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Simcha Groffman

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

Parashas Mishpatim

Dangerous Face

"Good morning Mr. Otzuv!"

Mr. Otzuv just stared glumly back at the man who greeted him. "Hello," he said, and walked on. The other man was saddened by the meeting. "What a way to start the day," he thought. Another man approached Mr. Otzuv.

"How are you today, Mr. Otzuv?"

"Okay," was his melancholy reply.

The first man's smile instantly faded. His good mood changed to bad. Mr. Otzuv continued walking home. He reached the door, knocked, and walked in.

"How are you today, my dear husband?"

"Terrible!" he scowled. People do not stop bothering me. Everyone greets me and expects a smile in return. Why don't they just leave me alone?"

Mrs. Otzuv got the message. It was going to be one of those days. Her husband was in a foul mood. That meant that everyone around him would suffer. Hashem yerachem (have mercy).

And so it was. Mr. Otzuv continued on to the office and made his co-workers miserable. In just one day, he caused untold damages to people's happiness, enthusiasm, and relationships. He was a veritable destroyer.

The verse states, "When a man will uncover a pit, or dig a pit and not cover it , and an ox or a donkey will fall into it, the owner of the pit shall pay the damages" (Shemos 21:33-34). A pit in a public place is called a "mazik" (damager). When a person or animal comes close to the pit, he is likely to fall in and hurt himself. Therefore, the one who dug or uncovered the pit is responsible to pay for the damages. This law is "seichel-dick" (common sense). A person is responsible for the damages he causes. This is one of the foundations of derech eretz - to respect and protect another's property.

Rav Yisrael Salanter, was the founder of the mussar movement, the school of thought that stresses perfecting one's middos (character traits) through Torah. Rav Yisrael pointed out the similarity between a sad or angry face, and a pit in a public place. One who walks around in public with such an expression on his face is a mazik. How much damage can he cause to others? Plenty! He can bring down their whole mood. He can cause sadness, frustration, despair, and arguments. He can make people miserable. Rav Yisrael tells us that the mazik is responsible for that damage. He must not let his face become a pit into which others can fall and injure themselves.

Kinderlach . . .

Rav Avigdor Miller describes your face as follows. Every human face is a reflection of Hashem. Your face is like a screen and your soul like a projector which projects on your face the glory of the human soul and which has in it the greatness of Hashem. What image are you projecting to the world? One that can hurt others? Chas V'shalom (Heaven forbid)! Don't let your face hurt even a single soul. Project a beautiful face! Show others the glory of your neshama! Show others the greatness of Hashem! Let your face uplift them. Be a public benefactor! Smile!

I Don't Believe It

The Chofetz Chaim zt"l, in chapter six of his monumental book on loshon hora, points out that the source of the prohibition against believing loshon hora is a verse in this week's parasha. "Do not accept a false report (Shemos 23:1)." If someone makes a derogatory statement, do not believe it! It was spoken by a person who speaks loshon hora! A person who transgresses the prohibition against speaking loshon hora, now becomes suspect to speak falsely and exaggerate (Sefer Chofetz Chaim, Hilchos Loshon hora 7:3). Therefore, we cannot rely upon him to tell the truth.

Kinderlach . . .

We can all think of reasons why the speaker may have been mistaken in loshon hora he spoke about the other person. Maybe he did not see the whole event or hear the whole story. Perhaps someone exaggerated when telling the story to him. It is possible that he did not understand the person's motivations. When we stop ourselves from believing the loshon hora, and instead judge the accused person favorably, we get an extra mitzvah of dan lechaf z'chus. As the Chofetz Chaim zt"l writes many times, being careful about loshon hora is the main way to stamp out sinas chinam (senseless hatred), increase unity among the Jewish people, and bring Moshiach speedily in our days.

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