Ki Tetzei(Deuteronomy 21:10-25:19)
GOOD MORNING! Did you ever try to do a good deed, get frustrated in your efforts and think to say, "No good deed goes unpunished"? If we want to do the right thing, why should it sometimes be so difficult? If the Almighty wants us to do acts of kindness, why are there often so many obstacles in our way?
Recently, I had two insights ... but, first the story. Two weeks ago my family traveled to Israel to marry off our son Hizkiyahu to Yael Vrubel. Since we were bringing many things for the young couple and my other children, we had 4 empty bags for the way home. When a close friend mentioned that his daughter moved from Jerusalem back to Miami, but had boxes of household items she couldn't bring back, it was my great pleasure to offer our services and empty bags to bring back her possessions.
We arrived in Israel on a Wednesday and for 2 days called both contact numbers without reaching anyone and without receiving a call back. Thus, when I drove the 30 miles into Jerusalem on Friday, I couldn't pick up the items. Not to worry, we were due back in Jerusalem on the following Tuesday! Sunday, Monday, Tuesday we kept calling, but could make no phone contact until late Tuesday.
I gain entry to the apartment, pack the 3 suitcases and the duffel bag I brought -- but due to the small rental car, could only take 2 bags with me. This meant I had to return again to Jerusalem to get the remaining 2 bags. And to top it off, for the taxi trip to the airport, one of the bags had to travel on our laps in the back seat.
Understand, this is all kleinigkeit -- little stuff, no big deal. However, everything that happens to us in life is a message from the Almighty and we should ask ourselves "Why? (Most people ask, "Why me?" -- just with the wrong tonal qualities.) What can I learn from this?" If the Almighty loves me, why should it be so hard to fulfill His commandment of doing an act of kindness?
Then I had 2 insights. The first: We don't really know how the Almighty runs the world and often what is really to our benefit. The Talmud tells the story of Rabbi Akiva who went on a journey with a donkey, a rooster (his alarm clock) and a candle (to be able to learn into the night). He came to a town and his every request for hospitality was rebuffed. So, he went to the outskirts of town and set up his camp.
During the night a lion killed his donkey, his rooster was taken by another animal ... and his candle blew out. Awakened by yells and screams, he saw the people of the town being slaughtered by marauders and whoever was left alive being taken off to be sold as slaves. He realized the kindness of the Almighty in having his requests for lodging denied, having his donkey and rooster killed and his candle blown out. Had these seeming tragedies and difficulties not happened he would likely have been discovered and either killed or captured.
Who knows what jujitsu moves were made on the timeline of my life (or the life of my family or others) to put me in places -- or keep me out of places -- for my ultimate welfare and benefit?
The second insight: The mitzvot are not just a checklist of actions to do; they are spiritual growth opportunities. Therefore, if I choose to do a mitzvah of kindness, the Almighty is going to give me the maximum opportunity to grow from the mitzvah. The Talmud teaches that according to the amount of effort is the increase of the reward. Therefore, the Almighty presents me with the chance to work on dealing with frustration, impatience and other character issues that will help me grow as a human being, develop my soul and create a stronger spiritual connection to the Almighty.
The Ramchal, Rabbi Moshe Chaim Luzzato, explains in the first chapter of Mesillas Yesharim, (Path of the Righteous -- available at your local Jewish bookstore, at JudaicaEnterprises.com or by calling toll-free to 877-758-3242) that mankind was created for the sole purpose of having pleasure from the splendor of the Almighty's presence; however, that pleasure must be earned through doing the mitzvot. Therefore, since the Almighty created us for pleasure, it makes sense that He will maximize our opportunity to earn that pleasure!
We might think that things should go easy because we are doing what the Almighty wants us to do, but in reality we are choosing to grow spiritually, refine our character -- and that only comes with challenge and effort!
For more on "Divine Providence" and "Improving Character Traits" go to ShabbatShalomAudio.com!
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Torah Portion of the Week
Topics in this week's portion include: Women Captives, First-Born's Share, The Rebellious Son, Hanging and Burial, Returning Lost Articles, The Fallen Animal, Transvestitism, The Bird's Nest, Guard-Rails, Mixed Agriculture, Forbidden Combinations, Bound Tassels, Defamed Wife, Penalty for Adultery, Betrothed Maiden, Rape, Unmarried Girl, Mutilated Genitals, Mamzer, Ammonites & Moabites, Edomites & Egyptians, The Army Camp, Sheltering Slaves, Prostitution, Deducted Interest, Keeping Vows, Worker in a Vineyard, Field Worker, Divorce and Remarriage, New Bridegroom, Kidnapping, Leprosy, Security for Loans, Paying Wages on Time, Testimony of Close Relatives, Widows and Orphans, Forgotten Sheaves, Leftover Fruit, Flogging, The Childless Brother-in-Law, Weights and Measures, Remembering What Amalek Did to Us.
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based on Growth Through Torah by Rabbi Zelig Pliskin
The Torah states:
"You shall surely send away the mother bird, and the fledglings take for yourself, in order that it shall be good for you and you shall live a long life" (Deut. 22:7).
Why does the Torah promise a good and long life for fulfilling this mitzvah (commandment)?
The Ramban (Moshe Nachmanides) explains that this mitzvah will implant in a person the attribute of empathy and compassion. Acting in a compassionate manner will enable you to feel empathy.
The Ksav Sofer (Rabbi Avraham Shmuel Sofer) notes that the Sages in the Talmud (Pesachim 113b) teach that three kinds of people are not considered as really living: 1) those with a strong degree of compassion 2) those who constantly become angry 3) Those who are finicky.
Rabbi Sofer elucidates: When someone empathizes strongly with the pain and suffering of others, he will suffer himself whenever he hears about the suffering of others, especially when he is unable to do anything to alleviate the other person's suffering, as is frequently the case. Therefore, after the Almighty commands us to have compassion on birds in order that we should grow in this trait, He guarantees that through this we will still live a good and long life. For many years you will be able to help a larger number of people and this will increase your days instead of shortening them. The more you feel for others, the more elevated you become.
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