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15 Iyar

FROM MATZAH TO MON:  According to the Luach Dovor B’Ito, today is the transition day between Bnei Yisrael finishing Matzah they had brought along from Mitzraim, and tomorrow, 16 Iyar, is the day that the Mon began to fall (see, however, Rashi to Shemos 16:33, in which Rashi appears to write that the Mon began to fall today), it is in these days that Moshe Rabbeinu composed the first bracha of Birchas HaMazon, the Bracha of Hazon Es HaOlam.  The Luach therefore urges that this Bracha be recited with a special Kavannah at this time.


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


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





1. On the Hakhel Note relating to speaking softly in Shul and being careful not to talk within a distance over Shul, a reader noted that in the first instance, one must be especially careful with what we say in Shul to begin with!


2.  On the Hakhel Note relating to bearing shame and insults, a reader who has much experience with those who have been emotionally hurt commented that for those who are consistently abused and hurt, a different approach is necessary. Accordingly, if one is in this kind of situation, or knows someone who is, their situation should be referred to an appropriate authority for guidance and assistance in the facts and circumstances.



FOLLOW-UP ON LAST WEEK’S PARASHA--V’AHAVTA L’REIACHA KAMOCHA:  The Mesilas Yesharim (end of Chapter 19) writes, “Hakodosh Boruch Hu only loves those who love their fellow Jew, and the more one increases his love for fellow Jews, the more Hakodush Boruch Hu loves him. [We note the incredible statement of the Alter of Kelm (Kisvei HaSaba MiKelm page 13) that with V’ahavta L’reicha Kamocha one can be m’kayem thousands of mitzvos a minute because for every single Jew that one loves, he is m’kayem a separate Mitzvas Aseh.  (Also see Yesod V’Shoresh Ha’Avoda 1:7-8).]  Many have asked, How can I properly fulfill the Mitzvas Aseh of V’ahavta L’reicha Kamocha--How can I love someone else as much as myself?  Must I buy another a pair of shoes whenever I buy one for myself?  Rav Eliyahu Lopian, Z’tl, provides an incredibly practical guideline: The Mitzva is: Do for others what you would want them to do for you; and do not do to others what you do not want them to do to you.  This is the formula to apply in all of your life’s encounters (Lev Eliyahu, Bereishis, page 253).  Using this as your guideline, the following is a list of practical ideas for a person to grow in the great mitzva of Ahavas Yisrael:


1.                  Did you say hello to at least one person before they said hello to you?


2.                  Did you make someone smile or laugh today?  Did you boost someone’s spirits?


3.                  Were you truly happy to hear good news about a friend?  Even if you wish that the same good news would happen to you?


4.                  Did you judge someone favorably today?  Did you see people positively—-or did you sum up their lifestyle, pros and cons, with one glance of the eye?


5.                  How often did you find yourself talking about someone else?


6.                  Did you actually do any of the following?


a.      Visit a sick person

b.      Help the needy in some way

c.      Invite a guest without family in town for a Shabbos meal

d.      Patronize Jewish products and stores

e.      Help a single person find a Shidduch

f.      Sincerely ask Hashem to bring the Geulah for all of us


(This checklist is based largely on a checklist developed by the wonderful N’shei Ahavas Chesed of Brooklyn.)



HARAV MATTISYAHU SALOMON ON THE SEFIRA PERIOD: HaRav Mattisyahu Salomon, Shlita, provides a special insight into the Avodah of the Sefira Period based upon the words of the Sefer Avudraham .  The Avudraham brings the words of Yirmiyahu Hanavi (5:20-25) specifically referring to Shavuos: “Shavuos Chukos Kotzir Yishmor Lanu...” --in which Yirmiyahu reproves the people for “having eyes but not seeing’ and for “having a heart that turns away” --for “failing to say in their hearts let us fear Hashem ...”.  What do these words of reproof have to do particularly with Shavuos--what is this Nevuah teaching us? 


The Avudraham explains that Hashem actually commanded us to count during the Sefira so that we would feel the ‘tza’ar ha’olam’--the pain of the world in desperate need of food and livelihood during these days of judgment and harvest of crops of the field and crops of the tree--and to turn to Hashem in Teshuva with a full heart, and beseech Hashem to have mercy on us, on the earth and on all of creation--”so that the crops will be as they should be, for if there is no kemach there is no Torah.”  In short, Rav Salomon avers, the days of Sefira are really like a second Elul--days in which we are to recognize the Awe and Majesty of HaKadosh Baruch Hu, tremble before His awesome might, and straighten out our ways.  These weeks are oh so critical--our gashmius and our ruchniyus depend on their outcome! It is for this reason that Chazal (Megillah 31B) teach that we read the Tochacha of Bechukosai this Shabbos --in advance of Shavuos--just as we read the Tochacha of Parashas Ki Savo in advance of Rosh Hashana--the two are very much related--for we demonstrate that we want to rid ourselves of any vestige of sin and any iota of curse--and instead be successful going forward with our Shavuos and Rosh Hashana.


To this end, the Radvaz explains that we do not make a bracha of Shehechiyanu on Sefiras Ha’omer because it is the pre-requisite Mitzvah to the Ikar Mitzvah of Shavuos.  The analogy is to Sukkos--where although building the Sukkah is a Mitzvah (Chag HaSukkos Ta’aseh Lecha)--we wait to make the She’hechiyanu until we actually dwell in the Sukkah--and then the She’hechiyanu is made on both mitzvos.  We are now accomplishing the equivalent of building the Sukkah--just like there is no Chag HaSukkos without a Sukkah, we must build ourselves up, make ourselves ready with the pre-requisite Mitzvah of Sefira  for the Ikar Mitzvah---Chag HaShavuos.  The Navi teaches us how--’let us fear Hashem, Who supplies rain...in its proper time, and Who preserves for us the weeks appointed for the harvest!”  We are to prepare with Yiras Shomayim!


We have three weeks to hear the words of Yirmiyahu Hanavi.  In years gone by, we have experienced many Tisha B’Avs in wonderment--how could they not have listened to Yirmiyahu--A Tzadik, A Kohen,. a Navi, who was so exceedingly  Moser Nefesh --risking his life time and time again in order to save us from a long and bitter galus, and the Bais Hamikdash from devastation and destruction.  Now, it is our turn to test ourselves--will we listen to his cries, to his heart wrenching pleading, to his prophetic appeal -- and do what we are supposed to do during these fateful weeks?!   We can begin, suggested Rav Salomon, to demonstrate our Yiras Shomayim--our Awe for our Creator--our recognition that He is the One and Only source of our ruchniyus and gashmius-by taking the instruction of the Chofetz Chaim:  At points during the day simply stop what are you doing and think about the Ribono Shel Olam.  Realize that you have to watch yourself because it is Hashem Himself Who is watching you.



12 Iyar

TAKE ACTION! These are days in which we especially work on our Bein Adam L’Chaveiro. In this regard, we provide two very fundamental--and extremely practical--points:


1. The Chofetz Chaim writes that the way we can properly honor others is by finding something greater in them than in yourself--whatever it may be. Once one recognizes that he holds another in higher regard for something, he will simply treat him with more dignity and respect.


2. HaRav Naftali Kaplan, Shlita, adds that prior to engaging in an act of Chesed--we should endeavor to think about the fact that in doing so we are emulating the ways of Hashem--Who is a Rav Chesed. By doing so, we demonstrate that our Chesed is not a ‘good thing to do’ or a ‘social norm’--but an act which constitutes both V’Halachta B’Derachav--and Olam Chesed Yiboneh.



KODESH HAKEDOSHIM! This week, we learn how the Kohen Gadol enters the Kodesh HaKedoshim on Yom Kippur. While at this moment in time we may not have a Kodesh HaKedoshim here are earth--we can view our own Shuls and Batei Midrashim as our current Holy of Holies. One practical application of this is to speak softly and gently in Shul--and not speaking loudly across the Shul, even if one has called out to you from a distance in Shul. Let us remember the great reverence and respect we must have for a Makom Kadosh!



DAN LCHAF ZECHUS! This week we also study the Mitzvah of B’Tzedek Tishpot Amisecha. Let us keep it on our minds daily!


By the following link-- http://tinyurl.com/6l5s2s  we present a Tefillah provided in the past in which one davens to Hashem for assistance in judging others LChaf Zechus. Chazal teach that it is a great merit for a person to judge others favorably for one will also then be judged favorably as well!





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


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


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


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



IN RESPECT OF RESPECT:  In this week’s Parasha of Kedoshim, we also find the great Mitzvah of “Mipnei Sayva Takum…” (Vayikra 19:32)--In the presence of an elderly person shall you rise, and you shall honor the presence of a Sage....


The Shulchan Aruch (Yoreh Deah 244) rules that one must rise if a person over the age of 70 (even if unlearned, but provided he/she is not wicked) enters within your 4 amos (i.e., within 6-8 feet of you).  One should remain standing until he/she has passed from in front of you.  Respect does not only consist of rising, but also includes respectful words and a helping hand (ibid. 244:7).  Let us take a moment to reflect upon our diligence in the performance of this Mitzvah as it may apply in our own homes, in the homes of friends and relatives, in Shul, in doctor’s offices, and in the various situations that may present themselves to us throughout the day.  Let us also thank Hashem for giving us the opportunity to be in their presence (and having the opportunity to learn from them, if applicable)--and making it a Mitzvah on top of that!


Additional Note:  Some opinions hold that the minimum age to which respect must be accorded is actually 60 and not 70.



100 RABBIS:  In this week’s Parasha of Kedoshim we find the fundamental prohibition against Loshon Hara, as the Torah adjures “Lo Selech Rochil BeAmecha –Do not be a gossiper among your people” (Vayikra 19:16).The Sefer Sparks of Mussar relates the following incident with HaRav Naftoli Amsterdam, Z’tl, a great student of Rebbe Yisroel Salanter, Z’tl, who served as a Rav and Posek in various cities, including Moscow and St. Petersberg:


A Jew once came before him, asking him for “the permission of one hundred Rabbis” necessary to take a second wife without divorcing the first. In the course of talking, the man spoke badly of his wife. R’ Naftoli interrupted him and asked: “Have you already received the permission of a hundred rabbis to violate the prohibition of Lashon Hara?”


Hakhel Note: There is  a great lesson for us all here—there are many cases when you certainly may feel that Lashon Hora is warranted or justified—and that others will ‘expect you’ to speak Lashon Hara—before falling into the trap—make sure that you have the heter of at least one Rabbi to relate it! The phone number of the Chofetz Chaim Heritage Foundation Shemiras HaLashon Shaila Hotline is 718-951-3696, and Poskim are available 9-10:30 pm New York time to answer both the easy-- and the difficult –real life Shemiras HaLashon questions that you may have.



THE FAMOUS MIDRASH: The Midrash Rabba on this week’s Parasha brings the extraordinary story of the peddler who traveled from city to city crying out, “Who wants to purchase the elixir for life?  Is there anyone who wishes to purchase the potion for life?”  The great Rebbe Yannai heard the merchant’s pitch, and told him that he would purchase the concoction.  The peddler then opened up a Sefer Tehillim to the posukim “Mi HaIsh HeChofetz Chaim…Which man desires life…guard your tongue from evil, and your lips from speaking deceit.” (34:13-14) Succinctly stated, the elixir is Shemiras HaLashon!  Rebbi Yannai, upon hearing these words, was impressed by the Chiddush contained in the peddler’s teaching.


Everyone who has heard or studied this Midrash (probably each and every one of us) asks the question, what was the point, the nuance, the novelty, that the peddler provided that Rebbe Yannai did not previously know, understand or realize?!


HaRav Shimon Schwab, Z’tl, based upon his personal audience and experience with the Chofetz Chaim himself, reports the Chofetz Chaim’s understanding of the Midrash:


Unlike other storekeepers or businessman, a peddler cannot extend credit, and all transactions are COD.  Rebbe Yannai learned from the peddler that, for the act of refraining from Lashon Hara one does not receive a “credit” for life.  Instead, he receives **an immediate award** of life!  Moreover, added the Chofetz Chaim, the life we are talking about is not merely a day of life--or even ten days--or even thirty days or a year or two years.  Rather, it is as we recite in the Bracha over the Torah, “Vechayei Olam Nota Besochainu”--it is Chayei Olam--an eternal life.  The Chofetz Chaim, in fact, turned to his student, and asked him, “Do you know where we will be 100 years from now?  In the Mechitza of the Ribbono Shel Olam.  This is the same place we will be in 1,000 years from now--and in 5 million years from now (!!)--with the Ribbono Shel Olam.”  This is what a person who refrains from Lashon Hora merits--an immediate ticket to millions and millions years of being in the Mechitza of the Ribbono Shel Olam--could there be anything greater--could there be?!


So, the next time the temptation of Lashon Hora comes, and to most of us it happens several times a day, remember three things--A) Immediate Payment, B) 5 Million Years and More, C ) In the Mechitza of the Ribbono Shel Olam.  This should help out a tremendous amount with that Nisayon…and convert it into  pristine, eternal  bliss!!



TEACHINGS OF RABBI ZELIG PLISKIN, SHLITA:  We present below several important notes from Love Your Neighbor by Rabbi Zelig Pliskin, Shlita on the Parasha (citations and sources presented there have been omitted-please refer to this wonderful Sefer directly for further detail):


1.      Parashas Kedoshim begins with the words “Daber El Kol Adas Bnei Yisrael--speak to the entire congregation of Bnei Yisrael.”  The Chasam Sofer comments that to attain holiness one need not be isolated and withdrawn from the rest of society.  On the contrary, the Torah’s admonition here to be “Kedoshim--to be holy--was especially stated in front of the entire congregation. A person must learn how to sanctify himself by behaving properly amongst people!


2.       ”Lo Sa’ashok” (Vayikra 19:13)--the prohibition of withholding money.  In order not to be guilty of withholding someone’s wages, or payments due to a worker, you should always reach an agreement about payment before he begins doing the job.  Failure to decide on a price in advance usually leads to arguments later on, with the results that both sides feel cheated.  The Chofetz Chaim’s son wrote that his father would not ask someone to do any work for him without first reaching an agreement as to all the details of the job, including the price.  If for some reason they could not settle upon a price before hand, the Chofetz Chaim would pay whatever the worker later requested.


3.      “Lo Sikallel Chayreish” (Vayikra 19:14)--it is forbidden to curse even the deaf who are unable to hear the curse, all the more so is it forbidden to curse people who are able to hear.  Saying to someone “G-d should punish you” is a violation of this prohibition.  Note that it is considered using G-d’s name even when the name is not in Hebrew.  Although using G-d’s name constitutes a more serious offense, it is nonetheless forbidden to curse someone without using G-d’s name as well.  For example, it is forbidden to say “Drop d - - d” or the like to someone.


4.      “B’Tzedek Tishpot Amisecho” (Vayikra 19:15)--you shall judge your fellow man with righteousness.  In Yerushalayim, there is a group that regularly discusses practical ways to judge people favorably.  A member of the group gives true-to-life situations, and everyone else offers explanations that would present the person involved in a favorable light. For instance:


       I.            You did not receive an invitation to a wedding.  Possibilities:  A. Perhaps the person was under the impression that he had already sent you an invitation B. Perhaps he sent it to you and it was lost in the mail. C. Perhaps he cannot afford to invite so many people.


    II.            You are standing in a bus stop with a heavy load of packages, and a neighbor drives by in an empty car and does not offer you a ride. Possibilities: A. Perhaps he was only going a short distance. B. Perhaps he has already committed himself to pick up some other people. C. Perhaps he has a problem that weighed on his mind so heavily that he couldn’t think of anything else.


 III.            You are hoping someone would invite you to his house, but he failed to do so. Possibilities:  A. Perhaps someone in his family is ill. B. Perhaps he is planning to be away from home. C. Perhaps he did not have enough food in his house.


5.       ”Lo Sisna es Achicha Bilevovecha” (Vayikra 19:16)--you shall not hate your brother in your heart.  The Chofetz Chaim writes that if someone has embarrassed or humiliated you, you should not hate him.  Although he has committed a transgression, he has actually rendered you a service--for when a person suffers humiliation in silence, it atones for any sins he may have.  The situation is analogous to that in which someone prepared a hot bath for you.  Although it may cause you some pain, it will also cleanse you.  Keeping this thought in mind should prevent feelings of hatred from arising.  There is a proven method of changing someone’s feelings of hatred towards you.  You should consider him as if he were righteous and treat him favorably.  In a very short time, that person will begin to like you.  Ravid HaZahav interprets this verse, “You shall not hate your brother BECAUSE of your heart.”  You might have a warm heart and do favors for others.  Nevertheless, if your friend lacks this trait, do not hate him for it.





1. Rebbi Nechunyah Ben Hakanah (3:6) teaches that: “Kol HaMekabel Alav Ohl Torah…one who accepts upon himself the yoke  of Torah, he will have removed from him the yoke of government and the yoke of worldly responsibilities.” Rebbi Nechunyah then continues: “Vechol Haporeik Mimenu Ohl Torah…but if someone throws off the yoke  of Torah from himself--the yoke  of government and the yoke  of worldly responsibilities are placed upon him.” Rebbi Nechunyah teaches us that there are but two alternatives--and not three, four or more. One either accepts upon himself the yoke  of Torah, or throws it off.


In an almost identical fashion, Rebbi Chananyah Ben Tradyon (ibid. 3:3) teaches: “Shenayim Sheyoshvin V’Ein Beineihem…--if two sit together and there are no words of Torah between them, it is a moshav leitzim….” Whereas, “if two sit together and words of Torah are between them, the Shechinah rests between them”. Once again, there aren’t three or four choices--only two. Either the two sitting together recognize the significance of their being together and exchange words of Torah bringing the Shechinah into their midst--or they are like those attending a boxing match. Every person has a choice in life--as the Torah expressly sets forth (Devorim 30:15) “Re’eih Nasati Lifanecha Hayom…see I have placed before you today the life and the good, and the death and the evil…U’vacharta BaChaim--and you shall choose life!”


2. Rebbi Akiva (Avos 3:17) teaches that “Seyag LaChochma Shesika--a protective fence for wisdom is silence.”  This closely follows the teaching of Rabban Shimon ben Gamliel (ibid. 1:17):  “Kol Yomai Godalti Bain HaChachamim...all my days I have been raised among chachomim and I have found nothing better for oneself than silence...and one who talks excessively brings on sin.”  The Bartenura on Rebbi Akiva’s teaching explains that Rebbi Akiva is not talking about sinful speech such as Lashon Hara or Ona’as Devorim which is in any event forbidden. Rather, he is speaking about permissible speech, which is still hurtful if left unchecked.  HaRav Avigdor Miller, Z’tl, accordingly teaches that one should practice every day refraining from saying something (permissible) that he was otherwise going to say. This, HaRav Miller teaches, demonstrates a level of Yiras Shomayim, recognizing that one is not in control of his power of speech--but that it is HaKadosh Baruch Hu who opens our minds and our mouths.  This level of Yiras Shomayim, in turn, will help prevent one from sin.  Indeed, Dovid HaMelech teaches in Tehillim (111:10):  Raishis Chochma--Yiras Hashem--the Chochma referred to by Rebbi Akiva could be the Yiras Shomayim referred to in the Pasuk.  In a similar vein, it is well known that HaRav Pam, Z’tl, even for the most obvious or simple response would typically wait for a moment or more--so that the word or words uttered were uttered with awareness and care.  We should take the lesson to heart--we start off the day with Raishis Chochma--can we try and follow HaRav Miller’s suggestion-and work on our Chochma and Yiras Shomayim-by keeping our lips sealed--not making the added comment or excessive statement, not providing the additional opinion or witticism--just one time a day--(preferably in the morning)?   One may never know when and where the fruits of this Avodah will blossom and appear!



PESACH SHENI! Sunday is Pesach Sheni. HaRav Yaakov Tzvi Emden, Z’TL (“the Yaavetz”) writes in his Siddur that:


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


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


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



YAHRZEIT OF REBBI MEIR: Sunday is also the Yahrtzeit of the Great Tanna, Rebbi Meir (also known as Rebbi Meir Ba’al Haness).  There are those who have the custom of putting money in the Pushka L’Ilui Nishmaso, and reciting “Aloka D’Meir Anaini” three times.  There are specific Tefillos which are attributed to the Chasam Sofer relating to good health, blessing and success; success in one’s business dealings and locating lost items which one may recite any time during the year when placing money into a Pushka L’Ilui Nishmas Rebbi Meir.  To obtain copies of these tefillos, one can contact the Rebbi Meir Ba’al Haness Kolel Shomrei Hachomos office near you.  They may also be found on the back of Pushkas distributed by Kolel Shomrei Hachomos.  May the Zechuyos of Rebbi Meir always stand in our stead!



11 Iyar

CHOOSE KINDNESS! “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! [From “Choose Kindness” by Rabbi Moshe Goldberger, Shlita]





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).



KOL HAYOM: The following is excerpted from Growth Through Tehillim (by Rabbi Zelig Pliskin, Shlita, as well!) on the words of Dovid HaMelech (Tehillim 52:3) ‘Chesed Kel Kol HaYom--the kindness of Hashem is all day long!’:


Whatever day it is right now as you are reading this, the kindness of Hashem has been there for you from the beginning of the day, until this moment, and the kindness of Hashem will be with you for the rest of the day until the new day starts. Tomorrow again you will be a beneficiary of the kindness of Hashem, and this will continue each and every day for your entire life. This has been going on from your very first day of life and each and every day after that until this moment.  Imagine how you will feel when you experience an entire day with this consciousness. From the moment you open your eyes in the morning until you go to sleep at night, every moment will have awareness of Hashem’s kindness towards you.  Allow yourself to be aware of being the recipient of constant kindness for an entire day. Every movement you make is an aspect of Hashem’s kindness.  Everything you own is an aspect of Hashem’s kindness.  Every interaction with other people has aspects of this kindness.  Every bit of food you eat and every drop of water you drink is an aspect of this constant kindness.  And what about the things that you usually overlook?  On the day at you decide to become more aware of the kindnesses you experience, you will notice more and more things.  You will see what you might not have seen before, and you will hear what you might not have heard before. You will feel feelings of gratitude and joy that you otherwise might not have felt.  You will find yourself being more aware of Hashem’s presence, and you will allow your mind to be filled with thoughts of appreciation for Hashem’s kindness to you. You will be more present oriented, and you will focus less on anything you are dissatisfied with about the past. You will be free from stressful thoughts about the future - you will be focused on the present kindnesses. When you do this, if your mind needlessly wanders to some thoughts that are not conducive to appreciation of kindness, you will gently and lightly re-direct your consciousness to the present kindness that you are experiencing. Just knowing that your mind has the ability to direct your thoughts, is a wonderful kindness of Hashem. Just how does your mind direct your thoughts to thoughts of kindness?  We have no way to explain this with our present limited knowledge, but the knowledge we do have of what we are able to do, is something for which to be grateful.  What would your entire life be like from now on if you would take this Pasuk as a concept to focus on frequently? There is only one way to really answer this question accurately, and that is to make this Pasuk-- Chesed Kel Kol HaYom a verse that will frequently be on your lips. For when you repeat it out loud and to yourself, your inner mind will focus on the kindnesses that you are experiencing right now, on this very day.


A joyful middle-aged man was asked, “What was a major breakthrough in your life?” He related, “I used to be what one would consider a negative person.  Until about ten years ago I would frequently complain and kvetch, I usually focusing on what I did not like. Each and every day a number of things were not going exactly as I wanted them to. This would make me unhappy. I considered myself a constant victim of circumstances. I would have been much happier if other people, and my life in general, would be more the way I wanted. In addition, I never had enough money, and I was terrified that in the future I would be short of the money that I needed to live. I was filled with insecurity and anxiety. Then a Rabbi told me that he could tell me four words that would totally change my entire emotional life. I was skeptical.  “Four words?” I challenged him. “Do you really believe that after three years of therapy that helped a bit but did not make me a happy person, you can just tell me four words and those four words will transform my entire life?”  “Try it, I am not claiming that these four words are magic, and that just by my saying them or your repeating them, you will become a happy person. What I am saying to you is that these four words contain a mind-set that can totally transform your life when you give thought to what they mean, and you frequently think about this during the day. I’ll only agree to share them with you if you give me your word that you will make a serious effort to apply them for just one day.” “One day is a long time,” I argued. “What about for just one hour?” “Nothing doing!” the Rabbi said firmly but kindly.  “If you are not committed to think about this for an entire day, I don’t think that you are serious when you say that you would like to know how to improve your emotional condition.  If you do not care about your own well-being, my just wishing you well will not really help you. For this to work, you need a real commitment. After a day of applying what I am suggesting, if you feel that you prefer to be grumpy, negative and depressed, that will be your choice. However, I must know that you really mean what you say, when you say that you truly want to become a happier person.” I saw that the Rabbi was going to be stubborn, or as he would say, ‘steadfast,’ about not telling me his formula unless I committed to giving it a try for an entire day, so I reluctantly said I would do it. He then told me the verse that has been my motto, and blueprint for life, ever since that moment. The four Hebrew words are Chesed Keil Kol HaYom, the Kindness of Hashem is all day long. Since I said it in Hebrew, it was just four words.  He told me that I should start the next day from the moment I woke up until the end of the day. It was amazing! That day was one of the best days of my life. I kept projecting how wonderful my life would be if I kept this up each and every day.  At times I would feel badly that I had wasted so much time in the past feeling needlessly miserable, but that too would be a lack of focusing on the kindnesses of Hashem.  I realized that it would be much wiser to view my past unhappiness as a way to gain greater appreciation for the present happiness in my life!”


Hakhel Note:  Let us move ourselves every day with these words-- Chesed Keil Kol HaYom!



STOP AND SMELL THE ROSES! 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!



10 Iyar

OUR PARASHA VERSUS THE WESTERN WORLD: It is important to note that of the Mitzvos in this week’s Parasha of Acharei Mos- many 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. The western world incredibly considers some of the Arayos as ‘victimless’ crimes. We, on the other hand, believe that not only are the participants and those who encourage them at fault, but that the degenerate mores impact horrendously on the world at large. We need go no further than the Pasuk “Ki Hishchis Kol Bassar EsDarko Al Ha’Aretz”—for all flesh had corrupted its way upon the earth (Bereishis 6:12), and the literal destruction of the world  at the time of the Flood that resulted in  its aftermath. We must do something to distance ourselves far, far, far away from this behavior.  Each of us (man and woman, young and old, city worker and chareidi neighborhood dweller) can do something to improve his/her situation in this regard—to bring a greater, tangible Kedusha into one’s life. It is now less than 40 days to Matan Torah—in which the Kedusha from on High—the Torah-- was brought down to this world for transmission to us all in each generation. Let us make ourselves eminently worthy of it—not only by contemplation and reflection—but in deed and in restraint.



B’TZEDEK TISHPOT AMISECHA! In this week’s Parasha (Vayikra 19:15 ), we learn B’Tzedek Tishpot Amisecha--we are to judge our friends favorably.  What if we do not? We provide several points:


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


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


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


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


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


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



A PRACTICAL REVIEW OF CONSTRUCTIVE CRITICISM: Hochayach Tochiach Es Amisecho, V’lo Siso Alov Chait--You shall rebuke your fellow man, and you shall not bear sin because of him.” (19:17)  We are commanded to correct someone who behaves improperly, whether in matters pertaining to man’s relations with G-d or man’s relationship with his fellow man. Once again, Rabbi Zelig Pliskin, Shlita, provides the following essential guidelines:


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


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


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


*If someone transgresses in public, you should rebuke him immediately so as not to cause a Chillul Hashem.  For example, if someone is in the middle of speaking 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).


*You must be very careful not to grow angry when rebuking someone.  Rebuke delivered in anger will not be heeded.  Even when you admonish your children or other members of your family, you should do so in a pleasant tone of voice.


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


*If a person you have rebuked did not heed you the first time, you should continue to rebuke him as many times as necessary until he corrects his ways.  The Talmud says “Even a hundred times”.  The Chofetz Chaim gives an analogy to someone who sells apples from a stand.  He will keep calling out “Apples for sale!” the entire day.  Even if only one passerby in a hundred heeds his sales pitch, it is worthwhile.  This is his livelihood, and he cannot afford to remain silent.  The same is true of rebuke.  Of course, a person does not always effect a change in the recipient of his rebuke.  But even if he is successful only occasionally, it is worth his efforts.


*A person should feel love for someone who rebukes him.  A person is willing to pay a doctor for trying to heal him; how much more grateful should he be to someone who corrects his spiritual failings.


*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).



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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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



9 Iyar



Agudath Israel’s Conference of Synagogue Rabbonim wishes to alert the entire Tzibbur to an important Ribbis issue raised by prominent Poskim.


Quicken Loans (QL), a leading mortgage lending institution in the USA, is Halachically under majority Jewish ownership. Upon thorough investigation, prominent leading Halachic authorities have issued a P’sak (displayed on the following link--http://www.hakhel.info/archivesPublicService/RibisNoticeQuickenAlert.pdf )  Rocket Mortgage] is in danger of transgressing the prohibition of Ribbis D’oraisa.


It has come to our attention that upon inquiry of prospective customers, QL has been providing information stating that there is no need for a Heter Iska when obtaining a mortgage from them. We therefore feel compelled to counter this misinformation by alerting the public to the P’sak of Gedolei HaRabbonim which states unequivocally that it is forbidden Al-Pi Torah for any Jew to take a mortgage or any other form of loan from Quicken Loans or its subsidiaries-or any other Jewish-owned lending institution-without a valid Heter Iska.





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


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


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



SIX IN ONE:  Chazal (Sanhedrin 20A) teach that in a generation of Rebbi Yehudah the son of Rebbi Ilai the poverty was so great that six people were forced to cover themselves with one tallis.  HaRav Chaim Shmuelevitz, Z’tl, provides an outstanding insight on this Chazal.  If six individuals were able to cover themselves with one tallis, it meant that no one individual was pulling the tallis too much towards him, and in fact that each individual was allowing the covering to be pulled in all directions by his different ‘partners’.  Chazal teach that despite the abject poverty of this generation, it superseded much wealthier and seemingly more prominent generations in the power of its prayers.  The lesson to us all is obvious.  When one feels himself struggling and at apparent odds with another--and even with legitimate reason--he should allow himself to let that other person have ‘a little bit of the tallis’.  Only children should care about who wins in a ‘tug of war’. We should see how far we can go in sharing, giving and even relenting to another.  We can really go much farther than we think--while still keeping ourselves covered.  As we speed through the days of Sefira--almost reaching the halfway point, we should be sure to let go of the tallis a little bit more in the challenging situations--which will be a clear and effective demonstration that we have in fact grabbed hold of the Sefira and its lessons to us.  The next time you feel a tug--don’t respond by pulling hard in your direction as you did when you were a child--but let it slip gently to bring pleasure to, and build relationships with, the person who is tugging at it with you!



WHAT DOES HASHEM REALLY WANT Dovid HaMelech himself (Tehillim 147:11) writesRotze Hashem Es YereiavHashem wants those who fear Him, those who look out for His kindness.”  From this Posuk, it is clear that, succinctly stated, Hashem would like us to recognize, acknowledge and appreciate that our entire existence is permeated and imbibed with His Chasodim--Kindnesses.  It is therefore no coincidence that, in another Posuk in Tehillim (26:3), Dovid HaMelech specifically relates “Ki Chasdicha L’Neged Aiynei--[I place] Your kindness in front of my eyes.”  Every so often during the day we should take a moment or two to recognize and express our appreciation for the multitude of kindnesses that Hashem is performing for us at that very moment--and try to tangibly feel and experience as many of them as possible.  Take the senses, for example.  Sight and the beauty of what you can see; hearing and the consequent words of Torah you can learn from others; smell and an appreciation of necessary nutrients entering your body in a pleasant way; walking with your feet, legs and hips in concert to Shul, to work and to help others; touching and being able to hold, push and move objects for the benefit of yourself and others.


Of course, this is only a cursory list of some of the immediate items around us.  As we have noted in the past, the beautiful prayer known as “Nishmas” which is recited on Shabbos, Yom Tov, on the night of the Seder, and by some at a Seudas Hoda’ah--a meal of thanks, contains the following moving words: “Were our mouth as full of song as the sea [is of water], and our tongue as full of joyous song as its multitudes of waves, and our lips as full of praise as the breadth of the heavens, and our eyes as brilliant as the sun and the moon, and our hands as outspread as eagles of the sky and our feet as swift as hinds [deer]--we still could not thank You sufficiently Hashem our G-d and the G-d of our forefathers, and bless Your name for even one of the thousand-thousand, thousands of thousands and myriad myriads of favors that You performed for our ancestors and for us… (Translation from the Complete Artscroll Siddur).


Each and every one of us is faced with concomitant daily, short-term, and long-term troubles, trials and tribulations, which may be or are very difficult and very real.  We should not, however, lose sight of all that we have to be thankful for.  Another sunrise, another day of life, is truly, in all reality, another opportunity to acquire everlasting eternity through the performance of Mitzvos and proper conduct in life.  As HaRav Moshe Tuvia Lieff, Shlita, related at a Hakhel Shiur in the name of one of his Baalei Batim--”My cup may be smaller than that of others--but it is still full!!”


When we realize that we have moments in which we can ponder a bit (or when we are reflective enough to create those special moments), let us think of the words of Nishmas cited above, and let us emulate the words of Dovid HaMelech (who went through so many trials and tribulations in his own life), as he declared to the world:  [I place] Your kindness in front of my eyes!



KAVOD IMPROVEMENT SUGGESTIONS: 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 important 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) last Shabbos:  ‘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. Be free with compliments, and loving with constructive criticism.  


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


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


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


7.  If you had a disagreement, ask for forgiveness first, before your friend 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.    Do not yell, scream, or speak coarsely but speak gently, remember that you are speaking to a member of Hashem’s Royal Household!


10. 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!



8 Iyar

AS A FOLLOW UP FOR THE SHABBOS SHEMIRAS HALASHON COUNT--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!



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!”



DO IT TODAY! We must appreciate the value and importance of receiving brachos from others. Chazal teach that even the bracha of a hedyot should not be treated lightly. Today, ask three people for brachos (for either something specific, or in general)… and answer with a sincere and heartfelt “Amen!”. Hakhel Note: You can do this every day!



CLOSE YOUR EYES FOR A MINUTE: 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 operates--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 minute or so in the morning and in the evening--as a time to sit and close our eyes in order to think about a particular 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!



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!



TORAH AND YIRAH:  In the Sefer Ruach Chaim (1:14), HaRav Chaim Volozhiner, Z’tl, writes that the study of Torah and Yirah is different from the business and affairs of this world in three important ways:


1.  Torah and Yirah are dependent entirely upon the person himself, and is what Hashem asks of a person to accomplish.  Parnassah, on the other hand, comes only from Hashem and there is accordingly no need to overly exert oneself to attain it. 


2.  In worldly affairs, Hashem will not add on to what a person is deserving of because of his added toil--whereas, with regard to Torah, ‘Haba LeTaher Mesayin Oso--the more one acts to purify himself, the more he is assisted.’  Moreover, Hashem will view all of a person’s accomplishments in Torah and Yirah, as if they were wholly accomplished by the person himself, even though none of it could have been accomplished without Hashem’s Chessed. 


3.  In commonplace matters, that which a person does not accomplish today, he can still accomplish tomorrow.  In Torah, that which was lost today, is forever lost and cannot be made up.  On the other hand, that which is accomplished is not accomplished only for today--but forever, and ever!


Remember--Torah was created before creation, so is not bound by time--and will lovingly carry us beyond time as well!



HASHEM’S HAND!  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!



5 Iyar

QUESTION OF THE DAY: What is another name for Iyar (other than the Second Month of the Year)?



ANSWERING AMEN OVER THE PHONE: In a recent Bulletin, we suggested that rather than making a bracha over the phone in an undertone while the other person is talking, one should instead advise the other person on the line that he was about to make a bracha and ask the other person to answer Amen. A reader questioned whether a person could answer Amen to a bracha heard over the phone (or over a microphone).  The Dirshu Edition of the Mishna Berurah (Orach Chaim 230, Note 15) brings that HaRav Shlomo Zalman Auerbach rules that one should not in fact answer Amen to such a bracha, as it not heard directly from the one reciting the bracha, who is located in a distant place. However, the Chazon Ish rules that because the voice is initially that of a person, and is heard immediately after being uttered, it is considered as if one heard the bracha from the one who recited it. HaRav Moshe Feinstein, Z'tl, also rules that one should answer Amen to a bracha heard over the telephone or microphone. Accordingly, one should consult with his Rav or Posek for a definite p’sak on this point.





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.


Hakhel Note:  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). 


Reminder!:  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.



THIS SHABBOS FROM THE CHOFETZ CHAIM HERITAGE FOUNDATION! Hundreds of Rabbonim and Kehillos across North America will be participating in a Nationwide Shabbos to strengthen the crucial Mitzvah of Shemiras HaLashon. The Nationwide Shabbos will focus on the proper Shemiras HaMitzvah as it relates to WhatsApp groups, blogs, News website comments and the like. “Today, in the span of five minutes, hundreds and even thousands can see embarrassing and humiliating videos and comments that destroy people’s reputations, causing untold anguish and damage. Together we can make an impact!” By the following links we provide important information, including The Ten Rules of WhatsApp. For further information, please call 845-352-3505.  http://www.hakhel.info/archivesPublicService/CCHFShabbosProgramGuide.pdf




WE CONTINUE OUR EREV SHABBOS—HILCHOS SHABBOS SERIES: As always, one must consult his own Rav or Posek regarding his particular facts or circumstances.


A. The Tissue Box. Many tissue boxes, in addition to a perforated cardboard cover, also have underneath it a perforated plastic protective cover, which must be opened in order to reach the tissues. Opening the plastic on the perforation may actually involve three different Melachos: (i) Korei’ah, (ii) Mechateich; and (iii) Makeh B’Patish (see The 39 Melachos by Rabbi Dovid Ribiat, Shlita). While the simple act of opening on the perforation may take a second and can be done by children, it could truly involve the most serious of transgressions. Accordingly, one should take note to fully open all tissue boxes before Shabbos. Please assist your Shul, as necessary, in this regard--and let others know as well!


B. The follow rulings are from HaShabbos BeTifarta by Rav Avrohom Adas, Shlita of Yerushalayim, (Hebrew, and Volume 2):


a. [In a similar vein to what is mentioned above,] one may not rip a thin plastic table cloth from a roll—even if it is not on the perforation, because you have in all events prepared it for use (Koraya).


b. One may not utilize a one-time use bib by punching out the plastic of the head area (Koraya).


c. One may not separate a new pair of socks attached by a string, or remove price tags or cleaners tags which are sewn or stapled into clothing (Koraya). However, if they are merely hung from a plastic string, one can remove the tag, because it is not attached tightly, and its removal does not affect the clothing in the same way as something stapled or sewn, which is considered more intrinsically part of the clothing.


d. One may remove a Sefer that is tightly squeezed in a Seforim shrank, even though it is stuck to its adjoining Seforim—and one can put it back after use, even though it will again become stuck to its adjoining Seforim (it is clearly not one’s intent to attach or detach the Seforim).


e. If a silver polish was left on a Kiddush cup, it should not be rinsed off (Memachek).



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! 



THE TEN RULES OF SHEMIRAS HALASHON: 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 are 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!




POINTS AND POINTERS ON THIS WEEK’S PARASHIYOS:  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.  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. 


C.  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!


D.  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!


E.  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!


F. 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!


G. 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!


H. 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! 


H. 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. 


I. In fact, the Chofetz Chaim (Kavod 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).


J. 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!


 K.  It is fascinating to note that the situation described in the Haftarah 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!



4 Iyar

CONTEMPORARY TERMINOLOGY: Do you think that “What’s up?” or “Chill” have Lashon HaKodesh equivalents? If not, what does that tell you about the use of these terms, and those like them...



A RESPONSE----From a Reader: “In response to your question of why we don’t count two days of sefira due to doubt, I have the following answer: “The Rishonim - Raza [Baal Hamaor] and Ran on end of Pesachim - explain that the reason is because this would belittle the holiday of Shavuos, as one would have to count Sefira on the first night of Shavuos, which would be a contradiction to the sanctity of Shavuos and a belittlement of the festival [similar to saying leishev basukkah on Shemini Atzeres due to the fact that perhaps it is still Sukkos, which would belittle the festival of Shemini Atzeres and therefore we don’t do it].”


Hakhel Note: The Reader provided other responses as well--you too can do your own research!



WHO WAS NA’AMI?:  We are now less than four weeks from the giving of the Torah in 5778.  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 Na’ami that impressed her so much?  The Midrash (Rus Rabbah 2:5) gives an explanation:  Why was she called Na’ami?  Because her actions were sweet and pleasantRus saw in Na’ami 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 proofs of the existence of a Creator 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 TorahOne 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 (Na’ami) 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:  It is no coincidence that the Sefira is a time of growth in Bain Odom LeChaveiro, as a necessary prerequisite to Kabbalas HaTorah.  Rabbi Frand’s Hakhel Sefira Shiur on narcissism was an OUTSTANDING review and presentation of how a Torah Jew is to conduct his life both inwardly and outwardly.  We urge you to obtain a cd of the Shiur, by contacting 718-252-5274. Listening to and applying Rabbi Frand’s great teachings will emanate far beyond this Sefira period--long and far into life!



THE PATH TO KABBALAS HATORAH:  At the outset of the Sefer Sha’arei Teshuva, the Rabbeinu Yonah writes that Teshuva is not a one-month or ten day of the year attempt, but is a daily requirement for one who realizes that the Yetzer Hara has bested him in some way. In fact, one who makes the mistake of putting off  his Teshuva to a later time may very well be committing a greater indiscretion than the first sin itself!  As we know, the three aspects of immediate Teshuva are Charata (true remorse and regret for what was done), Kabala Ahl HaAsid--setting up a safeguard or taking a measure or measures so that it does not happen so fast again, and Vidui--admitting and confessing that you made a wrong turn.  The Sefer Tomer Devorah provides a profound insight into the concept of Vidui.  He writes that when one verbally expresses his sin to Hashem, his Kavannah should be ‘lekabel alav tahara’--to bring upon himself a purity, a cleansing.  As Dovid HaMelech expresses in the Perek HaTeshuva (Tehillim 51): “Herev Cabseini MaiAvoni--abundantly cleanse me from my iniquity” (ibid. 51:4). Some feel,or at least hope for, a greater sense of purity and cleansing when they immerse in a mikva on Erev Shabbos, or Erev Yom Tov.  We, Dovid HaMelech teaches, have the opportunity to accomplish a true cleansing, a real purification, with the sincere words of Vidui which we articulate.  How and why could a person who realizes that his life needs some fixing wait days or months--when he can freely immerse in the comfort of his home or office--in a kabala of tahara through a  heartfelt and genuine expression of vidui!


Additional Note:  We don’t have to wait to recite Vidui to use our mouths for great accomplishments.  Shlomo HaMelech, the wisest of all men, teaches in Mishlei (12:8): ‘Lefi Sichlo Yehulal Ish’, which we could take to mean that a person is praised in accordance with the level of his wisdom.. The Targum there, however, provides a more telling explanation.  It translates ‘Lefi’ not as ‘in accordance with’, but instead as ‘to the mouth’--so that the Pasuk in fact reads (translated) “a person is praised by the wisdom that is uttered from his mouth.”  What is the greatest wisdom that one can attain?  Obviously, Torah which Hashem gave to us--and told us is the best thing for us in life. When we recite in Ma’ariv “Ki Haim Chayeinu--for they (the Torah and the Mitzvos contained within it) are our life--it is no allegory or parable.  By making a special effort to relate a D’var Torah when the situation or event seems devoid of Torah, to actually cheer someone’s spirits with a teaching from Chazal, to share a thought that you heard from a Rav or Maggid Shiur with a friend or business associate--doesn’t only show that you know something--but also decidedly demonstrates, says the wisest of all men, that you are especially worthy of praise for the words of your mouth. 


As we proceed to Kabalas HaTorah, we can accomplish oh so much more by letting go on the rope to another, and by focusing and directing our utterances to words of Torah--Lefi Sichlo-- in the various situations and circumstances we find ourselves in.  The life of a shopkeeper, school teacher, person you are sitting next to at a simcha or on a bus, neighbor, friend or family member can all be eternally enhanced by a D’var Torah that you just learned and exert the effort to relate --and you can actually change someone’s life.  So don’t shy away in carrying a Torah thought further--and be praised for your wisdom by Hashem and by man--because you deserve it!



LIKE A FISH IN WATER…: In honor of our recognition that we need Torah as a fish needs water, we provide the following five brief questions and answers relating to Torah study that were asked of HaRav Chaim Kanievsky, Shlita, as excerpted from the Kuntres Derech Torah:


A. Question: When we recite Birchas HaTorah in the morning, we immediately thereafter recite Birkas Kohanim. Why do we recite these Pesukim? Answer: It is a Siman Bracha (see Shulchan Aruch Orach Chaim 47, Mishna Berurah seif katan 20). The Kuntres itself brings that there are 60 letters in Birkas Kohanim corresponding to the 60 Mesechtas of the Talmud.


B. Question: Why do we recite Eilu Devarim She’ein Lahem Shiur after Birkas Kohanim? Answer: Because it ends with the words V’Talmud Torah K’neged Kulam--allowing us to appreciate where Birkas HaTorah leads us!


C. Question: Based upon the words of the Rema in Shulchan Aruch Orach Chaim 155 and the Mishna Berurah there, it appears that one should set aside a specific place in the Beis HaMidrash in which he learns. Is this a chiyuv as it is in Tefillah? Answer: It is an Inyan Gadol.


D. Question: If one is learning in Kollel and is being paid for doing so--does he still have a separate chiyuv to be Kove’ah Itim LaTorah without pay? Answer: Since the Kollel student could have been doing something else during that time for which he could have been paid, his Kollel study is considered as a Keviyus Itim LaTorah.


E. Question: If one has a Mitzvah that no one else can perform, or must make a doctor’s appointment, i.e., a permitted circumstance for which he may interrupt his learning and he has a choice between doing so during the day or at night--is it preferable to interrupt his learning by day--or by night? Answer: One’s day time learning is more important--see Eruvin 65A.



3 Iyar

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



THE OUTSTANDING NATURE OF PRAYER: Among Hashem’s acts of love was the opportunity that He gave man to approach Him, even in this world. Even though man is immersed in darkness and far from the Light in his natural physical state, he is still permitted to stand before Hashem and call Him by His Name. Man is thus able to temporarily elevate himself from his lowly natural state to exist in a state of closeness to Hashem, casting his burden upon Him. This is the reason for the strict rule prohibiting any interruption whatsoever during [the Amidah, which is the paradigm of] prayer. This is because of the very high degree of closeness to Hashem that one places himself in at such a time. This is also the reason why it was ordained to take leave at the end of the Amidah, by taking three steps backwards. These steps represent man’s return to his normal state, where he must remain at all other times.” [Excerpted from Derech Hashem by HaRav Moshe Chaim Luzzatto, Z’tl, as translated in the outstanding English translation by Rabbi Aryeh Kaplan, Z’tl (Feldheim)]



IT’S NOT ABOUT RETIREMENT: The Mishna in this week’s Pirkei Avos (2:5) teaches: “V’Ahl Tomar Lichshe’efneh Eshneh Shema Lo Sipaneh--do not say that when I will be free I will learn, for maybe you will not be free.” Rabbi Eliyahu Schneider, Shlita, points to the Tiferes Yisrael who teaches that the Mishna is not talking about a person saying that when he is older and stops working that he will then start learning more. Rather, the Mishna refers to our activities on a day-by-day basis. One should not think that ‘these five minutes’ he can improperly use, for he will use ‘another five minutes’ properly. Each and every portion of life--no matter how big or how small--is eternally important. Indeed, you may be so busy tomorrow--that those five minutes may not come. Use ‘these’ five minutes--especially for the study of Torah--today!



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!



REMINDER--MITZVOS TZRICHOS KAVANNAH! Rabbi Daniel Garfinkel, Shlita, has authored a wonderful work on Mitzvos Tzrichos Kavannah--stating or thinking the simple intention before doing any mitzvah: “I am fulfilling the mitzvah of ____, as Hashem commanded.” What does this mean? Look at all the mitzvohs we do individually and in many different kinds of groups, from Yeshivas to Shuls, Daf Yomi, Shiurim, Tehillim groups, etc. We devote and dedicate ourselves in so many ways and on so many levels to helping ourselves, our loved ones and K’lal Yisrael through these beautiful thoughts and actions. But, we should affirmatively state what we are doing and why we are doing it. If we do not, then it is like writing a gorgeous, heartfelt letter to Hashem and putting it in the mailbox without a stamp! We were alerted to this by www.kavanahkards.com By the following link http://tinyurl.com/k2sq4no, we provide the text of a magnet which one can place in a convenient place to remind himself of this great daily practice. To obtain the Mitzvos Tzrichos Kavannah work  magnet, please contact kavanahkards@gmail.com



QUESTION OF THE WEEK:  In Chutz LaAretz, we keep two days of Yom Tov because of the original Sefeika D’Yoma (doubt as to which day Yom Tov really came out) in Chutz LaAretz which was far from Yerushalayim, which remained our Minhag even after we became sure of the actual dates--such as which day is really the 15th of Nissan.  This being so, why don’t we keep two counts for Sefira--one beginning on the second night of Pesach as usual, and a second count beginning on the third night of Pesach as the Sefeika D’Yoma of the previous night?  It would not, after all, be so complicated at all--with our simply reciting that today is the 18th day of the Omer, pausing a few seconds and saying that today is the 17th day of the Omer. We eat Matzah and Maror, and maintain an entire Seder on the second night of Pesach--can’t we do the same for our precious Sefira count --with the second additional count simply being completed--on the second day of Shavuos instead of the first!




AN IMPORTANT SEFIRA THOUGHT! 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 Shavuos, 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 every one--man, women and children of all ages have to ascend to the Bais HaMikdash on one particular day to hear a portion of the Torah being read?!


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


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



2 Iyar


FINAL CALL! By the following link, we provide a magnificent opportunity to review the Chovos Helevavos Sha’ar Habechina in 29 short segments over the month of Iyar. This is an outstanding opportunity! Spread the word! http://www.hakhel.info/archivesPublicService/Sha'arHaBechinahScheduleIyar.pdf 



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--pleading with Hashem to shower us with His unlimited mercy--and the Geulah Sheleima in our day!



MODIM! The outstanding Sefer Praying with Meaning (Artscroll, Rabbi Heshy Kleinman, Shlita’s latest publication), which proceeds through Tefillas Shacharis in 89 powerful and practical daily lessons, provides the teaching of the Avudraham, who writes that the Gematria of Modim is 100--representing the 100 daily brachos in which we should express our daily thanks to Hashem!


Hakhel Note: The Mishna Berurah (Shulchan Aruch Orach Chaim 127: 1), seif katan 5, writes that “haolam nohagim” when responding to Modim D’Rabbanan in Shemone Esrei to remain bowed throughout. The Chazon Ish, Z’tl and HaRav Chaim Kanievsky, y’blcht, however, follow another minhag mentioned in Shulchan Aruch which is to bow at the outset of Modim D’Rabbanan, and at its end (Ahl She’anachnu Modim Lach…), but not during the entire recital (ibid., Dirshu Note 7). Accordingly, one should follow his Rav’s direction in this area.



WILL IT BE ACCEPTED?  In a 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 tzara, 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 in Chutz La’aretz. 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!



MORE ON REFUAH IN IYAR: 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!



GUIDE TO DERECH ERETZ PART TWO:  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, Z’tl (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).



1 Iyar

FOCUSING ON THE MIDDAH OF AHAVAS HASHEM: A new round of Middos Challenges [http://www.torahdesigns.com/middos-challenges/] began yesterday, focusing on the Middah of Ahavas Hashem. We say every day in Shema “V’Ohavta Es Hashem Elokecha...” - but how do we develop that love? If I don’t feel love of Hashem already, is there anything I can do to change my feelings?


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SHA’AR HABECHINA! By the following link, we provide a magnificent opportunity to review the Chovos Helevavos Sha’ar Hebechina in 29 short segments over the month of Iyar. This is an outstanding opportunity! Spread the word!




LOOKING UP!  As we begin the eighth month of the year 5778--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 Chamisha Chumshei 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?



CONNECTION TO THE BINYAN BEIS HAMIKDASH! 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!



A TIME FOR HEALING!  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!


ADDITIONAL NOTE: A reader wrote the following to us:   Rabbi  Nachman of Breslov writes that the word IYAR is Roshei Taivos of the words  ”Oyvai Yoshuvu Yaivoshu Roga,” thus indicating that the month of IYAR is  conducive to see a Mapala for the enemies of K’lal Yisrael!” Hakhel Note: When  reciting Tachanun during this month we should have especial Kavannah when  reciting these words--that they come to immediate reality!



FROM A PRAYING WITH FIRE 2 READER: In a related vein to our concept of refuah, we received the following: “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.”



DAF BAIS: With the Daf Yomi’s commencement of Seder Kodshim and Mesechta Zevachim yesterday, 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!


Hakhel Note: May Mesechta Zevachim become as Halacha L’Ma’aseh as Shulchan Aruch Orach Chaim is to us in the very near future--even still today!



FROM A READER ON THE ‘ZUGOS’ OF REBBI AKIVA:  “Chazal relate: ‘Shnaim 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 Rebbe 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 Kovod Zeh Bazeh”.”


Hakhel Note: There are now only approximately five (5) weeks left to the Omer…try to apply this lesson every day until Shavuos!



28 Nissan

IMPORTANT:  Birkas HaIlanos Reminder!  If you have not already made the bracha--Don’t Delay Any Further--and be mezakeh others with a sincere reminder! 



TODAY!:  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!



RESIST TEMPTATION: When on the phone (especially on a long phone call), one may be tempted to take a drink and make a quick bracha in an undertone while the other person is talking. Upon a second thought, however one should realize that making this kind of bracha is not necessarily a ‘reiach nechoach’ and one should try his best to avoid a bracha of this kind. In the alternative, one can tell the listener--’I am going to make a bracha--please answer Amen!’





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


B.  The Shulchan Aruch (Orach Chaim 252:7) rules that it is a Mitzvah to check one’s pockets on Erev Shabbos in order to ensure that he will not carry outside or carry a Muktzah item inside, even on Shabbos. If one forgot to check his pockets on Erev Shabbos, he must do so as soon as he remembers on Shabbos itself.  The Dirshu Edition of the Mishna Berurah (ibid.) notes that, although others differ, the G’ra and the Shulchan Aruch HaRav both rule that one should not place any objects into his pockets at all on Shabbos itself--but rather should carry them in his hand--in order not to subject himself to the possible violation of the Issur Hotza’ah.  HaRav Shlomo Zalmen Auerbach, Z’tl, rules that in places where there is a Rishus Harabbim Min HaTorah, one should certainly follow the ruling of the G’ra and the Shulchan Aruch HaRav.


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





A. At the beginning of this week’s Parasha, Shemini, we find that Moshe Rabbeinu first “Called to Aharon...” and only afterwards “Spoke to Aharon.” HaRav Yechezkel Sarna, Z’tl, notes that when one wants to speak with a person, he should call him specifically by his name, and only then continue with a conversation. Mentioning someone’s name can create a special level of endearment and closeness, a human bond. Moshe Rabbeinu may very well have learned this very beautiful Middah from Hashem Himself, Who at the outset of Sefer 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 take the lead of Hashem--and of Moshe Rabbeinu--and call to a person by name before starting a conversation. May this serve as a source of bracha in enhancing all of our personal relationships!


B. The Kotzker Rebbe, Z’tl, provides a potent teaching for us in this week’s Parasha. The Pasuk (Vayikra 9:6) teaches: “VaYomer Moshe Zeh HaDavar Asher Tzivah Hashem Ta’asu VeYairah Aleichem Kevod Hashem--And Moshe said--this is what Hashem has commanded you to do--then the Glory of Hashem will appear to you.”  The Kotzker comments that many believe that they are very much ready to reach ‘Madreigos Gevohos--lofty heights in their lives.’  Moshe Rabbeinu, however, advises us: Do you truly want to attain Madreigos, do you truly wish to elevate yourselves--then do what Hashem wants you to do--work on removing the Yetzer Hora from your heart. How? Think About, Focus on, What Hashem wants You To Do in the Particular Situation, Circumstance or Event You are in--and do not focus on the Yetzer Hora and his myopic, temporary and destructive whims, fancies and attitudes.   If you work at this, if you move towards accomplishment in giving--not the Yetzer Hora--but Hashem the Nachas of your doing His Will--then the Glory of Hashem will appear to you, and all of the Madreigos that you sought will fall gently and everlastingly into place. Let us take the Kotzker’s words with us in the second half of this year--by making sure as often and as resolutely as we can to follow the words of the Pasuk--Asher Tzivah Hashem Ta’asu--so that VeYairah Aleichem Kevod Hashem--the Glory of Hashem appears TO US--forever, and ever and ever!


C. The Torah records that after Aharon and Moshe did everything they were supposed to do during the Yemei HaMelu’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 Aharon V’Moshe Ehl Ohel Mo’ed.” Rashi (ibid., in one explanation) explains that they entered together and asked for Hashem’s mercy--and the Shechinah descended. We must realize the great importance and in spite of and in addition to all our actions--of asking Hashem for His mercy!


D. At the outset of the Parasha of Kashrus, Rashi 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, Rashi continues (11:2) Hashem gave us the laws which separate use from impurity, which he gave to no other nation. There is a great lesson here: When observing the lessons of Kashrus and being careful with the Hashgachos and the products that one utilizes--one should not view this as a burden and a chore--but as a special and unique privilege given by Hashem to us and to no other nation 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!


E. 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.  We may, however, 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 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!


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. The G’ra teaches that a person can determine what his tachlis is in this world by understanding and studying the situations that: (a) he most frequently encounters--for they are new G-d given opportunities to succeed, and (b) the items and events that one has the greatest ‘cheshek’ --the greatest desire for--for these are his key life tests to pass, and if possible, excel at.  Just as our faces are different, so are our roads to Olam Haba--we are all on the same road with the same method of transportation, but will each get there in different ways, at different times, and will enjoy different lodgings.   The elevated spirit in which we raised ourselves up from servitude and bondage--from the difficulties and tribulations of Olam Hazeh--on the Seder night, should be the spirit that takes us through the year-- as we remind ourselves that if we can stay clear of the contamination and instead uplift ourselves to holiness through the process of our Galus, we--as the Chad Gadya-- will be left at the end--with the One and Only Hakadosh Baruch Hu!



SHALUACH HAKAN: As this week the Parasha taught us about Kosher animals, birds and fish, we once again provide a brief summary on the kashrus of turkey, as excerpted from the Sefer Shaleiach Teshalach--A Practical Guide to the Mitzvah of Shiluach HaKan, by Rabbi Naftali Weinberger, Shlita (Feldheim Publishers)--which notes that Israel today actually leads the world in turkey consumption(!): 


1. The Damesek Eliezer, the Knesses Hagedolah and the Shoel U’Maishiv all rule that the turkey has all of the signs of a Kosher bird-- a crop; a gizzard that is peelable by hand; an ‘extra toe’; and, even beyond these three core simanim,  the turkey is clearly not a ‘doress’--it does not have the characteristics of a predatory species. The Arugas Habosem writes that even the Rema, who requires a Mesorah for birds, would agree here that no Mesorah is necessary because of all of the turkey’s clear Simanim..


2. The Sefer Otzar Yisrael writes that while definitely today we would follow the Rema’s requirement of a Mesorah for birds --turkey is an exception because it was discovered approximately 50 years before the Rema was born, and did not lose its status once it had become accepted.


3. Other Poskim (See Bach and Magen Avrohom to Shulchan Aruch, Orach Chaim 79) hold that the Gemara (Yerushalmi Berachos 3:5) refers to a ‘red chicken’ which is really the turkey--which means it had its early sources in Eretz Yisrael... and somehow made its way to America!


4. A fourth possibility is that we rely on the Mesora of the Jews of India, who it is claimed had a Mesorah dating back to the times Moshe Rabbeinu that the bird was Kosher.  This is perhaps why we refer to the turkey as the ‘Tarnigol Hodu ‘--the Indian chicken, and in Yiddish as well it is referred to as the ‘Indik’--or the Indian bird.


5. The Netziv writes that when turkey was originally imported into Europe many questioned its Mesorah. Nevertheless, it became widely accepted, and this accepted status need not be Halachically removed unless there would be a compelling reason to do so--in short, turkey is treated L’Halacha as if it had a Mesorah! The Netziv actually suggests that if the turkey’s status had been called into question before it became so widely accepted as kosher, the poskim definitely would have declared it as non-kosher due to its lack of Mesorah.  Given the current situation, the Netziv favors maintaining the status quo.


Among the more contemporary Poskim, HaRav Moshe Feinstein, Z’tl discusses the permissibility of eating turkey on Thanksgiving, thus clearly holding that it is permissible to otherwise consume it. Similarly, the Chazon Ish, Z’tl and the Steipeler Gaon, Z’tl ate turkey (Orchos Rabbeinu III, p.72), and HaRav Chaim Kanievsky, Shlita eats it as well.  HaRav Yaakov Kamenetsky, Z’tl did not eat turkey because his Rebbitzen Itta Ettel came from Shavell, Lithuania, where the minhag of the whole town was not to eat turkey since it lacked a Mesorah. HaRav Yaakov accepted this upon himself, but did not require his family to do so. His son, HaRav Shmuel Kamenetsky, Shlita, accepted his father’s practice and does not eat turkey--but his children and extended family do--for it was accepted only as a stringency, and not as a custom.


The above is of course only a short aspect of this important Sefer on the Halachos (and Hashkafos) of Shiluach Hakan,.  The Sefer is otherwise filled with unique and fascinating Halachos on how to properly perform the Mitzvah, contains the Shailos U’Teshuvos of HaRav Chaim Kanievsky, Shlita on this Mitzvah--and a discussion of all of the segulos involved in its proper performance!



AS WE BEGIN THE MONTH OF IYAR NEXT WEEK:  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!



27 Nissan





AN ESSENTIAL WORK ON TZEDAKA AND MAASER KESAFIM: http://hakhel.info//archivesPublicService/PracticalGuideTzedakah.pdf



FROM A READER: “This thought is regarding our currently experiencing Olam Haba in this world. Often when I say in Shema “Kimei HaShomayim Ahl Haaretz”, I think to myself that if I indeed follow the mitzvos that are enumerated in the beginning of the second paragraph, namely to love Hashem and to serve Him with all my heart and soul, then, the end of the paragraph will be fulfilled, namely that then I will experience heavenly days (Olam Habah existence) on this earth!”



QUOTABLE QUOTE: “The hyperlink structure of the Internet means that alluring and forbidden distractions are often linked on the very page on which one is pursuing appropriate content. One link leads to another. Legitimate page to questionable page to shaky page to totally inappropriate page. Three to four clicks and we’re done!” [Excerpted from The Evolving Digital Challenge by Rabbi Nechemiah Gottlieb, Shlita].



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



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!



DERECH ERETZ!  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, Z’tl (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 states: “Which is the proper path one should choose?  One that is pleasing to the one who performs it and is pleasing to others” (Avos 2:1)


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

people. This in effect profanes the name of Hashem.


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


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


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


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


7.  It is stated in Mesechta Derech Eretz Zuta (ch. 5): “A person should not be awake amongst those who are sleeping, nor sleeping amongst those who are awake; cry amongst those who laugh, nor laugh amongst those who cry; sit amongst those who stand, nor stand amongst those who sit.  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!



26 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 BrachaThe 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!’



A DAILY REMINDER: By the following link http://tinyurl.com/jqvwkuv, we provide “From the Letters of the Chazon Ish, which one may want to recite daily at the outset of his day, or perhaps at the outset of his work day. This is a powerful message which we need to be constantly reminded of.”



TODAY! The 26th of Nissan, is the Yahrzeit of Yehoshua Bin Nun.  Chazal (Shabbos 105B) teach that the elders of his generation were punished for not properly eulogizing him.  Yehoshua instituted two of our great Tefillos:


1.  The first paragraph of Aleinu LeShabeyach, which is a highlight of our Tefillos on the Yamim Noraim, and is recited three times daily as part of the important conclusion of each of our Tefillos (the Rema to Shulchan Aruch [Orach Chaim 132:2] emphasizes that we should be careful to have Kavannah when reciting Aleinu).


 2.  The second Bracha of Birkas HaMazon was instituted by Yehoshua upon entering into Eretz Yisrael (Berachos 48A).


 We should be especially careful today (and every day!) with theses two special Tefillos, both of which express our great thanks to Hashem for the blessings He has bestowed upon us.  Let us take these opportunities to properly remember Yehoshua Bin Nun--and keep some part of his great legacy with us daily (if some want to stay especially close to their Rav or Talmidei Chachomim--or keep the Shul or Bais Medrash in order--he can take another part of these legacies as well!).





A.  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!


B.  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.  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!


C.  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 as 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!


D. 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!



25 Nissan




About six weeks ago, in response to a reader’s inquiry, we have received the following updates on the medical condition of some of the victims of the horrific Har Nof Shul attack over three years.  However, the name of the police responder below, as originally provided to Hakhel was incorrect, so we are reprinting the notice again, with his correct name.


Eitan ben Sarah - He is still suffering from bleeding in the brain and other after-effects of the attack.  He is not functioning well and needs our tefillos.


Shmuel Yeruchem ben Baila - He is much better at this point (learning and teaching at the Mir all day), but he still gets very tired at the end of a full day at yeshiva.  He is thankful to be able to be there all day, but when he comes home he is too tired to go to night seder, as he did every evening before the attack.  His wife was informed by their Rav that we should continue to daven for him until he gets his strength back.


Yitzchak ben Brocha - One of the police responders, he was badly injured in his leg and is still suffering from his leg injury.  He is still in pain, and we should still daven for him.





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 Erenu Niflaos--as in the days when you left Egypt, I will show wonders.”  We are now in the year 5778--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 5968, which is just 33 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:  “VeIkabda BePharoh U’Vechol Cheilo.”  The Midrash teaches us that the reason Paroh is mentioned first is because since he began to sin against K’lal Yisrael 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 bracha opportunity, every Tefillah opportunity…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 us all in accordance with our 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 Medrash (“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, Volume II, Number 2 (Teves/Shevat 5762) of the Bulletin – available at this link-http://www.hakhel.info/archivesCABs/HAKHELCOMMUNITYAWARENESSBULLETIN5.PDF 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, had said 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 vain) 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.  He continues that when each person recognizes his reward in Olam Habba, it will not be based on the fact that he was a Rosh Yeshiva, or a Chassidic Rebbe, or a children’s Rebbi or a businessman or an accountant.  Rather, it will be in accordance with the madreigah that he was supposed to have reached in this world in his Avodas Hashem--every person Kidrachav U’Kefi Ma’alalav.  It is for this reason that Hashem hides the complete Da’as Hashem from us in this world--and we will only understand Hashem’s actions 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 darkess 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 (now with our own people attacking us in Eretz Yisrael, we must strengthen ourselves with the knowledge that the clarity of true light will soon shine forth.”  As Dovid HaMelech teaches (Tehillim 90: 15):  “Samcheinu KeYimos Inisanu--Hashem will bring us joy to compensate for the previous afflictions”.


4.  The Sefer Nefesh HaChaim (1:9) brings the Pasuk in Shir HaShirim (1:9):  “Lesusasi BeRichbei Paroh Demiseich 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!


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



24 Nissan

QUESTION OF THE DAY 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?



QUOTE OF THE DAY:  From HaRav Chaim Pinchas Scheinberg, Z’tl, 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 you Brachos--one great way to practice your Emunah in this post-Pesach period.



MIZMOR LESODAH!  We once again are 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.





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 5778, as the pangs of Ikvasah D’Moshicha beat about us--is the time for us to be especially passionate--now--Nissan 5778, is the time for each and every one of us to call out in our hearts for the Geulas Yisrael!  Do not lose--and instead very dedicatedly use--the opportunities in each Shemone Esrei, most certainly over the remainder of the month:  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. The Second Hallel.  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. The Torah’s Definition of Beauty.  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! 


D. Daily Improvements.    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:


1.  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!


2.  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! 


3.  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


4.  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!


5.  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!


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