Parashat Shelach

Parasha Thoughts

By Rabbi Shemuel Akhamzadeh

וְהָיָ֣ה לָכֶם֮ לְצִיצִת֒ וּרְאִיתֶ֣ם אֹת֗וֹ וּזְכַרְתֶּם֙ אֶת־כָּל־מִצְוֺ֣ת ה וַעֲשִׂיתֶ֖ם אֹתָ֑ם וְלֹֽא־תָתֻ֜רוּ אַחֲרֵ֤י לְבַבְכֶם֙ וְאַחֲרֵ֣י עֵֽינֵיכֶ֔ם אֲשֶׁר־אַתֶּ֥ם זֹנִ֖ים אַחֲרֵיהֶֽם׃
לְמַ֣עַן תִּזְכְּר֔וּ וַעֲשִׂיתֶ֖ם אֶת־כָּל־מִצְוֺתָ֑י וִהְיִיתֶ֥ם קְדֹשִׁ֖ים לֵֽאלֹהֵיכֶֽם

That shall be your fringe; look at it and recall all the commandments of the LORD and observe them, so that you do not follow your heart and eyes in your lustful urge.(15-39)
Thus you shall be reminded to observe all My commandments and to be holy to your God.

Every time we make a beracha before a mitzvah, we thank Hashem for making us holy through that mitzvah by saying “אשר קידשנו במצוותיו וציוונו.” Chofetz Chaim has a fascinating point from this week’s portion on this idea. He points out that in Passuk (15-40) the words “וַעֲשִׂיתֶ֖ם אֶת־כָּל־מִצְוֺתָ֑י,” to observe all My commandments, are seamingly repetitive since it was already mentioned in the previous verse “וּזְכַרְתֶּם֙ אֶת־כָּל־מִצְוֺ֣ת ה,” to do all the commandments of Hashem. Chofetz Chaim explains that here the Torah is revealing that one may be keeping all the mitzvot fully, however he will not achieve kedusha, holiness, unless he is also in line with the words “ וְלֹֽא־תָתֻ֜רוּ אַחֲרֵ֤י לְבַבְכֶם֙ וְאַחֲרֵ֣י עֵֽינֵיכֶ֔ם”, the desires of one’s heart and eyes ( Heresy & illicit relations ).” The verse continues, “Thus… Be holy to Hashem.”

Perhaps this idea is similar to the explanation of Ramban on the mitzvah of Kedushim Tihyu: to keep our desires in check even when they do not contradict the words of Torah. One who rises above his physical desires and is in control of them is a holy person.

Shabbat Shalom

Leilui Nishamat Mordechai Ben David

 

Parashat Beha’alotecha

Parasha Thoughts

By Rabbi Shlomo Zargari

Shalom, we learn a pasuk in the parasha:
לֹֽא־אוּכַ֤ל אָנֹכִי֙ לְבַדִּ֔י לָשֵׂ֖את אֶת־כָּל־הָעָ֣ם הַזֶּ֑ה כִּ֥י כָבֵ֖ד מִמֶּֽנִּי׃
I cannot carry all the people by myself, for it is too much for me.
(Beha’alotecha 11,14)

Moshe is begging for help from HaShem and HaShem tells him to gather the seventy elders who will assist him in the leadership in front of the אוהל מועד.

וְיָרַדְתִּ֗י וְדִבַּרְתִּ֣י עִמְּךָ֮ שָׁם֒ וְאָצַלְתִּ֗י מִן־הָר֛וּחַ אֲשֶׁ֥ר עָלֶ֖יךָ וְשַׂמְתִּ֣י עֲלֵיהֶ֑ם וְנָשְׂא֤וּ אִתְּךָ֙ בְּמַשָּׂ֣א הָעָ֔ם וְלֹא־תִשָּׂ֥א אַתָּ֖ה לְבַדֶּֽךָ׃

I will come down and speak with you there, and I will draw upon the spirit that is on you and put it upon them; they shall share the burden of the people with you, and you shall not bear it alone.

Rashi explains that Moshe was compared to a candle; even if you light many other candles from a single candle, the flame will not be diminished. The question to be asked is, “Why did HaShem use Moshe as a conduit and not directly give prophecy to the seventy elders?” The משגיח Harav Shlomo Wolbe זצ״ל answers that the Torah has to be transmitted from a Rebbi to a student. By learning and observing, the students will grow based on the righteousness of the master. It is extremely important for everyone to develop such connections for growth in Torah, and thereby spirituality.

Shabbat Shalom

 

 

 

Parashat Naso

Parasha Thoughts

By Rabbi Aharon Seleh

In this week’s parsha, the laws of Sotah are introduced. We learn the greatness of shalom from Hashem. He allows His name to be erased in the “bitter waters” in order to bring peace between man and his wife.

The Pele Yo’etz offers a fascinating insight. Imagine you see a man bickering with another. You ask him, “Don’t you realize the greatness of shalom, and the consequences of machloket?” He answers you, “Of course I realize, but how can I make peace with those who are always upsetting me?” Answer him, “If making peace was that simple and easy, the Torah wouldn’t expound on it and extoll it so extensively.” True, shalom is when you are in a difficult situation and peace is alluding you, but you still pursue it. That’s what the possuk means when it says, “Seek peace and pursue it.” Specifically when making peace is challenging, the Torah commands us to pursue it.

The Pele Yo’etz compares this to a scenario where one is told by heaven, “If you make peace with so and so, you’ll live 1000 yrs; if you bicker with him, you’ll die right away.” It won’t be difficult for him to have peace as the stakes are very high. All the more so, when it comes to shalom, we all know one moment in Gan Eden is more pleasurable than all the pleasures of this world, and in contrast – the devastating consequences of machloket.

 

Shavuot

Parasha Thoughts

By Rabbi Yosef Shemtov

Every morning we bless Hashem for giving us the Torah. Torah is the source of all blessings. In fact, the Torah was created before the Almighty created the world to demonstrate that life without Torah is empty and void of any blessings. Shavuot is the holiday of receiving the Torah at Mount Sinai. By the burning bush, Hashem commanded Moshe to go to Egypt to save the Jewish nation so that Beni Yisrael would receive the Torah 50 days after their exodus from Egypt. Rambam states the main proof of the truth of Judaism – and what  differentiates us from other nations – is the fact that all of Beni Yisrael witnessed and heard the Almighty themselves, and not through a story or by the testimony of a human being.

On Shavuot, Hashem gave ten commandments orally and then called Moshe to go up the mountain. Everyone heard G-d speaking to Moshe. No other nation in the world can claim that they heard Hashem talking to a prophet except Beni Yisrael.

Every Shavuot we commemorate receiving the Torah by staying up all night and learning Torah. We thank Hashem for choosing us as the recipients of his Torah.

On behalf of the Yachad Rabbis, I wish you and your family a happy and meaningful Shavuot.

Parashat Bechukotai

Parasha Thoughts

By Rabbi David Cohen

If you will follow My decrees and observe My Commandments and perform them. (26:3)

At first glance, the pasuk appears repetitious: follow My decrees; observe My commandments; perform them. Every word – indeed, every letter – has profound significance. How are we to understand what the Torah is trying to tell us? Rashi explains that the pasuk is teaching us the process by which we proceed from learning to action. The combined meaning of the pasuk is: If you will follow My decrees by engaging in ameilut ba’Torah, intensive Torah study, with the intention that this study will lead to; observe My commandments properly, and, if you will actually elevate potential to reality; and perform them – you will merit the following blessings, which will be detailed in the upcoming pesukim.

Thus, it all reverts back to ameilut ba’Torah, commonly translated as toiling in Torah, or exerting oneself in his studies. If we have no clear understanding of the meaning of limud haTorah, study of Torah, then we are in serious trouble. Sitting in front of a Gemorah as if one is at a country club is not the Torah’s idea of ameilut. Yet, on the other hand, we find ourselves reciting daily the blessing, v’Haarev na, “Please, Hashem, sweeten the words of Torah in our mouth.” Toil? Sweetness? It would seem that these terms are not mutually consistent with one another.

A certain blessing precedes v’Haarev na, the Bircat HaTorah of Laasok b’divrei Torah, “To busy (occupy) ourselves with the words of Torah.” We now have another term for Torah study: eisak, busy ourselves. An eisak is a business. Literally, the Torah becomes our business, our occupation. The purpose of Torah study is so that we are able to perform the mitzvot properly. Thus, the extended meaning of Laasok b’divrei Torah is to occupy our minds with Torah, so that we are able to implement the words of Torah properly and correctly in actual practice.

We now know that Torah must occupy our minds and our mouths. We acknowledge that physical and mental exertion is an integral part of this process. Where does the “sweetness” enter the picture? Horav Shimon Schwab, zl, explains this pragmatically. Once we have expended the effort to apply ourselves to learning Torah, we ask Hashem to make the Torah sweet for us. He offers a prosaic analogy to one who is reluctant to jump into a pool of cold water. Once he has made the plunge, the water is quite soothing and enjoyable. Indeed, there are difficulties in studying Torah. It does not come easily for many people. Obstacles and challenges block the way. For some, it is time; For others, it is acumen, background, study partner, indolence, every excuse in the world. Once one has made the necessary effort, and dispensed the necessary toil and exertion, he asks Hashem to please grant him the enjoyment of the learning.

May we all merit to taste the sweetness of Torah.

 

Parashat Behar

Parasha Thoughts

Do not take from him interest and increase, and you shall fear your God; and let your brother live with you. (Vayikra 25:26)

Why are we forbidden to charge interest? After all, the very same money could have been invested or put into a bank account; lending it to a fellow Jew causes one to lose that additional income.

When a person’s brother needs financial help, he does not take into account losses that might result from coming to his brother’s aid. The lender should have the same outlook when lending money to any Jew in need, and this act of chessed should be performed without any thought of remuneration.

If we are commanded to ensure that our fellow Jew has an adequate material life, how much more so must we ensure that he has the ability to live an adequate spiritual life. If a fellow Jew is having difficulty with any aspect of Yiddishkeit we are obligated to offer our assistance.

Every Jew is a brother or sister. We must relate to our fellow Jews no differently from the way we would relate to our closest relatives, both in material and spiritual matters. What would one not do for a sibling? Let’s bear this in mind the next time we are asked to do a chessed.

 

-Harav Shlomo Wolbe

Parashat Emor

Parasha Thoughts

By Rabbi Shemuel Akhamzadeh

עַ֣ד מִֽמָּחֳרַ֤ת הַשַּׁ-בָּת֙ הַשְּׁבִיעִ֔ת תִּסְפְּר֖וּ חֲמִשִּׁ֣ים י֑וֹם וְהִקְרַבְתֶּ֛ם מִנְחָ֥ה חֲדָשָׁ֖ה לַה׃

You must count until the day after the seventh week—fifty days; then you shall bring an offering of new grain to the LORD. ( Vayikra 23:16)

We are merely a couple of weeks away from Shavuot, and as Harav Eliya Lapian explains, we are in the midst of the preparatory stages of Kabalat Hatorah. The name Shavuot – literally meaning weeks – is a hint to the seven weeks of Sefirat Ha’omer, a prerequisite of receiving the Torah.

In this week’s portion, the Torah enumerates all the Jewish holidays, however when it comes to “Shavuot,” no name or exact date is mentioned. But it does mention that after counting seven weeks you shall bring a NEW ( grain ) Offering.

There is also no mention of receiving the Torah on this day. Kli Yakar explains that the “New Offering” which is mentioned on Shavuot is hinting to the idea of keeping the Torah fresh in our minds every day. No mention of receiving the Torah on this day is to not limit the Torah only to this one day of the year. The common denominator of all these ideas is that we are required to be alert in every stage, through counting up to receiving the Torah and keeping the Torah fresh by having it in mind every day. Then we will be able to receive the Torah the way it was meant to be. May we merit a true Kabalat Hatorah this coming Shavuot.

 

Parashat Kedoshim

Parasha Thoughts

By Rabbi Shlomo Zargari

Shalom, in Parashat Kedoshim we find a small parasha filled with many mitzvot. Among the commandments we have:

אֶת־שַׁבְּתֹתַ֣י תִּשְׁמֹ֔רוּ וּמִקְדָּשִׁ֖י תִּירָ֑אוּ אֲנִ֖י ה’׃
You shall keep My Shabbats and venerate My sanctuary: I am HaShem.( Vayikra 19,30)

This is the mitzva of fearing the temple: not to enter the Temple Mount (when the Temple is in operation, because now it is absolutely forbidden to enter the Temple Mount ) with shoes, wallet and dirt on one’s feet. All this is included in the Mitzva: מורא מקדש “Awe of the Temple.” The Navi ( Yehezkel 11,16) calls the synagogues and study halls בתי מדרש, diminished temples, and our sages write that the laws of “Awe of the Temple” apply to these structures as well.

The Shulhan Aruch ( Orah Hayim 151) writes one may not be lightheaded or speak mundane words in a synagogue. The Tosfot Yom Tov wrote a special prayer for those who are careful not to speak during prayer! How can we apply the law about not bringing the wallet to our time? For sure cell phones would be the most appropriate candidate!!!

By putting our phones away during prayer we show our children how much respect we have for our synagogues and places of Torah learning. When we accept upon ourselves that the moment we step into a synagogue we have entered a holy place, our demeanor and manner of sitting changes.The Hafes Hayim asked, “Why did our Hachamim add so many prayers at the end of Birkat Hamazon?” He answered, “Being that this is a Mitzva, when you perform it you create a moment of goodwill in the heavens and therefore your prayers will have a better chance of being accepted!”

It goes without saying that when a person is careful with the sanctity of the place of prayer and Torah learning, his prayers have a much better chance of being accepted. AMEN!

Shabbat Shalom

 

Parashat Acharei Mot

Parasha Thoughts

By Rabbi David Cohen

After the death of Aharon’s two sons. (16:1)

The Midrash states four reasons for the tragic deaths of Nadav and Avihu. Among these is the idea that, “They did not take counsel one from another.” “Each man his firepan” (Vayikra 10:1) teaches us that each one acted on his own without consulting the other. It was as if each one were to say, “I know what to do; I have no reason to mull it over with anyone else.” It is interesting how these deaths fall out during Sefirat Haomer, when we mourn the deaths of Rabbi Akiva’s talmidim. Those were the greatest scholars of their generation, twenty-four thousand devoted students of one of the generation’s Torah sage. Yet, there was something about their behavior that was lacking.

Chazal say, “They did not practice/they were not accustomed to giving honor one to another.” Perhaps each one held himself in such esteem that he did not feel beholden to anyone else. After all, who could advise him? Who could teach him?
Horav Arye Leib Bakst, zl, explains that this is not the correct approach. From the very beginning of Creation, Hashem established a guideline of, “It is not good for man to be alone.” While Judaism views this as the reason for marriage, Rashi adds a penetrating insight into levado, “alone,” explaining why it is so vital: “That they should not claim there are two authorities; Hashem is unique in the higher realms, and (He) has no mate; and this one (Adam) is unique in the lower realms, and he (also) has no mate.” Indeed, even when He created Man, Hashem “consulted” with the malachim. Rashi explains that the Torah is teaching us proper conduct of humility. This is Hashem’s middah, and one must try to emulate the Almighty, because this is Divine Will.

Shabbat Shalom.

Shevii and Shemini Shel Pesach

Parasha Thoughts

By Rabbi David Shasho

The seventh day of Passover marks the day when many miracles were performed for our forefathers at the Red Sea. Rabbi Avigdor Miller says that we are in this world only to become more and more aware of Hashem. And so Hakodosh Boruch Hu wants us to sing to Him in gratitude when He takes nekama (revenge) for us, because that’s one of the more important methods of gaining tangible awareness of Him.

Now, there’s no question that it’s a loss – it’s Hashem’s handiwork drowning in the sea. Those are human beings that were drowning! They’re not just a slabs of meat. It was people, with families. Hashem was drowning real people for our benefit. And therefore it is incumbent upon us that we recognize that Hashem is expending his creatures for us, so that we should grow in awareness of Him.

But not that we should feel in any way sad that the Egyptians are drowning – the loss of human life is only accentuated so that we should realize how vital it is to make use of this event. Hashem wants us to sing to Him. That’s why He did it. And if Moshe Rabeinu hadn’t led the Bnei Yisroel in shira, Hashem would have said: “My handiwork is drowning in the sea and you’re not singing songs to Me?!”

We are very happy with what happened to Mitzrayim. We sing every day Az Yashir. Even on Chol Ha’moed we sing Az Yashir. Not half Az Yashir, the whole thing! And we’re very happy. It says בשמחה רבה! We sing the song of gratitude with great happiness. We sing ירדו במצולות כמו אבן. They went down into the depths like stone, like lead. We’re very happy that they drowned. We sing and we rejoice that they drowned. We’re not sorry at all that they drowned.

And when Haman was hung up, nobody was going to be sorry for Haman. And all the resha’im of the world are the same. והזדים מהרה תעקר ותשבר ותמגר ותכניע במהרה בימינו. In that beracha we say מהרה three times. More than we say for anything else. And that’s because we have to get rid of the resha’im.
And that’s why Dovid Hamelech didn’t say הללויה until he saw the punishment of the wicked. Dovid waited until chapter קד, he waited till the 104th chapter to say הללויה. All those chapters he said, but he couldn’t say הללויה. Only when he came to יתמו חטאים מן הארץ ורשעים עוד אינם – “The wicked be destroyed from the land, and there will be no more resha’im.” “Ohhh, now I can say ברכי נפשי את השם הללויה,” said David. “Now I can praise Hashem” (Brachos 9b).

So now we know that real happiness is not when Hashem does us favors. That’s not enough. We have to see the revenge because that’s how we see Hashem; that’s how Hashem becomes real to us. When Moshiach will come it’s not enough that we’ll go back to Eretz Yisroel. That’s not enough. We’ll have to see the nekamah (revenge) on the gentiles for what they did to us. Especially in Europe. We must see the nekamah. And it’s going to be a tremendous nekamah. לעשות נקמה בגוים תוכחות בלאומים. Hakodosh Boruch Hu, in order to show that He’s a shofet tzedek (righteous judge), must justify his judgement by meting out a tremendous punishment that they deserve to get. And it will happen; it will happen. Chag Sameach!