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Simcha's Kinder Torah on the Chumash - 330 pages
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Hashem created man with two competing forces. On the one hand, a person has emotions and desires. Opposing this are his intelligence and seichel (common sense). The emotions are very powerful. They want to rule a person, and make him use his intelligence to seek wealth, power, and honor. The seichel objects. It recognizes the emmes. It strives to rule the emotions, thereby using them to serve Hashem and come close to Him. Which side has the upper hand? Who will win?
Rav Meir Simcha of Dvinsk, in his sefer Meshech Chochma (on parashas Bo) shares a fascinating insight into this deep subject. The Jewish people stood at the yom Suf, surrounded with danger on all sides. What should they do? "Tell the Children of Israel that they shall travel (forward into the sea)" (Shemos 14:15). A person cannot live in water; however, the seichel saw that Hashem wanted them to plunge into the yom. Nachshon Ben Aminidav, the Prince of the tribe of Yehuda led the way. He let his seichel rule his emotions. With complete faith, he went into the yom, a place where no person could live, following the Will of Hashem. His tribe followed, as did all of Klal Yisrael. They all crowned their seichel as ruler over their emotions by following Hashem's command. This ultimate act of mesirus nefesh (self-sacrifice) that stemmed from emunah forever crowned our seichel as ruler over our emotions. We achieved eternal freedom from the grip of the lower forces.
This idea provides the answer to a very bothersome question. Why do we continue to celebrate Pesach as z'man cheiruseinu (time of our freedom)? The freedom that we achieved from Mitzraim was relatively short-lived. We lived in Eretz Yisrael under our own rule for approximately 800 years until Nebuchadnezzer expelled us, beginning a series of exiles, pogroms, inquisitions, and subjugation that continue to this very day! Is that freedom? "Yes!" says Rav Meir Simcha. The nations may rule over us physically, but they will never usurp the rule of our seichel over our emotions. As the evening prayers state, "He took the nation of Israel out (of Mitzraim) to eternal freedom." Therefore, even a poor man must eat reclining at the Pesach Seder. That is the way free people eat, and he is free. The plunge into the sea liberated his soul forever.
Kinderlach . . .
Hashem tests us. Temptations are all around. We want to nap when we should be learning. We want to daydream when we should be praying. We are tempted to eat things that we should not. Our yetzer hara pushes us to get angry, take revenge, or make fun of someone. How can we overcome him and do the right thing? Just remember the Yom Suf. Your great great great...grandfather walked straight into the cold water, following the will of Hashem. He put the koach (strength) into your neshama (soul) to do the same. Daydream in the middle of prayer? Forget it! I am following Hashem. Get angry? Impossible! Move onward into the yom. That yetzer can't touch me. I am forever free.
Three days in the desert without water. The situation was desperate. Then Amalek came and made war with Israel. The Noam Elimelech writes that the water is a parable to Torah learning. A person should not go more than three days without learning Torah. His Yetzer Hara (Evil Inclination) will gain the power to battle him. Therefore, a person should strengthen himself by learning as much Torah as he can.
Amalek attacked in a place called Refidim. The Gemora Sanhedrin (106a) comments that Refidim is a combination of the words rofu yadayim (their hands weakened). Their study of Torah, represented by their hands, weakened. That allowed Amalek to come.
Kinderlach . . .
Our Torah learning keeps us spiritually strong. Then the Yetzer Hara cannot harm us. Our enemies cannot harm us either. Our weakness is what gives them strength. Let us all bolster our defenses by strengthening our Torah learning. When the voice of Yaakov is heard, the hands of Eisav cannot harm us.
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