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Haftarah: Hoshea 2:1-22

MAY 14-15, 2010 2 SIVAN 5770
Day 46 of the Omer


"Ruth the Moabite said to Naomi, 'Let me go out to the field and glean the ears of grain…'" (Ruth 2:2)

Sometimes you read something that is inspirational but so simple. As we know on the holiday of Shabuot, we read the book of Ruth. In the Artscroll edition, there is an introductory comment that I would like to quote verbatim: "The great majority of people lead lives of quiet desperation, thinking that their struggles, successes and failures have no lasting purpose. No one had more right to feel that way than Ruth and Naomi, scratching for existence and scrounging for the next meal. For Ruth to gather food was a small gesture with no real significance. But G-d looks carefully at our deeds and discerns in them layers of meaning and importance beyond our imagination. The deeds of the righteous people in the book of Ruth achieved the greatest of all imprimaturs: G-d let them be recorded as part of the Torah. How great man can become! G-d's Torah was given on Shabuot, and the deeds of mortals, too, have become part of the Torah and are read every Shabuot. This shows us how much we can make of ourselves and our world - if we realize our full potential."

Man's struggles do not go unnoticed by Hashem, and at the same time those struggles are man's greatest achievements. Happy Holiday and Shabbat Shalom. Rabbi Reuven Semah

On the verse in Shir HaShirim 5:6, "My soul departed when He spoke," the Rabbis explain that when Hashem said the Ten Commandments, the souls of the Jewish People left them from awe and fear. Then G-d took a certain dew from the Torah and used it to revive the Jewish Nation. On the surface, this seems difficult to understand. Why did Hashem allow the awesomeness of the moment to be so great that the people should die and then have to be revived again? Why not reveal Himself just a little bit less?

The lesson to be derived from here is that when we received the Torah, we didn't just get a set of laws to have to keep. The Torah is what made us alive; we expired and had to be revived through the power of the Torah. That means that our very being is based on the teaching and the essence of the holy Torah, and it is not only possible to keep its laws, but rather our very existence depends upon it.

On this Shabuot, let us remember this message. Our success as a nation and as individuals is through the Torah and its laws and customs. The more we study and accept its effect upon us, the closer we will become to that which we owe our existence. Tizku LeShanim Rabot. Rabbi Shmuel Choueka


"Count the children of Levi…every male from the age of one month and above." (Bemidbar 3:15)

The Levi'im were an exception to the rule that men below the age of twenty were not counted in the census. Hashem instructed Moshe to count the male members of the tribe of Levi from the age of one month, since prior to thirty days old an infant's viability is uncertain. The distinction between the tribe of Levi and the other tribes is notable. Why were the infants of the Levi'im counted despite their inability to perform any type of service? The commentators offer various reasons. We suggest that the Levi'im serve as the paradigm of the individual who devotes his entire life to Hashem. From birth they are nurtured with the notion that their lives are to be completely dedicated to Hashem's service. For the first thirty years of life, they are prepared for the auspicious moment when they formally enter into Hashem's service. When one's whole educational experience and upbringing focus on the area of spirituality, the "potential" is viewed as a portion of the actual fruition. This is inherently due to the vital role this preparation plays in the successful results of this endeavor. If we clarify and prioritize the spiritual goals for our children, we will achieve greater success in the preparation for achieving these lofty goals. (Peninim on the Torah)


"And the charge of Elazar the son of Aharon the Kohen is the oil for the light, and the incense spices, the meal offering of the continual offering, and the anointing oil, the oversight of the Mishkan and all that is in it, as to the Sanctuary and its vessels." (Bemidbar 4:16)

At the end of the perashah, the Torah records in minute detail the various functions delegated to B'nei Levi. Each member of the tribe was given specific tasks to execute. Most notable is the multi-faceted charge allocated to Elazar. He was assigned the position of Nasi, prince, of the Levi'im. He also undertook to carry the vessels mentioned in the above pasuk.

Hazal question Elazar's ability to carry everything himself. Indeed, it seems logistically impossible to perform all of these duties at once. The Midrash explains that he carried the oil in his right hand, the incense in his left, the meal offering slung over his arm, and the flask of anointing oil suspended from his belt! Hazal question the rationale behind this. Elazar was a dignified person, surrounded by Kohanim who were ready to help. Yet, he was required to do it all alone! Hazal's response is, "There is no pride before Hashem." The Nasi must carry these vessels and march at the head of the people.

Rav Moshe Swift z"l expounds on this Midrash. Imagine if dignity and pride were the dominating factors in the Levi'im's decisions to perform the service. The Mishkan would never have been carried across the desert! The Levi'im did not say, "Our hands are full; it is beneath our dignity to perform labor." "No," says the Midrash." There is not pride before Hashem. Jewish service demands able-bodied service and wholehearted devotion. It requires that burdens be carried alone at times without help and even without moral support. If pride had been the principle criterion for our forbears, we would have no shuls, no schools, no Jewish communities. They channeled all of their energies, sat on committees, knocked on doors and worked the "trenches" to build Torah in Klal Yisrael. This is the way that they achieved success in their endeavor.

The Midrash emphasizes the unique mesirut nefesh, self-sacrifice, of B'nei Kehat, whose duty it was to carry the Aron Hakodesh. Their family started out in large numbers, more numerous in fact than all the other families. Due to their constant exposure to such sublime duty, they were risking error, which was punishable by death. Their tribe was noticeably diminished during their trek in the desert. Yet, B'nei Kehat did not shirk their responsibility for an "easier" or "safer" duty. In spite of their depleted numbers, they continued. This was mesirut nefesh. They did not abandon the Aron. Individuals of this caliber were the ones who merited to carry the holiest of the Mishkan's appurtenances. (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.

"Great is Torah, for it gives life to those who practice it." (Abot 6:7)

Torah is something which is studied, and misvot are things which are done (practiced). Since the Beraita is talking of Torah, it should have said, "lelomedehah - [it gives life] to those who study it"?

The Beraita specifically describes the reward due to individuals who perform misvot as a result of their Torah study, but not that which is due for Torah study alone. This emphasizes the idea that the purpose of Torah study is to eventually perform the misvot in accordance with Hashem's will. A person who studies Torah without intending to practices what he learns, however, is not deemed to be living a worthwhile life.

Alternatively, King David says, "Praised is the man who "betorat Hashem heftso, ubetorato yehgeh yoman valaylah - His desire is in the Torah of Hashem, and in his Torah he meditates day and night" (Tehillim 1:2). The Gemara (Abodah Zara 19a) asks whether there is a contradiction here. First he calls it, "Torat Hashem - Hashem's Torah," and then he says "ubetorato - in his, i.e. man's, Torah." The Gemara answers that there is no contradiction here. Before the person toils to understand Torah, it is Hashem's Torah, but after the student diligently and assiduously studies Torah and toils to understand it, the Torah is considered as his possession and is called Torato - his Torah."

The Beraita is teaching that Torah gives life to those who "osehah - make it their Torah" - through their studying and meditating on it day and night. (Vedibarta Bam)

* * * * *

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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