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Haftarah: Melachim I 18:46-19:21

JULY 18-19, 2008 16 TAMUZ 5768

The fast of the Seventeenth of Tamuz will be on Sunday, July 20. The period of the Three Weeks begins on this day. During this time, no weddings or parties with music are permitted.

Pop Quiz: Who became Kohen Gadol after Aharon died?


"It was after the plague, Hashem said to Moshe…'Take a census of the entire assembly of the Children of Israel" (Bemidbar 26:1-2)

At the end of Parashat Balak we read about the sin of the Jewish men with Moabite women, and the resulting plague in which 24,000 people died. In our perashah Hashem commands to count the people. Rashi explains: This can be compared to a shepherd among whose herd wolves entered and killed some of the sheep. Now he counts them to know the number of those remaining.

The Midrash brings another beautiful reason. Rabbi Shlomo Peretz explains the Midrash: It is well known that the Jews numbered only seventy when they went to Egypt. During the 210 years of slavery they multiplied greatly, reaching the number of 600,000. From that time and on, the Jews never went under the number of 600,000. The Midrash says that when they don't follow the will of Hashem, their number is limited, but they will not be less than 600,000. When they follow the will of Hashem, their number will be unlimited.

When the plague came the nations were happy in their hearts because they thought that Hashem's presence left the Jews. They knew that Hashem's presence would not remain if the number falls below 600,000. Therefore, Hashem commanded right after the plague to count the Jews. He wanted to show the nations that despite the plague that killed many men, nevertheless, we didn't go under 600,000. As it says later on (verse 51), "These are the counted ones of the Children of Israel, six hundred one thousand, seven hundred and thirty." This shows that the great love Hashem has for us remained, and His Shechinah presence dwells among us. Shabbat Shalom. Rabbi Reuven Semah

When Pinhas saw the Prince of the tribe of Shim'on doing a sinful act in public, he acted with zealousness and put the sinners to death. By acting with "jealousy" for the sake of Hashem, he stopped the plague from consuming the Jewish people, and was credited with saving the entire nation.

This act of zeal, although the appropriate response during this particular crisis, is not usually the way that Moshe and Aharon led the Jewish people during their years of leadership. We find Moshe almost always praying to Hashem, sometimes falling on his face and tearing his garments, and rarely getting angry at the people. However, there is always something that occurs during a crisis. Even crying out to Hashem and begging Him for His help is a response, in that we recognize the problem and realize there is nothing for us to do. What we don't find is that a problem arises and it's accepted as is, with no reaction at all. In our times, society is constantly putting pressure on our Torah way of life. When a situation becomes unacceptable and leads to a crisis, we must know not only to react, but how to react! Sometimes, what's needed is a soft word, sometimes a cry of anguish and maybe even an isolated act of zeal, but we can't just ignore or accept problems, hoping they will go away. When we see someone stuck on the road, we can either help out ourselves, give him a lift somewhere, or call someone else to help him. However, if we just slow down, rubberneck and see the situation and then do nothing, not only didn't we help out with the problem, we created more traffic problems. Life is like traffic; let's respond rather than rubberneck! Shabbat Shalom. Rabbi Shmuel Choueka


"I am giving him My covenant of peace" (Bemidbar 25:12)

The Netziv commented: Pinhas did a zealous act that could cause someone to become aggressive even when it would not be appropriate. Therefore Hashem blessed him with a covenant of peace. In all other areas of his life he should be a man of peace.

Our usual state should be one of peace. There are times when it is proper and even necessary to be aggressive. But since this trait is so destructive one must be very careful that it does not become part of one's nature. We become molded by our behavior. If we keep acting a certain way it becomes part of our usual personality. There is a danger that a trait which is frequently negative and sometimes positive depending on the circumstances will be used negatively if it becomes a part of our character. To prevent this from happening with the trait of aggression, someone who has to be aggressive on occasion should go out of his way to be extremely kind and compassionate in other instances. (Growth through Torah)


"And their meal-offerings and their libations" (Bemidbar 29:18)

According to the Gemara (Ta'anit 2b) there were water libations on the altar during the Succot festival which are alluded to in the portion discussing the Succot offering through three extra letters which spell "mayim, water."

1) On the second day, it is written "v'niskehem, their libations," in plural. The "mem" is superfluous since for plural it could read "unsachehah."

2) On all the other days it is written "v'niskah, its libation," in singular. Only on the sixth day does it say unsachehah, its libations," in plural with an added "yud."

3) Each day it says "kamishpat, as required," except that on the seventh day it says, "k'mishpatam, in their requirements," containing a superfluous "mem."

Why were there water libations during the festival of Succot?

According to some opinions, the Akedah took place on Yom Kippur. From Abraham's home to the land of Moriah was a three day journey; thus, Abraham returned from the Akedah on the 13th of Tishrei. On that day he was informed of Sarah's passing and Ribkah's birth.

Three years later, Abraham directed his faithful servant Eliezer to seek a wife for Yitzhak. Eliezer arrived in the city of Aram Naharayim and planned to test the girls of the city. The one whom he would ask for a drink of water and who would also offer water for his camels would definitely be good-natured and suitable to marry Yitzhak.

The day Eliezer arrived, he engaged Ribkah to be the wife of Yitzhak, and at that time she was three years and three days old. Thus, the episode took place on the fifteenth of Tishrei, the first day of Succot. To commemorate the marriage of Yitzhak, which resulted through an act of kindness performed with water, there are water libations on the altar during the festival of Succot. (Vedibarta Bam)


"This is crazy! I can get the same exact shoes that Mazal's shoe store is selling for $120, online for $25 less. I don't know if Mazal is high, or is low, but I'm not paying an extra $25 for nothing."

"But Yishak," Yosef asked his good friend, "How will you be sure you get the right size? There's a range of widths. You won't get the right size unless you try them on. You may save on the shoes, but you will spend much more on shipping them back and forth."

"I know what I'll do!" Yishak answered. "I will go to Mazal's to try on the shoes, get the exact size and then order them online."

"I'm not sure I'm comfortable with that" Yosef replied. "How can we go in with absolutely no intention of buying and make Mr. Mazal crazy? He's such a nice man."

"Oh come on!" Yishak chided. "There's nobody in the store now anyway. What's the big deal?"

The Mishnah (Baba Mesiya 58b) teaches that one may not pain his friend even with words. This prohibition is called O'na'at Debarim. One of the examples which the Mishnah gives is that one may not enter a store and ask how much an item costs with no intention of purchasing the item. The commentaries explain, that this may cause the owner to lose faith in his product, or cause others to lose faith in the product when they see you did not buy it. Alternatively, a prospective purchaser may think that you are taking the product and move on to purchase it at another vendor. Me'iri says that even if none of these concerns are applicable, you're still making the store-owner toil needlessly, and must therefore refrain.

One common occurrence that one should be careful about is a person who has recently purchased a baby stroller or the likes. Being an educated consumer, he has an inner desire to make sure he has gotten the best deal. As he does his shopping his instincts urge him to stop in at every store that sells the product and ask how much they are selling it for. This would be a violation of "O'na'at Debarim"

"If one may not even enter a store to ask a price if he has no intention to buy..." Yosef reasoned, "then certainly one may not actually try on a pair of shoes with the intent to buy them elsewhere." "You gotta make a decision Yishak, either buy them online or pay full retail at Mazal's but we are going to do the right thing"

"I say buy them at Mazal's, then you are getting an added misvah of patronizing and supporting your fellow Jew."

So the next time you decide you just want to "test drive" the new Infinity "just for kicks", you really should just tell the salesperson your true intent……he may let you do it anyway. In any event, at least you will have sanctified Hashem's name. (Rav Dovid Grossman of Kollel Zichron Gershon)

Answer to Pop Quiz: Aharon's son, Elazar.

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.

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