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Simcha Groffman

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

Parshas Vayishlach

Dedicated in loving memory of Binyomin Ezra Ben Meir zl

Bad Influences

Yaakov Avinu, after twenty years of working for Lavan, was on his way to meet his brother Eisav. He sent Eisav the message (Bereshis 32:5), "I stayed with Lavan, remaining there until now." Rashi writes that the gematria (numerical calculation) of the Hebrew word garti (stayed), is 613, the same as the word taryag which represents the 613 mitzvos. Yaakov was telling Eisav that although he was in Lavan's company for twenty years, he still observed all 613 mitzvos. The Alter of Novardak explains in his sefer "Madraygos Haodom" that Lavan was a very persuasive person, able to corrupt anyone with his dishonesty and trickery. Even so, Yaakov Avinu observed every one of the 613 mitzvos, down to the smallest detail.

Children . . .

Our parents and teachers encourage us to do mitzvos. We are surrounded by good influences . . . a nice home, good food, a beautiful school, clothes, and everything that we need to serve Hashem. However, sometimes it is not so easy. Harmful forces out there try to hurt us, just as Lavan tried to hurt Yaakov Avinu. We try to avoid these bad influences, but sometimes it is not possible. Yaakov Avinu teaches us that we still have to do the right thing even when it is not so easy. Even when we are in a discouraging situation.

Everything You Need

When Eisav and Yaakov greeted each other, each described their material status in the world. Eisav said, (Bereshis 33:9), "I have a lot." Yaakov said, (Bereshis 33:11), "I have everything." These are the two opposing perspectives of Yaakov and Eisav. Eisav lives only for the material world. Ones material desires are never satisfied. No matter how much one has, he always wants more. Therefore, Eisav describes his financial position as "I have a lot." Rashi says, "Much more than I need." Nevertheless, I want more. Yaakov, on the other hand, focuses on the spiritual world. He is happy with his material possessions because they are only a means to an end and not an end in themselves. His necessities are fulfilled. What more does he need?

Rav Eliyohu Lopian tells the following parable to illustrate the concept of having everything you need. A certain man once bragged to his friend about the expensive merchandise that he owned. "What sort of merchandise is it?" the friend asked. The man led him to a cabinet full of expensive medicines. He explained that the doctor had told him to take these medicines. They were very expensive, and very rare, imported from all over the world. The entire time that the owner was bragging about his medicine collection, his friend was thinking, "How fortunate am I that I don't need all of this." Although people are naturally jealous of other's possessions, no one would be jealous of having all of these medicines. That is the meaning of the verse that we say in the blessings after a meal of bread. "Those who seek Hashem are lacking no good." It does not say that they have all of the good things in the world. No one can possibly own all of the good things in the world. What they do not have they are not lacking.

Children . . .

We have to know that Hashem gives us everything that we need. Not one thing is missing. He gives us all of the food, clothing, treats, playing time, books, and toys that we need. We may want more. We may want what other children have. We may think that we need it. It is just not so. If we needed that thing, Hashem would have given it to us. Because He gives us all that we need. As Yaakov Avinu said, "I have everything." Everything that I need.

Our Smallness, His Greatness

Yaakov Avinu prayed to Hashem before his meeting with Eisav. One part of his prayer is written in Bereshis 32:11. "I am small (undeserving) of all of the kindness and truth that You have done for Your servant, for I crossed the Jordan (River) with just a staff, and now I have become two camps (of people and possessions)." Rabbeinu Bechaye explains that this is a model for how we should introspect during prayer. A person should consider his faults and shortcomings. If Yaakov Avinu, one of our holy forefathers, considered himself small, then what can we say about ourselves. Next, we should contemplate the majesty of Hashem's rule over the universe. Hashem constantly bestows goodness upon His creations. He is not obligated, rather He provides for us out of kindness. Only after we focus on our smallness and His majesty, can we properly appeal to Hashem.

Children . . .

Do you remember the last time that you fell down and hurt yourself? You see how fragile you are, how easy it is to get hurt. That is an example of our smallness. I am sure that you can think of other examples. Contrast this with the greatness of Hashem. Can we possibly list all of the things that He does for us? He provides us with air to breathe, food to eat, water to drink, sunshine, and shelter, just to name a few. Let us have a contest to see who can name the greatest number of examples of Chasdei Hashem (His kindness). After Shabbos, write down the list and review it before you pray. You will have a much greater appreciation of Who you are praying to.

Enjoy your Shabbos Table!

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Simcha Groffman

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