Please enable JavaScript in your browser to experience all the custom features of our site.

Mr. Harry Skydell, Chairman
Mr. Mark Karasick, Vice Chairman
Rabbi Yakov Horowitz, Director
Rabbi Avrohom M. Gluck, Director of Operations
The first 1000 members will have a chance to win a
16 GB
with Rabbi Horowitz audio

Membership Benefits:

  • Save articles to your favorites folder.
  • Save and print selected articles in a PDF journal.
  • Receive emails containing the latest comments on your favorite articles.
  • Mark articles as "READ".
  • More member features coming soon...

Raffle Rules:

NO PURCHASE NECESSARY. To enter, complete the signup form and join as a member. Incomplete entries will be disqualified. All entries shall become the property of CJFL. CJFL is not responsible for lost, misdirected or delayed entries.

The contest is open to the general public. Members need to be at least 18 years old. Identification must be produced on request. Employees of CJFL, its raffle sponsor, advertising and promotional agencies and their respective affiliates and associates and such employees' immediate family members and persons with whom such employees are domiciled are excluded from this raffle. ALL PREVIOUSLY REGISTERED MEMBERS WILL BE AUTOMATICALLY ENTERED INTO THIS RAFFLE. The prize is not redeemable in cash and must be accepted as awarded. Decisions of the raffle judges are final - no substitutions will be available. By claiming the prize, the winner authorizes the use, without additional compensation of his or her name and/or likeness (first initial and last name) and municipality of residence for promotion and/or advertising purposes in any manner and in any medium (including without limitation, radio broadcasts, newspapers and other publications and in television or film releases, slides, videotape, distribution over the internet and picture date storage) which CJFL may deem appropriate. In accepting the prize, the winner, acknowledges that CJFL may not be held liable for any loss, damages or injury associated with accepting or using this prize. CJFL retains the rights, in its absolute and sole discretion, to make substitutions of equivalent kind or approximate value in the event of the unavailability of any prize or component of the prize for any reason whatsoever. This contest is subject to all federal, provincial and municipal laws. CJFL reserves the right to withdraw or terminate this raffle at any time without prior notice. One entry per person.

Rabbi Doniel Staum - Parshas Vayakhel - Pekudei/Hachodesh 5777 "Our Biggest Problem"
by Rabbi Doniel Staum, LMSW

Not Rated Yet   |   Viewed 6784 times since 3/23/17   |   0 Comments
Decrease Font Size Increase Font Size    [ Change Font Size ] Email This Article to a Friend





When Rabbi Uri Zohar decided to leave behind his previous life of glamour and stardom to become Torah observant, his non-religious friends asked the noted comedian if he could tell them one last joke. He replied by telling them the following[1]:

One day a secular Israeli police officer noticed a religious yeshiva student driving a motorcycle. The officer drove his car behind him looking for a pretense to issue the driver a ticket. To his chagrin, the driver stopped at every stop sign, adhered to the speed limit, and drove courteously. After a half-hour, the cop gave up. He pulled him over and said to him, “I don’t get it. I couldn’t catch you doing anything wrong!” The yeshiva boy replied curtly, “That’s because G-d is with me.” The cop jumped up, “Aha! I’m going to give you a ticket. You have two on a motorcycle!”

Before the Torah begins its discussion about the construction of the Mishkan, its vessels, and the Priestly vestments, the Torah reiterates the laws of Shabbos. The AriZal explains that the sanctity of Shabbos and the sanctity of the Mishkan[2] are inextricably bound. The sanctity of Shabbos in the realm of time parallels the sanctity of the Temple in the realm of place/space.

In anticipation of the consecration of the Bais Hamikdash, Dovid Hamelech wrote[3], “If G-d will not build a house, for naught have his builders toiled in it.” The commentators explain that Dovid was expressing the idea that, all of man’s efforts not withstanding, the greatest Temple structure contains absolutely no sanctity unless G-d allows His Divine Presence to rest there. It is not the grandeur or opulence of a building which creates holiness, but the Presence of G-d! Therefore even if they will construct an august Temple, if G-d will not accede to rest his Presence there, as it were, all of their efforts were futile.

In a similar vein, when the construction of the Mishkan was completed the Torah says[4], “Moshe saw the entire work, and behold! They had done it as G-d had commanded, so they had done! And Moshe blessed them.” Rashi records the vernacular of Moshe’s blessing: “May it be the Will that the Divine Presence rest amongst your handiwork.” Moshe too expressed this same sentiment, that even after all of their painstaking efforts, the construction would not achieve its goal unless the Divine Presence rested there.

This seems like an extraordinary concept. Is it possible to have a Bais Hamikdash without the Divine Presence? Could “G-d’s House” exist without His Divine Presence?

As mentioned, the holiness of Shabbos parallels the holiness of the Temple. Thus the question extends to Shabbos as well. Is it possible for there to be a Shabbos without holiness? Could “G-d’s day” be lacking G-d’s Presence?

During one of his lectures about the sanctity of Shabbos, Rabbi Shimshon Pinkus zt’l related what he feels is the biggest issue that the contemporary Torah world faces. He explained that the Torah world today is particular to perform mitzvos with incredible beauty and stringency. We procure beautiful esrogim, our matzah is made with all levels of stringency, we wear quality tefillin, and have beautiful Menorahs for Chanukah. We have more yeshivos and individuals studying Torah today than we have ever had during the exile. From an outside vantage point the Torah world is thriving. But there is one area in which we are severely remiss. We have created a Judaism without G-d! Despite all of our precision and devotion to all facets of Torah observance, G-d is often left out. In the vernacular of Rabbi Pinkus, “We have cultivated a Judaism from which we have left Hashem out of the equation.”

The tragic irony that sometimes we are so busy serving G-d that we forget about G-d. The concept of prayer, for example, should be viewed as an opportunity to simply ‘talk to G-d’. When one prays with devotion and concentration and pictures himself standing before the Almighty Who is fully concentrating on his prayer, it fosters within him a feeling of closeness with G-d. But very often even while we are praying we don’t pay attention to whom we are praying!

Rabbi Pinkus related an anecdote about Rabbi Avrohom Farbstein[5], one of the Roshei yeshiva of the famed Chevron Yeshiva. Rabbi Farbstein was a skilled orator and would travel and lecture about living a Torah life to eclectic audiences. He had a decent command of the English language and was careful to translate all the verses and statements he quoted into English.

On one occasion he delivered a very powerful lecture to a crowd of unaffiliated Jews in America. After the lecture a fellow approached him and told him, “Rabbi I want you to know that I really appreciated your lecture and I was emotionally moved by what you said. You really touched my heart and inspired me. However, there was one word you didn’t translate although you repeated it quite a few times during your lecture. What is ‘Hakadoshbaruchhu’[6]?”

Rabbi Pinkus noted that our Torah observance is somewhat analogous to that man’s understanding of the lecture. We love to perform the mitzvos and be involved in all of the beautiful rituals endemic to Torah observance. But we often forget to contemplate and think about ‘Hakadoshbaruchhu’.

Rabbi Pinkus continued, “We have too much love in our lives! We love our homes, we love our cars, we love our phones, and we love our refrigerator. I didn’t even realize how much I loved my refrigerator until it broke down. Then I realized how attached I was to it and how much it meant to be.”

When we love so many things we cannot think about the more important things that we really love, such as our families, and G-d. The greatness of Shabbos is that on Shabbos everything ceases. On Shabbos there is no phone, no car, no building a house, and no turning on an air conditioner. On Shabbos there is nothing but G-d Himself! On Shabbos we turn off our love for everything else so that we can focus on our love for G-d.

But the tragedy is that one can observe Shabbos and miss this integral point. He can be so involved in the additives of Shabbos – the cholent and kugel, the extra sleep, the family time, and even the melodious prayers - that he doesn’t stop to appreciate that all of those beautiful things are only means to a much higher and important end. That ‘end’ is G-d Himself, Who is truly the beginning and the end!

Prior to the destruction of the Bais Hamikdash the prophets warned the nation that they had forgotten G-d. The Temple itself had become a place of Service to G-d without paying attention to G-d Himself. The prophet Yeshayah expressed G-d’s indignation with the nation’s heartless Service. “Why do I need your numerous sacrifices? Says G-d – I am satiated with elevation-offerings of rams and the choicest of fattened animals; and the blood of bulls and sheep and he-goats I do not desire.[7]” The nation would only use the best animals for its offerings, but G-d proclaimed that it was all meaningless because their hearts were not in it.

A few verses later the prophet lamented about their Shabbos observance as well. “You shall not continue to bring Me a worthless meal-offering – incense of abomination is it unto Me; New Moon and Shabbos, callings of convocation, I cannot abide mendacity with assemblage.” Their Shabbos too had become a G-dless experience, despite the fact that they may have still been particular to adhere to the letter of the law.

Today in exile, we no longer have a central Bais Hamikdash. But we have shuls and Batei Medrash[8], which play a central role in our lives and observance. The pitfall that our ancestors fell into then is not very different from the challenge we face. Our shuls cannot only be houses of study and prayer. More importantly, they must be places of connection and devotion to G-d!

We are analogous to people who travel to the palace of the king and marvel at the intricate architecture of the physical structure. The guests gawk at the lavishness and beauty of the chambers, and are enthralled by the might of the king. They are delighted to have the opportunity to take part in the elaborate rituals associated with the service of the king. But then they leave without ever meeting the king himself. That is surely an affront to the king!

The blessing of Moshe and the statement of Dovid Hamelech serves as a reminder that ultimately it is not the buildings we build or the services we perform that create holiness, but G-d’s Divine Presence.

The final of the four special Torah readings read during the weeks prior to Pesach is Parshas Hachodesh. The twenty-verse reading begins with the words, “This month shall be for you the beginning of the months, it shall be for you the first of the months of the year.” The following eighteen verses discuss the laws of the offering of the Paschal Lamb offered just prior to the onset of the Pesach holiday.

It is intriguing that the title of the reading is named after the second verse, when most of the reading has nothing to do with the title[9]. The commentators explain that the point of the Paschal Lamb, as well as the entire Pesach holiday, is to infuse us with encouragement and excitement because it is a time of renewal.

The renewal which we refer to is not in ritual or performance, for we continue to do the same things we have been doing until now (even the Paschal lamb is repeated from the year before). Rather the renewal is internal; emotional renewal of one’s feeling of connectedness and devotion to his Creator. The holiday of Pesach is a celebration of G-d’s love for us, and our role is to embrace that love and appreciate it.

Parshas Vayakhel and Pekudei record the actual construction of the Mishkan. Before commencing its recording of the building the Torah reminds us about the holiness of Shabbos.

Both of these integral mitzvos are connected in the sense that they are primarily granted as a means for connection with G-d. We must always ensure that we have not left G-d outside of our shuls/Shabbos[10].

The reading of Hachodesh reminds us that we can always renew our connection with G-d, for in reality it is not He who obscures that connection, but we. With that renewed level of awareness and devotion we can approach the holiday of Pesach with excitement - not merely in order to perform all of the special rituals and mitzvos unique to that nigh - but more importantly, to feel the emotional connection with G-d that those mitzvos can help us achieve!

“If G-d will not build a house”

“And Moshe blessed them”

Rabbi Dani Staum, LMSW

Rabbi, Kehillat New Hempstead

Rebbe/Guidance Counselor – ASHAR

Principal – Ohr Naftoli- New Windsor

Sign up to receive Stam Torah via email each week at:

[1] Rabbi Shimshon Pinkus zt’l repeated this story in Rabbi Zohar’s name. He prefaced it by saying, “I love this joke.”

[2] and subsequently the Bais Hamikdash in Yeryshalayim

[3] Tehillim 127:1

[4] Shemos 39:43

[5] 1917-1997; in his youth he learned in the Mirrer yeshiva in Europe. He married the daughter of Harav Yecheskel Sarna zt’l

[6] Hakadosh Baruch Hu – the Holy One, blessed is He

[7] Yeshayah 1:11 [This verse is from the haftorah of Shabbos Chazon, read the Shabbos prior to Tisha BAv.]

[8] Synagogues and Houses of Study

[9] “Hachodesh” means ‘the month’; the letters also form the word ‘hachadash- the new one’ referring to the fact that Nissan, the first of the months, is a time of new beginning

[10] Perhaps this is part of the reason why we have the custom to recite an added prayer of kabbolas Shabbos – acceptance of Shabbos. Before we embrace the holiness of Shabbos we need to take a few minutes to mentally prepare ourselves for this great occasion. We need to realize that Shabbos in not just a day with added laws, but it is a different experience completely; a day of connection with G-d Himself!

To sign up for Rabbi Horowitz’s weekly emails, please click here.

Reader's Comments:      Rating & Comments Policy      Rate & Write a Comment!
 Average Rating:       Not Rated Yet
Subscribe to this Article
(by subscribing you will receive email notification
when new comments are posted)
There are no comments yet. Click above to write the first comment.
Dear Readers:

Please visit our Parenting Resource listing to learn about agencies and services that you can make use of. If you know of an agency that can be of assistance to others, kindly drop an email to our site administrator at and pass along the information to him.

I ask that you please consider supporting the work we are doing to improve the lives of our children. Click on these links to learn more about our teen and parent mentoring program that serves hundreds of teens and their families, or our KESHER program, now in 20 schools in 4 states. Your financial support can allow us to expand these services and help more children.

If you believe in the governing principles of this website – to help effect positive change through the candid discussions of the real issues we collectively face, please consider becoming a daily, weekly or monthly sponsor of this website and help defray the costs of it’s maintenance.

Working with Families and Educators on Behalf of our Children

This site is managed by The Center for Jewish Family Life, Inc., 56 Briarcliff Drive, Monsey, NY 10952
Project Y.E.S. was founded by Agudath Israel of America
The Center for Jewish Family Life/Project YES - 56 Briarcliff Drive, Monsey, NY 10952 (845) 352-7100 ext. 114 Fax: (845) 352-9593