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Pop Quiz: Against which nation did Hashem command B'nei Yisrael to take vengeance?

by Rabbi Reuven Semah

"According to the lottery shall one's inheritance be divided" (Bemidbar 26:56)

Rosh Hodesh Ab, on Friday, July 24, begins the Nine Days. During this time we cut down on joyous, happy events. Therefore, no building or decorating for pleasure is permitted. We don't buy any new clothes or wear them for the first time if already bought. No weaving, knitting, needlecraft or sewing new garments is permitted; repairing is okay. Beginning Saturday night, July 25, until after Tishah B'Ab, we don't eat meat or chicken or drink wine except for Friday night and Shabbat. One should push off any court case with a non-Jew until after these Nine Days.

by Rabbi Shmuel Choueka

When we read how a person can make a vow by just saying a few words, and we realize the effect that this can have on someone's life, we can't help but be amazed at this awesome ability to create and to impact which we all possess. This should give us on one hand, a tremendous feeling of greatness that lies within us which can be harnessed for the betterment of our lives. But a the same time this should sober us by letting us see the tremendous responsibility we have to make sure that this greatness within us is only used for good. Not only do we have to be careful about our words, whether used for vows or just plain talking, but all of our faculties possess great potential in creating and achieving things that can benefit ourselves, our families and mankind. Let us use these strengths to build, to aid and to sustain. We will be the real beneficiaries.
Shabbat Shalom.

by Rabbi Reuven Semah

"And they were forced to deliver from the thousands of Israelites, one thousand from each tribe" (Bemidbar 31:5)

Hashem tells Moshe that he is to wage war with the nation of Midian. Midian caused the Jews to sin and this resulted in the death of twenty-four thousand Jews. Hashem also informed Moshe that upon completion of this misvah, he would die. Upon hearing this, the Jewish people refused to send the soldiers, because they didn't want to be part of the demise of Moshe. Nevertheless, Moshe forced them to go to war. Rashi says that this is to the credit of Israel, for it showed their love for their leader. During the forty years they fought with Moshe to the point where Moshe told Hashem, "They are about to stone me any minute!" However, when they heard that Moshe would die they refused to go.

Rabbi Eliyahu Bloch asks, how can we say they loved Moshe if they were ready to stone him? He answers that if they lived in peace all of the years and they refused to go to war, it would not prove that they loved him. Perhaps they just wouldn't want to be the cause of his death. However, since they did fight many times and still didn't want to see his demise, this shows the great love! Why did they argue with Moshe? Because Moshe rebuked them many times to be better Jews. The Gemara in Ketubot says that if a leader that is loved by all of the people it is because he doesn't rebuke them about spiritual things. This brought out the arguments, but deep down in their heart they loved him for it.

This teaches us the fundamental truth that the people really love the leaders that rebuke them out of love. Here the Torah is praising the Jewish people that they truly loved Moshe. How holy are our people.
Shabbat Shalom.


"If her husband will remain silent for a complete day, then she must fulfill all of her vows or all of the bans which are upon her. He has established them because he remained silent on the day that he heard them" (Bemidbar: 30:15)

Seforno comments: When a person has the ability to protest and remains silent, his silence is similar to verbal consent. When you do not say something to disagree, it is as if you agree with what was said or done.

This concept has many practical applications. Very often, someone might say something in your presence that is improper, and you feel that you cannot really influence the person to change his mind or stop what he is saying. Should you speak up or remain silent? Whenever your silence can be understood by others as agreement with what was said, you have an obligation to speak the truth. This way no one will mistakenly think that you agree with what was said. Moreover, you can never tell; perhaps you will be successful in influencing others to make positive changes. A person who is not very assertive might find this difficult. But learn from the person who says things that should not be said. If he is able to say something that he shouldn't, you certainly have a right to say those things that should be said. He is not afraid to say something improper; you should have the courage to speak up out of idealism.
(Growth Through Torah)


"The six cities of refuge" (Bemidbar 35:6)

After Moshe endured the forty years of travel and travail with B'nei Yisrael in the wilderness, he was distressed at not being able to share in their forthcoming joy, entering into Eres Yisrael. The Abrabanel explains that Hashem, in an attempt to console Moshe, gave him the task of teaching B'nei Yisrael the misvot relating to Eres Yisrael. He also charged him with five specific missions, which Moshe was to initiate, but which would not be completed until after his death. They were: to conquer and seize the land from its present inhabitants; to divide it fairly among the twelve tribes; to set its boundaries; to designate the forty-two cities for the Levites; to set aside the six cities of refuge.

We may question this form of consolation. Would it not be even more difficult for Moshe to teach about Eres Yisrael, knowing fully well that he was prohibited entry? Would it not take an amazing personal forbearance to be able to transcend his own feelings regarding his imminent death in order to teach Klal Yisrael about the promised land? The Abrabanel explains that, even though he knew he would not enter Eres Yisrael, the realization that he was part of the process of entry consoled him.

We should take note of the above statement. Often we tend to avoid involvement in various activities because we will not receive due recognition for our efforts. This is misguided. The mere realization that we are part of a process that will enhance Torah activity should motivate our inclusion in any activity. One who seeks complete recognition for his efforts is guilty of a covert form of arrogance.
(Peninim on the Torah)

Answer to pop quiz: Midian

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