Thursday, December 25, 2014


Erev Shabbos Kodesh Parshas Vayigash
4 Teves 5775/ December 26, 2014
This week the Monsey community was faced with an epic catastrophe. Here it was, the middle of the Chanukah, and there were no chocolate coins to be found in any of the stores. Evergreen, Rockland Kosher, Hatzlacha, All Fresh, and Wesley Kosher – none to be found. Hoping for a repeat of the Chanukah miracle the masses searched but, alas they did not find! There was a searing void in Monsey’s Chanukah observance.
I think most people agree that people shouldn’t air their dirty laundry in public, nor should they broadcast their personal issues to everyone they meet on the street. But the fact is that much of this country does just that. For some reason Americans, and many Europeans, want everyone to know that there is something missing from their life, and they just can’t figure out what it is.
Some people wear their emotions on their sleeves. But Americans wear their biggest issue on their chest. It reads: “GAP”. Judging by the high numbers of depression and the fact that there aren’t enough therapists to go around, it’s clear that there is a GAP. But why does everyone else need to know about it?
There definitely seems to be a counter voice who replies to the GAP advertisers that they are out of their minds. Those people refer to our society as a “Banana Republic”.
The bottom line is that you can’t fill a spiritual GAP with physical objects or physical enjoyments!
We live in an extremely blessed society brimming with affluence and plenty. But all of the affluence in the world cannot grant a sense of fulfillment. What it does breed is a sense of entitlement and a lack of ability to deal with deficiencies and challenges, which only seek to further frustrate the desperate need to find fulfillment.  
There’s no doubt about it. There’s something missing in the hearts and souls of so many today and they can’t seem to satiate it. The more people try to quell that inner pining with “stuff” and “fun”, the more elusive the antidote to that GAP seems to be.
If we want to find something we are desperately looking for we should take an example from the Macaabees. They won incredible victories from implacable and superior foes, but that did not satisfy them. They re-entered the Bais Hamikdash and searched, pined, and yearned to fulfill the long forsaken mitzvah in perfect purity. It was only when they were able to do so that they rejoiced and felt fulfilled.
My Rebbe, Rabbi Berel Wein, quips that the Jewish heart is always searching and pursuing. The only question is what it is that he chooses to pursue and search for. Life is hardly perfect and there are always GAPSs. The defining question is: which GAPs does one chose to focus on. Does he search for the missing jar of pure oil or is he busy searching for the missing chocolate coins? The problem is that the chocolate coins will do little to satisfy the inner yearning of the lofty Jewish heart and soul.
The light of the Menorah must continue to fill the GAPs within us long after they have burned out.

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

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

Thursday, December 18, 2014


Erev Shabbos Kodesh Parshas Miketz
27 Kislev 5775/ December 19, 2014
Shabbos Chanukah/Mevorchim Chodesh Teves

I join the masses
The multitudes standing
In awed silence
Watching his every move
To witness the scene -
So holy
So regal
So pure
Eyes closed
Thoughts transcending
So removed
Transported to a celestial world
He seems to be listening -
They dance before him
As he sways gently,
Then his voice reverberates
Gratitude for sanctification
The candle’s light
And for the miracles of then, at this time

What pristine beauty!
What service to his Creator!
What devotion!
What love!
I yearn to replicate that service
To be -
So holy
So regal
                        So pure
So transcending
I gather my family
            We stand by the window
My eyes are closed
I sway gently
I can hear the angels as they sing…
“Stop touching me!”
“Mommy, I had it first!”
            “That was my candle!”
Annoyance wells up inside me
Where is my holiness?
Where is my regality?
Where is my purity?
I open my eyes
I look at the faces around me
There they are!
The angels G-d has granted me
The candles I’ve been entrusted to ignite
My partner to share it all with
I close my eyes again
Then my voice reverberates
With gratitude for sanctification
Through the candle’s light
And for the miracles of now
– Every single day!

Shabbat Shalom & Good Shabbos
Freilichen Chanukah/Orot Sameiach,
           R’ Dani and Chani Staum       

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

Thursday, December 11, 2014


Erev Shabbos Kodesh Parshas Vayeshev
20 Kislev 5775/ December 12, 2014
On one occasion Rav Lazer Shach zt’l was not feeling well and slept past the early time of Kerias Shema. The following morning he was inconsolable. He related that he felt like one who went to sleep on the first night of Pesach and woke up the next morning, having missed the Seder and all of the mitzvos uniquely endemic to that night, including matzah, marror, and the four cups of wine.
For a number of summers during my early adolescence I attended Camp Torah Vodaas in Highland, NY. I have many wonderful memories from those summers, and many lasting friendships that I made there.
It was also there that I first met Rabbi Mordechai Finkelman. Today Rabbi Finkelman is one of our family’s foremost Rabbeim and guides for life. Back then he was the Head Counselor of Camp Torah Vodaas. When the camp closed its doors in 1997, and I headed back to Camp Dora Golding, Rabbi Finkelman migrated there as well.
One of the many special memories I have of Rabbi Finkelman from our days in Camp Torah Vodaas involved an early wake up call on Shabbos mornings.
There is a notable dispute between the Magen Avrohom and the Vilna Gaon as to how late into the morning Kerias Shema may be recited. The halacha states that it may be recited until three halachic hours into the day (when the daylight hours are divided into 12 equal segments). They dispute when those three hours begin – dawn or sunrise. The halacha follows the later time, as ruled by the Vilna Gaon. However, those who are meticulous will be particular to recite Kerias Shema before the time limit of the Magen Avrohom.
Camp davened later on Shabbos morning than they did the rest of the week. The regular camp wakeup was after the time of the Magen Avrohom had already passed (before the time of the Vilna Gaon). At the beginning of each summer Rabbi Finkelman would announce that anyone who wanted to be woken up early enough to recite Shema before the time of the Magen Avrohom should see him.
The truth is at that time I don’t think I even understood what ‘the earlier zeman Kerias Shema’ was, nevertheless I asked to be woken up. Rabbi Finkelman wrote down my name, bunk number, and where my bed was situated in the bunk on a little notebook. Every Shabbos morning he would walk into the bunk with that little notebook and gently tap my arm and whisper “Good Shabbos; it’s almost the first z’man Kerias Shema.” He would then go to each camper whose name was written in the bunk, before he proceeded to the next bunk.  
To be honest there were many Shabbos mornings when I fell back to sleep without saying Kerias Shema, but it made a deep impression on me. Now I try to be particular to say Shema before the earlier time.
When the Maccabees entered the Bais Hamikdash and found the one jar of pure oil they rejoiced because they had the ability to perform the mitzvah of lighting the menorah in pristine purity. They could have employed many leniencies to perform the mitzvah, but when re-inaugurating the long dormant mitzvah they wanted to ensure that it was performed on the highest level.  
A Rebbe of mine used to say that Chanukah separates the men from the boys. It is a time when we look to ‘up the ante’. We seek to not be satisfied with getting by in our spiritual pursuits, but we look to perform on a higher level, beyond our obligations.
It is amazing to me that Rabbi Finkelman took it upon himself to walk around each Shabbos morning to give a few young men the opportunity to perform a mitzvah in a more optimal fashion. Without his efforts everyone would have been able to fulfill the mitvah perfectly well, albeit without that extra level of fulfilling a more stringent opinion.
It’s one thing to perform a mitzvah on the highest level of mehadrin min hamehadrin. It’s another thing to live it! 

Shabbat Shalom & Good Shabbos
Freilichen Chanukah/Orot Sameiach,
            R’ Dani and Chani Staum           

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

Thursday, December 4, 2014


Erev Shabbos Kodesh Parshas Vayishlach
13 Kislev 5775/ December 5, 2014
What a difference a few degrees makes! Last Wednesday the first snowstorm of the season dumped almost half a foot of snow on Monsey. But while Monsey got hit by young man winter, balmy New York City and Lakewood had nothing but cold rain.
            The news report noted that it was a heavy snow. I heard in those words a warning that driving conditions would be hazardous, but my children heard that it would be ideal snowman/snowball conditions.
            Early school dismissal allowed them to construct their snow-people (my son made a snowman, my daughter a snowwoman). The compact snow was great for sledding too. It wasn’t even December yet and we were fully enveloped by winter.
            It reminded me of a poignant thought I heard from Rav Dovid Orlofsky:
Inuit, the language spoken by Eskimos, contains well over fifty different words that describe snow. Following are just a few examples: Tlapa - powder snow, tlacringit - snow that is crusted on the surface, kayi- drifting snow, tlapat - still snow, tlamo - snow that falls in large wet flakes, tlatim - snow that falls in small flakes, tlaslo - snow that falls slowly, tlapinti - snow that falls quickly, kripya - snow that has melted and refrozen, tliyel - snow that has been marked by wolves, tliyelin - snow that has been marked by Eskimos, blotla - blowing snow, pactla - snow that has been packed down, hiryla - snow in beards.
            To us the only thing that matters to us about snow is whether it will impact driving conditions, close school, and if it will be good for snowball fights. But when snow is your life, every different variation is important and matters, and needs to be described accordingly.
            The truth is that the amount of words in a language to describe something is very telling about its people. In Italy there are tens of different words that describe different variations of pasta. Following are just a few examples: Bavette, Bavettine, Ciriole,  Capellini, Cavatappi, Conchiglie, Ditalini, Farfalloni, Fettuccine, Fusilli, Grattoni, Lasagne (Gravagna), Linguine, Maccheroni alla molinara, Mafaldine, Manicotti, Mostaccioli, Pappardelle, Penne, Pizzoccheri, Quadrettini, Ricciolini, Rigatoni, Rotini, Sagnarelli, Spaghetti alla chitarra, Stringozzi, Tagliatelle, Tortiglioni, Tripolini, Vermicelli, Ziti.
            Some are long, some thin, some coiled, and some folded - all in different shapes, variations, and sizes. The Italians take their pasta very seriously!
So what do we take seriously? What concept  does lashon hakodesh have many different variations for, which other languages may be able to describe in just a few basic words?
Tefillah - the concept of prayer! In Yishtabach alone we utilize fifteen expressions of praise for Hashem. We take prayer very seriously and expend a great deal of time and effort to understand the significance and potency that our prayers have.
Yitzchok Avin uttered the legendary words: “The voice is the voice of Yaakov; the hands are the hands of Eisav.” We believe that talk is anything but cheap – perhaps talk is easy, but it isn’t cheap. But more specifically we believe that prayers have an effect on the entire world. At the beginning of creation rain didn’t fall until man prayed for it, and in that sense, it hasn’t changed in almost six thousand years.
The Italians enjoy their pasta, the Eskimos live in the snow, and we thrive with prayer!

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

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