Thursday, July 3, 2014


Erev Shabbos Kodesh Parshas Balak
Pirkei Avos – Perek 5 --- 6 Tamuz 5774/July 4, 2014

After the failure of the Articles of Confederation to adequately govern the new young nation in 1781, a new constitution was needed.
On May 25, 1787 the Constitutional Convention opened in Philadelphia, in what is now known as Independence Hall. It was the location where the Declaration of Independence had been signed 11 years prior. There were 55 delegates representing all 13 states, except Rhode Island. George Washington was unanimously elected as president of the convention.
All through the stiflingly hot summer of 1787 the delegates discussed, debated, argued, and deliberated about how the new government should be constructed. It was also agreed that all meetings would be closed to the public, so windows and doors were kept shut, making the heat inside even worse. But on September 17, 1787 the Constitution was signed by the delegates, making it the official law of the land. There would be three branches of government – Judicial (Supreme Court), Executive (President), and Legislative (Congress), ensuring that no branch would become too powerful.
What happened next was memorable and touching, although not very well known: A horse-drawn carriage containing a live band began playing upbeat patriotic songs as mass crowds gathered holding torches and clapping excitedly. They sang songs describing their deep passionate love for the new Constitution and how important it was to every aspect of their lives. After a few minutes George Washington himself emerged from the State House clutching the newly drafted document against to his heart. The other delegates danced wildly in front of him, in excited undulating formations. Washington’s eyes were closed and he seemed lost in a different world. Tears began to flow from his eyes as the throngs sang “The convention is true and its Constitution is true.”
After a few minutes Washington handed the document to other notable delegates, such as the elderly Benjamin Franklin, Alexander Hamilton and James Madison. Each held the new document in hand and excitedly hoisted it in the air as the masses danced wildly in front of them.
It was a memorable day, and the celebration accomplished more to convince people to ratify the constitution than the 85 essays known as the ‘Federalist Papers’.
This story undoubtedly sounds preposterous, and with good reason. The constitution was, and is, unquestionably a vital document for the formation of this country. It was also surely exciting for the Founding Fathers when they completed it. But the bottom line is that it’s just a document of laws, necessary for the flourishing and preservation of the nascent nation. It’s not a guide to life.
However, this story is true with some alternate facts. In fact, this scene has been occurring, and continues to occur, throughout history and the world, every time a new Sefer Torah is welcomed into a shul, or a new shul is constructed. We dance with the Torah, clutch it closely against our heart, and sing “Moshe is true and his Torah is true” with boundless passion and emotion. The reason for the celebration is that Torah is not merely a constitution or a book of the Rights of Man. “It is a Tree of Life for those who grasp it, and those who support it are blissful.” The Torah transcends life and is a guide to every aspect of life.      
Happy July 4th.   

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

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