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Pop Quiz: Where were Bnei Yisrael camped before coming to Sinai?

by Rabbi Reuven Semah

"And Moshe said to his father-in-law, 'Because the people come to me to seek G-d.'" (Shemot 18:15)

Yitro, Moshe's father-in-law, observes Moshe and sees he is overburdened. Moshe responds to Yitro by describing his many duties as a leader, which in turn requires his full attention. The Ramban says that Moshe Rabenu's words describe the many roles of a Torah leader, which is applicable today. First the people need him to pray to Hashem in times of need, as Moshe says, "They come to seek G-d". They also need him to settle monetary disputes, as Moshe says, "And I will judge between a man and his friend." Last but not least, he is needed to teach them Torah, "And I will teach them the laws of Hashem." All of these roles are the roles of our leaders.

There is an interesting wording here that has a true lesson. When it comes to "seeking Hashem" which refers to things concerning "religious matters" such as praying, kashrut, questions, etc., it says "yabo elai ha'am - the nation comes to me." Many people are asking those questions seeking Hashem. However, "ki yihye lahem dabar - when they have a matter of money, ba elai - _one_ comes to me! Only one, the one who is the injured party comes to me for judgment. The other one is in no hurry to come.

In an age of intense financial pressure, one at times loses sight of the Torah standards in business. It shouldn't be that the religious questions are left for the Rabbis, and the business questions are sent to the lawyers. Both parties should always be "seeking Hashem."
Shabbat Shalom.

by Rabbi Shmuel Choueka

"Do not bear Hashem's name (in an oath)" (Shemot 20:7)

One of the ten commandments is to not swear falsely or in vain. To swear falsely is self understood, but to swear in vain means to proclaim a fact which is obvious such as swearing that a book is a book, or anything similar to that. The Gemara tells us that the earth trembled when this prohibition was uttered because using Hashem's name in vain is truly a terrible thing with dire consequences. This should make us be careful whenever we mention Hashem's name in any situation. In addition, this should make us hesitate to swear in any manner, even without using Hashem's name, but all the more so when mentioning the Holy Name. Many times people say "I swear to G-d" in order to make a point - this is not something to take lightly. We must watch our mouths and get into the habit of saying "Beli Neder" ("Without an oath") even when not mentioning "I swear".

Here is a short list of what is considered an oath:
1) By G-d, this is so-and-so.
2) G-d is my witness that I did or did not do this.
3) By my life that such and such happened or didn't happen.
4) I should be cursed if this isn't true, etc. We see from here that even without using the word 'oath' or 'swear', we could be obligating ourselves in a very heavy way. Let us attempt to be on guard and not swear in any which way or form.
Shabbat Shalom.


"And all the people 'saw' (perceived) the voices" (Shemot 20:15)

To this pasuk, Rashi explains that the people saw that which should be heard. There is a famous saying that "seeing is believing." It has never been suggested that hearing is believing. One may hear a lecture and be impressed so that he is emotionally moved. However, the response will not endure. He will go back to his way of thinking and original lifestyle. Judaism must be "seen" to be believed. It is stated in Tehillim: "Taste and see that Hashem is good."

At Har Sinai the Jewish people responded with "we will do" before they said "we will listen." It is necessary to perform, to live and to see it, and then a decision can be made regarding this way of life. If one were to stop and think and philosophize before he performed a misvah, he would seldom perform the misvah. One must see the beauty and experience the joy and satisfaction of "living Judaism" to understand it.

"And all the people saw the voices." How did they see what should be heard? They saw the Ten Commandments in action. They perceived what a world would look like with "Thou shall not kill." They saw what a family would look like with "Thou shall not commit adultery." They saw what a home would look like with "Honor thy father and mother," and with "Observe the Shabbat." They saw Hashem in life. The voices were not just heard; the depth of the perception led to seeing the living activation of these voices. Seeing is believing! (Peninim on the Torah)

Answer to pop quiz: Refidim.

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