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March 05 Kosherpages launches 

December 05 - KP goes national.

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January 07 - 1st B2B tradeshow

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Shoftim

Thursday, 12th August 2010

DO NOT DESTROY ... (20:19)

It is a commandment in the Torah that we must not waste and we must not destroy things needlessly. What is wrong with destroying something that we own? It belongs to us, to do with as we wish!

 

The mistake we often make is that we think that what we have is ours to do with as we wish. In reality, this world - and everything in it - belongs to G-d, He has allowed us to make use of it and to enjoy it, but we have no right to waste or destroy without reason.

 

Included in “Do not destroy” is the precious commodity of “TIME”. One sometimes hears the phrase “killing time”. A strong word indeed, but nevertheless a very appropriate description.

 

Imagine that you were given the option to open a bank account which would be credited with £1,440 every morning, with a “subject to conditions” clause. This clause states: “This money is yours to spend. No balance is carried forward to the next day. Money must not be squandered.” There is hardly a doubt that we would probably make sure to use every single penny every day to make sure that we get the most out of it.

 

We all have this type of bank account, a very real one, and it is called “TIME”. 1,440 minutes are credited to us each morning for our personal use.

 

WHAT WE DON’T USE IS LOST, AND LOST FOREVER.

Re'eh

Thursday, 5th August 2010

The Torah discusses two scenarios where people intend to lead Jews astray. The first case is of the false prophet. Deuteronomy 13:2: "If there should stand a prophet or dreamer who will produce a sign or a wonder saying, 'let us follow gods of other folk,' do not hearken to him." The next section deals not with a false prophet but with a kinsman. Deuteronomy 13:7: "If your brother, son of your mother, or your son or daughter or your wife or a friend who is like your soul, secretly entices you saying let us worship other gods, those that you or your forefathers did not know."
The Torah does more than exhort us not to follow the would-be influencer. It reiterates the admonition regarding kin in no less then five different expressions. "You shall not accede to him; you shall not hearken to him; your eye shall not take pity on him; you shall not be compassionate toward him; you shall not conceal him."

When it refers to our own misdoing or those of a false prophet the Torah simply warns us, "do not listen" or "do not follow your heart." Yet when referring to kin the Torah offers a litany of variations on a theme of disregard.

Shouldn't our own feelings need more and stronger admonitions than ideas suggested by a friend or relative? Surely a prophet who conjures awesome miracles should warrant five or six expressions of caution. In that case, all the Torah says is, "do not listen to him for Hashem is testing you." There is no talk of mercy, compassion, or concealment, as there is when the Torah talks about kin. Why?

The Torah understands the intimate affinity our people have towards relatives.

It only needs one or two words of warning for us not to listen to the false prophet who comes with miraculous signs and mesmerizing oratory. It only tells us, "don't listen to him." Even when discussing our own desires and infatuations it simply warns us, "do not turn after your heart."

However, when referring to kin, brothers, sisters and relatives, the Torah has a difficult mission. We tend to excuse wrongdoing, cover up for misdeeds, and harmonize with our loved ones -- even though the results may be terribly destructive. There are countless stories of parents who did not have the heart to restrict their children's late-night activities. Too many tales are told of the man who was ensnared by his brother-in-law's misdoing because he had not the heart to refuse his overtures to evil.

The Torah expresses its warning in five different ways. You must love your kin to a point, but way before the point of no return.
 

Eikev

Thursday, 29th July 2010

This week's portion is called Eikev. When simply translated, Eikev means,"if". The Torah (Bible) promises its bounty of blessing upon the Jewish nation. Hashem (G-D) will watch you, love you, bless your children and your flocks, etc. are among many of the listed blessings.

There is one caveat, however. These blessing are only bestowed with one condition -- "Eikev tishmaoon - if you shall listen to the word of Hashem and fulfill his commandments".

Rashi translates the word Eikev in an entirely different light. He explains that the word eikev translates as "heel". Thus, "If you will observe Mitzvos (commandments) that are ordinarily trampled on by the heel of your foot," then the blessings of Hashem shall follow.

Many commentaries pose the following question: Rashi's usual modus operandi is to first explain a verse in its pashut p'shat (simple explanation). That achieved, he then proceeds to expound the verse in a Midrashic light. In this case, Rashi uses only a Midrashic explanation. Why?

Perhaps Rashi is telling us the pashut p'shat (simple explanation), the secret of spiritual survival. He is relating the formula that may be the secret to the Jew's existence and continuity. It's the small things that merit the blessings. It's the Mitzvos we tend to forget, those that we trample with our heel.

There are certain Mitzvos that anyone who prides himself as a Jew would not forgo. Yom Kippur and Passover are high on the list. Mezuzah (scroll on the door post) and Kosher rank quite high, too. But there are too many others that get trampled. Rashi explains the verse by stating that if the little Mitzvos are ignored, it will not take long before the major Mitzvos join the little ones on their trek to oblivion. The Torah promises us the bounty of its blessing if we observe the mitzvos. But Rashi gives us a lesson in assuring continuity. Rashi is telling us the Poshut P'shat (the simple meaning)! Don't tread on the little Mitzvos. Watch the Mitzvos that everyone tends to forget. If those heel commandments will be considered important, then all the Mitzvos will ultimately be observed.
 

Vaeschanan

Thursday, 22nd July 2010

Honor your father and mother, as the L-rd your G-d has commanded you, so that you may live long. (Devarim/Deuteronomy 5:16)

The Torah gives us a reason in Shemos (Exodus 20:12) as to why we should honour our parents, "So that you may live long." In this Sedrah (Torah portion) of this week, however, the Torah gives an additional reason, "As the L-rd your G-d has commanded you." What is the significance of this additional phrase?

The Meshech Chachmah refers to the Talmud Yerushalmi that considers honouring parents an "easy commandment." Every person understands that debts have to be repaid.

By the same token, every person also understands that he has a moral obligation to repay his debt of gratitude to his parents. After all, the cost of raising a child must be in excess of £200,000. Not to mention the time, effort and energy parents invest in their children. Therefore, the least people can do is honour their parents. It is not a hard thing to make such a small payment on such a large debt.

The Torah tells us here that this is not the reason for honouring parents. It is not the obligation to make at least a minimal payment on a debt owed to the parents. It is an obligation incumbent on us solely because "the L-rd your G-d has commanded you" to do so.

Why did the Torah wait until now, Parashas Vaes'chanan, to make this point? The reason is that it becomes most clear after forty years in the desert, during which time raising children was easier than ever. Children did not need to be fed, there was manna from heaven. They did not need to be given to drink, there was water from Miriam's Well. Still, the Torah demanded that parents be honoured. Clearly, the obligation was to obey Hashem's (G-d’s) commandment rather than repay a debt of gratitude. By the time the Jewish people had lived through the era of the desert, they could relate to the mitzvah of honouring parents as an independent obligation.

Devorim

Thursday, 15th July 2010

"Do not recognize faces in judgement, Hear the "small" as the "big", Do not be fearful of a man because the ultimate judgement is G-d's, The matters that are "difficult" for you bring to me and I will hear them." (Devarim 1:17) 

When Moshe (Moses) reviews the account of his father-in-law's (Yisro - Jethro) advice in the last of the five books, the language of that excellent council was slightly altered. Yisro spoke about matters "big" and "small" as determining whether they would be dealt with by a lower court or by Moshe himself.  Moshe speaks about "hard" and "easy" as the factors to be considered. What's the big difference? 

A Teacher was once faced with two boys fighting over a dollar. Each claimant seemed to have good reasoning to his claim and yet the Teacher was not clear to whom the dollar should go. The Teacher decided to teach his students a real lesson. He called the "Gadol HaDor" (the greatest mind of the generation) to help decide the case. 

Rabbi Moshe Feinstein received three visitors one afternoon, the two contending boys and their teacher. The boys presented their case before the greatest living legal authority of the generation. He heard each side with great care and questioned each one with precision. After a thorough review of the facts of the case, Rabbi Feinstein consulted his books for a conclusion. A clear but difficult decision was arrived at. Rabbi Feinstein decided in favour of one of the boys and awarded him the dollar. Everyone was thrilled for having had the opportunity to spend time with such a great man. They had a sense that ultimate justice had been served but, even still, the child who lost his legal grip on the dollar he had claimed still felt the sting of the final judgment. As they were leaving, in an act of superlative sensitivity and magnanimity, Rabbi Feinstein reached into his pocket and gave the one who had lost the case, a dollar from his own pocket. Both left with a dollar. 

When Yisro gave his famous and wise advice, he spoke about easing Moshe's burden by letting only the "big" cases through to Moshe. Only if a case involved large claims should Moshe be bothered, was Yisro's thinking. Multi-national conglomerates' claims, large mergers, major acquisitions, giant chapter eleven cases, anti-monopoly suits would all go to the "big" man of the generation. 

Later when Moshe reviews the subject, he makes a subtle and real adjustment. "Big" and "small" are non-entities when determining the role of the "great" man. It matters only if the situation is "hard". If the truth is discernable in a court case and the law is clear then let the lower court make its own decision. However, if the law is unclear, and a new precedent needs to be set or a creative application of law, then let the Gadol HaDor make that determination even if it's a case of "small claims". Only when the truth is hard to arrive at do we call in "the big gun". 

Don't think for a moment that Rabbi Feinstein deliberated lightly because of the age of the boys or the minuscule quantity of money at stake. The main focus of a judge should be the truth.

 

Matos-Massei

Thursday, 8th July 2010

This weeks Torah portion tells of our going out to war against Midian.  The verse states that one thousand men from each tribe went out to battle.  The Sages add that an additional one thousand from each tribe went out to the battle-front to pray for victory.

Rabbi Chatzkel Levenstein asks, Why, if their victory was guaranteed by their being sent by Hashem (G-d), was Tfilah (prayer) necessary?  Why was it necessary to have one thousand people praying, an equal amount to the fighters?

Also, why was it necessary for them to go out to the fields to pray, where the fighting was taking place? Could they not pray in their home towns and villages?

He explains that what we see with our very own eyes is what we believe most. If the battle had been won without prayer, even with the fighters being extremely righteous people, there could have been an erroneous feeling of Kochi ve’otzem yodi (the strength of my own hand) has won the battle.

In order for them to clearly realise that the prayer was the only contributing factor to their victory, they needed to actually see the this prayer taking place. The equal amount of people praying were winning the battle!

Whilst we obviously need to have people physically fighting on the battle-front, our battles are ultimately won with our Tfilah (prayer), and our connection to Hashem (G-d).

Pinchas

Thursday, 1st July 2010

Zealotry is Like Radiation - It Can Be Useful But It Is Very Dangerous

This week's Torah portion speaks of when Pinchas performed a bold and zealous act on behalf of the Almighty, killing a couple involved in public promiscuity between a Jewish Tribal leader and a Moabite Princess, a desecration of G-d's Name. Pinchas was rewarded for his act of Sanctifying the Name of G-d and was granted the Covenant of Eternal Priesthood.

In addition to now being granted the priesthood, Pinchas was also blessed with the Covenant of Peace [Bamidbar 25:12]. The Netziv says that under normal circumstances, when a person kills another human being, that makes an indelible impression upon him. He is changed forever. The blessing granted to Pinchas as a reward for his exercise of violent zealotry to protect the honor of G-d, was that he did not incur any personal damage from this violent act. Since he acted for the sake of Heaven, his act did not have the normal effect it would otherwise have had.

The Netziv is saying that zealotry is very, very dangerous. It is like radiation. It can be used to heal and to treat cancers. But, if a person is exposed to radiation in the wrong way, it can kill him. Zealotry is like radiation. It has an effect on the person who uses it. Pinchas needed a special blessing to immunize himself, as it were, from the negative effects of the zealotry he had engaged in.

Golda Meir once said that she could forgive the Arabs for killing the Jews, but she could not forgive the Arabs for forcing the Jews to kill Arabs. Killing, even in a justified defensive war, ultimately has an effect on the national soul.

 
 

Balak

Thursday, 24th June 2010

Balak, King of Moav, sent messengers to Balaam asking him to curse the Jewish people, enabling him to then defeat them. Balaam received a command from G-d in a dream that he should not go with these people. When the people arrived to escort him, Balaam said "G-d refused to let me go with you" (Numbers 22:13). Rashi comments that Balaam was really sending a subtle message that G- d said, "I cannot go with you, but I may go with dignitaries of greater stature than you."

How come that G-d explicitly said not to go and yet Balaam went? Rabbi Chaim Shmulevitz observes that although Balaam was a prophet, he interpreted the prophecy to fit his own designs. The root cause of error is that people ultimately hear what they want to hear.

The Talmud (Gittin 45a) relates a time that Rav Ilish was taken captive. One day a man who knew the language of birds sat next to him. A raven came and called to Rav Ilish who asked the man, "What is the bird saying?" The man answered, "Ilish run, Ilish run!" Rav Ilish said, "Ravens lie so I will not rely on him." Meanwhile, a dove came and called out. Rav Ilish again asked the man, "What is the bird saying?" The man answered, "Ilish run, Ilish run!" Rav Ilish knew that the dove would not lie and so he escaped successfully.

If Rav Ilish did not want to trust the raven, why would he trust this stranger and risk his life by attempting to escape? Maybe this stranger was misinterpreting, or even lying about, the bird's message? We may conclude that Rav Ilish knew bird language himself. Nevertheless, he consulted with the stranger to make sure that he heard correctly. He was afraid that perhaps he was hearing what he wanted to hear.

Throughout our lives we receive many messages that can help us improve ourselves. They may come from parents, teachers, mentors. The essential thing is to strip ourselves of our own personal agendas, so that we hear what they say, not what we want them to have said.
 

Chukas

Wednesday, 16th June 2010

This weeks Sedra (Torah portion), Chukas, contains the sin of the Mei Merivah (Waters of Strife). What exactly was Moshe's (Moses's) sin. This sin cost Moshe the privilege of entering Eretz Yisroel (Israel). According to many commentaries, the sin was that Moshe hit the rock rather than speaking to it.

There does not seem to be much difference between bringing forth water from a rock by hitting it, or by speaking to it. Why was it so important to speak to the rock? There must have been some specific lesson that the people were supposed to learn when Moshe spoke to the rock. What was that lesson?

Rabbi M Feinstein suggests that the lesson is that sometimes we have to speak to people who seem unreceptive to what we have to say, and we feel that we are speaking, if not to a rock, then at least to a wall. Rabbis have been doing this from time immemorial. This goes back to the days of the prophets. They speak, they speak, they speak and it is as if they are talking to a wall. Sometimes talking to children can also feel like talking to a wall. The intended message was that it is necessary to speak to others, even if it seems like you are speaking to a rock.

Sometimes we speak to our children and we think that they are not listening, but we need to keep speaking. We need to keep the dialog open. The lesson was so important to the Jewish People because it taught that even when a person speaks to a rock, there sometimes are results. This is a life-long lesson that we must always remember.

Korach

Thursday, 10th June 2010

In this week's Sedra (Torah portion) Korach's death is not mentioned explicitly, only that of his followers. The 250 people who joined Korach were burned to death. Whereas Doson and Avirom were swallowed alive in the earth. What happened to Korach? Where, when and how did he die?

There is an opinion that Korach did not die with those who were burnt or those swallowed by the earth, but that he died later in a plague. Another opinion says that Korach was both burnt and swallowed in to the earth. When the 250 people began to bring their Ketoress offering, Korach joined them and was consumed by fire. At that time he was standing near where the the earth was to open, which opened up for Doson and Avirom, and Korach rolled into the open pit.
According this second opinion, why did Korach received both punishments? A possible answer could be that if he had only been burnt and not swallowed,  Doson and Avirom could have complained, "Why were we swallowed up by the earth as only followers of Korach, while Korach himself was not?" If he would have been swallowed but not burnt, the 250 followers could have had a similar complaint, "Why were we burned as only followers of Korach, while Korach himself was not?" He therefore received both punishments.

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