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Simcha Groffman

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

Parashas Haazinu (Shabbos Shuva)

The Gashmius Trap

"How was you day of learning, Chaim?"

"Wonderful, Abba. We learned about the ben sorer u'moreh (wayward and rebellious son) [Devarim 21:18] today."

"That is a fascinating subject, Chaim."

"Did it ever really happen, Abba? Was there ever really a boy who became a ben sorer u'moreh?"

"The Gemora (Sanhedrin 71a) says that there never was a ben sorer u'moreh, and there will never be one. The Torah mentions him in order for us to darshen and receive sechar (reward.)"

"Let's receive sechar, Abba. Why does he deserve the death penalty? He stole, ate, drank, and kept company with the wrong people. These are not capital crimes."

"Rebbe Yossie HaGlili asks the very same question (Gemora Sanhedrin 72a). He answers that the Torah is able to foresee what will happen to him. In the end, he will steal all of his father's possessions. He will still not be satisfied, so he will go out to the road and rob people. He will ultimately commit crimes for which he will suffer the death penalty."

"The Torah's wisdom is very deep and far reaching, Abba. Is there any way that we can understand it?"

"We can begin with the famous peirush on the mitzvos - the Sefer HaChinuch (Mitzvah 248). He delves into the connection between eating, drinking, and committing aveyros (sins). He states that most of a person's sins are rooted in excessive eating and drinking. He cites a verse in this week's parasha. 'Yeshurun became fat and kicked. You became fat, you became thick, you became obese and you deserted G-d who made you' (Devarim 32:15). The Gemora (Berachos 32a) adds, 'What caused you to kick at Me? The carshinin (a very desirable food) that I fed you.'"

"Is there more explanation, Abba?"

"Yes, Chaim. A person is composed of two components - physical and spiritual. The food that is eaten and digested becomes the physical part of the person. Thoughts about Hashem and His Torah comprise the spiritual side. The physical and the spiritual are complete opposites. When one side waxes stronger, the other side weakens. Therefore, our sages conducted themselves in accordance with the advice of Shlomo HaMelech, 'A tsaddik eats to satisfy his soul' (Mishlei 13:25). The tsaddik, by eating only what he needs, does not let his body take over, rather he lets his soul shine brightly."

"That is so enlightening, Abba."

"The Sifrei (Devarim 32:15) sheds more light on the subject, Chaim. He traces the sins of the dor ha'mabul (generation of the flood), the people of Sdom, the dor ha'flaga (generation of the Tower of Bavel), and the chet ha'egel (sin of the golden calf) to excessive eating and drinking. Moshe Rabbeinu warned the people (Devarim 8:12) to be wary of eating and drinking too much when they enter the Land of Israel. This will eventually cause them to rebel against Hashem. Suffering came upon the children of Iyov due to their eating and drinking. The Ten Tribes were also exiled as a result of comfort, pleasure, and serenity. Finally, our generation, the one before Moshiach, will ultimately rebel against Hashem because we have too much gashmius (material possessions)."

"So many terrible sins have their roots in eating and drinking, Abba. People over-indulge, become accustom to luxury, and find it too difficult to listen to Hashem. Serving Him requires mesirus nefesh (self-sacrifice.) Someone who spends his time indulging himself will not have the inner strength necessary to give up his money, time, and kochos hanefesh (spiritual energy) for Hashem."

"True, Chaim. However, the problem is easy to correct. Do not overeat. Eat and drink only what you need to stay healthy in order to serve Hashem. Similarly, don' wear overly fancy clothes. Do not live in a lavish home, or drive a luxurious car. Stay away from fancy vacations and unnecessary electronic gadgets. Take only the gashmius that you need, and ignore the rest. In that way you will stay fit and trim, ready to jump into action to do the will of Our Father in Heaven."

"That's it, Abba. I am going on a diet. I am cutting out all of the excesses. I am taking only what I need . . . to serve Hashem!"

Kinderlach . . .

Excessive gashmius is a trap. It looks good at first - comfortable, cozy, enjoyable. What could be wrong? Then, we become accustomed to it. Gashmius becomes a necessity instead of a luxury. Something else also happens. It becomes a goal, rather than a means to an end. By that time, it is too late. We are caught in the gashmius trap. When a mitzvah comes our way, we cannot seem to get up the effort to do it properly, or even at all. The Torah warns us - "Yeshurun became fat and kicked." Don't let it happen to you. Take what you need to be strong and healthy to serve Hashem. Leave the rest behind. It will only make you fat and separate you from Hashem." Kinderlach, stay fit and trim. Don't get caught in the gashmius trap!

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"Did you see the signs? Did you hear the news? He is here. He is really here. That great wise man who is so understanding, so influential, and so helpful to so many people. He is here to help us. Are you going to see him?"

"I don't know. I'm so busy. He is so busy. Can he really help me anyway? It is too difficult for me to change. Old habits are hard to break."

"But he will help you. That is what he is here for. He is an expert at helping people break bad habits. You just have to make the initial effort and he will do the rest."

"I don't know. Maybe next week."

"Next week? Next week is too late. He will only be here a few more days. Then he will leave. If you don't take advantage of the opportunity now, it will be gone."

Kinderlach . . .

I am sure that you recognize the parable. The great wise man is Hashem. He is here, close to us during these 30 days of the month of Elul, and the first ten days of the new year, until Yom Kippur. During this time, He makes Himself available to help us do tshuva (correct our mistakes). We only have a few more days left. The Days of Tshuva end with Yom Kippur. Do not miss this golden opportunity to become close to Hashem.

Parasha Questions:

How does an eagle demonstrate rachmonus (mercy)? (Rashi 32:11)

How does the Torah describe the food of Eretz Yisrael? (32:13,14 and Rashi)

How can one gentile pursue a thousand Jews, two pursue 10,000? (Rashi 32:30)

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