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Haftarah: Yehezkel 22:1-16

MAY 6-7, 2016 29 NISAN 5776
Day 14 of the Omer

Rosh Hodesh Iyar will be celebrated on Sunday and Monday, May 8 & 9.


"Aharon shall place lots upon the two he-goats, one lot "to Hashem" and one lot "to Azazel." (Vayikra 16:8)

Our perashah discusses the Yom Kippur service that took place in the Mishkan. Two he-goats were brought to the opening of the Mishkan. A lottery was used to determine which one would be used as a korban and which one would be pushed off a cliff called "Azazel." Both goats brought atonement to the nation. The one as a korban brought about atonement through the avenue of holiness and sanctity. The other goat brought about atonement by being used as a "scapegoat." The sins of our nation would be blamed on the forces of evil that the goat represents. Hence the word "scapegoat" originated here from the goat being pushed off the high place (the scape) called Azazel. One goat represents holiness, and one represents something being wasted.

Our Sages teach us that both goats should look exactly the same, both in size, color and value. They should be identical and equal, and only the lottery would determine which would be holy. The sefer called "Al Hatorah" (quoted by the "Hameir") brings a fascinating hint hidden here.

The Torah is coming to tell us that many times, emphasis is placed more on the physical things than on the spiritual things. Often one might be willing to spend hundreds of thousands of dollars on a home. However when it comes time to purchase the mezuzot, he tries to find the cheapest ones. Often one is unwilling to compromise on the accessories of his car that they should be the most expensive, or the store that one shops in should be the most prestigious. But when it comes to buying a pair of tefillin, he would rely on anyone who says it's good enough and might even buy the cheapest.

Here the Torah is teaching us to at least equate the things that are not important, that which will eventually be wasted, to the things that will last forever, that have holiness like a korban.

Shabbat Shalom. Rabbi Reuven Semah

"Do not follow their statutes." (Vayikra 18:3)

The Torah prepares us for entering the land of Canaan by warning us not to do like the pagan practices. What is interesting is that the Torah uses the word "hok" which means statute, a law that we cannot understand. In our religion we have "hukim", statutes, such as not eating meat and milk together, shaatnez (not wearing wool and linen together), etc. and we keep them because our Creator knows that this is the best thing for us. But why would the heathens have hukim? And why is the Torah so adamant to warn us specifically about not doing their statutes?

The answer can be readily understood when we see how society acts in ways that make no sense. I recently asked someone what he sells for a living and he said "used jeans." As we spoke, he mentioned that the ripped ones command a heftier price. I exclaimed, "That makes no sense!" He nodded and said, "That's what sells." Basically it's a "hok". In my early baseball days, only the catcher wore a baseball cap backwards but today, to look hip everyone does. Why? No reason, it's a "hok", statute. If we analyze much of society's practices, we will see the same thing, their clothing, food and entertainment to name a few.

So the Torah warns us to be logical and have common sense. "Do not follow their statutes." Next time we choose to emulate others, let's see if it makes sense.

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

Let the poor be members of your household." (Abot 1:5)

What is the basis for our obligation to the poor? Why are they our concern? Hashem made them poor; let Hashem provide!

The Maggid of Dubno explains the matter with the help of a dramatic parable: A wealthy man gave a party at his home, and invited twenty guests to it. The proper number of settings, all in sterling silver, were set out. Yet, as the last guest came to the table, there appeared to be no setting for him. The host was extremely upset. Rising, he said to the assembled: "I know that twenty settings were placed on this table to provide for all the invited guests. If one of you has none, the only explanation is that someone must have taken more than his share!"

And the Dubno Maggid concluded: "Our host, the Almighty, has prepared enough of everything for each one of His guests. If one man is not able to manage, someone must have taken two shares. Every man has been provided for on this earth. Therefore, 'you shall surely open wide your hand to him.' Why should you have two portions and he none?"

On this premise it becomes futile to try to "save" money by not giving to the poor. It is not ours to begin with; hence such "savings" will not ultimately remain in our possession. (Ethics from Sinai)

* * * * *

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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