August 27-28, 2004 11 ELUL 5764
"Remember what Amalek did to you" (Debarim 25:17)
The first nation that attacked us was the nation of Amalek. Amalek was especially wicked because they attacked us right after the great miracles of the Exodus from Egypt and the splitting of the Red Sea. Amalek was not impressed by these miracles and attacked us anyway. It is interesting to note that Rashi connects the story of Amalek and the law mentioned previously in the perashah. Just before mentioning Amalek the Torah forbids the Jews to have dishonest scales and measuring utensils to use in business. A Jew that has a false scale is stealing. Rashi says, "If you were untruthful about measures and about weights, be worried about provocation by the enemy." What is the connection? R' Moshe Feinstein explains that one who uses dishonest scales denies the presence of Hashem. Ever since Hashem spoke to us at Mount Sinai we are obligated to believe that Hashem will provide us with our livelihood in a permitted manner. If a man believes this he won't use a dishonest scale.
Using a dishonest scale is not like a person who happened to do an act of thievery. It can happen that a person can be confronted with a test to steal and was unable to withstand the test. That doesn't make him a person who denies Hashem. However, a person who uses a dishonest scale shows that he is planning to steal and shows that he denies Hashem's supervision of his affairs. Amalek did not believe Hashem was watching over the Israelites and supervising their affairs. It is now understood why using dishonest scales brings Amalek. One who denies Hashem's supervision will be confronted by an enemy that denies Hashem's supervision of Israel. Shabbat Shalom. Rabbi Reuven Semah
"Hashem shouldn't see your nakedness so that He should turn away from you." (Debarim 23:15)
If we wonder why the Divine Presence is so hidden in our times, this verse provides the answer. When G-d sees that the Jewish People are not conducting themselves in a modest way, He turns away from us, leaving us in the dark. Although it says in another place in the Torah that G-d dwells amongst us even if we are impure, this refers to other kinds of improper behavior. When it comes to dressing immodestly, Hashem chooses not to be revealed amongst us. In these days, when the whole society is overwhelmingly encouraging this kind of dress code, everyone who makes an attempt to dress properly will be truly bringing blessings on themselves and on their families. Indeed, we have seen some people accept upon themselves to be more modestly attired, with the merit going to bring a speedy recovery for those who are stricken with difficult illnesses. This is a remarkable zechut. It is written that if a person has a temptation to see someone immodestly dressed and overcomes it, he should, at that very moment, pray to Hashem for whatever he wishes, because he has created such a magnificent zechut by overcoming his temptations. Therefore, it becomes an opportune moment to pray. We see how much Hashem rewards those who make modest dress part of their lives because they are bringing Hashem back to the Jewish People. Let us merit to be those fortunate ones. Shabbat Shalom. Rabbi Shmuel Choueka
"If a man will have a wayward and rebellious son, who does not hearken to the voice of his father and the voice of his mother" (Debarim 21:18)
Why is the word "bekol - to the voice" repeated? It could simply have said, "He does not hearken to the voice of his father and mother."
When a man and woman enter into marriage, it is extremely important that they have similar views and mutual goals for the family they hope to raise. Unfortunately, the husband and wife sometimes do not see eye to eye in their aspirations for their children. The Torah is telling us that when a child is exposed to a "kol abiv - a father's voice" and a "kol imo - a mother's voice," each one telling the child different things, it is possible that the child, receiving mixed signals, may end up being wayward and rebellious.
When the parents bring their child to the elders of the city, they say to them, "This son of ours is wayward and rebellious, 'enenu shome'a bekolenu - he does not hearken to our voice.'" Since in the household the mother's opinion and the father's opinion were two separate voices, the father should have complained to the elders, "He does not hearken to my voice," and the mother should have said, "He does not hearken to my voice." Why do they say, "Enenu shomea bekolenu - he does not hearken to our voice," which suggests that there was one unified voice in the home?
Often parents attempt to deny the lack of absolute domestic unity between them and blame their problems on someone else. They are actually saying to the elders, "We cannot comprehend why in our home where there exists 'kolenu - a unified voice between us,' our son turned out stubborn and rebellious."
Undoubtedly, after careful analysis, the elders will reprove the parents and tell them, "While you may have deceived us for a short while, you cannot fool your child who lives with you in your home. He detected the lack of unity between you, and this brought his to his current situation." (Vedibarta Bam)
"A woman shall not wear the garments of a man, and a man shall not wear the dress of a woman, for it is an abomination of Hashem, your G-d, all who do these things" (Debarim 22:5)
Targum Yonatan states that the garments of a man include sisit and tefillin. Rabbi Chayim Shmuelevitz commented on this that we see the principle that each person has his own mission in life. The same thing that for one person is "holy of holies," for another person who does a similar thing, but it is not his life's task, it is an abomination. Each person should feel joy in carrying out his life's mission and should not try to do things that he was not meant to do.
An example of the above is that people differ greatly in their intellectual abilities. It is very easy for someone who lacks the creative genius of another person, or has a poor memory, or has difficulties understanding abstract concepts, to feel envious of those who excel in these areas. Bit if Hashem did not endow you with these, then He did not consider them to be necessary for your unique and individual task. Realize that anything you do need for it, Hashem gives you. What you do not have and cannot get are not needed by you. Utilize the attributes you do have in order to fulfill your unique role in life.
A disciple of Rabbi Abraham of Sochotchov was ill and felt great suffering because he was not able to fulfill the commandment of putting on tefillin. He sent his son to consult Rav Abraham, the author of Abnei Nezer. The son told Rav Abraham that his father was crying because he could not put on tefillin die to his illness. The Rebbe replied, "When I was in Kotzk, I once became so ill on the day before Yom Kippur that the doctors forbade me to pray and study that entire night. You might think that the thought of not praying and studying would make me sad. No, I was in a state of great joy. Since this was the will of Hashem I felt joy in carrying out His will. Similarly, you tell your father in my name that if it is Hashem's will that he should not be able to put on tefillin, he should carry out Hashem's will with love and joy." (Growth through Torah)
"When you make a vow to Hashem to Hashem, your G-d, you shall not be late in paying it." (Debarim 23:22)
The lesson from this pasuk is clear. It is not simply a nice thing to fulfill our pledges in a timely manner. The Torah explicitly forbids us to delay the payment of our vows. Our Rabbis teach that one should be diligent in fulfilling this commandment in order to continue receiving blessing from Hashem. If one does not carry out his promise, Hashem will collect it in some other way by causing him to lose his money. Therefore, one should realize that he has nothing to gain by holding back his pledge. By discharging his vow in a timely manner, a person demonstrates that he has complete faith in Hashem's control over his possessions.
This concept applies not only to financial obligations, but to all pledges. If a person makes a commitment to Hashem or to his fellow man, he must do his best to fulfill what he has set out to do. One who is diligent in keeping his word will be showered with blessing from Hashem.
Question: Do you have any unpaid bills for charities that you have pledged? Is there anyone to whom you have made a commitment but failed to follow through?
Question: Why do we "dance" in Bircat Halebanah?
Answer: We dance in happiness, for receiving the Shechinah (Presence of G-d). (Excerpted from Siddur Abir Yaacob, published by Sephardic Press)
This Week's Haftarah: Yeshayahu 54:1-10.
This week, we read the fifth of the series of seven haftarot that deal with consolation and redemption. Hashem promises that he will show mercy and bring the people back to Jerusalem. His kindness will never be removed from us, and His covenant of peace will not falter.
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