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Haftarah: Yeshayahu 1: 1-27

JULY 27-28, 2012 9 AB 5772

The fast Of Tish'ah B'Ab will begin on Saturday night, July 28 and end on Sunday night, July 29.


"The ox knows its owner and the donkey the stall of its master, Yisrael doesn't know, My nation doesn't contemplate." (Yeshaya 1:3)

In this week's Haftarah, the prophet Yeshayahu begins to rebuke his generation with the above words. The prophet is saying that the people were worse than the animals and as a result, the temple will be destroyed. We read this on the Shabbat before Tish'ah B'Ab to get a feeling of what caused the destruction. Rashi explains the prophet's words: The ox doesn't change its nature. It doesn't say, "I will no longer carry any loads." Each animal follows its nature, doing exactly what it was created to do without asking questions. The Jewish people, however, are different. "You have veered off course and changed your ways and so you are lower than the animals created to serve you.

Rabbi BenTzion Shafier says this Rashi is difficult to understand. There seems to be no comparison to an ox. It is the nature and instinct of an animal to obey. It doesn't think about it. It doesn't decide to submit. Built into every ox is the instinct to serve its master. Man, however, is different. Man has conflicting desires and wishes. In all of creation, only man has free will. So how can Rashi compare man with animal? Man has a much greater challenge.

The answer is that man is programmed for greatness. Half of his being is screaming for meaning, purpose and greatness. There is a powerful instinct within him that desires only that which is proper. The need for perfection is built into his essence. It isn't something he needs to earn, it is part of his very being.

And so the prophet Yeshaya rebuked his nation. "Being good isn't foreign to your nature. Following the Torah ways isn't something imposed by the outside, it is built into your very soul. If you have veered, then you have rebelled against your own nature.

On these very important days, let us heed the cry of our souls, that yearning to come close and thereby cause the rebuilding of the Bet Hamikdash speedily in our days, Amen. Shabbat Shalom. Rabbi Reuven Semah


While riding my bicycle under the Verrazano Narrows Bridge, which spans the entrance to New York Harbor and connects the boroughs of Brooklyn and Staten Island, I was struck by the majesty of this feat of engineering: two super-highways riding piggyback, suspended across the Narrows. The bridge hangs across the bay against a backdrop of sea and sky. But as magnificent as it is, it is not on the list of the Seven Wonders of the World.

The list of Wonders is very archaic. The Wonders were masterful works of art and architecture produced thousands of years ago. Yet none of the Wonders are as mind-boggling as a cell phone call or e-mail transmitted thousands of miles in seconds through airwaves without wires, or digital photographs passed from computer to computer around the globe.

The more I stared in awe at the bridge, the more my attention was drawn to the sky, the water, and the natural landscape that comprised the backdrop to this great human achievement. How puny manmade "Wonders" become, when set against a Hashem-created background whose vast and overpowering scope overwhelms the limited boundaries of greatness any human Wonder can supply!

Absorbed in that thought, I began to realize that "big" and "vast" do not constitute "wonder." One human heart, a single human brain, or a person's eye or ear is so much more awe-inspiring. Human beings, with all their frailties, are the true Number One Wonder of the World. (One Minute With Yourself - Rabbi Raymond Beyda)

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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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