Thursday, December 3, 2015


Erev Shabbos Kodesh Parshas Vayeshev  
22 Kiselv 5776/ December 4, 2015

I am blessed to be close with many great Torah scholars who I consider personal rabbeim and/or mentors. One of those individuals is a respected educator who inspires his students in his uniquely skillful and devoted manner. He also has the distinction of being known as a person who pulls no punches; he says it like it is. He often quips (only half in jest) “quote me and ill deny it” before relating something insightful that many others wouldn’t have the courage to admit.
On one occasion this rebbe was interviewing for a position in a prestigious elementary school. When he walked into the room for the meeting, the three heads of the school were sitting together in awkward silence. It was clear that they had just been discussing something that was a point of contention between them.
When this rebbe walked in, one of the three remarked “why don’t we ask this rebbe what he thinks?” Without waiting for a reply from his colleagues, he asked the interviewee, “Why do you think our older students are not so interested in learning chumash? What can we do to change that?” Without batting an eyelash my rebbe replied that the problem lies in the source. “You know that you’re rabbeim are probably far more interested in teaching gemara than they are in teaching chumash. The students undoubtedly pick up on that lack of enthusiasm.”
My rebbe told me that the one who asked the question seemed satisfied with the answer, but the other two stared at him in cold silence. He never received a follow-up call from that yeshiva. But when he related the story to me he concluded with a twinkle in his eye “You know that’s the real truth - even though no one wants to admit it!”
Just prior to my beginning to teach fifth grade at Ashar a few years ago, my cousin, Rabbi Shragi Gold, a seasoned and experienced rebbe, and a colleague from Yeshiva Bais Hachinuch, offered me an invaluable piece of advice: “In whatever you are teaching, even if it’s the aleph bais, always seek to find chiddush (novelty). Find questions and seek answers that you never thought of before. In that way your teaching will never become stale or dry, no matter how many times you teach it.”
I think about his words constantly, and it is amazing to me how every year when teaching the same pesukim in Chumash Shemos, I, and my students, discover new perspectives, questions, and answers that I never realized before.
The key to education lies in the level of excitement in which it is conveyed. Inspiration requires emotion!
The word “hachanah” (preparation) contains the word “kayn” (just so). When Aharon lit the menorah in the Mishkan the Torah states, “Vaya’as kayn Aharon – And Aharon did so”. In order for something to be performed “just so” - the way it is ideally meant to be, there must be preparation and forethought.
In our home, my Menorahs has already been removed from the breakfront, adorning a table by the window, awaiting the excitement of next week. True, the Menorah may become somewhat tarnished, but the build up of excitement it generates is well-worth it.
Chanukah presents, Chanukah gelt, latkes, donuts, and family get-togethers, are only meant to enhance the true joy we feel in fulfilling the unique mitzvos and essence of this special holiday. Chanukah is about lighting the menorah and expressing our gratitude to G-d for the opportunity to be members of His great nation. The more excitement we generate now, the greater will be our celebration in its fulfillment! 

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

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