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Next week our camp is preparing for a trip to Dorney Park, a major theme park in Allentown, Pennsylvania.

As anyone who has ever been to a theme park is aware, not only do people wait on long lines to go on rides and pay a lot of money for a cup of soda mostly filled with ice; they also enjoy spending their money to play games that leave minimal chance for success. The draw is that after playing a few times, eventually you win a stuffed animal that you can then proudly display as you march around the park. The bigger the stuffed animal, the more impressed people are.


A few summers ago, after a day at Dorney, when we boarded the buses, we had to figure out how to find place for three huge stuffed animals. Then when we got back to camp the proud winners had to lug their overweight loot up to their bunks and find a place for them there.

During my late teen years, on one occasion I went with a few friends to a theme park on Chol HaMoed and brought a knapsack full of stuffed animals from my house. Once we entered the park, I took them out and walked around holding them. Quite a few people stopped me and asked me which booth I had won the prizes at. I simply shrugged and pointed in the distance.

It’s interesting that once you leave the theme park, not only do the stuffed animals no longer accord you any respect, but people also wonder why in the world you are walking around with them.

I had more than one friend who had large collections of stuffed animals, many from their visits to theme parks. When they got married their wives slowly began disposing of the inanimate dust collectors that were taking up needless space.

Our world is a little theme park with all sorts of attractions and rewards. We become consumed with trying to win those prizes, enjoy the rides, and gain some status as we walk around the park. But eventually the park closes and we have to head back to reality. All the things that granted status while in the park are reduced to being trivialities at best.

The Three Weeks and the laws they impose upon us are very inconvenient. The fact that they occur during the summer, when society is enjoying the hot summery sun with hardly any restrictions, makes it all the more challenging. But the Three Weeks carry a sobering reminder to us that all that glitters around us is not gold. Despite our wealth, prestige, and relative comfort, the world is far from where it should be. The Bais HaMikdash is not rebuilt, Eretz Yisrael remains in perpetual danger, and there are so many of us with constant pain and suffering.

The Three Weeks of mourning set the stage for the months of Elul and Tishrei, which are always just beyond the horizon of Tisha B’Av. If we are so consumed with a momentary prize to show off to everyone around us, when the glittering lights go out and the rides stop, we will have nothing to show.

If we internalize the poignant message of Tisha B’Av and take its sobering message to heart, we will be able to remember what is truly valuable and important and will elevate our entire lives.


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Rabbi Dani Staum, LMSW, is a popular speaker and author as well as a rebbe in Heichal HaTorah in Teaneck, NJ. He has recently begun seeing clients in private practice as part of the Rockland CBT group. For appointments and speaking engagements, contact 914-295-0115 or Archives of his writings can be found at