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JUNE 2-3, 2000 29 IYAR 5760
Rosh Hodesh Sivan will be observed on Sunday, June 4.

Pop Quiz: Who was Moshe's paternal grandfather?

Rabbi Reuven Semah

"As they camped, so they shall journey" (Bemidbar 2:17)

Our perashah describes the orderly system of travel that the Jewish nation had throughout their many years in the desert. It was not haphazard by any means. Each tribe was placed in a certain position near the Mishkan. As the verse above tells us, the position they maintained while at rest was the same position in which they traveled.

There is an important hint in the above verse that is relevant to our everyday lives. Too often people are extremely careful in their performance of misvot and learning of Torah while located in their familiar environment. However, the moment they travel from their homes and cities, their lifestyle changes. They become more lenient in performing misvot or learning Torah. This verse, "As they dwelled so they traveled," teaches us that a Jew has to keep up his high standards whether at home or on the road. This is a true test of our commitment.

As we approach the summer months, many people go on vacation. If one goes to a foreign country the above message obviously applies. But if we look closer to home we find a very similar situation. The Jersey Shore, and many other communities as well, become the vacation home, not only for the summer residents, but for the local residents as well. As a result, everyone there, in a sense, is on vacation. While on vacation, people naturally tend to dress more casually in order to relax. This is understandable and is encouraged in order that the people should feel a lessening of stress during this time. However, due to the high temperatures and increased swimming activities, people dress in a manner that they wouldn't normally do at home. When one is about to leave his or her home, stop for a moment and think, "Am I dressed properly? Is this the right outfit to wear in public?" Let us keep ourselves holy all year round! Shabbat Shalom.

Rabbi Yaacov Ben-Haim

In the preliminary part of our morning prayers we include a Baraita from the tractate Pe'ah: "These are the things of which a man enjoys the fruits in this world, while the principal reward remains for the World-to-Come: Honoring father and mother, doing deeds of loving-kindness, visiting the sick, granting hospitality to guests, attending the synagogue early and making peace between a man and his fellow and between a husband and his wife; but the study of Torah is the equal of them all."

The sainted R' Elhanan Wasserman asked a strong question. Every misvah listed but the last, when it is fulfilled, achieves two effects at the same time: Heaven's will is obeyed, and there is an immediate social benefit; people are helped through these good deeds. But when the last misvah is observed, when a person studies Torah, he may gain from it, and Heaven may benefit - but how does it help one's fellow man? Then why does it equal all the other listed misvot taken together?

The answer, continued R' Wasserman, lies in R' Meir's teaching in Pirkei Abot, "Whoever occupies himself with the study of Torah for its own sake merits many things." When anyone, old or young, studies the Torah for its own sake, he makes the whole world worthwhile, he justifies and assures its existence. So the social benefit to all mankind far outweighs the individual aid given through the other misvot.

King Solomon summed up his entire philosophical quest, "The end of the matter, everything having been heard: fear G-d and keep His commandments, for this is the whole of man." Darwin supposedly destroyed the "illusion" that the world was created for the sake of man as creation's culminating achievement. But this principle of our sacred tradition will outlive Darwin: Man was born to achieve a spiritual education and maturity, to recognize the Creator and live in harmony with His laws. Shabbat Shalom.


"And Nadab and Abihu died before Hashem when they offered a strange fire...and they had no children" (Bemidbar 3:4)

The Midrash states that had Nadab and Abihu taken wives and had children, they would not have died. The Hatam Sofer explains that innocent children have the need to receive proper guidance from their parents. It would, therefore, have been in the children's merit that Hashem would have granted the parents life. Hazal, however, state other reasons for Nadab and Abihu's tragic deaths. Two reasons which are emphasized are: Nadab and Abihu's entrance into the Mikdash after having drunk wine; and their inappropriate rendering of a halachic decision in the presence of Moshe, their Rabbi. These latter two reasons do not seem to coincide with the above stated Midrash.

The Hatam Sofer suggests that, indeed, the reasons can be reconciled. In fact, Nadab and Abihu's lack of sensitivity in showing proper reverence to the Mikdash and to their Rabbi was a direct result of not having had children. In order for one to become sensitive to a specific orientation, he needs to experience it. One does not truly grasp the essence of respect for one's father and Rabbi until he himself fathers children or teaches them. Only then can he comprehend the importance of proper esteem for a parent and mentor. Nadab and Abihu had not yet been availed the opportunity to learn first-hand the significance of respect. Consequently, this inexperience led to their own insensitivity towards Hashem and Moshe. (Peninim on the Torah)


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

"Rabbi Meir says: Whoever occupies himself with the study of Torah for its own sake merits many things" (Pirkei Abot 6:1)

Why doesn't it say "kol halomed" - "whoever studies Torah"?

In every business, there is a primary difference between the employer and the employee. An employee is mainly concerned with his own tasks, and he does not need to think about the business during his off hours. Unlike the employer, who thinks about his business unceasingly, he has little concern for the business as a whole.

In Hebrew the word "esek" means "business." Rabbi Meir teaches that a person's approach to Torah should be similar to an employer's attachment to his business. Even after he leaves the Bet Midrash and is home eating or sleeping, Torah should always be uppermost in his mind. (Vedibarta Bam)

Answer to Pop Quiz: Kehat.

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