Thursday, January 14, 2021

Parshas Vaera 5781



Erev Shabbos Kodesh parshas Vaera

2 Shevat 5781/January 15, 2021


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            We, the “United Children At the Shabbos Table” (U-CAST), in Order to form a more perfect Shabbos table, establish our rights, ensure (what we consider to be) domestic tranquility, provide for our common defense from parental demands, promote our general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our siblings, do ordain and hereby establish this Constitution of the Shabbos Table:

  1. The custom is not to come to the Shabbos table when your father calls. You can explain that the gemara relates that two angels accompany a person home from shul on Friday night - one good angel and one bad. You don’t want to join at the table until the bad angel leaves.
  2. There is a mitzvah to make kiddush on whine. We fulfill that by whining and arguing about which seat we were assigned at the Shabbos table. If your parents aren’t listening to your complaints, you can cry out “Give me liberty or give me no dessert!” (You probably won’t be getting dessert.)
  3. It is an obligation to complain about the amount of grape juice you received from kiddush. Like on Seder night, each child aims to have four cups.
  4. The challah is covered at the table to prevent it from being shamed. Therefore, we don’t need to worry about shaming or taunting siblings during the remainder of the Shabbos meal.  
  5. It is praiseworthy when one spreads mitzvos around. To fulfill that, when washing for challah the custom is to flick some of the water left on your hands at another sibling.  If the other sibling doesn’t scream or retaliate, it’s questionable whether the flicker has fulfilled this custom.
  6. “They can lead you to the water cooler or refrigerator, but they can’t force you to serve.” If they do, you can assert your constitutional right to say, “it’s not my job.”
  7. If your parents insist you sing one of the shabbos zemiros before leaving the table, sing “Let it Go” at the top of your lungs and tell your parents it’s a reference to letting go of the yetzer hara.
  8. Shabbos is a day of outpouring of blessings, so one should take too many croutons/noodles to put in the soup, so that he/she has soup with croutons, and not the other way around.
  9. The custom is to take more soda than you can finish. If your parent ever tries to guilt you into finishing your food or drinks because there are children starving in Africa, offer to pack it up so your parent can send it to them.
  10. All desserts must be equal. Federal law prohibits discrimination of any persons by having any pieces of dessert even slightly bigger than others. Although measuring on Shabbos is generally prohibited, this falls under the rubric of pikuach nefesh and therefore is permitted. It should also be noted that if one feels his/her piece is smaller than another’s, he/she can demand a recount.
  11. It is customary to sneak away from the Shabbos seudah to read The Circle/Mishpacha Junior/Zman/Ami Jr/Kid Speak (or Sports Illustrated). or whatever other book is available.  It is proper to fight with your siblings about who had it first, and whether leaving it on the couch is considered “still having it”.
  12. When asked to share a d’var Torah, there are two approaches: Some children look at their parents as if they are from Mars, so that the parents wonder why they are paying so much in tuition. Others proceed to say over every d’var Torah they ever heard from all their teachers until their parents fall asleep at the table. Either approach is appropriate.
  13. After the seudah is over, it is customary to forget about clearing the table. Some conveniently go to the bathroom just prior to bentching with a stomachache and have a miraculous recovery as soon as the table is cleared. Others have the custom to bentch with tremendous kavnah, saying every word with intense concentration, until the table has been cleared. As soon as that happens, they skip the remainder of bentching. Others go to a friend’s house before the meal is over, so they don’t have to clear.



We hold these truths to be self-evident and affirm to maintain these articles of law as can be witnessed in homes throughout the world each Friday Night!


            Shabbat Shalom & Good Shabbos,

            R’ Dani and Chani Staum       




Thursday, January 7, 2021




Erev Shabbos Kodesh parshas Shemos

24 Teves 5781/January 8, 2021

Mevorchim Chodesh Shevat


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.




            This past Shabbos our family was discussing that famous Shakespearean bonnet (that’s what Shakespeare wore in the rain when composing his deepest poetry): “Chazak Chazak v’nischasek, my mother baked a chocolate cake and in the cake there was rake and in the rake there was a snake.”

            We were debating the great wisdom invested in this deep rhyme. How did a rake end up in a cake and how did a snake end up in a rake? More importantly, why does it have to be a chocolate cake? And what if my wife made it and not my mother- does that fulfill the obligation? We also wondered why the cake didn’t fall in a lake owned by Jake who just ate a steak?

            In the end, we admitted that the deeper meaning eludes us and we’ll have to add it to the list of “tayku”s which will have to wait for Eliyahu Hanavi.

            The more worthy point that emerges from the silly poem is to have a cake to celebrate the completion of learning an entire Chumash.

            New Years is a time of resolutions, when people commit to accomplish things they may have always wanted to do but haven’t done in the past. Everyone is always looking for the key to help them maintain their resolutions and meet their goals.

            One important tip is to celebrate small accomplishments. One’s ultimate goals are often a long journey away. Celebrating smaller milestones along the way infuses a person with momentum to stay the course until the larger goal is met.

            The same holds true regarding spiritual matters. When we celebrate easier and smaller accomplishments along the way, it gives us added confidence to work towards bigger goals.

            A year ago, Klal Yisroel celebrated the incredible siyum hashas. But every few months there is a siyum on another masechta that also warrants celebration. It’s often a good idea to celebrate completing every chapter along the way, at least in a small manner.

            On Simchas Torah we have a passionate celebration of our completion of the entire Torah. But four other times during the year we mark the Shabbos when we complete a Chumash by rising together and encouraging ourselves to forge onward.

            I recently reread the autobiography of my rebbe, Rabbi Berel Wein, “Teach Them Diligently”. It struck me afterwards that, like many autobiographies, each chapter was formulated based on a period of his life. Each major change in his life warranted the beginning of a new chapter. It didn’t matter whether he was in a certain location/job for 5 years or 20 years. It all fit it into one chapter.

            Most of us dread change. But it seems that it’s those very changes that color the stories of our lives. As long as things remain the same, it’s all part of the same chapter. There can be great accomplishments and growth but all within one basic stage of life. As soon as the situation changes however, it becomes a new stage of life with its own narrative, direction and perspective.

            In the end, it doesn’t matter whether you celebrate with chocolate or vanilla, a cake or a knish, or if the cake is made by your mother or your wife. The main thing is to recognize and celebrate accomplishment. But for goodness sake - keep the snake out of the cake!


            Shabbat Shalom & Good Shabbos,

            R’ Dani and Chani Staum