June 7, 2024
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June 7, 2024
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Linking Northern and Central NJ, Bronx, Manhattan, Westchester and CT

A number of years ago, on the final day of Pesach at the beginning of my pre-Yizkor derasha, I related that Mickey Mantle, the legendary Yankees slugger, once recounted his recurring nightmare: “Ever since I retired, I keep having these dreams. The worst one is I go to the ballpark late, jump out of a cab, and I hear ‘em calling my name on the public address system. I try to get in and all the gates are locked. Then I see a hole under the fence, and I can see Casey looking for me, and Yogi, and Billy Martin and Whitey Ford. I try to crawl through the hole, and I get stuck at the hips. And that’s when I wake up, sweating.”

I then related that during the first days of Pesach, I had a nightmare that I arrived in our shul and had no derasha prepared. Throughout the davening, I was sweating profusely thinking about what I would say. (I added that,thankfully, at that moment that was not the case, and I indeed had a derasha prepared.)

Many people have a similar nightmare. If not an actual nightmare, it is an inner fear. It usually has something to do with having a great opportunity — one that is really important and valuable to you — and for some reason not capitalizing on the opportunity. The feeling of failure when success was so close is terribly painful.

There is hardly anything more painful and tragic than a failed opportunity. But we seem to miss out on opportunities all the time. In Shir Hashirim, Shlomo Hamelech (5:2-6) poignantly depicts such a tragic occurrence. He allegorically relates that he is lying in bed, when he hears knocking at his door. It is his beloved (God) for whom his heart has long yearned for. He knows he should rise to open the door and, in his heart, he desires to do so, but he is fatigued. Finally, he rises to open the door, but by then his beloved has gone. He runs through the streets, begging anyone to tell him if they have seen his beloved. But he is too late. Instead, he is beaten by the watchmen.Opportunity knocked at his door, but he failed to let it in.

In life, when opportunities present themselves, we need to grab them because they are usually fleeting.

I concluded the drasha by making two appeals: One was the customary appeal for charity donations in memory of our loved ones during Yizkor. The other appeal was that every person should pledge to express to someone else a deep emotional feeling, such as a feeling of gratitude towards a parent, spouse or friend, or to tell someone just how special you feel he/she is. Essentially, it is to verbalize one of those heartfelt thoughts which we tragically often don’t get around to saying. Yizkor is a solemn but special moment which reminds us that even someone who has always been there for us won’t always be there for us. It’s a reminder to seize the moment.


Rabbi Dani Staum, LMSW, is a rebbe in Heichal HaTorah in Teaneck and an experienced therapist who sees clients in private practice as part of the Rockland CBT group. To schedule an appointment, call (914) 295-0115 or email [email protected].

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