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GOOD MORNING! When I was in the Israeli army at the beginning of the "Intifada" we were directed to move a group of Arabs away from the road in a little town called Halhoul on the way to Hebron. The government wanted to keep them from stoning cars on the road. We formed a line and walked from the main road up a street on the hill; the Arabs formed a line in front of us and also progressed up the hill. Along the sides of the street were old Arab women who were cursing us in Arabic. Being of American upbringing and not knowing Arabic, I just smiled and nodded my head. However, there was one soldier, Yossi, a 6'4" Sefardi Jew who understood Arabic. He was going wild! It took 2 soldiers to hold him back. There is a big difference between hearing and between understanding and taking it to heart!
This week's Torah portion has many important messages for us as Jews. Unfortunately, most Jews don't read the weekly Torah portion. And for those who do read it, many may not have done the weekly preparation (twice in Hebrew, once in translation). So, I thought to share with you some of the Almighty's messages for us from this week's Torah portion, Ekev. Hopefully, you, beloved reader, will not only read it - but understand and take it to heart.
The Torah portion opens with,
"This shall be the reward for listening to these laws and doing them; the Lord your God will guard the covenant and the kindness that He swore to your forefathers. He will love you and bless you and multiply you. He will bless the fruit of your womb and the fruit of your ground, your grain, your wine and your oil; the calves of your herds and the lambs of your flocks, on the Land that He swore to your forefathers to give to you. You will be blessed above all nations. Neither you nor your flocks will be barren. The Almighty will remove from you all sickness nor let all of the terrible afflictions of the Egyptians that you experienced to be put upon you. Instead He shall put them upon your enemies." (Deuteronomy 7:12-15)
What makes us Jews? Either we were born to a Jewish mother or we properly converted. What makes us Jewish? Doing the mitzvot (God's commandments). Every Jew is on a scale of observance - from few mitzvot to many mitzvot. Not one of us is perfect, performs all of the mitzvot or does every mitzvah in the best possible manner. However, it is incumbent upon us to do our best - it is a way of showing our love of God!
What is the Torah portion telling us? The more mitzvot that we do in the best possible manner, the greater will be the blessings the Almighty will bestow upon us.
There is a story of a rabbi who is asked to give a guest lecture in a synagogue. The synagogue's rabbi cautions him, "Don't speak about Shabbat. Many of the congregants are not Shabbat observant. And don't speak about Kashruth. Many of the congregants don't keep Kosher. Also, don't speak about learning Torah. Many congregants don't make time to learn Torah."
The visiting rabbi asked, "Then, please tell me, what should I speak about?"
"Why," says the synagogue rabbi, "speak about Judaism!" Judaism is about doing the mitzvot!
What should we do? Learning leads to action. I highly recommend Rabbi Haim Donin's book, To Be a Jew (available at your local Jewish bookstore, at judaicaenterprises.com or by calling toll-free to 877-758-3242), which explains in easy-to-understand language Jewish life and mitzvot. There is something in it for all of us to do more mitzvot and to do them in a better manner.
A friend of mine was asked to speak as a guest lecturer in a synagogue. He asked the rabbi, "Is there anything that I shouldn't speak about that might be too sensitive?" The rabbi replied, "No. Speak about whatever you want. My congregants are Yenemites." My friend was puzzled by the rabbi's words. Yenemites? He had heard of Yemenites, but surely the congregants didn't come from Yemen. My friend gave his talk with great vim and vigor urging the listeners to higher levels of observance and learning. After the services, he and the rabbi greeted the congregants as they left synagogue. One man congratulated the speaker on his talk, "It was just what the guy sitting next to me needed to hear!" Said the rabbi to my friend, "See. I told you they were Yenemites - from the Yiddish word 'yenem,' meaning 'others.' They don't take messages to heart, they always think you are speaking to the other guy." Let us strive to NOT be Yenemites and to take what we learn to heart ... and to action!
For more on "Mitzvot" go to ShabbatShalomAudio.com!
Torah Portion of the Week
Moshe continues his soliloquy guaranteeing the Jewish people prosperity and good health if they follow the mitzvot, the commandments. He reminds us to look at our history and to know that we can and should trust in God. However, we should be careful so that we are not distracted by our material success lest that we forget and ignore God.
Moshe warns us against idolatry (the definition of idolatry is the belief that anything other than God has power) and against self-righteousness ("Do not say because of my virtue that God brought me to occupy this land ... but because of the wickedness of these nations that God is driving them out before you.") He then details our rebellions against God during the 40 years in the desert and the giving of the Second Tablets (Moshe broke the first Tablets containing the Ten Commandments after the sin of the Golden Calf.)
This week's portion dispels a common misconception. People think that "Man does not live by bread alone" means that a person needs additional foods beyond bread to survive. The quotation in its entirety is:
"Man does not live by bread alone, but by all that comes out of God's mouth." (Deut. 8:3)
The Torah then answers a question which every human being has asked of himself: What does God want of you?
"Only that you remain in awe of God your Lord, so that you will follow all his paths and love him, serving God your Lord with all your heart and with all your soul. You must keep God's commandments and decrees ... so that all good will be yours." (Deut. 10:12)
based on Growth Through Torah by Rabbi Zelig Pliskin
The Torah states:
"And now, Israel. What does the Lord, your God ask of you..." (Deuteronomy 10:12)
(Look at the last paragraph above in "Torah Portion" for part of the answer!). Why does the Torah write, "And now, Israel"? What do we learn from this phrase, which could have easily been left out of the Torah?
The Chofetz Chaim taught that a person should view himself as someone hired out to work for another person for a specific period of time. When such a person completes one task, he approaches the employer and asks, "What should I do next?" This should be our attitude in relationship to the Almighty. When you finish one mitzvah, you should immediately look for opportunities to do another mitzvah.
This attitude can be seen in this verse: "And now Israel" - at every present moment, ask yourself the question, "What can I do now? What does the Almighty ask of me at the present time?"
When a person develops a deep sense of joy for doing mitzvot he feels great pleasure and satisfaction when engaged in a mitzvah. When he finishes one good deed, he will immediately want to start doing another. Therefore, to develop the attitude expressed by the Chofetz Chaim we need to appreciate the great value and beauty in doing mitzvot. Once you feel a love for the mitzvot, you will eagerly ask, "What good deeds can I do now?"
CANDLE LIGHTING - August 26:
(or go to http://www.aish.com/shabbat/candlelighting.asp)
Chicago 7:14 Guatemala 5:58 Hong Kong 6:27
Honolulu 6:33 J'Burg 5:35 London 7:40
Los Angeles 7:08 Melbourne 5:32 Mexico City 6:41
Miami 7:27 Moscow 7:21 New York 7:19
Singapore 6:53 Toronto 6:44
QUOTE OF THE WEEK:
You will become as small as your controlling desire;
as great as your dominant aspiration .
-- James Allen
Happy 40th Anniversary!