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Haftarah: Zechariah 2:14-4:7

JUNE 16-17, 2011 16 SIVAN 5771

Shabuot will be celebrated from Tuesday night, June 7 through Thursday, June 9.


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

In the story of the spies and their evil report lies a great fundamental teaching regarding lashon hara. Rashi on this verse explains that the spies saw many things. Everything that they saw happening was orchestrated by Hashem for their benefit. Hashem worked it out that the people in the land would be busy with burying their dead in order to distract them from noticing the spies. How did they interpret it? The land is a land that devours its inhabitants. It's a bad place because many people are dying! Hashem showed them the beautiful fruits of the land. They said the fruits are strange. This is the power of lashon hara, to find the bad side of something and ignore the good side.

There is a well-known parable of the Hobot Halebabot (6:16). "It was said about one pious man who passed a dead carcass of a dog. His students told him, 'How terrible is the odor of that carcass!' He answered them, 'How white are its teeth!' And the students regretted that they spoke negatively of the carcass." When you first read this story you probably are thinking that the saddik also smelled the terrible smell but he wanted to teach them how to talk, but to think this way is not understanding the point of the Hobot Halebabot. The saddik walked down the street and saw a carcass with nice white teeth! This is all that he saw!

Now, if you can't believe this, take an every day example: a mother changing her baby's diaper. You never saw her changing the baby with one hand and the other hand holding her nose. She doesn't notice the smell. She knows there is a smell, but she doesn't pay any attention to it. Why? Because that is her sweet baby!

It's the same with Hashem He doesn't see bad in us. The Hafess Hayim writes that if not for lashon hara, Hashem would not see evil in any Jew. The only reason that there is sickness, accidents, poverty, is because people speak lashon hara. Does that mean Hashem doesn't see a Jew riding a car on Shabbat? No, he only sees his white teeth. He says, "Remember how nicely he prayed a year ago!" The only problem is that Hashem runs this world like a human judge in a courtroom. Hashem wants to forgive but there are prosecutors that talk when people talk lashon hara. Hashem says, "I have no choice, but it is what people are saying so I must exact punishment from this man." Let us hope with the merit of being careful Hashem will bless all of us and all of Israel. Shabbat Shalom. Rabbi Reuven Semah

"You shall not explore after your heart and after your eyes." (Bemidbar 15:39)

In the third chapter of the Shema, which is found at the end of this perashah, we read the commandment, "You shall not follow your heart and eyes." Indeed, this is one of the 613 misvot, and this commands us not to look at people who are exposed indecently, or pictures thereof. The interesting thing to note is that first it says not to follow our heart, and then our eyes, when in reality we would assume that we first see with our eyes, and then our hearts act upon it.

The Rabbis teach us that from here we see an amazing thing: the eye only sees what the heart wants it to see. If a person doesn't care what he looks at, meaning his heart has given him carte blanche to see whatever it desires, then his eyes will find many forbidden things to look at. If, however, his heart dictates that he shouldn't see immodesty, he will be able to watch his eyes from straying after those very things. He will be on guard not to let images which are suggestive of immorality come his way. So truth be told, his heart must come first, and then his eyes will follow the proper guidelines.

This is extremely important in this kind of weather, when the streets are full of people who are not dressed properly. If we put in our heart that we only want to see the proper things, our eyes will not stray where they should not, and Hashem will protect us in this very area. Shabbat Shalom.

Rabbi Shmuel Choueka


"One man each from his father's tribe shall you send, every one a leader among them…heads of the Children of Israel were they." (Bemidbar 13:2-3)

In each of the three preceding parashiot there is a listing of the leaders of tribes, with the same people mentioned each time. Why, in this perashah, are other people mentioned as the leaders?

These people were not the actual nesi'im - leaders of the tribes. Spying out the land was a difficult and dangerous undertaking requiring tenacity and courage. Therefore Hashem instructed Moshe to seek volunteers for the mission and from among these he was to select the ones he deemed most suitable. The spies, then, were the select of the volunteers.

The word "nasi" derives from the root word "nasa", which means "raised" or "elevated." Thus, the phrase "kol nasi bahem" means that the heart of each one elevated him to volunteer to participate in the expedition.

Alternatively, the words "kol nasi bahem" do not mean that these people were the nesi'im; it means only that each nasi was to select a representative from his tribe as its emissary to explore the land.

Alternatively, the word "hema" - "[were] they" - is superfluous. The word "hema" has the numerical value of 50. Yitro advised Moshe to divide the Jews into groups and appoint leaders over groups of 1000, groups of 100, and groups of 50. These spies were from among the leaders of the groups of 50. (Vedibarta Bam)


There is a common problem which prevents success. It is a communication problem, but not between two governments, rival families, spouses, or friends. Rather, it is a breakdown that occurs in the short space between a person's brain and lips. Very often we say, "I can't." The problem is that we really mean, "I don't want."

Lack of motivation breeds failure. Our Rabbis teach: "Nothing can stand in the way of ratzon (desire)." If a person wants to do something, real desire and sharp focus invoke the assistance of heaven, leading to successful completion of the task. People, however, are naturally lazy. In order to justify their lack of willingness to fight this trait, they say, "I can't," rather than admitting that they really "don't want."

So listen to yourself. When the words "I can't" leave your lips, summon your internal translator and acknowledge your real meaning: "I don't want!" Be honest with yourself. It's only crossed wires that are undermining your efforts. (One Minute With Yourself - Rabbi Raymond Beyda)

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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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