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29 Menachem Av

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


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



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!



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



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 Nachalas 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!





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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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



TZEDAKA!  In this week’s Parasha, we find a special emphasis on the Mitzvah of Tzedaka.  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.


Hakhel Note One: 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!


Hakhel Note Two: 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.”


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


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


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


3. One should give more to those who obviously qualify as true aniyim, but one must always remember that ‘VeRachamov Al Kol Ma’asov’--Hashem’s mercy extends to all of His creations--and so should ours. If we recite this Pasuk three times a day in Ashrei, we must realize that Chazal are reminding and reinforcing this concept within us, day-in and day out.


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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



QUESTION:  If one intended to give 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!



28 Menachem Av

AN OUTSTANDING CALENDAR: To view and print a concise Hebrew calendar which contains the 5780 daily Nach Yomi, Mishna Yomis, Daf Yomi and Halacha Yomis, please see the following link http://www.hakhel.info/archivesPublicService/LearningCalendarYomi5780.pdf




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



TALMUD TORAH K’NEGED KULAM…:  In last week’s Parasha, we find the second of the three Parashios of Shema, in which one accepts upon himself the performance of all mitzvos, and in which one recognizes the sechar v’onesh--the reward and punishment--associated with their performance or (chas v’shalom) non-performance.


As we recite in Shema twice daily “Heshameru Lachem, Pen Yifte Livavchem 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 a step away from idol worship.  However, as we all know, the Yetzer Hara 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—which results in something close to worshipping Avodah Zara, as its op



ADDITIONAL POINTS AND POINTERS ON THE SECOND PARASHA OF SHEMA: We present below several additional points and pointers relating to the second Parasha of Kriyas Shema, Vehaya Im Shomoa Tishmiu,  which is also found in last week’s Parasha:


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


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


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


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



HARAV AVROHOM PAM, Z’TL:  Today is the Yahrzeit of HaRav Avrohom Pam, Z’tl.  HaRav Pam once explained how Hashem can be both a Tzaddik and a Chassid at the same time (as we recite in Ashrei daily “Tzaddik Hashem Bechol…V’Chosid Bechol”), even though ‘Tzaddik’ implies acting in accordance with the letter of the law and ‘Chassid’ implies going beyond the letter of the law.  The solution to this apparent paradox, HaRav Pam explained, is found in the proper understanding of a Pasuk in this week’s Parasha.  After teaching the laws of an Ir HaNidachas (a Wayward City), which includes meting out the death penalty to its inhabitants, the Torah says that “V’Nosan L’Cha Rachamim V’Richamcha…--and Hashem will give you mercy and will be merciful to you” (Devorim 13:18).  Why is there an apparent redundancy in the Torah’s language relating to mercy--’giving you mercy’ and ‘being merciful to you’?  The answer is that when the Torah states ‘Hashem will give you mercy’, it means that Hashem will give you the opportunity to be merciful to others, and if you then act mercifully, Hashem will then be merciful to you.  This means, then, that Hashem is acting both as a chassid and as a tzaddik, because He is acting as a Chassid by giving us the opportunity to do Chesed, and if we do so, He will reward us as a Tzaddik--middah k’negged middah--according to the letter of the law!


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


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



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





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


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


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


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


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


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


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


H. Particular Tefillos:


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


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


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


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


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



27 Menachem Av

TESHUVAH MOMENT: 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!



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


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



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



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


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




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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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



26 Menachem Av

TESHUVAH MOMENT: 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.”





1.      “There was an item published several years ago, about family members visiting someone in a coma.   They discussed some recent tragedy that had occurred – assuming that the sick person in a coma could not hear them. However, he was able to hear and suffered a heart attack. I learned from that story that one must be careful where he speaks and what he says – at all times!”


2.      “I saw this all too often during my years working as a doctor.  Often, we would receive and order for a person needing some procedure, but their comatose condition would not allow it to happen.  I saw that these people would respond to kind words, so would sometimes go over, speak softly to them, explain what we needed, and not infrequently would the comatose patient relax enough that we could obtain what we needed.  I also noticed that this would work, but less often, with those inebriated and not responding normally to the world around them. 


I specifically remember a young man, maybe 15, unable to communicate or move, whose arms were crossed over his chest, frozen in position from years of non-use.  They wanted a chest X-ray to see if he had pneumonia.  Obviously, the arms would obscure visualization of the lungs. It was after hours, so I took the time to go speak with him, slowly trying to move his arms away from his chest, and when I saw it was working, had the tech bring me a leaded apron to don, and she got everything into position so that when I finally got his arms off of his chest for a moment, I called out “Shoot” (meaning the picture), and we got an adequate image that did in fact show them he had an extensive pneumonia!  Chasdei HaShem! 


I truly believe that just because a patient is unconscious to the things going on in the world around him does NOT mean that he or she is NOT awake and aware inside the body they inhabit (or maybe “that imprisons them”?) and maybe are grateful that someone is reaching out to them, even if only for a short moment.


And perhaps this could be extended even to those whose memories have failed them ... perhaps if we are able to show the savlanut, the patience,  to speak at their pace with words they can understand, and not to complain when they repeat themselves, which demeans them terribly, we could establish some form of communication with them ... but in this fast-paced society in which we live, we speak fast, we use abbreviations and short-cuts, we don’t grant people the TIME they need with us because WE don’t have time to give to THEM ...


And don’t talk about the person in front of the person -- that is demeaning to the utmost ... for they may well be able to hear you, understand what you’re saying, and if it suggests any sense of “giving up”, they will be depressed and might possibly turn a corner they were NOT supposed to be turning ...   I’ve heard this from people who were thought to be “goners” but who came back and told me EXACTLY what they heard while we thought they were unconscious. 


When the staff in a hospital, nursing care facility, or the like, sees that many visitors come to visit, and are concerned for the welfare of the person, and fuss around their bed, even when the person is “in a coma”, the staff is encouraged by our actions to do more for the patient.  I have even heard or seen that such care from family and friends can even extend the financial situation for the better ... I know that one person got several extensions on looming end-of-care statements because of the great efforts put in by so many in the community to help him ... “



OUTSTANDING INSIGHTS: We provide the following outstanding insights on last week’s Parashas Eikev, based upon the Sefer Talelei Oros, an unmatched collection by HaRav Yissocher Dov Rubin, Z’tl:


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


B.  The Torah warns against a person who is successful--contemplating that it is because “Kochi V’Otzem Yadi Asah Li Es HeChayil HaZeh--it is my power and capabilities that have brought me to where I am today.”  The Sefer Meilitz Yosher notes that one of the reasons that we wash Netilas Yadayim upon rising in the morning is because the tumah that comes upon us while sleeping takes its last hold on the hands, which we must then wash in order to remove the tumah’s vestiges.  It is the hands that are the last to forego the tumah, he continues, because a person tends to attribute his success to “the work of his hands”--and there is no greater tumah than to believe that in a person’s own prowess and power which is the antithesis of Ain Od 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!


C.  The Imrei Emes was asked how a person could be Zoche to Yiras Shomayim.  He answered that from the Posuk of “Mah Hashem Elokecha Sho’el MeiImach 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?





A.  The Mishna Berurah (seif katan 19) brings that although Tefillas HaDerech is expressed mostly Belashon Rabbim--in the plural, the words ‘Us’naini lechain’ should remain in the singular (it is not a mistake in the Siddurim)!.  The Magein Avraham explains that the reason we use the plural is because “it is not possible that there is not a traveler somewhere else in the world at the same time whom you can pray for as well and which thereby causes your tefillah to be more accepted--and the reason for the unique switch to the singular for one word  is al pi sod.


B.  It is possible that one can be yotzei Tefillas HaDerech on a bus through a ramkol.  Although the Minchas Yitzchok and HaRav Shlomo Zalmen Auerbach, Z’tl do not allow it, it is brought in the name of the Chazon Ish and Igros Moshe that one perhaps could be yotzei. Accordingly, one must consult with his Rav.  Additional Note:  Even if one can be yotzei in this way, many Poskim (including HaRav Vozner, Z’tl and HaRav Kanievsky, Shlita hold that, because Tefillas HaDerech is a Bakashas Rachamim--a request for mercy--it should preferably be recited by each individual separately.  Additionally, if one is going to be yotzei with someone else, HaRav Shlomo Zalmen Auerbach, Z’tl rules that it should be someone who is still obligated to recite the Tefillah--and not someone who was already yotzei and just reciting it for you.


C.  If one began reciting Tefillas HaDerech by heart and realizes that he does not remember the exact Nusach--HaRav Chaim Kanievsky, Shlita rules that if he mentions in his tefillah a request for:”Hatzlachaso Vehatzalaso Mipegah Ra” --then he can conclude the bracha, even if he did not recite the remainder of the Nusach correctly.


D.  The Mishna Berurah (seif katan 20) rules that one must take his Tallis and Tefillin with him whenever he is Yotzei Ladetrech--even if the place he is traveling to is close and he intends to return the same day.  [HaRav Kanievsky learns that this does not include a trip within a city--but it otherwise includes short trips.]  The Mishna Berurah strongly writes that one who does not follow his ruling has an “Avon Gadol” on his hands--as he may very well end up having to wear someone else’s Tefillin which don’t fit properly or daven after the zeman.


E.  For trips on a boat which are longer than one day, one should consult with his Rav as to the recitation of Tefillas HaDerech every day--although in other circumstances Tefillas Haderech is generally required every morning of a journey.



25 Menachem Av

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



NACHASH! The Ba’alei Mussar very much encourage visualization for improving one’s Avodas Hashem. Picturing and feeling Gan Eden on the one hand, and Gehennoim on the other hand, can guide a person towards proper thoughts and actions. Along these lines, one should consider visualizing a snake on a pole in front of him as he is about to make a statement which may bring up some question or tinge of Lashon Hara. Please see the Pesukim in Parashas Chukas (Bamidbar 21:4-10), which is the basis for our suggestion. As Moshe Rabbeinu did then—make your own Nechash Nechoshes to ‘cure you’ from Lashon Hara all the time! 



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


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


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


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


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


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





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


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


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


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


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



22 Menachem Av

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





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


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


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


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


Hakhel Note: 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 do 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!  Additional 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 sentiment and affection.


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


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


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


H. 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!






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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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





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


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


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


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


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


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


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



21 Menachem Av

TESHUVAH MOMENT! 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 by 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 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!



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



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!



20 Menachem Av

QUESTION OF THE DAY: In last week’s Parasha (Devorim 6:20) the Torah presents us with the question that the Chochom asks at the Leil HaSeder. The Torah then proceeds to give five pesukim (ibid., 21-25) which answer the Chochom’s question. Yet, at the Seder, we only provide one Pasuk of the answer “Avodim Hayinu…B’Yad Chazaka.” Why don’t we give the Torah’s entire answer at the Seder?



TESHUVAH MOMENT: Rabbi Moshe Goldberger, Shlita, asks if Birkas Hamazon is only one mitzvah, why is it that there are three brachos required by the Torah (the fourth bracha, according to most, is Rabbinic in origin), one bracha thanking Hashem for feeding everyone, a second bracha thanking Hashem for many other important benefits that Hashem has bestowed upon us (as we have previously noted, HaRav Pam, Z’tl, used to count them on his fingers while reciting them), and a third bracha asking for the return of Yerushalayim and the Bais HaMikdash? Rabbi Goldberger answers that if we would have stopped after one bracha, we may have thought that the food is actually an end in and of itself.  By the two additional brachos which the Torah requires, we are to remind ourselves that we are nourished in order to properly serve Hashem in all areas, and to reach our greatest potential.  With that, we ask for the rebuilding of Yerushalayim and the rebuilding of the Bais HaMikdash, so that we can rise to the highest spiritual heights.


Hakhel Note: Let us have this thought in mind when we recite the second and third brachos of bentsching!



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


“How did the name Yerushalayim come about? What is its source? The Midrash (Bereishis Rabbah 56:10) tells us that the name Yerushalayim is a combination of two names. After Avraham offered up his son Yitzchok as a Karbon to Hashem, Avraham built a Mizbeiach and named the place Yeira’eh, suggesting a place where Hashem’s presence is felt and fear of Him exists. Malkizedek (another name for Shem, the son of Noach) ruled over the city and called it Shalem, a place of peace and perfection. Hashem combined these two names, Yeira’eh and Shalem and called it Yerushalayim. This is the place where peace and perfection can be achieved by recognizing Hashem’s presence. It is the place where righteousness can blossom to its fullest. This helps explain why this bracha of Shemone Esrei begins with the conjunction “and”--V’Lirushalayim which connects it to the previous bracha, Al HaTzadikim. The Gemara (Megillah 17b) teaches that the bracha for rebuilding Yerushalayim comes directly after Al HaTzadikim because Yerushalayim is where the tzaddikim will reach their full potential.”



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 sheas hadechak or bedieved, he is yotzeh bentsching elsewhere.


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


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


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


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


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


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



19 Menachem Av

TESHUVAH MOMENT: 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!  



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



FROM A READER: “I don’t know if you’re aware of a phenomenal website, which has an archive of very real-life and practical shailos posed to HaRav Asher Weiss, Shlita. There’s also an option to ask your own shaila. While online “ask the rabbi” forums are not uncommon, it is rare to have an opportunity to pose direct shailos to one of today’s prominent poskim. The site is en.tvunah.org.”



THE ORDER OF THE DAY: No one in their right mind would dispute that the order of the day is Teshuva. The great and wonderful Elul on the near-horizon--make us focus on the penetrating words of Rabbi Yaakov Hillel, Shlita: “It is all about passing the test!


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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



18 Menachem Av

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



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?



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 last week’s Parasha 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!



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. 



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?



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


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


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



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!



15 Menachem Av

TESHUVAH MOMENT: In this 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).”



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 composed).


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


There is, however, an additional significant point about this day mentioned in the Mishna in Ta’anis (4:5).  There were nine days during the year in which families donated necessary wood to the Bais HaMikdash and celebrated the privilege by bringing a special sacrifice--a Korban Eitzim along with it.  One of these special nine days of the year was Tu B’Av.  However, there was something more special about the wood brought on Tu B’Av than on the other eight days--for on the other eight days the wood brought was limited to one particular family’s gift--but on Tu B’Av, as the Mishna specifically records it was a particular family --”the children of Zeitu ben Yehuda”--but together with Kohanim and Leviim; and together with anyone who no longer knew which shevet he was from, and together with other families who had demonstrated mesirus nefesh to reach the 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! 





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 for one to appreciate his 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?) 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 Three Weeks and the Seven Weeks of Nechama are all alluded to in the Lecha Dodi


·        When reciting Av HaRachamim on Shabbos morning, let us consider 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 our 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!



SHABBOS NACHAMU!  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 Hamisabel Ahl Yerushalayim--Anyone who mourns over Yerushalayim,” is “zoche v’roeh--merits and sees”--its rejoicing.  HaRav Meir Schuck, Zt’l, notes that Chazal do not teach that the person who mourns over Yerushalayim will merit and see its rejoicing, but rather, in the present, now merits and sees its rejoicing.  How is this so?  After all, do not Arabs still occupy the Temple Mount?  Is not the Bais HaMikdash still in ruins?  HaRav Schuck explains that if someone truly appreciates the loss of a rebuilt Yerushalayim, he takes action, practical and meaningful steps, towards its rebuilding, just as someone with a tattered roof on his home, or a car in his driveway that doesn’t start, will do in order to fix things--to bring them back to normal.  How does one “fix” the situation in this instance?  He davens hard when he reaches the places in Shemone Esrei asking for the rebuilding of Yerushalayim (as noted in yesterday’s bulletin), 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.


Hakhel 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 Bais HaMikdash which will especially occur for those who passed away in Galus but who were Mechakim LeYeshua--who awaited the redemption.  The general Techiyas HaMeisim for everyone else comes only later at the time of Final Judgment.  The Middah K’Neged 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 enough to anticipate and plan ahead---he knew how valuable the outcome really was, and succeeded to get there much faster!   



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


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 Yisrael 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.


5.  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).


6.  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).


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


8.  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!


9. 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!


10. The last Pasuk of the first Parasha of Shema contains the Mitzvah of Mezuza--let us be sure to remember to work on this week’s Summer Improvement Program relating to Mezuza this Shabbos--and hopefully beyond!


 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!”





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 (and 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)!



14 Menachem Av

TESHUVAH MOMENT: The Chofetz Chaim teaches that the aveira of sinas chinam is inescapably bound to Lashon Hara. If a person at a particular moment does not feel that he is up to speaking Lashon Tov, he should do his utmost to at least remain silent. The Chofetz Chaim points out that in the merit of Lot remaining silent when Avrohom said that Sara was his ‘sister’, he became through his child Mo’av--an ancestor of the Moshiach!





A. Rabbi Yisroel Reisman, Shlita, once davened in very close proximity to HaRav Elyashiv, Z’tl, and could hear how beautifully the words of his Shemone Esrei flowed. However, when he came to the three words of HaMachazir Shechinaso L’Tzion--HaRav Elyashiv placed special and deliberate awe-inspiring emphasis on the import of these words.


Hakhel Note: Can we follow suit?


B. Rabbi Yosef Eisen, Shlita, in his explanation of Kinos, urged everyone to remember that the glory of Yerushalayim and the rebuilding of the Beis HaMikdash is something that Chazal wanted us to sincerely daven for every day. All we need do is look at the tremendous emphasis of this in the bracha of Ahl HaMichya--over Mezonos! Of course, the third bracha of bentsching also accentuates our longing, and no less than eight brachos of Shemone Esrei, and the Yehi Ratzon at its conclusion also in special detail emphasize and re-emphasize our yearning for the Geulah Sheleimah!


Hakhel Note: It really is time for us to get the message!


C. Rabbi Eisen also remarkably taught that one explanation of the importance of being ‘Nosei B’Ohl Im Chaveiro’--being genuinely concerned for another’s needs and well-being--is that the gezeirah against another may be that he has to undergo a certain degree of suffering or amount of tribulations, and that when another is Nosei B’Ohl--genuinely feeling the other’s needs or pain, he actually steps into the shoes of that person, and is able to alleviate his situation more rapidly--for the gezeirah has been allocated over the people feeling for him--and need not only be experienced by himself.


D. 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!


E.  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 an 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.  We lament every lost minute of potential until the final Geulah takes place!


F.  In several places, Chazal give 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!


Hakhel Note: HaRav Elchonon Wasserman, Z’tl, H’YD, teaches that even if Hashem would forgo the sins of murder, avoda zara, and gilui arayos, He will not forgo the sin of Bitul Torah, of wasting time from Torah study.  Why is this stark statement so?  After all, are these not the three cardinal sins that Hashem would be forgoing versus that of bitul Torah which does not appear to be anywhere near as heinous a misdeed?  The answer, Reb Elchonon teaches, is that, 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 Ma’ariv?  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!). We note that the above is not only true for men--but for women as well!


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 (we will non-coincidentally be reading the first Parasha of Shema this week!) that we recite at least twice daily --so that we succeed not only in our daily battle--but in our life’s purpose and goal!



13 Menachem Av

TESHUVAH MOMENT: 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!



QUESTION OF THE DAY : Rashi in this week’s Parasha, based on the word Venoshantem, teaches that the Beis HaMikdash was destroyed 850 years after our entry into Eretz Yisrael rather than 852 years after our entry into Eretz Yisrael, for, if Hashem would have waited the additional two years, all of K’lal Yisrael would have been destroyed. Why did Hashem not allow us an extra year--the 851st year in Eretz Yisrael as well? After all--did not Hashem wait until the last possible moment in Mitzrayim--before we reached the 50th level of tumah, and only then did he take us out? Certainly, then--for the good--couldn’t we have stayed in Eretz Yisrael one year longer?



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


“In the thirteenth blessing of Shemoneh Esrei we pray for the welfare of the Tzadikim--righteous and the Chassidim--devout because the good that we enjoy in this world comes in their merit. As long as there are righteous people in the world, there is good and blessing (Sefer Yaaros D’Vash, Volume 1, Drasha 1). This blessing mentions five different groups of people: Tzadikim--the righteous, Chassidim--the devout, Ziknei Amecha Bais Yisrael--the elders of Your people the Family of Israel, Pleitas Sofreihem--the remnant of the scholars, and Gerei Hatzedek--the righteous converts. The Sefer Avudraham notes that Tzadikim are those who are meticulous in performing all of Hashem’s mitzvos, having consistently and continuously fulfilled the mitzvos of the Torah. The Chassidim are on a higher spiritual level than Tzadikim as they do ‘lifnim mishuras hadin’--above the call of duty-- they do more in the area of mitzvos and good deeds than one is required (Siddur Ha’Yavitz on Al hatzadikim). Alternatively, Chassidim refer to ba’alei teshuvah who, in order to avoid sins similar to those that they have committed in the past, must take on special additional precautions and fences.”





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 Tisha B’Av 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?!



12 Menachem Av

TESHUVA MOMENT! The Sefer Sha’rei Teshuva refers to Teshuva as the term Ohr HaTeshuva, and Hashem’s forgiveness of our sins as the Chesed HaKapparah. To have better Kavannah in the brachos in Shemone Esrei of Teshuva and Kapparah--may we suggest thinking before Hashiveinu of the words Ohr HaTeshuva!, and before Selach Lanu of the words Chesed HaKapparah!  What opportunity Hashem gives us--daven to Hashem for a full measure of Teshuva and Kapparah!






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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14 YEARS SINCE THE GUSH KATIF TRAGEDY:  Although fourteen 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 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 Tehillem 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 5779 is over, let us bli neder resolve this year to truly keep the Kedushas Eretz Yisrael, Yerushalayim and the Beis HaMikdash close to us every day of the year (see more below). 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 [are you working on our ‘Less Than Sixty-Day Challenge’?]; 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 BeSorasecha’ 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!



ON ASHER YATZAR:  Reb Elya Roth Z’tl, often stressed the importance of reciting 100 brachos each day…Regarding the bracha of Asher Yatzar, Reb Elya would say: ‘Do you know what Asher Yatzar really is? It is a ‘Thank You’ for 6 wonderful reasons.

1. We don’t need surgery to extricate the wastes from our bodies.

2. The process is not complicated.

3. It is [usually] painless.

4. It does not require anesthesia.

5. It is performed by the universe’s greatest Doctor.

6. It does not cost a cent.


Reb Elya would don his jacket and hat to recite this bracha, He once remarked with a smile, ‘Truthfully, this bracha, is such cause for joy that it would be proper to put on Shabbos clothing in its honor!’

    Excerpted from the wondrous work Let There Be Rain by Rabbi Shimon Finkelman, Shlita, and Rabbi Zecharia Wallerstein, Shlita (Artscroll/Mesorah)





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!



11 Menachem Av

TESHUVAH MOMENT: Chadashim Labekarim Raba Emunasecha (Eicha 3:23): This Pasuk in Eicha which we read just yesterday, 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. 



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


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


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





A.  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!


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 one who sincerely believes that he ‘is 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.  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!


D.  We should use the Tisha B’Av period as a breaking point.  The soured or souring 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!


E.  Based on the calculation that it has been 1,949 years since the destruction of the Beis HaMikdash, this amounts to more than 710,000 days and over 17,000,000 hours.  This is an extremely, extremely long time.  As we heard in 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 Mexican 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! 


F.  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 (Mattisyahu Chaim ben Ettel L’Refuah Sheleima B’soch Sh’ar Cholei Yisrael), 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! 



VAYELCHU ACHAREI HAHEVEL VA’YEHBALU:  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!





8 Menachem Av


AN OUTSTANDING AND TIMELY TORAH LIVE VIDEO! This time of year is one focused on introspection and growth.  In particular, the Three Weeks, Nine Days, and Tisha B’Av create an appropriate season to foster elevation in the Mitzvos bein Adam L’chaveiro. Torah Live has provided us with a 30-minute short, divided into 4 chapters is a breakthrough opportunity to learn and review the laws of Lashon Hara. We provide the video by the following link https://torahlive.com/courses/the-lost-light/




TESHUVAH MOMENT: If you were given a 10 minute notice that Eliyahu HaNavi was about to arrive-- or even a one-minute notice--how would you prepare?



WHO AM I? On the night of Tisha B’Av we are instructed to make our sleeping arrangements somewhat more uncomfortable than usual:  One who sleeps with two pillows should sleep with one, one with one should perhaps not use the pillow or even use a rock.  One who sleeps on a bed can sleep on the floor.  In the words of the Kitzur Shulchan Aruch (and others):  “HaKol Lefi Mah Shehu Adam--all in accordance with who the person is.”  It is easier for us to claim about ourselves:  “I am not holding there.”; “I am not capable of this”; “Who am I?” or “I can’t do this.”  You, however, are left to be the judge, and far be it from you to shortchange yourself--for eternity.  It is very likely that you can, and even if you can’t--you certainly can try.  Most people will not study you, or be concerned with how you personally slept on Leil Tisha B’Av, what you may have thought about, what you resolve to do, or how you resolve to do it.  All of this falls into the realm of HaKol Lefi Mah Shehu Adom.  It is up to you to stand up and be counted--among those who will help bring the world to full and final fruition!



AN APPRECIATION: The Mishna Berurah (Shulchan Aruch, Orach Chaim 554 seif katan 21) rules that on the Ta’anis it is permissible for one to wash his hands [until his knuckles] before Mincha “Dehavi Kemekabeil Pnei HaShechina U’cheTevilas Mitzvah Shehitiru--for washing one’s hands before davening Mincha is performed in order to greet the Shechina--and can be compared to tevila in a mikva for the sake of a Mitzvah”. Oh, how we should appreciate Tefillas Mincha--and most certainly wash our hands prior to davening--each and every day of the year!



IKAR AVODAH: One of our readers once met with HaRav Chaim Kanievksy, Shlita, and at our request asked him what the Ikar Avodah of the fast of Tisha B’Av is. He responded: “LeHagid Kinos”. This is HaRav Kanievsky’s instruction--the sincerity, feeling and meaning that is put into our Kinos is up to each and every one of us....



QUESTION:  A person should reduce the hana’ah (pleasure) he experiences on the fast of Tisha B’Av as much as possible, true or false?

ANSWER:  The Rema (Orach Chaim 555:2) states that this is true.



QUESTION:  If the Moshiach comes on the fast of Tisha B’Av after Chatzos (midday) will we continue to fast for the balance of the day?

ANSWER:  HaRav Chaim Kanievsky, Shlita, in Sefer Derech Sicha, rules that we will continue to fast if the Moshiach comes after midday because Teshuvah is an element of the mourning that we are to feel and experience on Tisha B’Av. Hakhel Note: Let us not forget to do Teshuvah on the fast of Tisha B’Av--wouldn’t it be so remarkable and special if the Moshiach actually came while you were doing Teshuvah?


Hakhel Note One: The Dirshu Edition of the Mishna Berurah brings from the Brisker Rav, Z’tl, that there are two aspects to Tisha B’Av--that of Ta’anis--and that of Aveilus. The Shelah HaKadosh explains that the Aveilus over Churban Yerushalayim is not to cry and bemoan the past as an end in and of itself--but rather for us to be misbonein--to seriously reflect upon the fact that the Churban resulted from our sins, and to be me’orer ourselves to look carefully into our deeds, and to do Teshuvah (Shulchan Aruch Orach Chaim 549: Dirshu Note 1)


Hakhel Note Two: We should especially recognize that this Sunday, which is 10 Av, is two months to Yom Kippur!


Hakhel Note Three: A Rav made the following point to us: Every generation has its own Yetzer Hara. In the 1800’s--it may have been the Haskala which was ostensibly an intellectual challenge to Torah Jews. Today, we should be embarrassed that our challenges appear to be so childish--spending so much time playing around with instruments--whether or not they are referred to as games--they are so time consuming, so habit forming, and truthfully so not important for eternity!


Hakhel Note Four:  The Sefer Sha’arei Teshuvah (Sha’ar Shelishi:14) writes that just as the reward for Torah study is greater than all of the other Mitzvos, so is the punishment for one who is mevatel from Torah study greater than all of the aveiros. This would mean that the sin of being mevatel from Torah is even greater than that of Chilul Hashem! Each and every one of us can do Teshuvah on Sunday in some way, on a going forward basis, in the Mitzvah of Talmud Torah!



NOW, A QUESTION FOR YOU TO ANSWER: How many different names or titles is the Beis Hamikdash given in Megillas Eichah alone?  What does that teach us?





A. On Shabbos Chazon (as we eat meat and drink wine on Tisha B’Av), we should be especially aware of the Kedushas Shabbos, with the knowledge that as great as the Binyan Bais HaMikdash is--and what it would accomplish for the whole world--it is still not doche, does not push aside, the Shabbos…and must wait until after Shabbos has concluded!  We still celebrate Shabbos--with the gefilte fish, the cholent…the Oneg Shabbos in its honor!  Indeed, this Shabbos, we should try to be a bit more careful with the greatness of Shabbos.  If we feel that somehow we end up in some way moving Muktzah, inadvertently doing Borer, or not knowing what to do in a particular situation and ‘gambling’ with our own Shabbos P’sak, then this is the Shabbos for us to set out to rectify this kind of act or that kind of thing.  If one is used to playing with his hair and often then finds hairs pulled out in front of him, or if one is used to biting his nails or peeling at his skin, then this Shabbos should be the dividing line.  The Kedusha of Shabbos is so great, as is evidenced by its special observance in the face of Tisha B’Av--let us make sure that we inject Kedusha into our personal situations and circumstances as well! Our dear readers, Mekadesh HaShabbos…Kol Mekadesh Shevii...let us especially feel and appreciate it tomorrow!


B. For an excellent summary of the Halachos of today, Erev Shabbos Tisha B’Av, Shabbos Tisha B’Av, and the Ta’anis as observed on Sunday, we urge our readers to purchase in their local seforim store the kuntres Lev Ita: The Halachos When Tisha B’Av Occurs on Shabbos or Sunday, authored by HaRav Yisroel Dov Webster, Shlita. For those who want to look into any topic further, Rabbi Webster provides extensive Hebrew footnotes in the kuntres. Of course, one should obtain a final ruling on all personal matters from his Rav or Posek. 


The important topics contained in the kuntres include Halachos for:


A. Erev Shabbos Chazon: Bathing, Mikvah, Steam Room, Cutting Nails, Changing into Shabbos Clothing, Washing Floors, Polishing Shoes, Polishing Silver, Preparing For Motzoei Shabbos, Learning Torah, Eating or Tasting Meat Items on Erev Shabbos.


B. Shabbos Chazon: The Status of Mourning on Shabbos, Tefillos, Maariv, Seudos, Taking a Leisure Walk on Shabbos, Torah Learning after Chatzos on Shabbos, Mincha., Seudah Shlishis, Taking A Pill that Will Make Fasting Easier, Havdalah for One Who is Not Fasting, Which Beverage Should Be Used For Havdalah, Women’s Obligation in Havdalah, Reciting Havdalah for One Who is Not Fasting.


C. Observance of Tisha B’Av:  Preparing For Motzoei Shabbos, Lighting Candles on Motzoei Shabbos, Folding Tallis, Washing Dishes, Havdalah (Sunday Evening), Which Beverage Should Be Used For Havdalah, Kiddush Levanah, Restrictions on Motza’ei Tisha B’av.






1. The Pasuk (Devorim 1:8) teaches: “Ba’u U’reshu Es Ha’aretz--come and possess the land that Hashem swore to your forefathers….” Rashi (ibid.) explains that war would not even have been necessary--we would have simply entered and possesed--had the Meraglim not spoken Lashon Hara. Thereafter, we would have remained in the land without the need or use of any kelei zayin--any weaponry forever! Let us stop Lashon Hara now--so that we can rid THE WORLD of ugly weaponry once and for all!


2. In a very much related vein, Rashi (ibid. 2:5) teaches that in the reward of Lot remaining silent and simply not revealing Sarah Imeinu’s identity as Avraham Avinu’s wife, he was zoche to become the forefather of two (Amon and Moav) of the ten nations that would inhabit Eretz Yisrael and the environs around it. Imagine--for remaining silent, but once!


3. Hashem tells Moshe Rabbeinu (Devarim 2:31): “Re’eih Hachilosi Teis Lifanecha Es Sichon V’Es Artzo--see I have begun to deliver before you Sichon and his land.” Hashem clarifies to all that it was not a human battle with Sichon--it was simply Hashem causing this great power and his people to melt before K’lal Yisrael. How is this accomplished? Rashi (ibid.) teaches that Hashem placed the Sar (the angel) of the Emorim under the legs of Moshe, so that Moshe could trample over the Sar. Although battles and conquests are fought physically in the world below--they are simply the actualization of the heavenly decree. We must constantly remind ourselves of how wars are truly won--as we engage in Talmud Torah, Tefillah, Mitzvos and Ma’asim Tovim on behalf of K’lal Yisrael the world over.





A.       The Gedolim of the previous generation determined that Tisha B’Av is the day to express our mourning over the Churban Europe.  As we cry over the Six Million Souls that were lost to us and all of the related harm, injury and destruction to those who survived, we must remember not to get lost in the numbers of hundreds of thousands and millions, but to remember each Neshama, and multiply it by millions.  We once again remind you of the Holocaust Survivor who had approximately 13 uncles and brothers who were murdered, and observed one Yahrzeit for them all on Asara BeTeves, since he did not know the specific dates upon which each of them was killed (this is a practice among many, picking a date that a ghetto was liquidated, or that a transport arrived in a death camp).  He approached HaRav Chaim Baruch Faskowitz, Z’tl, on Asara BeTeves and asked if a Kel Moleh Rachamim could be made for them.  HaRav Faskowitz himself took the Sefer Torah and began to recite the Kel Moleh.  As the man was about to give him the list of all of the names to be inserted in the one spot, HaRav Faskowitz stopped him and advised him that he would making each one a separate Kel Moleh, for each of them had his own life, and that there would be no wholesale prayers or remembrances.  About half way through the Kel Molehs, HaRav Faskowitz could no longer bear reciting brother after brother, name after name, which concluded with the same father--”Ben Noach”--and with the Sefer Torah in hand, sat down crying, as his Kehilla cried with him.  Hakhel Note: HaRav Faskowitz’s Yahrzeit is on Tisha B’Av.


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


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





From the Sefer Ashrei HaIsh:


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


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


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


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


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


From the Sefer Kovetz Halachos:


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


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


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


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


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


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


7. It is best for men to daven Mincha early on Tisha B’Av, so that they can put on Tefillin at the earliest possible time. 


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





 1.  On Yom Kippur the Sefer Yesod V’Shoresh HaAvodah teaches us that whenever one feels pangs of hunger or thirst, he should promptly react with:  “I am fulfilling the Mitzvas Asei of Inuy with this pang!”  So too, we suggest, one can have a related thought on Tisha B’Av.  It is said in the name of Gedolim that “Uff Yom Kippur Ver Ken Essen , un Uff Tisha B’Av Vir Vill Essen --on Yom Kippur who can eat, and on Tisha B’Av who wants to eat?”  If one feels the pangs of hunger or thirst--he should look back, look at the present, and look to the future--and think of what he is fasting for. 


2.  On Sinas Chinam.  The following is excerpted from the outstanding Sefer Yearning with Fire--a Sefer which we highly recommend for every Torah home:  “For many years, Yeshivah Middos Tovos prided itself on turning out graduates who were honest, helpful, and kind-hearted.  The boys developed these traits through their sincere Torah learning and the example of their rosh yeshivah, Rabbi Goodman.  Gradually, however; the students became less receptive.  Each new class was slightly more selfish and abrasive than the class that had preceded it.  The harder the yeshivah tried to revitalize the spirit of its earlier years, the more the students scoffed.  Finally, Rabbi Goodman decided to close the doors of the institution.  If, ten years later, a group of parents were to approach Rabbi Goodman and ask him to reopen his school, his first step would be to ascertain who their sons were.  If they were no different from the classes enrolled a decade earlier, he would undoubtedly decline to reopen.  That reasoning helps to explain the Chofetz Chaim’s teaching that if Hashem destroyed the Beis HaMikdash because of Sinas Chinam (baseless hatred) [and Lashon Hara, evil gossip], He won’t permit it to be rebuilt if we have not cured ourselves of these spiritual maladies.” 


The goal, then, is to rid ourselves of Sinas Chinam as quickly and as completely as possible.  What is Sinas Chinam?  The Sefer Yearning with Fire continues:  “Surprisingly, the Torah does not regard a string of hateful insults, nor even a punch in the nose, as a transgression of the commandment of ‘Lo Sisnah Es Achicha Bilevavecha’!” Rather, when a person acts or speaks against his fellow Jew, his transgression is defined by his act, such as hitting, insulting, cursing, bearing a grudge, or taking revenge, rather than by the hatred motivating his act.  It is hateful thoughts that are prohibited by Lo Sisnah.  In the secular legal system, one cannot be prosecuted solely for his inner feelings, but only for his express actions.  Yet the Torah seems to teach that there is a special toxicity to unexpressed hatred.  The Rambam explains why:  When a person expresses negative feelings to his adversary, there is a potential for reconciliation. Hiding one’s hatred leaves no possibility to improve the relationship and foster unity.  Besides the damage hatred causes on its own, many other transgressions sprout from its toxic soil.  That is why Rabbeinu Yonah advises ridding oneself of hatred as a vital part of Teshuvah.  Without attacking this root cause, says Rashi, a person will inevitably speak Lashon Hara about the subject of his hatred.  Baseless hatred is the tiny splinter of negative feeling that gets under our skin and makes another person an irritation to us.  Getting rid of these sharp shards of strife and smoothing out the edges of our relationships with our fellow Jews is a paramount objective for making our world ready for redemption. As the clock moves forward, minute by minute, day by day, and the struggles and anguish of the exile continue unabated, it becomes all the more urgent to dig in and complete this essential task that has eluded us for nearly 2,000 years.” 


3. Chazal (Baba Metziah 30B) teach that another primary cause of the destruction of Yerushalayim was that people did not conduct themselves Lifnim Mishuras HaDin--going beyond the exact letter of the law:  “I only have to do this”; “I don’t have to do that”; “I do what I am supposed to”; “I don’t owe him a dime”; “I am one hundred percent right and he is one hundred percent wrong”; “I do exactly what it says”--all may be technically correct, but Chazal teach that we must do better than the letter of the law.  In business, there is a saying that a good businessman ‘leaves a little bit of money on the table’--not taking the last penny for himself at the closing of a deal.  Nobody wants strict justice--why should we impose ours on others?!  Think about how you can improve in acting Lifnim Mishuras HaDin with at least one person or in at least one way. 


4. Rabbi Yisroel Reisman, Shlita, importantly explains the term She’eiris Yisrael or She’eiris Hapleitah--i.e., the remnants of K’lal Yisrael, and most recently the remnants of those that survived the horrors of World War Two.  The term Nishar, according to the Malbim, is different than the term Nosar, in that Nishar indicates something that was left over deliberately and with a plan, while Nosar refers to something left over incidentally or unintentionally.  For instance, the Shirayim of a Rebbe is intentionally left for his Chassidim, while the meat of a Karbon that is left over past its time and must be burnt is called Nosar--nobody wanted that to happen.  The Malbim brings many proofs for this distinction from Chumash and Tanach.  What we have to realize is that we are not Nosarim but Nisharim--the intentional remnants of K’lal Yisrael--not having been left here incidentally, without a plan, because of unforeseen circumstances or by mistake.  We have a purpose and we must live with that purpose every day.  Rabbi Reisman teaches that one who is a Nishar must know and understand that he must exert the extra effort to rise above his weaknesses (and perhaps laziness) and undertake the actions that a survivor would undertake.  One should not necessarily quit on a Shiur, or on doing a Chesed because he has a headache, feels weak, is in despair or feels like he is ‘falling apart’.  Instead, he must rise above the situation to survive and further survive--for there is a plan and he has a purpose.  Each and every one of us is a part of the She’eiris--let us not only wear the badge with honor--but with action!



HOW CAN WE NOT SHED A TEAR?! The Gemara (Megilla 21A) teaches that Moshe Rabbeinu would learn the more difficult laws and concepts of the Torah sitting down.


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


Can we not shed a tear over:


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

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

·                                 The honor of K’lal Yisrael that has been cast to the ground and trampled upon

·                                 The Cohens and Levys of the world who are not Jewish

·                                 The Crusades

·                                 The Pogroms

·                                 The 1648-1649 Massacres

·                                 The Holocaust

·                                 The Yom Kippur War

·                                 The Lebanon War

·                                 The Gaza War

·                                 Terrorism of a kind that the world has never faced before

·                                 The murders in N’vei Tzuf, the Har Nof Massacre, the murder of the three-month old Chaya Zissel (a’h) Bas R’ Shmuel Elimelech. The kidnapping and murder of Naftali Fraenkel, Gilad Shaar and Eyal Yifrach, the Bulgaria murders, the Toulouse murders of Rabbi Sandler and the three little children, the Fogel massacre, the Mumbai atrocity, the Sbarros bombing, the bombing of Bus Number 2, the Leil HaSeder attack, the drive-by murders, the tractor terror, the Merkaz HaRav murders, the knife attacks, the hundreds of other terrorist attacks, the murders and maimings, the mortars and bombs, the soldiers and the children all under attack

·                                The Sassoon children

·                                Those who are victims of terror on an almost daily basis in the area of Gaza

·                                 All of the unnecessary sickness and suffering for 2,000 years (multiplied by each second of pain)

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

·                                 Low levels of conduct in Galus--smiling at the mishap of another, failing to properly rejoice at another’s simcha, and finding it hard to accept another’s honor and success

·                                 The Jews who do not even know that Tisha B’Av exists

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


The Navi (Yeshaya 1:3, which we read as part of this week’s Haftara) teaches “Ami Lo Hisbonan--My nation did not consider.”  Rashi adds that the people knew they were acting improperly but “tread with their heels” on this knowledge, and simply “did not take it to heart.” 


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


Oh, what has befallen us! A nation in ruins, the holiest people on Earth berated by the lowest nations on Earth. What makes us better today than the captives of Judea taken by the Romans more than 1940 years ago? We cannot allow ourselves to be fooled by the amenities, luxuries, or even just the relative comfort in which we live. We have been in exile far too long, and the longer we are here, the worse off we are.


L’Ma’aseh, living with reality and practically speaking, we are walking about badly wounded in this bitter exile.


Yirmiyahu HaNavi cries out (Eicha 2:19) “Shifchi Kamayim Libeich--pour out your heart [to Hashem] like water.” 


Let us take the time on Tisha B’Av to be misbonein over the pain and mourning over the Chilul Hashem that exists in the world today, over Hashem’s pain which is infinitely greater than ours, over a world that has been lowered to the bottom of the bottom-most depths, over all the individual and communal pain and anguish, over these and much more, we must cry real, very real, tears. 


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


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


If, for some reason you cannot cry--at least cry out--as our forefathers did in Mitzrayim. Remember, the gates of tears--and the gates of ruchniyus--are never closed. If we have to sit on the Ta’anis, it should do more than cause us some temporary physical pain. Plead to Hashem as Dovid HaMelech does: “El Dimosi Al Techerash--do not be silent to my tears!” (Tehillim 39:13) Hashem, I will not find comfort with the few pleasures I have when the Heavens and the Earth writhe in pain! Please join with your brothers this Sunday, as our sincere tears and cries reach the Heavens. May these tears and cries turn into overflowing sounds of salvation for each and every one of us, as we join together to witness the comforting of our people and the ultimate final and glee-filled redemption--speedily and in our days.



ONE FINAL, VERY IMPORTANT POINT: The experience of Tisha B’Av should not be one of Yei’ush--despair, combined with a feeling of hypocrisy--knowing that one will eat on Sunday night and have Shabbos Nachamu in a week.  No, Tisha B’Av is quite to the contrary a time for us to revitalize our Achakeh Lo--our anticipation, our outstretched hope, our true yearning that the Moshiach really finally does come, and mankind reaches its final goal.  It is one of the most basic tenets of Torah belief, as told and retold by our Nevi’im, that the Geulah will come.  As to why the Moshiach did not come in the times of Rav and Shmuel, in the times of Ravina and Rav Ashi, or those of Rashi, the Rambam, the Ramban, the Bais Yosef, the G’ra, Rebbi Akiva Eiger, the Belzer Rebbe, the Ben Ish Chai or any of the outstandingly great Gedolei HaDor we have had in the past, it is simply not something we can understand at this moment.  Furthermore, for all of those who thought that it would be the Chofetz Chaim, the Chazon Ish, the Baba Sali, the Steipeler, HaRav Shach, or HaRav Elyashiv that would lead us to Moshiach, this is also, devastatingly, not the reality now.  Nevertheless, we must intensely believe, and intensely demonstrate, that we know that the Geulah will come.  We must bring home to ourselves that it is not another Tisha B’Av because it was so last year, the year before, or a hundred years before.  It is another Tisha B’Av because in the stretch between Tisha B’Av 5778 and 5779, we simply did not put enough bricks on the wall. The absolute truth is that it may literally be his one extra hour of Torah study, or her one act of Chesed that brings us over the top. The Alter of Kelm teaches that one of the greatest lessons of Tisha B’Av is rooted in the Sefer Nefesh HaChaim:  The stabbing of the Paroches by Titus after he and his soldiers had come into the Beis HaMikdash and defiled it in any way they thought possible was, in fact, deemed by Hashem to be a meaningless act, with no effect in the Heavens whatsoever.  Indeed, as Chazal teach, the Heavens cried out at the time of the destruction:  “[What have you done--nothing!] You have burned a burnt building.”  Each one of us, on the other hand, can make the Heavens shake with a deed of kindness, an act of goodness, a sincere prayer, and meaningful Teshuvah.  It is up to us, each and every day until the Geulah arrives.  There is hope, there is a future, there is an end.  All of the sad Tisha B’Av’s will vanish into past history, hopefully sooner than later.  We all chant together at the end of Megillas Eicha (5:21):  “Hashiveinu Hashem Eilecha VeNashuva Chadeish Yameinu KiKedem--bring us back to You Hashem, and we shall return, renew our days as of old.”  When we can achieve this point--not only will Eicha be at an end--but so will this bitter Galus, and the sweet Geulah will begin! 





7 Menachem Av










TESHUVAH MOMENT: Rabbi Jonathan Rietti, Shlita, points out that after the first Pasuk in the Torah which describes that Hashem created the Heavens and the Earth--which includes billions of galaxies with billions of celestial bodies within them, the Torah immediately begins to focus on Ha’aretz--the earth. The earth in comparison to all Hashem created is almost infinitely smaller than even the Jewish population in proportion to the whole world’s population. Yet, the Torah teaches us that Hashem’s focus is here, with us, in this world, on earth. If life on planet earth is so important--how can we waste it on vanities, trifles, excesses, and the unimportant?! Especially in this precious time before Tisha B’Av, one of the highlights of which is Teshuvah--we must consider and reconsider how we can make our lives more valued and valuable!


Additional Note: Chazal teach that in a place where a Ba’al Teshuvah stands--even a Tzaddik Gamur cannot stand. Each and every one of us has the opportunity to be greater than even those who are looked to as Tzaddikim. Such is the power of Teshuvah. We must remember that Chazal teach: “V’HaKol Lefi HaCheshbon--everything is counted, and not overlooked by Hashem”. We have the capability to successfully overcome each challenge and each trial we face, and do Hashem’s will in each and every life situation and event. We suggest both of the following phrases are true: “We can--because we must”, and “We must--because we can”!



LIFE ON PLANET EARTH! “R’Shaul Kosovsky-Shachor, a religious lawyer, told me the following ruling that he heard from the Chazon Ish.  After Shacharis, R’ Shaul would learn Torah for several hours before going to work. Once, he told the Chazon Ish that although he tries not to interrupt his learning, it occasionally happens that a person will ask him to help him with the wording of a contract.  On those occasions, he removes his Tefillin and helps the person with the contract.  ‘The Chazon Ish told me,’ R’ Shaul related, ‘that I do not have to remove my Tefillin when I interrupt my learning to help people.’ ’Even if you were not wearing Tefillin,’ the Chazon Ish told me, ‘you would be allowed to put them on in order to write the contract.  According to the basic halachah, a person should wear Tefillin the whole day, even while he is working. You should certainly work on the contract while wearing your Tefillin, out of fear of Heaven,’ the Chazon Ish said’.”  Hakhel Note: Let us contemplate what can add to our fear of Heaven! [Excerpted from The Sefer Aleinu L’Shabeiach by HaRav Yitzchak Zilberstein, Shlita, and written by Rabbi Moshe Zoren (Artscroll)]



PURITY! We understand that some have difficulty contemplating what life will be like after the Third Beis HaMikdash arrives. One person suggested to us that he thinks of his greatest end of Yom Kippur experience--the feeling of extreme cleanliness and purity--a feeling that each and every one of us has experienced to some extent and in some way. With the Geulah, this feeling of purity is what we will experience every day, he suggests--a thousand fold, or more!



PISKEI HALACHA OF HARAV CHAIM KANIEVSKY, SHLITA: The following are Piskei Halacha from HaRav Chaim Kanievksy, Shlita, as published in the Divrei Si’ach relating to Tisha B’Av, and the Churban:


A. For Kriyas Shema Ahl HaMita on Leil Tisha B’Av, HaRav Kanievsky recites only the Parasha of Shema, the Pasuk of BeYadecha Afkid Ruchi, and the bracha of HaMapil.


B. The Minhag to stand when reciting Ali Tzion is out of respect for the Kinah, and is not a chiyuv.


C. When putting on Tefillin in the afternoon, one may recite the Pesukim which he normally says when putting on Tefillin.


D. HaRav Kanievsky reports that the Chazon Ish permitted women to recite Tehillim on Tisha B’Av.


E. Halachos which are Zecher LeChurban:


1. A Simcha Hall which is owned by an individual requires an amah by an amah which is unfinished.


2. When traveling to the Kosel, the Steipeler would close his eyes upon entering the Old City until the Kosel, so that he would not have to tear his clothing twice--once for the walls of Yerushalayim--and the other for the Kosel.


3. One cannot be mafkir his clothing in order to avoid tearing it when seeing the Kosel. After tearing, one need not continue to wear it and one can replace it immediately.








1.  Lashon Hara--we need say nothing more than these two words, which the Chofetz Chaim teaches is the Sinas Chinam which brought about the destruction of the Second Bais Hamikdash.  We have to know that a slip even one time a day has horrific results.  Picture five packs of cigarettes in front of you ready to be smoked--five words of Lashon Hara are infinitely worse than smoking all five packs!  Hakhel Note:  The Sefer Yearning with Fire points out that the current Galus is now more than 27 times longer than Galus Bavel.  Think about it--27 times longer--and the Galus Bavel was a result of the three major sins of Gilui Arayos, Shefichas Damim and Avodah Zara!  We have to get the message--and stop once and for all!


2.  As this week’s Haftarah concludes, Yeshayahu HaNavi (1:27) reveals to us: “Tzion BaMishpat Tipadeh V’Shaveha B’Tzedakah--we will be redeemed through justice and through Tzedakah.”  This does not apply only to judges and to the wealthy.  It applies to each and every Jew. We know that being Dan L’Chaf Zechus is part of Tzion BaMishpat Tipadeh.  What are the ways that one can be Dan L’Chaf Zechus?  The Chofetz Chaim suggests several, which include one’s thinking that the person does not realize that what he is doing is wrong, or realizing that he does not understand the full context of the event (which is almost always the case), and yet another is that even if one feels that he understands the context and knows the person to be culpable, it may be that the person must act in this manner or in order to save someone else.  If one does not consciously realize, at least once a day, that he is judging another L’Chaf Zechus--then perhaps he is not being Dan L’Chaf Zechus often enough! 


3. Now let us turn to V’Shaveha B’Tzedakah--if we give Tzedakah daily--especially when doing so for the sake of the Geulah--we demonstrate that we are personally trying to fulfill the Navi’s words! 


4.  Tzefanayah HaNavi (3:13) teaches us that “She’eiris Yisrael Lo Ya’asu Avlah VeLo Yedabru Chazav VeLo YeMatzei BiPhihem Leshon Tarmis--those who remain at the time of the Moshiach…will be those that did not speak falsely or deceitfully.”  How important is honesty in one’s life!  It is literally the difference as to whether one will be present at the end of days, says the Navi.  What an important ambition in life!



6 Menachem Av

TESHUVAH MOMENT:  A re-emphasis on Teshuvah in the area of Shalom: What will Eliyahu HaNavi accomplish upon his arrival?  The last Mishna in Edios (8:7) brings different opinions as to Eliyahu’s actual role, and concludes with the words of the Chachamim: “Eliyahu will not come to make distant those who are currently close, or to make close those who are currently distant.  Rather, his purpose it to make peace in the world.”  Oh, how we need this now! The world and all its inhabitants, including parents and children, students and teachers, all of the estranged, and the erstwhile enemies, will no longer have a shred of Machlokes between them.  Peace and only peace will be the common thread of all humanity.  With this realization--that the singular task of Eliyahu HaNavi is to bring peace to the world--perhaps we should realize what an important goal peace really is even now--and place especially important focus and attention on the last Bracha of Shemone Esrei, and the other areas of Davening in which we plead for peace.  If we conclude Shemone Esrei with this plea, conclude Birkas Kohanim with this plea, conclude Bentsching with this plea…and Eliyahu HaNavi’s sole role will bring its ultimate realization, then we must do our part to realize its essential and unparalleled place in our lives, and in the lives of our family, community, and the world at large.  The next time (and every time!) you say Sim Shalom, Shalom Rav, Hashem Yivarech Es Amo BaShalom... or even Shalom Aleichem--especially during these perilous times--give it the special meaning and inspired intent that it actually, realistically and so very truly deserves!



FROM READERS: We received the following important communications from readers:


A. In an Irgun Shiurei Torah shiur, I heard Rabbi Saperstein say (I forget in whose name) that with the destruction of the Bais Hamikdash, our siddur is like a portable Bais Hamikdash.  In our Bein Adam Lamakom focus these days, keeping this thought in mind might engender more Kavannah.  This morning, Rabbi Saperstein’s teaching made me so grateful just to have a siddur, a machzor, etc., all within easy reach.  I thought of people during the Holocaust, who davened from memory, or of stories of people who gave from their meager rations, just to have a chance to daven from a lone siddur or pages of a siddur that had been smuggled into the camps….

Also, I read that HaRav Mattisyahu Salomon, Shlita, may he be well and strong, in comments on Chovos Halevovos, translated the word bitachon not as trust, but as certainty.  Namely, we are certain that Hashem will take care of us, send the geulah, etc.  When I pointed this out to a friend, she reminded me of the following mashal: ‘Why does a baby laugh when its father throws him up in the air?  Shouldn’t the baby be fearful and cry?  But the baby laughs because he is certain that his father will catch him!’  The nimshal is clear.  May we merit the Geulah Sheleimah, and may it be Geulah B’Rachamim.”


B. “One of the primary avodos of this period is not being mesiach da’as from the churban.  Speaking for myself and presumably others, this is an extremely difficult avoda and especially so for those of us working in a secular environment completely antithetical to all things religious.   So the question becomes: How do we go about our day and do all our normal activities but at the same time keep an awareness that we, personally and as a nation, are in a period of mourning?  I heard an eitza once.  It might sound silly or trite but it has worked for me and hopefully would work for others.  Take a small item, could be a paper clip or a folded up small piece of paper and put in your shoe such that as you walk around you notice it.  The item should not be too small that you cannot feel it and not too large to impede normal walking habits.  As you walk around, to the office, on an errand or running to catch the train, you will notice the object and the object will remind you that it is the Nine Days and a period of mourning.  Simple, but very effective.”


C. The Imrei Emes [one of the great Gerrer Rebbes] describes the scenario of a person who is suspected of having tzara’as. If the Kohen is not sure – the person must be secluded away for a week to be checked again to see if it is in fact tzara’as or not. Let’s say that in the end it wasn’t tzara’as. So the Imrei Emes asks, what is going on? There is no happenstance or coincidence and this person went through a lot of inui – a lot of pain, being by themselves for the week, basically in solitary confinement. and in the end, it wasn’t tzara’as – so why did all of that happen?

His answer is astounding! He says that he had all of that affliction for words not spokenThings that he should have said to someone ……..and didn’t. Words of encouragement and care, a compliment, a thank you, something that could help a person, give them some kavod, build them up in some way, or something that would be meaningful for them. These things went unsaid.

For this he was meant to sit for a week by himself and contemplate life and what could have happened and what he could have said.

We are talking about the concept of Lashon Tov. We always speak about the seriousness of lashon harah – but what about the flip side??



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


“Who are the Zeidim? They are evil doers, the habitual and intentional sinners, who attempt to draw Jews away from their service of Hashem. We request that Hashem punish the Zeidim in no fewer than four different ways: He should “uproot, smash, cast down, and humble them,” Se’aker, Seshaber, Semageir, Sachniyah. Rav Schwab (Rav Schwab on Prayer, Artscroll, p. 479) explains that these four verbs were chosen very carefully and represent four different types of punishment:


Se’aker--we pray that Hashem uproot the evil doers, to prevent any future growth. It is our prayer that any ideology that attempts to take Jews away from Judaism—either by force or persuasion—shall be uprooted and thereby shall cease to grow and develop.


Seshaber--we pray that evil-doers should be smashed into various factions, thus rendering them ineffective in reaching their evil objective.


Semageir--we pray that even the factions of evil-doers be broken up—that they be further divided into individuals. Nevertheless, even without the strength of the group, these individuals are still dangerous.


Sachniyahwe pray that Hashem humble the remaining individual evil-doers, so that individual Zeidim are rendered harmless.”







1.  With all of the problems of Galus, we must see the Yad Hashem leading us from place to place, from trial and tribulation to respite, and from another trial and tribulation to another respite.  HaRav Yisroel Reisman, Shlita, teaches that the Kinus are presented in a seeming disorder or disarray in order for us to understand that the trials and tribulations we experienced in the 1500’s were not in essence different than the trials and tribulations of the 1800’s, and that the respite in the 1700’s was not in essence different than the respite in the 2000’s.  It is all Yad Hashem walking with us, staying with us, leading us in a Derech Hanistar until that time that we are zoche for His glory to be revealed to us in all its splendor--and this time to the entire world!


2.  We must read and re-read the last few paragraphs of Chapter 19 of the Mesilas Yesharim, in which the Ramchal teaches us how each and every one of us is personally important and responsible to bring the Geulah.  We must teach this lesson to our friends, to our neighbors and to our children.  When pleading to Hashem for the Geulah, can we not be contrite enough to stick out our hand as a pauper does when we say:  “Yehi Ratzon…Sheyibaneh Bais Hamikdash BeMiheirah V’Yameinu Visein Chelkeinu BiSorasecha…”? We do not have to limit this request to the end of Shemone Esrei--we can make it additional times during the day as well!


3.  Supplementing our reader’s suggestion above, we should take upon ourselves certain simple daily practices (everything, bli neder, of course), which indicate our discomfort and displeasure with our remaining in Galus.  Every person knows what he can do--skipping one’s first choice of dessert, not eating a particular food (ketchup, mustard, popcorn--you choose it), not speaking one time a day when you could--all in order to remember where you are and where you have to go. 


4.  The Arizal teaches that in order to be zoche to Ruach HaKodesh, one should recite Birkas HaNehenin properly.  We provide by the following link http://www.hakhel.info/archivesPublicService/AlHamichyaElucidated.pdf a simple translation of Al HaMichya and Borei Nefashos in Hebrew.  By using these translations (at least once a day), one may demonstrate that he aspires to the days when Ruach HaKodesh will once again be prevalent among us, and that he too aspires to that very same Ruach HaKodesh.



5 Menachem Av

TESHUVAH MOMENT: In a Shiur related to Tisha B’Av, Rabbi Zev Leff, Shlita, explained that in the Haggada Shel Pesach there are two times the phrase “Bechol Dor V’Dor” appears: (1) Bechol Dor V’Dor Chayav Adam Liros Es Atzmo--in every generation a person is obligated to view himself as having been redeemed from Egypt; and (2) Bechol Dor V’Dor Omdim Aleinu Lechaloseinu-- in every generation our enemies attempt to destroy us (whether blatantly or not). Chazal, by putting both phrases of Bechol Dor V’Dor into the Haggada are teaching us that just as each generation in Galus deserves to be in Galus--each and every generation--including ours--has the potential for redemption.  It is up to us not to look this way or that way, backwards, frontwards or sideways--but into ourselves--so that we can experience the very much preferred Bechol Dor V’Dor!



REMEMBER TO LOOK AT THE LABEL! In this important time, as we bolster our zehirus in Mitzvos, let us act with resolve to carefully review labels in order to make the proper brachos on products--thanking HaKadosh Baruch Hu in the appropriate way for His beneficence. By the following link http://tinyurl.com/jc8nh4xn we provide as an example the label of Popinsanity--a popular gourmet popcorn product--which the label testifies is…Pas Yisrael! Of course, if one has any doubts as to the appropriate bracha rishona or acharona, he should consult with the Kashrus agency and/or his Rav regarding the particular product.



ACTUALLY--MUCH TO LOOK FORWARD TO! Rabbeinu Sa’adia Gaon teaches as follows:  Hashem related to Avraham Avinu just two words about what would happen to the Mitzriyim when the time for Geulas Mitzrayim would come--‘Dun Anochi--I will judge them’. Yet, we all know the fantastic miracles and wonders that subsequently occurred. Imagine, then, continues Rabbeinu Sa’adia Gaon about the future Geulah--think of the [perhaps thousands of] words of nechama in the Seforim of Yirmiyahu, Yeshayahu, Yecheskel and Trei Asar--how great and wondrous will the Geulah Sheleimah be! Hakhel Note:  All we have to do is take it seriously--and properly ready ourselves!



PERHAPS YOU CAN START HERE…!  That one item that you were meaning to get to--improving your Kavannah in Pesukei D’Zimrah, Shema or Shemone Esrei; making sure to be on time for davening in Shul or to the Shiur; starting the new Gemach; making a daily Chesed call….  Whatever it may be that you have intended to begin but have not yet done so--now during this very important period in which we strive to increase our levels of Avodah--to show that we are ready for more--is truly the time to get started!



APPRECIATING ALL OF HIS WONDERS: The following two extremely practical and meaningful points are excerpted from Let There Be Rain by Rabbi Shimon Finkelman, Shlita, and Rabbi Zechariah Wallerstein, Shlita (Artscroll/Mesorah)


1. Rav Shimon Schwab, Z’tl, teaches: “My Rebbi, Rav Yeruchom Levovitz, Z’tl, the Mirrer Mashgiach, would say that just as one is impressed by a very loud, crashing clap of thunder, and consequently trembles when saying the bracha of Shekocho U’Gevuraso Maleih Olam, so should one also tremble and be awe-inspired when saying the bracha of Shehakol Nehiyeh Bidvaro before drinking a glass of water. The creation of water is just as much a result of the strength and power of Hashem as is thunder and lightning.”


2. Rav Zev Smith, Shlita, writes: “If a person wants to acquire love of Hashem, says Rambam, he should look at the miracles of the natural world. [In summer camp] Rav Nesanel Quinn, Z’tl, often took us on walks, and would point to a tree, a patch of grass. Each was in his eyes a Mitzvah object from which to learn. In our daily prayers we say that this world is filled with Kinyanecha which literally means “Your [Hashem’s] possessions”. Rav Quinn would quote [his mentor] HaRav Shraga Feivel Mendlowitz, Z’tl, who said that the word Kinyan is a method by which to acquire something. By pondering the wonders of creation, we acquire love of Hashem. Accordingly, the intent of the prayer is, ‘How manifold are Your works, Hashem…the earth is filled with ways by which to acquire love of You, Who has created this amazing world’.”



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



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







1.  What does the lack of a Bais Hamikdash mean?  We are taught (see for example Divrei HaYamim 1:25 and Rashi there) that the Chapters of Tehillim were so inspirational that their recitation by the Levi’im in the Bais Hamikdash brought them to Ruach HaKodesh.  How can we live with such a stark void?  How can we live without Nevi’im to guide us and Kohanim to teach us?  How can we live without Korbanos which by its very meaning teaches us that our bringing them is a guaranteed means of coming closer to Hashem?  The holiest place in the world is the Kodesh HaKedashim--how can we allow the world to continue to exist--without its holiest place? 


2.  How deadened have my senses become in Galus?  How can I be content with what my eyes see around me?  How can I be used to the words that my ears hear?  What parts of Western civilization are emblazoned in my home, on my clothing (even glasses and sneakers!), and worse yet--in my heart?! 


3.  The Shechina is out of its home.  It is in Galus!  Dovid HaMelech cried out to Hashem that he could not live like that--without the Shechina in its resting place.  How could we then be complacent, and look away at the Tza’ar HaShechina?  Shouldn’t we at least feel the Tza’ar three times a day, every day when reciting the bracha of V’Lirushalayim Irecha BeRachamim Tashuv


4.  Do I realize what the world will be like when the Geulah finally comes?  As we have noted in the past, HaRav Shlomo Zalmen Auerbach, Z’tl, taught that there will even be four brachos that are recited when the Moshiach comes.  The Mishna (Brachos 9:2) itself teaches that when we see Avodah Zara uprooted from Eretz Yisrael we will be able to recite the bracha of:  “Baruch She’akar Avodah Zara MeiArtzeinu”!  Oh, how we must await the Geulah!  Chazal teach that the Ananei Kavod--the cloud of glory will even return to transport us, that the sick will be healed, that the agony and groans of this world will be no more--and that we will live in eternal happiness.  Moreover, if one truly mourns the destruction of the Mikdash, HaRav Mattisyahu Salomon, Shlita, [Mattisyahu Chaim Ben Ettel] adds that he will be zoche to a Techiyas HaMeisim which precedes the general Techiyas HaMeisim--so that he can truly see the Bais Hamikdash being rebuilt with his own eyes!



4 Menachem Av

HAKHEL TISHA B’AV SCHEDULE IN FLATBUSH: To take place at Kollel Bnei Torah (1323 E. 32nd Street, between M and Kings Highway).  For men and women - free admission. For a Tisha B’Av schedule, please see the following link: http://www.hakhel.info/ArchivesPrograms/TishaBAvSchedule5779.pdf




TESHUVAH MOMENT: The Chofetz Chaim provides the following stark words: “If someone is not as careful as he should be and speaks ‘only four or five words’ of Lashon Hara in a day--then over the week that will be 30 words of Lashon Hara. Over the year, the Chofetz Chaim continues, this will aggregate 1,500 words of Lashon Hara. Over 60 years, this will result in 80,000 words of Lashon Hara. Since Chazal (Avos 4:13) teach that one who does an aveirah creates an accompanying kateigor (prosecuting Malach)--one will have r’l created an astounding legion of 80,000 mekatregim against him. This would occur if r’l one is not careful with four or five words every day. Imagine, then, if one is not careful with 15 or 20! On the other hand--if those very same words were used as words of Torah, Tefillah or Chesed--in their place there would be 80,000 malochim who are saneigorim--who will eternally benefit the one who created them. A little laxity could be a terrible thing--while just a small amount of Mitzvos in their place can bring everlasting gain!”



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


Birkas HaMinim is really the 19th Bracha of Shemone Esrei, as it was instituted after the Churban, in Yavneh (Brachos 28B).  Thus, it seems to directly relate to our condition post-Churban, during which we are inundated by heretical thoughts and philosophies, and face enemies from within and without.  HaRav Chaim Friedlander, Z’tl, explains that we accordingly first begin with Velamalshinim Al Tehi Sikva--may all of those who are antagonistic to Torah, who falsify reports against us and who antagonize or act with hatred towards us, have no success or hope in their endeavors.  Furthermore, Vechol HaRisha KeRegah Toveid--we do not daven necessarily that the evildoers be eradicated, but that the evil itself will be eliminated not over time--but K’Rega--immediately.  Our plea for the immediate destruction of evil, HaRav Friedlander writes, exactly parallels our Tefilla on the Yomim Noraim of ‘Vechol HaRisha Kula KeAshan Tichleh’--i.e., that Risha be destroyed immediately--going up in smoke so that the world at large will acknowledge its fallacy. We have needed this Bracha over the last 2,000 years--and we most certainly need it now.  Think of our current enemies all across the globe. Perhaps when the Beis HaMikdash is rebuilt…we will revert back to 18 Brachos.  May we find out in our day.  In the interim, let us be sure we impart all of the Kavannah that we can into this timely Bracha!


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



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



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



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


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


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



EXTREMELY IMPORTANT REFLECTION: A reader wrote to us how the excerpt we had published a while back was extremely important for her in these trying times and in light of a difficult personal situation. We accordingly provide it once again to be mechazeik ourselves:




We provide the following practical and meaningful words of Rav Matisyahu Solomon, Shlita, as found in his Sefer With Hearts Full of Faith (Artscroll, p.124-125). We strongly recommend this Sefer, so directed to us and our times: 


“From time to time, during the various exiles of the Jewish people, there have been periods of deep darkness, of exceedingly terrible suffering. And if we look back, we see that these usually took place right before periods of redemption. People refer to these times as the deeper darkness that comes before the dawn. But why should it be this way? Why should there be periods of such intense darkness before the dawn of redemption? 


“...When God wants to redeem us but finds insufficient merit to justify a redemption, He intensifies the darkness. As the suffering of the Jewish people reaches unbearable levels, certain people rise to the occasion. They feel for each other. They bear the burdens of their suffering brothers, and they move heaven and earth to help them. And this extreme empathy brings the dawn of redemption for the entire Jewish people. 


“The times in which we live certainly qualify as a period of intense darkness. The Jewish nation as a whole finds itself in a precarious position, under attack from all sides, persecuted, abused, maligned. Blood flows on the holy soil, and there is no end in sight. In Jewish homes in all parts of the globe, there is also an unusual amount of suffering. All around us we see heartbreak and heartbreak and more heartbreak. 


“I do not believe that all of this misery is being visited upon us only in order to exact punishment for transgressions. I believe that it is rather to bring us to reach up to God with higher levels of prayer and to reach out to our fellow Jews with higher levels of compassion. Our generation has apparently not accumulated enough merit to earn redemption. But we are nonetheless in the final days of our long and bitter exile. We are finally on the threshold of redemption, but we lack the merit to actually make it happen. But God wants it to happen. Destiny has brought us to our appointed time, to the last moments before the dawn, but how shall we move forward? How shall we cross the final barrier between oppression and liberation? 


“God has given us the key. He has darkened our world, sending down so much suffering that we cannot help but see it everywhere we turn. But suffering is not always a punishment. It can also signal the opening of the shaarei rachamim, the gates of mercy, and it is important that those of us who suffer accept their lot with trust and faith. As for the rest of us, this is our opportunity to respond to our suffering brothers.... This is our opportunity to rise above our safe and comfortable little corners and truly feel for our brothers and sisters who live with…pain, anxiety and sorrow. This is our opportunity to experience and express extreme empathy, to show that we hurt and weep with our people, that their pain and grief are our own. If we do this, then God will also bring to bear, middah keneged middah, measure for measure, His own attribute of extreme empathy and send us the final redemption speedily and in our days.” 


Let us take these words to deep heart--and act upon them, each person in his/her own unique and special way, and may the result be our full and final redemption-- speedily and in our days!



1 Menachem Av




STARTS TODAY! In our Sha’arei Teshuvah pre-Rosh Hashana calendar, Sha’ar Gimel starts today! If you have not yet begun the Sefer--you may begin today with Sha’ar Gimel, which contains the main body of the Sefer. We provide by the following link http://www.hakhel.info/archivesPublicService/ShaareiTeshuvaSchedule5775.pdf the calendar for you for the next two months--from Rosh Chodesh Av to completion of the Sefer on Rosh Hashana.



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



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



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

  Indeed, Hillel in the aforementioned Mishna, enjoins us all to “Be among Aharon’s students” in this regard--to learn the value of peace among brothers. 


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





A. One should not have ‘body work’ done on his car during the Nine Days, if its purpose is to enhance the car’s appearance.


B. It is permissible for a woman to wear her regular, everyday jewelry during the Nine Days.


C. It is best to be mechanech children to be ‘me’ma’ait BeSimcha’ during the Nine Days. For instance, they should not go to an amusement park or build a clubhouse. Generally, one should also not make a ‘birthday party’ during the Nine Days--but if there is a specific situation one should ask a Shaila.  One should not plant flowers for beauty’s sake during the Nine Days.


[Sefer Koveitz Halachos, by Rabbi Doniel Kleinman, Shlita]



IMPORTANT REMINDER FOR THE SHABBOS LEINING: The Sefer Talelei Oros relates that on Parashas Masei in the last year of his life, a Minyan was convened for the Brisker Rav in his apartment, and he stayed in his bedroom.  During the leining of the boundaries of Eretz Yisrael, the Ba’al Kriyah read the location of ‘Tzeena’ (Bamidbar 34:4) with the accent on the second syllable as ‘TzeeNAH’.  Suddenly a loud voice was heard calling from the Rav’s room exclaiming ‘TZEEna’--with emphasis on the ‘Tzee’. He explained that when one places the emphasis on the first syllable of ‘Tzee’, the meaning of the word is ‘L’Tzeen’, to Tzeen, which is what the Torah means.  The Ba’al Kriyah though, by putting the emphasis on the last syllable, changed its meaning to TzeeNAH, which may or may not have been the name of a place at all, and has its own meaning related to the word shield (as in the Pasuk “Tzeena VeSocheira Amito”).




The following Halachos are P’sakim of HaRav Elyashiv, Z’tl, whose Yahrzeit was this past week, which are excerpted from the monumental work, Sefer Ashrei HaIsh (Hebrew) recently published by HaRav Yechezkel Feinhandler:


A.  If one must search for an article of clothing among articles of clothing, and one picks out the wrong article, he should put it back into the mixture--for when it comes to Borer in clothing, one can rely on the Maharshag, who rules that you can be lenient in this area.


 B.  One may walk on a wet mat in front of the house, and it is not considered Sechita.  Similarly, one may walk with socks which are wet from rain--for it is a Pesik Reisha Delo Neicha Lai, not the Derech of Sechita, and for other reasons as well.


 C.  One should not drink water that has melted from ice, unless one has no other water.  However, if one has a cup of water and ice inside it, one may shake the cup so that the ice will melt more quickly, because it is already mixed with water.


 D.  One who follows the opinion that it is forbidden to open bottle caps on Shabbos cannot ask a person who does open caps to open the bottle for him.  If the bottle was already opened, it would be permissible to drink from it--for the one who opened it relied on his Rav who permits it, and so there is no reason to penalize anyone.  Additionally, since one could have opened the bottle in a permissible manner, this is not considered as if one is obtaining benefit from a Ma’aseh Shabbos.


E.  An Uvdah DeChol may be defined as either something that appears to be a Melacha, or something that involves a Tircha MeRubah--excess effort.


 F.  A Ba’al Teshuva had a son, and the Bris was scheduled for Shabbos.  The Ba’al Teshuva’s father told him that if he would make him Sandek, he would observe Shabbos that week.  The Ba’al Teshuva wanted a Gadol to be the Sandek.  HaRav Elyashiv ruled that it was “Poshut” that the grandfather should be the Sandek, in order to prevent him from Chilul Shabbos for one week.


 G.  If one finds something on Shabbos which is not Muktzah, he can be zoche in the metzia on Shabbos, because it is Hefker and so there is no prohibition of Maseh Umatan, since it belongs to no one.


 H.  One may forgive a debt on Shabbos, because it is not considered a Ma’aseh Kinyan.  Similarly, one can be Mafkir an object on Shabbos if there is a purpose in doing so (such as using a Kli which has not been Toiveled).


 I.  When crossing the street on Shabbos, one may encounter a car which must stop or beep because of you.  One need not consciously avoid this, such as by crossing only when there are no cars.  However, one should not intentionally stand in the street with a car coming, which will result in the driver doing a Melacha DeOraysa.   


 J.  If a person is Mechalel Shabbos BeShogeig, he must bring a Korban Chatas.  Until the Bais HaMikdash is rebuilt, one should read the Parashas Chatas (Vayikrah 4:27-35 and 6:17-23) and should make an effort to understand the way in which the Korban was brought.  If one was Mechalel Shabbos BeShogeig more than once, he should recite the Parasha separately for each time that he is aware of.





A.  In this week’s Parasha of Matos, we learn about the importance of making promises and the dangers involved in breaking them.  Indeed, the Torah goes out of its way to add that if a person merely thinks they are breaking their promise, even if he is not in fact doing so, he still requires a “V’Hashem Yislach Lah”--Hashem’s direct forgiveness--a phrase not often mentioned in the Torah.  Accordingly, while we learn from many instances in last week’s large Parasha how careful we have to be about our speech in general, we learn in particular how vigilant one must be about using words like “promise,” “commit,” “swear,” or “guarantee,” all of which indicate an absolute commitment to act in a particular way.  In the Sefer Derech Sicha, HaRav Chaim Kanievsky, Shlita, rules that it is not sufficient to respond on a wedding or bar mitzvah invitation that you are coming “Im Yirtze Hashem”--one must specifically add the words “Bli Neder”.  He adds that if one stated that he was coming to a simcha (without saying bli neder) and could not attend, he should ask mechila from the baal hasimcha.  Remember--Hashem holds us to a gold standard--because we are his gold!


B. From a reader:  “Regarding the Parasha of Nedarim--where the Parasha provides that one can take something otherwise permissible to him, and promise not to eat it or use it--how could it be that a mortal being can have the power to actually change or convert something that is Muttar (permissible) from the Torah’s (Hashem’s) perspective to become Assur (forbidden)?   The Sefer Nesivos Sholom explains (based upon Rabbeinu Yonah in Avos) that a mouth is a Kli Sharais--a holy utensil.  Just as a Kli Sharais in the Beis HaMikdash is Mekadesh--sanctifies--what you put into it and, accordingly, everything that is taken out of it is Kadosh, so, too, are the words that come out of your mouth Kadosh!”  Hakhel Note:  Defiling a Kli Sharais is a horrible act--while bringing more and more Kedusha to it so beautifully fulfills its purpose!


C. The Torah records that “Elef LeMateh, Elef LeMateh--or “1,000 soldiers, 1,000 soldiers” were to be taken from each Shevet to do battle with Midyan.  Why does the Torah phrase it as “1,000 soldiers, 1,000 soldiers”--and not simply as “2,000 soldiers”? It is because 1,000 soldiers actually went to war, and the other 1,000 were enlisted to daven for victory.  HaRav Yechezkel Levenstein, Z’tl, teaches that the 1,000 who were davening did not stay behind--but actually accompanied the fighting soldiers to battle, so that the soldiers would understand that it was not their military prowess (‘Kochi VeOtzem Yadi’) that was the basis of their victory--but rather it was Hashem Who was the Source of victory--through our Tefillos. 


Hakhel Note:    We emphasize that it is not only the soldiers and generals who should be aware of the singular power of our Tefillos, but it is we ourselves who must know and understand that when we pray tefillos such as “Re’eih VeAnyeinu”, “VeLirushalayim Irecha”, “Es Tzemach”, “Shema Koleinu”, and the like, with sincerity of heart, we are fighting--and defeating-- those who mean us harm from Kuwait to North Korea, and from Iran to the United States.  Incredibly, Chazal teach that Nevuchadnezzar did not allow the Jewish people to rest upon exiling them, until they got to Bavel (“Al Naharos Bavel Sham Yashavnu…”) because he was fearful of their ability to wholly reverse the entire earth-shattering decree against them by simply turning and returning to Hashem.  Let us not lose the opportunities that the soldiers in battle were made aware of, that Nevuchadnezzar knew about, and that has been a recurrent theme of our existence since the days of Yetzias Mitzrayim.  Let us take out the time in these days to cry out to Hashem--as HaRav Leib Chasman, Z’tl, teaches “KeSheko’eiv Zoakim--when one is in pain, he cries out.”  Together we can turn this period from a time of nuclear armament to nuclear disarmament, from a time of swords into a time of plowshares, from a time of terror to a time of love and peace, from a time of mourning over the Galus to celebrating the Geulah!  This is Hashem’s World and no one else’s--we all know it--now is the time to feel it--and to meaningfully express it!


D. When Moshe Rabbeinu becomes upset at the officers who returned from the battle with Midyan, Chazal teach that he was “Bah LiChlal Ka’as--he came within the boundaries of Ka’as” and lost out as a result (See Rashi, Bamidar 31:21).  HaRav Yecheskel Levenstein, Z’tl, explains that he did not need to actually get angry.  It was simply allowing himself to come within the boundaries of Ka’as that prevented Moshe from becoming the one who would teach the army the laws of Kashering Kaylim as set forth in the Parasha.  From this, HaRav Levenstein teaches, we learn that it is insufficient that one prevent his anger from exploding when he feels that it is about to erupt.  Rather, one must not allow himself those initial thoughts and the knee-jerk first reactions which egg-on the upset feelings and the anger--for even those initial thoughts and reactions--even without the anger spell following--mean real trouble down the line.  We must not only avoid “Bah L’Ka’as”, we must also avoid the “Bah LiChlal Ka’as.”  As we work on improving ourselves and our relationships with others during this important period--let us be sure to catch ourselves early and on time-- to avoid the “LiChlal Ka’as”--so important to our character and to our life!


E. Perhaps the most famous words in this week’s Parasha of Matos (32:22) are “V’Heyisem Nekiyim MeiHashem U’MeiYisrael--and you shall be clean in that which you do both to Hashem and to K’lal Yisrael. Especially in these dangerous and trying times--let us be above all suspicion and question in all of our thoughts and all of our deeds!


F. HaRav Chaim Kanievsky, Shlita, notes that the word ‘Rotzeiach’ is mentioned exactly 17 times in the Parasha of Ir Miklat--corresponding exactly to the 17 times in Tanach in which a murder was committed--commencing with the murder of Hevel by Kayin, and ending with the murder of Gedaliah Ben Achikam by Yishmael Ben Nesanya.  The lesson: We must really appreciate how exact and exacting the Torah is with each and every one of its words.


G. At the beginning of Parashas Masei, Rashi teaches us that all of the travels of Bnei Yisrael are listed in the Parasha to show us the great Chesed of Hashem, in that the Bnei Yisrael had to travel only 20 times in 38 years, and not twice every month or even twice a year.  The Luach Bnei Yaakov provides a fascinating insight here:  What does Rashi mean by the “Chesed” provided in moving only 20 times in 38 years?  Would anyone like to move his home 20 times in 38 years?  If one has to move every four or five years, it is considered burdensome.  People don’t like to move even once in ten years. The Luach answers that Rashi is providing us with a great lesson.  We have to keep things in perspective.  In truth, it could have been so much worse--we could have been required to move in the Midbar 60, 70, or even 100 times during the 40-year period.  Yes, it could have been much, much worse.  A person has to look at the positive, and not focus on the negative.  Look at all of our daily Chasodim which you receive, not at the Chasodim that you want to receive (which may or may not be best for the tachlis of your neshama in this world).  When saying the words in Modim “V’haMerachem Ki Lo Samu Chasodecha--and the Compassionate One for Your kindnesses never end” think of several kindnesses you recently experienced, and several kindnesses that you receive “as a matter of course” every day, day-in and day-out.  Hakhel Note:  HaRav Dessler, Z’tl, adds an additional note with respect to the Mas’aos themselves.  The travels at that time very much relate to the travels in the length of our Galus today.  Ultimately, they served their purpose, for they got us to our ultimate destination.  We, too, in our exile after exile, in our move after move after move should also recognize that they will all lead to a great--and this time, permanent--dwelling place with the Shechinah



29 Tammuz

TESHUVAH MOMENT: HaRav Shimon Alster, Shlita, teaches that as we focus on Ahavas Chinam and Achdus to bring us to a state of actually deserving the Beis HaMikdash, one primary place to accomplish this is through a Kavannah-filled bracha of Sim Shalom/Shalom Rav, as we recite it three times daily. We should especially empower the final words of Baruch Atta Hashem HaMevareich Es Amo Yisrael BaShalom with feelings of longing and love—as we ask the All Powerful One to shower upon each and every one of us and all of us together, the all-encompassing bracha--of peace!



IT IS YOM KIPPUR KATAN TODAY! The Chofetz Chaim was once speaking to someone about the importance of Yom Kippur Katan and the prayer service of that day.  But the person replied that he was a chassid of a well-known Rebbe, who did not place much emphasis on Yom Kippur Katan.  “Let me tell you a story that I saw with my own eyes,” the Chofetz Chaim then told him. “Some time ago, I was traveling by train from Russia to Warsaw.  Near me was an empty seat, and when I saw another Jew board the train, I invited him to sit near me in that seat.  When he sat down, I asked him where he was heading, and he replied that he was heading to WarsawSeveral stops later, I noticed that he was preparing to get off the train, even though it was still a long way to Warsaw. ‘Why are you getting off now?’ I asked him.  The man answered, ‘I am a pauper, and I did not have enough money to buy a ticket to Warsaw. I therefore bought a ticket that is valid until this station.  I will leave the train here and collect charity, until I have enough money to buy a ticket to take me a few more stops. I will continue to do this until I arrive at my destination.” The Chofetz Chaim then turned to the chassid and said, “Your Rebbe is a wealthy man, in the spiritual sense, and he can therefore afford to ‘travel’ the entire distance from one Yom Kippur until the next in one journey. His spiritual reservoirs are so full of holiness and fear of Heaven that he does not need to ‘stop’ on the way.  Other people, however, have to get off the train at the stops along the way, and observe a Yom Kippur Katan every Erev Rosh Chodesh.” Hakhel Note:  It is Yom Kippur Katan today --let us do what we can to prepare--as the Chofetz Chaim did! [Excerpted from The Sefer Aleinu L’Shabeiach by HaRav Yitzchak Zilberstein, Shlita, and written by Rabbi Moshe Zoren (Artscroll)]



A RAV’S SUGGESTION: At this crucial point in world history, we must carefully study and implement the words of Chazal who teach that in order to be saved from the Chevlei Moshiach one must be oseik in Torah and Gemilas Chasodim. One wonders, however: “I am really oseik in Torah and Gemilas Chasodim every day on my own--what more can I do?  What did Chazal mean--were they talking to the more low-level person?” A Rav advised us that each person should view Chazal as talking to each and every person individually-- and suggested that each person should do something more daily in Torah and Chesed--for the express purpose of being saved from Chevlei Moshiach. He explained that with regard to Torah--it could be a few more minutes of something that you had been previously learning, or a new Sefer, or a new Chavrusah--once again, for the express purpose for you to be saved from the Chevlei Moshiach. Similarly, with respect to Chesed, the Rav recommended that one consciously do a particular act of Chesed for the express purpose of being saved. “Doing so is not a selfish or a ‘prize-seeking’ act” he continued. “It is quite to the contrary, recognizing and fulfilling the words of Chazal.” The Rav urged each person to write down on a daily basis in a special Chevlei Moshiach Notebook (or file) what his extra Torah study and extra Chesed was.  May the person who does so see with his own eyes how he is saved--and HaKadosh Baruch Hu’s return to Tzion and Yerushalayim--speedily and in our day!



PRE -WEARING CLOTHING TODAY: With regarding to ‘pre-using’ articles before the Nine Days so that they may be worn during the Nine Days, HaRav Elyashiv, Z’tl, held that one should wear them to the extent that it is clear that they have been used, which should be approximately for one-half hour.  Children above the age of 9 should likewise wear pre-used clothing.


Hakhel Note: Additionally, as Rosh Chodesh is on Friday, you may want to cut your nails today as well, if your custom is not to cut them on Rosh Chodesh.



AIR CONDITIONERS AND YOU: In the Northern Hemisphere, we approach the hottest point of the summer. Many become accustomed to use of air conditioning, and in many situations outside the home people may be left with the air conditioning vents open directly over them or blowing directly on them. Chazal teach “HaKol Bidei Shomayim Chutz MeTzinim U’Pachim--everything is in the hands of Heaven, except for colds…”. We should avoid any unnecessary illness, and should help others by directing them to move-away from and avoid any unnecessary illness. Remember--love yourself….and V’Ahavta L’Reiacha Kamocha!



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


While there is something in between, much of life can be categorized either r’l in the trials and tribulations category, and, on the other hand, much can be placed into the tangible benefits section. The entire range of life’s experience comes directly from Hashem--as Chazal demonstrate with both the bracha of Shehechiyanu and the bracha of Dayan HaEmes.  To most, experiencing the benefits and having and maintaining the ‘ordinary’ and ‘extraordinary’ abilities and benefits that we are given is much more appealing than experiencing suffering, pain, or anguish.  How can we better recognize these pleasures--and show Hashem our appreciation of them? May we suggest that, from now until the end of the year, one keep a daily log, if you will, of some of the things you really feel thankful about on that day--the mazel tov event, the successful encounter, the good food, the particularly meaningful Devar Torah you thought of or heard, the good or improved health, the good friend, the way you saved a lot of money, or that unbelievable Hashgacha Pratis story you just experienced.  There is really plenty in each and every day.  As the year 5779 draws to its close, many of those who took us up on our suggestion last year to count the number of Asher Yatzars they recite a day--thanking Hashem for the unfathomable miracles of the body -- are now at over 1,000 brachos of thanks for this renewing daily (hourly) miracle alone.


If we can appreciate what we have--if we record and thank Hashem for those things we perceive as good (although everything is good because it comes from the Source of all Goodness), we will most certainly be zoche, middah k’neged middah, to more of the very same kind of good--the good that is tangible and palpable--and ultimately to the everlasting and supernal good that will come with an end to the Three Weeks as a time of travail --and its commencement as a time of Shiros and Tishbachos in a rebuilt and eternal Mikdash where we all can jointly exclaim --“Tov LeHodos LaShem!”


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