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Haftarah: Yeshayahu 49:14-51:3

AUGUST 19-20, 2011 20 AB 5771


"And it will be because of your listening to these ordinances." (Debarim 7:12)

The Midrash, comments on the first pasuk of our perashah quoted above, "The people of Israel are unaware of the reward they receive for cleaning their shoes on Ereb Shabbat." The Midrash continues with a quote from Shir Hashirim, "Your footsteps were so lovely when shoed in sandals." Next, the Midrash brings a pasuk from Yeshayah, "That day is to be of crying and lamentations and for donning of sackcloth."

What is the connection between the pasuk which speaks of mourning and tragedy to the reward for cleaning one's shoes for Shabbat? The Apta Rav z"l explains with a parable. A once well-to-do man lost his fortune and was forced to become a traveling beggar. Once, as he traveled along he arrived at a mountain and noticed some pretty stones. He collected a number of these shiny objects, placed them in his knapsack and continued on his way.

Since he was on foot, he soon began to be weary from the weight he was carrying on his shoulders, and he began to throw out the stones one by one on the path. Eventually, he arrived at an inhabited area and found lodging with a poor teacher. Starving, the beggar began to rummage through his sack to see if he could find a coin with which to buy something to eat. All he found was a solitary stone, of the glittering kind he had picked up on his way. Embarrassed, he apologized to his host for it. The teacher, who noticed the stone in his guest's hand, suggested they visit a local gem dealer. The guest refused. He was hungry, thirsty and exhausted, and had no interest in gem dealers. However, the teacher persisted and eventually the wanderer gave in.

The dealer inspected the stone and instantly offered a thousand rubles for it. The guest was dumbfounded and remained silent. The dealer interpreted his reaction as unhappiness with his offer, and raised it considerably. At that point the beggar threw himself to the ground, tore at his hair and began to scream. Instead of rejoicing with the money that this stone would bring him, he was beside himself over all the other stones that he had first picked up and then discarded.

So, too, says the Apta Rav, when a Jew, upon his arrival in the World to Come, will learn the great reward of something as simple as cleaning shoes for Shabbat, he will be beside himself over the countless misvot he could have done each day. He will cry and lament over all the lost opportunities for infinite reward.

Misvot are diamonds that are too often rejected and discarded. Let's collect them all! 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


"And you shall place these words of Mine on your hearts and on your soul." (Debarim 11:18)

Rashi states that the misvot of tefillin and mezuzah are distinct from others in that B'nei Yisrael are expected to continue to practice them even in exile. Thus, when they return to Eress Yisrael, tefillin and mezuzah would not seem to be new/foreign misvot.

The Vilna Gaon question's Rashi's statement from the Talmud Kidushin 3b, which states that any misvah whose observance is limited specifically to the land is not applicable to hutz la'aress, countries outside of Eress Yisrael. Those misvot which are not bound to the land, however, are applicable in Eress Yisrael as well as outside of its boundaries. Rashi seems to imply that tefillin and mezuzah are to be observed outside of Eress Yisrael only to maintain one's familiarity with them for the time when he returns to the land. This statement is apparently inconsistent with that of the Talmud.

Harav Eliyahu Shlesinger answers that there is a unique status accorded to those performing the misvot of tefillin and mezuzah in Eress Yisrael, which is not accorded to those performing these misvot outside of Eress Yisrael. Only regarding these two misvot does the Torah add to the promised reward the phrase, "that your days be multiplied and the days of your children upon the earth which Hashem swore unto your fathers" (11:21). This added phrase implies that arichat yamim, longevity, has been promised by Hashem as a reward for fulfilling these two misvot specifically "al ha'adamah," upon the earth. This refers exclusively to Eress Yisrael. Consequently, life itself is dependent upon performing these misvot in Eress Yisrael.

Obviously, one cannot begin to compare a misvah performed when life is dependent upon it to a misvah performed when life is not contingent upon its fulfillment. This is Rashi's message. When we are outside of Eress Yisrael our attitude towards performing these two misvot should be the same as if we were performing them in Eress Yisrael. We should apply the same enthusiasm and excitement which we display when our life is contingent upon it, likewise in hutz la'aress. Thus, when we return to Eress Yisrael, our eagerness towards performing these misvot will not be shamefully lacking. (Peninim on the Torah)


The danger of a weapon in the hands of an enemy is measured not only by the destructive power of its impact, but also by its range. A missile that can travel long distances is far more dangerous than a tank or bazooka.

In interpersonal relationships, the effect of an insult or emotional hurt also has a range. Words have the power to inflict great pain and suffering, and their long distance capabilities certainly require caution on the part of all who use these potential weapons of destruction. It is not only the long range of words that can be dangerous, but also the long-term effects of verbal damage. Therefore, it is particularly important to always consider the long-lasting effects of any statement before launching potent words from your mouth.

Holding back a feisty, slippery creature such as the human tongue is a difficult task, to say the least. The laws of lashon hara - forbidden, harmful speech - arouse a sense of caution and sensitivity, encouraging people to guard their tongues and to dole out words with careful stinginess.

One good way to develop word control is to improve your visual sense. Look for the good in everything around you. If you see beauty in nature, appreciate art and music, and enjoy the talents and quirks of friends and relatives, even though you may not be able to control your tongue, you will speak your mind with a positive view whenever expressing inner thoughts.

The verse in Tehillim (34:13) says: "Who is the man who seeks life, loves days to see good - guard your tongue from evilů" In order to guard your tongue, you must see good. There is so much that is positive in Hashem's Creation and in the people around you. Look for it and you will find it. Focus on it and teach your tongue to speak good. (One Minute With Yourself - Rabbi Raymond Beyda)

* * * * *

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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