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Beloved Children

by Rabbi Yisrael Pesach Feinhandler
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Parshas Pekudei

Above Suspicion, Above Guilt

These are the accounts [of the articles furnished] for the Tabernacle of Testimony, which were counted according to the order of Moshe, the service of the Levites, by the hand of Isamar the son of Aharon the priest.
(SHEMOS 38:21)

In the book Pe'er Hador a story is told of a Jew who became observant through the encouragement and guidance of the Chazon Ish.

"Eight years after the Chazon Ish's passing, in the year 5722, the following story was told to the public by the person involved. He recounted: 'When I was seventeen I left my parents' home to work in a small Hungarian town. Soon enough I forgot the education I had received in my father's house. I also tried to hide my Jewishness out of fear of the enemies who had begun to take control in the year 5702 and who tormented and pursued every Jew.

I was able to escape detection just until the year 5704. Then the Nazis transferred me with my brother to Auschwitz. But I was saved from death by a miracle, after which I was transferred to Tereizenstat and was liberated in the year 5705. I continued to live in Czechoslovakia until the year 5708, and then I moved to Eretz Yisrael. As I said, I had severed all my connections to Yiddishkeit and to the education I had received in my parents' home. I worked not only on Shabbos but also on Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur.

On the night of Yom Kippur 5713 I worked as usual. That same night my father, R' Chaim Mordechai z"l, appeared to me in a dream, dressed in a clean white kittel, wrapped in a tallis, just as when he was alive, and he told me: "Do teshuvah! Return to the way I educated you, otherwise your years will be cut short!" And so the dream returned and repeated itself every single night for a week.

And then came the night of Shabbos. Late at night I entered a cafe in Rishon Letzion. I ate and drank and returned home. I went to turn on the radio, and at that second I heard a voice calling behind me. "Oy Vey! You're sinning again?!"

I turned around and, wide-awake, I saw my father, who had perished in Auschwitz, and again he stood before me wrapped in a kittel and tallis, and I heard him telling me: "Don't think that this is an ordinary dream. I came to warn you to do teshuvah. In Heaven a decree has already been issued that your days are to be cut short!" I was taken aback by the sight. Then the image of my father disappeared immediately.

That Shabbos, of course, I didn't smoke and I didn't turn on the radio. But on Motz'ei Shabbos I went to the movie theater. When I came home, just as I managed to open the door, immediately I saw again the image of my father, as though he were alive, wrapped in his tallis and kittel, begging and beseeching me to improve my ways, and telling me that this was his last warning.

At that time I worked as a framing manager in a garage in Rishon Letzion. I got up on Sunday morning, and divided the workload among the workers. After that I headed to Benai Brak, to the Chazon Ish, whom I had heard about from many people, in order to relate my dreams to him.

To my astonishment, just as I passed the threshold of his home, the Chazon Ish began to speak to me with severity: "Oy Vey, you work on Shabbos, you work on Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur. Your father has no rest in the Upper World. Kares has been decreed for you!"

He completed his words and then sat in his chair as if dozing, resting his head between his two hands, and I stood before him perplexed and in turmoil. How did he know all this?

Finally, after several moments of anticipation, the Chazon Ish opened his eyes and told me: "In the merit of a great mitzvah that you performed in your youth, they will add from Heaven days and years: From now on return to good and go along the straight path as your father educated you. Do you recall which mitzvah it was that you fulfilled in your youth?"

I replied to him: "Despite the fact that I desecrated the Shabbos, I never hurt anyone, and I also gave tzedakah." The Chazon Ish replied: "That's not enough, not in this merit are you worthy to have your decree torn up...."

Then I recalled that when I was about fourteen years old a woman came to us and told my father that in a certain village a Jewish child lay dead and there was no one to bring him to a Jewish burial. My father sent me to the town to take care of the matter, even though the action was life threatening, since the enemies had control over the roads, and I had to pass a big dark forest where I was overcome with the fear of death. I fulfilled the mitzvah, brought the dead child back and buried him.

Upon hearing the story, the Chazon Ish nodded his head and stopped speaking. When I left his house, I accepted upon myself to keep Torah and mitzvos like a full-fledged Jew, and since then I have seen in the work of my hands blessing and success."

The Chazon Ish convinced the man to give up his personal pleasures in order to do his father's and G-d's will. We too must give up our own pleasures in order to do G-d's will. In this way we will serve as positive examples to our children.

"These are the accounts for the Tabernacle."(1) "A man worthy of faith is a man who shall have many blessings."(2) The verse is referring to Moshe. Wherever he was appointed as a treasurer, blessings and success were granted through him. The reason for this was that he was trustworthy. "And he who runs to become rich will not be free of pain."(3) This part of the verse is referring to Korach, who was a Levi and wanted to have the kehunah.

Another explanation of the verse, "A man worthy of faith is a man who shall have many blessings"(4) is that it refers to Moshe, who was the treasurer responsible only to himself and did not have to give an accounting to anyone, and nevertheless he used to call others to show them his accounts, as the verse states, "through Isamar."(5)

Our Sages have learned: A person who had the task of removing the money from the lishkah of the Temple would have to enter without a lining in his coat and without a belt that had pockets, so that in case he became rich, he would not be suspected of having stolen from the lishkah. This is based upon the general rule that a person must be free of suspicion if he wants to please G-d, as the verse says, "And you shall be clean [of suspicion] of G-d and of Israel."(6)

Rabbi Yochanan said, "In two mornings the Jewish people brought all the donations necessary to build the Tabernacle, and there was money to spare. Moshe said to G-d, "Master of the Universe, we have done all that is necessary to build the Tabernacle and there is money to spare, as it is written, 'And the work was enough.'(7) What shall we do with the extra money?"

G-d answered, "Go and make a special Tabernacle for the Ten Commandments."
(YALKUT 414, par. "Eleh")

From where can we learn that the success of the Temple fund collection resulted from the faithfulness of Moshe? Why is Korach considered "one who runs to become rich?" Why is Moshe called a treasurer responsible only to himself? Why did Moshe call Isamar to his side when he made the accounting, in spite of the fact that G-d made Moshe a treasurer responsible only to Himself? According to the second explanation of the midrash, what is the idea behind the end of the verse, "...shall have many blessings," since here we do not find blessings? How could anyone have suspected Moshe, who was the epitome of honesty? How could anyone have suspected the kohen who was collecting the money in the Temple, when the people appointed as kohanim were men of dignity and complete honesty? What is the meaning of the phrase "if he wants to please G-d," and how does it relate to being beyond suspicion? Why did the Jewish people bring their donations in the morning and not at any other time of the day? Why do our Sages relate the conversation Moshe had with G-d concerning the extra money?

Faithfulness Brings Blessing

Wherever he [Moshe] was appointed as a treasurer, blessings and success were granted through him. The reason for this was that he was trustworthy.

The Torah does not relate that Moshe made any special efforts to raise money to build the Tabernacle. It does not mention that he solicited funds. We find only an announcement stating that precious stones are needed to build the Tabernacle. After that, people flocked to contribute so much that there remained extra money, as is related further on in the midrash. This phenomenon demands an explanation, since anyone with experience in fundraising knows that it takes great effort to raise money, and people never flock to contribute on their own initiative.

The answer our Sages give is that the verse says, "A man worthy of faith shall have many blessings."(8) The blessing that Moshe experienced in his fundraising can be explained through this verse. When someone is entirely trustworthy and his integrity is beyond doubt, then he benefits from great blessings, and these were the blessings that Moshe received.

Ordinarily, people's hesitation in contributing money comes from the fact that they are suspicious and lack faith in those who raise funds. For that reason many of those who solicit funds bring with them letters of recommendation, and people known for their integrity achieve a higher level of success in raising funds than others. Any prospective donor wants to know that the money he gives will actually reach its intended destination and will not be swallowed up by the fundraiser's personal greed. The more a fundraiser can convince a potential donor of his integrity, the more likely is he to receive a donation. Integrity was the source of Moshe's success, as our Sages conclude in the midrash.

It Takes Hard Work to Get Rich

"And he who runs to become rich will not be free of pain." This part of the verse is referring to Korach...

Why was Korach considered "one who runs to become rich?" This concept relates to the fact that generally wealth should not be obtained quickly, but only after much toil and effort. This is the clear sign that wealth has been earned honestly. A person who cheats can become rich quickly, since he does not hesitate to use any method available to extort money from others. Any method he might choose to employ is justified in his eyes, since he is blinded by his desire to become rich.

This was the flaw of Korach, who wanted to be kohen gadol, and thus created the great rebellion which we find related in the Torah. He was not deterred by the many prohibitions he would need to transgress in order to attain that position. The midrash relates elsewhere that Korach ridiculed the Torah and incited arguments, which is a grievous sin, all in the hope of attaining the position he coveted. The verse concludes, "...will not be free of pain,"(9) to remind us of the consequence of Korach's coveting Aharon's position, which was that he was swallowed up by the earth.

Moshe, G-d's Treasurer

...Moshe... was treasurer responsible only to himself,...
...nevertheless he used to call others to show them his accounts, as the verse states, "through Isamar."

Moshe was called a treasurer because his was the task of collecting the gold and precious stones needed to build the Tabernacle. But G-d did not say that he must fulfill this task together with another person. G-d trusted Moshe implicitly, as the verse says, "In all My house he is trustworthy."(10) In telling Moshe to be the sole treasurer, responsible only to himself, G-d demonstrated to everyone how much faith he had in Moshe.

Moshe felt that it would be more correct to do the accounting together with another person, in order to avoid suspicion. People tend naturally to be suspicious, and Moshe did not want to give them any chance to indulge that propensity. Therefore he took Isamar to supervise the accounting, in spite of the fact that he himself had been appointed sole treasurer.

This was not considered a transgression of G-d's will. On the contrary, Moshe was praised for his actions. Moshe felt that although G-d trusted him, G-d was also testing him to see if he would rest content with G-d's trust, or whether he would make an extra effort to gain the confidence of the Jewish people. The test was to demonstrate whether Moshe understood the importance of being above suspicion. Moshe realized this, and succeeded in the test which G-d had presented to him.

Preventing Others from Sin

A person who had the task of removing the money from the lishkah of the Temple would have to enter without a lining... This is based upon the general rule that a person must be free of suspicion if he wants to please G-d...

Being above suspicion prevents others from falling into the sin of slander. Even if we do not care what people say about us, we must be concerned with their spiritual welfare and understand that when they speak badly about us, they will be sinning. It is our responsibility to prevent others from sinning, and thus we must do our best to remain above suspicion.

The blessings that result from our being above suspicion are granted to us on account of the chesed that we perform. By going out of our way to prevent other people from slandering we are doing them a great favor, and thus we become worthy of receiving reward from G-d. That reward is very great, because in this case no one is begging us to do chesed, but rather we are initiating the act of chesed on our own. This is what is meant by one who "runs after chesed," and his reward is that he will be "a man who shall have many blessings."(11)

Although it seems inconceivable that anyone would suspect Moshe of being dishonest, we actually find that Moshe was suspected also of adultery,(12) a more grievous sin than stealing. This shows us that even the most prominent of people are not above suspicion. On the contrary, since their position is envied, people try constantly to defame them and thus to lower them from their coveted positions. Such actions stem from envy.

This is true even in the case of the kohen who collected the money in the Temple. He became the immediate target of suspicion. It made no difference how honest he may have been, for since faithful fulfillment of his task demanded absolute honesty, this left room for suspicion, which does not relate to a person's honesty, but rather to how much he stands to gain if he cheats or steals. The greater the monetary sum involved, the more suspicious people will be.

What is the meaning of the expression, "if he wants to please G-d," when we speak of being beyond suspicion? When it comes to pleasing, many people have a tendency to want to please G-d more often than wanting to please other people. If we wish to be beyond suspicion, we will do chesed for other people by preventing them from slandering. But why do another person a favor? People prefer to allow other people to suffer. Doing G-d's will is much easier, since it leads to pure reward, with no envy or jealousy involved.

Serve G-d with Energy

In two mornings the Jewish people brought all the donations necessary to build the Tabernacle...
Moshe said to G-d, "...What shall we do with the extra money?"

The Jewish people brought their donations in the morning and not at any other time of the day because when someone does something in the morning it shows that he loves what he is doing, and therefore he rushes to accomplish the tasks that are dear to him. We find an example of this in that Avraham got up early and immediately set about preparing for the task which he been commanded, of taking his son to be sacrificed.(13) A person usually procrastinates over something he hates to do, whereas he will rush to do something he loves. The Tabernacle had to be built out of love, and bringing their donations quickly in the morning showed that the Jewish nation passed this test of love.

Our Sages relate the conversation Moshe had with G-d concerning the extra money in order to show us that although Moshe could have said that he deserved payment for his efforts in building the Tabernacle, he did not do this. Instead, Moshe asked G-d what he should do with the extra money and he did not allow himself to be tempted by it. He knew that he could not judge a matter in which he had a personal interest, and therefore he decided that it would be safest to ask G-d what to do with the money. This way he knew that he would be doing the right thing.

There is No Need to Feel Guilty Towards Our Children

When a person explains his actions to others to avoid suspicion, they may feel that he has a guilty conscience and for this reason he is explaining himself. But there is no need ever to feel guilty when you are explaining your actions, and certainly not when you are educating your children.

Some parents feel guilty for not being able to give their children as much as their neighbors or relatives can give. It is wrong to feel guilty in such a case. It is not your fault that you are not as rich as your neighbors or relatives, since we know that a person's wealth is determined by G-d and not by his own talents or abilities. This is mentioned by our Sages when they tell us that forty days before a person is born it is decreed in Heaven whether he will be rich or poor.(14) How can a person feel guilty about something which is not within the realm of his control?

Children Try to Get Things from Parents

When a child complains about such things, he may be trying to convince his parents to buy him something which is beyond their budget or something they do not want to give him for some other reason. The child may be unconsciously trying to make his parents feel guilty about not giving him what he wants. But the parent knows what is right for his child, and he should not relent just because the child is pressuring him. Stick firmly to your opinion. No matter how your child may feel about it, you must remember that you are the one who must make the final decision.

There was once a teenager who pestered his father for a long time to buy him a car. Finally the father gave in. The first time his son drove his new car he was killed in an accident. Although this is an extreme case, it does serve to teach us that we must be staunch in our decisions, since we know what is best for our children.

Many parents spoil their children by giving them too much. They buy whatever their child wants. This trains him to think that all his desires can be fulfilled, and this will not help him later in life, when there will be inevitable disappointments. This attitude of expecting to be able to have anything he wants may lead him to steal when he does not have money to fulfill all his desires, as we find in the Torah concerning the rebellious son, the ben sorer umoreh.(15)

It is also important for the child to learn to make do with little, since this quality is necessary to acquire Torah, as we learn from Pirkei Avos, where it is written: "Bread with salt shall you eat, measured water shall you drink."(16) Thus, instead of feeling guilty for not giving your children as much as others have, you should be proud that you are not spoiling them and ruining their education.

Rich Children Can also Acquire Torah

Our Sages say, "Beware of the children of poor people, since they are the ones who will spread Torah."(17) We cannot avoid the wealth we are given by G-d. What then can we do to ensure that our children will spread Torah? If we do not spoil them by giving them everything their hearts desire, then we too can teach our children the same valuable lesson, that we must learn to live simply in order to acquire Torah.

The poor child knows that the purpose of life is not to gain pleasure, and he strives in Torah, since he knows that this is what brings true pleasure. We must avoid giving our children all the pleasures of life, so that there will be room in their hearts to come to realize how pleasurable it is to learn Torah.

An Only Child or an Only Parent

Some parents feel guilty if theirs is an only child. The child may complain that he has no one to play with and blame his parents for that. Obviously this is something beyond our control, since the number of children a family has is in G-d's hands.(18) Even when the parents prevent themselves from having children, when this is permitted by an authoritative rabbi, they are not to be blamed, since they have acted in accordance with halachah.

This is especially true if a parent is divorced or widowed and has only one child. You cannot get married whenever you wish, and one must wait for G-d's help to find the proper partner to marry and have more children. The child does not understand this. All he understands is that he has no one to play with, and he blames his parents for this. The parents should let their common sense prevail and suppress any feelings of guilt in such a matter.

A single parent is likely to feel guilty in any case. But the truth is, being divorced or widowed is not under our control and there is no reason to feel guilty for it. We must explain to our children that complaining is tantamount to denying G-d's kindness to us. G-d gives us health and food and clothing and also a loving parent to take care of us. Complaining because one does not have two parents is in essence saying that one is not thankful for what one has. It is also saying that G-d is not correct in what He does for us. Saying such things is clearly a sin, since we know that everything G-d does for us is for the good.(19)

Hardships are Trials

Explain to your child that all of our hardships are trials, designed to test how we will react. If we accept the hardships that G-d gives us, then we shall be rewarded for our faithfulness. But if we complain, we will gain nothing.

A divorced mother approached me because her only child, a six-year-old girl, was calling her nasty names and complaining that she did not have any siblings or another parent. I told the mother that the child was getting away with such unacceptable behavior because of the guilty feelings which the mother herself was experiencing, and therefore she did not have the courage to defend herself. I told her to start working on convincing herself that she has no reason to feel guilty, and once she regains her self-confidence she will be able to discipline her child.

Feeling guilty does not help us to educate our children. In order to overcome guilt, you must believe in yourself as a parent.

1. Shemos 38:21
2. Mishlei 28:20
3. Ibid.
4. Ibid.
5. Shemos 38:21
6. Bamidbar 32:22
7. Shemos 36:7
8. Mishlei 28:20
9. Ibid.
10. Bamidbar 12:7
11. Mishlei 28:20
12. Midrash Tanchuma 10
13. Bereshis 22:3
14. Sotah 2a
15. Rashi on Devarim 21:18 from Sanhederin 72
16. Avos 6:4
17. Nedarim 81a
18. Sanhedrin 113a
19. Berachos 60b

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