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Haftarah: Yirmiyahu 34:8-22, 33:25-26

January 28-29, 2011 24 Shebat 5771


"An animal that is torn apart may not be eaten; instead you shall throw it to the dog" (Shemot 22:30)

The Torah teaches us that if an owner of livestock finds a torn animal amongst his herd it is a terefa, unkosher. Since it died without shehitah, ritual slaughtering, it may not be eaten. The owner should take the dead animal and give it to his dog. The commentary, Da'at Zekenim, sees an important moral lesson in this command.

Dogs were commonly used as guards against attacking animals such as wolves and lions. A person's first reaction when he finds his cattle killed by a wild animal would very possibly be anger at his dog, for not having fended off the wild animals.

The Torah tells him to react in the opposite manner. It is specifically when one finds his cattle killed that he should appreciate all the other times he found everything in order. No doubt the dog risked its life previously to protect the livestock successfully until now. The practical application of this lesson is obvious. When feeling disappointed with the performance of a family member, we should focus on appreciating all the previous times when things were done properly.

If the wife doesn't have dinner, if the husband forgets to do his errand, if the child misbehaves or didn't do well in school, or if your boss is not nice, remember and appreciate all the times that things went well. Rabbi Avigdor Miller z"l would go one step further. If one gets hurt, thank Hashem for all the times you didn't get hurt. We have a lot to be grateful for to Hashem and to our fellow man. Shabbat Shalom. Rabbi Reuven Semah

"And these are the laws that you shall place before them" (Shemot 21:1)

From the word 'lifnehem," before them, Rashi tells us that we must bring disputes before our court system; that is, one must go to Bet Din rather than go to secular courts. This is indeed the halachah that we may not go to a secular court to adjudicate a case between two Jews. It may seem to us that this would only apply when the power of Bet Din was absolute, like in the old days, whereas nowadays, when Bet Din is limited in enforcing its laws, we should not have to go to Bet Din. This is incorrect. We must always go to Bet Din first and only when Bet Din allows us to go to civil courts do we have the right to do so. It is considered a Hilul Hashem and a denigration of the Torah if we go to civil courts rather than Bet Din. Today, most civil courts recognize any agreement which was worked out in Bet Din, and will uphold it without having to reopen the case, which makes going to Bet Din more advantageous. We should hopefully never have to go to court for any reason, but if it ever becomes necessary, we would be doing a great misvah by following the halachah and going to Jewish courts. We will be upholding the Torah and making a Kiddush Hashem, sanctifying the Name of Hashem, which is certain to impact favorably on the outcome of the case. Shabbat Shalom. Rabbi Shmuel Choueka


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

The servant described here is actually a thief who was sold by the Bet Din into servitude because of his inability to make restitution. The Torah's manner of punishment seems peculiar. The community takes a common thief who has exhibited complete disregard for another person's possessions and feelings and gives him a new home, job, and lifestyle. We are giving self-respect to one who has shown so little esteem to others. This question becomes stronger when one takes into account the statement of the Talmud (Kidushin 22b) that "one who acquires a Jewish servant is really purchasing a master for himself." Will this manner of punishment exact an appropriate penance for the thief's actions?

We may deduce from this court procedure that the Torah's goals in meting out punishment are not punitive, but rather rehabilitative. We must delve into this person's past history and search for the problems that caused his self-degradation. Taking punitive measures against someone without initially attempting to find the cause of his miscreancy is senseless. The thief must have a history of problems which led to the development of his current lifestyle.

In order to effect a positive change in the criminal, he must first be removed from his current surroundings and transferred to a more favorable environment. His time must be positively structured, since inactivity and the consequent lethargy can have a negative effect upon people. In summation, the community must be involved in transforming his previous lifestyle. The thief must be encouraged to confront the roots of his behavior. Indeed, the Torah's mode of punishment is unique, in that it seeks to solve the problem rather than to merely conceal it with punishment. It is only through such methods that the individual will recognize his self-inflicted degradation and become motivated to reenter society as a full-fledged, spiritual Jew. (Peninim on the Torah)

If an animal swallowed your cell-phone, how much does its owner have to pay you?

If an animal consumes something inedible, the owner must pay half its value. Since an animal doesn't normally eat such things, it is considered an unusual manner of damage. (Torahific!)


There are many executives who won't go on vacation without leaving an itinerary behind, along with a list of contact numbers "in case of emergency." Others instruct their assistants to be ready for a daily phone call during which various problems requiring the traveling CEO's advice will be discussed. It has also become common to entrust those who really count with cell phone and Blackberry contact details. Whatever the system of communication, people who really care about their companies cannot relax, even while on vacation, unless they are in touch with the business about which they are so concerned.

Employees, on the other hand, can barely wait for their long-planned break from the daily routine of the job. Although work is happily forgotten for a brief time, vacationers do leave contact information with family members, and they call home to check on how things are doing there. A job is just a job, they say, but family is important.

One may conclude that the boss is very different from the employee - and in regard to the business, perhaps the conclusion is correct. But, in another sense, both are identical. People stay in touch with those who are important. To some it is the business, to others it is the bank, and to some it is family. But to all, getting away is not relaxing when there is uncertainly about the things and people that matter.

It should not take a vacation to make you feel the need to keep in touch. During the day, every day, stop your routine and call someone you care about. That phone call will send a message that the recipient will not miss: "I really care about your welfare. I am with you even when we are apart."

The moment you take to call will create a bond that lasts a lifetime. (One Moment 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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