Wednesday, April 24, 2013


Erev Shabbos Kodesh Parshas Emor
16 Iyar 5773/April 26, 2013 – 31st day of the Omer
Pirkei Avos – perek 4

Spring has definitely sprung. More important than the stunning budding trees and return of life, is the buzzing activity on the golf course I pass on my way to shul. The hibernating golfers have come out of their caves and resumed their ancient traditions of trying to whack a little ball into a little hole.
For our son Shalom the golfers add a dimension of excitement to his walk home from shul on Shabbos. He was told by some neighborhood friends that as he walks home, he should keep his eyes trained on the ground to find some stray golf balls that inadvertently overshot their targets by a long way. [A neighbor across the street from the course related that on two different occasions a golf ball crashed through his living room window. I was told that those golfers did not make it to the U.S. Open.] When I arrived home from shul this past Shabbos, Shalom proudly held up his loot – two golf balls. 
In his introduction to Mesillas Yesharim, Rav Moshe Chaim Luzzato details the ultimate recipe for spiritual growth, as taught in the gemara by Rabbi Pinchos ben Yair. “Watchfulness leads to alacrity, alacrity leads to spiritual cleanliness, cleanliness leads to purity…” One of the important ideas he elucidates is that growth can only be accomplished incrementally, step by step, level by level.
In Yaakov Avinu’s epic dream atop Mount Moriah, he envisioned a ladder with its feet planted on the ground leading up to the heavens. A ladder contains rungs upon which one climbs in order to ascend. If one tries to skip a few rungs he will probably end up falling hard, and land up at the bottom. One can only get to the top if he first has a sense of direction of where he wants to end up, and then slowly ascending, one rung at a time.
The days of Sefiras Haomer are meant to be days of growth. Counting each day reminds of the invaluableness of each day. It entails forty-nine steps to arrive at Matan Torah, one day at a time.
As one progresses in his climb, it is inevitable that he encounter setbacks and periods of darkness which seek to impede his progress. It is during those times when one must find light in the darkness, avenues of encouragement that help him maintain his vision and direction.
The fires of Lag Ba’omer reflect those deep penetrating lights. Those fires are the physical representation of the spiritual light of the holy Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai. Rabbi Shimon revealed many of the esoteric secrets of Torah, and taught that there is more to every individual and to the world than meets the eye. Therefore, one must always dig deeper to find truth. The fires of Lag Ba’omer represent the final push, impelling us beyond any hurdles, carrying us all the way to Sinai.
A person must always pace himself in his spiritual growth. If he doesn’t invest adequate effort he ends up in the banality of the daily grind. But, if he sets his goals too high he is setting himself up for disappointment and deep personal frustration. Hitting the ball too hard will only ensure that it clears the course and ends up out of the game. To stay in the game he must maintain focus on the goal, and then hit the ball with just the right amount of energy. [Then he gets into that little white car and drives to the next hole…]
It takes a golf expert to hit a hole in one, and it takes wisdom and patience to become one who is whole and complete. 

Shabbat Shalom & Good Shabbos,
    R’ Dani and Chani Staum
720 Union Road • New Hempstead, NY 10977 • (845) 362-2425