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Haftarah: Yehoshua 2: 1-24

JUNE 20-21, 2008 18 SIVAN 5768

Pop Quiz: What was done with the hallah portion separated from dough?


"They brought forth an evil report on the land that they had spied out"?(Bemidbar 13:32)

We witness in our perashah the terrible destruction that can be brought about by speaking the wrong way. The spies that were sent by Moshe Rabenu returned with a negative and fearful report about the holy land they were about to enter. Instead of giving hope and inspiration to the Israelites as they were about to receive this wonderful gift of the land of Israel, they told about the land that it kills its inhabitants and that they will be destroyed by the giants that live there if they go to war against them. As a result, the people were convinced not to try and enter, leading to their tragic deaths in the desert. Eventually, this caused the next generation to enter without being led by Moshe Rabenu. Had they been led by Moshe Rabenu, their living in the land would have been permanent, never being sent into exile.

The gift of speech, however, has the power to bring about tremendous good. The Ben Ish Hai (quoted in Ha-Meir) says that speech can bring out Torah learning, berachot, prayers and bringing about peace between people. But, this is true about a lot of things. Fire, for instance, can destroy and can produce heat. Water can cause things to grow and can destroy by flooding. There is, however, a basic difference between these powers and the power of speech. If they destroy, the antidote is something else. If fire burns, water can be poured to put out the fire. If water floods, stones can be used to make a dam. Speech is different. If speech destroys, the fix is in speech itself. If one insults his friend with words, the remedy is to go and placate and soothe with words. If one destroys peace with words he goes back and makes peace with words. If one says forbidden, unclean words, he repairs it with clean, holy words of Torah and prayers.

Is there anyone who can attest about oneself that his speech is perfect without fault? Therefore, the sure-fire way to repair the fault is to be abundant with words of Torah, prayers with concentration, warm friendly words of friendship. In this way we can elevate our speech and fix any wrongs done with our words. May Hashem find our words to be pleasing and loving always, amen. 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 what the land is, whether it is fat and lean, whether there are trees therein, or not" (Bemidbar 13:20)

Rashi explains that tree serves as a metaphor for an honorable, righteous man who will protect the country by his merit. This explanation seems peculiar, for if Moshe was inquiring as to the presence of a righteous honorable man, should he not have sent the spies searching in the houses of prayer and study? Why did he send them to the public thoroughfares of the city, and to the gardens and orchards?

When a city has righteous and honorable rulers, it reflects their presence in all areas of the city proper. The influence of a great person is not bound by the four walls where he lives; it shines forth and permeates the community. Every individual member of the city is affected by the presence of this person. In our day those communities that maintain Yeshivot and Torah leaders in their region reflect a special spirituality in comparison to those which do not have the opportunity to maintain Torah centers. It was for this reason that Moshe sent the spies to search the cities, to find if they maintained and were influenced by such individuals who were able to save their communities. (Peninim on the Torah)


"How long (shall I bear) with this evil congregation who keep murmuring against Me? (Bemidbar 14:27)

After having witnessed the great miracles which were evident both in Egypt and in their journey through the desert, it seems incredible that B'nei Yisrael would so quickly regress to rebellion. This was no ordinary group of people; they were distinguished leaders who had in the past exhibited exemplary faith in Hashem. Rabbi Moshe Feinstein z"l implies that emunah, belief, based solely on miraculous revelation, which is devoid of intellectual appreciation, will not endure. One is obligated to carefully plan and pursue a diligent program of gradual advancement, to establish a strong, stable foundation of emunah.

That generation of Jews went through a major metamorphosis from having descended to the depths of the forty-nine levels of tumah, impurity, to being privy to the pinnacle of miracles. Although the phenomenon of miracles was impressive, it was not really ingrained in them. Consequently, B'nei Yisrael were prone to faltering every time they encountered a "problem." They witnessed how Hashem destroyed Pharaoh, but could He save them from other enemies? Hashem could supply them with manna and quail, but could He offer them meat? They did not realize that Hashem, Who took them out of Egypt and Who promised to deliver them safely into Eress Yisrael, would also provide them with all of life's necessities.

Rabbi Feinstein applies this idea to explaining the Talmud in Menahot 33b. Hazal state that Hashem required techelet, blue wool, for the sisit, because it is similar to the color of the sea, which is similar to Hashem's throne. Why does the Talmud use such a circuitous way to say that this color is similar to the color of Hashem's throne? Hazal are teaching us that one cannot immediately reach Hashem's throne. It is a gradual process until he eventually attains the appropriate foundation to enable him to associate with the Divine. (Peninim on the Torah)


"And we were in our own eyes as grasshoppers and so we were in their eyes" (Bemidbar 13:33)

The Kotzker Rebbe remarks that this statement was considered to be one of the sins of the spies. Although it was wrong to be bothered by their own smallness in contrast to the giants of the land, it was also improper to be concerned by the people's opinion of them. What interest was it to them in what manner they were being viewed by others? The sentiments of others shouldn't affect a man's righteous mission. Perhaps we may add that this feeling of inferiority displayed by the spies was the source of their misinterpretation and slanderous views of Eres Yisrael. One who is insecure and feels ill at ease with his mission in life will often slander and malign those whom he senses are opposed to him. The litmus test of one's confidence in his convictions is the ability to maintain an aura of dignity and nobility, without reducing himself to slander in the face of opposition. Intolerance is a reflection of insecurity. (Peninim on the Torah)

Answer to Pop Quiz: It was given to the kohen.

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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