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Haftarah: Melachim II 11:17-12:17

FEBRUARY 8-9, 2013 29 SHEBAT 5773

Rosh Hodesh Adar will be celebrated on Sunday & Monday, February 10 & 11.


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

The town had just appointed a new Rabbi; and the local scholars were determined to test the Torah knowledge of the new leader. They thought of a hypothetical monetary dispute which entailed a complicated halachic question and presented themselves to the new Rabbi as litigants seeking a ruling from him as a bet din. The Rav carefully weighed the details of the case and rendered his verdict.

The two scholars then made their way to the famed Rav of Kovna, who was considered one of the greatest poskim (halachic authority) of his era. They presented their case to the Rav. He listened to both sides and ruled precisely the opposite. But when both "litigants," including the party that lost, according to his ruling, reacted with glee, it aroused his suspicion. He promptly probed the matter and was shaken to discover the truth.

The Rav instructed the two men to wait, and withdrew into an inner room. An hour later he returned holding a copy of the book "Netivot," written by the Rav of Lisa. "Your Rav is a great scholar," he informed them, adding that they were fortunate to have his as their spiritual leader. He ruled according to the ruling of the Netivot, a fact that eluded me."

The two men were flabbergasted. It seemed unthinkable that the great Kovna Rav would issue a mistaken halachic ruling. Noticing their wonderment, the Rav explained what had just occurred. "There is nothing to wonder about. Had this been a real case, I would have had the siyata dishmaya (Heavenly assistance) to rule correctly. But since the question was theoretical, there are different ways to approach the question."

The Hafess Hayim teaches us an additional important point: That even when parties do go to bet din, their intent must be not to pursue their personal interests but to discover what the halachah is. In such cases, the Rav or the bet din judges are indeed granted siyata dishmaya to rule justly.

On a daily basis we see Jews who take their disputes to a bet din and graciously accept and abide by what is decided. It is our collective responsibility to do everything possible to see that all others choose to emulate them. Shabbat Shalom. Rabbi Reuven Semah

"And Yitro heard." (Shemot 18:1)

This is the perashah which tells us about the giving of the Torah on Mt. Sinai, perhaps the greatest event that ever took place in the world. Wouldn't it be proper to have the entire perashah devoted to that special occurrence, rather than begin with Yitro joining the Jewish? What was so important about Yitro that this had to precede Matan Torah?

The answer is the first word - gnJHu - and he heard! The Torah is teaching us that if we don't hear, we will not be able to receive the Torah. Hearing means being able to concentrate and focus on someone else and not only on ourselves. It means to accept that we're not perfect and we can hear advice and criticism. The whole world was aware that the Jews came out of Egypt with great miracles but did nothing about it. Yitro, however, heard and came. Because he was willing to truly hear and understand, he changed his own life and ultimately gave some very useful advice to Moshe. That is why the giving of the Torah must be preceded by the story of Yitro, to teach us what hearing can bring.

We often ask others how they are, but do we really hear their answers? Our kids are constantly talking to us, but are we truly listening? Even if we do allow the words of others to enter our ears, do we hear "between the lines"? Let us learn from Yitro to truly hear and listen to what's around us and this will make our lives a little bit better. Shabbat Shalom. Rabbi Shmuel Choueka


When the alarm clock rang at the usual time, your head was still aching. You sneezed as you lifted your heavy head off the pillow.

"I think I should stay home today and get some rest. My allergies are really acting up. I hardly slept, I feel weak, and I can't think straight," you mused as you staggered to the sink, ever so slowly, to wash up. But then you remembered the project you were working on and knew that your boss was counting on you to meet the deadline. If you missed work today you knew you could never complete the project on time. So you struggled and made it to your desk - by nine o'clock!

At lunchtime, instead of eating at your desk as usual, you went out to eat and took an extra few minutes to sip a cup of tea. What you really wanted to do was go home and crawl back into bed and catch up on sleep, but you did not want to let your boss down, so you returned to work. How upset you were when your boss - of all people - gave you a funny look as you came back from lunch ten minutes late! Didn't he realize how much you were pushing yourself to perform for him? You knew of the heroism and extra effort that you put in today and you wanted him to know about it as well, and to appreciate it.

Well, since nobody can read your mind, people judge you by the results of your actions, not by your intentions.

When judging the performance of others, we must factor their possible motives and intentions into our evaluation. It is important to negate our natural, automatic reaction. We regularly judge others according to the result of their actions, but we expect them to judge us by our good intentions. (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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