by Rabbi Yaakov Menken
"You are Children to HaShem your G-d..." [Deut. 14:1]
The Nesivos Shalom, from the Rebbe R' Shalom Berzovsky of Slonim, calls
these words the foundation of Judaism -- to recognize that regardless of
our situation, we are G-d's children.
The Rebbe R' Mordechai of Chernobyl once had a guest at his table who had
committed a great sin, and was moaning and sighing about the terrible thing
which he had done. The Rebbe said that if someone is in that situation, and
does not believe that G-d accepts his sighs and moans, then in addition to
his other sin he is also a denier of G-d. Meaning, that regardless of his
situation, he remains G-d's child and G-d wants him back.
The Rashba, one of the early commentators, points out that whenever Rebbe
Meir and Rebbe Yehudah argue in the Mishnah, the law follows Rebbe Yehudah.
But in this case, the law follows Rebbe Meir: they, the Jewish people, are
called "G-d's children" regardless, even if they are not doing good and not
doing the will of G-d.
Everything is different with a child. There is a parallel in recent news: a
man was recently caught with evidence that he committed a truly horrific
crime. In fact, his mother said that before her son's arrest, "I said they
should get that person and tie him up alive and burn him." Even the
electric chair would be too good for him, she recalled saying, "because
he's not going to suffer that much."
Now that her own son was arrested, everything has changed. "If my son is
found guilty and sentenced to the death penalty, I could forgive him, but
it would be hard."
She could forgive him! He did something so monstrous that the entire nation
cringed, so awful that she wanted the perpetrator burned alive -- but her
son, she can forgive. If a human being can forgive like that, our merciful
and gracious Father in Heaven certainly can as well.
The Rebbe of Slonim quotes the Rebbe of Kobrin, who says that if a Jew has
transgressed the most severe of all sins, and afterwards finds that he is
unable to stand in prayer and pour out his heart before G-d, then he has
not tread upon the threshold of Chassidus. And then he added, upon the
threshold of Judaism. Because, says the Rebbe of Slonim, the threshold of
Judaism is "you are children to HaShem your G-d," which means that even the
lowliest person, who has violated every sin in the Torah, can still stand
before G-d and pour out his heart in prayer. A child never stops being his
or her parent's child, eternally.
This is what Rebbe Meir said in the Talmud. One could have said that "you
are children to HaShem your G-d" only when Israel is doing G-d's Will, but
Rebbe Meir taught that this is true in all times and all situations.
We remain G-d's children. Yes, we have another chance to improve. Let's
avail ourselves of that opportunity!
A personal note: Last week our family had the pleasure of visiting my
mother in Boulder, Colorado. We then spent Shabbos in Denver, where I had
the good fortune to meet a dear friend, Rabbi Shmuel Goldstein, who at this
writing has be"H arrived in Columbus, OH, where he will join the Columbus
Community Kollel (the Kollel's Rabbi Tzvi Tuchman spent Shabbos with us
just a few weeks ago for his nephew's Bar Mitzvah here in Baltimore, but
that's another story). I'd like to thank him for recommending the Nesivos
Shalom to me, and wish him well in his new position!
Rabbi Yaakov Menken
Text Copyright © 2002 Project Genesis, Inc.
The author is the Director of Project Genesis.