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Haftarah: Hoshea 11:7 - 12:12

DECEMBER 2-3, 2011 7 KISLEV 5772


Ya'akob said when he saw them, 'This is a G-dly camp!'" (Beresheet 32:3)

When Ya'akob left his father's house he had a dream and saw angels going up and down a ladder. When Ya'akob returned to his father's house he saw angels again, but this time he saw them while he was awake. This is unusual, because the first time he was in Israel at the site of the Holy of Holies of the Bet Hamikdash. Should not his prophetic powers there have been greater since he was in Israel at its holiest place? And yet, the second time he was on foreign soil and he was able to see the angels while he was awake, which is a higher level of prophecy than being asleep.

The answer is that it all depends on where one's thoughts are. When he was lying in the Holy of Holies, he was thinking about Haran, his destination outside of Israel. Therefore, he could only see angels in a trance. Now, however, as he was returning, his thoughts were on the Holy Land, so he could see angels even while awake.

Similarly, on Kal Nidre night, we say Baruch Shem, the second line of the Shema, out loud, like angels, even though we just ate like human beings. That's because our minds are on Yom Kippur. At arbit after Yom Kippur, however, we say Baruch Shem in a whisper even though we have spent all day in prayer and fasting, because our minds are on the food we are about to eat.

We learn from Ya'akob that no matter where we are, if we think abut Israel or the Bet Midrash or the synagogue, or just about Shabbat coming and we look forward to it, it's like we are there. This way Hashem blesses us and protects us on that higher level. Shabbat Shalom. Rabbi Reuven Semah

"Behold the day is still long; it is not time to bring back the sheep." (Beresheet 29:7)

Ya'akob came to Haran to find a wife as his parents commanded him. He comes to a well which is covered by a large stone, and sees the shepherds just waiting around, wasting time. He first asks them about the welfare of Laban and his family, and then goes on to ask them, "Why are you just lolling around not doing your job? It's not time to go home." To us, it seems that Ya'akob is out of line in criticizing the shepherds. What business is it to him what they are doing? They are not his workers!

The Sforno points out that a righteous person cannot bear to see wrongdoing. When Ya'akob saw them not doing their job, it pained him to see someone stealing from his boss. Therefore, he gave them some constructive criticism. To follow this one step further, when we see something wrong and do not react, so that misdeed becomes light in our own eyes, it is easier for us to fall into that same trap. Many times, we see things which are incorrect, such as disrespectful behavior, or business practices which are less than honest or ethical. If we have the ability to say something and be heard, we should consider the right way to do it rather than just overlook it. This way we will have fulfilled the misvah of rebuking someone and we will be less prone to be influenced by that behavior. Of course, we cannot always say something; each situation must be judged separately. Ya'akob Abinu is teaching us that we should try not to get used to unacceptable practices, so that we will always remain with our proper standards of conduct. Shabbat Shalom. Rabbi Shmuel Choueka


"And Ya'akob saw the face of Laban and behold he was not with him as previously." (Beresheet 31:2)

From this verse we see the importance of being able to notice the emotional state of another person from the expression on his face. Laban did not say any unkind words to Ya'akob. Nothing verbal was communicated that would imply that Laban felt resentment or animosity towards Ya'akob. Nevertheless, Ya'akob was sensitive to the look on Laban's face.

Especially with people you see on a regular basis, take note of how they look when they are pleased with someone, and how they look when they are displeased with another person. By gaining the sensitivity to detect these differences you will be able to tell when something you said or did offended him or hurt his feelings.

From here we can also see how careful we must be with our own facial expressions when talking to people. This is especially so when the person you are talking to is very sensitive and his feelings are hurt easily. You might be thinking of something unpleasant totally unrelated to the person you are speaking with. But the person might feel that you are upset with him and this could cause him emotional pain. Rabbi Chayim Mordechai Katz used to stress how careful we should be not to cause any suffering to another person even by a grimace. When you master the ability to read facial expressions you will be able to do more hesed and will be able to avoid causing others pain.

A famous Rosh Yeshivah once said that his father was always extremely careful to smile and look very happy when he greeted someone. He started making an effort to do this after an incident when he was preoccupied when he greeted a certain person.

"Don't you kike me any more? Did I do something wrong?" the man asked him.

"Of course you haven't done anything wrong," replied the Rosh Yeshivah. "What gave you the impression that I have anything against you?"

"You had a frown on your face when I greeted you," the man said.

After reassuring the man that the frown had nothing to do with him, the Rosh Yeshivah resolved from that moment on to always be careful to have a pleased look on his face when talking to others. (Growth through Torah)


Anger is usually counterproductive. The Torah regards it as one of the worst character traits and a sin. The Zohar says it is tantamount to idol worship.

Our Sages explain that if people have true belief in Hashem and His Divine control of all that happens in His Creation, then they will not get angry. How can they? Everything is Hashem's Will! Losing one's temper is a way of ignoring David haMelech's practice: "Sheveetee Hashem l'negdee tameed - I have set Hashem before me always" (Tehillim 16:8)

The story is told about a great Hassidic Rebbe who was planning to set out on a long journey at dawn the next day. He wanted his wife to prepare an early dinner so that he could get to sleep early, but instead, she gave him his meal much later than usual. His reaction was commendable. Instead of blowing up at her for not complying with his wishes, he thought, "I should get angry because of what happened. But the only reason I wanted to have the meal early was so that I could travel to do the Will of my Creator. Well, it is the Will of my Creator that I remain calm."

The Talmud teaches that those who overcome feelings of anger are forgiven for all their transgressions. It's worth it, isn't it? So why not "let it slide" today? In one short minute you can clean your slate of all sins. (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)

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