racing against the fleeting Purim clock, and battling the unmanageable Purim traffic.
My friend noted that he was sure his children’s teachers had convened before Purim to decide when they should each be available on Purim day for their students to come to their homes. “You live in Park Ave, at the southern tip of Monsey, so you should be available from 11:15 a.m. – 11:23 a.m. You live in Wesley Hills, at the northern end of town, so you should be available from 11:25 a.m. – 11:43 a.m. Then you live on Cameo Ridge, in the heart of gridlock-ville, and should avail yourself from 1:50 p.m. until 2:06 p.m….”
It can be quite frustrating and there’s not much recourse. Being that both Chani and I have students, we told our students we would be home after 2 p.m. After I finished laining Megillah in our home at 10 a.m. we packed everyone into the car to make our rounds. Most of our stops were at our children’s rebbes and teachers so that we could express our appreciation to them for all of their hard work. 
When we finally arrived home just before 2 p.m., we had the same sinking feeling we have every year when we find shalach manos at our door. This year among the other packages, there was one package that didn’t have a name on it, and we had no idea who it was from.
According to the Manos Halevi (Rav Shlomo Alkabetz) the main purpose of shalach manos is to foster feelings of friendship between giver and receiver. [It is somewhat ironic that we are trying to build friendship while dealing with the aforementioned frustration of trying to get around town to deliver the shalach manos on Purim. Maybe that’s why Chazal instituted that one drink a lot when he sits down to his seudah after spending the day fighting Purim traffic…]
Since we didn’t know who the giver was, it could have been anyone. It caused us to feel friendlier to every Jew in the world. [In truth, Chani did call one neighbor who we were pretty convinced was the deliverer to thank her. But it wasn’t from her family. It worked out better this way, because we hadn’t given them, and now we didn’t need to feel guilty about it.]
All of this gave us a great idea for next year. We are going to leave anonymous shalach manos all around town. This way no one will know who gave it and everyone will have to love everyone more, because they might have given it. What an idea! Before you know it, there will be such an incredible proliferation of Ahavas Yisroel abounding. What a revolution.
And no, I didn’t write this while I was drunk. 

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

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

Thursday, February 21, 2013


Erev Shabbos Kodesh Parshas Tetzaveh/Zachor
12 Adar 5773/February 22, 2013

Cleaning ladies – don’t even get me started! Once, or maybe twice a week she is welcomed into my house, to decide where everything should go and how things should be arranged. Invariably, when I come home after she’s cleaned, while the house looks pretty clean, it’s usually because she decided to discard half of our stuff.
Later that night, I’m sure to find some of my son’s clothing in my drawer (sometimes my daughter’s stuff too), our dresser has been completely rearranged, and heaven knows where my clothes are. Magazines I’m in the middle of are discarded, and things left out disappear forever. Our cleaning lady must have heard me complaining about her last week, because when I went to turn on the shower it was facing the wrong way, and shpritzed me right in the face.
For a number of years, on the desk of my Yeshiva Bais Hachinuch office, I had what looked like a spilled bottle of red nail polish. The applier was placed strategically atop the fake spill, and it looked real. It was a great conversation starter which is important for a therapist to have, “Umm, your nail polish (?) spilled…”
Then, about three years ago, towards the beginning of a new academic year, I came into my office one morning to find the bottle closed and the fake spill gone. It took some time before I realized that the yeshiva had hired a new janitor who apparently ‘cleaned up’ the mess. Someone should’ve told him that not all messes are meant to be cleaned up!
So why do we have a cleaning lady, you ask? That’s a silly question. This is America; it’s a constitutional obligation. The Bill of Rights dictates that the military cannot sleep in your home, and you have freedom of speech and religion, but it’s contingent on you having a cleaning lady who rearranges your home consistently.
Each week before she comes, I try to hide everything I want to keep so that it doesn’t get ‘cleaned up’. I have even had nightmares about my cleaning lady chasing me with a vacuum cleaner and Windex, yelling at me for leaving my pen on the dresser. When I went to call a therapist to ask for help he told me he couldn’t schedule an appointment because his cleaning lady threw his appointment book in the garbage.
Okay, so I’m exaggerating a little. But there was one time when I really couldn’t fault the cleaning lady for throwing something out. Each night of Chanukah, when I would clean out the used cups of oil and remove the wicks from the night before, I would place the wicks onto a piece of tin foil, so I could burn them as halacha dictates. [I usually burn them with my chometz, and lulav, on Erev Pesach.]
This year, the day after Chanukah ended I came home to find the table and Menorah cleaned off, and all of the wicks gone. I sadly realized that the cleaning lady had thrown them away. This time I had no one to blame but myself. How could I have expected her to think otherwise? Why would there be any inherent specialness in a pile of used wicks?
As Jews we understand that even after certain things become worn out they maintain holiness, and must be disposed of properly. Chazal teach us that because the light of the menorah is symbolic of the eternal light of Torah, the wicks used to light those candles cannot merely be discarded.
It is intriguing that our enemies often have a better understanding of us than we do. The Vilna Gaon explains that Haman wanted, not only to destroy us as a people, but also to destroy our dead bodies, similar to the Nazi crematoriums. Haman recognized that even the physical shell of a Jew is ‘contaminated with Jewishness’.
His decree should help us realize us that every Jew is special and invaluable, just because he/she is a Jew, and there always remains a spark within. A non-Jew does not have a connection to such an idea. If Menorah wicks retain holiness, how much more so the physical body of a Jew! On Purim we celebrate the greatness that resides in every one of us. On Purim we love each other simply because we are part of the same family!
By the way, if you don’t get shalach manos from us, it’s definitely because the cleaning lady took apart the baskets we made and put everything away. We’ll be sure to have you in mind as we eat it.
Shabbat Shalom & Good Shabbos --- Freilichen Purim & Purim Sameach to every Jew,
   R’ Dani and Chani Staum
720 Union Road • New Hempstead, NY 10977 • (845) 362-2425

Thursday, February 14, 2013


Erev Shabbos Kodesh Parshas Terumah
5 Adar 5773/February 15, 2013

Once upon a time, when you wanted to go somewhere, you needed to first find out  directions from someone who knew the way. You would try to speak with someone who was proficient with roads, knew traffic patterns, and which was the best route to take. Then, a few years ago, Mapquest, followed by Google Maps, came into vogue which maps out the route for you. All you had to do was print it out and take it along.
And then came the GPS! No longer does anyone need to know anything more than the destination address. Just plug it in and voila! Follow the little car on the screen. In the words of Rus, “Where you go I will go.” It not only tells you how to get there, it tells you how long it should take, how fast you are going, and what the approaching roads look like.   
Much has been written about the GPS and the many lessons to be derived from it. But I wish to speak about a seemingly insignificant accessory to the GPS - the holder upon which the GPS is mounted. It may not seem to be too important but I have learned that without it relying on the GPS can be dangerous. 
Recently, the holster which secured our GPS to our dashboard broke. Now whenever I need to use our GPS it becomes an arduous process of trying to balance it in a way that it won’t fall. But no matter how I position it, invariably within a short time it falls off the dashboard, leaving me at a total loss of where to go next. So here is this amazing piece of technology replete with all the information I need to get to where I am going, and I can’t access any of it, because it has fallen beyond my view.
In our advanced society we have been blessed with many resources to help us learn Torah and do mitzvos with convenience and ease. The drawback is that oftentimes when it’s too accessible and available we don’t feel a pressing need to invest the effort to internalize that wisdom and knowledge. After all, it’s right there whenever we need it. It’s like having a GPS not fastened to the windshield. It will do nothing for you if you don’t have it on display where you can constantly refer to it.
A navigation system can only guide you if you are watching its instruction and following its lead. The captain who keeps his compass in his pocket could have just left it at home.
The Torah is there for the taking. “It is not distant from you... For the matter is very close to you, in your mouth and in your heart to do it.” But only if you keep it in view.
In conclusion I should add that I don’t have the EZ pass stickers on my car either. But that’s a whole separate issue. 

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

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

Wednesday, February 6, 2013


Erev Shabbos Kodesh Parshas Mishpatim/Shekalim/Mevarchim Chodesh Adar
28 Shevat 5773/February 8, 2013

Written for “ASHREI NEWS” – Ashar’s weekly newsletter – Parshas Mishpatim 5773

It’s the biggest game of the year! There is no greater emotional hype in the world of sports than the Super Bowl. Players and fans count down the days until the showdown. The game begins with exhilarating passion as both sides play their hearts out. It’s what every kid dreams of and every player hopes for. It’s what motivates them throughout the season. Once the game actually starts nothing could stop the momentum. Nothing at all! Well almost nothing…
Much of America saw it happen last Sunday. It was an unprecedented and unimaginable event. The lights went out during the big game and everything came to a screeching halt. All of the hype, all of the psyche, and all of the momentum, it all stopped. The players returned to the sidelines, fans sat back from the edge of their seats. Without those massive lights the game could not continue. In the middle of the third quarter of Super Bowl XIVII, the Ravens and 49ers had to wait it out. It was, what we would dub, ‘a yeshivishe matzav’.
Parshas Mishpatim seems somewhat out of place. Since the beginning of the Torah, way back after Simchas Torah, every parsha has been filled with glorious stories, many miraculous, of our forefathers and ancestors. Then in Chumash Shemot the story becomes more incredible as miracles become commonplace throughout the plagues and Yetziat Mitzrayim, the splitting sea, manna falling from the heaven, the war against Amalek, and the great revelation of Matan Torah. And then suddenly the story seems to come to a screeching halt.
“These are the laws that you shall place before them”. Klal Yisroel is taught the laws of getting along with others, responsibility for property, laws of damages, and laws of money.
It seems incongruous. What is the connection between the laws of daily living and the exciting stories that precede them?
Being a Torah Jew does not only involve the excitement of the Chagim and enjoying the beauty and meals on Shabbat. Being a Torah Jew entails living like a mentch every day of your life. It includes how you act towards others, how you speak to others, and how much you care about others. Being a Torah Jew must shape and define every facet of your life. 
It is not enough to perform in your Avodat Hashem when you are centerfield and everyone is cheering you on. It’s not enough to learn Torah just to get good grades in yeshiva and to make your parents proud. Being a Torah Jew means learning how to perform when the lights are out - in the darkness when no one is there except you and Hashem.
If a Jew doesn’t familiarize himself/herself, not only with the letter of the laws of Parshat Mishpatim, but also with the spirit of the laws of Parshat Mishpatim, he/she has not fulfilled his/her responsibility. 
Throughout our lives we must not allow ourselves to become intimidated by our opponents, even when the odds are against us. All we need is to get that first down, and then to keep advancing. We must not fear the line of scrimmage by being confident that we can break through the defense. But most importantly, in life we must never stop playing the game and we must never leave the field. Even when the lights go out we must still be there battling.
Go Giants – future Torah Giants of Ashar J

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

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