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Simcha Groffman

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

Parashas Shoftim

Break the Ropes

"Who is the man who is fearful and fainthearted? Let him go and return to his house" (Devarim 20:8). Such a man cannot fight in the Jewish army. What is he afraid of? Rebbe Yossie HaGlili says that he is afraid of the aveyros that he has committed. A soldier needs special Siyata Di'Shmaya (Heavenly Assistance) to survive a war. One with aveyros does not merit this Siyata Di'Shmaya (Gemora Sota 44a). What magnitude of aveyra strikes fear into ones heart? The Ohr HaChaim HaKadosh gives a startling answer - speaking unnecessary words between "Yishtabach" and "Yotzer Ohr" in the morning tefillos. Such a seemingly small aveyra can cause a soldier to be killed in war.

The Chovos HaLevavos in Shaar HaTeshuva, chapter seven, illuminates another aspect of small aveyros. Any aveyra, no matter how small, if repeated often enough, will become a big aveyra. The repetition itself causes the aveyra to become a habit. Habits, especially bad ones, are very hard to break. The Chovos HaLevavos compares them to rope, as the following story illustrates.

- - { - - "What are those little white oval balls, Chaim?"

"They are silkworm cocoons, Avi."

"What is a silkworm cocoon, Chaim?"

"There is a little bug called a silkworm inside each cocoon. His saliva comes out in a very fine stream and hardens into a thread. He winds that thread around and around himself until he forms this egg-shaped cocoon."

"That is fascinating, Chaim. What do you plan to do with all of these cocoons?"

"I am going to unwind the silk and spin it into thread. I then plan to wind the threads together into twine. I have a machine that combines the twines into rope. Finally, I want to weave the rope into thick cable to use on my neighbor's boat."

"Boat cable is over three centimeters thick, Chaim! It is the strongest rope that exists. Is it really made from this frail thread?"

"Yes it is, Avi. The secret is to keep doubling the thread over and over and over again until it becomes very thick and strong."

"Chaim, did you know that the Chovos HaLevavos compares small aveyros to silk thread? In its raw form, it is among the weakest things in the world - the saliva of a worm. So too, a single small aveyra by itself is very weak and easy to correct. The problem comes when you repeat it. Just as the silk cord becomes stronger and harder to break the thicker that you wind it, so too the aveyra becomes stronger and harder to correct the more that you repeat it. It becomes an ingrained habit."

"Oy vey, Avi. What can we do about our small aveyros that have become big habits?"

"The Chovos HaLevavos has an answer for you, Chaim. The boat cable will fray, become weak, and eventually break over time. So too, if you ignore a habitual aveyra and do teshuva, it will gradually weaken and eventually break completely."

"How encouraging!"

"Yes. You just have to look at it as a long-term project. Keep plugging away and don't give up. You will eventually break the rope of that aveyra that has trapped you in its clutches."

"How poetic! I am going to start today."

"May Hashem grant you success."

Kinderlach . . .

Habits are very powerful, like strong rope. They begin as small threads, but over time, they wind themselves into big, thick ropes. Develop good habits, kinderlach - mitzvah habits. Make getting up on time in the morning a habit. Your whole day will start off right. Be kind and helpful to people over, and over, and over again until it becomes second nature. Put all of your mental energy into learning Torah. That will become your derech in learning. Kinderlach, stay far away from aveyros. When you do mistakenly do an aveyra, even a small one, do not repeat it. Do not allow it to become a bad habit. It will "tie you up" in a thick rope that is very difficult to break. However, if you find yourself trapped in its clutches, do not despair. You can break that rope. It just takes time and patience. Now is the time to take that time, kinderlach. We are at the beginning of the month of Elul. Hashem is very close to us during this month. He is ready to accept our teshuva. You will receive extra Siyata Di'Shmaya (Heavenly Assistance) if you try to break those aveyra habits now, kinderlach. Take advantage of this time to get close to Hashem. Break the ropes and get out of the aveyros.

Good Judgment

"Shalom Abba! I'm home."

"Shalom, Avi! How was your day at school?"

"Wonderful, Abba. The teacher really made us work hard."

"Adam l'omol yulad (A person was born to work hard)" (Iyov 5:7).

"He even gave us a question to discuss with the family."

"Wonderful, Avi! What is it?"

"Is it good to be judged?"

"Hmmm. That is a very deep question. Let's work out the answer together. What is your first reaction?"

"Judgment is unpleasant."


"The judge examines your life. He evaluates everything that you do."

"What is wrong with that?"

"It can be embarrassing to recall private things. It can also be painful to hear about your past mistakes. It is also very nerve-wracking to think that your future rides on this judgment."

"All very true, Avi. What is the positive side?"

"Maybe you can help me with that, Abba."

"I will do better than that, Avi. I will get Rav Shach zt"l to help you. He writes about parashas Shoftim, and uses this as a starting point to speak about the judgment of Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur."

"What does he say, Abba?"

"Hashem's yearly judgment is a tovah (good thing) for His creations. People commit various sins over the years. If Hashem would not give the opportunity to do teshuva, judge, and forgive, the sins would build up. They would get to such a level, that Hashem would have no choice except to be angry with us (so to speak)."

"I see."

"Therefore, the judgment of Yomim Noraim is a very good thing. It compels us to examine our deeds, recall our mistakes, and resolve to correct them. We actually judge ourselves before Hashem judges us. If we do a good job, and truly regret our aveyros (sins), then He will forgive us. We then begin the new year with a clean slate."

"That is wonderful."

"Correct, Avi. So you see that judgment is a very good thing."

"The best, Abba. May we all merit a good judgment this year!"


Kinderlach . . .

We are now at the beginning of the month of Elul, the last month of the year. Now is the time to begin preparation for the upcoming judgment of the Yomim Noraim. Hashem does us a big favor these next two months. He makes it easy for us to do teshuva. He comes close to us during these Yimei Ratzon (Days of Special Favor). The distance for us to return to Him is very short. Take the opportunity, kinderlach. Do teshuva now. Prepare yourself for the judgment day and begin the new year with a clean slate.

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