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Haftarah: Yeshayahu 40: 1-26

JULY 31 - AUGUST 1, 2009 11 AB 5769

Pop Quiz: How many cities of refuge were in the portion of the tribe of Reuben?


"You shall love Hashem, your G-d, with all your heart, with all your soul and with all your possessions" (Debarim 6:5)

The water carrier in the city of Slonim married off his daughter to a simple, illiterate Jewish boy. Determined that at the very least his son-in-law should be able to recite berachot on food and pray from a siddur, the water carrier began the long, difficult task of teaching him the aleph-bet. After the son-in-law had mastered the letters, the vowels (nekudot) and how to combine them, the water carrier started teaching him the Shema. He taught him the translation of the words of the pasuk of Shema Yisrael, and explained to him that Hashem is the only G-d, and that He is our G-d. He then taught him the next pasuk, "You shall love Hashem…" He explained that Hashem, the Ruler of the entire universe, commands us to love Him with our entire heart. At that point the son-in-law raised an objection.

"How is it possible that such a great and awesome G-d, to Whom the entire universe belongs, would want someone as little and insignificant as myself to love Him?" "Indeed, this is the meaning of the pasuk," the water carrier replied firmly. The son-in-law insisted that this could not possibly be the meaning of the pasuk. Finally, the two decided to take the matter to the Slonimer Rebbe, the Divrei Shmuel z"tl. The Rebbe of course confirmed that the father-in-law was right in his translation of the pasuk.

The son-in-law became very emotional, "If this is so," he cried out, "that Hashem is commanding us to love Him, it must mean that He loves us very much, with a very great love, and therefore wants us to love Him as well. If Hashem loves me so much, then I love Him as well!" The Divrei Shmuel later told this story to Rabbi Mordechai of Slonim z"tl, adding, "This is the true level of loving Hashem."

I would suggest that if we would remember this simple story of the simple Jew, when we say the pasuk of loving Hashem, our love of Hashem would grow and grow. Shabbat Shalom. Rabbi Reuven Semah

"And you shall watch yourselves very carefully." (Debarim 4:15)

From this verse, the Rabbis teach us that it is a misvah to watch our health. Even though it may seem unnecessary to command us to protect our health, the Torah felt it important enough to emphasize that we guard our welfare. This should encourage us to watch what we eat in terms of our weight and in terms of nutrition, especially as we get older. The evil inclination doesn't mind if we indulge in the wrong food and drink and then are unable to serve Hashem the next day. This admonition should help us strengthen our resolve to stay healthy , for it provides us with a misvah every time we do something beneficial for our health. Not coincidentally, the Torah doesn't say, "Watch your bodies," rather, "watch your souls," which is learned out to mean our bodies, in order to explain that the main reason we should be healthy is in order to use our souls properly to serve Hashem. A healthy body and a healthy soul, what a combination! Shabbat Shalom. Rabbi Shmuel Choueka


"Who will give that the heart that you have now shall be to you to fear Me and to observe all of My commandments all the days, in order to do good for you and your children" (Debarim 5:26)

The Talmud (Abodah Zarah 5a) states here that Moshe said to the Israelites, "You are ungrateful and the descendants of someone who is ungrateful." The Talmud explains that Moshe called them ungrateful because of their complaining against the manna. They were called the descendants of someone ungrateful because of Adam's saying to Hashem that the woman whom He gave to him caused him to eat what he should not have eaten.

We see here two concepts related to the attribute of gratitude. First, that whenever you complain about what Hashem has given you it shows a lack of gratitude. In our daily lives this frequently applies. Think this over carefully and see how often you complain when you should feel grateful. For example, a person might complain that he has so many things in his house that he has no place to put them. Or that his refrigerator is so full of food that he has no room to put something else. In these instances one should be so grateful to Hashem for what he has that the reaction should be one of joy, "Thank you Hashem for giving me so much that I now have the positive problem of where to put things." Also, be careful not to complain about other people who have helped you. For example, if someone gives you a meal and there is one item you do not like, focus on what you do like and appreciate it rather than complaining about details.

We also see from here how people will try to avoid feeling grateful. At times they would rather not receive something that could be a great benefit to them because of their unwillingness to express gratitude. At times avoiding taking from others is a virtue. But if your motivation is, "I don't want to have to be grateful to him," it manifests a lack of having gratitude. A person who appreciates opportunities to express gratitude to others does not mind continually thanking them. But the difficulty for some is that this takes humility. An arrogant person considers it a lowering of himself if he has to show that someone else is above him in some manner. He is even willing to forego something that benefits him just because he doesn't want to have to be grateful.

Mastering the attribute of gratitude takes much though and effort. Whenever someone helps you in some way ask yourself what you can do to show gratitude. Take pleasure whenever you express gratitude; it is a very elevated trait. (Growth through Torah)


"And you should teach them diligently to your children" (Debarim 6:7)

We are enjoined to transmit Torah to the next generation. Rashi adds that "your children" also refers to one's students and teaching Torah to them is a form of spiritual creation. Various commentators cite the importance of either personally teaching or caring for the Torah education of one's children.

Rav Yosef Chaim Sonnenfeld z"l cites the Talmud in Berachot 14 stating that one who recites Keriat Shema but does not wear tefillin, is viewed as a false witness. To accept the misvah of Keriat Shema, while apparently ignoring the misvah of tefillin is blatant hypocrisy. In this perashah, the Torah enjoins us in the misvah of hinuch habanim, educating our children. Rav Sonnenfeld asserts that to recite Shema, thereby affirming one's relationship with Hashem, while neglecting to provide for the Torah education of one's children is falsehood.

The Sefer Charedim writes that just as one should pray for his own spiritual welfare, so, too, should he entreat Hashem that his children will grow up as B'nei Torah, replete with Yirat Shamayim, fear of Heaven. The Hazon Ish strongly demanded that Jewish education must be the prime focus of Judaism and foremost on the agenda of lay leadership.

In regard to this idea, the Hazon Ish related that a Jew once came to the Hafess Hayim seeking his blessing for success in educating his children. The Hafess Hayim responded, "A blessing you seek for educating your children? Sell the pillow that you sleep on (if necessary) and hire the best G-d fearing rabbeim and then you will have success and nahat!" (Peninim on the Torah)


The embattled couple sat, troubled, before the Rabbi. Their latest spat seemed to be the last straw. In turn, each specified the intolerable conditions to which the other subjected them. Neither saw any future for the marriage.

The Rabbi patiently listened to the angry complaints and then reached for a book on his library shelf. He told them: "The Rambam says, "a man must respect his wife more than himself, and love her like himself. If he has financial means he must increase what he gives her according to his means. He should not instill fear in her and he should speak to her pleasantly. He should not display unhappiness or temper'" (Hilchot Ishoot, 15:19).

The quotation brought a "see, it's all your fault" stare from the woman and an embarrassed expression to her mate's face.

The Rabbi continued: "The woman is commanded to exceedingly respect her husband, and to do his bidding. She should see him as a king." The husband regained his composure and the stare of his wife became a countenance of one who failed to fulfill her duty.

"You see," said the Rabbi, "each of you is being selfish but you should be selfless. Your spouse should come first and things will fall into place. If you want to be treated as a monarch you must treat your spouse as one. The queen lives with a king and vice versa."

Rabbi Moshe Feinstein z"l was the Torah giant of the last century. One day one of his students came to his apartment to ask a ruling on a question of Jewish law. The student was surprised to see Rav Moshe standing by the sink - rinsing dishes. When the Rabbi saw the shocked look on his student's face, he smiled and said: "My wife is not feeling well today and I know that she does not like dirty dishes in the sink. I thought I would make her feel better by taking away that which would bother her."

Putting the other first is a peace plan that can work in every home. It can convert a battlefield into a peaceful palace occupied by a king and queen. (One Minute With Yourself - Rabbi Raymond Beyda)

Answer to Pop Quiz: One.

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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