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MAY 7 - MAY 8, 2004 17 IYAR 5764

Pop Quiz: To which relatives is a kohen permitted to become tameh?


"Speak to the Kohanim...and say to them"

Our perashah begins with the laws of the Kohen. The Kohen is given high standards to maintain. He must always be tahor (ritually uncontaminated) by never coming into contact with the dead. However, these laws are introduced with the words ??????and ???????????? "to say," and again "to say." Rashi learns that this repetition is a command that the Kohen must train his children (see 'Table Talk' in this week's bulletin). Being that we touched the subject of child up-bringing, I would like to relate an interesting and important idea.

Mr. Avi Shulman is recognized today as a great educator in the field of Jewish education. He wrote an article about the importance of "words." Words are not only important how they are said, but even more importantly who says the words. An identical word or phrase said by a friend, associate or boss, may have a mild effect. The very same word or phrase by a parent or spouse may have a very strong effect for one of two reasons. One, we expect support from our parent or spouse and therefore we are most hurt by their comment. Two, when a friend says something to us we can interpret it in many different ways. We rationalize that our friend doesn't really know us in totality, so even if we fail or disappoint him in one area we have reason to believe that he still respects us in all other areas. We learn from this that parents, spouses and close family members have to be especially sensitive to their use of words. Most people have it backward. They reason that since family members love each other, they have the right to kibbitz, jest or needle each other. The truth might just be the opposite.

Imagine how pleasant a home would be if their was no needling, no sharp words, no sarcasm. Every family member would be secure that he could express his thoughts without fear of ridicule. A sibling could disagree in an agreeable way. Calm and serenity would envelop such a home. Shabbat Shalom. Rabbi Reuven Semah

"An Israelite woman's son went out." (Vayikra 24:10)

The Torah tells us that a Jewish man went out and got into an argument and ultimately blasphemed the Name of Hashem. Where did he come from? What caused him to do this terrible act?

One of the opinions in the Midrash is that he saw what was written right before this episode. The Torah describes the baking of the Lehem HaPanim, the show bread, which was baked once a week and left on the Table in the Tabernacle to be eaten the following week. This blasphemer was turned off by the fact that the bread of G-d is one week old, rather than fresh bread, and this prompted him to curse the Holy Name.

The amazing thing about this is that it says there was an open miracle every week that the bread stayed fresh for more than seven days and was still as tantalizing at the end of the week as if it was just prepared. How could this be the incident which triggered this man's outburst? The answer is that he was looking for something to pick on and when he found a potential grievance, even though he should have been inspired from the miracle that was apparent, he chose to complain and look at it negatively. The lesson is obvious. We see many different events and situations but our outlook will depend on how we ourselves feel or what we want to look for. There are miracles out there which we choose to look at from a negative viewpoint and thus all we do is complain. When we are feeling positive about ourselves, then we see the good that is really there. It all depends on the tint of our lenses. Shabbat Shalom. Rabbi Shmuel Choueka


And you shall take on the first day a fruit of the citron tree, branches of palm trees, myrtle branches and willows of the brooks, and you shall rejoice before Hashem seven days" (Vayikra 23:40)

True joy is only possible when there is peace among people. Quarrels cause so many difficulties and problems that joy is impossible when there is strife and conflict. This is symbolized in our verse. The four species we take in our hands on the holiday of Succot symbolize the various types of people who make up the Jewish nation. Holding them together is a sign of peace and unity. Only when there is togetherness can the latter part of the verse, joy before Hashem, be fulfilled.

Quarrels destroy people's lives. Both on the national level and on the personal level, peace is essential for a good life. Even if a person has many positive things in life, if he is argumentative and quarrelsome he will not be able to enjoy what he has. Many quarrels can easily be avoided by just thinking sensibly about how irrational and counterproductive it is to waste time and energy in a quarrel that really makes no practical difference. Before becoming involved in a quarrel ask yourself, "What are the potential benefits of this quarrel? What are its potential losses? Is it really worthwhile to be involved in this quarrel?"

Joy and happiness are necessary traits for living a good life. Quarrels are destructive and cause much pain and suffering. By avoiding quarrels whenever possible, you will enable yourself to live a much more joyous life. A relative of Rabbi Shlomo Heyman (who served as Rosh Yeshivah of Mesivta Torah Vodaath in the late 30's and early 40's) once offered him one of the apartments in his summer home, where the two couples would share a kitchen and eating area. Rav Shlomo asked his wife to figure out if their modest income would cover the expenses of such a venture. She made the computations and announced that the apartment would be within their means. Rav Shlomo asked to see the figures, an unusual request for him. He checked them over and then told his wife, "You forgot to add in one expense: Shalom Bayit money."

"Shalom Bayit money?" his wife asked, puzzled.

Rav Shlomo explained, "When two parties share living facilities there are bound to be some questions as to how much each side should contribute to the expenses. Who used more electricity, who used the telephone more, and so on. When those questions come up, each party often finds it difficult to part with their hard-earned money, and that is where arguments begin. To avoid this, one should set aside some money from the start, in the event such problems arise. Then he will have no difficulty in surrendering the money." (Growth through Torah)


Question: Why is Sidkatecha said in Minhah of Shabbat?

Answer: The 3 verses of this prayer commemorate the passing of Yosef, Moshe and King David, which took place at this time. (Excerpted from Siddur Abir Yaacob, published by Sephardic Press)


"Speak to the Kohanim, the sons of Aharon, and say to them, none shall make himself unclean through contact with the dead."

The pasuk repeats itself by saying "speak to the Kohanim" and "say to them." Our Rabbis explain that this was a special instruction to the Kohanim to teach their children. One may wonder why the Torah chose to emphasize this point specifically when it is discussing the restriction of coming into contact with a dead body.

When a person is experiencing a difficult situation, he tends to become preoccupied with his suffering to the point that he may neglect his friends and family. The Torah is teaching us here that even when a person may experience the passing of a loved one, he still has the obligation to fulfill his job as a parent to his children and provide for them all of their physical and spiritual needs. Regardless of what personal problems may be bombarding us at any given moment, our children are always in need of our guidance and affection.

Question: Do you set aside time for each of your children every day no matter what? Do you ever say to your kids, "Don't talk to me now. I had a very rough day."?


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.) that they will receive from the people.

Answer to Pop Quiz: His father, mother, son, daughter, brother, unmarried sister and wife.

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