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AUGUST 3-4, 2001 15 AB 5761

Pop Quiz: How many nations were there in Canaan when B'nei Yisrael entered?

- Rabbi Shmuel Choueka

"And you shall love Hashem..." (Debarim 6:5)

In this modern age of ours, the word love has been used and abused to encompass all kinds of things, including those which are an abomination. When we are told to love Hashem, is it the same kind of love that we are familiar with, just directed to G-d, rather than other subjects? If we stop and think, we will see how this is not so.

When a person says he loves fish, does he really love the fish? If so, why would he kill it, cook it and then eat it? The obvious answer is that when one says he loves fish or other things, he really loves himself and how the fish or other items give him pleasure. That is a selfish love. When we love Hashem, we do so not because of the benefit we will derive, but because He is so great and so kind and so merciful and because He loves us more that anything in the world. We are therefore commanded to love Hashem with all our hearts and souls and might. That way, we become attached to G-d and that brings down more Divine blessing from Heaven. May we merit to truly love Hashem and become blessed with His Heavenly love, Amen. Shabbat Shalom.

- Rabbi Reuven Semah

"But Hashem became angry with me because of you and He did not listen to me" (Debarim 3:26)

Moshe Rabenu pleads his case. Previously, Hashem told Moshe in no uncertain terms that he would not enter the Holy Land. Now, when he was about to pass away, he tells the people that he begged Hashem to allow him to enter. However, Hashem refused, because He was angry with Moshe, and as Moshe Rabenu states in the verse above, "He did not listen to me."

There seems to be a subtle hint here. It would have been enough to say that Hashem didn't listen. Why did Moshe say Hashem didn't listen "to me"? Moshe is dropping a hint to the Jewish nation, but it is like an atom bomb. Moshe is saying, "to me He didn't listen, but He would have listened to YOU! Why didn't the nation pray for me?" Hashem never turns away from the prayers of the multitudes. If they would have begged Hashem, He would have listened.

Rabbi Nissan Alpert adds that it seems that the Jewish people were busy with their own affairs. It never dawned on them to come to bat for Moshe. When the shoe was on the other foot, when the people needed Moshe to break the decree, Moshe responded. And how did Moshe respond? The pasuk says "Vayihal Moshe- And Moshe pleaded." The Midrash says the word vayihal also means to become ill. Moshe pleaded so hard until he became ill. Some opinions say he pleaded so hard until he (so to speak) made Hashem ill! However, the people didn't respond for Moshe.

To quote a motto made popular by President John F. Kennedy (with a slight change): Ask not what your Jewish leaders can do for you, but what you can do for your Jewish leaders. Shabbat Shalom.


"I implored G-d at that time" (Debarim 3:23)

Rashi explains that with the words "at that time" Moshe meant that "after I conquered the land of Sihon and Og, I thought that perhaps Hashem's vow forbidding me to enter Eres Yisrael was cancelled." What is the connection between the conquest of Sihon and Og and Moshe's being able to enter the land?

Moshe received his punishment not to enter Eres Yisrael because he struck the rock instead of speaking to it to bring forth its water. Moshe actually did this out of concern for the Jewish people's welfare. He feared that if he would speak to the rock and it would obey, it would give Satan an opportunity to prosecute against the Jewish people. He would come before Hashem and say, "Even an inanimate rock listens and fulfills Your command, while Your 'intelligent' people violate Your command - the Torah." Nevertheless, Moshe was punished, which shows that though his intentions were good, he was held accountable for his disobedient action.

In Abraham's time, when Sedom was at war against the four powerful kings and Lot was taken captive, the Torah relates that Og came and told Abraham that Lot had been captured. The Midrash explains that though his action of notifying Abraham was beneficial, ultimately leading to a consecration of Hashem's name, his intention was evil. He meant to influence Abraham to go to war to rescue Lot, hoping that Abraham would be killed in battle, so that he would then be able to marry Sarah.

Since Moshe was punished for not speaking to the rock, he concluded that Hashem was more upset with an evil action than an intention. However, after conquering Og, he determined that Og's downfall was because of his evil thoughts, though his action was good. Thus, Moshe thought that his case would then be favorable reconsidered, and because of his good intentions the vow forbidding him entry to Eres Yisrael would be canceled. (Vedibarta Bam)


"And you shall guard your souls very much" (Debarim 4:15)

The Torah commands us in this verse to guard our health. The Hafess Hayim noted that the Torah uses the term nefesh, which refers to the soul, and does not say guard your body. This comes to teach us that whenever you are involved in matters pertaining to the welfare of your body, such as business matters or eating, you must be very careful not to do anything that will be harmful to your soul. Before doing anything for your body's needs, give careful thought not to do anything against the will of Hashem.

The Hafess Hayim would constantly stress the importance of guarding one's health. In his Yeshivah he would insist that his students get enough sleep.

He used to say that at times the evil inclination will try to have someone study late into the night on a consistent basis in order that he should weaken himself and become unable to study Torah later on. The Hafess Hayim would say, "Even if the evil inclination advises you to study more and more, do not listen to him. His intention is to prevent you from Torah study." Rabbi Abraham of Sochotchov, author of Avnai Nezer, used to say to anyone who was ill, "A person who is sick has to keep his main focus on fulfilling the commandment of guarding his health. The evil inclination does all that he can that a person should not fulfill this misvah."

The Brisker Rav might have appeared to be lenient in permitting medical needs to be taken care of on Shabbat and permitting people to eat on Yom Kippur when they were ill. However, he declared, "I am not lenient as regards to the laws of Shabbat and Yom Kippur. Rather, I am very stringent as regards the commandment to guard one's life."

Rabbi Chaim Tzanzer was once ill on Pesah and his doctor told him that it was forbidden for him to eat maror because it would be dangerous to his health. At the Pesah seder, Rav Chaim took a large piece of maror and made a blessing, "Blessed are You who sanctified us with His commandments and commanded us to guard our health," and immediately returned the maror to the table. (Growth through Torah)


In this perashah is the section which we read on Tish'ah B'Ab. It uses the words "V'noshantem ba'aress - you will have been long in the land" to hint to the destruction of the Bet Hamikdash. The numerical value of the word v'noshantem is 852, teaching that after living in the land for 852 years, they will have sinned to such a point that Hashem would bring destruction upon them. In actuality, though, the exile came only 850 years after they entered the land. Our Sages each that Hashem, in His kindness, exiled us from the land two years early. If He had waited the full 852 years, we would have sinned so much that He would have been forced to wipe us out At the end of the perashah, it says that Hashem "repays His enemy in his lifetime to make him perish." In other words, Hashem gives the wicked people their rewards for their misvot in this world, rather than allow them to enjoy the rewards of the World to Come.

It becomes clear that there are times when something seems tragic but is actually for our benefit. On the flip side, things may appear to be going very well, but it could be for our ultimate disadvantage.

Question: What situations have you faced that seemed, at the time, to be terrible but turned out for the best? How can you use this knowledge to deal with similar circumstances in the future?

The Haftarah Connection

This week's Haftarah: Yishayahu 40:1-26.

After completing the series of three haftarot that dealt with rebuke and punishment, we now begin a series of seven haftarot, from Tish'ah B'Ab to Rosh Hashanah, that deal with consolation. Each one is a prophecy which gives comfort to the nation after the destruction of the First Bet Hamikdash.

This Shabbat is widely known as Shabbat Nahamu because the haftarah begins with the words "Nahamu nahamu ami - Comfort, comfort My people."

Answer to Pop Quiz: Seven.

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