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Haftarah: Yeshayahu 54:1-10

OCTOBER 16-17, 2015 4 HESHVAN 5776


"Make it with bottom, second, and third decks." (Beresheet 6:16)

As we study the perashah of Noah, we get a feeling that the main problem was that mankind could not get along. Hashem commands Noah to build an ark and he will be saved from the flood that is coming. The ark had three floors to it. Ultimately, the ark weathered the storm and Noah and his family survived. Maybe now man will be able to get along.

Let's fast-forward thousands of years. In Jerusalem lived two great Rabbis. Like the ark there were three floors. In the shelter which was in the basement there was a shul. On top of the shul on the first floor lived Harav Ovadiah Yosef zt"l. On top of him on the second floor lived Harav Ben Sion Abba-Shaul zt"l, Rosh Yeshivah of Porat Yosef. One day a close friend of Rabbi Abba-Shaul asked him if it bothered him that he lives above a shul (for there are some limitations of what one may do living on top of a sefer Torah)? Rabbi Abba-Shaul answered that it bothers him more to live on top of Harav Ovadiah who is a living sefer Torah.

One day the wife of Rabbi Abba-Shaul was watering her flower pots that were on her porch. It just so happened that at that same time Harav Ovadiah was on his porch studying a sefer on the floor below, and some water was dripping on him from the porch above. Harav Ovadiah said nothing, not even a hint. (His son Rabbi Yitzchak happened to see, to tell the story.) He just went inside and continued studying.

Apparently some people learned to get along.

Shabbat Shalom. Rabbi Reuven Semah

When Noah left the Ark after the flood and saw the devastation to the world, he began to cry to Hashem and asked, "How can a G-d so compassionate cause such destruction?" To which Hashem answered, "Now you think of this? Why didn't you cry when I first told you about the decree? I waited many years for your prayers on behalf of the rest of the world and only now you realize to pray for them?"

We see from here an important lesson. Noah was a righteous man and therefore deserved to be saved together with his family. But he did not express enough concern for others until it was too late. Had he prayed or cried out for the world before the flood, there may not have been a flood! Often we see difficult situations unfolding before us and we don't think it's our place to get involved. When the tragedy is a reality, we exclaim, "What a shame! I wish I could do something!" Had we exclaimed so a little earlier, we may have found a way to help prevent this tragedy. At the very least, we could always pray to Hashem that it should be prevented. A little more prayer and a little more concern could spell the difference between tragedy and salvation. Let us look around us and see what we could do, and let us pray for others!

Shabbat Shalom. Rabbi Shmuel Choueka


"Haran died in the lifetime of Terah, his father, in his native land, in Uhr Kasdim" (Beresheet 11:28)

Sefer Beresheet is referred to as Sefer Hayashar, the Book of (the) Just, because it recounts the lives and experiences of the Abot Hakedoshim, Holy Patriarchs, who exemplified yashrut, justness, and perfection in their commitment to Hashem. Thus, the Torah relates their stories so that we, their descendants, will learn from their example and follow suit. The Torah also writes about individuals who did not attain the status of saddik, righteous person. Nonetheless, their stories, which are filled with both failures and triumphs, impart important lessons for us.

The above pasuk tells us about Abraham Abinu's brother, Haran, a decent - but weak - individual, who died during the lifetime of his father, Terah. A seemingly innocuous pasuk, it alludes to a powerful story which serves as the background for Haran's premature death. Apparently, when Abraham took it upon himself to shatter all of his father's idols, word got back to Nimrod, the king and chief pagan, who took this act of "treachery" as a personal affront. He immediately sentenced Abraham to be consumed in a fiery cauldron. Haran witnessed the entire debacle and was determined to make a decision concerning his own level of commitment. Being a simple person who was not willing to gamble and make a major commitment to something which was unknown, he decided to be "flexible" in his decision. He said, "If Nimrod succeeds in killing my brother, then I am putting my money on Nimrod. If, however, my brother emerges unscathed, then I will commit to Hashem." Hashem miraculously spared Abraham, after which Haran came forward, defied Nimrod, and committed himself to Hashem. He was flung into the fire and died. Apparently, he was not worthy of the miracle that spared Abraham. So seems to end the story of Haran, brother of Abraham.

To the reader it is a story of two brothers - one deeply committed to Hashem, the other who vacillates - one miraculously escaped harm due to his total devotion, the other died in a fiery death. Harav Shimshon Pincus, zl, feels that there is more to the Haran story which, from a superficial reading, we fail to take into account. Haran did allow himself to be thrown into the fire. He did acknowledge monotheism, and he emphatically rejected idolatry. His willingness to die for what he believed was the true religion is evident. Perhaps, his intentions were not pure - or not as pure as those of Abraham, but he did give up his life for Hashem. He could have just as easily committed to Nimrod and his pack of idols - but, he did not. Is it possible that Hashem ignored this act of self-sacrifice and withheld the opportunity for him to receive reward for his actions? It just does not seem right.

Regrettably, this is how one who studies the Torah perfunctorily can err. It may appear that Hashem ignored Haran in terms of receiving a reward, but if we just look a few pesukim further and take note of his offspring and descendants, we realize that Hashem certainly did not spare him any reward.

In fact, he was handsomely compensated with a very special distinction: Sarah Imenu was his daughter, and Lot, from whom descended Ruth and Naamah, was his grandson. This is all because he acted faithfully and willingly risked his life. While it is true that his intentions were indecorous, he was rewarded for his actions. Hashem remunerates everyone for his positive actions - even if his intentions are inconsonant with his actions.

Hazal teach us in the Talmud Sanhedrin 105b, "One should occupy himself in Torah (study) and misvah (observance), even if he is doing so shelo lishmah, not for the sake of the misvah, because good work, although misapplied in purpose, will lead to lishmah (for the sake of the misvah)." For as reward for offering forty-two sacrifices to Hashem, Balak merited that Ruth was his descendant. His intentions were not only wrong; they were outright evil. Yet, he did achieve some merit. Thus, he was privileged with being the ancestor of the progenitor of the Kingdom of the House of David.

This teaches us a valuable lesson in self-motivation for misvah observance. It happens that one is reluctant in undertaking to perform a specific misvah, spiritual endeavor, or act of loving-kindness, because he lacks the proper motivation. He feels that he is not on the lofty spiritual plane required for such a venture. Nonetheless, he should go forward and act assertively, because eventually his mind will be clarified and sublimated to a higher cause and his intentions refined. (Peninim on the Torah)


The experienced traveler will advise you to "travel light." Carrying everything you might possibly need on a vacation or business trip just doesn't make sense. Additional baggage creates the potential for longer delays at luggage check-in and increases the odds of having a bag lost upon arrival. Most hotels provide necessities such as shampoo and soap, even irons and hair dryers - with your room, to make traveling easier. The more you take with you from home, the less you will enjoy your trip, and the more aggravation you may endure.

Our Sages teach that our trip through this world is no different than a ten-day trip to Europe. The more we accumulate of this-worldly possessions, the more we will need to worry about the mental storage space that it needs. Traveling light is the road to true happiness.

Rabban Gamliel used to say (Abot 2:7): The more possessions, the more worry.

When you are about to add to the vast catalogue of things that you own, ask yourself, "Do I really need this? Will it bring me happiness or worry?" Then make your decision to buy or not to buy. The results of this minute of evaluation may reduce your storage costs and need for a security alarm system. (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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