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Simcha Groffman

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

Parashas Shemos

The Perfect You

"I'm hungry Imma. What's for dinner?"

"Let's begin by washing for bread, Avi."

"Okay, Imma. Those slices of challah left over from Shabbos look delicious. May I have a few pieces?"

"Sure, Avi. However, first make your bracha of 'hamotzi' on this."

Avi's mother hands him a small roll of dark bread. It looks a little old. It is certainly not as nice and tasty as the challah.

"Imma, I would much rather make my bracha on the yummy challah than on this old dark bread. Are we not supposed to make our bracha over the food that is more choshuv (important)? "

"True, Avi. However, this dark bread has a very big maaleh (advantage) over the challah. It is shalem - a complete loaf."

"Yes, but the challah has many other points that are superior - taste, aroma, appearance."

"You are right, Avi. Therefore, we must look at how Hashem defines chashivus (importance). What is more choshuv in His eyes? He looks at shelaymus (completion) as the most important thing when making a bracha of hamotzi. It outweighs taste, freshness, and all of those other features."

"Amazing, Imma."

"Avi, I will tell you something even more amazing, Avi. Rav Yerucham Levovitz zt"l uses this example (which is from the Alter of Kelm) to teach us an important principle in avodas (serving) Hashem. The most significant thing that you can achieve in life is shelaymus. Spiritual perfection is life's greatest accomplishment. We see this point brought out in the parasha. The verses list the Jews who went down to Mitzrayim with Yaakov. Then it states that Yosef was in Mitzrayim (Shemos 1:5). Rashi points out that we already know this fact."

"Why does the Torah have to repeat it?"

"Rashi answers that Yosef remained a tsaddik in Mitzrayim. Despite all of the tests, he stood fast in his righteousness. He achieved shelaymus."

"How can we relate to spiritual perfection, Imma? Physical things are real to us. If you tell me I have to build a perfect building, I can relate to that. I must start by digging the foundations correctly. Then I must build the structure. I have to install the plumbing and wiring. The last step is the finishing. If everything is done exactly according to the plans, it is shalem. However, if you tell me that I have to do a mitzvah perfectly, my first instinct is to begin looking for shortcuts."

"Wonderful, Avi! Rav Yerucham stresses the exact same point! What is the solution? We have to work hard at keeping reality in perspective. The spiritual world is the real world, and perfect mitzvos are life's greatest achievement. Don't let other things cloud your view."

"Do you have a thought that I can focus on - like a motto to remind me what I should be doing?"

"Yes, Avi: yiras chet (fear of sinning). Rav Yerucham says that this will bring a person to shelaymus. One who is fearful of ruining his beautiful pure neshama (soul) will not sin."

"What a beautiful thought, Imma. Besides that, a person should be afraid of the punishment that he will receive for his aveyros (sins). We see people suffering because of aveyros throughout the Torah. We see a lot of suffering during the slavery in Mitzrayim in this week's parasha."

"Excellent, Avi. You are a very smart boy if you use this as a motivation to keep you from sinning."

"I want to be shalem, Imma. Just like Yosef HaTsaddik. I want to be the best me that I can be."

"You are off to a great start, Avi."

Kinderlach . . .

What does shelaymus mean? Being the best you. Everyone is different, born with different talents. Your job in this world is to use what you have to the maximum. Build a beautiful perfect spiritual building. How do you do this? By staying far, far away from aveyros. They will weaken your building, and eventually knock it down. Keep in mind that aveyros are terrible for you. They ruin your life, and you receive very unpleasant punishments for them. If you do this, you are on your way to perfection. It is a life-long job. Start now, kinderlach. Set your eyes on life's greatest goal - perfection!

Our Place

"And the Children of Israel were fruitful, teemed, increased, and became strong - very, very, much so; and the land became filled with them." (Shemos 1:7). Rashi (in the name of the Medrash) explains that the Jewish women gave birth to six babies at a time. With such an astronomical birth rate, the land was sure to be full of Jews in no time. Why then does the verse add, "and the land became filled with them"? This question puzzled Rav Yehoshua Leib Diskin zt"l. He begins his answer with another question. "Know with certainty that your offspring shall be strangers in a land not their own" (Bereshis 15:13). If they are strangers, of course they are in a land that is not theirs. Why does the verse need to state it? Rav Diskin answers that there was a part of Mitzraim that was theirs. The Daas Zekanim relate that Paroh gave the land of Goshen to Sara Emainu as a gift. That land was the place for the Jews. Yaakov Avinu sent Yehuda to Goshen to establish a Beis HaMedrash. When Yosef introduced his brothers to Paroh, he only showed Paroh the weaker ones. Why? Paroh would think that they were all weak, and not fit to work for the Mitzrim. Therefore, he would leave them alone and allow them to keep to themselves in Goshen.

This is what indeed happened. The Bnei Yisrael could have stayed in Goshen and peacefully learned Torah. If they had done so, they would have undergone the golus (exile) without the hard labor and torture. That is how it went during the lifetime of the shevatim (sons of Yaakov). What happened afterward? "And the land became filled with them." They ventured out of Goshen into the land of Mitzraim proper. They involved themselves in the business and activities of the Mitzrim. They had no business being there. Mitzraim was a land full of immorality and impurity. They had put themselves into spiritual danger. "A new king arose over Mitzraim who did not know Yosef" (Shemos 1:8). Their visibility aroused the hatred of the Mitzrim. "Come let us deal wisely with them" (Shemos 1:10). Thus began the slavery and the torture. The horrors of the affliction of the Mitzrim. Oh why did it have to happen? They should have stayed in their place.

Kinderlach . . .

We know our place. Hashem gave us a wonderful, glorious, exalted purpose in this world: to be His nation. To uphold His honor. To learn His Torah. We have our own special places to do our job: the Beis HaMedrash, the home, the kosher workplace. The world is full of spiritual and physical dangers. Our places offer us protection. If we leave our place, chas veshalom, to do something that we should not be doing, we expose ourselves to the dangers. We also arouse the animosity of those who are against us. Why go out, kinderlach? Our place is the best place.

Kinder Torah Copyright 2012 All rights reserved to the author Simcha Groffman

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