“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.