Thursday, March 3, 2016

Parshas Vayakhel – Shekalim 5771

Erev Shabbos Kodesh Parshas Vayakhel – Shekalim
Mevorchim Chodesh Adar II
24 Adar I 5776/ March Forth, 2016
I spend my afternoons in the warm environs of Mesivta Ohr Naftoli in New Windsor, NY, where I am the Principal of the Secular Studies department. Once a week the students of each grade have the good fortune to have me as their teacher for one period. With the eleventh grade I give a course in public speaking.
As their final, each student has to present a speech to his classmates. I created a list of possible venues and occasions, and by way of lottery, each student chooses the topic/venue which he will address. The occasions include sheva berachos of your sister, promoting a kiruv event at your shul, bar mitzvah of a younger brother, opening words as emcee of shul dinner, class representative at graduation, Bubby’s surprise 90th birthday party, speaking to a group of eighth grade students and their parents to promote the yeshiva, class valedictorian, etc.
Recently, one boy was assigned to speak at his neighbor’s fiftieth anniversary party. He began with a d’var Torah which emphasized the importance of having good middos and being a pleasant person. He continued by saying, “Everyone knows our dear neighbors – Rabbi and Rebbitzin Staum – who are celebrating their fiftieth wedding anniversary today, possess these wonderful qualities…” When he concluded his speech, I couldn’t help but share with him that, believe it or not, that day, February 17th, happened to be my anniversary (coincidentally it’s also my wife’s anniversary), albeit it was our fourteenth, not quite our fiftieth. I also told them that there was no place I’d rather be on my anniversary than with them.  
The following week in the middle of class the boys presented me with an ice cream cake and a card which read: “Happy Anniversary. Better late than never!”
It was a very sweet and thoughtful gesture, and thankfully I still have my teeth and was able to enjoy the cake. But it did give me a moment’s pause to think about my fiftieth anniversary, which I pray G-d will grant us the blessing to reach such a beautiful and precious milestone.
We live our lives trying to balance our short-term, immediate focus with our long-term, future focus. The challenge is that the pressures of today make it so difficult for us to focus on the growth and goals of tomorrow.
It’s been said that youth is not so much a matter of age as it is a matter of attitude. In the Torah Yehoshua bin Nun is referred to as a na’ar (youth) despite the fact that he was well advanced in his years. The Nesivas Shalom explains that as long as one is still growing and has not stagnated spiritually he is still deemed a na’ar. Yehoshua may have been advanced in years, but he still sat at the feet of his mentor, Moshe Rabbeinu, with youthful exuberance and vigor. Therefore, he is still called youthful.
Nesivas Shalom adds that when the brothers of Yosef demanded that he release Binyamin and allow him to return to Cana’an with them, they said “For how can we go up to our father if the na’ar is not with us?” This is a question we must each ask ourselves “How can we return our souls after we leave this world if our na’ar – that youthful exuberance and drive to grow and accomplish – is not with us, because we have allowed ourselves to become old, withered, and frumpy.[1]
More impressive than fifty years of marriage is when it is also a celebration of fifty years of growth and accomplishment. The only way to achieve that is to try to keep growing every day. Not easily achieved, but well worth the price.        
Shabbat Shalom & Good Shabbos,
            R’ Dani and Chani Staum       

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

[1] I heard this idea from Rabbi Noach Sauber, a personal mentor and rebbe, at the chasuna of my friend Nachi Baldinger. Rabbi Sauber told me he was told the idea by a friend. I could not find the Nesivas Shalom inside before I sent this out.