Thursday, September 29, 2016


Erev Shabbos Kodesh Parshas Netzovim
27 Elul Av 5776/ September 30, 2016
Pirkei Avos – Perakim 5-6

Nothing these days seems to be simple. Simple is too boring for us. So everything has to have a lot of fanfare and become a big production. This includes the packaging of products. Sometimes I wonder if the packaging is more expensive than the product itself.
That is surely true when it comes to toys. When a child receives a gift of a simple doll (do they even produce simple dolls anymore?) it becomes an ordeal just to get it out of the protective casing. After cutting through the bullet-proof plastic, you have to unwind the plastic fasteners that bind each limb to the cardboard backing. There seems to be more protection for toys and gadgets than there is at our airports.  
Two weeks ago we were zocheh to enter our twin sons - Gavriel and Michoel - into the b’ris of Avrohom Avinu. Last week we were zocheh to have the upsherin of our three-year-old son, Shimshon Dovid.
Before the upsherin I brought Dovid to a few rabbeim, including our Rebbe, Rabbi Chaim Schabes, so that they could perform the initial cuttings and to give him a beracha. After Rabbi Schabes snipped some of his hair, he noted that the minhag of performing an upsherin is symbolically connected to the mitzvah of orlah. [When a new tree begins to produce fruit the farmer is forbidden to eat those fruits for the first three years. Those fruits are called orlah. It is only in the fourth year that the farmer can begin to enjoy the fruits of that tree (that fourth year the fruits must be eaten in Yerushalayim). Refraining from cutting a boy’s hair during the first three years is symbolic of the mitzvah of orlah, in that we don’t touch it and ‘leave it for Hashem’.] The mitzvah of b’ris milah is to cut away the orlah, referring to the foreskin. The literal meaning of the word orlah is a blockage or stuffing.
Thus, my rebbe noted, we had the zechus to be involved in the removal of orlah for two weeks in a row – the first week was the double removal of the orlos of b’ris milah (Rabbi Schabes was the Mohel), the second week was the symbolic orlah of our son’s hereto uncut hair. (Well, almost completely uncut, if we don’t include the time an unnamed older sibling decided to take a snip a few months ago…).
I replied to my rebbe that all I needed now was the removal of the most difficult orlah of all, i.e. the orlah upon my heart. And wouldn’t you know it – that one is mentioned in this week’s parsha, Netzovim. (Devorim 30:6) “Hashem, your G-d, will circumcise your heart and the heart of your children, so that you will love Hashem, your G-d, with all of your heart and all of your soul, for the sake of your life.”
There is so much greatness innate within every one of us, which so often remains dormant and not accessed because of all the blockages that we allow to build up upon our hearts. The days of Elul and Tishrei, are dedicated to trying to remove those blockages.
Teshuva means not only returning to Hashem, but also returning to ourselves. By refocusing ourselves on what’s truly important, and the things we tend to neglect throughout the year, we become true to ourselves.
As we seek to remove the blockages from upon our hearts, and recommit ourselves to the eternal covenant, may we all merit the blessings bestowed upon our sons – “Just as you have entered the covenant, so may you enter to Torah, chupah (the ultimate marriage between Klal Yisroel and Hashem), and good deeds.”
May it be a sweet new year of spiritual growth and happiness, of blessing and goodness, of redemption and consolation.  

Shabbat Shalom & Good Shabbos,
Kesiva Vachasima Tova,

            R’ Dani and Chani Staum