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AUGUST 23-24, 2002 16 ELUL 5762

Pop Quiz: To whom were the Bikurim (first fruits) given?


After all the curses and punishments that are written in our perashah, the Torah says that this will happen if we don't serve Hashem with joy and happiness when we are blessed with everything. The Rabbis tell us that doing misvot without happiness means it's a burden and a chore, and eventually people stop doing what is a bother.

The Midrash points out another aspect about being happy. There was once a king whose son was not behaving properly and the king wanted to punish him. However, every time it was time to receive his punishment, the boy would smile and show such happiness at being with the king that the king could not bring himself to hurt his son. When we show that we are happy being the children of Hashem, He becomes filled with love for us and wants to send us berachah from heaven. Especially in our times, when people worry about the future and there are so many long faces around, this is the time we should remember this lesson. We should try to think about positive aspects of our lives and smile and be happy. This will spark within us a greater feeling of joy which will continue to make us feel good and accomplish more. And happiness is contagious, so others will become inspired and encouraged when they see us happy and content, and this could only have a greater ripple effect on those around us. So let's be happy and smile, and let's see the results. Shabbat Shalom. Rabbi Shmuel Choueka

"Then all the peoples of the earth will see that the Name of Hashem is proclaimed over you and they will revere you" (Debarim 28:10)

It is important to explain the above verse properly and learn the important lesson therein. The Jewish people are in a very high profile position. Hashem is ready to respond to our every need in physical bounty because we are His nation, of course providing that we act like His nation. As a result of this, it will be natural for nations to feel reverence for a people that is such an obvious recipient of Hashem's blessings. Due to this position that we are in, we can sanctify Hashem's Name when we do the right thing, since we act as His people. Regrettably, the opposite is true, and Hashem's Name is blemished if we act in a reprehensible way.

There is one area of activity that can involve all of us, especially in business, that can and does lead to Hilul Hashem (desecration of G-d's Name), namely, fooling the gentile in business. Some people are under the mistaken impression that one is allowed to mislead and cheat and even steal from a gentile. This is absolutely false. I quote the Rambam (Mishnayot Kelim 12:47) "And this that is commonly held and even by some prominent people, that misleading a gentile is permitted, is a great mistake.

Furthermore, it is forbidden to fool, to cheat and to overcharge the gentile. It is forbidden to mislead (goneb da'at) the gentile, especially in a way that leads to Hilul Hashem, which is an abomination to Hashem." The Sefer Hasidim says, "Just like you must deal honestly with Jews, so too with the gentiles." It is the advice of the yeser hara (evil inclination) to convince us that our cheating will remain private, but time and again a Jewish cheater is revealed leading to a great Hilul Hashem.

Sometimes a gentile is fooled or is mistaken not due to you but by his own misunderstanding. This is called a "mistake of the gentile." If it comes to one's hand, despite the fact that one has not committed any crime, one should return it. This will sanctify Hashem's Name. The Be'er Hagolah (halachot genebah) writes, "And I am writing this for all generations, for I have seen many who have become wealthy from the mistakes of gentiles, but in the long run they lost their wealth. Those who have returned this money have become wealthy and their wealth has endured to be handed down to their children.

We must always remember, Hashem's Name is upon us. Let us cause the nations to revere Hashem and us. Shabbat Shalom. Rabbi Reuven Semah


"And He brought us to this place, and He gave us this land, a land flowing with milk and honey" (Debarim 26:9)

Rashi explains that "this place" refers to the Bet Hamikdash, the Temple in Jerusalem.

The question arises: why isn't the order the other way around? Since the Israelites entered the land of Israel much before they built the Temple, the land should be mentioned first.

Rabbi Naftali Tzvi Berlin of Volozhin explained that the Bet Hamikdash was a spiritual benefit and the land of Israel was a physical benefit. When we express our gratitude to Hashem we should do so in the order of importance of the things for which we are grateful. Therefore we thank Him for our spiritual blessings before our material ones.

This too should be our order of priorities in our thinking and behavior. Our spiritual needs should be uppermost in our minds. This will have practical ramifications should there ever be a conflict between our spiritual and material well-being. (Growth through Torah)


"And you shall rejoice in all the good which Hashem your G-d has given you, and to your house, you and the Levi and the stranger that is in your midst" (Debarim 26:11)

Rabbi Moshe Sternbuch says that the Torah is making us aware that all the "good" which one possesses is of no value if he takes it only for himself and does not share it equally with those less fortunate than he. When one is ready to share in the goods which Hashem has given, then he is truly in possession of "all the good." We learn from this verse that one must implant in his mind that whatever he possesses is a gift from Hashem. This gift is given to him on the condition that he exercise his ownership over it properly, by sharing it with those who are less fortunate, thereby bringing joy into their lives. (Peninim on the Torah)


This Week's Haftarah: Yishayahu 60:1-22.

This haftarah is the sixth of the series of seven haftarot of comfort, which are read from Tish'ah B'Ab to Rosh Hashanah. Yishayahu prophesizes that the nations will come to realize that Hashem rules the world. Hashem gives his guarantee that in the final redemption, Hashem will be an eternal light for us, and our days of mourning will be ended.

Answer to pop quiz: To the Kohen.

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