Thursday, December 27, 2018


Erev Shabbos Kodesh Parshas Shemos
20 Teves 5779/December 28, 2018

A few nights ago, I was sitting at home when I began feeling cold. When I went to the thermostat to raise the heat, I noticed that it was colder inside than the heat was set to. I went to the basement to check the boiler and found that the pilot flame had gone out.
I called our devoted neighbor Meir who is always there for us in situations such as these. He came over and relit the pilot, and the heat immediately kicked back on. He cautioned me that if it went out again that night we would have to call a plumber. To my chagrin, within the hour I again felt the house becoming colder. I nervously went back to the boiler where my fear was confirmed - the pilot had again gone out.
I called our plumber who informed me that he would only be able to come by late that night. He needed to head home first because his wife and eighth grade daughter (who was his built-in babysitter) were heading to a high school open house. I was well aware of the event; Chani and our eighth-grade daughter Aviva, were about to leave to that event as well.
In the meanwhile, I borrowed Meir’s long lighter and he walked me through the process of relighting the pilot. Believe it or not, I successfully relit the pilot and the heater immediately sprang to life. My joy was short lived when it went out within a minute.
A couple of cold hours later, our plumber arrived. He took one look and announced that the pilot was on. Still, he had no explanation as to why the heat wasn’t kicking in. He lit it again and the heat sprang back to life.
It was like when there’s a cop on the highway and everyone starts driving beneath the speed limit, or the principal walks by the classroom and all the students (and teachers) start behaving. When the plumber was there the heat behaved perfectly, and he had no idea what the issue was.
When I informed Meir that the pilot had gone out and we had to call a plumber, he humorously quipped that he was looking forward to reading about the experience in that week’s Rabbi’s Musings. Well, Meir could not have been more wrong. I didn’t write about it that week. That’s because I waited until the following week. So there!
Sometimes we may wonder why we need to daven so much. Isn’t praying three times a day on a weekday a bit much?
Shortly after I got married, a friend offered me the following piece of advice - if ever there is a choice between my going to an inspiring lecture or my wife going to an inspiring lecture, I should always allow my wife to go. He explained, “when a woman attends a lecture, she comes home inspired, and retains that inspiration for two weeks. On the other hand, you know how us guys are. On the way home from the lecture, we already need to hear it again.”
No matter how strong a relationship is and how great its foundation is, it will only endure if it is constantly nurtured. The closer the relationship the more TLC is required to maintain it.
Birds in flight are a magnificent sight when they glide gracefully across the sky with their wings outstretched. But they can only coast for so long. Eventually, it will need to flap its wings in order to remain airborne.
Relationships work in the same manner. Those in the relationship can only coast for a short time before they must flap the relationship’s proverbial wings to foster the relationship.
That is also why we need to daven three times every day. Our relationship with the divine requires constant nurturance and dedication, not for His sake, but for ours. As we go through our daily affairs, we tend to forget how much we need G-d. So, every morning, afternoon, and again in the evening, we have to reaffirm our faith and remind ourselves that our lives are completely in His Hands. 
The pilot flame within us- the spark within our souls - will never be extinguished. But to warm ourselves we need to ensure that the pilot ignites the fires that provide the internal heat. That process must repeat itself every time the temperature drops below comfort level. It’s an ongoing commitment.

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

Thursday, December 20, 2018


Erev Shabbos Kodesh Parshas Vayechi
Shabbos Chazak!
13 Teves 5779/December 21, 2018

A few years ago, I had the wonderful opportunity to spend a week in Eretz Yisroel with our bechor, Shalom, in honor of his bar mitzvah. It was a special trip and we had the zechus to meet a few gedolei Yisroel and enjoy seeing some of the beauty of the Land.
We spent Shabbos with my sister Ahuva and my brother Yaakov and his family, both of whom live in the Nachlaot neighborhood of Yerushalayim.
During Shabbos I mentioned to Yaakov that there was a Sefer called Derashos Bais Yishai, written by Rav Shlomo Fisher, that I wanted to purchase. The problem was that it was out of print. I was hoping that during my visit I might possibly be able to meet Rav Fisher, and to purchase his sefer directly from him. I also noted that Rav Fisher was the brother of Rav Yisroel Yaakov Fisher zt’l, a renowned halachic posek
My brother answered that not only did he know who Rav Fisher is, he actually lived only a few doors away. I couldn’t believe the opportunity! I told my brother I wanted to knock on his door after Shabbos. My brother replied that although he had seen the Rav walking many times, he had never knocked on his door. Rav Fisher was a holy, elderly and feeble man and my brother wasn’t comfortable to simply knock on his door to seek his blessing. I told my brother that I was only in the country for a few days and I didn’t have time to think about being uncomfortable.
On Motzei Shabbos, Shalom, Yaakov and I knocked on Rav Fisher’s door. We were brought inside, where we found the Rav quietly sitting at his table where he had just completed eating his melave malka.
He gave Shalom a beracha in honor of his bar mitzvah and allowed me to take a picture of Shalom with him. When I told the Rav that I wished to purchase his Sefer, Derashos Bais Yishai, he replied that that was his brother’s Sefer. I realized that this was Rav Eliezer Moshe Fisher, a different brother of the famed halachic posek.
Rav Fisher’s son was in the apartment assisting his father. Upon hearing my request, he brought me four sefarim that his father had authored. They were on topics throughout Shas, and were simply entitled, Sefer Eliezer Moshe, the name of their author.
Last week I read the sad news that Rav Eliezer Moshe Fisher passed away at the age of 88.
As I was flipping through one of the sefarim I had purchased from him, it struck me how ironic it was that I had been willing to knock on his door when I was there for a week, and my brother had never done so.
For the first eight years of my life, my family lived on the Lower East Side of Manhattan. I never remember visiting the Statue of Liberty or Twin Towers during those years. I think that’s fairly common of New Yorkers. 
On the other hand, tourists who visit the city for a week seem to hit all the popular tourist spots during that time.
It’s one of the sad realities of life - we often fail to take advantage of the things closest to us. The things we can do any time often become the things we don’t do at any time.
Conversely, when one knows he has limited time, he will pack in as much as he can during that time.
Residents of Yerushalayim may not visit the kosel for months, while those of us who have the opportunity to visit from chutz la’aretz will make sure to daven there numerous times.
More significantly, it was a stark reminder to me of our nature to fail to appreciate the little gifts of life, which aren’t little at all - primarily the gifts of our close friends and family.
Our children had the zechus during Chanukah to enjoy time with all four of their grandparents - something I would give anything to be able to do - and some of their uncles, aunts, and cousins. And I had the zechus to spend time with my parents and in-laws, in good health and a pleasant atmosphere.
I have a friend who often quips that we would be wise to daven that Hashem help us appreciate the gifts He grants us every day while we have them.
This Shabbos, our community is paying tribute to Team Shabbos, a division of the National Association of Chevra Kadisha. It is an organization dedicated to raising and promoting awareness of end of life matters according to Halacha.
Aside for the tremendous importance of the organization and what they offer our community, reflecting on their work helps us remember to appreciate the gift of life and those around us.
I feel fortunate to have the sefarim of Rav Eliezer Moshe Fisher zt’l for their Torah insights and for the opportunity to maintain a connection with the late scholar. Beyond that, seeing his sefarim also gives me the satisfaction of knowing that at least on that occasion I took advantage of an opportunity and appreciated the moment.
I should add that I am still searching for the Sefer, Derashos Bais Yishai of Rav Shlomo Fisher shlita, which is out of print. If you find one, please let me know. (And no, it’s not yet on

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

Thursday, December 13, 2018


Erev Shabbos Kodesh Parshas Vayigash
6 Teves 5779/December 14, 2018

Gedolei Yisroel often lament that people who request that they daven on their behalf in a challenging situation, never share good news with them when they merit salvation.
Two and a half years ago, when Chani was expecting our twins, there were some serious complications, due to a condition they had called TTTS (Twin to Twin Syndrome). At one point, our doctor in Columbia Hospital, suggested that Chani undergo a “treatment” to alleviate the danger of their condition. However, the doctor cautioned us that the treatment contained risks, including that it might not remedy the situation. He then told us that we had to decide if we wanted to proceed with it or not.
The doctor led us to a conference room and told us we had 15 minutes to decide. It was of the most frightening moments of our lives. We had to make a decision that would impact the lives of our unborn twins within fifteen minutes. How in the world were we to know what to do?
I immediately called our rebbe, Rabbi Chaim Schabes, who has always been there for us. But as it was the morning, he was saying shiur and his phone was off.
I made a few phone calls and got the number of a respected Rosh Yeshiva to seek his advice. The Rosh Yeshiva’s secretary took down the information and conveyed it to the Rosh Yeshiva while I was holding on the line. A few minutes later she returned and replied that the Rosh Yeshiva wrote down Chani’s name and would daven for her, he wasn’t familiar enough with the condition or the procedure to offer any guidance.
We grew more desperate as the clock continued ticking. I then remembered that I had the number of Rabbi Dovid Cohen, a renown Gadol and halachic Posek from Flatbush.
When I called his home, his wife answered and informed me that the Rav was unavailable at that time. When I told her it was an urgent life and death matter she immediately put him on the phone.
Rabbi Cohen doesn’t know me at all. He is also extremely busy and spends hours each night fielding complicated halachic questions and giving advice and guidance. Yet he listened patiently to all the details and asked questions for clarity. When he had all the information, he replied that he doesn’t know much about the condition, but he felt that if the doctor feels we should proceed with the treatment, that’s what we should do.
We thanked him profusely for his time and caring ear. A minute after I hung up, Rabbi Schabes called back. When I informed him about what was happening, and about Rabbi Cohen’s suggestion, he concurred and urged us to proceed.
I told Chani then that no matter what would happen, we could never blame ourselves. We had sought the doctor’s advice and that of da’as Torah, and there was nothing more we could do. Now it was in the Hands of Hashem.
Baruch HaShem, the treatment was a success. However, for the duration of the pregnancy there were numerous concerns and tremendous anxiety.
When the babies were born healthy on Friday afternoon, September 9, 2017, it was a tremendous Simcha. I rushed home from the hospital shortly after the birth to be with the rest of our family for Shabbos and to host the shalom zachor. My mother-in-law graciously remained in the hospital with Chani on Shabbos.
On Motzei Shabbos, I returned to the hospital, and for the first time enjoyed holding the twins and allowing the realization of the incredible blessings we were granted to sink in.
While holding one of the twins I decided to call Rabbi Dovid Cohen to thank him for his time and guidance a few months earlier. When the Rebbitzin answered and I told her why I was calling she was so appreciative. After blessing the newborns and our family, she gave the phone to her husband. Rabbi Cohen admitted that he did not recall the conversation, but he too was deeply appreciative of my phone-call and shared his excitement for us as well as his blessing.
I have to say that it was a great feeling for me that I was able to share the good news and to convey to Rabbi and Rebbitzin Cohen their part in it.
If gratitude is so important and healthy for our emotional well-being, why is it so hard to express gratitude?
By nature, we are mostly reactive to life and the things that transpire. We are born selfish beings, with an innate sense of entitlement. To be grateful requires reflection and thought. One needs to be somewhat proactive to be thankful, and to express those feelings with those to whom he is thankful.
Life moves so quickly, and we get bogged down by daily responsibilities. If one wants to live beyond self, it entails time for reflection, a commodity that is rare in today’s day and age.
Another challenge to gratitude is that we tend to take things for granted, especially of the people who matter the most to us and are closest to us.
Former President George Bush, who just died last week, had a beautiful habit of leaving notes of gratitude wherever he went.
On one occasion he used a classroom in a school in Rochester as a temporary makeshift office. When the teacher returned to her classroom after the president left, she found a personal handwritten thank-you note written in chalk on her chalkboard from President Bush. The school kept that board with the message on it when they switched to whiteboards a few years ago.
Little thank-you notes left conspicuously are a wonderful way to express gratitude for things/people we often take for granted.
We are the greatest beneficiaries of being grateful, but to do so we must resist our nature to be self-absorbed and to have a sense of entitlement.
It begins by recognizing and appreciating the gifts of life!

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

Thursday, December 6, 2018

Parshas Miketz Shabbos Chanukah- Rosh Chodesh Teves

Erev Shabbos Kodesh Parshas Miketz
Shabbos Chanukah- Rosh Chodesh Teves  
29 Kislev 5779/December 7, 2018

Last week, I had the pleasure of spending Shabbos in Chicago. I was invited to deliver a parenting lecture on Motzei Shabbos for the Associated Talmud Torahs (ATT), and in order to do so I had to be there before Shabbos.
My children didn’t understand why, if I was taking a two-hour flight during the winter, was I going west and not south?
As I drove out of the car rental garage at O’Hare airport, I was listening to a meteorologist and a sportscaster discussing the upcoming weekend weather. The meteorologist related that Chicago would be hit with a soaking rainstorm on Saturday. The sportscaster then asked what the weather would be like for the Chicago Bears game when they played against the New York Giants in New York on Sunday. The meteorologist replied that the storm that was to hit Chicago on Saturday was heading eastward and would affect the New York area on Sunday.
I enjoyed a beautiful Shabbos in Chicago, though there were indeed heavy downpours throughout Shabbos. When I arrived back in New York on Sunday, I was greeted by rain, which I knew was from the same weather system I had seen the day before in Chicago.
I am always fascinated by airplanes and by flying. It is amazing to me that within seconds after takeoff the solid ground suddenly becomes a shrinking vista as the plane ascends. 
On Sunday morning as we flew above the clouds, beautiful sunshine reflected off the clouds beneath us. Then, as soon as we began descending into New York, the gray dreary rain was back, completely concealing the resplendent sunshine above.
There are people who seem to carry ‘storms’ with them. They are walking emotional tempests, who spread melancholy and gloom wherever they go. They spend most of their time complaining and grumbling about everything from politics, to finances, to their kids and spouses, to rabbis and institutions.
But then there are others who seem to radiate happiness and emotional sunshine wherever they go. No matter what is happening around them or what personal challenges they are enduring at that juncture of their lives, they seem to always be smiling and upbeat. These are the great people who live above the clouds. They see life, not only as it is in the moment, but from a broader perspective, which includes that life is a growth process with purpose and direction.
Most of us probably don’t totally fall into either category, but somewhere in between. We have our days when we feel completely overwhelmed and defeated. The storms above us infiltrate our psyche and we become morose and negative. 
Thankfully, we also have days when we feel so focused that even the greatest challenges don’t seem to deter us.
The good news is that we can constantly grow and don’t have to submit ourselves to the mood we are feeling at any given time. We have the ability to force sunshine through our personal clouds. But we have to be willing to work for it, and not resign ourselves to the exterior events taking place around us. It requires a great deal of reflection and motivation to maintain a positive demeanor on the darkest days.
The beauty of Chanukah is that it is a celebration of small lights that shine in utter darkness. All other holidays of the year transport us into a different realm - a world of that holiday when our entire conduct and schedule changes. But on Chanukah, for the most part life goes on as normal. Yet, the days of Chanukah aren’t just “normal” days. We recite Hallel, focus on gratitude, and light the menorah, creating rays of sunshine in our otherwise mundane existence. 
That is the light of Chanukah. Its ethereal glow is meant to last with us well beyond the eight-day holiday.

            Good Shabbos & Shabbat Shalom
Chag Urim Sameiach & Lichtigeh Chanukah
R’ Dani and Chani Staum