Thursday, May 6, 2021

Parshas Behar-Bechukosai 5781



Erev Shabbos Kodesh parshas Behar-Bechukosai – Chazak!

40th day of the Omer – Avos perek 5

Mevorchim Chodesh Sivan

25 Iyar 5781/May 7, 2021


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לרפואה שלימה נטע יצחק בן רחל




            Seven months ago, our family enjoyed a beautiful Succos including an enjoyable Chol Hamoed. We went on a few outdoor activities with friends and family, and I was able to facilitate our community’s beautiful Chol Hamoed learning program. On Hoshana Rabba night I had the privilege to give a shiur via zoom from my succah. The following morning, I wasn’t feeling all that well, but nothing terrible. By afternoon, my symptoms worsened slightly, and we decided that it was best for me to test for covid.

            The nurse administered the test, sticking the suave through my nose and deep into my brain (or so it felt). A few minutes later she returned with the verdict – I had tested positive. When I told my wife, she told me that I was supposed to test negative. I must have missed that on the memo.

            As the last days of Yom Tov wore on, my symptoms increased, and I began to feel sicklier. Nevertheless, our quarantined family was able to enjoy family hakafos on Simchas Torah. It was quite a memorable experience. For each hakafah another one of our children donned my tallis and led the hakafah around the bimah - our dining room table. Our older children and I took turns holding our younger children on our shoulders, as the younger children excitedly waved their flags and carried the stuffed Torahs they had made in yeshiva. Plenty of candy and nosh was disseminated while we were dancing.  

            In addition, some of our wonderful neighbors stopped by our home on Simchas Torah after they finished davening and hakafos in shul. They sang and danced on our lawn as I stood at a distance singing along. It was a special gesture that helped us feel loved and appreciated.

            But there is no substitute for being there in person. It was far easier to be quarantined in our home the previous Pesach when everyone was quarantined, then it was to be quarantined on Simchas Torah when we knew the community was davening and celebrating Simchas Torah together.

            The same held true after Yom Tov ended and the world returned to work and yeshiva, while our family remained at home for the duration of the two-week quarantine.

            There is no replacement for Simchas Torah. The excitement that fills the air, the smiles and laughter of children and adults, the physical and spiritual energy generated while clutching and circling the Torah is unparalleled.

            When the quarantine ended, and our family was finally able to return to our regular routines the feeling of having missed out on Simchas Torah lingered.

            The Torah relates that when the first (and only) korbon Pesach was offered in the desert, there were individuals who were ritually impure and could not offer it with the rest of the nation. But those individuals were unhappy with their exemption and asked Moshe why they should lose out on the opportunity to bring the korbon Pesach. Because of their request, Hashem gave them Pesach Sheni – a second opportunity one month later, on the fourteenth of Iyar, to offer the korbon Pesach.

            I noted to Josh Heber, a neighbor in the community who was also sick and quarantined with Covid during Simchas Torah, that we should create a “Simchas Torah Sheni” for those of us who had missed out on the first Simchas Torah. He replied that he was all for it.

            I am excited to share that this Shabbos I and my family will iy”H indeed be celebrating our Simchas Torah Sheni!  The greatness of Torah is that one can always learn, and one can - and should - constantly celebrate his accomplishments in learning. I have recently completed my second cycle of learning the entirety of the six orders of mishnayos. To that end, our family is co-sponsoring kiddush in our shul after Mussaf this Shabbos to celebrate the siyum (Kehillas Zichron Yaakov - 7 Durante Rd, Spring Valley).

            Aside from this being an open invitation to join us, I share this in the hope that perhaps it will inspire others to take it upon themselves to learn mishnayos each day.  In fact, that is how I began as well. During my years as a bochur in the Bais Medrash of Yeshiva Shaarei Torah, we were joined by Rabbi Yosef Solomon a”h. Rabbi Solomon was a retired rebbe who sat in the Bais Medrash and learned b’chavrusa with one of my friends as if he was another bochur, though he was at least four decades older than we were.

            Rabbi Solomon was the one who encouraged me to begin learning mishnayos. He would say that all it takes is a few minutes to learn 1-2 mishnayos a day and over time one will enjoy the fruits of that investment. He was completely right! This week’s siyum then is a zechus for his neshama as well.  

            I don’t have a set amount of mishnayos that I learn or a particular schedule that I follow. But I try hard to rarely miss a day. The beauty of mishnayos is that it teaches general foundational knowledge of every part of the Torah.

            It is especially meaningful that the siyum will be the Shabbos of the week of the yahrtziets of both of my wife’s grandmothers. 27 Iyar is the yahrtzeit of my father-in-law’s mother, Rochel Bas Yonah (Mermelstein). Our daughter Aviva Rochel proudly carries her name. 29 Iyar is the yahrtzeit of my mother-in-law’s mother, Chaya bas Dovid (Kawer). Our daughter Chaya Tziporah proudly carries her name. May the neshamos of these two special women continue to have an aliyah in Gan Eden.

            This Shabbos, they won’t be selling the pesukim of atah hareisa like they do on Simchas Torah (although I did pay for the kiddush) nor will anyone be joyously throwing up children by Moshe emes (you never know). But Covid has reminded me that the ability to celebrate nearly a decade of personal daily Torah learning with my community is not to be taken for granted. 


            Shabbat Shalom & Good Shabbos

            R’ Dani and Chani Staum