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Haftarah: Yehezkel 44:15-31

MAY 2-3, 2014 3 IYAR 5774


"You shall count for yourselves from the day after Shabbat, seven complete weeks." (Vayikra 23:15)

During the Pesah holiday in our shul we had a class on the halachot of counting the Omer. One interesting question that we discussed was, what if a man must undergo surgery and the surgeon says between the surgery and recovery he will probably be unconscious and will not be able to count the Omer that day. Should he count with a berachah up until the surgery knowing he will miss a day? With that question, one member of our congregation asked, what if someone is terminally ill; can he count with a berachah since he might pass away during the Omer?

These questions can be answered with the following story told over by Rabbi Ephraim Nissenbaum. Rabbi Yitzchak Zilberman of Bnei Brak was once approached by a man who was deathly ill. The man wanted to know if he could recite the berachah on the counting of the Omer, knowing full well that he would not live to complete counting the whole seven week cycle.

Rav Zilberman told him a parable about a child who wanted a piece of candy, but his parents refused to give it to him. The child recited the blessing and the parents were

forced to give the child the candy to prevent the blessing from being invalid.

Similarly, the man should recite the blessing upon the counting and perhaps Hashem would allow him to complete the counting. Indeed, he recited the daily blessing and died shortly after Shabuot, finishing the whole seven weeks. A person must always think positively.

So to answer both questions we can say, let him count with a berachah and perhaps Hashem will allow the surgery and the recovery to be finished more quickly, which will allow him to count without missing a day, and the terminal patient perhaps will live the entire seven weeks. Shabbat Shalom. Rabbi Reuven Semah

"A man who will blaspheme his G-d...and a man, if he strikes any human life...and a man who strikes an animal" (Vayikra 24:15-18)

The Torah describes someone who blasphemed the Holy Name of Hashem and his ultimate punishment of being put to death. What strikes us as highly unusual is the fact that right after that, the Torah teaches us the "regular" laws of hitting another person or even causing damage to someone else's animal. What does this have to do with blasphemy? One would assume that to curse the Name of G-d would involve someone totally demented or evil enough to stoop to the lowest level. The Torah, however, is teaching us that there is a progression for everything. If one person starts off by damaging someone's animal, he may go to injure his friend personally. If left unchecked, a person can deteriorate so rapidly that under the right circumstances, he may even blaspheme the Name of Hashem. The Gemara tells us that when the Rabbis wanted to know who stole a silver cup, one of the masters noticed someone drying his hands on the sleeve of someone else and deduced that this was the culprit, which indeed he was.

Everything we do affects us and if not corrected will lead us to another level, lower than the one we started on. On the other hand, a good act which we do will also lead us to do even better things, as it says, "A misvah leads to a misvah and a sin leads to a sin." Shabbat Shalom. Rabbi Shmuel Choueka


"When an ox or a sheep or a goat is bornů it is acceptable for a fire-offering to Hashem." (Vayikra 22:27)

The Yalkut Shimoni teaches us why the above three animals (ox, sheep, goat) were selected to serve as Korbanot, sacrifices. The ox was chosen in the merit of Abraham Abinu who, in the course of preparing dinner for his "Heavenly" guests, ran to bring for them an ox. Yitzhak Abinu's merit at Akedat Yitzhak catalyzed the designation of the sheep as a sacrifice. When Ya'akob Abinu appeared before his father to receive the blessing, bringing with him dinner made of goat meat, he paved the way for the goat to be used for korbanot. Interestingly, this same Midrash is quoted by the Targum Yerushalmi - but with a twist concerning the goats. The Targum posits that it was the fact that Ya'akob covered his arms with goat hair when he brought his father dinner that served as the merit for goats to be placed on the Altar, as a sacrifice. This appears strange, since when Ya'akob appeared before his father clothed in goats hair, it was not his finest moment. The entire scene was beguiling, so that Yitzhak would think that before him stood Esav - not Ya'akob. Why would an act of deception be worthy of merit - let alone catalyze the goat as a standard for sacrifice?

In his Iyeh HaYam, Horav Yehudah Leib Edil, z"l, offers an inspiring explanation. When Ribkah Imenu instructed Ya'akob to take Esav's place, the Patriarch shuddered at the thought. How could he deceive his father? Yet, with great trepidation, he went forward and presented himself as Esav to his father. There was a physical issue that had to be resolved. Esav was hairy - Ya'akob was not. This created a serious problem for Ya'akob. What if, for some reason, Yitzhak would want to embrace his son, only to discover that his once hairy son was now smooth as silk? Ya'akob's deception would be discovered, and he would be eternally condemned by his father.

We forget, however, that the only reason Yitzhak asked his son to "come closer" was because of the way he spoke, alluding to G-d, that had paved the way for his good fortune. This was not Esav's style of speech. He never mentioned G-d - period. Esav was a self-made man, the archetype agnostic. In other words, Ya'akob Abinu brought the "lie" upon himself. Had he spoken like Esav: "I did it," "I found it," - all "me," then Yitzhak would never have suspected that something was amiss. If, for once in his life, Ya'akob would not have attributed his success to Hashem, Yitzhak would not have questioned him. Our Patriarch was not prepared to turn his back on Hashem, to falsify something in which he believed with all his heart and soul. This remains Ya'akob's distinctive merit for which we "collected" when we would offer a goat on the Altar.

Perhaps we might suggest an alternative approach which follows along similar lines. When Ya'akob was instructed by his mother to present himself as Esav, he was taking an enormous chance. True, his mother told him, "Do not worry," but to lie was acting against his grain. Yet, his mother told him to do it. How could he disagree with his mother? From a spiritual vantage point, she was right "up there" with Yitzhak. When the preeminent Torah leaders of our generation issue a call, impose a decree - we listen; we follow. We trust in our hachamim, Torah scholars - even when their instructions do not conform with our line of thinking. This is the zechut, merit, of the goats and why we need them today more than ever. (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.

"Fulfill His will as you would your own will" (Abot 2:4)

The word "kiresonecha - as your will" is superfluous; why doesn't he simply say, "Do His will?"

The message in this Mishnah is indeed much more profound than just calling on man to do the will of Hashem. The money we spend during our lifetime can be divided into two portions: Some goes to spiritual matters such as sedakah, misvot, and tuition, and the other goes for physical necessities and personal pleasures. In retrospect, we usually see that money spent on pleasures has been wasted. However, the return for money spent on the spiritual is everlasting.

Unfortunately, many people who are blessed with affluence spend freely on personal amenities, yet plead poverty when it comes to spending money on spiritual matters. The Mishnah is advising that a person should fulfill His will as he would his own will, i.e., an equal amount of money should be spent on spiritual matters as on physical ones. If one has money to "throw over the cliff," one should not plead poverty when it comes to spending for Hashem. (Vedibarta Bam)

* * * * *

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