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From
Simcha Groffman

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

Vayechi

Unity Brings Moshiach

"Yaakov called to his sons and said, 'Gather together and I will tell you what will happened at the End of Days (the time just before the coming of Moshiach)'" (Bereshis 49:1). The Medrash Rabba (98:2) offers many explanations of what Yaakov Avinu said to his sons. The Rabbanan said that he commanded them concerning quarreling. He said, "You shall gather together into one group . . . make the Children of Israel into one unified band, then prepare yourselves for the final redemption." The first step is for the Jewish people to rid themselves of strife and dissention. Then we must gather ourselves into one unified group. This will signal the event that we have been waiting and praying for the past 2000 years, the coming of Moshiach.

Kinderlach . . .

Who can count how many of our prayers are for the coming of Moshiach? In the Shemoneh Esrei (daily prayers) there are blessings asking for geulah (redemption), kibbutz golius (ingathering of exiles), the restoration of Hashem's rule, the rebuilding of Yerushalaim, the restoration of the kingdom of Dovid HaMelech, and the return of the avodah (service) of the Beis HaMikdash. We see how important the geulah is by how many prayers are devoted to it. Therefore, it is important for us to do our part to speed its arrival. Unity is our project. Let us begin with our own family. Avoid unnecessary confrontation. When arguments do occur, listen patiently to the other person's point of view. When he is finished, you may say what you feel, but say it nicely. Always be the first to apologize. Treat family members with respect. Go out of your way to do nice things for them. Our family is doing its best to bring the geulah.

How To Criticize

"Akiva, you're terrible!"

"What did I do?"

"You embarrassed me in front of my friends. You're so bad."

"Boys, let's try to stop this quarrel before it gets out of hand. Akiva, did you really embarrass Reuven in public?"

"Ummm. Well. I suppose I did."

"Then you must apologize. That is a very serious aveyra (sin)."

"I'm so sorry, Reuven."

"Now, Reuven, you must be careful what you say to Akiva, even when you are upset with him."

"What did I do wrong, Imma?"

"You criticized him personally. Akiva is not bad. What he did is bad. But he is a very good boy."

"If Akiva is good, why did he do that."

"People make mistakes. We are allowed to criticize the mistake, not the person."

"How do you know that, Imma?"

"When Yaakov gave blessings to his sons, he cursed the anger of Shimon and Levi. Rashi points out that although Yaakov was giving tochacha (constructive criticism), he only rebuked the fault, and not the people."

"What is wrong with criticizing a person?"

"Personal criticism makes a person feel very badly, and lowers his self esteem. You have called him a bad person. On the other hand, if you only point out his fault, then you are not saying anything bad about him personally. He is good. He just needs to correct the fault."

"When I compliment, can I praise the whole person?"

"Surely."

"Imma, you're wonderful."

Kinderlach . . .

Criticism is a very delicate subject. We should avoid having to criticize as much as we can. Sometimes, however, it is unavoidable. Then we must proceed very cautiously. Be careful to greet the person nicely first. Complimenting him or letting him know how much you care is also a good idea. Just speak about the fault, and not the person. Lastly, make the fault seem easy to correct. For example, "I am sure that a dedicated person like you will have no trouble taking care of this." Most important of all is to be truly concerned about the person. Giving constructive criticism is one of the 613 mitzvos (parshas Kedoshim). It is one of those that brings a person to the ultimate mitzvah bein adam lichavero (between man and his fellow man) of "love your fellow Jew as you love yourself."

Tell Them You Love Them

"Then Yisrael saw Yosef's sons and he said, 'Who are these?' And Yosef said to his father, 'They are my sons whom Hashem has given me here'" (Bereshis 48:8-9). Why did Yisrael ask this question? He surely knew who Menashe and Efraim were. He taught them Torah for seventeen years while he was in Mitzraim. The Ohr HaChaim HaKadosh answers this question in a lovely way. Yisrael was about to bless his grandchildren. Before the blessing, he wanted to arouse his love for them. This would enhance the blessing because it would be coming at a time of great love and affection. Therefore, he asked his dear son Yosef who they were. Now he would hear the words coming from Yosef's mouth, "They are my sons." His heart would open up to them and he would bless them with the love of a parent for his offspring. This is the hidden meaning of the verse, "Is Efraim My favorite son or a delightful child, that whenever I speak of him I remember him more and more?" (Yirmiah 31:19). Speaking about him arouses Hashem's love for him.

Kinderlach . . .

We know that we are supposed to love our fellow Jews, especially close family members, but we sometimes need help. The Ohr HaChaim HaKadosh gives us a valuable insight. Speak about them. Tell your parents how much you appreciate them. You will feel that warm feeling of true love, glowing in your heart. Tell your sister that you love her. Watch her face light up, and feel your love for her grow. Hashem gave us beautiful emotions. Learn how to use them in the proper time and place. Love your fellow Jews.

Kinder Torah Copyright 2001 All rights reserved to the author Simcha Groffman


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