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Haftarah: Yeshayahu 54:1-10

AUGUST 24-25, 2007 11 ELUL 5767

Pop Quiz: What episode in Miriam's life are we commanded to remember?


"You shall surely return them to your brother…so shall you do for any lost article…you shall not hide yourself." (Debarim 22:1-3)

Our perashah discusses the important misvah of hashabat abedah?- the returning of lost articles. As we know, the Torah requires that if we find a lost article, we are to retrieve the item and try to return it to its rightful owner. If the item has an identifying feature - a siman - on it, the owner will prove his ownership by giving to the finder the siman on the article, and then he may claim the article. The Torah tells us that when we spot a lost article on public property, we may not hide ourselves from it, but we should pick it up so that it will not remain there. The misvah begins as soon as he sees it. Indeed, this lesson carries over to other areas of returning lost things as well.

Let us say, for example, that two people run the same type of business, and one of them is on the verge of bankruptcy. The other business owner is in the possible position of profiting from his fellow's downfall, so rather than giving him a few tips to help him try to salvage his business, he stands quietly aside, watching the business collapse. He may think, "It is not my fault that his business failed. The Torah tells us not to give bad advice, but he never asked my advice, so I haven't done anything wrong."

The Torah tells us that such a person is most definitely guilty. A Jew is expected to help his friend prevent a loss. Therefore, if one sees his friend losing something, it is incumbent upon him to help salvage it if at all possible. He may not "hide himself"

from the loss, but must come to the forefront and help his friend get back on his feet. 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


"Lift them up with him" (Debarim 22:4)

We are obligated to help someone whose animal has fallen with a heavy load on its back. But the Torah makes a stipulation, "with him." Rashi cites the Sages that if the person who needs help tells you, "I'm going to rest right now. You have a misvah to help me, so help me all by yourself," then you are not obligated to help him.

We see from here that you need not allow someone to take advantage of you just because you want to do hesed. If out of laziness someone wants you to do something that he is capable of doing himself, you have a right to be assertive and say no.

But we must understand the Torah's definition of what constitutes being taken advantage of. Let us say that someone always refuses to lend you his things, but then comes over to you and requests that you lend him something, what is your obligation? Here the Torah position is very clear that you are obligated to help him, and to refuse is a violation of the commandment, "Do not take revenge" (Vayikra 19:18). What is the difference between this and the above? The principle is that whenever a person sincerely needs your help you should help him even if he does not reciprocate by helping you in return. This holds true even if he never will. As a matter of fact, the highest level of kindness, hesed shel emet, is when you do a kindness when you know you will receive nothing in return. If, however, someone does not really need your help because he could do it himself, but out of laziness he tries to manipulate you into doing something for him, you have a right to refuse.

Applying this principle will prevent resentment. Some people might always do what others ask them to do. But when others do not do them favors in return or are not appreciative, they feel resentment for the favors they have done. "I've been taken and used," they might say to themselves. In other situations, people ask them to go out of their way to help them and do things for them when those people could do these things themselves without too much effort. They do the favors because they tell themselves they would feel guilty if they refused. But internalizing the Torah perspective will help a person feel joy when helping others even though they do not do him favors in return and are not grateful. Since the person really needed the help, you have fulfilled an act of kindness and have gained in spiritual elevation and character improvement. But if out of laziness a person asks you to do for him what he could and should do himself, the Torah does not ask of you to allow yourself to be manipulated and you do not need to feel any guilt when you politely refuse. If the person offers valid reasons why he can't do it himself, then help him. If not, be confident that you have a right to refuse. (Growth through Torah)


"Forty [stripes] he may give him, he shall not exceed" (Debarim 25:3)

Rashi explains that the number forty is not accurate, since he only receives thirty-nine lashes. Various explanations are offered by the commentators to explain why the Torah chose to write the number forty when, in reality, it should read only thirty-nine. The Dibrei Yechezkel offers an explanation which carries within it a profound message.

Man must realize that, regardless of one's level of achievement, it is inconceivable to attain the degree of sublime purity necessary to stand before Hashem. Likewise, whatever our lot in life, it is still not sufficient compensation for that which we "owe" Hashem. Nonetheless, we are implored to do our utmost to serve Hashem. Upon repenting, we must seek contrition by doing our maximum and hoping that it will effect penance for our sins. Above all, man must be aware that he has not completed his mandate.

This is the Torah's message. You have received thirty-nine lashes, but be aware that you should have had a greater punishment. Whatever our lot in life, we must thank Hashem for His beneficence in sustaining us despite our deficiencies and iniquities. (Peninim on the Torah)

Answer to Pop Quiz: That she was stricken with sara'at for speaking lashon hara.

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)

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