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Simcha Groffman

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Kinder Torah
For parents to share with children at the Shabbos Table

Parashas Acharei Mos

Five on a Bench

"How is the bench holding up?"


"Are you sure it can take the weight of five men sitting on it?"

"For a short time. It can last about two hours under these conditions."

At that moment, Mr. Balbassar walks into the room. He is very heavy. He walks up to the bench and leans heavily on the five men sitting on it. The bench strains, cracks, and finally breaks.

"Is everybody okay?"

"Yes, everybody but the bench. It is irreparable. Someone is going to have to pay for it."

"I think Mr. Balbassar should pay. The bench was fine until he came along. We would have gotten up within two hours. His added weight both prevented us from getting up and caused it to break much sooner than that."

"My dear friends," said Mr. Balbassar. "If I sat down on that bench alone it would not have broken. Our combined weight broke it. You are just as guilty as I am."

The question is:

Who pays for the bench and why?

The answer is:

The Gemora (Bava Kamma 10b) presents this case. The Rambam (Hilchos Chovel U'Mazik 6:15) rules that Mr. Balbassar must pay. Although the bench would have broken in two hours anyway, he caused it to collapse much sooner. Their claim that they would have gotten up had he not sat on them is valid. However, if they all sat down at the same time, they must divide the payment amongst all of them.

This puzzle and answer is for learning and discussion purposes only. Do not rely upon it for psak halacha! Consult a Rav to determine the correct halachic ruling.

The Best Boss

"Dov, I heard that you are looking for a job."

"That is correct, Rabbi Seigel."

"I saw an ad in the newspaper about a job opening in your field. I cut it out for you. Here it is."

"Thank you so much, Rabbi Seigel. You are really a caring person. Maybe you can help me with something else."

"I'll try Dov."

"I had a very bad experience with my last boss. He promised to pay my wages on time, and to add bonuses. In the end, he did not pay any bonuses, and the wages were very late. He still owes me money."

"I'm so sorry to hear that Dov."

"What can I do to prevent that from happening again, Rabbi?"

"Dov, you have to check out your employer very carefully before going to work for him. If you have any suspicions about his honesty, you are permitted to ask employees, friends, and neighbors about him. Just make sure that you follow the halachos in Sefer Chofetz Chaim (Hilchos Rechilus, Chapter 9)."

"Thank you Rabbi Seigel. It's too bad that there are bosses like that."

"I know one boss who will never cheat an employee. He always pays every penny that is earned. However, you have to be on your toes. He will penalize for every mistake."

"He sounds like a fair and honest person. Who is he? I would like to work for him."

"He is none other than The Holy One Blessed Be He. And you are working for Him. We are all working for Him."

"Rabbi, you always find a way to work Hashem into every conversation."

"Actually, it is a verse in this week's parsha. Hashem tells Moshe to speak to the Bnei Yisrael and say to them, "I am Hashem Elokeichem" (Vayikra 18:2). These are two separate names of the Almighty: Hashem and Elokeichem."

"Why does the Torah use both names, Rabbi?"

"Rashi and the Sifsei Chachomim explain, Dov. Hashem is His Merciful Name. He is The Faithful One, who will pay good rewards to those who keep His mitzvos. Elokim is the Name of Judgement. He will judge our sins and extract punishment."

"He really is fair."


Kinderlach . . .

We are all working for the World's Best Boss. No one is fairer. No one is more reliable. And no one is more generous than Hashem. You are earning a great sechar (reward) for every mitzvah that you do. Don't worry about anything. He will pay you in full. However, He is also a demanding Boss. If you do not fulfill your job duties, He will not overlook it. There is a price to be paid. Keep working hard, kinderlach. You're sure to get your reward.

Body and Soul

Do not eat meat and milk. Do not eat non-kosher animals. Do not wear shaatnez (mixtures of linen and wool). Purify yourselves with the Parah Adumah (Red Cow). Do we understand these mitzvos? Hardly. They are described in the Torah as chukim. Other mitzvos make more sense to us. Do not steal, do not murder, do not take revenge, pay for damages that you caused. These mitzvos are called mishpatim. Hashem instructs us to guard both types of mitzvos. "And you shall guard my chukim and my mishpatim. You shall carry them out and live by them. I am Hashem." (Vayikra 18:5).

The Malbim illuminates the relationship between these two types of mitzvos. A person is composed of a body and a soul. The secrets of the soul are very deep and hidden from us. The chukim are mitzvos that we do not understand. They are given to us to purify and perfect our souls in a manner that we do not fully understand. The mishpatim, on the other hand, relate to the body. These common sense laws allow us to live together. The verse instructs us to guard both types of mitzvos. We perform the chukim with our bodies. Thus, the body helps to perfect the soul and prepare it for eternal life. Similarly, the main observance of the mishpatim is with the seichel (intelligence). The soul works to understand these laws, whose observance will protect the body. And so, the two halves of the person help each other to live. This is the meaning of the verse, "You shall carry them out and live by them." Two lives - the physical life in this world, and the spiritual life in the next world. When the person sheds the external garb of his body, he then lives the true eternal life of the world to come.

Kinderlach . . .

The mitzvos were given to us for life. Performing them gives us life. Both in this world, and the next. We do not understand some mitzvos. They give us no less life than the ones that we do understand. Don't ever think that you lose anything by performing a mitzvah. You only gain. Life itself.

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