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Simcha Groffman

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Kinder Torah
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Parashas Lech Lecha

It Starts from the Heart

Things have a way of snowballing. We see this from an episode in this week's parasha. Avram had just returned from Mitzrayim to Eretz Yisrael. Lot was with him. Both Lot and Avram were very wealthy, owning many flocks of sheep, cattle and other riches. The verse then relates an interesting fact to us.

"And the land could not support them dwelling together; for their possessions were great, and they were unable to dwell together. And there was quarreling between the herdsmen of Abram's cattle and the herdsmen of Lot's cattle." (Bereshis 13:6,7). A fight began between Avram's shepherds and Lot's shepherds. The Malbim explains that this fight had two roots - physical and spiritual. The first half of the verse reveals the physical reason, "For their possessions were great." They had so many flocks that the land itself was not big enough to support both of them. That alone was enough of a reason to cause them to split up. However, would this cause a dispute? Perhaps not. The second half of the verse hints to the reason for the dispute. "And they were unable to dwell together." The Malbim reveals a chain of events that led to this state of affairs. Lot began to change his religious views and customs. He no longer saw eye to eye with Avram Avinu and his derech (path) in Avodas Hashem. This caused a hatred to develop between them. Their hearts were no longer warm toward each other. As long as good feelings exist between people, they can overlook their differences. They can work out issues without coming to a conflict. Each side is willing to give in and compromise. After all, he is dealing with someone whom he cares for. How could he think of fighting with him? However, once hatred arises in the heart, quarreling and arguments are soon to follow. That is exactly what happened here. A little resentment entered their hearts. Then they had a problem about grazing land. This problem would have ordinarily been solved. However, the hatred turned it into an argument.

The fight then escalated to the shepherds. Lot's servants grazed their flocks in the fields of others, and Avram's shepherds reproved them. They could not see eye to eye and were unable to get along. And so, Avram and Lot, uncle and nephew, had to part and go their own separate ways. That is the result of hatred in the heart. It causes arguments, fighting, and ultimately separation between people. This is one of the most dangerous weapons of the Yetzer Hara. Hatred caused the destruction of the second Beis HaMikdash, and it is preventing its rebuilding to this very day.

Kinderlach . . .

Let us all learn a lesson from this. Stop an argument before it starts. Where does it start? In the heart. When there is love between people, they can work out their differences. They have good intentions and want to get along. However, when hatred enters the picture, then things begin to go sour. Sometimes even the simplest problems cannot be worked out because of the resentment between the two people. Don't let this happen to you, kinderlach. Love your fellow Jews. Think of how good they are. Keep your heart warm towards them. When you do this, your differences will always remain small and solvable. Attack disputes at the source. Remember, it starts from the heart.

Above the Stars

"What a beautiful starry night, Abba."

"It sure is, Chaim. Hashem is treating us to a majestic view of His handiwork in the heavens."

"Imagine what Avraham Avinu must have been thinking when he looked up into these very heavens, over 3700 years ago."

"Are you referring to the passage in the parasha where Avraham expresses his concern about not having children?"

"Yes, Abba."

"The Torah says, 'And He (Hashem) took him outside, and said, "Gaze now toward the Heavens, and count the stars, if you are able to count them!" And He said unto him, "So shall your offspring be"' (Bereshis 15:5). Rashi explains the simple meaning of this verse. The Almighty graphically illustrated how many descendants Avraham Avinu would have - an uncountable amount - just as the stars of the heavens. Our Sages* add a deeper meaning. 'Ain mazal li'Yisrael' (the Jewish people are not controlled by the heavenly bodies). Each person is born under a certain mazal. This determines his physical and emotional makeup. Avram and Sari were born under a mazal of childlessness. Had they not been Jewish, they would not have given birth their entire lives, for the nations of the world cannot change the mazal that they were born with. However, ain mazal li'Yisrael! We are different! We are not confined to our mazal. Avram became Avraham, Sari became Sarah, and they gave birth to a son - Yitzchak. Hashem took Avram outside. He took him out of his misconception that the stars controlled his destiny. Avram was not a slave to his mazal."

"Is that still true nowadays, Abba?"

"Yes it is, Chaim. The Meiri's commentary on the Gemora (Shabbos 156a) broadens the concept of ain mazal li'Yisrael. A person's mazal also determines his middos - calm or excitable, stubborn or easy-going, desirous or satisfied, stingy or generous, etc. We may think that we are stuck with our bad middos. It is not so. Ain mazal li'Yisrael! We have bechira (free will). We can overcome the less-than-desirable middos that we were born with. It may be difficult at first, but hard work and practice make good middos habitual. A stingy person gives tsedaka over and over and over again. It becomes easier and easier. Hashem's Siyata Di'Shmaya (Heavenly Assistance) gives him the spiritual boost to overcome his mazal and he actually becomes a generous person. He changes his nature!"


"Ain mazal li'Yisrael!"

Kinderlach . . .

Is it hard for you to get out of bed in the morning? Do you find it difficult to refrain from overeating? Are you easily angered? Is it not easy for you to patiently sit and learn Torah? Is listening to Abba and Imma always a chore for you? I am sure that you would like to overcome every one of these middos. However, it seems very difficult. Habits are hard to break, especially ones that you were born with, and are a part of your nature. Guess what? Ain mazal li'Yisrael! You can change your nature. You are not caught in the trap of unbreakable habit. Hashem helps you. A sincere effort on your part, accompanied by tefillah and Siyata Di'Shmaya will bring you success! Make bad middos a thing of the past. Ain mazal li'Yisrael!

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