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SEPTEMBER 10-11, 2004 25 ELUL 5764

Pop Quiz: What is the historical significance of today's date - 25 Elul?


"The hidden things are for Hashem, our G-d, but the revealed are for us and our children." (Debarim 29:28)

When the Israelites crossed the Jordan River to enter the Holy Land, led by Joshua, they took upon themselves a special bond with one another. Rashi, in the verse quoted above, says that each Jew accepted to be the guarantor for the other. That means that each person was responsible for the other's actions. The Hafess Hayim explains that this is the source for the halachah that one may perform a misvah and fulfill another person's obligation even if the doer has already fulfilled his obligation. One may blow the shofar for someone who didn't hear even if the blower already heard it. The logic is that if a fellow Jew is missing a misvah, then the other Jew is also missing a misvah. In short, we are one. The same is true in the case of a violation of the Torah. One should try to prevent his friend from sinning since he is his guarantor and is responsible for his friend's actions.

Imagine if a friend guarantees or co-signs a loan for his friend. Then the friend decides to invest a lot of money in a certain merchandise. The co-signer, however, has a lot of experience in this type of goods and knows that they are worthless. The co-signer realizes that if his friend is left on his own to invest the money, his friend will lose all the money, and the bank will come to him to make good on the loan. Therefore, the co-signer will do all he could to convince his friend to invest elsewhere.

As the Torah says, the hidden things are for Hashem. Only Hashem knows the thoughts of man. The revealed things are for us - the actions of every Jew are our concern. We must help each other perform misvot and avoid sin simply because we are all one, and we must be concerned about each other. On the upcoming holidays, keep in mind the importance of praying together and helping each other serve Hashem as a unified force. Shabbat Shalom. Rabbi Reuven Semah

"You are all standing here today." (Debarim 29:9)

When the Jewish people heard the ninety-eight curses said to them in last week's perashah, the midrash says that they turned white from fear. Moshe then told them, "You are all standing here today," meaning, although you may have done things wrong in the past, you're still around, so don't worry so much. This seems to be self-defeating, for if Moshe is telling them not to be afraid, why then do we read the ninety-eight terrifying curses?

The answer is that once we took the message to heart and became afraid, at that point Moshe can console us and say, "Don't worry," because that means we got the message. This is similar to a school teacher who shows his students the "stick" that he uses to punish if they don't behave. He will never have to use it during the year if on the first day, he scares them with the stick to keep them in line. It says in the laws of Rosh Hashanah that we don't say Hallel on this holiday, since the books of life and death are open. How then can we say Hallel? Yet the law is that we dress up for Rosh Hashanah and have a festive meal. Aren't these two things

contradictory? The answer is the same. Once we come to the realization that it's such a serious day that we can't even say Hallel though it's a holiday, then and only then can we allow ourselves to dress up and eat a festive meal. We must take these days very seriously, realizing that our whole year depends on how we pray and how we act on Rosh Hashanah. Then we can be assured to be inscribed in the book of life, health and happiness. Tizku leshanim rabot. Rabbi Shmuel Choueka

"And it will be that when he hears the words of this curse, he will bless himself in his heart saying, peace will be with me, though I walk as my heart sees fit- thereby adding the watered upon the thirsty" (Debarim 29:18)

Our Sages ask: How can one hear all the curses in last weeks perashah and say, "Peace will be unto me"?? The answer is with a parable. Once there was a king who had one son. One day the boy became very ill with high temperature. A doctor was ordered and he prescribed bitter medicine for the child. The boy was very spoiled and refused to take the medicine. The next day his fever went even higher and again the doctor prescribed even stronger medicines, but the child continued to refuse the medicine. On the third day his fever reached dangerous levels, and a council of physicians was invited to examine the boy and they all agreed that he could not be cured unless he would take the prescribed medication. Among the doctors, there was an elderly doctor who asked for a private audience with the king and was granted one. The doctor asked the king if he would forego his honor and allow the doctor to speak in a tough manner to the king in front of his son and the king agreed. The king went to sit by his son's bedside. The doctor then entered and the king stood up in his honor. After checking the boy the doctor asked how long the boy has been ill and he was told, "Four days." The doctor proceeded to remove from his case a large book of prescription forms and began to fill out page after page of medicines. The king asked the doctor why he was writing so much and he replied, "These are medicines for your son." The king told the doctor, "But my son is not able to consume even the smallest amount of medicine." The doctor began to yell at the king that if his son doesn't take the medicine he will be in grave danger and may not survive. With no choice, the king agreed that his son should take the medication and immediately the doctor summoned a wagon driver to bring the medications. He began to read the long list and commanded the rider to bring the medicines at once. Then he ordered the king's men to bring him large containers and vats to hold the many various medicines. The wagon rider returned with all the medications and placed them in the various containers around the boy's bed. He then told the king that he needed to rest and will return in a few hours to make sure the boy took the medicines and surely he will get better. When the doctor left, the boy turned to his father, the king, and said, "Please Daddy, bring me the first doctor and I will take the little medicine that he prescribed." And so they brought the first doctor and he took the medicine and became cured.

The moral is: Moshe Rabenu wrote in our holy Torah ninety-eight curses in Parashat Ki Tabo, aside from the curses in Torat Kohanim. When the Jewish nation heard the curses they turned white and said, "Who will be able to stand before all these curses???" So Moshe Rabenu appeased them and told them, "You are all standing before me and nobody is missing." The nation understood that the curses were only warnings to keep the people in line, and if they were good Hashem would protect them. When the wicked hear this dialogue between Hashem and the nation they continue to go in their wicked ways, but no one can escape the wrath of Hashem if he continues to be wicked.

May it be the will of Hashem that we follow the righteous ways, amen! Shabbat shalom! Rabbi Eli Ben-Haim


"And Moshe went" (Debarim 31:1)

Ibn Ezra explains that before Moshe died, he went to each tribe to notify them that he was about to die, but they should not be afraid because he was leaving them with Yehoshua, who would be a reliable leader.

We can learn from Moshe that whenever we see that someone has fears, we should do all that we can to alleviate those fears. Moshe knew that Yehoshua would be a capable and devoted leader and that people could trust him. Nevertheless, fear is a painful emotion and it is an act of kindness to help a person overcome it. Because it is so painful it is forbidden to cause someone unnecessary fear. Never laugh at someone because of his fears; mocking him will just cause him more emotional pain. By becoming skilled at helping others rid themselves of their fears, you will be able to fulfill more acts of kindness. (Growth through Torah)


Question: Why are certain verses in Bircat Halebanah recited three times? Answer: Three represents many. We accentuate certain phrases for emphasis. We learn this from "shalom rab" which tells us to say many shaloms to those who love your Torah, and we say, in Bircat Halebanah, "shalom alechem" three times. (Excerpted from Siddur Abir Yaacob, published by Sephardic Press)


"The hidden are for Hashem, but the revealed are for us and our children forever, to carry out all the words of the Torah." (Debarim 29:28)

This verse can be explained as referring to a person's misvot. A person may perform misvot secretly without anyone seeing or knowing about it, or he may do them in the open for anyone to see. Although one should not intentionally try to let people see him do misvot for the purpose of looking like a righteous person, there is a benefit when others observe our Torah study and misvot observance. When we openly demonstrate our dedication to Hashem's commandments, our family and friends are likely to be inspired to follow suit.

This is hinted to in this pasuk. "The hidden are for Hashem" - if you perform your misvot discreetly, so that nobody can see what you are doing, then they will be strictly between you and Hashem. Hashem will reward you but there will be no added benefits. However, "the revealed are for us and our children forever" - when your children see your devotion and desire to fulfill Hashem's will, they will be more likely to follow in your footsteps and continue the tradition "to carry out all the words of the Torah."

Question:Are you ever ashamed to let others see when you observe certain misvot? What would your friends and family say is the most important thing in your life?


This week's Haftarah: Yishayahu 61:10 - 63:9.

This haftarah is the last of the series of seven haftarot of consolation. Hashem says that He has always been with Israel in its exile, and always shares in their suffering. He will take vengeance on Edom, and bring us back from our exile.

Answer to Pop Quiz: On this day, Hashem began the creation of the world..

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