Daily Email Archives

Bulletin Archives

Summer Archives

Public Announcements

Shatnez Publications

Past Events

Hakhel Recordings


Audio-Visual Resources


Hakhel Email Community Awareness Bulletin



Special Note One:  We continue with our focus on the Seventeenth Bracha of Shemone Esrei--Avodah--Service in the Beis HaMikdash.  We conclude the bracha with the words: “Baruch Atta Hashem HaMachazir Shechinaso L’Tzion--Who restores His Shechina to Tzion.”  The Pasuk in Eicha (1:6) writes: “VaYeitzei Min Bas Tzion Kol Hadara--all of the beauty of Tzion left her.”  HaRav Chaim Kanievsky, Shlita, explains that this Pasuk is the reason we refer to Tzion here, as we appeal to Hashem that Tzion’s beauty return with the complete and outward presence of the Shechina.  HaRav Schwab, Z’tl, in the monumental, must-have-in-your-home Sefer, Rav Schwab on Prayer (Artscroll) teaches as follows:  “This Bracha is said in the present tense, although it has not happened yet, because we have such Emunah that HaKadosh Baruch Hu will return His presence to Tzion that we can visualize it before our eyes, as if it has already taken place. How can we explain the difference between Tzion and Yerushalayim?  HaRav Schwab explains:  “Usually, the word Tzion refers to the Beis HaMikdash, as in Tzion Mishkan Kevodecha, and the term Yerushalayim means the city, V’Lirushalayim Ircha [Tanach is replete with examples of these uses.]  Tzion conveys the idea of the ‘outstanding’ aspect of the Jewish nation. It describes the Beis HaMikdash, with its focal point being the Kodesh HaKadashim, which contains evidence of the Torah Shebichsav and Torah Shebe’al Peh.  It radiates the truth of Torah to the world through the Sanhedrin that sits within its portals, Ki MiTzion Teitzeih Torah (Yeshayahu 2:3).  Therefore we could say that Tzion, the Beis HaMikdash, represents the neshama of the Jewish nation.  Yerushalayim, the city, could be said to represent the guf of the Jewish nation. It is the embodiment of the Torah MiTzion in the physical life of Am Yisrael.  Accordingly, Yerushalayim, as the incorporation of the Torah MiTzion--with all the mundane activities of the physical life of the Jewish nation-- has great kedusha as well.  The Navi describes it as: “VeHaya Kol Sir BeYerushalayim U’VeYehuda Kodesh LaHashem Tzevakos--and it will be that every pot in Yerushalayim and in Yehuda will be holy unto Hashem...” (Zechariah 14:21).  Even the cooking pots will be Kodesh LaHashem!  For a broader explanation of the concept of Tzion see Rav Schwab on Prayer, where HaRav Schwab comments on the words “Yimloch Hashem L’Olam Elokai’ich Tzion.”  How important--how enlightening! 



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


The Sefer VeKidashto MiKol HaZemanim by Rabbi Chaim Y. Tolwinski, Shlita, brings the following teachings:


A.  HaRav Yecheskel Levenstein, Z’tl (Ohr Yecheskel, Yomim Noraim, p. 329) movingly writes:  “Chazal teach that Shabbos is equal to the entire Torah.  This is not an allegory or a mashal, but an actual and accurate lesson of Chazal.  We should therefore proceed with all of our strength to study Hilchos Shabbos and to be especially careful with Shemiras Shabbos.  If a business man came upon a business deal in which he could become very wealthy, he would leave the smaller deals, and put all of his efforts into closing the larger transaction.  I remember my first year in Kelm where the Number One Kabbalah before Rosh Hashana was ‘L’Hiza’her BeShemiras Shabbos’. The Yetzer Hara attempts to rule over us and prevent us from strengthening our knowledge of the Halachos of Shabbos and our Shemiras Shabbos--for that is the way of the Yetzer Hara, where there are great gains and strides to be made by a person, he steps in to dissuade, deflect and deter the person from going further.  As they did in Kelm, we must make it a priority!


B.  The Sefer Divrei Emunah teaches that the study of Hilchos Shabbos acts as a Segulah against violating the Shabbos--”DiMikol Teivah U’Teivah Nivra’im Malochim ViHeim Heimah HaMatzilin Es HaAdam Mimichshol--from each and every word of Hilchos Shabbos study--Malochim are created and they save a person from violating the Shabbos.” 


C.  It is not always the right idea to look for ‘heterim’ on Shabbos. Suddenly, one’s light goes out in the room that he is in.  Does that mean that one automatically concludes that he is in a ‘tza’ar’ or ‘tzorech gadol’, and that he can somehow get a non-Jew to turn on the light?  Perhaps what just happened was an opportunity of Shemiras Shabbos--in which Hashem gives us the chance to be happy with observing the Shabbos, and feel the geshmake of the dark room, of the stain on one’s clothing, or of the Muktzah item extending out of the cabinet?  Instead of it being viewed as a difficult and unappreciated event--the very situation can be looked upon as Yismichu BeMalchusecha Shomrei Shabbos!


D.  Two specific areas of concern which come up in so many times and in so many situations on Shabbos are the Halachos of Borer, and the Halachos of Shetarei Hedyotos (what may be read on Shabbos).  Accordingly, it should especially behoove a person to learn and teach Halachos of Shabbos at the Shabbos meals.  Just a few Halachos at every meal could literally save one’s family and others from violating Melachos and Issurim.  What an excellent and important Kabbalah for the coming year.  Why not start Hilchos Borer this Shabbos, at the Shabbos table.  You will then be able to confidently answer some of the following questions: 


·        Is one permitted to wash off fruit?

·        When and how can one peel eggs or fruit?

·        How does one avoid Borer when setting and cleaning off the Shabbos table?

·        How does one avoid Borer when taking items out of the refrigerator, a drawer, a bookcase or a closet?

·        Is there anything that one can do if he realizes that he has just done an act of Borer?


We have so many excellent Seforim in so many languages to help guide us--let us learn what Hashem wants us to do! 


Additional Note:  Commencing on October 24th, the Hakhel Weekly Women’s Shiur will reconvene in Boro Park, and Rabbi Yisroel Dov Webster, Shlita (Av Bais Din, Sha’arei Mishpat) will be teaching Hilchos Borer--Practical Situations and Solutions in the Kitchen, at the Table and in the Home, every Wednesday morning from 10:00AM until 11:00AM at the Agudah of 18th Avenue, 5413 18th Avenue.  Admission is free. For further information please call:  718-837-8837. 



Special Note Three:  Several additional points and pointers relating to the elevated days of Elul:


A.  In tomorrow’s Parsha, Ki Seitzai (Devorim 21:13 ), Rabbi Zelig Pliskin, Shlita, brings the following thought in Growth Through Torah (p. 494-495).  “The Aishes Yefas Toar must cry over her parents for a period of thirty days.  The Ramban explains that thirty days is the amount of time necessary for her to remove the attachment to her idols from her mouth and heart. Rabbi Chaim Zaitchek, Z’tl, comments that we learn from here that to really change a trait it takes a thirty-day period of intense work.  This is the principle of the month of Elul which is a time for us to focus on our behavior and traits in order to make a major improvement in ourselves.  “A person tries to work on a trait for a day or two, and when he does not see improvement he becomes discouraged and gives up.  When you want to improve any trait, give yourself thirty days of serious effort in order to see visible changes.  While some people are able to make changes very quickly, even they need a significant amount of time in order to ensure that the new habits become second nature.  Even if you do not see any positive changes in the first week or two, if you will persevere for an entire thirty days, you will begin to see the fruits of your labor.


B.  The world views someone as ‘street wise’ if he knows how to handle himself in the outside world under precarious circumstances, or when faced with individuals who are not of a particularly high caliber.  We may have a different definition of the term.  When one goes out onto the street, there are oh, so many Nisyonos that can face him--that which can be seen, that which can be heard, conducting oneself in a particular way even when crossing the street, helping a stranger or even buying a bottle of milk.  Imagine the feeling of fulfillment that a person can have if he resolves that he is going to take that trip to the store and come back--without having any issues whatsoever in looking at what should not be looked at--and succeeding!  Moreover, the whole trip becomes a great act of Avodas Hashem!  We all can be street wise--in our own Torah way! 


C.  Will it be Kiddush Hashem or Chilul Hashem--the choice is yours, every single day!


D.  One way to feel the Malchus of Hashem every day of the year is by jotting down on a line or two in a notebook an event clearly evidencing Hashem’s Hashgacha…how he met that person just at that time; how he learned this and that came up; how he found a parking spot; how he woke up even though the alarm clock did not ring; how he turned around as he was about to sneeze--and the box of tissues was right there; how he knew the answer to the person’s question…the list goes on and on.  It might be a wonderful project to start the list today, numbering each one--and seeing what number you get to at this time next year.  Remember--the more Hashgacha one feels, the more Hashgacha he will receive!


E.  In the Yeshiva world, the Sefer Orchos Chaim LeHaRosh is one of the primary hadracha Seforim--especially in the month of Elul.  Instruction Number 100 of the Rosh is “Al Tivahel Ma’asecha--do not act and react with haste or confusion; rather, be calm and collected.”  Al Tivahel Ma’asecha”--keep these words in mind--and avoid the (apparent) pressures of the day. 


F.  The Chofetz Chaim writes that no day can make up for the past one.  Each day has its own independent and irreplaceable value.  He gives the Mashal of a person who traveled to a far away country for 20 years to earn a living, which he could not do in his own home town.  After he was there a year, someone else from town passed through, and noticed him simply sitting in the park.  He inquired:  “Didn’t you come here to work and earn a living for your family that you left behind?” Yes, for sure--but I still have another 19 years to do that, so I intend to wait a while to start working, and for now take it easy.”  The ridiculousness--really the horror--of the response is clear to all.  We have a responsibility to ourselves, our families and K’lal Yisrael--every day--and may it be for a very long time! 


G.  There is a shocking teaching about the king Menashe, who perhaps performed the most abominable acts of any king in Jewish history.  As the Pasuk shockingly records (Divrei HaYamim II, 33:3-6):  He made asheira trees, he bowed down to the entire heavenly host and worshipped them, he built alters to avodah zara in the Beis HaMikdash, he passed his sons through the fire in the valley of Ben-Hinnom, he practiced astrology, read omens, did sorcery, performed necromancy and conjured up spirits.  In fact, the Pasuk scathingly records about him:  Hirbah La’asos HaRah BeEini Hashem Lehachiso--he was profuse in doing what was evil in the eyes of Hashem in order to anger Him.”  His actions were so astoundingly horrendous that Hashem brought the army of Ashur to Yerushalayim, who captured Menashe with hunting hooks, bound him in chains and lead him off to Bavel.  What happened then?  After many Pesukim which had described Menashe’s rottenness, the Pasuk (ibid. 13) simply records:  VaYispallel Eilav VaYei’aser Lo VaYishma Techinaso VaYishiveihu Yerushalayim LeMalchuso--Menashe prayed to Hashem, and Hashem listed to his supplications, and Menashe was returned to Yerushalayim--to his kingship(!)”  What a powerfully moving lesson.  A Rasha the likes of which could rarely be seen in the world davens to Hashem with recognition and humility--and is actually returned from exile--and made king again!  None of us have c’v sank so low, none of us could be so bad--let us certainly call out to Hashem in prayer and return to Him.  With our Teshuvah and with our Tefillah--we too can be brought back to Yerushalayim! 



Special Note Four:  The Sefas Emes provides two great lessons from this week’s Parsha for us to always take with us:


A.  Some of the most famous Mitzvos in the Parsha relate to returning lost objects to others.  Since, the Sefas Emes notes, we are duty bound to love others as ourselves--and not more--then we must most certainly endeavor to return lost objects to ourselves as well.  With respect to physical possessions, we must be aware that Hashem has entrusted us with objects--and be sure to get them back if borrowed or taken (unless Tzedaka or chesed is involved), and certainly not squander them.  Spiritually--we must ‘return’ to be the person we are supposed to be.  Dovid Hamelech writes in Tehillem (the concluding Pasuk of the longest chapter--Chapter 119):  “To’isi KeSeh Oveid--I have strayed like a lost sheep”.  Elul is a time when we can return to ourselves that which so much belongs to us--our strengths, talents, energy and goals in Avodas Hashem.  This Parsha, always read in Elul, serves a stark reminder to us to bring as much as we can back home.  Additional Note:  Whenever you help return a lost object to someone else--let it serve as a Hashgacha Pratis reminder to you that you should also be returning something lost to yourself!


B.  The Pasuk teaches that it is a Mitzvah to help its owner when an animal or the burden upon it has fallen.  The Torah specifically says “Hakeim Tokim Imo--You shall surely stand them up with him.”  The Sefas Emes notes that the Torah does not simply use the word “Oso”-help him, but “Imo”--with him, because when you are helping another, when you display Rachmanus, compassion and care for the difficulty of someone else, than you are really not only helping him, but helping yourself.  In fact, while you are helping him only once, you are helping yourself for a lifetime and beyond.  How remarkable!  You are not merely picking up a package--you are raising up yourself!



Special Note Five:  We continue with thoughts from HaRav Mattisyahu Salomon, Shlita, on the Sefer Sha’arei Teshuvah, as presented in the Sefer Matnas Chelko (based on his Va’adim), written by Rabbi Yechiel Biberfeld, Shlita:




A.  Rebbi Yisroel Salanter, Z’tl, once reported that he met a man who said to him (in Yiddish):  Ich Hab Nisht Mit Voss Tzu Leibin (I do not have with what to live.).  Rebbi Yisroel responded:  Un Du Hust Mit Voss Tzu Shtarbin?” (And do you have with which to die?).  In an average day, a person’s life is impacted by so many different immediate and quasi-immediate items which need his attention, direction and care that he may forget about something as important as--himself!  The Sha’arei Teshuvah teaches that even if we take the time and make the effort to study and to listen to the words of reproof of others, one must still spend time with himself and in his innermost feelings--mulling over what he has done, the good and the not so good--and apply that which he knows and that which he has heard learned to himself in very real, concrete and practical ways. 


B.  One should realize that even though we do not have Nevi’im to teach us and guide us, we cannot claim that… if we had Yeshayahu HaNavi or if we had Yirmiyahu HaNa oh how we would act differently.  One should instead realize that he does have Yeshayahu HaNavi and Yirmiyahu HaNavi with him--with and through their Sifrei Kodesh. One is even at a greater advantage, because he has Rishonim and Achronim who further explain what the Nevi’im mean.  Accordingly, their teachings do not even have to be a ‘hard Shiur’--but a Shiur that is understandable to all! 


C.  HaRav Eliya Lopian, Z’tl, importantly explains that Gehenoim only cleanses sins that a person has done--but will not create Zechuyos for Ma’asim Tovim that the person never did.  The Mashal is to a washing machine which can clean a garment of stain, but cannot create buttons that are missing.  Teshuvah can provide the buttons, because: (a) the person will be granted more time to do Ma’asim Tovim, and (b) if one performs Teshuvah out of Ahava, then his misdeeds are miraculously converted to Mitzvos!  It is for this reason that Chazal often put the phrase Teshuvah U’Ma’asim Tovim together--for Ma’asim Tovim accrue to a person after a proper Teshuvah is accomplished--from the past and into the future! 



Special Note One:  We continue our regular Monday/Thursday listing of the Mitzvos Asei which the Chofetz Chaim writes are applicable in our times, as set forth in his Sefer Mitzvos HaKatzar.  Today, we present Mitzvos 67 and 68:


67.  Ladun Dinei Mamanos--this is the Mitzvas Asei to judge cases in monetary matters between a buyer and a seller according to the rules of the Torah.  As part of these laws, the Torah dictates different ways in which real property and personal property are acquired and sold.  This Mitzvah applies in all places and to men and women alike. 


68.  Hashavas Gezeilah--this is the Mitzvas Asei to return a stolen object. If the person from whom it was stolen is no longer alive, it must be returned to his heirs.  If the stolen item was lost, one must pay its monetary value.  The Mitzvah also applies to overcharging.  This Mitzvah applies in all places and at all times and to men and women alike. 



Special Note Two:  We continue with our focus on the Seventeenth Bracha of Shemone Esrei--Avodah--Service in the Beis HaMikdash.  We continue with the phrase:  U’sehi LeRatzon Tomid Avodas Yisrael Amecha--and may the service of Your people always be favorable to You.”  HaRav Chaim Friedlander, Z’tl, points out that by the word Tomid--always, we ask that Hashem revitalize and renew our finding of favor in His eyes.  It is interesting to note that in the last Bracha of Shema Koleinu and earlier in this Bracha we referred to ourselves as Amecha Yisrael, and we now refer to ourselves as Yisrael Amecha--putting Yisrael first before Amecha.  We may suggest that with this we emphasize that even if we ourselves are not worthy, we ask Hashem to recall the zechus of Yisrael, who is otherwise known as the Bechir She’beAvos--the chosen one of the Avos, from whom the twelve Shevatim came forth.  [We found that the Kuntres Avodas HaTefillah gives a different explanation to the juxtaposition of Yisrael and Amecha, see there.]  The Bracha now continues:  VeSechezenah Eineinu BeShuvecha L’Tzion B’Rachamim--may our eyes see Your merciful return to Tzion.”  Here, we make one of our most powerful requests in all of Shemone Esrei:  We ask not only that our own eyes witness the return of Hashem to Tzion, but that the return occur B’Rachamim--without the devastation and destruction that could otherwise accompany the Chevlei Moshiach or the war of Gog U’Magog--but through Mercy, in peace.  If it is difficult for us to shed a meaningful tear at this point, at the very least the two great requests contained in this phrase should be made with true supplication and real meaning and feeling.  One should feel it in the here and now!



Special Note Three:  Several additional points and pointers relating to the elevated days of Elul:


A.  In the Seforim that give Eitzos L’Yom HaDin--advice as to how one can succeed at the time of judgment, one of the leading items on every list is to be Dan L’Chaf Zechus--to judge others favorably.  This means that just as one can, in almost all cases, find a rational reason or excuse for what he has done, one must do the same for others.  The critical view of another, especially in the difficult and self-centered western society we live in, may be viewed as a more cautious and more appropriate approach in many circumstances.  We note, however, that this is an absolutely incorrect approach when viewing your family members and your friends, who are serious Torah Jews.  If one indeed finds that he ‘naturally’ looks at everything and everyone with that critical eye, we may suggest that, just as we noted yesterday--that one can and should daven for Hashem to help him with Teshuvah (Hashiveini V’Ashuvah Ki Atta Hashem Elokai!)--so too, should he daven to Hashem to help guide him to judge others in a more favorable light.  We accordingly once again provide by clicking here the special Tefillah to be Dan L’Chaf Zechus, which if possible, should be recited daily--for these situations come up so often.  The very fact that we daven for Hashem’s help is an indication of the direction we wish to turn.  Try the Tefillah--from today--until Rosh Hashana!


B.  The Ba’alei Mussar teach that one great technique to defeat the Yetzer Hara is to simply delay, push off that which he is trying to accomplish--whether it be anger, overindulging, the inappropriate word, the questionable charge, or any of the other tests that face us daily.  There is an important counterpart to this.  It is--when a Mitzvah presents itself, not to in any way defer or delay it, or condition it upon something else happening--but rather perform it without allowing time for the Yetzer Hara to negotiate.  Just as one succeeds by slowing down the path to an aveirah or even a questionable act, he should speed up the path to the Mitzvah before the surprising detour or road block can be deceitfully placed.  The concept, of course, applies to one’s Torah studies as well.  If one needs to look up something, he can write it down to look up later, and it may end up on a ‘to-do’ list--or he can exert the effort of standing up, going to the Sefer that he needs, opening it, finding what he needs--and bringing the matter to its prompt conclusion.  Every step along the way--the standing up, the walking, the opening of the Sefer--and even the pleasure of finding what one was looking for--are all separate parts of the joyous accomplishment of a Mitzvah in its prompt and proper time! 


C.  A fascinating point made by HaRav Chaim Friedlander is that when Hashem remembers each and every one of our deeds on Rosh Hashana, He not only remembers them on a singular and individual basis, but how on a collective basis all of the actions over the year shape a person into a different human being--reaching towards his potential, or c’v, away from it.  We must know that Hashem’s remembrance of us is (Zichronos)--are not dry notations on a computer, but are Hashem’s notes of what we had done ‘Lifnei Chisei Chevodecha--before Hashem’s throne.”  Hashem’s notes contain everything that needs to be read between the lines, and especially give everything we do, on both a micro and macro basis, the true importance they deserve--because of who we really are. 


D.  The Ba’al HaTurim (Shemos 38:27) teaches that the 100 brachos we make every day correspond to the 100 adanim that supported the walls of the Mishkan--for just as the 100 adanim were the base upon which the Mishkan rested, so too, are our 100 brachos the base for our Avodas Hashem, which brings the Shechina into our lives on a constant basis.  Through a bracha, HaRav Friedlander writes, we not only remind ourselves about Hashem’s presence in the world, but remind ourselves that Hashem is before us and close to us--as, after all, we recite the word ‘Atta’.  HaRav Friedlander especially suggests that in the days of Elul, as a preparation for Malchiyos and Zichronos, one strengthen himself in the area of brachos.  He specifically suggests the following two items:  (1) After reciting the words ‘Baruch Atta’ one should stop before reciting the word ‘Hashem’ and think:  ‘I am about to mention the name of Hashem; and (2) When reciting the words ‘Hashem Elokeinu’ one should think that Hashem is ‘Master of All, He Was, Is and Will Be, and at His Will keeps everything in existence.’  If one feels that these two wonderful steps are too difficult for all brachos, HaRav Friedlander suggests that it be done when reciting Birkas HaNehenin (HaMotzi, Shehakol, etc. and Asher Yatzar).  Through this, one will bring himself closer to Hashem at various points of the day…and Hashem is close to all who are close to Him!



Special Note Four:  We continue with thoughts from HaRav Mattisyahu Salomon, Shlita, on the Sefer Sha’arei Teshuvah, as presented in the Sefer Matnas Chelko (based on his Va’adim), written by Rabbi Yechiel Biberfeld, Shlita:




A.  In matters of Bein Adam L’Chaveiro, one must ask for forgiveness from the affected party before approaching Hashem about the iniquity.  The Me’iri writes that the forgiveness to be granted must be of a quality that the one offended would actually daven for you--i.e., of a level in which he accepts your apology and does not want you to be punished for what you have done.  When asked by others for forgiveness, one should keep this standard in mind as well--one should not be cool or hard-hearted in his forgiveness, but show a willingness and desire to restore peace without any punishment--and better yet to make the relationship better than it ever was before! 


B.  Shlomo HaMelech teaches (Mishlei 16:6):  B’Chesed V’Emes Yechupar Avon -with loving kindness and truth will sin be forgiven.”  One should not think, however, that the sin will be forgiven because of Chesed and Torah study (which is truth)--Teshuvah is always an absolute must.  The act of Chesed can serve as a shield against yissurin and misah--but Teshuvah is always necessary to atone for the sin itself. 


C.  The Sha’arei Teshuvah (2:5) writes that a Botei’ach BaHashem must recognize that because of darkness will come the light, and that if he is in tza’ar of any kind, it is not an end in and of itself, but has a purpose and meaning eternally beyond that of the immediate moment.  If one allows the pain (of any kind) to arouse him to do Teshuvah--then in addition to the Mitzvah of Teshuvah, one demonstrates his character as a Botei’ach BaHashem.  Indeed, even older age which may be accompanied by a weakening of the body is definitely not to be viewed simply as a ‘natural’ process, but it is really Hashgachas Hashem to arouse a person to come closer to Him.  HaRav Salomon adds that just as the elderly person moves closer to Hashem as his physical being becomes weaker, so too, must we in the Ikvasah D’Moshicha realize that we must exercise the opportunity now to come closer to Hashem--so that we will be eternally close to Him--forever!



Special Note One:  We continue with our focus on the Seventeenth Bracha of Shemone Esrei--Avodah--Service in the Beis HaMikdash. The Bracha continues:  V’ishei Yisrael U’Sefillasam B’Ahava Sekabel BeRatzon--the fire offerings of Yisrael and their Tefillos accept with love and favor.”  There are different approaches to the term V’ishei Yisrael, and whether it is connected to the earlier part of the Bracha, or whether it is connected to U’Sefillasam (as we have presented it here).  The Avudraham in fact brings both opinions.  Importantly, the G’ra accepts the first opinion--putting a period after V’ishei Yisrael--connecting the fire offerings to the service in the Beis HaMikdash (Dvir Beisecha).  The other possibility is that the term Ishei Yisrael refers to the Neshamos of the Tzaddikim in Shomayim (see Tosfos to Menachos 110A) or perhaps even to the people of Israel (the term Ish is similar to man), in which case it can be combined with the next phrase of U’Sefillasam B’Ahava Sekabel B’Ratzon.  At this point, we not only ask that our Avodah is accepted B’Ratzon, but also B’Ahava--love.  When one demonstrates love, he does something above and beyond what is otherwise expected, and what is otherwise deserved.  We are asking Hashem to demonstrate this love to us--by accepting us and our prayers.  The previous time we had used the term B’Ahava in Shemone Esrei was back in the first Bracha where we stated:  U’Meivi Go’el Livnei Veneihem LeMa’an Shemo B’Ahava.”  It is clear that the Anshei Knesses HaGedolah, with their Ruach HaKodesh, very judiciously utilize the term B’Ahava--and so we should very much appreciate and emphasize its meaning--as we recite it here!



Special Note Two:  Several additional points and pointers relating to the elevated days of Elul:


A.  The Chofetz Chaim brings the opinion that through the study of a Halacha in the morning and a Halacha in the evening, one fulfills the minimum requirement of VeHagisa Bo Yomam VaLayla--the requirement to study Torah by day and night.  Because Talmud Torah is K’Neged Kulam, we must as a priority accept upon ourselves to bli neder fulfill VeHagisa Bo Yomam VaLayla--at least to its minimum extent!  If one would study one Halacha after Shacharis (bli neder, no matter what), and one Halacha before reciting Kriyas Shema Al HaMita (bli neder, no matter what), then he will have committed to fulfill Talmud Torah on a daily/nightly, seven day/night a week, every day/night of the year basis.  Even if one has other Torah studies during the day and night, this especially dedicated commitment to Torah--early in the morning and late at night in special fulfillment of VeHagisa Bo Yomam VaLayla powerfully indicates one’s awareness of, and dedication to, Torah study and its primary importance in one’s life. 


B.  Looking back over the year, one may want to review how many Shailos he asked, and how many he could have asked but did not do so for one reason or another.  In regular circumstances, a Shemiras HaLashon Shailah should come up weekly, if not daily.  Making one’s own decision to say something or not say something--or even avoiding the Shailah--is not always the proper response at all.  Over the approximately 20 years of its existence, the Chofetz Chaim Heritage Foundation’s Shemiras HaLashon Shailah Hotline has answered thousands upon thousands of Shailos running the gamut of Shidduch related questions, parent-teacher issues, the professional-client relationship, and issues among parents, children and siblings.  The Hotline is a vital tool to success in the life-giving area of Shemiras HaLashon.  After all, Mi HaIsh HehChofetz Chaim…Netzor Leshonecha Mairah.  The Shailah Hotline’s number is 718-951-3696 and the hours are 9:00 PM-10:30 PM from Sunday through Thursday and Motza’ei Shabbos.


C.  The concept of Shevisi Hashem LeNegdi Somid--I place Hashem before me at all times (Tehillim 16:8) is mentioned by the Rema in the first Siman of Shulchan Aruch, Orach Chaim (1:1), and is referred to there as a K’lal Gadol BaTorah.  We all strive for this goal, and as we have recently mentioned, it is certainly of great importance now as we prepare to accept Hashem’s Malchus on Rosh Hashana.  HaRav Chaim Friedlander, Z’tl, in the Sefer Middos V’Avodas Hashem (I:p.465) suggests as a Kabbalah L’Ma’aseh that one pick 15 minutes a day in which he does everything--whether it be davening, making a bracha, learning, or even eating, in a way where he feels that he is in front of Hashem and wants only to please Him.  Everything during this period should be designated and designed to find favor in the eyes of Hashem.  The dedication to the task is a wonderful indication of where one’s mindset lies--although he may be distracted from time-to-time in the remaining 23 hours and 45 minutes of the day--at least he knows that his true goal is to follow the first Rema in Shulchan Aruch! 


D.  Chazal (Brachos 29B) teach that Eliyahu taught Rav Yehuda:  Lo Tirtach VeLo Sechetei--do not get angry, for through your anger you will come to sin.”  If we are looking for ways at this time of year to avoid sin, avoiding anger at all costs is certainly an important one!  As we feel a moment of frustration, irritation, annoyance or anger setting in or coming on--let us remember the teaching of none other than Eliyahu HaNavi-- Lo Tirtach VeLo Sechetei. 


E.  HaRav Eliyahu Dessler, Z’tl, (Michtav MeiEliyahu III : p. 275) teaches that a story in not the only thing with two sides to it.    Fire can forge, bind and build, or destroy and obliterate.  Water can clean, irrigate and nourish, or pollute and flood over.  Similarly, every Nisayon has two sides--from which one can pick himself up, or c’v stumble and fall.  When traveling, one can utilize the opportunity not only to overcome his instincts and avoid the unsightly distractions of the road, but also as a time for introspection and study, or, c’v, one can use the time to ‘let go’ a bit and stumble and fall in the spiritual sense, even if not in the physical sense.  With this in mind, all of life--every moment of it, becomes an opportunity for more and more and more--success! 



Special Note Three:  We continue with thoughts from HaRav Mattisyahu Salomon, Shlita, on the Sefer Sha’arei Teshuvah, as presented in the Sefer Matnas Chelko (based on his Va’adim), written Rabbi Yechiel Biberfeld, Shlita:



A.  The Mitzvah of Teshuvah is unique in that even if one performs the Mitzvah partially, Hashem still considers what was done a Mitzvah in and of itself.  The proof of this is from Achav of whom the Pasuk (Melachim I: 21:29 ) states:  HaRa’isah Ki Nichna Achav--Did you see how Achav has humbled himself?” Achav was clearly given credit, even though he did not do complete Teshuvah and even remained a rasha afterwards.  For us, this means that even a little charata, or a little viduy, can actually fulfill the Mitzvah of Teshuvah at least in some way.  This is part of the great Chesed of Hashem--even our partial corrective thoughts and actions are counted as a Mitzvah! 


B.  Chazal (Avos 5:23) teach that one of the three Middos of the students of Avrohom Avinu is a Nefesh Shefalah.  Who has a Nefesh Shefalah?  The Sha’arei Teshuvah (1:34) explains that it is not one who feels lowly or deprived, but rather is one who does not follow after his desires of gashmiyus even if they may otherwise be permitted by ‘the best hechsher.  It is the nefesh behemis--the animal within the person that is Shefalah--brought down--as the Ruchniyus of the person is concomitantly raised in accordance with the spirit and teachings of Avrohom Avinu!


C.  When one does Teshuvah, one must make a serious effort to utilize the very items with which he had fallen prey to in the past for the true good.  Legs that ran to do Aveiros should run to do Mitzvos.  A mouth that spoke falsehood should be known for its truth and for the Chesed that comes forth from it.  Hands that hit should become hands that open to the poor and others, a mind that thought of improper thoughts should reflect upon and formulate Divrei Torah, etc.  We are all familiar with this teaching, but we must seriously consider how to effectuate it in our own lives. 


D.  Rebbi Yisroel Salanter, Z’tl (Ohr Yisroel, Igeres 15) incredibly teaches that if one can only do Teshuvah on some of his sins, he should first do Teshuvah on the aveiros kallos on the ‘lighter sins’--for the punishment for them will be more severe.  The reason for this is because a person tends to disregard or at least downplay the smaller or easier Mitzvos, and the violation and voidance of them continuously build up.  Thus, the rebellion against the Malchus of Hashem occurs on an ongoing basis.  The Mashal is to a king who commands his servant to do battle with a lion.  The servant does not listen.  Even though he has not listened to the king, it is clear that he has not done so not because he intends to rebel, but because he values his life.  However, if the king merely tells him to close the door every time he enters the throne room, and the servant does not do so, then every failure is a separate demonstration of his careless act of rebellion against the king’s orders, which the king recognizes, and which the king hopes will be corrected before it is too late.  As the first Rashi in Parshas Eikev teaches us, it is the ‘easy’ Mitzvos, the Mitzvos that ‘a person steps on with his heel’ that surround a person at the time of Din.  We should accordingly take special note of these daily Mitzvos that we are to perform in the King’s palace every day--and make sure that we listen to the King and perform them!


E.  Tefillah is unique in that it is not only a Mitzvah in and of itself, but it is also an ikar of Teshuvah.  A person should daven to Hashem to forgive him for his sins, and to erase the stains the sins have created on his soul.  Even more so, however, a person should daven that Hashem help him with the Teshuvah process itself--as Yirmiyahu HaNavi exclaims (Yirmiyah 31:17):  Hashiveini V’Ashuvah Ki Atta Hashem Elokai--bring me back and I will return because You are Hashem, my G-d!”  As we move through the days of Elul, let us remember this great Chesed, this great gift--and daven for Hashem’s assistance to lead us through and guide us on the path of Teshuvah!  Remember these very words and daven them--Hashiveini V’Ashuvah Ki Atta Hashem Elokai!




Special Note One:  We continue with our focus on the Seventeenth Bracha of Shemone Esrei--Avodah--Service in the Beis HaMikdash.  HaRav Chaim Friedlander, Z’tl, points out that in the Bracha of Retzei we reference the terms Retzei, BeRatzon and LeRatzon.  The emphasis on Ratzon is based upon our pleading to turn the moment into an Eis Ratzon--a time when our Tefillos are more acceptable to and accepted by Hashem.  With the emphasis on Retzei and Ratzon, we additionally emphasize our absolute belief that everything in our life is based upon Hashem’s Will, and His Hashgacha Pratis over us.  Indeed, living itself is marked by Chaim BeRetzono (Tehillim 30:4).  There is one other point.  Just as a good son wants to please his father, in this Tefillah we express our desire that our Tefillos and our actions appease and please Hashem, as our Father in Heaven, as well.  We continue now with the next phrase in the Bracha of:  Vehasheiv Es HaAvodah LiDvir Beisecha--and restore the Avodah to the Kodesh HaKodashim.”  The Sifsei Chaim explains that after having just asked Hashem to be pleased with us and our prayers, we immediately recognize that we are in a tekufah, a period, of galus--a time of sorely felt Hester Panim.  The light of Hashem’s Shechina will shine upon us only when the Beis HaMikdash is rebuilt, and the great Kedusha that reigns there, and in the services performed there, will draw us so much closer to Him.  The reason the Kodesh HaKodashim is referred to as the Dvir of the Bayis is because it is from the Kodesh HaKodashim only that the Dibur of Hashem comes forth towards His people, as the Pasuk (Shemos 25:22) teaches: “ViDibarti Itecha Mai’al HaKapores Mibein Shenei HaKeruvim.”  The Shulchan Aruch (Orach Chaim 94:1, Mishna Berurah seif katan 7) rules that when davening Shemone Esrei we should view ourselves as standing before this very Kapores. This is the one time that we refer to the Holy of Holies in the Shemone Esrei and our longing for it--let us make it count!



Special Note Two:  Several additional points and pointers relating to the elevated days of Elul:


A.  There is a word that has negative connotations that we usually do not like to associate with ourselves:  Zilzul--to hold in contempt, to degrade or to disgrace.  One generally does not feel that he conducts himself in a manner which degrades or disgraces other people or things, yet, in the Al Cheit, we actually recite:  Al Cheit Shechatanu Lifanecha BeZilzul Horim U’Morim--for the sin we have committed against You by degrading parents and teachers.”  This sin is obviously so pervasive that it is found in the Al Cheit recited by us all.  The concept of Zilzul not only applies to parents and teachers, but can also apply to the way we treat other people and their feelings as well.  Zilzul even has ramifications in Hilchos Shabbos--where leaving on noise making objects on Shabbos and other public actions which show disregard for the sanctity of Shabbos are referred to as ‘Zilzul Shabbos”.  We can also think about Zilzul in the way some may treat Seforim, Siddurim and bentschers with broken bindings and with pages ripped out for many days, and their Tallis and Tefillin bags (with the Tallis and Tefillin inside), as they let them bang against the lower part of their bodies and leave them unattended in unlocked cars.  Perhaps a benchmark in this area would be how a third party whom one does not know would view what he is doing--as something sensible and honorable--or as something inappropriate, careless--or even disgraceful.  Although it may be a difficult thing to do--think of the word Zilzul--and go through your day making sure there is no element of it in any aspect of your daily conduct, business, affairs or thinking.


B.  At the Chofetz Chaim Heritage Foundation Torah Video Shiur, Rabbi Ephraim Wachsman, Shlita, provided extremely meaningful guidance in the name of “Rebbe Shmelke”, Z’tl.  Rebbe Shmelke teaches that when a person travels through a difficult or treacherous area, the secret of success is in taking the trek piece by piece, part by part, goal by goal.  One goes until one indicator, travels until the next marker, then until a third milestone, until he gets to his location.  If a person says “I am not going to speak Lashon Hara for the next ten years, no matter what”, he is challenging himself in an admirable way, but not necessarily in a successful one.  A more measured approach such as:  “I will get through the week, and go from there”, may not be as admirable, but should achieve a far greater result.  Rabbi Wachsman told a story of a man who successfully climbed a mountain where all others failed.  When asked why he felt he was successful, he responded:  “I looked down at how much I had accomplished--not at how much farther I had to go!” 


C.  One must never forget the teaching of Hillel (Avos 1:14 ):  Im Ain Ani Li Mi Li--if I am not for myself--who is for me?”  There is simply no one else that can substitute, replace, or stand in one’s stead in achieving his personal spiritual potential and personal spiritual goals.  If one looks to his right and looks to his left--he may see many fine and helpful people around him--but ultimately they must take care of themselves both physically and spiritually--and so must he!



Special Note Three:  One of the great aspects of Rosh Hashana is K’lal Yisrael proceeding in unity to declare Hashem’s Malchus over us, and our unified hope that His Malchus will reign over the whole world in the very near future.  The Torah (Devarim 33:5) teaches:  VaYehi Vishurun Melech Behisaseif Roshei Am Yachad Shivtei Yisrael--He became King over Yisrael...the tribes of the nation in unity.”  The Ba’alei Mussar point out that we learn from this Pasuk that “Ain Melech BeLo Am--there is no king without a nation”.  Accordingly, we must strive for unity among disparity in preparation for Rosh Hashana.  In this regard, we provide the following practical and remarkable excerpt from the Sefer Yearning with Fire, by Rabbi Heshy Kleinman, Shlita (Artscroll):


There is a model of Jewish marriage that counselors use to help couples understand the goals of their union.  It is a pyramid, with each spouse at one corner of the base and Hashem at the pinnacle.  The greater the distance from Hashem that they stand, the farther apart are the spouses.  As they climb spiritually--toward the pinnacle-- they come ever closer to each other.


This model works for us as a nation, too.  When our striving is toward Hashem, the distance between us diminishes.  Rather than having our unity thrust upon us by our enemies, we can embrace it, and thereby stand ready to be redeemed.”



Special Note Four:  We continue with thoughts from HaRav Mattisyahu Salomon, Shlita, on the Sefer Shaarei Teshuvah, as presented in the Sefer Matnas Chelko (based on his Va’adim), written Rabbi Yechiel Biberfeld, Shlita:




A.  The first element of Teshuvah is Charata--actually feeling sorry for what one has done.  The primary element of Charata is for the heart to know that one has done something wrong.  It is for this reason that the Ba’alei Mussar use a penetrating tone when learning Mussar, so that it pierces through to the heart.  This innovation was developed by HaRav Yisroel Salanter, Z’tl.  A person does not have to wait until he learns Mussar, however, to penetrate into his inner being.  HaRav Eliya Lopian, Z’tl, for instance, once davened Ma’ariv in a Shul in which the Chazzan recited the words:  VeHaser Mei’aleinu Oyev Dever V’Cherev…” with such feeling on a regular weekday that everybody in the Kehillah started to cry.  Charata and Aziyvas HaCheit are the beginning of the Teshuvah process--and the way to begin Teshuvah is with the heart--with a Hisorirus and awe-filled awareness of what one has done and the need to put oneself on the proper path.  It is no secret to any of us that after 120 years we will all look back and say:  “Oh, if only I could have spent those extra hours learning, placed that extra effort into davening and making brachos, focused on that need for Chessed in my family or in my community….”  But, it is not after 120 years--and Boruch Hashem, we are still in this world!  Why then don’t we do Teshuvah--utilizing the opportunity that we have in the here and now! 


B.  An animal per force follows its instincts--it eats, it sleeps, it does what it has to do as its mechanisms work within it.  If we do the same, then we are only animals as well.  We have the choice to not perform or fulfill the whims and desires that we may otherwise have.  We have Sechel--the power of Bechira to overcome our animal instincts and lift ourselves towards the Heavens. 


C.  Chazal (Rosh HaShana 17A) teach that ‘HaMa’avir Al Midosav Ma’avirin Lo Al Kol Pesha’av’--if one avoids acting strictly and stringently, and instead overcomes his personal feelings, and unjust affront to his dignity or to his person, then Hashem will also overcome the manner in which that person had in fact affronted Hashem!  The Sha’arei Teshuvah ( 1:28 ) calls this special gift a “Pesach Tikvah Nichbad Me’od--a very significant opening of hope.”  It is very easy for a person to feel weighted down by personal failures in this area or that.  Chazal nevertheless teach us that one has a great opening of hope--an opening which can save a person from a difficult din of which he might otherwise really have been deserving.  If a person can practice withstanding those difficult, unnerving and harsh mannerisms, those inappropriate or harsh comments and actions of others--he has the Pesach Tikvah which is open to him--to bring on the beginnings a successful year!




Special Note One:  We continue our regular Monday/Thursday listing of the Mitzvos Asei which the Chofetz Chaim writes are applicable in our times, as set forth in his Sefer Mitzvos HaKatzar.  Today, we present Mitzvos 65 and 66:


65.  Achilas Po’el--this is the Mitzvas Asei that requires the Ba’al HaBayis to allow a worker to partake of the items in the field that he is working on as he is working.  This Mitzvah does not apply to one who is merely guarding the produce.  The Mitzvah applies in all places, at all times and to men and women alike.


66. Sechar Sachir--this is the Mitzvas Asei to pay a laborer’s wages on the day they are earned.  This Mitzvah also applies to a Ger Toshav who has accepted upon himself the Sheva Mitzvos Bnei Noach.  The Mitzvah applies in all places, at all times and to men and women alike.



Special Note Two:  We continue with our study of the Nineteen Brachos of Shemone Esrei.  This week we focus on the Seventeenth Bracha of Shemone Esrei--Avodah--Service in the Beis HaMikdash.  The Levush teaches that the Bracha of Retzei corresponds to the bracha that the Malochim recited when the Shechina descended upon the Mishkan.  Chazal teach that the reason this Bracha is placed here, after Shomei’ah Tefillah (and not before, as one of the Brachos relating to the Geulah), is because the ultimate Makom of Tefillah is the Beis HaMikdash which is known as Beis Tefillasi.  Regarding this Bracha, the Sefer Ya’aros Devash writes:  VeYispallel Me’od LaHashem Sheyachzir HaAvodah Limkomo--one should daven with great sincerity that Hashem return our Service to its proper place.”  The Ya’avetz in the name of the Shelah HaKadosh also emphasizes that the bracha also applies to our times--for we are to pray here with a broken heart that Hashem should accept our Tefillos in the place of a Karbon.  The Ya’avetz further notes that this Bracha is so important that if one does not answer Amen to it in Chazaras HaShatz, he is, c’v, me’akeiv (withholds) the Bi’as HaMoshiach!  Let us begin our study of the Bracha itself.  The Bracha commences with the words:  Retzei Hashem Elokeinu BeAmecha Yisrael U’V’Sefilasam--Hashem be appeased by Your people Yisrael and their prayers.”  As we have noted previously, the combination of the two Names Hashem Elokeinu is a specific appeal to Hashem’s endless mercy, as evidenced by these two Names of mercy.  Following Hashem Elokeinu, we refer to ourselves as Amecha Yisrael.  You may recall that non-coincidentally (as it never is), the Bracha of Shema Koleinu just concluded with the very same phrase Amecha Yisrael as well.  Last week, we provided four explanations of the term Amecha Yisrael there, which are equally applicable here.  Finally, the term Retzei itself is closely related to the term Rotzeh--which we used to conclude the Bracha of HaRotzeh BeSeshuvah--we ask Hashem to take-in and accept our Tefillos, as if we had expressed them with all of the proper Kavannos, and with all of the proper meanings.  At least when we express the request--let us have the proper Kavannah--so that our sincerity is clear, pure and meaningful! 



Special Note Three:  Several additional points and pointers relating to the elevated days of Elul:


A.  There is a truly amazing point made by the Chofetz Chaim regarding Torah justice in monetary matters.  The Torah (Shemos 22:2) teaches that if one who stole an item does not have the item or money to pay back the true owner, then he is sold into servitude as an Eved Ivri, a Hebrew servant, so that he can repay the owner for the stolen item.  If he was previously married, an Eved Ivri can then be given a Shifcha Kenanis, and their progeny will, as children of the Shifcha Kenanis be servants, owned by the master forever (ibid. 4).  Thus, we see that in order to pay for the stolen item, the Torah requires the person to lower his level of Kedusha to the point of ‘marrying’ a Shifcha Kenanis, and have progeny who will themselves, as the Shifcha’s children, be avadim.  Nevertheless, the Torah deems it the proper thing for the thief, so that he does not remain with the sin of gezel and be punished in the Next World as a gazlan.  This fact, together with the fact that we daven at Neilah on Yom Kippur: “Lema’an Nechdal Mai’oshek Yadeinu--so that we be spared of the sin of thievery”, should especially cause us to rethink and review our dealings in monetary matters.  Let us remind ourselves of the words of Shlomo HaMelech, the wisest of all men, who teaches in Mishlei (22:2):  Ashir V’Rosh Nifgashu Oseh Kulam Hashem--a wealthy man and a poor man met, Hashem is the Maker of them all.”  One does not become any wealthier by misappropriating even a dollar or a dime that may truly belong to someone else.  This is a lesson we can apply every day, in a practical way, in business, in stores, with workers--and even with friends. 


B.  One of the greatest guiles of the Yetzer Hara at this time of year is to cause a person to compare himself to the neighbor next door, or to the person sitting next to him at Shul or at a Shiur.  One must realize that this is a false comparison.  One must compare himself only to himself--for no two people are alike and everyone has his own potential, his own trials, and his own circumstances--designated and meant especially for him.  The words of Yirmiyahu HaNavi (2:35) ring loud and clear:  Hineni Nishpat Osach Al Amreich Lo Chatasi--Hashem said that He will judge a person in a separate judgment for his claim that he did not sin.”  As all the Vidui booklets urge, one must review his deeds and misdeeds--and view himself truthfully in order to achieve improvement and to work on realizing one’s potential in life.  There is no reason for delay, nor is there time for it! 


C.  At the Chofetz Chaim Heritage Foundation’s Torah Video Series Shiur last Motza’ei Shabbos, Rabbi Ephraim Wachsman, Shlita, made a great point relating to last week’s Parsha (Devarim 19:3, as explained by Rashi there).  The Torah teaches us that in a time of war we should not be scared by the enemies clanging noises, their yells and screams, their loud trumpets and the pandemonium of their horses’ hooves.  What is the common denominator among all of these various forms of uproar by the enemy?  They are all meaningless, they are all bluff, they are all not reality.  The Ba’alei Mussar explain that a deeper meaning of the Pasuk relates to the commotion of the Yetzer Hara within us--we must do this, we have to do that, everybody does this and everybody says that.  After all, it is the unmistakable trend; it is the way that things are done, at least for now.  All of these arguments, explains Rabbi Wachsman, are the clanging tools, blaring trumpets and illusory screams and commotion of the Yetzer Hara and its horses.  A person simply has to tell himself:  This is meaningless, this is bluff!  In this regard, Rabbi Wachsman, brought a powerful Mashal from the Alter of Novardok, Z’tl:  There was once a very proud deer with extremely large and beautiful antlers.  It would try to avoid thick areas of the forest and brush which could in any way damage or scratch its one-of-a kind headdress.  One day, the Alter of Novardok related, the deer made its way into an open green and lush area.  It suddenly heard a sound, turned around and saw a hunter raising a gun in its direction.  It thought for a split second--if it would run into the forest at this moment, it might damage its remarkable antlers.  The instant of hesitation served the hunter very well, as he was able to shoot the deer, and it was no more.  There is one more point to the story, the Alter added--the antlers of the proud deer--they were not really there--they were imagined!  We should not live in a world of dimyonos, guided by the transient and even illusory directions of the Yetzer Hara--convincing us to give-out, give-up, and give-in.  He is trying to win out over us-- and it is our very lives that are at stake--for ever and ever!  Hashem Himself tells us not to be intimidated, not to be frightened and not to be scared--we will be victorious if we do our part--for Hashem is on our side!


D.  For those who are or will be enjoying any form of vacation from work this week--let us remember the Torah Jew’s mantra (Mishlei 3:6):  Bechol Derachecha Da’aihu VeHu Yeyasher Orchosecha--know Him in all your ways, and He will direct your tasks.”  What a wonderful way to be on vacation--with Hashem leading the way!


E.  As we have noted in the past, the 100 Brachos that we make every day are 100 opportunities to continue our relationship with Hashem throughout the day.  Perhaps one can make the very first Bracha Rishona and Bracha Achrona that he makes over food every day with a special Kavannah--so that he at least shows that this is how he would like to make every bracha!  Another potentially marvelous improvement in bracha recitation would be to obtain the Borei Nefashos bracha on a laminated card or the like, and to actually use it each and every time one recites Borei Nefashos throughout the day!





Question to the OU: 7/11 has an “OU” marking on certain Slurpee machine flavors--for instance, on Fanta.  Is this accurate--it is supposed to be there, and is the OU authorizing this on the Slurpees?  Also, one can add ‘natural flavorings’ through the same spout of the machine. Is this considered to be permissible--is this part of the OU hechsher?


Answer from the OU: The OU on the placard affirms that the syrup is manufactured under OU supervision. This is perfectly correct. It does not reflect on the making of the Slurpee.  The placard is in the process of being corrected to make this clearer. We do not certify 7-11. We certify the manufacture of syrup from The Coca-Cola Company, which they use.


Hakhel Note:  Let the buyer beware--and help others who you may see, or know to be, stumbling in this regard. 




Special Note One:  We continue with our study of the Sixteenth Bracha of Shemone Esrei--Kabbalas HaTefillah--Acceptance of Prayer.  The next phrase is:  Ki Atta Shomei’ah Tefillas Amecha Yisrael B’Rachamim--for You listen to the Tefillos of Your nation Yisrael with mercy.”  HaRav Chaim Kanievsky, Shlita, points out that even though we have just mentioned the words “Ki Kel Shomei’ah Tefillos V’Sachanunim Atta--for You listen to prayers and supplications”, here we provide a second Ki--a second and further explanation of why we are now pleading before Hashem:  Hashem--not only do You listen to mankind’s Tefillos, but You listen to the Tefillos of Amecha Yisrael.  Now, what is special about Amecha Yisrael?  First, unlike the other nations of the world who only thank Hashem when the goings are good, we are Hashem’s nation in all events and under all circumstances, no matter what the nations of the world intend to do to us, and no matter how beleaguered we may be.  Additionally, as Amecha Yisrael--we offer our prayers collectively and together, which brings greater potence to our Tefillos, for, as the saying goes, for the whole is greater than the sum of all of its parts.  Thirdly, through our closeness and prayers for one another, we arouse Hashem’s compassion towards us in a Middah K’Neged Middah manner.  Finally, the Sifsei Chaim teaches that the more one associates himself with the K’lal, the more he draws Hashem’s mercy on the K’lal as a whole towards his particular Tefillos as well. The concluding words of our bracha are:  Baruch Atta Hashem Shomei’ah Tefillah--Who is listening to our prayers (in the present tense)--we can and should envision Hashem listening to our very words--and we should therefore very much make sure that they are sincere and heartfelt!



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


A.  Many are accustomed to singing Tzur Mishelo Achalnu on Leil Shabbos.  It is reported in the name of the G’ra that one should not sing Tzur Mishelo before bentsching, because the stanzas of this piyut closely resemble the first three brachos of bentsching, and there is a chashash that one may fulfill the Mitzvah of bentsching with this zimra!  In the Sefer Orchos Rabbeinu (Os 63) it is brought in the name of the Steipeler Gaon, Z’tl, that there is a Minhag for people to recite Tzur Mishelo in the middle of the meal, and then eat a K’zayis of bread afterwards, upon which the bentsching will certainly take effect!  


B.  Chazal (Shabbos 118A) teach that one who demonstrates proper Oneg Shabbos is given much reward even in this world, as the Pasuk teaches:  VeHa’achalticha Nachlas Yaakov Avicha”.  The Sefer Cheifetz Hashem explains why Yaakov Avinu is specifically keyed into the reward:  Each one of the three Seudos on Shabbos corresponds to one of the Avos.  The third meal, Shalosh Seudos corresponds to Yaakov Avinu.  One demonstrates true Oneg Shabbos by disciplining himself to have a third meal-- especially for Shabbos--after the larger Shabbos seudah held earlier in the day.  Chazal further teach that each one of the three meals provides a different form of yeshuah for a person--and that the third meal brings yeshuah during the time of the war of Gog U’Magog.  We must be careful with our Shalosh Seudos--and plan accordingly!


C.  Chazal (Brachos 5A) teach that Hashem gave three Matanos Tovos--good gifts to K’lal Yisrael and they come through yisurin--they are:  Torah, Eretz Yisrael and Olam Haba.  Chazal there go on to explain each one.  We note that there is a fourth Matana Tova that Hashem gave to K’lal Yisrael--and this one is given without any yisurin.  What is it?  Chazal (Shabbos 10B) teach:  Matana Tova Yeish Li Biveis Genazai Shabbos Shemah--Hashem has a gift that He gave to K’lal Yisrael--it is Shabbos.”  Shabbos is then the Matana Tova to which we were zoche without yesurin--let us appreciate its greatness by conducting ourselves with a higher level of Kedusha on this special day! 



Special Note Three:  In this week’s Parsha, we are taught the Mitzvos of the King:  He cannot have many horses, “so that he does not bring the people back to Mitzrayim”; he cannot have many wives, lest “they lead his heart astray”; and he shall write for himself two copies of the Torah, “so that he learns to fear Hashem and observe the Torah”.  These three Mitzvos of the king each have an explanation provided in the Torah, as we have quoted.  There is, in fact, a fourth Mitzvah as well: “He shall not have much silver and gold.”  Here, strikingly, the Torah does not give a direct explanation.  What is different about wealth--that it needs no explanation?!


 Chazal teach that the first of six questions that a person will be asked when brought for judgment is “Did you conduct your activities with Emunah--was your give and take with integrity and honesty?”  Rabbi Heshy Kleinman, Shlita, points out that we are so fortunate to be given the questions we will be asked after 120 years--Hashem gives us the test and tells us to prepare the right answers!  We must certainly be sure to get the first answer on the test right!  Indeed, the Chofetz Chaim teaches that the last thing we Daven for in the Ne’ilah of Yom Kippur is to be saved from any aspect of Gezel, of misappropriation of monies, which could r’l seal a person’s fate in a way he would not want.  We can now look back to the King, whose conduct is to exemplify to the entire people how they are to behave.  The money part needs no explanation, because the lesson is beyond doubt.  Our actions in the financial area must be highly guarded; our goal is not the accumulation of wealth, but the integrity that we have in dealing with that which we do have.  In a little bit more than a month we hope to honestly and sincerely recite those very special words on Yom Kippur, affirming our honesty, our “NeKi Kapayim--our clean hands” in the money that we bring home, the money that we spend, and the money and possessions of others that passes through our hands.  Let us begin now to reflect upon where amends is necessary in this area, focusing on Kosher Money, at work, shopping, and in the home.  The Rav HaMachshir here is Hashem--Who is also the Eid and the Dayan--the Witness and the Judge.  If we take the time now to put everything in order, our Din for the coming year will most certainly be a much easier, cleaner, and brighter one!



Special Note Four: As noted above, in this week’s Parsha we find many Mitzvos relating to a king.  This should also serve to remind us that one of the primary Avodos of the month of Elul is preparing for the annual celebration on Rosh Hashana of the Malchus of Hashem.  In this regard, we provide the following notes of HaRav Chaim Friedlander, Z’tl, based upon our awareness of the Malchus of Hashem:


A.  Many people live their lives with the goal of finding favor in the eyes of others--speaking, behaving and even dressing in a certain way in order for others to praise them and to associate with them.  One should instead primarily focus on finding favor in the eyes of Hashem--for what Hashem wants and expects of us is for us to reach our true potential and to lead eternal lives.  The essential question one should ask himself when making any decision or when deciding what to say or how to act--or even what to wear--is:  “Will this give Hashem Nachas Ruach?” 


B.  The Pasuk in Tehillim (14:2) teaches:  Hashem MiShomayim Hishkif Al Bnei Adam--Hashem closely looks from the heavens upon man.”  The lesson here is that although we may consider our deeds to be small and insignificant--’minor’ or ‘really not important at all’, Hashem does not look at what we do in that way.  He looks at everything--everything--that we do from the heavens--from the higher perspective that it truly deserves.  We too, therefore, must consider our actions with the level of importance they deserve-- the level that they are regarded upon in the heavens.  Nothing is trivial, nothing is insignificant, nothing ‘takes only a few seconds’--it is all important, it is all elevated, and it all has heavenly implications! 


C.  One need not take much effort to see Hashem in everything around us, despite the thin gashmiyus veil that may be spread to separate the spiritual from the physical.  Here is a simple example:  When one sees a fly, he notices the Niflaos HaBorei--in this tiny creature there are so many parts which work together in beautiful harmony (even to the extent that the sophisticated human being can become frustrated in trying to catch it!).  Likewise, even a mosquito bite should be viewed from a deeper perspective.  With the bite, one should recognize not only the Niflaos HaBorei--that little creature is not only able to hurt me(!), but it is also doing Hashem’s will in causing me to feel that pain or go through the particular trial.  Everything is the work of Hashem! 


D.  Yesterday, we pointed out that the one thing Dovid HaMelech sought was to “dwell in the house of Hashem”, and what that really means.  We learn in Mishlei that this desire should not only be an aspiration of Dovid HaMelech, but should be the design of each and every one of us--as the Pasuk (Mishlei 8:34) teaches:  Ashrei Adam Shomei’ah Li Lishkod Al Dalsosai Yom Yom--fortunate is the man who listens to Me to be by My doors day by day.”  From this, we learn that the fortunate person is one who constantly views himself at Hashem’s doors--always in Hashem’s presence.  If one does so, he attaches himself to life itself--for the very next Pasuk (ibid 8:35 ) is:  Ki Motzi Motzah Chaim--for he who has found Me has found life.”  The more one brings himself closer to Hashem, the more Hashem comes closer to him--with life to its fullest--in Hashem’s sense of the word!



Special Note Five:  Several additional points and pointers relating to the elevated days of Elul:


A.  The Sha’arei Teshuvah (3:176) actually includes within the category of a leitz (a scoffer) one who does not accept tochacha, reproof.  Indeed, Shlomo HaMelech teaches (Mishlei 9:8):  Al Tochach Leitz Pen Yisna’eka--do not give reproof to the leitz, for he will hate you.”  One of the important items to work on in the month of Elul is to listen to the Drashos, the reproof, the guidance, and the comments of others--and take it to heart, rather than brush it off.  As many of us have or will soon begin to study Mussar Seforim in preparation for becoming better people, the natural tendency is to believe that ‘this comment is directed towards him’ or ‘I don’t really have that problem’.  One can go through life pointing harsh fingers at others, and kind fingers at oneself.  In a sense, if one does so, he is a leitz, a scoffer--for he is not paying attention to the messages being conveyed to him through what he is hearing, reading or learning.  Instead one should think:  “This is B’Hashgacha  Pratis--it is directed towards me!” 


B.  During this delicate time of year, one should especially try not to say or to give a shtuch--a stabbing witticism which produces no gain other than to demonstrate the ‘quickness’ of the utterer, and to annoy, hurt and poke fun at the one who is the object of the shtuch.  We add that if one witnesses such an event, he should provide proper chastisement to the offender--and benefit all of K’lal Yisrael!


C.  Elul is, of course, an acronym for “Ani LeDodi VeDodi Li.”  The word “Dodi” means not only “My Beloved,” but also “My Uncle.”  Rabban Gamliel Rabanovitch, Shlita, points out that there is a difference between a Father and an Uncle--for a Father must provide for his child, whereas an uncle who gives something to his nephew is doing so out of voluntary benevolence and warmth.  Receiving a piece of chocolate from an Uncle is a more special and treasured experience--and Hashem as our “Dodi”--is extending that ‘chocolate’ to us now--in the month of Elul!


D.  We once gain provide a brief, sample list of items one may consider improving upon, and especially working on in the month of Elul.  Let us not wait until the last moment--let us take action now!


1.      Coming to Shul on time for davening without having to skip.

2.      Coming to Shiur on time.

3.      Wearing truly appropriate clothing while davening.

4.      Making Brachos properly--slowly, with Kavannah, bentsching from a Siddur, making sure to make the right brocha on the food; especially being careful with the brachos of Shehakol and Borei Nefashos which are recited so many times a day, and can really serve in someone’s stead when recited properly!

5.      Reciting at least the first paragraph of Shema and the first brocha of Shemone Esrei with Kavannah; spending the time now to properly have the necessary “quick” Kavannah ready when reciting Shema and Shemone Esrei.

6.      Reciting Modim and Aleinu L’Shabeach with Kavannah.

7.   Making a personal request at the end of each Shemone Esrei.

8.   Making sure to privately thank Hashem during the course of the day for something specific that you just realized or were made aware of, or that just occurred--by thinking or voicing the words “Thank You, Hashem.”

9.      Making sure that the Hashgacha you are eating from is truly a good one.

10.   Not wasting time in frivolous chatter or nonsensical discussions.

11.  Not making sarcastic comments, and not using biting words (Remember: No shtuchs!) .

12.  Having Kavannah for the rebuilding of Yerushalayim and the coming of Moshiach three times a day in Shemone Esrei.

13.  Sticking to the Truth.

14.  Avoiding a response based on laziness.

15.  Curbing a particular desire in some way every day; certainly not overeating or overindulging.

16.  Avoiding inane or impure thoughts which hurt the Neshama.

17.  Making proper use of the eyes and ears.

18.  Having a plan in place to use if you feel you are getting angry or if you realize you are already angry.

19.  When being stubborn, stopping to think whether it is for the correct reasons.

20.  Showing respect for elders (actually standing up when they come within four amos of you); smiling at them and praising them.

21.  Showing the proper respect for Seforim (studying from, straightening out, cleaning and kissing them).

22.  Not being overly frugal when it comes to Mitzvos and to the needs of others.

23.  Not turning the desire for money (Chemdas HaMamon) into an Avoda Zora.

24.  Not doing something which is disgusting, or at least would not be viewed kindly by other people--whether or not they see you do it.

25.  Not doing something else in front of someone who is talking to you; showing them a pleasant countenance, appearance and smile.

26.  Looking up/asking the Halacha when you need to know it or are unsure; or, if it is too late, at least looking it up now for next time.

27.  Making sure that your Mezuzos are checked every three and a half years; if you are not sure of the last time you had them checked, but know that it was quite a while ago--then checking them now--before Rosh Hashana.

28, 29 and 30--These numbers are reserved for you to add your own personalized reflections.  If you cannot come up with three of your own, then your introspection needs introspection!


May we each make great and gaping holes in the above encirclements, so that we are far from surrounded by sin on the upcoming Days of Din--and instead are surrounded by walls of overflowing mercy, love and kindness!




Special Note One: We continue our regular Monday/Thursday listing of the Mitzvos Asei which the Chofetz Chaim writes are applicable in our times, as set forth in his Sefer Mitzvos HaKatzar. Today, we present Mitzvos 63 and 64:


63.  LeHashiv HaMashkon--this is the Mitzvas Asei to return personal property taken as collateral for a loan when it is needed by the borrower.  Examples include items needed by the borrower to sleep at night (pillow, blanket), or items he needs to do his job with.  One who does not return the collateral at the proper time has voided the Mitzvas Asei and also violates a Lo Sa’aseh. 


64.  Hashmatas HaChov--this is the Mitzvas Asei of a lender to cancel in the Shemitah year all loans that he made prior to then.  If the borrower wants to repay the loan, the lender should refuse and say:  Meshameit Ani--I cancel the loan.”  If the borrower still insists, the lender can take the payment.  From the Torah, the law of canceling loans only applies when the Yovel is in effect. Nowadays, the law of canceling loans remains in effect MeDivrei Sofrim, so that we do not forget this Mitzvah.  A Pruzbul may be used in order to avoid the loan from being canceled in our times.  The Mitzvah applies to men and women alike. 



Special Note Two:  We continue with our study of the Sixteenth Bracha of Shemone Esrei--Kabbalas HaTefillah--Acceptance of Prayer.  The next phrase is: “U’Milfanecha Malkeinu Reikam Al Tishiveinu--and do not turn us away empty-handed from before You, our King.”  HaRav Schwab, Z’tl, in the monumental, must-have-in-your-home Sefer, Rav Schwab on Prayer (Artscroll) teaches as follows:  “We hope that HaKadosh Baruch Hu answers our tefillah in the affirmative, and He gives us health, sustenance, and whatever else we ask Him for. However, sometimes, for reasons of His own, HaKadosh Baruch Hu says “no” to our tefillah. We therefore ask HaKadosh Baruch Hu here that if the answer to our tefillah is “no,” then, at least “do not send us away empty-handed,” with a feeling of total rejection. At least let our hearts be filled with emunah and bitachon, that we have had the zechus to talk to HaKadosh Baruch Hu, and that He has heard our tefillah, whether or not He answers us in the affirmative.  An illustration of this is found in the description of Chana after she had cried her heart out to HaKadosh Baruch Hu, begging Him for a son. When she finished, her demeanor is described as, “Ufaneha Lo Hayu Lah Od--her face was no longer sad” (Shmuel I 1:18 ). Although she was not sure that her tefillah would be answered, she nevertheless left with a feeling that HaKadosh Baruch Hu had heard her tefillah, and she relied on His judgment.”



Special Note Three:  Several additional points and pointers relating to the elevated days of Elul:


A.  From a reader: “The month of Elul is from the root Ululu, to cry. It’s the same onomatopoeia as the English “ulelate”, which both means and sounds like making a cry like that Middle Eastern women make in moments of extreme joy or sadness. As to whether Elul is a month of extreme joy or extreme sadness is up to us--which, after all, is the message of the two identical goats of Yom Kippur!”


B.  At least a portion of the month of Elul almost invariably comes out in the end of the summer.  We start out with a challenge, not coasting in to our battle for improvement, but instead storming the beaches, defiant of the Yetzer Hara, his ugly deceit and his disingenuous guile.  Shemiras HaEinayim and Shemiras HaMachshava therefore non-coincidentally becomes the initial and important battle ground.  It is at the beginning of Elul that we must get a foot hold, from which we will not be pushed back to sea.  This thought is applicable not only to men, but to women as well, who are also subject to the influence of what they see and what they may think.  Additional Note:  At least in the northern hemisphere, the last week in August is a vacation week for many, or at least contains one or two vacation days.  Before the vacation, one must recall that he is going to enter this vacation with the notion that Hashem has made this time off now, in order for us to remember Him, and not allow for ‘a last hurrah’, or something to do Teshuvah over.  Hashem is giving us the opportunity to succeed--let us appreciate it, and let us utilize it!


C.  At the recent Hesped of HaRav Elyashiv, Z’tl, in Flatbush, HaRav Moshe Tuvia Lieff, Shlita, reminded everyone of how special five minutes of studying Torah could be.  In Kelm, he taught, everyone would be busy early Shabbos afternoon preparing for the oncoming Shabbos.  However, at a certain point, all the men would hurriedly go to the Beis Midrash for a special early afternoon Seder.  Everyone was there on time, and everyone stayed for the entire Seder--of five minutes!  The Seder was intended to impress upon each and every person how vital Torah study really is, and no matter how busy, troubled or pressured one may be--he must bring himself to the oasis of Torah--even if it is for only a planned five minutes of study.  May we suggest that one attempt, bli neder, to take upon himself a special five minute a day Seder for the month of Elul--in order to demonstrate his understanding of the importance of Torah to life.  Every night, in Ma’ariv, we recite the words:  Ki Heim Chayeinu V’Orech Yameinu--for they [the Torah and Mitzvos] are our life and the length of our days….”  At this time of year--as we search for life and length of days--let us demonstrate that we know what life is all about! 


D.  From the Sefer Yearning with Fire:  One of the lesser-known Mitzvos,” “V’halachta Bidrachav” teaches that as Hashem is merciful, we are required to be merciful; as He is compassionate, righteous, and holy, so must we be. Our potential to act in Godly ways arises, according to the Nefesh HaChaim is from our status as a Tzelem Elokim-- a being created in Hashem’s image.  Invested with this spark of Godliness, man possesses what no other living being possesses - a capacity for giving and compassion.”  Because this capacity for giving is embedded in man’s soul, giving should come naturally. However, until we apply that capacity, it remains nothing more than potential.  V’halachta Bidrachav” goes far beyond a spontaneous impetus to do someone a favor.  It is the policy that governs all of one’s interpersonal relationships, even when one feels overwhelmed, slighted, or wronged.”  Hakhel Note:  In our Bein Adam L’Chaveiro this month, let us establish a policy--V’halachta Bidrachav--as the guiding light in all our interpersonal dealings and relationships!


E.  Every day in Elul and through Shemini Atzeres we recite the Pasuk (Tehillim 27:4):  Achas Sha’alti Mei’eis Hashem Osah Avakeish…--one thing I ask of Hashem, and this is what I seek, to dwell in the house of Hashem all the days of my life.”  The Sifsei Chaim pointedly asks:  “How could it be that Dovid HaMelech who was king of a people and had great responsibilities could even think of sitting in the Beis HaMidrash all day--if he did so, would he not, in fact be shirking his responsibilities?!  The Sifsei Chaim answers that what Dovid HaMelech was really asking for was Siyata D’Shmaya to feel every moment of his life that he was in Hashem’s presence--in Hashem’s house.  He did not want to live a bifurcated life, consisting of his ‘private’ affairs and responsibilities, and his ‘religious’ life, rather he wanted at all times to feel that--wherever he was and whatever he was doing--he was doing so as Hashem’s guest, and every action, word and thought would be with the privileged sense that it was in the King’s presence.  Dovid did not want a weekly, daily, or even thrice daily meeting with Hashem--he wanted to feel Hashem with him at all times.  We, at the very least, must start with this increased sense of presence during our Tefillos--and hopefully it will branch out into our ‘everyday’ activities as well.  There is a very direct and very great Middah K’Neged Middah here as well. The more we strive to be in Hashem’s presence in this world--the more we will be zoche to feel a greater closeness to Him in the World to Come as well--and that is for ever and ever!



FROM A READER: “Please advise readers of the site mastertorah.com as it contains a tremendous amount of Torah with shiurim and attempts to help one master the Torah he has studied.  Rabbi Meir Pogrow gives shiurim, usually about 30 minutes each, with the intent of having everyone, even Ba’al Habatim, memorize and retain everything they learn! He has completed all of Shas Mishnayos and is currently uploading Shas Gemara and Rambam shiurim. He also has tests to ensure you understand and review. I highly recommend it!”



Special Note One:  Several additional points and pointers relating to elevated days of Elul:


A.  Remember that the Ba’alei Mussar would (and still do--even in our time) have a Ta’anis Dibbur in Elul, continuing through Yom Kippur.  Each one of us can act on his own level--but can certainly do something.  Can we commit, bli neder, to some form of limitation on the use of cell phones?  Important examples would include less texting, or a limit to the number of texts sent per day.    Other areas of cell phone improvement may include not talking on the cell phone in public places (in stores, waiting on lines, in elevators, and on the street when one can be heard), as well as not emailing or texting while walking across the street or in another area or place where one would be looked upon with scorn or disappointment. 


B.  The Chofetz Chaim makes an amazing point on the distinction between the phrases HehChofetz Chaim and Ohev Yamim Liros Tov (Tehillim 34:13).  The Chofetz Chaim explains that the term HehChofetz Chaim refers to reward in Olam Haba for one’s Mitzvah performance, whereas the phrase Ohev Yomim Liros Tov refers to reward even in this Olam Hazeh.  If someone excels in Bein Adam L’Chaveiro--if he fulfills the words Netzor Leshonecha Mai’rah U’Sefasecha MiDabeir Mirmah--(keeping his tongue from evil and his lips from guile)--he will see the fruits of his efforts not only in the next world--but in this world as well!  Hakhel Note:  How has our Shemiras HaLashon been to date this month--and how will we be improving it?  It is not only about Olam Haba--but about Olam Hazeh as well!


C.  There are 22 letters in the Aleph Bais.  This means that if one takes a letter a day for the balance of the month of Elul, beginning with Aleph today (or even tomorrow) and reviews the Ashamnu and the Al Cheit relating to that letter, and slowly proceeds each day with the next letter, he will have gone through the entire Ashamnu and Al Cheit, in a continuous and consistent manner over the month of Elul. We recall that in addition to the one item per letter in Ashamnu and the two items per letter in Al Cheit, there is also a more extended version based on the Vidui of the Chida, which can be found by clicking here.  This is the Aleph Bais of Teshuvah--start today!


D.  Perhaps more circumspection in the acceptability of the Kashrus of products is in order.  If you are unsure about a product--why not ask your Rav whether he would eat it?  No matter how large the K or unknown Kashrus symbol is on the box--it does not mean that the standard is an acceptable one.  Cereals and candies that were eaten by the previous generation may no longer be even minimally acceptable without reliable Kashrus  standards.  There are so many ingredients on products today that we are not familiar with--better safe than sorry!


E.  We remind our readers that the Sefer Orchos Chaim LaRosh is especially recited in Yeshivos today during the month of Elul, after Shacharis, as it was in Kelm.  HaRav Yechezkel Levenstein, Z’tl testified that there was a special nigun in Kelm when the three word paragraph of this Sefer--”Al Tevahel Ma’asecha --do not act in a hurried and perturbed manner--were recited.  Calmness and orderliness are essential to success!



Special Note Two:  We received the following ‘Did You Knows’ regarding Tefillin, as prepared by the Machon U’Keshartem:




1.  That the fact that Retzuos have to be black is a Halacha L’Moshe MiSinai?  In some unnoticeable places it is very likely for the color to wear off. For instance, where the Retzuos Shel Rosh rest on the head and may get wet, or at the Kesher of the Tefillin Shel Yad.


2.  That the width of the Retzuos have to be a minimum of 10mm, BeDieved, and 11mm LeChatchila--and if it is less the Retzuos are Pasul?  It is very common for Retzuos to stretch and narrow as they get older, especially by the Kesher of the Tefillin Shel Yad.


3.  That every Os has to be Mukaf Gevil?  When Tefillin get overheated the ink dissolves which cases the Osiyos to turn or the words to smudge.


4.  That the Yud on the Tefillin Shel Yad should touch the Bayis?  Many are unaware of this Halacha and the Shulchan Aruch quotes:  Yesh LeHizeher Shelo Tazuz HaY’ud Shel HaKesher MeiHaTefillah. 


In order to avoid issues, it is recommended that Tefillin be checked twice within seven years.


The Machon U’Keshartem can be reached at 718-871-8743.



Special Note Three:  We continue with our study of the Sixteenth Bracha of Shemone Esrei--Kabbalas HaTefillah--Acceptance of Prayer.  The next phrase is: “Ki Kel Shomei’ah Tefillos Vesachanunim Atta--because You are G-d, Who listens to our prayers and supplications.”  HaRav Chaim Friedlander, Z’tl, importantly explains that the word Kel uniquely combines Hashem’s Omnipotence with His Chesed so that it essentially means ‘All Powerful in Chesed’.  Kel is accordingly and most appropriately one of the 13 Middos of Hashem--’Hashem, Hashem Kel Rachum’.  It is because of this All-Powerful Chesed that we ask Hashem to listen to our prayers.  HaRav Friedlander then continues that the difference between Tefillos and Tachanunim is that the term Tefillos typifies our regular prayers--when we daven regularly we can explain what we are davening for and why we are davening for it.  On the other hand, the term Tachanunim, represents a plea for Chesed without any cheshbonos, without any justifications or explanations.  In truth, all of our requests must be presented in the manner of Tachanunim--pleadingly and with sincerity, in the manner in which one would ask for mercy for himself in front of one who can fulfill his request.  The concept of Tachanunim also includes the tone and manner in which the Tefillah is recited--and most certainly indicates that one is davening not because he has to--but because he wants to and needs to.  When we pray with Tachanunim, we recognize that Hashem has to do nothing for us, we rely upon Hashem’s Chein (His graciousness towards us), and that all He does for us is Bechinam--as a great and free gift.  One can picture an indigent person at the door or in Shul whose hand is out.  This is how we come before our Creator--Who is a Kel Shomei’ah--One Who is All-Powerful in Chesed-- actually listening to our prayers!


Special Note One:  Several reminders for Chodesh Elul:


A.  In L’Dovid Hashem Ori that we just began reciting twice daily, there are a total of thirteen Names of Hashem (Yud-Key-Vuv-Key), corresponding to the Thirteen Attributes of Hashem.  In order to help our Kavannah in this obviously important Kepitel of Tehillim, may we suggest that one stop at (and perhaps even count) each Name as it is being recited. 


B.  Let us not forget the teaching of HaRav Shneur Kotler, Z’tl, brought last week--every day, every day of Chodesh Elul should be marked in some special way.  The Kitzur Shulchan Aruch (Chapter 128) brings three Pesukim, each of which contain an acronym of Elul:  (i) Umal Hashem Elokecha Es Levavecha --corresponding to Teshuvah; (ii) Ani LeDodi VeDodi Li-- corresponding to Tefillah; (iii) Ish LeReieihu U’Matanos LaEvyonim-- corresponding to Tzedakah.  The Kitzur accordingly suggests that we must key-in on these three topics in Elul.  One way to focus on Tzedakah every day is simply to make sure to give every day--and especially for this purpose.  One’s dedication to Teshuvah can be demonstrated on a daily basis by studying the daily section of The Power of Teshuvah by Rabbi Heshy Kleinman, Shlita, and by studying the Sifrei Mussar and doing Cheshbon HaNefesh.  The third focus, Tefillah, will be discussed further in Special Note Two and Special Note Three below. 


C.  In last week’s Parsha, the Pasuk (Devarim 14:2) taught us:  Ki Am Kadosh Atta LaHashem Elokecha U’Vecha Bachar Hashem…for you are a holy people to Hashem, and Hashem has chosen you, for Himself.”  Rashi there explains that even though we are holy by virtue of our forefathers, Hashem has also chosen us.  We are not to go into the Yamim Noraim only with zechus avos, but we must recognize and appreciate that Hashem has chosen us personally--and that we must do our part as well. 


D.  We may suggest that the preparation period of Rosh Hashana is not one, two or three days, or even a week--but thirty days--in order to emphasize that we are to not look at or into ourselves globally, but in a particular and specific way--looking into the details of our existence, and working on them for a period of time.  An important exercise, for instance, for one who does not feel that he expresses enough Hakaras HaTov is to work on this Middah day after day after day over the month--especially with the family member or members to whom he realizes his expression of Hakaras HaTov has been delinquent or insufficient.  Everyone can look into his own personal life best--don’t give yourself just one or two opportunities at the end of the month, when you can give yourself 27 more opportunities--starting today!


E.  One always-important suggestion:  When reciting the words “Melech HaOlam” in the Brachos that one makes, one should make sure that the two words are separated and not slurred together, and take a moment to think about the entire, yes entire, universe that Hashem is King over!(recommendation of HaRav Zaidel Epstein, Z’tl)



Special Note Two:  We continue with our study of the Sixteenth Bracha of Shemone Esrei--Kabbalas HaTefillah--Acceptance of Prayer.  We continue with the next phrase of “Chus V’Rachem Aleinu--have compassion and pity on us.”  The Avnei Eliyahu explains the difference between Chus and Racheim.  The term Chus relates to the affection and caring that a creator has for its creations (such as the craftsman or artisan for his work product).  For instance, Hashem tells Yonah (3:10-11):  Atta Chasta Al HaKikayon Asher Lo Amalta Bo VeLo Gidalto…VeAni Lo Achus Al Ninveh…--you had such compassion for the Kikayon tree which you did not toil over nor nurture--and I should not have compassion over the people of Ninveh?!”  On the other hand, Rachamim, or mercy, is not based in the relationship of the maker with the item--but is instead rooted in the desperation or lowliness of the person or item for whom or which mercy is sought.  Rachamim is an expression of abject humility--where we ask Hashem that even if we have sunk so low that You have even theoretically a justifiably diminished regard for us as Your creations--please have pity and mercy on us in all events!  We then proceed to reiterate “VeKabel B’Rachamim U’Veratzon Es Tefillaseinu.” We ask that even if we are miskeinim--direly inadequate--please accept and be appeased by our Tefillos--for at least we know to come to You in sincerity!”



Special Note Three:  In further development of Tefillah, we provide the following insights from HaRav Shimshon Pincus, Z’tl, as presented in the Chofetz Chaim Heritage Foundation Motza’ei Shabbos Torah Video Series. 


A.  Tefillah is even more kavuah than Torah--for instance, while one may be exempt from Torah study while engaged in another Mitzvah or permitted activity, one at all times has an obligation to daven once, twice or three times a day (and to constantly recite brachos). 


B. Just as there is a special koach of Torah given to men, there is a special koach of Tefillah given to women.  Women may more easily shed tears than men.  They should not necessarily shed tears over what someone else has ‘done’ to them--but instead use the precious tears in Tefillah to Hashem--as the gates of tears are never closed.  There is a story told of a young boy (who later became a Gadol), who was given a potch by his father and began to cry.  A moment later he began to daven Mincha.  His father asked him what he was doing.  He replied:  “I do not want my tears to go in vain--let them at least be used in Tefillah.” 


C.  Our regular, daily Tefillos can be likened to a gun or a grenade that is full of gunpowder.  We know how much energy and effort it took for the space program to reach the moon.  Our Tefillos have to get way past the moon--they have to get to the Shemei HaShomayim--the Heavens on high, on high.  They are therefore fueled by the Avos and the Anshei Knesses HaGedolah who with their Ruach HaKodesh instilled the necessary power within the specific words they have asked us to say.  We must treasure these unbelievably articulate and Divinely inspired words. 


D.  The same is true for the recitation of Tehillim.  A person may question why he recites Tehillim--after all, his heart is stone, his eyes are dry, and he utters words that he does not understand.  Even so, we must remember that its hallowed words were essentially composed by Dovid HaMelech.  HaRav Chaim Brisker, Z’tl, was asked what impression Dovid HaMelech would have upon us if we had the zechus to see him.  He responded:  “We would burn up from the Kedusha.”  It is his words in Tehillim that we have the zechus to recite.  The words have a physical power which have been instilled into them by Dovid HaMelech--and it is hishtadlus when we recite them.  Just as waters, earthquakes and fires are natural states in this world, so too, is the natural power that has been instilled in Tehillim against the greatest of problems.  One does not have to feel that he must recite 25 Chapters of Tehillim in order to make a ‘big’ request.  An honest moment--a short and potent Tefillah is honored by Hashem as well! 


E.  We refer to a ‘Ben Torah’ as someone who puts Torah to the forefront--learning whenever he can and applying his learning in his daily life.  One can also be a ‘Ben Tefillah’.  Dovid HaMelech says in Tehillim (109:4):  VeAni Sefillah--I am prayer.”  Davening to Hashem applies in so many situations during the day, in everything we do.  We should make it a habit; we should make it a lifestyle, to call out to HaKadosh Baruch Hu for help in everything, no matter what it may be.  Chazal teach:  HaLevai Sheyispalel Adam Kol HaYom…if one would only daven throughout the day!”--for any and all needs, whether they be business, family, personal--or anything!  Hashem is there, Hashem is listening!  Hakhel Note:  We will spend much of the day on Rosh Hashana, and even more of the day on Yom Kippur in Tefillah.  Let us take the message--now! 




Special Note One:  We continue our regular Monday/Thursday listing of the Mitzvos Asei which the Chofetz Chaim writes are applicable in our times, as set forth in his Sefer Mitzvos HaKatzar.  Today, we present Mitzvos 61 and 62:


61.  Ahavas HaGer--this is the Mitzvas Asei to love a Ger. This is in addition to Mitzvah #60 of VeAhavta L’Reiacha Kamocha (which one fulfills, of course, with a Ger as well, since he is a member of K’lal Yisrael). Hashem loves the Ger, as the Torah states:  V’Ohev Ger Lases Lo Lechem V’Simlah--Hashem loves the Ger, giving him food and clothing.”  This Mitzvah applies at all times and in all places, and to men and women alike.


62. LeHalvos LeAniyei Yisrael--this is the Mitzvas Asei to lend money to the poor, and one should realize that this is a full-fledged Torah obligation.  It is, in fact, a greater Mitzvah and more obligatory than Tzedakah.  The Torah refers to somebody who does not give a loan under circumstances when he should as a sinner, with the words:  VeHaya Vecha Cheit”. See Sefer Ahavas Chesed of the Chofetz Chaim for applicable details on how and when a loan should be given.  This Mitzvah applies at all times and in all places, and to men and women alike.



Special Note Two:  We continue with our study of the Nineteen Brachos of Shemone Esrei.  This week we focus on the Sixteenth Bracha of Shemone Esrei--Kabbalas HaTefillah--Acceptance of Prayer.  The Levush writes that this Bracha corresponds to the Malochim who thanked Hashem for answering our Tefillos in Mitzrayim when we cried out to Him, as the Pasuk (Devarim 26:7) records:  VaYishma Hashem Es Koleinu--and Hashem heard our voices”.  Indeed, HaRav Chaim Kanievsky, Shlita, notes that the initial phrase of the Bracha is Shema Koleinu--based on this very Pasuk!  The Dover Shalom writes that ‘Koleinu’ actually refers to our moans and our groans--even though another human being standing by may not understand the meaning behind the moan and groan--we know Hashem does!  The Eitz Yosef, in a different vein, explains that ‘Koleinu’ here refers to the voice of our own tefillos--even if we do not understand the depths of their meaning, all of the intentions and sodos placed into them by the Anshei Kneses HaGedolah, and all others who were Mechaber Tefillos for K’lal Yisrael.  We ask that Hashem not only listen to our voice--but do so as Hashem Elokeinu--so that the Chesed of Hashem represented by the Names Hashem and Elokeinu overtake any strict Din which we might otherwise be subject to.  We plead with Hashem here that our Tefillos--which we really do mean sincerely no matter how improperly they may be expressed--are accepted by Hashem to the greatest extent possible!  We must certainly make sure to recite these treasured and powerful words Shema Koleinu Hashem Elokeinu with Kavannah!



Special Note Three:  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”).  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.  Feel the fact that Hashem is in front of you when you begin to recite L’Dovid--Hashem!


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 tzaddikim, 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 Four:  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 Friedlander, Z’tl, (Sifsei Chaim I, page 38) compares the days of Elul to the days of an annual fair, through which an industrious merchant can 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--where each of us is and where each of us should be.  He is all too satisfied--and enjoys--seeing the older person ride that too-small bike, even though one himself knows that it is embarrassing to ride such a bike--and will make him sore and limp afterwards. 


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 Five:  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 plans, 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.




DON ’T THROW:  There are not many things that we do 100 times a day.  Many of us do, however, recite 100 brachos a day.  One clear instruction we are given relating to Brachos is that:  Ahl Yizrok Bracha MiPiv--do not throw a bracha out of your mouth.”  To put things in perspective, when one throws a ball, it is almost impossible to retrieve once the throw is made.  However, as long as the ball is still in one’s hand, he has the choice whether to throw it or not.  Lehavdil, once a person has begun a bracha in an unthinking and quick fashion, it is extremely difficult to change the bracha midway.  An incredible way to control and direct the utterance of a bracha--a Mitzvah done 100 times a day is to stop for but a moment before saying the word Baruch and thinking:  “Hashem is the Mekor HaBerachos”--the Source of all bracha!  This one moment before each bracha could turn a rote and ‘required’ act into sincere words of appreciation, recognition and thanks! 



DAVEN FOR ME!  At the Chofetz Chaim Heritage Foundation Tisha B’Av Video, a short and powerful brochure entitled:  “Daven For Me” was distributed, with the ability to participate in a worldwide Tefillah and Chesed project made available to all.  For those who missed the opportunity, we recommend that one email info@davenforme.org or call 718-437-8812.



FIX THE FIELD:  The Chofetz Chaim writes about a watchman who is hired to protect a field from robbery, damage and destruction.  The watchman was busy with “personal matters” that were more important to him at the time, and let the field go, as looters robbed its fruit, waters flooded it, and its fence caved in, in more than a few places.  So, now, what is the watchman to do now--to walk away and declare everything a total loss?  That would truly make no sense--instead, a reasonable person acting rationally would fix the fence, save whatever fruits he could and begin planning on how to utilize the field in the future.  This, too, is our role as we reach Chodesh Elul--look back at past misdeeds, past negligence, and past breaches of relationships, and failure to live up to true capabilities.  Chazal (Sukkah 53A) teach:  Ashrei Ziknaseinu Shekiprah Yalduseinu--fortunate is our old age, which brings forgiveness to our youth.”  The Chofetz Chaim teaches that old age means today, and youth means yesterday.  Over Shabbos, we should not think about how to fix any physical field that is in disrepair--but it is certainly the time on the 30th day of Menachem Av, to think about how to stop the neglect, how to stop the losses--and turn things around to a great success!


Hakhel Note:  We once again urge everyone, if they have not already purchased The Power of Teshuvah (Artscroll PocketScroll Series), to please, please do so, and begin its 40 short daily lessons on Sunday.  The Sefer is especially designed to begin on Rosh Chodesh Elul and conclude on Yom Kippur!  HaRav Shmuel Auerbach, Shlita, writes that Elul is already the time of harvest, and that one has to prepare in order to be able to harvest.    




Special Note One:  We conclude our focus on the Fifteenth Bracha of Shemone Esrei--Malchus Beis Dovid--The Kingdom of the House of Dovid.  Non-coincidentally, we conclude 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 Yisrael, and the World--to where we are supposed to be!


Additional Note: In this week’s Parsha, the Torah teaches us that, once we come to the Bais Hamikdash, we will no longer be allowed to behave like the other nations who build altars and sacrifice wherever they may be.  Rather, we will have only the Mizbe’ach in the Bais HaMikdash with which to offer Karbonos to Hashem (Devorim 12:13 , 14).  At first blush, this is difficult to understand.  After all, “Meloh Kol Ha’aretz Kevodo--Hashem’s glory and presence is everywhere.”  Indeed, another way we refer to Hashem is HaMakom--because He is everywhere.  If so, why can’t we come close to Him with a korbon anywhere?  Moreover, what does the Jew in Bavel, in France , in Manitoba , in Buenos Aires or even in Tel Aviv do--he can’t be in the Bais Hamikdash in an instant.  Why can’t he grow spiritually with a spiritual tool in his own backyard?  It would seem that for all that would be gained with your own local connection to Hashem, the Torah is teaching us that more would be lost.  As Tosfos (Bava Basra 21A) teaches on the pasuk “Ki MiTzion Taizeh Torah...”--it is only in the hub of the universe--in Yerushalayim and the Bais HaMikdash--that we could achieve the Yiras Shomayim that we needed to reach our true spiritual potential.  The daily open miracles, the tzidkus and chochma of the Kohanim, the Neviim who lived there, the union of thousands and tens of thousands daily who had come for one purpose--to elevate themselves, was simply incomparable.  Getting used to anything less would simply fool the person into complacency and into not reaching his potential.  There is at least a dual lesson here:  First, we must appreciate our Mikdash Me’at--our Shuls--for providing us with at least a reflection of this--the Rav, the Maggidei Shiur, the place where we come together to daven, learn, and join together in chesed activities.  Second, we must recognize how far we are from reaching the potential that lies dormant within us simply because we have no Bais HaMikdash.  LeHavdil, imagine a champion swimmer who has only a small pool in the backyard of his attached house to swim in; consider how the educated lament over the overwhelming number of brain cells that are not utilized in a person’s lifetime.  Then think about what your life would be like--how it would be changed--with just a few visits to Yerushalayim.  Isn’t it worth some serious davening over?  The Parsha is reminding us!



Special Note Two:  We will soon be wishing each other a “Kesiva Vechasima Tova.”  When we wish this blessing upon someone else and when we receive it, we must appreciate its true import.  HaRav Chaim Kanievsky, Shlita (brought in Sefer Derech Sicha) teaches that the most important part of a Bracha from a Tzadik is our Bitachon and Emunah that Hashem will help in the merit of the Bracha.  Thus, if one does not truly believe that the Bracha will help, it will generally not help.  We therefore remind everyone to give Brachos--especially at this time of year--with sincerity (See Praying With Fire, Volume 2, Days 50-56), and to receive Brachos with the belief that Hashem will fulfill them.  A Bracha such as “Kesiva Vechasima Tova” is especially powerful because it is not specific or limited, but a general Bracha--for all good.  Indeed, at the end of the four Brachos of Bentsching, after making many specific requests, we finally conclude with the words “Umekol Tuv Leolom Al Yechasreinu--and of all good things may He never deprive us.”  The all-encompassing conclusion assures us that we have covered our needs in totality.  We can now understand the popularity--and the necessity--of the meaningful Bracha--”Kol Tuv!”



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


A.  In Vayechulu we recite the Pasuk Vayishbos BaYom HaShevi’i.  The Sefer Nachal Kedumim in the name of Rabbeinu Ephraim writes that the letters of Vayishbos equal in Gematria to HaTeshuva--for Teshuvah B’Sheleimus is achieved through proper Shemiras Shabbos, which is weighted against all of the other Mitzvos. 


B.  The Gemara in Brachos (40A) brings the opinion that the tree from which Adam HaRishon ate was in fact a vine.  As a result of this sin, man was punished with misah.  It is for this reason, the Chochmas Shlomo (Orach Chaim 271, seif katan 10) writes that we make Kiddush on wine--to help serve as a tikun for the cheit of Adam HaRishon.  We also look at the Neiros at the time of Kiddush because as a result of the sin, the Neiro Shel Olam was extinguished--and by looking at the Neiros--we show that we want the life before the cheit to come back.  In fact, writes the Sefer Ta’amei HaMinhagim, the reason the bracha on wine is Borei Pri HaGafen, and not Borei HaYayin, is to show that we want to correct the sin of Adam HaRishon by taking from the Gefen for the sake of a Mitzvah--the way HaKadosh Baruch Hu would want us to. 


C.  Shabbos is referred to in Kiddush as “Techilah L’Mikraei Kodesh--the first of the Holy Days.”  The Slonimer Rebbe, Z’tl, explains that this means that if one wants to bring Kedusha onto himself and does not know where to begin--he should begin with Inyanei Shabbos Kodesh.  The Sefer Nesivos Shalom further explains that this is so because the kochos hatumah are forced to leave us on Shabbos in order to leave room for Kedusha to descend upon us.  Fascinatingly, the Gematria of ‘VeShabbos Kadshecha’ which we recite in Kiddush is the same as ‘Torah U’Tefillah’--for through our increased Torah and Tefillah, we are zoche to bring this special Kedusha of Shabbos upon ourselves (Sefer Imrei Noam).  



Special Note Four:  In this week’s Parsha, we find a special emphasis on the Mitzvah of Tzedakah, as an appropriate introduction to the Month of Elul.  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 a 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 Five:  As noted above, it is not by “sheer coincidence” that the Torah reminds us of the Tzedakah imperative at this time.  We provide below several important points relating to the mitzvah of Tzedaka from the Sefer Mi’el Tzedakah and the Sefer Pele Yoetz, among others:


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), he is honoring the study of Torah, and is considered as if he brought Bikurim to the Kohen in the Bais HaMikdash (Kesubos 105B), and increases peace in the entire 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 currently unfathomable 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 true 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.  There is a well known story with HaRav Shach, Z’tl, who was walking to the Kosel and saw a blind Arab begging on the road.  HaRav Shach, to the surprise of his accompaniment, gave the Arab (who could not even see that he was Jewish) something, and commented these very words--VeRachamav Al Kol Ma’asav.  It is important to put matters in a Torah-true perspective, as the Sefer Tomer Devorah (Chapter 2) writes, “One 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 being 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 Yom Tov, or to help make a Chasuna, or if a child is born, is giving at especially fitting moments.


5.  One 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 tzedakah 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 his 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 Es Yodicha 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 Six:  The following are some questions and answers from Rav Chaim Kanievsky, Shlita, relating to Tzedaka from the Sefer Derech Sicha (Vol. I):


QUESTION:  Should one give people who appear to be healthy and strong, but nevertheless go around collecting Tzedakah--after all if you don’t give them maybe they will go to work?

ANSWER:  The Chofetz Chaim would say that if Hashem decreed poverty upon a person, then He will also make him incapable, or instill within him the Middah of Atzlus, which will prevent him from going to work. 


QUESTION:  Is there a Mitzvah of VeKidashto to give to a Kohen who is indigent, before giving to another?



QUESTION:  If one intended to give Tzedakah to someone and did not, can he give it to someone else instead? 

ANSWER:  HaRav Kanievsky said that he once went on a bus and a poor person asked for Tzedakah on the street below.  When he turned to give the poor person money the door suddenly closed.  The Chazon Ish told me to give the money to another poor person, as he had definitely decided to give it to Tzedakah.


QUESTION:  Should one stand in the presence of a Gabbai Tzedakah based upon the rule that one stands in the presence of a person performing a Mitzvah (Yerushalmi Bikurim 3:3)?

ANSWER:  If the Gabbai Tzedakah is doing so Lishma (not taking money for it), yes, one should stand before him (see Pischei Teshuva to Yoreh Deiah 256:1). 


QUESTION:  If one gives a check in Elul which is post-dated for after Yom Kippur, will he have the Zechus of Tzedakah to be “Ma’avir Es Ro’ah HaGezeirah?” 

ANSWER:  Yes, when one does this, it is as if the Tzedakah has already been given.


QUESTION:  If one gives money on a credit card or bank card which deducts fees before giving the balance to Tzedakah, or if the collector himself takes off a percentage, is it considered that the donor  gave the full amount to Tzedakah, or only the amount after the fees are deducted? 

ANSWER: The full amount, because the Yeshiva needed the donor to give the full amount in order to get the amount it ultimately receives.


QUESTION:  If one gives a monthly donation by automatic bank withdrawal (Hora’at Keva), is it still considered to be a “Ma’aseh Tzedakah” since he is not involved in the process every month?

ANSWER: Since he could cancel the bank withdrawal at any time, it is considered to be a “Ma’aseh Tzedakah.”


QUESTION:  If a poor person asks you for Tzedakah several times a day, are you obligated to give him?

ANSWER:  The poor person should not do so, but the person should give.


QUESTION:  Individuals in America asked HaRav Chaim Kanievsky why if they had given a tremendous amount in Tzedakah, that they had lost so much of their wealth in the falling economy?

ANSWER:  If a person is not wealthy, the fact that he is not wealthy is not considered to be a punishment.  However, one who was wealthy and loses some of his wealth is detracting from his punishment in Olam Haba by receiving punishment in this world.  This can be compared to a prince who handed out presents on the day that he became king.  There was one person there who owed the newly appointed king a large sum of money.  The king told him that his gift would be the forgiveness of his debt.  Isn’t this a great gift?!


QUESTION:  If one has a Safeik in “Ma’aser Kesafim”, should he go LeKulah (as it may be a Din DeRabbanan), or should he go LeChumrah? 

ANSWER:  HaRav Chaim asked this question to his father, the Steipler Gaon, Z’tl.  The Steipler responded that one should always be Machmir, because when it comes to giving Ma’aser one will never lose, and will only gain!  



Special Note Seven:  Points and pointers in preparation for the month of Elul, excerpted from the Sefer Kadosh Elul:


1.  Rebbe Yisroel Salanter was very well known to say that “Truly the entire year you should feel like it is Elul--but in least in Elul you should feel like it is Elul!”


2.  HaRav Yechezkel Levenstein, Z’tl, reported that Rebbe Itzele Petteberger, Z’tl, once spoke in Shul at the beginning of Chodesh Elul.  He opened up the Aron Kodesh and said “Modeh Ani Lifanecha Hashem Elokai Shenasata Lanu Es Chodesh Elul HaZeh.  Ribbono Shel Olam Anu Mekablim Es HaElul BeAhava U’VeSimcha--I thank You Hashem, for giving us this Chodesh Elul.  We hereby accept it upon ourselves with love and joy.”  The entire Kehillah then burst out crying (Ohr Yechezkel p. 297).


3.  The Gerrer Rebbe (the Sefas Emes) wrote that it is ‘bli safek, without doubt that Min HaShamayim a special hisorerus is placed within people to do Teshuva in this month.  It is our job to find the openings, and give ourselves the Eitzos, to arouse ourselves as well. 


4.  Rebbe Yeruchem Levovitz, Z’tl, taught that the basis of these days are Rachamim, from which comes Mechilas Avonos, forgiveness of sin.  Although we are blessed with Hashem’s mercy every day of the year, we need special gates of mercy to be forgiven of sin--and they are open in Elul! How important it is to put in the effort this month...for one to help save himself and his people!


5.  The Seder HaYom writes that for all of the Moados we become involved 30 days before the Yom Tov (searching for Chametz, building Sukkos).  So too, must one be involved in a spiritual investigation for a 30-day period commencing on Rosh Chodesh Elul.  In fact, HaRav Shlomo Zalmen Auerbach, Z’tl (Halichos Shlomo, Moadim 1:1) teaches that the word Elul means “to search” in Aramaic (see, for example, Bamidbar 13:2--the Targum for the word VeYasuru).  HaRav Shlomo Zalmen added that a Ben Torah should show special care during this month, as others will follow his improved conduct.


6.  HaRav Velvel Eidelman, Z’tl, would say that the phrase “Ani LeDodi VeDodi Li” (whose first letters form the acronym Elul) specifically indicate the Avodah of the month--”Kirvas Hashem--getting close to Hashem!


7. An undertaking for Elul that so many Gedolim suggest is to especially dedicate time every day to study a Mussar Sefer, with emotion and feeling, applying the words to yourself directly.  HaRav Yechezkel Levenstein, Z’tl once told his talmidim that he had studied the Sefer Sha’arei Teshuva more than 1,000 times, and that every time he studied the Sefer, he found a chiddush or a new application of its words.  HaRav Moshe Schwab, Z’tl, the Mashgiach of the Gateshead Yeshiva would give a Sichas Mussar, which would be immediately followed by Ma’ariv--so that the hisorerus would immediately take effect in the next Tefillah.  It is for this very reason that some have the custom of reciting a Kepitel of Tehillim after studying Mussar--in order for the hisorerus to take hold in the person.


8.  The Terumas HaDeshen would have special Kavannah in the Tefillah of Boruch She’Amar during the month of Elul.  If one focuses on the words ( which were established by the Anshei Knesses HaGedolah based upon a note that fell from heaven--Mishna Berurah, Shulchan Aruch Orach Chaim 51, seif katan 1), one can truly inspire himself to come closer to his Creator in this inspirational month.


9.  One should especially try to have Kavannah in the fifth Bracha of Shemone Esrei--”HaShiveinu Avinu Lesorasecha, which is the bracha of Teshuva,  One should think not only of himself--but also of his family, friends, those not yet religious...and all of K’lal Yisrael!



Special Note One:  Sunday is a special day, a very special day--it is the first day of Elul 5772.  There is an incredibly important program which begins this Sunday that continues for forty days through Yom Kippur--and can be utilized by each and every one of us to especially grow from.  It is the Forty Day Program which constitutes the Sefer The Power of Teshuvah by Rabbi Heshy Kleinman, Shlita (Artscroll PocketScroll series 2011).  The Sefer is filled with clear and practical ideas and guidance--and in just a few minutes a day, you can seriously uplift your Elul and the Elul of those around you.  The Sefer even contains an important Halachos of Teshuvah section, which is incorporated within the Forty Day Program! We urge those who do not have this Sefer to purchase it in a local Seforim store or from Artscroll by Sunday--and begin.  The Sefer has the warm Haskamos of HaRav Shmuel Kamenetsky, Shlita, HaRav Yaakov Perlow, Shlita, and HaRav Mattisyahu Salomon, Shlita. As a matter of introduction, we provide several excerpts from this treasured work:


A.  The Mashal:  Entranced by a delicate crystal vase that occupies the center of the dining-room table, little Chaim climbs onto a chair. “No, no, mustn’t touch,” cautions the maternal voice in his head. “It’s so shiny.  It sparkles with pretty rainbow colors,” responds another voice: this one his own.  He leans across the table and reaches for the vase, but as his hand tugs on its rim, it topples and shatters into dozens of jagged pieces.  ”Oh, no, I shouldn’t have touched it!” he thinks. “I’ll never do it again,” he vows. “Now I ruined it!  Mommy will be so angry.” Tears of regret are streaming down his round cheeks when suddenly, the glittering pieces of the vase join together, the water and flowers resume their places, and the puddle on the table dries up.  Imagine this child’s wide-eyed expression of amazement when he sees his damage undone!


The Nimshal:  That, on a cosmic scale, is the reality of the spiritual power of Teshuvah: to undo the damage and fill our lives with material and spiritual blessings. Why shouldn’t a perpetrator be punished for the damage he has already done? If someone fully and sincerely repents, then Hashem considers the crime as if it were never committed. Teshuvah turns the yeish of the crime into an ayin--it is the negation of an act that has already taken place. In this sense, Teshuvah was created before the formation of the world because Teshuvah returns conditions to where they were before creation. By its ability to wipe out a past action, Teshuvah renders the misdeed null and void.  Since Teshuvah ‘preceded’ the natural world, it does not and need not conform to natural law.


B.  While other mitzvos must be performed in their entirety to accomplish their particular spiritual function, Teshuvah is different.  That is because it is, at its core, a healing process. When a person suffers from a disease, each improvement is valuable. Even if he never recovers completely, the progress he does make is precious to him.


C.  The gift of Teshuvah lies in its ability to nullify our past and to dissolve our prior stains.  But the undeniable message of Teshuvah is that Hashem desires a loving relationship with us and as long as we live, and whoever we may be, it is never too late to reestablish the connection. In the words of the Rambam:  How great is Teshuvah that it brings man close to the Shechinah. Yesterday he was hateful in the sight of Hashem--despised, forsaken, and repulsive--and today he is beloved, desirable, near, and befriended.


D.  Teshuvah not only influences the judgment Hashem passes on each of us, but also judgment on the world collectively. Furthermore, all the people who could have prevented our sins are spared their responsibility for our actions when we erase the sin through Teshuvah. In far-greater measure than sin brings troubles to our world, Teshuvah brings blessing.  Teshuvah leads us to new heights, inspiring Chazal to say:  “In the place where baalei teshuvah stand, even the completely righteous are not able to stand.”


E.  Shlomo HaMelech (Mishlei 24:16) said, “Sheva Yipol Tzaddik V’Kam…--for though a righteous one may fall seven times [in spiritual matters], he will arise, but the wicked ones will stumble through evil.This Pasuk teaches that in order to become a righteous person, one must fall again and again, and keep getting up. Through the process of falling and rising again, a person becomes a Tzaddik.  Enduring change is a process. It often involves taking two steps forward and one step back. We must come to the realization that a step back is to be regarded as a learning experience and not as a sign of failure.  It is through this process that we eventually succeed. Feeling discomfort, discontent, or disappointed is often the catalyst for us to make great strides.  These unpleasant emotions propel us to take steps to seek to better our lives.  For us, the key is the belief that we will succeed in our desire to change. Hashem doesn’t expect us to make changes that are as yet beyond our reach.  It is out of Hashem’s love for us that He provides this method of getting back on track.  Once we have taken steps in the right direction, Hashem accepts our return.


F.  Once we undertake the Teshuvah process, we are likely to find that it is liberating; it releases us from all the negativity in our past and sets us free to reach our full potential.  We can, once again, compare the effort involved to the medication taken by someone disabled by illness. He does what needs to be done gladly, because he knows that this will restore him to full health and life.  Every mitzvah should be done with happiness; however, the happiness is usually external to the mitzvah. With Teshuvah, the mitzvah itself creates happiness when we realize that our sins are forgiven and we fully open the door to receive the abundant benefits of this world as well as of the World to Come.



Special Note Two:  Today (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!


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



Special Note Three:  We continue our regular Monday/Thursday listing of the Mitzvos Asei which the Chofetz Chaim writes are applicable in our times, as set forth in his Sefer Mitzvos HaKatzar. Today, we present Mitzvos 59 and 60:


59.  Krovei Kohen--this is the Mitzvas Asei for a Kohen to become Tamei to his immediate relative who passes away--his parents, his children, his brother and  an unmarried sister (if a sibling through his father), and his spouse.  This Mitzvas Asei also includes the Mitzvah of aveilus which is Mid’Oraysa the first day, and MiD’Rabanan the remaining days.  This Mitzvah applies in all places and at all times.


60.  VeAhavta L’Reiacha Kamocha-- this is the Mitzvas Asei to be concerned and care about one’s friend, including his possessions and his honor, just as one would care about his own.  From this Mitzvah, we derive that if someone honors himself at the expense of shaming a friend, the wrongdoer loses his share in Olam Haba.  Making peace between two people is included in this Mitzvah.  This Mitzvah applies in all places and at all times and to male and females alike.



Special Note Four: We continue with our focus on the Fifteenth Bracha of Shemone Esrei--Malchus Beis Dovid--The Kingdom of the House of Dovid.  HaRav Schwab, Z’tl, notes that the words Mitzapim L’Yeshuah, which are found towards the end of this Bracha in Nusach Sefard Siddurim (sometimes in parenthesis) were probably originally written as a marginal note--as a reminder that this is the thought that one should have while reciting this Bracha.  IN other words, we are not only asking that Hashem bring Moshiach--we are eagerly awaiting it!  The Bracha concludes with the words:  Baruch Atta Hashem Matzmiach Keren Yeshuah--…Who makes the power of salvation sprout forth.”  HaRav Schwab compares the process of Bias HaMoshiach to a structure being built behind an enclosure.  At first, nothing is visible besides the wall of the enclosure.  Then, suddenly--the structure begins to appear above the enclosure!  Chazal (Sanhedrin 97A) teach, HaRav Schwab concludes, that three things come unexpectedly--and one of them is the Moshiach--may we be surprised in this way--today!



Special Note One:  From our readers:


A.  You may want to remind your readers that since “Hashem sefosie...” is part of Shemone Esrei, it should be recited only after taking the three steps forward and standing in place-not while walking forward-as I suspect some do! The same is true for ‘Yehi’u Leratzon...” --a person should stand in place while reciting, then take three steps back, then--after having taken the three steps back--recite Oseh Shalom Bimrovav while bowing left, right and center--at the end of Shemone Esrei.”  Hakhel Note:  If one is even a bit unsure as to what to do, he should ask (or watch) his Rav!


B.  “I went with my son to Gedolim in Eretz Yisrael to get brachos before his Bar Mitzvah a short while ago.  One of the Gedolim asked me what I do and what I learn.  He told me that I should learn one additional hour per day--and said that to do so would be “good for me and good for him”.  Since then, I have certainly tried doing (even though, as I told him, I learned a nice amount).  My son was becoming Bar Mitzvah--but I am growing in the process with him!” Hakhel Note:  How wise our Gedolim are...if a person wants a bracha--he has to help bring it upon himself!



Special Note Two:  With the increased talk and tension relating to the Iranian threat and the  extreme danger facing Eretz Yisrael, K’lal Yisrael and the world at large, we must take a special look inward as to what each and every one of us can do.  We come back to the three stalwarts of our existence--Torah, Tefillah, and Gemilas Chesed. 


Torah--the Navi (Yeshaya 26:20) teaches us “Leich Ami Bo Vachadarech Chavi... Chimat Rega Ad Ya’avor Za’am--Go my people enter your room…hide for a brief moment until the danger passes.”  Chazal explain this to mean that we should “hide in the Batei Midrashim” and “Batei K’nessios”--in places of Torah study and Tefillah until the dangers pass.  We simply have to learn more.  For those who have started the new Daf Yomi cycle, we hope and pray that this is the Refuah that we need.  Perhaps each and every one of us can still improve a bit in some way, either in our Daf Yomi or other study that constitutes our major study of the day. Even coming on time or early, reviewing for five minutes at the end, or learning one additional Mishna or commentary--is worth a tremendous amount.  Remember, there is no doubt about it--the world perceives the situation as a serious, extremely serious one--and we must take its lesson. Important Mashal: Google, let us say, charges $5.00 per year per email account for unlimited storage. How could it do so?  Because if it has 400 million accounts paying $5.00--it has made $2 billion! Lehavdil--each Mishna, each added minute of study, each search for an answer to a question--leads to a cheshbon gadol--to a great account, for all of K’lal Yisrael!


Tefillah--several weeks ago, when we were made further aware of the gravity of the situation, HaRav Moshe Wolfson, Shlita, had urged us to recite Chapter 46 of Tehillim with Kavannah.  Although we have had an apparent ‘respite’ for a few weeks, Israel’s authorizing its prime minister to take certain action on his own so as not to be impeded by others is a message to us--for us to realize how important Chapter 46 now is.  Additionally, we recall that in the Bracha of V’Lamalshinim in Shemone Esrei we had noted that the word V’Hazeidim refers to those who seek us harm.  There is certainly a place for us to daven for Hashem to do the following to the evildoers:  Se’aker, Seshaber, Semager V’Sachinah --to uproot, smash, throw down, and humble the Zeidim.  If we will not have Kavannah now--then when?


Gemilas Chesed--Chazal teach that to be saved from the Chevlei Moshiach, one must be osek in Torah and Gemilas Chassadim.  The term osek refers to an act of involvement, just as one is osek in business to earn a living.  It does not mean to do Chesed as it comes, but to make it a constant and consistent part of daily life.  The Chofetz Chaim dedicated an entire Sefer to Chesed alone, the Sefer Ahavas Chesed (translated into English and published by Feldheim)--with remarkable need-to-know Halachos and Hashkafos.  The Chofetz Chaim Heritage Foundation has published the Sefer Loving Kindness, with daily short and practical lessons, which is based in the Sefer Chofetz Chaim.  What greater way to improve in Chesed than to learn how to do it from the Chofetz Chaim himself.  The daily study of the Sefer truly demonstrates a dedication to true improvement.  Even for those who feel that Chesed is their hallmark--an important role and goal in life is to improve further and further, attaining higher and higher floors in the ‘building’ of achievement. 


Hakhel Note:  May we suggest that each item above is for immediate action, as Chazal  (Shabbos 32A) teach--one should daven when he is still well that he not get sick--for he will need to demonstrate zechuyos to be healed. Let us do what we can --NOW!



Special Note Three:  The Chofetz Chaim teaches that the average man looks at his actions and deeds, and if he is a decent person, seeks to improve upon them.  However, he views his words as something without substance, which do not even have to evaporate into thin air--for they are merely air to begin with!  In fact, however, the Chofetz Chaim continues, the destruction and ruination that could result from misguided speech is far greater than that which could result from a misdeed.  Amazingly, the Navi (Amos 4:13 ) teaches “Ki Hinei Yotzer Harim U’Vorei Ruach U’Maggid L’Adam Mah Seicho--for behold, Hashem forms mountains and creates winds--and He recounts to a person what he spoke about.”  The Pasuk is importantly teaching us that the Creator looks to see, after 120 years--what the person spoke about.  As the Chofetz Chaim further highlights:  “And there is not even one utterance that is lost.  Every word, and even every letter is evidence against--or evidence for each individual.  It is essential to note that Chazal (Avos 5:1) teach that the world itself was created B’Asara Ma’amaros--with ten utterances.  This is the way the whole world was created--and this is what shapes our destiny as well.  In just a few days, Rosh Chodesh Elul will be upon us.  Elul is a time of great Rachamim, of great mercy.  Hashem will surely extend mercy to those who have mercy on themselves. Let us now think of a thirty (30) day plan of speech improvement--even if it is only in how we speak to a certain individual. When we are judged--whether it be now or in the future--may our speech not be brought in as proof against us--but instead be proffered as a great and incredibly powerful zechus for us, for our families, and for K’lal Yisrael!



Special Note Four: We continue with our focus on the Fifteenth Bracha of Shemone Esrei--Malchus Beis Dovid--The Kingdom of the House of Dovid.  The next phrase is:  Ki Lishuasecha Kivinu Kol HaYom--because we hope for Your Yeshua all day long.”  The Avnei Eliyahu explains that the word Ki--because, has special meaning here.  Even though we have just asked Hashem to bring the Yeshuah, whether or not we may have zechuyos, we relate here at least one zechus--which is the merit of our Bitachon--our hope that the Yeshuas Hashem will come.  This special appeal appears to be based in the three-word Pasuk (Bereishis 49:18 ) of “Lishuasecha Kivisi Hashem-for Your salvation do I long Hashem.”  HaRav Chaim Friedlander, Z’tl, points out that even when everything appears hopeless and lost--this Pasuk reinvigorates our Emunah--for it reminds us that the Yeshuas Hashem can come at any time--and in any manner.  HaRav Friedlander adds that we express our awaiting Hashem’s Yeshua  Kol HaYom--all day--meaning that when the Moshiach does not come in the morning, we wait until the afternoon, when he does not come in the afternoon we wait until the evening….  Every day there is a fresh expectation, a new waiting.  Based upon our eager anticipation, based upon our sincere yearning, we enable Hashem to act on our behalf--Middah K’Neged Middah--and bring us the very Yeshua that we have true bitachon--that he can and will bring!




FROM RABBI AVIGDOR MILLER, Z’TL’S TORAH VIDEO SHIUR ON SEEING THROUGH DARKNESS:  “Seeing Through Darkness” most importantly means being sensitized: 

Sensitized to the way you look and how you speak--when you come home from a day at the office;

Sensitized to the Kedusha of Shabbos--picture how you would walk, talk and behave in the Beis HaMikdash. Shabbos is also Kodesh--treat it likewise!;

Sensitized to the special recognition that the Shechina is present in every Shul, for it is a Mikdash Me’at.  This means that one does not treat Shul like home.  In the words of HaRav Miller--’If you want to treat it like home--then go home’!;

Sensitized to the Niflaos HaBorei--to the wonders within you and around you!;

Sensitized at your ability to connect to your Creator through Torah, Tefillah and Mitzvos; Sensitized to the details of life--appreciating each and every opportunity and each and every moment; and

Sensitized to the especially unique and high position that Hashem has placed you in this world--you are not a stone, not an insect, nor a bird, fish or animal--not even a human being who is simply ‘going through the motions’--you are at the top of the world--literally!

Be Sensitive--and see through the Darkness-to the Light!



STAND UP STRAIGHT!  Chazal (Brachos 12A) teach that the Pasuk in Tehillim that we recite in Shacharis every morning:  Hashem Zokef Kefufim--Hashem straightens those who are bent over’--applies to each and every one of us--even if we are very physically healthy.”  How so?  It is from this Pasuk that we learn that after bowing down at the words Baruch Atta at the outset of Shemone Esrei, we should straighten out before reciting the word Hashem.  The Pasuk is thus interpreted to mean:  “Hashem--when reciting the name of Hashem--stand straight.”  There is a simple but important question--does not our bowing down demonstrate our humility and contrition to Hashem.  Should we not remain bowed--at least until after we recite Hashem’s holy name?!  The Rishonim (Ritva, Talmidei Rabbeinu Yonah, etc.) teach that by standing after we had previously bowed, we demonstrate the Bitachon that we have in Hashem--that He will provide us with His blessing after we have showed our contrition before Him, demonstrating our Yiras Shomayim.  So, with our bowing and straightening ourselves in the first three words of Shemone Esrei--we have demonstrated both our Yiras Shomayim and our Bitachon in Hashem.  How important these three words--and the actions that go along with them--truly are!  Let us infuse them with their true meaning!





Special Note One: We continue with our focus on the Fifteenth Bracha of Shemone Esrei--Malchus Beis Dovid--The Kingdom of the House of Dovid.  We continue with the phrase:  VeKarno Tarum BeYeshuasecha--and raise his position through Your [act of] salvation.”  With the term Yeshuah, we recall one of the famous questions asked of a person after 120 years:  Tzipisah L’Yeshuah--did you eagerly await Yeshuas Hashem?”  What can one do to demonstrate that he eagerly anticipates Yeshuas Hashem?  This is what the Sefer Yearning with Fire (89, 5-minute daily lessons) is about.  By studying this Sefer, one can come a long way towards successfully being able to answer the question.  Especially in these turbulent and awe-filled times, it is an essential Sefer to study.  One more important point on our phrase: HaRav Schwab, Z’tl, explains that the Moshiach himself will not be the savior--without Yeshuasecha--the Yeshuas Hashem--even the Moshiach will be completely helpless.  Indeed, the Moshiach Himself will be among those who will be saved--as the Pasuk (Zechariah 9:9) teaches:  Tzadik V’Nosha Hu--he will be a Tzadik and one who is saved.”  What then is the role of Moshiach?  HaRav Schwab teaches that the whole lineage of Moshiach is one of ‘Ba’alei Teshuvah’.  From Lot through Yehuda through Rus through Dovid HaMelech through Shlomo HaMelech.  The function of Moshiach is to take his own personal family past and make the whole world into Ba’alei Teshuvah--starting first with the Jewish people and then moving to all of mankind, as we recite in Aleinu:  Vechol Bnei Basar Yikru Vishemecha--and all of humanity will [once and for all] call upon You”--may it come speedily and in our day!



Special Note Two:  In last week’s Parsha, we find the second of the three Parshios of Shema, in which one accepts upon himself the performance of all mitzvos, and in which one recognizes the sechar v’onesh--the reward and punishment--associated with their performance or (chas v’shalom) non-performance.  As part of this parsha, the Torah warns: “Hishameru Lachem, Pen Yifteh Levavchem V’Sartem--beware for yourselves lest your heart be seduced and you turn astray and serve gods of others.”  Rashi, in explaining the word “V’Sartem--and you turn astray”--writes that this means be careful not to turn away from the study of Torah; for once one turns away from Torah study he is close to worshipping Avoda Zora.  Upon only a moment’s reflection, this appears to be a very large leap.  Moreover, the Yetzer Hora does not seem to work this way.  He works on a person slowly and deliberately, nibbling away daily and weekly to make sure that his negative influence grows steadily, so that the changes he works upon the person actually stick.  So how here does the Torah describe the jump from lack of Torah study to idol worship (and its contemporary equivalents) so swiftly and conclusively?


The Chofetz Chaim provides a remarkable insight to explain.  Imagine two countries at war.  One day, one country wins a battle, the next day the other country wins a battle, and the battles go back and forth as the war continues.  These back-and-forth victories can only be true and continue if one side grabs a certain stronghold, the other captures some soldiers, the first wins an air battle, the second wins a tank battle, etc.  However, if on day one, one side captures all the ammunition of the other side, then the war, for all intents and purposes, is over.  The second side has nothing with which to do battle.  The Chofetz Chaim says that our Pasuk teaches us the same lesson in a powerful, spiritual way.  If a person forsakes the study of Torah (each man and woman, elder and child, in accordance with his /her own position), he has lost all of his ammunition to the Yetzer Hora.  He has lost the war, because he has nothing to fight back with.  Thus, he immediately leaps into complete defeat--which is the opposite extreme of Avoda Zora and its ilk.


HaRav Elchonon Wasserman, Z’tl, H’YD, applies the Chofetz Chaim’s (his Rebbi’s) teaching in a remarkable way:  Chazal (Yerushalmi Chagiga 1:7) teach that even if Hashem would forgo the sins of murder, avoda zara, and gilui arayos, he will not forgo the sin of Bitul Torah, of wasting time from Torah study.  Why is this stark statement so?  After all, are these not the three cardinal sins that Hashem would be forgoing versus that of bitul Torah which does not appear to be anywhere near as heinous a misdeed?  The answer, Reb Elchonon teaches, is that even with respect to the cardinal sins--there is a possibility of Teshuva. One can overcome these great failings through the Koach HaTorah.  However, if the Torah study itself, a Jew’s weaponry in this World, is taken away, then he has nothing left with which to fight.


There is a tremendous lesson here for each and every one of us, as we rapidly approach the days of reflection and introspection.  Do we want to enter Elul as a soldier without arms?  Don’t we want to equip ourselves as much as we can?  Where can we improve in our daily study (even for just a couple of minutes) after Shacharis?  After Mincha?  After Maariv?  On the bus or train?  Before going to sleep?


What area of Torah study have we pushed off that we really need to know or in which we need improvement?  What Sefer have we never studied before that we really have been meaning to?  What Mussar Sefer will we be preparing for Elul?  What Halachos should we learn daily (especially that apply to us?).  How can we improve in our study of the Parsha?  There are so many new Hebrew and English Parsha Seforim.  Have we acquired any of them?  After we have made a mistake in Halacha, or we are not sure whether we said or did the right thing, do we learn what the proper Halacha or Hashkafa is in order to make sure that it will not happen again (i.e., Teshuva!).


As we all know, “Talmud Torah K’Neged Kulam--the study of Torah is equivalent to them all” (Shabbos 127A).  Let us take heed of the words of Shema that we recite daily--so that we succeed not only in our daily battle--but in our life’s purpose and goal!



VEHARVACH LANU:  Several days ago, as the Parsha of Birkas HaMazon was coming up in the Torah, we noted that it would be important for one to review the Birkas HaMazon in order to determine whether there were any words that he did not understand.  What does the term VeHarvach Lanu mean?  The Kuntres Avodah HaTefillah--Birkas HaMazon explains that it is our Tefillah that Hashem ‘give us breathing room’--that He save us from any tza’ara and tzuka that could otherwise befall us.  Hakhel Note:  In the same Kuntres, HaRav Shamshon Refoel Hirsch, Z’tl’s explanation is given as to why, as the first bracha of Birkas HaMazon we use the bracha that was composed by Moshe Rabbeinu when the Mon first started to fall.  “It is to teach”, explains HaRav Hirsch, “that whatever the meal we ate may have consisted of, and whoever we are--we each have our own Hashgacha Pratis, and the food we just consumed was very much a direct gift from Hashem to us--as the Mon was from Shomayim!”




Special Note One:  We continue our regular Monday/Thursday listing of the Mitzvos Asei which the Chofetz Chaim writes are applicable in our times, as set forth in his Sefer Mitzvos HaKatzar.  Today, we present Mitzvos 57 and 58:


57.  LeHafrish Challah--this is the Mitzvas Asei in Eretz Yisrael to separate Challah from dough and to give it to the Kohen, provided there is a minimum amount of dough (43.2 eggs in volume).  There is no minimum amount that one is required to separate Min HaTorah, and removing even the smallest piece from the dough is sufficient. In Chutz LaAretz, Chazal instituted that we also take Challah and burn it, so that the laws of Challah are not forgotten in our sojourn outside of Eretz Yisrael. 


58.  Birkas Kohanim--this is the Mitzvas Asei for Kohanim to give K’lal Yisrael the specific brachos of YevarechichaYa’er…and Yisah…. If the Kohen adds any other bracha at the time he is reciting Birkas Kohanim, he violates a Lo Sa’aseh of adding on to a Mitzvah.  If the Kohen does not go up to give the bracha when he is called to do so, he violates three commands contained in the Torah--Ko SevarechuEmor Lahem…and VeSamu Es Shemi.  A Kohen who recites Birkas Kohanim is in turn given a bracha by Hashem.  This Mitzvah applies in all places and at all times.



Special Note Two:  We continue with our study of the Nineteen Brachos of Shemone Esrei.  This week we focus on the Fifteenth Bracha of Shemone Esrei--Malchus Beis Dovid--The Kingdom of the House of Dovid.  The Levush writes that the Bracha of Baruch Atta Hashem Matzmiach Keren Yeshuah was recited by the Malochim when Bnei Yisrael crossed the Yam Suf and sang Shira.  To us, however, it represents not only the Geulah from Mitzrayim--but the Geulah for all time.  This is the Bracha in which we directly daven for the Moshiach to come.  We begin with the first phrase of “Es Tzemach Dovid Avdecha Meheirah Satzmiach--may the offspring of Dovid Your servant speedily sprout.”  HaRav Chaim Friedlander, Z’tl, definitively brings that the word Tzemach is one of the names of Moshiach (see Yirmiyah 23:5; Zechariah 3:8; and 6:12 ; and Eicha Rabba 1:51 ).  Here, we refer to Dovid HaMelech as Dovid Avdecha because the purpose of Moshiach is not for him to serve as a king in and of himself, but rather to lead all of K’lal Yisrael and the world to accept Ohl Malchus Shomayim.   This is, indeed, the manner in which Dovid HaMelech conducted himself while he was king.  Here, we note that even though it may otherwise still take a while for the Malchus Beis Dovid to sprout in full form--we ask that the process be ‘unnaturally’ sped up in these last stages that we are currently in.  Even though we are not in a position to c’v give Hashem advice as to when it would be best for the Moshiach to come, with the word Meheirah we indicate our own personal sense of urgency to reach the time when we, together with the whole world, can properly fulfill Ohl Malchus Shomayim to its true and full degree!

Hakhel Note:  This is the only Bracha in Shemone Esrei that begins with the world Es.  We invite your thoughts as to why this is the case.



Special Note Three:  In last week’s Parsha, we were blessed with the Mitzvah of Tefillah. Imagine--it is not only a gift to be able to daven to Hashem, but it is actually a Mitzvah, and one gets sechar for it!  We provide three important points regarding the Mitzvah of Tefillah:


A.  What is the ‘appearance’ of the Mitzvah?  The following is excerpted from Rav Shach on Chumash (Artscroll, p. 241): Rav Shach’s uncle, R’ Isser Zalman Meltzer, once sent him to ask a certain question of the Chofetz Chaim. Rav Shach wanted to use the opportunity to observe the great man standing in prayer before his Maker.  Accordingly, he himself made sure to daven earlier. (“How could I possibly observe any person - however great he may be - when I myself am davening before my Maker?” he explained.) When the ·Chofetz Chaim davened, Rav Shach stood nearby and watched him carefully.  “What can I tell you?” said Rav Shach years later. “I did not see a thing! And yet, everyone knows the awesome power the Chofetz Chaim’s tefillos had.  All he had to do was daven and his tefillos were answered!  I began to understand what Chazal meant when they said (Sifrei, Eikev), ‘What is service of the heart?  It is tefillah.’ Indeed, tefillah is the obligation of the heart, not of the external limbs. There is no need to see anything external, neither shaking nor any other movement!”


B.  Chazal teach (Brachos, 9B--non-coincidentally, last week’s Daf Yomi!) that when we recite the Pasuk of “Hashem Sefasai Tiftach U’Fi Yagid Tehillasecha--Hashem open up my lips, so that my mouth can declare Your praise” (Tehillim 51:17) at the outset of every Shemone Esrei--the Pasuk serves as a part and parcel of the Shemone Esrei itself.  On a basic level, this is because without Hashem giving one the opportunity to open his mouth each and every time, he would simply not be able to open it--and would be unable to pray!  The Talmidei Rabbeinu Yonah, however, add a spectacular insight.  They note that this Pasuk is found in the Chapter of Tehillim known as the Chapter of Teshuvah, in which Dovid HaMelech asks for Hashem’s forgiveness from his iniquity with Bas-Sheva.  Because this action was intentional, and one cannot bring a Karbon for an intentional sin (Chazal teach that Dovid. HaMelech did not in fact sin, so Dovid HaMelech is saying these words about himself as a paradigm of how to do Teshuvah), Dovid HaMelech asks Hashem with the words Hashem Sefasai Tiftach that Hashem help him with his words of prayer to the extent that they effect a Kappara for him--even for what he had done intentionally!  There is a great lesson here--since at this moment we have no Beis HaMikdash and we cannot bring Karbanos, not only do our Tefillos help in the place of Karbanos (for unintentional sins) which we cannot currently bring--but they can also help for misdeeds which were intentional.  When we recite Hashem Sefasai Tiftach before every Shemone Esrei--we should express it with the most Kavannah possible!


C.  Chazal also teach (Brachos 7A--once again, non-coincidentally, last week’s Daf Yomi!) that Hashem Himself davens:  Yehi Ratzon Milefanai Sheyichbeshu Rachamai…may it be My will that My mercy quash My anger, and that My mercy overrule all other of My middos, and that I act with My children with the middah of mercy, and that I treat them in a manner which is beyond the letter of the law.”  We note that in this short Tefillah, Hashem emphasizes time and again that it is His mercy that is the key to our ongoing sustenance.  Since Hashem places such a great focus on His mercy, over all else in ‘His Own Tefillah’--it would certainly seem that the lesson to us in our own Tefillos is to plead with Hashem, time and time and time again--for His mercy upon us.  With this Tefillah as recorded through Chazal, Hashem in His unlimited graciousness has perhaps given us the ‘password’--to help make our Tefillos as potent, meaningful and answerable as possible!




IN HONOR OF BENTSCHING ROSH CHODESH ELUL:  A reader sent us a beautiful thought from the Sefer Ratz KaTzvi.  The Sefer points out that there are eleven months in a typical year in which we bentsch Rosh Chodesh.  In the Yehi Ratzon of Rosh Chodesh Bentsching, there are also eleven ‘corresponding’ requests for Chaim.  The first such request, for example, is the request for Chaim Aruchim, which corresponds to the month of Mar Cheshvan--as our Tefillos for life in Tishrei get extended to Cheshvan.  The second request for Chaim, Chaim Shel Shalom corresponds to Kisleiv, when the Chashmonaim celebrated their victories in war and ‘rested’ from war and successfully re-entered the Beis HaMikdash.  The eleventh and final request for Chaim is for a Chaim Sheyimaleih Mishalos Libeinu Letovah--a life in which the requests of our hearts will be fulfilled for the good.  The Ratz KaTzvi then gives a beautiful explanation as to how this particular request relates to the month of Elul (see there). You can add your own thoughts--but suffice it to say that during the entire month of Elul we recite the following Pasuk every day, twice a day: Achas Sha’alti Mei’ais Hashem Osah Avakeish Shivti B’veis Hashem Kol Yemei Chayai--one thing I ask of Hashem, this is what I seek--to dwell in the House of Hashem all the days of my life!  The lesson:  The month of Elul is a month in which we work on what the requests of our heart are and what they should be--and may Hashem then fulfill them for the good!. 




Special Note One:  Tomorrow, Shabbos Kodesh, 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. Hakhel Note: This Thursday is the Yom Kippur Koton before Elul--perhaps special arrangements can be made with this advance notification for your Minyan to recite the Yom Kippur Koton Tefillos--and if not possible, for you to attend a Minyan where they will be reciting Yom Kippur Koton.



Special Note Two:  We continue with our study of the Nineteen Brachos of Shemone Esrei. This week we focus on the Fourteenth Bracha of Shemone Esrei--Binyan Yerushalayim--Rebuilding of Yerushalayim.  We conclude the Bracha with:  Boruch Atta Hashem Bonei Yerushalayim--the Builder of Yerushalayim.”  The Eitz Yosef points out that this is based on the Posuk that we recite daily in Pesukei D’Zimra--Bonei Yerushalayim Hashem Nidchei Yisrael Yichaneis (Tehillim 147:2).  The Dover Shalom, in turn explains that the Bracha is in the present tense because Yerushalayim is in the current process of rebuilding--as Golus is the initial stage of the Geulah, much in the way as the basement foundations are necessary for the tall building to stand.  Moreover, as we recite in Nacheim on Tisha B’Av, Hashem destroyed Yerushalayim with fire and will be rebuild it with fire.  How does Hashem ‘build with fire’?  The Dover Shalom explains that the fire He is rebuilding with is a spiritual one--created from our current actions--our Torah study, our fear of Heaven, and our Avodas Hashem!  With our proper actions in the here and now--we are now contributing to the everlasting flame of the Eternal City !



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


A.  A reader provided us with the following wonderful thought from the Sefer Aleinu L’Shabeiach by HaRav Yitzchak Zilberstein, Shlita, on the concept of HaKaras HaTov--which he relates to the Mitzvah of bentsching in this week’s Parsha:  “In the Tefillah of Nishmas which we recite on Shabbos, we exclaim that:  Ilu Finu Malei Shira KaYam…if our mouths were full of song as the sea, our tongues as full of joy as its multitude of waves, our lips as full of praise as the expanse of the heavens, our eyes as brilliant as the sun and moon, our hands as outspread as eagles of the sky, and our feet as swift as deer, we could still not sufficiently thank you Hashem...  HaRav Pam, Z’tl, asks:  “We can understand how the mouth, the lips, and even the hands and feet by their motions can express HaKaras HaTov…but how does the ‘brilliance’ of the eyes express HaKaras HaTov?!  HaRav Pam answers that the eyes, too, can radiate a feeling of closeness and appreciation.  Hashem has blessed us with He’oras Panim--the ability for our faces to shine and show warmth, feeling and gratitude--and this too must be part of our expression of Hakaras Hatov!  Hakhel Note:  What a wonderful exercise from HaRav Pam--practicing He’oras Panim to one’s parents, spouse, children, co-workers and friends--as a living part of one’s HaKaras HaTov. At the very least on Shabbos Kodesh when we recite Nishmas--should our face glow with thanks, sentiment and affection!


B.  The Steipeler, Z’tl, (Karyana D’Igarta I, Letter 304) provides the following fundamental insight:  If one would know for certain that if he violated a particular Issur D’Oraysa on Shabbos he would be punished with this kind of infection or that kind of  severe headache, and if he knew that if he sullied a particular Issur DeRabannan, he would be punished with that kind of virus or that kind of writhing backache, he would be careful to stay away from this Kula or that Kula, and would distance himself from even the possibility of getting close to the Aveira.  If, the Steipeler says, we are scared of one of these illnesses, a temporary illness in this passing world, all the more so should we be concerned of a punishment with much more long-lasting and devastating results.  Shabbos is the “Os”--the sign of our special, eternal relationship with Hashem--and if we abuse it, or do not treat it with the respect that it deserves, we are sadly and regretfully abusing this relationship--a relationship which is intended to infuse us not with laxity and superficiality--but with holiness and depth--as the Torah testifies (Shemos 31:13) the purpose of Shabbos is “Lodaas Ki Ani Hashem Mikadishchem--to know that Hashem sanctifies us!


C.  The Sefer Toldos Yaakov, brings the following Ma’aseh with the Steipeler:  Once the Steipeler davened Mincha in Yeshivas Beis Meir, and when he left, he was accompanied by a Talmid Chochom. Suddenly it began to pour.  The Talmid Chochom escorting him asked if it was permissible to run.  The Steipeler responded:  “When one leaves a Shul, it is not appropriate to run.”  They walked together a little while longer in the pouring rain, and the Talmid Chochom once again asked him:  “Now is it permissible to run?”  The Steipeler responded:  “It is not kedai to run on Shabbos.”  They continued to walk at a regular pace in the storm--not even hurrying their steps!



Special Note Four:  We provide the following notes on this week’s Parsha: 


A.  The Torah begins with the teaching “V’Haya Eikev Tishma’un-- This shall be the reward when you listen to these laws,” and you observe and perform them….The Ramban provides an extremely important explanation here.  He writes that the laws the Torah is referring to include the laws which many might otherwise not properly regard or even disgrace--including the Torah’s laws relating to money.  The Torah is especially adjuring us here to follow Hashem’s will with monetary matters.  It is no coincidence (as it never is), that the Torah reminds us of this now--immediately before Elul--as if to remind us that we must make sure that our integrity and honesty in all business and shopping affairs is whole; that all of our dealings with hired workers is above board and beyond reproach; in short, that we are not ashamed to have money in our pockets when we begin to daven!


B.  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?!


C.  In the Parsha, the Torah writes that Hashem wants us “L’Dovko Bo--to cling to Him.”  The Chofetz Chaim teaches that the reason Hashem asks this of us now is because a person can get only as close to Hashem in the Next World as he gets to Hashem in This World.  It is up to each and every one of us to get as close as we can. This can be compared to the owner of an inn who is falsely accused of a crime against the government and who realizes that his only hope is to plead for mercy before the King.  He plans to make a trip to the palace before sentencing, but realizes that the task is an almost impossible one, because of the King’s schedule, all of the palace guards, his status, etc. One day, he is astonished to hear that just the day before the King had made a trip through his city dressed as a commoner.  He is understandably even more shocked when he is advised that he had actually had the King as a guest in his inn, and that he had even served him dinner.  What an incomparable opportunity he had to plead for clemency, for mercy--what an irreplaceable event.  What a lost opportunity! We must make sure that we recognize the King with us here in our inn, and that we appreciate--and make the most out of--our audience with Him, getting as close as possible to Him as we can.  We can do so--each and every one of us--through our sincere Tefillos, through our enthusiastic Torah study and through our demonstrably special dedication to Mitzvos and Maasim Tovim--each person in accordance with his own inn!


D.  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?


E.  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....!


F.  We have this week thus far provided a Three-Part Series on halachos relating to the Mitzvah of Birkas HaMazon in this week’s Parsha.  Rabbi Moshe Goldberger, Shlita, asks a pointed question--if Birkas Hamazon is only one mitzvah, why is it that there are three brochos required by the Torah (the fourth brocha, according to most, is Rabbinic in origin)--one brocha thanking Hashem for feeding everyone, a second brocha thanking Hashem for many other important benefits that Hashem has bestowed upon us (as we have previously noted, HaRav Pam, Z’tl, used to count them on his fingers while reciting them), and a third brocha asking for the return of Yerushalayim and the Bais HaMikdash? Rabbi Goldberger answers that if we would have stopped after one brocha, we may have thought that the food is actually an end in and of itself.  By the two additional brochos which the Torah requires, we are to remind ourselves that we must thank Hashem for all of His blessings to us (this is one of the great purposes of life--Am Zu Yotzarti Li Tehilasi Yesapeiru), and that we are nourished in order to reach our greatest potential--with that, we ask for the rebuilding of Yerushalayim and the rebuilding of the Bais HaMikdash (the third bracha)--so that we can rise to the highest spiritual heights!


G.  We are also blessed in the Parsha with the second Parsha of Shema, within which we accept the Ohl HaMitzvos.  .  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!  We present below several additional lessons from the second Parsha of Shema:


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--Hashem’s Perfect 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 nutritious and 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.  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!


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.  The Parsha teaches that if we listen to the Torah and follow its Mitzvos, we will be rewarded with “Yoreh U’Malkosh”--autumn rain and spring rain--so that we have full and complete harvests.  In the Siddur Avnei Eliyahu, however, 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).”


7. 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!




TAKE A REAL STEP BACK:  Every day, three times a day before Shemone Esrei, we take not only one--but three--steps back before we move forward again--to the same spot that we started at!  May we suggest that in addition to the reasons you have studied or heard in the past as to why one does so, we suggest that it is in order to literally “take a step back” and APPRECIATE the literally unbelievable opportunity that he is about the experience.  Our Chachomim have aided us greatly by requiring this action--in order to get us out of the rote or habitual recitation of words which are so precious and so counted, so that we truly APPRECIATE that we are encountering our Father, our King.  Most certainly, our taking the step back should not be by rote in and of itself--but rather should serve to fill us with enthusiasm for the outstanding privilege we are about to be blessed with--each and every time. Take the steps back--and APPRECIATE! 



GOT IT! There are always at least a few of them in every Shul, in every community.  They come to Shul on time, they learn with diligence, they always seem to be careful with what they say and how they say it, they are very ready to do Chesed, etc.  What makes them different?  What makes them a cut above the rest?  The easy answer may simply be two words--they ‘get it’.  They understand, on a constant and unwavering basis, that there is a real purpose not only to life-- but to each and every moment of it.  They know that every breath means something, that it all counts. They understand that Avodas Hashem is a 24/7, lifetime task--and lifetime accomplishment!  They understand that although this world is a fleeting and temporary one--it is nevertheless not only the portal--but the only means by which--to remain close to one’s Creator for ever and ever! They understand what Hashem’s seeks of them--and do their best to fulfill it without whimper, distraction or delay.  They--’get it’.  Each and every one of us knows his strengths and weaknesses, his inborn talents and his nurtured faults.  We all can be like those few people--we just have to remind ourselves not to falter here and falter there, and then not to falter here and there again-- for if we do so enough times, every day--we too will be one of those special people who--’get it’!



THE ANGER EXCHANGE:  At the recent Chofetz Chaim Heritage Foundation Torah Video Shiur by Rabbi Jonathan Rietti, Shlita, Rabbi Rietti proposed a possible method to help quash one’s anger:  Every time one felt anger and suppressed its expression, a ‘relative’ would award him $100,000 in the bank--and this would go on for up to twelve months (what a nice relative!).  There would be no cap on the amount of money he could earn over a year--except that, if he did ‘lose his cool’ even once, all the money accrued in the account to date would be forfeited.  However, even if after ‘losing it’--his cool and all of the accrued money, the next time he suppressed his anger the Cheshbon would start again--with a new $100,000 deposit.  A person could try this for a period of time--and see how wealthy he truly became!  Hakhel Note:  As the month of Elul is fast approaching--maybe we can begin this wonderful exercise today--and hopefully end up billionaires--by this time next year! 




Special Note One:  We continue our regular Monday/Thursday listing of the Mitzvos Asei which the Chofetz Chaim writes are applicable in our times, as set forth in his Sefer Mitzvos HaKatzar. Today, we present Mitzvos 55 and 56:


55.  Pidyon Peter Chamor--this is the Mitzvas Asei to redeem a first born donkey with a sheep by giving the sheep to a Kohen.  If one does not have a sheep, he can use its monetary equivalent, and give that to the Kohen (the sheep does not have to be worth anywhere near as much as the donkey is worth).  Kohanim and Leviim are exempt from this Mitzvah.  This Mitzvah applies in all places and at all times, and to men and women alike. 


56.  Arifas Peter Chamor--this is the Mitzvas Asei to put the first born Chamor to death if in fact he is not redeemed by giving a sheep to the Kohen.  He must be killed with a strike by an ax on the back of his neck.  After he is put to death, he must be buried, and no one can benefit from the carcass (even its ashes are forbidden).  Kohanim and Leviim are exempt from this Mitzvah.  This Mitzvah applies in all places and at all times, and to men and women alike. 



Special Note Two:  We continue with our study of the Nineteen Brachos of Shemone Esrei. This week we focus on the Fourteenth Bracha of Shemone Esrei--Binyan Yerushalayim--Rebuilding of Yerushalayim.  We continue with the next phrase:  V’Chisei Dovid Meheirah LeSocha Tachin--and may You speedily establish the throne of Dovid within it.”  Many ask:  Why do we mention Dovid HaMelech here in the bracha of Yerushalayim--when the entire next bracha of Es Tzemach Dovid is especially and specifically devoted to the reestablishment of the Malchus Beis Dovid?!  The Bach (to Tur Orach Chaim 118) answers that in our Bracha we are asking that Yerushalayim be rebuilt--with the end goal that the throne of Dovid HaMelech be reestablished there--for that is Yerushalayim B’Sheleimusah--Yerushalayim in its true completeness.  Yerushalayim is the Ir Dovid--a place that Dovid HaMelech and his descendants through the Moshiach Tzidkeinu are to serve as the earthly rulers.  Why?  Because their kingship is unlike the rulership of other kings.  As Dovid HaMelech himself testifies (Brachos 4A!!), while the other kings were sleeping in the morning, he was busy answering Shailos for K’lal Yisrael and humbly submitting his rulings for review to his mentor, Mefiboshes. The king of K’lal Yisrael is really an Eved--an Eved Hashem who through his selfless actions brings the Shechina to rest upon us.  Thus, with our request for the Kisei Dovid to be reestablished, we are not asking for K’lal Yisrael to rule over the world--we are asking that through the Malchus Beis Dovid, Hashem’s presence in the world is felt to the must elevated extent possible.  Our request for the Kisei Dovid is a request for the Shechina in Yerushalayim B’Sheleimusah.  As we think of Yerushalayim, we are to think not only of beautiful, tall buildings, and awesome neighborhoods filled with the young and old alike--we must also think of the unparalleled spirituality of Yerushalayim--the Beis HaMikdash and the Kisei Dovid-bringing us-the Shechina --Yerushalayim B’Sheleimusah!



Special Note Three:  As noted earlier this week, the Daf Yomi has just begun Mesechta Brachos, and this week’s Parsha contains the Mitzvah of Birkas HaMazon--the most renowned Bracha in the Torah!  Accordingly, we provide additional points and pointers relating to Birkas HaMazon, much of which has been culled from the Sefer VeZos HaBracha by HaRav Alexander Mandelbaum, Shlita. 





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


8.  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.


9.  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.


10.  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 (‘LeOlam Ahl 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).


11.  One should avoid motioning or signaling 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.


12.  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.


13.  If we would simply focus on the powerful words of bentsching, and would take the extra minute or two necessary to recite bentsching 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 bentsching like little children do, but rather value it for the great Mitzvah D’Oraysa--the incredible privilege and opportunity--that it truly is.


14.  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 had asked HaRav Chaim Pinchas Scheinberg, Z’tl, whether it would be better for a newcomer to Torah Judaism to recite the bentsching in English or to listen word-for-word to the bentsching 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 import and meaning of Birkas HaMazon.


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




Special Note One:  We continue with our study of the Nineteen Brachos of Shemone Esrei. This week we focus on the Fourteenth Bracha of Shemone Esrei--Binyan Yerushalayim--the Rebuilding of Yerushalayim.  We continue with the next phrase:  U’vnei Osah BeKarov BiMeheirah BeYameinu Binyan Olam--may You rebuild it soon in our days as an everlasting structure.”  Chazal teach that the Third Bais HaMikdash will descend from the Heavens complete, and when the Beis HaMikdash so descends the wall of Yerushalayim will then be built around it as well.  HaRav Chaim Friedlander, Z’tl, brings the Ramchal, who provides us with great spiritual insight into this:  “What will happen is that the Beis HaMikdash Shel Ma’aleh will spread itself out until it reaches the earth--it will not be uprooted, but will spread downward, and when it reaches its place here a physical wall will be built around it--and the two buildings--the physical wall of this world with the spiritual building which has descended will merge together as one.  Thus, while there will be a physical Beis HaMikdash on the outside--the internal, spiritual Beis HaMikdash will be built as never before.  There will no longer be a Beis HaMikdash above which is parallel to, and directly above, the Beis HaMikdash below--it will all be one!  The actual city of Yerushalayim itself will be rebuilt by Hashem for eternity together with the Beis HaMikdash.  Because neither Yerushalayim nor the Beis HaMikdash will be built by human hands--but by Hashem Himself, no future destruction will be possible--as Hashem’s construction is per se eternal.  The work of our hands is dependent on our deeds; the work of Hashem’s ‘hands’ are not.  Especially Important: We note that there are only two occasions in Shemone Esrei where we ask that Hashem do something “BiMeheirah BeYameinu--quickly and in our time”--and this is one of them.  Let us especially focus on these words, as we ask Hashem for the culmination of the hopes of millions of Jews over more than nineteen centuries.  It really can be in our time--and perhaps with just a little bit more Kavannah on our part--it will be BiMeheirah BeYameinu. 



Special Note Two:  Once again, as the Daf Yomi studies Mesechta Brachos and this week’s Parsha non-coincidentally contains the Mitzvah of Birkas HaMazon, we continue to provide several points and pointers relating to meals and to Birkas HaMazon (Shulchan Aruch, Orach Chaim 183-189), as excerpted from the Mishna Berurah, Dirshu Edition:




1.  It is Mitzvah Min HaMuvchar for a zimun of three to bentsch over a cup of wine/grape juice--and if this is not available--even chamar medina will do.  There is a difference of opinion as to what chamar medina is.  It is reported, for instance, that HaRav Elyashiv, Z’tl, allowed pure orange juice as chamar medina, but that the Chazon Ish did not.  Accordingly, one should consult with his Rav or Posek as to what is deemed chamar medina if he is to use anything other than wine or grape juice for bentsching (or Havdalah).  Note: It is the opinion of HaRav Elyashiv, Z’tl, and HaRav Scheinberg, Z’tl, that coffee and tea would be considered chamar medina. 


2.  Chazal teach that a Kos Shel Bracha must be cleaned inside and outside before use.  HaRav Nissim Karelitz, Shlita, rules that if the kos was cleaned on the previous Motza’ei Shabbos, it need not be cleaned again for Kiddush on Friday night.  Similarly, if the kos was cleaned prior to being put away last and is now intended to be used for bentsching, one need not re-wash it. 


3.  The Kos Shel Bracha should be held a tefach (3-4 inches) above the table, in order to fulfill the Pasuk of “ Kos Yeshuos Esah...”.  If the kos has a long stem, HaRav Shlomo Zalman Auerbach, Z’tl, rules that one can hold the kos a tefach from where the kos is attached to the stem, and not a tefach from the bottom of the stem (its base).  Although the minhag ha’olam appears to be to hold the cup only until the conclusion of the fourth bracha--LeOlam Al Yechasereinu, the Chacham Tzvi, the Kaf HaChaim, and the Shevet HaLevi all rule that the kos should be held until one makes a Borei Pri HaGafen over it after bentsching. 


4.  The person leading the zimun should say at least the entire first bracha aloud, and all should follow along with him in an undertone, in order to properly fulfill the Mitzvah of zimun.  The mezamen should then only go ahead a bit at the end, so that all can answer amen to his bracha. 


5.  One must appreciate how important it is not to disturb his bentsching.  As we have noted in the past, the Yesod V’Shoresh HaAvodah brings in his tzava’ah to his children that he would daven before he bentsched that nobody would knock on his door during bentsching, which would disturb his concentration.  In any event, one is not allowed to talk or to greet someone during bentsching (including doing things with one’s cellphone), and in fact the Kaf HaChaim writes that one must treat the bentsching as Shemone Esrei--and not even answer to Kaddish, Kedusha, or Barchu, but just listen and be a ‘Shome’ah K’Oneh’.  It follows then, HaRav Shlomo Zalman Auerbach rules, that one would not answer Amen to the brachos of another person bentsching together with him--even if one is in between brachos--except for answering Amen to the person leading the zimun.  The Ben Ish Chai rules that once one begins the HaRachamans at the end of bentsching he can answer Amen, but of course he still cannot speak generally.  Note:  As far as what one can answer in the bracha of HaTov V’HaMaitiv, see the Aruch HaShulchan (Orach Chaim 183:8).


6.  If a man has eaten to satiation and is unsure whether he bentsched or not, he must bentsch ‘again’ for bentsching is a Mitzvah D’Oraysa.  If a child has eaten to satiation and is unsure whether he bentsched or not, HaRav Shlomo Zalman Auerbach rules that he should bentsch again so that he learns that when he reaches Bar Mitzvah he would have to bentsch if he finds himself in a similar situation--even though the child’s current obligation is MiD’Rabbanan. Similarly, if a child has eaten less than a kezayis, HaRav Shlomo Zalman Auerbach rules that if he is nevertheless satiated he should bentsch--for he must learn that when he is satiated he will have a Mitzvah D’Oraysa to bentsch when he comes of age.  There is a difference of opinion among authorities as to how a child who is first learning should bentsch--i.e., whether he should learn one bracha of bentsching at a time and bentsch what he knows until he finally learns the entire bentsching, or whether the child should say a little bit from each bracha.  HaRav Shlomo Zalman Auerbach, for instance, rules that the child should learn one bracha at a time.  HaRav Elyashiv, Z’tl, rules that the child should say a portion of every bracha, and this appears to be the ruling of the Mishna Berurah as well (see Shulchan Aruch, Orach Chaim 186; Mishna Berurah seif katan 4). 


7.  There is a difference of opinion among authorities as to whether a woman who ate to satiation and is unsure whether she bentsched, should nevertheless bentsch.  Although the Mishna Berurah rules that the woman can bentsch, the Kaf HaChaim writes that another eitzah for her would be to make HaMotzi, eat another kezayis, and bentsch --having in mind her previous eating as well. 


8.  When one says ‘Amen’ after U’Vnei Yerushalayim, it is in order to distinguish the first three brachos of bentsching from the last bracha--as the first three are MiD’oraysa--and the last is MiD’Rabbanan.  However, one should not wait more than 2-3 seconds between the words ‘Yerushalayim’ and ‘Amen’.


9.  The Aruch HaShulchan (Orach Chaim 189:2) writes that the bracha of HaTov V’HaMaitiv, which was instituted over the fallen of Beitar being taken to burial in their whole state so many years after their death at the hands of the Romans, is intended to teach us that even when Hashem is upset with us he does not leave us and still performs miracles and wonders on our behalf. 


10. If one ate and bentsched in MetLife Stadium, in the HaRachamans would he recite a bracha for ‘Ba’al HaBayis HaZeh’?  Actually, the proper Nusach would appear to be “HaRachaman Hu Yishlach Lanu Bracha Meruba BeHalichaseinu U’VeYeshivaseinu Ahd Olam”.  This would likewise appear to be the Nusach on an airplane, and in similar public or communal locations (see Shulchan Aruch, Orach Chaim 193, Mishna Berurah seif katan 27).  One must--as always--consult with his own Rav or Posek in all areas of particular doubt, circumstance or application!





PARSHAS HAYIRAH:  This week’s Parsha contains within it what is known by many as the Parshas HaYirah. The Parshas HaYirah, together with a short and powerful Tefillah, is found in many Siddurim after daily Shacharis. Even if we may not have enough time after Shacharis to recite the Parshas HaYirah every day, it would certainly behoove us to do so at least one time this week (...especially if you read the Parshas HaMan on the Tuesday of  Parshas Beshalach).  We add that if the Parshas HaYirah is in THIS WEEK’S PARSHA, we should view it, BeHashgacha Pratis, as a wake-up call for us to elevate ourselves in our personal Yiras Shomayim.  In this regard, we note that the Talmidei Rabbeinu Yonah at the outset of Mesechta Brachos teach that the Ikar HaYirah--the Essence of Yiras Shomayim is Lizaheir MaiHasefeikos  Vesheloh La’asos HaMitzvos Ahl Derech Hahergel--to stay clear of doubtful actions and not to do Mitzvos out of habit.’  Every day this week --one can apply this definition whenever he can--and see how he climbs the ladder of Yiras Shomayim!



Special Note One:  We continue with our study of the Nineteen Brachos of Shemone Esrei. This week we focus on the Fourteenth Bracha of Shemone Esrei--Binyan Yerushalayim--Rebuilding Yerushalayim.  We continue with the phrase VeSishkon Besocha Ka’asher Dibarta--and dwell in Yerushalayim as You had said.  The Avnei Eliyahu notes that the phrase following this one --U’vnei Osah--refers to the building of Yerushalayim, and pointedly asks--aren’t things out of order, should not that request come first--once Yerushalayim is built, then and only then will the Shechina be able to dwell there?! One suggested answer is that Hashem in fact dwells in Yerushalayim right now--what we are davening for with the words VeSishkon Besocha is that this remains the case until the Binyan Yerushalayim--for we know that we can take nothing for granted--and if we have been undeserving to have Yerushalayim rebuilt until this point, then c’v maybe we could lose our zechus to the Shechina. (We had ‘a taste’ of this bitter pill when we were forced to be distanced from the Shechina at the Kosel from 1948-1967.) This being the case, to what Pasuk are we referring to with the term Ka’asher Dibarta--as You had said?  Based upon the foregoing thought, writes Rebbi Avraham Ben Hag’ra, the Pasuk  is Vehashimosi Es Mikdosheichem--I will make desolate your sanctuaries (Vayikra 26:31), which Chazal explain teaches us that we will still have sanctuaries--the Shechina among us in some form --even after the Bais HaMikdash is destroyed.  Indeed, explains HaRav Chaim Friedlander, Z’tl, we must realize that the reason we cannot enter the Makom HaMikdash today is because of the Kedushas HaShechina which still rests there.  Obviously, with a rebuilt Yerushalayim the Kedushas HaShechina at the same spot will grow in ways we cannot imagine.  The Avudraham accordingly writes that we blend the phrase VeSishkon Besocha together with the next phrase of U’Vnei osah--the rebuilding of  Yerushalayim--so that Ka’asher Dibarta refers to the future Yerushalayim--Veshachanti Besoch Yerushalayim (Zecharia 8:3).  To bring the thoughts together--in this one phrase of VeSishkon Besocha Ka’asher Dibarta --we are davening for the Shechina to stay with us no matter what and that the Kosel remain the Kosel for us--and that we soon come to the day that we can feel and appreciate the Shechina in levels of Kedusha never before experienced!



Special Note Two:  Remarkably, the Daf Yomi has just begun Mesechta Brachos, and this week’s Parsha contains the Mitzvah of Birkas HaMazon--the most renowned Bracha in the Torah!  Accordingly, it is especially appropriate that we provide several points and pointers relating to meals and Birkas HaMazon (Shulchan Aruch, Orach Chaim 179-182), as excerpted from the Mishna Berurah, Dirshu edition:




1.  If one finished his meal and washed Mayim Achronim, or picked up a Kos in order to lead bentsching, he can no longer eat and drink, and should not even speak (even Divrei Torah) until he has bentsched.  If the Ba’al HaBayis said “Let’s bentsch” and then someone wants to drink, he must make a new bracha on the drink.  If one wants to eat, it is a Machlokes Rishonim as to whether he must make a new bracha or not.  Accordingly, the Mishna Berurah rules that lechatchila one should be careful not to eat after the Ba’al HaBayis has said “Let’s bentsch”.  If, however, the Ba’al HaBayis has merely said “Let’s wash our hands”, the Ben Ish Chai rules that one may continue to eat and drink--as this is not the equivalent of “Let’s bentsch”. Similarly, the reciting of Shir HaMa’alos or Al Naharos Bavel do not in and of themselves end the Seudah, and one can continue to eat afterwards (unless, of course, one had decided that he no longer intended to eat). 


2.  One should leave over a piece of bread on the table while bentsching in order to demonstrate how Hashem provides for everyone’s needs, and so that the bracha of bentsching has something to rest upon (like the oil of Elisha).  HaRav Elyashiv, Z’tl, rules, however, that leaving something on the table is only necessary for bentsching, and need not be done for Al HaMichya. 


3.  If there are crumbs left over at the end of a meal, HaRav Scheinberg, Z’tl, rules that it is better to give them to an animal than to dispose of them. 


4.  Although we are required to take knives off the table for bentsching (because the table is like a Mizbe’ach and items similar to items of war do not belong on a Mizbe’ach, and in order to avoid a person stabbing himself with the knife when thinking about the current status of Yerushalayim as he recites U’Vnei Yerushalayim), HaRav Moshe Feinstein, Z’tl, rules that this is not true of a spreading knife, such as a butter knife.  There is a disagreement as to whether the knife must be taken off the table or can simply be covered.  The Kaf HaChaim (al pi kabbalah) writes that the knife must be taken off the table, while the Steipeler Gaon, Z’tl, and HaRav Scheinberg, Z’tl, both rule that the knife can be covered--and even then only the sharp part of the knife need be covered, and not the handle.  There is also a disagreement among the Poskim as to whether a knife which is not made of metal such as a plastic knife need be covered. The Shevet HaLevi, Shlita, rules that it must be covered, while the Tehillah L’Dovid rules that only metal knives need be covered.  On Shabbos and Yom Tov, the Shulchan Aruch writes that it is the Minhag not to remove or cover knives on the table during bentsching. 


5.  Even though we do not have Melech Sedomis, which is the physical reason given for which Mayim Achronim is required, the Sefer Peleh Yoetz writes that we must nevertheless fulfill the Halachos of Mayim Achronim--for even if the physical salt which blinds the eye no longer exists and need not be washed away--we must still follow the words of the Chachomim, so that our Einei Sechel V’Nefesh--the eyes of our intellect and soul remain intact, for “the words of the Chachomim reach the Heavens--and their essence is uplifted and exalted!”




Special Note One:  We continue our regular Monday/Thursday listing of the Mitzvos Asei which the Chofetz Chaim writes are applicable in our times, as set forth in his Sefer Mitzvos HaKatzar. Today, we present Mitzvos 53 and 54:


53.  LeKadesh Bechoros--this is the Mitzvas Asei to sanctify the first born males born of Jewish mothers, and the first born of domesticated animals owned by Jews.  Even though they are inherently sanctified, it is nevertheless a Mitzvah to say “Harei Zeh Kadosh”.  In our times, with respect to domesticated animals, we let the animal graze until it obtains a blemish, and it belongs to the Kohen.  This Mitzvah applies equally to men and women.


54.  Pidyon HaBen--this is the Mitzvas Asei to redeem the first born son of Jewish mothers by giving a Kohen five selaim (or personal property worth that much), and the Kohen is free to do whatever he would like with the five selaim or its equivalent.  If the father of the boy is a Kohen or Levi, or the mother is the daughter of a Kohen or Levi, then there is no Mitzvah of Pidyon HaBen.  The Pidyon HaBen should be performed 30 days after the child is born.  If the child has not had a Pidyon HaBen by the time of his Bar Mitzvah, he should redeem himself upon his Bar Mitzvah.  This Mitzvah applies in all places and at all times.



Special Note Two:  We continue with our study of the Nineteen Brachos of Shemone Esrei.  This week we focus on the Fourteenth Bracha of Shemone Esrei--Binyan Yerushalayim--The Rebuilding of Yerushalayim.  Rebbi Yonasan Eibishitz, Z’tl, writes in the Sefer Ya’aros Devash that Yerushalayim is called a Kisei Hashem, and poignantly asks:  “If the Malochim above call out with cries and lamentations day and night over the Churban Yerushalayim, if the Malochim of the heavens are Aveilei Tzion, then how could we be silent and not cry over the Chillul Hashem of Churban Yerushalayim and the current loss of Malchus Bais Dovid?!”  We begin with the phrase:  V’lirushalayim Ircha B’Rachamim Tashuv--and to Yerushalayim Your City return with mercy.”  HaRav Chaim Friedlander, Z’tl, teaches that we emphasize that we are not asking for Hashem’s return to His City for our sake--but rather we are asking for Hashem to return for His Sake--because it is His City.  We know that as a result of His return anyone who travels there will be enveloped by its Kedusha and will be raised greatly in his level of Yiras Shomayim (see Bava Basra 21A, Tosfos d’h Ki MiTzion).  By specifically asking Hashem that He return with mercy, we are asking for His Midas HaRachamim to overtake and overcome His Midas HaDin.  After all, Yerushalayim has sunk from being the loftiest city on earth to a place beset by tumah and tumos of all kinds--Wo unto some of what our eyes must behold in contemporary Yerushalayim!  Finally, when we daven for Yerushalayim, we notice there the bracha begins with a ‘Vav’.  Some explain that is because we are davening not only for the Yerushalayim here in this world, but also for the Yerushalayim Shel Ma’alah, which is inextricably bound with the Yerushalayim that we see. 



Special Note Three:  We are now “on the other side” of Menachem Av--the second half, which bridges the sad events of the first part of Av with the month of Elul--the month that helps us prepare for the next year, and for the rest of our lives. We are also, concomitantly, in the heat of summer (in the Northern Hemisphere) and at the height of vacation season.  To this end, we provide three short final lessons from Tisha B’Av which we can take with us through the end of the month into Elul--and up to the time that we B’EH will be zoche to greet the Moshiach!:


1.  The beginning of the Haftarah on Tisha B’Av morning begins with the words Asof Asifeim Ne’um Hashem.  Many incorrectly believe that these words mean:  “I will gather them in, says Hashem”.  The real meaning of the phrase is:  “I shall destroy them, says Hashem.”  The paradox is clear--and its meaning should be equally as clear to us.  The same Hebrew letters that can be used to describe destruction can also be used to describe the ingathering of our exiles.  It is up to us which way it will turn out. 


2.  As the Hakhel Tisha B’Av Program, Rabbi Yoni Zakutinsky, Shlita, pointed out that according to our calendar Tisha B’Av always comes out on the same day as the first day of Pesach.  One explanation for this, he taught, is that discord among brothers brought us down to Mitzrayim, and it is the very same discord (Sinas Chinam and Lashon Hara) that brought us into this Galus and keeps us here until today.  When a person r’l sneezes and coughs, has the chills and a stomach ache--the first thing to do is to diagnose what the problem is. Only then will he be able to find a cure. We are a step ahead.  Chazal have diagnosed the problem and have even taught us the cure--how can we not bother to heal ourselves?!


3.  Yirmiyahu HaNavi ( 9:13 ) cries out:  VaYeilchu Acharei Sherirus Libam VeAcharei HaBe’alim Asher Limdum Avosam--they followed the desires of their heart and they followed the idols, as their fathers taught them.”  Incredibly, the Pasuk compares one following the desires of his heart to worshipping idols.  What, then, can one do if following desire is equated with idol worship?  The Ba’alei Mussar on the Pasuk of VeAhavta Es Hashem Elokecha in last week’s Parsha of Shema teach that one can demonstrate his love of Hashem by curbing those very desires--eliminating one here and one there for the sake of Hashem.  Especially in the summer months--when the world around us is especially involved in fulfilling and even furthering the extent of their desires--is it a time of breaking the idols--and curbing our desires in honor of Hashem! The next time you recite VeAhavta Es Hashem Elokecha--think of how you recently demonstrated it!



Special Note Four:  We provide some final notes LeKavod HaTorah V’Lomdeha--in honor of the Torah and those that study it on the commencement of the new Daf HaYomi cycle:


A.  It is said that the Ponovezer Rav, Z’tl, stated that he wanted to build his Yeshiva in Eretz Yisroel to have 1,000 students.  A non-believer asked him:  “What will you do with 1,000 Rabbis?!”  He responded:  “I am not looking to produce 1,000 Rabbis, I am looking to produce 1 Rabbi and 999 Ba’alei Batim who will know what the term ‘Rabbi’ means!”  Hakhel Note:  Those who study the Torah and realize how profound and expansive it is, and how privileged one is to be able to swim even a bit in its sea, can truly understand the Ponovezer Rav’s comment! 


B.  The Chofetz Chaim writes that a ba’al habayis is not obligated to learn all day and all night, but instead should engage in business and set specific time aside for Torah study.  When he does engage in business, however, it must be with honesty and trustworthiness--as the first question that is asked of a person after 120 years is:  Nosata V’Nosota B’Emunah--was it evident in your business dealings that you believed in a Creator, and did you follow the Torah’s dictates in monetary matters?”  The Chofetz Chaim continues that the Yetzer Hara will work hard on the person who knows that as a ba’al habayis  his primary obligation is only to establish set times for Torah study.  The Yetzer Hara will gnaw as follows:  “You cannot possibly keep those times (let alone for 7 1/2 years, but even for the daily study of even only one Mesechta).”  What the Yetzer Hara does not tell the person, however,  is that even when one fails in his daily studies here or there, Hashem looks at the person who is trying to do His will with mercy, and allows him to make amends--and most certainly welcomes Teshuvah in any and every way--whenever necessary!


C.  Chazal teach that while the Beis HaMikdash is not standing what remains for Hashem is the Daled Amos Shel Halacha--our study as to how to properly live by and perform the words of the Torah.  It is essential that with whatever we study--whether it be Daf Yomi, Amud Yomi, Parshas HaShavuah, or any Sefer Mussar, we walk away in some way knowing better what to do in a practical situation or in a meaningful way.  As the Ramban writes to his son in the Igeres HaRamban:  Tichapeis BaAsher Lamadeta, Im Yeish Bo Davar Asher Tuchal LeKayemo--when you are about to get up from your Torah study--look into it to see if you can fulfill something that you did not know or properly understand before.”  Before closing our Gemara, our Chumash, or other Sefer, spend a few moments thinking about (or even writing down) something that you have learned during the study session that you can apply or improve upon in your daily life!




NACHAMU NACHAMU AMI :  The words of the Navi appear to command us to be comforted.  This Shabbos takes on a special aura of Simcha, for now that we have felt how low we have sunk, we, like Rebbi Akiva who saw the wolves coming out of the Beis HaMikdash--now recognize how high we will rise.  Related Note:  This Shabbos, you may want to take a second look at Megillas Eicha--and note the songs that have been composed out of its Pesukim! 



MORE AMAZEMENT!  Today’s Daf, THE FIRST DAF IN SHAS, begins with “Mei’aimasai Korin Es Shema B’Arvin--from when do we recite Shema at night?”  This question in based on the PASUK IN SHEMA found IN THIS WEEK’S PARSHA:  Vedibarta Bam…U’Veshacbecha U’Vekumecha--recite the Shema when you lie down and when you get up.”  Hakhel Note:  Let us be further and further inspired by the beautifully blatant Hashgacha Pratis that Hashem showers upon us!



MORE ON KRIYAS SHEMA: In this week’s Parsha we have the zechus of leining the first Parsha of Kriyas Shema--which is the epitome of Kabbolas Ohl Malchus Shomayim.  We provide by the following link important notes entitled Tefillah Behirah, as published by the Education Enrichment Center.  If one wishes to contact the Center, the contact information is found within the link.




Special Note One:  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 Yisrael.


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 Beis 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 Beis 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 Beis 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 Beis 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 Yisrael 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! 


Additional Note:  We received correspondence from the famed Kollel Chatzos of Beitar (which begins its studies through the night every night with Tikun Chatzos, studies Torah continuously until davening Vasikin, and then has a shiur following davening!) that Tu B’Av is a day of “Hoda’ah VeHamtakas HaDinim VeAz Sha’arei Rachamim Pesuchim U’Mesugalim Me’od--it is a day of thanks and sweetening of judgments, a day in which the gates of mercy are opened and is thus a very auspicious time for Tefillah!”



Special Note Two:  We continue with our focus on the Thirteenth Bracha of Shemone Esrei--Tzadikim--The Righteous.  We conclude the Bracha with:  Baruch Atta Hashem Mishan U’Mivtach LaTzaddikim--…Mainstay and Assurance of the righteous” (Artscroll translation).  What is the difference between Mishan and Mivtach?  HaRav Chaim Kanievsky, Shlita, points to the Malbim who explains the difference in Yeshaya (50:10) on the Pasuk “Yivtach B’Sheim Hashem V’Yishan B’Eilokav” (see there).  In another vein, the Eitz Yosef explains that the term Mishan refers to Hashem’s support of Tzaddikim in Olam Hazeh, and the term Mivtach refers to Hashem’s trustworthiness to support the Tzaddikim in the times of Moshiach and in Olam Habah.  Alternatively, Mishan refers to Hashem’s support of us in our battles against the Yetzer Hara, while the term Mivtach assures us that in spite of all of Hashem’s assistance in helping us fight the Yetzer Hara, He will reward us (if we take His assistance) in full--as if we did it all on our own!  We suggest that according to either interpretation the meaning is that Hashem not only acts as a Mishan, as a cane for support--but also as a Mivtach--standing those who are deserving up on their own in this world--and for eternity!



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


A.  As noted above, we will be leining the first Parsha of Shema this Shabbos.  A reader remarkably pointed out that there are many times that one recites Shema Yisrael on a REGULAR Shabbos: (i) Maariv; (ii) before one goes to sleep; (iii) Karbonos; (iv) Shacharis; (v) before Laining; and (vi) in the Kedusha of Mussaf.  Additional Special Circumstance, when there is a Bris on Shabbos Shema Yisrael may be recited again.


B.  Shabbos is a time when we are less pressured and can bentsch at a slower pace, perhaps reciting the bentsching word-for-word together with everyone at the table.  When going through the bentsching in this manner, it would certainly be appropriate to note whether there is any word that one does not truly understand, and look up its meaning.  By way of example, in the third bracha what does the word ‘Re’einu’ mean?   What do the words ‘Veharvicheinu’ or ‘VeHarvach Lanu’ mean?  What is the difference between Tomid and Bechol Yom?  The difference between Bechol Eis and Bechol Sha’ah?...


C.  The Mishna Berurah (Shulchan Aruch, Orach Chaim 188; seif katan 12) writes that the reason Retzeih VeHachalitzeinu is inserted on Shabbos in the bracha of Bonei Yerushalayim is because it is a Bakashas Rachamim--just as the bracha Bonei Yerushalayim is a Bakashas Rachamim from Hashem.  In fact, the Mishna Berurah adds that if one recited Retzeih VeHachalitzeinu in Nodeh Lecha, he is not Yotzei and must recite it again in the bracha of Bonei Yerushalayim.  As we have noted in the past, if one realizes that he did not recite Retzei before he said the words of ‘HaTov VeHameitiv’, then he recites a special bracha to replace Retzei as follows:  Baruch Atta Hashem Elokeinu Melech HaOlam SheNassan Shabbasos LeMenucha LeAmo Yisrael B’Ahava LeOs U’l’bris Baruch Atta Hashem MeKadesh HaShabbos.  If one is not sure whether or not he recited Retzei because he is very tired, he can assume that he did not recite it (ibid., seif katan 16).  This is yet another reason why it is beneficial to recite bentsching together--it not only increases Kavannah, but the strength of togetherness is mutually supportive! 


D.  Last week we were not zoche to partake of Seudas Melave Malka.  May we suggest that this week we should be especially careful to observe Melave Malka in a way which will try to ‘make up’ what we missed last week.  The Mesivta Zemiros brings in the name of the G’ra that he was careful to eat at least a Kezayis of hot or warm bread for Melave Malka, and would urge others to do so as well.  We note that the Mishna Berurah (Shulchan Aruch, Orach Chaim 295) writes that one should recite the Tefillah of Ribon HaOlamim found in almost all Siddurim and bentschers on Motza’ei Shabbos, for its source is in the Yerushalmi (Brachos 5:2) and in the Tur.  This Tefillah is replete with requests of Hashem for Hatzlacha in the coming week!


Special Note Four:  We provide the following points and pointers on this week’s Parsha:


A.  The Pasuk (Devarim 4:4) teaches:  V’Atem HaDeveikim BaHashem Elokeichem Chaim Kulchem HaYom--but you who cling to Hashem--you are all alive today.”  The Ba’al HaTurim on this Pasuk notes that there is a tag on the kuf of HaDeveikim, to teach us the importance of reciting 100 brachos a day (the Gematria of kuf is 100).  Perhaps the explanation of this Ba’al HaTurim is that an essential way one can cling to Hashem is by reciting his 100 brachos a day properly and with Kavannah.  We that in the Aseres HaDibros in this week’s Parsha, we learn that we are not to recite Hashem’s Name in vain (Lo Sisah).  It behooves us, then, to take special care to not only have special Kavannah when reciting the words “Shehakol Nehiyeh Bidvaro” or “Borei Nefashos Rabbos”, but, also most certainly when reciting the Name of Hashem itself.  In the Siddur Bais Yaakov, HaRav Yaakov Emden, Z’tl, teaches that a key cause of our ongoing Galus is the inappropriate and careless manner in which we pronounce the words of our Tefillos.  He painfully states that this reason alone is a sufficient reason for us to languish in Galus.  With the proper care in recitation of our brachos and Tefillos we can be zoche not only to be Deveikim BaHashem Elokeichem…but we can also be zoche to the time when we will speak Lashon HaKodesh all the time…together with K’lal Yisrael and the rest of the world! 


B.  This week’s Parsha contains the essential three-word message we carry with us 24/7 of "Ain Od Milevado--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!


C.    It is no “coincidence” (as it never is) that we always read the first Parsha of Shema 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 concluded the Siyum HaShas--and 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 Ohl Malchus Shomayim, and the separate Mitzvah of Kriyas Shema.


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


3.  ”Yisrael” 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, so that the meaning of the word is not mistakenly changed from the future to the past),” 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 Mishna 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--today--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 Yisrael 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--”Yisrael Asher Becha Espa’ar--the People of Israel--in whom I glory!”







A.  “Not only is the mitzvah of Talmud Torah Merumaz in this week's Parsha, but I saw this morning as I was being Ma’avir Sedra, which I do on a daily, aliya-by-aliya basis, that the Pasuk referred to in Your email is in REVI'I--THE DAY OF THE SIYUM!  The Hashgacha is not just the weekly Parshas VaEschanan--but the daily Shenayim Mikrah as well!!  I almost fell off my chair, and jumped from Simcha!


B.  I think you might have mentioned R' Dolgin's wonderful chazara method in the past.  I just found that they have a very nice website that might encourage your readers to incorporate chazara into their learning schedule:  http://www.shaschabura.org




QUESTIONS OF THE DAY :  For those who will be beginning the Daf Yomi cycle tomorrow:


1.  What is the difference between ‘Tanya’ and ‘Tanu Rabbanan’?


2.  What is the difference between ‘Tanya’ and ‘Tonna’?




Special Note One:  We continue our regular Monday/Thursday listing of the Mitzvos Asei which the Chofetz Chaim writes are applicable in our times, as set forth in his Sefer Mitzvos HaKatzar. Today, we present Mitzvos 51and 52:


51.  Matnos Kehunah--this is the Mitzvas Asei for anyone who shechts an animal to give to the Kohen the right foreleg, maw and stomach of the animal, known as the ‘Zeroah, Lechayayim and Keivah’.  The Chofetz Chaim here describes the exact areas of the animal to be given to the Kohen, and notes that these areas are collectively referred to as the ‘Matanos’ in Shas.  The Kohen who receives them can sell them, give them away to a Yisrael, or do anything that he wants with them, for they have no Kedusha whatsoever associated with them.  In our times, the Minhag is like Rabbi Ilai, and we do not give these gifts.  There are, however, some who are machmir and do so.  It is appropriate to be machmir in this way, in order to fulfill this Mitzvas Asei. 


52.  Reishis HaGez--this is the Mitzvas Asei to give of the first shearings of one’s sheep to a Kohen.  This is provided that the person has at least five sheep, who must have a minimum amount of wool.  There is no shiur Mid’Oraysa, but MiD’Rabanan, one should give one-sixtieth of the shearings.  The Minhag today, as well as the chumra, is as stated above in Mitzvah 51 relating to the ‘Matanos’. 



Special Note Two:  We continue with our focus on the Thirteenth Bracha of Shemone Esrei--Tzadikim--The Righteous.  The next phrase is:  VeSim Chelkeinu Imahem LeOlam VeLo Neivosh Ki Vecha Batachnu--put our lot with them forever, and we will not feel ashamed for we trust in You.”  HaRav Chaim Friedlander, Z’tl, explains that by the word LeOlam, forever, we ask Hashem to guide us so that we live spiritual lives--for these are the values that last forever and do not change with the times.  If we lead this kind of Ruchniyus-focused life, then we will never be embarrassed.  How does one primarily lead a spiritually focused life?  This answer is in our Bracha as well--by Ki Vecha Batachnu--through his constant awareness of Hashem and his unfettered trust and Deveikus in Him.  The Sefer Ya’aros Devash (brought in the Eitz Yosef) poignantly explains that when one is embarrassed merely in this world, it is before another human being, and the embarrassment will only last for a certain amount of time.  Just as the shadow passes, so too will the embarrassment.  This is not so for spiritual embarrassment--which will last in Olam Haba as well.  Not only will the Malachim stay away from the person who is spiritually defiled, continues the Ya’aros Devash, but even the Neshamos of the relatives of that person will stand from afar and exclaim:  “What have you done that you have brought such shame and disgrace upon yourself for all eternity?!”  This is most certainly an embarrassment that we would all want to avoid--and we can if we act properly in this world.  In our Bracha, we ask Hashem to help save us from this embarrassment through strengthening our Bitachon in Him--so that we will be spiritually successful forever!



Special Note Three:  In further honor of the Siyum HaShas, we provide the following brief notes on the study of Torah:


A.  The obvious tie-in to the Siyum occurring at this time is twofold: 


1.  Our pristine and ultimate study of Torah will only occur when the Beis HaMikdash is rebuilt--as we recite three times a day in our concluding worlds of Shemone Esrei:  Yehi RatzonSheyibaneh Bais HaMikdash BeMiheirah VeYameinu VeSein Chelkeinu BeSorasecha…. Whenever we learn, we can remind ourselves to daven for the rebuilding of the Beis HaMikdash--so that we will learn even better!


2.  One of the reasons for the great celebration of the 15th of Av (tomorrow) is that the nights become longer--allowing for more time for the study of Torah at night.  One is reminded to use every precious moment that he can--and treasure it to the extent that those extra few minutes can create a ‘Yom Tov’ for him!


B.  The Posuk (Mishlei 4:22) states:  Ki Chaim Heim LeMotzeihem….”  Chazal teach ‘Al Tikrah LeMotzeihem Ela ‘LeMotzieihem BePeh’--the Torah gives life to those who express the words of Torah with their mouths.  Accordingly, an outstanding bli neder commitment for one who is starting the new Daf Yomi cycle would be to read the words of the Daf aloud--and even if he is listening to a Shiur to say the words (in a low manner!) as the Maggid Shiur is saying them as well.  This is, of course, true of any and all Torah study, as well.


C.  One should keep a notebook or record of his own personal novel thoughts or unique ideas.  All Torah study of each individual in all generations following Matan Torah originated at Har Sinai.  One should make sure to do his part in putting down his contributions to Torah--after all, they truly originated at Har Sinai! 


D.  The Chofetz Chaim (Sefer Shem Olam, Chapter 9) teaches that for every word of Torah studied, one fulfills a separate Mitzvah and a new advocate for the person is created in the Heavens.  Keep the advocates coming and coming!


E.  There is a famous story of the person who is told in the Olam HaEmes that he had not given charity in accordance with his means, while alive in Olam Hazeh.  He promptly took out his checkbook.  However, he was told:  “Here, we do not take checks--only receipts.”  The same is, of course, true of Torah study.  One who studies a Mesechta here will have a familiarity with it in the higher world.  One who does not, will not.  The world we live and breathe in is indeed a temporal world--but one with everlasting results!


E.  HaRav Eliya Lopian, Z’tl, explains that when Chazal (Nedarim 81A) teach that we were exiled from Eretz Yisrael because we did not make brachos on the Torah, Chazal mean that they studied Torah not for its own sake, but only as a means to know how to perform this Mitzvah or that Mitzvah.  When Torah is not studied for its own sake, then it does not deserve its own bracha--for it is not its own Mitzvah but a part of the Mitzvah that it is being studied for.  We must, accordingly, study Torah for its own sake, as a separate, stand-alone, incomparable Mitzvah.  We can then utter the brachos of Torah every morning with joy and feeling!


F.  Chazal teach that in order for one’s Torah to remain with him, he must specifically daven to Hashem for Siyata D’Shemaya (see Megillah 6B and Niddah 70B).  May we suggest that with the beginning of the new cycle, one spend the extra moment in the Bracha of Atta Chonen LeAdam Da’as, asking Hashem for success in his Torah studies.  Additionally, if one is experiencing a particular difficulty in understanding, he can daven to Hashem for Siyata D’Shemaya at that time.  It is said that when HaRav Chaim Shmulevitz, Z’tl, would have difficulty in his studies, he would move closer to the Aron HaKodesh and daven to Hashem for His assistance.  Each and every one of us can do likewise!


Always remember--“Yekarah He MiPininim VeChol Chafatzeha Lo Yishvu Vah (Mishlei 3:15 )--the Torah is more precious than diamonds, and nothing, simply nothing can equate to it!”  Let us keep this Pasuk on our lips as well!




Special Note One:  We continue with our focus on the Thirteenth Bracha of Shemone Esrei--Tzadikim--The Righteous.  We continue with the phrase:  Visein Sachar Tov Lechol HaBotechim BeShimcha B’Emes--and give good reward to all who truly believe in Your Name.”  HaRav Chaim Friedlander, Z’tl, asks a pointed question--why do we ask for reward--certainly we know that Hashem will reward those who deserve it?  Do we need to c’v remind Hashem about reward?!  Rashi teaches us more than once in Chumash:  Ani Hashem--Ne’eman LeShaleim Sechar--Hashem tells us that He is trustworthy to give everyone his just rewards.”  It is for this reason that the Sefer Iyun Tefillah teaches that the ‘good reward’ here does not refer to reward in the usual sense for those who do good, but rather it is a request that those who demonstrate their belief in Hashem do not falter, so that all can see that those who believe in Him succeed, and do not fall away, embarrassed or ashamed.  Thus, our request here is that Hashem fulfill the hopes of those who believe in Him, so that a Kiddush Hashem results--as all see that Hashem answers the request of those who believe in Him.  The Dover Shalom explains in a different vein that we are making a request of Hashem on behalf of those who demonstrate their true bitachon in Him--that aside from listening to their please, Hashem reward them simply for truly believing in Him!  



Special Note Two:  We provide below several points relating to post Tisha B’Av lessons:



A.  At the Hakhel gathering on Tisha B’Av, Rabbi Zecharia Wallerstein, Shlita, provided powerful messages.  Here are just four:


1.  To demonstrate our true dedication to Hashem, we should express and feel unconditional love towards Him.  As Shlomo HaMelech, the wisest of men, teaches:  Ki Cholas Ahava Ani--Hashem I am sick with love for You.”  We should really come to this on our own, based upon all the goodness that He gives to us every day, and every moment of the day, but Chazal really make it easier for us in the brachos of Ahava Raba and Ahavas Olam every morning and evening.  As Rabbi Wallerstein points out, before we recite Shema in which we state our love of Hashem, we first in Ahava Raba, refer to Hashem’s love of us six different times within the course of the bracha.  In Ahavas Olam, in the evening, Hashem’s love of us is referred to four different times before we refer to our love of Him in Shema.  It is easier to express our unconditional love, to someone--if they first express their unconditional love of us!


2.  It is wrong, very wrong, to cry over something that is not real.  One who cries over the words of a novel, is living in an unreal world and is wasting his ‘zaiyas hanefesh’--the outward expression of his inner soul, which are his tears. 


3.  We must realize that our inanimate technological devices have no feelings, and are not our most precious possessions.  We should use them as and when we need them and not allow them to interfere with our Torah and our Tefillos.  As Rabbi Wallerstein starkly put it, if a person needs a plunger to clean a stuffed toilet, he does not walk around all day holding onto and showing off the unstuffing device.  One’ s phone is very much the same kind of service tool. 


4.  When giving Tochacha, helpful rebuke, one should point out to the person he is rebuking:  “I truly care about you, and that is why I am telling this to you.”  As Rabbi Wallerstein explains--with your rebuke you are conveying your unconditional love about that person for you care about them not only to the extent of today, tomorrow, this week or even this year--but, instead, to the extent of their eternity!


B.  What is really so, so bad about Sinas Chinam?  How could it really be compared to the three horrible Aveiros of Gilui Arayos, Shefichas Damim and Avodah Zara combined?  The Sefer Sha’arei Teshuva (3:39) sheds important light on the issue.  There, Rabbeinu Yonah teaches that this Middah brings about peshaim rabbim and aliylos nishchasos.  Rabbeinu Yonah then gives a sampling of the terrible results that Sinas Chinam leads to:  (i) Lashon Hara; (ii) Drishas Ra’ah--seeking to do bad to another; (iii) Simcha L’eid--being happy at the fall of another; (iv) Graam Nezek--causing injury; (v) Nekima U’Netira--harboring of a grudge and revenge; and finally: (vi) Me’abedes Tova Harbeh Min HaNefesh--it causes the soul to lose much of its good.  HaRav Mattisyahu Salomon, Shlita, on the words of Rabbeinu Yonah here, brings the teaching of HaRav Yecheskel Levenstein, Z’tl, to further explain the truly horrific implications of Sinas Chinam.  HaRav Levenstein explains that if one ties himself firmly to the rest of K’lal Yisrael through the Mitzvah of VeAhavta L’Reiacha Kamocha, then he becomes part of the K’lal, and is zoche in their zechuyos.  On the other hand, one who feels enmity or hatred for another breaks those bonds with the K’lal, and loses the zechuyos of the K’lal as well.  When Chazal teach that the Second Beis HaMikdash was destroyed because of Sinas Chinam, they are teaching that in effect there was no K’lal Yisrael, and so there was no need for a Beis HaMikdash to serve K’lal Yisrael.  HaRav Eliya Lopian, Z’tl, would give the following Mashal, which allows us to further understand the danger of ill feelings towards another:  Two men were arrested for producing counterfeit money.  One was placed in jail for ten years, and the other for twenty years.  What was the difference?  The first was found with counterfeit money in his possession as he was walking about.  The second was found with the actual counterfeiting machine.  The first person only had the money in his possession to act improperly with.  The second person could produce more and more counterfeit money in the future.  One who possesses the Middah of Sinas Chinam, is like one who is able to:  speak Lashon Hara; bear a grudge; take revenge; etc.--all on a daily, continuous basis.  It is for this reason that one must make a special effort to rid himself of this terrible Middah.  One more point:  Chazal teach that the Second Beis HaMikdash was destroyed because of the incident of Kamtza/Bar Kamtza.  By this, Chazal are teaching that it is not the masses of sinners that we look to, nor the tens of thousands, nor even the hundreds, but instead, one must look into singular, particular deeds--the deeds of the individual--to make sure that one has no element of Kamtza/Bar Kamtza within him at any time and for any reason.  Simply stated--just as Kamtza/Bar Kamtza brought the Galus--Ploni/Bar Ploni (you/someone you know) can bring the Geulah! 


Other email archives