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Simcha Groffman

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

Parashas Shemini

The Yoke

"Abba I feel that I am working hard preparing for Pesach."

"Are you doing a lot of cleaning, Avi?"

"Well, ummm, not really. I was referring to spiritual preparation."

"Oh, you must be talking about the four parshios."

"Yes, Abba. Five weeks ago (Parashas Shekalim) I worked on dedicating the gashmius (material possessions) to Hashem. Two weeks ago, (Parashas Zachor) I hated the evil of Amalek and wiped him out of my life."

"Fantastic, Avi!"

"What shall I work on this week, Abba?"

"This week is Parashas Parah, Avi. It is about the purification process, which requires the ashes of the Parah Adumah. In the times of the Beis HaMikdash, every Jewish male went to Yerushalayim for the Shalosh Regalim (three pilgrimage festivals). They would offer korbonos (sacrifices) in the Beis HaMikdash. They needed to be tahor (spiritually pure) in order to offer the korbonos. Therefore, they would purify themselves, using the ashes of the Parah Adumah, before the regel. We read the beginning of Parashas Chukas, which details the mitzvah of Parah Adumah, as the special Maftir of Parashas Parah this week, to commemorate that purification."

"Does Rav Zeidel Epstein zt"l say anything more about this parasha, Abba?"

"Ahhhh. You remember his beautiful drashas from the last two parshios, Avi. He has an insight on Parashas Parah also. The Parah Adumah is called a 'chok' - a mitzvah whose underlying reason we do not understand. We accept the mitzvah, however, and perform it exactly as Hashem prescribes, even though we do not understand it. This is a crucial aspect of kabolas ole malchus Shomayim (acceptance of the yoke of Heaven). We keep the mitzvos for no other reason than Hashem commanded them to us. This is the yesod (foundation) of our avodas Hashem. We are Hashem's servants and perform all aspects of His will at all times, under all circumstances."

"I'm ready, Abba. I'm serving Hashem no matter what!"

"Be matzliach, Avi!"

Kinderlach . . .

Did you even see a plow being pulled by oxen? They wear a yoke around their necks. The yoke keeps them under control of their master. They cannot deviate from the path that he wants them to travel. We are like the oxen, Hashem is the master, and the yoke is the mitzvos. We follow all of the mitzvos, even those that we do not fully understand, because The Master commanded them to us. Kaballas ole malchus Shomayim - that is Parashas Parah.

With Ability Comes Responsibility

"How was school today, Avi?"

"Great, Abba!"

"I am so happy to hear that, Avi. Tell me something that you learned."

"The Rebbe sent us home with a kasha (question). What was the sin of Nadav and Avihu that caused them to die?"

"That is a very deep kasha, Avi. Many meforshim answer it in many different ways. Some say that they entered the Mishkan after drinking wine, or that they did not wash their hands and feet properly. Some claim that they were not wearing all of the Bigdei Kehuna (Priestly Garments). Some say that they died because they decided halacha in front of Moshe Rabbeinu, and others explain that they were jealous of him and Aharon. Some even say that their death was a punishment for the Chet Ha'egel (Sin of the Golden Calf)."

"That sure is a wide variety of answers, Abba."

"Yes, Avi. This shows that their sin was so fine that it is barely recognizable in our eyes. If the Rabbinical geniuses of the past 3000 years do not clearly agree to their sin, then it must have been something that appears very slight to us."

"Abba, why were they so severely punished for something so subtle?"

"That is an even deeper kasha, Avi. People still puzzle over that question in our days, when they see righteous people suffering. The Avi Ezer has a very practical answer."

"Please tell me, Abba."

"The greater a person is, the more Hashem expects from him. Hashem blesses a person with great seichel (common sense). Therefore, He wants him to use that seichel to make the correct decisions. What is right in one situation may be wrong in another case."

"That is a frightening thought, Abba. There are so many complicated decisions in life. How can we know what is the right choice?"

"The Avi Ezer explains, Avi. If a person will always fuse seichel, holiness, and fear of Hashem together when making decisions, he will never go wrong.

Hashem created the person with a 'straight head'. His seichel works perfectly. It is man's job to guard it. Our fear of sin should motivate us to stay away from impure influences that corrupt our seichel. Then it will stay as straight as the day we were born."

"Abba, why were these righteous people punished?"

"The Avi Ezer relates that their seichel and righteousness were so great, that they were capable of achieving the highest levels of closeness to Hashem. Therefore, even the slightest mistake (in our eyes) was punished. That is why the verse states, 'I will be sanctified through those who are nearest to Me' (Vayikra 10:3). Hashem is strictest with those who are closest to Him."

"I see, Abba. Hashem never gives us a test that is too difficult. If He presents us with a complicated problem, then He must give us the seichel to make the right decision."

"Correct, Avi. Sometimes the right decision involves asking someone who is older and wiser than you are. Do not worry. If you fear Hashem, and guard your holiness, He will always steer you in the right direction."

Kinderlach . . .

Hashem has given you a wonderful gift - seichel. Guard it with purity and fear of Hashem. Use it. Don't be lazy. When Hashem presents you with a difficult challenge, do your best to analyze it with your seichel. If the answer is not clear, then seek the help of older and wiser people. B'ezras Hashem you will rise to higher and higher madraygas (spiritual levels), and become very close to The Holy One.

The Fiery Table

"A fire went forth from Hashem and consumed upon the Mizbeach the Olah" (Vayikra 9:24). The fire on the Mizbeach was not a normal fire but a miraculous fire from heaven. It consumed the Korbonos which gave the Jewish people their kapora. Nowadays, kinderlach, we have no Beis HaMikdash, and no Mizbeach. However, we do have a substitute. The Shelah HaKadosh notes that our table serves in place of the Mizbeach. What serves in place of the fire? The words of Torah that we speak at the table. Torah is often compared to fire. One example is the light of the Menorah in the Beis HaMikdash, which is compared to the light of Torah. We have a mitzvah to keep the fire burning on the Mizbeach constantly. How do we fulfill that mitzvah in our days when we have no Beis HaMikdash? By speaking words of Torah at the table. They provide the "spiritual fire". Then our eating of the food is compared to the consumption of the Korbonos.

Kinderlach . . .

When we are eating, let us all do our best to tell Abba and Imma some of the Torah that we learned today. Ask Abba and Imma to share with us what they learned today. We all try to speak Divrei Torah at the Shabbos table. Now let us try during the weekday meals also. You can start small with a one-minute drasha. Perhaps you will want to learn one of the halachos of Loshon Hora at each meal. With Hashem's help, we will constantly keep burning the miraculous fire from heaven that comes down and illuminates us with wisdom and spirituality.

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