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August 29, 1998 7 Elul 5758

Pop Quiz: What positive commandment applies specifically to a king of Israel?

NO INTERRUPTIONS by Rabbi Shmuel Choueka

"He shall keep the Torah with him and he shall read it all the days of his life." (Debarim 17:19)

The king of Israel was enjoined to have his own Sefer Torah and keep it with him at all times so that he may read it whenever a question arose. The Perashah makes it clear that he must have no lapse without the Torah in his hand. The lesson for us is that whenever we embark on any spiritual pursuits they must be done with consistency, without interruption. To bring a pot of water to boil it must be left on the fire until the boiling point. If it is taken off and put back on, even if it's for a whole day, it will never reach the point desired. Whenever we take upon ourselves any project we must do it until it's completed. Half completed endeavors are not even worth half merit. Let us focus on what we want to achieve and do it until the end. Shabbat Shalom.

FOR THE FUTURE by Rabbi Reuven Semah

"He shall not take for himself many wives" (Debarim 17:17)

Our perashah speaks about a prohibition on a Jewish king not to marry many wives. The Torah tells the reason: "That they may deter him from his dedication to G-d." King Solomon, who was secure in his devotion to Hashem assumed that this law didn't apply to him. The midrash says that the letter yud from the word "yarbeh - he shall not take many," came before Hashem claiming that Solomon was erasing him from the Torah. Hashem declared, Solomon and a thousand like him may be set aside, but not a single letter of the Torah.

Rabbi Twersky quotes Kohelet Yitzhak, who explains why the yud complained and not any of the other letters. The yud in Hebrew grammar placed before a verb converts it from present to future. Therefore, Solomon failed to realize, that even though he was firm enough for himself he was setting a dangerous precedent for future generations. Therefore, the yud, which represents the future, was the one to lodge the complaint.

A number of decades ago the leaders of our community saw a problem appearing in the future. Intermarriage was already a problem then. Our community was in danger of becoming swallowed up by this terrible disaster in a relatively short time. They took the most unbelievable step of taking a misvah from the Torah that tells us to love the convert and made a policy banning converts from our community. A potential misuse of a leniency in the Torah, the system of conversion, was taken away for the sake of future generations. We are first seeing today the wisdom of that move.

The lesson for our Rabbis and community members is clear. Every decision made today will be a major landmark decision for our children. The more we protect the Torah today the more we will have pleasure in seeing our grandchildren happily observing the Torah in the future. Shabbat Shalom.


"What man is there who is fearful and faint-hearted let him go and return to his house" (Debarim 20:8)

After the Torah lists those who are free to return home from battle, it mentions the one who is faint-hearted. One who lacks the courage to represent his people in battle should return home lest he instill this fear into others. The Talmud (Sotah 44a) adds that this fear is more than an apprehension concerning battle and brush with death. This fear applies to one who is "fearful of the sins in his hand." One who is afraid of the transgressions he has committed will affect the success of his brethren. He must depart from the field of battle.

Harav M. Swift explains that these are no ordinary sins. After all, no man is perfect. We refer here to one who is fearful of the sins committed "by his own hands." There are times when circumstances drive man to lose control and sin. The way one has been raised, his family background and social environment leave an indelible imprint on his personality. Such a sinner is not to be condemned, He must be shown the correct path through study, encouragement and sympathy. The unforgivable sin that is contagious is the one of "his own hands," one who has the ability to help others but has not. One who has the means but refuses to lend assistance truly has reason to be afraid.

We may suggest another interpretation of the term "in his hands." We often find excuses to rationalize our wrongdoings. For every sin we find an excuse. The time comes, however, when all of our excuses simply no longer work. We can no longer blame our parents, teachers and rabbis for our failure to adhere to Hashem's Torah and misvot. These are sins that are in our hands. We have been afforded the opportunity to do the right thing. No one has distracted us from following Hashem's mandate. No one has compelled us to transgress. It has all been within "our hands" to do well, but we have failed. This is unforgivable! When one sees that he has no one to blame but himself, he is gripped by an overpowering fear. This apprehension can be overcome through teshubah and reaffirming one's obligation to Hashem and His people. (Peninim on the Torah)


A court case once took place before Rabbi Avraham Yehoshua Heschel of Apta. As the case was in progress, one of the parties felt that he was going to lose, so he asked permission to leave the room for a short while. In the hallway outside the courtroom he noticed the Rabbi's coat, and placed a sum of money in the pocket.

The case resumed and the Rabbi, who up until now was beginning to formulate a certain opinion, suddenly began to change his line of thought. The Rabbi, puzzled as to why his way of thinking was suddenly changing, told the two parties that he would like to call a recess and have more time to think over the matter.

In the interim, he prayed to Hashem to be blessed with the proper wisdom to see the truth. A few days later, as he was putting on his coat, he put his hand in his pocket and suddenly felt a bundle of money. The Rabbi exclaimed, "Now I know what happened to me. A bribe is so powerful that even though it was given to me without my knowledge, it had an effect on my thinking." (Vedibarta Bam)

Answer to Pop Quiz: He must write for himself two Sifrei Torah.

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