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Parashat Devarim


During this period of anguish and sorrow over the destruction and its devastating ramifications, we have found some words of comfort - specifically through contemplation of the destruction and exile - in the remarkable work, "Divrei Mussar" (articles of thought and perspective according to the order of the masechtot - vol. 1, on Masechet Berachot and Shabbat) by Rav David Ben Abu shlit"a.

Tehillim 3 begins: "A psalm to David when fled from his son Avshalom."

The Gemara in Berachot 7b asks, how can this chapter open with the word "Mizmor," which connotes joy and praise? It should have begun with the word, "Kinah," lamentation. The Gemara answers by comparing David to a borrower: he feels tense and uptight so long as the debt hangs over his head. Once he pays off the loan, he feels relieved and content.

Similarly, the Al-mighty had decreed upon King David that he will suffer on account of someone "from your home." He thought to himself, maybe he will be one of my servants, who will have no compassion on me! He was worried and distraught until he discovered that the prophecy was fulfilled through his own son, who would have some compassion for him. Therefore, he recited a "mizmor."

Rav Yehonatan Eibshitz zs"l asked, did Avshalom exhibit any compassion towards his father? He tried to kill him! He explains that David was concerned that if he fell into the hands of one of his slaves, who by nature have no compassion on their former master, then this would show that Hashem has abandoned David and left him subject to the natural forces. But if the crisis occurs abnormally, in a manner that sharply deviates from general norms, such as a son who pursues his father in order to kill him, then such a disaster clearly comes directly from Hashem. Such a tragedy would demonstrate that Hashem has not left David; He is still close nearby.

Therefore, David knew that he can still turn to the Al-mighty in prayer and earn a listening, compassionate ear. For this David was overjoyed and recited a "mizmor"! A similar notion arises from a story related in Masechet Ketubot 66b about Rabban Yochanan Ben Zakai. Once as he rode on a donkey outside of Yerushalayim with his students following behind, he saw a girl picking barley from the droppings of the shepherds that belonged to the gentiles outside the city. As soon as she saw Rabban Yochanan, she wrapped her hair, stood up before him and said, "Rabbi, please find me sustenance!"

"Young girl," he replied, ", who are you?"

"I am the daughter of Nakdimon Ben Gurion," she answered.

Rabban Yochanan turned to his students and said, "I remember that when I signed her Ketubah I read, 'Two thousand gold coins from her father's home, not including from her in-laws.'" Rabban Yochanan began crying and exclaimed, "How fortunate you are, Israel! When you fulfill the will of the Al-mighty, not a single nation or country can overtake you! And when you do not fulfill the will of the Al-mighty, He hands you over to inferior peoples; and not only to inferior peoples, but to their animals!" He referred to the fact that the daughter of one of the wealthiest men in Yerushalayim now must search for food in the filth of Arab animals.

We can only ask, upon seeing such a ghastly sight and crying in sorrow, how can he joyfully exclaim, "How fortunate you are, Israel!"? The answer is that in the depths of the anguish and degradation he saw the ray of light.

The situation had deteriorated to such a point of horror that it steered from the natural progression of things; there could be no doubt that the Hand of Hashem alone orchestrated the events. If so, then our merciful Father is still near; we need but to turn to Him sincerely and He will then have compassion. How fortunate Israel is, that Hashem does not abandon us, not even during times of crisis.

How appropriate this message is to our current situation. It almost seems that these words were written specifically for our generation. Just fifty years ago, the most enlightened of all nations of the world suddenly turned animalistic, consuming the world with the fire of war and firing all its arrows at innocent Jews. Some they buried alive, some they choked to death, and others they burnt at the stake. Six million martyrs perished - could this possibly be considered natural? The gathering of hundreds of thousands of Jews to their ancestral homeland after two millennia of exile, the redemption of the land and the blossoming of the desolate territory - did this occur through natural means? The international acceptance of the establishment of the State and its victory over seven Arab armies, the immigration of millions of Jews and the steady flow of financial aid from America - none of this happened through the natural progression of things.

The same can be said of the gathering of people with no common roots into an arrogant Palestinian entity, as well as the defeatism and collapse in face of the adoration for the Palestinians. Can there be any greater proof that Hashem's Hand is behind it all? If He is the one guiding and directing the course of events, then indeed, "How fortunate you are, Israel!" He is ever so close to us; we need only to cry out, and He will answer.


We anticipate the arrival of our redemption each day. Do we have the capacity do bring it about? Is there some kind of magical potion that could accelerate its arrival?

Sure enough, there most certainly is. The great Kabbalist Rav Avraham Azulai zs"l, the grandfather of the Hid"a zs"l, revealed to us the means to merit redemption in his commentary on the mishnah that says, "We do not have the peace of the wicked or the suffering of the righteous." He writes, "Some explain that he bemoans our lack of sensitivity towards the length of our exile. We should be sighing with broken hips over two things: first, the tranquillity enjoyed by the wicked, and secondly, the suffering of the ssadikim whose bodies have been cast to the birds of the heavens, like Rabbi Akiva and his colleagues. Therefore, Rabbi Yannai criticizes his generation as well as subsequent generations and says, we have forgotten or do not pay attention to worry over the peace of the wicked and the suffering of the righteous. Were we to have paid attention - we would already have been redeemed!"

This, in essence, is the function of our mourning over the hurban during this period. It forces us to recognize the ramifications of the destruction and sincerely sense a feeling of grief over the loss of Hashem's honor through the success of our enemies as well as those of Judaism in general. We can only trust the words of our great sages: "Were we to have paid attention, we would already have been redeemed."


The Mosquito

With the onset of hot weather in the summertime, we find increased activity on the part of this tiny insect that will grab any opportunity to exhibit the "pleasure" of its bite. Surely we all know who stands behind the discomfort of these bites. But what is a mosquito? It is an insect with a long, thin body, and to its triangular chest are connected six long legs and two membranous wings. Its head is oval and contains two eyes and two long antennas. Guess who bites - the male mosquito or the female? In the name of clearing the male mosquito's name, let it be known that it is the female mosquito that is equipped with very sharp stingers with which it stings people as well as, lehavdil, other large creatures in order to suck their blood. The male, by contrast, receives its nourishment from the nectar in flowers like the innocent butterfly. The question of course is, why can't the female mosquito receive its food from flowers, too? Why must it bite?

The answer is that in truth the female mosquito can also receive its food from nectar. However, it needs blood for the proper development of its eggs, which otherwise do not ripen as they must.

The sting of some mosquitoes causes only momentary discomfort or a minor wound resulting from the venom injected into the victim's body from the mosquito's sucking tube. Other mosquitoes, however, are far more dangerous and can spread fatal diseases. Generally speaking, people cannot distinguish between the different types of mosquitoes. However, nobody would ever be foolish enough to think, "Well, what's the big deal; I'll suffer a small bite and that's it!" Rather, one would try to fight the annoying pest in any way possible. The same serious and undiscriminating effort is demanded of the Jew in the realm of missvot performance, as well.

A Jew may not undermine the significance of even a seemingly "minor" missvah. He must approach all missvot with an equal level of sobriety, with the proper reverence and respect for the missvah at hand. One who treats a missvah lightly faces great risk, just as one may be bitten by a mosquito transmitting dangerous illnesses. Indeed, no one knows the full value and reward of the missvot. If one nonetheless does not observe a given missvah properly, we must refer him to Hazal's comment that the human being was created last in order that he never forget who created him. If he behaves properly, then the entire world lies before him in accordance with his needs. Otherwise, Heaven forbid, it can be said that "the mosquito preceded you in creation." The mosquito is well-versed in the art of brazenness, more so than any other creature. The greatness of the Jew lies in his affording his fear of G-d precedence over his wisdom, and his fulfillment of the missvot of the Creator.

The Golden Column

Rav Moshe Hayyim zs"l

In his work "Yismah Mosheh" commenting on the pasuk, "For justice belongs to Hashem," the Kaf Hahayyim zs"l tells a story involving Rabbenu Moshe Hayyim zs"l, the grandfather of the Rabbenu Yossef Hayyim, the Ben Ish Hai zs"l.

This story represents the burden of responsibility that rests on the shoulders of a judge to demand reverence from the litigants before him and reveal the truth, in order to arrive at a correct ruling.

Once two litigants came before Rav Moshe Hayyim to stand trial over a dispute surrounding a given sum of money. The second litigant denied owing the money and was prepared to swear to that effect. The rav keenly realized that the money was in fact owed and that the defendant was prepared to swear falsely. He was ready to take a false oath while holding a Sefer Torah in his arm.

The rav said angrily, "Do you think that I will allow you to swear while holding a Sefer Torah?! You are wrong - I will make you swear while holding the two luhot heberit - the two Tablets of the Covenant!" Just as the defendant wrinkled his brow wondering what the rabbi meant, the rabbi turned to the court attendant and said, "Go immerse yourself ten times in the mikveh and being me the two luhot on my desk."

The defendant was petrified by the possibility that he would have to swear while holding the two tablets that Moshe brought down from Har Sinai - he would die as soon as he touched them! He immediately spoke up, with a trembling voice, and said, "Okay - I am willing to pay rather than swearing!"

But the rabbi replied, "It is too late - you already obligated yourself to swear, and there is no turning back."

The litigant then confessed that he had lied.

In the meantime, the bewildered attendant entered the rabbi's office and found on his desk the work, "Shenei Luhot Haberit," which is more commonly known by its acronym, the "Shelah"

The Reward for a Missvah

a continuing saga
Part five

Flashback: An Arab worker in a bakery was awoken from his sleep in the middle of the night several times by Rav Ssemah Ssarfati zs"l, the rabbi of Tunis, who needed to light his candle which blew out whenever he went out into the storm to return home. When the worker finally complained about having to lift the heavy bolt that locked the door so many times after a long, hard day of work, the ssadik apologized and blessed him that he should own the amount of gold equal in weight to the heavy beam. The next day, a stranger in the bakery offered the Arab a mysterious job for two months that would pay five times his current salary. At daybreak, the mysterious man blindfolded the worker and brought him to a secret location where he would work. He took him down into the cellar and took off the blindfold. The worker saw before him a cellar filled wall to wall with gold coins.

"This is where you will stay the entire time," said the stranger, "and I will bring you food. Your job is to sort all the coins, separating the whole coins, half coins, and quarter coins from one another. Each type of coin goes into its own bag, and write on each bag how many coins are placed inside." For a short while, the stranger stood over him and observed his work silently. He was pleased with what he saw and left. The worker heard the door close and the key turn to lock it.

The worker carried out his task dependably, separating, counting and filling bags. When he grew tired, he went upstairs to the apartment to relax. The apartment was magnificent, lavishly furnished and covered with exquisite carpeting. The heavy curtains covered the windows completely and cast complete darkness over the room. The worker moved the curtains only to discover that the blinds were nailed to the windowpane. All he could see through the cracks of the blinds were a few branches and the corner of the house next door. All this, of course, was done to ensure secrecy. The worker got up and returned to his job. Some time later, he heard the key turn and door open; the stranger had returned with a portion of food. He stayed a moment to see the progress and then left. This continued day after day, in complete isolation from the sky. But the work progressed nicely, the gold coins were counted and distributed accordingly, and the employer did not hide his satisfaction with the worker's performance. But the happier the stranger was with the progress, the more the worker began worrying, will the stranger allow him to leave peacefully from the treasury?

Won't he kill him in order to protect the secrecy? be cont.........

From the Wellsprings of the Parashah

"For forty years Hashem your G-d has been with you, you have lacked nothing"

The Midrash Shoher Tov (Tehillim 23) cites Rabbi Eliezer Ben Yaakov's interpretation of the pasuk: "For Hashem your G-d has blessed you - perhaps this is true even regarding one who sits idly? The pasuk therefore says, 'in all your work': if he himself acts, then he is blessed; otherwise, he is not blessed. For forty years - generally when a person greets a guest, the first day he slaughters for him a calf, the second day a sheep, the third day a chicken, the fourth day he cooks legumes for him, and on the fifth day he minimizes his portion. The first day's meal differs sharply from the last day's. Perhaps this was the case during Benei Yisrael's sojourn in the wilderness? The pasuk therefore says, 'For forty years' - the first and last days were equivalent."

The Midrash then cites Rabbi Yehudah's comment on the pasuk: "When a king is in the country, the country lacks nothing: 'Hashem your G-d has been with you - you have lacked nothing.'"

Rabbi Nehemiah is then quoted as understanding the clause, "You have lacked nothing" as implying that the only thing "lacking" was speech ("dibbur," similar to "davar" in the pasuk). Meaning, the only activity required of Benei Yisrael was to say how they wanted the 'mann' to taste, and it happened. This is what the pasuk means when it says. "You have lacked nothing."

The Hachamim, however, understand the pasuk to mean that Benei Yisrael did not even require any verbalization. They would merely think in their minds the desired taste, and their wishes were fulfilled.

"The Kaftorim who came from Kaftor destroyed them [the Avim] and dwelled in their place"

This pasuk requires explanation. Of what interest is it to us that the Kaftorim defeated the Avim (= Pelishtim)? The Hid"a zs"l answers in the name of Rav Aharon Sasson zs"l based on the Midrash (Yalkut Shimoni Parashat Noah) that writes that the Kaftorim were midgets, while the Pelishtim whom they defeated were very powerful. The pasuk writes that the Kaftorim "came from Kaftor" to teach us that they married within the same nationality, which breeds even smaller midgets (see Bechorot 45b). The Avim, by contrast, were thus called because anyone who looked upon them was gripped by "avit" (spasms) out of immense fear (Hullin 60b). The pasuk also stresses that the Avim "dwelled in open cities," that they felt so confident in their military might that they did not even bother building fortresses around their cities. Yet, the tiny Kaftorim defeated them, demonstrating that victory is not guaranteed for the mighty, for it is Hashem who decides the outcome of battle. Therefore, Benei Yisrael had no reason to fear Sihon, who was a giant and brother of Og (Nidah 61a) or his nation of Emorim, about whom it is written, "whose height is that of cedars, and is powerful like oaks" (Amos 2:9).


"How much longer must I be depressed over the twice-repeated destruction; how much longer will You not have compassion for Yerushalayim; how much longer will the enemy steer the remnant of the sheep of your herd - G-d, gentiles have come into Your territory!" This lamentation, that has been recited by generations amidst tears and despair, has become ever so real and poignant in our generation, the generation of Holocaust and rebirth. Just as it seemed, however, that the light had broken through and we have merited the moment of mercy, the skies have darkened once again. Yerushalayim faces danger once again, the remnant of Hashem's herd is steered and led by gentiles, and we see with our own eyes gentiles taking over Hashem's territory. True, someone with weak faith may react to these events with confusion and despair. We know, however, that the Divine Hand is behind it all, the Hand of our loving, compassionate Father. We need to know merely the direction, why He cast us into this predicament, and what He wants of us at this time.

The answer is provided by the Maggid of Dubno zs"l in the form of a beautiful parable. A certain wealthy merchant wished that his only son would grow into a leading Torah scholar. He was prepared to support him graciously until he emerged as a scholarly rabbi. The son, however, decided to show some independence and prove to his father that he could support himself from his own work. He tried his hand in business, but met with limited success. He thought that perhaps his luck would change in a different location, and so he moved to the city. The father was distressed over his son's relocation - what joy does a father have other than delighting with his child and his family? The father asked around and discovered that the son still hadn't made it; he barely earned enough to support his family. The father's compassion was aroused and he sent his son packages that were received with great appreciation. They included clothing for the children, birthday gifts, etc.

The father sat and thought to himself, what will happen in the end? I love my son very much and want him nearby. I am willing to provide all his needs. He tried to show some independence but didn't succeed. He gratefully accepts every gift I send, yet stubbornly insists that he is doing fine on his own.

What did the father do? With the help of his immense wealth and connections, he secretly asked that merchants who dealt with his son stop granting him credit.

The evil decree hit the son like a bolt of lightening on a clear day.

Without credit, he could not afford even his basic necessities. He sent his father an urgent telegram: "My loving father, please send me some money to buy some merchandise; otherwise, we might go hungry!!"

The answer had already been prepared: "My dear, precious son, if you want to escape the dangers of hunger, please come back to me and eat at my table."

The symbolism, of course, is clear and penetrating. We ate off the Al-mighty's table, as it were. We were supported by His graciousness and blessing, but we decided to become independent, to rely on our own strength and talents. But, when all is said and done, how strong are we independently? The Father misses us and longs for us bitterly: "Every day the Al-mighty roars and says, 'Woe unto the father that has exiled his children; woe unto the children that have been driven from their father's table" (Berachot 3).

What can the Father do? How will he persuade His son to return to His table of success, bounty and joy? He proves to His stubborn son that all his efforts to make it on his own are for naught. They yield nothing, be it financially, socially, militarily, politically, or in any other regard.

This essentially marks the crisis of the period preceding Mashiah, which leads us to the inevitable conclusion, "we have no one on whom to rely other than our Father in heaven" (Sotah 49), as the pasuk states, "I will go and return to my first husband, for it was better for me then than now" (Hoshea 2:9).

Here is our golden key with which we can escape any crisis or disaster. Let us return to our Creator, and the redemption will come. Y


A Series of Halachot
According to the Order of the Shulhan Aruch
Based on the Rulings of Rav Ovadia Yossef shlit"a
Taken from the work "Osserot Yossef " Masechet Avot,
based on the rulings of Rav Ovadia Yossef shlit"a

Forbidden Activities on Tisha B'Av

The following activities are forbidden on Tisha B'Av: eating, drinking, washing, applying skin ointments, wearing leather shoes, and marital relations. All these prohibitions apply both on the night of Tisha B'Av and the day itself. It is even forbidden to eat during "bein hashemashot" (twilight) before nightfall on the eve of Tisha B'Av. Unlike Yom Kippur, however, there is no requirement of adding some time onto Tisha B'Av from Erev Tisha B'Av.

Everyone must fast on Tisha B'Av. Hazal say that anyone who eats or drinks on Tisha B'Av does not earn the merit of seeing the joy of Yerushalayim.

Conversely, whoever mourns for Yerushalayim earns the merit of seeing its joy, while one who does not mourn for Yerushalayim does not earn this privilege (Ta'anit 30b).

Although strictly speaking one may smoke on Tisha B'Av, it is worthwhile to be stringent in this regard and avoid smoking for pleasure. It is especially important to avoid smoking during the recitation of Eichah and Kinot in the Bet Kenesset. When the need arises, however, such as if someone is accustomed to smoking regularly and experiences great discomfort when he refrains therefrom, then one may smoke in private.

It is highly preferably, however, to refrain from smoking at all times throughout the year, whereas the leading physicians and scientists of our time have determined that smoking seriously endangers one's health and may cause serious illness. One who is concerned with his health should therefore refrain from smoking.

One should be stringent and refrain from smelling tobacco or spices on Tisha B'Av. Even when a berit milah occurs on Tisha B'av the berachah over spices is not recited.

It is forbidden to wash oneself with hot or cold water on Tisha B'Av, even only part of his body. It is forbidden even to place one's finger in water. However, the prohibition applies only to pleasurable washing. If one's hands or any other part of his body becomes dirtied, or for example if one's nose was bleeding, he may wash the dirty areas, since this does not constitute a pleasurable washing.

If one's body becomes covered with sweat, he should preferably be stringent and refrain from washing it off. If, however, he finds it exceedingly uncomfortable, he may wash off the sweat with cold water, whereas this is not considered a pleasurable washing.

On Tisha B'Av morning one washes his hands only until the joints where his fingers meet his hand. One should wash three times in alternating fashion, as he does all year, and recite the berachah of "al netilat yadayim."

One should not wash his face on Tisha B'Av morning. Rather, after he dries his hands and they are still somewhat moist, he may wipe his eyes. If, however, one's face is dirty, such as if some secretions from the eye are stuck to parts of his face, he may wash the dirtied areas with water. One who is very sensitive and will find it difficult to function properly should he refrain from washing his face in the morning, then he may do so.

After performing one's bodily functions on Tisha B'Av, he should wash his hands until the joints where his fingers connect to his hand. If, however, his hands are dirty, he may wash wherever there is dirt.

Eliyahu Ben Masudah & Yaakov ben Senyar

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