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PARASHAT SHEMINI
Haftarah: Shemuel II 6:1-19

APRIL 17-18, 2015 29 NISAN 5775

RABBIS' MESSAGES

"These are the life forms that you may eat from among all the animals that are upon the earth." (Vayikra 11:2)

It's interesting that after eight days of eating, this week's perashah, Shemini, discusses at great length the laws of forbidden foods. At the perashah's conclusion the Torah says, "For I am Hashem your G-d, you are to sanctify yourselves and be holy for I am holy." Perhaps the Torah is telling us that with regard to food, it is not sufficient to avoid what is unkosher. Perhaps we are expected to refrain from placing undue emphasis on food.

Rabbi Shimon Finkelman quoted his mother. While she always sought to see the good in others (one of her sayings was "There is no such thing as a bad Jew"), she was troubled by our apparent obsession with foods of other nationalities. She would say, "Did you ever see a nonkosher restaurant advertise in a gentile neighborhood, 'We sell kosher style gefilte fish and potato kugel'? No, they're not interested in our food. Why are we so interested in theirs?"

If we manage to separate wants from needs and we decide to make our list as short as possible, there are many needs that can't be brushed away. We need food, clothing, shelter, affection, relationships that mean something. None of these are illusory. Our needs are like a treadmill. We eat today and we just have to eat again tomorrow. You can't help but ask what Hashem had in mind when he forced us to get on the treadmill of wanting, a treadmill you can't get off until the day you die. The Hobot Halebabot tells us that "Hashem in His great wisdom is testing each soul. The test is through each person's needs." It is so easy and so false, to think that life is about the unending effort to see that you have what you need. The truth is that life is about what you become as you make the efforts to silence the voice that says "I want! I need!"

R.T. Heler tells about the Ponevezher Rav, who lost everything that one can possibly lose, in the Holocaust. He started again from scratch with the firm belief that Hashem wanted him to begin an entirely new chapter in his life. His dream of the Ponevezh Yeshiva was perceived by outsiders as pure fantasy. He turned out to be a brilliant builder. Part of the story was his uncanny ability to charm potential donors into seeing things his way.

He was once on a fundraising trip to Miami. Another Rabbi, unknown to him, had also decided to try his luck in Florida, and happened to be at the same shul on Shabbat. The shul's Rabbi asked the Ponevezher Rav to speak first. His humor, magnetism, and sincerity touched the hearts of everyone in the room. The other Rabbi decided that it was an impossible act to follow and the best thing would be to just move on to another city. Then the inconceivable happened so fast that he could barely take it in. The Ponevezher Rav ended his speech with an appeal for his fellow Rabbi's yeshiva. To the Ponevezher, Torah was Torah. It is a gift from the world's Master to His people. He surely needed the money for his yeshiva, but he also needed to be the person G-d created him to be.

He was exposed in his youth to really great Rabbis. They gave him the tools to become rather than just do. Raising money for his yeshiva was important. Being a servant of Hashem was even more important. He could get off the treadmill of wanting whenever he chose to.

Ask yourself two questions: "Can I get off?" and more importantly, "Do I want to?" Shabbat Shalom. Rabbi Reuven Semah

On the opening day of the Mishkan, Moshe told his brother, Aharon, "Step up and do the Divine service, for this is why you were chosen." The Midrash tells us that Aharon was reluctant to come forward because he kept on visualizing the Golden Calf before him, and he thought it was a sign that he was not fully forgiven. Hashem reassured him that he was indeed forgiven, and he was the one picked to lead the service.

We learn from Aharon a wonderful trait. If a person does something wrong, don't be so sure it's forgotten so quickly. Generally, we tend to forgive ourselves much faster than we forgive others. When someone wrongs us we may hold a grudge or just remember it in our hearts, but if we do the same thing to others and we ask their forgiveness, we feel, "Let bygones be bygones." If we would realize that just as we don't forget so quickly, maybe others are the same way, we would be more hesitant before we do something wrong. And even if something did happen through us we would remember it longer, just like Aharon did, so that we would be more regretful, and this would lead to a complete reconciliation. Shabbat Shalom. Rabbi Shmuel Choueka

KOSHER SIGN

"But this is what you shall not eat from those that chew the cud or have split hooves; the camel, though it chews the cud, its hoof is not split - it is spiritually unclean for you." (Vayikra 11:4)

The Kli Yakar points out that the phrase "the camel, though it chews the cud" in the above verse is inappropriately placed. Since the verse tells us the reason why we cannot eat this animal, why does it begin by stating a reason that we can eat it - the verse should have said, "But this is what you shall not eat from those that chew the cud or have split hooves; the camel, for its hoof is not split [even] though it chews the cud." Why is the camel's 'kosher sign' written first, or even at all?

The Kli Yakar answers that the phrase "it chews the cud" is actually not coming to explain its 'kosher sign," rather the exact opposite. The fact that the camel chews the cud - its 'kosher sign' - is precisely what makes it even more taref, because pretending to be good when in fact you are not, is a terrible character trait, worse than someone wicked who at least openly acts wickedly. Therefore, the Kli Yakar explains that this sort of animal is worse to eat as it represents more of a danger to the Jewish people who may be tricked by its 'kosher sign.' (Short Vort)

ETHICS OF THE FATHERS

It is customary to study Pirkei Abot (Ethics of the Fathers) during the six weeks between Pesah and Shabuot, one chapter every Shabbat.

"Distance yourself from a bad neighbor, do not connect yourself with a rasha" (Abot 1:7)

What is a bad neighbor?

The Gemara (Berachot 8a) says that if one has a shul in his city and does not go there to pray, he is called "ra" - "wicked." Thus the Mishnah is cautioning that a person should distance himself from being labeled a "bad neighbor.' Rather he should visit the shul to pray daily and participate regularly in the Torah classes there.

To speak in shul during the prayers is a great iniquity. According to the Zohar (Shemot 131b, see Igeret Hakodesh 24), one who does so has no share in the G-d of Israel. Thus, in addition to attending shul, "al tithaber larasha" - be careful next to whom you sit - i.e. do not sit next to one who chatters throughout the entire services.

There is a popular slogan, "If you must talk in shul, talk to Hashem." (Vedibarta Bam)

* * * * *

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 kol18@attglobal.net (Privacy of email limited by the email address)

Please pass this message along. Tizku L'misvot.


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