"If we are your children, have mercy on us like a father has mercy on his children." (Musaf Rosh Hashanah)
As we prayed the Musaf prayer, we begged Hashem to have mercy on us like a father to his children. We beg Hashem for another year of life, invoking his mercy. As He is our father, Rabbi Efraim Wachsman asks an obvious question. Isn't the mercy of a mother even greater than a father? If so, why don't we ask Hashem for the greater level of mercy, like a mother?
He answered with a true story that took place during the Holocaust. The Nazis came into the small town and gathered the Jewish citizens. One woman came with her two little children. The cruel Nazi guard grabbed her children and threw them into the waiting truck, to be taken to the concentration camp and certain death. The guard closed the door of the truck and gave the order to the driver to drive away. The poor mother started running after the truck screaming to get back her children. The guard decided to make a cruel joke and stopped the truck. He threw open the doors and told the mother that she must choose one! The mother loved her children so much that she wasn't able to choose one and send the other to his death. The Nazi laughed and closed the door and took both of them away.
Rabbi Wachsman says that this terrible story might have ended differently had it been the father instead of the mother. If it was the father, he would have closed his eyes and grabbed one without choosing, thereby saving at least one. Sometimes the mercy of a mother could be a negative.
We beg Hashem for another year of life for ourselves and for our family. We also beg for a good livelihood. The pressure today to earn a livelihood is at times crushing, We beseech Hashem to have mercy on us like a father. Please, Hashem, give us and our family life, and give us a good livelihood. We need both, but if we can only have one, please be merciful like a father and pick one, pick life for us and our family and not the money. May we all be inscribed in the book of life, Amen. Shabbat Shalom. Rabbi Reuven Semah
One of the startling differences in the prayer of Yom Kippur is that we say "Baruch Shem Kebod Malchuto L'Olam Va'ed" out loud after the Shema Yisrael. All year long we say it in an undertone because this is uttered by angels in Heaven, and we are not on the level of angels. But on Yom Kippur, we are dressed in white, and we don't indulge in physical pleasures, so indeed we are akin to angels and can say it out loud.
What is ever so interesting is that when we first start the fast, we are still full from all of our eating before Yom Kippur, and yet we say "Baruch Shem" out loud, but at the conclusion of the fast day, when we pray Arbit, we say it low again! We would think that by then, having fasted for more than 24 hours, we would resemble the celestial beings much more. The answer is, we are what we think about! When we start the fast, although satisfied with food, we nevertheless are looking forward to prayer and fasting and becoming closer to Hashem. Thus, we are like angels, and can say "Baruch Shem" out loud. However, after the fast is newly over, our minds are on the "Sembusak" and other delicacies, so we cannot emulate Heavenly beings, since our minds are on the mundane.
The lesson to learn from Yom Kippur is one which will serve us well all year long - we are what we think about. Let us focus our thoughts on Teshubah and a more spiritual lifestyle so we will indeed become more heavenly. Tiuzku Leshanim Rabot. Rabbi Shmuel Choueka
On Simhat Torah we conclude the annual cycle of reading the Torah in public and start anew from Beresheet. This milestone is celebrated with much joy and festivity, and all Jews, men and women, young and old, learned and illiterate, participate. One may rightfully wonder, with what justification does the one who did not learn Torah throughout the year rejoice on Simhat Torah?
A popular explanation offered to this query is the following: A scholar who once witnessed an ignorant and non-observant Jew dancing and singing with all his strength on Simhat Torah, asked him, "Why are you rejoicing so much? Did you involve yourself with the Torah throughout the entire year?" The man in all sincerity replied, "While you are right that I was remiss in my involvement with Torah throughout the year, nevertheless if I am invited to my brother's wedding, isn't it appropriate for me to dance and sing? Thus, though my brother is really the ba'al simhah today, I am actively rejoicing with him."
As intriguing as this explanation may be, it is somewhat lacking, since after all, Simhat Torah is everyone's simhah and everyone is a ba'al simhah and not just a stranger attending a relative's affair.
The processions with the Torah are called "hakafot." Superficially, the name hakafot originated from the fact that we circle around the bimah and hakafot is from the same root as the word "makif" which means "circling around." However, there may be a more profound explanation of the word hakafot. It could also mean "the extension of credit" as we say in Pirkei Abot (3:16), "Vehahenvani makif - the shopkeeper extends credit." When one applies for credit and is notified that his application has been favorably accepted and his request is being granted, he is indeed very happy. Likewise, on Simhat Torah, the "shopkeeper" - Hashem - says to each and every Jew, "I give you permission to rejoice with My Torah though your credit for Torah study and observance for the past year may not be exactly up to par. Dance today on credit, because I trust that you will make good during the coming year." When Hashem personally extends the Jew credit, the joy is overwhelming. (Vedibarta Bam)
Our Sages have taught that the lulab, etrog, hadas and arabah each correspond to a different type of Jew. The arabah, which has no fragrance or taste, corresponds to the Jew who has neither Torah nor good deeds
Rabbi Eliyahu Hamway, the Ab Bet Din of Aleppo, asked the following question: Why did Hashem specifically choose the arabah to be included with the other three species on Succot? There are numerous trees and plants that have neither taste nor fragrance.
Rabbi Hamway answers that the Zohar teaches that when a person is in a dangerous situation, he is judged in Heaven to determine whether he is worthy of being saved. The Zohar then questions: How is this so? We see very often that wicked people who are very sick or in dangerous situations recover from their illnesses or are saved from harm even though they have no merit to save them. The Zohar answers that Hashem saves them because, in the future, their descendants will be righteous. From this, we can understand why Hashem designated the arabah to be placed with the lulab. The word arabah has the same numerical value as the word ???, which means seed or offspring. This comes to teach us that, like the arabah, even one who has no Torah or good deeds will merit to be joined together with the righteous of Israel if he leads his children along the proper path of Torah and misvot. (Hameir -R' Obadiah Yosef)
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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