GOOD MORNING! The different natures of children are fascinating. I have one child who, when given a piece of candy, will ask before eating it, "Do you have a second piece for my little sister?" If not, he would give the piece of candy to his little sister. I have another child who, when given a piece of candy, will ask before eating it, "Do you have a second piece of candy?" He wants to plan ahead for maximum candy intake.

In a group, children can often be very mean. Sometimes, however, they can raise to great heights of sensitivity and kindness. I bring the following story to you with permission from Rabbi Paysach Krohn from his latest book, Echoes of the Maggid. (All of his books are available by calling toll-free to 877-758-3242.) A young boy, Shaya, attends a special school during the week, Chush, for learning-disabled children. He loves baseball, but because of his lack of coordination isn't often chosen to play. One time Shaya came to Yeshiva Darchei Torah, where he learned on Sundays, as his classmates were playing ball. His father asks if Shaya can play. Being six runs behind and in the eighth inning, they figured, "Why not?" and Shaya went out to play short center field. I will now let the master story teller, Rabbi Krohn, take over the telling of the story:

Click to see an animated version of this story

"In the bottom of the eighth inning, Shaya's team scored a few runs, but was still behind by three. In the bottom of the ninth inning, Shaya's team scored again and now with two outs and the bases loaded and the potential winning runs on base, Shaya was scheduled to be up. Would the team actually let Shaya bat at this juncture and give away their chance to win the game?

"Surprisingly, Shaya was told to take a bat and try to get a hit. Everyone knew that it was all but impossible, for Shaya didn't even know how to hold the bat properly, let alone hit with it. However, as Shaya stepped up to the plate, the pitcher moved in a few steps to lob the ball in softly so that Shaya should at least be able to make contact.

"The first pitch came in and Shaya swung clumsily and missed. One of Shaya's teammates came up to Shaya and together they held the bat and faced the pitcher waiting for the next pitch. The pitcher again took a few steps forward to toss the ball softly towards Shaya.

"As the next pitch came in, Shaya and his teammate swung the bat and together they hit a slow ground ball to the pitcher. The pitcher picked up the soft grounder and could easily have thrown the ball to the first baseman. Shay would have been out and that would have ended the game.

"Instead, the pitcher took the ball and threw it on a high arc to right field, far and wide beyond the first baseman's reach. Everyone started yelling, 'Shaya, run to first! Shaya, run to first!' Never in his life had Shaya run to first.

"He scampered down the baseline wide-eyed and startled. By the time he reached first base, the right fielder had the ball. He could have thrown the ball to the second baseman who would tag out Shaya, who was still running. But the rightfielder understood what the pitcher's intentions were, so he threw the ball high and far over the head of the third baseman's head, as everyone yelled, 'Shaya, run to second! Shaya run to second!'

"Shaya ran towards second base as the runners ahead of him deliriously circled the bases towards home. As Shaya reached second base, the opposing shortstop ran towards him, turned him toward the direction of third base and shouted, 'Shay, run to third!'

"As Shaya rounded third, the boys from both teams ran behind screaming, 'Shaya, run home! Shaya, run home!"

"Shaya ran home, stepped on home plate and all 18 boys lifted him on their shoulders and made him the hero, as he had just hit the 'grand slam' and won the game for his team."

Concludes Rabbi Krohn about the lesson of this story, "Too often we seek to find favor and give honor to those who have more than us. But there are people who have fewer friends than we, less money, and less prestige. Those people especially need attention and recognition. We should try to achieve the level of perfection in human relationships which the boys on the ballfield at Yeshiva Darchei Torah achieved. Because if children can do it, we adults should certainly be able to accomplish it as well."

Torah Portion of the Week
Acharei Mot - Kedoshim

Acharei Mot includes the Yom Kippur service where the Cohen Gadol cast lots to designate two goats -- one to be sacrificed, the other to be driven to a place called Azazel after the Cohen Gadol - the High Priest - confessed the sins of the people upon its head. Today it is a very popular epithet in Israel to instruct another person in the heat of an argument to "go to Azazel." (I don't believe the intent, however, is to look for the goat.)

The goat sent to Azazel symbolically carried away the sins of the Jewish people. This, I surmise, is the source of the concept of using a scapegoat. One thing you can truly give credit to the Jewish people -- when we use a scapegoat, at least we use a real goat!

The Torah then proceeds to set forth the sexual laws -- who you are not allowed to marry or have relations with. If one appreciates that the goal of life is to be holy, to perfect oneself and to be as much as possible like G-d, then he/she can appreciate that it is impossible to orgy at night and be spiritual by day.

The Torah portion of Kedoshim invokes the Jewish people to be holy! And then it proceeds with the spiritual directions on how to achieve holiness, closeness to the Almighty. Within it lie the secrets and the prescription for Jewish continuity. If any group of people is to survive as an entity, it must have common values and goals -- a direction and a meaning. By analyzing this portion we can learn much about our personal and national destiny.


Dvar Torah
based on Growth Through Torah by Rabbi Zelig Pliskin

The Torah states, "For on this day (Yom Kippur) you shall receive atonement to purify you for all your transgressions, before the Almighty you shall be purified" (Leviticus 16:30). Does the day of Yom Kippur itself achieve atonement for ALL of one's transgressions?

The Sages (Talmud Bavli, Yoma 85b) comment that Yom Kippur atones for transgressions between man and the Almighty. However, Yom Kippur only atones for transgressions between man and man if a person first attains the forgiveness of those whom he has offended or harmed.

While our main reason not to hurt others should be out of compassion and caring, we learn from here that we should be careful not to hurt others out of our own self interests -- the embarrassment of having to ask others for forgiveness and the possibility that they won't or can't forgive you.