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Haftarah: Yeshayahu 60:1-22

SEPTEMBER 12-13, 2014 18 ELUL 5774


"And the nations will see Hashem's Name called upon you." (Debarim 28:10)

We read in the perashah about who we are in the eyes of the nations of the world. Rabbi Dovid Kaplan has an amazing story.

What could be better than venturing out to the jungles of Africa? In the mind of Yotam Dayan, nothing. So the young Israeli, fresh out of the army, packed his stuff and set off on his own in an effort to "get away from it all."

At one point he rented a jeep and started driving though the villages in the surrounding area. The locals were unbelievably poor, so it was only natural that when he saw a little kid on the side of the road pointing to his mouth in a gesture meaning, "I'm hungry," he stopped the jeep. He started looking through his backpack to find a candy bar for him. When he looked up again, he saw to his very unpleasant surprise that his jeep was surrounded by about twenty-five unfriendly looking natives. Very unfriendly. Extremely unfriendly.

This was a standard trick employed by the locals. They would send out a pathetic looking kid, the vehicle would stop and then they would rob the driver of all his money, or worse. Usually worse. Yotam had served in one of the elite Israeli army units and was normally fearless. Right now he was scared. Very scared. Extremely scared.

One of the men asked him in broken English where he was from. "Israel," Yotam answered hesitatingly. And then something totally unexpected happened. The men all slowly backed away from the jeep in what was unmistakably a state of awe, bowed slightly, and started chanting, "You the Chosen Piple. You the Chosen Piple." They apologized for inconveniencing him and sent him off on his much relieved way.

Upon his return to Israel, Yotam decided to investigate why it is that we're referred to as the "Chosen Piple." Predictably, he became a complete Ba'al Teshibah.. Today he learns full time and runs a night Kollel. 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


Judah's carpool partner was away on business, so Judah accepted Samuel's offer of a ride to work. After all, their offices were located in the same area, and Samuel said he hated to drive alone.

It wasn't long after setting out that Judah began to regret his decision to travel with Samuel.

"Did you ever notice how Jacob just can't control his temper?"

"I can't stand the way Izzy's wife attacks the food when we go out to dinner."

"Aaron should learn to be more generous."

Samuel had a knack for pointing out everyone else's flaws with a judgmental certainty which left no room for argument. He had an uncanny ability to focus on shortcomings and rip people apart, and he gleefully did so, barely pausing for breath. Judah was almost ready to jump from the moving vehicle, when Samuel unexpectedly gave him the opportunity to respond to one of his observations.

"…And that's what bothers me about Mordy. Do you see what I mean?" demanded the critical driver.

"No, I don't," replied the passenger. "I have enough issues of my own to deal with. I don't have time to worry about what's wrong with others."

Our Sages suggest that we perfect ourselves before pointing a finger at others. "Kashet et atzmecha - adorn yourself" - is the priority. It is wise to look in the mirror before you look out the window. The job of self-improvement, you will find, is overwhelming. It certainly doesn't leave room for non-stop criticism of others. (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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