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Haftarah: Yeshayahu 6:1-13

FEBRUARY 1-2, 2013 22 SHEBAT 5773

Tu B'Shebat will be celebrated on Shabbat, January 26.


"Moshe took out the nation to face Hashem from the camp." (Shemot 19:17)

On the morning of the day that the Jewish people received the Torah, the people woke up to frighteningly loud sounds of thunder and blinding flashes of lightning. Moshe moved around the camp to bring the people out from the safety of their tents to face Hashem.

The Ben Ish Hai says our pasuk is out of order. It should say that the nation came out of the camp to face Hashem. Instead it says that Moshe took out the nation to face Hashem from the camp. Therefore he suggests that the Torah is alluding to the fact that all the souls of future generations were also present at Matan Torah. Moshe took out the "nation facing Hashem" - the souls that were still waiting in their place beneath the Heavenly Throne - besides the people "from the camp" and brought both groups to the foot of the mountain.

Rabbi Moshe Mizrahi explains that this is the meaning of the Midrash that says that every word of Torah that every scholar would introduce to the body of Torah literature in all generations was already given at Sinai. Each of these scholars gained his Torah knowledge directly from Hashem, through Moshe Rabenu, at Har Sinai. Each scholar was there and the hidushim (new ideas) that he discussed during his stay in this world was taught to his soul at Har Sinai.

Hashem knew that true sadikim would be few in number and so he spread them through the generations, each one at a time when his contributions would be most appropriate. The Torah teachings of these great ones are more than another link in the chain of Torah tradition; their teachings came to them directly from Har Sinai. They are our direct connection to Har Sinai and by obeying their instructions we connect directly to that unbelievable event of the giving of the Torah! Shabbat Shalom. Rabbi Reuven Semah

"And Yitro heard." (Shemot 18:1)

This is the perashah which tells us about the giving of the Torah on Mt. Sinai, perhaps the greatest event that ever took place in the world. Wouldn't it be proper to have the entire perashah devoted to that special occurrence, rather than begin with Yitro joining the Jewish? What was so important about Yitro that this had to precede Matan Torah?

The answer is the first word - gnJHu - and he heard! The Torah is teaching us that if we don't hear, we will not be able to receive the Torah. Hearing means being able to concentrate and focus on someone else and not only on ourselves. It means to accept that we're not perfect and we can hear advice and criticism. The whole world was aware that the Jews came out of Egypt with great miracles but did nothing about it. Yitro, however, heard and came. Because he was willing to truly hear and understand, he changed his own life and ultimately gave some very useful advice to Moshe. That is why the giving of the Torah must be preceded by the story of Yitro, to teach us what hearing can bring.

We often ask others how they are, but do we really hear their answers? Our kids are constantly talking to us, but are we truly listening? Even if we do allow the words of others to enter our ears, do we hear "between the lines"? Let us learn from Yitro to truly hear and listen to what's around us and this will make our lives a little bit better. Shabbat Shalom. Rabbi Shmuel Choueka


People often pride themselves on being good judges of character. The truth is, however, that fathoming the true nature of another person requires a perceptive eye and a sensitive "nose." Many will admit, after all is said and done, how wrong they were when evaluating a job candidate by means of the resume-interview process. The person who was "so perfect" for the position sometimes fails terribly and needs to be fired, while the employee who was hired with reluctance sometimes turns out to be one of the stars of the company.

Evaluating a human being is a complex process with staggering, mind-boggling variables. No one can assess the challenges another has had to face, or accurately measure another person's true value or abilities. It is very difficult to judge potential against achievement. That is Hashem's business, and His alone. It's never a good idea to play Hashem. When you judge another, judge leniently, and when you are evaluating yourself, be tough.

Our Sages teach that those who judge others favorably are given the benefit of the doubt when Heaven is judging them. When you take a critical view of other people's behavior, give them a break! This is not your job. Your job is to constantly review your own behavior and monitor your own self-improvement. By avoiding encroaching on Hashem's job and sticking to your own territory, you will buy yourself the benefit of the doubt in His evaluation of your behavior. (One Minute With Yourself - Rabbi Raymond Beyda)

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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.

Call to 646-279-8712 or email (Privacy of email limited by the email address)

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