JUNE 10-11, 2016 5 SIVAN 5776
Day 49 of the Omer
"You will be a treasure to Me from among all the people." (Shemot 19:5)
"If there is no Torah there is no proper conduct. If there is no proper conduct there is no Torah." (Abot 3:17)
As we approach the holiday of Shabuot we must prepare ourselves to maximize the benefit of this great holiday. In the introduction of Parashat Yitro, before the Ten Commandments, the Torah speaks the often-quoted statement that we are to be the Chosen People to Hashem from all the rest of the nations. Besides being a great praise, this statement is also describing our obligation to act the role of the Chosen People. In Pirkei Abot we have almost a paradoxical statement by Rabbi Elazar ben Azariah: If we don't have Torah we won't have derecho eress and if we don't have derecho eress we won't have Torah. Rabenu Yonah explains: "A person must perfect his middot (his character traits) and only then can the Torah rest upon him. The Torah will never rest upon a person who lacks good character traits. Additionally, learning Torah properly teaches a person the proper conduct.
The Tiferet Yisrael (114) notes that there are non-believing Jews and non-Jews who have sterling personality traits, and are kind, considerate, generous, and able to control their tempers. Nevertheless, since their behavior is based on the morals of society and not on the divinity of the Torah, it falls far short of the conduct expected of a Talmid Hacham. Secular society has yet to produce someone with the middot of the Hafess Hayim.
Rabbi Shimon Finkleman relates that someone once asked Harav Avraham Pam zt"l how he was able to remain calm in situations where the average person would become agitated. "I worked on this for many years," he replied.
The Shulhan Aruch states: "A person is obligated to accord a Sefer Torah great honor. It is a misvah to set aside a specific place for it, to treat that place with respect and to beautify it very much (Yoreh De'ah 282:1). Harav Pam applies this halachah to the Torah's expectations of those who study it. "If someone desires to bring the Torah into his heart, he must clean the place in which it will dwell from the dust of any bad middah and prepare it for an honored beautiful dwelling place within himself."
Tosafot asks (Berachot 11b), Why do we make a new berachah on the succah every time we return to the succah to eat there once again after having left for an extended period of time, yet the Birkot Hatorah we do not repeat every time we return to our learning even if a lot of time has passed? They answer: One never fully diverts his mind from Torah study, because the Torah dictates our every word, thought, and action. When we act it is with the middot that the Torah has taught us to develop, when we speak it is in a refined manner and free of lashon hara and falsehood as the Torah demands, and even when we think, we strive to avoid improper thoughts, to give others the benefit of the doubt and to think Torah thoughts as we ride the subway or find ourselves in other venues that may not seem "Torah friendly."
As we celebrate Shabuot, let us strive to refine our middot so that the Torah directives will have an impact on every aspect of our lives, and we will be the kind of human beings that Hashem wants us to be. Shabbat Shalom. Rabbi Reuven Semah
"Count the heads of all the Children of Israel." (Bemidbar 1:2)
Whenever the Jewish people were counted, they had to give a certain coin which, by counting that coin, we could know the number of people. Once, in the time of King David, the people themselves were counted and a great plague ensued. Even today, when we count individuals for a minyan or the like, we don't say, "one, two, three..." but rather we say words of a pasuk such as "///lhng ,t vghauv" through which we all know the total number. Why is there such an emphasis on not counting people by number?
Rabenu Bahya explains that when people are included in a group, they have the merit of the entire group and thereby are protected. When an individual becomes separated by being counted, then he is on his own, and he must have his own protection. Even when we pray for sick people, we always include the individual with the entire nation by saying, "ktrah hkuj rta lu,c - Among all of the sick in Israel," so that they should have the merit of the whole nation. This should teach us that although we are all individuals, unique and separate, our strength lies in our being part of a greater whole, the Jewish people. We should try not to stand out and not separate ourselves from community involvement. By joining together in the synagogue's programs, such as minyan, classes and activities, we will have the blessing of the multitudes in addition to our own zechut. Shabbat Shalom. Rabbi Shmuel Choueka
Parashat Bemidbar is usually read on the Shabbat before Shabuot, which commemorates the receiving of the Torah on Mount Sinai. Midrash Rabah states that the Torah was given with three things:
1) Fire, as indicated by the verse "All of Mount Sinai was smoking because G-d descended upon it in fire" (Shemot 19:18).
2) Water, as indicated by the verse, "Even the Heavens trickled, even the clouds dripped water" (Shoftim 5:4).
3) Wilderness, as the pasuk states, "And G-d spoke to Moshe in the Wilderness of Sinai" (Bemidbar 1:1).
Why was the Torah given under such conditions and not on a serene day in a heavily populated area?
Each of these portrays an eternal and profound message to the Jewish people about the correct approach to Torah.
1) The fire teaches that the Torah should be studied and practiced with warmth and vigor.
2) Water fulfills a physical need, but unlike other physical needs, people have little desire to overindulge in it and are usually satisfied to simply quench their thirst. This teaches us to be satisfied with our physical circumstances and indulge entirely in the study of Torah.
3) Wilderness is an abandoned property where anyone may step foot. Giving the Torah in a wilderness teaches that to succeed in Torah study a person must be very humble and consider himself insignificant. He should permit all Jews to associate with him, and not conceitedly select his company. (Vedibarta Bam)
A quick tip to boost the power of your prayer. Hazal tell us (Masechet Baba Kama Daf 92A) that Hashem loves the tefilot of one Jew for another so much that anyone who prays on behalf of a fellow Jew with similar needs will have his prayer answered first. A special service has now begun to provide people with names of others who find themselves in a similar predicament. You can call with complete anonymity and get the name of someone to pray for and give the name of someone that needs our prayers. The name of the service is Kol Hamitpalel. Categories include: Marriage; Income; Health; To have children etc.
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