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Simcha Groffman

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Kinder Torah

Parshas Devarim

Dedicated in honor of Simcha and Sara Groffman and Family By some close friends

For parents to share with the children at the Shabbos table

Correcting One Another

Rav Chanina says, "Jerusalem was destroyed because people did not correct one another," (Mesechta Shabbos 119b). When the gemora speaks about correction, it is referring to telling the other person that he is making a mistake. Why should we do this? Because we love him. Rav Zev Leff once told a story which illustrates the opposite extreme. There was a wealthy man who had a teenage son. He and his first wife were divorced and he wanted to marry again. The new wife said that she would marry the man only on the condition that he had no contact with his son. The man bought his son an apartment, a car, and gave him a credit card with unlimited expense account. He said to his son, "Buy whatever you want, I'll pay the bill. There is just one condition. Do not call me and do not come to see me. I never want to see you again." This son was the saddest person that Rav Leff had ever met. The father, by totally ignoring the son, gave him a clear message that he did not love him or care about him. When we care about someone, we do not ignore them (and their mistakes,) rather we try to help them out.

Parshas Devarim is all about correction. Moshe Rabbeinu gave correction to the Jewish people before he died. We can learn from this how to give and accept correction. To whom do we give correction? Only one who will listen. Why do we give correction? Because we love the person. How do we give correction? Softly, with nachas, and without embarrassment. How do we accept correction? We have to be happy that someone cares enough about us to take the time and effort to point out our mistakes. We have to listen with kovod (respect).

The Soft Touch

In the beginning of parshas Devarim, the Torah recounts many of the sins of the Jewish people. Oddly enough, it only mentions the places where the sins occured, and not the sins themselves. Rashi writes that the sins were not explicitly stated, in order to preserve the honor of the Jewish people. Rav Chaim Shmuelevitz says that although the sins were well known, they were nonetheless only hinted at. We learn from this to be very careful not to hurt one ano-ther's feelings when we are correc-ting them. We also learn this directly from Hashem. He killed Bilaam's donkey the day after the donkey had spoken to Bilaam. Why? Because the donkey had humiliated Bilaam. Although Bilaam was a wicked person, Hashem was nonetheless careful about his honor.

What happens if we do not act with kovod (respect) and we embarrass the person? The gemora writes in Mesecta Gittin (57a), "Rebbi Elazar says, 'Come and see how great the power of embarrass-ment is. Behold, Hashem assisted Bar Kamsa, destroyed His house and burned His sanctuary.'" Bar Kamsa was humiliated in public when he was thrown out of a large festive meal. The great Rabbis of the time were in attendance and they did not protest his disgrace. Bar Kamsa took revenge (and we see that Hashem helped him) by informing to the Romans and thereby causing the destruction of Jerusalem.

Correct Only a Listener

To whom do we give correction? Only to one who will listen. The book "Stories of Chassidim" tells of a Rav who used to go for a walk every evening for half an hour with his shammes (valet). One evening, he knocked on the door of a wealthy banker. The two men were ushered into the banker's home and made comfortable. The Rav sat there but did not say anything. The wealthy man asked the shammes why the Rav came to his home. The shammes did not know. After sitting a short time, the Rav left. The wealthy man could no longer control himself. He asked the Rav with great respect, "Why did the Rav come to see me?" The Rav said, "I came to fulfill a mitzvah." "What mitzvah?" asked the wealthy banker. "The mitzvah to refrain from saying something that will not be heard." "What is it that the Rav did not say?" The curiosity of the rich man was overwhelming. Finally, the Rav gave in to the pressure. The Rav told the banker about a poor widow who owed a large sum of money on her mortgage which she could not pay. The bank was threatening to evict her from her house. The banker said, "What can I do? She owes the bank and not me. It's not my bank." "You see," said the Rav, "I knew that my words would not be heard." With that he excused himself and left. The conversation made such an impre-ssion on the wealthy banker that within a short time, he paid the entire mortgage from his own personal funds.

We should listen to correction from another person with happiness, knowing that he cares enough about us enough to take the trouble to point out our mistakes. In fact the Mishna in Pirkei Avos (6:5) says "Love correction". We should not interrupt the person correcting us and we should not answer disrespectfully.


The gemora (Brochos 32) says "Rebbe Elazar says, 'From the day that the Beis Hamikdash was destroyed, the gates of prayer were locked, . . . but even so, the gates of tears were not locked.'" All of the restrictions that we observe during these three weeks (and indeed the whole year) are to minimize our happiness and bring us to mourn and cry over the destruction of the Beis Hamikdash and Jerusalem. If we merely go through the motions and are not sad, we have missed the whole point. Hashem wants our tears. The Chasam Sofer used to cry his tears into a cup and drink them during the seudas mafsekes (final meal before the fast). We should merit that Moshiach should come before Tisha B'Av and our crying shall turn into rejoicing!

Enjoy your Shabbos table !

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Simcha Groffman

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