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11 Iyar



1. The Sefer Otzros HaTorah (Sefiras HaOmer, page 389) provides a remarkable incident that occurred to HaRav Bentzion Krenfus, a close talmid of the Chofetz Chaim, who was often in his home. Once when he entered the Chofetz Chaim’s home he saw him sitting and crying profusely. He immediately asked the Chofetz Chaim what was wrong. The Chofetz Chaim responded: “I just completed learning the Sefer Raishis Chochma and I learned there that if someone suffers bizyonos in this world--then the amount of gehenom that he must otherwise be subjected to can be greatly reduced. I am crying for myself--why have I been punished by not having to suffer bizyonos in this world--which would save me so much punishment in the next?!


Hakhel Note: How we must treasure the shame, the degradations, the insults that we are zoche to receive.


2. The wise person realizes that his battle with the Yetzer Hara is a battle against a ganav--the Yetzer Hara is out to steal one’s most precious possessions--his time and his Torah. Teshuvah is re-taking that which the Yetzer Hara has stolen from the person.


Hakhel Note: Do not make yourself into your own victim!


3.  Every morning we recite about the Torah: “Vechayei Olam Natah B’Socheinu”. Additionally, every night we recite: “Ki Heim Chayeinu”. There are many Jewish people who are alive and know little or no Torah. If one who does not study much (or perhaps as much as he should) wants to be considered alive--he should do his utmost to support those who do study Torah, and it will be considered as if he was learning Torah--and he too will be breathing the life-giving air of Torah (see Shulchan Aruch Yoreh De’ah 246).





Special Note One:  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 make 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!



Special Note Two: The following is excerpted from Love Your Neighbor (Rabbi Zelig Pliskin, Shlita) on this week’s Parasha:


Hochayach Tochiach Es Amisecha, V’lo Sisa Alav 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 Hashem 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.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 Lashon Hara 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 Elyashiv, Z’tl).


*Before admonishing someone, offer a Tefillah 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)



Special Note Three: A very important teaching from the pamphlet “Choose Kindness” by Rabbi Moshe Goldberger, Shlita:


“Hashem has created Kindness Coaches to enable us to reach our maximum potential. They are known as the people in need.  They help us clarify our vision and goals, keep us focused, do our best, and live up to Torah values. They can help us double our giving time….As Chazal teach, when you give a tenth to charity, you will become wealthier and able to continue giving more….” Hakhel Note: We, as a people of Gomlei Chasodim, not only perform acts of kindness, but understand that we must continuously strive for greater and greater heights. We must be extremely appreciative and respectful of the Coaches--as we join together in providing Hashem with Nachas from His beloved children!




10 Iyar

GUIDANCE IN KIDDUSH HASHEM: Mifal Kiddush Hashem was founded for the purpose of promoting awareness and understanding of the fundamental mitzvah of Kiddush Hashem, and the vital role it plays in the life of every Jew. For important and practical (free) material on the mitzvah visit: http://www.kiddush-hashem.com/ and see the downloads.




Special Note One:  It is important to note that of the 79 Mitzvos in the upcoming Parashiyos of Achrei Mos—Kedoshim, at least 23 relate to Arayos—forbidden relationships and immorality. As always, we must take the lesson from the Parasha 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 Parasha –”You shall be holy, for I am holy…” (Vayikra 19:2). Rashi (ibid.) teaches that this Pasuk immediately follows the Parasha 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.



Special Note Two:  Having recently made the Birchas HaIlanos, we B’EH have begun 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 at this time of year, we provide our readers 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!


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


a.                   Borei shemen arev — only on apharsemon oil

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

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

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

e.                   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.


3.                  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.


4.                  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.


5.                  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.


6.                  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.)


7.      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.


8.                  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.


9.                  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.


10.              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. 


11.              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.


12.              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!



Special Note Three:  The following is excerpted from the Sefer HaRav Schach: Conversations, compiled by his son in-law Rabbi Asher Bergman, Shlita, and translated into English by Rabbi Yaakov Blinder, Shlita: “Rav Schach said that one of the things that moves him tremendously is contemplating the amazing power of concealment of Hashem’s hand in creation. ‘Other people wonder why we don’t see miracles and visible proofs for faith in Hashem,’ he said, ‘but I am amazed at the tremendous power that man receives from Heaven to be able to disregard the facts that virtually shout into his ears: ‘Here is proof for your faith in Hashem!’ People say that nowadays we dont see miracles. But a rational person can see that every lifting of one’s hand is a miracle, as well as every glance with the eye. See how a little piece of flesh can move around and be able to see things, and to provide information to the brain, which interprets and analyzes it. These facts declare, as clearly as the sun shines: U’mibesar Echezeh Elo’ak--from my flesh I see Hashem’ (Iyov 19:26 ). One who ponders such things just a tiny bit can already sense the beauty of creation that Hashem brought into being in order to bestow His beneficence upon us. Yet, along with the obviousness of Hashem’s presence, He created the ability to be oblivious to the obvious, providing an enigma: On the one hand, one who truly contemplates the beneficence of the Creator is so impressed with the G-dliness of the world that he wonders how it is possible that there could be evil in the world, so manifest is Hashem’s goodness to us. Yet, on the other hand, those who close their eyes and minds ask precisely the opposite question - ‘Where is G-d?’--and look for proofs for faith in Him. It is incredible how at the same time there is both clarity and concealment; it is all so simple, yet so hidden! Let us consider another aspect of this marvel. We see that man’s desire to attain physical comfort and pleasure drives him into undertaking the greatest toil in order to achieve them. It would seem that mans recognition of the truth should be at least as strong as these drives, and should stir within man the strongest desires to foster a relationship with his Creator and do His will. We have seen throughout history that nations are willing to sacrifice millions of lives for ideals and beliefs that were the products of their own minds. ‘Should our sacrifice for our perfect Torah be any less valid than their idle prattle?!(Menachos 65b).


 The realization and feeling that man was not created by accident, and that there is a Mastermind Who runs the world’s events are basic and natural in mans soul and instinct from the day of his birth. Just a minimum of truthful contemplation and deliberation will bring any man to clear conclusions regarding man’s essence and his obligation in this world, namely that he must channel all the power of his body and soul to do the will of the Creator. All this is so simple and natural. It can only be a divine miracle of the highest magnitude that these obvious facts go unnoticed and unrealized for so many people.’”


Hakhel Note: Oh, how we must act on this penetrating teaching!




9 Iyar

ANOTHER KIND OF COUNT: The Chofetz Chaim provides simple guidance as to how a person can accrue thousands of Mitzvos over the course of a year: If one consciously decides not to say certain words about a person, a family, or a group--then each word is a separate Mitzvah in Shemiras Halashon. Assuming a person spares himself of uttering only ten inappropriate words a day (just one or two sentences)--then he has accrued a minimum of 10 x 365 or 3,650 Mitzvos. Considering that each Mitzvah lasts for eternity--this is a lot of eternity!



QUOTE OF THE DAY :  The following is excerpted from the remarkable, must-go-through Sefer The Power of Teshuvah, by Rabbi Heshy Kleinman, Shlita (Artscroll, p. 168-169):  “Kabbalos are effective because they impart new levels of strength to a person.  When one makes a definite commitment, Hashem eases his path to assist him. These resolutions should, however, be employed carefully - only for flaws we are truly motivated to repair - and wisely, with realistic resolutions that we have the capacity to keep.”



REMINDER--INTERNATIONAL CHESED HELPLINE: This remarkable free service provides a wealth of Chesed information around the world: 718-705-5000 (it begins with a very special menu of automated information).




Special Note One: With the horrific earthquake in Nepal , we are reminded that so-called “Natural Events” are far from ‘natural’--but are messages from Hashem to us, reminding us of who we are and what we must do in this world. 


We once again especially provide Halachos below relating to Hashem’s messages from nature to us. 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 Bracha of “Oseh Ma’aseh Bereishis--Who makes the work of Creation”.  It is also permissible to make the Bracha 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 Bracha of “Shekocho U’Gevuraso”, but HaRav Chaim Kanievsky, Shlita, writes that in all events one should make the Bracha 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 Beraishis” or “Shekocho U’Gevuraso.”  However, the custom is to make the Bracha of “Oseh Ma’aseh Beraishis” on lightning, and the Bracha of “Shekocho U’Gevuraso” on thunder.  We note that in many Sephardic communities, the custom may be to recite these Brochos 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 Beraishis” on both (he would also be yotzei with the Bracha of “Shekocho U’Gevuraso” on both as well).


5.      One does not make a Bracha 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 Bracha--Oseh Ma’aseh Beraishis--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 Bracha of “Shekocho U’Gevuraso,” and then when he sees lightning (again) he makes the Bracha of “Oseh Ma’aseh Beraishis.”


6.      If one already had commenced making a Bracha on lightning and then, while making that Bracha, he heard thunder, he must make a second Bracha 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 Bracha on thunder, and then saw lightning--he would make a second Bracha 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 Bracha of “Oseh Ma’aseh Beraishis” (HaRav Dovid Feinstein, Shlita, for instance, holds that one must see the bolt).  Many Poskim (including HaRav Shlomo Zalmen Auerbach, Z’tl, and the Tzitz Eliezer, Z’tl) rule that one need not see the bolt itself and that, accordingly, one can make the Bracha of “Oseh Ma’aseh Beraishis” when merely seeing the light flash--and not the actual bolt in the sky.


8.      Once again, one must make the Bracha 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 Bracha before reciting Asher Yotzar (usually one must be careful to recite the Bracha of Asher Yotzar immediately after coming out of the bathroom).


9.         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 of Birchas HaMazon.


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


10.      If one mistakenly made a Bracha 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 Brochos when he actually hears thunder or sees lightning later.


11.  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.


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


13.  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 Brochos over lightning and thunder even a second time during the day.


14.   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 Brochos the next morning after daybreak.  In other words, the evening and the next morning are considered two separate days for the Brochos over lightning and thunder (just like Birchos HaTorah)--so that one would make new Brochos upon hearing lightning and thunder when awakening the next morning.


14.  We should in all events remember that Chazal (Brochos 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!




8 Iyar

THE SO-CALLED “KOSHER SWITCH” DEBACLE:  With the senior Rabbanim in North America emphatically rejecting the so-called kosher switch as a veritable sham Halachically, we are each left to learn how important it is to consult with our Gedolim prior to undertaking acts which are intended to have an impact on K’lal Yisrael. Indeed, even something like the study of Daf Yomi itself came under the scrutiny and approval of the K’neisiya Gedola in 1923.  We are a people rooted in Da’as Torah--going as far back as Galus Mitzrayim we were led by the zekeinim. Even on our less significant decisions, we should take the lesson to look to our Rabbonim--who can understand and apply the words of the Shulchan Aruch, Rishonim and Acharonim in ways we cannot.


Hakhel Note:  In the fast-paced world we live in, it is difficult to collect our thoughts, even more so to do a deliberate Cheshbon HaNefesh. We see how quickly our computers, cell phones and other technological equipment operate--and for some reason the Yetzer Hara convinces us that we have to move our thought processes at this pace as well. Perhaps we owe it to ourselves to designate at least a few moments in the morning and in the evening--as a time to sit and close our eyes in order to think about a particular Halacha that we need to know--or perhaps even a middah or an area of Teshuvah or Mitzvos we are or should be working on. The rapid pace of the world around us--should not interfere with the attention and with the care--that we deserve to give ourselves!



FROM A READER: “Concerning memorizing the seven conditions to permit what would otherwise be considered Lashon Hara, I saw a helpful acronym to help one remember (from Rabbi Daniel Yaakov Travis, Shlita, Praying with Joy-Volume 3) : STARBUCKS


See - the incident yourself

Think - if the subject actually transgressed

Accuracy - do not exaggerate the details of the story

Reprove - the transgressor gently before speaking

Beneficial - intentions of the speaker

Utilizing - ways other than Lashon Hara to accomplish your goal

Causing - no more damage than Beis Din would rule


Seven above conditions or keep silent!”



RASHI’S P’SHAT:  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 fulfills 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 New York 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 One:  Some final points and pointers on last week’s Parshios of Tazria and Metzora:


A.  A Rav remarkably pointed out that once the Metzora has begun the purification process (at the beginning of Parashas Metzora)--he is no longer referred to in the Parasha as a Metzora--but as the Mitaher.  Once a person is on the track of purity--he must look forward to all that he can accomplish--and not backward to the rut that he had previously placed himself in. 


B.  The Pasuk teaches us that if one’s entire body was afflicted by Tzora’as, then it was not Tzor’as at all--but something else.  However, as HaRav Zelig Reuven Bengis, Z’tl (brought in the Sefer MeShulchan Gavo’ah) points out based upon the Mishna in Negaim (Chapter 8), this was only true if his whole body became affected with Tzora’as after he had gone to the Kohen.  If, however, his whole body had what looked like Tzora’as, and only then did he come to the Kohen, then the Kohen could, in fact, declare him Tamei.  Why was this so--after all, in both cases, the entire body was affected?!  What is the difference when he came if the body was entirely afflicted?  HaRav Bengis explains that if he had waited for his whole body to be affected before coming to the Kohen, the procrastination itself was indicative of fault, and the procrastination in doing Teshuvah, was the reason for his whole body’s affliction.  On the other hand, if the person had come quickly to the Kohen, and his body only later became fully impacted, this was a sign of Taharah.


Hakhel Note:  The Sefer Sha’arei Teshuvah notes at the outset that it is a terrible aveirah to delay Teshuvah (see there for the significant reasons given).  The lesson of the spread of the Tzora’as to the entire body can be a lesson to us, as we see the Yetzer Hara take one finger, then the other, then the hand, then the other…as he vies for the entire body.  If we fight him back when he gets to the finger--then we will be--and remain--Tahor!


C.  It is fascinating to note that the situation described in the Haftarah we read really involved two distinct and seemingly insurmountable problems:  First, the great famine in Shomron, with people starving for food (as we see from the Pasuk, many of the horses had already died and food for the people was at a great premium), and upon the starvation came the besiegement by the king of Aram who had actually gathered together ‘Kol Machaneihu--his entire camp’ to conquer the city.  The siege certainly appeared as if it would take the already starving people down to a very imminent defeat and destruction.  Instead, B’Hashgacha, the entire army of Aram literally turned overnight into the people’s salvation--as they left all of their food and all of their wealth to us in flight of the apparitions Hashem caused them to see.  We, too, can look to the distressing and dangerous situations that abound around us in the world today--and recognize that our very salvation can and may come from this very intended hurt, devastation or destruction.  In the Haftarah’s time, it was Elisha the Navi who relayed the D’var Hashem.  In our time, we have no Nevi’im--so it is up to us through our Tefillos, our Torah, our Chessed--our D’veikus B’Hashem to achieve the very same--hopefully overnight--Yeshuah!  May we see it--B’Rachamim--speedily and in our day!



Special Note Two:  We are now only four weeks from the giving of the Torah in 5775.  The following is excerpted from the wonderful work Leading Jews Back by Rabbi Sholom Smith, Shlita, based upon the teachings of HaRav Avraham Pam, Z’tl: “What did Rus see in Naomi that impressed her so much?  The Midrash (Rus Rabbah 2:5) gives an explanation:  Why was she called Naomi?  Because her actions were sweet and pleasant.  Rus saw in Naomi what a life devoted to Torah and Avodas Hashem can do for a person.  She saw her sterling middos, her nobility of spirit, her warmth and caring personality.  That was what attracted Rus and motivated her to give up a life of ease and luxury and “return” to Yiddishkeit as a penniless, widowed convert, forced to live off the charity of others.  This is the enormous power a person with a pleasant, warm personality and good middos has on other people.  He attracts followers like a magnet and can have great influence on their lives. This is a proven method to bring closer to Yiddishkeit those who are estranged from the heritage of their forefathers.  While philosophical discussions and intellectual discourses are certainly tools in bringing Ba’alei Teshuvah back to their roots, a critical factor is to show how the ways of Torah are pleasant and all its pathways are peace (Mishlei 3:17).  This has the drawing power to influence people to a Torah way of life.  Derech Eretz precedes Torah (Vayikra Rabbah 9:3).  This concept underlines the vital importance of Torah Jews conducting themselves with the utmost courtesy and respect in their interpersonal relationships.  They must not forget that wherever they go--whether in the business or professional world, or as neighbors or friends--they represent the Torah.  One does not have to be a Rabbi or kiruv professional to influence others.  Every Torah Jew presents an image to those around him which, depending on his conduct, will either bring others closer to Yiddishkeit or, c’v, cause estrangement from it.  It is a responsibility that should not be taken lightly.  This can be seen by the great influence one woman (Naomi) has on another (Rus), which set into motion the chain of events which led to the founding of Malchus Bais Dovid and planted the seeds of Moshiach.


Hakhel Note:  Let us start somewhere--do you hold the door open with a smile in order to benefit the next person (whom you do not know) in stores and office buildings?...




5 Iyar

ABSOLUTELY ESSENTIAL ALERT!  We provide by clicking here an absolutely essential alert published in this week’s issue of the Flatbush Jewish Journal--an extremely strong and powerful letter published against use of the new “Kosher Switch” by HaRav Shmuel Kamenetsky, Shlita, HaRav Dovid Feinstein, Shlita, HaRav Yisroel Belsky, Shlita, and HaRav Shlomo Miller, Shlita. The letter concludes with the words: “This device should not be brought into any Jewish home. This device is undoubtedly prohibited for use on Shabbos and can lead to a tragic desecration of Shemiras Shabbos.” In a supplementary statement, HaRav Avrohom Schorr, Shlita, HaRav Yisroel Reisman, Shlita, and HaRav Moshe Tuvia, Lieff, Shlita, senior Rabbanim in Flatbush, wrote that they “urge our community to unite in rejecting this unfortunate and misleading innovation.



PROPER KAVANNAH IN TEFILLIN: A Rav in Eretz Yisrael noticed that there were those who did not recite the Tefillah found in all Siddurim prior to putting on one’s Tefillin in the morning, possibly because of its length (it is a long paragraph), and possible because the person came late. The Shulchan Aruch itself (Orach Chaim 25:5) explicitly requires certain Kavanos prior to Tefillin placement. Accordingly, the Rav developed a minimum nusach, and took it to HaRav Chaim Kanievsky, Shlita, who opined that one could be yotzei the required Kavanos by reciting this Tefillah. We provide by clicking here the Nusach of this Tefillah, which one may place somewhere in his Siddur or near his Tefillin--to be recited if one cannot express the entire Tefillah as found in the Siddur. Please feel free to share the wealth!



YEHEI SHEMEI RABBAH: By clicking here, we provide the contents of a two-sided (Hebrew and English) Yehei Shemei Rabba card, which has been especially published as a zechus for a Refuah Sheleimah for Mrs. Sassoon (Gila Bas Frances Tziporah) and her daughter (Tziporah Bas Gila), and L’ilui Nishma’os the seven eternal flames. As the card notes, Rebbi Yehoshua Ben Levi teaches that any person who answers Amen Yehei Shemei Rabba with all his might merits that all evil decrees against him are annulled.



BY WAY OF INTRODUCTION TO THIS WEEK’S PARASHIYOS: 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?!


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):


            “Oh my Gosh!”--Meaning to indicate that the person cannot say Hashem’s Name, but is still saying it in some type of slurred fashion.


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


HaRav Avigdor Miller, Ztl, (brought in the Sefer Shaarei 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! 




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


A. The following is excerpted from the Dirshu Edition of the Mishna Berurah (Shulchan Aruch Orach Chaim 318). Once again, one should in all events consult with his own Rav or Posek pertaining to his particular facts or circumstances:


1. In following up on the non-use of the “Kosher Switch” by the Torah community: If one mistakenly turned on a light switch, HaRav Nissim Karelitz, Shlita, is in doubt as to whether one can obtain benefit from the resulting light. If one turned on the light as a matter of course (such as one who usually flips on a switch as he enters the room), then HaRav Elyashiv, Z’tl, rules that it should be treated as a shogeg on Shabbos, which the Shulchan Aruch rules is assur for the person who did the act, as well as for others, to benefit from on Shabbos. In a case of need, one should consult with his Rav or Posek (ibid.).


2. HaRav Shlomo Zalmen Auerbach, Z’tl, rules that it is permissible to pour boiling liquids into a disposable (one-time use) plastic cup, and despite the fact that the plastic softens as a result, this is not considered to be boiling the plastic, as it is not the intent of the act, and is not the shiur of boiling plastic (which would be a shiur necessary to make plastic shapes). HaRav Elyashiv, Z’tl, concurs with this, explaining that it is only a melacha of Bishul when one softens something that is hard, and that one-time use disposable cups, are soft to begin with. HaRav Nissim Karelitz, Shlita, rules that if the shape of the item will surely change because it has softened, it would be prohibited to pour hot liquid into the cup (ibid., Dirshu Note 2).


3. HaRav Shlomo Zalmen Auerbach, Z’tl, rules that one can put a hot solid on a plate which has challah crumbs on it, for one does not intend to cook the challah by this. Similarly, HaRav Auerbach rules that one can place cucumber salad on a piece of hot kugel because a person does not want the cucumber salad to get cooked and in fact cooking the salad would ruin it a bit. However, HaRav Elyashiv, Z’tl, rules that the kugel and cucumber should not touch. If they touched without intent through moving the plate, HaRav Shmuel Wosner, Z’tl,  rules that one is nevertheless permitted to eat them (ibid., Dirshu Note 60).


4. If a pot has been heated not on the fire, but close to it, HaRav Shlomo Zalmen Auerbach, Z’tl, and HaRav Wosner, Z’tl, rule that it is nevertheless considered to be a kli rishon (ibid., Dirshu Note 72).


5. The Igros Moshe, as well as HaRav Elyashiv, Z’tl, and HaRav Wosner, Z’tl, each rule that cooking in a microwave is a melacha d’oraysa on Shabbos, because it is the common manner of cooking, and is equivalent to cooking on a fire. However, HaRav Shlomo Zalmen Auerbach, Z’tl, rules that it is Assur Mid’Rabanan, and that accordingly, if one must cook for a person who is ill, it is preferable to use a microwave (ibid., Dirshu Note 32).


6. The Sefer Shevisas HaShabbos writes that the Chasam Sofer, Z’tl, permitted making seltzer on Shabbos (ibid., Dirshu Note 43).


7. The HaRav Wosner, Z’tl, rules that Lechatechila one should not make kosher jello on Shabbos, because of concern for the issur of nolad (ibid.).



Special Note Two:  As the focal topic of this week’s Parashiyos is Tzora’as, and Chazal explain that a primary cause for Tzora’as is Lashon Hara, we provide the following insights.  We must also once again recall that if we are studying the Parasha now, that there are no coincidences, and that there is great reason for its study AT THIS TIME.  We must accordingly be sure to apply the lessons to our daily life:


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, Z’tl, 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 Hara. 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, Lashon Hara 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. How can it be that two people study the same Mesechta thoroughly, put in the same effort and hours and remember it equally well, yet, in Olam Haba, one is cheerfully greeted by the Bais Din Shel Ma’alah, and the second is frighteningly frowned upon?  The Chofetz Chaim (Chovos HaShemira, Chapter 7) writes that the disparity may be based solely upon the Lashon Hara occasionally spoken by the latter person.  The Torah of the one who is careful with his speech, the Chofetz Chaim writes, shines from afar, while the Lashon Hara speaker smothers the light of his Torah with the Tumah which leaves his lips.  In addition to the profound impact Lashon Hara will have on one’s Olam Haba, the Chofetz Chaim (Kavod Shomayim 1:20) adds that Lashon Hara also severely impacts upon one’s actual Torah learning in this world.  He likens the Torah learned by a speaker of Lashon Hara to one who presents the King with a unique and beautiful gift (the words of Torah), which is poorly wrapped in a dirty gift box (the foul mouth).  Obviously, the more Lashon Hara ones speaks, the more repulsive the box--and gift itself--becomes.  On the other hand, a beautiful wrapping truly enhances the gift!


E. Tumah of the lips also includes Nivul Peh (profane language) of any kind (Shaarei Teshuva 3:229), notwithstanding its “social acceptability” by the “average person” in the ordinary course of conversation, and its use by persons who might otherwise consider themselves successful, professional, sophisticated, or religious. Pass by a city playground and listen to the way they talk--that should not be any of us--even for an instant!


F. The Chofetz Chaim brings the following remarkable statement from the Zohar Hakodosh (Parashas Pekudei 264):  “When a person has a hisorerous to speak Lashon Hara, a ruach ra’ah (evil spirit) by the name of ‘Sichsucha’ is thereby aroused and actually rests upon this hisorerous of Lashon Hara, causing it to rise heavenward and bring death and destruction down to the world.  Woe to those who arouse themselves to do evil, and do not guard their mouth and tongue, and are thus not worried about this terrible result!  They do not know the tragic effect of their actions.”  Hakhel Note:  Remember Sichsucha --and say no to it! 


G. Contrary to popular thinking, Tzora’as as a punishment for Lashon Hara, among other sins, has not left us.  The Chofetz Chaim (Kavod Shomayim 2:15 ) brings from the Sefer HaKoneh that anyone who deserves this particular punishment will receive it in the future, r’l.  Observation:  The shame and embarrassment in the future may be that much greater, as others bask in eternal light and he is instead outside of the camp, isolated in quarantine, alone and ashamed. 


H. In fact, the Chofetz Chaim (Kovod Shomayim 1:17 ) brings from Chazal that the ultimate punishment for the Ba’al Lashon Hara is that he will be speechless for eternity.  Can we at all appreciate the pain and shame one will feel if he stands mute as all around rejoice in the incomprehensible bliss of Olam Habah?  The Chofetz Chaim explains that we are forewarned of this Midah K’neged Midah punishment by the posuk “Yachres Hashem Kol Sifsei Chalakos Lashon Medaberes Gedolos (Tehillim 12:4).”  The pasuk means that Hashem will forever cut off (kares) the tongue that speaks gedolos (a euphemism for Lashon Hara).


I. In this 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 K’lal Yisrael.  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 Derech Eretz 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 Three: The Chofetz Chaim Heritage Foundation had distributed the following Ten Rules of Shemiras HaLashon:


“Lashon Hara means the making of a derogatory or damaging remark about someone. The Torah forbids one to denigrate the behavior or character of a person or to make any remark that might cause physical, psychological or financial harm.


These are ten basic rules to remember:


1. It is Lashon Hara to convey a derogatory image of someone even if that image is true and deserved. (False derogatory statements are called motzi shem ra, slander.)


2. A statement which is not actually derogatory but can ultimately cause someone physical, financial, or emotional harm is also Lashon Hara.


3. It is Lashon Hara to humorously recount an incident that contains embarrassing or damaging information about a person even if there is not the slightest intent that they should suffer any harm or humiliation.


4. Lashon Hara is forbidden even when you incriminate yourself as well.


5. Lashon Hara cannot be communicated in any way, shape, or form (i.e., through writing, body language, verbal hints. etc.).


6. To speak against a community as a whole is a particularly severe offense. Harmful remarks about children are also Lashon Hara.


7. Lashon Hara cannot be related even to close relatives--including one’s spouse.


8. Even if the listener has previously heard the derogatory account or the information has become public knowledge and the subject will suffer no further harm by its repetition, it nevertheless should not be repeated.


9. R’chilus, which is telling one person a derogatory statement that another person said about them, is forbidden because it causes animosity between people.


10. It is forbidden to listen to Lashon Hara or r’chilus. If someone inadvertently hears Lashon Hara, it is forbidden to believe that it is true. One should give the person the benefit of the doubt--assume the information is inaccurate or that the person does not realize he is doing something wrong.


NOTE: There are times when Lashon Hara is permitted or even required. i.e.,  when warning a person about potential harm, for example, a potential business or marriage partner. On the other hand, secondhand information and baseless impressions have momentous implications. The questions of when you are allowed or even required to speak Lashon Hara are complicated. A Rabbinic authority with expertise in the field of Shemiras Halashon should be consulted in any of these cases.”


Hakhel Note: May we suggest doing something--making an advanced contribution--in the fight against Lashon Hara.  How about  memorizing the Seven Prerequisites that must be fulfilled in order to be able to speak (what may otherwise be considered Lashon Hara) for a constructive purpose?  How about putting to memory some of the Asehs or Lo Sa’asehs that a person could violate if he speaks Lashon Hara?  How about challenging oneself to a Lashon Hara free day--or to making sure that you compliment at least three people a day.  Let us LIVE the Parashiyos--day after day after day!



Special Note Four: The following is excerpted from the excellent work Sefer Chofetz Chaim--with the Commentary Yad Dovid, by Rabbi Dovid Marchant:  “The story is retold by R’ Shalom Schwadron, Z’tl, about one Purim when the home of the Chofetz Chaim was filled with people.  A certain young scholar insisted that the Chofetz Chaim promise him that he could sit next to him in the world to come.  The Chofetz Chaim replied: “I don’t know how big a share I have in Gan Eden, but one thing I do know-- I will probably have some share in Gan Eden, because from the day I was old enough to reason and understand, I have not listened to nor spoken Lashon Hara. If you promise me that from now on you will do the same, I can assure you a place next to me in Gan Eden.” Let us stop and think about this reply. Even if we have not personally been promised by the Chofetz Chaim that we may sit next to him in Gan Eden, we see that he made a clear assumption that probably, for keeping away from listening to or speaking Lashon Hara, he had some share in Gan Eden. In other words, a share in Gan Eden is assured to any Jew who observes the laws of Loshon Hara. What a tremendous revelation this is for us.”


Hakhel Note:  We may all be familiar with this famous story--but its lesson from Rabbi Marchant to us all--should really hit home in a great and powerful way!  As Rabbi Marchant himself puts it:  “Any thoughtful Jew, upon learning about this, should immediately repent of having previously listened to or spoken Lashon Hara, thus wiping his/her slate clean of this sin and embarking upon a new life of learning and observing these Halachos!”


TAKING THE TIME FOR THE EXTRA SHEMIRA:  A CONCLUDING THOUGHT.  After having STUDIED THE LESSONS of the Parashiyos 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 in the United States --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. In Europe: HaRav Yaakov Wreschner, Shlita (Manchester) is available between 9:15AM and 10:15AM and between 1:15 and 2:15PM. His mobile number is 07980641399. Dayan Aharon Dovid Dunner, Shlita, is available at 02088008555 (no set hours) What an opportunity to make sure that you do the right thing for all concerned!




4 Iyar

Special Note One:  Yesterday, we remembered our innocent brothers who have fallen at the hands of our enemies in Eretz Yisrael. With this in mind we note that in Parashas Kedoshim, 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.  May all of the soldiers and civilians murdered continuously achieve new heights in Gan Eden, and be Melitzei Yosher for all of K’lal Yisrael.



Special Note Two:  Upon request, we once again provide the following important note:


Today, Yom Ha’Atzma’ut, is 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 Zeman 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), without a bracha 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 would 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 if a potential donor has this ‘dilemma’, he should ask a Shaila 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.




Special Note Three:  As we are in the midst of the Sefirah period in which we are careful to practice important Minhagim relating to the period, 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 second part below of notes as excerpted from the outstanding and highly recommended resource Guide To Derech Eretz by Rabbi Shaul Wagschal, Shlita (Targum/Feldheim).  Once again, 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:




11. Benefits of speaking gently:


A) Most individuals value the privilege of making choices and thereby determine their course of action. For this reason, it is inherently difficult for people 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 directions will be more closely cared for.


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, an employer should recognize the benefits of treating his employees with respect!


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 Dovid Hamelech’s face during the study of Halacha” (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 Hashem.” (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).  The Talmud (Tosefta Sanhedrin, ch. 7) also warns against asking a Sage a question immediately upon his entering the beis midrash; one must allow him time to settle his thoughts.’


13.  Chazal (Niddah 16b) bring the following teaching: “I hate three [types of] individuals, and one of them is a person who enters his friend’s house unexpectedly”. R. Yochanan’s opinion is that this law even applies to a person who enters his own house unexpectedly.


14.  “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.”


15.  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 D’Rebbi 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!


16.  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.


17.  Rules Concerning Eating in a host’s Home:


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 (Brachos 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. (Orach Chaim 170: 12, Mishnah Berurah 28)


18.  The Talmud (Kiddushin 40b) says that a person who eats in the street, i.e., in a place where people would not normally eat, resembles a dog-- an animal which lacks the quality of humility more than other animals.  So, too, a person who eats in public demonstrates his lack of humility. The Talmud rules that a person who eats in public is disqualified from giving testimony.  Since he lacks the trait of self-effacement, he will not hesitate to give false testimony and thereby risk public ridicule.


19.  Entering and Exiting:


A.  When two people enter a beis kenesses or beis midrash together, the person of greater importance should go in first. When leaving the beis kenesses, however, the person of least importance may leave first, since there is no mitzvah to leave a beis kenesses. The Birkei Yosef quotes the opinion of the gaonim who contend that the person of greater importance should also exit first when leaving a beis kenesses.


B.  When entering a house, the baal habais should enter first.  When leaving the house, the guest should exit first (Masseches Derech Eretz, ch. 4).  When leaving a house owned by someone else, the person of greater importance should leave first.


20.  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.  


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 the person is eating, since people find it embarrassing to eat in the presence of others. (Tov Yehoshua 3:2)


G.  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.


H.  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 beyond his financial capability (Chulin 94b).




3 Iyar

LE’OSEH NIFLA’OS GEDOLOS!  Moving deeper into the springtime as Hashem’s creations bloom around us, we dare not forget one of the great lessons of Pesach --Le’oseh Nifla’os Gedolos Levado Ki L’Olam Chasdo--Who alone performs great wonders, for His kindness endures forever (Tehillim 136:4). As we see the marvels of the flowers blooming, the trees budding and the grass growing--we must realize that it is not only the Ten Makkos, the Splitting of the Sea, the Ananei Kavod and the Mon which were extraordinary miracles, but that which we call ‘nature’ is most definitely extraordinary as well. The only real difference between the Ten Makkos and the Splitting of the Sea--and the five different shades of green on the bushes and trees in front of you--is that the former are Nissim Geluyim, and the latter are Nissim Nistarim. Let us take the time to marvel at Hashem’s world. Especially at this time of year, as we see this wonder, that spectacle, and those phenomena, let us get used to exclaiming with joy Le’oseh Nifla’os Gedolos Levado Ki L’Olam Chasdo!


Hakhel Note: HaRav Mattisyahu Salomon, Shlita, notes that the Chovos HaLevavos first teaches the Sha’ar Habechina (the study of Hashem’s wonders) and only then teaches the Sha’ar Avodas Elokim--because we first have to appreciate Who Hashem is and what He does before we can properly serve Him!




Special Note One: As we are in the midst of the Sefira period in which we are careful to practice important Minhagim relating to the period, 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 the outstanding and highly recommended resource Guide To Derech Eretz by Rabbi Shaul Wagschal (Targum/Feldheim).  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 Mishna [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). What this really means is 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, Sha’ar Ha’anavah).


5.  It is told that one of Rabbi 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. 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....But one should not deviate from the local custom if this will lead to dispute” (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 different from their own, and such differences can lead to dispute.


8.  Chazal teach: “’Love your friend as yourself’ is a general rule throughout 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 writes that it is possible to train oneself to feel love for people.  This can be achieved by fulfilling the following 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. Never conduct heated arguments with others.  Welcome everyone joyously and with a friendly facial expression, since a friendly expression strengthens bonds of love.


C) Soothe people who feel worried or angry.


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


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


F) Conduct all transactions honestly.


G) Strive to benefit others, not to benefit from others.


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


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


Hakhel Note:  Perhaps one can consider reviewing the above nine pointers (A-I) at the beginning or end of his day--to motivate him or see how he fared.


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 dislike 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 dislike you” (Mishlei 25:17).  Rashi explains that just as eating an overabundance of honey makes one feel like vomiting, so, too, frequent visits causes the host to revile the visitor. Metzudos David writes that love between people increases when they are absent from each other, whereas overly frequent visits have the opposite effect.


10.  From Moshe Rabbeinu, we learn how far Derech Eretz extends.  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!




2 Iyar

WELCOME BACK AMIRAS TACHANUN!  After a month of not reciting Tachanun, let us recite these great words of supplication--which incredibly include the words of AVINU MALKEINU CHANEINU VA’ANEINU KI AIN BANU MA’ASIM--ASEH IMANU TZEDAKA VACHESED V’HOSHIAINU (the last Avinu Malkeinu recited in the Aseres Yemei teshuva and on Fast Days)--with a renewed intensity and fervor--pleasding with Hashem to shower us with his unlimited mercy--and the Geulah Sheleima in our day!



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!



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 chas veshalom 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’ 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 Hora--are in charge of your life!



ASEH TORASECHA KEVAH! We learned this famous phrase in Pirkei Avos ( 1:15 ) last week. We would typically understand it to mean that one should be ‘Kove’a Itim LaTorah’. Rashi, on this Mishna, however, specifically writes that this is not the meaning of these words. Rather, continues Rashi, Torah is to be our keviyus the entire day--it is the keva--and anything else we do the rest of the day are ‘inserts’ into our keviyus of the day! What a powerful message!




Special Note One:  Regarding the acronym of the word Iyar as ‘Ani Hashem Rofecha,’ we received the following from a reader:  “I also wanted to add that Rabbi Zechariah Wallerstein always says that when the rain comes in Iyar, you open your mouth and let it in, and just feel that Hashem is healing your whole body.  It is an amazing thing to do--I’ve been doing it every year since he said it.”  Hakhel Note One:  If you choose to do this, you should consult with your Rav as to if and when a Bracha may first be required.  Hakhel Note Two:  It is interesting to note that Matzah is referred to as the healing bread or healing food.  One may therefore suggest that the reason we are not commanded to eat Matzah the whole year (and forbidden to eat Chometz, as part of our Kashrus observance) is because once we have taken medication and been healed, there is no need to take the medication any further.  However, we do not then proceed directly into the rest of the year without anything more--but are then especially treated to the special healing qualities inherent within the month of Iyar!  Ashreinu Mah Tov Chelkeinu--Oh how great is our lot!

Hakhel Note: A reader wrote the following to us:

Rabbi Nachman of Breslov writes that the word IYAR is Roshei Taivos of the words “Oyevai Yoshuvu Yaivoshu Roga,” thus indicating that the month of IYAR is conducive to see a Mapala for the enemies of K’lal Yisrael!” When reciting Tachanun during this month we should have especial Kavannah when reciting these words--that they come to immediate reality!



Special Note Two:  Rulings from HaRav Chaim Kanievsky, Shlita, relating to Sefiras HaOmer:


QUESTION:  Is there a Mitzvah of Chinuch on counting Sefira as very often the children will be asleep at night when you want to count with them? 

ANSWER:  For Chinuch purposes, one can count with them during Bein HaShemashos, before they go to bed.


QUESTION:  Should girls count with a Bracha?

ANSWER:  The Mishna Berura rules they should not, lest they forget counting for a day (Shulchan Aruch Orach Chaim 489; seif katan 3).  However, if there is a real basis for reminding them nightly it is permitted for them to count with a Bracha, as in the Steipeler’s home, the girls would make a Bracha, because the Steipeler himself would remind them every night.


QUESTION:  Can a barber stay open during Sefira for non-religious Jews if their alternative would be to go to a barber who would use a razor?

ANSWER:  It is not permissible, and it is not the religious barber’s responsibility if they would violate other Issurim as a result of his not servicing them, for if he does service them he himself would be violating a ‘lifnei iveir’ kind of aveira relating to Sefiras HaOmer.



Special Note Three:  The Aruch HaShulchan (Shulchan Aruch, Orach Chaim 492) brings from the Zohar to Parashas Tetzaveh that the primary reason that we stand during Sefiras HaOmer is because Sefiras HaOmer is comparable to Shemone Esrei itself(!).  We should realize the extraordinary importance of Sefira every night just from the fact that the one-sentence count is surrounded in the Siddur by prayers before and after (whether or not you actually recite them). 


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 Four: 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  chas veshalom 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—raising ourselves, and raising the world with us.


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!



Special Note Five:  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 Parashios 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 in many situations--and how important it is to refrain from using in many situations.  This is the perfect time to practice circumspection and judiciousness in our speech, particularly with people as to whom one has fallen prey to forbidden speech within 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!



1 Iyar

LOOKING UP!  As we begin the eighth month of the year 5775--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 still more than one-third full!



QUESTION 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 Parasha and context?



FROM AGRA D’PIRKA--SIYUM FOR FLATBUSH BRANCH: “We will be holding a gala siyum on Wednesday, April 22, 2015, at 10:30am, in the third floor hall of Knesses Bais Avigdor, 1720 Avenue J, to celebrate the conclusion of Mesechta Sotah by Harav Hagaon Shmuel Simcha Horowitz’s shiur. We also want to invite everyone to join us for the commencement of Mishnayos Mesechta Shviis for the next z’man, to be given by Harav Hagaon Shmuel Simcha Horowitz, Shlita, starting on Monday, April 20, 2015 . Please invite your friends to join us as well.”



FROM PARTNERS IN TORAH--IMPORTANT INFORMATION: By clicking here, we provide sensitive information which is important to your not-yet-religious Jewish contacts, providing important distinctions between cremation and burial. We note that the peacefulreturn.org site was developed with this in mind, as well.




Special Note One:  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!


Hakhel Note:  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 Two:  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 Yissaschar 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, as we learn in this week’s Parasha “VeTameh Tameh Yikrah”--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!



Special Note Three: We had received the following beautiful thought from one of our readers:


“Chazal relate: ‘Shenaim Asar Elef Zugos Talmidim Haya Lo L’Rebbi Akiva V’lo Nohagu Kavod 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 2 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 Kavod Zeh Bazeh”.


There are still approximately five (5) weeks left to the Omer…try to apply this lesson every day until Shavuos!



Special Note Four: 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 Yisrael 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 everyone simply study the Parashios recited at Hakhel either at home, in Shul, or at a Shiur?  Why did everyone--men, 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, may they 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!



Special Note Five: With the preceding thought, we are reminded of the teaching of HaRav Shimshon Dovid Pincus, Z’tl: Why is it that each Mesechta begins on Daf Bais—what happened to Daf Aleph?! Rabbi Pincus answers that this is to remind us  that we must  first ‘open our eyes’ and consider what we are about to learn—something holy, something special, something passed on for more than 3,300 years, something eternal, something that is life-giving—both in this world and in the next. Could there be anything more worthwhile, more essential, more privileged, more exhilarating—perhaps we should hum or sing “Ashreinu Ma Tov Chelkeinu”  at least once a day before learning!




28 Nissan

FRUIT TREE REMINDER!  We are getting very closer to the end of Nissan--and it is certainly at least preferable to make your Birkas HaIlanos this month!



YOUR OWN PERSONAL HAKARAS HATOV INITIATIVE: When you don’t receive the thanks and appreciation for something that you believe you deserve—what is a possible message or lesson for you?



FROM A PRAYING WITH FIRE 2 READER: “I just wanted to share with you one of the many, many things I learned from this incredible Sefer. It taught me that when I have a headache –my first reaction should not be—where is the Tylenol, so that I can take two Extra Strengths and it will go away. I really had always thought that that was the right reaction. No, the RIGHT REACTION is “Hashem you gave me the headache—I acknowledge that (do teshuva for something, if necessary), and then daven to Hashem that the headache go away. Then—take the Tylenol—and remember that  it is not the Tylenol taking away the headache—it is Hashem, and the Tylenol is His shaliach through  the teva, through nature and cures He has provided to us  in this world.”



HAVE YOU MADE YOUR LIST YET OF LESSONS FROM PESACH—and how you will implement at least some of them in your daily life?  If not now—when—don’t just go through Pesach—make Pesach go through you!


In this vein, we provide the following final post-Pesach practical daily points:


A. Recite Birchos HaShachar with enthusiasm [Heard from Rabbi Yosef Eisen, Shlita].


B. When reciting the word Halelukah in Shacharis--feel the word, and appreciate all that Hashem does for you--and that you are able to thank Him for it!


C. When reciting Borei Nefashos, have in mind not that it is an ‘easy, quick bracha’--but that it is a bracha which concisely thanks Hashem for the specific food or drink that you have just partaken of, and recognizes further that He blesses you with an overabundance--even more than what you need! (see Shulchan Aruch, Orach Chaim 207, Mishna Berurah Seif Katan 5)

D. When reciting Ahl HaMichya--recognize that you are uniquely davening Ahl Mizbechecha--for the Mizbei’ach to be rebuilt--something that is not even mentioned in Birchas HaMazon! Focus!


E. Think about ‘Chatzos HaLailah’--just one moment in time changed the history of the world, and consider that when this happens again, speedily and in our day--it will be forever and ever! Will it be this moment--will it be the next? Be alert, be ready! The Chasam Sofer notes that there are six Leshonos of Geulah in the Torah at the outset of Parashas Va’eirah. We have already experienced five--Vehotzeisi, VeHitzalti, VeGa’alti, VeLakachti and VeHeiveisi, and we accordingly have five cups (including the Kos Shel Eliyahu) at the Seder. The sixth Lashon--VeNasati Lachem Morasha--and I will give you Eretz Yisrael as a final and everlasting inheritance--is yet to come. Oh, how we must yearn for the sixth cup!


F. Consider a Hashgacha Pratis calendar--where the clear events of how you found that item, met that person, went there and not there, ate this food and not that--ranging from the greatly significant to seemingly insignificant incidents have been clearly guided by Hashem. Of course, one cannot spend his entire day on this, but can certainly jot down a few times during the day when he realizes that Hashem is together with him in a clear and open way!


G. Finally, Dovid HaMelech teaches in Tehillim (81:11): “Anochi Hashem Elokecha Hama’alcha Mei’Eretz Mitzrayim Harchev Picha V’amalei’hu--I am Hashem Who elevated you from the land of Eygpt--open your mouth wide and I will fill it.” The Targum on this Pasuk explains that we are to open our mouth wide in prayer to Hashem. We are not limited to the times of Tefillah to be Marchiv Peh--even in a moment of privacy in one’s home, while walking somewhere, or in Shul before and after davening--open your mouth wide--and may Hashem fill it!




Special Note One:  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.  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 Bnei 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) writes that we should be careful to recite Aleinu with Kavanah 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 Milevado…and our longing and prayer for the final Geulah. If you started 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 (if you have already done any or all of the above)—then you will always remember the  anniversary of your improvement—the anniversary of Aleinu!



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


A.      The following point is made in the wonderful work “Shabbos in My Soul--70 Powerful Lessons to Illuminate the Shabbos Experience” by Rabbi Boruch Leff, Shlita:  U’sefartem Lachem Mimacharas HaShabbos, Miyom Haviachem Es Omer Hatenufah Sheva Shabbasos Temimos Tehiyena--you should count for yourselves from after Shabbos [referring here to Pesach], from the day when you bring the offering of the Omer waving, it should be seven complete weeks.”  In counting the Omer we are counting towards Matan Torah and, in doing so, readying ourselves for Shavuos.  We prepare ourselves by purifying and perfecting our spiritual lives, especially our Middos and Derech Eretz. Thus, when we count, we are supposed to be tallying up our growth, day by day. The Nesivos Shalom says that the day that is designated for the most powerful growth that can be achieved during Sefiras Ha’omer is Shabbos. The Pasuk indicates this: “Sheva Shabbasos Temimos Tehiyena.”  It is only when Shabbos is temimah, when Shabbos is observed and experienced with a potent ruchnius, purity, and spiritual growth, that we can truly develop ourselves properly during this period.  The way to utilize the potential of Sefiras Ha’omer is to make sure our Shabbos days are filled with kedushah.  We are bidden by the Torah to make our Shabbosos temimos, perfect and whole. Let us not squander the opportunity.


B.      It is a custom of many on the Shabbos following Pesach to have a “Shlissel Challah” or “Key Challah”.  The Sefer Ta’maei Dinim U’Minhagim writes that this is related to the words in Shir HaShirim that we recited over Pesach “Pischu Li Achosi Rayasi--open the gates of love and parnassah for us.”  On Pesach we have been judged for our Tevuah--our Parnassah--and with the Shlissel Challah we demonstrate affirmatively and conclusively that we recognize that the key to every bite of our bread is absolutely and exclusively in Hashem’s most caring of hands!


C.       During these very days--immediately after Pesach in the Midbar--the Bnei Yisrael 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 (Midrash 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 Parashas Re’ai and Mechilta to Parashas 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 a taste of Olam Haba here and now!


D. The story is told of a man who had obviously grievously sinned and had come to Rav Shach, Z’tl, a few hours before Shabbos.  The man was sobbing uncontrollably and could barely eke out the following words, “How will I ever be forgiven?”  However, because of his uncontrollable sobbing, he was not able to express to Rav Shach what his sin was, so that Rav Shach could not give him advice.  After an extended period, Rav Shach advised him to go home, get some rest and come back to see him again on Motzei Shabbos.  The man did so, and on Motzei Shabbos, came in to Rav Shach, and sat down calmly, explaining to Rav Shach the aveira he had done.  After Rav Shach gave him his advice, the man left. Commenting on this incident, Rav Shach noted how “sleeping on it” could cause a person to forget all of the feelings and emotions within him.  He surmised from this that Teshuvah must be done immediately upon recognition of an aveira, and advised his students not to sleep on an aveira without doing Teshuvah. We can derive a similar lesson from this with regard to any of the strong positive feelings we had over the Pesach holiday.  We should not let them get away over this weekend.  Instead, we should reflect upon (and take some positive action which could maintain) the highpoints, the gained Emunah, the simcha, the thanks, and should try to remember any of the events or Divrei Torah that elevated us--so that they do not escape us during the coming days, weeks and months. It might pay to review your feelings and experiences with your family or friends at the Shabbos table or at any other time, as one person’s reflections often assist another to grow in their own personal way, as well.



Special Note Three: Points and pointers on this week’s Parasha, Parashas Shemini:


A. At the beginning of this week’s Parasha, 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 Vayikrah (1:1) first “calls to Moshe”, and only afterwards begins “speaking to him.”  May we suggest that over Shabbos (i.e., the week-end) and Sunday (i.e., the week-beginning), you follow 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 bracha in enhancing all of our personal relationships!


B. The Torah records that after Aharon and Moshe did everything they were supposed to do during the Yemei HaMilu’im, the Shechinah nevertheless did not descend onto the Mishkan. They did not despair. Instead, they taught us a lesson forever. The Torah (Vayikrah 9:23 ) records: “Vayavo Moshe V’Aharon Ehl Ohel Mo’ed.” Rashi (ibid., in one explanation) teaches that they entered together and asked for Hashem’s mercy--and the Shechinah then descended! We must realize the great importance--in addition to all our actions--of in the end asking Hashem for His mercy--and of the great results that can result!


C. At the outset of the Parasha of Kashrus, Rashi (Vayikra 11:2), provides us with an explanation of why we were zoche to receive the laws of Kosher animals: “Zos HaChaya--this is the animal….” Rashi teaches that the word Chaya is related to the word Chaim, or life. Because we connect ourselves to Hashem Who is the source of life, Hashem gave us the laws which separate us from impurity, which He gave to no other nation. There is a great lesson to each and every one of us: When observing the lessons of Kashrus and being especially careful with proper Hashgachos and the products that he utilizes--one should not view this as a burden, a chore, a difficulty, a chumra --but as a special and unique privilege given to him by Hashem for we want a connection to Hashem--we want life--and this is how we achieve it! The more careful we are--the more we want life! Enjoy Life!


D. The Chasida, or the “Kind One”, is remarkably the name of a treife bird.  Many of us have heard as the explanation for this anomaly that although the bird does kindness--it is only with her friends and not with strangers or those that it does not know.  As in the past, we suggest another explanation.  The Chasida is treife because she does kindness with her neighbors--after all, she is known to all as the Chasida--but does not do Chesed with her own family, as she will win no special appellation in this regard.  This provides a great lesson to us.  We can improve ourselves from ‘treife’ to kasher by making the additional effort to do “unsung Chesed”--helping to clean up around the house in some additional way than before, doing something for a family member before being asked, taking the time out to think about and give a parent, sibling, spouse or child a thoughtful or creative idea geared just for them.  Ahavas Chinam doesn’t have to take place on the streets, in Shul or in the workplace--it can and should show its constant special presence-- beautifully housed--in your very own home.  Yehi Ratzon that in this zechus, we will be zoche to the end of the horrifying effects of Galus--speedily and in our days--may we make it happen!

E.  As we study the Parasha of Kashrus and recognize the differences among Hashem’s various creations, we recall the words of the Sefer Tomer Devorah (Chapter 3): “One’s compassion should extend to all creatures, and he should neither despise nor destroy them, for the Chochmah HaElyona extends to all of creation, inanimate objects, plants, animals, and humans. For this reason, our sages have warned us against treating food disrespectfully. Just as the Chochmah HaElyona despises nothing, since everything is created from there - as the Pasuk states, “You have made them all with Chochmah” (Tehillim 104:24), a person should show compassion to all the works of HaKadosh Baruch Hu. This is why Rebbi Yehudah HaNassi was punished when he had no pity on a calf that tried to evade slaughter by hiding behind him, and he said to it, “Go! For this purpose, you were created.  Had he shown mercy, he would have been protected from suffering, which emanates from din.  Instead, he was forced to undergo suffering.  Then, when he later had mercy on a weasel, quoting the pasuk: “VeRachamav Ahl Kol Ma’asav…His mercies extend to all His deeds(Tehillim 145:9), he was spared from further suffering. Similarly, one should not disparage any creature, for all of them were created with Chochmah. Nor should one uproot plants unless they are needed or kill animals unless they are needed. And one should choose a noble death for them, using a carefully inspected knife, in order to maximize his compassion. This is the general principle: Having pity on all beings and not hurting them demonstrates Chochmah. However, if one intends to raise them higher and higher from plant to animal, and from animal to human - then it is permissible to uproot a plant and slaughter an animal, taking away from them in order to benefit them. “


F. 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. We should recall that 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 level of kedusha we each attain-- Vehiskadishtem--is the product of his desire to attain Viheyisem Kedoshim!



Special Note Four:  As we leave the month of Nissan on Sunday night, we provide an outstanding observation by Rabban Gamliel Rabinovich, Shlita regarding the Pesach Seder--which is truly a bold and important lesson for daily living the rest of the year.  The Seder teaches us that there is a seder, an order, to things.  If we follow the Seder as we should, then in the end everything is Nirzah--accepted...and we sing into the night.  However, not everything starts out happy--we begin as slaves, and we experience shame and degradation, physically and spiritually.  We even eat a portion of Marror.  But, if we do what we are supposed to--we will be zoche to a special Yom Tov Shulchan Orech and its joy-filled aftermath.  Olam Hazeh is not meant to be a fountain of delight or a wellspring of contentment.  It is meant to be a place where we learn our lessons and grow from them--where we shape our lives for eternity.  Success begins and is measured through effort, dedication, commitment and strength of character.  The bitterness may be there in different ways--as pure marror, sandwiched with something else (korech), and will have some charoses to take out some of the sting...but, we must recognize and believe that all of this is only a purification agent that is needed for only a short period of time--it is as transitory as a passing thunderstorm in light of the permanent sunshine of Olam Haba that will succeed it.  During the rest of the year we go straight to Shulchan Orech--but we should not be fooled.  It is the order of the Seder night which puts our lives into perspective.  You may have a lot of questions to ask through the course of Galus night --but if you follow through the order and succeed to conclusion--you are guaranteed to come out singing--and with all of the answers!




27 Nissan

QUESTION OF THE DAY :  Why is Sefiras HaOmer recited in Ma’ariv between Shemone Esrei and Aleinu (in most communities)?  After all, what does the counting of Sefira have to do with our structure of Tefillas Ma’ariv?



QUESTION AND ANSWER OF THE DAY :  We recently changed reciting the words “V’Sein Tal U’Matar Levracha” to the words “V’sein Bracha”.  What Kavannah are we to have in mind when saying the words “V’sein Bracha?  The Kuntres Avodas HaTefillah explains that we are asking for Ribui Tova V’Hatzlacha--for Hashem to shower goodness and success upon us.  Although we are no longer asking for the rain--we are still asking for the shower!  Picture it as you recite these words.  Remember, it is not just lip service or even simply an element of belief--Hashem’s bracha in all areas is tangible and real!



QUOTE OF THE DAY :  From the remarkable, must-go-through Sefer The Power of Teshuvah, by Rabbi Heshy Kleinman, Shlita (Artscroll, p. 233):  ‘I can’t help it. That’s just the way I am.’  Everyone has either said these words, heard them, or both.  Nevertheless, Rav Avraham Pam, Z’tl, would often paraphrase the Rambam’s rebuttal of this justification with the words, ‘It’s not your nature, it’s your choice!’




Special Note One:   Today is the Yahrzeit of the legendary and incomparable HaRav Avigdor Miller, Z’tl, so much of whose life was dedicated to helping the lives of others become accomplished and complete. We provide below three separate examples of his teachings on personal brachos and tefillos, as originally brought by Rabbi Simcha Bunim Cohen, Shlita in Rabbi Avigdor Miller Speaks (Volume 1, pp. 227, 234--Artscroll), and as highlighted in the masterful work Praying With Fire 2 by Rabbi Heshy Kleinman, Shlita (p.172-3, p.186--Artscroll).


1.When a customer walks in, say a quick Tefillah that the customer should buy your merchandise and pay the right price and not complain…HaKadosh Baruch Hu will say: I see you trusting in Me, as the Pasuk states “Blessed is the man who puts his trust in Hashem, and, therefore, Hashem will reward him by becoming his trust.”


If you are going to see a customer [at his place of business], before you walk in say “Yehi Ratzon Milefanecha She’tatzlicheni—Hashem, please make me successful!”


Hakhel Note: Of course, one should analogize to his everyday situations relating to projects, meeting with superiors at work, shopping, eating Kosher, dating,…everything in life!


2. Even where Tefillas HaDerech is not required, if you are  starting up your car, ask Hashem without making a bracha for safety and everything else you need on the way…”Believe me—in town you need a lot of help from Hashem!”


3. “Good Morning” is not merely a trite phrase or pleasantry. Good morning means that they should have a good breakfast, that they should earn a good living, no colds today, no trouble in business. Good Morning means everything!


Hakhel Note: Imagine the meaning and power of a sincere “Have a Good Day!”


Thank you Rabbi Miller for such truly essential daily guidance! May we each be blessed with the sechel to implement it!



Special Note Two:



A.  Chazal teach that one of the main major causes of our redemption was that Shelo Shinu Es Malbusham--that they did not change their clothing.  Especially in our generation, we have been besieged by clothing which, by name, represents a direct attachment to western society.  In order for the article to be ‘chashuv’ to adolescents and young adults (and some adults), it is preferred that the names Aeropostale, Juicy, Hilfiger, Gap, Brooks Brothers, and the like, be emblazoned somewhere in, on or about a shirt, sweater, jacket or other article of apparel.  This is but another example of what may be the last throes of the Yetzer Hara as he attempts us to associate with--rather than disassociate from--the society we live in.  We must remember that the 80% or more of the Bnei Yisrael who did not leave Mitzrayim did not leave because they were so attached to their Galus that they actually preferred it to leaving.  On the other hand, even the Eirev Rav, as wicked as they were, merited to leave because they wanted to get out.  When one spots a Yeshiva Bochur playing basketball with the facial image of an obviously non-Jewish NBA star pictured on his shirt, it should cause us consternation, and should inspire us to respond by doing something in the other direction.  Let us remember that our last step before leaving Mitzrayim was the Avodah of the Korban Pesach--doing away with any connection that we had to what the Mitzriyim idolized--and actually tying it to our bed posts (thereby actually mocking the wholly misguided value that it represented) and shechting it in the process of our Avodas Hashem!  Let us bring this opportune lesson home--as hopefully one of the last steps in our current Galus as well!


B.  It is interesting to note that while the Korban Pesach in Mitzrayim was eaten Bechipazon, in haste, the Navi (Yeshaya 52:12) teaches us that our final Geulah will not be in haste:  Ki Lo VeChipazon Teitseiu U’Vemnusa Lo Seileichu…you will not leave in chaos, nor will you go in flight; for Hashem will go before you….”  With this, we may understand why Bechipazon is one of the key differences between the Seder in Mitzrayim and the Seder of all future generations after Yetzias Mitzrayim--as the Mishna (Pesachim 9:4) teaches us--the Korban Pesach in Mitzrayim was eaten in haste (in a ‘ready-to-go’ mode), while the Pesach of all future generations did not have this requirement.  The explanation may be that all future Pesachim are also attached to the final Geulah which, as the Navi teaches will not be Bechipazon.  Remember--even if we don’t sense any particular Chipazon now, we don’t have to--Pisom Yavo, our Geulah can come at any time!


C.  Many of the Mitzvos on the Leil HaSeder come in pairs.  For instance, one of the answers given to the question as to “Why do we drink four cups tonight” not being part of the Mah Neshtana, is because each one of the four Kosos is simply associated with another Mitzvah of the evening.  Similarly, the bracha of Borei Pri Ha’adama over Karpas is also (possibly) the bracha over the Maror.  At Yachatz we break the Matzah, with the two parts symbolizing that Matzah is both the symbol of Galus and symbol of Geulah.  When we recite Maggid, the Matzah and Maror must also be before us.  Motzi Matzah is a stage in which we fulfill both the Mitzvah of Lechem Mishna and that of Achilas Matzah.  If we carefully focus, we will realize that Hashem, in His Great Graciousness to us packages and bundles Mitzvos to us together in order to give us more and more zechusim and more and more opportunities to develop our relationship with Him within a finite life span in this world.  All we have to do is be careful to recognize and appreciate each and every one of them--just as the Jews in Mitzrayim were to appreciate that they were blessed with six babies at once--and not only one.  The idea is to think through the Mitzvos as we perform them--and if we do, we will realize that what appears to be one Mitzvah may not be just one large treasure chest--but really a number of individual, perfectly minted gold coins and shining rubies!


D.  The Chasam Sofer (Drashos Chasam Sofer II, p. 536) notes that every Song, every Shir, that has significance is composed in response to a particular event.  The Shiras HaYam was, of course, composed in reaction to the miracles at the sea.  Likewise, the Shira at the Be’air (Bamidbar 21:17 ) was sung in appreciation of the well spring that the Bnei Yisrael were graced with in the Midbar.  This being the case, why did Shlomo HaMelech compose Shir HaShirim?  The Chasam Sofer answers that this Song is an outpouring of expression to Hashem for choosing us as His nation.  Rebbi Akiva describes it is Kodesh Kodashim--holy of holies, and this may be  because it is the ‘anthem’ of the holiest of nations.  When we recite it, it should accordingly be with the greatest of joy!  Hakhel Note:  We can now possibly understand why there is a Segulah associated with reciting Shir HaShirim 40 days in a row--What greater sign can there be of our appreciating that HaKadosh Baruch Hu has chosen us as His nation--than bursting out in song in response!


E. As we come close to concluding 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 Yisrael--Who redeemed Yisrael (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 Yisrael (in Shemone Esrei three times daily), we proclaim that Hashem can/will and is redeeming us directly in the here and now.  In these last few days of Chodesh Nissan, let us 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 Yisrael--Hashem is redeeming me-- with special recognition and intensity--at least in the month of Iyar--connecting the Geulah of Nissan to the Geulah of Shavuos!



26 Nissan



A.  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 deepen one’s yearning for the Geulah Sheleimah. 


B.  We are familiar with the bracha we give another of “Gefen”--Gezunt, Parnassah and Nachas.  The Chasam Sofer finds another acronym in the term “Gefen”--it is Geulaseinu u’Pedus Nafsheinu--our physical and spiritual redemption.  Have this in mind as well when giving the bracha of “Gefen”!


C.  In the Haggadah we read that Hashem was “Chisheiv Es HaKeitz”--which some meforshim teach means that we were released 190 (the Gematria of Keitz) years early because of the difficulty of the Galus we were experiencing and/or because of the depths of the tumah we had reached. Let us think for a moment. The Navi (Micah 7:15 ) teaches us that Kimei Tzeisecha MeiEretz Mitzrayim Ehrehnu Niflaos--as in the days when you left Egypt , I will show wonders.”  We are now in the year 5775--if we add on the 190 years in which Hashem was Chishev Es HaKeitz in Mitzrayim (and it is definitely at least a theoretical possibility that this will happen again--based on the Pasuk and due to our difficulties in Galus and all of the tumah around us)--that brings us up to the year 5965, which is just 35 years short of the year 6000 (and we know what that means).  This should provide some additional inspiration for us to do Teshuvah as soon as possible!


D.  At Kriyas Yam Suf, the Pasuk (Shemos 14:14 ) states: Hashem Yilacheim Lachem VeAtem Tacharishun.  The Midrash (Mechilta to Beshalach 2:14) teaches that even when we stand and remain silent Hashem fights for us, then, Kal V’Chomer--all the more so, will He fight on our behalf when we call out and praise Him.  The lesson is there for all to see--it is better to communicate with Hashem than to remain silent.  Hakhel Note:  Let us look for a moment at the Nusach of the Musaf Shemone Esrei that we recite everyday of Yom Tov:  Yehi Ratzon Milfanecha…Melech Rachaman Shetashuv U’Seracheim Aleinu…B’Rachamecha HaRabbim.”  Then a little later we once again recite:  Melech Rachaman Racheim AleinuBaHamon Rachamecha.”  We plead time and time again for Hashem to bring His Rachamim upon us.  We must recognize the value of our not remaining silent and the importance of connecting to Hashem with Kavannah!  


E.  Also at Kriyas Yam Suf, the Pasuk ( 14:17 ) states:  VeIkavda BePharoh U’Vechol Cheilo.”  The Midrash teaches us that the reason Paroh is mentioned first is because since he began to sin against Klal Yisroel and the Mitzriyim followed, so too, was he punished first, and then the Mitzriyim followed in receiving their punishment.  The Midrash then goes a step further:  “If in the case of punishment he who sinned first is punished first, then Kal V’Chomer--all the more so will one who acted meritoriously and led others in that direction receive his reward at the outset as well! 


F.  The Pasuk that follows at Kriyas Yam Suf ( 14:18 ) states:  VeYadu Mitzrayim Ki Ani Hashem…and the Mitzriyim will know that I am Hashem.”  The question becomes--why at all does it make a difference as to whether the Mitzriyim will know who Hashem is--they will no longer be alive in seconds, minutes, or at most a few hours.  HaRav Shach, Z’tl, explains that the Pasuk is teaching us how precious and important even a few seconds, minutes or hours of recognizing and appreciating Hashem truly are.  We should not be spoiled by the manifold opportunities that we have--but instead should appreciate and savor each and every one of our bracha opportunities, our Tefillah opportunities…and each and every realization and actualization of a Teshuvah opportunity!


G.  Dovid HaMelech teaches in Tehillim (115:14, as recited in Hallel each day of Pesach), “Yevareich Yirei Hashem Haketanim Im HaGedolim--He will bless those who fear Hashem, the small as well as the great.”  This Pasuk should give us all encouragement--for it teaches us that Hashem blesses each one of us in accordance with his or her level.  We need not be the Rav, the Rosh Yeshiva, or the one giving the Mussar lecture--we can be a katan and receive Hashem’s blessing--as long as we try to be Yirei Hashem--sensing Hashem’s presence throughout the day!


H.  Do not be fooled by its loftiness and sublimity--Shir Hashirim has many practical lessons for us as well.  Chazal (Shir Hashirim Rabbah 8:12) teach us, based on the Posuk of “Haelef Lecha Shlomo U’Mosayim L’Notrim Es Piryo--One thousand for Shlomo and two hundred to those who watch his fruit”--that the reward for one who learns while traveling (“Lecha”) is five times (1000 vs. 200) greater than for one who simply learns in the Beis Midrash (“Notrim Es Piryo”).  It is interesting that the numbers the Posuk uses for a ratio of 5:1 is 1000:200.  A possible explanation may be based upon the Chofetz Chayim (quoted in Item 30, of the Teves/Shevat 5762 edition of our Bulletin, available at the following link  http://bit.ly/1yqRjmF ) who states that one can learn 200 words of Torah, which is equivalent to 200 separate Mitzvos, in one minute.  If one learns while traveling, Hashem considers it as if he is learning five times as much, or 1,000 words per minute.  While traveling, one should await and treasure the incredible opportunity to perform the equivalent of 1,000 Mitzvos per minute!


I.  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 Parashas Bo (which we understand HaRav Wolbe, Z’tl, 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, writes that anything that can be ascribed to Tevah and Mazal are Nisyonos on life.  Based on this most fundamental of Torah teachings, we present the following essential teachings:


1.  The Rabbeinu Bachya (Shemos 14:31 ) brings from the Rabbeinu Chananel that there are four basic parts to Emunah: (A) Emunah B’HaKadosh Baruch Hu; (B) Emunah B’Nevi’im; (C) Emunah B’Olam Habba; and (D) Emunah B’Viyas 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 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 a personal Amen campaign--in which he sincerely and dedicatedly answers this sacred word (which should not be uttered in vein) with Kavannah and 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 us 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.  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 in Olam Hazeh at the Geulah Sheleimah--it is to give us the opportunity to exercise our Bechirah Chafshis and to realize our potential without being forced or even easily led to the only true conclusion. 


3.  At the end, the darkness of Galus will be exceedingly dark, as the Pasuk (Zechariah 49:7) says:  Le’eis Erev Yehiyeh Ohr--so that the clarity of the light will be most appreciated.  As things appear dark, darker, darkest--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 Kimos 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 Pharoh Dimisich Rayasi--Hashem, I realize that my relationship with You can be compared to that of the horses of Paroh’s army in the hands of the chariot riders.  He remarkably explains that the world improperly believes that Hashem directs us in this way and that, just as chariot riders direct 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, the horse miraculously led them.  With the Geulas Mitzrayim, Hashem put us in a position of the horses at Kriyas Yam Suf which led the driver.  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.  Will the Geulah come today--time will not tell--we will!   Hakhel Note:  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#.




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 a 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”. In its five short Pesukim, the Mizmor conveys a powerfully sweet message which we should carry--and which should carry us--throughout the day.




Special Note One:  We provide the following important post-Pesach reflections:


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 5775, as the pangs of Ikvasah D’Moshicha beat about us--is the time for us to be especially passionate--now--Nissan 5775, 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 this week:  Tekah BeShofar, Velirushalayim Irecha, Es Tzemach, V’sechezenah Eineinu Beshuvecha L’Tzion, Sheyibaneh Beis HaMikdash BeMeheirah V’Yameinu, and VeArvah LaShem Minchas Yehudah Virushalayim. 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):  “Vata’al Shavasam Ehl HaElokim…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 Yeruchem Levovitz, Z’tl, teaches that the beautification 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! 



Special Note Two:    As we all know, Chazal teach “Ra’asah Shifcha Al Hayam Mah Shelo Ra’ah…the maidservant at the Sea saw what the greatest of the Nevi’im were not able to see in their most sublime of prophesies.”  The Ba’alei Mussar point out that even after everything that the maidservants saw in the heavens, on the earth, and on the sea--the next day they still remained maidservants.  How could this be?!  The explanation is that over time the supernally uplifting experience that the maidservants had, dissipated because after the experience they left it and did not seek to remain on the high level they had attained.  We present several brief and practical applications that we can take with us from the Pesach we have just experienced into the coming months:


A.  Every morning we make the bracha of Shelo Asani Aved.  This bracha should now come to life for us daily--for we truly could have been lowly, petrified, servile, decadent slaves with no independent bearing or existence of our own.  Moreover, since we achieved Cheirus Olam when we left Mitzrayim--the nations of the world have never been able to destroy us or even enslave us as a people again.  Remember--Shelo Asani Aved--say it with appreciation!


B.  Every morning we make the bracha of Shelo Asani Goy.  The Maharal explains that just as the Six Days of Creation reached their pinnacle with the creation of man, so too, did mankind reach its pinnacle with the creation of Bnei Yisrael from the Kur HaBarzel of Mitzrayim.  Our exodus thus enabled mankind to reach its potential, rather than be destroyed for lack of fulfillment.  If the Bnei Yisrael would have remained just another Goy, not only would we have taken the path of so many other nations which fell away and disappeared, but the world itself could not have survived.  Thus, the fact that Hashem has not made us like the other nations is, quite literally, keeping everyone going.  Remember--Shelo Asani Goy--not only being personally privileged--but having creation reach its intent--and allowing each sunrise to keep coming! 


C.  Dovid HaMelech exclaims (Tehillim118:24) “…Zeh Hayom…Nagilah VeNesmicha Vo--this is the day…let us rejoice and be glad in Him.”  The Malbim provides us here with an extremely fundamental lesson.  He writes that Dovid HaMelech is teaching us that the Ikar Simcha is not in the Yeshua itself, but in the awareness that Hashem is with us.  The miracles we experience are given to us not as an end, but as a means for us to recognize Hashem’s closeness to us.  Remember--Nagilah VeNesmicha Vo--we can rejoice that Hashem is with us--each and every day!  This is the Ikar Simcha


D.  Before performing many of our Mitzvos, we recite the bracha “Asher Kideshanu BeMitzvosav Vetzivanu--Who sanctified us with His Mitzvos (plural), and commanded us to perform [the particular Mitzvah of…eating of Matzah, the taking of the Lulav, enwrapping in Tzitzis].  The Chasam Sofer asks--should not the Nusach HaBracha on a Mitzvah be Asher Kideshanu BeMitzvaso Vetzivanu (singular and not plural)--Who sanctified us in the Mitzvah, i.e., the Mitzvah I am about to perform [the eating of Matzah, the taking of the Lulav, the enwrapping in Tzitzis]?  Why not be specific and talk about our sanctification with the Mitzvah at hand?  The Chasam Sofer answers that, as the Zohar explains, the 248 Mitzvos Asei and the 365 Mitzvos Lo Sa’asei are the counterparts of our Eivarim and Giddim respectively.  We cannot sanctify one Eiver or Gid at a time, for as we know, a Karbon that is missing a limb is Pasul.  It is likewise inappropriate for us to recite that we are being sanctified only by the one Mitzvah that we are about to perform.  Rather, we declare our Kedusha through our acceptance of the Mitzvos in general, and that we are now going to perform this Mitzvah in particular.  We thus absolutely, unequivocally and rejoicingly declare that with every Mitzvah that we perform, we are accepting upon ourselves the privilege, obligation, wholesomeness and Kedushah of all of the Mitzvos!


E.  As we noted before Pesach, the Chasam Sofer teaches that we know there are certain things that can bring the Geulah.  One of them, as indicated by the words ‘Kol Dichfin Yesei VeYeichol’ is the giving of Tzedakah.  We are, of course, 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 even on a regular or periodic basis 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 truly much more secure than money in the bank!




24 Nissan  

QUESTION OF THE DAY ONE :  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?



QUESTION OF THE DAY TWO:  Which two seforim in Tanach do not have Hashem’s name mentioned directly in them? (see below)



QUOTE OF THE DAY :  From HaRav Chaim Pinchas Scheinberg, Z’tl, who would often advise:  “Keep on smiling, and keep on going!”



NON-GEBROKTS ADVISORY:  There are still many cake and cookie products (many ‘on sale’) left from Pesach.  Please remember that many of these products are non-Gebrokts, and the appropriate bracha is Shehakol and Borei Nefashos.  Even if you know it--you may be used to making a Mezonos on the cake and Shehakol on the coffee--so extra special care is required.  This will provide you with a special opportunity to focus and concentrate on your Brachos--one great way to practice your Emunah in this post-Pesach period.






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 Yisrael…  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 Hara muddy the waters with his earthy parable when you can sing the Song of all Songs--each and every day!



Special Note Two:  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 Yisrael 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 Yisrael 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 Yisrael 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 Yisrael, 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 —The Makkos, the concomitant freedom of B’nei Yisrael from the Makkos, the miraculous growth of B’nei Yisrael (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 Yisrael 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!




14 Nissan

OUR HILCHOS PESACH SERIES: By clicking here, we provide all of the Hilchos Pesach that we have provided in the thirty day period before Pesach. Please print out for your review and feel free to disseminate further!



REMINDER--THE SEDER CHECKLIST: We provide by clicking here our Checklist for Erev Pesach 5775. Please feel free to distribute further!


Hakhel Note: We asked Rabbi Yisroel Pinchas Bodner, Shlita, if he could provide us with some guidance on checking Matzos (as he is an expert in this area as well).  He provided the following two basic rules: 


1.  With regard to bugs, if the Matzah has been saved from a previous year, one should check it for bugs by holding the Matzah and observing if there are any webbing strings hanging from the Matzah.  If not, then the Matzah is fine.


2.  With regard to Kefulos, examine the Matzah to see if there are any folds, i.e., there is a part which folded and two layers are stuck together.  Also check for a bubble where the inside of the bubble remained not fully baked.  Break off the piece in question and discard.  When in doubt, one should throw out. Hakhel Note:  For more detail, one can study the specially written Pesach books, and can also see  http://star-k.org/kashrus/kk-passover-matzoh.htm



REMINDER FOR THE MORNING: For special reasons, Erev Pesach afternoon is unique--we are generally not permitted to perform any melacha that we would not do on Chol HaMoed.  We must, therefore, cut our nails, shave and take haircuts before Chatzos (midday) on Erev Pesach.  If however, one forgot to do so, he may cut his nails in the afternoon.  If one was not able to take a haircut before Chatzos, the Halacha permits it to be given by a non-Jew only.  It does not help to be “already waiting” in the Jewish barber shop as Chatzos arrives.  Please plan your morning accordingly!



REMINDER! PRE -SEDER TEFILLAH!   Please click here for a special Tefillah to be recited before commencing the Seder from the Siddur Ha’Arizal, which is not found in many Haggados.  May this Tefillah make its way directly to the Kisey HaKavod, and may it inspire our entire Seder!



REMINDER! If you learn just three Mishnayos a day of Mesechta Chagiga over Pesach--you will finish the entire Mesechta in Mishnayos by the end of the Chag--if you cannot bring a Korban Chagiga--this could be an important indication of how much you want to….



QUESTION OF THE DAY :  When is it that on Erev Pesach we blow Tekiah Teruah Tekiah three separate times i.e., nine Kolos all together, as on Rosh HaShana!?  Hint: See Mesechta Pesachim, Perek 5, Mishna 5.



FROM A READER!  Rav Gamliel Rabanovitch, Shlita, teaches that Erev Pesach is the time to be Misgaber on the Kelipos Paroh which is represented by the challenges of Anger and Ga’ava.



HILCHOS PESACH: We continue to provide Halachos (currently, Shulchan Aruch, Orach Chaim 475, et al.) relating to Pesach. The following are culled from the Notes of the Dirshu Edition of the Mishna Berurah. Of course, one should in all events consult with his own Rav or Posek pertaining to his particular facts or circumstances:


A.  The Bach rules that with each achilah of a kezayis of Matzah on the Leil HaSeder, we accomplish a separate Mitzvas Asei Min HaTorah. 


B.  For the Afikoman, Lechatchila one should eat two kezaysim--one Zecher LePesach, and the second Zecher to the Matzah that was eaten together with the Pesach. HaRav Shlomo Zalmen Auerbach, Z’tl, writes that based upon the Bach’s opinion that every kezayis of Matzah is a Mitzvah, it is certainly befitting that we eat Matzah (and not another food) Zecher LePesach.


C.  The Shelah HaKadosh writes that he has seen bnei aliyah who would kiss the Matzos and the Marror (just as they would kiss the Sukkah upon entry and upon exit) to show affection for the Mitzvah. The Shelah HaKadosh concludes:  “VeAshrei Me She’oved Hashem BeSimcha--fortunate is the one who serves Hashem with joy!”


D.  Some have the custom of only dipping twice at the Seder--with no additional dippings during the meal--in order to show that the dippings of the evening are L’Sheim Mitzvah


E.  It is proper to wash the kos before pouring wine into it for the kos on Birkas HaMazon, so that it is fresh and clean. 


F.  If some at the table only eat hand Matzah and some only eat machine Matzah, they should consult with a Rav as to whether they can recite zimun before bentsching together.


G.  The Pasuk in Shir HaShirim of “Hashme’ini Es Koleich”--in which Hashem says to Bnei Yisrael “Let Me hear your voice”--refers to us reciting Hallel in a beautiful niggun!


H.  There are different minhagim as to when the Kos Shel Eliyahu is poured.  Some pour it when pouring the fourth cup.  From the Kitzur Shulchan Aruch (119:1), it would appear that it is already poured when pouring the wine for the first kos at Kadeish [some have the  custom of then adding a little bit of wine to the kos Shel Eliyahu every time an additional kos is poured for the participants]. 


I.  The Chok Yaakov teaches that we open the door at Shefoch Chamosecha so that if Eliyahu is coming--he will find an open door--and we will be able to run out to greet him.


Hakhel Note: The Otzar Meforshei Haggadah presents the following insights regarding the Shefoch Chamosecha:


1. When opening the door for Eliyahu HaNavi, some have the custom of reciting “Baruch HaBa!”


2. There are four Pesukim which comprise this Tefillah, three of which are from Tehillim, and the last is from Eicha.  These four Pesukim represent the “Four Cups of Punishment” that will be meted out against the Four Nations which subjugated us in the Four Galios.


3. The opening of the door signifies that unlike the redemption from Egypt in which we could not leave our houses during Makas Bechoros, and which was only immediately realized in its entirety by Bnei Yisrael and not by the other nations of the World, at the time of our final Geulah we will witness the punishment of the wicked, and all the nations of the world will openly and immediately appreciate our redemption.  Additionally, our opening of the door reminds us of the opening of the gate of the Bais HaMikdash exactly at Chatzos on the Seder night.  [Even when we open doors, it has great significance!]





Special Note One:  We continue our Pre-Pesach points and pointers: 


A.  In Makkas Choshech--those members of K’lal Yisrael who were not inspired and actually stayed in the dark--r’l ended their lives there in galus. The tragic results were that neither they nor the hundreds of generations that would have succeeded them were zoche to live in this world with the Torah and bask in the reality of eternity.  As we look at our brethren immediately around us, we must realize that this is Hatzalas Nefashos--not only for their lives-but for all of their future generations as well.  You don’t have to be in Hatzalah for this--nor do you have to take any special training--you just have to stretch out your hand with a desire to save--as did Bisya bas Paroh--and we know the results for her, and for all of K’lal Yisrael!


B.  As we continue our preparations for Pesach, we ONCE AGAIN note that one aspect which is me’akev--an absolute requirement--for men [and some women]at the Seder is the act of Heseibah (translated as reclining) while eating Matzah, drinking the Daled Kosos, and possibly when

fulfilling other Mitzvos during the evening.  As we have recently noted, in order to accomplish Heseibah it is insufficient for one merely to tilt his body to the left.  What should one actually do---besides asking someone to bring a pillow to put on your chair?  May we recommend that you ask your Rav or Posek for a visual demonstration.  Don’t wait until you get home on the Seder night--realizing that you are not exactly sure how to do this... 


Additional Note:  As a starting point, we provide the following excerpt from the outstanding work Guidelines to Pesach--which is part of the outstanding Guidelines Halacha Series, by Rabbi Elozor Barclay, Shlita, and Rabbi Yitzchok Jaeger, Shlita.


“Question 323:  How should a person recline?  Answer:  Ideally, he should sit on an armchair or on a chair with armrests, and lean to the left side.  Preferably, a pillow or a cushion shall also be placed on the left side of the chair to support the body while reclining.  This adds to the feeling of comfort and freedom.

Question 324:  What if the has only a regular chair?  Answer:  He should recline on the table or on a second chair placed to his left.  Alternatively, he may sit sideways and recline on the back of the chair.  If possible, he should use a pillow or a cushion to create a comfortable position.  A person does not fulfill the Mitzvah by leaning to the left in midair without supporting his body on anything, since this is not the way of a free man.”


C.  At the Seder, two out of the 15 Simanim (more than 10%) are comprised of washing of the hands--U’Rchatz and Rachtza.  Clearly, this is a meaningful and significant activity, and should be viewed as much more than a ministerial or perfunctory act that we do daily. To get ready for the Seder (if you wash Mayim Achronim you will actually wash a third time), may we suggest that rather than thinking about nothing too important or letting your mind wander when washing over the next several days, that with each pour of water over each hand you think--”Thank you Hashem! Thank You Hashem!” and think of something else you are thankful to Hashem for with each pour!  Having difficulty starting?  You can start as far back as Yetzias Mitzrayim, and as close by as having the ability to pick up the cup and pour... and there is much--very much--in between to be thankful for!


D.  The Mitzvah of Chinuch on the Leil HaSeder is perhaps at its peak for the entire year.  For those who have children below the age of Bar/Bas Mitzvah, one should be careful to review his responsibility and his child’s responsibility, as to the different aspects of the Seder--eating of the Matzah, the drinking of each one of the Four Cups, Heseiba (reclining), Hallel, Marror, and the other Mitzvos, minhagim and halachos of the night.  See The Halachos of Pesach (by Rabbi Shimon Eider, Z’tl) and Children in Halacha (by Rabbi Simcha Bunim Cohen, Shlita) for further elaboration in these areas.


E.  All are in agreement that a major theme of the Seder is Hakaras Hatov.  Indeed, we uniquely and especially read from the Parasha of Bikurim at the Seder--in which a person specifically expresses his thanks to Hashem for enabling him to fulfill the Mitzvah of Bikurim.  HaRav Mattisyahu Salomon, Shlita, points to the language of the Targum Yonasan Ben Uziel on the key words “Higadeti HaYom LaHashem Elokecha”, contained in the Parasha of Bikurim.  The Targum explains that the word Higadeti (related to Haggadah) means to thank and praise Hashem.  In our Haggadah too, then, this must be a main focus.  At the Seder, we should especially emphasize words of Hakaras HaTov--expressing sincere thanks for the hard work and important thoughts of others, as well as words of praise and compliment wherever there is even the slightest doubt as to whether they should be given!


F.  An additional, essential theme of the Leil HaSeder is, of course, Emunah, and its transmission from generation to generation.  One should seek out stories of Emunah, and should now think about and jot down situations and events personally and globally over the past year, which clearly evidenced the Yad Hashem.  The relating of these stories on the Leil HaSeder should be especially mesugal to strengthen the Emunah of all those present. 


G.  At the Seder, we will be reciting the word “Dayeinu” fifteen times, multiplied by the number of times we sing the word.  Dayeinu means “it would be enough for us”.  What “would be enough” for us?  Let us look at the first passage of Dayeinu:  “If Hashem had taken us out of Mitzrayim…it would have been enough…”  Clearly, just leaving Egypt , in and of itself, would not have been enough. We would not have received the Torah, we would not have entered Eretz Yisroel and we would not have had the Bais HaMikdash, for starters so what would “have been enough?”  The Siach Yitzchak therefore explains that it would have been enough in and of itself to thank Hashem from the bottom of our hearts for that one thing he had done for us.  We then go through an additional fourteen items and realize that it would have been enough to thank Hashem for each and every one of them because he gave us such great gifts, and we did not deserve that which we received.  Thus, the springboard of all the Dayeinus--of all of the realization of the enormous and eternal thanks that we owe Hashem is His taking us out of Egypt --the first of the Dayeinus.  This is then the blastoff on the Seder night for us to express and discuss the great and unlimited thanks and gratitude that we owe to Hashem for each and every item that he provides us with.  Now, sing along--Day- Dayeinu, Day-, Dayeinu, Day-Dayeinu, Day-Dayeinu.  This is what we ought to be talking--and singing--about!


H.  One should especially note the words and phrases in the Haggadah with which he may have difficulty translating--and make sure that he understands them. For instance, the word ‘Misboseses’ or the term ‘Ba’adi Adayim’, may not be familiar--and there may be important meanings, translations and explanations which are lost because one skips over the word.  In fact, this year, perhaps one should make a special effort to explain those precious words of the Haggadah, which he may have glossed over in the past.  As an example, Rabbi Moshe Tuvia Lieff, Shlita, explains that even though the blood we are referring to with the word Misboseses is the blood of the Karbon Pesach and the blood of Milah--really not too much blood--the word Misboseses would seem to indicate a great amount of blood that is flowing.  Why, then, would we use this word here?  Rabbi Lieff explains that if a king or a prince cuts his finger, the people in the palace rush around, the royal physician is called and there is much more commotion than there would otherwise be if this was ‘only’ the cut finger of a commoner.  On the night of the Seder, we must appreciate that for us--our blood is Misboseses--every drop is royal blood!


I.  The following is excerpted from the Laws of the Seder by Rabbi Dovid Feinstein, Shlita (Artscroll), and it relates directly to those who wish to drink a glass of water or a cup of coffee after Kiddush on the Leil HaSeder:  “It is permitted to drink anything, including wine, between the first two cups (Rashbam, based on Pesachim 10:7, Orach Chaim 473:3).  To do so, however, one must be sure to have had these additional drinks in mind when he recited the bracha of Borei Pri HaGafen over wine during Kiddush [which would then include these additional drinks as well, without the need to make a further bracha].  Otherwise, one would have to recite another bracha before drinking, and this would create the problem of ‘apparently adding onto the number of cups’, a prohibition mentioned by Rema (472:7), although we are not aware of a Talmudic source for this stricture…Nevertheless, the Shulchan Aruch [because of the opinion of the Kol Bo] rules that one should refrain from drinking between the first two cups.”  Hakhel Note:  Accordingly, it would appear that whether one could drink between the first two cups may be a matter of difference between Ashkenazim and Sefardim, and accordingly, one should consult with his Rav or Posek for a final ruling in one’s particular situation. 


J.  The following is the start of a sampling of questions which should perhaps be addressed as the Seder progresses. Please feel free to add to the list, and to share your thoughts with us on additional points as well!


1.                  Why were we exiled?

2.                  If we had to be exiled, why couldn’t it be to Lavan’s area?

3.                  Why were we taken out of Mitzrayim--and what can we do today to achieve a similar result?

4.                  How many time is Moshe Rabbeinu’s name mentioned in the Haggadah?

5.                  Lehavdil, how many times is Paroh’s name mentioned in the Haggadah?

6.                  What is the Middah K’Neged Middah of each Makkah?

7.                  Why did Hashem let the Chartumim mimic the first two Makkos?

8.                  You are a witness to Makkas _____________--describe it!

9.                  What Nissim happened in Mitzrayim besides for the Makkos?

10.              Give three reasons why Matzah is called Lechem Oni.

11.              Why were the Mitzriim told we would only be leaving for three days?

12.              Why were items only “borrowed” from the Egyptian homes?

13.              Why did we not leave when Paroh told us to--why did the process of redemption start at night and continue on through the day?

14.              Why is the Seder not in the daytime, if we left in the daytime?

15.              What Pasuk is recited three times in a row in the Haggadah, and why?

16.               Can [each participant] give five things that he has Hakaras Hatov to Hakadosh Baruch Hu for?

17.              Why does the first of the Aseres Hadibros say that I am Hashem Who took you out of Egypt , and not I am Hashem Who created the world?


Hakhel Note:  Remember--if you were told that you had won the $640 million lottery, oh what inspiration and excitement you would feel!  You are gaining a lot more on the Seder Night!



Special Note Two:  As in the past, we provide: LET’S TALK HAGGADAH!


Below are some practical Haggadah notes, which we have culled from Ba’alei Mussar and Maggidei Shiur:


1.  Since it is of the essence of the Seder to feel that YOU PERSONALLY left Mitzrayim, you and those around you should consider closing your eyes, putting yourself there,


·                     and thinking about/describing the “Avodas Perech” and the pain of enslavement--YOU ARE THERE


·                     and thinking about/describing the Makkos, and its effect on the Mitzri’im and on B’nei Yisrael--YOU ARE THERE


·                     and talking about the miracles, other than the Makkos, that YOU witnessed in Egypt --YOU ARE THERE


·                     As you prepare for the Geulah--describe what you took (would take), how you reacted (would react) to the news that the time had come (as you would for Moshiach) and picture and discuss the events of the night and day of the Geulah.  How could three million people gather together so quickly?  What was the scene like?


2.  The night should be emotional.  Everyone can provide their own personal reflections of miracles and/or Hashgacha Pratis stories that happened to them or that they personally know about.


3.  Our focus should be on the salvations commencing with “Arami Oved Avi” through “Rabban Gamliel Haya Omer”--rather than getting caught up in nuances.  We should focus on the order of the Makkos and the Middah K’Neged Middah--How all was according to Hashem’s complete design and control.  Remember, we are becoming Avdei Hashem tonight and we should spend time on recognizing the opportunity of “Cheirus Olam”--the eternal, incredibly incredible position we have claimed tonight.


4.  It is important not be critical or short-tempered.  Remember, the Yetzer Hara is working overtime (past midnight !) to put a wrench into our precious Mitzvos D’Oraysa, Mitzvos D’Rabbanim and Minhagim of the Night.


5.  Rav Moshe Feinstein, Z’TL, in the Sefer Kol Ram explains “Pesach, Matzah and Maror” in a unique way.  The Korban Pesach represents how we--in Goshen , many miles away from the Makkas Bechoros in Mitzrayim Proper--still appreciated how it was the Hand of Hashem watching over us, notwithstanding that the danger did not appear to be imminently upon us.  In all situations, we realize that it is Hashem who is watching and protecting us, even if we sense no immediate danger or concern.  Further, explains Rav Feinstein, Matzah, symbolizes how things can suddenly change.  Hashem needs no preparation time.  Therefore, though a person might be in the depths of despair, his situation can suddenly change, and he can go from the forty-ninth level of impurity to complete redemption.  The reverse may also be true, and therefore, a person cannot rely on the good by which he is surrounded and expect that it will be there tomorrow.  We must always pray to, and rely upon, Hashem to be our “Ozer, Moshea and U’Magen”--to come to our aid, save us and shield us--at all times.  Finally, Maror teaches us that we cannot rely upon any government, notwithstanding that the current situation may be sweet and good.  The Mitzriim turned upon us, as did the Germans and many others of their predecessors (the Spanish, the English, and the French to name a few).  Once again, we see a great lesson of Leil HaSeder is that we are now privileged to look to, and pray to, Hashem for all of our salvations in every step of our lives.



Special Note Three: The following is a famous observation of HaRav Yisroel Salanter, Z’tl:  Young non-Jewish farmer boys were drafted into the Russian Army for 20 years.  Prior to their induction, they were care-free, not orderly and not particularly concerned with their cleanliness.  During their stay in the Army, they were drilled with discipline, hygiene and orderliness.  Nevertheless, on their return home many years later, they almost immediately reverted to their old habits.  After 20 years of constant, professionally supervised drilling and training--how could this happen so easily?  He said that the answer was very simple:  The farmer boys had no interest in internalizing what they were taught--even though they lived it for 20 years.  There had to be a yearning, a sincere desire, to change, to improve their way of life.  This was absent.  What they accomplished was only a temporary, external habit.


There is a great lesson here.  When we perform the Mitzvos on the Leil HaSeder we must overcome our satisfaction with only external performance of the Mitzvos, and be Me’orer (arouse) ourselves internally to appreciate that when performing these Mitzvos, we rise to the heights of human existence in this world.  Moshe Rabbeinu (who David HaMelech in Tehillim teaches us was one step away from being an angel--Tehillim 8:6) was called an “Eved Hashem” (See Bamidbar 12:7 and Devarim 34:5).  And on the Leil HaSeder we, too, have stepped away from being servants of this world--Avdei Paroh--and have instead became Avdei Hashem!  Your appreciation and utter exuberance over this new-found incredible, boundless and eternal gain should run over and flow through to those around you.  For additional elaboration, see Sefer HaChinuch, Mitzva 16.



Special Note Four:  One important point to remember as we talk about the astounding Makkos is that they did not occur in one neighborhood or in one city--but across an entire country, and exactly within the boundaries of that country.  If we consider a flood or Tsunami affecting one city, or earthquakes in a particular city or area and the devastation they wreaked in seconds--consider a Makka lasting seven days (168 hours, or 604,800 seconds!)  Multiply that by numerous Makkos and the fact that the Bnei Yisrael living in and among the people of Mitzrayim were unaffected--and we can begin to fathom the enormity of the miracles--and the great Emunah we are to imbibe on the Seder night!



Special Note Five:   What can we think about while we are dedicatedly eating our Matzah at the Seder, and we cannot talk?  Of course, we should reflect that we are doing the Mitzvah as Hashem commanded and to give Him Nachas Ruach.  To further “taste” the Matzah, you may also reflect upon the following teaching of Rav Chaim Friedlander, Z’tl, (Sifsei Chaim 2:342):  Chometz represents a process by which “naturally” (i.e., without the assistance of outside forces) fermentation will occur--hiding Hashem’s hand in the dough.  To the contrary, the quick preparation of the Matzah--its sudden production and completion--shows that Hashem’s hand overrides “nature.”  We therefore do not eat Chometz on Pesach in order to distill any notion of “mother nature,” “the laws of nature,” and the concepts of “coincidental,” “by chance,” “as luck would have it” and the like, and in order to enrich us with the appreciation that it is the Yad Hashem, and the Yad Hashem only, that is conducting and directing--as the Master of all masters--all of our affairs, every minute of the day--notwithstanding the “chometz” of nature apparently occurring every day by itself anyway.  In turn, Matzah is referred to by the Zohar as the food of healing, for it cures us of all of these false notions which are harmful to our existence in this world, and which then perforce harm our existence in the eternal World-to-Come.



Special Note Six:  The Ritva in his Haggadah (on the words “Vayehi Shum L’Goi), writes that our pe’rud, our lack of unity and friendship, is the “ikar gezeiras hagalus--the main reason that Galus is decreed” upon us(!).  Today and every day, even with and in spite of with the possible tension and pressure that one may feel, let us do what we can to abrogate this decree by keeping our focus on helping our “reyim: in any reasonable way that we can--whether it be with an offer to get an item for someone else during a shopping trip or “How can I help you, I know that….?”--you can fill in the rest, depending on the status and situation of your neighbors and friends.  Hashem wants people who think, and certainly those who think about others.



Special Note Seven:  Chazal teach that we needed the Mitzvos of Dam Pesach and Dam Milah--the blood of the Korban Pesach and the blood of Bris Milah in order to be redeemed.


HaRav Shlomo Zalman Auerbach, Zt’l (brought in the Haggadas Arzei Halevanon) asks why it was that these two Mitzvos were chosen specifically by Hashem to give us that final Zechus that we needed for redemption.  He answers that we know that the entire creation is dependent upon our kiyum hamitzvos, our fulfillment of mitzvos.  If we fulfill a mitzvah in a natural way, such as walking to Shul, eating kosher food, or lighting candles for Shabbos, then we keep the world going in an otherwise natural way.  However, if we fulfill a mitzvah by going against our nature, then Hashem in turn will conduct the world in a manner which is beyond its nature as well.


Since we needed something beyond nature, something miraculous, for us to leave Egypt, Hashem gave us two mitzvos which were extremely difficult to perform:  The mitzvah of Milah which involved making a wound in one’s own body, or in the body of a small child or infant, and the Mitzvah of Korban Pesach which involved taking the Egyptian god in front of them (at that time, our masters and tormentors) and slaughtering it, both certainly defy human instinct and reason.  The Torah even records that the Bnei Yisrael wondered, “How can we take their god from in front of them [for the purpose of slaughtering it] without their stoning us?!” (Shemos, 8:22 ).


Thus, through these two mitzvos which we performed with dedication and perseverance, the miracles that we so desperately needed for Geulah occurred.


There is a great lesson to be derived here.  We are all looking for Geulah.  There is a time that it will come naturally, by itself, no matter what.  However, if we want to change that nature and bring it closer, we have to try to perform mitzvos at a time or in a manner which may be considered against our nature.  Hashem’s message here is yet another one in the manner of Middah K’neged Middah--if you break your nature, I will break the nature of My World!


Each one of us can try to do his part in overcoming his teva--natural inclination--and producing that Dam Milah or Dam Pesach, those very specially-performed Mitzvos--to bring nachas and Simcha to Hashem, to us all, and to the world, with that so-yearned after Geulah.  Please, please pick that special Mitzvah right now--and may we be truly zoche to the Geulah!!



Special Note Eight: We once again provide our CHOL HAMOED REVIEW HIGHLIGHTS:


Chol HaMoed are days designated--set aside--for holiness.  We can therefore understand why someone who disgraces these days “has no share” in the World to Come (Avos 3:15 ).  According to the Bartenura (ibid.), disgracing the Moados means doing unnecessary work on them, and eating and drinking in the same manner as one would on a regular weekday.


The following highlights are from a recent Hakhel Shiur, given by HaRav Dovid Zucker, Shlita, author of the Sefer Chol HaMoed (Artscroll 2005), and Rosh Kollel of the Chicago Community Kollel.  This Shiur was broadcast via satellite to 13 locations in the United States and Canada by the Torah Conferencing Network.


1.                  The Avnei Nezer teaches (based upon the Zohar) that the Kedusha of Chol HaMoed may be likened to the light of the Moon--reflecting the Kedusha of Yom Tov itself.  Chol HaMoed is indeed enveloped by the Kedusha of the First Days and the Last Days of Yom Tov.


2.                  One should wear nicer clothes on Chol HaMoed than on a regular weekday.  The mitzvah of Simchas Yom Tov applies to Chol HaMoed as well.


3.                  Rabbi Zucker stated that he felt that just as Kedushas Shabbos was the nisayon (the test) of 75 to 100 years ago, Kedushas Chol HaMoed is the nisayon of Galus Jewry today.


4.                  The laws of working on Chol HaMoed for a salaried employee depend upon whether the employee: (a) has vacation coming to him; (b) has no vacation coming to him, but can take time off without pay; (c) asking for time off will cause him to lose his job; or (d) asking for time off will not cause him to lose his job, but will have undesired effects.  Our notes here are intended to highlight these distinctions, but not provide the halachic parameters, which are detailed and often require consultation with a Rav.  For further information, you may study the Sefer itself, or obtain a copy of the Shiur on cassette tape or CD by calling (718) 252-5274.


5.                  Self-employed individuals and employers must consult with their Rav as to how/when to remain open on Chol HaMoed.  One should not rely on “everybody does it” or “ignorance is bliss”--remember, we are talking about the World to Come, and that is true bliss--and infinity.  The story is told of a factory owner who refused, despite the Chofetz Chaim’s pleadings, to close his factory on Shabbos--he told the Chofetz Chaim, “Rebbe, you don’t make money from a posuk in the Torah.”  When the Bolsheviks confiscated all of his property a few years later, he wrote a letter of contrition and apology to the Chofetz Chaim.


6.                  Unskilled work is permitted for the sake of the Moed or the Last Days of Yom Tov.  Therefore, if necessary, one may sew a button on in an unskilled manner.


7.                  A non-Jew cannot do work for you that you yourself cannot perform.  For example, your lawn cannot be mowed or landscaped--and your gardener must be sent away if he comes to perform work for you.


8.                  Skilled work is generally prohibited--even for the sake of the Moed or the Last Days of Yom Tov.  Once again, anything prohibited for a Jew to do is prohibited for a non-Jew to do for you.  There are certain exceptions in which skilled labor is permitted, which relate to “Tzorchei HaGuf,” such as a serious roof leak or a necessary oven or air conditioner repair. With respect to car repairs, it would depend on the type of repair necessary, the need for the repair, and other factors, and a Rav must be consulted.


9.                  Laundering clothing can only be done for young children who have soiled their clothing and have nothing else to wear.  You cannot add other clothing into the washing machine once their clothes are being washed.  Once again, a non-Jewish housekeeper cannot do for you what you yourself cannot do.  Spot cleaning, if necessary, is permitted.  Drying clothing is permitted.


10.              Going shopping is only permissible (even if you otherwise enjoy shopping) if needed for Chol HaMoed or the Last Days of Yom Tov, or if it would constitute a “davar ha’avad” (See paragraph 13 below).  One cannot “trick” the Halacha (and yourself) by “wearing it on Chol HaMoed too”.  Similarly, one should not push off buying a pair of shoes to Chol HaMoed if he can do so before Yom Tov (unless he simply ran out of time).  Rav Moshe Feinstein Z’TL once told a Yeshiva bochur to come back to Yeshiva a day later in order to go shopping for clothing after Yom Tov, rather than shop on Chol HaMoed.


11.              One cannot schedule a “routine” medical or dental checkup or exam for Chol HaMoed.


12.              One cannot put off to Chol HaMoed filling up the car with gas, going to the bank, etc., when he has time or an opportunity to do so before Chol HaMoed.


13.              In specific “davar ha’avad” situations where an actual loss will occur, if work (even if skilled) is not performed on Chol HaMoed, it may very well be permissible, and your Rav should be consulted.


14.              Cutting nails/manicure is permitted for Sefardim (if needed), and prohibited to Ashkenazim (unless needed, and one had previously cut nails on Erev Yom Tov as well).


15.              Rav Moshe Feinstein, Z’tl, ruled that setting/cutting a sheitel is considered skilled work and therefore is prohibited even for the sake of the Mo’ed or the Last Days of Yom Tov.


16.              Standard writing (not calligraphy) is considered unskilled work and is permitted for the sake of the Moed.  One can type, send e-mails, e-faxes and text messages, but not print them out (unless permitted as a “davar ha’avad”).  Similarly, one can utilize a digital camera as long as the pictures are not printed out, and a standard camera, as long as the pictures are not developed.


The above, obviously, only briefly highlights some common Halachos.  In fact, Hilchos Chol HaMoed encompasses 20 chapters in Shulchan Aruch (Orach Chaim 530-549).  We additionally refer you to Rabbi Zucker’s wonderful Sefer.  You may want to ask your Rav to give a Shiur this Yom Tov on the Halachos and Hashkafos of Chol HaMoed for everyone’s benefit.  Remember, with any question, or difficult or special situation, please consult your Rav--and have Simchas HaMoed!








13 Nissan

QUESTION OF THE DAY :  After Bedikas Chametz and Biur Chametz, we will recite the words Kol Chamira.  As we refer to Chametz, why don’t we refer to Lechem, bread directly--but only indirectly with the term “Chamira”?!  Hint: See Shulchan Aruch, Orach Chaim, 434 Ba’air Haitaiv, seif katan 5.



IF YOU LEARN just three Mishnayos a day of Mesechta Chagiga over Pesach--you will finish the entire Mesechta in Mishnayos by the end of the Chag--if you cannot bring a Korban Chagiga--this could be an important indication of how much you want to….



FROM A READER: “The Biur Halacha in the first Siman quotes the Chinuch language in explaining how one can aspire to acquire Ahavas Hashem. I am not doing justice to the language of a Rishon but the essence of the advice of the Chinuch is that through learning Torah and delving into the torah ‘behecrech’ one will automatically come to love Hashem. (The more well known Rambam by contrast discusses another method of delving into the wonders of the universe). I have heard from the Bostoner Rebbe, Shlita, in the name of the Baal HaTanya that the only way to have true Ahavas Yisrael is through Ahavas Hashem because love of Hashem is the love of spiritual in contrast to love of this world. As many Seforim discuss, love of this world is basically mutually exclusive of love of Hashem. Therefore once this is so there is no longer a physical separation between man and his fellow Jew since we are all one Neshama--the more spiritual one is the more he will feel less apart from his fellow Jew ergo the greater Ahavas Hashem the greater Ahavas Yisrael. The reverse is also true; it will not be possible to truly love another Jew unless and until one has Ahavas Hashem.  I feel very strongly that this message should be broadcasted and made more well known.  It so basic and so vital in our society that continues to descend morally at a precipitous pace.  It is the basics of Ahavas Hashem and Ahavas Yisrael--what greater time is there to work on this than Pesach!”



FROM A READER: “Years ago, when speaking with Rebbetzin Kamenetsky, she suggested that every time I thank Hashem but don’t immediately ask Him for something, I am not ‘doing my job’--showing my Emunah and Bitachon ...  so I took her words to heart, and since then have been asking for something of HKB”H every time I thank Him, which is many, many times a day.  Usually it is for the Refuah Shleimah of someone on my lists, sometimes it is to ask Him to fix something that seems awkward Bein Adam L’chaveiro, or any one of the things I’m concerned about at the moment.  It is so clear that He runs the world and nothing happens except if He decides so ...  and I have found that the more I thank Hashem and ask for something, far from being greedy or a nuisance to Him as I had worried, I think He is pleased, because He continues to give me more and more... so I am left with only these words which I also say often:  Hodu LaHaShem Ki Tov, Ki L’Olam Chasdo!”



FROM A READER: “When Yaakov first meets Rochel, he is at a well with some shepherds, waiting for enough to come by to move the stone that protects the well. As she approaches, he asks the shepherds if all is well with his cousin Lavan, and they answer, “All peaceful, Vehinei Rochel Bito Ba’ah Im Hatzon — and here is Rochel his daughter, coming with the flock” (Bereishis 29:6).  A few pesukim later, “When he is still speaking to them, VeRochel Ba’ah Im Hatzon — and Rochel came with the flock that belongs to her father” (Ibid v 9). Notice that one time “ba’ah” is used to mean that Rochel was on her way, the other that she had arrived already. Rashi clarifies with a grammatical point; it makes a difference which syllable gets the trop mark and stress. The first usage was “ba’AH”, with the stress on the second syllable, meaning “she is coming”. The second, “BA’ah”— “she came”.


“Everyone assumes that the line said at the end of Yom Kippur and the Pesach Seder is “Leshanah haBA’ah biYrushalayim — the coming year in Jerusalem ”. But the Satmar Rav, HaRav Yoel Teitelbaum, Z’tl, said this is a mistake.


“We voice this desire at the close of Yom Kippur, shortly after the year began on Rosh HaShanah, and on Pesach, shortly after the beginning of the year of months, the beginning of Nissan. We say it when a year just arrived. The line should not be said with the stress as “ba’AH” but rather, say “BA’ah” — We are speaking of the year that just came!


“Leshanah haBA’ah biYrushalayim habenuyah!



HILCHOS PESACH: At a Shiur on the Halachos of Pesach, Rabbi Shlomo Pearl, Z’tl, taught:


A.  It is a Mitzvah to eat Shalosh Seudos this Shabbos--even though the Leil Seder Sheini will begin a few hours later.  It is best if one davens Mincha on Shabbos early, goes home, washes and eats Shalosh Seudos with Matzah.  Indeed, the Aruch HaShulchan (Orach Chaim 291:12) writes “Chalila LeHakel Shelo Le’echol Pas LeSeudas Shelishis…” [If one cannot find an early minyan for Mincha, and in his Shul they will be davening Ma’ariv soon after Mincha, then one can also eat Shalosh Seudos before Mincha].


B.  There are different Minhagim as to which brachos are recited by all participants in the Seder.  The Minhag Sefarad is generally that the Ba’al HaBayis makes all brachos (even over the four Kosos) and is Motzi everyone in order to fulfill the Hiddur of Berov Am Hadras Melech.  Others have a Minhag to the contrary, based upon the ruling of the Magein Avraham, and everyone recites his/her own Kiddush, Al Achilas Matzah and Al Achilas Marror, etc..  A third opinion attributed to HaRav Moshe Feinstein, Z’tl, is that the Ba’al HaBayis makes Kiddush and HaMotzi, and everyone makes all of the other brachos on their own.  Everyone should, of course, follow their own Minhag.  However, for those whose Minhag it is for the women to recite their own Kiddush on the Leil HaSeder--will they also recite Havdalah immediately following Kiddush on the second Seder Night?  The Debriztiner Rav, Z’tl, held that they would; as to whether women recite the bracha of Borei Meorei HaEish--this is a matter of further discussion (see Bi’ur Halacha 296, d’h Lo Yavdilu).  Hakhel Note: Accordingly, one should consult with his own Rav or Posek as to how to properly conduct himself.




Special Note One: Notes on Bedikas Chometz:


A.  By the following link--http://tinyurl.com/7tljavl we provide practical guidance from Rabbi Yisroel Dov Webster, Shlita, on the Mitzvah of Bedikas Chometz.  Do it Right--not only on Pesach Night--but on the Night Before, as well!


B.  Bedikas Chometz is truly an activity of the body and soul--as we are to simultaneously rid ourselves of the leavened products in our homes, and the “Yetzer Hara B’libeinu”--the leaven that exists within us.  The pre-Pesach toil, sweat, fatigue and enormous costs and expenses indicate our sincerity and dedication to both of these tasks.  At Bedikas Chometz, we are nearing the epitome of our achievement--can we let it go with a perfunctory search of our homes because everything “has already been cleaned ten times anyway?”  How could a serious bedika take less than half hour or an hour--depending on the size of your home?  Indeed, if you merely go around to collect the 10 pieces, your bracha is considered a bracha l’vatala (Kitzur Shulchan Aruch 111:8).  Picture yourself waiting on line for two hours to get to the observation deck in the Empire State Building --as soon as you got up, would you ask the attendant where the line was for the down elevators? Hakhel Note: In a related vein, at a Hakhel Shiur, HaRav Yisroel Belsky, Shlita, suggested that one search for Chometz as if he were searching for a valuable coin or piece of jewelry--would you shrug your shoulder and not look here or there, or not make the extra effort when you realize how much is at stake?  Go for the gold!


C.  The Sefer Darchei Mussar likens falling prey to the Chometz of the Yetzer Hara to a thoughtless individual who elects to warm himself up on a cold day by rolling in freshly laid hot tar.  He certainly will warm himself up and feel good for the moment--but will most certainly be left with an awful lot of sticky and smelly tar to contend with, which will require much time and effort to remove.  He also likens a person’s relationship with his Yetzer Hara to the relationship between a Cossack and his horse--the Cossack must feed, bathe, and properly take care of his horse--but, has absolutely no ownership rights over it.  That being the case, who is really in control--the Cossack or the horse?  So, too, if we “feed and support” our Yetzer Hara--who, then, is really in control of our lives?  This is the unique purpose of the time we are in--not only to finish up the macaroni, and carefully eliminate the challah crumbs from underneath the radiator--but to ALSO rid ourselves of the wretched Cossack’s plight--and to ensure that we do not act like the careless fool who jumped into the tar!  Let us complete the cleaning--without--and within!


D.  To help with the cleaning, we note that the Sefer Mesilas Yesharim in the Sha’ar Nekiyus (coming clean!) provides the four major Middos for one to work on--as all other Middos Ra’os stem from them.  Here is the important List of Four to remove from our lives:  (i) Ga’avah, (ii) Ka’as, (iii) Kinna, and (iv) Ta’avah.  Especially at this time of year, one may theoretically be more jealous than at other times of the year--as others have money to buy new clothes, better foods, “go-away”, take far-away Chol HaMoed trips, or because they have a large family or extended family for the Seder or over Yom Tov.  However, the Pasuk goes out of its way to teach us:  Rekev Atzamos Kinna”--what will cause the bones to rot (after 120 years) is jealousy.  The Maharal explains that this is so, Middah K’Negged Middah, because if a person feels that he is lacking, then his body in fact is or will be lacking as well.  Each of us must recognize that we have our own role on Pesach (and otherwise!)--whether it be in Eretz Yisrael, in a hotel, with friends, with children….  Pesach is a time to enjoy all of the Mitzvos, to rejoice in the fact that Hashem molded us into His Chosen Nation, and to individually inspire ourselves for the entire year.  Putting ourselves in the proper (true) state of mind is an essential preparation for a wonderfully successful Pesach!



Special Note Two:  Several points made by Rabbi Moshe Tuvia Lieff, Shlita, which relate to the Seder: 


A.  The tone of the Seder must be emotional, inspirational, ‘geshmake’, and one of celebration.  One’s language should be the language of the heart, and one should personalize and connect everyone to Hashem. 


B.  Ke’ilu Yatzah MiMitzrayim’ means that one must project to others that he himself has left Egypt .


C.  According to the Rosh, the Matzos are Lachmei Todah, intended to express our thanks for our freedom, our family, our friends, our possessions.  With this, we can understand why we do not make a bracha before we start the Seder--after all, how can we say ‘VeTzivanu--and He commanded us’ on sincere feelings of pure thanks?!


D.  The Shulchan Orech part of the Seder is like a Seudas Hoda’ah (see Rambam, Hilchos Chometz U’Matzah 7:8).  The ultimate way to serve Hashem is through Hakaras HaTov and Hoda’ah!


E.  The Birchas HaMazon on the Leil HaSeder is very important--do not ‘gulp it down’ because you may feel momentarily weary or fatigued.  Wake up, meet the challenge, and regal in the experience!


F.  The family and minhagim should be kept--even if there may be nicer or other ‘up-to-date’ tunes. 


G.  One should be sure to practice savlanus--to be extremely patient, and not be angered--during the course of testy moments at the Seder.  Fascinatingly, Rabbi Lieff related that HaRav Shlomo Zalmen Auerbach, Z’tl, used Halperin machine-made Matzas, which he felt were the best choice, while each of his sons and sons in-law, had their own different kind of Matzas next to him at the Seder. 


H.  Tzafun teaches us that a lot of good things are hidden away for us--we just have to put the Matzah away…until it is revealed!



Special Note Three:  One must come into the Seder stocked with help to hopefully help to hopefully enhance and entrance.  To get us started, we provide the following Mashal of the Dubno Maggid as present in The Maggid of Dubno and his Parables by Benno Heinemann (Feldheim): 


“Hashem had given Avraham Avinu a glimpse of the future of the nation which would be descended from him.  He told Avraham that Bnei Yisrael would be enslaved and know great suffering, but that, in the end, they would “go forth with great abundance” as free men.  Now what was this great abundance?  Chazal tell us that it was the Torah that the Bnei Yisrael received in the wilderness on Har Sinai.  But, if this is indeed true, why were we, before leaving Mitzrayim, actually commanded to ask the Mitzriyim for money and goods?  The Maggid of Dubno would reconcile this contradiction with one of his famous Mesholim:  A young man had hired himself out to a wealthy merchant to serve him for six years, for which he would be paid with a bag of silver coins.  When the six years were over and the time came for the servant to leave, it occurred to the master that a bag of silver was much too small a reward for the splendid services the boy had rendered him.  He therefore put the silver aside and instead wrote out a check in an amount many times that of the total value of the silver coins.  But the servant, instead of thanking his master for his generosity, sullenly stuffed the piece of paper into his pocket and went home weeping.  The next day his father called at the merchant’s house and said to the wealthy man, “You have been most generous to my son and I want to thank you.  But the boy is still a child and does not comprehend the value of a check. All he knew was that he expected to receive a bag filled with shiny new coins and that instead he got a plain sheet of paper.  I should be most grateful, therefore, if you would let him have at least part of his wages in solid silver.


In the same manner did Avraham Avinu come to Hashem, saying, “You have been generous indeed in promising the Torah to my descendants.  But the nation will be young and not mature enough to understand the value of the Torah, and if they will have to leave the slavery of Mitzrayim with empty hands they will say ‘Indeed, Hashem has fulfilled part of His promise.  We did become slaves.  But what about the great abundance which we were to receive at the hour of our deliverance?’ “ It is for this reason, that Bnei Yisrael were clearly commanded to take gold and silver vessels from the Mitzriyim.  This would be tangible wealth which they could appreciate at that time.  In this manner, the Bnei Yisrael would see immediately that the promise given by Hashem to their righteous forbearer had retained its validity.  It was only as Bnei Yisrael grew in wisdom that it came to understand that its true wealth lay not in the coins and trinkets gathered in Mitzrayim but in the Divine gift of the Torah, which has stood by our side to this very day.”


Hakhel Note:  In addition to this outstanding work on the Dubno Maggid, there is also a Haggadah which is comprised entirely of Mesholim related by different Gedolim (including the Dubno Maggid), entitled The Palace Gates Haggadah (translated from the Hebrew--Feldheim).



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