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Simcha Groffman

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Kinder Torah
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Parashas Vayera

Border Dispute

"The time has come to divide up the possessions of our dear departed father zichrono li'vrocho. We have no bechor in our family, therefore each son gets an equal portion of the piece of land that Abba z"l owned. The proper way to distribute the land is to divide it up into equal portions. We then draw lots. Each one will receive his portion according to the lottery."

"My dear brothers, I have a request. Before Abba z"l passed away, I bought a piece of land which borders on his land that we are about to divide. I request that I receive the piece of the inheritance bordering directly on my land. That way I will have one big field. It is easier to watch and farm one big field than two small disconnected fields. Can you grant me this request?"

The brothers hesitate.

"We would rather not circumvent the lottery process. Everyone should have an equal chance at the land. Perhaps we should ask a Rav if we are obligated to grant your request."

The question is:

Can the one brother circumvent the lottery because he owns a piece of land on the border?

The answer is:

The Ammoraim Rabba and Rav Yosef in the Gemora (Bava Basra 12b) argue on this point. Rabba says that the brother should be allowed to receive the land on the border. Rashi explains that the brother benefits by getting this adjacent piece of land, while the other brothers lose nothing. Therefore, for them to deny him this benefit would be "middos Sdom." The Torah does not allow us to act like the people of Sdom (kofin al middos Sdom); therefore, we force the brothers to let him have the land.

Rav Yosef, on the other hand, concludes that this field may be worth more than the others. It may receive more rainwater and produce more crops than the other fields. Therefore, the other brothers can claim that this field is worth more to them, and they are being asked to give up a more valuable field. The Torah does not force someone to give up a field that is more valuable and receive a cheaper field in return. Therefore, the brothers do not have to grant his request.

Go For the Glory

"Is the load secure?"

"Just a minute. I'll check the ropes again. Yes, everything seems to be tied tightly. Start the motor."

The man pressed the button, and the electric motor on the roof of the building whirred to life. It slowly tugged on the long rope. Attached to the rope was a load of cinder blocks sitting on the ground. The winch tugged and the rope tightened.

"Is this rope strong enough for these blocks?"

"Yesterday it lifted a load of fifty cinder blocks. Today I put fifty-one on the palate. I am testing the strength of the rope."

The motor whined, the rope strained, and the blocks slowly lifted off the ground. Would the rope hold? Higher and higher the palate rose. Until it reached the roof of the building.

"Wonderful. The rope passed the test."

"Yes. It is tougher than we thought. The test revealed its strength to us."

"It happened after these things that Hashem tested Avraham" (Bereshis 22:1). Rav Shimshon Refael Hirsch zt"l points out that the word "tested" in Hebrew is "nissah". It is similar to the word "nossah" (to travel), "nossach" (to remove), and "nassa" (to carry away). The common denominator of all three words is a description of elevation to a new place. Similarly, a test elevates a person to a new level. It brings out strengths in the person that were previously unknown. By pushing himself to pass the test, he strengthens himself and comes to a new madrayga (spiritual level). Rav Hirsch's parable of the rope describes a test, which revealed the hidden strength of the rope.

The Medrash Rabba describes the glory of passing a test with the verse, "To those who fear you, you gave a banner to be raised high" (Tehillim 60:6). The word "nes" (banner) is similar to the word "nossah" (test). Avraham Avinu passed test after test, rising higher and higher in madrayga, like a banner flying high over a ship. And so, his glory was revealed to the world.

Kinderlach . . .

How do we react to difficult situations? "Oy vey! What am I going to do? I can't deal with this." That is a negative reaction. "This is a test. Let's come up with a plan and make a real push to carry it out." That is the correct way to view a challenging situation. A test is a wonderful thing. It forces us to push ourselves, and brings out hidden strengths and talents. We then rise to a higher madrayga, which brings glory to ourselves, and to Hashem. Kinderlach, pass the test and grab the glory.

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