For parents to give over to the children at the Shabbos table
This week's Kinder Torah is dedicated in honor of Shayna Bas Aliza -- Holly Jean Stanley's graduation from eighth grade
Words That Hurt
I am so upset at Shmuelly," said Yitzy. "I pushed him one time a few weeks ago and he does not let me forget it. Every time I see him, he reminds me about it. I did teshuva (repentance). I said that I was sorry, and I haven't pushed anyone since. It is right for him to keep bringing it up?" Kinderlach, we have spoken many times about mitzvos involving speech. This week we have another mitzvah involving speech, onas devorim (wronging someone with words). What is onas devorim? The gemora in Bava Metzia 58b gives a few examples. Reminding someone of their past sins can cause them pain. In our story, Shmuelly was causing Yitzy pain by reminding him of the time he pushed him. That is onas devorim. If a person asks you where he can buy wheat, and you direct him to a merchant who does not and never did sell wheat, that is also onas devorim. You are giving someone a bad piece of advice, which causes him to waste time and possibly money. "Where did you buy that?" "How much did you pay?" These questions could be onas devorim if the person does not feel comfortable divulging such information. "That's so expensive, you could have gotten it cheaper!" "I know you do not have money now, but let me show you this great bargain." These statements make a person feel bad about something that is beyond his control. We have to realize, kinderlach, that words are very powerful. They can hurt a person very badly. In fact, the gemora says that hurting a person's feelings is worse that causing him a monetary loss. You can always pay back the money, but once the words leave your mouth, you can never take them back. Therefore, let us all try very very hard, kinderlach to watch what we say to our parents, brothers, sisters, friends, neighbors, and shopkeepers. We want our speech to be a pleasure for them to hear.
It's All From Hashem
Abba, thank you so much for taking good care of us. Boruch Hashem, we have a nice farm, and every day you go out and work the fields. You plow, plant, and tend to the crops. When they are grown, you pick them and bring them to Imma to cook into the delicious meals that we eat. We are so fortunate that we have such a farm and that it is able to provide for our family." "Kinderlach, do you know what next year is? The shmitta (sabbatical) year. Next year I take a big vacation. No plowing, planting, cultivating or working the land. We will see what grows by itself. Even that is not ours. It is hefker (ownerless) and free for anyone to take." "But Abba, what will we have to eat next year? If you do not work the land, and anyone can take what grows by itself, we will have hardly any food." "Kinderlach, the Torah asks the exact same question in Vayikra 25:20. The answer is that Hashem will provide for us. This year He will give us enough food to last till after the shmitta year."
Kinderlach, in the times of the Beis HaMikdash farming was the main occupation of the Jewish people. Without the crops of the farm, there would be literally no food to eat. Observing the shmitta was therefore a very big test of one's trust in Hashem. Rav Chaim Shmuelevitz says that those who observe shmitta are compared to heavenly angels who have no desire to go against Hashem's will. That is the strength of their trust in Hashem. Kinderlach, concerning our livelihood, it is no different nowadays. Hashem provides us with the food we eat. He does not necessarily need to send it to us via the work of our hands. He can sent it to us in many different ways. We have trust in Him that He is taking care of us in the best possible way.
Rebbe Shimon Bar Yochai
Lag B'omer was the yahrtzeit of Rebbe Shimon Bar Yochai, so it is only fitting that we recount one of his good deeds (from the Medrash Rabba Vayikra 34:12). On Rosh Hashanah, Hashem decrees how much income a person will have for the upcoming year. It does not matter how much or how hard he works, his income is fixed by Hashem. Similarly, his expenditures are also fixed. He has the choice whether or not to spend them on mitzvos such as giving charity to poor people. If he does not choose to do so, then he will lose the money in a much less desirable way. One Rosh Hashanah night, Rebbe Shimon Bar Yochai had a dream that the king would take from his sons 600 dinars (a unit of money in the times of the Talmud). Rebbe Shimon convinced them to give tsedaka (charity) and appointed them gabbai tsedaka (dispensers of charity). They asked their father where they would find the money to distribute to the poor people. He told them to use their own money in the meantime, and at the end of the year, he would refund them what they were lacking. At the end of the year, someone sent the king a false report, accusing them of a crime. The officer of the king seized them; told them they must make a silk garment for the king, or pay 600 dinars. He threw them into prison. When he heard this, Rebbe Shimon came to them in prison and asked them how much tsedaka they had given throughout the course of the year. They showed him their notepads, and he saw that they had given 594 dinars. Rebbe Shimon said to them, "Give me six dinars." They said, "The king wants 600 dinars. How can six dinars save us?" Rebbe Shimon said, "Don't worry." He took the six dinars and gave them to the guard as a bribe to be silent. He then helped his sons escape from the prison. "How did you know that six dinars would save us?" they asked Rebbe Shimon. "I knew from Rosh Hashanah that the king would take 600 dinars from you. You redeemed this money with the tsedaka that you gave." "Why didn't you tell us and we would have given the last six dinars?" they asked. "I wanted you to give the tsedaka for the sake of the mitzvah, not out of fear of the king," answered Rebbe Shimon. Kinderlach, we should all learn to do mitzvos for their own sake, and merit that all of our money be spent on mitzvos.
Show Its Importance
Who wants to receive blessings of prosperity, health, peace, and children? Hashem tells the Jewish people how to obtain these blessings in the beginning of the parsha (Vayikra 26:3). "If you will follow My decrees . . ." then you will be blessed. Rashi explains "following Hashem's decrees" to mean toiling in Torah. Rav Moshe Feinstein writes in his sefer Darash Moshe that toiling means putting all of your efforts into learning Torah. He expands the concept to include all mitzvos. One toils away at something that is very important to him. We can tell the importance of something to a person by how much time and effort he puts into it. As Shlomo HaMelech tells us in Mishle (2:4-5), "If you seek it [Torah] as if it were silver, if you search for it [Torah] as if it were hidden treasure -- then you will understand the fear of Hashem and discover the knowledge of our Ruler." Did you ever see how hard someone works when he needs money? He finds time; he puts all of his thought into it, and all of his energy. The question is, do we put that same effort into Torah and mitzvos? Let us take for example, the mitzvah of doing acts of kindness to our fellow Jews. Do we think about what the other person needs? Do we take the time to give him what he needs? Do we put all of our energy into it? In this week's parsha, Hashem is telling us to make Torah and mitzvos the main priority in our lives. Children, Hashem wants to give us all of the blessings. In our lives, Torah and mitzvos are priority number one.
Without Peace . . .
One of the blessings that Hashem promises is the blessing of peace. "I will provide peace in the land." (Vayikra 26:6) Rashi tells us the importance of this blessing. A person may think that because he has food and drink, he is not lacking anything. It is not so. Without peace, he has nothing. We see from this that peace is equal to all of the other blessings combined. Rav Moshe Feinstein asks what type of peace are we referring to? It is not the peace between nations, because during wartime, food and drink are not plentiful. Rather, it is the peace between friends, neighbors, and family members. Domestic strife will not cause famine or disease, as war will. However, the evils that come from social tensions are worse than a lack of physical bounty. The spirit of Torah, the fulfillment of mitzvos and good character traits are all corrupted. We lose the focus of our lives. We can judge by the severity of this statement, how important peace is in our homes and communities. Children, you can do your part in making peace. Have patience with people. If they do not give you what you want when you want it, do not respond impatiently by saying, "Nu?" Rather, speak to them nicely and try to understand them. The Ramban tells us in his letter to speak with nachas to everyone all of the time. Can you just imagine, children, how much peace this will bring to our world? Let us all be calmer, softer and happier, starting right now.
There are two sides to every coin. Hashem promises us many blessings if we follow His decrees. If, heaven forbid, we do not listen to Hashem, the Torah details the tragedies that will befall us. The Chofetz Chaim says that many people refrain from reading this segment of the parsha because it is too terrifying. This is similar to the case of a person who was warned not to travel a certain route. It was fraught with many dangers: thorns, wild animals, and steep cliffs. The person did not listen to the warnings. What do you think he did? He went right along that perilous route, paying no attention to its hazards. He is in even greater danger because of his ignorance. Shlomo HaMelech warns us to heed these words of warning. Listening to them will cause us to fear sin. That fear, and not our wisdom will save us in the end. Children, Abba and Imma also offer rewards and punishments. The rewards are very nice, but we all know that they are not ends in themselves. Rewards motivate us to continue to do well, to learn more, to do more mitzvos, and to do them better. Abba and Imma do not want to punish us. They want to keep us from doing wrong. Children, let us not be like that silly man who did not heed the words of warning and walked foolishly down the dangerous path
Enjoy your Shabbos table !
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