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AUGUST 15-16, 2003 18 AB 5763

Pop Quiz: What are the seven foods for which the land of Israel is praised?


"The entire commandment that I command you that you may live and increase" (Debarim 8:1)

In the perashah this week Moshe continues speaking to his people at the end of his life. In the above pasuk Moshe says: "Kol hamisvah - the entire commandment". A singular version is being used to refer to all of the misvot. Moshe stressed that no Jew could pick and choose among commandments of the Torah. The blessings promised by Hashem were contingent on Israel's acceptance of the entire Torah as if all of it, in its entirety, is a single command. If we want to live a life of pleasure and to multiply as our pasuk concludes, it comes from being part of Hashem's program.

The Be'er Mayim Hayim illustrates: A king once had a special wellspring of pure water on his castle grounds. Since he wanted all of his subjects to enjoy this wonderful water, he issued an order that everyone should attach a pipeline to the well and draw the water directly into their own homes. Those who were wise and respectful laid new clean pipes to guard the purity of the water. They genuinely enjoyed the water and loved the king for giving them this gracious gift. The lazy foolish people, however, took old rusty and leaky pipes. Naturally, the few drops that they received were foul smelling and repulsive. Their reaction was, "The king is terrible and gives us horrible water." The King, Hashem, has a life-sustaining well of blessing. All He asks of us is to connect a clean "pipe," Torah, misvot and good deeds, to His well. Those who construct a clean, pure conduit without foreign thoughts and objectives, that don't leak, will drink of these waters and love Hashem for it.

The outside world thinks that it is easier to be a partial Jew by doing partial misvot or some misvot. However, the opposite is true. It is more difficult to be a partial Jew than to be a complete Jew. Being a complete Jew is easier because of the sweet water that comes flowing into our lives. Shabbat Shalom. Rabbi Reuven Semah

"It will be that you listen" (Debarim 11:13)

The second paragraph of Shema, which we say every day, appears in this perashah. Since we say it so often we tend to overlook its important lessons. Hashem says to us, "If you listen to the misvot, the rains will fall correctly and your crops will be blessed, etc." Then, when we lower our voices a little it says, "If our hearts stray from Hashem, G-d forbid, there will be no rains, etc." and other events will happen which will make us realize our mistakes so we can come back to Hashem.

The lesson is, whenever something goes wrong, before we go around blaming the world, maybe Hashem is nudging us back to Him. The principle of Reward and Punishment is pivotal in our religion. When we do good, we deserve Blessing and G-d forbid, the reverse also happens. Although there are many other factors which may influence the Heavenly judgment, let us not forget the basic rule: Listening to Hashem brings berachah and going against Him brings problems! May we merit to bring on ourselves only berachah. Shabbat Shalom. Rabbi Shmuel Choueka


You should know in your heart that just as a father will chastise his son, so G-d, your G-d, chastises you" (Debarim 8:5)

How is Hashem's chastising the Jewish people analogous to a father's chastising his son?

Even when a father is displeased with his son's behavior and hits him, he is very upset if a stranger comes along and hits his son at the same time. The father generally becomes protective then and begins defending his son. However, when a person hits a stranger for committing a wrongdoing against him, he is grateful to every outsider who mixes in and helps.

Though Hashem may exile the Jewish people due to displeasure with their behavior, He is not happy with the countries that mistreat them while ruling over them. Even before they became a people, Hashem promised Abraham that He would punish the nations that would oppress them. (Vedibarta Bam)


"And you shall circumcise the covering of your heart, and you shall not continue to be stiff-necked" (Debarim 10:16)

Rabbi Simcha Zissel of Kelm cites the Smak that this verse contains a commandment to love words of correction and to love those who try to correct you. The latter half of this verse contains a prohibition against failing to listen to those who try to correct you. A person who does not want to change will resent those who try to correct him. Such a person is far from improving himself. A person pays a doctor for trying to heal him from illness and is very grateful to the doctor. This should be your attitude towards people who try to help you improve spiritually. Remove any resentment towards those who rebuke you. When you have a true desire for self-improvement, you will feel love towards those who suggest ways you can improve.

Many people are afraid to try to correct others because they fear the resentment they assume others will feel towards them for pointing out their faults. But if people will see that whenever someone tries to correct you, not only are you free from resentment but you actually feel love towards him, they will be happy to give you constructive criticism. By developing a positive attitude towards criticism not only will you save yourself much pain, but you will be able to improve in many ways. Different people focus on different areas of improvement. By getting a lot of feedback about your behavior from others, you will become aware of many things about yourself that otherwise you would not have been aware of. This will help you greatly in your quest for spiritual growth. (Growth through Torah)


"From the beginning of the year to year's end." (Debarim 11:12)

This pasuk would have been more grammatically correct if it had said "to the end of the year." Why was the pasuk worded this way? The Satmar Rav comments that the wording of this pasuk is teaching an important lesson. Very often, a person will approach Rosh Hashanah with great intentions. He plans to turn his life around. "I know I've said this before, but this will be the year that I follow through with it." Unfortunately, as time passes, the good intentions fade away, and he slips back to his old ways. By the end of the year, it becomes clear that this wasn't the year, after all. It was just another year, like all the rest.

With Selihot and Rosh Hashanah right around the corner, we need to analyze our ways, and come up with a game plan to improve ourselves. If we haven't succeeded in the past, we cannot fool ourselves into thinking that "this year will be different." Concrete steps must be taken to ensure that this year will in fact be the year that we turn it all around.

Question: What aspects of your observance and character do you intend to work on in the coming year? What can you do to improve your chances of success?


Question: Normally, in Bircat Hamazon, we say "magdil yeshu'ot malko." On Shabbat, we say, instead, "migdol." Why the change?

Answer: Magdil means: He (Hashem) is increasing the salvation of his king (the mashiah). Migdol implies that it has already been done. So, on weekdays, we say magdil. On Shabbat, however, which is a taste of the days of mashiah, we say migdol. (Excerpted from Siddur Abir Yaacob, published by Sephardic Press)


This Week's Haftarah: Yeshayahu 49:14-51:3.

This haftarah is the second in the series of seven haftarot dealing with consolation that are read between Tish'ah B'Ab and Rosh Hashanah. Hashem tells the nation that the exile does not break the bond between Him and Israel. He will not let us be destroyed. At the end of the haftarah, Yeshayahu the prophet says that Hashem will restore the glory of the land, and that joy and gladness will be found there.

Answer to Pop Quiz: Wheat, barley, grapes, figs, pomegranates, olives and dates.

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