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FEBRUARY 4-5, 2005 26 SHEBAT 5765

Rosh Hodesh Adar I will be celebrated on Wednesday & Thursday, Feb 9 & 10.

Pop Quiz: What is the punishment for cursing one's parent?


"Distance yourself from al false word" (Shemot 23:7)

When it comes to telling the truth, the Torah uses an emphatic statement - "Distance yourself," meaning, stay away from anything that has even a tinge of falsehood.

A beautiful story quoted in "Sadik Yesod Olam" brings the point home. One freezing cold, stormy Friday night the streets of the Mishkenot neighborhood of Jerusalem were dark and quiet as the residents took refuge in their warm, dry homes. It was after midnight and Rabbi Aryeh Levin z"l had already retired for the evening when there was a frantic knock on the door. "Rabbi, I need to talk to you; it's an emergency!" called the man from outside. R' Levin opened the door to find an elderly gentleman drenched from the rain and shivering from the cold. "Rabbi, unfortunately my wife is mentally ill, and this evening her condition took a terrible turn for the worse. However, my wife adamantly refuses to be admitted to a psychiatric ward unless she has your approval. That is why I came all the way from Katamon in such dreadful weather. I need your word that I am to take her to the hospital so nothing dangerous will happen to her, has veshalom." The Rabbi answered, "Please go and tell your wife that I instruct her to go to the hospital. I pray for both of your sakes, that she will soon be well again." The man sighed, "Thank you, Rabbi. You have really saved me. I will go and tell her right away."

The next morning the Rabbi told his son this story. He said, "You know most of us would hear this story and say, "Why go all that way in such weather to ask me a question to which the answer is so obvious? After all, the man's wife is mentally ill. He could have gone to a neighbor for a half-hour and then returned home, telling his wife that I instructed her to go to the hospital! However, the man was right to do what he did, for the other way is wrong. The Torah tells us to distance ourselves from falsehood and that is exactly what he did by coming all the way from Katamon to see me."

We must learn from this that whatever the circumstances, one must be careful to cling to the truth. Shabbat Shalom. Rabbi Reuven Semah

We are not surprised to see how Hashem cares for us from how He runs the world and how He rewards us for our good deeds. But to learn this lesson from how Hashem punishes a thief, this is truly remarkable. The Torah says that if a person steals an ox or a sheep and sells it or slaughters it, he must pay five times the amount of the ox and four times the amount of the sheep, as a fine. Why the discrepancy between the ox and the sheep? The Gemara says that when a person stole an ox he had to pull it away from the owner's house, but when he took the sheep, he had to carry it on his shoulders so as to run away faster. That little embarrassment which he suffered in carrying the sheep on his shoulders reduces his fine so that he only pays four times the amount, not five. What Divine concern do we learn from here! Even though this man is a thief, he still is judged by Hashem Who is compassionate and just. How much reassurance should this give us that G-d is watching over us, taking every minute detail into consideration of His Divine Providence. We should turn to Him for everything; He is our caring Father. Shabbat Shalom. Rabbi Shmuel Choueka


"If you shall lend money to My people, to the poor that are with you, you shall not be to them as a demanding creditor, nor shall you lay upon them interest" (Shemot 22:24)

Rashi says that the words "the poor that are with you," teach that you should look upon yourself as though you were the poor one. If you would need to borrow money from someone, you would dislike it if he acted condescendingly toward you. The Torah tells us to put ourselves in the other person's place and act toward him as we would want him to act toward us. Rabbi Chayim Shmuelevitz frequently says that the same principle applies to all instances when someone needs to consult another person. If you needed to ask someone for information on any matter, whether Torah knowledge or practical advice, you would want him to act kindly toward you. Act the same way toward others. Don't act in a superior manner to someone who asks you for information. Patiently and humbly answer him to the best of your knowledge.

Rabbi Chayim Mordechai Katz, the late Rosh Yeshivah of Telz, used to admonish those students who were reluctant to answer the questions of others. They felt that it was a waste of their time to interrupt their own studies to explain a difficult passage to others. But the Rosh Yeshivah said that this attitude is improper. If you are able to teach others Torah, you are obligated to do so. (Love Your Neighbor)


"And if a man shall open a pit or if a man shall dig a pit and not cover it, and an ox or donkey will fall in it, the owner of the pit shall pay" (Shemot 21:33-34)

The Torah tells us in the portion of Mishpatim the laws pertaining to damages caused by one's animals and damages caused by one's digging a hole in the ground. Rabbi Yeruchem Levovitz used to say that it is very easy to just look at these laws in terms of financial obligations. In some instances you are legally obligated to pay for damages and in other instances you are free from having to pay. But the proper way to view the laws of damages is from the perspective of the Hinuch (243): The foundation of the laws pertaining to damages is the misvah of loving our fellow man. When you care about others, you will be careful not to do anything that will cause them damage or suffering. When kind and compassionate people study these laws, they do not think in terms of how much money they will have to pay, but in terms of what they can do to avoid causing others any loss or pain. Studying these sections of the Torah in the proper way will increase your sensitivity to the possibilities of your harming others.

The Hafess Hayim used to say that after one studies tractate Baba Kama, the way to see if he studied it properly in order to fulfill what he studied, is to see if he is careful to close a window to prevent the wind from hitting someone in the face. (Growth through Torah)


Question: Why, when we take three steps back after concluding the Amidah, do we say "Yehi rason...shetibneh Bet Hamikdash - May it be Your will that the Bet Hamikdash be rebuilt"?

Answer: The Gemara (Sanhedrin 96) teaches that because Nebuchadnesar once took three steps to honor Hashem, he was granted his kingdom and later destroyed the first Bet Hamikdash. Our prayer is that by taking these three steps, we can offset the three steps that Nebuchadnesar took and merit the rebuilding of the Bet Hamikdash. (Sefer Ta'amei Haminhagim Umkorei Hadinim)


"If you acquire a Hebrew slave, he shall serve six years." (Shemot 21:2)

Jewish law dictates that if a man is caught stealing and is unable to repay the victim, he is sold as a slave in order to repay what he stole. However, he is not treated as a slave the way we would imagine. In some ways, his master must actually treat the slave better than he treats himself. For example, if the master has only one bed, he is required to let the slave sleep on it while he, the master, sleeps on the floor. As the Gemara (Kiddushin 22b) states: "He who acquires a Jewish slave is really purchasing a master for himself."

The obvious question is: How is this a punishment for the thief? We can conclude from this that the Torah is not interested in punishing just for the sake of punishing. Rather, its goal is to rehabilitate the person so that he will not commit the transgression again. This thief may have had a history of problems that eventually led him to steal from others. The Torah therefore requires that he be removed from his current surroundings and put in a situation where his self-esteem will be reinforced. He will then be able to reenter society as a rehabilitated man.

This concept can be applied even nowadays. We often come across a person who is suffering from depression or may simply need a boost to his self-esteem. We would be doing a tremendous hesed by offering a kind word or doing something that will make him feel better about himself. Rather than merely feeling pity for him, do whatever you can to help him get back on his feet.

Question: Do you know of anyone who can use a boost to his morale? Do you know of anyone who doesn't need a boost to his morale?


This week's Haftarah: Yirmiyahu 34:8-22, 33:25-26.

The first topic of our perashah teaches the laws of the Hebrew slave and maidservant. The haftarah for this week tells about King Sidkiyahu, who ruled just before the destruction of the first Bet Hamikdash. Sidkiyahu proclaimed freedom for all Jewish slaves after their six years of servitude, as our perashah decrees. When the slave owners recaptured the slaves they had just freed, Hashem warned the nation through the prophet Yirmiyahu that the enemy would conquer them and exile them.

The haftarah concludes with Hashem's promise that he will not forsake his nation, and that he will bring the nation back from exile.

Answer to Pop Quiz: Death by stoning.

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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