Friday, September 18, 2015


Erev Shabbos Kodesh Parshas Vayelech
5 Tishrei 5776/ September 18, 2015
Shabbos Shuva Yisroel

If we do it before Pesach with our chometz, could we do it before Yom Kippur with our sins?


1.      If the contract includes sins that belong to someone else, be sure that you have received at least verbal authorization from the owner to include in this contract.
2.      Please be meticulous in doing a thorough introspective examination. Checking all items indiscriminately does not do the transaction justice.
3.      All items included in the sale should be sealed off and made inaccessible through regret, confession, and commitment.
4.      Personal belongings that can be used for sin are not sold, but must be secluded and made inaccessible nonetheless.
5.      Sins committed in seclusion are included in the sale.
6.      Be aware, that from the time of the sale to the non-Jew, the purchaser has right of access to any sins sold to him, and he may utilize them as he wishes even on Yom Kippur. He will owe the seller the remainder of the purchase price as will be determined by three experts after Yom Kippur.

I (print name) __________________________________hereby appoint Rabbi Dani Staum from this day forward to be my agent and attorney-in-fact to sell or dispose of, or make any arrangements for the sale or disposal in any manner and with any transaction that he deems fit, of all of my sins, iniquities, or malicious sins which I have committed or for which I am otherwise responsible, and including good deeds which have not been performed adequately and with appropriate emotional investment until the time of sale on the 9th of Tishrei of this year.

These include, without limitation, the following sins:

(Check all items that apply)

q Wrongful speech and Loshon Hora
q Sins involved with davening
q Not studying Torah sufficiently
q Negative character traits
q Deceitfulness with money
q Marital disharmony
q Not fulfilling promises and pledges
q Sins involving sight and other senses
q Sins involving business or money
q Lack of adherence to laws of Shabbos
q Not reciting berachos properly
q Not caring enough about others
q Hurting other people’s feelings
q Lack of meticulousness with kashrus
q Not enough time with family
q Attending Kiddush club
q Falling asleep during rabbi’s speech

In exchange for my sins I will receive a year of blessing, spiritual growth, nachas, prosperity, serenity, and fulfillment. 
In evidence thereof, I have signed this authorization and Power of Attorney, this ___ day of Tishrei 5776/ September __, 2015.
Signature ___________________________  


            So why is there no such form before Yom Kippur? Part of the answer lies in what our objective is in doing teshuva. We aren’t merely looking to absolve ourselves from culpability and punishment. We have higher aspirations to spread of the honor of G-d and “to rectify the world in the Kingdom of Hashem (Shakkai)”. That is accomplished when our focus is not only on ourselves, but on a greater mission: To build a world of divinity and holiness, a world untainted and unsullied by sin.  
On a greater level, the gemara says that when we perform teshuva out of love, our sins become merits. We surely don’t want to leave all of those merits in the hands of non-Jews.  

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

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

Wednesday, September 16, 2015


Erev Rosh Hashanah of 5776
29 Elul 5775/ September 13, 2015

A few days ago I was walking outside our home when I noticed that over the summer a bunch of plants had begun growing from an area covered with wood chips. So I spent some time yanking them out of the ground.
Over the course of the next few days I began to experience some strong itchiness – first on one arm, then the other, then on one leg, and then the other. When I started to feel itchiness between my fingers I became more concerned and showed it to the nurse in Ashar, whose office is adjacent to mine. She took one look and told me that I had poison ivy. I realized that it was obviously from some of the plants in front of our home.
During this time of year, when school has begun anew and Yom Tov season is upon us, almost all school students look very differently than they did just a few days earlier. Their hair is neat, and many have new shoes and backpacks. We have to remind our younger children that they cannot wear their new school shoes until school starts. Their shoes only have new look for about twenty minutes, and we want them to at least walk into school with that fresh look.    
The truth is that new things are not only exciting, they are also somewhat uncomfortable. Haircuts are itchy and new shoes are rigid and take time to get used to. Yet we feel that the minor discomfort is worth the feeling of newness.
Pulling things out by their roots is also challenging. The deeper those roots are the more effort is required to dislodge them. Sometimes doing so becomes uncomfortable afterwards.
Rosh Hashanah is a new beginning. As the new year begins with all of our hopes and prayers for a year of blessing and prosperity, we also seek to generate changes internally. Those changes entail that we leave our comfort zone and break out of our status quo to effect some improvements during the coming year.
Too much change is overwhelming and will leave us crawling back into our previous comfort zone all too soon, with nothing to show of our efforts. Indeed this is one of our evil inclination’s most potent techniques. But the small steps forward that we take are much greater than we realize. They are a demonstration of our commitment to not settle and rest on our laurels and growth. It shows that we are willing to undertake some discomfort to create a new beginning.  
            My rebbe, Rabbi Mordechai Finkelman, suggests that we choose one positive mitzvah to work on enhancing our commitment to, and one negative commandment to work on refraining from during the coming year. It’s one act which symbolizes pulling out negative roots and one act which symbolizes accepting something new. That is a statement of real effort for growth.   
            Meanwhile until our landscapers start writing my sermons, I think I’m going to leave the weeding to them. Let them deal with the poison ivy.

Kesiva Vachasima Tova
Good Yom Tov & Shana Tova,
            R’ Dani and Chani Staum

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

Thursday, September 10, 2015


Erev Shabbos Kodesh Parshas Netzovim
27 Elul 5775/ September 11, 2015
Pirkei Avos Perek 5-6

Sometime during the spring Chani handed me a brand new set of barbecue instruments she had just purchased so that I could tovel (immerse) them in a mikvah so we could use them. Our old ones had seen better days, and with barbecue season just about to begin the new ones would come in handy. I placed the package in my car so that I would remember to take care of it.
It’s been almost six months now. It’s still sitting there.
It only takes a few minutes to drive to the mikvah and take care of it, but I constantly reason that I could do it some other time. The days and weeks have passed and they are still there. People who have come into my car and have seen the pack comment that I must be a big griller. In truth I’m just being a big procrastinator because I haven’t felt the absolute need to take care of it immediately. We have enjoyed many barbecues this summer season, and although the new instruments would have been helpful, we have gotten by fine without them.
It seems that the things which can get done anytime often don’t get done at all.
Rosh Hashanah is referred to as a day of light. In what way is the day that we, and the entire world, stand in meticulous judgment a day of light?
In a certain sense, Rosh Hashanah is an experience that we do not have in any other area of Judaism. Judaism is a religion that espouses hope and the constant ability to change. Everything about Judaism encourages us that there is no finality. Until one’s dying breath he can repent. There is always hope. A Jew must never fall into despair even in the face of impossible odds.
But on Rosh Hashanah the year comes to its definite end. The books of the previous year are reviewed and then sealed. The precise judgment of Rosh Hashanah is to determine what we deserve based on our performance of the previous year. Rosh Hashanah is the deadline.
There was a secretary in an office who had a sign hanging next to her desk which read: “Don’t complain about what you didn’t get; just be happy you don’t get what you deserve!”
On Rosh Hashanah we are written in the book based on precise judgment. In other words, we are written for what we deserve. Then we spend the next week imploring G-d for compassion and to not seal us based on our performance, but rather based on our inner desire and yearning for greater levels. We engage in supreme efforts to alter the decree based on our level of teshuva and commitment in the coming year But Rosh Hashanah itself exudes a feeling that the deadline has arrived.
Ironically, it is in that sense that Rosh Hashanah is a day of light, because serves as a stark reminder that we don’t have all the time in the world. We cannot relegate our aspirations and goals to “when I get around to it” because the clock is ticking.
How often do we not get around to doing things that are important until we get the proverbial kick in the pants, until the deadline looms menacingly in front of us.
Rosh Hashanah symbolizes to us that we need to take advantage of our time because nothing is forever. As someone once quipped “Every tomorrow has its own tomorrow but there’s only one today.”
Meforshim explain that when the pasuk states in Parshas Netzovim “You are standing here today” it is a reference to the day of Rosh Hashanah – the day that reminds us that today is the greatest gift we have.
This week my son handed me a new thermos he needs me to tovel because he needs it for school tomorrow. Guess where I’m going today.

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

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

Thursday, September 3, 2015


Erev Shabbos Kodesh Parshas Ki Savo
20 Elul 5775/ September 4, 2015
Pirkei Avos Perek 3-4

One night this past summer, camp was graced with a performance from a professional balloonist/magician. He was not only spectacular he was also very funny and it was an all-around enjoyable show.  Throughout the show, in between tricks and sometimes as part of his tricks, he would blow up balloons in various shapes and sizes and give them out to volunteers, or cast them into the excited audience.
For his grand finale, he used an electrical blower to blow up a massive balloon. It was so large that the performer was able to fit his entire body into it. With his cordless microphone attached to his lapel we were able to hear his voice, and saw movement inside the balloon, but for a few seconds we couldn’t see him at all.
Then he popped the balloon and remerged. Everyone clapped and cheered, and then left and lived happily ever after (until it was time for curfew…)
It was a funny scene because it was just part of an act, and it was over in a second. But upon reflection, on a certain level we all live inside our little balloon and because of that we have a hard time seeing others from inside it. They hear our voices because we are confident enough to state our opinions and viewpoints but we often don’t realize that we aren’t seeing the full picture because we are so full of our own hot air that surrounds us. It’s not helium which encapsulates us but our own egos.
A Jew once complained to the Tzemach Tzedek of Lubavitch that he was being disrespected by his fellow congregants in shul. He felt that they literally stepped all over him.
The Rebbe gently replied, “Perhaps you have spread yourself out over the entire shul so that wherever anyone steps they have no choice but to step on you.”
The rule is that an ego that is too big is apt to be bumped and jostled by others.
I recently heard someone quip that EGO is an acronym for “Easing G-d Out”. Part of our challenge is that we have a hard time letting go. We feel that we are in control and that we need to maintain that sense of control. In truth that attitude only breads anxiety and discomfort.
Rabbi Dr. Abraham Twerski recounts that someone once related to him that for years he worried about his business transactions all night, and had a very hard time sleeping. Then he discovered that G-d doesn’t sleep. Once he realized that G-d was up anyway there was no use in both of them being awake, and he began to sleep more peacefully.
Every night we recite the verse “In your hand I entrust my spirit; You redeem me, Hashem, G-d of truth.”[1] We can only trust when we allow ourselves to emerge from our selfish bubble.  
Perhaps our first step must be to pop the huge balloon which envelops us so that we can see beyond our own confines. Once we let out all that hot air we will also be able to accept that we are all within the warm embrace of G-d. 

Shabbat Shalom & Good Shabbos,
            R’ Dani and Chani Staum
720 Union Road • New Hempstead, NY 10977 • (845) 362-2425

[1] Tehilim 31:6