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Haftarah: Shoftim 11:1-33

JUNE 22-23, 2007 7 TAMUZ 5767

Pop Quiz: What is done on the 3rd and 7th day of one's purification process?


"And he said to them: Listen now rebels, shall we bring forth water for you from this rock?" (Bemidbar 20:10)

In our perashah the Israelites are confronted with a great problem. Miriam passes away, which causes a cessation of Miriam's well which supplied everyone with water. The people confront Moshe and Hashem tells Moshe to speak to the rock in order to have it provide water. Moshe apparently sins and Hashem decrees a harsh punishment on Moshe and Aharon that they will not enter the holy land of Israel.

The great Rabbi Yosef Karo was visited by a heavenly angel on a regular basis and Rabbi Karo wrote a book about their conversations. It is called "Magid Mesharim." In it the angel says that the mere fact that all of the Biblical commentaries struggle to figure out the exact sin tells us that the sin was minute and tiny. Despite this statement from R' Yosef Karo's angel, Moshe was punished quite severely. He wasn't allowed to complete his mission to bring the people into the holy land, and he died in the desert.

There is a comment from Rashi in a previous perashah that sheds some light. The people complained that they were tired of the Mann and wanted meat. Hashem tells Moshe, he will send them plenty of meat for thirty days straight "until it becomes nauseating to you!" Moshe responds by questioning Hashem's ability to provide so much meat (11:21). Hashem answers, "Is the hand of Hashem too short?" Rashi quotes R' Akibah and says that Moshe was saying, "Who will provide for them?" Now, Rashi explains, which is more severe a sin, this one or "Listen now rebels"? (Obviously the sin of Moshe doubting the ability of Hashem.) But since Moshe did not say his sinful remark in public, Hashem spared him. But this sin of the "Waters of Strife" was committed in the open. There, Hashem did not spare him.

We have no concept of the greatness of Moshe nor of his tiny sin of the "Water of Strife." But we must pick up a lesson here. Improper behavior in public, in front of Jews, is a most severe sin. Improper behavior of religious Jews in front of Jews is even worse. It falls into the category of Hillul Hashem, a desecration of Hashem's name. Rabenu Yonah (Shaare Teshubah) states that if one sins in Hillul Hashem, he should be quick to sanctify Hashem's name in his own actions, measure for measure, and he will be forgiven. Shabbat Shalom. Rabbi Reuven Semah

"This is the Torah, if a person dies in a tent..." (Bemidbar 19:14)

The sages state that the Torah only lasts with those who die over it. This seems very puzzling, since the Torah is for the living, as it states (Vayikra 18:5), "And you shall live with them (the commandments)."

The Hafess Hayim gave the following analogy. A successful merchant was so busy taking care of customers who came to his store that he had no time for Torah study. He noticed one day that his hair was turning gray, and he realized that he was getting older. He knew that the day he would leave this world was getting closer. He therefore decided that he would go each morning to the synagogue to pray with a minyan and to study Torah for a couple of hours. When he came late to the store, his wife was frantic. People would have come to the store if he were there and they were losing customers. He calmly told his wife, "What would I do if the Angel of Death came to me and told me that my time in this world was up? Could I tell him that I can't go yet since I'll miss out on customers? If I were already dead I would not be able to come to the store. Therefore, each day, let us imagine for a couple of hours that I have already died. This way I am able to study Torah each day."

This, said the Hafess Hayim, is what the sages are advising us. You might be very busy and feel that you do not have any time to study Torah, but if you will just view yourself as if you were already dead, you will find the time to study Torah which gives life to those who study it. Rabbi Shmuel Choueka

"The Kohen shall take cedar wood, hyssop, and crimson thread "(Bemidbar 19:6)

Rashi comments on this pasuk: R' Moshe Hadarshan says the cedar wood is the tallest of all trees, and the hyssop is the shortest of all trees; this comes to teach us that whomever becomes haughty and sins, should belittle himself like the hyssop and worm to attain atonement. Atonement is connected to humility as is written in the verse "For you are the fewest of all peoples " (Debarim 7,7). For Hashem says, "More than I give My Jewish people greatness they belittle themselves." This means that Hashem prefers us over other nations because the Jewish people belittle themselves and have the trait of shame and say: "Look how much good Hashem bestows upon us, how can we repay him through rebellion and sins," and because of this attitude Hashem chose us above all other nations. The hidden hint behind the parah adumah (red heifer) is the future four exiles - and the way to survive these exiles is through humility. May we all merit to attain this trait as much as possible, amen! Shabbat shalom! Rabbi Eli Ben-Haim


"A completely red heifer which is unblemished upon which never came a yoke" (Bemidbar 19:2)

After studying the various laws that apply to the Parah Adumah, we can perceive the difficult path which lies before a person who desires to purify himself. The Torah insists that a red heifer, which is a very rare and expensive animal, be used for the purification process. We may derive from the Parah Adumah that in all areas of purification, the defiled individual is not cleansed until he has undergone much toil and sacrifice. Only after a person seeks purity and holiness as he would search for gold and precious jewels, can he achieve a clear perception of the meaning of fear of Hashem. We note that the heifer must be unblemished and may never have worked. This implies that in our holy endeavors there should not be an admixture of anything which is sacrilegious or objectionable. This concept is applied in the education of a child. If parents desire to raise their children in such a way that they follow in the path of Torah precepts, it is necessary to imbue in them a love of Torah and fear of Hashem in a pure way, undiluted by any form of objectionable material and influences which are non-Torah oriented. According to the effort and energy parents apply in instilling in their young children the desire for Torah study, to that degree will this desire blossom and develop as they grow older. (Peninim on the Torah)


"And they journeyed from Kadesh, and B'nei Yisrael came, the whole congregation, to Hor Hahar" (Bemidbar 20:22)

Rashi cites a Midrash which is particularly relevant in contemporary times. The pillar of cloud which traveled before B'nei Yisrael leveled out the mountains and flattened the hills which stood in B'nei Yisrael's way. There remained, however, three mountains which resisted the shattering clouds: Har Sinai was spared, since the Torah would be given on it; Har Nebo was to be Moshe's burial place; and Hor Hahar was singled out as Aharon's burial place.

Rav M. Swift poignantly expounds on this Midrash. He draws an analogy between the significance represented by the stated purpose of these mountains and important aspects of Jewish life. On Hor Hahar Aharon transferred his vestments and charge to Elazar, his son. This mountain symbolizes the transmission of our heritage from father to son, generation to generation. A father could pass on in serenity, knowing that he had successfully conveyed the message of the past to the future generation. Such a mountain could never be eliminated.

Har Nebo, on which Moshe spent his last moments before taking leave of B'nei Yisrael, could not be destroyed. Until this day no one has been able to locate Moshe's grave. Moshe Rabenu's burial place defies discovery and eludes detection. His soul was bound up with Hashem, Who attended to his mortal remains. A significant message can be gleaned from this concept. While others have transformed the burial place of their leaders into shrines, our immortal leader's burial place remains unknown. Moshe began the overwhelming ascent upward. He continued to even greater heights of distinction, to walk in eternity.

Har Sinai, the mountain upon which the Torah was given, represents the resoluteness of Jewish life to resist the challenging forces of the changing times. Whether the challengers appear in the form of reformers to distort our legacy or as apologetic moderates to sterilize our heritage, whether they came from within or without, not one letter of the Torah has been altered. The mountain of Torah resists change! The mountain representing Torah devotion resists all adversity and will continue to grow stronger.

The lesson of these mountains is clear. We must be resolute in our commitment to preserve our Torah legacy. We must consistently grow by seeking more knowledge of Torah, and we must be cognizant of our obligation to see that this legacy is transmitted to future generations. With this tri-part commitment, the winds of change will never level the heights of our achievements. (Peninim on the Torah)

Answer to Pop Quiz: He is sprinkled with ashes from the parah adumah (red cow).

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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