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Haftarah: Yeshayahu 60:1-22

SEPTEMBER 4-5, 2009 16 ELUL 5769


"You shall inscribe on the stones all the words of this Torah, well clarified" (Debarim 27:8)

As we know the Jewish people entered the Land of Israel under the leadership of Yehoshua. The book of Yehoshua describes our ancestors' miraculous crossing of the Jordan River to enter the land. There it is explained that twelve stones were to be hoisted from the riverbed. This week's perashah details the exact procedure to be followed. Eventually these stones completed their journey when they were brought to the Jews' encampment at Gilgal, near the border of Israel, and were set up there. As our verse above explains, Hashem commanded them to write the entire Torah in seventy languages. It was a miracle, to be able to write the entire Torah in seventy languages all on a space of twelve medium sized stones, all in a single day. This whole elaborate monument was set up near the border of Israel. The question is, what was the purpose? Why adorn the entranceway to Eress Yisrael with an inscription of the Torah's full text in Japanese and Swahili, etc.?

The Mishnas Chayim on the perashah explains beautifully with a simple but clear parable. Imagine that someone has moved to a new locale. This homeowner needs drapes, light fixtures and carpeting. He needs groceries, beverages and appliances to store them in. When he arrives at the shopping center, however, he is bewildered by the sight that meets his eyes. Although he sees many large stores and shops, not a single one is marked. The entire shopping center consists of buildings with blank walls, leaving him totally confounded. He doesn't know where to begin to find the items he needs. All around him throngs of people are milling around in a similar state of confusion. Finally he decides to leave this pandemonium and head on to the next town. Arriving at the next town our friend feels a surge of relief. On one corner he sights a building with the Walmart logo, another building with a Shoprite sign, and down the road he sees a shop calls Bob's Refrigerators. Now he knows that everything will be all right. Amazing what a difference this device known as a sign can make in our lives.

Rabbi Yerucham Levovitz z"tl attributes a similar function to the recording of the Torah in the stone monument. Stationed at the entrance to the land, the stones with their Torah inscriptions serve as a type of sign "advertising" and announcing what lies within the borders of this land. It is as if the Torah affixed a nameplate to the perimeter of Eress Yisrael upon which is inscribed a description of exactly what takes place within. The multilingual monument was a sign for all the world to see and understand precisely what this land is all about - and that is Torah and misvot. Whereas other countries might be known for their military prowess, their technological advances or whatever, this place is to be known for one thing in the eyes of the world: its dedication to the study and fulfillment of the entire Torah. Shabbat Shalom. Rabbi Reuven Semah

"Because you did not serve Hashem, your G-d, with joy and gladness of heart" (Debarim 28:47)

This pasuk teaches us that serving Hashem without happiness brings punishment to a person. The Arizal says that precisely because the Jewish people worshipped Hashem in an unenthusiastic manner, without excitement, they would ultimately serve their enemies. A major component of serving Hashem is being in a constant state of happiness. In fact, if we had not failed to serve Hashem with joy, we would not have been exiled.

The Yalkut Me'am Loez illustrates this point with a parable. There was once a king whose son was uncontrollable. His constant acts of disrespect and disregard for the law brought great embarrassment to the king. Often, his father would be about to punish him, but at the last minute, the son would put on a sweet angelic smile. When the father saw the happiness and innocence in his son's eyes, he couldn't bring himself to punish his son.

This is a great tool to protect us from punishment. When Hashem sees the joy coming from a person's performance of a misvah, He defers punishment. It is not enough to be intellectually aware of the greatness of the Torah and a Torah life. A person must experience it with joy. If one doesn't see the happiness which Judaism brings upon us, he may eventually turn elsewhere to search for happiness.

Let's take the initiative in these days of Elul, as we approach the High Holidays, to do our misvot with extra excitement and happiness. This will serve us well on Rosh Hashanah when Hashem reviews our deeds for the year. May we all be written in the book of life and happiness, Amen. Rabbi Shmuel Choueka


"And it will come to you all of these blessings and they will reach you" (Debarim 28:2)

Many commentators discuss the Hebrew term vehisigucha, and they will reach you. What is the difficulty of the blessings reaching a person that it is necessary to mention this after the Torah has already stated "it will come to you"?

One answer that is commonly quoted is the idea that at times a person does not realize what is truly good for him and he mistakenly runs away from the blessing. Therefore the Torah guarantees that the blessing will pursue the person and reach him even though he is trying to escape from it. Only after he receives the blessing will he become aware of what is really good for him.

This idea will save a person much suffering. When things happen that at first glance seem to be negative occurrences, you must be patient before you make a final judgment. As one event leads to another you will frequently see before your own eyes that what you originally thought would be negative was clearly positive in the end. Be aware of occasions when this already happened to you in the past and you will be able to internalize this awareness in the future. (Growth through Torah)


"And observe the words of this covenant" (Debarim 29:8)

Rashi explains that after forty years of travel in the desert, Klal Yisrael had attained a sublime level of dignity. They perceived the greatness of Hashem, and appreciated the boundless beneficence He had showered upon them. They realized that their remarkable military prowess, as well as their continued success and well-being, could only be attributed to Hashem's generosity. At this juncture, Hashem chose to make an agreement with Klal Yisrael so that they would not forget all that had transpired these past forty years. He wanted them to reflect upon their source of strength and not take personal credit for their achievement.

One would think that after Klal Yisrael had reached such a lofty level in their comprehension of Hashem, such an agreement would have been superfluous. Would it not have been more propitious to admonish them in hakarat hatob, appreciation of Hashem, at a time when their emunah was weak? Do you discuss the possibility of a person falling immediately after he has emerged victorious?

Rav Henach Leibovitz asserts that the Torah is teaching us a lesson in human nature. When a person reaches higher levels of spiritual perfection, he must become wary of the subterfuge of the yeser hara, evil inclination. Specifically at this time, the yeser hara suggests to a person that he has nothing about which to be concerned.

After forty years of wandering in the desert, being regularly sustained by Hashem, B'nei Yisrael achieved an incomparable degree of gratitude to Hashem. This was the most appropriate time to warn them not to forget the lesson which was imbued in them throughout four decades of travel. Hashem reminded B'nei Yisrael that regardless of their feelings of security and success, they were not to permit these delusions of grandeur to become a guiding force. They were still apt to fall into the clutches of the yeser hara. Indeed, at a time like this they were probably more vulnerable, so that greater vigilance was essential. (Peninim on the Torah)


Everyone uses a different system for transporting items that might be needed during the day.

There are those who carry a wallet that can hold all necessary documents, such as a driver's license, social security card, medical insurance identification card, and, of course, an assortment of credit cards. Some people use a shirt pocket as a portable file cabinet to hold business cards, assorted notes and reminders, as well as receipts. Others simplify and put a rubber band around the cards and cash they might need; this type of person prefers to travel light. While women have traditionally carried a purse or pocketbook, today some men, as well, sport a carry-all type of bag to hold the items they need throughout the business day.

I know a woman who always has whatever anyone might need in any kind of emergency. Need a pen to write down a phone number? Perhaps a needle and thread to sew on a button or mend a seam? An antiseptic pad, first-aid cream, and bandage for that minor cut or burn? Spot remover? A safety pin? Her handbag is a portable storage room, a mini-Wal-Mart on the go.

What is the difference between this woman and the man who travels light? He is "self"-oriented and she is "other"-motivated. He may by chance - luckily - have what he needs to take advantage of the opportunity to do a kindness, while she equips herself to be ready for a variety of situations in which she can help others.

When dressing yourself and preparing for your day, think about what might come up in the lives of neighbors, friends, co-workers, and even strangers. If you have what it takes to help them, and the desire to do kindness, you can make yourself a helpful, pleasant part of their day. (One Minute With Yourself - Rabbi Raymond Beyda)

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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