JULY 19-20, 2013 13 AB 5773
"Hashem your G-d shall you fear." (Debarim 6:13)
Just recently we learned in the Daf Yomi a Gemara (Pesahim22b) that quotes the above pasuk. It states we are obligated to fear Hashem. The word "et" in the pasuk doesn't really have a translation, it's really extra. The Gemara relates that Rabbi Shimon Ha'amsuni expounded the meaning of each mention of the word "et" in the Torah. He taught that each time "et" was mentioned, it's coming to add something to the object openly stated. However, when he reached the aforementioned verse, he retracted all of his previous efforts, thinking that his premise that "et" adds something must be erroneous. Who could be included in the fear of Hashem?
That was until Rabbi Akiba explained that the "et" of the pasuk teaches that we are not only obligated to fear G-d but also to fear and respect talmidei hachamim, Torah scholars. What was so profound about Rabbi Akiba's exegetical teaching that Shimon Ha'amsuni did not teach it?
Rabbi Dani Staum quotes the Shai LaTorah that explains that Shimon Ha'amsuni could easily have taught the same teaching, but he was afraid to. Deriving the obligation to fear and honor Torah scholars from the verse that obligates us to fear and honor Hashem seems to equate them. Rabbi Akiba however felt that we are indeed obligated to demonstrate the extreme level of honor and glory to Torah scholars as we owe Hashem.
This is why 24,000 students of Rabbi Akiba dies during the days of the Omer, "because they did not act respectfully toward one another" (Yebamot 62b). Surely the students of Rabbi Akiba accorded one another respect. But it was not enough, because they were the students of Rabbi Akiba who taught that the honor and fear of Torah scholars is derived from the honor and fear of Hashem. They were obligated to demonstrate a far greater level of respect for each other than they did.
When Bar Kamsa maligned the Jews to the Roman Caesar, his first complaint was against the Torah scholars. In our efforts to rebuild the Bet Hamikdash, we must strengthen ourselves in honoring talmidei hachamim. 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 ihsv ,ruan ohbpk, "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 ihsv ,ruan ohbpk, 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
"Please let me cross and see the good land that is on the other side of the Jordan." (Debarim 3:25)
A fascinating Midrash relates part of the dialogue between Moshe Rabenu and Hashem concerning his plea that he be allowed to enter the Holy Land. Moshe asked, "Ribono Shel Olam, the bones of Yosef Hasadik will enter Eress Yisrael, and I will not enter? (Why is Yosef different than I?)" Hashem replied, "One who conceded, who acknowledged his Land, deserves to be buried there. One who did not acknowledge his Land is not buried there." Hazal note that when Potifar's wife failed in her attempt to seduce Yosef, she cried out, "Look! He brought us a Hebrew man to sport with us!" (Beresheet 39:14). It was clear to everyone that Yosef was a Jew. Yet, when Moshe saved Yitro's daughters, they described him in the following way: "An Egyptian man saved us from the shepherds" (Shemot 2:19). Moshe remained silent to the allegation that he was Egyptian, while Yosef affirmed his Jewish roots.
Hazal teach us that Yosef merited burial in Eress Yisrael, because he had affirmed his Jewish lineage. He was not ashamed of acknowledging his Jewishness, despite his Egyptian surroundings. In Egypt, they clearly did not think highly of the Jews. Yet, Yosef was not afraid to assert his Jewishness. Moshe, however, did not take this approach. As a result, his request to enter the Holy Land was denied.
While the critique against Moshe was clearly on a microscopic level, in light of the fact that Moshe was the preeminent Jewish leader of Klal Yisrael, we still must ask ourselves where are we holding with regard to expressing and manifesting our Jewish image. Do we alter the mode of our public appearance upon finding ourselves in an environment in which our Jewish comfort level is challenged? A Jew must maintain his Jewish countenance, his external sense of pride, regardless of where he finds himself. This is especially true at a time in which so many of our brethren travel throughout the world to areas where a Jewish presence is quite limited, and often even non-existent. We have nothing to be ashamed of. On the contrary, our mode of dress gives us reason to be proud of our private, modest, manner of not calling attention to ourselves, nor following the hukat ha'goyim, the utterly inane style of dress adopted by contemporary society. When a Jew walks down the street, it should be noticeable that he is Jewish - and he should be proud of it. (Peninim on the Torah)
"You shall love Hashem, your G-d." (Debarim 6:5)
The Talmud Yoma 86b delineates between hillul Hashem, desecrating Hashem's Name, and Kiddush Hashem, sanctifying Hashem's Name. Four varieties of penance atone for the sins one commits. First is teshubah, repentance, which atones without the need for added yissurim, pain and troubles. There are sins for which teshubah requires Yom Kippur as an added penance. We have so far alluded to three forms of teshubah: teshubah alone; teshubah with yissurim; teshubah with Yom Kippur. One last sin goes beyond the parameters of teshubah, yissurim and Yom Kippur. It is a transgression that is neither atoned for by Yom Kippur, nor cleansed by yissurim. Only one form of penance is left: mitah, death, which is the ultimate purification process.
The Talmud presents a number of examples of hillul Hashem, the common thread among them is an activity which has a negative effect on the spiritual demeanor of others. Concerning Kiddush Hashem, Hazal teach that one should see to it that Shem Shamayim mit'aheb al yadcha, "The name of Heaven becomes beloved through you." This is derived from the above pasuk: "You shall love Hashem." How does one manifest his love for the Almighty? One should read, study and also serve talmidei hachamim, Torah scholars. His dealings with people, both business and otherwise, should be conducted in an easy-going, pleasant manner. This will cause people to comment: "Praised is the Rabbi who taught him Torah; woe are those people who did not learn Torah. That man who studied Torah, how pleasant are his deeds, how proper are his actions."
Hazal teach us an important lesson concerning Kiddush Hashem. We have often defined Kiddush Hashem as mesirut nefesh, self-sacrifice. If a Jew must choose between death and apostasy, he chooses death. This is Kiddush Hashem. While it certainly is that, Kiddush Hashem goes beyond one's preparedness to die for Hashem; It is equally important to live in such a manner that he sanctifies Hashem's Name with his every action - that you become the medium for increasing love for Hashem.
We wonder why this message could not have been conveyed more briefly. Hazal should have said, "One should act appropriately in his dealings with people, so that people will comment concerning his wonderful actions." Was it necessary to add: "Praised is his father; praised is his Rabbi, etc."? Rav Eliyahu Lopian, z"l, derives from here that without Torah there is no appropriate behavior, no proper manners. That which we see on the street is fleeting and quickly renounced. The only human decency that endures is that which is the result of Torah study. Positive character traits that are not refined by a life of dedication to Torah have no lasting value. They will quickly dissipate under pressure, falling prey to adversity and challenge. Torah hones one's personality as he becomes one with its spiritual Source. As it is eternal, so, too, do his character traits become an integral part of his essence. People may not be able to determine the extent of his learning, but they will certainly be impressed by his character refinement. (Peninim on the Torah)
Did you ever watch a little boy acting wild just to attract notice? Attention seeking changes with age. A small child who feels that no one is paying attention to him will do anything to create excitement. Yet, a teenager who develops an unsightly blemish will refuse to go out in public because she is convinced that everyone will laugh at her. A middle-aged person might not dress to perfection because "nobody ever notices me." And once people join the ranks of the elderly, their attitude often becomes, "I hope no one notices me!"
All of these attitudes demonstrate a lack of self-confidence. If you learn the right values from truly ethical teachers, you can develop the ability to decide whether something is right or wrong without taking a survey of friends, neighbors, and business associates. You will be able to decide whether you were dressed properly, spoke effectively at the meeting, or dealt with any situation in the correct fashion. Self-confidence means you trust yourself to evaluate your own actions.
Before questioning your behavior because you fear that it might not meet the approval of your associates, evaluate your behavior internally. It takes a minute, but it will save you from many mistakes you might otherwise make while trying to get the approval of others. (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.
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