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We are very steadily approaching; every page taken from the calendar brings us even closer to the days of awe that will soon be upon us. The wise know to begin preparing, by increasing merits and adding misvot, in order to earn a favorable judgment for a good year and happiness for them and their families. Some misvot are so easy to observe; with even a brief thought one can add a misvah to his credit! We must be aware of these misvot in order to earn merit through them. Such a misvah appears in our parashah: "You shall know in your heart that just as a man punishes his son, so does Hashem your G-d punish you" (Devarim 8:5). Several Rishonim who listed the 613 misvot count this verse as a Biblical commandment (Semag, misvat aseh 17; Semak 5; Yerei'im 430).

Rabbenu Moshe of Kussi zs"l writes as follows: "There is a positive commandment to declare the righteousness of the [divine] judgment after every event, as it says, 'You shall know in your heart that just as a man punishes his son, so does Hashem your G-d punish you.' I expounded upon this misvah in public: if one who performs teshuvah does not encounter goodness as he did beforehand, there is a positive commandment for him to think in his heart that for his benefit his matters have changed [for the worse]. Before he performed teshuvah the Al-mighty would pay him reward for the misvot he observed in this world in order to drive him away from the world to come. And now He administers to him punishment for the sins that he committed in this world in order that he earn the world to come."

He adds: "Every person, be he a sadik or ba'al teshuvah, who questions the events and thinks that they are not for his benefit, regarding him the pasuk states, 'And I punished, I strengthened their arms, and of Me they think evil' (Hoshea 7:15). The Al-mighty says, I sent them punishments in this world in order to strengthen their arms in the world to come - and they think evil of Me? They should have realized that Hashem chastises the ones He loves!"


In ancient times, the land was wooded and many beasts of prey -- lions, tigers and bears -- roamed about through the thicket of the forests. When Am Yisrael fought the Canaanim, Hashem delayed their displacement, as we read in our parashah: "Hashem your G-d will dispossess these nations from before you slowly; you cannot destroy them quickly, lest the beasts of the field increase upon you." If they would destroy and eradicate their cities, the forests would spread and the beasts of prey would multiply, killing many. Rashi raises a question on this pasuk based on another pasuk in Iyov (5:23), which indicates that when Benei Yisrael obey Hashem's will they have no reason to fear the beasts of prey. Rashi answers that "it was revealed before him that they will sin in the future."

In truth, all mankind was promised, "The fear and dread of you shall be upon all the beasts of the land" (Bereisheet 9:2). The question thus arises, how can wild beasts ever hurt people? The answer is that those hurt by animals are not people. Hazal say (Shabbat 151b), "An animal does not overcome a person unless he appears to it like an animal."

What principle underlies this divine promise? The Zohar Hakadosh notes that in the context of the creation of man, Hashem said, "Let us make man" (Bereisheet 1:26), in the plural form. To whom did he say this? To all of creation! Man was created last, after all other creatures on earth. The Al-mighty said that every creature should give to man of its qualities: the angel Michael, the angel of kindness, the angel Gavriel, the angel of justice, and even the satan. The lion and the bear, the tiger and the panther, the sheep and the lamb, the worm and the snake. And, above all, the sacred soul, a part of the Al-mighty Himself from above, purity and spirituality. Accordingly, Rav Elhanan Wasserman Hy"d would say that were we to raise lions in our yards, we would use an especially strong chain so that we could sleep peacefully at night. Now, that the lion is not in our yards but inside our hearts -- and not just a lion, but an entire menagerie, lions, wolves, snakes and panthers -- how many chains do we need for protection from them! How carefully must we stand guard!

Rabbenu Yis'hak Aramah zs"l, in his work, "Akedat Yis'hak" (15), writes that when a person guards the divine image within him and subjugates the beasts of prey residing inside his being, when he subdues his desires, restrains his drives and exerts force against his evil inclination, then the beasts in the fields and forests become subdued before him. Indeed, the Or Hahayyim Hakadosh zs"l was cast into a lion's den and, throughout the day-and-a-half he spent there, they did no harm to him. When Rabbenu Shimon Lavi zs"l refused to continue with his caravan on Shabbat, preferring instead to stop and spend Shabbat in the middle of the wilderness, a lion came and befriended him. On Mossa'ei Shabbat, the lion carried him on his shoulders and brought him to the settled area.

And what's true regarding animals, applies to the beast of man, as well, Heaven forbid. When the king of Yehudah brought the delegation of Kasdim to see his treasury rooms, the prophet told him in the Name of Hashem that his descendants will be subjugated to that very nation. Similarly, Aristoblus invited the Romans into Yerushalayim, and in the end, they took control over the Jews and eventually drove them into exile. No nation takes control over Benei Yisrael unless they willfully subdue themselves before that nation and before its essence and basic qualities. In this manner, Rav Menahem Azaryah Mi-Pano zs"l explained the pasuk, "The stranger in your midst will rise high above you" (Devarim 28:43): this refers to a situation where the qualities of the stranger are found "in your midst," in your heart, through your having provided him power and control. This idea arouses serious thought concerning our current spiritual situation and how it relates to the present security situation. But the Torah is a Torah of life, and it points out to us what requires improvement and instructs as to how to bring about this improvement: "Hashem your G-d will dispossess these nations from before you slowly; you cannot destroy them quickly. " No person changes instantaneously; no one can suddenly subdue his inclinations and in a instant change his qualities, as explained by the Arvei Nahal (in Parashat Lech-Lecha). Rather, each person should take it upon himself to improve and elevate himself, to be more of a "Jew" in terms of the qualities of compassion, humility, kindness, faith and trust, and with every dimension of success he should realize that he increases the power of Yisrael and subdues the strength of the enemies.


"It will be, on account of your obeying these laws, and you observe and perform them"

The Zohar Hakadosh notes that the word "otam" ("them") appears in this pasuk without the letter "vav," thus allowing for the reading, "va'asitem atem," or "and you will make yourselves." One who observes the misvot thereby establishes his personality, effectively "creating" himself. This constitutes the greatest reward of all, above and beyond that which is written in the parashah: "Hashem your G-d will maintain faithfully for you the covenant that He made on oath with your fathers. He will favor you and bless you and multiply you. "

"It will be, on account of your obeying these laws, and you observe and perform them"

Rabbenu Bahya zs"l writes that the ankle (in Hebrew, "ekev," the same word used in this pasuk for "on account of") is the lowliest limb in the body (as Hazal said in their proverb, "May the ankle of Adam Harishon, who dimmed the sun, swell"). The Torah here alludes to the fact that the immense reward spoken of by the pasuk - "He will favor you and bless you and multiply you. You will blessed above all other peoples. Hashem will remove all illness from you" - amounts to but a minimal reward compared to the main reward, the eternal and spiritual reward, which we receive in the world to come. There one enjoys the glory of the Shechinah, and a single moment of enjoyment in the world to come is greater than all of the life in this world!

"It will be, on account of your obeying these laws, and you observe and perform them"

The Or Hahayyim Hakadosh zs"l mentioned in this context Hazal's statement that "vehayah" ("It will be") connotes joy. He explained that some people rejoice when they earn a large profit, others rejoice over tasty foods, and some rejoice over meaningless games and entertainment. Our lot, however, shall not be among them. Rather, we rejoice over the fulfillment of Torah and misvot, which are more precious to us than thousands of gold and silver coins: "The laws of Hashem are straight, that rejoice the heart." If we are missing a single misvah, our joy is incomplete. Only "on account of your obeying these laws," meaning, all these laws, with the exception of none, is our joy complete and can we truly rejoice in the joy of the Torah.

"It will be, on account of your obeying these laws, and you observe and perform them"

Rashi explains the clause "ekev tishme'un" ("on account of your obeying") as referring specifically to the "lighter" misvot, that a person might "trample with his ankles" ("ekev" also means ankle). Such people are held particularly accountable for their misdeeds, as it says, "The sins of my ankle will surround me." Rabbenu Elazar Azkari zs"l (Sefer Haredim 74) writes that to this Yirmiyahu referred when he said, "We will search and examine our ways." Meaning, we will search within ourselves and find the less severe sins that we committed, those on which we have trampled, so-to-speak. He continues, "and we will return to Hashem" - because unless the patient knows from what disease he suffers, he has no way of finding a cure.

"It will be, on account of your obeying these laws, and you observe and perform them"

Rabbenu Yis'hak Aramah zs"l (Akedat Yis'hak 90) explains that this pasuk comes to teach us that the monetary laws of the Torah are not similar to the statutes of the gentiles, "lehavdil," which serve only to settle disputes and determine legal ownership according to their laws. The question arises, why did the Torah present a detailed system of monetary law for Benei Yisrael, rather than leaving us to establish our own laws like the gentile nations? Why did it not give us only misvot regarding the service of Hashem? The Torah thus clarifies here that even monetary law is divine, and we fulfill a misvah by observing them, meriting immense reward.

"It will be, on account of your obeying these laws, and you observe and perform them"

Rabbenu Hayyim Vital zs"l, in his work, "Ess Hada'at Tov," explains this pasuk based on Hazal's comment that "learning is great, for it brings one to actions." Our pasuk thus states, "It will be, 'ekev'" - meaning, as a result of - "your obeying these laws" - referring to the study of Torah -- then "you will observe and perform them." For, as Hazal teach us, "an ignoramus cannot be pious."


Rabbi David Abukarah zs"l

The story is told of Rabbi David Abukarah zs"l who was walking along the road when he met an intelligent fellow who asked the rabbi as to the reason behind the prohibition against shaving with a razor. He wanted to know why one who shaves with a razor violates five prohibitions, just as one who ate pork or other non-kosher food five times, while shaving with a shaver is permitted.

The rabbi answered that he would like to give a long, involved response, but he did not have the time at that moment. He explained that he had just arrived home a short while earlier and found that his wife had fainted. The doctor was summoned and he prescribed a certain medication. He left and the medication arrived from the pharmacy. "However," the rabbi continued, "my mind is still not at rest. I instructed that my wife not receive the medication until I first speak to the doctor and have him explain why he prescribed this drug and not any other, how it affects her body and cures her from the condition. If you want, you can join me and I'll explain to you the full answer to your question."

The man trembled and asked, "But what about the rabbi's wife - how is she?"

"She is still faint," answered the rabbi, shrugging his shoulders. "But what can I do? How can I allow her to take a drug if I do not understand how it works?"

The man shuddered and exclaimed, "Please, dear rabbi, please listen to me! First have her quickly take the medication, before it's too late! You can assume that the doctor knows his field and prescribes the proper medicine!"

"Really?!" exclaimed the rabbi. "Let your ears listen to what you are saying! The doctor, who is a human being just like you and me, and who studied from a human being like you and me, has your full trust and confidence. And this despite the fact that there exist many poisonous drugs and physicians often make mistakes. Yet, when the King of kings, the source of all wisdom and Creator of man issues a command, you insist on first understanding the underlying reason and secret?!"

A Treasury of Halachot and Customs Regarding the Festivals of Yisrael, Based on the Rulings of Rav Ovadia Yossef shlit"a
by Rav David Yossef shlit"a

One Who Cannot Recite Kiddush Over Wine

If one cannot afford wine for both the nighttime and daytime kiddush, he should purchase wine for the nighttime kiddush. And if he cannot afford both wine and bread for Shabbat eve, he should purchase bread and recite kiddush over it rather than wine. He thus fulfills both obligations of kiddush and the Shabbat meal with the bread. The order of preference runs as follows: 1. Bread for the three Shabbat meals. 2. Wine for the nighttime kiddush. 3. Wine for the daytime kiddush. 4. The other provisions for the daytime meal. 5. Other provisions for the nighttime meal. (If one prefers making kiddush on bread, he should preferably buy bread and the other provisions for the meal, reciting kiddush on bread and fulfilling the misvah of oneg Shabbat (eating a festive meal on Shabbat). For such a person, this is preferable to purchasing wine for kiddush and thereby missing the misvah of oneg Shabbat.)

If one has neither bread nor wine at the beginning of the night but expects to receive wine or bread later on, he must wait until midnight. If, however, he knows that no wine or bread will come until after midnight, he should eat his meal without kiddush in order not to miss the misvah of oneg Shabbat. If one cannot afford both wine for kiddush and a candle in honor of Shabbat, he should purchase a candle. Nowadays, when people use electric lights, then someone in this situation who has electric lights should purchase wine for kiddush and fulfill the misvah of Shabbat candles with the electric light. (He should recite the standard berachah, "lehadlik ner shel Shabbat" before turning on the electric lights.) If for Shabbat Hannukah one cannot afford both Hannukah and Shabbat candles, he should purchase Hannukah candles and recite kiddush over bread. (This applies even to one who has electric lighting, since one does not fulfill the misvah of Hannukah candles by using electric lights.) If one has only one cup of wine for both kiddush and havdalah, then if the wine is strong enough that it can be diluted with water, one should recite kiddush over the wine and then dilute it with water and use it for havdalah. If the wine is not strong, such that its taste would be lost if it were diluted, then the individual should recite kiddush over bread and save the wine for havdalah, since one cannot recite havdalah over bread.

Kiddush in the Bet Kenesset

Some places have a custom of reciting kiddush in the Bet Kenesset over a cup of wine after Arbit on Shabbat eve, despite the fact that nobody eats there. The Shulhan Aruch writes (269), however, that it is preferable not to recite kiddush in the Bet Kenesset. Nevertheless, when there are people in the Bet Kenesset who will not recite kiddush at home, it is advisable to observe this practice of reciting kiddush in the Bet Kenesset, even though no one eats there (and kiddush must take place in the location where the Shabbat meal is eaten), in order to at least fulfill for them the Biblical obligation of kiddush.

The one who recites kiddush in the Bet Kenesset does not thereby fulfill his obligation of kiddush since he does not eat there, and kiddush must take place in the location where the Shabbat meal is eaten. He should therefore not taste any of the wine used for kiddush in the Bet Kenesset, but should rather give some to a child who has reached the age of education.


Spider Webs

Among the natural phenomena before which scientists stand in awe and wonder is spider webs. From what material are these webs made? Scientists have spent much time studying spider webs and have concluded that they are made from a protein, which is itself made from large particles that give it remarkable strength and elasticity. The webs are also sticky, helping spiders to catch their prey. The strength of the webs is up to five times the strength of a steel thread of equal thickness. The spider weaves a web from the many strings that it spins. Weaving the web is truly a work of art. It is perfectly symmetrical to the point where researchers claim that it can rival any professionally done architectural plans. The webs are spun in various ways by different species of spiders. With the help of the webs, spiders catch their prey in varied and interesting ways. Some choose to weave the webs among flowers. Insects and butterflies are attracted to the color and fragrance of the flowers and never imagine what awaits them in between the beautiful leaves. Some spiders move some distance away and sit in ambush without moving until the prey reaches the web. Only after the creature is trapped does the spider come to check its booty. Another spider holds a ready-made web in its legs. When it discovers a creature that it likes, it simply throws the web onto his victim.

Spider webs, remarkably designed and fashioned with impressive sophistication, serve but one purpose: to set a trap for the unsuspecting prey of choice. The wondrous feature of the webs that make them so effective is the fact that they do not arouse the victim's suspicion. The potential prey has no idea that a trap waits for it and that it must exercise care. Specifically for this reason it falls so easily into the trap. It is understandable when some insect does not realize the danger posed before it and thus falls victim. The human being, however, is expected to maintain constant awareness and use his mental faculties to carefully discern everything around him to ensure not to fall into a trap. This is true even though most temptations that come our way are disguised in attractive and luring masks of sorts, and despite the fact that behind every temptation there is an illusion that "Here, I have found the source of happiness; I am marching in the right direction." Through the power of the constant and consistent guidance of the Torah, we Jews know where the temptation is hidden, from what we must guard ourselves, and, most of all, what is the only way - the true way - that has proven itself throughout the generations: the way of Torah and misvot.


Reb Nahumke (11)

Flashback: When Nahumke was forced to end his work as a singer in the cantor's choir with the onset of his voice change, he hired himself out as a helper to a wine merchant, carrying loads and supervising transports. He was sent with a transport to Beisgelah and he met his mother, who lamented his having left Torah study. With her words still ringing in his ears, Reb Karpel Atlas, among the distinguished members of the Beisgelah community, saw him and recognized him. He approached the young man and said, "Is it not better that you bend your back to bear the yoke of Torah, rather than for barrels of wine!"

Nahumke began crying and poured out his heart before the respected, old man. He told him how badly he had wished to study Torah but was scorned by the other students. He explained how he had gone into depression and returned to his parents' home, at which point he served as a singer in a cantorial choir and then as a wine-seller's assistant.

"What is your salary?" inquired the old man.

"Nothing," Nehumke replied. "Only room and board and just some small change."

"If so," said the old man, "I suggest that you inform him of your resignation. I have two sons, both of whom are successful students of Torah, who study in the Bet Midrash. There names are Meir and Binyamin. I will ask them to study with you as your 'havruta,' one in the morning and the other in the afternoon, and I will take care of your livelihood. You will sleep in my home and eat my bread."

And the generous Reb Karpel kept his promise. His sons studied together with Nahumke and enlightened him with great breadth as well as straightforward logic and reasoning, and he grew steadily in Torah learning.

He earned for himself a good deal of respect from the other students in the Bet Midrash and was the adopted son of the generous Reb Karpel, who received tremendous "nahat" from Nahumke's progress.

Once again, however, it appeared that his share of trials and tribulations had yet to be completed: the word came that his father fell seriously ill. He requested permission from his benefactor and his sons and quickly went to his father's bedside, in the Ganker estate. His father was white as the sheets that covered him, but when he saw his son his eyes glistened and he said, "My dear son, I heard that you study Torah with remarkable diligence and are making great progress. This was all my hope, and my prayers reaped their reward!" His illness intensified and Nahumke did not leave his father's side, trying to help and ease the pain however he could. But not too many days passed, and his father succumbed to his illness and died.

The days of mourning came, and Nahumke's mother became attached to her son; he represented her sole source of comfort from her grief. She tearfully pleaded with him not to leave her, and Nahumke suddenly found himself in a bind. How can he bring pain and distress to his widowed mother? On the other hand, what will be with his learning?

To be continued


The Obligation of "Hakarat Hatov"

Dear Brothers,

In our parashah the Torah commands us a certain misvah. If a person eats a quantity of bread that gives him satiation, he must, on the level of Torah law, recite birkat hamazon. Hazal ordained that even if one ate only an amount of a "kezayit" he recites birkat hamazon. For what does he express gratitude - for the piece of bread that he ate? Not at all. He thanks the Creator who "feeds us and the entire world in His goodness, with grace, with kindness, with surplus and with great compassion - and His table is set for everyone, and He provided sustenance and food for all His creatures whom He created with His compassion and His abundance of kindness." Yet, even this is not enough. One thanks the Al-mighty for all the good He does for him and his nation, starting from Yessi'at Missrayim. One also thanks Him for Torah and misvot, for life and sustenance.

And even this does not suffice. One must take advantage of this opportunity to submit a request, and submit a request for everything: the restoration of the kingdom of Yisrael, the rebuilding of the Mikdash, economic prosperity - everything and anything.

All this comes to teach us what "hakarat hatov," the obligation of gratitude, entails. When we acknowledge our debt of gratitude to our parents, may Hashem grant them long and good lives, or to other family members or anyone who has shown us favor, we cannot focus only on the current favor, but we must rather begin from the roots, from the goodness shown to us already from the outset.

Anyone of us, from among the tens of thousands of people who thirstily listen to the shiur of Rav Ovadia Yossef shlit"a, when we study his works and follow in accordance with his rulings, realizing how much gratitude we owe him - we must also thank him not only for this kindness, but for the kindness he performs for the entire generation through the ocean of his Torah and efforts on behalf of the restoration of the Torah's glory. Even beyond that, we must begin to appreciate his widespread, unending activity in which he has involved himself constantly over the last several decades. We must also take advantage of this opportunity to pray that Hashem will strengthen him, renew his youth and grant him many years to see the fruits of his labor with the nation's return to its fountains of faith and the bringing of the ultimate redemption, speedily and in our days.

Shabbat Shalom

Aryeh Deri

A Summary of the Shiur Delivered on Mossa'ei Shabbat by Rav Ovadia Yossef shlit"a

Halachot of Commemorating the Destruction of the Bet Hamikdash

After the destruction of the Bet Hamikdash, Hazal instituted several laws designed to commemorate the destruction. For example, one who builds a new house leaves an area of one square "amah" without plaster near the doorway. Likewise, one who sets a table for guests sets an extra place without a bowl normally placed there. Furthermore, a woman should leave one piece of jewelry she normally wears so that it isn't complete. It was also decreed that one may not play musical instruments for rejoicing. All this is meant for us to remember Yerushalayim, and Hazal say (Ta'anit 30b), "Whoever mourns for Yerushalayim merits to see its rejoicing; whoever does not mourn for Yerushalayim does not see its rejoicing."

It is permitted to sing songs and praises to Hashem with musical instruments at a meal of a misvah, such as a wedding, berit milah, pidyon haben and the like. However, this is only on condition that people retain a sense of seriousness with the intention of praising Hashem for all the goodness He has bestowed upon us. Otherwise, such a gathering is considered a "moshav lessim" (a gathering of frivolity).

Those who listen to songs and praises to Hashem over the radio or tape player - even with musical accompaniment - have authorities on whom to rely, so long as they do not do so in a frivolous manner. One may sing songs and praises to Hashem both during the week and on Shabbat, but songs that do not involve Hashem's praises are forbidden. Needless to say, sensual love songs are strictly forbidden, so much so that Hazal say (Shabbat 33a) that the sin of inappropriate speech brings on calamities and harsh decrees. Similarly, those who take pesukim from Shir Hashirim, interpret them literally, and compose melodies to them are liable for harsh punishment (Sanhedrin 101a).

It is permitted to take melodies composed by gentiles and use them for sections of the tefilah, thereby removing these songs from the realm of the impure and bringing them to sanctity. We find that great sadikim composed praises to Hashem based on the melodies of love songs, and these hymns are sung today in many Batei Kenesset throughout the world. Indeed, there is a long standing tradition of songs used in tefilah taken from gentile compositions.

Hazanim should be instructed to ensure to recite Hashem's Name properly with the accent on the final syllable. They should not accent either of the first two syllables, even to fit the tune they use. Additionally, they should be told not to elongate a word of tefilah to accommodate the melody, as an extension of a word often yields a different sound, and it thus loses its meaning. All the more so, they should not prolong a syllable in the middle of a word.

Yosef Ben Hanom and Yosef Ben Geraz

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