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Simcha Groffman

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

Parashas Vizos HaBracha

The Yoke of Heaven

"Those oxen sure are working hard, Avi."

"Yes, pulling a plow is not easy, Chaim. I see something which helps them very much."

"What is that?"

"The yoke that they are wearing."

"What is a yoke, Avi?"

"It is the harness that fits over their necks like a collar."

"How does it help them?"

"It guides them, Chaim. The yoke lines them up and unites them into a team of oxen. When they are wearing that yoke, they must all pull together, in the same direction. Therefore, their strength is focused, which makes it much easier for them to pull."

"I see."

"These animals are not too smart, however. They think that their obligation to work comes from the yoke. They are naturally lazy and would rather be lying around doing nothing. Therefore, they sometimes try to throw off the yoke."

"Avi, they do not realize that the yoke is not a burden for them, rather it helps them. It is really like a parable to the first verse of Kriyas Shema - kabalas Ole Malchus Shomayim - the acceptance of the Yoke of Heaven."

"In what way, Chaim?"

"The verse states, 'A man was born to toil' (Iyov 5:7). Work is a fact of life. Just as everyone in this world must breath air, so too everyone must toil. The question is what will his work be? The choice is his. He can toil for Hashem by accepting the Yoke of Heaven. That is the best occupation. He joins the 'team' of ovdei (servants of) Hashem. He is focused totally on productive activities that are good for him, everyone around him, the entire universe, and the Creator. He works hard serving Hashem and the Almighty rewards him richly in this world and the next."

"A different person may not realize the exaltedness of this work. He will rebel and throw off the Yoke of Heaven, chas v'shalom (G-d forbid). He then proceeds to waste his precious time in this world pursuing worthless vanities. Even if he attains them, he will not be satisfied. Alternatively, Hashem may send him sickness, poverty, and other troubles that soak up his time, money, and energy. Either way he will end up with nothing; no deep satisfaction in this world, and no reward in the next world."

"Oy vey! What a terrible fate. I want the best work. I want to mekabel Ole Malchus Shomayim. How do I do it, Chaim?"

"One way is to be happy with whatever Hashem does for you, Avi, even if it is not pleasant. This does not exempt you from trying to improve the situation. However, you must accept that all the results are from Hashem."

"That takes work."

"It certainly does. We can think of many reasons to be unhappy with Hashem's plan for us. A rebel may imagine that the situation is worse than it truly is, and subsequently panic. On the other hand, he may worry about future problems that will probably never come to reality. His ego may tell him that he does not deserve this difficult situation. He may get frustrated because he does not have the tools to handle the situation. He may try hishtadlus (preparative action), and not receive the desired results. He will subsequently get discouraged and rebel. Sinas chinam (senseless hatred), desires for honor, or material pleasures may distort the reality, make him lose control, and rebel. We have to rise above all of this, Avi. We must realize that Hashem is the Almighty, All Merciful King. Therefore, His decrees must be good for us. We accept them whole heartedly."

"Do you have any other tips, Chaim?"

"Yes, Avi. Always do every mitzvah with great zerizus (quickness), hislahavus (excitement), zehirus (carefulness), sincerity, and simcha. Fulfilling mitzvos is the greatest privilege in the world! It gives Hashem so much nachas! Relate to it this way. This is the type of kabalas Ole Malchus Shomayim that Hashem wants."

"Thank you so much Chaim. You have illuminated my whole approach to Hashem's holy mitzvos. May He help us to always work faithfully for Him."


Kinderlach . . .

The section of the morning prayers after the Akeida is Kabbalas Ole Malchus Shomayim. The text is from Tanna Divei Eliyahu (Eliyahu Rabba 21). At that time, the enemy persecuted those who accepted Ole Malchus Shomayim in public; therefore, the Tanna instructed them to do it privately. Kinderlach, we want to mekabel Ole Malchus Shomayim with all of our hearts, souls, and might, as it says in Kriyas Shema. We know that the yoke is good for us. It focuses our efforts into totally constructive work. It is good for everyone and everything. It gives us great reward, pleasure, and satisfaction. Most of all, it is the ratzon (will of) Hashem and gives Him nachas ruach. Fulfilling mitzvos is the greatest privilege in the world! Serve Hashem with simcha! Mekabel Ole Malchus Shomayim!

The Real World

"Chaim dear, what is Avi doing?"

"He's doing a mitzvah, Imma."

"Which mitzvah, is he doing, Chaim?"

"He's sleeping."

"I didn't realize that sleeping is a mitzvah."

A short time later . . .

"What are you doing Chaim, dear?"

"I'm doing a mitzvah, Imma."

"Which mitzvah, Chaim?"

"I'm relaxing and enjoying our latest photo album."

"Okay you boys. Let's get serious. First, you tell me that sleeping is a mitzvah. Now you tell me that relaxing and looking at pictures is a mitzvah. Since when did you discover these new mitzvos?"

"Imma, we are serious. They are not new mitzvos. We are sleeping and relaxing in the Sukkah. The Torah states, "You shall dwell in Succos seven days" (Vayikra 23:42). This is the mitzvah. Our sages explain (Gemora Sukkah 28b) that we should live in the Sukkah as we live in our homes. Sleeping, and all 'home' activities should be done in the Sukkah. Therefore, I get the mitzvah of living in the Sukkah with every 'home activity' that I do there."

"I see, Avi. You are very smart."

"Imma, it goes even deeper than that."

"In what way, Chaim?"

"Rav Chaim Friedlander explains that the Sukkah converts all of our mundane daily activities into mitzvos. In doing so, it teaches us a big lesson. That even during the rest of the year we can turn everything we do into service of Hashem. As the verse states, 'In all your ways know Him' (Mishlei 3:6). We become accustomed to seeing the mitzvos in all of life's activities, and this carries over into the rest of the year."

"That is fascinating, Chaim. Please tell me more."

"What is this mystical Sukkah, that has the spiritual power to turn everything into a mitzvah? Nothing more than two walls and a tefach (a handbreadth) covered by discarded branches and twigs. It does not rank very high on the list of fancy material possessions. It is a parable to this world. Ultimately, the true value of things in this world is measured by the mitzvos that they enable us to do. A big luxurious car is worthless if we cannot use it to do a mitzvah. Yet, a little Sukkah is a valuable thing indeed. It turns everything into a mitzvah. That is how we should look at this world. Like a Sukkah. A temporary dwelling, with the sole purpose of doing mitzvos.

Kinderlach . . .

The Succah is a wonderful place. It turns even the mundane things into mitzvos. You get so many mitzvos in the Succah. And you learn a big lesson for the rest of the year. Now that we appreciate the holiness of our Succah, let us make an extra effort to treat it with respect. It is only fitting to be on our best behavior when we are in this special place.

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