JULY 10-11, 2015 24 TAMUZ 5775
"On the eighth day shall be Aseret." (Bemidbar 29:35)
I know it's not Shemini Aseret (Simhat Torah), but I would love to share this story with you as told by Rabbi Dovid Kaplan.
There was no sign of religion on Kibbutz Ein Chaim (name changed). Quite the contrary, they were virulently opposed to anything even remotely Jewish. Pork on Yom Kippur, barbecue on Tish'ah B'Ab, soft rolls on Passover, it was all fine.
It was a mystery to the younger members why a handful of the old-timers would sneak off to some unknown location for some unknown reason one day a year. Maybe it was some sort of gambling night that they didn't want anyone else to know about, or perhaps they got together to reminisce about something or other. Any time one of the participants was asked about it, he'd say, "It's nothing too important and it's clearly nothing that would interest you. It's just something for a bunch of old guys." For some reason, no one ever made any further attempts to find out what it was all about.
Well, one year, Yigal ben Efess (name changed) could contain his curiosity no longer, so he decided to follow the group and see what they were up to. He watched from a distance as they headed all the way out to the farthest corner of the kibbutz, where all the old, rusty equipment lay in disuse, and then entered an old abandoned shed. He waited a few minutes and then followed them in. There was a decrepit, stone staircase that led downstairs and ended in front of a heavily reinforced metal door. He pushed the door open a crack…and saw something that froze him in place and sent shivers up his spine. It was a sight he knew he'd never ever forget. The men were in a well-lit cellar which they'd equipped with bright lights. But it wasn't the light that he was focused on. The men were holding a Sefer Torah and dancing round and round with undisguised emotion, most of them with tears rolling down their cheeks. You see, it was Shemini Aseret night. These men had all been in Europe before the war, and had all learned in cheder. The simhah (joy) they had experienced as small children on that special day had never left them, and they relived it once a year in a clandestine cellar on an anti-religious kibbutz.
You can run but you can't hide. The flame will always find you.
Shabbat Shalom. Rabbi Reuven Semah
"The daughters of Selofhad drew near." (Bemidbar 27:1)
Before the Jews entered the land of Israel, Moshe had the task of dividing up the land amongst the tribes and families of B'nei Yisrael. The daughters of Selofhad, who were not yet married, were not given a portion of land, since Selofhad had died without any sons. The daughters sought out Moshe to present their case and found him teaching Torah. They waited until he began teaching the topic of inheritance, and then they made their claim to Moshe. Their claim was upheld and they were granted the land.
The daughters of Selofhad were praiseworthy for many reasons. They demonstrated a clear grasp of Jewish law, and they had a sincere love for the land of Israel. The Midrash, however, highlights one virtue in particular - their timing. They waited for the most opportune time to approach Moshe and only then did they present their case. What is so special about this trait that the Midrash treats it as their greatest virtue?
The Midrash is teaching us that the crowning virtue of a great person is common sense. Without this, a person can be intellectually brilliant, be packed with knowledge and have beautiful intentions, yet fail in his endeavors. The daughters of Selofhad knew that they must approach Moshe at the right time, and they understood enough to know the best time for their presentation.
It has been noted that common sense is very uncommon. A man can master the complexities of a supercomputer, yet not be able to interface with his fellow man. Through the study of Torah, with the analysis and honest introspection of musar, we can deepen our understanding of human nature and increase our common sense. Shabbat Shalom. Rabbi Shmuel Choueka
"And you [Moshe] shall place some of your majesty upon [Yehoshua]." (Bemidbar 27:20)
The Gemara in Baba Batra tells that the elders of the generation said, "The face of Moshe is like the face of the sun; the face of Yehoshua is like the face of the moon. Woe unto us for the disgrace!" One can ask: Is the fact that Yehoshua's face was "only" compared to the moon such a disgrace?
The Hafess Hayim explains this with a parable. A person heard about a certain country across the sea which was filled with treasures of diamonds and precious stones. Anybody who wanted could just go and take. He decided to make the trip, but he wanted to find somebody to go along with him. He approached some of his friends and suggested that they all travel together. All but one of them declined because of the difficult trip it would require.
After a number of years the two men came back home loaded with jewels and treasures. When the others saw the two men they felt very jealous and tremendous regret that they hadn't agreed to go with them.
This is the regret that the elders felt when Yehoshua was appointed. Yehoshua was one of them, no more or less, and yet he merited such greatness because he chose to be in a place of great treasures - by Moshe Rabenu's side. They all said to themselves, "Woe unto us. We also could have served Moshe as Yehoshua did and merited such a high level of holiness. It is a disgrace for us that we did not reach that level."
Rabbi Isser Zalman Meltzer offers another explanation. The level of greatness that a leader reaches is contingent upon the level of his generation. If a generation is worthy, it could merit a leader as great as Moshe Rabenu. This is the disgrace which the elders were referring to. They saw that up until now they merited to have Moshe as their leader. Now, when Moshe was ready to pass away, and Yehoshua was appointed his successor, the elders noted the difference in their stature. They realized that this was not a lacking on Yehoshua's part, but it reflected a weakness in them and in the entire nation. (Lekah Tob & Tallelei Orot)
"Reuben was the firstborn of Israel. The sons of Reuben were Hanoch, the family of Hanochi." (Bemidbar 26:5)
The Torah tells us that "it is not good for a person to be alone." This, said Rabbi Zalman Sorotzkin, teaches us that we should choose family life over living by ourselves. Besides the joys of a family and the many practical benefits, a family serves as a training ground for a person to build up his love for other people. A person has a natural love for his father and mother, his wife and children and other relatives. Through this love he learns to feel and express love through acts of kindness for his friends, acquaintances and other people. When the entire Jewish people were in the wilderness, it was as if they were one big family living in one place. The only separation was the division of the people into tribes even though they all lived close together. For this reason when the Torah gives an accounting of the nation in the portion of Bemidbar, there is no mention of families, only of tribes. But in Arbut Moab they were counted right before the division of the land of Israel. They would now be spread out throughout the land and would be separated from each other. Now they were counted according to their families. This was to hint to them that they should keep their family ties even though each person had his own property. By this means they would live in peace and harmony and their love for others would spread. (Growth Through Torah)
Many people have a love-hate relationship with food. First they partake of a myriad of multi-course meals and extravagant deserts over Shabbat, a holiday, or another special occasion. But almost before the last delectable morsel is swallowed, a guilty backlash sets in. What a terrible wrong they have committed by indulging! They immediately proceed to make resolutions about changing their eating habits.
A friend of mine, who was a devotee of the late Rabbi Avigdor Miller zt"l, gave me a copy of the following lessons that he had heard from the Rabbi.
"Rejoice you righteous in Hashem - and give thanks and praise to His holy Name!
"Rejoice in what Hashem gives you. Remind yourself that everything comes from Him. When you sit to eat, celebrate the pleasure that He is giving you. It is a pleasure to eat!
"Hashem makes food taste good. He gives you the food and He makes it taste good. It is His will that you enjoy the food that He supplies. He has designed the body to maximize the pleasure that you get from eating. As soon as you see or even smell food, your enzymes start to flow to prepare for the intake of the delicious treat. Hashem wants you to be happy. It is a misvah to enjoy what He gives you."
When you are about to partake of one of Hashem's gifts - fresh air, cool water, delicious food, a good nap - turn that pleasure into a misvah. Focus on the fact that Hashem is the one giving you that great gift. Train yourself to say, "Thank you Hashem!" This simple habit can transform your everyday acts into millions of credits in your Heavenly bank account. (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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