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Haftarah: Yeshayahu 51:12-52:12

SEPTEMBER 5-6, 2008 6 ELUL 5768

Pop Quiz: Why is an accidental killer required to flee to Ir Miklat?


"Prepare the way for yourselves" (Debarim 19:3)

In the days of old, when we lived in our land and we had the Bet Hamikdash, there were cities known as cities of refuge (????????????). If someone killed in error he would escape to one of these cities to avoid the possible avenging relative of the victim. While living in this city the avenging relative would not be able to enter, hence the name, city of refuge. Of course, the killer would have to undergo a trial to determine if the act was truly an error. The verse we quoted is a command that the roads must have signs with the word "refuge" and an arrow to point the way. This will help him find the city quickly.

Imagine, in the days of old, when there was a misvah to go to Jerusalem three times a year. One had to travel long distances for many days to get to Jerusalem. However, if a person never went and was unfamiliar with the way (before the advent of GPS), he would also face the possibility of getting lost. Therefore, at every crossroad he would have to ask the embarrassing question of, "Which way to Jerusalem?" Wouldn't it help to have signs? Why doesn't the Torah command us to prepare the roads with signs to Jerusalem? The answer is important.

What would be the worst thing if there were no signs to Jerusalem? The travelers would have to ask many times. There would be a benefit to this, because many people would realize that there are many people traveling to Jerusalem. So many people want to see the beautiful Bet Hamikdash. There is a great movement to see holiness. And precisely for the opposite reason, there are signs for the cities of refuge, so no one would have to ask directions. Therefore, no one would know there are killers. The result is a society that appears to be spiritually oriented, with no crime. This will inspire everyone to do the same.

Let's think for a moment. What fills the news? Is it the good practices of society? Or are we constantly reading and hearing about the bad? What are we exposed to and what type of atmosphere do we live in? Imagine if our society would be painted in a good light. Wouldn't this encourage all to keep that high standard? Shabbat Shalom. Rabbi Reuven Semah

"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


That was it. Moshe had made his decision. There was just no way he could continue working with Ezra. Ezra was the son of Yosef, Moshe's late partner. Yosef and Moshe had worked together for fifteen years. After his untimely passing, Yosef's son, a smart but undisciplined businessman, with very different philosophies, stepped in to assume his father's half of the partnership. Moshe and Yosef got along like two peas in a pod. Moshe and Ezra fought like cats and dogs.

They both realized a long drawn out legal battle would only deplete the business equity they needed to divide. A court date was set with cool resigned cooperation between the two. They didn't fight openly anymore and did manage to agree on the team of professionals that would assist them in the legal distribution.

When their Shul Rabbi who was also a practicing Dayan heard about the court date he called them both in for a meeting. "I understand the predicament you are in. The mere thought of splitting up such a huge portfolio is frightening, and especially in today's market conditions. Just the tax implications alone could make the average professional dizzy. However, Jews may not willingly adjudicate in front of a secular court."

"But Rav," Moshe blurted out, "We need an entire legal team. We both want to go to secular court where judges and legal staff are most familiar with the complexities of our case." "No one is being forced to secular court," Ezra agreed. "We are disappointed that things have turned out this way, but this is the most pragmatic approach to dissolving the business." "That does not permit you to turn to secular court," the Rabbi repeated. "There are two reasons why one may not adjudicate in secular court. The first reason is, as you have concluded, the court might award a litigant compensation that is not recognized by Torah law and the recipient is, in essence, taking something which does not belong to him."

"Secondly, the Pasuk in Parashat Mishpatim teaches, "And these are the laws that you shall place before themů" Rashi explains that even when we know that the secular courts will rule in accordance to the 'Din Torah,' a Jew still may not appear in front of them, 'for he who adjudicates before a secular court, has desecrated G-d's name and endears the name of their gods and judicial systems.'"

"This reason," continued the Rabbi, "applies even when you both agree to appear in court. Conversely, by appearing and accepting the judgment of a competent Bet Din you will have sanctified His name. I suggest you both put together a suitable legal team and we hear this matter out with honor, consideration and patience in Bet Din. This Kiddush Hashem will surely stand in the merit of both of you on High." (Rav Dovid Grossman of Kollel Zichron Gershon)

Answer to Pop Quiz: So that the relatives of the victim will not avenge the killing.

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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