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JUNE 11-12, 2004 23 SIVAN 5764

Pop Quiz: Who was the spy from the tribe of Efrayim?


"They brought forth to the children of Israel an evil report on the land." (Bemidbar 13:32)

The story of the spies is a case of national tragedy. After spying out the land, the majority of the spies gave a negative report concerning the ability of the Israelites to conquer the Promised Land. Furthermore, the spies slandered and spoke evil about the land itself. As a result, Hashem decreed that the people must travel in the desert for forty years before entering the land. The Gemara says that it was the sin of slandering the land that brought such a harsh penalty. It is understandable that besmirching a fellow human being is a terrible thing, since we know that putting someone to shame can be compared to murder. But sticks and stones don't feel shame! So why the harsh penalty?

The answer is that slandering the land of Israel shows a gross disrespect to Hashem. Hashem sanctified this land above all others to give it to His chosen nation. To defame the land shows a lack of respect and appreciation of this great gift that Hashem has given His people.

Jewish people have to be extremely careful about the way they speak about Eress Yisrael It is forbidden to bad-mouth Hashem's country for any reason whatsoever. The Gemara (Ketubot 112b) tells of Rav Ami and Rav Assi who were always careful to experience the good of Eress Yisrael to ensure that they wouldn't develop negative feelings toward the land. "They would go from the sun to the shade and from the shade to the sun." Rashi explains that when the sun beat down and made it too hot, they would move to the shade, or the opposite in the winter, so they wouldn't have anything to complain about. More recently, when the Gerrer Rebbe, known as the Imrei Emet, visited Israel and someone in his entourage said, "Wow! It is very hot in Eress Yisrael," the Rebbe replied, "Yes, in Eress Yisrael, one can be a very 'warm' Jew." The Rebbe didn't want to construe the man's words as a criticism of Hashem's land.

It is our hope that by concentrating on the beauty and spirituality of Eress Yisrael, instead of complaining about the difficulties involved in settling there, Hashem will grant us peace and prosperity in our holy homeland. Shabbat Shalom. Rabbi Reuven Semah

At the end of the perashah, the Torah tells us that one individual was caught violating the Shabbat by chopping firewood and was brought before the Bet Din for judgment. Moshe was informed that this person must be put to death by stoning and, indeed, they carried out this sentence. The Gemara tells us that this person's motive was for the sake of heaven, because he had heard people questioning whether the punishments written in the Torah would ever be meted out. He therefore used himself as a test case so that the Jewish people would take the commandments seriously and thereby the Torah would be observed more properly.

At first glance, it seems that this man should be called a hero since he sacrificed himself for the sake of Heaven and the Torah, and yet, we know he is considered a sinner and was treated as such. The message here is that we should not be smarter than Hashem. If He tells us not to do something, then that is His will, and to do the reverse, although with "kosher" motivations in mind, is not the proper thing. Many times we talk about other people, knowing that it is against the Torah, with the excuse that G-d Himself would want us to do this. Other times we act in an improper way in business and rationalize that in our situation, this is the proper way because more benefit will come out. We have to keep this lesson in mind and always ask a halachic authority if we want to change what we know to be correct. Shabbat Shalom. Rabbi Shmuel Choueka


"And Moshe called Hoshea Ben Nun, Yehoshua" (Bemidbar 13:16)

The Midrash explains that Hashem took the "yud" of Sarai and added it to Hoshea to form a new name, Yehoshua. Rabbi Nissan Alpert states that this attachment to Sarah was by specific design. In order for our people to conquer and rule Eress Yisrael, it was necessary for Yehoshua to be imbued with Sarah's hashkafah, philosophy. Sarah emphatically expressed her opinion regarding the proprietorship of Eress Yisrael. It belongs to B'nei Yisrael and to no one else. With determination and resolve, she demanded of Abraham, "Cast out this maidservant and her son, for the son of the maidservant shall not inherit with my son Yitzhak" (Beresheet 21:10). Yishmael and his descendants have no portion in Eress Yisrael!

We may suggest another thought. By her words as well as her actions, Sarah implied the need for maintaining a pristine environment, untainted by the harmful influence of Yishmael. She implored Abraham to raise their child in a protected surrounding, conducive to the sublime education he would receive. She understood that Yitzhak's Torah hashkafot must be developed in a pure environment, completely detached from any outside influences.

This was the message to Yehoshua. He needed to stand resolute and maintain indomitable faith and trust in Hashem in the face of dissenting views from other factions of B'nei Yisrael. In order to do so, he was responsible for immersing himself totally in the Torah. The juxtaposition of outside influences would taint his perspective. Just as it was true then, it is all the more relevant in contemporary society in which the harmful influences of the outside environment can so easily undermine our sense of values. (Peninim on the Torah)


"And you shall see Him" (Bemidbar 15:39)

The Ba'alei Mesorah indicate another two pesukim with the word "ure'item." One is Moshe's statement to the spies, "Ure'item et ha'aress - and you shall see the land" (13:18). The other is Pharaoh's statement to the Jewish midwives, "Ure'item al ha'obnayim - and you shall see on the birthstool" (Shemot 1:16). What is the connection between these three pesukim?

In Pirkei Abot (3:1) Akabya ben Mehallallel says, "Reflect upon three things and you will not come to sin. Know from where you come, and to where you are going, and before Whom you are destined to give an accounting." These three pesukim are an allusion to the three things we are to reflect upon.

1) "Ure'item al ha'obnayim - and you shall see on the birthstool" teaches us to "see," i.e. bear in mind, from where we came and how we were born.

2) "Ure'item et ha'aress - and you shall see the land" (lit. earth) cautions us to remember to where we will return.

3) "Ure'item oto - and you shall see Him" is a message that ultimately we are destined to see Him on the day of judgment and, therefore, we should strenuously avoid sinning. (Vedibarta Bam)


Question: Why is the verse Orech Yamim read twice on Saturday night (after Amidah)?

Answer: 1) To represent that the chapter Yosheb Beseter should be doubled (we do not double it fully so as not to burden the congregation). The number of letters in this chapter is 124. Doubled: 248. This is the number of limbs in a person's body. In effect, we are praying for protection for all of our limbs. 2) The number of verses in Yosheb Beseter (excluding Viyhi Noam) is 16. With the last verse doubled, the total is 17. This is the numerical value of "tob," which means "good." (Excerpted from Siddur Abir Yaacob, published by Sephardic Press)


"You should not go after your heart and your eyes after which you go astray." (Bemidbar 15:39)

Rashi explains that the heart and eyes function as the "spies" of the body. When they see and desire something that is prohibited, the person is then tempted to sin. By controlling the heart and eyes, one will be more successful in avoiding temptation.

It would seem that the order of the pasuk, which mentions the heart before the eyes, is not precise. A person usually will see something first and only afterwards, his heart will be drawn to it. Why did the Torah reverse the order?

The Torah is teaching that a person will generally see what his heart is drawn to. If someone desires to see immoral or improper sights, his eyes will automatically seek out those objects. If a person can restrain his heart so that he doesn't even desire to see those things, then his eyes will be easier to control. If you know that in a certain place or situation, there will be things that will lead you to improper thoughts or actions, then you must take the necessary steps to avoid those situations.

Question: Do you purposely evade any places that you feel would entice you to sin? Do others understand when you do what is necessary to sidestep these situations?


This week's Haftarah: Yehoshua 2:1-24.

Our perashah tells the story of the spies who brought back an evil report of the land, leading to Israel's 40 year wandering in the desert. In this haftarah, Yehoshua sends two spies to the city of Jericho. This mission was not for military purposes, but to find out if the residents of the land feared B'nei Yisrael, which would be considered a sign from Hashem that the time was right to attack.

Answer to Pop Quiz: Yehoshua.

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