MAY 13-14, 2005 5 IYAR 5765
DAY 20 OF THE OMER
"When you reap the harvest of your land, you shall not remove completely the corner of your field...for the poor and the proselyte shall you leave them" (Vayikra 23:22)
Parashat Emor contains a very detailed discussion of all the holidays. In the middle of this the Torah warns us that when harvesting the crops we should not forget to leave a portion of our fields to the poor people. Our Sages tell us that there is a relationship between hesed, kindness, and the holidays. That just like the holidays that have their own laws on how to celebrate each holiday, so too is it with hesed, that there is a right way and a wrong way to do it. The Torah does not just say, "Do hesed," but there are laws, such as leaving part of the field to the poor. This is a specific way to do hesed. Let us study how the Torah wants us to do hesed in other areas as well.
Rabbi Chaim Morgenstern lists a few key rules about hesed. First, feel another's predicament. The Torah uses a pauper as an example when discussing lending money. But, we know there is a misvah to lend anyone who needs now even if he isn't poor. The Torah means to say that when lending money we should imagine ourselves as paupers. Second, seek opportunities for hesed. Rabbi Chaim Vital writes that a person should feel bad if a day passes without him doing an act of hesed. This is illustrated by Abraham Abinu, who despite his weakness from his own Berit Milah felt the need to do hesed on a blazing hot day. Third, know what pleases others. This means in addition to recognizing another person's needs and offering our help, we must also know what the person wants. For example, when offering food to a guest we should let him choose the type and amount of food, such as a drink, snack or meal. Maybe the guest only wants to take a rest. Fourth, it's not easy. This means that at times it is not easy to properly supply the needy with their needs. Sometimes because of the pride of the poor family, one needs to use his ingenuity to figure out how to give the aid with honor. Fifth, priorities in hesed. Decide how to apportion one's time between doing hesed for others and for one's own family. Rabbi Shalom Schwadron tells a story (recorded in Around the Maggid's Table) of a very big Rabbi, visiting a businessman's office to get a donation for a needy family in the Rabbi's shul. The businessman, who was also a member of that shul, was embarrassed that the Rabbi came to him. He told the Rabbi, "I would have come to you!" The Rabbi answered that since I need something from you, it is only right that I come to you. The Rabbi told him about a large sum of money needed for a special case of a needy family. The businessman agreed and said, "Sure, tell me how much." The Rabbi told him and he agreed. "Just tell me to whom I should make out the check." The Rabbi replied in a soft tone, "Your brother." Shabbat Shalom. Rabbi Reuven Semah
"A man who will blaspheme his G-d...and a man, if he strikes any human life...and a man who strikes an animal" (Vayikra 24:15-18)
The Torah describes someone who blasphemed the Holy Name of Hashem and his ultimate punishment of being put to death. What strikes us as highly unusual is the fact that right after that, the Torah teaches us the "regular" laws of hitting another person or even causing damage to someone else's animal. What does this have to do with blasphemy? One would assume that to curse the Name of G-d would involve someone totally demented or evil enough to stoop to the lowest level. The Torah, however, is teaching us that there is a progression for everything. If one person starts off by damaging someone's animal, he may go to injure his friend personally. If left unchecked, a person can deteriorate so rapidly that under the right circumstances, he may even blaspheme the Name of Hashem. The Gemara tells us that when the Rabbis wanted to know who stole a silver cup, one of the masters noticed someone drying his hands on the sleeve of someone else and deduced that this was the culprit, which indeed he was.
Everything we do affects us and if not corrected will lead us to another level, lower than the one we started on. On the other hand, a good act which we do will also lead us to do even better things, as it says, "a misvah leads to a misvah and a sin leads to a sin." Shabbat Shalom. Rabbi Shmuel Choueka
You shall count for yourselves - from the morrow of the rest day. (Vayikra 23:15)
Shabuot is not identified by the Torah with a specific day on the calendar, but as the fiftieth day after the Omer Offering. Each individual is to count every one of the days separately and clearly. Rav Chaim, z"l, of Volozhin, was wont to say that there is one mussar sefer, book of ethical discourse, that is not "counted" among the many volumes that are available for character development and introspection. It is a simple "sefer," with a compelling message and readily available - the clock. If a person were to stare at the clock on the wall and watch the seconds tick away into minutes, the minutes tick away into hours, and the hours tick away into days, he will come to realize the value of time and how it is just ticking away - while he sits and watches. This should spur him to wake up and do something about the time that is quickly ticking by.
Rav Zalmen Sorotzkin, z"l, interprets Rav Chaim's analogy into the pasuk in Tehillim 90:12, "Teach us to count our days, that we shall acquire a heart of wisdom." If we will learn to count our days, to make sure that they do not go to waste, we will then increase wisdom into our hearts.
The misvah of counting days between Pesah and Shabuot as a preparation for receiving the Torah is related to this idea. When one counts a day, he thinks to himself, "Another day has passed on the calendar, another day during which I should have prepared myself for receiving the Torah. Did I do what I was supposed to do - or did I waste another day? What will I now do with the remaining days till Shabuot?" These thoughts will engender a feeling of introspection and sanctity within him, feelings that will bring him closer to being ready to receive the Torah. (Peninim on the Torah)
"Speak unto the Kohanim, the sons of Aharon, and say to them, none shall make himself unclean through contact with the dead.""(Vayikra 21:1)
The Kohanim were admonished not to come in contact with the dead, since this would render them unfit to perform the abodah. This rule was relaxed only in a situation which involved close relatives. Hazal explain the redundancy of the word "emor v'amarta" by stating that it was a special directive to the Kohanim that the adults must instruct the young. It seems enigmatic that the Torah places emphasis upon teaching the young, while specifically discussing contact with the dead.
We suggest that there is a special message to be gleaned from this pasuk. During the moments of personal grief one tends to become absorbed with the loss he has sustained. This proclivity is recognized by the Torah. Human weakness and personal sentiments often take over our entire perspective on life during moments in which we confront human mortality. We may become less focused upon the children and deprive them of adult supervision, while we attend to our own immediate needs. We have a propensity to be so involved in burying the dead that we neglect to maintain control over the living. This is the Torah's message: even in your deepest grief, do not neglect the young.
This idea is especially relevant during these days of Sefirat Ha'omer. Rabbi Akiba's 24,000 students perished during this period. The terrible disaster would have destroyed a lesser man than Rabbi Akiba. His life's work, his academies of Torah learning, the ultimate future of Klal Yisrael, were all destroyed! The Torah was virtually in danger of being forgotten! Who would be the Torah teachers? The world would be in a tragic state. Moreshet Moshe explains that Rabbi Akiba did not allow himself to become a victim of despondency. He did not accept that it was all over. He moved to the south to establish new schools and to develop new students, who would bring the beacon of Torah to the world. This was the same force which drove those who came to these shores to build Torah schools from the ashes of the European Holocaust. These heroes' indomitable spirits helped them to transcend their grief and reestablish Torah study in the overwhelming darkness of Jewish life. The commitment of parents to Torah education during those critical times can well serve as an inspiration for their children and grandchildren today. When pleasures were rare and comforts scarce, they managed to gather whatever monies were required to pay for their children's Torah education. We, too, must endeavor to ensure that our future, the young children, will be guaranteed a strong and vigorous Jewish community. (Peninim on the Torah)
It is customary to study Pirkei Abot (Ethics of the Fathers) during the six weeks between Pesah and Shabuot, one chapter every Shabbat.
"And your employer is trustworthy to pay you the reward for your labor" (Abot 2:16)
The word "pe'ulatecha - your labor" is superfluous. It would have been sufficient to say, "Your employer is trustworthy to reward you."
When a laborer runs into difficulty and a task ends up taking much more time than it should, the employer is upset and does not want to pay for the extra time. He argues, "It should not be my problem that it took you longer or that you had to work harder because of your inefficiency or inexperience." Throughout the world, remuneration is commensurate with accomplishment and not effort or struggle. The Mishnah says, "pe'ulatecha - your labor" to emphasize that Hashem's ways are an exception to human practice. He rewards effort.
For learning much Torah not only will one receive much reward, but one can be assured that the Employer, Hashem, will reward for "pe'ulatecha - your effort" and He is "ne'eman - trustworthy" that it will be rewarded in the fullest measure. (Vedibarta Bam)
This week's Haftarah: Yehezkel 44:15-31.
Our perashah discusses many laws regarding Kohanim. In the haftarah, the prophet Yehezkel also tells many laws that will pertain to the Kohanim in the times of the Mashiah, such as the clothes they will wear, the women they may marry, and the gifts (terumah, bikurim, etc.) that they will receive from the people.
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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