Thursday, April 12, 2018



Erev Shabbos Kodesh Parshas Shemini – Mevorchim Chodesh Iyar – Avos Perek 1
28 Nissan 5778/April 13, 2018

One of the responsibilities of the leaders of any institution is to fundraise. It’s usually regarded as the most dreaded and arduous part of the job. Yeshiva administrators and Roshei Yeshiva are very familiar with the challenges of fundraising and are constantly looking for an innovative idea for fundraising.
Just before Pesach, I suggested to a Rosh Yeshiva that on Seder night, before beginning his own Seder, he should walk around his community. At the moment when he sees through the window that a family is doing yachatz, he should burst in and grab the afikomen before the children get to it. If they ask him what right he has to enter he can point to the paragraph they are about to recite in Ha Lachma Anya when they declare “whoever is hungry let him come and eat”. He can then make his pitch about how hungry the students in his Yeshiva are for funds so they can continue their studies. He should conclude by telling the bewildered family his address where they can find him when they are ready to eat the afikomen.
When they arrive to retrieve their afikomen he can discuss the terms and how much they are willing to donate to the Yeshiva for it.
I thought it was a no-brainer, but he wasn’t keen on the idea. No one appreciates genius these days.
Virtually every Haggadah questions the motive and meaning behind that warm and generous invitation for anyone who needs to join our Seder, when our Seder is already well underway and our front door is closed.
Some suggest that it is not an invitation to outsiders but a clarion call towards those already seated around the table.
We begin by noting that the matzah is the bread of affliction. As the food of slaves, matzah symbolizes servitude and uncompromised loyalty. Such subservience is not easy to attain, unless forced. When we were slaves in Egypt, we had no choice but to fulfill our expected work quota. But as the servants of Hashem we are afforded free-choice. We have the ability to live up to our responsibilities and discover inner tranquility and happiness. Doing so however, requires extortion in a never-ending quest for growth. The other option is to assume the far easier path of convenience, which affords momentary comfort but long-term regret.
If one realizes the value in the struggle and wants to achieve greatness, that’s a good start, but it’s not enough. “Confidence is the feeling you have until you realize the problem!”
What keeps a person going when faced with challenges? The drive! The question is “how badly do you want it?”
This simple question is often mentioned in the world of sports. Two teams are set to square off in an important game. Both have tremendous talent and on paper are evenly matched. Sports commentators will quip that the game will be won by whoever wants it more badly! It won’t be a matter of talent as much as it will be a matter of drive, mental energy, and passion.
L’havdil, the world of spiritual growth requires the same passionate dedication. In a lecture I was privileged to hear from Rav Nosson Tzvi Finkel zt’l, he recounted that someone once asked his rebbe, Rav Chaim Shmulevitz zt’l how one can finish all of Shas. Rav Chaim replied “if you want to finish Shas, you have to be sick over Shas.” In other words, it has to consume you to such a degree that you never put aside that goal and continue to pursue it constantly. If you have that level of desire than you’ll be able to finish Shas, despite the challenge.
Perhaps that is part of the message of ha lachama anya. First, we declare that matzah is the bread of affliction, symbolizing subservience. Then we call out to ourselves and those at the table “who is hungry? Who feels the need?” Only one who is hungry and pines to partake in spiritual greatness will be willing to endure and consume the requisite bread of affiliation.
That’s the message we convey as we begin the Seder. It’s not just an ancient tale, but a contemporary story connected to our lives. We are all confronted by our own Egypts and Pharaohs. Only those who really want to persevere badly enough will get there. The indomitable and uncompromising will is the key to the redemption.
We aren’t inviting outsiders to join our Seder. Rather, we are inviting ourselves to be a part of the extraordinary story we are about to tell!
Pesach concludes by leaving us in the throes of Sefiras Haomer, anticipatorily gearing up for Shavuos and Kabbolas HaTorah. How much we prepare and how ready we will be, all depends on how badly we want to accomplish and grow. 
It’s an incredible message, but unfortunately one that won’t help with fundraising, except that maybe it’ll remind the fundraiser not to give up...

Shabbat Shalom & Good Shabbos,
              R’ Dani and Chani Staum