AUGUST 17-18, 2001 29 AB 5761
- Rabbi Shmuel Choueka
The Torah seems to emphasize that these other gods which are forbidden are not known to us. What is the difference or relevance whether the other gods are known or not?
The Hatam Sofer points out something which is especially important in our days. There are always people who will propose ideologies which are considered revolutionary. Each one will make a claim that his way is unique, his way is novel and his way will be the answer to all of man's problems. Even though others tried it and failed, they will say that this is guaranteed success. The Torah predicted this from way back and showed how all these "new gods" are all false, just like the old ones. Just like we see new claims to dieting and other fads which are said to be easy and quick, and yet we know it's impossible to do anything without effort, so too when it comes to Torah. None of the "isms", the non-Torah ideologies have worked in the past and none will work in the future. There is only the true Torah way of life, which involves commitment, effort and perseverance, but ultimately brings with it success, happiness and blessing! Shabbat Shalom.
- Rabbi Reuven Semah
"You are children to Hashem, your G-d...you shall not eat any abomination" (Debarim 14:1,3)
In our perashah we are told that we are the children of Hashem, implying that the laws given here are reflections of that special status. The Torah lists the forbidden foods, for they are an abomination. We, who are a people that should always be conscious of our relationship to Hashem, should not eat them. The more precise we are with these laws, the more we demonstrate this badge of honor, that we are special. There is also a physical side-effect to these laws that few are aware of, and the following story delivers the point very clearly.
Years ago there was a city in Lithuania called Kovno. In order to prevent the desecration of the Jewish cemetery, it was necessary to evacuate the graves and transfer them to a safe place. The Jewish workers discovered two people buried there whose bodies were still completely intact. When this occurs this is a clear sign that the person was very righteous. It was revealed that one was the Rabbi of Kovno, and the other was known as the "Jewish soldier," and on his tombstone was written, "Here lies the kosher Jewish soldier." Their curiosity drove them to find out what was so special about him to have caused his body to be preserved completely. It was written in the town records that this soldier served in the gentile army. He refused to eat anything unkosher while serving in the army, and never ate any food from the army. He subsisted solely on raw fruits and vegetables. One day his fellow soldiers decided that they would force him to become impure at all costs. They took some hot unkosher soup and tried to force him to eat it. The holy soldier refused to take it. They continued to force him until he choked on the soup and died.
His sacrifice for the purity of kosher food sanctified his body to such a level that the body remained whole and perfect. How fortunate we are to have the opportunity to purify ourselves by eating only the purest of kosher foods. Shabbat Shalom.
"You shall surely open your hand to your brother, to your poor, and to your destitute in your land" (Debarim 15:11)
When one opens his hand there is usually nothing in it; the pasuk should have stated: "You shall surely open your treasures"? When the fingers of the hand are closed against the palm, it appears as though all four fingers are the same size. In a fully open hand, however, it is obvious that there are larger and smaller fingers. Unfortunately, among the people who give sedakah, there are those who give every institution or needy cause an equal amount, without making a distinction between larger and smaller institutions, or between more and less worthy causes.
With the words, "You shall surely open your hand," the Torah is conveying an important lesson on how sedakah should be given. Learn from the fingers of the "opened hand" that every charity is not alike. Measure and evaluate the importance and worthiness of each cause and institution and support them accordingly. (Vedibarta Bam)
In this perashah, the guidelines are given for the slaughtering of animals for food. One of the laws stated is the prohibition of eating blood. The pasuk says, "Be strong not to eat the blood." One might wonder why the Torah needed to tell us to "be strong" with this misvah. Rashi quotes Ben Azzai who explains this pasuk. He says that the Torah wishes to show how careful we must be with all the misvot. The mere thought of eating blood is repulsive, and yet we must exercise caution to avoid violating this misvah.
If we need to be strong and vigilant in our attempt to follow a seemingly obvious commandment, how much more careful must we be when it comes to matters for which we have a desire to commit the sin. Question: Which misvot might we sometimes become lax with because we don't take them seriously enough? Are we "strong-willed" enough when it comes to battling our desires to sin?
This Week's Haftarah: Yishayahu 54:11-55:5.
Usually, when Ereb Rosh Hodesh falls out on Shabbat, we read a special haftarah from the book of Shemuel. However, since we are in the third week of the series of seven haftarot that deal with consolation and hope, we read the regular haftarah as scheduled.
In this haftarah, the prophet Yishayahu tells a prophecy of how it will be in the times of Mashiah. No enemy will be able to rise up against us. Rather, all the nations will recognize that Hashem has chosen us to be His nation.
Answer to Pop Quiz: The pig.
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