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Haftarah: Yehezkel 20:2-20

MAY 1-2, 2015 13 IYAR 5775


"You must have scales that are correct, stones that are correct (Vayikra 19:36)

The Torah demands complete honesty and accuracy of our scales and stones. In olden times, the scales were the type that had two sides; on each side was a pan. On one side would be a stone that would have an exact weight, let's say a pound. On the other side, the storekeeper would place the merchandise that he sold, let's say flour. When the two sides would exactly balance, then it was clear that you were getting exactly one pound of flour. The Torah demands that the stone should be exactly one pound, not more or less.

Rabbi Shimon Schwab comments, let's say the stone is perfect but the scale is off. Sometimes the storekeeper would show that his stones are perfect, but at the same time his scale is not. The more he publicizes the honesty of his stones, the greater is the deceit, because since he has perfect stones, people assume his scale is honest. It turns out that his honesty fools the people even more than if he didn't display his honesty.

This lesson is important in all walks of life. If there is a Jew who practices all the halachot perfectly but he has opinions and philosophies that are not correct, he is a bigger danger than one who doesn't practice halachah perfectly. The more he displays his religious observance, the greater is the danger. The more the people see his outward piety, the more they will follow him and stumble over his false ideologies. He has perfect stones but his scales are not. 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


"You shall reprove your fellow" (Vayikra 19:17)

The redundancy of the words, ho'cheach tochiach, gives us something to ponder. Clearly, the Torah is placing emphasis on the misvah of tochachah, rebuke, but is it necessary to repeat the words to prove a point - or, is the Torah conveying another message? In his Derushim, the Ben Ish Hai explains this idea with an incident that occurred concerning a clever thief. A fellow was caught stealing in a country in which there was a zero tolerance law regarding theft. Anyone who was caught stealing was sentenced to death. There was no reprieve, no commutation. The form of punishment served, for the most part, as a powerful deterrent. This thief either thought he could beat the system or was in such dire need that he was willing to chance it.

When the sentence was passed by the king, the thief made a special request: Since he was a first-time offender, he was wondering if, perhaps, the king would grant him an audience for a few moments. The king was basically a decent human being who just had a low tolerance level for theft. He granted the thief his request. He would meet privately with him.

"What is it that you want?" the King asked the thief. "I have been blessed with a unique ability. I can prepare a potion that has incredible powers. It would be a sin to die and take this secret with me to my grave. I will be happy to share this exceptional wisdom with the king."

The king acquiesced to the doomed man's request. The prisoner asked for a number of ingredients which he mixed together. After his potion was completed, the prisoner asked the king for a package of seeds. Regardless of their type, if they were to be soaked in his preparation, he guaranteed that the very same day that these seeds were planted in the ground, they would sprout fruit! This was an astonishing claim, and, if true, it would be one of mankind's greatest discoveries. The king brought the seeds and waited with baited breath for the planting to begin. Then the prisoner threw a fast one at the king.

"In order for this potion to work, one vital criterion must still be filled: the individual who plants the seeds in the ground must be one of impeccable integrity. Anyone who even misappropriated something which was not his cannot plant the seeds. The technique works only for a person who has never stolen a thing in his life. Now, we all know that I am ineligible to perform this process, so, therefore, I humbly ask the prime minister to plant the seeds." The prime minister suddenly became "unavailable." He begged off from participating in this process. He just happened to remember that as a child he had stolen some money from his father's wallet. "Well, that excludes the Prime Minister," he said. "Let us ask the Treasury Minister. Surely, someone who is in charge of the country's finances must have a spotless record." The Treasury Minister demurred, claiming that when one works with so much money he might err in his accounting. Apparently, the prisoner was not surprised to hear this. He relentlessly kept on trying to locate that one elusive person who was worthy of planting the seeds. Alas, there was no one. Even the self-righteous King conceded that, as a youth, he had taken a valuable wristwatch from his younger brother.

At that moment, the prisoner fell on the ground before the King and began to cry bitterly. "My lord, behold what I have demonstrated before your very own eyes. There is absolutely no one in this country - not even his royal highness, who is not in some way tainted by the scourge of theft. Why is it that among all the thieves of this country, I was unfortunate enough to get caught? Furthermore, I stole to feed my family. Others have stolen to satisfy their illicit desires."

Listening to this clever thief, the king realized that the special potion was nothing more than a ploy devised to arouse his attention to a verity which he had ignored. Indeed, the thief had a legitimate claim: Was he any different than anyone else? After being warned that he would not be so fortunate the "next time," the thief was released.

The episode teaches us a powerful lesson concerning our interpersonal relationships. No one is perfect. When our anger is aroused at someone whom we feel has harmed us - physically, financially, or emotionally - we should immediately question ourselves: Are we any better? Are we all that perfect? Do we feel all that self-righteous that we can find guilt in others and nothing but innocence concerning ourselves? Additionally, how often do we anger Hashem, and He simply ignores our impudence? We criticize others, yet, we expect Hashem to overlook our faults.

Hocheach Tochiach - before we confront others, let us first examine ourselves. Let us undergo some serious self-rebuke before we take it upon ourselves to find fault in others. Rebuke is repeated because the rebuke should be offered twice: once to himself; followed by the rebuke he intended to give to the other fellow. (Peninim on the Torah)


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

In the Gemara, Hillel declared that the all-encompassing rule of the Torah is "What you hate for yourself, do not do to your friend; the rest is elucidation." The Maharsha cites the source for Hillel's teaching as being the verse "And you shall love your fellow as yourself - I am Hashem."

From the simple understanding of this verse, it is clear how this commandment governs interpersonal relationships between man and his fellow. However, if this is to be the "all-encompassing rule of the Torah," we need to understand, how does it also incorporate the misvot between man and Hashem?

To answer this question, the Keli Yakar points out that Hillel's all-encompassing rule of the Torah includes the final three words of the verse - "I am Hashem." Accordingly, the first part of the verse, "And you shall love your fellow as yourself," contains all of the misvot between man and his fellow, and the final words of the verse, "I am Hashem," contain all of the misvot between man and Hashem.

Rav Yossi Muller, however, suggested that even the misvot between man and Hashem are found in the words "And you shall love your fellow as yourself." This is because the performance of interpersonal misvot, which calls for such careful consideration of the feelings of het feelings of another human being, trains us to focus on the needs of others, and through developing this sensitivity, we become able to put aside our own personal needs for the sake of developing a relationship with Hashem through His misvot.

Alternatively, Rav Zecharia Wallerstein suggests that loving a fellow human, who was created "in the image of Hashem," enables us to grasp to some degree what it means to 'love' Hashem, thereby forming the starting point towards the fulfillment of the misvot between man and Hashem. (Short Vort)


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

" , ??"

"If there is no flour (sustenance), there is no Torah." (Abot 3:17)

Flour is a by-product of wheat. He should have said, "Im en hitah en Torah - If there is no wheat, there is no Torah"!

In order to become flour, the wheat has to be put through a grinding process. The message of the Mishnah is that to succeed in Torah study one must go through a personal "grinding," i.e. give up the amenities one is accustomed to and immerse oneself entirely in the study. (Vedibarta Bam)

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