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Hakhel Email Community Awareness Bulletin

AUGUST 2015 DAILY EMAIL ARCHIVE

 

16 Elul

SUMMER IMPROVEMENT PROGRAM! We conclude our Summer Improvement Program, with simple suggestions, on a weekly basis, in each of the areas of Bein Adam LaMakom, Bein Adam L’Chaveiro, and Bein Adam L’Atzmo. Of course, these are only suggestions--but every person has the opportunity to join with others who will be attempting the same successes.

 

CONCLUDING WEEK--SUMMER 5775

WEEK 12--PARASHAS KI SAVO

 

Bli neder, at least one time today, consciously do the following:

 

Bein Adam LaMakom:

As we draw closer to the Yomim Nora’im, in which a great emphasis is placed upon our Tefillos, we must make a new and special effort to improve our Tefillos--before the Yomim Nora’im--in some real and tangible way. The Teshuvas HaRashba (5:1), writes that just as the Aseres Yemei Teshuva is the Eis Ratzon of the year, so too, is Tefillas Mincha the Eis Ratzon of the day.  Let us appreciate and utilize each and every Tefillas Mincha for the tremendous opportunity that it is--starting today!

 

Bein Adam L’Chaveiro:

Many times we do an important Chesed for another person--helping him with advice, being a good listener, taking the person’s name to daven for him…but as the next day comes, new and different circumstances and situations present themselves, and we may forget the person who we so helped or benefited just a day or two or three before. It would certainly be most beneficial for a person to keep a note to follow-up in a day or two or more on how this person feels, how that person fared, or whether he still needs this, or she is still looking for somebody for that. The follow-up to the initial Chesed not only provides shleimus, a completeness to the act of Chesed itself--it also provides a shleimus to the person completing it. Try to follow up, at least once a day with a person or project that you had started to assist with several days earlier.

 

Hakhel Note: An important consideration: When a person does Chesed with another, his ‘I’ should be expanded so that it is as if he is doing Chesed with himself, and accordingly one should perform the Chesed in the manner that he want it done to himself.

 

Bein Adam L’Atzmo:

We are all familiar with the famous Ma’aseh reported of the Chofetz Chaim, Z’tl, being given the room in an inn next to Rebbi Yisroel Salanter, Z’tl. The Chofetz Chaim reported that the whole night he could hear Rebbi Yisroel Salanter repeating the following teaching (Avos 4:28): “Rebbi Eliezer HaKapar Omer: HaKinah V’HaTa’avah VeHakavod Motzi’in Es Ha’adam Min HaOlam--jealousy, desire, and honor, r’l remove a person from the world.” One must constantly remind himself of these three horrendous middos which seek to undermine a person’s very existence in this world. If he can do battle with them, then they will not succeed in removing him from the world--and the great and clear implication is that doing battle will bring  a person further life. As Rebbi Yisroel Salanter did, one should remind himself of Rebbi Yisroel HaKapar’s teaching--and implement it, as Rebbi Yisroel certainly did as well!

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NINETEEN WEEKS! We are now in the eighteenth of the nineteen week period prior to Rosh Hashana. In past years, we have proceeded weekly, Bracha by Bracha, through Shemone Esrei with a special emphasis on Kavannah on that week’s Bracha. This week’s Bracha is…Modim!

 

HaRav Yonasan Eibeschutz, Zt’l, in the Sefer Ya’aros Devash teaches:  “In this bracha one should give personal shevach to Hashem for the wonders that Hashem provides in his personal life daily.   One must realize that the Ba’al HaNess does not always appreciate the Nissim that occur to him, and that each and every one of us is the recipient of many nissim nistarim each and every day.  Additionally, based upon the Zohar, HaRav Eibeschutz  writes that one must be especially dedicated to giving hoda’ah daily on the return of his soul to his body the previous night.  This may be the basis for the special thanks in the bracha for “VeAhl Nishmoseinu HaPekudos Lach”. We especially thank Hashem for “Ahl Chayeinu HaMesurim BeYadecha.”  We should think as we recite these words that we are not only thanking Hashem for granting us life minute after minute, but also for every aspect of our bodies and souls within us.  We can quickly think up from the bottom of our feet to the top of our head--and recognize how much is working--that we must admit would not be functioning--but for Hashem’s empowerment and graciousness--oh we have so much to be thankful for.

 

We provide by the following link additional notes to this Bracha, provided for the years 5771 and 5772 http://www.hakhel.info/TefillahArchive.html

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FROM THE VOLUNTEER DIRECTOR OF AMERICAN FRIENDS OF YAD ELIEZER: This morning I got home from Eretz Yisrael.  The trip was wonderful, as usual, and I met some unbelievable people.  Mrs. Weiss lives in Beit Yisrael, a neighborhood teeming with people who mostly live in great poverty.  She came to the Yad Eliezer office in the hope that she might get a t’lush (food coupon) for Yom Tov.  She came early this year so she would not be disappointed.  I sat on the side while she told her story.  Her husband, who is a Sofer, works and learns all day.  He gives her 70 shekels each week to prepare for Shabbos.  She goes to the supermarket and gathers whatever she needs and thinks she can afford and then asks the grocer to add up what she bought.  Then she needs to start putting back some of the food.  There is very little that can be bought with 70 shekels (almost $18) to feed a family of 10 children and 2 adults.  As she was  talking to Milka (who sits at the front desk at Yad Eliezer), Milka began to cry.  Milka can’t always help with money but she always sympathizes and has kind words.  There were so many problems. Mrs. Weiss had so much sadness in her life.  Each one of her children had an issue (some were very small like glasses that broke), but the crushing poverty and the constant need brought her to real sobbing.  Somebody who heard her story that day gave her 200 NIS for the next 20 weeks (altogether $1,000) and the transformation was immediate and beautiful to see.

 

This year we have several matching grants available for the Yomim Noraim and Yom Tov:

 

1. In Ofakim, a very needy city that is filled with Talmidei Chachomim, if we receive donations of $50,000, we will receive from a donor an additional $75,000 for them. 

 

2. In Tzfat, we have a 1 for 1 match of up to $25,000.

 

3. In Kiryat Sefer, if we receive donations of $25,000, we will receive from a donor an additional $35,000.

 

There are thousands of families just like Mrs. Weiss.  Some are single mothers, some are families headed by true Talmidei Chachomim who learn day and night, and some are truly dysfunctional families who need food just like everyone else.  A 100 or 200 shekel food voucher makes a huge difference in their lives.  A gift of a Yom Tov meal (around $50) or a case of chickens for Sukkos ($100) would be incredible (an entire metric ton of chickens costs $6,000), and would be Tzedaka in its purest form.   Please help us before the Yamim Noraim and let us, together, feed, sustain and care for the most vulnerable members of K’lal Yisrael.  Kesiva V’Chasima Tova!

 

Donations can be mailed to American Friends of Yad Eliezer, 1102 E. 26th Street, Brooklyn, NY 11210.  For immediate donation, the web address is www.yadeliezer.org Please indicate how you would like the money used in the comments section.

 

Hakhel Note: Yasher Kochachem!

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IT IS NOT ABOUT 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!

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FEELING THE TIMES! As we travel deeper and deeper into Elul, we become more strongly sensitized to the words of Dovid HaMelech in Tehillim--”V’Ani Kirvas Elokim Li Tov--as for me, I realize that being close to Hashem is good.”  There is an incredibly penetrating Chapter of Tehillim--Chapter 139--which also very much relates to the time period that we are in.  We urge each and every one of our readers to slowly read this Kepitel in the Hebrew, and study it in the English, as well.  If you are moved, you are certainly heading in the right direction!

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HILCHOS SUKKAH! Today, we continue to provide two Halachos a day on Hilchos Sukkos. The following notes are excerpted from the 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. 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).

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Special Note One: As last week’s Parasha contained 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, 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!

 

 

Special Note Two:  We provide the following essential points made in Praying With Fire II by Rabbi Heshy Kleinman, Shlita, relating to the “Eis Ratzon Period (Time of Favor) that we are in from Elul through Yom Kippur--40 days of Paradise for the Neshama!:

 

A.  R’ Itzele (Blazer) Peterburger, Z’tl, in Sefer Kochvei Ohr examines this seemingly illogical order of Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur.  He asserts that logically, Yom Kippur should have come first, allowing the Jewish people to begin by confessing and cleansing themselves of their sins.  After that process, they could arrive at the Day of Judgment, Rosh Hashanah, deserving of a good year.  However, Rav Blazer explains that a person’s first priority must be to recognize that Hashem is the benevolent King Who likewise renders judgment.  Only then can one truly comprehend the magnitude of the forgiveness one must seek on Yom Kippur.

 

B.  Our plea for a renewed lease on life is not limited to simply keeping our heartbeat and breathing going for another year.  HaRav Yechezkel Levenstein, Z’tl, writes (Sefer Ohr Yechezkel, 109):  “Zachreinu LeChaim is not just a request for life itself; it encompasses everything.  That which is connected to life is also called life--health, sustenance, removing obstacles and hardships are all included in our request for life.”  With so much at stake, we cannot afford to “stand in the shade” during this crucial Eis Ratzon, when Hashem’s radiance is at its peak.

 

C.  To better appreciate the role of Elul, Rabbi Kleinman provides the following allegory:  There was once a king who occasionally set out among the general populace to stay in touch with the realities of his subjects’ lives.  Prior to his arrival, he would send out letters to a random selection of families, announcing his visit.  On one such occasion, a poor couple living on the edge of town received a letter announcing that the king would be visiting them. The couple, who lived in abject poverty, began to discuss what to do.  “We have to repair the front stairs and weed the lawn and paint the walls and borrow at least one good chair for him to sit on,” the husband insisted.  “Who are you trying to fool?” the wife contested.  ”We don’t have money for all that.  And besides, the king knows he’s visiting paupers.  We should just be ourselves.”  ”No,” the husband countered.  ”We have to put in our best effort.”  We have to show him that we prepared for his visit in the best way we can.  He has to see that we’re his loyal subjects and that we are proud that he is our king.”  It is for this reason that we undertake extra efforts, and are more meticulous and punctilious, in the learning of Torah and the performance of Mitzvos.  We must remember that, during this very 40-Day Period, Moshe Rabbeinu worked very hard in Shomayim pleading our case for eternal survival--and was successful.  The grace of the Period renews itself annually for each and every one of us.  However, it is not easy.  There are no “push-button” solutions.  Shlomo HaMelech, the wisest of all men, teaches us (Mishlei 24:16) “Ki Sheva Yipol Tzaddik VeKam…for a righteous man can fall seven times and rise, but the wicked shall stumble upon evil.”  It is the Tzaddik who realizes that even though he has fallen in the past he can nevertheless rise and become great.  It is actually a Rasha, a wicked person, who believes that because he has stumbled once, he has hopelessly fallen forever.  We have to take the time and make the effort to get up, as Hashem is now extending His hand to help us in an extraordinarily merciful, compassionate, and forgiving way, in a way which is beyond our wildest dreams or imagination.  In what ways can we help ourselves “up”? One can review the above Bulletin (or previous Bulletins over the last two weeks) to determine whether there is anything that is relevant to him. In any and all events, one must take some serious time with himself, reviewing his day, reviewing his successes and failures over the past year, reviewing the need to grow in certain areas--and come up with some real and realistic ideas for the coming year--Haba’ah Aleinu L’Tova!

 

 

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13 Elul

SUMMER IMPROVEMENT PROGRAM!

WEEK 11--PARASHAS KI SEITZEI

 

Bli neder, at least one time today, consciously do the following:

 

Bein Adam LaMakom:

In last week’s’ Parasha, the Torah instructed us not to follow any of the wayward sorcery practices of the other nations in order to gain or retain knowledge beyond their immediate grasp. Instead, ‘Tomim Tiheyeh Im Hashem Elokecha’--we are to demonstrate wholehearted Emunah in Hashem. When we daven and make brachos, we personally assert this Emunah. Answering “Amen” to another’s brachos or Tefillos provides us with the opportunity not only to fulfill a personal obligation--but to reiterate it in a voluntary way. Seek out an opportunity--although not required--to answer “Amen” to someone else’s Tefillah or bracha, so that you can personally exclaim your wholehearted belief in the Omnipotence, Omniscience and Omnipresence of Hashem!

 

Bein Adam L’Chaveiro:

HaRav Chatzkel Levenstein, Z’tl, teaches that what was so special, so unique about Rivka’s Chesed to Eliezer, to his men and to their camels was that she did not take a step back and say: “I can show these able-bodied men where the well is--but there is certainly no reason for me, a little girl, to provide them with assistance.” Instead, she saw that a Chesed was necessary, and felt that she was capable of performing it. No other questions needed to be asked, no further thoughts would be necessary to divert her attention. This is a Ba’al Chesed. Before performing a Chesed--try not to think who else could do it and why--if the Chesed presents itself and you know that you can do the job--be a Ba’al Chesed--and do it!

 

Bein Adam L’Atzmo:

After the hundreds of teachings in Pirkei Avos, the Mesechta concludes (5:26) with the teaching of Ben Hei Hei: “Lefum Tza’ara Agra--according to the effort is the reward.” One should not delude himself into thinking that his personal wisdom, aggressiveness or connections got him anywhere, or will get him anywhere. Hashem looks solely at the efforts of the person in his particular position in life. Mesechta Avos is the Mesechta that is specifically dedicated to how we can grow personally. Its final words to us are: “With Effort”. If something is important to you, whether it be Kavannah in Tefillas Mincha, a Daf Yomi Shiur, helping a certain person find a Shidduch….whatever it may be, remember not to tire of it and instead reinvigorate and revitalize yourself to put your best effort into it--daily!

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MORE ON THE TOOTHBRUSH TEST--FROM A READER:  “Anyone following Jewish book publishing knows that Rabbi Zelig Pliskin, Shlita, has published tens of books on subjects of refining our middos and hashkafos, our character and outlooks. These books display a remarkable drive from a very special man to connect himself and all his readers to HaKadosh Baruch Hu. Perhaps the book which most directly shows Rabbi Pliskin’s love and desire for attachment with Hashem is a unique one called “My Father, My King.”  The book is comprised of 119 short chapters in which Rabbi Pliskin writes words as if HaKadosh Baruch Hu is speaking to us. Every chapter begins with ‘Hear your Father, your King, the Creator and Sustainer of the entire universe saying to you.’ Chapter 97 describes an amazing method and approach by which a person can connect with Hashem Yisbarach with the simple and mundane activity of brushing one’s teeth: ‘When you brush your teeth, be grateful. Your teeth enable you to chew, to swallow and to digest the food that gives you energy to fulfill your mission in this world. Let each stroke of the toothbrush give you feelings of joy and empowerment. Have joy that I have given you the gift of teeth. Appreciate the fact that you can take care of them. When you were an infant, you weren’t able to hold a toothbrush and guide it as you presently can. Now that you can, don’t take this ability for granted or belittle it in your mind as insignificant. There is no such thing as something too insignificant to connect you with your Creator. (As you brush) be grateful for the fascinating ability of your hand and arm to move back and forth, up and down. Do you have any idea how your muscles cause your hand to move, or how your hand is directed to move by your will? There are many other amazing abilities that I have given you. Be grateful for those you’ve already developed. Think about those you would like Me to help you develop. As you clean your teeth, think of ways to cleanse your soul. Let each stroke of the toothbrush symbolize for you a daily cleansing and refinement of your character.’ Did you ever imagine that brushing your teeth could be made into an avodas Hashem?”

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YOU ARE NOT SURROUNDED! In this week’s Parasha, we learn 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!

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SMELL THE KETORES! In the Parasha, we also learn 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! 

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HILCHOS SUKKAH! On Sunday, we begin the thirty day period prior to Sukkos. Many learn that the obligation to study the Halachos of Sukkos begin thirty (30) days in advance (see Shulchan Aruch Orach Chaim 429, Ba’air Heitev). Accordingly, we bli neder intend to provide two Halachos per day. The following two Halachos are for your review on Sunday, and are excerpted from the Kitzur Shulchan Aruch (Chapter 134):

 

1. It is a Mitzvah on every man to be personally involved in the building of his Sukkah and in the placement of his schach. Even if one is a highly respected person and does not usually engage in this kind of activity--he should recognize that this is his greatest honor--to be personally involved in a Mitzvah. In fact, concludes the Kitzur Shulchan Aruch, one would recite a Shehechiyanu on the building of the Sukkah, but for the fact that we rely on the Shehechinayu made at the conclusion of Kiddush on the first night of Sukkos to encompass the Mitzvah of building the Sukkah as well.

 

2. On Erev Sukkos, one should not eat bread after Chatzos [the Mishna Berurah writes after the tenth hour of the day] so that he will be able to eat at night with tei’avon. A commentary on the Kitzur points out that this means that one should not eat any other food which would also prevent him from eating l’tei’avon on Sukkos night. What one should do on Erev Sukkos is give a generous amount of Tzedaka.

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

 

1.  As we continue to focus upon Hashem’s Malchus, and the re-coronation on Rosh Hashana, we note that every Shabbos we recite the words:  “Yismechu BeMalchuscha Shomerei Shabbos V’Koreei Oneg--those who observe Shabbos and call it a delight, rejoice in Your Kingship.”  Although there is no special Halacha of physical Simcha on Shabbos as there is on Yom Tov, there is a more sublime and supernal feeling of joy in Hashem’s Malchus…each and every Shabbos. 

 

2.  In tomorrow’s laining we are privileged to have two of the Sheish Zechiros, which many of us recite daily after Shacharis.  The Luach Davar Be’ito brings the Magein Avraham (Shulchan Aruch, Orach Chaim 60, seif katan 2) who writes that one should have Kavannah to fulfill the Mitzvas Asei DeOraysa of remembering what happened to Miriam when the words “Zachar Eis Asher Asa Hashem Elokecha LeMiriam…” are read in the sixth aliyah (Devarim 24:9).  The Luach recommends that an announcement be made before Shishi to this effect!

 

3. Rebbi Yisroel Salanter, Z’tl, teaches that the ‘Aleph-Bais’ of Teshuvah is learning the Halachos of the topic or item for which Teshuvah is required.  How many can look back at the previous year and affirm that there was no slippage, mistake, or ignorance, with respect to his Shabbos observance?  A reader once advised us that he put  a pitcher of water into the freezer on Leil Shabbos before going to sleep, and took it out on Shabbos morning before going to Shul, so that he would have very cold water without ice at his Shabbos Seudah.  On the way to Shul that morning, he realized that he had two issues--1. Was he allowed to place the water into the freezer to freeze in the first place? and 2. Was he then permitted to take the frozen water out of the freezer to defrost into ice cold water in the pitcher--or was he intentionally creating water from ice (‘molid’).  He looked up the Shailah on his own (without consulting a Rav), determined that his actions were permissible, and drank the water.  Whether or not his conclusions were ultimately correct, what he reported to us determines the need to think before you act, the need to study the Halachos of Shabbos (certainly on Shabbos itself!)--and the need to consult with a Rav on matters of which one is not totally sure.

 

 

Special Note Two: Points and pointers on this week’s Parasha, Parashas Ki Seitzai:

 

A. Rabbi Pliskin, in another one of his outstanding Seforim, Growth Through Torah on the Parasha (p. 494-495), brings the following.  “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 Parasha for us to always take with us:

 

1.  Some of the most famous Mitzvos in the Parasha 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 our 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 Parasha, always read in Elul, clearly provides us 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. The Torah states that one who is to receive makkos--lashes for his transgression is to receive up to 40, as the Torah states: Arba’im Yakenu Lo Yosif. Why does the Torah use the number “40”--especially if the maximum is really 39? See Ramban to Devorim 25:3.

 

D. The following Shailos U’Teshuvos relating to the Mitzvah of Shiluach HaKain are excerpted from the Divrei Siach on this week’s Parasha:

 

QUESTION: Is there an obligation to perform Shiluach HaKain every time the situation presents itself to a person?

ANSWER: No, but there certainly is an inyan ahl pi kabbalah to do so.

 

QUESTION: is it better to perform the Mitzvah of Shiluach HaKain by yourself--or to ask a Shaliach to do so, so that you can study Torah during that time?

ANSWER:Mitzvah Bo Yoser MeBeshelucho--it is better for him to do the Mitzvah himself.”

 

QUESTION: If a katan performs Shiluach HaKain--will it be a segulah for him even when he becomes a Gadol?

ANSWER: Yes!

 

 

Special Note Three: As noted above, the Parasha begins with the famous words: “When you go to war against your enemies...”

 

What makes this world so special is that it gives us the opportunity to succeed against the Yetzer Hara.  Each success against the Yetzer Hara is a great victory, and these are the greatest of all earthly battles (Mesilas Yeshorim, Introduction).

 

But just like an army needs the best equipment and strategies in order to emerge victorious, so too must we be prepared with the best tools and weapons for our success.

 

There are two basic “War Room” strategies which we have previously provided for success against the Yetzer Hara.  Remember, the Yetzer Hara is exceedingly sly (“orum”), and also acts as the Satan and the Maloch HaMovess.  We must meet the challenge and respond in kind.

 

Strategy One: Eliminate the Choice.  The Yetzer Hara often outwits his victim by presenting a choice to him and coaxing him to make the wrong choice.  To avoid making the wrong choice, one should see himself as a “muchrach”, as one being forced to do the right thing, and not have any choice in the manner.

 

Here is a simple example (you can come up with the harder ones):

Should I give this quarter to tzedakah before Shacharis?  I could, but it is my last quarter, and I may need it for a parking meter later today, and then what will I do?

 

The muchrach will respond “I must give the quarter to tzedakah because it is Shacharis time, and it is appropriate to give tzedakah now (Shulchan Aruch, Orach Chayim 92:10).

 

Simply stated, you must eliminate the choice.  Just as in Olam Haba, there will eventually be no choice because everything will become so clear to us, so too, one can make it all clear now, as well.

 

Strategy Two: Strategy One is, of course, successful when you realize that in front of you lies a choice.  What if the Yetzer Hara simply “blindsides” you by placing you in a situation where you are face-to-face with an aveirah?

 

Simple example one (you can come up with the harder ones):

You turn around on a crowded subway and the only person facing you is Harriet, the Loshon Hara monger.

 

Simple example two: You sit down in a restaurant with a non-Jewish co-worker, are about to order, and you realize that the hashgacha is inferior.

 

Strategy Two involves the use of mental imagery to defeat the Yetzer Hara.  One form of mental imagery is thinking about a situation that could come up, and how to handle it before it happens—what happens if I meet up with a person who starts speaking Loshon Hara—how will I deal with it?  Or, how can I explain kashrus and its stringencies to the non-Frum or non-Jew?  If one has already imagined the situation, he may be very well-equipped to deal with it when it really happens.

 

A second, perhaps more powerful, image is a picture of a human being confronting some kind of vivid punishment or “Gehinnom”, thinking, is it really worth it for me to do what I am about to do?  Chazal tell the story of a great person, who, when confronted with sin, ran over to a hot stove, and said “He who does this, falls into this.”  What an image!

 

In a more positive light, one can imagine a very bright, immense and infinite paradise for following the Torah’s ways.  Overcoming the situation will bring beautiful victory for a person, his family, and Klal Yisrael.

 

The above are two proven strategies.  As the clocks ticks up towards Rosh Hashanah, we urge you to try the winning side. 

 

May this year be a year of victory for all of Klal Yisrael!

 

 

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

  

1.  “Ashrei Yoshvei Veysecha--praiseworthy are those who dwell in Your house.”  The Sefer Yesod VeShoresh HaAvodah explains that the ‘House’ we are referring to is the House of the King.  How fortunate, how happy we should feel for the privilege that we have of dwelling in the King’s house.  As we move further through Ashrei, we refer to Hashem’s Malchus several more times.  Chazal teach the importance of an appreciation of Ashrei when they say that one who is careful to [properly] recite Ashrei three times a day is Zoche to Olam Haba.  Perhaps we could take a great lesson from Ashrei with us throughout the day by singing the words, or humming the tune to, “Malchuscha Malchus Kol Olamin, U’Memshaltecha Bechol Dor VeDor--Your kingdom is a kingdom spanning all eternities, and Your dominion is throughout every generation.” 

 

2.  Chazal teach:  “Al Tehi Rasha Lifnei Atzmecha--do not view yourself as a Rasha.”  This means that a person should not get down upon himself, or put himself down, and decide that he is simply too set or established in a particular way of conduct or speech to be able to change it.  If a person got into a bad habit such as continuously blinking, picking at parts of his body, or coming so late to work that it drew the attention of others--he would certainly do whatever he could to extricate himself from what is not simply a habit--but a problem. Spiritual bad habits are even more problematic. Moreover, one should recognize that when he realizes his thoughts, words, or actions are deficient in a particular area, he should view this realization or awareness as unique and personalized “Hashgacha Pratis”--a message from Hashem to take action and do something about that particular item or matter.  Hashem cares about you and wants you to succeed in all aspects of your life…you should care no less for yourself! 

 

3.  In fact and in deed, there are others who care about you as well.  One of the teachings of the Rosh in the Archos Chaim L’Rosh is that “one should be happy when hearing words of Mussar, as if having found a great treasure.”  HaRav Aharon Kotler, Z’tl, explains this passage with the following analogy:  A young soldier is suddenly surrounded by the enemy.  Out of nowhere, a senior officer appears and shows the soldier exactly how he can extricate himself from the situation--and even defeat the enemy.  Our Rabbanim, our Maggidei Shiur, our teachers are our senior officers who are extending a life-line to us with their guidance and teachings.  Should we not rejoice with, and should we not implement, their heartfelt words of direction and assistance!  Listen carefully and closely--and seriously ponder and think about-- how to thrive and grow from their words.

 

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

 

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

 

 

Special Note Five: 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 Shiurim on time.

3.      Wearing truly appropriate clothing while davening.

4.      Making Brachos properly-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 bracha 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 discussions which are not worthwhile.

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. Please submit three additional examples to us based upon your reflection. If you cannot come up with three of your own, then your introspection needs introspection!

 

 

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12 Elul

SUMMER IMPROVEMENT PROGRAM!

WEEK 11--PARASHAS KI SEITZEI

 

Bli neder, at least one time today, consciously do the following:

 

Bein Adam LaMakom:

In last week’s’ Parasha, the Torah instructed us not to follow any of the wayward sorcery practices of the other nations in order to gain or retain knowledge beyond their immediate grasp. Instead, ‘Tomim Tiheyeh Im Hashem Elokecha’--we are to demonstrate wholehearted Emunah in Hashem. When we daven and make brachos, we personally assert this Emunah. Answering “Amen” to another’s brachos or Tefillos provides us with the opportunity not only to fulfill a personal obligation--but to reiterate it in a voluntary way. Seek out an opportunity--although not required--to answer “Amen” to someone else’s Tefillah or bracha, so that you can personally exclaim your wholehearted belief in the Omnipotence, Omniscience and Omnipresence of Hashem!

 

Bein Adam L’Chaveiro:

HaRav Chatzkel Levenstein, Z’tl, teaches that what was so special, so unique about Rivka’s Chesed to Eliezer, to his men and to their camels was that she did not take a step back and say: “I can show these able-bodied men where the well is--but there is certainly no reason for me, a little girl, to provide them with assistance.” Instead, she saw that a Chesed was necessary, and felt that she was capable of performing it. No other questions needed to be asked, no further thoughts would be necessary to divert her attention. This is a Ba’al Chesed. Before performing a Chesed--try not to think who else could do it and why--if the Chesed presents itself and you know that you can do the job--be a Ba’al Chesed--and do it!

 

Bein Adam L’Atzmo:

After the hundreds of teachings in Pirkei Avos, the Mesechta concludes (5:26) with the teaching of Ben Hei Hei: “Lefum Tza’ara Agra--according to the effort is the reward.” One should not delude himself into thinking that his personal wisdom, aggressiveness or connections got him anywhere, or will get him anywhere. Hashem looks solely at the efforts of the person in his particular position in life. Mesechta Avos is the Mesechta that is specifically dedicated to how we can grow personally. Its final words to us are: “With Effort”. If something is important to you, whether it be Kavannah in Tefillas Mincha, a Daf Yomi Shiur, helping a certain person find a Shidduch….whatever it may be, remember not to tire of it and instead reinvigorate and revitalize yourself to put your best effort into it--daily!

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FROM THINK HASHEM DAILY:

 

“When we prepare for Rosh Hashana during the month of Elul with Teshuva, Hashem creates Malachim in proportion to that preparation that will escort us in and testify on our behalf during the days of judgment.”

 

(Rav Tzvi Mayer Zilberberg, Shlita, based on Seforim)

 

To subscribe to Think Hashem Daily, email: thinkhashem@ateresshimon.org

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RETZEI IN THE BEIS HAMIKDASH: This week, we are working on the seventeenth bracha, (referred to by Chazal as the bracha of Avoda), in which we plead and appeal to Hashem to return the Avoda to the Beis HaMikdash. How was this bracha recited in the Beis HaMikdash itself--and how will it be recited B’EH in the near future? Following is the Nusach provided by the Rosh and the Tiferes Yisrael: “Retzei Hashem Elokeinu Avodas Amecha Yisrael V’ishei Yisrael U’sefilasam Sikabel B’Ratzon U’sehi L’Ratzon Tomid Avodas Yisrael Amecha. Baruch Atta Hashem Shochein B’Tzion.”


Hakhel Note: As we recite the bracha of Retzei--let us contemplate how wonderfully the bracha will change, and let us long to recite those modified words!

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MONEY MATTERS! The recent stock market ups and downs, no doubt are also intended to provide us with a reminder of how important it is for each and every one of us to straighten out our monetary affairs. We should always remember to apply the news that we hear about, and the circumstances and situations which affect us in a direct or personal way--as a tool for our personal growth in Avodas Hashem.

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TOOTHBRUSH TEST: Every day (except Shabbos and Yom Tov), we brush our teeth once, twice, or perhaps more times during the day. The three or four minutes that we spend every day on this process translate into hours and hours over a year. Rather than make the time mindless or ‘throw-away’, may we suggest saving the time and doing something particular and constructive--using it to listen to a particular Shiur on an ongoing basis (if brushing is in a clean area), to think about particular Chesed, or in some other dedicated and discreet manner. Minutes a day, hours a year, the equivalent of days (and even months!) over a lifetime, spent simply brushing one’s teeth--turned into real and meaningful eternity!

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MAKE IT WORK FOR YOU! We will soon be definitively working on Kabalos for 5776. Let us bli neder commit to make those Kabalos practical ones that will be written into a notebook or kept in a log on an ongoing basis in order to assist in compliance--to be reviewed next year at this time--hopefully, in its zechus, in the Beis HaMikdash!

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

 

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11 Elul

SUMMER IMPROVEMENT PROGRAM!

WEEK 11--PARASHAS KI SEITZEI

 

Bli neder, at least one time today, consciously do the following:

 

Bein Adam LaMakom:

In last week’s’ Parasha, the Torah instructed us not to follow any of the wayward sorcery practices of the other nations in order to gain or retain knowledge beyond their immediate grasp. Instead, ‘Tomim Tiheyeh Im Hashem Elokecha’--we are to demonstrate wholehearted Emunah in Hashem. When we daven and make brachos, we personally assert this Emunah. Answering “Amen” to another’s brachos or Tefillos provides us with the opportunity not only to fulfill a personal obligation--but to reiterate it in a voluntary way. Seek out an opportunity--although not required--to answer “Amen” to someone else’s Tefillah or bracha, so that you can personally exclaim your wholehearted belief in the Omnipotence, Omniscience and Omnipresence of Hashem!

 

Bein Adam L’Chaveiro:

HaRav Chatzkel Levenstein, Z’tl, teaches that what was so special, so unique about Rivka’s Chesed to Eliezer, to his men and to their camels was that she did not take a step back and say: “I can show these able-bodied men where the well is--but there is certainly no reason for me, a little girl, to provide them with assistance.” Instead, she saw that a Chesed was necessary, and felt that she was capable of performing it. No other questions needed to be asked, no further thoughts would be necessary to divert her attention. This is a Ba’al Chesed. Before performing a Chesed--try not to think who else could do it and why--if the Chesed presents itself and you know that you can do the job--be a Ba’al Chesed--and do it!

 

Bein Adam L’Atzmo:

After the hundreds of teachings in Pirkei Avos, the Mesechta concludes (5:26) with the teaching of Ben Hei Hei: “Lefum Tza’ara Agra--according to the effort is the reward.” One should not delude himself into thinking that his personal wisdom, aggressiveness or connections got him anywhere, or will get him anywhere. Hashem looks solely at the efforts of the person in his particular position in life. Mesechta Avos is the Mesechta that is specifically dedicated to how we can grow personally. Its final words to us are: “With Effort”. If something is important to you, whether it be Kavannah in Tefillas Mincha, a Daf Yomi Shiur, helping a certain person find a Shidduch….whatever it may be, remember not to tire of it and instead reinvigorate and revitalize yourself to put your best effort into it--daily!

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NINETEEN WEEKS: As we especially dedicate ourselves to the seventeenth Bracha of Shemone Esrei this week, we provide the following words of instruction from the great Praying with Passion Series (in order to go through this entire outstanding series on Tefillah, please visit http://prayingwithfire.org/archives.html):

 

“What are we davening for when we ask Hashem to restore His Shechinah to Tzion? For most people, the Shechinah remains an enigma. The efficacy of our tefillos, therefore, depends on our willingness to look more deeply into the nature of this unseen Presence, and gain an understanding of how it manifests itself in our world. The Gemara (Berachos 6a) teaches that the Shechinah resides in places of holiness, such as in the Beis HaMikdash and in a Shul when a minyan davens together. The Shechinah is also present when three judges sit in judgment, and when even one person studies Torah. A fundamental question arises: If Hashem is Omnipresent, why do we single out the Shechinah’s presence in certain holy places such as a Shul during

tefillah? What is the significance of the Shechinah’s presence in these sacred places if Hashem is everywhere? Rav Chaim Friedlander (Sifsei Chaim, Pirkei Emunah V’Hashgachah, Volume 1, page 170, citing the Ramchal) provides an explanation that “Shechinah” — from the phraseology “that which resides in your midst”--represents our relationship with Hashem. Thus, although His Presence is indeed constant, our awareness of the Shechinah is stronger when we are inspired by an occasion or a place of holiness. To the extent that we seek the Shechinah, we find it.”

 

Hakhel Note: The extent of one’s awareness of the Shechinah will depend on the particular holy place he is in. Obviously in the Beis Hamikdash, it is at its highest. In last week’s Haftara (Yeshaya 52:8), we read “Ki Ayin B’ayin Yiru B’shuv Hashem Tzion. The Meforshim (see Metzudas Dovid and Malbim) explain that the repetition of the word Ayin as “Ayin B’Ayin” indicates that there will be a great clarity in the vision, and that which is only heretofore seen as a Nevuah--will have the clarity of reality. We will actually see Hashem’s Presence return to Tzion. Oh, how we should have Kavannah when we recite the words “Vesechezenah Eineinu B’Shuvecha L’Tzion B’Rachamim”.

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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 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!

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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 not think improperly of anyone, including akum, for Hashem Himself has ordained that every person has his time, and every person has his place.

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Special Note One:  Some special  Hisorerus from the Sefer Sifsei Chaim, HaRav Chaim Friedlander, Zt’l ( Moadim I) teaches:

 

A.     After Adam HaRishon sinned and his Teshuva was accepted (all on Rosh Hashanah!), 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 start a learning Seder with someone before davening even if only for 10 or 15 minutes (thereby ensuring that he will be on time), or to “penalize himself” in some way for having been not as respectful as he could have been for his audience with the King

 

B.     A person can delude himself into thinking “Shalom Yihiye 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.

 

 

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

 

A.  Yiras Shomayim has true life-sustaining qualities (Tehillim 33:15, et. al).  The reasoning is actually quite simple--if you demonstrate a better understanding of life, then you deserve more of it.  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 Hora 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.

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

E.  Looking back over the year, one may want to review how many Shailos he asked, and how many he could have asked but did not do so for one reason or another.  In regular circumstances, a Shemiras HaLashon Shailah should come up weekly, if not daily.  Making one’s own decision to say something or not say something--or even avoiding the Shailah--is not always the proper response at all.  Over the approximately 20 years of its existence, the Chofetz Chaim Heritage Foundation’s Shemiras HaLashon Shailah Hotline has answered thousands upon thousands of Shailos running the gamut of Shidduch related questions, parent-teacher issues, the professional-client relationship, and issues among parents, children and siblings.  The Hotline is a vital tool to success in the life-giving area of Shemiras HaLashon.  After all, Mi HaIsh HehChofetz Chaim…Netzor Leshonecha MairahIn the United States, the Shailah Hotline’s number is 718-951-3696 and the hours are 9:00 PM-10:30 PM from Sunday through Thursday and Motza’ei Shabbos, and in Europe: HaRav Yaakov Wreschner, Shlita (Manchester) is available between 9:15AM and 10:15AM and between 1:15 and 2:15PM. His mobile number is 07980641399. Dayan Aharon Dovid Dunner, Shlita, is available at 02088008555 (no set hours).

 

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

Hakhel Note: In a similar vein, Rabbi Yechiel Spero, Shlita, teaches that on the doors of the Yeshiva in Kelm, the following words were posted: “Achdus Ha’avadim Hi Kiyum HaMalchus”--our own unity crowns Hashem in a wonderful way. Rabbi Spero therefore suggests that every person take the initiative to be mochel another person, even if he knows that he is in the right--and the person he is being mochel is at fault. With this selfless act, the antithesis of self-centeredness, one is not only elevating himself as a human being--but elevating Hashem into a greater position of Malchus as well!

 

Additional Note: Try it--today!

 

 

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10 Elul

THIRTY DAYS FROM TODAY WILL BE THE YOM HAKADOSH--YOM KIPPUR!

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SUMMER IMPROVEMENT PROGRAM! We continue our Summer Improvement Program, with simple suggestions, on a weekly basis, in each of the areas of Bein Adam LaMakom, Bein Adam L’Chaveiro, and Bein Adam L’Atzmo. Of course, these are only suggestions--but every person has the opportunity to join with others who will be attempting the same successes. In the alternative, one can chart his own improvement course on a weekly basis as well.

 

WEEK 11--PARASHAS KI SEITZEI

 

Bli neder, at least one time today, consciously do the following:

 

Bein Adam LaMakom:

In last week’s’ Parasha, the Torah instructed us not to follow any of the wayward sorcery practices of the other nations in order to gain or retain knowledge beyond their immediate grasp. Instead, ‘Tomim Tiheyeh Im Hashem Elokecha’--we are to demonstrate wholehearted Emunah in Hashem. When we daven and make brachos, we personally assert this Emunah. Answering “Amen” to another’s brachos or Tefillos provides us with the opportunity not only to fulfill a personal obligation--but to reiterate it in a voluntary way. Seek out an opportunity--although not required--to answer “Amen” to someone else’s Tefillah or bracha, so that you can personally exclaim your wholehearted belief in the Omnipotence, Omniscience and Omnipresence of Hashem!

 

Bein Adam L’Chaveiro:

HaRav Chatzkel Levenstein, Z’tl, teaches that what was so special, so unique about Rivka’s Chesed to Eliezer, to his men and to their camels was that she did not take a step back and say: “I can show these able-bodied men where the well is--but there is certainly no reason for me, a little girl, to provide them with assistance.” Instead, she saw that a Chesed was necessary, and felt that she was capable of performing it. No other questions needed to be asked, no further thoughts would be necessary to divert her attention. This is a Ba’al Chesed. Before performing a Chesed--try not to think who else could do it and why--if the Chesed presents itself and you know that you can do the job--be a Ba’al Chesed--and do it!

 

Bein Adam L’Atzmo:

After the hundreds of teachings in Pirkei Avos, the Mesechta concludes (5:26) with the teaching of Ben Hei Hei: “Lefum Tza’ara Agra--according to the effort is the reward.” One should not delude himself into thinking that his personal wisdom, aggressiveness or connections got him anywhere, or will get him anywhere. Hashem looks solely at the efforts of the person in his particular position in life. Mesechta Avos is the Mesechta that is specifically dedicated to how we can grow personally. Its final words to us are: “With Effort”. If something is important to you, whether it be Kavannah in Tefillas Mincha, a Daf Yomi Shiur, helping a certain person find a Shidduch….whatever it may be, remember not to tire of it and instead reinvigorate and revitalize yourself to put your best effort into it--daily!

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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....

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D’VEIKUS! A reader provided a great insight from the Malbim, which may be helpful in our understanding of why we recite L’Dovid Hashem Ori (Tehillim, Chapter 27) from Elul until Hoshana Rabbah.  In this Kepitel, Dovid HaMelech relates: “Achas Sha’alti Mei’eis Hashem Osah Avakeish Shivti B’Veis Hashem Kol Yemei Chayai--there is one thing I ask for and seek--to dwell in the house of Hashem all the days of my life.” Dovid HaMelech had many responsibilities and perhaps millions to care for.  Health, happiness, Shalom Bayis, Parnassah was definitely on his mind, but when all is put into perspective, all of the details and particulars of one’s personal, and one’s communal, needs--ultimately they all lead to one life goal--D’veikus B’Hashem.  One has (or should have) a lot on his mind in Elul.  With all that, he must keep his focus as to what it is all for, what it is all about.  We therefore recite this Kepitel twice every day--to keep us focused and aimed at our true, ultimate, and everlasting goal!

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MIDDAH K’NEGED MIDDAH: Once received from a reader:

 

“If I will overlook people’s shortcomings….Hashem will overlook mine.

 

If I won’t be exacting with other people…Hashem will not be exacting with me.

 

If I won’t scrutinize other people and look at their faults…Hashem will not scrutinize me and look at my faults.

 

Hashem has made Middah K’neged Middah a basis of the world’s existence--let’s be smart!”

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REMINDER--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.

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SEIZE THE OPPORTUNITY! Dirshu is providing a unique opportunity for those who are, or will, bli neder, attempt (at least for a specified period of time) to study the Daf HaYomi B’Halacha: Gedolei Rabbanim will daven on your behalf at the Chofetz Chaim’s kever on his Yahrzeit, 24 Elul. Dirshu is not asking for money--it is asking for Torah! By clicking here, we provide access to the Dirshu opportunity.

 

We now refer you to the next headnote.

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A THOUGHT ON TALMUD TORAH:  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! 

 

Hakhel Note: 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! 

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UNTIL AFTER BREAKFAST: One splendid suggestion regarding a cell phone takana is, bli neder, barring extenuating circumstances, not to look at one’s emails or texts after arising until one has eaten that morning. Discipline. Self control. Priority.

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Special Note One:  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 pass 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 Lebam 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, knows 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 stunning 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’amins.  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:  “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 recognize Hashem’s complete authority and control, 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 highlighted Pasuk, 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!

 

 

Special Note Two:  We provide the following points and pointers, as we have just begun the second week 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 continue to focus on 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.

 

D.  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 Kosher Jew.

 

E.  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):  “Ahl 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!” 

 

F.  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 careful chastisement to the offender--and benefit all of K’lal Yisrael!

 

G.  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. Now is the time to 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!

 

 

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9 Elul

SUMMER IMPROVEMENT PROGRAM! We continue our Summer Improvement Program, with simple suggestions, on a weekly basis, in each of the areas of Bein Adam LaMakom, Bein Adam L’Chaveiro, and Bein Adam L’Atzmo. Of course, these are only suggestions--but every person has the opportunity to join with others who will be attempting the same successes. In the alternative, one can chart his own improvement course on a weekly basis as well.

 

WEEK 11--PARASHAS KI SEITZEI

 

Bli neder, at least one time today, consciously do the following:

 

Bein Adam LaMakom:

In last week’s’ Parasha, the Torah instructed us not to follow any of the wayward sorcery practices of the other nations in order to gain or retain knowledge beyond their immediate grasp. Instead, ‘Tomim Tiheyeh Im Hashem Elokecha’--we are to demonstrate wholehearted Emunah in Hashem. When we daven and make brachos, we personally assert this Emunah. Answering “Amen” to another’s brachos or Tefillos provides us with the opportunity not only to fulfill a personal obligation--but to reiterate it in a voluntary way. Seek out an opportunity--although not required--to answer “Amen” to someone else’s Tefillah or bracha, so that you can personally exclaim your wholehearted belief in the Omnipotence, Omniscience and Omnipresence of Hashem!

 

Bein Adam L’Chaveiro:

HaRav Chatzkel Levenstein, Z’tl, teaches that what was so special, so unique about Rivka’s Chesed to Eliezer, to his men and to their camels was that she did not take a step back and say: “I can show these able-bodied men where the well is--but there is certainly no reason for me, a little girl, to provide them with assistance.” Instead, she saw that a Chesed was necessary, and felt that she was capable of performing it. No other questions needed to be asked, no further thoughts would be necessary to divert her attention. This is a Ba’al Chesed. Before performing a Chesed--try not to think who else could do it and why--if the Chesed presents itself and you know that you can do the job--be a Ba’al Chesed--and do it!

 

Bein Adam L’Atzmo:

After the hundreds of teachings in Pirkei Avos, the Mesechta concludes (5:26) with the teaching of Ben Hei Hei: “Lefum Tza’ara Agra--according to the effort is the reward.” One should not delude himself into thinking that his personal wisdom, aggressiveness or connections got him anywhere, or will get him anywhere. Hashem looks solely at the efforts of the person in his particular position in life. Mesechta Avos is the Mesechta that is specifically dedicated to how we can grow personally. Its final words to us are: “With Effort”. If something is important to you, whether it be Kavannah in Tefillas Mincha, a Daf Yomi Shiur, helping a certain person find a Shidduch….whatever it may be, remember not to tire of it and instead reinvigorate and revitalize yourself to put your best effort into it--daily!

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NINETEEN WEEKS! We are now in the seventeenth of the nineteen week period prior to Rosh Hashana. In past years, we have proceeded weekly, Bracha by Bracha, through Shemone Esrei with a special emphasis on Kavannah on that week’s Bracha. This week’s Bracha is…Retzei!

 

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

 

In addition to the above notes, we provide by the following link additional notes to the Nineteen Brachos for the years 5771 and 5772 http://www.hakhel.info/TefillahArchive.html May we highly recommend the Nineteen Week Program again this year--either based upon your own study (such as by utilizing the Praying with Passion Series (available at www.prayingwithfire.org), the magnificent Rav Schwab on Prayer, the Tefillah Tapes of Rabbi Berel Wein, Shlita, or other wonderful resources), or by utilizing the link provided on a daily basis throughout the week!

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FOR THOSE STUDYING DAF YOMI B’HALACHA: You can receive an outstanding daily email from Dirshu on that day’s Mishna Berurah Yomi study. To subscribe, email: daf-hayomi-behalacha@dirshunj.org.

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A CONTEMPORARY MESSAGE: The following is excerpted from Divrei HaYomim 2:32, Pesukim 7 and 8. It was the message given by Chizkiyahu to the Jewish people, upon the besiegement by Sancheiriv and his massive troops against the city of Yerushalayim: “Chizku Ve’imtzu…be strong and courageous; do not be afraid and do not be dismayed in the face of the king of Assyria and in the face of the entire multitude that is with him, for we have more with us than he has with him. With him is human might, but with us is Hashem, our G-d, to help us and to fight our wars; the people were reassured by the words of Chizkiyah, king of Yehuda.”

 

Hakhel Note: With talk of vetoes and the politics of no veto override, there should be no despair. The war against Sancheiriv is reiterated in three different Sifrei Tanach--Melochim, Yeshaya and Divrei HaYomim. Even on the simplest level, we can derive that if the war, its lesson, and its aftermath is recorded in three different Seforim for eternity--how we should apply it to our current situation in which we are also besieged from the east and the west. As we recite every morning in Az Yashir: “Hashem Ish Milchama, Hashem Shemo!”

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Special Note One:  Dovid HaMelech teaches in one of the key Kepitlech (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 it 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!

 

 

Special Note Two: Additional Notes on the Yemei Rachamim of Elul:

 

A. As a practical matter, if one does not know where to begin or what to do--he should plead with Hashem in his personal Tefillos during or after Shemone Esrei to help him and guide him. May we add that if he subsequently comes across a Sefer, Devar Torah, or statement which seems or appears to be ‘out of the blue’--why not treat it as a personal message of Hashgacha Pratis and be guided accordingly? Of course, any motivation, decisions and conclusions should be discussed with one’s Rav or Posek.

 

B. In last week’s Parasha, Rashi explained that the Shofar of the enemy was intended to throw us into trepidation. When we hear the Shofar blast--even if it is being blown by a friend--let us remember its purpose, and do something more than just listen and go on with the rest of the day. A good place to begin is a hirhur Teshuva. To the women who don’t hear the Shofar in the morning--there is certainly nothing from preventing them from having a hirhur of Teshuva in davening as well!

 

C. 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….”

 

D.  Finally, we suggest once again the importance of a cell phone takana.  To some, the takana 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?!

 

 

Special Note Three: 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 royalty 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 Hamidos, 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 K’lal Yisrael.

 

5. 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 reverse is also true. Now, looking back at the beginning of the year, we may have started off Rosh Hashana 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.

 

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

 

7. It is hard for us to feel awe because we do not have world leaders who inspire it. What we can do, however, is think about 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.

 

8. A person should never despair or get depressed over the thoughts, words or actions of his past--as he is judged only according to his deeds at the time of judgment. If at that time he is a Tzaddik, he will be judged as one. It is accordingly the Avodah of Elul to prepare for Rosh Hashana so that one is a Tzaddik at that time.

 

 

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6 Elul

 

SUMMER IMPROVEMENT PROGRAM!

WEEK 10--PARASHAS SHOFTIM

 

Bli neder, at least one time today, consciously do the following:

 

Bein Adam LaMakom:

Our relationship to Hashem is that of son to a father. A loving and dedicated son would want to do that which his father would appreciate most. Chazal teach V’Talmud Torah K’neged Kulam--in Hashem’s eyes, the Mitzvah of Talmud Torah can be weighed against all of the other Mitzvos. Indeed, in the bracha of Teshuvah in Shemone Esrei, we first recite Hashiveinu Avinu L’Sorasecha--and only then V’Karveinu Malkeinu La’avodasecha. Accordingly, if we are to improve our relationship with Hashem during this month, we must take some action in Torah. But what can we do--what can we accomplish--after all, the Torah is so vast and there is only HaRav Chaim Kanievsky, Shlita?! Shlomo HaMelech, the wisest of all men, gives us the answer--as he teaches in Mishlei (17:24): “Ve’einei Kesil Biketzei Eretz--a fool’s eyes are in the ends of the earth.” Rashi (ibid.) explains that it is the fool who exclaims: “How can I learn Mishnayos of Mesechta Shabbos when there are 24 Perakim, or the Mishnayos of the Mesechta Keilim when there are 30 Perakim?” To the wise person--it is easy, for he says: “Today, I will learn a little, tomorrow I will learn a little…until I accomplish one goal after the other.” Set a goal for learning this month--and accomplish it!

 

Bein Adam L’Chaveiro:

Rabbeinu Yonah (Sha’arei Teshuvah 3:109) perhaps surprisingly teaches that one who violates the Lo Sa’aseh of Kol Almanah V’Yasom Lo Sa’anu--do not oppress a widow or an orphan, subjects himself r’l to the punishment of Misah B’dei Shomayim--death at the hands of heaven. In fact, the Rabbeinu Yonah importantly adds that Chazal teach that it makes no difference in this regard whether the almanah or yasom cry out or not--it is just that Hashem will punish more swiftly when the widow or orphan cries out to Hashem. [Rashi writes this as well in last week’s Parasha.] One must simply be exceedingly, exceedingly, careful. Accordingly, one should make a special effort to assist [monetarily or otherwise] an almanah or yasom.

 

Bein Adam L’Atzmo:

Rabbi Shmuel Dishon, Shlita, reported that he once heard in the name of a Gadol that just as one must believe in Hashem--he must also believe in himself. Yoshiyahu HaMelech became one of the greatest kings of all time, and was actually referred to as “Moshiach Hashem” by Yirmiyahu HaNavi. How did he begin? When a Sefer Torah was discovered when he was still a young king open to the words: “Arur Asher Lo Yakim”--he exclaimed: “Alai L’Hakim--it is my obligation to fulfill it!” On a Mitzvah by Mitzvah basis, one should reinforce this attitude within himself, and make the words of Yoshiyahu--”Alai L’Hakim!” his personal goal, his personal aspiration, his personal mantra!

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FROM THINK HASHEM DAILY:

 

A thought for this week’s Parasha on the Mitzvah not to be a Ba’al Tashchis:

 

We are taught about the Mitzvah of Ba’al Tashchis--not to destroy or waste the goodness found in Hashem’s world.

 

According to a 2011 study commissioned by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, “Roughly one-third of the food produced in the world for human consumption every year--approximately 1.3 billion tons--gets wasted.”

 

Rabbi Shamshon Raphael Hirsch explains that this Mitzvah is Hashem’s warning to us not to misuse the position as masters of the world and its matter through thoughtless and wasteful destruction of anything on earth.

 

To subscribe to Think Hashem Daily, email: thinkhashem@ateresshimon.org

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THREE REMINDERS FOR ELUL!

 

1. Reminder--go through your home and office, to make sure that you are not holding on to the property of others. Remember, even if you feel that the other person ‘does not care’--it is not yours--until he gives it to you!

 

2. Reminder--Peshara and Lifnim Mishuras Hadin!

 

3. Reminder--Tzedaka (now)!

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IT IS THE RIGHT TIME! It is the custom of many to check their Tefillin in the month of Elul, in order to ensure that this great Mitzvah is properly performed on a daily basis. WHAT A WONDERFUL TIME TO BOOK HAKHEL’S TEFILLIN AWARENESS PROGRAM “HANACHA K’HALACHA” FOR YOUR SHUL OR YESHIVA. HUNDREDS OF SHULS AND YESHIVAS HAVE REAPED THE ENORMOUS BENEFITS OF THIS SPECIAL PROGRAM, IN MANY COMMUNITIES. WITH LETTERS OF BRACHA FROM GEDOLIM AND POSKIM…. THE PROGRAM HAS TRAVELED OUT OF TOWN AS WELL, TO CITIES SUCH AS DETROIT, TORONTO, AND TO THE AGUDAH’S YARCHEI KALLAH PROGRAM IN YERUSHALAYIM. TO BRING THIS GREAT PROJECT TO YOUR SHUL OR COMMUNITY, PLEASE CONTACT SHELROSH@COMCAST.NET

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Special Note One:  We continue with our Erev Shabbos--Halachos of Shabbos Series, culled from the Dirshu Edition of the Mishna Berurah:

 

A. 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!

 

B. 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.

 

C. 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).

 

D. 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).

 

E. 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).

 

F. 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). 

 

G. 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 Two: Points and pointers on this week’s Parasha, Parashas Shoftim:

 

A. In the Parasha, 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?!

 

We may suggest an answer based on another Pasuk in the Parasha. The Pasuk (Devarim 16:20) teaches: “Tzedek Tzedek Tirdof--righteousness, righteousness shall you pursue.” What does the Torah have to repeat the word Tzedek twice. One answer may very well be that the Torah wants us to be quite sure that what we are doing is really Tzedek--by reemphasizing the word a second time (and we know how the Torah doesn’t use an extra part of a letter--let alone an extra word). Indeed, 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 are 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 the Parasha 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.”  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 small insect, 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 sting should be viewed from a deeper perspective.  With the sting, 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 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.  “The way to increase the utilization of our Kochos in Avodas Hashem is in increments: An additional bracha with kavannah , an extra call each week for Kibud Av VaEim, an additional commitment to Shemiras HaLashon every day....”

 

2.  “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 if the King’!”

 

3.  Rabbi Goldwasser presents seven (7) moving Tefillos on Teshuva (in Hebrew) from various important sources--to help move you, and put you into a frame of mind for Teshuva.

 

4.  “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 suggest 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 though 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: 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 Parasha--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!

 

 

Special Note Five:  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 bracha 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 aveiros.  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. Chazal teach how severe the penalty of taking or withholding another’s money is.  [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 Tefillos are not heard on the Yomim Noraim--does he have any hope?!”

 

D. 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!

 

 

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5 Elul

 

SUMMER IMPROVEMENT PROGRAM!

WEEK 10--PARASHAS SHOFTIM

 

Bli neder, at least one time today, consciously do the following:

 

Bein Adam LaMakom:

Our relationship to Hashem is that of son to a father. A loving and dedicated son would want to do that which his father would appreciate most. Chazal teach V’Salmud Torah K’neged Kulam--in Hashem’s eyes, the Mitzvah of Talmud Torah can be weighed against all of the other Mitzvos. Indeed, in the bracha of Teshuvah in Shemone Esrei, we first recite Hashiveinu Avinu L’Sorasecha--and only then V’Karveinu Malkeinu La’avodasecha. Accordingly, if we are to improve our relationship with Hashem during this month, we must take some action in Torah. But what can we do--what can we accomplish--after all, the Torah is so vast and there is only HaRav Chaim Kanievsky, Shlita?! Shlomo HaMelech, the wisest of all men, gives us the answer--as he teaches in Mishlei (17:24): “Ve’einei Kesil Biketzei Eretz--a fool’s eyes are in the ends of the earth.” Rashi (ibid.) explains that it is the fool who exclaims: “How can I learn Mishnayos of Mesechta Shabbos when there are 24 Perakim, or the Mishnayos of the Mesechta Keilim when there are 30 Perakim?” To the wise person--it is easy, for he says: “Today, I will learn a little, tomorrow I will learn a little…until I accomplish one goal after the other.” Set a goal for learning this month--and accomplish it! For one possibility, we provide the next headnote.

 

Bein Adam L’Chaveiro:

Rabbeinu Yonah (Sha’arei Teshuvah 3:109) perhaps surprisingly teaches that one who violates the Lo Sa’aseh of Kol Almanah V’Yasom Lo Sa’anu--do not oppress a widow or an orphan, subjects himself r’l to the punishment of Misah B’dei Shomayim--death at the hands of heaven. In fact, the Rabbeinu Yonah importantly adds that Chazal teach that it makes no difference in this regard whether the almanah or yasom cry out or not--it is just that Hashem will punish more swiftly when the widow or orphan cries out to Hashem. [Rashi writes this as well in last week’s Parasha.] One must simply be exceedingly, exceedingly, careful. Accordingly, one should make a special effort to assist [monetarily or otherwise] an almanah or yasom.

 

Bein Adam L’Atzmo:

Rabbi Shmuel Dishon, Shlita, reported that he once heard in the name of a Gadol that just as one must believe in Hashem--he must also believe in himself. Yoshiyahu HaMelech became one of the greatest kings of all time, and was actually referred to as “Moshiach Hashem” by Yirmiyahu HaNavi. How did he begin? When a Sefer Torah was discovered when he was still a young king open to the words: “Arur Asher Lo Yakim”--he exclaimed: “Alai L’Hakim--it is my obligation to fulfill it!” On a Mitzvah by Mitzvah basis, one should reinforce this attitude within himself, and make the words of Yoshiyahu--”Alai L’Hakim!” his personal goal, his personal aspiration, his personal mantra!

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LAST CALL! 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!

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FEELING THE HASHGACHA: Being that last Shabbos was Rosh Chodesh, we read the special Haftara of HaShomayim Kisi. On initial thought, this would be a bit disturbing--as we would be losing one of the Shiva D’Nechemta, read on the seven Shabbosos after Tisha B’Av through Rosh Hashana. However, any initial disturbance should be soothed by the words contained in the middle of the very same Shabbos Rosh Chodesh Haftara--”Sisu Es Yerushalayim V’Gilu Vah Kol Ohaveha Sisu Ita Masos--rejoice with Yerushalayim and be elated with her all who love her, exalt with her exaltation all who mourn for her…”. Even if the regular order of the Shiva D’Nechemta is disturbed--Hashem will not let us forget the consolation of Yerushalayim! If so--how can we? We dare not forget our commitment after Tisha B’Av to dedicate ourselves to bring the Geulah Sheleima. Even while working on our personal growth and on bringing zechuyos to K’lal Yisrael in the month of Elul--let us be sure to maintain our Kavannah in our Tefillos for the binyan Yerushalayim and the final and ultimate Geulah!

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SIMPLE” GREATNESS: One should never mistreat or speak badly about any person because who can know his true value and accomplishments! It may seem that the person is a nobody.” totally devoid of maalos (achievements) and positive attributes but in reality he can be someone of greatness. At times a simple person can reach spiritual heights that even tzaddikim cannot attain.

 

As an illustration of this point, HaRav Pam, Z’tl, would cite an incident from his youth. There was a poor widow who did household chores for HaRav Pams mother, Rebbetzin Pam, in their Brownsville home. She also worked for other rabbinical families in the neighborhood. Over a long period of time she saved up one hundred dollars, a small fortune in those times. One day a friend of hers, also a widow, asked her for a loan and the housekeeper gave her the hundred dollars she had saved up over years of penny-pinching. A short time later the borrower died, leaving behind no children or assets.

 

When Rebbetzin Pam came to the funeral, she saw her housekeeper there, walking behind the casket, softly mumbling “Ich bin dir mochel! Ich bin dir mochel!” (I forgive you! I forgive you!) The housekeeper realized that the debt would never be repaid and she did not want her departed friend to suffer in the World to Come because of it!

 

When Rebbetzin Pam saw this tremendous act of nobility, behavior befitting a tzadekes, she realized that this simple housekeeper was not so ‘simpleafter all. To wholeheartedly forgive such a large sum of money that was the product of years of self-deprivation was an act of true greatness. Who would have thought that this simple woman was capable of such an achievement?

 

It may seem that an acquaintance is nothing special’, and one need not view him with any special regard. This is, however, a terrible mistake. Only Hashem knows the true value of a person and the awesome deeds he or she has done with simplicity. At times, the person himself may not even realize the greatness of what he has done! Yet, in Heaven he is considered a tzaddik--and that hour of achievement makes him very special to Hashem. How can someone speak badly or mistreat anyone--for only Hashem knows all of the greatness contained in every human being! [Excerpted from Something To Think About! By Rabbi Sholom Smith, Shlita]

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LET US REMEMBER THE BRISKER RAV’S MASHAL: The Brisker Rav, Z’tl, once related that there were merchants during World War I who would cross the border illegally, smuggling goods in for a huge profit.  The penalty if one was caught, however, was death.  There was one merchant who wanted to smuggle valuable goods over the border and hired a wagon driver to do so in the middle of the night.  As they moved towards to the border, the merchant became more and more frightened, and as they got extremely close to the border, even the wagon driver became fearful, for he too would be penalized, and probably even imprisoned, if caught.  However, the driver’s apprehension could not be compared to the fear and trepidation of the merchant, who would probably be shot on the spot.  Only the horses were unafraid, for they did not care where they were, as long as they were fed.  One thing us for sure, the Brisker Rav concluded, is that we are not animals, and not even ministerial wagon drivers, but human beings with much to accomplish, and with much at risk.  Accordingly, we should take the necessary action to save and elevate ourselves.

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Special Note One:  In the Sefer Sha’arei Teshuvah (3:169), Rabbeinu Yonah provides us with a startling, truly eye-opening teaching:

 

V’atah Nefareish Inyan Kas Ozvei Hashem…---and now we will explain the class of those who forsake Hashem. These are the people who are divested of the yoke of the fear of Heaven, performing Mitzvos by rote. When the Yetzer Hara prevails over such a person, and he changes his mind, passes from truth and commits an offense, he will not sigh or express concern over his sin. As the Pasuk teaches (Tehillim 36:2) us: ‘…Ein Pachad Elokim L’Neged Einav--there is no fear of Hashem before his eyes’.”

 

Hakhel Note: Rabbeinu Yonah is teaching us how serious the offense of Mitzvas Anashim Melumada really is. A person could be performing Mitzvos--and be called an ozeiv Hashem--one who has forsaken Hashem! We note that the phrase Mitzvas Anashim Melumada, as first used and so severely lamented upon by Yeshaya HaNavi, seems to have an extra word of ‘Anashim’ in the phrase. We would have already understood with Yeshaya HaNavi’s use of the phrase ‘Mitzvas Melumada’ that we are proscribed from performing Mitzvos by habit or rote. We suggest that the word Anashim teaches us that adults are not intended or supposed to perform Mitzvos like children--our davening should not be same, our learning Torah should not be the same, our acts of Chesed should not be the same--in the manner we performed these actions before we came to a more pristine understanding of how significant, life-giving, life-bearing and eternal they really are. Elul is a month in which we are to build our Yiras Shomayim--as we come closer daily to proclaiming Malchus Shomayim in 5776. Let us take the time and make the effort to bli neder commit to subvert one of the Mitzvas Anashim Melumada that we do daily, and reinvigorate and revitalize it. If we accomplish our task, we will be zoche to fulfill another Pasuk in Tehillim (34:10): “Yeru Es Hashem Kedoshav Ki Ein Machsor Li’Rei’av--fear Hashem His holy ones--for there is no deprivation to those who fear Him”!

 

 

Special Note Two: At a Teshuva Shiur, among his very many important words of advice, Rabbi Yechiel Spero, Shlita, noted the following:

 

A.  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.  List Them.  Make a list of happy events and unhappy events that occurred in 5775.  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 5775. 

 

 

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4 Elul

 

SUMMER IMPROVEMENT PROGRAM!

WEEK 10--PARASHAS SHOFTIM

 

Bli neder, at least one time today, consciously do the following:

 

Bein Adam LaMakom:

Our relationship to Hashem is that of son to a father. A loving and dedicated son would want to do that which his father would appreciate most. Chazal teach V’Salmud Torah K’neged Kulam--in Hashem’s eyes, the Mitzvah of Talmud Torah can be weighed against all of the other Mitzvos. Indeed, in the bracha of Teshuvah in Shemone Esrei, we first recite Hashiveinu Avinu L’Sorasecha--and only then V’Karveinu Malkeinu La’avodasecha. Accordingly, if we are to improve our relationship with Hashem during this month, we must take some action in Torah. But what can we do--what can we accomplish--after all, the Torah is so vast and there is only HaRav Chaim Kanievsky, Shlita?! Shlomo HaMelech, the wisest of all men, gives us the answer--as he teaches in Mishlei (17:24): “Ve’einei Kesil Biketzei Eretz--a fool’s eyes are in the ends of the earth.” Rashi (ibid.) explains that it is the fool who exclaims: “How can I learn Mishnayos of Mesechta Shabbos when there are 24 Perakim, or the Mishnayos of the Mesechta Keilim when there are 30 Perakim?” To the wise person--it is easy, for he says: “Today, I will learn a little, tomorrow I will learn a little…until I accomplish one goal after the other.” Set a goal for learning this month--and accomplish it! For one possibility, we provide the next headnote.

 

Bein Adam L’Chaveiro:

Rabbeinu Yonah (Sha’arei Teshuvah 3:109) perhaps surprisingly teaches that one who violates the Lo Sa’aseh of Kol Almanah V’Yasom Lo Sa’anu--do not oppress a widow or an orphan, subjects himself r’l to the punishment of Misah B’dei Shomayim--death at the hands of heaven. In fact, the Rabbeinu Yonah importantly adds that Chazal teach that it makes no difference in this regard whether the almanah or yasom cry out or not--it is just that Hashem will punish more swiftly when the widow or orphan cries out to Hashem. [Rashi writes this as well in last week’s Parasha.] One must simply be exceedingly, exceedingly, careful. Accordingly, one should make a special effort to assist [monetarily or otherwise] an almanah or yasom.

 

Bein Adam L’Atzmo:

Rabbi Shmuel Dishon, Shlita, reported that he once heard in the name of a Gadol that just as one must believe in Hashem--he must also believe in himself. Yoshiyahu HaMelech became one of the greatest kings of all time, and was actually referred to as “Moshiach Hashem” by Yirmiyahu HaNavi. How did he begin? When a Sefer Torah was discovered when he was still a young king open to the words: “Arur Asher Lo Yakim”--he exclaimed: “Alai L’Hakim--it is my obligation to fulfill it!” On a Mitzvah by Mitzvah basis, one should reinforce this attitude within himself, and make the words of Yoshiyahu--”Alai L’Hakim!” his personal goal, his personal aspiration, his personal mantra!

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DON’T BE LEFT BEHIND--START TODAY! 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!

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NINETEEN WEEKS: As we especially dedicate ourselves to the sixteenth Bracha of Shemone Esrei this week, we provide the following words of instruction from the great Praying with Passion Series (in order to go through this entire outstanding series on Tefillah, please visit http://prayingwithfire.org/archives.html):

 

“We begin this blessing with the phrase – Shema Koleinu--Hashem, Hear our voice. The Anshei K’neses Ha’Gedolah, especially chose the words Shema Koleinu, hear our voice and not Shema Tefilaseinu, hear our tefillos. In this way, we are asking Hashem to hear our prayer on the basis of our Kol —our voice alone—even though we may lack the merit or the complete kavannah that would render our prayers worthy of His attention (Sefer Sifsei Chaim—Rinas Chaim, Page 211).

Sefer Dover Shalom (cited in ibid.) explains that the phrasing of this blessing asks Hashem to hear our Kol —our groans and cries— even if they are inarticulate. Finally, the Eitz Yosef writes (cited in ibid.) that with the word Koleinu, we plead for Hashem to accept our words of prayer with all their deep meanings, even though we recite the words without full awareness.”

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KESIVA VECHASIMA TOVA: We have begun 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!”

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

 

A.  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!

 

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

 

C.  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!

 

D.  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!

 

E.  A reader suggested that many are involved in Tefillah and Teshuva daily in the month of Elul--but that people may not focus on giving at least some special Tzedaka daily in honor of the fact that “Teshuva, Tefillah and Tzedaka remove the evil decree.”  We pass along the important thought.

 

F.  Another reader made the following two comments regarding avoiding acts which others may find unacceptable.  First, one must appreciate the particular sensitivities of the person or people he is with--the standard is not an objective one--but a subjective one--just as chesed to one person may in no means be a chesed to another.  Secondly, it is not only something ma’us that should be avoided--but also annoying behavior --nudging, pacing back and forth, staring, and making the wrong comment at the wrong time, among other annoying mannerisms or actions. 

 

G. One can 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.

 

H.  At a special Teshuva Shiur, Rabbi Simcha Bunim Cohen, Shlita made many important points, including the following two special highlights:

 

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 chas veshalom 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!

 

 

=======================

3 Elul

 

SUMMER IMPROVEMENT PROGRAM!

WEEK 10--PARASHAS SHOFTIM

 

Bli neder, at least one time today, consciously do the following:

 

Bein Adam LaMakom:

Our relationship to Hashem is that of son to a father. A loving and dedicated son would want to do that which his father would appreciate most. Chazal teach V’Salmud Torah K’neged Kulam--in Hashem’s eyes, the Mitzvah of Talmud Torah can be weighed against all of the other Mitzvos. Indeed, in the bracha of Teshuvah in Shemone Esrei, we first recite Hashiveinu Avinu L’Sorasecha--and only then V’Karveinu Malkeinu La’avodasecha. Accordingly, if we are to improve our relationship with Hashem during this month, we must take some action in Torah. But what can we do--what can we accomplish--after all, the Torah is so vast and there is only HaRav Chaim Kanievsky, Shlita?! Shlomo HaMelech, the wisest of all men, gives us the answer--as he teaches in Mishlei (17:24): “Ve’einei Kesil Biketzei Eretz--a fool’s eyes are in the ends of the earth.” Rashi (ibid.) explains that it is the fool who exclaims: “How can I learn Mishnayos of Mesechta Shabbos when there are 24 Perakim, or the Mishnayos of the Mesechta Keilim when there are 30 Perakim?” To the wise person--it is easy, for he says: “Today, I will learn a little, tomorrow I will learn a little…until I accomplish one goal after the other.” Set a goal for learning this month--and accomplish it! For one possibility, we provide the next headnote.

 

Bein Adam L’Chaveiro:

Rabbeinu Yonah (Sha’arei Teshuvah 3:109) perhaps surprisingly teaches that one who violates the Lo Sa’aseh of Kol Almanah V’Yasom Lo Sa’anu--do not oppress a widow or an orphan, subjects himself r’l to the punishment of Misah B’dei Shomayim--death at the hands of heaven. In fact, the Rabbeinu Yonah importantly adds that Chazal teach that it makes no difference in this regard whether the almanah or yasom cry out or not--it is just that Hashem will punish more swiftly when the widow or orphan cries out to Hashem. [Rashi writes this as well in last week’s Parasha.] One must simply be exceedingly, exceedingly, careful. Accordingly, one should make a special effort to assist [monetarily or otherwise] an almanah or yasom.

 

Bein Adam L’Atzmo:

Rabbi Shmuel Dishon, Shlita, reported that he once heard in the name of a Gadol that just as one must believe in Hashem--he must also believe in himself. Yoshiyahu HaMelech became one of the greatest kings of all time, and was actually referred to as “Moshiach Hashem” by Yirmiyahu HaNavi. How did he begin? When a Sefer Torah was discovered when he was still a young king open to the words: “Arur Asher Lo Yakim”--he exclaimed: “Alai L’Hakim--it is my obligation to fulfill it!” On a Mitzvah by Mitzvah basis, one should reinforce this attitude within himself, and make the words of Yoshiyahu--”Alai L’Hakim!” his personal goal, his personal aspiration, his personal mantra!

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

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A TEHILLIM THOUGHT: 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). 

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Special Note One: Chazal teach that 30 days is a complete time period--for instance a standard (i.e., unless otherwise specified) vow of Nezirus is for 30 days, a standard loan is for 30 days, and the Yefas To’ar must stay in her abhorrent 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.  The days of Elul are not only “Yemei HaRachamim VeHaselichos--days of mercy and forgiveness”, but are also referred to by the Sefer Mateh Ephraim (the classic Sefer on the Halachos of the Yomim Noraim) as “Hayamim HaKedoshim--the holy days.”  Even the English word for the secular calendar month of August denotes the majesty and eminence of the month!  The world around may have us believe otherwise--but each day of Elul we are not simply progressing one further day into the hot, vacation-laden summer (or cold, working days of winter, for those below the equator)--but, much more importantly, we are advancing one further day into holiness. We should be sensing, or taking some action, to help us sense this daily advancement.  Perhaps a few written notes daily of the Teshuva thoughts you had, and of some practical ideas for accomplishment (better yet if building on yesterday’s), would take you further into the real world--the Elul world of which your body and soul are 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 it 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!

 

 

Special Note Two: We provide the following additional points and pointers relating to the lofty month of Elul:

 

1.  HaRav 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 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. Cell Phone Teshuva Suggestions: 

 

A. Getting the filter completely right.

 

B. 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.

 

C. Sending three less text messages a day from now until Yom Kippur.

 

D. When almost impulsively reaching for your cell phone, stopping yourself and doing a Mitzvah instead.

 

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.

 

3.  Most certainly, we must attempt to the greatest extent possible to dispel anger (no matter how justified) from our midst, because of the serious and deleterious effect it can have on our growth during this month.  During a time in which we are to be Ma’avir Ahl HaMiddos, anger stands somewhere near the top of the list.  It is interesting to note that some do not pursue the collection of ‘chovos’--debts due to them during this period--because they don’t want Hashem to pursue the debts we owe him.  It would most certainly follow that we should not get angry at others--so Hashem will not be angry with us!

 

4.  Another practical item we should try to be especially careful about now is doing acts which may be unpleasant, or ma’us, to others.  If you have seen people--including your closest family members-- cringe at a particular  activity, or say “Uch” or “How could you do that?” or “Say Excuse Me”, or “That was uncalled for/not right”, or “I have never seen or heard anybody do/say that before!” you can be sure that you have exceeded your bounds.  Common sense also plays a role--showing the proper respect for yourself and for others in the way that you eat, the way you dress (even at night), the way that you shop, even what you do when stopped at a red light or the way that you pass others on the street, contributes to a more complete character.  The Pasuk teaches that when Eliyahu HaNavi went to battle with the Neve’ai HaBa’al, he challenged them to bring offerings and see whether fire miraculously would consume their offerings or his.  After they failed, the Pasuk records that he did not build a new Mizbe’ach to Hashem--but REBUILT the Mizbea’ch of Hashem that laid in ruins.  What a great lesson--if we are not working right, if we are in need of some repair--we don’t give up and start from scratch (with a new gilgul or the like)--no, we repair what needs to be repaired.  Eliyahu HaNavi was so successful that, in fact, the miracle he prayed for happened--and all the people exclaimed in unison “Hashem Hu HaElokim”--it is no coincidence (as it never is) that we too will exclaim this very phrase... as our concluding words on Yom Kippur. In the meantime we have that very same task--to repair any damage, any spoilage, any ruin that we have in our very own and personal Mizbe’ach Hashem.

 

 5.  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 Vidui, 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 bracha 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 financially if he became a partner at Goldman Sachs or a senior executive at JPMorgan Chase.  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 these unique and special days to their wonderful fullest.

 

 

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2 Elul

SUMMER IMPROVEMENT PROGRAM! We continue our Summer Improvement Program, with simple suggestions, on a weekly basis, in each of the areas of Bein Adam LaMakom, Bein Adam L’Chaveiro, and Bein Adam L’Atzmo. Of course, these are only suggestions--but every person has the opportunity to join with others who will be attempting the same successes. In the alternative, one can chart his own improvement course on a weekly basis as well.

 

WEEK 10--PARASHAS SHOFTIM

 

Bli neder, at least one time a day during this week, consciously do the following:

 

Bein Adam LaMakom:

Our relationship to Hashem is that of son to a father. A loving and dedicated son would want to do that which his father would appreciate most. Chazal teach V’Talmud Torah K’neged Kulam--in Hashem’s eyes, the Mitzvah of Talmud Torah can be weighed against all of the other Mitzvos. Indeed, in the bracha of Teshuvah in Shemone Esrei, we first recite Hashiveinu Avinu L’Sorasecha--and only then V’Karveinu Malkeinu La’avodasecha. Accordingly, if we are to improve our relationship with Hashem during this month, we must take some action in Torah. But what can we do--what can we accomplish--after all, the Torah is so vast and there is only HaRav Chaim Kanievsky, Shlita?! Shlomo HaMelech, the wisest of all men, gives us the answer--as he teaches in Mishlei (17:24): “Ve’einei Kesil Biketzei Eretz--a fool’s eyes are in the ends of the earth.” Rashi (ibid.) explains that it is the fool who exclaims: “How can I learn Mishnayos of Mesechta Shabbos when there are 24 Perakim, or the Mishnayos of the Mesechta Keilim when there are 30 Perakim?” To the wise person--it is easy, for he says: “Today, I will learn a little, tomorrow I will learn a little…until I accomplish one goal after the other.” Set a goal for learning this month--and accomplish it! For one possibility, we provide the next headnote.

 

Bein Adam L’Chaveiro:

Rabbeinu Yonah (Sha’arei Teshuvah 3:109) perhaps surprisingly teaches that one who violates the Lo Sa’aseh of Kol Almanah V’Yasom Lo Sa’anu--do not oppress a widow or an orphan, subjects himself r’l to the punishment of Misah B’dei Shomayim--death at the hands of heaven. In fact, the Rabbeinu Yonah importantly adds that Chazal teach that it makes no difference in this regard whether the almanah or yasom cry out or not--it is just that Hashem will punish more swiftly when the widow or orphan cries out to Hashem. [Rashi writes this as well in last week’s Parasha.] One must simply be exceedingly, exceedingly, careful. Accordingly, one should make a special effort to assist [monetarily or otherwise] an almanah or yasom.

 

Bein Adam L’Atzmo:

Rabbi Shmuel Dishon, Shlita, reported that he once heard in the name of a Gadol that just as one must believe in Hashem--he must also believe in himself. Yoshiyahu HaMelech became one of the greatest kings of all time, and was actually referred to as “Moshiach Hashem” by Yirmiyahu HaNavi. How did he begin? When a Sefer Torah was discovered when he was still a young king open to the words: “Arur Asher Lo Yakim”--he exclaimed: “Alai L’Hakim--it is my obligation to fulfill it!” On a Mitzvah by Mitzvah basis, one should reinforce this attitude within himself, and make the words of Yoshiyahu--”Alai L’Hakim!” his personal goal, his personal aspiration, his personal mantra!

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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!

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NINETEEN WEEKS! We are now in the sixteenth of the nineteen week period prior to Rosh Hashana. In past years, we have proceeded weekly, Bracha by Bracha, through Shemone Esrei with a special emphasis on Kavannah on that week’s Bracha. This week’s Bracha is…SHEMA KOLEINU!

 

We have now reached the Sixteenth Bracha of Shemone Esrei--the milestone bracha of Shema Koleinu--which encapsulates all of our previous requests.  The Sefer Ya’aros Devash movingly writes on this Bracha as follows:  “Here, one should turn to Hashem with all of his needs, whether big or small, and should leave out nothing, in his requests of Hashem.  There should be nothing that a person intends to undertake or accomplish that day in which he does not ask for Hashem’s success, and one should ask Hashem to place him on the proper and correct path.  It goes without saying that if c’v a person has a tzara in his house that he should daven here for its successful quashing and removal, and that if a person is blessed with a Simcha, he should daven that it should be a successful one--not causing any kind of iniquity nor resulting in any negative impact or effect.  Before the concluding phrase of Ki Atta Shomei’ah, one should daven in his own words--for it then per se will be Kavannah-filled.  These Tefillos will be new and fresh, as they will relate to the situations and events of the day, and should come from the depths of the heart.  Through sincere Tefillos here, one can once and for all come to realize that his efforts and actions are meaningless on their own--and are all subject to Hashem’s determination and decree.  Moreover, anything he asks for from Hashem here will be for a Kosher purpose--how would he ask Hashem for wealth or anything else in a way which would anger Him?!  Accordingly, one who davens for his needs from Hashem here will not readily sin--as he is asking Hashem Himself for the Bracha!  Additional Note One:  We can easily see how powerful this Bracha is in that five different names of Hashem are used within the Bracha: Hashem, Elokeinu, Kel, Atta, and Malkeinu. In Nusach Sefard there are actually seven Names of Hashem in the bracha, as we begin with the terms Av and HaRachaman.  Additional Note Two:  The Mishna Berurah (Shulchan Aruch, Orach Chaim 122, seif katan 8) writes that it is better to daven the aforementioned Tefillos in Elokai Netzor after Yehiyu L’Ratzon, so that you will be able to answer Kaddish and Kedusha.  Accordingly, one must gauge his Tefillos, and the Minyan he is davening with, accordingly. The Aruch HaShulchan writes that one should not as a matter of regular course state his personal requests before Ki Atta Shomei’ah, because it would then be changing the Nusach HaBracha; rather one should only do so for special circumstances. Additional Note Three:  In any and all events, the Kuntres Avodah HaTefillah brings from the father of the Shelah HaKadosh that the Bracha of Shema Koleinu should be infused with more Kavannah than the preceding Brachos, as it is the conclusion of all of the Brachos of request--and accordingly one’s heart and mind should be especially focused on asking Hashem to listen to the kol of his Tefillah and accept his Tefillah B’Rachamim!

 

In addition to the above note, we provide by the following link additional notes to the Nineteen Brachos for the years 5771 and 5772 http://www.hakhel.info/TefillahArchive.html May we highly recommend the Nineteen Week Program again this year--either based upon your own study (such as by utilizing the Praying with Passion Series (available at www.prayingwithfire.org), the magnificent Rav Schwab on Prayer, the Tefillah Tapes of Rabbi Berel Wein, Shlita, or other wonderful resources), or by utilizing the link provided on a daily basis throughout the week!

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L’DOVID HASHEM ORI VEYISHI: During the month of Elul, we strive to come closer to Hashem in preparation for the Yomim Noraim.  In fact, we add Tehillim Chapter 27 (“L’Dovid Hashem Ori VeYishi”).  We all know that the word “Ori” refers to Rosh Hashana, which is light, and the word “Yishi” refers to Yom Kippur, which is salvation.  This being said, what word in L’Dovid refers to the month of Elul itself?!  Some have suggested that its second word, “Hashem,” alludes to Elul, for it is during this time that we are to feel Hashem closer to us. 

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IMPORTANT ADVICE FROM A READER: We once again provide important advice from a reader for this time of year:

 

“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 enough.”

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Special Note One:  We remind you of the following outstanding points and pointers for the month of Elul, as excerpted from the Sefer Kodesh Elul:

 

1.  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!”

 

2.  HaRav Yechezkel Levenstein, Z’tl, reported that Rebbe Itzele Petteberger, Z’tl, once spoke in Shul at the beginning of Chodesh Elul.  He opened up the Aron Kodesh and said “Modeh Ani 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.”  (Ohr Yechezkel p. 297).

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

 

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29 Menachem Av

REMINDER--STARTS THIS SUNDAY! THE POWER OF TESHUVAH --An Effective Day By Day Guide This is an outstanding absolutely must read Artscroll work by Rabbi Heshy Kleinman, Shlita, author of the Praying with Fire Series.  In 40 excellent lessons, Rabbi Kleinman provides practical strategies to start and succeed at the Teshuvah process all in a practical, positive and uplifting way.  A special foreword to the book is provided by HaRav Mattisyahu Salomon, Shlita, and it also includes important Halachos of Teshuvah. If you start on Rosh Chodesh Elul--you will finish this Sefer on Teshuvah on Yom Kippur! What a demonstration of your sincere, reasoned dedication to Teshuvah!

 

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

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SUMMER IMPROVEMENT PROGRAM!

WEEK 9--PARASHAS RE’EIH

 

Bli neder, at least one time today, consciously do the following:

 

Bein Adam LaMakom:

Yiras Shomayim was highlighted more than once in last week’s Parasha. As we noted last week, the ‘Parashas HaYirah’ was found in the Parasha as well. Recite the Parashas HaYirah (as published in most Siddurim after Shacharis), together with the short Yehi Ratzon to be recited immediately afterwards. It is no coincidence that the Torah emphasizes Yiras Shomayim to us in the week immediately preceding Elul!

 

Bein Adam L’Chaveiro:

The Mitzvah of Kibud Av Va’eim is one of the few Mitzvos to which the Torah attributes Arichus Yomim--special reward in this world and the next. The Mitzvah applies both during a parent’s lifetime in this world and after. Every day, be sure to perform some new or different act of Kibud (e.g., an additional phone call, a gift, a donation of a Sefer to Shul in honor, etc.).

 

 

Bein Adam L’Atzmo:

Last week’s Parasha also strongly warned each member of K’lal Yisrael to avoid the attitude and even the feeling of ‘Kochi V’Otzem Yadi’--it is my strength, my acumen, my knowledge that brought me to my position in life, my accomplishments…. Every time one has a feeling of personal aggrandizement or unjustified pride--even if it is in Torah study or Ruchniyus, he should exclaim: “It is not Kochi V’Otzem Yadi” or “Thank You Hashem!”

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NO MERCY FOR THE MERCILESS! In this week’s Parasha (Devorim 13:18), the Torah advises us that when an Ihr HaNidachas and its inhabitants are destroyed, the ones who do so need not worry that they have committed an act of violence which will make an indelible impact upon their soul. To the contrary, “V’Nossan Lecha Rachamim VeRichamecha V’Hirbecha--Hashem will be merciful to them and they will multiply”. The Ohr HaChaim HaKadosh (ibid.) remarkably relates that the Yishmaelim reported to him that when they perform executions on behalf of the king they have a cheishek gadol--a great passion and desire to kill the person, with no feeling of Rachamim whatsoever--they are complete achzorim, wholly unmerciful and invested only with cruelty. The Ohr HaChaim continues that when it comes to K’lal Yisrael--this Pasuk teaches us that even if we need to eliminate and eradicate our enemies, Hashem will shower His mercy upon us--and accordingly even in situations in which we have had to act with violence towards our enemies, Hashem assures us that the Koach HaRachamim will return to us (see Shabbos 151B). We are--and remain--Rachmanin Bnei Rachmanim. What a difference between them--and us! The Parasha’s lesson is clear for all to see in our very day! 

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A LESSON FOR OUR TIME! In this week’s Haftara, Yeshayahu HaNavi provides us with a powerful timely message from Hashem (Yeshaya 54:16,17): “VeAnochi Barasi Mashchis LechabelKol Kli Yutzar Alayich Lo Yitzlach.” Rashi (ibid.) explains that the Pasuk is teaching that although Hashem has instigated the enemy against us--Hashem has also set up the very same enemy for downfall and punishment. Any weapons that they have prepared against us will not succeed. The Radak on this Pasuk (brought by the Artscroll Tanach) likewise writes: “You need not fear weapons, for I am the One Who created the producers of those weapons, and I have also created the power to annihilate them.” What do we have to do to make all of this bracha happen? The Navi concludes: “Zos Nachlas Avdei Hashem…this is the heritage of the servants of Hashem.”

 

Hakhel Note: How do we become Avdei Hashem? Let us consider for a moment that the Mitzvah of Tefillah we found in last week’s Parasha is based on the Torah’s words: “Ule’avedo Bechol Levavechem--and to serve Hashem with all of your heart.” Let us put as much Kavannah as we can in our Tefillos for our brothers in Eretz Yisrael--so that we can witness the Navi’s words--the Haftara of this week’s Parasha--come true in front of our very eyes!

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

 

1. As Shabbos is also Rosh Chodesh, we add an additional food to the Shabbos meal, as a special Kavod to the Seudas Rosh Chodesh (see Mishna Berurah, Shulchan Aruch, Orach Chaim 419 seif katan 2).  If one has not done so, he may do so on Motza’ei Shabbos at Melave Malka (Siddur Yaavetz, brought in the Sha’ar Hatzion, ibid., os 5).  Hakhel Note:  Some learn that one cannot properly have a Seudas Rosh Chodesh on Shabbos, nor even at the time of a Melave Malka, because it is not noticeable, and accordingly one should be certain toat least have a Seudah in honor of Rosh Chodesh should be on Sunday--see Magen Avraham to Orach Chaim 419. 

 

2. We remind you of the ongoing Hilchos Shabbos Initiative which provides practical Hilchos Shabbos reviewed by HaRav Yaakov Forchheimer, Shlita, as a zechus for a Refuah Shleimah for Chaya Malka Bas Basheva. To subscribe, email shabboshalachos@gmail.com

 

3. The following has been culled from the Mishna Berurah (Dirshu Edition):

 

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 Borei 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, Z’tl, was machmir and did not use frozen challah for Lechem Mishneh, if it was not then 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 Two:  In this week’s Parasha, 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 Parasha 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.

 

Practical Suggestion: 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 Three: It is not by ‘sheer coincidence’ that the Torah reminds us of the Tzedakah imperative at this time--on the portal of Chodesh Elul. 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 Parasha (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.

 

4. The value of the Tzedaka is in accordance with the need and suffering of the poor person, and so Tzedaka before Yom Tov, 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 Tzidkecha 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.

 

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

 

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--the way 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 Four: 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?

ANSWER: Yes.

 

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

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

 

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

B.  We must be diligent to exercise our opportunities for Tzedaka at the earliest possible time.  HaRav Yechezkel Abramsky related the following story: 

 

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

 

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

 

 

Special Note Six: 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).”

 

 

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28 Menachem Av 

AN OUTSTANDING CALENDAR: To view and print a concise Hebrew calendar which contains the 5776 daily Nach Yomi, Mishna Yomis, Daf Yomi and Halacha Yomis, please click here.  Spread this wealth of information to others!

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FROM A READER: “To obtain Ain Od Milevado magnets for your home, one may email info@divreichizuk.com.”

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AHL HAMICHYA: The bracha of Ahl Hamichya (and also Ahl Ha’eitz and Ahl HaGefen) is a Mitzvah D’Oraysa according to some Poskim, as it is based upon the three Brachos from the Torah of Birchos HaMazon. The added benefit of Ahl HaMichya is that it asks for Hashem’s mercy ‘V’Ahl Mizbechecha’--to bring back the Mizbeiach, which is a request not contained in Birchas HaMazon itself. In the coming month, in order to get a greater appreciation of the Bracha of Mei’ein Shalosh--may we recommend that one look for and have special Kavannah in the words ‘V’Ahl Mizbechecha’--pleading with Hashem that beyond our Shulchan being a Mizbeiach--that we see the actual Mizbeiach itself speedily and in our day!  See Special Note One below for further reflection.

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NIMAS: The Rambam (to Avos, Chapter 1) writes that there are different categories of speech--including speech relating to learning Torah and Tefillah; speech relating to the performance of Mitzvos; speech relating to one’s daily activities--work, shopping, etc.; and prohibited speech such as Lashon Hara, Ona’as Devarim, and the like. However, he then adds that there is another level of speech which is nimas. The word nimas is generally translated as repulsive or abhorrent. To what kind of speech does he refer? He writes that it speech: “Asher Ein Bo To’eles L’Adam B’Nafsho Velo Aveirah…it is speech which is not purposeful even if it is not prohibited speech, such as conversations about past events, what the government did here or there, how a person passed away, how another person became wealthy--in short, he writes, it is ‘sicha beteilah’--meaningless speech. To the Rambam, meaningless speech is nimas--repulsive! abhorrent! The Rambam was not only writing to himself--he was writing to us…let us keep this in mind!

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SUMMER IMPROVEMENT PROGRAM!

WEEK 9--PARASHAS RE’EIH

 

Bli neder, at least one time a day during this week, consciously do the following:

 

Bein Adam LaMakom:

Yiras Shomayim was highlighted more than once in last week’s Parasha. As we noted last week, the ‘Parashas HaYirah’ was found in the Parasha as well. Recite the Parashas HaYirah (as published in most Siddurim after Shacharis), together with the short Yehi Ratzon to be recited immediately afterwards. It is no coincidence that the Torah emphasizes Yiras Shomayim to us in the week immediately preceding Elul!

 

Bein Adam L’Chaveiro:

The Mitzvah of Kibud Av Va’eim is one of the few Mitzvos to which the Torah attributes Arichus Yomim--special reward in this world and the next. The Mitzvah applies both during a parent’s lifetime in this world and after. Every day, be sure to perform some new or different act of Kibud (e.g., an additional phone call, a gift, a donation of a Sefer to Shul in honor, etc.).

 

 

Bein Adam L’Atzmo:

Last week’s Parasha also strongly warned each member of K’lal Yisrael to avoid the attitude and even the feeling of ‘Kochi V’Otzem Yadi’--it is my strength, my acumen, my knowledge that brought me to my position in life, my accomplishments…. Every time one has a feeling of personal aggrandizement or unjustified pride--even if it is in Torah study or Ruchniyus, he should exclaim: “It is not Kochi V’Otzem Yadi” or “Thank You Hashem!”

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TEFILLAH TEST! We conclude our series of questions and answers on Tefillah, based upon the Tefillah Shiurim series given by HaRav Yisroel Dov Webster, Shlita, to women in Boro Park over this past year. One additional note: Some of the answers to the upcoming Halacha Shailos may be specific to women. In all events, one should consult with his Rav or Posek as to any Shailah he may have for a final p’sak. 

 

Today we conclude the series of questions and answers(!):

 

96. From what point in davening is talking prohibited?

One is prohibited from talking from Baruch She’amar until after Shemone Esrei even for a D’var Mitzvah.

 

97. If one recited the minimum to fulfill Pesukei D’Zimra, but subsequently has more time to daven, what is the order that one should use to say the rest of Pesukei D’Zimra?

The following should be added besides for Baruch She’amar, Ashrei and Yishtabach: (i) the 5th Halelukah, (ii) the 3rd Halelukah, (iii) the other three Halelukahs; and (iv) Vayevareich Dovid.

 

98. Does one have to make up the piyutim of davening that one skipped?

Many poskim are of the opinion that one should recite everything that one skipped after davening

 

99. Can one rely on the concept of ‘skipping’ some of Pesukei D’Zimra a few days a week?

No, the Halacha is not meant for one to rely on skipping on a regular basis (subject to previous answers as to a woman’s need to take care of her children, and the limited amount of time that she has). One who is consistently late to Shul and consistently skips is misapplying this Halacha (see Shulchan Aruch, Orach Chaim 109:1).

 

100. What should one think about before starting Shemone Esrei?

As alluded to yesterday, we provided one answer from HaRav Chaim Soloveitchik, Z’tl: HaRav Chaim writes that when one begins to daven, he must literally view himself as standing before the Shechina--and this is part of the Ikar Mitzvah of Tefillah. If a person’s mind is taken up, and he cannot focus on the fact that he is standing before Hashem--then he is not standing before Hashem, and his Tefillah cannot therefore be a Tefillah--with the result that his bracha is r’l a bracha levatalah. Great privileges come with great responsibilities. For additional points on the period prior to Shemone Esrei see Shulchan Aruch, Orach Chaim 93-99.

 

Hakhel Note: CD’s of all of Rabbi Webster’s Shiurim are available by calling Rebbetzin Berl: 718-435-5793.

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Special Note One: In this week’s Parasha, 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 Mizbe’ach 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 Karbon anywhere?  Moreover, what does the Jew in Bavel, in Amsterdam, in British Columbia, in Buenos Aires or even in Tel Aviv or Be’er Sheva 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 Tosafos (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 this too worth some serious davening over?  The Parasha is reminding us!

 

 

Special Note Two:  Today 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 Parasha.  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.

 

 

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27 Menachem Av

THE POWER OF TESHUVAH --An Effective Day By Day Guide This is an outstanding absolutely must read Artscroll work by Rabbi Heshy Kleinman, Shlita, author of the Praying with Fire Series.  In 40 excellent lessons, Rabbi Kleinman provides practical strategies to start and succeed at the Teshuvah process all in a practical, positive and uplifting way.  A special foreword to the book is provided by HaRav Mattisyahu Salomon, Shlita, and it also includes important Halachos of Teshuvah. If you start on Rosh Chodesh Elul--you will finish this Sefer on Teshuvah on Yom Kippur! What a demonstration of your sincere, reasoned dedication to Teshuvah!

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SUMMER IMPROVEMENT PROGRAM!

WEEK 9--PARASHAS RE’EIH

 

Bli neder, at least one time today, consciously do the following:

 

Bein Adam LaMakom:

Yiras Shomayim was highlighted more than once in last week’s Parasha. As we noted last week, the ‘Parashas HaYirah’ was found in the Parasha as well. Recite the Parashas HaYirah (as published in most Siddurim after Shacharis), together with the short Yehi Ratzon to be recited immediately afterwards. It is no coincidence that the Torah emphasizes Yiras Shomayim to us in the week immediately preceding Elul!

 

Bein Adam L’Chaveiro:

The Mitzvah of Kibud Av Va’eim is one of the few Mitzvos to which the Torah attributes Arichus Yomim--special reward in this world and the next. The Mitzvah applies both during a parent’s lifetime in this world and after. Every day, be sure to perform some new or different act of Kibud (e.g., an additional phone call, a gift, a donation of a Sefer to Shul in honor, etc.).

 

Bein Adam L’Atzmo:

Last week’s Parasha also strongly warned each member of K’lal Yisrael to avoid the attitude and even the feeling of ‘Kochi V’Otzem Yadi’--it is my strength, my acumen, my knowledge that brought me to my position in life, my accomplishments…. Every time one has a feeling of personal aggrandizement or unjustified pride--even if it is in Torah study or Ruchniyus, he should exclaim: “It is not Kochi V’Otzem Yadi” or “Thank You Hashem!”

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NINETEEN WEEKS: As we especially dedicate ourselves to the fifteenth Bracha of Shemone Esrei this week, we provide the following words of instruction from the great Praying with Passion Series (in order to go through this entire outstanding series on Tefillah, please visit http://prayingwithfire.org/archives.html):

 

“In this fifteenth blessing of Shemone Esrei, we say “Es Tzemach Dovid Avdecha Meheirah Satzmiach--the offspring of Your servant Dovid may you speedily cause to flourish.Zecharia

(Chapter 6, Posuk 12) teaches that Mashiach’s name will be Tzemach, which means the sprouting or flourishing of a plant. The Midrash (Tehillim, Mizmor 18) explains that when a “tzomai’ach,” a plant, is first planted, its seed lies dormant beneath the ground. After a time, when the seed sprouts and flourishes, its existence finally becomes evident and its hidden potential is realized. The blessing Es Tzemach Dovid refers to the sprouting of the geulah, because the process is as gradual as that of a growing plant. One who continuously watches over a plant will not notice it growing, yet over time, it becomes obvious that the plant did indeed grow. Similarly, it is as difficult for us to perceive how each challenging period of Jewish history contributes to the final redemption as it is for us to see a plant grow. Nevertheless, the seeds of the geulah are already present, waiting to be nurtured by Hashem.”

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TEFILLAH TEST! We continue our series of questions and answers on Tefillah, based upon the Tefillah Shiurim series given by HaRav Yisroel Dov Webster, Shlita, to women in Boro Park over this past year. One additional note: Some of the answers to the upcoming Halacha Shailos may be specific to women. In all events, one should consult with his Rav or Posek as to any Shailah he may have for a final p’sak. 

 

Today we conclude with the final questions:

 

96. From what point in davening is talking prohibited?

 

97. If one recited the minimum to fulfill Pesukei D’Zimra, but subsequently has more time to daven, what is the order that one should use to say the rest of Pesukei D’Zimra?

 

98. Does one have to make up the piyutim of davening that one skipped?

 

99. Can one rely on the concept of ‘skipping’ some of Pesukei D’Zimra a few days a week?

 

100. What should one think about before starting Shemone Esrei?

Hint: The answer is contained in this Bulletin.

 

Hakhel Note: CD’s of all of Rabbi Webster’s Shiurim are available by calling Rebbetzin Berl: 718-435-5793.

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Special Note One: We continue to provide below important words of direction and instruction on Tefillah provided by HaRav Nosson Wachtfogel, Z’tl, as recorded in the Sefer Leket Reshimos B’Inyanei Tefillah.

 

 

PART TWO

 

A. HaRav Wachtfogel was once asked how one can work on Emunah. He responded--by speaking to Hashem as one speaks to his father. He continued: “One does not have to delve into books about it--one has to find its expression in one’s heart.” Additionally, just as one gives Tzedakah or does Chesed on a daily basis, and the more the one does so, the more the Tzedakah and Chesed is ingrained within him, so too, it is with the Middah of Emunah--one must work on it and practice it every day.

 

B. One year, after concluding the first day’s Selichos before Rosh Hashana on Motza’ei Shabbos at about 2:00AM, HaRav Wachtfogel urged people to stay in order to recite Tehillim for someone who was ill. Someone advised him that the person’s conditioned had improved a bit. HaRav Wachtfogel replied--all the more so to say Tehillim now--for we see that the Tefillos are helping!

 

C. HaRav Wachtfogel once visited the Chofetz Chaim, at which time the Chofetz Chaim emphasized to him the words “Alein, Alein”--by oneself, by oneself. HaRav Wachtfogel understood the Chofetz Chaim’s lesson to him is that one should not copy or parrot others, and not get lost in the crowd. Instead--each person as an individual should daven to Hashem, expressing his own Neshama’s yearnings and feelings. HaRav Wachtfogel would point to Yaakov Avinu--whom Hashem did not stop from traveling--when he passed the Makom HaMikdash on the way to Charan. Instead, Hashem wanted Yaakov Avinu to realize it himself--and return to the Makom HaMikdash on his own (see Bereishis 28:17 and Rashi there). Every person must realize who he is and what he must do--and act accordingly!

 

D. One must keep the teaching of HaRav Chaim Brisker, Z’tl (on the Rambam Hilchos Tefillah 4:1) in mind before beginning his Shemone Esrei. HaRav Chaim writes that when one begins to daven, he must literally view himself as standing before the Shechina--and this is part of the Ikar Mitzvah of Tefillah. If a person’s mind is taken up, and he cannot focus on the fact that he is standing before Hashem--then he is not standing before Hashem, and his Tefillah cannot therefore be a Tefillah--with the result that his bracha is r’l a bracha levatalah. Great privileges come with great responsibilities.

 

E. HaRav Wachtfogel would say that Gedolei Olam placed their ikar Kavannah in the first bracha of Shemone Esrei.

 

F. Before leaving the Beis HaMidrash, HaRav Wachtfogel would stop by the door and take out a Tehillim and recite a Perek or some Pesukim, and then only take leave of the Beis Midrash.

 

G. Once, HaRav Wachtfogel met someone and asked him where he had davened Shacharis. He responded that he had davened with the Mashgiach--but that he had arrived a ‘few minutes’ late. HaRav Wachtfogel responded that all of Tefillah is those ‘few minutes’.

 

H. Particular Tefillos:

 

1. Someone asked HaRav Wachtfogel whether there is importance to a birthday. He answered that there is--in terms of Tefillah. A person should recite several Kepitelech of Tehillim, daven for an upcoming good year, and daven for Hatlzacha in Ruchniyus and Kol Tuv. The Mashgiach suggested (at a minimum) Kepitelech 13 and 103.

 

2. When asked what one should pray for in respect of an unborn child, he responded that one should daven that he become an Adam Gadol. This prayer is true for a girl as well, he said --look at Devorah HaNevi’ah for example. Moreover--think of the Chofetz Chaim’s mother!

 

3. HaRav Wachtfogel would urge those who had to interrupt their studies for a Mitzvah to daven that they ask for the Shechina Who was with them while learning not to depart--just as Avrohom Avinu asked Hashem before going to serve the Malochim: “Im Nah Matzasi Chein B’Einecha Ahl Nah Sa’avor Mei’al Avadecha--Hashem, please have mercy on me and do not leave, although I am leaving my Torah studies for now.”

 

I. Someone related his Chidush in Tefillah to HaRav Wachtfogel--which he apparently very much appreciated: In Mizmor Shir Chanukas HaBayis (Tehillim 30), which we recite every day, Dovid HaMelech exclaims: “Histarta Fanecha Hayisi Nivhal--when You conceal Your face, I am bewildered” (ibid. 30:8).  Realizing he is perturbed, what does Dovid HaMelech do next? “Eilecha Hashem Ekra Ve’el Hashem Eschanan--to You Hashem I call out--to You Hashem do I plead.” Dovid HaMelech is teaching us that if we are disturbed, confused and/or don’t know what to do, we must daven!

 

J. Shlomo HaMelech, the wisest of all men, brings in Shir HaShirim (2:14) that Hashem tells us: “Hashme’ini Es Koleich Ki Koleich Areivlet Me hear your supplicating voice, for your voice is sweet!” Daven to Hashem with your voice, with your strength, with your being!

 

 

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26 Menachem Av

 

SUMMER IMPROVEMENT PROGRAM!

WEEK 9--PARASHAS RE’EIH

 

Bli neder, at least one time a day during this week, consciously do the following:

 

Bein Adam LaMakom:

Yiras Shomayim was highlighted more than once in last week’s Parasha. As we noted last week, the ‘Parashas HaYirah’ was found in the Parasha as well. Recite the Parashas HaYirah (as published in most Siddurim after Shacharis), together with the short Yehi Ratzon to be recited immediately afterwards. It is no coincidence that the Torah emphasizes Yiras Shomayim to us in the week immediately preceding Elul!

 

Bein Adam L’Chaveiro:

The Mitzvah of Kibud Av Va’eim is one of the few Mitzvos to which the Torah attributes Arichus Yomim--special reward in this world and the next. The Mitzvah applies both during a parent’s lifetime in this world and after. Every day, be sure to perform some new or different act of Kibud (e.g., an additional phone call, a gift, a donation of a Sefer to Shul in honor, etc.).

 

 

Bein Adam L’Atzmo:

Last week’s Parasha also strongly warned each member of K’lal Yisrael to avoid the attitude and even the feeling of ‘Kochi V’Otzem Yadi’--it is my strength, my acumen, my knowledge that brought me to my position in life, my accomplishments…. Every time one has a feeling of personal aggrandizement or unjustified pride--even if it is in Torah study or Ruchniyus, he should exclaim: “It is not Kochi V’Otzem Yadi” or “Thank You Hashem!”

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A TREMENDOUS INSIGHT: The following insight was provided by Torah Tavlin:  “The Kotzker Rebbe, Zt’l, makes a fascinating point.  He says that the weekly Parasha gives us an insight into what we are meant to accomplish that week.  Thus, the week after we bentsch Rosh Chodesh Elul is meant for us to “Re’eh—Look.”  Each Jew must stop and look inside himself or herself and see what needs improvement, this is how we know where to start.”

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TEFILLAH TEST! We continue our series of questions and answers on Tefillah, based upon the Tefillah Shiurim series given by HaRav Yisroel Dov Webster, Shlita, to women in Boro Park over this past year. One additional note: Some of the answers to the upcoming Halacha Shailos may be specific to women. In all events, one should consult with his Rav or Posek as to any Shailah he may have for a final p’sak. 

 

91.  When one is in middle of davening Shemone Esrei, is one permitted to show a child what to daven?

One should show the child what to daven before one begins Shemone Esrei. However, if the child is persisting (preventing Kavana), then one is permitted to show the child what to daven.  

 

92. Is one permitted to hold a child while one davens Shemone Esrei?

One should not hold anything in one’s hands except a Siddur. However, one may be lenient with holding a baby if one cannot daven at all or cannot daven with Kavana unless the baby is held (e.g., the baby will cry unless he is held, or that one is concerned for the safety of the baby). However, if possible, one should try to put the baby in a crib, playpen or stroller rather than hold him.

 

93. If one is in the middle of Shemone Esrei and a baby comes within 6-8 feet with a dirty diaper, what should one do?

One should move away from the child to a location where one does not smell the odor and finish davening. If one cannot move, one should stop in the middle of Shemone Esrei and change the baby and then continue Shemone Esrei from the place one stopped, as long as the hefsek was not more than five minutes.  

 

94. If a woman had no time to daven in the morning, until when can she recite Birchos Hashachar?

Lechatchila a woman should recite Birchos Hashachar before the end of Sof Zeman Tefillah. Bedi’eved she can recite Birchos Hashachar until Chatzos and B’sha’as Hadechak until Shekiya.

 

95. What is the minimum that a woman can recite in order to fulfill the recitation of Pesukei D’Zimra?

During the week, at a minimum, Baruch Sha’amar and Ashrei. On Shabbos, she also needs to recite Nishmas.

 

Hakhel Note: CD’s of all of Rabbi Webster’s Shiurim are available by calling Rebbetzin Berl: 718-435-5793.

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Special Note One: The Mitzvah of Tefillah is found in last week’s Parasha--in the second Parasha of Shema--with the words “UlAvdo BeChol Levavechem”. HaRav Chaim Kanievsky, Shlita was asked the following question by friends of a young man who was seriously ill: They have gotten together several times to recite Tehillim and daven for him. He is unfortunately still ill. Is there something else they should do--perhaps take upon themselves a special Mitzvah together...? If so, what should they do? HaRav Kanievsky answered that Chazal teach: “Im Ro’eh Adam SheHispallel Velo Ne’eneh, Yachzor VeYispallel (Brachos 32A)...if a person sees that he prayed and that his prayers were not seemingly answered, he should pray again.” He thus advised the friends that, ahead of all else, to make another Kinus of Tefillah on their friend’s behalf. From this P’sak we should grow in our appreciation of the utter potency of Tefillah.

 

One may study the important words of the Sefer HaChinuch on the Mitzvah of Tefillah (Mitzvah 433). We provide below important words of direction and instruction on Tefillah provided by HaRav Nosson Wachtfogel, Z’tl, as recorded in the Sefer Leket Reshimos B’Inyanei Tefillah.

 

PART ONE

 

A. The Sefer HaChinuch (ibid.) writes that this Mitzvah is a Mitzvah Koleles--a broad and inclusive one: “Because the service of Hashem includes all of the Mitzvos.” HaRav Wachtfogel explains that the Chinuch means that the Mitzvah of Tefillah subsumes the entire Torah within it, for in the end all of the Mitzvos are Avodas Hashem--and Tefillah is the source of all Avodas Hashem!

 

B. One who owns a store, and knows that this is his Parnassah, is very careful in guarding it. If he leaves it open and takes a stroll without proper safeguards--he will most certainly go bankrupt. To the contrary, one who is careful exercises his hishtadlus by making sure that the store opens and closes on time, and that he properly services his customers. What is our ‘store’ in Ruchniyus? The Pasuk records (Shemos 14:10): “Vayitzaku Bnei Yisrael Ehl Hashem”--and Bnei Yisrael cried out to Hashem. Chazal teach that the reason that they did so is because they held onto the umanus, to the profession of their forefathers--Tefillah! Our store--the umanus of K’lal Yisrael--is Tefillah.

 

C. One should remember the words of the Chazon Ish (Kovetz Igros, Igeres Bais): “HaTefillah Hi Mateh Oz Beyad Kol Adam Vechol Sheyasim Ha’adam Mivtacho Bo Yisborach Kein Ya’aleh Ve’chein Yatzliach…Chavivin Yisrael She’ein Tzrichin Shaliach Vechol Bar Nash Bechocho Limtzo Tov Ahl Yedei Tefillah--Tefillah is a mighty tool in the hand of every person, and one who places his trust in Hashem will succeed…we are cherished by Hashem for we do not need any intermediary--each and every one of us can attain all goodness through Tefillah!

 

D. The Ikar of Tefillah is not the in-depth Kavannos or yichudim--rather, it is one’s attitude in Tefillah. One must show humility and great respect while davening. Likewise, one should not treat the Shul with disrespect in any manner--hanging up a coat on a window, not coming dressed properly, or the like.

 

E. When davening, one should speak to Hashem as a poor person who is at the door--pleading for his needs before One Who is concerned for him and can grant all of his requests--and more!

 

F. Chazal (Brachos 6B) teach that Tefillah is so important and so lofty that it stands “BeRumo Shel Olam--at the height of the world.” It is for this reason that the Yetzer Hara attempts from so many angles to thwart the efficacy of one’s Tefillos. Know, then, that when you succeed to coming to Shul on time, recite Pesukei D’Zimra with meaning, and stand Shemone Esrei knowing that you are standing before Hashem--each and every success is a separate and distinct victory against the Yetzer Hara.

 

G. If one feels that he is being disturbed by others davening loudly, he should realize that whatever other place he moves to, he will probably find a similar result. Instead, one should focus on his own davening--with Kavana, with hislahavus, with simcha--so that he is so involved in his own Tefillah--he will not be disturbed by another’s Tefillah!

 

H. After 120 years, a person will be asked: “What did you do about the Churban Beis HaMikdash and the Galus HaShechina?” “What did you do for the Jews in Eretz Yisrael and in other lands?” If a person responds: “Who am I? What am I?”, the Beis Din Shel Ma’alah will reject the claim, and reply: “HaKadosh Baruch Hu listens to the Tefillos of everyone, and in Tefillah one can ask for anything and achieve anything--you had the ability to use the greatest power available to anyone!

 

I. Dovid HaMelech refers to himself as “Va’ani Sefillah--and I am prayer” (Tehillim 109:4). HaRav Wachtfogel once quoted this Pasuk in a shmuz and began to cry, exclaiming: “Dovid does not call himself a king, a navi, a chochom--rather he defines his essence as Tefillah--and so can we!”

 

J. Yaakov Avinu describes his Tefillos as Becharbi U’vekashti--my sword and my bow (Bereishis 48:22 and Targum Unkelus there). HaRav Wachtfogel explains that this is not a Mashal at all--for in the Olam HaRuchni in which he lived--the sword and the bow is Tefillah--for it breaks and destroys our enemies and antagonists from without and from within!

 

K. Moshe Rabbeinu led us out of Mitzrayim, received the Torah and with unimaginable self-sacrifice led millions of people in the desert. Yet, these unfathomable zechusim were insufficient for him--as Chazal (Brachos 32A) teach that Moshe was only answered in the zechus of his Tefillos.

 

L. Although withstanding a Nisayon is a great accomplishment--there is an even greater madreiga, and that is to sincerely daven to Hashem: “Ve’al Tevieini Liyedei Nisayon--and do not bring me to a Nisayon!”

 

M. We should appreciate the roles of Shacharis, Mincha and Ma’ariv. Shacharis gives us the spiritual strength to continue until Mincha, and Mincha until Ma’ariv. As the Sefer Kuzari (Ma’amar Gimel) puts it: Shacharis gives us the fortitude for the day just as the morning meal does--until we ‘eat again’ in the evening. Tefillah is, very literally, spiritual sustenance.

 

N. HaRav Wachtfogel would very much object to those whose strength and intensity in davening or reciting Tehillim for a particular situation would wane because he heard the person felt better, or the situation had improved. Our hallmark, he said is that we are a nation which is “Kelavi Yakum Vecha’ari Yisna’asah--which gets up like a lion cub and raises itself up like a lion.” We are to daven with strength, sincerity, devotion and feeling at all times--and in all situations!

 

 

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25 Menachem Av

SUMMER IMPROVEMENT PROGRAM! We continue our Summer Improvement Program, with simple suggestions, on a weekly basis, in each of the areas of Bein Adam LaMakom, Bein Adam L’Chaveiro, and Bein Adam L’Atzmo. Of course, these are only suggestions--but every person has the opportunity to join with others who will be attempting the same successes. In the alternative, one can chart his own improvement course on a weekly basis as well.

 

WEEK 9--PARASHAS RE’EIH

 

Bli neder, at least one time a day during this week, consciously do the following:

 

Bein Adam LaMakom:

Yiras Shomayim was highlighted more than once in last week’s Parasha. As we noted last week, the ‘Parashas HaYirah’ was found in the Parasha as well. Recite the Parashas HaYirah (as published in most Siddurim after Shacharis), together with the short Yehi Ratzon to be recited immediately afterwards. It is no coincidence that the Torah emphasizes Yiras Shomayim to us in the week immediately preceding Elul!

 

Bein Adam L’Chaveiro:

The Mitzvah of Kibud Av Va’eim is one of the few Mitzvos to which the Torah attributes Arichus Yomim--special reward in this world and the next. The Mitzvah applies both during a parent’s lifetime in this world and after. Every day, be sure to perform some new or different act of Kibud (e.g., an additional phone call, a gift, a donation of a Sefer to Shul in honor, etc.).

 

 

Bein Adam L’Atzmo:

Last week’s Parasha also strongly warned each member of K’lal Yisrael to avoid the attitude and even the feeling of ‘Kochi V’Otzem Yadi’--it is my strength, my acumen, my knowledge that brought me to my position in life, my accomplishments…. Every time one has a feeling of personal aggrandizement or unjustified pride--even if it is in Torah study or Ruchniyus, he should exclaim: “It is not Kochi V’Otzem Yadi” or “Thank You Hashem!”

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NINETEEN WEEKS! We are now in the fifteenth of the nineteen week period prior to Rosh Hashana. In past years, we have proceeded weekly, Bracha by Bracha, through Shemone Esrei with a special emphasis on Kavannah on that week’s Bracha. This week’s Bracha is…Es Tzemach Dovid!

 

Non-coincidentally, we begin this Bracha as we are about to take leave of Chodesh Menachem Av.  Rabbi Heshy Kleinman, Shlita, reminded us of the following lesson for us all (originally presented in Reb Shraga Feivel, by Yonasan Rosenblum (Artscroll p.110)):

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

In addition to the above notes, we provide by the following link additional notes to the Nineteen Brachos for the years 5771 and 5772 http://www.hakhel.info/TefillahArchive.html May we highly recommend the Nineteen Week Program again this year--either based upon your own study (such as by utilizing the Praying with Passion Series (available at www.prayingwithfire.org), the magnificent Rav Schwab on Prayer, the Tefillah Tapes of Rabbi Berel Wein, Shlita, or other wonderful resources), or by utilizing the link provided on a daily basis throughout the week!

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TURNABOUT!  In last week’s Pirkei Avos, Chazal (Avos 4:13) teach that one who fulfills a Mitzvah gains himself a praklit--an advocate before the Heavenly Tribunal, whereas one who commits an aveirah acquires for himself a kateigor--an accuser at the very same place. What happens to the accuser that a person acquired--when that person does Teshuvah? The Sefer Tomer Devorah (Chapter 4) writes that when one does Teshuvah--the accusers do not disappear, but rather are invested with Kedusha and become advocates on one’s behalf. Accusers turn to advocates! What gain--let’s get going!

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TEFILLAH TEST! We continue our series of questions and answers on Tefillah, based upon the Tefillah Shiurim series given by HaRav Yisroel Dov Webster, Shlita, to women in Boro Park over this past year. One additional note: Some of the answers to the upcoming Halacha Shailos may be specific to women. In all events, one should consult with his Rav or Posek as to any Shailah he may have for a final p’sak. 

 

91.  When one is in middle of davening Shemone Esrei, is one permitted to show a child what to daven?

 

92. Is one permitted to hold a child while one davens Shemone Esrei?

 

93. If one is in the middle of Shemone Esrei and a baby comes within 6-8 feet with a dirty diaper, what should one do?

 

94. If a woman had no time to daven in the morning, until when can she recite Birchos Hashachar?

 

95. What is the minimum that a woman can recite in order to fulfill the recitation of Pesukei D’Zimra?

 

Hakhel Note: CD’s of all of Rabbi Webster’s Shiurim are available by calling Rebbetzin Berl: 718-435-5793.

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Special Note One: Some additional notes on last week’s Parasha, Parashas Eikev:

 

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

 

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

 

C. In the Parasha (Devarim 10:12), the Torah writes “Ve’Atta Yisrael Mah Hashem Elokecha Sho’el Mai’imach--and now what does Hashem ask of you...?”  The Chofetz Chaim provides an essential insight here:  The Torah emphasizes the word Ve’Atta--and now--to teach that a person must realize that what is expected of him changes, and that a person must ask himself from time to time--What Is My Avodah Now?  We note that the word for now--Ve’Atta is (at least in current Ashkenaz practice) pronounced the same as Ve’Atta--meaning ‘and You’ (the only difference being that the former word has an Ayin, and the latter, an Aleph).  Thus, a person must recognize that he has his own set of circumstances, his own obligations, his own potential and his own path--and it is in the here and now!

 

D. Based upon the words “Kol HaMitzvah--the entire Mitzvah”, Chazal teach that a Mitzvah is credited to the one who completed it.” The Maharsha incredibly explains that the last two letters of the word Mitzvah are the last two letters of the four-letter name of Hashem--Vuv and Heh. Accordingly, one who completes a Mitzvah is accomplishing something that is so great--that it is like he is completing the name of Hashem!

 

E. For all that He does for us, it would be only right that we tried to do something to make HaKadosh Baruch Hu happy.  The Zohar HaKadosh (brought by the Ohr HaChaim HaKadosh in last week’s Parasha) writes that what makes Hashem happiest is when we study Torah.  In a Sefer that was written by a grandson of HaRav Shmuel Berenbaum, Z’tl, he writes that his zeide told him that what he should work on most in contemplating Teshuva is the study of Torah, because with improvement in learning, midos and all else would fall into place.  Less than a week from today is the first day of Elul.  Perhaps an appropriate undertaking might be that prior or even during learning to have Kavannah that you are studying Torah to give Nachas Ruach—happiness--to Hashem, and that you are studying in order to understand the Torah and properly fulfill the Mitzvos!

 

 

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22 Menachem Av

 

SUMMER IMPROVEMENT PROGRAM!

WEEK 8--PARASHAS EIKEV

 

Bli neder, at least one time today, consciously do the following:

 

Bein Adam LaMakom:

In last week’s Parasha, we learned what are among the most essential words in Emunah--Ein Ohd Milevado. It is no coincidence that this lesson is provided to us by the Parasha at this time of year (and at this time in history). Try to slowly recite the paragraph from the Sefer Nefesh HaChaim on Ein Ohd Milevado provided by the following link: http://tinyurl.com/5a6qmy 

 

Bein Adam L’Chaveiro:

As the Navi describes, what Hashem seeks of us is ‘Ahavas Chesed’--not only to perform Chesed when the situation arises, but to love Chesed to the extent that it is incorporated into our character and being. Buy a notebook or establish a file for Chesed items--people to daven for; names to add to the Cholim list in Shul; people to help with Shidduchim; people to talk to; new Chesed ideas; confirmation that you have given daily Tzedaka for the sake of the Geulah of K’lal Yisrael… [Hakhel Note: Please provide us with your additional ideas.]

 

Bein Adam L’Atzmo:

The Sefer Tomer Devorah teaches that we must all be careful that: “Ve’al Yikaneis Zar U’Mevatel Machshavto”--not to let foreign or inappropriate thoughts to infiltrate one’s mind. If one recognizes that a thought of inappropriate jealousy, anger, dislike, desire, or the like has entered one’s mind--he should quickly banish it, replacing it with the thought of a Pasuk, a Mitzvah or a good deed!

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FROM A READER: “With regard to your comments about what Rabbi Rietti said about changing oneself as opposed to expecting other people to change: In the “Simcha Minute” email that gets sent out HaRav Avigdor Miller’s writings, just this past Monday, they sent the following quote from HaRav Miller:  (www.SimchasHachaim.com): ’My generation is my world.  It is our opportunity, and to fritter it away is the greatest of catastrophes.  One’s parents, one’s brothers and sisters, one’s kin, one’s wife, one’s children, one’s neighbors and employer and employee, all are his opportunities. By his relations with them he gains the success for which he came into the world.’  

I once heard someone express the following thought- When one goes to university for an advanced degree, they spend so much money for each credit, hundreds of dollars.  If we would think of the difficult people in our lives, as teachers (teaching us how NOT to behave,) imagine, they are giving us a FREE education!! We actually should be thanking them instead of being upset with them!

 

Also, regarding Ain Od Milevado- I have an attractive sign hanging on my wall as a reminder, with these 3 words.  Although I bought mine, it would be easy to hand print these words on an index card to put on the refrigerator, or print on the computer.”

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

 

A. Although we are welcoming Shabbos in earlier every week in the Northern Hemisphere, we should recall the great zechus of Tosefes Shabbos--for ourselves and for all of Acheinu Bnei Yisrael world-over. Ten minutes of one person’s or one family’s Tosefes Kedusha can move the heavens and have world-effecting results!

 

B. One should recite VaYechulu after Shemone Esrei on Leil Shabbos aloud, for he is testifying and exclaiming to the world that Hashem created the heavens and the earth in six days. Although one must stand if at all possible when doing so, he may lean against a table. If one is towards the end of Shemone Esrei, having recited Yeheyu L’Ratzon Imrei Phi and started Elokai Netzor, when the Tzibbur has started VaYechulu, he can recite VaYechulu with the Tzibbur even though he has not taken three steps back (Shulchan Aruch Orach Chaim 268, 7 and Dirshu Notes 21, 22 and 23). Note: The Mishna Berurah brings a Tur in the name of the Sefer Chassidim as follows: There was one chossid to whom another chossid appeared in a dream after his death. The deceased’s face was green. When the chossid who saw this asked the deceased why his countenance appeared so, he replied: “Because I talked when the Tzibbur was reciting VaYechulu, Magein Avos and Kaddish.”

 

C. We do not recite Mizmor Lesodah (Tehillim 100) at Shacharis on Shabbos because we do not bring a Korban Todah on Shabbos. However, if one mistakenly began Mizmor Lesodah, he can finish the Chapter, because the only place where the Korban Todah is actually mentioned is the second word of the Kepitel, which he has already recited. Moreover, one is reciting the Kepitel in order to praise Hashem (SA OC 281, Dirshu Note 3).

 

D. The Levush writes that we recite Nishmas on Shabbos because of the neshama yeseira we have, and the Eliyahu Rabba there adds that when we recite Nishmas, we attain a chochma yeseirah (SA OC ibid. Note 5).

 

E. The Chayei Adam rules that one cannot skip the pizmonim that we add in Birkos Kriyas Shema on Shabbos of LaKeil Asher Shavas or HaKol Yoducha in order to be able to recite the Shemone Esrei together with the Tzibbur. This is because they are part of the Nusach HaBracha (ibid. Mishna Berurah seif katan 3). It would appear that the same would be true for Keil Adon--one could not skip it in order to recite the Shemone Esrei together with the Tzibbur (SA OC ibid., Dirshu Note 3).

 

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

 

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

 

 

Special Note Two:  Because this week’s Parasha provides the great Mitzvah of Birkas HaMazon, we review additional important Halachos and Hashkafos relating to it. As always, one should consult with his Rav or Posek for a final P’sak:

 

The following points and pointers are culled from the Dirshu Mishna Berurah:

 

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

 

2.  One should leave over a piece of bread on the table while bentsching in order to demonstrate how Hashem provides for everyone’s needs, and so that the bracha of bentsching has something to rest upon (like the oil of Elisha). HaRav Elyashiv, Z’tl, rules, however, that leaving something on the table is only necessary for bentsching, and need not be done for Al HaMichya.  Related point from a reader: “The Mishna Berurah to Shulchan Aruch Orach Chaim 180 seif katan 4 (from G’ra) rules that one should only not bring a whole loaf if there are crumbs, but if there are no crumbs, it might even be better to bring a whole loaf (Zohar).”

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

9.  The person leading the zimun should say at least the entire first bracha out loud, and one should follow along with him in an undertone, in order to properly fulfill the Mitzvah of zimun.  He should only go ahead a bit at the end, so that all can answer Amen to his bracha. 

 

10.  One must appreciate how important it is not to disturb his bentsching.  As we have noted in the past, the Yesod V’Shoresh HaAvodah brings in his tzava’ah to his children that he would daven before he bentsched that nobody would knock on his door, which would disturb his concentration.  In any event, one is not allowed to talk or to greet someone, and the Kaf HaChaim writes that one must treat bentsching as Shemone Esrei--and not even answer to Kaddish, Kedusha, or Barchu, but just listen and be a ‘Shome’ah K’Oneh’.  It follows then HaRav Shlomo Zalman Auerbach rules, that one would not answer Amen to the brachos of another person bentsching together with him--except for the person leading the zimun.  The Ben Ish Chai rules that once one begins the HaRachamans at the end of bentsching he can answer Amen, but he cannot speak generally. 

 

Note:  As far as what one can answer in the bracha HaTov V’HaMaitiv, see the Orach HaShulchan 183:8.

 

11.  If a child has eaten to satiation and is unsure whether he bentsched or not, HaRav Shlomo Zalman Auerbach rules that he should bentsch again so that the child learns that when he reaches of age he should bentsch again.  Similarly, if a child has eaten less the a kezayis, HaRav Shlomo Zalman Auerbach rules that if he is satiated he should bentsch--for he must learn that when one is satiated he will have a Mitzvah D’Oryasah to bentsch when he comes of age.  There is a difference of opinion among authorities as to whether a child should learn and recite only one bracha of bentsching at a time, or whether the child should say a little bit from each bracha.  HaRav Shlomo Zalman Auerbach, for instance, rules that the child should learn one bracha at a time.  HaRav Elyashiv, Z’tl, rules that the child can say a portion of every bracha, and this apparently appears to be the ruling of the Mishna Berurah as well (see Shulchan Aruch, Orach Chaim 186, Mishna Berurah seif katan 4). 

 

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

 

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

 

14.  The Aruch HaShulchan (189:2) writes that the bracha of HaTov V’HaMaitiv, which was instituted over the fallen of Beitar being taken to burial in their complete state years later, is intended to teach us that even when Hashem is upset with us he does not leave us and still performs miracles and wonders on our behalf. 

 

15.  The Mishna Berurah writes that one should study the Sefer Eliyahu Rabbah, Siman 187, for additional Halachos relating to Birkas HaMazon. 

 

 

Special Note Three: We provide the following very brief additional points and pointers on this week’s Parasha:

 

A. The Parasha begins with the words “Vehaya Eikev Tishmiun”. Chazal teach that the Mitzvos that a person treads upon with his Eikev--with his heel, i.e., the Mitzvos that a person deems ‘relatively unimportant’ will surround him after 120 years at the time of judgment. It may be these Mitzvos that surround him that ultimately determine his fate--and his level in Gan Eden (or c’v elsewhere).  In honor of the Parasha, perhaps we can select one of these Mitzvos in our daily routine--remove it from under our heel, and elevate to a high position in our head!

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

Hakhel Note Two: Sechar V’Onesh teaches us that what we do right and what we do wrong is not of a fleeting or temporary nature --its effects are everlasting, for the good and for the bad.  Food is an easy Olam Hazeh reminder of this--a portion of satiating food can keep you going for many hours, while a portion of spoiled food can make you feel really sick for the same amount of time.

 

D.  The second Parasha of Shema once again instructs us in the mitzvah of Tefillin.  HaRav Shmelke of Nikolsburg, Z’tl, notes that if even the nartik, the outside case holding the Tefillin, falls to the ground, it is our natural, sincere and almost inborn reaction to quickly pick it up and to kiss it in many places in order to show our affection for the Tefillin.  If we show our affection in this way to casing, he teaches, then all the more so should we naturally and sincerely show our unbounding love to the Tefillin’s wearer!

 

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

 

 

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21 Menachem Av

SUMMER IMPROVEMENT PROGRAM!

WEEK 8--PARASHAS EIKEV

 

Bli neder, at least one time today, consciously do the following:

 

Bein Adam LaMakom:

In last week’s Parasha, we learned what are among the most essential words in Emunah--Ein Ohd Milevado. It is no coincidence that this lesson is provided to us by the Parasha at this time of year (and at this time in history). Try to slowly recite the paragraph from the Sefer Nefesh HaChaim on Ein Ohd Milevado provided by the following link: http://tinyurl.com/5a6qmy 

 

Bein Adam L’Chaveiro:

As the Navi describes, what Hashem seeks of us is ‘Ahavas Chesed’--not only to perform Chesed when the situation arises, but to love Chesed to the extent that it is incorporated into our character and being. Buy a notebook or establish a file for Chesed items--people to daven for; names to add to the Cholim list in Shul; people to help with Shidduchim; people to talk to; new Chesed ideas; confirmation that you have given daily Tzedaka for the sake of the Geulah of K’lal Yisrael… [Hakhel Note: Please provide us with your additional ideas.]

 

Bein Adam L’Atzmo:

The Sefer Tomer Devorah teaches that we must all be careful that: “Ve’al Yikaneis Zar U’Mevatel Machshavto”--not to let foreign or inappropriate thoughts to infiltrate one’s mind. If one recognizes that a thought of inappropriate jealousy, anger, dislike, desire, or the like has entered one’s mind--he should quickly banish it, replacing it with the thought of a Pasuk, a Mitzvah or a good deed!

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

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

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CHANGE YOURSELF AND YOU WILL CHANGE THE WORLD! Rabbi Jonathan Rietti, Shlita, makes a great observation: When one person has a complaint against another person, he wants that person to change. In his eyes, that person is doing something wrong or inappropriate.  In reality, if you simply complain directly to the person about his attitude or conduct, in all likelihood he will not modify his conduct, for people resist challenge and change in a negative or confrontational setting. Indeed, when was the last time that you told a person to change to meet your ideas about what was right--and he listened to you  simply because of your demand or request?!  Rabbi Rietti therefore suggests a wholly different approach to an adverse situation or feeling: Rather than being upset with the person, recognize that Hashem has sent the person or situation into my life--not to change him or it--but to change you! I have to learn from the experience to grow personally. If I change...that is the way the other person may change as well!

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AN ADDITIONAL BEAUTIFUL INSIGHT ON BIRKAS HAMAZON!   Rabbi Moshe Goldberger, Shlita, asks if Birkas Hamazon is only one mitzvah, why is it that there are three brachos required by the Torah (the fourth bracha, according to most, is Rabbinic in origin), one bracha thanking Hashem for feeding everyone, a second bracha thanking Hashem for many other important benefits that Hashem has bestowed upon us (as we have previously noted, HaRav Pam, Z’tl, used to count them on his fingers while reciting them), and a third bracha asking for the return of Yerushalayim and the Bais HaMikdash?

 

Rabbi Goldberger answers that if we would have stopped after one bracha, we may have thought that the food is actually an end in and of itself.  By the two additional brachos which the Torah requires, we are to remind ourselves that we are nourished in order to properly serve Hashem in all areas, and to reach our greatest potential.  With that, we ask for the rebuilding of Yerushalayim and the rebuilding of the Bais HaMikdash, so that we can rise to the highest spiritual heights.

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TEFILLAH TEST!  We continue our series of questions and answers on Tefillah, based upon the Tefillah Shiurim series given by HaRav Yisroel Dov Webster, Shlita, to women in Boro Park over this past year. One additional note: Some of the answers to the upcoming Halacha Shailos may be specific to women. In all events, one should consult with his Rav or Posek as to any Shailah he may have for a final p’sak. 

 

86. Is one permitted to daven or say any Davar Shebekedusha near a small child who is wearing a diaper?

Yes, as long as:

1. There is no odor within 6-8 feet of where one is standing. If there is no odor--one is not required to check if the child’s diaper is dirty.

2. There is no bodily waste exposed

3. There is no odor from a diaper pail, or soiled clothing within 6-8 feet.

4. There is no potty within 6-8 feet that is dirty.

 

87. Is one permitted to sit while davening Shemone Esrei?

Preferably, one should stand. However, one may sit if one is traveling, e.g. on a plane, in a car, is sick r’l. It is better for a woman to sit when davening on a plane for when she stands it is not tznius, for it draws attention to her.

 

88. If one has to daven Shemone Esrei sitting down, in what position should he daven?

He should daven with his feet together--not crossed. He should sit upright--not leaning. He should bow as much as possible. There is no need for one to take three steps forward or backwards.

 

89. What should one do if one is davening Shemone Esrei and a baby is crying?

One who started Shemone Esrei may not communicate with a child in any way. However, if a child is disturbing one who is davening and he or she cannot concentrate, then one of the following may be done:

 

1. Signal to the child with a hand. Saying ‘nu nu’ is not considered speaking and is permitted.

2. Move oneself another location.

3. Move the child to another location where the child will not be able to cause a disturbance.

4. If one is in Shul and the child is making noise, e.g. Rosh Hashana, one may take the child out of Shul even if one is in the middle of Shemone Esrei, but if possible one should finish the piyut or bracha.

 

90. If one is in the middle of Shemone Esrei and one’s child needs to go to the bathroom and the child needs adult accompaniment--what should one do?

 

The Chazon Ish, Z’tl, stated that it is permissible to take the child to the bathroom even if one is in the middle of Shemone Esrei. However, one should first finish the piyut or bracha.

 

Hakhel Note: CD’s of all of Rabbi Webster’s Shiurim are available by calling Rebbetzin Berl: 718-435-5793.

 

 

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20 Menachem Av

SUMMER IMPROVEMENT PROGRAM!

WEEK 8--PARASHAS EIKEV

 

Bli neder, at least one time today, consciously do the following:

 

Bein Adam LaMakom:

In last week’s Parasha, we learned what are among the most essential words in Emunah--Ein Ohd Milevado. It is no coincidence that this lesson is provided to us by the Parasha at this time of year (and at this time in history). Try to slowly recite the paragraph from the Sefer Nefesh HaChaim on Ein Ohd Milevado provided by the following link: http://tinyurl.com/5a6qmy 

 

Bein Adam L’Chaveiro:

As the Navi describes, what Hashem seeks of us is ‘Ahavas Chesed’--not only to perform Chesed when the situation arises, but to love Chesed to the extent that it is incorporated into our character and being. Buy a notebook or establish a file for Chesed items--people to daven for; names to add to the Cholim list in Shul; people to help with Shidduchim; people to talk to; new Chesed ideas; confirmation that you have given daily Tzedaka for the sake of the Geulah of K’lal Yisrael… [Hakhel Note: Please provide us with your additional ideas.]

 

Bein Adam L’Atzmo:

The Sefer Tomer Devorah teaches that we must all be careful that: “Ve’al Yikaneis Zar U’Mevatel Machshavto”--not to let foreign or inappropriate thoughts to infiltrate one’s mind. If one recognizes that a thought of inappropriate jealousy, anger, dislike, desire, or the like has entered one’s mind--he should quickly banish it, replacing it with the thought of a Pasuk, a Mitzvah or a good deed!

------------------------------------------------

 

NINETEEN WEEKS: As we especially dedicate ourselves to the fourteenth Bracha of Shemone Esrei this week, we provide the following words of instruction from the great Praying with Passion Series (in order to go through this entire outstanding series on Tefillah, please visit http://prayingwithfire.org/archives.html):

 

“How did the name Yerushalayim come about? What is its source? The Midrash (Bereishis Rabbah 56:10) tells us that the name Yerushalayim is a combination of two names. After Avraham offered up his son Yitzchok as a Karbon to Hashem, Avraham built a Mizbeiach and named the place Yeira’eh, suggesting a place where Hashem’s presence is felt and fear of Him exists. Malkizedek (another name for Shem, the son of Noach) ruled over the city and called it Shalem, a place of peace and perfection. Hashem combined these two names, Yeira’eh and Shalem and called it Yerushalayim. This is the place where peace and perfection can be achieved by recognizing Hashem’s presence. It is the place where righteousness can

blossom to its fullest. This helps explain why this bracha of Shemone Esrei begins with the

conjunction “and”--V’Lirushalayim which connects it to the previous bracha, Al HaTzadikim. The Gemara (Megillah 17b) teaches that the bracha for rebuilding Yerushalayim comes directly after Al HaTzadikim because Yerushalayim is where the tzaddikim will reach their full potential.”

------------------------------------------------

 

TEFILLAH TEST! We continue our series of questions and answers on Tefillah, based upon the Tefillah Shiurim series given by HaRav Yisroel Dov Webster, Shlita, to women in Boro Park over this past year. One additional note: Some of the answers to the upcoming Halacha Shailos may be specific to women. In all events, one should consult with his Rav or Posek as to any Shailah he may have for a final p’sak. 

 

86. Is one permitted to daven or say any Davar Shebekedusha near a small child who is wearing a diaper?

 

87. Is one permitted to sit while davening Shemone Esrei?

 

88. If one has to daven Shemone Esrei sitting down, in what position should he daven?

 

89. What should one do if one is davening Shemone Esrei and a baby is crying?

 

90. If one is in the middle of Shemone Esrei and one’s child needs to go to the bathroom and the child needs adult accompaniment--what should one do?

 

Hakhel Note: CD’s of all of Rabbi Webster’s Shiurim are available by calling Rebbetzin Berl: 718-435-5793.

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Special Note One: As this week’s Parasha contains the Mitzvas Aseh of Birkas Hamazon, we provide below several important points relating to the Mitzvah, much of which has been culled from the Sefer VeZos HaBracha by HaRav Alexander Mandelbaum, Shlita:

 

1.  The Pasuk which sets forth the Mitzvah is actually recited in the second bracha of Birkas HaMazon: “VeAchalTA VeSaVAta U’VairachTA...” Hakhel Note: Just as in Kriyas Shema where the emphasis on the word ‘VeAhavTA’ is on the last syllable--the ‘ta’, and not on the middle syllable of ‘hav’(which incorrect pronunciation would change the meaning of the word to past tense), so too the emphasis on the word VeAchalTA is placed  on the ‘ta’ and not on the ‘achal’  (which mispronunciation would likewise alter the meaning of the word to the past tense).

 

2.   Before commencing Birkas HaMazon, one should have in mind or recite that he is about to fulfill the Mitzvas Aseh of Birkas HaMazon--with awe and love. From a reader: “The Sefer Shem Olam by the Chofetz Chaim reminds us that in the second bracha of Nodeh, we must remember to have Kavannah and to give thanks to Hashem for Eretz Yisrael, for Food, for our Bris with Hashem and for the Torah.  The Chofetz Chaim even writes “Ba’Avonoseinu HaRabbim” when we say Nodeh--we give thanks without Kavannah.  One’s Kavannah should be SHTARK--especially in the second bracha!” There is a well-known story that HaRav Shlomo Zalmen Auerbach, Z’tl, once repeated the paragraph of “Nodeh Lecha” (We thank You, Hashem), in which we list many important things that we thank Hashem for.  When he was asked why he repeated it, he responded that he experienced a momentary lapse of Kavanna, and that saying “Thank you” without meaning it is not true thanks.  As we have related in the past, Rabbi Yisroel Reisman, Shlita, importantly teaches in the name of HaRav Pam, Z’tl, that one may put out a finger and count each one of the things that you are thanking Hashem for every time you recite “Nodeh Lecha”.  Example: “Al Yisrael Amecha-one, V’Al Yerushalayim Irecha-two etc.”  If you try this, you will see that it is a great method of focusing your appreciation, and rejoicing in what Hashem has given you.

 

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

 

4.  Lechatchila, in the first instance, one should Bentsch from a Siddur or Bentscher, and bentsch out loud, or at least loud enough to hear the words one is saying.

 

5.  One should be sure to be respectably dressed when bentsching.

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

10.  Each guest should bless his host with the Birchas HaOreyach. If the siddur or bentscher given to him does not have it, he should ask his host for a siddur that does have it.  According to HaRav Chaim Kanievsky, Shlita, it should be recited immediately after the conclusion of the fourth bracha (‘LeOlam Ahl Yechaserainu’), and before all of the other HaRachamans, as its nusach is found in the Gemara itself (Brachos 46A). (Sefardim may recite it before Migdol Yeshuos).

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

 

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

 

 

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19 Menachem Av

FROM KEREN HAMASROS: “Here at Keren Hamasros USA , we would like to inform you that we have been tracking the sale of Dorot Farms carrots in the local Shoprites over the last year.  Last year, they had a hechsher from Rav Efrati (the Nasi of Keren Hamasros) for the separation of Terumos and Maasros.  Unfortunately, this year, during Shemitta, their farms are not Shomrei Sheviis, and we do not consider their hechsher as reliable.  As such, carrots from Dorot Farms may not be purchased, and if they were purchased, they are subject to the laws of Kedushas Sheviis (governing the return of the carrots to the store and giving the carrots to a non-Jew.)  Furthermore, if the carrots were cooked with any other food, that food retains the Kedushas Sheviis status, and there may be a shaalah on the pot.  Additionally, the consumer should be aware that there are other carrots from Eretz Yisrael that have been sold in the area, specifically “GO Carrots”.  During this Shemitta year and next year, the consumer must be extremely vigilant when purchasing produce to check for the country of origin.  For any questions, readers may contact us at Keren Hamasros: (732) 901-9246.”

 ----------------------------------------------------------

 

SUMMER IMPROVEMENT PROGRAM!

WEEK 8--PARASHAS EIKEV

 

Bli neder, at least one time today, consciously do the following:

 

Bein Adam LaMakom:

In last week’s Parasha, we learned what are among the most essential words in Emunah--Ein Ohd Milevado. It is no coincidence that this lesson is provided to us by the Parasha at this time of year (and at this time in history). Try to slowly recite the paragraph from the Sefer Nefesh HaChaim on Ein Ohd Milevado provided by the following link: http://tinyurl.com/5a6qmy 

 

Bein Adam L’Chaveiro:

As the Navi describes, what Hashem seeks of us is ‘Ahavas Chesed’--not only to perform Chesed when the situation arises, but to love Chesed to the extent that it is incorporated into our character and being. Buy a notebook or establish a file for Chesed items--people to daven for; names to add to the Cholim list in Shul; people to help with Shidduchim; people to talk to; new Chesed ideas; confirmation that you have given daily Tzedaka for the sake of the Geulah of K’lal Yisrael… [Hakhel Note: Please provide us with your additional ideas.]

 

Bein Adam L’Atzmo:

The Sefer Tomer Devorah teaches that we must all be careful that: “Ve’al Yikaneis Zar U’Mevatel Machshavto”--not to let foreign or inappropriate thoughts to infiltrate one’s mind. If one recognizes that a thought of inappropriate jealousy, anger, dislike, desire, or the like has entered one’s mind--he should quickly banish it, replacing it with the thought of a Pasuk, a Mitzvah or a good deed!

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DID YOU KNOW? L’Halacha, if you sign an agreement, you are bound by its terms even if you do not fully understand what it says, such as portions written in a different language or in fine print. For more information, please speak to your Rav, or you may contact The Business Halacha Institute: ask@businesshalacha.com or 718-233-3845 x 201.

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TEFILLAH TEST! We continue our series of questions and answers on Tefillah, based upon the Tefillah Shiurim series given by HaRav Yisroel Dov Webster, Shlita, to women in Boro Park over this past year. One additional note: Some of the answers to the upcoming Halacha Shailos may be specific to women. In all events, one should consult with his Rav or Posek as to any Shailah he may have for a final p’sak. 

 

81. The halacha is that one is not permitted to travel before davening. If so, is it permissible to pick up someone from the airport?

Yes it is permitted, because picking someone up is a Mitzvah.

 

82. Is one permitted to greet someone at Shul before davening (e.g., someone who came back from Eretz Yisrael that morning)?

The Halacha is that one is not permitted to greet another person before davening for it shows disrespect to Hashem. Therefore, one is not permitted to say Shalom Aleichem or Shalom, or even extend a handshake to another. However, the prohibition strictly applies only when one goes out of his way to greet another--for example, crossing the street to greet him or walking out of one’s way when walking to his seat in Shul, in order to greet someone else. However, if it is not out of one’s way and the person would be insulted by a lack of greeting, then it is permitted. If someone greets you, it is permitted for you to return the greeting.

 

83. May a married woman daven without covering her hair?

Yes, however, many Poskim state that it is preferable for her to cover her hair whenever she recites any Davar She’bekedusha.

 

84. Is one permitted to daven in front of a picture in one’s home?

No, it is preferable for one not to daven in front of any pictures, even those of Gedolim. If one has no choice but to daven if front of a picture (such as in the airport where there are pictures all around), it is better if one closes his eyes or looks directly into the siddur. If a picture is higher than one’s head, then one can daven in front of it.

 

85. May one daven in front of a mirror?

No, it is preferable for one not to daven in front of a mirror, for it looks like one is bowing to oneself. If one has no choice but to daven if front of a mirror (such as in a wedding hall where there are mirrors all around), it is better if he closes his eyes or looks directly into the siddur.

 

Hakhel Note: CD’s of all of Rabbi Webster’s Shiurim are available by calling Rebbetzin Berl: 718-435-5793.

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Special Note One: No one in their right mind would dispute that the order of the day is Teshuva. The instability and quiver created by the proposed agreement with Iran, the current situation in Eretz Yisrael, the ongoing threat of world terrorism--and, of course, the great and wonderful Elul on the near-horizon--make us focus on the words of Rabbi Yaakov Hillel, Shlita: “It is all about passing the test!

We accordingly provide below several important notes from the Sefer Sha’arei Teshuva, which are intended to begin the process of helping to pass the test, hopefully with flying colors!

 

1. Although one may acknowledge that the path of Teshuva is the correct one, one must also establish safeguards, i.e., make ‘personal fences’ in those areas in which the Yetzer Hara has been entrapping him. One must recognize that sin makes his soul sick, and when a sick person begins to recover he must take special care to avoid those things that could lead to a relapse of the sickness. [1:36]

 

2. If one does not do Teshuva for a particular sin, then the Yetzer Hara is “LaPessach Chatas Roveitz” (Bereishis 4:7)--crouches at his door to bring him to other sins as well. [1:38] Hakhel Note: This is an important insight into understanding averia goreres aveira.

 

3. We must remember and spend some time working out the “aveiros kalos”--the so-called lesser transgressions. We should not look at the “smallness of the transgression” but the Greatness of He Who warned against it.  Additionally, if one persists in a small transgression, the successive accumulation of sin could be analogized to a delicate and weak strand of silk which, through constant redoubling, becomes a stout rope.  Moreover, even as to a “small transgression,” a person can be considered, r’l, a “mumar--an apostate”--in this particular respect(!).  Finally, Rabbeinu Yonah writes, if the Yetzer Hara gains even a “small victory” over a person today, it can gain a greater victory tomorrow--so you must stop him today! [1:38]

 

4. Chapter 51 of Tehillim is known as the Mizmor HaTeshuva--the song of Teshuvah! [1:50]

 

5. In the Mizmor HaTeshuva (Pasuk 15), Dovid HaMelech teaches that part of one’s Teshuvah is to bring back others to Teshuva as well. [ibid.]

 

6. There are 24 things that impede one from doing Teshuva. The first two listed by Rabbeinu Yonah are Rechilus and Lashon Hara(!!) [1:52] Hakhel Note: In another place, Rabbeinu Yonah writes that the sin of Lashon Hara is the equivalent of other sins whose punishment is misas beis din. [3:39]

 

7. One of Hashem’s greatest Chasodim is that He accepts one’s Teshuva even if the Teshuva results from a tzara r’l. [2:2]

 

8. One should expressly acknowledge that the tza’ar or suffering he has is a punishment from Hashem, so that it will serve as a kapparah for him, as Dovid HaMelech exclaims (Tehillim 25:18): “Re’eh Anyi Va’amali V’sah L’chol Chatosai--see my suffering and toil, and forgive my sins”. [2:3] Hakhel Note: It is said in the name of the Apter Rav, Z’tl, that one should recite this Pasuk when feeling suffering. Don’t waste the suffering--let it be a kapparah!

 

9. A father will only bother dealing with a son whom he feels will accept his chastisement, guidance or advice. If Hashem is talking to you--He knows that there is a purpose in doing so.  [2:4]

 

10. Chazal teach (last week’s Pirkei Avos 3:12) that “Kol She’Ma’asav Merubin Meichachmaso…--one whose deeds are greater than his wisdom, will have his wisdom endure.” What does this mean?! How could one’s deeds be greater than his wisdom?! The answer is that one who resolves to act in accordance with what he already knows and what he will learn in the future--is considered by Hashem as having already performed already that which he does not yet even know. A person just needs to commit to study constantly with those who will teach, guide and reprove him. [2:10]

 

11. Each person has been sent by Hashem to fulfill a mission in this world--how could one let himself be distracted from his mission? [2:21]

 

12. A person needs to get to a particular city. If he is told that the way to the city is filled with thorns, thistles and rocks, it will not deter him from going to his destination. However, if he is told that a lion is on the loose on that very way--he would never endeavor to go. One should take this to heart--the Yetzer Hara is not mere thorns and thistles--it is a lion on the loose! [3:4]

 

13. The takanos of our Chachomim are the foundations of Yirah, and vigilance and distancing oneself from possible prohibitions are Mai’ikarei HaMorah--of the essence of fear of Hashem. [3:7]

 

14. The reward of even an easy Mitzvah is great and wondrous, immeasurably so and beyond one’s finite imagination. [3:10]

 

15. The Mitzvah of Bitachon is codified in the Torah with the Pasuk of Tamim Tehiyeh Im Hashem Elokecha. When a person sees that a tzara appears close by--he should reaffirm his belief in Yeshuas Hashem--and trust that he personally will witness the Yeshua--as Dovid HaMelech teaches (Tehillim 85:10):  Ach Karov Lirei’av Yisho”. [3:32]

 

16. The Pasuk (Daniel 2:21) teaches “Yahev Chochmesa L’Chakimin”--Hashem gives wisdom to the wise. This is because Chachomim honor the Torah and treat it with Kedusha! [3:44]

 

[Some of the above English translations have been excerpted from The Gates of Repentance, published by Feldheim]

 

 

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18 Menachem Av

NOW AVAILABLE ON TORAH ANYTIME: Rav Yitzchak Isbee, Zt’ls masterful Chovos Halevovos and Chumash Audio Shiurim are now available on Torahanytime.com:

 

http://www.torahanytime.com/speaker-rss/745/

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SUMMER IMPROVEMENT PROGRAM! We continue our Summer Improvement Program, with simple suggestions, on a weekly basis, in each of the areas of Bein Adam LaMakom, Bein Adam L’Chaveiro, and Bein Adam L’Atzmo. Of course, these are only suggestions--but every person has the opportunity to join with others who will be attempting the same successes. In the alternative, one can chart his own improvement course on a weekly basis as well.

 

WEEK 8--PARASHAS EIKEV

 

Bli neder, at least one time a day during this week, consciously do the following:

 

Bein Adam LaMakom:

In last week’s Parasha, we learned what are among the most essential words in Emunah--Ein Ohd Milevado. It is no coincidence that this lesson is provided to us by the Parasha at this time of year (and at this time in history). Try to slowly recite the paragraph from the Sefer Nefesh HaChaim on Ein Ohd Milevado provided by the following link: http://tinyurl.com/5a6qmy 

 

Bein Adam L’Chaveiro:

As the Navi describes, what Hashem seeks of us is ‘Ahavas Chesed’--not only to perform Chesed when the situation arises, but to love Chesed to the extent that it is incorporated into our character and being. Buy a notebook or establish a file for Chesed items--people to daven for; names to add to the Cholim list in Shul; people to help with Shidduchim; people to talk to; new Chesed ideas; confirmation that you have given daily Tzedaka for the sake of the Geulah of K’lal Yisrael… [Hakhel Note: Please provide us with your additional ideas.]

 

Bein Adam L’Atzmo:

The Sefer Tomer Devorah teaches that we must all be careful that: “Ve’al Yikaneis Zar U’Mevatel Machshavto”--not to let foreign or inappropriate thoughts to infiltrate one’s mind. If one recognizes that a thought of inappropriate jealousy, anger, dislike, desire, or the like has entered one’s mind--he should quickly banish it, replacing it with the thought of a Pasuk, a Mitzvah or a good deed!

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COUNT YOUR WORDS--42!  We may all be familiar with the fact that there is a 42-letter name of Hashem, as most widely evidenced by the abbreviations of Ana B’choach contained in most Siddurim. It is certainly no coincidence (as it never is) that the first Parasha of Shema--beginning with V’Ahavta Es Hashem Elokecha through the end of the Parasha contains 42 words--and that the first bracha of Shemone Esrei also contains 42 words! Hakhel Note: The easy lesson is that each and every word of Tefillah is important and has much deeper meaning to it--if we can have Kavannah at least for the simple meaning, then everything else will come along with it! One who davens with Kavannah, by analogy, thinks he is driving a car--but in actuality is leading a locomotive (or a 747) filled to capacity!

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FROM A READER: “…[I read] where you speak of Nevuzaradan and Nero being the destroyers of both Batei Mikdash, and how they both later ran and converted to Judaism, it struck me that both of their names ka’v’yachol begin with the Hebrew letter Nun -- the same letter that is skipped in Ashrei. 

 

“And then I have to tell you of a Chiddush I thought of a few years ago when I had a seder of reading the Milon -- I saw the word “Nafal” and read its explanations, thought about it for a while, then turned back to the dictionary -- and the very next word was Nifla -- with an aleph added to the letters of Nafal! 

 

“So I made up a story from these two adjacent words -- when a person doesn’t do what HKB”H wants him to, he is likely to fall, which is nafal, because he took Hashem out of his personal equation.  But to make things good again, he should once again add in Hashem, Who is often characterized by the Aleph-- i.e., do Teshuva, work towards Deveikut B’Hashem--and his life will then be Nifla, wonderful -- because he added the Aleph--Hashem-- back into his prior state of “nafal” … and all life is wonderful when you have Hashem as your focus!

 

“So Nevuzaradan and Nero did horrid things to us and to Hashem, but apparently they were wise enough to see the truth, that they were both nun’s and then added the Aleph into their lives, became Jews, and I hope their lives after their conversions were wonderful, full of the Aleph of HKB”H!”

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

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

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NINETEEN WEEKS! We are now in the fourteenth of the nineteen week period prior to Rosh Hashana. In past years, we have proceeded weekly, Bracha by Bracha, through Shemone Esrei with a special emphasis on Kavannah on that week’s Bracha. This week’s Bracha is… V’Lirushalayim Irecha!

 

In the Bracha, we first ask that V’Lirushalayim Irecha BeRachamim Tashuv Hashem bring His Shechinah back to Yerushalayim.  Only then, do we continue with the next step of our plea--U’Vnei Osah BeKarov BeYameinu Binyan Olam. With these words, we ask that it be Hashem Himself who rebuilds Yerushalayim--so that it stand permanently (unlike the first and second Bais Hamikdash eras, when humans were involved in the building and which were only temporary).  Fascinatingly, HaRav Chaim Friedlander, Z’tl, points to the words in Nacheim --Ki Atta Hashem BaAish Hitzata U’VaAish Atta Asid Livnosa…Hashem You destroyed it in fire and with fire You will build it, as well.  We don’t know very well how to build a city with fire--Hashem does.  The Ramchal actually explains that there is a deeper concept that lies here as well:  It is not only that there will be a Yerushalayim above and a Yerushalayim below, but that the new ‘rebuilding’ will include Ruchniyus from above coming down to connect to the Ruchniyus below.  Thus, although there will be a semblance of physical walls around, the Ruchniyus of the heavens above will actually have a place in this worldWe then specifically ask that this incomparable and eternal rebuilding occur B’Karov B’Yameinu.  HaRav Friedlander notes that there are two concepts here.  First, we would like it to happen B’Karov--in the immediate future. Even, however, if it does not occur this hour or this day, we still plea that it happen B’Yameinu--in our days while we are still in Olam Hazeh!

 

In addition to the above note, we provide by the following link additional notes to the Nineteen Brachos for the years 5771 and 5772 http://www.hakhel.info/TefillahArchive.html May we highly recommend the Nineteen Week Program again this year--either based upon your own study (such as by utilizing the Praying with Passion Series (available at www.prayingwithfire.org), the magnificent Rav Schwab on Prayer, the Tefillah Tapes of Rabbi Berel Wein, Shlita, or other wonderful resources), or by utilizing the link provided on a daily basis throughout the week!

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TEFILLAH TEST! We continue our series of questions and answers on Tefillah, based upon the Tefillah Shiurim series given by HaRav Yisroel Dov Webster, Shlita, to women in Boro Park over this past year. One additional note: Some of the answers to the upcoming Halacha Shailos may be specific to women. In all events, one should consult with his Rav or Posek as to any Shailah he may have for a final p’sak. 

 

81. The halacha is that one is not permitted to travel before davening. If so, is it permissible to pick up someone from the airport?

 

82. Is one permitted to greet someone at shul before davening (e.g., someone who came back from Eretz Yisrael that morning?

 

83. May a married woman daven without covering her hair?

 

84. Is one permitted to daven in front of a picture in one’s home ?

 

85. May one daven in front of a mirror?

 

Hakhel Note: CD’s of all of Rabbi Webster’s Shiurim are available by calling Rebbetzin Berl: 718-435-5793.

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