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SEPTEMBER 9-10, 2005 6 ELUL 5765

Pop Quiz: How many wives is a Jewish king allowed to have?


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

Being wholehearted with Hashem has more than one meaning. Rashi explains that it means, trust in Hashem what He has in store for you and do not delve into the future. Rather, whatever comes upon you accept with wholeheartedness.

The Hafess Hayim gives a parable to explain another meaning of being wholehearted with Hashem. Once there was a simple villager who went to the city to buy a beautiful etrog for his scholarly son-in-law. He was successful and bought a truly beautiful etrog. When he brought it back to his village and showed it to his neighbor, his neighbor fell in love with the etrog and offered to buy half the etrog for the price that he paid for the whole etrog. The villager agreed and sold half his etrog to his neighbor. When he presented the half etrog to his son-in-law, the son-in-law was furious. The villager couldn't understand the reaction, for after all, the Rabbi there had said it was a truly beautiful etrog! The son-in-law answered, "I wish you brought me a plain etrog that was whole and not a half of a beautiful etrog which is worthless."

The Hafess Hayim says that we sometimes find people that are exemplary in their observance of misvot between man and Hashem but are sorely lacking in the misvot between man and his fellow man, or vice versa. These people are like half of a beautiful etrog, which is worthless. Like in our parable, a plain but whole etrog is better, so too our misvot are better if they are plain but whole, both between man and Hashem and between man and his fellow man. Shabbat Shalom. Rabbi Reuven Semah


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

In a person's face, there are seven openings: two ears, two eyes, two nostrils and a mouth. The Torah is indicating that besides judges for all cities, you should also appoint judges "lecha" - "for yourself" - i.e. you should judge carefully and police whatever you see with your eyes, smell with your nostrils and speak with your mouth.

Parashat Shoftim is always read around the beginning of the month of Elul, when teshubah is primary. The Torah calls to our attention the word "lecha" that every person should carefully judge and police his own body especially during this month, and rectify any wrongdoing committed through these avenues. (Vedibarta Bam)


"What man is there that has built a new house and has not dedicated it?" (Debarim 20:5)

Rashi interprets the word chanacho?"that he did not begin to live in the house," to be related to the term "chanoch" thereby denoting "beginning." Rashi's explanation offers an insightful interpretation of the concept of "chinuch" or "education." The focus of education should be dual. First, because education is an ongoing lifelong process, we can only "begin" to educate. We never complete our education. Second, a teacher or mechanech must view his role as one who effects the "beginning," by motivating the student to use his own skills. A teacher who spoon-feeds the material to the student will not properly prepare him. The goal of every teacher should be to catalyze the student, so that he is challenged to continue his studies and to apply that learning to future educational endeavors. (Peninim on the Torah)


What man is there who is fearful and fainthearted? Let him go and return to his house." (Debarim 20:8)

The Torah (verses 2 to 8) states that before the Jewish army went to war, it was announced that certain categories of people should return home: he who has built a new house but has not dedicated it; he who has planted a vineyard but has not partaken from the fruits; he who has betrothed a wife but has not taken her. In verse 8, a fourth category is mentioned: he who is fearful and fainthearted should also return home.

Rabbi Yose Hagalili explains (Sotah 44a, cited by Rashi) that the fourth category refers to someone who fears that he is unworthy of being saved because of his transgressions. Rabbi Yose adds that this is the reason that the other three categories were told to go home. If someone would leave the ranks because of his sins, he would feel embarrassed. But since other groups were also sent home, people would not know which individuals were leaving for which reasons.

This is truly amazing. A large number of soldiers are sent home in wartime in order to save a sinner from humiliation. We must learn from here that we must do everything possible to protect people from shame. (Love Your Neighbor)


"Hashem is my shepherd, I shall not lack" (Tehillim 23:1)

This is a profound statement. In essence, this is saying: I know that if I were to truly need something, Hashem would definitely supply me with that need. If I do not yet have something that my all-knowing and all-powerful, loving Father wants me to have, I will soon acquire it. Even if at present I do not have any idea how that will happen, I am certain that it will happen. In Hashem's world there is abundance, and therefore He will certainly supply me with all that I need to fulfill my personal life mission. If I am not able to get something, that certainly is because the One who knows my needs knows that I truly do not need this. I might want more things than I need, so I will not always get what I want or desire. But my true needs will always be met.

Some people go through life with a constant feeling of lack. When this sense of lack comes from a spiritual emptiness, no amount of physical and material attainments will be able to fill the black hole. For such people, illusory potential appears to shine brightly. "This will do it for me. This is what I need. When I have this specific thing, then I will really be happy. That accomplishment or attainment will give me a feeling of success." They chase dreams, but in the end they always come back to a feeling of emptiness and lack. They are trying to fill a real void with things that do not have true substance; this path is hopeless.

Connecting with Hashem is the only solution. "Hashem is my shepherd." He shows me where to go and what to do. Hashem is the source of true abundance. Hashem is the source of absolute meaning. Hashem is the source of life and eternity. (Growth through Tehillim)


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: Eighteen.

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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