| Parshah |

Parshas Acharei Mos: A Tale of Two Goats

The reason for the difference? Nothing we can see. Nothing we can determine. Something only G-d can see


“And Aharon should place lots on the two goats; one lot ‘For Hashem,’ and the other lot ‘For Azazel.’ ” (Vayikra 16:8)

art of the Yom Kippur avodah in the Mishkan and the Beis Hamikdash was to choose two identical twin goats, use one for a korban for Hashem and send the other off a cliff for Azazel.
If they were twin goats, what determined which one went where?
The Torah tells us that the selection was determined by lots. Thus, the fate of each goat was determined not by man, but by Hashem.
The question is, if the goats were identical, why did it make a difference which goat went to Hashem and which one went to Azazel?
Perhaps one was flawed, albeit invisibly, and therefore was chosen for Azazel? After all, could the two goats really be identical in every way? (Rabbi Pinchas Winston, Torah.org)

My friend Riva was on her way to her son’s PTA. “Wish me luck,” she said.

“C’mon,” I answered her. “This is Mendy you’re talking about! Tonight’s your nachas night! Enjoy it!”

Riva sat in the rebbi’s classroom, her heart glowing as the rebbi went on and on about Mendy’s hasmadah, Mendy’s middos, Mendy’s brilliance…. PTA like this was a pleasure.

“He’s an esrog mehudar!” said the rebbi with exuberance. “Ashrei yoladeto! Such a boy can only come from a stellar home! You and your husband have done an incredible job with him. Tell me, is he your oldest?”

“No, he has an older brother.” She paused, then bit her lip. Why hadn’t she just said an older sibling?

Sure enough, the next question wasn’t surprising. “Ah,” said the rebbi. “And where does he go to yeshivah?”

“Er…” she paused again. “A small place you wouldn’t know of,” she improvised. She didn’t think the “yeshivah” for at-risk teens that her older son attended actually had a name. And besides, Donny had left that yeshivah, too, a few months ago, and was now working as a driver for a local car service.

“Well, I’m sure you’re seeing only nachas!” the rebbi effusively said. “Thank you for sharing your Mendy with us! It’s truly a privilege!”

This question and concept are very relevant to raising children. When people see a child from a Torah family turn secular, they assume that something went wrong with his chinuch. Why else would a child not want to be frum?
Likewise, when children grow up and continue in the Torah way, people assume the opposite. They think that the child remained observant because he had the proper chinuch, the proper family upbringing. Why else would a child remain religious, especially in today’s world?
Although each assumption is often correct, closer investigation reveals that this isn’t always the case. In many situations, two different children can have “identical” upbringings and experience the same kind of chinuch, and yet end up going in two different spiritual directions. It can often turn out that the reason why one child remained true to Torah is the identical reason why another did not.

Mendy. Donny. Donny. Mendy.

That Friday night, as Riva was bentshing licht, she was pensive. Each candle was exactly the same height. Each wick equal length. Why did some light faster and some burn longer? What was the secret to keeping each flame alive? Why did she feel undeserving when receiving praise about Mendy, but defensive when confronted about Donny?

Of course, people don’t like to hear such things. Parents like to believe that they have more control over the outcome of their children than they actually do. The “success” that some families have with their children seems to suggest that they are right.
But the goats teach us otherwise. They tell us that two children can be, for all intents and purposes, identical in upbringing and chinuch, and yet end up going in two different directions.
The reason for the difference? Nothing we can see. Nothing we can determine. Something only G-d can see. Something only G-d understands.

Later, at the Shabbos table, Riva looked at her two older sons: Donny with his cool haircut, his designer glasses, and trendy Shabbos shirt; Mendy with his black hat, peyos tucked behind his ears.

The rebbi was wrong. Mendy wasn’t to her credit. And that admission was also validation. Donny wasn’t her fault.

1 home + 2 boys =?

Only Hashem can solve that equation.


 (Originally featured in Family First, Issue 891)

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