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AUGUST 2-3, 2002 25 AB 5762

Rosh Hodesh Elul will be celebrated on Thursday & Friday, August 8 & 9.

Pop Quiz: What must be done with a firstborn kosher animal?


"And this is what you should not eat from among them...the hasidah" (Debarim 14:12,18)

The Torah lists the hasidah among the birds which are forbidden to be eaten. The Sages ask: Why is this bird called hasidah? They answer: Because it deals graciously with its friends. This is surprising, because our Sages tell us that the animals that the Torah forbids have a cruel and vicious nature. If we would eat from these animals we might acquire their bad traits. However, the hasidah does hesed, so why is it forbidden? The Sages answer that it is forbidden because the hasidah does hesed with its friends, but not with birds that are not its friends. The true lover of hesed does kindness for all people, even with people that have wronged them. A story is told (quoted in Torah Lada'at) that someone insulted the great Rabbi Yisrael Salanter. The person didn't know who the Rabbi was, but when he found out, he begged forgiveness. The Rabbi forgave him, but from that day on the Rabbi went out of his way to do many acts of kindness to this man. The people asked the Rabbi why he was doing this. The Rabbi answered that he was afraid he still harbored ill feelings towards this man. The best way to uproot these feelings is to do hesed to that person.

It is interesting to note that hesed has become more popular in our community. This is to the credit of all the hesed organizations in our midst. To fine tune the hesed it is necessary to help people that are not popular, and not to be like the hasidah that only helps her friends. Perhaps if we have the strength to help our enemies, we will bring into ourselves a true feeling of love. Shabbat Shalom. Rabbi Reuven Semah

"[If your Hebrew slave] says to you, 'I shall not go out from you' because he loves you and your house because he fares well with you" (Debarim 15:16)

The Gemara teaches that the owner of a Hebrew slave must treat him and view him as an equal in every respect, and he sometimes even has to treat him as a superior! However, the Gemara also teaches that if two Jews are in dire need of water, and only one of them has a jug of water, his own life takes precedence, and he is not obligated to give the water to the other person. Why is this case different than the case of the slave who must be treated at least as an equal, if not better?

A poor man and a rich man can live in harmony with one another, even though the poor man can't satisfy his physical needs like the rich man. Still yet, he does not feel inferior in any way to his friend as a human being. The slave, on the other hand, is always reminded of his bitter status as a mere servant of another man. Therefore the Torah goes out of its way to demand special treatment for him.

There is a very important lesson to be learned from this. We must understand that different people have different sensitivities. We must recognize each person's uniqueness, and treat him in a way that we will not hurt his feelings or make him self-conscious of his station in life. Let's take it upon ourselves now, as we approach the selihot season, to treat our fellow man with the proper respect, and to make amends with those to whom we may have shown disservice to in the past. Shabbat Shalom. Rabbi Shmuel Choueka


"And you shall set the blessing upon Mount Gerizim and the curse upon Mount Eibal" (Debarim 11:29)

Why did Hashem designate two distinct mountains for curse and blessing? Would it not have been equally effective to have both blessing and curse upon the same mountain? Indeed, were not the Levites the ones who stood between both mountains and recited both blessings and curses? The Kehilat Yitzhak explains that Hashem could have understandably issued blessing and curse from the same mountain. He wanted, however, to teach a valuable lesson. The place from which goodness and blessing emanates must be separate from the place which breeds evil and curse.

A Jew should seek to go to such a place which is totally good. Thus, he will be secure in his hope for success. Although it is conceivable for one to achieve spiritual success even in a place which is evil, the hazards preclude the likelihood for such achievement.

This was Hashem's message. The Jew must pursue every opportunity to detach himself from anything which is evil. The ability to distinguish between good and evil is truly a blessing. (Peninim on the Torah)


"You shall surely open your hand unto him and shall surely lend him sufficient for his need which he lacks" (Debarim 15:8)

The Bet Halevi wrote that when you give money or gifts to a poor person, you are fulfilling the commandment of giving charity besides the other Torah commandments which are fulfilled by your kind act (such as "loving your fellow man"). Therefore, at the time of your giving him the money, he is similar to an etrog that one takes to fulfill the commandment on the holiday of Succot. Even though after you fulfill the misvah with the etrog, it no longer has the same sanctity as it did when you fulfilled the commandment with it, nevertheless while you are fulfilling the commandment, it has sanctity and it is forbidden to treat it disrespectfully. So too with the poor person. When you are giving him charity he is the object of your misvah and it is forbidden to do anything that would imply disrespect towards him.

The more difficulties a poor person has, the more likely he is to be bitter and sometimes even obnoxious. Regardless of his way of talking to you, make every effort to behave in an elevated manner towards him. The more difficult it is, the greater you become. An etrog is extremely vulnerable, and therefore people handle it with great care. So too, a person who has suffered is more sensitive than others, and special care must be taken not to hurt his feelings.

The wife of Reb Shraga Frank once came home and was shocked to find that someone had broken into the closet where they kept their money. "What happened?" she asked her husband. Reb Shraga Frank explained, "Someone came a short while ago to borrow some money. I searched for the key to the closet, but I couldn't find it. I understood that either you took the key with you or you put it in some unusual place. I thought to myself, 'If I tell this person to return in two hours when I'll have the key, he'll probably think that I am just making an excuse because I don't want to lend him the money, and he won't come back for the loan. Should I tell him that he should wait until my wife returns? I don't know when she'll return. Waiting without knowing how long can be very uncomfortable.' Because of these thoughts, I decided to take a metal tool and break open the door of the closet. It was worthwhile to break the door in order to save another person from discomfort, even if only for a few minutes." (Growth through Torah)


This Week's Haftarah: Yishayahu 54:11-55:5.

This week's haftarah is the third in the series of seven haftarot that deal with consolation and hope, which are read between Tish'ah B'Ab and Rosh Hashanah.

In this haftarah, the prophet Yishayahu tells a prophecy of how it will be in the times of Mashiah. No enemy will be able to rise up against us. Rather, all the nations will recognize that Hashem has chosen us to be His nation.

Answer to pop quiz: It must be given to the Kohen.

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