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Parashat Ve'eschanan


This Shabbat is called "Shabbat Nahamu" based on the beginning lines of the haftarah. And this is not simply empty consolation, since, as it says in the midrash, "they sinned doubly, as it says 'a sin did Jerusalem sin.' They were punished doubly, since it says 'they were punished doubly for all their sins.' And they receive double consolation, since it says 'be consoled, be consoled my people.' And one may learn that if the sin is doubled then the punishment is doubled--as is the consolation."

It seems that they are referring to the Gemara (Shevuot 37) based on the verse "and the woman said, amen amen." When one says a word twice, it is considered as a promise. Thus repetition suggests permanence; likewise, there is temporary and permanent sin. There is temporary and immediate consolation, which lasts only for a short amount of time, but then there is more permanent consolation which is referred to by the repetition of the word 'consolation' in the first verse of the haftarah.

We should remember that before the coming redemption, every change that occurs should be seen as a change for the better. And the meaning of this statement may be better seen from a short story. An important man came to a sandal maker and while waiting for his sandals to be ready engaged in conversation with the sandal maker. The sandal maker told the man how he had once been so poor that he had no bread and his wife was extremely afraid. So he went to see the rabbi, the 'Divre Shemuel' and cried to him about his misfortune. The rabbi gave the man a gold coin and told him to go to the market, buy a fattened chicken, and have his wife prepare the chicken. He should then eat the entire chicken alone - not leaving one bit - and then come back to the rabbi. The sandal maker was very happy that he would soon be saved from his poor condition. He went to the market to buy the chicken, and all the people there laughed at the poor man arriving with a gold coin, and accused him of stealing the money. He ignored their jeers and brought the chicken and took it to his home. His wife prepared the chicken and she and the children were very excited about finally ending their hunger. But when the chicken was ready the many insisted on eating the chicken himself, pushing his family away with one hand and eating with the other. His wife and children began crying but the man insisted that he had to eat the chicken himself. The man went back to the rabbi, crying about his family and bearing a terrible pain in his stomach. The rabbi asked the man if he had enjoyed the chicken and he responded that he had not because of all the tension in his home and his own physical pain. The rabbi then asked if he ever thought about the problems of the wealthy people and their pains when he saw them eating to their heart's content. The sandal maker saw the rabbi's point and decided to remain a sandal maker.

The moral of the story is that one is never happy with his lot and that the grass is always greener on the other side, except when one receives true and lasting consolation (like the sandal maker did) which leaves one happy and content for life.


The ninth of Av is now behind us, and the days of comfort have begun. Yet for many of us the mourning must continue, for we remain within the thirty days of mourning after the most recent terrorist attacks in Israel. We should have thanked Hashem for the lag in terrorist attacks! And we should now pray to Hashem that nothing like this will happen again. When the angel of Hashem appeared to Gideon, the savior of Israel, he said "Hashem is with you, great soldier."

What he meant was that even though you are a great soldier, you are still in need of the help of Hashem, because without Hashem you are nothing! You should know that everything is in the hands of Hashem. If we indeed realize that Hashem is the one in control and only he has the final say, and if we pray for the future, then Hashem will help us. Just as it says regarding Yoseph, "And his master saw that Hashem was with him and everything that he did was successful" - his success was due to Hashem .


Surely you have seen a spider's web in a corner of your home or in other places. When insects land on the sticky web they stick and are unable to escape, and thus the spider is able to capture its prey. How does the spider make the web? Near the back of the spider is a sort of nozzle which sprays out a stream which, when in contact with air, turns in to a web.

When a spider falls it may use its web to catch itself from a potentially dangerous fall. Spiders also use their web-making ability to move from place to place over relatively great distances, since the wind can catch one edge of a web and send it great distances which it can then traverse by moving along the web.

As it is written in Proverbs 30, "There are four small things and they are very wise . . . the spider clambers up with his hands and he is in king's palaces." As the Mesudat David explains, the reference to hands touches on the spider's weaving of its web in which it catches flies; even though the spider lives in the king's palace it prefers to eat what it catches by itself. And we should learn from this that it is better to enjoy the work of one's own hands than that of others.

Rabbi Raphael Moshe Elbaz zs"l

The Gaon Rabbi Raphael Moshe Elbaz, known as the Rema, was born in Morocco about 180 years ago, and already from his youth it was realized that he was destined for greatness. At a young age he decided to cling to the Torah and studied with his uncle, Rabbi Amram Elbaz. When he was 28 years old he was ordained by the great scholars Rabbi Amram Elbaz and Rabbi Abisabul, and he acted as a judge even at so young an age. He later served as a Rabbi, answering many legal questions, some of which were published in his works. He edited twenty volumes but only saw a few of them printed in his lifetime. His books covered many, many topics, from responsa to kabbalah.

The Rema has his own synagogue where he taught his congregation, and he had many connections to the royal family. On the 22nd of Tamuz 5656 he passed away, leaving no children, but a substantial legacy of books, and the synagogue was named after him -- may we benefit from some of his merit.


"Hashem, You have begun to appear..."

The Hid"a wrote that this is an acrostic for "Eliyahu." Moshe hinted here regarding the way in which Eliyahu ascended heavenward and did not die like most people. But Moshe himself was buried on the other side of the Jordan River so that his descendants would one day come and bring him into Israel. This is why Hashem said to Moshe that he had a great deal, meaning that he was the leader of his own generation and needed to be concerned with their welfare.

"And Hashem was angry at me for your good..."

The kabbalist Rabi Meir Paprish explained based on the words of our sages (Sotah 14) that Moshe's work was not for naught and that the tabernacle that he built was not destroyed. And if he had entered Israel and built the Temple then his detractors would not have been able to stop him. Therefore, Moshe was not allowed to enter Israel, so that Hashem could pour out his anger on the Temple and the children of Israel would be saved.

"And Hashem said to me, 'Enough'"

The wise men of Castille explained that Moshe knew that when someone says "please" in his prayers twice, he will be answered. Therefore, when praying for Miriam's health, he said, "Please Hashem, please cure her." Here as well, after Moshe said to Hashem "please let me enter the holy land" Hashem said "enough" so that Moshe would not say please again and thus force the hand of Hashem.


Next Monday will be the 15th of Av, which is a holiday for all the children of Israel. Among other reasons for this holiday, it is celebrated because it notes the time when Jews stopped cutting down trees to bring sacrifices and instead focused on learning Torah (as Rabbi Gershom says in Gemara Bava Batra 121). And they state in the Gemara that from this day forth he that learns more will live more. Therefore, in these coming days of judgment we should all try to learn more Torah so that we will, with the help of Hashem, live longer and better!

The Gaon Rabbi Kemos Agiv stated that he had a tradition that this day also marked the death of Rabbi Shimeon ben Levi, whose song "Bar Yohai" was accepted amongst all of Israel. We cannot rise on this day to his high level of holiness. For he wanted to move to the land of Israel and he packed up his belongings to go there but on the way he passed through a community which desperately needed religious instruction, and so he forfeited his plans of going to Israel and instead remained with the community to teach Torah. He sacrificed his personal spirituality for the good of the many.

This should come as a lesson to all of us! The nation is thirsting for Torah, and we must help to educate the masses even if it means a degree of personal spiritual sacrifice. Remember, when a father asks one of his sons how he let the other son drown, the son cannot simply say that his father had warned him against dirtying his clothes!

by: Rabbi Avigdor Miller

Rain; Snow

"Said Rav Hana of Baghdad: The rain 1) waters, 2) slakes the thirst (of the produce), 3) fertilizes (the earth), 4) imparts lustre (to the fruits), and 5) draws forth" (Ketuvot 10b). Five benefits of rain are here enumerated; although today we do not fully understand the exact meaning of all five, but this serves to demonstrate the interest in studying the Creator's benefactions. The third, the function of fertilizing, is today understood: the nitrogen and oxygen in the air could provide an inexhaustible supply of fertilizer, if not for the inertness of the nitrogen. But a bolt of lightning causes these two gases to unite, and they dissolve into the rain, which thus brings down nitrates to fertilize the soil. Concerning the snow, Rava said: "A snowfall is better for the mountains then five rains" (Ta'anit 3b). Instead of running downhill with little effect, the snow clings to the mountainsides and melts gradually, bestowing the optimum benefit. This is reminiscent of David's observation: "He Who gives snow like wool" (Tehillim 147:16): which refers to the fluffy texture of snow which imprisons air just as does wool, and therefore insulates the earth against frost, thus protecting the soil bacteria and the invaluable soil-insects. The whit color of snow, like the whiteness of wool, repels light and therefore retards the melting of snow. Whatever observations the Sages made were in addition to the observations of the Scriptures, which were constantly in the mouths of the old generations.


One Who Eats Cake and Rice

In the previous issues of this newsletter we noted that one says the 'mezonot' blessing before eating rice, since it indeed satisfies man's hunger and satiates him, and 'borei nefashot' after eating rice, since rice is not included in the five types of grains.

The Hid"a, in his book "Birkei Yosef" (section 208:107), notes that: "one who eats cooked rice and says the 'al ha-mihya' blessing afterwards has fulfilled his obligation. Likewise, one who ate cake and rice, and said the 'al ha-mihya' blessing afterward, also fulfilled his obligation, since the rice satisfies man's hunger." Similarly, the Gaon Rabbi Yosef Hayyim wrote in his book "Ben Ish Hai" (Parashat Pinhas, section 18) that even a priori it is acceptable to do this, and if he ate a full portion of cake and of rice he may say 'al ha-mihya' alone as a final blessing and this covers both the rice and the cake. There are some later authorities who disagree with this ruling and who argue that it is preferable to say 'borei nefashot' after eating rice and then 'al ha-mihya' on the cake, since many early authorities believe that one should say 'borei peri ha-adamah' on rice. And based on this ruling, 'al ha- mihya' does not cover the rice and one should say 'borei nefashot' in addition to the 'al ha-mihya' which is said after eating the cake. Still, we do not follow this opinion and saying 'al ha-mihya' covers both the cake and the rice, as the Ben Ish Hai and the Hid"a state. (See also the opinion of Rabbi Ovadia Yossef in "Yabi'a Omer" 7:35:2.)

It is clear that this same principle is applicable to the blessing said before eating food, and therefore one who eats cake and has a plate of rice before him may simply say the 'mezonot' blessing on the cake and then proceed to eat the rice without saying an additional blessing.

Still, Rabbi Ovadia Yossef has taught us that this law is not so simple, since everything that we have stated so far is applicable only to one who first said the blessing on the cake. If one first says the 'mezonot' blessing on the rice, however, then he must repeat the 'mezonot' blessing over the cake, since the blessing over the rice does not cover the cake. Why? As the Beit Yosef wrote in section 206, one who says the 'ha-ess' blessing on an etrog and then wants to eat an olive must repeat the blessing, since the blessing on the less-important food cannot cover the more important food (the olive is considered more important since it is one of the seven species). Likewise, the blessing over rice cannot cover the more important cake.

In summary, one who eats cake in addition to cooked rice should first say the 'mezonot' blessing over the cake which fulfills the obligation for blessing over the rice. After eating, one should say the 'al ha-mihya' blessing on the cake which again will subsume the rice, since one who erred and said the 'al ha-mihya' after eating rice instead of 'borei nefashot' fulfilled his obligation. Still, if one says 'mezonot' over rice he must repeat the blessing before eating the cake.

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