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Haftarah: Yeshayahu 54:1-10

SEPTEMBER 12-13, 2008 13 ELUL 5768

Pop Quiz: Is a man permitted to remarry a woman that he had divorced?


"Our son is disobedient and rebellious. He does not hear unto our voice. He is a glutton and a drunkard" (Debarim 21:20)

One of the most difficult chapters in the Torah for us as parents is the law of the wayward and rebellious son. The Torah teaches that if the son continues to rebel, then the parents must take him out to the elders of his city and the court will execute the boy. The understanding of this passage must revolve around the teachings of the Sages. Firstly, we are taught that the penalty is not because of the gravity of the sins committed but because his behavior makes it clear that he will eventually become a real danger to society and to himself. Secondly, so many detailed requirements are derived from the wording of the Torah that it is virtually impossible for such a case ever to occur. So therefore this chapter must be understood as an implied primer for parents on how to inculcate values into their children. Another important insight is that the parents' love of Hashem must supersede their love of their children. If the Torah commands it, they must be ready even to hand their son to the court (Rabenu Bachya).

Rabbi Shimshon Raphael Hirsch points out this law occurs at the age when a Jewish boy matures and should turn with enthusiasm to the ideals of spirituality and morality. Of all the possible bad deeds that he can do at this sensitive time, the Torah picks out "gorging and guzzling.". I would like to quote Rabbi Hirsch: "There lies therein an important hint for fathers and mothers, altogether for the whole tenor of the home in which young human souls are to mature towards their spiritual moral future, not to allow 'good eating and drinking' to be a predominantly 'important' item of the home, only where spiritual and moral matters are given incomparably higher value is the atmosphere created in which young people are protected from sinking into brutish pandering to the senses."

As we know, there is a problem with our youth with underage drinking. We can only hope to change this by downplaying the social acceptability of the adults drinking excesses and, the emphasis by parents on the importance of spiritual and moral values. Shabbat Shalom. Rabbi Reuven Semah

"When you will go out to war against your enemies" (Debarim 21:10)

The Torah tells us that when you go out to war G-d will give the enemy in your hands and you will take captives. Is that always the case that when we go to war we will win over our enemies?

The Rabbis tell us this refers to the constant wars we have with out arch-enemy, the yeser hara, the evil inclination. The Torah is teaching us an amazing lesson. If we only go to war with him, already we have won the battle because we know to be aware of his tricks and we are therefore committed to win him. Our problem with the evil inclination is that we let him take over our lives and don't put up any resistance. That's because we feel we don't stand a chance with him. But the truth is that if we attempt to fight him, we are more than halfway there and then Hashem will give him to us in our hands. As the Selihot season begins, we should know that by coming to Selihot and minyan or classes, we are going out to war with the yeser hara. Then Hashem will help us by giving him into our hands even in other areas so that we can truly better our lives. Shabbat Shalom. Rabbi Shmuel Choueka


"You shall surely send away the mother bird, and the fledglings take for yourself, in order that it shall be good for you and you shall live a long life" (Debarim 22:7)

The Ketav Sofer explains the reason the Torah promises a good and long life for the commandment of sending away the mother bird. The Ramban explains that this misvah will implant in a person the attribute of empathy and compassion. Acting in a compassionate manner will enable you to feel empathy for all living creatures. But the Sages have said that the lives of three kinds of people are not considered as really living: those with a strong degree of compassion, those who constantly become angry, and those who are finicky. When someone empathizes strongly with the pain and suffering of others, he will suffer himself whenever he hears about the suffering of others, especially when he is unable to do anything to alleviate the other person's suffering, as is frequently the case. Therefore, after Hashem commanded us to have compassion on birds in order that we should grow in this trait, he guarantees that through this we will still have a good and long life. For many years you will be able to help a large number of people and this will increase your days instead of shortening them.

Being compassionate causes pain. But these are growing pains. You grow as a person when you feel the pain of others. A person who is apathetic and callous towards the suffering of others might think that he is making his life easier. But there is a lack of depth to such a life. The more you feel for others the more elevated you become. (Growth through Torah)

Answer to Pop Quiz: Only if he is not a kohen and she had not married anyone else in the interim.

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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