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Haftarah: Yehezkel 44:15-31

MAY 8-9, 2015 20 IYAR 5775


"I shall be sanctified among the children of Israel." (Vayikra 22:32)

If one would study the meaning of the kaddish that we say when someone passes away, he would discover that the theme is to sanctify the name of Hashem, as the first sentence says "?? ?? ?? ? - May His great name be exalted and sanctified." As Jewish people, we yearn to praise and make holy His great name.

Rabbi Obadiah Yosef zt"l writes in his book Hazon Obadiah about the importance of saying kaddish, especially during the first year of passing, not only in the prayers but also after the study of Torah. The kaddish after Torah study has special power to elevate the soul of the departed. He quotes the Ridbaz and the Arizal that the kaddish after learning has special potency and gives tremendous pleasure to the departed.

Rabbi Yosef tells a story of the Hozeh MiLublin, who had a special time to learn, and he gave instructions to his attendant that he shouldn't be disturbed. One day the attendant came in and said that there is a woman crying a lot who must see him. He said to bring her in. As she came in, she asked if he recognized her. He answered that he didn't, and she told him that she was his nursemaid. His mother was unable to nurse him, so she was brought as his nursemaid. His father wanted someone who was careful with the berachot on foods, since the foods one eats turns into milk. He wanted everything to be kosher and pure in order that the child should become a great saddik. All that the father wanted came true. Now she came with a request. All of her children had passed away and she had nobody to say kaddish. Can he say kaddish for her after she passes away? The great saddik promised he would do it. She passed away a few days later, and the Hozeh started saying kaddish for her.

For thirty days the Hozeh did not take his mind off of her. On the thirty-first day, the nursemaid came to him in a dream. Her face was aglow like the sun and her garments shone from one end of the world to the other. She said, "Stop saying kaddish! I don't want you to say kaddish anymore!"

The Hozeh asked her, "Is my kaddish no good?" She answered. "On the contrary. It's too good. Every time you say kaddish, I am raised to another exalted level. Now I sit amongst very righteous women. I don't understand what they say but it is good for me to be there. If you say kaddish for me tomorrow, they will take me to another place. Thank you very much, but now please stop the kaddish!" 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.

"Whoever honors the Torah." (Abot 4:6)

How does one honor Torah?

According to Rashi, this includes not putting a Sefer Torah on a bench where people are sitting.

According to Tiferet Yisrael it means maintaining Torah books in good condition, binding them when they tear, and returning them to the shelf after use.

According to the Abrabanel it means that the Torah scholar should be careful about his appearance. When one is dirty or shabbily dressed, people lose their respect for Torah and speak negatively about it.

According to Me'iri it means that the Torah scholar should be of refined character, so that people will admire him and in turn have respect for Torah when they realize its influence on those who study it. (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.

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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