Thursday, December 24, 2015

PARSHAS VAYECHI 5776


“RABBI’S MUSINGS (& AMUSINGS)”
Erev Shabbos Kodesh Parshas Vayechi   
14 Teves 5776/ December 25, 2015

Someone once quipped that their mother was always serving leftovers; they have never found the original! Everyone seems to groan when they hear that they are having leftovers for supper. Some mothers try to reason with their family “You loved it on Shabbos, so why shouldn’t you enjoy it now?” Usually those arguments are futile. The bottom line is that people don’t like to eat leftovers.
So in our house we stopped serving leftovers. It just wasn’t worth the battle. So now when our children ask on Monday ‘what’s for supper?’ the answer is “Shabbos delicacies!” True, the foods may be the same as what graced our Shabbos table, but they aren’t leftovers; now they are delicacies!
In a similar vein our children don’t have chores to do. It was too much of a battle to get them to do their chores, so we just did away with them. However, each of our children has family contributions that they are expected to take care of. After all, if they are living in our home and eating our food, it is only fair that they contribute to the family.
You may think this is all a matter of semantics, but apparently semantics are not trivial. It seems that we conceptualize concepts based on language, i.e. how we label them. As infants become older and begin to speak they begin to have a deeper understanding of the world around them.
My father is, and has always been, loathe about disposing good food. He often places bottles or cans back in the refrigerator after a meal despite the fact that they are virtually empty because there is a little left.
On one occasion during our younger years he found a little bit of cottage cheese left in a container in the fridge. He convinced an older sibling of mine (who shall remain nameless to protect his anonymity) that cottage cheese and ice cream was a rare treat, especially with chocolate syrup on top. Believe it or not my anonymous older sibling (I only have one) ate the entire thing.
It all depends on the presentation (just ask the party planners).
The titles and labels we attribute to things and their presentation define how we perceive them. That’s why it is significant when a world leader refers to terrorists by a lesser or more benign term.
A friend of mine once related that when running out to daven he never announces to his family “I have to go daven mincha!” Rather, he says “I want to go daven mincha!” It’s the same basic point but the underlying message is quite different. It implies that the responsibility of tefillah is a privilege and not a chore.
There is nothing wrong with teaching our children that they have to perform responsibilities even when they don’t want to. However, there is also something noble about helping them recognize the inherent value and personal pleasure one can enjoy when living up to his responsibilities. 
I recently heard a seasoned rebbe quip that we don’t fully appreciate the power and importance of our Shabbos tables. Just as there is considerable time and effort invested to ensure that every member of the family has physical enjoyment from the seudah, so does there need to be time and effort invested to ensure that every member of the family feels involved and uplifted at the Shabbos seudah.
 It’s all in the presentation. We want our Avodas Hashem to be fresh and exciting, because no one likes leftovers.  

Shabbat Shalom & Good Shabbos
R’ Dani and Chani Staum       

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

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