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March 6, 1999 18 Adar 5759
Pop Quiz: What was different about Moshe's physical appearance after he brought down the second set of Tablets?

A BLEND OF SCENTS by Rabbi Reuven Semah

"Hashem said to Moshe: Take yourself spices etc. and helbenah" (Shemot 30:34)

Our perashah talks about the ketoret. The ketoret is an offering of spices burned on the altar twice a day, which gives off a most wonderful fragrance. One of the spices listed is helbenah, which on its own has a very foul odor. However, when combined in the ketoret it enhances the aroma to give a good fragrance. From this the Sages learn a lesson that sinners should be included with the community in its prayers (Rashi).
Thus, the ketoret expresses the idea of Jewish unity, that everyone - the righteous and the sinner - has a share in the service of Hashem.
It should be noted that it is good to mix in the helbenah into the ketoret in order for the helbenah to have a nice smell and to enhance the smell of the rest of the ketoret. However, the Torah doesn't suggest that we mix the ketoret into the helbenah, for that would ruin the ketoret, the idea being that the Torah wants us to join the sinners with us, but not that we should join in with the sinners. That would be like taking the ketoret and blending it into the helbenah, which would ruin the good smell that is there. For this reason, we have been forbidden by our leaders to participate in Reform and Conservative prayers or meetings. We accept with open arms all Jews who wish to join us, with the prayer that we all become united in serving Hashem in the right way. Shabbat Shalom.

WISE AT HEART by Rabbi Shmuel Choueka

"I have endowed the heart of every wise-hearted person with wisdom" (Shemot 31:6)

Hashem appointed Besalel and Aholiab to make the Mishkan and to use all those with wisdom in their hearts to assist them. If we think about it, these people had just been enslaved for many years in Egypt doing menial work. Where did anyone have experience or background to be able to create the magnificent utensils of the Mishkan?

The answer is that Hashem gave wisdom to the "wise at heart." The one who wanted to use his heart to serve Hashem was given wisdom for G-d, Who is the Source of all knowledge. This is a lesson for us. We don't have to know everything to serve Hashem; we have to want to know everything to serve Him. There is a lot of potential in us and in our children which is waiting to be tapped. It needs the will and the direction. Let's not allow all that potential to go to waste with all the distractions of today's society! Shabbat Shalom.


"Do not make any idols...Keep the festival of matzot; eat matzah for seven days." (Shemot 34:17-18)

What is the connection between idol worship and eating matzah? Haman's plan to destroy the Jewish people was a punishment for worshiping idols in the days of Nebuchadnessar (Megillah 12a). Before Esther went before Ahashverosh to plead for the Jewish people, she told Mordechai to declare a three-day period of fasting. Since the fast took place on Pesah, the Jews were unable to properly observe Pesah that year by eating matzah for seven days. The Torah is hinting to this event by telling us, "Do not worship any idols and consequently you will be able to eat matzah seven days during Pesah." (Vedibarta Bam)

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

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