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Haftarah: Yirmiyahu 1:1-2:3

JULY 22-23, 2016 17 TAMUZ 5776

Rosh Hodesh Ab will be celebrated on Friday, August 5.


"Therefore say: Behold I give him My covenant pf peace." (Bemidbar 25:2)

Great is the blessing of peace, for without peace there is no blessing in life. Rabbi David Kaplan tells a story about Yoni. Yoni was in sixth grade and was very bright. He was at the top of his class. One day he came home with an uncharacteristically low mark on a test. Slowly his test scores continued to go down. The teacher called the parents asking if they had any idea what was underlying this sudden change. The two were clueless. Neither parent had seen any change in their son's behavior at home and several times had asked him about what was going on, but he just said that he was not able to concentrate that well. Eventually the principal advised to send him to an expert for an assessment in order to get to the bottom of this mystery. Yoni met with the expert once and that evening the father got a call. "I found the problem and I'm glad to say it's an easy one to fix." Yoni's father was so happy, "Wow, I'm really glad to hear that. What is it?" There was a slight hesitation on the other end of the line. "It's you, perhaps a little bit your wife too - but for the most part it's you."

"Me?" "Uh, yes you. You see, he told me that there's been more yelling in the house than usual lately, and that you're using words and terms that really have no place in a religious home." The father responded, "Well, I've been under a lot of stress lately and…"

"Sir, hear me out. I'm sure there is a logical explanation for what you did. However, to yell at one's wife is never excusable, and to resort to harsh insults is even worse. This has rattled Yoni so much that he can't concentrate, and his grades have bottomed out. I can tell you with certainty that if you start treating your wife better there will be a dramatic improvement in Yoni's performance."

Happily, the man who told this story about himself reported that he got his act together and sure enough, Yoni's grades jumped up to where they had always been.

One cannot speak enough about how important Shalom Bayit is to a child's emotional well-being or how much of parents' success with their children depends on their getting along well and respecting each other. A few pointers:

1. Every spouse should ask him or herself, if I was a man or woman would I like to be married to me?

2. Keep in mind that hesed begins at home. If a person does hesed with people outside the home but doesn't treat one's spouse with kindness, all the hesed one does with others doesn't count.

3. Read a book on marriage mussar 10 or 20 minutes a day.

4. Check your attitude towards money. Money is a prominent cause of marital strife.

5. Always feel a sense of hakarat hatob (appreciation) to your spouse for what the spouse does for you.

6. Never interrupt your spouse while your spouse is speaking.

7. Take interest in your spouse's world.

8. Don't criticize your spouse ever again.

9. Buy your wife gifts periodically. Big ones too.

10. Admit you're wrong instead of trying to justify yourself like an adolescent.

11. Do all the above and enjoy Gan Eden in this world.

Shabbat Shalom. Rabbi Reuven Semah

"Bilam saw Israel dwelling according to its tribes." (Bemidbar 24:2)

Our perashah talks about Bilam and his efforts to curse the Jewish nation. Despite his desire to curse, he was compelled to bless the nation. One such instance occurred when he saw the tents of Israel, and the way they were set up. Rashi says: "He saw that the entrances of their tents were not aligned opposite each other, so that one should not peer into the tent of his friend." The pasuk quoted above continues and says, "And the spirit of G-d was upon him." The powerful message here is that when a low character, like Bilam, saw the modest and pure ways of Israel, he became inspired. We shouldn't think that if we dress properly and don't look in the wrong place, that it is not picked up on by the gentiles. It is, and they become changed.

This is the one year anniversary of the Supreme Court ruling allowing and recognizing same gender marriages. Many of you might ask, why are we discussing this? Baruch Hashem, we are not contemplating doing this. Besides the legal aspects of discrimination in a situation when it conflicts with religion, it has a profound impact on us.

The Gemara says that there was once a great Rabbi known as Shemuel Hakatan. He was so great that he was worthy that Hashem's shechinah (Hashem's presence) should rest upon him, but his generation was not worthy to be able to see this. So we see that the generation we live in can cap our spiritual growth. What occurred a year ago with the Supreme Court and the follow up of many marriages has the power to limit our own growth.

What do we do about this? Do we just groan about it? Rabbi Avraham Ausband, shelit"ah, once told this true story. A woman was hired by a company in Riverdale. She dressed very modestly but she appeared somewhat different. They asked her about her past, and she said she is a religious Jewish convert. She used to live in Bayonne, NJ, and she used to dress inappropriately. Very inappropriately. Many times she would see the yeshivah students from the Yeshivah of Bayonne walking the streets. She was curious who they were, so she went over to them to ask directions (in her usual garb). They were very courteous and answered her, but they always looked down. She was amazed and looked into it, and she converted. This woman who lived on a low moral standard was inspired when she was confronted by modest and purity in the same way that Bilam was.

Rav Shach, zt"l, once said that the prayer of Alenu that we say at the end of our prayers says: "All the evil-doers of the Earth will recognize and know… that every knee will bow to you and that we will take oaths by Your Name." This means that in the last generation before Mashiah, all the evil-doers will be turned over. It's our job to turn them over to good. How can we? Our own actions inspire them to change. In that way, this generation we live in will not cap our growth. This generation of ours is both a challenge and an opportunity. Shabbat Shalom.

Rabbi Reuven Semah

As we read the story of Bil'am and how he wanted to curse the Jewish people, we can't help but be amazed at his determination. He first asked Hashem whether he could go with Balak's messengers, and Hashem told him no. Then he asked again, and although this time he was given permission, still his donkey stopped three times until the angel revealed himself that he was sent to prevent Bil'am from going. He still proceeded to try to curse the Jews, and every time he attempted it, it came out as a blessing but he still didn't give up.

From here we see the rule that if a person has a real will to do something, he will ultimately reach his goal. Bil'am persevered and would have succeeded had Hashem not turned his curses into blessings. Nothing stands in the way of a strong will. The reason we are not accomplishing what we want is that we don't want them strongly enough. This applies to business, to doing certain projects, and most certainly to spiritual endeavors. It is up to us to intensify our wills to accomplish. The stronger the will, the more we will succeed. Let's work on developing a strong desire for spiritual growth and we'll be amazed at the positive changes we will experience! Shabbat Shalom.

Rabbi Shmuel Choueka

Angel of Mercy

"And Hashem was angry that [Bil'am] went, and an angel of Hashem stood in the way as an adversary against him." (Bemidbar 22:22)

Rashi explains that the angel that stood in Bil'am's way was an angel of mercy that wanted to prevent him from sinning. Later, we read that the angel had a drawn sword. Rabbi Zalman Sorotzkin commented on this that at times an angel of mercy, who is trying to save a person, will appear to him as an adversary who is out to harm him.

When a person has many faults, he will often have friends and relatives who keep trying to influence him to improve. He is likely to view their nagging as extremely irritating and painful and will consider them as his enemies. But the truth is that they have his best interests in mind. He shouldn't only not be angry at them, but should even be appreciative and grateful that they are concerned about his welfare. When someone tries to have a positive influence on you, thank him for it.

Rabbi Sorotzkin also commented that from here we see that at times an angel of mercy has to be willing to take an aggressive stance in order to prevent someone from destroying himself and others.

True compassion is based on seeing the entire picture. For instance, a parent who allows his child to do whatever he wants, just because he does not want his child ever to cry, might allow his child to do all kinds of things that are destructive both spiritually and to his physical well-being. When you really care about someone, you do not want him to harm himself, and will be willing at times to be strict in order to protect him from his own ignorance or foolishness. (Growth through Torah)

Window Shopping

"It's really nasty outside today. What do you want to do on your day off?" Esther asked her husband, Ezra.

"I am content to sit and study. I missed a few of my classes last week and want to catch up," replied Ezra.

"Why don't we go to the mall and do some shopping?" Esther suggested.

"Shopping costs money and we don't have much to spare right now," Ezra declined.

"We could window shop," Esther responded. "That doesn't cost anything, and it will give us a chance to spend time together and to dream."

One of the good parts of the pastime (or ordeal, depending on your point of view) of shopping is window shopping. You can safely view a variety of products without having to deal with a pushy salesperson and without waiting on line or reaching into your pocket for cash. When you are just looking in the window, you may enjoy the esthetics of retail - creative displays, and all the offerings the store may have to offer, coordinated by color and style for easy selection should you be lured into the shop.

And that is the point of the window. It is not to entertain, but to attract.

Often, after we enter a store, we find that the product we chose from the window's attractive display is inferior to what we imagined it would be. What a letdown!

Life is nothing but a picture window, displaying, in an alluring fashion, all the wares of the Yesser Hara. How often, when we "buy" what he offers, are we disappointed with the quality! The thrill is just not what we imagined it to be, and the lasting quality we thought we would get endures but a fleeting moment.

Next time you see something that gets your heart beating wildly, something you've just got to have, remember that many things look good in the window but disappoint when you get them home. You are in a 24/7 battle with a very tricky foe who lures you with things that are dressed up and blown out of proportion. Look past the gloss, and chase after reality. (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.

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