September 12, 1998 21 Elul 5758
Pop Quiz: Who stood between Mount Gerizim and Mount Ebal during the curses and blessings?
BE HAPPY by Rabbi Shmuel Choueka
"Because you did not serve Hashem, your G-d, with joy" (Debarim 28:47)
The Torah lists a long string of misfortunes that may befall the Jewish people (G-d forbid). Indeed, some of the events mentioned in these curses are very tragic and have happened to our nation throughout history. The reason given for this harsh conduct by Hashem against us is that we did not serve Hashem with happiness.
The Ari z"l gives this verse a twist and learns it in a novel fashion. The reason for these curses is that when we did not serve Hashem, we did it with happiness, which means that when we were doing sins, we did them with a good feeling rather than with regret and remorse.
This has to teach us that not only our actions count but even our attitudes while doing these actions. If we end up doing something wrong, we have to feel badly even while doing it so that it's not considered as if we did the wrong thing with happiness. One of the methods of following this advice is by doing misvot with happiness. If we feel good when doing the right thing, even if we sometimes fall and do the wrong thing it will not be with joy but with reluctance and hopefully regret. That way we will tend to increase those things which we associate with happiness, which are the misvot, and stay away from those things which we are doing without happiness! Shabbat Shalom.
BENEFITS OF A LARGE FAMILY by Rabbi Reuven Semah
"And Hashem will give you an abundance of good things, an abundance of children, an abundance of crops." (Debarim 28:11)
Our perashah speaks about the great life that is in store for those who serve Hashem. Hashem promises an abundance of the truly good things in life, as mentioned in the pasuk above.
The Ma'yanah Shel Torah brings in the name of the Alshich an interesting concept that can be of great help to us coming into the High Holidays. The Rambam writes to his son, "Praiseworthy is the man who finishes his days in this world early!" What he means is, that each person has work to do in this world. It's good to finish; as soon as he finishes he can leave this world and enter his place of reward in the next world. If he is diligent and finished early, he will enter his world of reward sooner. However, he adds, that is referring only to himself. If he has children that depend on him for proper upbringing in the ways of Hashem, he will remain much longer. It takes a great deal of time to properly educate his family. The longer he stays in this world, the better job he can do.
Now we have a new understanding. In the pasuk we quoted, "Hashem will give you an abundance of good." Hashem will give you many good years, more than you needed for your own job in this world, "because of many children" that are depending on you to bring them up, support and teach them.
Coming into the High Holiday season makes us think of new ways to receive a favorable verdict. Let us resolve to have larger and larger families. We should not ease up our productivity! This will insure us for many more good years to come. May we merit to see the happy results of our efforts that we put towards our children, by being at all of the happy occasions of our children and grandchildren and great-grandchildren. Amen. Shabbat Shalom.
JUST LIKE THE OLD DAYS
"And you shall come to whomever will be the Kohen in those days" (Debarim 26:3)
The words "bayamim hahem - in those days" are superfluous. Obviously one can only come to a contemporary kohen and not to one of a previous generation.
This perashah discusses bringing bikurim (first fruits) to the Bet HaMikdash and giving it to the kohanim. Afterwards, it discusses the giving of the tithes to the leviim. In contemporary times there are no kohanim or leviim serving in the Bet HaMikdash. However, the Gemara says, "When someone brings a present to a talmid hacham (Torah scholar) it is as though he brought bikurim.
The Rambam writes that "it is not the tribe of Levi alone [that is dedicated to Hashem's service] but every person who dedicates himself to the service of Hashem is sanctified. Hashem will be his everlasting inheritance and assure that he is provided for in this world just as he has provided for the kohanim and leviim." Consequently the Torah scholars are the kohanim of "bayamim hahem" even when there is no Bet HaMikdash. Supporting them is equivalent to the bikurim given to the kohanim and tithes given to the leviim, and one may confidently demand that Hashem bestow His blessing in return. (Vedibarta Bam)
"And the Egyptians wronged us (lit. made us bad) and they afflicted us" (Debarim 26:6)
The Torah uses the Hebrew term otanu (made us bad) instead of lanu (made it bad for us). The verse is telling us, therefore, that before the Egyptians afflicted our forefathers they first mounted a slander campaign against them and made them appear evil in the eyes of others. Only after they had everyone thinking that the Israelites were evil and not worthy of standard human rights could they make their decrees against them, and the rest of their people accepted this otherwise unacceptable behavior. In recent history, this was the strategy of the Nazis with their propaganda, vilifying us as a prelude to their actual oppression of our people.
This, too, is the strategy of people who want to rationalize their mistreating others or their lack of helping others. They justify their cruelty or apathy by claiming that the other person has done much or serious wrong. Before accepting these negative reports it is incumbent upon those hearing them to clarify if they are really true. Ask yourself, "What might be motivating this person to relate this negative material? Perhaps he is fabricating the story or greatly exaggerating what happened in order to justify himself for something he did or would like to do. Even if the negative information is true, one must ascertain if the behavior it supposedly comes to condone is proper according to Torah principles. (Growth Through Torah)
Answer to pop quiz: The tribe of Levi.
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