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Haftarah: Yehezkel 20:2-20

MAY 5-6, 2017 10 IYAR 5777


"Like the practice of the land of Egypt in which you dwelled do not do." (Vayikra 18:3)

In this week's perashah we find the Jews journeying in the desert. They have not yet developed a national character, nor do they have a country. For now they are traveling from one country, Egypt, to another, Canaan. They are being warned severely against emulating the national character of either. The Jews are expected to develop a national character from the Torah, and then live by it in their own country, Eress Yisrael.

The verse above tells the Israelites not to emulate the lifestyle of Egypt or Canaan. Why is it necessary to mention Egypt? Why not just say: "Don't do such and such misdeeds"?

Rabbi Yaakov Haber explains that the answer can be found in Rashi. "Because Egypt was the most immoral and depraved country among the nations." Why mention Canaan? Rashi again provides the answer: "Because the seven nations of Canaan were even more immoral and depraved than the Egyptians!"

But, if the Jews are supposed to be the "light unto the nations," it seems they are starting off with quite a handicap, considering where they were coming from and where they were going. If G-d wanted them to be so great, why didn't He supply them with a more conducive atmosphere to holiness, instead of taking them from bad to worse?

The answer to this problem lies in the very way Jewish history unfolds. We are compared to a rose among the thorns. Because of our exiles we were flung to some of the most morally depraved areas of the world. It was there that we were truly challenged to demonstrate our commitments to Torah. It was there we had to search deep within ourselves to find the essence as our souls, it was that exercise that made us grow.

Often, our growth takes place, not in spite of a diverse situation but because of it. Maybe that's why, right from the start we were surrounded with challenges so that we can rise like a rose amongst the moral thorns of the society in which we live.

Shabbat Shalom Rabbi Reuven Semah "Do not take revenge or bear a grudge" (Vayikra 19:18)

We are all familiar with the concept of revenge. If someone does evil to us or holds back a favor from us, we are not permitted to retaliate on the basis of his action. Rather, we must try to help out the person regardless of what he did to us. The second half of the verse is not as well known but equally important. Do not bear a grudge means that if someone holds back something from us, we are not allowed to remind him of it even if we do him the favor. We may not say, "I'll lend you this item even though you didn't lend me the thing I asked you for." The Rambam says we are supposed to go even one step further and not have his refusal in our mind when we do him the favor. This takes a clear understanding that what happens to us is from Hashem. Even though that individual refused to do me a favor, as far as I am concerned, it wasn't from him but from Hashem. Therefore I will do him the favor and not even remember his refusal.

Although this is definitely not an easy task, if one accomplishes this commandment

he will reinforce his faith in Hashem and it will give him the peace of mind which comes with the faith and trust in Hashem.

Shabbat Shalom. Rabbi Shmuel Choueka

Pirkei Abot

It is customary to study Pirkei Abot (Ethics of the Fathers) during the six weeks between Pesah and Shabuot, one chapter every Shabbat.

"Everything is foreseen." (Abot 3:15)

Instead of Tzafui, foreseen, it should have said "known" or "seen".

The word Tzafui can mean floating. When one floats on the water, he makes an effort to keep his head upwards. The Mishnah is teaching that throughout his lifetime in this world, a person should imagine himself as floating in the ocean, so that to survive he must look upwards, look to Hashem and be attached to Him. (Vedibarta Bam)

* * * * *

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