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JULY 3-4, 2009 12 TAMUZ 5769

Pop Quiz: Who slaughtered the first Parah Adumah?


"There was no water for the assembly and they gathered together against Moshe and Aharon" (Bemidbar 20:2)

This week is one of the most difficult perashiot to understand. The Torah recounts the story of Mei Meribah, the waters of strife. After Miriam passes away, the well that they relied on for their water dried up. Hashem tells Moshe to take his staff and bring water out of the rock. The Sages offer a vast number of explanations as to what happened there. It is clear that whatever the seeming "error" of Moshe Rabenu was, it was only relative to his great level. For any lesser person it would not have been considered an error at all. The Ohr Hahayim brings ten approaches to this episode and then provides one of his own.

The Torah tells us that Hashem told Moshe Rabenu, "Take the staff and gather together the people, you and Aharon your brother, and you shall speak to the rock before their eyes and it will give its waters." Moshe wasn't sure what Hashem's intention was by telling him to "take his staff." Was he merely supposed to hold the staff and speak to the rock? This of course would be an open miracle, since a rock cannot hear. Another possibility was to use the staff which had Hashem's powerful Name etched onto it. By touching the rock with Hashem's Name, it would make the rock hear a human voice and respond. Moshe was afraid to merely talk to the rock because that would be too risky if he was wrong and cause a hillul Hashem. Moshe assumed that the intention of Hashem was for him to use the staff to strike the rock.

In fact the command of Hashem was not to strike the rock but to bring forth the water through a different option. He was to learn a perek (chapter) of Torah, which is the spirituality that assures the continued existence of the world, and also has the ability to awaken the spiritual essence of a rock and cause it to listen and follow a spoken command. When Hashem said to speak to the rock, he meant Moshe should study Torah while holding the staff in his hand.

If the people would have witnessed this, that learning Torah alone could cause a rock to listen to a command, it would have filled them with belief in Hashem and in the power of Torah.

Do we know the incredible power of Torah? Torah can do anything. It can provide water which is compared to livelihood. Our children need to be imbued with the love of Torah, which will enable them to have a successful future. Shabbat Shalom. Rabbi Reuven Semah

"Then Israel sang" (Bemidbar 21:17)

The Jewish people sang a song of thanksgiving after they were saved from the Emori'im . Rashi tells us of a fascinating episode. The enemies of the Jews decided to ambush the Jewish people while they were crossing between two mountains, by throwing rocks on them from the two mountaintops. Hashem caused the mountains to come together miraculously and crush the enemy before the Jews ever came to that pass. The Jewish nation didn't even know of the miracle until afterwards when they saw the dead floating in the waters, and there they began to sing to Hashem.

We see from here that very often we are not even aware of the miracles Hashem does for us, as it says, "uxhbc rhfn xbv kgc iht." We sometimes complain when we miss a traffic light or miss the bus, not realizing that we may have just been the recipient of a great favor. Whenever we see the Hand of Hashem revealed to us, this should give us faith and encouragement for all other occurrences when the miracle is not readily apparent. Miracles are all around us, we just have to see them - "there is no one more blind than those who refuse to see!" Shabbat Shalom. Rabbi Shmuel Choueka


"Because of that, they who speak in parables say: Come to Heshbon. Let the city of Sihon be built and established" (Bemidbar 21:27)

The Talmud (Baba Batra 78b) states on this verse: "Hamoshlim refers to those who rule over their impulses. Bo'ooh heshbon, come and make a calculation of your behavior. Think about what you lose by performing a good deed and weigh that against all that you gain from it. Think about what you gain from transgressing and weigh that against what you lose. If you do this, you will be built up in this world, and you will be established in the World to Come."

Regardiing keeping an account of one's behavior, Rabbi Moshe Hayim Luzzatto wrote that a person needs to keep an eye on all that he does. A person should work on overcoming all of his negative habits and negative traits. Successful businessmen keep track of all of their investments and constantly weigh their financial situation. So too a person should make an accounting of his behavior each day to work on self-improvement. Set aside special times for this accounting for the benefits are very great.

Ramhal goes on to explain the Talmudic statement cited above, that those who rule over their impulses advise everyone to make an accounting of their behavior. He uses as a metaphor the mazes that very wealthy aristocrats used to have on their property. These mazes were formed from bushes and shrubbery and were very complex. It was difficult for a person to find the correct path since so many of the paths led the wrong way. Only someone who successfully found the correct path and stood on the high area above the entire scene could give another person advice on how to avoid the traps and get to the destination. Similarly, only someone who is successful in mastering his impulses can advise others on how to do it. What is their advice? Constantly weigh your behavior and see the benefits of doing good and the harm of doing evil.

When you do make an accounting of your behavior, feel joy in every bit of improvement. Do not allow yourself to become discouraged when you see your faults and mistakes. When you keep your focus on how you have already done something positive, you will be motivated to keep on improving. (Growth through Torah)


"None has beheld iniquity in Ya'akob, and neither has one seen perseverance in Yisrael" (Bemidbar 23:21)

Rashi explains that Hashem does not scrutinize the sins of B'nei Yisrael. He attempts to look away from their iniquities as much as possible. Rav D. Kronglas z"l questions Rashi's statement based upon various instances in the Talmud in which it is clearly stated that Hashem does, in fact, scrutinize our sins. He cites specific cases in which it is clear that oversight is not one of Hashem's attributes; on the contrary, He is very exacting in His judgment.

Rav Kronglas explains this contradiction in the following manner. People tend to have two distinct standards for judgment: one for their friends and one for those who are not their friends. When one sees his friend engaged in an activity of a questionable nature or hears some form of slander concerning him, he will seek every opportunity to vindicate his friend. One is inclined to judge his friends favorably.

The opposite holds true when one is judging an enemy. Not only will he condemn an enemy's actions at every opportunity, but he will also attempt to uncover incriminating evidence with which to censure his enemy.

The pasuk states that Hashem does not behold their iniquity. The word used by the Torah is "hibit", which implies deep scrutinizing. This relates to Ya'akob, denoting a lesser degree of spiritual stature. Hashem does not wish to scrutinize the sins of those Jews who are spiritually and morally weak; rather He prefers to view their sins as simple errors. This is because they are only on the level of "Ya'akob," the level of the common masses. Regarding one who has attained the "Yisrael" level, the pasuk states that Hashem does not even "see," "ra'ah" their slight deviations. As far as Hashem is concerned, these digressions from the path do not even exist.

This positive attitude only takes place when Hashem sees His people being considerate of one another and judging each other favorably. If they judge their fellow Jew harshly, they will be treated similarly by Hashem. The way we act towards our fellow Jew is the standard by which Hashem will respond to us. (Peninim on the Torah)


There is nothing like the driver's seat.

Once upon a time, automobile manufacturers treated the driver just like a passenger. The front seat was merely a bench that ran the width of the car, and everyone who sat n the front enjoyed the same level of comfort.

Then the automakers realized that for the sake of safety - and increased sales - it would pay to enhance the driving experience by loading the driver's seat with additional comfort features. heat, lumbar supports, electric adjustments of the seat's position - even a chip that memorizes different adjustments for several drivers - were added to the driver's seat. Controls were ergonomically designed to make them easily accessible. Some were even added to the steering wheel so certain changes could be made while driving, without drivers even needing to lift their hands from the wheel. The person in the driver's seat now experiences the best ride of anyone in the car.

In life, it also pays to sit in the driver's seat.

Human beings are burdened with an assortment of physical desires that can make them feel out of control. "I can't help but eat that delicious dessert even though I know I shouldn't," whines one unsuccessful dieter. "When I see a cold alcoholic beverage, I just can't hold back - and the more I get, the more I want," admits a young man who imbibes a little too regularly and a little too much. People who always give in to their desires will begin to lose their faith in their ability to practice self-control.

Rabbi Eliyahu Dessler said that once we overcome desire, we realize that we have the power to control the drive. On the day of Yom Kippur, for example, we may not eat or drink, and, although it is not easy, we all refrain from our normal routines and spend the day fasting. Even on an ordinary day, if a man forgets his wallet at home, regardless of how hungry he becomes, he would not steal food from a grocery. It is possible to control even the strongest desire, and the very act of successfully doing so makes us realize that we possess a heretofore unrecognized power of control.

Next time the urge gets strong, and you know you really shouldn't give in (for health, legal, or religious reasons), recall an incident when you did control yourself. Use that as a sign that you really can beat the urge. Life is so much better when you are in the driver's seat. (One Minute With Yourself - Rabbi Raymond Beyda)

Answer to Pop Quiz: Elazar, son of Aharon.

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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