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Haftarah: Yeshayahu 60:1-22

AUGUST 31-SEPTEMBER 1, 2007 18 ELUL 5767

Pop Quiz: Which tribes received land on the east of the Jordan River?


"Then we called out to Hashem, the G-d of our forefathers" (Debarim 26:7)

The perashah begins with the misvah of Bikurim. In the days when we had the Bet Hamikdash, every Jew brought the first choice fruits of his land to Jerusalem. As he presented these fruits he had to recite a special declaration which contains a short summary of our history, including the time we were enslaved in Egypt. The person declares, "Then we cried out to Hashem!" The Midrash says that there are ten different names for prayers. One of them is tze'akah, to cry out loud.

A story is told by Rav Shach z"tz (quoted in Torah Lada'at). Once, a Hasidic businessman was traveling to Vienna on business. He needed to stay over on Shabbat in Vienna, so he was deciding where he should pray. This Jew was a Hasid of Karlin. He decided he wanted to pray in the shul of the Rebbe of Tshortkov. So on Wednesday he went to visit the Rebbe. When they met, he told the Rebbe that he would like to pray with him. However, his custom as a Hasid of Karlin was to scream out the prayers. The Rebbe answered that this would not be tolerated and he must pray quietly; after all, we are standing before Hashem and one must pray with dignity. The Hasid felt that he couldn't pray there, but as Shabbat approached he saw he had nowhere else, so he had no choice but to pray quietly. As the prayers began he tried with all his might to contain himself. But, when they reached the prayer of "Nishmat Kol Chai," he couldn't hold back anymore and called out with all his might. After prayers he felt terrible that he broke his promise and went to speak to the Rebbe to apologize. When he said how sorry he was to the Rebbe, the Rebbe reacted with surprise. "Why are you sorry? After all, screaming (tze'akah) is one of the forms of prayer!" "But, but," the Hasid stammered, "you said…" The Rebbe smiled and answered, "Please understand, if someone comes on Wednesday and notifies me that he will scream out his prayers, I am obligated to correct him and tell him this is not the right way. But, if during the prayers the Jew's heart is bursting with emotion and overflows with a scream - there is no better prayer than that."

My friends, if you cannot control your emotions when praying to Hashem, we will forgive you! Shabbat Shalom. Rabbi Reuven Semah

After all the curses and punishments that are written in our perashah, the Torah says that this will happen if we don't serve Hashem with joy and happiness when we are blessed with everything. The Rabbis tell us that doing misvot without happiness means it's a burden and a chore, and eventually people stop doing what is a bother.

The Midrash points out another aspect about being happy. There was once a king whose son was not behaving properly and the king wanted to punish him. However, every time it was time to receive his punishment, the boy would smile and show such happiness at being with the king that the king could not bring himself to hurt his son. When we show that we are happy being the children of Hashem, He becomes filled with love for us and wants to send us berachah from heaven. Especially in our times, when people worry about the future and there are so many long faces around, this is the time we should remember this lesson. We should try to think about positive aspects of our lives and smile and be happy. This will spark within us a greater feeling of joy which will continue to make us feel good and accomplish more. And happiness is contagious, so others will become inspired and encouraged when they see us happy and content, and this could only have a greater ripple effect on those around us. So let's be happy and smile, and let's see the results. Shabbat Shalom. Rabbi Shmuel Choueka


"And now I brought the first fruit of the land which Hashem gave me, and you shall place it before Hashem, your G-d, and you shall bow down before Hashem, your G-d" (Debarim 26:10)

Rabbi Chayim Shmuelevitz noted that we do not find the idea of bowing down to Hashem mentioned in other commandments. Why is it mentioned here in the bringing of the first fruits? The whole concept of bringing the first fruits to the Bet Hamikdash was to show gratitude to Hashem for all that He has given. It is an expression of our awareness that everything we have is a gift from Hashem. Therefore, the Torah mentions that we bow down to Hashem, which symbolizes our total submission to His will because all that we have is from Him. This applies to our material as well as our intellectual achievements. Be grateful to Hashem for all that you understand in Torah and any novel ideas that He has blessed you with.

The greater your awareness that all you have is a gift from Hashem, the more you will appreciate it. As many commentators point out, a small gift from a very distinguished and important dignitary is a precious possession. The greater the giver, the more you treasure what you were given. When you live with the reality that all you have is a gift from Hashem, you will enjoy immensely everything you have. (Growth through Torah)


"These shall stand to bless the people…and these shall stand for the curse…and the Leviim shall speak and say…" (Debarim 27:12,13,14)

Rashi cites the Talmud in Sotah 32a that describes the procedure for giving the blessings and curses. Six tribes ascended to the summit of Har Gerizim and six tribes ascended to the summit of Har Eibal. The Kohanim and Leviim stood below in the middle. The Leviim turned toward Har Gerizim and recited the blessing, while both groups responded with Amen. Afterwards, this same procedure was followed reciting the curses, but this time they faced Har Eibal.

Rav M. Shternbuch suggests a profound lesson to be derived from this pasuk. The tribe of Levi received no portion in Eress Yisrael. Indeed, this tribe has been synonymous with a lack of material sustenance. Their whole earthly "possession" consists of the Torah. Looking for support from their brethren, their lot in life has appeared bleak. The other tribes have represented prosperity and good fortune. They are viewed by the "world" as fortunate. Nonetheless, the success or failure of B'nei Yisrael hinges upon the tribe of Levi. Klal Yisrael's future is dependent upon the tribe of Levi's devotion to successful Torah study. They stand in the "middle," effecting blessing or curse.

B'nei Torah may stand at the bottom of the ladder of material accomplishment. Their spiritual achievement, however, is the determining factor for everyone else's success. As always, appearances may be deceiving. The individual who, according to man's limited vision, is "suffering" on the bottom of the pole may be at the summit of success in the eyes of the Eternal. B'nei Torah, the spiritual heirs of the tribe of Levi, should be nourished and sustained, so that Klal Yisrael may continue to endure. (Peninim on the Torah)


"And you shall be mad at the sight of your eyes which you shall see" (Debarim 28:34)

In today's society, when the world is filled with so much distortion of the truth, and overwhelmed with deceit and hypocrisy, it is indeed virtually impossible for people to see the truth. There are, however, individuals who, because they are maintaining a Torah-true observance, have access to a clear perspective of what society should be. Their clarity of vision is nonetheless denounced, their message is distorted and treated as the ramblings of madmen. This can be the interpretation of the above pasuk. Those who, because of their ability to see, have chosen not to follow the decadent course taken by society, are ridiculed and scorned. This curse has unfortunately seen fruition in contemporary times, when the great Torah "seers" are so often scorned and derided. (Peninim on the Torah)

Answer to Pop Quiz: Reuben, Gad and half of the tribe of Menasheh.

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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