Wednesday, July 8, 2015


Shabbos Kodesh Parshas Pinchos
23 Tamuz 5775/ July 8, 2015
Pirkei Avos – Chapter 1

A change of scenery is always nice, and our family really takes pleasure in coming to the Pocono Mountains each summer. Aside for enjoying being part of Camp Dora Golding, we also enjoy the unique environment of the local populace who live here.
One day last summer when Chani went to do laundry at the local Laundromat, a fellow came in and emptied his laundry into a washing machine, and then proceeded to add most of the clothing he was wearing. He then joined a crowd watching a TV show called “Rednecks.” True story! 
This summer, when we first arrived here and went shopping at the local Supermarket, we noticed on the back of the shopping cart in which our two year old was sitting an advertisement that read: “Pocono Cremation Society: Your affordable cremation option. No hidden charges, No additional fees.” I wonder how many people considering using the competition switch to Pocono Cremation Society because they see the ad on the back of their shopping cart. I don’t think you’re going to see that in New York.
Then last week I had to visit the mechanic down the block from camp to get my tire fixed (I think the duct tape didn’t work). You can learn a lot about an institution by the reading material in the waiting room. At this mechanic, there were two Sports Illustrateds, a bunch of Fishing Magazines, and a pile of Hunting Magazines.
I had never looked at a Hunting Magazine before, and it was very enlightening to see how to shoot bears and moose, and why you should eat the animals you kill. There was a line on the cover of one of the magazines introducing a feature article which caught my eye: “Today’s hunters have gear, but do they have skills?”
That line is not only applicable to hunters in Duct-Tapeville, Pennsylvania, but it’s also very true about our religious observance as well. There has never been a time in our history when people spent so much to beautify their mitzvah observance. We have stunning menorahs, esrog boxes, Seder plates, Shabbos candelabras, and besomim boxes. We have beautiful tefillin and tallesim and spend tremendous amounts of money to observe Shabbos, Yom Tov, and live daily as Torah Jews. That is all praiseworthy and should be recognized as such. But the aforementioned magazine cover question could very well be directed towards us as well: “Today’s Torah Jews have gear, but do they have skills?”
It is not enough to purchase the means to perform mitzvos on the highest level, we also need to have an appreciation of the meaning, essence, and laws regarding the mitzvah. A bar mitzvah bochur who dons expensive tefillin and has a stunning tefillin bag but has never learned the halachos and doesn’t understand the incredible beauty of this special mitzvah has gear but is lacking skills. The family who has beautiful Shabbos tablecloths and sumptuous food but doesn’t study the laws of Shabbos or speak some words of Torah or the parsha at their table has gear but lacks skills. The one who goes through the motions of living like an Orthodox Jew but has no appreciation of the depth and value of living such a life has the gear but lacks skills.
A friend of mine once quipped that it’s ironic that sometimes a kid will run out onto a baseball field with all of the latest gear – including batting gloves, sweat band, cool sneakers and socks, etc. and yet the kid can hardly hit or throw a ball. He’s got all the gear but he’s lacking skill.
If you were on a camping trip and encountered a bear would you rather be with someone who had gear but no skill or skill but no gear?
It’s good to have the latest gear, but without the skill it’s not going to get you very far.
Should our Torah and mitzvah observance be any less?

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

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