Thursday, May 11, 2017


Erev Shabbos Kodesh Parshas Emor (31st day of Omer)
16 Iyar 5777/ May 12, 2017 - Avos Perek 3

This past week I attended the Torah Umesorah convention on Thursday and Friday. As I was driving up to the convention, it reminded me of my trip to the convention last year. In May 2016, I also attended the convention, but had to come home on Thursday night.
As I wrote a few months ago (musings 371), in March last year we were stunned to find out that we were expecting twins.
We subsequently found out that our twins had a serious condition called TTTS (Twin to Twin Transfusion Syndrome).
Our doctor had us transfer to Columbia Hospital, and our first appointment was the Friday morning in May of the Torah Umesorah Convention.
The next week, we had to make a grueling decision whether to undergo a procedure that would sever the connections between the babies in utero with a laser. The procedure is currently only performed in four hospitals in the United States - in San Francisco, Cincinnati, Philadelphia (CHOP), and Columbia in Manhattan. Our doctor in Columbia felt we should proceed, but being that it wasn't absolutely clear that it was necessary (and because it posed it's own risks) he told us that we had to decide.
It was the most difficult half hour of our lives. It was an incredibly arduous decision to have to make under pressure - one that effected the lives of our unborn babies.
We consulted with Rav Dovid Cohen, and our Rav, Rabbi Chaim Schabes, and were advised to proceed.
We then had to wait to see if it was successful. It was a very difficult few months with bi-weekly appointments, fraught with anxiety.
And then, eight months ago, on 6 Elul 5776/September 9, 2016 our beautiful twins were born healthy, a minute apart from each other. Eight days later, b'chasdei Hashem, the brissim were b'zman.
In his Haggadah, Rav Avigdor Nebenzhal shlita asks why Klal Yisroel were commanded to eat marror at the first national Seder, in Mitzrayim, the night before the redemption. It's understandable that such a reminder was necessary for future generations. However, did they really need a symbolic reminder of the painful servitude they had endured, and barely survived, when they were still in the land of their oppression?
Rav Nebenzhal answers that the bitter enslavement ended six months before the redemption. Six months is more than enough time for the human mind to begin to forget what has occurred. Even in Egypt they needed a symbol to help them focus on how far they had come, and what they had suffered through.
When my Bubby - she should live and be well - would recount some of the travails she endured during World War II, including time spent in Siberia, she would quip that she felt as if she was talking about someone else. It was hard to remember that she herself had actually lived through such terrible times.
My Rebbe, Rabbi Berel Wein, relates that he was a young boy living in Chicago in 1948, when the state of Israel was declared. Shortly after the declaration, there was a rally in Chicago stadium. Many of his rabbeim, who could have hardly been called Zionists, were present at that rally, and when they raised the Israeli flag, they wept along with everyone else.
Rabbi Wein would lament that later generations cannot relate to the emotions of back then. By now, it has all become politicized, with the main focus on whether you say hallel or tachanun on Yom Ha'atzmaut. But the feelings of humility and gratitude to Hashem for the miracles witnessed in the War of Independence, as well as the gift of Eretz Yisroel, is largely lost.
I just read the book "28 Iyar" by Rabbi Emanuel Feldman. It is his personal diary from 1967, when his family spent a year in Eretz Yisroel.
The book provides a small glimpse into the incredible tension and anxiety that wracked the country before the Six-day war, as well as the unbelievable euphoria that was felt by the uncanny miraculous victories, including the reunification of Yerushalayim.
In regard to those events too, we are so far removed and can hardly feel a proper sense of hakaras hatov for what we take for granted, such as being able to visit and daven at the Kosel, Kever Rochel, and Mearas Hamachpeilah.
For us personally, eight months later, we surely delight and can't get enough of the twin berachos that Hashem endowed us with. However, it's so easy to forget the extent of how much gratitude we should have for them, and really for all of our children, and all the blessings Hashem granted, and grants us constantly.
Are those twins really the same beings that were once Baby A and Baby B, for whom we were so worried, and for whom we davened so many tefilos?!
Eight months is ample time to obscure our collective memory. The only way to not lose that sense of reality is by being conscious of it, and trying to maintain the original emotions we felt.
Intellectual memory is only a bunch of facts. It's the endemic emotions that brings those memories to life, and grants them long-lasting meaning.

Shabbat Shalom & Good Shabbos

             R’ Dani and Chani Staum