One of the great composers in contemporary Jewish music is Abie Rotenberg, who is renowned for his emotionally stirring songs. Some of his most moving songs were composed for the “A Time for Music – HASC Concerts.”

The chorus of one of those memorable songs is: “There’s a small piece of heaven in everyone’s heart, a glorious gift from above. It will sparkle and shine if we each do our part, so reach out and touch it with love.”

It’s a beautiful song with a very true message. But there is more than just a small piece of heaven within our hearts.

Our young children come home from yeshivah at the end of each week with clever and innovative parshah projects. Based on the message of the weekly parshah and the protagonists mentioned, the projects laud our righteous leaders and disparage their antagonists. They praise the greatness of the patriarchs and disparage the evils of Nimrod, Lavan, Eisav, etc. That is indeed how it should be.

In the parshiyos of Chumash BaMidbar, too, we encounter the calamitous narratives of the Complainers, the Spies, Korach’s rebellion, and the tragic events in Shittim when the nation succumbed to the temptation of the Moavites.

When I was younger, I tended to view the sinners with pitiful disdain and wonder how they could have made such disastrous blunders. As I’ve gotten older, however, I’ve come to realize that aside from that perspective being naïve, it also robbed me from learning incredible life lessons that are more applicable to me than I’d like to believe.

Instead of thinking how foolish Korach and the Spies were, I stand to gain more by considering how men of such great stature could have been the progenitors of such tragedy. If they could have had such ignominious ends, I am unquestionably vulnerable to making those mistakes.

These days, I sing to myself: “There’s a small piece of Korach and the Spies, and even Eisav, Lavan, Pharaoh, and Nimrod, in everyone’s heart,” each to a different degree. I find that I can be in stubborn denial like Pharaoh, dangerously arrogant like Nimrod, woefully iniquitous like Eisav, or duplicitous like Lavan.

Undoubtedly, I can also be envious of the success of others like Korach, fearful of the loss of stature like the Spies, and prone to lust like our ancestors in Shittim.

The Torah is not a history book. There is no more contemporary recording of human psychology and experience than the Torah.

“It can help us sparkle and shine if we each do our part to reach out and overcome it with patience.” Despite the fact that my revised words don’t fit the song as well, I believe they contain great truth.

One of our foremost challenges is to be honest with ourselves about our emotions. We spend a great deal of time deluding ourselves about how we truly feel in certain situations.

A poignant example:

A person is invited to an extremely upscale wedding. While sitting at the table, waiting for the lavish meal to be served, he is assailed by the expensive flowers, 20-piece orchestra, and many other trappings. He turns to the person sitting next to him and quips, “Do you know how many poor people could be helped with the money wasted on tonight’s affair? For the price of the flowers alone, the tuition of a few struggling families could be covered. To be honest, I don’t even care for such a wedding. It’s so over the top that it makes me nauseous. I’d be embarrassed to host such an event. It bothers me that people can waste so much money when others are struggling so much.” (Then, to assuage his guilt for badmouthing the person paying for his meal, he adds, “I’m sure he’s a big baal tz’dakah, but even so…”)

I would venture to think that most people who voice such sentiments are consumed with jealousy. But who wants to admit to that? It’s far easier to employ righteous indignation and convince oneself that he is far above feeling jealous. So, he convinces himself that he is above such feelings.

This is just one trivial example of countless such scenarios that we encounter every single day.

Ironically, it is those who are candid with their feelings, and can admit to their occasional pettiness, that are often the most psychologically healthy. Such admission may be uncomfortable, but it is the only path to true growth.

We are surely not above the feelings that drove the great men in Chumash BaMidbar to commit such serious sins. More than we’d like to admit, there are also times when we can relate to Balak, Bil’am, Pharaoh, and even Amaleik.

If one is willing to recognize that vulnerability and negativity within himself, he can internalize the timeless messages that the Torah teaches about how to contend with and transcend those negative feelings.

There’s indeed a small piece of Heaven in everyone’s heart. But there are also small pieces of negative attributes and character traits in everyone’s heart. One who seeks to understand what drives him and is big enough to fess up to every part of himself is truly a person of greatness.

Rabbi Dani Staum, LMSW, a rebbe at Heichal HaTorah in Teaneck, New Jersey, is a parenting consultant and maintains a private practice for adolescents and adults. He is also a member of the administration of Camp Dora Golding for over two decades. Rabbi Staum was a community rabbi for ten years, and has been involved in education as a principal, guidance counselor, and teacher in various yeshivos. Rabbi Staum is a noted author and sought-after lecturer, with hundreds of lectures posted on He has published articles and books about education, parenting, and Torah living in contemporary society. Rabbi Staum can be reached at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.. His website containing archives of his writings is