Devar Torah - Achrei Mos-Kedoshim

Friday, 27 April, 2018 - 10:10 am

This week is parshas Acharei-Kedoshim. The theme of parshas Kedoshim is that it is a mitzvah to be holy. The posuk reads “Kedoshim tehiu”. Chazal learn that kedoshim tehiu means “kadesh atzmecha b’mutar lach.” Simply spoken this means to be restrained with things that are permissible, even though that they are allowable. Chassidus explains that the yetzer horah cannot interfere directly with someone’s life to  cause them to do something that is outright prohibited. He operates with a more stealth two stage strategy. First, he entices us to indulge in permissible things. He convinces us that since it’s allowed we should enjoy it. Once a person is used to continuously indulging in the permissible, the yetzer pushes him beyond the threshold, into things that are clearly forbidden. The reason he is successful is because we are out of control. Therefore, the Torah tells us, “kadesh atzmecha b’mutar lach! – sanctify yourself with permissible.” This is how Chassidus explains this mitzvah.

How do we get control? Not just by controlling ourselves but also by having kedusha as the center focus. Our goal is to bring kedusha into every aspect of our lives through the Torah and mitzvos, even into the times and places that we are not doing mitzvos. When we do a mitzvah we say the beracha ‘asher k’dishanu.’ When we use our life to serve Hashem then we are sanctifying ourselves in all the details. We are sanctifying how we express ourselves, how we eat food (see perek zayin of Tanya) in our tznius as well as all other things.

How do I serve Hashem in everything? By having an overall perspective of simcha. A Yid is very happy that he has the opportunity to approach life in a way that is different than a worldly outlook. Our goals and expectations revolve around the fact that Hashem has chosen us to serve Him. Therefore, every morning upon awaking we look upon the day as a special opportunity to serve Hashem in all aspects of life.

When a child is in yeshiva he needs to be excited about what his Torah and mitzvos accomplish. He needs to feel an ahava toward serving Hashem. Chassidus explains that through every mitzvah one accomplishes Hashem’s will. Hashem waits and anticipates when each one of us will do the next mitzvah. Doing the mitzvah brings Hashem endless simcha.

We live however in a physical world and we are affected by our surroundings. There is a story about Rebbi Levi Yitzchak of Berdichev on Yom Kippur. He turned to Hashem and said, “What do you want from your children? You place the pleasure of the world before our eyes and reward and punishment in the sefarim!”  Yiddishkeit needs to be vibrant and part of our life, something we cannot live without.

Why does this child, who went through the system feel that it is not speaking to him? The reason is because the ta’aivos of this world are in front of his eyes. They cloud his neshama, and dull the vibrancy of the living Torah and mitzvos. This has intensified lately where accesses to worldly things are unprecedented. Just a few years ago it took a conscious effort to access such things by going outside of the community. Today they are just a click away with the internet and smart phones. Can we close off our homes to the internet? We need the internet for business.

A teen in yeshiva can’t have facebook, receive hundreds of texts, update his followers on twitter and still have the head to learn. When does he have time? Is it any wonder that the teachers are finding it challenging to arouse children to learn? If every child was born with an individualized handbook that described his exact nature and how to best take care of him we would be perfect parents. Unfortunately there are not such handbooks and as parents we have to try to do the best we can. For example would we give our children harmful things to play with? Would we start a child on a bike without training wheels? Would we give a seventeen year old the keys to a car without drivers training? It is the same thing to give our child access to a laptop with internet access to chat rooms, blogs, etc. It is our job to know what they are doing.

When I was recently speaking to one of the prominent Poskim of our time, he shared with me examples of the kind of shailos that they have been receiving lately. The shailos make one’s hair stand on its end. We are speaking about people who went through the system and are frum from birth. Kallahs asking how to properly write a kesuba and what she is required to tell her chosson about her youthful indiscretions. Does she have to tell him what happened when she was in seminary and went on Ben Yehudah street?

Where did this all begin? It all started with questions like; “Is it forbidden to have a cell phone and be able to text?” Is its bad to go on the internet?” It is not necessarily bad to have a knife in the home. It depends how it’s used. We need to restrain ourselves all the time, even the small things. We need to question the quality of our behavior.

The kind of questions that the Rabbanim hear regarding permissible behavior between man and wife makes one question if there is any kedusha in their relationship. The reason they ask such questions is because people go on the internet and they see unacceptable things there. They then want to emulate that behavior in their homes. Thirty years ago no one would even think to ask such questions. We need to remember the central role of kedusha in our families. “Kadesh atzmecha b’mutar lach”. If we go along and indulge what is mutar, we end up doing that which is assur. Chassidus explains at great length how that which we want, we do not need (see Kuntres u’Maayon).

Every parent has the greatest effect on his when they are enthusiastic and take joy in his or her Yiddishket. Our children need to see the excitement of mitzvos in the home. They need to see us learning, especially that we enjoy the learning, that the Torah is our life. We don’t need to spend time finding out about the latest controversies about world Jewry on the various websites. Let’s spend more time looking into the children in our own homes. By spending time with our children, helping them with their homework and taking an interest in their school, helps insure that they do well in school. Parents should go to the yeshiva to see it with their children. A child sees that their education is important.

They also learn from us when see that the rest is not important and exciting. They see that you are not interested in the latest basketball scores and play offs. Instead you take interest in Pesach, Lag B’omer and a Chassidishe vort. They see that you are preoccupied with gemilus chassadim. They see a picture of kedusha. They see that kedusha is real life not something tucked away in a sefer somewhere. They see and understand that the world is full  of shtus and hevel hevalim. The internal yiras Shomayim that we have and instill in our children motivates us to be “Kadesh atzmecha b’mutar lach”; to dedicate their lives to serve Hashem even when we and they are alone and can do whatever we and they want. With this we have what a thousand filters and safety precautions cannot accomplish. This is what our dedication and their chinuch can and should bring about. Therefore, when it comes later in life they have the proper perspective, they don’t entertain questions that would make one’s hair stand on its end, and instead gravitate toward making this world a dira lo Yisborach.

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