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

FEBRUARY 17-18, 2012 25 SHEBAT 5772

Rosh Hodesh Adar will be celebrated on Thursday and Friday, February 23 & 24.


"Do not pervert the judgment of your destitute person in his dispute." (Shemot 23:6)

The above verse prohibits a judge to give preferential treatment to a poor person. However the Midrash (Mechilta) interprets this pasuk a little differently. If someone is destitute of misvot, a non-religious person, do not pervert the judgment against him. Do not say, "Since he is a sinner, I will turn the judgment against him."

A true story is told by Rabbi Shimon Finkelman: Two men were standing in front of Rabbi Chaim Leib Stavisker. One was considered the community leader. He was distinguished, wealthy and religious. His opponent was the town's pharmacist, who was not observant. They had a monetary dispute so they came to Rabbi Chaim Leib's bet din. The leader felt he was a shoe-in because he was right, and he was religious. The pharmacist agreed to come due to the Rabbi's reputation as a man of integrity.

The Rabbi heard both sides. He probed, contemplated and researched the appropriate sources. He then issued his ruling in favor of the pharmacist. The community leader was blinded by personal interest and felt humiliated by being handed a defeat by his Rabbi who ruled against him in favor of a man who did not observe the Shabbat. He declared, "I reject the Rabbi's decision." He then told the pharmacist, "It is clearly a miscarriage of justice and I have no intention of giving you even one cent."

The pharmacist reported these words to the Rabbi, and asked what he should do. The Rabbi said that it is normally forbidden for a Jew to go to a secular court, but in this case, where the case has come before a Jewish court and the other side refuses to abide by the ruling, it is permitted to go to a secular court to seek justice.

The case was brought before the secular court and the community leader won. The pharmacist went back to the Rabbi. "What do I do now?" The Rabbi replied, "You will appeal your case before the Supreme Court in St. Petersburg, and this time I will testify in court on your behalf."

And so it was. The scheduling of the case forced the Rabbi to spend Shabuot in St. Petersburg, away from his beloved congregation. His efforts bore fruit, as the higher court overturned the original ruling and ordered the community leader to make restitution to the pharmacist.

When Rabbi Chaim Leib returned to his town of Stavisk, his people asked him, "Why did the Rabbi go to such great lengths, even leaving us on Shabuot, to help a man who is not even part of the community and not even a Sabbath observer?"

The Rabbi answered in wonderment, "What do you mean? It is an explicit teaching in the Mechilta. 'Do not pervert the judgment of one who is poor in misvot' It makes no difference who the litigant is, rich or poor, saddik or rasha. All must be treated the same and all must receive the full backing of the bet din against those who fail to heed the bet din's ruling." Shabbat Shalom. Rabbi Reuven Semah

"If you will lend to my people, the poor with you" (Shemot 22:24)

Although lending money to those who need it is a misvah, the Torah phrases it as if it's voluntary, "if" to teach us that we should do the lending with all the goodness of our heart. The obligation should be as if it's voluntary. How can we bring ourselves to this feeling?

The Torah says "the poor with you," as if to say to view the poor as if he's one of your family. If we would have someone very close to us in a financial difficulty and we could help them, there is no question we would do it, and in a positive manner. We would be eager to help out our loved ones if we were able to. The Torah wants us to visualize those in need as if they were our close family, so that our helping them would come from love, not as an obligation. It is a tall order, but Hashem knows that we have it within us to be able to do it as He commands it of us. Shabbat Shalom. Rabbi Shmuel Choueka


They didn't travel together, but they did arrive at the same time. The two members of the coordinating committee reached the entrance to the meeting room simultaneously and bumper into each other.

"Excuse me," said one.

"It's really my fault. So sorry," apologized the other.

Each then begged the other to go in first.

"Please, you go ahead," said the first.

"No, please, you got here first," insisted the other.

This is a scene often repeated in similar circumstances with different people. Each person offers the other first crack. It is polite, but often counterproductive.

Selfishness, like all other traits, has a good side and a bad side. If everyone went to the extreme too avoid selfishness, people would not take care of themselves. Hashem created the selfish drive so that people would attend to their basic needs. Besides eating, drinking, and sleeping, individuals should be concerned with self-grooming and dressing in a manner befitting their position.

If you are taking from another or ignoring another's dire circumstances, your selfishness is the wrong dose. Ignoring your own welfare also makes you guilty of using the wrong measure of a Hashem-given trait. But balancing your personal care with the needs of others means you have the right dose of selfishness - the way Hashem intended. (One Minute 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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