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Parashat Vay'hi


A Statement - and Its Application

Dear Brothers,

One of the greatest Torah giants of the last generation was the Hazon Ish zs"l, a pillar of Torah who exerted himself tirelessly in its study. Also in that generation lived the great sadik and Kabbalist, Maharil Ashlag zs"l, author of the commentary on the Zohar entitled, "Hasulam."

Once these two princes of Torah met during the week of Parashat Vay'hi, and the author of "Hasulam" presented an explanation of a pasuk from this parashah. Yaakov addresses Yissachar, the tribe that devoted itself to the study of Torah, and says, "He saw rest that it was good, and the land that it was pleasant; he lowered his shoulder to bear [the burden of Torah study]. " The pasuk seems self-contradictory: one who finds rest to be "good" will seek a life of luxury and inactivity, rather than lowering himself under a yoke!

The sadik explained that Yissachar was infused with a sense of gratitude to the Creator. Everything belongs to Him, and whatever we have comes to us as a result of His blessing. He is so kind to us - how can we possibly thank Him? How can repay all His kindness towards us?

Yissachar thus decided to give the Al-mighty the most precious and important thing in the world as an statement of His appreciation. He therefore thought, what is the most important thing for a person? "He saw rest that it was good, and the land" - referring to materialistic pursuits - "that it was pleasant." He thought that he will devote these resources - enjoyment and recreation - to the Al-mighty. Rather than enjoying luxury and the easy life, he instead brought upon his shoulders the weighty burden of Torah and misvot!

The Hazon Ish enjoyed this original interpretation and repeated it to those close to him with great excitement and fervor.

Indeed, it is a beautiful interpretation. But the Torah is a "Torat Hayim," a living Torah. We cannot simply study a nice thought without applying it; it must be implemented in our lives. Let us take a good look and realize just how much gratitude we owe the Al-mighty - for our lives, health, family, livelihood, shelter, furniture, food, clothing - everything! So, when night falls and we feel worn and exhausted from the grueling workday, looking forward to an hour of relaxation and enjoyment, let us sacrifice our will - and participate in a Torah class instead!

Shabbat Shalom

Aryeh Deri


The World's Safety-Switch

Imagine what would happen if the sun warmed the earth without anything blocking it or reflecting its rays back into space? The heat would become terribly overpowering and the entire world would simply turn into a desert. As it turns out, the Creator takes perfect care of the world. A layer of clouds over the earth lowers the heat to such an extent that without these clouds, the temperature on earth would rise thirty-five degrees Fahrenheit. Research has shown that the sun's rays sent out to earth encounter the upper part of the clouds. The clouds reflect a portion of the sun's rays (effectively blocking them) which then return towards space. Other rays penetrate through the clouds and reach the ground in order to warm the earth. The ability of the rays to pass through the clouds depends on the size of the drops of water forming the cloud. The smaller and more numerous the drops, the more rays they prevent from penetrating. Likewise, the more dust particles there are in the cloud, the more rays it can block. The rays that do pass through the clouds, as mentioned, reach the ground. The ground becomes warmed and then releases the heat by radiating the rays upwards. The radiation returns to the clouds and continues from there into outer space. This is how the earth releases the heat generated by the sun. The clouds thus filter the sun's rays, return them to space, and absorb only some of the rays. In this way it protects itself from overheating.

It turns out, then, that the clouds in the sky not only are far from coincidental, but constitute the "world's safety-switch." Without them, the world could not exist. Just as clouds have assumed the role of guaranteeing the world's physical existence, so has the Creator assigned Benei Yisrael the role of spiritual guarantor for the world. We execute this task by observing Torah and misvot; herein lies our distinction from all other peoples on earth. Through his moral and ethical conduct, excelling in kindness, good manners and everything that the Torah demands, the Jew serves as a living example for all other people. He thus acts as the world's safety-switch, preventing Sedom-like lifestyles and providing mankind with a high standard of conduct capable of building the earth.


A Match Made in Heaven (6)

Flashback: Tuvia, the young man who made a respectable living off his beehives, heard the sound of tearful, heartfelt recitation of Tehillim emerging from the orchard of the nearby tavern on Shabbat afternoon. Interested in finding out who this was, he entered the tavern on Mossa'ei Shabbat and heard the owner's wife harshly scolding the helper girl who prayed before beginning work, calling her "a maid who thinks she's a rabbi's wife."

Without doubt, Tuvia thought to himself, this is the girl whose voice he had heard that afternoon. With a look of humiliation on her face, the waitress brought beer to all the men, having to suffer the dry sarcasm of the drunken crowd and the frivolity of the tavern owner.

"Is she your daughter?" asked Tuvia with feigned innocence. He knew full well that if this was his daughter, he would never allow any man to open his mouth in her presence.

"She is an orphan, a foundling," the man proudly replied. "We adopted her and care for all her needs. She pays us back with her prayers - ha, ha! - she prays on our behalf!" The drunken gentiles burst out in giddy laughter and banged their hands on the table. "Considering how you care for her," Tuvia thought to himself, "her prayers for you must be quite short. "

His heart ached for the orphan girl who suffered such bitter oppression. But what could he do? There seemed no way for him to help.

The week passed and on the following Shabbat he walked as usual to the Bet Kenesset in Pinsk. On his way back, he again heard the emotional wails, the impassioned recitation of Tehillim.

"Havah Devorah," he quietly called. His voice crossed the fence and reached the orchard. The sound of Tehillim was silenced for a brief moment but quickly resumed. "Havah Devorah," he called once again, having remembered her name from the tavern. A long minute passed in silence, a minute of ambivalence, until her image appeared in the tree's shadow. "Havah Devorah" he said for the third time, "I want to ask you a question." The girl hesitantly approached the fence, waiting to hear the question.

"Havah Devorah, how are you treated here?"

Indeed, this question was superfluous. It was enough to see her red eyes, tattered clothing, swollen hands, and wrinkles engraved around her mouth.

Her answer shocked him: "It says in the Torah, 'Do not despise an Egyptian, for you were a stranger in his land.' Rashi explains that Egypt provided Benei Yisrael's needs during difficult times, hosting us during the famine. We must show appreciation; I therefore do not want to say anything negative. "

"This is all true," he said emphatically, "but this did not stop Benei Yisrael from leaving Egypt! They did not remain in bondage because of the need to show appreciation."

"Yes," she confirmed, "you are right. But they waited for Moshe Rabbenu to take them out. I, however, have no one in the world." A flood of tears burst from her eyes.

To be continued


"Yissachar is a strong-boned donkey, crouching among the sheepfolds"

As we know, the people of Yissachar immersed themselves in Torah study, as the pasuk says in Sefer Divrei Hayamim I (12:33): "From the men of Yissachar there were those who knew how to interpret the signs of the times, to determine how Yisrael should act." Why did Yaakov compare this tribe to a donkey - a comparison that appears less than flattering?

Rabbenu Yaakov Ba'al Haturim zs"l explains that "just as a donkey carries every burden, so did Yissachar bear the burden of Yisrael regarding Torah; most of the scholars of the Sanhedrin were from Yissachar." Rabbenu Ovadia Seforno zs"l explains that the burden on the back of the tribe of Yissachar was divided, as it were, like the two sacks on either side of the donkey. This is implied by the final phrase in the pasuk, "rovess ben hamishpetayim" ("crouching among the sheepfolds"): the word "mishpetayim" relates to the term "sefitat kedeirah," placing two pots on a stove. These two bags are Torah and "derech eress" (a livelihood), for, as Hazal say, "If there is no Torah, there is no derech eress; if there is no derech eress, there is no Torah" (Abot 3:17).

"Yissachar is a strong-boned donkey, crouching among the sheepfolds"

Rabbenu Bahya zs"l interprets the term "hamor garem" (translated above as, "a strong-boned donkey") as a donkey with more "bones" than "flesh." Bones represent the skeleton, the basis and foundation, whereas the flesh denotes additional, unnecessary fat and excess. One who wishes to devote himself to Torah cannot properly engage in it while he pursues luxuries: "The destruction of the soul results from tending to the body, and tending to the body results from the destruction of the body" (Rambam's introduction to his commentary on the mishnah). The Hovot Halevavot (Sha'ar Heshbon Hanefesh, 3) writes, "One of the scholars has already said that just as water and fire cannot merge in a single utensil, so can love of the mundane world and love of Hashem not combine within the heart of man." Similarly, Tosafot (Ketubot 104a) cites the comment of the Midrash that "before a person prays for Torah to enter into his body, he must pray that delicacies do not enter into his body."

"Yissachar is a strong-boned donkey, crouching among the sheepfolds"

Rabbenu Yisshak Aramah zs"l (in his work, "Akedat Yis'hak," 33) cites the comment of the Zohar Hakadosh that notes the humble submission exhibited by the donkey. Even when its master loads a large, heavy burden on its back, it does not kick in protest. This humility is the first quality required of a Torah scholar, for, as Hazal say, the Shechinah departs from someone who becomes arrogant. The Al-mighty says about such a person, "He and I cannot live as one." Hashem wants, first and foremost, the submission of our hearts, that a person accept His yoke with love.

"Yissachar is a strong-boned donkey, crouching among the sheepfolds"

The Hid"a zs"l brings the comment of the Zohar Hakadosh on the pasuk, "Mine are counsel and resourcefulness; I am understanding; power is mine" (Mishlei 8:14). This pasuk, which refers to the Torah, seems to contradict itself. The word "tushiyah" (translated in our citation as, "resourcefulness") can also be translated as a derivative of the word "matish," something that weakens, implying that Torah weakens the student (Sanhedrin 26b). The end of the pasuk, however, associates Torah with "power" ("gevurah"). The answer is that for a fresh student who receives counsel and knowledge from his teacher, Torah study is grueling and diminishes his strength. In the end, however, after he acquires knowledge and understanding, Torah provides him with strength and vigor. With this in mind we may better understand our pesukim. First, "Yissachar is a strong-boned donkey, crouching among the sheepfolds." He crouches as a result of his diminished strength. When, however, he acquires Torah knowledge, then "He saw rest that it is good" - he finds rest and tranquillity, and earns power and happiness!


Rabbi Shalom Mizrahi Adani zs"l

Rabbi Shalom Mizrahi Adani zs"l emigrated from Yemen to Eress Yisrael around one hundred thirty years ago. Yerushalayim in those days was filled with great sages and sadikim who intensively engaged in Torah and the teachings of Kabbalah. Nevertheless, Rabbi Shalom was quickly recognized as among the Torah giants, and he was appointed to serve as a rabbinical judge on the court of the great Rav Shalom Araki zs"l. It was in Yerushalayim where he composed and published his well known works.

He was deeply troubled by the poverty suffered by the Torah scholars and on several occasions he traveled through Jewish communities to raise funds on behalf of the Jewish settlement in Eress Yisrael and its institutions. In the year 5639, he traveled to Tunis and was greeted with royal honor by the renowned spiritual leaders of the community. They expressed their reverence for the sadik in their enthusiastic haskamah (approbation) to his work, "Shalom Yerushalayim."

On a different occasion he traveled to India. Upon his arrival in Bombay, he asked for directions to the Jewish motel, whose address he had with him. Unfortunately, however, when he arrived at the location the guard did not allow him to enter. He had received strict orders from the innkeeper not to allow anyone inside without his permission.

Rabbi Shalom asked the guard to call the innkeeper.

"He is not home," replied the guard indifferently.

As Rabbi Shalom stood there helplessly, a young man arrived. He profusely asked Rabbi Shalom's forgiveness and respectfully invited him inside. It turned out that this was the innkeeper's son. He told that the father had taken a nap and his father came to him in a dream. He scolded his son, exclaiming, "You are sleeping while the sadik stands by the door of the inn, denied entry!" The dream repeated itself three times, and the innkeeper finally sent his son to see if this was true. He then generously joined the effort to support the scholars of Yerushalayim.

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

The Procedure for Kiddush on Leil Shabbat

The Customary Practices Before Kiddush

After the recitation of "Shalom Alechem," the Sefaradim and Eastern communities have the practice of reciting the pasuk, "Ki malachav yessaveh lach" (Tehillim 91:11) as well as the pasuk, "Hashem yishmor setecha" (Tehillim 121:8). "Eshet Hayyil," which comes from the book of Mishlei (31:10-31), is then recited. Some have the practice to then recite the hymn, "Atkinu Se'udata" and "Azamer Bishvahin," which was composed by the Arizal. (If one is in a rush to recite kiddush, he may recite this hymn after kiddush.) Others follow this recitation with "Le'mivssa al rifta" and "Yehei rava." Others contend that one should not recite "Yehei rava," since asking Hashem for one's needs is inappropriate on Shabbat. Some have the practice of reciting the selection from the Zohar on Parashat Vayakhel, "Yoma da mit'atra" and "Le'Shem yihud" before kiddush. Everyone should follow their custom. (See Ben Ish Hai, shanah 2, Parashat Bereishit 29 for the customs of the Kabbalists before kiddush on Shabbat.)

Standing for Kiddush on Friday Night

The practice of the Sefaradim and Eastern communities is to stand for kiddush on Friday night, regardless of whether one recites kiddush for himself or to fulfill the obligation on behalf of others. This follows the view of the Kabbalists. After completing the recitation, it is proper to sit and then drink. Many different customs exist among the Ashkenazim. Some follow the practice of the Sefaradim to stand for kiddush on Leil Shabbat, while others sit. A third custom is to stand for the recitation of "Vayechulu" (until "asher bara Elokim la'asot") and then sit. Others stand while reciting the first few words - "Yom hashishi vayechulu hashamayim" - and then immediately sit and continue. Everyone should follow their custom.

Holding the Cup During Kiddush

Before beginning the recitation of kiddush, one should take the cup - once it is filled - in his right hand and raise it a handbreadth or more above the table; his left hand should not assist in holding the cup. There is a special misvah to take the cup from someone else with two hands and then hold it with one's right hand when he begins kiddush. Throughout the recitation of kiddush he should look at the cup in order not to distract his attention from it. (Even a left-handed person should hold the kiddush cup with his right hand, unless he fears that he will spill unless he holds it with his left hand. According to the custom of the Ashkenazim, a left-handed person holds the cup with his left hand.)

If one wears gloves on his hands, it is proper for him to remove them before reciting kiddush. If one has bandages on his hand as a result of a wound, he need not remove the bandages. He may recite kiddush for himself even "lechatehilah" (on the optimum level of observance), and need not have someone else recite kiddush on his behalf.


"The blessings of your father surpassed the blessings of my ancestors," Yaakov Avinu tells his beloved son, Yosef. As the Targum explains, Yaakov bestows upon Yosef all the blessings he received from Avraham and Yis'hak and adds his own blessings on top of those. In what merit did Yosef earn all these blessings, those of all three patriarchs? "They shall be upon the head of Yosef, on the brow of the 'nazir' of his brothers." Targum Yonatan Ben Uziel explains that "kodkod" - translated here as "brow" - connotes leadership, and thus refers to Yosef's position of authority in Egypt. Despite his power, he remained, "nezir ehav," meaning, he exercised care when it came to the honor of his brothers.

Indeed, this is true greatness: a ruler who is careful about the honor of those subject to his authority, or a teacher who respects his students, as the mishnah instructs, "The honor of your students shall be dear to you like your own" (Avot 4:12). Even one who is careful with regard to the honor of his children does not undermine the misvah of respecting parents. After all, "one's children are like his brothers" (Pirkei D'Rabbi Eliezer 35). A parent mustn't take advantage of his superiority to insult his children, Heaven forbid, or make light of their concerns while their obligation forbids them from responding.

What an important lesson this is - how beautiful is the ethical code demanded by the Torah!


Yosef is summoned to his father's bedside, to see his ill father who has already lived one hundred and forty-seven years. Yaakov's vision has begun failing, and he asks about his grandchildren, "Who are these?"

On a superficial level, how would we understand this question? Perhaps it is better not to say; why sin with our tongues? Let us instead see how our Sages understood this question: "He wished to bless them, but the Shechinah departed from him, since Yerovam and Ahav would, in the future, emerge from Efrayim, and Yehu and his sons, from Menasheh." He therefore asks, "Who are these?" Meaning, from where did these come, that they are not deserving of blessing? (See Rashi.)

Parenthetically, this passage in the Midrash serves as an example of how the Midrashim of Hazal reflect "omek hapeshat" - the deeper meaning of the "peshat" - straightforward reading - of the pesukim. Our pasuk states, "Yisrael saw Yosef's sons." Now the name "Yisrael" is used in reference to Yaakov Avinu at his highest level. The Torah here suddenly uses this name, when just several pesukim earlier it referred to our patriarch as "Yaakov," thus implying a deeper meaning to his question. Yosef's response to his father also requires explanation without the Midrash. We would expect him to have replied, "Father, these are your grandchildren, Efrayim and Menasheh." Instead, he says, "They are my sons," they are worthy of blessing as I am. As the Midrash explains, "Yosef pleaded for mercy, and the ru'ah hakodesh rested upon Yaakov" (Rashi).

In any event, we learn here an important lesson concerning faith in our sages. When a sadik grants a berachah, he looks at future generations to see if his berachah might bring about harm at some point, by affording strength to the wicked sometime down the line. In a similar vein, though in the opposite direction, Elisha Hanavi sweetened the bitter waters of Yeriho and vain, wild youngsters ran after him and insulted him. Elisha cursed them with Hashem's Name, and forty-two youngsters were devoured by bears (Melachim II, 19). Hazal comment (Sotah 46b) that before cursing them, Elisha looked into their future and saw that there was no misvah observance at all among them or their descendants for all future generations.

This applies as well to all instructions and guidance issued by our rabbis. Tradition teaches that when a person gives advice to another, and certainly to a community, one of the following three possibilities is true: he is a fool, he is a rasha, or he is a sadik. The explanation is simple. If he does not clearly see all the dangers and possibilities for harm and failure, then he is a fool. If he does realize all this but nevertheless takes it upon his conscience that his advice may prove disastrous for the individual or community consulting with him, then he is a rasha. Unless, of course, he is a sadik, who sees everything and knows that nothing will fail on his account.

How does he know this? Our Sages say (Beresheet Rabbah 12:6), "That same light through which the world was created - Adam Harishon stood and saw with it from one end of the world to the other. When the Al-mighty saw the behavior of the generation of Enosh, the generation of the flood, and the generation of the dispersion, that they were corrupt, He went ahead and concealed it [this light] from them as it says, 'He withheld from the wicked their light.' For whom did He conceal it? For the sadikim in the world to come, as it says, 'The path of sadikim is like radiant light'." The Zohar writes (1, 264a) that He concealed it in the Torah.

The "Degel Mahaneh Efrayim" zs"l (at the end of Parashat Beresheet) writes that the Torah sages of every generation find this hidden light in the Torah, through which they can see from one end of the world to the other, "as my eyes have seen several things that the parchment is too small to contain. "

The "Vayo'el Moshe" zs"l was asked concerning Jews not known for their Torah scholarship (to say the least) but claim knowledge of the future and hidden secrets. He replied by noting Hazal's comment that an angel teaches a fetus the entire Torah as a candle burns over the baby's head. (The Ramhal explained that this candle refers to the light of the soul - "A person's soul is Hashem's candle.") Through that light he sees from end of the world to the other. Hazal continue that when the time comes for the baby's birth, the angel smites the child on his mouth, causing him to forget everything he learned. The question arises, what happens to the remarkable vision he had through the candle? The answer is that this power of vision results from the concealed light of the Torah. Once there is more Torah, there is no possibility of foreseeing the future.

Therefore, we consult only with genuine Torah authorities, and receive berachot only from Torah giants who have earned the light concealed therein.


The Halachot of Torah Reading on Shabbat

(The shiur was delivered on Mossa'ei Shabbat Parashat Haye-Sarah, 5760)

Hazal instituted that seven people are called to the Torah on Shabbat. No fewer may be called, but a congregation may call more than seven. After these aliyot the maftir is called to the Torah for the final aliyah. The stature of maftir is greater than any other aliyah, even than the final aliyah which includes the recitation of half-kaddish after the reading. Therefore, a mourner within the first year after the passing of a parent should try to receive specifically the maftir aliyah in order to benefit the soul of his parent. Masechet Kalah Rabbati (2) tells of how Rabbi Akiva saved the soul of a sinner by teaching his son enough to enable him to recite kaddish and borchu so that the congregation answered after him.

According to Kabbalah, the sixth aliyah, which corresponds to Yosef Hasadik, is the greatest aliyah. One should therefore make an effort to purchase this aliyah. The third aliyah during minhah on Shabbat also surpasses other aliyot in terms if its significance.

The one reading the Torah must do so carefully, following the correct pronunciation and tunes. He must therefore prepare adequately in advance, reading over the parashah to himself at least three times, as ruled by the Shulhan Aruch (139:1). If he makes a mistake in the notes he need not repeat the word or words; if, however, he mispronounced a word, he must read it again.

The one called to the Torah for maftir must know how to recite the haftarah properly; he must therefore prepare the reading beforehand. He should read the haftarah out loud with the rest of congregation reading along quietly with him while listening to his recitation. One who does not know how to read the haftarah should not be called for maftir. Everything we said concerning the reading of the haftarah, including the unique stature of this aliyah, applies both on Shabbat and Yom Tov.

One receiving an aliyah must read along with ba'al korei. If he does not, then the berachot he recites are rendered berachot le'vatalah (wasted berachot) according to the view of the Shulhan Aruch. Therefore, one who does not know how to read may not receive an aliyah.

For this reason, a blind person should preferably not be called to the Torah, as he cannot read along with the ba'al korei. However, places where the custom has been to give aliyot to the blind need not change their practice. In Eress Yisrael, the practice follows the ruling of the Mehaber (139:3) not to call blind people to the Torah. Even if the only kohen present is blind, a Yisrael should be called for the first aliyah. In extenuating circumstances, such as when a blind person has a "yarssheit" and very much wishes to receive an aliyah, he may be given the maftir aliyah, since seven people have already been called to the Torah in fulfillment of the day's obligation. We may then, in these extreme situations, rely on the ruling of the Maharil allowing the blind to receive aliyot. However, this is on condition that the blind person knows how to read the haftarah properly either by heart or by reading Braille. This is how I ruled when an actual case of this sort arose.

If an error was found in the Sefer Torah requiring the congregation to take a new Sefer, they need not read the entire parashah from the beginning; they rather read from that pasuk where the mistake was discovered. However, they must read no fewer than three pesukim from the second Sefer Torah. Therefore, if the mistake was found within three pesukim from the end of the parashah, the ba'al korei begins three pesukim earlier. After the Torah reading both Sifrei Torah are returned to the aron kodesh.

Both on Shabbat and weekdays, one receiving an aliyah must recite at least three pesukim. If he mistakenly read only two and recited the concluding berachah, he reads an additional pasuk and then repeats the concluding berachah; he need not repeat the introductory berachah.

If the ba'al korei skipped a pasuk or even a single word during Torah reading on Shabbat, he must repeat the parashah from the point where he skipped - even if this requires taking the Sefer Torah again from the aron. Should this occur, then three aliyot are called, with each reading at least three pesukim. On Monday or Thursday or during minhah on Shabbat, the ba'al korei need not repeat the reading, so long as there were three aliyot with each consisting of at least three pesukim.

Strictly speaking, a Sefaradi may receive an aliyah even if the Torah is written in Ashkenazi script, and vice-versa. Optimally, however, one should receive an aliyah only to a Torah written in accordance with his family tradition. Nevertheless, one who is called to a Torah written in the other tradition should not hesitate, but should rather go to the Torah and recite the berachot without concern.

A congregation should not disqualify the use of Sifrei Torah of the Yemenites, which have certain, slight differences from our Sifrei Torah. The same applies to the Sifrei Torah of the Ashkenazim which spell the word "daka" (in Devarim 23:2) with a "alef," whereas the Sifrei Torah of the Sefaradim spell it with an "heh." Likewise, a Sefaradi may wear tefillin written in Ashkenazi script, and vice-versa. A Sefaradi must ensure, however, that the tefillin are written in the sequence prescribed by the Shulhan Aruch, as some Ashkenazim follow a different practice concerning the sequence of the parshiyot. According to the view of the Shulhan Aruch, these tefillin are invalid for use.

Nizha Bat Oro and Yosef Ben Geraz

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