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Haftarah: Yishayahu 66:1-24

JANUARY 19-20. 2006 1 SHEBAT 5767

Pop Quiz: When did Pharaoh's magicians admit that the plagues were from Hashem?


"Amram took Yochebed his aunt as a wife and she bore him Aharon and Moshe" (Shemot 6:20)

In this week's perashah we learn about the ancestry of Moshe and Aharon. As the verse above states, Amram, Moshe's father, married his aunt Yochebed. Such a marriage is forbidden by the Torah. Although this marriage took place before the giving of the Torah, and was therefore not forbidden, there is something distasteful about it.

There is a Midrash which asks, "Why did Hashem choose a man who has a blemish on his ancestry to lead and teach the Jewish people?" This same question can be asked regarding Yehudah and Tamar, and David and Batsheba. The purpose of this blemished ancestry is to make the person maintain his humility and not rise haughtily above his subjects, or the people he leads. However, a problem arises with this answer. If a man as great as Moshe, who did so much, was inclined to pride or arrogance, he would hardly be kept humble by such a little thing as a blemish of this kind.

Take for example, a multi-millionaire who, when he started out making money some thirty years ago, was involved in some shady deals, but now is a big philanthropist and a respected member of the community. He isn't going to continue regretting his past. He will be proud of his achievements and present status.

The answer to this problem is that most of us look back with pride to our positive achievements over the years and tend to forget out less praiseworthy actions. But with a saddik it is the opposite. He will ignore his great accomplishments and be painfully aware, instead, of the few times he fell short of his own high standards. In Pirkei Abot (4:1) we read, "Who is rich? He who is content with his lot." This refers only to one's material possessions. The mistake that many people make is to focus on their contentment only on their spiritual possessions. We should never be satisfied with our spiritual attainments but rather strive to improve them. Shabbat Shalom. Rabbi Reuven Semah

"And they did not heed Moshe because of shortness of breath and hard work" (Shemot 6:9)

The Jewish people were not able to listen to Moshe because of the hard work that the Egyptians imposed on them. Indeed, this was the ultimate goal of Pharaoh, that the Jews not listen to any words of hope, by putting on them a staggering workload. The Mesilat Yesharim (chapter 2) tells us that this is the favorite strategy of the Yeser Hara, Evil Inclination. He makes us very busy with many responsibilities so that we will be distracted from our true life goals. If we would spend a little time in contemplating our actions and reflecting on our way of life, we would have second thoughts as to our conduct and we would find a way to better ourselves in any way we could. So the Evil Inclination finds more distractions and more headaches to keep our focus off of what's really important in life.

Let's set aside some time to reflect and contemplate. While in the car or going to work by bus or train, let's leave off all radios and tape decks for a few minutes each day and think about our priorities and values. Or we can use the time at home when all is quiet or right before we go to bed! We will be amazed at how good we feel when using this time to further our spiritual growth. Shabbat Shalom. Rabbi Shmuel Choueka

Answer to Pop Quiz: After the plague of shehin (boils).

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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