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MAY 9-10, 2003 8 IYAR 5763

Pop Quiz: Which spice was put on the shulhan with the 12 loaves of bread?


"The son of an Israelite woman went out."

The Torah tells us that a certain Jew went and blasphemed the Holy Name of Hashem and was eventually put to death. When relating the story, the pasuk says, "He went out..." and the Rabbis ask, "From where did he come to do such a terrible act?" Rashi brings an opinion that he was complaining, "How could the Show Bread, the twelve loaves on the Table in the Mishkan, stay on for a whole week? Could we really have such stale bread in the Mishkan?" The Rabbis tell us there was a constant miracle and the bread was always fresh, but this blasphemer still questioned why they left bread out for a week! Strange that we should be bothered by this at all! But if we look deeper, we see that he also lost a court case regarding where he was able to pitch his tent! The lesson is clear! When you have someone complaining about religion, "This is not right; the bread is stale; this law makes no sense," check to make sure whether something else is bothering the person. Maybe his business is failing, his family is hurting or he himself is not at peace with himself. If left unchecked, someone discontent with himself could lead to denying principles of the Torah, and we are extremely close to blasphemy. With the proper help and attention, this could be avoided! Shabbat Shalom. Rabbi Shmuel Choueka


This week will witness many Jews in the land of Israel and throughout the world celebrating Yom Ha'asma'ut, Israel Independence Day. As we get closer to that day, I am sure the usual question will be asked, "Do you say it?" Of course I am referring to "Yehi Shem!" For all those people who have been living on the moon up until now I will explain, in brief, what Yehi Shem is. On certain holidays we omit from the prayers a prayer called "Anah," which is a confession of our sins, and replace it with a shorter and happy "Yehi Shem." Therefore, the question is, is Yom Ha'asma'ut an official Jewish holiday to merit Yehi Shem, or do we say the usual "Anah?" This, my friends, is a technical question of halachah. Can we today change the wording of the prayers as set down by the Arizal and Shulhan Aruch? Many people use this question as a measure of a person's love for the land and the people of Israel. This is ridiculous. All Jews, especially the very religious, love Israel with all of their heart, and so they should. Let me tell you a story, told by Rabbi David Goldwasser, of how much love we must show for the land of Israel.

Rabbi Yaakov Shimshon of Shepetivke once made a round trip to Eress Yisrael. The journey was very long and arduous. When he had nearly arrived home, he told his entourage that he wished to spend a few days at the resort area on the outskirts of Shepetivke. The Hassidim were baffled that their Rebbe would express an interest in vacationing at the resort, since he was usually very careful to avoid mingling in the general society and did not indulge in such pleasures.

After three days the Rebbe returned home. One of his closest followers worked up the courage to ask him the reason for his unusual behavior. R' Yaakov Shimshon explained, "I did not want to be guilty of giving an evil report about the land of Israel. If I had come home looking tired and worn out from my long trip, people might have mistakenly said, 'This is what happens when one goes to the holy land; it's a hard life and the lack of amenities takes its toll.' I wanted to rest first and refresh myself, so that when I returned to Shepetivke, people would recognize instead the rejuvenation and spiritual energy one gains in Eress Yisrael."

May Hashem protect all the people living in Israel and may we merit to see the redemption of the coming of the Mashiah soon in our day, Amen. Shabbat Shalom. Rabbi Reuven Semah


"You shall take for yourselves on the first day the fruit of an etrog tree, the branches of date palms, twigs of myrtles and brook willows" (Vayikra 23:40)

Since it says "ulekachtem - and you shall take" - the halachah is that if one has before him the four species but does not take them in his hand, he does not fulfill the misvah. Why does the Torah insist that they be taken in one's hand?

According to the Midrash Rabbah (30:14) the four species represent different parts of the human body. The etrog resembles a heart, the lulab represents the spine, the hadas has small leaves which are like eyes, and the araba resembles the lips.

With the misvah of "ulekachtem - you shall take" - the Torah is conveying a message of cardinal importance: that these four major body parts must be taken in hand - i.e. be under man's control.

The heart sometimes desires the undesirable. Man must learn to take hold of his heart and control it. At all times the brain must be ruling over the desires of the heart (Zohar Vayikra 224a).

According to halachah, the lulab must be firm and upright. It should not be loose, curved or bending to all sides. The spine provides major support for the body, and the spinal cord controls it. A weak spine can, G-d forbid, cause a person to be paralyzed or of bent stature. Taking the lulab in hand means that a Jew must be firm in his convictions, walk upright and be proud of the fact that he is a member of the Jewish people and Torah observant. He must never bend or compromise in his Torah observance.

The hadas leaves - resembling eyes - must grow upright on their stems. This teaches that a Jew must always look up with optimism to G-d in Heaven and not look down on other people.

The halachah requiring the hadas to be taken in the hand implies that one must learn to control his eyes and also to be happy with his lot and not look enviously on other people's good fortune.

The leaves of the araba must be smooth and not have sharp serrated edges. The misvah of taking it into the hands accentuates that one must control his lips. In particular, one should be careful not to make cutting remarks; rather one should speak words of Torah and speak well of a fellow Jew. (Vedibarta Bam)


"And I shall be sanctified among B'nei Yisrael" (Vayikra 22:32)

This pasuk teaches that we are all obligated to sanctify the Name of Hashem in our daily endeavors. All of our actions must be scrutinized so that the honor of Judaism is not tarnished. Rabbi Eliyahu Munk points out that the pasuk specifies that Hashem's Name should be sanctified "among B'nei Yisrael." Although we must also make a strong effort to sanctify Hashem's Name among the other nations, the primary focus should be to glorify Him among our own people. This will reinforce the dedication of others to Judaism and to Torah observance.

Question: Would people who witness your everyday behavior be inspired to get closer to Hashem? What one thing could you change about yourself to project a better image of the Jewish people?


Question: Why is Bircat Me'en Sheba read on Friday nights (after the amidah)?

Answer: This is done in order to lengthen the prayers, so that a latecomer will not be left alone in the synagogue. (Excerpted from Siddur Abir Yaacob, published by Sephardic Press)


This week's Haftarah: Yehezkel 44:15-31.

Our perashah discusses many laws regarding Kohanim. In the haftarah, the prophet Yehezkel also tells many laws that will pertain to the Kohanim in the times of the Mashiah, such as the clothes they will wear, the women they may marry, and the gifts (terumah, bikurim, etc.) they will receive from the people.

Answer to Pop Quiz: Lebonah (frankincense).

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