Wednesday, June 24, 2015


Shabbos Kodesh Parshas Chukas
9 Tamuz 5775/ June 26, 2015
Pirkei Avos – Chapter 5

A few summers ago I was invited to co-star in a video entitled "The Do and Don'ts of Shana Rishona (first year of marriage)". While the video hasn’t yet won an Oscar (or even a Big Bird), it has entertained many a crowd at Sheva Berachos. The video featured a series of scenes which first depicted the wrong way for hapless newlyweds to react in a given situation, immediately followed by a repeat of the same scene, albeit this time with a more prudent and proper reaction.
I played the role of the husband while my good friend, Rabbi Shloime Katz, played the role of the wife. (With his wife's snood on his head and his beard, Rabbi Katz would have even made Bais Shammai hard pressed to proclaim "kallah na'ah vachasudah".)
After about nine such scenes the final scene depicts the husband and wife sitting next to each other on the couch. The husband appears sweaty and irritable while his wife is wearing a sweat shirt and wrapped in a blanket. The husband turns on the air conditioner and sits back down with a smile. Immediately after doing so, his now disgruntled wife hastens to the air conditioner and presses every button until she figures out how to shut it off. That final scene does not contain a follow-up ‘corrected scene’. As anyone married knows that is just the reality in most homes. You mean in your house he also wants the thermostat lower while she wants it higher? Yes indeed!
I was thrilled when we leased a Honda Odyssey last year because it was the first time I had seen what I dubbed "shalom bayis controls". Both driver and passenger have their own setting for heat and air conditioning. I often laugh when I see my setting at 66 degrees and Chani’s at 76 degrees.
My real dream is to figure out how to have such a setting for Shuls. Imagine if we could figure out how to set the men's section to be ten degrees cooler than the women's section!
Truth be told however, that is not what shalom bayis is about.
Please don't misunderstand me; I have no interest in relinquishing those brilliant settings, but achieving shalom demands something greater.
This past Shabbos our Shul president, R' Yossi Goldman, noted that shalom is most accurately translated as harmony. Shalom is not merely the absence of conflict, but more about synergistically blending the personalities and capabilities of everyone in the home. It's about learning to embrace differences and respect them.
A few months ago I read an article written by a somewhat noted author who is a proud resident of Eretz Yisroel. In the article the author stated that ironically when he would be visiting America that Pesach he would keep two days of Yom Tov. He then added that he expected all of his American friends who came to visit him in Eretz Yisroel for a future Yom Tov would observe one day as was the practice of residents of Eretz Yisroel. He explained that such is the meaning of unity. He opined that when people observe different customs and laws especially in the same vicinity, it is a breach of unity.
Aside from the fact that the author is sticking his head into a dispute between great lions of Halacha, which he has no business doing, I feel that his logic is flawed. He seems to espouse a desire to achieve halachic communism, wherein everyone observes exactly the same way because that is the only way to achieve unity. (While it is indeed the ultimate goal for all Jews to observe unified halacha, that can only occur when we again have a Sanhedrin with the advent of moshiach).
The beauty and unity of our people comes from respecting our differences. Although we need not respect practices which run contrary to Halacha, we need to respect people. We also need to recognize the beauty of difference and the different viewpoints and customs of our people.
That training begins in our homes and from there branches out to a respect for all Jews.

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

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