Thursday, August 8, 2013


Erev Shabbos Kodesh Parshas Shoftim
3 Elul 5773/August 9, 2013
Pirkei Avos – perek 1

Anyone who has ever attended camp is familiar with how it works. It’s virtually the same in every camp. As the summer draws to a close, all campers begin gearing up for Color War. They know it’s coming, they just don’t know when. Every strange occurrence, every slight alteration on the schedule, every unusual facial expression by the camp’s Head Staff, are all suspect. It’s a tradition as old as camping itself. Color War doesn’t just start; it’s ‘broken out’!
A few summers ago Camp Dora Golding was privileged to be visited and addressed by a distinguished Rebbe. It was a beautiful event and the Rebbe inspired the boys. But because the Rebbe’s visit occurred towards the end of the camping season most of the campers were convinced that this Rebbe they never heard of was part of a breakout. [Thankfully, no one pulled on his beard, or mentioned to him that they knew he was only there for breakout...]
It’s also a particular thrill of campers to be able to declare, “I knew it was a breakout all along! I didn’t believe it for a second!” “Oh, so why were you crying?” “I always cry when I am happy!”
Chovas Halevavos writes that the element of surprise is one of the great tactics which our Evil Inclination employs. When everything is comfortable and predictable we usually have a good handle on ourselves and our behavior. It’s those moments of unpredictability and surprise which threaten to unravel us. Those moments are par for the course of life, and no one can be ready for everything. But the true soldier is one who ‘expects the unexpected’. A soldier stands guard, poised and ready for battle at all times, knowing at all times that the existing quiet can be shattered.
The month of Elul and the cry of the shofar exhorts each of us to ‘man our battle stations’. It’s time for us to engage in active combat in the great perennial war to attain mastery over ourselves. We must be aware that in seeking to grow and improve we will invariably experience various unexpected hurdles and bumps in the road.
Without a doubt the very integral and introspective days of Elul bear few similarities to the gaiety of Color War. However, the concept of a breakout – being plunged into a battle of wits by an unexpected and surprising event, is very much part of our life story.
When it’s all said and done, when the shofar we blue and all the special tefillos we red, may we all emerge victorious!

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

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