Keeping the Main Thing the Main Thing
Chinuch Take-Away Lessons from Shabbos Chazon
“The main thing is to keep the main thing the main thing”
Stephen R. Covey
I have found that the most effective chinuch questions are those that do not have “correct” answers – but rather promote independent, critical thinking that allows the learner to self-explore and derive a meaningful message on his/her own.
With that in mind, several weeks ago, I entered one of the middle-grade classes in Yeshiva Darchei Noam, where I serve as Dean, and asked the boys an open-ended question. (For some context – it was Parshas Pinchas, and I was discussing the pros and cons of zealotry.)
“Which of the 613 mitzvos (commandments) is the most important one – and how would you prove that your answer is correct?” I asked them.
As I had hoped, a lively discussion ensued with several excellent answers presented. One talmid responded that loving and/or believing in Hashem is most important since it encompasses all our mitzvos.
Another young man suggested that we ought to look at reward and punishment. Therefore, the aveiros (sins) that have the harshest punishment and the mitzvos that have the greatest reward are clearly the most important.
A third child asked me to share with him which one of the mitzvos is repeated the most times in the Torah. He stated that this would conclusively prove which of them Hashem treasured most. I responded that treating geirim (converts) with love is listed 36 times in the Torah (see Bava Metzia 59b). I also took the opportunity to share with my talmidim that our commentaries point out that this mitzvah extends as well to “strangers” of any sort – people who have been dislocated.
I was thrilled by their responses and shared with them how much I appreciated the dialogue.
Then, I proposed a fourth approach, one that readers of these lines may wish to share with their children over the next few days.
I opened a Navi and read from the text of this week’s Haftorah (Yeshayahu/Isaiah 1:1-27), where Yeshayahu admonishes his fellow Jews for concentrating on spiritual trappings like bringing korbanos (animal sacrifices), and relegating the core values of of Hashem’s Torah – honesty, integrity, and kindness – to the back burner.
“Why do I need your numerous sacrifices? (1:11),” asks Hashem. The Navi exclaims that Hashem is “weary of your korbanos (1:14)”, and that He “will not listen to your prayers (1:15).”
It was certainly a great mitzvah to purchase and bring korbonos to the Bais Hamikdash. But, as the Navi relates, those mitzvos were mere adornments to the core values of our Torah. And the Navi clearly describes what the Jews needed to do in order to redeem themselves. “Purify yourselves, seek justice, strengthen the victim, and take up the cause of the widow/orphan (1:16-17)."
May we merit to fulfill the timeless charge of Yirmiyahu in the closing words of the Haftorah of Tisha B’Av, “For only with this may one glorify himself; become wise and [get to] know Me [contemplate how to better emulate the ways of Hashem], for I am Hashem who does kindness, justice and righteousness …” (Yirmiyahu 9:23).
May Hashem dry our tears and comfort us with the rebuilding of the Bais Hamikdash – b’meheirab’yameinu (speedily in our times).
Best wishes for a gutten Shabbos and for an easy and meaningful fast on Tisha B’av
On a more pedestrian note; in two weeks, I will be lecturing at the summer program of KMR Tours in Vail, Colorado . (I had the pleasure of attending their program in the Canadian Rockies earlier this summer and their service, food and attention to detail were outstanding.)
I worked out an arrangement with the Werner brothers who run the program, and they will be giving a generous donation to Project YES for every room booked through Project YES’s introduction.
If you or your family members are making your summer plans and would consider participating in this program, just drop me an email to that effect to firstname.lastname@example.org and I will send an introductory email to you and the KMR program.
It would be my pleasure to spend time with you this summer, and a pleasant way for you to give Project YES a financial helping hand.
Thank you very much.
P.S. Please forward this to any friends or family members of yours for whom this might be of interest. I was actually able to make a few “shidduchim” in Banff, which worked out well for Project Y.E.S. Thanks.
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