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FEBRUARY 25-26, 2005 17 ADAR I 5765

Pop Quiz: What was different about Moshe's physical appearance after he brought down the second set of Tablets?


When Moshe asked Hashem to let him understand the ways of Hashem, Hashem told him He would show him the back (so to speak) and not the front of Hashem. The Rabbis tell us this is a metaphor. We have to realize that when we are in a situation, as it is unfolding, we cannot fathom the ways of Hashem frontward. However, after the fact we are sometimes able to "see" from the back view what has already transpired. This will give us the necessary clarity of vision to realize what Hashem has done and to appreciate His wondrous ways. This should serve as a basis for us to have faith in Him. For if we see in retrospect how He judges and runs the world, this will strengthen our trust in Him, which will help us overcome difficult situations. May we be privileged to appreciate Hashem "from the back" as we look back at different events in our lives! Shabbat Shalom. Rabbi Shmuel Choueka

"And the Children of Israel shall observe the Shabbat" (Shemot 31:16)

The verse quoted above from our perashah is famous. We say it every Shabbat in the daytime kiddush. It is interesting to note that the same idea is said two verses earlier (31:14), "Ushmartem et haShabbat - You shall observe the Shabbat." Why is it repeated again in the later verse? The Ibn Ezra explains that our verse is referring to the weekdays. The Torah wants us to remember and not forget the upcoming Shabbat, and "that we should prepare our needs and our ways on the sixth day, in order to observe the Shabbat and not violate it." The Ibn Ezra is saying that when we prepare our foods before Shabbat by cooking and baking, we are observing a misvah from the Torah of "ushamartem - and you shall observe." The Ibn Ezra also says to prepare our "ways (derachim). I think he means our ways of travel on Friday. We live in a time when we can never be sure about the situation on our roadways. Any unusual traffic jam can jeopardize our timely arrival and our Shabbat observance. We must leave work early enough to insure that we arrive on time.

The Hafess Hayim says, "How foolish people are who begin observing Shabbat very late and end their observance very early. The six weekdays are under the curse of 'by the sweat of your brow shall you eat bread' (Beresheet 2:19). Only the day of Shabbat was blessed by Hashem. Wise people, therefore, do their best to accept Shabbat as early as possible to be able to partake of its berachah. They delay its departure as long as they can, so as to avoid as much of the curse of the weekdays as possible."

Let us all begin Shabbat early and end it late to get as much of Hashem's blessings as possible. Shabbat Shalom. Rabbi Reuven Semah


"When you will take the sum of B'nei Yisrael, according to their number, and every man shall give a ransom for his soul" (Shemot 30:12)

The primary purpose of the half-shekel contribution was to serve as a method for counting B'nei Yisrael. In addition to this, the proceeds of the first shekel collection served a sacred cause; the silver collected was used in the building of the Mishkan, the symbol of the Divine Presence in the midst of Klal Yisrael. Subsequently, this became an annual collection during the month of Adar. The money was specifically earmarked for the provision of the sacrifices, thereby including all of Klal Yisrael in this act of daily worship. In this manner, the shekel became a significant symbol of an individual's membership in Am Yisrael. It conveyed a meaningful message relevant to all time. In order for a Jew to be numbered among the community of Am Yisrael, he must make a contribution to the community. What benefit is gained by the community from those who choose to close their hearts and pockets, never doing their share for the perpetuation of the Jewish people? (Peninim on the Torah)


"Go down, for your people have become corrupt...they have made them a molten calf...and he cast out of his hand the tablets and he broke them" (Shemot 32:7,8,19)

The shattering of the luhot is probably the most impressive act performed by Moshe during his tenure as the leader of Klal Yisrael. The last pasuk in the Torah, in which Hashem portrays the climax of Moshe's life, mentions the "yad hazakah, mighty hand," and the "mora gadol, the great awe," which Moshe wrought in the sight of all B'nei Yisrael. Hazal state that Moshe's act of might and awe was his shattering of the luhot. It would seem that this is Moshe's greatest epitaph. There remains a question, however, which demands a response. Why did Moshe wait to come down from Har Sinai before making this momentous statement? When Hashem informed Moshe of Klal Yisrael's act of rebellion was that not sufficient "proof" of their incursion?

The simple response to this question seems to be that we cannot compare seeing to hearing. This answer might be acceptable if the testimony had been imparted by a human being. Moshe, however, heard the report from Hashem Himself! Perhaps Moshe wished to teach future judges the importance of visual perception before arriving at conclusions.

Rabbi Eliyahu Shlesinger suggest the following explanation. He cites the Kehillot Yitzhak, who states that the luhot which were composed of two tablets, symbolize the two major categories of misvot. The first type of misvot focuses upon man's obligations to Hashem, while the second type focuses upon man's relationship with his fellow man.

When Moshe heard from Hashem that B'nei Yisrael had sinned with the Golden Calf, a sin which reflected a breach in their relationship with Hashem, Moshe felt this act of insurrection alone did not warrant the breaking of the luhot. His rationale was that the second table, which represented man's relationship with his fellow man, did not "incur" this liability. When Moshe descended the mountain and was confronted with Klal Yisrael's debasement, when he personally witnessed the fact that they had fallen to the nadir of immorality, to incest and murder, he broke the luhot. Once they had trespassed both boundaries, evidencing a disdain for both luhot, Moshe broke them.

Rabbi Shlesinger advances this idea further. At first, Moshe reasoned that one can be a good Jew if he observes only the humanistic aspect of misvot, those involving his relationship to his fellow man. He quickly realized that unlike other nations, our code of human relationships and our system of morality are ordained by Hashem. When there is a breakdown in man's relationship with Hashem, his perspective towards his fellow man is ultimately affected as well. We need only to observe contemporary society or to glance back a few years in history in order to see the way a society not governed by a code of G-d-given mandates suffers a breakdown in morality. As Jews, we may never separate these two disciplines. (Peninim on the Torah)


Question: Why does each person say 'Modim Derabbanan,' a brief prayer of thanks to Hashem during the repetition of the Amidah, rather than simply answering Amen to the hazzan's berachah like with all the other berachot? Answer: It is not proper for a servant to praise his master by way of a messenger. Therefore, when the hazzan recites 'Modim,' the berachah of thanks, each person expresses his thanks personally rather than relying on the hazzan's prayer. (Sefer Ta'amei Haminhagim Umkorei Hadinim)


This week's Haftarah: Melachim I 18:20-39.

This week's perashah tells of B'nei Yisrael's confusion as to who would lead them when they thought Moshe had died. This haftarah tells of the confusion when the Ten Tribes had broken away from the rule of Yehudah, and the people did not know whom to follow. Eliyahu the Prophet rebuked the nation, commanding them to leave the false gods and to worship Hashem. Similarly, in the perashah, Moshe rebukes B'nei Yisrael when they worshiped the Golden Calf.

Answer to Pop Quiz: A ray of light shone from his face.

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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