Thursday, August 28, 2014


Erev Shabbos Kodesh Parshas Shoftim
3 Elul 5774/August 29, 2014
Pirkei Avos – Perek 1

One year when we arrived home in August after being away in camp for two months we found that our air conditioner wasn’t working adequately. The way I saw it, the big air conditioning machine thingy outside with the fan in it was working well. I was able to hear it. The air was blowing in the house, I felt that too. However, it couldn’t bring the inside temperature below 74 degrees. When the repairman arrived he agreed that the compressor was working (that’s ‘the thingy’ outside) and that there was adequate Freon.
He explained that the problem was much simpler – our filters needed to be changed. That was why the air conditioner wasn’t circulating the cold air properly. The repairman gave us a box of filters and instructed me to change them immediately.
When I unscrewed the cover and pulled out the old filter I found that there was so much dust that it completely obscured the filter itself. As soon as I replaced the filter there was an immediately noticeable change. The house cooled down rapidly and began working properly.
The Chofetz Chaim writes in Shmiras Halashon that when one speaks in a manner, or about topics unbefitting a Torah observant Jew - especially speaking loshon hora - it sullies his mouth and enervates his ability to accomplish things through tefillah.
If someone tries to chop down a tree using a dulled axe it will take him far longer and require far more effort to accomplish what he could have done with a sharp axe. When we use our mouths to say the wrong things it weakens the incredible power that our mouths wield, especially when we daven.
          It’s possible that one can daven properly, even having great kavanah. but the tefillah will be lacking some of its potency because his spiritual filters are clogged up due to his speaking loshon hara or other forbidden speech.
          If we want to ensure that our tefilos have all of the potency possible, we have to work on clearing our oral filters, making sure they are clean of oral debris and as effective as possible. Then we can be confident that our much needed prayers for ourselves, our families, and Klal Yisroel will ascend. Those prayers will penetrate the heavens and guarantee a year of growth, health, blessing, prosperity, and redemption for all of us and the entire world.      

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

720 Union Road • New Hempstead, NY 10977 • (845) 362-2425

Friday, August 22, 2014


Erev Shabbos Kodesh Parshas Re’eh
26 Menachem Av 5774/August 22, 2014
Pirkei Avos – Perek 6 --- Mevorchim Chodesh Elul

After two exciting months of non-stop action and activities, the bustle of camp has been stilled, and another great camp season has come to an end. Campers and staff have returned home with wonderful memories and great friendships.
Shortly prior to everyone’s departure, Camp Dora Golding’s learning director Rabbi Noach Sauber, addressed the camp for the final time. His message is poignant and relevant:
The Shulchan Aruch states that when one departs from shul he should leave backwards. The true meaning of the law is that, when leaving, one should not turn his back on the shul out of respect.
Rabbi Sauber offered the following homiletical explanation:
Whenever one davens in shul he (hopefully) has a ‘kedusha experience’. He has spent sometime connecting with his Creator and reminding himself of his true purpose and direction in life. When he leaves the shul to ‘return to the world’, he should not turn his back on the experience he just had. He should not allow the inspiration of those few moments to fade away. Rather he should back out of the shul as he maintains his direction – facing the Aron Kodesh and maintaining the spiritual elevation he just experienced.
Rabbi Sauber then looked out at the faces of the imminently departing campers and continued: “Over the course of the past few weeks we have all grown together. Many of us have davened more than we do during the year, especially with a minyan. Some of us may not be used to singing Shema carefully with the tropp as we did in camp. An incredible amount of campers made sure to be ready for Shabbos a half hour early to come to the shul and learn in memory of the three boys who were killed in Eretz Yisroel a few weeks ago. Many of us displayed a greater level of kavod hatefillah by not speaking at all in shul, even though we may not be as careful during the year. For many it is a tremendous challenge not to play organized sports games on Shabbos, and yet we didn’t do so on Shabbos in camp. An incredible amount of boys learned one, two, and even three hours from their own free time (!) every Shabbos afternoon. And the list goes on.
“If you can take any of those lessons to heart and keep them going in your homes throughout the year, then you have not turned your back on Camp Dora Golding. I beg of you: Don’t turn your back on Camp Dora Golding!”  
It is worth adding that the following morning, after those of us who were still in camp, together with many guests visiting the Poconos, davened Shacharis, a young man approached Rabbi Sauber and mentioned to him that he had been a camper over a decade earlier and Rabbi Sauber had offered a monetary incentive for anyone to learn two halachos a day from the summer until Chanukah. The young man told Rabbi Sauber that after getting the reward, he never stopped. Over ten years later he was still learning two halachos a day because of the inspiration from that summer. Talk about not turning your back!
Each Friday night during at the conclusion of Lecha Dodi the congregation turns around and faces the back of the shul, ushering in the holiness of Shabbos.
Rabbi Shlomo Carlebach a’h noted that on a deeper level, as Shabbos begins we are turning our backs on our failings and frustrations of the week, as we allow ourselves to become enveloped in the sanctity of Shabbos, in the hope that we will be able to maintain its holiness.
This week we bless the month of Elul and begin to think about teshuva and personal growth. The first step of that process is to contemplate what things we need to turn our back on, and what things we want to continue to facing with complete focus.       

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

720 Union Road • New Hempstead, NY 10977 • (845) 362-2425

Thursday, August 14, 2014


Erev Shabbos Kodesh Parshas Eikev
Pirkei Avos – Perek 5 --- 19 Menachem Av 5774/August 15, 2014

During the last few weeks, when I or one of my editors read something I typed we noticed that the same mistake keeps surfacing – I missed a ‘u’. In fact, two weeks ago in the Msings column I didn’t realize the inadvertent omission ntil after I had sent it ot.
One of my beloved children, who shall remain nameless for the sake of anonymity, decided that the laptop I se to type all of my brilliant colmns wold be better off withot certain letters. When she ripped off the ‘z’ and the ‘x’ that wasn’t sch a big isse. After all, how often do yo type a z or an x? But the ‘u’ was a different story. Now anytime I want to type a ‘u’ I have to press down hard on the spot where the btton sed to be. Often as I type casally I don’t realize that the ‘u’ didn’t register.
What does that have to do with ‘t’ in China, you ask? Nothing really. In fact, as of the moment my laptop still has a ‘t’. But I think the plucked off ‘u’ button has a lot to do with what we are all focused on this time of year. During the Three Weeks and Tisha B’av there is a lot of talk about focusing on others, thinking about ‘you’ and not just ourselves.
It seems that in our self-absorbed, self-promoting, self-aggrandizing society it is a particular challenge for us to focus on the ‘u’. In a society so focused on the mighty ‘I’, who has place for ‘u’?
Someone once quipped that we live in a beautiful world but many of us never get to appreciate it because we can’t see past ourselves. During the middle ages the world believed in the geocentric model which espoused that the earth was in the center of the universe. Under the threat of death, Galileo was forced to publically recant his ‘heretical belief’ in the heliocentric model, which claimed that that the sun was in the center of the world. While today it is accepted that the sun is indeed at the center of the Milky Way, there are many who un-admittedly believe in the ‘I-centric model’, i.e. that they – the all-important ‘I’ – is at the center of the world, and everyone is here to serve them.
We are familiar with the gemara which states that the second Bais Hamikdash was destroyed because of sinas chinam, loosely translated as baseless hatred. Sinas chinam includes all strife, disagreement, jealousy, loshon hara, petty arguments, and resentments. The root of it all lies in the ‘I’, and the inability to see the ‘u’. When the ‘I’ consumes all there is no room for anyone else.
It seems that it’s not only my ‘u’ that’s broken, but it’s a general malaise affecting us all for two millennia. When we all figure out how to fix our ‘u’ button we can be sure that the ultimate redemption will hastily come.

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

720 Union Road • New Hempstead, NY 10977 • (845) 362-2425

Wednesday, August 6, 2014


Erev Shabbos Kodesh Parshas Vaeschanan/Shabbos Nachamu
Pirkei Avos – Perek 4 --- 12 Menachem Av 5774/August 8, 2014

A number of years ago, one of our children had been learning about the importance of prayer, turned to Chani and said, “Mommy, could you daven that Hashem take away my hiccups.”
It sounds like a cute story, which demonstrates the simple sincerity of a young child. But we need to pay heed to the things those sincere children utter.  
One of the Chassidim of Reb Motel Chernobler saw the rebbe standing at the window moving his lips. The chasid imagined his rebbe was reciting some kabbalistic declaration. He was shocked when he walked closer and heard the Rebbe say, “Master of the world, the maid that helps my wife wants to quit, but my wife really needs her help. Please help the maid change her mind.” Later the chosid asked the rebbe why he was praying for such a mundane thing. The rebbe replied emphatically, “Who else should I ask?”  
It seems that it is easier to believe in Hashem when ‘big things’ happen than when ‘little/mundane’ annoyances happen. [Although being married for some time, I have learned that if the cleaning help quits it is not little or mundane.] When upsetting and frustrating events occur one can comfort himself that it’s undoubtedly part of the Divine plan. But it’s harder to admit the same when one has a headache on a Sunday afternoon (see Rabbeinu Yonah, Misheli 3:6).
This week as I was davening for some of my personal needs and wants I paused for a moment. Is it really proper for me to daven for small things like having nice weather so camp can function properly while soldiers are putting their lives in danger in Gaza and our brethren in Eretz Yisroel are in serious danger?
I reminded myself that, not only was that thought wrong, it may even border on idolatry. The Ran (Derash 9) explains that idolatry began from a misunderstanding about the greatness of G-d. They felt that if G-d was so mighty and powerful, it is audacious of man to assume that G-d cares about the trivialities of his life. Why would the G-d of the universe care if I pray or sin? But that attitude is a drastic mistake. In fact, the true greatness of G-d lies in the fact that despite His omnipotence, He indeed loves every miniscule one of his creations, and cares for the individual welfare of each one.
On Tisha B’av we recount many painful experiences and sagas that our nation has had to endure since time immemorial (the oldest kinah was composed by Yirimyah about the death of Yoshiyahu Hamelech, which occurred before the destruction of the first Bais Hamikdash). It is always astounding to hear the accounts of those extraordinary believers in G-d who endured the worst atrocities of mankind and yet maintained their faith, attest that they knew G-d was with them in the worst of times.
We daven for the welfare of our soldiers, we daven for the welfare, peace, and prosperity of our people, and we daven for the sick and brokenhearted. And we must also daven for our cars to start, that we make it to all of our appointments, and that our family enjoys the supper we cook.
The same G-d who appeared to us at Sinai and will appear with the advent of Moshiach, is the same G-d who orchestrates every detail of our lives, including taking away our hiccups.  

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

720 Union Road • New Hempstead, NY 10977 • (845) 362-2425