AUGUST 25-26, 2000 25 AB 5760
Rosh Hodesh Elul will be observed on Thursday & Friday, August 31 &
- Rabbi Shmuel Choueka
"[If your Hebrew slave] says to you, 'I shall not go out from you' because he loves you and your house because he fares well with you" (Debarim 15:16)
The Gemara teaches that the owner of a Hebrew slave must treat him and view him as an equal in every respect, and he sometimes even has to treat him as a superior! However, the Gemara also teaches that if two Jews are in dire need of water, and only one of them has a jug of water, his own life takes precedence, and he is not obligated to give the water to the other person. Why is this case different than the case of the slave who must be treated at least as an equal, if not better?
A poor man and a rich man can live in harmony with one another, even though the poor man can't satisfy his physical needs like the rich man. Still yet, he does not feel inferior in any way to his friend as a human being. The slave, on the other hand, is always reminded of his bitter status as a mere servant of another man. Therefore the Torah goes out of its way to demand special treatment for him.
There is a very important lesson to be learned from this. We must understand that different people have different sensitivities. We must recognize each person's uniqueness, and treat him in a way that we will not hurt his feelings or make him self-conscious of his station in life. Let's take it upon ourselves now, as we approach the Selihot season, to treat our fellow man with the proper respect, and to make amends with those to whom we may have shown disservice to in the past. Shabbat Shalom.
- Rabbi Reuven Semah
"You shall surely give him...for in return for this matter Hashem, your G-d, will bless you" (Debarim 15:10)
Our perashah commands us to give charity. A true story: In Jerusalem there dwelled a poor family of fourteen souls. A poor woman knocked on the door and asked for some chicken to eat. The family was barely making it. They ate bread and water. The father tried to explain to the lady that there were two chickens in the refrigerator due to the fact that the holidays were close at hand, and they were saving the chickens for the holiday. If he would give the poor woman, he wouldn't have enough for the family. After all of this explanation the woman remained in her place begging for some sustenance. He gave the situation some thought. He realized, if she came to our door asking like she did, it must be that she was desperate. So what will happen if they don't have meat for the holiday? Hashem will help. He apologized for the delay and quickly went to the refrigerator to get a chicken. He rushed with happiness to perform the misvah. He came to his old fashion refrigerator, the kind that can't be opened from the inside, and opened it up. His mouth dropped open. Who did he find in the refrigerator? His three year old son, who was trapped in the refrigerator! He was already blue and not breathing. He called Hatzalah and they miraculously restored his breathing. The doctors said, another half a minute in the refrigerator and he would have been gone. Upon analyzing his household he realized there would have been no need to go to the refrigerator in the next few minutes, and it was only because he decided to do the kindness to the woman that his son was saved.
You see, my friends, the words of our Sages, "Charity saves from death," do not need to be proven to be true. However, we can learn an additional lesson, that one never suffers a loss from a misvah. He gave a chicken and got back a healthy child as a gift. Shabbat Shalom.
"And the Ra'ah and the Ayah and the Dayah according to its kind" (Debarim 14:13)
This section of the Torah lists the birds which are not kosher. Rashi explains that the three in this verse are not three different birds, but one bird with three different names. What is the significance of these three names?
The word Ra'ah connotes eyesight. We are told that the Ra'ah "can stand in Babylon and see a carcass in the Land of Israel" (Hulin 63b). This bird is unclean because it uses its excellent vision to view things negatively and find fault.
Many have keen vision in detecting the faults of others, but fail to see their own foibles and shortcomings. A housewife once complained to her maid that the house was not cleaned and dusted properly. The maid was flushed with amazement, for all looked immaculate. Finally, she turned to the housewife and said, "Madam, I think the dust you see is on your own glasses." The woman removed her glasses and, sure enough, the lenses were covered with dust.
The second name of the bird is Ayah, which means "where." This bird is very clever in its ability to evade capture, jumping from one hideout to another. The hunter finds himself muttering, "Ayah - where is it, and how can it be taken?"
There are countless people adept at this game of escape. When their help is urgently needed in a worthwhile community project or drive, they cannot be located. This slippery "bird" refuses to join a communal endeavor least his whereabouts become known to other institutions. Even when they express interest in helping or participating, they do not appear and people wonder "Ayah - where are they?" The Torah condemns the policy of evasion and escape and calls it "unclean."
Dayah is the third name. Its croak sounds like the word "dayah - enough," the cry of those who feel they have given more than necessary. They cry "Dayah! There are far too many appeals, functions and campaigns these days. Enough!"
"Purity" for a Jew lies in 1) seeing things with a "good eye," 2) being involved in communal Torah endeavors and activities, and 3) always giving with a grateful and generous heart. (Vedibarta Bam)
"And you shall rejoice before Hashem, you and your son and your daughter, and your servant and your maid and the Levite who is in your gates, and the convert and the orphan and the widow...And you shall remember that you were a slave in Egypt" (Debarim 16:11-12)
The Ktab Sofer explains the continuity of these two verses in the following manner: There are some people who might find it hard to give financial assistance to a convert, orphan and widow because they are not satisfied with what they themselves have. They always seek to acquire more money for themselves, so how can they give what they have to others? All the more so on the holidays, since it is forbidden to work on the holidays and they do not have any new income. Even if such a person does give to the poor as he is really obligated to do, he will not feel joy when he gives charity. Therefore, the Torah tells him to remember his previous situation when he was a slave in Egypt, doing forced labor the entire day and subsisting on just the barest minimum of food. When a person realizes how much better off he is now, he will feel happy with what he has and in his present joyous state will readily give generously to those in need.
The way we react to our present situation is always dependent on how we view it, and how we view a situation is dependent on what factors we take into account in the entire context of things.
An American lawyer who studied in Yeshivah Aish Hatorah was once in Kennedy airport waiting for his plane to leave for Israel, when the plane was greatly delayed. Every hour or so, they announced another delay. After ten hours, he was very nervous and irritated. The other people who were also planning to go on that plane were all complaining about the long delay. Then he noticed a couple who were calmly sitting down and appeared to be very relaxed. He approached them and asked, "How is it possible to remain calm when the plane is delayed for so long?"
Their reply shook him up, "Well, in the Second World War we were in a concentration camp and so waiting a number of hours in Kennedy airport does not really bother us at all."
This vividly illustrates how our reaction towards what we do and do not have is relative. Keep in mind how your situation is better than it could be and you will live a pleasurable life. (Growth through Torah)
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