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Happy not to be Amalek by Helyn Steppa

By: Sam Wach | August 21, 2013

This week’s parsha, Ki Tetze, discusses everything from tzitzit to adultery.  The one theme running through this long list of mitzvot is a devotion to human respect and kindness as well as a focus on mundane morality.  All of these laws and prohibitions regarding relationships come to teach us that even in the most human and everyday situations, we should bring our focus back to holiness and Hashem.

At the end of Ki Tetze, however, comes the line: “זָכוֹר אֵת אֲשֶׁר עָשָׂה לְךָ עֲמָלֵק”, “Remember what Amalek did to you.”  Why is this national law of remembrance thrown in with all of the ethical laws of business and respectful relationships?  Rashi suggests that this reminder of enemies is referencing the previous psukim commanding that one maintain honest weights and measures in business.  Saying “אם שקרת במדות ובמשקלות הוי דואג מגרוי האויב”, “If you use fraudulent measures and weights, you should be worried about provocation from the enemy.”  This answer is satisfactory, but I wanted to go a little further and analyze the juxtaposition of this phrase on Amalek with the rest of the parsha.

To understand this issue, we must understand the integral role that everyday laws play within Judaism.  Blu Greenberg evidences this merging of commonplace and religious in her book How to Run a Traditional Jewish Household.  In the preface, Greenberg attempts to create a working definition of modern Orthodoxy. She tells a story of how her son had entered the kitchen in his karate uniform requesting money for his next set of lessons.  Greenberg reflects on her son as a modern Jew, and remarks that “what is different about J.J. is that as he walked through the door separating kitchen and dining room, eyes aglow with thoughts of a coveted green belt… his hand automatically reached up to touch the mezuzah affixed to the doorpost.”

While mezuzah is more of a ritual than a human justice law, it teaches the same lesson. As Jews, what makes us different from and better than our enemies are the acts we do every day, the values we preserve by doing as the Torah commands us, in our interpersonal, communal and legal relationships.  When, at the close of this parsha, it says not to forget Amalek, what Hashem is telling us is that these small, routine, indisputably human acts are what separate us from those that hate us.  And conversely, if we abandon these practices Hashem will not give us “נַחֲלָה לְרִשְׁתָּהּ”, “respite from our enemies.”

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Got Mishna

By: Sam Wach | August 16, 2013

Refreshing hot Cocoa is a great way to start off your morning and it is especially sweet , when you are drinking it with friends and learning Mishna. 

Come and join us in room 9, every Shabbos at 10 am.

We are starting the second Perek (chapter) of Pirkei Avos next week.

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Charity or Cordiality

By: Sam Wach | August 5, 2013

Seudah Shlishis Dvar Torah by Yael Perlmutter

          In Parshat Re’ah, in perek 15 posuk 10 it says “ You will surely give to him (the poor person) and you should not feel bad in your heart when giving him, because of this thing (Davar Hazeh) Hashem, your G-d will bless you in all your deeds and every undertaking” The Talmud comments on this posuk: “Rabbi Yitzchak says that someone who gives charity to a poor person is blessed with six blessings and someone who gives the poor person charity and does it with a kindly manner will get an additional eleven blessings.”

          The Gra (Gaon of Vilna) says that these 17 blessings are hinted in the posuk. The word “Hazeh” has the numerical value of 17, thus alluding to the number of blessings one can receive if he gives charity in a kindly manner.

          However, this Talmud is hard to understand.  It says that a person gets double the amount of blessings for speaking in a friendly manner as for giving money. How can a good manner of behavior be greater than giving a poor person money that they need to survive?

          The answer is brought with another discussion that the rabbis talk about. It says in Avos d’Rebbi Nosson, Ch. 13. “ if a man gives his friend a gift with a bad manner then it is as if he hasn’t given him any gift, but if he greets his friends with a  friendly manner but gives him no gifts, it is considered as if he gave him all the best gifts in the world.

          The Sifsei Chaim says that all people want is to feel cared about and shown interest. A gift is something physical that will help show his friend joy and that he cares about him. But if you would give the gift with out showing warmth and joy then the main purpose of the gift would be lost. In Chovas Hatalmidim it says that when you give something physical to another person the joy lasts for a mere couple of minutes, but when your neshema (soul) is ignited and you contribute to the souls needs it lasts forever.  Even more so with charity, when a person gives charity with a friendly attitude it is giving much more than money. He is showing a sense of importance to the poor man and that’s all he truly wants.

          Lets hope with the new year coming, that we all will be able to give charity with a smile and positive attitude. One smile can make a persons day =)

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At the Barber Shop

By: Sam Wach | August 2, 2013

If you remember the Andy Griffith Show you can’t help feel that many of the most important decisions about the city of Mayberry were made in Floyd’s barber shop. Andy, the mayor and the whole town council spent time waiting and shmuzzing at their favorite barber shop.

Here in Baltimore, there is a marveleous barber shop where you can buy tzitzis, a yarmulka, shirts, ties and electronics. They also have a nice supply of Torah books to read while you are waiting, the Jewish replacement for Sports Illustrated. Above all, the barber, a former Shechita student, and the rest of the patrons love to discuss parsha and other Torah topics.

It was at the best barber shop in Baltimore, that I saw Rabbi Yisroel (Jason) Gelber, son of Dr. Stanley and Gwen Gelber. Among his many projects, Rabbi Gelber has started a web site called, to help people learn Torah. connects Jewish people of all ages, backgrounds and interests to learn Torah together at a time and in a manner that works for them. Busy men and women can find their same-gender matches to engage in dynamic Torah study.

Chavrusa Match facilitates three types of learning arrangements: in-person, for the individual struggling to identify a chavrusa locally, due to scheduling constraints or other limitations; and phone or Skype/video chat, for busy professionals or those living in remote locations without access to in-person resources.
Chavrusah Match

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Time for Shul.

By: Sam Wach | July 31, 2013

(tell this joke to Moreh Orit and/or Chaim and receive extra Shekalim)

One Shabbat morning, a mother went into the bedroom to wake her son and tell him it was time to get ready to go to the Shul, to which he replied: “I’m not going.” “Why not?” she asked. “I’ll give you two good reasons,” he said. “One, they don’t like me”, and “ two, I don’t like them.” His mother replied: “I’ll give YOU two good reasons why you MUST go to the Shul. “ONE, you’re 54 years old”, and  “TWO, you’re the Rabbi”

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Lessons from a Pencil

By: Sam Wach | July 26, 2013

(tell this joke to Moreh Orit and/or Chaim and receive extra Shekalim)

A pencil maker told the pencil 5 important lessons:

1) Everything you do will always leave a mark.

2) You can always correct the mistakes you make.

3) What is important is what is inside of you.

4) In life, you will undergo painful sharpenings, which will make you a better person.

5) To be the best pencil, you must allow yourself to be held and guided by the hand that holds you.

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High Holiday Kids Groups 5774

By: Sam Wach | July 22, 2013

I hate to tell you this while we are in the middle of a summer heat wave, but Rosh Hashanah is only a month and a half away (today is July 22 Tu B’Av).  It is time to remind you to register your children for the Ner Tamid Youth program for children 1 – 12 years old.  The program includes game play, snacks, and excellent classroom programs everyday of High Holidays. 

Make note that on Yom Kippur we will providing services during Kol Nidrei for all children 1 – 12 years old.

Please print out the attached form and contact the synagogue office to register as soon as possible.

High Holiday Registration 2013

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Our Children Our Soldiers

By: Sam Wach | July 21, 2013

We are proud to have young men and women from the Ner Tamid family who are serving and have served as chayalim (soldiers) in the Israeli army.  A Chayal Boded is a soldier whose parents live outside of Israel for at least 9 months of the year.

Among the current Ner Tamid Chayalim Bodedim crew are Mari Mordfin, Yossi Kuttler, and Yaron Trink.  There is a program run by a family with a Chayal Boded (Lone Soldier)  which encourages people to daven and do mitzvos for Chayalim Bodedim.

You can learn about this program at the Shmirah Project website.


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Doing Good is Very Good

By: Sam Wach | July 15, 2013

The following is a dvar torah which was presented at Seudah Shlishis on Shabbos Chazon (July 13) by Eliav Hamburger (otherwise known as “The kid who usually leads ein keilokeinu/Adon Olam”).  Please join us next for a special Dvar Torah on Shabbos Nachamu (July 20), by Miriam Marks.

This week’s parsha is Devarim.  It takes place in the 40th and final year of Bnei Yisrael’s wandering through the desert.  They are preparing to enter and conquer the land of Israel.  Moshe is recapping some of the events that occurred during those 40 years.  He talks about the establishment of judges and the sin of the spies.  At the end of the parsha, Moshe talks about the wars that they fought in order to conquer the land east of the Jordan. 

Bnei Yisrael fought 2 wars, one with Sichon, the king of the Ammorites, and the other with Og, the king of Bashan.  Before each battle, Hashem told Moshe that He would deliver the kingdoms into the hands of Bnei Yisrael.  However, before the battle with Og, Hashem also added that Moshe should not have any fear.  Why did Hashem tell Moshe that he should have no fear only when it came time to fight Og, but he did not mention “fear” when Moshe was going to fight Sichon?

Rashi answers that Moshe might have feared Og because many years ago, Og had done a good deed for Avraham.  Back in Avraham’s days, Avraham’s nephew, Lot, was captured and held as a prisoner of war.  Avraham was notified of Lot’s capture from Sodom by a messenger.  The Medrash states that the messenger was actually Og. Even though Og had done this deed years and years ago, Moshe was worried that Og would be difficult to defeat because of what he had done for Avraham.

What is interesting about Rashi’s comment is that, even though Og’s actions were good, his intentions and motivation for telling Avraham about Lot were not.  The Medrash states that Og told Avraham about Lot’s capture because he wanted to marry Sarah.  He had hoped that Avraham would go to war to rescue Lot and would be killed in the process and he would be free to marry Sarah. 

We see from this story how far a good deed goes.  Even though Og had not intended to do a good deed, the fact that his actions benefitted Avraham was enough to cause Moshe to worry that Og might be difficult to defeat in war.  This teaches us that we should always appreciate the good someone else has done for us, no matter how small we think it might be.   We should be especially sensitive to appreciating others during the Three Weeks, since the Beit HaMikdasah was destroyed because of “sinat chinam,” a lack of sensitivity and appreciation for others.

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Summer Seudah Shlishis

By: Sam Wach | July 5, 2013

I don’t know about you, but by the end of Shabbos I am looking for something to make me smile :-) .  I can only read on my porch and talk about schools and shuls so long before I am ready to walk to my neighbors house and do the same.  So I am excited that during the summer some of our shul’s students will be coming to Mincha and Seudah Shlishis to say a dvar torah and sing along with the crowd.  We hope you will come out to hear them. 

The first dvar torah will be Eliav Hamburger on July 13.  Hope to see you there.

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