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Haftarah: Yishayahu 66:1-24

December 31, 2010 - January 1, 2011 25 Tebet 5771

Rosh Hodesh Shebat will be celebrated on Thursday, January 6.


“Why did You do evil to this people?” (Shemot 5:22)

After approaching Pharaoh without success, Moshe Rabenu felt that he had caused his Jewish brothers only harm. Moshe Rabenu questioned Hashem’s conduct, which shows his intense self-sacrifice where Israel’s interests are involved. He dares to reproach G-d because he cannot bear to see his people suffer. However, it seems that Moshe’s question is never answered. He asks, why did Hashem cause this intense suffering? Hashem answers, now you will see the strong punishment that Pharaoh will receive. It seems that Hashem’s response doesn’t really answer the question.

Rabbi Shimshon Pincus explains that there are numerous answers to our question, but he would like to provide another novel answer to our question. When a man repents and makes teshubah and comes closer to Hashem, Hashem will test him. The reason for this test is to determine why he is returning to Hashem. Is it because he truly recognizes that Hashem is his merciful Father and one must love his father and listen to his voice? Or is he returning for some self-interest that he will gain, such as good health, a good livelihood and happiness and nothing more? If the man passes the tests and remains loyal to Hashem, it’s a sign that he seeks out Hashem. If he fails and rebels, it shows his return was for his own gratification, and not because he was seeking the truth.

Moshe asks Hashem, why the intense suffering? On this Hashem answers that the suffering came for their benefit. It is to test them and see how much they are seeking Hashem. Now that they withstood this test and didn’t abandon Hashem despite the great suffering, this shows their great desire to come close to their loving Father. Therefore, now they are ready to be redeemed and now you will see the great punishment that will be given to Pharaoh.

We never want to be tested, but when a test comes to test your loyalty, this might be the key to your salvation, may it arrive soon! Shabbat Shalom. Rabbi Reuven Semah

"[Hashem] commanded Moshe and Aharon regarding Pharaoh, the king of Egypt." (Shemot 6:13)

Rashi says that Hashem commanded Moshe and Aharon to speak respectfully to Pharaoh because he was the king of Egypt. Indeed, later on, when Moshe threatened and warned Pharaoh that "Egypt will come down to me and beg me to take out the Jews," he didn't say "you will come down to me" (even though that's what really happened) because it wouldn't be respectful.

We learn an amazing lesson from here. Even though Pharaoh and his people were being punished in all kinds of extreme ways, to the point of their country being almost destroyed, since the punishment of being spoken to disparagingly was not due to him, he didn't get it. Hashem decrees what is due to a person to the most exact detail; even the wicked Pharaoh had to get exactly what was coming to him and no more.

This should strengthen our emunah (belief) in the Divine Providence and make us realize that whatever we get is suited especially for us down to the last detail. Shabbat Shalom. Rabbi Shmuel Choueka

Why was the Nile River afflicted with the first plague?

When Hashem punishes a nation, He also humiliates their gods. Therefore, since the Egyptians thought the Nile was divine, it was smitten first. (Torahific)


“Those who feared the word of Hashem from the servants of Pharaoh brought his servants and his cattle into the houses. And those who did not pay attention to the word of Hashem left their servants and cattle in the field.” (Shemot 9:20-21)

The Torah does not state that there were people who did not believe that Moshe’s warning was true. Rather, the Torah states that they did not pay attention. This we see is the opposite of fearing the Almighty: lack of attention.

Rabbi Chayim Shmuelevitz used to ask on this: Why didn’t the servants themselves flee to safety? They should have feared for their lives and run to find safe places. The answer, said Rav Chayim, is that they did not pay attention. When one does not pay attention to danger, it is as if it does not exist.

All the knowledge in the world will not help a person keep away from danger unless he takes that knowledge to heart. For this reason there are plenty of people who do things that could greatly endanger their spiritual and physical well-being. They do not take the dangers seriously. Lack of paying attention to dangers will lead to all kinds of impulsive behavior that will have painful and damaging consequences.

The wise man is one who sees the future consequences of his behavior (Tamid 32a). The Hafess Hayim writes that the Sages used the term “seeing” to tell us a means of making future events real. One should use one’s power of imagination to see the future as if it is actually occurring in the present. When you see something before your eyes, it has a much stronger effect than just hearing about it.

People differ greatly in their ability to mentally make pictures in their minds. But anyone who can mentally visualize the negative consequences of transgressing or of engaging in dangerous practices will find it much easier to guard himself from harm. Make an effort to see the future as a present reality. (Growth through Torah)


The family surrounded the infant, proudly watching the cute little person perform. When the baby clapped her hands, all the adults clapped in glee. When the little one waved her arms and smiled, her relatives laughed approvingly. The positive, upbeat reaction of the adults brought a smile to the infant’s face.

Even at an early age, people seek the consent and approval of others.

One of a human being’s strongest drives is the need for honor and respect. The word for honor in the Holy Tongue, kavod, comes from the same root as the word kaved – heavy. Self-respect means that you feel you are a person of substance – a heavyweight!

Such a feeling may be well founded if your achievements are in areas that are of true value. Many individuals, however, measure success by what others think of their achievements. If millions watch on television approvingly, or if thousands cheer in the stands of a stadium, performers or athletes – as well as their audiences – believe that acting or sports acumen is synonymous with personal greatness.

A simple way to measure the value is to evaluate who is judging. If something is esteemed by the masses, it is probably worthless in the real world. Society admires financial and athletic acumen and rarely honors spiritual achievements.

If it is respect that you crave, you should seek self-respect. Others can be fooled, but don’t fool yourself. Study the words of our Sages and learn the true measures of success. Only then can you arrive at a genuine assessment of self-worth. (One Minute With Yourself – Rabbi Raymond Beyda)

* * * * *

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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