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Haftarah: Shoftim 11:1-33

JULY 15-16, 2016 10 TAMUZ 5776


"There was no water for the assembly." (Bemidbar 20:2)

Our perashah records the passing of Miriam, the sister of Moshe and a prophetess in her own right. Immediately after that the Torah says that there was no water to drink, which teaches us that it was in the merit of Miriam that the Israelites had water from a miraculous well all those years. Now that Miriam passed away the well dried up. The Gemara (Gittin 60a) states that the law of the red cow mentioned in the beginning of the perashah was given to Israel during their second year in the wilderness on the day the Mishkan was erected. Miriam died during the fortieth year.

Rabbi Simha Zissel Broide zt"l (quoted by Rabbi O. Alport) points out that the perashah starts with the law of Parah Adumah and then skips thirty-eight years to the incident of Miriam's death. In the episode of Miriam's death, Moshe and Aharon made an error regarding the rock and Hashem said they would not enter the Land of Israel. In Pirkei Abot (5:4) it says that Israel on ten occasions tested Hashem's patience. The Gemara (Arachim 15a) enumerates the ten challenges, all of which occurred during the first eighteen months in the desert with the exception of the incident involving Moshe bringing forth water from the rock which happened in the final year.

In other words, all of the tests to which the Jewish People subjected Hashem occurred either during the first eighteen months after the exodus from Egypt or in the final year just prior to their entry into Eress Yisrael. What happened in the thirty-eight years in between? Rav Simha Zissel explains that the entire nation remained perfect during that period. The obvious question is: if the entire nation was able to remain pure and unsullied for thirty-eight consecutive years, what happened during the first two years and the last year that caused them to repeatedly challenge and test Hashem?

The answer is based on a powerful insight into human psychology. The first year and a half and the final year were periods of transition, as the Jewish People were switching from one state of life and spiritual development to the next. The initial entry into the desert was right after the exodus and the end was just before the entry into the new Land, where they would have to live a more natural lifestyle.

The common thread is that both the first year and the last were periods of tremendous upheaval in their lives. When the person is in the state of flux, he is not at peace and therefore is vulnerable to errors. Therefore when a person is about to transition into a new situation in life, whether it is a new job, a new home, getting married or becoming parents, the person should be aware that upheaval, even for a good cause, inherently reduces a person's tranquility and a sense of balance. At such moments he must exercise additional caution to prevent himself from stumbling. It's a lesson in life. Now we are in transition into the summer months and the potential for renewal and growth, and unique challenges present themselves. Let's use that time to our advantage. Shabbat Shalom. Rabbi Reuven Semah

The symbol for healing that we are all familiar with is a serpent on a staff, and this comes from the perashah of the week. When the Jewish people spoke against Hashem and Moshe, they were bitten by snakes and other animals, and turned to Moshe for help. Hashem told him to fashion a snake onto a staff and let the Jewish people look at it, and they will be cured. The Rabbis ask, "Does a snake on a stick cure just by looking at it?"

The answer is that as they looked up, their heart turned to Hashem, and they realized that our Father in Heaven can do anything, and they rededicated themselves to Him. Then Hashem removed the illness because it was just a tool to get them closer to Him.

As we go through life today, we invariably have to go to doctors and use medicine. Although we don't see the serpent on the staff, we must "look upwards" and remember that Hashem is the Master Healer. He is the one who sent the illness and He is the one who can remove it. Every time we take even an aspirin, we should say a small prayer that Hashem should bring us to a complete recovery. We should also rededicate ourselves to Him and to His service so that the need for the illness will not be there, and this way we will have a full recovery. Shabbat Shalom.
Rabbi Shmuel Choueka

Two against One

When several people get together, it is not unusual for one to interrupt another's sentence with a quick "I know what you mean." Individuals even do this during a one-on-one conversation, impolite as it may be. But, very often, "know-it-alls" really do not know what others mean to say. In fact, their guesses are frequently contrary to what is intended. Think back to situations when someone cut you off while you were trying to express an idea, and you will realize that more often than not, the interrupter did not understand what you wanted to convey.

The "interrupt syndrome" is caused by people wrongly assuming that everyone thinks the way they do. Our Sages teach, "A hacham (wise person) does not interrupt when another is speaking" (Pirkei Avot 5:9). Wise people spend their time listening and learning from all those whom they meet. The wisdom of Creation suggests that Hashem gave us two ears and one mouth so that we would understand that listening is more beneficial to our growth than speaking. It's two against one!

When someone is trying to get a point across and you think you've got it, don't interrupt. Your assumed conclusion may be correct, but it may also be wrong. Listen

and learn. The minute of self-control will help you grow wiser as you opt for silence rather than fast talk. (One Minute With Yourself - Rabbi Raymond Beyda)

* * * * *

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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