Thursday, December 5, 2019


Erev Shabbos Kodesh parshas Vayetzei
8 Kislev 5780/December 6, 2019


            As far as the weather was concerned, this was a Thanksgiving to remember. Across the United States, the holiday celebration was impacted. In the Northwest there were powerful winds; the Midwest was hit with blizzard like conditions. Flights were cancelled, travel plans were disrupted, and thousands lost power. And in the Northeast.... the balloons in the Macy’s day parade were in danger of being grounded. The headlines kept repeating the national forecast - “strong winds, white-out conditions, and balloons may not fly in New York.”
            The Thanksgiving Day parade began in 1924 as a three-hour event in Manhattan, ending in front of Macy’s Herald Square. The first three years the parade featured floats, professional bands, and live animals borrowed from the Central Park Zoo. In 1927 the animals were replaced with inflatable balloons; the first balloon was of Felix the Cat.
            In 1997, a massive Cat in the Hat balloon slammed into a steel lamppost, shearing off part of the post and injuring four people, including one person who spent 24 days in a coma.
            In 2005, a M & M balloon, 515 pounds of polyurethane filled with 13,335 cubic feet of helium, hit a light pole and was punctured. As the balloon collapsed, it knocked over a streetlight and injured spectators. It prompted the introduction of new rules for the 2006 parade. One of the new rules was that the balloons would not fly if there were sustained winds over 23 mph, or gusts exceeding 34 mph.
            Thankfully the balloons were able to fly, but it was quite a scare there for a while. It was only the morning of the parade when the decision was made that the balloons to fly, albeit closer to the ground.
            In a sense, the balloons are a great representation of certain components of our society, in the sense that they are tremendous attention-grabbers that in reality are nothing more than vapid air. The world of social media is one such example. When browsing people’s Social Media pages, their lives seem so idyllic and perfect. But it’s all an illusion. People only post the part of their lives that they want others to see. The rest of it, which is probably most of it, is hidden from view.
            The endless pursuit for wealth and the life of the rich and famous is another example. It’s no secret that the world of Hollywood isn’t nearly as glamorous as it seems. That too is a mirage that captures our imagination and draws us after it. Like the balloons in the parade, there are many who are injured by those mirages, because the tempestuous realities of life force the air out of them.
            There was another event last week that captured everyone’s attention when Elon Musk unveiled the new Cybertruck. There were many surprises during the event, including a significant surprise for Musk himself. First, to prove the truck’s durability, his designer forcefully slammed a sledgehammer into the side of the truck, which didn’t even leave a mark. But then he had his designer throw a metal ball at the “armor glass” window. To Musk’s shock and chagrin, the window smashed upon impact. The same thing happened when he threw it at the back window. It was embarrassing for Musk to have to give the rest of his presentation in front of the truck with two shattered windows.
            Afterwards, Musk explained what went wrong. When the sledgehammer slammed into the truck, although it didn’t seem to have any effect on the truck, it cracked the base of the glass, which was hidden from view. Therefore, when the metal ball was thrown at the window, it caused the window to smash. (A video of the metal ball being thrown at the window during a pre-event test indeed showed the ball bouncing harmlessly off the window.) Musk concluded that he should have had the ball thrown at the window before the sledgehammer was slammed against the truck.
            In that situation, it was what was indiscernible and what was beneath the surface, that mattered.
            Most of the time we draw conclusions based on what we see. But the reality is that most of what happens is caused by things beneath the surface.
            In the Torah, Eisav is called Edom - Red, because when Yaakov was cooking and Eisav was hungry all he noticed was the red color of the food. Seeing something solely for its color is the epitome of superficiality. Yaakov on the other hand was a person who “sat in tents”. He was a person who pondered and contemplated, which enabled him to be a person of sophistication and depth.
            In our daily course of events we have the choice to be blinded by the vapidity surrounding us, or to recognize that there is far more beneath the surface that we aren’t privy to, but that significantly effects the impact of everything we experience. It’s the choice between being a superficial person or a person of depth.

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