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"Chaim, we learned in Parashas Vayikra that we have a mitzvah to return stolen objects."
"Right you are, Avi. Chapter 5, Verse 23."
"What happens if you steal something from an old man. Before you can return it, unfortunately, he passes away."
"Then you must return it to his heirs who inherit his estate."
"Now I have a real question for you, Chaim. What if an only son steals from his father? Before he can return the stolen object, his father dies. At that moment he inherits his father. The law is that he must return the stolen object to the heir of his father - who is himself! What does he do with the stolen object?
The answer is:
This is a dispute in the Gemora (Bava Kamma 109a).
Rebbe Yossie HaGlili says that the son may keep the stolen object. After all, he inherited it from his father.
Rebbe Akiva says that he cannot correct the sin of stealing unless he rids himself of the stolen object.
What does he do with it?
The Mechaber (Shulchan Aruch Choshen Mishpat 367:5) rules like Rebbe Akiva. The son who stole from his father must give the stolen object to his son(s). If he has no sons, he may give it to a creditor as payment for a loan. Alternatively, he may give it to charity. When he gets rid of it, he has discharged his obligation. The receiver of the object must know that this is an act of repentance for the theft. Therefore, at the time of giving away the object he should say, "This is what I stole from my father."
This puzzle and answer is for learning and discussion purposes only. Do not rely upon it for psak halacha! Consult a Rav to determine the correct halachic ruling.
"What time is it, Abba?"
"Ten to eight, Chaim."
"I have ten minutes till school begins. I can eat another slice of bread, rush through bircas ha'mazone, run to school, and be two minutes late, just before they lock the gate."
"My dear Chaim, you did that yesterday, and you were sorry. The rushing ruined your concentration in class. You also rushed the day before, and every day last week. After each time you regretted it and said that you would never rush again."
"You're right, Abba. I have a bad habit. How can I stop myself?"
"Chaim, the parashas ha'shavuah deals with this very subject. It begins with the word 'Vayikra'. Hashem called to Moshe. The Medrash Rabba explains that Moshe Rabbeinu would not enter the Holy of Holies unless he was called by Hashem."
"You sound surprised, Chaim. The Medrash expresses a similar thought. Moshe was the 'father of wisdom,' the 'father of the prophets,' he took Yisrael out of Mitzraim. His hands directed miracles in Mitzraim, and the awesome 'Kriyas Yam Suf'. He rose up to the Heavens and brought the Torah down to earth. With all of his greatness, he still did not enter on his own. He waited until he was called."
"Yes, Chaim. The Medrash itself concludes from this, that Moshe Rabbeinu had 'daas'."
"I always thought that daas means knowledge."
"True. However Rav Yerucham Levovitz zt"l goes a bit deeper. He cites the Mesillas Yesharim, in showing that zehirus (watchfulness) and daas share the same basic middah (character trait)."
"What is that, Abba?"
"The ability to rule over one's self. One who has daas contemplates his ways, decides what the correct path is, and then follows it. He thinks about what he is doing, and does not mechanically follow bad habits. Someone with daas puts his knowledge into practice. He uses it to control himself."
"I see, Abba. I really can break this bad habit of rushing late to school. I just have to put my mind to it."
"That's the spirit, Chaim. You are a real 'ben daas'.
Kinderlach . . .
You are in control. You can break bad habits. Just use your head. Think about what you want to work on. Do you pray too quickly without kavannah (concentration)? Here is the solution. Hold yourself back. Slow down. Word by word. Think about what you are saying and to Whom you are speaking. Your kavannah will improve in no time. Are you always late going to sleep? Think about how tired you are in the morning, and how your day drags on. Wouldn't you like to be full of energy? Hold yourself back. Go to bed early. You can do it. Rule over yourself.
"What is that smell, Avi?"
"Something is burning and it sure smells bad, Chaim."
"Over there. A fire is burning."
The two boys run over to the brush and find a bird burning up in the fire.
"That's the smell, Avi. Now I am really puzzled."
"Have you read this week's parasha? The Torah mentions many korbonos (sacrifices) that were burned on the Mizbeach. They gave off a rayach nichoach (pleasing aroma). Among them are birds. Rashi (Vayikra 1:17) points out that the smell of burning bird feathers is not very pleasing."
"That's true, Chaim. We have experienced that ourselves. What is the Torah teaching us?"
"The 'aroma' that was pleasing to Hashem was the pure kavannah (intention) in the heart of the one who brought the sacrifice. Everything depended on his heart."
"That is beautiful, Chaim. A pure heart was the way to please Hashem. That Avodah (service) of sacrificing the korbonos was one of the three pillars on which the world stood."
"Do you mean the Mishna in Pirkei Avos, Avi? 'On three things the world stands: on Torah, on Avodah, and on Gemilus Chasodim (acts of loving kindness)'(1:2)?"
"Yes, Chaim. However nowadays, we have no Beis HaMikdash. We have no korbonos. How does the world stand?"
"Rav Leib Chasman zt"l refers to the Gemora (Taanis 2a). Our prayers take the place of the korbonos. Just as the main feature of the korbon was the kavannah of the heart, so too, the essence of tefillah (prayer) is the kavannah of the heart."
"What you are saying Chaim, is that the world stands on our tefillos."
"Yes, Avi. Let's make that pillar very strong."
Kinderlach . . .
The entire auditorium was filled with thousands of people. All stood waiting silently to hear the words of the man at the podium. He cleared his throat and began to speak. Kinderlach, that speaker is you. Rav Chasman explains that when you stand before Hashem in tefillah, the Heavenly hosts stand waiting to accept your prayers. Their arms are open to receive your holy offering. What korbon will you bring them? What are your thoughts during tefillah? "I'm hungry. I forgot my bus card. I have a great idea for a new game to play during break time." Kinderlach, think about the words that you are saying. Think that you are standing before Hashem. Have good kavannah. Give your korbon a rayach nichoach.
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