Parashah Shelach L’cha 2022 (Send for you) Numbers 13 – 15

The Israelites are now at the border of the Promised Land, and they suggest to Moses to send spies in to reconnoiter the land before attacking it.

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This seems like a good idea to Moses, so he chooses one prince from each tribe (12 men in total) to search out the land and report back.

After 40 days in the land, the spies come back and report that it is a wonderful land, bringing back samples of the fruit and other natural resources. But they also report that the towns are fortified, and they saw the sons of Anak (giants) in the land.

Joshua and Caleb were excited to enter, and faithfully declared that they should attack because God will give this wonderful land to them. However, the other 10 princes said that they would be destroyed and had no chance of winning against such a strong and fortified people.

This distressed everyone so much they wanted to stone Moses, but God appeared and told Moses that he will destroy these people and make a new, better nation out of Moses.

Moses begs God not to do that, saying (as before) that if God destroyed the people, his name (meaning his reputation) would be weakened, as the other nations would say God destroyed the people because he wasn’t able to do as he said he would.

So God relents, and tells Moses that these people will not enter the land, and to turn towards the desert. Their punishment will be that whereas they cried their children would be taken as slaves, it will be their children who inherit the land, and not the parents.

Moses is told that for every day they were in the land, they will wander in the desert one year until all of the generation that despised God’s word by revolting against him and not entering the land will be dead.

Upon hearing of their punishment, the people immediately repent and say they will now do as God said, but it is too late. Moses warns them not to attack because God is not with them and they have no chance, but they follow one terrible mistake with another and ignore Moses’ warning.

Of course, they are defeated horribly, pushed all the way back to Hormah (which means “utter destruction”).

This parashah ends with God repeating the Levitical rules for sacrifices, the showbread, and the wearing of tzitzis. The final entry is a story of a man collecting sticks on the Shabbat, and for that sin God commands he be stoned to death.

I want to change up a little today, and instead of talking about the parashah, I want to talk about the Haftorah reading, which is in the Book of Joshua, Chapter 2.

This may be a good time to digress a bit, and review about the reading of the Torah.

A predetermined portion of the Torah, called a parashah, is read each Shabbat; there are 54 readings for the one-year cycle, with some readings doubled to keep pace with leap years. All Jews, everywhere, come to the final sentences of the Torah at the same time, which is the 8th day of Sukkot. We call that day Shemini Atzeret (8th day of assembly) and Simchat Torah (Joy of Torah). On this holiday, the Torah is paraded around the neighborhood, accompanied by singing and shofar blasts, and once back in the synagogue, as the congregation dances and sings, the Torah scroll is rolled back to Genesis.

The Haftorah is a section of the other books of the Tanakh (Old Covenant), usually from one of the books of the Prophets, which are read in addition to the parashah. The haftorah is chosen because the events there relate to the events in the Torah reading of that day.

OK, that being said, let’s get back to todays’ message.

The haftorah for today occurs some 38 years after the events in the Torah. Joshua is now the leader of the Israelites, and they are outside the land, having just defeated Og and Sichon.

Unlike the mistake Moses made when he sent 12 men into the land, Joshua sends only two men to spy out the land, knowing that he can trust these two to bring back a true report.

Remember: these men are not former slaves, for that entire generation (except for Joshua and Caleb) have died. These two are men raised in hardship, living and growing up in the desert, and aren’t conditioned with the mindset of a slave.

The men reconnoiter Jericho and while there, they come to the house of Rahab, a prostitute, who hides them from the King of Jericho making the spies promise to protect her family when the Israelites come to attack the people in the land.

The men do so, and report back to Joshua that the people in the land are scared stiff, and already emotionally defeated.

How does this reading relate to the Torah portion? Well, it seems pretty obvious: Joshua learned that the more people you send to do a job, the more reports you will have to deal with.

It is like that old adage: too many chefs spoil the soup.

We need to learn from this that when we trust people, the more people we trust to accomplish something, the less likely it will get done correctly. This doesn’t mean to take on everything alone- that is another type of mistake.

My father, God rest his soul, used to tell me when I was a young boy and asked to help him with a project, that he wanted to do it alone so that if it went wrong, the only person to blame was himself. That made sense to me at that time, but as I grew older and placed in positions of leadership, I realized how wrong that attitude was.

People in leadership positions have an obligation to teach all they know to the ones who they are in charge of, to make that person a greater asset to the company, or congregation, or just to help them become a better person.

For those of us in a position of spiritual leadership, that means when choosing shammashim (Hebrew for “leaders”) within the congregation, you must follow the biblical requirements for a leader.

In the New Covenant, you can find these in Timothy 3:1-7; Titus 1:5-9; Hebrews 13: 7 and 17-19. However, you must also remember that these are all from the Torah portions in Exodus 18:21 and Deuteronomy 1:13.

We must be careful to not choose by friendship or by influence, and especially not by financial support. Too many congregations are led by those who are the greatest tithers, and that is not assigning by ability, but by bank account.

Moses sent too many people, and Joshua sent just the right number of people.

Moses sent those who were in positions of honor, while Joshua sent those who he trusted to give a proper report.

What’s the bottom line? We must choose those who demonstrate the qualities specified in the Torah when we assign people important positions within our congregations, following the example that Joshua set for us.

Thank you for being here and please share these messages with everyone you know. Subscribe to my website and YouTube channel, buy my books, and join my Facebook group called “Just God’s Word” (please make sure you read and agree to the rules).

And remember: I always welcome your comments.

That’s it for this week, so l’hitraot and Shabbat Shalom!

Taking a Break and Reposting an Oldie and a Goodie

The link below will take you to a message I posted in April, 2021 and relates to a personal experience.

After reading this, if you are thinking to yourself that it can’t be true because you have never encountered this sort of bigotry, then thank God that you have not been stained with exposure to such evil.

But, believe-you-me! It exists, and world-wide!

A Story of Undying Hatred

That’s it for today so l’hitraot and Baruch HaShem!

Just How Many Pilgrim Festivals Are There, Really?

If you were to ask most any American, “What is a pilgrim festival?” I’ll bet their answer will be “Why, that would be Thanksgiving, the fourth Thursday of November.”

But that isn’t really a pilgrim festival, is it?

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For us religious types, a pilgrim festival is one where we are required to congregate at our respective house of worship, be that a synagogue, a church, or a mosque.

You know, I have been reading the Bible for over 25 years, nearly every, single day, and have gone through it at least 2 dozen times, and what is wonderful about this book is that even when you have read it as often as I have, not to mention all the studies I have been involved with requiring me to research throughout the Bible, you can still read something you have read over and over, and see a new truth in it.

So, nu? What am I leading to? It’s this: I have always known that there are three pilgrim festivals in Judaism: Passover, Shavuot, and Sukkot.

If you do an Internet search for “Jewish pilgrimage festivals” on Google, you will get any number of “hits”, from Britannica’s site to the one called My Jewish Learning to Wikipedia, and so on, and they will all tell you that the Jewish pilgrim festivals are Passover, Shavuot, and Sukkot.

Now here’s the thing that hit me just the other day as my daily reading had me in Leviticus, Chapter 23…there are actually 6 pilgrim festivals in Judaism!

That’s right! Not 3 or 4 or even 5, but there are 6 times that God says we are to have a holy convocation, which translates to being physically at the Temple.

That means from the time after we entered the land, which was when the first Shavuot began, people were required to go to the Tent of Meeting (first at Gilgal, then Shiloh, then Jerusalem) until we had Solomon’s Temple. But, after 73 AD, when Roman soldiers destroyed the temple, we had nowhere to go to fulfill the commandments regarding pilgrim festivals.

Here’s an interesting side note: although Pesach (Passover) was celebrated before we entered the Land, Shavuot and Sukkot were not to be celebrated, and Habikurim (First Fruits) also had to wait until we were established in Canaan. God stated, specifically, that these were to be celebrated AFTER we entered the Land (see Leviticus 23:9).

So, this was quite a revelation to me- all these years I was teaching that there are three pilgrim festivals because that is what I was taught, but I was wrong.

Let’s go to the Book of Leviticus (CJB) and see what God says is to be a holy convocation:

Pesach is a pilgrim festival for two reasons: one, because all sacrifices had to be made at the place where God put his name (Deuteronomy 16:6), and secondly because we are to have a holy convocation on the first day of Hag HaMatzot.

It certainly looks to me that God wants us to congregate together on the first day of Hag HaMatzot (Festival of Unleavened Bread), then again on Shavuot, then again on Rosh Hashanah (originally called Yom Teruah, Day of Trumpets), then again on Yom Kippur, and finally on the first day and the eighth day of Sukkot, which is called Yom Atzeret, also known as Simchat Torah.

Now, some may say that some of these holy convocations were included with the required presence at the temple, so they don’t really count as a separate pilgrimage. Maybe there’s some truth to that, but God specifies 6 holy convocations, and for me, that means there are 6 separate and unique times we are to be at the temple.

So, this certainly begs the question: How could I have read and studied the Torah for so many years, and never seen, which has always been right in front of my face, that there are really 6 pilgrim festivals, not just three?

My answer is that I have been doing what so many people do, which is reading the Bible but only seeing what I have been told is there.

Most people, if you ask me, are at the height of spiritual ignorance because they don’t read the Bible at all. The next level down is those who hear others tell them what is in the Bible, but don’t bother to verify what they are told.

The level I was on all this time when reading Leviticus 23 and never noticing the true number of holy convocations was the level where I am reading the Bible but only seeing what I already know it says.

This is probably why so many people who do read the Bible miss so much of what is in there- we have blinders, blinders that were placed on our eyes by religion, which told us what the Bible says, So, even though we are looking right at it, we only see what we have been told is there.

This is why it is so important to pray to God and ask for Holy Spirit guidance each and every time we read the Bible, so that we can be freed of the blinders religion has placed on our eyes.

The scary thing is that now I have to wonder: How many other things in God’s word have I read and not understood properly?

The comforting thing, though, is that now that I know this has happened, I will be doubly careful and much more aware of what I am reading.

The bottom line for all of us is to recognize the potential that no matter how many times we have gone through the Bible, we may still be reading something but not seeing it.

Let me finish with telling you what I will be doing, and suggest you do the same: from this moment on, I am reading with both eyes open, and accept the fact that as well as I know the Bible, I may not know it all correctly.

Thank you for being here and please share these messages with everyone you know. Subscribe to my website and YouTube channel, buy my books, and join my Facebook group called “Just God’s Word” (please read and agree to the rules).

And remember that I always welcome your comments.

That’s it for today, so l’hitraot and Baruch HaShem!

Parashah B’ha’alotecha 2022 (When you set up) Numbers 8 – 12

Moses has set up the tabernacle and consecrated it. Now he consecrates all the Levi’im as separated for God, in place of all the firstborn that God destroyed in Egypt.

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We are told how the camp would remain where they were when the cloud remained over the Tabernacle, and how they travelled when the cloud moved. No matter how long the cloud stayed, or how long it kept moving, the people did as the cloud led them.

The people complained, as always, about no meat and how they had it better in Egypt, so Moses asks God to just kill him if he has to continue to deal with all these complaints. God tells Moses to pick out 70 trustworthy men and they will share the load with Moses, as God will place some of the spirit he gave to Moses on them.

The order of march is given to us, so we know how the people moved, who was first and who was last, and the final chapter deals with when Miriam and Aaron complained against Moses for marrying a Cushite woman. The punishment God meted out was to cause Tzara’at (leprosy) to appear on Miriam. Moses immediately prayed for her to be cured, and God did that, but also shut her outside the camp for a week.

There are some interesting things in here, at least, interesting to me.

One is the giving of the spirit to the 70 elders in the camp. Even though two of them did not appear with the others at the Tabernacle, as Moses had told them, they also received the spirit. That makes me wonder if they refused to come, or just forgot, or had something else come up. In any case, God did what Moses asked him to do, even though it seems that these two refused to be part of it.

But that’s not the only thing I wondered about- we are told in Exodus 18 that Moses’ father-in-law suggests delegating authority to others to take the load off of Moses in dealing with disputes, and even goes as far as to tell Moses that God commands it. Every time I read that passage, I wondered, “How did Jethro know God commanded it?”

And now, here in this parashah, we see that God does command Moses to pick 70 men to help him in dealing with the people, so is this the same event?

In this parashah we also read that Moses asks his brother-in-law to stay with the people as they travel. To me, it makes sense that when Jethro brought his wife and children out to Moses that maybe other members of the family came with them. If so, then the brother-in-law could have been there when Jethro made his suggestion to Moses.

I don’t know, absolutely, if these two Torah stories are the same event, but it seems so to me. After all, it is no secret that the books of the Torah are not in strict chronological order, and some events are repeated in different books.

Another part of this particular parashah that I love is the last chapter, Chapter 12, where Miriam and Aaron speak out against Moses. Not because of what happened, but because this parashah is the passage I read at my Bar Mitzvah, which I had on the same day I celebrated my 13th birthday, and guess what today is?

That’s right. Of course, it was quite a while ago that I was 13, but this is the very passage I read on this same day of the year, all those many years ago.

And I constantly use this particular Torah story when talking about praying. Especially when people pray on and on, or ask God to heal someone specifying exactly, in inordinate detail, what God should do in order to heal them.

I believe we should ask God for help by following Moses’ example. Here we have Moses seeing his big sister white as death, yet in his shock and anguish at her fate, all he says is:

Oh God, I beg you, please, heal her!” (CJB)

That’s all he said, and I believe it is because he trusted God to know what to do.

That’s called faith!

We should demonstrate that level of trust and faith, ourselves, when asking God to help someone. Wordiness is not faithfulness, and going an-and-on-and-on is not going to make God any more inclined to do something.

And I have to consider (disagree if you will) that God, as patient as he is, when someone is telling him how to heal and what to do and where to do it, he has to be thinking something along the lines of:

Really? You think I don’t know what to do?

So today’s message is this: trust in God to know what to do, how to do it, when to do it, and even if it should be done.

When it comes to asking God for anything, I go by the old KISS rule:

Keep It Simple, Schlemiel!

Thank you for being here and please share these messages with everyone you know. Subscribe to my website and YouTube channel, and while on the website please buy my books.

If you like what you get in these messages, you will like my books. I guarantee it.

Also, join my Facebook group called “Just God’s Word (read and agree to the rules, please) and remember this: I always welcome your comments.

That’s it for this week, so l’hitraot and Shabbat Shalom!

Sometimes It’s Just Life

There was this man I knew when I was attending a Messianic Synagogue in Northeast Philadelphia. He had a gentle disposition, a real heart for God, and one other thing, which we talked about now and then: he felt that everything that happened to him, good or bad, was from God.

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Now, we all know that God is in charge- no question about that.

I, myself, have been in charge of people most of my career, either through given authority as a Marine Corp Officer, or by assumed authority, meaning I was always the “Duty Expert”. And in that position, I learned long ago that being in charge doesn’t always mean taking charge.

(Off the topic: tomorrow is my 68th birthday, and now when I say “long ago”, it is much more literal than I care to think about.)

Back to the main point- what I am saying is that very often, when you have people under your authority who are expected to perform their duties, even though the “buck stops here” means in your lap, there are a lot of other people handling that particular buck before it gets to you, and it is just a part of life that sometimes the buck gets mishandled.

As a retired IT professional, one who started as a programmer and ended up on the hardware side of the house, I can tell you absolutely that in any system, the weakest point of that system will always be where there is human intervention.

Bad things happen to good people, and good things happen to bad people- that is not necessarily God, or the Devil- it is (I believe) more often than not just… what… happens.

Look at all the people who do not really know or worship God (even some who think they do) as they go through life. We know that God will allow us to walk away from him, and that he hopes we will repent and return, but in the meantime, when we do not do as God has instructed us, we are on our own.

God will allow you to remain unprotected by him if you chose to ignore his commandments. Yes, he will still bless those who reject him, and sometimes hold blessings from those who accept him- after all, he is God and knows what he is doing.

Job and his friends learned that, the hard way.

We are told that God will bless those who bless the Jewish people and who obey his commandments (Genesis 12:3 and Deuteronomy 28, resp.), yet we are also told that God will have mercy on whom he will have mercy (Exodus 33:19), so when good or bad happens, you need to ask yourself “Is this God, or just life?”

If you ask me, I’d say it’s probably just life.

My friend, the one I told you about at the beginning, once had his car break down. His explanation? He went shopping on a Saturday because he was out of food, and so as punishment God killed the clutch on his car.

Maybe God did, but I have to say I really doubt that the creator of the universe, the Lord, God, Almighty, savior and forgiver, and Judge of the world, went out of his way to destroy that guy’s clutch because he had no food and went shopping on a Saturday.

That seems a little extreme, doesn’t it? I mean, God could have just made him wait for a long time in line (that is almost a form of purgatory, in and of itself, right?), or had him run out of gas, or something not quite so expensive.

Or maybe, and I think much more likely, the clutch was going to break, anyway, and it just happened, as so often does in life, that it just happened to break right after this guy went shopping on the Shabbat.

Just like yesterday, the hottest day of the year so far for us here in Melbourne, Florida, that the motor of our outside AC unit decided to rust out and stop working. Not God, not the Devil, just life. “Murphy’s Law” in action.

Didn’t Yeshua ask who wouldn’t lift their donkey out of a hole on Shabbat? (Luke 14:5)

Does anyone here (and please comment on this, if you don’t mind) think that God will punish every single infraction of the Torah, every single time we have one?

I don’t.

If my job has me constantly on the road (as my friend’s job did), and come one Saturday morning I find there is nothing to eat in the house so I go to get some food, I believe that God is compassionate enough to give me a break and not punish me for traveling and spending money on the Sabbath just so that I can eat.

And for the Devil, well- why would he attack me if I was being sinful? That just doesn’t make sense, as Yeshua pointed out when he talked about a house divided against itself in Matthew 12:25.

No, the Enemy of God will not bother you when you are sinning. In fact, he will help you! The only time you can expect Satan to come after you is when you are doing something wonderful for God’s kingdom and encouraging others to seek God.

And even then, whatever happens may just be life. I’ll go on record saying that, as far as I am concerned, things that happen to you or others is more likely the result of just being alive than it is some form of divine, or devilish, interference.

When something bad or good happens to you, don’t sweat it. If it is a good thing, thank God anyway. If it is a bad thing, don’t automatically think the Devil is out to get you or that God is punishing you. But…if it is bad and it continues to happen, well, then maybe you should practice a little self-reflection; you know, just to be sure.

As for me, when either good or bad things happen to me, more often than not, I believe it’s just life.

Thank you for being here and please share these messages with everyone you know. Subscribe to my website and YouTube channel, buy my books, and join my Facebook group called “Just God’s Word” (please read and agree to the rules).

And I always welcome your comments.

That’s it for today, so l’hitraot and Baruch HaShem!

Were the Egyptians Really Going to Kill the Israelites?

We all know the story: God sends his 10 plagues upon the Egyptians, but not until the tenth plague, the death of the firstborn, does Pharaoh give in to God and allow the Israelites to leave.

But then, what does Pharaoh do? He gives chase after them.

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And when the Israelites see the 600 chariots coming after them, what was their first reaction?

“And they said to Moses, ‘Was it for want of graves in Egypt that you brought us to die in the wilderness?’” (Exodus 14:11 JPS Tanakh)

I have always wondered why they would even think that?

I mean, c’mon- what was the only reason why Pharaoh wouldn’t let them leave in the first place? Wasn’t it because he needed them to be slaves?

Weren’t they the only labor force he had to build his own tomb, and to create the great edifices of Egypt?

Why in the world would he want to now slaughter them?

In the Torah (JPS Tanakh version), we read why Pharaoh went after the Israelites in Exodus 14: 5:

And it was told the king of Egypt that the people were fled; and the heart of Pharaoh and of his servants was turned towards the people, and they said: ‘What is this we have done, that we have let Israel go from serving us?‘”

Nu! Pharaoh never intended to kill them, just recapture them. But the people Moses led into the desert immediately assumed the worst possible situation.

Why? Later on, we read how they continually kvetched about everything- no water, no meat, no vegetables… yadda-yadda-yadda. Even when Korach rebelled, they didn’t want some other leader to take them to the land of milk and honey, but to take them back to Egypt!

Talk about wanting to stay in one’s comfort zone! Even when there was no comfort to be found in it.

Oy gevalt!

If you ask me, I think the reason they were so afraid is because of their lack of faith. And I am not talking about their lack of faith in God to save them, but their lack of faith in anything. Especially themselves.

I see this in people all the time, this general fear that they carry around with them like an albatross around their necks, but one that they refuse to let go of.

I read a book long ago, in a previous life when I was in a very bad marriage, that was called “The Dance of Anger.” In that book, the author pointed out how in an abusive relationship (either physically and/or verbally), when one of the partners tries to change it into something better, the other partner will refuse to cooperate, even going out of their way to resume the abusive relationship.

The reason the author says this happens is that the other partner is comfortable with the old relationship, even though it really isn’t comfortable, at all; it’s just what they are used to. The more one tries to “change the dance”, the more the other one tries to pull him or her back into the old relationship.

I lived that dance and no matter how hard I tried to change it, it was impossible for me to do that.

But that’s an entirely different story.

The Israelites had been slaves for 400 years, some 20 or more generations, and that was the only dance those people knew. Their mindset was one of conditioned slavery, and the idea that they would be free- even though they had been crying to be free- was so uncomfortable to them that when they were free, they would rather have gone back to slavery.

And we can still see this in so many Christian religions today.

Those who have been brought up with Christianity’s traditional teachings about which holidays are the ones to celebrate (consequently teaching which ones to ignore), what you are allowed to eat, when to rest, who to pray to, etc. all are attractive to the previously sinful lifestyle that the people lived.

I am sorry, but if you are thinking that Yeshua (Jesus) did away with the Law of Moses, let me fill you in on what being in your current comfort zone really is about:

  1. The Law of Moses isn’t the law of Moses- it is God’s law! The instructions he gave to Moses, so that Moses could teach those who worship God, are the way God wants us to act. Nowhere, ever, did God’s son, Messiah Yeshua, say we should ever act differently.
  2. The Christian religions we have today, which originally came out of Judaism, generally do not follow what God said to do. They have created their own holidays, their own Sabbath day, their own rituals, ceremonies, and tenets. And they are all man-made; and as I said, almost none of them are in accordance with God’s instructions.
  3. Yeshua preached to love God and each other- in that order. And the way he said to show that love is to be obedient (John 14:15; 1 John 5).
  4. Christians are told they should follow in Jesus’s footsteps, i.e., live and act as Jesus did. But Christianity has, over the centuries, rejected everything that Jesus did with regards to his worship of God and the lifestyle he led!

Sorry to burst your comfort zone bubble, but that’s the way it is, and if you don’t believe me, read the Gospels and show me where either God or Yeshua said to do any of the things that modern Christianity teaches people to do.

Show me where God said burying bones under the altar is a good thing to do.

Show me where Yeshua said to pray to him instead of to God.

Show me where God said he wants churches to be jam packed with statues of people and pictures of him and Yeshua, and that people should bow before them and pray to them.

Show me where God said to ignore the Holy Days he commanded us to celebrate.

Show me where Yeshua said people should celebrate holidays devoted to him, and not to God.

Show me where…well, you get the idea.

We are all born with original Sin, or as we say in Judaism, the Yetzer Hara (Evil Inclination), and until we are old enough to know right from wrong, or good from evil, we do whatever our evil inclination tells us to do.

That’s why sinning is so much more comfortable and easy to do than living a righteous life.

And when we learn of something different, such as how God really wants you to live, that is so far outside of our comfort zone that we rebel; God wants us to learn how to dance a waltz with him, but we prefer to dance alone.

Can you believe it? We feel better dancing alone than dancing with God.

The Israelites who left slavery in Egypt decided they felt better under Pharaoh’s harsh and abusive rule than living free under God’s compassionate and loving rule.

And, for the most part, people are no different today.

Yeshua said we are all slaves to something (Matthew 6:24), either to God or to money (meaning earthly things), so it is up to you which master you will serve. I can tell you, absolutely, that it is much, MUCH easier to serve earthly things than to serve God.

But, if you care about where you spend eternity, then you need to break out of your comfort zone and get a new dance partner.

When you’re dancing with God and let him lead, you will be led to eternal peace; but, when you dance with the Devil, he will let you think you are leading but in the end, he will lead you to hell.

Thank you for being here and please share these messages with everyone you know. Subscribe to my website and YouTube channel, buy my books, and join my Facebook group called “Just God’s Word” (please read and agree to the rules).

And remember that I always welcome your comments.

That’s it for today, so l’hitraot and Baruch HaShem!