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Haftarah: Yeshayahu 1: 1-27

JULY 24-25, 2009 4 AB 5769

Pop Quiz: At which encampment in the desert did Bnei Yisrael stay the longest?


"Children have I raised and exalted, but they have rebelled against Me. An ox knows his owner, and a donkey his master's trough; Israel does not know, My people does not perceive" (Haftarah Shabbat Hazon, Yeshayahu 1:2,3)

This haftarah, the final one of the "three of affliction," is always read on the Shabbat that precedes Tish'ah B'Ab. The prophet does not lament because the Bet Hamikdash was destroyed; rather, he laments over the underlying causes of the destruction. And this annual lesson serves to focus the national mourning of Tish'ah B'Ab not on the past, but on the present.

The prophet laments that despite the fact that Hashem raised and exalted the Jewish people, they are worse than the ox or the donkey who at least recognize their owner that feeds them. Rabbi Eliyahu Lopian (Lev Eliyahu) asks that it seems that the logic of the prophet who is rebuking us, is flawed. Obviously, the animals don't recognize and appreciate their masters due to philosophical analysis. It is something that is part of their nature. The donkey recognizes his feed bag that his master brings to feed him, instinctively, without the need of knowledge or intellect. However, in order to recognize and know Hashem, and to be a true believer, the Jew needs to exercise his intellectual abilities a great deal. What is the comparison?

Therefore, Rabbi Lopian concludes that the prophet is not only rebuking us, but also teaching us an important lesson. Belief in Hashem is something natural to us, like the nature of the animal. This is true especially referring to the Jew, because he is called the son of Hashem. He does not need any deep philosophical analysis. We naturally are believers and can be completely committed to our beliefs. However, due to the desire to pursue the physical attractions of this world, we become distracted and are unable to see the light.

This is the meaning of the prophet's words: "I raised you up like you are my children. I gave you the natural ability to recognize Me, more than the rest of the nations. Just study the ox and the donkey, that I gave them natural instincts to survive physically. They can recognize their master in order to survive. Is it possible that I didn't give you the ability that your soul should survive and flourish? If I gave instincts to the animals, of course I gave you natural instincts for the survival of your soul. Therefore, the stark complaint is: Israel does not know, My nation does not perceive!"

May we merit to see the rebuilding of the Bet Hamikdash speedily in our days, Amen. Shabbat Shalom. Rabbi Reuven Semah


"These are the words that Moshe spoke to all of Israel" (Debarim 1:1)

Moshe reproves Klal Yisrael, for their failings in the desert. Rashi cites the Sifri

stating that Moshe alluded to B'nei Yisrael's various sins in veiled terms. He mentioned names of places that implied different transgressions. This approach preserved the dignity of Klal Yisrael. One must be sensitive not to unnecessarily embarrass the sinner when rebuking him. Rebuke is less humiliating when expressed in subtle terms. We may wonder why Moshe spared no words in clearly outlining the sin of the meraglim, spies. What distinguishes this transgression from the others?

Rabbi Nissan Alpert z"l asserts that the sin of the meraglim was unique in that it did not merely represent a momentary lapse, on the part of B'nei Yisrael. Rather, it was a sin that manifested an evil within their character. This sin was not a superficial flaw in their spiritual development, but a blemish on their personality. This type of sin must be clearly defined, to enable the perpetrators to purge themselves of its effect.

What really was the distinguishing nature of the meraglim's sin and Klal Yisrael's ensuing reaction of bitter, overreactive crying? We might suggest that it indicated a lack of emunah, faith in Hashem. Why then does the Torah not focus upon the sin of Refifim, when their lack of Torah study led to Amalek's attack, or the sin of Massah and Meribah, when they also tested Hashem? Should we also "dismiss" the sin of the Golden Calf as being the result of a temporary insanity? Rabbi Alpert suggests that the sin of the meraglim indicated an unforgivable flaw reflected in a specific character trait. Klal Yisrael demonstrated a lack of appreciation of Hashem that was reprehensible. During the height of their overreaction B'nei Yisrael exclaimed, "Because Hashem hated us, He has brought us out of Egypt, to deliver us into the land of the Emorites." (Debarim 1:27). This malcontent criticism of Hashem is shameful. It reveals an insensitivity in recognizing the need for offering gratitude when appropriate.

The Exodus from Egypt is one of the foundations of our faith. To deny its providential nature is to impugn the selection of Klal Yisrael as the am hanibhar, chosen people. To defame its experience as a necessary preliminary step in preparation for receiving the Torah is an inexcusable form of impudence and spiritual insensitivity. To take a gift and throw it back in the face of the benefactor is an unpardonable sin which must be effectively censured. (Peninim on the Torah)


"And I commanded your judges at that time saying, listen among your brothers" (Debarim 1:16)

Rashi cites the Sifri that Moshe told he judges to be patient and deliberate in each case that came before them. Even if they had similar cases in the past, they should discuss the present case thoroughly.

Every case is different from any other, and each case should be viewed as entirely new and every detail considered. This applies whenever you become involved in settling quarrels between people. Of course, there are patterns that anyone with experience will recognize. But there will always be factors that make this situation unique. Do not jump to conclusions. Rather, listen carefully to both sides. Just because one solution worked in a past situation does not mean that it will automatically be effective in a situation that is quite similar but a little different. One needs to be creative and flexible. Whenever you try to help people settle quarrels, give the matter your full attention to see what needs to be said and done in this specific situation. By doing this you will have the merit of bringing peace to many more people than if you rigidly try the exact same approach each time. (Growth through Torah)


No two people see things the same way. In fact, when several people viewing the exact same event outline the details they remember, they describe the event differently. Sometimes this leads to argument. In a sporting event, the referee will get booed by thousands of hometown fans who see a play from a different vantage point than he does. The manager or coach might get so hot under the collar that he is ejected or fined for excitedly expressing his version of the play in question.

There are ways to deal with disagreement, but arguing is definitely not the most effective method. If a boss, teacher, or coworker sees things differently than you do, your first reaction might be to defend your opinion. If your position is not accepted, you might start an argument. The heat of the battle might make you lose control and say something you will regret later. You might react defensively to avoid hurt to your ego: "Who does he think he is?" Your response might even be an inability to accept authority or show respect or defer to experience. Your only concern is that you are not to blame - that you are correct.

If you start to react belligerently, hold back. Calm down and take a peek at the other possibilities. Open your ears to another opinion. Self-restraint may not earn you a victory in every battle, but it will help you avoid painful defeat. (One Minute With Yourself - Rabbi Raymond Beyda)

Answer to Pop Quiz: They were encamped at Kadesh for 19 years.

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)

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