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Haftarah: Yirmiyahu 1:1-2:3

JULY 25-26, 2008 23 TAMUZ 5768

Pop Quiz: For how long is a husband able to revoke a vow made by his wife?


"Elazar the Kohen said to the men of the army who came to the battle, 'This is the decree of the Torah'" (Bemidbar 31:21)

A great amount of halachic literature deals with "kosher pots". This means that as observant Jews, we are obligated to make sure that the utensils we use to prepare food are free from any absorption of unkosher food. This small amount of unkosher food absorbed into our utensils will come out and render our kosher food cooked in those utensils, unkosher. Also, if the pot absorbs meat, it can make a milk food cooked in that pot unkosher because it will be considered meat and milk together. Also there is a law of tebilat kelim, which is the requirement to dip our dishes in the mikveh before using them. The source of these laws is in our perashah. The army returning from the war with Midyan captured, along with the rest of the booty, cooking utensils. Elazar the Kohen tells them that these pots must be purged from the unkosher absorption, or "koshered," before using. These laws are so necessary that today they are a major part of the Semichah testing process for a Rabbi to become certified as a Rabbi.

The Torah introduces these laws by saying, "This is the decree of the Torah…" This is unusual, for the Torah should have said, "This is the decree of the utensils." This wording teaches us that the laws of utensils are not only for our pots but are applied to the entire Torah.

One of the laws of the pots is that, if the pot has a prohibited absorption it may be removed by koshering. This is done by placing it in boiling water. Beforehand, one must remove any dirt or rust to allow the absorption to come out. Our Sages teach us that when one learns Torah it places holiness in him and cleanses his mind. However, beforehand he must remove from his outside any bad character traits or lusts. This is done by learning the ethical teachings of mussar along with his Torah learning. This is why the Torah compares the laws of the utensils to the entire Torah. As we know, the important rule: Derech eress (good character) comes before the Torah. One should try to improve his character even before he studies. Shabbat Shalom. Rabbi Reuven Semah

"When a person makes a vow to Hashem." (Bemidbar 30:3)

When do people most frequently make a vow or an oath? When they become angry. Out of anger, they swear that they will or will not do something, or that something should be forbidden to them. But anger is not the proper motivation for a vow or an oath. Rather, the vow should be "to Hashem." That is, if a person sees that his negative impulses might lead him to transgress, then out of a calculated, willful decision, it is permitted to make a vow or oath that will motivate him to refrain from transgressing. In general, however, one should abstain from making any vows or oaths. Indeed, even when one gives charity, one should get accustomed to say, "Beli neder - without a vow."

The same actions can be done with various motivations. Depending on your motivation, the act will either be a manifestation of a loss of control or an elevated act of self discipline. When you impulsively do or say things out of anger you are the servant of your temper. On the other hand, when you decide that doing something can be spiritually harmful for you, and therefore you are willing to set up self-restraints, you are becoming the master over your impulses. Shabbat Shalom. Rabbi Shmuel Choueka


"So there were delivered form the thousands of the Children of Israel, a thousand from each tribe" (Bemidbar 31:5)

The term "vayimasru - they were delivered" seems to indicate that it was not voluntary. Why was it necessary to use force?

The word "Vayimasru" comes from the root word "masur," which means "an informer." To inform on a person and reveal his secrets is forbidden, and informers are dealt with very severely. An exception to this rule was in this instance for the following reason: In preparation for this war, Moshe told the people, "Hechalsu me'itchem anashim lasaba - Arm men from among yourselves." Rashi explains that the term "anashim" means "sadikim, righteous men." A difficulty in selecting soldiers for the war was that everyone sincerely considered himself not qualified and humbly thought he did not meet the standard of "saddik, righteous." So when righteous men had to be selected, people had to inform Moshe of the righteousness of their neighbors and their worthiness for Moshe's purpose.

Though informing against another Jew is forbidden, it is permissible when the other possesses qualities unknown to the community from which it can benefit. Also, if there is a need for sedakah, one may reveal an individual who has the means and is presently unknown. (Vedibarta Bam)


"Moshe was angry with the commanders of the army…'And not a man of us is missing, so we have brought an offering to G-d…to atone for our souls before G-d'"

The Gemara (Shabbat 64a) says that Moshe was angry with the commanders of the war for leaving the women alive and suspected that they had committed a sin similar to the earlier one with the women of Midyan, Therefore, they responded, "Not a man of

us is missing," meaning, "None of us has been led astray by the Midyanite women."

"If so," Moshe asked, "why are you making this offering to Hashem?"

They responded, "Though the fighters have not actually sinned, they wish to atone for any evil thoughts that may have entered their minds."

What encouraged them to bring an offering for evil thoughts?

Following Moshe's rebuke of the Jewish people for permitting the women to live and instructions to the commanders of the army, Eliezer taught the people the statute of koshering utensils. All the utensils which were taken from the Midyanites could be made kosher either by passing through fire or immersion in boiling water.

To the Jews this was incomprehensible. Why wasn't it sufficient to simply clean the utensils to thoroughly remove any non-kosher substance adhering to them? Eliezer explained that not only is a utensil not usable when something non-kosher is on the surface, but even when there is an absorption of non-kosher taste in its walls.

From this the soldiers derived a new lesson in the relationship between man and Hashem: If a utensil is unfit to be used by Jews and requires purging if it has absorbed a non-kosher taste, how much more must a person perfect himself in his relationship with Hashem and repent for "non-kosher thoughts." (Vedibarta Bam)

Answer to Pop Quiz: He may revoke it only on the day on which he hears the vow.

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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