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September 5, 1998 14 Elul 5758

Pop Quiz: Which sin are we commanded to remember every day in order to avoid making the same sin?

HAVE MERCY by Rabbi Reuven Semah

"If a bird's nest happens to be before you on the road you shall not take the mother with the young" (Debarim 22:6)

We are commanded to be careful when we want to take baby birds or eggs from a nest. Do not take the birds while the mother is there. The Ramban comments that this misvah is not because Hashem has pity on the mother bird. In truth, Hashem's pity is very great. However, we find that for the needs of man, Hashem permits us to use the animals and birds as much as we want as long as we don't waste. If so, why must we send away the mother? This is in order to inculcate compassion in people. Hashem wants that man should be accustomed to act mercifully.

This misvah of the baby bird serves as a model for us regarding all of the misvot between man and his fellow man. The purpose of the misvah is not only to help the person who approaches you for help. Hashem has many ways to help that person in need. He doesn't really need you. Hashem's main goal in giving you the misvah to help others is to make you into a better person.

With this basic information in mind, our attitude towards misvot becomes more refined and pure. Knowing that you are helping yourself makes you more eager to help, and at the same time the person who needs your help feels more comfortable. Now we have a misvah that is done in a perfect way. Perhaps now we might be interested in going out of our way to do good things. It's beneficial all the way around. Shabbat Shalom.

COVER UP by Rabbi Shmuel Choueka

"Hashem shouldn't see your nakedness so that He should turn away from you." (Debarim 23:15)

If we wonder why the Divine Presence is so hidden in our times, this verse provides the answer. When G-d sees that the Jewish People are not conducting themselves in a modest way, He turns away from us, leaving us in the dark. Although it says in another place in the Torah that G-d dwells amongst us even if we are impure, this refers to other kinds of improper behavior. When it comes to dressing immodestly, Hashem chooses not to be revealed amongst us. In these days, when the whole society is overwhelmingly encouraging this kind of dress code, everyone who makes an attempt to dress properly will be truly bringing blessings on themselves and on their families. Indeed, we have seen some people accept upon themselves to be more modestly attired, with the merit going to bring a speedy recovery for those who are stricken with difficult illnesses. This is a remarkable zechut. It is written that if a person has a temptation to see someone immodestly dressed and overcomes it, he should, at that very moment, pray to Hashem for whatever he wishes, because he has created such a magnificent zechut by overcoming his temptations. Therefore, it becomes an opportune moment to pray. We see how much Hashem rewards those who make modest dress part of their lives because they are bringing Hashem back to the Jewish People. Let us merit to be those fortunate ones. Shabbat Shalom.


"If you shall go out to war against your enemies...then Hashem will place him in your hands" (Debarim 21:10)

The Hafess Hayim teaches that our greatest and most dangerous enemy is the yeser hara (evil inclination). A person has to be on constant vigil against his attacks and tricks. The following parable is used to illustrate the point:

If a person realizes that his business partner has been stealing from him, how would he react? He may say to himself that what's past is past, and since his partner will never return the stolen money, it would be better to just ignore it and not make an issue over it. Obviously, such a reaction is completely illogical. If he doesn't confront the partner now, then the partner will continue to steal more and more.

Another person suddenly realizes that his partner is giving him more money than he is entitled to based on the company's profits. He may be tempted to just close his eyes and take the extra money. However, if he thinks about, he would probably realize that his partner is giving him the extra money to hide the fact that the partner is taking for himself much more than he is giving. If the person is wise, he would refuse the extra money and begin to scrutinize his partner's actions.

The same applies to our war against the yeser hara. If a person makes a daily calculation, he will see that much of his time is wasted each day on nonsense, many of the berachot and prayers he recites are lacking concentration, and many opportunities for misvot are neglected. If a person simply shrugs and says, "What's past is past," he will continue to fall day after day into the clutches of the yeser hara. Rather, this introspection should bring a person to remorse so that he will take steps to prevent himself from falling again.

Sometimes, the yeser hara will present a person with many misvot at one time so that the person will feel so good about his accomplishments that he will not feel the need to examine his deeds and correct his faults.

Therefore, our Rabbis warned us to always be at war against the yeser hara. As the pasuk above says, if we simply go out to war against the yeser hara, then Hashem will place him in our hands and give us the power to defeat him. (Lekah Tob)


"If a birds nest by chance be found before you...and the mother sitting upon the young or upon the eggs, do not take the mother with the young" (Debarim 22:6)

The law of shiluah haken, sending away the mother while keeping the eggs for oneself, is striking in that it applies only to birds and not to wild beasts. Throughout halachah, these two are considered the same, i.e. the law of covering blood after slaughtering applies likewise to a wild beast and a fowl. Why should one be permitted to take a young deer away from its mother? R' Zalmen Sorotzkin suggests an explanation from which we may derive a profound insight into a parent's relationship with his children.

Animals, as well as humans, give birth to offspring which have naturally common features and traits. Fowl, on the other hand, lay eggs which do not hatch for a while. During this maturation time, the affinity which is natural in the human and animal world should not logically develop. Nonetheless, an almost unnatural boundless love develops between the mother bird and its egg. Although birds are not able to distinguish their features and characteristics, they transcend uncertainty to shower maternal love upon their young. This is manifest by the act of resting on top of the eggs until the baby birds are prepared to fend for themselves. Consequently, the mother bird's pain and anguish at losing her young is far greater than that of her animal counterpart.

What a wonderful lesson for us. How often do we base our relationship with our children solely upon our personal proclivity towards them? Our love is all too often expressed in consonance with how much of ourselves we see in them. There are even those who, if they do not see a promising potential in their child, tend to ignore him. A parent's love and relationship with his child should not be contingent upon specific characteristics. It should be boundless and unconditional. Perhaps the mother bird's devotion to her young could serve as a lesson for us all. (Peninim on the Torah)


"Then it shall be on the day that he causes his sons to inherit that which he possesses" (Debarim 21:16)

The word vehaya indicates joy. What joy is the Torah alluding to? Also, the words "et asher yiheyeh lo - that which he possesses" seem extra; obviously his children can inherit only that which he has?

There are many parents who pride themselves for having given their children much more than they had. They reminisce about their arrival in America, when they struggled to make a living, and they congratulate themselves for providing their children with a comfortable lifestyle and the higher education which they lacked.

While it is good to give our children things that we did not have, it is crucial not to forget to give our children what we did have. Just as our parents inculcated in us a love for Torah and misvot, likewise it is incumbent upon us to instill in our children the same dedication and devotion. Even when a parent helps his child to become a professional, he should impress upon him to be a Torah-observing professional.

The Torah therefore says "vehaya" - it is worthy to rejoice if one leaves an inheritance to his children not only that which he never had in his youth, but also "et asher yiheyeh lo - that which he possesses" - the Torah upbringing which he received and the Torah lifestyle which he lives. (Vedibarta Bam)

Answer to pop quiz: Miriam's sin of speaking lashon hara about Moshe.

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