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Haftarah: Shoftim 11:1-33

JUNE 26-27, 2015 10 TAMUZ 5775


"Therefore the rulers would say, 'Let us go to Heshbon." (Bemidbar 21:27)

The Talmud (Baba Batra 75b) homiletically comments on this passage, that a person who wishes to rule over his inclination must make a personal accounting, a heshbon, of his deeds.

Harav Ovadiah Yosef zt"l tells a true story of Mr. Polity who was the gabbai (treasurer) of the Yeshivah Porat Yosef. Before he moved to Israel he lived in Turkey. He had a factory that produced men's clothing. One day a high ranking soldier from the Turkish army entered the factory to purchase tens of thousands of uniforms for the army. However, it was very close to Minhah and so Mr. Polity asked the customer to wait a half hour so that he could go to shul, pray Minhah, and come back.

However, the officer refused to wait, so he went right away to another clothing factory and purchased the uniforms. When Mr. Polity returned from shul he made a calculation and figured out that he lost thirty thousand gold coins on this lost opportunity. But, he rejoiced and thanked Hashem that he was able to stand up to this test despite this great loss.

Shortly after that, the officer realized that the uniforms he had purchased were not the quality needed for the army and so he returned to Mr. Polity and bought uniforms from him, and Mr. Polity made double the profit than he would have made on the first deal. 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


"This is the hok/statute/decree of the Torah." (Bemidbar 19:2)

The term hok is used to describe a misvah which, for all intents and purposes, seems inexplicable. While Hashem certainly has a rationale for this misvah, our little finite minds have difficulty understanding that which is infinite. We are instructed to serve Hashem out of love and awe - not because it makes sense, it seems the right thing to do, or we understand it. We serve Hashem because He is the Almighty, and, on Har Sinai we accepted to be His People, with a resounding declaration of Naase v'Nishma, "We will do and we will listen," thereby affirming our commitment to Hashem being based on doing - not on listening and understanding. The hok then becomes the key to all observances. We serve because He is King. He makes decrees, and we accept them. There is no rhyme or reason - just obedience. This is Judaism.

The concept of hok goes beyond the scope of misvot. There are hukim in life, episodes which, at the time, do not make sense: illnesses; financial challenges; and such, which are beyond our ability to understand and accept. These episodes of inexplicability should be treated the same way we perform misvot which are hukim. They are Hashem's decree. He owes us no explanation. We take it as it comes, and smile.

This is the yesod, foundation, of Parah Adumah. Hashem seems to be conveying to us the following message: "Rabbotai - you are not going to understand all of My ways. Parah Adumah appears to you as a senseless, contradictory misvah. This is the way I want it to be, and this is what I want you to follow."

Perusing our national history, our people have suffered many tragic and grievous events. These experiences run counter to our vision and understanding of a loving and kind G-d. How could He allow these terrible things to happen? Sadly, there are some who employ their inability to understand as a vehicle for reneging their commitment, to rebel and deny Hashem. Apparently, their ancestors who experienced the tragedies, who were the victims, did not seem to think so. They maintained their belief in Hashem, and, with pride and dignity, sacrificed their lives to glorify His Name. They are the true survivors. Their descendants, who arrogantly deny Hashem and impugn the integrity of their ancestors, are the actual victims. The parents live on, while the children have chosen to exchange eternal life for temporary gratification. (Peninim on the Torah)


Hashem said to Moshe, 'Do not fear him.'" (Bemidbar 21:34)

Hashem tells Moshe not to fear Og. But why was Moshe afraid of him more than anyone else who came to wage war against the Jewish People?

The Gemara tells us that it was Og who came and told Abraham that his nephew Lot had been captured. As a result, Abraham went and rescued him, and because of Og's role in saving Lot's life, Moshe was afraid of his merit. Tosafot points out that the only reason that Og told Abraham about his nephew's capture was so that Abraham would be killed while trying to save him and then Og could marry his wife, Sarah. Nevertheless, adds Tosafot, Moshe was afraid of Og's merit!

Could it be that the merit of Og's "help" - which he only did in order to cause Abraham harm - could warrant such a great reward that he would be able to succeed in battle against Moshe and the Jewish People?

The answer is simply: Yes! We cannot comprehend the value of a single misvah, even one performed with improper intentions. However, we can get some idea of its value in Hashem's eyes from the reward that Balak received after making forty-two sacrifices to Hashem. Even though his intentions were solely to cause the Jewish People harm, the Gemara says that as a result of these sacrifices, Balak was rewarded that his descendant would be Ruth, great-grandmother of King David.

Therefore, before considering whether to do a misvah or not, think of the immense reward you will get and then multiply that by many millions, and that is still nowhere near the real reward of a single misvah, even one performed without the best intentions. (Short Vort)


Happiness and wealth are not synonymous. In fact, many people who lack material bounty are extremely happy. Pirkei Abot (4:1) states that the person who is truly wealthy is one who is happy with his share.

Rabbi Eliyahu Dessler zt"l describes a poor person as: anyone who has unfulfilled wants. That means that many people who have a great deal of money and possessions are still poor.

It is very difficult to overcome the strong desire which is motivated by what our eyes see and is strengthened by our Yeser Hara. A wily adversary, the Yeser Hara has his special tools for making even the simplest pleasures and the plainest possessions irresistible.

A good way to fight this enemy is by using one of his strategies. When people want to do a misvah, the Evil Inclination doesn't try to get them to abandon their good intentions. Instead, he tries to make them procrastinate. "I'll do it as soon as I finish this game," or, "I'll get to it after my nap, when I'm less tired." Somehow that small delay deals death to good intentions.

When desire builds to the point where you've "just got to have it," and you will be so very miserable without "it" - procrastinate. Don't fight the urge; delay! "I will get to it in a little while," or "Maybe the other model is nicer and deserves a second look." Try anything that will buy time for the raging flames of desire to peter out.

Practice stalling and you will develop the ability to squelch burning desire for things that are probably not beneficial to your spiritual health, anyway (One Minute withYourself - Rabbi Raymond Beyda)

* * * * *

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