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AUGUST 1-2, 2003 4 AB 5763

The fast of Tish'ah B'Ab will be from Wednesday night, August 6 until Thursday night, August 7.

Pop Quiz: Which city in Israel was given to Caleb ben Yefuneh?


"The children of Esav who dwell in Se'ir, they will fear you, but you should be very careful." (Debarim 2:4)

As we begin the book of Debarim, we find Moshe Rabenu speaking to the Israelites before he leaves them. The entire book of Debarim was spoken by Moshe Rabenu in the last five weeks of his life. It was his last will and testament to his beloved people. In this last book, the Torah records the parts of his teachings that were most relevant for Israel's new life in its land. Traditionally, this perashah is read on Shabbat Hazon, the Shabbat before Tish'ah B'Ab. This is a time to reflect about the destruction of the Holy Temple in Jerusalem, as well as our current exile.

Moshe Rabenu tells the Israelites that they are approaching the nation of Esav. He tells them that the people of Esav fear them, and therefore they should be very careful. What does he mean? Rabbi Yosef Salant finds in this statement a truly amazing lesson, one that is most crucial in our day and age. The enemy of the Jew fears the Jew, as Moshe Rabenu tells them. As a result of this, the enemy will resort to any means to avoid falling into the hands of the Jew. It says in Tehillim (64:2), "From dread of the foe, preserve my life." King David prays to Hashem to protect him from the enemy that fears him! An enemy that fears us becomes desperate; therefore be more careful. Even though Moshe Rabenu was speaking to our people thousands of years ago, it is as if he is talking to us. Today we are confronted with a dreadful enemy in the land of Israel. They are using means, suicide bombings and terror attacks, that indicate that they are a truly desperate people. Many people today feel that we must make them fear us. It seems that our leader, Moshe Rabenu, is telling us quite the opposite.

Our posture should be a low profile one, not boasting of our power, and more importantly, relying solely on Hashem to end this most taxing period in our history. May we all merit to see the rebuilding of Jerusalem in our time, Amen. Shabbat Shalom. Rabbi Reuven Semah


"And Di Zahab" (Debarim 1:1)

Rashi interprets the place of Di Zahab etymologically to refer to the "excess gold" that B'nei Yisrael acquired upon leaving Egypt.

Unfortunately, they submitted to their cravings and created the Golden Calf from this abundant gold. Boredom coupled with affluence can create a highly volatile situation. If Moshe's goal was to rebuke B'nei Yisrael for the Golden Calf, why did he provide them with a defense for this deed?

Rabbi David Feinstein explains that there are two distinct possible orientations towards newly acquired wealth, only one of which is appropriate. One who views himself as a self-made man is likely to have an arrogant manner towards his newfound wealth. Thus, he ignores the responsibilities which are associated with this blessing. Obviously, such a person does not seek to allocate his wealth in a respectable manner. In contrast, another individual understands that in His beneficence Hashem bestows upon us the opportunity to be a conduit of material blessings to those who are in need. Such a person views every cent that he possesses as a blessing and is conscientious about the way he uses his wealth.

This was the nature of Moshe's rebuke to B'nei Yisrael. The sin of the Golden Calf originated in their attitude towards their wealth. Had B'nei Yisrael appreciated their Divine gift and recognized the responsibility to use it wisely, they would not have yielded to their base instincts to create the Golden Calf. (Peninim on the Torah)


"How can I carry by myself all of your bothersomeness and your burden and your quarrels" (Debarim 1:12)

Rashi cites the Sages: If Moshe came out of his house early they would say, "Why is Moshe early? Perhaps he is having family problems at home." If Moshe came out late from his house, they would say, "Moshe stays home longer in order to devise negative plans against you."

It is amazing how someone with a tendency to judge people negatively will always find ways to see faults in others. The reality is that whatever someone does or does not do, you can always find some negative motivation or interpretation. But there are always positive ways to interpret the behavior of others. For instance, if Moshe came early they could have said, "Look at Moshe's willingness to make great sacrifices for others. He is even ready to minimize his time at home with his family in order to give his time for others." If Moshe was late, they could have said, "He wants to prepare himself properly in order to be most effective in giving good advice to the people."

The way you interpret events has more to do with your character traits than it does with the reality of what someone else is like. There is a commandment in the Torah to judge people favorably. The more good you see in others, the better you yourself will feel. Your entire world will be much sweeter. Moreover, people frequently live up to your expectations of them. Assume that someone is inconsiderate towards you and he probably will act that way. But if you assume the good in others, they will feel positive towards you and act accordingly. Try to master the art of seeing the good in others. (Growth through Torah)


Question: Why is the bread dipped in salt?

Answer: In the times of the Bet Hamikdash, our holy Temple, the altar atoned for the sins of the people. Today, the Jewish table takes the place of the altar. Just as, in the days of the Bet Hamikdash, salt was brought with the sacrifices, today we have the custom to dip the bread in salt at our table. It should be noted that this custom applies to weekdays as well as to Shabbat. (Excerpted from Siddur Abir Yaacob, published by Sephardic Press)


This week's Haftarah: Yeshayahu 1:1-27.

This haftarah is the third in the series of three haftarot dealing with rebuke that are read between the 17th of Tamuz and Tish'ah B'Ab. In this passage, the prophet Yeshayahu tells the people that Hashem doesn't need their sacrifices. Rather, He wants them to refrain from evil and seek justice.

On Tish'ah B'Ab, we read the book of Eichah (Lamentations). It is no coincidence that in Parashat Debarim (which is always read on the Shabbat before Tish'ah B'Ab).

Moshe uses the word eichah when he tells Hashem that he cannot single-handedly carry the nation. In the haftarah, Yeshayahu also uses the word eichah, asking how the nation has fallen so low that she has become like a harlot.


"All of you approached me and said, 'Let us send men ahead of us and let them spy out the land." (Debarim 1:22)

Rashi explains that with this statement, Moshe is actually rebuking the nation for the way they made their request. When they received the Torah at Har Sinai, everybody approached in an orderly fashion, with the young allowing the elders to precede them. However, in this episode, when they approached Moshe asking to send spies, they came forward as a mob, with the young pushing the elders out of their way.

When Moshe saw this contrast in behavior, he remarked, "When you were coming to receive the Torah, you were laid back and showed no eagerness to be first. But when you wanted to spy out the land for the purpose of entering it and enjoying all of its physical pleasures, you rushed forward without derech eress. You have demonstrated that physical benefits are more important to you than spiritual advancement."

This lesson applies not only to the generation in the desert, but to each of us. We must always be careful to keep our priorities in order. By showing Hashem that our greatest desire is to perform His misvot, we will merit to receive tremendous blessings.

Question: What do you look forward to more - going to a stimulating class on the perashah or going out to dinner? Do you feel that someone who observed your daily activities would sense that your priorities are in order?

Answer to Pop Quiz: Hebron.

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