Matot Masay 5773
GOOD MORNING! Once I was in line at a grill restaurant when the woman in front of me asks, "May I have a shwarma please ... and would you please warm the pita before you put the meat in the pita?" The grill man replies, "No. The pita has to be heated after the meat is in it for best results." The woman responds, "I don't want it done than way. Just give me the shwarma without heating the pita." "No" replies the grill man, "If you want a warm pita, I'll warm it after I put the meat in." To the woman's credit she just laughs and exclaims to no one in particular, "This is incredible!"
When we do an act of kindness we must make sure that the kindness is for the good of the person and what the person wants.
It reminds me of the story of the father asking his son, the Boy Scout, if he did his good deed for the day. The boy says, "Sure, I helped an old lady cross the street. It took 12 of us." "Why did it take 12 boys to help her across the street?" asks the father. Answers the son, "Because she didn't want to cross!"
Every act of kindness has the possibility of a personal benefit. We must work to divest ourselves from our personal interest and to do kindness just to help someone.
The Sages call the kindness of burying someone a "chesed shel emes" -- a true kindness. Why? As mentioned, in every kindness there is hope or a possibility that the kindness will be returned by the person. When one performs the necessities for a burial -- a tahara (gently washing and clothing the body while reciting prayers by people who truly care) and kevura (preparing the grave and doing the burial, attending the funeral) -- there is no way that the deceased will ever repay this kindness. Yes, the Almighty rewards us for every mitzvah we perform, but the person will not repay the kindness.
The main body of prayers which a Jew prays three times a day is called the Shemoneh Esray. (It includes praises for the Almighty, requests for the whole Jewish people and the world, personal requests and thanks to the Almighty.) In the first blessing there is a phrase that the Almighty is "gomel chasadim tovim" -- He bestows good kindnesses. Why did the Sanhedrin in its great wisdom decide that it was necessary to add the seemingly extra word "good" to tell us what kind of kindness the Almighty bestows? Isn't every kindness done by the Almighty good?
It teaches us to emulate the Almighty to ensure that the kindnesses we bestow are truly good. We all have the capacity to justify and rationalize our thoughts and actions. We often tell ourselves that we are doing someone a kindness when we are actually doing something for our own benefit! (The brain is a very powerful tool. If you ask it, "Brain, give me 10 reasons to rob a bank, it will give them to you --1) Think of all the good you could do with the money! 2) No one is really getting hurt. 3) They're insured! 4) It will be exciting.... And if you ask your brain for 10 reasons NOT to rob the bank, it will gladly oblige -- 1) You'll probably get caught! 2) You'll go to jail 3) It will bring shame on your family 4) It's wrong!) One has to be aware of the motivations for his/her actions and make sure they are for the right reasons. Ask yourself, "Why do I really want to do this deed?"
The story is told of Moshe who returns from synagogue one night and asks his wife Sadie what is for dinner. Sadie replies, "Chicken. But to tell you the truth, it smells kind of funny." Moshe says, "You know, the rabbi announced that there is a poor man who needs food. I'll take him the chicken; you make something else!"
The next day, Moshe is late from synagogue and Sadie wants to know "Why?" Moshe tells her, "Remember the poor man who needed food to whom I gave the chicken?" He got sick so I went to fulfill the mitzvah of bikur cholim (visiting the sick).
The third day, Moshe was REALLY late. When Sadie asks for the reason, Moshe says, "Well, you remember the poor man to whom we gave the chicken and who got sick? Unfortunately, he died and I took care of his funeral. It's really sad -- but look at that -- we got three mitzvahs from one stinking chicken!
When you do a mitzvah of kindness make sure it is a true mitzvah of kindness that is good for the other person and what the other person wants!
Torah Portion of the Week
Matos and Masei, Numbers 30:2-36:13
Matos includes the laws of making and annulling vows, the surprise attack on Midian (the '67 War wasn't the Jewish people's first surprise attack!) in retribution for the devastation the Midianites wreaked upon the Jewish people, the purification after the war of people and vessels, dedicating a portion of the spoils to the communal good (perhaps the first Federation campaign), the request of the tribes of Reuben and Gad for their portion of land to be east of the Jordan river (yes, Trans-Jordan/Jordan is also part of the Biblical land of Israel). Moshe objects to the request because he thinks the tribes will not take part in the conquering of the land of Israel; the tribes clarify that they will be the advance troops in the attack and thus receive permission.
Masei includes the complete list of journeys in the desert (the name of each stop hints at a deeper meaning, a lesson learned there). God commands to drive out the land's inhabitants, to destroy their idols and to divide the land by a lottery system. God establishes the borders of the Land of Israel. New leadership is appointed, cities of the Levites and Cities of Refuge (where an accidental murderer may seek asylum) are designated. Lastly, the laws are set forth regarding accidental and willful murder as well as inheritance laws only for that generation regarding property of a couple where each came from a different tribe.
* * *
based on Growth Through Torah by Rabbi Zelig Pliskin
The Torah states:
"And Novach went and captured Kenas and its surrounding villages and he called it Novach after his name" (Numbers 32:42).
Why did the Almighty include this verse in the Torah?
Rabbi Samson Raphael Hirsch elucidates: Throughout the world powerful leaders have wanted to leave monuments to themselves through statues and buildings named after them. Kings and conquerors have even named large cities after themselves. However, names can very easily be changed and then nothing is left, as happened to Novach. (Neither Novach nor the city he named after himself are remembered to history.) The good deeds of a person and his spiritual attainments are the only true everlasting monuments.
When you view the good that you do as your eternal monument, you will feel greater motivation to accomplish as much as you can. A life of spiritual attainments is everlasting. Feel joy in every positive act you do, for it gives greater splendor to your monument!
CANDLE LIGHTING - July 5
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Guatemala 6:18 - Hong Kong 6:53 - Honolulu 6:59
J'Burg 5:09 - London 8:01 - Los Angeles 7:50
Melbourne 4:55 - Mexico City 8:01 - Miami 7:59
New York 8:13 - Singapore 6:57 - Toronto 8:44
QUOTE OF THE WEEK:
Kindness consists of loving people
more than they deserve
-- Jacqueline Schiff
Rabbi Kalman Packouz
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