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Haftarah: Shoftim 5:1-31

Haftarah: Yeshayahu 6:1-13

JANUARY 18-19, 2013 17 SHEBAT 5774

Tu B'Shebat will be celebrated on Thursday, January 16.


"Moshe went out to greet his father-in-law." (Shemot 18:7)

We find in our perashah a hint to the great obligation one has to honor his father-in-law. Despite the fact that Moshe Rabenu was the leader of the entire nation, he went out to greet his father-in-law, Yitro, when he approached the Israelites in the desert. The Gaon Rabbi Ovadia Yosef zt"l writes (Halachot Olam vol. 8 Parashat Shoftim), "A person is obligated to honor his father-in-law even if he isn't a Torah scholar, even if he is not old. He must stand for him, and when he goes up to the Torah the son-in-law must stand until the portion is completed. He should kiss his hand just like he would kiss his father's hand. He should never call him by his name but use an honorable title. All the more so if he is a Torah scholar and performs many misvot. He is also obligated to honor his mother-in-law as is worthy of her."

Hacham Ovadia also speaks about the importance of a seudat misvah (a meal that is in honor of a misvah). We see in the perashah that Yitro made such a meal, and Aharon and all the elders attended. One should never be lazy to attend. He quotes the words of the famous Rabbi, Rabbi Levi Yitzchak of Berditchev zt"l, who was well known for always finding a way to speak well of the Jewish people. "Master of the Universe, did You ever see a Jew make a festive meal to celebrate a sin that he did? Quite the opposite is true. Whenever a Jew does a misvah he immediately makes a big meal and invites all of his friends and relatives to celebrate with him." Shabbat Shalom. Rabbi Reuven Semah

"And you shall not go up the altar on steps so as not to reveal your nakedness." (Shemot 20:23)

The last verse in this perashah tells us that when we construct the ramp leading to the Mizbeah, altar, it should be a flat surface going upwards, not like stairs. The reason is that when one walks up stairs he must take a wider step which might reveal those parts of the body which should be covered. But with a flat ramp, a person can take smaller steps, without having this problem. Rashi points out that in actuality there really was no problem since the Kohanim were very well clothed and there was no possibility of anything being revealed. The Torah is teaching us, however, that this is a sign of disrespect to the ramp to walk that way and therefore we were commanded to build a flat ramp. The real lesson is not limited to the way we treat the stairs. Rather, if we should even be careful with something which has no feeling, like stairs, how much more so with people, who have feelings.

It is instructive that this verse is in the same perashah as the giving of the Torah because it is teaching us the way to be able to receive the Torah. If we treat other people, and even inanimate objects, with respect, then we show that we appreciate the qualities of people and of objects. Then we can learn from them and that is part of the process of receiving the Torah. If, however, we don't have respect for belongings or for people themselves, we will not be able to learn from others, even those who are supposed to be teaching us Torah. It is no wonder that when we see the quality of education dropping in society, the amount of respect for people and for values is dropping proportionally. We would do well to strengthen ourselves and our families in these positive values so that we could properly receive the Torah. Shabbat Shalom. Rabbi Shmuel Choueka


The military training given to recruits varies from country to country, but all nations start the process with basic training. Basic training disciplines soldiers to react in almost instinctive ways to various situations, making their responses nearly automatic. The soldiers benefit from this system, as each individual is trained to maintain focus on his job as part of the military team, even under fire. When the bombs burst and the bullets fly, the well-trained infantryman does not panic; he proceeds to fight as instructed by his commander. Fear, rationalization, and other deterrents to top-flight performance under fire have been defused by the training process.

Sometimes a person does something "just because" - for no other reason other than it feels good at the time. If it is not forbidden by secular or Torah law, why not enjoy it if one feels like it? Well, something may be permitted, but that does not mean that it is beneficial.

Developing the discipline to turn down a permitted luxury may benefit a person in the long run. If a person can say no to something permissible, that same individual will find it easier to say no when something is harmful or illegal. The great Rosh Yeshivah of Porat Yosef in Yerushalayim, Hacham Ezra Attieh, used to drink only half a glass of water and eat only a small portion of what was served to him. His reasoning was that if he was able to control himself from indulging in permitted pleasures, he would be better able to deny himself forbidden items.

You often have the chance to choose whether to enjoy the pleasures of this world without inhibition. It only takes a moment of control to change into your spiritual exercise clothing and flex your discipline. Suppressing the urge might deprive you of a bit of permitted enjoyment, but it will give you the basic training you need under fire - the fire of forbidden pleasures. (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.

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