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The Torah’s injunction to Choose Life may be one of its best known and quoted commandments. But is it completely understood? Rabbi Avigdor Miller, zt”l, explains its depth and its relevance to every act a person makes.
“The life and the death I have given before you…in order that you should live, you and your seed.… And you shall choose life” (30:19). “Choosing life” is one of the highest accomplishments (Shaare Teshuvah III:17). This means that not only does Hashem allow us the free will to choose (a principle that materialist psychologists deny), He also gives us the information that we possess free will.
Further, Hashem in His great kindliness also urges us to choose life. This means that when we keep His Torah we not only are choosing life, we are pleasing Hashem who “desires life” (Yecheskel 18:23) for us. Thus, whenever a good deed is done, we can beforehand add the intention of fulfilling this mitzvah of “choosing life” in order to bring pleasure to Hashem Who is interested in the life of every one of His beloved (10:14-15, 14:1, 23:6, 33:26 and elsewhere) people.
To add this intention to our Mitzvos and good deeds, and to keep this intention in mind as much as possible, is one of the highest accomplishments. Thus instead of eating and sleeping by mere force of habit, or instead of being polite to our fellowmen because of custom alone, and instead of Tefillin and Mezuzos and Shabbos-observance and Kashrus without any additional thought, if we add the intention of causing pleasure to Hashem Who wishes that we choose Life, then we are attaining a very high degree of perfection.
But “choose life” is a mitzvah and therefore not optional. We are hereby sternly admonished to have compassion upon ourselves so that we gain the supreme gift called Life. What is this gift of Life? It is the priceless opportunity to live longer, in order to achieve more and more perfection and merit, and it includes the infinite happiness of the endless Afterlife. Thus Hashem in this verse commands “You shall choose life” for your own benefit; to neglect or waste this opportunity to gain Life is one of the greatest catastrophes that could ever happen.
To lack compassion on one’s self by failing to seek life is the crime of crimes. Hashem pleads with us to have pity on ourselves: “Choose life!” By doing that which is our duty, we are thereby gaining life in this world as well as eternal life in the Afterworld, for we have fulfilled the specific mitzvah in addition to fulfilling the general mitzvah of “choosing Life.”
A further insight: Except in certain instances (see Rambam, Teshuvah 6:3), Hashem does not interfere to cause men to choose evil. We see also that a man’s choice affects not only him but also his seed. This, though apparently a contradiction of the principle of free will, is understandable – for when a man dies, he cannot have any more children, and in this sense his deeds affect his (unborn) seed. Similarly, when one sheds his fellowman’s blood, he is held guilty for the blood of the victim and the blood of his (unborn) seed and the seed of his seed, forever (Bereishis Rabbah 22-21).
Meritorious deeds confer benefits not only on one’s unborn seed but also on the children that have already been born. Sons under the age of 13 (daughters under 12) are sometimes included in the punishment of the parent. Thus, the ” choice of life” is not only for the person alone; each man is urged to choose Life for his posterity, and for all those who may be influenced or affected by his choice.
Compiled for The Jewish Press by the Rabbi Avigdor Miller Simchas Hachaim Foundation, a project of Yeshiva Gedolah Bais Yisroel, which Rabbi Miller, zt”l, founded and authorized to disseminate his work. Subscribe to the Foundation’s free e-mail newsletters on marriage, personal growth, and more at www.SimchasHachaim.com.
For more information, or to sponsor a Simchas Hachaim Foundation program, call 718-258-7400 or e-mail info@SimchasHachaim.com.Rabbi Avigdor Miller
‘One Recites A Blessing On The Primary Food’
The mishnah on our daf states that whenever a person eats a primary food (an ikar) and a subordinate food (a tafel), he should only recite a berachah on the ikar. For example, if someone eats salted food and subsequently eats bread solely for the purpose of absorbing the salt, he should only recite a berachah on the salted food, not on the bread. He should recite neither hamotzi nor birkas hamazon.
Set Before Him
Tosafos (sv. “b’ochlei…”) assert that the berachah on the ikar does not exempt the tafel unless the tafel was in the person’s presence when he recited the berachah on the ikar and intended to eat the tafel afterwards. However, if someone recites a berachah on salty fish without intending to eat bread at that time, and then afterwards decides to eat some bread to absorb the salt, he must recite a berachah on the bread.
The Chazon Ish (Orach Chayim 27) suggests two possible reasons why a tafel does not require a separate berachah. First, the tafel is ancillary to the principal food and as such is considered too insignificant to require its own berachah. Second, the tafel, being ancillary to the ikar, is subject to the same berachah as the ikar. Thus, the berachah recited on the ikar covers the tafel as well. In other words, the tafel as not insignificant and does require a berachah according to this second explanation. However, the berachah recited on the ikar satisfies this requirement.
A Matter Of Intent
The Chazon Ish adduces proof from Tosafos that his second explanation is the correct one. According to the first explanation, even if someone did not originally intend to eat a tafel, it should still be exempt from a berachah since, in the end, it is being eaten as an ancillary to the ikar. And yet, Tosafos rule that the tafel is not exempt.
According to the second approach, however, Tosafos is more understandable. According to this explanation, the tafel is always subject to a berachah, only that the berachah on the ikar covers it. When one recites a berachah on the ikar, however, without intending to eat a tafel afterwards, the tafel cannot be subsumed under the berachah of the ikar and needs its own separate berachah.
Interestingly, the Magen Avraham rules (Orach Chayim 212 sk2) that in such an instance – where one only decides, for example, to eat bread as a tafel after making a berachah on an ikar like fish – the berachah for the bread would be shehakol, like the berachah one recited on the fish.
The Shulchan Aruch Harav (op cit. sk10) notes that if someone only decides to eat a tafel after making a berachah on an ikar, he must make both a berachah rishonah and a berachah acharonah on the tafel. It is not covered by the berachah acharonah of the ikar.
This week’s Daf Yomi Highlights is based upon Al Hadaf, published by Cong. Al Hadaf, 17N Rigaud Rd., Spring Valley, NY 10977-2533. Al Hadaf published semi-monthly, is available by subscription: U.S. – $40 per year; Canada – $54 per year; Overseas – $65 per year. For dedication information contact Rabbi Zev Dickstein, editor, at their office 845-356-9114 or visit Alhadafyomi.org.Rabbi Yaakov Klass and Rabbi Gershon Tannenbaum
The Zionist Organization of America has lost its 501(c)3 tax exemption status, due to failure to file tax returns for the last three years.
In an interview with JTA, ZOA president Morton Klein confirmed the loss, and stated that his organization has hired a tax attorney to help them bring their files up to date and apply for reinstatement of their status.
According to Klein, the error in filing was due to the failure of a ZOA-funded school in Ashkelon to provide correct information in time, as well as a misunderstanding on the part of the ZOA as to the amount of time it had left to file for an extension.Malkah Fleisher
Iran has moved further along in its ability to build nuclear weapons, according to some diplomats.
The diplomats say intelligence provided to the International Atomic Energy Agency, the nuclear monitor of the United Nations, shows that Iran has advanced its work on calculating the destructive power of an atomic warhead through a series of computer models that it ran sometime within the past three years, The Associated Press reported.
The information comes from Israel, the United States and at least two other Western countries, according to the diplomats.
Iran denies it is working on a nuclear weapon.
The IAEA would not comment, but four of the six diplomats who spoke to the AP on the issue said an oblique passage in its August report on Iran saying that “the agency has obtained more information which further corroborates’’ its suspicions alludes to the new intelligence.
The information, if credible, could provide added fuel for the Israeli officials who want a preemptive military strike on Iran.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has called for “red lines” to be set for Iran, and said sanctions have not worked.
“Those in the international community who refuse to put red lines before Iran don’t have a moral right to place a red light before Israel,” Netanyahu said Tuesday at a meeting with his Bulgarian counterpart, Boyko Borisov.
He added, “Every day that passes, Iran gets closer and closer to nuclear bombs. If Iran knows that there is no red line, if Iran knows that there’s no deadline, what will it do? Exactly what it’s doing: It’s continuing without any interference towards obtaining nuclear weapons capability and from there nuclear bombs.”JTA
KKL-JNF’s ( Keren Kayemeth LeIsrael- Jewish National Fund) “Forester For a Day” program is a new ecological initiative that offers visitors a unique opportunity to assist in maintaining Israel’s forests, prevent forest fires and promote an overall atmosphere of environmental awareness.
The KKL-JNF owns 13 percent of the land in Israel, and has planted 240 million trees and establish more than 1,000 parks. Building on KKL-JNF’s hugely successful flagship tree-planting project, the “Forester-For-A-Day” program lets participants connect with the soil of Israel in a very personal way.
Participants work side-by-side with KKL-JNF foresters to prune trees, prepare forest paths and fire breaks, and clear underbrush. The program is tailored to groups only (15-100 participants), and is available in English, French, German, and Spanish. Spread out in four locations across the country – Birya forest in the Golan, Carmel forest in the Galillee, Ben Shemen forest in the Center, and Lahav forest in the South – the program runs 2-3 hours in its entirety, and provides an opportunity for volunteers of all ages to experience Israel in a unique way and make a direct contribute to its preservation.
The cost is $18 per person, and participants receive a bottle of water, KKL-JNF hat and pin, certificate of appreciation after their work is completed.
The Jewish Press sat down with Revital Ovadia, Coordinator of Forester-For-A-Day, to find out more about the program.
The Jewish Press (JP): How did the Forester-For-A-Day program get started?
Revital Ovadia (RO): Unfortunately, it was a tragedy – the Carmel Forest fire in December 2010 – that inspired the program. But we decided to take a tragedy and bring something positive out of it.
What has been the feedback? Have many people have participated in the program?
As of today – which is only a year into the program’s implementation – there have been hundreds of participants: bar and bat mitzvah parties, groups wanting to get involved, as well as workplace and family events.
The feedback has been great. The best indication of its success is the fact that when the Israeli public heard about the program – which was tailored specifically for non-Israelis – many requested to participate in it. And so we opened it up to Israeli participation as well!
Has the program had an effect yet on the environment? Has it helped with the rehabilitation after the Carmel fire?
The Carmel Forest has been rehabilitating at an impressive rate, thanks in part to the program, as well as all the volunteers who came to help KKL-JNF after the fire.
Still, we are not permitted to plant new trees until next year – in order to let the soil regenerate. So we are looking forward to returning to planting trees and intensifying the Carmel Forest’s rehabilitation.
What are some other programs people can get involved with KKL-JNF?
KKL-JNF has a wide range of programs and activities, including bicycle and hiking trails in Israel’s forests and in the parks. Groups can also coordinate such activities to precede or follow the Forester-For-A-Day program.
For more information on the campaign, contact Revital Ovadia at KKL-JNF email@example.com.Jewish Press Staff
Shifi and Shana were neighbors and their mothers had been getting together before they could even roll over. Now that the girls were in second grade, they did their homework together.
“Shifi, your ‘d’ is so funny! It looks like a banana,” Shana giggled.
“It’s not a ‘d,’ Shana, it’s a ‘b.’ And I can’t help it. It just comes out like that!” Shifi responded.
“What do you mean it’s a ‘b?’ It looks like a ‘d’ to me, but Morah says I keep making those mistakes anyway,” Shana said, blushing.
“Yes, but she keeps telling me I need to write neatly. I’m trying, but I can’t do it. Maybe we can trade. I’ll read for you. You write for me!” Shifi said eagerly, handing over her pencil.
While Shifi and Shana could be two girls who are experiencing regular struggles with reading and writing, if these issues continue, it is possible that they each suffer from a different learning disability: dyslexia or dysgraphia.
The National Institute of Health defines dyslexia as characterized by difficulties with accurate or fluent word recognition, by poor spelling and decoding. Dyslexia is a learning disability that is neurological in origin and often runs in the family. Children with dyslexia experience trouble reading when taught through traditional instruction.
Though the symptoms of dyslexia manifest in different ways, some common symptoms for a kindergartener through fourth grader are:
* Difficulty reading single words not surrounded by others. * Slow to learn connections between letters and sounds. * Confusion around small words such as “at” and “to,” or “does” and “goes.” * Consistent reading and spelling errors, including: Letter reversals such as “d” for “b.” Word reversals such as “tip” for “pit.” Inversions such as “m” and “w” and “u” and “n.” Transpositions such as “felt” and “left.” Substitutions such as “house” and “home.”
Children with dyslexia are often well-adjusted and happy preschoolers. Research shows they begin to experience emotional problems during early reading instruction. Over the years, their frustration mounts as classmates surpass them. Often, these children feel they fail to meet others expectations. Teachers and parents see a bright child who is failing to learn to read and assume he’s “not trying hard enough.” This can cause children to feel inadequate.
Children with dyslexia frequently have problems in social relationships. This is because they have difficulty reading social cues or dyslexia affects oral language functioning. Additionally, without proper intervention, these children will fall farther behind their peers.
It’s hard for people to understand that children can have a learning disability that affects only writing. Most people assume that if you do not have trouble reading, then writing should be a cinch. Or, parents assume that trouble with writing is a physical impediment rather than a mental one. Dysgraphia, a learning disability that affects writing abilities, debunks these myths.
Dysgraphia can manifest itself as difficulties with spelling, handwriting and trouble putting thoughts on paper. Children who suffer from dysgraphia often have reading skills on par with other children their age. Dysgraphia is not simply a motor problem, but also involves information processing skills (transferring thoughts from the mind through the hand onto the paper). If your child has trouble in any of the areas listed below, additional help may be beneficial:
* Awkward pencil grip and body position * Illegible handwriting * Avoiding writing and drawing tasks * Tiring quickly while writing * Saying words out loud while writing * Unfinished or omitted words in sentences * Difficulty organizing thoughts on paper * Large gap between written ideas and speech
There are different effective strategies.
For young children, here are some suggestions:
* Use paper with raised lines so children can feel the lines on the paper, allowing them to stay on track. * Experiment with different pens and pencils. * Practice writing letters with exaggerated arm movements. This will help improve the motor memory without the pressure of the paper. * Encourage proper grip, posture, and paper positioning. If you aren’t sure how to help your child with this – don’t push it off too long! The later you correct these concerns, the harder it is to unlearn the bad habits.Rifka Schonfeld