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Haftarah: Yehezkel 20:2-20

MAY 1-2, 2009 8 IYAR 5769
Day 23 of the Omer

Pop Quiz: How often did the Kohen Gadol enter the Kodesh Hakodashim?


"You shall love your fellow as yourself - I am Hashem" (Vayikra 19:18)

This golden rule is well-known. Rashi quotes Rabbi Akiva who says, "This is a great rule in the Torah." The Gemara (Shabbat 31a) tells us of a gentile who came to Shammai and asked him to convert him on the condition that "you teach me the entire Torah while I stand on one foot." Shammai rejected his request, so the gentile went to Hillel, who offered to convert him. He told him, "What is hateful to you, do not do to your friend. This is the entire Torah and all the rest is commentary on it. Now go and learn the rest." These famous words are generally taken to mean that one should refrain from doing to a fellow human those acts which one would not want perpetrated upon oneself. Rashi brings two explanations to this Gemara. The one we just said was the second. The first explanation of Rashi though is that Hillel was actually referring to Hashem. Hillel was saying, just as you would not want your friend to disobey and disregard your words, do not disobey the words of Hashem. The commentators on Rashi say that Rashi is basing his comments on our verse of "Love your fellow man as yourself," that it even refers to you and Hashem.

In reality these two explanations, that the pasuk refers to both relationships, between man and man and also between man and Hashem, are connected to each other.

In other words, a way for us to love Hashem is by loving our fellow man.

There is a statement made by Moshe Rabenu, "I was standing between Hashem and you" (Debarim 5:5). The Ba'al Shem Tob explains it to mean, the "I," the fact that man strives and worries only about himself, that stands between him and his Creator. Man's selfish urge to be concerned with his own needs is a reaction to what he perceives around him. Everyone else appears to worry about and cater to himself, and so he is alone in the world with no one worrying for him. His response to this is to worry about his own needs exclusively.

The solution to this dilemma is close and caring friendships, individuals uniting to serve Hashem in brotherhood and harmony, each worrying about his friend as much as he worries about himself. Then each person no longer feels alone in the world and it becomes possible to abolish selfishness. Now the "I" no longer stands between us and Hashem.

May Hashem help that we all merit to reach the highest possible levels of loving Hashem and loving our fellow Jew. Shabbat Shalom. Rabbi Reuven Semah

"You should not curse the deaf." (Vayikra 19:14)

The Rabbis tell us that although the exact prohibition is not to curse the one who can't hear, this is to teach us that if we are not permitted to curse someone who won't be hurt by it, how much more so should we be careful not to hurt someone with our words. However, an additional lesson from this is that the laws of Hashem are coming mainly for our benefit, not only to protect others. When a person utters a curse of someone who is deaf, although he did not harm the other person, he himself becomes affected with his own words. We become spiteful when we talk in a nasty way. When we cheat or lie or insult, the main victim is the one who uttered the words. Therefore, the Torah teaches us that even cursing a deaf person does some damage to the one who said the curse. We can infer from this that when we speak nicely to others, giving compliments, praise and the like, not only are we causing pleasure to others, but we ourselves become better people. When we do something good for others or say words which inspire and encourage, we feel good about it because we just became better through it besides the benefit that others had from our words or deed. Let's remember that the next time we have a chance to say something to others. Shabbat Shalom. Rabbi Shmuel Choueka

Answer to Pop Quiz: One day a year, on Yom Kippur.

A quick tip to boost the power of your prayer. Hazal tell us (Masechet Baba Kama Daf 92A) that Hashem loves the tefilot of one Jew for another so much that anyone who prays on behalf of a fellow Jew with similar needs will have his prayer answered first. A special service has now begun to provide people with names of others who find themselves in a similar predicament. You can call with complete anonymity and get the name of someone to pray for and give the name of someone that needs our prayers. The name of the service is Kol Hamitpalel. Categories include: Marriage; Income; Health; To have children etc.

Call to 646-279-8712 or email (Privacy of email limited by the email address)

Please pass this message along. Tizku L'misvot.

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