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24 Elul 5773


THE TWIN TOWERS: A reader questioned why we did not refer yesterday to the twelfth anniversary (23 Elul 5761) of the death and destruction wreaked upon the world by enemies of mankind. This is a date that we assumed everyone knew, and we hope that everyone recited some Tehillim in commemoration of it. [We were advised that, BeHashgacha Geluya, one of the Torah Jews who was killed then had a grandson (son’s son) last week and that the bris is to take place just around now.]  It is known that HaRav Chatzkel Levenstein, Z’tl, in commenting on the earthquakes in Japan during his time which killed so many explained that one must learn and internalize all of these events--for otherwise one would not have heard of it. Most certainly, then, must the Twin Towers tragedy, which occurred in the midst of New York City and took the lives of Kedoshim must not be something that is far from glossed over. If one did not recite heartfelt Tehillim or give Tzedaka to demonstrate our awareness of this, it is not too late.





1. When bringing a new box of cereal into the house, if it not a Heimeshe brand which has the brachos on the box, to first write the appropriate brachos combination on the box before putting it into the pantry--so that no child or adult will make an improper bracha. Hakhel Note: If one does not know the proper brachos--then he either should not purchase the item until he does, or he should treat it as an equivalent of a non-toiveled item and put it in an inaccessible place until the proper brachos are determined. Imagine how many brachos levatala will be avoided over the course of a year!


2. The cell phone Kabbalah! To some, the Kabbalah will be a special restraint while in the car, to others--it will be self-control while walking on the street or in a store, and yet to others it will be personal discipline in the hallway of a shul.  We are not even suggesting total ‘perishus’ in any one of these areas--but perhaps at least beginning with thinking twice before taking it out and making it into another appendage of your body at these points of your day.  A person can really get to know himself or develop a thought, for example, while walking--is that phone call, text or email so absolutely necessary, so really urgent for the moment?!


3. Taking steps to clear one’s mind before davening Mincha. As we have noted in the past, the Rashba writes that Tefillas Mincha is an Eis Ratzon. Making the effort to clear one’s mind in the middle of a busy day can raise your Tefillos to the highest of heights--accomplishing great things for your own life and for all of K’lal Yisrael!


4. HaRav Nosson Wachtfogel, Z’tl, teaches that one should make Kabbalos relating to the beginning of something--the beginning of davening, the beginning of learning, the beginning of a Mitzvah--for when the beginning is proper there is a greater opportunity for the remainder of the act to be much more uplifted and elevated.



IMPORTANT NOTE ON SELICHOS: HaRav Wachtfogel, also teaches that one should not skip Selichos--but one should spend time on those Selichos that arouse him more--for the tachlis of Selichos is to be aroused to Teshuvah!



HILCHOS SUKKOS! We continue our two Halachos a day in the 30-day period before Sukkos. We remind our readers to study Hilchos Sukkos on their own on Shabbos and on Sunday:


1. Yesterday, we noted that the chiyuv of a katan in Sukkah begins at an early age. What if it is late in the evening, and a father wants to eat or learn in the Sukkah, while his son wants to go to sleep--but cannot do so with the light on. HaRav Chaim Kanievsky, Shlita teaches that the father can stay in the Sukkah, and that the son can go to sleep in the house. Additionally, HaRav Kanievsky continues, the father does not have to awaken the child and bring him into the Sukkah when the father is ready to turn off the light--as the Halacha would be the same as someone who has gone to sleep inside the house because it is raining in the Sukkah (Shulchan Aruch Orach Chaim 640, Dirshu Note 3).


2. The Mishna Berurah appears to rule that when sleeping in the Sukkah at night, one should also have a table in the Sukkah as well (SA OC 640, Mishna Berurah seif katan 27). There are different opinions among the Achronim as to whether the Mishna Berurah means that the table actually has to be there and open all night. HaRav Shlomo Zalmen Auerbach, Shlita, for instance, writes that the text in the Mishna Berurah is a ta’us sofer--especially as the Mogen Avraham rules that one can remove a table from the Sukkah in order to sleep there. However, HaRav Moshe Shternbuch, Shlita, writes that the Chofetz Chaim did in fact keep his table in the Sukkah while sleeping there. HaRav Shternbuch explains the reason--the Sukkah has to be as a dwelling--which typically has both a table and a bed (ibid., Dirshu Note 24).




Special Note One: Today is the Yahrzeit of the Chofetz Chaim, who serves as a driving force in all of K’lal Yisrael until today.  In his honor, we provide a brief thought of his, which so symbolizes the practicality of his teachings:  “The Seforim teach that when a person is accustomed to a particular middah ra’ah (bad character trait) and acts in that way in front of others, they copy him and he is held accountable for the negative influence he has had on their lives (see Yoma 86A, Rashi d’h Kegon).  Now, continues the Chofetz Chaim, it is known that Hashem’s rewards are greater than His punishments (Sanhedrin 100B)--and so, all the more so will a Mitzvah or middah tovah that one has and which is copied by others become a source of great merit for him--as he obtains a chelek in their Ma’asim Tovim.”  Hakhel Note:  As an example, if one consistently and continuously uses his tongue for the power of the positive, complimenting, thanking, and really not speaking Lashon Hara, then others readily recognize (especially with a little encouragement!) that there is a standard to live up to and a beautiful reality to follow--and every time they do so, they bring merit to the originator!  The Chofetz Chaim’s lesson to each and every one of us is that no one is isolated, no one stands alone.  As we do Teshuvah in a particular area or in a particular way, let us take the words of the Chofetz Chaim to heart and bring those around us who may have had a similar fallibility or fault back with us--for our own merit and the merit of all of K’lal Yisrael! 


We provide additional teachings of the Chofetz Chaim, excerpted from the excellent Sefer Give Us Life, collected and edited by HaRav Mendel Weinbach, Z’tl:


1.  Everything approaching its end summons all of its energies for a last stand.  A candle’s brightest flame appears before it dies, and it is always darkest before dawn.  The power of evil is approaching its end so it has summoned all of its resources and massed the greatest attack in history on the forces of good.


2.  People often say “This world is also a world,” but the truth is that “Only this world is a world” because only here can a person improve and accomplish.  This is the World of Action, the World to Come is only for the reward.


3.      Good manners require a person to carefully prepare for an audience with an important official.  If one is privileged to see the king, he takes several days to get ready.  So if Chazal tell us that we must prepare for a lifetime before entering the palace of the King of Kings we must appreciate how supremely exalted this palace must be.


4.      The reward mentioned by the Torah for certain Mitzvos such as honoring parents is not their real payment for that is only due in the World to Come.  The small reward we receive in the meantime is like the meals given to the king’s soldiers which are not subtracted from their pay.


5.      Teshuva must be performed with great energy. A person should return to Hashem with at least the same degree of enthusiasm and energy with which he had sinned.


6.      The greatest sinner will be called to account for the slightest wrongdoing because his terrible record is no license for further evil.  The Rambam writes that the wicked King Yerovom will be punished for not fulfilling the mitzvah of Eruv Tavshilin.


7.      Just as there are rich and poor, strong and weak, so do people vary in their talents and abilities in Avodas Hashem.  The Torah therefore commands; “You shall love Hashem with your heart, your soul and your might--each man according to his particular powers.  Additionally, the real meaning of “all your might” is whatever is most precious to you--Chazal knew that to most people money is the most precious item.  However, to someone who Torah and Mitzvos is most precious, he must be prepared to sacrifice even these, if necessary, for the honor of Hashem.  A Rosh Yeshiva, for example, must be prepared to sacrifice his own Torah study--his “all your might”--in order that Torah may flourish among his disciples.


8.      An orderly, efficient shopkeeper knows exactly where each item in his stock is located and its precise value. An orderly Jew does every act with Hashem in mind because he knows that the simplest act--like the simplest ware--can bring a tremendous profit if it is used correctly.


9.       I am neither a Chosid nor a Misnagid.  My only ambition is to fulfill what is written in Shulchan Aruch.  Chazal teach that a person will be asked whether he set aside times for Torah study and whether he dealt honestly in business.  There is no mention of ever being asked whether one is a Chosid or Misnagid.


10.  If you should ask your wife for Shabbos Kugel on Friday she will suggest that you eat something else because “ this Kugel is for Shabbos”. Honor is like Kugel and is only to be enjoyed on the day which is forever Shabbos--Olam Haba.  If you eat the Kugel today, you may go hungry on Shabbos.


11.  Even a small storekeeper keeps a record to know  the small amounts that his customers owe him. Let us not fail to keep records of our life in this world--for it affects us for eternity.


12.  A Torah supporter gives a few copper coins and the institution he supports gives him a share in an eternal Torah.


13.  HaRav Yisroel Salanter, Z’tl, compared momentary interruption in Torah study to the uprooting of two feet of railway track from a line stretching for thousands of miles.  Just as this seemingly insignificant act can wreak havoc upon the railroad, so too can a break in Torah study.


14.  One of the signs given by Chazal of a madman is that he sleeps overnight in a graveyard.  A man has the opportunity of returning from the grave to a new and eternal life by studying or supporting Torah.  If he wastes this opportunity and remains forever sleeping in the graveyard, he is truly a madman.


15.  What good is our Selichos if all we do is tell Hashem our sins?  He knows them well enough already.  Our duty is to resolve not to repeat our foolishness!



Special Note Two: Today, we continue our series in which we will refer to one Ahl Cheit a day through the Yomim Nora’im period, so that we have the opportunity to briefly review each one of them in steady steps. Today, we study the second Ahl Cheit under the letter Samech:


Ahl Cheit Shechatanu Lefanecha BeSiach Sifaseinu--Lip Service


The Torah in this week’s Parsha (Devorim 30:14) requires that Torah be “Beficha U’Vilevavecha La’asoso”. Our mouths must work in synch with our minds. If, however, we learn or we daven or say brachos without proper concentration, then we fail to serve Hashem in the manner that he expects of us. Our words do not have meaning if we put no meaning into them--and serve no purpose towards reaching our potential or attaining our goals in life. Pathway to Prayer importantly notes that the same teaching applies to reciting Amen without the feeling of testimony to one’s belief in his Creator. HaRav Dessler, Z’tl, adds that the term Siach Sifsaseinu also includes sicha be’teilah, or non-constructive talk which serves no purpose and ‘leads to many sins’. It is well-known that HaRav Pam, Z’tl, had the trait of not responding immediately to a question--but instead waited a moment or so--at the very least, the listener would understand the thoughtfulness that must be included in the spoken word!



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


A.  Reminder--As this is the last Erev Shabbos of the year, we may want to think about those Erev Shabbos activities we undertake that may have an effect upon others on Shabbos itself.  For instance, if one living in America sends an email on Erev Shabbos to an uneducated Jew who lives or is vacationing in Europe where it may already be Shabbos--what are the potential issurim that he may be machshil the uneducated Jew in when he reads that email, and then responds by taking action such as making a phone call to a third party--or even simply by answering the email-- typing something in response and exacerbating his conduct clicking “To All” (remembering that an uneducated Jew is still obligated to perform all Mitzvos--whether D’Oraysa or DeRabbanan)?  Similarly, if one sends a ‘cc’ or a ‘bcc’ of an email to someone ‘local’ before Shabbos, but that local person might take action because of the email on Shabbos, one may want to think twice about sending such an email close to Shabbos, before ‘closing up shop for the day’.  Who would want the chillul Shabbos (perhaps even multiple chilul Shabbos) of another Jew on his head--even if the uneducated Jew would quite likely be mechallel Shabbos in some other way during the very same time period, and even if one could perhaps assert in his defense that he wasn’t the direct cause, etc..  Perhaps to rectify any prior misdeeds or borderline types of activities in this area relating to the great and holy Shabbos, one can talk about and explain Shabbos to not-yet-religious Jews, and be decidedly cautious in sending out emails on Erev Shabbos (and Erev Yom Tov)--especially in the afternoon.  Remember, we are to be so careful with Hilchos Shabbos that we are proscribed from blowing the Shofar on Rosh Hashana which falls out on Shabbos--as a gezeira that someone may come to repair musical instruments. We certainly should be careful to avoid any culpability, responsibility or horrible feeling engendered by a non-thinking electronic communication with someone who does not yet know enough to fathom the transgressions he is committing with that seemingly innocent, cc’d email!


B. Likewise, as this is the last Shabbos of the year, it is certainly a time to be especially careful with our Kedushas Shabbos--zemiros, the way we speak, our care with muktza matters, looking up those Shabbos halachos we were unsure of and that we have meant to look up for a long time… and any Inyanei Shabbos that we know could use our personal improvement.


C.  With the slower davening on Shabbos, or at least with the greater ability to start Shacharis a few minutes early if one needs more time--may we once again suggest a special focus on such words as “Melech”, “Chasdecha” and “Rachamim” this Shabbos.  As we have pointed out in the past, the Sefer Mateh Ephraim, the great halachic handbook on the Yomim Noraim, refers to Elul as Yomim HaKedoshim.  By connecting to the Yomim HaKedoshim of Elul on Shabbos Kodesh, we will have added a new and wonderful dimension of Kedusha to our lives.  It is all there for the taking!


D. Reminder: We asked a Posek and Mechaber of Seforim on Hilchos Shabbos about the use of Purell on Shabbos.  His response was as follows:  “There are two issues to consider: refuah and memacheik.  With regard to refuah, the use of hand lotion to prevent chapped hands may be prohibited.  However, I surmise that most people using Purell do not intend to use it in place of a hand cream lotion (rather, the moisturizing agents are there to mitigate the harsh effects of the alcohol).  The more serious problem is memacheik. I do not believe that the gel flows freely like a liquid. As such, I would be machmir not to use it on Shabbos.  If one wanted to use it on Shabbos, he should dilute it before Shabbos with enough water until it pours freely, to avoid the chashash of memachaik.”


E. One does not ask for personal requests on Shabbos. Accordingly, if one forgot to recite Atta Chonantanu in Shemone Esrei on Motza’ei Shabbos, HaRav Chaim Kanievsky, Shlita, rules that one cannot ask for his personal needs in that Shemone Esrei (Shulchan Aruch Orach Chaim 294, Dirshu Note 2).


F. If one realized that he did not recite Atta Chonantanu after he had said the words Baruch Atta Hashem at the end of the bracha, HaRav Kanievsky rules that one cannot recite it before Hashiveinu. Likewise, the Sefer Tehilah L’Dovid rules that one should not recite the words Lamdeini Chukecha after Baruch Atta Hashem and then go back to recite Atta Chonantanu (ibid., Dirshu Notes 16 and 18).


G. The Rema writes that the Minhag is to mention Eliyahu HaNavi on Motza’ei Shabbos and to daven that he come and tell us that the Geulah is coming (Shulchan Aruch Orach Chaim 295:1). The Tur (SA OC 299) writes that reciting Pesukim that have Eliyahu HaNavi’s name mentioned in them are good for the memory, and for a person to be matzliach in the coming week.


H. After Havdalah, one should drink the cup of wine in a sitting position, and then pour from the cup to extinguish the flame of the candle. One then places the wine in his eyes to show his chiybuv hamitzvah--how precious the Mitzvah is to him (SA OC 296 and Mishna Berurah seif katan 6).



Special Note Four: Points and pointers on this week’s first Parsha, Nitzavim:


A.  The Parsha (29:9) begins with the words “Ahtem Nitzvaim HaYom Kulchem--we all stand before Hashem”. The Ba’alei Mussar explain that this is to teach us that this time of year nobody can hide behind the Rabbis, the teachers, the Tzaddikim, the leaders of the generation or anyone else--but that everybody, yes everybody from the woodchopper to the water carrier stands before Hashem and must accordingly do his part to come closer to Him and bring life and success for oneself and for K’lal Yisrael during the coming year!


B.  Non-coincidently, this week’s Parsha, Parshas Nitzavim, contains the Parshas HaTeshuva (Devorim 30:1-10).  Many Siddurim contain the Parshas HaTeshuva together with a short Tefillah afterwards, and it is usually found immediately after the Shacharis prayers.  It would most certainly be appropriate to recite the Parshas HaTeshuva and the subsequent TODAY--before Shabbos…and then into Rosh Hashana.  Of course, much of Teshuva has to do with thought and speech (see the Ahl Cheit above!).  By reciting the Parsha relating to Teshuva contained in the Torah itself, and then davening to Hashem for help in this regard, you have certainly taking important strides--in both thought and speech!


C.  On the Pasuk (30:14): “Ki Karov Eilecha HaDavar Me’od Bephicha U’vilvavecha La’asoso”, HaRav Chaim Kanievsky, Shlita, learns that a person who wants to do Teshuvah should learn Hilchos Teshuvah. The Sefer Derech Sicha explains that the Chofetz Chaim (once again, his Yahrzeit is today) in Chovas HaShemira (Chapter 3) teaches that learning the Halachos of a Mitzvah removes the Koach of the Yetzer Hara regarding it.


D.  The Parsha (30:19) also provides the powerful teaching of “U’Vacharta BaChaim--and you shall choose life”. The Rabbeinu Yonah in the Sefer Sha’arei Teshuvah learns that this is a Mitzvas Asei from the Torah. Let us choose life--and fulfill a Mitzvas Asei in doing so!



Special Note Five: We conclude our series on the Middah of Anavah--the opposite of Ga’avah--from the Sefer LeAnavim Yitein Chein, by Rabbi Avraham Tovalsky, Shlita:




A. A person must daven to Hashem to overcome the Middah of Ga’avah. The Sefer Kav HaYashar (Chapter 7) writes that a person should daven: “Zakeini LeMiddas Ha’anavah U’L’middas HaHachna’ah--Hashem, may I please merit humility.” Indeed, in the private Tefillos at the end of Shemone Esrei we plead early on: “V’limkalelai Nafshi Sidom V’Nafshi KeAfar Lakol Tiheyeh”.


B. To appreciate one’s finite mind and capabilities he need merely look to the heavens and to the wonders around him, and will very quickly understand his limited abilities compared to Hashem’s limitless capabilities. One can likewise think of how his abilities are affected by not eating or drinking for a day or two--compared to the heavenly creations which have no physical limitations whatsoever.


C. Dovid HaMelech teaches (Tehillim 34:19): “Karov Hashem Lenishbirei Lev--Hashem is close to those who are contrite.”


D. It is important for a person to have the phrases “I don’t know” or “I made a mistake” as part of his vocabulary.


E. One who realizes that he is enjoying words of praise being heaped upon him should view himself as if he is sleeping--upon waking up, he will realize that it was really nothing.


F. The Ba’al Shem Tov would advise people that whenever they had a feeling of haughtiness or arrogance to have Hirhurei Teshuvah and use the opportunity to look into their deeds.


G. The Ramban in the Igeres HaRamban spends much of it instructing his son on the Middah of Anavah, for it is so essential to life’s goal and purpose. One who needs Chizuk in the Middah of Anavah should review the teachings of the Ramban.


Hakhel Note: One of the Kabbalos of a great Rav of the previous generation was to read the Igeres HaRamban every day….




We are soon reaching the climax of our Teshuva season.  Our hopes, our wishes are soon to converge into moments of destiny for ourselves, our family, and the world.  This coming year, Be’Ezras Hashem, can be a great one for us and all of K’lal Yisrael--let’s try our very best to make sure we are a part of it!




23 Elul  

HILCHOS SUKKOS! We continue our two Halachos a day in the 30-day period before Sukkos:


1. The Shulchan Aruch HaRav (Orach Chaim 639:13) writes that the Shiur of a hefsek after one has left the Sukkah before returning is an hour or two, and a new bracha of Leisheiv BaSukkah (on more than a kebeiyah of mezonos--cake or the like, or, of course, bread) should then be recited. Even if one has not actually left for an hour to two, but intended to do so, that would also be considered a hefsek (Shulchan Aruch Orach Chaim 639, Dirshu Note 3).


2. The chiyuv of chinuch for a katan begins at the age of five or six (depending on the child’s level of intelligence/awareness of the Mitzvah). It would accordingly be prohibited for anyone to feed a katan of this age outside of the Sukkah, or even to tell him to eat out of the Sukkah. According to some Achronim (and perhaps the Mishna Berurah), the age of the child may be as low as four if he is particularly bright (SA OC 640:2, Mishna Berurah seif katan 5, and Dirshu Note 4).



ANGER! The Rambam in Hilchos Teshuva writes that Teshuva applies not only to correction of aveiros, but to improvement in middos as well.  Clearly, one of the most insidious of middos ra’os is Ka’as or anger. Even the sound of the word ‘Ka’as’ is foreboding.  The following very powerful and very practical lesson on controlling anger is excerpted from a daily lesson in the monumental work Positive Word Power (Artscroll/Chofetz Chaim Heritage Foundation):  “When we lose ourselves in anger, we immediately forget one salient fact:  It’s another human being on the receiving end of the diatribe.  It’s a person with a heart, with feelings, hopes, and struggles.  It’s a person like ourselves.  Finding the moment to connect to this reality is one of the most effective means available to curtail Ona’as Devarim in our lives.  Effective as it is, this strategy is difficult to enact when one’s temper has been lost and he is in the middle of an angry tirade.  It helps to plan the strategy now, when one is not being pulled by the undertow of powerful emotions.  What will you do the next time you feel the urge to launch a verbal attack?  Look into the person’s eyes as you speak to him.  See that there is a person there, with his own thoughts, his own problems.  Will your words disturb his sleep?  Will they arouse anger in him that he will take out on someone else?  Cause him to lost confidence in himself?  We don’t have to inflict pain on each other.  If we can feel the other person’s suffering, rather than blocking it out of our consciousness, we will be motivated to find another way: a gentler, more sensitive and respectful way.  The way we, ourselves, would like to be treated”.  Hakhel Note:  The next cycle of Positive Word Power will begin on Rosh Hashana.  Learning the practical and effective lessons from this Sefer in its beautifully written and easy-to-read daily format would truly be a meaningful and worthwhile project for the coming year!




Special Note One: Today, we continue our series in which we will refer to one Ahl Cheit a day through the Yomim Nora’im period, so that we have the opportunity to briefly review each one of them in steady steps. Today, we study the first Ahl Cheit under the letter Samech:


Ahl Cheit Shechatanu Lefanecha BeSikur Ayin--Misuse of the Eyes


For those blessed with the ability to see, they have a chiyuv gadol--a great obligation to ensure that they properly utilize the great gift to fulfill their role in this world. The Sefer Dover Shalom presents a significant list of possible misuses and abuses of one’s vision, which include improperly staring at others or at their possessions, looking at immodestly dressed women, surveying the room while one is davening, seeing a poor man in need and not coming to his aid until asked, glancing at other people’s mail (or emails), seeing a Talmid Chochom or elderly person and not standing up for him, seeing Seforim or food on the ground without picking them up, not looking at the writing in a Sefer Torah when it has been lifted up after reading from it [as is brought in Halacha one should endeavor to look at the letters of the Sefer at that time], not looking at one’s Tzitzis--at least at some point(s) when reciting the Parsha of Tzitzis. Other examples include watching a person sin and not doing anything about it, improperly winking at the expense of another or for an improper purpose, staring at the face of a Rasha--or not studying the face of one’s Rebbi or of a Tzaddik. Hakhel Note: Proper Teshuvah here can certainly bring great merit to a person, for it can apply in many different situations during the day for those who are blessed with the ability to see.



Special Note Two: We continue to provide important instruction below on the Middah of Anavah--the opposite of Ga’avah--from the Sefer LeAnavim Yitein Chein, by Rabbi Avraham Tovalsky, Shlita:




A. If one endeavors to perform Mitzvos (including Chesed) privately, it will assist him in Anavah--for it will avoid him being praised and glorified by others.


B. HaRav Yisroel Salanter, Z’tl, would always point out that although a person must run away from honor himself, he nevertheless must give as much honor as he can to other people. HaRav Yisroel taught that one would not violate the prohibition of Lifnei Iver by according another person a deserved honor--even though he may feel the honor as a result.


C. When contemplating how great a person thinks he is, he should consider the true picture of life--how much he could do and much he in fact has done.  [Hakhel Note: The story is told of a man who came to HaRav Chaim Kanievsky, Shlita, explaining that he suffered from the Middah of Ga’avah--and he could not seem to rid himself of it. HaRav Kanievsky then proceeded to ask the person (this may not be exact--but is the essence of the give and take) if he knew a Mesechta very well, and he responded in the negative. HaRav Kanievsky then went on to inquire about whether he knew a Perek very well, proceeded to ten Blatt and then even one Blatt--asking him if he knew it well, and the man could not say that he did. HaRav Kanievsky then told him--you see, you have nothing to be a Ba’al Ga’avah about!


D. If one possesses nothing on his own--but has successfully borrowed many expensive possessions on a long term basis--can he claim that they are his? One with the true awareness that all of his possessions in this world are on very long term loan cannot take pride in himself. If one does, HaRav Yitzchak Blazer, Z’tl, teaches he is leading a life of sheker. After all, is he not but flesh and blood, who must take care of his bodily requirements and functions, making him in some ways closer to an animal than to a heavenly being?! A person can likewise contemplate how people who would otherwise honor him would not do so if they saw how human, and how lacking in ability, he really was.


Hakhel Note: The Chofetz Chaim asked why it is that a human must take care of his bodily needs not once a week or once a month--but several times a day. He answered that it is because Hashem wants to assist and guide us in our quest not to become a Ba’al Ga’avah--and instead to follow in the path of Avraham Avinu, Moshe Rabbeinu, Dovid HaMelech and our great leaders in all generations who personified the Middah of Anavah!



Special Note Three: The Mishna in Rosh Hashanah (1:2) teaches us how Rosh Hashanah is different than the other three times of the year (Pesach, Shavuos, and Sukkos) during which we are also judged.  Rosh Hashanah, the Mishna teaches, is different because “Kol Ba’ei Olam Ovrin Lefanav--all who come into the world are judged individually, as they pass before Hashem as if they are walking in a single file.”  The Mishna brings a Pasuk in Tehillim (33:15) to explain how Hashem could judge the billions mixed together all over the world as unique, individual creatures.  The Pasuk says:  “HaYotzeir Yachad Libam HaMeivin El Kol Ma’aseihem--because Hashem formed every aspect of every being, He can fully comprehend every single individual’s actions, words, and thoughts.  In fact, the tenth Ani Ma’amin also quotes this very same Pasuk and reads as follows: (Artscroll translation)  “I believe with complete faith that the Creator, Blessed is His Name, know all the deeds of human beings and their thoughts, as it says, “HaYotzeir Yachad Libam….”  This is the only Pasuk quoted in any of the Ani Ma’amins.


We now would like to share with you a fundamental thought, which can provide a tremendous source of guidance, and special zechuyos, for the time period that we are in.  Let us go to Tehillim Chapter 33, and review the Pesukim which immediately follow this telling Pasuk quoted both in the Mishna in Rosh Hashanah and in the tenth Ani Ma’amin.  After this Pasuk, Dovid HaMelech continues by teaching us what the upshot, what the consequence, is of Hashem’s having created us and comprehending all of our deeds.  Once again, we provide the Artscroll translation (may they be blessed for all they have done for K’lal Yisroel):  “A king is not saved by a great army, nor is a hero rescued by great strength; sham is the horse for salvation; despite its great strength it provides no escape.  Behold the eyes of Hashem are on those who fear Him, upon those who await His kindness, to rescue their soul from death, and to sustain them in famine.  Our soul longed for Hashem--our hope and our shield is He.  For in Him will our hearts be glad, for in His Holy Name we trusted.  May Your kindness Hashem be upon us, just as we awaited You.”


With these revealing words, Dovid HaMelech paves a pathway for us to follow in our Avodas Hashem.  Now that we know that Hashem knows every single thing about us--what is it that Hashem really would like to see?  As highlighted above, Hashem looks to those who fear Him, who are awed by His all-knowing, all-encompassing, and infinite greatness and who look to Hashem for His closeness, for His kindness.  Surely, if we would fear a lion, a bear, a terrorist, a car that is out-of-control, we should be in absolute and unfettered awe of the Creator of all creatures and all circumstances and events!  When we realize Hashem’s omnipotence, we also realize that everything we have is wholly the result of His kindness, as we partake of the Royal Table in various ways throughout the day.  Throughout the day we should express our needs to Hashem, and thank Him for what we realize He has given us and continues to give us.  As we look at our hopes for the coming year, we must look back at the pasuk above, and realize how powerful its teaching really is, and how crucial it is in our life.  If we can remind ourselves of this Pasuk daily, we can go far in avoiding the strictness of Din, and bring Hashem’s kindness upon us…just as we awaited it!




22 Elul

HILCHOS SUKKOS! We continue our two Halachos a day in the 30-day period before Sukkos:


1. If one returns to the Sukkah after it rains, then upon return one must make a new bracha of Leisheiv BaSukkah, because he has had a hesech hada’as. Accordingly, upon returning, one should eat a little bit more than a kebei’ah of mezonos, and make a new bracha of Leisheiv BaSukkah (Shulchan Aruch Orach Chaim 639 Mishna Berurah seif katan 46, Dirshu Note 44). If one has a sh’lak on his Sukkah, rolls it out during the rain and remains in the Sukkah, then there is a machlokes haposkim as to whether one makes a new bracha of Leisheiv BaSukkah when he unrolls the sh’lak after the rain stops (ibid., Dirshu Note 44). Note: The Rema writes that when one leaves the Sukkah because of the rain, he should walk out not angry--but humbled. In any event, one should not feel tza’ar, as this would adversely impact upon the Simchas Yom Tov. (SA OC ibid., 7, Dirshu Note 48).


2. If one is entering the Sukkah in order to go to sleep, it is best that he eats Mezonos so that he can make a Leisheiv BaSukkah on the food, which will cover his sleeping as well (SA OC 640, Dirshu Note 54). HaRav Shlomo Zalmen Auerbach, Z’tl, and HaRav Elyashiv, Z’tl, rule that one should not take a sleeping person out of the Sukkah under the pretense that he is not consciously performing a Mitzvah--for in fact the person is performing the Mitzvah of Yeshivas Sukkah even in his sleep! (ibid., Dirshu Note 47)



BAD LISTENING! The Sha’arei Teshuvah (3:229) writes: “The punishment of one who gives ear to obscene speech is great, because he does not block his ear, and he does not separate himself from speakers of obscenity. About such a person, Shlomo HaMelech, the wisest of all men says (Mishlei 22:14 ): ‘Shucha Amuka…--the mouth of strangeness is a deep pit; he that is abhorred by Hashem will fall therein’.”



A KABBALAH SUGGESTION: HaRav Nosson Wachtfogel, Z’tl, teaches that he heard great men whose Kabbalah was to recite/review the first Halacha (1:1) in Shulchan Aruch Orach Chaim, including the Rema every morning. Hakhel Note: This appears to be a Kabbalah that everyone can consider! 




Special Note One: Today, we continue our series in which we will refer to one Ahl Cheit a day through the Yomim Nora’im period, so that we have the opportunity to briefly review each one of them in steady steps. Today, we study the second Ahl Cheit under the letter Nun:


Ahl Cheit Shechatanu Lefanecha BeNetiyas Garon--Through Haughtiness


Literally, Netiyas Garon means ‘an outstretched throat’. Perhaps Ga’avah is described in this way so that we appreciate how strange and unacceptable it should be to us. The Eitz Yosef explains that from Ga’avah comes many aveiros. Indeed, the Pasuk (Devarim 8:14 ) shockingly states: “VeRom Levavecha V’Shochachta Es Hashem Elokecha--your heart will become haughty and you will forget Hashem.” Indeed, not many sins are called a To’avas Hashem--but Shlomo HaMelech, the wisest of all men, teaches (Mishlei 16:5): “To’avas Hashem Kol Gevah Lev--one with an arrogant heart is an abomination to Hashem.”  It is important to realize that arrogance is not only a sin of action, but is also a sin of the heart (as demonstrated by the previous Pasuk). The Sefer Reishis Chochma writes that it is beli safek, without doubt, that Ga’avah is the source for all Middos Ra’os.


In this vein, we continue to provide important instruction below on the Middah of Anavah--the opposite of Ga’avah--from the Sefer LeAnavim Yitein Chein, by Rabbi Avraham Tovalsky, Shlita:




A. HaRav Chaim Volozhiner, Z’tl, teaches that the term Anavah does not only refer to accepting criticism and remaining silent in the face of derision--it also means one recognizing that he has not acted in accordance with his abilities--which means that anybody and everybody can simply be greater than him because they have reached their potential to a greater extent.


B.  If one learns Torah and thoughts of honor for doing so or for his accomplishments or knowledge enter his mind, he must realize that his study is Shelo Lishma--but still has the hope of Mitoch Shelo Lishma Bah Lishma. It is of the utmost importance that one realize that his intelligence and abilities are gifts from Hashem--and the fact that one is able to think of and express an insight or Chiddush is not a human power--but a gift given by Hashgacha Pratis from Hashem.


C. When one is an Anav, he will be an effective kli kibul ruchnyi--spiritual utensil, able to accept more and more ruchniyus within him.


D. The following statement was made by a Gadol in his tzava’ah: “I testify that many times ideas of haughtiness or arrogance came upon me, and the way I was able to successfully block them from going forward was thinking about the Avos HaKedoshim from whom I came and how humble I should feel--knowing their capabilities--and knowing mine.”


E. The insight of the Chazon Ish into true Anavah is that even if a person believes that he knows much Torah, he should not seek honor or greatness because of it--for after all, this is his obligation in this world--to grow and grow in ruchniyus. Chazal teach: “Im Lamadeta Torah Harbeh…--if you have learned much Torah do not hold yourself out as someone great, for this was the purpose for which you were created.” Simply stated, if one bought a suit--and paid for it, would one seek the praise of others for doing so?



Special Note Two:  We now have one week left until the last day of the year, Erev Rosh Hashana.  There is so much to do, so much to think about, so much to look back upon--and to look forward to.  How do we put it all together?  Perhaps the first step is to ask Hashem for help--even for this!  When reciting the bracha of ‘Ata Chonen’ every day, think of how much you need Him to grant you the right insight, the right decisions, the right thoughts on self-improvement, the right goals…a tear (or complete sincerity) while thinking about the help that you need would appear very appropriate. Remember, it’s your life--and no one cares, or should care, more about it--than you!



Special Note Three:  As part of taking stock, one should not overlook the items or money he has borrowed or lent to others, who he owns a phone call or apology to, and, perhaps, that thing about him that he knows bothers people most, but that he has failed to correct because it is “him.”  If you realize that your mannerism or “custom” really does irk family, friends, or colleagues, maybe it should become part of the “Nachpesa Deracheinu”--the search of our ways so essential to steering us back to the proper path in life.



Special Note Four: The Sefer Sifsei Chaim (HaRav Chaim Friedlander, Zt’l), in Moadim I teaches:


A. After Adam HaRishon sinned and his Teshuva was accepted (all on Rosh Hashana!), the Torah records that Hashem placed the Lahat HaCherev HaMishapeches (the flame of the ever-turning sword) to prevent him from re-entering Gan Eden at that time.  With this, the Torah provides an essential lesson in Teshuva.  It is not enough just to “decide” not to fall prey to the sin again.  One has to actually create some type of fence or system to prevent the possibility of falling again.  One out of thousands of examples one can think of would be for a person who comes late to shul, almost as a matter of course.  His true Teshuva may be to “penalize himself” in some way for having been not as respectful as he could have been for his audience with the King.


B. As we see in this coming week’s Parsha, a person can delude himself into thinking “Shalom Yiheye Li--and walk in the way his heart sees fit” (Devorim 29:18).  Yet, no one has any contracts with Hashem--every action has ramifications.  If a person acts or reacts “as his heart sees fit,” or “as his heart says,” by whim or fancy, he should be sure to give the matter some second thought.


C. “Derech Chaim Tochachos Mussar--the road to life is words of reproof”--with these words of Mishlei, Shlomo HaMelech, the wisest of all men, is teaching us that the road to life is paved not by shunning the reproof and constructive criticism of others, but, quite to the contrary, by allowing it to enter and penetrate your heart.


D. We should make sure that, at least at this time of year, we fulfill the following words of Rabbeinu Yonah in the Yesod HaTeshuva, “One should not fill all of his desires in food or drink, and so said the Ra’avad…the great and wonderful pathway to Teshuva is by curbing one’s desire while eating….”




21 Elul

IMPORTANT RECOMMENDATION: We asked HaRav Mattisyahu Salomon, Shlita, for a mussar Sefer that could be studied with a Bar Mitzvah-aged child. He replied that the Sefer Orchos Tzaddikim speaks to all people, on all levels.



KABBALAH SUGGESTION FROM A READER: “I regularly observe that many people unwittingly allow the tzitzis of their Talis Gadol to trail on the floor, often to be stepped on r’l by themselves or others.  Our tzitzis represent the Taryag Mitzvos, and one should not allow this to become c’v a mitzvah that he is ‘Dash B’akeivo’.  Let us all be mekabel to be cognizant of this aspect of ‘U’reisem Oso’....”



HILCHOS SUKKOS! We continue our two Halachos a day in the 30-day period before Sukkos:

1. HaRav Yaakov Ettlinger, Z’tl, in his great work on Sukkos, the Bikkurei Yaakov, writes that person should act wisely when building his Sukkah so that he can fulfill the Mitzvah of Sukkah with greater ease--and allow himself the ability to stay in the Sukkah, rather than saying that he is ‘patur’--for one who adds on to his kiyum of Sukkah will have bracha added on to him Min HaShomayim. It is well known, for example, that the Chofetz Chaim, Z’tl, and HaRav Chaim Brisker, Z’tl, would bring a heater into the Sukkah in order to make it more comfortable, a more pleasant place to stay in, and a place where one could learn without difficulty (Shulchan Aruch Orach Chaim 639, Dirshu Note 34).


2. There is a question as to whether one should recite the bracha of Leisheiv BaSukkah when making Havdalah. Even if one is to recite a Leisheiv BaSukkah when reciting Havdalah, there are different opinions as to at what point it should be recited. One should accordingly consult with his Rav or Posek in this area. HaRav Shlomo Zalmen Auerbach, Z’tl, would, for example, make the bracha of Leisheiv BaSukkah before he made the bracha of Borei Pri HaGafen and then eat mezonos immediately after Havdalah, so that the bracha of Leisheiv BaSukkah would not only be on the drinking of the wine itself, but on the eating of a mezonos as well (ibid., Dirshu Note 37).




Special Note One: Today, we continue our series in which we will refer to one Ahl Cheit a day through the Yomim Nora’im period, so that we have the opportunity to briefly review each one of them in steady steps. Today, we study the first Ahl Cheit under the letter Nun:


Ahl Cheit Shechatanu Lefanecha BeNeshech U’VeMarbis--Usury and Interest


The laws of Ribbis are not brought in Choshen Mishpat, containing the laws of Bein Adam L’Chaveiro--but instead are brought in Yoreh De’ah--which is Issur V’Heter, where the Halachos of Kashrus, Avodah Zara, and many other Halachos of Bein Adam LaMakom are recorded. Ribbis is not forbidden because there is a ‘victim’ on the other side. It is forbidden even if the borrower willingly and with a full heart wants to pay interest and ‘do business’ with the Jewish bank, banker, private lender, relative or next-door neighbor. It is, then, Hashem who does not want us to take or to pay interest, and states this more than once in the Torah. Chazal teach that the sin is so pervasive that the lender, borrower, guarantors, and witnesses are all guilty in a ribbis transaction. Because of the use and sharing of credit cards, and because banks, private lenders and funding institutions may be owned or controlled by Jewish people, the laws of ribbis have now become applicable in many new, contemporary situations. The contemporary applications are not chumros, but may involve issurei Ribbis D’Oraysa. Ribbis can even apply when paying a late charge on a rental payment to a landlord or other lessor. We note that the issur is so grave that we are taught that one who is guilty of it will not arise at Techiyas HaMeisim. The key work on this essential topic in English is The Laws of Ribbis, by Rabbi Yisroel Reisman, Shlita (Artscroll). One cannot hide his head in the sand with the awareness that there is even a possibility that he is involving himself in such a stringent aveirah. In addition to ribbis involving money, there is also ribbis devarim--which means that one cannot extend special favors or even additional pleasant words to one who has extended credit to him. If one believes he may have been involved or is possibly involved in a transaction involving ribbis, he must consult with his Rav or Posek. The confidential hotline of the Business Halacha institute is 877-845-8455. By email, one may send the Shailah to ask@businesshalacha.com



Special Note Two:  There is a Pasuk in Tehillim (13:6) which serves as the climactic conclusion of the many Pesukim together that constitute the prayer and song of Hodu LaShem Kiru ViSh’mo recited in Shacharis every morning.  The Pasuk reads:  “V’Ani BeChasdecha Votachti, Yogail Libi Bi’Shuasecha, Ashira LaShem Ki Gomal Alai--As for me, I trust in Your kindness; my heart will rejoice in Your salvation, I will sing to Hashem, for He dealt kindly with me.”  The G’ra explains that this Pasuk consists of three parts--representing three different stages or circumstances in a person’s experience. Firstly, there is the complete and absolute recognition and awareness that “V’Ani BeChasdecha Votachti”--I know and affirm that whatever circumstance, event, predicament or situation I am in (including the seeking of continued life in Elul and over the Yomim Noraim)--You can save me with Your loving chesed.  Next, when I actually experience the salvation--such as on Yom Kippur, or upon realization that I have lived through the past year --then” Yogail Libi BiShuasecha--my heart rejoices over the Yeshua--with the recognition that it is You that have brought it about, that You have saved me.  Thirdly, and we have now reached the crucial conclusion--”Ashira LaShem Ki Gomal Alai--even after the Yeshua is complete, the Simcha is over, the medicine worked, the money came in to pay the bills, I have been granted another year of life... I will not forget the Yeshuos that You have graced me with, that which You have wrought on my behalf.  Accordingly, my davening--when I recite Modim, Nishmas, Nodeh Lecha (in Birkas HaMazon) is Kavannah-filled with my tribute and thanks for my health, my life, my possessions,...and all of the Yeshuos around and in between that I have experienced.  As if to get us started (in Nusach Ashkenaz)--the very next portion of Tefillah that we recite is the epitome of our thanks over the past--Mizmor LeSodah--which the Shulchan Aruch itself uniquely rules (Shulchan Aruch, Orach Chaim 51:9) should be recited “BeNegina--with melody”.  Let us focus on this essential Pasuk and remember daily these fundamental three stages in Avodas Hashem--and succeed at each one of them!



Special Note Three:  We begin today a series on the Middah of Anavah, as culled from the Sefer Haser Ka’as Meilebecha, by Rabbi Avraham Tovalsky, Shlita:




A. Moshe Rabbeinu was praised as ‘Anav Me’od’--this was apparently his most sterling character trait. One who is an Anav realizes that one should not be machazik tov to himself, and seek praises for his accomplishments. One should, instead, recognize the greatness of Hashem, and that without Hashem giving one any and all of his abilities and capabilities, he would truly have nothing to his credit or merit.


B. For instance, Chazal (Midrash Tehillim 144) teach that Dovid HaMelech exclaimed: ‘“Am I the king? I am not a king--Hashem anointed me!”;”Am I a gibor?”; “Am I wealthy?”; “No--Lecha Hashem HaGedulah V’HaGevurah Everything is and should be ascribed to Hashem! I do not win wars--it is Hashem Who gives me the victory!”


C. No matter how great a person is, he must always remember his true position in the world and in the universe--even Avraham Avinu exclaimed (Bereishis 18:27)”Anochi Afar VaAifer--I am dust and ash”.


D. The Chida, Z’tl, teaches that the letters of the word Anav also spell Avon (sin) to teach that if one is truly an Anav he is forgiven for his sins. HaRav Pinchos Koritzer, Z’tl, would say that if a person held himself out to truly be an ayin, lowly, then he could not be judged--for there would be nothing upon which the judgment could take hold!


E. The Sefer Kav HaYashar (Chapter 7) teaches that there is no Middah which purifies the person’s soul more than Anavah--for through this Middah one’s physical nature becomes spiritual.


F. The Sefer Devash LePhi writes that Anavah is the Ikar HaYehadus and that without Anavah one is considered like an akum. Incredibly, Chazal (Sotah 5A) teach that one who is haughty will not arise at Techiyas HaMeisim. The Chofetz Chaim explains that this is a Middah K’negged Middah punishment--for rather than the person thinking that after 120 years his body will return to the dust, he did not believe so, and instead he put his body in the highest of places. When his body does, then return to the dust--it will not be empowered to move him from his place!


G. Chazal teach that when there is one coin in a container it makes a lot of noise--if there are many coins in container--they do not. If one ‘makes a lot of noise’ about himself--it shows that his container is mostly empty.


H. Animals and even insects were created before Adam HaRishon. Why? Because if a man begins to think highly of himself, he should consider that which was created before him.


I. The os Nun has two forms--bent and straight. The word Ne’eman begins with a bent Nun, and ends with a straight Nun. This is to teach us that one who in this world bends himself and acts with humility will stand tall and straight--in the Next World!


J. The Sefer Ma’alos HaMiddos teaches that one will never see an Anav Mischareit--a humble person who ever regrets being so!



Special Note Four:  The Chofetz Chaim teaches that there are three Kochos that individuals generally have in this world which extend into the next world--they are the power of speech, the ability to hear, and the ability to see. Each one of these Kochos is not a physical one, but is a Koach Nafshi--an ability of the soul. The body only serves as a medium in which these Kochos HaNefesh serve. Thus, when after 120 years the body will cease serving as an intermediary, as a covering to the Neshama, the Kochos will endure and exist in their purest form. A person’s speech, for example, if used properly in this world, will speak Torah in Gan Eden. The formula is short and simple--with every word of Torah one adds more and more Kedusha to his soul. The more Kedusha one brings to himself in this world--the more he will have to last--forever and ever!




20 Elul

KABBALAH SUGGESTION: Reciting Aleinu one time a day from a Siddur, using a finger to point word-by-word.



OPPOSITES DON ’T ATTRACT: The Sefer Mesilas Yesharim (in discussing the Middah of Tahara) contrasts Chochma V’Yirah to Ta’ava V’Cheit. In his notes on the Mesilas Yesharim, HaRav Yecheskel Sarna, Z’tl, writes that we learn from here that Ta’ava (following one’s desires) is the opposite of Chochma--and Cheit is the opposite of Yirah. Ta’ava vs. Chochma. Cheit vs. Yirah--the choice is ours!



FEEL THE LIFE !  The Mashgiach Ruchni in a major Yeshiva recently told the Bochurim that the tremendous difference between us and the other nations of the world is that our G-d is very much alive and together with us as part of our everyday lives. He suggested to the Bochurim that the next time they exclaim Baruch U’Varuch Shemo they feel the vibrance of, and closeness to, Hashem Yisborach Himself!



THE TEN DAY CHALLENGE! Perhaps one of the most famous teachings of the Rambam is his Hilchos Teshuvah. If one begins today, and learns one Chapter a day of the Rambam’s Hilchos Teshuvah, he will have completed the Rambam’s teachings in time for Rosh Hashana…an  undertaking which may be a real sign of one’s sincerity in his Teshuvah process!



HILCHOS SUCCOS! We continue our two Halachos a day in the 30-day period before Succos:


1. One must eat at least a kezayis of bread in the Succah on the first night of Succos MeD’oraysah (in Chutz La’aretz one must eat a kezayis on the second night as well). Lechatchila one should eat this kezayis within two minutes, but in no event should one delay more than four minutes. There is a Machlokes HaPoskim as to whether we compare the eating of bread on the fifteenth of Succos to the eating of Matzah on the fifteenth of Nissan to the extent that one should taste the bread and should accordingly not dip it into honey. The Yad Eliyahu rules that one should not eat it with honey because it takes away the taste of the bread, just as we do not do anything to take away the taste of the Matzah on the night of the Seder. However, HaRav Chaim Brisker, Z’tl and HaRav Shlomo Zalmen Auerbach, Z’tl, rule that we do not take the limud from Matzah that far, as there the eating of the Matzah is the mitzvah itself, whereas on Succos the Ikar Mitzvah is sitting in the Succah through the eating of the bread. Indeed, to the contrary, there may be room to eat the Challah with honey to show Chibuv Mitzvah and perhaps for Simchas Yom Tov. For one who wants to be choshesh for the shitah not to eat with honey, he may eat a kezayis without honey, and then a kezayis with honey (Shulchan Aruch Orach Chaim 639:1, Dirshu Notes 29,30).


2. The G’ra holds that there is a Mitzvah to eat Matzah all seven days of Pesach. The Mishna Berurah writes that he has a safeik as to the opinion of the G’ra on Succos--i.e., as to whether there is also a Mitzvah Lechatchila to eat bread on each one of the seven days of Succos and to make the bracha of Leisheiv BaSuccah together with it (ibid., Mishna Berurah seif katan 24).





We B’EH conclude our Monday/Thursday study of the Sefer HaMitzvos HaKatzar, with the Mitzvos Lo Sa’asei which the Chofetz Chaim writes are applicable in our times.  For a complete listing our all our past postings, please see   http://www.hakhel.info/SeferMitzvosHaKatzar.html  Today, we present the last two Mitzvos in the Sefer HaMitzvos HaKatzar--Mitzvos Lo Sa’aseh 193 and 194:


193.  Shelo Yavo Tamei LeMachaneh Leviyah--this is the Mitzvas Lo Sa’aseh which prohibits one who is tamei from entering the Machaneh Leviyah. Chazal teach that the definition of Machaneh Leviyah is the Har HaBayis, and accordingly one who enters the Har HaBayis violates this prohibition. This applies to all men and women today, as we are considered teme’ei meisim.


194.  Shelo Lishkoach Ma’aseh Amaleik--this is the Mitzvas Lo Sa’aseh which prohibits one from forgetting in his heart the enmity that he is to have towards Amaleik. This prohibition applies in all places and at all times, and to men and women alike.


Hakhel Note:  The Chofetz Chaim writes that: “This concludes the 194 Mitzvos Lo Sa’aseh which apply in our times, which number 194 is the Gematria of Tzedek, righteousness”--which we hope will be a siman tov for us as we approach the Yemei HaDin. May our completion of the Sefer HaMitzvos HaKatzar--both the Mitzvos Asei and Mitzvos Lo Sa’aseh serve as a great zechus, and may the Chofetz Chaim (whose Yahrzeit is this Friday, 24 Elul), serve as a Meilitz Yosher for us all!



Special Note Two: Today, we continue our series in which we will refer to one Ahl Cheit a day through the Yomim Nora’im period, so that we have the opportunity to briefly review each one of them in steady steps. Today, we study the second Ahl Cheit under the letter Mem:


Ahl Cheit Shechatanu Lefanecha BeMa’achal U’VeMishteh--Through Food and Drink


Because food and drink play such an important part in our lives, there are many Mitzvos that one can accomplish with food and drink, and accordingly it is no secret that the Yetzer Hara works overtime to ensnare us in this area. Included in this Ahl Cheit are the actions of overindulging, eating for the sake of eating, eating merely to appear social, drinking alcohol and then driving because ‘I know myself’, not safeguarding one’s health, not eating with Derech Eretz (if one would not eat that way in public, he should not eat that way in private either), eating fruits or vegetables that may have tolaim (insects)--without having ensured that they have been checked properly, eating foods of questionable Kashrus (including if one is simply uncertain as to the Hashgacha, and saying that “others eat it” or “it must be good, after all it says Beis Din of…on it!” Also included are failing to share food with others, taking food from others who are not in a position to share their food but are embarrassed to say otherwise, being careless with the proper brachos over food, forgetting to make a Bracha Achrona, and not reciting brachos with at least a minimal level of Kavannah and HaKaras HaTov to Hashem. 


Here, we once again recall the words of the Sefer The Mashgiach of Kaminetz (p. 383), which writes how HaRav Moshe Aharon Stern, Z’tl, (a human being in our times) conducted himself:  “The preparatory steps he took before eating were a true divine worship.  He said a supplication not to stumble by eating forbidden foods, that his eating be kosher, that his Creator would consider it like a Mincha offering and a sacrifice.  He would then meditate intensely on the exalted purpose of eating to strengthen one’s body to serve the Creator.” Each and every one of us  can one turn the mundane into the spiritual!



Special Note Three:  HaRav Mattisyahu Salomon, Shlita, recently gave an essential Shiur to explain the extreme significance of the period we are in. Elul is not a time period that was discovered 200 years ago, 500 years ago or even 1,000 years ago. Rather, it was Moshe Rabbeinu himself who demonstrated the power of Elul to us, as through his Tefillos during this time he was able to bring the Luchos Sheniyos and the Torah back to this world. HaRav Salomon brings from HaRav Aharon Kotler, Z’tl, that people  mistakenly believe that when we exclaim on the night of Yom Kippur “VaYomer Hashem Salachti Kedvarecha”--that we are referring to the Tefillos that we are about to begin reciting on Yom Kippur. However, it is really the process of our Tefillos over the 40 days from Rosh Chodesh Elul that bring about our forgiveness on Yom Kippur. We must understand that our Tefillos NOW until Yom Kippur are important and effective as we are in Yemei Rachamim and Yemei Ratzon. What is Tefillah? It is not an exercise in which we attempt to ‘persuade’ Hashem to change His mind. It is rather an Avodas HaLev--a sincere and heartfelt experience in which we declare that we are entirely dependent upon Hashem. It is the acknowledgement that it is Hashem Who has the power and control over everything--and anything that I have comes from Him. With this heartfelt internalization, a person becomes a different person, and may receive what he asks for. The essence of Tefillah is for a person to feel that he stands before Hashem and recognizes who Hashem truly is and what Hashem means in his life. Chazal teach that “in our current times when we do not have the Mitzvah of Bikkurim, we instead daven three times a day”. This is because one who brings Bikkurim does so ‘Lifnei Hashem Elokecha--before Hashem’ (Devarim 26:10). Our davening three times a day is for us to attain this level of Lifnei Hashem Elokecha even in our times and in our day. HaRav Salomon brings the famous teaching of HaRav Chaim Brisker, Z’tl, that if one does not know that he is standing in front of Hashem when davening Shemone Esrei, then he has not in fact davened. The difference between a young child davening and an adult davening is that a child simply looks into a Siddur and says the words--whereas an adult stands before and talks to Hashem while doing so. As the Arizal explains, the Nusach of our Tefillah as established by the Anshei Knesses HaGedolah has all the powers necessary to reach the Olamos HaElyonim. What we have to do is say them, simply understanding the meaning of the words and knowing before Whom and to Whom we are talking. HaRav Simcha Zissel, Z”tl (the Alter of Kelm), adds that if we can conquer the Yetzer Hara of foreign thoughts in Tefillah--then Hashem will, Middah K’negged Middah, conquer any anger or Din that He might otherwise have upon us. We learn this from Avrohom Avinu, who was koveish, who conquered, his mercy over his son and brought him to the akeidah, in whose zechus Hashem is koveish, conquers any anger or Din He has against His people in the Yemei HaDin. It is therefore a tremendous and invaluable undertaking to work on controlling foreign thoughts during davening, and to recognize before Whom we stand. If one realizes he has a foreign thought--then, as with all bad thoughts--at the very least he should not enjoy it and do whatever he can to ‘throw it out’ of his mind. He will then be acting like Avraham Avinu who was a koveish--and Hashem will then be a Koveish Ka’as MeiAleinu--showering Chesed and Rachamim upon us, and bringing us the Geulah Sheleimah B’Karov BeMeheirah V’Yameinu.




17 Elul

THE 611TH MITZVAH: This week’s Parsha contains the 611th Mitzvah. What is it? Can you explain why we remind ourselves about this Mitzvah prior to Rosh Hashanah-- this is real Halacha LeMa’aseh!



LIFE ! HaRav Shlomo Wolbe, Z’tl, points out that the Hebrew word for life is Chaim--which is in the plural. One could surmise that the reason that Chaim is in the plural is to teach us that we really have two lives--one in Olam Hazeh and one (if we behave properly) in Olam Haba. HaRav Wolbe, however, teaches that we are to learn from this that life as an individual in seclusion is not life--as part of our role in this world is to interact with others in a way which will give Nachas Ruach to Hashem. Life is not “me”, “my”, “I”--life is “we”, “us” and “ours”!



PLEASE REVIEW MORE THAN ONCE: The following is a teaching contained in the Sefer Orchos Chaim of the great Rishon and one of the greatest Poskim of all time, Rabbeinu Asher (the Rosh). Its one short, powerful sentence constitutes Siman #90 of the Sefer: 


Do not minimize the significance of even one enemy.”




Should be heartfelt, real and sincere

For who can fathom the value of each and every tear

Before the Kisei HaKavod at this very special time of year?!



HILCHOS SUCCOS: We continue our two Halachos a day in the 30-day period before Sukkos. (Please note that one should continue to learn Hilchos Sukkos on his own on Shabbos and Sunday, when there is no Bulletin):


1.  Although one is not required to drink water in the Sukkah, if one is close to the Sukkah and would like to drink some water, HaRav Shlomo Zalmen Auerbach, Z’tl, opines that it would appear that he should enter the Sukkah--for a Sukkah must be treated as a home, and just as a person close to home would wait until he gets home to drink, so too, should one enter the Sukkah to take the drink in order to fulfill the Halacha of Taishvu Ke’ain Taduru--dwelling in the Sukkah as one dwells in his home (Shulchan Aruch Orach Chaim 639, Dirshu Note 13).


2. If there is a Bris on Sukkos, both HaRav Auerbach Z’tl, and HaRav Elyashiv, Z’tl teach that it is preferable to make the Bris in a Sukkah, if it is possible.




Special Note One: Today, we continue our series in which we will refer to one Ahl Cheit a day through the Yomim Nora’im period, so that we have the opportunity to briefly review each one of them in steady steps. Today, we study the first Ahl Cheit under the letter Mem:


Ahl Cheit Shechatanu Lefanecha BeMasah U’Vematan--Acting Improperly In Financial Matters


Perhaps one of the most famous teachings of Chazal (Shabbos 31A) is that the first question that a person is asked by the Bais Din Shel Ma’alah is “Did you act honestly in your financial affairs?” The language of the question is actually “Nasa’asah V’Nasatah B’Emunah?” The key word here is B’Emunah--for if one acts even a bit deceitfully, if one underpays, overcharges, negotiates through mistruths, withholds payments, pays or charges ribbis, or fails to clarify what the Halacha is regarding a purchase, a sale or a payment that needs to be made--then he is not acting with Emunah, which is the belief that Hashem and Hashem only determines exactly what one needs and is supposed to have from Rosh Hashanah until the next Rosh Hashanah. As we have pointed out in the past, the Pri Megadim (to Shulchan Aruch 156) writes that the second question a person is asked after 120 years is “Kavata Itim LaTorah--did you establish times for Torah study?” However, this is the second question, for if the person does not pass the first, he does not really get to the second. The Iyun Tefillah adds that although one may not be guilty of highway robbery, outright fraud or blatant cheating, each and every person must act with introspection relating to the financial ‘heterim’ that he has applied to himself. If a person could look back at the end of each day and say (really, exclaim)--”My Masah and Matan was with Emunah!”--then he has accomplished a great deal in this world, and after 120 years, in the next!


Additional Note: Chazal actually teach that “Someone who takes from his friend even something worth only a peruta, is viewed as if he took his life and the life of his descendants.”  The Pele Yoetz succinctly states, “and someone who has his friend’s possessions in his hands will not have his Tefillos heard…and if his Tefilos are not heard on the Yomim Noraim--does he have any hope?!”



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


1. The Luach Davar B’Ito brings that in Kelm there was a takanah for a person to pay a k’nas of money if he exhibited any anger or k’peida in his house on Erev Shabbos.


2. Through the week, and especially on Erev Shabbos, we purchase or put away the best for Shabbos…whether it be special treats, cake, flowers, clothing or the like. Chazal teach that Shabbos is Mei’ein Olam Haba. Accordingly, as we enjoy our special Shabbos treats and treatment, we should reflect upon the fact that the one who has properly saved up and put away in ‘Olam Hazeh’--will enjoy infinitely greater treats in Olam Haba!


3. In Shulchan Aruch, the Mechaber himself especially writes about Shalosh Seudos: “Yehey Zahir Me’od LeKayem Seudas Shelishis--one should be very careful to eat the third meal” (Shulchan Aruch Orach Chaim 291:1). This can be accomplished by not overeating at the Shabbos day meal. The Avudraham writes that by being careful in this way, one demonstrates that his Seudos are L’Sheim Mitzvah, and that moreover not overeating will also help one learn more Torah during the course of the day (ibid., Dirshu Note 2).


4. The Mishna Berurah rules that if one began his third Shabbos meal before Chatzos, and it continued into the time of Mincha, one is yotzei the Mitzvah Shalosh Seudos, as the meal continued into the time of Shalosh Seudos--which is the time when Mincha can be recited (ibid., Mishna Berurah seif katan 7). The Aruch HaShulchan (Orach Chaim 291:4) writes that ahl pi kabbalah, each Shabbos meal is to be eaten after the Tefillah to which it is related, so that the third meal should be eaten after its corresponding Tefillah of Mincha (ibid., Dirshu Note 11).


5. The Mishna Berurah writes that at Shalosh Seudos, which, unlike the first two meals does not have a Kiddush associated with it, it is Tov VeHader--good to beautify the meal by making a bracha and drinking some wine, fulfilling the ruling of the Rambam by doing so (MB ibid., seif katan 21). HaRav Nissim Karelitz, Shlita, teaches that the amount of wine can be less than a revi’is, and in fact one only need to drink a little bit--as the point is to demonstrate the importance of the meal (ibid., Dirshu Note 17).


6. The Mishna Berurah writes that lechatchila one should have delicacies at Shalosh Seudos in accordance with his capabilities (ibid. seif katan 22).


7. The reason that women are equally obligated in this meal is because as to all matters of Shabbos men and women are equal, and also because they benefited from the miracle of the Mon, in which Parsha the three meals of Shabbos are alluded to (ibid seif katan 26).


8. The Shalosh Seudos meal is more important than that of Melave Malka; accordingly, if one has a limited amount of meat, fish or other delicacies, it is better to serve them at Shalosh Seudos (ibid., Bi’ur Halacha d’h U’lefachos, and Dirshu Note 20).


9. On Shabbos at Mincha, we uniquely recite the pasuk of VeAni Sefillasi…Eis Ratzon... (Tehillim 69:14)--which pasuk demonstrates that although we have eaten and drank in a festive manner, we still look to and are guided by the Torah. We will accordingly not recite this Pasuk this year on Yom Kippur which falls out on Shabbos, since people who are able will not have eaten or drank before Mincha. During the course of the year, however, even a person who davens b’yechidus should recite the Pasuk (SA OC 292, Mishna Berurah seif katan 2 and Dirshu Note 1).  Additional Note: On Shabbos Yom Kippur we will also not recite Tzidkasecha Tzedek at Mincha, because there we state Mishpatecha Tehom Rabba--Your judgments are very deep---and on Yom Kippur we ask for Hashem’s Rachamim!



Special Note Three: Parshas Ki Savo begins with the Mitzvah of Bikkurim. HaRav Chaim Kanievsky, Shlita, teaches that one of the reasons that we read about Bikkurim (whose essence is recognition of Hashem’s gifts to us) at this time of the year is to remind us to have HaKaras HaTov and thanks to Hashem for life and the gifts of the past year. 


Additional Note: May we suggest that an extremely important Middah for each person to continue working on at this time of year is HaKaras HaTov.  Chazal (Avodah Zara 5A) teach that both Adam HaRishon, and the Bnei Yisrael at the Cheit HaEigel, were Kafui Tov--deniers of good.  One would expect that HaKaras HaTov and Kafui Tov are exact opposites…with one recognizing the good done to him and affirmatively expressing that recognition, and the second person expressly rejecting and even complaining about the act or deed done for him or on his behalf.  However, Rashi (ibid.) teaches us otherwise.  Rashi writes that one who simply does not recognize and appreciate the good that was done to him or on his behalf is already a Kafui Tov.  He doesn’t have to actually express his disdain of, or rejection, of the deed--he simply can be silent or unthinking about it, and already thereby falls into the terrible abyss of being a Kafui Tov.  If we want to begin to truly appreciate everything that Hashem does for us, we have to begin to appreciate what everyone else does for us as well, and not act as a Kafui Tov--someone who does not think or care about what others do for him and from which he benefits.  One should reflect upon his ongoing attitude-- whether he is a thinking and thanking “Makir Tov” at work and at home, or an unthinking and unthanking “Kafui Tov”.  There does not seem to be much middle ground.  The choice is yours!



Special Note Four: In this week’s Parsha, we are taught that the punishments found in the Tochacha come as a result of not serving Hashem “B’simcha U’VeTuv Levav--in joy and with a good heart.”  There is a fascinating account brought in the Sefer Chayim Shel... which we have brought in the past relating to a visit by HaRav Boruch Ber Lebowitz, Z’tl to America to raise funds for his Yeshiva. Some ba’alei batim had honored him by renting for him a private apartment in which he could quietly learn and rest when not raising funds.  The ba’alei batim did not realize, however, that the windows of the apartment faced directly towards a statue/idol outside of a church.  This caused HaRav Boruch Ber much consternation, but he would never think of reporting his displeasure to the ba’alei batim who were kind enough to supply him with the dwelling.  He then came upon the following story with HaRav Nosson Adler, Z’tl, which changed HaRav Boruch Ber’s outlook forever.  HaRav Adler was asked by emergency messenger to try to help the Jewish community in another area of Germany , which was being threatened by the local poritz with expulsion and everything that goes with it.  The community felt that the great stature of HaRav Adler could reverse the designs of the lord, and they begged HaRav Adler to come hurriedly and save them.  Although it was the middle of winter, and snow and ice blanketed the ground, HaRav Adler agreed, and was accompanied by his great talmid, the Chasam Sofer. They hired a non-Jewish wagon driver, Johann, to get them there as soon as possible.  The night was frigid and the snow was deep. Suddenly, the wagon got stuck in a ditch of ice, and the two horses drawing it were powerless to extricate the wagon.  HaRav Adler gave Johann a considerable sum, and convinced him to go to ride one of the horses to the closest possible city--and to hire another two horses, with the hope that the four horses together could extricate the wagon. Three hours later, with the great Rabbonim sitting in the frigid wagon, Johann returned with one horse--and one powerfully-looking big ox.  “This should really do it”, he exclaimed--”we should have enough power now to get us out of the ditch”.  HaRav Nosson, upon seeing the huge ox, jumped out of the wagon and began to dance in the snow in exuberance.  “Rebbe--why are you reacting like this?!”  the Chasam Sofer asked.  HaRav Nosson responded:  “I never in my wildest dreams thought I would ever be able to fulfill the Mitzvah of ‘LoSachrosh Beshor U’VaChamor Yachdov --of not coupling two species of animals together to work’.  Now, because I have been moser nefesh to help save my poor brothers from expulsion, Hashem has been mezakeh me with a special gift--a special Mitzvah! Is this not a great cause for joy!”  The Chasam Sofer had certainly learned a life-long lesson. He approached Johann, gave him even more money and told him that Jewish law did not allow the ox to work with the horse.  Johann would have to take back the ox to its owner--and bring another horse instead.  The startled Johann, after yelling that they would have to spend another three hours in the freezing cold while he searched for a horse, took the money and agreed. 


HaRav Boruch Ber reflected upon  the joy that HaRav Nosson Adler felt from just one Mitzvah--and thought to himself as follows:  In Kamenitz, I face no problems whatsoever such as this. Hashem has graced me here in America with the powerful Mitzvah of “Lo Sosuru Acharei Levavchem V’acharei Einiechem--not to follow after my heart or my eyes --and he has given it to me every single day during my stay! How overjoyed should I be!  With this, and from then on, he celebrated his  situation--and served Hashem--with that ‘getchka’ outside-- with joy and gladness of heart.  Each and every one of us must take the lesson of the Parsha. We must take the lesson of HaRav Nosson Adler and HaRav Boruch Ber Lebowitz--we must celebrate that we too are blessed with Mitzvos which Hashem sends directly to us and for us in our own unique way.  Let us take our Mitzvos and rejoice in them.  Let our hearts be full of gladness and our minds full of thanks--as we take each and every one of the Mitzvos of Hashem not for granted--but as a Heavenly Grant!  



Special Note Five: Chazal explain that we read the Tochacha in this week’s Parsha before the end of the year so that “Tichleh Shana U’Kileloseha--let the year and its curses end,” and let the new year and its brachos begin. HaRav Gedalya Schorr, Zt’l, teaches that we must treat our failings and faults of the previous year as a seed.  We must plant them in the ground out of sight and touch, and nurture our past experiences into a beautiful and blossoming new fruit during the coming year.  We should most definitely not let the sins of the past, and despair over them, obstruct the beautiful potential from growth that we have in the coming year.  We must realize that much brocha lies ahead--if we follow the path of blessing.



Special Note Six:  The Pele Yoetz, in a beautiful discussion of Teshuva, makes the following essential points for all to know, among others.  If you have the time and capability, they are found near the end of the Sefer Pele Yoetz:


A.  The most important portal to Teshuva is the study of Torah--to learn the Halachos that one needs to know, and to study works of Mussar and Yiras Hashem.  Anyone who learns on his own or attends Shiurim is per se closer to Hashem.  In fact, this is why the brocha of Teshuva in Shemone Esrei first begins with Torah--Hashiveynu Avinu L’Sorosecha (Bring us back to Torah)--for the study of Torah is a prerequisite to Teshuva.  Hakhel Note:  In this regard, we provide one incredible point for your Kabbalah consideration.  If a person takes just seven (7) minutes a day and turns it into a new learning Seder--a time for learning anything that he wants to, or always intended to but never got around to it, this will aggregate into 210 minutes of additional learning a month.  Not a lot?  According to the G’ra and the Chofetz Chaim, because every word of Talmud Torah is a mitzvah, and one can say 200 words a minute, one is performing 200 mitzvos a minute when he studies Torah.  Now let us do the simple Halachic math, which we have provided in various ways in the past:  210 minutes a month times 200 mitzvos a minute equals 42,000 mitzvos a month, or an additional 511,000 mitzvos for a 365 day year--and these are mitzvos of the literally incomparable quality of Talmud Torah, regarding which Chazal teach “VeTalmud Torah KeNeged Kulam.”  How would you like to dedicate 7 minutes a day (i.e., more than half a million mitzvos a year) to Teshuva in Talmud Torah in the coming year?!  Hashem certainly provides us with unbeatable opportunities!


B. The Yetzer Hara attempts to minimize avairos.  It is “only this” or “only that”…”but this” or “but that”.  When you see yourself thinking or using these kinds of phrases, be on the lookout for sin.


C. The way one can tell whether his soul is pure is by the Kavanah--which includes the fear, love and great joy--that he places into his Tefillah.  Everyone should try and work on purifying his soul!



Special Note Seven: The following teachings of HaRav Nosson Wachtfogel, Z’tl, the Mashgiach of the Lakewood Yeshiva, are excerpted from the Sefer Leket Reshimos (on Elul and the Yomim Noraim):


1.  The growth of a person is measured by the toil and effort he puts into his Avodas Hashem, and one who does not put in the effort really has nothing. No drop of sweat goes to waste.


2.  One should not treat Elul as the rest of the year, for the whole next year will be dependent upon how one progresses in Elul. In Bein Adam LeChaveiro, one should work on being Noseih B’Ohl Im Chaveiro--joining as one with another, viewing his burdens as one’s own burdens and his joys as one’s own joys. This is the actualization of V’Ahavta LeRei’acha Kamocha.


3.  Elul is the acronym of “Ani LeDodi VeDodi Li--if we view ourselves as the son of the King, we will act in a different light”. We act irresponsibly only because we push aside our true relationship and bearing. Hashem told Yirmiyahu HaNavi (1:7): “Ahl Tomar Na’ar Anochi--do not say “I am but a youth”--Hashem tells this to each and every one of us.


4.  Chazal teach that one who is Ma’avir Ahl Midosav will be forgiven for his sins. The reason that this is so is because by being Ma’avir Ahl Midosav, a person demonstrates that he is not only concerned with himself--but cares about others as well. He therefore joins in with the merits of all of K’lal Yisrael.


5.  Before going to sleep and upon arising, HaRav Wachtfogel advised that one daven that he be zoche to Teshuvah Nechonah-- proper Teshuvah.


6.  It is hard for us to feel awe because we do not have world leaders who inspire it. What we can do, however, is to visualize great events--such as Kriyas Yam Suf, and how the Torah records: “Az Nivhalu Alufei Edom Eilei Mo’av Yochazeimo Ra’ad Namogu Kol Yoshvei Kena’an.” If these akum sensed Hashem’s Gevurah through these awesome sights--we should likewise envision similar Gevuros to appreciate Hashem’s Majesty.


7.  It is the end that is important--if a person was a Tzaddik all of his days, and then c’v becomes a Rasha, he will be judged as a Rasha. Happily, the vice versa is also true. Now, looking back at the beginning of the year, we may have started off Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur in a great way. It is, however, important to end the year in a great way--with the Sha’arei Rachamim and Ratzon open wide to help us!




16 Elul



1. “A Kaballah suggestion: Not checking email before davening.”


Hakhel Note One: Perhaps we can add not checking texts as well. After all--doesn’t d’veikus come first?


Hakhel Note Two: Additional points about cell phone use--should it be the first thing that I take out when leaving Shul?  Is it right to be looking to see who is calling when talking with someone in person--without saying “Excuse me I am waiting for an important call” (provided it is true!)?  Is texting, and texting, and texting a healthy activity for my soul?  For those with email access, should I be sending or reading emails when walking on the street, when eating, at red lights(perhaps  illegal in any event), or when spending quality time with a family member?  What did I do at all these times before cell phones were invented?  Certainly, Hashem has given us many tools and gifts with which to improve our lives and serve him--let us then use them with the gift of sechel granted to us that accompany these gifts.  Elul is the time to re-focus.  Let us make a move to bring back a bit of our own kavod--which will bring with it Kavod Shomayim.


2. “Regarding your suggestion to commit to be a Shomer Piv after reciting Modeh Ani upon awakening--it is interesting that the Alter Koidenover Rebbe, HaAdmur Rebbe Shlomo Chaim, ZY’A, in his daily Seder HaYom (recorded by his grandson, HaAdmur Rebbe Aharon of Koidenov, ZY’A, and published in the early pages of the Siddur Tefilas Chanoch-Ohr HaYashar) writes as follows:  ‘After the morning Netilas Yadayim one should say in Yiddish/one’s mother tongue: I accept upon myself to guard my tongue from purposeless speech (Devarim Beteilim), Rechilus, frivolity (Leitzanus) and from Lashon HaRa, and (I beseech You to) assist me in this goal.’”


3. “After Modeh Ani, the Gra would say ‘Hareini M’kabail Olei Ol Torah Hayom!’”




IT IS A TEST: The following is excerpted from Life is A Test, by Rebbetzin Esther Jungreis:


“You might argue, surely, Hashem, Who is all-knowing, Who foresees that which will occur in the future, was surely aware that Adam and Chava would violate His instructions, and that He would banish them from Gan Eden. So, if He knew beforehand that His plan was doomed to failure, why did He go through with it? Why didn’t He just bypass Gan Eden and immediately place Adam and Chava into a world of struggle, toil and sacrifice?


“Perhaps one of the reasons was to offer us a lesson in parenting--so that we might be fortified and better prepared when our children do not turn out as we had hoped. When reality does not mesh with our dreams, when the pain is so intense that we actually feel as if our hearts had been cut out, at such times, we must remember that, if Hashem can be disappointed, who are we to complain? And if He does not give up on us, who are we to give upon our children?!”



YOU ARE NOT SURROUNDED!  In last week’s Parsha, we learned that when we go to war against our enemies, Hashem will give it over to us. If there are many enemies, shouldn’t Hashem give them over to us? The Ba’alei Mussar explain that this is one of the ruses of the Yetzer Hara--for a person to feel surrounded by enemies, with no choice but to give up and surrender. The Torah, however, specifically attests that this is not true! It is really only one enemy--the Yetzer Hara--and you are not surrounded-- if you don’t give up, but instead go out to fight and take the offensive--then the perceived encirclement will be lifted for you by Hashem Himself--as the Yetzer Hara goes down to splendid and thorough defeat!



WHAT IS HOLDING US BACK FROM ERETZ YISRAEL? Chazal teach that Ma’aseh Avos Siman Labonim--what happened to the Avos is a sign of what happens to their children. In English as well (and perhaps in many languages), it is said that ‘History repeats itself’. What prevented our forefathers from entering Eretz Yisrael after the remarkable Geulas Mitzrayim they had experienced? It was the Lashon Hara spoken by the Meraglim-which kept millions of people in the desert for 38-plus years longer than they should have been. We are all so disappointed, so frustrated, so horrified, by what the Meraglim did--we should definitely not be following suit. We have got to realize what is keeping us out--and do something about it! Let us start today!  Hakhel Note: One place to start is the Shomer Piv Kaballah above....



HILCHOS SUKKOS!  Yesterday, we began the thirty day period prior to Sukkos. Many learn that the obligation to study the Halachos of Sukkos begins thirty (30) days in advance (see Shulchan Aruch Orach Chaim 429, Ba’air Heitev). Accordingly, we bli neder intend to provide (at least) two Halachos relating to Sukkos per day. Since we missed yesterday, we will provide four Halachos today. Our notes are excerpted from the newly published Dirshu Edition of the Mishna Berurah, Volume VI):


1. Some Poskim rule that on the Yom Tov of Sukkos one should place a tablecloth only on his table in the Sukkah, and not on his table in the house--in order to indicate that the house is not his dira over Sukkos. Others, however, hold that one can put a tablecloth on even in the home LeKavod Yom Tov (Shulchan Aruch Orach Chaim 639, Dirshu Note 4).


2. [As we did, in fact, point out yesterday as an aside to kissing Seforim], some have the custom of kissing the Sukkah’s walls when they enter and leave the Sukkah, as a sign of Chibuv HaMitzvahVeAshrei Me She’oved Hashem BeSimcha--fortunate is the one who serves Hashem with joy! (ibid.; Shulchan Aruch Orach Chaim 477, Mishna Berurah seif katan 5, quoting the Shelah HaKadosh).


3. HaRav Nissim Karelitz, Shlita, rules that it is permissible to bring a trash container into the Sukkah when cleaning it, provided that he takes it out as soon as he has completed cleaning (SA, OC 639, Dirshu Note 6).


4. One is required to promptly remove used food containers from the Sukkah. Although when one finishes Shalosh Seudos close to the end of Shabbos during the year, one generally does not clean-off the table so that it is not a hachana for after Shabbos, HaRav Elyashiv, Z’tl, rules that it is permissible to remove the used utensils from the Sukkah in such a situation, because it is clear that one is doing so for the Kavod of the Sukkah--and not as a hachana for after Shabbos (ibid., Dirshu Note 7).




Special Note One:  We B’EH continue our Monday/Thursday study of the Sefer Mitzvos HaKatzar, with the Mitzvos Lo Sa’asei which the Chofetz Chaim writes are applicable in our times. Today, we present Mitzvos Lo Sa’aseh 191 and 192:


191.  Shelo Lehashchis Ilan Ma’achol--this is the Mitzvas Lo Sa’aseh which prohibits one from destroying a fruit tree for no good reason. Someone who breaks a utensil, rips an article of clothing, destroys a building or wastes food in a destructive manner receives makkas mardus. However, one may cut down a non-fruit bearing tree or even a fruit tree which no longer bears much fruit. One may also cut down a fruit tree if it is harming other trees, or because it is causing damage to other fields, or because the wood of the tree is valuable--as the prohibition of the Torah here relates to an act of destruction. This prohibition applies in all places and at all times, and to men and women alike.


192.  Shelo Ladur B’Eretz Mitzrayim--this is the Mitzvas Lo Sa’aseh which prohibits one from living in the land of Egypt . One may travel there to do business--but not to live there. The Chofetz Chaim adds that it is generally forbidden to leave Eretz Yisrael to Chutz La’aretz, and it is only permissible to do so in order to learn Torah, to get married, to save another from the hands of an akum, or for Parnassah purposes. To leave Eretz Yisrael in order to permanently dwell in Chutz La’aretz is only permissible if there is a severe famine in Eretz Yisrael. Whoever lives in Eretz Yisrael is zoche to have his sins forgiven; one who walks four amos there merits Olam Haba; and one who is buried there has his sins forgiven. A person should live in Eretz Yisrael even if most of those in his city are akum, rather than living in Chutz La’aretz in a city which has majority of Yisrael--for anyone who leaves to Chutz La’aretz--it is considered as if he worships idols. This prohibition applies in all places and at all times, and to men and women alike. This prohibition applies in all places and at all times, and to men and women alike.



Special Note Two: Today, we continue our series in which we will refer to one Ahl Cheit a day through the Yomim Nora’im period, so that we have the opportunity to briefly review each one of them in steady steps. Today, we study the Second Ahl Cheit under the letter Lamed:


Ahl Cheit Shechatanu Lefanecha BeLatzon--Acting with Frivolity


Just as the Kas Shakranim and Ba’alei Lashon Hara, the Kas Leitzanim are not afforded the opportunity to greet the Shechina in Olam Haba. The Mesilas Yesharim teaches that one act or word of Leitzanus can undermine much good that a person has done--needlessly setting a person back many steps. Leitzanus includes mocking, ridiculing or scoffing anything that is undeserving of ridicule, and also includes wasting time when Torah could be studied. HaRav Dessler, Z’tl, adds that Leitzanus does not allow one to accept rebuke or criticism--for the attitude acts in the same way as a shield upon which oil has been smeared. Dovid HaMelech teaches that a person is fortunate when (Tehillim 1:1) “U’veMoshav Leitzim Lo Yashav”--when he does not sit among those who act this way--not letting any part of them to rub off the purity of one’s neshama. The Sefer Dover Shalom writes that the study of Torah protects against the designs and the attitudes of the scoffers, the mockers, the ridiculers, and those that act with frivolity---as the Pasuk teaches (119:51): “Zeidim Helitzuni Ahd Me’od MeTorasecha Lo Natisi--sinners taunted me exceedingly, but I did not swerve from your Torah.”



Special Note Three: The following points were made by Rabbi Ephraim Wachsman, Shlita:


A. A Jewish man in the Russian army once related how he stood before the Czar with pachad and morah--even though the Czar could not see beyond his physical externality. Imagine, then, the awe that we should have in standing before Hashem Who is bodek ginzei nistaros--Who sees through everything that is hidden within us.


B. Why did Hashem create us? Yeshayahu HaNavi (43:21)  teaches: “Ahm Zu Yatzarti Li Tehillasi Yesapeiru--our role is to bring Kiddush Sheim Shomayim to the world--causing Hashem’s Name to be praised!”


C. The Chofetz Chaim would quote the Pasuk in last week’s Parsha--that if Hashem sees an ervas davar in us--then He recoils and stays away from us. Improving in Tzniyus is an essential element of improving ourselves--for by doing so, Hashem will stay with us and not remove His Presence from us--d’veikus!. 


D. The Midrash teaches that when the Malach HaMaves comes, there are three drops that come from his sword. The Panim  Yaffos explains that these three drops represent the three traits which are Motzi’in Es Ha’adam Min Haolam--which take a person out of this world--Kinah, Ta’ava and Kavod. If we can improve in these Middos--we can hopefully stay!


E. A person should humble himself to take the first step to put an end to a fight he is having with another.


F. When it comes to Tzedaka, some people may say that “the Mosdos HaTorah are having problems”. What does this mean?! We are all part of the Mosdos HaTorah--they are not ‘third parties’ or ‘others’--we are all joined as one in strengthening and spreading Torah to the greatest extent that we can!


G. The Alter of Kelm would say that a Kabbalah that one establishes for the Yomim Noraim--and then keeps during the year, has the same tokef--the same strength for the person as the Yomim Noraim do themselves. Accordingly, one should choose Kabbalos that he can adhere to and fulfill--so that he has the Kedusha of the Yomim Noraim with him the entire year!




15 Elul

FROM A READER: “On your point yesterday regarding kissing Seforim--The Belzer Rebbes were makpid to kiss a sefer prior to replacing it on the shelf.”



ABOUT WAR: The Sefer Mesilas Yesharim writes that the greatest war that anyone can face is the personal war that he must fight against the Yetzer Hara. It is a war which Chazal explain that a person cannot, in fact, win on his own. The K’sav Sofer teaches that, nevertheless, one must make the effort of going to war, as the Pasuk in the outset of last week’s Parsha teaches Ki Seitzei Lamilchama Ahl Oyevecha. If we do so, then as the Pasuk (ibid.) continues: “U’Nesana Hashem Elokecha BeYadecha--Hashem will give him over into your hands.” The key, then, is for us to go to battle--and Hashem will help us win the war!



A KABBALA SUGGESTION: Being in a sitting position for every bracha rishona and bracha acharona on food. Hakhel Note: We look forward to your Kabbalah Suggestions!



HOW MUCH DOES HASHEM LOVE US? For an idea as to how much Hashem loves us, and how exactly He shows us His love, we urge you to recite the second bracha in Ma’ariv tonight with special Kavannah!




Special Note One:  Today, we continue our series in which we will refer to one Ahl Cheit a day through the Yomim Nora’im period, so that we have the opportunity to briefly review each one of them in steady steps. Today, we study the first Ahl Cheit under the letter Lamed:


Ahl Cheit Shechatanu Lefanecha BeLashon Hara--Negative Speech


Chazal (Erchin 15B) teach that one who speaks Lashon Hara Ke’ilu Kofer BaIkar--it is as if r’l he denies Hashem. The sin of relating Lashon Hara includes relating something derogatory about another person or his property which could result in harm or distress to another. Even if it does not result in actual harm, by speaking negatively one nevertheless violates the Mitzvos related to Lashon Hara, on a Bein Adam LaMakom level. It makes no difference whether the negative information related is true or false, or whether it is spoken in the presence of that person or behind his back (unless specific circumstances are met in which case one can suspect, or in certain circumstances even believe, the Lashon Hara). Just as one is not permitted to speak Lashon Hara, one is not permitted to listen to it, and certainly not to believe it--with Chazal describing one who accepts Lashon Hara as ‘being fit to be thrown to the dogs’--a consequence which Chazal do not ascribe to other sins. One of the four groups of people who do not merit to greet the Shechina are those who speak Lashon Hara (Sotah 42A).  The Sha’arei Teshuvah (3:201) explains why one who speaks Lashon Hara is like a Kofer BaIkar--it is because he feels that which he utters is up to him, and he is not bound by Hashem’s rules in this regard, as Dovid HaMelech (Tehillim 12:5) describes: [They exclaim] “Sefaseinu Itanu Me Adon Lanu--our lips are with us--who is master over us?” Chazal list Lashon Hara as one of the 24 items which block Teshuvah in general, and teach that a person is especially punished both in this world and in the next world for his improper speech. The great rule of the Chofetz Chaim is that if one is unsure whether or not he should say something, it is always better to remain silent!

Hakhel Note: In our generation, we have been blessed with the Chofetz Chaim Heritage Foundation. May we suggest that, as a zechus in this extremely essential area, and as an aid to help overcome previous aveiros, one pass on the following information to as many people as you can, and keep it on hand to continuously pass on:  To order Shemiras Halashon tapes, books, learning programs and the Chofetz Chaim Heritage Foundation’s free catalog call 866-593-8399.  For free Shiurim in the Sefer Chofetz Chaim call the Chazal Hotline call 718-258-2008 (press 5).  For the Shemiras HaLashon Shailah Hotline (expert Poskim in Shemiras HaLashon to anonymously answer your real-life Shailah before saying the right or wrong thing), please call 718-951-3696, between the hours of 9:00PM until 10:30PM (EST).



 Special Note Two:  Two Weeks from today will be Erev Rosh Hashana.  It is reality check time--real reality check.


It is reported that many Gedolim would shake and tremble during this time, to the point that their knees would knock (as the phrase is actually used in Sefer Doniel--”Dah LeDah Nakshan”--with the English word ‘knock’ quite possibly having this Torah source).  Even if one may not be at this level of trepidation, one can most certainly privately shed tears to the Ribono Shel Olam in fear and shame--as the Pasuk states “Bamistarim Tivkeh Nafshi-- my soul weeps in private”.  By this suggestion, we do not mean to express negative fear.  What we mean to convey is that the judgment we are to face is not tilted or stilted, perverted or fiasco-filled as we might have otherwise seen in the courtrooms of basar vadam.  Our judgment will be true and just, and there is much that we need to make amends for.  Having come to the realization, having faced the facts--that one’s life and the lives of others really and truly hang in the balance--we can then begin to fully value and appreciate that we are incredibly gifted with the instructions--just exactly what we need to do in order to emerge successfully and even gainfully on the Day of Judgment!  Does it make any sense at all to not make the sincere effort, or at least demonstrate the willingness, to be guided by these life-bearing and fulfilling instructions?  The instructions are direct and to the point:  “Teshuva, Tefillah and Tzedakah Remove the r’l Evil Decree Against Us”--of course we all know the words--but when we get up to reciting or even crying out these words on the Yemei HaDin we must have already begun to demonstrate that they are more than just poignant words in a Machzor or even terror-filled lip service.  Lehavdil, even the best recipes in a recipe book that one already owns are not worth more than the paper they are written on until such time as someone actually puts together the ingredients and properly follows through; after having worked hard and carefully in the kitchen, however, not only will the cook or baker benefit, but all those around will share in the wonderful success as well. 


Dovid HaMelech (Tehillem 14:2) summarizes this all in one Pasuk: “Hashem MiShomayim Hishkif Ahl Bnei Odom Liros HaYeish Maskil Doresh Es Elokim--Hashem looks down from the Heavens to see if there is a wise person who seeks Him.”  What does Dovid HaMelech mean?  How does one seek Hashem--we all know that He cannot be seen and has no body, shape or form?!  Moreover, Hashem is omnipresent --He is everywhere-- so what is there to seek--He is right here and right there and there and there and there?!   We suggest that we seek Hashem through our clear and concise guide and formula--through Teshuva, through Tefillah, and through Tzedakah.  Through ‘Teshuva’, we seek Hashem by searching through for stains and washing as best we can our middos, our thoughts, our words and our actions.  Through ‘Tefillah’, we seek d’veikus with Hashem--if we make the effort, we will be, and feel, in direct contact with the Omnipresent through prayer.  As we daven Shemone Esrei, can we not try to picture Hashem’s Presence in front of us, listening to us (yes--us!) talking with Him, pleading with Him, thanking Him?!  Because young children daven a four-minute Shemone Esrei does it mean that we must follow suit--and, moreover, should we daven in the same way as we did twenty or ten or five or even one year ago?  Every year, our seeking through Tefillah--our connection to Hashem must mature and grow.  Finally, we seek through ‘Tzedakah’--by seeking Hashem through kindness to His creatures--through extending our hand and giving while seemingly receiving nothing in return.  In this regard, we want to advise you that twice each year, Yad Eliezer, our affiliate, gives out chickens in addition to its regular monthly food carton or food voucher.  Chickens are very expensive in Eretz Yisrael and far beyond the ability of many needy families to purchase.  The chickens bring Simchas Yom Tov to impoverished homes.  Residents of Kiryat Sefer will once again be entitled by generous benefactors to a dollar-for-dollar matching grant.  This is a city that is almost all Talmidei Chachamim who live B’Tzimtzum Gadol during the entire year.  They learn with Mesiras Nefesh that is awe inspiring, and especially now they need help.  We are told that some have not even been paid their meager stipend in months. Any subsidy that they were getting has been reduced and Yom Tov food is beyond their reach. Each (metric) ton that Yad Eliezer supplies to Kiryat Sefer feeds over 80 families for Yom Tov.  A ton normally costs $6,000, but since it is matched, it costs approximately $3,000, or $40 per family. Every dollar that comes in for this match goes for this purpose and it is Tzedaka in its purest form. You can donate online at yadeliezer.org. or call 718-258-1580 (Mrs. Tropper) with your donation. Checks can be mailed to American Friends of Yad Eliezer 1102 East 26th Street , Brooklyn , New York 11210 . If you send your donation via mail, please note that it is for the Kiryat Sefer match.  If you donate online, please put Kiryat Sefer in the comment box.


Upon reflection, we must be especially warmed and encouraged by the words of Dovid Hamelech--that Hashem looks to those who seek Him--for it means that we are all in the running, we all have the chance, we all are capable and we all can succeed.  We are now certainly close enough to Yom Tov to begin writing things down--events of the past year, middos to be changed, items to be taken care of, before Rosh Hashanah ...in order to make the words we shall soon cry out “Teshuva Tefillah U’Tzedaka” all the more meaningful and all the more successful on the upcoming Yom Tov.


Additional Note One:  Some in the western world criticize and mock us--claiming that we are made to feel ‘Jewish Guilt’ for our actions.  This myopic view looks at Olam Hazeh and can see no further.  We know that our actions have far reaching effects now--and will stay with us for eternity.  The story is related of a dibbuk who spoke nivul peh--unbecoming language.  When asked how he could do so--after all wasn’t he already in the next world--he responded that a person in the next world is only what he makes of himself here in this world.  His nivul peh stays with him there too--and serves as an eternal source of shame and discomfort (to say the least).  Having noted this--just begin to imagine what Teshuva, Tefillah and Tzedakah will look like and feel like--for eternity!


Additional Note Two:  Rabbi Ephraim Wachsman, Shlita provides remarkable solace and encouragement in the name of the Chasam Sofer.  In the ordinary course, we are taught that Teshuva performed out of Ahava (love of Hashem) converts Aveiros which were performed even intentionally into actual Zechuyos, while Teshuva performed out of Yirah (Fear) turns Aveiros performed intentionally into Shegagos--unintentional sins--which Hashem will obviously treat much differently on the Yom HaDin, but which are still sin.  The Chasam Sofer, however, adds that if the other two key “seeking” components besides Teshuva--i.e., Tefillah and Tzedakah--are present, than even Teshuva performed out of Yirah will be able to convert those intentional Aveiros into Zechuyos!!  What a bonus! What an opportunity!  What a gift!!  Let us take the next two weeks to make our search a very, very successful one...and may we blessed with an outpouring and overflowing of zechuyos for ourselves... and for our people!




14 Elul

GOING BACK TO THE FOUNTAIN OF YOUTH: As children, many of us were taught to kiss Seforim before we open them and after we close them. In fact, some were even taught to kiss a Siddur once and a Chumash twice to demonstrate the great kedusha of the Torah. For many adults, this practice of youth may have fallen by the wayside, as one may feel uncomfortable doing something that other adults do not commonly do. However, the kiss, does, in fact, indicate a chibuv mitzvah (just as some kiss the walls of the Sukkah, the Matzah, etc.), and additionally indicates a unique Kavod for the Sefer. As we search for ways to improve--one of them can be to return to a higher level of Kavod Hatorah--from the pristine (well, almost pristine) days of our youth!



PAYING TOMORROW:  Shlomo HaMelech, the wisest of all men, teaches (Mishlei 3:28 ):  Ahl Tomar L’rei’acha Leich VaShuv U’Machar Etein V’Yeish Itach”--Do not tell your friend “Go and return and tomorrow I will give, though you have it with you”. The Chofetz Chaim teaches that the ‘friend’ referred to in this Pasuk is the Yetzer HaTov--who is the truest friend of a person, and advises him how to do good. What Shlomo HaMelech is teaching is that one should not say “I will do this Mitzvah tomorrow, that Chesed tomorrow, learn double tomorrow, come on time tomorrow, daven better tomorrow, do Teshuva tomorrow..."--for each day is independent of the next and is truly a world onto itself.  Just as one would not push away the good advice of his best friend, should he likewise not delay fulfilling the suggestions, the counsel, the urgings of his best of all friends--the Yetzer Hatov--to do good not tomorrow--but today!



SMELL THE KETORES! In last week’s Parsha, we learned that when we go out to war against our enemies, “Venishmarta Mekol Davar Rah” (Devarim 23:10 ). The word davar (thing) is similar to dibur (speech), and accordingly, the Pasuk is interpreted to mean that a person should be especially careful from Lashon Hara and bad speech in order to be saved in a time of war. HaRav Chaim Kanievsky, Shlita, points out that because of the gravity of the aveirah of negative speech, it could literally be a deciding factor as to whether a person will live in a time of danger. Indeed, Shlomo HaMelech clearly teaches “Maves V’Chaim BeYad HaLashon--death and life are in the hand of the tongue” (Mishlei 18:21 ). It is truly fascinating to point out that Chazal (recently studied in the Daf Yomi, Pesachim 59A) teach that the only avodah which preceded the Karbon Tamid Shel Shachar in the morning was the Ketores. Why was this so--why should any avodah come before the Karbon Tamid in the morning? We may suggest that the Ketores brought Kapparah for the sin of Lashon Hara (Zevachim 88B). Accordingly, before the Avodah of the Karbon Tamid and the rest of the avodos of the day could take effect, the sin of Lashon Hara had to be cleared--so that we could go on with life for the upcoming day.


Hakhel Suggestion: After saying Modeh Ani upon awakening in the morning, it may be a wonderful Kabbalah for one to state that he intends to be a Shomer Piv U’Leshono in all of his endeavors today! 



FROM A READER: “My husband pointed out something to me that I'd like to share with Hakhel readers. In Kaddish, the word Avuhon is sometimes mispronounced as Ahuvon (or some variation thereof). Those saying Kaddish should be aware of what the word really is!”



A GLUTEN FREE MEZONOS! According to the OU, the brachos on the General Mills Chex Apple Cinnamon (Gluten Free) are Mezonos (rice content) and Borei Nefashos.




Special Note One:  Today, we continue our series in which we will refer to one Ahl Cheit a day through the Yomim Nora’im period, so that we have the opportunity to briefly review each one of them in steady steps. Today, we study the second Ahl Cheit under the letter Chaf:


Ahl Cheit Shechatanu Lefanecha Bechachash U’Vechazav--Denying What Was and Breaking a Commitment


Chazal (Sotah 42A) teach that one of the only four groups that do not greet the Shechinah are the Kas Shakranim--those who speak falsely. The Sefer Mesilas Yesharim (Chapter 11) explains that Chazal are not referring to people who maliciously or even wantonly lie. Rather, they are referring to those who will mix false items into stories as they feel appropriate. Because of their disregard for the truth, knowingly ‘peppering’ falsity into a story or their remarks, they lack the Torah trait of honesty and veracity--and Hashem will shun them. Indeed, continues the Mesilas Yesharim, even those who do not add spice to their words as a matter of course but only from time-to-time are nevertheless considered to be Dovrei Sheker. The Navi (Tzefanya 3:13 ) teaches that in the end of days one of the traits the She’eiris Yisrael, those who remain, will be marked by is “Lo Yidabru Chazav--they will not speak falsehood.” With this, we can better understand why the Torah (Shemos 23:7) especially teaches us “Midvar Sheker Tirchak--stay far away from falsehood.” Accordingly, we must be careful to avoid any part of falsehood--including not denying or lying about something that took place, and being just as careful to keep our pledges, promises and commitments so that we are truthful not only about the past--but also about the present and the future. No part of Sheker is good--Hashem’s seal is Emes--as we must try our hardest to make it ours as well!



Special Note Two:  Elul Kashrus Notes:


A. One must be vigilant relating to products in which the packaging looks a bit different than usual, or has a bit of a different name than what one is used to seeing. We received the following Kashrus notice through the OU relating to certain granola bars: “Quaker Chewy Chocolate Malvavisco chewy granola bars are produced by the Quaker Oats Company for Central and South America .  This product mistakenly bears an OU D symbol and it is not certified by the Orthodox Union.  Corrective actions have been implemented.”


B. We received the following link from a reader relating to Rabbi Vaya’s instructions for checking Rosh Hashana fruits.  Please click here for the article.


C. On a related note, the same reader sent us the following link containing news relating to corn on the cob--which will now be edible on the cob itself from a company in Eretz Yisrael!   The article is available by clicking here.


D. Even if one is not careful to eat only Yoshon, one’s Rav may advise him that when there is a choice, he should choose a Yoshon product over a chodosh product. All products from Eretz Yisrael (with a reliable Hashgacha) are Yoshon, and many products here state that they are Yoshon as well. However, many ‘Heimeshe’ products are not Yoshon and do not claim to be. The CRC (Central Rabbinical Congress of the USA and Canada ), for instance, has advised us that it certifies Yoshon, but only if the packaging states so. Very practical examples of Chodosh and Yoshon products on the same shelf would be Heimeshe brands of pretzels, cookies and cakes. The choice is yours! If one sends an email to the following email address  chodosh@sefer.org, he will automatically receive the last Chodosh guide for 5773.


E. The following are among the Top Ten Questions for July 2013 Questions and Answers from  cRc Kosher (Chicago Rabbinical Council Kosher), and are edited by Rabbi Yisroel Hisinger, Shlita, Executive Secretary, Kashrus Information Center (KIC), as published in the Torah Times:


Q: Does flavored beer need a hechsher?

A: Yes, flavored beer requires a hechsher.


Q: I recently acquired a basting brush whose bristles are made with pig hair. Are there any kashrus concerns?

A: No, there are no restrictions on using pig hair, and the basting brush may be used.


Q: Do I need to buy cranberry juice with a reliable kosher certification?

A: Juices can be pasteurized while hot in the same pasteurizer used for non-kosher products, such as grape juice, and therefore juices must bear a reliable kosher symbol.


Q: Does brown sugar need a hechsher?

A: In general, sugar, in all its forms (brown, granulated, powdered, etc.) does not need a hechsher. Some sugar does, however, require certification for Pesach.


Q: Does salt need a hechsher?

A: Salt that contains no kosher sensitive ingredients does not need a hechsher. Some common ingredients that do not pose a kashrus concern are Calcium, Silicate, Dextrose and Potassium Iodide.


Q: If the cRc policy is that black coffee may be purchased at any Dunkin Donuts, why does the cRc not recommend the iced coffee?

A: The iced coffee at Dunkin Donuts is actually produced from an iced coffee mix and, therefore, requires hashgacha.


Q: This month, we visited our local 7-Eleven, and when examining the cRc Slurpee list, I noticed some are listed as dairy. Do these flavors contain milk?

A: In order to freeze correctly, some diet Slurpees use a sugar known as Tagatose which comes from whey, making the sugar dairy.


Q: Do pumpkin seeds need a hechsher?

A: Raw or dry roasted pumpkin seeds do not need a hechsher. Pumpkin seeds that are oil roasted or contain additional flavors do require a hechsher.


F. The Sefer Mesilas Yesharim (Chapter 11) writes the following moving words about the primacy that careful Kashrus observance must have in our lives: “…for forbidden foods bring tumah mamash into the heart and soul of a person to the point that Hashem’s Kedusha leaves and moves far away from this person. [When this happens] a person’s ability to have true knowledge, and the seichel that HaKadosh Baruch Hu gives to those that are pious, leave him. The forbidden foods enter his body and become a part of his very being. Anyone with a brain in his head should view forbidden foods as poison, or in which some poison has been mixed. If one would be concerned for any portion of poison in a food--would he dare eat from it?! Even if one has the smallest doubt about it, he would not be lenient--and if he would risk it, he would be considered a Shoteh Gamur--a complete fool." Of this", concludes the Mesilas Yesharim, "Shlomo HaMelech writes (Mishlei 23:2): “Vesamta Sakin Belo'echa Im Ba’al Nefesh Atta-and you should put a knife into your jaw if you are a man with a mighty appetite.” 


Hakhel Note: As we conclude the year 5773, we should look back at the food that we brought into our homes, or that we ate while we were out over the year. Were there michsholim that we succumbed to? Were we lenient when we did not know what the Hashgacha was? Did we ignore Kashrus issues that we knew existed, simply by placing the burden or responsibility on the Kashrus agency? Did we speak to our Rav before attending a Simcha at a facility that had to be Kashered and/or about the questions that one should ask at a restaurant or food establishment out-of-town, or with which he was not familia? The parsha of Kashrus is reiterated in the Torah--after all, eating is something that we all do at least two, three or more times a day, and thousands of times a year. It is imperative that we review our ways, to ensure that our body and soul are nourished in Kedusha--so that our actions and deeds will be able to express that holiness in all places, at all times, and to all people!




13 Elul

A MESSAGE FOR AMERICA : Last month (Av 5773), a Rav from America came to HaRav Chaim Kanievsky, Shlita, and asked him “What is the primary avodah in America that one should focus upon?” HaRav Kanievsky answered two words: “Yiras Shomayim”. The Rav then asked: “How is one supposed to attain Yiras Shomayim?” HaRav Kanievsky answered him: “Learn Sefer Reishis Chochma”.


Additional Note: The Chofetz Chaim, almost at the outset of the Mishna Berurah (Shulchan Aruch, Orach Chaim 1, seif katan 4) provides great advice in the name of the Arizal on a ‘to’eles gadol--a great help’ to attain Yirah.  One should envision in front of him the four letter name of Hashem (Yud Keh Vov Keh), with the nekudos of Yirah (chirik, sheva, komatz) under the first three letters.  One should certainly try this at a time or in a place where his Yirah is being challenged by his Yetzer Hara from within or his Yetzer Hara from without.  Nothing, of course, can replace a meaningful Mussar Seder, but effective emergency therapy or treatment, or a needed boost at a down point of the day, can sometimes be life-bearing as well!



THE MISTAKE: The Pesukim in Melochim and Divrei HaYomim teach us that Menashe HaMelech, after committing the most heinous, heinous of aveiros did Teshuvah, coming back to Hashem for the majority of his kingship years. However, his son, Ahmon, became king after him, and went back towards his father’s horrifying idol-worshiping ways. The Pasuk (Divrei HaYamim II 33:15) succinctly explains why: “VeLo Shavram VeLo Ganzam Min Ha’ayin”--Menashe steered a far course away from all of the avodah zara’s he had served, but he neither broke them nor hid them, so they were readily available for the taking by his son upon Menashe’s demise.


Hakhel Note: HaRav Shneuer Kotler, Z’tl, brings clear proof from the Rambam in Hilchos Edus as to how proper Teshuva must be performed. The Rambam writes that if one is pasul le’edus (disqualified from serving as a witness in bais din) because, for example, he lent money with ribbis, or because he was a mesachek bekuvia or a mafrichei yonim--he engaged in ‘professions’ which were tainted with ill-gotten gains-- then the only way he could get his credibility back and once again be a Kosher witness-- would be if he not only denounced his previous line of work, but also ridded himself of the paraphernalia of the job.  The contracts, the devices, the instruments, the tools that enabled his aveiros had to be removed from his home and from his reach.  Teshuva means more than saying that you are not going to do it again--even if you mean what you say.  It means ridding yourself of the objects, habits, and connections that brought you, and can bring you again, to where you shouldn’t have been--and certainly shouldn’t be going.  Look around the house, the office, the briefcase, the computer, the electronic gadgetry.  Is there something that shouldn’t be here, something which can bring someone down or hurt someone, something that will make it harder for me or others around to do the Teshuva that I or they want to do?  Now is the time to take the Rambam’s lesson--and demonstrate that you too want to be a Ba’al Teshuvah Jew!



THE GYM VS. THE SPA : Rabbi Ben Tzion Shafier, Shlita, gives the Mashal of a person who checks into a five star hotel, and is shown the entrance to the state-of-the-art gym on the right, and the wondrous spa on the left. The person intends to enter the gym, work out hard and well--and then go to the spa as his after-workout reward. He mistakenly takes a left turn and ends up in the spa. He decides to stay and spends the entire time in the pleasure-filled experience, but remains an unhealthier person for it. The Nimshal is, of course, someone who ignores the purpose of this world--the gym in which to workout--so that he can enter the spa ready to enjoy its true rewards, and instead goes straight to the spa, whose experience in this way is worth infinitely less than had he gone to the gym first as he should have. Truth be told, we have many gym vs. spa choices every day--let us turn right to the gym in each and every case--so that we can attain the true measure of value of the spa--which, instead of for 120 years, will last for eternity!




Special Note One:  We B’EH continue our Monday/Thursday study of the Sefer Mitzvos HaKatzar, with the Mitzvos Lo Sa’asei which the Chofetz Chaim writes are applicable in our times. Today, we present Mitzvos Lo Sa’aseh 189 and 190:


189. Shelo Yikach HaEim Ahl HaBonim--this is the Mitzvas Lo Sa’aseh which prohibits one from taking an ownerless mother bird with its eggs or young when it is sitting upon them. [The related Mitzvas Asei-74, is that he should send the mother bird away first and then take the eggs or young.] This prohibition applies in all places and at all times, and to men and women alike.


190. Shelo Lehaniach Michshol Beveiso--this is the Mitzvas Lo Sa’aseh which prohibits one from leaving a stumbling block (a potentially dangerous situation) in his home. This prohibition applies in all places and at all times, and to men and women alike.



Special Note Two:  Today, we continue our series in which we will refer to one Ahl Cheit a day through the Yomim Nora’im period, so that we have the opportunity to briefly review each one of them in steady steps. Today, we study the first Ahl Cheit under the letter Chaf:



Ahl Cheit Shechatanu Lefanecha Bechapas Shochad--Giving or Taking ‘Bribes’


Bribes can take the form of actual money changing hands, or of flattery or favors, which compel another to act in a manner which is in favor of the donor. This is so even if the recipient may have otherwise ruled or responded in the same way without the favor, the words of flattery, or the money--for the act of distortion itself is an aveirah both to the maker and the recipient. Any time one thinks: “Let me do this and that will make him do that” or “I am going to do this because I have no choice, after all, didn’t he….”, one should reflect upon whether the action he is about to undertake is truly appropriate, or whether he is simply giving or receiving a non-judge’s form of bribe.


Additional Note: HaRav Dessler, Z’tl, adds that also included in this Ahl Cheit is one’s allowing himself to take the bribe of the Yetzer Hara, which stilt one’s decisions and lead to further sin.



Special Note Three:  We provide the following points and pointers, as we come close to reaching the midpoint of Elul:


A. During this month we are preparing for judgment--and for mercy.  While this may seem paradoxical, it is really quite necessary.  If a person prepares only for judgment, he will tend to view all of his activities in a favorable light, explaining this away and that away, and actually lead himself to believe that he is much better than he really is.  Think about the way a lawyer may prepare a court case--viewing the facts in the most favorable light to his client.  Thus, in thinking about why one needs mercy over the coming days, in focusing on the word ‘Rachamim’ in our tefillos, we will  take a better look at our actions and inactions--and resolve to do better--which, in turn, makes us much more qualified to receive the very mercy we seek!



B. Rebbi Yisroel Salanter, Z’tl, suggested that many people fail to do proper Teshuva because they do not realize how important and honored they really are; yes, they realize Hashem’s greatness, but view themselves as too far below and too far beyond.  It is really quite the opposite.  We start out in the Royal Palace.  If we then move out or move ourselves away --does it mean that our Royal blood has been replaced, and that our ancestry and bearing have been expunged?   No, it means that we must take the first step of recognizing our Royalty--and then take the time and make the effort to move back into the Royal Palace.  The King wants us back--He has told us so.  We must put back on the Royal garments, and head back to the Palace --with longing and with dignity.  Appreciate who you are and do something about it!


C.  As we focus on Hashem’s Malchus, we note an extremely valuable insight from Rabbeinu Yonah in the Sha’arei Teshuva.  Rabbeinu Yonah writes that if one brings others closer to service of the King--if he brings the King more devoted subjects--he is truly proving his loyalty to the King, and demonstrating how important the King is in his life.  If one helps others--especially this month--in their Torah studies, in their Mitzvah performance, by teaching them a Halacha that they do not seem to know, by teaching an as yet uneducated Jew something about Yiddishkeit in general or Rosh Hashanah in particular, he will be showing how important it is to him to bring honor to the King!




10 Elul

YOMIM KEDOSHIM! 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 GO NUTS! Very often at a Shalom Zachor, Sheva Brachos or other gathering, one will find a chocolate and nuts candy platter. One must be extremely careful with the appropriate brachos on the various items in the platter. The chocolate candies may include chocolate covered peanuts or craisins, and one of the nuts found may be a shelled peanut not so readily recognized whose bracha is a Borei Pri Ha’adama, and not a Borei Pri Ha’eitz like other nuts. Don’t be distracted by conversation or a little lightheadedness--the bracha is infinitely more important than the nut!


Hakhel Note: It may be a wonderful Kabbalah for the coming year to bli neder be diligent and not eat a particular item (or even bring it into your home) until you know what the bracha is for it. The Kabbalah would then per se also include the seemingly dozens of new cereal offshoots created yearly (consider the different flavors of Cheerios and Chex now available--many of them with different brachos).



ETERNALLY GRATEFUL!  If you notice someone leaving the table after having eaten who seems to have forgotten to make a bracha--why not ask or remind them politely--they probably were distracted and will certainly be eternally grateful!




FROM THE ROSH: The Rosh--a Rishon--reminds us in the Orchos Chaim L’Rosh (81): “Ahl Tabit Lemi Shehu Koton Mimecha BeAvodah U’VeYirah Ki Im LeGadol Mimecha”--do not look at someone who is lower than you spiritually and compare yourself to him, but rather to someone greater than you--so rather than becoming smug and complacent, you grow into who you really can be.



FROM A RAV: “What I want my Kehillah to work on this year is to strengthen learning Thursday night--Mishmar, yes, even for Ba’alei Batim. If one would learn a blatt on Thursday night--an extra blatt that he is not learning during the week--that would be 50 extra blatt a year!”







Special Note One: Today, we continue our series in which we will refer to one Ahl Cheit a day through the Yomim Nora’im period, so that we have the opportunity to briefly review each one of them in steady steps. Today, we study the second Ahl Cheit under the letter Yud:


Ahl Cheit Shechatanu Lefanecha BeYodim U’velo Yodim--Knowingly and Unknowingly


We may sin against others and not realize the ramifications of our actions and the extent of the hurt we have caused. Additionally, we have sinned against others without their realizing the injury and pain we have caused them. With this Ahl Cheit, we acknowledge that the sin against another is not only a sin Bein Adam L’Chaveiro, but also a sin which is Bein Adam LaMakom--for whether or not they know that what happened to them was because of me, and whether or not there is any ill-will between the two of us, Hashem considers the sin and the damage done to be my responsibility. HaRav Dessler, Z’tl, has a tremendous additional insight. By ‘Yodim’--of which there is knowledge, we refer to the sin committed because we cared about the opinion of others who were watching, and by Lo Yodim, we refer to the sin committed wantonly and alone--without being able to blame peer pressure or being accepted socially as the cause for the sin. Our most precious commodity is our mind. We have to do what we know is correct--not what we think others want us to do, nor what we know is wrong or at least that which is based upon pushing  to the side what we know to be right.



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


A. Shulchan Aruch Orach Chaim 285 teaches the Halachos of Shenayim Mikrah V’Echad Targum (reviewing the Parsha by reading each Pasuk twice and the Targum once). The Shulchan Aruch  (ibid., 2) explicitly states that a Yerei Shomayim should read the Targum and Peirush Rashi. The Mishna Berurah especially emphasizes that one should not allow himself to be interrupted while he is reading Shenayim Mikrah V’Echad Targum, noting that it is ‘Tov V’Yafeh Me’od and V’Chein Ra’uy L’Ba’al Nefesh La’asos”--it is a beautiful thing, and it is befitting one who is careful with Mitzvos.


B. Some have the custom of beginning the next week’s Shenayim Mikrah V’Echad Targum on Shabbos afternoon. HaRav Chaim Kanievsky, Shlita, teaches that one should do so only after he has davened Mincha (ibid., Dirshu Note 22).  HaRav Kanievsky also rules that if one reads Shnayim Mikrah V’Echad Targum during Chazaras HaShatz, it is likely that he is not Yotzei even Be’dieved--because it is a Mitzvah HaBah Ahl Yedei Aveirah (ibid., Dirshu Note 31).


C. When making Kiddush on Shabbos morning, the Mishna Berurah writes that many mistakenly begin with the words Ahl Kein Beirach, and one cannot do so for it is prohibited to recite an incomplete Pasuk (Orach Chaim 289, Mishna Berurah seif katan 2).


D. When one makes Shabbos early (i.e., during daylight hours), HaRav Shlomo Zalmen Auerbach, Z’tl, rules that although it is Shabbos for him, the daytime brachos that he makes are part of Friday’s brachos, and accordingly would not be included in the 100 brachos required for Shabbos. As to bentsching at Shalosh Seudos after Tzeis HaKochavim, HaRav Auerbach considers the brachos of bentsching recited to be part of Sunday’s 100 brachos, whereas the Shevet HaLevi considers it part of the 100 brachos required on Shabbos (ibid. 290, Dirshu Note 1).


E. HaRav Eliyahu Lopian, Z’tl, writes that he heard from the Chofetz Chaim that because Shabbos is equal to the entire Torah, every Mitzvah that is done on Shabbos is equal to the 613 Mitzvos. With this in mind, since according to the G’ra every letter of the Torah is a Mitzvah, when one learns one letter, he is accomplishing 613 Mitzvos of Limud HaTorah, which produces a simply unfathomable zechus (ibid., Dirshu Note 6).


F. The Eliyahu Rabba writes in the name of the Shela HaKadosh that when the Neshama Yeseirah rises up to Heaven after Shabbos it is asked if it produced any Chidushei Torah over Shabbos. On this point the Yesod V’Shoresh Ha’avodah explain when one thinks about a Hanhaga Tovah B’Avodas Hashem on Shabbos that he intends to undertake in the coming week, there is no greater Chidush in Torah than this! (ibid., Dirshu Notes 7 and 8).



Special Note Three: Points and pointers on this week’s Parsha, Parshas Ki Seitzai:


A. Rabbi Zelig Pliskin, Shlita, brings the following thought in Growth Through Torah (p. 494-495) on tomorrow’s Parsha, Ki Seitzai (Devorim 21:13 ).  “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 Sefas Emes provides two great lessons from this week’s Parsha for us to always take with us:


1.  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.  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!


2.  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!


C. As this week’s Parsha contains at least one Mitzvas Lo Sa’aseh and one Mitzvas Aseh relating to Shemiras HaLashon, we are happy to advise that the Chofetz Chaim, in his Sefer Chovas HaShemirah (Chapter 8) writes that if one is careful with Shemiras HaLashon, then “bevadai--with certainty”--in this zechus, in this special merit, Hashem will forgive even his Avos for their sins.  One should pay real and practical attention to these words as he rededicates himself to Shemiras HaLashon, in order to bring merit not only to himself, but to his Avos as well!

Hakhel Note:  We remind our readers of an extremely important point that we have referenced in the past.  That is, if one realizes that he has accepted Lashon Hara, the Chofetz Chaim advises that he immediately void this acceptance, and find a Limud Zechus for the person who was spoken about.  In this way, he will have saved himself (and the person who related the Lashon Hara to him) of the Bein Adam LeChaveiro violation of Lashon Hara--for the Lashon Hara was not ultimately accepted, and , in fact, a zechus was found for the person spoken against.  The Teshuva process would then only be on a Bein Adom LaMakom Level:  1. Charata--being sorry over having originally accepted the words.  2.  Kabbalah--accepting not to let this happen again.  3. Viduy--expressing to Hashem that what you had originally done was improper.  Most certainly the more one learns about the Halachos and Hashkofos of Lashon Hara, the more it will serve as a zechus for him--and his ancestors!



Special Note Four:  We provide the following additional Elul points and pointers:


A. It is reported that in Kelm 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 balance of 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! 


B. Sever Panim Yafos is not something that is reserved for the Three Weeks, or the aftermath of Tisha B’Av, when we try to establish a greater sense of Ahavas Yisrael. Rather, we note that Sever Panim Yafos beautifully coalesces Bein Adam L’Chaveiro, Bein Adam L’Atzmo, and through improving one’s Tzelem Elokim--Bein Adam LaMakom. Accordingly, it is most certainly a worth undertaking in this precious month!


C.  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 Zara.

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!




9 Elul

WORDS OF GREAT INSTRUCTION FROM THE SEFER SHA’AREI TESHUVAH (3: 145-146): “One who speaks libelously against the Torah is one who has the audacity to say about the Torah, things which are not so, such as, “In vain were these verses and accounts written into the Torah.” It is his pride and haughtiness which causes him to think thus. Because he is incapable of arriving at the essence of these things, he tells himself that there is no depth to them. It is said, For it is no vain thing for you” (Devarim 32:47), concerning which our Chazal have said, if it is vain, it is because of you--because you do not know how to interpret these things.” Also, one who abandons any Torah concept and does not acknowledge it, is considered one who speaks libelously against the Torah, as those who say, “Of what use to us are those who learn Torah? If they have become wise, they have become wise for themselves, and we have no share in their reward.” By so saying, they deny what is written in the Torah, “Then I will forgive the entire place for their sake(Bereishis 18:26 ).”  Hakhel Note: Let us daven for the Yeshiva Bachurim in Eretz Yisrael--Hashem will forgive us for their sake!



FAMOUS WORDS: The famous words of the Sefer Mesilas Yesharim: “Kol Kulah Tzarich Bedikah--every kulah that one wishes to practice requires further investigation is taught by the HaRav Luzzato, Z’tl, in the Chapter on zerizus--acting with alacrity. We may derive from this that even if a person may actively seek a kulah--ultimately the reason for seeking or practicing a leniency may simply be spiritual laziness, and a lack of appreciation of the spiritual elevation one has in the diligent performance of a Mitzvah!



WHERE DO WE BEGIN? HaRav Yechezkel Levenstein, Z’tl (Letter 208) writes that the first step in coming close to Hashem is through improving middos and conduct with other people. If a person recognizes and appreciates the ma’alas zulaso--the attributes of others, and accords them respect in accordance with their ma’alos, then, he concludes, how much closer he is to properly appreciating, respecting and drawing close to HaKadosh Baruch Hu! Additional Note:  On the Mishna in Avos (4:3) of Ahl Tehi Vaz Lechol Adam--do not treat anyone lightly…HaRav Levenstein notes that one should think improperly of anyone, including akum, for Hashem Himself has ordained that every person has his time, and every person has his place.





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! We have to come up with practical and concrete ways of extending our hand to receive the chocolate. Remember--the time is now!




Special Note One:  We B’EH continue our Monday/Thursday study of the Sefer Mitzvos HaKatzar, with the Mitzvos Lo Sa’asei which the Chofetz Chaim writes are applicable in our times. Today, we present Mitzvos Lo Sa’aseh 186-187 and 188:


186-187. Shelo Yochal Be’sha’as Melacha VeShelo Yikach BeYado--this is the Mitzvas Lo Sa’aseh (186) which prohibits a field worker from eating from the produce that is growing in the ground while he is working, i.e., before he completes his work. Its related Mitzvas Lo Sa’aseh (187) prohibits a field worker from taking produce away from the field to eat later, or take more than he would eat in order to give it to others. This prohibition applies in all places and at all times, and to men and women alike.


188. Shelo Limno’a Beheimah MeLe’echol--this is the Mitzvas Lo Sa’aseh which prohibits a person from preventing an animal from eating from the field as it is working on it. Accordingly, one may not place a muzzle on an animal that will be  working on a field, nor may one raise his voice at an animal when he sees that it is about to eat from a field. One may not do this to any animal--whether or not it belongs to him and irrespective of who owns it. This prohibition applies in all places and at all times, and to men and women alike.



Special Note Two:  Today, we continue our series in which we will refer to one Ahl Cheit a day through the Yomim Nora’im period, so that we have the opportunity to briefly review each one of them in steady steps. Today, we study the first Ahl Cheit under the letter Yud:


Ahl Cheit Shechatanu Lefanecha BeYetzer Hara—

Hurting Ourselves with the Evil Inclination


Everything that Hashem created has a positive purpose for us. The famous Viduy booklet bring from HaRav Mordechai Gifter, Z’tl, that the Yetzer Hara was also given to help us--in order to test our faithfulness to Hashem, and succeed. By giving in to the Yetzer Hara, we have failed in recognizing its true purpose and used it beyond its purpose--which is in and of itself sinful. One abuses the true purpose of the Yetzer Hara by going to places he should not go, looking at things he should not look at, and listening to things that he should not be listening to. As Rav Dessler, Z’tl, succinctly writes, the Yetzer Hara for which we ask forgiveness for here is the “Yetzer Hara She’adam Oseh LeAtzmo--the Yetzer Hara that a person makes for himself when he creates or allows himself to be in situations which do not further Torah, Mitzvos or one’s purpose in life.” In fact, we recite in Kriyas Shema twice daily that we are to demonstrate our love to Hashem by serving Him “Bechol Levavecha”, which Chazal (Brachos 54A) teach refers to serving Hashem with both the Yetzer HaTov and the Yetzer Hara. Finally, the Ba’alei Mussar point out that there are certain character traits which are generally negative and which could be referred to under the term Yetzer Hara, but which should be used in a constructive (rather than destructive) way--examples of these middos includes ka’as, kinah, ga’avah and sinah. For the ways in which these middos are really supposed to be used, we refer you to the Sefer Orchos Tzaddikim which provides wonderful guidance in this area.


Hakhel Note: The Sefer Pathway to Prayer brings the words of Rashi (to Kedushin 39B), that when one has the opportunity to sin but refrains from doing so because Hashem forbade it, Ein Mitzvah Yeseirah Mezu--there is no Mitzvah greater than this, to which the Steipeler Gaon, Z’tl, remarkably adds that in this zechus, one is zoche to an Ohr Kedusha Norah VeAyom She’ein Lesha’er--a light of holiness that is unimaginable!




8 Elul

120 YEARS--120,000 YEARS: Sometimes we may be faced with the pressures of earning a livelihood or social pressures and turn aside at least a bit from the Torah’s true teachings. In a more extreme form, a reader advised us that he was told by someone: “Religion is religion and business is business.”  While none of us may extend ourselves to that extent, we may nevertheless take an ‘ignorance is bliss’ approach in Choshen Mishpat (business and shopping) and Yoreh De’ah (Kashrus and Ribbis matters). We have, for instance, provided notices in the past as to issues with loans from Emigrant Savings Bank and Quicken Loans, and there may be other similarly situated lenders. One cannot simply ‘turn the other way’ on the assumption that ‘there must be some heter if it is such a common problem’, or ‘I leave Kashrus to the Kashrus agencies’, etc. This world’s temptations last for 120 years; if a person falls prey to them, and rationalizes or simply refuses to think about or investigate a challenge--then he is giving up 120,000 years and more of the oneg of Olam Haba that he could have enjoyed from overcoming the Nisayon. Whether it is the justification of the need to support one’s family or the claim that ‘this is my personality’, one must simply be guided by the golden rule of the Mesilas Yesharim:  Key Im Eino Chas Ahl Atzmo--Me Yachus Alav--if a person does not care for himself, then who will really care for him?!”  Elul is the perfect time period for assessment and re-assessment. We owe it to ourselves.





1. Many (if not all) of us recite Tehillim daily. What is the first Pasuk of Tehillim? “Ashrei HaIsh Asher Lo Halach BaAtzas Resha’im U’vederech Chataim Lo Amad U’vemoshav Leitzim Lo Yashav--praiseworthy is the man who does not walk in the counsel of the wicked, stand in the path of the sinful, or sit amongst the scorners.”  Dovid HaMelech’s son, Shlomo HaMelech, the wisest of all men, provides a very similar teaching (Mishlei 13:20) “Holeich Es Chachomim Yechkam Ver’oa Chesilim Yeiro’ah--he who goes with the wise will become wise, and he who befriends the fools will be broken.”  Many of us have at least one friend or acquaintance who we really believe we should not be friends or associate with because of how they act or think or what they say. We should remember that the very first words of Dovid HaMelech in Tehillim teach us that a person is praiseworthy if he avoids this kind of relationship and Shlomo HaMelech teaches us that one basically becomes who he associates with. During this very special time that we are in, one should focus practically upon at least one relationship that requires some separation, and one relationship that requires further bonding. We have the literally Sage advice--let us use it to its fullest!


2. In the past, we provided the idea of a pyramid of Mitzvos, where one’s good deed travels and effects others, with ramifications reverberating perhaps to the other end of the world. There is another kind of pyramid that a person can build. During Elul one searches for thoughts, deeds and actions of his that are in a state of disrepair. One does not have to look beyond his daily activities for additional zechusim during this period--correcting that which he does in the ordinary course on a daily basis should serve as a great zechus in and of itself to bring us a blessed and successful year. Eating is something that one usually undertakes three times a day. If one can correct some aspect of the eating process--then he is correcting something three times a day, which over the course of a year amounts to a thousand repairs. The correction can take the form of committing not to overeating, sitting when making any bracha over food, eating with dignity--as if there are others with him even if he is ‘alone’ in the room, not eating the food unless one is certain what bracha to make over it, or perhaps on a more advanced level, not making a bracha unless there is someone there to answer Amen.  There are, of course, many other possibilities in this area--but the commitment bli neder could certainly be a monumental one for the coming year!




Special Note One:  Today, we continue our series in which we will refer to one Ahl Cheit a day through the Yomim Nora’im period, so that we have the opportunity to briefly review each one of them in steady steps. Today, we study the second Ahl Cheit under the letter Tes:


Ahl Cheit Shechatanu Lefanecha BeTumas Sefasayim--With Impure Lips


HaRav Dessler, Z’tl, points out that there is nothing that brings one to licentiousness and desire more than impurity of the lips. The Sefer Dover Shalom explains that speaking impurely does not only include unclean language or profanity, it also includes blunt or coarse words when more pleasant expressions could have been used. Certainly, if one uses a word or phrase and before or after it says “excuse the expression” or “I am sorry” for the language, he knows that he must do Teshuvah for this aveirah. Utilizing a curse word or unclean word in another language (such as Yiddish, French, Spanish or Arabic) does not cleanse the usage as. The Dover Shalom continues: “She’Ikar Sheleimus HaAdam Hu BeRuach Sefasav--for the primary ingredient of sheleimus for a person are the words with which he expresses himself.” We may add that when one utilizes a word or expression that sounds similar to an inappropriate expression and by the use of the similar sound demonstrates the word(s) that he otherwise intended to express, there is an element of nivul peh in this as well--as it shows what his mind is thinking and the kind of reaction that he wants to communicate to others. Additional Note: When one uses nivul peh in your presence and says “excuse me”, may we suggest that you not respond “It’s all right” or “It’s OK”--instead letting him feel that the expression that he used was wrong, and that you disagree with it and want no part of it.



Special Note Two:  The following are important points on Teshuvah from Rabbi Moshe Tuvia Lieff, Shlita:


A. The Levush writes that even if we have strayed, we are like an aveidah hamisbakeshes--something that is lost which is being looked for. Picture the sheep who has strayed who wants to be found by the Shepherd--and whom the Shepherd wants to find!


B. A city dweller takes a stained shirt and sends it to the cleaners so that it is clean again. A peasant allows more and more grime to collect until it is difficult to get out all of the stains, and the shirt loses more and more of its character as something that can be worn at all.


C. The Shofar itself is a symbol of how we can turn our lives around. Yesterday, it may have been attached to a filthy barnyard animal--by cutting it off, cleansing it and rededicating it, we can exclaim “Alah Elokim BeSeruah--Hashem is elevated with the Teruah of the Shofar.”--this is Teshuvah--a turnaround!


D. As Elul is an acronym for Ani LeDodi VeDodi Li, we must realize that the process begins with Ani--with me. HaRav Yisrael Salanter, Z’tl, would say that even the fish in the water tremble during Elul--if that is the case, then most certainly the Ani--as a thinking, rational being--should take action as well. One can begin with Teshuvah MeYirah. On the Yomim Noraim, we will be reciting “U’vechein Tein Pachdecha--and so Hashem place Your fear…”  Imagine a child entering a dental office and hearing the sound of the drill coming from the next room. The fear is palpable, although one knows that the dentist means the best. We must have the same sense of awareness!


E. The Sefer Nefesh HaChaim 4:31 teaches that one who is Oseik B’Torah brings Kaparah upon himself in a wonderfully cleansing way. One shows love to Hashem by learning Torah properly-- and Teshuvah through Eisek HaTorah is Teshuvah MeiAhava. Through Eisek HaTorah, one is tovel in the Yam HaTalmud--purifying himself to a previously unknown extent. One Important Note: The Eisek HaTorah, must, however, be karaui--befitting. One should not allow interruptions, cell phone recesses, or treat the study of Torah as just another daily obligation.


F. The story is told of the Berditchever Rebbe, Z’tl who saw a person eating a sandwich of chazir near Shul on Yom Kippur.


“Do you know it is Yom Kippur?”  “Yes” “

“Do you know that you are eating an unkosher meat?”  “Yes”

“Do you know there are hundreds doing Teshuva just a short distance away?” “Yes”


…and he continued to eat nonchalantly.  The Berditchever looked to Shomayim and exclaimed “Who is like Your people--even in difficult circumstances, they are careful to tell the truth!”


Hakhel Note:  This month is certainly a month for us to place an emphasis on always telling the truth--in a way which would make the Berditchever much more proud!



7 Elul

FROM A READER: “Imagine: If we were to honor each victim of the Holocaust consecutively with just 1 hour, it would take us 684 years! (6,000,000 divided by 8,760 hours per year = 684 years!)”



FROM A READER:  “Text Message Teshuva Suggestion: Once a day, IF you are sending a text message anyway, take special care to type your text message in full.  By typing out your message in full words and sentences, you are demonstrating respect for your fellow Yid. Would you ever write a letter to the gadol hador saying ‘thx, tty l8r’?”  Hakhel Note:  We would urge that you text with full words three to five times a day--rather than just once a day.  You may get used to writing normally once again!




Special Note One: Today, we continue our series in which we will refer to one Ahl Cheit a day through the Yomim Nora’im period, so that we have the opportunity to briefly review each one of them in steady steps. Today, we study the first Ahl Cheit under the letter Tes:


Ahl Cheit Shechatanu Lefanecha BeTifshus Peh--Utilizing the Mouth Unwisely


The power of speech is uniquely granted to man to use wisely--and not foolishly. Talking without purpose in order to ‘fill time’ or ‘make conversation’ is foolish--for it demonstrates both that one does not properly regard his speaking ability, nor the value of his time by doing so. HaRav Dessler, Z’tl quotes his grandfather, Rebbi Yisroel Salanter, Z’tl, who teaches that the First Mitzvah is Ahl Tehi Sachal--do not be foolish. Ultimately, one who converses without purpose--not imparting any wisdom or knowledge, not providing a compliment, useful lesson or other necessary information, whether at home, at work or anywhere is considered by the wisest of all men, Shlomo HaMelech to be a kesil--as the Pasuk (Koheles 5:2) states: “Kol Kesil Berov Devarim--excessive talk betrays the fool.” The Sefer Pathway to Prayer here quotes the Chofetz Chaim as follows:  “…people who are not careful in their speech knowingly and willingly squander time each day…certainly, one does not gain any reward in the World to Come for these words, and not even any pleasure in this world...all that he has achieved by this, is to create a void [in the time allotted to him in this world].” Here is a practical example based on the Chofetz Chaim’s teaching. Assume a person engages in non-meaningful talk one half-hour a day. Over the course of the year, this amounts to more than 175 hours, which is more than a week of the year. This is frightening. Hakhel Note: If a person realizes that he is in a situation which is prone to non-meaningful talk or chatter, he owes it to himself and to the other person or persons with him to steer the conversation towards Torah, Mitzvos, or if this is not possible, towards a discussion of mussar or ethically  related topics, such as honesty, humility, ways to avoid anger, ways to help people, etc. Then instead of being guilty of Tifshus Peh, he can successfully demonstrate his Chochmas Halev!



Special Note Two:  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 two weeks in August are vacation weeks 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



Special Note Three: The following lessons are excerpted from Elul: Inspirational Words and Tefillos For the Most Important Part of the Year by Rabbi Dovid Goldwasser, Shlita:


1.  “It is told that when the Chofetz Chaim heard thunder and saw lightning, he was overheard asking himself: “Vus Vil Der Tatta? Vus Vil Der Tatta?-What does Father want?, What does Father want?”--since our Chachomim have said that the only reason thunder was created was to straighten the crookedness of the heart, what crookedness did the Borei Olam wish to straighten out this time?’  Likewise, Rabbi Goldwasser teaches, the days of Elul can not simply slip by without absorbing its real and important message.  There is a great Avodah to be done during this time--introspection, reflection, and Teshuvah.  We are compelled to do some deeper thinking as to our purpose in this world.  Every day we should focus in on the question: Vus Vil Der Tatta?


2.  “The way to increase the utilization of our Kochos in Avodas Hashem is in increments: Another five minutes of learning per day, an additional bracha with kavannah , an extra call each week for Kibud Av VaEim, an additional commitment to Shemiras HaLashon every day....”


3.  “The Mashgiach of Yeshivas Bais Medrash Govoha of Lakewood, New Jersey, HaRav Nosson Wachtfogel, Z’tl, teaches that the main goal of the Yetzer Hara is to try to make a person forget his special quality--that he is a ben Melech--the son of the King.  As a result of this degradation and resulting misperception, the person sinks to a low level and does things which are not fitting for his roya1 status.  Yosef HaTzaddik, at the time of the greatest test in his life, argued with the wife of Potifar, ”I have a connection to my father and therefore, I cannot connect to what you are saying.”  Consequently, he emerged from the test unscathed.  This is the way that a person should conduct himself during Elul--raising himself to come close to the truth of “Ani LeDodi VeDodi Li.”  One must be aware of his inherent aristocracy, and his actions should reflect that awareness.  A chossid once asked the great tzaddik, Reb Shlomo of Karlin, Z’tl, ‘What is the greatest aveirah that a person could commit in his life?’  Reb Shlomo put his face into his hands, thought for a moment and then said, ‘The greatest aveirah a person could commit is to forget that he is the son of the King’!”


4.  Rabbi Goldwasser presents seven moving Tefillos on Teshuva (in Hebrew) from various important sources--to help move you, and put you into a frame of mind for Teshuva. What a treasure!


5.  “The Gematria of Elul (67) is the same as the Gematria of binah, understanding--for when acquires sufficient understanding, he will be moved to do Teshuva.”


Hakhel Note:  With this awareness, we can perhaps suggest the answer to a question which may initially trouble many women.  Why is it that men have the benefit of the Shofar being blown every weekday morning in Elul to awaken them to the special times-while women davening at home have no such fearful reminder?  We may propose that the Shofar is intended to instill the ‘binah’-the understanding in a person to recognize his position and situation and do Teshuvah. Women, on the other hand, are blessed with a ‘binah yeseira’-a special level of binah, which jump starts them without the actual need of the Tekias Shofar every morning.  Indeed, binah’s sharing of the same gematria as Elul, may indicate to us that women are on a heightened level of awareness the entire year!  In a similar vein, the Yarmulke which men must wear to remind themselves to subjugate themselves to their Creator is not worn by women--because through their added level of binah--they are already Yarei Malka--they are a step ahead in the fear of their Creator.  The Shofar, then, is the great equalizer--we all have a little over three weeks to get the job done--let’s really succeed this year!



Special Note Four:  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, 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!




6 Elul

IMPORTANT NOTICE! Please be advised that upon the information made available to us, Quicken Loans, has substantial Jewish ownership.  Please consult your Rav regarding depositing or borrowing money (e.g. mortgages) from it, as ribbis issues may be involved.



THE POWER OF TESHUVAH: There are 39 days from 1 Elul until Yom Kippur--so two days of The Power of Teshuva 40-Day Program will have to be studied on one particular day.  The first day of study was intended to be the first day of Rosh Chodesh Elul--30 Av!



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!”


Hakhel Note: We provide three short practical Elul eitzos:


1. To the extent possible, say the words that you are learning aloud, or at least loud enough for you to hear them. Remember--Talmud Torah K’neged Kulam!


2. As you go through your day--write down any aveiros that you realize you have committed, and do Teshuvah over them as soon as possible.


3. When all is said and done, we would like Hashem to be our Shomer--we should, then, in turn, act as a Shomer as well--undertaking not to allow inappropriate words to leave our mouths. Through our Shemira we can then sincerely request Shomer Yisrael--Shemor She’eiris Yisrael!




Special Note One:  We B’EH continue our Monday/Thursday study of the Sefer Mitzvos HaKatzar, with the Mitzvos Lo Sa’asei which the Chofetz Chaim writes are applicable in our times. Today, we present Mitzvos Lo Sa’aseh 184 and 185:


184. Shelo La’avor Ahl HaNeder--this is the Mitzvas Lo Sa’aseh which prohibits one from violating a promise or vow that he has made. This prohibition applies in all places and at all times, and to men and women alike.


185. Shelo Leacher Nidro--this is the Mitzvas Lo Sa’aseh which prohibits one from delaying for more than a period of the upcoming Shalosh Regalim the fulfillment of a promise or vow that he has made. Making a neder to give Tzedaka is considered a neder, except that one violates this prohibition with regard to Tzedaka immediately if he delays giving tzedaka to poor people if they are present. If poor people are not present, one should set the money aside until he finds poor individuals. If one however promises to give only when the poor person is present, then he need not set the money aside. This prohibition applies in all places and at all times, and to men and women alike.



Special Note Two: Today, we continue our series in which we will refer to one Ahl Cheit a day through the Yomim Nora’im period, so that we have the opportunity to briefly review each one of them in steady steps. Today, we study the second Ahl Cheit under the letter Ches:


Ahl Cheit Shechatanu Lefanecha BeChilul Hashem--Causing

Desecration to the Honor of Hashem


The Torah requires that our lives be permeated by acts of Kiddush Hashem, and adds a specific negative prohibition of “VeLo Sechalelu Es Sheim Kodshi--do not desecrate My Holy Name.” Chazal teach that the sin of Chilul Hashem is so severe that even after one does Teshuvah and Yom Kippur successfully passes, one must nevertheless experience death in order for the sin to be totally expunged. [The Sha’arei Teshuvah ( 1:47 ) explains that the sin of Chilul Hashem can also be expunged through acts of Kiddush Hashem; see there for additional details and alternatives.] Chilul Hashem includes not sacrificing one’s life in a situation of Yeihareig VeAhl Ya’avor, and violating a Mitzvah when one derives no personal ‘hana’ah’, or benefit. Also included in Chilul Hashem is performing any inappropriate act publicly so that others learn from it, whether it is an aveirah, or whether even if it is technically permitted, it dishonors the Torah or the Jewish people. In this regard, a Talmid Chochom is held to a higher standard, because he is the Jewish people’s representative to the world. The Chofetz Chaim would say that any Ben Torah [perhaps in our day any religious Jew] is considered a Talmid Chochom for these purposes. Pathway to Prayer writes that part of the sin of Chilul Hashem is ‘not thinking adequately before any action about its repercussions’. Because of the severity of Chilul Hashem, one must take extra special care in his Teshuvah in this area, which should include a particular plan of action as to how to avoid past acts of clear Chilul Hashem on a going forward basis. It is important to reiterate that the actual act and degree of Chilul Hashem is commensurate with the regard and esteem in which the person is held by others. It is known, for example, that rather than come late to Minyan in Yeshiva because he was involved in a K’lal matter, the Chofetz Chaim would daven elsewhere, so that people would not think that he came late. On one occasion when he could not do so, it is reported that after davening he stood up and announced the reason he had come late. Even if one may not be the Chofetz Chaim, he can think about whether his coming late to davening or to a Shiur, or whether his making a particular remark…will allow others to do likewise as well!



Special Note Three: Every day in Elul and through Shemini Atzeres we recite the Pasuk (Tehillim 27:4):  “Achas Sha’alti Mei’ais 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!




3 Elul

REMINDER ABOUT THE FAIR: As 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 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 obfuscate--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.



REMINDER TO FOCUS:  We should be focusing on the words “Melech HaOlam” when making a bracha--after all, if we are readying ourselves for the King of the Universe’s coronation, we dare not come unprepared.  One can also in the course of his Tefillos (especially Shacharis) focus on the word Melech--King--and be astonished at how often we use the term in our daily davening.  Indeed, if we would appreciate how we stand before the King as we pray every day, when we proclaim Hashem’s Malchus over the world on Rosh Hashanah--it will be more like someone already housed in the royal palace doing so--rather than like a commoner coming into the palace for the first time and looking around in bewilderment. Hakhel Note: More about Kingship below!



LAST CALL: If you have not yet begun, we remind you about both the study of Sefer Mesilas Yesharim over the next month (broken down by you, either by pages or chapters) for completion on or by Rosh Hashanah, and also about the Three Mishnayos a Day Program--by learning three Mishnayos a day beginning with Mesechta Rosh Hashana, followed by Mesechta Yoma, and then Mesechta Sukkah--you will complete Mesechta Rosh Hashana before Rosh Hashana, Mesechta Yoma before Yom Kippur, and Mesechta Sukkah before the end of Sukkos.  Imagine what you will have accomplished in just about 50 days--and during the important time in which you will have accomplished it!




Special Note One: Today, we continue our series in which we will refer to one Ahl Cheit a day through the Yomim Nora’im period, so that we have the opportunity to briefly review each one of them in steady steps. Today, we study the first Ahl Cheit under the letter Ches:


Ahl Cheit Shechatanu Lefanecha BeChozek Yad--Acting With Undue Force


The Torah teaches us that a person should never claim that Kochi V’Otzem Yadi Assah Li Es HaChayil Hazeh--it is through my own might, prowess or abilities that have brought me to where I am now or will bring me to where I will be in the future. As ridiculous as this claim sounds, it nevertheless is a Middah Ra’ah that we must fight daily. HaRav Dessler, Z’tl, teaches that when a person acts with force, or tries to compel others to do as he wishes, he is making the statement that he is entitled to act in this way. The Sefer Viduy adds the mere lording over another human being is in and of itself a sin, for all human beings are created B’Tzelem Elokim. Indeed, even one whose job it is to be a community leader is prohibited from instilling unnecessary compulsion, force or fear over his constituents, and if he does so, he is punished very severely in the next world (see Rosh Hashana 17A). When one presses his own idea, pushes his own approach, or otherwise feels ‘he knows better’, and certainly when one acts through mental coercion he must consider the impact and effect of B’Chozek Yad.



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


A. The Shemiras Shabbos K’Hilchasa rules that a light switch that has a dimmer on it should preferably be covered before Shabbos (Shulchan Aruch Orach Chaim 275, Dirshu Note 9).


B. If a cheireish, shoteh or koton do a melacha for another Jew on Shabbos, the Bi’ur Halacha rules that it is forbidden to derive benefit from their act (ibid. 276, Note 1).


C. There is a Machlokes HaPoskim as to whether one can open a refrigerator or a freezer door if it has Muktzah items in it, and would accordingly be deemed a bosis l’davar ha’assur. HaRav Shlomo Zalmen Auerbach, Z’tl, rules that the door is batel to the refrigerator or freezer itself. HaRav Yosef Shalom Elyashiv, Z’tl, rules that bedi’eved one can open it even if the permissible items in the door are not as important as the Muktzah, because we can consider the refrigerator large enough to be deemed an ohel, which has the Halacha of a house. The door, then, would be batel to the house, and not to the Muktzah. HaRav Nissim Karelitz, Shlita, however, rules that the permissible items in the door must be more chashuv than the Muktzah--otherwise the door would in fact have the Halacha of a bosis l’davar ha’assur (ibid. 277, Note 18).


D. The Shulchan Aruch itself rules that one must have Kavannah to answer “Amen” to each one of the brachos made before and after the Torah reading, as well as to the brachos over the Haftara, and by virtue of his answering “Amen” these brachos will then count towards the 100 brachos that a person should make every day--for when one answers “Amen”, it is as if he made the bracha himself (ibid. 284:3, Mishna Berurah seif katan 6). As to whether one may answer “Baruch Hu U’varuch Shemo” over the brachos of the Haftara if he intends for the brachos to count towards his 100 brachos--the Elef HaMagein rules that he may, but HaRav Chaim Kanievsky, Shlita, rules that he should not (ibid., Note 11).


E. The one who is called to Maftir recites seven brachos all together--two on the Torah, one before the Haftara, and four after the Haftara--which correspond to the seven people who were called to the Torah(!) (ibid. 284 Mishna Berurah seif katan 2).  


F. The reason that we wait until Gelilah is concluded to begin the Haftara is because it is an obligation on everyone to listen to the words of the Haftara in the same way as to the reading of the Torah. Accordingly, we rightfully delay beginning in order to give one person--the Golel--the opportunity to complete his task and be able to listen to the words of the Haftara(!) (ibid. Mishna Berurah seif katan 12).



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


A. 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 so different about the excess wealth prohibition--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!


B. 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:


1.  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 Nachas Ruach  to Hashem?”


2.  The Pasuk in Tehillim (14:2) teaches:  Hashem MiShomayim Hishkif Ahl 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! 


3.  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! 


4.  Dovid HaMelech exclaims: “Achas Sha’alti Mei’eis Hashem--the one thing I ask from Hashem is to dwell in the house of Hashem….”  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 Four:  Additional notes on the Yemei Rachamim of Elul:


A. 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!

By clicking here we provide the Tefillah found in the Sefer Kav HaYashar which one can recite in Hashiveinu for others to do Teshuvah as well!


B. 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 Kepital of Tehillim after studying Mussar--in order for the hisorerus to take hold in the person.


C. Teshuvah in the area of Torah is absolutely essential, because, as the Chayei Adam writes, Bittul Torah K’neged Kulam.  We should be coming up with ideas as to how we can refine and enhance our Torah study (i.e., that we already study) over the course of this month.  Perhaps we can be careful not to look up when we hear a routine noise as we are learning, or when we simply sense that someone enters the Shul or the room.  Perhaps we can make sure that there is enough light in the room, so that one does not easily get distracted or fall asleep.  Another suggestion would be to make sure to come on time to a Shiur or Chavrusah (which does not mean coming even a few minutes late).  If you have any suggestions, they would be most welcome.  It is fascinating to note that the Chofetz Chaim brings that if one studies two Halachos in the morning and two Halachos in the evening, he has fulfilled the Mitzvah of VeHagisa Bo Yomam V’Layla.  If one in any event learns in the morning and evening--this may be a very doable suggestion of fulfilling what may otherwise have appeared to be a very high and tall order! 


D. Dovid HaMelech teaches in one of the key Kepitlach (Chapter 24) recited on the Yomin Noraim:  “Mi Ya’aleh BeHar Hashem…Neki Kapayim U’Var Leivav.”  We know that Neki Kapayim refers to hands that are clean of theft or pilferage.  What is a ‘Var Leivav’?  The Chofetz Chaim writes that is refers to someone whose heart is focused on important matters, without truly trivial items becoming part of the admixture of his thoughts.  It is indeed for this reason that we ask Hashem every day immediately before Shema: “VeYacheid Levaveinu Le’Ahava U’LeYira Es Shemecha VeLo Neivosh LeOlam Va’ed--may our heart be united in our love and fear of You and [then] we will not be shamed for eternity.”  If our hearts are filled with the proper thoughts, it will have no room for irrelevancies, irreverencies and waste.  As the Chofetz Chaim continues, we affirmatively declare in the Zichronos portion of our Tefillah on Rosh Hashana “Ki Zecher Kol HaYetzur Lefanecha Bah…Machshevos Adam VeSachbulosav--for everything appears before You, Hashem… the thoughts of man and his designs.”  To what can this be compared?  To a merchant who leaves on a trip taking along with him his treasure chest, and who asks one of his relatives accompanying him on the trip to watch after the treasures.  The relative agrees, but asks whether he can look inside the chest.  The merchant allows him to, and the relative opens the chest--only to find it half-filled with precious gems and rubies--but that the other half is filled with dirt and grime.  The relative thinks to himself ‘what a fool this wealthy man is--how did he place the precious jewels side-by-side with the soil and muck?!’  The dirt is, of course, a Nimshal to the whims and desires that a person occupies his mind with--all of which will after 120 years turn to afar--the earth below.  When the person then sees that which he has done, he will wonder and lament: how could I have had this dual and contradictory love--loving the Torah and the Mitzvos and the Hevlei Olam Hazeh.  How could I have filled up my treasure chest with so much dirt--when there was so much room for more priceless riches?!  Therefore it behooves everyone, concludes the Chofetz Chaim, to drive away those Machshavos of Hevel which lead a person to fulfill his desires, cravings, and temporal wants--and instead pursue Yichud HaLev--the unification of one’s heart in the love, fear and service of Hashem.  Every day, one fills the treasure chest of his mind--it is up to him to determine whether he does so with something which will be eternally worthless--or everlastingly priceless!


E. 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.  Reb Shneuer added that just as each day of the 40 day period is absolutely essential to the embryo’s growth and development, so is each day of the 40-day period until Yom Kippur a vital link in our rebuilding.  Imagine, says Reb Shneuer, if the embryo would take a day off during this crucial period--what havoc it would wreak on the whole system--so, too, the Arizal teaches us, that we must view a day without plan, without goals, without development, without change during this period in the very same light!  Something to remember--every single day during this very special period


F.  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!


G.  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!


H.  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!


I. At a special Teshuva Shiur, Rabbi Simcha Bunim Cohen, Shlita asked us to focus on the following:


1.  Tznius.  A person simply does not realize the effects of his non-Tznius behavior.  What will be the effect on the person he/she didn’t even see or know about?  It is for this reason that c’v the punishment can be so severe.  Tznius applies not only to women and older girls, but to men, boys and younger girls as well.  Family members and friends (and especially the heads of households) are responsible and duty bound to guide their relatives and friends in these areas which so distinguish and set apart the Jewish way of life.


2.  The Value of a Smile.  Rabbi Cohen suggested the following analogy.  If an employer has to choose between the continued employ of only one of two employees of equal capability, he would choose the one who greeted potential customers pleasantly and with a smile.  This employee is a much better representative of the employer and what he represents.  Hashem wants us to project a Sever Ponim Yafos to all--it is a chesed to all around us who benefit from the goodness--and may be the ultimate chesed to ourselves--as we remain in the employ of the greatest Boss of all!




2 Elul

REMINDER! If you have not yet begun, we remind you about both the study of Sefer Mesilas Yesharim over the next month (broken down by you, either by pages or chapters) for completion on or by Rosh Hashanah, and also about the Three Mishnayos a Day Program--by learning three Mishnayos a day beginning with Mesechta Rosh Hashana, followed by Mesechta Yoma, and then Mesechta Sukkah--you will complete Mesechta Rosh Hashana before Rosh Hashana, Mesechta Yoma before Yom Kippur, and Mesechta Sukkah before the end of Sukkos.  Imagine what you will have accomplished in just about 50 days--and the auspicious time in which you will have accomplished it!





“Don’t let the sound of the shofar go in one ear and out the other.”


“Every Jew can be a Tzaddik -- you just have to want it badly enough.”



ASK FOR A BRACHA:  When one asks for the bracha of another--he also makes that person feel special and important.  A bracha, then, serves manifold purposes--benefitting the recipient, the giver--and giving Nachas to Hashem as He sees how His children love each other!




Special Note One:  We B’EH continue our Monday/Thursday study of the Sefer Mitzvos HaKatzar, with the Mitzvos Lo Sa’asei which the Chofetz Chaim writes are applicable in our times. Today, we present Mitzvos Lo Sa’aseh 182 and 183:


182. Shelo Lehisaleim Mei’aveidas Yisrael--this is the Mitzvas Lo Sa’aseh which prohibits one from turning away from a lost object of another and leaving it in its place, rather than involving oneself in finding the one who lost the object. This prohibition applies in all places and at all times, and to men and women alike.


183. Shelo Lehani’ach Beheimas Yisrael Rovetz--this is the Mitzvas Lo Sa’aseh which prohibits one from leaving the animal of another crouched under its load and going off without helping to unload the animal. This prohibition applies in all places and at all times, and to men and women alike.



Special Note Two:  Today, we continue our series in which we refer to one Ahl Cheit a day through the Yomim Nora’im period, so that we have the opportunity to briefly review each one of them in steady steps. Today, we study the second Ahl Cheit under the letter Zayin:


Ahl Cheit Shechatanu Lefanecha Bezilzul Horim U’Morim--Not Giving Appropriate Honor To Parents And Teachers


HaRav Dessler, Z’tl, points out that if one does not give appropriate honor to one’s parents, Rebbeim or teachers, he derogates their importance, and cannot learn from them. Chazal specifically teach “Morah Rabecha KeMorah Shomayim”--one should fear his Rebbi in the way he fears Heaven. Likewise, parents should be treated as one would treat the most esteemed and prominent people (Chayei Odom). The Sefer Iyun Tefillah writes that not showing proper esteem for parents and teachers is, amazingly, Avi Avos Kohl Hachataim--the ultimate source of all sin! One can always improve in showing proper honor and respect. It is said that HaRav Shlomo Zalmen Auerbach, Z’tl, was once asked the source for the contemporary practice of children not standing up when the parents enter the room. His response was: “You mean they don’t?!”



Special Note Three: We provide the following points and pointers relating to the supernal month of Elul:


1.  Rebbi Yeruchem Levovitz, Z’tl, teaches that the precise Avodah of the month of Elul is that of “Gilu BeRe’ada--to rejoice with trembling.”  He explains that neither the Gilu, the rejoicing, nor the Re’ada, the trembling, is to be at the expense of the other.  Gilu, rejoicing, is a manifestation of love, and Re’ada, of course, signifies fear.  This Avodah of Elul, Gilu BeRe’ada, is evidenced by the juxtaposition of every morning of Tekias Shofar with the recital of “LeDovid Hashem Ori.”  The Navi Amos teaches us the fear and awe that Shofar is to accomplish: “will a Shofar be blown in the city and the people not tremble….”  The Kepitel of “LeDovid Hashem Ori,” on the other hand (as noted yesterday) contains the Name of Hashem symbolizing His mercy (Yud Keh Vuv Keh) thirteen times, representing Hashem’s love for us.  The love is additionally symbolized in the Kepitel with the terms “Ori, Yishi, Maoz Chayai, and Yitzpeneini BeSukko, among others.”  In this vein, it is reported that the Terumas HaDeshen would spend extra time in his recital of Pesukei DeZimra in Elul, for the Pesukim demonstrate Hashem’s love for us, which in turn engenders our love for Hashem.  Indeed, it is said in the name of Rebbi Akiva Eiger, Z’tl, that the reason that the bracha immediately preceding Shema concludes with the words of “HaBocher BeAmo Yisrael BeAhava” is so that we can feel a reciprocity of this love, this Ahava when we recite the words of “VeAhavta Es Hashem Elokecha….” 


Additional Note:  The Sefer Kadosh Elul brings that HaRav Zaidel Epstein, Z’tl, was heard singing “Ata Vechartanu” during the days of Teshuva.  When he noticed the surprise of some around him, he advised them: “One should not act in a cold and dry manner during this time.  He should understand the great chesed, and the light of closeness to Hashem, that we benefit from, and bask-in during these days.”


2. Rabbi Yechiel Spero, Shlita, provides the following advice:


A.  Focus on Forgiving Others.  If we are seeking the forgiveness of Hashem, we should endeavor to forgive others, even if it is difficult, and even if they have not asked us to do so.  Hashem, of course, runs the world based upon Midda K’Neged Midda--so this ‘enables’ Him to forgive us-- if we forgive others.


B.  Make a List.  Make a list of happy events and unhappy events that occurred in 5773.  Put this list in your Rosh Hashana Machzor--and look at it from time-to-time during davening... so that you realize what you are davening for in 5774. 


3.  Contemporary Teshuva Suggestions:  The following are two brief thoughts on how one can demonstrate Teshuva--his resolve and ability to change--with his cell phone:


A. When receiving a beep, buzz, or ring on your phone while talking to someone or doing something important, controlling yourself and not looking to see who the party is.


B. When almost impulsively reaching for your cell phone, stopping yourself and doing a Mitzvah instead three times a day.


C. Consciously and willfully sending three less text messages a day from now until Yom Kippur.


Hakhel Note:  May we suggest that you personalize your own Teshuva for your own foibles and weaknesses with your phone or other electronic communication device.  We would very much be interested in your additional suggestions.


4.  HaRav Dessler, Z’tl, writes that he believes that the reason Teshuva is a difficult concept for many is that people find it too difficult to change, and, being honest with themselves, basically give up on the idea.  When they say Viduy, or otherwise hear the Shofar or daven the special prayers of the Yomim Noraim, they are indicating that they would change if they could, but do not really feel that it can happen overnight--or even in the present or near future.  The Torah teaches that this seemingly realistic--but negative--attitude is misplaced and, in fact, incorrect.  If one would only recognize that each Mitzvah accomplished, each improvement in conduct or middos, every nice brocha recited, every victory against the Yetzer Hara, actually positively impacts upon and truly completes creation as a whole, he would have a much more constructive approach to the process of self-improvement and Teshuva.  One would view himself as extremely successful if he became a partner at Goldman Sachs or a senior executive at Sony.  Here, with every Mitzvah, one is actually being given the opportunity to be a partner with Hashem in creation itself.  The importance of every act of improvement between man and Hashem, man and man, and man and himself, is detailed in the Nefesh HaChaim ( 2:13 ).  There is truly an air of holiness which not only pervades, but surrounds, each Mitzvah and Mitzvah-doer.  It is quite possible that for this reason we are required to stand in the presence of one who performs a Mitzvah (see Mishna Bikurim 3:3, and Bartenura there).


By rejoicing in the prospect of Teshuva, by being happy over the opportunity to improve, by feeling good when giving nachas to Hashem and coming closer to Him, we can benefit from the upcoming unique and special days to their wonderful fullest.


5.  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. 


6.  Remember--Tzedaka Today!


7.  Rebbi Yisroel Salanter was known to say that “Truly the entire year you should feel like it is Elul--but at least in Elul you should feel like it is Elul!”




1 Elul

STARTING TODAY! Effective today, we will 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 Yechasereinu--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!”



OPPORTUNITY KNOCKS! If you begin today to learn just three Mishnayos a day of Mesechta Rosh Hashana, continuing on to Mesechta Yoma, then on to Sukkah, you will have completed all three Mesechtos by Sukkos!  What a wonderful demonstration of your realization of the time period we are in!



OPPORTUNITY KNOCKS AGAIN! The Sefer Mesilas Yeshorim is actually not a very long sefer.  If you take your edition, and divide it into 30 segments over the month of Elul, you will find that you need to study only a few pages a day to complete the sefer before Rosh Hashana.  Reviewing the Mesilas Yeshorim over the month of Elul is a great accomplishment, and a remarkable complacency shredder!



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, 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, repair the breaches, save what one can--and build a future!  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.  As we have reached the portals of Elul--we owe it to ourselves 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 today.  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 properly harvest.    



THIS ELUL IS GOING TO BE DIFFERENT: The following is excerpted from the short pamphlet This Elul is Going to be Different:


“Elul is here. It’s 29 days before Rosh Hashana. I am going to have to present myself before Hashem and plead with Him to give me another year of life, just to be alive, and for health and success. His court is going to look me over, judge me, and determine if I am worth it. What can I do to get myself ready for that appearance before His court on the Day of Judgment?


Step one, panic. Step two, [forget Step One and] get myself together and figure out some systematic approach to get in shape before Rosh Hashana. Trim off a few Aveiros here; add on a few Mitzvos here; straighten out a few Midos, and hopefully I’ll look like a mentsch by the time I get there.


Here’s a plan. At least I’ll be able to say that I made preparation for the Yom Hadin according

to a program set up by some well meaning people.


The plan is to put ourselves back into (or first get into) shape. The areas of improvement are

generally Bain Adam Lechaveiro, Bain Adam LaMakom and Bain Adam LeAtzmo. We will try to intersperse them so that we will not be overly exerted in anyone area at any one time. In addition, we have to do some work in appreciating Hashem’s Malchus (Sovereignty). We should try to be mostly practical.


Here’s the 29 day program, which will hopefully transform us….


1 Elul--Appreciating Hashem’s Gift of Clothing-Plus


We make a bracha every morning thanking Hashem for clothing, Malbish Arumim. We should think in detail about how wonderful our various articles of clothing are. Imagine if you were trying to make your own clothing--how much attention to specific features would be necessary. Your shirt has to have button holes. Each hole has to have a hem around it to prevent it from further tearing and to grip the button. Your buttons are another product made by some other company. Your pockets are so useful and so well designed, and so on. Clothes keep you warm, make you look nice and presentable, and provide dignity by covering the body. They are soft and comfortable. They are much better than wearing a barrel or a rough burlap sack. My tie was made by millions of silk worms. My shirt came from cotton on some bush somewhere. •My Tzitzis are wool from a sheep out West. Other garments are synthetic. You make the bracha once a day, but are supposed to think about them throughout the day. Touch them. Learn to enjoy them, and each time thank Hashem for providing you with them. Similarly, there is a bracha on shoes every morning. There is a bracha on eyesight. You may want to set aside one day for each.


Today’s Project: Throughout the day be happy about having clothing. Thank Hashem for your having pants, the elastic that holds up your socks, zippers, sleeves and more. The more detail the



If one would like to continue this series on a daily basis throughout Elul, he can obtain the pamphlet This Elul is Going to be Different in his local Seforim store, or by contacting: 718-336-0640.



BARUCH SHE’ AMAR : .  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.




Special Note One:  Today, we continue our series in which we refer to one Ahl Cheit a day through the Yomim Nora’im period, so that we have the opportunity to briefly review each one of them in steady steps. Today, we study the first Ahl Cheit under the letter Zayin:


Ahl Cheit Shechatanu Lefanecha Bezadon U’Veshgaga--For Intentional and Unintentional Sins


Here, we pair together sins done intentionally and knowingly, together with sins done through a lack of knowledge--either of the prohibition at all or of the extent of the prohibition. This pairing teaches us that one cannot plead ignorance or ‘I don’t want to know’, or ‘better for me not to know’ to any aveira, for this is simply no excuse. In the times of the Beis HaMikdash even for various sins which were done ‘only’ beshogeg, one would have to bring an expensive Karbon Chatas, recite Vidui, and view it as if the animal was being brought in his place and stead. A lack of preparation, care, diligence and forethought puts an element of disregard, recklessness or even constructive intent even into the ‘unintentional’--and allows the two to be paired together under this heading of Bezadon U’Veshgaga. We add that some meforshim point out that Zadon--intentional sin is mentioned in this Ahl Cheit before Shegaga, unintentional sin, in order to teach us that the ‘unintentional sins’ come about because of the intentional sins which preceded them, as aveira goreres aveira --one aveira pulls another. We must remember--Hashem has given us beautiful minds--not to avoid thinking, evade learning, or circumvent our obligations--but to instead understand our role in life, study the Torah’s laws, meet our challenges, and succeed at them!


Additional Note:  Through the miracle of Teshuva MiYirah we are taught we can reduce the severity of a sin which was initially done intentionally to the severity of a sin performed unintentionally.  Accordingly, another thought in mentioning the intentional and unintentional together here is…Hashem just as You allowed the intentional to become the unintentional, may you now forgive me for it all--and rid me of the unintentional sins as well!



Special Note Two:  Points and pointers for Chodesh Elul:


1.  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 before Rosh Hashana 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.


2.  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!


 3.  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 Lefanecha 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).


4. Some have the custom of reciting 10 Chapters of Tehillim daily during the month of Elul, so that the entire Sefer Tehillim is finished twice (150 x 2 =300) before Rosh Hashanah.  If this task seems too formidable, may we suggest as a possible alternative reciting one Chapter slowly and with Kavannah for the words (using, for example, a Metzudah Tehillim or an interlinear Artscroll). 


5.  Chazal teach that 30 days is a complete time period--for instance, unless otherwise specified, a standard vow of Nezirus is for 30 days, a standard loan is for 30 days… and the Yefas To’ar must stay in her abhorred state for a period of 30 days.  In fact, Chazal teach that 30 days is such a whole time frame that it may even be treated for some purposes as a complete year.  Thus, with Elul, we have a complete period in which to prepare for Rosh Hashana. We should be sensing, or taking some action, to help us sense a daily advancement.  Perhaps a few written notes daily of the Teshuva thoughts one has, and of some practical ideas for accomplishment (better yet if building on yesterday’s), would take a person further into the real world--the Elul world of which your soul is really so much a part.  It is fascinating to note that in the bracha of Teshuva in Shemone Esrei, we conclude that Hashem is “HaRotzeh BiS’Shuva--The One Who wants or desires our Teshuva.  HaRotzeh is certainly a very strong term--is there anything else in all of davening that you know of about which we say that Hashem is a “Rotzeh” for.  Oh, what a great opportunity is --to give to Hashem what he is a ‘Rotzeh’ for!  ...and what a great kavannah to have while doing Teshuva--to fulfill the wishes of the “Rotzeh BiS’Shuva!”  Additional Note:  If one realizes that he has sinned in some way during the day--he should attempt to do immediate Teshuva--not letting it cool off until it becomes just another of the day’s events.  The three key elements to Teshuva are: (a) Charata--having genuine remorse for having done the misdeed; (b) Kabala Al HaAsid--resolving not to do it again; and (c) Vidui--confessing in words.  If the sin was Bain Odom Lechaveiro-than the affected or hurt party must be asked (and grant) forgiveness to effect a complete Teshuva.  The Mitzvah of immediate Teshuva is not limited to one time of the year or one time of the day--but should be undertaken without delay, and most certainly during the days of Elul!.


6. A Practical Thought: Perhaps we can begin today to give Tzedaka, bli neder, every day of Elul--so that we enter Rosh Hashana having given at least some Tzedaka every day for thirty days (we can give for Shabbos on Erev Shabbos or on Motza’ei Shabbos). Remember--Tzedaka Today!




30 Menachem Av

ASHER YATZAR IN MANY LANGUAGES! Please see the following link for a wonderful presentation of the Asher Yatzar Poster in many languages: http://eng.asheryatzar.com/site_contents/posters_download.html



EIS RATZON TO BEGIN! The Mishna Berurah (Shulchan Aruch Orach Chaim 581) writes that the 40-day period beginning with the day that Moshe Rabbeinu went up to Har Sinai to receive the Luchos Sheniyos remains an Eis Ratzon for all time, and that Elul is an acronym for the four words, Ani Ledodi VeDodi Li. Each of these four words ends with a yud, so that, the Mishna Berurah continues, the gematria of the four words is 40. This corresponds to the 40 days between Rosh Chodesh Elul and Yom Kippur--for in these days, the Mishna Berurah concludes, Teshuvah is more accepted, as one’s heart comes closer to Hashem!



A BRACHA FROM ALL OF K’LAL YISRAEL:  The Chofetz Chaim writes that if one fulfills the eleven Mitzvos for which brachos were given on Har Gerizim, then he attains a special level of blessing. The reason: To each one of these Mitzvos all of K’lal Yisrael answered “Amen” together. Thus, one receives the bracha of all of K’lal Yisrael when he fulfills them. One of these commands is Baruch Asher Lo Yakeh Es Rei’eihu Basaser--bentsched is the person who does not commit the sin of Lashon Hara. The Chofetz Chaim accordingly especially urges one to be careful with Shemiras HaLashon so that he can receive the bracha of all of K’lal Yisrael!


Hakhel Note One: The Chofetz Chaim points out that for the sin of motzei sheim rah, one must pay a fine of 100 shekel--twice as much as for the sin of oness (50 shekel), and on top of that also receives makkos--giving us an idea of how severe Lashon Hara really is….


Hakhel Note Two:  Last week, we had noted that the Steipeler recommended the concept of Ta’anis Dibur in place of a Ta’anis over food, which is difficult to accomplish in our day because of our weaker constitution. We simply now add that any time a person refrains from making a comment, adding a quip, or saying something which is even potentially hurtful or caustic and instead thinks to himself: ‘Ta’anis Dibur’, ‘Yiras Shomayim’, or ‘Lesheim Mitzvah’…and does not speak, he is engaging in a miniature Ta’anis Dibur of his own--which will bear fruits for him and all those present who would have otherwise heard!




Special Note One:  Today, we continue our series in which we will refer to one Ahl Cheit a day through the Yomim Nora’im period, so that we have the opportunity to briefly review each one of them in steady steps. Today, we study the second Ahl Cheit under the letter Vav:


Ahl Cheit Shechatanu Lefanecha Biv’idas Zenus--Gatherings In Which Men And Women Mingle


Western society has dictated that it is socially acceptable for men and women to speak with each other as if they were not otherwise married. Conversations and gatherings in which individuals of the opposite gender interact with levity or lightheadedness, or where they mingle for the sake of mingling, is prohibited by the Torah. One cannot disclaim responsibility simply because many are gathered together doing the same thing, or because it is a common business practice, or because one ‘needs to appear normal’ to the outside world--instead, one should recognize that doing Hashem’s will is what is normal, and is what sanctifies Hashem’s name! Hakhel Note: Sometimes, it becomes necessary or may appear to be necessary to contact one’s wife or close relative on ‘the other side of the mechitzah’ at a Simcha, and one may allow himself to walk into ‘the other side’ for his necessary purpose. Before doing so, one should attempt any other means possible (such as by phone, such as by designating a meeting place at a certain time, etc.), so that one does not need to breach the fence that the mechitzah is intended to represent.



Special Note Two:  Tomorrow is a special day, a very special day--it is the first day of Elul 5773.  There is an incredibly important program which begins tomorrow 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 40-Day Program which constitutes the Sefer The Power of Teshuvah by Rabbi Heshy Kleinman, Shlita (Artscroll PocketScroll Series).  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 40-Day Program! We urge those who do not have this Sefer to purchase it in a local Seforim store or from Artscroll--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.




29 Menachem Av

REMINDER-- 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!




Special Note One:  We B’EH continue our Monday/Thursday study of the Sefer Mitzvos HaKatzar, with the Mitzvos Lo Sa’asei which the Chofetz Chaim writes are applicable in our times. Today, we present Mitzvos Lo Sa’aseh 180 and 181:


180.  Shelo Lachrosh B’Shor V’Chamor Yachdav--this is the Mitzvas Lo Sa’aseh which prohibits one from doing any type of work with two species of animals when one of them is not kosher and the other is kosher. Even if one only directs them with his voice, and as a result they pull a wagon together, he receives makkos. However, if he only pairs them together and does nothing further, he would not receive makkos. If more than one person (e.g. even 100) pulled or led the forbidden pair together, or sat on the wagon and were pulled by the forbidden pair, they each receive makkos. This prohibition applies in all places and at all times, and to men and women alike.


181.  Shelo Lilbosh Kilei Begadim--this is the Mitzvas Lo Sa’aseh which prohibits one from wearing clothing made of wool and linen. Wool is limited to the wool of sheep and rams. Once the wool and linen is combined and worn, the prohibition sets in--even if the garment with the kilayim is on top of ten other articles of kosher clothing, so that he receives direct benefit from it. The prohibition applies to one who puts the kilayim on him as a blanket as well. MiD’Rabbanan it is forbidden to sit on cushions or mats of kilayim--even if there are ten other soft cushions on top of it. This prohibition applies in all places and at all times, and to men and women alike.



Special Note Two:  Today, we continue our series in which we will refer to one Ahl Cheit a day through the Yomim Nora’im period, so that we have the opportunity to briefly review each one of them in steady steps. Today, we study the first Ahl Cheit under the letter Vav:


Ahl Cheit Shechatanu Lefanecha BeViduy Peh--Confessing With The Mouth, But Without True Sincerity


HaRav Dessler, Z’tl, writes that Teshuvah is something that comes from the inner heart. Turning Teshuvah into lip service is a sin in and of itself. Only if one feels sincere regret with an earnest intent to correct a particular misdeed should Viduy be recited. If one merely expresses the matter with his mouth and does not really have any idea of change, then it is almost as if one is c’v acting as if Hashem does not know his true thoughts.


Hakhel Note: Sometimes, it is hard for a person to imagine that he is truly a sinner. If he would try to write down things he did wrong during the day as he did them, he may note more issues than he thought existed. If in fact, one does so, then every time he recites Selach Lanu Avinu Key Chatana Mechal Lanu Malkeinu Key Phashanu, he can have one or more of the recent issues he has written down on his mind--and perhaps sincerely repent for them, by expressing what they were at the end of Shemone Esrei, before taking three steps back.


IMPORTANT NOTE: As we contemplate this Ahl Cheit, and as we continue through Viduy, we must realize and recall what a tremendous opportunity Teshuvah really is. It is not c’v, a difficult obligation, a drudgery, a have-to-do of life--rather, it is an opportunity to start afresh, to start again, to realize one’s potential--to gain true joy in this world, and for ever and ever!



Special Note Three: A postscript on the Mitzvos of Tzedaka in last week’s Parsha. Rabbi Zelig Pliskin, Shlita, in the Sefer Love Your Neighbor, brings from the Sefer Yad HaKetana as follows: 


“The word that Chazal used for charity is Tzedaka, which literally means righteousness or justice. This term elucidates the Torah’s concept of charity. It is not merely a charitable act to give to the poor; it is the obligation of every single person.


Rabbi Pliskin also brings the words of the Shulchan Aruch (Yoreh Dei’ah 249:5) that the reward for influencing others to give is very great. Indeed, Gadol HaMe’aseh Yoser Min Ha’oseh--the reward for influencing others to give Tzedakah is greater than merely giving charity yourself. Why?


HaRav Eliyahu Lopian, Z’tl, gives three reasons: (a) one who gives to Tzedaka does something for himself, one who tries to influence someone does something for others; (b) one who gives Tzedaka receives honor, one who tries to influence others receives humiliation; and (c) one who gives Tzedaka gives money, one who tries to influence someone gives time--and time is life! (Lev Eliyahu I, p. 30).”




26 Menachem Av

TWO IMPORTANT MEZUZAH INCIDENTS. As excerpted from the Machon U’Keshartem Newsletter:


1. An expensive, waterproof Mezuzah holder was placed on a porch door to protect the Mezuzah from the rain and snow. The homeowner, however, did not consider sun damage. Upon inspection after eight years, it was discovered that the heat had dissolved the ink, rendering the mezuzah pasul. It is very likely that had the Mezuzah been checked earlier, the damage would have been detected early enough to be repaired.


2. A woman brought a Mezuzah to be checked by a sofer, and related the following remarkable story: Her son attends a very prominent cheder in Boro Park. One day a boy in her son’s class broke his wrist and it was placed in a cast. A couple of days later, another boy broke his wrist. This scenario repeated itself a third time, until horrified mothers of the given class decided to take action and have the Mezuzah of the classroom checked. Incredibly, when the sofer opened the Mezuzah, he discovered a p’sul at the words ‘Ahl Yadecha--on your arm!


Hakhel Note:  The busy time of Elul includes for many the checking of Mezuzahs and Tefillin. In our generation, we are blessed with many services in which sofrim comes to one’s home and check the mezuzahs immediately, without having to spend the night without Mezuzahs in one’s home. Same-day Tefillin checking is also available. What a wonderful feeling it is for one to know that the prominent Tashmishei Kedusha in his home are kosher…and perhaps even mehudar--ready for the new year!



THE ESSENCE OF COMPASSION:  “The essence of compassion is being able to imagine yourself in someone else’s situation. It is the resulting softness of the heart that makes one sensitive to the suffering of others” (Alei Shur, p.148, quoted in Love Your Neighbor).




Special Note One:  Today, we continue our series in which we will refer to one Ahl Cheit a day through the Yomim Nora’im period, so that we have the opportunity to briefly review each one of them in steady steps. Today, we study the second Ahl Cheit under the letter Hey:


Ahl Cheit Shechatanu Lefanecha BeHona’as Rei’ah--Wronging One’s Friend


The Torah describes two different ways in which one can deal improperly with his friend--either by hurting him monetarily, or by word and action. Chazal teach (Bava Metziah 58B) that hurting with words is actually worse than hurting with money--after all, the overcharge can be refunded, but the words cannot be taken back. One is especially prone to utilize harsh, biting, sarcastic or other wrongful words with close family members. However, their pain from hurtful words is no different than the pain suffered by a stranger or an acquaintance. One must take special care to ensure that inappropriate language and methods of expression do not enter his vocabulary from others--even if they may otherwise have superior standing to him at work or in the community. All the more so should one who is highly thought of be sure that his words are calm, gentle, positive and complimentary.


We present by clicking here a listing of statements we have presented in the past constituting Ona’as Devarim, as culled from The Power of Words, by Rabbi Zelig Pliskin, Shlita.  It would most certainly pay to review this listing from time-to-time, to keep one’s mind and tongue in check.  Most certainly, as we approach Elul, it is time to review…and there is always room for improvement!


Additional Note: In this week’s Parsha, we learn that the bracha on Har Gerizim was given first, and so Bnei Yisrael were given to understand the great benefit of following the Torah and its Mitzvos. Only if they failed, would the klalah on Har Eival which followed come to fore. We should take the lesson of always ensuring that our first words are words of bracha--the first words that we speak in the morning, the first words to our family members, the first words at work, the first words upon return home, the first words anywhere… Let the bracha set in…and take hold!



Special Note Two:  We present from the Divrei Siach, by Rabbi Yitzchak Goldshtoff, Shlita, several important teachings from the Steipeler Gaon, Z’tl:


A. Shemiras HaBeriyus--keeping oneself healthy is a Mitzvah in the Torah, just as sitting in the Sukkah, taking the Lulav and Esrog, or any other of the 613 Mitzvos. In fact, the Steipeler writes that it is a Mitzvah Gedolah--as the Pasuk states:  Venishmartem Me’od Lenafshoseichem”.


B. In Shemone Esrei we ask: V’Sein Sachar Tov Lechol HaBotechim BeShimcha B’Emes. Why do we ask for ‘Sachar Tov--good reward’? The answer is that it is not a reward in Olam Haba that we ask for, but rather the natural result of one’s Bitachon in this world--which is that Hashem’s Chesed will surround and envelop the person in that which he puts his Bitachon in Hashem into. So, we ask that even if we are not ra’uy, that Hashem nevertheless fulfill our request because of the Bitachon that we have in Hashem that He will do so. Hakhel Note: We were advised that a person once visited a Chassidic Rebbi, and asked for a bracha that he be zoche to…. The Rebbi stopped him and advised him to ask for a bracha--even if he is not deserving, even if he is not zoche--just from the Chasdei Hashem!


C. The Steipeler urged everyone to learn Mussar every day--including with children over the age of seven--for five or ten minutes. He would say: “It will enter into them, it will enter into them--without it, one cannot live”!


D. If one cannot fast, then he should instead attempt a Ta’anis Dibur. For instance, if r’l, one’s Tefillin fell on the floor, a Ta’anis Dibur would be a substitute for a Ta’anis. In fact, he would say: “If one fasts, it would be for one day, but a Ta’anis Dibur could take place for several days, and it is a very lofty accomplishment.” A Ta’anis Dibur involves not speaking Devarim Beteilim--only Divrei Torah.



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


A. HaRav Nissim Karelitz, Shlita, rules that if a baby is crying during Kiddush, it does not fall within the problem of trei kolei--two voices which cannot be heard. Rather, because the cry is so different from the words of Kiddush, one can pay attention to the words of Kiddush without being sidetracked by the cry (Shulchan Aruch Orach Chaim 271, Dirshu Note 17).


B. If one listening to Kiddush did not hear the bracha of Borei Pri Hagafen, but otherwise heard the bracha of Kiddush, the Ohr Letzion rules that he has fulfilled the Mitzvah of Kiddush--and simply must make a bracha of Porei Pri HaGafen if he wants to drink wine afterwards (ibid., Dirshu Note 27).


C. The Igros Moshe writes that those who are being Yotzei the Mitzvah of Kiddush through another should not speak until the one making Kiddush has drank at least a melo lugmah from his cup. HaRav Nissim Karelitz rules that if one drinks the entire kos of Kiddush, he demonstrates a Chibuv Mitzvah (ibid., Dirshu Notes 66 and 80).


D. If one making Kiddush has in mind to drink wine during the meal as well, then he need not make a separate Borei Pri Hagafen during the meal. If he did not have this intent, then unless it is one’s common practice to drink wine during the meal, he should recite a separate Borei Pri Hagafen, before he drinks wine during the meal.


E. The Minchas Yitzchak rules that one may use a frozen challah for Lechem Mishneh, for nothing more needs to be done to it than let it defrost, and it could even be warmed in a permissible manner and be ready for eating quickly. HaRav Nissim Karelitz adds that it could possibly be eaten in its frozen state (albeit with difficulty). However, HaRav Shlomo Zalmen Auerbach, Z’tl, writes that in order for it to be used, it must have the ability to defrost during the course of the meal. The Shevet HaLevi writes that he is machmir and does not use frozen challah for Lechem Mishneh, if it is not currently edible as regular challah (ibid., 274, Dirshu Note 1).


F. The Sefer Orchos Rabbeinu (p. 113) writes in the name of the Steipeler Gaon that if a little bit of the crust on top of the Challah came off, as is common to occur in stores, the challah is still considered a shaleim (ibid., Dirshu Note 4).


G. The Mechaber rules that the Seudah on Leil Shabbos and the first Seudah of Shabbos day must be made with bread, ‘because they are the Ikar Kevod HaShabbos’ (ibid., Mishna Berurah seif katan 9). If one could not eat bread at night, he can push off his bread Seudah until the next day, and eat three meals during the day--but should still make Kiddush at night and either eat a kezayis of the five grains, or drink another revi’is of wine besides Kiddush (ibid.).



Special Note Four:  Sunday (28 Menachem 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 “Tzaddik 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 to the letter of the law!


As we approach Elul, which are known as the Yemei 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 Yisrael 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 Five:  In this week’s Parsha, we find a special emphasis on the Mitzvah of Tzedakah.  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 Tzaddik (he was a teacher of Rebbi 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 Six: It is not by ‘sheer coincidence’ that the Torah reminds us of the Tzedakah imperative at this time. As Chazal teach--even  a poor person must give Tzedaka (Gittin 7B). Indeed, Rabbeinu Yonah in the Sefer Sha’arei Teshuvah (3:118) writes that ‘one who closes his hand to his needy brother and turns his eyes from his relatives is guilty of stealing from the poor--for once he is bound to give, it is as if he steals their gifts.” Happily, the converse is also true. As we read in this week’s Parsha ( 15:10 ): “Key B’Glal HaDavar Hazeh Yevarechecha Hashem Elokecha Bechol Ma’asecha U’vechol Mishlach Yadecha--for in return for this, Hashem will bless you in all of your deeds and in your every undertaking.”

We provide below several important points relating to the mitzvah of Tzedaka from the Sefer Me’il Tzedakah and the Sefer Pele Yoetz, among others:



1. 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.


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 Bikkurim 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. Once HaRav Schach, Z’tl,  was walking to the Kosel and saw a blind Arab begging on the road. HaRav Schach, 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 Tzedaka before YomTov, or to help make a Chasuna, or if a child is born, are 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 Tzedkecha Kevod Hashem Ya’asfecha...your acts of Tzedaka will precede you and the glory of Hashem will gather you in.”



7. According to the greatness of the Mitzvah is the Yetzer Hara 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.


Hakhel Note: If someone handed you a check today for $1 million--how would you spend it? Perhaps you can take out a piece of paper and list your thoughts--how would you spend it and why? Your initial reaction should give you a good sense as to your approach to money and what to do with it!



Special Note Seven: The following are some questions and answers from Rav Chaim Kanievsky, Shlita, relating to Tzedaka from the Sefer Derech Sicha (Vol. I):


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!




25 Menachem Av

FINISH LINE !  Rebbi Eliyahu Schneider, Shlita, points to runners who, as they reach the finish line, attempt one last heroic and gallant effort to end the race in the most favorable position possible--perhaps even in first place. It appears, continues Rabbi Schneider, that the Yetzer Hara is now in something like his ‘finish line mad-dash’--as he scurries to create unparalleled nisyonos for our generation--nisyonos that even middle-aged people could never have dreamed would exist when they were younger. Rather than falling prey to the great temptations and falling into the trap that the nations of the world have already deeply descended into, we MUST INSTEAD provide our own ‘finish line’ dash--which instead of impeding the Geulah, has the powerful ability to  bring it about much, and perhaps much, much, more quickly! Hakhel Note:  Who amongst us is willing to bli neder commit for the month of Elul not to look at his cell phone from the time he enters the front door of his Shul to the time he walks out of the same front door?  Women can bli neder take a parallel commitment.  This is no time to wait--give it that great spurt of energy--that you are truly capable of!




Special Note One:  Special Note One: We B’EH continue our Monday/Thursday study of the Sefer Mitzvos HaKatzar, with the Mitzvos Lo Sa’asei which the Chofetz Chaim writes are applicable in our times. Today, we present Mitzvos Lo Sa’aseh 178 and 179:


178. Shelo Yehei Klei Gever Ahl Isha--this is the Mitzvas Lo Sa’aseh which prohibits a woman from wearing the clothing and ornaments that are in that locale worn specifically by men, and which also prohibits a woman to shave her head as a man would.  This prohibition applies in all places and at all times.


179. Shelo Yilbash Gever Simlas Isha--this is the Mitzvas Lo Sa’aseh which prohibits a man from wearing the clothing and ornaments that are in that locale worn specifically by women. Likewise, a man would not be permitted to remove white hairs (or even one white hair) from his head or beard, nor color any of this hair black.  This prohibition applies in all places and at all times.



Special Note Two: Today, we continue our series in which we will refer to one Ahl Cheit a day through the Yomim Nora’im period, so that we have the opportunity to briefly review each one of them in steady steps. Today, we study the first Ahl Cheit under the letter Heih:


Ahl Cheit Shechatanu Lefanecha BeHarhor HaLev--Forbidden Thoughts


Certain thoughts in and of themselves are forbidden, without the need to attach them to any further words or deeds. These thoughts include one who c’v: questions Hashem or has other heretical thoughts; questions the motives or veracity of his Rebbi; thinks words of Torah in unclean places; business thoughts which preoccupy a person on Shabbos or Yom Tov,during Torah studies or Tefillah; lustful thoughts; and prideful thoughts. HaRav Eliyahu Dessler, Z’tl, writes that one’s thoughts are the roots from which the branches of sin grow, and accordingly, by proper focus on Teshuvah in Harhor HaLev, one can cut down the tree of sin at its very source. The Iyun Tefillah adds that even if the sinful thought does not lead to action, one is Metameh Es Hanefesh--sullies his soul, by impure thoughts. Indeed, Chazal (Nidah 13B) teach that one who allows himself to engage in improper thoughts is not admitted, after 120 years, into the mechitzah of HaKadosh Baruch Hu. Furthermore, the Rambam writes that one’s failure to properly control his thoughts is one of the 24 impediments to Teshuvah in its entirety. If one would instead recognize that the wasteful moments of sinful Harhor HaLev can be converted into precious moments of Hirhur BaTorah and Mitzvos--he will be taking a failed and bankrupt business and converting it into a thriving and tremendously successful one. The Alter of Kelm, for example, was known to point out that for every moment that one thinks about how he could help someone else, he fulfills the Mitzvas Asei D’Oraysa of VeAhavta L’Reiacha Kamocha! The key is to take the thought as it occurs out of the Yetzer Hara’s wasteland--and propel it up to the heavens!



Special Note Three:  In this week’s Parsha, the Torah teaches us that, once we come to the Beis 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 Mizbeach in the Beis 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 indeed everywhere.  If so, why can’t we come close to Him with a korbon anywhere?  Moreover, what does the Jew in Bavel, in Amsterdam , in British Columbia , in Buenos Aires or even in Tel Aviv do--he can’t be in the Beis Hamikdash in an instant.  Why can’t he grow spiritually with a spiritual tool in his own backyard?  It would appear that for all that would be gained with a local connection to Hashem, the Torah is teaching us that more would, in fact, 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 Beis HaMikdash--that we could achieve the Yiras Shomayim that we need to reach our true spiritual potential.  The daily open miracles, the tzidkus and chochma of the Kohanim, the spiritually elevated 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 Beis 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!




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