Thursday, October 30, 2014


Erev Shabbos Kodesh Parshas Lech Lecha
7 Cheshvan 5775/ October 31, 2014
A number of years ago before we moved into our current home, we were looking at homes that were for sale. Hanging in the bedroom of one the homes was a poem entitled “Tell Her So”. It read:
Amid the cares of married life, In spite of toil and business strife, If you value your sweet wife,
Tell her so!
Don't act as if she's passed her prime, As though to please her were a crime- If e'er you loved her, now's the time;
Tell her so!
You are hers and hers alone: Well you know she's all your own; Don't wait to carve it on the stone
Tell her so!
Never let her heart grow cold; Richer beauties will unfold, She is worth her weight in gold;
Tell her so!
After seeing it I concluded that either the man of the house had hung it up as a reminder to himself in which case he probably had a wonderful marriage, or the woman of the house had hung it up because their marriage needed some serious help!
I once heard a lecturing Rabbi suggest – somewhat surprisingly – that he felt men should not buy their wives flowers every Shabbos. He reasoned that doing so makes the flowers become a trite habit that loses its meaning. A flower with a card that reads “Thanks for everything” each week, will no longer be appreciated as a special gesture, but rather as something expected. He felt that flowers should be saved for special occasions – or emergency situations (at a local florist, one of the little cards at the counter has a picture of a man coming out of a dog house…).
His point is unquestionably debatable. However, it is definitely true that when something becomes ritualized it loses much of its inherent meaning and depth. On the other hand, a friend of mine related that he buys flowers for his wife almost every Erev Shabbos, but he includes a card in which he thanks her for something specific each week.
I once read about a great man who davened Shemoneh Esrei for an extended period of time three times each day. When he was asked why it takes him so long, he replied that when he recites Modim (the thanksgiving prayer) he thinks about the long list of things for which he is grateful to G-d. He hardly has enough time to say just a few of them.
Rav Avigdor Miller zt’l suggests that every person think about one unique thing for which he/she is thankful for every time Modim is recited.
Our relationship with G-d is metaphorically compared to a marriage. Although G-d does not need our thanks, the more we recognize and express our gratitude to Him the more thankful we will be generally, and the more people will want to be around us.

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

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

Thursday, October 23, 2014


Erev Shabbos Kodesh Parshas Noach
30 Tishrei 5775/October 24, 2014
1 Rosh Chodesh MarCheshvan  
Last week on Simchas Torah I was asked to lain a few ‘rounds’ of Parshas V’zos Haberacha, to help ensure that every man and boy received an aliyah to the Torah. I was still laining when my bechor, Shalom, received his aliyah. After he masterfully said the beracha I began laining the aliyah.
Being that our family are Leviim, Shalom received the aliyah that begins with the words “Ul’Levi Amar”. It contains the blessing Moshe Rabbeinu conveyed to his own tribe, where he blessed the Levites with the priesthood of the nation. Moshe explained that they were worthy of that blessing because when he rallied the nation to avenge the honor of G-d after the sin of the golden calf it was his fellow Levites who heeded his call. Moshe lauded the Levites for ignoring the fact that they may have been obliged to strike at their own maternal grandfathers or uncles who had been involved in the egregious sin. The fact that their love of G-d superseded their natural love for their own flesh and blood made them worthy of the loftiest responsibility of performing the holy Service in the Mishkan.
As I read those words with my bechor standing next to me following along it struck me. I love my son more than life itself and I hope he feels the same for me. But if I am worthy to educate him properly, his love for me will not be above all else. His love for Hashem will be even greater.
The first nationally distributed feature film that included dialogue sequences as well as music and sound effects produced by Hollywood was ‘The Jazz Singer’, starring Al Jolson (1927). The protagonist of the movie is a Jewish cantor who falls for an Italian gentile girl. At first he is banned from the Temple. But the story ends with the protagonist leading the Kol Nidrei services with his mother and gentile wife looking on from the balcony approvingly.
That message of Jewish-dominated Hollywood has not changed in the decades since. Hollywood espouses that ‘love’ must champion all else. The fact that they have replaced ‘love’ with fleeting romance and cheap uncommitted narcissistic relationships is largely unrecognized by our society.
The truth is that we agree that love must champion all else – albeit the love for G-d and His Torah. There is no greater value that we wish we can inculcate in our children. Life is the most valuable commodity we have, and every moment of it is precious. But what makes life valuable? Mesillas Yesharim explains that it is only through living a proper life in this world that one can enter and merit the bliss of the next world.
The greatness of life is measured by how much value one infuses into his life and how one chooses to utilize the great gift endowed to him. When one possesses love and appreciation for Torah and its timeless values than his entire life has meaning. 

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

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

Wednesday, October 15, 2014


Hoshana Rabbah – “Z’man Simchaseinu” 5775
21 Tishrei 5774/October 15, 2014
“So what are you doing today?”
“I’m not sure yet. We were thinking about the aquarium, but my big ones aren’t interested. So we were thinking about ice skating, but my little ones can’t do that. So I think we are just going to stay home and discuss what we should have done.”
Actually, the Staum family had a wonderful Chol Hamoed b’h, and enjoyed some nice family outings. On Monday we visited Argos Farm about a half hour from my in-law’s home in Lakewood.
When we first arrived the place was packed with people who had come, not for Chol Hamoed, but in honor of Columbus Day, if you get my drift. Many of them also came to pick out a mehudar pumpkin for their upcoming holiday. [I saw some that were big enough even according to the Chazon Ish shiurim.]
No sooner had we arrived when a misty rain began to steadily fall (it was a figment of our imagination because the weather report said there was only a 20% chance of rain). Nevertheless, we enjoyed the damp hay ride and corn maze.
Before we entered the corn maze the guide handed us a map with numbers for us to follow. We entered together, and it soon became clear that the numbers had gotten lost in the maze. There were none to be found. After a few more turns we lost my father-in-law.
At one point after a few dead ends one of our children suggested that we turn around and retrace our steps. I explained to him that we couldn’t go back the way we came because the whole idea was to find our way to the exit, not to go back where we came from, which we anyway wouldn’t be able to find
Mesillas Yesharim states that life is like a maze. There are many twists and turns and we have to stay true to the proper path without getting lost along the way.
            After the September 11th attacks, Rav Moshe Shapiro shlita noted that he was concerned that people were davening that things return back to the way they were, to what was familiar and comfortable.
            He explained that such a prayer is a big mistake! G-d guides the world along a specific trajectory and there are no mistakes. He has a plan and a mission for us. Whenever situations arise – for good or for better - we must accept that life will no longer be what it was. “Mir darfen zich tzushtelen tzu ratzon haBorei- We must connect to what G-d wants of us!”
            A corn maze is not quite as serious as the maze of life. But it was a great reminder of the fact that in life we must always proceed and try to connect with what G-d wants of us, not what we feel is best.  
            It was a great lesson, even though when we excitedly found our way back we realized that we were exiting at the entrance. We had come back to the beginning after all. But hey, why should I let our clumsiness ruin a perfectly good article?
            By the way, in case you were worried, we found my father-in-law afterwards. He was sitting by the entrance to the farm waiting for us.

A Git Kvitel- Good Yom Tov & Chag Sameiach,
            R’ Dani and Chani Staum      

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

Sunday, October 12, 2014


Erev Succos – “Z’man Simchaseinu” 5775
14 Tishrei 5774/October 8, 2014
In a recorded lecture from Rabbi Ephraim Wachsman (Nissan 2004) he described his experience spending Shabbos near the grave of the great Rebbe, Rav Elimelech of Lizhensk, together with over fifteen hundred Jews from all walks of life.
Rabbi Wachsman recounted that the arrangers of the Shabbos set up four huge tents, with little cubicles containing heat, new carpeting, fresh beds, and fresh linen. There was a computer printout which directed everyone to their room. However, when Rabbi Wachsman arrived on Thursday evening the printout was not yet available, so they were told to sleep wherever they found place. The next day when the majority of the crowd arrived, everyone who had already found place had to move to their newly assigned room. One would expect in such a situation that people would become annoyed and things could become heated. But unbelievably there wasn’t one raised voice, or argument.
The Shabbos meals were hosted in a huge tent. The guests included groups of Jews from many walks of life, who in a regular setting probably wouldn’t talk to each other. At one point a Yerushalmi Jew with a booming voice stood up on the table and began singing “Ashreichem Yisroel”. Almost immediately, the whole tent exploded in song. It was a moment of ecstasy, and many people had tears in their eyes as they sang together.
Rabbi Wachsman continued, “Why was it that way? Did everyone who arrived in Lizhensk suddenly have the sterling character of Rav Yisroel Salanter?”
He explained that throughout the year and life generally we are busy with many pursuits that occupy our time and efforts – our cars, homes, businesses, investments, etc. Those relentless quests create barriers between him and others. But when he is removed from it all, he doesn’t have to be taught to love his fellow Jew, it’s already imbedded in his soul. Generally he isn’t in touch with his true feelings because there are so many hindrances that get in the way. But take away the pursuits which subjugate and occupy him, and the true inner self is free to emerge.
In Lizhensk all they had was their little cubicles, all the rest of their “stuff” was left at home. Jews without their extra baggage are free to unite and connect.
On Succos we leave our homes and supplant ourselves in the spiritual environs of the Succah. Without all of our “stuff” which interferes with our souls and hearts throughout the year, we are free to connect with our true selves, and of course with our Creator.
There is a prevalent custom to recite the beracha on the Four Species each day of Succos specifically in the succah. Holding the Four Species together symbolizes the unity of the Jewish people. Inside the succah where we are freed from the shackles of our “stuff” and live only under the protection of G-d, we can truly feel the unity of our people.
Is it any wonder that this Holiday is deemed the “season of our joy”? 

Good Yom Tov & Chag Sameiach,
            R’ Dani and Chani Staum     

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

Thursday, October 2, 2014


Erev Shabbos Kodesh-Yom Kippur 5775
9 Tishrei 5774/October 3, 2014
A few weeks ago I was invited to give a presentation in the Yeshiva Ketana of Waterbury, Connecticut. While driving on the highway to Waterbury I noticed the yellow light on my dashboard, which indicated low tire pressure come on. My mechanic once informed me that those lights are more sensitive than a grumpy infant so I proceeded without giving it much thought.
When I concluded the presentation and headed back to my car however, I realized that the warning was well founded. One of my tires was almost completely flat. I called my brother-in-law who lives locally and he directed me to a mechanic that was fairly close. With four working tires the drive to Don’s Garage would have taken 2 minutes. But because I had to drive so painfully slowly it took me almost fifteen tense minutes.
The mechanic removed the tire to get a better look. In under a minute he related to me his grim prognosis: the tire was a goner. He showed me that a thick nail had lodged itself in the tire and the tire could not be salvaged. Not only did that tire have to be replaced, but to maintain balance the opposite tire had to be replaced.
I pulled out Mr. Visa and within a few minutes the tires were replaced and I was back on the road heading home (after stopping to visit my sister and brother-in-law’s new home of course).    
In the waning moments of Yom Kippur, when we are running on nothing other than spiritual strength, we emphatically proclaim in unison the timeless mantra of our people: “Shema Yisroel Hashem Elokeinu Hashem Echad!”
It is the proclamation of our complete subjugation to G-d, above all else. Rabbeinu Yonah in Shaarei Teshuva writes that if one accepts upon himself the yoke of heaven in regards to all mitzvos except for one, he is considered a ‘poreik ol’ one who has cast off the yoke of Heaven. Kabbolas Ol Malchus Shamayim, accepting upon ourselves the Yoke of Heaven, is an all or nothing endeavor.
Perhaps we may falter and sin, but it’s not because we have not accepted the yoke of heaven upon ourselves fully. Rather, it’s that we become sidetracked and lose focus on our mission and priorities.
My tire was virtually completely intact. There was only one spot which had a massive nail wedged into it. But that one nail was enough to deflate and destroy the entire tire and impede my car’s ability to drive properly.
At Sinai we proclaimed our unyielding acceptance of our mission to be G-d’s Chosen holy people. Every year on Yom Kippur we renew our dedication to that mission.
Our tires don’t have any holes, for our dedication is steadfast and unrelenting. It’s that just that throughout the year our internal yetzer hara adeptly gets us to let some air out of our tires. On Yom Kippur we refill them, so that we are rearing and ready to go!

G’mar Vachasima Tova
Good Shabbos & Shabbat Shalom,
            R’ Dani and Chani Staum      

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