Let us try to imagine that we lived in the generation that left Egypt. We experienced the miracles of the eser makkos, kriyas Yam Suf, Har Sinai, and kaballas HaTorah. These were wondrous events; each one alone would have been enough to inspire a person for a lifetime (as we say in the Pesach Haggadah, dayeinu.) How could we have fallen so quickly to commit the Chet HaEgel, (Sin of the Golden Calf), just forty days after receiving the Torah? Rav Chaim Shmuelevitz zt"l in Sichos Mussar explains the Chet HaEgel as follows. The Jewish people had grown to trust and depend upon Moshe Rabbeinu. He was leading them through every facet of their miraculous deliverance from the time they were slaves in Egypt. Now, suddenly, he did not descend from the mountain at the expected time. The Satan tricked them into thinking that their beloved leader had died. The prospect of continuing without him made the Jewish people frightened and panicky. In this type of environment, the Satan was able to convince them to commit the Chet HaEgel. He would never have been able to accomplish this under normal calm circumstances. It all began with panic. Rav Eliyahu Dessler zt"l, explains the prayer Al Chet that we say on Yom Kippur when confessing our sins. The first sin mentioned is oness (a sin committed under duress). Rav Dessler explains that due to the pressure, we are likely to be overly lenient in our mitzvah observance. We thought the situation warranted a heter, (leniency) when in reality our tension biased our judgment.
Children . . .
How many times does it happen that someone takes our toy away from us? What should we do? Should we panic and grab it back, or should we ask nicely? What happens when they give out candy or goodies in shul? We should not get excited and misbehave. We have to behave nicely even in these situations. Remember that Hashem is really deciding who gets the treats. If He wants us to get one then we will. And if we don't is it really so terrible? It is much worse to display bad middos (character traits). Whenever we feel that we are under pressure, we have to stop ourselves and say that we will not let this ruin our behavior.
Over and Over Again
"When He (Hashem) finished speaking to him on Mount Sinai, He gave Moses the two Tablets of Testimony . . ." (Shemos 31:18). The Medrash Rabba (41:6) explains this verse as follows. All of the forty days that Moshe Rabbeinu was on Mount Sinai, he kept learning Torah and forgetting what he learned. He said to Hashem, "Master of the World, I have learned forty days and I don't know anything!" What did Hashem do? When Moshe Rabbeinu completed the forty days (of learning), He gave the Torah to him as a gift. Rav Dovid Luria zt"l points out an important lesson that we learn from this Medrash. In order to learn Torah, understand what you learned, and remember it, you must receive siyata di'shmaya (heavenly assistance). The only way to receive this help from Hashem is to pray for it. Another important lesson that we learn from this Medrash is the importance of constant review of what we learn. The Gemora (Eiruvin 54b) relates that Moshe Rabbeinu first taught the Torah that he learned to Aharon, then to Elazar, then to the Elders of the Nation, then to the entire Jewish people. Rebbe Eliezer explains that one must review what he learned four times. The Gemora then relates a story about Rebbe Preida, who had a student who needed to learn everything 400 times before he understood it! Rebbe Preida patiently taught this student every lesson 400 times. One day, Rebbe Preida informed his student that he needed to go out soon to do a mitzvah.
After their usual 400 repetitions of the lesson, the student still did not understand. When Rebbe Preida asked him why he did not understand, the student replied that he could not concentrate because he knew Rebbe Preida had to leave to do a mitzvah. With that, Rebbe Preida told him to pay attention well and they would learn it again. Rebbe Preida sat with the student and repeated the lesson another 400 times! This time the student understood. A voice came down from heaven rewarding Rebbe Preida for his diligence. "If you wish, Rebbe Preida, I will add 400 years onto your life. Or you and your entire generation will merit Olam Habbo (the next world)." Rebbe Preida chose the reward of the next world. Hashem gave him both long life and the next world.
Children . . .
Our learning requires constant review. We must review what we are learning until we understand it, and then continually go over it until we remember it. This requires patience and diligence. We should not get discouraged children, if we do not understand or remember something the first or second time we learn it. Moshe Rabbeinu did not get discouraged. Neither did Rebbe Preida. Let us all take a lesson from Rebbe Preida who had the perseverance to teach his student 800 times until he understood! The other essential ingredient to success in learning is tefillah (prayer) for siyata di'shmaya (heavenly assistance). Without the help of the Merciful One, we cannot accomplish anything. May Hashem answer all of our prayers for success in all of our endeavors.
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