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Haftarah: Shoftim 13:2-25

MAY 21-22, 2010 9 SIVAN 5770


"So shall you bless the children of Israel, say to them, 'May Hashem bless you and guard you.'" (Bemidbar 6:23-24)

Our perashah contains the famous Birkat Kohanim, the blessing of the Kohanim to the people. Why does it say in the Torah, "May Hashem bless you?" Can't we just bless the people ourselves without mentioning Hashem? It's because we really don't know how to bless a person. Only Hashem knows what is really good for him. If we use our own opinion, we might bless the person with something he doesn't need, or worse, with something that could hurt him. Therefore, the Kohen says, "May Hashem bless you" with that which needs a berachah. But if Hashem knows what the person needs and we ask Hashem to bless, why do we need to bless the person? After all, Hashem knows!

Today, in our Pele-Yoetz class, we learned about blessing people. He quotes a pasuk "A person with a good (generous) eye is blessed." (Mishle 22:9). The simple meaning is that a person who looks generously at the people is a good person (we could write a whole article just on this concept). However, the Gemara says it also means that a good person blesses people. The Pele Yoetz quotes another pasuk in Mishle that says a person should not hold back something that is coming to a person. It may be a time of "et rason" (a time of Divine love for that person), and your berachah might bear fruit, and the person you are blessing will get what he needs. According to this, we have an answer to our question. Why do we bless if Hashem knows? It may be that the person needs one more reason to merit that gift from Hashem and your blessing gets him over the finish line to get his berachah. In addition, that's why we respond to the blessing "V'chen l'mor - and the same to you." The story in the Gemara (Megillah 27b) tells that once Rav blessed Rav Hunah, and it came true. Rav got upset at Rav Hunah for not saying v'chen l'mor, because if he would have said it, it might have come true to Rav as well.

Be a good person and bless others. You never know, you might be blessing yourself. Shabbat Shalom. Rabbi Reuven Semah

"If a man's wife strays" (Bemidbar 5:12)

The word which is used to denote straying (tisteh,) is the same word which means "folly - shoteh." Indeed, the Rabbis tell us that a person does not sin unless a spirit of folly enters him first. This means that any rational and sane person would know not to commit a transgression. What happens to a person, however, is that momentarily he is overtaken by a desire or an impulse, and therefore does something wrong. This is akin to temporary insanity. Is it not insane that we argue with our spouses about foolish things, letting everything go to pieces because of a minor issue which is usually resolvable if we wouldn't stand on ceremony? What about words said in anger or spite? Is that not foolish? If we would go down the line, we would see that there is no logic to most of our transgressions!

This is the lesson of the wayward woman, the sotah. If we learn to be on the lookout for this "spirit of foolishness," we can nip it in the bud, and let our reason and common sense keep us in line. Shabbat Shalom. Rabbi Shmuel Choueka


"Any man whose wife deviates from the right path and commits an act of disloyalty towards him." (Bemidbar 5:12)

The word "satah" means to deviate from a prescribed path. In this pasuk "satah" means to turn aside from the correct moral path. Consequently, we understand Hazal's statement, "One does not commit a sin unless a spirit of foolishness has entered into him" (Sotah 3a) in the following way: Every moral lapse is simultaneously a lapse of reasoning. Moral truth and logical truth coincide; man sins when he has lost sight of this connection.

The behavior of the wife described in these pesukim does not yet actually imply adultery. It refers to a deviation from the prescribed moral path of conduct appropriate to the Jewish woman. An irreverent attitude towards the Torah's concepts of modesty and purity may have caused this woman to act in a manner which dictates that her husband warn her. The bitter waters which are administered to the woman are only given in the event that "the husband is free from guilt." At the time that the husband wants the guilt or innocence of his wife to be decided by Hashem, only when he knows himself to be completely free of this same moral misbehavior can he then seek Hashem's decision regarding his wife. If the husband himself has been overly indulgent in those areas of morality where restraint should have been practiced, however, he cannot hand the bitter waters to his wife. Hashem's laws regarding morality do not grant men greater license for deviation than they grant women.

In his commentary, the Ramban pertinently remarks that the laws of Sotah constitute the single institution in Jewish law which routinely seeks Divine intervention by way of a miracle. This is the set of laws in which Hashem is depicted as the author of the institution of marriage and as the guardian over each individual Jewish matrimonial union. The laws of Sotah recognize the presence of the Divine in every Jewish marriage. Hashem's special attention is focused upon the faithfulness of the husband and wife to one another. Halachah underlines moral purity as the root of spirituality and human happiness. (Peninim on the Torah)


Most people know they should be thankful for all the goodness with which they have been blessed. The problem, though, is maintaining this appreciation in the face of life's many upsets. How many of us, for example, haven't had a really great day spoiled by something which, in the grand scheme of things, is relatively minor - such as a malfunctioning or misplaced electronic device?

Although the idea of counting our blessings is indisputable, training is required in order to translate understanding into reality. A two-pronged approach may prove helpful.

1) Take it easy. If you are having a good day and something comes along to steal your satisfaction, relax it away. Listen to music, sit in the car a couple of minutes before entering the house, sing a song, or recite a chapter of Tehillim slowly and out loud. By doing any of these things, you coat the aggravation with sweet icing, and the bitterness of your distress passes.

2) Focus on the positive. Don't concentrate on the negatives; when all things are considered, they really are fewer than you first thought.

Those who are obsessed with what they do not have - make themselves miserable, and often bring about their own downfalls.

Haman had just about anything anybody could want - power, wealth, and a family. However, he was obsessed with the thought that Mordechai would not bow down to him.

This obsession led to his downfall.

Try taking a walk through the park without the electronic interruption of your MP3 player. Just look at the sky and the trees. Appreciate the eyes that can see, the legs that can walk, and the lungs that can breathe unassisted by technology - all as your heart beats automatically.

Hug a child you love.

Hold a baby in your lap.

We have much to be thankful for. Relax, and accentuate the positive. It works. (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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