Wednesday, January 6, 2016


Erev Shabbos Kodesh Parshas Va’era
Mevorchim Chodesh Shevat   
28 Teves 5776/ January 8, 2016

Periodically at a simcha the waiter will give the guests a choice about what kind of soup they would like. When the waiter asks me if I would like vegetable soup or broccoli soup, I often reply that broccoli is a vegetable too, so it’s really a choice between vegetable or vegetable soup. At times the waiter will smile, sometimes he will simply repeat the choices, and other times he will stand there in absolute confusion wondering why he accepted to do my table. Choosing soup is serious business. 
I recently attended a wedding where the waiter pouring the soup only got some in the bowl. The rest went down the sides of his ladle and onto the dress of the women he was serving. When the woman’s husband showed the waiter what he had done, the waiter replied “This is not my table. I am only doing a favor for your waiter.” 
On the opposite end of the spectrum, a few weeks ago I met a friend who I haven’t seen in some time. He related that he is currently the assistant rabbi in his shul. I congratulated him and told him that he will probably have the opportunity to become a full fledged rabbi somewhere soon. He replied in all sincerity “I want to do whatever G-d has in mind for me.” I was very impressed with his reply. It was simple and yet so profound.
Not too long after I was meeting with the hanhala of Mesivta Ohr Naftali, where I serve as principal, and we were discussing a challenging yeshiva-related issue. After debating the issue and discussing our options for some time, the room became quiet as everyone weighed our options. The Rosh Yeshiva then asked out loud, “Okay, what does Hashem want us to do?” Then he repeated our options and we charted out what we felt was our best plan of action.
In our own home we have been consumed with bar mitzvah planning, b’h. As anyone who has ever made a simcha knows well, a simcha comes with many headaches and a tremendous amount of planning and attention to details. Chani and I were discussing one such sensitive issue and were having a hard time making a final decision. Chani turned to me and asked “What does Hashem want us to do?”
At first, I didn’t even realize how many times that question has been posed recently. It was only once I began writing this brilliant essay that I realized it. I’m hopeful that if I keep hearing it from the good people who surround me, perhaps it will eventually begin to penetrate.
Belief in Hashem does not exonerate one from personal responsibility. It does not give one license to say ‘well this is what was supposed to happen, and it’s not my fault’. In fact, the very opposite is true. We are obligated to do all in our ability to ensure that we have done all G-d expects from us. There are undoubtedly many times when we are simply unsure what Hashem wants from us. It’s during those times when we turn to our rebbe or Torah guide, and of course to Hashem in tefillah for the wisdom and insight about how to proceed.
As our bechor, Yaakov Meir Shalom, concludes his thirteen years of basic-training and becomes a full ledged solider in G-d’s army, we hope and pray that he will live his life with this mantra in mind. We hope he will never be afraid to face reality, and never cower from responsibility by claiming that “it’s not my table.” Rather, he will live his life by always asking himself “What does Hashem want from me right now in this situation?”   

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

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