Sep 28, 2010

It's a Mitzva, Not a Fruit

Some people think it's crazy to spend $35, $75, $150 ... on an esrog. The problem is they are thinking it's a fruit when it's actually a mitzva and of course it's crazy to spend that kind of money on a fruit like a peach, apple, pear.  But this isn't a fruit.  It's an esrog.

I just read an anecdote that illustrates this difference in mindset:

By Rabbi Pinchos Lipschutz

Last year, a friend was flying to New York from Israel for Sukkos. Like so many other passengers on the packed plane, he was bringing esrogim with him. Six of them to be exact. When he arrived at customs control, he handed in the requisite form, which he had filled out to the best of his ability. The customs agent looked at the form and asked him, “Do you have any fruit with you?”

“No,” he answered.

“Do you have an esrog?” the agent asked.

“Yes. In fact, I have six of them,” my friend said.

“So why,” asked the agent, “when I asked if you were carrying fruit, did you say no?”

“I never thought of an esrog as a fruit,” my friend responded in all honesty. “An esrog is an esrog!”

The agent, recognizing the man’s sincerity, proceeded to examine one of the esrogim. Upon ascertaining that it was clean of fruit flies, he allowed the gentleman through with his esrogim.

Sep 27, 2010

The Power of Chinuch

I was reading an account of a baalas teshuva and the woman said that she was amazed when a little Jewish child checked with his father regarding the kashrus of some treat before eating it.  She couldn't get over the child's will power.

When I read this I thought - she doesn't understand chinuch.  To a child who is raised not being allowed to do certain things on Shabbos and to wait between meat and milk, these mitzvos become second nature.  Passing a McDonalds is no temptation to me.  Domino's Pizza is a non-issue. 

As R' AJ Twerski puts it, "Every person has things which are essentially alien to him, which he would never do.  For example, I do not have to struggle with the issue of whether or not I will have a cheeseburger.  My commitment to eating kosher is such that the very thought is an absurdity, and if I were to pass by a treife food stand, even if I was extremely hungry, it would never occur to me to eat treife.  It is simply not within the realm of possibility that I would do so."

That's not to say that every religious child will avoid items of questionable kashrus.  I think what it does tell us is that if chinuch is done right there will be numerous areas of halacha and hashkafa that will be treated as a "given" such as not putting food into one's mouth without a bracha, not going to sleep without saying Shema.  Something to aim for in chinuch.