Wednesday, December 7, 2016


Erev Shabbos Kodesh Parshas Vayetzei   
9 Kislev 5777/ December 9, 2016

For the last year and a half, I have had the privilege to post a brief video entitled “Instant Inspiration” on weekly. In last week’s video, I related a powerful mussar thought on the parsha from Rav Leib Chasman zt’l. I originally heard the idea from Rabbi Pinchus Idstein, with whom I am close from our many summers together at Camp Dora Golding. Rabbi Idstein is a wonderful mentor and rebbe from whom I have learned many insights and divrei Torah.
Currently, Rabbi Idstein is the menahel of Torah Academy in Minneapolis, Minnesota.   When I texted him a link to the video last week, he replied by sending me an email link to his school newsletter. In his weekly message, he had written the exact same thought!
After noting the cute coincidence, I began scanning the rest of the newsletter. A boxed in blurb on the front page caught my eye, that read: “Dress for the Weather! Children should come to school with warm coats, gloves or mittens, hats, snow pants, and boots so they can enjoy recess. We send the children outside whenever possible as long as it is not too extreme.”     
I did not ask Rabbi Idstein what they consider to be “too extreme”. However, I did look at the long-range forecast for Minneapolis and saw a string of days when the highs are expected to be in the single digits. From what I understand the weather in Minneapolis gets even colder during much of the winter. 
I have only worked in yeshivos in the Tri-State area, but here when the weather drops below forty degrees the students aren’t too keen about going outside for recess. If they are told they have no choice, many of them will spend their entire recess kvetching about the weather. In Minneapolis if they wait until it’s forty degrees they may not step foot outside for months during the winter.
I have a friend who works as an electrician in newly constructed buildings. Most of the buildings are not yet insulated, and during the coldest days of winter he often spends hours on end, bundled up in his coat, exposed to the extreme cold while working. When I asked him how he does it, he replied curtly, “What choice do I have?” 
In Eretz Yisroel, the fledgling yet prospering and burgeoning state fought three wars for its very survival against hostile enemies. Not a day goes by when they are not forced to defend themselves to provide vital security for the entire country. The refrain in Israel is that the army is led by “General Aleph Bais”; Aleph Bais stands for Ain Beraira – No Choice. The country is fighting for its very survival and that of every one of its citizens, and therefore cannot afford to lose any war.
The reality is that we can tolerate far more than we think. But we are not interested in being uncomfortable. In our society, we pay any price for comfort and convenience, and will go to any length to avoid discomfort. The problem is that real growth and accomplishment only comes from exertion and pushing ourselves beyond our comfort level.
The truth is that the only time we allow ourselves to be inconvenienced is when we feel we must. We only exert ourselves if we feel we have to, because we recognize that stagnation and autopilot is not an option. Happiness is the result of effort and growth, of having pushed ourselves beyond what was easy and convenient.
It behooves us all to always “dress for the weather”. Life’s course doesn’t slow down, and the tempests that are par for the course are not always predictable. The only way we can ensure our constant growth is if we are always ready and searching.
Shabbat Shalom & Good Shabbos,

            R’ Dani and Chani Staum