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Something to Think About

By: Rav Jason Knapel

There is a famous Gemara dealing with Kibbud Av Va'em relating to our parsha that I think many people learn in their earlier years. The Gemara in Kiddushin says there was once a non – Jew named Dama ben Nitina that did an act which demonstrates to what length one has to go to fulfill Kibbud Av Va'em. Dama had these very precious jewels that the Jews wanted for the Choshen but in order to get to the key to the “safe”, it would wake up his father. So Dama was willing to give up tremendous amounts of money in order to perform Kibbud Av Va'em. The story continues that in reward for this mitzvah the next year the chachamim were looking for a Para Adumah and Dama had one and they paid a very high price for it – the same amount that he lost for doing the mitzvah of Kibbud Av Va'em.

(Note: According to many of the poskim, if the father would be upset by NOT being woken up - it would have been a Mitzvah to wake him up).

A question that nagged at the back of my mind for many years was what is the connection between the mitzvah of Kibbud Av Va'em and the Mitzvah of Para Adumah? Why was it specifically the Para Adumah that Dama was zocheh to have. I always dismissed the question by thinking that the Para Adumah is so rare that it must have been expensive – just like the stones for the choshen. Just recently I saw the Chiddushe Harim (the Gerer Rebbe) that says there is an integral connection between the two.

When Dama, a non – Jew, sacrificed so much for Kibbud Av Va'em, a mitzvah that is definitely not one of the 7 Mitzvot Bnei Noach (although some say a non – Jew is commanded in Kibbud Av Va'em), the kategor (prosecutor) in Shamayim said to Hakadosh BaRuch Hu: Look how much the non- Jews are willing to sacrifice for your mitzvot – what can your Jews say about that. In response, the next year the Jews went out to find a Parah Adumah and were willing to pay anything to have one. When they bought it from Dama, the sanegor (defender) said: Look at your children, Dama, a non-Jew, was willing to sacrifice so much for a mitzvah that has a reason to it – but your children are willing to sacrifice so much for a mitzvah that they do not understand – a chok, and they do it only because you commanded it, not because they think it is right or moral or it works – just because you, Hashem, commanded it.

I found the connection interesting, but the lesson even more important to today’s generation. Our strength as a people who do mitzvot is not that we are more moral or right then others (maybe true maybe not- not a discussion for now), but that we do things because Hashem commanded us. It is the subjugation of our will to His will that gives us strength in the face of our enemies. I just learned with one of my students a wonderful Nesivos Shalom that discusses why we see that there are those who learn Torah and do mitzvot, and yet that Torah does not affect them as it should – it does not give all the “rewards” that are mentioned in the sixth perek of Pirke Avot. There are many answers to the question, the Slonimer Rebbe explains that Torah will always affect a person – but the maximum affect occurs only when it is learned (or done) LeShma – for the purpose it was given.

In today’s world we try to connect people to Torah in many different ways explaining how “great” mitzvot are and how they do so many great things. Shabbat is all about family, Kashrut is about self control etc… I am not saying this is bad – however I think that we are creating a generation that only does things - which work for them. They are not doing things because Hashem commanded them. As future parents and active members in the Jewish community we must remember that yes the Torah and Mitzvot have many benefits, and they are beautiful lessons to be learned in all that we do, but the basis of everything is serving the Borei Olam. In this way we ensure that Judaism is not about me – but about Hashem.

Just something to think about.

Shabbat Shalom

Rav K





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