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Haftarah: Yishayahu 66:1-24

JANUARY 15-16, 2010 1 SHEBAT 5770


“Go to Pharaoh in the morning – behold! he goes out to the water.” (Shemot 7:15)

In our perashah Hashem brings the ten plagues upon Egypt. The first plague was the plague of blood. However, before the plague begins, Hashem commands Moshe Rabenu to go to Pharaoh and warn him. Moshe was commanded to approach him in the morning when he was at the Nile River. Rashi cites the Midrash that states that since Pharaoh had proclaimed himself to be a god who had no need to perform normal bodily functions, he would go to the river every morning to relieve himself unobserved. There Hashem told Moshe to approach him while he was doing so.

The Hafess Hayim says that this is the reason why Hashem created man with the need to relieve himself. This would cause man to recognize his lowliness and not proclaim himself a god. The Talmud (Baba Batra 75a and the Rashbam) quotes the prophet Yehezkel that Hashem made man with openings for this purpose, to teach him humility.

However, the Hafess Hayim wonders, if this is the purpose, wouldn’t it have been enough if man would have to go once a week or once a month? Why a few times a day? Therefore, the Rabbi concludes that this teaches us how terrible arrogance is, that man needs to be taught this lesson a number of times a day, that he is not G-d! 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


"And the magicians of Egypt did in a like manner with their secret arts." (Shemot 7:22)

One can ask: Why is it that we don't see these great powers of sorcery and witchcraft nowadays? Hashem set up the world in such a way that everyone could have free choice to do good or bad. He therefore needed to create counter-forces for each force that existed. Otherwise, any intelligent person would see clearly the truth of the matter and would, in effect, not have free choice. Hashem does not want the choice to be too clear. He always leaves room for a person to err. The Rambam states that when Hashem split the Yam Suf, he sent a strong wind so that Pharaoh could think that the wind split the sea, and it was not a miracle.

When there were prophets among us, there was a need for sorcery in the world so that the truth would not be too clear. This is why the greatest sorcerers were in Egypt during the ten plagues. Pharaoh needed to have an angle to say that it wasn't coming from Hashem. Even when the sorcerers said that they couldn't duplicate the lice, and they attributed it to Hashem, Pharaoh could have said that they just didn't want to admit that Moshe was a greater sorcerer than they were. As the level of prophecy in the world declined, so did the level of sorcery. Nowadays, since there is no prophecy, there is no need for sorcery as a counter-force. (Emet LeYa'akob)


“Plan ahead!” ordered the plaque on the wall of the supervisor’s office. “Don’t get caught napping!” warned the paperweight on his desk.

The boss had the right idea about work – and life. A person who does not plan will often miss a good opportunity for success and achievement. Planning, however, is not the same as dreaming. A planner assesses problems and potential solutions, collects facts and materials, and anticipates possible setbacks. A person who dreams, on the other hand, focuses on the results and ignores the difficulties that may arise en route to achieving a goal. The planner deals with each new challenge as it arises; the dreamer may give up in frustration when progress is blocked by unanticipated obstacles.

As you face each new day, you must expect both ups and downs. Problems, when they occur, should be viewed as challenges and used to propel you forward towards successful completion of a task. Those who fail to plan, plan to fail. A good plan anticipates difficulties that are not in the original strategy and converts them into propellant, accelerating the drive towards success. (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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