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       

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