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Haftarah: Yeshayahu 49:14-51:3

JULY 26-27, 2013 20 AB 5773


"He afflicted you and let you hunger, then He fed you the manna." (Debarim 8:3)

A great Sephardic Sage, Rabbi Soleiman Mani zt"l, asks the pointed question (quoted in Hameir): Why did Hashem first make the Israelites hunger before He brought down the mann from Heaven? He answers with a story of a Sage, who was left completely penniless on Friday. He had absolutely nothing to eat for Shabbat. He told his wife, "I don't see any possibility to obtain food for Shabbat, so I will go to the shul and study Torah." And so he did.

Only a few minutes passed and a messenger was sent to him from his house to come home. A gentleman had come to the house in need of a special document that he needed the Rabbi to write. The Rabbi wrote up the document. The man paid the Rabbi a huge sum, and went away. The Rabbi went and purchased all the food needed for Shabbat. When the Rabbi returned home he noticed that the gentleman forgot to take the document. On Sunday, the man returned and told the Rabbi he can tear it up, and he was surprised at himself, because if he would have been thinking clearly, it would have been obvious that he didn't need the document.

After he left the Rabbi turned to his wife and said the whole episode was amazing, because he obviously was sent by Hashem to help us. "But," the wife responded and asked, "If Hashem was so concerned for us that we didn't have food for Shabbat, why did He leave us without a penny and make us have to go through all of that worry?" The Rabbi answered, "If we had all of our Shabbat needs in the first place, we would not have seen the Hand of Hashem helping us so clearly, and we wouldn't have thanked Him enough."

That is why Hashem first made the Jews hungry in the desert, and only after that gave them the mann. In order to teach us that we do not live on bread, but through the word of Hashem. It's a lesson in life for us all.

Shabbat Shalom. Rabbi Reuven Semah

"And you will remember that it is Hashem who gives you the strength to do this great deed." (Debarim 8:18)

Whenever a person accomplishes anything, he may be tempted to think that he was responsible for his success, so the Torah tells us that it is Hashem who gave you the strength to succeed. The Targum adds a very important word to the verse. He says, "You shall remember that it is Hashem Who gives you the idea which leads you to succeed."

This teaches us an amazing lesson. Even the idea itself which sets off an entire chain reaction, and ultimately leads to accomplishments is from Hashem. How many times are we in a tough situation looking for answers when all of a sudden, an idea "pops into our head" which gives us a way out? Every time a person thinks of something to do or remembers something important, he should thank Hashem for the idea itself for it is He who gives us the thought with which to succeed. Shabbat Shalom. Rabbi Shmuel Choueka


"You will eat and you will be satisfied and bless Hashem." (Debarim 8:10)

The words V'achalta v'savata, "You will eat and you will be satisfied," are mentioned twice in this perashah: in the above pasuk, and later in 11:15. There is one discrepancy, however; the above pasuk has an added word: u'berachta, "and [you] will bless [Hashem]." In the second pasuk, the words V'achalta v'savata are followed by, Hishamru lachem pen yifteh levavchem v'sartem, "Beware for yourselves, lest your heart be seduced and you will turn astray." Why the difference? Why is the second one followed with, "beware," while the first concludes, "you will bless"?

Horav Zev Weinberger, Shlita, quotes Rashi on the second pasuk, hishamru, "beware" - "One does not rebel against Hashem, unless he is first satisfied." This means that the more one is successful, the greater his good fortune, the stronger the possibility of backlash. It is the successful person who can lose his faith as his good fortune goes to his head. He is capable of declaring, kochi v'otzem yadi assa li et ha'chayil hazeh, "My strength and might of my hand made me all this wealth" (Debarim 8:17). I did it all by myself. Nobody helped me. I am a self-made man. Such a person denies Divine Providence. He does not perceive Hashem's input. The arrogance goes to his head, as he blatantly - without fear - rebels against Hashem. This is the fear of hishamer, "beware," that is often the result of v'achalta v'savata.

How does one prevent such dire consequences? What safeguards can we put into place to prevent success from going to our heads? The answer to this question is provided by the Torah: u'berachta et Hashem Elokecha, "Bless Hashem." When one realizes and acknowledges that whatever success he enjoys is all the result of the Almighty, then it will not go to his head. One becomes haughty only if he thinks that he is it, that he has wrought all of his achievement. One who attributes good fortune to the Source of all success blesses Hashem for His gift and continues to grow with it.

The nisayon, challenge, of, v'ram levavecha, "And your heart will become haughty and you will forget Hashem" (Ibid. 8:14), is not exclusive to material success. Rav Weinberger emphasizes that it is a hurdle even with regard to spiritual achievement. It can go to one's head. The story is told that the Kotzker Rebbe, z"l, once observed a hasid of his walking down the street on Shabbat following an inspiring day of learning, wearing his shtreimel on a tilt. The Rebbe remarked, "I am afraid that if you were to learn two more blatt, folios of Talmud, you would walk down the street with your head uncovered!" The Rebbe was alluding to the idea that even spiritual satisfaction taken the wrong way can indicate an inner spiritual emptiness.

One who achieves spiritual ascendancy should immediately use his accomplishment as a stepping-stone for reaching greater heights. Indeed, one should never be "satisfied" with spiritual fulfillment. He must spur himself further for greater purposes. (Peninim on the Torah)


"You shall teach them to your children to discuss them." (Debarim 11:19)

The words, l'daber bam, "to discuss them," are a key to understanding the essence of a father's obligation of limud ha'Torah to his son. In the Talmud Baba Batra 60b, Hazal relate the story of two litigants that came before Rabbi Yanai with a halachic dispute. One litigant insisted that Rabbi Yanai require his disputant to cut the branches of his tree which were encroaching on his property. The Sage heard their arguments and asked them to return the next day for his rendering of judgment. As soon as they left, Rabbi Yanai ran home to cut the branches of his tree, whose branches were growing out into the public thoroughfare. The next day, both litigants presented themselves before Rabbi Yanai. He then ordered the owner of the tree to cut the offending branches. Upon hearing the verdict, the litigant said to Rabbi Yanai, "His honor also has a tree that hangs over the public thoroughfare." Rabbi Yanai immediately countered, "I have already cut it down." This is what Hazal mean when they interpret the pasuk in Sefanyah 2:1, Hitkosheshu va'koshu, "Improve yourselves and improve others." First improve yourself - only then, are you prepared to improve others.

In his sefer K'ayol Taarog, Horav Abitbul, Shlita, interprets the above pasuk. If one wants to succeed in teaching his son Torah, he must first be midaber bam, the father himself must discuss Torah, be conversant in Torah, demonstrate his own love for the Torah. He does this as he sits in his home, his office, on the road - wherever he is. When a child sees how valuable the Torah is to his father, he will also accept it. When a child sees how his father toils in Torah, expends every extra minute studying Torah, he will follow suit. Thus, they will both - father and son - achieve longevity.

Many fathers put in a long day of difficult labor, returning home in the evening, physically exhausted and emotionally drained. Yet, they put themselves together and go to a shiur, a havruta - even if it means falling asleep during the learning, out of sheer fatigue. A fellow in Eress Yisrael had such a habit. He came to shiur every night - after a long, hard day - and, after sitting down and propping up his sefer, proceeded to fall asleep. At first, his friends would nudge him awake, but, after a while, it appeared that he really needed the rest. They encouraged him to join an early-morning shiur, which he could attend after having had a decent night's sleep. Why did he insist on attending at night when he could not stay awake for the shiur?

He explained that every night his children saw him leaving the house with his Gemara in hand on the way to the bet hamidrash. This is the image he wanted them to savor in their minds. We must ask ourselves: What image do we project to our children? Is it one of learning with dedication, of praying with devotion, or is it the opposite? We must remember that what they see in their youth is what they think we are sanctioning for them to emulate. (Peninim on the Torah)


Cameras are great. Each year, new developments put more sophisticated equipment into our amateur-photographer hands. Video equipment is now digital, self-focusing, red-eye-reducing, small, and light. The mega-pixel and special effects features of digital cameras keep improving at a mind-boggling pace. It's enough to spoil a person.

But while cameras are expanding our vistas and focusing themselves to picture-perfect clarity, our lives are becoming more complicated and less focused with every passing day. We get so busy with a myriad of details - some important and others, ridiculous - that we, unlike our pocket-size cameras, cannot focus. We don't aim straight at the goal we were put here to achieve. We don't have time to think about spiritual perfection and performance of misvot.

The Mesillat Yesharim (chapter 1) states, "Achieving perfection in the service of Hashem is dependent on a person's recognition of just what his duty is in this world and the goal towards which he should direct his vision and aspirations in all of his endeavors throughout his lifetime." In other words, in order to hit the bull's eye, you must focus on the target.

When things start to pile up, move too fast, and make your head spin - stop! Take a step back, leave the battlefield, have a cold drink, read a cute e-mail message, take a walk around the block - and focus! Realize that you do have a goal and a purpose in life that is much greater than all the things that are overpowering you. This pause will not only save you from drowning; it will give you a clear picture of where to go to find success. (One Minute With Yourself - Rabbi Raymond Beyda)

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