JULY 31- AUGUST 1, 2015 16 AB 5775
"There will be no infertile male or infertile female among you or among your animals." (Debarim 7:14)
The simple meaning of the verse quoted above is that when one keeps the laws of the Torah, there will be no infertility among the people and the animals. However, the Midrash takes these words and brings them to another level. There will be no infertility even among the people who are weak intellectually like an animal, and these simple people will be wise enough to counter and defeat heretics.
Rabbi Obadiah Yosef zt"l illustrates this with a beautiful story. It was well known that Rabbi Yonatan Eibeshitz zt"l was able to defeat all the Christian priests in his debates with them. One day the priests came to the king and said they have the ability to convince the simple people that theirs is the true religion. The king agreed to test it out and commanded to bring before him the first simple Jew they find in the street.
Soon after, the police found a Jewish wagon driver in the street, and brought him to the king. The priests turned to the driver and said, "I will give you this pouch of gold coins that is in my hand and I will guarantee you a great livelihood for the rest of your
life if you just exchange your religion for mine."
The Jew looked at him and said, "Look sir, I am a simple person and I don't have the knowledge to debate with an intellectual and learned person as you. But, I will tell you what my father, who was also a wagon driver, told me. Before he passed away he told me a lesson for life. "My son, if someone comes to you and wants to exchange his horses for your horses and he will add some money to the deal, be very wary of such a deal. His horses might be sick and dangerously ill and he is willing to pay extra money just to rid himself of his horses.' So too, I will tell you sir, why are you willing to add a large sum of money just so that I give up my religion for yours? It must be that your religion contains 'severe sickness and dangers' that can bring a person to lose his life and that's why you're willing to pay all of that money. Therefore, I'm not interested."
When the priest heard these words from the mouth of this simpleton, he was speechless and ran away. So once again the Jews defeated the priests and gained the upper hand. And that's the meaning of the Midrash, that even the most simple Jew knows how to defeat the vicious plans of the gentiles and the heretics. May Hashem always protect us! Shabbat Shalom. Rabbi Reuven Semah
"It will be that you listen" (Debarim 11:13)
The second paragraph of Shema, which we say every day, appears in this perashah. Since we say it so often we tend to overlook its important lessons. Hashem says to us, "If you listen to the misvot, the rains will fall correctly and your crops will be blessed, etc." Then, when we lower our voices a little it says, "If our hearts stray from Hashem, G-d forbid, there will be no rains, etc." and other events will happen which will make us realize our mistakes so we can come back to Hashem.
The lesson is, whenever something goes wrong, before we go around blaming the world, maybe Hashem is nudging us back to Him. The principle of Reward and Punishment is pivotal in our religion. When we do good, we deserve Blessing and G-d forbid, the reverse also happens. Although there are many other factors which may influence the Heavenly judgment, let us not forget the basic rule: Listening to Hashem brings berachah and going against Him brings problems! May we merit to bring on ourselves only berachah. Shabbat Shalom. Rabbi Shmuel Choueka
"You shall teach them to your children to discuss them." (Debarim 11:19)
The words, l'daber bam, "to discuss them," are a key to understanding the essence of a father's obligation of limud ha'Torah to his son. In the Talmud Baba Batra 60b, Hazal relate the story of two litigants that came before Rabbi Yanai with a halachic dispute. One litigant insisted that Rabbi Yanai require his disputant to cut the branches of his tree which were encroaching on his property. The Sage heard their arguments and asked them to return the next day for his judgment. As soon as they left, Rabbi Yanai ran home to cut the branches of his own tree, whose branches were growing out into the public thoroughfare. The next day, both litigants presented themselves before Rabbi Yanai. He then ordered the owner of the tree to cut the offending branches. Upon hearing the verdict, the litigant said to Rabbi Yanai, "His honor also has a tree that hangs over the public thoroughfare." Rabbi Yanai immediately countered, "I have already cut it down." This is what Hazal mean when they interpret the pasuk in Sefanyah 2:1, Hitkosheshu va'koshu, "Improve yourselves and improve others." First improve yourself - only then, are you prepared to improve others.
Self-improvement is a pre-requisite to teaching others. For the student to respond to the lesson, he must respect the lecturer. If one finds fault in his mentor, he will have a problem accepting his lesson. In his sefer K'ayal Taarog, Rav Abitbul, Shlita, interprets this idea into the above pasuk. If one wants to succeed in teaching his son Torah, he must first be midaber bam, the father himself must discuss Torah, be conversant in Torah, demonstrate his own love for the Torah. He does this as he sits in his home, his office, on the road - wherever he is. When a child sees how valuable the Torah is to his father, he will also accept it.
"Do what I tell you - not what I do" does not work. On the contrary, children tend to respect what their parents value, and disdain what their parents deprecate, either actively or subtly. A Jew once asked the Kotzer Rebbe, zl for a blessing that his young son learn Torah. The Rebbe said, "If you will study Torah, then your son will follow your lead and also study Torah. If you will be satisfied with seeking blessings (rather than activity pursuing the actual study), in all likelihood, your son will do the same."
A Jew who was a Torah scholar asked Rav Shlomo Zalmen Auerbach, zl, why he did not merit to have sons that were talmidei hachamim. His sons were fine upstanding laymen, but Torah learning was not their forte. This was in contrast to his neighbor, who was an unlearned milkman, who raised a family of distinguished Torah scholars. How did he do it?
Rav Shlomo Zalmen asked the man, "Tell me, when you heard a Torah lecture, with which you did not agree, what remarks did you make concerning the speaker?" "I probably commented that he did not know how to learn," the man replied.
"What would be your response when your Rav rendered a halachic decision that was unacceptable to you?" Rav Shlomo Zalman asked.
"I probably had a similar reaction, disparaging his ability to render a halachic decision," the man answered. Rav Shlomo Zalmen looked up at the man and said, "This is the difference between you and the milkman. When he heard a lecture, he returned home all excited, lauding the Rav who gave the lecture. Likewise, when the Rav issued a halachic ruling, he never complained. He accepted the decision with reverence, acquiescing to whatever was asked of him. His children grew up in a home where respect was accorded to the Rabbanim, where Rabbinic leaders, teachers, and whoever was involved in Torah dissemination were revered and cherished. This motivated them to strive likewise for such a venerable pursuit.
"Regrettably, your children did not fare as well, because you acted in a manner unbecoming a talmid hacham of stature. Your children heard your complaints, your nullification of the revered status of the other Rabbanim. Like "good" children, they emulated their father. When they saw no respect, they followed suit and similarly showed no respect. Why would they want to pursue Torah scholarship if they had no respect for its disseminators?" (Peninim on the Torah)
One of the most elusive goals in American society is true happiness.
While researching his book "Gateway to Happiness," Rabbi Zelig Pliskin asked a prominent Torah scholar to give him his thoughts on sadness. "The world is so beautiful," he replied. "How can anyone be sad?" Another person (not a Sage) was interviewed. "How can anyone be happy?" he replied. "The world is full of so much suffering and assorted problems!"
We have a tendency to believe that some people are sad and some are happy because of the circumstances they are dealt by Heaven. The fact of the matter is, two people can live in the same town and experience similar difficulties, and yet one can be very happy and the other very depressed. It is a matter of perspective. It's not the facts of life that determine the way you feel - it's your attitude. Rabbi Pliskin explains that since we have the ability to control our attitudes and thoughts, we have the choice of making ourselves happy or sad.
When something goes "wrong," remember that whether it will make you happy or sad depends on how you react to the situation. If you look at the total picture rather than one detail, you will develop a positive attitude. (One Minute With Yourself - Rabbi Raymond Beyda)
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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