Shemini: Where Do You Want to Go?

I hope everybody had an enjoyable Pesach.


We probably had the best Yom Tov in a few years.  In general, the children behaved well, we did two day trips, and every morning we sat outside and ate my wife’s traditional “Intercontinental Ballistic Breakfast.”  At the end, I asked my children what their favorite part of Pesach was, and they agreed it was the Seder, which not only surprised me, but gave me hope.


Before Pesach, somebody asked me if I do a serious Seder or a fun one.  I told him that I do a serious one (he replied that it’s to give another reason for the kids to ask “Mah Nishtana”).  Pesach is a serious time and is one of the most important times to pass on certain values to one’s children.  Yes, we have fun and some laughs, but all in all, we keep the levity to a certain level, and we try to focus on the important things.  I’m glad to see that the children can appreciate that.


Okay, let’s move on to this week’s dvar Torah.


“Wine and other intoxicating beverages you shall not drink” (Vayikra 10:9).


The Midrash (Vayikra Rabbah 12:1) warns us of the danger of alcoholism: “If a person drinks too much wine, he will end up selling all that he owns to keep up his addiction to drinking.”


It continues and relates a story of a man who spent too much of his money on his drinking, to the point that his children were worried that he was going to leave them penniless.  One night when he was drunk, they tied him up and took him to the local cemetery, hoping that when he sobered up he would be shocked to find himself in a cemetery and perhaps he would make some change in his life.


That day, a caravan carrying vats of wine passed near the cemetery.  The caravan was attacked and traveled as fast as it could.  One of the large barrels it was carrying fell off and landed right next to the head of the drunk man.  When he awoke from his drunken sleep, he was surprised to find the faucet of the barrel right next to his face and kept drinking right there in the cemetery.


In a letter to his father, Rav Eliyahu Dessler commented that we see from this story that Hashem leads a person in the way he wants to go.  The events that occurred to this man were so out of the ordinary, it was miraculous.  “If this is so when a person wants to do something that is improper, all the more so is it true when a person has a strong will to do what is good.”


My Rosh Yeshivah, Rav Asher Rubenstein, told over of how when he was single, learning in Ponevezh Yeshivah in Bnei Brak, he was once partnered to learn with somebody named Chaim.  This particular Chaim, was not the brightest in the yeshivah, and was known to go very slowly in his learning.  He had a nickname, “Eitz Chaim” (“Eitz Chaim” means “Tree of Life,” but “eitz” also means “wood”), because it seemed as though his head was made of wood.  After a few months, he could not continue learning with Chaim, because the speed was driving him crazy.  He acknowledged that this was one of his biggest mistakes he made… but, he was young, and what did he know?  He continued and explained that today “Eitz Chaim” has finished all of Shas (the entire Talmud) and people come to him from all over asking him questions.  In short, today he’s a very well-known talmid chacham.


When a person actually desires something, for good or bad, Hashem helps him on his quest.  No matter what his situation is, he has “Somebody” helping him along.  But before one receives such help, he needs to first have an honest desire and drive to attain his goal himself. 


Have a great Shabbos!