Thursday, February 29, 2024

Parshas Ki Sisa 5784




Erev Shabbos Kodesh Parshas Ki Sisa

21 Adar I 5784/ March 2, 2024



In a recent edition of her daily WhatsApp, Sivan Rahav-Meir, disseminated the following:

“Kama Hochman is a 7-year-old girl who lives in Bnei Netzarim, a charming little moshav in southern Israel. Her father is presently doing reserve duty in Khan Yunis. This week she decided to write a letter to Yahya Sinwar, the leader of Hamas. It seems to me that this simple and innocent letter is much truer and more to the point than the decisions handed down at the Hague or the UN.

“Listen to 7-year-old Kama:

“To Sinwar

Shalom! I am Kama, I’m in second grade and live in the Gaza periphery. I want to tell you that G-d chose the nation of Israel to be His people and, therefore, even if you try to kill us, we will win. I am wishing that you will be caught, and that the nation of Israel will live with quiet and in peace.””


I am impressed with Kama’s perspective. She was obviously taught that she is part of a special people and that our national ordeal is part of a bigger picture.

It reminded me of an anecdote that my rebbe, Rabbi Berel Wein, often relates:

After the Second World War ended, a former SS guard recounted one occasion when he was rounding up Jews and throwing them onto trucks to be taken to be killed. He found a young Jewish boy hiding and pulled him out. The boy looked him in the eye and said, “I’m Yaakov and you’re Eisav. Even though you’re about to kill me, I would still rather be Yaakov than Eisav.”


At this year’s Agudah Convention in December 2023, during the popular Thursday night session entitled, “Asking for a friend” with Rav Aharon Lopiansky and Rav Yosef Elefant, Rav Elefant said the following:

“As far as children are concerned, I think that Jewish history, our tzaros – the Holocaust, Crusades, Tach V’tat (the Cossack massacres of 1648-1649), are all part of the timeline from the Churban; it’s part of the history that dates back to Har Sinai. Our mesorah, our history, is critical to the context of our Avodas Hashem and our mission in the world.

“It’s absolutely critical that we speak to children about the historical context of what’s happening. It’s part of our mesorah, part of our connection to Sinai.

“Someone from a yeshiva in Lakewood called me a few months ago and said they have an hour of General Studies a week. What should they teach?

I told them they should teach Jewish history. The students should have a context of the continuity and the plan. Teaching Jewish history is not about teaching gory details or trauma. Children have to know to be able to connect the dots and understand what happened from the Churban and on, what the Churban caused, why we are what we are, where we were and where we are going. It’s critical for the self-definition of our young generation. To miss the opportunity would be a tremendous shame.”


One additional quote from non-Jewish author, Paul Johnson. In A History of the Jews, he writes:

“No people have ever insisted more firmly than the Jews that history has a purpose, and that humanity has a destiny. At a very early stage in their collective existence they believe they detected a divine scheme for the human race of which their own society was the pilot.... Judaism is not a product, but a program, and the Jews are instruments of its fulfillment.

“Jewish history is a record not only of physical facts but of metaphysical notions. The Jews believe themselves created and commanded to be a light unto the nations of the world. And they have attempted to obey, to the best of their considerable powers, that commandment…

“The Jews have been great truth-tellers. And that is why they have been so hated. A prophet will be feared and sometimes honored, but he will never be loved. A prophet must prophesy. And the Jews, therefore, will persist in pursuing truth as they see it wherever it leads.

“Jewish history teaches, if anything can, that there is indeed a purpose to human existence, and we are not just born to live and die like beasts of the field….”


Being a Jew isn’t easy, but it is an incredible privilege and responsibility. Being chosen and special always comes with a price tag.

When viewed in that light, our national travails, painful as they may be, become purposeful and meaningful. This is certainly true of our current struggle and anguish in Gaza and beyond. These powerful perspectives are vital for us to convey to our progeny.

There is no holiday that celebrates the eternity of our people and our values like Purim. The unbridled joy we feel during Adar is inextricably bound with knowing we are part of something greater than ourselves and that our lives, and our deaths, have meaning and purpose. It is the same joy that has been reflected on the faces of soldiers, and Jews around the world in past months. It is what grants the incredible conviction of families, including those who have lost parents, spouses, children, friends and/or neighbors the conviction and inner strength to carry on.

Despite our collective anguish and personal pain, we have an ethereal inner pride knowing that we are fighting for something divine and eternal, and that every one of us is an essential component of that Master Plan.


Shabbat Shalom & Good Shabbos,

        R’ Dani and Chani Staum