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Simcha Groffman

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

Parashas Yisro

Not For You

"Here comes the King. Let's get closer so we can see him."

The men push forward in the crowd. The King's procession passes right in front of their eyes.

"Look at the crown on his head. It is magnificent."

"Let's steal it. Do you know how much money it must be worth?"

"Steal it? What would we do with it? We cannot sell it. Everyone knows that it is the King's crown. No one will buy it. It is certainly beautiful and valuable but it is useless to us."

"You shall not covet your friend's house, . . . wife, . . . servant, . . . ox, . . . or anything that belongs to him" (Shemos 20:14). The Iben Ezra states that many people are amazed by this mitzvah. How can one not desire something nice? He answers with a parable similar to the King's crown. No one with common sense would truly desire that crown because it is not relevant to him. It is something that belongs to royalty. That is the way we must view other people's possessions. Hashem gave each person what he needs to fulfill his purpose in life. He has exactly the amount of money that he needs. His possessions are perfectly suited to him. He did not receive a nice car like his neighbor because he does not need one. Therefore, how can he desire something that is not his? It is not relevant to him. He has no use for it.

Kinderlach . . .

Does your friend always get the newest toys? Does she wear fancy clothes? Is her house decorated with expensive furnishings? All of these things are beautiful. However, they are not yours. Do you think that it would be too difficult for Hashem to arrange fancy clothes and toys for you? He is All Powerful and can do anything. He did not give you these things. Therefore, they are not right for you. Desiring them is not only a waste of energy; it is a violation of one of the Aseres HaDibros (Ten Commandments). It can lead to many worse sins, as we will see.

Long Life

"Chaim, stand up."

"Why, Avi? Is a Rabbi walking by?"

"Not exactly. That elderly gentleman just entered the room."

"I see. He looks very old."

The two boys stood respectfully as the man approached them. They smiled sweetly and he smiled back.

"Thank you very much boys. You have made my whole day."

"Really? What did we do?"

"First of all, you stood up out of respect for me. Then you smiled at me, which shows that you have warm hearts."

"Thank you very much, sir."

"When you get to be my age boys, you appreciate every small action, even a smile."

"May you live many more years, sir."

"Now that is a real blessing. I am already 95 years old."

Chaim and Avi were amazed. They had never met or even seen anyone over ninety.

"It is a genuine privilege to meet you sir. Do you mind if we ask you a personal question?"

"Go right ahead."

"What is your secret to long life? A special diet? Exercise? Avoiding stress?"

"The Torah encourages us to take care of our physical needs, boys.* However, the promise of long life is given with other mitzvos."

"Which ones? Please tell us."

"The mitzvah is in this week's parasha, in the Aseres HaDibros. Take a look in your Chumash."

Chaim and Avi look studiously into Chaim's little pocket Chumash.

"I found it! 'Honor your father and your mother so that you may live longer on the land that Hashem is going to give to you' (Shemos 20:12)."

"That's right, boys. When my father and mother were alive, I tried my best to honor and fear them. I served them food and drink whenever I could, I took them where they needed to go. I stood up for my father when he entered the room, just as you stood up for me. I was careful never to argue with them or interrupt them. Only Hashem Himself knows how long a person will live. However, He promises long life for this mitzvah. Perhaps that is why I am here today, speaking to you."

"Sir you have inspired us. We want to honor our parents, as you did yours."

"Boys, you are already on the right track. You showed the proper honor to an elderly person. It is just a small step to honoring your parents. May Hashem bless you with much success and long life."

Kinderlach . . .

Who wants to live a long life? Everyone! One of the secret keys to long life is in the Aseres HaDibros. Honor your parents. Serve them, escort them, and help them with their clothing. Revere them. Stand up for them, do not interrupt them, and do not sit in their place. Add years to your life. Kinderlach, we hope to celebrate your 100th birthday together!

*See Sefer HaChinuch Mitzvah 546 - Maakeh.

To Sum It Up

The Aseres HaDibros are arranged in a very orderly fashion. The Avi Ezer points out that the first nine dibros deal with the details of observing various mitzvos. The last mitzvah "lo sachmode" (do not covet) sums up all of the details into one mitzvah. Observing it entails observing all of the previous mitzvos. It is well known that most aveyros (sins) are a result of desire for the possessions of the other person. The sinner immediately violates "lo sachmode". The next step is to give false testimony to get the money. Or to work on Shabbos to make more money. One who really desires wealth will stop at nothing. He will insult his parents or even commit murder if the stakes are high enough. He will even worship idols to find favor in the eyes of his employer. Therefore, Hashem arranged the mitzvos in the order from the details to the general rule. When a person prepares himself by observing the details, the thought of desiring something that is not his will never enter his heart.

Rav Shimshon Refael Hirsch relates that "lo sachmode" is Hashem's "signature" (so to speak) on the Aseres HaDibros. People can legislate laws like "do not murder" and "do not steal". These are only the symptoms of the problem. In the heart lies the root of the sin. The eyes of man cannot detect this. Only Hashem can search the innermost chambers of a person's heart. Only He can forbid evil desire and purify the heart. Therefore, any system of law written by man is at best a shaky building. It lacks the strong cornerstone of Divine law. Only the Torah recognizes the holiness of man. Every good deed must come from a pure heart. And every pure feeling must express itself in a good deed. Only the Torah can accomplish this. The mitzvos penetrate our hearts.

Kinderlach . . .

We are fortunate to be living under the best legal system in the world: the Torah. Hashem, who understands our hearts, wrote the Torah. The heart guides the person. If we rule over our hearts, then the rest will fall into place. This requires preparation however. The mitzvos accustom our bodies to doing good. It becomes second nature and the thought of doing bad never even enters our heart. "Create a pure heart for me, Hashem" (Tehillim 51:12).

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