Thursday, February 8, 2018


Erev Shabbos Kodesh Parshas Mishpatim/Shekalim
24 Shevat 5778/February 9, 2018
Mevorchim Chodesh Adar

Someone once noted that it’s not easy being the child of a therapist. Everything that happens in the child’s life is psychoanalyzed - why did you do that? How did that make you feel? For my children that’s compounded by the fact that I’m also a rabbi, so the psychoanalysis is followed by a derasha. The only exception is that my lectures to my children are followed by them asking me for money, and not vice versa.
Last Shabbos, when we read Parshas Beshalach, on Friday evening, one of our children, who shall remain nameless for the sake of future shidduchim, came to the Shabbos table reading a book. The rule in our home is that no books may be brought to the Shabbos table, so that, at least once a week, we can try to promote actual face to face conversation (which includes arguing over seats and everything else that comes up). When I asked the child to please remove the book, he proceeded to place it under his chair.
We proceeded singing Shalom Aleichem, until two minutes later when I noticed him peering down at the open book, now somewhat inconspicuously placed on his chair. When I reminded him that the book is not supposed to be at the table, he looked up and said “I know, I know! I’m putting it away and listening right now!”
Not surprisingly, within a short time he was again reading the book, which was now opened under his chair. When I looked at him he again reassured me that he was listening and putting it away
I replied that I believed he really did want to listen to my directions as he claimed. The reason he was having such a hard time doing so was because he didn’t know an important lesson to be gleaned from the parsha.
The opening pasuk states that when Klal Yisroel left Mitzrayim, Hashem did not lead them through the land of the Pelishtim, despite the fact that it was closer, “for Hashem said, lest the nation become frightened when they see war, and they will return to Egypt.” Rashi explains that the concern was that upon confronting adversity, the nation would immediately seek to return to what was familiar, i.e. Egypt.
Rashi’s explanation contains an integral strategy necessary for changing habits. One of the reasons it’s so difficult to effect real change, is because we naturally gravitate towards what is familiar and comfortable. If a person wants to genuinely change habits, he needs to make his old habits inconvenient, and his new habits more convenient.
For example, for one who wants to lose weight and is beginning a new diet, before he begins he should have the new foods that he is permitted on his new diet available and in front of his cabinet. Otherwise, as soon as the first rumblings of hunger set in, he’s going to go right back to the old foods he was used to.
Hashem led the young nation on a circuitous route, so that they wouldn’t be able to run back to Egypt as soon as they were confronted by challenge.
I told my son that he really did want to listen to my instruction not to read at the table. But by leaving the book in close proximity, as soon as curiosity set in he causally looked back at the book. The proper response would be to remove the book from the room, to remove the temptation.
I’m not sure if my point was well taken, or if it was just to make sure I was finished my lecture, but my son removed the book from the room.
The following day in shiur in Yeshiva, a boy came into class eating. I told him to put it away, so we could begin learning. When he placed it in his bag next to him open, I told him I had a thought on the previous day’s parsha to share with him.
That’s a lot of mileage from a truly great insight into human psychology, that Rashi indirectly mentions in passing.

Shabbat Shalom & Good Shabbos,

              R’ Dani and Chani Staum