The Innocence of Youth by Rabbi Joel Grossman


“These are the words that Moshe spoke to all Israel” (Devarim 1:1).  Rashi comments that each place Moshe mentioned an allusion to one of the nation’s sins, but he did not want to state them explicitly, so as not to embarrass the people.  Rav Moshe Feinstein, in his Darash Moshe asks an interesting question on this concept.  Soon afterwards Moshe chastises the people at length over the spies and the Golden Calf.  Rav Moshe asks since Moshe was going to speak to them specifically for these incidents anyway, why in this instance was he so concerned to speak in this vague way?

            Rav Moshe answers that in the beginning of the Parsha Moshe was not speaking directly to the people who had sinned, since that generation was no longer living.  Rather, he was speaking to their children who were blameless.  Moshe therefore spoke in a vague, milder tone and referred to the sins only by allusion.  Later, Moshe was repeating the reproofs he had given to the previous generation, which had to be forceful in order to show the seriousness of their sin.  In addressing the next generation who had not committed the sins Moshe did not have to speak harshly; merely alluding to the sins of their ancestors was enough to remind them that they were not immune to sin.  Therefore, as the second generation had not yet uprooted the traits that brought about these sins, Moshe chastised them as if they had committed these sins.

            Along these lines of teaching our children properly so that they rid themselves of bad character traits and develop proper character traits, which will lead them to doing Mitzvot, I would like to share a story I recently heard from Rabbi Pesach Krohn, Shlita.  He told a story about a young boy in Israel who was waiting for a bus.  When he boarded the bus there was a large crowd that was boarding at the same time.  Since there was such a hustle and bustle the bus driver forgot to punch a hole in his ticket.  He told the driver that he did not punch a hole but the driver insisted that he did.  During the trip the driver noticed the boy sitting in his seat and crying.  He called the boy over and asked, “Why are you crying?”  The boy said in a sobbing voice, “that this ride is stealing, since you didn’t punch my ticket and therefore I didn’t pay for this ride.”  The driver couldn’t believe his eyes and ears and he punched a hole in the ticket.  What a great job of education this boy’s parents did, to teach him never to take something that does not belong to him, and such a person has the proper character to make sure that he will not sin and only do what is proper.

May all of us learn a lesson from this boy and his parents and hopefully there will be no need for anyone to chastise us about our behavior and we will be able to make the name of Hashem holy by our actions.

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