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Simcha Groffman

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Kinder Torah

Parshas Nitzavim


Jewish history is filled with times of great glory for the Jewish people, and also times of terrible tragedy. The Medrash Tanchuma compares the glory to light, and the tragedy to darkness. Even when the day is dark, we should not despair. The day will come when Hashem will shine the eternal light upon us. When? The answer is in this week's parsha. "You are standing today, all of you, before Hashem." (Devarim 29:9) The Medrash explains that when we are all unified, Hashem will redeem us. We must stand together as one. Take for example a bundle of twigs. When they are bound together, they are difficult to break. However, if they are loose individual twigs, even a baby can break them. So too the Jewish people, when unified become a strong spiritual force. That is when Hashem will redeem us.

At the beginning of the month of Elul, we announced that the King was coming. In a few days, He will be here. Rosh Hashanah marks His arrival. We will celebrate the event with an official coronation ceremony. The prayers of the day speak about our acceptance of Hashem's sovereignty. But wait a minute, can there be a King without a nation? Over whom will He rule? We are His holy nation. Is a nation a group of individuals, each pursuing his own path, like the individual twigs? Or, is a nation a unified group, like the bundle of twigs. There is no King without a nation, and the greater our national unity; the greater is Hashem's glorious rule over us. This is our purpose this Rosh Hashanah, to promote national unity within the Jewish people.

Children . . .

Unity means getting along with others. Rosh Hashanah is a day when we make special efforts to love all Jews. The last thing we want to do is to make an argument. Even if someone does something wrong, today is not the day to quarrel about it. Give in to the other person. That is the spirit of Rosh Hashanah.

The Power of Prayer

Every Jewish event is celebrated with tefillah (prayer) to Hashem. However, these Days of Awe, Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur are days whose very essence is tefillah. Countless hours are invested in pouring out our hearts in prayer to Hashem. The Medrash Rabba on this week's parsha records two examples of the power of tefillah. One is the tefillah of Cain in parshas Bereshis. Cain killed his brother Abel. For this he was sentenced to na va'nad, to be a vagrant and a wanderer on the face of the earth. Cain poured out his heart in grief and prayer. Hashem, in his infinite kindness, revoked half of the sentence. Cain's punishment was only nad, wandering. The second illustration of the power of tefillah is the prophet Chizkiahu. Hashem told Chizkiahu to return to his home, because his time had come to die. Chizkiahu faced the wall and began to pray. Hashem immediately added fifteen years onto Chizkiahu's life.

Children . . .

When you go to shul this Rosh Hashanah, remember that Hashem is listening to every word of prayer. This is your opportunity to speak with Him. It is always important to be on our best behavior in shul. But it is especially important on these days. Everyone is trying so hard to concentrate on his tefillos. It would be sad to disturb them with bad behavior. We want to hear them say, "Look at how wonderfully Avi behaved in shul. He is a real mensch."

Wake Up!

Yitzy wake up, WAKE UP!
What? What happened? Where am I? What am I doing?
You were sleep walking.
Really? I never did that before. Gee, thanks for waking me up Reuven.
I could have really hurt myself. I could have bumped into something sharp, or fallen down.
Don't mention it Yitzy. Do you know, my Rebbe was just talking about sleepwalking today.
Really? What was he saying?
He was teaching us about the blowing of the shofar. The Rambam says that the sound of the shofar wakes us up.
I don't believe that. Is anyone really sleeping in shul when it comes to the shofar blowing?
He was speaking about the "sleep" of habit. A person sometimes just does things without thinking because he is accustomed to doing them. He doesn't stop to evaluate if they are right or wrong, good or bad. He just does them. Then along comes the shofar and says, "WAKE UP!" Think about what you are doing. If it is wrong, correct yourself. Even if you are doing well, but could be doing better, improve yourself. Be the best that you can be!

Wow! All of that from the shofar? Now I understand why people cry when the shofar is blown. This Rosh Hashanah, I will really listen carefully. I really want to wake up and be the best that I can be.

Enjoy your Shabbos table !

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Simcha Groffman

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