Thursday, October 22, 2015


Erev Shabbos Kodesh Parshas Lech Lecha
10 MarCheshvan 5776/ October 23, 2015

In 1492 Columbus sailed the ocean blue
Whilst in Spain they expelled every single Jew

Last week, America celebrated Columbus Day. In recent years Columbus Day has become somewhat controversial as there are many teachers who are hesitant to hail Columbus as a national hero. Nonetheless everyone celebrates the day because a day off is a day off and a sale is a sale.
Many point to the fact that Columbus acted savagely and brutally against the Native Americans that were living there and had an arrogant narcissistic personality. .
Then there is also the question of why we praise Columbus for discovering America when there were others who arrived in America long before him. Aside for the million Native Americans who were already here, in the year 1000 Viking leader Leif Ericson led a group to Newfoundland in Canada. [He subsequently started a football team in Minnesota.]
However, history books are always written from the vantage point of the victor[1], and for now America still celebrates Columbus Day. The prevailing feeling is that our nation’s formation and growth was only thanks to the voyage of Columbus. The reality is that Columbus did not do anything more than to accidentally discover a land he wasn’t even looking for. If it was up to him he never would have arrived here.
The story of Columbus is on some level the story of our lives. We set out on the voyages of life with certain specific goals and destinations in mind. Then so often tempests blow that change the course of our sails and we end up very far from where we expected or planned. Sometimes the journeys are enjoyable and pleasant, but oftentimes they are painful and challenging. We hope for the former types of journeys, but we grow and mature from the latter.
The challenges and vicissitudes of life help us discover internal greatness that we didn’t realize we possessed. When we traverse and prevail over the tests of life we are the beneficiaries.
Avrohom Avinu is instructed to set out on a journey. He has no idea where he is heading or what to expect. It is a journey that culminates with the birth of the greatest nation on earth. Avrohom was compelled to endure challenge after challenge, but when he emerged he not only discovered greatness within him, he successfully transmitted that greatness to his progeny.
The tests of our lives help us discover the unchartered territories of greatness – the proverbial Americas within us. But often unless we are goaded to discover those lands they remain undeveloped and barren.
 Around the time of Columbus’s third voyage, an explorer named Americus Vespucius, arrived on these shores. The newly discovered land was named after him. I guess America sounded better than Vespucica.

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

[1] The one notable exception is Jewish history, which grants the reader the rare perspective of viewing history often from the vantage point of the persecuted and underprivileged.