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Haftarah: Yeshayahu 6:1-13

FEBRUARY 13-14, 2009 20 SHEBAT 5769

Pop Quiz: Who came with Yitro to greet Moshe and Bnei Yisrael?


"You will be to me a kingdom of ministers and a holy nation." (Shemot 19:6)

In our perashah, the Jewish nation is given the holy Torah, and we read the Ten Commandments. In offering the Torah to us, Hashem describes who we are and why we are the ones chosen to receive the Torah. It behooves every Jew to know and understand this statement. Rabbi Avigdor Miller writes: Hashem had instructed Moshe to say to the Jewish people, "And you will be to me a kingdom of priests, a holy nation." There are two aspects of being a Kohen. There is the title and there is the role.

The title denotes that we are a nation of dignitaries, people of royal bearing. Men and women, boys and girls - we are all Kohanim. A non-observant Jew is a potential Jew. Therefore, this grand title, this important function has nothing to do with him.

The role? Who is a Kohen? A Kohen is a person who learns Torah. Those who feel that they can be Orthodox without learning Torah, that whenever they have a question they will simply ask the Rabbi, have been influenced by the gentile nations. We are a nation that learns Torah whenever there is a spare moment. The duty of that nation is to pick up a sefer.

This is the nation that dedicates every moment solely for the singular purpose of serving Hashem, and only that is our delight, our interest and our total pursuit.

Recently, there was an inauguration of a new United States President. Millions watched, and many said it was history being made. But at most, it was history for one country. Our inauguration at Har Sinai was history for all of mankind and for all of the universe. We are truly humbled, and we should always try our best to be worthy of this great honor. Shabbat Shalom. Rabbi Reuven Semah

"Do not bear Hashem's name (in an oath)" (Shemot 20:7)

One of the Ten Commandments is to not swear falsely or in vain. To swear falsely is self understood, but to swear in vain means to proclaim a fact which is obvious such as swearing that a book is a book, or anything similar to that. The Gemara tells us that the earth trembled when this prohibition was uttered because using Hashem's name in vain is truly a terrible thing with dire consequences. This should make us be careful whenever we mention Hashem's name in any situation. In addition, this should make us hesitate to swear in any manner, even without using Hashem's name, but all the more so when mentioning the Holy Name. Many times people say "I swear to G-d" in order to make a point - this is not something to take lightly. We must watch our mouths and get into the habit of saying "Beli Neder" ("Without an oath") even when not mentioning "I swear".

Here is a short list of what is considered an oath:

1) By G-d, this is so-and-so.

2) G-d is my witness that I did or did not do this.

3) By my life that such and such happened or didn't happen.

4) I should be cursed if this isn't true, etc.

We see from here that even without using the word 'oath' or 'swear', we could be obligating ourselves in a very heavy way. We must also be careful from saying "I am going to do this misvah (such as giving charity, going to shul, etc.)" without saying "Beli Neder" because it's also considered binding. Also, if we do certain practices three times it may be considered as a vow, so we should say "Beli Neder." Let us attempt to be on guard and not swear in any which way or form. If one has a doubt, contact a Rabbi to see if he may need Hatarah. Shabbat Shalom. Rabbi Shmuel Choueka


"And you shall perceive from among all the people able men, G-d fearing, men of truth, hating unjust gain…and Moshe chose able men from all of Yisrael" (Shemot 18:21,25)

This pasuk seems to imply that it would not be easy to find truly honest and G-d fearing men. Indeed, Moshe had to rely upon ruach hakodesh, Divine inspiration, in determining the true nature of these men. Rav Moshe Shternbuch points out that individuals of such laudable character do not seek to publicize themselves because they are secure in their own self-image. They tend to hide from public recognition. Moshe had to resort to a somewhat novel approach for finding these unique individuals.

The Hizkuni makes a profound interpretation of yir'ei Elokim, G-d fearing men. He suggests that a true yareh Shamayim, G-d fearing Jew, fears only Hashem and no other being. Fear of man detracts from fear of Hashem. This concept may also be advanced in regard to bitahon, trust in Hashem. To place one's trust in Hashem means to devote one's entire faith to Hashem. To apportion one's bitahon indicates a deficiency in one's trust in Hashem's "ability" to minister to his needs. (Peninim on the Torah)


Most people would agree that envy is a negative trait. Usually, this would be true.

If, however, the envy is of the high level of scholarship that some people are fortunate enough to achieve in their spiritual pursuits, such envy is called, "kin'at sofrim" and arouses a healthy competitive drive in those who experience it. But kin'at sofrim is the exception, not the rule, in the world of envy.

Most people are like horses. When a horse drinks, it pounds its foot. Rabbi Meir of Premishlan explained that the horse sees its own reflection in the water and thinks there is another horse drinking what it itself will need. Therefore, the horse stomps its foot to chase away its competitor and to ensure that the river will have enough water to quench its thirst. Really, silly, isn't it? The river certainly has enough water for this horse and thousands of others like it.

Similarly, Hashem has plenty of everything for everyone. What one person possesses has no bearing on what another is lacking. Hashem's distribution system is so perfect that he gives everyone exactly what he or she needs in order to do his or her special job in His service.

Michtav meEliyahu draws a parallel to eyeglasses, Just as eyeglasses made for someone else are not suitable for you, so, too, all the other things - the material tools - supplied by our Creator are made to suit each individual's prescription. Resheet Chochmah says that when people envy another's beauty, strength, or wealth, they demonstrate a lack of acceptance of what Hashem decided they should have.

Should the demon called jealousy goad you and tell you that "it's not fair," don't succumb to his incitement. Remember that you don't want to wear eyeglasses made to someone else's specific prescription. The "Eye Doctor" on high is best suited to give everyone what he or she needs to be truly successful and truly happy. Strengthening your belief in His fairness will contribute to your long-term satisfaction. (One Minute With Yourself - Rabbi Raymond Beyda)

Answer to Pop Quiz: Siporah (Moshe's wife) and their two sons.

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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