AUGUST 31- SEPTEMBER 1, 2001 13 ELUL 5761
- Rabbi Shmuel Choueka
"Hashem shouldn't see your nakedness so that He should turn away from you." (Debarim 23:15)
If we wonder why the Divine Presence is so hidden in our times, this verse provides the answer. When G-d sees that the Jewish People are not conducting themselves in a modest way, He turns away from us, leaving us in the dark. Although it says in another place in the Torah that G-d dwells amongst us even if we are impure, this refers to other kinds of improper behavior. When it comes to dressing immodestly, Hashem chooses not to be revealed amongst us. In these days, when the whole society is overwhelmingly encouraging this kind of dress code, everyone who makes an attempt to dress properly will be truly bringing blessings on themselves and on their families. Indeed, we have seen some people accept upon themselves to be more modestly attired, with the merit going to bring a speedy recovery for those who are stricken with difficult illnesses. This is a remarkable zechut. It is written that if a person has a temptation to see someone immodestly dressed and overcomes it, he should, at that very moment, pray to Hashem for whatever he wishes, because he has created such a magnificent zechut by overcoming his temptations. Therefore, it becomes an opportune moment to pray. We see how much Hashem rewards those who make modest dress part of their lives because they are bringing Hashem back to the Jewish People. Let us merit to be those fortunate ones. Shabbat Shalom.
- Rabbi Reuven Semah
"If a man will have a wayward and rebellious son" (Debarim 21:18)
Our perashah begins with the law of yefat to'ar" - the law of the beautiful woman. In this law the Torah responds to the inflamed passion of a soldier in battle. If he sees a woman among the enemy captives and feels an uncontrollable desire for her, the Torah recognizes that he may not be able to restrain himself. Rather than risk the sin, the Torah provides an avenue for the lustful soldier to satisfy his desire, saying to him that he will be permitted to marry her, even against her wishes, after undergoing certain procedures. The purpose of the long delay is so that his desire will evaporate and he will set her free. The Sages describe this as "The Torah spoke only in response to the evil inclination."
Rashi says the next two laws of the perashah are connected: The law of the hated wife, and the law of the rebellious son. The improper desire for the captive woman will cause a chain reaction that will lead to one family tragedy after another. The marriage with the captive woman will produce a rebellious son. This seems difficult. If the Torah in the final analysis permitted the marriage, why are they punished with a rebellious son? The answer is that it is not a punishment at all. It is merely the result of the actions of the father. The Torah teaches us that there is a misvah of "Kedoshim Tihyu - Be holy," which means that a person is required to abstain from fulfilling all of his desires, even if the desires are permitted. The son was brought up in a house where the parents pursued and satisfied their lusts and did not sanctify themselves with abstention. Therefore, the son learned how to live his life in the same way. "He doesn't listen to his parents," and "is a glutton and a drunk." There is no question that we want our children to have the beautiful traits that the Torah speaks about: to be a giving person, to be respectful, not to always pursue the next level of pleasures and "fun." We would be asking too much of them if we didn't practice it ourselves. Shabbat Shalom.
"When you will go out to war against your enemies, and G-d, your G-d, will deliver them into your hand" (Debarim 21:10)
Instead of "ki tesse lamilhamah - when you will go out to war," it should have said "ki tilham im oybecha - when you will be at war with your enemy."
This perashah is read during the month of Elul, the quintessential time to do teshubah, and it is not only discussing a physical war, but also alluding to man's ongoing spiritual battle. Within man there is a yeser tob - good inclination - and a yeser hara - evil inclination. Each one fights to take control and dictate man's direction, and it is extremely difficult for man to overcome his powerful yeser hara. However, our Sages (Shabbat 104a) have declared that "haba letaher mesay'im oto - the one who wants to purify himself (improve his ways) is assisted from heaven." Likewise the Midrash Rabbah (Shir Hashirim 5:2) states that Hashem says to the Jewish people, "Make a small opening (of teshubah) like the opening of a needle, and I will open for you entrances through which caravans can pass."
In encouraging man to do teshubah, the Torah is assuring that "ki tesse lamilhamah - if you will merely decide to go out and wage war against the enemy, the yeser hara, you will be victorious because Hashem will give him over into your hand." (Vedibarta Bam)
"Remember what Amalek did to you" (Debarim 25:17)
How does one fulfill the imperative to remember Amalek's treachery towards our ancestors? The misvah to blot out Amalek's name is hardly applicable in contemporary times, while Am Yisrael is in exile - even if we were able to identify clearly a member of this contemptible nation. Rabbi Moshe Feinstein infers a profound lesson to be derived from this pasuk.
Amalek's dastardly act demonstrated that man can be aware of Hashem's infinite greatness and unlimited power and still descend to the nadir of depravity. Indeed, Hazal compare Amalek to one who jumps into a tub of scalding water, flaunting complete disregard for the apparent consequences of this foolish act! Likewise, we must be aware that there is literally no sin that is beyond man's "grasp." One must take care to protect himself from falling into the clutches of the yeser hara, which can encourage him to perform the most repulsive acts. This is the misvah of "remembering what Amalek did to you." This misvah implores us to imbue ourselves with a recognition of Amalek's act, its meaning and message, to the point that it becomes part of our psyche. Consequently, we will develop an intense hatred for him. To forget what Amalek did is to justify his act. (Peninim on the Torah)
The perashah starts off discussing the case of someone who goes to war and desires a woman who was taken captive. A month-long procedure of conversion is required before he is permitted to marry her. The next case in the perashah tells the law regarding a man who has two wives, one who is loved and one who is hated. The Torah teaches us that one may not favor a younger son (even if he is the son of the loved wife) over the oldest son (the son of the hated wife) in regards to the laws of inheritance. From the juxtaposition of these two cases, Rashi teaches that if someone does not conquer his improper desire, and ends up marrying the captive woman, he will end up hating the woman.
This is a case where a person may genuinely begin to hate another person. There are times, however, when a person, by his actions or carelessness, may cause another person to feel disliked even though he may love that person. When Ya'akob Abinu married Leah and Rachel, the pasuk says, "And Hashem saw that Leah was hated." Of course, Ya'akob did not have any bad feelings toward Leah. However, since Leah knew that Ya'akob had really wanted to marry Rachel instead of her, she felt hated. From this, we see how careful we must be with other people's feelings. People are very sensitive about how others think of them, and can easily misconstrue an inadvertent message. Question: Have you ever felt disliked or slighted by another person only to find out later that you misunderstood what was said or done? Do you show enough appreciation and affection to your family members, so that they will never think that they are not loved?
This Week's Haftarah: Yishayahu 54:1-10.
This week, we read the fifth of the series of seven haftarot that deal with consolation and redemption. Hashem promises that he will show mercy and bring the people back to Jerusalem. His kindness will never be removed from us, and His covenant of peace will not falter.
Answer to Pop Quiz: Edom (Esav).
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