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Devar Torah from Rabbi Sasson .

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Vezot Hab'racha

Parashat "Beresheet"

Becoming the People We are Meant to Become 

The Midrash tells that the scholars of Athens once approached Rabbi Yehoshua with two white pieces of cheese. They told the Rabbi that although these two pieces of cheese looked identical, one was made from milk taken from a white goat, and the other from milk taken from a black goat. The scholars challenged Rabbi Yehoshua to identify which piece came from each kind of goat.


Rather than answer their question, Rabbi Yehoshua brought the scholars two outwardly identical eggs. He told them that one came from a black hen, and the other from a white hen. The scholars did not respond, and the conversation ended.


Undoubtedly, there is a deep message which the Midrash here seeks to convey. Indeed, some have explained the Greek scholars' question as addressing the Jewish People's special status as G-d's treasured nation. This exchange occurred at a time when the Jews were not committed to Torah observance, and acted in a manner similar to the lifestyle of the other nations. 


The scholars thus asked Rabbi Yehoshua why there was any difference between his nation and theirs. The two peoples were more or less the same, just like cheese produced from the milk of different kinds of goats. 


The nations' pasts are very different from one another, but right now, they are the same. And thus just as there is no difference between the cheeses, there is likewise no difference between the Jews and the Greeks.

Rabbi Yehoshua responded that the proper analogy is not two cheeses, but rather two eggs. The two eggs look identical, but once the shell cracks and the chicks are born, it will become clear which egg came from a black hen and which from a white hen. Similarly, although the Jewish Nation might currently resemble the other nations, eventually, once we manage to rid ourselves of our outer "shell" and return to our roots and origins, it will become clear that we are special, the descendants of Abraham, Yishak and Yaakob. Despite our appearance in the present, one day we will show how we are, in truth, worthy of our special status of distinction.

Shabbat Shalom


Parashat "Noakh"

Did Noah see Abraham?

Are there six or seven continents?



Last week we read Parashat Beresheet. That parasha covers over 1500 years - starting with the creation of the world and Adam until Noah for a total of ten generations.


This Parasha starts with Noah’s generation and ends with Abraham (who was born 1948 years after creation!) for a total of ten generations.


If we simply calculate the years from creation until the end of this Parasha, we find the following amazing facts: (counting begins on the day of creation)

-          Adam died in 930

-          Methuselah was born in 687 and died

          seven days before the flood in 1656

-          Noah was born in 1056

-          The flood started in 1656

-          Abraham was born in 1948

-          Noah died in 2006


From these facts we figure out that:

-          Methuselah learned from Adam for 243 years (930-687)!

-          Noah learned from Methuselah for 600 years (1656-1056)!

-          Abraham learned from Noah for 58 years (2006-1948)!

     Also, Noah in Hebrew is written with the letters ‘Nun’ and ‘Khet’.  The numerical value of these letters is: ‘Nun’ = 50 and ‘Khet’ = 8, total of 58. Noah and Abraham saw each other for 58 years – the same number as the numeric value of Noah’s name.  Amazing!

-          Abraham was the fourth-hand witness to creation! (Adam, Methuselah, Noah).


Here is a ‘hint’ from last week’s Parasha:

“In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth”

Earth: The Continents are Africa, Antarctica, Asia, Australia, Europe, and America (North and South). In Hebrew: אפריקה, אנטארטיקה, אסיה, אוסטרליה, אירופה, אמריקה

Amazing: All continents start with the Hebrew letter ALEF. And indeed in the first verse of Beresheet there are SIX ALEFS…..

בראשית ברא אלקים את השמים ואת הארץ


Our sages tell us that “Everything is in the Torah”.  We just need to ‘open’ our eyes and ‘see’.

Shabbat Shalom

Rabbi Sasson


Parashat "Lech-Lecha"

Changing Your Mazal (Luck) Is It Possible? 

How many times do we think 'things are not going the way we want'? We have all heard the phrase "I have no Mazal' - I have no Luck. Can we do something about it?


Our sages (in the Gemara Rosh Hashannah 17) tell us that there are five things that can change a person's Mazal - luck. Two of them are mentioned in this week's Parasha:  

Lech Lecha.


1.    Giving Tzedaka - Charity.

By giving charity one shows that he cares about  others and is willing to share from his own money and help others. Once one does this, there is a better chance that the court of heaven will 'review his case' again and change the decree to a better one.

Our sages learn this from the Pasuk - verse (Proverbs 10,2): "Charity will (even) save from (a decree of) death".


2.    Tse'a'ka -  'Screaming' .

Pray from the bottom of your heart. Not just  regular prayer, but prayer that comes from your entire body and the soul inside you.

Our Sages learn this from the Pasuk - verse (Tehilim - Psalms 107,6): "And they (People of Israel) cried out to HaShem in their distress; from their straits He rescued them".


3. Changing (or adding) a name.

In this Parasha, HaShem changes Abram's name to AbraHam and Saray's name to SaraH.  

Our sages tell us that Abram and Saray could not have children, However, Abraham and Sarah could.  

Also when a person is very sick, many times Rabbis will suggest adding the name "Hayim" or "Refael" to the original name.


4.    Changing one's actions (making Teshuva - repenting). Our sages learned this from the people of Nineveh as written in the book of Jonah. (Jonah 3,10): "And HaShem saw their actions, that they had repented of their evil ways, and HaShem relented concerning the evil that He had spoken to do to them, and He did not do it".


5.   Moving to a new place.

In this week's Parasha Abraham is commanded to leave his homeland and go to the promised land - Israel (Canaan at that time).

Our sages learned this from the Pasuk - verse (Genesis 12, 1-2): "And HaShem said to Abram, "Go forth from your land and from your birthplace and from your father's house, to the land that I will show you". By leaving his birthplace Hashem was able to "make you (Abram) into a great nation, and I will bless you, and I will aggrandize your name, and [you shall] be a blessing".


Giving Charity, praying and repenting are powerful tools that can be done by oneself without consulting anyone. However, one should be careful not to take on the third and fifth suggestions and make a major life change without consulting a Rabbi.

May HaShem bless us with 'Good Luck' always.

Shabbat Shalom

Rabbi Sasson



Parashat: Va'yera

A Test!? Was it necessary?

One of the most spectacular stories in the Torah is the “Akedat Yitzhak” where Hashem tells Abraham to ‘sacrifice’ his own son. 


Our Rabbis have asked countless questions about this: Why did Hashem test Avraham when He knew the future and the outcome of Avraham’s actions?  For that matter, why would Hashem test any person in order to prove something when He is all-knowing?  In addition, why did Hashem make Avraham suffer emotionally and spiritually when He knew that Avraham would withstand the test?


Rambam gives us an answer to the first question.  He says that Avraham loved his son more than anything else in the world but when Hashem commanded him to sacrifice his son, Avraham immediately ran to fulfill Hashem’s command.  However, Hashem made Avraham, Yitzchak and his two servants walk for three days to give Avraham time to properly consider and think over the idea of sacrificing his son.  In this way, Hashem’s command became a genuine mitzvah in that Avraham’s actions came from his intellect and not from his instincts or emotions.  The purpose behind testing Avraham in Akedat Yitzchak was to show us, through what is considered the most difficult request and heart wrenching decision in Jewish history, the extent to which one must fear and love G-d without any desire for reward.


Rav Saadia Gaon said that the word “nissah”  - tested, hints that Hashem wanted to show all the future generations how amazing Avraham was.  He didn’t even want Avraham’s servants there to witness the event so that no one would think that it was done in order to educate or influence only Avraham’s servants.   The event was seen by no one in order to teach and influence everyone.


Rav Yitzchak Arama or the Ba’al Akedat Yitzchak has a similar opinion.  He adds that Akedat Yitzchak was an event that everyone has heard about as if every Jew was there to witness Avraham’s faith in Hashem during his tenth and final test.

Finally, Abarbanel adds that Akedat Yitzchak was for the good of the whole world and taught mankind a lesson.  The word “nissah”-tested, comes from the word “nes”- miracle, that showed the world Avraham’s complete

faith in Hashem and set an example for the whole world to follow.


Avraham’s test or experience at Akedat Yitzchak was unique  and beyond any normal experience; but with regard to regular everyday nisyonot- Tests, Hashem tests every single person on  their own level, in their own way.  With this in mind, may we be zochim to fully realize our potential and use these tests to elevate us spiritually towards Hashem! 



Shabbat Shalom,

Rabbi Sasson


Parashat "Khayei-Sarah"

The Cave of Machpelah

Abraham had a long conversation with Efron and the Hittites in order

to purchase the Cave of Machpelah to bury his beloved wife Sarah.
Let us look at two questions on this topic:

One: Abraham lived in Beer-Sheba, in the southern part of Israel.
However, the Cave of Machpelah is in Hebron which is 30 miles northeast of Beer-Sheba. Why would Abraham travel so far away to bury Sarah's body?

Two: With all the available places in the Promised Land, why would Abraham choose this particular place?

As we learned in last week's Parasha, Abraham lived in Beer-Sheba.
Our sages explain that Sarah was told that Abraham had taken Yitzhak - Isaac, to sacrifice him to God. Sarah started walking around and asked people if they had seen Abraham and Yitzhak in the area. 

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She ended up in Hebron where Ahiman, Sheshai and
Talmai (the three giant brothers) lived. Sarah asked them to help her search for her son. Sarah died in Hebron.


Abraham came back to Beer-Sheba from the Temple Mount and was told that Sarah had left to search for him and Yitzhak. Abraham went to Hebron and found Sarah's body there.

With regard to the second question, why did Abraham specifically choose the Cave of Machpelah to bury Sarah?

Our sages tell us that the name Machpelah, comes from the Hebrew word: Kaful - double, for the four couples (or doubles) that are buried there: Adam and Eve, Abraham and Sarah, Yitzhak and Rivkah, Yaakov and Leah. (Some say that Esav's (Yaaakov's brother's) head, is buried there as well).


Also, this place has a special smell - like the Garden of Eden.
Furthermore the entrance to the Cave of Machpelah faces the Garden of Eden.

We all know the end of the story. Abraham bought the Cave of Machpelah "B'kesef Maleh" - for full price. The Cave of Machpelah is a holy place to Jews and Muslims as well.

We all wish and pray daily for the help of our forefathers Abraham, Yitzhak and Yaakov to stand in front of HaShem and pray to stop the evil and the terror against their children.

Shabbat Shalom

Rabbi Sasson

Parashat "Toledot"

To lie or not to lie? That is the question!

Yaakov came to his father - Yitzchak, to receive the blessings intended for Eisav.

After arguing with his mother, Rivka, who wanted him to receive the blessings, Yaakov finally agreed. He tried to procrastinate but finally participated in the charade.

He deceived his father into giving him the blessings by saying: "It is I, Eisav your firstborn". (Gen. 27:19).

At first glance Yaakov's statement seems like a lie. It looks as if Yaakov said: I am Eisav your first born.

Many commentators have asked if Yaakov indeed lied to his father.

If we look carefully at the tropes that go along with the words, we read it this way: Anochi - It is me! (Yaakov, but),  

Eisav Bechorecha - Eisav is your first born! The tropes separate the word "Anochi - it is me" from the words: "Eisav Bechorecha - Eisav is your first born". 

It was very hard and almost impossible for Yaakov to lie. He was not a person to use such methods to get things in life. However, he was between a rock and a hard place. His mother  commanded him to get the blessing.  She explained the importance of the opportunity and why he should take it.  She explained: 

1.    Yaakov was conceived first. Rashi explains that if you put two eggs into a cup, the first one in is the last one out! That was Yaakov! He was conceived first and came out last.

2.    Eisav sold the first born 'title' to Yaakov.

Indeed these explanations are convincing. But even if Yaakov did not agree with these explanations, his mother commanded him and he was obligated to listen!

On the other hand he did not want to lie to his father. He was obligated to respect him too.

In addition, he feared his brother's reaction.

So, when his father asked him: "who are you my son"?

Yaakov ambiguously answered: "It is me. Eisav - your first born". It is me (Yaakov). However, Eisav - is your first born. As for the question "Are you  

my son Eisav"? Yaakov answers: "It is me". Me - Yaakov.

Rivka, Yaakov's mother, knew the power of a father's blessing. She wanted to assure that the "right" son would receive the blessing. In her eyes, Yaakov was definitely the right son to receive the blessings and she would do everything to make it happen.

May HaShem bless us with all the blessings that Abraham, Yitzhak and Yaakov bestowed upon their children -  the blessings that their children have passed on for generations and generations until our generation today.

Shabbat Shalom

Rabbi Sasson

Parashat "Vayetze"



May HaShem help us make every effort to use our secret weapons, our language and speech, for only good and in this way  bring only positive things into our lives.


Shabbat Shalom

Rabbi Sasson



Parashat: Vayigash

Harnessing the Chariot


We read in this week's Parasha about the meeting between Yoseph and his father Yaakov after not having seen each other for 22 years.

"And Joseph (himself) harnessed his chariot". Did he not have many servants?  Of course he had many servants, but he did so in honor of his father. He wanted full credit for the Mitzvah of honoring his father.

Our sages tell us that: Four (people) "harnessed" with joy:

  1. Abraham - (Beresheet 22:3) "And Abraham rose early in the morning (for the binding of Isaac), and he saddled his ass." Now did he not have many servants? Of course he had many servants, but he did so for the honor of Hashem. This is also why he did it with joy, as we are commanded to serve Hashem with joy.

  2. Yoseph - (Beresheet 46:29) "And Joseph (himself) harnessed his chariot." Did he not have many servants? Of course he had many servants, but he did so in honor of his father. He did it with joy, not even thinking about his honor as second to the king. At that moment there was an opportunity to perform a Mitzvah -  a special mitzvah for the father that he hadn't seen in 22 years.  He definitely wanted to harness the donkey by himself.

  3. Bilam - (Bamidbar 22:21) "And Bilam arose in the morning and (himself) saddled his ass" (to go with the emissaries of Balak.) Bilam was the complete opposite of Abraham. Although he harnessed his own donkey it was for a totally different reason. Now did he not have many servants? Of course he had many servants, but he was in a hurry to do something evil. He was going to curse and cause damage to the people of Israel.

  4. Pharaoh (Shemot 14:6) "And he (Pharaoh) harnessed his chariot": He himself. It is the way of kings to stand while others equip their chariot and harness it, but here the wicked Pharaoh himself harnessed and equipped it. Now did he not have many servants? Of course he had many servants, but he was in a hurry to do something evil. He was going on a mission to destroy the Nation of Israel. And when the Egyptian nobles saw this, all of them arose and did the same.

Our sages conclude by saying: Let the "saddling" of Abraham come, who went to do the will of Hashem and oppose the "saddling" of Bilam, who went to curse Israel. Let the "harnessing" of Joseph come and oppose the "harnessing" of the wicked Pharaoh, who went to pursue Israel.


From Abraham and Yoseph we learn to do Mitzvot with joy and for the sake and  honor of Hashem. From Bilam and Pharaoh we learn to avoid hurrying to do any sin; on the contrary, we need to pause, think and delay. Think and re-think in order not to fall into the hands of the bad inclination.

Every day is a new day with new tasks, new missions, new obstacles to overcome and new battles between the good inclination (Abraham and Yoseph) and the bad inclination (Bilam and Pharaoh). However every day is a new day that Hashem gave us to appreciate and we should do it with joy.

Every day we should "harness" our chariot (our soul and body) before we do anything, so we can be sure that we are doing only good for ourselves, for our surroundings, for our family members and friends and most of all for Hashem.

May Hashem help us to win the battle towards the good inclination so we can do more Mitzvot and hurry the coming of Mashiah. Amen.


Shabbat Shalom,

Rabbi Sasson

Parashat "xx"



May HaShem help us make every effort to use our secret weapons, our language and speech, for only good and in this way  bring only positive things into our lives.


Shabbat Shalom

Rabbi Sasson

Parashat "Tazria-Metzora"

The Power of Speech

Every person has a special secret weapon: the power of speech. Judaism teaches us that talking properly, without gossip or slander (even if it is the truth) - is not only the right thing to do but also the best way to protect ourselves and others from all sorts of danger and spiritual damage.

Our double Torah portion tells us how in biblical times, when the Beth Hamikdash was standing, it was G-d Who gave humans a special warning which aimed to indicate to them when they were not speaking properly. They then had the ability to correct their negative behavior before it would result in damage or disease. 


There were three warnings given a person (perhaps this is the source of 'three strikes'?), before a disease came upon him as punishment.  Each warning was an opportunity to do something ASAP before it was too late.


The first warning was a blemish or stain on the wall inside one's home.  The blemish was  a warning to say: "Watch out! Something wrong is going on. Check it out."   One would have two choices: 

1) Tell the Cohen and accept methods of repentance. Then repent and go back to normal life. 

2) Say: "it is nothing", ignore it and move on.


The second warning was a blemish or  stain on one's clothing. This stain was a warning to say: "The disease is getting closer to you.  Do something and do it fast!" If one again chose to say: "it is nothing" and moved on, then came the third warning.


The third warning was leprosy!  Leprosy hurts a person and cannot be ignored.  This third warning  definitely required action.


But nowadays, when we are so careful about what we put in our mouths but not quite so careful about what comes out, we only have ourselves and our judgement to monitor what we say.   

May HaShem help us make every effort to use our secret weapons, our language and speech, for only good and in this way  bring only positive things into our lives.


Shabbat Shalom

Rabbi Sasson


Parashat "Ki-TAvo"

"Let the old year end with its curses..".

We are now 12 days away from Rosh Hashanah.

The Rosh Hashanah service starts with the words: "Let the old year end with its curses, and let the New Year begin with its blessings".


This week's Parasha is loaded with curses and lists of punishments.  There is a reason why we want to read this Parasha before Rosh Hashanah. Ezra the prophet made the rule that we should read Parashat Ki-Tavo before Rosh Hashanah so that we end the year and any badness with it. This Parasha as well as the previous Parashot prepare us for the High Holidays.

This is one of the reasons we dip apples in honey.  It is a symbolic way of saying: "Last year was ok  but a little bitter. Hopefully this coming year will be much sweeter".

There is a custom to dip bread in honey as well (mostly in the Ashkenazi tradition). However, most of the Sephardic Rabbis will say that one must dip the bread in the salt as well as the honey.  

I dip the bread in salt first and after eating a little piece I then dip it or put some honey on the bread.  Our sages explain that our table is considered the altar and the bread is considered the sacrifice. The Torah commands us  to salt every sacrifice that comes to the altar.  That is why the custom is to always salt the bread. (There are a few additional reasons as well.)


Another custom that is  very common is to bake round challahs for Rosh Hashanah. The idea is that the year is 'round'  and  we are once again back at Rosh Hashanah, a new beginning which is hopefully sweeter and better than last year.


The Rosh Hashanah Seder

Most Sephardic (from North Africa and Spain) and Mizrahi (Eastern) families don't actually eat meal during the meal until they have recited many blessings in the context of a special Rosh Hashanah seder


The seder consists of symbolic foods that represent our wishes for the new year.

It is called a "Seder Rosh Hashanah" OR "seder yehi ratzon" (may it be God's will that...)," because we ask God to guide us and provide us with bounty, strength and peace in the year ahead. Many of the foods are blessed with puns on their Hebrew names that turn into hopes that our enemies will be destroyed. The 'enemies' are not necessarily people with swords and weapons to harm us.  They are symbols of the 'prosecutors' that will appear in court on Rosh Hashanah - the day of judgment, to testify against us, for we did not keep the Torah's commandments. We ask Hashem, our God, to hear all of our prayers and bless us with a good, prosperous, healthy, wealthy and sweet year to come. AMEN.



click here to download "Rosh Hashannah seder"



Shabbat Shalom

Rabbi Sasson



The last Shabbat of the year 

This Shabbat is the last Shabbat of the year 5776.


This week's Parasha is “Nitzavim”, which translates to: Stand up / Pause.

The two Parashot prior to this Parasha are named: Ki-Tetzeh – when you go out, and Ki-Tavo – when you come in. We are always busy and running around from one thing to the other. Many times we are involved in a task or an action and the minute we are done with it we get involved with another task right away.

Sometimes we don’t even have the time to pause and check to make sure that what we are doing is good and necessary.  Maybe what we are doing isn’t so good or may cause us damage in the future.


Therefore, it is time to pause, to stop all the running around, take a deep breath and think about what our real goals are.  What is really necessary for us to do and what is not? What is the “Ikar” – the main important things in life, and what is the “Tafel” – the minor and un-necessary things. This is THE time of the year where we plan and prepare to do better for the next year.


This is also the time of the year to pause, think and thank all of our relatives and friends who are always around us, but are not necessarily acknowledged and appreciated all the time.


First and foremost we thank HaShem almighty, without Whose blessing and oversight in all matters of our little world nothing can live or survive.


Shanna Tova to all our friends and relatives, near and far.


Shanna Tova to the beautiful sisterhood that knows how to make every get together a memorable event.


Shanna Tova to all the volunteers that do so much to keep the synagogue clean and holy.

Shanna Tova to the President and the Board members who keep the synagogue running.


Shanna Tova to the Gabaim, Hazanim and Torah readers and to all the other congregations in the Diaspora and in Israel;


I wish you all Le’Shannah Tovah.  May you be inscribed and sealed in the book of life.

May you have a healthy and wealthy year and a year of peace and quiet from enemies.


May Hashem redeem us soon this year, AMEN.


Shabbat Shalom,

Shanah Tova

Rabbi Sasson



The Annulment Of Vows

The minhag - custom, is to do "Hatarat Nedarim" - the annulment of vows,  four times before "Yom Kippur" (for both men & women), in order to prepare ourselves for the "big day" - Yom Kippur:


Think about it:

If there was a case in court against you and you needed a lawyer, wouldn't you have a few meetings with your lawyer to iron out some issues and prepare for your court case? Wouldn't you make sure that you were presenting your best self and clear up any debts or complaints against you, so that nothing  works against you in court.  

You definitely want to come to  court  being as  'clean' as possible. You can't count on your lawyer to do it all for you....

Similarly, we  have 'Three meetings' prior to our 'court date' of Rosh Hashannah, and a fourth meeting before the final verdict on Yom Kippur.

'Hatarat Nedarim' is the annulment of vows and promises that we forgot we made or are not sure that we made.  During Hatarat Nedarim we nullify them three times before Rosh Hashanna and one  last time before Yom Kippur. Here are the times that Hatarat Nedarim is said:  


First time:  40 days before Rosh Hashanah (19 Av) 


Second time:  Erev Rosh Hodesh Elul - Rosh Hodesh Elul Eve falls on Friday September 2nd. We will do it on:  Sunday, September 4th, 2016 after Sha'harith (~10:00am)


Third time: Erev Rosh Hashanah - Rosh Hashanah Eve

Sunday, October 2nd, 2016 after Sha'harith (10:00am)  


Fourth time: Erev Yom Kippur - Yom Kippur Eve

Tuesday October 11th, 2016 after Sha'harith   (~7:45am)  


Please come join these minyamin and participate in the HataratNedarim so that you can clear your slate prior to the big day of Yom Kippur.



Shabbat Shalom,

Rabbi Sasson

Parashat Bemidbar always before Shavuot:

This Parasha is always read before the holiday of Shavuot and the message is: The Torah was given in a place which is free to stay in as it does not belong to anyone, so too the Torah is free.  Whoever wants to learn it, is welcome to.


Reading Megillat Ruth on Shavuot, Why?

(From Daily Halacha)

 It is customary to read Megillat Ruth on Shavuot and several different reasons have been given for this custom:

The Mordechi (Rav Mordechai Ben Hillel, Germany, 1250-1298), in Masechet Megilla (chapter 1), as cited by the Rama (Rav Moshe Isserles of Cracow, 1525-1572) in Darkeh Moshe (494), explains that the story of Ruth took place during the harvest season, around the time of Shavuot, and it is therefore appropriate to read this story on this holiday.


Others explain that at the time of Matan Torah, the Jewish People underwent a process of “conversion,” for like converts, they had been obligated only in the Seven Noachide Laws, and then committed themselves to the Torah’s 613 commands. (Interestingly, the Hebrew word “Gerut” has the numerical value of 620, corresponding to the 613 Biblical commands plus the seven Mitzvot instituted by the Sages.) Therefore, on the day we celebrate Matan Torah, we read the story of Ruth, which tells of Ruth’s conversion and acceptance of the Mitzvot.



Ruth performed kindness for her deceased husband by allowing his soul to be perpetuated through the process of Yibum (marrying a deceased husband’s brother in order to continue the family lineage). We read this story to remind ourselves that kindness and sensitivity to other people is part and parcel of our acceptance of the Torah.


Additionally, Megillat Ruth is a story of remarkable “Mesirut Nefesh” – self-sacrifice. Ruth was the daughter of the king of Moav, yet she was prepared to leave her life of royalty and all the amenities and luxuries it offered in order to become a Jew. This story reminds us that we need to sacrifice in order to succeed in Torah and Mitzvot. We cannot expect to excel in our devotion to Torah while enjoying all the comforts and luxuries that life offers. “Mesirut Nefesh” is an indispensable prerequisite for a successful Torah life.


Finally, the story of Megillat Ruth concludes with Ruth’s marriage to Boaz and the birth of their son, who ultimately became the grandfather of King David, who was born and passed away on Shavuot. It is thus appropriate to read this story on Shavuot, when we remember and reflect upon David Ha’melech.


“Meat” or “Dairy” meals on Shavuot?

It is customary to eat dairy meals on Shavuot. A Custom but not a must! According to our ancestors, there is no festive meal without meat (or chicken), however, on Shavuot we kind of ‘skip’ this rule. Therefore, my Minhag – custom, is to have meat for the Shavuot evening/night meals and to have dairy for the Shavuot lunch meal.


What is the source of this custom?

First: When the people of Israel came back to their tents after receiving the Torah on Mount Sinai, they were not sure as to what the new laws of meat slaughtering  were and how to kasher the meat. It would  take time to get all the details, so they ate milk products until Moshe clarified all the laws for them.


Second: Shavuot is the Holiday of receiving and accepting the Torah. The Torah is a symbol of Milk and Honey as it is said: (Shir Hashirim, 4,11): “Honey and milk are under your tongue”. Like children that yearn for their mother’s milk so too we, Hashem’s Nation, yearn to learn the sweet Torah.


Third: The word Milk, in Hebrew – is חלב  ,Halav, which is composed of the letters: Het=8, Lamed=30, Bet=2. This comes to a  total of 40, a symbol of the Torah that was given after 40 days and 40 nights. (Moses went up on Mount Sinai for 40 days and nights until he received the Torah).


Shabbat Shalom

Hag Sameah


Rabbi Sasson






Incense: A reminder of Ahdut - Unity.

Every day the Kohen Hagadol - the high priest, used to offer incense on the golden altar. The purpose of the incense was to push away evil and bad decrees.


It is interesting to find out that the incense was made from eleven spices which one of them, Khelbena - galbanum, had a terrible smell. The question that comes up is: why is a spice with very bad smell  being offered on the altar and how is it that despite galbanum's bad smell, the odor that came from the golden altar was yet so good?  In fact the Gemara writes that the aroma was so nice and strong that : (Yoma, 39, 2): "The women in Yerikho didn't need to put on perfume, because of the incense.  A bride in Jerusalem didn't need to put on perfume because of the incense."


The message is that when the people of Israel gather to pray they need to involve all types of people:  Righteous people, average people and wicked people. That is what we call Tzibur - congregation.  

In Hebrew it is written צבור - Tzibur. 


The acronym for  - צבור is

צדיקים:   Righteous,

 בינוניים:  Average,

 ורשעים : Wicked. 


Only with all kinds of people involved inthe Tefilot - will prayers be answered.


May Hashem listen to all our Tefilot and answer them quickly with peace, health and wealth for all of us. Amen.


Shabbat Shalom,

Rabbi Sasson




Parashat: Shofetim


The seven judges”.

“Judges and policemen, you shall appoint at all your gates…”

The simplicity of this pasuk – verse, is understandable and very

obvious. We need to put judges in every city to make the rules and to judge those who do not keep the rules. We also need to have policemen to police the population and make sure that the rules are being followed. Otherwise, there will be chaos.


Looking at this pasuk – verse, from a different angle, our sages tell us that every person has judges and policemen within himself. They are with him 24/7, from birth until they leave this world.

These judges and policemen are in seven parts of a person’s head:

Two Eyes: We have eyes to look, watch and examine. However,   they can also see bad and evil things. When the eye-judge sees something ‘bad’ it tells the eyelashes-police to close the gates!

Two Ears: We have ears to hear and listen and examine. However, they can also hear bad and evil things. When the ear-judge hears something ‘bad’ it tells the finger to fold the earlobe-police to close the gates!

Two Nostrils: We have a nose which smells and examines through our nostrils. However, they can also smell and sense bad things, as in the expression ‘it smells fishy’. When the nose-judge smells something ‘bad’ it tells the finger to close the nostrils-police to close the gates!

One Mouth: We have a mouth to talk (and eat). However, it can also talk and/or eat bad things. When the tongue-judge feels something ‘bad’ it can tell the teeth-police and the lips-police to close the gate!  But why does the mouth have two gates?  Because the tongue ‘is very loose’ and very quick to make a comment before the mind even comprehends what it is saying.  We are therefore given two gates to close in the tongue.


Now that we are approaching the High Holidays we definitely want to train our ‘gates’ to make sure that they do their jobs right.

 May we be zochim – worthy, to have 'our own' judges and policemen guard us and guide us to do only good.



Shabbat Shalom,

Rabbi Sasson



Parashat: Ekev

39 days before Rosh Hashannah


The Annulment Of Vows

The minhag - custom, is to do "Hatarat Nedarim" - the annulment of vows,  four times before "Yom Kippur" (for both men & women), in order to prepare ourselves for the "big day" - Yom Kippur:


Think about it:

If there was a case in court against you and you needed a lawyer, wouldn't you have a few meetings with your lawyer to iron out some issues and prepare for your court case? Wouldn't you make sure that you were presenting your best self and that you cleared up any debts or complaints against you, so that they don't work against you in court.


You definitely want to come to  court  being as  'clean' as possible. You can't count on your lawyer to do it all for you....


Similarly, we  have 'Three meetings' prior to our 'court date' of Rosh Hashannah, and a fourth meeting before the final verdict on Yom Kippur.

'Hatarat Nedarim' is the annulment of vows and promises that we forgot we made or are not sure that we made.  During Hatarat Nedarim we nullify them three times before Rosh Hashanna and one  last time before Yom Kippur. Here are the times that Hatarat Nedarim is said:


First time:  40 days before "Rosh Hashanah" 

Wednesday, August 5th, 2015

We will do it on Sunday, August 9th, after Sha'harith (~10:00am)


Second time:   Erev Rosh Hodesh Elul - Rosh Hodesh Elul Eve falls on Friday, August 14, 2015. We will do it on Friday, before Minha (7:00pm)


Third time: Erev Rosh Hashanah - Rosh Hashanah Eve

Sunday, September 13, 20154 after Sha'harith (~10:00am)  


Fourth time: Erev Yom Kippur - Yom Kippur Eve

Tuesday, September 22, 2015 before Minha (7:10pm)


Please come join these minyamin and participate in the Hatarat Nedarim so that you can clear your slate prior to the big day of Yom Kippur.




Shabbat Shalom,

Rabbi Sasson



Parashat: Matot-Mas'eh


The Wandering Jews

This week we will read a double Parasha: Matot and Mas’eh. The second Parasha talks about the 42 journeys of the people of Israel from the time they left Egypt until they entered the Holy Land. I guess this 'title' of the wandering Jews came from our ancestors who wandered in the desert for forty years.


Many questions have been asked about the fact that the people of Israel had to travel to so many places and for so many years. Questions include, why 40 years if it only takes about eleven days to walk from Egypt to Israel? Why does the Torah give us entire trip details? Is it so important to know where they went?  Why 42 places?


The actions of the spies and their negative report caused the people of Israel to have the  punishment of wandering in the desert for 40 years in parallel to the 40 days that the spies toured the Holy Land.  However, besides this reason there were more reasons to delay the Israelites for 40 years:

  • They didn't know how to act as a nation as they had been slaves for many years. By being together, under one leader, obeying the same rules and practicing Judaism together, they experienced how to live in the “free” world, how to fight for their lives and how to establish a basic and healthy economy.  Only then could they come and settle throughout the Holy Land, defend themselves, follow Jewish law and be called the nation of God.

  • There were about 5-6 million converts and only 3-4 million Israelites. They joined the Israelites because Egypt as they knew it was gone, the alternatives were not promising, and being with Moses and his people was a great opportunity. But to come to the Holy Land one needed to be pure and loyal to God and to Judaism with all of one's body and heart.  In order to do that Hashem had to make sure that no one from the “old” generation would enter the land of Israel.  It took 40 years to create a competely new generation.  Hashem wanted the youngsters who grew up in the desert and had absorbed the laws and customs from the true leaders, Moses and Aaron, to be the ones to enter into the land of Israel.


  • It was a test from God that would end by giving credit to the Israelites for all the years that they wandered in the desert not knowing where they were going each day. The fact that they followed God - their leader, was a tremendous credit to the people and the generations that followed them.


As for the details: One of the reasons that the Torah mentions the places that  the people of Israel passed through and dwelt is to remind later generations of what their ancestors did, where they did it, where they were rewarded and when they were punished.


As to the 42 journeys: There is a significant meaning to the number 42. The numerical value of the name of Hashem when extracted (“Yud” and “Hey” and “Vav” and “Hey”) is 42.  


There is a saying that everyone travels 42 journeys in this world before going to rest in peace in the true world.


May we be worthy to get to the end of the journeys and to be in the Holy Land soon.  Amen.


Shabbat Shalom,

Hodesh Tov

Rabbi Sasson


The Three weeks


This Shabbat is the 17th of Tamuz and the beginning of the “Three weeks” (between the 17th of Tamuz and the 9th of Av).


Both days, 17th of Tamuz and the 9th of Av are fasting days, but this year they fall on Shabbat, so we postpone the fast to Sunday because we are not allowed to fast on Shabbat (unless it is Yom Kippur).


Laws and customs for Sephardim

First period – Between 17th of Tamuz and Tish’ah B’Av

(Sunday July 5, 2015 (4:06am) – Sunday, July 26, 2015 (9:33pm)

  • No Weddings

  • No Music (Private listening via earphones is permissible by

           some opinions)

           (Music is allowed at Brit-Milas or Pidyons)

  • No She’He’He’Yanu (the blessing over new fruit or new

           clothes, but on Shabbat it is ok for new fruit)

  • No haircuts (this is an Ashkenazi custom, but also applies for Sephardim in the diaspora. (In Israel Sephardim refrain from getting haircuts only for the week of Tish’ah B’Av). Since the Ashkenazim are in majority in the diaspora, and a haircut is something that is obviously noticed, we do not want to be different and confuse the community. Therefore, Sephardim in the diaspora also refrain from getting haircuts from the 17th of Tamuz.

  • It is best not to travel for pleasure but for business it is ok


Second period – Between 1st of Av – (evening, since this year it falls on Friday night which is Shabbat, then this period will start Saturday night) until Tish’ah B’Av

(Saturday, July 18, 2015 (9:58pm) – Sunday, July 26, 2015 (9:33pm)

All of the above PLUS

  • No eating meat / poultry

  • No drinking wine except for on Shabbat

  • It is best not to buy anything new (furniture, clothes, etc.), and wait until the 10th of Av (unless it will not be available to buy if you wait until the 10th of Av).


Third period – the week of Tish’ah B’Av.

This year, the 9th of Av falls on Shabbat. Therefore, this year there is no “Week of Tish’ah B’Av”.

The fast is postponed to Sunday


Fourth period – the day of Tish’ah B’Av

Saturday, July 25, 2015 (9:00pm) – Sunday, July 26, 2015 (9:33pm)

  • All of the above PLUS

  • No eating / drinking as on Yom Kippur

  • No Showering / No use of water unless absolutely necessary

  • No lotion of any kind

  • No wearing leather shoes

  • No marital relations


May Hashem, Almighty, hear our prayers and send Mashiach soon so that we will dance and rejoice together in the Beth Hamikdash. 



Shabbat Shalom,

Rabbi Sasson

Parashat Shelah



At the end of this Parasha Moshe is commanded by Hashem to tell the people of Israel to make  “Tzitzit”.

דַּבֵּ֞ר אֶל־בְּנֵ֤י יִשְׂרָאֵל֙ וְאָמַרְתָּ֣ אֲלֵהֶ֔ם וְעָשׂ֨וּ לָהֶ֥ם צִיצִ֛ת עַל־כַּנְפֵ֥י בִגְדֵיהֶ֖ם לְדֹרֹתָ֑ם וְנָ֥תְנ֛וּ עַל־צִיצִ֥ת הַכָּנָ֖ף פְּתִ֥יל תְּכֵֽלֶת׃

"Speak to the Israelites and say to them: 'Throughout the generations to come, you are to make tassels on the corners of your garments, with a blue cord on each tassel’”.


What is “Tzitzit”?

The word Tzitzit means  forelock (hair). In the book of Ezekiel, the prophet said that Hashem picked him up by his forelock. From this we understand that the Tzitzit  are the strings at the end of the Tallit (the Jewish prayer shawl).


Moshe explained the following reason for Tzitzit:

By looking at the Tzitzit we remember all the Mitzvot – the commandments of the Torah. How?


The Numeric value of the word Tzitzit is 600:   

ציצית =  90+10+90+10+400=600.  If we add the 5 knots and the 8 strings that make up the tzizit it gives us 613, which remind us of the 613 Mitzvot in the Torah.


According to the Kabballah – the mystic tradition, the Talit gives inspiration to the person who wears it.  The Sephardic custom is to wear Talit beginning at 6 years of age.   The Ashkenazim wear it once a man is married.


There are many kinds and colors of Talitot: The Sephardim usually wear white Talitot and white Tzitziyot, while the Ashkenazim wear white Talitot with black or blue stripes.

Why Blue?

Chazal (our sages) said that when one looks at the blue strings it makes one think of the blue color of the sea that reflects the color of the sky which reflects from the throne of HaShem. In this way one is kept from doing sins.

There are also different Minhagim – customs, regarding how to tie  the Tzitzit:

The common Minhag is to make 39 loops as follows:

  • Two knots then,

  • 13 loops and two knots, then,

  • 11 loops and two knots, then,

  • 8  loops and two knots, then,

  • 7 loops and two knots

This gives a total of 39 loops (39=ט"ל) which is one of the numeric values of the name of HaShem.


Another custom from the kabbala (my Minhag as well), is to make 26 loops which is the numeric value of HaShem ):

  • Two knots then,

  • 10 loops and two knots, then,

  • 5   loops and two knots, then,

  • 6   loops and two knots, then,

  • 5   loops and two knots

For a total of 26 loops.


<< Sephardim make each loop with a special tie,

while the Ashkenazim >> make a straight loop.


 The Israeli flag is based on the idea of the Tallit.

The Flag of Israel was adopted on October 28, 1948, five months after the establishment of the State of Israel. It depicts a blue Star of David on a white background, between two horizontal blue stripes.

The flag was designed for the Zionist Movement in 1891. The basic design recalls the Ashkenazi Tallit, the Jewish prayer shawl, which is white with blue stripes.

May HaShem grant us a healthy and wealthy life to wear a real halachic Tallit in the Beth Hamikdash, soon, Amen.



Shabbat Shalom,

Hodesh Tov

Rabbi Sasson


Parashat Be'ha'alotcha



Opening the Ark – a great honor

Removing and returning the Torah to and from the Ark are among the most ceremonial parts of the service. The honor of opening and closing the Ark is called: Petihat HaHeichal” or “Petiha”.  In most congregations, these two honors are combined and given to one congregant.


It is customary to give this honor to a husband whose wife is in her ninth month of pregnancy. And when there is a Simha (Shabbat, wedding, birth, bar-mitzvah), it is customary to give this honor to the oldest family member such as a grandfather or great uncle.


The Zohar book states that when the Ark is open, the gates of heaven are open and this is the best time to ask HaShem for all of our needs.

When the Ark is open, the congregation rises out of respect. When the Torah is taken from the Ark, there is a procession. The Torah is carried around the synagogue and people reach out to kiss it. On Shabbat and holidays, the ritual starts with the recitation of several biblical and Talmudic verses, out loud and in unison.

Sephardic and Hasidic congregations begin with the words "ata horaita lada'at, ki HaShem hu Ha'Elokim, ain od milvado" (You have been made to recognize that the Lord is God; there is none besides him). In Ashkenazi custom, these verses begin with the phrase "ein kamocha baElohim HaShem v'ain k'maasecha" (There is none like Thee among the gods, O Lord, and there are no works like Thine).

When the hazzan (prayer leader) begins "Vayehi binsoa" (When the ark would travel), the person who is honored with the “Petiha” opens the Ark doors. If it is a weekday, he immediately takes out the Torah.

If it is Shabbat, he waits until after the prayer "Brikh shmei" (Blessed is the Name), a personal prayer in Aramaic asking God to bless the Jewish people.


On festivals a Biblical verse listing the Thirteen Attributes of God and a prayer for personal welfare are inserted before Brikh shemei.


Taking the Torah and carrying it around is called “HaKama” or “Holacha” – walking the Torah around. The person doing the “Petiha” removes the Torah scroll and hands it to the person doing the “Hakama” who holds the Torah with his right hand, and rests it on his right shoulder.  At this point the Ark is closed.


The chazzan says the phrase beginning "gadlu lahashem iti" (Exalt the Lord together with me) and the one who is honored to carry the Torah walks from the Ark to the bimah. Often, the Rabbi and hazzan follow the Torah in a procession.


When the Torah is returned to the Ark, the one who is honored to carry the Torah, again holds the Torah and carries it back to the Ark. The congregation recites “Mizmor LeDavid” - Psalm 29 on Shabbat. At the words "uvnucho yomar" [and when it (the Ark) rested], the person doing the “Petiha” opens the Ark again. He takes the Torah from the one who carried the Torah and puts it back in place. The Hazzan recites the closing verse with the congregation, a passage from Lamentations: “Hashiveinu HaShem Eleicha V’nashuva” - הֲשִׁיבֵנוּ ה' אֵלֶיךָ וְנָשׁוּבָה, חַדֵּשׁ יָמֵינוּ כְּקֶדֶם - Restore us to You, O Lord, that we may be restored! Renew our days as of old.  This refers to the time of the Holy Temple when we had the real Ark and the real Holy of Holies where the Ark rested. May we merit to see it soon, Amen.

Shabbat Shalom,

Rabbi Sasson                                                                      



Hodesh Tov

Rabbi Sasson





Parashat Behar-Behukotay


“Have we met before”? This is a  very common question asked when we meet someone that we are almost certain we have seen in the past. Did we indeed see this person?

Yes, actually.  Every Jewish soul was at the base of  Mount Sinai after leaving Egypt and marched together for 49 days. Those 49 days made the people of Israel rise up from their low spiritual level to a very high level of spirituality as they approached Mount Sinai.  And it was there at Mount Sinai that they were proclaimed a nation – a holy and special nation.

In the army there is a well known exercise called: “Masa Gibush” – a Journey of Formation, where a group of soldiers that do not know each other go on a mission and live together. They rely on each other, trust each other and take care of each other. They live by the rule 'one for all – and all for one', to the point that if one does something wrong, it could have  a 'life or death' affect on  the whole group. When the journey is done, they stand and take a vow that they will love and cherish each other, protect each other  and never do wrong, so help them God.  Then  they are pronounced a ‘Platoon’.

Over four million Jews left Egypt towards the ‘promised land’. Up until then they were slaves and d id not know how to act as ‘The nation of God’.   Actually they were very far from this title. Many of them had lost hope. Many worshipped idols and none of them (except the Levy tribe) were circumcised. According to the Torah commentaries the people of Israel were at the lowest level of impurity – the 49 th level.  (There are 50 levels of impurity). In order to bring them to the level of seeing God and being called ‘God’s Nation’ they needed to walk and go through the ‘Journey of Formation’.  Each day they walked together, they saw miracles and got one  step closer to God.

On the 49th day, when the journey came to an end, they stood up in front of HaShem , all Mighty God , and  were   proclaimed  ‘The Nation of God’.  Right then and there  they took the oath to love God and be loyal to Him and  his ‘blue print of the world’ – the Torah. They vowed to love and cherish each other. They pledged that just  as they were  united on that day  to the level of  ' One person – One heart ' , so to they would  stay united forever and ever.

All this happened at Mount Sinai. Maybe now we know why we sometimes feel the need to ask: “Have I see you before? Have we met before”? Of course! We met at Mount Sinai 3300 years ago……..


What is so special about Mount Sinai?

Mount Sinai, or in Arabic: Jabal Musa or Gabal Musa; literally "Moses' Mountain" or "Mount Moses" ,  also known as Mount Horeb ,  is a mountain in the Sinai Peninsula of Egypt.  It is mentioned many times in the Book of Exodus and other books of the Bible. According to Jewish, Christian, and Islamic traditions, the biblical Mount Sinai was the place where Moses received the Ten Commandments from HaShem. This is the reason why this mount is also called: ‘Har HaElokim’ - ‘The mount of God’.

Our sages give the title “Sinai” to a scholar that knows the Mishna and the Brayta (the oral Torah) by heart as it was given to Moses on Mount Sinai.

Sinai is also a symbol  of humility as our sages tell us that at the time that HaShem wanted to give the Torah to the people of Israel all the mountains wanted this honor (to have the Torah given on them).  The mountains  thought that the higher they were the more chance they would have to have the Torah given on them. However, HaShem decided the opposite. He chose to give the Torah on little Mount Sinai that was quiet and humble and chose not to fight and argue. This is a message to all Torah scholars that if they want to be able to learn Torah they need to be humble.

Next week is the Shabbat right before Shavuot, the holiday of receiving the Torah. May we be worthy to be united again as we were at Mount Sinai 3300 years ago. Amen.


Shabbat Shalom,

Rabbi Sasson



Parashat Emor - Lehem Hapanim (The Showbread)


One of the unique items that was in the Beth Hamikdash – The Holy Temple, was the ‘Lehem Hapanim’ – the Showbread.  This Lehem Hapanim was bread which was displayed on the table in the Tabernacle (in a sanctuary named the “Ohel Moed” - "Tent of Meeting"), and in the Holy Temple (in the place named ‘the Kodesh’ – The Holy).  Fresh new Lehem Hapanim was displayed every Shabbat.


The miracle was that every Shabbat when the new bread was brought in, it was impossible to see the difference between the “old” bread that had been on display for a full week, and the new bread that had just come out of the oven.  The “old” bread looked as fresh as if it had just come out of the oven too.


On the display table there were twelve Challot made of finely sifted flour symbolizing the twelve tribes of Israel or symbolizing the twelve combinations of HaShem’s name: “Yod” and “Heh” and “Vav” and “Heh”. The bread was constantly present on the Display Table for the whole week, and was eaten after the Saturday morning prayers by the shift of priests who were present in the temple. The Talmud in (Yoma 39.) brings that eating a tiny piece was as satisfying as eating a full meal.


The bakers of the bread were true artisans, selected from among the finest Israelite bakers. The Talmud describes them as having incomparable powers of baking. One of the families that knew how to bake the bread was the Garmo Family. Our sages were upset with them because they did not teach others how to continue this tradition.

Although the commandment of the Showbread ceased to be relevant after the Temple was destroyed, many see the Friday night Challah bread as a direct continuation of this tradition. Therefore, great care is placed in its baking, and many unique qualities are attributed to its eating. Two long Challot symbolize the twelve breads: each long Challa symbolizes the letter “Vav” which has the numeric value of six. Another Minhag – custom, according to the Kabbala – the mystical tradition, is to put twelve Challot on the table as to commemorate the twelve challot in the Holy Temple.

May we be zochim – worthy, to see the real Lehem Hapanim – the Showbread, in the Beth Hamikdash, soon. AMEN. 



Parashat Aharei Mot - Kedoshim

The significance and the symbolism of the two goats:

This Shabbat we will again read two Parashot: Aharei Mot (After the death of Aharon’s sons) and Kedoshim (Be holy as HaShem is holy).


 “And from the community of the people of Israel, he (Aaron) shall take two male goats as a sin offering…..And Aaron shall place lots upon the two goats: one lot "For HaShem” and the other lot "For Azazel (hell)".

The Torah explains the reason for the two goats: one will be sacrificed to HaShem and the other will be thrown down the hill with all the sins of the people of Israel.

Our sages look at these two goats as a model of how a person should live in this world:


A. "Two male goats” - that are identical and equal (Yoma).  One is sacrificed to HaShem – symbolizing  charity and good deeds.  And one is thrown down the hill - symbolizing luxury.  This is a way of saying that as much as one spends on luxuries one should contribute to charity and good works.


B. A person consists of two parts; body and soul - physical and spiritual. One can rise to higher levels but one can go down as well.  It is one's choice to decide where he wants to be.  Each day, as on the day of Yom Kippur – the Day of Atonement, a person needs to consider what is  eternal versus what is temporary.  What can one really have forever?  One must try with all his might to do and observe Mitzvot which will raise one's soul and ensure a place in the world to come, like the first goat. On the other hand one must be a master of one's passions and desires and 'send them down the hill' like the second goat. One should prefer investing in the soul rather than investing in the body.


Nowadays, there are a lot of obstacles and temptations in our world.  We must each decide what is important in life and the hope is that we will invest more in the ‘goat to HaShem’ and invest less in the other.   


“You shall surely reprove your friend”

In the second Parasha there is a command to admonish a person in order to keep him/her out of doing a sin if you can help it. Vayikra, 19, 17: "Ho’che’akh to’chi’akh et a’mi’te’cha” – “You shall surely reprove your friend” [who is doing the wrong thing].


How many times do we see something done or said by a relative, employee, friend or someone around us that makes us say  “You shouldn’t have done or said this”?

Most of the time, if we are lucky, the reaction will be: “Oh, sorry” and life goes on. But what happens when the reaction is a little more harsh or the response is given with chutzpah? Then we wonder: Should I or should I not have said anything?  Maybe I was better off keeping quiet?!


The Gemara in Yevamot 65 brings the quote from Rabbi Il’ah who brings the quote in the name of Rabbi Eliezer ben Shimon: “In the same way that it is a Mitzvah to say something that will be listened to, it is also a Mitzvah not to say something that will not be listened to”.


This is the key to this command.  Before you comment on someone’s action be sure that they will listen to you. If there is a chance that they will not listen or do more harm then do not approach them and do not talk to them because your words are likely going to have the opposite effect.


The Sefat Emet explains that the Torah uses double words for rebuke "Ho’che’akh   to’chi’akh”. First, you should admonish yourself and then maybe you will have the right to admonish your friend.


May Hashem give us the strength to keep ourselves away from sin and should we need to approach someone in order to admonish them, may it be done in a way that causes them to listen and repent. Amen. 


Shabbat Shalom,

Rabbi Sasson





The Month of Nissan – The month of spring.

The smell of spring is indeed in the air. (Yes, even in Michigan…)  After a long, long winter we are finally seeing some nice sun and a few days over 50 degrees, thank God.


In general, the word spring does not necessarily only refer to a season.  It is also used to mean a change or fresh start. The month of Nissan (usually at the end of March or beginning of April), is a sign of spring.  The Torah calls this month both Nissan and Aviv which means spring.  3300 years ago, in the month of Nissan the people of Israel left Egypt after 210 years, 89 years of which they were slaves. Then on the 15th of Nissan, they started the journey to freedom as they walked to the Promised Land.


In Jewish history we find many examples of great changes  that happened in the month of Nissan:


Our patriarch Abraham prepared for the battle with the 4 kings on the night of the 14th of Nissan. Abraham won the war and released his nephew – Lot.


In 701 BC, King Sanherib – the king of Ashur, made a siege on Jerusalem.  The king of Israel at this time was Hizkiyahu.  The people of Israel were frightened and almost gave up hope. It was the 14th of Nissan. Hizkiyahu told everyone to have the Pesah Seder that night as usual. He said: “we did what we are commanded to do, now it is up to HaShem to do what He needs to do”.  That night HaShem commanded Gabriel the angel to go and ‘take care’ of Ashur’s army.  The next morning (Pesah), 180,000 (some say 1,800,000) soldiers were found dead.


The Purim miracle also happened in this month. Esther told Mordechai to gather the Jews and fast for three days in order to nullify Haman’s decree. The dates were the 14th, 15th, and 16th of Nissan=Pesah. The people of Israel fasted during the day, however, at night, because it was Passover, they just ate a Kazayit=1.1 ounce of Matza and drank Revi’it=~ 3.5 fluid ounces of wine and then continued fasting. That night, the king couldn’t sleep. Which night was that? The 14th of Nissan, and we all know the rest of the story.


Our ancestors tell us: “In the month of Nissan they (the people of Israel) were redeemed, and in the future also, in the month of Nissan they will be redeemed”.


We wish a heartfelt Good Luck to Mr. Binyamin Netanyahu   in forming a strong and reliable government that will ensure the safety of the people of Israel in the Holy Land and keep the Jewish tradition in spite of all the obstacles around.


Shabbat Shalom

Rabbi Sasson







"Take" or "Give" Donation ?

When HaShem talks about donations towards the building of the Tabernacle, He uses the word “Veyikhoo” – and let them take (a donation): Shemot – Exodus, 25, 2: “And let them take for Me a portion”.   Normally, when talking about a donation we would say “give” a donation. HaShem uses the word “take”.  Why?

Let us look at the following example:  If someone gives you a box of chocolates containing  24 pieces and asks you to give him two pieces back, would you give them to him? Of coarse you would!  After all, he is the one who gave you the chocolate so it is appropriate to give him some back. And even more so if the person that gave you the box tells you that the two pieces that you are giving back will actually be saved for you for a special later time and that you will be given credit for them, you would definitely give back two pieces without hesitation.


It is the same thing with a donation.  HaShem says, “You should take”, meaning you are actually taking from what I have given you and ‘donating’ it back to the tabernacle which is good for you as the tabernacle is something that you will benefit from.  Also, the word ‘Teruma’ can be interpreted in two ways: one – donation, and the second – a portion.  Basically, HaShem is saying: Take a portion from what I have given you and donate it back for your own good.

So really the donation that the people of Israel give is for their own good and HaShem does not benefit from it at all.  If this is the case why does the Torah emphasize the idea of donation, or portion, to HaShem? Does He need a donation?


The answer is no. HaShem does not need our donations at all. It is for our own benefit. 

 If we look carefully at the command to build a Tabernacle, HaShem says: “And they shall make a Sanctuary for Me – so that I may dwell among them”. We would expect to hear: “And they shall make a Sanctuary for Me – so that I may dwell in it”.  Isn’t the Tabernacle supposed to be a house of HaShem for Him to dwell in?  Why the words “and I will dwell among them”.  What is the Tabernacle for?  The Tabernacle is a holy place.  And every time we go there we respect and remember the One that created the world and gave us the ‘box of chocolate’, i.e.: Life, health, gold and money.  Now HaShem is asking us to TAKE a portion from what He gave us and donate some back for our own good.  Shouldn’t we do it? Of course we should!

Money is not the only thing that HaShem is asking us to “donate” back. If we refer back to our chocolate example,  think about those 24 pieces of chocolate as the 24 hours of life that we are given each. Wouldn’t it be appropriate to ‘give back'  two hours to HaShem? (About 10%).  How can we give two hours?  Money you can give, but hours, how?


It is simple. We are all obligated to say the prayer “Shema Yisrael” twice a day. We are all obligated to learn Torah every day.  Men are obligated to have three services a day: Shaharit, Minha and Arvit (women are obligated for one service or amidah per day). Two hours of doing these above tasks out of the 24 hours that are given to us is easy.

The question is: are we willing to donate back 2 out of the 24?


May we think every day of how we can give ‘two pieces of chocolate’ back to HaShem for our own good in the future, so that we can see the real Beth Hamikdash – the Holy Temple built soon in our life time. Amen.





The Four Special Parashot

There are four special Parashot (Torah readings added to the regular Shabbat reading): Two before Purim: Shabbat Shekalim and Shabbat Zachor, and two after Purim: Shabbat Parah and Shabbat haHodesh. On each of these four special days there is an extra Parasha reading.  Their names are Parashat Shekalim, Parashat Zachor, Parashat Parah and Parashat HaHodesh.

Parashat Shekalim: is a reading of Shemot (Exodus) 30:11-16. It deals with the half-shekel offering that the people of Israel need to give in order to help with the buying of the daily sacrifices during the year. This portion is always read on the Shabbat that is just before Adar (in a leap year it will be read before the first of Adar).

(This year Parashat Shekalim is read on Shabbat, Shevat 25, 5775. February 14, 2015)

Parashat Zachor: is the Sabbath just before Purim.  The parasha that is read is Devarim 25:17-19 and begins with zachor,  or remember (what Amalek did to the people of Israel when they left Egypt) and it  contains the commandment to blot out the remembrance of Amalek. This is read before Purim because Purim is the festival that commemorates the deliverance of the Jews from Haman, the Amalekite’s, evil plan of extermination.
(This year Parashat Zachor is read on Shabbat, Adar 9, 5775. February 28, 2015)


Parashat Parah: is the portion of BaMidbar 19 which is read before the Pesach festival.  It is the section of the Torah that deals with the Parah Adumah (Red Heifer).  It commemorates the purification of the unclean by the sprinkling of the "water of the Red Heifer" so that one was able to bring the Pesach offering. (A person that was in contact with an impure object, such as a dead body for example, could not eat from the Pesach offering unless they were purified by the ashes of the Red Heifer.
(This year Parashat Parah is read on  Shabbat, Adar 23, 5775. March 14, 2015)


Parashat HaHodesh is the section that begins with Ha-Hodesh (Shemot 12:2-20) and contains the Mitzvah (commandment) to celebrate Pesach and Hag HaMatzot (the festival of unleavened bread). This is usually read on Nisan 1 if it falls on Shabbat – like this year. If not, then it is read on the Shabbat just preceding Pesach.
(This year Parashat HaHodesh is read on Shabbat, Nisan 1, 5775. March 21, 2015)


During  these Shabbatot, two Sifrei Torahs are brought out for the reading. The first Sefer Torah is for the regular reading of the Parasha of the week. The second Sefer Torah is for the special reading.


May we be zochim – worthy, to read these Parashot in Jerusalem and see the real Holy Temple THIS YEAR, Amen.


Shabbat Shalom

Hodesh Tov

Rabbi Sasson

Parashat "YITRO"


Why was Yitro – Jethro, given a special Parasha after his name?

Why was Yitro – Jethro, given a special Parasha named after him? What is so special about him that he would be given such an honor?
The answer is actually Yitro's character and his constant search and demand to find the truth.


He was one of the three advisers to Pharaoh the king of Egypt. He wandered around the whole world AND experienced all kinds of religions. Finally, after he examined each and every one of them, he realized that they were all nonsense and false. He rejected them all and was very honest with himself. He insisted on finding the absolute truth.

Many people had heard about the Exodus, but only Yitro was truly able to capture the message and understand the significance of the fact that the people of Israel were able to get out of Egypt. It was  impossible to leave Egypt and yet millions of Jews left. Yitro listened to Moshe's story and heard how it had happened. Yitro was convinced that the One who performed this feat was Hashem,  all mighty God. This fact led Yitro to join the Jewish people. Yitro found the absolute truth: Hashem is the King of all kings, God over all other so-called "gods".

Today's Western society generally tends to associate religion with "blind faith" when in fact the opposite is true. The Torah commands us to use common sense and strong logic to reach the obvious conclusion that God exists in the world. Understanding this basic fact is extremely essential. If we count solely on our senses, feelings and emotions and not on Hashem, we will fail indefinitely.

Three times a day we say the Prayer: “Aleinu Leshabeah La’Adon Hakol” – "we should praise the Master of all", at the end of services. In one of the phrases we say, "…and you should know today and return to your heart". Your mind should have complete knowledge of God's existence, this is the first priority!

"I am the Lord your God.." – You should know that God exists. This is the first of the Ten Commandments and in fact, this is the central idea of Judaism. That's what Yitro realized after much research. We, the children of Hashem, do not need to do research, we know it.  In each and every one of us there is a spark.  It may be sleeping for now, but it will soon wake up, because the clock is ticking and before we know it Mashiah will be here. We should all be worthy to see him soon. Amen.


Shabbat Shalom

Rabbi Sasson




Parashat "BESHALAH"

Shabbat Shira - Moshe and Yisrael

This Shabbat is called Shabbat Shira - Shabbat of 'singing' where Moshe and the people of Israel sing the famous song "Az Yashir Moshe" - Moshe then (after crossing the Reed Sea) sang this song with all the people of Israel. This portion from the Torah is said every morning during services.

Our Minhag - custom, is to sing this song every Shabbat, with a nice tune, (not to zoom through it as we would on a regular day). This song is sang by the entire congregation, together.

A question: How did Moshe and the entire people of Israel sing this song? Were they singing together? Did they know this song before? Did Moshe teach it to them before they crossed the sea?

In the Tosefta of Masechet Sota, our sages give us different opinions:

Rabbi Akiva said: Moshe would say a phrase and the people of Israel would repeat the same phrase after him.

Rabbi Eliezer, son of Rabbi Yosey Hagelili said: Actually, the first phrase "I will sing to Hashem, for He is highly exalted, He has thrown the horse and its rider into the sea", is what Moshe taught the nation as the Chorus. Then Moshe continued on to the next phrase and the nation answered with the same chorus.

Rabbi Nehemya said: The song was sung as a dialogue between Moshe and Israel towards Hashem. Moshe would say one phrase and the people of Israel would continue and chant the second phrase. Moshe would chant the third phrase and the nation would continue and chant the fourth phrase and so forth and so on until the end of the song.

Rabbi Yosey Hagelili said: Actually, when the people of Israel came out from the sea and looked back and saw the dead Egyptians they were on such a high level that all their Neshamot - souls, were singing together. Even an infant would stop nursing and say: "This is my G-d and I will praise Him; My father's G-d and I will extol Him".   

It is amazing that just as Moshe and the people of Israel sang back then, so do we sing now as is explained in all the following opinions:

Rabbi Akiva's opinion of the Hazzan and the congregation: During the morning service before we say 'Baruch Sheamar', we say: "Hashem Melech". Usually the Hazzan will say the whole phrase and the congregation will repeat after him. (Another example: Hallel, reading Tehilim).

Rabbi Eliezer's opinion (son of Rabbi Yosey Hagelili): The Hazzan says the main phrases and the congregation repeats the chorus. This is the same idea as when we do "Hodu La'Hashem ki tov", The Hazzan will say a phrase and the congregation will answer "Ki leolam hasdo".
Rabbi Nehemya's opinion: The Hazzan says one phrase and the congregation will continue the next one. We do this today with Hallel, reading Tehilim, in the Selihot during the month of Elul, in Yom kippur services and more.

 Rabbi Yosey Hagelili's opinion: They actually sang together and they probably had special spirit at that moment. Rashi says: "Moshe's heart told him to sing". This probably will happen again when Mashiah will come and again we will sing with Moshe, as it says in the Gemara (Sanhedrin): "Then, Moshe will sing with people of Israel". When is Then? At the end of days when Mashiah will come, we all should merit to see it soon. AMEN.


Parashat "BO"

After the seventh plague – hail, Pharaoh finally backed off and showed some willingness to ease up on the people of Israel. He asked Moshe:  "Go and serve HaShem your G-d.  Who is going?"  Pharaoh probably thought that only the older Israelites would leave and the younger ones would stay in Egypt since they were pretty far removed from Judaism.



However, Moshe's answer was a surprise to Pharaoh. "With our youngsters and with our elders shall we go, because it is a festival of HaShem for us".  These words were very meaningful and powerful; let us look at them from Pharaoh's and Moshe's eyes:

Pharaoh was a very powerful, educated and smart king. His nation was very modern and educated. They were very rich (from the profit they made during the years of famine) and they basically thought that they controlled the world. However, as far as religion, in their opinion, it was for old timers. Pharaoh and his people assumed that after 210 years in Egypt, of which 89 years were spent in hard slavery, the new generation of Jews had probably forgotten their religion and traditions.  Maybe some old Israelites still practiced some of the traditions but the chance that the whole nation would leaveEgypt to celebrate with God was close to zero.



But Moshe said the opposite: "We are all going! You are wrong Pharaoh.  Not only are the old timers going, but their children, grandchildren and entire families are going, too. The whole tribe and nation is going, including our animals.  This is a holiday and what makes this a holiday is having the entire family present"!



In truth, when Moshe came to the people of Israel and said "We are leaving!" – many of them (some say 49 out of 50 or 98%) did not want to leave.  



We live in a very modern and free world, where there is separation between religion and state, where a father can no longer force his family to observe and keep tradition. Our young generation is modern, smart and educated. Everything they are told is subject to argument and discussion, especially if it has to do with religion.


Unfortunately, I have seen this with many children as the time comes to prepare for their Bar/Bat Mitzvah.   Preparation for the party is the main focus  and the religious part is not so important.


Each and every one of us has some type of 'Pharaoh' inside of us. We are smart, educated, somewhat selfish and we feel untouchable. This means that our parents, school, employer, government, and the whole world, (some will even include HaShem) owe us everything and we owe them nothing in return.



I ask myself (and maybe every parent and grandparent ought to ask himself this question), "when the future Moshe (the Mashiah) comes to each and every Pharaoh in us, and asks us to leave and go to the Promised Land, what will we answer?"



May we be zochim – worthy, to see the complete redemption and to be in the Holy Land with Mashiah in Beth Hamikdash  - the Holy Temple. Amen. 




Parashat "Shemot"

This week we start the book of Shemot (Exodus), the second of the five books of the Torah. The word Shemot meams – Names.



We saw in the first book, Beresheet – Genesis, that Abraham, Yitzhak and Yaakov, were all named by HaShem and there was an explanation given for each of  their names. We read how Rachel and Leah gave their children their names and we also saw an explanation for the names. At the end of the book, we read about the names of all the children of the twelve tribes, but we did not read about the reasons for each of these names. However, if we look at the commentaries, we find an explanation for some of them. For example, Benjamin, Yoseph’s brother, named each of his sons after some quality that reminded him of his ‘lost’ brother.



The Jewish nation in Egypt kept their given Hebrew names. They did not add an Egyptian name to their Hebrew one.


In the Gemara (in Tractate Nidah) our Rabbis explain that bringing a child into the world is done by three partners: The Holy One, blessed be He, the child’s father and the child’s mother. His father supplies the substance from which the child's bones, sinews, nails, brain and the whites in his eyes are formed. His mother supplies the substance from which his skin, flesh, hair, blood and the blacks of his eyes are formed.  And the Holy One, blessed be He, gives him the spirit, breath, beauty of features, eyesight, power of hearing, ability to speak and walk, understanding and discernment.  



The parents also provide the child with a Hebrew name.  This name is the child’s identity -  the social security number (if you will) of the child from the day they come into this world until well  after they depart from this world because we use their name to commemorate them. 


In the Kabbalah (the Jewish mystical spiritual tradition) a person’s name is everything! A combination of the name, the mother’s name and the Hebrew birthdate can show the mazal - ‘luck’, of a person as it pertains to their future spouse, problems in life and so on.    


3,400 years have passed since the era of Yaakov and his sons. But we still name our children with Hebrew names that have meaning; we are still trying to keep the tradition. However, we see that in the Diaspora many children do not have Jewish names.



I strongly encourage all you parents to ensure that each of your children has a Hebrew name.   If you yourself do not have a Hebrew name, call me.   I will, B”H, help you to choose the right name. You have a social security number in this world which helps to identify you everywhere you go, but please make sure that you also have a spiritual social security number, a Hebrew name.



May we be zochim – worthy, to keep our Hebrew names as our ancestors in Egypt and Babylon did and may HaShem guard us guide us to continue keeping the tradition until Mashiah comes, soon in our time. Amen.



Shabbat Shalom

Rabbi Sasson



Parashat: Vayekhi

Yaakov is asking to see his grandchildren Menashe and Ephraim (Yosef’s sons) in order to bless them before he departs from the world. This blessing became the most common blessing that a father blesses his sons and usually we do this on Friday night.


Fifty years ago, at the time where my grandparents were still alive, one could fill all the customs: the respect to the elders, the way we talked to each other, the simple, healthy and special food we ate, and basically, everything was totally different. It is ONLY fifty years and it looks like we are talking about thousands of years ago.


I remember and miss, in particular, one custom that my grandfather used to do every Friday night: Bless the grandchildren. Of-course I would get two blessings: one from my grandfather and right away a second one from my father.


As a little boy who was born to Iraqi parents, I was brought up with the customs and behaviors according to the way the Jews lived and performed in Iraq. The grandfather was the main character in the family. Nothing goes without his blessing.


Every Friday night, the men (that mostly live in a walking distance close to the grandparents), will gather in the synagogue where the grandfather is praying. We all sit close to each other; my grandfather, my father, my uncles and all the grandchildren. Sometime it could be a “tribe” of 15-20 people.


The prayers by the Iraqis (and so to in all the Mizrahi synagogues), all the Tefila – prayer, is being chanted out loud. After listening to the same prayers for so many weeks and months, one would definitely know it by heart after a while. You would see children at ages five and up chanting the Tefila together with the adults word by word, whether they know how to read or not.


During the prayers no one was talking. If you did, you would feel the eyes of your grandfather looking briefly at you. That was enough to understand the “no talking” message. (Sure enough your father is going to give you a lecture on the way home; the subject will be:

“How it was not right to talk in the synagogue”….).


At the end of the Tefila, comes the part that I loved the most; receiving a blessing from my grandfather. He would sit at his special place and all my uncles one after the other will take his hand, kiss it and wait patiently until the end of the blessing. Then the grandchildren one after the other by the age, taking my grandfather’s hand, kisses it and waits patiently for the blessing. I was the last one. A five years old boy eagerly waits for a blessing from his grandfather.


What was so special about it? Everything!

The hand of my grandfather on my head while he chants the blessing, the words he uses as the content of the blessing for each child, hearing my name and my father’s name mentioned within the blessing and the calmness of the way my grandfather will say the blessing. The feeling is like energy transferred from the grandfather to his grandchild. I had the honor and the pleasure of receiving blessings from my grandfather until I was 15 years old. My grandfather left us on the 12th of Tevet. This Shabbat is the Azkarah – yahrtzeit of my grandfather Yosef Hayim ben Tufaha z”l.


Many years passed since then and with it the beauty of this custom that is fading out. How many of us still have the honor to receive a blessing from our grandfather?  How many of us are keeping the tradition of kissing our father’s hand and patiently waiting for a blessing? How many of us have children or grandchildren that keep this custom?

It is not just an old custom; it is transferring positive and calm energy from the “old” generation to the “new” one. In our time (with the A.D.D. and A.D.H.D. and all the other issues) we do need it.


May we be zochim – worthy, to have the “power” and the positive energy as our patriarch fathers Abraham Yitzhak and Yaakov, so we can bless and transfer the positive and good energy to our children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren. Amen.



Shabbat Shalom


Rabbi Sasson



Shabbat Parashat "Vayetze"



Thanksgiving Day - ONLY ONE DAY?



Yaakov ran from his brother Eisav. He stopped at the Temple Mount and spent the night there. In the morning he made a vow BEGINNING WITH “If God is going to be with me…..and will give me bread to eat and clothes to wear...”.


Upon hearing these words, two questions come to mind. The first question is: Isn’t bread for eating?  The second question is: Aren’t clothes for wearing? Why couldn’t you just say: “If God will give me bread and clothes…….”?

Everyone knows what these items are used for!


The answer is simple. Yaakov was saying that although one may have bread on the table,  not everyone can eat bread -  either due to health problems or simply because one cannot chew.  The same is true for clothing.  One can have clothes in the closet but not everyone can get up and dress by themselves often because of health issues.


Yaakov is actually asking God for two things (killing two birds with one stone): “Please, God, give me food and clothing, but at the same time please make me healthy enough to eat the bread and able to get dressed by myself without help from others.”


We definitely take the ability to do basic daily things like getting up, walking, dressing, eating, talking, hearing, etc. for granted. However, God forbid, when one of our ‘systems’ isn’t  functioning properly, we  have pain, worry and sorrow and often we can’t function.


In fact we do thank HaShem every day and even a few times a day.  Besides our daily prayers, we say the blessing “Asher Yatzar” after we use the bathroom and wash our hands.   It is a blessing that thanks HaShem ‘Who created us with many limbs, openings and  ‘gates’’.  The prayer includes the idea that if Halila, God forbid, one of these gates opens instead of staying closed we wouldn’t even survive an hour.


In light of all of this we can take Yaakov’s word much more seriously. Sometimes we do things automatically  - almost like  A robot. But we need to pause sometimes and think Who is behind these ‘simple’ functions?


Through prayers we are reminded that there is a creator to this world Who takes care of the world and the people on it. Every day is a Thanksgiving Day.


May we be healthy and wealthy with the ability to function and enjoy our basic needs and able to thank HaShem for the kindnesses he shows us.

Happy Thanksgiving.



Shabbat Shalom

Rabbi Sasson

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