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Haftarah: Yeshayahu 40:27-41:16


"And I will make you a great nation, I will bless you and I will make your name great, and you will be a blessing." (Beresheet 12:2)

Our perashah focuses on our great Patriarch Abraham Abinu. Hashem promises him great things and finally says, "You will be a blessing." Rashi gives two explanations. First is that Hashem says that the blessings are put into your hands. You will bless whomever you wish. Secondly, Rashi explains, you will be a blessing means that when Jews pray in the Amidah the blessing dedicated to the forefathers, the blessing will conclude in your name. This is the source of the conclusion of the first blessing in the Amidah, "Magen Abraham."

This concept of the shield of Abraham is illustrated in a story told by the Hafess Hayim z"l. In the 1800's the Catholic Church exerted great power in Europe. In one town the church ordered that every family, gentile and Jew alike, display a cross in front of its home. Anyone who disobeyed would do so at the risk of death.

The town's pharmacist was a well-to-do assimilated Jew. Upon hearing of the new decree he declared steadfastly, "There won't be a cross in front of my house! I may not be religious, but I'll always be a Jew." When the pharmacist's gentile maid heard these words, she feared for his life. "I have an idea," she said. "Let me hang the cross outside. That way you will not be doing anything, but the authorities will see the cross and leave you alone."

"Absolutely not!" the pharmacist thundered. "I am a Jew, and a Jew does not hang a cross in front of his house. I am not afraid of the consequences." The pharmacist was arrested by the church and put to death. By sacrificing his life, making a kidush Hashem, he demonstrated that there is a spark of holiness in every Jewish soul that can never be extinguished. It is the spark of pure faith that we inherited from Abraham Abinu.

The Hidushei Harim said this is the meaning of the words Magen Abraham, the shield of Abraham. We bless Hashem who shields the spark of Abraham Abinu in every one of us, ensuring that it is never extinguished no matter how far a Jew might stray.

Today no one is demanding that we display the cross in America. Today we have a different test - the test of integrity and honesty. It requires the willingness to sacrifice certain things, just as Abraham was willing to sacrifice everything for truth and integrity. We all have that spark from Abraham to pass this test and we bless Hashem daily, Who protects this spark, by saying, "Baruch Atah Hashem, Magen Abraham." Shabbat Shalom. Rabbi Reuven Semah

"And Abraham went on his sojourns" (Beresheet 13:3)

After Abraham went down to Egypt because of the famine, he came back to the land of Canaan. Rashi says that he stopped off at all the old lodging places in order to pay up his debts. While the simple meaning may be that Abraham had to borrow during the famine and now he could clear up those loans, there is a deeper meaning.

When people saw Abraham leaving Canaan because of the famine, they questioned him, "What happened to Hashem's promise to take care of you during your journey?" The faith in Hashem was weakened due to Abraham's struggling during these years. After Abraham was made wealthy in Pharaoh's palace, Abraham went back to the same people to show them, "Here is the fulfillment of Hashem's promise!" It sometimes takes time to see the Hand of G-d, and Abraham showed people that Hashem will not neglect anyone. That is the "repayment of the debts" that is meant in this chapter. We should all take note of when things are not going the way they should, so that when they are straightened out, we should realize how Hashem works it out for us. Don't forget to "pay up those debts!" Shabbat Shalom. Rabbi Shmuel Choueka

Who was the first person to give ma'aser to a Kohen?

Abraham gave ten percent of his riches to Shem, the son of Noah (also known as Malki Sedek).


"How did it go, Mike?" Uri inquired sincerely.

"Well, I though it was a sure thing - and even when I review the research, I cannot understand why it turned out to be bad in the end," Mike responded.

"You never know," Uri consoled optimistically. "Perhaps it's for the best.

"I don't think so," Mike responded. "I can't see this thing being good in the end."

Mike is missing the point. He is measuring with the wrong yardstick. In the apt words of an e-mail I recently received: "If it's not good in the end, then it is not the end."

Our Sages teach us that we must learn to say: "This, too, is for the good."

A person must live life knowing that there is a Master above who not only knows what is best for each and every person, but also works a complicated web of events and circumstances, weaving everything to a conclusion which is good for the individual. Sometimes undergoing an operation is needed to bring health to a sick body. It is painful, but in the end it is good.

Everyone can expect good times and bad. We should not, however, jump to conclusions. In the true end, all is for the best. We must accept the bumps in the road optimistically and look forward to a happy ending. (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.

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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