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WATCH YOURSELF by Rabbi 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.


"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.


"And He repays His enemies to their face to destroy them." (Debarim 7:10)

Rashi explains that Hashem repays His enemies during their lifetime for whatever good deeds they have performed, in order that they be lost in the World to Come. This is puzzling. It is known that Hashem does not reward one in this temporal world, since all the pleasures of this world could not measure up to the value of reward effected by the performance of even one misvah. How then are the enemies of Hashem rewarded during their lifetime for their few good deeds? Rabbi Chaim Shmuelevitz z"l explains that Hashem rewards one according to the value the individual places in this misvah. We can derive this from Esav's selling of the birthright for a bowl of porridge. Could such a sale be valid? Would this not be considered fraudulent extortion to barter a bowl of soup for such a noble birthright? We must therefore state that Esav's own estimate of the birthright established its value as commensurate to its purchase price. Hashem therefore rewards the wicked in this world, since they exhibit a tendency to view His misvot as inferior to worldly pleasures. Rabbi Moshe Shternbuch notes from this thesis that one who wastes time from Torah study in order to provide for himself any form of physical worldly pleasure, or to prevent a monetary loss, conveys that he does not consider the Torah worthy of his esteem. The value we place on spiritual entities is the yardstick for measuring our reward for their performance. (Peninim on the Torah)


"See that I have taught you statutes and laws as Hashem, my G-d commanded me to do so in the midst of the land." (Debarim 4:5)

There have been philosophers who taught that if a person wants to live a life of sanctity and perfection of the soul, he must flee from inhabited places and live alone in a wilderness. There he will separate himself from other people and from all worldly pursuits. But this is not the path of the Torah. Moshe told the people, "I have taught you to follow the commandments in the midst of the land." That is, you should live an elevated life among other people. True sanctity and perfection is to live among people and behave both towards G-d and towards your fellow men in a manner consistent with Torah values.

The ideal of Torah is to bring sanctity and idealism into all aspects of human endeavor. If you live alone, you will be free from anger, envy, causing other people pain, etc. But you will be missing opportunities for kindness, compassion and love. Moreover, not becoming angry at others when you are alone on an island, or among people who speak a foreign language is no challenge. Not becoming angry when you are living among members of your family or acquaintances who do things you find irritating is a test of your true level. Not deceiving others is no problem if there is nobody around to deceive. But the true test of honesty is when you have to deal with others. Only when you are in the company of other people can you fulfill all aspects of the Torah. (Growth Through Torah)

Pop quiz: What other name does our perashah use for Mount Sinai?
Answer to pop quiz:Horeb.

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