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Haftarah: Yeshayahu 51:12-52:12

AUGUST 21-22, 2009 2 ELUL 5769

Pop Quiz: What positive commandment applies specifically to a king of Israel?


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

As we know, we as Jewish people are obligated to bring any litigations to a Jewish court known as the Bet Din. At times a person going into the court has an opinion of what the ruling of Bet Din should be. However, it doesn't always turn out that way. it is important to be able to accept the ruling since one never knows what the future holds. The following amazing story was told by Avi Shulman.

A man owned an apartment on the fourth floor in Israel. A man bought the ground floor apartment and decided to sell furniture. Since he had no other way to display his furniture, he placed it on the sidewalk in front of his apartment. The man who lived upstairs was understandably annoyed by having furniture - couches, tables, chairs - blocking the entrance, and complained bitterly to the furniture salesman, to no avail.

Finally out of desperation, he took the furniture salesman to Bet Din, where he presented his case and lost. The Bet Din decided that the furniture salesman had the right to display his furniture on the sidewalk.

Some time later, the man who lived upstairs came home to find his family laughing and crying, in a state of high emotion and trauma. He asked what had happened and was told that his baby had crawled out of the window and had fallen down three stories to miraculously fall on a couch, unharmed! Shabbat Shalom. Rabbi Reuven Semah

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

After commanding us not to seek out the future using soothsayers and magicians, the Torah tells us to be simple in our faith with Hashem. The word ?????? means simple and also means perfect, to be whole and complete with G-d. Even though the meanings don't seem related, they are really along the same line. To be simple with Hashem means to put our faith only in Him and not let ourselves be consumed by what may be and all the "what ifs" of the future. Although we must plan and be prepared as much as is the norm, we must not be overanxious or use desperate means to figure out the future. By focusing on the "simple" trust that Hashem controls everything and He can do anything he wants, we turn to Him with complete faith, and this becomes a perfect faith.

Especially in these turbulent times, when events are rushing past us at dizzying speeds and we are tempted by those who claim to know what's ahead of us, let us remember that simple means perfect, and that by going back to our ancestors' ways of simple faith in Hashem, we will get closer and closer to perfection. Shabbat Shalom. Rabbi Shmuel Choueka


"Who is the man who is fearful and fainthearted, let him go and return to his house" (Debarim 20:8)

In these pesukim, the Torah describes Klal Yisrael's procedure for entering into a milchemet reshut, voluntary war, for which the king needed the authorization of the Sanhedrin. We note here an interesting set of laws that were implemented as the men prepared to go into battle. The Kohen Mashuah Milchamah, the Kohen specially anointed for war, would address the assemblage of would-be soldiers and exhort them regarding the cruelties and dangers they could expect to encounter. Three groups of people were encouraged to leave, lest their concern regarding unfinished affairs at home predisposed them to be excluded from active participation in battle. They were: he who had built a new house and had not yet dedicated it; he who had planted a new vineyard and had not yet redeemed it (partaken of its fruit); and he who had betrothed a woman and had not yet married her. One additional type/group of potential soldiers was also excluded from the war: the fearful and fainthearted.

The Torah's exceptions from battle seem puzzling. It is easy to justify sending home the fainthearted. Fear is contagious; it can destroy a complete army when the unknowing instinctively follow the unnerved. Indeed, unseen terror can be worse than the real enemy. But why send home the other three groups? Why does planting a new vineyard, building a new house or betrothing a woman exempt one from battle? What kind of adverse influence will these three individuals have upon the other soldiers?

Hazal give us a poignant answer, one that truly describes the essence of Torah life. Hashem is concerned with the dignity of each human being. Therefore, when the "fearful and fainthearted" leave the battlefield, people might say, "Perhaps he built a new house, planted a vineyard or betrothed a woman." Imagine, the Torah is willing to lose three good soldiers, so that the fourth would not suffer disgrace on his way home from the battlefield. This is the Torah's idea of a cover-up!

No one realizes the pain caused by shame and insult until they are on the receiving end. Numerous stories concerning our Torah leaders demonstrate their overriding sensitivity to the feelings of every human being. One such story occurred when Rabbi Yisrael Salanter z"l spent a Shabbat in a small town. A prominent householder rushed to invite the distinguished Rav to be his guest. When they returned home from shul, the host noticed that the two challot on the table were uncovered. The two challot must be covered until after kiddush and hamossi. In the flurry of the pre-Shabbat preparations and the presence of their eminent guest, however, the man's wife forgot this detail.

Thinking that this oversight might impugn Rav Yisrael's opinion of him, the man of the house flew into a rage and berated his poor wife for her "disgraceful" act. The wife immediately apologized for her forgetfulness and proceeded to cover the challot with a beautifully embroidered cover. Nonetheless, the harm had been done; the husband had mercilessly shamed his wife in front of the great Torah giant.

Immediately following the meal, Rav Yisrael called his host aside and asked him, "What is the reason for covering the challot until after kiddush?" The host, demonstrating his erudition, immediately responded, "Oh, that's simple. It is permissible to recite kiddush upon either the wine or the challot. Since we choose to defer the challot to the wine, it would seem that we are "slighting" the challot. We, therefore, cover them not to put them to "shame."

Rav Yisrael thereupon looked gently into his host's eyes and said, "Do you realize what you are saying? The Torah is concerned for the theoretical feeling of two pieces of baked dough, yet you forgot the feelings of your wonderful wife, who made a simple error! If Hashem concerns Himself with the 'feelings' of inanimate objects, it would serve you well to think of those who suffer pain and hurt when embarrassed."

This message sensitizes us to our routine interaction with people. How often do we, in pursuit of a misvah, "Knock down" those whi stand in the way? Our mission is to serve Haashem and raise ourselves higher, but not by stepping on others. (Peninim on the Torah)


When you are in a hurry, everyone is the enemy. If you need to get important documents in the mail, there is always a very slow clerk at the post-office counter. If you need to make a deposit in the bank and rush off to a meeting, the person ahead of you on line will chat endlessly with the teller about trivial things. When you need to pick up the children from school, the shopper checking out before you at the store invariably presents the cahier with an item missing a ticket, a calamity that necessitates paging a clerk for a price check. Sometimes it seems as if the whole world is against you.

The fact of the matter is, all those people are not acting any differently than they always do. Sometimes you find them aggravating, and at other times their fumbling may amuse you. The difference is not in them; it is in you. Patience level is a factor of mood. When pressed for time, you view things differently than you would with minutes or hours to spare.

The solution is simple. Assume things will take longer than you expect. Plan for the unexpected delay. Anticipate heavy traffic, a slow clerk, an unforeseen obstacle. Leave time to enjoy life. Those same people who always seem to be right in front of you will still be there, but they will make you smile with amusement and intelligent indulgence, secure in knowing that you have avoided getting aggravated about the slowpoke enemies that inhabit the world. (One Minute With Yourself - Rabbi Raymond Beyda)

Answer to Pop Quiz: He must write for himself two Sifrei Torah.

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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