Ekev (Deuteronomy 7:12-11:25 )
GOOD MORNING! With the headlines in the newspapers shouting the latest scandals, there are several thoughts we should focus on and lessons that we should learn. First, we have an obligation from the Torah to judge righteous people favorably as it is written in Leviticus 19:15, "You shall judge your fellow man with righteousness."
We learn from the Genesis 11:5: "And the Lord came down to see the city and the tower (of Babel) which the children of man built." The Midrash Tanchuma reminds us that the Almighty did not have to come down to view the tower; He did so to teach judges not to condemn someone until they investigate and understand the entire situation. The lesson applies to us, too.
Mark Twain once said, "If you don't read the newspaper, you are uninformed. If you do read the newspaper, you are misinformed." Anyone who has ever had an article written about himself in a newspaper or magazine knows this for a fact. Anyone who had dealt with the legal system knows that not everything is as it seems to be or as it is represented to the public.
The role of the Jewish people is to be a light unto the nations - a moral beacon and example of how a righteous people should live. In Deuteronomy 7:6, the Almighty tells us: "For you are a holy people to the Lord, your God; the Lord your God has chosen you to be a treasured nation from all of the nations that are on the face of the earth." This is our banner, this is our mission and our destiny.
The Shema (Deuteronomy 6:4) is our personal declaration of belief, "Hear O Israel, the Lord our God the Lord is One." Following the Shema, the Torah writes "And you shall love the Lord, your God, with all your heart, with all your soul and with all your might (possessions)." How are we to love God?
The Talmud (Yoma 86a) clarifies that: "This verse in a directive to behave in a manner that will cause the Name of Heaven to be beloved. One should study Torah and serve Torah scholars, be honest in his business dealings, and speak pleasantly to others. Then people will say about him, 'Fortunate is his father who taught him Torah. Fortunate is his teacher who taught him Torah. Woe to those who have not learned Torah. See how pleasant are the ways and how proper are the actions of this person who has learned Torah.' "
The Talmud continues: "If, however, someone studies Torah and serves Torah scholars, but is not honest in his business dealings and does not speak pleasantly to others, what do people say about him? ' Woe to that person who learned Torah. Woe to his father who taught him Torah. Woe to his teacher who taught Torah. See how corrupt are the actions and how ugly are the ways of this person who has learned Torah.' "
This is called Chilul HaShem, desecration of God's name and is one of the most serious of all transgressions. Anything one does to make people despise God or His teachings - or to look down upon the Jewish people or the Torah, is included in this transgression. Chilul HaShem is one of 24 offenses punishable by excommunication. A person who wishes to repent should do the exact opposite of the transgression by sanctifying God's name and bringing many people to true Torah observance.
What is our lesson? In everything that we do we must realize that the Almighty is watching us and thus act with integrity and fairness. Our honesty must go beyond the requirements of the law. We must remember who we are and our mission to bring the world to holiness and perfection. The Almighty Himself commanded us: "Do what is upright and good in God's eyes, so that He will be good to you" (Deuteronomy 7:17), and, "You shall be holy for I, the Lord your God, am holy" (Leviticus 19:2). Each of us must strive our best to integrate these ideals into our lives and our behavior.
For more on "Holiness" go to ShabbatShalomAudio.com!
Torah Portion of the Week
Moshe continues his discourse 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 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 during 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 Love Your Neighbor by Rabbi Zelig Pliskin
The Torah states:
"For if you shall diligently keep all these commandments which I command you to do them, to love the Lord, your God, to walk in all His ways and to cleave to Him..." (Deuteronomy 11:22).
How does one "cleave to the Almighty?"
The Torah tells us that even someone who observes all of the commandments and has attained the attribute of loving God, must emulate God ("to walk in all His ways") in order to cleave to Him. Emulating God means being compassionate and bestowing kindness upon others. ("He is merciful so we should be merciful, He bestows kindness, so we should bestow kindness" -Rashi).
One might think that a person who loves God need only devote himself to prayer and Torah study and by this means he will cleave to God. We see from this verse, however, that an essential ingredient in cleaving to God is caring about our fellow man.
CANDLE LIGHTING - August 7
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Guatemala 6:11 - Hong Kong 6:43 - Honolulu 6:49
J'Burg 5:25 - London 8:21 - Los Angeles 7:31
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New York 7:48 - Singapore 6:58 - Toronto 8:16
QUOTE OF THE WEEK:
People may doubt what you say,
but they will believe what you do .
With Deep Appreciation to
Moshe and Robin Pamensky
Rabbi Kalman Packouz
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