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SEPTEMBER 2-3, 2005 29 AB 5765

Rosh Hodesh Elul will be celebrated on Sunday & Monday, September 4 & 5.

Pop Quiz: What was the first thing Bnei Yisrael were to do in the land of Israel?


"[If your Hebrew slave] says to you, 'I shall not go out from you' because he loves you and your house because he fares well with you"

The Gemara teaches that the owner of a Hebrew slave must treat him and view him as an equal in every respect, and he sometimes even has to treat him as a superior! However, the Gemara also teaches that if two Jews are in dire need of water, and only one of them has a jug of water, his own life takes precedence, and he is not obligated to give the water to the other person. Why is this case different than the case of the slave who must be treated at least as an equal, if not better?

A poor man and a rich man can live in harmony with one another, even though the poor man can't satisfy his physical needs like the rich man. Still yet, he does not feel inferior in any way to his friend as a human being. The slave, on the other hand, is always reminded of his bitter status as a mere servant of another man. Therefore the Torah goes out of its way to demand special treatment for him.

There is a very important lesson to be learned from this. We must understand that different people have different sensitivities. We must recognize each person's uniqueness, and treat him in a way that we will not hurt his feelings or make him self-conscious of his station in life. Let's take it upon ourselves now, as we approach the selihot season, to treat our fellow man with the proper respect, and to make amends with those to whom we may have shown disservice to in the past. Shabbat Shalom. Rabbi Shmuel Choueka

"You shall open up your hand to him...and provide whatever is lacking to him" (Debarim 15:8)

In this week's perashah the Torah teaches us how to extend a helping hand to a friend in need. As descendants of Abraham Abinu, the pillar of kindness and hesed, we possess in our genes the love of being generous and caring to others. An important aspect of hesed (doing acts of kindness) is that it is not to be administered in a "one-size-fits-all" manner. In the verse quoted above it says, "And provide what is lacking to him." The word "him" is emphasized to underline the importance of dealing with each person as the unique individual he is. There are people who believe that to do hesed requires money. However, frequently all a person needs to do hesed is a good pair of ears! By offering a sympathetic ear to a person who is burdened with a problem, one can perform a tremendous hesed.

Rabbi Abraham Pam a"h tells about his mother, Rebbetzin Rachel Leah Pam a"h, who possessed this special quality. In the little village of Salok, in Lithuania where she lived, there was a mentally disturbed woman who was known simply as "Rivka di Meshugena (Rivka the crazy one). She probably suffered a breakdown of some sort and the primitive medical knowledge available was not enough to treat her. She had a very frightening look and everyone stayed away from her. But, Rivka the Meshugena knew there was one place that she would always be welcome. That was in Rebbetzin Pam's kitchen. Rav Pam would recount that he remembered that when she came all of his siblings would flee in panic and hide until she left. As the Rebbetzin did her kitchen chores, she would patiently listen as Rivka unburdened her heavy heart. This would calm Rivka down for a period of time until she came back again for another "session." All human beings need someone to listen to them at some time or another, some more often than others. The ability to listen can be a great hesed and at times a lifesaver as well.

Parashat Re'eh is usually read in the summer when we make time for relaxation and recreation. But it is also an opportunity to listen to others. Hashem created human beings with ears. Man's task is to know how to listen. Shabbat Shalom. Rabbi Reuven Semah


"See I am placing before you this day a blessing and a curse" (Debarim 11:26)

On the first word of this verse, Re'eh, Ibn Ezra comments: "He [Moshe] is talking to each one individually."

Although Moshe was speaking to the entire Jewish people, he started off in the singular to tell everyone that they should listen to what he had to say as if he were speaking to him alone. When someone is delivering a lecture or giving a class, it is easy to think, "He is speaking to everyone else here. I don't have to take what he says seriously since he is not really directing his words to me." But this is an error. The way to grow from lectures and classes is to view the words of the speaker as if they were directed only to you. Try it out. The next time you are in an audience listening to inspiring words, tell yourself, "The speaker has me in mind. Let me see how I can utilize what he says for self-improvement."

A Rabbi was once visiting relatives in a city far away from his home. He wanted to speak to the congregation of the local synagogue about Jewish education, but he was afraid that what he had to say was quite sharp and the listeners might be offended. When he shared his apprehensions with the Rabbi of the synagogue, he was told, "Don't worry. With my congregation you can say anything. They are Yenemites."

"I've heard of Yemenites, but what do you mean by Yenemites?" he asked. "I mean that regardless of what you will say, everyone will assume that you are referring to someone else. They will each think that you are talking to yenem (which is Yiddish for 'the other one')," explained the Rabbi. Sure enough, after the Rabbi delivered a powerful lecture, someone came over to him and said, "That was really wonderful the way you spoke. So and so really needed to hear what you had to say." So certain was he that the lecture was directed to others, that he failed to relate the message to himself, which he personally had a strong need to hear. (Growth through Torah)


"You are children of Hashem" (Debarim 14:1)

The concept of being considered Hashem's children carries with it powerful consequences. As the children of Hashem, we are promised redemption from the depths of bondage, persecution and the many other trials which have marked the chronicles of our tumultuous past. These special guarantees, however, are accompanied by the responsibilities of being Hashem's children. We are inescapably subject to specific tasks, rigorous standards and formidable punishment.

Attribution as Hashem's children implies a sympathetic and personal loving relationship. As the Bechor Shor emphasizes, even when one suffers excruciating loneliness as a result of the loss of a parent or other close relative, he must realize that he is never truly alone; his Father in Heaven lives eternally with him. A Jew's period of mourning should be mitigated by the knowledge that he is never alone because Hashem is there. The existence of a stable binding relationship with Hashem, characterized by love, has been a most vital force throughout our history. Membership in this "family" also carries with it the profound awareness that one retains this relationship from the minute he is born until that time when his soul returns to his "Father" in Heaven. (Peninim on the Torah)


This Week's Haftarah: Yeshayahu 54:11-55:5.

This week's haftarah is the third in the series of seven haftarot that deal with consolation and hope, which are read between Tish'ah B'Ab and Rosh Hashanah.

In this haftarah, the prophet Yeshayahu tells a prophecy of how it will be in the times of Mashiah. No enemy will be able to rise up against us. Rather, all the nations will recognize that Hashem has chosen us to be His nation.

Answer to Pop Quiz: Destroy all the idols.

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)

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