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JUNE 19-20, 2009 27-28 SIVAN 5769

Rosh Hodesh Tamuz will be celebrated on Monday & Tuesday, June 22 & 23.

Pop Quiz: What was the name of the spy from the tribe of Levi?


"We were like grasshoppers in our eyes, and so we were in their eyes." (Bemidbar 13:33)

The spies, upon returning from their mission, made a strange comment. When they were recounting their mission to the Jewish people, they said they saw giants there. The giants were so tall that we regular-size humans were as small as grasshoppers compared to them. The Kotzker Rebbe zt"l says that in their words we can detect a grievous fault in their character. "We were like grasshoppers in our eyes and so we were in their eyes," shows a concern about how they were being perceived by others. Their concern of how they appeared to others affected how they perceived themselves. The giants viewed them as small so they also felt small, and this led to their downfall. They lost the confidence to go and conquer the land.

A true story is told about a shoemaker who managed to acquire great wealth. As a result of his new status in the community, he was able to marry off his daughter to a very prominent member of the community. At the wedding, one fiercely jealous individual walked over to the former shoemaker with a pair of shoes and asked him if he could repair them. The shoemaker fainted away from embarrassment.

Rabbi Yisrael Salanter witnessed this incident, and was inspired to start his mussar movement. Mussar is to teach oneself discipline and good character. However, Rabbi Israel was not motivated by the act of the jealous troublemaker, but it was the reaction of the former shoemaker that so inspired R' Israel Salanter. Here he was at the pinnacle of success, not only had he gone from his simple background to great wealth, but he was considered one of the most prominent members of the community. Yet a nasty comment and a pair of shoes sufficed to make him faint dead away. It was to train the coming generations not to react that way that Rav Yisrael established the mussar movement.

The spies lost their courage but they were truly great and able to do all that Hashem was planning for them. May Hashem give us the wisdom to know when to ignore what others think and the courage to do all that we can do. Shabbat Shalom. Rabbi Reuven Semah

"To the Tribe of Yosef, to the Tribe of Menasheh" (Bemidbar 13:11)

When the Torah lists the names of the spies who went into Israel, it attributes the Tribe of Menasheh as being part of the Tribe of Yosef. This is very strange, since it doesn't do so when mentioning the Tribe of Ephraim, who is usually mentioned as the son of Yosef only with Menasheh!

The Da'at Zekenim explains that since the prince of Menasheh was one of those guilty of spreading slander about Israel, and he came form Yosef Hasadik, who was also accused of speaking against his brothers, we therefore attribute Menasheh's words as being a result of Yosef's words. However, Yehoshua, the prince of Ephraim, did not say any negative report, so he is not attributed to Yosef.

Amazing! Yosef had lived hundreds of years before this episode, and what he said against his brothers was in a constructive manner to his father. Yet the Torah wants us to know that our actions and words may have far-reaching consequences. We should never think of our deeds as being insignificant. They may have an effect on our families and those we influence for many generations. All the more so when we say or do good things, the effect can be phenomenal! Shabbat Shalom. Rabbi Shmuel Choueka


"And the people wept on this night" (Bemidbar 14:1)

In Ta'anit 29a the Talmud comments that "this" night was Tish'ah B'Ab, the ninth day of Ab, which was to witness Klal Yisrael's most tragic events. Hashem said to the people, "You wept without a reason, I will cause you to weep in the distant future." The people's unjustified desperation in reaction to the alarming report of the spies instigated severe misconduct which, in turn, caused the death of that generation in the desert. Moreover, the consequences of that misconduct plague us to this very day. This unwarranted form of depression has been the source of significant problems for B'nei Yisrael. This unspeakable galut suffering did not occur because we took too much pleasure and wept too few tears when we experienced good fortune. Rather, it happened because we curtailed our joy and cried too many tears. The lack of confidence in our destiny, reflected by our feeling of powerlessness against nations, originated in a failure to recognize the true source of our power and strength. These circumstances have maintained our continued galut suffering.

The Torah in Sefer Debarim admonishes us to examine the cause of our sins with the words, "For you did not serve Hashem your G-d with joyfulness and with a happy heart, in the abundance of it all." This Divine prophetic condemnation traces the root of our historic tragedy to our tears of hopelessness. These tears promote un-Jewish anxiety, while they simultaneously undermine Jewish joyfulness and destroy Jewish self-esteem. The only worry which should fill a Jewish heart at all times is, "Does Hashem take pleasure in us?" The certainty of possessing Hashem's proximity, with His constant protection, should effect a sense of pride and self-respect in our hearts. We should be overwhelmed with the vigor of joyfulness. Has this been true? Have the long centuries of suffering taught us to rise above the sea of depression to the plateau of joy and pride? Are we still shedding tears of failure and weakness more often than we are inspired to self-esteem and jubilance by Divine closeness?

Those who shed tears of despair do not realize the terrible effect these tears have had on the maintenance of our Jewish heritage. These un-Jewish tears and sighs only bemoan our own weaknesses. They serve as a pretext to promote the most shallow form of religious observance, justifying our moral apathy when faced with even the most trivial challenges to our faith. Tears are shed in place of displays of courage and pride. We need to promote a Jewish way of life as long as we live in a non-Jewish society. Those who shed tears of helplessness do not realize that this weakness constitutes a veritable disloyalty to the precious values and immeasurable beneficence with which Hashem enriches our existence. (Peninim on the Torah)


My friend Joseph has had a streak of bad luck lately. Business has not been up to par, his car was stolen, and his daughter fell off her bicycle and fractured her arm. Need I say more?

While we shared a short break over steaming coffee, Joe popped the inevitable question. "Why me?" he asked.

It is a question that Moshe Rabenu posed to Hashem, but to which he received no clear explanation. Hashem replied, "It is My business, not yours." There is a reason for everything that happens, but human beings are incapable of comprehending it. It is senseless to ask why, and even more futile to try and figure out the answer to that time-worn, universal question about the human condition. Our attitude must be to accept the will of our Creator wholeheartedly, whether or not we understand His strategy.

Isn't it funny that when faced with problems, people ask, "Why me?", but when good fortune arrives, no one asks that question? Someone who does not wonder why good things happen, should not seek the reason for disaster, either.

In Sefer Iyob, the main character was blessed with all the good that this world has to offer. Satan was given permission to test Iyob's faith by destroying his financial empire, killing his children, and afflicting Iyob with painful physical maladies. When Iyob's wife started to complain, Iyob replied, "Shall we accept only the good from Hashem and not the bad?"

Time spent complaining is time wasted. Time spent thanking is productive. Thos who want to be happy should see all that happens as part of a plan invoked by a benevolent Creator Who only does good for the human being.

When a problem occurs, keep moving forward and remember two things: It must be for the best; and, this too shall pass. You don't have to understand something to accept it. Embracing this attitude will not only carry you through the hard times, but will help you enjoy the good days, as well. (One Minute With Yourself - Rabbi Raymond Beyda)

Answer to Pop Quiz: There was no spy from the tribe of Levi.

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)

Please pass this message along. Tizku L'misvot.

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