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JULY 20-21, 2001 1 AB 5761

No meat meals are permitted (except on Shabbat) from Sunday, July 22 to Monday night, July 30.

Pop Quiz: : How many stops did B'nei Yisrael make in their travels in the desert?

- Rabbi Reuven Semah

"And you shall be clean in the eyes of Hashem and Israel" (Bemidbar 32:22)

A story is told about the Hafess Hqyim z"l (as quoted in Torah Lada'at), who, because of an urgent matter was forced to pray at a later minyan than he normally attended. (There is a halachic preference to pray early in the morning.) As he entered the shul to pray, he noticed a number of students who had already prayed and were leaving. He stopped them and explained to them that an emergency had come up which had prevented him from praying with an early minyan.

Upon hearing this the students said, "The Rabbi does not have to excuse himself to us. We would never suspect that the Rabbi would miss early minyan unless he had a valid reason for doing so!" The Hafess Hayim replied, "I am certain that you would not have suspected me of doing anything wrong. In spite of this, though, I found it necessary to explain my actions in order to teach you an important lesson in life. When you go out into the world and come into contact with other people, you must avoid at all costs any actions on your part which could be misinterpreted. If you have even the slightest doubt as to whether or not people have understood you, you must explain yourself to them. This is the only way in which you can be certain to avoid any hilul Hashem (shaming Hashem's Name) by mistake.

My friends, I can recall many times that I have been short on words and not explained my actions well. I am sure it happens to many people as well. Why is it, when one wants to speak about unimportant things, no details are left out? However, when one needs to justify his actions he says, "Let them figure it out themselves!" There is a Torah requirement that we should be clean in the eyes of Hashem and the people. This can go a long way in preventing arguments and discord. Shabbat Shalom.

- Rabbi Shmuel Choueka

"When a person makes a vow to Hashem." (Bemidbar 30:3)

When do people most frequently make a vow or an oath? When they become angry. Out of anger, they swear that they will or will not do something, or that something should be forbidden to them. But anger is not the proper motivation for a vow or an oath. Rather, the vow should be "to Hashem." That is, if a person sees that his negative impulses might lead him to transgress, then out of a calculated, willful decision, it is permitted to make a vow or oath that will motivate him to refrain from transgressing. In general, however, one should abstain from making any vows or oaths. Indeed, even when one gives charity, one should get accustomed to say, "B'li neder - without a vow."

The same actions can be done with various motivations. Depending on your motivation, the act will either be a manifestation of a loss of control or an elevated act of self discipline. When you impulsively do or say things out of anger you are the servant of your temper. On the other hand, when you decide that doing something can be spiritually harmful for you, and therefore you are willing to set up self-restraints, you are becoming the master over your impulses. Shabbat Shalom.


"Moshe spoke to the heads of the tribes...'If a man takes a vow to G-d...According to whatever comes from his mouth shall he do'" (Bemidbar 30:2,3)

Moshe taught all the commandments first to the heads of the tribes and afterwards to the entire community. Why is this emphasized in connection with the laws of vows?

Often a candidate for office makes lavish promises. Moreover, when actually in office, he endeavors to impress his constituents that he will perform their every wish, yet when not actually facing them he erases their concerns from his mind. Therefore, Moshe specifically warned the heads of the tribes that their promises and pledges were to be treated seriously. A man shall not desecrate his word, but "whatever comes from his mouth shall he do." (Vedibarta Bam)


"And the members of the tribe of Gad and the tribe of Reuben came" (Bemidbar 32:2)

The tribes of Reuben and Gad had large herds of cattle and wanted the land on the other side of the Jordan as their territory. When they approached Moshe to make this request, the tribe of Gad came first even though Reuben was the oldest of the twelve tribes and his tribe is mentioned first in the previous verse. The descendants of Reuben were embarrassed to go first because Reuben's rebuke from his father Ya'akob was that he was impulsive as water. By their refraining from acting impulsively, they rectified the previous fault.

A person who is impulsive will make many errors. The negative trait can cause both oneself and others much harm. The Rambam writes that the way to overcome any negative trait is to act in a manner that is diametrically opposed to that trait. If you tend to be impulsive, make a resolution to act in a patient and thoughtful manner. By working on the positive trait of patience you will eventually overcome your tendency to be impulsive. (Growth through Torah)


After the incident of Pinhas, Hashem commanded Moshe to take revenge on the Midyanim for causing B'nei Yisrael to sin. Moshe then selected one thousand men from each tribe, led by Pinhas, to fight in the war. The Ba'al Haturim questions: Why didn't Moshe send the nesi'im (princes) of each of the twelve tribes to fight the war? He answers that since Zimri, the leader of the tribe of Shimon, had just been killed by Pinhas, Moshe did not send any of the leaders of the other eleven tribes. He wanted to prevent the tribe of Shimon from being embarrassed even though the nesi'im could have been a considerable help to the war effort. Even in time of war, one must take precautions to avoid embarrassing others.

Question: What are some situations in which we could save another person from embarrassment? (For example, pretending not to see a person stumble, or offering something to another person that you know he needs but is ashamed to ask for it)


This Week's Haftarah: Yirmiyahu 2:4-28, 4:1-2 Usually when Rosh Hodesh falls out on Shabbat, we read a special haftarah from Yishayahu instead of the regular haftarah. The haftarah this week, however, is not the regular haftarah nor is it the haftarah for Rosh Hodesh.

Rather, it is the second of the series of three haftarot that are read during the three weeks between the fasts of Shib'ah Asar B'Tamuz and Tish'ah B'ab. These haftarot speak of Hashem's rebuke and warning of punishment for the nation's sins, a theme which is clearly pertinent during the Three Weeks. In this haftarah, the prophet Yirmiyahu rebukes the people for abandoning Hashem and the Torah, and following other gods. He warns them that if they do not correct their ways, Hashem will bring destruction and exile.

Answer to Pop Quiz: Forty two.

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