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Simcha Groffman

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

Parashas Shemini

With All of Your Efforts

Mitzvah number 149 according to the Sefer HaChinuch prohibits the Kohanim from entering the Beis HaMikdash wearing long hair. The holiness of the Beis HaMikdash requires the Kohanim to sanctify it using every means within their power. As the Sefer HaChinuch explains (mitzvah number 95), Hashem wants His children to attain the highest levels of purity and holiness. To accomplish this we need a place that is sacred and free from even the smallest impurity. Only there can we totally purify our thoughts and our hearts. What makes the Beis HaMikdash so holy? Our efforts to sanctify it. Any action that is counterproductive diminishes the purity. The Gemora (Brochos 8a) states that from the day that the Beis HaMikdash was destroyed, Hashem's only possessions in this world are the Jews who observe the halacha. Since the Divine Presence is not felt in the Beis HaMikdash, it rests only upon those Jews who observe the halacha. Therefore, just as we put our full strength into sanctifying the Beis HaMikdash, so too we must observe the halacha with all of our efforts.

Kinderlach . . .

We are all striving to follow the halacha. Whatever you do, don't you always want to do your best? To do your best you have to refrain from counterproductive activities. The Torah relates that a Kohen's long hair in the Beis HaMikdash is detrimental. You might say, "What difference does the length of his hair make in his service to Hashem?" You see that it makes a big enough difference for the Torah to prohibit it. Similarly, he cannot serve with torn clothing. We can never think, children, that anything we do is unimportant. Even maintaining a neat appearance is part of Avodas Hashem. We want to observe the halacha as perfectly as possible. We want all of our activities to bring us closer to Hashem, and thereby increase His Presence in the world.

Fly, Kinderlach, Fly

"Come, Avi. Let's learn the parasha together."

"Thank you, Abba! Learning with you is my biggest treat."

"Let's read the first verse, Avi."

"'It was on the eighth day, Moshe summoned Aaron, his sons, and the elders of Israel' (Vayikra 9:1). This is one of the many places in the Torah that the zekaynim - the elders of Israel - are mentioned."

"Who were they, Abba?"

"The Medrash Rabba (Vayikra 11:8) expounds upon this very subject, Avi. Rebbe Akiva said, 'Yisrael is compared to a bird. Just as a bird cannot fly without wings, so too Klal Yisrael cannot do anything (to sustain themselves) without their zekaynim.' Rebbe Shimon Bar Yochai added, 'Hashem granted honor to the zekaynim, not in one place in the Torah, not in two places, rather in many places. They are honored at the sneh (burning bush), when Hashem said, 'Go and gather the ziknei Yisrael' (Shemos 3:16). Similarly, in Mitzrayim, at Har Sinai, and at the Ohel Moed (Tent of Meeting) Hashem summons them by name, giving them special kovod (honor). In the future, in the times of Moshiach (speedily in our days), they will also receive special treatment."

"Why are our zekaynim given such special treatment, Abba?"

"That is a good question, Avi. Let us first see who they are. The Gemora (Kiddushin 32b) states that a 'zoken' is a chochom - one who has acquired wisdom. The ziknei Yisrael are our chachomim - our greatest Torah sages - who guide the nation with their wisdom. They receive the special honor of Kovod HaTorah, honor given to the Torah, which they represent. They are also the wings that enable Klal Yisrael to fly."

"That parable is a bit difficult to understand, Abba."

"Rav Zalman Sorotzkin, in his sefer 'Oznayim LiTorah' also felt that this needs explanation. Therefore, he expounds on this parable. What is the difference between the bird and other animals?"

"Other animals can only move on the ground. A bird can fly in the air."

"Excellent, Avi. A bird can reach the highest heights. In order to do this, he needs a different set of limbs from all other animals. Land bound creatures travel on their legs. One step at a time, they get to their destination. Birds also have legs. The Almighty could have made them fly with their legs. He did not, however. He gave them special limbs - wings. So too it is with the Jewish people. We have 'legs' like the other nations of the world. However, we have something special that they do not have - 'wings'. Our 'wings' are our zekaynim. They give us the ability to fly to the greatest spiritual heights. When we follow their sage leadership, guided by the Divine wisdom of the Torah, we soar to exalted madraygos (spiritual levels). When we are inspired by their saintly deeds, we glide up to the heavenly levels. Sadly, if we do not listen to them, we are like a bird that does not use his wings. We just plod along the ground like everyone else, stuck in the muck with the other nations."

"Abba, I want to fly!"

"You will, Avi, you will. Just keep listening to your Rebbe and learning from him. Absorb the Torah of your Rosh Yeshiva. Learn from the righteous deeds of your Mashgiach (spiritual mentor). They all follow Daas Torah - the wisdom of our Gedolim, who are the ziknei Yisrael of our generation. When you follow them, you yourself are following the ziknei Yisrael. They will give you the wings to fly, Avi. May Hashem help you to soar to the highest heights."


Kinderlach . . .

Take a look up into the skies and watch the birds fly. They flap their wings to reach the height that they want, and then they glide. If they want, they can soar higher and higher. For them, "the sky is the limit." So too it is with us. We also have wings, kinderlach. Our gedolim, the Torah leaders who are the ziknei Yisrael of our generation, are our wings. Their Torah wisdom, guidance, and exemplary deeds give us the ability to fly. Listen to them! Learn from them! Emulate them! Kinderlach, you will use your "spiritual wings" to soar to the greatest madraygas. Fly, kinderlach, fly!

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