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August 20-21, 2004 4 ELUL 5764

Pop Quiz: What may not be destroyed in the wars against the other nations?


"Justice, justice shall you pursue." (Debarim 16:20)

We know that every word in the Torah is important, and teaches us a lesson. If so, why does the Torah repeat the word "sedek" - justice? Isn't is sufficient to say “pursue justice?"

One of the commentaries learned from here a very important lesson. We have to read the pasuk as if it says ?pursue justice with justice." That means that it's not enough to have the ultimate goal of justice. We must achieve these goals using justifiable means. The ends do not justify the means. Just like it is obvious to all that we cannot steal money and "kosher" it by giving it to charity, so too with other misvot. When we are involved in our prayers in shul, we shouldn't be disturbing others by praying too loudly or talking to our friends. We shouldn't be promoting peace with some people by hurting others in the process. In every area of serving G-d we would do well to learn the lesson: Pursue justice using means of justice. Shabbat Shalom. Rabbi Shmuel Choueka

"You shall rise and ascend to the place that Hashem your G-d shall choose." (Debarim 17:8)

Our perashah speaks about a situation which requires judgment. Concerning different matters of dispute, one will come to the High Court, the Sanhedrin, in order to receive proper judgment. However, when the Torah describes the location of this High Court, it says, "you shall rise and ascend." Rashi explains that this is the Bet Hamikdash, the Holy Temple in Jerusalem, which is the highest place of all. In short, the Torah is telling us that that the High Court is located in the Bet Hamikdash. The Bet Hamikdash is selected as the place of supreme service and prayers to the Almighty. The Sanhedrin is the place of the judiciary branch of Israel. In the U.S., the judiciary is separate from the legislative and executive branches. In our system, the judiciary branch is rooted in the religion, and in the service of Hashem.

The message is that court rulings are part and parcel of our religion. A Jew must view the court as part of his religious commitment to Hashem. Similarly, one cannot divide being a good judge from being a pious Jew. One may not specialize in jurisprudence and not strive to get closer to Hashem. For when a person studies the Torah deeply in order to be a proper judge, he is influenced and elevated to reach greater heights in the service of Hashem. Our Sages teach us that today's courts (Bet Din) must be regarded by us as equally great as the courts of old. We shouldn't need it, but if a dispute arises, the religious Jew is ready to ascend and rise to the Bet Din as in the days of old. Shabbat Shalom. Rabbi Reuven Semah

"Judges and officers shall you appoint in all your cities." (Debarim 16:18)

The above verse of this weeks perashah immediately follows the verse of last weeks perashah, that discusses the obligation of every Jew to do pilgrimage to Jerusalem during the festivals. Our Rabbis teach us that there is always a correlation between the end of one perashah to the beginning of the subsequent perashah. So what is the connection between the festivals, and judges and officers over the cities. The Midrash quotes a story to answer this question.

Once upon a time, there were two brothers living in the city of Ashkelon, who had neighbors that were non-Jewish. The neighbors planned to steal the household of the brothers when they would make pilgrimage to Jerusalem on the holiday. When the holidays arrived and the brothers did pilgrimage, Hashem performed a miracle, and angels in the images of the brothers exited and entered their home. When the brothers returned home, they sent gifts of fruits to their neighbors. The non-Jews asked them, "Where did you get these fruits from?" They answered, "We did pilgrimage and returned with fruits." So the neighbors asked again, "And whom did you leave behind?" They answered, "Nobody." Immediately the non-Jews blessed the G-d of the Jews who never forgets them. The correlation is now self evident: one who serves G-d and keeps His commandments will be protected by Hashem at all times. Shabbat shalom. Rabbi Eli Ben Haim


"You shall be whole-hearted with G-d, your G-d" (Debarim 18:13)

The words "Tamim tihyeh - you shall be complete" - have the numerical value of nine hundred and ten, which is also the numerical value of the word "Tishrei." This alludes that particularly during the month of Tishrei, when the Jews look forward to a "ketibah vachatimah tobah"- to be inscribed in the book of good life for the coming year, one should make an effort to be extra tamim - complete in one's relationship with Hashem.

Alternatively, on the surface, to be tamim - complete - seems like a difficult task. Therefore, the Torah advises, "im Hashem Elokecha - with Hashem your G-d." Remember that Hashem is with you. When a Jew will always bear in mind that Hashem is with him and watches everything he does, it will be easy for him to be "tamim," a complete and righteous Jew. (Vedibarta Bam)


"You shall trust whole-heartedly in G-d, your G-d" (Debarim 18:13)

This verse enjoins us to trust in Hashem. A question that can frequently arise is what is considered normal hishtadlut, that is, human efforts that we have an obligation to make, and what is considered a lack of trust?

One example of an issue of this sort was raised about testing people before marriage for being carriers of Tay-Sachs disease (in the Ashkenazic community). Some may wonder whether such testing is not contrary to the trust we are required to have in Divine Providence: why search for problems when in all probability none exist? Rabbi Moshe Feinstein clarified this point:

"Although the percentage of infants born with this disease is small and one might be apt to apply the verse, 'You shall trust wholeheartedly in Hashem,' (which Rashi interprets as meaning that one should not delve into the future) in light of the fact that a simple test has been developed for this, one who does not make use of it is like one who shuts his eyes to what can clearly be seen...and since the birth of such a child, G-d forbid, causes great is prudent for all who are considering marriage to undergo this test."

Having trust in Hashem will give a person peace of mind and serenity. But one should never use a claim of trust in Hashem to condone laziness or rash behavior. There is a thin line between the virtue of bitahon and the fault of carelessness and lack of taking responsibility. Consult a Torah scholar when questions arise. (Growth through Torah)


To: Every person in the nation of Israel.

You are hereby summoned to stand judgment before the court on the first and second days of the month of Tishrei in the year 5765.

You stand accused of violating a substantial portion of the four sections of the Shulhan Aruch. The following is a list of some of the more serious accusations against you:

1. Bitul Torah - you have neglected to spend time studying Torah.

2. Sins of the Tongue - you have lied; slandered your fellow man; neglected to fulfill your vows, etc.

3. Sins against your Fellow Man - you did not judge your friend favorably; you were jealous of your fellow man; you did not love your neighbor as yourself, you did not honor your parents and your Rabbis, etc.

4. Disregard for Monetary Laws - you did not deal honestly with your business associates; you caused your friend to suffer a loss; you did not give sedakah to the extent that you were able, etc.

The verdict in this trial will determine your future existence in this world and in the World to Come. If you are found guilty, the following sentences will be considered based on the severity of your transgressions:

1. Death, G-d forbid.

2. Disease and suffering, G-d forbid.

3. Poverty, pain and exile, G-d forbid.

You must appear before the Judge personally, with no advisors or lawyers to assist you. The allegations against you have been compiled with great scrutiny, and your actions, day and night, have been analyzed thoroughly. Since there is no question as to the veracity of the accusations against you, there is no need for debate or counter-arguments.

It is recommended that you confess your guilt in the aforementioned accusations, and beg the Judge for mercy. Any attempt to deny your guilt will only serve to magnify your sins.

You are hereby granted thirty days in which to correct your ways. You will then be required to stand trial.

The verdict will be dispensed on the Day of Judgment. If necessary, you will be granted an extension of ten days in which to demonstrate your remorse and correct your ways. (Lekah Tob)


Question: Why do we say, "David Melech Yisrael" during Bircat Halebanah? Answer: King David is compared to the moon (and his kingdom will be renewed as the moon is renewed). (Excerpted from Siddur Abir Yaacob, published by Sephardic Press)


"Do not set up for yourself a pillar." (Debarim 16:22)

The Torah teaches that a pillar may not be used in the service of Hashem. Rather, all sacrifices must be offered on a mizbeah (altar). Although pillars had been permissible in the days of our forefathers, Hashem forbade it when He gave us the Torah. Why did Hashem place this restriction on us?

Rabbi Moshe Feinstein explains there is a fundamental difference between a pillar and an altar. A pillar is made from a single stone, and represents something that does not change. An altar, though, is consisted of many stones, and can signify many levels of achievement and potential for growth. Prior to Matan Torah, we were limited to the levels we could reach. However, after we received the Torah and all of its misvot, we were given the opportunity to constantly grow to higher levels. Therefore, Hashem commanded that we cease from serving Him with a pillar. We must now serve Him only with an altar and all that it represents.

A pillar is placed on a person's grave to signify that the deceased has reached the end of his achievements. He can no longer rise to greater heights. We, who are still living, have the obligation to strive for continuous advancement, and should not be satisfied with our past achievements.

Question: As we approach Rosh Hashanah, can you name two ways that you have advanced spiritually in the past year? What do you hope to improve upon in the coming year?


This Week's Haftarah: Yishayahu 51:12-52:12.

This week, we read the fourth in the series of seven haftarot of consolation. It alternates between prophecies of suffering and prophecies of redemption. The knowledge that Hashem will ultimately have mercy on us and redeem us helps to make the pain and suffering easier to bear. Hashem longs for the day when we will merit the final redemption.

Answer to Pop Quiz: Any fruit-bearing tree.

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