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Ki Savo

"Blessed shall be the fruit of your womb" (Devarim 28:4).

The simple interpretation of this passage is that when the Israelites go in the path of Hashem their womb will be blessed with many children. However, a deeper message may be that the children who come from the womb will be blessed, as it says (Yesha'ayahu 61:9), "And their seed shall be known among the nations, and their offspring among the peoples; all who see them shall acknowledge them, that they are the seed which Hashem has blessed." This is explained in the Holy Zohar (Vayikra page 115b) as meaning holy children.

According to Rabbi Elazar in the Talmud (Avodah Zarah 25a) the entire book of Devarim (Deuteronomy) is called "The Book of Righteousness" because it says (Devarim 6:18), "You shall do what is right and good in the eyes of Hashem."

Hashem creates Man with innate Righteousness, but he becomes corrupted by his society. This is evident in the passage (Koheles 7:29), "Behold, only this have I found, that Hashem has made man upright; but they have sought out many schemes." Unfortunately, often the ones who take part in corrupting him are his very own parents who are responsible for showing him the proper path to serve Hashem.

I remember once in shul I heard a father ask his young son who was, once again, playing with his friends who had teased him just a while ago whether or not they had apologized to him. The son replied that they had not but that he had decided to forgive them anyway. Rather than be proud of his son who demonstrated fine character, like the Righteous Ones, the father chastised him and "taught" him that he should never forfeit his pride but should stand firmly on his principles and not acquiesce until those who have wronged him humble themselves before him. Great chinuch (training), indeed!

I remember a rebby of mine, Rabbi Varshavchik z"l, telling us about the renowned Tzaddik, Reb Yisroel Ya'akov Liubchansky ztvk"l who was mashgiach (spiritual supervisor) of the Yeshiva of Baranovitch. He described him as a very saintly person whose whole entity was spiritual and who was totally removed from any materiel substance unless it was absolutely necessary for survival in order to be able to continue to serve Hashem properly. He told us that the mashgiach's wife, however, was a bit "modern." An example of her "modernity" was that she insisted on hanging up curtains in their home! The tzaddik could not bear to see something that did not serve a practical purpose appear so prominently in his house. Therefore, whenever his students would come to him for a meal, he would tell them, after they washed their hands, that they could use the curtains to dry them with! That way, at least, he could justify their existence.

When my oldest son, Yussie, was a child, he was clever and observant. I remember the day that we were walking together and he suddenly looked up at the sky and noticed a big, round, yellow ball. "What is that?" he asked me. I replied that it was the sun and explained its function in Hashem's creation.

As he got older, Yussie began to ask more and more about his environment. With inborn Righteousness he understood that everything that exists must have a purpose and he wanted to understand what it was. Once, while I was filling out papers in the bank, he noticed a trash can beneath the table I was leaning on. "What is this?" he asked me. I explained that it was a container where people could throw away their waste. He looked more closely and asked, "Why are there two of them?" I explained that one was on each side of the table to make it easier for people on both sides to use them.

One day Yussie asked me why our apartment had windows. I explained that they let the light in. He then asked what was the purpose of the Venetian blinds on them. I explained that sometimes people did not want the light to come in or they wanted privacy, so they put up blinds which could be closed at will. Then he noticed the curtains and asked me what purpose they serve. This time I was stuck as I recalled Rabbi Varshavchik's story. I knew, though, as I avoided the question for a while, that it would not be long before we, his parents, would be "explaining" to him that curtains were "nice." By doing so we would be introducing him to a new concept in life and he would then begin losing his pure sense of Righteousness which the Creator had bestowed him with and would start to be corrupted by the ideals of a fun-loving society. From then on he would stop asking for the purpose of things and would "realize", as he "matured," that many things are there simply because we "like" it that way; not because they have any real function or importance. We give away our time, our money, even our very lives, to achieve these things and we don't find anything at all wrong with this way of life. And like the babies in Mary Poppins' home, who could no longer understand the birds talking to them the moment they said their first word, my Righteous son would abandon those lofty ideals of his and become "practical" and "down to earth" - in short, "one of us." How sad that we, who should have encouraged him to become a tzaddik like Reb Yisroel Ya'akov, were the very ones who introduced him to "the real world" and took him off of the path of the upright and "taught" him to seek out many schemes.

These days of Elul are a time for introspection before the upcoming Days of Awe when we must be accountable for all of our deeds and misdeeds. We should also re-evaluate our direct and indirect influence on our children; recognizing what is positive and should be enforced and what is negative and should be corrected. Then we will have fulfilled our duties as proper parents and we and our children will be blessed with a happy and healthy New Year and will be truly happy in this world and in the World-to-Come.

Shema Yisrael Torah Network
Jerusalem, Israel