SEPTEMBER 23-24, 2005 20 ELUL 5765
"Of complete stones you shall build the altar of Hashem" (Debarim 27:6)
As we approach the High Holiday season, we all hope that our prayers will be answered. The Yalkut Meam Loez finds a fascinating lesson in our perashah, that if we pray properly our prayers will be answered. It is stated (Tikun Zohar Hakadosh) that Rabbi Shimon Bar Yochai told his son, Rabbi Elazar, that those who read from the Torah should enunciate the words and not swallow them. Swallowing words is like Esav's gluttonous saying, "Haliteni! (Pour it down my throat!)" Hashem is not happy when people gulp down the words of the Torah.
In the verse we quoted above, there is a hint that we need to take care when enunciating the words of the Amidah. The three daily prayers have a total of fifty-seven blessings, which has the same numerical value as the word ?mizbeah (the altar). Our prayers were instituted to correspond to the sacrifices. Thus, the altar upon which we bring our offerings of the heart should be composed of abanim shelemot - complete stones, which are words and letters that aren't broken up.
It is quoted in the name of Eliyahu Hanabi that there is a great hint in one of the verses of Ashrei that we say every day. (Tehillim 145:18). ?Hashem is close to all those who call Him with emet - who truly call Him." The word emet is made up of three letters. "Aleph," the first letter, alludes to otiyot, letters. The second letter, "mem," refers to the milim, words. The "tav" refers to the tenuot, vowels. Only when they are all said accurately is the fulfillment of the next verse promised: ?The will of those who fear Him is done."
As we perfect our reading of the prayers, which is the language that we communicate to Hashem, our chances for them to be answered are greatly improved. Shabbat Shalom. Rabbi Reuven Semah
"Because you did not serve Hashem, your G-d, with joy" (Debarim 28:47)
The Torah lists a long string of misfortunes that may befall the Jewish people (G-d forbid). Indeed, some of the events mentioned in these curses are very tragic and have happened to our nation throughout history. The reason given for this harsh conduct by Hashem against us is that we did not serve Hashem with happiness.
The Ari z"l gives this verse a twist and learns it in a novel fashion. The reason for these curses is that when we did not serve Hashem, we did it with happiness, which means that when we were doing sins, we did them with a good feeling rather than with regret and remorse.
This has to teach us that not only our actions count but even our attitudes while doing these actions. If we end up doing something wrong, we have to feel badly even while doing it so that it's not considered as if we did the wrong thing with happiness. One of the methods of following this advice is by doing misvot with happiness. If we feel good when doing the right thing, even if we sometimes fall and do the wrong thing it will not be with joy but with reluctance and hopefully regret. That way we will tend to increase those things which we associate with happiness, which are the misvot, and stay away from those things which we are doing without happiness! Shabbat Shalom. Rabbi Shmuel Choueka
"Then all the peoples of the earth will see that the name of G-d is proclaimed over you, and they will revere you" (Debarim 28:10)
Instead of the two words, "veyar'u mimecha - they will revere you," it could have said one word, "veyare'ucha." Why is the pasuk written with two words and not one?
The actions of the individual Jew have and effect on the Jewish people at large. A single Jew's behavior can either cause a kiddush Hashem, sanctification of G-d's name, or, G-d forbid, a hilul Hashem, a desecration of His name. When the peoples of the world see how the Jew conducts himself and how he is full of awe and reverence for his G-d, they, too, resolve to emulate him and fear and revere Hashem.
The pasuk is alluding to this fact by telling us "all the peoples of the world shall see that the name of Hashem is upon you," i.e. they will witness your respect and reverence for Hashem, then "veyar'u" - they too will begin to fear and revere Hashem, "mimecha" - through you and thanks to you. This applies not only to Jews and the world at large, but also among Jews themselves. The religious Jew is scrutinized by all other Jews, and when a flaw appears in his conduct, people make ridiculing remarks against religion and Torah. When the religious Jew's conduct is commendable, other Jews are impressed with the good influence Torah has upon the individual and often it helps them resolve to direct their lives according to Hashem's guidance in the Torah. (Vedibarta Bam)
And you shall take the first of all fruit of the ground" (Debarim 26:2)
There are two misvot which applied only when Klal Yisrael occupied Eress Yisrael. They are the misvot of bikurim, the bringing of the first fruits, and ma'aser, the giving of tithes to the Levi, the proselyte, the widow and the orphan. Another tithe was ma'aser sheni, which was brought to Yerushalayim to be eaten among family and friends in joyful celebration. The fulfillment of each of these misvot was accompanied by a prayer. One was known as mikra bikurim, the reading of pesukim of thanksgiving for the first fruits; the other was known as viduy ma'aser, the confession of ma'aser.
Not only were these two prayers disparate in name, they were also distinct in context and law. The mikra bikurim was to be said only in lashon kodesh, Hebrew, in a loud voice. The viduy ma'aser was to be recited in a low, humble voice in any language known to the participant. Why were these two prayers different from each other? Were they not both expressions of gratitude? Why was one referred to as mikra, recital, while the other is called viduy, confession? Why was one said aloud in Hebrew, while the other was expressed quietly in any language?
Rav Moshe Swift z.l explains: There are two types of blessing. One blessing is that which comes directly from Hashem, such as the blessings of nature, soil, rain and crops. Mikra bikurim expounds Hashem's beneficence through nature. It acknowledges the goodness which we receive from Hashem. His miraculous deeds under the guise of "nature" attest to His Divine essence. They bespeak His greatness and constant providential direction of the world. This is a holy prayer to be joyfully proclaimed publicly using the holy tongue, Hebrew, which becomes a holy message.
On the other hand, when man relates his sharing of ma'aser, he speaks of himself. One should be unassuming when speaking of his own virtue and merit. It should be expressed in a quiet and subdued voice. This concept is consistent with the pasuk in Mishlei 27:2, "Let another man praise you, and not your own mouth." Furthermore, does man truly know what inspires his actions? Is his motivation always sublime, or is there a trace of self-interest in the background? Even the noblest of human endeavors may be tainted. Not all of man's deeds are worthy of being expressed in the holy tongue. Therefore, the viduy ma'aser is said quietly in any language. (Peninim on the Torah)
This Week's Haftarah: Yeshayahu 60:1-22.
This haftarah is the sixth of the series of seven haftarot of comfort, which are read from Tish'ah B'Ab to Rosh Hashanah. Yeshayahu prophesizes that the nations will come to realize that Hashem rules the world. Hashem gives his guarantee that in the final redemption, He will be an eternal light for us, and our days of mourning will end.
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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