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Haftarah: Melachim II 7:3-20

APRIL 12-13, 2013 19 NISAN 5773


"When a woman conceives and gives birth to a male." (Vayikra 12:1)

Our perashah begins with the laws of a woman who gives birth to a baby boy or girl. As we know, there is great significance to the order of the perashiot of the Torah. Rashi quotes Rabbi Simlai who says, "Just as the creation of man came after all cattle, beasts and fowl, in the Torah's account of the act of creation, so is man's law explained after the laws of cattle, beast and fowl." Rashi means that last week's perashah discusses the laws of kashrut of the animals, that they need to have split hooves and chew their cud. This week's perashah discusses the laws of humans, such as the importance of birth and berit milah. The reason for this order is that this was the order of their creation. First the animals and then man.

The Rabbi Pene Menahem z"l gives us an added insight. The laws relating to animals refers to the basic bad character traits (midot) that reflect the animal side of man. Only after they are dealt with can one discuss the higher level of laws related to humans.

This is illustrated in the haftarah that talks about the four men who had leprosy. Our Sages tell us this was Gehazi and his sons. Gehazi was a close disciple of Elisha the Prophet. Yet we find that he suffered from a number of serious character faults, and ended up being punished with leprosy. The question is that how could it be that he was a close student of Elisha the Prophet, which means he was learning to achieve the levels of closeness to Hashem that are a prerequisite to prophecy, and still be so low? The answer is that he entered the yeshivah of Elisha under the assumption that he already worked on the earlier levels of improvement. He didn't climb the ladder of achievement taking the lower steps first.

Our children are exposed to all the problems of society, violent crime and immorality and dishonesty, to name a few. It's important to impress upon them and to teach them that these are more of the animal side of man. This comes first. After the message is very clear and accepted, then we can teach them the elevated laws of the Torah that makes a man. Rabbi Reuven Semah

"When the affliction has turned white, the Kohen shall declare him tahor." (Vayikra 13:17)

The Torah stresses a number of times that if the plague of leprosy turns into white, it will become tahor, that is, no more impurity. The word lpvb (nehepach) means transforms or turns around, and the Rabbis say that if the letters of the word gdb (nega) which means plague, are turned around, it will spell out the word dbg (oneg) which means pleasure.

The lesson here is that even something so difficult as leprosy can be turned around into something constructive which will be a source of pleasure. If a person understands that the reason he has leprosy is because he spoke "lashon hara" (gossip) or some other sin, and resolves not to repeat it, he has "turned around" his life and become a new person. Even today, when we don't have leprosy, whatever happens to us should be viewed as Hashem communicating to us to improve. When we do, we then are transformed into greater people. The gdb (nega) becomes a source of dbg (oneg). May we always merit to see the good in everything that happens. Shabbat Shalom. Rabbi Shmuel Choueka


It is customary to study Pirkei Abot (Ethics of the Fathers) during the six weeks between Pesah and Shabuot, one chapter every Shabbat.

"Be cautious with the people who govern."

In this statement Rabban Gamliel is probably speaking from a knowledge of the wide experience that his father, Rabbi Yehudah HaNasi, had with Rome, the power that ruled Israel then. His father was quite friendly with the governors appointed by Rome, as well as with the Roman emperor himself. They often asked this Sage's advice and learned much from Rabbi Yehudah HaNasi. Yet, when he needed them to help his land, the help was not given. Rabban Gamliel wisely warns: Beware of these politicians. They use you when they need you; but when you need them, they are not there.

There is another vein in which we can interpret the word zehirin - be cautious: Perhaps the "ruling power" about which our Mishnah warns us to be careful is not a human agency, but the ultimate ruling power, Hashem! Pay careful attention, says Rabban Gamliel, to your relations with the Creator. This is the power in which you must ultimately place your trust. Congressmen and statesmen are only messengers. Their power and influence are truly limited and finite. They are in power today and forgotten tomorrow. Insecure and fearful for their future, "they draw a man near in friendship only for their own needs, purposes, and will not stand by a man in his hour of hardship," as the Mishnah concludes. How wisely the Psalmist says, "Do not put your trust in princes, in a son of man, in whom there is no help." Pray rather to the Almighty, and rely on the true ruler of the world, the Power behind all powers. (Ethics from Sinai)

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