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Haftarah: Yirmiyahu 32:6-27

MAY 16-17, 2008 12 IYAR 5768
Day 27 of the Omer


"When you make a sale to your fellow…do not victimize one another" (Vayikra 25:14)

The Torah warns us not to victimize our fellow Jew. Rashi explains that this refers to financial matters. The usual understanding here is that when one sells something, he is not permitted to overcharge the customer. One should make a profit; however, one may not conduct himself in a manner of price-gouging, to charge the customer for more than what the product is worth. In the marketplace of the secular world, the seller has the right to charge whatever he wants as long as the customer knows the market value of the product. However, the Torah places a limit, to a certain percentage, that a profit can be over and above the normal market price.

The Talmud teaches (Baba Mesia 51.) us that this prohibition applies to the buyer as well as the seller. The buyer who comes across a "super bargain" because the seller is unaware of the real value must be careful. He is not permitted to take advantage of the unknowing seller. The buyer may not think that since a seller usually knows the value of his product, he may buy it despite the very low price. The buyer must let the seller know of his possible mistake. There is also the added suspicion that the item may have been stolen by the seller. If it is stolen and the buyer purchases it, he might be obligated to find the true owner. It turns out that all of us love a great bargain, but it can turn out that you will end up with a lot more than you bargained for. Shabbat Shalom. Rabbi Reuven Semah

"If you will say 'What will we eat in the seventh year?'" (Vayikra 25:20)

The Torah commands the Jewish people to keep the laws of shemitah (sabbatical) and to refrain from planting or harvesting during the seventh year. Hashem promised that if they kept the laws properly, they would be blessed with an abundance of crops during the sixth year which would provide for them until the next planting.

The question is, if so, why will the Jews ask "what will we eat on the seventh year" if they already saw the blessing during the sixth year?

One of the commentaries answers that this question will be posed before the sixth year, even during the times of plenty, because it is not really a logical question , but rather, it reflects anxiety and worry by the Jewish people. It is possible for many of us to have abundance for the present and lack nothing, and still we will worry about the future to the extent that we don't even enjoy what we really have. It is OK to prepare for the unknown but we should differentiate between logical concern and irrational worry and anxiety.

The way to overcome these kinds of feelings is through faith and trust in G-d, which the misvah of shemitah helped to instill in the Jews. There are many other commandments which also teach us this very important lesson of faith, such as closing our businesses for Shabbat and holidays, and the monetary laws which demand that we act in a very scrupulous manner. One who tries to strengthen his faith in Hashem will not only have peace of mind about the future, but will enjoy the present as well. Shabbat Shalom. Rabbi Shmuel Choueka


"And Hashem spoke to Moshe at Har Sinai." (Vayikra 25:1)

Rashi questions why the Torah distinguishes the misvah of shemitah by assigning it the same level of importance accorded to our receiving the Torah at Mount Sinai. We suggest that the misvah of shemitah is a uniquely viable proof that the Torah was revealed by Hashem. When a human being in an agrarian society develops an agricultural law, the law endures only as long as it is beneficial for agriculture. Subsequently, it becomes void.

Let us turn to explore the shemitah laws in contrast to a system of rotation of crops which cultivates the soil. In contradistinction to crop rotation, the shemitah laws require all farmers to allow the land to remain fallow for an entire year. This agricultural policy could result in economic suicide for a country. Certainly such a practice would not have evolved into law based upon human experience. In order for a law like this to retain viability while the country remains prosperous, there would clearly have to be Divine assistance. Only Hashem, Who has the power to fulfill His promise of sustenance during and after the shemitah year, could have mandated such a law. (Peninim on the Torah)


"And if your brother becomes poor, and his means fail with you, then you shall uphold him." (Vayikra 25:35)

The primary focus of this misvah is supporting those who have been poverty stricken. The Torah states, "You shall uphold and support him;" giving charity is a fine art, which involves more than the act of writing a check and dispensing it. The Torah demands a unique sensitivity to the concerns of the impoverished. No one is as vulnerable to humiliation as the needy. The Torah voices its concern for the protection of the poor man's esteem. Don't let him falter into depression! Hold him up and strengthen him!

Rav Moshe Shternbuch extends this misvah yet further. There are individuals who look to us for another form of support, even though they are not lacking in material needs. There are students who simply find their studies too difficult. Although they make every attempt to achieve success, it is of no avail. They may consequently become depressed to the point that they lose perspective of their own self-worth. This can lead to a serious and sometimes incurable form of despondency and even to feelings of contempt for the Torah. We are enjoined to strengthen those who are not as successful as we are. Offer solace when necessary, but, above all, take time to teach, to inspire and to encourage. He cites Rav Avraham Misochatchov a"l, who explains that this was B'nei Yisrael's form of charity during their forty years in the desert, when no Jew was in material need. Those who were more proficient studied and explained Hashem's wisdom to others who were not as capable. There is no greater form of "if your brother becomes poor" than this. "You shall uphold him" implies the need for sensitive action toward all the needs of our brethren. (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.

"When a person's fear of sin comes before his wisdom, his wisdom will endure." (Abot 3:9)

Instead of "Anyone whose fear of sin comes before his wisdom," it should have said, "Whoever puts his fear of sin before his wisdom"?

This Mishnah is conveying a very important lesson to parents and educators. Some take the attitude that they do not want to force performance of misvot upon their very young children. They reason, "Let them first study and when they will grow up, they will make decisions for themselves whether they want to be religious or not."

This approach is erroneous. If one wants his child to love Torah, first and foremost, it is important to establish a strong foundation of fear of Hashem. From a very early age, children should be trained to perform misvot and inculcated with the knowledge that Hashem is the Master of the world. The Gemara (Shabbat 156b) relates that the mother of Rabbi Nahman bar Yitzhak was told by an astrologer that her son would be a thief. She never allowed him to uncover his head and would say to him, "Cover your head so that the fear of Heaven should be upon you," and he grew up to be a great Sage.

The Mishnah is thus teaching, "Anyone whose fear of sin comes before his wisdom" - i.e. if already as a tender child, before reaching the level of wisdom and ability to learn, the fear of Heaven is instilled in him - he will love Torah when he is taught it, and the Torah he learns will become a permanent component of his personality. In contrast, when a child starts his learning without a commitment to fear of sin and learns Torah as just another subject, his interest in Torah is likely to fade. (Vedibarta Bam)

Answer to Pop Quiz: They were given 48 cities scattered throughout the land.

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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