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AUGUST 8-9, 2003 11 AB 5763

Pop Quiz: For which of the Ten Commandments does Hashem promise long life for those who fulfill it?


But you who cling to your G-d, you are all alive today" (Debarim 4:4)

Moshe Rabenu, at the end of his life, encourages his people to follow the misvot of Hashem. In the verse quoted above, he tells them that one who clings to Hashem is truly alive. However, the last word needs explanation. What does it mean when he says you are alive "today?" Rabbi Eliyahu Meir Bloch explains that Moshe is telling us the opposite of what most people say today. The old hedonistic saying of, "Eat, drink and be merry, for tomorrow we may die," is usually associated with non-believing people. The ones who don't believe, live for today and don't care about tomorrow. They truly enjoy today, but will worry about tomorrow, tomorrow! The believers, the common opinion says, are the ones who look forward to tomorrow. They forgo the pleasures of today in order to merit the benefit of tomorrow, in the next world.

Well, Moshe Rabenu is telling us that we got it all wrong. Many people are a little bored with today and look forward to what excitement they will have tomorrow. Their job is boring, their home is boring, even the community is boring. Many look forward to the upcoming distant travel hoping that this will bring excitement into their lives. However, the more one clings to Hashem, the more interesting today becomes. Every day is a new challenge in the service of Hashem. Now we have a better understanding of what Moshe is telling us. You who cling to Hashem, you are all alive today. But, the big bonus is that not only do we get today, we also get tomorrow. Shabbat Shalom. Rabbi Reuven Semah

"You shall do what is upright and good in the eyes of Hashem"

The Gemara relates a story of a worker hired by a Rabbi to carry barrels of wine for him. The worker mistakenly broke the barrels and the Rabbi confiscated a garment for his broken barrels. The went to the Bet Din and the ruling was, "Give him back his garment." Then the worker said he needs to get paid for his work and the employer exclaimed, "How can I pay you if you not only didn't benefit me, you caused me a loss?" The Bet Din told the Rabbi to pay him his wages. The Rabbi asked, "Is this the halachah?" He was told, "In your case you must go beyond the letter of the law." The worker was a poor needy fellow and the Rabbi had the means to pay him, even though he was undeserving. Sometimes we have to go beyond the letter of the law and do what the spirit of the law wants. This is called "lifnim mishurat hadin - going the extra mile." The Rabbis tell us that the Bet Hamikdash was destroyed because the people were too exacting with each other, without overlooking faults or problems. To counter that we need to go the other way and be tolerant and sometimes even give in when we're right. Whether it involves money, honor or other things, if we learn to act "lifnim mishurat hadin," if we go beyond the letter of the law, we will live life with more tranquility and hasten the rebuilding of the Bet Hamikdash. Shabbat Shalom. Rabbi Shmuel Choueka


"And you shall know this day, and you shall take this to you heart, that Hashem is G-d in the heavens above and upon the earth below, there is no other" (Debarim 4:39)

The Hafess Hayim used to stress that this verse tells us that all that happens in our lives is from Hashem. All the profits and losses in a person's life are from the decree of Hashem. Similarly, any pain that a person suffers, such as when someone curses or insults him, is from Heaven to atone for one's transgressions. The person doing the cursing and insulting is guilty of committing a sin, but the recipient is receiving something that is ultimately beneficial for him. A person who internalizes this attitude will have the strength and courage not to reply to the insults thrown at him. The situation is similar to someone who is washing another person with hot water to remove something that is very sticky. During the cleansing process the hot water hurts, but in the end the person becomes clean.

There are two factors here, said the Hafess Hayim. One is having the intellectual knowledge of this principle. The other is internalizing it so that it becomes part of you and has a practical effect on your emotions. Unfortunately, many people just have the intellectual acceptance of this concept and are missing the internalization.

The way to internalize this is to constantly repeat it to yourself. With every repetition, ideas become more and more a part of your inner reality. (Growth through Torah)


"Safeguard the Shabbat day to sanctify it, as G-d, your G-d, has commanded you" (Debarim 5:12)

Rashi writes that the commandment to safeguard the Shabbat day to sanctify it was first given at Marah. Why in the Ten Commandments is it necessary to tell us that this commandment was already previously given?

Resting one day a week makes sense to many people, since even a machine needs to rest, and how much more so a human body. Moreover, thanks to the rest period, the person functions better when he works, compensating for any loss caused by the day of rest. While this makes sense, Shabbat was not given to the Jewish people as a mere day off. In the wilderness the Jews did not have to work to earn a livelihood since their food and all basic needs were provided. Nonetheless, at Marah, Hashem already gave them the commandment of Shabbat.

In our pasuk, Moshe is addressing the Jewish people immediately prior to their entering Eres Yisrael, where they would have to engage in mundane endeavors in order to earn a livelihood. Therefore, he is telling them, "We do not rest on Shabbat because we need to recuperate from our tedious labor, but because it is a holy day and reminds us of the Omnipotent Creator and Master of the universe, and of the miracles Hashem performed on our behalf in Egypt. This holy day must be sanctified and utilized as a time of Torah study and prayer. (Vedibarta Bam)


Question: Why do we not hand bread to people?

Answer: Handing bread from one person to another is a sign of mourning - and this is done in the seudat habra'ah, the first meal of a mourner. So that a meal of a non-mourner should not look like a meal of a mourner, bread is not placed into a person's hand. Instead, it is placed on the table.

(Excerpted from Siddur Abir Yaacob, published by Sephardic Press)


"You shall love Hashem, your G-d, with all your heart...and you shall teach (the words of Torah) to your children." (Debarim 6:5-7)

Rabbi Yosef Chaim Sonnenfeld comments that the sequence of these two pesukim teaches us a very important lesson. The Torah commands us to love Hashem with all of our heart. How does one demonstrate this love? By teaching the Torah to his children.

There are things that we do because we are obligated to do them, and there are things that we do because we like doing them. Obviously, every parent wants the best for his children. Consequently, if there is something he enjoys, he will try to show his children how enjoyable it is, so that they will also take pleasure from this activity. When someone raises his child to study the Torah and follow in the ways of Hashem, it is clear that this person has a true love for Hashem, and wants to transmit that feeling to his children.

Question: How much time do you personally spend with your children studying Torah or doing misvot? If your children were asked whether you love Hashem, what would they answer?


This week's Haftarah: Yeshayahu 40:1-26.

After completing the series of three haftarot that dealt with rebuke and punishment, we now begin a series of seven haftarot, from Tish'ah B'Ab to Rosh Hashanah, that deal with consolation. Each one is a prophecy which gives comfort to the nation after the destruction of the First Bet Hamikdash.

This Shabbat is widely known as Shabbat Nahamu because the haftarah begins with the words "Nahamu nahamu ami - Comfort, comfort My people."

Answer to Pop Quiz: Honoring our father and mother.

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