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Haftarah: Yehezkel 44:15-31

MAY 9-10, 2008 5 IYAR 5768
Day 20 of the Omer


"And I shall be sanctified among the Children of Israel, I am Hashem Who sanctifies you" (Vayikra 22:32)

This verse quoted above is the source of the misvah to sanctify Hashem's Name, even if it means giving up one's life. We say every day in the Shema, "And you shall love Hashem with all of your heart, with all of your life and with all of your money." A Jew must be willing to give up his life and not abandon Hashem for other religions. Our history is full of heroes who have fulfilled this mission. Rabbi Nissan Alpert z"l has an interesting question: Why wasn't the verse written as a command, "Sanctify My Name!" The way the pasuk is written it almost describes a future event that will happen, that Hashem's Name will be sanctified among the Jewish people.

Rabbi Alpert explains that the pasuk is presenting us with a fundamental insight regarding the nature of mesirat nefesh, which means the act of giving over everything - up to and including one's very life. This act is an act of a person on an extraordinarily high level. It only comes about gradually, after living a life of total dedication to all of the Torah's laws. Kashrut, modesty, Shabbat, observing the laws of lashon hara, honesty and integrity in business. A person who yearns to be close to Hashem truly regrets his sins and is repentant to Hashem. If so, then he has sanctified himself and dedicated all that he has in the service of Hashem. When and if the time should ever come that he is faced with the test of literal mesirat nefesh, giving up his life, the holiness that he has within him will direct him toward the proper choice. It would almost come naturally. It is not realistic that a mature adult would be prepared to give up his life for the sake of kidush Hashem simply because he found out one day about the existence of such a command. This was the ability of Rabbi Akiba, to give up his life with love to Hashem, saying the Shema, despite the torture that the Romans were doing to him. He said to his students that he was waiting his whole life to sanctify Hashem's Name with his life.

The practical lesson for us is that we can live our lives in a way that sanctifies Hashem's Name if we are totally devoted to Hashem, come what may. 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

EASY AS 1-2-3

"And you shall count for yourselves…seven weeks" (Vayikra 23:15)

In the Diaspora we celebrate two days of Yom Tob because in the times of the Bet Hamikdash it was not immediately known if the previous month consisted of 29 days or 30 days. Why on the first night, when we start counting the omer, don't we say, "Today is the first day, today is the second day," and on the next night why don't we say, "Today is the second day, today is the third day," etc.?

The purpose of counting is for clarification and verification. A person with an undetermined amount of money can count it to clarify the exact amount. If after counting he is still in doubt, he then recounts until he verifies the exact amount. Since the misvah is to count the omer, consequently, counting and remaining with a doubt is contradictory to the entire concept of counting, and it would be improper to make a berachah for such counting.

With this explanation we can also understand a halachah in Shulhan Aruch (Orach Haim 489:1), which superficially is enigmatic. The Magen Abraham writes that if one recites the omer counting in Hebrew and does not know the meaning of what he is saying, he has not fulfilled the misvah. Why is counting the omer different than other prayers or blessings which one may say in Hebrew, even if he does not know the meaning of the words?

In light of the above, that the purpose of counting is for clarification and verification and valueless otherwise, if one recites the counting without knowing the meaning, the purpose of counting is defeated. (Vedibarta Bam)


"Speak to the Kohanim, the sons of Aharon, and say to them" (Vayikra 21:1)

Rashi explains the apparent redundancy of ?????????????????, "speak to, and say." He suggests that this is the Torah's way of emphasizing its admonishment to adults that they must educate minors. The adult Kohanim should be extra vigilant in transmitting the laws of Kehunah to their sons. This pasuk has traditionally been viewed as a paradigm for parents' obligation to transmit Torah values to their children. Although Rashi states an essential prerequisite for effective parenting, his concept does not seem to be indicated in the context of this pasuk. The word ??????????, "and say," seems to focus upon adults, consistent with the earlier part of the pasuk.

Rabbi Moshe Feinstein z"l explains that in order for parents to educate their children effectively, they must teach their children by personal example. Parents can insist that their children perform a certain activity or adhere to a specific lifestyle. This parental wish will only be successfully adapted by children, however, if the parents themselves demonstrate an affinity to this particular activity or lifestyle.

There is no greater "turn off" for a child than to listen to his parents describe the various hardships endured in order to remain observant. It is also destructive when children whose parents devote themselves to Torah dissemination hear their parents express indifference, or even disdain, for various aspects of the profession. As children mature, they will invariably communicate their reticence to follow in their parents' footsteps. They may cite a lack of either physical or mental stamina to withstand the trials. Alternatively, they may be reflecting antipathy to the way of life which caused their parents so much "suffering."

As parents, it is important for us to measure every word we utter in the presence of sensitive, impressionable children. Even seemingly innocuous statements can have a lasting effect in shaping our children's minds. By responding to Torah and misvot with enthusiasm and joy, we inculcate positive Torah values and attitudes in our children's hearts.

Rabbi Feinstein explains that there are two "amirot," sayings which focus on the adults. First. the Torah admonishes the parents in their observance. Second, the Torah demands that this observance be performed with alacrity, vibrance and joy, so that the impressionable next generation will be positively influenced by their parents' behavior. This is the correct method to ensure that the minors follow in the path forged by the adults. (Peninim on the 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 diligent in the study of Torah, know what to answer an unbeliever" (Abot 2:14)

What is the connection between these two things?

The Mishnah is dispelling a popular myth, that it is important to have a vast knowledge in secular studies in order to be able to debate an unbeliever. Therefore, it states that one should study Torah and that through this, one can acquire unlimited knowledge and know all that is needed to answer a nonbeliever. This was also confirmed by Ben Bag Bag: "Learn it and learn it for everything is in it" (5:21)

In addition, the Mishnah is teaching that not everyone should engage in argument with the nonbeliever. One should first study Torah, and only afterwards should one undertake answering a nonbeliever.

The Mishnah carefully says, "Know what to answer" and not "Know what to say," to infer that one should not initiate a debate with an apostate, but only answer him if he verbally attacks the principles and teachings of the Torah. It is an obligation to be sufficiently prepared at all times to win such a debate. Since one cannot foresee when the apostate will confront him or stand in public and lecture concerning his apostate philosophies and pseudo-Torah interpretations in order to convert the unlearned and innocent, one must be sufficiently prepared at all times. (Vedibarta Bam)

Answer to Pop Quiz: A met misvah - someone who has nobody else to bury him.

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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