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Simcha Groffman

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Parashas Ki Sisa


"Do we have a minyan yet, Chaim? Let's count. One, two, three . . ."

"We shouldn't do that, Avi."

"Do what?"

"Count Jews like that. It is customary to count Jews with the words of a verse, or using objects."

"I'm confused, Chaim. Can you explain what you're talking about?"

"Look in this week's Maftir, Avi. Moshe Rabbeinu, counted the Jews using half-shekel coins. Each person gave a half-shekel. Moshe counted all of the half-shekels, multiplied by two, and came up with the number of Jews."

"That's a little clearer, Chaim, but I have another question. Why did Moshe Rabbeinu use half-shekel coins and multiply by two? It would have been simpler to use one shekel coins and count them to get the number directly."

"Avi, that's a famous question asked by many of our great sages. Each one has his own answer to the question. I will tell you the answer given by the Kesav Sofer, zt"l the great Rav of Pressburgh. We are all composed of two parts, body and soul. Each part is represented by half a shekel. The two halves together make a whole. The only half that we can count, however, is the body. It is limited and can be counted. The body can only eat or drink so much. Then it must stop. It can only work so long. It can only live so long. It eventually reaches its limits. The soul, however, is unlimited. The soul is the part of us that comes from the heavenly realm. We cannot begin to count it. There is no limit to what the soul can accomplish. It is eternal."

"That's a pretty deep concept, Chaim. Can you give me an example of what you're talking about?"

"Take for example the great Rav who lived about 250 years ago, Rav Aryeh Leib MiMitz, zt"l who is known to us as the Shaagas Aryeh. He learned through the entire Talmud 1000 times in his life! The Talmud is 2700 pages long. He lived 90 years. If he knew the Talmud by the time he was 10, he had to review the entire Talmud once each month, or about 100 pages each day! That's a pretty mind-boggling feat. Rebbe Akiva Eiger zt"l who lived a little later also learned 100 pages of Talmud each day."


"But perhaps the most famous example of phenomenal accomplishment is Rebbe Akiva, the leader of the Jewish people who lived almost 2000 years ago during the time of the Romans. He did not begin learning Torah until he was forty years old. When he began, he could not even read aleph-beis. He studied diligently for twenty-four solid years and became the greatest talmid chacham of his generation and indeed one of the greatest of all time. Avi, these people accomplished things far beyond the realm of natural attainment. They showed us the boundless potential of the soul. The soul cannot be counted. It is infinite."

"Look at that Chaim, as we're talking, a minyan of men has arrived. Lets all pray to Hashem that we soar with our souls to great achievements."

Kinderlach . . .

There are many times when we feel tired, frustrated or too discouraged to continue. Now, we see what a person is capable of doing. Let us all listen to Chaim's encouraging words and try a little harder. We are all blessed with a holy soul. Who knows what hidden potential is inside of me, or you, or Yitzy, or Shmuelik. Try again. Greatness is yours.


Moshe pleaded. But Hashem was adamant. The people had committed a grievous sin. Hashem would not go up with them into the Land of Milk and Honey. He would send an angel instead. If He accompanied them and they sinned again, He would have to annihilate them.

"Hashem, Hashem, G-d, Compassionate, and Gracious . . ." (Shemos 34:6). Hashem instructed Moshe to say these words of prayer. The Gemora (Rosh Hashanah 17b) states, "Whenever the Nation of Israel sins, let them pray this prayer and I shall forgive them." What is so special about this prayer? The words describe Hashem's Thirteen Attributes of Mercy. He is Compassionate and Merciful in every way possible. We appeal to His Mercy, and He in turn is merciful upon us. That seems simple. However, it is not the whole story. Rav Leib Chasman notes that the prayer alone will not help unless we do teshuva (repentance). We must correct our mistakes.

We are asking Hashem to have mercy upon us. We can arouse His compassion by being merciful to others. This is the area of teshuva that brings Heavenly Mercy. As the Gemora (Shabbos 151b) states, "All who have mercy upon Hashem's creatures, receive Mercy from Heaven." The Yalkut Shemoni on Parashas Eikev instructs us to act with kindness toward everyone.


Every person that you see is an opportunity for chessed. Do you see someone in a hurry? Move aside to let him pass. Is your sister sad? Smile at her to cheer her up. Is Imma overwhelmed with housework? Wash a few dishes. Is someone speaking to you? Pay close attention to him. Does your chavrusa (study partner) have difficulty understand the material? Explain it again. And again. Say thank you to Imma for preparing lunch for you. These acts of kindness are like diamonds. They seem small, but they are so precious. They can arouse Hashem's Mercy and save the Jewish people.

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