APRIL 30 - MAY 1, 2010 17 IYAR 5770
Day 32 of the Omer
"Say to the Kohanim he sons of Aharon and you shall say to them." (Vayikra 21:1)
The Torah goes at length to list all the laws that pertain only to Kohanim. Rashi mentions that the Torah uses a redundant wording: "Say and you shall say," to caution adults with regard to the young. The Torah is teaching us that adult Kohanim must ensure that young Kohanim who are not bar Misvah yet should practice the laws of the Kohanim. Of course we know that how you tell your kids is the key to success. We, not only Kohanim, must always give positive reinforcement to the children.
Rabbi Finkleman (Living the Perashah) tells a great story. An acquaintance told Rabbi Feifer that he knew a man who had very unusual succah decorations. This man, living in America in the early 1900's, had a hard time earning a living, because it took a long time to find a steady job. For many months he would start a new job on Monday, only to be fired on the following Monday for not having reported to work on Saturday. He did not let this get him down; every time he was fired he came home in good spirits.
With Succot approaching, he and his children built an old-fashioned succah, using heavy boards for the walls and slats of wood for the sechach. When the last piece of sechach was laid, the man said to his children, "And now we'll decorate the succah with beautiful decorations." The man went into his house and, with his wife at his side, emerged a few minutes later with a small box. As his curious children stood around him, he opened the box to reveal a pile of small slips of paper. "Children," he said, "in America when a person is fired from his job, he gets a pink slip of paper telling him so. The papers in this box are all the pink slips I got here in America from factories that fired me for keeping Shabbat. To me each pink slip is a medal I earned for loving Hashem and His holy Shabbat. I can think of nothing better to use for succah decorations. Come children, help Mommy and me hang up our medals and make our succah beautiful!" Shabbat Shalom. Rabbi Reuven Semah
"And they placed him in jail." (Vayikra 24:12)
The son of Shelomit bat Dibri blasphemed the Name of Hashem throughout the camp of the Israelites and was brought before Moshe. Moshe and the Children of Israel, awaiting further instruction from Hashem, were left to their own reasoning in dealing with him. Rashi relates that they placed him in a different cell than the mekoshesh - the one who desecrated Shabbat - who happened to be incarcerated at the same time. The mekoshesh was awaiting his punishment - death. The fate of the mekallel - the one who cursed Hashem - was not yet to be decided. Had they been put together, the mekallel would have assumed that his penalty was also death, which was not yet certain. This undoubtedly would prompt the mekallel to feel a degree of anguish. To avoid this unnecessary suffering, B'nei Yisrael decided to keep the two sinners separated.
The Da'at Zekenim notes that the Children of Israel were unsure if the one who cursed Hashem was even worthy of death. Their reasoning was such: One who curses his parents receives capital punishment. B'nei Yisrael inferred that, naturally, cursing Hashem is worse. Perhaps his sin is so great that he would not be allowed any chance of atonement in this world and therefore his punishment should remain totally in the hands of Hashem. If the mekallel was deemed so despicable as to deserve a fate worse than death, why did the Children of Israel go out of their way to insure that he should not wrongly assume that he was on death row?
The Children of Israel were setting an example for us. We must be sensitive, to the greatest degree, of everyone's feelings and needs. True, the mekallel was wicked and immoral and deserved the greatest punishment possible. Nevertheless, the Israelites had the responsibility to uphold his human dignity and avoid causing him any undue pain.
The lesson for us is obvious. Even if our neighbor is base and corrupt, we cannot hurt him or his feelings unnecessarily. How much more so must we be responsive and sympathetic to the needs and feelings of friends and family?
The message of the days of the omer is not merely one of abstinence from pleasure, but one of caring for our fellow man. The twenty-four thousand students of Rabbi Akiba died in this time period because they, in some slight way, did not respect each other as people of their stature should have. The Torah requires and expects us to act towards everyone with the greatest amount of compassion and love imaginable. By putting in every extra effort in this time of sefirat ha'omer, we will be well on our way to preparing ourselves for Shabuot and accepting the Torah.
Shabbat Shalom. Rabbi Shmuel Choueka
It is customary to study Pirkei Abot (Ethics of the Fathers) during the six weeks between Pesah and Shabuot, one chapter every Shabbat.
"Against your will you live; against your will you die, and against your will you are destined to give an account before the supreme King of kings, the Holy One, blessed be He." (Abot 4:22)
Why should a person be required to give an accounting for what he did during his lifetime if his very existence was against his will?
A very wealthy man had two daughters and experienced much difficulty in marrying them off. One was extremely ugly and the other was very wicked and cursed anyone that would come near her. A marriage broker, who received a hefty sum, came up with a mate for each one. For the ugly one, he found someone who was blind, and for the one with the wicked mouth, he found someone who was deaf. Since the deaf one could not hear her curses and the blind one did not see her ugliness, they lived happily married for many years.
A doctor once visited this city and told the father-in-law that for the right price he could heal both his sons-in-law. When the blind man opened his eyes and the deaf one began to hear, chaos came into their lives, and the wealthy father-in-law refused to pay him. The doctor summoned him to court. The decision of the judge was that since his cure brought suffering, the father-in-law did not have to pay and the doctor was obligated to bring them back to their previous state.
The doctor accepted the verdict and agreed to take away the vision from one of them and the hearing from the other. The previously blind man protested vehemently that he would not permit his eyesight to be taken away, and the deaf man, too, would not let the doctor remove his hearing. Upon observing this, the judge said to the two sons-in-law, "Now that I see you are happy with your present condition and do not want to revert to the situation that you were in before, I am demanding that you pay the doctor in full for his service."
Thus, it is true that "against your will you were created and against your will you live." However, once a person is alive, he does not want to, G-d forbid, leave this world, and he will give all that he owns to remain healthy and alive. Therefore, he must account for what he did during his lifetime upon this earthly world. (Vedibarta Bam)
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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