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Simcha Groffman

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


In loving memory of
Yerachmiel ben Simcha z"l and Sima bas Simcha o"h

Death of Tsaddikim

"And Miriam died there (in Midbar Zin)" (Bamidbar 20:1). Why is the death of Miriam recounted in the Torah after the Parah Adumah (Red Cow)? To teach us that just as korbonos (sacrifices) atone, so too does the death of tsaddikim atone (Rashi). Of course, every good answer creates another question. Rav Itzeleh Poneviz zt"l asks, why did the Torah single out Parah Adumah? The main kaporah (atonement) is achieved from offering other types of sacrifices (olah, chattos, etc.). Why did the Torah pick a korbon whose main purpose is not kaporah? The answer to this question lies in a Mishna in Mesechta Parah (3:11). The ashes of the Parah Adumah were divided into three parts and distributed. One portion went to the cheil (a section of the Beis HaMikdash) and was used to purify the Kohen who burned the Parah Adumah. The second portion went to Har HaMishche (The Mount of Olives) and was used to purify the Kohanim. The final portion was divided up among all of the groups who served in the Beis HaMikdash, and they used the ashes to purify all of the Jewish people. Similarly, when the tsaddik dies his neshama (soul) goes up to heaven, beneath Hashem's Holy Throne. This is compared to the ashes that went to the Beis HaMikdash, the holiest place on earth. The tsaddik's Torah that he learned and taught stays with the Kohanim and others who dedicate their lives to learning Torah, just as the second portion of ashes went to purify the Kohanim. And the good middos (character traits) of the tsaddik are the inheritance of all Klal Yisrael. We should all learn from his good deeds, and purify ourselves by trying to emulate them. Just as the third portion of ashes went to purify the whole nation.

Kinderlach . . .

We have experienced the passing of many tsaddikim recently, most notably the Godol HaDor, Rav Shach zt"l. Countless hespedim (eulogies) were delivered on him, his life, and his deeds. We learned who he was and what a great loss we have suffered. We learned about his great deeds and his wonderful middos. Let us all try to emulate the middos of our tsaddikim, and receive the atonement that their death brings. This can help protect us from the dangers that face the Jewish people.

One Aveyra...One Mitzvah

It only takes a minute. To reach the highest heights, or to sink down very low (G-d forbid), explains Rav Yechezkel Sarna, zt"l. Adam HaRishon was the perfect man. He could have carried humanity to its perfection. Yet, in a single moment, he sinned by eating from the Eitz HaDaas (Tree of Knowledge) and the entire world changed completely. Avraham Avinu passed Hashem's ten tests and merited the title, "perfect" (Bereshis 17:1). Yet he questioned Hashem when he asked, "How shall I know that I am to inherit it (the Land of Israel)" (Bereshis 15:8). As a result, the exile of Mitzraim was decreed upon the Jewish people. Moshe Rabbeinu was Hashem's faithful servant who ascended Har Sinai and brought down the Torah. He committed a seemingly small chet (mistake), striking the rock. It was so subtle that the meforshim cannot agree on exactly what the chet was. Yet he was punished and not allowed to enter the Land of Israel. Had he led the Jewish people there, they never would have gone into exile. One moment of sin changed the entire world. The opposite is also true. At the end of the parsha, the Jewish people, en route to the Land of Israel, reached the territory of Og Melech HaBashan. Og came out to make war with the Jews. Hashem told Moshe, "Do not be afraid of him, because I have delivered him into your hands" (Bamidbar 21:34). Why did Hashem have to reassure Moshe Rabbeinu? What was his fear? Hashem was (and still is) with the Jewish people giving them one miraculous victory after another. He had promised to bring them into the Land of Israel. Rashi explains that Moshe was afraid of Og because he had the zechus (merit) of one mitzvah that he had performed over four hundred years ago, in the time of Avraham Avinu. Four kings had prevailed in a war against five kings. The four kings captured Lot, Avraham's nephew. Avraham Avinu knew nothing of these events until Og informed him. Og's motivation was entirely selfish. He thought that Avraham Avinu would go to war against the four kings to free Lot. He would subsequently be killed, and then Og would marry Sarah. Instead, Avraham Avinu was victorious. In the zechus of this mitzvah of informing Avraham of the news, Hashem promised Og long life. Indeed, he lived for 500 years.

Kinderlach . . .

Let us take a minute to think about the tremendous reward for such a small mitzvah done for selfish reasons by someone who did not believe in Hashem. Moshe Rabbeinu was actually afraid of Og Melech HaBashan. The zechus of his one mitzvah might now, 400 years later, have the power to wipe out the entire Jewish people! That is incredible! This teaches us the tremendous power of a mitzvah. Similarly, we see the awesome destructive power of an aveyra or even a chet. Seemingly small errors have changed the entire world. This should inspire us all to do as many mitzvos as we can, and to avoid all aveyros. As the Mishna states, "Ben Azzai says, 'Run to do a simple mitzvah, as you would a difficult one, and flee from all sin" (Avos 4:2).

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