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JUNE 5-6, 2009 13-14 SIVAN 5769

Pop Quiz: What is the shortest amount of time that one can declare himself a nazir?


"May Hashem turn His face unto you and establish peace." (Bemidbar 6:26)

The Talmud (Berachot 20) asks that there is a contradiction in the Torah between our pasuk and a pasuk in Parashat Ekeb. The angels asked Hashem, "It says ?Hashem does not show favoritism," and here it says Hashem will show favoritism to the Jews! Hashem answered the angels, "How could I not show favoritism to the Jews? The Torah says to recite Bircat Hamazon when one becomes full from the meal, and they are strict on themselves and recite it even if they eat as little as a kazayit or one egg-size (one or two ounces of bread)."

Rabbi Chayim of Voloshin asks: Why does the Gemara say "they are strict on themselves?" It should just say "they are strict." He answers that this idea of being considered full with this small amount of bread could be turned around and used the wrong way. For instance, the Torah tells us that when we are approached by hungry, poor people, we should give them food until they are full. One might say that a kazayit of bread is also considered being full and might give so little. That is why it says the Jews are "strict on themselves," that for themselves, a kazayit is called full but for others, being full is to be taken literally to make them full!

This same idea is found in Pirkei Abot. It says, "this is the way of Torah: eat a little bread with salt, drink a little water with a measuring cup and sleep on the floor. If you do this, you are fortunate in this world and the next." The extra words "if you do this" are telling us the same idea. When a poor man comes begging at your door and complains that he only has bread and water to eat and he has no bed, don't open up the Mishnah of Pirkei Abot and show him, "You're so fortunate! You are going in the way of the Torah!" If you do it for yourself, it is great. For others, give them as they need.

Our Rabbis teach us that the physical needs of your fellow man are your opportunities for your own spiritual growth. Shabbat Shalom. Rabbi Reuven Semah

It is well known to all that anything which we have on a constant basis loses some of its importance and special status. When we have something which is rare and infrequent, however, it takes on greater significance. Although this is human nature, we have to think of ways to make ourselves appreciate what is constantly there, too.

An example of this is Birkat Kohanim, the Priestly Blessings, which we receive everyday during the Shaharit prayers. Although it is only fifteen words and takes under a minute to say, it is a berachah which is so special and so unique because it comes from the Almighty Himself. When the Kohanim bless the people, they are the conduits for the Divine Presence to bless us. Therefore, they cover themselves with the taleet, so that we shouldn't gaze at the Divine Presence which rests on their hands. Whenever a great saddik comes to town, we run to get a berachah, waiting many hours if need be, and rightfully so. Here, we have the Creator of the world blessing us with wealth and protection, Divine countenance and grace, and most importantly, with peace and tranquillity. Shouldn't we be waiting expectantly and attentively to get this berachah?

Whenever guests come from different communities that don't do Birkat Kohanim everyday, (only on major holidays) they are so excited to be able to get such a bonus of a blessing. Both the Kohanim saying the blessing and the rest of us receiving it should realize what a treasure we have in this berachah, and should give it the respect it is due. Let us count our blessings and also make them count! Shabbat Shalom. Rabbi Shmuel Choueka


"This shall be the law of the Nazir: on the day his abstinence is complete…he shall bring his offering…as a sin-offering" (Bemidbar 6:13-14)

What sin did the Nazir commit so that he needs to bring a sin-offering?

A Nazir takes upon himself three things: 1) not to drink wine, 2) not to come in contact with a corpse, 3) to let his hair grow wild.

Wine is a sign of happiness, and it is customary to drink wine on joyous occasion. By refraining from drinking wine, the Nazir is declaring that he has no desire to participate in the joy of others.

By avoiding contact with a corpse, he is failing to sympathize with others' sufferings and shunning sad occasions.

Letting his hair grow wild implies that he does not care if people stay away from him, not wanting to be involved with "this strange looking person."

Thus all three restrictions involve withdrawing from society as a quasi-hermit.

Such a lifestyle is considered sinful and requires forgiveness. (Vedibarta Bam)


"And it came to pass on the day that Moshe had completed setting up the Mishkan" (Bemidbar 7:1)

Hazal call attention to the first word of this pasuk, "vayhi, and it came to pass." They say that whenever this word occurs in Tanach, it always refers to a period of sorrow and grief. Hazal question the element of grief associated wit the Mishkan. The creation of the Mihskan as a place for the Shechinah to repose should surely be cause for happiness and rejoicing. What role to despair and anxiety have during a moment of such exultation?

Hazal present an analogy of a king who had a quarrelsome wife, who would not stop bickering. The king told her to go make beautiful royal garments for herself. She did his bidding and occupied herself with the planning, fashioning and sewing of the garments. Everything seemed to proceed smoothly. While his wife was occupied with her newfound endeavor, the king enjoyed a reprieve from her incessant quarreling. As soon as the work was completed and the garments were ready to be worn, she presented herself before the king in all her regal attire. Despite his delight at the beauty of the clothes, the king began to cry. Now that the task was complete, her occupation had also come to an end, and the queen would once again resume her bickering and criticism.

While Klal Yisrael were occupied with the building of the Mishkan, continues the Midrash, they had little time to murmur and complain. On the day that the Mishkan was set up, however, Moshe was concerned about their leisure time. Perhaps they might now resume their quarrelsome ways. Hence, it was a day of sorrow.

Harav Moshe Swift z"l suggests this Midrash presents the accurate portrait of Jewish history. It has been said that the intensity of Jewish persecution has in itself been a major factor in sustaining Jewish survival. If the persecution were to cease, the Jew would disappear! Some have even suggested that the process of emancipation, with its ensuing "enlightenment," might have been the catalyst for the complete extinction of the Jewish people had it been unopposed.

When we were pursued and plundered, when our lives were changing daily, we were far too preoccupied with our anxiety to abandon our hopes and aspirations. We were always conscious of our distinctiveness. We prayed in cattle cars, we made Seders in the bunkers, and we kept Shabbat under duress in the ghetto. When political equality confronted the Jew, when the opportunity for "and we will be like all the (gentile) nations," presented itself, we disintegrated. Religious indifference became the forerunner of insecurity and self-hate. Without warning, being an observant Jew became a parasitic distinction. As assimilation continued to flourish, each generation knew less about Jewish culture, each was more devoid of Jewish content. Woe to the day when Jewish anxiety gave way to Jewish complacency.

Statistical records would probably prove that we have lost more Jews to emancipation than to oppression. Our shuls today are filled with the remnants of those immigrant parents who wrapped themselves in talet and tefillin, who remained poor rather than desecrate Shabbat, who starved rather than break the laws of kashrut,. These people are still occupied in building the Mishkan. (Peninim on the Torah)


Life is a series of frustrating situations in which aggravation is a constant. If it is not caused by the bungling of an incompetent employee, it might be due to a spouse's error in dealing with a simple household task. Sometimes a beloved person causes distress, but it can just as easily be a stranger. It is difficult for most of us to get through an ordinary day without losing our temper several times.

The Zohar says that being angry is tantamount to idol worship. Why is a burst of anger judged so seriously? Because people who trust and truly believe that Hashem not only created everything, but that he is also in complete control of every last detail of world events, will not get angry. Such individuals realize that if something does not meet with their satisfaction, it still must be accepted because it is the will of our Creator. If something goes wrong, the problem was caused by Hashem. If people behave in a way that disturbs, they are merely messengers from Hashem. Everything that happens, happens because Hashem wants it to happen. Therefore, by reacting with anger to such circumstances, a person is, in effect, saying, "I do not believe!"

Learn to control the urge to explode. Let your intellect overpower your emotions. Don't be overcome - rule. A Sage once said, "I put anger in my pocket. When I find it necessary to use it, I take it out again." It only takes a moment of calm consideration to decide whether anger is appropriate and productive in a particular situation, or whether it is "idol worship." (One Minute With Yourself - Rabbi Raymond Beyda)

Answer to Pop Quiz: Thirty days.

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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