The first Aliyah
Well here is something new. Usually Moshe Rabbeinu taught the Torah which he learned from Hashem to Aharon and then to Aharon's sons and then the 70 Zikkeinim and only them to all the Jewish people. Here we see that the Parsha we're about to learn is taught to everyone together. Why? Good question! We are about to learn the biggest chunk of Mitzvot, many relating to the way we act towards one another. Because of the importance, we were taught it together. Perhaps we could explain the reason with a
Torah is not for the "holy" people of our nation only. Every Jew is equally obligated to uphold their Mitzvot. We don't hire the rabbi to serve G-d for us, rather to help us serve G-d by ourselves. The Mitzvot here are meant for every Jew equally. For this reason it was said to everyone equally.
HOLY Mackerel
Now that we're all together, Hashem says these famous words......
because I, Hashem your G-d, am holy."

Wow... but what does that mean? Does this mean I can't eat or play basketball? Or does this mean I can't eat a cheeseburger? Holiness is very hard to understand (and even harder to attain). Certainly it means we can't act immorally, against the standards Hashem set for His holy nation. It can also mean that within the permitted areas which the Torah permits us, not to go crazy and overindulge. Hashem wants us to eat Kosher food and enjoy it, but not to push to get to the food and stuff our faces as if we've been starving for days. A holy person eats in moderation (and with a fork & knife). The point is, don't eat like an animal.

When a person tries to live a life of holiness, Hashem in turn, helps the person achieve this.


The Torah continues and states; "A person must show his parents awe (a respectful fear which sends a message that the child is not equal to the parents) but keep the Shabbos, I am Hashem your G-d." Let's understand this Passuk. First we'll discuss the Mitzvah of Yirah (awe) regarding parents.

When discussing this Mitzvah, keep in mind that Yirah will prohibit us from certain activities, whereas the Mitzvah of Kavod (honor) obligates us to act a certain way. In other words, these dinim- laws will be what not to do.

A child is not permitted to :

  1. 1- Call a parent by name or refer to their name. For example; "My mother's name is Sarah."
  2. 2- Sit in a parent's seat. For example; The seat which your father sits in regularly, either at home or in his office.
  3. 3- Contradicting or arguing with a parent. For example; "No way mom, it's his turn to clean off the table." "The test was last week, not today."

Now we'll discuss the Mitzvah of keeping the Shabbos. This too is a Mitzvah which tells us what we are not allowed to do. In the 10 Commandments, we learned about remembering the Shabbos. We remember it by doing. We keep it by refraining from doing (the 39 'Melachot' - creative actions which we refrain from). Now, what is the connection between being in awe of parents and keeping the Shabbos? For one thing, we should realize that our obedience towards our parents is a result of Hashem's command of Yirah towards them. Hashem tells us to obey their word, so long as it does not go against His word.

Also, the Shabbos is the declaration that Hashem commanded the world. Listening to our parents is the declaration that they created us.


The next Mitzvah states; "Do not turn to idols... I am Hashem your G-d."
What does this have to do with the previous Passuk?
We must show awe to our parents because they brought you into this world. There are 3 partners who are responsible for you being alive, your mother, father and Hashem. We must be loyal to our G-d too. After all, He is responsible for creating them.
A professor of Mathematics wanted his son to leave Yeshiva to begin his career. The son was learning in the Yeshiva of the great Rav Moshe Feinstein, The boy's parents met with the sage to discuss the matter. Rav Moshe explained to the parents how important it is for the boy to continue his successful learning experience a little more before he leaves the Yeshiva. The father supported his opinion by the Torah concept of following the majority. "The Gomorrah says that there are 3 partners who create a person. My wife and I are of the opinion that he leaves Yeshiva now. You are of G-d's opinion that he stays a little longer. Since we follow the majority, it's 2 to 1 in our favor, so he leaves." Rav Moshe confidently turned to the mathematician and said, "Every person is made by a mother, father and Hashem, as you said. So let's look at the each of us as 3 parts (9 all together). I count as 3, and say it's premature for him to leave Yeshiva. You and your wife are 3 parts each, Hashem being a third of you both. Therefore, a third of you and a third of your wife (representing Hashem) says he stays. That makes it (3+1+1=5) five parts say he stays against 4 parts which says he leaves. If you choose to go after the majority, he should stay." The boys father saw how the Torah is the greatest tool for the mind, by the way Rav Moshe proved him wrong using math, the subject of the father's expertise. He allowed his son to continue learning.
Once again, we see following the Mitzvah, the words "I am Hashem your G-d."
The 3 times the Torah says this teaches us a beautiful lesson. There are some great Jews who have a relationship with Hashem through their life of holiness. The Torah refers to them by saying,
"Be holy for I am Your holy G-d."
Other Jews aren't on that level, but they still have a relationship with Hashem due to the basic Mitzvot they keep such as respecting parents and keeping the Shabbos. The Torah refers to them by saying
"Respect your parents and keep the Shabbos, I am Hashem you G-d."
Yet there are still other Jews who unfortunately left the way of Torah and don't even practice Mitzvot. Their only connection to Hashem is the mere fact they do not believe in idol worship. To them too Hashem says, "Do not turn to idols, I am Hashem your G-d." Even they are addressed by the Torah to keep the basic faith in Hashem.


Hashem considers Himself the G-d of every Jew. We daven that every Jew considers Hashem their G-d.

Another Mitzvah we learn deals with sacrifices. When the Kohain sacrifices the animal, he cannot have in mind to eat or burn the sacrifice at a time which it's forbidden. Similarly, he cannot have in mind to eat it or burn it in a place which is normally forbidden to eat it or burn it. These two thoughts will disqualify the Korbon and eating from it is a serious transgression. This will only take effect if all the other aspects of the Korbon were done correctly. Perhaps we can learn a valuable
The seriousness of this improper thought is dependent upon the Korbon being sacrificed properly. If it wasn't, the improper thought takes no effect. The greater a person is, the more careful he must be to live up to his level. Tzaddikim have to be sure to maintain a higher standard of spirituality.
If I daydream during Davening, it's understandable and doesn't effect my Davening as it would if the 'Bobover Rebbe' daydreamed. A Korbon which everything has been done correctly, will be ruined with an incorrect thought. Also, this really shows how Hashem desires our intentions, besides our actions. Wherever your mind is, that's where you are. If you intend to do a Mitzvah, it's as good as done. If you are picturing Yerushalayim while you daven, it is there that you're standing (and that's without even buying a ticket).
When Davening was over in the Shul of Rav Levi Yitzchok from Berdichev, he went over to the people and greeted them with a hearty 'Shalom Aleichem - welcome.' The people were confused why the Tzaddik acted like they just arrived from a trip. He explained to them, "You were davening Shmonah Esrei thinking about your business deal in that country, and the meeting you have in the other village etc... Now that you all returned, is it not appropriate to greet you and welcome you back?"


The Torah is so sensitive to the difficult situations people find themselves in. Let's learn about the fringe benefits of the poor. The corner of a person's field is left over for the poor people to reap the benefits. This Mitzvah is called Payah (maybe because it's the way we pay- a poor person).
When the grains are being collected and one or two drop, they must be left on the ground for the poor. This would also apply to the 1 or 2 grapes which fall. Even the individual grapes which grow without a cluster, must be left. This is a grape system to support the poor without them having to beg. Of course he has to pick up on the opportunity which lays in front of him.


Even though we must be easygoing with our possessions and give to the poor, we must be strict when it comes to other people's possessions. We are not allowed to take anything of someone else's, unless we were given specific permission. We tend to 'borrow' from people, thinking that the owner doesn't mind. We cannot assume that. Other Mitzvot taught here is the prohibition of holding back the wages ($) of a person since he might need it. Swearing falsely is also mentioned here. I guess it's a form of stealing by way of using Hashem's name in a way which it wasn't intended.

The last Mitzvah we'll discuss is one of my favorites. "Do not put a stumbling block in front of a blind person." This means that we must not confuse or misdirect people. This would include giving someone the wrong information or even the wrong advice. This is also a type of mistreating others' belongings, namely a person's mind. Fooling someone is taking their ability to reason away. Let's be the type of people who act with respect and caring for our fellow Jews. The Torah wants us to feel that we're all one unit, working together for a common cause.



A judge is warned against perverting justice. A Dayan (judge) is in a powerful position. This must not be abused. A judge cannot side with a poor person who has a claim against a rich person, simply to allow the poor guy a chance to live a decent life. If the poor person is wrong, the judge must administer the judgment against him, despite the compassionate feelings he might have.

Similarly, if an important person comes to Bait Din, a judge mustn't have the attitude of, "How can I possible cause this guy such embarrassment by stating his guilt. Perhaps I should show him favor." Hashem has the 'job' of ensuring that all living creatures have enough to live on. We don't need to do His job. We must do our job of bringing the word of Hashem into this world.


Judging by the way it looks, we'll have to learn about another Mitzvah. Rav Chaim Shmuelevitz said before Rosh HaShanah, that the most powerful guarantee to come to the Day of judgment successfully, is to perform this Mitzvah.

The Torah not only warns a judge to judge with righteousness, but also warns us to judge another Jew with righteousness. There are many situations which we observe and draw conclusions. We are taught to judge the involved person in his favor. Even if it really seems like the person is wrong, we are not to assume that, on the contrary, we are to assume there is a justification. This is certainly hard to do. We tend to assume that we know all there is to know, but there is a lot going on that we can not know. Let me give you some examples which are all true

Rav Levi Yitzchok from Berdichev ("the Berdichever") saw a man outside of Shul during Davening, wearing his Tallit and T'fillin, oiling the wheels of his buggy. Whereas a lesser person would look down on him, assuming he was 'cutting out' of Davening to get a head start on his workday, while disregarding the holiness of his Tallit and T'fillin (which was probably the case). The Berdichever looked towards heaven and said; "Ribbono Shel Olam- Master of the world, look at your wonderful children, even while oiling the wheels of his buggy, this man wears his Tallit and T'fillin."

Another time, he saw another Jew smoking on Shabbos. He approached the man and said; "My holy Brother, you are probably unaware that today is the holy Shabbos." The man replied; "No, I'm aware it's Shabbos." The Tzaddik thought for a moment and said; "You probably are not aware that smoking is prohibited on Shabbos." The man answered; "No, I know that it's not permitted to smoke on Shabbos." "Well, you probably need to smoke for health reasons, and your life would be in danger if you didn't." "I'm in perfectly good health, I smoke because I want to." At this point, Rav Levi Yitzchok was at a loss. He had no way of justifying the terrible act this Jew was doing. He looked up towards heaven and proclaimed; "Ribbono Shel Olam- Master of the world, look at your wonderful children, how after all this questioning, this Jew remains honest and doesn't lie."

This story I read about by the person involved. He tells the story of when he was in the train station, and he saw a religious man buy a 'Traif' candy bar and ate it to his heart's content. He was appalled at the blatant Aveira this 'Frum' Jew committed. While these terrible thoughts raced through his head, he saw the man take out some medical equipment, and then realized it was a for a diabetic to check his sugar intake. He realized that this man was having an attack and desperately needed sugar, so eating the first sugar food he could get his hands on, was actually a Mitzvah. He realized that the one who committed the Aveira was non other than himself.

R' Shlomo Carlebach was known as the father of modern Jewish music. He was also known for his limitless love for the Mankind, and the desire to bring unaffiliated Jews closer to Torah. He played a concert in Soviet Russia. The intensity was great, and so was the music. This was a somewhat historical concert, as it was given in a country which banned any hint of Judaism. After the concert, crowds of Jews flocked to him seeking a connection to their roots. He gave out Kippot, T'hillim, Siddurim and anything else he could find for these precious Jews. There were many more waiting, but he ran out of goods. He apologized to the disappointed crowd. Then he said; "Wait, I do have something for you. He gave one man his own T'fillin, another man, his Tzitzit. There was one boy who pleaded for something Jewish as a gift. R' Shlomo said; "What can I give you, I have given my T'fillin and my Tzitzit? The only thing I have left is my Kippa." With a smile on his face, he removed his Kippa and gave it to the boy. On his way back home, he was sitting next to a religious man on the plane. R' Shlomo asked to borrow the man's T'fillin. The man was shocked, "You don't even wear a Kippa on your head and you want to use my T'fillin?!" R' Shlomo argued and said, "But T'fillin is a Mitzvah from the Torah, whereas a Kippa is not as important." After giving several Halachic proofs to his argument, the man realized that his bareheaded neighbor, knows a lot more than it seems. R' Shlomo never told the man the reason for not having any religious articles, he simply said, "You never know, you never know!"

This is the point- you really never know. Only Hashem knows. We are to assume the best and remember that the way we judge people, is the way they judge us. I'll tell you a secret, we know about a lot of things we've done wrong in our time. We worry about the way Hashem judges those actions. If you want Hashem to give you the benefit of the doubt, give Hashem's children (the Jewish people) the benefit of the doubt.

Did you ever meet someone whose greatest pleasure is spreading around stories about other people? You have? What's their name? No- I don't want to know. The Torah wants us to feel responsible for our fellow Jews, not to spread gossip about them. If we saw someone drowning, we would certainly jump in to save their life. Let's not try to destroy someone's life by talking about them. If we feel hatred towards someone, we don't tell other people about it. We approach that person and talk to him and tell him what's on your heart. The Torah doesn't want us to bottle up these feelings, lest they grow worse and worse. We are taught to speak them out in a constructive way and resolve them with the other guy. If someone wronged us, we must talk it out with him. Similarly, if someone wrongs himself, or another person, or we must consider the possibility of pointing this out to him. If you see a friend eating non Kosher food, you must find a constructive way of telling him. You would do the same if you saw an unhealthy person eating unhealthy food. We must care for each other. If you can point out a wrongdoing to someone without embarrassing him, and he feels you are doing it out of love and care, do it.

There are people who might think that pointing out someone's faults means rubbing in the fact that someone wronged you. This is certainly not so. If someone refused to do you a favor, don't try to teach him a lesson by denying him a favor in return. This is revenge. Then there might be a guy who will do the favor in return, while saying "I'm not like you, I will do you the favor." Don't 'stick it to him.' We would want someone to provide us with our needs, lend a hand (or ear) and treat our belongings with care. The way we would like to be valued, is the way we are to value someone else. This is what the Torah teaches us; “V'Ahavta L'Rei'acha KaMocha” Just like you love yourself and want the best for yourself, love your fellow Jew and want the best for them. It's hard to love another person as yourself, after all, he's got lots of faults. I got news for you, so do you. You find ways of loving yourself despite these faults, you can find ways of loving the other guy, despite his faults.


It's sad to say, but not everything mixes. Oil and water don't mix (ever wonder why tuna is either in oil or water?) We all know that business and pleasure don't mix, man & women in Shul don't mix. And even Bacardi Rum, which mixes with everything, doesn't mix with driving. There's certainly nothing wrong with any of these items individually, but somehow, there are things which are not meant to be mixed. The Torah lists several pairs which may not be mixed. For instance: Two species of animals may not be crossbred to produce another type of animal. Nor may two types of seeds be grafted to produce a different type of plant. There are two types of materials which are not allowed to be woven together and worn by us. These are 1- wool and 2- linen. Although Hashem didn't reveal to us in the Torah the reason for not mixing two materials, there are a couple of interesting facts about them.

1- There are those who say that when Kayin & Hevel brought their respective offerings to Hashem, Kayin brought the flax grown from the ground, while Hevel brought from the finest of sheep, its' wool. We know how that joint effort ended. Kayin killed Hevel which left him disAbled.

2- Everything which is grown in this world, has a spiritual parallel in the higher spiritual worlds. Sort of like a function on the computer. You hit the 'Shift' button on the keyboard, which triggers off a message in the 'brain' of the computer, interpreting it into the language of the computer. A blade of grass is similar to a key on the computer. It's connected to a whole other language which exists in a place we cannot see. Just as the 'Alt' button and the 'F4' button together may ruin your file, so too mixing two types of seeds or fibers might also cause a ruination.

© 1998 by R' Matis Friedman, H.A.F.T.R.
R' Matis Friedman's email address is shprophets@aol.com

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