April 15, 2024
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April 15, 2024
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This year, the Staum family enjoyed a wonderful Purim seuda at the home our friends and neighbors, the Binders, around the corner from our home. Before Purim I had invited talmidim and rebbeim from our yeshiva, Heichal HaTorah, to our home at 8 p.m. for a post-Purim-seuda seuda.

At 8:05 p.m., while getting ready to bentch at the Binders, my friend, Rabbi Yehuda Schuster, arrived to wish me a freilichen Purim. Rabbi Schuster is an old friend (I don’t mean that he is old, but that we have been friends for quite a few years). He has come to visit a few times on Purim toward the end of our seuda during the past few years, but this time we weren’t home. I’m still not exactly sure how he tracked us down, but he advised me that I might want to hurry home, as there was a large crowd of excited boys converging outside our house. Our poor devoted cleaning lady, who was babysitting our (until then) sleeping twins, wasn’t quite sure what was going on.

Rabbi Schuster walked with me up the hill toward our home. As we got closer and began hearing the singing and excitement from outside my home, Rabbi Schuster remarked that he was sure that next week he’s going to read a Rabbi’s Musings in which I would write: “I was walking home from the purim seuda with someone…” and that somehow I would conjure up some thought or lesson from the incident.

Well, I want to tell you, Rabbi Schuster, you were wrong! I have no lesson that I wish to pontificate based on that event. Instead, I want to share something more personal about our friendship.

I have heard from numerous people that I look like Rabbi Schuster, and Rabbi Schuster often tells me that people confuse us all the time. On one occasion, at a chasuna we were both attending, Rabbi Schuster came over to me laughing that he was just complimented on a speech I had given. He thanked the person and walked away. When I was a high school literature teacher in a yeshiva in Monsey, many of my students had been talmidim of Rabbi Schuster when they were in seventh grade. They would ask me if I knew him because I looked and seemed so much like him. I replied that I didn’t know what/who they were talking about.

The truth is that there are certain similarities we share. We are both alumni of Yeshiva Shaarei Torah, spent many years at Camp Dora Golding and consider ourselves talmidim of Rabbi Mordechai Finkelman based on our summers there with him. Students say we have a similar sense of humor, though I am quite sure I am much funnier. We are also both Yankees fans. The one thing we absolutely do not share is that he is a proud yekke and I am a proud Polish-descended non-yekke.

As alumni of Shaarei Torah we also share another distinction, in that we both consider ourselves proud talmidim of Rabbi Berel Wein and find ourselves quoting him frequently. Aside for being our rosh yeshiva, an author of sefarim on Gemara and Halacha and a talmid chacham of note, Rabbi Wein has gained renown in the Jewish world for his sermons about Jewish history and his unique perspective about Jewish life.

One of Rabbi Wein’s well-known analogies is that when a person is learning to drive, one of the first lessons he is taught is to look into the rearview mirror before pulling out. One need to see what’s coming before he can decide where he is going. We, members of the Jewish people, need to understand our roots and our past—both the glories and the vicissitudes—in order to have an appreciation of our greatness and uniqueness. It is only with that perspective that we can begin to understand the destiny and responsibility every one of us has as part of the eternal people.

Rabbi Wein infused within his talmidim an appreciation of the timeless messages of the Torah and the Prophets. His constant message is that the Torah and all of the words of the Prophets are contemporary messages that apply to current events as much as they did when they originally were uttered and taught thousands of years ago.

This week, with the help of Hashem, I have reached a personal milestone. I have completed studying all 24 books of Tanach for the first time in my life.

I don’t remember when I officially began, but Chani said she remembers me announcing to her about 10 years ago that I felt remiss that I had never learned all of Tanach, and had therefore decided to begin a daily study of it.

It has been a most gratifying and rewarding study. Aside for all the incredible stories in Yehoshua, Shoftim, Shmuel and Melachim, I would feel emotionally charged when I learned the prophecies of Yeshaya and Yermiyahu. Their chastisement is as beautiful as it is sorrowful, and their prophecies of consolation and of the future glory that awaits us literally tugged at my heart. The incredible wisdom of Shlomo Hamelech in Mishlei and Koheles, the resilience of Daniel, Ezra and Nechemia, and the penetrating messages of Iyov were uplifting and penetrating. Learning about the life of David Hamelech and learning the majestic words of hope and longing throughout Sefer Tehillim was unparalleled. It is something I look forward to each day.

I write these words in the hope that, as I begin again with a prayer that I be zoche to finish it many more times, others may also be inspired to undertake the study of the most basic teachings of our faith.

So, if you see Rabbi Schuster around town, please wish him a mazel tov upon his completing Tanach. And if you see a group of excited teens outside my home, please tell them the party is over.

By Rabbi Dani Staum

Rabbi Dani Staum, LMSW, is the rabbi of Kehillat New Hempstead as well as a rebbe and guidance counselor at Heichal HaTorah in Teaneck, New Jersey, principal at Mesivta Ohr Naftoli of New Windsor and a division head at Camp Dora Golding. He can be reached at [email protected].

Looking for “instant inspiration” on the parsha in under five minutes? Follow him on TorahAnytime.com


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