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Parashat Re'eh

behold -- i

Some thirty-five years ago, a journalist interviewed then Israeli Supreme Court judge Dr. Binyamin Silverberg of blessed memory. Dr. Silverberg, a believing Jew who was saturated with tradition, told the story of his studies in the Navardok Yeshiva before he eventually went to Germany to study law. He was an interesting and unique personality, who tried to bring some of Judaism's eternal wellsprings into the halls of legal justice; this is noted contrast to the unfortunate practice today of secular Israeli law to curtail the powers of rabbinical courts.

During the interview, he told a fascinating story about his arrival at the Navardok Yeshiva and his first, unforgettable encounter with the renowned "Elder of Navardok," Rabbi Yosef Horowitz, a major figure in the Mussar movement.

When he arrived -- he recounted -- he presented himself to the Elder, who invited him on a walk through the city streets. During the ensuing conversation, he felt that the Elder had absorbed all of his uncertainties, discerned his essential character, and peered into the secret recesses of his heart. The Elder was a giant in human understanding; every sentence he uttered was an arrow which quickly found its mark. Many of the Elder's concise comments were only understood by Dr. Silverberg decades later, when he marveled at how perceptive the Elder had been!

As they walked, they noticed a young couple -- irreligious, perhaps even non-Jewish -- walking in front of them, totally engrossed in their own world -- chattering and laughing. Dr. Silverberg saw them, and the Elder saw that he saw ... "Do you see this couple?" he asked. "Do you think that they are happy? They are miserable!" Dr. Silverberg found these words to be astonishing. The couple clearly seemed to be happy. The Elder explained: "Imagine a rich man who has suddenly lost his money. His checks bounce, his business flounders, his creditors surround him; his family life suffers, as his wife leaves him. But man is a creature of habit. He flees to a restaurant and orders his favorite dish. Does he enjoy? Of course! But is he happy? A man can create a veneer of happiness, but underneath -- the cauldron boils ... Do you understand? The young man in front of us has tremendous family and social problems; his relationship with that girl is not even stable. If he forgets about his troubles for a short period of time -- that is not happiness! Remember this lesson, my son."

After a moment, he added: "I only knew one truly happy man -- Rabbi Yisrael Salanter. He was at peace with himself and with G-d. His happiness was firmly based on every missva and each act he performed. Remember this my son; perhaps one day you will understand."

And remember he did -- for decades afterward!

This idea underlies Moshe's words to the Jewish people: "Behold -- I." As the Ohr HaHaim explains the verse: Look at me! Who does not want happiness, and who does not know how few and fleeting moments of true happiness are, and how thin the artificial veneer of fake happiness is. But "look at me!" Look at the happiness written across the faces of Torah giants, and realize that only a life of holiness and purity, of Torah and missvot, can guarantee a life of true happiness.

Only a Torah education can promise our children the most precious thing in the world: inner peace -- the true happiness. Y


"Behold I place before you today a blessing and a curse. The blessing -- when you listen to the missvot of G-d ... And the curse -- if you do not listen ..."

Rabbi Yisrael Salanter asked: Why the change of style between "when you listen" and "if you do not listen"? He responded: There is a fundamental distinction between the blessing and its opposite. The blessing is given immediately; anyone who attempts to raise himself up and fulfill the desire of his Creator by observing Torah and missvot receives immediate help and blessing as an "advance." Conversely, the curse that comes about through disobedience only follows as a result of sin. It only comes "if you do not listen."

As we stand at the beginning of the month of Elul, the days leading in to the High Holidays, we should realize that the only way to fulfill our prayers for long life, health, and livelihood is through the acceptance of missvot. If we merely resolve to follow the proper path, we will receive blessing as an advance!

Our behavior during this month will prove, first and foremost to ourselves, whether we are truly serious in our commitment and deserving of G-d's "advance." Y

the wonders of the creator


The nails protect the fingertips, which are extremely sensitive and rich in blood. They are composed of hard keratin, which contains a high percentage of tar. The fingernail also contains calcium and small amounts of potassium and chloride. The surface of the nail covers the finger exactly, like the glass covering on a watch. The growth of the fingernail starts from the half-moon-like part, from which the rest of the nail grows. This area is rich in blood cells, which give the nail its pinkish hue. The rate of nail growth decreases with age; children, therefore, grow nails faster than adults. Among other factors affecting fingernail growth rate is a warm environment which speeds up the rate of growth. Thus, for example, nails grow faster during the summer than during the winter. The rate of fingernail growth is faster than that of toenail growth. In fact, every finger grows its nail at a different rate. If a fingernail is totally removed, the growth of a new fingernail takes somewhere between two-and-a-half and three months. Replacing a toenail can take two to three times as much time.

Dear readers, we use the expression "grabbing on with the nails" to describe someone who is holding on to something with all his might and refuses to let go. The Jewish people have been holding on to Judaism with their nails through countless persecutions throughout the years. History attests to the fact that this tenacity has preserved us despite our long and bitter exile and the attempts of our foes to annihilate us. We, too, the Jews of today, feel the link to the Jews of past generations, who always proclaimed mightily: "Hear O Israel, Hashem is our G-d, Hashem is One." Y

Measure for Measure a continuing saga (part four)

(To summarize from last time, our once wealthy and now destitute talmid chacham had been wandering through many towns, always stopping in at the beit midrash to learn and get a meal or two. He had come to a certain town and stopped in at a beit midrash which was financed by a wealthy man who respected learning and was well-versed himself. The others learning there soon discovered his erudition, and decided to draw lots to see who would have the visiting scholar over for lunch. Just then, the wealthy man, returning from his business, entered the room.)

The wealthy man entered, and proceeded to ask what they had learned so far today, and if they had produced any hiddushim. This was his usual custom, for he loved to get involved in the give-and-take of learning. They excitedly told him of a certain matter they had been discussing, and described a difficult question which had arisen. "Wait," the wealthy man commanded, holding up his hand to stop them. "Give me time to think. Perhaps I can come up with an answer." They waited respectfully as he thought. He then attempted to give an answer, but they disputed it. He tried again to draw a fine distinction and so resolve the matter, but it was proven wrong. "Indeed," said the wealthy man, "It is a great difficulty!"

The others then related to him how a stranger had come into the beit midrash that day and resolved the difficulty with great skill and ease. They pointed to where he sat, alone in a corner of the beit midrash. They told the benefactor of all the other questions they had plied him with in all areas of Torah, and how he had given clear and comprehensive answers to all of them.

The wealthy man was very astonished, and decided to talk to this visitor himself. He went over to the corner where he was sitting , and began to talk with him in learning. He quickly saw that the reports of his erudition were greatly underrated, and that this humble stranger was far more learned than anyone had guessed. As they conversed, the wealthy man was taken with the sweetness of his words, and impressed by the extent of his humility. The other chachamim, seeing that they were deep in discussion, decided to leave for lunch. They reasoned that it was better for the poor man to have a lavish meal with their benefactor than suffice with the modest meal that they could provide. They filed out the door, unnoticed by the two men engaged in deep conversation. After a while, the wealthy man was reminded by his stomach that it was lunchtime. Seeing that everyone else had left, he did the only right thing to do. He invited the poor scholar to come to his home for be contiinued...

The Golden Column
Rabbi Moshe Idan of blessed memory

This Thursday, the fifth of Elul, marks the anniversary of the death of Rabbi Moshe Idan of blessed memory, who, togetrher with his father Rabbi Kelifa Idan, was known as one of the saintly sages of Gabas, Tunesia. His biography is typical of the sages of those generations. He had to work to make ends meet, but his work engaged only his hands, while his mind was free to study Torah. He was a weaver; while his hands and feet worked the loom, he sat with a book open in front of him, totally engrossed in the world of Torah. He was thus able to grow in Torah until the townspeople appointed him as a judge. This position, however, was totally not for profit; he did not make a penny off of it. In fact, the position's only consequence was the fact that it forced him to quit his weaving job, since Halacha dictates that a public leader cannot engage in labor in public. Instead, he took a position as a schoolteacher. The job lasted all day, since the children, in accordance with Halacha, studies from dawn to dusk. He lovingly and patiently guided them to climb the ladder of Torah rung by rung. At nightfall, when the children would go home, he was able to turn to the halachic queries of the townspeople.

Rabbi Idan also aquired vast knowledge of Kabbala. When he once led the congregation in prayers, he skipped the Counting of the Omer. When people pressed him, his secret was revealed: His Counting of the Omer took some two hours, since he recited it with all the appropriate Kabbalistic intentions. On the fifth of Elul, 1894, he departed this world, leaving behind sons who were Torah giants in their own right. May his memory serve as a source of merit for us all. Y

From the Wellsprings of the Parasha

"Behold I place before you today a blessing"

Why did Moshe stress that he was the one placing the blessings and curses before the Jewish people? The Ohr HaHaim explains that if a Sage who is totally removed from the vanities of this world would preach adherence to pure spirituality as a path to heavenly bliss, his listeners would ask a double question: How does this sage know that worldly pleasures are vain; he never experienced them. Furthermore, how does he know what awaits us in Heaven? Moshe was able to say, however, that he was perfectly entitled to make such a pronouncement. After all, he had grown up in the house of Pharaoh; he was a rich and mighty king -- yet he had also ascended to Heaven to receive the Torah. I can attest, said Moshe, that one hour of heavenly bliss far outweighs all the pleasure of this world.

The Shela (Rabbi Yeshaya Horowitz) cites a tradition that a preacher's words are appreciated in accordance with his level of holiness and purity. This is why, explains Rabbi Ya'akov Pitusi (one of the great Tunisian rabbis of about two hundred years ago), Moshe stressed that "I place before you a blessing." Since Moshe delivered the message, he was confident that the people would receive and accept it. Furthermore, he stated, this is the intent of the verse, "You shall rid the evil from your midst -- and all of Israel will listen and fear." If a teacher is successful in eliminating evil from his own midst, he can be assured that his message will be listened to.

The Hida compares man to a traveler who has reached a fork in the road, where an old man stands, warning him: This path, which seems well-paved, is not really paved all the way. Further along it you will find pot-holes and pits and many places to stumble. The other path, which seems more difficult, eventually becomes a well-paved highway which will lead you safely to the city. This was Moshe's admonition: Realize that the rejection of missvot, which at first seems easy, eventually become woe and agony in this world and the next, while the seemingly difficult path of missvot is actually the path to the greatest blessing.

Rabbi David HaKohen explains in his "Ahavat David": Moshe stressed the word "today" to indicate that man is capable of changing each and every day. He can always leave the path of curse and embark on the path of blessing. Y

"Hechal Hashem Hemah"

The great gaon R' Sion Abba Shaul, the Rosh Yeshivah of Porat Yosef, always saw life through the prism of halacha. Once, at a shiur, a student left a mark on the wall as he moved his chair closer to the Rav. The Rav turned to him and asked pleasantly," Do you know what prohibition you have just violated?"

The student was taken aback, and the others in the shiur began arguing in technicalities: perhaps he must pay for the damage; on the other hand, the damage was not worth a perutah; perhaps it was not stealing at all since this is a common occurence in houses -- walls usually get scraped by the chairs. As the argument went on, the Rosh Yeshiva listened but did not say anything. Finally, when they had calmed down, he spoke.

"I have heard many interesting lines of thought, but I have not heard the answer. Have you forgotten that it says in the Torah, in Parshat Re'eh: 'You shall break apart their altars; you shall smash their pillars; and their sacred trees shall you cut down; and you shall obliterate their names from that place. You shall not do this to Hashem...'

"Our sages learn from here that one is prohibited from erasing or destroying one of the names of Hashem. In fact, it happened once that a person, in decorating the wall of a shul, inadvertently used the name of Hashem. For hundreds of years afterwards, nobody dared to paint over that wall. They even let the spiderwebs hang, out of the fear that if they were brushed away, some of the plaster might come off, and lead to a partial erasure of the name.

"Another prohibition that we learn from this pasuk is not to break off even one stone from the mizbeah or the Bet Hamikdash. And since we know that a bet midrash or a shul is called a "mikdash me'at"(minor mikdash), damaging a wall of those structures falls under the same category!

"So you see, my son, how careful we must be in weighing our every action, and in making sure that what we do fits with all parts of the Shulchan Aruch!" We can extend this idea even further: each of us may be considered a "mikdash me'at". This follows from the pasuk "and make me a mikdash, and I will dwell within them" -- within each one of us. R'Chaim of Volozhin expresses the same idea:

"The ultimate purpose of the resting of the Shechinah on the Bet Hamikdash was for the sake of man. If man will properly sanctify himself through the performance of the missvot, then he himself becomes a miniature mikdash. In him the Shechinah dwells, as the pasuk says, "Hechal Hashem Hemah" (these are the sanctuaries of Hashem)..."

If man is a miniature mikdash, then every averah that we transgress is comparable to destroying a stone from our individual mikdash. And this is also included in the prohibition of "You shall not do so to Hashem." The Zohar compares our hearts to the Holy of Holies. If we really valued the purity of our hearts as much as we would value and protect the Holy of Holies, we might be better people for it. Y

ASKING AND Expounding

Based on the Rulings of Rav Ovadia Yossef shlit"a
Arranged by Rav Moshe Yossef shlit"a
Rosh Bet Midrash "Meor Yisrael"

Eating Rice Mixed Together with other Foods

One who eats a dish containing rice and other foods (e.g. carrots, etc.) makes a blessing on the other food alone, according to the Rambam. The Rif, however, opines that one makes the beracha on whatever food is in the majority; the Shulhan Aruch (208:7) decides the Halacha in accordance with the Rif. Therefore, if there is more rice, he should make the beracha exclusively on it and use that beracha to include the other foods cooked with it.

Regardless of this dispute, we see that rice is not considered like a grain product, on which Halacha dictates that we recite a "Mezonot" when it is part of a mixture of foods, even if it does not constitute the majority ingredient. Rice, on the other hand, is not automatically considered the main ingredient, even though it receives a beracha of "Mezonot."

The Mishna Berura (212:1) writes that the main ingredient in a mixture is determined based on two criteria: which ingredient is in the majority, and which one is more important. Thus, it would see, in a mixture of rice and meat one would recite a beracha on the meat, even if it constitutes less of the mixture than the rice. Rabbi Ovadya Yosef, however, cites the Ritva (Hilchot Berachot 1:29) that rice has a certain importance as a staple food, despite not being a full-fledged grain product, and therefore in the above scenario one would make a beracha on the rice alone (Yalkut Yosef section 3 page 535).

However, if the meat would constitute the majority of the mixture, one would certainly make the beracha on the meat; the special properties of rice only matter when the rice constitutes the majority of the mixture, but other ingredients are more important that the rice. Then one would recite a "Mezonot" on the rice and no beracha on the other ingredients. Therefore, one who eats squash or eggplant filled with meat and rice should recite a "Mezonot," since the rice constitutes the main ingredient. To sum up: One who eats rice and carrots together should make a beracha on whichever is the majority ingredient. This is true even if the rice is mixed with meat; one should make the beracha on whatever is the majority ingredient. Y

excerpts from
Sing You Righteous...
by: Rabbi Avigdor Miller shlit"a

Youth III

Mr. Goodfriend: If the youth performs the missvot now with the fire of youth, this fire shall continue to warm his heart even in old age: "Planted (when young) in the house of G-d...They shall still bear fruit in old age" (Tehillim 92:14-15). If as a youth one learns to be grateful for cluod and rain, wind and snow, then even in old age he will regard the phenomena with pleasure and will thank the Creator for them.

Aaron: The youthful enthusiasm in the True Knowledge is stockpiled for the future.

Mr. Goodfriend: Yes. "On the day of goodness, be in goodness (be happy)" (Kohelet 7:14). This admonition seems superfluous. But it means: On a happy day, store up happiness and gratitude for the future. Happiness and True Knowledgeare vitamins which can be stored; in time of need, one may draw on his reserves. It is for this that the Creator gives happy days: In a day of good, plunge into the spirit of the happy day, think into the kindness of the Creator, soak up the True Knowledge that the world was built for kindliness (Tehillim89:3) and that it is very good (Beresheit 1:31), gain a happy and calm disposition: thus you utilize the opportunity which G-d gives for this purpose. But in accordance with the principle that "Righteous are G-d's ways; the just walk in them, and the disloyal stumble on them" (Hoshea 14:10), the energy and enthusiasm of youth is a test which may be used in two ways. Y

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