Thursday, December 30, 2021

Parshas Vaeira 5782



Erev Shabbos Kodesh parshas Vaera  

Mevorchim Chodesh Shevat

27 Teves 5782/December 31, 2021


To be added to my “Striving Higher” WhatsApp chat with periodic chizuk clips, or my “Power Parenting” WhatsApp chat with weekly ideas about parenting, text me at 845-641-5094.


לרפואה שלימה נטע יצחק בן רחל


            Try to tell a child today that when you were a kid you used to write letters, and he will look at you strangely. He may even ask you if you wrote a, b or c?

            Once upon a time, children went off to summer camp and their parents would remind them to write letters. Wise parents would place self-addressed, stamped letters in their child’s suitcase before the child left to camp. Even wiser parents would remind their children that canteen money would be sent in response to letters written home.

            Back then, during dinner in camp, every camper would excitedly rush to the table, eager to find out if someone sent him a letter.

            I have many fond memories from the letters I received from my parents, grandparents, and friends, when I was a camper. Aside from asking how things were going and hoping I was having a great time, my father’s letters often included lamenting about how poorly the Yankees were doing (in the early 1990s the Yankees were pretty bad). Without those updates, I would have had no clue. Those letters were our connection to the outside world.

            These days, campers know the scores of every game often before their parents back home know. Campers also receive numerous printed emails delivered to their table each night. It’s rare for a camper to receive a handwritten letter. If he does, he may be confused about how to open it. Sometimes his teenage counselor is just as bewildered.

            More than the information they contained, handwritten letters helped us feel connected to the writer of the letter.

            According to the US Postal Service, the average home only received a personal letter once every seven weeks in 2010, down from once every two weeks in 1987. In recent years, the average American only received 10 pieces of handwritten mail throughout the year! Who has time for stamps, stationery, and “manual” spell-check?

            Cousins of ours who made Aliyah a few decades ago were looking to move to a newly developing yishuv (settlement) in Eretz Yisroel. As part of the vetting process to decide if they were a good fit for the community, they were told they had to submit a handwritten essay that contained certain pertinent information, that would be reviewed by a graphologist.

            After they submitted it, the graphologist wrote a report describing their personalities and other information about them that she gleaned from their writing.

            My cousin related that the results were eerie. The graphologist’s report was incredibly accurate. It was as if she had known them for years. All that from one essay written in his and her own handwriting.

            Seeing someone’s handwriting is seeing a piece of the person.

            The beauty of a handwritten note is that it shows deeper investment and appreciation than a simple verbal or emailed thank-you.

            A valuable, yet often forgotten, way to enhance relationships is to leave written messages in different places.

            A friend related that one year before Yom Kippur he left a personalized note in each of his older children’s machzorim, telling them how proud he was of them and blessing them with a wonderful year. Of course, he could have just told them. But he wanted them to have the written note that they could reread many times.

            Personally, as a rebbe I know how meaningful it is when I receive a handwritten personalized message of gratitude from a student or his parents. Checks are always nice, but written messages recognizing effort and devotion are far more memorable.

            Between spouses especially, handwritten notes are invaluable. A brief message of gratitude or affection left where the other spouse is sure to see it, can go a long way in keeping the spark of love aflame.

            In addition, handwritten Torah notes, are especially precious. When my rebbe, Rabbi Berel Wein, made Aliyah with his wife in 1997, he had to downsize and leave behind many seforim from his vast library. He allowed talmidim to take many of his seforim.

            To that end, I have in my possession Rabbi Wein’s gemara Kiddushin from his Yeshiva days. It is marked up with many notes in the margins, as well as quite a few loose pages full of notes from his Rebbe’s shiurim.

            My Zaydei, Rabbi Yaakov Meir Kohn, was also an avid note taker. Most of his notes, however, were written shorthand in a makeshift Lithuanian script in with the all the letters of a word were connected, making it challenging to decipher. He also often wrote on the back of any paper next to him when he was learning, including old bills, invitations, and advertisements.

            It is always a painstaking process, going from word to word trying to decipher what my Zaydei wrote. Thankfully, I have had some success, and I feel blessed to have been able to glean a pittance from his wellsprings of knowledge through his written notes. But even the many notes that I cannot read and don’t know what he meant, are very near and dear to me, because when I hold and read his writing, I feel connected to him.

            In many yeshivos, a rebbe will hang up a small paper containing ‘mareh mekomos’ (reference pages that are pre-studied in order to understand an upcoming shiur/ Talmudic lecture). A friend related that in his Yeshiva, students would vie to get hold of that paper after the shiur. Whoever got it would then tape it into the front of their Gemara. It was a pride-thing to have the Rebbe’s handwritten notes.

            I don’t think my children can relate to having an old shoe box filled with old letters or short notes from former colleagues or friends? Periodically, when I come across my box full of old letters from decades ago, I take some time to read the messages. It brings back fond memories, smiles, and often evokes strong emotions.

            We don’t print emails and display them on our desks or refrigerators, the way we might with letters from friends. Handwritten notes have permanence and conveys a message of appreciation. It shows that we are willing to take a few minutes from our day to actually put pen to paper in an attempt to convey emotions and deeper feelings. It is a forgotten art that helps forge true and meaningful connection. What’s even greater is that those notes and messages remain for years to come.

            As our world becomes more impersonal and regimented, it’s worthy to remember the value and unparalleled sense of connection of the written word.


            Shabbat Shalom & Good Shabbos,

            R’ Dani and Chani Staum       


Thursday, December 23, 2021

Parshas Shemos 5782



Erev Shabbos Kodesh parshas Shemos

20 Teves 5782/December 24, 2021


To be added to my “Striving Higher” WhatsApp chat with periodic chizuk clips, or my “Power Parenting” WhatsApp chat with weekly ideas about parenting, text me at 845-641-5094.


לרפואה שלימה נטע יצחק בן רחל


            I once read that a real friend is someone who asks you how you’re doing and sticks around to hear the answer.

            On the flip side, there are certain individuals who, when asked how they are doing, reply over-enthusiastically for full affect: “F-A-N-T-A-S-T-IC!” “A-M-A-Z-I-N-G!” “I-N-C-R-E-D-I-B-L-E!”

            Imagine being fantastic, incredible, and amazing, every single day!

            It’s been noted that “we hide behind our Baruch Hashems.” In other words, when people ask us how we are doing we smile and nonchalantly reply “Baruch Hashem”, essentially skirting the question.

            Of course, that doesn’t mean we should be detailing all our struggle and issues with every acquaintance who asks us how it’s going. But when we feel we have to present ourselves as if everything about us and our lives is perfect, we are doing a great disservice, to ourselves and to others.

            One of our greatest needs is for validation. No one likes feeling like he or she is crazy or out of control. There is a vast difference however, when everyone feels that he/he has to present his/her life as peachy, cheery and always perfect. When everyone around us is doing so, we start to wonder what’s wrong with me? Why am I the only person that doesn’t have it all together, all the time? It’s at the root of the prevalent feelings of inadequacy that is part of so many people’s lives.

            Rabbi Dr. Abraham Twerski noted that addicts who attend twelve-step meetings have the greatest form of support. At those meetings, no one is recognized for their profession. A wealthy entrepreneur or CEO of a Fortune 500 can sit next to a pauper, and a prominent doctor next to an unemployed vagabond. At those meetings everyone leads by their weakness, and, therefore, everyone is able to draw support, love and encouragement from each other. The barriers of shame, emotional darkness and isolation are removed with the collective courage to be vulnerable.

            Rabbi Twerski would note that if only we were able to bring such meetings to the general public, we too could gain so much from each other. But as long as we continue to hide behind our Baruch Hashems that can never happen.

            A few weeks ago, hundreds of Jews from all over Eretz Yisroel attended the funeral of Lior Shai, who passed away at the relatively young age of 50.

            Lior lost both his parents in a terrorist attack when he was 3 years old. He and his brother were raised by his aunt. Shortly after he and his wife married, they became religious, and raised a beautiful family of 10 children. Lior lived his life according to the teachings of Rav Nachman of Breslov.

            When he was 50 years old, the tumor that would eventually take his life was discovered. Until the end, when he was asked how he was doing he would reply “זה הרגע המאושר בחיי - this is the greatest moment in my life.” He would say that if all we have is this moment, then we have to see this moment as an opportunity.

            Recently, his family compiled and circulated a beautiful video in his memory. It begins with narration from his wife in which she speaks about their life together, what a positive person Lior was, and how he lived with tremendous bitachon in Hashem. The rest of the video has clips of people of all backgrounds repeating Lidor’s mantra: זה הרגע המאושר בחיי.

            I was very moved by the beautifully produced video and by its poignant message. Who doesn’t want to live a life in which he or she constantly feels “this is the greatest moment of my life”?

            But upon further reflection I realized that living up to such a beautiful mantra isn’t achieved by watching a five minute video, no matter how incredible the video is. To live in such a manner that one always feels the present moment is the greatest gift no matter what he is going through, entails a great investment of mental energy, a shift in perspective, and a great deal of faith. Those things don’t come easy. They are attainable, but only if one prioritizes it and is constantly reflecting on it. It seems that Lior a”h lived that way, because he prioritized it and worked towards achieving such a feeling constantly, even when he was sick.

            It’s easy to say that one is “fantastic”, “amazing”, and “incredible”, or that “this is the greatest moment of my life”, but it’s far more challenging to actually feel that way. There is surely something to be said for one who says “this is the greatest moment of my life” even if he doesn’t feel that way yet, if he is working and trying to truly live that way. But otherwise, he is simply deluding himself.

            Life is complicated, gray, messy, painful, perplexing, anxiety-provoking, and often downright confusing. While it’s never good to be a kvetch or a complainer, there is no virtue in removing from ourselves the greatest source of encouragement available - that of understanding friends and loved ones.

            It’s also not all or nothing. A person is entitled to have a bad day or even week, and that doesn’t negate his/her efforts to be more positive and strengthen his faith.

            Life is about the journey. We hope we have many years to continue the arduous climb before we arrive at the destination. Along the way we can continue to live an enriched life if we remind ourselves that every day is a gift, even on days when we don’t feel that way.

            Baruch Hashem!


            Shabbat Shalom & Good Shabbos,

            R’ Dani and Chani Staum       


Thursday, December 16, 2021

Parshas Vayechi 5782



Erev Shabbos Kodesh parshas Vayechi - Shabbos Chazak

13 Teves 5782/December 17, 2021


To be added to my “Striving Higher” WhatsApp chat with periodic chizuk clips, or my “Power Parenting” WhatsApp chat with weekly ideas about parenting, text me at 845-641-5094.


לרפואה שלימה נטע יצחק בן רחל


            A few weeks ago, at the end of November, I had the pleasure of attending the therapist track at the Agudah Convention. On Thursday and Friday of the convention weekend, there were lectures and presentations specifically geared for therapists. It was also an opportunity to network and meet colleagues in the field.

            Aside for the great insights and connections that I was able to forge, one of the highlights for me actually had nothing to do with therapy or counseling.

            On Friday morning after shachris, I went to the dining room for breakfast. As with all the meals, there was quite a spread for breakfast, with many delicious choices.

            After selecting my meal, I placed my breakfast on a table, including a steaming omelet made to my specification from the omelet station. When I went to get a drink, I noticed that Rabbi Shloime Mandel, the Rosh Yeshiva of Yeshiva of Brooklyn, had just sat down to eat breakfast as well.

            I met Rabbi Mandel when he came to Camp Dora Golding for davening for a few days during previous summers, while he had been vacationing in the Poconos. Due to Covid restrictions, he hadn’t been there the previous two summers. I approached the Rosh Yeshiva and introduced myself, noting that we missed seeing him in camp, and hoped we would be graced with his visit again this coming summer. He smiled and said there was a story behind those visits to camp. He asked me if my wife was waiting for me. When I replied that she wasn’t at the convention he shared the story.

            He began that one summer a few decades back, he had been looking to get away for a few days. He was looking for a somewhat remote location that had three minyanim daily. Someone informed him that there was a place called Camp Dora Golding which had only Russian campers.

            I told Rabbi Mandel that it must have been the summer of 1995. At the time Camp Dora Golding only had 70 campers, and Camp Kesharim - a camp for Jewish boys from Russia - rented out half of the camp.[1]

            I’ll continue the story in his words.

            “I called the camp to find out what time ma’ariv was. When I arrived and walked into the shul assuming I wouldn’t know anyone, I immediately saw a young man who lived on my block in Brooklyn making a beeline across the room towards me. He was a counselor in the camp, and he wanted to know if he could bring Alex, a fifteen year old camper of his, over to meet me to ask me a question. I asked him what Alex’s story was. My neighbor explained that Alex was the best camper in the camp. He was deeply motivated and loved davening and learning. In fact, he knew the entire Pirkei Avos by heart. But Alex didn’t have a b’ris milah. A few years earlier, when he first began learning and was excited to become more observant, his parents gave him the choice of either having a b’ris milah or attending Yeshiva, but not both.[2]

            “Meanwhile, Ma’ariv was beginning, and Alex happened to be the chazzan. I was very moved by Alex’s sincere and heartfelt davening. Afterwards, his counselor indeed brought him over to me and Alex presented his question. He began by asking me if Moshe was the greatest tzaddik ever? I replied that I definitely am not one to decide who was the greatest, but there’s no doubt that he is one of the greatest people who ever lived. Alex then quoted the Mishnah in Pirkei Avos which states that “One should nullify his own will because of the Will of Hashem”[3]. Then he asked - if Hashem didn’t want Moshe Rabbeinu to enter Eretz Yisroel, why did Moshe keep davening - 515 times in all - that Hashem allow him to enter the Land? Shouldn’t the great Moshe have pushed aside his own deep desire, if Hashem didn’t want it?

            “As I listened to his question, tears welled up in my eyes. I realized Alex was really asking about himself. He so badly wanted to attend a Yeshiva, and it was clear that he constantly davened to have that opportunity. As his prayers had not yet been answered, he wondered if perhaps it was wrong to continue praying when it seemed that it wasn’t Hashem’s Will?

            “I replied that there is a concept that Hashem will sometimes withhold blessing temporarily because He wants the person to continue davening, so that their prayer can be granted in a greater fashion. Something ascertained because of prayer is holier and loftier. It was for that reason that the patriarchs and matriarchs only merited children after years of tears and prayer.[4]

            “During the time when he davened 515 times, Moshe Rabbeinu was yet unaware that Hashem didn’t want him to enter the Land. Moshe thought it was incumbent upon him to continue praying, just as the patriarchs and matriarchs had done[5].

            “Indeed, as soon as Hashem instructed him to stop praying, he did so, and never asked again if he could enter the Land.

            “The message to Alex was that he should never stop davening, because, unlike Moshe Rabbeinu, he had never been told to restrain himself from davening. Oftentimes great things require extra prayers, tears and patience.”

            I thanked Rabbi Mandel for the beautiful story, but he then added the following addendum:

            “While reflecting back on that incident a few years later, I was wondering to myself why Hashem used such strong words when instructing Moshe to stop davening to enter the Land, “Do not continue to speak to Me anymore about this matter![6]” Why didn’t He simply tell Moshe that it wasn’t His will for Him to enter, and that it wouldn’t bode well for the nation? Why the seemingly harsh commandment?

            “The Gemara[7] asks why Moshe so yearned to enter Eretz Yisroel? It surely wasn’t because he wanted to try out the restaurants or see the tourist attractions. The Gemara explains that Moshe desired to perform the unique mitzvos endemic to the Land. Despite all he had done and accomplished throughout his life, he still felt spiritually malnourished, and wanted to serve Hashem in every way possible.

            “Perhaps, it was in response to that deep desire that Hashem instructed Moshe to not daven again about that matter. “Moshe, you love mitzvos and desire to serve me in ways you didn’t have the chance to do so before. Therefore, I will give you a “mitzvah” that no one before or after had. It is the mitzvah for you not to daven for the matter which you desire so much.”

            “In this way, for the remainder of his life, whenever Moshe wanted to daven to enter the Land and would restrain himself from doing so, he would be serving Hashem in a most unique fashion.”

            Rabbi Mandel continued:

            “About six years ago I had the opportunity to have a private audience with Rav Chaim Kanievsky. While there, Rav Chaim noticed my wristwatch and motioned that I should remove it.[8] Anyone who knows me knows that I’m extremely punctual and conscientious about time, and I couldn’t hide my disappointment at Rav Chaim’s instruction. When Rav Chaim noticed that I wasn’t happy about removing my watch, he said that I should put a clock on the wall. When he saw that I was still not happy, he humorously said that I can wear the watch on my foot. When I replied that then I would then be ‘l’ma’alah min hazman - above time’, Rav Chaim laughed heartily. But then he said that I could wear a pocket watch.”

            At that point, Rabbi Mandel opened his jacket and showed me that he was wearing a pocket-watch. He noted that it was very difficult for him to make the transition, but whenever he thinks about it, he feels good, knowing that he is constantly listening to the instruction of a tzaddik, and thereby fulfilling a unique mitzvah.”

            Rabbi Mandel’s poignant message was that we serve Hashem not only by fulfilling His will, but also by restraining ourselves from doing things we want, and that too is an integral way of fulfilling His will.

            The same is true regarding all relationships. It’s not only about what we do, but also about what we don’t do, in honor and deference to our spouse, friend, or neighbor.

            It’s an invaluable idea for enhancing our avodas Hashem, shalom bayis and all interpersonal relationships. It’s well worth a cold omelet.


            Shabbat Shalom & Good Shabbos,

            R’ Dani and Chani Staum       

[1] The next summer, the current director, Alex Gold, took over the camp and began the revitalization Camp Dora Golding has enjoyed since.

[2] Rabbi Mandel noted that the decision had obviously been made that he should rather attend yeshiva than have a b’ris.  However, that was halachically incorrect. The severity of not having a Milah outweighs the vital need to learn Torah.

[3] Avos 2:4

[4] Yevamos 64a

[5] And in fulfillment of the pasuk “Hope to Hashem, strengthen and make your heart courageous, and (again) hope to Hashem” (Tehillim 27:14).

[6] Devorim 3:26

[7] Sotah 14a

[8] It is well-known that Rav Chaim rules that watches are a woman’s clothing and, therefore, men cannot wear them.  

Thursday, December 9, 2021

Parshas Vayigash 5782



Erev Shabbos Kodesh parshas Vayigash  

7 Teves 5782/December 10, 2021


To be added to my “Striving Higher” WhatsApp chat with periodic chizuk clips, or my “Power Parenting” WhatsApp chat with weekly ideas about parenting, text me at 845-641-5094.


לרפואה שלימה נטע יצחק בן רחל


            This week the highest volcano on Indonesia's most densely populated island erupted, sending smoldering debris and thick mud in all directions. The sudden eruption spewed thick columns of ash more than 40,000 feet into the air, causing searing gas and lava to flow uninhibitedly down its slopes. Several villages were blanketed with falling ash and people were advised to stay over 3 miles from the crater's mouth. At least 13 people died and 57 more were hospitalized, including 16 in critical condition with burn injuries.

            It was a painful reminder of the deadly devastation a volcano can produce without warning.

            Early in my educational career, I had the pleasure of being the school social worker in Yeshiva Bais Hachinuch in Monsey. During those years, I conducted a weekly social skills group with the fifth grade students about anger management.

            One of the strategies we discussed was the need to always be aware of one’s inner temper. We may at times feel edgy, grumpy, or restless without recognizing that such feelings make us more prone to angry flare ups. We would use an “anger volcano” to measure where our inner “lava level” was in order to determine how prone we might be to an eruption.

            The volcano model is very apropos. When a person loses his temper, he is in danger of spewing harmful invective that can cause irrevocable damage. The words screamed in a fit of rage can “overflow” quickly rapidly destroying whatever is in its path, including self-esteem and quality of hard built relationships, particularly of those he loves most. Of course, one can apologize and try to patch things up, but once uttered, words can’t be retrieved.

            During those years in Bais Hachinuch, I had the privilege, along with Dr. Yitzy Schechter, to co-author two pamphlets for parents. One was entitled “Anger: A guide for parents”; the other was entitled “Communicating with our children.”

            One of the points that I stressed in my groups and in the pamphlet was that anger is a normal and natural emotion. We can’t always control when we get angry and how intense our anger will be. We can also learn a lot about our values and what’s important to us by analyzing what triggers us and makes us angry.

            On the other hand, we are always responsible for how we respond and react when we are angry. Even if one is furious or livid and even if his extreme anger might be justified, there is never a valid excuse to act in a hurtful manner or say hurtful comments. It is our responsibility to be in control of our anger, and not allow our anger to consume us.

            When I wrote this idea in the pamphlet, a colleague suggested that such an approach might not be in sync with Torah outlook. He noted that there are a few statements in the gemara which equate anger with idolatry[1]. Therefore, perhaps we must teach our students that they have to strive to never feel anger.

            I was skeptical and presented his point to a few Torah leaders. They all replied with the same basic theme: We cannot teach children that they must eliminate all anger. Such is the level of rare individuals, such as the great Hillel who could not be provoked to anger (Shabbos 31a). But regarding the masses, we need to convey that although anger is natural, we are always responsible and accountable for our words and actions. When the gemara states that one who becomes angry is like he served idolatry, it is referring to one who lost control because of his anger and acted inappropriately as a result.

            Rabbi Ezriel Erlanger, mashgiach of Yeshivas Mir in Brooklyn, NY, noted that Pirkei Avos is the barometer and guide for a Jew’s conduct and outlook. Since we do not find in Pirkei Avos a demand that one never become angry, that indicates that we do not aspire for such a lofty level, and certainly shouldn’t demand it of our children. In fact, the mishna speaks of four different people who become angry, lauding the person who doesn’t lose himself to his anger.

            My rebbe, Rabbi Berel Wein, relates that his father-in-law, Rabbi Levin, was an orphan who lived in the home of the Chofetz Chaim for a number of years. Rabbi Levin would recount that, contrary to public opinion, the Chofetz Chaim had a natural temper. The greatness of the Chofetz Chaim was that he maintained complete control over his temper.

             When the Chofetz Chaim felt the slightest tinge of anger welling up within him, he would excuse himself and walk away from what was angering him and would talk to himself: “Yisroel Meir, why are you becoming angry? Yisroel Meir calm yourself.”

            Only when he felt calm enough, did he return to the provoking conversation or situation. At times, he would excuse himself more than once, as long as the feeling persisted.

            It is also related that the Chofetz Chaim would enter the Bais Medrash late at night after everyone had left. One night, a student hid in the women’s section to watch the Chofetz Chaim. He watched clandestinely as the Chofetz Chaim opened the Aron kodesh and pleaded, “Master of the World, Yisroel Meir (referring to himself) is a kohain. Please help me that I not lose my temper.”

            It is worth adding that the Ba’al HaTanya writes that one who has a natural temper, has an inner fire. If he learns how to channel that energy and feistiness, he can accomplish great things and serve Hashem and assist others, with passion and vibrancy.

            We can’t always squelch the anger within ourselves. But with effort and attention we can ensure that we don’t become overwhelmed by anger, but always remain in the emotional driver seat.

            It takes effort, but it can be done. Just imagine how much good could be generated if we were able to channel the force of exploding lava into productive energy.[2]


            Shabbat Shalom & Good Shabbos,

            R’ Dani and Chani Staum       

[1] “One who tears his clothes, breaks his utensils, and destroys his money in his rage should be in your eyes as one who commits idolatry” (Shabbos 105b).

[2] If anyone feels he/she could benefit from the pamphlet about anger, please email me and I’ll be happy to send a PDF.

Thursday, December 2, 2021

Parshas Mikeitz Shabbos Chanuka 5782



Erev Shabbos Kodesh parshas Miketz  

29 Kislev 5782/December 3, 2021

Shabbos Chanukah – Rosh Chodesh Teves


To be added to my “Striving Higher” WhatsApp chat with periodic chizuk clips, or my “Power Parenting” WhatsApp chat with weekly ideas about parenting, text me at 845-641-5094.


לרפואה שלימה נטע יצחק בן רחל



            Chanukah presents us with a difficult dilemma. The custom of eating foods that contain a lot of grease, to remind us of our victory over Greece, has a special place in our Chanukah observance. While most of us really enjoy fried latkes and assorted donuts, those aren’t exactly the healthiest of foods. But I am happy to announce that I have found a way that you can have latkes/donuts and enjoy them too, in a manner that doesn’t add any calories, and isn’t at all unhealthy. In fact, the more donuts/latkes you enjoy on my program, the better. What’s more, my program is free and doesn’t entail any obligation.

            One day, as Rabbi Shraga Feivel Mendlowitz was preparing to begin saying shiur, his talmidim went to gather chairs. Rabbi Mendlowitz noticed one talmid who brought a chair and sat down to await the shiur beginning. He told the talmid that it was a wasted opportunity. If he had brought two chairs, one for someone else, he could have had a chair for himself and performed a chesed for someone else. But instead, he had only concerned himself with his own needs.

            When a new couple stands together under the chuppah, the universal custom is for the chosson to step on and shatter a glass.

            (As an aside, following the chuppah, my father often carefully snatches the cloth napkin with the broken shards in it. He then presents it to the chosson during Sheva Berachos, as a reminder of the last time he was able to “put his foot down”.)

            The well-known reason for doing so is so that at the moment of our greatest joy, we demonstrate that our celebration is incomplete, as long as the Bais Hamikdash has not yet been rebuilt.

            The Imrei Emes however, offered an additional symbolism of the smashing glass. Before one is married, he is concerned with his own needs, metaphorically filling his personal cup. Under the chuppah, right after he has married, the chosson smashes the glass, symbolizing that he can no longer only worry about his own desires and needs. From now on, he has to care for his wife and ensure that he is tending to and “filling her cup” as well.

            When describing the intensity of the plague of darkness in Egypt, the Torah states, “No man could see his brother, nor could anyone rise from his place.” (Shemos 10:23)

            The Chiddushei Harim notes that the greatest darkness is when one doesn’t don’t see/notice others. When one goes about his life wrapped in his own bubble of needs and wants and doesn’t stop to consider the situation, perspective or plight of others, that is true darkness.

            Conversely, when one lives beyond himself, investing time and emotional energy to consider others, that illuminates the world surrounding. The intense darkness of Egypt was the result of the fact that “no man could see his brother”. They were too busy caring only for themselves.

            At the beginning of parshas Miketz, Pharaoh had two dreams that disturbed him terribly. His advisors tried to offer interpretations - including that he would have seven daughters who would subsequently die - but Pharaoh categorically rejected all of them. It was only when Yosef informed him that there would be seven years of plenty followed by seven years of famine that Pharaoh accepted his interpretation.

            What made Pharaoh so confident that Yosef’s interpretation was correct?

            As a monarch, Pharaoh understood that his dreams were not for him alone, but that they effected his entire kingdom. A king doesn’t live for himself, but rather with the weight and responsibility of his entire kingdom. The interpretations of the Egyptian magicians and wise men suggested that his dreams portended personal events regarding his own family.

            Yosef however, explained the national message and suggested what needed to be done for the sake of his entire kingdom, and that resonated with Pharaoh.

            We light Chanukah candles in a location where it can best be seen by others. The “festival of lights” isn’t just celebrating the light we generate for ourselves, but more significantly, the light we spread to others. We light one candle at a time, symbolizing our ability to add a little more light to the world through our actions and words.

            So, how can you enjoy endless donuts and latkes without getting fatter? Give them away to others!

            Every donut I eat makes me a bigger person, but not in the way I want. Every donut I give away also makes me a bigger person, albeit in a manner I hope will remain with me for a long time.

The good news is that even if at the time you’re reading this, Chanukah has already concluded, you can still enjoy the light of Chanukah and donuts and latkes.

            As long as we are thinking about others, and seeking to make their day a little brighter, the Chanukah candles continue to burn within us, illuminating our lives, and brightening the world.


            Freilichen Chanukah & Orot Sameiach

            Shabbat Shalom & Good Shabbos

            Chodesh Tov & Good Chodesh

            R’ Dani and Chani Staum