Thursday, February 20, 2014


Erev Shabbos Kodesh Parshas Vayakhel
21 Adar 5774/February 21, 2014

I’m not really sure if it’s grandparental-amnesia or revenge. Did my mother forget what’s it like to have five young children, or is she now insidiously exacting revenge against me?
Last week, my parents were gracious enough to watch three of our children over night so we could attend a wedding in Lakewood. When our children returned home the next morning, they each had a little whistle, a present from Bubby.
Our children delighted in blowing their whistles endlessly... until their parents became exasperated, and started bellowing warnings. As if there isn’t enough noise when they don’t have whistles!
The Torah relates that one of the special vestments of the Kohain Gadol was the Me’il. One of the unique features of the Me’il was that it had little golden bells and pomegranates affixed to its hem. As the Kohain Gadol walked the bells would ring, alerting everyone that the eminent Kohain Gadol was approaching.
I was recently thinking that there is an important message symbolized by those bells. When I have the opportunity, I enjoy watching Chassidic rebbes (e.g. Skver, Nikolsburg) surrounded by their throngs of Chassidim at a ‘tish’, or lighting menorah on Chanukah, or reciting hoshanos on Chol Hamo’ed Succos. I always come home inspired by the great level of concentration and fervor that the Rebbe has, whilst his Chassidim watch his every move in reverent silence.
I then return home, with illusions (or rather delusions) of my own children watching me like the Chassidim, while I perform the mitzvah like the Kohain Gadol in the Sanctuary.
For example, I prepare to light the Menorah, anticipating that my children will see my shining countenance and holiness exuding from my face. As I begin to recite the blessings I can virtually hear the angels singing from behind me… “Stop pushing me!” “Mommmmmmmy! I had it first!” The angels have indeed quickly returned me to reality.
Any Jewish mother has had a similar experience. She has just heard a moving lecture about the power of tefillah, especially at the propitious moment when she lights the Shabbos candles on Friday eve. On this particular Friday, she is inspired and emotional as she lights the candles and begins to pray. In her mind, all of her ancestors are swaying with her and she hears Baruch Levine singing harmony as she recites the timeless prayer for her children to be scholars and illuminators of the world. And in the middle of the spiritual euphoria (if she is lucky enough to get so far) she feels a tug on her leg. “Mommy, can I have apple juice?” “Mommy, it’s not fair…”
The Kohain Gadol had to perform the avodah with bells ringing every time he so much as moved. Every individual is the Kohain Gadol (or female counterpart) in his home. He/she is responsible to initiate and direct the Avodas Hashem in their family. But they should not be deluded into thinking that their children will be perfect angels, standing like soldiers at attention, with smiles on their shining faces, as their father recites Kiddush on Friday night or mother scrambles to say a few words of davening in the morning.
This doesn’t mean that we should not train our children to be respectful and responsible in performing mitzvos, but we need to be realistic as well. We have to learn to perform our Service, despite the bells ringing all around us. It also helps to remember that those ‘bells’ are made of solid gold, representing our future and our greatest hopes.
Still-in-all, grandparents don’t need to add to the noise of the bells. There’s plenty of noise already.
               Shabbat Shalom & Good Shabbos,
               R’ Dani and Chani Staum

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