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Haftarah: Yeshayahu 61:10-63:9

SEPTEMBER 19-20, 2014 25 ELUL 5774


"Return wayward sons, I will heal you from your waywardness." (Yirmiyahu 3:22)

The High Holidays are fast approaching. How should we view our relationship to Hashem?

Once a button became loose on the Rabbinic jacket of the Hatam Sofer and he gave it to his daughter to mend. When she handed it back to him, he told her that she wasn't the one who had sewn on the button. The daughter's face turned red and she admitted that she had asked the maid to do it. When she asked him how he knew, the Hatam Sofer showed her that there was also a tear in the corner of the jacket. He knew that if she had affixed the button, she would have seen the rip and would have lovingly fixed it as well. When he saw that the rip was not mended he understood that the sewing was done by someone who was instructed to do so, but who felt no love in doing so. Based on this story Rabbi D. Staum quotes Rabbi G. Rabinowitz, that on Rosh Hashanah we declare that we stand ready to be judged: "If like sons…or if like servants" (?? ????? ?? ?????? ). The truth is that Hashem judges us depending on how we serve Him. If we approach serving Hashem as a son serving his father with love, going beyond the letter of the law, then Hashem will in turn judge us as sons. But is we serve Him as servants, merely fulfilling the letter of the law, then He will judge us as devoted servants, but not as sons. Happy Holiday & Shabbat Shalom.
Rabbi Reuven Semah

The Gemara tells a story. There was once a drought in Israel which was causing a tremendous famine. R' Eliezer, the great leader of that generation ordered fasting and special prayers with twenty-four blessings, but they weren't answered. R' Akiba then got up and said "Abinu Malkenu, Our Father our King, please have mercy on us," and rain came down. The students began to whisper, "How come the great R' Eliezer wasn't answered and R' Akiba, who was his student, was answered?" A voice came down from Heaven and said, "Do not think the student is greater than the Rabbi, rather the student overcomes his character traits which merited this miracle."

R' Salanter asks the obvious question: Doesn't this mean that R' Akiba is still greater, since he overcomes his character traits? He answers that R' Eliezer came from very noble stock and therefore his personality was very refined from birth. His character traits were all positive. R' Akiba, however, whose ancestry had converts in it, had to overcome personality traits which he inherited. He had to perfect himself by overcoming his nature. Therefore, he merited to have miracles that Hashem also "overcame his nature" (so to speak) and allowed rain to come, even if not deserved.

We see here the power of overcoming one personality trait. If we refrain from responding when insulted, or hold back our anger when provoked, we can bring about miracles since we controlled our nature. We have experienced a difficult year and we all want to see Divine mercy and compassion. If we exhibit these very same traits then Hashem changes His nature and will bring us a year of health, happiness and prosperity. Tizku Leshanim Rabot! Rabbi Shmuel Choueka


If we were to receive a distinguished guest in our home, there is no doubt that we would go all out to welcome him and show him respect. We would prepare the finest meals for him and offer him the best accommodations. If the guest were to stay in our home for an extended period of time, though, we probably would not maintain that level of service throughout the duration of the visit. Then, when the time came for the guest to leave us, we would again prepare for him a lavish meal and send him on his way with honor.

This, Rabbi Eliyahu Lopian teaches, is the way we should view the last Shabbat of the year. We may have neglected to give the Shabbat the honor it deserves throughout the year, but this Shabbat is like a guest who has been with us all year and is now preparing to depart. Therefore, it is incumbent upon us to give greater honor to this particular Shabbat.

How do we show more honor to the Shabbat? Of course, this means that we must be extra careful with the prohibitions of the day. Any "leniencies" we have allowed ourselves during the year should be put aside, at least for this day. We must also pray the tefillot of Shabbat with greater concentration, to understand and think about the meanings of the words which we are saying to Hashem.

We should also be sure to enjoy the meals of Shabbat for the express purpose of giving honor to the day. If a person stuffs himself to the point where he is too tired to sit down with a sefer and study Torah, then he didn't show respect to the Shabbat - he simply honored himself.

It is known that a person in the last moments of his life can do complete teshubah and be forgiven for a lifetime of sins. In an instant, he can repair all the damage he has done to his soul over the many years of his life. The same holds true regarding the last Shabbat of the year and regarding the last day of the year. If a person acts in the proper way, dedicating himself to the study of Torah and the performance of misvot he can salvage the entire year and merit great blessings for the new year. (Lekah Tob)


The boss listened patiently as one of his department managers outlined a new business plan which, the loyal employee predicted, would produce bottom-line profits for the company. "I've put it all down on a single sheet of paper for you to review," said the manager proudly, as he handed the summary to his employer. After a few moments, the boss handed the document back to his ingenious worker and said, "I like it. Make me a few copies to distribute at our afternoon meeting. I'd like some of the other managers to come up with similar ideas."

If you are satisfied with something, you want more of that same thing: 'Pass me another piece of cake."… "I think I'll go back and buy these shoes in brown also. They are so comfortable."… "I love my car so much that I am going to get another from the same dealer for my wife." And so on.

Although most people complain, to some extent, about life's minor details - finances, the location of their homes, the lack of certain creature comforts - they feel that the way they live is basically fine, and it is what they want for their children. Most people want more of what they have for their children, not different from what they have.

In order to transmit your life philosophy, religious feelings, and cultural mores to your children, you must live an exemplary life. Telling them what you want them to be, and lecturing them on how you would like them to behave, usually falls on deaf ears. But living how you would like them to live usually provides them with a script for life, which they can easily follow.

Hashem gave us a great deal of time with our children. Other creatures mature much more quickly and become independent from their parents at a very young age. Minutes after birth, a horse starts to run around on its own. Days after hatching, many birds are ready to leave the nest. Humans, however, spend approximately twenty years at home before venturing out into the world on their own. Some explain that Hashem's plan is to give parents enough time to show their children the right way to behave in a variety of life situations.

When you have the opportunity to communicate with your offspring, don't preach. Do as you would like them to do rather than say what you would like them to do. It only takes a minute to communicate, and Hashem gave us many minutes to convey our values to our children. Use every minute before they are ready to strike out on their own, and you will produce "clear copies" of your ideals for the next generation. (One Minute With Yourself - Rabbi Raymond Beyda)


September 24-26, 2014 1-2 Tishri 5775


When a Jewish boy reaches the age of thirteen and celebrates his Bar Misvah, it is customary for him to receive gifts. The most popular gift, of course, is a check, but others also receive books and other valuable items. When Yanky became Bar Misvah he was eagerly awaiting the gift that his grandfather, a wealthy man and noted philanthropist, would give him. After the celebration, he came home and began to unpack the gifts. His grandfather's gift came in a box. Inside on the top was an envelope with a handsome check. As he dug down deeper, he found an old-fashioned glass bottle of Coca Cola. On it was a note from his grandfather telling him that the bottle carried an important message for him to remember all the days of his life, and it will be his key to great success.

Unable to decipher the message, he waited till the morning when he went to his grandfather's home, thanked him for the nice check, and then asked, "What was I to learn from the bottle?" The grandfather gently told Yanky, "Nowadays in most cities when you buy a bottle of soda you pay a deposit, which you receive back when you return the bottle. Etched in the glass of this old bottle that I gave you, are the words, 'no deposit no return' and it is a beautiful message which you should always remember. In life, if one expects a 'return' it is necessary to make a 'deposit.'

"Miracles do happen, but only from time to time and only to certain people. To sit idle and wait for them to happen is improper. It is necessary to do, to put in one's best effort, and undoubtedly Hashem will bless one with happy returns. This is true in every facet of life.

"When one experiences difficulty in a marriage, it is necessary to explore if the husband and wife really made a 'deposit' and gave of themselves to each other. When a partnership in business goes sour, one should examine if each partner really made honest deposits - earnestly devoted himself, his time, and his interest to the business. If one is disappointed with the way his children are turning out, he should ask himself, 'Is it their fault or is it mine? Did I deposit into them an education and appreciation of Judaism which would produce the returns I would like to see now?'"

Rosh Hashanah is the time of the year when one makes resolutions, but resolutions in themselves are meaningless and insufficient. A resolution must be supported with sincere efforts. First and foremost we must not forget the fact that "no deposit, no return." One cannot sit back and just rely on a miracle. It is up to us to put forth the effort and make the deposit, and when we do, the return is usually well worth it. (Vedibarta Bam)


In six days Hashem created the heaven, earth, and its inhabitants. According to the Sages, creation commenced on the 25th day of Elul and six days later, Adam, the first man, was created.

Rosh Hashanah commemorates the creation of Adam, the first man and the ancestor of humanity. Accordingly, this singular anniversary was designated to serve as the perennial day of judgment for Adam's descendants throughout the generations. On this day it is incumbent upon Adam's children to reflect and contemplate whether man, as evolved throughout history, has justified and vindicated the hopes and aspirations of his Creator.

One of the main distinguishing features in the creation of man is that he was created single, unlike all other species, which were created in large numbers. This indicates emphatically that one single individual has the capacity to bring the whole of creation to fulfillment. Adam, following his creation, single-handedly rallied all creatures in the world to recognize the sovereignty of the Creator. When Adam was created, all creatures who saw him were gripped with fear and bowed to him in mistaken belief that he, Adam, had created them. Adam said to them, "Do not think I created you. 'Come, let us worship and bow down before Hashem our Maker'" (Tehillim 95:6).

Adam, the first man, was the prototype and example for every individual to follow. Every Jew, regardless of his time, place, and personal status, has the capacity to rise and attain the highest degree of fulfillment and also elevated the entire creation.

Rosh Hashanah, the anniversary of the first, and single human, disproves the contention of those who sit idle and follow the tide, with the excuse that it is impossible to change the world or pattern of society. Many of us give up when it comes to introducing more observance in our neighborhood, in our children's homes, or even in our own lives. We do this saying, "It is a lost case; nothing can be done about it."

The message of Rosh Hashanah is that each and every Jew has tremendous potential, and with sincere efforts he can improve and elevate himself, his family, society, and even the entire world. (Vedibarta Bam)

* * * * *

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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