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Haftarah: Yeshayahu 66:1-24

DECEMBER 27-28, 2013 25 TEBET 5774

Rosh Hodesh Shebat will be celebrated on Thursday, January 2.


"It is the Finger of G-d." (Shemot 8:15)

When Moshe Rabenu brought about the plague of lice, the magicians of Pharaoh couldn't duplicate it. They were forced to admit that it was the Hand of Hashem. Let's tell a true story of another holy hand.

It was a well-known fact that when people would come to kiss the hand of the great gaon Rabbi Ben Sion Abba Shaul zt"l, he would tell them, "Go kiss the hands of Hacham Obadiah Yosef, because his hands are very holy because his hands are writing down words of Torah all the time!"

The Kaf Hahayim writes (Orah Hayim chapter 262 paragraph 17), "One will get great benefit by kissing the hands of the gedolim (great Torah scholars) because they have great holiness. The great Rabbis write every day with their right hand and the left hand helps the right hand. Their fingers have the holiness of Torah that is (the Torah) written with the finger of Hashem." 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


"And Moshe and Aharon did just as Hashem commanded themů And Moshe was eighty years old, and Aharon was eighty-three years old when they spoke with Pharaoh." (Shemot 7:6,7)

Hashem describes the entire scenario which would occur when Moshe Rabenu and Aharon Hakohen were to present their case to Pharaoh. Everything in the pesukim seems to fit together except the last pasuk, which notifies us about the ages of Moshe and Aharon when they stood before Pharaoh. This bit of information seems out of place in the context of the sequence of pesukim. Rav Shimon Schwab, z"l, suggests the following solution to this problem. When we consider the timing of Aharon's birth, we realize that it coincides with the general time frame in which Pharaoh decreed that all Jewish male infants should be killed at birth. Moshe was born three years later, when Pharaoh's decree to have Jewish infants thrown into the Nile River was in effect. Indeed, the root of Aharon's name is harah, which means conception. This might be interpreted as a special thanks to Hashem for allowing this infant to see the light of day, at a time when most other Jewish infants were being put to death.

Keeping the above in mind, we see that Moshe and Aharon were projecting a powerful message to Pharaoh: his decrees were meaningless against Hashem. They were living and breathing examples of the futility of his machinations against the Jews. He decreed that all infant Jewish males be killed. They were "survivors" of his decrees, and they were destined to be the ones who would lead the Jewish people from his country. Pharaoh could not contend with Hashem.

A number of lessons can be derived from here. First, man is not in control. He is nothing but a pawn in the hands of Hashem. Second, situations are not what they seem. The Jews in Egypt must have thought that it was all over; their chances of salvation were slim to nil, at best. Yet, Hashem turned the tables on Pharaoh, and the Jews were liberated. One should never give in to despair, for during man's bleakest hour, a ray of hope can spring forth that can illuminate the darkest situations. Last, it is the individual who is least expected to succeed who can emerge as tomorrow's leader. Moshe and Aharon should have succumbed to Pharaoh's decree. Yet, not only did Moshe live, but he was raised in Pharaoh's palace under the watchful eye of Pharaoh's own daughter! Appearances are deceiving, especially when they contradict Hashem's Divine Plan. (Peninim on the Torah)


It's okay to have an opinion. It's the American way. Businesses, politicians, and communities use polls, surveys, and head counts to determine what the people want and how to best satisfy their tastes. Your opinion is important!

But complaining may not be okay. Complaints are not necessarily healthy expressions of opinion. Very often, complainers do not want to improve the current situation - they are really looking for relief from responsibility. If they complain about someone, they rationalize that they are no longer obligated to that person. If working conditions are bad, then they don't have to perform for the boss. If dinner is not satisfactory, they don't have to fulfill the needs of the person who cooked it. If they don't have all the "toys" that their friends have, then they don't have to behave as their parents would like.

It's all really childish, isn't it?

In the forty years that the People of Israel traveled through the deserts they complained a number of times. Very often, the complaints were motivated, not by a sincere desire to improve their status, but by the personal, insincere ambitions of certain individuals.

Next time you get the urge to complain, analyze your motive. Are the circumstances really that bad, or are you just not ready to push yourself to fulfill your obligations to your friend, family member - or even Hashem? This brief self-analysis will reduce your complaint quotient and increase your performance scores. It may even put a smile on your face when you realize how childish complaining can be. (One Minute With Yourself - Rabbi Raymond Beyda)


Rav Chaim of Worms was himself a great sadik who lived during the fifteenth century. He was blessed with three brilliant sons: the eldest, Betzalel, followed by Yaakov and Helman. A father's dream, these young men exemplified the epitome of devotion to Torah scholarship. People would observe how fortunate Rav Chaim was to have his three sons follow in his footsteps.

The community of Worms regrettably did not offer the young men an opportunity to achieve the outstanding Torah scholarship which they sought. Thus, they appealed to the father that they be allowed to travel to Poland to study under one of its preeminent Torah leaders, Rav Shlomo Luria, z"l, reverently known as the Maharshal. The father understood his sons' yearning and gave permission for the younger two - Yaakov and Helman - to leave immediately for Poland. He insisted, however, that Betzalel remain at home. "You are my eldest and, while I might be overstepping my rights as a parent to ask this of you, I still implore you to remain at my side here in Worms." What is a son to do when his father asks? He says yes, and he is happy about it. This was Rav Betzalel's nature.

A few years passed, and the brothers returned to Worms, accomplished scholars, having imbibed Torah at the feet of the Maharshal. While Rav Betzalel was overjoyed with the return of his brothers, he was even more enraptured with the knowledge they had accumulated. He was truly happy for their success in Torah. He regretted his lost opportunity and would, at times, ruminate out loud, conveying his sadness at not having been given the opportunity to study Torah on an elevated level.

His son's emotion did not escape Rav Chaim who felt bad for him: "How sad it is that my son is so despondent over his lost opportunity to have studied under the Maharshal. How can I appease him, make things better? He served me so well. He doesn't deserve to be unhappy."

Rav Chaim said to his son, Betzalel, "In reward for your noble act of remaining home and serving me, at great cost to yourself, I would like to grant you a blessing. I cannot pay you back for your exemplary Kibbud av, but I can entreat Hashem on your behalf that you be blessed with four sons that will illuminate the Torah world with their scholarship and righteousness."

And so it was that the father's blessing was realized. To Rav Betzalel were born four sons: Rav Chaim who became Chief Rabbi of Friedenburg and the distinguished author of Sefer HaChaim; Rav Sinai, Rosh Yeshivah in Mehrine; Rav Shimshon, Chief Rabbi of Kremenitz. The fourth and most distinguished son was Rav Yehudah, the legendary Maharal m'Prague, a name which, until this very day is synonymous with the highest levels of Torah scholarship. All of this was as a result of the misvah of Kibbud av v'eim. (Peninim on the Torah)

* * * * *

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.

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