Thursday, November 10, 2016


Erev Shabbos Kodesh Parshas Lech Lecha
10 MarCheshvan 5777/ November 11, 2016

Mr. Irwin Cohen, writes a column in the Jewish Press, entitled “The Baseball Insider”. In one article, he related a personal experience from October 8, 1956. At the time, he was a ninth grader at Detroit’s Yeshiva Beth Yehudah. That day was Game Five of the World Series between the Brooklyn Dodgers and the New York Yankees. The series was tied 2-2.
Sal Maglie, a 39-year-old veteran who had a 13-6 record and 2.89 ERA during the 1956 season, was pitching for the Dodgers. Don Larsen, 27, who hadn’t lasted through the second inning of Game Two, was pitching for the Yankees.
During the yeshiva lunch break, Cohen made his way to the nearby gas station, where he saw all of the attendants huddled around the radio. The unthinkable had happened – the unlikely Don Larson had pitched a Perfect Game, not one Dodger had reached base the entire game. No one before and no one since to date has ever pitched a Perfect Game in the Post Season.
Cohen relates that he ran back to yeshiva and met his rebbe in the hallway. His rebbe asked him who won the game. When he replied that the Yankees won, and Larson had pitched a perfect game, his rebbe slapped him across the face, wagged his finger towards him and said “Don’t lie!”
When he reminded his rebbe of the incident years later, the rebbe would chuckle and reply, “Would you believe me if I told you Larsen pitched a perfect game?”
On Erev Succos a few weeks ago, I was hanging up decorations in our succah together with our (almost) Bas Mitzvah daughter, Aviva. As she was stapling a poster depicting the seven Ushpizin, Aviva asked me why it is specifically those seven – Avrohom, Yitzchok, Yaakov, Moshe, Aharon, Yosef, and Dovid – who have the distinction of being the Ushpizin whose “spirit” joins us in the succah each night of the Yom Tov.
Just a few hours earlier, I had seen an explanation from Rabbi Gamliel Rabinowitz shlita, in his sefer, Tiv HaSuccos. Rabbi Gamliel explains that each of the seven Ushpizin – known in kabbalah as the “Sheva Roim – seven Shepherds of Klal Yisroel”, experienced tremendous challenges during their lifetimes. As there is no person who doesn’t experience significant challenges in life, I assume Rabbi Gamliel means that the challenges they faced had national ramifications for Klal Yisroel. Avrohom passed ten major tests, Yitzchok allowed himself to be offered on the akeidah, Yaakov dealt with challenges of Eisav, Lavan, Dinah, and Yosef, Moshe dealt with the ongoing tribulations of leadership, Aharon was together with Moshe, and also encountered the loss of his two holy sons, Yosef had to traverse the incredible test of  temptation with the wife of his master, and he had to deal with familial rejection and isolation, finally Dovid’s whole life was challenge after challenge – internally and externally.
            On Yom Kippur, in a certain sense, we all pitch “a perfect game”. We spend the day immersed in spiritual pursuits, committing ourselves to growth and improvement, and seeking to rectify the follies and iniquities we have committed.
But we do not, and cannot, live our lives on that lofty Yom Kippur level. Yom Kippur comes to and end and regular life resumes. The holiday of Succos gives us an extra infusion of spirituality to help us maintain all that we have gained during the Days of Awe. What greater chizuk could there be than from the seven supreme leaders of our nation, whose greatness was only achieved through overcoming challenges and vicissitudes.  
And when the holiday of Succos concludes, we spend the dark months of winter reminding ourselves of the lessons of those Seven Shepherds, each week through the Torah reading (Two of the haftoras in Bereishis are about Dovid Hamelech).
It’s not perfection that we seek, but slow and steady growth, overcoming daily challenges, and never settling on who/what we can become.

Shabbat Shalom & Good Shabbos,

            R’ Dani and Chani Staum