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20 Iyar

PURIFY THE YETZER HARA! HaRav Moshe Cordovero, Z’tl, teaches that through Teshuva one is actually metaher his Yetzer Hara, which is only a shaliach of Hashem for one to reach our fullest potential. What a wonderful goal to strive towards--purifying one’s very own Yetzer Hara!




Special Note One:  We are only a little more than two weeks away from the date of Kabalas HaTorah.  Everyone should be taking strides in preparation for the Great Event.  We hope to devote some time and effort to this extremely important topic over the next two weeks.  To begin, may we propose the following thoughts for your contemplation…and action, all of which will be bli neder: 


A.  Undertaking to learn Chumash with Rashi on the Parsha.  This week, we conclude Sefer Vayikrah with the monumental Parshios of Behar and Bechukosai--a wonderful time to begin this project--before Chumash Bamidbar starts!


B.  Attempting to memorize a Mishna a day, six days a week, with Chazara on Shabbos.  Over the course of a year (i.e., a year from today) you will know 300 Mishnayos by heart!  Imagine how much Torah study you can gain by reviewing the Mishnayos you have committed to memory, at events, in situations, and in places where you do not have a Sefer, do not have light, are walking by yourself (whether or not you have a cell phone!)--and to those who know you, think of how inspirational it will be to them as well!  If you are a woman, or if you are a man to whom the task appears too difficult at this time, may we suggest as an alternative, paying someone to learn all of Mishnayos in your Zechus.  We believe that you may have several options here.  One is Chevrah Lomdei Mishnah, which can be contacted at www.chevrahlomdeimishnah.org.  Another is Keren Ner Tomid of Yerushalayim which performs this special service (learning Shisha Sidrei Mishna as a Zechus for you (or for a relative or loved one)) for $600.00, and which may be paid in installments.  To contact Keren Ner Tomid by email:   rabbikrohn@kerennertomid.org .  We believe that in addition to the merit of Torah study in this instance, one also merits the support of Torah study--which is an additional method of coming closer to Torah!


C.  Committing to show greater respect to Rabbanim and Talmidei Chachomim by standing up when they are in your proximity; similarly, trying to reshelve Seforim that may be strewn about in Shul, even if you were not responsible for their state.  At home, we once again remind everyone to make sure that Siddurim and Bentschers/Zemiros books are properly treated and placed in their proper position; and if any Sefer page or binding is ripped, or torn, to promptly repair them with tape that you have handy.  It is interesting to note that the Hebrew word for honor, “kavod”, is also used as a synonym for the Neshama--soul, as Dovid HaMelech pleads in Tehillim: “Lem’aan yezamercha kavod...”--so that my soul praises You.  Yet, the gematria of kavod is 32, which corresponds to “Lev”--the heart, symbolizing feeling.  Thus, the term kavod uniquely combines both Neshama, symbolizing our superior intellect, and Lev, demonstrating our unique humane feeling.  When we properly show kavod, we unite our powerful intellect and unparalleled feeling, to display true respect, whether due or earned.


Hakhel Note: When you walk into a Shul or Bais Midrash and notice that there are one or more Siddurim or Chumashim or other Seforim which are on tables and not put back in their place--should you take the time to find their place and re-shelve them--or are you taking away the Gabbai’s job-- for it is his duty and his zechus.  A Rosh Yeshiva answered as follows:  “The Steipeler says that if one leaves Seforim out when he can put them back, then he is demonstrating a measure of achzarius-cruelty.  One should not leave it all to the Gabbai (especially if the Gabbai is a Talmid Chochom himself) --and if one does so he violates the Torah commands of “Lo Sirda Bo Beforech--do not subject someone to hard labor ( actually found in this week’s Parsha-Vayikrah 25;43) and he also violates the vital mitzvah of “Veahavta LeRayacha Kamocha--loving your fellow man as yourself.”  Moreover, one who leaves Seforim on the table could cause Bitul Torah for another who cannot find the Sefer (or even the kind of Siddur) that he is looking for.  Finally, there is an element of bizayon to the Seforim--especially if they are dispersed here and there in a disorganized fashion.


HaRav Chaim Kanievsky, Shlita, relates that when he was younger the Chazon Ish noticed that he was studying Torah with his elbows on the Gemara, but that he was careful not to put any other Sefer on top of his Gemara.  The Chazon Ish advised him that he acted incorrectly--no elbows were allowed on his Gemara, but another Sefer being used in connection with this study, even that of a later commentary, was.


Many of us were trained as children that when a Sefer falls, you pick it up and kiss it.  What if two Seforim fall?  The Bais Lechem Yehuda, one of the classic meforshim found in the Shulchan Aruch itself (ibid.) writes that both Seforim should be picked up as quickly as possible--and then kissed together.


Some common examples where we can show Kavod HaTorah, which we have mentioned in the past and which require our renewal and rededication  before Shavuos, are:


·        Not permitting children’s books with Torah content to be placed, or remain, on the floor

·        Not tossing Seforim (Hebrew or English) even from short distances or onto the table

·        Not placing Seforim on your lap or sitting on the same level that Seforim are placed

·        Not holding a Sefer below your waist, or letting it bang against your leg

·        Not keeping Seforim unlocked in your car, as they are truly your honored treasure, or on the car seat where someone will sit down near or upon them

·        Kissing a Sefer before and after use (and perhaps even during use--if you learn something from it that really excites you--as we had previously pointed out--according to HaRav Pam, Z’tl, one should also try to learn from the Sefer that he had dropped showing true kavod for it!)

·        Taking a Sefer with you when traveling--as Rav Quinn, Z’tl, was known to always remark “You’re always safer with a Sefer!”


The above is only a brief and summary listing of improvements in Torah, but is certainly a start for any of us to get moving with.  We more than welcome your suggestions. We especially note that the first three words of this week’s second Parsha are “Im Bechukosai Teileichu” (Vayikra 26:3).  Chazal (quoted by Rashi) teach that this refers to “walking, moving, in the study of Torah.”  This is our opportunity to demonstrate that we are taking the clear lesson from the Parsha, and that we are on the move to improve in Torah! 




19 Iyar

QUESTION OF THE DAY ONE :  Rebbi Shimon Bar Yochai teaches us in last week’s Pirkei Avos ( 4:13 ) that Shelosha Kesarim Heim--there are three crowns: (i) Kesser Torah; (ii) Kesser Kehuna; and (iii) Kesser Malchus.  Rebbi Shimon then continues V’Kesser Sheim Tov Oleh Ahl Gabeihen.  What is the Kesser Sheim Tov--is it a fourth crown?  How does one attain it?  Hint: See Rashi, Rambam and Rabbeinu Yonah on this Mishna.



QUESTION OF THE DAY TWO:  In last week’s Perek (4:2), Ben Azzai teaches us that Mitzvah Goreres Mitzvah and Aveirah Goreres Aveirah.  There thus appears to be equal ‘compensation’ that results from a Mitzvah and from an Aveirah.  However, do not Chazal teach that Haba LeTaheir Mesayin Osso, one who wants to purify himself is actually assisted from heaven--whereas, Haba LeTameih Poskin Lo--if one wants to defile himself, he is not assisted--but instead the door is only left open.  Accordingly, shouldn’t the Mishna recognize this distinction?



FROM A READER:  Regarding answering ‘Amen’ in the middle of a long bracha, please also see Kitzur Shulchan Aruch 14:1, where I believe the Kitzur takes a more permissive approach.”  Hakhel Note:  One should consult with his Rav or Posek as to one’s actual practice in this area.




NINETEEN WEEKS!  We are now in the nineteen week period prior to Rosh Hashana. In the past two years, we have proceeded weekly, Bracha by Bracha, through Shemone Esrei with a special emphasis on Kavannah on that week’s Bracha.  This week’s Bracha is Birkas Avos--a Bracha whose Kavannah is especially significant every day of the year, for it is the anchor from which the remaining brachos of Shemone Esrei continue. We provide by clicking here our notes to the Nineteen Brachos for the years 5771 and 5772.  May we highly recommend the Nineteen Week Program again this year--either based upon your own study (such as by utilizing the magnificent Rav Schwab on Prayer or another similar work), or by utilizing the link provided on a daily basis throughout the week.




Special Note One: We B’EH continue our Monday/Thursday study of the Sefer Mitzvos HaKatzar, with the Mitzvos Lo Sa’asei which the Chofetz Chaim writes are applicable in our times. Today, we present Mitzvos Lo Sa’aseh 121-123 and 124:


121-123.  Shelo Legalos Ervas Isha U’Bita--this is the Mitzvas Lo Sa’aseh which prohibits a man from engaging in a forbidden relationship with a woman and her daughter.  It is also a Mitzvas Lo Sa’aseh to engage in a forbidden relationship with a woman and her granddaughter. From the time that a man performs Kiddushin with a particular woman--her mother, her mother’s mother, her father’s mother, her daughter, her daughter’s daughter and her son’s daughter are all prohibited to him. If one engages in a forbidden relationship with any of them in the life of his wife, he is chayav sereifah. If he does so when his wife is no longer alive, he receives kores (if done intentionally) or brings a chatas (if done unintentionally).  These Mitzvos apply at all times and in all places.


124.  Shelo Legalos Ervas Eishes Ish--this is the Mitzvas Lo Sa’aseh which prohibits a man from engaging in a forbidden relationship with a married woman, and if he does so, the punishment for both of them is chenek.  If she is a Bas Kohein, then she receives sereifah and he receives chenek.  If she was a na’arah me’urasah to someone else, they both receive sekilah. If in all these circumstances there were no witnesses, they receive kores (if done intentionally) and bring a chatas (if done unintentionally).  This Mitzvah applies at all times and in all places.



Special Note Two: In last week’s Parsha (Vayikrah 22:32 ), we find the Mitzvah of “Velo Sechalelu Es Sheim Kodshi VeNikdashti Besoch Bnei Yisrael--you shall not desecrate My Holy Name; rather, I shall be sanctified among Bnei Yisrael.”  Rabbi Yosef Eisen, Shlita, relates that Rav Hillel Zaks, heard from his father, Rav Mendel Zaks, who heard from his father in-law, the Chofetz Chaim an explanation as to why the 24,000 students of Rebbi Akiva were niftar. After all--could a lack of giving proper respect to each other be punishable in and of itself by the death penalty?  The Chofetz Chaim answered that the underlying Aveirah for which they were punished was Chillul Hashem--where others who were less learned in Torah would ‘follow the lead’ of the Bnei Torah, thereby claiming lack of Derech Eretz to be the Torah practice--and profane Hashem’s name through lack of respect to others. Indeed, it is said that HaRav Yaakov Kamenetsky, Z’tl, teaches that although a child younger than Bar Mitzvah or a Bas Mitzvah is generally not obligated by the Torah itself to keep Mitzvos--they are nevertheless absolutely obligated by the Torah itself not to commit a Chillul Hashem--even as minors!  As we begin the week after Parshas Emor in which we are warned of the prohibition against Chillul Hashem given the mandate to bring about Kiddush Hashem--and as we begin the week after Lag Ba’Omer--indicating that the punishment for all of the Chillul Hashem was halted--let us turn this into a week in which we personally combat Chillul Hashem--and during which we strive for Kiddush Hashem.  Proceed with care and concern--proclaim this your personal Kiddush Hashem Week!



Special Note Three:  We are just slightly more than two weeks away from Kabbalas HaTorah--and our appreciation of Torah should be growing daily so that we are not surprised on Shavuos night.  Think of how we prepared for Pesach-and how we prepare for Sukkos--let us not permit Shavuos to be any different!  The Sefer Ma’alos HaTorah makes the following tremendous points about Limud HaTorah:


1.  In Devarim (30:15) the Pasuk states “Re’eih Nasati Lifneichem HaYom Es HaChaim V’Es HaTov…--behold I have placed before you today the life and the good.”  Hashem Himself is telling us what is life and what is good. Before beginning to study daily, one should consciously realize that he is choosing the path that Hashem has declared to be life and good!


2. The Sefer Reishis Chochma writes that when a person learns Torah, the Shechina stands in front of him and says to him:  Hashem Imcha Gibor HaChayil--I am with you!” (Shoftim 6:12).


3. When a person studies, he must be careful not to mix-in words of chol or in inyanein olam hazeh into his studies or in between sentences of his learning. If c’v one does so, it is as if he is bringing patches of darkness into a room of light--uncomfortably darkening the room for himself and others.  Hakhel Note:  When Shlomo HaMelech teaches us that “Torah Ohr--Torah is light”--we should take it very literally!


4. When one utters the words of Torah, he brings forth tahara from himself, as Dovid HaMelech (Tehillim 12:7) teaches:  Imros Hashem Amaros Tehoros--the words of Hashem are words of purity, like purified silver, clear to the world refined sevenfold.”


5.  The Midrash to Shir HaShirim (8:7) writes that in the future--when the truth is clear to all, the nations of the world will come with all of their silver and gold and attempt to purchase at least something from the Torah from us. We will then respond that the Torah is ‘not for sale’ as it is in this world that one studies--and in the next world that he reaps the everlasting and eternal benefits!




16 Iyar

FROM A READER:  “Question: Where in this week’s Parshas can I find a Pasuk that has the same two letter word mentioned six times?!  Answer:  Parshas Emor, Perek 21, Pasuk 20.”



BAR AND BAS MITZVAH: A Rav recently explained why the terms ‘Bar Mitzvah’ and ‘Bas Mitzvah’ are used for someone who becomes of age in Mitzvos--and not the term Ba’al Mitzvah or ‘owner of Mitzvah’, which would seem at first glance to better indicate one’s relationship to a Mitzvah--rather than being the ‘son’ or ‘daughter’ of a Mitzvah. The Rav explained that when it comes to ba’alus, or ownership over something, that is something that can be lost, transferred, gifted or forfeited based upon the facts or circumstances. However, when one is a son or daughter, that relationship will never be lost--and will remain for eternity. Accordingly, we joyfully tell a child upon their reaching the age of Bar or Bas Mitzvah that the Mitzvos that he/she performs will never leave him--as he/she is not their owner…but their child! 



THE BEGINNINGS OF TESHUVA: The Sefer Ma’alos HaTorah by Rebbi Avraham (the brother of the G’ra), Z’tl, writes that the first step in Teshuva should be in one’s study of Torah. To demonstrate the point, he brings the braysa of Rebbi Pinchos Ben Yair upon which the entire Sefer Mesilas Yesharim is based:  Torah Meivi’ah Lidei Zehirus, Zehirus Lidei Zerizus….” The starting point of all proper conduct is Torah. This concept is echoed in the bracha of Teshuvah that we recite three times daily in Shemone Esrei--”Hashiveinu Avinu LeSorasecha…VeHachazireiu Bishuvah Sheleima Lefanecha”--only after we come closer in Torah can accomplish Teshuvah. Let us further stop for a moment to recognize the point and time that we are in--only approximately two and a half weeks away from Shavuos! It so behooves us to bli neder undertake at least some small improvement in our Torah study--not only for the sake of Teshuvah (which would be enough in and of itself)--but certainly in honor of our recognition that the great day of Kabbalas HaTorah is coming for each and every one of us!

The Kabbalah could be as small as an increase of only “two to three minutes a day” after davening or before going to bed, listening to a short Torah phone message, going through a particular Sefer in preparation for Shavuos--and can be something as great as reviewing a few blatt per day of a Mesechta recently learned, culminating with a Siyum on Shavuos! One’s personalized decision must come based upon one’s own time constraints, feelings, background and surroundings. In light of the recent passing of young, special individuals--most recently an outstanding Rebbi in a prominent Flatbush Mesivta, we must demonstrate that we understand our need to bolster ourselves in Teshuvah…and that Talmud Torah, which is in all events K’negged Kulam, and the pinnacle of our Shavuos celebration, is also the seed of the Teshuvah process.



KNOW YOUR PLACE! If one is in the middle of a “Bracha Arucha”—a long bracha, i.e., a bracha which begins with Baruch Ata Hashem and ends with Baruch Ata Hashem— he has the same Halachos as one who is in the middle of a Perek of Kriyas Shema. This means that he cannot answer Amen to someone else’s brachos, or have any other interruption. He can only answer to Amen Yehei Shemai Rabbah, Barchu, the two Pesukim of Kedusha, and certain specified Amens.  See Chayei Odom 5:13 for further details.




Special Note One:  We continue with our Erev Shabbos, Halachos of Shabbos Series:


A.  Ashkenazim who have the custom of taking a haircut on Lag BaOmer (and not Sefardim who begin to take a haircut on the 34th day of the Omer) are permitted to take a haircut today LeKavod Shabbos.  Indeed, the Luach Davar B’Ito brings that if one has a new garment to wear, it is a Mitzvah to put it on LeKavod Shabbos.


B.  According to many, the Mann began to fall today. In the Parsha of the Mann, the Bnei Yisrael were advised that they could not violate the Shabbos in connection with its collection--and that a double portion would fall on Erev Shabbos, with no Mann to fall on Shabbos Kodesh itself. Indeed, the concept of properly preparing for Shabbos is found in the Parshas HaMann (Shemos 16:23 ) with the words: “Eis Asher Tofu Eifu, V’Eis Asher Tevasheilu Basheilu….” It is striking that the Parsha of Mann refers so much to Shabbos--a day that the Mann did not fall! Certainly, one of the great lessons to us from this is that we should not worry about, concern ourselves with, or think about the business or job tasks that we are ‘in the middle of’, or that definitely need to be accomplished in the coming week or weeks.


C.  In the Parshas HaMann, the Torah states:  VeHaya Mishne--and it shall be twice….”  The Mishna Berurah (Orach Chaim 250, seif katan 2) writes that we derive from these words that even thought one has prepared for Shabbos on Friday morning, it is a Mitzvah that he also do something else on Friday afternoon as well. Hakhel Note:  A practical way to apply this for men is to do something for Shabbos immediately upon arriving home from Shul Friday morning (such as setting up the Neiros Shabbos, opening containers, etc.) and then have a specific second set of tasks upon arrival home in the afternoon (making sure tissues are open, nails are cut, shoes are shined, etc.). Hakhel Note: The Dirshu Mishna Berurah (ibid. at Note 15), brings the words of the Rambam in Hilchos Shabbos (30:6) relating to Shabbos preparations--Vechol HaMarbeh Harei Zeh Meshubach--these words are not only related to the Seder night--but to each and every Shabbos!


D. In the Parsha this week, we note that Shabbos is placed first--ahead of a description of all of the Moadim.  We should be inspired this Shabbos to realize that although Shabbos comes every week--it is a truly a primary Mo’ed--an especially designated time to come closer to our Creator and raise ourselves up spiritually.  Perhaps in honor of the primacy of Shabbos--one can start this week with extra Zemiros, an extra D’var Torah, an extra act LeKavod Shabbos Kodesh!



Special Note Two:  Points and pointers on this week’s Parsha: 


A.  In the Parsha (23:22), we find that a seemingly unrelated Pasuk of giving to the poor is suddenly placed among the Pesukim describing our Moadim, “U’vekutzrechem Es K’tzir Artzechem…when you reap the harvest of your land, you shall not remove completely the corners of your field; as you reap and you shall not gather the gleanings of your harvest, for the poor and the ger shall you leave them, I am Hashem…” (Vayikra 23:22).  Chazal cited by Rashi (ibid.) teach that this Pasuk, juxtaposed among the Pesukim describing the Moadim, teaches us that anyone who gives charity properly is considered as if the Bais HaMikdash was built in his time, and he offered Karbanos there--as so much of the Moadim relate to the Bais HaMikdash, our coming there and offering of sacrifices.  When we give tzedakah properly--it can be viewed as a step into the Bais HaMikdash!


B.  The Torah teaches “Venikdashti Besoch Bnei Yisrael” (Vayikra 22:32 ).  HaRav Chaim Kanievksy, Shlita was asked whether one makes a bracha before he is about to be put to death Ahl Kiddush Hashem.  HaRav Kanievsky responded that the Mitzvah of Kiddush Hashem is “Mah SheHa’adam Muchan U’Moser Atzmo LaiHareig Al Kedushas Shemo Yisbarach--one fulfills the Mitzvah if he is prepared to give his life to sanctify Hashem’s name, even if in the end he is not killed.”  He continues that those who were killed by the Nazis y’s or the Arabs y’s, have the zechus of Kedoshim, but would not make a Bracha prior to their being murdered because they were killed against their will.  HaRav Kanievsky adds that it is reported that the mechaber of the Sefer D’var Avrohom recited a bracha before he was killed by the Nazis, but that he is surprised by that report. Hakhel Note:  See the introduction to the Sefer Kovetz Shiurim of HaRav Elchanan Wasserman Z’tl, H’YD, relating to HaRav Elchanan’s preparations for petira Ahl Kiddush Hashem.  Hakhel Note:  In all events, we note that we recite daily in Shacharis-- Kadesh Es Shimcha Ahl Makdishei Shemecha...Baruch Atta...Mekadesh Es Shimcha Barabim!  Let us give these awesome words the Kavannah they deserve daily!


C. In the Parsha we also find the distinctive Mitzvah of “Vekidashto”…and you shall sanctify the Kohen by treating him with a higher level of dignity and respect (Vayikra 21:8).  We provide our readers with our yearly review of this sometimes forgotten Mitzvah which needs our chizuk. The Sefer HaChinuch (Mitzvah 269) writes that this Mitzvah D’Oraysa applies at all times (not only when the Beis HaMikdash is standing), and furthermore that the Mitzvah applies equally to both men and women.  The Aruch HaShulchan (Orach Chayim 128:72) writes that there are opinions to be lenient in the Mitzvas Aseh of VeKidashto today because our Kohanim may not have clear “Yichussei Kehuna” (evidence of lineage), but rejects this opinion with the strong words “VeCholila Lomar Kain U’Lehatil Dofi BeKedushas Kohanim--Heaven Forbid to say this and to cast aspersions on the holiness of our Kohanim!”  Accordingly, we provide below some important points relating to this Mitzvah, which apply in our everyday life:


1.      The Rema (Shulchan Aruch, Orach Chaim 228) writes that it is  “Assur LeHishtamesh BeKohen”--it is forbidden to use a Kohen to perform tasks and services on one’s behalf, even in our days, and if one does so it is like being “Moel beHekdesh”--it is as if one is violating something that is holy.


2.      The Poskim discuss whether the Mitzvah upon us of VeKidashto applies to Kohanim who are ba’alei moom (possess blemishes which would render them unfit to serve in the Bais HaMikdash), or to Kohanim who are still under the age of Bar Mitzvah, since both of whom could, in fact, eat Kodshim (i.e., the Karbonos in the Beis HaMikdash), even though they cannot actually serve.  The Piskei Teshuvos (I:128:94) writes that, because it is a Machlokes among the Poskim and it is a Sofek D’Oraysa, we should be machmir, and treat both a Kohen who is physically disqualified from serving because of a moom, and a Kohen under Bar Mitzvah, with the dignity and  respect of VeKidashto, where it is possible.


3.      Examples of VeKidashto in specific positive areas include having the Kohen go first--not only in Aliyos to the Torah, but also in making Kiddush for everyone, making the HaMotzi for everyone, leading the Bentsching, being Motzi the Rabim with a Mitzvah, speaking first at any gathering, being the Shaliach Tzibbur and in taking first portions at a seudah.  See Shulchan Aruch Orach Chaim 167:14 and the Mishna Berurah and commentaries there for further detail if a Talmid Chacham is present.  One should consult with his Rav or Posek if in doubt as to any particular circumstances.


4.      The Poskim discuss whether a Kohen has the right to waive VeKidashto as to himself.  The Mishna Berurah (Shulchan Aruch, Orach Chaim 128, seif katan 175) rules that a Kohen does have the right to waive your VeKidashto of him and perform tasks or services for you, but LeChatchila only if he benefits from it by payment or in some other way.  In no event, however, writes the Mishna Berurah (ibid.) may one have a Kohen perform “sheirus bezuyos--embarrassing or demeaning tasks on one’s behalf”.


5.      May one Kohen perform tasks for another Kohen?  The Bi’ur Halacha d’h’Assur writes that “Efsher SheMuttar--perhaps it is permissible”, and the Aruch HaShulchan writes that it is “Tzarich Iyun LeDina”--unclear, requiring further investigation.  Interestingly, however, family members who are not Kohanim, and spouses of Kohanim (!), would still have the Mitzvah of VeKidashto apply to them.


6.      The Sefer Chofetz Chaim (Aseh 9) writes that if one speaks Lashon Hara against a Kohen who is in front of him, thereby offending him, he has violated the Mitzvas Aseh of VeKidashto.


7.      If a Kohen is married to someone that is forbidden to him according to Halacha, or is metamei lemeisim, defiles himself with tumah, the mitzvah of VeKidashto does not apply to him.  However, if the Kohen is a ba’al aveira in other areas, there is a Machlokes HaPoskim as to whether the heightened respect for his status as a Kohen would still apply.  See Piskei Teshuvos 1:128:97.


8.         HaRav Chaim Kanievsky, Shlita rules that if there are two deceased people (a Kohen and a Yisrael) to bury, the Kohen would come first, because he will return to his Avodah in the Bais HaMikdash upon Techiyas HaMeisim.  If for some reason he would not return in Techiyas HaMeisim (for one of the reasons that one does not return, such as lending money on Ribbis), then there would be no Halacha of Vekidashto for him here either.  In responding to a different question in VeKidashto, HaRav Kanievsky rules that if two students ask a question at the same time and one is a Kohein, the Kohein should be answered first.  Finally, HaRav Kanievsky rules that a Kohen also takes precedence in terms of receiving Tzedaka and loans (see Sefer Derech Emunah Hilchos Matanos Aniyim 8: seif katan 108).


9.      The Chinuch writes that the reason for this special Mitzvah is to give honor to Hashem who chose the Kohanim to serve Him in very special ways…”for when one honors the King’s officers, he honors the King.”  Accordingly, the Chinuch continues, whenever we honor the Kohanim, we should have in mind that we are honoring Hashem.  In this zechus, the Chinuch concludes, Hashem will bring His brachos and goodness upon us, as He so much wants to do!


10.      Two Related Notes:


A.       The Mishna Berurah (Shulchan Aruch, Orach Chaim 201, seif katan 13) writes that one should give preference to a Levi over a Yisrael of equal stature in respect of Bircas HaMotzi, Bentsching and Tzedaka.


B.      An important point relating to Bircas Hakohanim--the Bi’ur Halacha (at the outset of Orach Chaim 128) brings the ruling of the Sefer Chareidim, when a Yisrael stands in front of the Kohanim with the Kavannah of receiving their bracha as Hashem commanded, the Yisrael himself has a part in the Mitzvas Aseh of Bircas Kohanim!



Special Note Three:  Our annual Lag BaOmer thought:  Upon reaching the Lag BaOmer milestone, we are faced with a perplexing question:  What is really the sudden cause for celebration at this time?  After all, from what we know of our past during the Omer period, 24,000 senior scholars--the students of Rebbi Akiva passed away for not properly respecting each other; even Rebbi Shimon Bar Yochai, one of the surviving students, eventually passed away on this day; later, the Crusades took their great toll on Ashkenazic Jewry during Sefira; then, the great Posek for Ashkenazim, the Rema passed away on Lag BaOmer, like Rebbi Shimon; and, most recently, much of Hungarian Jewry was hurriedly annihilated during the period from Pesach to Shavuos in 1944--to such an extent that the survivors of Hungarian Jewry who do not know when their relatives or friends were murdered observe the Second Day of Shavuos as their Yahrzeit.  So, what is the joy--the songs, the bonfires, the bows and arrows about?  Why are weddings allowed, and Tachanun not recited?


Rav Chaim Kanievsky, Shlita (following the lines of the G’ra’s Commentary on Shulchan Aruch Orach Chaim, 493) teaches we celebrate that in all events, there were those who remained.  Indeed, the resemblance in all of the aforementioned tragedies is striking: Rebbi Shimon passed his legacy to his students (it is no coincidence that so many other future generations of Tannaim are buried right around Rebbi Shimon in Meron).  Similarly, even after the Crusader massacres killing Rabbeinu Tam and many others in many communities, the Ba’alei Tosfos flourished for many generations, culminating in the Rosh, and his son, the Tur, as the basis for our Shulchan Aruch; the Rema, rather than being the final word in Halacha for Ashkenazim, became the basis and guide for the scores of future poskim; the remnants of Hungarian Jewry fill the Yeshivas from Bnei Brak to Borough Park.


But it is more than that we are just survivors.  It is the fulfillment of the Pasuk (Devorim 32:23): “Chitzai Achaleh Bom”--I will finish my arrows in them--which Chazal (Sotah 9A) explain to mean--my arrows will be finished in them, but they will not be finished.  Hashem has guided us through events, times, places and tragedies of immense proportions, while the other 70 nations of the world disappeared from far less calamitous events.  Perhaps this is the symbol of the bow and arrow on Lag BaOmer--the arrows are done, but we are not.  Why is this so--why has our history--our experience in this world been so different than all other nations?


We suggest that the answer to this, too, brings us to this time of year--it is, once again, not coincidental that all of this is happening as we prepare to receive the Torah--for it **IS THE TORAH** that has made our lives so different and so endurable.  It is the Torah, created well before the world as we know it was created, that has given us the “supernatural” force for us to thrive and survive.  At this special time of year, we should especially demonstrate our recognition of the importance of Torah in our lives and in the lives of K’lal Yisrael.


PRACTICAL SUGGESTION:  For the coming two weeks until Shavuos, in whatever you are learning, whether it is a thought on the Parsha, Daf Yomi, or even a Torah email, think about how important Torah study in our lives.  It is not academics, nor a body of knowledge, but the one part of our life that permeates and invigorates us--and the bonfire that warms and enlightens us every day of our lives.




15 Iyar

VIDUI! When one goes to the Mikvah, he may sense the waters of purity actually taking their effect and purifying him. HaRav Moshe Cordovero, Z’tl, in the Sefer Tomer Devorah writes that when one recites Vidui he likewise should feel that he is being especially cleansed of his sin. In fact, HaRav Cordovero brings the Pasuk in the “Perek of Teshuva” in Tehillim (51:2): “Herev Kabeseini Mei’avoni U’Meichatasi Tahareini”, which he explains means abundantly cleanse me from my iniquity and from my sin purify me.  Even if one does not go to the Mikvah every day--through his Vidui he can accomplish a similar kind of cleansing and purity.  Utilize the opportunity--don’t delay any necessary Teshuva for something that was done--experience the  exhilarating power of Vidui!




Special Note One: We B’EH continue our Monday/Thursday study of the Sefer Mitzvos HaKatzar, with the Mitzvos Lo Sa’asei which the Chofetz Chaim writes are applicable in our times. Today, we present Mitzvos Lo Sa’aseh 119 and 120:


119. Shelo Legalos Ervas Bas Bino V’Bas Bito--this is the Mitzvas Lo Sa’aseh which prohibits a man from engaging in a forbidden relationship with his granddaughter.  If this is done intentionally, the punishment is sereifah (if witnessed) or kores (if not witnessed), and if done unintentionally, a chatas is required. This Mitzvah applies at all times and in all places.


120. Shelo Legalos Ervas Bito --this is the Mitzvas Lo Sa’aseh which prohibits a man from engaging in a forbidden relationship with his daughter (whether from a legitimate marriage or not). If this is done intentionally, the punishment is sereifah (if witnessed) or kores (if not witnessed),and if done unintentionally, a chatas is required. If she is his daughter from a legitimate marriage, he must bring two chata’os (one for the forbidden relationship with his daughter, and another for the forbidden relationship with his wife’s progeny). This Mitzvah applies at all times and in all places.



Special Note Two:  According to the Luach Davar B’Ito, today is the transition day between Bnei Yisrael finishing Matzah they had brought along from Mitzraim, and tomorrow, 16 Iyar, which is the day that the Mann began to fall [see, however, Rashi to Shemos (16:33), in which Rashi appears to write that the Mann began to fall today].  Tomorrow is the day that Moshe Rabbeinu composed the first bracha of Birchas HaMazon, the bracha of Hazon Es HaOlam.  The Luach therefore urges that this bracha be recited with a special Kavannah, because this is the time in which it was composed.


Hakhel Note: At a Hakhel Shiur, HaRav Yisroel Belsky, Shlita, made the following incredible point:  How could it be that millions of people actually finished the Matzah that they had brought with them from Mitzraim all on the exact same day?  After all, did not some families have more, some have less?  Were not some families larger, and some families smaller?  Did not some families have mostly adults, and others mostly small children?


HaRav Belsky answered with a remarkable teaching.  There were families that had finished their Matzah days ago, and others that had finished it even weeks ago.  However, those with Matzah remaining shared it willingly and even happily with their neighbors.  Only when all of this shared Matzah was completely consumed, was there a need for the Mann.  In fact, perhaps the Mann came only because Hashem recognized and acknowledged the chesed of His people, and “shared” with us effusively from His special bounty as well.  Let us take this lesson and enthusiastically apply it by trying to help someone else right now with their Parnassah or their needs.  After all, in the end…it is all Mann!



Special Note Three:  The Chofetz Chaim teaches that, although every individual must be careful with all of the Mitzvos, one should nevertheless be very adept at one particular Mitzvah and observe it with great strength and constancy, being close with it his whole life--just as one holds onto a tree for life. He specifically suggests that one choose a Mitzvah that seems to be less on a person’s mind than other Mitzvos. Indeed, in the Sefer Shemiras HaLashon, he suggests that this Mitzvah be guarding one’s tongue from Lashon Hara. In the recently published Sefer Mesilas HaMaharsha on the Chameish Megillos, by Rabbi Eliezer Ginsberg, Shlita, Rabbi Ginsberg brings an important source (Koheles 5:9) for the concept of a person choosing a Mitzvah and ‘specializing’ in it:  Ohev Kesef Lo Yisbah Kesef U’mi Ohev BeHamon Lo Tevuah Gam Zeh Havel--a lover of money will never be satisfied with the money he has; a lover of abundance has no wheat--this too is futility!” Rashi (ibid.) explains that it is not sufficient for a person to simply do “many Mitzvos”--rather, one needs to have a Mitzvah Mesuyemes V’Nikeres.  Rashi there gives examples of this, which include helping to build a Shul or having a beautiful Sefer Torah written. The Sifsei Chachomim (ibid.) adds that this very lesson is taught in the Torah itself by the actions of Moshe Rabbeinu, as the Pasuk (Devarim 4:31) states:  Az Yavdil Moshe Shalosh Arim”--where Moshe forever designated three Arei Miklat, even though they would not be used in his lifetime. HaRav Ginsberg notes that this does not mean that one necessarily has to choose a Mitzvah which would physically last for future generations, but rather the emphasis is on a Mitzvah that one is Medakdeik LeKayeim Kol Yimei Chayav--especially careful in the performance of all of his life.  Rabbi Ginsberg reports that it was said of Rebbi Akiva Eiger, Z’tl, that he was medakdeik all of his life to fulfill the Mitzvah of Bikur Cholim.


Hakhel Note:  In the secular world around us, we find specialists and specialized expertise in a great many professions and jobs. It may be safely said that the world is more highly specialized today than it ever was. The physical world around us is a place for us to derive lessons for our Ruchniyus. Accordingly, if the world today is more specialized in terms of our daily, material, physical and mundane needs--then all the more so should we, in addition to our steadfast general Mitzvah performance, bli neder take upon ourselves a particular Mitzvah with which we can fulfill the words of the Pesukim “Az Yavdil Moshe…” and “…Ohev BeHamon Lo Tevuah….” One’s selection process may require some thought, and one should consider both the Mitzvos that he seems predisposed to and those that seem more difficult for him to perform--and make an important personal determination in this regard. Hakhel Note: We may add that the concept of developing a personal expertise applies in the area of Talmud Torah as well. The Chofetz Chaim and others bring that one should have his ‘Olam Haba Mesechta”, which he reviews and knows better than all other Mesechtos, which will certainly elevate him to higher and higher levels of Olam Haba. The practice of personalizing a particular Mesechta was even adopted by the Gedolim. We believe that it is said that the Chasam Sofer’s Mesechta was Mesechta Bei’ah. Indeed, it is reported that more recently, HaRav Chaim Stein, Z’tl, had a Mesechta for Bekiyus (Zevachim) and a Mesechta for Iyun (Chulin).


Hashem has lovingly given us a charge--become an expert in your Ruchniyus--you can do it! Let us live up to the task with sincerity, dedication and zeal!




14 Iyar

QUESTION OF THE WEEK--ABOUT HAKHEL! At the outset of Parshas Kedoshim, Rashi writes that this Parsha was said ‘B’Hakhel’ because so many essential Torah teachings are contained in it. The difficulty with this Rashi is that it is apparent that only Parshios from Chumash Devarim were recited/taught at Hakhel (see Sefer HaChinuch Mitzvah 612). What does Rashi mean when he writes that this Parsha was taught ‘B’Hakhel’?



FROM A READER:  Since you mentioned walking while texting etc., I thought I would add the great c’v Chilul Hashem which can occur when people run across the street with cars coming. In addition to not being careful to protect yourself, a Torah obligation, one is also demonstrating bad chinuch which has the potential to be truly disastrous and the possible violation of dina d’malchusa. Many of these concerns apply even when cars are not coming and one is simply jaywalking. Think of the times you were driving and had problems because of jaywalkers….”



APPRECIATING A RASHI: HaRav Aharon Rotter, Shlita, mechaber of the multi-volume Sha’arei Aharon, teaches us how to appreciate Rashi’s teachings:  One should review the words of Rashi to Yecheskel 42:3, where Rashi discusses Yecheskel HaNavi’s description of the Third Beis HaMikdash. There, Rashi explains how he came to his commentary as follows: “I did not have any teacher or help who could explain to me [how the Third Beis HaMikdash would look]--all I had was Kemo Sheheruni Min HaShomayim--that which was showed to me from Heaven!”




Special Note One:  Rebbi Akiva teaches us that VeAhavta L’Reiacha Kamocha is a, or the, K’lal Gadol BaTorah--a great Torah principle. The Sifsei Chachomim gives a special insight into why this is so. He explains that it is more difficult for a person to act properly in the Bein Adam L’Chaveiro sphere than it is to act in Bein Adam LaMakom matters. After all, there are Yetzer Hara driven middos such as kinnah, ga’avah, sinah, ta’avah and the like, which reverberate between man and his fellow man. If one not only controls these middos, but excels in them, concludes the Sifsei Chachomim--then he will most certainly excel in Bein Adam LaMakom as well. Hakhel Note: In a similar vein, HaRav Chaim Shmuelevitz, Z’tl, asks why Hashem will hear the cries of Rochel for the Geulah and respond “Meeni Koleich MiBechi”--apparently even more than Hashem will hear the cries of Avraham Avinu who was ready to sacrifice his son in the service of Hashem, or of Yitzchak Avinu, who was ready to sacrifice himself. He explains that Rochel’s act towards her sister Leah--giving up her ‘competition’, and not only allowing but providing for Yaakov Avinu to marry Leah seems to be even a greater act of self-sacrifice than the sacrifice of oneself to Hashem. The masterful lesson is clear--when one improves in Bein Adam L’Chaveiro--he will (even unwittingly) be wonderfully raising himself in Bein Adam LaMakom as well!



Special Note Two:  The Mogen Avraham (Shulchan Aruch, Orach Chaim 60:1) provides some essential Kavannos for one to have at the end of the bracha Ahava Rabba (Ahavas Olam in Nusach Sefard): 


-U’vanu Vacharta Mikol Am VeLashon V’Keiravtanu--and You have chosen us from among every people and tongue.  Here, when reciting the words with Kavannah--we can fulfill the Mitzvas Asei of remembering Matan Torah and Ma’amad Har Sinai.  


-”LeShimcha HaGadol Selah B’Emes--to Your Great Name.” Here, when reciting the words with Kavannah--we can fulfill the Mitzvas Asei of remembering what Amaleik did to us, for as long as they are present in this world Hashem can be referred to as Kah, and only after their destruction will Hashem’s Name be made Gadol--’whole’--to always be Yud-Key-Vuv-Key.


-”LeHodos Lecha--to offer praiseful thanks to You.” Here, when reciting the words with Kavannah--we can fulfill the Mitzvas Asei of remembering what Hashem did to Miriam, through our realization that our mouths were created only to thank Hashem, and not to speak Lashon Hara against others.


-”U’Leyachedicha B’Ahava--proclaim Your Oneness with love.” Here, when reciting the words with Kavannah--we can fulfill the Mitzvas Asei of remembering how our forefathers angered Hashem in the desert with their conduct, thereby appreciating that our conduct is so important that if c’v it is improper it actually angers Hashem--but that if it is proper it demonstrates our love to Him--and in turn He shows His love back to us in so many ways that we will be able to appreciate!



Special Note Three:  Every night in Hashkiveinu, we recite the words:  V’Haser Satan Milifaneinu U’Mei’achareinu”.  What does this mean--who is the Satan in front of us and who is the Satan in back of us? HaRav Pam, Z’tl, teaches that Milifaneinu refers to the Satan who stands in front of the person, trying to prevent or delay him from doing a Mitzvah.  By asking Hashem to remove the Satan from in front of us--we are asking that Hashem help give us the mindset, the resolve, and the drive to accomplish the Mitzvah without any tarrying. Then, after we have done a Mitzvah--we sometimes may feel remorse, a sense of disappointment, or a feeling that we made the wrong decision.  We accordingly ask Hashem not to let any despair or even reconsideration trouble us--so that the Mitzvah remains whole--as we had intended it. HaRav Ezriel Erlanger, Shlita, presents a related superb insight into the Satan Milifaneinu U’Mei’achareinu, which he had heard from a Yerushalmi many years ago. The Satan Milifaneinu is the attitude or approach that an aveirah one is about to commit is ‘nisht geferlach’--not so bad, not so important, really nothing. We ask that Hashem open our eyes to our own significance, and to the importance of each one of our actions. On the other side, if c’v, an aveirah has been committed--the Satan immediately attempts to convince the sinner: “You are lost, you cannot overcome this aveirah--work on something else instead.” We accordingly ask Hashem that even if c’v we have once or more than once succumbed to any sin, that He give us the sense to get up and go on--to realize that yei’ush is not a Torah feeling--but an instrument of the satan. Hakhel Note:  Every night as we recite the words Satan Milifaneinu U’Mei’achareinu--perhaps we can stop for a moment in between the words Milifaneinu and U’Mei’achareinu--and appreciate their great import and their life giving and essential meanings!




13 Iyar

Special Note One: Not less than twice ( 19:14 and 19:32 ) in Parshas Kedoshim, Rashi provides us with the fundamental definition of Yiras Hashem.  Yiras Hashem, as demonstrated by the Pesukim, is defined as the personal awareness that Hashem not only knows what an individual’s actions are, but also knows what an individual’s thoughts are. As Rashi states: “Anything which is in a person’s heart which others do not know…is something that Hashem knows.”  When a person is in control of his thoughts--and especially does so because he knows Hashem discerns and understands them--he is demonstrating Yiras Hashem at its finest! What’s on your mind--make it count!



Special Note Two:  Chazal (Shabbos 119B) teach that one who answers “Amen!” Bechol Kocho (with all of his strength or with all of his Kavannah) has the gates of Gan Eden opened for him.  Amen is a short word, but is so powerful in the Heavens. When answering Amen to another’s bracha, one should try (at least from time-to-time in the day) to have some of the powerful background Kavannos that Amen means and represents:


1.  Emes Mah She’amar HaMevareich--I affirm that which the mevareich said is true.


2.  Ani Ma’amin Bazeh--I believe that which the mevareich said (even though I may have not received the benefit that he did)!


3. Kehl Melech Ne’eman--Amen is an acronym for the Emunah-filled thought that Hashem is my G-d and trustworthy King.


4. Baruch Hu Hashem B’Inyan Zeh--I recognize that Hashem is the True Source of the particular item that is being described [or, if the bracha relates to a request such as in the middle brachos of Shemone Esrei, I believe that Hashem can fulfill the request, and may He do so].


5. Shehu Kolel Sheim Havayah V’Sheim Adnus--the word Amen is holy--its Gematria is 91--which is the combination of the Gematria of the names of Yud-Key-Vuv-Key (26) and Aleph-Daled-Nun-Yud--combined. Accordingly, it should not be uttered without good meaning and reason!



Special Note Three: The new Sefer Mem Ches Kinyanei HaTorah (The 48 Ways To Acquire The Torah) by Rabbi Shmuel Wittow, Shlita (in Hebrew), contains a beautiful concise background description of each of the 48 ways listed in Pirkei Avos (6:6) by which the Torah is acquired, based upon the explanations of Rishonim and Achronim. After each one of the 48 ways, Rabbi Wittow then provides a practical method by which to acquire it. We provide below several of his wonderful and practical suggestions: 


-Shemiyas HaOzen (listening): At least one time a day, before listening to a Shiur, one should think about how attentive he would be if he was listening to the world’s wealthiest person who was going to give him real advice on how to become wealthy--and he should then think how is receiving this advice directly from Hashem for the true wealth of Torah--which is more precious than gold and silver, and which lasts forever and ever. 


-Eimah (fear): Show the proper reverence and awe for the Sefer one is learning and its contents--and especially returning it to its proper place after use. 


-Simcha (joy): Rejoice greatly when understanding a nuance--recognizing it as Hashem’s personal gift for putting in the effort to study.


-Dikduk Chaveirim (care with words towards a friend): One should not immediately rush to contradict or reject the words of a study partner. Rather, he should value another’s thoughts and attempt to understand them. Even when disagreeing--one should do so in a respectful manner. 


-Yishuv (deliberation): For the first half hour of a study session or Shiur, one should undertake not to look up or around, leave his place, or delve into other matters in order to acquire focus on what one is learning. 


-Miyut Sheinah (limit sleep): This can be accomplished by adding five minutes on to a nighttime learning Seder, or thinking about a Torah thought prior to going to sleep, so that when one falls asleep it is with Torah on his mind.


-Lev Tov (a good heart): One should undertake to prepare his chavrusa’s place or his Gemara on a steady basis, and when doing so it should be with zrizus and a full heart to do something for someone else.  By giving to others in a wholesome way, one strengthens his inner resolve to fulfill the ratzon of Hashem. 


-Makir Es Mekomo (knowing one’s place): Before learning one should reflect upon the fact that his Torah study supports the world’s existence--men, women and children, Jews and non-Jews, animals, vegetables, inanimate objects…the universe needs you!



Special Note Four: Tomorrow is Pesach Sheni. HaRav Yaakov Tzvi Emden, Z’TL (“the Yaavetz”) writes in his Siddur that:


“It was revealed to me from Heaven why Pesach Sheni was established on the 14th day of Iyar.  After all, it would not require more than two weeks for anyone who was impure or too far away on Pesach itself to come to Yerushalayim and bring the Pesach Sheni.  So, why wait a month from the 14th of Nissan to the 14th of Iyar--the Pesach Sheni could have already been brought by Rosh Chodesh Iyar?!”  The reason given to HaRav Emden from Heaven was that Bnei Yisroel had sufficient Matzos to last from the time of our Exodus from Mitzrayim for 30 days--until the night of the 15th of Iyar!  In other words, the Exodus, and all of the Kedusha that came along with it, actually lasted for a full month after the night of Makkas Bechoros and our gathering to leave the next morning.  The holiness that began at Yetzias Mitzrayim, then, actually extended until Pesach Sheni!


The Torah teaches (Bamidbar 9:10) that the actual Korban Pesach Sheni is brought when a person cannot bring the Korban Pesach in its proper time--either because, for example, he was rendered impure, or because he was too far away from the courtyard of the Beis HaMikdash at the time the original Pesach offering was to be brought.  The Luach Davar B’Ito writes that a great lesson of  Pesach Sheni is that it teaches us that it is never too late, and it is always possible, to “Remove your Tumah”--shed your impurity, and to come closer to Hashem after “Having been too far away”.  Accordingly, Pesach Sheni is a time of reflection and Teshuva.  We should take some time out to properly utilize the opportunity of the day.


One final point on Pesach Sheni: there is a difference in custom as to if and when one eats Matzah on Pesach Sheni.  According to one opinion, one should not eat Matzah, for it may appear as if he is attempting to fulfill the Mitzvah of Matzah in an improper time, which is a violation of the Torah’s prohibition against adding onto the 613 Mitzvos.  Others have the custom to eat Matzah sometime during the day on the 14th, to remember that the Korban Pesach Sheni was brought then.  A third opinion is not to eat Matzah until the following night, i.e., the night of the 15th of Iyar, for this would be the night that the Korban Pesach Sheni was eaten together with Matzah and Marror.  Every person should follow his custom, or his Rav’s guidance, in this area.



Special Note Five: Finally, tomorrow is the Yahrtzeit of the Great Tanna, Rebbi Meir (also known as Rebbi Meir Ba’al Haness).  There are those who have the custom of putting money in the Pushka L’Ilui Nishmaso, and reciting “Aloka D’Meir Aneini” three times.


There are specific Tefillos which are attributed to the Chasam Sofer relating to good health, blessing and success; success in one’s business dealings and locating lost items which one may recite any time during the year when placing money into a Pushka L’Ilui Nishmas Rebbi Meir.  To obtain copies of these tefillos, one can contact the Rebbi Meir Ba’al Haness Kolel Shomrei Hachomos office near you.  They may also be found on the back of Pushkas distributed by Kolel Shomrei Hachomos.


May the Zechuyos of Rebbi Meir always stand in our stead!




12 Iyar

SIX MITZVOS IN TWO PESUKIM!  At the outset of the Sefer Chofetz Chaim, the Chofetz Chaim lists 31 possible Mitzvos that one could violate in the Lashon Hara process. In last week’s Parsha of Kedoshim, a full six of these 31 Mitzvos are actually found in two consecutive Pesukim--and all-told, ten of the 31 are found within five Pesukim! Can you identify them?



THE CELLPHONE BUMP:  For one who commonly uses his cell phone, there may sometimes be a strong urge to take it out and text or email while walking on the street or sidewalk. If that happens, as one gets lost in his typing and his thoughts, he inadvertently will bump into and perhaps even harm others--or at the very least demonstrate his lack of respect and consideration for others who must step out of his path. If this has ever happened to you (whether as the perpetrator, or as the victim), may we suggest that you make a conscious effort not to get involved in email or texts while walking. In addition to the demonstrated lack of consideration for others and their dignity, there may in some instances be an aspect c’v of Chillul Hashem as well. Moreover, this way one can tell others--including co-workers--that he does not do so because he cares for the honor of others--making a Kiddush Hashem instead!



A FUNNY SIGN? NOT FOR US!  A popular sign (and bumper sticker) reads:  “Work Harder--Millions of People Are Counting on You!”  Although meant to poke fun at social democratic governments--there truly is a great lesson in these words for us.  We know that the world exists on Torah, and that at any given moment there are only a very small and limited number of people (much less than 1% of the world’s population) actually studying.  The more one studies--the more he assists in keeping not the millions--but the billions of people in the world going.  Work harder--you are a billionaire!



HAKARAS HATOV APPLIED:  The Sefer Otzros HaTorah provides two fascinating examples of HaKaras HaTov, which we can all apply in our everyday lives: 


1. The Steipeler Gaon, Z’tl, teaches that returning a Sefer to its place demonstrates HaKaras HaTov to the Sefer--and to its mechaber, its author--for by returning the Sefer, one demonstrates his respect for it, and the hope that others will use it as well. Indeed, every time another person studies the Sefer, the mechaber accrues merit, and even if the mechaber is no longer living, Chazal teach:  sifsosav dovevos bakever--his lips move in the next world as his words are being studied”! Oh how far-reaching one's Hakaras Hatov can be!


2. HaRav Elya Lopian, Z’tl, would fold his Tallis daily over a certain bench in the Bais Midrash. Once, a drink spilled on the bench.  HaRav Elya hurried to find something to clean the bench with, although his students insisted that they do so.  HaRav Elya replied that he must do it because he owed HaKaras HaTov to the bench for being able to fold his Tallis over it day after day!


Hakhel Note:  We are all familiar with Moshe Rabbeinu demonstrating his HaKaras HaTov to the earth and the waters by not hitting them at the outset of a makka.  We learn from the Steipeler and HaRav Elya that HaKaras HaTov even to inanimate objects [and all the more so to others, and certainly to family members and close friends]--must not be limited to Moshe Rabbeinu--but should apply to each and every one of us in our daily lives! 



BRACHA ACHRONA IMPROVEMENT: In the past we have provided several different momentary thoughts one could have before reciting a Bracha Rishona.  We have likewise provided the words of the Mishna Berurah who writes that some say:  HaReini Rotzeh Le’echol V’Lishtos Kedei She’eheyeh Bari V’Chazak L’Avodas HaBorei--I would like to eat and drink so that I will be healthy and strong for Avodas Hashem (Shulchan Aruch, Orach Chaim 231, Mishna Berurah, seif katan 5).  We now ask what words should one think or say --before reciting a Bracha Achrona--in order to better focus and render his bracha a more potent and meaningful one.  We look forward to hear of your practices, and your thoughts and suggestions!




Special Note One: We B’EH continue our Monday/Thursday study of the Sefer Mitzvos HaKatzar, with the Mitzvos Lo Sa’asei which the Chofetz Chaim writes are applicable in our times. Today, we present Mitzvos Lo Sa’aseh 116, 117 and 118:


116. Shelo Legalos Ervas Zachar--this is the Mitzvas Lo Sa’aseh which prohibits a man from engaging in a forbidden relationship with another man. If this is done intentionally, both he and the other man receive sekilah (if witnessed) or kores (if not witnessed) ,and if done unintentionally, a chatas is required. This Mitzvah applies at all times and in all places.


117-8. Shelo Lavo B’Beheimah --this is the Mitzvas Lo Sa’aseh which prohibits a man from engaging in a forbidden relationship with an animal, and there is no difference as to the age of the animal, and as to whether it is domesticated, undomesticated, or a bird. If this is done intentionally, he receives sekilah (if witnessed) or kores (if not witnessed), and if done unintentionally, a chatas is required. This Mitzvah applies at all times and in all places.



Special Note Two:  During the Sefira period, we recall that the cause for the Petira of so many students of Rebbi Akiva was Shelo Nahagu Kavod Zeh BaZeh.  It is obvious that improving our respect for each other is a key feature of our Sefira Period.  Set forth below are a number of Kavod Improvement Suggestions culled from Mussar Seforim.  We welcome your additional insights or improvement in this crucial area during this timely period:


1.  In Pirkei Avos, we learned (2:5):  ‘Yehi Kavod Chavercha Chaviv Alecha KeShelach--let the honor of your friend be as dear to you as your own honor. When in doubt as to how to react to, or treat your friend, keep this Ma’amar Chazal in mind!


2.  Look at your friend while speaking to him, and do not occupy yourself with something else at the same time.


3.  Smile at your friend--and make him feel that it is important for you to be with him.


4.  Be happy when your friend is happy, and feel troubled when he is troubled.


5.  When you friend is undergoing a Nisayon, apply yourself so that you can best appreciate how to help him.


6.  Avoid a witty repartee which only makes you look good or funny, but will not benefit your friend, or may even hurt him.


7.  If you had a disagreement with your friend, ask for forgiveness first, before he asks you. 


8.  Chazal teach that Bais Hillel would present the opinion of Bais Shammai first--let your friend always speak or go first.


9.  From time-to-time think--My friend is a Tzelem Elokim--someone who Hashem has especially created for a specific purpose in life.  I know him--so I have something to do with his purpose!


10.  Do not yell, scream, or speak coarsely but speak gently, remember that you are speaking to a member of Hashem's Royal Household!




9 Iyar

Special Note One:  Points and pointers on this week’s Parsha: 


A.  There are very many Mitzvos in this week’s Parsha relating to speech.  One such Mitzvah which we may otherwise review in a summary fashion is what the Sefer HaChinuch counts as Mitzvah 231--the prohibition on cursing.  In explaining this Mitzvah, the Sefer HaChinuch teaches as follows (English translation by Charles Wengrov, Feldheim publishing):  Now, even though it-is not in our power to know in what way a malediction takes effect on a cursed person, and what force speech has to bring this [effect] upon him, we know generally from all the people in the world that they are fearful about curses--both Jewry and other peoples. They say that anyone’s malediction, even the curse of a commoner, leaves a mark on the cursed person, and the imprecation and the pain cling to him.  Well, knowing this concept from people’s words, we would say that at the root of the precept lies the reason that Hashem has restrained us from causing harm with our mouths to anyone else, as He has restrained us from harming others by action. In a vein akin to this theme, Chazal say: ‘A covenant (pact) was made with the lips--whatever they utter should have an effect.  In other words, there is a force in the words of a man’s mouth.”


We bring the above quote to learn and eternalize the tremendous power our mouth has, even though our sound waves are not visible to the naked eye.  However, we now add several additional Halachos relating to this particular Mitzvah as culled from Love Your Neighbor, by Rabbi Zelig Pliskin, Shlita:


 “Lo Sekalel Cheireish--it is forbidden to curse others” (Vayikra 19:14 )


1.  It is forbidden to curse a person using any of Hashem’s names. (Choshen Mishpat 27:1)


2.  Saying to someone, ‘Hashem should punish you,’ is a violation of this prohibition. (U’rim Vetumim 27: 2)


3.  It is considered using Hashem’s name even when the name is not in Hebrew. (Choshen Mishpat 27: 1)


4.  A person is forbidden to curse himself (ibid.)  It is forbidden to say concerning a false statement: “This statement is true, so help me G-d.”  This is considered cursing oneself, since from the positive we infer the negative. (Shaarei Teshuva 3:47)


5.   It is an especially severe transgression to curse a Torah scholar (C.M. 27:2), or an entire group. (Rambam, Hilchos Teshuvah 4:3)


6.  Although using Hashem’s name constitutes a more serious offense, it is nonetheless forbidden to curse someone without using Hashem’s name (ibid.). (For instance, it is forbidden to state ‘I hope you fall off a…’)


7.  It is forbidden to curse someone by the use of an inference.  For example: “You should not be blessed by Hashem.” (ibid.)


8.  Cursing someone who .is deceased is not as serious as cursing someone who is alive, but it is nevertheless forbidden. (ibid.)


9.  If someone says Hashem’s name with the intention of cursing another person, it is a mitzvah to interrupt him so as to prevent him from transgressing. (Sefer Chasidim 64)


10.  The Vilna Gaon advised his wife to strike their children if she ever heard them cursing someone. (Igeres HaGra)


B.  A second fundamental review from Rabbi Pliskin in Love Your Neighbor of a Mitzvah in this week’s Parsha:

Hochayach Tochiach Es Amisecho, V’lo Sisa Alov Chait” ( 19:17 )--you shall rebuke your fellow man, and you shall not bear sin because of him.  

We are commanded to correct someone who behaves improperly, whether in matters pertaining to man’s relations with G-d or man’s relationship with his fellow man.


*The most important rule to remember about rebuke is that it must be administered with love and as painlessly as possible.  Only when the recipient of rebuke feels that the rebuker loves him, will he readily accept the admonition.

*Some people mistakenly think that the commandment to admonish others applies only to Rabbis and teachers.  But the truth is that every single person, even if he is unlearned, who sees someone behaving improperly is obligated to rebuke him.  Quite often the rebuke of a friend will be more effective than the rebuke of a Rabbi.  Some people might not heed the admonition of a Rabbi with the following rationalization: “If I were a Rabbi I would or would not do such and such.  But I’m just an ordinary layman.”  If, however, their friend rebukes them, they are likely to think to themselves: “If he is careful about this matter, then I should be, too.”  The author of the Noam Hatochocho writes that the mitzvah of correcting others is a Mais Mitzvah (a Mitzvah that is improperly ignored).  There are many Mitzvah observers who do not realize that correcting others is obligatory and not merely meritorious.  The severity of failing to correct others can be seen from the opinion in the Talmud which states that Yerushalayim was destroyed because the inhabitants failed to rebuke one another.  The Chofetz Chaim wrote that some people are careful to fulfill the commandments themselves, but never try to influence others to fulfill them.  In essence, they are saying, “I won’t suffer in gehinnom, so I don’t have to…..”  Such a person is selfish for he thinks only about himself and his own reward.  He shows a lack of feeling for Hashem’s honor and his fellow man’s spiritual welfare.  He is also wrong--for he will be held responsible for failing to perform this essential Mitzvah.

* When you rebuke someone, you must do so privately so as not to embarrass him.  This applies both when the matter pertains to his having wronged you, and when the matter pertains to his improper behavior relating to his obligations to G-d.

*If someone transgresses in public, you should rebuke him immediately so as not to cause a Chillul Hashem.  For example, if someone is in the middle of speaking Loshon Hora in front of a group of people, it is correct to point out his transgression immediately, even though other people are present.  Of course, this should be done in the most tactful manner possible (HaRav Eliayshiv, Z’tl).

*Before admonishing someone, offer a prayer that your admonition should be delivered in a manner that will be effective.

*If a whole group of people are in need of correction, you will be most successful if you admonish each person individually.  Speaking to the group as a whole will not have the same effect.

*If a person heeds you and improves his ways, all the Mitzvos he subsequently performs as a consequence of this reproof bring reward to you as well as the doer himself! (Vilna Gaon in Even Shlaima 6:7)


C.  In the Parsha (Vayikra 19:15 ), we also learn that B’Tzedek Tishpot Amisecha--we are to judge our friends favorably.  What if we do not?

1.  Chazal teach (Shabbos 97A) that one who is Choshed BeChesheirim--(improperly suspects others) is Lokeh BeGufo.  This is easily explained in a Middah K’Neged Middah manner--just as he put a Mum on someone else, so too, will he receive a Mum in return. 

2.  Being a Choshed BeChesheirim is listed as one of the twenty four items which are Me’akeiv Teshuvah--for the person who improperly accuses does not feel that he has really done something wrong or hurt someone, while the very thought is an aveirah.

3.  Chazal also teach that if somebody is Choshed his friend improperly--he must appease him and he must bless him--as we find with Eili HaKohen who suspected Chana of being a Shikorah--and then appeased her and gave her a bracha…and what a bracha it was--Shmuel HaNavi!  If one improperly suspected another (including a family member or friend)--don’t forget to ask for forgiveness--and don’t forget to give them a nice big bracha!

4.  In the Sefer HaYirah, Rabbeinu Yonah writes that one should specifically forgive all those who improperly suspected him.

5.  Do not feel bad if someone has falsely suspected you--the Gemara (Shabbos 118B) brings the teaching of Rebbi Yosi--”Yehi Chelki Mimi Shechoshdin Oso V’ein Bo--may my lot be among those who have been suspected of something which is not true.”  One explanation for this may be that Hashem especially seeks to protect those who are derided.  Notwithstanding this fact, one should not go about seeking that suspicion be heaped upon him, for the Pasuk teaches “Veheyisem Neki’im MeiHashem U’MeiYisroel--one should always appear clean in the eyes of Hashem, and in the eyes of his People!”

Hakhel Note:  The Pasuk of B’tzedek Tishpot Amisecha teaches us that whether we know it or not, whether we like it or not--we are all judges.  We should strive for excellence in everything that we do--and if we must be judges, let us perform the task with propriety, correctness, honor and care!


D.    After contemplating the profundity and depth of just the few Mitzvos mentioned above, let us be honest with ourselves. How can one begin to do justice to a review of these two Parshios, which together contain 79 Mitzvos?  The task is, nevertheless ours--as Chazal has so established.  One must recognize that our touching upon all these Mitzvos is timely for us now, because all that occurs is Hashgacha Pratis.  Accordingly, we proceed further--with two further excerpts from the Sefer HaChinuch (quoted above) as to two Mitzvos in this week’s Parsha--together with a practical suggestion after each one.  The intent is not necessarily that a reader follow the practical suggestion, but that the reader develop improvement that he feels relevant to himself in these two Mitzvos, and will develop similar thoughts on other Mitzvos contained in the Parsha:


1.  The Mitzvah of VeAhavta LeRei’acha Kamocha--You shall love your neighbor as yourself (Vayikrah 19:18 ):


“To love every member of K’lal Yisroel with a profound affection, which is to say that we are to be concerned about every Yid and his property as a man is concerned about himself and his property-for it is stated, you shall love your neighbor as yourself (Leviticus 19: 18), and Chazal explained: What is hateful to you, do not do to your fellow-man.  Then, in the Midrash (Sifra 4:12 ) it was taught: Said Rebbi Akiva: This is a great principle in the Torah. In other words, many commandments in the Torah depend on it.  Thus, a person who loves another as himself will not steal from himwill not cheat him of goods or oppress him with words, will not move his boundary, and will not harm him in any way. So are many other religious duties bound up with it; the matter is evident to every understanding person.  The root reason for the Mitzvah is apparent: for as a person treats another, so will the other treat him; and with this there will be peace among human beings. The laws of the Mitzvah are summed up in the precept: for it includes everything to say that a man should behave toward his fellow-man as he behaves towards himself--to guard his property and remove all harm from him. And if he relates things about the other one, let him relate them in his praise and have a care for the other’s esteem, and not find honor in the other’s disgrace. As Chazal teach: Whoever derives honor through the disgrace of his fellow-man has no share in the World-to-Come. On the other hand, when a man behaves toward his fellow in a way of love and peace and friendship, seeking his advantage and rejoicing in his good fortune, the Pasuk refers to him as, Yisrael Asher Bicha Espa’ar--, Yisroel in whom I will be glorified (Yeshaya 49: 3)




1.   HaRav Chaim Kanievsky, Shlita teaches that one fulfills the Mitzvah not only with friends and strangers, but with family members as well—including by showing proper attitude and behavior to one’s own spouse—so start cashing in! (See Kiddushin 41a).


2.  The Mitzvah can be fulfilled by thought alone in two different ways— (i) spending time thinking about a Shidduch for someone, how to help an individual in need of emotional or physical support, or on how to give constructive criticism in a way which will have a real effect--and other thoughts unique to the people and situations that you are aware of [after all, Hashem made you aware of them, and it is for a reason]; and (b) actually feeling together with the other person –feeling their pleasure and pain, their dejection and their joy—with this you unite with your fellow person—and he becomes Komocha—like you, as the Torah adjures. As a starting point, you can try to develop this feeling with one person (who, once again, can be a relative), and witness for yourself how your “I” and “Me” has so beautifully grown!



2.  The Mitzvah of Mip’nei Seivah Takum--The Mitzvah of honoring Talmidei Chachomim (Vayikrah 19:32 ):


“To honor Torah scholars and rise before them: for it is stated, Mip’nei Seivah Takum, which Onkelos translated, You shall rise up before one who studies Torah”; and VeHadartah P’nei Zakein (ibid.)--on which Chazal (Kiddushin 32B) explained: an old manmeans none else but one who has acquired wisdom.  As to why the Pasuk expresses the concept of a Torah scholar by the term an old man,the reason is that a·young Torah scholar sees through his wisdom what an old man sees through the multitude of his years.  At the root of the Mitzvah lies the reason that the main point of mans having been created in the world is for the sake of wisdom, so that he will become aware of his Creator. It is therefore fitting for a man to honor one who has attained it. As a result, others will be bestirred about it, and for this root reason, Issi Ben Yehuda (ibid) explained that even an uneducated old man, i.e. who is not wise, is included in this Mitzvah: it is right to honor him-because in his great number of years he has seen and recognized a bit of the workings of Hashem and His wonders; hence he is deserving of esteem.  This is why Rebbi Yochanan said the Halacha is like Issi Ben Yehuda.  Yet this rule holds only on condition that he is not a confirmed sinner; for if he is, he has deprived himself of honor.  Among the laws of the Mitzvah, there is what Chazal taught: that needless to say, one who is not a wise scholar has the obligation of honoring a wise scholar; but even he who is one himself is also required to honor a wise person.  As Chazal (Bava Metzi’ah 33A) recounted: The Torah scholars in Bavel rise up before one another.  Then there is what they equally explained: that in the honor due a Torah teacher from a student, there is a great deal more [required] than in the esteem he owes every other scholar. They indeed went so far as to say (Avos 4:12 ):  Mora Rabcha KiMora Shomayim-- the reverent fear of your Torah teacher should be as the reverent fear of Heaven. 



PRACTICAL SUGGESTION:  As we prepare for Matan Torah we should consider ways that we can increase the respect that we give to our Rabbanim and Maggidei Shiur.  What happens when the Daf Yomi Maggid Shiur enters the room, and how do we treat him?--even if he may not be the Rav of the Shul or a Rebbi in a Yeshiva.  Do we stand to a full height when the Rav enters the room?  How do we treat Menahalim and our children’s Rebbeim?  What is the tone in which we address them--and how do we demonstrate reverence?  Just because one’s Rav may be unassuming and modest--does not obviate the need for us to accord them the honor and respect Hashem teaches they deserve.  When we accord them their proper due--we demonstrate our Yiras Shomayim, for in truth the entire Pasuk is Mip’nei Seivah Takum VeHadartah P’nei Zakein Viyareisa MeiElokecha Ani Hashem--In the presence of an old person you shall rise, and you shall honor the presence of a sage and you shall revere your G-d--I am Hashem.  It is all tied together--we must act, we must improve--and we will demonstrate our Yiras Hashem in the process!



E.  Of the 79 Mitzvos in the Parshios, at least 23 relate to Arayos—forbidden relationships and immorality. Once again, we must take the timely lessons from the Parsha as we live through it, and bolster our care in the fundamental area care from the Arayos plays in a Jew’s life. Especially as the warmer weather comes upon us, and the populations around us act with increased prurience, we must fulfill Hashem’s directive in the Parsha –”You shall be holy, for I am holy…. (Vayikra 19:2). Rashi (ibid.) teaches that this Pasuk immediately follows the Parsha of the Arayos, because when one makes appropriate fences and boundaries— properly separating or distancing himself from Arayos in all forms—this is where Kedusha may be found.


      The western world distortedly views some of the Arayos as ‘victimless’ crimes.  We, on the other hand, believe that not only are the participants and those who encourage them at fault, but that the degenerate mores impact horrificaly on the world at large.  We need go no further than the Pasuk “Ki Hishchis Kol Bassar EsDarko Al Ha’Aretz”—for all flesh had corrupted its way upon the earth (Bereishis 6:12), and the literal destruction of the world  at the time of the Flood that resulted in  its aftermath.  It is absolutely incumbent upon us to do something to distance ourselves far, far, far away from this behavior.  Each of us (man and woman, young and old, city worker and chareidi neighborhood dweller) can do something to improve his/her situation in this regard—to bring a greater, tangible Kedusha into one’s life. It is now less than 30 days to Matan Torah—in which the Kedusha from on High—the Torah-- was brought down to this world for transmission to us all in each generation. Let us make ourselves eminently worthy of it—not only by contemplation and reflection—but in deed and in restraint.


F.  Because the Parsha contains the Mitzvah of paying workers on time, we were asked to remind our readers that service providers should be paid in a timely manner--on the completion of the performance of their service.  “Some look to the check or cash you are providing them with for their immediate expenses, including food and overdue bills.”  Hakhel Note:  As discussed in the past, even workers who are mochel timely payment, must be of age to do so.  A babysitter who is not bar mitzvah or bas mitzvah cannot be mochel.  For an excellent, practical and clear review of the halachos of paying workers and others, which involves so many mitzvos intertwined--we highly recommend The Halachos of Other People’s Money, by Rabbi Yisroel Pinchos Bodner, Shlita (Feldheim).



Special Note Two:  We continue with our Erev Shabbos Halachos of Shabbos Series:


A.  On every Erev Shabbos after Chatzos, HaRav Chaim Pilagi z’tl would daven to Hashem that nothing would happen this Shabbos that would require c’v’ the Shabbos to be violated, such as a choleh mesukan, a fire, or other danger.


B.   In this week’s Parsha, we find the concept of Shemiras Shabbos mentioned in two separate instances--Ish Aviv VeImo Tira’u V’es Shabbsosai Tishmoru…revere your mother and father and observe Shabbos (Vayikrah 19:3), and then Es Shabbsosai Tishmoru V’es Mikdashai Tira’u--observe My Shabbosos and revere My Bais HaMikdash (Vayikrah 19:30).  There are two separate messages here.  First, even if a parent instructs his child to violate a Mitzvah DeRabanan such as “Bring that [muktzah item] to me” or “Have the gentile turn on the light” in a situation where it is not Halachically permitted, the child is not permitted to honor his parent and must follow the Mitzvah DeRabanan.  Moreover, the Kedushas Shabbos is so great the second Pasuk teaches us, we would not be able to violate any Shabbos law even if it was to build the final and eternal third Bais HaMikdash, which we have been waiting for 2,000 years.  We should keep these lessons in mind every Shabbos, and seek to increase our personal awareness of the Kedushas Shabbos! “Oh well, I carried this outside by mistake”, “I guess I moved the Muktzah”, “I was not sure if that was some kind of Borer”…are not part of the proper attitude towards Shabbos.  Skipping Zemiros because it is ‘getting late’ or looking for an earlier Motza’ei Shabbos Minyan, would also not seem to fall squarely within the Shemiras Shabbos the Torah seeks of us in this week’s Parsha.  Shabbos is so elevated--even above the Bais HaMikdash--let us make sure that it elevates us!


C.  Chazal (Meilah 17A) provide an incredible incident in which Rebbi Reuven Ben Istrubeli dressed as a Roman in order to induce the Roman political to annual their evil decrees against the Jewish people.  One such decree was that the Jews could no longer observe Shabbos.  He argued to them (ostensibly as a gentile)--”If a person had an enemy, does he want to make him rich or poor?”  “Poor, of course”, they responded.  “If that is the case, let them observe Shabbos so that they will not do work and they will become poor.”  He said.  The politicians responded “You are right.”, and they annulled the decree.  Later, they learned he was a Jew and they reinstated the Gezeirah.  This Ma’aseh serves to reinforce to us the stark contrast between our level of Emunah which our observance of Shabbos highlights and brings out--and the non-Jews attitude which is that not working will simply make us poor (although they actually believed that to be the case, they only reinstated the decree because of their anti-Semitism).  Our calm observance of Shabbos, without thinking about the work week, the money that has to be made and the tasks that have to be done, is a bastion of our Emunah.  One of the reasons given as to why we put our ten fingers on bread or Challah before making a bracha over it is that this represents the ten words of ‘Veyiten Lecha’--that our Parnassah is from Hashem--and not the result of our own genius or toil.  It is no coincidence that we take this great lesson of Shabbos with us immediately into the week by reciting the Pesukim of ‘Veyiten Lecha…it all depends on Hashem’s bracha’--as we begin the new week! 

D. The Mishnah in this week’s Perek (Avos 3:2)  teaches that one who studies Torah even by himself is aptly rewarded, as the Pasuk (Eicha 3:28) states:  Yeishev Badad VeYidom Ki Natal Alav--even if one learns in solitude, he will receive a reward.”  The Bartenura explains that these words are much more powerful than we might otherwise think.  The term ‘Ki Natal Alav’ teaches that even for one sitting and studying in solitude:  K’ilu Nesinas Kol HaTorah Kula Haysah Ba’avuro Bilvad--Hashem considers it as if the entire giving of the Torah was for him, and him alone!  We see, then, how precious even one moment of Torah is to even the solitary Torah student, and we should be careful with every such moment--for ourselves, and for all others--all the more so when one spends those extra minutes to learn on Shabbos Kodesh!




8 Iyar

Special Note One: We B’EH continue our Monday/Thursday study of the Sefer Mitzvos HaKatzar, with the Mitzvos Lo Sa’asei which the Chofetz Chaim writes are applicable in our times. Today, we present Mitzvos Lo Sa’aseh 114 and 115:


114. Shelo Legalos Ervas Achi Aviv--this is the Mitzvas Lo Sa’aseh which prohibits a man from engaging in a forbidden relationship with his father’s brother. If this is done intentionally, both he and his uncle receive sekilah (if witnessed) or kores (if not witnessed),and if done unintentionally, two chata’os are required (one for a forbidden relationship with his father’s brother, and a second for it being another male, as well). This Mitzvah applies at all times and in all places.


115. Shelo Legalos Ervas Aishes B’no --this is the Mitzvas Lo Sa’aseh which prohibits a man from engaging in a forbidden relationship with his son’s wife (whether or not the son is alive, and even if the son and wife are now divorced). If this is done intentionally, both he and his son’s wife receive sekilah (if witnessed) or kores (if not witnessed), and if done unintentionally, a chatas is required. This Mitzvah applies at all times and in all places.



Special Note Two:  Having just made the Birchas HaIlanos, we B’EH begin to reap the benefits of spring. One of them is the greater opportunity to recite Brachos over the wonderful world of fragrances around us.  As in the past, we provide our readers below with a ‘shmek’, a brief ‘fragrance’, from the wonderful Sefer Rei’ach Hasadeh-The Fragrant Field (by Rabbi Hanoch Slatin, Shlita; Feldheim Publishers, 2003):   


  1. Appreciating Our Sense of Smell. One of the first times the Torah refers to the sense of smell is when Yitzchok Avinu appreciates the fragrance of his son Yaakov: “Look, the fragrance of my son, is like the fragrance of the field which Hashem blessed.” (Bereishis 27:27)  The Midrash explains that Yitzchok smelled Gan Eden--his sense of smell connected him with a world in another dimension.


  1. The Brachos. There are five possible Brachos over fragrances.  Their sequence, in order of priority, is as follows:

  1. Borei shemen arev — only on apharsemon oil

  2. Hanosein re’iach tov bapeiros — only for fruits

  3. Borei atzei v’samim — for all tree aromas

  4. Borei isvei v’samim — for all grass aromas

  5. Borei minei v’samim---for all other aromas over which a bracha is recited


Hakhel Footnote: In a sense, Borei minei v’samim is an omnibus bracha similar to shehakol neheya b’dvaro.


  1. Priority in Brachos Recitation.  When one picks up a pleasant-smelling fruit with the intention to both smell it and eat it, which bracha should come first?  There is reason to assume that one should begin with the fragrance.  As the person picks up the fruit, the smell will reach his nose before he has a chance to eat the fruit, and if he does not say the bracha on the aroma first, he will be guilty of deriving pleasure from this world without first saying a bracha.  Many authorities follow this line of reasoning and instruct us to say the bracha on the smell first.


  1. Aromatherapy:  Alternative medicine is a rapidly expanding area. Some people use various scents in order to improve their health.  People may smell a fragrance, or add them to massage oils or to their bath.  This practice is called aromatherapy.  If a person smells fragrances with no intention to enjoy their pleasant aroma, only to relieve himself of some illness, he should not make a bracha.  In practice, however, most people who employ aromatherapy also enjoy its fragrance on its own, and therefore they should recite the appropriate bracha.


Hakhel Footnote: As a matter of caution, one should first ask his Rav or Posek whether it is permissible to engage in aromatherapy per se, as different forms of alternative medicine have been linked to aspects of Avoda Zara.  It is a person’s absolute duty to determine that the source of his proposed form of therapy does not arise from the worshipping of other gods--something so foreign to individuals in the West that we may not initially consider it.


  1. Black Pepper and Ginger: There is a difference of opinion among the authorities whether black pepper and ginger are to be considered besamim.  Therefore, the rule is that one should not make a bracha.  In order to avoid the transgression of enjoying this world without making a bracha, one should either refrain from smelling black pepper and ginger, or make a bracha on another fragrance and intend to include the pepper or ginger, as well.


  1. Bread:  A similar question exists regarding picking up (or bending over) and smelling a fresh, warm loaf of bread.  There are authorities who maintain that bread is neither a pleasant-smelling fruit nor a bosem, and no bracha should be said on its smell.  Others rule that a bracha should be said on the smell of bread.  Even according to this view, there is a difference of opinion as to which bracha should be said.  Some say that the bracha hanosein rei’ach tov bapeiros is applicable, others insist that only the bracha borei minei v’samim applies, whereas still others require the recital of a special bracha hanosein rei’ach tov b’pas--Who puts a pleasant smell in bread.  Again, since a bracha  may or may not be required, one should not say a bracha and should refrain from picking up(or bending over) warm bread to smell it.  This refers only to warm bread; the smell of cold bread is not strong and pleasurable enough to require a bracha.  Also, unless the bread is picked up or set aside for the purpose of smelling it, no bracha is required, even on fresh, warm bread. (Like any aromatic fruit, no bracha is said unless one takes the fruit with intention to enjoy its smell.)


  1. Weak Appreciation: One who by nature has a weak sense of smell, or whose sense of smell has been temporarily weakened due to a cold and the like, should not recite a bracha on a scent which he does not sense keenly.  The same applies to one with a healthy sense of smell who does not enjoy a particular aroma.  He does not say a bracha on that particular smell, even if most people do derive pleasure from it.


  1. Weak Aromas:  Some flowers and fruits may have a very weak smell.  A person may find that one orange does not have a noticeable fragrance, but that a bowlful of oranges does.  Unless there is an appreciable fragrance coming from the item in question, do not make a bracha.


  1. Testing a Fragrance:  If one is in doubt as to how strong a smell a fragrance has, or whether or not the smell is pleasant, or whether or not his sense of smell is keen enough to be able to smell the fragrance properly, he may first smell it without a bracha as a trial.  If he finds the smell sufficiently strong and enjoyable, he should say the bracha and smell it a second time.


  1. Shabbos:  On Shabbos one of the forbidden activities is to harvest produce.  We are afraid that if one were to smell a fragrant fruit on a tree, he might want to eat that fruit and accidentally come to pick it.  Chazal therefore forbade one from smelling fruit on a tree on Shabbos.  There is no such concern about smelling a flower, as full enjoyment is derived from the flower without needing to pick it.  Therefore, one may smell growing flowers on Shabbos.  One must still be very careful to handle the plant gently.  If the plant is as soft as grass there is essentially no possibility of breaking it, so one may touch it.  If the branch of a tree is somewhat brittle, one should refrain from holding it. 


  1. In Havdala, one may use only those fragrances that normally require a bracha.  Hand soaps or bathroom deodorants never require a bracha, so they may not be used.  Many have the custom to use hadassim (myrtle leaves) which were already used to fulfill the mitzvah of Lulav.  This is in keeping with the principle that an object used for one mitzvah is preferred over other objects to perform yet another mitzvah.  Myrtle branches usually require the bracha of borei atzei v’samim.  For Ashkenazim the text of Havdalah always uses the bracha of borei minei v’samim.  Therefore, it is advisable to also include some fragrance which normally requires a borei minei v’samim, such as cloves.  This is not true for Sephardim, as their custom at Havdala is to say whichever bracha is correct for the particular fragrance being used.  Since myrtle leaves dry out and lose their scent with time, one should be careful to replenish the spice box regularly.


  1. True Appreciation. The author of the Sefer Yesod V’Shoresh Ha’Avodah, in his Last Will, urged his children to acknowledge Hashem in their thoughts before partaking of any pleasure of the world, even with such pleasures as snuff, which requires no bracha.  Ideally, any benefit we derive from the world should be accompanied by some form of praise and gratitude to the One Who created so many varied pleasures for us.  Therefore, even when we are not permitted to make a formal bracha, our thoughts should be directed toward Hashem.


We hope you once again enjoyed this timely whiff from the Sefer Rei’ach Hasadeh.  It is, of course, available in your local Jewish Book Store, with more detail on how a Torah Jew uses his sense of smell in serving Hashem!




7 Iyar

BABYSITTER HORROR: From a Reader: “I was walking down Flatbush Avenue in Brooklyn on my way out of the post office.  In passing the windowed McDonald’s next door, I noticed two cute little boys with yarmulkas sitting and eating in the restaurant!  Looking more closely--I saw that they were with someone who was obviously a babysitter. She was eating a burger and French Fries, and they had yogurts in front of them (probably cholov yisroel).  The boys were young--probably both less than 5.  I thought to myself--what was to stop this woman from giving them a few French Fries or another one of her favorite dishes?  I think that anyone who uses non-Frum baby sitters, and certainly baby sitters who are of a different religion, must have real standards that work--how could she be taking them out like that?!  Moshe Rabbeinu did not nurse from a Mitzri, and we are taught in Shulchan Aruch by the Rema that we should all live up to that standard.  Without controls--it is out of control!”



ANNOYED?  Your next door neighbor is doing construction.  Your child speaks to you with chutzpa that you would never have thought possible.  You are on the losing side of a difference of opinion with your friend, co-worker or spouse. You didn’t get a good report on  a proposed Shidduch that  a ‘friend’ had redt to you. You lost some money in the street.  Your email was hacked.  You have a headache--and you have so much to do.  What is all this--what are the annoyances of life about?  To those who believe in nature--it is part of nature, part of what you have to put up with, perhaps grumble, complain and even curse about--and instead look forward to more ‘fun’ in the future. In last week’s Parshios we learn however how unique and special each Divine message is--there are issues with burns, markings and inflammations of the skin, changes of color of the hair in different parts of the body, head and beard afflictions, confinement and possible confinement...none of it happenstance, the size, the shape the part of the body, the result all specifically directed and all to be specifically understood.  What are the lessons of this annoyance and that problem to be--we may not fathom all or many of the messages, but should at least begin by appreciating that they are all Min Hashamayim.  After contemplating for at least a moment what the message could be relating to the specific event--at least thinking about any obvious Middah Ke’neged Middah --one can try to develop and grow in the personal middah of savlanus--patience and dealing calmly with others and with situations--even when offended, hurt or dealt with unfairly by others--and even if intentionally so. It is fascinating to note that HaRav Chaim Kanievsky, Shlita in a Haskama to a sefer on the life of his Rebbitzen, A’h, writes how she excelled in all Middos--but especially in that of savlanus--withstanding the difficulties, the pressures, the challenges, and retain her composure, love, and Yiras Shamayim--in all situations and to all people. For further profound chizuk in this area, may we suggest Chapter One of the Sefer Tomer Devorah (available in different English translations as well).  More to follow in Special Note One below


Additional Note:  Following is the text of a letter issued by HaRav Moshe Feinstein, Z’tl and HaRav Yaakov Kamenetsky, Z’tl , dated 24 Av 5744, as translated into English and presented in the Emuna Daily’s Hashgacha Pratit Journal: 


                    As any thoughtful person will understand, it is very important in these times to implant the belief in the heart of every person that Hashem watches personally over the life of each individual. This is especially critical when educating our youngsters, because this is a pillar which upholds our entire belief system.  A good strategy for reinforcing this faith is to keep a notebook chronicling any situation in which a person sees and feels Hashem’s direct supervision in matters of daily life. One can easily discern that this approach will uproot and negate the sense that things occur at random, or that forces of nature dominate our lives, or that “it is my fortitude and the power of my hand that accomplish for me in life”. By strengthening this Mitzvah all of the other Mitzvos of the Torah will be fortified. Then we will experience the words of Habbakuk:  VeTzaddik Beemunaso Yichye--the righteous man will be vitalized by his faith. “


The Emuna Daily’s Hashgacha Pratit Journal, an extremely meaningful pamphlet with over 40 blank pages to fill-in one’s personal Hashgacha Pratis  insights on a daily basis, is available by contacting emunadaily@gmail.com.  To receive the daily short Emuna-message email, contact this email address as well.  For a daily three-minute moving audio Shiur on Emunah, please call 605-475-4799, access 840886#, and then when asked for the number of the shiur--press  # again.




Special Note:  We received the following stunning story from a reader--there are so many lessons in this story, that if you cannot think about and apply at least five--you should rest because you are overtired:


How My Parents Met

Rabbi Yosef Wallis, director of Arachim of Israel, talks to Project Witness about his father, Judah Wallis, who was born and raised in Pavenitz, Poland:

“While he was in Dachau, a Jew who was being taken to his death suddenly flung a small bag at my father, Judah Wallis.  He caught it, thinking it might contain a piece of bread.  Upon opening it, however, he was disturbed to discover a pair of Tefillin.
Judah was very frightened because he knew that were he to be caught carrying Tefillin, he would be put to death instantly. So he hid the Tefillin under his shirt and headed for his bunkhouse.


“In the morning, just before the appel [roll call], while still in his bunkhouse, he put on the Tefillin.  Unexpectedly, a German officer appeared. He ordered him to remove the Tefillin, noted the number on Judah ’s arm, and ordered him to go straight to the appel.


“At the appel, in front of thousands of silent Jews, the officer called out Judah ’s number and he had no choice but to step forward.  The German officer waved the Tefillin in the air and said, ‘Dog! I sentence you to death by public hanging for wearing these.’


Judah was placed on a stool and a noose was placed around his neck. Before he was hanged, the officer said in a mocking tone, ‘Dog, what is your last wish?’


“‘To wear my Tefillin one last time,’ Judah replied.


“The officer was dumbfounded.  He handed Judah the Tefillin.  As Judah put them on, he recited the verse that is said while the Tefillin are being wound around the fingers: ‘Ve’eirastich li le’olam, ve’eirastich li b’tzedek uvemishpat, ub’chessed, uv’rachamim, ve’eirastich li b’emunah, v’yodaat es Hashem-I will betroth you to me forever and I will betroth you to me with righteousness and with justice and with kindness and with mercy and I will betroth you to me with fidelity, and you shall know Hashem.’


“It is hard for us to picture this Jew with a noose around his neck, wearing Tefillin on his head and arm - but that was the scene that the entire camp was forced to watch, as they awaited the impending hanging of the Jew who had dared to break the rule against wearing Tefillin.  Even women from the adjoining camp were lined up at the barbed wire fence that separated them from the men’s camp, forced to watch this horrible sight.


“As Judah turned to watch the silent crowd, he saw tears in many people’s eyes.  Even at that moment, as he was about to be hanged, he was shocked. Jews were crying! How was it possible that they still had tears left to shed?  And for a stranger?  Where were those tears coming from?  Impulsively, in Yiddish, he called out, ‘Yidden, don’t cry. With Tefillin on, I am the victor. Don’t you understand, I am the winner!’


“The German officer understood the Yiddish and was infuriated. He said to Judah , ‘You dog, you think you are the winner? Hanging is too good for you. You are going to get another kind of death.’


“Judah, my father, was taken from the stool and the noose was removed from his neck.  He was forced into a squatting position and two huge rocks were placed under his arms.  Then he was told that he would be receiving 25 lashes to his head - the head on which he had dared to position his Tefillin.  The officer told him that if he dropped even one of the rocks, he would be shot immediately. In fact, because this was such an extremely painful form of death, the officer advised him, ‘Drop the rocks now. You will never survive the 25 lashes to the head. Nobody ever does.’


Judah’s response was, ‘No, I won’t give you the pleasure.’


“At the 25th lash, Judah lost consciousness and was left for dead.  He was about to be dragged to a pile of corpses , after which he would have been burned in a ditch, when another Jew saw him, shoved him to the side, and covered his head with a rag, so people didn’t realize he was alive.  Eventually, after he recovered consciousness fully, he crawled to the nearest bunkhouse that was on raised piles, and hid under it until he was strong enough to come out under his own power. Two months later he was liberated.


“During the hanging and beating episode, a 17-year-old girl had been watching the events from the women’s side of the fence. After liberation, she made her way to the men’s camp and found Judah . She walked over to him and said, ‘I’ve lost everyone. I don’t want to be alone any more. I saw what you did that day when the officer wanted to hang you. Will you marry me?’“


The rest is history. Rabbi Yosef Wallis’ parents (for this couple became his parents) walked over to the Klausenberger Rebbe and requested that he perform the marriage ceremony. The Klausenberger Rebbe, whose Kiddush Hashem is legendary, wrote out a kesubah by hand from memory and married the couple. Rabbi Wallis has that handwritten kesubah in his possession to this day.


Hakhel Note:  Please do not lose--and use--the opportunity--write down and review lessons for life from the story of R’ Judah Wallis!




6 Iyar

OUR TESHUVA!  On the Boston massacre yesterday, a reader wrote to us that, when learning of one of the college killings, the immediate reaction of HaRav Shmuel Berenbaum, Z'tl, was that when there is chilul Shabbos in France it is related to lack of care for Shabbos in New York --we must understand that there is a related responsibility to us. Jews are not murderers--so what are we to correct?  At that time, HaRav Berenbaum responded that Malbin Pnei Chaveiro--embarrassing another person is avak retzicha, a form of murder--and that a new and special care against embarrassing another must be implemented by each and every person.  Hakhel Note One:  Let us take the lessons from our Gedolim to heart and action-applying them to our lives!  Hakhel Note Two:  The obviously new heightened security awareness may BeHashgacha Geluya have an impact on the ability to gather together to pray for our brethren in Eretz Yisrael --we should therefore be and remain ever vigilant in our personal Tefillos to daven for Rachamei Shomayim to uplift the Keren HaTorah Velomde'ha in Eretz Yisrael and literally everywhere in the world-- NOW is the time!



WILL IT BE ACCEPTED?  In a recent publication containing the teachings of HaRav Moshe Shmuel Shapiro, Z'tl, it is reported that whenever HaRav Shapiro offered words of rebuke or mussar, it would only be presented if it could be done in a way 'Ki Heichi Delekablu Minei'--so that the words of advice, guidance or constructive criticism would be accepted by the party it was addressed to.   With this stated goal in mind, there would be no words of admonition or instruction uttered in annoyance or anger, or containing bites of derision, cynicism or sarcasm--for although these kinds of expressions could vent frustration--they certainly would not be accepted by another....What a simple and shining standard to use for words to help another --'Ki Heichi Delekablu Minei'-- so that they truly accomplish their goal!



IT IS A MAKOM KADOSH!  A reader sent us a sign that he found in a Shul that he found instructive and meaningful--and we pass it along by clicking here.  It can be posted in your Shul, as well!



Special Note One:   The following is excerpted from the outstanding English translation of the Sefer Aleinu L’Shabei’ach on Sefer Vayikra (Artscroll p.113-114), by Rabbi Yitzchok Zilberstein, Shlita:


“R’ Moshe Vaye related that a great talmid chacham who learned in the Chofetz Chaim’s yeshiva in Radin told him this story:  “I used to visit the Chofetz Chaim often.  Once, when I was in his house, the Chofetz Chaim was feeling quite weak, but was in very good spirits nonetheless.  He was 83 years old at the time.  The Chofetz Chaim was lying in bed, and he suddenly motioned to me to come closer to him.  When I came over to his bed, he asked that I open his mouth.  I was taken aback, even frightened, for I did not understand what the Chofetz Chaim’s intention was, and I did not dare to go ahead and open his mouth.  How could I open the mouth of the holy Chofetz Chaim?  Who dares to enter the lion’s den?  The Chofetz Chaim then repeated his instruction.  Having no choice, I obeyed.  Looking into the Chofetz Chaim’s mouth, I saw two snow-white rows of teeth, each tooth perfectly healthy and in the correct place.  It was as though I were looking into the mouth of a young child whose teeth were still sparkling and pristine.  “Count the number of teeth I have in my mouth,” the Chofetz Chaim then instructed me.  I thought I was going to faint.  In order to count the Chofetz Chaim’s teeth, I would have to peer deep inside his mouth.  But the Chofetz Chaim urged me to count his teeth.  Hesitatingly, I counted 32 teeth.  The Chofetz Chaim was still in possession of a full, perfect set of teeth.  Not one tooth was missing or decayed; everyone was strong, healthy, and as good as new.  How many people have a full set of healthy teeth at age 83, I marveled.  After I counted the Chofetz Chaim’s teeth, he took my hand, and said, with a smile that I will never forget, ‘I guarded the mouth that Hashem gave me, so Hashem took care of my mouth.’”


Hakhel Note:  Let us strive to make our teeth as white as we can!



Special Note Two:  It's a Rashi!  We provide below several wonderful words of instruction from Rashi himself to last week's Perek (2) in Pirkei Avos:


A.   Hevei Mechashev Hefsed Mitzvah K'neged Sechara--think of the loss from a Mitzvah in light of the gain:  The Mishna is teaching us that when one loses money in order to perform a Mitzvah, he should not be upset or saddened, as the reward in the future is great--the most basic cost-benefit analysis tells you to JUST DO THE MITZVAH! The reverse is true in aveirah performance--although the immediate pleasure is definite, immediate and direct--the future loss far, far outweighs it--DON'T DO IT!


B. Ahl Tomer... Shesofo LeHishame'a--do not say that I will listen to it later:  The Mishna is teaching us that if you can listen to a Devar Torah now--do it immediately--and do not put it off until later.


C. Lo HaBaishan Lomeid--the shamefaced person does not learn:  The Mishna is teaching us that one who does not ask questions when learning Halachos or other areas of Torah fulfils the words of Shlomo HaMelech in Mishlei (30:32) VeIm Zamosa Yad LePeh--it will be as if he put his hand in his mouth, and will know 'kelum'-- nothing.


D.  Ahl Tehi Rasha Bifnei Atzmecha--do not be wicked in your own eyes.  The Mishna is teaching that one should not do something which even in a day or two will render a person a Rasha--in which he will say Loma Asisi Resha Zeh--why did I do this?!


E. Ashrei Yoladeto--happy is his [Rebbe Yehoshua's] mother.  The Yerushalmi teaches that when Rebbe Yehoshua's mother was expecting with him she went to the Batei Midrashos and asked the students to "Please daven for this child that he become a chacham." The davening worked.  Hakhel Note: It is said that a Rosh Yeshivah in the NewYork area has asked interviewees to the Yeshiva during their farheir--Do you know how to become a Talmid Chacham--and eventually answers-- Do you know how? You must sincerely daven for it!



Special Note Three: It is well known that HaRav Dessler, Z’tl, teaches and reiterates that our Holidays are not mere commemorations and remembrances of glorious events that took place in years past, but are times in which we re-experience and relive those very events and occurrences. Thus, every Pesach we are to feel and arrive at new levels of freedom, and at Shavuos we are to undertake a new echelon of Torah acceptance and study.


So what is it that we are supposed to be re-experiencing during the Sefira period itself? Most likely, there were no concerts or CDs in the desert that Bnei Yisroel were forced to miss, so that could not be it. It also cannot simply be an abstinence from barbers and barber shops for an extended period of time. At a Hakhel Shiur, Rabbi Eliyahu Schneider, Shlita, provided the following wonderful insight:


The Sefer HaChinuch writes that the purpose of the Sefira is for us to count up to Shavous, instilling within us a sense of appreciation, excitement and enthusiasm. As we slowly but surely progress through the Omer period, we must rid ourselves to the greatest extent possible of the robotic nature in which we may perform our mitzvos, and any mental stupor we may experience while listening to a Shiur. We must teach ourselves that Torah and Mitzvos cannot be comprised only of “doing today’s daf”, or “learning the two Halachos”. Of course, it is essential that we have goals, and guide ourselves with certain daily accomplishments. However, we must infuse a genuine desire and drive into our Torah study and Mitzvah performance. As Rabbi Schneider points out, even though fish live in water, when it rains they come to the surface, as if they are thirsting for the new drops of the life-giving liquid, even though they are already surrounded by it!

Indeed, Hakhel (forgive the plug), is one of the last Mitzvos in the Torah for this very reason. What does Hakhel represent? After all, could not every one simply study the Parshios recited at Hakhel either at home, in Shul, or at a Shiur? Why did **every one**--man, women and children of all ages have to ascend to the Bais HaMikdash on one particular day to hear a portion of the Torah being read?!


Rabbi Schneider suggests that Hakhel not only represented the study of Torah, but the experience of Torah. Every so often, one must reinvigorate himself and excite himself about the great opportunity that awaits him every day. It is an opportunity shared by a minute, actually, very minute, percentage of all the people in the world. Just as people may forget to appreciate their eyesight, their ability to walk, that they have a job, food, clothing, so, too, they may forget to consider the infinite and eternal Torah that is or can be their daily companion.


Let us take these last few days before Shavuos to learn Torah with the effort and energy, with the exhilaration and enthusiasm that it really, truly deserves!




5 Iyar

FROM A READER: "To inspire myself before davening, I sometimes think of the words of Tehillim which so strongly state how our Tefillos are answered:  Hashem Elokai Shivati Eilecha Vatirpa'eini--Hashem, my G-d, I cried out to You and You healed me (Tehillim 30:3) …Tza’aku VeHashem Shome’ah U’Mekol Tzarosam Hitzilam--they cried out and Hashem heard, and saved them from all of their troubles.(Tehillim 34:18).  We have to know that are Tefillos are really listened to!"




Special Note One: We B’EH continue our Monday/Thursday study of the Sefer Mitzvos HaKatzar, with the Mitzvos Lo Sa’asei which the Chofetz Chaim writes are applicable in our times. Today, we present Mitzvos Lo Sa’aseh  112 and 113:


112.  Shelo Legalos Ervas Imo--this is the Mitzvas Lo Sa’aseh which prohibits a son from engaging in a forbidden relationship with his mother. If this is done intentionally, both he and his mother receive sekilah (if witnessed) or kores (if not witnessed), and if done unintentionally, two chata’os are required (one for a forbidden relationship with his father's wife, and a second for it being his mother as well). This Mitzvah applies at all times and in all places.


113.  Shelo Legalos Ervas Aishes Aviv --this is the Mitzvas Lo Sa’aseh which prohibits a son from engaging in a forbidden relationship with his father's wife (whether or not the father is alive, and even if his father and his wife are now divorced). If this is done intentionally, both he and his father's wife receive sekilah (if witnessed) or kores (if not witnessed), and if done unintentionally, at least one chatas is required (one for a forbidden relationship with his father's wife, and a second chatas if she is his mother as well). This Mitzvah applies at all times and in all places.



Special Note Two: Looking Back and Looking Ahead--lessons from the powerful Parshios of Tazria and Metzora:


A.  We learn of the terrible affliction of Tzora’as. Chazal (Arachin 15B) teach that if one speaks Lashon Hara, he will be punished with this dreaded ailment. The Sefer Me’am Loez asks why it is that in our times we see people speak Lashon Hara--and yet they appear whole and healthy? He provides the following shocking response: “You should know that the Tzora’as referred to in the Torah could either afflict a person’s body or soul, and if it does not afflict his body, it will afflict his soul. Indeed, the Tzora’as of the soul is worse than the Tzora’as of the body, as the Zohar writes that in the Heavens there is a special place called ‘Negah Tzara’as’, where the Neshamos who spoke Lashon Hara are punished.”


B.  HaRav Refeol Shain, Shlita provides the following insight: Why is it that a Metzora becomes Tomei only upon the pronouncement of a Kohen who views the blemish —after all, it may have been days or weeks for which a person was afflicted with the blemish prior to the Kohen seeing it—and for this entire period he is Tahor and can be with his family and not be considered ‘defiled or ‘defiling’ just because a Kohen didn’t utter the word ‘Tomeh.’ Rabbi Shain explains that a key cause of Tzora’as is Lashon Hora. With the pronouncement of the word “tomeh’, the person is made to understand the power of just one word. Before the utterance of that word, his entire world was different one—a happy one, with friends and family, joined together with his community and able to reach the highest heights. Now, as a metzora, he is ostracized and alone, ashamed and secluded. That one word of the Kohen was in response to perhaps that ‘just one word’ he had uttered against his friend or neighbor, adult or child. Until his utterance of that one negative word, the world was different for someone else—and with the word uttered, his reputation has been tarnished, a shidduch ruined, a business deal suspended, or a friendship ended. We can create and destroy existential worlds—depending on that one word that we use. So, will it be “Uhh!” or “Ahh!” The bechira chofshis—that choice—is yours!


C.  The purification process of the Metzora involves the shechita of one bird, and the sending away of its counterpart alive. The birds, of course, symbolize inappropriate chattering which was the source of the Tzora’as affliction. HaRav Yerucham Levovitz, Zt’l, asks, however--if the bird symbolizes chattering, why was one bird sent away alive--why were both birds not shechted, in order to symbolize the Metzora’s total cessation of needless speech as part of his Teshuva process?  HaRav Yerucham answers that, indeed, much speech needs to be corrected. Sharp, biting and sarcastic remarks, words of hurt and derision, Loshon Hora in all its forms, must all come to a complete halt. However, this does not mean that one should stop talking completely. Friendly words, words of encouragement, good advice, compliments and even properly worded constructive criticism, all have an important, and, indeed, essential place in an individual’s life. We note that before the live bird is sent away, it is dipped in the shechted bird’s blood, as if to remind it to always remember to avoid the wrong messages, the inappropriate comments and the wrong expressions. Then, and only then can the positive words take charge. They are set free upon the open field--to use life to its absolute utmost!



D.  HaRav Nachman M’Breslov is said to have taught: Children learn how to speak, while the elderly learn how to remain silent. Who should we better learn from--the children or the elderly?!  Moreover, there are certain terms and phrases which may not constitute Ona’as Devarim against others, but could be hurtful to the individual himself, simply by virtue of uttering the very words. It is well known ( as we have previously published) that HaRav Pam, Z’tl, objected to use of ‘whatchamacallit’, because it indicated that a person was not thinking before he spoke. There are other terms as well which simply do not take into account the Kedushas HaPeh that we all possess. Here are just a very few. Please feel free to add on to the list (and send to us, if you would like): .

·        “I have done this a thousand trillion times.”--Although exaggeration may be permitted in general, the notion of a gross untruth could have a significantly negative impact on the person as a whole--especially if it becomes a habit.

·        In order to express frustration or difficulty, uttering a word which has the first syllable which is identical to that of a curse word.

·        " I know someone who is filthy rich"--what, after all, does 'filthy rich' mean--is one also 'filthy poor'?  Isn't it up to Hashem whether one is wealthy or poor--for whatever reason (whether it be a reward, test, etc.)--how could anyone refer to that r'l as filthy?

·        “I don’t care”--Even when not uttered to hurt another person, it can have an impact on a person’s attitude, goals or approach.

HaRav Avigdor Miller, Z’tl, (brought in the Sefer Sha’ari Orah) teaches that one should practice silence for a few minutes every day--the result is getting a better handle on one’s speech, and improving Yiras Shomayim-- through one’s awareness that one’s words are listened to--and do really mean something and count.

E.  TAKING THE TIME FOR THE EXTRA SHEMIRA:  A CONCLUDING THOUGHT.  After having STUDIED THE LESSONS of the Parshios of Tazria and Metzora, we realize that Shemiras Halashon must play an important part in our lives, and that we must always endeavor and strive for improvement in this area. For all those who study the daily two Halachos, or any other daily Shemiras Halashon Sefer--may we suggest reading the daily study aloud even to yourself (it can be softly!) and/or perhaps re-reading the lesson a second time--so that you demonstrate affirmatively that you want to use your mouth for the right reasons and in the right way!  We also remind  our readers about the Chofetz Chaim Heritage Foundation's  Shemiras Halashon Shaila Hotline--718-951-3696 (M-Th nights and Motzei Shabbos 9-10:30 pm EST , and for emergencies)--where you can ask expert Poskim your Shemiras Halashon Shailos in the situation (business, shidduchim, friends) that you find yourself in.  What an opportunity to make sure that you do the right thing for all concerned!



Special Note Three:  In last week’s Haftarah, we learn that the official in Shomron who exclaimed:  “If Hashem were to make windows in the sky…[could the famine be remedied by tomorrow]?!”, was trampled by the people at the gates of the city and died.  With this, the words of Elisha “You will see it with your own eyes, but you will not eat from it!” were fulfilled. HaRav Chaim Kanievsky, Shlita, explains that the sin of the official was that he was not Melamed Zechus on Klal Yisroel.  He should have realized that they could be capable and deserving of such a great Nes even is such a short period of time.  Our  view  to others must include our respect for the Zechusim of each and every person that we encounter--and the fact that Hashem can and will provide for miracles in light of these Zechusim alone!



Special Note Four:  We provide our annual note on Yom Ha'Atzma'ut:

Tomorrow will be celebrated in some of our communities (in various ways), and not celebrated in others.  We all know the different approaches and sentiments on the topic--and note that in the Third Beis Hamikdash described by Yecheskel there will be 12 entrances, for there can be different approaches to the one Avodah. What we may add is that however one does or does not celebrate, observe or perform--it should be done in accordance with the teachings of his ultimate Rav or Posek.  There can be much misinformation or misguidance, and a person can conduct himself based upon what he believes to be correct, without further consultation --and this is the part that is wrong.  As a case in point, we may mention that HaRav Yosef Ber Soloveitchik, Z'tl,  Rav of Boston, and Rosh HaYeshiva of RIETS, was in the Yeshiva on Yom Ha'Atzma'ut 5738 (1978)--one of the latter years of his giving Shiurim in the Yeshiva.  He davened Shacharis in the Morgenstern dormitory minyan, which davened with Hallel.  Later that morning, rather than giving Shiur on Perek HaZahav (the 4th perek of Bava Metziah which was being studied that Z'man in his Shiur), Rav Soloveitchik, obviously upset, instead gave Shiur on the importance of keeping the Tzuras HaTefillah intact.  Shemone Esrei is followed by Chazaras Hashatz, which is followed by Tachanun, and then followed by Ashrei and U'va Letzion--and we do not have the right or privilege of changing that, he opined.  Rav Soloveitchik continued that if one wanted to express his personal gratitude or thanks to Hakadosh Baruch Hu, he could recite the Chapters of Hallel in Tehillim (Chapters 113-118) after davening.  Now, this is not to say that Rav Soloveitchik had a different opinion in earlier years or in later years (we do not know either way)--but it is to say that someone was not following his Rebbe if he knew what his opinion was at that time--and still recited Hallel in place of Tachanun in order to make his own personal statement.  On the other hand, if one's final Halachic authority is the Rabbanut, his practice should be different. This ruling will be different than that of the Badatz-Yerushalayim.  What does your ultimate Rabbinic authority say?  A person must look upwards for answers --not to himself, downwards or sideways.  The following is really true:  A person collecting tzedaka on behalf of a yeshiva in France, promoting Torah among more needy Sefardi families, was asked by a potential donor whether his yeshiva said Hallel on Yom Ha'Atzma'ut  (we won't reveal which way he wanted the answer to come out)--and the answer would be the determining factor as to whether he received a donation.  The collector gave the 'wrong' answer and was promptly escorted out empty-handed.  Would any Rabbinic authority make this one question the sole determining factor as to whether a Torah institution was to be supported or helped, even minimally?  We doubt it--but we suggest that the Shaila should be asked rather than allow emotions or sentiments to override the Halacha one must follow as an Eved Hashem --which, by definition, is always the right thing to do.

Hakhel Note:  We are all in agreement that the Geulah Sheleima has not yet come, and that the world would be a much better place if we could bring it.  We know for a fact that when Bnai Yisroel cried out to Hashem (Vayizaku), that Hashem heard their cries (VaTa'al Shavassam), and 'remembered' the bris that he had made with our Avos (Shemos 2:23,24).  As our Geulah from Mitzraim is the pardigm of our future Geulah--may we suggest that we begin to take the special effort to cry out to Hashem in the brachos of Shemone Esrei relating to Geulah. This does not mean that one needs to shout--but rather that his heart cries out--perhaps with an outstretched hand during his tefillah, or with a look heavenward, with a tear, with a sense of urgency and pleading--at least in one of the brachos such as Tekah Beshofar, VeLirushalayim or Ess Tzemach.  If you really need something--you do more than you say that you need it--you do something about it!  Your newfound sincere striving, your special awakening, will not only help yourself-- it will help take the Shechina out of tza'ar--as it returns to VeLirushalayim Irecha--Your City--and it will help cure all those who are spiritually, emotionally and physically ill, it will bring everyone to their proper place in life...in short, you will be able to accomplish more than all the wealthiest people and all of the heads of state joined together cannot accomplish.  Incredibly, all of this is free--just for our sincerity and devotion during one of the most important points of our day--the Shemone Esrei.  Let's begin to use this opportunity in a new and special way--pouring out our hearts for the few brief moments of a bracha, pleading with feeling, showing that we really want Geulah and really need it--so that just as in Mitzraim the Torah records--VaTa'al Shavosam...VaYayedah Elokim--and their cries went up and Hashem knew...so too will Hashem look down and understand that our cries are true and sincere--so that once and for all we can all come home--together with Hashem- -for good --and forever! 




2 Iyar

Special Note One:  We continue our Erev Shabbos--Halachos of Shabbos series.  We provide the following halachos from the Kitzur Shulchan Aruch (Chapters 77, 79 and 80):


1. The proper rule is that only the maftir should recite the Haftarah, and the members of the tzibbur should repeat after him in a hushed tone. [Hakhel Note:  If the Haftarah is being read from an actual  k’laf, the tzibbur should follow along without reciting the words at all.] The custom of the tzibbur repeating in a loud tone together with the maftir was adopted only out of ignorance and should be nullified.  Those congregants who prolong the reading of the Haftarah and continue even after the maftir has concluded and begun reciting the brachos act improperly. By continuing in a loud voice, they are prevented from hearing the brachos recited by the maftir. Furthermore, they may also prevent those next to them from hearing. Even if they lower their voices at the beginning of the brachos so as not to disturb others, they still cannot hear at the brachos themselves. Accordingly, it is proper that as soon as the maftir completes the Haftarah and begins reciting the brachos, all the congregants should remain silent until he completes the brachos, even if they have not completed the Haftarah themselves. When the brachos are concluded, they should then complete the Haftarah. The maftir should also be careful not to begin reciting the brachos until the voices of the people are no longer heard.


2. Water that spilled on a table is forbidden to be wiped with a cloth that one values. Since much water has spilled, we suspect that one may wring it out. Similarly, one should not wipe glasses or other dishes with narrow openings with a towel, because one will squeeze out water when pressing the towel through the opening.


3. It is permitted for a person to continue to his destination even though rain is descending upon him and his garments. It is however forbidden to hang his clothes out to dry after removing them. This restriction also applies to one’s clothes soaked with sweat. When wearing the wet clothes, it is forbidden to stand near a fire in a very hot place [where they will dry]. Similarly, it is forbidden to shake the water from the garments. It is forbidden to move a wet garment that one values after taking it off lest one forget and wring it out.


4.  It is best to complete Shenayim Mikra veEchad Targum (SMET) on Erev Shabbos (Hakhel Note: some say on Friday morning, some say on Friday afternoon). If one did not do so, one should not start the Seudas Shabbos on Shabbos day until he has completed the SMET.  If one had not done so, he should complete SMET before Mincha. B’dieved, one can fulfill SMET until Tuesday night. [Hakhel Note: There is one further leniency, which the Kitzur does not bring, and one may consult with his Rav or Posek regarding its application.]


Special Note Two:  As we are in the midst of the Sefira period in which we are careful to practice important Minhagim, we remember that the students of Rebbi Akiva were Niftar during this period for not according the proper respect to each other.  Accordingly, in order to work on improvement in this area in this especially propitious period, we provide the notes below excerpted from Guide To Derech Eretz by Rabbi Shaul Wagschal, Shlita (Targum Press).  Even if one knows many or most of the points below, and even feels that he is ‘pretty good’ with them, it is essential that we not only know them or study them--but conscientiously work on them as well:


1.  Derech Eretz can be defined as a type of behavior that will be acceptable by one’s society and which is geared towards making people happy, as the Mishnah [in this week’s Perek] states: “Which is the proper path one should choose?  One that is pleasing to the one who performs it and is pleasing to others” (Avos 2:1).


2.  The Maharal writes that one must offer greetings even to a willful transgressor of sins--otherwise the sinner will wrongly conclude that the Torah advocates scorning ignorant people. This in effect profanes the name of Hashem.


3.  Mesechta Derech Eretz describes the degree of humility one should strive to achieve: ‘‘One should be as the threshold upon which everyone treads, and as the peg which people use for hanging objects” (Derech Eretz Zuta, ch. 1).This means that one is obligated to tolerate others-- even if they do not consider him worthy of respect. The Midrash adds, “Be lowly before everyone, especially before members of your household.... Be as the threshold upon which everyone treads, for eventually the house will collapse, but the threshold will remain untouched” (ibid. ch. 3).


4.  Tolerance leads to peace and to new friendships, and precludes anger.  “A pious man was once asked, ‘To what do you attribute people’s affection for you?’  He answered, ‘Because I always consider other people to be better than I.” (Orchos Tzaddikim, Shaar Haanavah).


5.  It is told that one of R. Yisrael Salanter’s disciples once complained to him that his efforts to do chessed for his wife were not appreciated by her. R’ Yisrael responded, “Know that performing an act that you think is beneficial for your wife, or giving her something that you think she is lacking, is not yet considered chessed; rather, chessed is the performance of an act that she considers beneficial, and the giving of something that she feels she is lacking.”


6.  One is obligated to do chessed for a person he dislikes before doing so for a person he loves. It is questionable whether a person whom one dislikes takes precedence over one’s relative (Ahavas Chessed, sec. 1,ch. 4).


7.  It is stated in Mesechta Derech Eretz Zuta (ch. 5): A person should not be awake amongst those who are sleeping, nor sleeping amongst those who are awake; cry amongst those who laugh, nor laugh amongst those who cry; sit amongst those who stand, nor stand amongst those who sit; he should not study Written Torah amongst those studying Oral Torah, and he should not study Oral Torah amongst those studying Written Torah.  In general, a person’s behavior should not be at variance with other people’s behavior.” This idea is derived from Moshe Rabbeinu’ s example, as R. Tanchum Ben Chanilai said: ‘A person should not deviate from the custom--Moshe ascended to the Heavens and he did not eat bread; the angels descended [to visit Avraham Avinu] and they did eat bread’ (Bava Metzia 86b). This concept has halachic ramifications. The Mishnah states: “In a city where the custom is to work on Erev Pesach until noon , work may be performed. In a city where the custom is not to work, work may not be performed....(Pesachim 50a).  The reason for this ruling, that a visitor is obligated to preclude dispute by conforming to local custom, is that people are not able to tolerate ideas and customs differentfrom their own, and such differences can lead to dispute.


8.  The Sages said, Love your friend as yourself’ is a general rule throughout the Torah” (Yerushalmi Nedarim 9:4).Through his love for others one will refrain from causing them physical or emotional pain; in fact he will work for their benefit and behave towards them with derech eretz. Orchos Tzaddikim writesthat it is possible to train oneself to feel love for people.  This can be achieved by fulfilling these codes of behavior:

     a) Speak gently. If someone embarrasses or misleads you, do not reciprocate.

     b) Share other people’s burdens and refrain from increasing their suffering.

     c) Never conduct heated arguments with others.

     d) Welcome everyone joyously and with a friendly facial expression, since a friendly expression strengthens bonds of love.

     e) Soothe people who feel worried or angry.

     f) Honor others, both verbally and through your actions. Never act in a haughty manner with anyone; instead, yield to the will of others.

     g) Refrain from passing judgment on others; instead, look for the merit in other people’s actions.

     h) Conduct all transactions honestly.

     i) Strive to benefit others, not to’ benefit from others.

     j) Extend help to others, both physically and monetarily. Refrain from miserliness.

     k) Avoid speaking in a derogatory manner about others, and refrain from listening to others speak negatively about people.


9.  Although the obligation to carry on friendly relations with one’s neighbor is great, one must not visit a neighbor too often, since overly frequent visits will eventually cause the neighbor to hate the visitor.  Concerning this idea, the verse says, “Let your foot be seldom in your neighbor’s house, lest he will be weary of you and hate you” (Mishlei 25:17). Rashi explains that just as eating an overabundance of honey makes one feel like vomiting, so, too, frequent visits cause the host to hate the visitor. Metzudas David writes that love between people increases when they are absent from each other, whereas overly frequent visits have the opposite effect.


10.  Benefits of speaking gently:

   a) Most individuals value the privilege of making choices and find it difficult to follow orders. A person who gives orders to others must remember this fact and act accordingly. By speaking gently and treating others with respect, one can rest assured that his orders will be more readily executed in accordance with his instructions.

  b)  The need to speak to people in a kind and gentle manner is absolutely essential when instructing an individual on how to perform a task with which he is unfamiliar.  When confronted with a new experience, most people adopt a defensive attitude in a feeble attempt to hide their ignorance. If the instructor’s tone of voice or manner of behavior makes the individual feel threatened, the lesson has in effect come to a close - the capacity to internalize information is seriously impaired by the individual’s need to protect his self-image.

   c) It is self-evident that an employee who is satisfied with his working conditions is more productive than one who is dissatisfied. The employer-worker relationship is one of the essential components of a positive working environment. In light of these facts, any employer with business acumen will readily recognize the financial benefits of treating his employees with respect.


11.  The pasuk “And He called to Moshe, and Hashem spoke to him” (Vayikra 1:1), also illustrates this principle. Why did Hashem first call Moshe and afterwards speak to him? The Torah teaches derech eretz: one must not say something to another person unless he first calls to him (Midrash). This rule appears explicitly in the Shulchan Aruch (Yoreh Deah 246:12):A Rabbi should not be asked questions upon his entering the beis midrash; one may only approach him after he has settled down.


12. One must avoid causing embarrassment to others at all times, even when learning Torah.  The Midrash asks, “Why was his name ‘Doeg HaAdomi’?  Because he reddened David’s face during the study of Halachah” [Adom = red] (Midrash Tehillim 52:4). For this reason, the Talmud warns against asking a rabbi a question if there is reason to suspect he will not know how to answer.  Similarly, the Talmud (Shabbos 3b) says, “When Rebbi is studying this tractate, do not ask him a question regarding a different tractate.” The posuk says, “...one who makes his way will see the salvation of God.” (Tehillim 50:23), that is, one who plans his ways, and knows when to ask and when not to ask his questions will prosper (Moed Katan 5b).  


13.  The Sages established numerous decrees in order to prevent people of lesser means from feeling embarrassment.  For example, the daughters of Israel exchanged dresses with each other when they danced on Yom Kippur and the fifteenth of Av in order that the daughters of the poor should not feel embarrassed (Taanis 26b).  The Talmud relates that the wealthy used to bring food to a house of mourning in silver and gold vessels, while the poor carried the food in straw baskets.  When it became evident that the poor felt embarrassment, the Sages decreed that everyone must bring the food in straw baskets (Moed Katan 8a).


14.  The Talmud also states, “I hate three [types of] individuals, and one of them is a person who enters his friend’s house unexpectedly” (Niddah 16b). R. Yochanan’s opinion is that this law even applies to a person who enters his own house unexpectedly.  


15. “A man should not instill a feeling of excessive fear in his home” (Gittin 7a).  The Talmud explains that instilling fear in one’s home may eventually result in the transgression of a Torah precept (see ch. 12). For this reason, a father should never frighten a child by saying, “I will punish you by doing so and so to you.”


16.  Concerning the mishnah, “Ayin ra’ah ...removes a person from the world” (Avos 2:1b), Rabbeinu Yonah writes “There exists [the trait of] ayin ra and [the trait of] ayin ra’ah. Ayin ra’ah refers to a miserly person, while ayin ra refers to one who envies other people’s possessions.  His wish to own others’ possessions may harm them, for the vision of the eye is capable of causing damage. Beyond this, he also hurts himself - his unfulfilled wishes cause him to burn with envy.” Avos deRabbi Nasan (ch. 16) expands on this theme: As a man looks at his own house and wishes that it remain standing, so too should he look at his friend’s house.


17.  Derech Eretz of Guests To the Host: The Talmud dictates, “One who enters [another’s] house must follow his host’s instructions” (Pesachim 86b).  The Shulchan Aruch (Orach Chaim 170:5) also decrees that a guest must follow the host’s instructions without any objections.  For example, one must sit wherever the host decides.  One must not object even if the host wishes to honor him. Most halachic authorities agree, however, that a guest who feels satiated is entitled to refuse to eat additional food even if the host insists, if this will endanger his health. One may infer from this rule that if additional eating does not pose a danger to the guest’s health, it would be correct to comply with the host’s wish. A great example of the extent of derech eretz that a guest owes to his host: Before accepting upon himself the commandment to go to Mitzrayim and redeem the Jewish people, Moshe Rabbeinu said to Hashem, “Master of the Universe! I cannot fulfill Your commandment, since Yisro welcomed me and opened his door to me, and I am as a son to him.  A person who is shown hospitality is eternally indebted to his host.” Thus, Moshe refused to embark on his journey without first receiving Yisro’s permission. From this we learn that one act of derech eretz takes precedence over the redemption of the entire Jewish People!


18.  Derech Eretz of the Host To Guests:

  a) Upon entering the host’s home, the guest should not request food or drink; instead, he should wait until the host offers him food (Shulchan Aruch, Orach Chaim 170:13).

   b) The most distinguished guest should be invited to wash his hands first (Berachos 46, Orach Chaim 165:2)

   c) The guest should wait until the host serves himself the first portion of food before reaching for food.

    d) If two guests sit at the same table and the host is not present, the more distinguished of the two should serve himself first. A person who reaches for food before a person greater than himself is considered a glutton. This law is also applicable to us, even though nowadays each person is served his own plate (Orach Chaim 170: 12, Mishnah Berurah 28).

   e)  One should serve a guest according to the guest’s standard of living and even a little beyond. A host should not present himself to his guest as though he were destitute; instead, he should act like a wealthy man (Reishis Chochmah, Derech Eretz 3:40 ).


19. Additional Rules of Derech Eretz:

A) Rabbeinu Asher writes in Orchos Chaim, “A person should avoid involving himself in another’s dispute.  Eventually, they will reach accommodation and you will still be involved in the argument.” Furthermore, by becoming involved one will invariably make enemies.  As Rabbeinu Asher says, “Do not underestimate any of your enemies” (Orchos Chaim 5:90).

B) When a person shares his misfortune with others, he should first say, “It should never happen to you” . (Sanhedrin 104b,Based on Eichah 1:12).

C) One should not praise a person excessively, since this may be misinterpreted as empty flattery (Rashi, Eruvin 18b and Rashi, Bereishis 7:1).

D) A person who is received with undue honor is obligated to inform those honoring him of their mistake (Makkos 12b).

E) The Talmud (Sanhedrin 38b) rules that it is prohibited to respond to a Jewish apostate under any circumstances. Similarly, one should not answer a fool unless he asks a Torah-related question.

F) One should not enter someone’s house while at person is eating, since people find it embarrassing to eat in the presence of others. (Tov Yehoshua 3:2)

G) A person should try to avoid the company of wicked people (Sotah 7a). One must endeavor not to live amongst evil people, as the Sages say, “Woe to the wicked and woe to his neighbor” (Negaim 12:6).  Furthermore, one should not live in the vicinity of a pious am ha’aretz (ignoramus) - he does not fulfill the mitzvos punctiliously, and people adopt his habits (Shabbos 63b).

H) One should refrain from inviting friends to his house too frequently--eventually, they will begin to quarrel with him (Sanhedrin 100b).

I) The Tosefta (Sanhedrin 7) states, A person who enters a beis midrash and finds people studying halachah should not join their discussion until he knows which subject they are discussing.”

J) A Rav must not jest, eat or drink while in the presence of his students (Rambam, Hilchos Talmud Torah).

K) A wealthy person should not be miserly. This is inferred from the verse, “Purchase food from them with silver...for Hashem your God has blessed you with your handiwork” (Devarim 2:6). Rashi explains that in order to acknowledge Hashem’s blessing, this verse instructs the Jewish people to behave as wealthy people and not as poor people.

L) A man of average wealth should eat food of lesser quality than he is capable of purchasing, clothe himself with garments in accordance with his financial status, and honor his wife and children even in a way which appears to be beyond his financial capability (Chulin 94b).


Hakhel Note One:  Any particular questions or issues should, of course, be addressed by one’s Rav or Posek.


Hakhel Note Two:  This is the time to grow--perhaps we can make a short personalized list of items in derech eretz (from the above or otherwise) to improve upon--and get going!




1 Iyar

LOOKING UP!  As we begin the eighth month of the year 5773--we should realize that we still have more than 40% of the year ahead of us for reaching new heights in our kabbalos and in our personal growth.  It’s a great day for cheshbon hanefesh--after all, the glass is almost half full!



QUESTION ONE OF THE DAY :  Very few dates are mentioned in the Torah--but today is one of them!  Where is today’s date mentioned in the Torah?  Why is the date specifically mentioned in that Parsha and context?


QUESTION TWO OF THE DAY :  Having just recited the Musaf Tefillos of the Shalosh Regalim for 7(EY) or 8 (Chutz LaAretz) days, we recall how we PLEADED TIME AND TIME AGAIN with Hashem for HIS RACHMANUS--His Mercy in finally and at long last rebuilding the Bais HaMikdash--as we recited:  “Melech Rachaman...U’Serachem Aleinu V’Ahl Mikdashecha BeRachamecha HaRabim... [and then reiterated a short while later] Melech Rachaman Rachem Aleinu...Bahamon Rachamecha....  Yet, in today’s Musaf for Rosh Chodesh, we make no heart rending appeal for mercy or even any request at all of Rachmanus in the Musaf bracha--instead only asking in a straightforward manner that the Mizbe’ach be rebuilt and that we be brought back to Yerushalayim where we can all rejoice together in the Bais Hamikdash.  Why is there such a difference between these two Tefillos of Musaf--what is the difference between the Shalosh Regalim and Rosh Chodesh in this regard?



Special Note One:  In fact, Rosh Chodesh Iyar is very much related to the Binyan Bais Hamikdash.  The Luach Dovor B’Ito brings that Shlomo HaMelech began the building of the First Bais HaMikdash today, and that construction of the foundation of the Second Bais HaMikdash also began today as well (See Ezra 3:8-13).  Let us now daven that today also prove to serve a role in the building of the Third and Lasting Bais HaMikdash.  Even if we see nothing immediately around us or in front of us, and even if we hear no shofar blast at this moment, let our acts of Teshuva today serve as a cornerstone for its Building.  Why leave the building to someone else when each and every one of us is so eminently capable?!  Let’s also begin building Today--it’s for Eternity!



Special Note Two:  One of the actions that we will take in the Bais HaMikdash that we are not very used to doing now is Hishtachava’ah--prostrating oneself to the ground.  Undoubtedly, this Hishtachava’ah will come in direct response to the intense Kedushah and Ruchniyus experienced upon entering and viewing the Kohanim and the Avodah.  Yet, in the Tefillah of Nishmas we do recite in the here and now--VeChol Koma Lefonecha Sishtachaveh--and every person standing up shall prostrate himself before you.  How can/do we fulfill this statement?  The Chassidic masters teach the following:  Even when one is ostensibly standing straight, he should feel inwardly as if he is bowed before Hashem--in recognition of Hashem’s greatness and mastery and one’s own humility--something that every person should recognize and appreciate--even without a Bais HaMikdash.  We may add that even when reciting the words VaAnachnu Koriim U’Mishtachavim in Aleinu three times daily, we should experience the moment--envisioning ourselves in an aura of submission and sanctity--so that we properly reflect the words that we are expressing.  In this merit--may we live to experience the ultimate Hishtachava’ah speedily and in our days!



Special Note Three: We B’EH continue our Monday/Thursday study of the Sefer Mitzvos HaKatzar, with the Mitzvos Lo Sa’asei which the Chofetz Chaim writes are applicable in our times. Today, we present Mitzvos Lo Sa’aseh 110 and 111:


110. Shelo Lekarev LeArayos--this is the Mitzvas Lo Sa’aseh which prohibits one from taking any action (such as hugging, kissing or deriving benefit from physical closeness) with a person forbidden to him, which could lead to arayos. One who does so receives malkos and is choshud ahl ha’arayos. Based upon this prohibition, it is forbidden to wink, hint, joke with, smell the perfume of, or otherwise gaze upon a forbidden relationship, and it is likewise forbidden to think about these matters. The prohibitions against yichud are also rooted in this Lo Sa’aseh, and one who violates the laws of yichud receives makkas mardus (both the man and the woman). This Mitzvah applies at all times and in all places.


111. Shelo Legalos Ervas Ha’Av--this is the Mitzvas Lo Sa’aseh which prohibits a son from engaging in a forbidden relationship with his father.  If this is done intentionally, both he and his father receive sekilah (if witnessed) or kores (if not witnessed), and if done unintentionally, two chata’os are required. This Mitzvah applies at all times and in all places.



Special Note Four:  The Sefer Ta’amei HaMinhagim (page 251) writes that our new month of Iyar is tried and tested as a time for refuah, healing, from the ailments and pains that may affect a person.  Why is this so?  The B’nai Yisaschar, who teaches that most weakness and illness come from foods which do not comport with the person’s nature or composition.  The Rambam (Hilchos De’os 4:15 ) writes likewise.  See also Kitzur Shulchan Aruch Chapter 32.

Since the Mon began to fall in this month (on the 16th day of Iyar 2448)--and it was a perfect food from which resulted no sickness, pain or even waste matter (as Dovid HaMelech refers to it in Sefer Tehillim--”lechem abirim”) and even cured those who were ill--Hashem left the curative nature of the month in effect even through today.  Accordingly, Iyar is a time of “segulah l’refuah”.  In fact, the Ta’amei HaMinhagim notes, the name “Iyar” is an acronym for Ani Hashem Rofecha--I am Hashem, Your Healer.


What can we do to help promote the curative effects of this special time as initiated by the heavenly Mon?  Let us reflect upon the following.  The Baalei Mussar note that one afflicted with Tzora’as does not ask others directly to pray for him--rather, “VeTameh Tameh Yikra”--he only exclaims that he is “Tameh”, and those who hear him are expected to pray sincerely for him even without his direct request--and notwithstanding that he has sinned to such a great extent that Hashem has actually made him a Metzora.  What a great lesson we can learn at this time of year--which is so special for healing, and, moreover, the Omer period, in which our “Bein Odom L’Chavero” is to be seriously improved upon.  We should not wait to be asked, or merely be responsive to the request of others, when we hear that someone is not well.  Instead, we should “hear the cry” and go out of our way during this auspicious time to daven for those we may not even know, but whom we have heard are in need of a Refuah.  An ounce of Tefillah may mean a kilogram of cure.


PRACTICAL SUGGESTION:  During this special month, recite a daily special, sincere Kepitel (chapter) of Tehillim for your list of cholim--recognizing that this is a special time for the potency--and importance--of your heartfelt Tefillah!

Additional Note: A reader wrote the following to us:  Rabbi Nachman of Breslov writes that the word IYAR is Roshei Taivos of the words “Oyvai Yoshuvu Yaivoshu Roga,” thus indicating that the month of IYAR is conducive to see a Mapala for the enemies of K’lal Yisroel!”

Hakhel Note: When reciting Tachanun during this month we should have especial Kavannah when reciting these words--that they come to immediate reality!




30 Nissan


HELPFUL THOUGHT!  To inspire yourself here, do not allow yourself to count the Sefirah by heart.  Instead, read each and every word of the bracha and count from a Siddur.




Special Note One:  Chazal (Pesachim 118B) teach that a person’s Parnassah is as difficult as Kriyas Yam Suf.  Likewise, Chazal (Sanhedrin 22A) teach that finding one’s Zivug is as difficult as Kriyas Yam Suf.  What is the similarity, what is the common denominator between and among Kriyas Yam Suf, Parnassa, and a Zivug?  The commentaries explain that when the Bnei Yisroel were in front of the Yam Suf they looked to their right and their left, to their front and to their back, and saw no basis for a Yeshua whatsoever.  Most certainly, the sea splitting was not within the realm of possibility.  Similarly, one may look at his Parnassa and think that it is coming from this direction or that direction, from this client, that customer, this referral, or that deal--and then all or part of it may come from somewhere wholly unexpected.  With a Zivug as well, one may believe that the Shadchan who knows him very well, the family member dedicated to finding him a Shidduch, or the close friend who has many contacts, will be the source of his Bashert--only to find that it comes through an unexpected phone call from a friend in another city.  The common denominator, the uniting thread, is that it that it may be difficult for us to fully fathom that it is Hashem and only Hashem who will provide the Yeshua--whether at the sea, in Parnassa, or for the true Zivug, in a manner which He, and only He deems timely and proper, and through the Shelichim who He designates and selects.  Whatever situation we are in--whether it be surrounded by Mitzriyim and wild animals with a roaring sea in front of us, very much needing Parnassa, or looking for our Zivug to finally come, rather than look to our right or left, to our front and to our back--instead let us sincerely and earnestly look steadily up--and may Hashem then send the Yeshua that each of us need as beautifully and wonderfully as He did at the sea--during this time of year!



Special Note Two:  As we continue through this month of Geulah, and move towards the Geulah of Shavuos (which is the fourth Kos of Velakachti), we recall the words of Rashi on an essential Pasuk that we may recite several times daily:  “Yimloch Hashem LeOlam Elokaich Tzion LeDor VaDor Haleluka” (Tehillim 146: 10).  There, Rashi comments “Yekayem Es Malchuso BeShemiras Bonov.”  Hashem views His Kingship in terms of us.  If we are guarded and protected, if we are happy, if we are successful, then His Kingship is also successful and established.  When we are downtrodden and forlorn, Hashem’s Malchus is negatively impacted as well.  Thus, when we exclaim Yimloch Hashem LeOlam, we are asking for our position to be elevated so that Hashem’s Malchus can be fully and appropriately established.  We should certainly take comfort in the fact that Hashem’s position in the world works together with ours, and that our roles can improve together!


 Additional Note:  In many of our Tefillos, we recite “Elokeinu V’Elokei Avoseinu--our G-d and G-d of our forefathers.”  Chronologically and from a perspective of honor and respect, it would appear that we should first begin “Elokei Avoseinu -and then--V’Elokeinu.  Perhaps the lesson to us is that without first recognizing and establishing our own personal and close relationship with Hashem, the relationship Hashem had with the Avos is not really so relevant.  When we recite the Bracha of Go’al Yisroel--Who redeemed Yisroel (after Kriyas Shema in the morning and evening), we recognize that Hashem redeemed our forefathers in the past, and can/will therefore redeem us again in the Ultimate Redemption Bimheyra BeYameinu  .  However, when we recite the Bracha of Go’el Yisroel (in Shemone Esrei three times daily), we proclaim that Hashem can/will and is redeeming us directly in the here and now.  In this last day of Chodesh Nissan, let us bli neder commit to work on intensifying our personal relationship with Hashem, so that His Malchus, and His Geulah, is personal to us as well.  We can begin by concentrating on the Pasuk of “Yimloch Hashem LeOlam” when recited in our Tefillos, as well as by reciting the Bracha of Go’el Yisroel--Hashem is redeeming me-- with special recognition and intensity--at least for the month of Iyar--connecting the Geulah of Nissan to the Geulah of Shavuos!



Special Note Three:  As we are now into the “Natural Events” season, we once again provide the following pertinent Halachos relating to the Brachos on these events--which serve to remind us that they are far from being “natural”.  The basis for the Halachos below is Shulchan Aruch, Orach Chaim, Chapter 227 and the Mishna Berurah there, the Sefer Shoneh Halachos and the Sefer Piskei Teshuvos on this Chapter in Shulchan Aruch.  We specifically note that one should, of course, consult with his Rav for the final Halacha.  We present the following for an understanding of the issues:


1.      When experiencing an earthquake, one recites the brocha of “Oseh Ma’aseh Bereishis--Who makes the work of Creation”.  It is also permissible to make the brocha of “Shekocho U’Gevuraso Malei Olam--His strength and His power fill the universe”.  Piskei Teshuvos writes that the degree of the tremor is not necessarily relevant, as long as it is clearly felt.  HaRav Yaakov Emden, Z’tl, teaches that one should recite the Pasuk from Sefer Yeshaya (6:3) “V’Kara Zeh El Zeh V’Amar Kadosh…” three times, and the earthquake will cease.  Indeed, he brings that this Pasuk is specifically intended to cover the situation of an earthquake!


2.      On very strong winds, i.e., winds which uproot either heavy objects or items attached to the ground or to buildings which would not ordinarily have been uprooted, one makes an “Oseh Ma’aseh Bereishis”.  On a hurricane (killer type of wind), the Piskei Teshuvos writes that one can make the Brocha of “Shekocho U’Gevuraso”, but HaRav Chaim Kanievsky, Shlita, writes that in all events one should make the Brocha of “Oseh Ma’aseh Beraishis,” because we are not proficient as to the degree of wind that is necessary to make “Shekocho U’Gevuraso.”


3.      On lightning, and on thunder, one can make either “Oseh Ma’aseh Bereishis” or “Shekocho U’Gevuraso.”  However, the custom is to make the Brocha of “Oseh Ma’aseh Bereishis” on lightning, and the Brocha of “Shekocho U’Gevuraso” on thunder.  We note that in many Sephardic communities, the custom may be to recite these brachos without “Shem U’Malchus” (i.e., skipping from Baruch to “Oseh” or Baruch to “Shekocho”).


4.      If one sees lightning and hears thunder simultaneously, he makes one bracha of “Oseh Ma’aseh Bereishis” on both (he would also be yotzei with the Brocha of “Shekocho U’Gevuraso” on both as well).


5.      One does not make a Brocha on lightning which comes only from heat.  If one is unsure of the source of the lightning, he should wait until he hears thunder.  Then, he makes one Brocha--Oseh Ma’aseh Bereishis--if he experiences them together (as noted in the previous paragraph).  However, if he does not experience them together--for example, if he then hears thunder without simultaneous lightning, he makes a Brocha of “Shekocho U’Gevuraso,” and then when he sees lightning (again) he makes the Brocha of “Oseh Ma’aseh Bereishis.”


6.      If one already had commenced making a Brocha on lightning and then, while making that Brocha, he heard thunder, he must make a second Brocha on the thunder later (once again, within two to three seconds after hearing the thunder).  The same would, of course, be true if he had already begun to make a Brocha on thunder, and then saw lightning--he would make a second Brocha on lightning within two or three seconds after seeing it again later.


7.       There is a Machlokes among the Poskim as to whether one has to see the actual lightning bolt in order to make the Brocha of “Oseh Ma’aseh Bereishis” (HaRav Dovid Feinstein, Shlita, for instance, holds that one must see the bolt).  Many Poskim (including HaRav Shlomo Zalmen Auerbach, Z’tl, and the Zitz Eliezer, Z’tl) rule that one need not see the bolt itself and that, accordingly, one can make the Brocha of “Oseh Maaseh Bereishis” when merely seeing the light flash--and not the actual bolt in the sky.


8.      Once again, one must make the Brocha within two to three seconds after seeing the lightning or hearing the thunder.  Accordingly, if one came out of the bathroom and washed his hands, and then saw lightning or heard thunder, he should immediately make the Brocha before reciting Asher Yotzar (usually one must be careful to recite the Brocha of Asher Yotzar immediately after coming out of the bathroom).


      Because one must make the Bracha so soon after experiencing the lightning or thunder, one may find himself in the midst of Tefillah, and an important issue becomes whether one should interrupt his prayers in order not to miss the Bracha and Hisoreirus opportunity which will quickly pass.  Once again, one should consult with his Rav on any particular Shaila, we provide here Halachos as excerpted from the Siddur Kavanas Hashem (Yerushalayim):


Permitted interruptions in Tefillah to make the Bracha over lightning and thunder:


A.     During Pesukei DeZimra (except while reciting Baruch Atta Hashem Melech Mehulal Batishbachos, or Baruch Atta Hashem Kel Melech Gadol BaTishbachos…)


B.     In between (not during) Brachos of Kriyas Shema, or in between (not during) the first and second and second and third Chapters of Kriyas Shema.


Non-permitted interruptions in Tefillah to make the Bracha over lightning and thunder--i.e., do not make the Bracha at these times:


A.     After having made the Bracha on the Tefillin Shel Yad, and before completing placement of the Tefillin Shel Rosh.


B.     In the middle of one of the Birchos Kriyas Shema, or in the middle of any Chapter of Shema.


C.     In Shemone Esrei, and even in the middle of Elokai Netzor at the end of Shemone Esrei until after Yehiyu LeRatzon Imrei Phee.


D.     When in the middle Birchas HaMazon.


E.      When in the middle of a making a Bracha (even long Brachos such as Asher Yatzar or HaMa’avir Sheina)


9.      If one mistakenly made a Brocha over a flash of light or a thundering noise thinking that it was thunder or lightning (such as an airplane passing overhead at night), he would have to make the appropriate brachos when he actually hears thunder or sees lightning later.


10.  One can assume (unless there is a basis to believe otherwise) that one’s hands are clean, and he does not have to wash them in order to recite the bracha.


11.  Although not absolutely required by Halacha, it is preferable that one stands when making these two brachos.


12.  One makes the bracha over lightning and thunder only one time a day during the same storm.  If the sky completely clears up, and new storm clouds come in, then one makes new brachos over lightning and thunder even a second time during the day.


13.   If a storm had commenced the previous day or even the previous evening, and has still not cleared up by the time one arises the next morning, one would make new brachos the next morning after daybreak.  In other words, the evening and the next morning are considered two separate days for the brachos over lightning and thunder (just like Birchos HaTorah)--so that one would make new brachos upon hearing lightning and thunder when awakening the next morning.


14.  We should in all events remember that Chazal (Brachos 59A) teach that thunder was invented only to “straighten out the crookedness in the heart,” and thank Hashem for the ordinary and extraordinary events that take place every day--and for our ability to understand and appreciate them!




29 Nissan

NO THANKS?  When you don’t receive the thanks that you believe you deserve—what is a possible message or lesson to you?



RECEIVED FROM A READER:  a. “Chazal relate: ‘Shnaim Asar Elef Zugos Talmidim Haya Lo l’Rebbi Akiva V’lo Nohagu Kovod Zeh Bazeh--Rebbi Akiva had 12,000 pairs of students who did not conduct themselves respectfully with each other.’  Why do Chazal say that Rebbi Akiva had two times 12,000 talmidim?  Why not just say that he had 24,000 students that were not respectful to each other??


The answer may be that, of course, when they were all together in the dining room and one asked the other to pass the Corn Flakes, or when saying “Good Morning or “Good Night”,  they were all very gracious and answered with a smile.  But that’s not where the true test was.  The test presents itself when two chavrusos sit down for hours together and one comes up with a good “kashe--question” or a “s’vorah--line of reasoning” that is enlightening--is it accepted graciously?  When one pours out his heart to the other about a difficult situation that he is going through is the other empathetic--or is his mind elsewhere?  The same is true in relationships between spouses, siblings etc.  Chazal here are not referring to dealings by and among acquaintances.  They are referring to the close relationships between “Zugos”, people close to each other, those we perhaps take for granted.  That’s the true test of “Noheg Kovod Zeh Bazeh”.


Hakhel Note: There are now only five weeks left to the Omer…try to apply this lesson every day until Shavuos!



REMINDER! The Sefer Tallelei Oros brings from the following "Eitzah Ne'emana" (Trustworthy Advice) taught by the HaRav Leib Chasman, Z'tl in the Sefer Ohr Yahel: " If one finds himself c’v in a tzarah, he should take a neder to not satiate his desire in a particular manner which is otherwise permissible to him, and with this he will be assured of a having obtained a 'zechus gadol' with this to be saved ...." Hakhel Note: HaRav Chasman is not requiring unrelenting abstinence--he is advising to select something permissible and simply not satiate yourself with it--because you--and not your Yetzer Hara--is in charge of your life!



Special Note One:  Chazal teach:  Yofeh Shesika Lechachomim Kal Vechomer Letipshim--silence is beautiful for the wise all the more so for the unwise. As we approach the Parshios of Tazria and Metzora this week, we should do so with an uplifted sense of our power of speech--oh how it is important to use it in many situations--and how important it is to refrain from using it in many situations.  This is the perfect time to practice circumspection and judiciousness in our speech, particularly with people who one has fallen prey to forbidden speech with in the past.  In our times, we have newfound modes of speech--email and texting. We should treat these new methods of communication with the same level of care as the uttered word--for they also truly express the inner makings (and hopefully, sanctity) of one’s self. The Ona’as-Devarim free and Lashon Hara free mode and the dignity, clarity, care and concern of the written word should shine forth from one’s cell phone or computer. HaRav Chaim Friedlander, Z’tl, taught many years ago relating to regular phones that ‘the party on the other end should be able to feel and appreciate your warm smile!’  We should be able to say the same for our texts and emails as well!



Special Note Two:  HaRav Yaakov Galinsky, Shlita, writes that the basis of many of his lessons is the word Adam--man itself.  He explains that Hashem referred to the first man as Adam, and man is referred to generally as Adam (“Atta Chonen L’Adam Da’as”), because the word clearly indicates that man comes from the adama--from the ground.  The ground itself is a low place, and is stepped and even trodden upon--but from it sprouts forth daily nurture for the billions of creatures upon it.  Additionally, sometimes a particular crop may fail--but that is not to stop anyone from trying again, reseeding and reworking the land--perhaps changing the crop or changing the method of planting.  This is a person’s task in this world--to take his physical being, which appears to be so incapable and limited and rise above it to produce wondrous gains. Even if one fails or is unsuccessful here or there--one must bounce back and re-try, perhaps with a change here or a new approach there. If we understand this and act properly--then the fact that we are Adam--is our greatest glory!



Special Note Three: As we move towards Kabbalas HaTorah, we provide the following enlightening words of Chazal (Yalkut Shimoni to Mishlei 4):


“There are 248 Mitzvos Aseh in the Torah and 248 limbs of the body—for each limb reminds and cries out to the person ‘perform the Mitzvah-so that you will live in its merit, and also  merit length of days, There are 365 Mitzvos Lo Sa’aseh in the Torah corresponding to the 365 days of the solar year—for each day from the time the sun rises and until it sets, it reminds us and cries out—I direct you not to do an aveira today, which could tip the scales against me and the whole world c’v to chovah—in the wrong direction....”


Let us take an important moment now to look at our hands, our arms, our legs—they are Hashem’s messengers to us reminding us to stay focused, do right, and keep the world going. Every so often we should gaze at these Chofetz Chaim’s of which we are composed—reminding us to fulfill our mission in life on a daily basis.


Then, we can look at the sun for a brief moment or even at the light it sheds—it is talking to us--communicating essential, life-bearing advice--Please, please, no-- don’t go there…don’t say that…close your eyes and don’t look… don’t hurt that person with what you are about to do…. If you squint when you are outside on a sunny day, it is not a coincidence—it is merely a stronger message.


Hashem has blessed us with reminders within us and around us—they are like alarm clocks gently sounding for us throughout the day— and they will only be ineffective if we turn them off. Incredibly, when we heed their message and do this Mitzvas Aseh here, and avoid that Lo Sa’aseh there—when we throughout the day consciously use Hashem’s gifts for Chazal’s stated and noteworthy purpose, we bring not only life and length of days to ourselves in this world and the next—but life to the entire world as well —for which the sun and the rest of Ma’aseh Bereishis will be so thankful!




28 Nissan

EMUNAH APPLIED!  Many service providers or employees are required to complete timesheets which indicate the time spent on a particular matter or matters.  May we suggest that in applying the Emunah lesson of Pesach on a simple daily basis--when one puts entries into his timesheet, or finalizes it at the end of the day, he ask himself the question:  “Is this Ehrlich?”  If the answer is ‘Yes!’--he can then submit it!

Hakhel Note:  The same may be applied to punch-in cards--as one is punching in and out, and also to the adherence to employer practices or requirements in general as to personal matters during office time.




Special Note One: We B’EH continue our Monday/Thursday study of the Sefer Mitzvos HaKatzar, with the Mitzvos Lo Sa’asei which the Chofetz Chaim writes are applicable in our times. Today, we present Mitzvos Lo Sa’aseh 108 and 109:


108.  Shelo Lishchot Oso V’Es Beno--this is the Mitzvas Lo Sa’aseh which prohibits one from shechting a Kosher animal and her offspring on the same day. If one did so the meat is still Kosher. The term ‘day’ refers to the Halachic day--from night to night. Accordingly, theoretically, the mother could be shechted on Wednesday afternoon and the offspring on Wednesday night (which is considered Thursday). This Mitzvah applies in all places and at all times and to men and women alike.


109.  Shelo Lifdos Bechor Beheimah Tehorah--this is the Mitzvas Lo Sa’aseh which prohibits one from freely selling a bechor which, if unblemished, must be offered in the Beis HaMikdash.  When there is no Beis HaMikdash, one can sell a bechor beheimah tehorah, but the purchaser has to treat it with Kedushas bechor. A bechor ba’al mum can be sold either alive or shechted, as long as it is not treated with disrespect.



Special Note Two:  In last week’s Parsha, we find an astounding revelation. After all of the Avodah of Moshe Rabbeinu and Aharon HaKohein, the Shechina did not come down to rest in the Mishkan.  Rashi (Vayikrah 9:23 d’h Vayavoh Moshe V’Aharon) teaches that Aharon turned to Moshe and expressed a feeling of embarrassment--for perhaps the Shechina’s absence was due to the cheit haeigel.  Moshe and Aharon then went into the Ohel Mo’ed--U’bikshu Rachamim--and davened for mercy--and the Shechina then descended!  Thus, we see that in spite of all of the Karbanos, and all of the dedication and consecration over so many days--what was still needed was Tefillah for Hashem’s mercy!  What a great lesson for life!  We can practically apply this in oh so many ways--here is one extremely important immediate need:  The Bnei Torah in Eretz Yisrael are faced today with the government’s confrontation against Hasmadas HaTorah.  When Hasmadas HaTorah is challenged it is, in fact, a challenge to the core and fiber of our being and essence.  At the very least, each and every one of us should use the enormous tool of Moshe and Aharon--that of Tefillah.  Although one may daven for a Yeshua from this challenge to Torah in many places in our Tefillos--may we suggest two phrases in Shemone Esrei that certainly appear appropriate:


1. In the Bracha of V’Lamalshinim we recite: “V’Hazeidim Meheirah Se’aker U’s’shaber U’smager V’sachni’ah Bimheirah V’Yameinu--and may the purposeful evildoers be quickly uprooted, smashed, thrown down, and humbled speedily and in our day” [Artscroll translation]. Perhaps we can have in mind Hamas y’s, the Iranian president y’s, and other terrorists when reciting the words Se’aker U’s’shaber U’smager--quickly uprooted, smashed and thrown down, and then when reciting the word V’sachni’ah--humbled, we can have in mind the politicians in Eretz Yisrael who desire to curtail or limit Hasmadas HaTorah: ‘Hashem, we do not seek their destruction, we only want You to humble them and quash their decree.’  Remember that immediately following V’sachni’ah, we recite Bimheirah V’Yameinu-- speedily and in our day.  Because Yeshuas Hashem K’heref Ayin--the Yeshua can literally come in a day--let us daven for it!


2.  In Elokai Netzor we recite:  Vechol Hachoshevim Alai Ra’ah Meheirah Hafer Atsasam V’Kalkel Machshavtam--as for all those who design evil against me, speedily nullify their counsel and disrupt their design” [Artscroll translation]. We note that this powerful request appears to be very much in line with the Yeshua that we need, and here too, we are asking that the Yeshua come Bimheirah--speedily--Amen!



Special Note Three:   In the Parsha of Shemini just concluded, the Torah (Vayikrah 11:44) teaches that “Vehiskadishtem Viheyisem Kedoshim”--if we attach ourselves to holiness we will be holy…and that if we defile ourselves (or even allow ourselves to be defiled) we contaminate not only our present physical bodies but our future spiritual existence.  In truth, the kind and degree of holiness and contamination varies from person to person. The G’ra teaches that a person can determine what his tachlis is in this world by understanding and studying the situations that: (a) he most frequently encounters--for they are new G-d given opportunities to succeed, and (b) the items and events that one has the greatest ‘cheshek’ --the greatest desire for--for these are his key life tests to pass, and if possible, excel at.  Just as our faces are different, so are our roads to Olam Haba--we are all on the same road with the same method of transportation, but will each get there in different ways, at different times, and will enjoy different lodgings.   The elevated spirit in which we raised ourselves up from servitude and bondage--from the difficulties and tribulations of Olam Hazeh--on the Seder night, should be the spirit that takes us through the year-- as we remind ourselves that if we can stay clear of the contamination and instead uplift ourselves to holiness through the process of our Galus, we--as the Chad Gadya-- will be left at the end--with the One and Only Hakadosh Baruch Hu!



Special Note Four:  Today, the 28th day of Nissan, marks the day that Yericho fell to the Hakafos and Shofar blasts (and not to the military prowess) of B’nei Yisrael.  As noted on Erev Shabbos, it was none other than Yehoshua Bin Nun who composed Aleinu at that time in recognition of Hashem’s Omnipotence--and the thanks that we owe Him for our position in this world!  According to the Sefer Chareidim, as brought in the Siddur Rashban, Aleinu was actually recited forwards and then backwards by Yehoshua and B’nei Yisrael, and this was the final blow that caused the walls to fall in.  This Tefillah is so crucial to us that we recite it at the end of each of our daily prayers, and it is the essence of our Tefillos on Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur (where we additionally genuflect).  The Rema in Shulchan Aruch (Orach Chaim 132:2) especially writes that we should be careful to recite Aleinu with Kavannah each day.


It is certainly no coincidence—as it never is—that Aleinu was composed so soon after Pesach, as it reflects so many of the lessons to be gleaned from those special days---Thanks to Hashem for choosing us as His people; Awareness of Hashem not only as Creator but in Hashgacha Pratis on a daily basis; Ain Od Milvado…and our longing and prayer for the final Geulah. If you start today to daven Aleinu only from a Siddur, or to be sure to have special Kavannah when reciting it for all of the essential yesodos of Emunah it contains (actually found in the plain meaning of the words), or to make sure that it takes you at least a minute to recite because you are not swallowing the words and you are paying attention to them, bowing down more properly or with thought…or any other improvement—then you will always remember the  anniversary of your improvement—the anniversary of Aleinu!




25 Nissan

MIZMOR LESODAH!  For the last several days, we have once again been able to recite Mizmor LeSodah (Tehillim Chapter 100) in Pesukei D’Zimra. We should not once again settle quickly into habit as we recite this joyous song--which temporarily serves as our daily 'Todah' to Hashem. The Shulchan Aruch (Orach Chaim 51:9) rules L’Halacha that when reciting Mizmor LeSodah in Pesukei D’Zimra “Yeish L’Omra Benegina Shekol HaShiros Asidos Libatel Chutz Memizmor LeSodah--we should recite the Mizmor with a pleasant tune, because this song will uniquely survive forever and ever. In just five potent Pesukim, the Mizmor conveys a powerfully sweet message which we should carry--and which should carry us--throughout the day!




Special Note One:  We continue with our Erev Shabbos--Halachos of Shabbos Series:


A. We are advised that this Shabbos, which is the day that Shlissel Challahs are served, is the day that some Chassidic masters waited until before they consumed Chometz after Pesach. The Shlissel Challah would be their first Chometz! What is the concept of Shlissel Challah? In The Book of Our Heritage (the excellent English translation of the Sefer HaToda’ah), Rabbi Eliyahu Kitov, Z’tl, writes as follows: “In some communities, it is customary for the Shabbos on which we announce the approaching month of Iyar that sesame seeds are sprinkled on the top of Challahs in the shape of a key. This serves as a reminder of the Mon that began to fall from heaven in Iyar, as well as reminder that the key to our sustenance is in Hashem’s Hand.” The Sefer Ta’amei Dinim U’Minhagim (p.249) writes about the Shlissel Challah: “U’Minhag Avoseinu BeVadai Torah Hu”. The Sefer then explains that the key is symbolic of the Ma’amar Chazal: “Pischu Lee…open up for me an opening like the point of a needle and I will open up for you an opening the size of the Ulam.” Additionally, the Sefer continues, our closeness to Hashem on Pesach opened up heavenly gates which became closed after Pesach. With the key, we symbolize that we want to open them again--and that we begin to succeed with the Mitzvah of Shabbos!


B.  As many may use the same special clothing for Shabbos and Yom Tov, we must be especially careful to check our pockets before Shabbos, as we wore our clothing for Yom Tov in which we may have carried earlier this week.  The Shulchan Aruch (Orach Chaim 252:7) rules that it is a Mitzvah to check one’s pockets on Erev Shabbos in order to ensure that he will not carry outside or carry a Muktzah item inside, even on Shabbos. If one forgot to check his pockets on Erev Shabbos, he must do so as soon as he remembers on Shabbos itself.  The Dirshu Edition of the Mishna Berurah (ibid.) notes that, although others differ, the G’ra and the Shulchan Aruch HaRav both rule that one should not place any objects into his pockets at all on Shabbos itself--but rather should carry them in his hand--in order not to subject himself to the possible violation of the Issur Hotza’ah by forgetting and walking out with something in the pocket. 


C.  Shabbos Kodesh is the Yahrzeit of Yehoshua Bin Nun (this coming Monday--28 Nissan--is actually the date that the walls of Yericho fell!).  The Luach Davar B’Ito recommends that one have especial Kavannah this Shabbos when reciting Aleinu which Yehoshua composed upon the fall of Yericho, as well as when reciting the Second Bracha of Birkas HaMazon of Nodeh Lecha  which Yehoshua composed upon our entering Eretz Yisrael (Brachos 48B).  Hakhel Note:  It is fascinating to realize that these two tefillos for which Yehoshua is so well known, both relate to thanks and praise to Hashem--once again reinforcing the great lesson after Pesach!


D.  This Shabbos we will commence the recitation of Mesechta Avos--commonly known to us as “Pirkei Avos”.  HaRav Chaim Volozhiner, Z’tl, at the outset of the Sefer Ruach Chaim, writes that we begin each Perek with the words of the Mishna (Sanhedrin 90A) “Kol Yisrael Yesh LaHem Chelek LaOlam Habba--all of K'lal Yisrael has a share in the World-to-Come”.  The Tanna uses the phrase LaOlam Habba, rather than BaOlam Habba in order to teach us that Olam Habba is not a future world--but a world that is built in the here and now by the Mitzvos that a person performs.  One really does exist in Olam Habba in this world--it is just the physical elements of Olam Hazeh that prevent him from realizing its presence.  HaRav Chaim Friedlander, Z’tl, in fact, brings the words of the Zohar (1:265A), which explains that Olam Habba means Olam Shekevar Bah--a world that has already come!  Thus, just as a Ben Yeshiva is someone who is in a particular Yeshiva, a Ben Olam Habba, is someone who is already rooted in Olam Habba!  HaRav Friedlander also explains that the reward for a Mitzvah is ‘Ruchni Tahor’--total Ruchniyus, and that accordingly we cannot get reward in the physical world of Olam Hazeh for Mitzvos.  Whenever the Torah or Chazal describe sechar or reward in this world, what it really means is that we are being granted additional means to learn more Torah and perform more Mitzvos in Olam Hazeh--and that the actual reward for any and all Mitzvos will be exclusively in Olam Habba. The mashal given is to a very wealthy individual who owns a huge and profitable factory.  He will put on workers clothes in the factory and not be distinguished from the other workers there as the products are being produced--but will reap all of the profits in his finely tailored clothing when the products are finally produced, distributed and sold.


E.  During these very days--immediately after Pesach in the Midbar--the Bnei Yisroel received the Mitzvah of Shabbos while encamped at Marah.  The Levush (Orach Chaim 487:1) writes that we accepted the Mitzvah of Shabbos in all of its detail with love, and that is why the word “BeAhava” is especially related to Shabbos.  The Sefer Bris Olam by HaRav Binyomin Zilber, Z'tl, provides the following potent words of Chazal relating to one who is Shomer Shabbos: 


a.       Hashem will listen to his prayers (Medrash Tehillim, Chapter 16)

b.      He tastes 1/60th of the taste of Olam Habah (Bereishis Rabba, Chapter 7)

c.       He is Zoche to Yiras Hashem (Yevamos 96)

d.      He will receive a double reward for his efforts--one for Kavod and one for Oneg (Medrash Tehillim, Chapter 93).

e.       Hakadosh Baruch Hu longs for him, does his bidding, and he is considered as someone who is worthy to testify before Hashem! (Medrash Tanchum to Parshas Re’ai and Mechilta to Parshas Yisro)


Let us take the propitious time we are in--the very time in which we initially accepted the Mitzvah of Shabbos as a nation-- and use it to strengthen our personal Shabbos observance in some way. After all--how many opportunities do you have to enjoy Olam Haba here and now!



Special Note Two:  At the beginning of this week’s Parsha, Shemini, we find that Moshe Rabbeinu first “Called to Aharon...” and only afterwards “Spoke to Aharon.” HaRav Yechezkel Sarna, Z’tl, notes that when one wants to speak with a person, he should call him specifically by his name, and only then continue with a conversation.  Mentioning someone’s name can create a special level of endearment and closeness, a human bond. Moshe Rabbeinu may very well have learned this very beautiful Middah from Hashem Himself, Who at the outset of Sefer VaYikra (1:1) first “calls to Moshe”, and only afterwards begins “speaking to him.”  May we suggest that at least over Shabbos (i.e., the week-end) and Sunday (i.e., the week-beginning), you take the lead of Hashem--and of Moshe Rabbeinu--and call to a person by name before starting a conversation. May this serve as a source of Brocha in enhancing all of our personal relationships!



Special Note Three:  We continue with post-Pesach important points and pointers:


A.  The Chasam Sofer on the Haggadah (on the section of KeHalachmah Anya) teaches that we know there are certain things that can bring the Geulah.  One of them, as indicated by the words ‘Kol Dichfin Yeisei VeYeichol’ is the giving of Tzedakah.  We are familiar with the Pasuk in Yeshaya ( 1:27 ) as well:  Tzion BeMishpat Tipadeh V’Shaveha B’Tzedakah”.  It very much behooves us, then, to give Tzedakah--especially for the sake of Geulah.  In this post-Pesach period, many of us may feel that we have given an inordinate amount of Tzedakah before Pesach, and that there are several weeks until the next Yom Tov when we will give again.  We may suggest, however, that one overcome this guile of the Yetzer Hara--especially in this month of Geulah--and give Tzedakah--perhaps undertaking bli neder to do so even on a regular or periodic basis (even in small amounts) for the sake of Geulah!  We all believe and we all know as an absolute truth that the Geulah is coming.  Giving Tzedakah to bring it--is then truly much (actually infinitely) more secure than money in the bank!


B. The Sefer Sifsei Chaim (Mo’adim II, p.428) teaches that we can reinforce our feelings for the Geulah Shleimah every day in the Tefillah of Ezras Avoseinu which contains so many powerfully meaningful phrases, among them:


-“Ezras AvoseinuMagen U’Moshiah Livneihem Achareihem Bechol Dor V’Dor”


-“U’Mibaladecha Ain Lanu Melech Go’el U’Moshiah”


-“VeOneh LeAmo B’Eis Shavam Eilav”


-“Tzur Yisrael Kumah B’Ezras Yisrael U’fdeih Chinumecha Yehudah V’Yisrael”


Taking literally just an extra moment to feel the words as one says them can strengthen one’s D’veikus to Hashem and deepens one’s yearning for the Geulah Sheleimah. These are the words that immediately precede our Shemone Esrei--for good reason!


C.  If one had to describe the essence of Pesach in one word, it would be ‘Emunah’.  Even the Matzah is described as the Food of Emunah.  The most famous Ramban in Chumash found at the end of Parshas Bo (which we understand HaRav Wolbe, Z’tl, teaches should be memorized) affirmatively states:  “and from the great and famous miracles, one must recognize the hidden miracles of everyday life which are the Yesod HaTorah Kulah--the foundation of the entire Torah....One has no part in the Torah unless he believes that all of our affairs and experiences-- everything that occurs in one’s life--are miracles, and that there is no nature, nor a ‘minhag haolam’ at all--either on a communal, or a private level."  In fact, HaRav Chaim Friedlander, Z’tl, adds that anything that is ascribed to tevah and mazel are Nisyonos on life.  Based on this most fundamental of Torah teachings, we present the following essential principles in Emunah:


1.  The Rabbeinu Bachya (Shemos 14:31) brings from the Rabbeinu Chananel that there are four basic parts to Emunah: (A) Emunah  in HaKadosh Baruch Hu; (B) Emunah in Nevi’im; (C) Emunah in Olam Haba; and (D) Emunah in the Biyas HaGoel.  The Rabbeinu Bachya continues that one who possesses these four beliefs has great zechuyos.  He provides an essential method for one strengthening his Emunah--and that is to answer Amen in a proper manner to the brachos of others.  Amen, of course, is an acronym for Kel-Melech-Ne’eman--that Hashem is our G-d and trustworthy King.  With these three words (and consequently in the one word of Amen) we describe Hashem as the All-Powerful-One Who closely watches over us and Who punishes and rewards in accordance with our deeds.  Hakhel Note:  Accordingly, it would be very much in order for one to commence his own personal Amen campaign--in which he sincerely and dedicatedly answers this sacred word (which should not be uttered in vein) with real Kavannah and true feeling. 


2.  At the outset of Hallel, we recite the Pesukim: “Rom Ahl Kol Goyim Hashem…” followed by “Me KaShem ElokeinuHaMashpili Liros BaShomayim U’Va’aretz”.  This means that while the world believes that Hashem is in the distant Heavens, gazing upon us far away from humanity--we know that we can feel Hashem’s Hashgacha Pratis hovering over and directly upon us. However, there are different levels of Hashgacha Pratis that one can experience.  The Ramban (Iyov 36:7) writes:  Kefi Kirvaso LeHidabeik BeEilokav Yishtamer Shemirah Me’ulah--in accordance with one’s desire to come close to Hashem, will Hashem come closer and watch over him.”  How can we develop our D’veikus B’Hashem?  The Sifsei Chaim brings the fascinating words of Yirmiyahu HaNavi (9:22-23):  Ko Amar Hashem Ahl Yishallel Chochom BeChachmaso…--thus said Hashem:  ‘Let not the wise man glorify himself with his wisdom, and let not the strong man glorify himself with his strength, let not the rich man glorify himself with his wealth.  For only with this may one glorify himself--contemplating and knowing Me....”  The Sifsei Chaim explains that this means that our importance to Hashem is not dependent on our wisdom, strength or abilities--but only in how we exercise our bechirah towards Avodas Hashem.  He continues that when each person achieves his reward in Olam Habba, it will not be based on the fact that he was a Rosh Yeshiva, or a Chassidic Rebbe, or a children’s Rebbi or a businessman or an accountant.  Rather, it will be in accordance with the madreigah that he was supposed to have reached in this world in his Avodas Hashem--every person Kidrachav U’Kefi Ma’alalav.  It is for this reason that Hashem hides the complete Da’as Hashem from us in this world--and we will only understand Hashem’s actions after the Geulah Sheleimah--so that we have the opportunity to exercise our Bechirah Chafshis in accordance with our own madreigah in life-- and realize our life's potential without being forced or even easily led to the only true conclusion. 


3.  At the end of days, the darkness of Galus will become exceedingly dark, as the Pasuk (Zechariah 49:7) states “Le’eis Erev Yehiyeh Ohr--so that the clarity of the light when it comes will be most resolute and appreciated.  As things appear dark, darker, darkest (now with our own people attacking Torah study and Torah Jewry in new found ways), we must strengthen ourselves with the knowledge that the clarity of true light will soon shine forth.”  As Dovid HaMelech teaches (Tehillim 90: 15):  Samcheinu KeYimos Inisanu--Hashem will bring us joy to compensate for the previous afflictions”!


4.  The Sefer Nefesh HaChaim (1:9) brings the Pasuk in Shir HaShirim (1:9):  Lesusasi BeRichvei Paroh Dimisich Rayasi--Hashem, my relationship with You can be compared to that of the horses of Paroh’s army in the hands of the chariot riders. The Nefesh HaChaim then remarkably explains that the world improperly believes that Hashem directs us in this way and that, just as chariot riders direct their horses to go here and to go there.  However, this is not what happened to Paroh’s chariot riders--they did not lead the horses--it was the horses that miraculously led them!  With the Geulas Mitzrayim, the Pasuk teaches us that Hashem put us in a position of the horses at Kriyas Yam Suf which led their drivers.  We determine our own fate and the fate of the world--by our choices, by our actions.  Hashem lets us ‘run the world’ in this way--and he 'follows' our lead.  When will the Geulah come--will it be today--time will not tell--we will!


5.  Once again, to take a short and potent Emunah lesson with us daily, we highly recommend Emuna Daily.   To join and for further information contact:  emunadaily@gmail.com.  The recording is available via telephone as well:  Dial (605) 475-4799, access code 840886#.




24 Nissan

QUESTION OF THE DAY :  If the Moshiach comes between today and Pesach Sheni (the 14th of Iyar), will each one of us bring a Korban Pesach on Pesach Sheni, or because we missed bringing the Korban Pesach on Erev Pesach will we have to wait all the way until next year to bring the Korban Pesach?




Special Note One: We B’EH continue our Monday/Thursday study of the Sefer Mitzvos HaKatzar, with the Mitzvos Lo Sa’asei which the Chofetz Chaim writes are applicable in our times. Today, we present Mitzvos Lo Sa’aseh 106 and 107:


106.  Lo Le’echol Achilas Ben Sorer U’Moreh--this is the Mitzvas Lo Sa’aseh which prohibits one from eating in a way which will lead one to shefichas damim. From this we also derive that one is not permitted to eat an animal while it is still alive. This Mitzvah applies in all places and at all times and to men and women alike.


107.  Shelo Lezro’ah Kila’im--this is the Mitzvas Lo Sa’aseh which prohibits one from planting two different types of seeds together in a field in Eretz Yisrael. In Chutz La’aretz, one is permitted to plant two different seeds together in a field, but one is not permitted to graft two different trees (such as an Esrog and an apple), nor plant a tree and a vegetable together. However, if two different seeds or two different trees were planted or grafted together, it is permitted to eat of the produce. The most stringent prohibition is that of Kilai HaKerem, which proscribes the planting of vines and grains together--it is forbidden to eat or even derive benefit from the produce of this prohibited act. This last prohibition is MiD’Rabanan in Chutz La’aretz and Min HaTorah in Eretz Yisrael.



Special Note Two:  We provide the following additional points and pointers in this important post-Pesach period:


A.  We are still in the month of Nissan--there is a real reason that we continue not to utter the Tachanun supplication daily. Chazal remind us that B’Nissan Nigalu U’V’Nissan Assidin Liga’el--just as we were redeemed in Nissan in the past--we will be redeemed in Nissan in the future.  We must continue to take a step back to at least appreciate what this means. Each day in Mussaf over Pesach we exclaimed V’Havi’einu L’Tzion Irecha B’Rina VeLirushalayim Beis Mikdashecha BeSimchas Olam--bring us to Tzion, Your city, in glad song, and to Yerushalayim, home of Your sanctuary, in eternal joy.  While we cannot fathom the glad song of millions of people together, nor the eternal joy of even ourselves personally--we must at least appreciate how we need to yearn and long for the moment--which will then incredibly become eternal! We must remind ourselves of the poignant words of the Sefer Mesilas Yesharim (end of Chapter 19), who teaches that each and every individual must daven for the Geulas Yisrael, pointedly writing as follows:


Im Yomar Adam Me Ani…She’espalel Ahl Yerushalayim--if a person would say ‘Who am I…to daven for Yerushalayim--will it be because of my prayer that the Yeshuah will come?....” This is why a person was created individually, so that each individual should say ‘The world was created for me!’  It is certainly a Nachas Ruach to Hashem that His children plead and pray for the Geulah…. Each and every one of us is therefore obligated to do so, and no one can excuse himself because of his lack of position or power…for it is not possible for Kevod Shomayim to be increased until the Geulah of Yisrael comes, as the two are interdependent….”


Now--Nissan 5773, as the pangs of Ikvasah D’Moshicha beat about us--is the time for us to be especially passionate--now--Nissan 5773, is the time for each and every one of us to call out in our hearts for the Geulas Yisrael!  Do not lose--and instead very dedicatedly use--the opportunities in each Shemone Esrei, most certainly over the next week:  Tekah BeShofar, VeLirushalayim Ircha, Es Tzemach, V’sechezenah Eineinu Beshuvecha L’Tzion, Sheyibaneh Beis HaMikdash BeMeheirah V’Yameinu, and VeArvah LaShem Minchas Yehudah V’Yerushalayim. Let us call out from the heart--and may our calls be answered just as our forefathers calls were heard, as testified by the Pasuk (Shemos 2:23,24):  Vatal Shavasam Ehl Elokim…Vayishmah Elokim Es Na’akasam VaYizkor Elokim Es Briso….”  May it be speedily and in our days!


B.  We have concluded our recitation of Hallel HaMitzri (Tehillim 113-118), and Chazal teach that it would be inappropriate to continue to recite it daily as Hallel during the rest of the year.  There is, however, a second Hallel, which is known as Hallel HaGadol (Tehillim 136).  Hallel HaGadol contains 26 Pesukim each of which ends with the phrase “Ki Le’olam Chasdo--for His kindness endures forever.” HaRav Meir Schuck, Z’tl, brings Chazal (Pesachim 118A) who teach that the reason this Kepitel is known as Hallel HaGadol--the great Hallel, is because of the conclusion it contains--Nosein Lechem Lechol Basar Ki Le’olam Chasdo, in which we affirm our unwavering belief that Hashem not only is the executor of open miracles--splitting the sea, giving us water in the desert, giving us the Torah from the Heavens among the trembling mountains--but that He also sustains each and every creature in accordance with his needs. Hallel HaGadol thanks Hashem for His everyday kindness to us. On a daily basis, HaRav Schuck, Z’tl, explains, we must express our Ki Le’olam Chasdo for the miracles within what is to others nature itself. If one can relate back the world and its common experiences--eating, drinking, taking care of one’s needs, seeing the things that he sees, meeting the people that he meets, all back to their Source--then on a daily basis, and in fact many times on a daily basis he can remember the phrase:  Nosein Lechem Lechol Basar Ki Le’olam Chasdo!”


C.  Perhaps one of the most famous phrases in Ahz Yashir is Zeh Keili V’Anveihu--which Chazal (Shabbos 133B) interpret as teaching us that one should beautify the Mitzvos, by building a nice Sukkah, buying a beautiful Lulav, wearing nice Tzitzis…. HaRav Yerucham Levovitz, Z’tl, teaches that the beatification of Mitzvos are not limited to Mitzvos which are Bein Adam LaMakom--rather the guideline of Zeh Keili V’Anveihu applies just as equally to Mitzvos which are Bein Adam L’Chaveiro as well.  Accordingly, when addressing another it should be in a pleasant and respectful manner, when writing to someone it should be in a neat and thoughtful way, when giving Tzedakah it should be with the feeling that I am helping another Tzelem Elokim.  When one beautifies any Mitzvah--whether it is Bein Adam LaMakom or Bein Adam L’Chaveiro--he indeed most beautifies himself! 



23 Nissan

Special Note One:  In the incredible Sefer HaTodaah (translated as The Book of Our Heritage [Feldheim Publishers]), Rabbi Eliyahu Kitov, Z’tl, writes as follows:


“Shir HaShirim is unique among all of the Kisvei Kodesh, all of the works of Scripture, for Hashem’s name is not mentioned even circumspectly (although Hashem’s name is also not recorded in Megilas Esther, it is clearly alluded to, as Chazal point out).  Shir HaShirim is written entirely in the form of a parable of the exalted love between Hashem and Bnei Yisroel…  Through this metaphor, Shlomo HaMelech teaches us that all earthly desires are merely a method to enable us to understand the love that we should have for Hashem.  When man immerses himself solely in the parable--in the material world--he is not able to understand the higher message that the parable conveys.  On Pesach, the spiritual essence that exists in the material world is revealed before us.  Paroh and his army, all creatures, the sea and its tempest, the earth and the sky, are all subordinate to our relationship--yes, our relationship with Hashem.  On Pesach, we are all freed from the slavery of Mitzraim and from the slavery to our evil inclination.  At this time, we are most apt to understand the song of love between Hashem and His People.”


Hakhel Note:  As we all know Shir HaShirim is the holiest of all things holy (Shir HaShirim Rabba 1).  Obviously, then, once we better appreciate the meaning of Shir HaShirim for us, we must be sure not to pack away this teaching with our Pesach supplies until next year.  Instead, we must make the effort on a daily basis to “sing” the Song of Songs--if not by physically reciting its sacred words, then by constantly remembering what is the parable--and what is the reality  Try to see how many times you can catch yourself during the day, whether you are on the phone, in the store, walking, or even while studying or davening, and remind yourself that you live in a world, in a reality, in which its spiritual essence is so clear that Hashem’s name need not even be mentioned.  So why let the Yetzer Hora muddy the waters with his earthy parable when you can sing the Song of all Songs--each and every day!



Special Note Two:  On this Isru Chag we recall the powerful words of the Rambam (Hilchos Brachos 10:26 ):

“The primary rule is that a person should always call out to Hashem for the future and ask for His mercy; and give thanks for the past and praise Hashem, each person according to his strength. And the more one thanks Hashem and constantly praises Him, the more praiseworthy he himself is.”


Rav Chaim Friedlander Z’TL deduces from this, and notes that, the Rambam does NOT write that the more one calls out to Hashem and asks for His mercy, the more praiseworthy he is. Rather, the Rambam writes the more one thanks and praises Hashem, the greater he is. Indeed, Chazal teach us that in the future, the Korban Todah--the Thanks Offering--will be the Korban that continues on and remains with us after the world becomes filled with the knowledge of Hashem. The Sin Offerings and the Guilt Offerings will no longer have a place in our lives, but thanks always will.

It is amazing to note that the level of thanks and praise to Hashem on Pesach is so high that no Korban Todah can be brought because they must be brought with chometz loaves of bread--which is impossible on Pesach! This is obviously no coincidence, as the Torah could have either excluded the chometz loaves from the offering on Pesach, or permitted them for the sake of the offering only. The message is clear--on Pesach, we have grown even above this Korban.

Let us start the Spring/Summer season with our right foot forward, by keeping our Pesach spirit of Thanks and Hallel, so that as we begin to once again recite Mizmor L’Sodah daily, we will merge and blend our joy over the redemption of the past into an everlasting thanks continuing into the future.


PRACTICAL SUGGESTION: As you go through davening (especially Pesukei D’Zimrah) focus on and feel the words of thanks--especially considering your being born close to the time of the Final Redemption and your having the tremendous opportunity to contribute to the last stages of Zechusim, putting up those last few bricks on the wall, to bring Moshiach, Bimhera B’yameinu.


Special Note Three:  We must recognize that the physical pounds that we may have gained over Pesach is symbolic of the spiritual weight which we really should have gained--and not shed--in the days and weeks after the Holiday. Accordingly, we provide the following additional clear lessons we all undoubtedly learned over Pesach, and some practical way to implement each one in our daily lives:


1.  Hakaras HaTov—Such as Moshe Rabbeinu recognizing the good that the earth, the water, and Bisya Bas Paroh did on his behalf. There are also many examples--what we owe to the dogs, the donkeys--and even the Egyptians for being our hosts for so long.

PRACTICAL SUGGESTION: Pick one person in your home or office and show him/her an added level of thanks or respect daily in recognition of what he/she has done for you, even if it was only a one-time act or event.


2.  Segulas Yisrael—Pesach was a “second creation” for mankind, as it not only established Hashem as the Creator of the world, but as Ongoing Supervisor of the world with B’nei Yisroel chosen as the nation to epitomize the purpose of man’s creation. The commentaries on the Siddur explain “Ata V’Chartanu MiKol Ha’amim” as specifically referring to Hashem choosing to redeem us from Mitzrayim and giving us the Torah 49 days later. This explains why so many Mitzvos are “Zecher L’Yetzias Mitzrayim”--because they all emanate from this great choice--our eternal selection to be mankind’s crown jewel.

PRACTICAL SUGGESTION: Do something daily--even if it is a Mitzvah--only because you recognize the gift and opportunity that Hashem has presented you with in being unique, special and different from all that surrounds you--for being that crown jewel!


3.  Hashgacha Pratis—Hashem’s care and concern for each individual member of B’nei Yisroel evidenced by such examples as thousands of children being saved from the king’s decree of death, by Moshe Rabbeinu being raised in Paroh’s palace, and B’nei Yisroel walking through Egyptian houses in daylight as just a few feet away Egyptians were enwrapped in such tangible darkness that they could not even move.

PRACTICAL SUGGESTION: At some time during the day, and really as often as possible, feel the Hashgacha Pratis, Hashem’s watching over you, in your daily life. There must be a reason that you saw a loose dog, that you met this particular person, or that you heard that D’var Torah.  Also, of course, remember to say “Baruch Hashem”, “Thank You, Hashem” or “Please Help Me, Hashem” quietly (or out loud) as many times as possible during the day.


4.  Reward and Punishment—The Egyptians who hid their animals in fear of Hashem were spared those animals.  Similarly, in reward for saying that “Hashem is righteous”, the Egyptians merited burial after their Yam Suf debacle. On the other hand, the Egyptians were punished in kind and in proportion to their level of cruelty and animosity expressed towards Bnei Yisroel, as is evidenced, for example, by the way each individual Mitzri died at the Yam Suf--some sinking quickly like lead, others being tossed as stones, and yet others being thrown about like straw.  Even those who were gleeful over our servitude, such as the bechorim (first born) of other nations, got their due.  May the same exact justice be meted out against each individual Nazi and each one of our past and present enemies, speedily in our days.

PRACTICAL SUGGESTION: Before doing a Mitzvah, and prior to or while contemplating a possible Aveira, recognize that Hashem’s Justice is exact, accurate, and correct. When one is rewarded for davening with Kavannah, he will also be rewarded for coming to Shul in the first place, for arriving there on time, and indeed for every step of the way (instead of turning over in bed). On the other hand, when one is punished, every hurtful word will be counted, each mistruth will be weighed and every degree of Chillul Hashem and Kiddush Hashem will be accounted for.  As the Pasuk teaches (Devorim 32:4) “Hatzur Tomim Pa’alo…”--perfect is His work, for all His Paths are just.  This is related to the incredible degree of middah k’neged middah (measure for measure) with which Hashem runs this world (as we learn when studying the precise nature of each of the ten Makkos).  Dovid HaMelech teaches (Tehillim 121:5) “Hashem is your shadow”--Hashem responds to us and it is up to us whether that shadow will be dark and gloomy--or illustrious and beautiful!!


5.  TEVA (nature)—The Makkos, the concomitant freedom of B’nei Yisroel from the Makkos, the miraculous growth of B’nei Yisroel (from seventy to millions of people) while in desperate servitude, the entire world’s viewing and experiencing of the miracles at the Yam Suf, all dispel the concept of nature and natural existence.  Pesach occurs in the spring not only because it made it easier for B’nei Yisroel to leave, but also for us to appreciate that what the world calls nature, is really the Hand of Hashem.  It is fascinating to note that the Hebrew word for nature, or Teva, consists of the same letters as “Tava”, which means to drown, referring us back to the Sea, to teach us how ‘natural’ events really occur.  It is not surprising, then, that we do not eat Chametz on Pesach, which represents nature taking its course on flour and water, but instead use Matzah, which demonstrates control over what would otherwise occur.  The Ba’alei Mussar explain that we must take this lesson and exercise control over our own nature, for the more we do so, the more we will overcome the physical forces of this world, and raise ourselves from the impurities surrounding us, up and towards the 49 levels of purity that we must begin to strive for.

PRACTICAL SUGGESTION: When we see something that looks like a beautiful or even frightening element of nature, recognize that it is really the Yad Hashem, and have it serve as a reminder to you of Hashem’s control over every aspect of the world’s existence--and that you, too, must control your nature and elevate your precious everyday life to the sublime and spiritual!


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