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In the beginning of parashas Masei, the Torah details our travels during the forty years in the desert. Rabbeinu Bechaye explains that Hashem wanted to strengthen our emunah (faith) in Him. Therefore, He mentioned those places to remind us of the miracles that occurred for the Jewish people during those years. We were miraculously sustained by the mun and the water well of Miriam. The ananei hakovod (clouds of glory) miraculously protected us from all dangers. Remembering and reviewing these wondrous events helps us to remember the One who cared for us then and continues to care for us now.
As we look back on our own lives, we can sometimes piece together events and see how the hand of Hashem was guiding us along the way. A situation or event may have looked very bad at the time it happened. A few years later, when we have time to look back and reflect, we see that the event was not bad at all, but a step on the way to something very good. Reviewing all of the chassadim (acts of kindness) that Hashem has done for us in our lives will strengthen our emunah.
Kinderlach . . .
When you do not get something that you want is that good or bad? It seems bad, but it may be good. Maybe the thing that you want is harmful. Maybe it is good for you to learn that you cannot always have what you want. What seems bad is sometimes very good. We do not recognize the good until later. Perhaps we can share some stories at the Shabbos table about how Hashem has guided our lives, and the many good things He has done for us. We do not have to look too far to see Hashem's guiding hand. It is right there in our own lives.
How long must the accidental killer remain in exile in Ir Miklat? He must stay there until the Kohen Godol dies. This is one of the strangest halochos (laws) in the entire Torah. One person can arrive the day before the Kohen Godol dies, and his sentence will be only one day. Another may be there for thirty years before he is freed. If the Kohen Godol is a young man, the exiles may be there for life. Where is the justice in this?
Rav Ovadiah Sforno relates that there are different levels of negligence in accidental homicide. One killer may be absolutely blameless. Another may be extremely negligent to the point of almost wanting the victim to die. Who knows a person's intentions? Only Hashem. He metes out the punishment accordingly. The blameless man gets a short term in Ir Miklat. However, the greater degrees of negligence get progressively longer terms. Hashem knows the sublime justice in this halacha.
Kinderlach . . .
"Chani, why are you crying?" "The teacher took away my test paper before I was finished." "Why?" "She said that I was talking to my neighbor." "Chani, you know that you cannot talk during a test." "But I wasn't talking. The other girl was. The teacher heard the wrong girl." "Chani, I am going to call the teacher to hear her side of the story. However, you should realize that she may not give your test back and you will have to accept that." "But it's just not fair, Imma." "Hashem is fair in every way, Chani. Perhaps another time you talked during class and were not caught. Everything that Hashem does is for our good." "Imma, you always are so positive about everything." "Boruch Hashem, Chani."
"Doctor Kalt, I can't take it anymore."
"What is the problem Mr. Hayes?"
"This hot weather. Every day is summer. 365 days a year. Hot and humid. I can no longer live here in the tropics. I want to move to the North Pole."
"That's quite an extreme change, My Hayes. Do you realize that at the North Pole it is freezing cold winter 365 days a year?"
"I don't care. It will be a pleasure after this heat."
"You may feel like that for the first few hours or even the first day or two. However, after that you will become very cold and uncomfortable. You body cannot take such an extreme change in such a short time."
"But I want to live there Doctor Kalt."
"Then you have to make a gradual change Mr. Hayes. Move a little farther north, where the weather is a little cooler. When you become accustomed to that weather, make another move farther north. You will become accustomed to the cooler weather over there also. Keep moving farther and farther north, slowly, and deliberately. Eventually, you will reach the North Pole. By then you will be accustomed to the climate."
"What you are saying, Dr. Kalt, is that a drastic change must be made patiently, and in slow steps."
"These are the journeys of the Children of Israel" (Bamidbar 33:1). The Malbim asks, why did the Children of Israel need to wait forty years before entering the Land of Israel? Hashem could have brought them in immediately. The answer is that they were not ready. They had sunken into the lowest level of tumah (impurity) in Mitzraim. They could not pull out of it immediately, as their many mistakes in the midbar (desert) proved. And so, they needed time. To slowly but surely purify themselves. Only then, would they be ready to enter the Holy Land.
Kinderlach . . .
Some things happen quickly. Others take time. Working on improving ones middos (character traits) takes time. It is a long-term project that lasts a lifetime. For this, we need patience. Changes do not happen overnight. Progress is made, but there are also setbacks. Two steps forward, one step back. Listen to the words of the verse, "For though the tsaddik may fall seven times, he will arise" (Mishlei 24:16). Have patience with yourselves, kinderlach. Become tsaddikim.
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