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Parashat Shelah

"It Will Not Succeed"

As we know, each letter of the Torah contains significance. Often, the Torah will write a misvah but leave its details and intricacies to the oral tradition, such as the misvah of tefilin, for example. It follows, then, that when the Torah presents a lengthy discussion of the details of a given episode, each detail provides us with a meaningful lesson. After the tragic incident of the spies, which culminated with Hashem’s decree that the generation of the desert would not enter Eres Yisrael, the people mourned bitterly. In an attempt to atone for their misdeed, they announced, "Here! Let’s ascend to the place which Hashem has said, for we have sinned." They had sinned by not trusting the power of Hashem which would assist them in battle, so they decided to perform teshuvah by going with total dedication and faith. They sinned by not showing proper respect and love towards the Land of Israel, so they now prepared to risk their lives for the land. The Torah then records, over the course of three pesukim, Moshe’s response to the people, including his simple question, "Why do you violate the word of Hashem - it will not succeed!" And, as we know, these people were soon killed by the Amalekim and Cana’anim.

What are we to learn from this parashah? The "Saba" of Nevarduk zs"l offered the following parable. A king once sent the national treasurer to sign a financial agreement with a neighboring power. Just prior to the treasurer’s departure, the king warned him not to get involved in any gambling on his trip. Insulted, the treasurer asked, "Would you ever suspect me of being a gambler?!" The king calmed his minister and reassured him, "I never accused you of anything. I am just insisting that you promise me that you will not bet under any circumstances." The treasurer was confused, but he gave the king his word and left.

Upon his arrival in his destination, he represented his country honorably and succeeded in his mission. The foreign government greeted him warmly and the king conducted a lavish affair in his honor. During the party, one of the government officials exclaimed, "Look how wise our neighboring king is, that he chose such a wise man as his treasurer, despite his displeasing physical appearance!"

The treasurer was, needless to say, very insulted. "What is displeasing about my appearance?" he asked.

The official answered, "Well, it is common knowledge that you have on your body a large, repulsive birthmark!"

"This is a lie!" insisted the treasurer.

His anger knew no bounds. He looked around and saw a myriad of giggly faces. He shouted, "This is a cheap lie, and I demand that you take back what you said!"

"Very well," answered the official. "If you insist, then so will I. If you can prove that you do not have a birthmark on your body the size of an apple, I will pay you ten thousand gold coins."

"You will most certainly pay, until the very last penny", cried the treasurer. True, the king had warned him not to get involved in these bets, but this was a case of a personal accusation, and he must disprove it. Both his own honor and that of his country were on the line. In a fit of rage, he stripped his clothes and demonstrated that the entire accusation was false. The official, as he promised, paid the ten thousand gold coins in full.

Upon his return, the treasurer presented the king with the signed agreement and, in addition, offered the king a gift - ten thousand gold coins, the money he had one through his bet.

The king gazed at his minister angrily. "You violated my order! I warned you not to bet!"

"Yes," said the minister, smiling, "but this was a sure victory." He proceeded to tell the entire incident.

The king sighed and said, "Fine, now listen. When I told the foreign king that I am sending you as my representative, he asked me, ‘Why do you trust him? He is such a fool!’ When I insisted on your fine qualifications, he responded, ‘I am willing to bet a million gold coins that this fool will strip his clothes right in the middle of a gala feast, in front of all the other government officials!’ In defense of your honor, I placed a bet with him, and I warned you not to place any bets. Now, look what you have done - not only do I look like a liar, but I lost a fortune. Not to mention the fact that you made a fool out of yourself!"

Indeed, this is the lesson of the parashah - "Why do you violate the word of Hashem - it will not succeed!"

A person never benefits from an averah, whereas he who walks in observance of the Torah is guaranteed security!


This nation, the nation of Hashem, is a very special people. We are believers, the children of believers. Hundreds of thousands of our people travel long and far to the grave site of Rabbi Shimon Bar Yohai; thousands flock to the burial places of Rabbi Meir Ba’al Haness, the Rambam, the Ar"i, and many others. May their merit protect all of us.

And yet, when this nation wanted to enter Eres Yisrael, Moshe never imagined that the great sadikim buried there - including Adam and Havah, Shem and Ever, not to mention our patriarchs and matriarchs - would protect the inhabitants of the land from Benei Yisrael’s attack. Moshe sent the scouts to see, among other things, "Are there trees?" which has been interpreted by Hazal as meaning, is there any living sadik who could protect the inhabitants. And, sure enough, that period saw the passing of Iyov, and thus Kalev and Yehoshua declared, "There shade has passed from them," indicating that now that Iyov has died his merit no longer protects them.

Indeed, the merit of a living sadik protects many times more than that of a sadik who has passed. Let us then strive to dwell in the light of our great gedolim, to seek their guidance and their berachah, for they are our greatest protection and source of blessing and success.

The Wonders of the Creator
Vitamin B6

Have you ever asked yourself if there exists a vitamin which can help you lose weight? Or one that could, once and for all, stop those disturbing twitches which wake you up in the middle of the night? Or how about something which can help ease those lingering aches and pains? Well, guess what - it exists! This is vitamin B6 pyridoxine. But before you run to the drug store to pick some up, there are several things you should know about this wondrous vitamin. Vitamin B6 can be very helpful for those with weight disorders due to the collection of water in the body. A scientist who conducted research for many years on the effects of this vitamin concluded that this vitamin produces a balance between nitrogen and potassium in the body. These minerals regulate body fluids, which helps to prevent bloating without medications which always cause adverse side-effects. This scientist found that vitamin B6 helps both men and women, and improves the sense of touch in the fingers and hands. What other great forces did Hashem implant within this vitamin? Researchers have found that besides helping to cure various diseases it helps cure certain skin diseases, hair-loss, high cholesterol, sleep disorders, and other health problems. Some university findings have discovered that the more one exercises, the more vitamin B6 he needs. We should also note that this vitamin is destroyed by sunlight, oxidization, and heat.

It is important to point out that one should not take too much of this vitamin, as it could cause problems later in life.

Furthermore, vitamin B6 taken by itself could disrupt the balance of B vitamins in the body and cause problems. Therefore, one should consult with a doctor, keep a rich, balanced diet, including all the major food groups, vitamins, and minerals.

Vitamin B6 is found in bananas, avocados, greens such as lettuce, and, perhaps most of all, in pecans.

The Golden Column
Rabbi Masoud Hakohen Alhadad zs"l

Nearly a century ago, in the year 5662, a serious crisis befell the city of Yerushalayim. The great Kabbalists of Yeshivat Bet-El, the great yeshivah where the sound of study and prayer never ceased, suffered from grave difficulties. They asked one of the most prominent personalities of the yeshivah, Rabbi Masoud Hakohen Alhadad zs"l, to travel to the distant communities and ask them for their assistance in supporting the yeshivah. Wherever he went he was greeted with great respect, and his brilliance and holiness led to a most successful mission. He completed his work in the city of Spaks and boarded a ship to Tunis. First he sent his luggage onto the boat, and then, when the time came, he stepped onto the ship. When he asked for his belongings, the sailors said that they know nothing of any of his belongings. He said nothing and took his seat. The captain gave the order to lift the anchor and sail, when suddenly the sailors became frozen, unable to move. The skipper was petrified, and asked them if some unjust activity had taken place. They confessed to having hid the rabbi’s luggage, and they told the skipper exactly where it was hidden. The skipper quickly returned the stolen goods to their rightful owner, begging his forgiveness. At that moment, the sailors were once again able to move about.

Upon his return he was appointed as Rosh Yeshivah, at the age of eighty. He composed many works, including "Koah Ma’asav Higid Le’Amo," "Ben Mechabed Av," "Simhat Kohen," and others. He remained at the head of the yeshivah for twenty-five years, until his death at the age of one hundred and seven years, on 24 Sivan, 5687.

The Rabbi’s Blessing
a continuing saga (part five)

FLASHBACK: Yisshak Goite, whose family emigrated to Triast, Italy, was hired as a house-attendant in a wealthy home and earned much respect through his fine character and integrity. He saved his earnings for his future, but when a sadik came to collect funds for the yeshivot of Jerusalem and stayed in his home, Yis’hak gave all his savings to the sadik and in return received a blessing that by the time the sadik returns Yis’hak will be among the wealthy people of the community. Soon afterward, Yis’hak found himself at a public auction of merchandise which was taken from a ship by pirates.

"Maybe tell us what is in these barrels," cried someone from the audience. The auctioneer responded, "I don’t know - there was no time to open them. Maybe some fine, aged wine, maybe spices from the Far East." Several people gathered around the barrels to smell and immediately straightened up. "These aren’t spices, not even salted fish," they announced, as the rest erupted in laughter.

"Maybe it’s flour, or water," said the auctioneer. "Fifty dinar - who is ready?"

Who would offer fifty dinar for a cat in the hat? All eyes were transfixed on the boy leaning against the barrels, signifying - in their eyes - that he agrees to join the bidding. Yis’hak himself was the only one unaware of this.

"Who are you, boy?" asked the auctioneer.

"Yis’hak Goite, messenger-boy of the merchant, Refael." A stir overcame the crowd. The auctioneer raised his hand and said, "Very well. Who is prepared to offer a higher bid?"

Nobody moved, including the young boy. "If so," said the auctioneer, "then let’s move on to the next item." Yis’hak then decided that he had rested enough. He straightened up and left, followed by the curious gazes of the audience.

He returned to his work, stood before his boss, and gave him an account of all that he had accomplished that afternoon. Just as the merchant was listening to Yisshak’s detailed account, the sound of approaching chariots was heard. A convoy of wagons arrived, and they were loaded with barrels. "Is this the home of the merchant, Refael?" asked the drivers. They nodded in the positive, and the drivers began unloading the barrels off the wagon.

"Fifty gold coins," they said to the dumbfounded merchant. "For what?" he asked.

"No turning back now," they responded threateningly. "Your messenger bought these barrels at an auction. Oh - here he is!" They grabbed Yis’hak with their strong, forceful hands.

to be continued......

From the Wellsprings of the Parasha

"One man, one man...each [tribal] prince among them"

Rabbi Yehudah Elbaz zs"l suggests that in this pasuk Hashem alluded to the fact that only two of the spies, Yehoshua and Kalev, would succeed in their mission and not stumble with the other scouts. What is meant, then, by the phrase, "..each prince among them"? Just as we know that "when a sadik earns [his portion] he takes both his portion and those of the others in Gan Eden," such as Avraham who received reward which was taken away from the ten previous, sinful generations, similarly, Yehoshua and Kalev received the reward which would have gone to the other scouts. This is further alluded to by the pasuk, "[Yehoshua and Kalev] lived from those people who went to scout the land."

"Moshe called Hoshea Bin Nun [by the name], 'Yehoshuah'"

Targum Yonatan Ben Uziel writes that Moshe saw Yehoshua’s humility he prayed on his behalf. Rabbi Sevi Didi zs"l of Tiberias (the anniversary of whose death occurs this week, on 1 Tamuz), in his work, "Eres Sevi," explains that a humble person often thinks that he is inferior, and will therefore reject his opinion in favor of those of others. That is why Moshe was particularly concerned, and thus prayed that Yehoshua be protected from the sinful plot of the spies.

"Be strong and take from the fruits of the land"

Rabbi Avraham Azulai zs"l writes that this pasuk serves as the source of the Midrash which states that Moshe told the scouts, "Do not go in like thieves." Rather, they were to go with strength and confidence, taking the fruits openly, for all to see. This would enhance their faith in their Creator as they behold overt miracles, and would thus be dissuaded from bringing back a negative report. However, as we know, even this did not help. We see that even after witnessing great wonders and miracles, the heart can still be hardened and refuse to recognize them, a frightening message which should arouse our hearts to rigorous self-introspection.

"They went and came"

Rashi explains that this pasuk compares the scouts’ departure to Eres Yisrael to their return to the desert. Just as they returned with an inaccurate, negative report about the land, so was their intention immediately upon departure. Rabbi Yehudah Birdogo zs"l of Miknaas, a colleague of the Or Hahayim zs"l, in his work, "Mayim Amukim," asks, how is it possible to say such a thing about all the scouts, including Yehoshua and Kalev? He answers that all the pasuk teaches us is the comparison between the scouts’ departure and their return. The ten who returned with a negative report left with that same evil intention. And Yehoshua and Kalev, who returned with high praise for Eres Yisrael and unwavering trust in Hashem, had left with that same intention

The Container of Flour and Torah

When King Ahav introduced idol-worship into Eres Yisrael, and tried to prove his case by pointing to the fact that Hashem had not withheld the rain as he promised to do when Benei Yisrael worship idols, Eliyahu’s anger was aroused and he declared, "As Hashem lives - in these years there will not be dew or rain, except by my word!" Ahav tried to kill him, so the prophet hid in Nahal Kerit, where he lived until the stream dried up by the drought. Hashem instructed him to go to the city of Sarfat, where a widow would sustain him. Indeed, upon his arrival in the city, he encountered a widow chopping wood. He asked her for bread and she responded, "I swear by Hashem your G-d if I have any baked goods, except for a handful of flour in a container, and a little oil in the dish. I am now chopping wood so that I can come and bake for myself and my son - and then we will die."

Eliyahu told her, "Do not be afraid. Do as you said, but make for me from the flour a small pastry first, and only then bake for you and your son. For so says Hashem the G-d of Israel, the container of flour will never empty, and the dish of oil will never be lacking, until the day Hashem brings destruction upon the entire world." And, indeed, there was enough flour and oil for all of them, when the child was sick Eliyahu revived him, and Eliyahu lived there for three years during the famine (Melachim 1, 17).

The question we must ask is, if he knew that there would be enough flour and oil, then why did he insist that she bake for him first? He should have allowed her to first prepare food for her and her son, and only then bake for him. Or, alternatively, he could have asked her to bake for all three of them at once!

Two answers may be given, answers which are very much related and which compliment each other.

The Radak zs"l cites a Midrash of Hazal relevant to our parashah. Eliyahu was a kohen, and he was telling her to first give "hallah" from the dough, which is to be given to a kohen as long as he is ritually pure, which Eliyahu clearly was. Secondly, the Ralbag zs”l suggests, "Eliyhau instructed her this way, for in exchange for her feeding him Hashem will then bring the blessing upon the flour and oil. Were she to have baked for herself and her son first, the flour and oil would have been diminished."

Imagine - if she would have given him to eat, but only together with herself and her son, she would not have been deserving of the berachah. Only if supporting the prophet was her primary concern, first and foremost, preceding everything else - only then would she merit the blessing.

This is true regarding the totality of one’s life. One may not begin any work in the morning prior to tefilah, nor may he eat anything before tefilah. Why? To emphasize that spirituality is of paramount and primary importance. Everything else is secondary.

Perhaps we can now understand why, after it was decreed that Benei Yisrael would remain in the desert for forty years, they learned the misvah of hallah as a sort of consolation. This taught them that forty years of Torah study with Moshe during the dawn of our nation’s history served as the basis for the subsequent generations, as represented by hallah, which is given before the dough is eaten.

Certainly this applies, as well, to a person’s life. If the earliest years are devoted to Torah education, without any interruption, if these years are ones of growth in Torah, the acquisition of proper midot and a thorough and comprehensive knowledge of halachah, if one’s parents are smart enough to send him to a Torah educational institution, this helps to ensure his spiritual and material success for the rest of his life, and they will merit wonderful children, and much blessing and success.


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

Does the Berachah for Wine Fulfill the Requirement for Grapes?

In the previous issue we discussed that one who recites "borei peri hagefen" before eating grapes, or recites "al hagafen.." after eating grapes, has fulfilled his requirement even though he did not recite the correct berachah ("peri ha’ess"; "al ha’ess"). The Bet Yosef adds that this is the halachah also for one who has wine and grapes before him and recites peri hagefen with the intention of fulfilling the requirement for both the wine and the grapes. He has fulfilled his requirement and does not need to recite peri ha’ess over the grapes. However, this is true ONLY if the individual had specific intention that the berachah of hagefen would fulfill the requirement for the grapes. But if he recited the berachah of hagefen with the intention that it would fulfill only the requirement for the wine, and not the grapes, then the "hagefen" does not fulfill the requirement for the grapes, since the grapes require a berachah of "ha’ess." This situation is similar to a case of one who recited "ha’adamah" for vegetables, who then recites "ha’ess" over fruits, even if they were there before him when he recited the ha’adamah. The reason is that the halachah that ha’adamah fulfills the requirement for fruits applies only when there was specific intention to do so. Since Hazal instituted different berachot for different types of foods in order to further enhance our praise of Hashem, the berachah for one type of food does not fulfill the requirement for another type of food without specific intention. (For this reason the Shulhan Aruch writes in 211:3 that one may recite a ha’adamah before a ha’ess, and he need not worry about the ha’adamah fulfilling the requirement for the fruit, thus rendering his ha’ess an unnecessary berachah. This is also the implication of the Shulhan Aruch 206:2, that the berachah for one food-type fulfills the requirement for another type only with specific intention.)

If one mistakenly recited a ha’adamah over wine, he has, it would seem, fulfilled his obligation, and this is, in fact, the ruling of Rav Ovadia Yossef shlit"a (Yehaveh Da’at vol. 6 ch. 13, in a footnote). He cites this ruling from the Ra’ah in Berachot (40) who explains that Hazal instituted that he mention in his berachah over wine the word, “peri” (fruit), and therefore we recite, "borei peri hagefen." And so, one who recites "borei PERI ha’adamah" has fulfilled his obligation. This is also the implication of the Ritva and the ruling of the Hid”a (in Shiyurei Berachah 207), as well as many other aharonim.

In summary, one who recites hagefen when there were grapes before him, as long as he had specific intention to fulfill his obligation for the grapes with the "hagefen" he has indeed fulfilled his obligation.

Furthermore, one who recites "bore peri ha’adamah" over wine has fulfilled his obligation and does not require a berachah of hagefen.

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