Wednesday, April 30, 2014


Erev Shabbos Kodesh Parshas Emor
Pirkei Avos – Perek 2 --- 2 Iyar 5774/May 2, 2014

            On the final day of Pesach, at the beginning of my pre-Yizkor derasha I related that Mickey Mantle, the legendary Yankees slugger, once recounted his recurring nightmare. “Ever since I retired I keep having these dreams. The worst one is I go to the ballpark late, jump out of a cab, and I hear ‘em calling my name on the public address system. I try to get in and all the gates are locked. Then I see a hole under the fence and I can see Casey looking for me, and Yogi, and Billy Martin, and Whitey Ford. I try to crawl through the hole and I get stuck at the hips. And that’s when I wake up, sweating.”
            I then related that during the first days of Pesach, when our family was in Lakewood, I had a nightmare that I arrived in our shul and had no derasha prepared. Throughout the davening I was sweating profusely thinking about what I would say. [I added that thankfully, at that moment that was not the case and I indeed had a derasha prepared.]
            Many people have a similar nightmare. If not an actual nightmare, it is an inner fear. It usually has something to do with having a great opportunity - one that is really important and valuable to you - and for some reason not capitalizing on the opportunity. The feeling of failure when success was so tacitly close, is terribly painful.
            There is hardly anything more painful and tragic than failed opportunities. But we seem to miss out opportunities all the time. In Shir Hashirim, Shlomo Hamelech (5:2-6) poignantly depicts such a tragic occurrence. He allegorically relates that he is lying in bed, when he hears knocking at his door. It is his beloved (G-d) for whom his heart has long yearned for. He knows he should arise to open the door and in his heart he desires to do so, but he is fatigued. Finally he arises to open the door, but by then his beloved has gone. He runs through the streets, begging anyone to tell him if they have seen his beloved. But he is too late. Instead he is beaten by the watchmen.
Opportunity knocked at his door but he failed to let it in.
            In life when opportunities present themselves we have to grab hold of them, because they are usually fleeting.
            I concluded the derasha by making two appeals: One was the customary appeal for charity donations in memory of the loved ones Yizkor was about to be recited in memory of. The other appeal was that every person pledge to relate to someone else a deep emotional feeling, such as feelings of gratitude towards a parent, spouse, or friend, or relating to someone just how special you feel he/she is. Essentially, it is to verbalize one of those heartfelt thoughts which we tragically often don’t get around to saying. Yizkor is a solemn but special moment which reminds us that even someone who has always been there for us won’t always be there for us. It’s a reminder to seize the moment.
            It’s far easier to suggest great ideas to others than it is to practice what you preach. So Chani and I decided that we will try to dedicate more attention to our children, particularly in the evening. Practically, we have pledged to put our cell phones (emails etc.) aside from suppertime until their bedtime.
Chani and I agreed on a five dollar fine if we fail to keep our commitment for the next few weeks. So if you call me during supper and I answer, you’ve just cost me five bucks!
      Shabbat Shalom & Good Shabbos,
      R’ Dani and Chani Staum 

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