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Haftarah: Yirmiyahu 32:6-27

MAY 27-28, 2016 20 IYAR 5776
Day 35 of the Omer


"You shall provide redemption for the land." (Vayikra 25:24)

Our perashah focuses on the misvah of shemitah and yobel. Every seventh year, the land is rested from plowing and planting. On every fiftieth year all the lands that were sold were redeemed, and returned to their original owners. There is an amazing true story told that involved the Baba Sali zt"l, and Rabbi Obadiah Yosef zt"l. The subject is Geulah, or redemption.

The year was 1972 and Rabbi Obadiah Yosef came to the town of Netivot to deliver a lecture to members of the Kollel there. He was accompanied by his son, Rabbi Yitzhak Yosef (the current chief Rabbi of Israel). After the class, Rabbi Obadiah suggested to his son that they should visit the Baba Sali.

When the Baba Sali heard that Rabbi Obadiah was coming to visit him, he greeted him with great honor. However, the Baba Sali asked that all of the people that came should leave the room; he wanted to be alone with Rav Obadiah. All the people left, but Rabbi Yitzhak stayed by his father's side. When the Baba Sali saw this, he asked him to leave. When the Baba Sali was told that he was Rav Obadiah's son, he agreed that he should stay. So therefore, Rabbi Yitzhak was there to describe this incredible meeting.

The Baba Sali began by praising Harav Obadiah, and said how happy he was to see him. He related to him that even while he still lived in Morocco he heard about his greatness, and that was confirmed when he read his famous books called Yabia Omer. He continued that he didn't have the merit to meet Rav Obadiah face to face until now. Now that he has come, they should have a meal together in his honor, and during this meal the Geulah (Mashiah) will come!

Amazingly, Rav Obadiah responded and apologized to the Baba Sali that he was in a hurry to get to Bnei Brak to give a class there. He explained that he gives this class every Tuesday. The Baba Sali said, "I, and the great Rabbi, can now bring the Mashiah. This is more important than the class!"

Rav Obadiah responded, "The Gemara says (Megillah 16b) that learning Torah is greater than building the Bet Hamikdash, which implies that one must not push off a class of Torah for any reason!"

Think about that the next time you consider missing your class.

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

Helping By Not Helping

"And you shall not gather up the gleanings of your harvest; for the poor and the convert you shall leave them." (Vayikra 23:22)

This verse concerns the laws of Pe'ah and Leket - the obligation to leave certain parts of one's field and crop for the poor to come and collect freely. Rashi notes that the words "you shall leave them" are written to instruct the landowner not to assist the receiver of the crop in any way; rather, the poor person must collect everything by himself.

This instruction is difficult to understand. If the Torah is commanding the field owner to help the poor people of his town by leaving his gleanings, why is he prohibited from going further in his act of kindness and helping them in every way possible?

The answer is that by allowing the poor person to gather the gleanings by himself, he will feel less degraded than by being handed pure "charity." Moreover, the effort he exerted in picking the crops himself will lessen any feelings of humiliation at receiving a free hand-out.

This message was experienced very recently when a Swiss philanthropist donated new suits, shoes, shirts, and ties to young married men in Jerusalem. The value of the entire set should have cost more than one thousand shekels, yet the price was set at twenty shekels for the entire outfit. When asked, "For the sake of twenty shekels, why don't you just give it away for free?" the donor simply replied, "But then they will feel like they are receiving charity."

We see from here that even though we may not be in a position to leave a field for the poor, we can certainly apply this halachah to our own lives by helping others to help themselves. (Short Vort)

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.

"Rabbi Ya'akob said, 'This world is like an antechamber before the World to Come; prepare yourself in the antechamber so that you may enter the banquet hall." (Abot 4:16)

Since Rabbi Ya'akob's message, seemingly, is simply that one should prepare himself in this world for the World to Come, what is added by the analogy?

Rabbi Ya'akob knew very well that if he were just to say, Prepare yourself in this world so that you may enter the World to Come," one would procrastinate and say, "What is the rush? I have yet many years to live. Let me enjoy life, and when I get older, I will start my preparations."

The analogy discourages this attitude. When one is waiting to have an audience with the king, he waits first in the anteroom until he has been called. Now, though the amount of time he may have to wait outside is unpredictable, nevertheless, he has to be there before the time when his audience is scheduled and be groomed properly and fully prepared to enter the moment he is called. It would be absurd of someone to bring a suitcase containing his clothing and toiletries, thinking that since he may have to wait, he will use the anteroom to prepare himself. It is possible that suddenly the king may be ready to receive him, and he will lose his appointment because he is not ready. The only things one does in the anteroom are such things as looking into a mirror and making sure that everything is adjusted properly.

Therefore Rabbi Ya'akob begins by explaining that this world is the anteroom before the palace. Man in this world is waiting in the anteroom to be called for his audience. No one knows how soon or postponed it may be. Thus, to push off preparation is ludicrous. We must live a life of preparedness and continuously "hatken" - check if all is in proper order. (Vedibarta Bam)

Healing Old Wounds

The uncle of a young man about to be married arrived from out of town to share in his nephew's festivities. He drove to the home of the bride, where the reception was to be held. He rang the bell, which was promptly answered by the bride's father. The two sat down and talked about their individual backgrounds, yeshivah life, going back as far as elementary school. Apparently, the uncle and the kallah's father had been students in the same yeshivah during the same era. They began to share experiences, reminiscing about their time together in the yeshivah.

During the course of the conversation, the uncle reminded himself of an incident that had occurred during this period in the yeshivah. "I remember one night," the uncle began, "you were in your dormitory room, and the other students wanted to have some 'fun' at your expense. They locked you in from the outside, essentially trapping you in your room. You banged on the door and pleaded to be released, but no one seemed to hear your pleas. Do you remember that incident?"

Being reminded of the incident cast a pall over the bride's father's face: "Of course, I remember that night. I have harbored the pain and humiliation within me throughout the years. Indeed, I said then - and I reiterate now - that I would never forgive the person who was responsible for that debacle!"

When the uncle who had related the story heard the father's reaction, he almost passed out. He was traumatized by this statement of contempt for the one who had locked the door, since it was he who had been the culprit who had committed the dastardly act against the kallah's father. Now what?

The next morning, the uncle presented himself at the office of one of the distinguished poskim, Halachic arbiters, to seek some form of resolution to this issue. The Rav suggested that he approach the bride's father, tell him the truth and beg his forgiveness. Otherwise, it would put a strain on the relationship between the two families.

The uncle listened to the Rav and proceeded to the kallah's house to reveal to her father that it had been he who had traumatized him years ago in the yeshivah. He now was asking his forgiveness. It was merely meant to be a prank. He had not intended to hurt, and certainly not to cause him distress for the rest of his life. Thirty years had elapsed since that fateful day, and much suffering had been generated by that act of teenage foolishness.

At first, the kallah's father hesitated. On the other hand, he could not look at the pleading man's face and turn him down. He acquiesced, absolving him on the condition that he would never hurt another person again. The uncle immediately accepted the resolution and promised to go out of his way to be sensitive to the feelings of others.

Postscript: One year following the incident, the uncle came knocking on the door of the bride's home for a third time. This time, he appeared with a shining countenance and an ear to ear smile. "I have come to inform you that my wife just gave birth to our first child - after twenty-six years!" One teenager's trauma and lack of forgiveness for his pain had resulted in the culprit's childlessness for twenty-six years. I write this story as a public service. (Peninim on the Torah)

* * * * *

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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