Thursday, January 2, 2014


Erev Shabbos Kodesh Parshas Bo
2 Shevat 5774/January 3, 2014

            A few summers ago in Camp Dora Golding, Rabbi Noach Sauber, a masterful educator (currently camp’s learning director) would give a brief night seder each night following maariv to the oldest divisions in camp. His topic was halacha, and each night he would introduce a few simple halachos pertaining to daily Jewish life. Rabbi Sauber has the ability to convey his teachings in a dynamic and exciting manner, and the room came to life with debates and discussions.
At the end of the summer Rabbi Sauber announced to the older divisions that any boy who would call him on the phone on Chanukah to tell him that they learned two halachos every day, would receive fifty dollars. There would be no test or need to prove it. Their word was sufficient to earn them their cash prize.
Rabbi Sauber related to me what prompted him to make that offer. He explained that today it is in vogue to discuss the whys of Judaism. There are many worthy classes and discussions that explain why we should believe in G-d, why we keep Torah, why Shabbos is so vital, why we keep kosher, etc. And there is a great need for those seminars and classes. However, very often our added focus on the ‘why’ inhibits our focus on the ‘how’. The result us that there is not enough focus on how a Jew should conduct himself. It’s important to know why you are doing what you do, but you also need to know what to do! The answer to that question can only be found in the Shulchan Arch and its commentaries.
There are many people who simply are unaware of many straightforward halachos. They may be able to quote lofty kabbalistic thoughts and beautiful explanations of verses in the Torah. But they are unaware of basic halachos pertaining to Shabbos, kashrus, tefillah, and berachos.
Rav Yisroel Salanter zt’l taught that when one learns about a mitzvah it awakens within him and infuses within him with an inner drive to fulfill that mitzvah in the optimal manner. When one is aware of the halachos governing a mitzvah he feels that much more confident and excited to perform it.
My Rebbe, Rabbi Mordechai Finkleman, often laments the fallacy of those Jews who say “I’m a good Jew at heart and that’s the main thing. I may not perform in Judaism too well, but in my heart I feel very connected with G-d.” Rabbi Finkleman would say that mitzvos are like a shower. If one goes under the shower and contemplates the greatness of the shower and the beauty of the clean feeling it generates, but never turns on the water, he is not going to have any benefit from the shower.
The only way to gain anything from the shower is by turning on the water and standing underneath it. Similarly, the only way one can elevate and purify his soul is by performing mitzvos, observing Torah and Shabbos, and keeping halacha to the best of one’s ability. 
Indeed, learning halacha is a great way to ensure that your home and your family are showered with blessing!  

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

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