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Pop Quiz: Whom did Moshe appoint to testify against B'nei Yisrael when they would worship idols in the future?

by Rabbi Reuven Semah

"You should speak about them... when you lie down and when you wake up."(Debarim 6:7)

Our perashah contains the famous portion of Shema Yisrael. The Torah says we are to recite it in the night, when people go to sleep, and in the morning, when people wake up. However, we don't have the entire night or morning in which to say it. There is a specific time limit when it could be said.

The Hafess Hayim says we can learn the great importance of this rule from none other than the famous Goliath. It says in the book of Shemuel, "And the Philistine (Goliath) approached them early in the morning and in the evening." Rabbi Yohanan, in the Talmud (Sotah 42:) says that he came at those specific times to disturb the Israelites from saying Shema. He hoped that by stopping them from saying the Shema he would be able to defeat them. It's a shame that Goliath knew about the power of Shema being said on time more clearly than many of us do. Saying it too early or too late loses its value.

The Hafess Hayim explains with a parable. Once there was a man who collected crisp, new currency in his safe. One day, he decided to deposit them in a bank. When he got to the teller, he was told that these notes had expired, but the wrinkled ones in his pocket were still good! Even though they were beautiful to look at, their time had passed. Our prayers with little concentration, says the Hafess Hayim, recited at the proper time, while the Heavenly gates are open, are more likely to be accepted than the most beautiful prayers that are said too late. This is true both on Shabbat and weekdays.

All of our community's synagogues post the proper times for Shema. We are living in a time when Israel's enemies, both in the land of Israel and around the world, are on the attack. Let us all fight back with an extremely potent weapon, a weapon that can strike fear even in the heart of Goliath. Shabbat Shalom.

by Rabby Shmuel Choueka

"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.


"I implored G-d...but G-d became angry with me because of you" (Debarim 3:23,26)

According to the Ramban, Moshe concluded his rebuke to the Jewish people with this statement. He was telling them, "Not only did your forefathers cause trouble for themselves, but I was also punished because of them, to be barred from Eres Yisrael.

Why was it necessary for him to tell them of his prayers for permission to enter; he should have just said that on their account he was denied entry to Eres Yisrael?

During their forty-year sojourn in the wilderness, the Jewish people often provoked Hashem's wrath. Whenever Hashem expressed His disappointment and anger, Moshe would intercede. Not only did he pray and plead for them, but he even risked his life, telling Hashem, "And now if You would but forgive this sin! - But if not, erase me from the book that You have written" (Shemot 32:32).

When Moshe realized that his end was near, he prayed and beseeched Hashem for the opportunity to go to Eres Yisrael. He offered a total of five hundred and fifteen prayers. As he was delivering his parting message to his beloved people he exclaimed in desperation, "'v kt ibj,tu - I [alone] implored Hashem - I had hoped that the entire community would raise an uproar on my behalf, just as I was ready to give my life for the community. You should have said to Hashem, 'We will not go without Moshe.' Unfortunately, your feelings for me did not match my love for you." (Vedibarta Bam)


"When you shall beget children and children's children and you will become old in the land and will grow corrupt" (Debarim 4:25)

Moshe did not fear the immediate danger of aberration on the part of Klal Yisrael. Rather, he perceived that change would result after being in the land for a while, and after the birth of the second and third generations. Rav S.R. Hirsch z"l interprets the word o,baubu, "and you will become old" in a different manner. Yashan is not like zaken, the antonym of "young." Rather, it is more closely related to being the opposite of "new" or "fresh."

Only after the nation has settled in the land and experienced the birth of the second and third generations will they begin to consider themselves as natives. At that time they will be able to forget about their past - their origin in bondage and their exodus through the kindness of Hashem. Then their fresh enthusiasm towards misvah observance will become stale. Unfortunately, their appreciation of Hashem for his constant beneficence will become trite and mediocre.

For this reason, Hashem has interwoven the fact of redemption from Egypt into the tapestry of Jewish life and observance. This sustained reminiscence maintains our "youthful" enthusiasm, the consciousness of belonging to Hashem. Those who have shirked off this consciousness have done so because they have forgotten the genesis of their nationhood and consigned their origins to oblivion. As we "grow old" even in our land, as our relationship with Hashem "matures," we must continue to maintain the same enthusiastic, youthful attitude that prevailed at the onset of our relationship. (Peninim on the Torah)

Answer to pop quiz: Heaven and Earth.

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