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Haftarah: Shoftim 11:1-33

JUNE 22-23, 2013 14 TAMUZ 5773

The fast of the Seventeenth of Tamuz will be on Tuesday, June 25. The period of the Three Weeks begins on this day. During this time, no weddings or parties with music are permitted.


"Behold! A people who arises like an awesome lion." (Bemidbar 23:24) Bilam compares the Jewish people to an awesome lion in the morning. Rashi explains, "When they get up from their sleep in the morning, they exert themselves like an awesome lion to grab misvot, to wear a talet, to read Shema, and to put on tefillin." Rabbi Shimon Pincus explains that one of the most important pathways to successful service of Hashem is to be careful that the beginning of the day should be especially dedicated to Hashem. Like the misvah of Bikurim, we see that the main thing is to give Hashem the first fruits, because the nature of the world is that the first is the best and the most cherished. A great beginning sets the stage for all that follows.

What is the most precious to a person? It is life itself. Therefore, it behooves us that the morning, the beginning of life that day, should be dedicated to Hashem. Nature is that when we wake up we get energy and we see that the world is renewed and happy. Therefore, this time, the morning, has the greatest potential for success.

When we wake up, we are hungry after a long night's sleep. We are also hungry to chat a little and find out what's new in the world. However, if we channel these feelings and we give over to Hashem this most beautiful time of day, it's like bringing a beautiful sacrifice to Hashem in the Bet Hamikdash. It's a well-known fact that a sacrifice opens up the gateways of Heaven to shower down upon us the successes of that day.

If we come to shul and pray together with a minyan, it's like icing on the cake. In addition to this one can only imaging the greatness of sitting down after prayers and eating the first time, making Berachot together, and hearing words of Torah. Lucky is the person who starts his day in this manner. Shabbat Shalom. Rabbi Reuven Semah

As we read the story of Bil'am and how he wanted to curse the Jewish people, we can't help but be amazed at his determination. He first asked Hashem whether he could go with Balak's messengers, and Hashem told him no. Then he asked again, and although this time he was given permission, still his donkey stopped three times until the angel revealed himself that he was sent to prevent Bil'am from going. He still proceeded to try to curse the Jews, and every time he attempted it, it came out as a blessing but he still didn't give up.

From here we see the rule that if a person has a real will to do something, he will ultimately reach his goal. Bil'am persevered and would have succeeded had Hashem not turned his curses into blessings. Nothing stands in the way of a strong will. The reason we are not accomplishing what we want is that we don't want them strongly enough. This applies to business, to doing certain projects, and most certainly to spiritual endeavors. It is up to us to intensify our wills to accomplish. The stronger the will, the more we will succeed. Let's work on developing a strong desire for spiritual growth and we'll be amazed at the positive changes we will experience! Shabbat Shalom. Rabbi Shmuel Choueka


"Hashem's wrath flared because he was going." (Bemidbar 22:22)

Bilaam was determined to go to Midyan. After all, Hashem did not clearly prohibit him from going. He simply did not countenance it. Rav Aharon Leib Shteinman, Shlita, derives an important lesson herein. Hashem judges a person in accordance with his actions. If Hashem has not stated clearly that a given action is prohibited, although He is certainly not in favor of it, one should not carry it out. If he does, he is angering the Almighty. Not every prohibition must be articulated. This is why Hashem's wrath flared against Bilaam. He should have known better. In fact, Bilaam was waiting for just such an opportunity - when there was no definite "no," but there certainly was no clear "yes."

With this idea in mind, he distinguishes between yir'at Shamayim, fear of Heaven, and yir'at het, fear of sin. Yir'at het refers to fear of sin, its consequent punishment and ensuing blemish on the person's spiritual dimension. In contrast, a yareh Shamayim is one who will not do anything that runs counter to the will of Hashem - even if there is no punishment, no negative exhortation, and no spiritual stain left on him. As long as it is not the ratzon Hashem, it is taboo. To act otherwise bespeaks the same character flaw that was manifest in Bilaam. (Peninim on the Torah)

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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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