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Haftarah: Yeshayahu 61:10-63:9

AUGUST 30-31, 2013 25 ELUL 5773


"May it be Your will, that You renew for us a good and sweet year." (Special prayer on Rosh Hashanah)

On the first night of Rosh Hashanah it is customary to perform a number of simanim (positive omens) to augment the coming new year. The most important siman of them all, though, is not the edible kind, but rather the siman that comes from within each and every one of us. It is, in fact, the most essential of all! Being pleasant, optimistic, and creating a friendly environment. There should be no sharp or hostile comments during this time period, but only a "sweet as the honey on the table" atmosphere. In that spirit, family members and guests should all wish each other a good, sweet year as is done in shul.

On the night of Rosh Hashanah we dip a piece of apple in the honey (the Syrians use sugar). The berachah of boreh peri ha'ess is recited and we add a prayer of "a good, sweet year." One might think that the entire exercise is performed in order to stress upon us the "sweetness" of the new year. However, we do not make a berachah on the honey at all. Instead, we make the berachah on the apple, and the honey is simply added. Why? Rabbi Yitzchak Sender explains, because the apple is a symbol of life itself, since it comes from a tree, and Torah, our lifeblood, is called "ess hayim," the tree of life. While we may wish for a life filled with sweetness and happiness, the main object of the prayer is life itself! The berachah of boreh peri ha'ess that is recited indicates the main ingredient, the main focus of our prayers. We first petition for life itself, reciting the berachah of ha'ess on the apple, and only then do we beg for the "sugar coating," asking for a shanah tobah umetukah, a good, sweet year. 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


The seventh-grader hurtled through the doorway. He dropped his briefcase, threw off his coat, and headed for the kitchen. "Mom, I'm starving! What's for dinner?" he inquired as he opened the refrigerator door, frantically searching for a snack.

"Dinner isn't ready yet, dear," answered his mother. Danny settled for a glass of chocolate milk and a handful of cookies which he quickly gobbled, then went out of the kitchen.

Boys will be boys, and it was not long before Danny's room, the den, and several other areas of the neat house he had entered sported a trail of dropped articles. Homework papers, CDs, pens and markers littered the house.

"Danny, if you want dinner and the delicious dessert I made, you had better start picking up after yourself," warned Danny's mother. Realizing the consequences, he quickly attended to the mess.

Soon after Dinner, Danny's stuff was all over the house again. "Danny, get this place cleaned up, please, and then get yourself showered and up to bed," his loving mother called out. This time, however, his belly full, Danny ignored her instructions and set out for his room to read a couple of magazines and listen to some music. He fell asleep with out heeding his mother's instructions.

Is this a case of good boy turned bad?

Our Sages teach: "A person does not rebel against Hashem except when satisfied" (Berachot 32a). We should feel obligated to behave in a manner that will make our Father in Heaven happy, regardless of the way we feel about His treatment of us. And the obligation is even greater when things are going well! Unfortunately, we all too often treat our Creator like a vending machine - we want to put in a coin and make our selection. If an item we selected doesn't come out of the machine, we begin to bang and kick the device.

When you get what you want, be sure it doesn't break your connection to Hashem. Feel gratitude and a desire to perform to His satisfaction in order to express your thanks to Him. Appreciation only takes a minute, but it will keep you from "kicking" when you should be thanking. (One Minute With Yourself - Rabbi Raymond Beyda)

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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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