Thursday, January 17, 2019


Erev Shabbos Kodesh Parshas Beshalach
12 Shevat 5779/January 18, 2019

On Chol Hamoed Succos a few months ago, the Staum family attended a concert in Teaneck, NJ, featuring Mordechai Shapiro and the Yeshiva Boys Choir. It was a wonderful nice show and our children really enjoyed it.
As we were taking our seats the irony struck me. Mordy Shapiro was a camper in Camp Dora Golding for a number of years, and was in my learning group when I was a learning rebbe there the summer after I got married.
Mordy was always an energetic and fun kid. Still, I couldn’t have imagined that a decade later I would be paying $36 for each of my children to watch him perform for an hour. [Back in the day, during learning groups I might have paid him that much to stop performing…]  
A few weeks ago, I saw a video from a recent Chai Lifeline Dinner of a young boy singing on stage with Shulem Lemmer. When I saw the boy’s face, I almost fell off my chair. The boy, Dovid Hill, was a former student of mine when I was a fifth grade rebbe at Ashar. Although he is very pleasant, Dovid is also relatively quiet. I had no idea that he had a beautiful voice, nor could I believe that he had the courage to sing in such a public forum.
When I was in high school, I had a classmate who was legendary for crazy antics and wacky behavior. He was fun to be around as long as you weren’t his target. The things he did were wild, including running halfway up the yeshiva walls. Today, he is a respected educator teaching Torah in Yerushalayim. He laughingly told me that I am never allowed to speak to his wife or kids about his yeshiva days.
I had another classmate, who in ninth grade seemed to be opposed to everything Jewish. Every time our rebbe mentioned a halacha, he would debate it. He argued about everything. Today, he is a Rosh Kollel, who has authored sefarim and gives shiurim in Yerushalayim.
In Heichal HaTorah, where I am privileged to be a rebbe, there is a fellow rebbe there who was my camper in Camp Dora Golding a few decades ago. I remember him wearing a green (Shawn Kemp) Seattle Supersonics Jersey with no undershirt and a backwards cap. He is today a talmid chochom and a beloved rebbe.
We usually look at the world with our physical eyes. Insightful people, however, have the foresight to not only see what is, but also what could be.
Rabbi Shais Taub related that when he was a young boy his mother took his family to a farm where they produced maple syrup. The trees all had what looked like spikes wedged into them with a bucket hanging from the spike. The sap was drawn from the trees and collected in those buckets.
The guide explained that they began ‘tapping’ the trees in late January or early February. In the autumn, the sunlight weakens causing the leaves to change color and eventually die. At that point, the trees stop producing. But in the dead of winter, although indiscernible on the outside, inside the tree the sap begins to ascend and can start to be collected.
Late January to early February is about the time when we mark and celebrate Tu B’Shvat, the new year for trees. To the naked eye the trees appears bare and dead. But those who understand the workings of the tree know that internally there is sweetness that can be extracted.   
I often joke with my students that the most dreaded and trite words a child can hear from his parents/teachers is, “You have so much potential! If only you would use it!”
The greatest challenge is to recognize one’s inner greatness and get past all the impediments that get in the way of that growth.
Tu B’Shvat is a holiday for all those – children and adults - who have greatness within them that they aren’t yet aware of, or haven’t quite figured out how to utilize. It is a holiday which celebrates not so much what is, as much as what can/will be.
The most insightful parents and teachers their children and students with a Tu B’shvat perspective. The child may cause them aggravation and grief, and they may feel frustrated at times. But they never give up on the child because they know that inside the soul of the child there is sweet sap ascending that must be tapped into. The challenge is figuring out how to tap into it and draw it out.
Great people can see future fruits, even when the tree seems dormant and hopeless.  
Happy Tu B’Shvat!

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