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Haftarah: Yeshayahu 54:11-55:5

AUGUST 10-11, 2007 27 AB 5767

Rosh Hodesh Elul will be celebrated on Tuesday & Wednesday, August 14 & 15.

Pop Quiz: What animal has split hooves but doesn't chew its cud?


"You shall not eat any abomination" (Debarim 14:3)

Our perashah details the laws of kashrut, which animals are pure and can be eaten, and which are impure. Most religious Jews would not willfully eat unkosher meat. Let's hear a new twist to the laws of kashrut, as told by Rabbi Shmuel Binder.

There was once a great Rabbi named Rabbi Simcha Bunim of Peshischa. One day his Rebbe told him he was to go on a journey but didn't tell him where to go. So R' Simcha Bunim took some of his students, hired a wagon and they began their journey to wherever the horse would take them. The day wore on and the group got weary from the travel, so the Rabbi ordered that they stop at the next town and find a suitable place for them to rest. The wagon driver, familiar with the road, pulled into a Jewish inn that he recognized. The group entered the dining room and were told that only meat was served. The students were dismayed at this turn of events because they didn't know if the kashrut standards were high enough for them. So the innkeeper came and asked if he could help, so the group started asking many questions as to the source of the meat and its preparations. They asked many questions and the innkeeper finally became visibly annoyed. He wanted to accommodate them but he was very busy with other guests. Suddenly they heard a voice call out, "Sadikim! Sadikim!" Everyone looked around to determine the source of the cry. Finally, in the back of the room they spotted a ragged looking Jew sitting by the stove. "Why are you so particular about what goes into your mouths? Surely it is because you desire to fulfill the will of your Creator. Why then are you not as careful about the words that come out of your mouths?"

All the while Rabbi Simcha Bunim had been sitting in the next room observing all that was going on. He was incredibly moved by the insight contained in this stranger's reproof. Indeed, most people are very concerned with the kashrut of what goes into their mouths, but rarely do they stop to consider the kashrut of what leaves it. R' Simcha Bunim realized that this must have been the purpose of his journey. He promptly informed his students that it was in order to hear these very words that they had been sent here. Having completed their mission, they prepared to return home. Shabbat Shalom. Rabbi Reuven Semah

"[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" (Debarim 15:16)

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


"After Hashem, your G-d, you shall walk" (Debarim 13:5)

The Hafess Hayim asked: The first Hebrew word in this verse is aharai, which denotes a far distance. Since this verse tells us to follow Hashem, why didn't the Torah use a term denoting closeness, since we should be as close as possible to Him?

This teaches us, said the Hafess Hayim, that regardless of how far a person feels he is from Hashem, he should never give up hope. With all of his power he should strive to come closer to Hashem. Therefore, the Torah uses a term which denotes distance. Even those who are presently far from Hashem should seek Him and will find Him. Never allow any faults or transgressions to prevent you from coming closer to Hashem.

When a person feels discouraged, his belief that he can no longer improve becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy and the truth is that he will not improve. But as soon as you believe that you can improve in any area, you will immediately find the strength to make improvements. If you lack the knowledge of what to do to improve, you will find people you can consult. But this takes motivation and you will only feel motivated if you believe that there is hope for the future. Remember what the Hafess Hayim said about never despairing and keep your focus on what you can do in the present to become closer to Hashem. (Growth through Torah)


"For you shall surely open up your hand for him…sufficient for his needs which he lacks" (Debarim 15:8)

We are herein enjoined to provide the indigent not only with basic sustenance, but also to provide for all his wants and needs. The Talmud in Ketubot (67b) relates that Hillel ran before the carriage of a formerly wealthy individual in order to satisfy the rich man's needs for the outer trappings of affluence to which he was accustomed. The Talmud defines this act as adherence to the dictates of "dei machsoro," the necessity to provide the indigent with all that they lack and need. We should wonder, however, as to the attitude of this pauper. Did he not realize that he caused Hillel, the great saint and leader of Klal Yisrael, much effort and degradation? Surely his need was not due to any form of mental imbalance, since Hillel would not have been required to act as he did. We may assume that, although the pauper was mentally stable, his obsession with pursuit of honor was so encompassing that it caused him to act in an irrational manner. For his own purposes, he thought nothing of trampling on Hillel's honor, to have him act as a servant. Often one allows reason to be overpowered by the senseless dictates of honor and prestige, thereby causing the forfeiture of many opportunities for progress. The notions of prestige and the pursuit of the demands of one's ego have destroyed many a potentially great individual. The appetite for honor is insatiable; since it is without substance, it never fully satisfies the ego.

Why should Hashem have created man with such a powerful lust for honor? Possibly so that man may gain a deeper insight of how to give honor to his fellow man without any limitations or confines. As much as one must distance oneself from the pursuit of honor, one should work to provide this honor for someone else. All the scheming which is prohibited for oneself becomes obligatory when performed for someone else, even to the extent of proffering imaginary honor when the circumstance so dictates. This explains Hillel's endeavor to satisfy the cravings of a formerly wealthy man.

Let every man look within himself. Each one knows how much honor he desires, and how much honor he needs to attain happiness. To use it for himself is evil and perverse. To provide instead for another is noble, dignified and mandated. (Peninim on the Torah)

Answer to Pop Quiz:The pig.

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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