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Haftarah: Melachim I 18:46-19:21

JULY 15-16, 2011 14 TAMUZ 5771

The Fast of 17 Tamuz will be on Tuesday, July 19.


"Behold I give him My covenant of peace." (Bemidbar 25:12)

Bilam and Balak conspired to cause the downfall of the nation of Israel. The plan was to make them sin thus causing a rift in the relationship between Hashem and the Jews. The worst type of sin is the sin of immorality, and so they sent the women to sin with the men. Hashem's anger was aroused and the nation was in terrible danger. Pinhas, however, by his quick action against the leader, Zimri, reinstated the peace between Hashem and Israel. Therefore, since he brought peace he got a gift of peace. The gift of peace was in two forms. Firstly, he became a Kohen. The function of the Kohen primarily was to bring sacrifices. These sacrifices give pleasure to Hashem and Hashem grants blessings and life to the people.

The second form of blessing of peace was long life. Actually, Pinhas lived forever and never died. He was later known as Eliyahu the Prophet who finally went to Heaven alive and never died and still lives today as an angel.

The Seforno has a novel explanation how the gift of peace will produce immortality. He explains that any illness and old age is due to the fact that the various organs or processes between organs don't function in complete coordination. If the various powers of the body relate properly and are in "peace" with each other, the body lives forever. This was the second form of peace given to Pinhas.

This Seforno reveals a key lesson of life. Peace brings good health and long life, and strife and arguments shorten life. The dreaded sickness of cancer is when the cells in the body erupt and grow without any order and supervision. The peaceful order of growth among cells is disrupted, and cells invade the boundaries of other cells. But this is a product of strife that also invades the boundaries between people. And as it was during the time of Pinhas that the innocent people were endangered, so too today innocent people are stricken with this dreaded disease. May Hashem protect us.

May Hashem help us in our pursuit of peace and thereby grant us all a healthy, long life, Amen. Shabbat Shalom. Rabbi Reuven Semah

"The daughters of Selofhad drew near." (Bemidbar 27:1)

Before the Jews entered the land of Israel, Moshe had the task of dividing up the land amongst the tribes and families of B'nei Yisrael. The daughters of Selofhad, who were not yet married, were not given a portion of land, since Selofhad had died without any sons. The daughters sought out Moshe to present their case and found him teaching Torah. They waited until he began teaching the topic of inheritance, and then they made their claim to Moshe. Their claim was upheld and they were granted the land.

The daughters of Selofhad were praiseworthy for many reasons. They demonstrated a clear grasp of Jewish law, and they had a sincere love for the land of Israel. The Midrash, however, highlights one virtue in particular - their timing. They waited for the most opportune time to approach Moshe and only then did they present their case. What is so special about this trait that the Midrash treats it as their greatest virtue?

The Midrash is teaching us that the crowning virtue of a great person is common sense. Without this, a person can be intellectually brilliant, be packed with knowledge and have beautiful intentions, yet fail in his endeavors. The daughters of Selofhad knew that they must approach Moshe at the right time, and they understood enough to know the best time for their presentation.

It has been noted that common sense is very uncommon. A man can master the complexities of a supercomputer, yet not be able to interface with his fellow man. Through the study of Torah, with the analysis and honest introspection of musar, we can deepen our understanding of human nature and increase our common sense. Shabbat Shalom. Rabbi Shmuel Choueka


Everyone would like to be happy. Pirkei Abot 4:1 gives us the description of the truly happy person: the one who is "happy with his portion." Appreciating what you have, as opposed to focusing on what you lack, is the formula for achieving satisfaction and joy.

A good exercise is to focus on only one gift for an entire day. You can see; do you appreciate it? Spend a day looking around. Stare at something beautiful; the sky, the ocean, a bed of flowers. Enjoy the beauty of children at play. Each day you can focus on just one of the perks Hashem has provided to keep you upbeat and better suited to serve Him.

For a real charge to your emotional batteries, "Take away" one of your "gifts" and then restore it. Close your eyes and live "blind" for one minute. Then open your eyes and take in the beauty all around you.

Today try sight, and tomorrow touch, and the next day choose something else. Practicing appreciation will fill your life with bundles of gift-wrapped packages. (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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