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Haftarah: Yehezkel 36:16-36

MARCH 16-17, 2012 23 ADAR 5772


"You shall not kindle fire in any of your dwellings on Shabbat day." (Shemot 35:3)

A true story is told (quoted from the book Alenu Leshabeah) about an Israeli couple who lived many years on a secular kibbutz in Israel. As years went by they felt a certain emptiness in their lives. They realized that the lack of religion was the cause of this feeling. Slowly they returned to the Torah true way of life. They also decided to move to Meah Shearim in Jerusalem. This amazing couple continued to grow until the husband became a completely committed Jew. The wife also became very religious. There was only one thing that held her back from complete observance. She had a strong smoking habit. This habit was so strong that when Shabbat came around she couldn't stop. She actually smoked on Shabbat. As a matter of fact, the most unusual part of this habit was that it was only on Shabbat that she couldn't stop; she had no trouble the rest of the week. Everyone tried to get her to stop to no avail. When Shabbat began she had an uncontrollable need to smoke.

Eventually the people that were trying to help her went to Rabbi Elyashiv (may Hashem grant him refuah shelemah) to ask his advice. He told them to check out her mother and grandmother and even before them to make sure that they were all Jewish.

After a short time it was revealed that her grandmother was not Jewish! This translates to mean that our smoker was not Jewish. They immediately went to the Rabbi to tell him the news. His reaction was amazing. He said, "Look and see how much mercy Hashem has! We are talking about a woman who wants to do the will of Hashem. However, Hashem knows that she isn't Jewish (apparently the woman herself didn't know). A non-Jew is forbidden to observe the Shabbat and is punished with death. But, since she wanted so much to come close to the Jewish people, in Heaven they had to prevent her from committing the sin of observing the Shabbat. So Hashem gave her an uncontrollable urge to smoke, which prevented her from observing Shabbat. Plus, this led to us finding out that she wasn't Jewish and needed to be converted! So I recommend to do the conversion and you will see that the urge will end." And so it was! Shabbat Shalom. Rabbi Reuven Semah

When Moshe Rabenu called upon everyone to donate to the Mishkan, the women stepped forward and offered their copper mirrors which they used to preen themselves. Moshe was understandingly reluctant to accept such a type of donation, whereupon Hashem told him to accept them because they are very beloved in His Eyes (Hashem's). These mirrors were used to make the women pretty in the eyes of their husbands when they were all downtrodden in the mud pits of Egypt, and through these mirrors, the Jewish people multiplied to become the nation of Hashem.

Interestingly, these copper ornaments were used to make the Kiyor, the washbasin which the Kohanim used to wash themselves before the Holy Service. Also, the water which was used to make a suspected adulterer's drink came from this basin. The lesson to be learned is that since these mirrors promoted love and loyalty between husband and wife, the waters found in this Kiyor would also guarantee that if a woman is free of sin, she would be found innocent and return to her husband. When someone does an act of love and devotion, anything which comes from that act will have those same characteristics. We should realize that nothing is forgotten by Hashem, and if someone does a kindness or a good deed with true feelings, this will only bring goodness and blessing to himself and others. Shabbat Shalom. Rabbi Shmuel Choueka


"You shall not kindle fire in any of your dwellings on the Shabbat day."(Shemot 35:3)

The Shalah Hakadosh writes that the esh, fire, alludes to the fire of machloket, dispute, and ka'as, anger. Controversy sparked by anger consumes as much as fire does. One must be cautious never to allow these flames of indignation and contention to kindle and surely not to fan them. As bad as it is during the weekday, the evil increases many-fold if the sanctity of Shabbat is disturbed by these flames. The Zohar Hakadosh says: "Meritorious is he who guards his house, the heart, on Shabbat, seeing to it that no depression or bitterness enters into this domain." It is about this fire that the Torah writes: "You shall not kindle fire in any of your dwellings on the Shabbat day." Clearly, one who becomes infuriated is considered as if he kindled the fires of Gehinnom, Purgatory.

Veritably, writes the Maaneh Rach, the fire of ka'as is more serious than physical fire. While physical flames destroy physical matter, the flames spurred by anger destroy the neshamah, soul. The Torah, Bemidbar 31:23, writes: "Everything that comes into the fire - you shall pass through the fire." This means that heat causes the pores of a metal vessel to expand, so that it absorbs the taste of foods that come into contact with it. In order to remove what has been absorbed by heat/fire, one must apply heat to the affected utensil to purge it of the absorbed taste. Horav Zalman Sorotzkin, z"l, interprets this pasuk homiletically. Anything that has come in contact with fire - the fire of anger - must have that fire/anger purged only one way: the fire of Purgatory.

The sin is much worse if it occurs on Shabbat Kodesh. Harav Chaim Palagi, z"l, writes in his Kaf HaChaim, "I saw with my own eyes that in any household which was plagued by controversy either prior to Shabbat or on Friday night, something bad would occur during the coming week to a member of that household."

Shabbat is yom menuchah u'kedushah, a day of rest and holiness. "Rest" applies to physical labor; one does not perform labor on Shabbat, because it detracts from the character of the day. Rest means that one does not exert his emotions, using Shabbat as a time for dispute. It is a time of peace and solitude. It is a time, as we say in Birkat Hamaazon, shelo tehe tzarah v'yagon v'anachah b'yom menuchoteinu, "that there be no distress, grief, or lament on this day of our contentment." This is a prayer in which we ask the Almighty not to permit our day of rest to be "disturbed." The Ponevezer Rav, z"l, explained this phrase with the following twist.

The Rav was once describing with great enthusiasm how the serenity of Shabbat permeated the psyche of Lithuanian Jews. He focused specifically on the town of Vidz, relating the following incident. One Shabbat morning, a fire broke out in the town. The house of one of the finest, G-d-fearing Jews in the community was completely destroyed. Wooden homes do not stand up well against fire. The Rav of the city went that afternoon to seek out the hapless congregant in order to offer his sympathy and encouragement. He found him sitting atop one of the cinder blocks, finishing Seudah Shelishit and singing zemirot l'kavod Shabbat! It was as if nothing had happened; as if his house was not gone; as if everything that he possessed had not been destroyed. It was Shabbat Kodesh. Concerning this incident, the Ponevezer Rav said, "The concept of she'lo tehei tzarah v'yagon b'yom menuchoteinu, was so much a part of this Jew's psyche, that the she'lo tehei - 'that there not be' - was not an aspiration, or even a halachah - it was a metziut, an entity! On Shabbos Kodesh no distress, grief or lament can exist. It is Shabbat and, therefore, it cannot be!" That was the Jew of old. (Peninim on the Torah)


Many people find it difficult to come across a good investment. Others can't seem to finish the fiscal year with a profit. "How does my friend Joe do it?" they ask themselves in frustration.

The answer: Most successful businesspeople figure out the profit-or-loss for any proposal, and do not accept the deal or order unless it will yield a bottom-line profit at the end of the day.

The Talmud tells us that the business of the soul is no different than the financial dealings of this world; both require calculating gain versus loss. The Mesillat Yesharim (chapter one) also teaches that we must make calculations about gain and loss before acting. "What do I gain or lose by performing t his commandment?" and "What do I profit if I perform this transgression?" are questions we must ask regarding every deal that comes to the table of spiritual life. We should make an accounting of our behavior each day, and work on correcting mistakes and building a profitable "business."

Each time you are confronted with the choice of doing what the Torah says is correct or violating its teachings, stop and consider the eternal gain that will be your "profit" if you do what Hashem wants. This businesslike approach to building your spiritual self will yield revenue for eternity! (One Minute With Yourself - Rabbi Raymond Beyda)


Rabbi Berel Wein was once invited to a meeting with the editor of the Detroit Free Press. This is the primary newspaper in Detroit, Michigan. The editor took the liberty of sharing a story with Rabbi Wein. His mother had come to America when she was eighteen years old. Uneducated and naive to the American way of life, this peasant girl was hired as a domestic maid by an observant Jewish family. In fact, the head of the household was the president of the local Orthodox shul.

The young girl, whose name was Mary, knew nothing about Jews or Judaism. I guess they were not part of Ireland's peasant culture. The family was well-to-do and left for their winter vacation in mid-December, with plans to return on the night of December 24th. Mary realized that there would be no Xmas tree there to greet them. So she took the money that the family had left her for expenses and went out to purchase a beautiful tree; she decked it out with all of the trimmings. The lights shone bright and colorful. To add to the festive surprise, she decorated the front of the house with all kinds of Xmas regalia.

The family returned on December 24th. When they saw their house, they thought that perhaps they had made the wrong turn. They pulled back out of the driveway and drove around the block - only to discover again that their house was decorated to the hilt with everything Xmas. I forgot to mention that they lived only a few doors from the shul where the man was president. What a "wonderful" surprise.

Mary was so excited to greet her employers. After all, she had really gone out of her way to make them happy. During this time, the head of the family was contemplating exactly what he was going to tell the members of his shul about this. The man entered the house, greeted Mary and asked her to step into his study. "Mary," he began, "no one has ever made such a beautiful gesture to us. You have really gone out of your way to make us feel welcome. Let me give you something for all of your trouble." He proceeded to take out a one-hundred dollar bill from his pocket. This was not pocket change during the depression years. He gave it to her and said, "Mary, this is a sign of our appreciation." He then explained to her that Jews do not have Xmas trees.

When the editor concluded his story, he told Rabbi Wein, "And this is why there has never been an editorial critical of Israel in the Detroit Free Press since I have become editor, and I promise you that there never will be as long as I serve as editor."

The shul president's reaction to Mary's misplaced welcome was probably not the same one many of us would manifest. He showed sympathy instead of anger; compassion instead of fury; sechel, common sense, instead of impetuous outrage. This was the right thing to do. His Kiddush Hashem was rewarded over time. The difference was in curtailing his anger, not losing it over something meaningless. The angry person shoots first and then thinks. The ba'al sechel who is in control of his emotions knows when to "load his gun" and - on the rare occasion - when to "use it." . (Peninim on the Torah)

* * * * *

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.

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