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Haftarah: Yeshayahu 60:1-22

SEPTEMBER 23-24, 2016 21 ELUL 5776


"Then we cried out to Hashem, the G-d of our forefathers, and Hashem heard our voice." (Debarim 26:7)

In the prayer of the bikurim, the Jew recites some of our history. When we were in Egypt, we cried out to Hashem, and Hashem answered our prayers. We know this because Hashem redeemed us from there and he said he heard our prayers. This episode in our history is a rock solid proof that Hashem listens to our prayers always.

Let me give you a simple mashal (parable). Imagine that you are texting or emailing someone, over and over again with no response. After a while you think that maybe he doesn't read his texts or emails. Then one day you get a response. This means he reads his messages but didn't want to respond previously or didn't have time. But the one response tells you that he reads your messages. In Egypt we prayed to Hashem, and clearly Hashem responded. That means Hashem always listens, but not always does he respond. It depends on the way we send out those messages. Are they from the heart? Hashem hears them all and he has "plenty of time" to respond.

Another doubt that sometimes nibbles at a person is the value of his prayer. Knowing his own shortcomings, he may occasionally doubt that his personal pleas to Hashem can be effective.

A powerful rebuttal to this mistaken thought can be brought from the Gemara (Baba Metzia 105b): If a man rents a field and commits to pay the rent in the form of wheat that he grows, he must pay that rent even if the crop was ruined by locusts. The owner can say that the renter's lack of merit caused the loss. However if there was devastation throughout the surrounding fields as well, the renter can deduct the loss from his rent. But if the renter says he is going to plant wheat, and instead plants barley, he cannot deduct the loss even in a plague that affects other fields as well. The reason is that the owner can say, "Since you said you were planning to plant wheat, I prayed for wheat. I didn't pray for barley. If you would have planted wheat, the crop would have been successful!"

This halachah applies to every Jew regardless of his spiritual level. A Jew is halachically entitled to believe that even if the surrounding fields were destroyed, he could have spared his own field from devastation through prayer.

Hashem listens to all of the prayers of every Jew. All we have to do is utter them. 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

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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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