JULY 16-17, 2004 28 TAMUZ 5764
"And B'nei Yisrael traveled from Ra'amses and they camped in Succot." (Bemidbar 33:5)
The commentators of the Torah express various opinions as to the Torah's purpose in recording the journeys and the encampments of the Children of Israel during the years they traveled in the wilderness. The Rambam in Moreh Nebuchim (Guide to the Perplexed) is of the opinion that the various journeys and encampments are recorded to emphasize that there was order and careful planning of their itinerary during these years. The Children of Israel were not wandering haphazardly, disoriented and lost in the wilderness. The expression "wandering in the wilderness" is an erroneous one; "traveling in the desert" is more correct.
Why did all of the places where B'nei Yisrael dwelled merit having their names mentioned in the Torah? The Midrash Tanhuma says that they were enumerated in the Torah because they accepted the Israelites in their midst. Hashem will reward them in the future for their hospitality. As it says in Yeshaya 35:1, "the desert and the wilderness will rejoice."
We are in exile, but Hashem watches over us like in the desert. We are not wandering - we are traveling, even in the USA. The USA will merit great reward in the future for their enormous hospitality. But we must remember that, even in the USA, we are traveling. We try to fix our homes to the "T." However, there is a benefit to have something broken or unfinished. This way we won't feel too settled down. That nuisance leaky faucet or the door that squeaks, which gives us an unsettled feeling, is good. This way, we will be ready to go to the next stop. G-d willing, it will be Israel, speedily in our days, Amen. Shabbat Shalom. Rabbi Reuven Semah
When the tribes of Gad and Reuben asked for permission to inherit their portion of Israel on the Eastern bank of the Jordan River, Moshe suspected them of wanting to shirk their responsibility in conquering the land of Israel. They then told Moshe Rabenu, "We will build corrals for our sheep and cities for our children and leave them alone, and we will go fight together with our brethren." Moshe acceded to their request and commanded them to first build cities for their children and then to take care of their animals.
Rashi points out that Moshe Rabenu was chastising them in a subtle way. He was telling them, first you have to care for your children and then your livestock. Although it seems like a simple thing to us, not even worthy of mention, we should reflect on our own lives and see if we don't sometimes forget this lesson. During our busy season, do we make time for our families or is the business the overwhelming consideration? If we have to travel often on business, does our home life pay the price? When we plan our excursions and outings on our days off, do we realize that our children might be second fiddle to our ball games? Let's keep our priorities straight! Shabbat Shalom. Rabbi Shmuel Choueka
"And he gave over from the thousands of Israel, one thousand from each tribe" (Bemidbar 31:5)
Rashi comments on this verse: This is to teach us how cherished their leaders are to the Jewish people. Previously the people were complaining against Moshe to the extent that he said they would soon stone him. Now that they heard Moshe would die as soon as they fought against the Midianites, they did not want to wage war against them and Moshe had to coerce them to give over the soldiers who would fight.
The question arises: Since Rashi is talking about the praise of the Jewish people, why did he have to mention that they previously had strong complaints against Moshe? The Shaloh replied that when a person complains against someone else, it can come from a positive quality. Because the Israelites considered Moshe to be their loving leader who was like a father to them, they demanded of him the same support that one would have demanded of a father. From the fact that they wanted Moshe to continue being their leader and did not want to do anything that would hasten the moment of his departure, it showed that their previous complaints came out of the closeness they felt towards him.
When someone has complaints against you, it frequently can be quite painful. But if you find positive aspects to those complaints, you will be able to cope with them much more effectively. For example, if someone complains that you did not do more for him than you actually did, it shows that he considers you a compassionate and capable person from whom he has a right to expect more. He does not have this complaint against a complete stranger, not against someone whom he thinks is incompetent. In general, when someone finds fault with you or complains against you, try to find some positive aspect in what he is saying. Mastery of this ability to reframe potentially negative statements will free you from much emotional pain in your life.
When trying to make peace between members of a family, show them how their frustration and anger is really based on their care and concern for each other and on a belief in the strengths of the other person. For instance, when a child views his parent's anger towards him as concern for his well-being, he will find it easier to fulfill the commandment of honoring his parents. (Growth through Torah)
"For he shall stay in his city of refuge until the death of the High Priest, and after the death of the High Priest the murderer shall return to the land of his possession" (Bemidbar 35:28)
The Rambam offers this explanation for the death of the High Priest being a time of release for the person who killed someone unintentionally. The nature of a person who suffers a serious misfortune is that his own suffering becomes somewhat alleviated if he sees that others have also suffered in a similar manner. The death felt most strongly was the death of the person holding the exalted position of High Priest. Therefore when the High Priest died, it was a partial consolation to the relatives of the deceased and they would no longer feel the passion for revenge.
This is a very important idea for helping us cope with our own suffering. When you personally are in some emotional pain, your suffering is increased by the thought, "I am the only one who suffers so much." But if you will just open your eyes and ears to the suffering of other people in the world, you will gain a more realistic perspective on your own suffering. Regardless of what your problems are, there are many people suffering just as much as you and many who are suffering even more. This awareness takes away the feeling that you are exceptional. While it is true that even though others are suffering, your own pain still hurts, nevertheless the degree you feel pain is based on your subjective evaluation of it. By being aware of the suffering of others, your evaluation of your own suffering makes it much easier to cope with. (Growth through Torah)
Question: What is the purpose of the candle that is used in habdalah? Answer: 1) G-d 'considered' creating the light of the flame before Shabbat, but actually did not. Instead, "on mosa'ei Shabbat, G-d gave Adam the knowledge, like the knowledge of the Creator, to rub two stones together, and light came out from them."
2) Lighting a fire is prohibited on Shabbat. On Saturday night, when it is permitted again, it is like a new creation. So, we recite the blessing, "He creates the lights of fire." (Excerpted from Siddur Abir Yaacob, published by Sephardic Press)
"If a man takes a vow to Hashem...he shall not desecrate his word; according to what comes from his mouth, shall he do." (Bemidbar 30:3)
The simple understanding of this pasuk is that a person should fulfill whatever he says he will do. However, one may question why the Torah seems to repeat itself. Obviously, if he does not desecrate his word, then he will do whatever comes from his mouth. What, then, is the end of the pasuk coming to teach us?
One can understand the verse in the following way: If a person takes a vow, he should fulfill his word. If he does so, then whatever comes from his mouth, He (referring to Hashem) will do. When someone is always careful to tell the truth, Hashem will also see to it that his words will come to fruition. Hashem will give his prayers extra potency. By being careful to always keep his word, one can bring upon himself untold blessings.
Question: Are you careful to always do what you say you will do, even when it is inconvenient? Do people know you to be a person of your word?
This Week's Haftarah: Yirmiyahu 2:4-28, 3:4, 4:1-2
This week's haftarah is the second of the series of three haftarot that are read during the three weeks between the fasts of Shib'ah Asar B'Tamuz and Tish'ah B'ab. These haftarot speak of Hashem's rebuke and warning of punishment for the nation's sins, a theme which is clearly pertinent during the Three Weeks. In this haftarah, the prophet Yirmiyahu rebukes the people for abandoning Hashem and the Torah, and following other gods. He warns them that if they do not correct their ways, Hashem will bring destruction and exile.
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