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Haftarah: Yirmiyahu 32:6-27

MAY 9-10, 2014 10 IYAR 5774


"And My Sanctuary shall you revere." (Vayikra 26:2)

At the close of this week's perashah we are told to revere and respect Hashem's Sanctuary, which is the Bet Hamikdash. It is the dwelling place of the Presence of Hashem in this world. Today we have a synagogue and in many places it is referred to as the "Mikdash Me'at," or the small version of the Bet Hamikdash. However, there is a great misunderstanding today how to understand this concept of the small Mikdash. Some think that during the time of the Bet Hamikdash there was a greater connection between the Jewish people and Hashem in the form of the Bet Hamikdash, and that connection has changed since then. But, the truth is that the connection and the interaction between us and Hashem has not changed from what it was before to what it is today. The synagogue is not just a small piece of the Bet Hamikdash.

Rabbi Shimshon Pincus explains this with a comparison to something we have experienced. More than thirty or forty years ago there was a device called a tape recorder. I remember the large tape-to-reel machine that weighed a ton and cost a ton. Today we have a tiny version of that tape recorder. It doesn't mean that someone took a saw and cut off a piece of the larger machine and we only have a piece of the original machine. But it means that all that was in the original is found in the new one, only it is a smaller version.

The synagogue, which is called the Mikdash Me'at, is not a small remnant of the original Mikdash. It is the Bet Hamikdash in a small version. It has all the elements of holiness as the original. The Bet Hamikdash was a closed area where the nation and Hashem were alone together, us with the One and Only. It's the same thing today in our exiles. The close contact between us and the One and Only was never lost and it's still alive and well in the synagogue, the mini Bet Hamikdash of our times. Therefore, there should be no changes to the original sanctity, and any change will result in no Mikdash at all.

When we enter the shul, during our exiles, we should know that Hashem is with us as He always was. Therefore, we should make sure that we are with Him only and we shouldn't distract ourselves with anything else. 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


"If you sell anything to your neighbor, or buy anything from your neighbor, you should not defraud one another." (Vayikra 25:14)

The Talmud Baba Batra 87b details a number of fraudulent practices which were employed by less-than-honest businessmen who would cheat their customers. Rabbi Yohanan ben Zakai hesitated publicizing these practices, explaining that he was confronted with a moral dilemma. If he would lecture, it was quite possible that some of the listeners who were themselves dishonest might learn new methods for defrauding others. On the other hand, if he did not lecture, the cheaters would posit that the scholars were naive to the ways of the world and unaware of the various ploys for cheating others. One wonders why it was Rabbi Yohanan ben Zakai's responsibility to inform the wise cheaters that the Sages were just as aware of their methods of depravity as they were. Who really cares what dishonest people think of us?

In his commentary to the Talmud, the Maharsha explains that it was important for Rabbi Yohanan ben Zakai to relay this message to the cheaters: Yes, we are aware of all of the shtick, the deceit, the lies that can be employed to defraud the unsuspecting, but we would never do it, due to our ethical character. This approach might target some of the cheaters who, as a result of this information, might consider repenting their ways and putting an end to their sordid behavior. No longer could they rationalize their unethical behavior, saying, "We are only doing what everybody else is doing. We are no different than the rest."

When the dishonest dealers realize that, indeed, many people are aware of the numerous ways to take advantage of unknowing and trusting souls - yet, because they value and appreciate the gift of honesty, they will not resort to stealing from others - it will change their attitudes. Many swindlers will change their ways and look for honest work and honest ways in which to earn a living.

This, explains Horav A. Henach Leibowitz, z"l, is the power of a Kiddush Hashem, sanctification of Hashem's Name. The force of absolute truth emanating from such an experience can even impact the most deceitful sinner into altering his fraudulent lifestyle. Merely becoming aware of the honest behavior of righteous people can do a world of good and quite possibly change a life.

Rav Henach relates a famous story concerning Horav Aharon Kotler, z"l, founder and Rosh Yeshivah of Bet Midrash Gavohah. He was presented with an artist's rendering of the proposed new structure for the yeshivah building. This drawing was to serve as the backdrop for fundraising purposes and publicity about the yeshivah. The artist had visualized how the edifice, once completed, would appear. It truly was an impressive picture. Rav Aharon studied the picture and found a flaw. He pointed out that there was one extra tree in a place where it did not - nor could ever - exist. Defending the drawing were those who commissioned the artwork. They noted that everything else was true to its image. The yeshivah building was accurate; the surroundings were on target. One tree was out of place - Nu! It had no bearing on the building itself, and, after all, the artist had worked so hard to prepare a flawless graphic. The Rosh Yeshivah was adamant. "It is not the emet!" The drawing was laid to rest. Torah can only be established on a foundation of pure emet. Honesty and integrity may never be compromised - regardless of one's lofty goals. (Peninim on the Torah)

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