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Haftarah: Yeshayahu 51:12-52:12

AUGUST 21-22, 2015 7 ELUL 5775

Rosh Hodesh Elul will be celebrated on Shabbat & Sunday, August 15 & 16.


"It shall be that the city nearest the corpse, the elders of that city shall take…" (Debarim 21:3)

At the end of the perashah the Torah teaches the law of Eglah Arufah (the axed heifer). The murder of a Jew is a tragedy for the community, and if it was in any way due to the neglect or indifference, everyone must feel a share of the guilt. Consequently, if the corpse of an unwitnessed murder is found lying in the open, the Torah requires the elders of the town nearest to the corpse perform a public ritual in which they declare that they were not culpable and they pray for forgiveness for the Jewish people.

One might ask, if the people of the nearest town were not culpable in that murder, why did Hashem cause it to occur near that town? Rabbi Ibn Ezra writes, "It may be that Hashem commanded that the incident should take place near that town because they did something sinful that is compared to the murder. For if the sinfulness had not been present in their town, such a mishap would not have occurred." That's why the Torah concludes with the words, "Then the blood shall be atoned for them," as a result of their regret and prayers of forgiveness.

This misvah teaches us the far-reaching effects of our deeds, for better or for worse. A story is told that on one Shabbat Rav Shach zt"l went for a walk with his student. When they reached the boundary of Bnei Brak, suddenly Rav Shach asked his student, why on this road did they drive on Shabbat and on the road nearby they don't drive on Shabbat? The student answered simply, "Up till here is Bnei Brak and there is the city of Ramat Gan. In Bnei Brak there is no driving and in Ramat Gan there is." Rav Shach answered, "That isn't the reason. The reason is that the power of the Shabbat observance of the religious Jews of Bnei Brak reach up till here, up till this road. If our Shabbat would have been stronger then the influence would have extended further, and there would be no driving on the next road."

In a similar comment the Brisker Rav said that the reason why Yom Kippur is so universally observed in Israel, is not because the general Israeli public views Yom Kippur as very special. It's because the observant Jews view this day as so very holy, it makes that day more observed by all. 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


It's no wonder that some people have a hard time making decisions. Manufacturers offer American consumers over 600 models of automobiles to sift through before making a purchase - and that does not take into consideration the color spectrum or available option packages from which they must select! Many products come in a variety of sizes and hues, and sometimes the exact same contents are packaged in different ways to grab extra shelf space on the retail floor. Even distributors of kosher wines offer several hundred gourmet choices to the observant consumer.

Deciding what product to buy is certainly confusing. Reaching a decision regarding a life choice is even more of a challenge.

Even once you have made a decision, the doubts do not end. Did you make the right choice?

Second-guessing yourself may be wise at times, but over-analyzing can prevent you from taking the positive action that will make your choice a reality. You've probably compared notes with a friend and already asked the advice of someone whom you trust. You may have mulled over the details and potential outcome several times. So now that you've made your decision, put the plan into action to bring about your intended goal. (One Minute with Yourself - Rabbi Raymond Beyda)

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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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