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GOOD MORNING!  One of the 613 categories of Mitzvot, commandments, of the Torah is to "Love Your Neighbor as Yourself." It is an explicit verse found in Leviticus 19:18. Rambam, Maimonides, writes:

"... therefore, we must praise others, and we must care about their money just as we care about our own money and our own dignity." (Mishnah Torah, Hilchos Daios 6:3)

We must be sensitive to others, put ourselves in their place and do what we can to help them. In a larger sense we are all part of one body - one would never deliberately injure or ignore part of his body, so likewise we must strive to ensure the well-being of all members of the Jewish people.

The Jews in Israel are suffering - not just from the terrorist attacks, but from the weakened tourist economy. Tourism used to bring in $2.3 billion a year. Half of the 500 tourist shops in Jerusalem have shut down since the increase in violence; 75 percent of hotel beds are empty. In the central area of the city, 40 restaurants have closed. Recently I saw on aish.com an article ("Virtual Tourism in Israel" at http://www.aish.com/jewishissues/israeldiary/Virtual_Tourism_in_Israel.asp) by Dvora Levin, who took the Torah's precept of Loving One's Neighbor and applied it to helping our fellow Jews in Israel. I thought that sharing excerpts from it would inspire you and hopefully plant some seeds!

"Sitting with a friend in a once popular restaurant in Ein Kerem, a neighborhood in Jerusalem, I was startled to see how empty it was. A young guard sat at the front gate. Next to him, a note was posted stating that all customers were to pay an extra two shekels to help cover his cost.

"After getting the bill, I asked to speak to the manager. I told him, while the waiter hovered in the background worried about a complaint, that I would be paying three times the amount of the bill. I explained that as a visitor coming to visit family and friends during these terrible times, I had brought 'virtual tourist' with me.

"Most of the members of my small Jewish community in Victoria, on the far west coast of Canada, were heartfelt in their support of Israelis. However, the realities of their lives prevented them from coming personally. So they had sent me with money ($1,700) to spend on virtual drinks, meals, services and gifts. They particularly asked me to support small businesses suffering from serious economic losses due to direct and threatened terrorist attacks and lack of tourism.

"The manager and now-smiling waiter were clearly surprised and very moved. 'We in Israel feel that we are all alone in the world,' he said. 'But this is amazing that there are others so far away who actually care about us here.' 'I laughed and said: 'Actually they are virtually here, having virtual meals. But their money is real....'

"Some managers demanded I tell them what to do with the extra money, remarking they had no key on the cash register for such an item. I told them I had fulfilled my responsibility, and that this would be their big problem for the day. Many said they would share it with their staff. Some quickly said they would pass it along to someone 'who really needs it.'

"The last of the funds was spent on 15 pitas (with the Jerusalem mixture of spicy meats) for the IDF's negotiating team dealing with the standoff at the Bethlehem Church of the Nativity. One of my friends was on his way for reserve duty with this group."

This is an idea that you can take and run with it! There is no limit to what you can do with it! Your actions are elevated when you focus on them as fulfillment of the Almighty's commandment to Love Your Neighbor. The Yesod VeShoresh HoAvodah 1:7,8 writes:

"The commandment of loving your fellow man can be fulfilled at all times, every single second of the day. Any favor or kindness that you do for someone is a fulfillment of this commandment. The commandment can also be fulfilled through thought. When you are happy about the good fortune of someone else, it constitutes an act of loving your fellow man. For instance, if you hear that someone just gave birth to a child and you feel happy, you fulfill this commandment. The same applies when someone suffers misfortune. If you feel sad because of his suffering, you fulfill this commandment..."


Shabbat, January 18th, is Tu B'Shevat, a festive day. The Torah praises the Land of Israel with reference to the fruits of the trees and the produce of the soil:

"A land of wheat and barley and vines (grapes) and fig trees and pomegranates; a land of olive trees and (date) honey ... and you shall eat and be satisfied, and bless the Lord your God for the good land which He has given you." (Deut. 8:8-10)

The Jewish people rejoice in the fruits, in the Land and in the Almighty Who has given us life.

It is celebrated by eating the special types of fruits for which Israel is renowned: dates, pomegranates, figs, grapes - and buxer (carob or St. John's bread). It's also celebrated by planting trees in Israel and if you can't get to Israel, you can purchase trees to be planted in Israel from your local Jewish National Fund Office or by calling (800) 542-8733.

Torah Portion of the Week

The Jewish people leave Egypt. Pharaoh regrets letting them go, pursues them leading his chosen chariot corps and a huge army. The Jews rebel and cry out to Moses, "Weren't there enough graves in Egypt? Why did you bring us out here to die in the desert?" The Yam Soof, the Sea of Reeds (usually mistranslated as the Red Sea) splits, the Jews cross over, the Egyptians pursue and the sea returns and drowns the Egyptians. Moses with the men and Miriam with the women -each separately - sing praises of thanks to the Almighty.

They arrive at Marah and rebel over the bitter water. Moses throws a certain tree in the water to make it drinkable. The Almighty then tells the Israelites:

"If you obey God your Lord and do what is upright in His eyes, carefully heeding all His commandments and keeping all His decrees, then I will not strike you with any of the sicknesses that I brought on Egypt. I am God who heals you."

(This is why the Hagaddah strives to prove there were more than 10 plagues in Egypt - the greater the number of afflictions, the greater number from which we are protected.)

Later the Israelites rebel over lack of food; God provides quail and manna (a double portion was given on the sixth day to last through Shabbat; we have two challahs for each meal on Shabbat to commemorate the double portion of manna). Moses then instructs them concerning the laws of Shabbat. At Rephidim, they rebel again over water. God tells Moses to strike a stone which then gave forth water. Finally, the portion concludes with the war against Amalek and the command to "obliterate the memory of Amalek from under the heavens."


Dvar Torah
based on Love Your Neighbor by Rabbi Zelig Pliskin

The Torah states:

"This is my God, and I will glorify Him." (Exodus 15:2)

What is the practical application of this verse?

The Talmud (Shabbos 133b) writes in reference to this verse, "When you do God's Mitzvot (commandments), glorify the Mitzvah. Have a beautiful Sukkah, a beautiful Lulav, a beautiful Shofar, beautiful Tzitzis, and a beautiful Torah scroll." We find the same concept in reference to charity. Rambam writes, "When you give food to a hungry person, give him your best and sweetest food. When you give a needy person clothes, give him your best clothes" (Hilchos Isurai Mizbaiach 7:11).

(or go to http://www.aish.com/candlelighting)

Jerusalem  4:22
Guatemala 5:34  Hong Kong 5:43  Honolulu 5:52
J'Burg 6:45  London 4:05  Los Angeles 4:49
Melbourne 8:21  Miami 5:35  Moscow 4:16
New York 4:37  Singapore  6:59


With the milk of human kindness,
there should be no such thing as skim.
--  Steve Johnson

Mazal Tov on the birth of
Eitan Haim and Yonatan Yitzhak
Michele and Sid Slivko,
may you continue to be blessed!
With Love, Tom and Judy Raskin