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SEPTEMBER 21-22, 2001 5 TISHRI 5762

Pop Quiz: When was the misvah of hakhel supposed to be performed?

- Rabbi Reuven Semah

"And Yonah told them: Cast me into the sea...for I know that this great storm that is upon you is for me" (Yonah 1:12)

Every Yom Kippur at Minhah we read in the Haftarah about the prophet Yonah. Yonah was a great prophet in Israel. Hashem wanted Yonah to go and tell a prophecy to the gentile nation of Ninveh. Ninveh was wicked and Hashem wanted to send Yonah to warn them that they must repent or else face destruction. Yonah didn't want to deliver this prophecy because he knew Ninveh would repent and that would put Israel, who were not repenting, in a bad light. Yonah decided to run away from the land of Israel because he knew he couldn't receive prophecy outside of Israel. He bought a ticket on the next ship out to run away. While at sea, there was a tremendous storm which threatened to sink the boat. The sailors tried to return to shore but to no avail. Yonah told them that if they want to survive they should toss him into the sea because "the storm is for me." The sailors refused and dumped all the cargo to no avail. Finally they were forced to throw Yonah into the sea, and the storm ended. Hashem sent a large fish to swallow up Yonah. While in the stomach of the fish, Yonah agreed to do Hashem's mission. Yonah warned Ninveh, and Ninveh repented.

Rabbi Yitzchak Zev z"l from Brisk comments: Yonah was on a ship with gentiles. These people were idolaters. Maybe the storm was to destroy them! Yonah was far more righteous than the rest of the passengers. How did he know the storm was for him? Because he knew everything Hashem does in the world is to affect the Jews, to bring them closer.

The world witnessed a tragedy of immense proportions in the destruction of the World Trade Center. The nations of the world, along with the Jewish people, are in one boat. Maybe Yonah would say, "The storm is for me!" There is no doubt that there are many reasons for what Hashem has done, some that we can see, some that we can't. On the eve of Yom Kippur we must reflect upon this tragedy and realize that there is a message here for us as well, to repent and come closer to Hashem. Tizku Leshanim Rabot.

- Rabbi Shmuel Choueka

Words are insufficient to express our shock, horror and pain over the tragedy that befell NYC and America. Our heart is overwhelmed with many different feelings and emotions, and it is difficult to articulate them all correctly. We should however stress that our heart goes out to all the families who are suffering the loss and uncertainty of their loved ones. In addition, we should publicly thank all the volunteers and personnel who have gone beyond the call of duty who are helping in this massive effort. We are proud to be living in such a great nation where the spirit of cooperation is so strong. Finally, we must come to the realization that Hashem is the only power Who can help us and to whom we must turn to. As much as we support our country in whatever efforts they do, we must strengthen our faith in Hashem and beseech him with our heartfelt prayers. In our holiday prayers, we ask Hashem to eradicate all the evil from the world, and the time shall come when everyone realizes that Hashem in One. If we improve our deeds and ourselves, and storm the heavens with tears and prayer, we shall surely merit a year of blessing, wealth, happiness and peace for all. Tizku leshanim rabot!

- Rabbi David Maslaton

In the olden days, hanging was a common form of punishment. The guilty one would be brought to the gallows, a pillar of wood from which hung a rope with a noose. Underneath the rope was a bench. The guilty party would be placed on the bench with the rope around his neck, and the bench would then be removed from under his feet.

This situation is comparable to that of the Benoni, the "average man", between the days of Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur (the Aseret Yemei Teshubah). On Rosh Hashanah, three books are opened: in one, the Sadikim are inscribed for life, in the second, the Reshaim are inscribed for death, and in the third the Benonim are recorded. What becomes of them?

The Gemara in Rosh Hashanah tells us that they are "hanging and standing until Yom Kippur". This statement seems contradictory; are the Benonim "hanging" or are they "standing"? What is their status - doomed or free men?

Our Rabbis teach us that the average man is compared to the one waiting to be hanged: it is like he is standing on a bench with a noose around his neck. On Yom Kippur, either the bench or the noose will be removed. What determines his fate?

Teshubah - Repentance - his actions during the Aseret Yemei Teshubah. Even though Teshuba is accepted throughout the year, during these ten days, G-d is compared to a loving mother who kneels down with open arms, calling for her child. At this time G-d is waiting for us with outstretched hands to return to Him. Yet one who heeds G-d's call to repent merits not only the removal of the noose; for after it is removed, he remains standing on the bench. This symbolizes that through the process of Teshubah, the Benoni has not only saved himself but has elevated himself to the status of Sadik. May we all merit to do Teshubah and be inscribed in the Book of Life, Amen.


"Assemble the people, the men and the women, and the little children" (Debarim 31:12)

Rashi explains that the purpose of including the little children was to compensate those who had brought them. It seems peculiar that parents should be enjoined to bring little children to this great assembly only for the purpose of receiving reward! We may suggest the following lessons to be derived from this imperative. First, education is not bound by a specific time frame. Parents should seek to educate their children from an early age. Indeed, in this case, infants were being educated subconsciously, since they were too young to understand the words of Torah!

The Talmud states that Rabbi Yehoshua achieved his abundant wisdom as a result of his mother's total devotion to his Torah education. When she was pregnant with him, she sought out the great scholars in their individual Torah centers and beseeched them to pray on behalf of her unborn child, so that he would become a Torah scholar. After Rabbi Yehoshua was born, she placed his carriage in the Bet Hamidrash, so that only the sounds of Torah study would enter his ears. His mother's total dedication to the value of Torah study, even at the early stages of the child's maturation, evidently played a pivotal role in Rabbi Yehoshua's development into a revered Torah scholar.

We may also note the Talmud's choice of words in describing the parents as "those who bring them." Why did it not simply say "the parents"? Perhaps the Talmud wishes to emphasize the role of the parent as the key to success in the child's educational experience. In order for children to fully benefit from their education, it is crucial that the parents be involved. Bringing a child to shul and "dropping him off," just to assure his presence is of little value. Parents must "come together" with their children to experience, to listen, to be involved, to pray together or to share a Torah learning program. When parents include themselves in the child's educational process, they will receive the ultimate appropriate reward, Torah nahat! (Peninim on the Torah)


This Week's Haftarah: Hoshe'a 14:2-10, Micah 7:18-20.

This haftarah begins with the words "Shubah Yisrael - Return O Israel." This is the primary theme of this ten-day period between Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur. This Shabbat is known as Shabbat Shubah after the first word of this haftarah.

The theme of the haftarah is a call for Israel to repent and return to Hashem. He is always ready and waiting to accept our repentance and forgive us. "He will be merciful to us; He will suppress our iniquities, and cast into the depth of the sea all of their sins."

Answer to Pop Quiz: Every seven years on the holiday of Succot.

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