Thursday, May 30, 2013


Erev Shabbos Kodesh Parshas Shelach
22 Sivan 5773/May 31, 2013
Pirkei Avos – perek 3

A few weeks ago I had the distinct privilege of being invited to address an esteemed Shmiras Halashon group. The group meets monthly in one of the member’s home and invites a speaker to give chizuk about the challenge and the importance of guarding our words.
When I began I noted my discomfort speaking about a topic which I do not feel I have mastered. But there is nothing that obligates compliance more than when speaking about a topic. So it was a great way to encourage myself in this vital endeavor.
This was just after we began doing work on our kitchen, and at the time our kitchen was nothing more than wood floors and bare walls. Chani had made supper on the grill, which included corn on the cob.
Later that night after I had returned home from the speech, to my chagrin, I saw that I had black charred pieces of corn shells on the top of two of my teeth. How embarrassing! One of the rules of public speaking is that you should always look in the mirror before beginning a presentation in which people will be staring at you for any extended period of time. I must have run out so quickly that I didn’t have a chance to get that last look.
I comforted myself that at least I didn’t have to worry about anyone gossiping about how my mishap (unless my speech was a total flop…)
During the lecture I noted how interesting it is that it only took the demolition crew one day to completely destroy and remove the entire kitchen which had been in place for over two and a half decades. Rebuilding and installing on the other hand, takes a few weeks!
It is a good reminder of how careful we must be when it comes to our interactions with others. It is frightening how easy it is to tear someone down and shatter them through an unkind and un-sensitive word. To rebuild and repair that damage which was wrought so effortlessly, requires exponentially more effort and time.
When the spies returned from Eretz Yisroel it only took a short time for them to overturn the nation’s excitement about the Promised Land.
Whether it’s about corn stuck in one’s teeth or whether it’s an assessment of another person’s looks, proficiency, acumen, or ability, the power of words should never be underestimated. 
The world says talk is cheap. The truth however is that, although talk is easy, it’s anything but cheap!

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

Thursday, May 23, 2013


Erev Shabbos Kodesh Parshas Beha’aloscha
15 Sivan 5773/May 24, 2013
Pirkei Avos – perek 2

There is no doubt that one who crouches humbly behind everyone else, and has a clear view of the goings on, will have a unique perspective on everything. That was the secret of acknowledged philosopher, Yogi Berra (who incidentally also played catcher for the New York Yankees). Among his other noted witticisms, Berra once quipped that ‘if you come to a fork in the road, take it!’
The crossroads of life are among the most confusing and challenging ordeals we inevitably encounter. We are forced to confront them at all stages of the life cycle, from youth and adolescence, to adulthood and family life, all the way through our golden years.
A number of years ago, I found myself at one such critical juncture of my life. I imminently had to make some difficult decisions which would affect my long-term future. At that time, a friend related to me the following poignant analogy which I have since thought of many times, and related to others as well:
While driving, when one arrives at an intersection with the intention of making a left turn, he first looks both ways carefully. At that point he has ample time to wait until he feels comfortable making the turn, without danger from oncoming traffic. But once he has made his decision to proceed and has begun accelerating, he must follow through. Once in the intersection, even if he realizes that it was a mistake to go, at that point he is better off proceeding than braking or trying to reverse. If, G-d forbid, there will be a collision, he will be better off trying to get out of the way as much as possible, than to stop and bear more of the brunt of the impact.
When we have a critical decision to make and must decide which direction to follow, we should take time to carefully contemplate and weigh our options. What will be the impact of our decision? Will it put us on a collision course? What are our choices? But once we decide to proceed, based on our contemplations and discussions with others, we should trust ourselves and proceed intrepidly with our decision.
I hope Mr. Berra won’t be offended when I argue that when you come to a fork in the road, you should first weigh your options carefully. But if afterwards you decide to proceed, by all means take it! 

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

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

Monday, May 13, 2013


Erev Z’man Matan Toraseinu
5 Sivan 5773/May14, 2013
49th day of the Omer

“My grandfather told me that when he was in Russia in the 1800s if he was walking the streets outside his shtetl he could get beaten up.”
 “When I was your age in Poland during the early 20s, I used to walk six miles to school, in the snow, and we didn’t have boots…”
“When I was your age on the Lower East Side in the 30s, I had to catch the 6:45 trolley up Delancey street. It would take over an hour to get to school. But if I missed that trolley, oh boy!...”
“When I was your age in the Bronx in the 50s, we didn’t have remote controls. If we wanted to change the channel to our black and white TV, we had to get out of our seat and physically do it.”
“When I was your age back in the 80s if we wanted to make a phone call we had little booths, and we had to insert money into the phone in order to use it. Otherwise we had no way of making the phone call.”
“When I was your age in the 90s we would sign onto the World Wide Web and had to wait five minutes while listening to the annoying connection sounds until AOL opened up. Instant Messaging was the best way to contact my friends.”
“When I was your age we didn’t have Facebook, IPods, IPads, and Smartphones…. Life was so primitive and yet we survived…”
“My grandfather told me that when he was in Russia in the 1800s, he would wake up early, put on tefillin, and daven shachris. He only ate kosher, and observed Shabbos.”
 “When I was your age in Poland during the early 20s, I would wake up early, put on my tefillin, and daven shachris. We only ate kosher, and we observed Shabbos.
“When I was your age on the Lower East Side in the 30s, I would wake up early, put on my tefillin, and daven shachris. We only ate kosher, and we observed Shabbos.
“When I was your age in the Bronx in the 50s, I would wake up early, put on my tefillin, and daven shachris. We only ate kosher, and we observed Shabbos.
“When I was your age back in the 80s, I would wake up early, put on my tefillin, and daven shachris. We only ate kosher, and we observed Shabbos.
“When I was your age in the 90s, I would wake up early, put on my tefillin, and daven shachris. We only ate kosher, and we observed Shabbos.
“When I was your age, despite all of the distractions and temptations of society, we still woke up early, put on tefillin, and davened shachris. We ate only kosher, and observed Shabbos.”
Join us as we reaccept the Torah again this Shavuos for the 3325th consecutive year.
Be a part of something eternal!

Chag Sameach & Freilichen Yom Tov,
    R’ Dani and Chani Staum

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

Wednesday, May 8, 2013


Erev Shabbos Kodesh Parshas Bamidbar
Rosh Chodesh Sivan 5773/May 10, 2013 – 45h day of the Omer
Pirkei Avos – perek 6 – Kinyan Torah

After ‘Frankenstorm Sandy’ the buzz question everyone was asking was “Do you have power yet?” In fact, people still discuss and compare how long their power was out after the storm.
That difficult period is still fresh enough in our minds that anytime a storm is predicted we become fearful of losing power. Still, it came as quite a surprise when two weeks ago on Thursday afternoon, as we were beginning our Shabbos preparations, our electricity suddenly went out. It was a beautiful day outside, and we had no idea what could have precipitated the outage.
Our first instinct was to call the electric company. Their recording began by asking us to determine the nature of the outage, including whether it’s a house issue or an entire area. It was clear that our whole area was down, so I called back.
By then, the answering machine had been changed and began with a recording informing us that they were aware of the situation and that the power would be back on in a few hours (1 a.m.!).
Meshech Chochma (Emor) explains that there is a fundamental difference between the nature of Shabbos and Yom Tov. Shabbos is dedicated to one’s personal connection with Hashem. It is a day of introspection and reflection on one’s own spiritual growth and determining whether he is fulfilling his aspirations and responsibilities, and whether he is living a purposeful life.
Yom Tov however, is dedicated to fostering relationships and camaraderie with one’s fellow Jews. It is a time to build our sense of community as a people. Therefore, in contradistinction to Shabbos, on Yom Tov one is allowed to cook and carry outside, because doing so enables people to rejoice together.
In a certain sense, Shabbos is about making sure that our internal power lines are hooked up to the main sources outside. Throughout the week, men wear tefillin which help them ‘plug in’ to a spiritual outlet, giving them a spiritual boost to carry them through the day. [Women don’t need to wear tefillin because, Chazal explain, they are more naturally ‘plugged in’…] On Shabbos we do not wear tefillin, because on Shabbos we ensure that the very source of our energy is firmly attached to it source. Shabbos is not just about plugging into the outlet, but about ensuring that the entire power box is receiving adequate electrical flow!
Yom Tov is about making sure that everyone is plugged in to our power grid, so that everyone can enjoy and benefit from the electricity together.
When one’s electricity comes back on it’s a great relief. One hopes that his neighbors and family will also get their power back as soon as possible. In the same vein, those who appreciate the incredible gift of Shabbos are not satisfied with their own ‘connection’, but wish they could spread that spiritual electricity to every Jew.
As the great Yom Tov of Shavuos approaches, may we all feel connected to Hashem and to each other.

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

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

Wednesday, May 1, 2013


Erev Shabbos Kodesh Parshas Behar-Bechukosai
23 Iyar 5773/May 3, 2013 – 38th day of the Omer
Pirkei Avos – perek 5

A few months ago, I had the opportunity to accompany my fifth grade Ashar class for a chesed visit to Friedwald Nursing Home. They were quite shocked when the administrator walked in to greet us and their rebbe kissed him on the cheek. What I neglected to tell my students was that the administrator of the Nursing Home is my father.
It’s always good to have ‘connections’. Often it’s more than just a convenience, as good connections can ‘open doors for you’. As the old adage goes “It’s not what you know, it’s who you know.” It’s true in regards to legal issues, preferential treatment, and being accepted into institutions (including yeshivos). 
Rabbi Moshe Wolfson shlita (Service of the Heart, Artscroll) related a parable about a soldier, who had come from the battlefield, and was walking confidently towards the palace. When he was stopped by the palace guards, the soldier removed an official document from his pocket and handed it to the guard. As soon as the guard saw that the document was an official message from the king’s general to the king, he hurriedly opened the gates and allowed the soldier free passage. The same preferential treatment repeated itself a few times until the soldier stood before the king himself.
Rabbi Wolfson explained that we are like that soldier. We approach the gates of heaven each morning to utter our prayers before our King. But there are many gates guarded by ministering angels who seek to impede our imperfect prayers from ascending. Therefore at the beginning of Pesukei D’zimrah we invoke the name of Dovid Hamelech numerous times. As soon as we utter his name and proclaim that we have come to repeat his messages of love and devotion to his King, the gates of heaven swing open and our prayers are able to proceed.
This beautiful idea helps us appreciate the words we recite in Baruch She’amar, “And with the songs of Dovid, Your servant, we will praise, and we laud, and we will exult You…” Maintaining a mental image of a soldier standing at the gate helps us appreciate the greatness of every word of Tehillim.
We have serious connections. It would be a shame not to use them!

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

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