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Simcha Groffman

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Kinder Torah
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Parashas Chayei Sara

Did He Really Agree?

"Shalom, Mutty. How are you?"

"Fine, Yankel."

"Do you know what today's date is, Mutty?"

"The tenth of Kislev."

"Right. Today is the day that you are supposed to pay back the ten bushels of wheat that you borrowed from me."

"Wheat? I owe you barley! I'll pay you back barley, not wheat."

"Mutty, this is not funny. Wheat is worth twice as much as barley."

"I'll pay you the barley, Yankel."

The question is:

Does Mutty pay wheat, barley, or nothing?

The answer is:

The Mishna (Shvuos 6:1) discusses the case of "modeh b'mitkzas" - an oath taken when a defendant agrees to part of the claim being made against him. He must pay the part that he agrees to, and take an oath to exempt him from the rest. Here the Mishna discusses whether claiming wheat and admitting to barley is considered a partial agreement. In monetary terms, he agreed to part of the money value that was claimed from him. However, in terms of the produce claimed, barley is not wheat. Is that considered an agreement? The Tanna Kamma and Rabban Gamliel argue whether or not the defendant must take an oath. However, both agree that he exempt from paying anything, even barley. Why? The Tur (Choshen Mishpat 88) answers that the claimant claimed wheat. That is tantamount to admitting that he is not owed barley and will not accept barley as a payment. The Shulchan Aruch Choshen Mishpat (88:12) rules that the defendant does not pay anything. He cites the reason given by the Tur.

The Corridor

"Hello, is this the Chaye Netzach engineering firm?"


"My name is Mr. Prozdor. I would like an appointment with your top architect."

"In connection to what, sir?"

"I just bought a piece of land, and would like to build a house there."

"The architect will have to come to the site. How is Wednesday at 3:00?"

"Fine. Thank you."

Wednesday arrives and Mr. Prozdor meets the architect at the land site.

"Yes, Mr. Prozdor. How can we help you?"

"I would like to build a nice big house on this land. I would also like the house to have a nice sized entrance corridor."

"Let us measure the plot and see how much room you have."

They carefully measure the lot together.

"We can build a big home on this land. However, the entrance corridor can only be normal size. If you want a big corridor, we must make the rooms of the house smaller. The plot is too small for both a big house and a big entrance. The decision is yours."

"What do you advise?"

"Everyone makes their sitting room as big as possible. That is the room where you relax with your family and entertain guests. The entrance is just a corridor that you quickly pass through on the way to the main room. If you make the corridor big and the sitting room small, you will be a laughing stock. You made the main room small and the unimportant room big."

This story is based upon a parable of the Chofetz Chaim. The corridor is Olam Hazzeh - the physical world in which we currently live. The sitting room is Olam Habba - the eternal spiritual world that awaits us after we finish our work here. Where shall we place our efforts? Which room shall we make big and nice? The one in which we will spend all of our time. Why waste time beautifying the corridor, a place that we only pass through for a short time? Therefore, most of a person's efforts in this world should be invested in preparing his home in the next world. He need only invest minimal effort in the corridor; enough to keep him going. Anyone who does the opposite should be a laughing stock.

The sefer Lekach Tov relates this idea to a verse in this week's parasha. "I am a stranger and a resident among you," said Avraham Avinu to the sons of Ches (Bereshis 23:4). The Dubno Maggid asks, "How can one be both a stranger and a resident at the same time?" We find a similar terminology in parashas Behar, "For you are strangers and residents with Me" (Vayikra 25:23). Our sages explain that our living status in this world determines our eternal relationship with Hashem. If we live like strangers in this world, treating it only as a corridor to the true world - Olam Habbo - then Hashem will reside with us forever. We will take our Torah and mitzvos - our main occupation in this world - with us into the next world and enjoy them while basking in the glow of the Shechina (Divine Presence). However, if we consider ourselves residents in Olam Hazzeh, spending very little time on Torah and mitzvos, then we will be strangers to The Almighty in the next world. Therefore, it is worthwhile to be a stranger here, in order to b a resident over there.

Kinderlach . . .

A big beautiful home awaits you - one with 613 rooms. You have your whole life to work on furnishing that home. Every time you do a mitzvah, you broaden that room. A more careful, correct, and deliberate performance of the mitzvah will give you a bigger, nicer room. Does anyone want to live in a dark, dingy, small house forever? Of course not! Therefore, spend your time and effort in this world furnishing your eternal mitzvah house in Olam Habbo. Use the best quality materials and labor - beautiful artisanship and design. On the other hand, do not put any more than the minimal effort into your temporary quarters here in Olam Hazzeh. They are only short lived. May Hashem reward all of your efforts with a big beautiful palace - forever.

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