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11.07.2013 22:41    Comments: 0    Categories: Weekly Parashah      Tags: torah  shabbat  shiur  devarim  

One Minute on this Shabbat with Rabbi Cowen:


This week’s portion begins the last of the Five Books of The Torah, Sefer Devarim. This Book is also called Mishneh Torah, "Repetition of the Torah". Therefore, the Greek/English title of Deuteronomy is ascribed to it. The Book of Devarim relates what Moshe told the Nation of Israel during the last five weeks of his life, as they prepared to cross the Jordan into the Land of Israel. Moshe reviews the mitzvot, stressing the change of lifestyle they are about to undergo: From the supernatural existence of the desert under Moshe’s guidance to the apparently natural life they will experience under Joshua’s leadership in the Land.

The central theme this week is the sin of the spies, the meraglim. The Parsha opens with Moshe alluding to the sins of the previous generation who died in the desert. He describes what would have happened if they hadn’t transgressed by sending spies into the Land of Israel. Hashem would have given them, without a fight, all the land from the Mediterranean to the Euphrates, including the lands of Ammon, Moav and Edom. He details the subtle sins that culminate in the sin of the spies, and reviews at length this incident and its results: The entire generation would die in the desert and Moshe would not enter the Land. He reminds them that their immediate reaction to Hashem’s decree was to want to "go up and fight" to redress the sin; he recounts how they wouldn’t listen when he told them not to go, that they no longer merited vanquishing their enemies miraculously. They ignored him and suffered a massive defeat. They were not allowed to fight with the kingdoms of Esav, Moav or Ammon these lands were not to be part of the map of the Land of Israel in the meantime. When the conquest of Canaan will begin with Sichon and Og, it will be via natural warfare.


These are the PROHIBITIONS of the Preceding Night and Day Tisha B’av:

· Eating and drinking.  The exception is for people who are sick and a rabbi must be consulted for each particular case.

· Washing one’s self even with cold water.  Netilat Yadaim (Ritual Hand-washing) in the morning is done only up until the knuckles of the hand.

· Wearing leather shoes.

· Study Torah.  The only exception is to study those things that relate to sad events in Jewish history.

·  Greeting friends.

·  Sitting on a chair; (We sit on the floor until Midday time.)

·  Anointing one’s self with oils and perfumes.

·  Smoking should be avoided, particularly in public places.

·  Marital relations.


Points to Ponder on the Week of Tisha B’Av:

A. Halacha imposes several restrictions during the week of Tisha B'Av to remind us of the destruction of the Bet Ha'mikdash. These restrictions apply from the Motza'ei Shabbat preceding Tisha B'Av through Tisha B'Av itself. 

B. From the Motza'ei Shabbat preceding Tisha B'Av through Tisha B'Av, it is forbidden to wash clothing, send clothing to the cleaners, or wear freshly laundered clothes. Therefore, one must ensure to wear whatever garments he will need for a couple of minutes (after he sweats if it is hot, otherwise 20 minutes) at some point before the week of Tisha B'Av.

C. It is forbidden to take a haircut, shave or cut one’s fingernails from the Shabbat preceding Tisha B’Ab until after Tisha B’Ab. If one’s nails grow long and extend beyond the skin of the fingers, he may cut them even during the week of Tisha B’Ab.

D. Rabbi Yisroel Reisman, Shlita, points out that the oldest Kinah/lamentation we find is the Kinah that Yirmiyahu the prophet recited over the murder of Yoshiyahu HaMelech--a Kinah which preceded the destruction of the Bais HaMikdash by over 20 years.  In fact, Rabbi Reisman teaches, that if one can only recite one Kinah it should be this one--as this was composed by Yirmiyahu HaNavi himself.  There is a great lesson here.  We must look to a root cause of an issue and resolve it.  If Yoshiyahu HaMelech had not been suddenly killed, Bnei Yisrael would have continued advancing in their Teshuvah and Avodas Hashem as they had been during his reign.  He was only 39 years old when he was murdered.  He could have easily still been king at the time that the Bait HaMikdash was otherwise destroyed--and it would then never have happened.  The Hashgacha was otherwise--but the lesson remains.  One searching for gold will not readily find it on the surface of the ground--he will have to mine to get there.  Tisha B’Av is a time to mine the soul--reaching to the depths in order to accomplish.

E. Our Sages teach that “Shafach Hashem Et Chamato Al Eitzim VeAvanim--Hashem let out His wrath against us on the trees and stones of the Bait HaMikdash--He destroyed His own home--rather than destroy us.  We must take the lesson from Hashem’s actions--redirecting or reducing our anger to a point or place where they will do no harm. HaRav Chaim Friedlander, Z’tl, points out that one of the most effective means of battling anger is by diffusing it temporarily--i.e., telling yourself (and your Yetzer Hara) that you will revisit the topic in an hour or so.  Eventually, HaRav Friedlander, teaches, one’s own internal anger will become weaker and weaker to the point that it will not even register as a possible initial reaction.  Tisha B’Av reminds us to take Hashem’s lead in this essential rebuilding of character.


Your Prayer. Your Heritage. Your People. Good Food.

With Blessings and Success,

Rabbi Dr. Eytan M. Cowen and the Staff and Volunteers of Etz Chaim Sephardic Cong

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