Thursday, June 27, 2013


Erev Shabbos Kodesh Parshas Pinchos
20 Tammuz 5773/June 29, 2013
Pirkei Avos – perek 1

He was seven years old living in the Lower East Side of Manhattan. His parents were concerned about his stubbornness; there was just no changing his mind. His parents felt he had to learn how to give in, and that he couldn’t always have it his way.
Then one fateful Shabbos afternoon his mother placed a piece of veal on his plate. When he promptly announced that he wasn’t going to eat it, his parents replied that he was absolutely not to get up until the meat was eaten. So he sat. The meal ended and everyone left the table. But he continued to sit at the table that had nothing on it except for one plate of veal.
His mother took his siblings down to the park, but he remained playing with the little buttons on the back of the brown chair. His father’s chavrusa came and his father wheeled him into the kitchen where he continued to sit aimlessly in front of the plate of veal.
It was getting dark when his father stood above the garbage can emptying the plate of veal into it. “What’s going on?” asked the incredulous youth. “You win” replied the father in a defeated his voice, shaking his head. Indeed he did; six and a half hours later!
The family of the seven year old moved to suburbia shortly thereafter. In yeshiva the boy’s rebbe taught the class about the mitzvah of sleeping in the succah. The young boy came home and emphatically told his parents that he planned to sleep in the succah that year. Their succah was not attached to the house, and the parents weren’t too keen about him sleeping there alone (his father had sciatica which precluded him from sleeping in the succah). But sleep there he did, all alone.
The next morning his mother told him how proud she was of him. “You used your stubbornness in the right way, and did not allow anything to get in your way of performing a mitzvah.”
When Klal Yisroel committed the egregious sin of the Golden Calf, G-d informed Moshe that He planned to destroy the nation, because “they are a stiff-necked people.” The nation would not let go of its slave mentality, which caused them to panic when they thought Moshe was delayed in returning from Sinai.
In the selichos of Shiva Asar B’Tammuz we state: “We were stubborn so catastrophe increased upon us.” It was only Moshe’s prayer and his interceding on the nation’s behalf that saved them from destruction. And yet the only reason we as a nation have survived two millennia of exile of endless abject persecution is because of our incredible stubbornness. The more they have tried to wrestle us away from our ideals and beliefs the more we have obdurately increased our commitment to them.
So, like every character trait, stubbornness is not necessarily a flaw if one knows how and when to use it. One who is too proud to hear anyone else’s opinion can destroy his relationships. But one who is too resolute to compromise on his principles ensures that they will long endure.
When we as a nation learned how to properly utilize the innate stubbornness that almost destroyed us, it became the guarantee of our eternity as a people.
By the way, the young seven year old boy who wouldn’t eat the veil, grew up, and wrote a column relating the experience from his youth.
Shabbat Shalom & Good Shabbos,
    R’ Dani and Chani Staum

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