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9 Elul

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



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



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



WHAT IS IN OUR TREASURE CHEST?  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!





A.  The Sha’arei Teshuvah (3:176) actually includes within the category of a leitz (a scoffer) one who does not accept tochacha, reproof.  Indeed, Shlomo HaMelech teaches (Mishlei 9:8):  “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!” 


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


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





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?!



8 Elul

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





A. 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 fools will be broken.” Many of us have at least one friend or acquaintance who we really believe we should not be friends or associate with because of how they act or think or what they say. We should remember that the very first words of Dovid HaMelech in Tehillim teach us that a person is praiseworthy if he avoids this kind of relationship and Shlomo HaMelech teaches us that one basically becomes who he associates with. During this very special time that we are in, one should focus practically upon at least one relationship that requires some separation, and one relationship that requires further bonding. We have the literally Sage advice--let us use it to its fullest!


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


C.  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 leads 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, he 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!


D.  As we 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 appear to know or give other constructive, well-delivered words of advice or guidance, and certainly 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.



TESHUVAH POINTS:  The following are important points on Teshuvah from Rabbi Moshe Tuvia Lieff, Shlita:


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


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


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


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


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


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


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

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

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


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


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



7 Elul

QUESTION OF THE DAY:  Are you keeping a record of your Elul successes?



MELECH HAOLAM!  Reminder that we should be focusing on the words “Melech HaOlam” when making a bracha--after all, if we are readying ourselves for the King of the Universe’s coronation, we dare not come unprepared.  One can also in the course of his Tefillos (especially Shacharis) focus on the word Melech--King--and be astonished at how often we use the term in our daily davening.  Indeed, if we would appreciate how we stand before the King as we pray every day, when we proclaim Hashem’s Malchus over the world on Rosh Hashana--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....



A LETTER TO HIS SON:  From HaRav Dessler, Z’tl, in a letter to his son in 5695:  “…My dear son, please remember what is before you, the Day of Judgment, which requires great preparation.  You must daven from the depths of the heart to arouse Rachmei Shomayim (Mercy from Heaven) that we merit Heavenly Assistance, and that Hashem gives us success in attaining Teshuvah from the depths of the heart, for this is the ikar (essence) through which we can emerge innocent in justice B’ezras Hashem. (Michtav M’Eliyahu Volume 4, page 313).”


Remember, there are no limits to what we can accomplish with Siyata D’Shmaya, and just one sincere Tefillah can get us there!



WHAT A WARM GESTURE! The following email was sent by the father of a Kallah a few days before the chuppah: “If anyone would like to submit names for shidduchim, parnassah, refuah, chinuch habanim or any other issue for my daughter to be mispallel under the chupah, please reply to this email.”


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





1.  Because we all live in a fast-paced world (and the pace keeps on getting faster and faster, as we race towards Moshiach’s times), we may look for the easiest or “more convenient” place to daven or to do a mitzvah, even if it is not necessarily the nicest or optimal way of performing the mitzvah.  For instance, one may go “to the shul around the corner” to “catch” a Maariv, even though one wouldn’t consider it to be his shul, and wouldn’t think of davening there on a Shabbos morning or on a regular basis without good reason.  Similarly, one may choose to call or visit a person not feeling well, or perform the mitzvah of nichum aveilim at a time which best suits the visitor’s schedule, as opposed to a time where the visit is really more needed or meaningful.  Consciously choosing to avoid the “most convenient” way of performing a Mitzvah is a beautiful way of demonstrating your belief that Hashem is in charge of the World, because you are fulfilling the teaching of Chazal: “Asei Ritzono K’Rtzonecha--treat His will as if it were your own will…” (Avos 2:4)


2.  As we are caught up in straightening out our relationship with Hashem (Bein Odom L’Makom) in Elul, all of the damage to people and property by the recent “natural disasters” could serve as a reminder to us to remember our Bein Odom LeChaveiro, as well.  In this area we have two basic suggestions:


a.  As we have noted previously, be sure to look for and sincerely compliment at least one family member or close friend or associate every day, and, perhaps, every night--at least this month!


b.  Shake off and eliminate any vestige of the “Nirgan” within you.  What do we mean by “Nirgan”?  Actually, it is someone who views people and situations negatively to the extent that he regularly judges people “L’Chaf Chov--as having done something wrong”--and even if they have done something right, it must have been for the wrong reasons.  We are constantly judging people in our daily life--family, friends, and acquaintances.  When you catch yourself and realize that you are in the process of judging someone--make the conscious decision--”I am not going to be a Nirgan!”


3.  Make it a habit, after Shacharis, Mincha and Maariv to think about one thing that happened within the last few hours that you can correct, fix or change--and how you will behave or conduct yourself next time--so that if it happens again your response will be better or more appropriate.  Even if it happened to someone else--you can learn and grow from the experience (it is said that a wise person learns from the mistakes of others).  With this special focus on concern and caring for what is going on around you, you will be fulfilling the order of the day--thought, improvement and change.





1.  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!


2.  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.


3.  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?!”


4.  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!



6 Elul

AMEN CONTEST FOR CHILDREN: By the following link, we provide an Amen contest for children as a zechus for two young girls injured in a recent major car accident http://tinyurl.com/ydcd5fvm



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 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.



REMINDER ABOUT “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]





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 5778. 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”!






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 not so happy events that occurred in 5777.  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 5778.



3 Elul

DON’T MISS THE GREAT OPPORTUNITY! 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!




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)!








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. Rabbi Dov Brezak, Shlita, teaches that an absolutely wonderful activity for the Leil Shabbos table is to go around asking each person for something, no matter how small or big, that he was grateful for during the week. Over time, everyone’s mindset--and approach to life--should become more and more positive.


D. 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).


E. 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).


F. 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).


G. 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). 


H. 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).





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


B. 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.” Why 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!


C. 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!





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 of 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 one 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!





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, based upon the Pasuk of VeLo Yireh Becha Ervas Davar, 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!



2 Elul

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!”





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.  It can be found at the following link:  http://www.hakhel.info/archivesPublicService/ViduyChidah.pdf  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 c’v the punishment can be so severe.  Tznius applies not only to women and older girls, but to men, boys and younger girls as well.  Family members and friends (and especially the heads of households) are responsible and duty bound to guide their relatives and friends in these areas which so distinguish and set apart the Jewish way of life.


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



1 Elul

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!



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.”



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). 



30 DAYS! 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 Bishuva--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 Bishuva!”  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-then 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!





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 Kedosh 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 sender 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.



30 Menachem Av

NEW TEHILLIM: As we approach Elul, we recognize that it is a time of change. Perhaps one can purchase a new Sefer Tehillim today from which he will recite his daily Kepitelech--hopefully with a form of newfound Kavannah!



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





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


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


3.  The Gerrer Rebbe (the Sefas Emes) wrote that it is ‘bli safek, without doubt that Min HaShamayim a special hisorerus is placed within people to do Teshuva in 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 Kepital of Tehillim after studying Mussar--in order for the hisorerus to take hold in the person.



FOUR STRAIGHTFORWARD SUGGESTIONS:  We provide below four straightforward suggestions for the upcoming month (and hopefully beyond!), also based upon the Sefer Kedosh Elul:


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


2.  Besides reciting the Pesukim relevant to Elul such as “Ani LeDodi VeDodi Li”, “Umal Hashem Elokecha Es Livavecha…” from time to time during the day, one should be especially careful in reciting his “Me’ah Brachos --the one hundred brachos” one (in any event) recites throughout the day with an elevated level of Kavannah and feeling.


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


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



L’DOVID:  During the month of Elul, we strive to come closer to Hashem in preparation for the Yomim Noraim.  In fact, we add Tehillim Chapter 27 (“L’Dovid Hashem Ori VeYishi”) beginning tonight, on the first day of Elul.  We all know that the word “Ori” refers to Rosh Hashana, which is light, and the word “Yishi” refers to Yom Kippur, which is salvation.  This being said, what word in L’Dovid refers to 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. 


Hakhel Note:  In Shulchan Aruch, Orach Chayim 1:1, the Rema states that “Shivisi Hashem Lenegdi Somid”—placing Hashem before me at all times is a ma’ale of tzaddikim. The Vilna Gaon there notes that this is the ma’ale of tzaddikim, meaning that Yiras Hashem is the sole element that differentiates between the tzaddik, the righteous, and those who are not tzaddikim. Perhaps the message of the Rema, by stating this at the outset of the Shulchan Aruch (which is a halacha and not a 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.


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


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


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



29 Menachem Av




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 the month of Elul, 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 for Elul--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!


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



REMINDER--STARTS THIS WEDNESDAY! 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 of Elul!



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



THE CHOFETZ CHAIM’S ADVICE: In a very father-like fashion, the Chofetz Chaim writes that once a person realizes that he has not always guarded his tongue in the way he should--it is not all over. Rather, one should strengthen himself, for there is much life still to be lived. The Mashal he gives is to a watchman who has been hired to guard a precious vineyard for the entire summer, but the watchman fails to do so for a while, and a portion of the vineyard is breached, with many bunches of grapes stolen. Should the watchman give up on the rest of the vineyard? Certainly not! To the contrary, the thinking person realizes that he should mend the breaches and be vigilant to guard the vineyard from any further loss. The way a person can begin to mend the breaches and prevent further losses of Lashon Hara, the Chofetz Chaim continues, is by avoiding  groups or individuals who are not really careful with their speech, and by being especially careful not to speak about people unless he is sure that the Halacha so permits. If a person acts to fix his past--it can be said about him, the Chofetz Chaim concludes: “Fortunate are his older years, which bring forgiveness to his younger ones!” (Sukkah 53A)



RACHAMIM B’DIN:  Last week, we pointed out that Hashem gives us the opportunity to exhibit Rachamim, so that He can act B’Rachamim with us. Oh, how we need Rachamim B’Din in these frightening days!! A meaningful and doable undertaking bli neder is to take some kind of action on a daily basis--for someone or something less fortunate than you--and state V’Rachamav Ahl Kol Ma’asav--Hashem’s mercy is on all of His creatures. By doing so, you are demonstrating--on a daily basis--that you too want to emulate the ways of Hashem. This then will bring mercy into the world on a Middah K’neged Middah basis. Whether it be by putting out a bit of food for a cat or dog on the street--to giving Chizuk or monetarily helping someone who you might not otherwise--to helping someone burdened or overburdened become less burdened…. In all of these ways, one can bring more mercy into the world…for us all!



26 Menachem Av

OUR PERSONAL RESPONSE! With terrorist threats around us, we must take a special look inward as to what each and every one of us can do.  We come back to the three stalwarts of our existence--Torah, Tefillah, and Gemilas Chesed. 


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


Tefillah-- in the Bracha of V’Lamalshinim in Shemone Esrei we had noted that the word V’Hazeidim refers to those who seek us harm.  There is certainly a place for us to daven for Hashem to do the following to the evildoers:  Se’aker, Seshaber, Semager V’Sachinah --to uproot, smash, throw down, and humble the Zeidim


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


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



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.”



CONTINUING THIS MOTZAEI SHABBOS!  Hakhel, in conjunction with the Chofetz Chaim Heritage Foundation, will be continuing with its free Motzaei Shabbos Torah Video Series in Flatbush, this Motzaei Shabbos, August 19th, and continuing through next Motzaei Shabbos.  The Series is part of a joint effort with over 70 communities and colonies throughout the United States and Canada.  This week’s Shiur will be Painting My World Positive by Rabbi Jonathon Rietti and Rabbi Dov Brezak and will begin at 10:00P.M.  Host Location: Agudath Israel Bais Binyomin, 2913 Avenue L. Free Admission, for Men and Women.  For more information please see the following link http://tinyurl.com/y76vqxdc



FROM A READER: GEARING UP FOR ELUL - TIPS AND INSIGHTS INTO TESHUVA:  A new round of Middos Challenges will begin this Sunday, just in time for Elul!


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AS AV DRAWS TO A CLOSE: As Chodesh Av will shortly leave us, we must now strengthen our resolve not to let the lessons that we have learned ebb away. 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 (Tehillem 84:3) ...My soul yearns, indeed it pines for the courtyards of Hashem” 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.


When 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 what we really need--and how desperately we need it! 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 Mesillas Yeshorim (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!





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


2. 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 distracted 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, at that moment, it was not as 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.).



TZEDAKA! As previously mentioned, it is not by ‘sheer coincidence ‘that the Torah reminds us of the Tzedaka 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.”




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



QUESTION:  If one intended to give Tzedaka 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 Tzedaka 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 Tzedaka.


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

ANSWER:  If the Gabbai Tzedaka 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 Tzedaka to be “Ma’avir Es Ro’ah HaGezeirah?” 

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


QUESTION:  If one gives money on a credit card or bank card which deducts fees before giving the balance to Tzedaka, or if the collector himself takes off a percentage, is it considered that the donor  gave the full amount to Tzedaka, 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 Tzedaka’ 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 Tzedaka’.


QUESTION:  If a poor person asks you for Tzedaka 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!  



ADDITIONAL NOTES ON TZEDAKA:  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!





“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 Tzedaka 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).”



PLEASE REFLECT--AND ACT! 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!



HARAV AVROHOM PAM, Z’TL:  Sunday, 28 Menachem Av, is the Yahrzeit of HaRav Avrohom Pam, Z’tl.  HaRav Pam once explained how Hashem can be both a Tzaddik and a Chassid at the same time (as we recite in Ashrei daily “Tzaddik Hashem Bechol…V’Chosid Bechol”), even though ‘Tzaddik’ implies acting in accordance with the letter of the law and ‘Chassid’ implies going beyond the letter of the law.  The solution to this apparent paradox, HaRav Pam explained, is found in the proper understanding of a Pasuk in this week’s 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.


25 Menachem Av

FINISH LINE!: Rebbi Eliyahu Schneider, Shlita, points to runners who, as they reach the finish line, attempt one last heroic and gallant effort to end the race in the most favorable position possible--perhaps even in first place. It appears, continues Rabbi Schneider, that the Yetzer Hara is now in something like his ‘finish line mad-dash’--as he scurries to create unparalleled nisyonos for our generation--nisyonos that even middle-aged people could never have dreamed would exist when they were younger. Rather than falling prey to the great temptations and falling into the trap that the nations of the world have already deeply descended into, we MUST INSTEAD provide our own ‘finish line’ dash--which instead of impeding the Geulah, has the powerful ability to bring it about much, and perhaps much, much, more quickly! Hakhel Note:  Who amongst us is willing to bli neder commit for the month of Elul not to look at his cell phone from the time he enters the front door of his Shul to the time he walks out of the same front door?  Women can bli neder take a parallel commitment….



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 [we know who they are] 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! 



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!



IT’S WORTH THE VISIT! 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 alters and sacrifice wherever they may be.  Rather, we will have only the Mizbeach in the Beis HaMikdash with which to offer Karbonos to Hashem (Devorim 12:13, 14).  At first blush, this is difficult to understand.  After all, “Meloh Kol Ha’aretz Kevodo--Hashem’s glory and presence is everywhere.”  Indeed, another way we refer to Hashem is HaMakom--because He is indeed everywhere.  If so, why can’t we come close to Him with a korbon anywhere?  Moreover, what does the Jew in Bavel, in Amsterdam, in British Columbia, in Buenos Aires or even in Tel Aviv do--he can’t be in the Beis Hamikdash in an instant.  Why can’t he grow spiritually with a spiritual tool in his own backyard?  It would appear that for all that would be gained with a local connection to Hashem, the Torah is teaching us that more would, in fact, be lost.  As 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 it worth some serious davening over?  The Parasha is reminding us!



THE MITZVOS 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.


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!



24 Menachem Av

TREAT YOURSELF TO A BETTER NIGHTTIME SNACK! So the cereal label reads….  At night, when we have a few (albeit) tired moments for ourselves, we have the opportunity in addition to perhaps giving our body a treat for its hard work during the day, to give our Neshama a gift for its patiently waiting for us to spend a few moments of quality time with ourselves. Whether it be after Ma’ariv, at a set time (such as 11:00PM), or before retiring to bed, we should attempt to provide some special nourishment to our Neshama by studying a different peirush on the Parasha, a new Sefer, reading the biography of a Gadol, or the like, in order to ignite, inspire and uplift ourselves for the rest of the evening and the coming day. Treat yourself!



LET US STRETCH OUT OUR HAND TO HASHEM! The Zohar (to Parashas Balak) brings from Rebbi Abba that there are three types of Tefillos: Tefillah L’Moshe (Tehillim 90), Tefillah L’Dovid (Tehillim 86) and Tefillah L’Ani (Tehillim 102). Of the three Tefillos, which is the most chashuv? It is that of the Ani, of the poor person, for his heart is most broken and “Karov Hashem L’Nishbirei Lev--Hashem is close to those who have a broken heart”.  When the Ani davens, Hashem allows his Tefillos to rise directly to Him. Dovid HaMelech realized that the windows and gates of heaven are open for the Ani, and he accordingly took off his crown and sat on the earth as a poor person and exclaimed (Tehillim 86:1):  “Hateh Hashem Aznecha Aneini Key Ani V’Evyon Ahni”. The great lesson for each and every person to learn is to view himself as an Ani before HaKadosh Baruch Hu in Tefillah--knowing that each and every thing is a gift from Hashem, nothing is to be taken for granted--and that Hashem, and Hashem only is the Source of all--from the smallest speck of salt to Dovid HaMelech’s palace in Yerushalayim. If one does so, his Tefillos can pass through all ostensible barriers, and arrive at the heavenly throne!



BE VERY CAREFUL! 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. One must simply be exceedingly, exceedingly, careful.



NO UNDUE DISTRESS: As we noted, yesterday was the Steipeler’s Yahrzeit. A reader had pointed us to one (of the thousands) of the profound lessons from the Steipeler, with the following story found in the sefer The Rosh Yeshivah Remembers (Artscroll, p.307):  “One time, when an additional volume of Kehilas Yaakov was published, the printer (who was anonymous) neglected to put the Steipeler’s address in one of the first pages of the Sefer. The Steipeler lamented: ‘I am so disappointed--How will the public know where I live so that they can buy a copy (it was not sold in Seforim Stores)?’  Someone who heard tried to console him--‘Everyone knows where the Rav lives--don’t worry!’  The Steipeler remained disturbed: ‘The printing of the entire sefer is not worth it for me if it causes even one person to have to trouble himself to search for my address!’”  Hakhel Note:  Causing another person some excess effort or ‘trouble’ was ‘not worth’ even a Sefer as wonderous as the Kehilas Yaakov--this was the Steipeler’s P’sak.  How we can learn from this to value the time, patience and efforts of another--and not cause them any undue stress or distress.  Can we act like the Steipeler --at least one conscious time a day?!



FROM THE CHOFETZ CHAIM: The following teachings are excerpted from the Sefer Chofetz Chaim: Middos U’Mitzvos (Hebrew):


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


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


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


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



TZEDAKA LESSONS This week’s Parasha contains several Mitzvos relating to Tzedaka, the proper giving of charity. As we have now moved within eight (8)! days of Chodesh Elul, the Days of Mercy, it is important for us to know how we best can demonstrate mercy to others, and actually put this mercy into actual practice. It is not by ‘sheer coincidence’ that the Torah reminds us of the Tzedakah imperative at this time. As Chazal teach--even a poor person must give tzedaka (Gittin 7B). We provide below several important points relating to the mitzvah of Tzedaka from the Sefer Mi’el Tzedakah and the Sefer Pele Yoetz:


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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



23 Menachem Av





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 notKochi V’Otzem Yadi” or “Thank You Hashem!”



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 the next week--you will finish this Sefer on Teshuvah--in the Aseres Yemei Teshuvah! What a demonstration of your sincere, reasoned dedication to Teshuvah!



TOMID EINEI HASHEM ELOKECHA BAH: In last week’s Parasha, the Torah states the following about Eretz Yisrael (Devorim 11:12): “Eretz Asher Hashem Elokecha Doresh Osa Tomid Einei Hashem Elokecha Bah--a land that Hashem seeks out, the eyes of Hashem are always upon it….” We know from the Mitzvah of V’Halachta Bidrachav that we are duty bound to follow the Middos of Hashem. We suggest that the Torah is teaching us that if Hashem always seeks out and places a special emphasis and focus on Eretz Yisrael--so too must we. This is Hashem’s will, this is Hashem’s instruction to, and expectation of us!



THE YAHRZEIT OF THE STEIPELER GAON, Z’TL: Today is the Yahrzeit of the Steipeler Gaon, Z’tl, whose righteousness and Ahavas Yisrael were already legendary in his own time. The following points and pointers are excerpted from the Leket Hanhagos L’Ben Torah, containing excerpts from the teachings of the Steipeler Gaon, Z’tl:


A.  When one feels burdened or even overburdened by Nisyonos and Tirdos, he must recognize that it is a time to daven to Hashem that he be saved from his tzaros.  The place to do this is by a short Tefillah in Elokai Neztor after Yiheyu LeRatzon.  Hakhel Note:  The Steipeler adds that the same is true for one who feels overcome by his Yetzer Hara, and that the person should sincerely ask Hashem:  “HaRachaman Hu Yatzileini MiYetzer Hara”, “Mimidos Ra’os” or “Mimachshavos Ra’os”--everyone according to his situation.  The key, writes the Steipeler, is that one feel humility and submission--as a Mevakeish mammash, and not as one merely reciting words.  Final Note:  The Steipeler also adds that one should daven for other matters of Ruchniyus: that he attain Mesikus HaTorah, that he obtain a Chaver Tov VeHagun, and/or that he be zoche to Siyata DeShemaya.  Any Tefillah made from the depths of the heart, he concludes, will not be returned empty handed.


B.  The Ikar Shoresh of all aveiros is Ga’avah--for through arrogance one distances himself from the light of Kedusha and the light of the Shechina.  One should learn mussar to thwart Ga’avah.  When one recognizes that all of his wisdom and abilities are Hashem’s, and that they have only been granted to him on a long-term loan, a person will be blessed with a Ruach Taharah and true Emunah.


C.  The Ikar HaDerech to attain Ahavas Hashem is through Hakaras HaTov. 


D.  Yissurim which come upon a person because of his Torah study or because of his involvement in Mitzvos, are not only a Mizbe’ach Kapparah (as are all other Yissurim)--but are also in and of themselves a Zechus Norah VeAyom--and are considered it is as if one offered his soul to HaKadosh Baruch Hu.


E.  Added Hishtadlus will not help at all for one to attain more than was already decreed for him on Rosh Hashana.  This is part of the basic Emunah of HaKol Bidei Shomyaim.


F.  In Olam Haba the key is not “Mi Sheyada Harbeh in Olam Hazeh” but “Mi Sheyaga in Olam Hazeh”--it is the latter who will attain Sheleimus HaTorah in Olam Haba.





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


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


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


B. 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!


C. 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!


D . 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.  In a little more 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!



22 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.




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!”



REMEMBER! Every day in Ashrei, three times a day, we recite the Pasuk “Zecher Rav Tuvecha Yabi’u…--a recollection of Your abundant goodness they will utter.” HaRav Avigdor Miller, Z’tl, notes that this Pasuk teaches us that we are not only instructed to remember the Churban (Zecher L’Churban)--but that we must also remember the abundant goodness that Hashem performs for us on a daily basis. Perhaps at the very least--as we recite the Pasuk, we should recall a new and different kindness of Hashem to us.



TWO CHESED QUESTIONS: We present below two Chesed questions from the  Sefer Chashukei Chemed  by HaRav Yitzchok Zilberstein, Shlita:


A.       What is a more preferred merit for someone to achieve an “Iluy Neshama” for a departed relative(s)  —to have a Sefer Torah written in their zechus-- or establish a Gemach?


Answer: HaRav Elyashiv, Z'tl, rules that the mitzvah of writing a Sefer Torah is a great Mitzvah, but is fulfilled with its one-time writing. On the other hand, one fulfills a Mitzvas Asei every time his Gemach lends out money. Accordingly, this would appear to be a greater zechus—especially  when the Gemach lends out money to  Bnei Torah-- which results in more Torah being studied as well!


B.       Is it a mitzvah to visit a choleh, who is in a coma, especially if the doctors claim that it is not reversible?


Answer: Yes, for even if you seemingly cannot cheer him up or assist him with his needs, there is still a mitzvah of Bikur Cholim. With respect to davening for the choleh, which is otherwise an essential aspect of Bikur Cholim—one must first consult with the choleh's  family who will know what to be mispallel for. In all events, the fact that the hospital  staff sees  that visitors care ,  will  bring them to treat the choleh with better care. Moreover, we really don’t know what the choleh understands, how the visit makes him feel, and what your visit really accomplishes.


Hakhel Note: It is said that the Chasam Sofer was asked: How could Hashem 'delay' reward for the Mitzvos that we do until Olam Haba? Isn’t there a seemingly related Mitzvah in the Torah for a Ba'al HaBayis not to delay payment to his workers?! The Chasam Sofer answered that our Mitzvah may not, in fact, be completed by its mere physical performance on a particular day or at a given or set time, because the  ramifications and results, the  emanations  and after-effects of the Mitzvah can  and do very well continue. Accordingly, only when we finally get to Olam Haba 120 years later can we receive the true, actual and  full payment for our accomplishment!



FROM THE CHAZON ISH: The following is excerpted from the Sefer Emunah U’Bitachon of the Chazon Ish, Z’tl, as meaningfully translated under the title Faith and Trust, by Rabbi Yaakov Goldstein, Shlita:


“The Teachers of Morals have declared the ways of perfecting character traits a chapter in itself in the discipline of perfecting one's service of Hashem, and have even worked on breaking up the traits into separate ones such as anger, pride, craving, love of honor, love of dispute, vengefulness, spite etc. As this system of thinking has become common, many people have become convinced that perfection is made up of different parts. True, this is so when it comes to illness of the spirit, and when it comes to finding ways to combat corrupting elements, but at the root of all the character traits there is only one good trait and one bad one. The bad trait is that of leaving natural life to its natural processes. If a person makes no efforts to the contrary, he will become skilled in all the bad traits. He will be irascible, vengeful, prideful etc. - all to the extreme. He will not lack even one of the bad traits enumerated by the sages.


The good trait is the absolute determination to put moral feeling above that of desire, and from that starting point a person can fight against all the bad traits together. This determination cannot be partial, for a person whose intellect and high quality of soul have awakened him and influenced him to choose the good - when he is feeling elevated he strives for endless good and cannot be satisfied with the good he does. He sees in front of him an eternal and infinite world, and hates all the bad traits together.


Indeed, if we sometimes find individuals whose various traits are not on equal footing, as we have seen that a person might not be led astray by his desire for delectable foods, but will be influenced by love of honor and so on, the reason for this does not lie in his essence and is not due to his original nature being in favor of only one trait, but rather to the fact that since this war is extremely difficult, complete victory is not guaranteed. Rather, it is a lifelong struggle. This person has not yet reached a high level of achievement; all he can do is withstand the easier tests and not the greater ones. The tests themselves differ from person to person, though the two people might be of the same age and on the same general level. One may have a nature tending more towards anger than towards cravings for food, and therefore his refraining from delicacies precedes his being able to refrain from anger. In a person who tends more towards indulging in delicacies than towards getting angry, refraining from anger will precede refraining from such foods, and so on with other traits. Usually, these people are not among those who are struggling to achieve perfection as they should be, but rather are naturally inclined to the partial good that is convenient to them, leaving the rest to human nature - which is like that of a wild beast.”


Hakhel Note: What an essential point to reflect upon!



19 Menachem Av

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

Hakhel Note:  As the month of Elul is fast approaching--maybe we can begin this wonderful exercise today--and hopefully end up billionaires--by this time next year! 





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


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


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


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



MORE THAN BENTSCHING!:  This week’s Parasha, Eikev, is not limited to the Mitzvah of Bentsching--although certainly it would have been enough!.


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


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


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





1. 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.


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


3. The Sefas Emes notes that the first word of the second 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!


4. 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!


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


6. The Parasha teaches that if we listen to the Torah and follow its Mitzvos, we will be rewarded with “Yoreh U’Malkosh”--autumn rain and spring rain--so that we have full and complete harvests.  In the Siddur Avnei Eliyahu, however, the G’ra teaches that “Yoreh U’Malkosh” refers to Nevuah and Ruach Hakodesh, and that “Degonecha Tiroshecha Veyitzhorecha” refers to Chochma, Binah and Da’as.

Hakhel Note:  The G’ra crystallizes for us that Hashem’s reward goes way beyond rain in its proper time, food and parnassah--which are certainly incredible miracles in and of themselves!


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


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


9. 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 Haba 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!


10. We review several basic reminders regarding the Mitzvah of Mezuzah:


      (a)  The Shulchan Aruch (and Aruch HaShulchan) Yorah Deah 291:1) rules that Mezuzos in homes should be checked once every 3 1/2 years.  We note that the rule is not twice in seven years as may be understood by some--but once in 3 1/2 years--so one should not wait beyond that point


        (b)  The Rema (Yorah Deah 285:2) brings the now famous Maharil that “one who leaves his home should place his hand on the Mezuza and say the posuk of Hashem Yishmor Tzeisi U’voee Meatah V’ad Olam, and when one enters, he should place his hand on the Mezuza.”  In fact, according to the Arizal, the middle finger should be placed on the Mezuza, then kissed and the person should pray to Hashem, as the Al-mighty, to protect him (Birkei Yosef 285).  For further beautiful hanhagos relating to what to do when approaching the Mezuzah, see Kitzur Shulchan Aruch 11:23,24, Chayei Odom 15:1 and Aruch HaShulchan Yorah Deah 285.  Hakhel Note:  HaRav Chaim Kanievsky, Shlita, notes that he observed that the Chazon Ish (at least in his older years) would look at the Mezuzah, rather than touch it, as he entered and exited, because by looking at it, his mind was also directed to the Mezuzah, its content and its meaning.  


         (c)  If one is taking down his Mezuzos to check, and they will be down overnight, one is required to make a bracha when putting back up the Mezuzos (Aruch Hashulchan 289:4, although some hold that no bracha is made in the case where there is only one mezuzah which is to be removed overnight and checked).  One should endeavor not to leave his house overnight without the shemira of Mezuza.  There may be a Mezuza Gemach in your community. If not, you may want to start one.  In the absence of a Gemach, find a qualified sofer who makes “house calls,” or urge your sofer to provide “same-day service.”


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



A TIMELY THOUGHT!  In the second Parasha of Shema, we also read “Hishameru Lachem, Pen Yifte Levavchem V’Sartem--beware for yourselves lest your heart be seduced and you turn astray and serve gods of others.”  Rashi, in explaining the word “V’Sartem--and you turn astray”--writes that this means that you turn away from the study of Torah; and once you turn from Torah you are close to worshipping Avoda Zara.  Upon only a moment’s reflection, the Torah seems to be taking a very big leap--once one does not study Torah, he is but a step away from idol worship.  However, as we all know, the Yetzer Hora doesn’t seem to work this way.  He works on you slowly and deliberately, nibbling away daily and weekly to make sure that his negative influence grows steadily, so that the changes worked upon you actually stick.  So how here does the Torah describe the jump from lack of Torah study to idol worship (and its contemporary equivalents) so swiftly and conclusively?


The Chofetz Chaim provides a remarkable insight to explain.  Imagine two countries at war.  One day, one country wins a battle, the next day the other country wins a battle, and the battles go back and forth as the war continues.  These back-and-forth victories can only be true and continue if one side grabs a certain stronghold, the other captures some soldiers, the first wins an air battle, the second wins a tank battle, etc.  However, if on day one, one side captures all the ammunition of the other side, then the war, for all intents and purposes, is over.  The second side has nothing with which to do battle.


The Chofetz Chaim says that our Pasuk teaches us the same lesson in a powerful, spiritual way.  If a person forsakes the study of Torah (each man and woman, elder and child, in accordance with his /her own position), he has lost all of his ammunition to the Yetzer Hora.  He has lost the war, because he has nothing to fight back with.  Thus, he immediately leaps to complete defeat--to the opposite extreme of Avoda Zara.


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


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


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


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



18 Menachem Av

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 today (...especially if you read the Parashas HaMann on the Tuesday of Parashas Beshalach).  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 the Ikar HaYirah--the Essence of Yiras Shomayim is Lizaheir MaiHasefeikos  Vesheloh La’asos HaMitzvos Ahl Derech Hahergel--to stay clear of doubtful actions and not to do Mitzvos out of habit.’ One should apply this definition whenever he can--and see how he climbs the ladder of Yiras Shomayim!



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



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



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



ALL FROM THIS WEEK’S PEREK! At the outset of this week’s Perek (Avos 5:2), Chazal teach --that there were ten generations between Adom HaRishon and Noach in order for us to understand the degree of Hashem’s Erech Apayim, Hashem’s patience--for ten generations acted wickedly before Hashem brought the Mabul to the world.  The very next Mishna (5:3) then continues that there were ten generations from Noach to Avrohom Avinu--so that we could, once again, see the degree of Hashem’s patience, in forestalling taking a Mabul-kind of action against the people until Avrohom Avinu came and single-handedly saved the world.  There are at least two profound lessons to be derived from the juxtaposition of these two Mishnayos.  First, if we see Hashem’s great patience--in forbearing punishment for ten generations before bringing the flood--why do we need to hear about His forestalling for the same number of generations the second time as well? What does it add for us? The answer provides us with a significant instruction for daily life.  Even if one has worked very hard at controlling himself, at building his patience, at being calm and not angered, there may come a time with respect to a particular person or event in which he fails to restrain himself, and lets out his frustration on a particular person or the people around him. Once this has occurred, one can well rationalize that his Middah of Erech Apayim can (and perhaps even should!) in the future be compromised as to that person or those people--for, after all, he has already tried to be complacent and accepting, tolerant and calm with them, and his attempt at composure and equanimity had failed because the conduct or the situation could simply be tolerated no longer.  Such could be the rationale of an employer vis-à-vis a particular employee, a husband regarding his wife (or vice versa), a parent with his child, a customer with her cleaning help or her customer service representative, or between two students, two neighbors or two friends.  The Mishna in Avos, however, has us appreciate how Hashem Himself dealt with a very similar situation.  After ten generations of waiting, Hashem had to bring a flood on the world to allow the world to start again rather than self-destruct forever.  If, after the flood, the people reverted to evil again --one would think they would have only a generation’s chance or two--but ten generations again?!  They had already proven themselves to be undeserving, ungracious and intolerable.  There was no need to exhibit patience and control to the same degree the second time as the first time! After all, this was a repeat offender!  No, says Hashem, whose Middos it is our life’s goal to emulate, one’s patience is not peeled away and worn thin because of a past history, frustration, exasperating annoyance, an irritating personality or irksome manner.  Rather, the same *ten* generation wait the first time must be true the second time as well.  The prize for the Erech Apayim--for the unrelenting perseverance, for not succumbing to all the evil perpetrated by him or her--them or they--was Avrohom Avinu who saved not only his generation but the world and world history forever. It is no coincidence (as it never is) that this lesson appears and reverberates particularly at this time of year, when we must bone-up on our ability to be Ma’avir on our Middos--to overcome the situations and events, personalities and people who or which have proven themselves to be difficult, thorny, trying , exasperating and even infuriating.  Even if the Mabul did come--Hashem teaches us that we must start again at generation one the next time around as well--impatience does not get accelerated, and composure must reign--just as it did the first time!


Hakhel Note:  Perhaps the *ten* generations are the source for the advice to *count to ten* before saying something that you may regret, taking action that is usually not part of your personality or otherwise losing your mental processes, poise or self-control.  Try starting by giving everyone a second chance this week (if you have to start somewhere--start with family)--for by having done so, you will have given yourself a second chance as well!


We mentioned that there is a second important lesson in these Mishnayos as well.  It is the significance of one singular individual--twenty generations had passed, with thousands, perhaps hundreds of thousands, perhaps millions of people-and all of this was worth it for Avrohom Avinu to result.  Indeed, as the second Mishna we referred to above concludes”...and Avrohom Avinu came and received the reward of them all.”  Yes, Avrohom Avinu and his deeds were truly remarkable, extraordinary and outstanding.  But what, really, does that have to do with us--he was Avrohom --one of the greatest personages to have ever lived?!  Chazal, however, dispel this mistaken notion by teaching us that each person is ‘obligated’ to say when will my deeds reach the deeds of my forefathers, specifically enumerating Avrohom, Yitzchak and Yaakov (i.e., not just your forefathers of two or three hundred years ago).  Moreover, we are taught that our Avos went through what they did to provide us with the spiritual DNA to survive.  It is thus the sacrifice of Avrohom and Yitzchak at the Akeida that spurred our Mesirus Nefesh throughout the generations, and the tribulations and Galus of Yaakov with Lavan, Esav and Paroh which has fortified us for the onslaught of the nations to this very day.  We are, and must continue to be, the Avos in later-on-in-history form.  By this, we do not mean at all to be theoretical and lofty.  Rav Eliyahu Roman, Shlita points out from his Rebbe, HaRav Aharon Kotler, Z’tl, that what made the Avos who they were was there constant striving for growth and improvement.  Others around them could actually have been decent as well--but may have looked at the people that were to their right or left, and felt self-satisfied and complacent with their actions, with their speech, and with their deeds.  Avrohom Avinu, however, taught that if you learn two Halachos a day in the Sefer Chofetz Chaim, perhaps you can also grow by doing a comparable amount in the Sefer Shmiras Halashon, or in another sefer relating to Ona’as Devorim or other Bain Odom Lechaveiro. He taught that if you have improved your bracha recitation you should encourage others to do so as well, and that if you learned something you had not heard of before, you should think about how to best apply that knowledge, rather than close the book, satisfied that the knowledge had once entered your mind.  He taught that all of the dirt that was being sifted through was in reality all gold dust--but that it took the person who really wanted the gold to realize it. He taught us to appreciate life--by getting better and better at it as we got older.  That is why the Torah describes that Avrohom was “Ba Bayomim--coming with days”--for this day was better than the day before, which was better than the day before.


Let us take the lessons that our Avos teach us in Pirkei Avos--and we too can be like the progenitor of all of our Avos--Avrohom Avinu--as we are Ba Bayomim-- with the new, different and wonderful accomplishments of each and every day!



17 Menachem Av




ADVICE FROM THE CHOFETZ CHAIM: The Chofetz Chaim writes that once one realizes that he has done something wrong, he should immediately have charatah and do Teshuvah for it. Through this, the Chofetz Chaim continues, one will not fall into yeiush--despair, for he recognizes that his misdeeds can be corrected. One must always remember that Hashem is not looking to ‘catch’ a person--rather, Hashem is an “Oheiv Chesed V’Rotzeh L’Zakos L’Briyosav”. Yes, Hashem is All-Knowing. Nevertheless--He wants us find our Zechusim and perform Chesed on our behalf!



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!  The Mishna Brurah (122:8) notes that there are 42 letters in the passuk “Yihiyu Leratzon Imrei Fi...”  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!



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?



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?



TORAH STUDY: As the Fifteenth of Av has passed, Chazal urge us to spend more time with Torah study, with the longer nights. A Maggid Shiur pointed out that ultimately, on the Fifteenth of Av, the day only became a minute shorter (in the Northern Hemisphere). Chazal are teaching us the importance of one minute of Torah study--every minute adds up! A few important related notes: 


A.  It is said that the Ponovezer Rav, Z’tl, stated that he wanted to build his Yeshiva in Eretz Yisrael to have 1,000 students.  A non-believer asked him:  “What will you do with 1,000 Rabbis?!”  He responded:  “I am not looking to produce 1,000 Rabbis, I am looking to produce 1 Rabbi and 999 Ba’alei Batim who will know what the term ‘Rabbi’ means!”

Hakhel Note:  Those who study the Torah and realize how profound and expansive it is, and how privileged one is to be able to swim even a bit in its sea, can truly understand the Ponovezer Rav’s comment! 


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


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



BIRKAS HAMAZON: As this week’s Parasha contains the Mitzvas Aseh of Birkas Hamazon, we provide our annual review of 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 she’as 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 Yelamedu 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!



16 Menachem Av

KAROV HASHEM LECHOL KORE’AV: Every day, three times a day in Ashrei we recite the Pasuk “Karov Hashem Lechol Kore’av Lechol Asher Yikre’uhu B’emes--Hashem is close to all who call upon Him, to all who call upon Him in truth” (Tehillim 145:18). Yet, in last week’s Parasha, the Torah records “Ki Me Goy Gadol…KaShem Elokeinu Bechol Kore’einu Eilav--for which is a great nation that has G-d Who is close to it, as Hashem is whenever we call to Him” (Devorim 4:7). The Pasuk in Devorim appears not to require the ‘calling out in truth’ that the Pasuk in Ashrei requires. How can we reconcile these Pesukim? The Eitz Yosef on the Siddur suggests that ‘calling in truth’ simply means that as a prerequisite to legitimately calling out, our mouths must be truthful. If we want Hashem to be attentive to our call to Him, we must excel in the Middah of Emes. He would seem to learn that the Pasuk in Devorim assumes the Middah of Emes as well. The Radak (on the Pasuk in Ashrei) writes that ‘calling out in truth’ means that one’s mouth and heart are equal--Hashem will listen to one who cries out with Kavannah. We can assume that the Pasuk in Devorim also implies this requirement--after all, why would anyone [certainly, Hashem, as the One Who Knows all thoughts] pay attention to a creation who is not being sincere in his pleading to Him. The Malbim (on the Pasuk in Ashrei) writes that, in fact, there are two different kinds of callers--one calling out of yirah, and the other out of Ahava, and they receive qualitatively different responses as well (see there). Truth, Kavannah, and Ahavas Hashem--to be sure to have Hashem as close as possible to us and our prayers--let us excel in all three!



REMINDER--TZION BAMISHPAT TIPADEH: Yeshayahu HaNavi (1:27) reveals to us:  “Tzion BaMishpat Tipadeh VeShaveha B’Tzedakah--we will be redeemed through justice and through Tzedakah.” We are all familiar with the importance of giving Tzedakah for the sake of Geulah. But how does the first part of the Pasuk relating to ‘judging’ apply to us on a daily basis as well? Every day, we are engaged in the process of judging other people. Let us be sure at the outset to judge them favorably. Imagine the Moshiach telling you that you fulfilled your part--in both parts of the Pasuk!  



INSTEAD OF TALKING POLITICS: Rabbeinu Yonah in the Sefer Sha’arei Teshuvah (3:54) writes: “VeChayav Adam Lachshov Machashavos LeHa’alos Eitzos Hagunos U’Mesukanos L’Chaveiro--a man is obligated to think about how he can give befitting and appropriate counsel and advice to his friend.”  Rabbeinu Yonah continues that this is one of the “Ikarei Darchei Gemilus Chasodim--this is one of the essentials of Chesed”. Let us not squander these essential opportunities to do Chesed with discussions that are not meaningful, and by spending time giving advice and opinions regarding social order, politics, the economy and the world--which really don’t count or matter. 





A. In last week’s Pirkei Avos (4:1), Ben Zomah teaches that the true hero is not one who conquers cities, but one who conquers his own Yetzer Hara. The Rabbeinu Yonah explains that this Mishna is teaching us that just as the body’s strength and prowess is its greatest and most important attribute, so too, is the ability to vanquish one’s Yetzer Hara the quintessence of one’s neshama.


B. A king once asked a loyal subject to give him one request--and he would grant it. The subject thought it through--if I ask for money, he will give it to me; if I ask for real estate, he will give it to me--but these are so finite, and so limited. I know--I will ask to marry his daughter--this will include everything from the king on a going forward basis! When Hashem asked Shlomo HaMelech, the wisest of all men, what he wanted--Shlomo responded that he wanted Chochma--wisdom--for all else is included in that!


C. Although there is a Beis Dovid--the kingdom of Dovid, and a Beis HaLevi--the Kehuna, there is no similar one house for those who are Yirei Hashem--for Yiras Shomayim is open to all those who seek it!


D. The Avodah of one’s ears is to listen to tochacha--to the instruction and reproof of others, as the Pasuk teaches (Mishlei 15:31):  “Ozen Shoma’as Tocha’achas Chaim MeKerev Chachomim Talin--the ear that listens to the reproof of life resides among the wise”. Likewise, Yeshaya HaNavi teaches (59:3): “Hatu Aznechem U’Lechu Eilai Shemu U’Sechi Nafshechem”.





As it is now a full week since Tisha B’Av, we provide some important thoughts regarding our transition from a downtrodden Galus mode of existence to one of inspired and everlasting Geulah.


1. The Sefer Chaim Sheyeish Bahem brings the words of HaRav Baruch Ber Lebowitz, z’tl.  “After 120 years I will be asked what I accomplished in this world. I will say that I learned Torah.  But what if they say --you call that Torah?  Then I will say that I had some Yiras Shomayim.  But what if they say--you call that Yiras Shomayim?  I will still be able to say that I had some Ahavas Yisrael--for when another Yid would be near me on the street I would say--“Brachos Ahl Rosho--may brachos come upon his head!” This will certainly serve as some kind of limud zechus for me....  Hakhel Note:  At least in this regard--we too can be like Reb Baruch Ber!


2. At the outset of Kinah 24 over the Churban Bais HaMikdash, we recite that ‘Espod Bechol Shona VeShona Misped Chadash’--we lament with a new elegy every year.  If this year’s Tisha B’Av is different than last year’s, than this year’s post-Tisha B’Av has to be different as well.  This year, being one step closer to Geulah puts us in a different position, and we must be up to the task.


3. The Kinos refer to Chavetzeles HaSharon--the rose of Sharon.  Rabbi Zecharia Wallerstein, Shlita, points out that a rose must be attached to the ground to live--in water it eventually wilts and dies.  So too, our life is our connection to HaKadosh Baruch Hu, and we must strive to keep the connection vibrant and lasting.  One way to do this is by not faltering in Kavannah in our daily Shemone Esrei--no matter how tired, harried, frazzled, or side-tracked you really think you are.


4.  The damage, death and destruction perpetrated to us over the years as reflected in the various Kinos demonstrate how unfulfilling the pursuit of Gashmius, in the long run, really is.  When people’s lives were at stake or even sacrificed, the earthly possessions turned out to be inconsequential.  If an anti-semitic tyrant would take power in any country even today, our first reaction would be to flee for our lives to a safer haven.  Now take a look at the so-called great and powerful King Nevuchadnezzar.  His temporal grandiose palace is another old ruin in Iraq, and there is not even a surviving likeness that we are sure is him.  When you feel too involved in gashmius, look at the world around and realize that life has much more to offer.  When stretching to look for the next bus, or for your luggage on the baggage carousel, think about the other, more needed and more permanent things we search for as well.  As the Navi in Eicha bemoans--Betzipisiyaseinu Tzipinu--we longed for the aid of the Egyptians-when we should have been stretching out our necks--and longing for the Shechina!



15 Menachem Av




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.  REINFORCE the lesson by reciting 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!



V’AHAVTA! In last week’s Parasha, we will learn of the fundamental requirement of V’Ahavta Es Hashem Elokecha (Devorim 6:5) set forth at the outset of Shema. The Seforno (ibid.) provides a most beautiful and instructive insight as to how we can demonstrate this love: “Tismach La’asos Davar Sheyitav B’Einav, Ka’asher Tavin She’ein Tachlis Nichbad Kazeh!--rejoice in doing that which is good in the eyes of Hashem, with the understanding that there is no more honorable pursuit!” Let us review this very practical and meaningful explanation of V’Ahavta--and try to implement it on a daily basis!

  Hakhel Note: On the same word of V’Ahavta, the Ba’al Haturim (ibid.) writes that if we transpose the letters--V’Ahavta spells--HaAvos--our forefathers! The Ba’al Haturim then goes on to show that: (i) Avrohom Avinu demonstrably fulfilled Bechol Levavecha, as the Pasuk (Nechemia 9:8) teaches: “U’Matzasa Es Levavo Ne’eman Lefanecha”; (ii) Yitzchak Avinu demonstrably fulfilled U’Vechol Nafshecha by being Moser Nefesh at the Akeida; and (iii) Yaakov Avinu fulfilled U’vechol Me’odecha by declaring (Bereishis 28:22): “Vechol Asher Titein Li Aser A’asrehnu Lach”. According to the Ba’al Haturim, then--we unite with the Middos of the Avos--as we recite the Pasuk of V’Ahavta!

  Important Reminder Provided By More Than One Reader: “One should be careful to pronounce the word as “v’ahavTA” (and you shall love), rather than “v’aHAVta” (and you did love).”



FIND YOURSELF! Rabbi Shmuel Dishon, Shlita, points out that the shortest Sefer of Navi and the longest Sefer of Navi each begin with the same word--Chazon (the vision).  The shortest Sefer is Ovadia which is one perek and relates to the destruction of Edom (from whom Ovadia had originally descended), and the largest Sefer is Yeshayahu (whose close relatives were the Kings of Yehudah at the time) which has 66 Perakim, and which contains many nevuos of consolation.  Everyone has a task and a role in making K’lal Yisrael succeed--and one should spend the time to determine what it is.  Hakhel Note:  HaRav Zundel Salanter, Z’tl, was once seen practicing how he bowed during Shemone Esrei in the middle of the day.  When asked why he was doing so, he responded that he couldn’t wait until Shemone Esrei--when he was already standing before the King of Kings--to figure out what to do and how to do it.  In the aftermath of Tisha B’Av and in anticipation of redemption, we too should not wait very much longer in order to figure out what exactly it is that we have to do!



THE PREFERRED ROUTE! The Geulah from Mitzrayim happened miraculously.  The Geulah from Galus Bavel happened in the so-called ‘ordinary course’ as part of the apparent plan of King Koresh to re-unite us with our homeland.  Which will the final Geulah be?  It is said that the Chofetz Chaim did not rejoice at all when he heard of the Balfour Declaration--for the third and final Geulah could come either way--and the miraculous route is much preferred.  Perhaps with this we can appreciate the special, double entendre in our daily Shemone Esrei as we recite the words “VeSa Nes LeKabetz Goluyoseinu--and lift up a banner [a miracle] to gather together our exiles.”  If the Chofetz Chaim preferred a miracle--certainly so too should we!  Let us remember at these words to daven with sincerity that Hashem lift the Nes--high up for all of us to see--Bekarov Bimeheira Veyameinu!



THE FIFTEENTH DAY OF AV!  Today, joyously, is the 15th day of Av, Tu B’Av.  We are all too familiar with the five major tragedies that occurred on Tisha B’Av through the fall of Beitar and the plowing over of Zion (succeeded by other later tragedies as well).  We may be equally as familiar with the five corresponding great events of Tu B’Av: 

 Very briefly:


1.  It was finally determined that the final group of men aged 20-60 (previously part of the decree to pass away in the Midbar) were allowed the privilege of entering Eretz Yisrael. 


2.  The shevet of Binyamin was saved from extinction by the shevatim being permitted to marry their daughters to the few hundred men left---so that there would be a kiyum of the shevet forever. 

 3.  The guards posted by the Kings of the Aseres Hashevatim for hundreds of years, which prevented the ten tribes from freely traveling to the Beis Hamikdash, were removed--and all were allowed to make their way to the Mikdash.

 4.  The scores of thousands of people of Beitar who were murdered by the Roman legions, and whose bodies miraculously did not decompose for years, were finally allowed by the Romans to be buried (and as a result the bracha of HaTov VeHaMeitiv was established).

 5.  The people would no longer cut firewood for the Bais HaMikdash commencing on this date, because the sun’s rays had begun to weaken, and the people celebrated the completion of the Mitzvah (which also allowed for more time for the study of Torah, as explained by the commentaries). 

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


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

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



A LESSON FOR LIFE!:  We look to a key lesson in last week’s Pirkei Avos.  The Mishna (4:5) there teaches that “Kol Hamechallel Shem Shomayim Begalui...one who desecrates the Name of Heaven in secret, will have punishment exacted from him in public.”  The question here is obvious--does not the world work on the basis of Middah Keneged Middah--with a divinely perfectly exact measure of justice?  If so, why is somebody who desecrates the name of Hashem in private to be punished in public?  The answer, of course, belies the question.  When one’s conduct desecrates the name of Hashem--one has demonstrated a wanton lack of concern, disregard, and contempt r’l of Hashem Himself--whose glory fills the entire world, and for whom there is no ‘sesser’--no nook or cranny which is beyond Him.  One’s act of Chillul can ostensibly be be’sesser--but nevertheless demonstrates the same contempt and insolence to Hashem Who knows all and is everywhere.  One who ignores this, further aggravates his iniquity.  Indeed, as the Mishna continues, one’s claim that his action was beshogeg--not intended or careless, is meritless in regard to the egregious Chillul Hashem.  It is essential to add that Chazal teach that the act of Chillul is subjective--as it will depend on the individual, how he is perceived, and how he should behave.  For one simply to ignore his significance and his relationship with Hashem, and what Hashem expects of him, is a grave sin--whether in the confines of his kitchen, at the check-out counter, on the phone, talking to colleagues at work, by himself at the computer, or on the street.  Do you wear a yarmulke or hat, sheitel, tichel or long dress?  If you answered ‘yes’ to any of the above, you are not a corporal or sergeant, or even a lieutenant or captain. You are a general--whose standard is rightfully high, and who must be on a more elevated level of guard to conduct himself beyond reproach.  This week, can we try to make it Chilul Hashem free--even be’sesser--even when ostensibly discreet and otherwise private?  If this request seems too tall to pursue--then we must certainly pursue it!




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


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


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



12 Menachem Av



UNBELIEVABLE OPPORTUNITY! By the following link http://tinyurl.com/y7xb6a2r, we provide Three Simple Steps to Ahavas Chinam, as originally distributed by The Chofetz Chaim Heritage Foundation, which a thoughtful reader brought to our attention. The Chofetz Chaim Heritage Foundation can be reached at 845-352-3505 (Extension 116).



QUESTION OF THE DAY: Yoshiyahu HaMelech believed that everything was perfect in Eretz Yisrael--yet he hid the Aron and the Mahn because of the impending Churban, how do we reconcile the two?



QUESTION FOR SHABBOS: The Rambam (at the beginning of Hilchos Talmud Torah) and Rashi (Kiddushin 29B) both bring a Pasuk from this week’s Parasha which is not in Shema as the source of the Mitzvah of Talmud Torah. What is the Pasuk?



AIN OD MILEVADO! This week’s Parasha (Devorim 4:35) contains these three words--a true essence of Yiddishkeit. By the following link http://tinyurl.com/5a6qmy we once again provide the excerpt from the Sefer Nefesh HaChaim on Ain Od Milevado. This should certainly be an essential topic at this week’s Shabbos table!



THE ANSWER IS IN THE PARASHA! How can we break our enemy? The Pesukim in the Parasha (Devorim 6:18,19) provide a direct response: “Ve’asisa HaYashar VeHatov B’Einei Hashem LeHadof Es Kol Oyevecha MePanecha”. What is HaYashar VeHatov? The Ramban (ibid.) explains that it is Peshara U’lifnim Mishuras Hadin--being compromising and acting in a manner which is beyond what the law requires. Rabbosai, this is certainly our Avodas Hayom-- Peshara and Lifnim Mishuras Hadin!



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


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


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


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





1.  Rabbi Zecharia Wallerstein, Shlita, points out that this Shabbos is not called Shabbos Nachamu because it is a time of relaxation or comedy--but because it is a time to appreciate your closeness to HaKadosh Baruch Hu.  The notion of laxity associated with this Shabbos, and its related Motza’ei Shabbos, is immediately dispelled by the words of the Aseres HaDibros (coincidentally?--never!) in this week’s Parasha!


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


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

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

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


3.  In this week’s Parasha, the Aseres HaDibros teaches us: “Shamor Es Yom HaShabbos LeKadesho--guard the Shabbos Day to keep it holy”. We should especially be diligent this Shabbos with our deeds and actions in guarding the Shabbos--especially in the areas of borer and muktzah to which people seem to fall especially prey. We additionally note that a reader asked us to warn people that he has seen children tie knots in filled plastic garbage bags in the same way that they do during the week--and one should advise his children to be careful against doing so. Hakhel Note:  Every action on Shabbos requires care from the epitome of Kiddush and the Shabbos Tefillos to…lehavdil how one takes care of the waste from the Shabbos table!


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


5. Reality check--seven weeks from Shabbos…is Shabbos Shuva! Let us most certainly begin putting our treatment and feelings towards Kedushas Shabbos in good working order!



THE CORNERSTONE OF OUR FAITH:  Tomorrow, we will read in the Torah the first Parasha of Shema, the cornerstone of our faith.  It is certainly an extremely auspicious time now to review and renew our connection to the Shema, both as to its proper recitation, and the Halachos and Hashkofos which are associated with, and emanate from, its holy words. [We once again urge you to obtain the Chofetz Chaim Heritage Foundation hardcover pamphlet!] Yeshaya HaNavi (29:13) exhorts us not to perform Mitzvos in a manner which is “Mitzvas Anashim Melumada--by habit or rote.” Because we recite Shema so often we could, c’v, fall into this trap--and especially in light of the Kedusha of Shema we must make special efforts to invigorate our Shema daily. Indeed, Rashi in this week’s Parasha (Devarim 6:6) writes that it should be viewed as a new proclamation from the King each and every day. One can visualize the King’s messenger or royal crier unrolling the King’s message on parchment each and every time that he reads the Shema. Helpful Reminder: One way to maintain appropriate Kavannah while reciting Shema is to find the allusions to each one of the Aseres HaDibros in the Shema every time that one recites it (they are brought by the Mishna Berurah from the Talmud Yerushalmi, in Shulchan Aruch Orach Chaim 61 seif katan 2).


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


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


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


3.  ”Yisrael” means to include you.  Rebbi Yisroel Salanter, Z’tl, used to say that while reciting the word “Echad,” we are to think about how Hashem, by Himself rules over the seven heavens and the earth, and all four directions of the world (Shulchan Aruch Orach Chaim 61:4).  However, when thinking about this vast and limitless expanse--we must never forget that Hashem rules over us, as well, and we should sincerely subjugate our entire being, including all of our will and desires to Him.


4.  When reciting Hashem’s names--especially in the first two pesukim--we should understand what each name--i.e., “Hashem” and “Elokeinu,” mean and represent.  This can be accomplished quickly once you know the meanings well. See Shulchan Aruch Orach Chaim 5 and/or ask your Rav.


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


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


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


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


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


10. HaRav Zalman Sorotzkin, Z’tl, asks why the first Pasuk of Shema must begin with the words “Shema Yisrael”--Hear [and understand and accept] Yisrael. After all, the essence of the Pasuk is Kabbalas Ohl Malchus Shomayim-accepting upon oneself Heavenly Kingship--wouldn’t it have been sufficient to succinctly convey this very primary message with only the four words of “Hashem Elokeinu Hashem Echad”? What do the  words ‘Shema Yisrael’ add?  HaRav Sorotzkin answers that if we are to properly accept upon ourselves Ohl Malchus Shomayim, we must be sure to advise and proclaim it to others as well; it is insufficient for us to maintain this unwavering belief without joining in others. After all, if a person knew the secret of life--would he keep it to himself?!  If a soldier knew how to save himself when surrounded by the enemy--would he not save his comrades as well? If a person knew the difference between right and wrong--would he smile smugly as others faltered?! No--we must remember that as a prerequisite to our own Ohl Malchus Shomayim--we must first begin with Shema Yisrael --  a real quest  for others to know, learn, study, and appreciate as well!


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



THE MITZVAH OF MEZUZAH: The last Pasuk of Shema contains the Mitzvah of Mezuzah.   The Rema (Shulchan Aruch, Yoreh Deah 285) writes that when a person enters and leaves his home, he should place his hand on the Mezuzah, to remind what is written in the Mezuzah, and that Hashem is watching over him at all times. HaRav Chaim Kanievsky, Shlita notes that he observed that the Chazon Ish (at least in his older years) would look at the Mezuzah, rather than touch it, as he entered and exited, because by looking at it his mind was  also directed to the Mezuzah, its content and its meaning. 


Hakhel Note: As we enter a room or leave it, Let us remember to touch (or at least look at) the Mezuzah that we are blessed with on our doors--so that the two Parashios of Shema contained within it are with us not only at Shacharis and Ma’ariv but through the entire day!



FROM THE SEFER HACHINUCH: We provide the following fundamental insights from the Sefer Hachinuch (English translation from the five volume masterpiece Sefer HaChinuch, Feldheim Publishers):


A. On the Mitzvas Lo Sa’aseh contained in the last of the Aseres HaDibros of ‘Lo Sisaveh’--do not desire what belongs to someone else, the Sefer Hachinuch writes as follows: “For it is indeed in each man’s power to restrain himself, his thoughts and his longing desires, from whatever he wishes. It lies in his free choice and in his decision to repel his desire--or to draw it near-- in all matters, as he wishes; and his heart is given over to his control; however he pleases he may move it. Hashem, before Whom all secrets are revealed ‘searches all the chambers of the innards’ (Mishlei 20:27), seeing the organs of understanding and the heart. Not one, large or small, good or bad, out of all the thoughts of a man is hidden from Him, or concealed from the range of His sight. For there is nothing so good for a man as a good, pure thought, since that is the beginning of all the good deeds and their end....”


Hakhel Note: If you can, please read this again!


B. On the Mitzvas Aseh of Ahavas Hashem, the Sefer HaChinuch writes as follows: “It applies in every place, at every time, for both men and women. If a person transgresses this and fixes his thoughts on the material interests and vapid vanities of the world, not for the sake of Heaven but only to pleasure himself in them, or to attain esteem in this [lowly] world, to make his name great, not with any intention to do good for good people and to strengthen the hands of the honest--he disobeys this positive precept, and his punishment will be great. This is one of the constant precepts for a man [i.e., one of the Shesh Mitzvos Temidios--the six constant Mitzvos], forever placed upon him to observe.”


Hakhel Note: Once again, if you can, please read this again (and again)!






1. The letters (osiyos) of Kinos are the same letters of Tikun--this is self explanatory!


2. HaRav Dovid Luria, Z’tl, carried a pocket Kinos with him throughout the year. When asked why--he said: “This is how I can fulfill the Pasuk of Im Eshkacheich Yerushalayim.”


3. We should appreciate how important it is to remember the Beis HaMikdash every day. The Kaf HaChaim rules that if one has time to recite either Tikun Chatzos or Selichos--he should recite Tikun Chatzos.


4. The Midrash teaches that the day the Beis HaMikdash was destroyed, it was being decided in Heaven as to whether Bnei Yisrael would be destroyed or the Beis HaMikdash. In the end, it was the Beis HaMikdash that ‘gave up its life’--so that we could live!


5. The bells on the me’il of the Kohen Gadol made a little bit of noise due to the small movements of the Kohen Gadol. This is to teach us that little things really do mean a lot. An individual’s Shemiras Einayim, or Shemiras Aznayim is really very significant. The Teshuvah of one person can bring the Geulah!


6. The Meilitzer Rebbe teaches that in order to avoid a pigu’ah r’l of terrorists we should avoid being pogei’ah in the kavod of others. It is simply a middah k’neged middah defense!


7. When Yoshiyahu Hamelech learned that the Sefer Torah discovered after many years was rolled to Arur Asher Lo Yakim--cursed is the one who does not fulfill the Torah, he quickly concluded Aleinu L’Hakim--it is incumbent upon us to fulfill. This should be our mantra whenever we are faced with a particular situation, event, conflict, or challenge--Aleinu L’Hakim.


8. One of the Kinus we recited teaches: “Re’eih Mah Cheit Osa--look at what sin can cause!” If only one would think about the aftermath when sin entices--he could literally save himself, and his people.


9. In the Artscroll introduction to Kinos there is a tremendous Mashal that is given: A palace burns down. Those who love the king, and the kingdom’s subjects are all very shocked and disturbed. However, it is only the king who fully comprehends the tragedy of the event--for he knows all of the secret treasures that were in his palace. When we feel the tza’ar HaShechina--it is not only His tza’ar--but our tza’ar--we just don’t fully comprehend the extent of the tza’ar that we should be feeling.


10. Upon reading a Holocaust book or viewing a Holocaust video, one should really go beyond the horrific actions of the Nazis yemach shemam and their European and Asian collaborators and recall the cruelty, torture and death we were subjected to by so many nations throughout the ages. For one to get comfortable in Galus, it is not just silly--it is very unwise. It is said in the name of HaRav Chaim Brisker, Z’tl, that he remarked that when a sonei Yisrael passed him on the street and the sonei Yisrael did not punch him in the face--it was not because he did not want to, but because he was too lazy to do so. Perhaps each and every one of us should make it a point to remember every day: The situation around me is not normal, I am not supposed to be living in a land of immorality, of decrepit values, and with those who make light of terrorist threats and murderous callings against Acheinu Bnei Yisrael in Eretz Yisrael. Even if one does not recite Tikun Chatzos--he should recite at least one of the Tehillim Chapters immediately relevant to K’lal Yisrael’s situation now--such as 79, 83 and137. Let us take the situation as seriously as we should--and must!


11. One last point from a Hakhel Shiur: Four items prevent us from growing: (1) lack of knowledge; (2) ego; (3) leitzanus--including cynicism, mockery and lightheadedness; and (4) inappropriate friends. One should review this list and consider what is preventing him from growing--then correct the situation--and grow! If not literally now--then when?!



11 Menachem Av

CHADASHIM LABEKARIM RABA EMUNASECHA (EICHA 3:23): This Pasuk in Eicha which we just read on Tisha B’Av, is the basis for Modeh Ani which we recite every morning as  we open our eyes. Yes, the Pasuk is in Eicha. For even in this bitter Galus, there is oh so much to thank Hashem for. As the Targum on this Pasuk explains: “New miracles occur every morning….” If we open our eyes and can see, move our legs to get out of bed and can do so, stand up and then walk…the miracles of the day are just beginning! Let us appreciate this as we exclaim Modeh Ani each and every morning!



WHAT THE CHOFETZ CHAIM DID: HaRav Dovid Yosef, Shlita, writes: “The Chofetz Chaim kept his Shabbos clothing next to his bed every night so that if Moshiach came in the middle of the night, he would be able to greet him dressed properly, and would not have to spend time looking for his Shabbos clothing.”  (From the Sefer Why We Weep)


Hakhel Note: Do you know where your Shabbos clothing is?




THE HAKHEL LESS THAN 60-DAY CHALLENGE: It is now less than 60 days until Yom Kippur. Can we recite slowly, and have special Kavannah in, the bracha of Velirushalayim Irecha in at least one Shemone Esrei a day--until Yom Kippur? Keep a written record of it!


Hakhel Note:  When we envision Yerushalayim, we should always picture it as a pe’eir--with a special glory.  As the Pasuk in Yeshaya (60:13) teaches:  “Lefa’er M’kom Mikdashi”--to glorify the place of My Mikdash.  Every day, perhaps, as we recite Velirushalayim Ircha, we can picture the sight of a glorified Yerushalayim--and pine for it. 






We know that

Hashem takes every good deed we do

and transforms it into the building of the Bais Hamikdosh.



In fact, when Mashiach comes,

each of us will actually see

the individual bricks or stones

that were added because of our Mitzvos.



(Divray Yechezkal - Shiniver Rebbe


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TOMORROW--12 YEARS SINCE THE GUSH KATIF TRAGEDY:  Although 12 years have passed since the Gush Katif expulsion, we are still numbed by the devastating consequences wrought on its inhabitants and the surrender of Batei Midrashim and Batei K’nesios to sonei Yisrael y’s whose first actions upon taking the land was chilul and zilzul--may Hashem avenge their actions speedily and in our day. It is a day of shame and of reflection for us--another day where we hope and daven that the tza’ar will be turned into a Yom Tov in only a way that HaKadosh Baruch Hu can. Let us recite Tehillim Chapter 83 now as a zechus for those expelled and the troubles they face as a result even until today, and as a zechus for K’lal Yisrael that we never witness a brother against brother action such as this ever, ever again.


Hakhel Note:  Although Tisha B’Av 5777 is over, let us bli neder resolve this year to truly keep the the Kedushas Eretz Yisrael, Yerushalayim and the Beis HaMikdash close to us every day of the year. It is very important to note that immediately after teaching us the Halachos of Tisha B’Av, the Shulchan Aruch (Orach Chaim 560) provides us with the Halachos of what we must do Zecher L’Churban, in remembrance of the Churban--every day.  Our lives are not regular; and we once again emphasize the crucial point that we are not now ‘back to normal’. A normal, regular life for us is a life with  a Yerushalayim as the spiritual, focal point of the world, and with the Shechina in all of its glory on earth resting in the Beis HaMikdash. Accordingly, it is not enough to say that we believe in Moshiach. We must anxiously await Moshiach. The phrase in Ani Maamin of ‘Achake Lo’ is not a figurative expression but a literal one. Thus, once again, when we recite the words “Velirushalayim Irecha”--we are pleading that Hashem finally get back to His Home in His City [will you join our “Less Than Sixty-Day Program”?; when we recite the words “VeSechezena Einainu” we are davening that our very eyes actually see the Shechina’s  return; when we say the words “Vesain Chelkainu BeSorosecha” we are imploring that the Torah  finally return to its former glory by our reaching levels in Torah Study that we cannot achieve in Galus. These special times in Shemone Esrei when we daven for our lives to really return to normal should not be brushed over, c’v. Instead, truth be told, they should be one of the main areas of our life’s focus, one of the highlights of our day. Especially after recent events, when our Rabbonim are teaching us that our Shemone Esrei should be and remain much improved from what it once was--let us certainly focus on the areas of Geulah in our prayers!





1. Dovid HaMelech, in perhaps the most renowned chapter of Tehillim (Chapter 130) begins “Shir HaMa’alos Mima’amakim--a Song of Ascents.  From the depths I called You…”  HaRav Klonymous Kalman Shapiro, Zt’l, H’yd, (the Rebbe of Piazeczna) taught the following about the word “Mima’amakim” to the Jews of the Warsaw Ghetto with him:  Sometimes a person is in a situation from which he cannot extricate himself barring an absolute miracle.  For example, the Jews in the Warsaw Ghetto, especially after the uprising.  Dovid HaMelech, by using the word “Mima’amakim,” refers to this kind of situation, for he does not refer to only one singular depth (which would be Emek), but to the depth of the depths (Mima’amakim, in the plural).  The Piazeczner concluded that Dovid HaMelech was teaching us that we cry out to Hashem whether or not we can reasonably be saved--for there are two kinds of prayer.  The first, basic type of prayer is to make requests of Hashem, the Omnipotent One.  The second, more sublime prayer is one in which one prays not to achieve a personal request, but only to connect and cleave to Hashem.  This is the “Mima’amakim” in which we cry out to Hashem--not only because we realize that He is the only source of our salvation, but also to demonstrate to Him that, when all is said and done, what we ultimately seek is dveikus with Him.


2. Kinah 29 states “Siman Tov L’Adam…--it is a good sign for a person if he is not eulogized or buried properly…. let him not fear the day of wrath.”  The Artscroll commentary explains that death in this way serves to fully purge a person of any stain on his soul caused by sin, and that such a person will be spared the punishments of the next world (Sanhedrin 46B; 47A).  This should serve as a great consolation for all of us who had relatives that perished in the Holocaust in so many diverse and cruel ways--although we should certainly daven that Hashem avenge their blood--see the next paragraph.


3. The Telzer Rav Zt’l, H’yd, before being murdered, was beaten by a ruthless Nazi with a hammer.  “Herr Rabbiner! Where is your G-d now?” he mocked.  The Telzer Rav responded, “He is your G-d, too--and you will find that out later!”  Whenever we recite Av HaRachamim (on Shabbos or after Yizkor), we should take the few moments necessary to recite it slowly and thoughtfully (some actually stand, as a symbol of respect, but this is not required by Halacha).  Remember, we are praying not only for the Kedoshim, but also for the honor of Hashem and His People.


4. The Pasuk in Eichah (1:2) states “Bocho Tivkeh Ba’Layla V’Dimasah…--cry, cry at night, and its tears….”  The Midrash teaches that there are three words for crying at the outset of Eicha to teach us that there are three tears--one for the first Beis HaMikdash, a second for the second Beis HaMikdash, and a third either for the Bitul Torah that the Churban has caused to this very day (we cannot attain our full potential without a Beis HaMikdash), or for the Kavod Yisrael, the honor of our People, which has been disgraced and defiled even by the nations which are friendly to us.  Thus, the last tear referred to in Eichah is being shed for us!


5. It is important to note that Chazal teach that both Nevuzradan (the Chief General of the Babylonians), and Nero (the first Chief General of the Romans to besiege Yerushalayim at the time of the Churban) realized that the destruction of the Beis HaMikdash that they were involved in was only by the Hand of Hashem.  They each fled and converted to Judaism.  Perhaps this is to teach us that, ultimately, all the nations of the world will have the proper perspective on life.  It is up to us now to live each and every precious day of our life--a day in which we are a step ahead of the rest of the entire world (!)--staying as close to Hashem as possible in everything that we do--so that by next year, when Tisha B’Av arrives, we will experience the greatest joy possible, with the rebuilding of the Beis HaMikdash and the World in all of its Glory!



10 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.




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


Bein Adam LaMakom:

Change your siddur, or your seat, or some other aspect of the way you daven in order to gain a freshness in your Tefillah.


Bein Adam L’Chaveiro:

The story of Kamtza and Bar Kamtza teaches us that every single interpersonal relationship is important, and that we can never, ever go beyond Halacha and hurt another--for this constitutes sinas chinam. Especially in this week after Tisha B’Av, we must be extra vigilant to avoid any taint of undue or unjust sinah. Remember that the Halacha is very, very limiting in permitting sinah of any kind. If you must act with emotion--act with ahava.


Bein Adam L’Atzmo:

Every day, for at least a minute, think about what life will be like in the times of the Third Beis HaMikdash, with Moshiach--picture yourself there, and think about the spirituality--what an elevated existence! Long for the Geulah!





A.  When we envision Yerushalayim, we should always picture it as a pe’eir--with a special glory.  As the Pasuk in Yeshaya (60:13) teaches:  “Lefa’er M’kom Mikdashi”--to glorify the place of My Mikdash.  Every day, perhaps, as we recite Velirushalayim Irecha, we can picture the sight of a glorified Yerushalayim--and pine for it. 


B.  As many may know, the concept of the recitation of Tikun Chatzos is mentioned in the very first Siman of Shulchan Aruch, Orach Chaim (1:2,3).  Even those who sincerely believe that they ‘are not holding’ at the level of those who actually sit on the floor and recite several Kepitelech of Tehillim (which basically constitutes Tikun Chatzos), should nevertheless know that if he is up for some reason at Chatzos anyways (currently approximately 1:00 A.M. in New York City), there is certainly nothing wrong with your occasionally attempting to recite Tikun Chatzos in the few minutes that it takes. Imagine sitting by the doorway on the floor (by the Mezuzah)--and meaningfully reciting a few chapters of Tehillim for the Shechina and K’lal Yisrael to come home.  The Shulchan Aruch itself (ibid.) teaches us that Chatzos is a unique and outstanding time for this--why not exercise it, at least when you are up for it?!  We note that Tikun Chatzos can be found in many standard Siddurim, without having to purchase a separate Sefer for it. 


C.  A Rav had once asked us to convey that we can bring the Geulah even if we are not deserving. How so?  In every Shemone Esrei, in the first bracha of Avos, we state that Hashem will bring the Go’el to the descendants of the Avos--LeMa’an Shemo b’Ahava--for the sake of His Name with love. This is our OPPORTUNITY to daven to Hashem to bring the Geulah even if we are undeserving--so that the Chilul Hashem of Galus stops and is replaced with the Kiddush Hashem of Geulah--and all of this with love!


D.   We recited the term Tzion many times in the Kinos, perhaps not understanding the context so well when reciting it then.  Every day in our Tefillos we refer to Tzion as well--perhaps the most famous occasion being Hamachazir Shechinaso LeTzion--who restores the Shechina to Zion The Navi laments:  “Tzion He Doresh Ain La--She is Zion, no one cares about her (Yirmiyahu 30:17).  Chazal explain that the Navi is teaching us with these words that we must care about her.  Let us try--at least--to focus upon the word Tzion in our davening-and show that we care about her!


E.  After a Tisha B’Av experience, we should try--at least for the rest of Menachem Av--to recite the 13 Ani Maamin principles with fortitude and sincerity....I believe in Mashiach...I believe in Techias HaMeisim...Allot an extra minute or two for the Ani Ma’amin recitation--which is the standard difference--between failure and success!


F.   We should use the Tisha B’Av period as a breaking point.  The sour relationships, the negative quips, the daily disconnects between husband and wife and parent and child, between co-workers and employers and employees, now have a place to come to an end. Many Bain Adam LeChaveiro issues are the products of bad habits renewed daily--for no good reason other than ‘this is the way we behaved to each other yesterday’.  The sorrow-filled day of tragedy and grief of the ages has sobered us to the realities of the past, and the ‘day after’ teaches us that there is hope for the future--the Geulah will come, and it is up to each and every one of us  as to whether he will be a part of it.  So too with any past, sad history we may have in our inter-personal relationships--they too can leave us yesterday as we begin the day with a view towards personal Geulah as well.  Sinas Chinam and its ilk destroyed the Bais HaMikdash--bringing back Ahavas Yisrael in a real and meaningful way will rebuild it--for each individual and for all of K’lal Yisrael.  The Mishna Berurah (Shulchan Aruch Orach Chaim 156; seif katan 4) brings that the Mitzvah of VeAhavta Lerei’acha Kamocha requires one to respect his friend as one himself would want to be respected.  What a simple but meaningful yardstick--before making the gesture, motioning, uttering that word or two, or taking that action, THINK--’Would I like this done to me?’  If the answer is no--remember that you have turned a new leaf, and stop.  If the answer is yes--a very special thank you from us all--for helping us move an IMPORTANT STEP CLOSER towards next year’s Tisha B’Av--being a day of celebration in the Bais Hamikdash. May we all live to see it!


G.  Based on the calculation that it has been 1,947 years since the destruction of the Beis HaMikdash, this amounts to more than 710,000 days and over 17,050,000 hours.  This is an extremely, extremely long time.  As we heard on the Haftara read on Tisha B’Av morning (Yirmiyahu 8:13): “Ein Anavim BaGefen V’ein Te’einim BaTe’einah--there are no grapes on the grape vine and no figs on the fig tree.”  What we live in is an illusory world--not the world in the state that it is supposed to be, and K’lal Yisrael in an unnatural habitat wherever its people may be scattered in the world.  Even in a time such as this, in which people can enjoy special comforts including Glatt Kosher international cuisine, the latest model cars and conveniences, and all kinds of medicines and therapies which help us feel better, we truthfully live in a stormy calm. The fear of terrorism and crazed human beings horrifies us in a way that mankind has never before known.  So, with all the comforts and conveniences, our times are nevertheless fraught with unrest, turbulence and confusion. Rabbi Yoni Zakutinsky, Shlita, explains our situation with the following Mashal:  One is in attendance at a huge Chasunah at a prestigious hall, with prominent rabbinic and lay leaders, an outstanding Chosson, the finest delicacies, a large band--there is just one thing missing--the Kallah.  Without the Kallah, all of the above simply does not get us to a true wedding.  In fact, all of this without a Kallah--could end in disaster.  We really have to recognize that we once and for all need the Geulah, and take steps to achieve it.  Whatever daily act (or two, etc.) it may be, we should try to do it for thirty days in a row, so that it ‘sticks’. We have to take the Galus out of us--daily--so that we can attain the Geulah! 


H.  Chazal (Brachos 6B) teach that “Igra D’Ta’anisa Tzidkasa--the reward of a Ta’anis is the Tzedaka that one gives (at least giving to Tzedakah the money he and his family saved from not eating).”  This fact should be no different regarding the fast of Tisha B’Av.  We especially note that the Haftarah of Shabbos Chazon ended with the words quoted so often, by so many (Yeshayahu 1:27):  “Tzion BaMishpat Tipadeh V’Shaveha BeTzedakah”.  The final word--even before we get to Tisha B’Av is--give Tzedakah!  We add one essential point to giving Tzedakah as made in the Sefer Sha’arei Teshuvah (3:35).  There, Rabbeinu Yonah explains that an essential part of giving is taught to us by the Pasuk (Devarim 15:10): “Nason Titein Lo VeLo Yeirah Levavecha Besitcha Lo--give to him and your heart should not feel bad as you give to him.”  It is not enough to give with the hand--for the Pasuk continues that one must not feel bad about giving, but rather feel a Midas Nedivus--good and happy about being generous.  HaRav Mattisyahu Salomon, Shlita, in his explanation of the Rabbeinu Yonah, actually teaches that if a person feels bad when he gives Tzedakah, then he violates the Lo Sa’aseh listed in this Pasuk of Lo Yeirah Levavecha Besitcha Lo(!).  We must feel happy and privileged over the opportunity to give at all times.  As a matter of fact, the ability to give should be included in our thoughts of thanks to Hashem when we recite the words in Modim of VeHamerachem Ki Lo Samu Chasadecha.  Give every day in the right frame of mind--so that we may all see V’Shaveha BeTzedakah! 



WHAT DID I PURSUE TODAY?  Yirmiyahu HaNavi (Yirmiyahu 2:5), in the Haftarah we recently read teaches us that the people severely erred because “VaYelchu Acharei Hahevel Va’Yehbalu--and they went after nothingness and turned into nothingness.” There is a great, yet simple and practical lesson here--you are that which you pursue.  For example, if a person pursues Torah, he becomes a “Ben Torah.”  If, on the other hand, he pursues Lashon Hara, he becomes a “Baal Lashon Hara.”  Everybody has to take a good look at what they really are pursuing.  There is an old quip about an uneducated Jew who came to Shul, and was asked by the Gabbai whether he was a Kohen, Levi or Yisrael.  He responded: “I am none of those.  I am a businessman!”  We, as educated Jews, have to make sure that it is clear to us--and to others--who we really are, and where our primary focus is. It is interesting to note that HaRav Dovid Kviat, Z’tl, (the “Sukkas Dovid,” who was one of the senior Rabbonim in America) when asked to make a remark to children (on Torah Umesorah’s “Shanghai Miracle” audio-visual presentation) asked them one thing only--to “Learn with Cheshek”--with enthusiasm.  Are we any different than children in this regard?  May we suggest that at the end of the day, one thinks to oneself--what did I pursue today--what did I do with enthusiasm? It is up to us whether we pursue nothing and become nothing, or whether we pursue a life of Torah fulfillment--and literally become models for the entire world!



THE INSPIRATION OF KINOS:  As we have noted in the past, in the unparalleled Artscroll Kinos, by Rabbi Avraham Chaim Feuer, Shlita, Rabbi Feuer writes the following in the course of his introduction:


“The tears of Kinos are a never-ending stream.  When I began to translate and elucidate the Kinnos on the day after Succos, I called my Rebbi, HaRav Mordechai Gifter, [Z’tl], and asked, ‘How can I get into the mood of writing about Kinnos just a day after Simchas Torah, while all the happy tunes of joy still resonate in my ears and Tisha B’Av is still so far off in the future?  Who can think of Kinos now?’


He replied, ‘You are mistaken. Kinos are not only for Tisha B’Av, they are for the entire year, except that throughout the year we recite Kinos in a whisper, while on Tisha B’Av we shout them out loud!  Whoever neglects Kinos all year long and attempts to start reciting them on Tisha B’Av will not succeed in saying them even then, because he will recite the verses without any feeling and he will become bored.  We must cry and mourn over the Churban all year long, in every season, and then our Kinnos will reach their climax of pain on Tisha B’Av.’


This concept of regular mourning over the Churban is codified in the very first chapter of Shulchan Aruch (Orach Chaim 1:3).  It is proper for every G-d-fearing person to feel pain and anguish over the destruction of the Holy Temple.


The Sefas Emes was once asked, ‘And what should someone do if he feels no anguish over the Churban of the Temple?’  The Rebbe replied, ‘Then he should be consumed with pain and anguish over his own personal Churban.  If a Jew doesn’t feel real pain over the Churban, it shows that his soul is in a wretched, abysmal state!’


True, Kinos are for all year round--but when does one begin to develop a feeling for them?  On Tisha B’Av.  If one truly comprehends and feels the Kinos he recites on this day, he will be inspired to refer back to them throughout the year….”


 Hakhel One: On a daily basis, we must remind ourselves of our status of Churban, of Yerushalayim physically and spiritually not rebuilt in the way it should be. Our lives are not normal, and we must not forget it. We need the Geulah--so that Ruchniyus can come back to the world, and the world will finally be as it should be. Both HaKadosh Baruch Hu and us will cherish the moment of Moshiach’s arrival, for we will then be--and forever remain--oh, so close. We must keep our yearning, our striving, our goal with us and make it a part of us--each and every day.




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