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Simcha Groffman

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

Parashas Devarim

The Beginning

"Avi, it's time to get up."

"I'm so tired Imma. Can I sleep another five minutes?"

"That is what you said five minutes ago, and five minutes before that. Now you are out of time. You must get up."

"Okay, Imma. But I am moving very slowly. I can't just start my day with a bang."

"Why not, Avi? If you wake up with the right attitude, you whole day will go well. You will pray well, eat well, learn well, and relate well to people. The opposite is also true. Someone who wakes up lazy, or with a bad attitude, will inevitably stumble. He will get angry for no reason, even without bad intentions. His tefillah will not be clear. He may overeat. When he finally reaches Yeshiva and opens the Gemora, he will find that he has difficulty concentrating. 'The learning is just not going for me today,' he says. And so, he closes the Gemora and wastes several hours doing unnecessary things. What is he thinking? 'I am having a bad day. It just happens like that sometimes. There is nothing that I can do about it.' By this point he is actually right. He is trapped in the clutches of a bad attitude which is making everything go sour. However, if he thinks that days like this just happen, he is making a big mistake. This all could have been avoided by beginning the day on the right foot."

"Those are very encouraging words, Imma."

"The Mashgiach, Rav Yerucham Levovitz zt"l, refers to this as a great fundamental principle in serving Hashem. He deduces it from a verse in this week's parasha."

"Please share it with me, Imma."

"The very first verse states, 'These are the words that Moshe spoke to all Israel on the other side of the Jordan . . . and Di Zahav' (Devarim 1:1). Rashi explains that Moshe delivered words of tochacha (constructive criticism) To Klal Yisrael by hinting to the places where they had sinned over the past forty years. 'Di Zahav' refers to the Chet Ha'egel (Sin of the Golden Calf). They sinned because they had an abundance of gold, as the Gemora (Berachos 32a) states: Moshe said to The Holy One, 'Master of the World! The gold and silver that You bestowed upon Yisrael in such great quantities, until they said, "enough!" caused them to make the Golden Calf.' The Hebrew word for 'enough' is 'dai' which is similar to 'di'; and the word for gold is 'zahav.' Therefore Di Zahav is the hint to Chet Ha'egel."

"That is fascinating Imma, but they amassed the gold and silver when they left Mitzrayim and at the Yam Suf. Those events occurred months before the Chet Ha'egel."

"Excellent, Avi. That is precisely Rav Yerucham's point. They root of the aveyra (sin) began long before it was actually committed. At first glance, the excess gold has no relevance to the chet. However, our sages, with their penetrating vision, see things differently. They look back to the beginning. In doing so, they teach us a fundamental principle. A person's deeds, whether good or bad, are dependent upon the beginning. Therefore, a person must be careful when he begins something. For his success or failure is determined at the starting point."

"I see, Imma. That is why you want me to start my day on the right foot."

"Precisely, Avi. Rav Yerucham also cites the Rambam (Moreh Nevucim 1:34) who points out that a lack of preparation prevents most people from acquiring wisdom. Wisdom is easy to acquire if you prepare yourself. The preparation begins early in the morning, hours before you open the Gemora. The wise many conducts himself differently, from the first moment that he open his eyes, in order to be ready to learn."

"I understand, Imma. Thank you for having this talk with me. You have really changed my attitude. I am going 'rise like a lion' and start my day on the right foot. Then, when I sit down at the Gemora, I am going to become a big Talmid Chochom." "May you have much success, Avi!"


Kinderlach . . .

Rav Yerucham sums it all up. Each and every mitzvah has a beginning. Each and every action has a beginning. If a person wants to succeed, he must make a good preparation. Without a good beginning, he cannot accomplish anything. The mitzvah very often begins long before we realize. From the start of the day, we must put ourselves in the proper frame of mind to do the mitzvah correctly. Then it will go easily for us! Kinderlach, make your day go well. Succeed in your mitzvos and good deeds. Give them a good beginning. Get up in the morning like a lion, to do the will of our Father in Heaven.

Self Esteem

The beginning of Sefer Devarim recounts some of the events that the Jewish people experienced during their forty years in the desert. One of those events was the Chet HaMeraglim (Sin of the Spies). This was the first of many calamities that occurred on Tisha B'Av. Loshon hora was spoken about the Land of Israel, which led to the punishment of golus (exile from the Land). What caused the people to commit such a terrible sin? The Chofetz Chaim zt"l explains in his sefer, Shmiras HaLoshon, that the spies sensed the extreme holiness of the Land of Israel. Hashem rules the Land with Middos HaDin (strict justice). One must be on a very high spiritual level to live there. We are not tsaddikim gemurim (completely righteous people); therefore, we are not fit to inhabit the Land.

In retrospect, we can look back and say that they were able to inherit the Land at that point. After all, Hashem never gives anyone a test that is too difficult for him. We learn an important lesson from their mistake. A person should never underestimate himself. His madrayga (spiritual level) may be higher than he thinks. His potential may be much greater than he imagined. There is only one way to find out. Consult knowledgeable people for their opinion of your abilities. Then, go ahead and give it your best. Don't sell yourself short. Don't count yourself out. B'ezras Hashem you will be pleasantly surprised at what great things you can accomplish.

Kinderlach . . .

"Abba, the class is having a contest to memorize a perek of Mishnayos. Should I do it?" "Why not Shuie?" "But I never memorized a whole perek before. Maybe I will make a mistake. I will be so embarrassed." "If you don't try Shuie, you will never know. I am sure that you have a wonderful memory. You just have to learn how to use it. That takes practice. These contests are designed to help you along the way. Give it a try. Nothing ventured nothing gained."

Later that week . . .

"Abba look what I got!" "Wow Shuie, that's a beautiful prize!" "I memorized more Mishnayos than anyone else in the whole class!" "I knew that you could. You only needed a little encouragement. Shuie, you are only beginning to discover the greatness inside of you."

Parasha Questions:

Where did the war with Sichon occur? (2:32,36)

Where did the war with Og Melech HaBashan occur? (3:1)

Why Did Hashem need to tell Moshe not to fear Og? (Rashi 3:2)

How big was Og's bed? (3:11)

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