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Haftarah: Melachim I 2:1-12

December 17-18, 2010 11 Tebet 5771

The fast of Asarah B'Tebet will be on Friday, December 17.


"As for me, I have given you one portion more than your brothers which I took from the hand of [Esav] with my sword and with my bow." (Beresheet 48:2)

Feeling that his death was near, Ya'akob sent for his son Yosef, the only one of his sons who held power, and asked Yosef to swear that he would bring him to Eress Yisrael for burial. Later in the perashah, having blessed Yosef's sons, Ya'akob turned to Yosef and awarded him an additional portion of Eress Yisrael. Rashi brings two interpretations of this gift. One of them is the birthright of the double portion that normally goes to the first-born son. Ya'akob rewarded Yosef that his two sons would receive a tribal portion in the land, so Yosef would receive two portions of land. Ya'akob got this birthright by taking it from Esav. If so, the words "my sword and my bow" are figurative names for the spiritual weapons that gave him the right to gain the birthright. The Targum says these weapons are the prayers of Ya'akob. In other words, in the spiritual world the real weapons are not swords and bows.

As a boy, Rabbi Yehudah Tsadkah, who later became the Rosh Yeshivah of Porat Yosef, fell seriously ill one night. He was rushed to the hospital where his condition stabilized, and the danger soon passed. In the morning, his family was visited by the Kabbalist Rabbi Ephraim Cohen, who came to inquire about Yehudah's condition. "How did you know he had taken ill?" he was asked. Rabbi Cohen replied, "Last night, the Ben Ish Hai (who was the great-uncle of R' Yehudah Tsadkah) appeared to me in a dream. He informed me that Yehudah had taken ill and implored me to storm the gates of Heaven with prayer."

Apparently there is a power to a person's prayers in this world that the saddik in the next world does not possess. This is why the Ben Ish Hai, from his place in the World to Come, had to request that Rabbi Ephraim Cohen pray on the child's behalf. The power of prayer is the true sword and bow of a Jew, his most potent weapon in any situation. Shabbat Shaom. Rabbi Reuven Semah

"And Ya'akob was gathered unto his people" (Beresheet 49:33)

The Rabbis note that it never says that Ya'akob Abinu died. Rather, it says he was gathered unto his people, which means his mission in life was over, and he was no longer functioning. But death is never ascribed to Ya'akob. Although this can be understood on many levels, one lesson to be derived is that certain people live on many years after they leave this world. Indeed, righteous people are considered alive even after death, because their deeds and values continue to exist in their children and offspring.

We should think about our departed parents and grandparents, to see if they are still living inside of us. I know of several people who, before every major decision, ask themselves, "What would my father or mother do in this case?" Their parents are still alive for them.

However, the Talmud says that wicked people are considered dead even in their lifetime. That is, they are stagnating and are dead internally as far as their souls are concerned. We must ask ourselves, how alive are we now? Can we be doing more to be even more alive? After 120 years will our impact on our families and community be substantial enough to be called living forever, like Ya'akob? Shabbat Shalom. Rabbi Shmuel Choueka


While standing on the steps of the Temple Mount and viewing the crowds who came to visit, Ben Zoma remarked, "Blessed is the One Who created all these people to serve me!" This statement could be grossly misunderstood if viewed as a selfish comment by an egocentric individual. But the meaning behind Ben Zoma's observation is quite different. Ben Zoma was humbly acknowledging the interdependence of human beings. Craftsmen, farmers, technicians, doctors, freight handlers - no one person can do everything alone. In order to survive, individuals need a great variety of goods and services which they cannot provide for themselves, either due to lack of talent or lack of wherewithal. Ben Zoma was acknowledging his own shortcomings and his appreciation to Hashem for creating so many different people to provide for each other.

Life requires that you interact with your fellow man. Think, for a moment, how many different people it takes to provide the food, clothing, shelter, transportation, and other goods and services you need just to get through one day. It only takes a little thought to consider that all has been provided for you and to appreciate it. "Blessed is He, Who created all these to serve you!" (One Minute With Yourself - Rabbi Raymond Beyda)

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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.

Call to 646-279-8712 or email (Privacy of email limited by the email address)

Please pass this message along. Tizku L'misvot.

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