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Past Weekly Shabbat Message
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Jewish Heritage
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Rabbi Dovid Saks
DIRECTOR
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(Torah Portion Devorim) We Are One!

There are three defining characteristics of a Jew; they are compassionate, self-conscious and perform acts of loving kindnesses. As we are glued to the news regarding the developments in our brethren’s war with Hamas, we are astonished and amazed by the way Israel is conducting themselves in the midst of war. They grant warnings before they bomb, and are sensitive to avoid civilian casualties as much as possible. This conduct is worlds apart from the way Hamas is fighting, whose wishes are to terrorize and obliterate Israel’s society as a whole. Some may argue that Israel’s compassion is misguided considering the way Hamas is fighting. The bottom line is, it is a consequence of the compassion that is so ingrained within our very fiber and genes.

In this week’s portion, Moshe reminisces about the experiences the Jewish nation went through during their sojourn in the desert.

Moshe speaks about the war the Jews fought against the giant Og and his people. The Talmud and Medrash fill us in with some fascinating details of this war. Og was very old and gigantic with astounding physical strength. The Talmud relates that in a fit of rage at the Jewish people, he lifted a mountain in order to cast it on the Jewish nation and bury them alive. Moshe took a stone and reciting a special name of G-d, incapacitated Og from being able to harm the Jews. Moshe was given the order and ability to kill Og.

The Medrash relates that when the Jews were confronted with the threat of Og, they called out, “Cursed are the hands of this evil person.” Interestingly, when the Jew-hating Amorite nation witnessed Moshe disabling Og, they called out, “Blessed are Moshe’s hands!” Commentators explain that the Amorites were impressed with Moshe’s response to Og because Moshe could have easily used his Divinely inspired abilities to push Og and the mountain he was holding towards the Amorites causing destruction. However, Moshe only took care of the threat at hand and eliminated Og and his people as he was instructed. The Amorites recognized Moshe’s restraint and blessed his hands.

Today, sadly, because of their contorted and deep-rooted bias and hate towards Israel and the Jews, very few express, ‘Blessed is this nation who shows its restraint.’

Which Jew hasn’t been praying for G-d’s protection and assistance during this conflict and war? The life of every fallen soldier is a potential world snuffed out. Our heart aches whether or not we identify with them politically or religiously. The fact is, war and a common threat, unites us together and brings out our sincerity and deep rooted care and concern for each other.

This Shabbos is called, ‘Shabbos Chazone.” The name is taken from the first word of the Haftorah, ‘Chazone Yishayahu’ – the vision of Isaiah. This Haftorah is always chanted on the Shabbos before the sad day of Tisha B’Av. The prophet chastises us to examine our ways, feelings, thoughts and deeds. Chazone means a vision, but is can also mean an outlook. Isaiah tells us to re-evaluate our outlook on how we view others, how we regard our observances and how we speak about and treat others.

War (unfortunately) brings out the best in us. The incredible and magnificent amount of kindnesses that is being afforded to the grieving families, the wounded, and the families having loved ones serving, is astounding! Our Chazone – outlook and attitude during this time is changing – for the good. May all that is being done serve as a merit that G-d should continue to watch over us!

I came across a Medrash that will enhance our appreciation of the Holy day of Shabbos. The verse tells us that Shabbos, “Is an everlasting bond between G-d and the Jewish people.”

Based on this, a non-Jew is forbidden to observe the Shabbos in its entirety, since it is established as a bond exclusively between G-d and us. The Medrash gives the following analogy: If a king went to speak privately with his bride, what would be the consequence to the person who would interrupt the intimate meeting?
Says the Medrash, Shabbos is our private meeting with G-d, and it is to the exclusion of everyone else!

Our sensitivities, care and value of the holy Shabbos sets the tone of how intimate, dear and friendly our relationship is with G-d.

No matter what level of Shabbos observance one has reached, there is always room for growth. Chazone – look beyond, by possibly embracing its sanctity a bit more. Consider this refrain, “Can’t this wait until after Shabbos!”

The Malbim points out that G-d designated the Shabbat – seventh day of the week as a special day associated with the Jews through an everlasting bond. If you take a look at the major religions, their day of rest was never established on Saturday; it is either on Friday or Sunday. That is because the Shabbos is a continuous bond between Hashem and us - forever!

Wishing you a blessed, uplifting and peaceful Shabbos!
Rabbi Dovid and Malki Saks and family