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Special Note One:  During the month of Elul, we strive to come closer to Hashem in preparation for the Yomim Noraim.  In fact, we add Tehillim Chapter 27 (“L’Dovid Hashem Ori VeYishi”) beginning tonight on the first day of Elul.  We all know that the word “Ori” refers to Rosh Hashana, which is light, and the word “Yishi” refers to Yom Kippur, which is salvation.  This being said, what word in L’Dovid  refers to Elul itself?!  Some have suggested that its second word, “Hashem,” alludes to Elul, for it is during this time that we are to feel Hashem closer to us.  Accordingly, we suggest that our special Shemone Esrei project for the next day be to look for the word “Atta”--You--not only within the context of the last words of each Bracha (“Baruch Atta Hashem”), but also within the entire Bracha itself.  Feel the fact that Hashem is in front of you (Nochach) when you recite this word, and try to understand why it was placed at that point by the Anshei K’neses Hagedolah.


Hakhel Note:  In Shulchan Aruch, Orach Chayim 1:1, the Rema states that “Shivisi Hashem Lenegdi Somid”—placing Hashem before me at all times is a ma’ale of tzaddikim. The Vilna Gaon there notes that this is the ma’ale of tzaddikim, meaning that Yiras Hashem is the sole element that differentiates between the tzaddik, the righteous, and those who are not tzaddikim. Perhaps the message of the Rema, by stating this at the outset of the Shulchan Aruch (which is a halacha and not a hashkofa sefer), is to teach us that we all can and must be “tzaddikim,” and that the attainment of that goal is not necessarily as complicated as we think if we keep ourselves focused on Shivisi Hashem, that we are in Hashem’s presence at all times.


Special Note Two:  As we have noted in the past, we need not travel to the great Fair in the late summertime, because Hashem, in His great graciousness, brings the Fair to us.  HaRav Chaim Freidlander, Z’tl, (Sifsei Chaim I, page 38) compares the days of Elul to the days of a once-annually fair, through which an industrious merchant could find and purchase/sell the goods that could support both him and his family for the entire year.  Those individuals, however, who remain at the hotel, to wine and dine and enjoy its various and sundry amenities, walk away temporarily happy--but with empty pockets and warehouses.


The interesting thing about a Fair is that all serious attendees have the same goal--to do business and make profit.  Yet, everyone does so for his own unique business and in his own unique manner.  Reuven, for instance, buys gadgets from Levi, and sells them to Yehuda.  Shimon, on the other hand, buys the same gadgets--but with 220V--from Larry, and through his connections sells them to the U.S. government to distribute to third-world countries.  Levi buys a shipload of watches and sells them to Dan who will trade them for a container of Chinese novelties…


The point is that each and every one of us has a specific role, a specific time, and a specific place in this world.  What each and every one of us does at the Fair is--and should be--different.  A five-year old is elated with her new bicycle, yet a grown adult simply cannot sit down on it and try to start peddling.  Over the past year, the Yetzer Hara has tried, sometimes successfully, to obliterate or at least blur, for you where you are and what you should be.  He is quite satisfied--and enjoys--seeing you ride that too-small bike, even though it is embarrassing to you while riding, and will make you sore and limp afterwards.  We should make sure that our spiritual lives take a lesson from our physical experiences.  Would we stoop down to pick up five pennies or fifteen matches that have scattered across the ground?  Why then should we stoop down or lower ourselves to accomplish far less, or even far worse, goals?


So here we are at the Fair, and we have our heads on straight.  We are going to learn from the mistakes that we made last year, the things we shouldn’t have bought, the items we shouldn’t have sold, the people we shouldn’t have done business with, and the people we should have looked to build a relationship with.  Each one of us is here to use his/her own knowledge, talents, particular expertise--and special challenges--to make this year the most successful one ever.  We may have to think and work seriously over the next little while, but the time is precious and the gains to be gotten are oh so great.



Special Note Three:  Rabbi Eliyahu Roman, Shlita, recalled a remarkable and penetrating thought that he had heard from HaRav Shneuer Kotler, Z’tl.  Reb Shneuer brought the teaching of the Arizal regarding the 40-day period between Rosh Chodesh Elul and Yom Kippur.  The Arizal compares this 40-day period to the 40-day period in which a new embryo is formed, for during this time one must recreate himself, one must form himself anew.  Reb Shneuer added that just as each day of the 40 day period is absolutely essential to the embryo’s growth and development, so is each day of the 40-day period until Yom Kippur a vital link in our rebuilding.  Imagine, says Reb Shneuer, if the embryo would take a day off during this crucial period--what havoc it would wreak on the whole system--so, too, the Arizal teaches us, that we must view a day without plan, without goals, without development, without change during this period in the very same light!  Something to remember--every single day during this very special period.


Hakhel Note:  The Sefer Mateh Ephraim, the classic Halachic work on the laws of Rosh Hashanah, Yom Kippur and Sukkos, refers to the days of Elul as “Yomim Kedoshim”--Days of Holiness.  Let us picture ourselves developing this holy period, and not lose the precious daily opportunities we have to ensure our complete and optimum development.



Special Note Four:  There is a stunning lesson provided for each and every one of us by Rashi in this coming week’s Parsha.  The Parsha teaches us that before Bnai Yisroel were to go to war, the Kohen Moshuach Milchama was to teach them that it was a Mitzvah not to be scared of the enemy, and to provide words of encouragement.  He would begin his address to the soldiers with the words “Shema Yisroel Atem Kereivim Hayom...--Hear, O’ Yisroel, you are coming close to battle...let your heart not be faint, do not be afraid (Devorim 20:3).”  Rashi (ibid.) brings the words of Chazal:  The reason the Kohen begins his words with Shema Yisroel is to tell the warriors that even if they had only the zechus of Krias Shema, they would be worthy of being redeemed.  The war itself--life and death for the masses, as well as the security of all the people back home--could be decided by the proper recitation of Shema alone!  What a lesson for us at this time of year--life for the individual, life for the people could be gained by properly reciting Krias Shema!!  Let us take a moment EVERY DAY OF THE COMING 40- DAY PERIOD before reciting the Shema to reflect upon the magnitude of the event--Kabalas Ohl Malchus Shomayim, Ahavas Hashem, the many Mitzvos mentioned in Shema, and at least try to say the words with the proper pronunciation and with the understanding of each word.  If you do so, you can not only plainly emerge victorious in your own battle--you can literally also do your part in winning the whole war!



Special Note Five:  With the approach of the thirteenth and final month of the year, we conclude our focus on the Ani Ma’amins with the Thirteenth Ani Ma’amin--Shetiyeh Techiyas HaMeisim…that the resuscitation of the deceased will occur whenever Hashem desires it.  Chazal provide a Kal V’Chomer as follows:  Hashem creates a child from cells that previously did not exist; all the more so will He revive a human body--something that did previously exist!  We may add that reshaim are sometimes referred to as ‘meisim’ and Tzaddikim as ‘chayim’ (even after a Tzaddik’s petirah from this world).  In the month of Elul, through the power of Teshuva, Hashem gives us the opportunity to revive ourselves--and count ourselves among the ‘chayim’.  Thus, this Ani Ma’amin takes on special importance and relevance to us this month, not only because there will be a Great Day of Judgment before Techiyas HaMeisim--but also because all of Klal Yisroel will hopefully experience our own current Techiyas HaMeisim--as we wipe away any vestige of rishus in our past and bring ourselves to ‘chayim’!.



Special Note Six:  We continue our focus on the Fifteenth Bracha of Shemone Esrei--Es Tzemach Dovid.  This bracha is the only bracha in Shemone Esrei that begins with the word Es, which is a word that is somewhat difficult to translate.  We may at least suggest that it represents the great importance of this bracha--as it extends in scope from the aleph to the taf--spanning through the entire aleph bais to demonstrate the importance of the Moshiach to us.  Why is the word Tzemach used in the bracha?  The Eitz Yosef suggests that the name of Moshiach Ben Dovid is Tzemach (see Yirmiyah 23:5, and Zechariah 3:8 and 6:12).  With the next phrase, Dovid Avdecha--Dovid Your servant--we convey that we are not hoping for Moshiach’s arrival so that we, through the Malchus Bais Dovid, will rule over the world, but rather so that we, as led by Dovid Avdecha, will better serve You.  In fact, HaRav Chaim Friedlander, Z’tl, notes that on the Yomim Noraim we also daven for “Utzemichas Keren L’Dovid Avdecha--for this is the great purpose of Dovid in his kingship--to lead all of Klal Yisroel to Ohl Malchus Shomayim in its best and purest form!”



Special Note One:  The recent Hurricane that threatened and attacked the eastern coast of the United States once again engendered much Ahavas Yisroel, and real Halachic queries and resolutions of the Poskim.  Let us hope that the way Torah Jews handled the unfolding circumstances gave nachas to Avinu She’Bashamayim.  We were not as busy hording supplies or with the meteorological details of the event--instead, national Torah organizations sent out instructions to their constituents with rules for proper Shabbos conduct;  there were lively discussions as to which bracha to make (and when to make it)  over fierce winds;  the requirement of Tefilla BeTzibbur in these circumstances; reciting Tehillim BeTzibbur on Shabbos so that the storm be diverted or at least not do significant damage; and of course the message(s) and lessons to be learned from the earthquake/hurricane/tornadoes even threatening us whether or not they did damage--at the portals of Elul.  For instance, we received the following Teshuva from Rabbi Pinchos Bodner, Shlita, mechaber of The Halochos of Brochos:


Chazal noted that powerful storm winds (and hurricanes), earth tremors (and earthquakes) and blazing meteors are creations which can be quite fearful and awe inspiring. They therefore mandated that a bracha be recited when one witnesses these phenomena--preferably Oseh Ma’aseh Bereishis.  [Hakhel Note: The other alternative would be She’Kocho U’Gevuras Malei Olam, which in fact the Sefer Piskei Teshuvos (Volume II, p. 929) seems to suggest is the preferred bracha for more ferocious winds--but see Shulchan Aruch Orach Chaim Mishna Berurah 227, seif katan 4.]  The bracha should be recited during the occurrence, or no more than a second or two after it occurs.  The Poskim explained that a bracha should be said if the winds are at least powerful enough to cause windows to shatter glass.  Category one hurricanes, although not considered ‘dangerous’, generates winds capable of breaking glass and causing minor damage.  Needless to say, winds of more powerful hurricanes definitely require a bracha.  The winds yesterday did not reach the news-hyped speed of 70 plus mile per hour force.  However, according to the Mishna Berurah one may make the Bracha of Oseh Ma’aseh Beraishis if the wind exceeds normal wind speed (which may be 50 mph plus).” 

Hakhel Note:  Aftermath:  The events of the previous days, which affected at least tens of thousands of Torah Jews and millions of people in general, should not, however, simply be let go of as a special and unique newsworthy event.  People died as a direct result of this “mere tropical storm”, and the tragedies that occurred in Monsey and Fleischmann’s New York were shocking and enormous.  We dare not forget about this so-called natural event the way the rest of the world does--when they finish the last bottle of extra milk or box of cookies they stocked up with--and wait for the meteorologists to remind them of its anniversary next year.  Rabbosai, the summer of 5771 for our community was a most difficult one and we must now recognize our encounter with Ruach Se’ara Oseh Devaro--the stormy wind fulfills His word (Tehillim 148:7).  Hashem expects His Action to evoke Our Reaction.  Will it be reciting the Ani Maamin’s more slowly?  The answering of Yehei Shmei Rabba with more Kavannah?  Undertaking a 40-day Teshuva program by studying the 40 powerful daily lessons in the newly published wonderfully practical The Power of Teshuva (Artscroll)?  The choice is a personal and subjective one--but one that most definitely must be faced and most definitely must be made.  Don’t let it go by--look back at the week--Earthquake, Hurricane, Topical Storm, Tornado--Thank You Hashem for we realize that many lives were saved through Tefillos and Torah study, but we realize that You have called us to action, because mother nature and the press are not our points of reference or concern.  We saw, in some cases we witnessed,--and yes, we understand--and this is what we will (bli neder) now do....



Special Note Two:  We continue with our focus on the Brachos of Shemone Esrei--this week reaching the milestone of the Fifteenth Bracha--Es Tzemach.  Non-coincidentally, we reach this Bracha as we are about to take leave of Chodesh Menachem Av.  Rabbi Heshy Kleinman, Shlita, reminded us of the following lesson-for-us-all (originally presented in Reb Shraga Feivel, by Yonasan Rosenblum (Artscroll p.110)):


One day Reb Shraga Feivel Mendlowitz was teaching Tehillim, whose subject is the Jew’s eternal pining for return to Jerusalem and the Temple that once stood there, “Nichsefa V’Gam Kalsa Nafshi--My soul yearns, indeed it pines for the courtyards of Hashem (Tehillim 84:3).”  When he reached the next Pasuk, “Gam Tzippor Matza Vayis…--even the bird finds a home, and the free bird its nest,” the tears ran down his cheeks, as he lamented, “Everything has its place--except for the Shechina (the Divine Presence), which remains in exile.”


We suggest that while we recite the many brachos in Shemone Esrei three times a day relating to Galus and Geulah, when we recite the words “Ki LiShuasecha Kivinu Kol HaYom,” we should at least be moved to think about how desperately we need this Yeshua!  Are we no less Jews than HaRav Shraga Feivel?  Let us move ourselves in the same way he did--by simply taking a moment of reflection to think about it!  As the Mesilas Yesharim (end of Chapter 19) teaches, our thoughts, our feelings, our prayers and our yearnings, mean very much in Shomayim, and it is our great obligation and privilege to bring ourselves, K’lal Yisroel, and the World--to where we are supposed to be!


Additional Note: As we leave the month of Menachem Av, may we suggest that you make a list of only ten things that would change for the better if Moshiach came and the Bais Hamikdash was rebuilt?  Remember, when we fervently daven for the binyan Bais Hamikdash, we are not just davening for the return of one holy and glorious building. After studying our list, we will recognize that the kavana we have when we daven for binyan Beis Hamikdash should be enormous…and hopefully it will be!



Special Note One:  We received the following from a reader: “Concerning the interesting understanding of the Ma’aseh of Nachum Ish Gamzu from the Alter of Kelm, Zt’l, I relate the following personal Ma’aseh:  Thirty-five years ago I was a graduate student living in Washington Heights and attending a university in Lower Manhattan.  While walking the streets of the latter area, I would be regularly petitioned by unfortunate people, alcoholics and drug addicts, R”L, begging for food money.  While I usually could have distributed a nominal amount, I never did so, fearing that any funds would be used to support their addictions.   I once consulted HaRav Shimon Schwab, Zt’l, to express my pain at “turning my back” and not providing any Tzedaka to any of  these unfortunate souls.  He advised me to procure a couple of cases of individually-wrapped cake slices from the local Kosher grocer, to carry a supply of these in my knapsack, and to distribute, as needed.  This is creative counsel from a Chacham in Chosmas HaNefesh of our era to train a young person in “Lo Si’ametz Es Levovcha.” Hakhel Note:  This is what the term sage advice means!  Beautiful!



Special Note Two:  We continue our focus on Tzedaka this week, and as the Parsha is a primary source for the Mitzvah of Tzedaka:


We present below several important opinions issued by HaRav Chaim Kanievsky, Shlita, relating to Tzedaka (Derech Sicha pages 552-563):


1.      If a person who appears young and healthy comes before you and asks for Tzedaka, you should not refuse and tell him to get a job.  In fact, HaRav Kanievsky notes that the Chofetz Chaim would say that when Hashem has decreed aniyus (poverty) on a person, He accompanies it with an inability for one reason or another to work or otherwise obtain a livelihood.


2.      If a family loses its breadwinner, Rachmana Litzlan, it is their shul’s primary responsibility to assist the family.  By “shul”, HaRav Kanievsky notes, he does not necessarily mean everyone who davens there, but those who were close to the niftar or otherwise knew him.


3.      The Mitzvah of “V’Kidashto” (Sanctifying a Kohen) requires giving a Kohen precedence in Tzedaka.


4.      If one decided to give Tzedaka to a poor person who had requested it, and thereafter could no longer find the person, one can give the Tzedaka to someone else in his place.


5.      When a Gabbai Tzedaka goes around collecting, one must stand up before him (see the Mishna in Bikurim 3:3 and the Pischei Teshuva in Yoreh Deah 256:1).  We note, of course, that when one gives Tzedaka to a poor person, it should be done standing as well.


6.      If one gives a post-dated check today, for a check to be cashed after Yom Kippur, it is actually considered as if he gave the money today, and he has the full z’chus in his “account” on Yom Kippur.


7.      Even when a Gabbai Tzedaka takes a percentage from the institution for which he is collecting, it is considered as if the entire amount was donated to the institution (for this is how it raises its funds).


8.      If one contributes monthly to Tzedaka by automatic payment, it is still considered as if he is physically doing the mitzvah with his own hands, because he could terminate the automatic payment at any time.


9.      The most important Tzedaka is to support those who study Torah, and the most important Tzedaka within that category is to support Children’s Yeshivos (Tashbar).


10.  If one has a doubt in giving Ma’aser, he should me machmir, because from giving Ma’aser one never loses, only gains.


11.  If one has donated large sums to Tzedaka, and loses significant sums either in the stock market or on a business deal or otherwise, he may view it as a kapara. HaRav Kanievsky gives the following Mashal:


On the day of his ascension to the throne, a King distributed special presents to those around him.  There was one person who owed a tremendous amount of money to the new King.  The King told him that his special present was a forgiveness of debt.  Indeed, a wealthy person who, Be’ezras Hashem, remains wealthy does not have this form of kapara, and will have to obtain his kapara in different ways.


12.  Chazal teach that one who causes another to give Tzedaka is greater than the giver himself. The reason for this is that the giver feels that he has given, and the recipient feels that he has received, but the one who causes another to give does not sense either of these tangible benefits--and still goes out of his way to arrange the act of kindness!



Special Note Three:  “The Kotzker Rebbe, Zt’l, makes a fascinating point.  He says that the weekly Parsha gives us an insight into what we are meant to accomplish that week.  Thus, the week in which we bench Rosh Chodesh Elul is meant for us to “Re’eh—Look.”  Each Jew must stop and look inside himself or herself and see what needs improvement, this is how we know where to start.”



Special Note Four:  In the Parsha, we learn from of the Chasida, or the “Kind One”, which 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. 



Special Note Five:  Sunday (28 Av) is the Yahrzeit of HaRav Avrohom Pam, Z’tl.  HaRav Pam once explained how Hashem can be both a Tzaddik and a Chassid at the same time (as we recite in Ashrei daily “Tzadik Hashem Bechol…V’Chosid Bechol”), even though “Tzaddik” implies acting in accordance with the letter of the law and “Chassid” implies going beyond the letter of the law.  The solution to this apparent paradox, Harav Pam explained, is found in the proper understanding of a Pasuk in this week’s Parsha.  After teaching the laws of an Ir HaNidachas (a Wayward City ), which includes meting out the death penalty to its inhabitants, the Torah says that “V’Nosan L’Cha Rachamim V’Richamcha…--and Hashem will give you mercy and will be merciful to you” (Devorim 13:18 ).  Why is there an apparent redundancy in the Torah’s language relating to mercy--”giving you mercy” and “being merciful to you”?


The answer is that when the Torah states “Hashem will give you mercy,” it means that Hashem will give you the opportunity to be merciful to others, and if you then act mercifully, Hashem will then be merciful to you.  This means, then, that Hashem is acting both as a chassid and as a tzaddik, because he is acting as a Chassid by giving us the opportunity to do Chesed, and if we do so, he will reward us as a Tzaddik--middah k’negged middah--according of the letter of the law!


As we approach Elul, which are known as the Yimei HaRachamim, we must be extra vigilant for these opportunities.  Chazal (Pesachim 87A) teach that the Navi Hoshea was punished when Hashem approached him and told him that Bnei Yisroel were sinning, to which he responded--so punish them!  Thus, he was punished for saying “Punish them.”  What should he have said?  Chazal teach that he should have said “Nevertheless Hashem, they are Your children, the children of Your beloved ones, Avraham Yitzchak and Yaakov, heap mercy upon them!”  Based upon this teaching of Chazal, if one does not have immediate opportunities for mercy directly in front of him, at the very least he can daven to Hashem to heap mercy upon His people.  Let us make this a priority in the coming weeks!


  Rabbi Shimon Finkelman has written an almost five-hundred page biography entitled Rav Pam (Artscroll), which is highly recommended, because it provides so many essential teachings. Set forth below are only a few brief samples from this lesson-filled Sefer:


1.      At a Shmuess on Da’as Torah, Rav Pam said:

“Da’as Torah emerges after decades-long immersion in the Sea of Talmud .  It comes from strenuous, relentless effort to understand the word of Hashem.  It comes from total submission to Hashem’s will, and from a life lived in holiness and purity, unencumbered by physical desires.  It flows from a person whose very essence has been elevated by Torah; everything in his world is based solely on Torah.  The mind of the Talmid Chacham will bring a clear perspective to all that transpires in this world.  Such a person is endowed with    Da’as Torah.”


2.      HaRav Matisyahu Salomon, Shlita said the following at a Yartzheit Shiur for Rav Pam, “In the order of Kabbalos for the new year, Kiddush Hashem has to be our first priority.  To make Hashem’s Name beloved is a positive commandment in the Torah.  When a person makes Hashem’s Name beloved, this bears witness that he feels a closeness with the Ribono Shel Olam.  To act in the way of Rav Pam is not beyond the letter of the law.  He merited to teach the Jewish world about its obligations regarding behavior.  And it is quite possible that we are still in Galus because we have been remiss in not learning sufficiently from him.  If he could return and speak to us today, as we stand on the threshold of a new year, this is what he would tell us:  ’A’ahvaihu Al Habrios--Inspire people to love Him!  I gave my entire life for this purpose, to make Hashem’s Name beloved!’”


3.       One of his Talmidim was questioning whether he should go into Chinuch, or into another profession.  The student recalled this as Rav Pam’s response: “Baruch, some people will tell you Chinuch because this way your portion in Olam Haba will be assured.  And I tell you, Baruch you should enter the world of Chinuch because there is no greater Simcha in this world than to teach Jewish children.”


4.       Rav Pam taught:  The stage at which a child has minimal ability to acquire an object is when he knows to “discard a stone and take a nut,” that he is old enough to understand that a nut has value and realize that a stone is worthless (Gittin 64B).  Life is something that has to be returned at some point in time.  A grown person who ignores this fact and conducts himself as if he will live forever, is like the youngest of children.


5.       Before summer recess, he would tell his students, “If you are going to camp, make sure that you do not make fun of the food.”  He would go on to describe how hard a camp cook works and the pain that he or she is liable to suffer if the food is ridiculed.  He would also remind them to thank the cook for his or her efforts.  He would add some advice for those who were exceptionally dedicated to their studies:  “If learning fifteen extra minutes will mean coming late to lunch and causing the waiter to work harder, it’s not worth it.”


6.       In his last Shmuess in the Yeshiva, he discussed Tzaraas, which was a Divine punishment for the sin of Lashon Hara.  There were two components to this sickness; the physical discomfort it caused and the disgrace the Metzora experienced because of his Tzaraas.  “The physical discomfort,” said Rav Pam, “was a punishment for the harm and suffering that the sinner brought upon those of whom he spoke evil.  The disgrace which the sinner endured, on the other hand, corresponded to the Chillul Hashem which he caused by speaking Lashon Hara.  As the Chofetz Chaim explains, one derives no physical pleasure from speaking Lashon Hara; it is simply a Midah Ra’ah, a wicked carelessness in matters of speech.  This sort of sin, in which one is not tempted by physical desire, is a flouting of Hashem’s will, and a desecration of His Name.  This desecration is compounded when one’s words are uttered in public…ultimately it will be the one disgracing, who is, in fact, disgraced.”


7.       He taught:  It happened that a renowned Rosh Yeshivah visited a wealthy Jew at his office to solicit a donation for his Yeshivah.  The businessman excused himself, saying that at the moment he was busy with a few customers and could not interrupt.  The Rosh Yeshivah said to him, “Do you think that you were sent down to this world for nothing other than to sell dry goods?  We were placed here to accomplish something for K’vod Shamayim!”  It is our obligation to demonstrate the beauty of Torah.  The essence of Torah is “Its ways are ways of pleasantness” (Mishlei 3:17) meaning, a pleasant approach in all  interpersonal matters--within the family, between husband and wife, between neighbors, and a fastidiousness regarding truth and uprightness even  beyond the letter of the law.


8.       Once HaRav Pam told his dentist, “I envy you.  You do Chesed all day.  People come to you in pain and you make them feel better.”  The dentist replied, “It’s a fringe benefit of the profession.”  ”You’re wrong,” replied Rav Pam.  ”Your profession is to do Chesed with people.  The fringe benefit of it is that you earn a living.”


9.       HaRav Pam related the following after returning from Eretz Yisroel:  Upon my first encounter with the Kosel HaMaaravi, I was enwrapped in lofty thoughts and the tears flowed naturally, as one would expect.  Chazal teach that the souls of the Avos come there on Shabbos eve, so I returned there for Kabbalas Shabbos.  Then, too, I prepared myself mentally as I stood ready to visit a holy site on a holy day, when holy Neshamos would be present.  To my dismay, when I arrived there, it was like coming to the market.  ”Shalom Aleichem!” people called out to me.  ”When did you arrive?”  ”Where are you staying?”  ”When are you heading back?  Which airline?”  I saw that people were conducting themselves there the same way they conduct themselves in Shul--the same conversation, the same lightheadedness.  If this is how they act at the Kosel, one can assume that they will act this way as well at the site of the Third Beis Hamikdash?...Prepare yourselves now for how to act then!


10.   Once, HaRav Pam knocked on the closed door of the office of HaRav Moshe Wolfson, Shlita, but would not open the door a bit until he first heard the words “Come in.”  HaRav Wolfson, who did not know who was at the door, said of HaRav Pam, “Whoever is knocking is a Ba’al Derech Eretz.”


11.   He once told his son, “By us, a word is a contract.”


12.   Regarding character development he would say, “It’s not your ‘nature’--it’s your choice,” as the Rambam teaches in Hilchos Teshuva (5:1).  Similarly, he taught that one should not say, “What can I do if I don’t like him?”  For a person can control his emotions and refine his Middos--if he makes the proper effort.


13.  Rav Pam would remind his students to strive to act according to Hashem’s will when going about their daily business.  If this is how we act, then we have the special right to say to Hashem (from time to time throughout the day), “Ribbono Shel Olam--Chazei DeAlayich Ka Somichna-Hashem--see that I am relying on You! (Bava Kamma 100A)”


14.  He once said, “What is the definition of an Am Ha’aretz”?  One who thinks that in order to serve Hashem, one must forgo enjoyment of life in this World in favor of life in the World to Come.  A Talmid Chochom by contrast, knows the truth--that a Ben Torah has the best of both worlds.”


May HaRav Pam’s zechus stand in our stead, as we properly apply his essential teaching in our daily lives.



Special Note Six:  We continue with our focus on the Fourteenth Bracha of Shemone Esrei--Bonei Yerushalayim.  The bracha of Bonei Yerushalayim is of course, very close to the bracha in Bentching of Bonei B’Rachamav Yerushalayim.  Both brachos are obviously based on the Pasuk (Tehillim 147:2) which we recite daily in Pesukei DeZimra: Bonei Yerushalayim Hashem Nidchei Yisroel Yechaneis.  HaRav Chaim Friedlander, Z’tl, notes that there are those who suggest that perhaps this Pasuk has already been fulfilled in our day--as one looks around Yerushalayim.  He notes, however, that Yerushalayim during the time of the Shalosh Regalim had millions of Jews whose focus was on the Bais HaMikdash.  Today, so many of the batei avodah zara and tifla are disproportionately located in and around the city, with all the bells and noises associated with them.  Moreover, on the streets themselves it is difficult to walk in various areas because of the pritzus of the uninitiated.  On top of it all, our enemies freely trample over the Makom HaMikdash, even claiming rulership over it--and destroying and unearthing the Makom even further.  So what, then, is the Bonei Yerushalayim of our day?  As we have noted in the past, the rebuilding of Yerushalayim is a process that began at the time of its destruction, and it is proceeding in detailed stages which will be clear to us when the building is finally complete.  HaRav Friedlander gives the Mashal of a contractor building a huge building.  First, he must bring initial equipment and supplies--for without them you cannot work.  Every stage of the building process requires new equipment and new supplies.  Every generation is a new stage in the ongoing process of Bonei Yerushalayim.  Let us daven in this bracha that our Mitzvos and Ma’asim Tovim bring us to the stage of the last shipment of supplies--and the building’s so long for and awaited Eternal Opening!



Special Note Seven:  We continue with our Erev Shabbos Halachos of Shabbos Series.  We are very pleased to announce that a new volume of the sefer Piskei Teshuvos on Hilchos Shabbos has been published.  We provide below several notes from the new Sefer:


A.  The Chasam Sofer (in Toras Moshe, Parshas Beshalach) writes that studying Hilchos Shabbos brings “bracha v’hashpa’ah yeseirah” onto a person.


B.  The Sefer Toldos Adom writes that through Shemiras Shabbos K’Hilchasa, one can be zoche to sechel, da’as, middos, and sheleimus, which a person would not be otherwise able to obtain based upon his own nature and background--as Shabbos, too, is LeMa’alah Min HaTeva--one’s proper observance will produce special results which are beyond one’s own capabilities! 


C.  The Taz in his introduction to Orach Chaim, Siman 242, writes that Shemiras Shabbos K’Hilchasa is mechaper more than Yom Kippur--for even if a person violated aveiros involving a punishment of krisus or misas Bais Din--the proper observance of Shabbos will effect atonement--without yissurin, misah, or the need for fasts and affliction.  What a wonderful way to be forgiven!


D.  There is no Mitzvah of simchas haguf on Shabbos as there is on Yom Tov.  We eat meat and drink wine on Shabbos because of their chashivus--not as a din in Simcha itself.  The Torah does, in fact, refer to Shabbosos as “Yom Simchaschem--but that is because it is a day of Simcha B’Ruchniyus!  It is to this Simcha B’Ruchniyus to which we refer when we proclaim Yismechu V’Malchusecha Shomrei Shabbos!


Special Note One:  Chazal (Brachos 31B) teach that if someone suspects another (choshaid b’chaveiro) and the suspicion is untrue--then he must give a bracha to that person.  We learn this from the suspicion that Eli Hakohein had that Chana was drunk.  Because it turned out that the suspicion was unfounded, he gave her a great blessing “V’Elokei Yisroel Yitein Es Sheilaseich--may Hashem grant your request to have a child.”  Hakhel Note:  We should not, of course, suspect anyone of anything.  However, if the suspicion that ‘You lost this’, ‘You spilled that’, ‘You caused this’, ‘You said that’ comes up, we should follow Chazal’s directive and give a heart filled and heartfelt bracha--and may it be fulfilled!



Special Note Two:  We continue with our focus on the Fourteenth Bracha of Shemone Esrei--Binyan Yerushalayim.  Chazal (Bereishis Rabba 59:8) teach “Yerushalayim Oro Shel Olam U’Mi Hu Oro Shel Yerushalayim--Hakasdosh Baruch Hu--Yerushalayim is the light of the world and Hashem Himself is the light of Yerushalayim.”  When reciting the bracha of Binyan Yerushalayim we should perhaps envision a great light--which is not only the light of Yerushalayim--but that, keveyachol, of Hashem Himself!  Envision the great and infinite shine!  If we are not such great ‘visionaries’, we can remember the words of the Avos to Rebbe Nosson that ‘Yerushalayim Nikreis Chaim--Yerushalayim is called life itself!’  With this in mind, we move to the last portion of the Bracha, which at first glance may seem out of place.  After davening for the return of the Shechina and for Yerushalayim’s rebuilding, we ask that Kisei Dovid Meheirah Lesocah Tachin--that the throne of Dovid HaMelech should be speedily reestablished there.  One would think that these words would be found in the next bracha of Es Tzemach Dovid--which refers to the reestablishment of the Malchus Bais Dovid.  The Bach ( to Tur Shulchan Aruch, Orach Chaim 118) records that he was actually asked this Shailah and explains that the re-establishment of Dovid’s throne is very much part of the Bracha over Yerushalayim.  In fact, these words are and should be the concluding words of the Bracha--because Yerushalayim’s rebuilding would be incomplete without the Moshiach and the Malchus Bais Dovid reestablished.  We are not looking for our own capital city, or even an international capital of the world.  We are looking for the City of Hashem to be the place from which the Malchus Bais Dovid brings, maintains, and propagates the Malchus Hashem on His Nation, and on the world.  Yerushalayim will not be a physical city of skyscrapers, housing tens of millions, but will be the seat of Ruchniyus given to us by Hashem, as transmitted by the Malchus Bais Dovid.  In a very positive way we should almost ‘get the chills’ from the wondrous and wonderful message and meaning of this bracha--let us pray that it is filled in its entirety very soon!



Special Note Three:  We continue with additional notes on Tzedaka, the Mitzvah so deeply rooted in this week’s Parsha.  The following insights are excerpted from the Sefer Chaim Sheyeish Bahem, compiled by HaRav Yitzchak Shraga Gross:


A.  The Alter of Kelm was asked why Hashem created a world in which a person must first give Tzedaka and only then receive a bracha from Hashem, as the Pasuk in this week’s Parsha states “Ki BeGlal HaDavar HaZeh Yivarechica Hashem Elokecha.”  The Alter explains that this is to teach a person that he should not think that he is doing Chessed with the recipient, but that the recipient is doing Chessed with him by bringing blessing into his life.  This helps a person realize and recognize that there is always another perspective in each and every Bain Adam L’Chaveiro situation--and that the other’s perspective may be quite different than one’s original (perhaps tainted) perception.  This is brought to light by a wonderful story:


When the great Rav Hillel Kolemaya, Z’tl, was a bochur eating ‘teig’ (meals in a host’s home, as there was no Yeshivah or dormitory), one host was very strict with meal times.  One time the bochur Hillel was involved in a Sugya and missed the meal time, so he was just going to skip the meal.  However, he was concerned that the Ba’al Habayis was going to be concerned about where he was and what had happened to him.  He decided to arrive late knowing that he “would be in for it.”  After receiving a tongue lashing, Hillel responded earnestly “Everything you said is correct, but only based on the premise that I eat with you.  In truth, however, you eat with me.  The Ba’al Habayis well understood what R’ Hillel meant, hugged and kissed him, and shared a beautiful meal with him. 


Hakhel Note:  Fascinatingly, at the Yeshivah of the Nodah B’Yehuda, at which the bochurim also ate ‘teig’ at Ba’al Habatim’s homes, it was the custom of the bochurim to leave over a little of their food, or ‘shirayim’ on their plate.  The Ba’al Habayis then ate from the shirayim as a Segulah for Hatzlacha in all matters!


B.  We must be diligent to exercise our opportunities for Tzedaka at the earliest possible time.  HaRav Yechezkel Abramsky related the following story:  When HaRav Yitzchok Elchonon Spector, Z’tl, was a bochur, he was in dire poverty.  There was even a period when he did not have money to buy shoes for himself, and was accordingly unable to go to the Bais Midrash to learn and learned at home instead.  With pain he turned to another Bochur from a wealthy family who was about to get married with the following request:  “At this moment, I don’t have enough money to buy a pair of shoes.  Since you are getting married, I assume that you are purchasing new clothing.  When you purchase new shoes, can you give me your old ones so that I can go back to the Bais Midrash to learn?”  The wealthy bochur looked at him disparagingly and responded “If you would go to work and earn money you would not have to look for the gifts of others, and instead you could buy your own!”  Years later, when HaRav Yitzchok Elchonon became known as a Posek Hador, he traveled to Vilna so that he could publish one of his Seforim.  He was greeted by 20,000 people--more people than greeted the Czar when he arrived in Vilna!  Among the crowd was the bochur who many years back who had told him to go get a job.  This time, he offered to personally fund the publication of the new Sefer in its entirety.  HaRav Yitzchok Elchonon responded; “You are late.  20 years ago you could have done it--for a pair of shoes!”


Hakhel Note:  Let us take the message--and not kick ourselves 20 years, 20 months, 20 weeks…or 2 days from now!

C.  HaRav Moshe Feinstein, Z’tl, makes a remarkable point about Tzedaka by simply translating a Pasuk for us.  The Pasuk in the Parsha of Tzedaka states “Lo Se’Ametz Es Levovevca V’Lo Sikpotz Es Yodecha Mai’Achicha HaEvyon (Devorim 15:7)...do not harden your heart and do not close your hand to your destitute brother.”  HaRav Moshe notes that there are *two* Mitzvos here--the first is to be sensitive, to train your heart to feel for your brethren--not only when they stand before you, but also to be ready for them in the right frame of mind and with the right attitude when they do come.  Then, there is a second Mitzvah when you physically encounter a destitute person to not close your hand--to open it and give, as you not only visualize yourself as a giver--but actually give.


With this in mind, we can appreciate another serious question and answer of the Alter of Kelm, Z’tl.  The Alter was very bothered by the Ma’aseh of Nachum Ish GamZu--who told the poor person to wait a moment while he disembarked from the donkey so that he could unload and provide food for him.  In the interim, before Nachum Ish GamZu was able to feed him, the poor person died, and Nachum was so troubled and distressed that he took an incomparable Kapara upon himself.  Based on these facts and circumstances, what, in actuality, did Nachum do wrong at all?  Undoubtedly, as a great Tzadik (he was a teacher of Rebbe Akiva), he proceeded with great alacrity off the donkey, and surely intended to give the destitute person the best of what he had to offer.  What more could he have done?!  The Alter answers that Nachum realized that he should have been prepared--and had something ready--in the eventuality of noticing a famished poor person on the road.  This, perhaps, is the aspect of Lo Se’Ametz Es Levavecha--the preparedness and readiness--to which HaRav Moshe Feinstein refers.  If we have a checkbook ready, dollars or quarters available at a Chasuna or in Shul, a cold drink on a hot day for someone who knocks  at the door, if we give to a poor person before he approaches us, rather than waiting to be approached, if we think about how we can help the poor or those who need help in our neighborhood, if we can join or start Gemachs which turn leftovers from large or small Simchas into food for those who would appreciate it in our neighborhood--then we will not only be giving--but thinking about giving and how to give--which is what  the Torah truly (and, indeed, expressly) seeks of us!



Special Note One:  In last week’s Parsha, the Torah writes Ve’Atta Yisroel Mah Hashem Elokecha Sho’el Mimcha--and now what does Hashem ask of you.... The Chofetz Chaim provides an essential insight here:  The Torah emphasizes the word Ve’Atta--and now--to teach that a person must realize that what is expected of him changes, and that a person must constantly ask himself--What is my Avodah Now?  We note that the word for now--VeAtta is (at least in current Ashkenaz practice) pronounced the same as VeAtta--meaning and You (the only difference between the two words being that the former word has an Ayin, and the latter, an Aleph).  Perhaps the lesson is that a person must recognize that he has his own set of circumstances, his own obligations, his own potential and his own path--and it is in the here and now that he must personally--and successfully--act.



Special Note Two:  Many along the eastern coast of the United States experienced the awe of a relatively gentle earthquake yesterday.  What was all the quaking about?  We remind ourselves of Chazal (Brachos 59A), who teach that an earthquake is Hashem’s expression of Tza’ar over our continued Galus, and the troubles and distresses we must endure in exile. The Gemara there explains that the earthquake occurs as a result of one of several possibilities:  either Hashem’s  ‘two tears’ that He sheds (over our physical and spiritual suffering), or His ‘hands clapping’ over our frustration, or His ‘sighing’, or His ‘kicking’ the rokia, or ‘His forcing his feet’ under the Kisei HaKavod--each being different expressions of love and concern that Hashem has for us in this Galus--and intended to remind us that there is an END to this GALUS--as although Hashem finds this journey absolutely necessary for us--it is nevertheless both disappointing and reprehensible to Him--so much so as to warrant an earthquake to the world at large.  With this in mind, we now continue with our focus on the Fourteenth Bracha of Shemone Esrei--Binyan Yerushalayim.  In the Bracha, we first ask that Hashem bring his Shechinah back to Yerushalayim.  Only then, do we continue with the next step of our plea--U’Vnei Osah BiKarov BiYameinu Binyan Olam. With these words, we ask that it be Hashem Himself who rebuilds Yerushalayim--so that it stand permanently (unlike the first and second Bais Hamikdash eras, when human were involved in the building and which were only temporary).  Fascinatingly, HaRav Chaim Friedlander, Z’tl, points to the words in Nacheim --Ki Atta Hashem BaAish Hitzata U’VaAish Atta Asid Levnosa…Hashem You destroyed it in fire and with fire You will build it, as well.  We don’t know very well how to build a city with fire--Hashem does.  The Ramchal actually explains that there is a deeper concept that lies here as well:  It is not only that there will be a Yerushalayim above and a Yerushalayim below, but that the new ‘rebuilding’ will include Ruchniyus from above coming down to connect to the Ruchniyus below.  Thus, although there will be a semblance of physical walls around, the Ruchniyus of the heavens above will actually have a place in this world.  We then specifically ask that this incomparable and eternal rebuilding occur B’Karov B’Yameinu.  HaRav Friedlander notes that there are two concepts here.  First, we would like it to happen B’Karov--in the immediate future. Even, however, if it does not occur this hour or this day, we still plea that it happen B’Yameinu--in our days while in Olam Hazeh! 



Special Note Three:  HaRav Chaim Kanievsky, Shlita, was asked the following question by his student: 


Question:  “I was given a Bracha by an elderly person that I should become a “gevir” (a wealthy person).  I did not know whether I should answer Amen to such a Bracha.  Should I have? 


Answer:  HaRav Chaim said that the word “gevir” can have various meanings--including a gevir in Torah and that accordingly, an amen would be in order.  In fact, it is well known that the Steipeler Gaon was Sandek a great number of times, and that being Sandek even once brings wealth (as the one who is Sandek is likened to a Kohein who brings the Ketores in the Bais HaMikdash).  The Steipeler was asked where his wealth was from those hundreds perhaps thousands of times--in response he pointed to the Seforim he had written and exclaimed:  This is my wealth!”



Special Note Four:  The following brief notes on Tzedaka (as found in this week’s Parsha) are excerpted from the masterful work, The Laws of Tzedaka and Ma’aser by Rabbi Shimon Taub, Shlita (Artscroll):


A.  The Halachic definition of a poor person is one who does not have the basic necessities for an entire year.  Therefore, one who is lacking may either collect sufficient Tzedaka until he obtains enough money to be sustained for the entire year, or collect enough capital to enable himself to start a business in order to have a consistent means of support and live off of the profits.  If he is married and has children, that amount would include them as well.  One who has a job where he receives a set income is not permitted to take Tzedaka money, unless his salary is not enough to live on.  For example, if his salary is $1,000.00 a month and he needs $1,200.00 a month, he would be allowed to take $200 from Tzedaka. 


B.  One is obligated to give Tzedaka to one who lacking in Middos and has character flaws (of course, one should try to help him improve his character).


C.  Some have the custom at the time of dispensing Tzedaka to daven that neither he nor his descendants ever come to the point of needing Tzedaka.


D.  One should give Tzedaka with his right hand.


E.  It is better not to give than to give and embarrass a person by giving publicly.  If a person is collecting publicly, this would not be an issue, as he is expressing his agreement to your giving in this fashion. 


F.  The order of Tzedaka priority generally is as follows: (i)  Any situation of Pikuach Nefesh;

(ii) to support the study of Torah; (iii) to pay for the medical needs of the poor; (iv) the building or maintenance of a community shul (however when monies are only designated to enhance an existing shul or to rebuild an already existing shul the order of priority would be moved after (v) below); (v) All other needs of the poor.  Facilitating the needs of a yesoma takes precedence here.  Note:  One should consult with his Rav about a particular Shailah or situation as other factors may be involved (for instance, one should give priority to one’s relatives, although he should not give them more than one-half of his Tzedaka funds to relatives). 


G.  A child who gives Tzedaka on behalf of a deceased parent always attains Kapparah for the parent because of the concept of “Be’ra Mezakeh Abba--a child brings merit to the parent, regardless of who the parent was.”


H.  One who separated funds for Tzedaka and was certain that he was careful regarding their safekeeping, but despite this the funds were either lost or stolen, is not responsible to replace the stolen money.  However, if one was negligent regarding the safekeeping of the Tzedaka, one would be obligated to repay the money


I.  One who experienced a Neis should separate some money and give it to Tzedaka to help those who are learning Torah and say:  Yehi Ratzon Sheyihei Nechshav BiM’kom Todah Shehayisi Chayav BiZ’man HaMikdash.”



Special Note One:  Today is the Yahrzeit of the Steipeler Gaon, Z’tl, whose righteousness and Ahavas Yisroel were already legendary in his own time.  The Luach Dovor BeIto brings that he would advise people to daven Yom Kippur Koton to be saved from sickness and negative events or occurrences.  He would also recommend (based on the Sefer Kaf Hachaim, Orach Chaim 181) that people in need of a Yeshua undertake as a kabbala to recite Nishmas Kol Chai with joy in the presence of a minyan--when the Yeshua would be received.  This undertaking, in turn, would serve as a great zechus for the needed Yeshua. 



Special Note Two:  We continue with our focus on the Fourteenth Bracha of Shemone Esrei--Binyan Yerushalayim.  Chazal (Megillah 17B) teach that the bracha for rebuilding Yerushalayim was placed by the Anshei Knesses HaGedolah after Al HaTzadikim because it is in Yerushalayim where the Tzaddikim will reach their epitome, as the Posuk declares (Tehillim 122:6) Sha’alu Shelom Yerushalayim Yeshlayu O’Havayich.  Simply stated, the glory of the Tzadikim will not be revealed until they return to Yerushalayim upon its redemption.  It is important to note that it is not only the Bais HaMikdash that we seek, but the building of the entire city.  In his introduction to Tehillim Chapter 122 (Artscroll Tanach Series), Rabbi Avrohom Chaim Feuer, Shlita, provides the following great insight into what Yerushalayim should mean to every individual: 


“This Perek describes the glory of Yerushalayim of old.  As a city, it was different from all others.  Generally, cities are no more than clusters of buildings where masses of people settle together for the sake of security or commercial convenience.  As the urban multitude increases, the significance and value of the individual decreases.  As the individual grows ever more dependent upon the services and the society of the masses, his personal stature is diminished, for his own worth and personal ability has less effect in society.  This situation breeds friction and animosity in the metropolis and polarizes its citizens.  This was not the case in Yerushalayim.  There, every Jew experienced a personal encounter with Hashem.  This encounter was a dramatic revelation which demonstrated to each and every man the special, divine nature of his soul.  The crowds of Olei Regel which converged upon the city enhanced this realization of individuality and did not detract from it at all.  For, just as no two faces are alike, no two minds are alike (Berachos 58a).  Every additional pilgrim who arrived in the city gave further evidence to the diversity and uniqueness of Hashem’s creatures.  Thus, the proliferation of the masses heightened the individual’s self esteem and lifted his spirits.  This fostered brotherhood and unity in Yerushalayim, which came to be known as the city of peace, the city that is united together.”


Hakhel Note:  May we be zoche to feel the elevation as Olei Regel speedily and in our days.  An essential way for us to get there is by davening for it in this bracha!  



Special Note Three:  This week’s Parsha contains several Mitzvos relating to Tzedaka, the proper giving of charity. As we have now moved within ten (10!) days of Chodesh Elul, the Days of Mercy, it is important for us to know how we best can demonstrate mercy to others, and actually put this mercy into actual practice. It is not by ‘sheer coincidence ‘ that the Torah reminds us of the Tzedakah imperative at this time. As Chazal teach--even a poor person must give tzedaka (Gittin 7B). We provide below several important points relating to the mitzvah of Tzedaka from the Sefer Mi’el Tzedakah and the Sefer Pele Yoetz:

1. According to the greatness of the Mitzvah is the Yetzer Hora which fights it.  Chazal (Eruvin 65B) teach that “Adam Nikar BeKiso”--one can tell much about a person by what he does with his money.

2. There is  a special accomplishment in giving Tzedaka to those who are “Amalei Torah”--to those who toil in Torah study. Chazal (Shabbos 105B) remind us that “Talmid Chochom Hakol KeKrovov”--all are like his relatives. Accordingly, he should be given preference in Tzedaka treatment, much as one gives a relative such preference. When one gives Tzedaka to a Talmid Chochom, he is also supporting Torah study quantitatively and qualitatively (for removing even a portion of his financial burden will give him greater peace of mind to learn) , honoring the study of Torah, considered as if he brought Bikkurim to the Kohen in the Bais HaMikdash (Kesubos 105B), and bringing peace to the world( for Talmidei Chachomim increase peace in the world). From a  spiritual rewards perspective, Chazal (Pesachim 53A) teach that one who supports a Talmid Chochom will be zoche to sit in the Yeshiva Shel Ma’aleh, and that the rewards of the future that the Neviim describe relate to one who supports a Talmid Chochom in business and to one who marries his daughter to a Talmid Chochom (Brachos 34B)

3. One should give more to those who obviously qualify as aniyim, but one must always remember that “VeRachamov Al Kol Ma’asov--Hashem’s mercy extends to all of His creations”--and so should ours. If we recite this Pasuk three times a day in Ashrei, we must realize that Chazal are reminding and reinforcing this concept within us, day-in and day out.  It is important to put matters in their true perspective, as the Sefer Tomer Devorah (Chapter 2) writes: “...He should say in his heart, if this poor fellow were very rich, how much would I delight in his company as I delight in the company of So-and-So.  If he was dressed in handsome garments like So-and-So, there would be no difference in my eyes between them. If so, why should he lack honor in my eyes, being that in Hashem’s eyes he is more important than me, since he is plagued or crushed  with poverty and suffering, and is therefore cleansed of sin....”

4. The value of the Tzedaka is in accordance with the need and suffering of the poor person, and so giving before YomTov, or to help make a Chasuna, or if a child is born, especially fitting moments

5. Of the highest levels of Tzedaka is giving without the recipient realizing that he is receiving--such as buying items from him, or using his  services,  at a higher than usual price, or selling things to him or providing him with services at a discounted price.

6. The Kitzur Shulchan Aruch (34:1) writes that what will walk ahead of a person  after 120 years are his  acts of Tzedaka, as the Pasuk (Yeshaya 58:8) states--”VeHalach Lefanecha Tzidkecha Kevod Hashem Ya’asfecha...your acts of tzedaka will precede you and the glory of Hashem will gather you in.”

7. One should commiserate with the poor person (Iyov 30:25), and then give BeSever Panim Yafos--with  a pleasant countenance. If one has no money to give, one should at least give tzedaka with words of appeasement and caring.

8. In addition to the Torah’s Mitzvas Aseh to give tzedaka in this week’s Parsha, the Torah also warns us with a Lo Sa’Aseh in the Parsha--Lo SeAmetz LeVovecha VeLo Sikpotz Es Yodicha Mai’Achicha HaEvyon....do not harden your heart and do not shut your hand against your needy brother.  The Sefer HaChinuch (Mitzvah 478) movingly writes: “...but rather train your heart, under all circumstances, in the quality of generosity and compassion, and do not reckon that the matter will result in any lacking for you---because the Torah openly states “Ki Biglal Hadavar Hazeh Yevarechicha Hashem Elokecha (Devorim 15:10 )--because for the sake of this thing, Hashem will bless you.” The Chinuch concludes--“His bracha for you for a brief instant is better for you than any number of treasures of gold and silver!”



Special Note One:  We continue with our focus on the Fourteenth Bracha of Shemone Esrei--Binyan Yerushalayim.  [Note:  We provide the following note from an expert reader on proper pronunciation in this Bracha:  “It is V’Li.rushalayim And NOT V’LiYerushalaim”.]  Although the whole world and every part of it belongs to Hashem, we specifically call Yerushalayim Ircha.  With this, we place preeminence not on where we want to be, but rather where it is that the Shechina wants to uniquely reside in.  We thus importantly demonstrate that it is the Tza’ar HaShechina that is a primary concern for us.  Accordingly, even if we are undeserving, and even if it may be “better for us” if Hashem would wait for us to be deserving on our own --we nevertheless ask Hashem to return with His Mercy now so that the Shechina will finally come to its eternal resting place.  It is certainly no coincidence (as it never is!) that our Program comes to this Bracha two weeks after Tisha B’Av, at a time when Yerushalayim could be fading a bit from our minds.  This reminds us not to let it happen--we must keep Yerushalayim in the forefront every day of the year.  We must remember that Yerushalayim is not just a city, a center, or geographic location on a map or globe.  We had recently published the penetrating words of Rav Schwab, Z’tl, and we bring them again here below--so that any time we say the word Yerushalayim we note and if possible momentarily reflect upon its unparalleled and wondrous nature.  HaRav Schwab, Z’tl, asks why the bracha of “V’Lirushalayim Ircha” begins with a Vav (“And”).  What is the meaning of “And” here--to what is the beginning of the bracha connecting?  HaRav Schwab suggests that the Vav alludes to the Yerushalayim Shel Ma’alah, where thousands, and perhaps millions, of Tzadikim who hoped and prayed for the rebuilding of Yerushalayim over the past 2,000 years now reside.  When the time comes for Yerushalayim to be rebuilt, these neshamos will experience it B’shamayim together with the people who are physically experiencing the rebuilding here on earth.  Moreover, although we do not really understand what it means at this time, Chazal teach that Hashem will return to the Yerushalayim Shel Ma’alah only after He has returned to the Yerushalayim Shel Matah, for He has been “absent” from the Yerushalayim Shel Ma’alah since the Churban, as well.  We are thus mispallel for Hashem to return to both cities of Yerushalayim (from the monumental work HaRav Schwab on Prayer published by Artscroll).



Special Note Two:  Before taking leave of Parshas Eikev we provide the following outstanding insights, based upon the Sefer Talelei Oros, an unmatched collection by HaRav Yissocher Dov Rubin, Z’tl:


A.  On the Pasuk “LeMa’an Anosecha U’Lema’an Nasosecha” (Devarim 8:16 ), the Chofetz Chaim writes that when Hashem wants to raise a person to a higher Madreiga in life, He first tests him with a Nisayon.  If the person is able to succeed at the Nisayon, then he is raised up to the higher Madreiga in life.  Hakhel Note:  Perhaps you now understand why this or that happened.


B.  The Torah warns against a person who is successful--contemplating that it is because “ Kochi V’Otzem Yadi Asah Li Es HeChayil HaZeh--it is my power and capabilities that have brought me to where I am today.”  The Sefer Meilitz Yosher notes that one of the reasons that we wash Netilas Yadayim upon rising in the morning is because the tumah that comes upon us while sleeping takes its last hold on the hands, which we must then wash in order to remove the tumah’s vestiges.  It is the hands that are the last to forego the tumah, he continues, because a person tends to attribute his success to “the work of his hands”--and there is no greater tumah than to believe that in a person’s own prowess and power which is the antithesis of Ain Od Milvado.  Thus, by washing our hands in the morning--we declare that we want to rid ourselves of the tumah of Kochi V’Otzem Yadi and instead proclaim Ain Od Milvado!  Hakhel Note:  Why not think about this every morning!


C.  The Imrei Emes was asked how a person could be Zoche to Yiras Shomayim.  He answered that from the Posuk of “Mah Hashem Elokecha Sho’el MeiImcha Ki Im L’Yirah--what does Hashem ask of you but to fear Him” (Devarim 10:12 ) Chazal also learn that a person should make 100 Brachos a Day.  The Imrei Emes therefore concludes that if a person is careful in his 100 Brachos a Day and has Kavannah when making them, he will be filled with Yiras Shomayim.  On this same topic of how one can attain Yiras Shomayim, HaRav Itzele Peterburger, Z’tl, has an additional insight.  He was once advised that there were Yeshiva Bachurim who were sleeping in the Bais Midrash and not in people’s homes (who had agreed to house them, as was a common practice in many European communities).  He was told that the reason they were so doing was in order to avoid going into a home and finding newspapers and other potentially harmful reading material for them.  HaRav Itzele responded that while their idea may be a good one, the Ikar is to study Mussar--for without one studying Mussar Seforim--even if one would be locked in the Aron Kodesh--he would light a candle there and read what his heart desired.  Hakhel Note:  Have we chosen our Mussar Sefer for Elul yet?


D.  The Sefas Emes notes that the first word of the second Parsha of Shema is VeHaya.  The Midrash explains that VeHaya is a Lashon Simcha.  This emphasizes to us that our Kiyum HaMitzvos should be B’Simcha, and that the more Simcha that we have in the performance of Mitzvos-- Tishme’u--the more we will be zoche to attain Sheleimus in our Mitzvah performance.  In a related vein, HaRav Moshe Feinstein, Z’tl, writes that we have a separate Parsha for Kabbalas Ohl Mitzvos --the second Parsha of Shema--after the first Parsha of Kabbalas Ohl Malchus Shamayim.  The Torah is teaching us that it is not sufficient to perform the Mitzvos just based upon Ohl Malchus Shomayim alone--for we also need VeHaya-- the Simcha and longing of the Neshama to do so.  Hakhel Note:  Perhaps we should say the word VeHaya with a special feeling and gladness as we begin to recite the second Parsha of Shema daily!


E.  Both the first and second Parsha of Shema, have the identical Pasuk for the Mitzvah of Mezuzah--U’Kesavtam Al Mezuzos Beisecha U’Visharecha.  The Mesech Chochma notes that the word U’Kesavtam is in the singular in both Parshiyos-- even though the primary focus of the Second Parsha is in lashon rabbim or on the Tzibbur.  Why, then, when it comes to Mezuzah is the singular form maintained?  He answers based upon Chazal who teach that if there was only one Mezuzah in what would otherwise be an Ir Hanidachas, the whole city would be saved so that the Mezuzah would not have to be burned.  Incredibly, he continues, not only does the *one* Mezuzah save the entire city and its inhabitants from immediate destruction, but that it also saves the city B’Dinei Shomayim--and that the inhabitants even have a Cheilek in Olam Habbah as well!  How important an individual’s Mitzvah performance is--one person who puts a Kosher Mezuzah on his door and it can save his entire city--in this world--and the next! Oh how we should treasure every Mitzvah that we perform!



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

a. In the Shabbos davening we recite “Chemdas HaYomim Korasa Lo”--you have referred to Shabbos as the “most coveted of days”.  Where in Tanach is Shabbos actually referred to in this way--as the ‘Chemdas HaYomim’?


b.  Chazal, based upon the Pasuk of “VeDaber Dovor” teach that one’s speech on Shabbos should not be the same as on a weekday (Shabbos 113A).  This is brought to light in many Halachos in Shulchan Aruch, Orach Chaim 307, many having to do with worldly-related matters.  Based upon this Halacha, the use of many words may be questionable on Shabbos.  Here are some examples:  Obama, health care, trillions (even if they are not yours), market (any one of them), emailed and even ... ‘my cell phone’.  You may think of several other words and phrases.  If one truly believes that Shabbos is Mai’Ain Olam Haba--why would he speak Olam Hazeh language there?  Additional Note:  Chazal teach that Shabbos is but one-sixtieth of Olam Haba--imagine what Olam Haba is really like!


c.  On Shabbos we are blessed with more Aliyos than any other day of the year.  What would happen if one called up to the Torah mistakenly first recited the after bracha of “Asher Nosan Lanu Toras Emes” and finished the bracha before he could be stopped.  Is it a bracha levatala and does he have to re-start with the bracha of “Asher Bachar Banu”, which is the appropriate first bracha before laining?  The Mishna Berurah (Shulchan Aruch, Orach Chaim 139, seif katan 15) rules that the bracha of Asher Nosan Lanu will be valid bedieved--and that the order of the brachos should then be reversed--with Asher Bachar Banu then being recited after the laining of the aliyah is completed. 


d. Rabbi Yisroel Reisman, Shlita, taught the people of the bungalow colony he was with many years ago that the Rema (Shulchan Aruch Orach Chaim 336:3) advises against eating on the grass on Shabbos, for people will quite likely then spill drinks on the grass (which involves two melachos-Zore’a and Choresh)--and  should therefore be avoided.  He related that the people listened to him, and took the Kiddush after davening off the grass on to the cement.  However, two families wanted to join together for Shalosh Seudos, and the only way they could do so was on a park table on the grass.  So, they agreed that no liquids would be served at Shalosh Seudos (which may be problematic for other reasons).  Everything at Shalosh Seudos went well--until one of the men was in a rush to wash Mayim Acharonim, had somebody quickly bring him some water in a cup, and promptly unwittingly proceeded to wash his fingers under the table --right unto the grass!  After realizing what he had done, he found Rabbi Reisman and exclaimed--I now see how great, how invaluable the advice of a Gadol B’ Torah really is!


e.  The Mishna Berurah (Shulchan Aruch,Orach Chaim 182, seif katan 1) rules that if there is a zimun, it is a Mitzvah Min HaMuvchar to bentsch over a Kos (a Kos Shel Bracha).  The Aruch Hashulchan writes that if one does so “Yisborech Min HaShomayim--he will be blessed from Heaven.”  Most certainly if we have a zimun present at the meal this special Shabbos, in which the Mitzvah of Birkas HaMazon is given to us, we should bentsch with a Kos Shel Bracha--which B’Ezras Hashem will bring much bracha into the home!



Special Note Two:  We provide by clicking here Rabbi Zecharia Wallerstein’s truly outstanding Hakhel Tisha B’Av Shiur --which is also extremely important for one’s year-round Avodas Hashem.  We thank Hidabroot for its assistance in production of the link.



Special Note Three:  As the Pasuk (Iyov 34:21) teaches “Ki Ainov Al Darchei Ish V’chol Tzeadov Yireh (For Hashem’s Eyes are upon man’s ways, and He sees all his steps).”  This week’s Parsha begins with the words “Vehaya Eikev Tishmiun.” Chazal teach that the Mitzvos that a person treads upon with his Eikev--with his heel, i.e., the Mitzvos that a person deems ‘relatively unimportant’ will surround him after 120 years at the time of judgment.  It may be these Mitzvos that surround him that ultimately determine his fate--and his level in Gan Eden (or chas veshalom elsewhere).  In honor of the Parsha, perhaps we can select one of these Mitzvos in our daily routine--remove it from under our heel, and elevate to a high position in our head!  Hakhel Note:  The Rabbeinu Bachaya explains that there is another reason that Mitzvos are referred to here with the heel and not with the heart. The heel is the furthest, most distant part of the body.  The reward for Mitzvos may not be evident immediately--but will be forthcoming in unfathomable measure... at the end!



Special Note Four:  Yet another mitzvah in the Parsha is the Mitzvah of Yiras Hashem.  Rabbi Elias Schwartz, Shlita notes that very often we refer to fearing Hashem not as ‘Yiras Hashem’, but as ‘Yiras Shomayim (Fear of the Heavens)’.  Rabbi Schwartz explains that this may be so because the heavens have never moved nor changed since the very beginning of creation--the heavens today are the very same heavens of the first and second days of creation!  We must demonstrate that our service of Hashem is also immutable--without faltering or compromise, without being pliable to the winds of time, without being torn by the problems of modern civilization.  Yiras Shomayim means that we will follow the path that Hashem has set for us in this world--and will not deviate, diverge, swerve or sway from our life’s mission.  From time to time--you can look up at the sky--and remind yourself that you, too are blessed with Yiras Shomayim!  Hakhel Note:  The Parshas HaYirah, which many recite daily, is the fifth aliyah of the Parsha.  Even if one does not recite this Parsha every day (it is found in many siddurim after Shacharis), it would certainly appear to be timely and appropriate to recite it with kavannah this Shabbos!



Special Note Five:  Continuing from yesterday, we present below several additional points and pointers relating to the second Parsha of Kriyas Shema, Vehaya Im Shomoa Tishmiu,  which is also found in this week’s Parsha:


1.  Before reciting the Parsha daily, one should understand that after having been Mekabel Ohl Malchus Shomayim in the first Parsha of Shema, he is now ready to be Mekabel Ohl Mitzvos.  One does not perform Mitzvos because they are nice, practical or logical--but because of Malchus Shomayim--Hashem has guided you and directed you to do so.


2. The Parsha also teaches one of the cornerstones of our faith--Sechar VeOnesh--reward and punishment; what we do right and what we do wrong is not of a fleeting or temporary nature --its effects are everlasting, for the good and for the bad.  Food is an easy, temporary Olam Hazeh reminder of this--a portion of satiating food can keep you going for many hours, while just a small portion of spoiled food can make you feel really sick for the same amount of time.


3.  In the Parsha, we learn that we must first feed our animals before we eat ourselves, based on the Pasuk--”VeNosati Esev...Levhemtecha VeAchalta VeSovata...”-first the Beheimos eat--and then you eat.  HaRav Chaim Kanievsky, Shlita, likewise rules that fish have to be fed first as well, so that if breakfast or dinner is around your aquarium’s feeding time, the fish must be fed first.  By analogy, anyone who is dependant on you should be taken care of first as well--after all isn’t Hashem taking care of you!


4.  The mitzvah of Tefillah is also found in the second parsha of Shema--with the words “Ul’Avdo BeChol Levavchem”.  HaRav Chaim Kanievsky, Shlita was asked the following question by friends of a young man who was seriously ill:  They have gotten together several times to recite Tehillim and daven for him.  He is unfortunately still ill.  Is there something else they should do--perhaps take upon themselves a special Mitzvah together...?  If so, what should they do?  HaRav Kanievsky answered that Chazal teach: “Im Ro’eh Adam SheHispallel Velo Ne’eneh, Yachzor VeYispallel  (Brachos 32A)...if a person sees that he prayed and that his prayers were not seemingly answered, he should pray again.”  He thus advised the friends, ahead of all else, to make another Kinus of Tefillah on their friend’s behalf.  From this P’sak we should grow in our appreciation of the utter potency of Tefillah.  As Chazal teach--Moshe Rabbeinu davened 515 times to enter Eretz Yisroel--and Hashem did not let him daven again--for on that 516th time he would have been answered!


5.  In the Siddur Avnei Eliyahu, the G’ra teaches that “Yoreh U’Malkosh” refers to Nevuah and Ruach Hakodesh, and that “Degonecha Tiroshecha Veyitzhorecha” refers to Chochma, Binah and Da’as.  Hakhel Note:  The G’ra crystallizes for us that Hashem’s reward goes way beyond rain in its proper time, food and parnassah--which are certainly incredible miracles in and of themselves!


6.  Hishamru Lachem Pen Yifteh Livavchem V’Sartem V’Avadetem Elohim Acheirim V’Hishtachavisem Lahem--take heed lest your heart be deceived and you turn aside and serve strange gods and bow down to them.”  The following is excerpted from Love Your Neighbor by Rabbi Zelig Pliskin, Shlita:  “The Chofetz Chayim cites the statement of the Rambam that from this Pasuk we can see the dangers involved in taking words out of context.  If we begin reading from the middle of this verse, we will read, “serve strange gods,” which is the exact opposite of what the Torah is telling us.  So too, when we hear that someone has spoken or acted against us--very often if we would hear the entire original statement, we would see that it was not meant to be malicious or spiteful.  Therefore, let us give people the benefit of the doubt and judge them favorably until one hears the entire story (B’air Mayim Chayim, positive commandment 3).”



Special Note Six:  A wonderful story on the need to treasure our Gedolim:  At his Hesped of HaRav Chaim Stein, Z’tl, Rabbi Moshe Tuvia Lieff, Shlita, related the following incident that happened with him (when Rabbi Lieff was in Kollel, he had a daily Chavrusa with HaRav Stein for three years) and HaRav Stein.  They were to travel together to New York for the levaya of a Rosh Yeshiva, upon whom HaRav Stein would say a Hesped.  As they were leaving HaRav Stein’s home in the early morning, HaRav Stein said ‘Just one minute--let me take some Tzeida L’Derech,’ and went back and brought some crackers with him.  Rabbi Lieff was a bit taken aback by the Rosh Yeshiva’s thought about food at that time, but soon dismissed it.  After the Rosh Yeshiva’s Hesped in New York and while awaiting their return flight to Cleveland, HaRav Stein pulled the crackers out his bag and handed them to Rabbi Lieff saying, “R’ Moshe Tuvia, you should eat something--I brought this for you.”  Rabbi Lieff, who was truly hungry at that time was astounded by the Rosh Yeshiva’s thoughtfulness on his behalf--before the entire trip began!  We should keep this story in the back of our minds as a paradigm of the need for foresight in our love, concern, and appreciation of the needs of others!



Special Note Seven:  We will soon approach Rosh Chodesh Elul, with a little more than one month left to the year.  Taking a momentary, just a momentary, look back we realize that there have been painful and pain-filled moments, times of difficulty and tribulation, of tzaros and tza’ar.  The year, however, has also brought some successes and joys, some smiles and some cheer.  There has also been a measure of expected and unexpected simchas and news of nachas from family and friends, of new friends and special accomplishments.  On top of the special events, many have been blessed with the ability to continue their daily activities for weeks and months at a time--going to Minyan and starting Shemone Esrei together with the Shatz, getting to work and keeping a job, helping someone in need (including one’s own parents or children) day-in and day-out.  Then there is having food and being able to eat, having clothing and being able to put it on by yourself, taking a hot shower or a cold shower depending on the need, taking care of bodily needs in the comfort of one’s own home, seeing a hospital, ambulance or rows of medications (over the counter and not over the counter) and not needing any or many of them, benefiting from all sorts of appliances (let’s start with air conditioners!), and other technology and machines to help make things easier and more pleasant throughout the day, pocket-sized Seforim and CD’s or MP3 players for the road, a free live Shiur available in the neighborhood or any daf or almost any subject online at any time--you know, in the end, it is going to be incredible to finally discover what more Gan Eden has to offer.  Certainly, the English term “paradise” can apply to many of the pleasures and benefits we have been blessed with.  Obviously, everyone experiences different kinds of benefits--more or less, and qualitatively different, than his next door neighbor, or even his sibling or spouse.  But it is all measured, and all with discreet and exact purpose in mind.  What we can begin to do about all of this is to recognize the benefits and blessings--and renew our awareness and thanks daily.  In the Chazaras HaShatz, there are two highlights which involve the entire Tzibbur (aside from properly responding to each bracha)--they are Kedusha in which we sanctify the name of Hashem in public,-and Modim in which we reiterate and, if one carefully notes the words, actually amplify and extend the thanks we express to Hashem for all He does for us.


While there is something in between, much of life can be categorized either r’l in the trials and tribulations category, and, on the other hand, much can be placed into the tangible benefits section.  The entire range of life’s experience comes directly from Hashem--as Chazal demonstrate with both the bracha of Shehechiyanu and the bracha of Dayan HaEmes.  To most, experiencing the benefits and having and maintaining the “ordinary” and “extraordinary” abilities and benefits that we are given is much more appealing than experiencing suffering, pain, or anguish.  How can we better recognize these pleasures--and show Hashem our appreciation of them?  May we suggest that, from now until the end of the year, one keep a daily log, if you will, of some of the things you really feel thankful about on that day--the Mazel Tov event, the successful encounter, the good food, the particularly meaningful Devar Torah you thought of or heard, the good or improved health, the working computer, the good friend, the way you saved a large amount of money, or that unbelievable Hashgacha Pratis story you just experienced.  There is really plenty in each and every day.  As the year 5771 draws to its close, many of those who took us up on our suggestion last year to count the number of Asher Yotzars they recite a day--thanking Hashem for the unfathomable miracles of the body--are now at over 1,000 brachos of thanks for this renewing daily (hourly) miracle alone.


If we can appreciate what we have--if we record and thank Hashem for those things we perceive as good (although everything is good because it comes from the Source of all Goodness), we will most certainly be zoche, middah keneged middah, to more of the very same kind of good--the good that is tangible and palpable--in a rebuilt and eternal Mikdash where we all can jointly exclaim--Tov LeHodos LaShem!



Special Note Eight:  We continue with our focus on the Thirteenth Bracha of Shemone Esrei Al HaTzaddikim.  The Bracha concludes with the words Baruch Atta Hashem Mishan U’Mivtach LaTzaddikim.  What is the meaning, what is the difference between Mishan and Mivtach?  The outstanding Sefer Talilei Oros on Tefillah provides several beautiful explanations:


a.  The Eitz Yosef suggests that Mishan refers to Hashem’s support of us in our Golus in Olam Hazeh, as the Pasuk states ‘Yekadmuni VeYom Eidi VeYehi Hashem LeMishan Li--they confronted me on the day of misfortune (i.e. Golus), and Hashem was a support for me’ (Tehillim 18:19).  Mivtach, however, describes the future--the days of Moshiach and Olam Haba. 


b.  The Eitz Yosef also suggests that Hashem is a Mishan--protecting us from the Yetzer Hara when He sees that we are truly sincere, yet He is a Mivtach--He gives one a full reward for defeating the Yetzer Hara--as if He had no part in it! 


c.  Hashem gives to those who are Boteiach in Him a Mishan, assistance to further strengthen them in their Bitachon.  This was evidenced, for instance, by the Bnei Yisroel who saw the Eser Makkos while still in Mitzrayim--before they even left--in order to bolster the Bitachon they had demonstrated by crying out to Hashem in the first place.  Similarly, with the Nes of Purim, first Haman led Mordechai around on the royal horse before the party in which Haman was brought down, in order to bolster the people’s Bitachon as they prayed for Esther’s success at the party.  So too in the future, teaches Rabbeinu Avrohom Ben HaGra, Hashem will show Nissim V’Niflaos before the final Geulah --in order for our Bitachon to be ‘Meleah V’Shaleim’ in Hashem.  Please daven at this point that this new demonstration of Mishan should occur speedily and in our days!



Special Note One:  At his Hakhel Shiur on Tisha B’Av, Rabbi Zecharia Wallerstein, Shlita, explained what an addiction is.  “People tell me that they are not addicted because they can stop the thing they are doing (smoking, drinking, habitual texting) at any time. When I ask them why, then, that they don’t do so--they respond: ‘Because I just don’t want to now’.  That is addiction!”  Hakhel Note:  Can we each rid ourselves of at least one addiction before Elul?



Special Note Two:  More on Bentsching--from a reader:  “My father, Zt’l, told me that we need to concentrate on the 5 things listed in Rachem - I count them off to keep focused.  I also heard that it is a mitzvah to mention Eliyahu Hanavi daily, easily accomplished in bentching, and lastly, a mitzva to bench your parents, again right in there!”  Hakhel Note:  Bentsching your parents would seem to come within Kibbud Av V’Aim (asking them to give you a bracha also would--and it doesn’t only have to be once a week!). We are not sure about the reader’s reference to mentioning Eliyahu HaNavi every day--but it may have to do with the Achake Lo for Moshiach-as he will herald in the Moshiach!


Special Note Three:  This week’s Parsha, Eikev, is not limited to the Mitzvah of Bentsching--although certainly it would have been enough!  Accordingly, we hope today and tomorrow to provide additional notes on the Parsha:


a. The  Parsha contains the famous phrase “VeLo Savi So’eiva El Baisecha--do not bring something abominable into your home (Devorim 7:26 )”.  The Torah is of course referring to Avodah Zara related matters.  We can take the hint, though, as to other related various and sundry to’eivos which confront us.  In order to demonstrate that we not only read the Torah, but learn from it (and especially from the Weekly Parsha--for it is appearing in my life now--before Elul-- for very good reason), we should perhaps go through our homes and see if there is something there that should not be there.  Improper reading or viewing material is what first comes to mind even if in the guise of children’s books or educational materials, and even if it is only intended to reflect the current world environment rather than be overtly obscene .  If some of those magazines or circulars that are dropped at your doorstep never make it into the house--you may literally be fulfilling the sacred words “do not bring them into the house”.  You may have some other ideas as to what to purge from your home (even if it is only for the news and sports).  The Sefer HaChinuch adds on this very Mitzvah (Mitzvah 429), that money gained improperly or inappropriately falls within the definition of to’eiva as well.  We should take a good look around the house--does everything here really belong to me--and even if it does belong to me --does it really belong here with me?


b.  The Pasuk (Devorim 8:3) reads: “Ki Lo Al HaLechem Levado Yichye HaAdam...--not by bread alone does man live, rather from that which emanates from the mouth of Hashem does man live.”  HaRav Aharon Kotler, Z’tl, sheds the following elucidating light on this Pasuk.  Man believes that he puts something (hopefully) tasty into his mouth, digests it through a series of miraculous processes, and is re-energized as a result.  The Pasuk, however, teaches that it is not simply the lechem, the food that has the power to nourish and satiate--it is, rather the actual “Motza Pi Hashem”--the force put into the food by Hashem that does so.  We may be physically eating the food--but it is its actual infusion by Hashem that makes it work.  Hakhel Note 1: What an incredible point to remember while eating!  Hakhel Note 2: Why would anyone overeat again--what a waste of time, on top of all else....!


c.  We are also blessed with the second Parsha of Shema, within which we accept the Ohl HaMitzvos, and in which we recognize Hashem’s Perfect Reward and Punishment.  In the first Pasuk we reiterate the Mitzvah (mentioned in the first Parsha of Shema) of Ahavas Hashem --Leahava Es Hashem Elokeichem.  The Chofetz Chaim writes that this Mitzvah is especially significant because it is always done Lishma--for there can be no ulterior motive to loving Hashem!


d.  The second Parsha of Shema also contains the mitzvah of Tefillin.  The Gerrer Rebbe, Z’tl, notes that if even the nartik, the outside case holding the Tefiillin, falls to the ground, it is our natural, sincere and almost inborn reaction to quickly pick it up and to kiss it in many places in order to show our affection for the Tefillin.  If we show our affection in this way to casing, he teaches, then all the more so should we naturally and sincerely show our unbounding love to the Tefillin’s wearer!


e.  In his commentary to Mesechta Brachos, Rabbeinu Yonah refers to the mitzvah of Mezuzah, reiterated in the second Parsha of Shema.  He teaches that through the Mitzvah of Mezuzah one demonstrates that the possessions (in this house, in this room) are dedicated to the service of Hashem.  The Mitzvah serves not just as a protection from harm--but as a statement-in-deed that you have a deeper understanding of what your worldly possessions mean and to what purpose they should be dedicated.  One thereby is actually Mekabel Ohl Malchus Shomayim through his earthly possessions --with the proper intent of the Mezuzah on his doors.  Hakhel Note:  When looking at or kissing a Mezuzah upon entering or leaving the room, one can momentarily reflect upon the great and famous words of Dovid HaMelech in Tehillem --’LaShem Ho’Aretz U’Meloah--To Hashem is the earth and its fullness!



Special Note Four:  We continue with our focus on the bracha of Al HaTzaddikim. The bracha next continues with the words Vesim Chelkeinu Imahem Leolam--and place our lot with them (the great persons).  HaRav Chaim Friedlander, Z’tl, explains that with these words we make a deep and profound request--that, just as with the Tzaddikim, the Chassidim, etc. true spiritual values guide their life--so to should our lives not be guided by the material and the mundane, but by the matters that are LeOlam--for eternity.  To bring the point--and the importance of the plea--home to us clearly, the Anshei Knesses HaGedola now add the words VeLo Naivosh Ki Vecha Votachnu--so we will not feel ashamed, because we trust in you.  HaRav Friedlander writes that shame even in this world is one of the greatest punishments and yissurin that a person can experience--even if it is only temporary, and in front of someone who you don’t know well.  Imagine, then, the unparalleled yissurin of shame in front of the Heavenly Court --and certainly in front of one’s Maker!  By putting ourselves together with the special people in this bracha, we recognize and affirmatively assert that it is not only technical Mitzvah performance that is important--but it is the value, the aforethought, the kavannah, the care, the completeness of the Mitzvah that we seek as well.  We don’t want there to be a difference between the way a ‘good person’ does a Mitzvah and the way we do!  After davening for this eternally great goal--we should try to put it into practice when performing a Mitzvah.  Try to daven Shemone Esrei, Learn or do a Chesed or any of the 613 Mitzvos--like you think Rav A, B or C would!



Special Note One:  Some notes from our readers on Birkas Hamazon:




 b.  “The word U’vairachta also needs the emphasis at the end – for the same reason as Veachalta – so that it means, ‘And you should make a beracha’– not, ‘And you made a beracha.’


 c.  “The Shulchan Aruch (Chapter 61) rules that for a Mitzvas Asei from the Torah, one must have Kavannah for the Mitzvah--since bentching is a Mitzvas Asei--one should be sure to have
Kavannah.. Also, the Sefer Shem Olam writes that one has to remember to have kavannah to give thanks to Hashem for Eretz Yisroel, for Food, for our Bris with Hashem and for the Torah.  The Chofetz Chaim even writes “Ba’Avoseinu HaRabbim” we say Nodeh--we give thanks without Kavannah.  One should be SHTARK especially in the second bracha!”


d.  “The Mishna Berurah to Shulchan Aruch Orach Chaim 180, seif katan 4 (from G’ra) says that one should only not bring a whole loaf if there are crumbs but if there are no crumbs, it might even be better to bring a whole loaf (Zohar).”



Special Note Two:  We continue (finally) our series on lessons from the Chofetz Chaim, based upon the Sefer Chofetz Chaim: Middos U’Mitzvos (Hebrew):


a. Stay Sin Free!  The Chofetz Chaim writes that when a Machshava which is not Tahora enters a person’s mind, or when one is about to angry--it is very good to look at one’s Tzitzis--V’az Yifka HaYetzer--and then the Yetzer Hora will be blown away!


b.  In his Introduction to the Mishna Berurah, the Chofetz Chaim brings from the Midrash Shochar Tov that by learning two Halachos in the Morning and Two Halachos in the Evening--he has fulfilled the words of ‘U’veSoroso Yehege Yomam Valaila!  What a beautiful program to enter into Elul with--your daily, dedicated fulfillment of the Pasuk!


c.  BeRov Am Hadras Melech applies not only to davening, but to learning as well.  Although one fulfills the Mitzvas Aseh of Talmud Torah learning by himself, lechatchila one should be mehader to learn together with others--for by doing so one is Mekadesh Shem Shomayim to a greater extent--as a group gets together in Avodas Hashem!


d.  Talmidei Chachomim who study the Halachos of the Avodah and Karbanos are like Kohanei Hashem who  are standing in the Bais Hamikdash.  The Yisroelim who support them in their studies are considered as if they are actually bringing a korban.  Hakhel Note:  Without a Bais Hamikdash, one could have the idea that he is ‘saving’ hundreds or perhaps thousands of dollars a year in karbanos that he is not bringing.  Let us demonstrate that we realize that this is not saving at all.  The Chofetz Chaim gives us the opportunity!



Special Note Three:  HaRav Shlomo Zalmen Auerbach, Z’tl, provides an incredible lesson to us all.  He teaches that not only are Mussar works based in Chazal not permitted to be studied in the bathroom, but that even works which are simply based upon ‘chochmas hamiddos’ should not be studied in the bathroom as well. Oh how valuable the study of Mussar is--let us appreciate it!



Special Note Four:  We continue with our focus on the bracha of Al HaTzaddikim.  According to the Sefer BeRumo Shel Olam, there are 42 words in the bracha, corresponding to the 42 letters in the Pasuk of VaAvarecha Mevorechecha (Bereishis 12:3).  The BeRumo Shel Olam also brings the teaching of the Tur that this bracha contains every letter of the Aleph Bais.  We ask Hashem that he have complete mercy on us all.  We then plead with Hashem to give a “Sachar Tov L’chol HaBotchim B’Shimcha B’Emes--a good reward for those who truly believe in You.”  The Steipler Gaon, Z’tl notes that every Mitzvah that one performs will be rewarded in Olam Habah--why would the Mitzvah of Bitachon be any different?  What are we asking for here?  He answers that we are not requesting reward in Olam Habah with these words.  Rather, as Dovid Hamelech teaches us in Tehillim (32:10), “Haboteach BaHashem Chesed Yesovivenu--one who trusts in Hashem is surrounded by kindness.”  Likewise, as the Navi (Yirmiyahu 17:7) writes, “Boruch Hagever…Vehaya Hashem Mevtacho--blessed is the man who trusts in Hashem, then Hashem will be his security.”  In these Pesukim, both Dovid Hamelech and Yirmiyahu Hanavi are teaching us the greatness of Bitachon--even if we do not merit, even if we are not otherwise worthy of, Hashem’s Chesed or Security, He may in any event save us in the zechus of our true Bitachon in Him! Let us appreciate the power of Bitachon--and the importance of our plea!



Special Note One:  We continue with our focus on the bracha of Al HaTzaddikim. The Kuntres Avodas HaTefillah brings the Midrash (Tanchuma, Parashas Shmini 11) which teaches “just as a bird cannot fly without wings--so too can K’lal Yisroel not function without our Zekanim”.  We therefore ask that Hashem arouse His Mercy (Yehemu NaRachamecha) upon them--for they are needed by us all.  We also ask that Hashem arouse His Mercy on the Pleitas Sofreihem.  Who are they? The Kuntres explains that they are the remainder of the Talmidei Chachomim who are Osek BaTorah and the Melamdei Tinokos--the teachers of school children who deserve our special mention.  Together with these great group--we are allowed to add ourselves  with the word VeAleinu.  We demonstrate that we want to be in the right company--and thus plead to be treated likewise.  What a powerful opportunity!



Special Note Two:  This week’s Parsha contains the Mitzvas Aseh of Birkas Hamazon. Because Birkas Hamazon is such a great Yesod of our Emunah and expression, and because it is the Yesod in the Torah of all of our Birchos HaNehenin, we provide below (as in previous years) several important points relating to the Mitzvah, much of which has been culled from the Sefer VeZos HaBracha by HaRav Alexander Mandelbaum, Shlita.  Please review carefully--and please feel free to provide us with your additional important notes for sharing with others:


1.  The Pasuk which sets forth the Mitzvah is actually recited in the second bracha of Birkas HaMazon: “VeAchalta VeSavata U’Vairachta...” We note that, just as in Kriyas Shema where  the emphasis on the word ‘VeAhavta’ is on the last syllable--the ‘ta’, and not on the middle syllable of ‘hav’(which incorrect pronunciation would change the meaning of the word to past tense), so too the emphasis on the word VeAchalta is placed  on the ‘ta’ and not on the ‘achal’  (which mispronunciation would likewise alter the meaning of the word is to the past tense).


2.  Before commencing Birkas Hamazon, one should have in mind or recite that he is about to fulfill the Mitzvas Aseh of Birkas HaMazon--with awe and love.


3.  One should Bentsch with ‘Simcha Yeseira’--an extra measure of joy, as one would feel after having received a beautiful gift from another.


4.  LeChatchila, in the first instance, one should Bentsch from a Siddur or Bentscher, and bentch out loud, or at least loud enough to hear the words you are saying .


5.  One should be sure to be respectably dressed.


6.  One should bentsch while sitting, to increase Kavanna.


7.  One should leave some bread on the table for bentsching, and if none was left, one should bring bread from somewhere else (but not a whole loaf). This demonstrates our awareness of Hashem’s beneficence in giving us more than we need, and provides something for bracha to be ‘chal’ on going forward


8.  On weekdays, any knives left on the table should be removed or covered, for our Shulchan is like the Mizbeach, which brings kapara and extends a person’s life. According to the Kaf HaChaim in the name of the Arizal, knives should be removed on Shabbos and Yom Tov as well, and this may be the Minhag in some Sefardi families.


9.  If one is thirsty, he should be sure to drink before Birkas HaMazon, for some opinions require drinking if thirsty in order to fulfill the Mitzvas Aseh D’Oraysa to Bentsch.


10.  One should eat a kezayis of bread within a three (3) minute span at some point during the course of the meal, so that he will have eaten the minimum shiur required for Birkas HaMazon “bichdei achilas peras”. If one does not do so, than according to HaRav Moshe Feinstein, z’tl, he should not bentsch. It is for this reason that many are careful to eat a kezayis of bread bichdei achilas peras ( once again, three minutes according to HaRav Feinstein) at the beginning of the meal, rather than nibbling on bread or challah in between courses of a meal.


11.  One must bentsch in the place that he ate. If one left that place, and it is possible to return within 72 minutes after his meal was completed, he should return, unless there is real reason that he cannot return, in which event, a sheas hadechak or bedieved, he is Yotzeh bentsching elsewhere.


12.  Each guest should bless his host with the Birchas HaOreyach. If the siddur or bentscher given to him does not have it, he should ask his host for a siddur that does have it.  It should be recited immediately after the conclusion of the fourth bracha (‘Leola al yechaserainu’), and before all of the other HaRachamans, as its nusach is found in the Gemara itself (Brachos 46A). (Sefardim may recite it before Magdil Yeshuos).


13.  One should avoid motioning or signalling with his eyes, hands, and the like while bentsching, unless it is to stop something that is disturbing Kavanna. Similarly, one should avoid moving crumbs, adjusting his clothing, or conducting any other activity while bentsching.


14.  The Pele Yoetz writes that, according to Kabbala, the four Brachos of bentsching correspond to the four letters of Hashem’s ineffable name.  We should especially try to have Kavanna in the words--and most certainly when reciting the opening and closing words of the bracha.


15.  The Yesod V’Shoresh HaAvoda writes in his will to his children that he would daven prior to bentsching that he not be disturbed by a knock at the door or other annoyance, so as not to disturb his Kavanna while bentching. 


16.  There is a well-known story that HaRav Shlomo Zalmen Auerbach, ZT’L, once repeated the paragraph of “Nodeh Lecha”(We thank You, Hashem), in which we list many important things that we thank Hashem for.  When he was asked why he repeated it, he responded that he experienced a momentary lapse of Kavanna, and that saying “Thank you” without meaning it is not true thanks.  In a related way, Rabbi Yisroel Reisman, Shlita, teaches in the name of HaRav Pam, ZT’L, that one may put out a finger and count each one of the things that you are thanking Hashem for every time you recite “Nodeh Lecha”.  Example: “Al Yisrael Amecha-one, V’Al Yerushalayim Irecha-two etc.”  If you try this, you will see that it is a great method of focusing your appreciation, and rejoicing in what Hashem has given you.


17.   If we would simply focus on the powerful words of bentching, and would take the extra minute or two necessary to recite bentching in the manner described above, we would gain a greater appreciation of its hallowed words.  For instance, just look at the paragraph of “Bamorom Yilamdu Aleyhem V’Oleinu Zechus--in Heaven may a merit be pleaded for them and for us for a safeguard of peace….”  If one properly appreciates it, one will not try to “avoid bentching” like little children do, but rather value it for the great Mitzvah D’Oraysa--the incredible privilege and opportunity--that it truly is!



18.  Finally, the extreme importance of Birkas HaMazon is demonstrated by the great emphasis that is placed upon it in the Chinuch of children.  It is one of the first subjects taught to children--and in a joyful and singing manner.  We asked HaRav Chaim Pinchas Scheinberg, Shlita, whether it would be better for a newcomer to Torah Judaism to recite the bentching in English or to listen word-for-word to the bentching of another in Hebrew.  He responded that the newcomer should recite the bentching in English.  While a major reason for this may be the difficulty encountered by a newcomer in following the entire Birkas HaMazon in Hebrew, an ancillary reason for this P’sak may be so that the person who has just eaten can truly appreciate the nature and beauty of Birkas Hamazon.


May our recitation of Birkas HaMazon be a time that we anticipate--to express our appreciation with joy--and fulfill a Mitzvas Aseh D’Oraysa on top of it!



QUESTION OF THE WEEK:  In last week’s Parsha, we find the Pasuk which teaches us the Mitzvah of Talmud Torah--and it is not in Shema.  What is the Pasuk?  Hint:  See Kiddushin 29B. 



Special Note One:  We provide by clicking here a link to a calendar, which begins TODAY to learn all of Hilchos Rosh Hashana before Rosh Hashanah--by doing a small segment every day.  A very special opportunity for those who always wanted to learn Hilchos Rosh Hashana--but never had an organized program to accomplish it!


Special Note Two:  We continue with our focus on the Brachos of Shemone Esrei, one bracha per week, over the last 19 weeks of the year.  This week, we reach the Thirteenth Bracha Al HaTzaddikim.  HaRav Yonasan Eibeshutz, Z’tl, writes that this bracha especially reminds us that we must daven for our Tzaddikim.  As HaRav Eibeshutz writes “Vechol Zeman SheTzaddikim BaOlam, Bracha VeTova BaOlam.”  In fact, we mention five different groupings of great people at the outset of the Bracha--Tzaddikim, Chassidim, Zikeinim, Pleitas Sofreihem, and Gerei HaTzeddek.  One can definitely think about or visualize the five different kinds of great people who are encompassed by this bracha.  For instance, when reciting “VeAl Ziknei Amecha Beis Yisroel,” we can think about our Zikeinim and that we are davening to Hashem that He give them life and good health.  The Seder HaYom writes that we are really moving up in ascending order through the five groupings, as the Ger Tzeddek represents an epitome, having raised himself up from being wholly unaffiliated with the Jewish people, to his current position.  HaRav Eibeshutz adds that when mentioning the term Gerei Tzeddek, we should reflect upon our love for him/them and be Mekayeim the Mitzvah DeOraysa of VeAhavtem Es HaGer!  After we mention this wonderful list--beginning with the Tzaddikim and ending with the Gerei Tzeddek--we add ourselves--V’Aleinu for Hashem’s consideration.  What a precious opportunity it is to be able to add ourselves to this great list! 



Special Note Three:  Since last week’s Parsha contained the essential three-word message we carry with us 24/7 of “Ain Od Milvado--There is none beside Him (Devorim 4:35)”, we once again provide by clicking here the legendary words of HaRav Chaim Volozhiner, z’tl in the Sefer Nefesh HaChaim, which HaRav Chaim himself describes as a Segulah Gedola VeNifla’ah to one who can properly attach itself to the special words.  What an opportunity!



Special Note Four:  After Rabbi Yehudah Landy’s outstanding audio-visual presentation on the Churban Bayis Sheini at the Hakhel Tisha B’Av Program, there were those who asked whether Rabbi Landy is available to give tours in Eretz Yisroel.  Rabbi Landy advises us that in addition to lecturing, he is available to give tours, and is in fact a licensed Ministry of Tourism Tour Guide!  If you would like to contact him in EY, please let us know.



Special Note Five:  Just a few final lessons from Tisha B’Av:


a.  The Mishne Berura rules that, at a Chasunah, one can use a whole (unbroken) cup to break under the Chupah, and that there is no prohibition of ba’al taschis associated with its breakage, for it is for a real purpose--”L’Rameiz Mussar L’Ma’an Yitnu Lev--so that all in attendance take the lesson to heart, and realize the importance of Yerushalayim in our lives.”  For those in attendance at a Chasunah, please make sure that the cup’s shattering is meaningful to you!


b.  In Eicha, Yirmiyahu HaNavi laments “Lamah LaNetzach Tishkacheinu--which ostensibly means why will you forget us forever?”  However, we all know that Hashem will not forget us forever, and that He will bring Moshiach and a everlasting Bais Hamikdash back for us.  So what does the word “LaNetzach” mean here?  HaRav Yitzchak Ezrachi, Shlita, suggests that it refers to every minute before the Moshiach comes in which we lose the Nitzchiyus--the true and full potential of that moment.  When will we finally be remembered--we lament every lost minute of potential until the final Geulah takes place!


c.  In several places Chazal give many reasons for why we were sent into exile.  However, Chazal (Nedarim 81A) also bring one reason brought by Yirmiyahu HaNavi in the Name of Hashem--”Al Asher Azvam Es Torasi--for they forsook my Torah”, which the Meforshim there explain refers to a lack of proper honor and respect for the Torah…even though it was studied.  How could Chazal have given alternate reasons if the Pasuk itself--in the name of Hashem--explains why we were exiled.  Many explain that Chazal pinpoint various sins that we were truly guilty of.  However, had we shown proper reverence for the Torah, studying it Leshma and honoring it properly, then the Torah would have protected us from exile even in the wake of all of the egregious sins, as the Torah is a Magnoh U’Matzlei--a source of true and ultimate protection.  It thus very much behooves us to take a great lesson away from Tisha B’Av--learning to accord an extra level of respect and reverence to the Torah and those that study it.  This includes standing for Rabbanim, addressing them with a high level of respect, and learning Torah with the knowledge that it is Hashem’s gift to us, and that he wants us to utilize His gift!



Special Note Six:  Today, joyously, is the 15th day of Av, Tu B’Av.  We are all too familiar with the five major tragedies that occurred on Tisha B’Av through the fall of Beitar and the plowing over of Zion (succeeded by other later tragedies as well).  We may be equally as familiar with the five corresponding great events of Tu B’Av:  Very briefly,  1.  It was finally determined that the final group of men aged 20-60 (previously part of the decree to pass away in the Midbar) were allowed the privilege of entering Eretz Yisroel.  2.  The shevet of Binyamin was saved from extinction by the shevatim being permitted to marry their daughters to the few hundred men left---so that there would be a kiyum of the shevet forever.  3.  The guards posted by the Kings of the Aseres Hashevatim for hundreds of years, which prevented the ten tribes from freely traveling to the Bais Hamikdash, were removed--and all were allowed to make their way to the Mikdash.  4.  The people of Beitar who were murdered by the Roman legions, and whose bodies miraculously did not decompose for years, were finally allowed by the Romans to be buried (and as a result the bracha of HaTov U’Maitiv was composed).  5.  The people would no longer cut firewood for the Bais HaMikdash commencing on this date, because the sun’s rays had begun to weaken, and the people celebrated the completion of the Mitzvah (which also allowed for more time for the study of Torah, as explained by the commentaries). 


There is, however, an additional significant point about this day mentioned in the
Mishna in Ta’anis (4:5).  There were nine days during the year in which families donated necessary wood to the Bais HaMikdash and celebrated the privilege by bringing a special sacrifice--a Korban Eitzim along with it.  One of these special nine days of the year was Tu B’Av.  However, there was something more special about the wood brought on Tu B’Av than on the other eight days--for on the other eight days the wood brought was limited to one particular family’s gift--but on Tu B’Av, as the Mishna specifically records it was a particular family --”the children of Zeitu ben Yehuda”--but *together with* Kohanim and Leviim; and *together with* anyone who no longer knew which shevet he was from, and *together with* other families who had demonstrated mesirus nefesh to reach the Bais Hamikdash in the past (see Bartenura there for details). In other words, there was a unique achdus on this day which went well beyond the singular family donation, and extended it to a united gift from various groups together.  It was almost as if the events of Tu B’Av were to be a blatant demonstration as to how the issues of Tisha B’Av have to be resolved--with togetherness and selflessness.  Indeed, the Bnai Yissoschar explains that it is no coincidence (did you really think that it was?!) that all of this happened on the fifteenth of Av--and that the fifteenth letter of the Aleph Vais is a Samech.  The Samech has no top and no bottom, no beginning and no end--indicating unity, harmony and accord.  It is for this reason, as the Mishna teaches, that the unwed girls would go out on this day in shared clothing (so that there was equality among rich and poor as well)--and dance in a circle --demonstrating that although one may be a Kohen, another a Levi, a third not know which shevet he was from, another rich, another poor--we are all joined as one, and will always be one.


The last Mishna in Ta’anis teaches that there were no greater Yomim Tovim for K’lal Yisroel than Tu B’Av and Yom Kippur.  On the surface, we could explain that this is because on Yom Kippur we united with Hakadosh Baruch Hu, and on Tu B’Av we united with each other.  The Kopshitzer Rebbe, z’tl teaches, however, that when we dance with each other on Tu B’Av--holding on to the next one’s hand and going around in that undefined circle joined together B’Achdus as one--then HaKadosh Baruch Hu’s hand is very much holding on to ours as well. 


Most certainly, when we dance together at any simcha, we should feel the spiritual elevation--the unity and oneness with everyone in our circle, and with HaKadosh Baruch Hu who joins with us as well.  On this very special day, Tu B’Av, let us consciously demonstrate that we appreciate and understand the very special juxtaposition of Tisha B’Av and Tu B’Av.  Let us practice extra-special acts of love and caring for our brothers--holding on tight and joyously dancing in that broad and meaningful circle with everyone--whether or not we may actually be on any one plywood floor together!



QUESTION OF THE WEEK:  In this week’s Parsha, we find the Posuk “Atta Horeisah Lada’as Ki Hashem Hu HaElokim Ain Od Melvado (Devarim 4:35 ).  Several Pesukim later we find the famous posuk that we recite in Aleinu daily “VeYadata Hayom VeHasheivosa…Ain Od…” (Devarim 4:39)  Why does the term change from Ain Od Melvado to Ain Od? 




Special Note One:  We continue with our focus on the Twelfth Bracha of Shemone Esrei--Velamalshinim.  We conclude this bracha with the words Shover Oyvim U’Machniya Zaidim.  It is important for us to recognize that just as a Kiddush Hashem results from the Bnei Yisroel who miraculously leave Mitzrayim, there is equal Kiddush Hashem in the destruction of our enemies at Kriyas Yam Suf and in the wars to conquer Eretz Yisroel.  In this Bracha,

we strive not for violence, not for the vanquishment of others, but to bring the world to its purpose.  We have all kinds of enemies, we have the Malshinim (those that slander us), we have the Minim (the heretics), we have the people like Amaleik who are out for our physical destruction--even for our obliteration.  All of these are not only our enemies, but are Hashem’s enemies as well.  With the destruction of the tumah that they represent, more Kedusha is brought into the entire world.  It is perhaps for this reason that this Bracha is particularly placed in between the bracha of Hasheva Shofteinu and Al HaTzaddikim, both of which represent bringing greater Kedusha into the world through the Gedolim Olam we are davening for there. We must eradicate the evil, so that the good from all sides can shine forth.  Hakhel Note:  We reiterate that we mention the word Meheira more times in this bracha than in any other, for with the accomplishment of Sur Mei’rah soon we will be all the more close to the Aseh Tov which we so desperately await.  Let us pause for a moment--at each Meheira with the Kavannah that it happen speedily!



Special Note Two:  We continue with lessons from Tisha B’Av:


a.  On the night of Tisha B’Av, due to the Lashon Hara of the Meraglim, the Torah records that “Vateiragnu BeAhaleichem--you complained in your homes.”  The Torah goes out of its way to use the word “complain”--the notorious Midda of nirganus.  Complaining (even when justified in this way or that way) leads to Sinas Chinam, Lashon Hara and many other ills.  Indeed, we are still paying for that complaining to this day.  The next time you are about to complain about someone or something, perhaps think about the night of Tisha B’Av, and consider whether it is really worth it, or whether what you are about to do is really more in the Tisha B’Av spirit and could c’v lead to Tisha B’Av type results.  Say NO to complaining!


b.  Rabbi Zev Leff, Shlita, teaches that the chait of the Meraglim was really a chait of insensitivity.  What we are supposed to do, then, is make a special effort to show how sensitive we really are.  One of the most famous stories in this regard is about the woman who was seen crying profusely as IAF fighter jets flew overhead.  A compassionate person, seeing her sobbing, asked her if her son was in the IAF.  She responded “No, but someone’s son is!”  Just as Kiddush Hashem makes inroads against the sin of Chillul Hashem, can our sensitivity going forward move towards obliterating prior insensitivities of the past.  Don’t only think of someone else--think of their feelings as well.


c.  The Alter of Kelm, Z’tl, pinpoints the Sinas Chinam referred to by Chazal (Yoma 9B) as bringing about the Churban Bayis Sheini, which we still suffer from.  He writes that it is being happy when another person fails to succeed, and not being truly happy when a person does succeed, or attains wealth or honor.  Indeed, he teaches that “Someone who does not work at Ahavas HaBriyos will fall, c’v, into the Gehenoim of Sinas HaBriyos, which a person’s mind selfishly gravitates towards.  They Alter therefore recommends that one study the Sefer Tomer Devorah by Rabbi Moshe Cordovero, Z’tl, which provides real lessons in Ahavas HaBriyos.  He also recommends that a person think about the Mitzvas Asei of V’Ahavta L’Reiacha Kamocha from time-to-time, and how to practically apply it in real life situations in one’s personal life.  The destruction has occurred--we have to work on rebuilding!


d.  If one had forgotten Nacheim on Tisha B’Av in the bracha of V’Lirushalayim Ircha, where could he have made it up, where could he have inserted it?  The Mishna Berurah rules that it is in the bracha of R’tzei, just before V’Sechezenah Eineinu.  This bracha is known as the Bracha of Avodah, and may usually be recited quickly, on one’s way to bowing at Modim.  However, we would do well to recite this Bracha slowly, for it refers to our desire that Hashem bring our ultimate Avodah back to the Bais HaMikdash itself--and concludes with a plea that our dream be fulfilled-- V’Sechezenah Eineinu, may our eyes see the Shechinah return to Yerushalayim.  Let us leave Tisha B’Av week with this bracha restored to a key place in our Shemone Esrei.


e.  We conclude our recitation of Eicha by reciting in unison “Hashiveinu Hashem Eilecha V’Nashuva.  Yet, Chazal teach that Hashem’s response o this is “Shuva Eilai V’Ashuva Aleichem--you return first, and then I will return to you.”  Why is Hashem, ostensibly, standing on what appears to be “ceremony”--why doesn’t He simply come back to us first so that we can return to Him.  Rabbi Simcha Kallus, Shlita, explains that Hashem, can, of course, save us by returning to us.  However, our Geulah will only be complete if we take the first step and return to Him.  That is why He waits for us--so that our Geulah can be complete!  It is no small wonder, then as to why the Posuk of Hashiveinu is recited as the concluding Pasuk every time we put away the Sefer Torah--as we tell ourselves what we need to do, now that we have studied the Torah--in order to once and for all bring the Geulah. 


f.  Rabbi Zecharia Wallerstein, Shlita, pointed out what a loving Father Hashem really is.  We have Three Weeks of pain--and Seven Weeks until Rosh Hashana of Nechama!



Special Note Three:  We now approach Shabbos Nachamu, after having just attempted to appreciate the enormity of the devastation that has befallen us.  Shabbos Nachamu is intended to enlighten us as to how great the consolation will be.  There is no Pasuk that says “Eichah, Eichah.”  There is, however, a Pasuk which repeats “Nachamu, Nachamu--be consoled, be consoled...!”


Chazal teach us that “Kol Hamesabel al Yerushalayim--Anyone who mourns over Yerushalayim,” is “zoche v’roeh--merits and sees”--its rejoicing.  HaRav Meir Schuck, Zt’l, notes that Chazal do not teach that the person who mourns over Yerushalayim **will** merit and see its rejoicing, but rather, in the present, **now** merits and sees its rejoicing.  How is this so?  After all, do not Arabs still occupy the Temple Mount?  Is not the Bais HaMikdash still in ruins?  HaRav Schuck explains that if someone truly appreciates the loss of a rebuilt Yerushalayim, he takes action, practical and meaningful steps, towards its rebuilding, just as someone with a tattered roof on his home, or a car in his driveway that doesn’t start, will do in order to fix things--to bring them back to normal.  How does one “fix” the situation in this instance?  He davens hard when he reaches the places in Shemone Esrei asking for the rebuilding of Yerushalayim, as noted earlier, and he undertakes special Mitzvos for the sake of the redemption.  His participation in the rebuilding brings him joy, much in the same way as someone still building a house envisions all of the room and conveniences it will provide when completed, or as a woman repairs the hem of a dress hums, realizing that she will be wearing it to a chasunah in just a few hours.


Let us begin to rejoice in the ‘building’ now--for there will be much more to rejoice about when our ultimate House is done, and when our great chasunah arrives.



Special Note Four:  In a related vein, Rabbi Yosef Eisen, Shlita, brings an amazing teaching of the Ritva to Ta’anis 30B.  The Ritva explains that there will be a unique Techiyas HaMeisim that occurs at the time of the rebuilding of the Bais HaMikdash which will especially occur for those who passed away in Galus but who were Mechakim LeYeshua--who awaited the redemption.  The general Techiyas HaMeisim for everyone else comes only later at the time of Final Judgment.  The Middah KeNeged Middah is as clear as it is remarkable.  Since you anticipated, you yearned, you pursued, the yeshua--you attain it far ahead of anyone else.  It’s almost like the person who knows to goes quickly through the side streets to avoid the massive traffic jams at the bridge--turning a one-hour delay into a five minute ride--because he knew enough to anticipate and plan ahead---he knew how valuable the outcome really was, and succeeded to get there much faster!   



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


1.  Rabbi Zecharia Wallerstein, Shlita, also points out that this Shabbos is not called Shabbos Nachamu because it is a time of relaxation or comedy--but because it is a time to appreciate your closeness to HaKadosh Baruch Hu.  The notion of laxity associated with this Shabbos, and its related Motza’ai Shabbos, is immediately dispelled by the words of the Aseres HaDibros (coincidentally?) in this week’s Parsha!


2.  There are some special points of interest this Shabbos:


·        One should study and sing the words of Lecha Dodi in order to better appreciate and recognize the nexus between the Bais HaMikdash and Shabbos.  One reader advised us that he heard from an Adam Gadol that the Three Weeks and the Seven Weeks of Nechama are all alluded to in the Lecha Dodi! 

·        When reciting Av HaRachamim on Shabbos morning, let us remember that we are apparently given the permission to do so because we profoundly combine the Kedusha of the Kedoshim described, together with the Kedusha of Shabbos. 

·        In each Birkas HaMazon we will recall Yerushalayim, Malchus Bais Dovid, and the Bais HaMikdash--and ask for Hashem’s Mercy in restoring them.  Remarkably, we then inextricably bind the Kedusha of Shabbos to the Kedusha of the Bais HaMikdash with a special Retzeih recited for Shabbos placed into this Bracha of Boneh Yerushalayim!


3.  Chazal (Shabbos 10B) teach that Hashem told Moshe Rabbeinu that he has a Matana Tova--a Good Gift that He is giving to Klal Yisroel, and that Moshe Rabbeinu should so advise them.  The Chofetz Chaim teaches that a “Good Gift” from me or you is not the same as a “Good Gift” from a wealthy person, or from the president, or from a king.  Imagine, then, what the storehouses are of HaKadosh Baruch Hu, and what a “Good Gift” is according to His standards!  Thus, there is simply no shiur, no limit to the greatness of Shabbos--and it is every person’s privilege and duty to try and grasp and attain as much of the Matana Tova as he can through a proper and elevated Shabbos observance!


4.  The Chofetz Chaim also brings from HaRav Chaim Vital, Z’tl, that when making a bracha on a Mitzvah, we recite Asher Kideshanu B’Mitzvosav--but that the time itself during the performance of the Mitzvah is not necessarily Kadosh.  However, through our Kiyum HaShabbos, the Kedusah of Shabbos stretches and lasts through our other work days, so that all the time that a person lives on this earth becomes Kadosh--all because of Shabbos!  Savor the Kedushah!



Special Note Six:  Tomorrow, we will read in the Torah the first Parsha of Shema, the cornerstone of our faith.  It is, then, no “coincidence” (as it never is) that we always read it on the Shabbos after Tisha B’Av, for it provides focus for our lives at all times and in all places.  It is certainly an extremely auspicious time now to review and renew our connection to the Shema, both as to its proper recitation, and the Halachos and Hashkofos which are associated with, and emanate from, its holy words.


We provide below only a few points regarding Shema, which we hope is only a brief starting point and motivator to improve your daily Shema (remember these words that we are privileged to recite daily are the very same words with which we conclude Neilah--the Final Service--on the Holiest Day of the Year!).


1.  Before reciting Shema, we should have in mind that we are fulfilling the Mitzvah of Kabbalas Ol Malchus Shomayim, and the separate Mitzvah of Kriyas Shema.


2. “Shema” means listen, understand and accept.


3.  ”Yisroel” means to include **you**.  Rebbe Yisroel Salanter, Z’tl, used to say that while reciting the word “Echad,” we are to think about how Hashem By Himself rules over the Seven Heavens and the Earth, and all Four Directions of the world (Shulchan Aruch, Orach Chayim 61:4).  However, when thinking about this vast and limitless expanse--we must never forget that Hashem rules over us, as well, and we should sincerely subjugate our entire being, including all of our will and desires to Him.


4.  When reciting Hashem’s names--especially in the first two pesukim--we should understand what each name--i.e., “Hashem” and “Elokeinu,” mean and represent.  This can be accomplished quickly once you know the meanings well.


5.  When saying “VeAhavta (careful--emphasis on last syllable when pronouncing),” one should feel love for Hashem in his heart--at least for all the kindness that He bestows upon us!  See Shulchan Aruch, Orach Chayim 25, Mishne Berurah, seif katan 14.


6.  One should recite Shema from a Siddur which aids in the essential understanding of the words and in their proper pronunciation (the various Artscroll Siddurim, for instance, provide lines between words which could be slurred together if a small break is not made, and indicate through horizontal lines on the top of letters which Shevas are Sheva Na’s and which are Sheva Nach’s).


7.  One should not motion with his eyes or hands, even for the sake of a Mitzvah, during the first Parsha of Shema (Shulchan Aruch, Orach Chayim 63:6).


8.  Rabbi Moshe Goldberger, Shlita, teaches that there are seven (!) Mitzvos alone referred to in the first Parsha of Shema.


9.  Additionally, the first Parsha of Shema alludes to four of the Aseres HaDibros--can you find them?  The Mishne Berurah (Shulchan Aruch, Orach Chayim, 61, seif katan 2) enumerates them.


10.  When reciting the words “Asher Anochi Metzavecha Hayom--that I command you **today**”--one should refresh himself with the knowledge that he has a new and special opportunity--this time--to acknowledge and properly serve His Creator!  (See Shulchan Aruch, Orach Chayim, 61:2).


11.  The Chofetz Chaim brings Chazal (Sotah 42A) that the words Shema Yisroel are written in the Torah relating to our gathering before we go to war, in order to teach that if we properly recite Shema in the morning and evening, and that is the only Mitzvah that we do--it would be sufficient to be victorious in war.  Moreover, the Chofetz Chaim brings the Midrash that the entire creation is worthwhile just for the sake of this Mitzvah!


 Once again, the above are just a few thoughts to help you get started.  May this week’s Parsha bring with it a reinvigoration of our recitation of Shema--so that we properly fulfill the words of the Navi--”Yisroel Asher Becha Espoer--the People of Israel--in Whom I Glory!”



QUESTION ONE OF THE DAY :  Where in our daily Shacharis (including Pesukei D’Zimra) do we mention Yerushalayim?  Where do we mention Tzion?  What is the difference between the two?


QUESTION TWO OF THE DAY :  What Pasuk from this week’s Parsha do we recite in Aleinu three times a day?




Special Note One:  We continue with our focus on the Twelfth Bracha of Shemone Esrei--Velamalshinim.  We have already mentioned that according to the Sefer Ya’aros Devash, we fulfill a Mitzvas Asei when we mention the zeidim, and our prayer for their destruction in this bracha.  Actually, we ask that Hashem punish the zeidim in four different ways (in Nusach Askhkenaz, in Nusach Sfard additional punishments are asked for as well).  Specifically, we ask that Hashem should Se’aker, Seshaber, Semager, and Sachniah the zeidim.  HaRav Shimon Schwab, Z’tl, in the monumental work Rav Schwab on Prayer ( a must for everyone’s home) explains that these four verbs represent four different types of punishments:


·        Se’aker--means to uproot, to prevent any future growth.  It is our Tefillah that any movement that attempts to take Jews away from Judaism--either by force or persuasion--shall be uprooted and grow no further.

·        Seshaber--means that they should break into various factions thus rendering them ineffective in their evil objective.

·        Semager--is our Tefillah that they be cut into small pieces. (Hakhel Note:  a Rav once noted that he does not know what Semager means--but it certainly does not sound good!)

·        Sachniah--means to humble them, so that any remaining individual zaidim are humbled and rendered harmless.  Hakhel Note:  Even with respect to Yerushalayim, we only once ask that Hashem hurriedly return (Meheirah) the Kisei Dovid there.  Yet, with respect to this Tefillah against the zaidim--within this one phrase we ask that Hashem take care of them Meheirah and then again BiMeheirah V’Yameinu.  This is how urgent our request is.  We add that a Rav once explained that V’Yameinu means not only in one’s own lifetime but in our lifetime, including the lifetime of even the eldest among us!



Special Note Two:  As a first response to the new financial crisis affecting the United States and the world (is it a 'coincidence' that it happened in the Nine Days?), we provide the words of the Sha'arei Teshuva (3:32), who teaches:  She'im Yireh Ha'Adam Ki Tzara Kerova, Ti'heye Yeshuas Hashem Bilevavo Veyivtach Aleha, Ka’inyan She'ne'emar Ach Karov Liraiav Yisho...when a man sees trouble close at hand, the salvation of Hashem should inhabit his heart, and he should trust to it, as the Pasuk says: Surely His salvation is close to he who fears him (Tehillim 85:10).  Rabossai--Yiras Hashem!  S&P, the Federal Reserve, the President do nothing...we need Yiras Shamayim!



Special Note Three:  Some additional (not final) notes on lessons from Tisha B’Av:


A.  In the oldest Kinah (VaYikonein Yirmiyahu), we learn that Yoshiyahu made a terrible error by believing that his entire generation was righteous, and that, accordingly, the Bnei Yisroel did not have to allow the Mitzriyim to pass through.  He was tragically mistaken.  There is a great lesson here for us.  Sometimes we feel that we are quite righteous, even in comparison to our fellow Torah Jews.  This is a very bad mistake.  The Posuk in Eicha teaches us “V’Dimasah Al Lechya--and her tear is on her cheek.”  The Sefer Palgei Mayim explains that the tear still being on the cheek symbolizes that the cause for the destruction is still there even today, it has not been wiped away.  As long as we have not been redeemed, each one of us has a personal achrayus, a personal responsibility to get better in ways that only he knows that he can.  It is everyone’s responsibility to wipe the tear of Klal Yisroel’s cheek--for if it is on Klal Yisroel’s cheek, then it is on each of our cheeks.


B.  In Tisha B’Av morning’s extremely moving Haftara from Yirmiyahu, Yirmiyahu woefully brings Hashem’s explanation “Vayelchu Acharei Sherirus Libam--they went after the desires of their heart”--as a cause of our exile.  Perhaps we can try to take one such desire a day, quash it, and dedicate it to our Geulah!  Let us show that we are taking heed of Hashem’s message to us!


C.  One reader sent in a humorous response to our question about what you would do to prepare for Eliyahu HaNavi.  Let us remember what that Navi himself says--Pisom Yavo--the Moshiach will come suddenly--so it behooves us to follow the words of the Navi and be prepared.  We are all on notice!



QUESTION FOR THE REST OF THE WEEK:  If you were given a 10 minute notice that Eliyahu HaNavi was about to arrive-- or even a one-minute notice--how would you prepare?




Special Note One:  We continue with our focus on the Twelfth Bracha of Shemone Esrei--Birkas HaMinim--Velamalshinim.  Birkas HaMinim is really the 19th Bracha of Shemone Esrei, as it was instituted after the Churban, in Yavneh (Brachos 28B).  Thus, it seems to directly relate to our condition post-Churban, during which we are inundated by heretical thoughts and philosophies, and face enemies from within and without.  HaRav Chaim Friedlander, Z’tl, explains that we accordingly first begin with Velamalshinim Al Tehi Sikva--may all of those who are antagonistic to Torah, who falsify reports against us and who antagonize or act with antagonism towards us, have no success or hope in their endeavors.  Furthermore, Vechol HaRisha KeRegah Toveid.  We do not daven necessarily that the evildoers be eradicated, but that the evil itself will be eliminated not over time--but KeRega--immediately.  Our plea for the immediate destruction of evil, HaRav Friedlander writes, exactly parallels our Tefilla on the Yomim Noraim of ‘Vechol HaRisha Kula KeAshan Tichleh’--i.e., that Risha be destroyed immediately--going up in smoke so that the world at large will acknowledge its fallacy.  Even in these ‘modern times’, we have movements to ban Shechita here, and Bris Melah there. Even in these ‘modern times’ we have leaders of Jewish sects who do not believe c’v that the Torah is from Hashem, and who aver that they do not await our return to the Avodah of the Bais HaMikdash.  Succinctly stated, we have needed this Bracha over the last 2,000 years--and we need it now.  Perhaps when the Bais HaMikdash is rebuilt…we can revert back to 18 Brachos.  May we find out in our day.  In the interim, let us be sure we impart all of the Kavannah that we can into this timely Bracha!



Special Note Two:  If this was not the last Tisha B’Av in Galus, we are certainly getting much closer to that last one--wouldn’t it be appropriate to reflect on the day after--and gain the most that you can now--so that you can demonstrate that this Public Day of Teshuva and Mourning accomplished what it was supposed to for you while it lasted?!  We most certainly welcome and seek your own lessons and feelings as well.


Some notes on Tisha B’Av and its aftermath:


a.  Where is the word Tzion first mentioned in Tanach, and why? 


b.  How many different names or titles is the Bais Hamikdash given in Sefer Eichah alone?  What does that teach us?


c.  The Rambam rules that one could r’l be chayav kares for entering certain areas of the Har HaBayis even in our day.  This is because “Kedusha Rishona Kidsha L’Sha’ata, V’Kidsha L’Osid Lavo”--the holiness initially instilled there never left, notwithstanding the destruction, devastation and defilement of the Makom HaMikdash.  This is an incredible teaching!  The area of the Bais HaMikdash is holy now--and we are missing it!  To analogize (lehavdil), in a material sense, imagine if someone was handed the title and keys to a brand new Lexus (with all gadgetry) and was told that he could not drive it, or that the most sumptuous steak and wine dinner was placed before him, with the reservation that he could look at it as much as he pleased, but that he could not eat it.  This kind of reality is even more painful in the spiritual sense, because unlike materialism which is fleeting, ruchniyus is, in fact, eternal--and every moment that we miss is a missed opportunity of eternity.


d.  Chazal (Brachos 59A) teach that from the time of the Churban, we have not seen the Rakiah B’Teharasah--even the sky which is ostensibly so far away from the earth is not the same.  It is not just we who are different without the Bais HaMikdash--it is the universe.  With our actions to rebuild the Bais HaMikdash--we will not only change this world--we will change the universe! 


e.  Bechol Tzarasam Lo Tzar”--we must remember that when we are in pain the Shechina is also is pain.  Accordingly, we must feel the suffering and contrition beyond our own bodies and minds, and increase our “I” or “me” beyond our person to all of Klal Yisroel…and to Hashem Himself! 


f.  Tisha B’Av is called a Mo’ed, for we ‘meet’ with Hashem on this day as well--the difference being that on the Yomim Tovim, the Moadim we meet with Hashem and He gives us a kiss, while on Tisha B’Av, we meet with Hashem and he gives us a potch.  Both the kiss and the potch are given out of His love for us--one is to reward us and show us how much He appreciates us, while the other is to help set us straight (Telzer Rav).  There is a significant difference, however, between the Yomim Tovim and Tisha B’Av in that the Yomim Tovim are referred to as  Mo’adei Hashem (Vayikra 23:4), while Tisha B’Av is referred to in Eicha as “Korah Alai Moed” --the Moed is called upon me.  Clearly, a Mo’ed of Hashem is superior to a Mo’ed of mine, a Mo’ed of Bnai Yisroel. We should move away from the inferior encounter to the kind of meeting that Hashem would like.  All of the Mo’adei Hashem are marked by special activities in the Bais HaMikdash, and Tisha B’Av is not marked--but marred--by the absence of all such activity.  When all is said and done, at the end of our 19 Brachos of Shemone Esrei--we finally conclude with the Yehi Ratzon SheYibaneh Bais HaMikdash for it is ONLY there that, as the Yehi Ratzon itself explains, we will:  a.  finally attain our ultimate potential in Torah;  b.  serve Hashem with ultimate Yirah; and  c.  our service to Hashem will be fully and finally pleasing to Hashem.  With this realization--that we really and truly need the Bais HaMikdash to attain our own perfection--how can we not recite these concise words of Yehi Ratzon three times a day--paying close attention to the words and with feeling?  Perhaps we can even put a hand out while reciting this all-fulfilling request, as we ask and beg Hashem for his extreme consideration.  Let us remember that everything we do now is only a replacement for the real.  We pray that “Uneshalma Forim Sefaseinu”...that the sacred words uttered by our lips serve as a replacement.  Lehavdil, if you have a replacement house or a replacement car--don’t you want the original back--isn’t that the true one, the one that is really yours?  Let us turn to what is real:  How incredible it was (and will be!!) to enter the Bais HaMikdash and be overtaken by an air of Emunah and Yirah, of Kedusha and Tahara!  Even the clothes of the Kohanim, and their partaking of the karbanos brought great Kapparah to us.  Outside of the Bais HaMikdash, Yerushalayim teemed with Ruchniyus--as one’s physical needs were often met with karbanos and Ma’aser Sheni, and everyone always had a place to stay.  To us, this is not all a world long gone--but a world very much expected back, and very, very much needed. Truly, nothing could be more important than reaching our personal and communal spiritual potential--forever, and ever and ever.  Even outside the Shemone Esrei’s conclusion we should especially focus our Kavannah when reciting the third bracha of Bentsching (Rachem Na--counting each thing we are asking Hashem to have mercy on as listed there), and at other personal times during the day.


g.  A final note for today:  Two months from today is Yom Kippur.  This also means that there are 50 days from today to Rosh Hashana!  It is no coincidence, as it never is, that there are 50 days of growth which connect Pesach and Shavuos, and 50 days of growth that connect Tisha B’Av and Rosh Hashana.  It is truly a great imperative to take the thoughts that we had and thoughts that we heard, the Hirhurei Teshuva, that we experienced on Tisha B’Av and utilize them as we grow over the next 50 days. Most certainly, no one would fault you for counting the days up to Rosh Hashana--beginning today!


Special Note One:  Before we begin our focus on the Twelfth Bracha of Shemone Esrei, Velamalshinim, we provide one additional important thought on the bracha of Hoshiva Shofteiniu.  The Rabbeinu Yonah to Brachos writes that there are those who are very mistaken in our current Golus and c’v believe, because of the sufferings of exile, that Hashem has forsaken us, and does not watch over us.  The phrase of VeHaser Mimenu Yagon VeAnacha refers to this Yagon and Anacha in Galus from which c’v people have erred.  At the time of the Geulah, however, it will be clear for all to see that Hashem rules over us with Chesed and Rachamim, with Tzedek and Mishpat.  Accordingly, we are praying for the day when the sorry misconceptions depart, and all recognize Hashem’s true essence--an essence that was there all along! 


In the Bracha of VeLamalshinim, we ask Hashem to remove from our midst any and all heretical teachings and thoughts, so that all will in unison wholeheartedly believe in the Torah SheBichsav and the Torah Shebe’al Peh.  The Sefer Ya’aros Devash writes that when reciting the words U’Malchus Zadon/ VeHazeidim we should have in mind that we are davening for the destruction of Amalek (who attack us be’zadon).  In fact, the Ya’aros Devash writes that we fulfill a Mitzvas Asei from the Torah of Zachor Eis Asher Asah Lecha Amalek when we have this Kavannah.  We should feel an enmity in our hearts for Amalek, and pray that the enemies of Hashem and His people receive their just punishment (including any punishment we would deserve--for our sins stem from and through them), and that any bounty that they have or are to receive should flow through to us from Hashem’s Hand, Kime’az U’Mikedem--as in previous days.  Hakhel Note:  We especially use the word Meheirah here in the bracha--quickly---may it happen speedily and in our day--even today, on Erev Tisha B’Av!



Special Note Two:  We provide the following Pesakim from the Sefer Ashrei HaIsh (Pesakim of HaRav Elyashiv, Shlita by Rabbi Yechezkel Feinhandler, Shlita) and from the Sefer Kovetz Halachos (Pesakim of HaRav Shmuel Kamenetsky, Shlita by Rabbi Doniel Kleinman, Shlita) relating to Tisha B’Av:


From the Sefer Ashrei HaIsh:


1. There are various degrees as to the extent one should clean/wash his hands after having touched a covered part of the body, his shoes, or dirtied part of his hand but not the whole hand.  Hakhel Note:  One should consult with his Rav or Posek as to the specific rules.


2.  One who rides on a bus on the night of Tisha B’Av or before Chatzos can sit on the regular seat (without having to remain standing), as this is not considered a special act of pleasure or comfort.  Of course, the same would be true for a cab ride, and one would not have to make himself uncomfortable in some way.


3.  One should not fly on Tisha B’Av, as it constitutes a Hesech HaDa’as from the Ta’anis.


4.  Although one should not say Shalom or Good Morning in the morning, wishing someone Mazel Tov is permissible.


5.  If someone has taken upon himself to go to the Kosel for 40 days in a row and recite Shir HaShirim as a segulah for a shidduch, he should go to the Kosel at the same time on Tisha B’Av but not recite Shir HaShirim (as it is Tisha B’Av), and then go back later after Tisha B’Av and recite Shir HaShirim.  With this, he should not lose the segulah.


6.  HaRav Elyashiv rules that although the area adjacent to the Kosel has the din of a Bais Tefillah, and although one should of course honor the makom and keep it clean, we should not clean the stones of the Kosel from the dirt that has accumulated since the Churban, for the darkened stones and any growing vegetation bring us to the realization of Churban--and serve as a constant reminder to us  to continue to beg and plead with Hashem for His mercy to restore the stones to their pristine state--it may be that because of these prayers the time will come when Hashem will replace the old black and uneven green with the glow and shine, with the wondrous splendor of everlastingly new and brilliant stones!


From the Sefer Kovetz Halachos:


1.  The requirement to sit on the ground begins immediately at Bain Hashemashos on Leil Tisha B’Av. If one is sitting on the ground itself (as opposed to a low chair), he does not have to put something like an article of clothing or towel between his body and the ground. While on or close to the ground (until Chatzos), one does not have to stand up for a zaken or talmid chochom who passes by, just as an avel is patur from this Mitzvah..


2.  Although one cannot greet another, one can say Lehitraot, or Refuah Shelaima, because these do not involve She’ailas Sholom.  One should in any event not engage in unnecessary conversation, because it removes one’s mind from what it should be thinking about-- teshuva and aveilus of the rabim.  Similarly, one should not take a baby unto his lap when not necessary, for he may come to laughter.


3.  Although in Shul the lights are dimmed, they need not be dimmed in the home.


4. Whenever one sleeps on Tisha B’Av (day or night) he should take away something from his usual custom, so that he is ‘mitzta’er ketzas’--a little pained or put out (such as one less pillow or the like).


5.  One can complete reciting Kinnos after Chatzos, if necessary.


7. It is permissible to say Tehillim for one who is ill at any time on Tisha B’Av; one who usually recites  a certain number of Kepitelach every day can recite them after Chatzos.


8.  On Tisha B’Av there is an absolute requirement of Talmud Torah--but only of the sefarim that it is permissible to learn.


9.  It is best for men to daven Mincha early on Tisha B’Av, so that they can put on Tefillen at the earliest possible time.  Hakhel Note:  The mother of Rabbi Mordechai Zuckerman, Shlita, a noted Talmud Chochom in Yerushalayim, davened Mincha close to sunset (which is usually preferred, see Shulchan Aruch, Orach Chayim 233:1) every day of the year, except Tisha B’Av, when she would daven Mincha as early in the day as was possible.  Rabbi Zuckerman asked his mother why her practice on Tisha B’Av was different than the other days of the year.  She responded that the Mincha of Tisha B’Av is the one time during the year where we add a special Tefillah, asking Hashem to “Nachem”, to console, the mourners of Zion and Yerushalayim.  She simply could not wait to daven Mincha until later, as this would mean an extra few hours of delay in begging Hashem to console us.



Special Note Three:  We provide the following brief notes on Tisha B’Av:


A.  The last two words of the Haftara of Shabbos Chazon are VeShaveha B’Tzedaka--let us especially remember to give Tzedaka today and tomorrow--on Tisha B’Av itself.  If you would like to give to the Aniyei Eretz Yisroel, you may give through our affiliate, www. yadeliezer.org.


B.  Chazal (Brachos 3A) bring that Eliyahu HaNavi teaches that when we recite Amen Yehei Shemei Rabba, Hashem shakes His Head and says “Fortunate is the King Who is praised in His House in this way, Woe to the Father Who has exiled His children, and Woe to the children who have been exiled from their Father’s table.”  It is clear that answering Yehei Shemei Rabba can have a profound impact in getting us out of this Galus.  Let us do what we can to answer more forcefully or with greater Kavanna.  Many already answer Yehei Shemei Rabba as they read the words from the Siddur, and not simply by heart, as they are looking around the room.  Please do your part!  We have powerful opportunities each and every day--let us use them!


C.  HaRav Meir Schuck, Z’tl, poses the following question both with respect to the brocha in Shemone Esrei relating to the rebuilding of Yerushalayim, and the third brocha of Birchas HaMazon relating to the rebuilding of Yerushalayim.  Each of these brochos request “U’Venei”--that Hashem rebuild Yerushalayim for us “B’mheira B’Yameinu--in the near future.”  Yet, each brocha concludes with the words “Boneh Yerushalayim”--which means that Hashem is building Yerushalayim now.  Which is it?  Will Hashem build Yerushalayim soon--or is Hashem building Yerushalayim right now (in the present tense)?  HaRav Schuck answers that if we sincerely look for the rebuilding of Yerushalayim than Hashem is, in fact, building it now.  It really is dependent on our feeling, our sensitivity, our desire, our will.  How great!  When we recite the words “U’venei Yerushalayim”, or “HaMachazir Shechinaso L’Tzion” with real sincerity, Hashem is building Yerushalayim as we meaningfully pray for it!  This is something for us to remember every day--three times daily!  Hakhel Note: HaRav Schuck’s Yahrtzeit is on Tisha B’Av.


D.  The Parsha read before Tisha B’Av, Devarim, begins with the word Eileh.  Some point out that this is an acronym of Avak Lashon Hora.  Why?  Because Avak Lashon Hora is something that many people could speak every day, not viewing it as much of anything that is bad or evil.  We live in times where the awareness of Lashon Hora--and its avoidance-- is much greater.  However, a person can still easily or in a weakened manner justify Lashon Hora, because it is regarding a Mitzvah such as a Shidduch, or it is spoken to a close family member, or about a close family member.  We must realize that this too is or could be Lashon Hara and fight against it in the same way as we do not permit ourselves to say “Joe is not smart” or “Loraine is not good looking”.  Lashon Hara is still Lashon Hora if there is no wholly justifiable purpose.  Baruch Hashem we are at a stage where we would not say that “Joe is not smart”.  We must complete the chain and not say “this is not a good Shidduch, because you are better than him….”  We have to refine our awareness so that we eliminate Lashon Hora…even in seemingly “justifiable” situations.  Let us turn the key to Geulah!


E.  An observation:  There are two categories of animals in your local zoo.  Some were born in the wild, and were moved to the zoo.  Others, however, were born in the zoo, and will remain in the zoo all of their lives.  There is a great difference between these two kinds of animals.  The animal born in his natural habitat knows what it means to be free, knows what it means to be his true self.  He knows that he does not belong in the zoo--it is not his natural habitat.  He knows that he can run 50 miles an hour on the open prairie, but cannot do this behind a fence or in a cage….The animal born in the zoo, however, simply does not know better.  He gets his food from humans who have established his feeding times, and gets laughed at, stared at, and perhaps fed by spectators.  He thinks that this is simply what his life is all about.


The Sefer Palgei Mayim, a classic commentary on Megillas Eicha, writes, that one of the three things Yirmiyahu laments over in Eicha (other than the Bais HaMikdash and Yerushalayim) is that Bnei Yisroel have lost their “Shefa Ruach HaKodesh”.  We don’t even know what we are missing--we were born in Galus, and don’t know our true greatness.  We are all capable of Ruach HaKodesh!  We must recognize this Tisha B’Av that we need to quickly free ourselves from our current exile--it is simply not natural, it is shameful, it is a Chillul Hashem--as the spectators in the world around us think that they are feeding us, that they are sustaining us--as we are really kept prisoners away from our essence, from our true lives.  Let us turn to Hashem, and let us ask that we be released, that we be set free…and that we return to our status of royalty, of a Mamleches Kohanim V’Goy Kadosh that is our true essence and being!



Special Note Four:  The Gemara (Megilla 21A) teaches that Moshe Rabbeinu would learn the more difficult laws and concepts of the Torah sitting down.


As we sadly noted last year, if we have to sit down this Tisha B’Av, we should take the time out to go over in our mind some of the difficult concepts that we tend to ignore, or at least avoid, during the rest of the year--the churbonos and the tzaros that have accompanied us through the ages and into our day.


Can we not shed a tear over:

·                                 The pain of the Shechina over the chillul Hashem of the Galus (the Father’s pain is greater than the child’s)

·                                 The void left by the Beis Hamikdosh that is not with us and the concomitant void of sanctity within us (we could be closer to angels, and not closer to animals)

·                                 The honor of Klal Yisroel that has been cast to the ground and trampled upon

·                                 The murder of an innocent Jewish child

·                                 The murder of a Tzaddik who was giving Brachos

·                                 The sorry hatred of secular Jews to Torah Jews

·                                 The  Goldbergs and Rosenblooms of the world who are not Jewish

·                                 The hundreds of thousands of Russian Jews who have been numbed by Communism

·                                 The Crusades

·                                 The Pogroms

·                                 The 1648-1649 Massacres

·                                 The Holocaust

·                                 The murder of the Fogel parents and children, the Mumbai Massacre, Sbarros bombing, the bombing of Bus Number 2, the Leil HaSeder Attack, the drive-by murders, the Merkaz HaRav murders, the hundreds of other terrorist attacks, the murders and maimings, the mortars and bombs, the soldiers and the children all under attack

·                                 All of the unnecessary sickness and suffering for 2000 years (multiplied by each second of pain)

·                                 The desolation and ruination of the Har Habayis, Har Hazeisim, Chevron, Teveria…

·                                 Sinas Chinam—smiling at the mishap of another, failing to properly rejoice at another’s simcha, and finding it hard to accept another’s honor and success

·                                 The Jews who do not even know that Tisha B’Av exists--even if they live in New York City

·                                 The Jews who know that Tisha B’Av exists and do not grow in their resolve to do something to end this Churban as soon as possible

The Navi (Yeshaya 1:3, which we read as part of last week’s Haftora) teaches “Ami Lo Hisbonan--My nation did not consider.” 

Rashi adds that the people knew they were acting improperly but “tread with their heels” on this knowledge, and simply “did not take it to heart.” 

We all know too well the desperate straits we are in at this time, in which we deal with the Churban of Eretz Yisroel and Yerushalayim--the defiling of a land and of a people on the one hand; and the turmoil in Eretz Yisroel today--upon which the nations of the world have heaped additional disgrace and scorn, on the other. 

Haven’t we yet reached a point where we will, as the Navi asks, at least “consider”? It is not, it cannot, and should not, be beyond us to go off into a room--our bedroom, dining room, study, or even the floor somewhere, to sit down and cry: “Oh, what has befallen us! A nation in ruins, the holiest people on Earth berated by the lowest nations on Earth. What makes us better today than the captives of Judea taken by the Romans more than 1940 years ago.  We cannot allow ourselves to be fooled by the amenities, luxuries, or even just the relative comfort in which we live. We have been in exile far too long, and the longer we are here, the worse off we are.

L’Maaseh, living with reality and practically speaking, we are walking about badly wounded in this bitter exile.  Even in Eretz Yisroel itself, the very Holy Land , an estimated 40,000 Russian-manufactured missiles, many of which possess long-range capability, are said to be available in Lebanon alone (without even including what the murderers have in Gaza ).

We cannot be ashamed to cry. Ashamed?!--Why, and from whom?! Why can we not pour out our hearts to Hashem, as Yirmiyahu HaNavi cries out (Eicha 2:19 ) “Shifchi Kamayim Libeich--pour out your heart [to Hashem] like water.” 

At least today, on the eve of Tisha B’Av, and no less certainly tomorrow itself, on the day of pain and mourning over the Chilul Hashem that exists in the world today, over Hashem’s pain which is infinitely greater than ours, over a world that has been lowered to the bottom of the bottom-most depths, over all the individual and communal pain and anguish, over these and much more, we must cry real, very real, tears. 

Yirmiyahu HaNavi further teaches (31:14), “A voice is heard on high, lamentation, bitter weeping, Rochel weeping for her children, she refuses to be comforted for her children, for they are not.” On this Pasuk, the Mahari Kara (in the Mikraos Gedolos) writes that Rochel Imeinu represents K’lal Yisroel, and that our weeping in exile is heard by Hashem’s ears. 

So, as much as we would not like to, we must cry--really cry. We must realize that we are in the nadir of our exile. The Tay-Sachs test, when originally developed, required a person to shed a tear, which was then tested. One had to think of something sad to shed that tear. Is it such a great challenge to cry unabashedly over an unfulfilled world, over the world’s most precious possessions disgraced and derided, over all the unnecessary anguish, unnecessary suffering, destruction, and death that we are currently experiencing?

If, for some reason you cannot cry--at least cry out--as our forefathers did in Mitzrayim. Remember, the gates of tears--and the gates of ruchniyus--are never closed. If we have to sit on the floor in a few hours, it should do more than cause us some temporary physical pain. Plead to Hashem as Dovid HaMelech does: “El Dimosi Al Techerash--Do not be silent to my tears!” (Tehillim 39:13) Hashem, I will not find comfort with the few pleasures I have when the Heavens and the Earth writhe in pain! 

Please join with your brothers this Tisha B’Av, as our sincere tears and cries reach the Heavens. 

May these tears and cries turn into overflowing sounds of salvation for each and every one of us, as we join together to witness the comforting of our people and the ultimate final and glee-filled redemption--speedily and in our days.





Special Note One:  As many may know, today is the Yahrzeit of the Arizal.  It is particularly noteworthy during this time of year that the Arizal is known for instructing us to be mekabel the Mitzvas Aseh of VeAhavta LeRayacha Komocha before davening.  What greater Mitzvah can we be involved in on his Yahrzeit--knowing that our lack of brotherhood (Sinas Chinam) drove us away from meriting the Bais Hamikdash--and how its repair --through VeAhavta LeRayacha Komocha -can bring us back home.  There is a fascinating Maharal at the outset of Sefer Gevaras Hashem, in which the Maharal explains that the word for exile (Golah--Gimel, Lamed, Heh), and the word for redemption (Goel--Gilel, Aleph, Heh) are different in that the word for exile contains a Heh, and the word for redemption contains an Aleph.  He explains as follows:  A Heh has the numerical equivalent of five--and this symbolizes the four corners of an object (such as the earth), together with its fifth point-- its center.  The letter Aleph has a numerical equivalent of one--symbolizing the center point which unites all else around.  In the Galus we are in, we are spread to the four corners of the world--but we have not lost the center--the power of unity that brings us all together.  We must always remember that our Galus is not marked by a Daled--with only four corners--but instead is made up of a Heh -- a fifth point at the center at which the four points can unite.  We have not lost this bond in thousands of years--as Jews from such diverse Galus-countries as Afghanistan , Argentina , Russia , France and the United States will all get together in camaraderie and to help each other.  This link has never been, and will never be, broken. Our role in Galus is to bring the four corners closer and closer towards the middle point--bonding closer and closer to achieve an Aleph.  When we have made sufficient gains with each other-- we will be zoche to bond with Hashem in the Bais HaMikdash again. When this happens and the Geulah Shelaima comes--the Aleph will be permanent--and our bonds with ourselves with Hashem will be unshakable, unbreakable, eternal and everlasting.


Hakhel note:  In the next Special Note, we provide some very practical suggestions on how to implement our kabala of VeAhavta LeRayacha Komocha.



Special Note Two: We continue with our series on short lessons from the Motza’ei Shabbos Video Series, last week given by Rabbi Yechiel Spero, Shlita, on the topic of “Ahavas Yisroel”:


A.  Why are Rochel Imeinu’s cries heard apparently even more than those of the Avos--to the extent that Hashem tells her “Mini Koleich M’BechiYesh Sachar LiPe’ulasech?”  Rabbi Spero suggests that it is because Rochel symbolizes such Ahavas Yisroel that she exclaims--”Hashem, even if they deserve it, I can’t bear to see it.  Please--if I can’t bear it--please don’t bear it either!”  When we see the suffering of another, we too should be infused with such Ahavas Yisroel as to daven to Hashem for them with this kind of urging, this kind of deep and real feeling. 


B.  We excel in many areas of Gemilas Chasodim--helping others in so many ways with Hachnosas Orchim, Gemachs, etc.  Where is there room for improvement, for becoming better?  Rabbi Spero suggests that it is in being sensitive not to hurt another’s feelings.  He cites the Chazon Ish, who teaches that a successful life is one without having hurt someone else’s feelings.  This sensitivity plays a special role at Simchas.  The Ba’al Simcha, for instance, should be sensitive to the extent of not ‘sticking his Simcha  in the face of others’.  The one attending the Simcha, on the other hand, should not act even somewhat begrudgingly, acting as if he does not have time to be there; quite to the contrary, for whatever time he is there, he should put his heart and soul as one with the Ba’al Simcha.  At a certain Simcha, HaRav Aryeh Levin, Z’tl, stayed for five minutes and was thanked profusely for participating in the Simcha.  Another Rav stayed for an hour and was asked why he was leaving so soon.  The Rav later met HaRav Aryeh, and asked him why it was that his five minutes were valued, but that the Rav staying for an hour was viewed disfavorably.  HaRav Aryeh is reported to have responded that it was because for the five minutes he was there he unified with the Simcha, and felt the happiness as if he were the Ba’al Simcha.  Rav Aryeh asked the Rav, whether he, on the other hand, was waiting to leave from the moment he had arrived.  Hakhel Note:  In the zechus of our truly feeling another’s joy, may we be zoche to always express our Ahavas Yisroel in this joyful way--instead of having to feel another’s pain--until the everlasting Geulah comes speedily and in our day!



Special Note Three:  Today is also the Yahrzeit of HaRav Chaim Oizer Grodzinski, Z’tl, who passed away in 1940. It is said that just as the passing of the tzaddik Iyov in Cana’an allowed the Bnai Yisroel entry into the land because the tzaddik could no longer protect the inhabitants, so too lehavdil did the passing of HaRav Chaim Oizer remove the protection that K’lal Yisroel desperately needed from the ruthless enemies yimach shemam, who proceeded to devastate our people.  We see the power of one person--and how he can affect and protect so many.  Although HaRav Chaim Oizer was known as the Ga’on HaDor ( he could write two Teshuvos at a time with two pens in his hand), he was also known for his great tzidkus.  He was once not feeling well, and ruled that he was Patur from staying in his Sukkah as a Mitzta’eir.  A Rav from another place came to visit, and was given a meal in the Sukkah, but was advised that HaRav Chaim Oizer could not join him because he was not feeling well.  A few minutes later, HaRav Chaim Oizer came into the Sukkah.  The Rav asked him not to stay--for, after all, he was ill and a Mitzta’eir.  HaRav Chaim Oizer refused to leave --and advised the Rav that a Mitzta’eir is Patur from the Sukkah-but not from the privilege of Hachnosas Orchim!  On another occasion, a wagon driver burst into a meeting he was in and shouted--”I am a Kohen-can I take a Gerusha ( a divorced woman)?!” HaRav Chaim Oizer softly turned to him and said yes, that would not be a problem at all. All the onlookers were amazed--firstly, how could he be so calm at the brash Chutzpa of the wagon driver bursting in. Secondly, a Kohen cannot marry a divorced woman--why here did Rav Chaim seemingly permit it?  Rav Chaim explained--that this man’s Parnassah is to take people in his wagon where he can make a little bit of money to support his family.  He had a potential customer for his wagon--who was a divorced women.  In his limited Torah background, he had learned or heard that a Kohen could not ‘take’ (really meaning marry), a divorced woman.  As he was a Kohen, he was worried that he would lose the customer--and wanted to know if it was really true that a Kohen could not ‘take’ a divorced woman--to where she had to go.  Rav Chaim--in his great Torah wisdom matched only by his Chesed--figured this all out within the moment!  Just two of the multitude of instances in which Rav Chaim combined his Torah with his Ahavas Yisroel--the mark of our people--and the mantra of its leaders!



Special Note Four:  The following Halachos regarding the week in which Tisha B’Av occurs (starting Sunday) are excerpted from a recent Shiur given by HaRav Shlomo Pearl, Shlita: 


A.  It is permissible to vacuum carpets and to clean windows (Sefer Nitei Gavriel), although some are Machmir not to wash their floors after Rosh Chodesh (Sefer Piskei Teshuvos).


B.  One cannot wash a Shaitel, but one can comb it (ibid.).


C.  For infants, one is permitted to wash clothing that constantly gets dirty, and one need not buy new clothing.


D.  There is a Machlokes HaPoskim whether one can cut his nails beginning on Sunday, so in case of need one should ask a Shailah. 


E.  One can buy meat for use after Tisha B’Av, and there is no issue of Maras Ayin.


F.  One should not undertake any activities in decorating one’s home (such as putting up new shades). 


Hakhel Note:  Rabbi Pearl added (from the Sefer Piskei Teshuvos) that the 21 days from Shiva Asar B’Tammuz until Tisha B’Av correspond  to the 21 days from Rosh HaShanah until Shemini Atzeres.  The Lesson: One who works on himself now will have undertaken a great and meaningful preparation prior to the Yemei HaDin!



Special Note Five:  Shemor Raglecha Ka’asher Teleich El Bais HaElokim (Koheles 4:17)--Shlomo HaMelech, the wisest of all men, teaches us that before we reach Bais HaElokim we should prepare ourselves, and not merely walk in and act as if “I am here!”  How does one prepare himself?  One thing a person can do is have Hirhurei Teshuva prior to entering, and think about how much he has to thank Hashem for prior to entering.  A second extremely important consideration is a feeling of reverence for the Mikdash Me’at.  Our Shul or our Bais HaMidrash, is our current replacement for the ultimate Mikdash Hashem.  If we can treat it with the proper reverence and honor, we will be able to build ourselves up to show the proper reverence for the Bais HaMikdash as well.  We really don’t know how much time we have to prepare--so let’s start our extra efforts today.  Please remember to prepare prior to entering our Mekomos HaKedoshim.  If you have additional preparatory suggestions , please share them with us.



Special Note Six:  We continue with our focus on the Eleventh Bracha of Shemone Esrei--Hoshiva Shofteinu.  We conclude our Bracha with the request of V’Tzadekeinu BaMishpat--and find us righteous in judgment.  HaRav Chaim Friedlander, Z’tl, explains the relationship between Tzedek and Mishpat.  Mishpat is the strict letter of the law, whatever it may be--as it is written ‘on the books’.  Tzedek, on the other hand, represents factors which could (although they need not be) taken into account to mitigate the Mishpat such as affliction, poverty, bad influences, etc.  We ask Hashem to bring Tzedek into our Mishpat.  Why would He do this?  It is because we bring Tzedek into our Mishpat--that is, we judge other people favorably, beyond the situation, beyond the circumstances of what happened or what he did.  In this bracha, then, we are reminding ourselves that even if we are not judges sitting behind the table or bench, that we too act as judges every day--and that the way we judge will be the way we are judged. With this, we can understand the conclusion of the Bracha--Melech Oheiv Tzedaka U’Mishpat--the King who loves imparting Tzedaka into Mishpat.  The term ‘love’ in this bracha, as HaRav Chaim Kanievsky, Shlita in the name of the Bach explains, refers to Hashem’s love of seeing us act with Tzedaka in our Mishpat--by judging others favorably.  He, in turn, can judge us favorably as well!  Hakhel Note:  This is the only bracha in Shemone Esrei that concludes with the term love--let us value it properly(!)



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


1.  This Shabbos, Shabbos Chazon, we should try to be a bit more careful with the greatness of Shabbos.  If we feel that somehow we end up on some way moving Muktzah, inadvertently doing Borer, or not knowing what to do in a particular situation and ‘gambling’ with our own Shabbos P’sak, then this is the Shabbos for us to set out to rectify this kind of act or that kind of thing.  If one is used to playing with his hair and often then finds hairs pulled out in front of him, or if one is used to biting his nails or peeling at his skin, then this Shabbos should be the dividing line.  The Kedusha of Shabbos is so great, as is evidenced by its special observance in the face of the Nine Days and Tisha B’Av (see the next paragraph)--let us make sure that we inject Kedusha into our personal situations and circumstances as well!


2.  What more needs be said about the Kedusha of Shabbos than-- even as the intensity of the Nine Days grows --many of us today will take hot showers and put on our Shabbos finest!  The power of Kavod Shabbos and of Oneg Shabbos  that emanate from Kedushas Shabbos simply overtake the limitations and prohibitions of the point in time we may otherwise find ourselves in.  We urge our readers to turn to Yeshaya 58:13, which perhaps contains more Shabbos instructions than any one Pasuk in all of Tanach.  In this one Pasuk, we are taught about Kavod Shabbos, Oneg Shabbos, a required No-Business Mode, and the need to even walk and talk differently on Shabbos, all of which are defined in Halacha (See, for example, Shulchan Aruch, Orach Chaim 242:1  and first Mishna Berurah there, and ibid., 301:1-6, and 307).  Interestingly, just like the rules of the Bais HaMikdash are different in many respects from Yerushalayim which adjoins it--so too is the course of one’s conduct on Shabbos--to the point of talking and walking --different than the rest of the week!  Since one is overcoming the Nine Day Halachos that would otherwise apply because of the requirements contained in this Pasuk, it would appear meaningful to take a few moments on Shabbos to study the Pasuk, and at least some of the related Halachos (cites referenced above) which emanate from it.  We will leave you only with the additional thought that if one views (and studies) the Pasuk immediately preceding and the Pasuk immediately succeeding our Pasuk of Yeshaya 58:13 and its fulfillment --perhaps he will gain an even greater appreciation of the well-known Shabbos Zimra “Mai’ain Olam Haba--Yom Shabbos Menucha”.


Hakhel Note:  The Sefer Toras Shabbos asks, Oneg Shabbos--properly celebrating Shabbos--is such a great Mitzvah--why don’t we make a bracha on it?  He suggests as one answer that each person participates in Oneg Shabbos in his own particular way--so it is not like the KeZayis Matzah that we eat on the Leil HaSeder, and so is not subject to a particular bracha.  The Sefer Piskei Teshuvos ( III :1) brings other possible answers as well: (a) The bracha of MeKadesh HaShabbos in Kiddush includes the mitzvah of  Oneg  (have it in mind!), and (b) the words of “Baruch Hashem Asher Nossan Menucha LeAmo Yisroel” in Kol Mekadesh Shevii allude to a bracha over the Oneg and Menucha of Shabbos (pay attention to your Zemiros!).  Our dear readers, Mekadesh HaShabbos…Kol Mekadesh Shevii...let us especially feel and appreciate it tomorrow.



Special Note One:  We continue with our focus on the Eleventh Bracha of Shemone Esrei--Hoshiva Shofteinu.  With the return of our Shoftim and Yoatzim, all Yagon and Anacha will depart from our lives, which as we learned yesterday, is the basis for the words V’haser Mimenu Yagan V’Anacha.  There are even more incredible results.  At that time as well, U’Mloch Aleinu Atta Hashem Levadecha BeChesed U’Verachamim V’Tzaddekeinu BaMishpat--everyone in the world will realize that it is Hashem, and only Hashem, Who rules over us, His people, with unique Hashgacha Pratis--with Chesed and Rachamim.  One will note that this very special concept of U’Mloch Aleinu Atta Hashem Levadecha is even prominent in our Tefillos in the Yomim Noraim where we emphasize these very words in the “U’Vechain…” in the third bracha of the Yamim Noraim Shemone Esrei.  Now, Hashem will rule over us for all to see--but what is the difference between Chesed and Rachamim metioned in this bracha?  We present two alternative explanations.  The Kuntres Avodas HaTefillah explains that Hashem’s Chesed will bring goodness upon us even if we have insufficient merit, and His Rachamim will prevent us from being punished in a manner which would otherwise be in accordance with our deeds.  HaRav Schwab explains that Hashem will rule over us BeChesed while this world is still in existence, and later BeRachamim--in the world of Techiyas HaMeisim.  According to both explanations, our Tefillos here are qualitatively expansive, and eternally everlasting.  It is not Chesed and Rachamim for now--it is forever!  



Special Note Two:  Today is the Yahrzeit of the Maharam MiPanu (R’Menachem Azarya ben R’Yitzchak Berechia), Z’tl.  The Maharam taught that the word Tzedaka in "Aat Bosh" (equating the first letter and the first letter of the Aleph Bais, the second letter with the second to last letter, the third letter with the third to last letter, through the whole Aleph Bais ) also spells Tzedaka --with the tzadik (the fifth letter from the end of the Aleph Bais) being the equivalent of the hey (the fifth letter from the beginning of the Aleph Bais), and the daled (fourth letter from beginning) being the equivalent of the kuf (fourth letter from end), and the same analysis continuing for the final two letters of Tzedaka--the kuf and the heh.  Tzedaka is thus Tzedaka--no matter which end of the Aleph Bais you start from!  The great lesson is that one who gives Tzedaka in the beginning (represented by counting from the beginning of the Aleph Bais)--loses nothing, for Hashem ensures that in one way or another he receives it all back (represented by the counting from the end of the Aleph Bais).  Let us remember these words as we prepare to give Tzedaka over the next several days in order to fulfill the words of the Navi Yeshaya--“VeShaveha Be'Tzedaka--and those who return…with acts of charity!”  If you need an important Tzedaka address to help feed the poor in Eretz Yisroel--we refer you to yadeliezer.org



Special Note Three:  Many Halachic issues arise during the Nine Days, and perhaps a Rav must be consulted more often during these days than throughout the year.  At a Hakhel Shiur, Rabbi Dovid Ribiat, Shlita, provided an important guideline in areas of doubt or in instances when your Rav is not reachable:  Remember, you are observing this period because of the “Shechinta BeGalusa--the Shechina is in Galus.”  If the issue at hand it is a question of your personal comfort, you should remember that the Shechina is also not comfortable.  He ruled, for example, that while it may be permissible to sleep on freshly laundered linen in your hotel room because you ostensibly have no choice--it would truly be better for you to bring your own linen from home, or at least try to make the linen not feel so freshly laundered.  It is not a matter of how to treat yourself--but how you feel towards the Shechina, and the rest of us suffering in Galus together with you. 



Special Note Four:  Today is marked on the Jewish calendar in an incredible way.  On the Fourth Day of Av, Nechemiah, the leader of the Jewish people who had returned from Galus Bavel, began to repair the broken walls of Yerushalayim. Indeed, portions of this rebuilt wall can still be seen today.  The repair process took 52 days, and was completed on the 25th of Elul.  Thus, the 'repair' of Yerushalayim began during the very Nine Day Period in which we commemorate and commiserate over its destruction and loss.   There is no doubt that the time period we are in reverberates with our relationship to Yerushalayim and the Bais HaMikdash.  It is up to us to steer it away from the direction of destruction and ruin and towards the course of an everlasting rebuilding and rededication.


HaRav Elyashiv, Shlita, makes a wonderful point in this regard.  Chazal teach that when adding on to the Mikdash, one of the chapters of Tehillim that was recited was Tehillim Chapter 30, appropriately entitled “Mizmor Shir Chanukas HaBayis LeDovid--a song for the inauguration of the Bais HaMikdash by Dovid HaMelech.”  We are all very familiar with this Kepital, for we recite it in Shacharis every morning, and daily on Chanukah when we also commemorate the rededication of the Bais HaMikdash.  HaRav Elyashiv asks a stark question--after we recite the first Pasuk of Mizmor Shir Chanukas HaBayis--what does the rest of the Kepitel have to do at all with the Bais HaMikdash?  Take a look at the rest of the Pesukim, such as “Shivati Eilecha Vetirpa’eini--I cried out to You, and You healed me.”  “Histarti Phanecha Hayisi Nivhal--You conceal Yourself, and I am confounded.”  “Hashem Heyei Ozer Li--Hashem be my Helper.”  In looking at the Kepitel, it appears to be a moving and personalized plea for Hashem’s help.  But, once again, what does it have to do with the Bais HaMikdash?!  HaRav Elyashiv answers that Dovid HaMelech truly felt that as long as the Bais HaMikdash was not in a position of great prominence--he himself was suffering, he himself was in anguish and incomplete.  However, with a built Mikdash, he exclaims “He’elisa Min Sheol Nafshi--you have raised up my soul from the lower world!”  This, then is Dovid HaMelech’s lesson to us from Tehillim Chapter 30.  Because we lack the Bais HaMikdash in all of its splendor--we must inwardly feel the full measure of the Yiddish expression:  “Se Gait Mir In Laiben--it troubles me terribly, it troubles me personally.”  Please look at the Kepital again and envisage how your need for the Chanukas HaBayis bothers you as much as your own predicaments and circumstances, your own troubles and difficulties--and how the Chanukas HaBayis itself will usher in the utmost joy.  Every time we recite this Chapter (for Nussach Ashkenaz it actually inaugurates the Pisukei DeZimra)--we should have in mind not only our own trials and tribulations, but also how much the absence of a Bais HaMikdash personally means--after all it is the Mizmor Shir Chanukas HaBayis.  With this zechus of a true and proper recital of this Kepitel daily, we come to its last, conclusory and climactic Pasuk--“LeMan Yezamercha Chavod VeLo Yidom, Hashem Elokai LeOlam Odeka--so that my soul might sing to you and not be still-- Hashem I will thank you forever!”



Special Note Five:  To some, it may seem puzzling that suddenly during the Nine Days there are so many Siyumim which don’t appear to occur to this extent the rest of the year.  The Luach Davar BeIto, has a beautiful Limud Zechus in this area.  The outward appearance of the lower- level person craving meat during a time when it is otherwise forbidden should be largely overshadowed in our minds by two important purposes that are being accomplished simultaneously.  First, there is an increase in pride in Torah study.  As we know, after the Bais HaMikdash was destroyed what remains with Hashem is the “Daled Amos Shel Halacha--our world of Torah.  By studying and accomplishing a Siyum, we demonstrate to Hashem that we want to do our best with what He and we have left in these sorry circumstances of Galus.  Second, we invite others to join along with us in friendship and togetherness, thereby demonstrating the Ahavas Yisroel so necessary to extricate us from our Galus condition.  In most, if not all, events and circumstances, an act is really determined by the intentions behind it.  The turkey platter or corned beef sandwich can simply serve to satisfy one’s desires--or be a byproduct of Talmud Torah and Ahavas Yisroel! 



Special Note Six:  Notwithstanding the current comforts that we may enjoy in certain countries, we are still very much in Galus--and we are reminded of it every day.  We cannot, and must not, however, ignore the reality of the relative comforts that we do experience--to the point that, Baruch Hashem U’Bli Ayin Hora, we cannot even fathom how one could survive though the Holocaust circumstances that our grandparents and parents actually lived through.  Just as we are reminded that we are in Galus daily, we must likewise remind ourselves of the Chesed that we are currently experiencing in this Galus.  Shlomo HaMelech, the wisest of all men, teaches (Koheles 7:14 ) “Beyom Tova Heyeh Vetov… On a day of good, one should recognize and be happy with it.”  Particularly during this time of year, when we emphasize our lament over the Galus and take concrete steps to end it--we should also express our genuine and heartfelt Hakaras HaTov and thanks to HaKadosh Baruch Hu, for His chesed in easing the pain of Galus for us.  May it get no worse--only better for us--until the Geulah.  One should think about this during Modim, at the end of Shemone Esrei, or in his personal conversations with Hashem.


Hakhel Note:  With the reference above to the Pasuk in Koheles of “Beyom Tov Heyeh…,” we note that the Nach Yomi cycle concludes Koheles tomorrow, and begins Megillas Esther, on Shabbos Kodesh.  Would it not be splendid to learn of the Moshiach’s arrival--as you are taking the time and making the effort to study the Sefer in Tanach which relates the Nes of Purim in our previous Galus —with all that it means and symbolizes!



Special Note One:  Further to yesterday’s point of Tefillah during these troubling times, Shlomo HaMelech (the wisest of all men) teaches in Koheles (8:3) “Al Tibahel MiPanav Teileich…do not hasten to leave His presence”.  The Targum there explains that this means “in a time of anger, do not stop davening before Hashem--rather, ask for His Mercy so that you do not remain in the matzav--for Hashem as the Master of the World will act justly as He sees fit.”  We must appreciate that we do have capabilities--and our Tefillos are powerful.  The recent tragedy in Eretz Yisroel may have reminded many of the murder of the Kohen VeNavi that we lament over on Tisha B’Av--and we must not remain complacent in its wake.  Let us demonstrate through our supplications to Hashem that we recognize that we are in difficult times, that we shun evil, and that we turn to Hashem to quash any further moment of Din, and instead pour His Mercy upon us.   If not during these days--then when?



Special Note Two:  We continue with our focus on the Eleventh Bracha of Shemone Esrei--Hoshiva Shofteinu.   In this bracha, we ask Hashem to return Judges and our Yoatzim to the prior levels of our greatness, and immediately continue with the phrase “Vehaser Mimenu Yagon Va’Anacha--and remove from us sorrow and groaning.”  The Sefer Avudraham writes that the juxtaposition here teaches that with the return of the Shoftim and the Yoatzim, our Yagon and Anacha will forthwith depart.  What is Yagon and what is Anacha?  The Kuntres Avodas HaTefillah brings that Yagon refers to De’agah B’Lev--sadness, or a troubled or worry-filled heart.  Anacha, on the other hand, refers to sadness that comes from physical strain and tzaros that actually occur.  When justice returns to the world, and the Shechina then has an ultimate place to reside, the world’s difficulties, and each and every person’s strains and worries along with it, will be no more.  The suffering vanishes--for it has no further place.  We should remember that we are davening to Hashem here not only for removing one person’s pain and woes (even if it may be yours), but each and every person’s--and not only for a minute or a day or a year--but for eternity!  Let’s Daven Well!



Special Note Three:   If we take a moment to engage in a Reality Check we will note that two months from today’s date will be the third day of Tishrei, the day *after* Rosh Hashanah!  Of course, another aspect of the Reality Check is that we are in the Nine Days.  Rather than being depressed or gloomy, we should recognize the current daily situation as a series of opportunities--opportunity after opportunity for growth and advancement.  In last week’s Haftorah, the Navi exhorted us with the words “Vayeilchu Acharei HaHevel Vayehebalu--they went after nothingness, and they became nothing.” (Yirmiyahu 2:5)  If we can make the effort to recognize and act upon opportunity after opportunity, we can convert nothingness into something very, very huge and important.  HaRav Avraham Davis, Shlita, (of Metsudah Publications) said in the name of HaRav Yitzchak Hutner, Z’tl, that if an adult would play ball like a child, he would be unfortunately viewed as an adult playing like a child.  However, if he would have continuously developed his talents since childhood, he could even become a professional.  LeHavdil, the same is also true in everything that we do.  It is up to us to determine whether, as adults, we are just playing like children in the way we learn, the way we daven, the way we speak, and the way we behave towards others.  In which direction are we moving--are we moving away from nothingness, are we using our opportunities--are we trying to grow (up)?  Let’s learn from the Navi--and make something of ourselves.  HaRav Avrohom Chaim Feuer, Shlita, in a Shiur on the Three Weeks, taught that Hashem leaves His Palace during the Three Weeks looking for us--may He find us and be happy with His find!


Hakhel Note One:  The time may be right for us to buy a small notebook, and write on the outside “Sefer HaTeshuva.”  In there, one can jot down the items he senses that he is doing wrong either on a consistent basis or whenever he gets into this kind of situation or that kind of discussion--and ultimately (after thinking about it, and trial and error) how he can fix what he writes about.  Similarly, he could write down where he may have not acted honorably or befittingly (how did he show honor to the elderly person, how did he eat that food or drink that drink).  Writing this down is the indication that one feels that it is important enough for him to deal with, and is an important step in the improvement process.  Each and every one of us is far, far from nothingness, as Yirmiyahu teaches--for one has to travel (Vayeilchu Acharei HaHevel) to get there.  Our own personal Sefer HaTeshuva will lead us farther and farther away from that nothingness, and closer and closer to the highroad to greatness! 


Hakhel Note Two:  HaRav Chaim Volozhiner’s teaching in the Sefer Nefesh HaChaim regarding Titus HaRasha should especially reverberate within us during this time of year.  As many know, HaRav Chaim teaches that, unlike Titus’ action of stabbing the Paroches, which was limited to Olam HaZeh and had no effects in Shomayim--when a Jew sins in  this world, it not only creates after-effects and after-shocks in the person’s self and in the world in general, but it creates reverberations in the upper worlds as well.  This is not meant to be allegorical.  Although we cannot see it with our naked eye, it is real, very real.  We have the power to literally shake worlds for the bad--or for the good.  Let us wisely utilize our opportunities!



Special Note Four:  Rabbi Heshy Kleinman, Shlita explains some of the basic parameters of Tzipisa LiYeshua--Anticipating the Redemption.  The term ‘tzipisa’ is especially used by Chazal because it describes someone looking out in search of something--such as someone standing on a mountain in anticipation of the caravan with the life-sustaining supplies (Har Hatzofim has the same root).  It describes a state of real eagerness, something that one really needs and has to have.  On a more advanced level, it is really an existential longing--as the longing of a parent, sibling or child who has not seen their beloved relative in many years.  As the feeling of what one is lacking continues to grow, so too does the intensity of his lacking.  Rabbi Kleinman very importantly teaches that we can demonstrate our earnest and true yearning not only in our Tefillos and in our tears, but also by our conduct in the world that we live in.  After all, our yearning is for the Shechina to return and for us to be closer to it.  We can bring the Shechina into our lives--in this world--through Kiddush Shem Shomayim, through the study of Torah, and through the care with which we undertake and perform Mitzvos.  If we can demonstrate to Hashem, and to ourselves, that we want to be closer to the Shechina in the very world that we live in--then Hashem will middah kenegged middah bring the Shechina closer to us in a grand and eternal way--speedily and in our days.


Hakhel Note: Rabbi Kleinman’s compelling Sefer [especially for this time of year!], Yearning with Fire (Artscroll), is on this very topic of practical fulfillment of Tzipisa LeYeshua, in which he develops and explains how we can do our part *in this world*in these the last throngs of our Galus--and thereby once and for all not only be zoche to the yeshua’s anticipation --but to its full and final fulfillment! 



Special Note Five:   In his explanation of the Siddur (in the monumental work HaRav Schwab on Prayer, published by Artscroll), HaRav Schwab, Z’tl, asks why the brocha of “VeLirushalayim Ircha” begins with a Vav (“And”).  What is the meaning of “And” here--to what is the beginning of the bracha connecting?  HaRav Schwab suggests that the Vav alludes to the Yerushalayim Shel Ma’alah, where thousands, and perhaps millions, of Tzadikim who hoped and prayed for the rebuilding of Yerushalayim over the past 2,000 years now reside.  When the time comes for Yerushalayim to be rebuilt, these neshamos will experience it B’shamayim together with the people who are physically experiencing the rebuilding here on earth.  Moreover, HaRav Schwab teaches, although we do not really understand what it means at this time, Chazal teach that Hashem will return to the Yerushalayim Shel Ma’alah only after He has returned to the Yerushalayim Shel Matah, for He has been “absent” from the Yerushalayim Shel Ma’alah since the Churban, as well.  We are thus mispallel for Hashem to return to both cities of Yerushalayim.


HaRav Schwab concludes his explanation of the Brocha with the following comforting words:


“Just as a deep foundation must be placed in the ground before a very large structure can rise, so, too, have the historical events of the Galus been the foundation for the rebuilding of the future Yerushalayim.  Our entire Galus experience--and it is longer than we have hoped and thought it would be--is the deep, dark, underground pit into which the foundation of the future city of Yerushalayim is being placed.  This can be compared to a construction site of a large building, which is enclosed by a wall.  If a man manages to peek behind that wall, all he will see is a huge hole in the ground for the foundation.  The higher the planned structure, the deeper the foundation must be.  However, eventually the structure will begin rising above the wall until it reaches its completion.  Similarly, HaKadosh Baruch Hu, the Boneh Yerushalayim, has been digging the foundations of the future Yerushalayim ever since the Churban Bais HaMikdash, and the rebuilding process has never ceased throughout the Galus.  At the time of Bi’as HaMoshiach, the structure will be completed.”  May it be speedily and in our days!



Special Note One:  Two important, timely thoughts:


A.  Acts of retzicha are so contrary to our existence, perhaps because Shalom, its antithesis, is such an integral part of our values.  Indeed, Aharon HaKohein is praised in Mesechta Avos, not for his service as Kohein Gadol, but because he was Ohev Shalom V’Rodef V’Shalom, Oheiv Es Habrios U’Mekarvan LaTorah.  Shalom is how we greet a person when we first meet him, and it is how we depart from a person when we take leave of him.  It also describes our wellbeing.  It is even one of Hashem’s names.  What we can do to thwart these horrible acts that have occurred is to try and increase Shalom in the world.  This need not only be accomplished by our interpersonal relationships, but simply by pleading with Hashem in the last bracha of Shemone Esrei.  We should simply stop and pause for a moment each time the word Shalom is mentioned in the bracha.  Incredibly, whether your recite Sim Shalom or Shalom Rav, the word Shalom is mentioned four separate times within the Bracha (in Nusach S’fard,  five times in Sim Shalom).  Hashem Is Peace and the Source of All Peace--let us daven to Hashem to bring this peace back into our lives!


B.  In last week’s Parsha of one who kills b’shogeg, we learn that he must remain in the Ir Miklat until the Kohein Gadol is niftar.  The lesson:  If the Kohein Gadol had properly prayed, then this unintentional murder would not have occurred; accordingly, the Kohein Gadol is held accountable.  Chazal tell us that the mother of the Kohein Gadol would try to make the one who killed b’shogeg comfortable in the Ir Miklat so that the rotzeiach would not to pray for the Kohein Gadol to die in order for him to be able to leave the Ir Miklat.  HaRav Meir Chadash, Z’tl, teaches that we from this we see how powerful and pervasive Tefillah really is.  The Kohen Gadol’s better Tefillah could have in actuality stopped an unintentional act far off on the other side of the country, and, on the other hand, the Tefillos of an unintentional murderer could be so potent so at to bring about the leader of the people, the Kohein Gadol’s, demise.  HaRav Chadash therefore urged his students, particularly in a time of increased violence and turmoil, to enhance their Tefillos-to bring their Tefillos to new levels.  As we see from the Kohen Gadol’s failure to adequately pray, and from the potential potency of the prayers of the rotzeiach--proper Tefillah can literally be the difference of life itself.  If at this time you feel that there is no immediate room for growth, we refer you at the very least to Paragraph A above, and to the next Special Note--both of which we hope can serve as inroads for success!



Special Note Two:  We continue with our focus on the Eleventh Bracha of Shemone Esrei--Hoshiva Shofteinu:  We begin the bracha with a Tefilla for our Shoftim, i.e., our Sanhedrin to return, so that the resha’im of the world are dealt with, bringing greater peace to the entire world and each and every person in it as a result.  We then request that Hashem grant Yoatzeinu Kevatechila--the level and status of Chachomim who lived at the time of nev’ua, who could give the exact eitzah, a final determination of direction or advice that is needed by a person in each and every situation in which he needs guidance.  If one would like to visualize it, perhaps he can imagine Moshe Rabbeinu and Aharon Hakohein back on the Sanhedrin, and Dovid HaMelech and Shlomo Hamelech--once again giving Eitzos to our people.  This is not out of the realm of possibility--it is going to happen--and this is what we are praying for--so daven well!



Special Note Three:  In one week from today is Tisha B’Av.


We note that HaRav Yaakov Tzvi Emden, Z’tl, writes: “If it was only this sin alone that we had in our hands, that we do not properly mourn over Yerushalayim, it would be enough to lengthen our Galus.  In my eyes, it is the most likely reason for all of the ‘Hashmados Hamuflagos Hagedolos--the horrendous and horrific pogroms and destructions’ that have found us in Galus wherever we may be.  We have been chased, and chased and chased some more because mourning over Yerushalayim has left our hearts.”  We must--we must--make the effort to bring Yerushalayim back into our hearts.


Note:  For a link to Tikun Chatzos – please click here.  If one has never, ever recited Tikun Chatzos, he may simply sit on the floor and go through it at least once to gain a familiarity with it. During the period we are in, some have the custom of reciting the Tikun during the day, as well.  HaRav Avigdor Miller, Z’tl, teaches at the very least one can get down on the floor and reflect upon Yerushalayim and the churban for a minute!  If not now, when?  As Chazal teach, “Kol HaMisabel al Yerushalayim--All Who Mourn over Yerushalayim Will Be Zoche and See It Rebuilt.”  Some feeling and effort now will last for eternity!



Special Note Four: There may be some particular personal undertakings one can attempt over the coming week which could also help speed the Rebuilding process along.  From what we have gleaned from readers and others, a very practical Kabala (Bli Neder) revolves around extra special care in the area of Ona’as Devorim, making sure not to harm others in the way you express yourself, and in the way you don’t express yourself.  As part of your own personal campaign against Ona’as Devorim, you should also be careful to show a “Sever Ponim Yafos”--a warm and pleasant countenance--to all.  One should also be careful to be attentive to others, and show that you are listening to what they have to say.  One should not be part of those people who say, “It’s a matter of opinion, and your opinion doesn’t matter.”


Along these lines, a reader supplied us with a simple and straight-forward sign he printed and has posted in Shuls, with the language approved by Rabbi Yisroel Belsky, Shlita: “Frum People Don’t Honk.  Be Patient With Others And G-D Will Be Patient With You.  Please Spread The Word.”


If Ona’as Devorim is not one of your weak points, you should make the effort to find a weak point--and make a special point of improving upon it in the coming week!



Special Note One: Some explain that the Aleph and Bais of the word “Av” stand for Elul Bah!


Hakhel Note:  The Ben Ish Chai explains that one of the reasons that our month is called “Av” is because it will be the Av, the Father, of a new joyous period which will commence in Av, and continue for a long period thereafter.  May it commence this Av!



Special Note Two:  One of the rare dates mentioned in the Torah actually is today’s date, the first day of Av (mentioned in last week’s Parsha!).   What happened on this date?  It is the day of the petira, the passing, of Aharon HaKohen.  Chazal teach that the Ananei Kovod, the protective clouds of Glory, which surrounded us in the desert (and will once again surround us in the future) were in the Zechus of Aharon HaKohen (see Rashi on Bamidbar 33:40).  Once the Ananei Kavod left us, the initial reaction of the outside world was to attack us, as is described in the Torah there (Bamidbar 33:40).  What did Aharon HaKohen do for which he merited the protective clouds both for himself and for the rest of Bnei Yisroel?  We may suggest the following:  The Mishna in Avos ( 1:12 ) teaches that he was an Oheiv Shalom V’Rodef Shalom- that he loved peace and pursued it.  The midah k’neged midah--the measure for measure reward becomes very evident.  Because Aharon made peace among people, he merited peace being brought upon all of Klal Yisroel with the Clouds of Glory.


Indeed, Hillel in the aforementioned Mishna, enjoins us all to “Be among Aharon’s students” in this regard--to learn the value of peace among brothers.  In a letter issued by HaRav Elyashiv, Shlita, and HaRav Shteinman, Shlita, in the past they especially asked that we be very careful in these perilous times “not to fall prey to the opposite of Gemilas Chasodim” which is to cause pain or suffering to your friend.  They point out that in the generation of the wicked king Achav, Bnei Yisroel were victorious at war because there was no Machlokes, no strife, among brothers.  The Gedolim therefore request that we are “me’od mishtadel”--that we put in greater effort at this time to make peace among ourselves.


PRACTICAL SUGGESTION:  It is essential that we take the lessons of Aharon HaKohen, as specifically reiterated by Rav Elyashiv and Rav Shteinman very much to heart.  We may even posit that the petira of Aharon HaKohen comes out at the beginning of the Nine Days to remind us that if we could rid ourselves of machlokes, of causing pain to others, and of the need quite to the contrary to love and pursue peace between and among ourselves, we can go a long way to bring immediate and long lasting Yeshuos.  Let us at the very least focus on one or two people over the next few days and try to promote a peaceful or more peaceful relationship with them.  Peace brings peace, for as Dovid HaMelech teaches in Tehillim (121:5)--”Hashem is Your Shadow.”


Additional Note:  As noted above, the Torah records (both in Parshas Chukas and in last week’s Parsha) that the outside world (Amaleikim) attacked Bnei Yisroel after Aharon’s Petira.  Some suggest that the reason the date of the first of Av is mentioned in the Torah is because the Amaleikim attacked because they knew that it was the month of Av, and they believed that our Mazal would not be good and they would be successful.  We know that the opposite occurred as the Bnei Yisroel vanquished them in battle, although the enemy had originally taken one maidservant captive.  This is truly a message to us.  Although many terrible events have happened in Av in the past, the maidservant was originally taken, ultimately and forever thereafter we will vanquish our enemies (including the Amaleikim!) even, and perhaps all the more so, in the month of Av--may it be this year!



Special Note Three:  Chazal teach us that once Av enters, we are to reduce the amount of our joy.  Many have pointed out that the context Chazal use, even in Av, is one of joy.  We are not instructed to “increase our mourning,” but to “decrease our joy.”  This thought fits in beautifully with the commentary of the Tiferes Yisroel to last week’s Perek, Chapter 2 of Pirkei Avos (our lesson from Perek to apply for the week).  There, Rabban Yochanan Ben Zakkai asked his five primary disciples, “What is the proper way to which a man should be “Yidbak”--to which he should cling?”  The first four primary disciples each responded in his own way.  Rebbe Elazar then responded that one should cling to “a Lev Tov--a good heart.”  Rabban Yochanan then said to his students, “I prefer the words of Elazar to your words, for your words are included in his words.”  What is so all-encompassing about the words “Lev Tov” that it per se includes the other responses of Rabban Yochanan’s other four top students?!  The Tiferes Yisroel explains that the phrase “Lev Tov” means “Leebo Tomid Sameach, U’mezuman L’Heitiv Lakol--that one’s frame of mind is a happy one, and that he is ready to help every one.”  It is this middah that Rabban Yochanan and Rabbi Elazar instruct us is so primary and all-encompassing.  Accordingly, even in these days of Av, and even as we approach Tisha B’Av, we should not forget these six Hebrew words as the attitude and approach to life that our Sages teach us to cling to.  We especially note that the Hebrew word “Yidbak” (cling) is utilized by Chazal--it is not simply a nice approach or a good thing, but something we should not deviate from--but practice sticking to--as if it were with glue or honey.  Leebo Tomid Sameach U’Mezuman L’Heitiv Lakol let us live and act with these precious by-words, even in these difficult times.


Special Note Four:  We have now reached the twelfth month of the year corresponding to the twelfth Ani Ma’amin--Ani Ma’amin B’Emunah Shleimah BeVi’as HaMoshiach (anyone who feels that it is a coincidence to focus on this Ani Ma’amin during this month can raise his hand!).  It is essential to note that this Ani Ma’amin does not simply conclude with the words BeVi’as HaMoshiach, however, but rather continues with Ve’af Al Pi Sheyismameiah…even though he may delay, nevertheless I await his coming every day.  Chazal teach that the Moshiach will come when we are “Nisya’ashu Min HaGeulah--when we despair of redemption.”  The Baalei Mussar all ask: Are we not supposed to wait for Moshiach every day--after all, are we not truthful when we recite these words of Achakeh Lo Bechol Yom Sheyavo.  How can it be that we will despair?!  The answer given by many is that Chazal do not mean that we will despair of Moshiach’s arrival.  Rather, they mean that we will despair that our Yeshua will come from foreign governments, wise scientists, or even from our own wisdom or strength.  Rather, we will once and for all realize, and put into real practice, that we have no one to rely on, no source of yeshua whatsoever--except for Our Avinu SheBashamayim.  As we recite the words Ve’af Al Pi…let us shake off all of the external forces and outside influences and proclaim with complete Emunah that it is our Avinu SheBashomayim Who will bring the Geulah--we anticipate today; and if it is not today we will with full faith anticipate again tomorrow! 



Special Note Five:  We continue with our focus on the Brachos of Shemone Esrei, as we move towards Rosh HaShanah.  This week we approach the Eleventh Bracha--Hoshivah Shofteinu.  As we noted last week, the Sefer Rinas Chaim writes that in the first six Brachos of request, our requests are for individuals within the community--whereas the second group of six Brachos--which commence with Teka BeShofar--are requests of and for the entire community.  The Kuntrus HisChaskus BiT’fillah brings in the name of the Avudraham that each bracha in the first group of six corresponds, or has a matching bracha, in the second group of six.  The second bracha of the first group (HaShiveinu Avinu) requests help for the individual in Torah, Avodah and Teshuvah.   Corresponding to this, the second bracha in the second group for Klal Yisroel is Hoshivah Shofteinu.  Here, we beg Hashem to reappoint the Sanhedrin.  This will revive the authority of the Torah, and consequently strengthen the kingship of Hashem over His people.  Thus, truth and justice will return to K’lal Yisroel.  Additionally, the Sefer Ya’aros Devash writes that the Ikar HaShrayas HaShechina is through the Sanhedrin--for they will remedy and cure all the Torah that has been lost and forgotten, ridding us of dissention and indecision.  Moreover, the Ya’aros Devash concludes, when there are Dayanim Keshairim in the world, then bracha is Sheruyah B’Olam--the world is infused with bracha.  It is for this reason that the bracha continues VeHaser Mimenu Yagaon VeAnacha--for as bracha pervades the world--all of the sources of agony and groaning depart--and this time…it will be forever!


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