May 30, 2024
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Linking Northern and Central NJ, Bronx, Manhattan, Westchester and CT

On August 29, 1911, the Mona Lisa, Leonardo da Vinci’s most famous work, was stolen off the wall of the Louvre in Paris. For a week, the museum was closed due to investigation. Yet, it remained a mystery until it was returned in December 1913. It had been stolen by Vencenzo Peruggia, a former employee of the museum who wanted to return the glory of Italians to Italy.

It was fascinating that when the museum reopened after being closed for a week following the larceny, throngs of people came to stare at the spot where the Mona Lisa had been. In fact, during the first few days, more people came to see the vacant spot where the painting had been, than had come to see the Mona Lisa before it was stolen.

My mother used to have a magnet hanging on her refrigerator that read, “Housework is something you do that no one else notices, unless you don’t do it!”

It seems to be a fact that we just don’t appreciate things until we no longer have them, or at least until there is a problem.

My rebbe, Rabbi Berel Wein, relates a story about a young boy who did not speak. He grew from infant to toddler and beyond, but still he never uttered a word. His parents were beside themselves with worry. They took him to specialists and experts but still the boy said nothing. Then, one morning at breakfast, when the boy was five years, old he looked up at his mother and said, “The oatmeal is cold!” The mother shrieked. “You can speak?” She immediately called her husband, all the grandparents, and neighbors to share with them the wonderful news. When she finally calmed down a bit she asked him, “If you were always able to speak, why didn’t you ever say anything until now?” The boy shrugged, “Until now the oatmeal wasn’t cold!”

We all want things to go smoothly and to be blessed with peace of mind and serenity. But at times when situations are challenging, mistakes are made, or we lose things that we previously took for granted, it helps us appreciate what we have even more.

Baruch Hashem, I have been privileged to disseminate divrei Torah via the web for almost two decades. To be fair, I do receive emails from friends and readers with compliments or feedback, which of course are always appreciated. But I never receive as many responses as when I make a mistake. I have concluded that it is a good idea to make a faux pas every now and then so that I know people are still reading. So if you ever see a mistake in my writings, you’ll know that it was undoubtedly on purpose, to see who is paying attention.

Sometimes it takes cold oatmeal before anyone says anything, and sometimes, the Mona Lisa has to be stolen before we recognize its value.

Rabbi Dani Staum, LMSW, is the rabbi of Kehillat New Hempstead. He is also fifth grade rebbe and guidance counselor in ASHAR in Monsey, and principal of Mesivta Ohr Naftoli of New Windsor, NY, and a division head at Camp Dora Golding. Rabbi Staum offers parenting classes based on the acclaimed Love & Logic Program. He can be reached at [email protected]. His website is www.stamtorah.info.

By Rabbi Dani Staum

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