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Simcha Groffman

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Parshas Vaeyra

For parents to give over to the children at the Shabbos table

When the time came for Klal Yisrael to leave Mitzraim, kinderlach, Hashem performed lots and lots of miracles. We are going to speak about the miracles of the eser makkos (ten plagues) this week. The first makko turned the Nile River into blood. The second makko brought frogs from the river. Aharon HaCohen and not Moshe Rabbeinu initiated both of these makkos. Rashi explains in posuk 7:19 that the river protected Moshe Rabbeinu when he was an infant, therefore he could not be the one to bring the makkos. Similarly, by the makko of lice, Rashi (posuk 8:12) explains that Aharon again started the makko. Why? Because the lice came from the dirt of Mitzraim which had protected Moshe Rabbeinu years before by hiding the body of the Mitzri that he killed. Hashem was teaching Moshe Rabbeinu a powerful lesson in hacoras hatov (gratitude). One must feel and express gratitude even to inanimate objects that have no free will. How much more so to human beings who help us consciously out of the goodness of their hearts. Kinderlach, who can think of people that we can express our gratitude to? How about the shopkeeper who brings the food to our neighborhood? And the bus driver who takes us where we need to go. Next time we see the doctor, let's thank him for helping us get better. Let's not forget our teachers who teach us Torah. And our friends who bring us the homework if we are sick and miss a day of school. The biggest hacoras hatov has to be for Abba and Imma. They do everything for us! Without them, we would not even be here! How do we thank Hashem? He is the One who is the source of all that we receive. The Sefer HaChinuch on Mitzvah 430 says that one of the reasons that we say blessings is to help us to realize that Hashem is the source of all the good that we receive. Knowing this, we can feel and express our hacoras hatov to Him for all of His blessings. So, kinderlach, next time we make a brocho on an apple, let's try very hard to concentrate on thanking Hashem for giving us this delicious apple to eat. Thanking Hashem and the people around us makes us real menschen and gives nachas to everyone.

There is a story about Rav Levi Yitzchok of Berdichev. He was traveling and arrived at a small town one evening. He went from house to house looking for a place to stay. No one recognized the Rav, and he was turned away from each home. He tried every home in the town and received the same depressing answer. Finally, there remained only one house, the run-down home of a poor man. Rav Levi Yitzchok knocked on the door and asked for a place to sleep that night. The owner replied that he was only a poor man with a simple home. If the traveler would not mind staying in such poor surroundings, he would be honored to host him for the night. Rav Levi Yitzchok gladly accepted the invitation, stayed the night, and thanked him profusely when he left the next day. Some years later, when Rav Levi Yitzchok became known far and wide as a great talmid chochom and a tsaddik, he returned to the town for a visit. The residents all competed for the honor of hosting the Torah leader in their homes. Rav Levi Yitzchok shook his head. "I will stay with the poor man at the edge of town, if he will admit me," he announced. "It was he who took me in the last time and it is to him that I must express my everlasting gratitude. Once someone performs a favor for you, you must never forget it."

Kinderlach, Paroh behaved in a very interesting manner during the eser makkos. During the time when the makkos were occurring, he promised Moshe Rabbeinu that he would do what Hashem wanted and free the Yidden. After the makko ended, however, he changed his mind and did what he wanted, not what Hashem wanted. Rav Leib Chasman points out in his sefer Ohr Yohel that the suffering that a person undergoes in his life is no different from the makkos that plagued Paroh. They are both tests to see how we will react. When a person is suffering from a terrible thing (lo aleinu) he cries out to Hashem and promises to do tshuva. After the tzorus passes, what does he do? Does he keep his promises, or does he return to his old ways? Kinderlach, Abba and Imma do not like to give you a punishment. Why do they do it? To teach you that you are doing something wrong. Of course during the punishment, you stop doing the aveyrah. What do you do after the punishment ends kinderlach? Do you behave like Paroh, chas veshalom, and return to doing the very same thing that brought on the punishment in the first place? We hope not. Or do you learn from the punishment and stop doing the aveyrah. That is the right thing to do. When you learn the proper lesson from a punishment, you become menschen and make Abba and Imma very proud of you.

The Steipeler says in his sefer, Chayey Olam that the eser makkos (ten plagues) showed that Hashem is in control of everything in the world. The makko of dam (blood) was to show that Hashem rules over the water. Tsefardea (frogs) showed His rule over the creatures of the water. Kinnim (lice) demonstrated Hashem's rule over the ground. At His will, the dirt turned to lice. The plague of orov (wild animals) demonstrated His control over the land animals. Dever (cattle disease) illustrated Hashem's hashgacha (guidance) of the lives of animals. Only the animals of the Mitzrim were afflicted, not those of the Jews. Shchin (boils) showed that the health of a person is in the hands of Hashem. Only the Mitzrim became ill with boils, and not the Jews. The makko of borod (hail with fire inside) showed that Hashem controls the rain, and can change the weather and convert it to hail. He also controls "natural laws" as we see that the fire and ice made peace and coexisted in the borod to do the will of Hashem (Rashi on posuk (9:24). From this we also learn, kinderlach, how important it is to make shalom. Arbeh (locusts) illustrated Hashem's sovereignty over flying creatures and wind. A strong east wind brought the arbeh, and a strong west wind swept them away. The makko of choshech (darkness) exemplified Hashem's rule over the light. Lastly, makkos bechoros (death of the first born) showed that life and death are in the hands of Hashem. Kinderlach, Paroh was a big rasha. He needed eser makkos to see that Hashem rules everything in the world. We are all trying to be big tsaddikim. We see Hashem's control without the makkos. When we plant a seed in the ground, we see how Hashem takes care of it by watering it with rain and giving it plenty of sunshine. Before long, He makes a beautiful tree grow. Hashem makes that tree sprout an apple, which we then eat to give us koach to do mitzvos. And He makes that apple taste so good. He gives us good health so we can learn Torah. Boruch Hashem, we see that He is controlling everything. It all ties together, kinderlach. Seeing hashgacha, hacoras hatov, and kavanna in brochos. They are all a part of realizing Who Hashem is and giving Him lots and lots of nachas.

Enjoy your Shabbos table !

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