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Parashat Behar Behukotai

Before It's Too Late!

Very soon, it may be too late. By 'very soon', we do not refer to the day after the elections. The reference is to the day after the Geula (redemption), which will come soon. Sooner than we estimate. We have heard explicitly about this matter.

And then, what will be? It is clear in the words of the prophet (Yehezkel 44): "Those who guarded in my service when the children of Israel strayed from me, they will come closer to serve me, and will stand before me. They will come to my Temple and will guard in my service."

When Mashiah comes, all will want to come closer. Certainly, why not? But the Mashiah will ask: When the situation was difficult, when religious Jews were persecuted, when all was done to make its steps shorter, to degrade and lower it - where were you, and so too: how did you vote! Did you strengthen the hands of its messengers; did you answer the holy call of its elders; did you allow its representatives to fight for the holiness of Israel, to try to hold back the plague of the pig, the desecrations of Shabbat, to guard the Jewish character of the state? To strengthen their power in their efforts to increase Torah, holiness and purity?

As long as the Mashiah has not come - it is possible to sign up and be included in the community of its followers, to say: Yes it is true, even during the difficult period, we have guarded in your service!

The Blessing That Was Wasted

There is a story of a man who faced difficult times. The industry in which he supported himself entered into a grave crisis, and his livelihood ceased. The merchandise in his store lost its value. And if that were not enough, his wife became ill. He did not have enough money to pay for the doctors and the medicines and her illness became more severe. His creditors pressured him and pushed him to pay for the merchandise that he had bought when times were good, and threatened to repossess his house and store. In the midst of this, his daughter reached the age of matrimony...

Broken and depressed he borrowed the price of the journey and boarded the train to travel to Vilna. He got off at the station and made his way to the village of Radin, to the house of the holy sadik, the Hafetz Hayim. "Rabbi, save me please," he called and wailed in a bitter voice. He related his sorrows and the eyes of the sadik were filled with tears. "What can I do, Rabbi?!" he asked in a crying voice.

"How can I help you," said the sadik, "I can barely support myself through the sale of my books."

"G-d forbid, Rabbi! I have not come to ask you for a donation," he protested, "I have come to ask for a blessing!"

"I will place upon you the blessing of the kohen (priest)," said the Hafetz Hayim, "Hashem will help and you will succeed wherever you turn - but be sure to take advantage of this with wisdom!"

The man was happy with the blessing, although in his eyes it seemed to be a bit of a warning too. With a light heart, he took his parting blessing, and on the whole way back he contemplated and thought: What is it worthwhile to do, where should I try my hand? I have a precious blessing in my hand, and I must take advantage of it wisely! Then, a brilliant thought entered his mind: The first thing that I will do when I return to the city is go to the selling booth of the national lottery!... He bought a lottery ticket with credit, and borrowed money to pay. He was sure in the blessing of the sadik that he would succeed wherever he turned!

And behold, the blessing of the sadik was completely fulfilled: he won the grand prize, tens of thousands of rubles, a giant fortune! In one moment he was tremendously rich! He immediately paid off his debts, he brought the best doctors to heal his wife, and arranged a generous dowry for his daughter. Overnight his stars had shifted, and sellers and merchants kept watch over his house, filling his head with their suggestions. From all of those, he chose to invest in the futures market, a trade rich in suspense and interest, with many dangerous curves. With no knowledge or information he invested tremendous sums in it, and in an incredibly short time, he lost all of his wealth and found himself mired in debt, called to trial and expecting serious punishments. But this time he was calm, he knew the way to be saved from this mess; he got up and went to Radin, to the sadik; he will once again receive the blessing and will buy another lottery ticket... He arrived in Radin, and told his story. To his surprise, the sadik said to him: "I am sorry, but I can not help you anymore."

"Why," he cried shaking, "do you have only one blessing, Rabbi?!" The sadik said with pain: "I told you and warned you that you should use your blessing wisely! I will explain to you what happened: Before a man's birth, his fortune is decreed. Will he be rich or poor, wise or foolish. So too, you and I received our decrees. When you came to me I was filled with pity. Thus I requested from the Creator of the world, that he should give you in one shot everything that was decreed for you for your whole life. What is this like? A barrel of wine. One can take the wine out of the barrel in a thin stream, or one can pour it from the top in a heavy cascade. I hoped that you would have the foresight, not only to use your money carefully, but to increase it and double it and triple it by giving sedaka and doing hesed, supporting Torah and those who learn it. Those who do this are promised that Hashem will open the windows in the sky to send a blessing without end, and to fill their barrel to overflow. But if you have not done this, and the barrel is empty - how can I save you?!...

Practically, this story includes within it the whole lesson of our parasha on the matter of the blessing promised to those who fulfill the commandments, a lesson for the individual and society as a whole. These days we are inundated with propaganda about how we can improve our situation. When we think, we will see that they are all treading on the current situation, which is problematic in many ways, suggesting to tug the blanket of trouble here or there. The common denominator between them is that they ignore the one sure true solution: to return to the ways of Torah and thus inherit the blessing without end!

The Golden Column

The Nagid, Rabbi Yosef Avraham Shalom zs"l

The Nagid Rabbi Yosef Avraham Shalom zs"l was one of the truly divine figures of his generation. He was blessed by Hashem with tremendous wealth, and G-d placed in his heart the wisdom to donate from his treasure to sedaka and hesed for his nation, individually and collectively.

One day something good stirred in his heart. He sent a letter to our Rabbi Yosef Hayim zs"l, the "Ben Ish Hai," head of the community of Bavel, in which he expressed his desire to found in the holy city of Jerusalem and organization which would bring the saving of lives, an invaluable commandment, as it says: "All who sustain one soul in Israel, it is as if he sustained a whole world." Since he found out that there was no hospital in Jerusalem, and that the Jews of the city needed this institution very badly, he decided to build from his money a glorious and efficient hospital for the whole community.

The "Ben Ish Hai" hurried to answer him: This is true, a hospital is very necessary - but it will soon arise, if not by your hand then by someone else's. But I advise you to establish a yeshiva in the holy city that will increase the Torah and holiness in Israel, for no one else can perform this misva but you!

The Nagid heard the advice of this great sage and merited an eternal merit: he donated a tremendous fortune to the establishment of the yeshiva "Porat Yosef" in the Old City of Jerusalem, opposite the location of the Temple, which has guarded the embers of Sephardic Jewry and was a greenhouse for its luminaries and sages, up until our generation!

This advice of the Ben Ish Hai should illuminate our ways today, in the confusion of these times: The state has many needs, but most have someone to worry about them. However, who will guard the flame of religion and the needs of Judaism - if we do not place them at the top of our priorities and strengthen the messengers of our Rabbis to stand in the service of our Torah!


"Do not take from him interest and usury"

It is taught, Rabbi Yossi said: Come and see the blindness of those who lend for interest. If a man calls his friend "Villain" - his friend will be furious at him and will argue with him about it as if he hit him. And they, those who lend for interest, bring witnesses and a scribe and a quill and ink, and write and sign (on a loan document with interest, which is forbidden according to Torah law by the word of Hashem) "This man has denied the G-d of Israel!"

It is taught, Rabbi Shimon ben Elazar said: Anyone who has money and loans them for no interest, about him the verse says: "His money he did not give for interest and bribery for an innocent he did not take, one who does these will not falter forever." Thus you have learned that someone who does lend for interest, his property will decrease. (Bava Metzia 71a)

"Do not take from him interest and usury"

When Ahav decreed to kill all the prophets, Ovadiah hid the prophets of Hashem in a cave, and to save their lives, he borrowed money for interest from Yehoram the son of Ahav, and thus supported the prophets. After some time, Yehu shot his arrow and his arrow hit Yehoram, "and he hit Yehoram between his forearms and the arrow exited from his heart." Our Rabbis said (Shemot Raba 31:4): Why between his forearms and why did it exit from his heart? For he hardened his heart and stretched out his hand to take the interest, fulfilling what is written (Yehezkel 18) "With interest he gave and with usury he took and he will live? He will not live!" Come and see, all who lend for interest are violating prohibitions and will not find anyone to defend them. How so? Someone who violates a prohibition and stands before G-d in judgement, the angels stand, some defending him and some accusing him. But one who lends for interest, no one will defend, as it says "With interest he gave and with usury he took and he will live? He will not live!" Any man who lends to his friend and does not take interest, it is as if he fulfilled the entire Torah, as David said "Hashem, who will dwell in your tent...He who did not give his money for interest!"

"Do not take from him interest and usury"

The root of the misva is because the Good Creator wishes the nation He chose to prosper, and therefore He commanded them to remove this obstacle from their way to prevent one from devouring the property of his neighbor without realizing it, until he finds his house empty from all good. For that is the way of interest, as it is known, and that is why it is called "neshech" (bite) (Sefer HaHinuch. Misva 68). Interest is called "neshech" because it bites like a snake. In the beginning, one does not feel the weakness, but afterwards it reaches his heart and kills him, like a poisonous snake. (Rabennu Yis'hak Abarbanel zs"l)

Halachah Berurah

Halachic Decisions according to the Order of the Shulhan Aruch
according to the Decisions of Maran The Rishon Letzion,
Rabeinu Ovadiah Yosef Shlita

By Rav David Yosef Shlita,
Rosh Beit Midrash "Yehaveh Daat"

Siman 7: When to bless "Asher Yassar"

If one is unsure if he blessed "asher yassar," he does not repeat the blessing, because in a case when one is doubtful about a blessing, we are lenient. Even if he used the washroom twice, and afterwards was unsure if he made the blessing even once, he does not repeat the blessing.

One who needs to use the washroom many times within a short period, because he has stomach problems, or because he took medicine which causes diarrhea, must bless 'asher yassar" after each time that he uses the washroom. However, if after he uses the washroom, he feels that he immediately must return there, he should not bless "asher yassar" until he has completed. There is not minimal amount for urination in terms of the blessing "asher yassar," and even if one has only released a single drop, he must bless. However, one need not make the blessing for gas.

One who has an illness which causes him pain and great suffering while using the washroom, must still bless "asher yassar." So too one who has a catheter, must bless "asher yassar" each time drops are released from him, when they cease coming out. Also, one who must give some urine for a test, must bless "asher yassar."

One who began to bless "asher yassar," and in the middle of the blessing heard kadish or kedusha, if he had already begun the words "asher yassar," he should stop and answer just as one answers in the middle of reading the Shema and its blessings. (That is to say, that he should answer the fist five "amen"s of kadish and "amen, yehe shemei raba le'alam ul'almei almaya yitbarach," and "barechu," and the verse "kadosh," and the verse "baruch" in the kedusha. He should not answer "amen" to other blessings.) However, if he is at the beginning of the blessing, that is to say that he has only said "Baruch ata Hashem Elokeinu melech haolam," or if he has already reached the conclusion of the blessing and said "Baruch ata Hashem," he should not stop at all.

If after one used the washroom, but before he washed his hands, he heard a blessing from his friend, or "kadish," or "kedusha," or if he saw lightning or heard thunder (after which one must immediately say a blessing), and if he will certainly lose out on the misva if he waits until he has washes his hands, he should answer "amen" to the blessing or after kadish. So, too, he should answer to "kedusha" and all other matters of holiness. So, too, he should make the blessing on the thunder or lightning.

If it will suffice, it is better to wipe his hands on something that cleans before answering, such as a rock, dirt, a stick, a wall, a board, a rough towel, a sheet, a napkin or his clothes.

Someone who has eaten something after which he must make a final blessing of "borei nefashot rabot," but before he made the blessing, he used the washroom, he should first make the blessing "asher yassar," and only then make the blessing of "borei nefashot rabot."

If this occurs after he has eaten and is full but before he has made "birkat hamazon," he should say "birkat hamazon" first, and then make the blessing of "asher yassar." However, if he suspects that he will forget to say the blessing of "asher yassar" after "birkat hamazon," he should say "asher yassar" before "birkat hamazon." So too if he has eaten an olive's-worth or an egg's-worth of food and is not full, he should say "asher yassar" before "birkat hamazon."

Someone who has eaten from the seven species for which the land of Israel is praised, and used the washroom before he made the final blessing "me'en shalosh," should first make the final blessing and then say "asher yassar."

Continuing Story

The Father and His Son (Part 14)

Flashback: The Rabbi met the son of a wealthy innkeeper, a doer of good deeds who had been born due to the Rabbi's blessing, but who soon proved to be wild and ignorant. The Rabbi wished to do kindness with him and suggested that he stay in his house until the matter of the inheritance could be cleared up. The youth replied that he was connected to a group of beggars that was about to leave the place.

The Rabbi said to him: "If you listen to me, you should stay here until I clear up the matter. If it does not take a long time, you will soon know if you are wealthy or not. And even if your colleagues go off on their way you will have no reason to worry, they will soon return here. At worst, we will keep track of their path and I will send you after them in a wagon." "And until then," said the youth, "I will lose the money that I would have collected as donations."

"Even for that I will compensate you," he said with generosity. "If it becomes clear that I have held you back for no reason, I will give you a large donation and you will lose nothing."

His students heard this and were shocked: Why was their Rabbi trying so hard to convince this wild boy to stay in his house? He will only be a disturbance and difficulty for all around him! The youth wrinkled his brow, and after shaking his curly-haired head said: "No, it's not worth it! I certainly will be expected to act properly here, to eat with manners and to dress neatly. Obviously, they will ask me to stop swearing and to pray every day. No, this is not the business for me. I am ready to remain here in the city, and to come every day to hear if there is something new. But I will sleep in the poor-house and I will collect donations where I can. I need the free life that I have become used to."

"Do as you wish," said the Rabbi with patience and calmness. "Come every day and I will tell you if some new point has occurred to me."

The youth turned and went on his way, and the Rabbi did not delay in doing his part. His sent away to the district to find out what had happened to the great wealth and the large inn. Meanwhile, the youth would come every day, showing up and asking if there were any news, any new information. The Rabbi, who felt himself responsible for the young man, for he was born because of his blessing, greeted him pleasantly. He would sit him down, ask that food be brought for him, and pretend not to notice his manner of eating and way of speaking. In order to draw him in, he would tell him fascinating tales of sadikim, and the youth would pick up his head and listen with his mouth wide open.

"Who knows," thought the Rabbi, looking with his sharp eyes, "maybe there is inside him a great soul and a sensitive spirit - but how can it be revealed from the wildness that covers it ?!"

(to be continued next week)

Wonders of Creation

The Praying Mantis

The praying mantis is an insect belonging to the locust family. Its size varies between 5 and 12 centimeters. Its upper chest is long and thin and appears like a long neck. Its legs are so long that it looks like a small camel, and thus in Hebrew it is called "Gamal Shlomo." The mantis's front legs are equipped with sharp points and are made to grab its prey like pincers and with its strong jaws it often bites.

The praying mantis is among the most dangerous carnivores of the insect family. Not only does it prey on other insects, but it also goes after other praying mantises that are smaller and weaker. Not only that, but the female praying mantis will not hesitate to eat her mate if she is hungry. If an argument breaks out between them, the female has the upper hand and she will finish off the argument by eating her husband.

The table manners of the praying mantis are also very interesting. He attacks the prey while it is still alive, eating only the parts that he prefers and leaving the rest over. After his feast, when his huge appetite is satiated, he begins to clean himself. He is meticulous about wiping off his face and cleaning his legs off on each other. After he has finished this cosmetic process, he is usually hungry again and ready for his next meal.

If one complained to the praying mantis that he is a murderer, it is almost certain that he would be shocked - "Who am I? I just want to eat! I don't want any delicacies or treats!" And really, this quality of the mantis is not his choice. This is how he was created and he has no choice but to act in this way. This is unlike man, who has the ability to change his nature.

Unfortunately, there are people who also have wild qualities. We do not refer to cannibals that live in certain places on the globe, but to those who do not hesitate to "swallow" others and to grow enough at the cost of another's fall. We Jews know that this is not the purpose for which man was created. The crown of creation can change and purify its negative characteristics, changing them from bad to good. The Jewish people have merited and been blessed with the Torah that Guides the Jew how to live properly to grow and to raise his children as merciful ones, sons of merciful ones.

Despite the fact that throughout history the Jewish nation has been a sacrifice to the cruelty of other nations in the world, it has always guarded its destiny and has been dedicated to the Creator, may His name be blessed, and His holy Torah.

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