MARCH 13-14, 2009 18 ADAR 5769
"The wealthy shall not increase and the destitute shall not decrease" (Shemot 30:15)
On Purim we made sure to give our Mahaseet Hashekel, and this week's perashah begins with this misvah. The Torah required each person to give the same size coin; the wealthy shouldn't give more nor may the poor give less. The Ben Ish Hai (quoted in Hameir) says there is a hint here to a general attitude one must have in misvah performance. A wealthy man, not in money, but one who is wealthy in misvot, should not increase. Which means his ego should not increase and become inflated because compared to the greatness of Hashem he is nothing. The poor, not in money but in misvot, should not decrease. Which means, he should not feel sad or rejected due to his low performance, because that is the strategy of the yeser hara (evil inclination) to make us feel sad. On the contrary, he should do the misvot with happiness, with a drive to excel.
The Sages ask, why a half shekel? Wouldn't it be better to give a whole complete shekel? The answer is that the half is intentional to teach us a lesson that no Jew is a whole when he is alone. As a single individual his service of Hashem cannot be whole, it can only be whole if he joins with another person. If he can get along with another person and treat him well, that is a complete service of Hashem. It is interesting to note, that one never knows with whose half a shekel he joins. This teaches us that the simplest Jew has the power to join with the greatest Jew, to make the greatest Jew's service complete. Shabbat Shalom. Rabbi Reuven Semah
The Gemara tells us that the Evil Inclination (Yeser Hara) works in a slow, methodical manner. First he tells a person to transgress something minor. When the person violated that minor transgression and got over it, the "Yeser hara" tries a more substantial act until ultimately, the person can be convinced to worship idols.
Here in the perashah, we see an exception to this rule. The Jewish people had accepted the Torah on Mount Sinai just 40 days ago and now they were dancing around a Golden Calf. How could they fall so quickly to do such a grave transgression? R' Hayim Shmuelevitz Z"l says that the Yeser Hara has to work slowly only when a person is in good spirits. If a person is depressed, however, then the Evil Inclination can get him to do the worst sin in the slightest amount of time. Here, the Jewish people thought that Moshe Rabenu had died, and got into a deep depression. Therefore, they were able to commit an act of idol worship without going through the slow process of deterioration.
We must always be vigilant of this principle and try our best to stay in good spirits. When things start getting us down, we should do whatever we can to bounce back into our regular self either by talking to others, listening to the right music or going places that will bring us more happiness. By maintaining our spirits properly, we can have both our physical and spiritual health in the best shape possible. Shabbat Shalom. Rabbi Shmuel Choueka
Those who were young forty or fifty years ago spent their formative years in an era when "old" was a negative word. "Don't trust anyone over thirty!" was youth's battle cry. Young was "in." Middle-aged and even elderly people grew their hair long, wore trendy teen clothing, and spoke in the street vernacular of the young just to fit in with the "in" crowd. Strange but true, this social phenomenon spanned the decade of the sixties.
Traditionally, however, older people have always been accorded respect simply for being older. The Torah Jew was commanded and required to show respect to elders, wise men, and parents. Youngsters were taught to get up and give their seats to the elderly, children competed to serve their parents and grandparents, and even young adults did not speak to an older person unless spoken to first. These manners were widely observed in all cultures.
The question is, why? Just because someone was born first, should that individual receive priority in seating - or in anything else, for that matter? Shouldn't respect be earned? Doesn't merit play a role?
Maybe the person who is older does not inherently deserve the respect of anyone who is younger and perhaps even more accomplished. An older person deserves some respect for his life experiences. However, the Torah bases its laws of kabod - respect - on age because the Torah's intention and purpose is not merely to confer honor on the recipient, but to allow those who give respect - who honor others - to mature and grow in a positive direction. When individuals control their egos in the presence of their elders, it is spiritually healthy for the ones paying respect.
When you feel that you must give respect to someone you believe may not really deserve it, but you suppress your judgmental evaluation in deference to Hashem's commandment, you are the one who gains. So when it comes to giving respect, know that you will be the one who eventually gets respected. (One Minute With Yourself - Rabbi Raymond Beyda)
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.
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