Dvar Torah Parshat VaYera 5777 2016 – Being a Mentsch

Avraham was informed by the angels that came to his tent that Hashem was about to destroy the corrupt cities of Sodom and Amora. We are told that he did not accept this without a plea to save them. He pleads with Hashem and starts his appeal to save the city by pleading if there are only fifty righteous people there would Hashem destroy the city.

Hashem answers: אִם אֶמְצָא בִסְדֹם חֲמִשִּׁים צַדִּיקִם בְּתוֹךְ הָעִיר, “If I find in Sodom fifty righteous people in the midst of the city…” (Gen. 18.26) he would not destroy the city. It is noteworthy that Hashem emphasized that He wants to find fifty people “in the midst of the city”.
This can serve as a good example for a Jewish city. It may not be difficult to find righteous people in the synagogue or in the Bet Midrash. Hashem wants to find righteous people in the midst of the city. He wants to find them in their businesses and in their actions with other people, in their normal activities.

It is not too challenging to be moral and virtuous in the synagogue. It is in the daily mundane activities of interaction with people where one must also display his honest and upright dealings with others.

Parshat Lech Lecha 5777 2016 – It’s Time To Come Home

When Hashem tells Avraham to leave his home and go to the Promised Land, He does not tell him where it is. He simply says he should go: אֶל הָאָרֶץ אֲשֶׁר אַרְאֶךָּ, “…to the land that I will show you.” (Gen. 12,1) Why does He not tell him to which land He wants him to go?

One answer given to this question is that had he been told the name of the land his friends would have tried to discourage him from going. They would have told him it is a barren land; all desert, wild animals, wild people, bad weather and so on.

It is interesting that today when people say they are going to make Aliya and move to Israel people immediately try to discourage them.
When I notified a leader of a Zionist organization that I was making Aliya I got a strange response from him. He was working to help Israel, yet, his remark to me was, “Hishtagata”, “Are you crazy?”

Perhaps they feel guilty for not making Aliya themselves and as a protective justification they try to discourage others. Everyone who can, should do what Avraham did.

Dvar Torah Parshat Noah 5777 – Words Can Kill

Because Noach had saved the animals during the flood, Hashem gave permission for man to kill animals for human consumption. Simultaneously, a prohibition was given against spilling human blood. The Torah uses a strange phraseology in stating this prohibition. The Torah says: שֹׁפֵךְ דַּם הָאָדָם בָּאָדָם דָּמוֹ יִשָּׁפֵךְ, “Whoever sheds the blood of man, by man shall his blood be shed…’. (Gen. 9,6)

The Chafetz Chaim claims that this wording is the source for a certain Rabbinic statement. Chazal said: כל המלבין פני חבירו ברבים כאילו שופך דמים , “He who publically shames his neighbor is as if he shed blood.” (BM 58b) The Chafetz Chaim reads the verse thus: Whomever sheds the blood of man, בָּאָדָם, ‘in man’, it is as if he shed blood.

Before we speak publicly we must be extremely careful of what we say lest we hurt someone. At times we do not realize that our words embarrass somebody.

Dvar Torah Masey 5776 2016 – Israel, Know Your Past

We read a very strange passage in this week’s Portion: וַיִּכְתֹּב מֹשֶׁה אֶת מוֹצָאֵיהֶם לְמַסְעֵיהֶם, “Moshe wrote their goings forth according to their journeys…”. (Num. 33,2) It is strange that the Torah repeats and emphasizes the various stops the Bnei Israel made during their journeys through the Wilderness. What intrinsic value does it have for us?

It is extremely important that our people know our past. The Torah says elsewhere: זְכֹר יְמוֹת עוֹלָם בִּינוּ שְׁנוֹת דֹּר וָדֹר, “Remember the days of yore, understand the years of generation after generation…” (Deut. 32,7) This is telling us to know what happened in previous generations, in previous years.

The truth is that this is part of the history of the Jewish people and it is tremendously important that we know it. The world we live in today makes many efforts to change the facts of the past. Think of the effort made by many people and nations today to deny the Holocaust. Think of the effort to deny Jews were ever in the Land of Israel. Lies are offered to the world today and people are gullible enough to believe anything.

It is tragic that even many of our own people are unaware of our own Jewish history. The Torah tells us in no uncertain terms that we must know our past.

Dvar Torah Parshat Pinchas 5776 2016 – Elevate the Shabbat Day

Did you ever wonder why on Shabbat you go to Shul later than on weekdays? When instructions were given concerning the daily sacrifice the Torah says: אֶת הַכֶּבֶשׂ אֶחָד תַּעֲשֶׂה בַבֹּקֶר, “The one lamb you shall make in the morning…”. (Num. 28,4) When instructions are given for the Shabbat sacrifices the Torah says: וּבְיוֹם הַשַּׁבָּת שְׁנֵי כְבָשִׂים, “And on the Sabbath day two male lambs…”. (Num. 28,9) No mention is made of morning. It was thus permitted to bring later in the day. Hence the Shabbat services may start later and one has an opportunity to sleep later. This trivia is brought by no one less than the Rama in the Shulchan Aruch. (OC 281)

This is part of our Oneg Shabbat. It does not mean that you can sleep the entire Shabbat and do nothing. Shabbat is a time of rest but it is also a time to study and to improve your religious knowledge. It is a time to spend the day in a religious experience, something that is limited during the weekdays when we are preoccupied with our daily responsibilities.

The Shabbat should be spent by elevating our spiritual lives and increasing our knowledge of our Jewish existence.

Dvar Torah Parshat Balak 5776 2016 Power of Speech

Why did Balak call upon Bilam? He heard that Moshe had a great influence upon Bnei Israel with the many speeches he made. He thought he could counter Moshe’s success by bringing in another personality that had
a great reputation that he could affect many changes with his speech. Bilam was the right man for him.
Bilam was finally convinced to come at Balak’s bidding. A strange thing happened during his trip to Balak. The beast he was riding on suddenly started to speak. What was the message that Hashem was sending to Bilam? Plain and simple, Bilam was told that his ability to influence changes with his speech, is meaningless. He was demonstrated that even a beast can be made to speak.

There are many people who speak well and influence people. It does not mean that the message the speaker is sending is the right one. It depends on who is speaking and what he has to say. Moshe spoke in the name of Hashem so his words were heeded. Bilam spoke in the name of Balak and his words ended up ineffective.

We must be very careful what speaker we go to hear and what speaker’s words we take to heart.
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On this topic of Power of Speech, Check out this video from http://DropsofLightProject.com

Dvar Torah Parshat Shelach 5776 2016

When Hashem tells Moshe to send the men into Israel to tour the land, Hashem says he should send: אִישׁ אֶחָד אִישׁ אֶחָד לְמַטֵּה אֲבֹתָיו תִּשְׁלָחוּ כֹּל נָשִׂיא בָהֶם, “one man each from his father’s tribe shall you send, everyone a leader among them.” Num. 13,2. The Torah uses the word נָשִׂיא for “leader”.
A Rabbi once pointed out an interesting fact. The word נָשִׂיא contains the Hebrew letters: Nun, Shin, Yud, and Aleph. Using some of the letters from this word you can form the word אין, which means “there is not”. You can also select other letters from this word and form the word “יש”, which means “there is”.

Some leaders “have it” and some leaders “do not have it”. That is, some leaders who think they have it and are capable may not have it, and some who do not think they have it may, indeed, really have it.

It is up to the people who choose the leaders to know who is suited for the job and who is not. The results can be drastic if the wrong people are given power.