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JULY 26-27, 2002 18 AB 5762

Pop Quiz: On what day was B'nei Yisrael forgiven for the sin of the Golden Calf?


"And Now, Yisrael, what does Hashem ask from you, only to fear Him" (Debarim 12:10)

The Gemara teaches us that one is supposed to say 100 berachot every day, based on the above verse. Besides reading it as "mah (what)" it can be read as "me'ah (one hundred)." In the course of a regular day, praying three times, eating three meals, we can usually come across 100 blessings. The question is, how is this law alluded to in this verse, since the words mah and me'ah are really different from one another?

The purpose of saying a berachah before or after we eat is to acknowledge that everything comes from Hashem. If we could say the berachot with a little concentration, it will bring us to a greater awareness of Hashem and His might and goodness. This is the method that the Rabbis saw as the best manner for acquiring fear of G-d. If a person lives his life with Hashem's Name on his lips, before and after eating, while praying and doing misvot, his fear of Hashem will develop and help him get close to Hashem.

Let us make our berachot with a little more thoughtfulness so that we will acquire that most desired attribute: Yir'at Shamayim, Fear of Hashem.

Shabbat Shalom. Rabbi Shmuel Choueka

"And you will eat and you will be satisfied and bless Hashem, your G-d" (Debarim 8:10)

The verse quoted above is the commandment to recite the Bircat Hamazon (grace after meals), which applies whenever one eats a meal with bread. The Talmud asks, if this is the commandment to say a berachah after eating bread, from where do we know that one is obligated to say a berachah before eating bread (Hamosee)? The Talmud answers with a kal vahomer, a logical deduction. If the Torah requires a person to thank Hashem after eating, when one is satiated, for sure one must thank Hashem before he eats, when he is still hungry. The Gaon from Vilna explains this in the following way. When it comes to physical pleasure, the highest satisfaction is prior to attainment of that desire. After one has indulged and is satisfied, his pleasure is little, and vanishes. Therefore, before you eat, your gratitude to Hashem is greater, because Hashem is about to fulfill the strong desire to eat. It therefore follows that if you must bless Hashem after you eat, when the desire is waning and over, all the more so must you thank Hashem before you eat.

It is interesting to note that the opposite is true when it comes to spiritual pleasure. There is a verse in the Torah that commands us to make a blessing before studying or reading Torah. The Talmud asks, how do we know that one must bless after reading the Torah? The answer is, if one must thank before, for sure one must thank after. Here the nature of a person is reversed. Before one involves himself in a spiritual act, such as studying Torah, one might not feel that great surge of pleasure. However, if one does it, one experiences a real pleasure that lasts.

The idea offered here is inspiring. If one wants to increase pleasure that lasts, do Torah and misvot! Shabbat Shalom. Rabbi Reuven Semah


"And now Israel, what does Hashem, your G-d, ask from you" (Debarim 10:12)

The Hafess Hayim taught that a person should view himself as someone hired out to work for another person for a specific period of time. When such a person completes one task, he approaches the employer and asks, "What should I do next?" This should be our attitude in relationship to Hashem. When you finish one misvah you should immediately look for opportunities to do another misvah.

This attitude can be seen in this verse. "And now Israel" at every present moment, ask yourself the question, "What can I do now? What does Hashem ask of me at the present time?"

There is a great difference between enjoying what you do and failing to enjoy it.

When you are involved in some job or series of tasks that you are only doing because you have to but really dislike, as soon as you complete one task you are not very anxious to start something new. You will probably procrastinate. When, however, you are involved in work that you feel great pleasure in doing, you do not consider what you are doing as work but as enjoyment. You would prefer being active in those matters rather than resting or doing anything else. When a person develops a deep sense of joy for doing misvot, he feels great pleasure and satisfaction when engaged in a misvah. When he finishes one good deed, he will immediately want to start doing another. Therefore, to develop the attitude expressed by the Hafess Hayim, we need to appreciate the great value and beauty in doing good deeds. Once you feel a love for misvot, you will eagerly ask, "What good deeds can I do now?" (Growth through Torah)


"You shall bind them for a sign upon your arm and let them be a frontlet between your eyes. You shall teach them to your children" (Debarim 11:18-19)

Why here does it first mention the misvah of tefillin followed by the misvah of teaching the children, while in the first portion of Shema (6:6) it says first "You shall teach them thoroughly to your children" with the misvah of tefillin following?

A parent is obligated to teach his child Torah as soon as he is able to speak. When he reaches the age of thirteen he becomes Bar Misvah, and is required to wear tefillin. Many parents take an active interest in their child's education when he is very young; however, as he grows older, their participation wanes.

In the first portion of Shema, the Torah is teaching that the first obligation of a parent is to teach his child Torah while he is very young, and afterwards when he reaches the age of thirteen, he must see to it that he puts on tefillin. The second portion is teaching that even when the child is already wearing tefillin, i.e. he has become Bar Misvah, the parent is not free of his obligation to educate his children. He must continue to teach and always be involved in his child's Torah learning. (Vedibarta Bam)


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: On Yom Kippur.

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