MAY 6-7, 2011 3 IYAR 5771
"You shall count for yourselves…seven weeks they shall be complete." (Vayikra 23:15)
Our perashah contains the misvah known as Sefirat Ha'omer. The misvah is to count the forty-nine days between Pesah and Shabuot. There is one unique law about counting and that is if you miss one day, you may not count with a berachah for the rest of the days. Because, according to some views the entire count is considered to be one big misvah, somebody who misses even one day can no longer recite a berachah that year.
This law has no parallel in any other misvah in the Torah. If somebody accidentally ate hamess on Pesah, forgot to light the Menorah on one night of Hanukah or ate outside of the succah nobody would suggest that he is now exempt from continuing to observe the misvah during the duration of the holiday!
Rabbi Ozer Alport explains with the famous story of Rabbi Akiva. He grew up as an uneducated and ignorant shepherd. At the age of forty he noticed a rock with a hole worn through it by dripping water. He reasoned that if water could penetrate a hard rock so too can Torah (which is compared to water) penetrate the soft flesh of his heart. He began studying and became the Torah giant of his time. What was the deeper message of the dripping water that gave him the confidence in his new undertaking?
Rabbi Chaim Shmuelevitz explains with a parable. If one wants to boil water he puts a pot on the stove for one minute and it begins to boil. Let's say that after thirty seconds he removes the pot for five minutes and puts it back for another thirty seconds. Even though the pot was on the fire for a total of one minute, it won't boil. The obvious reason is that it's not the amount of time that it's on the flame that's most important, but the continuity that is most crucial. It's both the heat and the time of that heat that boils the water.
Rqabbi Akiva was skeptical about his potential for learning Torah. If he had to start from the beginning at that age, he could cover only a little amount daily. How much could he really accomplish? However, when he saw the rock he realized that even though each drop does little, the cumulative effect of all the drops is great. He understood the power of consistency and he set off to become one of the greatest.
The seven week period of the omer is a period in which we prepare to celebrate the giving of the Torah. Therefore, we count the days without missing even one day to symbolically teach us the importance of stability in our Torah study. The key isn't the age we start but rather the consistency and permanence of our studies. 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 count for you from the morrow after Shabbat… seven complete weeks it shall be." (Vayikra 23:15)
Harav S.Y. Zevin offers a novel homiletic exposition of this pasuk. When one counts something, he indicates his esteem for the particular object. Indeed, at the beginning of Sefer Bemidbar, Rashi states that Hashem counted B'nei Yisrael a number of times because of His great love for them. The days and years of one's life should likewise be important in one's eyes. One should value every moment of life and appreciate its true meaning, "so that we do not struggle in vain nor produce for futility" (Isaiah 65:23). Therefore every moment should be reckoned and cherished.
"Seven complete weeks it shall be." This pasuk alludes to the days of our lives, as stated in Tehillim 90:10 "The days of our years, among them are seventy years." Consequently, one should "count" his days to demonstrate his respect for the passage of time. There are, however, two ways to count. One can count his own money, or he can count money which belongs to another person. Obviously, one who counts his own money does so with concern and excitement, since he is dealing with his personal property. One who counts another's money however will do so complacently, without emotional attachment because he has not contributed to this wealth, it has no meaning or value to him. Man can count the days of his life apathetically or he can count them prudently, conscious of their value and worth. We are enjoined to "count for you" as if this counting is for you and no one else. We must show our appreciation of the greatest gift from Hashem, life itself, and seek to take advantage of every moment granted to us by dedicating our days to the service of Hashem. (Peninim on the Torah)
"And Hashem said to Moshe, say unto the Kohanim, the sons of Aharon." (Vayikra 21:1)
In most circumstances when the Torah states misvot or laws it uses the word "And He spoke" which is considered a stronger and harsher terminology than "and He said" which is used here. What is the significance of this? The Kohanim who are charged with teaching the Torah and its laws to Am Yisrael represent the teachers and mentors of Am Yisrael. As it is their possession of greater holiness which mandates this charge, they must accept upon themselves greater stringencies than the rest of Am Yisrael. These laws must be accepted with joy and complete subordination of one's will, which is expressed by the softer terminology of "and He said." In order for the proper image to be projected and for their mandate to be accepted by the people, they must be in total acceptance of their charge. This lesson must be understood by all those who engage in instructing and spreading Hashem's laws and misvot. Although they often encounter difficulties and hardships, they must realize their charge, that they are engaged in holy work, and must carry out their responsibility with joy and alacrity.
This concept applies also to parents. In order to properly instruct children, it is necessary to project an image of happiness and excitement regarding the fulfillment of Hashem's misvot. When parents complain about the various hardships which they encounter in order to serve Hashem, they are sending negative messages to their children. We must be cognizant of this so that the proper instruction we give our children will be successful. (Peninim on the Torah)
"The evil eye, the evil inclination and hatred of one's fellow drive a man from the world." (Pirkei Abot 2:11)
It is customary to study Pirkei Abot (Ethics of the Fathers) during the six weeks between Pesah and Shabuot, one chapter every Shabbat.
What is the connection between these three?
There are actually two sorts of ayin hara - evil eye. One is aroused by frivolous behavior and the other by commendable activities. When one flaunts his riches, and seeks to dominate because of it, or expects people to honor him and yield to his whims, people in return will look at him and his wealth with an evil eye. The other is evoked when a person conducts himself righteously and gives much charity, and it is common that some will be jealous of him.
The difference is that in the first case, the evil eye is one of condemnation and in the latter, it is due to jealousy. Now, in the first case the person brought an ayin hara upon himself through behavior incited by the Yeser Hara and it also created a situation of Sinat Haberiyot - people hating him for his behavior. In the second, the evil eye is brought about through behavior caused by the Yeser Tob and people are jealous of him. They want to emulate him and have no reason to hate him.
The Gemara relates that Rav once went to a cemetery and after investigating, he stated, "Ninety nine out of a hundred die from an evil eye and only one from natural causes." In order not to frighten and deter people from doing good deeds, the Mishnah confirms that it is true that an ayin hara can drive a person out of the physical world, but it is only such an evil eye that was brought about through behavior incited by the Yeser Hara and which is coupled with Sinat Haberiyot - hatred and animosity towards him. But if the ayin hara came because of conduct which one's good inclination encouraged, there is no reason to fear and on the contrary, in merit of it one will enjoy longevity. (Vedibarta Bam)
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