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Simcha Groffman

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

Parashas Miketz

You Took My Mitzvah!

"Would you like to visit a place where they shecht chickens, Eli?"

"Yes, Abba."

Eli and his father arrive in the middle of a very strange argument.

"You owe me money!"

"What for?"

"You stole my mitzvah! I shechted the chicken. The mitzvah of 'kisui ha'dam' - covering its blood - was mine. You jumped in and covered its blood. You are a thief and must pay me for the mitzvah that you stole."

"What? You don't own that mitzvah. And even if you did, one cannot steal a spiritual thing. Even if I did steal it, a mitzvah has no monetary value. I don't owe you anything. However, I am a nice guy. I will give you another chicken to shecht and you can then do the mitzvah of 'kisui ha'dam.'

The question is:

Is any compensation required for doing the 'kisui ha'dam?' If so, is buying a new chicken sufficient?

The answer is:

The Gemora discusses this case in Bava Kamma 91b and Chullin 87a. The Gemora darshens the verse, "He spills its blood and covers it with dirt" (Vayikra 17:13) to mean that the one who spills the blood (the shochet) has the mitzvah of 'kisui ha'dam.' The Gemora cites a case where Rabban Gamliel made a person pay ten gold coins for taking away the mitzvah of 'kisui ha'dam' from the shochet. This is not the value of the mitzvah, for mitzvos are priceless. It is a fine to be paid for preventing the rightful person from doing the mitzvah. Tosafos adds that buying a new chicken to shecht would not be sufficient, because that would be a new mitzvah. The first mitzvah is already gone. The Shulchan Aruch Choshen Mishpat 382 rules that this is indeed the fine, however, we do not collect it nowadays.

I'm Thinking about You

"Abba, I am so inspired by these parshios about the life of Yosef HaTsaddik."

"That is wonderful, Dovie. Please share your inspiration with me."

"Yosef's greatness is incomprehensible. He was the son of Yaakov Avinu, the Godol HaDor. He grew up in a home permeated with Torah, yiras shomayim, and hashoras HaShechina (the Divine Presence). He was a teenager when he was kidnapped and sold as a slave by his own brothers. He ended up as a servant in Mitzrayim, a land full of immorality and idol worship, far, far away from his home and family. That trauma alone would be enough to break the spirit of most people. However, Yosef strengthened himself, kept his dignity, moral standards, and resisted the temptation to sin. What reward did he receive for his act of spiritual heroism? He was thrown into the pit dungeon of Mitzrayim under trumped up charges."

"Incredible, isn't it Dovie?"

"Abba, his courage is beyond belief. The first experience of being sold as a slave did not break his spirit. However, the subsequent cruelty of being thrown into the dungeon should have been unbearable. The conditions were absolutely horrible. There was no escape from such a place. Only a spiritual giant such as Yosef HaTsaddik could avoid despair in such a predicament."

"Dovie, I could not have said it better myself. May I share with you an insight from the sefer 'Chaim Sheyesh Bahem'?"

"I would love that, Abba."

"Yosef learned Torah from his father Yaakov Avinu. He learned 'kol haTorah kulah' - the entire Torah. He was constantly learning and reviewing his learning in his mind while he was working as a slave and sitting in the dungeon. This is how he withstood the tests and maintained his madrayga (spiritual level). One who is so absorbed in his Torah thoughts may not notice what is going on around him. He is able to shut out the outer world, and dwell in his own inner world of Torah learning. Was this the case with Yosef? Definitely not!"

"How do we know that Abba?"

"The verse in last week's parasha describes Yosef's reaction to two of the prisoners. 'Yosef came to them in the morning. He saw them and behold, they were sad. And he asked Pharaoh's officers that were with him in the ward of his master's house, saying, "Why do you appear so sad today?"' (Bereshis 40:6,7)." "Yosef was paying attention to them!"

"Exactly, Dovie. So much so, that he noticed that today they were sad. Previously, they had not been down. The officers did not come to complain to Yosef. Instead, he came to them. He did not wait for their sadness to pass. Rather, the very instant that he understood that they were depressed, he went over to them and asked them what was the source of the problem. Keep in mind also, that these were idol worshippers from a nation on the lowest spiritual level." "What sensitivity! What concern for other people; even people who are far below him! What greatness in bein adam li'chaveyro (caring for one's fellow man)! Yosef was a tsaddik in all aspects of life. He was a giant in Torah learning, a gibbor in withstanding awesome spiritual and physical tests, and a rachaman in showing outstanding empathy for his fellow man. Abba, have always been inspired by Yosef's great deeds. You have now revealed another aspect of his righteousness that is even more inspiring - his interest in others. I hope to learn from and emulate his deeds."

"May Hashem help you to succeed!"

Kinderlach . . .

Whom do you think about? You think about yourself when taking care of your needs. That is important. You also think about Hashem when performing His mitzvos. That is even more important. That is called "bein adam li'Makom." Thirdly, you think about other people, helping them, and easing their suffering. That is called "bein adam li'chaveyro." Yosef HaTsaddik is an outstanding example of this. He himself was withstanding a very difficult test in the dungeon. He strengthened himself by immersing his mind in Torah learning, yet he still found the energy to be concerned about easing the suffering of two lowly idol worshippers. That is rommemus (exaltedness). That is the righteousness of Yosef HaTsaddik. Emulate him. Become great by caring for others.

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