I am still available to lead your Rosh Hashanah services

I am still available and waiting to be snapped up for Rosh Hashanah. I don’t mind who snaps me up as long as it isn’t a crocodile while i’m doing Tashlich in the Everglades!!!

contact
zevisaunders@gmail.com

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Nitzavim Vayelech -Let’s live!

This week is the last Shaboss of the year so we finish with a bang with two Sedras. We read Nitzavim and Vayelech but don’t worry they have a combined total of 70 Verses. Look out for the verses from Selichot which we will be starting on Sunday.

The beginning of Nitzavim marks the start of Moshe’s last day on earth. He makes the most of it by cramming a lot in. He wrote 12 Torah scrolls, and gave the Jews and Yehosha a final departing pep talk.
He told them that they should always stay true to Hashem and the Torah and then they will be ok. He then predicts that they will stray from the correct path and suffer the consequences. A brief look at Jewish history confirms the validity of Moshe’s final lecture.
We have the final 2 Mitzvot of the Torah this week. They are,
To come every 7 years on Succot to hear a reading from the King of the fifth book of the Torah,
and to write Torah scrolls for themselves.

I would like to take this opportunity to wish everyone a happy, healthy, fulfilling and spiritually uplifting new year. We should aim to add a few minutes a week on to our Torah study and go that extra mile to help others around us. If that is too much,please pass my weekly Sedra blog onto 5 other people!!!!!!

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parshas ki Savo- watch out.

In this weeks Sedra Moses instructs the people of Israel: When you enter the land that G?d is giving to you as your eternal heritage, and you settle it and cultivate it, bring the first-ripened fruits (bikkurim) of your orchard to the Holy Temple, and declare your gratitude for all that G?d has done for you.

Our Sedra also includes the laws of the tithes given to the Levites and to the poor, and detailed instructions on how to proclaim the blessings and the curses on Mount Gerizim and Mount Eival— as discussed in the beginning of the Sedra of Reeh. Moses reminds the people that they are G?d’s chosen people, and that they, in turn, have chosen to serve G?d. We should feel privileged and happy to be Hashem’s Chosen people.

The latter part of Ki Tavo consists of the Tochachah (“Rebuke”). After listing the blessings with which G?d will reward the people when they follow the laws of the Torah, Moses gives a long, harsh account of the bad things—illness, famine, poverty and exile—that shall befall them if they abandon G?d’s commandments.
Unfortunately these curses have come true during the course of Jewish history.

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Parshas Shoftim- Don’t embarrass me!!!!

This week we learn about the importance of appointing judges. We are warned against accepting bribes. We read of the Mitzvoh to appoint a King and limit his wives, money and horses. This is to stop him from getting to haughty and carried away with his own hype.

We also see the importance of peace and not cutting off our enemies food supply.

We also entered the month of Elul. We are on the verge of Rosh Hashanah. Elul is a time of Teshuvah. We should all take this time to look into ourselves and ask for forgiveness for our sins and resolve to improve on our faults.

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Parshas Re’eh – Finally we can eat!!!!

This week Sedra contains many interesting things. We are told that the sacrifices must be offered in the temple. We are told the laws of the three pilgrimage festivals, the kosher and non-kosher animals, and the mitzvah of giving to charity.

The Hebrew word, ”v’somachta”, and you shall rejoice, is mentioned 7 times in the Sedra.
These are
1. “And you shall rejoice while eating your sacrifices.” (12:7)
2. “And you shall rejoice with your family and the Levites” (12:12)
3. The same idea is expressed in verse 18
4. “You shall take your tithes to the temple and eat and enjoy them.” (14:26)
5. “You shall invite the poor and rejoice on the festival of Shavuot.” (16:11)
6. We are commanded to rejoice on the festival of Succot. (16:14)
7. And finally in verse 15 we are told to be utterly happy on the festival of Succot.

Question:

Why are we told to be happy so many times? Why is this mentioned especially when discussing eating?

Answer:
The Torah is trying to impress upon us that Hashem wants us to be happy. We must completely crush the wide-spread myth that Judaism is a sad oppressive religion. We should feel privileged to be Jewish and proud to keep the mitzvot. Happiness is the glue that holds all our mitzvot together. A mitzvah done with happiness is worth so much more than a mitzah done with a sad, long face. We can see this very clearly in our own lives. If we ask a loved one to do something for us and they do it with a long face, we get upset that we’ve troubled them. On the other hand, if they do it enthusiastically then it makes us happy too.
In the first paragraph of Mesilat Yesharim (Path of The Just), a famous Jewish book written by R’ Moshe Chaim Lussatto, asks: “What is the task of every person in this world? In what should he occupy himself?…To rejoice over G-d and to benefit from his closeness.” Here we can see we are meant to enjoy this world.
The Torah, whilst listing the curses that will befall the Jewish people if they slip from their duties, explains that the real reason for the curses is: “Because you did not serve Hashem with HAPPINESS and A GOOD HEART” (27:44). We don’t need it spelled out any clearer than that.
This is a very important lesson as we enter the Jewish month of Elul, the last month before Rosh Hashanah. We are less than a month away from the High Holidays. It is a serious time; a time for thought and reflection. This is the time we should endeavor to add more happiness and alacrity to our Torah observance.

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Parshas Ekev- Don’t be ungrateful

At the beginning of this week’s Sedra we are told of the great rewards for keeping all the mitzvoth, especially the minor ones that appear insignificant. The Sedra then digresses to warn against complacency. (ch 8 v 14)

Question
Why when warning against complacency does the Torah tell us of G-d’s miracles?
In verse 15 we are told that Hashem led us through the great and awesome desert with snakes and scorpions and no water- and yet we still survived.

Answer
It would appear from here that the worst part of sinning is being ungrateful. Hashem has performed so many miracles for us how could we even think about disobeying him. We are repaying His immense kindness with evil.

We should all take this message on board and try and be more grateful to Hashem for what he has done for us. We should constantly thank Him verbally for all that he has done for us.
People spend far too much time praying for more things without taking stock of what Hashem has already given us. In our day to day lives and relationships we are looking for appreciation for what we do. We feed off it. The more appreciated we feel the more likely we are to continue doing whatever it is we are doing.
The same is true for Hashem. The more we appreciate and thank Him for what He has given us, the more likely He is to give us more things in the future.

The problem is we are born with an inherent quality of ungratefulness. The Talmud (Avoda zarroh 5a) states that Adam was ungrateful when he blamed his wife for giving him to eat from the forbidden tree of knowledge.
If we all manage to work on this trait, then we will all see a change in our relationships. Whether it is with our spouses or parents, children of just our friends, the more grateful and thankful we are for what people do for us, the more our relationships will improve.

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Parshas Voeschanan – no make believe here, you all saw me

This week’s Sedra contains lots on interesting things. It contains;
The repetition of the 10 statements (commandments),
The first paragraph of the Shema,
And the leining from Tisha B’Av morning.
We also make mention numerous times of the fact that Hashem loves us.

How do we fulfill the mitzvah to love Hashem as expression in the Shema? (ch 6 vs 5)
Surely love is an emotion; we can’t force anyone to love something.

The Hebrew word for love is ‘AHAVAH’. In Hebrew all words are made up from routes of other words thus giving each word an intrinsic meaning. The route of the word AHAVA is ‘HAV’ which means ‘giving’. Therefore, the more one gives, the more love one feels towards it. A good example of this is a marriage. The more a husband and wife do for each other the more love they will feel towards each other.
The more a mother does for a child the more she will love that child. In fact we can say that about anything in life. The more effort one invests in a project the more one loves it and feels attached to it.
So in affect, when we are told to love Hashem we are really being told to work for him and keep all his commandments. The barometer of whether we love Hashem is the performance of every mitzvah. We cannot pick and choose which ones we want to keep or which ones are ‘convenient’. By keeping all the Mitzvot even when they are difficult is a sign that we are in love with Hashem.

We can develop this idea further. In the same way as when two people are in love they are prepared to overlook each other’s faults and shortcomings so to of our relationship with Hashem. If we truly try and love him then he will overlook our mistakes and shortcomings.

I heard in a Shiur from the late R’Chaim Kauffman of Gateshead that everyone is born with a love for Hashem. It is instilled in every Jewish Heart. The problem is that the more one sins the more covered over that love becomes. So the commandment to love Hashem is telling us to remove the cover of all our sins and get back to the original love we were born with. That’s why after Yom Kippur when people are cleansed from their sins we feel closer to Hashem and have more love for Him.

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Parshas Devarim- The most popular autobiography

In this week’s Sidra Moshe Rabbeinu starts rebuking the Jews prior to his death. As he is about to depart this world, he takes the opportunity to remind them of all the sins that were committed in the desert.
He affords great details to his account.
He tells us the size of Og’s bed! It was nine cubits long and 4 wide. We are told it was made of iron. ( ch 3 vs 11) We are informed of all the previous names of the cities the Jews conquered.
We are made aware of peoples nicknames (ch 2 vs 20)

Why do we need to know all these details? It appears if one can say so that Moshe is ‘waffling’ on a bit.

It would appear to me after learning this weeks Sidra that when it comes to thanking Hashem for miracles, one must strive to remember every single detail. This increases the praise and honour that we afford Hashem. To People like Moshe Rabbeinu to whom every moment of their lives are precious and sacred, no detail is insignificant. Every thing that is brought to their attention was done so for a reason. That’s why Moshe Rabbeinu saw fit to mention it.

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Parshas Massei- Know your boundaries

In this week’s Sedra we are told the exact borders of Israel. It is important to know exactly where Israel begins and ends because there are special commandments only pertaining to the Land of Israel.
We are also told that if we don’t wipe out all the people from Israel we will live to regret it. So, as I am sure you are aware by following the events in Israel recently, we didn’t wipe out everyone. The book of Joshua lists all the people who were allowed to remain alive in Israel. We are told they will be (33:55) “pins in your eyes and thorns in your side”. We can see the fulfilment of this verse throughout history.
However, this should serve as a source of comfort to us. If the bad verses are coming true then surely we must believe the good verses will also come true. May it be His will that this be speedily in our days.

At the end of this week’s sedra, we learn about the laws of murder and one who murders accidentally.
We are told (35:20)
“If he pushed him out of HATRED, or hurled upon him from ambush or in ENMITY struck him…. He should be put to death”.
Later on while discussing an accidental murder it states (35:22 )
“But if with suddenness WITHOUT ENMITY or without ambush…” So it is clear from the Torah the reason why someone commits murder; because he has hatred towards him.

This is a frightening thought. If we just look at those people currently in prison for murder today, how many of them would fit our typical ‘murderer’ perception?
There must be many who seem upper class people who would never have dreamed they would ever take a life. They stooped so low because they allowed their little grievance to slowly turn into hatred. Once hatred and even jealousy takes hold then we become slaves to that feeling and if we are not careful we can even stoop low enough to commit murder.

We should all realise the power of hatred and try and settle our disputes in a calm way and air our grievances respectfully before it turns into something nasty.
I believe the Torah teaches how to go about not hating our fellow Jew.
In Leviticus (19:17) it says as follows;-
“You should not hate your brother in your heart; you should reprove your friend and do not bear a sin because of him.”
What is the connection between these apparent random statements that appear in the same verse?
The Torah tells us of the sin of hating your fellow Jew. We know how terrible this sin is. The Talmud gives this sin as the reason for this exile. Therefore, the Torah is giving us a helping hand.
You want to know how not to commit the sin of hating your fellow Jew; then reprove your friend by airing your grievances with him. Don’t let things fester under the surface. We all know that when we feel we are wronged we get angry. If we deal with it and tell the person, we can then move on. If we choose to keep it quiet then it can gnaw away at us and lead to hatred.

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Parshas Matos – ”Perhaps” isn’t always a bad word.

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