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JULY 23-24, 2004 6 AB 5764

Pop Quiz: When did Moshe begin his final teaching of the Torah to B'nei Yisrael?


"One should make a sign to remember the destruction" (Shulhan Aruch Chapter 560)

The Gemara in Baba Batra (60b) relates: When the second Bet Hamikdash was destroyed, many people who wished to abstain arose. In order to express their pain over the Temple's destruction they stopped eating meat and drinking wine all year round. Rabbi Yehoshua ben Hananya approached them to discuss their actions. "My children, why are you doing this?" "How can we eat the meat and drink the wine that was once offered on the Altar and has now ceased?" they replied. "If so," responded R' Yehoshua, "you should stop eating bread, since the Minhah offering is no more." "So we can eat fruit," they responded. "But fruit is also problematic, since we no longer bring Bikurim," he noted. "Bikurim are brought only from the seven types of fruit with which the land of Israel was praised. We can still eat other fruit," they said. "And what about water, which was once sacrificed every Succot and has now ceased?" They had no answer and they were silent. R' Yehoshua concluded: Not to publicly mourn the Temple's destruction at all is impossible, for we have to recognize that Hashem's punishment has been carried out. To go to an extreme, though, is also not feasible, because we cannot enact decrees which most people will not be able to withstand. What should be done?

The Gemara gives us practical guidelines known as "zecher l'hurban - to commemorate the destruction of the Temple." There are four instances when a person feels special simhah (happiness): Owning a new home, enjoying a festive banquet, wearing attractive jewelry and attending a joyous wedding. During these moments a small gesture should be made to remind ourselves that without the Bet Hamikdash no happiness or beauty can be complete.

When we paint our homes we should leave an amah, a measure, bare. In order that this sign should have its full impact, this area should face the entrance of the house, so that as soon as we walk into our homes we will be reminded of the Temple's destruction. In the course of a festive banquet we should omit from the menu an item that people are accustomed to, in order to make the mourning noticeable. Our Sages encouraged women to wear jewelry. However, when a woman puts on her jewelry, one piece should be left out. At a wedding the groom recites, "If I forget Yerushalayim...If I do not set Yerushalayim on the head of my celebration..." (Tehillim 137:5-6).

These small reminders will serve to keep us aware of our great loss. As the Talmud states: Those who mourn Jerusalem and the Temple will merit to see it rebuilt speedily in our day, Amen. Shabbat Shalom. Rabbi Reuven Semah


This year, the "week of Tish'ah B'Ab" is from Saturday night, July 24 until the day of the fast itself. We don't take haircuts or shave, even for business purposes. We don't wash clothing. We don't wear freshly laundered clothing (they have to have been worn a little before Saturday night so as to lose their freshness), except for clothing only worn for sweat.

Tish'ah B'Ab begins on Monday evening, July 26. The final meal (se'udat hamafseket) before the fast has some restrictions in that only one cooked food is permitted besides bread, fruits and vegetables; no intoxicating beverages; no zimun is said during Birkat Hamazon; some have the custom of eating the final meal on the floor or on a low stool less than 11 inches tall.

If a person accepts the fast earlier than the appointed time, the acceptance is valid and binding. Therefore, it is suggested that when one finishes eating, one should have in mind that he may still eat or drink until the appointed time. Once the fast starts, one may not eat or drink, nor wear leather shoes or leather sneakers; no washing any part of the body at all, except to remove dirt; no anointing with cream or perfume, except for medical reasons (deodorant is allowed); no marital relations; greeting one another is forbidden; engaging in any activity which may distract one's mind from mourning is prohibited. Even going to work should be avoided, at least until mid-day. Learning Torah is prohibited, except for portions relevant to Tish'ah B'Ab and mourning.

The fast applies to all adult men and women, the only exception being one who is ill, or old and weak, who may become ill during the fast. Anyone with a question or problem should consult the Rabbi.

Whoever mourns properly over Jerusalem will merit experiencing its rejoicing.


"And you murmured in your tents and said, 'Because Hashem hated us He has brought us forth out of the land of Egypt to deliver us into the hand of the Emori to destroy us.'" (Debarim 1:27)

In Parashat Shelah the Torah extensively addresses the sin of the meraglim, spies. In this perashah, a new dimension to this sin is revealed as Moshe recounts Klal Yisrael's past iniquities. In their unfounded complaint against Hashem, Klal Yisrael added the above statement, "Because Hashem hated us, He took us out of Egypt." Such harsh criticism is not offered in any other context. In fact, this explains the eternal punishment effected by the sin of the meraglim. Klal Yisrael experienced the greatest miracles in Egypt. The Red Sea was wondrously split before their eyes. They were fed manna in the desert. Is there any reason to imagine that Hashem's beneficence was rooted in hatred toward them? Such a statement is not only the epitome of ingratitude, but it is also totally ludicrous!

Displacing responsibility in this manner is the result of a negative self-image. B'nei Yisrael were attempting to protect themselves from their anxiety by projecting their own shortcoming and unacceptable impulses upon Hashem. This defense mechanism was a reaction to their subconscious feelings of failure. Thus, they were blinded to Hashem's real love for them. They should have realized that Hashem, although He was aware of their imperfections, took them out of Egypt and cared for them out of unbounded love. This form of hilul Hashem, desecration of Hashem's Name, is not to be tolerated.

Rav M. Wolfson suggests that Parashat Debarim, which is read on Shabbat Hazon, the Shabbat before Tish'ah B'Ab, carries with it a special mandate. In this perashah, the meraglim's sin, which was the precursor of Tish'ah B'Ab, is emphasized more intensely than a sin of ingratitude. It stresses our rejection and misrepresentation of Hashem's love. We took Hashem's acts of kindness and misconstrued them in the most reprehensible manner. It is, therefore, our obligation during this time to delve into the various events of life which we have encountered in order to attempt to appreciate their positive aspects. Through this endeavor, we will merit to see that wonderful day on which Tish'ah B'Ab will be transformed into a Yom Tob. (Peninim on the Torah)


"Hashem... should increase you one thousand times similar to you." (Debarim 1:11)

Moshe is blessing the people that Hashem should increase their numbers. What was he adding when he said the words "similar to you?"

Rabbi Leibel Eger explains that Moshe had just been rebuking the nation for their sins, and they were liable to become discouraged by it. Moshe therefore told them that he did not consider them to be evil, and he prays that there should be a thousand more like them.

This is an important lesson to remember when giving criticism. A person who is made to feel inferior will be less likely to respond positively to criticism. However, if the words are spoken with respect and genuine concern for the person's best interests, mixed in with some words of encouragement, then he will be more inclined to accept the criticism and make the necessary changes. If people usually get defensive when you offer them criticism, it could be that you are not saying it in a way that shows that you truly care about them.

Question: What can you do to make your constructive criticism to your friends and family more effective? Can they tell that you have their best interests in mind?


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.

Answer to Pop Quiz: Rosh Hodesh Shebat - 37 days before his death.

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