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Haftarah: Yirmiyahu 2:4-28, 3:4, 4:1-2

AUGUST 1-2, 2008 1 AB 5768

Rosh Hodesh Ab will be celebrated on Shabbat, August 2. No meat meals are permitted (except on Shabbat) from Saturday night, August 2, until Monday night, Aug 11. It is also forbidden to buy or wear new clothing on these days.

Pop Quiz: How many cities were designated for the tribe of Levi to live in?


"And a killer shall flee there - one who takes a life unintentionally" (Bemidbar 35:11)

Jewish law is not so quick to absolve the accidental murderer. Although he is spared the death penalty, which is given to intentional murderers, the accidental murderer is punished. He must be exiled from where he lives to one of the designated cities of refuge, where he must remain until the death of the present Kohen Gadol. This only applies where some degree of negligence exists, however slight. If, however, the murderer is classified as "oness," which means the death was circumstantial and blameless, then the killer is in fact totally absolved from responsibility.

Rabbi Eliyahu Lopian explains that there is real practical application of this concept nowadays. The Torah, it appears, requires us to take responsibility for everything we do. One is not absolved or blameless even for accidental mishaps. Many times, out of preoccupation with other responsibilities, or in haste, we do things that are not well thought out. We're in a rush, so we throw the kids into the car without buckling their seatbelts. We drive long distances, even though we know we are really too tired to do so. We don't take proper precautions when working with tools or utensils around the house. We let kids do things and go places without sufficient supervision. We don't clear the ice from our walkway. These are all "little," "insignificant" things which we do every day, without giving them much thought. Maybe, though, we should stop sometimes and think about the awesome responsibility we have for the safety of others. The Torah does not take negligence, however slight, lightly. Neither should we. Shabbat Shalom. Rabbi Reuven Semah

And they traveled from Elim and they encamped by Yam Suf" (Bemidbar 33:10)

Elim hints to the word alimut, which means violence. Yam Suf hints to the word sof, the end. They traveled from the trait of violence. How? By coming to the trait of looking at the end of a person.

Violence induces both actions and words. There is the physical violence of hitting or pushing someone, and there is the verbal violence of shouting at someone or putting him down. Any form of violence not in self-defense is against the principles of the Torah. What is the main cause of violence? Frustration and anger! When you become frustrated or angry, you are likely to lash out at someone. When you remember your true purpose in this world, most things that get other people angry will not affect you very strongly. Also, the more you appreciate life and the more joyous you feel, the less angry you will become. By remembering the end of each person, you will gain a greater appreciation for life. You will value your time and utilize every opportunity for growth. This awareness will keep you far away from any form of violence. Shabbat Shalom. Rabbi Shmuel Choueka


"Cities of refuge they shall be for you, and the murderer who killed someone unintentionally shall flee there" (Bemidbar 35:11)

The Hidushei Harim commented that if a member of Klal Yisrael killed someone, even though it was unintentional, he will feel extremely broken and guilty. He will be so shattered that he has no place in the world to go or to hide. Then Hashem tells him, "I will give you a place." Go to the exile of the refuge city and you will be saved. There you can find peace of mind. But this only applies to someone who has a depth of understanding of what damage he has caused. If a person does not feel this deep regret and still feels he has a place in the world, then the city of refuge is not for him.

When you harm another person and feel regret about it, it is beneficial that you experience this pain. The pain itself is purifying. It will motivate you to improve. Someone who causes another person a loss or suffering and does not feel guilty manifests a lack of caring about others. We need a balance. Lack of guilt is even a worse problem than too much guilt. But excessive guilt is also a problem. The ideal is to feel regret when you harm someone. But then do what you can to make amends and do teshubah. When your repentance is sincere, you can feel joy that you are fulfilling a misvah. (Growth through Torah)


"They shall be for you cities of refuge…so that anyone who inadvertently kills a person shall be able to escape there" (Bemidbar 35:12,15)

One who kills inadvertently was to remain in the city of refuge until the death of the Kohen Gadol. Consequently, not all killers received the same punishment. While some had to remain a considerable length of time, some were liberated quickly. Not so with the deliberate killers. Each one received a similar punishment. Why is there such a discrepancy between the punishments of the deliberate and the inadvertent murderer? The Korban Hagigah offers an interesting response, which serves as a lesson in regard to appreciating the apportionment of punishment.

In the case of the intentional murderer, it is difficult to ascertain the extent of deliberateness. Therefore, all willful murderers receive the same punishment. In regard to the unintentional, we are faced with varied definitions of an accident. Indeed, there are situations of inadvertent murder that could be viewed as negligent and those which can be viewed as voluntary. Hashem, Who knows the truth, discerns between these degrees and determines His punishment accordingly.

One whose act of violence borders on the deliberate will find himself remaining in the city of refuge for a longer period than one whose act was clearly accidental. Hashem's punishment is always midah keneged midah, measure for measure. The retribution will always be commensurate with the transgression. While no person will receive more punishment than he deserves, neither will an individual receive less than his due. (Peninim on the Torah)



A short while back I was privileged to live and study in Yerushalayim. One of the unique benefits of living life in the holy city is the accessibility to Hahamim and great Poskim that one can build lifelong relationships with. These relationships were especially important to me as an aspiring Dayan. So many complexities arise in the field of monetary Halachah. It is critical to have men of stature to be able to call upon for guidance when the need arises.

On one such occasion, as I reviewed the Halachic validity of a "purchase and sale agreement " with Harav HaGaon Rav Zalman Nechemia Goldberg Shlita, the Rav suddenly turned to me with a most surprising question. "How do you know this apartment is not stolen?" he asked with a twinkle in his eye. I understood from the way he was asking that his question was not really a question at all, but meant to lead in to a point he wanted to teach me.

I responded simply. "Well, we checked the deed and all the papers are in order." "Reb Dovid", he continued patiently "You know very well that the legal codes may ascribe ownership of property to an individual whom the Halachah does not recognize as the true owner. You do know that the majority of apartments in Israel are stolen don't you?"

Now, he really had me thinking. There are many unfortunate stories about contractors who sold the same apartment to two different buyers and other dishonest dealings, but these isolated stories did not make up the majority. 'What does he mean?' I thought to myself.

Noting my confusion Harav Goldberg let on to what he was trying to convey.

When no Will is in place at the time of one's death, the Torah directs his entire estate to an equal distribution among his sons. The daughters don't partake in the inheritance at all. Even the wife of the deceased will only be given a number of basic rights entitled to her on a per need basis. The default distribution can only be overridden by a Halachically acceptable Will, which includes his wife, daughters or any other beneficiary he chooses to bequeath to.

Of course, secular law has an entire different set of rules which may include the daughters and the wife in estate distribution by default. If a Jewish daughter or wife enforces the secular estate law and takes legal possession of an inheritance without a Will which is Halachically acceptable, they have essentially taken what does not belong to them according to Torah law.

Harav Goldberg continued, "We must realize that the majority of apartments in Israel have passed through the ownership of secular Jews, at some point. There are also many observant Jews whom are not proficient with Halachah, and did not write a Will which is recognized in Halachah. Therefore, there is reason to suspect that upon the owner's death, the land was distributed according to secular law and without a Halachically acceptable Will. An apartment which was "inherited" in such a manner will essentially be passed down to the children and grandchildren of the wrong person. Hundreds of years later, this apartment will still be considered stolen. "Do you see what ramifications this can have?!? Do you realize how important it is that each and every individual write a Halachicaly acceptable Sava 'ah (Torah Will)?!"

After letting this thought sink in for a few moments, we went back to the discussion about the contract. This time though I saw things in a very different light. (Rav Dovid Grossman of Kollel Zichron Gershon)

Answer to Pop Quiz: Forty eight.

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)

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