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Haftarah: Melachim I 2:1-12

DECEMBER 13-14, 2013 11 TEBET 5774

The Fast of Asarah B'Tebet will be on Friday, December 13.


"And the tenth fast shall be for the house of Yehudah happiness and joy and good holidays." (Zechariah 8:19)

This coming Friday is the fast of the Tenth of Tebet. It is unusual to have a fast on Friday and we will fast until 5:00 and break our fast with the Friday night Kiddush. We know that we never fast on Shabbat. If Tish'ah B'Ab falls out on Shabbat we delay the fast until Sunday. Yet if the fast of the Tenth of Tebet were to fall on Shabbat, we would fast on Shabbat just like we do for Yom Kippur. While our calendar, established by Hillel, ensures that the Tenth of Tebet does not fall on Shabbat, it can occasionally fall on Friday. That is the case this year. This seems a strange halachah. If Tish'ah B'Ab would fall on Shabbat we fast on Sunday, but if the Tenth of Tebet would fall on Shabbat we would fast on Shabbat. What is different about the Tenth of Tebet?

The primary reason for this fast is that on this day the siege of Yerushalayim by the Babylonians began. Two and a half years later the siege culminated with the destruction of the Bet Hamikdash. Why indeed do we fast on this day even on Shabbat if that would still be possible?

The Hatam Sofer offers the following powerful explanation. The day the Babylonians began this siege in this world was the day that the fate of Yerushalayim was decided in Heaven. The Heavenly court weighed the evidence with the prosecuting angels calling for destruction and the defending angels pleading for mercy. The former won the argument and the judgment of destruction was handed down.

Our Sages teach us that in every generation that the Bet Hamikdash is not rebuilt, it is as if it was destroyed anew. Thus, every year on the Tenth of Tebet the Heavenly court weights whether the Bet Hamikdash shall be "destroyed" again or, at long last, rebuilt. Now we can understand why we don't fast on Tish'ah B'Ab if it falls on Shabbat (even though the fast is more strict) but we would if the Tenth of Tebet would fall on Shabbat. On Tish'ah B'Ab we mourn for the past and therefore we don't fast on Shabbat. But, on the Tenth of Tebet we fast in an attempt to influence the future. Were it possible for this day to fall on Shabbat we would fast because preventing a repeat destruction of the Bet Hamikdash would be an Oneg Shabbat (a pleasure on Shabbat) for us. It is a momentous, pivotal day on our calendar. It is a day with enormous repercussions for our people and the entire world. May we merit the geulah speedily in our time. Shabbat Shalom. Rabbi Reuven Semah

The Gemara (Sotah 13a) tells us that when Ya'akob's family took his coffin to the Me'arat Hamachpelah to bury him, Esav appeared and protested that the last spot in the cave belongs to him, Esav, and not to Ya'akob. The sons of Ya'akob began to argue with Esav, trying to prove that the right to burial in that cave was sold to their father with the birthright. Esav argues that this was not included, so they decided to send Naftali, who was as swift as a deer, to Egypt to bring the original document. Ya'akob had a grandson named Hushim (the son of Dan) who was deaf, and didn't hear all the give and take. When Hushim saw that Ya'akob was not being buried he asked (in some form of sign language), "Why is there a delay?" When he was told that Esav was blocking the burial, he took a weapon and chopped Esav's head off, saying, "How could we leave our grandfather, Ya'akob, lying in disgrace while we wait for a document?"

The Rabbis ask why only Hushim, the grandson of Ya'akob, had the inspiration to do such a courageous act. Where were all the sons of Ya'akob themselves? Surely they loved and respected their father at least as much as Hushim ben Dan!

Rav Chaim Shmulevitz says that we see from here what happens when we get used to something. The brothers were already involved in the negotiations with Esav so they didn't perceive it as such a disgrace for Ya'akob to be lying around since they were already somewhat accustomed to the situation. Hushim, however, was deaf, and didn't hear all that was going on. He therefore saw the situation in all of its stark reality, and reacted by killing Esav.

The lesson to be derived from this is that we all too often get accustomed to situations. Many times this is beneficial, so that we wouldn't always be shocked by things. Sometimes, however, being used to certain situations, we don't react the way we are supposed to. We become too accepting of things which should be corrected or spoken about. We should try to talk things over with an outsider who will see the situation from a fresh point of view, thereby getting an objective opinion. Sometimes, our spouse can be objective enough when he or she is not involved too deeply in whatever is bothering us. One way or another we should try to look at situations from a new, fresh perspective, which will help us in doing the right thing. Shabbat Shalom. Rabbi Shmuel Choueka


"Ya'akob called for his sons and said, "Assemble yourselves, and I will tell you what will befall you in the End of Days." (Beresheet 49:1)

Rashi teaches that Ya'akob Abinu was about to reveal the ketz, end of galut, exile, to his sons, but, at that moment, the Shechinah, Divine Presence, departed from him. The Shlah HaKadosh explains that Ya'akob intimated to his sons the key to ending the exile. He told them He'asfu! "Gather together; assemble yourselves as one!" v'agidah lachem, "and group yourselves together in one congregation; one assembly, all focused on Hashem. As long as there is pirud, separation, divisiveness, among the brothers, the Shechinah will remove itself from you, and the Geulah, Final Redemption, for which you are all yearning, will not take place."

The Kotzker Rebbe, z"l, explains this similarly, but offers a different homiletic twist. He'asfu v'agidah lachem. When each and every one of you is b'bechinat, conceptually, as efes, nothing; when you rid yourselves of arrogance, and instead take a dim view of yourselves; when you are efes in your own eyes; then v'agidah lachem, you will merit to become one agudah, group. This will bring about Acharit HaYamim, the End of Days. When one Jew thinks he is better, more dignified, a greater scholar, more observant, than the other, there simply cannot be a cohesive framework. The exile will sadly continue as long as Jews feel a sense of dominance over one another. We need to feel a sense of afsiut, insignificance, about ourselves. (Peninim on the Torah)


Saul was not the most popular guy in the office. He was not out to perform; rather, hew was fixated on impressing the boss. Like all employees, Saul had some shortcomings, but he would never acknowledge his areas of weakness. Instead, he would try to sell the boss on how good his performance was and how well he completed his tasks.

This alone would not have made him so unpopular. What annoyed his co-workers more than anything was Saul's tendency to shirk the truth. Whenever he erred or performed poorly, Saul would say or do something to cover up the facts. His co-workers could not tolerate his approach. Sometimes Saul would even tell an outright lie to make the boss think he was the perfect employee. One untruthful statement very often led to another as Saul spun his tangled web of deceit, trying to transform his weaknesses into apparent strengths.

Approval seeking can ruin lives. People who spend time concealing their faults in order to win the esteem of others will eventually trip up, and all that they worked so hard to hide will be revealed.

Falsehood, in any case, does not last. The truth eventually wins out. The Hebrew word for lying, sheker, has three letters. Each of the letters does not have a base. Each letter cannot stand.

The Hebrew word for truth, emet, has three letters as well. Each of the letters has a base. Truth can indeed stand.

Constantly making an effort to hide your faults will make you feel like a spy in enemy territory, tense and nervous about the possibility of being caught. But being honest with others about yourself will help you be more relaxed. Of course, it is not smart to "tell all" to everyone you encounter, but being less defensive about your imperfections is definitely less taxing.

Catch yourself when you are about to cover up a fault or mistake, and tell the truth instead. Then bask in how good it feels to know that you don't have to deal with the pressure of covering up one lie with another. It only takes a moment of honesty, and could eventually become a habit that serves as a great "tranquilizer" in your already overly tense world. (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.

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

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