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Haftarah: Yirmiyahu 16:19 - 17:14

MAY 15-16, 2009 22 IYAR 5769
Day 37 of the Omer

Pop Quiz: In a 50-year cycle, how many years should the land remain unplanted?


"I will provide your rains in their proper times." (Vayikra 26:4)

If the Jewish people observe the laws of the Torah, Hashem will bring rain on time. What does "on time" mean? Rashi quotes the Midrash that says that it will rain on Tuesday and Friday nights when people are usually indoors. (It used to be customary to be at home on Tuesday evening besides Friday evening.) The Midrash Rabbah says that during the time of Herod, it would rain at night, and early morning winds would dry the ground. This would enable the workers to work in the fields the next day. Now we know that rain is an absolute necessity and therefore we don't really mind the little inconvenience to have the rain. However, Hashem promises the rain without any inconvenience.

We are aware that the Torah requires us to fine tune our character and to try to emulate Hashem's character traits. When we do a favor for someone, we feel that since we are doing a favor, it is extra anyway so it is ok if it isn't perfect. We see now that it is correct to do a hesed that is complete in all ways, even down to the fine details.

We have mentioned rain in its correct time. A story is told of the farmers of the village of Komemiyut in Israel. It was after the Shemitah year when planting and plowing were prohibited. Now the farmers wanted to plow the land in the permitted year. The only problem was that they needed to plow and plant before the first rain. The early time to rain was right after Succot. The farmers wanted to plow on Hol Hamoed. So they asked the Hazon Ish for permission to plow on Hol Hamoed. He answered that the question is based on that it will rain early. Who says it will rain early there? Plow after the holiday. They listened. That year the rain came very late, Hanukah time, and the only farmers that had a good crop were the farmers of Komemiyut. Speaking about rain on time when we follow the Torah. Shabbat Shalom. Rabbi Reuven Semah

"If you will walk in my statutes..." (Vayikra 26:3)

The perashah begins a whole series of blessings promised to the Jewish people if they will "walk" in Hashem's statutes. Rashi tells us this means to toil in Torah study. This is the source of all the berachot, and conversely, when the section dealing with the curses begins, Rashi tells us it is because there was no toil in Torah study.

The question is asked: Why is this command called a "hok" - statute - which means something with no understandable reason? Isn't Torah study something which is logical, and yet the Torah calls this "behukotai" - My statute? The answer is, to learn Torah just to know what to do is not sufficient. There is a misvah to toil in Torah study, to involve ourselves in the wisdom and beauty of Torah, regardless of whether it is relevant at this moment or not. This may not seem comprehensible to some and therefore it is called a "hok". Yet here we see that this is the basis for all of the blessings and vice versa, G-d forbid?

We have to ask ourselves truthfully, are we involved in Torah study? Do we have a set time to toil in the understanding of the Torah? Especially now, when the holiday of Shabuot, which reenacts the giving of the Torah to our generation, is right around the corner, we should be prepared to have an answer to this question. As we read the perashah and see how many blessings and, G-d forbid, curses are involved due to toiling in Torah study or the lack of it, we should commit ourselves to a set time of Torah learning, with toil and effort, so that we should merit all these blessings for ourselves and our families. Shabbat Shalom. Rabbi Shmuel Choueka


"You shall not subjugate him with rigor and you shall fear your G-d…but with your brethren, Bnei Yisrael, one with his brother, you shall not rule with vigor" (Vayikra 25:43,46)

The second admonishment against treating slaves harshly seems redundant. Why was it necessary to repeat the same prohibition three pesukim later? The Hasid Yaabetz explains that since the Torah had previously stated that we may enslave the Canaanites, a distinct possibility exists that we may inadvertently begin to treat the Jewish slave like his Canaanite counterpart. The Torah, therefore, repeats its warning against mistreatment of the Jewish slave.

This statement is vexing. Are we to believe that one would unjustly mistreat a Jewish servant, because he is permitted to treat a Canaanite slave as he wishes? How does the treatment of one extend to the other?

The Yaabetz infers that every action leaves a lasting impression on a person. When one performs a deed, he is subconsciously bound to that deed. One who imposes his will on a Canaanite slave becomes inured to cruelty. Actions become indelibly etched upon a person's heart and mind, causing habit to become a predominant force in his nature.

The Hasid Yaabetz establishes his point based upon his commentary of the Mishnah in Abot 1:16 which states, "Do not estimate tithes." What is wrong with estimating the amount of ma'aser one must tithe? One will usually end up giving more than he is required to make sure that he gave enough! We must surmise that habit becomes master. One who becomes complacent in doing things inaccurately, even in a positive light, will continue to perform his every endeavor fallaciously. This erroneous attitude will affect everything he does.

The Torah is absolute and immutable. Its laws are presented in a clear and concise manner. They are not subject to speculation and estimate. One who permits himself to be lenient in areas which require exactitude will ultimately disparage Torah's precision. This is the crux of the problem. One who does not break his habit will become enslaved by it. (Peninim on the Torah)

Answer to Pop Quiz: Seven shemitah years and one yobel year.

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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