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Haftarah: Yirmiyahu 1:1 - 2:3

JANUARY 1-2, 2016 21 TEBET 5776


"A man went from the house of Levi and he took a daughter of Levi." (Shemot 2:1)

As we begin the book of Shemot, the Torah tells us of a wedding. This is the wedding between Amram and Yochebed, the parents of Moshe Rabenu. Rashi explains that this wasn't the first time they were married. The Gemara in Sotah (12) gives more details. Amram was the generation's leader. When Pharaoh declared that all the Jewish baby boys that were born were to be thrown into the Nile, Amram divorced his wife, Yochebed. He felt it wasn't right to bring babies into the world only to be killed. The rest of the nation followed his lead and divorced their wives. Miriam protested to her father that what he did was wrong, and so Amram remarried Yochebed. The rest of the nation followed and remarried their wives.

There is a lot to discuss about that conversation between Amram and Miriam, but I would like to call your attention to the actions of the rest of the nation. They followed the lead of Amram to divorce and remarry their wives. That showed the tremendous trust they had in their leader, which we call emunat hachamim.

Rabbi Yitzchak Hisiger tells an amazing true story of emunat hachamim. Rabbi Yitzchak Zilberstein related that he was once learning with his brother-in-law, Rav Chaim Kanievsky, at his home several years back. There was a knock on the door. Rebbetzin Batsheva Kanievsky opened the door to find a harried young man, who muttered something about having an urgent question for Rav Chaim. The Rebbetzin ushered in the young man, who told Rav Chaim that his wife was in critical condition. A particular treatment had been recommended by doctors, who claimed that there was no choice but to have this treatment done. Otherwise, her life would be in serious danger. The woman replied that she would not consent to the treatment until she received the approval of Rav Chaim. (I must interject at this point that it is well-known that Rav Chaim had saved many lives with his medical advice.)

Rav Chaim, after hearing the details, dismissed the doctor's claims. "She does not need the treatment," he said simply. "Everything will be okay be'ezrat Hashem."

One of the people in the room mustered the courage to ask Rav Chaim what everyone else was wondering. "We're not dealing here with doctors who don't know what they are talking about," he said. "If a doctor says that there is an urgent need to perform a certain treatment, how can the Rav rule for the woman not to listen to his recommendation?" Rav Chaim waved his had once more and repeated, "Everything will be okay be'ezrat Hashem."

The young man left the house satisfied, fully accepting the advice he had been given by Rav Chaim. Those who remained behind were still looking for answers.

Rav Chaim turned to his listeners and said, "Of course the doctors know what they are talking about. They don't recommend such things without reason. In general, they direct a patient to receive the treatment that is appropriate and necessary. However, in this case, by coming to ask a question, this woman demonstrated that in her mind there is something more significant than the views of the doctors. It is this very act - her submission to emunat hachamim - that is the deciding factor. By demonstrating this belief, she is no longer under the control of normative medicine and the knowledge of doctors. She entrusted her well-being elsewhere, namely in emunat hachamim. In light of this fact, she has the power to nullify the natural medical channels followed by other people and adhere to a completely different approach." Rabbi Reuven Semah

As we begin the book of Shemot, Exodus, we can see right away why this is called the Book of Redemption, for it talks about the exile into Egypt, the bondage and servitude under the Egyptians, and the ultimate redemption thereof. Why, however, are the portions dealing with the Mishkan, the Tabernacle, placed in the book of Shemot? What do they have to do with the Redemption?

The Ramban tells us that the redemption was not complete until the Jews came back to the level of the forefathers, and that was when we had the Mishkan with the Divine Presence in it. This was a replica of the homes of our Patriarchs and Matriarchs, who also had the Divine Presence completely among them and which was manifested by the Clouds of Glory on their tent, the Eternal Lamp shining inside and the dough constantly fresh, just like in the Mishkan. This is truly a remarkable statement. The Mishkan was only a replica of the tents of our forefathers. How foolish are those who speak against our ancestors as if they were from our generation, ascribing to them our own faults and frailties, when in reality they were like angels on this earth. We have no concept of the holiness and greatness of these individuals and anyone who thinks they can understand them with our own limited vision is really revealing flaws in his own character, rather than in those he may be speaking about. As the Gemara sums it up, if the earlier generations are like angels in our eyes, then we are compared to human beings, but if we think they are humans, we are only like donkeys, and not even like the donkey of Rabbi Pinhas ben Yair! Let us take this lesson of Ramban to heart and realize how awesome and elevated are our ancestors so that we may learn even the slightest amount from them. Shabbat Shalom. Rabbi Shmuel Choueka


One of a mother's most frustrating tasks is getting her children to dress properly for the inclement weather.

"Wear your hat! Where did you leave your gloves? Did you leave your scarf in school? No, it is not warm outside, and yes, you must wear your hat"

This scene is common in houses all over the city any morning when the temperature drops into a danger zone during the cold and flu season.

We might understand a child's resistance to the good advice of a mother, but it is difficult to figure out why the husband of this same mother also becomes argumentative when, as a loving, concerned wife, she suggests, "It's cold and windy this morning; I think you ought to wear earmuffs for your walk to shul." Her spouse, aware of the arctic air mass that swooped down from Canada, still will not listen to his wife's sage advice. "I won't go out there looking like Mickey Mouse," he retorts. "I'd rather freeze than become the laughingstock of the neighborhood!"

Knowing what is right and doing the correct thing are subject to a very strong force called peer pressure. People are driven to risk their health by smoking cigarettes, driving while intoxicated, or imbibing dangerous substances out of fear of what others may think of their behavior. This human frailty can be life threatening.

When it comes to the spiritual realm, the damage is immeasurable and eternal. Feat of what others might say has held many people back from the spiritual progress they were capable of achieving. The Shulhan Aruch, the Code of Jewish Law, opens with instructions to be brazen in the face of ridicule if the scoffers are trying to stunt your spiritual growth or deter the performance of Hashem's commandments.

He quotes the Mishnah (Abot 5:20): Be as bold as a leopard…to do the will of your Father in Heaven.

Whenever you are about to do something good, but pause to consider what others might think, arouse the tiger in you and rise courageously to the occasion. It only takes a little strength, but your efforts will be repaid in eternal dollars. (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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