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Haftarah: Yehezkel 20:2-20

MAY 4-5, 2012 13 IYAR 5772
Day 28 of the Omer


"You shall not place a stumbling block in front of a blind person and you shall have fear of G-d." (Vayikra 19:14)

A story told by Rabbi Yaakov Yosef Reinman that didn't happen, but could very well happen: A farmer was having financial difficulties. His crops were failing. His equipment was falling apart and he had no money to by new equipment or even to repair the old. His family was hungry and creditors were pounding on his door day and night. In desperation, the farmer approached a distant cousin and asked him for a substantial loan.

"I could lend you the money," said the cousin, "but what good would it do you? You're running a losing operation. A loan will just get you through your present tight spot, but in a few months you'll be back where you are now, and you will also have the pressure of r repaying the loan. I think your best course of action would be to sell your farm. It's a good piece of land, and you could probably get a decent price. You'll be able to pay off all your debts and have enough left over to buy a taxi. You'll be able to provide a decent living for your family and you won't have to worry about so many things that are beyond your control."

The land had been in the farmer's family for generations, and he was very upset. But he could not argue with his cousin's logic, and he put his farm on the market. A broker representing an unnamed client bought it at a bargain price. The unnamed client was none other than the cousin. He had advised the farmer to sell his ancestral homestead and he himself had snapped it up as soon as it went on the market.

This scheming cousin violated the sin of "You shall not put an obstacle in front of a blind person." The farmer's cousin put an obstacle in the way of his friend as surely as if he tripped a blind man. But, the verse continues, "And you shall fear your Lord". Why does this prohibition require this additional warning?

Rashi explains: It is not so discernable to people whether this man had good or bad intentions and he can excuse himself and say, 'I meant well.' Therefore he is told, 'You shall fear your Lord.' And why are we so concerned about what other people think? Perhaps we can say that the Torah is not really talking about the perpetrator's excuses to other people, but about the excuses he makes to himself. In our case, it is quite possible that the cousin would never dream of stabbing his relative in the back, but he covets the farmland and would love to have it for himself. So what does he do? He convinces himself that the farmer is a complete incompetent incapable of running the farm. He convinces himself that the farmer would be better off driving a taxi for a living than running a farm. It may be that he truly had the cousin's welfare in mind, or it could be that the whole chain of reasoning was a lie. Therefore, says the Torah, you may be able to fool yourself, but you cannot fool Hashem. Probe your heart honestly and think into what you are about to do before you do it. Shabbat Shalom Rabbi Reuven Semah

"Do not take revenge or bear a grudge" (Vayikra 19:18)

We are all familiar with the concept of revenge. If someone does evil to us or holds back a favor from us, we are not permitted to retaliate on the basis of his action. Rather, we must try to help out the person regardless of what he did to us. The second half of the verse is not as well known but equally important. Do not bear a grudge means that if someone holds back something from us, we are not allowed to remind him of it even if we do him the favor. We may not say, "I'll lend you this item even though you didn't lend me the thing I asked you for." The Rambam says we are supposed to go even one step further and not have his refusal in our mind when we do him the favor. This takes a clear understanding that what happens to us is from Hashem. Even though that individual refused to do me a favor, as far as I am concerned, it wasn't from him but from Hashem. Therefore I will do him the favor and not even remember his refusal.

Although this is definitely not an easy task, if one accomplishes this commandment he will reinforce his faith in Hashem and it will give him the peace of mind which comes with the faith and trust in Hashem. Shabbat Shalom. Rabbi Shmuel Choueka


It is customary to study Pirkei Abot (Ethics of the Fathers) during the six weeks between Pesah and Shabuot, one chapter every Shabbat.

"And before Whom you are destined to give an accounting." (Abot 3:1)

Literally "din" means "judgment," and "heshbon" means "accounting," so it should have said heshbon vedin, since the accounting precedes the issuing of the judgment?

When a person passes away, his soul ascends to the Heavenly Court where he is taught all the laws of the Torah and the punishment incurred for violating these laws. Afterward, a long list of transgressions is placed in front of him, and he is asked to state what punishment the perpetrator of these sins should receive. After citing what the judgment should be, he is informed that he is the transgressor under discussion, that he has transgressed all these sins, and that he has in fact passed judgment on himself. Thus, the heshbon - accounting - of his actions, comes after din - the judgment - which he issued. (Vedibarta Bam)

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