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Haftarah: Yeshayahu 49:14-51:3

AUGUST 22-23, 2008 22 AB 5768

Pop Quiz: From what material did Moshe make the first Ark which held the luhot?


"[And Hashem will safeguard for you] the covenant and the kindness that He swore to your forefathers." (Debarim 7;12)

A parable from the Dubno Maggid: Imagine a buyer of merchandise in a store speaking to the store owner. As the buyer is ordering the goods, you notice that he is promising many times over to the store owner that he will pay. This will immediately tell you that the man is buying on credit, and is not paying cash. For if he was paying cash, why promise to pay?

Our perashah begins with Hashem telling us that if we observe and keep the misvot, Hashem will uphold the covenant that he swore to the forefathers. If Hashem was "paying cash," and rewarding us for our misvot in this world, why mention the promise? This teaches us the most important foundation of Judaism - that the reward for misvot is in the next world. We are not being paid cash, but Hashem is "asking" for credit and gives us his solemn oath to pay.

In reality, Hashem doesn't owe us a thing. Like we say in our prayers, even if we do all of the misvot, we wouldn't be paying back a fraction of what we owe. From the time we were little babies, Hashem created and nurtured us. However, Hashem tells us that he wants to "owe" us a great reward in the next world. You couldn't ask for a better customer. Shabbat Shalom. Rabbi Reuven Semah

"For man does not live on bread alone, rather, by the word of Hashem..." (Debarim 8:3)

The simple meaning of this verse is that it's not the actual food which sustains a person, but rather it's the command that Hashem gives for people to be able to live. However, we can understand this in a novel way based on the verse "V'achalta v'sabata uberachta" which tells us to bless Hashem for the food that we eat. It's not the food that keeps us going; it's the berachot we say before and after eating which provides the real nourishment for a person. If we would realize the effect that our blessings have on the world and all its contents, we would grab every opportunity to say a berachah. Indeed, Bircat hamazon, grace after meals, is the only berachah which is mentioned in the Torah, and its reward is truly unbelievable. But even a regular short blessing, which takes only a few seconds, can bring such bounty and prosperity to the one who says it. Let's start off by just one extra berachah a day and may we be blessed in return. Shabbat Shalom. Rabbi Shmuel Choueka


"And you will say in your heart, 'It is my strength and the power of my hand that performed this valorous deed' and walk after other gods and serve them" (Debarim 8:17,19)

As B'nei Yisrael neared the culmination of their forty year trek in the desert, Moshe warned them of the pitfalls that might accompany their successful entry into Eress Yisrael. As they forged their way, conquering the seven nations whose might was to prove no match for the Divinely ordained army of B'nei Yisrael, they might fall prey to pride and haughtiness. They might even begin to believe that their own military prowess enabled them to defeat their enemies. They might forget that it was Hashem who had promised them that these events would occur and that it was only through His Divine assistance that they had been so successful.

We derive from this narrative that the evil inclination can entice one into denying the most obvious reality. How could B'nei Yisrael even momentarily believe that their untrained army could defeat mighty, fortified nations? How could they audaciously accept credit for such an apparent miracle? Hashem clearly manifested His hand by directing the war effort and guiding B'nei Yisrael to victory. The evil inclination, however, affects one's insecurities, gradually influencing one to accept convenient and irrational notions that support self-government.

Rav Moshe Shternbuch states that individuals who actually attribute their success to their own "omnipotence" will tend to refrain from giving charity to those who are not as fortunate as they are. They will say, "I worked hard to accumulate my wealth, let others do the same." Such impudence not only lacks refinement and sensitivity, but it also exhibits a form of vulgarity which demonstrates a crude spirit and an obtuse mind.

Upon noticing a fellow Jew hurrying down the street, Rabbi Levi Yitzchak of Berditchev z"l questioned him as to why he was running so. The Jew answered quickly that he was running to make a livelihood. The Rabbi responded, "How do you know that your livelihood is in front of you. that you run towards it? Perhaps it is behind you and you are running away from it!" This comment encapsulates our thesis. We never know what Hashem plans for us. We must therefore, endeavor to do what is necessary and pray that it is consistent with Hashem's wishes for us. As it says in Tehillim 55, "Cast your burden upon Hashem and He will support you." (Peninim on the Torah)


"And Hashem was very angry with Aharon to destroy him. And I prayed for Aharon also at the same time" (Debarim 9:20)

Rashi explains that "lehashmido, to destroy him," refers to the destruction of children. During the sin of the Golden Calf, Hashem dictated that Aharon was to be punished by the death of his children. Only through Moshe's entreaty of his behalf were two of his sons spared, although two did die. The Mizrachi derives from Rashi's statement that Nadab and Abihu died as a result of Aharon's involvement in the Golden Calf. This idea, however, is inconsistent with Rashi in Shemot 24, where he states that they died as a result of beholding the glory of Hashem while they were in an unsanctified state. Their deaths were delayed until the day of Hanukat Hamishkan, dedication of the Mishkan, so as not to mar the sublime joy of the giving of the Torah.

Rav Yisrael Salant z"l clarifies these conflicting statements in the following manner. Hashem's form of retribution is unique in that it only affects the individual who deserves punishment. In fact, if anyone else is afflicted, it is because they are also culpable. Hashem weighs every situation, and He will refrain from punishing the guilty party if an innocent person will be needlessly affected. Nadab and Abihu sinned and merited immediate retribution. Aharon, however, would have needlessly suffered. Consequently, their fate was delayed. When Aharon became involved in the Golden Calf, the previously delayed punishment became effective. Only through Moshe's prayers were two of Aharon's sons spared. We should be ever retrospective in searching for the hidden message in every situation which confronts us. Every event which we experience has a purpose and a meaning behind it. (Peninim on the Torah)

Answer to Pop Quiz: Cedar wood.

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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