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Haftarah: Yirmiyahu 16:19-17:14

JUNE 3-4, 2016 27 IYAR 5776
Day 35 of the Omer

Rosh Hodesh Sivan will be celebrated on Tuesday, June 7.


"Even when they will be in the land of their enemies I will not reject them to destroy them." (Vayikra 22:46)

Our perashah begins with the idyllic blessings that await the Jewish People if they live up to their covenant with Hashem, and are worthy of Hashem's esteem. If the Jewish People fail to live up to their obligations as the Chosen People, they will fall from the blessed stated promised to them to become the victims of the horrendous punishments described later in the perashah. These are meant not as revenge, but to influence the people to repent. Rav Simha Wasserman (as told by Rabbi Ephraim Nisennhbaum) recalled a cover story of Look Magazine in the 1950's regarding "The Vanishing American Jew." The article predicted the disappearance of the American Jewish community by the end of the century.

Thirty years later, Rav Wasserman pointed out, Look Magazine had vanished. But the Orthodox Jewish community's strength in number, visibility, and even political clout had grown noticeably. The Torah promises that regardless of the numerous challenges of exile, the Jewish People will continue to survive. Shabbat Shalom. Rabbi Reuven Semah

"If you behave casually with me" (Vayikra 26:21)

When describing the decline of the Jewish Nation after they sinned and were exiled from their land, the Torah uses the word hre a few times, which means coincidence. Whenever the Jewish people say that the punishment which befalls them is only a natural occurrence, a coincidence, Hashem has to resort to stronger methods in order to show us that He is the cause of everything. Just like a father first chastises his son with a slight tap, and if there is no response has to resort to stronger methods, so too Hashem, who is our Father, "talks to us" and wants us to get the message before it becomes harsher. Whenever we hear of tragedies in our community, fighting in the land of Israel or other calamities, we must realize it is not natural, it is a message. Each one must take the message to heart and apply it based on his or her own way of life, to try to improve and find favor in the eyes of Hashem. Even when we see the weather drop 40 degrees in one day, or the stock market go up (hopefully) or down many hundreds of points from day to day, theses are happenings meant to show us that there is no natural occurrence which doesn't have a Creator masterminding His plan. Let's keep our eyes open! Shabbat Shalom. Rabbi Shmuel Choueka

Staying Connected

"Then I will provide your rains in their time, and the land will give its produce and the tree of the field will give its fruit. (Vayikra 26:4)

Interestingly, all of the physical blessings mentioned by the Torah as a reward for misvah observance and toiling in Torah are agricultural in nature. Why does the Torah not ensure a person with great wealth, agriculture property or real estate? It seems as if every blessing is: If you observe misvot and work hard at studying Torah, you will be blessed with success for all of your hard work in the field. It is almost like saying, if you work hard in the bet midrash, then your work in the field will reap great success.

Harav Shimshon Pincus, z"l, offers a practical explanation for this. A person who is blessed with great wealth feels secure. Cash, bonds, stocks, investments and real estate: all of these settle the mind, allowing it peace. They do not, however, encourage one to raise his eyes up Heavenward in prayer for continued siyata diShmaya. After all, he is already blessed. For what else should he pray? Gold and silver do not rust; diamonds retain their value. Real estate may depreciate, but, with enough money, one can always replenish his portfolio. If there is a drought in his country, he has the money to leave and settle elsewhere.

Therefore, Hashem provides him with agricultural blessings which are potential wealth if: the rains are frequent and timely; the sun shines when needed; the insects do not infest his crops, etc. Now, his heart is connected with Hashem; his eyes are constantly turned Heavenward in prayer and supplication.

Under normal circumstances, when a person gives a gift to someone, the greater the value of the gift, the greater is the chance of a distance developing between the benefactor and the recipient. For instance, if one gives a large sum of money to a poor man, the recipient is no longer poor, and he now becomes self-sufficient. The less he receives, the greater his level of dependency on the benefactor.

If Hashem were to bless an individual with a large sum of money, it would, in effect, not be a blessing - but a curse. Now that he is self-sufficient, the recipient no longer feels compelled to turn to Hashem for sustenance. This is a curse, because the person is now distanced from the Source of all blessing - Hashem. As long as we are in Hashem's proximity in the sense that He is a part of our lives, we will remain committed to Him. Once we move away, there is no telling where the distance will end.

Hashem's blessings are, thus, twofold in nature. There is incredible good fortune in the actual blessing, and the added blessing that we will always have to rely on Hashem

accompanies it. This need will preserve our closeness to Him through prayer and supplication. This is a practical lesson for our daily endeavor. Regardless of how successful we might be, without Hashem, it is nothing. We must always be cognizant of His "input" into our lives. This is certainly better than having to receive a wake-up call from Him. (Peninim on the Torah)

Lost and Found

"And you will become lost among the nations." (Vayikra 26:38)

Harav Mordechai Ilan, zl, observes that, when Klal Yisrael is in exile, they are compared to a lost article. As long as a lost item has a siman, recognizable sign, which the owner can use to identify it, then a din ha'shavah applies, an obligation for the finder to return it. He may not keep something for which the owner has not yet given up hope. If an item does not have a recognizable feature by which the owner can identify it, he will be me'yaeish, despair of getting it back.

We derive an important lesson from here. The Jew must preserve and retain any identifying features which mark him as a Jew. These signs indicate that we belong to Hashem. His imprint is on us. As long as we show signs of belonging to an Owner, we may aspire that one day - soon - we will be returned to Him, and our long exile will finally come to its conclusion. (Peninim on the Torah)

Ethics of the Fathers

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

"The brazen is headed for Gehinam, but the shamefaced for Heaven." (Abot 5:20)

Why did he single out brazenness and shamefacedness? Any sin can lead on to Gehinam, and any misvah can earn one Gan Eden.

Unfortunately, many who violate Torah do it boldly and without any shame, while there are fine Jews who follow a Torah way of life but are bashful and apologetic about it. Though they do misvot, they are ashamed to do them publicly out of fear that they will be labeled as antiquated or fanatic Jews.

The Mishnah is lamenting this common phenomenon by saying, "Az panim leGehinam" - the things which lead one to Gehinam, i.e. transgressions, are done blatantly with boldness and audacity. "Uboshet panim leGan Eden" - the things which earn one Gan Eden, i.e. misvot, are done with shamefacedness, bashfulness, and apologetically.

The Mishnah is urging the righteous to learn from the wicked's enthusiasm to serve Hashem proudly and vigorously.

King David says, "Me'oyvai techakemeni misvotecha - Your misvot made me wiser than my enemies" (Tehillim 119:98). The Ba'al Shem Tob explains this to mean, "From the ways of the wicked, who are my enemies, I gained wisdom in how to do Your misvot. From observing the excitement and joy they have when doing a sin, I learned how to do Your will."

Ya'akob, in preparation to meet his brother Esav, dispatched messengers to tell him, "Im Laban garti - I have sojourned with Laban" (Beresheet 32:5). Rashi comments: "The letters of garti correspond numerically to 613, that is, 'I sojourned with Laban the wicked (garti), but I observed the 613 (taryag) misvot, and I did not learn from his evil deeds.'"

Rashi's words, "I did not learn from his evil deeds," are seemingly redundant. If he observed 613 misvot, is it not obvious that Laban had no influence over him?

Ya'akob was not expressing satisfaction for not learning from Laban's evil deeds. On the contrary, he was expressing his dissatisfaction and frustration.

Ya'akob sent a message to Esav: "I lived in the home of Laban for twenty years, during which I observed ho enthusiastically he performed his sins. Though I fulfilled 613 misvot, I did not apply his level of excitement to my Torah and misvot." Thus Ya'akob was humbly saying, "If only I would have performed misvot with the excitement and vigor with which he performed his sins!"

The Hidushei Harim once said concerning missionaries: "If we were to work for the emet (spreading Torah and Judaism) with an emet (sincerity), as they work for the sheker (falsehood) with an emet, we would experience immense success." (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.

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