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Haftarah: Yeshayahu 51:12-52:12

SEPTEMBER 2-3, 2011 4 ELUL 5771


"And to the judge who will be in those days." (Debarim 17:9)

The Torah teaches us that if a question arises one should go to the judge who will be in those days. These words are superfluous, for one cannot go to a judge that lived before his days. Rashi explains the intent of the Torah: "Even if he is not like the other judges who were before him, you must listen to him; you have none but the judge who is in your days." The Gemara (Rosh Hashanah 24b) relates a story that illustrates this concept. Rabban Gamliel, the Chief Rabbi, declared which day is to be Yom Kippur. (The exact day was under dispute.) The great Rabbi Yehoshua disagreed. Rabban Gamliel decreed on Rabbi Yehoshua that he must visit him with his money pouch on the day that he, Rabbi Yehoshua, held was Yom Kippur, and so he did.

A true story told by Rabbi Shimshon Pincus z"l, occurred in the city of Vilna in the days of the Vilna Gaon. The tailor, who lived next door to the Gaon, had a question on Friday about a chicken, whether it was taref or kosher. Unlike today, in those times a chicken was purchased live and the housewife looked over the chicken for possible blemishes which render the chicken unkosher. The father saw the problem and sent the chicken with his son to show it to the Gaon. The Gaon ruled it was taref. The wife, not knowing it was sent to the Gaon, sent another son with the chicken to the Rabbi of the city of Vilna. The Rabbi ruled it was kosher. The tumult began. The family went back to the Rabbi and told him the Gaon said it was unkosher. The Rabbi went to the Gaon and told him that obviously the Gaon was ten times greater than him, but his ruling must be upheld or else it would jeopardize his authority. Therefore, they must go together to their Friday night meal and eat from the chicken. The Torah is not dependent on the genius of the Gaon, but on the rule of the Rabbi of the city. "I am the Rav and nobody else!" The Gaon accepted.

However, when they went to the tailor's house and they sat to eat, the most unbelievable thing happened. At the precise moment they were to eat, the rope that held the light broke and it fell from the ceiling. The light was made of candles containing unkosher fat which fell into the food, rendering the chicken unkosher.

The job of the Rabbi is not easy; he is required to be completely impartial and with a pure heart. If the Rav is a straight individual and only seeks the truth and he learned the subject to the best of his ability, his Torah is the Torah of truth. The Gaon of Vilna understood this and was ready to enjoy a Friday night dinner at his neighbor's house. Shabbat Shalom. Rabbi Reuven Semah

"Let your heart not be faint, do not be afraid" (Debarim 20:3)

When the Jewish people went out to war, the Kohen would give them words of encouragement and tell them not to be afraid, not to tremble, not to panic and not to become weak hearted. The Gemara says that there are four terms used here because the Gentile nations would use four methods of frightening the Jews: by screaming; by blowing shofar; by clanging their weapons together; and by making their horses stamp their hooves loudly. We see from here how loud noises could shake up a person and make him lose his equilibrium. During World War II, the enemy used to fire bombs known as "Screaming Mimis," which would terrorize the soldiers.

The evil inclination uses everything he could in his arsenal. When we hear the deafening sounds which society calls music, it enters our soul and has the power to shake us up. Recently, while I was stopped at a traffic light, my car began to shake and I wondered what could be wrong, until I realized that the car next to me had his radio on so loud and the sounds were so powerful that they actually caused a car next to it to vibrate! Music has the ability to inspire and to elevate a person closer to Hashem, provided it is pure and sweet. What the world now treats as music is closer to cacophony which incites feelings and emotions in a person that will not get him closer to Hashem. We have to be judicious in what we let enter our ears and especially those of our kids. (I am not even speaking of some of the lyrics which are downright vulgar and offensive.) The sounds we hear affect us tremendously and we don't realize the extent and the long term effect it could have on us. If the Torah emphasizes the hazards that it had on Jewish soldiers, we could readily understand why the yeser hara (evil inclination) made a whole industry out of it. Let us hear only the music that will inspire us to greater heights of sensitivity! Shabbat Shalom. Rabbi Shmuel Choueka


"You shall not deviate from the word that they will tell you, right or left."

Hazal teach us that even if the hachamim, Torah leaders, inform us that our right is our left, and vice versa - in other words, even if what they tell us seems to contradict reality as we know it - we must, nevertheless, believe them. Belief in our sages, emunat hachamim, demands that we accept that the truth lies in the hands of the hachamim - not in our own understanding. This is the basis of Torah, without which our entire mesorah, tradition, is meaningless. The word of the Hacham is the word of the Torah. One who defies the rulings of the hachamim rebels against the foundations of our Torah. Hence, the zaken mamre, rebellious elder, is put to death for his refusal to submit to the rulings of the Torah's leadership. This is what is meant by Hazal, "Whoever transgresses the words of the sages is subject to death." (Berachot 4b)

Hazal teach that the reverence/awe one has for his Torah teacher, should be similar to the fear he has of Heaven (Pirkei Abot 4:15). At first glance, Hazal seem to be telling us how great our rabbis are; how significant they must be in our eyes. There is, however, a deeper message to be gleaned from Hazal. R' Mordechai Gifter explains that Hazal are suggesting to us that the manner in which we fear our Torah teachers should coincide with the manner in which we fear Heaven. Just as one cannot fear Heaven without first possessing emunah, faith, in Heaven, likewise, he cannot fear his rabbi unless he first places his trust in him. Reverence and fear are the natural consequences of faith and trust. Awe is the result of respect.

The Rosh Yeshivah points out that few people in life do not rely heavily on having trust and faith in others. Be it a student in the classroom, a patient in the doctor's office, a passenger on board a jetliner; everyone, somehow, at some time, places his trust in others. Imagine a passenger who is on board a flight which suddenly encounters severe turbulence. The last thing that the passenger considers is running down the aisle, forcing open the cockpit door, wresting the controls from the pilot and personally attempting to fly the airplane. Only a slightly disturbed individual would entertain such an idea, since he knows that he has no idea how to fly the plane. He will sit back, grip his seat, say Tehillim, and acquiesce to the notion that the experts know what they are doing. Since we are able to accept this notion concerning mundane, physical matters, why are we so insistent on being in control concerning spiritual matters? We seem to have a strong, almost insubordinate, desire to govern our own affairs to the point that if we fail to agree with a Torah leader, we immediately go into attack mode. Is our Torah leadership any less capable than the pilot in whose hands we place our lives?

R' Gifter explains that man's ability to submit himself to another individual's expertise is a G-d given hesed. Indeed, without this hesed, the world would be in a constant state of chaos. Hashem provided this hesed only in the area of the mundane, physical, material component of our lives. He did not create man with a natural proclivity to submit himself to spiritual matters, because man has to labor long and hard on his own in order to achieve this spiritual plateau. Hazal teach us: "Ha'kol b'yede Shamayim chutz m'yirat Shamayim - Everything is in the hands of Heaven except for the fear of Heaven". Hashem does not make us into G-d-fearing individuals. It is up to each and every one of us to achieve this goal on our own. Thus, we must channel our natural sense of submissiveness to all things physical, to the spiritual dimension. By putting it to use for spirituality, we will each ultimately achieve our goal. (Peninim on the Torah)


Cars come with a cruise control, a device that keeps automobiles moving at a set speed without human intervention. Airplane guidance systems can be set on autopilot to navigate the skies for thousands of miles without the pilot's expert handling. Robots can do the most complicated tasks so long as their systems are electronically set for the proper sequence of motions and activities.

It seems that many people feel that their lives can also run in a similar fashion- automatically. They go through the motions, impersonating a thinking, feeling creature, while numbly repeating previously learned behavior patterns as preparation for a new day's tasks. They robotically recite prayers and plod through the workday without ingenuity or enthusiasm.

This problem can be traced to a seriously flawed attitude. These people subconsciously believe that today will be a repeat of yesterday, and that tomorrow will merely be a repetition of today.

Nothing can be further from the truth. Every moment of life is a new opportunity, a gift from Heaven, allowing individuals to accomplish something during their limited sojourn in this world. Taking for granted that tomorrow will be like today is based on the mistaken assumption that there definitely will be a tomorrow.

Instead of wasting each day's priceless opportunity- wake up and live! Achieve as much as you can in your spiritual and emotional growth. Use the gift of time to be better tomorrow than you were today. Live this day as if there will be no tomorrow, and by doing so you will create a tomorrow that is better than today- guaranteed! (One Minute with Yourself)

* * * * *

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.

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