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Haftarah: Yeshayahu 61:10-63:9

SEPTEMBER 3-5, 2010 25 ELUL 5770


"And you shall choose life…to love Hashem your G-d to listen to His voice and cleave to Him; for that is your life and the length of your days." (Debarim 30:19-20)

There is a Mishnah in Pirkei Abot that states: "This is the way of the Torah: Eat bread with salt and drink water in small measure…if you do this you are fortunate in this world and in the world to come." Isn't this a contradiction? How can one live a life of deprivation and at the same time be fortunate in this world?

Rabbi Eliyahu Lopian explains with a parable from the Shelah. Hayim was getting old and suffered from a variety of ailments. The doctor prescribed many medicines which he needed to take daily. One day Hayim was traveling and when he arrived at his host's home he was horrified to realize that he forgot to pack all of his medicines. He ran to his host to ask if he had any spare medicines he could use. The host pointed him to his medicine chest. However, there was only aspirin and some band-aids. Hayim went back to his host and told him, "I feel bad for you. True, I left my medicines home, but at least I know I have them at home. But you don't have any!" The host laughed and said, "Don't feel bad for me. I don't have any because I am healthy and I don't need any!"

The Shelah explains: Those who devote their lives to Torah have no need for many pleasures that others consider necessities. They derive immense pleasure from serving Hashem, much more pleasure than any "dream vacation" could ever provide. They are "deprived" by common standards, but they do not feel deprived at all. This is the meaning of the Mishnah. One who lives a life dedicated to Torah study will not lack for anything. This also is the hint of the verse we quoted above - choose life! And what is called living it up? Love Hashem, serve Hashem, listen to His voice and cling to Him! Shabbat Shalom. Rabbi Reuven Semah

"Assemble the people, the men, and the women, and the little ones." (Debarim 31:12)

Rashi explains that although the little children were clearly not capable of comprehending the experience, they accompanied the adults. Thus, those who brought them would be rewarded. In truth, the children that came along probably disrupted the adults to the point that they could not listen as intently as they would have desired. We may, therefore, wonder at the Torah's insistence that the children be present. Would it not have been preferable for the children to remain at home, in order to enable the adults to properly concentrate on their service to Hashem?

Rabbi N. Adler, z"l, suggests that herein lies the actual reward. The adults were implored to "sacrifice" some of their personal spiritual experiences, so that the children would be availed the opportunity to see, hear and experience the sublimity of the moment. Torah education takes precedence over parents' personal needs. Many times, we won't bring our children (the ones who don't run around) to shul, because we want to "relax" and not worry about them. Or we will come home from work, wanting to take it easy, while our children have homework and other needs. This is a point well worth remembering. Shabbat Shalom. Rabbi Shmuel Choueka


And Moshe went and spoke these words…a hundred and twenty years am I this day, I can no more go out and come in, and Hashem said to me you shall not go over. Hashem, your G-d, He will go over before you." (Debarim 31:1-3)

Moshe's farewell address to Bnei Yisrael seems enigmatic. Why does Moshe mention his advanced age and "frailty" in his closing words? Rav Chaim Sheinberg cites the Seforno who adds insight to Moshe's words, "I am a hundred and twenty years old this day." Do not grieve over my death, for according to nature I should not be alive until today. "I can no longer go out and come in." And even if I were to live, I would not be able to go out and come in on your behalf because of my advanced age. "And Hashem has told me, 'You shall not go over.'" Even if I were to live, I could not take you into Eress Yisrael. Therefore, it is to your advantage that I die, so that you may enter into Eress Yisrael. "Hashem, your G-d, He will go over before you." You have no reason to grieve over the loss of my leadership, because, indeed, Hashem is your leader, and He will continue to provide for you.

Moshe Rabenu felt it was necessary to comfort Bnei Yisrael, who were obviously devastated by the knowledge of his impending death. The thought of losing their beloved leader forever cast them into a state of despair at a time when heightened joy was appropriate. Bnei Yisrael had just entered into the covenant with Hashem. In order to reinforce that contractual relationship it was critical that their resolve be strengthened and their spirits elevated. Moshe, the quintessential leader, roused himself during his last moments to reassure Bnei Yisrael that they would not be forsaken.

This, notes Rav Sheinberg, is the true hallmark of a Torah leader. He must be sensitive to the emotional concerns of his people. Moshe felt that his death would devastate Bnei Yisrael at a time when they should be overjoyed. Therefore, he minimized the effect of his demise to whatever extent possible. He allayed their concerns regarding his death and their consequent loss of leadership. Moshe neglected his personal emotions in deference to the need to nurture his flock.

Rav Sheinberg cites the Siddur Ishei Yisrael, who points out that this is the essence of our prayers on Rosh Hashanah. We do not ask favors for ourselves; we entreat Hashem that His Name and kingdom be universally exalted, that every human recognize that He is the source of all creation. When we defer our own personal requests and yield to kabod Shamayim, honor of Heaven, we will merit that our iniquities will be erased. We must be sensitive to the pain and anguish "suffered" by the Shechinah. On the Yom Hadin, Day of Judgment, our merits are commensurate to the degree to which we are able to overlook our own personal needs and submit to the requirements of kabod Shamayim and our fellow Jew. (Peninim on the Torah)


Conceit is a negative characteristic. Knowing this, we could reasonably infer that thinking "for me this world was created" would indicate a flawed perspective. Yet the Talmud (Sanhedrin 37a) actually teaches that everyone must say, "For me this world was created!"

What our Sages were trying to tell us is that people should never lose their sense of gratitude to Hashem for the things He created for the benefit of every human being.

If guests convince themselves that their hostess prepared everything only to benefit her own family and boost her own self-esteem, then they will leave without grateful good-byes. However, if guests have a sense of appreciation and believe that their hostess went out of her way to make them comfortable, then their departure will include a shower of thanks and accolades for all that she did for them. The Talmud makes it pretty simple. A guest who is appreciative is the "good" guest, and the ingrate, a "bad" guest.

Today, while spending some time as Hashem's guest in His world, think for a moment about all the good that your Host has prepared for you. Consider how He has made a myriad of varied creations just for you. He wants you to be happy - so be a good guest and accommodate your Host. Express your gratitude. Say, "For me this world - and everything in it - was created!" (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)

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