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Sent December 30:


This coming Sunday is Asara B’Teves, the date upon which Yerushalayim was besieged before the destruction of the Bais HaMikdash.  Chazal (Medrash Tanchuma, Vayikra 9) teach that it was already fitting for the Bais HaMikdash to be destroyed on this day, but Hashem, in His incredible mercy, pushed things off to the summer, so that we would not have to be exiled in the cold.  We should take this as an important lesson and be especially considerate and helpful to those who are standing outside at your door, walking when you are driving, or even those who are suffering from colds and cold weather-related illnesses.  When you make sure that your family and friends are properly dressed, have soft tissues and the like, you are likewise demonstrating a middah of rachmanus, of special mercy and care, which warms those around you.


Along these lines, Chazal (Rosh Hashana 18A) teach us that, according to one opinion, Naval was granted an additional ten days of life because of the ten meals he feed to guests--Dovid’s men.  Doing the easy math, this means that Naval “bought” a day of life for each meal he served a guest.  Oh, how we should treasure the opportunities of doing a simple and seemingly short-term kindness to someone else, for it results in nothing short of life itself.


Interestingly, the last Pasuk we read in Kriyas Shema concludes with the phrase “Ani Hashem Elokaichem--I am the L-rd your G-d”, mentioned twice--once at the beginning of the Pasuk, and once at its conclusion.  Rashi there (Bamidbar 15:41), obviously troubled by the seeming repetition, concludes that it is to teach us that Hashem is faithful to punish those who do evil--and faithful to award those who do good.  As we leave Kriyas Shema (which provides us with a strong daily dose of the basic tenets of our faith) every day and notice the dual recitation of Ani Hashem Elokaichem, it should remind, and spur, us to “buy” life with our proper middos and conduct.


Sent December 27:




The following rulings of HaRav Yisroel Belsky, Shlita, were published in “Halachically Speaking” (Volume 2, Issue 33):


It frequently occurs in public places that there is one person in a room who is cold in the winter and wants to close the window, or is hot in the summer and wants the window to be open.  All others in the room disagree.  In the winter, the Halacha is that the window must be closed in deference to the chilled individual, and in the summer the halacha is that the window must be open, once again, in deference to the hot individual.  Use of an air conditioner has a different permutation.  One who is afraid that he will become sick from the cold blowing air has the right to turn off the air conditioner, notwithstanding the protest of others.


Having stated these halachos, we bring a fascinating point made in the Sefer Shaarei Orah (Vol 1, p. 20) based upon the teachings of HaRav Avigdor Miller, Z’TL.  HaRav Miller notes that there are days during the year which are extremely cold and other days which are very hot.  No matter how much one complains, he is unable to change these weather conditions with mere words.  Instead, he must tolerate and accept the situation--he must work with the circumstances that surround him.  It would be silly to walk out without a coat or shoes in below-freezing weather just to make the point that you’d rather be in warmer environs.  You are not, and you must appropriately approach the current state of affairs.


This is not only true about the weather.  The great middah of Savlanus, or patience, must be applied again and again in situations that face us throughout the day.  Whether it is someone spilling a little coffee on you, or another cutting you off and making you miss the light, or whether it is a customer or client testing you to the limit, or a family member (even one younger than you) insulting or deriding you, you must cope and overcome your initial instincts and reactions.  In fact, in many of life’s instances, Hashem makes the circumstances themselves assist you to help better your character.  You know, for instance, that you want to keep your job so you control yourself and do not shout back at the boss.  You want to make the sale, so you grin and bear the incessant complaining.  You want to live in peace with your neighbor, so you let him walk over your grass all the time.  You don’t want to get a ticket, so you sit waiting at a red light with no one else anywhere to be found at 2 AM.  These situations are all G-d given opportunities to improve your patience.  It is up to you to use these Heaven-granted situations to build up your Savlanus in other circumstances in which you may not feel so intimidated--or sense the need to hold back.  These more advanced character-building situations frequently appear in the home with close relatives (without getting too descriptive), and with close friends.


Today, test your patience in **all** situations, not only the easy situations in which you know that you must control yourself, but also in those more delicate situations at home where you are either the Boss--or know that you are definitely right.  Additionally, consider those situations in which you are alone in the car or in your office and have a real opportunity to vent your frustrations--with no one but Hashem listening!


Sent December 25:




Now that the special days of Chanukah have passed, we look to about six weeks of Winter until Tu B’Shvat arrives and the first indications of blossoming flowers and fruits arrive in Eretz Yisroel.  The thought of Winter may make one feel chilled (even the word “Kar” sounds a bit frosty), but we, as Ma’aminim Bnei Ma’aminim, must realize that it is an opportunity for special, and, in fact, necessary growth--as this is the situation and circumstance in which Hashem in His Omniscient Wisdom has placed us.


So, we are faced with surroundings of leafless trees, long nights, cold days, bone-drenching rains, and for some of us a little or a lot of ice, sleet and snow.  Can we succeed at all in this environment?  No doubt that we can succeed--and thrive.


We would first like to reiterate our suggestion of last week, that you take the next 40 days in a row and, at least one time a day, make the brocha of SheHakol NiHeYeh Bidevaro and the brocha of Borei Nefashos with the special **warm** feeling that Hashem loves you with an unbounding love and wants to shower bracha of all kind upon you.


We would also like to provide a second thought based upon the teachings of HaRav Meir Schuck, Shlita, the Temesvar Rav.  HaRav Schuck brings the words of Rebbe Shimon (Avos 2:18): “Be meticulous in reading the Shema and in prayer; when you pray, do not make your prayer a set routine but rather [beg for] compassion and supplicate before the Omnipresent....”  HaRav Schuck notes that, at first glance, this Mishna does not appear to belong in Mesechta Avos, which teaches us pious behavior, and not required conduct.  After all, are not the proper recitation of Shema and Shemone Esrei absolute Halachic requirements?  Indeed, there are literally scores of chapters in Shulchan Aruch relating to the Laws of Kriyas Shema and Shemone Esrei!  HaRav Schuck, therefore, concludes that Rebbe Shimon wants us to understand that even when reciting Kriyas Shema and Tefillah properly--with no talking, no interruptions, starting on time, properly enunciating the words and reciting them loud enough to hear them, etc., there is still another important dimension of which we must continuously remind ourselves.  That is, each Kriyas Shema, each Shemone Esrei, is very literally a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, for it will never recur.  Yes, you have recited Kriyas Shema and Shemone Esrei thousands and thousands of times, but are you taking the opportunity to be “zahir”--careful to recognize and appreciate--that this particular Shema and Shemone Esrei in front of you is a one-time opportunity and should not get lost in all those thousands of occasions that you have had until today, and B’Ezras Hashem, the tens of thousands that you will have in the future?  One should not simply “be Yotzei” his “obligation” by routine.  Instead, one should avoid the negative habit, the dry rote, the repetitive redundancy by taking a moment out before each Shema and Shemone Esrei to appreciate--and treasure--the truly monumental opportunity.  As one peeks out the window, and things may seem to look cold and bleary, day in and day out, as the pattern of Winter appears to be almost nothing but darkness, we should break out and recognize the new, fresh, stand-alone opportunities of the day--Two Shema affirmations and Three Shemone Esrei private encounters with the Almighty.  If we can work on this until Tu B’Shvat, we will have brought Spring into our Winter!


Sent December 22:


SPECIAL NOTE ONE:  Mazal Tov! Today is the first day of Teves, which means that three months, or twenty five percent, of the year 5767 have passed--a true milestone!  For those who feel they have not yet lived up to their hopes, aspirations, or Kaballos for the year, we are happy to report that a “ruba d’minkera”--a significant majority of the year--still remains.  Let us take the uplifting spirit of Chanukah with us to literally boost our spirit---and our spirits--- for the rest of the year!


SPECIAL NOTE TWO:  Just a reminder  that  giving Tzedakah Chanukah, especially to support Torah and Torah scholars,  affords a person Tikunei Nefesh--fixing of the soul--as cited in Kitzur Shulchan Aruch (A Halacha Sefer!).  So--write that extra check or two TODAY!


SPECIAL NOTE THREE:  The Yetzer Hara from time to time attempts to dim our Simcha in the performance of mitzvos.  This year, he was involved with the following (the flammability dangers of which were already mentioned in our Bulletin):  A particular ready-to-use “oil with wick” product made in China was marketed at a significantly lower price than its competition.  The product is labeled as:


“Chanukah Light Kit, Easy Lights Brand, distributed by Aharon’s Judaica, Brooklyn, New York.”


The product was marketed in sealed retail packages, and the label affixed to the cover identified the product as “Easy Lights With Extra Virgin Olive Oil”, and ostensibly under the Hashgacha of Rabbi Henoch Ashkenazy (of Upstate New York).  When Rabbi Ashkenazy issued a letter that he had nothing to do with this product, the Vaad HaRabonim LeMishmeres HaKashrus went into action.  The Vaad took the product to an independent full service laboratory--Certified Laboratories, Inc., which analyzed the product and concluded “Based on our analysis the oil appears to consist predominately of a vegetable oil other than olive oil.”  Thus, unfortunately, many who thought they were performing a hiddur mitzvah, were using cooking oil.


Of course, we can simply attribute this, and blame, an unscrupulous businessman who may even otherwise claim to be “religious”.  However, we must look at the lessons we can learn from this sad event.  We believe the simplest and most straight-forward lesson is that when a new product comes out on the market with an unfamiliar Hashgacha, one should do a little bit of homework--at least call the Kashrus Agency or supervisor, or ask your Rav--before using or consuming the product.  This is especially so with the proliferation of imported “kosher” products from all over the world--even if there are different semblances of Hebrew lettering on the product.


SPECIAL NOTE FOUR:  Many of us may be familiar with the famous question of the P’nei Yehoshua--if the Halacha is that “tuma hutra b’tzibur”--impure objects are permitted to used by the tzibur--then what was the problem using all of the oil rendered impure by the Greeks--as the menorah had to be lit for all of Klal Yisroel and, accordingly, the impure oil was perfectly permissible?  Succinctly stated, the miracle of the oil, was not necessary according to Halacha!  There is a beautiful answer to this question; based upon the teaching of Rav Chaim Shmuelevitz, Z’TL (whose Yahrtzeit is this Sunday, 3 Teves).  HaRav Shmuelevitz asks why we place such a great emphasis on the miracle of finding the oil--even over and above winning the wars against the Greeks themselves.  After all, it is much easier to find things one wouldn’t expect to find--than for a handful of people to defeat the mightiest warriors in the world!  HaRav Shmuelevitz answers that the miracle of finding a jug of pure oil does, in fact, pale in significance to the miracles that took place during the incredible wars.  However, by Hashem providing us with this small jug--this “small miracle”, he showed a singular love, a unique care, a special concern for us.  It is this that we celebrate--that Hashem’s affection for us is so great that He provides us with so much that we can truly get by without.  Yes, tuma may be hutra b’tzibur--but His love for us goes so much beyond that, and we--oh how we--can and should reciprocate this feeling.


As we leave Chanukah, let us take the small jug of pure oil with us--and bask in the love of the Creator of our world.


Practical Suggestion:  Every day, for the next 40 days, make the Brocha of Shehakol Niheye B’Dvaro and the Brocha of Borei Nefashos, once a day with special Kavannah as to their meaning--including how Hashem loves you and provides you with **all** of your needs, even those that you don’t need--and you, in turn, love Him as well!


Sent December 21:

Hakhel recently received a Shatnez Consumer Alert relating to a child’s Perry Ellis jumper (made in Canada).  The embroidery consists of linen and cotton, while the garment itself contains wool, meaning the jumper is Shatnez.  Garments containing ornamentations, trimmings or appliqués should be checked for Shatnez as a matter of course.  For more information, please contact the Lakewood Shatnez Laboratory at 732-364-7056.



The Sefer Piskei Teshuvos (Volume 6, Chapter 670) brings the following remarkable note from the Chasam Sofer (Yoreh Deah, Teshuva 233):


“The establishment of a special day on the day that a miracle has occurred is a Mitzvah D’Oraysa, and, therefore, the days of Purim and Chanukah are D’Oraysa…and one who violates this and does not make any remembrance of the days of Chanukah violates a Mitzvas Asei D’Oraysa…and it is possible that reciting the Hallel on Chanukah fulfills this Torah obligation.”  These words of the “Heilige Chasam Sofer” have, of course, drawn lively discussion in the Achronim (see Piskei Teshuvos there).


As the last few days of Chanukah are upon us, it behooves us to spend a little more time and effort, concentration and feeling on the words of Hallel.  The Meam Loez (Tehillim, Chapter 113) writes the following important note regarding Hallel (which consists of Tehillim Chapters 113-118):


“The Hallel encompasses all the redemptions and everything that happens to the Jewish people in all generations. It also includes the glorification of Hashem’s name. In the Hallel, we praise Hashem both for the times of our ascent and for the times of descent. For we well know that everything happens under His Supervision.  This is the meaning of the figurative words near the beginning of Hallel--‘MiMizrach Shemesh--from the rising of the Sun--to its setting is the Name of Hashem praised’ (ibid 113:3).  Hallel [and everything within it] extends from the time of our Exodus from Egypt until the end of all the generations.”


The Rambam (Hilchos Chanukah 3:5) writes that the full Hallel is to be recited “b’chol yom v’yom--on each and every day” of Chanukah.  This is, of course, codified in the Shulchan Oruch (Orach Chaim 683:1).  The Mishneh Berurah there explains that the reason full Hallel is to be recited “on each and every day” is because a new miracle occurred daily with every lighting of the Menorah.  (This would also explain the prevalent custom of first lighting the new Ner Chanukah every night, and only thereafter lighting the neiros that have previously been lit on earlier nights).  Based upon this Rambam and the Shulchan Aruch, it would be most appropriate to find something new and moving in the Hallel **each and every day** of Chanukah in order to properly celebrate the nes that day.  In tomorrow’s Hallel, may we additionally suggest that you attempt to locate an allusion to Chanukah in the Hallel itself!


One final note:


The Pasuk that comes up most often in Hallel is “Hodu Lashem Ki Tov, Ki L’Olam Chasdo--give thanks to Hashem for He is good, His kindness endures forever.”  We pose the following question to you--do we recite this most important Pasuk in our daily Shachris davening?  If you know that the answer is yes, and you know where the Pasuk is recited, you are probably doing a good job at expressing a short Hallel-level of thanks in your daily davening.  If you are unsure, or if you do not know where the Pasuk is located, why not find it and make some kind of mark near the Pasuk so that even after Chanukah this year has passed, you will enjoy a level of Hallel, faith and joy every day of the year!


Sent December 20:


WARNING: Menorah Fire Hazard


This WARNING concerns Chanukah Oil Candles (Item OCCL-25/44) distributed by Ahron’s Judaica in Brooklyn, NY.  The product contains a label stating “Ready To Use Chanukah Oil Candles With Jelled Extra Virgin Olive Oil”


We were informed by several readers about a fire hazard with commonly-used menorah accessories.  Ahron’s Judaica, which ordered glass cups from its China supplier, was instead defrauded and given plastic.  The pre-filled plastic cups can became so hot that they literally melt.  The pre-filled oil glass set was purchased at A to Z Savings and it is also available at Perns.  It may be available at other retailers in Baltimore and throughout the nation.


Please see the following URL for pictures of the fire caused to a menorah housing the glass cups and for an image of the box containing the product.





Special Note One:  HaRav Yitzchok Isbee, Z’TL, notes that in the Al HaNisim tefillah on Chanukah we refer to Matisyahu as “Matisyahu ben Yochanan”, although we refer to Mordechai and Esther in the Al HaNisim of Purim without referring to either of their fathers’ names.  To understand why, HaRav Isbee explains (based upon a teaching of Rav Tzadok HaKohen) that we must study the name “Matisyahu Ben Yochanan”.  “Matisyahu” means gift from Hashem and “Yochanan” likewise means gift from Hashem.  Chazal, as the authors of Al HaNisim, are obviously teaching us that a great lesson of Chanukah is to recognize that all we have are gifts from Hashem.  In fact, the Mishna Berura (Shulchan Aruch, Orach Chaim 682, seif katan 1) writes that the proper nusach of Al HaNisim is “V’Al HaNisim”, which means “AND all of the miracles.…”  In other words, we are only extending the gratitude we give to Hashem daily by applying it to the miracles of Chanukah, as well. We cannot, therefore, overemphasize what a great lesson it would be to take the “Thank you Hashem” with us and into our constant daily parlance after Chanukah.


Special Note Two:  A reader advised that he has a beautiful custom (which we believe is based upon the Yesod V’Shoresh HaAvodah) in which, after Hadlakos Neiros and Maoz Tzur, he sits down with his family near the neiros and reviews the miracles of Chanukah; recalls miracles in Tanach, miracles that happened in the world recently and miracles that have occurred to each of his family members.  What a beautiful custom this would be to institute, at least one or two nights of Chanukah.  If one has no one immediately around him, he can think or read about these miracles while near the Chanukah lights.  Although one may not obtain physical benefit from the burning neiros, one should most certainly attempt to obtain as much spiritual benefit from them as possible.


Special Note Three:  The Shela HaKadosh (at the end of Inyanei Tefillah) writes that in these Holy Days it is especially befitting to spend more time involved in the study of Torah.  Similarly, the Sefer Minhagei Chasam Sofer (9:1) writes that the Chasam Sofer would adjure his family and students to delve into Torah topics during this very special period.  The Menorah, of course, symbolizes the light of Torah, whose benefits shine infinitely beyond the short rays of physical light emanating from it.  Each and every one of us should make the (bli neder) commitment to explore a particular Torah topic each day of Chanukah--especially a theme relating to Chanukah itself.  You may want to take a few minutes to do this within the first half hour after you have lit the Menorah when the kedushah of the light permeates the home--and hopefully through you!  You may want to discuss with your friends and acquaintances the famous question of the Bais Yosef, which is:  If there was enough oil to light for one day that means the miracle of Chanukah was for only seven days--so why do we celebrate eight days?  There is actually a Sefer, Ner LeMeah, which gives 100 answers to this question--how many can you gather?!


Sent December 19:




Every morning during Chanukah, at the end of Shacharis, we recite Tehillim Chapter 30, Mizmor Shir Chanukas HaBayis L’Dovid--A Psalm, a Song for the Inauguration of the Temple by Dovid.  In fact, Chazal (Mesechta Sofrim 18:2) actually list this Kepitel as the Shir Shel Yom for Chanukah.


In reviewing this Chapter, it is fascinating to note that it begins as “A Song for the inauguration of the Temple”, yet it thereafter makes no mention of the Bais HaMikdash whatsoever!  Additionally, it is curious that we recite this Chapter of Temple inauguration at the outset of our daily Shacharis prayers (Nusach Ashkenaz), notwithstanding that we are not present in a new or rededicated Bais HaMikdash at that moment.


We may gain some insight into this Chapter of Mizmor Shir from the fact that Dovid HaMelech is its author.  We all know that Dovid HaMelech did **not** build the Bais HaMikdash, but that instead his son, Shlomo HaMelech did, four years after Dovid’s passing.  How then, could Dovid sing the song of its inauguration?


HaRav Avrohom Chaim Feuer, Shlita, in his masterful work on Tehillim (Artscroll, Volume 1, p. 357-359), brings the Malbim to explain these questions.  The Malbim suggests that the “HaBayis” referred to at the beginning of the Chapter, is **not**, in fact, the Bais HaMikdash (which would be called the “Bais Hashem”).  Rather, it refers to the human body which houses its soul.  HaRav Mordechai Gifter, Z’TL, adds that the Torah considers the human body, if it has been sanctified, to be a miniature Temple as the Pasuk states, “And they shall make for me a sanctuary, and I shall dwell within them” i.e., not within it [the Sanctuary] but within them [the people themselves] (Shemos 25:8).


With this principle we can now understand how Dovid HaMelech could recite this Kepital never having seen the Bais HaMikdash; why no further reference to the Bais HaMikdash at all is made in the Chapter; and why this Chapter inaugurates our Tefillos every single day.  It is not the Bais HaMikdash that we are inaugurating, but by recitation of this Chapter, it is **ourselves** that we are dedicating and rededicating.  It is a time of joy, in which we inaugurate with great appreciation a new opportunity for our most precious possession--**our soul**-- to grow and gain immeasurably.  With this in mind, we can also well understand why this Kepital is the Shir Shel Yom for Chanukah, for Chanukah is an auspicious period for our personal rededication--a period so powerful that it can reach rededication of the Bais HaMikdash itself--if we are ready for it.  In fact, when the Mishkan, the world’s, and our, very first sanctuary, was first being constructed, everything was really in place for the Mishkan to be dedicated on the 25th of Kislev.  However, the dedication was **put off **to the month of Nissan.  In addition to the basic reasons given for this, we may suggest that there is a great lesson to be learned here.  One may have all the materials necessary for a Bais HaMikdash, but that is not enough--one must also make himself spiritually ready for that Bais HaMikdash.  It was thus appropriate and necessary that our ancestors prepare themselves for several months before the actual dedication of the already prepared Holy Place.


So, how can we now prepare ourselves--how can we sing the Song of our own ‘Bayis’, in order to attain the ultimate inauguration of the third and final Bais HaMikdash?


HaRav Avigdor Miller, Z’TL, comments that the main purpose of the Bais HaMikdash is to come there and give thanks to Hashem.  Accordingly, if we can accustom ourselves to constantly and consistently thank Hashem for the daily happenings, the every day events, the gifts, the talents, with which we are blessed, we will demonstrate that we have the appropriate attitude to be deserving of, and reattain, the Bais HaMikdash.  Even expressing the words “Thank You Hashem” when some little thing goes right--when you easily find a parking spot, when the phone call you were scared to make turned out okay, when you realize that your cold has gone away, when there is no line at the dry cleaners, when you recognize how warm your coat is…--each demonstrate that you are on the road to getting closer to Hashem, and readying yourself for the Bais HaMikdash.  It is no secret that we recite Al HaNisim, which commemorates the incredible Chanukah miracles surrounding the Bais Hamikdash, in the same Brocha of Shemone Esrei in which we thank Hashem for the everyday events and the thousands upon thousands of “minor” miracles we all experience.  Chanukah, then, would be a most timely occasion to commence a dedicated, concerted effort to thank Hashem for the blessings, for the Torah, for the kindnesses, for the occurrences, for the successes, for the pleasures--for the eternity--that each and every one of us experiences in our daily lives.


Secondly, the Sefas Emes (in his commentary to Sefer Tehillim, Chapter 30) writes that the more one longs for the Bais HaMikdash, the more the light of the Bais HaMikdash shines upon him even now.  According to the Sefas Emes, then, one can truly inaugurate a rededication to the Bais HaMikdash even today by longing for it.  Paying special attention to our daily requests of “VeliYerushalayim Ircha”, “Es Tzemach Dovid”, “Sheyiboneh Bais HaMikdash”….are all bringing us closer right here and now to the light of the Bais HaMikdash in this world---and to its rededication for eternity!


Sent December 15:


NOTE ONE: Chanukah celebrates the incredible military victory by a sacred few.  We are reminded of the three Shevuyim: ELDAD BEN TOVA, EHUD BEN MALKA, and GILAD BEN AVIVA.  Perhaps it would be appropriate to recite a Kepital Tehillim for them every day of Chanukah--to symbolize our faith that they can be returned to their families unscathed in spite of their current situation.  Please spread the word.


NOTE TWO: The Magen Avraham (Shulchan Aruch, Orach Chayim 676, seif katan 2) writes that one recites 36 words in Haneiros Halulu (corresponding to the 36 neiros lit on Chanukah).  In fact, in all editions of the Siddur that we know of, the Nusach contains more than 36 words.  If you would like a published nusach of the prayer consisting of exactly 36 words, which is found in the Siddur Rashban, please click here.


NOTE THREE: The Kitzur Shulchan Aruch (Hilchos Chanukah, 139:1) writes: “We increase our Tzedakah during the days of Chanukah, for these days are especially endowed with the ability to rectify shortcomings of the soul through tzedakah--and especially Tzedakah which supports Torah Scholars in need.”


NOTE FOUR: The days of Chanukah are days especially dedicated “L’Hodos U’Lehalel--to thank and praise”, for when all is said and done we remained and remain separate and distinct as a people--unmuddled by the false ideologies, philosophies, and beliefs of the outside world.  Of course, both thanks and praise involve the spoken word.  However, when we speak, our words are intended to emanate from our hearts.  Everyday, when reciting Al Hanisim and Hallel, they should not be viewed as an “extra” which lengthens the davening in honor of the Holiday, but rather as an opportunity to demonstrate your “Avoda Shebalev--your service of the heart” in true thanks and sincere appreciation for our lives--and for the ordinary and extraordinary miracles that we have, and B’ezras Hashem will continue to be blessed with.


Sent December 14:


Note: We provide the following Kashrus Alert, issued by the OU.

Product: Quaker Crunchy Corn Bran


Issue:  This product, which has been certified pareve for a number of years, will be changed to OU-D due to dairy equipment.  The new production, bearing the OU-D, should begin appearing in stores sometime in January 2007.


We additionally note that the appropriate Brochos for this cereal may not be known by all.  One should discuss this matter with his Posek, or contact the OU for its opinion on the matter, based upon the ingredients and their relative proportions.




Rav Shlomo Volbe, Z’TL, (Alei Shor, Volume 2, p. 455) observes that there were many constant, even daily, miracles that occurred in the Bais HaMikdash.  Upon quick reflection, thousands upon thousands of open miracles must have occurred there.  What, then, was so unique and special about the miracle of finding that one last container of oil?  Moreover, why is it that we do not observe the Holiday of Chanukah as a “Zecher LaMikdash”--as a remembrance of the miracles that occurred while the holiest place on earth was standing?  Indeed, quite to the contrary, Hadlakas HaNeiros is described as a Mitzvah of the ** home**, and lighting the Menorah in Shul (as the Mikdash Me’at--see yesterday’s Hakhel Email Bulletin) is by minhag, and not the Ikar Mitzvah itself.


In order to understand why the miracle of Chanukah is so special to us, HaRav Volbe brings the words of the Maharam M’Rottenberg.  The Maharam writes:


“The Hellenistic decrees principally arose because Bnei Yisroel were weak in the service of Hashem…and when they did Teshuva and were ready to be moser nefesh--to give their utmost--to properly serve Hashem; they were rescued--miraculously....”


HaRav Volbe continues that this is essentially the path that we have followed throughout our exile.  There is some weakening in the service of Hashem, followed by Teshuva--returning to proper service of Hashem with the proper level of Mesiras Nefesh, which results in salvation.  What exactly is the level of Mesiras Nefesh required?  It is putting in the fullest effort that one can--a demonstration of exertion to the limit in some important way.  Once “teva”, or nature, is taken to the limit, it opens the door for the “natural” next step--which is miracles.  A handful of Kohanim, of Torah Sages, battling--very literally--with the world’s best army—and...winning!  The lesson is that **our**Mesiras Nefesh is the key to our miraculous survival over the last 2,000 years.


But now, at the end of this long exile, we are tired, inundated with technology, scurrying about with rat race issues, so where does Mesiras Nefesh fit into our picture?  The answer belies the question.  Every person must find some way to rededicate himself to holiness, to purity--especially if it is something to which he has fallen prey in the past.  The Mesiras Nefesh for purity and holiness--for Kedusha and Tahara--is not a Zecher LeMikdash, for it is not relegated or limited to the Holy Temple.  Instead, its essence--as the Chanukah light--is to be brought into our homes, and consequently, into our hearts.  As we stand and study the Menorah’s pure light, let us feel its essence penetrate within us, and, bli neder, commit to an aspect of Mesiras Nefesh for holiness in some way which reaches out to the Heavens--and touches them!


Sent December 13:


Two additional points on Truth:  The Gemara (Beizah 38A) teaches that Rebbe Abba, after leaving Bavel and prior to meeting with the Rabbonim in Eretz Yisroel, prayed “May it be Your will that my words be accepted.”  In fact, his words were not accepted by the Rabbonim.  The Chasam Sofer, in explaining what had happened there, teaches that Rebbe Abba was mistaken in asking that his words be accepted.  Instead, he should have davened that his words bring about discovery of the truth relating to the matter being discussed.  Aside from learning the value of truth from this incident, we can also learn the value of **praying** that we attain truth.  Indeed, the Middah of Yaakov Avinu is the Middah of Truth (For a fuller discussion of this, see Michtav M’Eliyahu Volume 2, p. 161).


Perhaps an even starker indication of the value of truth may be found in the Pasuk

(Tzefania 3:13) where the Navi describes who among us will remain in the end of days.  “Sheairis Yisroel…--the Remnant of Israel--shall neither commit injustice nor speak lies; neither shall deceitful speech be found in their mouth.”  Need we anything more be written or said?


As we experience the Parshiyos of Yaakov Avinu, and his remarkable survival through diverse suffering, we should make an extra special effort to follow in his Middah of Truth--in understanding that the real truth about others is not always known to us, in discerning and distinguishing the everlasting truth of the Yetzer HaTov from the momentary delights presented by the Yetzer HoRa, and in speaking properly and honorably.  If we can sufficiently make that effort--and it is certainly not beyond anyone reading this--we, too, can be part of that lasting Remnant of Israel at the end of this exile.



The days before Chanukah are the days in which we remember what happened **before** the final, great victory attained by the Chashmonaim on the 25th day of Kislev.  The Avudraham notes that Chanukah is a contraction of Chanu, Chaf, Heh, for on the 25th day of Kislev, we finally rested and achieved relief from the defilement, mockery, cruelty, and evil decrees of the Greeks.  Chazal (Shabbos 21B) teach that, incredibly, only one small jar of oil remained Tahor--all else had been defiled!  The Chashmonaim fought incredible wars of Mesiras Nefesh to bring back Kedusha and Tahara--holiness and purity--in lieu of Hellenism and contamination.


So what can we do over the next several days to recall those days prior to the great victory--the days of defilement of the Bais HaMikdash and our people, and the days of Mesiras Nefesh that succeeded them?  We, too can, in our own small way act like the Chashmonaim--showing a special level of Mesiras Nefesh for the holy.


Here is one example.  The Sefer Mesilas Yesharim (Chapter 19) writes: “It is not enough for us simply not to act lightheaded in the Bais HaKnessess and the Bais HaMedrash.  Rather, we should by our actions and conduct, accord to them their appropriate honor and awe.  Anything that you would not do in the palace of a great king should not be done in them.”


Indeed, the Sefer Yeraim (Chapter 409) includes the proper respect of one’s Shul as a Mitzvas Asei D’Oraisa--just as the proper respect for the Bais HaMikdash itself!  Thus, even though we may not have the Bais HaMikdash at this very moment, we can show our appreciation for holiness and purity even in our day.  Starting your own personal campaign to show that high level of awe and respect for the places in which you pray and learn--for sanctity in this world--can certainly go a long way in demonstrating your personal appreciation and understanding of the depth and beauty of Chanukah.


Sent December 12:




SPECIAL NOTE ONE: The following is an extraordinary teaching from HaRav Pam, ZT’L, presented in The Pleasant Way (by Rabbi Sholom Smith, p. 62-63):

“In the Shulchan Aruch (Yoreh Deah 344:1) it is written that it is a great mitzvah to eulogize a deceased person, and that in fact it is even permitted to **slightly embellish** the words of tribute.  The Taz (ibid.) wonders why this is permitted:  Is it only forbidden to utter a big lie--but small lies are permissible?  If the praises are exaggerated, why are they allowed [at all] and, moreover why are they even encouraged?  The Birkei Yosef (ibid.) answers that slight embellishment is permitted because people are generally not aware of the attributes and accomplishments of the departed person, either because his deeds were not publicized or because he concealed them.  The embellishment is in all likelihood very close to [or perhaps itself even falls short of] the beautiful truth about this person.


“A Maggid (heavenly emissary) was sent to HaRav Yosef Karo, ZT’L, the author of the Bais Yosef and the Shulchan Aruch, to teach the most esoteric secrets of the Torah.  Some of these Torah thoughts are found in the Sefer Maggid Meishorim.  The Sefer notes that the Maggid described to HaRav Karo the greatness of his Rebbetzin’s soul, so that he would realize who she was and appreciate and honor her properly.


“Why did the Maggid need to tell HaRav Karo about his wife?  Can one contemplate for a moment that the HaRav Karo had Shalom Bayis problems or Chas v’Shalom mistreated his wife, thus requiring a Maggid to set him straight?  Of course not, but knowing her full greatness--not previously known to HaRav Karo--would serve to even further enhance the great respect and honor he already undoubtedly had for her.


“There is a great lesson to be learned here.  One can never know the true value of one’s friend or neighbor.  Therefore, it is of the utmost importance to respect and honor **every** person--young and old--with whom one comes into contact.  Only then will a person properly fulfill his interpersonal obligations.”

When you sum-up a person, don’t just jump to conclusions based upon what you know about him. Instead, you should recall that in truth you don’t know everything there is to know about him--and realize that he really may be (and probably is) a much better person than you think!


SPECIAL NOTE TWO:  In last week’s Parsha, we find that Yaakov Avinu fought with the Malach of Eisav, who was also the personification of the Yetzer Hara.  When Yaakov was victorious, he asked this Malach for his name, but was asked: “Why do you ask me my name?”


This answer by the Malach may be misconstrued as simply answering a question with a question--or perhaps as a refusal to give a truthful answer.  However, Rabbi Zelig Pliskin (Growth Through Torah, p. 97) brings a remarkable insight from HaRav Yehudah Leib Chasman, ZT’L.  HaRav Chasman explains that this was actually the name of the evil inclination, “Don’t ask!”


Rabbi Pliskin elucidates:

“The desires of this world draw a person like a magnet.  The best way to overcome one’s negative impulses is to be aware of how illusory these pleasures actually are.  As soon as you take a close look with your intellect at worldly desires you will see how empty and meaningless they are. The Yetzer Hara cautions you: ‘Don’t ask!’  As soon as you start asking questions to clarify the reality of the evil inclination, you will find that there is nothing there.  This is analogous to seeing a shadow and thinking that something is actually in front of you.  As soon as you light a candle, you realize that what you saw was only an illusion.  Use your intellect to see the emptiness of negative desires and you will be free from their pull (Ohr Yohail, Volume 2, p. 35).”


This is an important lesson for each and every one of us.  Whenever we are faced with a situation in which we say to ourselves “Better not to think about this too much” or “Let me go with my impulse” or “Ignorance is bliss” or “Just this one time”…remember that the Malach, the Yetzer Hora  “Don’t Ask” may be making these suggestions to you.  Why not void that temporal temptation, the pleasure-filled bag of illusion--by lighting your own candle inside--the candle of truth?



Sent December 8:



Today, the Seventeenth day of Kislev, is the Yahrtzeit of one of the Mussar Giants, HaRav Yosef Yozel Hurwitz, Z’TL (the Alter of Navardok).  Set forth below is a sampling of the words and deeds of this great Torah Personage (excerpted from Sparks of Mussar by Rabbi Chaim Zaitchik).


1.  R’ Yosef Yozel entered into a discussion about Torah and Mussar with a maskil in an inn.  In the midst of the discussion, the maskil ordered his servant to harness the horses and make ready for the journey.  R’ Yosef Yozel immediately stopped the conversation.  “Why?” wondered the maskil.  “I do not discuss things for the sake of discussion,” replied R’ Yosef Yozel, “but for the sake of discovering the truth and acting upon it.  Now how can you order your servant to prepare for the trip you have planned in advance?  After all, it is possible that as a result of our discussion you will have to embark on a new course!  But from the order to your servant, it is obvious that your mind is set, and our discussion is just idle talk to pass the time.  That is not my way of doing things.”  And with that R’ Yosef Yozel got up and left.


2.  To a nonreligious person who came to ask him something, R’ Yosef Yozel said, “According to your words, you are a heretic, and I am forbidden to speak to you.  But I will prove to you that you have left the path of Torah not because of intellectual conviction, but because of materialistic desires.”


3.  “I have always tried to rule out falseness from all my ways,” said R’ Yosef Yozel.  “And I pray to G-d to reveal the unbiased truth to me.”


4.  “Blessed is the man who relies on Hashem.”  The blessing is that not only does he receive his material needs, but he also binds himself to Hashem through his Bitachon--his faith.


5.  If you see that someone came to the station after the train he wanted already left, do not say that the man was late and missed his train, but that he came early for the next train.  For everything is in the hands of Heaven.


6.  “Some people,” said R’ Yosef Yozel, “allow their minds to be a free hotel open to all.  Anyone who wishes can dump his trashy thoughts there.”  R’ Yosef Yozel himself meticulously guarded the purity of his mind and soul.


7.  A good Jew is not a taker, but a giver.  The giver gets much more than the receiver, for the receiver gets only something of limited monetary value, whereas the giver acquires for himself a good and pure heart.


8.  A person who has not worked to correct his midos is like a blind man who has never seen light.


9.  The inspiration that comes while learning Mussar is like a flash of lightning at night.  Although it lasts but a second, at least the traveler will now be able to find his way.


10.  A person who hesitates to climb spiritually because he is bound by habit is like a peasant who is afraid to travel first class because he is used to expectorating (colloquially known as “spitting”) freely.


11.  A person who uses his mental ability solely for worldly pursuits instead of for understanding the true Heavenly light is like a villager who finds a magnificent sculpture and uses it as his scarecrow.


12.  A person should give up his whole future for today, so that he will not waste all his todays for one tomorrow.


The Alter’s words were meant not only for himself and his close students, but for each one of us, as well.  There is much to learn from each one of the above adages.  Something to think about over Shabbos…


Sent December 7:


SPECIAL NOTE ONE: We received a list of Recommended Shatnez Laboratories

Worldwide from the International Association of Professional Shatnez Laboratories, based in Lakewood, New Jersey.  Upon request, we can send you the name and telephone number of a Shatnez tester (if there is one) in your area who is recommended by this organization.  The directory contains testers in Europe and South America, as well as France, Israel, Canada and the United States.  You may also contact the International Association of Professional Shatnez Laboratories directly at (732) 364-7056.


SPECIAL NOTE TWO: This week we have begun adding two words to our Shemone Esrei, as we modify the request of “V’sein Brocha” to the words “Vsein Tal U’Matar LeVracha.”  What do we accomplish by adding the two words “tal” (dew) and “matar” (rain)?  The Sefer Avodas HaTefillah explains that we benefit by specifying our request--not only are we asking for general success and good, but we are requesting that even the means to achieve it--the dew and rains which come in the winter--fall at the proper times, in the right  places, and in the correct amounts.  As over the next few days some of us may be struggling to remember to recite the appropriate words, we should recall, we should have Kavannah in, the specificity of our request as we are reciting it.




HaRav Yerucham Levovitz, Z’TL, the Mashgiach of Mirrer Yeshiva, wrote in his personal notebook that “I want to be zoche to daas--to wisdom.”  He therefore accepted upon himself to break his desire three times a day.  This appears difficult--at least at first glance.  What is the connection between obtaining wisdom and breaking your desire?  HaRav Shlomo Volbe, Z’TL (Collected Letters, 41) explains that wisdom is evidenced by the intellect’s overcoming of desire.  It is the supremacy of spiritual aspiration over material want.  The battle for wisdom, however, cannot be fought in the abstract or even only in the Bais HaKnesses or Bais HaMedrash.  It must be fought in every day life and in every day situations.  Indeed, according to the Sefer Mesilas Yesharim, the first two middos--the first two character traits--we are to build within ourselves are Zehirus and Zerizus--care and alacrity--the immediate response we make to the situations that present themselves.  Let’s take a look:  The extra portion of delectable food.  The manner in which you eat.  The curious eavesdropping.  Looking at things that  shouldn’t be looked at.  Going places we shouldn’t be going.  Listening to things we shouldn’t be listening to (see yesterday’s Hakhel email).  Excess gadgets--and that one more high-tech toy.  These, and similar temptations, are the challenges of our everyday life.  Will wisdom win?  You are the General.


In this week’s Parsha, we find that Eisav was pacified by the gifts of animals (animals, of course, symbolizing desire) delivered to him from Yaakov.  Consequently, despite all of his might, Eisav withdrew from--and forever forfeited his and his descendant’s claim to--Eretz Yisroel.  Likewise, Shechem’s desire for Dina resulted not only in the loss of his princely status, but in the death and destruction of himself, his family, and his entire nation.  Perhaps the Torah emphasizes to us that the effect of desire is not necessarily only the personal downfall of the person falling prey, but also the possible ruination of those around him and those following him, as well.  Let us take a few moments each day to follow the lead of the Mirrer Mashgiach--by breaking a particular desire at least once daily--as we place our minds over matter--and become all the wiser for it!



Sent December 6:

SPECIAL NOTE ONE:  As we have noted over the last two bulletins, it is important for a person to know whether wine that is being served or consumed is mevushal (boiled) or not mevushal.  While non-mevushal wine may be preferred for Kiddush (see Shulchan Aruch, Orach Chaim 272:8), its non-mevushal status creates issues if not handled properly. For further advice on this issue, you should speak to your own Posek, the Mashgiach in your restaurant, or the Kashrus agencies certifying the wine that you use.


SPECIAL NOTE TWO:  We certainly hope and pray that the tragic El-Al Shabbos issue comes to appropriate resolution – a resolution from which Hashem has Nachas. We received numerous emails from readers on this topic.  Several readers questioned “What does it mean when HaRav Kanievsky, Shlita, said that ‘It is Pikuach Nefashos to fly El Al?’”  We believe that it is clear that HaRav Kanievsky, Shlita, as one of the great Poskei Hador, means that it is, tragically, now dangerous to fly on El Al.  Another reader asked “Is this just the Daas of two Chachamim or the Halacha?”  The answer is that we believe that following the p’sak of two leaders of our generation (accompanied by many other Gedolim) IS the Halacha, but one can ask his own Posek this question.  When a situation such as this occurs, we must remind ourselves of our ongoing obligation to recite Chapters 83, 130, and 142 of Tehillim daily, perhaps now with some additional sincere concern.




Every day, at least twice daily, we recite Krias Shema, which is the great cornerstone of our faith.  It is interesting to note that the first word of Krias Shema is “Shema” itself, which means “hear”--to the point of understanding and accepting--what you are about to say.  Our sense of hearing is extremely crucial to Torah learning, and the performance of mitzvos.  Indeed, when Chazal teach us the 48 ways in which Torah is acquired (Avos 6:6), the second way, following only ‘Study’ itself, is “Shemias HaOzen--attentive listening”.  Taking care to **hear** what is being said can truly mean the difference in understanding a Halacha, knowing what a sick person needs or enunciating the words of your Brachos properly.  As the Mishna Berura (Shulchan Aruch, Orach Chaim 101, seif katan 5) writes: “Lechatchila--in the first instance--one’s ears should hear what he is praying.”  We find a similar Halacha with respect to Birchas HaMazon (Shulchan Aruch, Orach Chaim 185:2).


Just as we appreciate what our ears must listen to, we should also recognize what our ears should not be hearing.  The Tomer Devorah (Chapter 2) writes that one should take great effort to avoid listening to any false or inappropriate information, words, or sounds.  We must recognize that our ears are portals into our hearts, brains and bodies.  Listening to the negative words, thoughts, or concepts espoused by others, curse words, and off-color remarks or jokes, all make an indelible impact upon us whether or not we acknowledge them, believe them, or would repeat them.  We are talking here of our Kedushas HaGuf--holiness of the body--of maintaining our sanctity in a world which combats, or at least has no interest, in that sanctity--in the holiness that permeates us.  At the very least, we can try to avoid closely passing by people not of our ilk talking on the street, vehicles or places from which inappropriate music is being blared, and listening to conversations which are merely babblings--or close to it--and have no real bearing, relevance, or importance.


May we suggest designating a few hours a day over the next few days in which you specifically take care of what your ears hear?  As we learn from the first word of Krias Shema, what you hear should lead to what you understand, and to what you accept.  It is no secret that Chazal (Kesuvos 5B) teach us that the reason our fingers have an oval shape at the tip is to plug our ears from inappropriate utterances. We hope you repeat our suggestion out loud--and **listen** to what we have to say…

Sent December 5:

SPECIAL NOTE ONE: With respect to the recent El Al–Shmiras Shabbos issue, it is reported that HaRav Chaim Kanievsky, Shlita stated that it is now “Pikuach Nefoshos to fly El Al.”  In America, HaRav Shmuel Berenbaum, Z'tl, told someone yesterday (December 4, 2006): “Even if you lose $2,500, don’t travel El Al.”  In these difficult times, we must constantly remind ourselves of the time-honored adage “more than the Jews have kept the Shabbos, the Shabbos has kept the Jews”.  We are given opportunities every day in which to fulfill the Mitzvas Asei D’ Oraysa of honoring the Shabbos (“Zachor es Yom Hashabbos Lekadsho”), in such simple ways as reciting the Shir Shel Yom, purchasing fish, meat, or even soup mandelen or soda, and taking our Shabbos clothing to the cleaners.  The Mitzvah has now been presented to us in a different and perhaps more difficult way, and we follow the leadership of our Gedolim in honor of the Holy Shabbos.



SPECIAL NOTE TWO: We have several additional points on yesterday’s wine report:


(a)     First, our reference to the OK Labs, as the U.S. Kashruth Certifying Agency of Yarden Wines, should not be construed as indicating Hakhel’s approval or endorsement of this certifying agency, or of its policy in this particular matter.  The Rabbinic Authority which certifies the Yarden Wines in Eretz Yisroel where it is produced is Rav Auerbach, Shlita of Teveria.

(b)     We have been advised by the OU as to its position on this matter: “There are many kosher wines on the market that are not mevushal.  In general, if a bottle does not include the words ‘Mevushal’ on the label, one should not assume that it is mevushal.”

(c)     We received the following correspondence from a reader in Eretz Yisroel: “…after speaking to Carmel Wines in Israel, they told me that all their wines are mevushal, unless labeled otherwise.  You may want to check this out independently.”

(d)     We received the following correspondence from another reader in New York: “As one who appreciates and knows wines… it might pay to [additionally] publicize the following:  One thing that is not known by consumers is that 2001 vintage wines are from Shmita.  I have only seen a couple of companies who have imported Shmita wines.  Recanati 2001 vintage wines are from the Heter Mechira (it says so on the label)…. The different brands from the Golan Heights Wineries (Golan, Gamla and Yarden) have imported different varieties from 2001 vintage.  I have seen Pinot Noir, Yiron (a blend) and Syrah, but there might be more.  While these are all from Otsar Beis Din so it is generally accepted to drink, I believe that the various Halachos which pertain to Shmita products apply.  Most importantly the wine is only permitted to drink, but it cannot be destroyed.  For example, you can not put out the Havdala candle in the wine.  One must drink any wine which is left at the bottom of the Kiddush or Havdalah cup….”  Hakhel additionally notes that some may disagree in general today with taking Shmita produce out of Eretz Yisroel.



SPECIAL NOTE THREE: Today is the yahrtzeit of Rebbe Yehuda HaNassi, the final codifier of our Mishnayos.  It would only be fitting for everyone capable to learn a Mishna L’Ilui Nishmaso.  We all know that our Mishnayos are the basis of Torah SheBaal Peh, and that many mesechtos of Mishnayos do not currently have Gemara written upon them, which makes Mishna study all the more essential.  Indeed, the Shela HaKadosh writes: “It has been transmitted from previous generations to me that one who is well-versed in Mishnayos will not be ‘roeh pnei gehenom--will not encounter the face of gehenom.’  As we have mentioned from HaRav Chaim Kanievsky, Shlita, the Steipler Gaon, Z’TL, advised his daughters to learn Mishnayos Avos on their mother’s Yahrtzeit.  If one studies just two Mishnayos a day, he will have studied 730 mishnayos a year.  Without the need for complex mathematics, this means that several years of only several minutes a day, translates into thousands of Mishnayos studied, and your very own Siyum HaShas.  This is an incredible personal opportunity, and today is an auspicious--and segulah filled--day to begin!


Sent December 4:

SPECIAL NOTE ONE: We have learned that the entire line of “Yarden Wines”, a line of upper-scale table wines imported from Eretz Yisroel, is NOT MEVUSHAL.  There is no reference or statement on the label as to whether this wine is mevushal or not mevushal.  We asked OK Labs, the US certifying agency why there was no non-mevushal reference on the label.  Its response is “The general rule is that if it is mevushal it will say it on the label.  If it does not say it then we must assume that it is not.”  We do not know whether other Kashrus Agencies which certify wines have a similar position on this issue.  However, whether a wine is mevushal or not mevushal has serious Halachic ramifications--especially relating to who in your home (or in a restaurant) can come into contact with the wine.  Accordingly, we must caution our readers who do not find a mevushal notation on a wine bottle label to call the certifying Kashrus Agency before serving or consuming the wine.


SPECIAL NOTE TWO: We were advised of the following additional “Signs” that a person should apply in his daily life:






We should always be on the alert to take things to mind--and to heart.




SPECIAL NOTE THREE: Tonight (December 4), at Maariv, we will commence recitation of “V’Sein Tal Umatar L’Vracha” in the ninth brocha of Shemone Esrei, Birchas Hashonim.  It is important that one make some kind of notation or reminder for himself in order to remember to insert this new “winter language”, as failure to do so could result in many brachos l’vatala, and even the entire re-recitation of the Shemone Esrei.  See Shulchan Aruch, Orach Chaim 117, which is an entire chapter of Shulchan Aruch devoted to this brocha.  One, of course, should in any event, be especially conscious of a brocha in which he prays for sustenance.  If one feels a special need for parnosah, he should insert his particular request to Hashem at the end of this Brocha.  Indeed, even if one is wealthy, or at least not in immediate need, the Mishna Berura (Shulchan Aruch, Orach Chaim 119, Seif Katan 4), writes he should still pray for his individual and his family’s sustenance--not in the Brocha of Birchas HaShonim (where you must feel a particular need to insert an individual request)--but in the Brocha of Shema Koleinu, prior to the words “Ki Ata Shomea”.


It is certainly no coincidence, as it never is, that Yaakov Avinu prayed for Parnassa in last week’s Parsha.  The Torah Treasury, a superb Sefer on the weekly Parsha (Artscroll, page 70), writes the following:


“Yaakov’s initiative teaches that everything that is given to man, be it his sustenance or security, is a result of hidden miracles; all of man’s efforts achieve nothing in and of themselves.  Nevertheless, man is obligated to exert some type of effort to achieve his goals, all the while realizing that his success is dependent on Hashem’s will...  If everything is dependent on Hashem, why must man make any effort at all?  HaRav Dessler, ZT’L, explained.  Man must invest effort in order to create a trial of faith for himself: after he has done his best, will he still recognize that success is granted by Hashem, or will he believe that his efforts made it happen?  Thus it follows that the greater one’s trust in Hashem, the lesser the effort demanded of him.”


After reading, and perhaps reviewing the above, we should make a special effort to place our heartfelt--kavannah filled--trust in the appropriate place when reciting Birchas Hashonim (Barech Aleinu) and, even if you are financially stable, in Shema Koleinu.


Sent December 1:



At the end of this week’s Parsha (Bereishis 32:1), the Torah teaches “And Lavan returned to his place.”  HaRav Chaim Kanievsky, Shlita, derives from this that even though Lavan had spent some twenty years with Yaakov Avinu, he stayed in the same place.  He simply did not understand the experience that Hashem had placed in front of his very being.  Interestingly, throughout the day we are presented with various signals, various signs, which we should never ever treat as coincidence. Signs such as:




YIELD (with pictures of people);


BUMP (accompanied by an actual good bump); and

STOP (what do you think the red color symbolizes?)

are all messages, not only for everyone else, but for you and you personally.  Read the signs that are there right in front of you--and apply them!




There is a notable question many have asked relating to this week’s Parsha--and an incredible response, given, once again, by HaRav Chaim Kanievsky, Shlita.  Rashi teaches that Yaakov Avinu went to study in the Yeshiva of Shem and Ever for 14 years prior to traveling to Lavan in Charan.  What could he have studied there--after all did not Avraham Avinu come to the Torah on his own without being taught by any of his ancestors?  Indeed, the Torah teaches “Because *Avraham* …observed My safeguards, My commandments, My decrees, and my teachings” (Bereishis 26:5).  The Pasuk seems to indicate that it was Avraham Avinu--and no one else--who observed the Torah.  So, once again, what was being taught in the Yeshiva of Shem and Ever?  We might think that the Seven Mitzvos of Bnei Noach were being taught there in tremendous depth.  HaRav Kanievsky, Shlita, however, rejects this approach.  Instead, he simply and succinctly states that “they studied Yiras Shamayim”.  What an extraordinary teaching!  Yaakov Avinu, the “Bechir ShebeAvos--Chosen of the Fathers”, the last forefather, from whom came all of the Shevatim--and after whom we are all named as the “Bnei Yisroel”--studied fourteen years of Yiras Shamayim--the fear of Heaven--before going to meet the challenges of the world outside him!  We can now well understand why the Mishna Berura (Shulchan Aruch, Orach Chaim 603, seif katan 2) brings from both the Arizal and the Gra that one should study a Mussar text every day.  Let us remember that today (the tenth of Kislev) is the second-month anniversary of Yom Kippur.  It is certainly an auspicious time--and Parsha--to rededicate or reenergize ourselves in the daily study of a classic Mussar work!


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