Focus Your Efforts
"Your tefillin are beautiful! May I have a closer look at them?"
"Yes, of course. What do you find so nice about them."
"They are perfectly square. The surfaces are sanded absolutely smooth and painted jet black. The letters 'shin' are
beautifully formed and carefully colored with glossy paint. The person who made them must have good hands and good tools."
"You are right. He is a true artisan. Hashem gave him good hands and a sense of esthetic beauty. Hashem also gave him a mitzvah of tefillin, which allows him to express and develop those talents."
"That is a beautiful thought. I never considered that aspect of the mitzvah of tefillin."
"Many mitzvos allow this type of expression. The Meshech Chochma expounds on the subject in this week's parasha, when discussing the Korbon Pesach. He states that all of a person's talents and emotions can be used for mitzvos. That is the ideal way to express, develop, and guide them for their ultimate purpose and good."
"Can you give some other examples?"
"Yes. We can use our intelligence to absorb ourselves in the depths of Torah learning. We will find our minds stretched to the limit and beyond."
"Fascinating. Please tell me more."
"A person can find true spiritual fulfillment of his longing to be close to people through the mitzvah of loving his fellow Jews. We can all fulfill our desire and need to love others by marrying and raising a family. We can even reach the level of loving Hashem."
"Speaking of beauty, a person can use his sense of esthetics to choose a beautiful esrog."
"Please tell me more."
"Hashem gave us such a wide and varied agenda of mitzvos, for us to use all of our energies to fulfill them. In doing so, we sanctify ourselves and everything that we do. This is symbolized by the attire of the Kohen Godol. On his head he wore the 'tzitz' which was inscribed with the words 'Sanctified for Hashem,' to show that all of his thoughts were dedicated to The Almighty. On his heart he wore the 'choshen' (breastplate) which contained the names of the tribes of Israel. This showed the dedication of all of his emotions to help his fellow Jews."
"May we all merit to focus all of our efforts toward Hashem's Torah and mitzvos."
Kinderlach . . .
What is the difference between a light bulb and a flashlight? A bulb casts light in all directions. It can light up an entire room, however, the light will be relatively weak, because it spreads out in all directions. A flashlight, on the other hand, is focused. All of its light is aimed in one direction. A relatively small light can cast a powerful beam because all of the light rays are going in the same direction. Light rays are energy, similar to the energies of a person. The Torah teaches us to focus all of our energies on serving Hashem. They can all be used properly to cast a straight beam. And that beam is very bright, because it is powered by the "battery" of siyata dishmaya. Kinderlach, may all of your neshamos cast a beautiful, clear, powerful light.
"What's for lunch today, Yankie?"
"Chicken, rice, and string beans."
"String beans? I hate string beans. I'm going to complain to the Mashgich about the food in this Yeshiva."
The young bochur strode out of the dining room, and walked upstairs to the office of the Mashgiach. He knocked on the door.
"Yes, come in please."
The bochur entered.
"Shalom, Yehuda! How are you?"
"Not so good, Rebbe."
"Oy vey. What's the matter, Yehuda?"
"Today's lunch is the problem, Rebbe. They are serving string beans, and I hate string beans."
"I see. What are they serving along with the string beans?"
"Chicken and rice."
"Do you like chicken and rice?"
"Yes, I love it."
The Mashgiach thought for a moment. Yehuda could have just eaten the chicken and rice and ignored the string beans. Yet he took the trouble to come up and complain. Perhaps there was more to this problem than string beans. He proceeded to investigate.
"Do you have any other complaints, Yehuda?"
"As a matter of fact I do, Rebbe."
Yehuda pulled a big piece of paper out of his pocket. Written on it was a list of over twenty items. He began to read them off.
"The benches are too hard. The beds are too soft. My roommates are too quiet. My chavrusa is too loud..."
The Mashgiach listened patiently to the whole list. He began to suspect that the source of Yehuda's problem was a lack of hacoras hatov (gratitude) for the good things. He did not appreciate them. His mind did not focus on them, rather only on the bad or inconvenient things. The Mashgiach decided to try a dramatic approach to change Yehuda's outlook.
"Can you come with me for a few minutes, Yehuda?"
"Sure. Where are we going, Rebbe?"
"To the hospital."
Yehuda and the Mashgiach left the Yeshiva, flagged down a taxi, and soon arrived at the hospital.
"Are we going to visit a patient, Rebbe?"
"No, we are going to the emergency room, Yehuda."
The two entered the emergency room. The saw a patient who was receiving CPR.
"What is the matter with him Rebbe?"
"His heart stopped beating."
Yehuda thought for a minute." That man's heart is not beating. My heart is beating away. Seventy two beats per minute. I must thank Hashem for that."
Another patient's head was bandaged. The Mashgiach approached the doctor to ask him about the injury.
"This man has a eye injury. He may never see again."
Yehuda thought, "My eyes work perfectly. Thank You, Hashem."
Another man had pains in his stomach. They discovered that he had digestive problems and could barely eat.
"I can eat everything; even string beans," thought Yehuda. "Baruch Hashem!"
Another patient came in. And another, and another. Each one was suffering terribly.
"I have seen enough, Rebbe. I now realize how good I have it. Hashem is so kind. He takes such good care of me. I thank Him for everything! I hope to never complain again."
"Yehuda, your name means 'thanks.' May you always live up to it and be grateful for everything."
Kinderlach . . .
We see the last of the eser makkos in this week's parasha. They began last week with two makkos involving the Nile River. Moshe Rabbeinu did not carry out those makkos, because the river had once protected him when he was an infant. This demonstrates the extent of hacoras hatov. Moshe even showed gratitude to an inanimate object! How much more so should we express our gratitude to The Almighty, who provides us with everything. We do not need a visit to the emergency room (Heaven forbid!) to thank Hashem for the wonderful gifts that He has given us, and continues to gives us every moment. We have only one thing to say. "Thank You Hashem!"
Is one allowed to see chometz on Pesach? (13:7)
Why did Hashem take the Jewish people out of Mitzraim? (13:8 and Rashi)
How often do we remember Yitzias Mitzraim? (Rashi 13:3)
Why is the first night of Pesach called "Leil Shimurim"? (Rashi 12:42)
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