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Haftarah: Yehezkel 44:15-31

MAY 4-5, 2007 17 IYAR 5767

Lag Ba'Omer will be celebrated on Sunday, May 6.

Pop Quiz: At what age does an animal become eligible to be offered as a korban?


"You shall count for yourselves from the morrow of the rest day." (Vayikra 23:15)

People pay a lot for time - advertising time or professional time, for example. The expert doctor's time is important to him, so the patient pays for it. The musician's time is important to him, so the event coordinator pays for it, and so on. Obviously when we consider the value of time, the more important the person is, the more important his time is. This week's perashah discuss the misvah of sefirat ha'omer (counting the Omer). There are only a few misvot that focus a person on the mystical and esoteric as does sefirat ha'omer. As we count each day, we scan the Kabbalistic system outlined at the bottom of the siddur, which connects each day we are counting to its heavenly emanations. This is truly a lofty meditation.

Perhaps on a more down-to-earth level, Rabbi Shmuel Binder says, the most basic message of this misvah is overlooked. That basic message is that we should be aware of the value of our time. In fact, this may be the most basic preparation for Shabuot, for accepting the Torah means accepting that every moment of our time can be spent in the service of Hashem - the most worthwhile of all pursuits. Thus our time is transformed into the most important time of all. Since each Jew can spend his time studying Torah, his time is incredibly valuable.

In his sefer "Aleh Shor," Rabbi Volbe z"l focuses on the importance of respecting the time of our habrutot (our learning partners) as a preparation for Shabuot. Also he connects this with the importance of respecting one's habrutah's opinion in Torah matters as the two learn together. After all, 24,000 of Rabbi Akiba's students died during this period because they did not act with proper respect toward one another. For instance, a heated Torah discussion should never lead to speaking derogatorily about the individual's character. This is forbidden.

As we pass through the days of counting the Omer, and as we approach Lag Ba'Omer, we remind ourselves each day of how valuable our time is. Obviously this should also remind us of the great value of other people's time. We need to become more considerate of people's time, whether it means coming to meetings on time, or that our weddings and other happy occasions should begin on time. Every person's time is precious. Don't waste it! Shabbat Shalom. Rabbi Reuven Semah

"Say to the Kohanim and say to them..." (Vayikra 21:1)

The Torah repeats the word ?emor, v'amarta" as if emphasizing this commandment that the Kohanim should not become defiled by a dead body. The Rabbis learn from the extra word that we must train our children to keep the misvot just like we do. The question is asked, "Why is the obligation to teach our children to keep the commandants said by the laws of Kohanim and their prohibition to become impure?"

One possible answer is that when a Kohen tells his son not to come in contact with impurity, the son may question his father, "How come the other people don't have this restriction? Even very observant people are allowed to touch a dead body. How come I may not?" The Kohen father must tell his son, "You are different, my son. You are a Kohen. We have greater responsibilities; therefore, more is expected of us." This is the way we should train our children. We have to build them up and show them how great they can be, and that more is expected of them than of the rest of the world. The Jewish people have a mission in this world and when a child realizes that he has a part in that mission, then he will rise to the occasion and become that special person. Compared to the rest of the world, we are a kingdom of Kohanim and therefore have to act and live on a different level! Shabbat Shalom. Rabbi Shmuel Choueka


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

This pasuk, although directed to the Kohanim, refers to all of Klal Yisrael. We are enjoined to actively reflect the sanctification of Hashem's Name in our daily endeavor. We must be scrupulous in our moral conduct, so that no action of ours tarnishes the honor of Judaism. Every action which we perform must be scrutinized, for we are entrusted with the mandate of glorifying Hashem's Name. This mandate demands that we live in such a way that our lifestyle contributes to the glory of Hashem.

It is noteworthy that the Torah clearly designates the focus of this sanctification - namely - "among B'nei Yisrael." Although it is our obligation to sanctify Hashem's Name in the eyes of other nations, it is even more important to glorify Him among our own people. This concept is illustrated by the fact that Moshe, who exemplified the trait of glorifying Hashem's name through much of his life, ultimately failed to sanctify His Name among B'nei Yisrael. Thus, he lost the right to enter Eress Yisrael. While it is important to give non-Jews every reason to respect Judaism, our main focus must be on reinforcing our own people's love for the Jewish faith. (Peninim on the Torah)


"And Hashem spoke to Moshe saying: Speak to the Children of Israel saying: On the fifteenth day of the seventh month is the Festival of Tabernacles, seven days dedicated to Hashem." (Vayikra 23:33-34)

Rabbi Samson Raphael Hirsch noted that Rosh Hashanah in Torah law is only one day (Rabbinical law renders it two days), and Yom Kippur is only one day, while Succot is seven days. Rosh Hashanah is a day of shaking us out of ways of life displeasing to Hashem. Yom Kippur is a day of fasting and awareness of our faults and mistakes. Succot, however, sets up afresh in living to achieve the highest earthly possession: joy and happiness before Hashem. There is only one day for the mood of Rosh Hashanah, and only one day for the fasting of atonement, but seven days, a whole cycle of days, for the joyful building of our huts, and for enjoying our possessions before Hashem. This is what is most characteristic of Torah law; it teaches that the normal mood of one's life should be, not the bowed down, broken feeling, but the joy of life which runs equally throughout the year of a life faithfully devoted to duty. (Growth through Torah)


It is customary to study Pirkei Abot (Ethics of the Fathers) during the six weeks between Pesah and Shabuot, one chapter every Shabbat.

"Be of an exceedingly humble spirit for the hope of man is but worms" (Abot 4:4)

Obviously no man wants worms to rule over him. So instead of saying "tikvat - the hope," he should have said, "sof enosh rimah - the end of mortal man is worms."

The Zohar explains that the pasuk, "Fear not, O worm of Ya'akob, O man of Israel" (Isaiah 41:14) is a message to the deceased of Israel that they need not fear: Just as the silkworm leaves an egg behind before it dies, from which a new silkworm emerges, the Jews will experience tehiyat hametim - resurrection. However, the Gemara (Sotah 5a) says that "whoever is conceited will not shake off his earth" - i.e. he will not be resurrected. Thus, the Mishnah is instructing that one should be very humble and distance himself from conceit because it is the hope of man that just as the worm comes back to life, so too he should be resurrected.

Alternatively, the word "rimah" does not only mean "worms"; it can also mean "deception," as in Ya'akob's complaint to Laban for switching Rachel with Leah after he worked for Rachel seven years: "Lamah rimitani - Why did you deceive me?" (Beresheet 29:25).

Man erroneously thinks that he can plan his own destiny, and he is full of vain hopes and aspirations. However, the famous saying is "Man proposes, G-d disposes." No one in this world can justly claim that he has the power to shape the destiny of others. As a matter of fact, one cannot even say that he, by his own plans and prowess, can determine the future course of events in his own life.

A little boy, chafing under a series of restrictions in school, asked his grandfather, "Grandpa, tell me, when will I be old enough to be able to do as I please when I please?' The grandfather stroked his beard reflectively and replied, "Sonny, I don't know about that. I don't think anyone has ever lived to be that old."

The Mishnah is alluding to this phenomenon, that very often "tikvat enosh" - the hopes and aspirations of man end up to be "rimah - a deception and a delusion. Suddenly one gets an awakening and realizes that a higher voice has spoken. It is the voice of Hashem that supersedes all others, and His voice is the deciding one, without which no hope can be realized. Reflecting on this leads to true humility. (Vedibarta Bam)

Answer to Pop Quiz: Eight days old.

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.

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