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"What's cooking? It smells so good."
"I am preparing a special dish for my father. It is called fatted quail."
"Mmmm. It looks and smells delicious."
"It is. And it is expensive. When I serve it to my father, I let him know how much it costs and how hard it is for me to afford it. How do you honor your father?"
"I make him work hard at the grinding wheel."
"What?!? How is that honoring him?"
"He received a summons from the king to report for hard labor, which could last for years and years. I told my father that I would take his place in the king's labor force. He would be freed from the hard labor. However, I would be leaving my job. I asked my father to support my family while I was gone. My parnassa is grinding wheat into flour, therefore, he would have to take my place at the grindstone, earning the income to support my family. I spoke softly to him and showed him that it was for his ultimate good to grind the flour. He happily agreed."
The question is:
Who honors his father more? The one who complains while serving him the sumptuous food or the one who makes him work hard, saving him from the greater evil of the king's hard labor force?
The answer is:
These two cases are presented in the Gemora (Kiddushin 31a,b). The one who served the fatted quails was punished because he showed his resentment. The one make his father grind flour was rewarded because he saved him from a worse fate, and explained the situation to him with kind, soft words.
These puzzles and answers are for learning and discussion purposes only. Do not rely upon them for psak halacha! Consult a Rav to determine the correct halachic ruling.
"How are you Pete?"
"Great, Chaim. Do you want to hear some great news?"
"I have a part time job at a grocery store in the afternoons helping the customers pack their goods in bags and restocking the shelves. I always make sure that I come on time and don't take any breaks. I even try to come early, stay a little late, and figure out ways to work more efficiently. I smile at the customers and am happy to serve them. Today my boss gave me a big bonus for all of my extra effort."
"Wow, that's great, Pete!"
"Thanks, Chaim. Have a great day."
Chaim arrives at home. His mother greets him warmly.
"Chaim, Shalom! How are you?"
"Shalom, Imma. I'm fine. I just met our neighbor Pete, who works at the grocery store. He told me that he received a big bonus from his boss for being so conscientious on the job."
Chaim's mother recognizes an opportunity to teach her son something very important.
"Very nice, Chaim. What did you learn from that?"
Chaim is a bit surprised. He never expected such a response from his mother.
"I didn't learn anything, Imma. I just was happy for Pete."
"I see, Chaim. Think about it for a moment. Perhaps you can learn something from Pete's experience."
Chaim begins to think. However, a thought is troubling him.
"Imma, why do I have to learn something from Pete?"
"That is a very good question, Chaim. Take a look at the first Rashi in this week's parasha. The Torah recounts the sin of the meraglim (spies) immediately after the sin of Miriam. We know that nothing is haphazard in the Torah. Why are these two events placed next to each other, Chaim?"
"Rashi explains that Miriam was punished for speaking badly about her brother. These evil people (the meraglim) saw what happened to her and did not take mussar (a moral lesson) from it."
"Very good, Chaim. Rav Yerucham Levovitz zt"l, the Mashgiach of the Mirrer Yeshiva, makes a statement that is so simple, and yet so compelling, that it can change your entire outlook on life. He says that everything that we see and everything that we hear has a purpose. What is that purpose? To learn from it. To apply what we learn to ourselves. To take action. Take the new insight that you gain from your experience and turn it into a constructive action. This is the wisdom of mussar. 'A wise man hears, and increases his learning' (Mishlei 1:5). He takes mussar from everything that happens to him."
Chaim thinks for a moment.
"Hashem arranged that encounter with Pete in order for me to learn something from it."
"If Pete gets rewarded by his boss for being conscientious at his job in the grocery store, how much more so will I be rewarded by my Boss - Hashem - for doing my job conscientiously."
"Now you're on the right track, Chaim."
"Pete comes early to work. I can come early to tefillah (prayers) and learning sessions. Pete doesn't waste his boss's time. How can I waste the precious time that Hashem gave me? Pete works with happiness and enthusiasm. How much more so I should serve Hashem with great simcha (happiness) and zerizus (enthusiasm)!"
"Chaim, you have really learned the lesson. I am so proud of you!"
"Thank you, Imma. You have taught me a valuable lesson. I hope to grow from it my entire life."
Kinderlach . . .
Rav Yerucham's wisdom is more valuable than diamonds. Someone who learns from every experience is like a worker who gathers riches all day. He sees something, learns from it, and adds the lesson to his treasury of wisdom. He hears a statement, and realizes that he must change his ways based on what he heard. His days are a paradise, filled with acquisition of spiritual valuables. Become rich, kinderlach. Take mussar from everything. Add the lessons to your spiritual storehouse. Grow from every experience. B'ezras Hashem you will become great people.
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