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August 29, 2014 / 3 Elul, 5774
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Learning As A Child

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I’d like to believe that I at least have average intelligence. And when in need of inspiration or to learn something to facilitate my personal growth, I gain much from adult tapes and books. I’m greatly inspired by the words of the plethora of writers and speakers who target their words to adult audiences; their sentence structure and vocabulary meant only for us grownups. Their valuable lessons are often arrived at through a series of logical steps any adult with reasonable intelligence should be able to follow. And follow I do.

Then why, as a middle-aged woman, do I so much enjoy listening to Rabbi Juravel, whose tapes are geared to the average five- or six-year-old? Why do I so often find that it is the tapes meant for children that speak to my heart best, motivating me to make quick, positive changes?

Maybe it’s because while my head may enjoy intellectual material, my heart responds best to simple language.

Months ago I was listening to Rabbi Juravel’s Chanukah tape. He told a story involving two horse-and-wagon drivers, Rav Mordechai and Rav Pinchas, who earned their living by taking people to their destinations. Rav Mordechai’s horses were faster than Rav Pinchas’s, making Rav Mordechai’s traveling service more expensive.

On one Chanukah there was an upcoming fair on a Sunday, a long distance away. The townspeople had to leave on Motzaei Shabbos to get to the fair on time. Those in a better financial position used Rav Mordechai’s superior traveling service, while the poorer people used Rav Pinchas’s, which was less expensive but had slower horses.

When the people came to Rav Mordechai’s house after Shabbos, Rav Mordechai, in a rush to get his customers to the fair on time, quickly recited Havdalah and the Chanukah candle lighting without saying the words of the berachos properly and with kavanah. But Rav Pinchas behaved differently. When his customers arrived at his house that Motzaei Shabbos, Rav Pinchas said the berachos slowly and carefully – and with kavanah.

In the end, Rav Mordechai’s horses and everyone on them were significantly delayed, as they fell into a river that they mistakenly thought was frozen and had tried to use as a shortcut. As a result, they all arrived at the fair when it was almost over. Meanwhile, as Rav Pinchas and his customers were on the way to the fair, Rav Pinchas and everyone else in the wagon fell asleep. The horses, having gone down this route before, trotted along the familiar path, ignoring the seemingly frozen lake and able to bring everyone to the fair on time.

After telling this story Rabbi Juravel offers this explanation: “Why did Hashem help Rav Pinchas, but not Rav Mordechai, get to the fair? Well, we don’t know. Hashem always has His secret reasons for what He does. And Hashem never tells us His secret reasons. But we do know that Hashem likes it better when a person makes berachos slowly and with kavanah, while He doesn’t enjoy it when a person rushes through berachos without kavanah.”

“Hashem always has His secret reasons…” is a simple reminder to trust Hashem despite not understanding His ways. But then comes this powerful message: “[Hashem] doesn’t enjoy it when a person rushes through berachos…”

The words “Hashem doesn’t enjoy it…” echoed in my head.

Every morning, when I opened my siddur, those words reverberated in my head and reminded me to slow down. Not a long drasha. Not a mussar schmooze about giving a din v’cheshbon after 120 years on the quality of my davening. Not even a lecture about the power of tefillah (although surely all the things just mentioned have their places). Rather, just a “simple” statement – a statement to children. Just an image of having made Hashem sad because I rush through my davening and act, chas v’shalom, like I don’t like to spend too much time talking to Him.

As another example, I recently got a powerful dose of inspiration and chizuk when listening to a tape. A 1996 children’s tape by Rabbi Shmuel Kunda, titled “Where’s Zaidy?” featured these simple yet powerful, profound words: “But the Ribbono Shel Olam sometimes sends us on trips to places we never heard of for reasons [of which] I have no idea. But we can be sure that everything the Ribbono Shel Olam does is for a good reason. So when we hear the sounds of the shofar, we should think of it like the voice of the Ribbono Shel Olam telling us to believe that everything He does is for a good reason – and for the best.”

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I was going crazy. I couldn’t stand it another minute. Yes, I was feeling sorry for myself.

I had been blessed, b’li ayin hara, with children very close in age. Surely having one child after the other was a blessing to be grateful for. I knew there were many people who would give a million dollars to have such a “problem.” But still, it was very stressful. But that wasn’t the hardest part, and it wasn’t the main reason for my feelings of despair.

I’d like to believe that I at least have average intelligence. And when in need of inspiration or to learn something to facilitate my personal growth, I gain much from adult tapes and books. I’m greatly inspired by the words of the plethora of writers and speakers who target their words to adult audiences; their sentence structure and vocabulary meant only for us grownups. Their valuable lessons are often arrived at through a series of logical steps any adult with reasonable intelligence should be able to follow. And follow I do.

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