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Simcha Groffman

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Kinder Torah
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Parashas Pekudei

Save the Tree

"Chezi, can I ask you for a favor?"

"Sure, Tzvi."

"Can I borrow your chain saw? I need to cut down my cherry tree."

"But your cherry tree produces beautiful, delicious fruits. The Torah does not allow us to cut down fruit trees."

"Someone offered me a good price for the wood. I need the money, so I am cutting down the tree and selling it to him."

The question is:

Is it permissible to cut down a fruit tree in order to sell the wood?

The answer is:

The verse states "Do not destroy its tree . . . for you will eat from it" (Devarim 20:19). The Gemora (Bava Kamma 91b) explains that this is a prohibition against cutting down fruit bearing trees. The Sefer HaChinuch (mitzvah 529) clarifies that if there is a reason to cut down the tree, then it is permitted. For example, if the tree is damaging a neighbor's tree or property, or its wood is valuable, it may be cut down. The Rambam (Melachim 6:8- 10) rules that the Torah only prohibits cutting down fruit bearing trees for no purpose. Our Sages expanded this prohibition to include pointless destruction of vessels, clothing, buildings, wells, food or anything. However, if there is a valid reason to destroy, then it is permitted. Making a profit is considered a valid reason. Therefore, it is permitted to cut down a fruit tree in order to sell the wood.

This puzzle and answer is for learning and discussion purposes only. Do not rely upon it for psak halacha! Consult a Rav to determine the correct halachic ruling.

We Are Not Alone

"Chaim, you look worn out."

"I am, Imma."

"What have you been doing?"

"I have been fighting the whole day."

Chaim's mother is very surprised. Her son Chaim? Fighting? She and her husband always stress the importance of shalom. It is a cornerstone of their children's education. How is it possible that Chaim could be fighting the whole day?

"Come, Chaim dear. Sit down and have a hot drink. Let's talk about this."

Chaim eagerly accept his mother's kind offer. He slowly sips the cup of hot chocolate.

"Chaim, I want to help you. Tell me about the fight."

"No problem, Imma. First, I must tell you that this fight will never end. The other side hates me and will not let me rest a minute. He constantly taunts me and tries to make a fool of me. I have beaten him many times, but he keeps coming back for more.

Chaim's mother is shocked. She must get to the bottom of this.

"Chaim, this is very serious. Please tell me who you were fighting with, and what the argument was about."

"Imma, my enemy is . . . the Yetzer Hara! He bothers me from the moment I open my eyes in the morning. He tells me to stay in bed and be late for school. He wants me to rush through my blessings and prayers. He would love me to grab a seat from an elderly person on the bus. He tries to make me daydream and talk during class. In short, he wants me to commit as many sins as possible. Imma, how can I ever win this fight?"

Chaim's mother smiles, somewhat relieved. Baruch Hashem her son's fight is kosher.

"Chaim, you are right. On your own, you can never hope to win. Your enemy is bigger, stronger, older, and more experienced than you are. He knows every trick in the book. However, you have a big advantage over him."

"What is that, Imma?"

"You have the most powerful ally in the world . . . Hashem Yisborach. The Gemora (Kiddushin 30b) relates that a person's Yetzer Hara overpowers him every day, trying to kill him. Were it not for The Almighty's help, he would not be able to live. This idea is also expressed in this week's parasha, Chaim." "Where, Imma?"

"Chapter 40, verse two. Hashem spoke to Moshe saying, 'On the first day of the first month you shall erect the Mishkan (Tabernacle).' Moshe Rabbeinu assembled the entire structure. Rashi (39:33) relates that it was too heavy for anyone to lift."

"Imma, if it was too heavy for normal human strength, how could Moshe do it alone?"

"Excellent question, Chaim. Rashi describes the tremendous Siyata Di'shmaya (Heavenly Assistance) that Moshe received. Hashem told him to go through the motions of lifting it. Moshe did, and the Mishkan erected itself. The Keli Yakar is inspired by this event, finding in it a hint to all human activities. Man's hands are inadequate to complete their worldly tasks. We can only begin the work, and Hashem finishes it for us. This is especially true of our battle with the Yetzer Hara. We could never hope to defeat him without Hashem's help."

"Imma, that is so uplifting."

"Chaim, you need it. You and all of us are involved in a big fight every day. Our only hope is to realize that we are not alone. Hashem is there to help us. We need only to turn to Him."

Kinderlach . . .

When does the Yetzer Hara fight you? In the morning when you need to get out of bed? During your daily prayers when you are trying to concentrate? When you are supposed to share with your brother, and want the whole cake for yourself? When it is time to do homework? These are all times of weakness. He is ready to make us sin. What can we do to beat him? Call upon Our Father in Heaven. He is ready, willing, and able to help us. With His help, we will win the fight. We are not alone.

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