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Simcha Groffman

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

Parashas Balak

Fiery Prayers

"Our community is in trouble."

"What is the problem?"

"The government has levied a heavy tax which will adversely affect our livelihood."

"Oy vey."

"We must unite and send a representative to plead our cause."

"Who shall we send?"

"Let us ask Mr. Kapeida. He has many political contacts."

The concerned community members find Mr. Kapeida at home. They explain the situation to him. He thinks for a moment and then responds.

"I hear what you gentleman are saying and understand your request. However, I myself am not so fond of many of the members of the community. I cannot plead for those whom I am not at peace with."

The community members are a bit shocked by Mr. Kapeida's response. However, they understand his logic. They do not despair. They proceed to the home of the tsaddik, Mr. Lev Tov. They place their request before him. He smiles and responds.

"My fellow community members are in trouble. I love them all dearly. I will plead for them from the depths of my heart."

And so, Mr. Lev Tov goes before the government official, imploring him to rescind the tax. His words are heard and the tax law is repealed.

* * *

"Be pleased Hashem, our G-d with Your people Israel and their prayers." This is the beginning of the seventeenth blessing of the Amidah prayer, in which we ask Hashem to be pleased with His nation Israel and their tefillos. The Darchei Chaimii Cited by Avodas HaTefillah asks a penetrating question. How can we ask Hashem to be pleased with our fellow Jews if we ourselves are not pleased with them? Mr. Kapeida could not plead for the people that he was not fond of. Therefore, before a person begins this bracha, he should fix love in his heart for every Jew, from every place and from every group. Then his request will come from the heart, like Mr. Lev Tov. He should keep in mind that we are praying for the rebuilding of the Beis HaMikdash. The main obstacle to its rebuilding is sinas chinam (senseless hatred). Therefore, we must strengthen ourselves with all of our power to eradicate this abominable sin.

A congregation praying together can create an "eis ratzon" (time of favor) for their prayers to reach the most exalted place. We entreat Hashem to make the time of this prayer an "eis ratzon".iii Maggid Tsedek May He answer our prayers and return the Divine Service to the Holy of Holies. This spiritual pinnacle of the Beis HaMikdash is referred to as "Devir Baysecha", for the "dibur" - word of Hashem - came from there.iiii Iyun Tefillah A person should think with great longing, "I wait and anticipate the day when we will merit Your return to Zion."iiv Yesod Vi'shoresh Ho'avodah "I long for the privilege to eat from a korbon (sacrifice) that gave a pleasing aroma to Hashem."vv Yaaros Devash

"Accept the fire-offerings of Israel and their prayers with love and favor." What are the fire-offerings of Israel? The Gemora (Menachos 110a) recounts that the great officer Michoyel sacrifices fire-offerings on the Mizbeach. The Baalei Tosfos explain that these sacrifices are the souls of tsaddikim. Another opinion is that they are lambs made of fire, and the expression "fire-offerings of Israel" refers to these lambs. The Bachvvi Orach Chaim 120 relates this expression to the three daily tefillos, which our Elders fixed in place of the daily offerings (temidim). "Their prayers" refers to the non-compulsory tefillos of individuals. Although we have no korbonos nowadays, we pray that our tefillah (which is in place of korbonos) be accepted with favor.vvii Tur Orach Chaim 120

This blessing originated on that momentous day when the Shechina (Divine Presence) came to rest on the Mishkan. The malachim proclaimed, "Blessed are You Hashem, who returns His Shechina to Zion."vviii Levush And so, we give great thanks to Hashem, for we know that He will definitely return His Holy Shechina to Zion.4 The Almighty promised to redeem us based upon our merits, namely, that we suffer the bitter golus (exile), accept it with love, and believe in His Oneness and His salvation as it was in Mitzrayim. They were redeemed in the merit of their emunah, and we will follow suit.5 We fervently pray that He will bring it close with His great rachmonus (mercy) speedily in our days.

Kinderlach . . .

The blessing of "retze" comes after we finish the first sixteen blessings of the Amida. Fountains of praise and supplications have poured forth from our hearts. Now, we humbly entreat the Almighty to accept our prayers, and indeed those of all Klal Yisrael. We recall the times when our avodah consisted of korbonos - fiery offerings brought upon the Mizbeach. Nowadays, our daily tefillos are in place of those korbonos, but oh how we long for the Beis HaMikdash to return! And so it will, with our emunah, love for all Klal Yisrael, and Hashem's great rachmonus, speedily in our days, amen.

It's a Fire

Bilaam was in a big hurry. He was on his way to curse Klal Yisrael, the nation he hated. He was on his way to receive a big salary for his curses - silver, gold, honor, and prestige. He would let nothing stand in his way. His donkey turned off the road, then pressed his leg into a wall, and finally stopped altogether. Bilaam struck the donkey each time. Hashem then opened the donkey's mouth and she spoke. "What have I done to you that you struck me these three times?" Bilaam answered back to the donkey, "If only there were a sword in my hand now, I would have killed you" (Bamidbar 22:28,29). Bilaam had no mercy on his donkey.

Rav Shmuel Hominer, in his sefer Eved HaMelech cites the Sefer Chassidim who makes a frightening statement. Any deed that causes tsaar (distress) will be punished; even if one places a load upon an animal that is too heavy, and then strikes the animal for not moving. We learn this from Bilaam, who hit his donkey. He then told her that he would have killed her with a sword. What was his punishment? He was killed by the sword (Bamidbar 31:8). We are speaking about the tsaar of hitting and cursing a donkey. How much more so causing tsaar to a human being will be punished.

Rav Chaim Shmuelevitz zt"l expands on this concept. Tsaar is like a fire. One who sticks his hand into a fire gets burned. We learn this from Peninah. She had many children, while her co-wife - Channah, had none. She genuinely empathized with Channah and wanted nothing more than for her to have children. Peninah wanted Channah to pray with all of her might - from the depths of the heart. Therefore she provoked Channah and irritated her, in order to get her to pray with more sincerity. Baruch Hashem, Channah gave birth to Shmuel HaNovi, and then other children. Peninah, however, was punished with the death of her children (Shmuel I 1-2). Why was Peninah punished? Her intentions were li'shaim Shomayim (for the sake of Heaven). Rav Chaim Shmuelevitz answers that she caused Channah tsaar. And tsaar is like a fire. It burns.

Kinderlach . . .

Don't play with fire! You will get burned! Tsaar is a fire. It burns. Don't cause anyone tsaar. There is physical tsaar - hitting someone or causing him discomfort. There is verbal tsaar - insulting him, mocking him, or speaking loshon hora about him. There is emotional tsaar - ignoring him when he needs attention, hating him when you should love him. These are all very dangerous.

i Cited by Avodas HaTefillah
ii Maggid Tsedek
iii Iyun Tefillah
iv Yesod Vi'shoresh Ho'avodah
v Yaaros Devash
vi Orach Chaim 120
vii Tur Orach Chaim 120
viii Levush

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