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Haftarah: Hoshea 2:1-22

MAY 18-19, 2007 2 SIVAN 5767

Pop Quiz: From what age were the Levi'im counted by Moshe?


"Then you shall observe the festival of Shabuot for Hashem your G-d" (Debarim 16:10)

Rabbi Hillel Goldenberg writes that Rabbi Matityahu Salomon relates the following (fictional?) story that could happen. A man was very careful about the customs of his family as he was the last one left. Sent by his parents on the Children's Transport, during the Holocaust, he ended up in America, next door to people who were not as religious as he. Shabbat observant, yes, but not careful about dressing modestly, not careful about misvot in general. He nodded hello and said, "Good Shabbos," and that was it. He did not allow his children to play with his neighbor's children; they could be a bad influence.

The only survivor from his family, he had always wondered why his parents had sent him away but not his baby brother. One day, out of the blue, he heard that there was word of his brother. He had ended up in a certain orphanage. The man rushed to the orphanage which had the address of his brother. It was the neighbor next door! His own flesh and blood! He went next door and shared this information, and you can imagine what transpired. Needless to say, the children then played together without limitation. Commented Rabbi Salomon: The bond of brother might well include love, but it is fundamentally a bond of responsibility. This is what Shabuot teaches. Observance of the Torah, given on Shabuot, is an exercise in universal responsibility. When Jews perfect themselves through the Torah, they hasten the coming of the Mashiah and this brings redemption to the entire world.

The Hafess Hayim and the Gerrer Rebbe (the Imrei Emet) were traveling together on a train, going to a gathering in Vienna. At every stop along the way, throngs of Jewish people awaited to catch a glimpse of them and merit a berachah from these great sadikim. At the first stop, the Gerrer Rebbe made his way toward the door of the coach to view the crowds and be seen by them. The Hafess Hayim turned to him and asked with classic modesty, "Gerrer Rebbe, aren't you afraid of the negative effects of the honor people are trying to bestow upon you? Aren't you afraid that it may bring you haughtiness which is an abomination? The Sages teach us that when a person receives honor he forfeits some of his reward in the World to Come. Aren't you afraid of losing some of your Olam Haba?" The Gerrer Rebbe responded, "Long ago I decided to give myself away for the sake of my fellow Jews. For my fellow Jews I will give up some of my Olam Haba." Humbly the Hafess Hayim joined the Gerrer Rebbe. Together they greeted the multitudes, buoyed their spirits and blessed them.

With the approach of this beautiful holiday of Shabuot, let us accept the responsibility of each other. On Shabuot, our brother calls! Shabbat Shalom and Happy Holiday. Rabbi Reuven Semah

The perashah that is always read before the holiday of Shabuot is Bemidbar, this week's reading. The word Midbar means wilderness, and indeed the Midrash points out clearly that the Torah was given only in a wilderness, not in an inhabited area.

The Rabbis tell us that a wilderness symbolizes simplicity - the sand, the sky and nothing else. So too the Torah can only be accepted with an attitude of simplicity. This does not only mean without being encumbered by materialism. It also means a simple faith and simple outlook on life. We have to believe that we are Jews only because of the Torah, and everything in the world revolves around the Torah. We also have to realize that if we want, we can create a life that is compatible with the Torah, no matter what the society or environment says. Simple faith is not usually simple to achieve. But the wilderness should remind us that certain things are integral for the acceptance of the Torah. Simplicity in all its forms will help us in receiving the Torah and living a life of Torah. Tizku Leshanim Rabot. Rabbi Shmuel Choueka


"The tribe of Zebulun" (Bemidbar 2:7)

Ba'al Haturim notes that in reference to certain of the tribes that were together with other tribes the Torah adds the letter "vav" - which denotes that they are separate but together. But as regards the tribe of Zebulun there is not a "vav." This is because the tribe of Yisachar, which is mentioned right above, devoted themselves to Torah study, while the tribe of Zebulun worked to support both of them. Because they enabled the tribe of Yisachar to study Torah they are considered as one tribe and their reward is the same.

Rabbi Chaim Shmuelevitz used to comment on this that just as those who support Torah study financially have the merit of the Torah study of those they support, so too anyone who influences another person to study Torah shares in the merit of that person. Every student in a Yeshivah has many opportunities to be a positive influence on others. Frequently, just by studying with diligence oneself, others will use that diligence as a model and this will increase their Torah study, which is an added merit for the diligent student.

Parents who influence and enable their children to study Torah have this merit, as do wives who enable their husbands to study Torah. (Growth through Torah)


"So they encamped according to their banners and so they journeyed: every man according to his families by his father's household" (Bemidbar 2:34)

What was the common denominator in the four banners?

Each group of three tribes had its own banner. In each group, the nasi of the middle tribe had a name which included Hasem's name "Kel."

Yehudah's banner on the east side included Yisachar in the middle, whose nasi was Netanel. Reuben's banner traveled on the south side with the tribe of Shimon in the middle, whose nasi was Shelumiel. Efraim's banner was on the west side with the tribe of Menasheh in the middle, whose nasi was Gamliel. And Dan was on the north with Pagiel, the nasi of Asher in the middle.

This indicates that Hashem rested in the midst of the Jewish community, as stated, "Their camps among which I dwell" (5:3).

Later on in Parashat Naso, we learn of the princes' offerings for the dedication of the Altar. Netanel, prince of the tribe of Yisachar, brought his offering on the second day. Shelumiel, prince of Shimon, was on the fifth day. Gamliel, prince of Menasheh, was on the eight day, and Pagiel, prince of Asher, was on the eleventh day. The numbers 2, 5 ,8 and 11 total 26, which is the equivalent of the four-letter holy name of Hashem. (Vedibarta Bam)


"King David died on Aseret (Shabuot)" (Talmud Yerushalmi, Hagigah 2:3)

King David died in Eress Yisrael, where Shabuot is celebrated for only one day. Why is the story of his ancestry read also on the second day of Shabuot?

Formerly the new month (Rosh Hodesh) was established based on the testimony of two witnesses who had sighted the new moon. Afterwards messengers were sent to the Jewish communities informing them which day was designated as Rosh Hodesh. Areas which could not be reached before the middle of the month celebrated an extra day of Yom Tob. Therefore, in the Diaspora we always celebrated Pesah, Shabuot and Succot for two days. Nowadays, though our calendar is based on calculation, we continue to observe the custom of two days of Yom Tob in Diaspora.

Superficially, there is no need to ever celebrate Shabuot for two days since it is always the fiftieth day from the counting of the Omer, and by that time it is known already which day Pesah should have been.

The Rambam (Kiddush Hahodesh 3:12) writes that "in order not to differentiate between the holidays, the Rabbis have instructed that any place which the messengers would not reach by the middle of Tishrei or Nissan celebrates two days of Yom Tob, including Shabuot."

According to the apparent literal meaning of the Torah, it would have been forbidden for Ruth to marry into the Jewish people. However, thanks to Rabbinic interpretation, which explains that the Torah precluded only the males of Moab and not the females, she was able to marry Boaz and ultimately bring the world King David and Mashiah. Therefore, to emphasize the reverence we have for the teachings of our Rabbis, we read the story of Ruth on a day which is celebrated only because of Rabbinic ordinance. (Vedibarta Bam)

Answer to Pop Quiz: One month old.

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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