For parents to give over to the children at the Shabbos table
"Distance yourself from a false matter" (Shemos 23:7). The Pele Yoatz writes that this refers to speaking sheker (lies and falsehoods). The words, "distance yourself" are not used by the Torah in reference to any other aveyra. Therefore, one can see how harmful it is to speak falsely. The Orchos Tsaddikim lists nine different categories of sheker. Some examples include not fulfilling a promise, or saying that you did something when you really did not do it. Kinderlach, sometimes we are careless and spill the milk or break a plate. Then Imma comes into the room and asks, "Did you break the plate?" To say "no, Imma" might seem easy. There will not be any scolding or punishment from Imma. However, Hashem heard our words. His punishment for sheker is much worse than what would happen if we admitted the truth to Imma. A person who becomes a habitual liar will have many problems in his life. Besides all of the aveyras he accumulates, he loses his credibility, both to himself and to others. Even when he says the truth, he will not be believed. As Avos D'Rebbe Nosson says (30:4), "This is the punishment of a liar. Even when he tells the truth, they do not believe him." Rav Shlomo Zalman Auerbach exemplified the midda of emes. Rav Yechiel Mechel Stern writes in his biography that Rav Shlomo Zalman was being considered for the position of Rosh Yeshiva of Yeshiva Kol Torah in Yerushalaim in the year 1949. He was asked to deliver a shiur to the board of directors of the Yeshiva. Midway through the shiur, Rav Yonah Merzbach asked an intricate question on the subject. Rav Shlomo Zalman thought for a few moments and replied, "I don't know the answer." When the great Rav returned home that evening to his wife, he sadly told her that he felt he was not qualified for the position because he could not answer the question of Rav Merzbach. While they were talking, Rav Yonah knocked on the door. He asked Rav Shlomo Zalman to accept the position as Rosh Yeshiva. Rav Yonah had recognized his uncompromising truthfulness from the moment he answered, "I don't know." His position was at stake, but he did not offer excuses or evade the question. He answered frankly and truthfully. Rav Shlomo Zalman Auerbach was the Rosh Yeshiva of Kol Torah for fifty years. Uncompromising integrity was his dominant character trait.
There are many mitzvos in this week's parsha, kinderlach that have to do with the midda of rachmonus (compassion). For example, lending money to a poor person, returning the animal of your enemy, helping him unload his donkey, being especially careful about how we treat a convert, widow, or orphan. The Sefer HaChinuch (Mitzvah 66) tells us the source of these mitzvos. Hashem wants us to become accustomed to doing chessed. By giving us so many opportunities to help other people, and have compassion for them, we purify ourselves and become kind and compassionate people. Hashem, who treats a person the same way that person treats others, will then act with kindness and compassion toward us. Let us look at these mitzvos one at a time. Rashi tells us that Hashem wants us to feel the suffering of the poor person, and lend to him in an honorable way, without embarrassing him. Kinderlach, we should never know the tzorus of being poor and having to borrow money. If we lend to others, then Hashem will protect us from that fate. Kinderlach, the next time we receive money, instead of going out and buying a treat, let us give it to Abba to give to a gemach (free loan fund) to lend to poor people. That is our way to fulfill this mitzvah. Kinderlach, we have to be thankful that Hashem gave us family. They help us with everything we have to do in life. As we said last week, who does more for us than our parents? Unfortunately, there are people who have lost family members. They do not have the help that family will provide. Therefore, we have a mitzvah to be like their family. The Sefer HaChinuch says (Mitzvos 63 & 64) that we have to treat the convert, the widow, and the orphan with extra special care. Speak to them very softly and nicely, and help them in any way that we can. Give them the benefit of the doubt in all matters. Rashi takes it one step further and says that the mitzvah applies to all of Klal Yisrael. Boruch Hashem, kinderlach, we get a mitzvah every time we are considerate and treat a person nicely.
It is not so difficult to do a chessed for someone we like. The Torah tells us in posukim 23:4,5 that we even have to help our enemy. The Sefer HaChinuch defines enemy as one to whom we harbor bad feelings. If we see his animal wandering off, we must return it to him. If we see his donkey struggling with a heavy load, we must help him unload it. The posuk uses the words azov taazov, which can also mean abandon. Unkelos darshens the words to mean abandon all of the bad feelings in your heart and help him. Do you know what will happen then? We will come to like that person. The more we do for someone, the more we will like him. The biggest proof for this are our parents. They love us so much because they are constantly doing chessed for us. We see people struggling with heavy loads all of the time. The gabbai has a lot of seforim to put away in the shul. Imma has lots of laundry to fold. A friend is sad because he just heard bad news. All of these are heavy loads. Hashem put us in this world to help lighten the other person's load. Lend a hand to help, lend an ear to listen. Before long, you will be doing chessed for everyone, and you will come to love all Klal Yisrael.
The Sefer Chofetz Chaim (klal 6) learns out the prohibition against believing loshon hora from a posuk in this week's parsha. "Do not accept a false report (23:1)." If someone makes a derogatory statement, how do you know that it is true? The Chofetz Chaim says that if this person is not careful about the prohibition against speaking loshon hora, we cannot assume that he is careful about the prohibition against speaking falsely. We can all think of reasons why he may be mistaken. Maybe he did not see the whole event or hear the whole story. Maybe someone exaggerated in telling the story over to him. Maybe he did not understand the person's motivations. When we stop ourselves from believing the loshon hora, and instead judge the person favorably, we get an extra mitzvah of dan lechaf z'chus. As the Chofetz Chaim says many times, being careful about loshon hora is the main way to stamp out sinas chinam (senseless hatred), increase unity in Klal Yisrael, and bring moshiach speedily in our days.
Enjoy your Shabbos table !
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