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Haftarah: Melachim II 11:17 - 12:17

FEBRUARY 24-25, 2017 29 SHEBAT 5777

Rosh Hodesh Adar will be celebrated on Sunday & Monday, February 26 & 27.


"You shall not persecute any widow or orphan." (Shemot 22:21)

Rashi explains that the prohibition against hurting a widow or an orphan applies to persecuting any man, but the Torah speaks of the case that is most common. It is usually the widows and orphans that are hurt. The Torah uses the word "te'anun," which is plural and switches to the word "te'aneh," which is singular. This teaches us that those that stand by while an individual is causing pain to an orphan or a widow and doesn't come to their defense, it is considered as if they persecuted the orphan or the widow. Let's hear a story.

The teacher in the yeshivah was drinking a glass of tea, keeping a watchful eye on his students. Suddenly, a fight broke out between two of his young students. After the teacher shouted at them to stop their battle, one of the children - little Shlomo, the son of one of the wealthier townspeople - told the teacher that it was little David, an orphan, who had started the fight. Without inquiring as to the truth of that claim, the teacher walked over to David and slapped him hard across his face, and then went back to drinking his tea.

Sitting next to David was a boy named Yosef Berele, with whom he would review the Gemara each day. Yosef Berele had watched what had happened and was well aware that in reality it was Shlomo who had started up with David. He had noticed on previous occasions that the teacher would show favoritism to the wealthier children at the expense of the children of the poor.

Deeply anguished at the injustice he had just witnessed, Yosef Berele walked over to his teacher and addressed him bluntly. "I know why you punished David without investigation. It is because he is an orphan and he doesn't have a father to defend him, and his mother is very poor and pays very little towards the Rebbi, and Shlomo's father is rich and is the Gabbai of the shul and the Rebbi is afraid of him.

"But the Torah forbids this. I don't want to learn Torah by a Rebbi who doesn't keep the Torah," declared Yosef Berele, who was only seven and a half years old, and he picked up his sefarim and walked out of the yeshivah.

His father reprimanded him and pleaded with him to reconsider. The teacher promised to mend his ways, but it was to no avail. Yosef Berele went to learn in the Bet Midrash among adults. A few months later, Yosef Berele fell very ill. The doctor said there was no hope.

Suddenly the child opened his eyes and said, "Father, I am alive. Please give me something to drink." Later that day Yosef Berele related to his family what had occurred. He was about to leave this world when the father of David suddenly came from Heaven and forcefully pushed away the Angel of Death. "Don't you know that Yosef Berele is a defender of orphans and he came to the defense of my David from the hands of the Rebbi?"

Little Yosef Berele grew up to be the famous Bet Halevi, the founder of the famed Brisker dynasty of Torah giants. While it often takes much courage to stand up for a defenseless victim, the rewards are very great. Shabbat Shalom.

Rabbi Reuven Semah

"You shall not cause pain to a widow or orphan. If you cause him pain, if he shall cry out to Me, I shall surely hear his outcry" (Shemot 22:21-22)

When the Torah prohibits us from afflicting a widow or orphan, it uses three double words to describe the outcome. "If you shall afflict them (?????????????), they will cry out to Me (?????????????), and I (Hashem) will listen (??????????????) to their cry." Why so many double words? The Kotzker Rebbe gives a very insightful explanation. When a widow or orphan is afflicted, they feel sorry for themselves and wonder why they are being tormented so. They come to the conclusion that it is because they have no father or husband, and they relive that pain all over again. Even if they lost their loved ones many years ago, they feel it anew as if it is a fresh wound.

Hashem considers it as if the tormentor is responsible for the original loss since he causes the victims to cry for their loss all over again. So it comes out that the orphan and widow cry double for their double pain, and Hashem "hears" both cries, and therefore the penalty is that much more severe. We learn from here an amazing insight into human nature. When a person is down from something else, any more distress can bring up the old pain, and whoever does so is responsible for both! We have to be so careful with the widows, orphans and downtrodden to help lift up their spirits, and then Hashem will reward us doubly as well!

Shabbat Shalom. Rabbi Shmuel Choueka

* * * * *

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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