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Perashat Shofetim 5779

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Perashat Shofetim 5779

Friday, September 06, 2019 Author: Rabbo Shlomo Farhi

Losers usually cry.

Marcin Dzienski is a 26-year-old athlete. His recent stunning victory left many astonished. His opponent had no tears to shed in the humiliating loss, because his opponent in this thrilling race was an ELEVATOR. The Polish climbing champion raced the elevator six flights and won in 12.12 seconds! Marcin, a 2016 world champion climber, began his journey "to the top" many years ago as a child when he would climb the apple trees in his grandfather's orchard. That childhood pastime has become his ticket to fame and fortune. 

I haven't asked, but I'll bet Marcin has a favorite missvah in this week's perasha. Care to guess which?

כִּֽי־תָצ֣וּר אֶל־עִיר֩ יָמִ֨ים רַבִּ֜ים לְֽהִלָּחֵ֧ם עָלֶ֣יהָ לְתָפְשָׂ֗הּ לֹֽא־תַשְׁחִ֤ית אֶת־עֵצָהּ֙ לִנְדֹּ֤חַ עָלָיו֙ גַּרְזֶ֔ן כִּ֚י מִמֶּ֣נּוּ תֹאכֵ֔ל
וְאֹת֖וֹ לֹ֣א תִכְרֹ֑ת כִּ֤י הָֽאָדָם֙ עֵ֣ץ הַשָּׂדֶ֔ה לָבֹ֥א מִפָּנֶ֖יךָ בַּמָּצֽוֹר׃

When you besiege a city for many days to wage war against it to seize it, do not destroy its trees by swinging an axe against them, for from it you will eat, and you shall not cut it down. Are trees of the field human to withdraw before you into the besieged city?

We are commanded not to destroy a fruit-bearing tree for it contributes to the world, and the senseless destruction of something is forbidden. This missvah is called Baal Tashchit. Do not destroy. This is such a magnificent idea. G-d blesses this world with such goodness; it can be found all around us. Making a beracha thanks Hashem for his blessings. Destroying something He gave us is the exact opposite, a flagrant disregard for the gifts He chose to give us.

Marcin would tell us that the gift of an apple tree might be far more than the fruit it gives. Its most obvious blessing and contribution are not what HE benefitted most from. Our champion climber might explain to us that the destruction of those trees of his youth would actually have destroyed something far greater than the wood or fruit they would bear. It would have destroyed his whole future.

Whether we destroy things with an axe, or by simply throwing stuff away, we eliminate any potential that thing might have. We change the future.

An extra pair of shoes, suit or dress you no longer want might be the only pair someone else has. Your garbage could be someone's treasure, something that makes them feel beautiful. Your "ancient" phone could be someone else's only way to connect with thier children or parents. Your leftovers are someone else's main course. And even though we call it a doggie bag, the homeless, hungry man on the corner is most definitely not canine. Don't throw away someone else's beauty, meal, connection, treasure or future.
Figure out how to give it a second life. 

In a throwaway culture marriages are still not throw away. Children are still not throw away. Even if you disagree with them, figure out how to give them a second life.

When we value the things around us, however small they may seem to us, we receive in return an essential ingredient for a successful life. We gain the outlook that small things are valuable, beautiful and important. This helps us accept half apologies, make nice gestures, value small victories and love our families even when we don't love all of what they do or are. When we give things second chances, we figure out how to give people second chances.

Shabbt Shalom,
Rabbi Shlomo Farhi

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