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AUGUST 10-11, 2001 22 AB 5761

Pop Quiz: What was unique about B'nei Yisrael's clothing in the desert?

- Rabbi Reuven Semah

"[And Hashem will safeguard for you] the covenant and the kindness that He swore to your forefathers." (Debarim 7;12)

A parable from the Dubno Maggid: Imagine a buyer of merchandise in a store speaking to the store owner. As the buyer is ordering the goods, you notice that he is promising many times over to the store owner that he will pay. This will immediately tell you that the man is buying on credit, and is not paying cash. For if he was paying cash, why promise to pay?

Our perashah begins with Hashem telling us that if we observe and keep the misvot, Hashem will uphold the covenant that he swore to the forefathers. If Hashem was "paying cash," and rewarding us for our misvot in this world, why mention the promise? This teaches us the most important foundation of Judaism - that the reward for misvot is in the next world. We are not being paid cash, but Hashem is "asking" for credit and gives us his solemn oath to pay.

In reality, Hashem doesn't owe us a thing. Like we say in our prayers, even if we do all of the misvot, we wouldn't be paying back a fraction of what we owe. From the time we were little babies, Hashem created and nurtured us. However, Hashem tells us that he wants to "owe" us a great reward in the next world. You couldn't ask for a better customer.

Shabbat Shalom.

- Rabbi Shmuel Choueka

"And you will remember that it is Hashem who gives you the strength to do this great deed." (Debarim 8:18)

Whenever a person accomplishes anything, he may be tempted to think that he was responsible for his success, so the Torah tells us that it is Hashem who gave you the strength to succeed. The Targum adds a very important word to the verse. He says, "You shall remember that it is Hashem Who gives you the idea which leads you to succeed."

This teaches us an amazing lesson. Even the idea itself which sets off an entire chain reaction, and ultimately leads to accomplishments is from Hashem. How many times are we in a tough situation looking for answers when all of a sudden, an idea "pops into our head" which gives us a way out? Every time a person thinks of something to do or remembers something important, he should thank Hashem for the idea itself for it is He who gives us the thought with which to succeed. Shabbat Shalom.


"And it shall be because you will listen to these laws" (Debarim 7:12)

Rashi explains the word "ekeb" as referring to those misvot on which one tramples with his heels (i.e. which one treats lightly). The word ekeb, which means "heel," is analogously used here to apply to those misvot to which one's attitude is at best complacent. The Torah is warning us to take heed with regard to these misvot and apply ourselves properly to their performance.

Rabbi Eliezer Gordon employs the word "ekeb" in a somewhat different manner. When one performs a misvah publicly or in association with others, the outcome of this action is, in reality, two misvot. There is the performance of Hashem's will, which is the foundation of all misvot, and there is the impression which is left on others. This, he states, is "ekeb misvah," the offshoot, or outgrowth resulting from the performance of this misvah. This can be likened to one who awakens early in the morning to study. He will surely receive his due reward for this deed. However, if he studies with another fellow, then his misvah is two-fold; not only does he study, but he causes another person to do the same. For if he would not continue his participation in this daily study session, then his partner would also be lax in his observance. The Torah wants us to be cognizant of the effect and the ensuing results our performance of misvot has on others. (Peninim on the Torah)


"Listen, Israel, today you are crossing the Jordan, to drive out nations greater and more powerful than you, with great cities fortified to the sky. They are a great nation, as tall as giants, and you know that you have heard the expression, 'Who can stand up before a giant?'" (Debarim 9:1,2)

Why did Hashem place such powerful nations in Israel for us to fight? Wouldn't it have made more sense to have weaker nations, or less fortified cities there so we could defeat them more easily?

The answer can be found by analyzing the berachah "Boreh Nefashot" which we recite after drinking something. Here we are thanking Hashem for quenching our thirst, but one may also ask why Hashem didn't simply create us in such a way that we wouldn't even become thirsty in the first place!

The Hatam Sofer explains that we can understand from this that even when we lack something, it is for our own benefit. Hashem makes us thirsty, so that we can recognize how much we constantly need Him for sustenance. We will then come to praise Him in the proper way. This is the reason for the wording of the berachah, ,ucr ,uapb truc "iburxju - He created many souls with deficiencies..." which help us recognize Him.

This concept can also be applied to our original question. Hashem was about to bring the Jewish nation into Israel. Rather than lead them into battle against weak nations, he set them up against large and mighty warriors. B'nei Yisrael would thereby truly realize when they are victorious that it was not their own doing, but rather it was Hashem's great hesed which led them to victory. (Lekah Tob)


"Carve for yourself two stone Tablets" (Debarim 10:1)

From the word "lecha - for yourself," which seems superfluous, the Gemara (Nedarim 38a) derives that Moshe was permitted to keep the chips of the Tablets, which made him very rich. Why is it important to know how he became rich?

Many businesses have major expense accounts and also a petty cash fund for small expenditures. Careful watch over the small expenditures is crucial to the overall success of the business, and negligence regarding the petty cash fund can sometimes run the company into serious financial difficulties. The Tablets contained the Ten Commandments, which in reality represent the six hundred and thirteen misvot of the Torah. Among the misvot of the Torah are ones which people consider important, and others which they consider trivial. They compare some of the misvot to precious stones, and regard others as mere "chips," which are much less valuable. The chips of the tablets are thus a metaphor for often-neglected misvot.

The Gemara is not merely telling us the source of Moshe's material affluence, but also describing his spiritual wealth, which, according to our Sages, derived from his careful observance of every misvah, even what some consider the "chips." (Vedibarta Bam)


In this week's perashah, we read the second paragraph of the Shema, which instructs us to educate our children. The pasuk says "you shall teach them to your children to discuss them." However, the word "otam - them" is spelled without the letter vav, so it could actually be read "atem - you." The Torah is telling us that in order for a parent to succeed in teaching his children to do misvot, he must first be a living example to them. The children must see him learning Torah and doing misvot, and they will follow suit.

Question: What misvot would you like your children to learn, but you are not careful with those misvot yourself? Are you already doing any misvot that could be done more openly in order to set a good example for the children? (ie. saying berachot out loud, letting them see when you give sedakah)? Are you careful to do the misvot with joy so that the children are more likely to follow your lead?


This Week's Haftarah: Yishayahu 49:14-51:3.

This haftarah is the second in the series of seven haftarot dealing with consolation that are read between Tish'ah B'Ab and Rosh Hashanah. Hashem tells the nation that the exile does not break the bond between Him and Israel. He will not let us be destroyed. At the end of the haftarah, Yishayahu the prophet says that Hashem will restore the glory of the land, and that joy and gladness will be found there.

Answer to Pop Quiz: It grew along with its wearer, and it never wore out.

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