Thursday, June 20, 2013


Erev Shabbos Kodesh Parshas Balak
13 Tammuz 5773/June 22, 2013
Pirkei Avos – perek 6

What an ego boost! From the moment a young man and woman become engaged until the end of the week of Sheva Berachos, they are the center of attention. Wherever they go, people heap blessings upon them and wishes of mazal tov. Then during sheva berachos friends and family can’t stop relating the accolades and praise of the young newlyweds.  
To temper the over-inflated ego of the young suitors, immediately following their marriage a husband attends weddings of his wife’s friends, and the wife attends weddings of her husband’s friends. Suddenly, the former star of the show stands sheepishly aside at a wedding filled with people who hardly pay him/her any attention. It is a humbling experience indeed.
When Chani and I were young newlyweds I was attending one such wedding of one of her friends. I knew no one so I joined the circle once and then stood on the side watching the lively and jubilant dancing. It struck me then as to just how beautiful and special our weddings are. That night I was an outsider looking in, and it was truly a beautiful sight. The beauty and transcendence of the chuppah, the simcha that resonates on people’s faces, the excitement that fills the hall, and the energetic dancing are something special that we don’t always appreciate.
I particularly enjoy reading Parshas Balak each year. The wicked Bila’am sought to curse the Jews, but when he peered at their camp as an outsider looking in he unwittingly could not contain his admiration, and beautiful blessings burst forth from his lips.
This year on Shavuos, one of the members of our shul related to me that after learning through the entire night he was making his way to the mikveh before davening (as encouraged by the Arizal). The first breaks of morning were visible upon the horizon and he saw the Jewish houses lit up, some with candles still burning in the window, white table cloths adorning the tables. In contrast, all the other homes were completely dark. In the distance he saw some shuls where people were still hunched over their seforim enagaged in Torah study. He told me that it was a rare perspective which filled him with a genuine sense of pride that he was part of such a regal group.
There are many complicated challenges and issues that our community faces. But periodically we should step back and view ourselves like an outsider looking in. We would see the beauty of Shabbos, the selfless chesed that traverses all boundaries, the dedication we have to serving Hashem despite tremendous financial burdens.
When we view ourselves through that prism we won’t be able to hold ourselves back from feeling a sense of pride that we are part of such an elite group.
Shabbat Shalom & Good Shabbos,
    R’ Dani and Chani Staum

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