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Simcha Groffman

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

Parshas Bechukosai

Traveling Man (1)

"If you will travel in My decrees, and guard My mitzvos and perform them (Vayikra 26:3)." How does one "travel" in Hashem's decrees? One observes His decrees. This does not involve traveling. Or does it? The Kedushas Levi zt"l has a beautiful elucidation of this verse. A mitzvah can accomplish many things. It earns reward (in the next world) for the one who performs the mitzvah. It may also change the person in this world. It can move him up to a higher madrayga (spiritual level). At the new madrayga, he finds a new mitzvah to perform. He does it, thereby moving up to another madrayga. And so, the tsaddik is called "mehalech" - a traveler. Because he is traveling from madrayga to madrayga by virtue of the mitzvos that he performs.

This can lend a novel explanation to a passage in Tanna DiBei Eliyahu. "Every one who 'shoneh halachos' (learns Torah laws) each day is guaranteed a place in the World to Come." The Kedushas Levi explains that the word "shoneh" can also mean "change". The word "halachos" can also mean "travels". One who changes his travels each day, by traveling up from madrayga to madrayga is guaranteed a place in the World to Come.

Kinderlach . . .

Let's hit the road. We have places to go. Where? Higher madraygos (spiritual levels). Don't be satisfied with today's madrayga. You can be in a much higher place tomorrow. And an even higher place the day after. Just keep doing mitzvos. And keep moving up and up. This road leads to wonderful places.

Traveling Man (2)

"Shalom aleichem Akiva! I haven't seen you for a long time!"

"I've been traveling, Benny."

"Where have you been?"

"I have been in many places. This trip was unique. I never ended up in the same place twice."

"How so, Akiva?"

"Many times I went hiking. I started on the same path as the day before. When I reached as far as I had gone yesterday, I pushed myself and went even farther. I was constantly expanding my horizons."


"If you will travel in My decrees . . . (Vayikra 26:3)." The Maharal muses why the word "travel" is used in this verse. Hashem's decree is called a "chok". It is too deep for us to completely understand. Like the laws of meat and milk. The ultimate meaning is so profound, that we cannot hope to understand it completely. However, that does not exempt us from trying. Laws that are simple require very little effort. Profound wisdom takes a lot of time and mental exertion. You may spend an entire day working on understanding a "chok". And you will understand more than yesterday. Tomorrow you will work even harder and understand even more. You are like the "hiker" in our story. Each day he traveled a little farther. There is no end to the wisdom of a "chok". So too, there is no end to how far you can "travel" in trying to understand it.

Kinderlach . . .

Did you learn well today? Did you understand everything that you learned? Some Torah subjects are very deep and difficult. You may work very hard on them and still not understand them as well as you like. Don't get discouraged, kinderlach. Try again tomorrow. You may get a little farther. You may understand a little more. He next day you may understand even more. The Maharal says that learning "chukim" is like a road. Happy travels, kinderlach!

Bli Neder

"Pinchas, we must stop learning now."

"But Abba, I want to learn more."

"I do too, but I must go to a Bar Mitzvah. Mr. Fegessen told me that he would meet me at the bus stop at 8:00 to travel to the Bar Mitzvah together."

"Okay Abba. Please wish a mazel tov from me."

Pinchas' father hurries to the bus stop. The 8:00 bus arrives, and Mr. Fegessen is not there. The 8:15 and 8:30 buses also pass. Finally, he gets on the 8:45 bus without Mr. Fegessen. When he arrives at the Bar Mitzvah, he calls Mr. Fegessen.

"Oh, I'm so sorry Mendy. Something came up and I forgot to call you."

This week's parsha speaks about nedarim (vows) (Vayikra 27). Nedarim are a very serious matter. The Gemora (Nedarim 22a) teaches that making a vow is like building a forbidden altar. Fulfilling the vow is like offering a sacrifice on that altar. The Pele Yoatz informs us that terrible punishments will come to one who makes a neder. What is considered a neder? If we look in the text of the Hatoras Nedarim (Annulment of Vows) that we say each Erev Rosh Hashanah, we find that promises and even informally spoken commitments to do a good deed need annulment. Even unspoken commitments (doing a devar mitzvah three times) are included in our annulment statement.

Kinderlach . . .

Your words are important. People depend upon you to fulfill what you say. Pinchas father was left waiting at the bus stop for 45 minutes, instead of learning with his son, because Mr. Fegessen did not keep his word. Hashem also hears every word that you say and takes note of all of your actions. Therefore, the Pele Yoatz has some good advice for us. Develop the habit of saying "bli neder" (without a vow) whenever you say that you will do something. That way you have not made a commitment. You should still try your hardest to fulfill what you say. After all people are depending on you. However, saying "bli neder" will make you realize the seriousness of your words, and avoid the punishment for those who make nedarim.

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