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He Who Walks Innocently Walks Securely (9)

Flashback: Rabbi Shemuel Halevi, the rabbi of Boskovitz, stands trial on charges that he murdered a Christian boy to use his blood for massot. This libel rested on the fact that the knife used for the murder matched the set of knives in the rabbi's kitchen. The judge ordered the rabbi to come forward and identify the knife.

The sound of rattling chains filled the courtroom as the rabbi made his way to the stand and assessed the knife. The tension reached its apex as he stood there, turning the knife from side to side and studying it carefully. He then returned the knife to the judge.

"Yes," he said, "this is my knife."

In an instant, the tension broke and erupted in a tempestuous uproar. Shouts were sounded from every corner: "The knife is his!" "He confessed!" "Death to the murderer!"

The judged banged his gavel on the table innumerable times in an attempt to quiet the raucous audience. "The court does not need any advice as to how to sentence a murderer!" he cried. "I demand that the court be allowed to proceed with the trial."

The uproar gradually declined. The judged leaned forward and addressed the rabbi sternly: "This is what happens when one does not consult with a lawyer. Perhaps you are unaware of the gravity of your confession. In my opinion, you committed a grave error by refusing the services of an attorney. He would have advised you to deny your ownership over the knife, thus shifting the burden of proof onto the prosecution. Though I must point out that the courtroom very much respects your integrity. Through your confession, you saved us a lot of precious time and brought us closer to unearthing the truth about this case. But I would suggest that at least now you hire for yourself a first-rate attorney. Perhaps he could at least get you a lighter sentence."

The rabbi gazed at the judge. "I appreciate the advice and the sincerity with which it was given. I must say that this is precisely the suggestion offered by the lawyer when I met with him, but I refused. I informed him that if I indeed recognize the knife as my own I will not deny my ownership over it, for I have never lied in my life. It was because of this that the lawyer dropped the case."

The judge suddenly grew tense. He bent forward and asked in wonderment, "Really? You never told a lie?"

"Never," the rabbi confirmed. "I never deviated from the truth - not even a hairsbreadth."

The judge replied, "Well, if this is true, then let's ask you: did you take any part in the murder of the child?"

"No!" the rabbi firmly replied. "Not only that, but I hereby declare that the entire blood libel is founded on utter falsehood. It contains not a kernel of truth!"

"If so, then since you were prepared to endanger your life to speak to truth, and you did not deny your ownership over the knife used in the murder, it seems to me that we should believe you that you did not take part in the murder itself, no?" "No!" came a thundering voice. Everyone turned to the chief of police who stood from his place. "No!" he repeated. "This is a deceitful plot of the rabbi!"

to be continued


Foreseeing an Earthquake

For centuries, people have testified to strange conduct of animals before earthquakes and volcanic eruptions. Cats leave the villages and take their young with them. Horses break out in a wild gallop, birds sing at the wrong times, cows escape from their barns and rats appear on the street in broad daylight. One explanation is that certain animals are able to hear the faint sound of the earthquake well before the human ear picks it up. Birds and elephants, too, are sensitive to low-frequency sounds and can thus react before the outbreak of the earthquake. Many animals, such as snakes, are particularly sensitive to quakes and they may very well sense the tiny motion that precede the actual tremor. Some species of crabs locate their food based on the tremors and are therefore attracted to whatever creates the quake. Other creatures identify their mates and communicate with them based on the number of shakes.

In His infinite mercy, the Creator implanted within many animals this remarkable ability to sense shakes for a wide variety of purposes - communication, finding food, avoiding danger, or announcing the finding of food. There is no doubt that mistakenly identifying the nature of a shake can determine the fate of these creatures. Some people may think that it would be great if people, too, were graced with this unique talent to sense earthquakes; imagine how much pain and suffering would be avoided! The truth is, that people in fact can reduce pain and distress. Behold, an earthquake is currently getting underway - the ground is shaking right under our feet: shootings, bombings, economic crisis, political and social crises, medical problems - and so much more. All these, dear Jews, are but a slight movement of the ground, only the beginning of the earthquake. But this is a quake that we may still stop and save ourselves from. The Al-mighty, in His infinite mercy, has guided us in the clearest terms possible: "If you walk with My laws… and you perform them… " Torah observance is the single guarantee to not only properly identify the onset of an earthquake, as it were, and save oneself from it, but also to once again live in peace and security like kings.


"The blessing, that you heed the commandments of Hashem"

"The blessing, that you heed the commandments of Hashem, and the curse if you do not heed…" The Binah Le'itim asks, why does the pasuk write with regard to the blessing, "asher tishme'un" - "that you heed," whereas in the context of the curse it writes, "im lo tishme'un" - "if you do not heed"?

He answers with an analogy to a wealthy, generous, good-hearted man, a pursuer of charity and kindness, who decided to help a certain poor, unemployed man. He hired him to perform some easy, enjoyable work for him and set the rate. He then went even further. He told his new worker that although technically an employer owes the employee only once the work is completed, he would give him a large sum of money up front, so that in the meantime he could support himself respectfully. If the worker proved dependable and hardworking, he was told, the employer would add to his pay.

Similarly, the Al-mighty gives Benei Yisrael "the blessing," the reward for observance, up front, "on credit," so-to-speak, in the hope "that you heed the commandments." If we then exert ourselves in the performance of misvot, He will add more and more to our reward.

However, with regard to the curse, Heaven forbid, nothing, of course, is paid "up front." Only, "if you do not heed," once we neglect the misvot, does Hashem send punishment.

"The blessing, that you heed the commandments of Hashem"

Rabbenu Bahyah, too, noted the difference between the pasuk's description of the blessing and the curse. He explained that the word "im" ("if") denotes doubtfulness. The Al-mighty did not want to express any doubt as to whether or not we will observe the misvot. The pasuk therefore states, "that you heed the commandments," implying that this will undoubtedly occur, and only with regard to the curse does the Torah say, "if you do not heed," describing this as but a remote possibility.

"The blessing, that you heed the commandments of Hashem"

In the beginning of Parashat Behukotai, the Torah hinges Benei Yisrael's worthiness of blessing on their exertion in Torah study. Here, however, the Torah hinges the blessing on our observance of misvot. In truth, each depends on the other, as Rashi there in Behukotai comments, "If one did not learn, how will he know what to do?" Intensive Torah study is thus a precondition for misvah observance. Indeed, the Ba'al Haturim notes in his comments to this pasuk that the final letters of the words, "et haberachah asher tishme'u" ("the blessing, that you heed") spell "Torah." In the merit of Torah learning we can observe the misvot and thereby earn all the blessings.

"The blessing, that you heed the commandments of Hashem"

Rabbenu Yis’hak Aramah zs"l writes (Akedat Yis’hak 93) that there is but one way to earn blessing: by observing the misvot and ensuring not to deviate from them. Towards curse, by contrast, there are many different paths. He compares this to a shooting range. There is only one, specific path that hits the bull's-eye, whereas there are many different ways to miss the target.

"The blessing, that you heed the commandments of Hashem"

Rabbenu Yaakov Abuhassera zs"l asks, why does the Torah not write with regard to the blessing, "if you heed the commandments," just as it wrote concerning the curse, "if you do not heed… "? He answers that the syntax of this pasuk alludes to the fact that misvah observance is itself the blessing, as it constitutes the very purpose of man's existence. The misvot build a person, exalt him, sanctify him, and bring him closer to the Creator - can there by any greater blessing than this?

"The blessing, that you heed the commandments of Hashem"

The Orhot Sadikim (13) demonstrates that the term, "shemi'a" (as in, "asher tishme'un" in this pasuk) actually means acceptance and willingness. This pasuk thus implies that one who truly desires to perform the misvot immediately earns blessing!


I once spoke with a certain soccer player who became a ba'al teshuvah. He was a top-rated player. He told me of the high-paying contracts, the luxurious lifestyle, the adoration of the fans, the flattering write-ups in the papers, the bonuses for championships. Everything was false magic, which temporarily intoxicates but ultimately leaves the soul thirsty and empty. He now spends his time diligently studying Torah, enriching his soul, and broadening his horizons. He is now becoming a more complete person and a more perfect person - in terms of his qualities, his character, his relationship to his family, and his attitude to society at large. His father is ever so ecstatic to see his son observe Shabbat and to test his grandchildren in their Torah studies.

"Wait a second," I asked, "your father is religious?"

"What you mean, 'religious'," he replied. "He is totally observant and filled with faith and loyalty to his heritage."

"So," I asked, "what happened to you?"

He told, with total innocence, that there was a secular school very close to the house. It had a beautiful, spacious building with a large playground. The Torah school, however, was far away and used an old facility. He was therefore sent to the closer school. The path was now paved to his parents' deep sorrow and anguish.

How sad indeed. After all, they wanted the best for their children. They wanted to attach them to our heritage, to the tradition. They did not want their children to become alienated and detached. In those days permissiveness was not as rampant as today nor did violence overrun the secular school system. The parents carefully considered their options and correctly so. Without question, the school's proximity and external appearance are important factors to consider. But take an analogy of a person who needs to travel to Haifa. He comes to the central bus station and sees that the bus is old and has standing room only. The bus to Jerusalem, by contrast, is new, modern, with plenty of sitting room. What more, the ride to Jerusalem costs less! Will he get onto the bus to Jerusalem because of these considerations? He must first ask himself what his destination is, where he is headed.

We all know our destination as parents: to educate our children, and to educate them well. From this perspective, the secular schools are headed nowhere, once the chairman declared that the purpose of the schools is not to educate, but to impart knowledge…

The Torah school system educates. It teaches children to respect their parents, to develop fine qualities, to perform kindness, to speak politely, to become familiar with one's heritage. There is no violence, no drugs, no vulgarity, no boundless permissiveness. There is spiritual light, beauty, joy and nahat!

A parent who fails to factor in the most critical consideration, which outweighs all others, will see that the years will quickly pass and the wheel will turn back only with great difficulty, if at all. And then, when he sees the child alienated and distant, how much distress will he experience!

A child who was not taught to respect our heritage - what will connect him to our land? Why should he not marry a gentile (and for this there is no longer any need to travel outside of Israel… )? What will connect him to his parents, or prompt him to heed their advice, to respect them? And what about the grandchildren?

The day will come when the parents will be brought to task: You received a soul, were entrusted with the most precious possession, how did you guard it? How did you treat it? What will the parent answer the heavenly tribunal as to why he did not send his child to Torah education? All the excuses are false; could there by any answer?

How terrible, then, will it be when all the wrongdoing of the child or children will fall on the head of the parent - the conduct, the permissiveness, the rebelliousness, the scorn and contempt of them and their children. Is our burden of wrongdoing not sufficient, that we can allow ourselves to take on as well the burden of several generations after us, as well?

From where do we learn this message? From a pasuk in our parashah. We are instructed to destroy the houses of idolatry and eradicate their altars. The pasuk then says, "Do not do so to Hashem your G-d." Rashi cites the question of Rabbi Yishmael: "Would one really think that Yisrael would destroy [Hashem's] altars? Rather, [the pasuk means,] do not commit averot that will cause the altar of your forefathers to be destroyed." A person who commits a sin thinks that he will be held accountable only for the specific misdeed. As it turns out, however, he will be held accountable for all its consequences. If the Mikdash is destroyed because of his actions, then the destruction, too, is added to his guilt. Conversely, one who sends his children to Torah schools, then all the misvot of his children, grandchildren and future generations will all be added to his credit, to his merits and those of his wife.


Rabbi David Menasheh Sutton zs"l

Rabbi Menasheh Sutton zs"l served as the rabbi of Aram Soba and in Sefat. He was invited to become the rabbi of Alexandria, but he died on the way. He is well known for his work, "Kenesiyah Le'Shem Shamayim," in which he vehemently opposes the various acts of witchcraft that were in use at the time, and calls on Jews to observe the misvah of "Tamim tihyeh im Hashem Elokecha" - "You shall be wholehearted with Hashem your G-d."

His son, Rabbi Hillel David zs"l, was known as "Hacham David Menasheh" and as the "Ari Be'mistarim." He was a giant in the mystical areas of Torah. Once, as he walked in the street, he encountered a drunken gentile who swung his staff and knocked off Rabbi David's turban. The rabbi did not respond. He simply bent down, lifted his turban, and continued along his way. He paid no attention to the shrieks of terror he heard behind him as he walked - the gentile had fallen to the ground and begun convulsing all over his body!

The onlookers realized that the man was smitten by the rabbi's anger, so they quickly asked the rabbi to forgive him. He agreed, on condition that he and all the other gentiles in the area promised never again to harm a Jew.

They gave the rabbi their word, and he said, "The man shall be cured."

As soon as the words left his mouth, the convulsions ceased. Ashamed and startled, the man stood, asked the rabbi for forgiveness, and joined in the promise never to harm the Jews again.

On Erev Shabbat Kodesh, the 17th of Elul, 5669, he passed away. His offspring published his work, "Aruchah U'marpei," which consists of illuminating discussions based on Hazal's comments concerning ethics and good qualities.


The magician stood on the stage, dressed according to all the rules: a top-hat on his head, a black bow-tie with his white shirt and a coat with tails. He removed his top-hat, waved his colorful handkerchief over it, and pulled out a white rabbit from it. And then another. And another. Applause thundered throughout the room. He "swallowed" razor blades and then expelled them from his mouth in an endless chain. Again, a thunderous applause.

He then turned to the audience: "Which of you is prepared to lend me his watch, preferably a gold watch?"

Several hands were raised. The performer turned to one of them and said, "Would you please come forward, Sir."

The man stepped up onto the stage and handed over his watch. The magician showed it to the audience. It sparkled with gold. The magician wrapped it carefully in a white cloth, placed the cloth on the table, and took a hammer. "Would you allow me, dear Sir, to smash your watch?"

Permission was granted. The hammer came crashing down, again and again, with full force.

The magician carefully took hold of the cloth with both hands. He handed the "shattered pieces" to the watch's owner, who opened the cloth.

As expected, the cloth was empty. Or the watch was there completely intact, as expected.

None of this is new. We may assume that everyone has seen a performance of this sort and has enjoyed it. But I have one question. Why did the watch-owner raise his hand? Why did he hand over his precious watch and agree to have it shattered? It is, after all, his gold watch!

The answer, of course, is that he trusted the magician. He took note of his expertise and had no fears.

What does this have to do with our parashah?


"If a prophet or dreamer of a dream arises in your midst and gives you a wonder or sign, and the wonder or sign of which he spoke comes true, and he says, 'Let us follow other gods that you have never known and we will worship them. Do not listen to the words of that prophet or dreamer of a dream, for Hashem your G-d is testing you to know whether you love Hashem your G-d with all your heart and with all your soul."

A false prophet arises and seeks to lure the nation to idolatry. He performs some trick, a miracle or wonder. We are commanded to refuse to listen to him. This is clear. This, the Saba of Kelm zs"l writes, does not require a separate commandment. Would we have thought to worship idols, Heaven forbid?

Instead, the Torah here emphasizes the element of "nisayon," the test: "for Hashem your G-d is testing you to see whether you love Hashem your G-d with all your heart and with all your soul." What does the pasuk mean when it says, "with all your heart"? That the heart will not tremble at all, it will not grow anxious even to the slightest extent, precisely as the owner of the watch gave his treasure to the magician smiling, with full confidence. He does not understand how the magic works, he cannot perform the trick, but one thing he knows for sure: this is just an illusion.

Every period features its own false prophets and dreamers. Some time ago the masses were enchanted by socialism and communism. In our day, there are people who may think that without higher education one cannot make it in life. Incidentally, the Rebbe of Vishnitz shlit"a told that during a visit abroad he met experienced accountants, seasoned attorneys, and distinguished businessmen who work for millionaires without any formal education!

We, who believe in the Creator of the world who determines one's livelihood on Rosh Hashanah, and taught us that "everything is in the hand of G-d except for the fear of G-d," know that this is all illusory. Everything is determined there, not here. We will not be punished for observing the misvot, respecting the Shabbat, studying or teaching Torah, or avoiding taking interest. We know that "he who walks innocently walks securely."


In our parashah, we are commanded with regard to the ir hanidahat, the city whose entire population followed idolatry. The city is a dangerous wound within the nation and must be eradicated before the illness spreads to other regions and poisons the entire body of Am Yisrael. The population is put to death, "in order that Hashem return from His wrath, and He will give you compassion and have compassion for you… " Why does Hashem promise to give the nation compassion as a reward for performing this misvah? The Or Hahayyim Hakadosh writes: "Since He commanded with regard to the ir nidahat, that they kill the entire city by the sword, this action will engender a cruel nature in the person's heart, as the Ishmaelites have told us, that the group of killers who kill in accordance with the king's order are very enthusiastic when they kill people. This could eliminate for them [Benei Yisrael] the quality of compassion and they could turn into cruel people. They are therefore given a promise that Hashem will give them compassion to eliminate the power of cruelty that could arise as a result of the action."

We learn here an important concept. Although Benei Yisrael are compassionate by nature (Yebamot 79a), and Avraham Avinu entrenched within us for all generations the quality of kindness (Ketubot 8b), a quality that has become rooted within our people over the course of many centuries, the very short period of punishing the iniquitous city has the power to eliminate this entrenched quality. At this point we already need divine assistance to restore our compassion. What, then, can we say about the summer vacation period, during which we were undoubtedly weakened in terms of using our time for study, diligence, yeshivah-style prayer, guarding our eyes and thoughts, etc. How much divine assistance do we need to return to what we were! Let us take advantage of the coming days until the studies resume, to repair whatever damage may have been incurred!

A Treasury of Halachot and Customs of the Festivals of Yisrael, Based on the Rulings of Rav Ovadia Yossef shlit"a
by Rav David Yossef shlit"a

Stirring Food or Removing Food From a Keli Rishon

Removing or Stirring Food That Has Yet to be Fully Cooked

If a food is not fully cooked, one may not remove it from the pot with a utensil or stir it, for doing so expedites the cooking process. This applies even if only part of the food is not fully cooked. There is no distinction in this regard as to whether the food in the keli rishon (original utensil in which it was cooked) is over an open or covered flame, or if it is on an electric hot plate, or even if it was removed from the fire. However, if the food was placed on a table, bench or floor, and has cooled to the point where it is no longer considered "yad soledet bo" (that one's hand would instinctively recoil on contact), one may stir it or remove it from the pot.

In light of this, one must ensure not to take on Friday night some food that is cooking for Shabbat day if there are pieces of meat that have yet to be fully cooked, even if one takes only fully-cooked pieces. If the pot contains some food that has yet to be fully cooked, one may not take some food from the pot.

Removing or Stirring Fully-Cooked Food

One may remove fully-cooked food from its utensil, even if it is on the fire. Stirring it, however, is forbidden, as this resembles cooking. The Ashkenazim are stringent and do not even remove fully-cooked food from the pot while it is on the fire. Nevertheless, when the need arises, even those following this custom may act leniently in this regard, not to mention that they may do so when no other possibility exists (such as if one does not have a covered flame, and thus if he would remove the food from the fire before taking some out from the pot it will be forbidden to return the pot to the fire). If a fully-cooked food is sitting on a covered flame or electric hot plate designated for Shabbat, he may stir it and remove some food. Needless to say, if one removed the pot with the fully-cooked food and placed it on a table or floor, he may stir it or take some food. Some Ashkenazim follow the practice of avoiding stirring even fully-cooked food that has been removed from the fire and placed on the table or floor. One who follows this practice is worthy of praise, but there is no reason to refrain from removing some of the food from the pot once it has been removed from the fire and the food is fully cooked.

One may remove boiling water from the kettle sitting on the fire, not to mention from a kettle sitting over a covered flame or electric hot plate.

Two Types of Avodat Hashem

"Six days you shall work and perform all your activity, and on the seventh day - a Shabbat to Hashem your G-d." For six days, we serve Hashem by performing work; on the seventh, we serve Him by resting and abstaining from work. (Rabbenu Bahya, citing the Ramban)

Yosef Ben Hanom and Yis'hak Shaul Ben Leah

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