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Special Note One:  From A Reader:  “I wanted to share another lesson or two from all the snow--I saw parents reaching out and stretching out their arms to their little children--helping them down from snow piles to cross the street.  This inspired me to recall the way that Hashem cares for us and reaches out to us with an outstretched hand to lead us....  I also saw a frum fellow with a big Chevrolet Suburban see a car spinning its wheels on an ice patch. He jumped out of his car (zerizus), with a heavy rope or cable--then attached it (with permission of the stuck car’s owner) somewhere under that car’s engine and to the back of his car--and then got back in and step on his gas slowly--pulling out the car saving the other person much time, aggravation, money...!  Everyone around on the street smiled and felt good.  What wonderful Mitzvos the caring and thinking person can perform....”

Additional Note One:  See Special Note Four below for a little more about ‘getting stuck’.  Additional Note Two:  To all who did not experience the storm, or who never even saw much snow--our apologies, but their is so much to learn--and you can gain by reading about the experience--even if you did not have the benefit of experiencing it first hand!



Special Note Two:  Today is the Yahrzeit of the great HaRav Eliyahu Eliezer Dessler, Z’tl, who has had such a magnificent influence on the teachings of our generation.  As we have done in the past on the Yahrzeit of HaRav Yisroel Salanter (his grandfather), Z’tl, and that of the Alter of Navardok, Z’tl, we provide a spiritual sprinkling of his insights as recorded in the Michtav M’Eliyahu.


1.                              “The reward of a mitzvah is a mitzvah and the reward of an avaira is an avaira” (Pirkei Avos 4:2).  This means that one’s greater attachment to the mitzvah through the toil exerted results in a much greater mitzvah than the one originally contemplated.  Conversely, the impurity that remains with a person as a result of his effort in performing an avaira constitutes in and of itself the punishment.  In another place, HaRav Dessler adds that if one does not feel that he has to wash his hands after leaving a “dirty place”--it is a sign that he has some ‘shaychus’--some attachment--to the uncleanliness that it represents!


2.                              From the body, one learns lessons for the soul.  When one exercises a limb, the limb rather than tiring, becomes stronger and stronger.  When one puts effort into the study of Torah or in the performance of a mitzvah even when one is exhausted or spent, he is building spiritual muscles.  These muscles are infinitely greater than mere additional flesh on bone.


3.                              Chazal teach: “Fortunate is the one who comes here (Olam Haba) with his Torah study in hand” (Pesachim 50A).  Chazal are careful with their words.  It is not enough for the Torah to be in his mind--it must be in his “hand”--which symbolize action or accomplishment, effort and exertion in the pursuit of what is right in life.  One’s place in Olam Habo will not be measured by his wisdom or acumen, but by how much he tried.  That is why Chazal teach that “one on the bottom here will be on top there.”


4.                              Chazal teach: “One must [chayav] say when will my actions reach the actions of my forefathers, Avraham, Yitzchak and Yaakov?”  Chazal use the word “must” very judiciously.  A person must view himself as having the capabilities of reaching true heights and spiritual levels, without despairing about his current state.  Ambition and drive must always uplift a person, no matter what his position.


5.                              “M’loh Kol Ha’Aretz K’Vodo--Hashem’s glory fills the earth.”  If that is so, how is it that he can ever sin?  The answer is that the entire goal and thrust of the Yetzer Hora is to obstruct and obfuscate one’s clarity of thought and mind, for with true clarity, one’s “choice” or “free-will,” would never be a matter of question--even in our times.


6.                              The pristine act of tzedaka or chesed is one performed in a situation in which one gives up his own personal benefit so that another will enjoy or gain.


7.                              “For man was created B’Tzelem Elokim” (Bereishis 1:27)--this means that just as HaKadosh Baruch Hu is King of the World, so, too, man must be ruler over his little World.  This can only occur when the soul and spirit rule over one’s body and physical desire.


8.                              The true madrega (level) of even a Navi or Ish Elokim is his attainment of truth about himself.


9.                              There are various ways to battle the Yetzer Hora; one of them is to “burn bridges” to your connections to him.  Another is to push him off with the words “Just this time…” or “Just a little longer” or “Just a little more”.  It is for this reason that Moshe Rabbeinu told Paroh that the Jews were to travel three days in the desert--not to fool Paroh, but to trick their own Yetzer Hora into believing that they would not be leaving the spiritual filth and disgust of Mitzraim.  Hakhel Note:  In another place, HaRav Dessler writes that the Ikar Kiddush Hashem is ‘bechira tova’--making the proper choice against the Yetzer Hara. 


10.                          The G’ra writes that a person does not stay in one place spiritually--he either goes up or goes down.  The reason for this, as explained by R’ Yozel, Z’tl, is that there is a spiritual force of gravity, as well.  That is, the same force that prevents him from rising is the one that brings him down.  We only need to look up and climb, and we will have overcome its force.


11.                          There is a Kabala from Rebbe Yisroel Salanter that even if all of the Gates of Prayer are closed--there is always one still open, and that is the Gate of improving your Ruchniyus--growing spiritually.  One should always face to this Gate with emotion and feeling--for your Prayers will then reach their destination!



Special Note Three:  The Ba’alei Mussar provide a remarkable teaching relating to Ka’as:  When one gets angry he is during that time, in a certain and real sense, a Kofer--for in his single-mindedness and wholly-focused anger he does not feel or in any manner sense or appreciate that HaKadosh Baruch Hu is actually right in front of him--or, in fact, that there even is any Creator or Seer in the world at that moment!  As you feel that anger coming on--Remember that there is a Creator who you should never, ever forget.  Hakhel Note:  It is no wonder then, that we are particularly adjured never to get angry on Erev Shabbos and Shabbos--which are days upon which we especially come closer to and strengthen our bond with our Creator!


Special Note Four:  We this in mind, we continue with our Erev Shabbos --Halachos of Shabbos Series:


1.  As the vehicle spins in its tracks for an extended period of time over a patch of stubborn ice, one gets a glimpse of how easy it really is to “get stuck.”  With this in mind, we will better understand why, at the conclusion of our prayers for the coming week in Ata Chonantanu on Motzei Shabbos, we plead that our coming week be one in which we are “Medubakim B’Yirasecha”--attached to the fear of You.  Although we cannot keep the heightened Olom Haba-like quality of Shabbos the whole week, we pray that the element of closeness to Hashem we experienced on Shabbos be stuck with us through the week, so that we do not err in thinking that it is my special power that accomplished this, his bold ingenuity that accomplished that, their personal connections that changed this, or its access to money that bought that.  The one who is “stuck” to the fear of Hashem knows very well that the truck getting “stuck” on a patch of ice in a specific location, or someone getting “stuck” in Rhode Island because of the snow storm to the south is the act of the Creator and Observer in Whose presence we all stand, serve and function.  He also knows that the relief from any such uncomfortable situation is also under His guidance and direction!


2.  The following is excerpted from The Shabbos Home by Rabbi Simcha Bunim Cohen, Shlita:  “Mothers often put plastic bags over their children’s feet or shoes to enable them to don their boots more easily.  These plastic bags are not considered garments, and thus, it is forbidden to have children wear them when going outdoors on Shabbos(except in an enclosed yard).”  


3.  We are advised that HaRav Moshe Wolfson, Shlita, tells his students to write down on Motza’ei Shabbos those things which they did especially well, and the things which he did wrong, over Shabbos, and that they look at them next Erev Shabbos--so that one Shabbos is a building block for the next one--and one constantly builds.  What a grand idea!


4.  We continue with additional Halachos relating to work performed by a non-Jew on Shabbos, and the permissibility of a Jew to benefit from it:  If a Gentile performs work on Shabbos solely for his benefit or for the benefit of another Gentile, and there is no chashash (no basis to suspect) that he has or will do more of the same in order for a Jew to also benefit, nor is there any muktzah issue as a result of the work performed, then a Jew can benefit from the activity on Shabbos as well.  For instance, if a Gentile turned on a light for himself in a room and started to read, to look at something, to wash dishes or the like, and there was no Jewish person present in the room, and a Jew then walked in--he too would be able to sit down and read, because the same light will be used, and there is no additional light that needs to be turned on merely because another person has come into the room to read (Ner LeEchad Ner LeMe’ah).  The same would be true even if the non-Jew left the room--as the work was initiated by him exclusively for his own benefit.  Furthermore, if he is leaving the room one can even ask him not to turn it off--as no melacha, is being performed by merely leaving on the original light.   B’EH next week we hope to discuss work performed by a Gentile both for his benefit and a Jew’s benefit together.



Special Note Five:  The following meaningful lesson is excerpted from A Vort From Rav Pam, the masterful work by Rabbi Sholom Smith, Shlita (Artscroll):  “After Egypt was engulfed with swarms of croaking frogs, Pharaoh appealed to Moshe to pray to Hashem that they be removed.  Hashem listened and all the frogs (except those in the river) died, leaving huge piles of foul-smelling reptiles all over the land.  Although the odor was unbearable, Pharaoh saw that there had been a relief and kept making his heart stubborn ( 8:11 ).  The pasuk stresses that once the immediate danger was over, Pharaoh hardened his heart and went back to his old, evil ways of stubbornly refusing to let the Jewish nation leave Egypt .  The Torah underscores Pharaoh’s fickleness, in order to show us all a common fault in human nature:  When a person faces a crisis, an illness, accident, or pending disaster, this awakens in him a need for tefillah, teshuvah, and emotion-filled appeals to Hashem.  But once the crisis ends, or even if the situation merely takes a turn for the better, and he sees the proverbial ‘light at the end of the tunnel,’ the hisorerus (inspiration) often quickly dissipates.  He suddenly doesn’t ‘need’ Hashem as much anymore.  This is exactly what happened to Pharaoh.  As soon as the immediate predicament passed, he hardened his heart and refused to let the Jews leave his country.  There is an essential lesson in this concept.  When a person facing a crisis davens to Hashem, he should continue to pray even when he sees that the yeshuah (salvation) is on the way.  This is clearly seen in Megillas Esther.  When the Jewish people were facing their impending extermination, Esther ordered a three-day fast to appeal to Hashem for mercy.  As the Megillah describes, Haman’s planned request to Achashveirosh for permission to hang Mordechai turned into a disaster.  Instead, he was ordered to parade Mordechai through the streets in a way befitting a man whom the king especially wants to honor ( 6: 11 ).  After this great setback for Haman and personal triumph for Mordechai, Mordechai returned to the king’s gate ( 6:12 ).  Rashi explains that although Haman’s downfall was now beginning, Mordechai nevertheless returned to his sackcloth and fasting, and continued to beseech Hashem for mercy, pleading for the rescue of K’lal Yisroel.  There are many situations in life when a person going through a difficult situation suddenly sees a turn for the better.  That is not a signal to discontinue one’s hisorerus.  A person must pray until the full yeshuah (salvation) comes--and then express his full-hearted gratitude to the One Above!”



Special Note One: From a reader on the snow...“I used to comment that, being here in Far Rockaway and near the ocean, we don’t tend to get as much snow as other areas. This snow storm proved otherwise! Lessons: Hashem is in control of the weather and “climatic factors” don’t necessarily make a difference! I also learned to have a bit more empathy for those who do get very large snowfalls, in general. Another thought: gratitude to Hashem. I didn’t have work yesterday, nor today, which means losing two days’ pay. Boruch Hashem that of all the ways for Hashem to give me the parnosa allotted to me for this year and not more, it came in the packaging of a snow storm as opposed to rachmona litzlon a host of other circumstances that could be sent to limit how much money one will have . . . circumstances that could cholila be much more difficult to deal with . . .”
Hakhel Note: Thank you for your thought-through reflections. Rabbi Dovid Weinberger, Shlita teaches that in the bracha of Refa’einu, we uniquely mention that Hashem is a Melech Rofeh, and asks what Kingship has to do with Refuah? The answer, he explains, is simple. It is not the doctor who is capable of healing--but only Hashem--who Is fully in charge of illness and healing, wellness and life. The symptoms and the medicines, the doctors and the therapies, are all Hashem’s subjects and agents who are guided and instructed to carry out and bring about the appropriate process and result. The Refuah Process symbolizes and demonstrates Hashem’s mastery over the universe. Snow serves a less invasive but similar function--revealing to all Hashem’s rulership over the universe and everything that is in it--with no degree, kind or amount of science, expertise, or brainpower, and with no computer software, space station, ‘ology’ or ‘ologist’ of any kind, able to withhold a snowstorm, snow shower--or even a snowflake--when Hashem so wills it!

We provide below some select additional lessons we have provided in other snow storms, with the full awareness and knowledge that each and everyone of us who went through, and is going through the aftermaths of, the storm had to go through this particular storm in his life for good reasons, and that it would be a wasteful experience and true shame if we walked away only perhaps more charley-horsed, poorer, distressed or disappointed as a result. Whether it is any or all of the lessons below, or your own personal reflections and conclusions--one should walk away from the experience a better person:

1. One could see the snow and ice cleared thoroughly from the sidewalks of some stores and homes, just adequately in front of others, and inadequately in front of yet others. One lesson that may be gleaned from this is that if something is very important to you, you are careful to do it well--very well. Ask yourself: “How well do I take care of my Shemone Esrei, the words that I utter, or helping the people that I really could and should? Related Point: Anything that is attempted in a “quick and dirty” fashion-remains just that--quick and dirty. As the Maharsha teaches on the Pasuk in Hallel--“Ani Amarti Bechafzi, Kol HaAdam Kozev--if a person says that he succeeded [in Torah study] quickly--he is lying”, for it is only through aforethought and effort that one succeeds. One Mishna a day over 365 days equipped with the right Sefer, and the right time of the day will really equal to 365 Mishnayos, but 365 Mishnayos in one day, well,.... Let’s take the lesson!

2. Just as ice-breaking salt and sand and high-powered snow blowers may be needed in some circumstances, we must sometimes look to assistance from others in order to properly improve ourselves. If one is wise and humble enough to be guided by those who know better, the end result may well be much better than scraping the ice on one’s own.

3. Meteorologists say that many, many inches of snow can constitute the equivalent of just one inch of rain. The Gemora (Taanis 7-9) teaches that rain displays the great Gevurah--the awesome strength--of Hashem, for in any particular location, many millions of droplets may fall, and all that falls is perfect as to timing, location and amount, and in exact accordance with Hashem’s Will--as reward, as punishment, for parnosah, etc. Given that so much snow--ten inches-- could represent one inch of rain, it would seem that snow represents the midah of Rachamim--mercy--in which Hashem restrains and limits the Gevurah. Indeed, Hashem shows us that when the conditions are right, He will freeze the Gevurah and instead produce a pure, white replacement which becomes muddied and dirty only when we, by our actions, trample upon it.

4. Finally, the feeling of Hakaras HaTov to all who put in the extra effort to help everyone else weather the storm a little easier--even if they do get paid (yes, even double time) for it. From those who plow and sand the streets through the middle of the night, through the bread and milk delivery men , through those who turn on the heat in Shuls and public places for a little longer or a little higher...and of course to Hashem for giving us the opportunity to embolden our Mitzvos with the extra effort necessary to perform them, and for giving us the ability to take all of the above lessons--and many more not mentioned--and use them to improve our lives and the lives of those around us!

Special Note Two: The Luach Bnai Yaakov points out that the Hebrew letters for Teves--Tes Veis and Tuff are an acronym for Tov Vori Tomid--The Creator is Always Good!

Special Note Three: At the Hakhel Yarchei Kallah last week, Rabbi Zecharia Wallerstein, Shlita, noted that when Hashem wanted to give the Torah to Bnai Yisroel the Malochim attempted numerous cogent offenses to keep the Torah in Shomayim. One such sharp attempt was their insistence that the Torah not be given to man because of the Din DeBar Maitzra which prohibits the transfer of property to a third party when their is a closer neighbor who wants to purchase the very same property--since they wanted the Torah for themselves, the Malochim argued,...Hashem had “no right” to transfer it to Bnai Yisroel! Hashem’s response to the Malochim was that there argument was erroneous--for the Din of Bar Maitzra does not apply when one wants to transfer the property to his own children--and that is what we are--his own children! With this in mind, we should appreciate the sweetness of Torah each and every time that we study it because it is not simply a course of special study, or even an incredibly Divine subject--but the loving gift of a Father to a child that we each have been blessed to receive--not just on our birthdays, not just on special occasions--not even only as a reward for good behavior--but as a daily endowment of ‘Ahavas Olam’--of Hashem’s eternal and everlasting love to us. Feel the deep affection and warmth as you learn, and rejoice!


Special Note One: “And [Hashem] said: ‘Do not get close to there; remove your shoes from your feet, because the place you are standing on is holy ground.’” (Shemos 3:5, last week’s Parsha).

The Ohr HaChaim HaKadosh (ibid.) asks a stark question. Moshe Rabbeinu is first commanded not to get closer to the burning bush, and only after that to take his shoes off, for he was on holy ground. Should he not have been commanded first to take off his shoes-as he was already on holy ground-and then, not to get closer to the bush? The Ohr HaChaim responds that with the order of this posuk, Hashem reveals His true will-His main concern-is fulfillment of the Mitzvos Lo Saa’seh-for when violating a Lo Saa’seh, by taking action, a person actually wounds his soul.

It is for this reason that when the Torah urges us “to be careful” and “to do” in the same posuk, the Torah always precedes “shmira” (guarding oneself from violating a negative prohibition) and then follows it with the “asiyah” (doing the positive commandments of Hashem).

Dovid HaMelech (Tehillim 34:15) reinforces this priority by teaching that a person who wants life, who loves days to see good, is the one who is “sur meirah” (turns away from evil), and is “aseh tov” (does good).

Of course, there are 365 negative prohibitions and the 365 days of the solar calendar correspond to them. Perhaps this is to teach us that we are to be on constant guard-on a day in, day out basis-to avoid violating the negative prohibitions.

The Ohr HaChaim HaKadosh concludes that this seems to be quite an expensive lesson for Moshe Rebbeinu-he was standing on holy ground and did not even know it-yet, he was first instructed to avoid the Lo Saa’seh before taking off his shoes-doing the aseh. See there for two possible answers.

Perhaps we can also suggest that there was an additional lesson to Moshe Rebbeinu here-that, in fact, he had to be careful wherever he may be-for everywhere he or we go is “admas kodesh” (holy ground). We are on “holy ground” when we consciously refrain from violating Torah prohibitions, including:
Not saying Hashem’s Name in vain (Shemos 20:7) 
Eating something which is questionably kosher (even though it may have some Hebrew writing on it) (Vayikra 11) 
Not holding back wages (Vayikra 19:13 ) 
Not insulting someone else (Vayikra 19:14 ) 
Not to cause another to sin or give him bad advice (Vayikra 19:14 ) 
Delaying to save someone in danger (Vayikra 19:16 ) 
Not to embarrass another (Vayikra 19:17 ) 
Not to cheat with weights and measures (Vayikra 19:35 ) 
Doing something which could result in Chillul Hashem (Vayikra 22:23 ) 
Not to be closed-handed to the poor (Devarim 15:7) 
Refraining from getting involving in returning a lost item (Devarim 22:3) 
Allowing ourselves or our children to wear Shatnez (Devarim 22:11 ) 
Delaying fulfillment of a promise you have made (Devarim 23:22 ) 

And all of the other mitzvos Lo Saa’seh. We have a great opportunity, on a daily basis, to stand on holy ground, as the Ohr HaChaim HaKadosh states-when we avoid violating the Mitzvos Lo Saa’seh we are performing HaKadosh Boruch Hu’s “Ikar Daas and Ratzon”.

Practical Suggestion: Each day for (at least) the next 7 days, take a Mitzvos Lo Saa’seh you feel may need some chizuk in your life and be especially mindful and careful with it, or learn more about a Mitzvos Lo Saa’seh that you are relatively unfamiliar with (see Sefer HaChinuch –in English published by Feldheim Publishers; Sefer HaMitzvos of the Rambam; and Sefer HaMitzvos HaKatzur of the Chofetz Chaim for further study).

Remember-We are always on holy ground! 

Special Note Two: In this week’s week's Parsha, the Torah records: "Paroh called to Moshe and Aharon and said go and bring sacrifices to your G-d in the Land." Moshe responded, "It is not proper to do so…for if we were to slaughter the god of Egypt in front of their eyes, will they not stone us?" (Shemos 8:21, 22)

There is a stark question one may ask on Moshe Rabbeinu's statement, which is raised by the Chasam Sofer (and brought by HaRav Pam, Zt'l, in The Pleasant Way, p. 89). Had not Egypt by this point been hit hard--very hard--with four plagues which had left Egypt and the Egyptian people in turmoil--was Moshe Rabbeinu actually afraid that the Egyptians would or even could stone the Bnei Yisroel? After the powerful and devastating Makkos, it was pellucidly clear to all that neither Paroh nor the Egyptians could stone anyone anymore. Wasn't it then an incredulous and even insulting argument for Moshe Rabbeinu to make to Paroh--that the Jews had to leave Egypt to bring sacrifices to Hashem because they were too scared to bring sacrifices in Egypt proper?

The answer provided by the Chasam Sofer is truly amazing. Let us once again look at what Moshe Rabbeinu told Paroh: "Lo Nachon LaAsos Keyn--it is not proper to do so.” The Chasam Sofer explains that what Moshe Rabbeinu really meant was that it would not be proper to infuriate and antagonize the Egyptians who would want to stone the Bnei Yisroel, but would be powerless to do so. It would not be proper conduct on our part to act in a manner that would cause unwarranted emotional pain to the Egyptians. This type of mental anguish and torture was uncalled for and unnecessary.

The lesson to be derived from this is immense. Causing distress to another--even to someone as dastardly as a Mitzri--is simply inappropriate and unacceptable, unless Halachically mandated.

Special Note Three: As we have previously noted, the Golus Mitzrayim and the Golus Edom that we currently live in have a strong and direct correlation. With these proper Kavannos, may we, too, experience in the upcoming days some of the Nissim described in the coming Parsha and Parshiyos.

With the primacy of tefillah in mind during these times, we provide several Halachos relating to tefillah from the Sefer Tefillah KeHilchasa by HaRav Yitzchak Yaakov Fuchs (author of the Halichos Bas Yisroel):

The place where one davens (even for a woman at home) should have windows. One can look up at the sky before starting Shemone Esrei, or look up when feeling that his Kavannah is weak, in order to arouse himself to Hashem’s greatness and one’s own humility. 

A man should not daven in a place when facing a “Tefach Meguleh Beisha--the part of a woman’s body which should be covered.” Ideally, he should turn to another direction. In cases of exigency, he can close his eyes. The Yabi’ah Omer adds that Tefach Beisha is also prohibited if the exposed part of the woman is seen through a mirror or even in a picture. However, if one is on a plane and has a choice between sitting for Shemone Esrei so that he does not see any “Tefach Beisha,” or standing and turning away, then it is better to stand and turn away or at least close one’s eyes (Oz Nidbiru 12:27). 

If one has the choice between davening Mincha earlier in the day, which will allow others you are unsure will daven with a Minyan to so daven, or to daven later in the day closer to sunset (which is otherwise the Halachically preferred time to daven Shemone Esrei--immediately after sunrise in the morning and immediately before sunset in the evening), then it is better to daven earlier to allow the earlier Minyan to take place. Additionally, it may in any event be better to daven at the first possible Minyan that you encounter, notwithstanding any other benefits of a later Minyan. 

One should not daven opposite pictures or artwork. If one is already in such a position, he should keep his eyes closed. One should not daven in front of a mirror, even with closed eyes. In the evening, when davening opposite a window, he should pull down the shade, so it does not appear that he is bowing down to his image. 

There is a special zechus to be among the first ten assembled to daven. Even within the first ten, the earlier you are, there the greater the zechus. Indeed, even after the first ten, the Iturei Zahav writes, “the earlier you are, the closer you are to the “Shoresh Hakedusha--to the source of holiness(!).” If is difficult for one to be among the first ten in the morning, he should try to be among the first ten for Mincha and for Ma’ariv. Always remember--the earlier--the better! 



Special Note One:  The Northeastern United States has just experienced a winter blizzard of immense proportions, with the amount of snow that fell giving all those who experienced it a better sense of infinity.  Perhaps one of the most incredible lessons to learn from the snow which seemingly blanketed a wide area relatively evenly and steadily is the tremendous degree of individualized Hashgacha Pratis that each and every person experienced with the storm.  One person was able to go to Shul with great Mesirus Nefesh, another person went to a Shul or Minyan that he usually does not go to, and a third person was unable to go to Shul at all.  One person’s flight was cancelled so he was unable to travel to Eretz Yisroel as planned, another person’s flight due to arrive in New York City was diverted to another city where he had to stay for a day, and a third person made a swell of unexpected money by digging out his car and bringing people to the airport to wait for flights.  Those with the most powerful of cars realized that it is not in the might of the horse or the capabilities of the chariot that one relies, as they were stuck trying to turn into unplowed streets or spun their wheels on patches of snow or ice.  This person’s street was plowed, that one’s was not; this person’s neighbor had a snow blower and cleaned his walk as well, that person’s son had to clean his walk and injured himself in the process, and a third person had to hire cleaners for a pretty penny.  This person made it to the Chasuna and, as a part of the select few there, was able to be mekayem Simchas Chosson in an incredible way, that person’s wife went into labor and not knowing what to do began boiling water (‘we’ll never forget this’), and a third person was able to go to the store and help the four elderly couples on his block with food.  Many viewed the opportunity as a gift from Hashem to learn extra hours (while others only used the opportunity to sort through papers).  Some appreciated what it means to have the gifts of a roof over your head, heat, gloves, a winter coat and hot soup, and others ignored the entire event as ‘part of the winter’, knowing that it would blow over and preferred to think about summer--refusing to realize it as a unique challenge and test-with the billions of snowflakes especially designed by Hashem in His Omniscience for each individual in his own particular way.  For those in the Northeast, the snow is still here, and there is much Avodas Hashem still to be done.  For those outside of the area, they need not wait for a snow storm to be awakened to Hashem’s Presence in each and every one of our lives. 



Special Note Two:  The Pasuk records that initially even the Bnei Yisroel did not listen to Moshe Rabbeinu “Because of shortness of breath and hard work” (Shemos, 6:9).  Hashem then tells Moshe to go to speak to Paroh himself to send Bnei Yisroel from his land.  Moshe responds that “…Bnei Yisroel have not listened to me, so how will Paroh listen to me?...”  Rashi, quoting the Midrash (Bereishis Rabbah 92:7) writes that this is one of the ten Kal V’Chomer (ipso facto or a priori) arguments in the Torah.


HaRav Eliyahu Lopian, Z’tl, wonders “Why is this a Kal V’Chomer?”--i.e., why is it so that if Bnei Yisroel would not listen to Bnei Yisroel, then, ipso facto, neither would Paroh.  After all, the Pasuk explicitly expresses the reason that Bnei Yisroel would not listen to Moshe--because of shortness of breath and hard work.  Paroh certainly did not suffer from these, as he sat comfortably on the throne with everything being performed for him and on his behalf.  While Bnei Yisroel may be unable to listen or accept what Moshe Rabbeinu was saying because of their true predicament, Paroh certainly had the wherewithal, the ability and the understanding to appreciate Moshe Rabbeinu’s message!


We may suggest that the Kal V’Chomer, the ipso facto argument, does in fact work.  The argument simply is as follows: If Bnei Yisroel--the slave people who were to be released wouldn’t accept what I was saying, then why would Paroh--as their master?!  Chazal, by teaching us that this really is and remains a Kal V’Chomer, are teaching us that the reason Bnei Yisroel did not listen (albeit a good one) was simply not important.  For, despite the fact that we can commiserate with their unbelievably difficult plight, they should, in fact, have listened to Hashem and to Moshe Rabbeinu.  So too, Paroh, despite his grand position and erstwhile iron-clad rulership, should have recognized and understood Moshe Rabbeinu’s message to him as well.  Any excuses would simply be unacceptable and downright wrong, as they would more than pale in significance to following the mandate and directive of the Master of the Universe, Hashem and his messenger, Moshe Rabbeinu.


Bringing the Parsha’s lesson home:  If we are true believers--i.e., if we truly believe that all of the events and occurrences that surround us, everything that happens to us in life, all of the big and small events, the pain we may suffer and the pleasures and simchas we experience--are personally directed and “micromanaged” by Hashem--then there are certain attitudes and certain phrases which should not have room in our thought process or our vocabulary.  If Hashem has put you in the situation, no matter how stressful or troubling, then he wants you to act responsibly in that situation in accordance with the Torah and the Poskim, which in some instances may require further elucidation by your Rav or your Posek.


Thus, a feeling or a statement of “I cannot do it”.  “It is too hard”, “It is beyond my capability”,” I can’t handle this”, “This situation is impossible for me”, which may come sincerely out of real pain, extreme stress and great frustration, should really in truth be avoided, or overcome.  If one cannot control himself, he must at least realize that his statement should not be taken literally, for his Creator and Maker has determined that this situation or event is needed and/or best for him at this time.  Instead, one should “listen to Moshe Rabbeinu”, despite the “shortness of breath,” the adverse circumstances--even if they are extremely, extremely, adverse--and dig in  and rise to the occasion.


Bnei Yisroel, in their pain and misery, did not listen.  Their failure to hear and accept was for naught.  Ten Makkos and a Splitting of the Sea later, they received the Torah at Har Sinai, which made them an eternal people with an eternal life.  Let us take the lesson from the Parsha, and with unfettered faith and complete belief rise up and through the event, position, circumstance or situation.  In this zechus, in the merit of our pure faith and belief--each person in his own way will be zoche to his own beautiful part and portion in that very unique and special eternal life!



Special Note Three:  The Ramban (Shemos 4:10) comments in last week’s Parsha that the only thing preventing Moshe Rabbeinu from being healed of his speech difficulties was his prayer to Hashem asking for a Refuah Sheleima.  Had he done so, the Ramban writes, he would have been healed forthwith.  In sharp contrast, the Torah records in the Parsha that the Bnai Yisroel were zoche to the Geulah by virtue of “Va’Taal Shavossom El HaElokim”--their Tefillos simply pierced the Heavens. Let us TAKE THE LESSON.  Over the next several weeks, we will be living through Parshios of Geulah, beginning with the first seven Maakos in this week’s Parsha--by which the Mitzriyim were sorely and severely punished and K’lal Yisroel came out unscathed and glorified.  Accordingly, may we suggest that this period is an auspicious one for reciting the Tefillah Al HaGeulah, available by clicking on the following links in both Hebrew and available in English.  Remember, if Moshe Rabbeinu would have had the opportunity to offer that 515th prayer--he would have entered Eretz Yisroel, as well.  It is no wonder, then, that Dovid HaMelech teaches us “Kaveh El Hashem…Vekaveh El Hashem---Hope to Hashem, strengthen yourself…and Hope to Hashem.”  Don’t give up--keep on coming and davening again and again.  There is a light at tunnel’s end--you have to have the drive, nightvision and unrelenting goal to get there!



Daily Mishnah By Email:  Hakhel has received information about a very special program by email.  On the following site -- http://www.dailymishnah.com  one may sign up for a daily email that contains the text of the one daily Mishnah, along with a short MP3 file, clearly explaining the Mishnah in English.  One Mishnah a day gets you places!  Today is a wonderful day to begin this program, as Mesechta Shevuos begins today.




Special Note One:  Last week, we brought the essential teaching of HaRav Mattisyahu Salomon, Shlita--what made Shifra and Puah so successful was their Yiras Shomayim from the outset.  Accordingly, HaRav Salomon urges--we should study Mussar to attain Yiras Shomayim--and we will be able to succeed, as well.  We are very pleased to announce that Feldheim Publishers has issued the Sefer Mesilas Yeshorim with a new easy to read translation by Rabbi Yosef Liebler, Shlita.  The Sefer has been published in a small, easily-handled size.  It is well known that HaRav Yisroel Salanter, Z’tl, carried the Mesilas Yeshorim with him in his Tallis bag--oh if we can only follow suit in some way....

Additional Note One:  This new wonderful Sefer has a daily study calendar appended to it so that you can study the Mesilas Yeshorim slowly in daily small increments--enabling you to absorb and apply its essential and life-giving teachings into your daily life.

Additional Note Two:  The Rabbeinu Yonah teaches that the Ikar of Yiras Shomayim is avoiding Sefeikos --doubtful activity--in daily life.  Not eating what could be the wrong thing, not saying what could be the wrong thing, not wearing what could be the wrong thing because you are not sure whether you should or not  ...is a great Kiyum of Yiras Shomayim!

Additional Note Three:  Chazal teach that Shifra and Puah were rewarded with Batei Kehuna U’Batei Malchus--the Kehuna coming from Aharon and the Malchus coming from Dovid HaMelech.  The Meforshim point out that Chazal do not teach that Yiras Shomayim came forth from them--because Yiras Shomayim is not limited to them as the Bais Aharon and Bais Dovid is.  There is no one Bayis--house--in which Yiras Shomayim is or will be housed.  Instead, if we personally follow the glorious teaching of Shfira and Puah--we too will have a powerful and important chelek in Yiras Shomayim in the world--and for all eternity!



Special Note Two:  The following Kashrus Alert is from the OU:  Dole Product: Mixed Berries (A Food Service Item) bears an OU and contains raspberries which are prone to infestation. Packaging is being revised.  Hakhel Note:  Yes, even in the winter time, infested fruits have the same issues! 

Related Point:  As we have noted in the past, the OU, which gives the Hashgacha on FIBER ONE cereal, has determined that the proper brachos on this cereal are Mezonos and Al HaMichya.  In canvassing consumers, we are surprised by the numbers of people who are not aware of the proper brachos on this popular cereal.  You can be a Mezakeh Es HaRabbim in your community by spreading the word as to proper brachos--avoiding brachos levatala and enabling the proper brachos to be made!



Special Note Three:  The following very meaningful episode is part of the Shomrei Haloshon Program, as excerpted from the book Tales of the Tongue by Esther Ehrenreich and Chaya Kahan (Artscroll/Mesorah):  “Gunshots and explosions filed the air.  Inside the shelter, people sat crowded together.  No one dared look outside.  A fierce battle was waging and the Jews of the land were the first to suffer.  HaRav Eliayu Lopian, Z’tl sat among them, immersed in Torah thought.  Suddenly, a man broke his train of thought:  ‘Rebbe!’ he said anxiously, ‘They’re speaking Loshon Hora here!’  “Really?  We must leave here right away!’   HaRav Eliyahu had less concern for the bombs falling right and left.  For him, the sin of hearing Loshon Hora was far greater than the possibility of being hit by falling explosives.   Hashem guided his steps in the right direction, for shortly afterwards a bomb fell on the shelter....’

Hakhel Note:  Of course, we do not know or understand the ways of Hashem--as we have been focusing in the Ani Maamin’s on the fact that He is First and He is Last--and our role and purpose is to be here successfully for a segment in between--so that we can be together in Olam Haba.  What we are to do now is His Will.  Loshon Hora, the Chofetz Chaim especially reiterated and reinforced to our generation is reviled by Hashem to such an extent that it can involve up to 31 Torah violations. Let us follow the lead of HaRav Lopian--and in these dangerous times stay as far away as possible from this extremely deleterious and highly pernicious behavior--and from those who seek to endanger others with it.  As the wisest of all men taught:  “Holech es Chachomim Yechkam--walk with the Chachomim to become wise--for “Roa Kesilim Yeiroa ....those who stay around those who promulgate evil...(we won’t say more--but will only add that it doesn’t make it better if the promulgator is a close family member, someone who you speak you at work who ‘isn’t frum anyway’ or an old classmate or friend who only calls you up from time to time--it’s  still Loshon Hora).  We additionally remind you of the Chofetz Chaim Heritage Foundation’s free service--The Shemiras Haloshon Shaila Hotline -by which expert Poskim in Shemiras Haloshon answer all of your Shailos about Shemiras Halashon--in Shidduchim, Business, family matters--who doesn’t have a Shaila about what should be said or how you should say it?  The Hotline’s number is 718-951-3696, and its regular hours are 9pm to 10:30 pm , and in emergencies at other times, subject to a Rav’s availablity.



Special Note Four:  TO PRACTICALLY APPLY THE ABOVE TWO NOTES ON A DAILY BASIS FOR WOMEN--by phone in the United States .  Aneinu has a daily Brochos text message and a daily Shemiras Haloshon message (available by email as well).  In order to subscribe, please text 216-235-4330 or email dafnotes@gmail.com





You can download the second (Nov ‘10) issue of the Yoshon Guide by sending an email message to ONE of the following addresses:





Mishna Daily--mishnadaily@gmail.com--has recently begun its own wonderful trip through Shas with Mesechta Brachos.  One can receive an MP3 copy of the Mishnayos Shiur by email, or can call (641) 715-3462 access code 309952# to listen to the Shiur over the phone.  The Reference Number to be inserted starts with “1” for the first Shiur.  One can obtain a calendar of the Mishna Daily Program by contacting Mishna Daily as well....If not now--then when??




Special Note One:  A reader wrote to us as to the importance of reciting Aleinu with Kavannah--as the Rema to Shulchan Aruch (Orach Chayim 132:2) writes “Yizaher LeOmro Bekavannah--one should be careful to recite it with Kavannah.”  Another reader related the following about HaRav Don Segel, Shlita:

“Rav Don always went back to his office at the end of davening to say Aleinu.  A few Mirrer bochurim listened by the window as he said Aleinu for 10 minutes, as a lesson in Yiras Shomayim and Avodas Hashem.”

Hakhel Note:  Perhaps it will never take us ten minutes to recite Aleinu, but as we are about to recall and experience the horrific Galus of our ancestors in Mitzrayim, our Aleinu over this week-end and week-beginning should be infused with special thanks that the Galus Mar that we are in is not like that one--and our ‘Ahl Kein Nekaveh’  should likewise express the sincere hope that these final throws of exile come to an end peacefully--LeSakein Olam BeMalchus Shakai--with the world once and for all fixed up as it should be!



Special Note Two:  Relating to the reports of insect infestation in various flour and pasta products, an extremely experienced Kashrus professional advised us that he strongly recommends placing these kinds of products into cellophane bags after purchase, as the unprotective cardboard boxes they are sold in (such as the Ronzoni containers) are very much open to infestation.



Special Note Three:  Today is the 206th yahrzeit of the Maggid of Dubno, HaRav Yaakov b’r’ Zev (Wolf) Kranz, Z’tl, whose legacy of Meshalim to bring lessons of the Torah to us all remains unparalleled to this very day.  Some of the Maggid’s mesholim have been collected in English in The Maggid of Dubno and His Parables by Dr. Benno Heinemann (Feldheim Publishers).  We present below one of the great Mesholim, excerpted from this meaningful Sefer:


“The Maggid was once collecting funds for a charitable cause, when he met a wealthy man who had the unenviable reputation of being a miser.  In order to induce the man to make even a small donation, the Maggid proceeded to enumerate some of the contributions that he had already received, not from wealthy people but from simple artisans and shopkeepers.  ‘You know Chayim the blacksmith gave me five thalers, Yossel the shoemaker gave me six....’  The wealthy man interrupted--’I would not call these people charitable--they are poor men, and when they die they will not leave anything worth mentioning.  But I have made my will, and in it I leave much money to the poor after my death.’  The Maggid replied, ‘Your point is well taken, but let me provide you with an appropriate Moshol:  Do you know the difference between a hen and a pig?  The hen is a small animal, and does not have much to give.  Her eggs are small and light, and may weigh only two ounces each.  Yet, the farmer will coddle her like a baby.  Even if she would leave her coop, walk into her master’s house and track dirt over the newly washed floor --not even a feather on her back would be touched even by the mistress of the house.  Now, the pig is much larger.  It weighs 200 pounds, and of this 25 pounds are pure lard.  You would think it is quite valuable then, would you not?  Yet no one is ever nice to the pig.  If it leaves its sty, it is driven back with a broomstick, and if it dared to enter its master’s house it would get a beating it would not soon forget.  What then is the basis for the difference between the hen and the pig?  The hen may not have much--but what she does give, she gives faithfully each day as long as she lives.  The pig may have much more wealth to offer, but it will give it up only after it is dead.  Now tell me, which of the two is the worthier donor...?!”



With these words of the Maggid (may his teachings be a zechus for his holy neshama, and for us all), we provide the following additional salient reminders about Tzedaka-giving--as excerpted from the Kitzur Shulchan Aruch itself (the following translation is based upon the masterful translation of the Kitzur published by Feldheim):


1.  A person should reflect that, at every moment, he asks Hashem for his livelihood.  Just as he requests that Hashem hear his cry, so too should he hear the cry of the poor


2.  One must at all times realize that he is not reducing his wealth by giving of it to the poor--for after all the money is not his, but rather a trust granted to him in order to carry out the will of the One who entrusted it to him. Tzedaka is the portion which he will ultimately receive for all his labor in this world, as the Pasuk (Yeshaya 58:8) states: ‘Your Tzedaka will proceed before you’.  Tzedaka wards off harsh decrees and prolongs one’s life.  The highest form of giving is to assist a poor Jew maintain his position before he reaches utter poverty. This includes giving him a proper gift in an honorable manner, granting him a loan, involving him in a partnership, or finding him a business or profession which allows him to support himself, and thus not be forced to rely on others.  This is taught by the specific words of the Torah (Leviticus 25:35): “You shall come to his aid - i.e., assist him so that he does not fall.


3.  One should take care to give Tzedaka secretly, hiding one’s gifts to the greatest extent possible. If it is possible to give in a manner where the donor is unaware of the identity of the recipient, and the recipient of the donor, this is very desirable. At the very least, one should not boast of the Tzedaka he gives.  Nevertheless, a person who consecrates an article as charity is permitted to write his name upon it, so that it will serve as a memorial for him, and It is fitting to do so.


4.  In particular, attention should be paid to give Tzedaka to a poor Torah Sage in a manner fitting to his honor.  If he does not want to accept charity, he should be offered merchandise for business dealings.  It should be sold to him at a low price and purchased from him at a high price.  If he is knowledgeable in commerce, he should be lent money to invest in a business.  Chazal (Pesochim 53b) declare, “Whoever supplies a Torah Sage with merchandise merits to sit in the heavenly academy”.  Similarly, Chazal (Berochos 34b) teach: “The prophets visions envisioned only the benefits resulting from engaging in commerce on behalf of a Torah Sage and marrying one’s daughter to a Torah Sage.”


For a wonderful discussion of the Mitzvah of Tzedaka--so essential during this time of Shovavim--and so essential to Geulah (‘Veshave’ha BiTzedaka’), we are thrilled to announce that The Bais HaVaad is now offering a beautiful new e-book “The Laws of Tzedakah” which is available for free download at the following link: http://www.baishavaad.com/membership.php  This sefer was written by the Rosh Chabura of the Cincinnati Bais HaVaad Kollel, Rabbi Yitzchok Rosedale, Shlita, and is a comprehensive work covering the basic practical guidelines of Tzedaka and Ma’aser. One can also sign up for the Bais HaVaad weekly Choshen Mishpat E-Journal on the Parsha at the following link:  http://www.baishavaad.com/journal/index.php   Hakhel Note:  The Bais HaVaad is available for Choshen Mishpat shailos and services at 1.888.485.VAAD (8223) or by email: info@BaisHaVaad.com



Special Note Four:  We continue with our Erev Shabbos --Halachos of Shabbos Series with teachings from the new and revised Third Edition of Shemiras Shabbos Kehilchasa, published last year by HaRav Yehoshua Neuwirth, Shlita.  We continue with our discussion of the activities of Gentiles on a Jew’s behalf on Shabbos:


1.  Just as you cannot generally instruct a Gentile to undertake a prohibited activity on Shabbos, you can likewise not generally benefit from a prohibited activity--even if you did not ask him to do it on your behalf.  For instance, if a Gentile of his own volition turned on a light for a Jew on Shabbos--then no Jew--even one who the light was not turned on for may derive direct and actual benefit (even to daven or study Torah by its light) from the light--for the Gentile has performed a Melacha D’Oraysa.  If one sees that a Gentile is about to turn on a light for his benefit--he should prevent the Gentile from doing so.  If the Gentile did not listen to the Jew’s demands to stop, then the Jew may derive benefit from the light.


2.  The same Halachic analysis would apply to a Gentile who cooked food, or adding water to a food in a pot on the fire for a Jew because the Gentile smelled it burning.


3.  If a Gentile puts out a light in a Jew’s home without being asked and against the Jew’s will, and then puts back on the light--one may derive benefit from the new light.  However, if the Gentile turned back on the light because of the Jew’s reproof over his extinguishing the light, then it is forbidden to benefit from the re-lit light.


4.  If the Gentile had performed permissible activity on behalf of a Choleh She’Ain Bo Sakana, then everyone may derive benefit from the activity, provided there is no reason to suspect that the Gentile did or will do more prohibited activity for anyone else other than the sick person, and that no muktza prohibition is involved.  Thus, if a Gentile turned on a light for a sick person, everyone can benefit from the light (for ‘Ner LeEchad Ner Leme’ah--the light is needed by the sick person, and no additional light is being turned on for the healthy person) --but if the Gentile cooked something for the sick person, a healthy person cannot eat it lest the gentile had put in more (or will put in more) on the healthy person’s behalf. 


5.  If a Gentile does work for himself--and not for a Jew--then different Halachos apply as to whether a Jew can benefit from the otherwise prohibited activity--which B’EH we will discuss next week.



Special Note Five:  There is an astonishing Pasuk in this week’s Parsha.  The Pasuk states: “But the midwives feared Hashem and they did not do as the King of Egypt spoke to them…” (Shemos 1:17).  How could it be that two women could flagrantly violate and disobey the direct orders of the King of Egypt--the most powerful monarch of his time?!  We could understand if the Pasuk would teach us that they tried saving some babies, or that they pleaded with the King--but to wholeheartedly and completely disobey--would surely mean execution in a matter of minutes!  HaRav Matisyahu Salomon, Shlita, explains that the basis, the source of the actions, of Shifra and Puah are revealed by the first part of the Pasuk--“But the midwives feared Hashem…”--it was their fear of Hashem that allowed and caused them to overcome all obstacles.  They obviously had devoted much time and effort in developing such a level of Yiras Shomayim.  HaRav Salomon therefore suggests that a great lesson that we each can learn from the midwives is to spend time studying Sifrei Mussar and absorbing shiurim which helps us develop our Yiras Shomayim.  If, as the Pasuk specifically describes them, “midwives”, can stand up and succeed against the King of the only superpower on earth at that time, we, too, can accomplish much in our own personal environments with the proper thought and study--by taking a set time every day and learning how we in our personal lives can battle--and win against--all those “Kings of Egypt”--all the machinations of the Yetzer Hora--around us so often in our daily lives.



An Aliyas Neshama Gemach has been set up in the name of Reva Esther Robin a’h for people who do not have any frum family to honor their memory. The gemach will take on zechusim (merits) to elevate the neshama of the deceased.  If you know of someone who needs their efforts, or would like to volunteer in this true Chesed Shel Emes (as per Yaakov Avinu himself in last week’s Parsha), please email aliyahneshama@gmail.com



NEW from Project Kavey “Zichron Chaya!”  You can now submit your important parenting questions, comments, or ideas for the Project Kavey “Zichron Chaya” Live Parenting Forum!  A select number of submissions will be chosen weekly to be discussed in the Forum.  Questions can be submitted in any one of the following ways:

·                                 Email: askrabbibrezak@gmail.com

·                                 Voice Box: 641-715-3800 ext. 90331#

·                                 Fax: 718-732-2522

For more information, or to join the Live Parenting Forum, one should call: 641-715-3800 ext.25801#.





Special Note One:  An astute reader asked us not to use the colloquially used term “Rabbeinu Bechaya” when the proper pronunciation is “Rabbeinu Bachya,” and not to use the word “Medrash” when the appropriate word is “Midrash”. We believe that he is correct in his insistence, and bli neder hope to favor and utilize proper pronunciation over colloquially used terms in the future.



Special Note Two:  There are two dafim in Mesechta Shabbos which each quote four (4) consecutive (different) Pesukim from this week’s Parsha.  Can you identify these Dafim, and what the Pesukim teach us?



Special Note Three:  With the onset of Parshas Shemos, we have begun the special Teshuva- endowed period of Shovavim.  Indeed, the Luach Dovor BeIto finds a special allusion to this period in the first Pasuk of the Parsha--the last letters of “Mitzraima Ais Yaakov Ish U’baiso”... spell Teshuva!  The Luach adds that the Arizal (in Sha’ar Ruach Hakodesh) requires that one give Tzedaka every day of Shovavim as the Pasuk expressly states (Doniel 4:24) “Vechata’ach Bitzedaka F’ruk...--redeem your sins through acts of tzedaka and your iniquities through kindness to the poor.”  A special dedication to daily tzedaka during this period would most certainly indicate the seriousness in which you view the requirements--and the opportunities-- of this incomparable period!



Special Note Four:  The Chayei Odom (Chapter 143) writes that there is a Pasuk in Tehillim Chapter 86, which if recited daily (i.e., is on the lips of the reciter) will help save a person “Mikol Chait--from any sin”.  The Pasuk is actually the very Pasuk in which the Sefer Mesilas Yeshorim concludes his Introduction--Horeini Hashem Darkecha Ahaleich Ba’amitecha Yached Levovi LeYirah Shemecha--Teach me Hashem your way so that I may travel in Your truth--unite my heart to fear your name.  If one takes this Pasuk with him during the trials and tribulations of the day, he will be truly traveling a long way even if only going a short distance--or even staying home!


Hakhel Note:  The Sheloh Hakadosh points out that we see the value of each and every day in one’s Avodas Hashem from the words of Paroh who demands  “Callu ma’seichem devar yom beyomo--complete your work--the daily amount each day.”  Everyone can give excuses--but it is an uphill battle to get them excepted--and, after all, it is your life that is in question--and your life that is important.  The daily tzedaka, the daily Pasuk (Pesukim) of Yiras Shamayim, the daily attempt or drive for Teshuva--especially in these auspicious days--will certainly move us very well towards our life’s goal and our life’s purpose.  Who is it all up to--you only have to look in--to make the wonderful discovery!



Special Note One: Let us remember the sage words of HaRav Yisroel Belsky, Shlita:  “One should not put off to tomorrow that which he can do today--because tomorrow is only today all over again!”



Special Note Two:  We received an important insight from a reader relating to Yaakov’s bowing a the head of the bed in Yosef’s presence, which we paraphrase as follows:  The very act of bowing was a sign of special respect to Yosef, although Yosef was only Yaakov’s son, and although the entire episode between Yosef and his brother over so many years had caused Yaakov so much distress.  An important lesson to be learned is that each and every member of one’s family must be shown proper respect and honor, notwithstanding their age, position in life, attitude, and even trouble that they may have indeed caused you.  Familiarity and your day-to-day existence with them is insufficient cause to deny someone the respect due to him as a person and as someone who Hashem has especially chosen and specifically designated to be closely related to you.  Chazal (Avos 4:1) teach “Aizehu Mechubad HaMechabeid Es HaBriyos--who is honored--one who honors Hashem’s creatures”--as the Posuk states “Ki Mechabdai Achabeid...for those who honor Me I will honor, and those who scorn Me shall be degraded” (Shmuel I, 2:30 ).  If one is duty bound to honor all creatures, he must certainly show proper respect to the people Hashem wants him to interrelate with, learn from and teach to on a day-to-day-to-day basis.



Special Note Three:  We received an interesting theory from a reader as to why we praise Hashem for Geshem in Mashiv HaRuach UMorid HaGeshem, yet forget Geshem and ask for Matar in VeSein Tal U’Matar Livracha (the question we had posed last week).  The reader suggested that Geshem encompasses all kinds of rain--hard and soft, timely and untimely, wanted and unwanted.  However, Matar symbolizes the right amount of rain, in the right time, and in the right place.  It is for this reason that in Parshas Ha’azinu the Torah states “Ya’arof KaMatar Likchi--may the teachings of Torah be taken by us like rain” (Devarim 32:2).  Whether or not the reader is actually correct from an etymological standpoint, the concept is certainly well worth taking--having Kavannah for the Gevuras Hashem with all kinds of Geshem in the Second Bracha, and then making a meaningful request for successful Matar in the Ninth Bracha of Birkas HaShanim--Prosperity!  Let us value our words of Prayer --for each and every one means--and conveys--oh so much.



Special Note Four:  The Torah teaches “Uveirach as Lachmecha V’es Meimecha VeHasirosi Machala MeKirbecha--Hashem will bless our food and drink and eliminate sickness from our midst.”  Based upon this Pasuk, Rebbe Tzadok HaKohen (in an essay on Eating) teaches that proper eating eliminates illness and strengthens a person’s bonds to life.  Part of proper eating is to have Kavannah to raise the Kedusha found in the food to its proper place and to simultaneously dedicate the Kochos of one’s Nefesh BeHemis to Hashem.  Indeed, Hashem commands us to be “Anshei Kodesh” (a holy people)--not Malachei Kodesh (angels)--by elevating the human aspects of our existence to levels that the world around us does not know or want to know.


In furtherance of our Anshei Kodesh goal, we also provide by clicking here a treasure excerpted from the Luach Bnei Yaakov which you can printout and keep with you at home and in the office.  It is a quick Hebrew running commentary of the Brachos of Al HaMichya and Borei Nefashos that you may recite several times daily.  Using this sheet, you can spend just a few extra seconds to focus on the words and their meaning--making each Bracha recited more Kavannah-filled--and you more Kedusha-filled!



Special Note Five:  The Chofetz Chaim provides an essential insight relating to the coming week’s Parsha.  The Bnai Yisroel are described at the outset of the Parsha as “Kol Nefesh Yotzei Yerech Yaakov Shivim Nofesh--all of the souls who were descendents of Yaakov were 70 souls (Shemos 1:4).  The word nefesh (used twice in the Pasuk), however, is actually in the singular--meaning ‘soul’.  The more expected word grammatically would be nefashos--meaning souls.  This, the Chofetz Chaim writes (Sha’ar HaTevunah, Chapter 6), is to teach us that all of the Nefoshos Yisroel--all of the souls of Bnai Yisroel are considered as one soul in the Heavens above.  Just as a single body is made up of different limbs and organs--each with its different function and purpose (the head and the heart, the hand and the foot)--so, too, is K’lal Yisroel composed of different parts which together make one functioning whole.  Moreover, just as when there is an ache or pain somewhere it affects other parts of the body, so, too, it is with the body of K’lal Yisroel.  And just as when there is joy the whole body is affected--so, too, is it with our whole Nefesh--the united family of Yisroel.  It is only an illusion in this world that we are not one--because every soul is encased in a different corporeality and has different businesses and tasks--but this is a gross misapprehension.  The famous Medrash which brings home this point is to the ship sailing smoothly at sea.  One of the passengers decides to drill a hole underneath where he was standing on the bow of the ship.  The other passengers watched in astonishment and then began to yell and scream at him. “What’s bothering you?” he shouts, “I am drilling the hole only underneath me--not underneath you!”....


With this truth in mind, continues the Chofetz Chaim, we should understand that when one harbors a grudge, shows hatred, wants to take revenge against another for something that was hurtfully done--it can be compared to one who had tripped over his own feet and, in anger, the brain ordered his hands to gun down his legs.  Is it the leg’s fault--did the leg really want to hurt the body--or was it Hashgacha Pratis that the person had to fall?  Could the person possibly gain anything by maiming himself even further?  So too when we harbor ill-will and take action in wrath or out of emotion only--we are literally acting against ourselves--it is our hands shooting our legs!  We may not see it--but that is the reality in Shomayim--and that is the true and the ultimate and eternal reality.


We went down to Mitzrayim--the first Galus of our people-- as what appeared to the naked eye to be 70 souls--but which the Torah teaches constituted a ‘nefesh’--a unified soul.  To come out of this last and final Galus, we have to reverse the track--in our private lives and in our personal experiences we must always remember that although some of us may be clumsy and trip--we are truly one soul...and live by, breath-out, and bask in our oneness!



Special Note One:  There are several important Jewish websites which can provide useful and non-challenging information to our unaffiliated and uneducated brethren.  You may simply suggest in a courteous and pleasant conversation to one who you realize needs to learn more that he/she browse any of the following sites:  Ohr.edu, simpletoremember.com, beingjewish.com, or aish.com.  A related and useful site is jewishresourcecard.com, which provides information as to how one can obtain a personal study partner for free, or learn about weekend retreats and live events.  In order to obtain ‘Kiruv-cards’, in which these websites are listed and which you can have available to hand out after meetings and other occasions, please call:  718-501-2110.



Special Note Two:  In response to “Question of the Week Two” yesterday, Rebbe Tzadok HaKohein beautifully explains that both Shevet Dan [the tenth tribe corresponding to the tenth month of Teves] and Shevet Yehudah are referred to as “Gur Aryeh” in the Torah (see Bereishis 49:9 and Devarim 33:22).  Furthermore, the leaders in charge of building the Mishkan were Betzalel from Shevet Yehuda and Ahaliyav from Shevet Dan; Rebbe Tzadok brings from the Medrash Tanchuma that this was the case in the Bais Hamikdash as well.  This teaches us forever that Shevet Dan, which traveled at the end (tenth) of the Shevatim in the Midbar, is connected to Shevet Yehudah, which traveled first in the Midbar and which represented Malchus, because it is essential that we connect the top to the bottom, the end to the beginning.  In fact, Rebbe Tzadok explains that this is what is meant by Chazal (end of Ta’anis) who teach that in the future Hashem will make an ‘igul’, a circle for the Tzaddikim--for in a circle the end and the beginning are connected as one.  It is for this reason that Yaakov Avinu recited the words “Lishuasecha Kivisi Hashem” over Dan--for the Moshiach can come when such a low point has been reached [look around] that it is ready to join to the high point --and man’s existence comes full circle!



Special Note Three:  R’ Tzadok (in the Pri Tzaddik) also refers to the end of Sefer Bereishis as the “Tashlum Binyan Yisroel.”  The completion of the necessary building blocks for Klal Yisroel.  With this in mind, we provide several lessons from Parshas Vayechi before we take leave of the Avos and begin preparations for Mattan Torah:


A.  Chazal teach that Yaakov Avinu’s bowing down at the head of his bed teaches that the Shechina is on top of the head of a sick person--as Yaakov was bowing down to the Shechina. HaRav Shlomo Wolbe, Z’tl, explains that a sick or vulnerable person feels his weakness and truly realizes that he is dependent upon Hashem’s support and sustenance.  Because the weak person feels wholly reliant on Hashem, Hashem in turn comes closer and closer to him as well.  This is truly a lesson for all--the more dependent one is on Hashem, the more one supplicates with true feeling and asks and pleads from Hashem, the more Hashem will be close to him.  Dovid HaMelech succinctly expresses this tenet in Tehillim with the words “Karov Hashem Lechol Korav Lechol Asher Yikrauhu Ve’Emes--Hashem is close to all who are call upon Him--to all who call upon Him sincerely” (Tehillim 145: 18, Artscroll Translation).   In fact, this Pasuk and its theme is so important to our daily existence that we are reminded of it every time we recite Ashrei--three times daily!


B.  After Yaakov’s Petirah at the end of the Parsha, the brothers asked Yosef to forgive them for what they had done.  Yosef advises them not to worry as it was obviously part of a Divine Plan, but does not actually express the words “Machul Lachem--I forgive you” to them.  However, the extreme importance of expressing Mechila may be derived from the following Shaila that was asked to HaRav Chaim Kanievsky, Shlita, and his striking response (Sefer Derech Sicha II; p.67).


Shaila:  “There was a girl in seminary who was suffering from an emotional disorder, whose classmates upset her.  Eventually, her disorder declined to the point where she was institutionalized.  Her classmates wanted to visit her in the hospital to ask for Mechila.  Could they do so?  Would the Mechila be effective?”


Teshuvah:  “One cannot grant Mechila in this state.  There is no Eitzah here other than to Daven that she becomes well so that they can ask Mechila of a mentally competent person, or r’l they must ask Mechila at her Kever if she passes away before them, for after death one can turn to the Neshama and the Neshama will forgive.  Going to visit her in the hospital is a good thing--but it does not effect Mechila.”


HaRav Kanievsky continues by bringing the Rabbeinu Bechaya (end of ParshasVayechi) who writes that the reason the Asara Harugei Malchus were punished was because Yosef did not expressly state that he forgave them.  It must be that the reason that they did not go to his Kever to ask for Mechila was because they did not realize that one must obtain express Mechila until they saw that they had been punished.  


This then becomes a fundamental lesson for us for all time.  Rather than being hard hearted and resilient, even when one is absolutely right and the other person was definitely and admittedly wrong, one should be ‘pliable as a reed’ and expressly state (at least upon sincere request) that “I am Mochel you B’Lev Shaleim.”  To the greatest extent possible, one should endeavor not to be the source of someone else’s punishment, suffering or harm.


C.  Many ask why the Bracha of “Yesimcha Elokim K’Efrayim Ve’ChiMenashe” is so fundamental that it overshadows all other Brachos in that the Torah testifies about it “Becha Yevoreich Yisroel Leimor--this is how a member of Bnei Yisroel shall be blessed.”  One classic explanation is based upon the relative responses of Yosef and Menashe to Yaakov Avinu’s switching of his hands, which resulted in the younger Efrayim being blessed with the right hand and Menashe with the left.  On the one hand, Yosef’s response was expressed shock and dismay--while Menashe’s (who was really the affected party!) response was silence and acceptance!  Menashe’s brotherly love of Ephrayim was coupled with a superior and refined relinquishment of any notion of jealously of another.  These two traits could carry us together as a people through all situations and through all times.  It is this that we bless ourselves with--and it is the source of survival for the next generation and the next until Bi’as Moshiach Tzidkeinu--hopefully and in this zechus--in our generation!



Question of the Week One:  The bracha of Asher Yatzar concludes with the words “U’mafli La’asos”.  The Shulchan Aruch (Orach Chaim 6:1) gives two explanations of the meaning of this phrase.  The Rema (ibid.) gives a third one as well.  We also refer you to Shoftim 13:19 and Radak there for another possible explanation.  Would it not be appropriate to have at least *one* of these Kavannos in mind every time you conclude this great bracha?!



Question of the Week Two:  HaRav Tzadok HaKohen teaches that the month of Teves is a very special one--for as the tenth month of the year it symbolizes Shevet Dan which was tenth Shevet to travel in formation in the desert.  What was so unique about Shevet Dan?




In last week’s Parsha, Yaakov Avinu gives Yosef the reason behind his switching hands in blessing Menashe and Ephraim:  “...but his younger brother shall be greater than him”.  HaRav Avigdor Miller, Z’tl, provides the following incisive insight here:  “This is another instance of the surprises that Hashem caused in history.  Kayin and Hevel left no posterity, for only the seed of the younger Shais survived.  Yefes was older, but Shem was chosen.  Yishmael was older, but Yitzchak was chosen.  Esav was the first-born, but Yaakov gained the birthright and the blessings.  Reuven was the first-born, but the Bechorah was given to Yosef.  Menashe was the first-born, but Efraim was given the superiority.  Rochel was the best-loved; but Levi gained for his posterity the privilege of nearness to Hashem--Moshe, Aharon and the Kohanim came from the Levi; and it was Leah’s son Yehudah who was the progenitor of Dovid and his seed.  Indeed, the entire nation of the Jews today are the Yehudim and are accordingly labeled descendants of Leah.  Dovid, the youngest son of Yishai, was chosen by Hashem after all the older brothers were rejected.  These are not mere coincidences, but are Hashem’s plan of demonstrating by unexpected turns that men’s history is not a result of material causes but the hand of Hashem.”


Hakhel Note:  Having provided this essential insight, we provide by the following link (supplied to us by a reader) a secular article with astounding facts about the secular year 2010--which highlights the way the happenings of this world are treated by those in this world without Emunah Chushis:




 For those who prefer not to click on the link, we provide the following salient passages:  “This was the year the Earth struck back.  Earthquakes, heat waves, floods, volcanoes, super typhoons, blizzards, landslides and droughts killed at least a quarter million people in 2010, the deadliest year in more than a generation.  More people were killed worldwide by natural disasters this year than have been killed in terrorism attacks in the past 40 years combined....I think it is the end of the world,” she said.  “Our planet warns us against what would happen if we don’t care about nature.” ....Preliminary data show that 18 countries broke their records for the hottest day ever....That’s why the people who study disasters for a living say it would be wrong to chalk 2010 up to just another bad year.  The Earth strikes back in cahoots with bad human decision-making,” said a weary Debarati Guha Sapir, director for the World Health Organization’s Centre for Research on the Epidemiology of Disasters. “It’s almost as if the policies, the government policies and development policies, are helping the Earth strike back instead of protecting from it. We’ve created conditions where the slightest thing the Earth does is really going to have a disproportionate impact.”.... A list of day-by-day disasters in 2010 compiled by the AP runs 64 printed pages long....”


Clearly, it behooves us all to put world events over the past twelve months in proper perspective.  The reader who sent us this link also sent us the words of Rashi and the Meiri (to Yevamos 63A)--who write that these kinds of happenings occur:  “K’dei LeYiram Ahd She’Yoshuvu--in order to urge us on to new levels of Teshuva.  To this end, HaRav Mattisyahu Salomon, Shlita brings the Medrash in Bereishis Rabba which teaches that for twenty-five years Hashem brought volcano and earthquake types of disasters to the environs of Sedom--but the people of Sedom chose to view it in the ways of newsworthy happenings, mother-earth rumblings and the like.  HaRav Salomon teaches that when the Pasuk (both by the Dor Haflaga and Sedom) teaches that Hashem “came down to see” it refers to exactly these kinds of events--for after all Hashem does not have to ‘come down’ to see-- his ‘coming down’ signifies His making His presence felt in very tangible ways--and our duty to act on his unusual kind of appearance. 


We must all feel the current closeness to Hashem and respond in kind--with especially dedicated acts of Teshuva.  The very fact that the secular world at large recognizes the extraordinary nature and degree of the catastrophes and disasters should serve as the springboard of our awakening--for, after all, are we not the Am Segula which is distinguished by its closeness to Hashem?  Let us bli neder commit to improve in those areas in which one would be embarrassed to stand before Moshiach if he would see you (or through you).  The excess desire, the jealousy, the negative chatter, the lack of ‘give’ in listening to another, the failure to treat Mitzvos with the alacrity, joy and dedication deserved (coming on time, care and helping others to perform)...everyone knows their strengths and weaknesses.  What will the next twelve months bring?  We hope very great things--if enough of us get the message.  Each and every one of us could literally be a very great factor in helping bring billions in this world to the end of a long and difficult flight…with a smooth, successful and safe landing.  Let’s accept the great responsibility--and the sacred mission!



Special Note One:  A Very Special Opportunity-- A cassette tape library with thousands of tapes (Rabbi Frand, Rabbi Reisman, Irgun Shiurei Torah, Chofetz Chaim Heritage Foundation, and many others on many topics including Halacha, Shalom Bayis, Chinuch, etc. has recently ceased operations and has all of these cassettes available for FREE to another person or entity who will provide the tapes for public or community usage anywhere in the world.  We note that you are free to convert these tapes into mp3 or other format for use.  For further information, please call 718-336-9281, or email to chaim2030@gmail.com (please **DO NOT** contact Hakhel regarding this matter).  Help your community grow!



Special Note Two:  The 22nd annual One Week Kollel of Flatbush, begins this year on Sunday, December 26.  If you are working, or are retired, or are between jobs, this is a real opportunity to become part of a chaburah learning a Sugya together, interspersed with Shiurim given by noted Maggidei Shiur.  The One Week Kollel will be learning Mesechta Avodah Zara 26b from 9am to 6pm daily at Cong. Tomchei Torah (Rav Feivel Cohen, Morah D’Asra), 1966 Ocean Ave. (between Ave N & O).  Shiurim will be given by Rav Psachya Fried, Rav Yisroel Belsky, and Rav Moshe Twersky.  To register, or for further information, please call:  718-998-5822.



Special Note Three:  Business Weekly is a fascinating project of Business Halacha Institute and is endorsed by many Rabbanim.  To receive this newsletter free, we refer you to the following link http://www.businesshalacha.com/subscribe.htm

All new subscribers will receive a free PDF copy of an important publication, Money - The Bottom Line.



Special Note Four:  In a recent issue of The Daf HaKashrus, the OU noted that the Odwalla company produces 11 different health bars, and that each bar requires an individual evaluation as to its proper Bracha.  With respect to the Odwalla Banana-Nut Bar, the OU rules that the Bracha Rishona is a Mezonos and the Bracha Achrona on one bar is a Borei Nefashos, while the Bracha Achrona on two bars is an Al HaMichya (for there is then sufficient Mezonos to require an Al HaMichya).  Hakhel Note:  Once again, we reiterate the absolute need to clarify the Bracha on a complex product before consuming it--for this will not only avoid a Bracha Levatala, but also permit the proper Bracha, and all of the Ruchniyus that it represents to you and the world, to be recited on the product. 



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


The following Halachos are excerpted from The Sanctity of Shabbos by Rabbi Simcha Bunim Cohen, Shlita:


1.  Although it is permitted for city sanitation workers to collect one’s garbage on Shabbos, that is because it is common knowledge that the sanitation department sets the schedule for garbage pickup and not the individual homeowner--therefore Maris Ayin does not apply.  One may not, however, order a private sanitation company to pick up his garbage on Shabbos because of Amira LeAkum.  If one of their regular collection days is Shabbos, he is obligated to tell them not to come.  If, despite his request, the company makes a pickup on Shabbos, he need not protest.  The same would be true for oil deliveries.


2.  Ordinary mail deliveries, once again, do not pose a problem because it is part of a regular delivery schedule and Maris Ayin does not apply.  UPS pickups are obviously forbidden since they make pickups only on the day for which they are called.  UPS deliveries may be accepted on Shabbos with no concern for Maris Ayin, because it is common knowledge that packages are shipped from stores and businesses to private homes without the recipient being aware of which day they will arrive.  However, just as one cannot sign for the package, he cannot instruct the gentile to sign for it either.  Additionally, one should not take the package, but should have the gentile put it down.


3.  A part-time cleaning lady, or worker asked to help with a Kiddush, is Halachically considered a ‘S’chir Yom’, who is an agent of the Employer.  Therefore, as an agent, a part-time helper may do only those Melachos that a Jew is permitted to do.  If the part-time helper then chooses to perform a permissible task by doing a Melacha, he may do so.  For instance, a part-time helper can set the table, cut the food, serve, clear off the table, and wash the dishes.  He/she may even use hot water and a sponge to wash the dishes, because the dishes could have been washed in cold water--i.e., he was asked to do a permissible activity which ended up doing of his own volition in an impermissible manner.  However, in no event may a dishwasher be used for this involves a separate prohibition of Zilzul Shabbos.  [Other examples of Zilzul Shabbos include: vacuuming, or using the washer and dryer].  Common examples of activities that cannot performed by workers because of the prohibited activity involved include:  defrosting the refrigerator, mending a garment, washing the windows, cleaning off the table for after Shabbos, setting the table for after Shabbos, washing dishes which are not needed for Shabbos, and taking out the garbage where there is no Eruv.  All of these activities are prohibited for the Jew, and are accordingly prohibited for his agent.


4.  There are other Halachos which apply to gentiles who are not serving as “hired help”--i.e., who are not agents or workers.  One may ask a non-Jew to do a Shevus DeRabbanan or even a Melacha DeOraysa when certain conditions are met, examples of which we intend to provide in future Bulletins.



Special Note Six:  As today is Asara B’Teves, it is certainly a day to ask for Rachamim from HaKadosh Baruch Hu.  In order to assist you in highlighting your requests for Rachamim in Shemone Esrei this afternoon, may we suggest that you find the Brachos in Shemone Esrei in which ‘Rachamim’ (or a derivation of the word) is mentioned two and three times within the Bracha. 



Special Note Seven:  To some, fasting on Asara B’Teves may be perplexing for, after all, the Golus Bavel lasted only 70 years, and many great events occurred after Nebuchadnezzar’s initial siege of Yerushalayim--including Purim, Chanukah, the Nevuos of Chagai, Zecharya and Malachi, and the Bayis Sheni, which stood for 420 years.


Yet, we know that the fast of Asara B’Teves is so stringent that we are even fasting on Erev Shabbos and continue fasting until Shabbos begins.  For the initial siege was, in fact, the horrifying beginning to the end of the most glorified time in our history to date--The First Beis Hamikdosh with all of its open miracles--the Shechina’s palpable presence, the Aron with the Luchos, and literally hundreds of thousands (!) who had reached the level of nevuah (Megillah 14A).  With the enemy surrounding the city, the downfall of this singularly unique period began.


As we look in the Torah, we find that very bad endings have to start somewhere, and that it is the terrible beginning that we need to control and avoid.  Perhaps the greatest example of this is one of the Aseres Hadibros.  The last of the Aseres Hadibros warns us “Lo Sachmod/Lo Sisaveh--Do not covet/Do not desire” (see Shemos 20:14 ; Devorim 5:18 ).  The Shulchan Aruch (Choshen Mishpat 359:10, 11, 12) explains that desiring leads to coveting which leads to stealing--so that from the initial prohibited desire, three negative prohibitions can be violated.  It is telling that the Aseres Hadibros does not contain the prohibition to steal property--which is the last step in the process--but rather it contains the prohibition to desire and to covet which are the initial steps leading to the horrible end result.  The Torah teaches that it is the beginning of the process where your action is required--for the end may be too late.


Similarly, the Parsha of Arayos (Vayikra 18:6, read on Yom Kippur at Mincha) begins with “Lo Sikrivu L’Galus Ervah--Do not get close to forbidden relationships”--which Chazal teach refers to prohibiting initial touching and thoughts.  Likewise, the Torah goes out of its way when prohibiting Loshon Hora to say “Lo Selech Rochil B’Amecha” (Vayikra 19:16 )--Do not even begin walking in order to speak Loshon Hora, for this will lead to downfall.


Of course, the flip side is also true.  It is known that the Vilna Gaon, prior to undertaking a mitzvah, would state, “Hareini Oseh K’mo She’tzivani Hashem B’Soroso--I am about to do what Hashem commanded in His Torah.”  See Haggadah of the Gra.


So, it is really the planning, or at least the forethought, which sets the tone and the standard for what is about to happen and what you are going to do.  Will it be up with Yaakov’s ladder--or down like the dominoes?


Practical Suggestion:  In the last bracha of Birchas Hashachar, have kavana when reciting “V’lo Lidei Nisayon” to ask for Hashem’s help not to come to the first step of a situation in which you can falter--and if you see such a situation coming, think “THIS IS THE BEGINNING-I must avoid or circumvent it.”



Special Note Eight:  We provide the following important teaching from a reader, which contains a different insight than the previous Note into the significance of Asara B’Teves for us:  The Chasam Sofer (Siddur Chasam Sofer) taught that every year on Asara B’Teves there is a Din on whether to restore the Bais Hamikdash to us during that year.  Also, it is brought down from the Avudraham that although fasting is Assur on Shabbos, if Asara B’Teves would fall on Shabbos we would fast.  The explanation for this may be based upon this teaching of the Chasam Sofer--fasting for the past is Assur--but fasting on Asara B’Teves is for the future to give us back the Bais Hamikdash!”



Special Note Nine:  Chazal teach that “Agra De’Taanisa Tzidkasa--in order to empower one’s fasting, he should give charity”.  One should be sure to at least give to Tzedaka the cost of the food for the meals that he did not eat (because of the fast).  We note that charity often accompanies Teshuva (which is the ikar of any fast), because a key element of improvement is extending the “I” within oneself to others.  If one has not yet given Tzedaka in connection with his Asara BeTeves fast, may we recommend giving food to the poor right now?  If you need a quick and important recommendation--Yad Eliezer at yadeliezer.org.  Now is the time to fulfill the words of Chazal, and make your fast especially meaningful.  Don’t let the mitzvah slip away!


Hakhel Note:  Two additional points about the fast and fasting-and what we can do to show that we are not immaturely leaving it behind, like something that is over and done with:


1.  The Sefer Pele Yoetz writes that one should not become angry on a fast day, as this is one of the day’s great nisyonos.  When one is hungry, he operates under greater strain, with less patience and forbearance.  If one feels that he may have become overly upset or intolerant, perhaps he can take another day in which he is especially careful to be fully tolerant and in control, Zecher LeAsara BeTeves!


2.  The Ra’avad, as brought by Rabbeinu Yonah teaches that breaking one’s desire by not continuing to eat when eating out of desire is considered as “a Ta’anis, a Korban and a Mizbeach Kapara--as a fast, a sacrifice and an alter of forgiveness.”  We must remember that these words are not expansive oratory, but the words of a Rishon brought in the Yesod HaTeshuva!  One can practice this truly remarkable opportunity on any day.  Nobody would really disengage from his physical desire unless he had a spiritual purpose (look at most of the world around you which is devoid of that purpose)--so by willfully and intentionally breaking your desire--you are on top of all else, undertaking a noble act of Kovod Shomayim, demonstrating that your dedication and striving is towards the ruchniyus of life, and what Hashem seeks of you in this world.



Special Note Ten:  Chazal (Medrash Tanchuma, Vayikra 9) teach that it was already fitting for the Bais HaMikdash to be destroyed on Asara B’Teves, 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 fed 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.


In any language and for every reason, today is most certainly an auspicious one for personalized and individualized Teshuvah of some kind.  We must not let the short day slip by.  Tomorrow is Shabbos and we must give it the entire honor that is due to it.  However, we must also remember that today is Asara B’Teves--and there is an Avodas HaYom that we must accomplish.  If we can perform our Avoda here--we can be zoche to our Avoda in the Bais Hamikdash--may it be rebuilt speedily and in *our* days in the Zechus of *our* actions.  Amein!



Special Note One:  Today is the ninth day of Teves, which connects the eighth day of Teves (the tragic day upon which the Torah was translated into Greek, the Septuagint, which is marked as a Ta’anis Tzadikim) to the national fast day of Asara B’Teves.  Actually, today is also the yahrzeit of Ezra HaSofer (see Shulchan Aruch, Orach Chaim 580:  Mishna Berurah, seif katan 13), and is also a Ta’anis Tzadikim.


As a zechus for Ezra HaSofer, one can review the Takanos that Ezra instituted, as described in Bava Kamma 82A.  Let us face the facts--these three days--the 8th, 9th and 10th, are connected for good reason. We should take a moment to contemplate the connection between them and grow from the experience.



Special Note Two:  We received the following touching comment from a reader:  “After my major bowel cancer operation in 1996, I showed an English translation [of the Asher Yotzar prayer] to my surgeon who saved my life. He told me he gave copies also to his non-Jewish patients. He thought that the beracha was a masterpiece!!”



Special Note Three: We received the following very meaningful note from a reader:  “Regarding Teshuva BeChol Yom, a while back you had a link to a 4x5 card-size reproduction of Vidduy.  I printed it, glued it onto a small piece of tag board, and keep it in my Siddur.  Every Rosh Chodesh, I start with Ashamnu on the first day of the month, and I focus on that particular “Chet” in Selach Lanu in Shemone Esrei each day of the month, trying to think of examples of where I’ve been nichshul.  I do one (sequentially) each day. After 24 days, I have reviewed all of the 24 items in the Vidduy.  I begin anew each month. Starting yom aleph with Ashamnu helps me to keep my place if I forget one day (although I try not to forget.)  I found this less cumbersome, more private, and more portable than keeping out my Vidduy book.

Hakhel Note:  What a wonderful hands-on idea!  We provide by clicking here the link to the Ashamnu our reader is referring to--so that you too can adapt the idea!  


Special Note Four:  As the weather gets colder in the Northern Hemisphere, many have taken out their winter gear.  Do gloves or hats need to be checked for Shatnez?  We provide answers via the link available by clicking here, which has hats, caps and gloves among its important categories.

Additional Note:  The extreme cold, strong winds and snow in the North, and the warmth of summer in the South, should especially alert us to Gevuros Hashem ranging from the scathing hot to the frostbiting cold.  Not only do these extremes both occur--but do so simultaneously in different not-so-far-away points of the globe.  Moreover, the cold and heat effects each person differently--not so much based upon his corporeal homeostatic mechanism as on his personal Hashgacha Pratis.  This is certainly a time of year for us to especially appreciate and emphasize the second bracha of Shemone Esrei--Gevuros Hashem.  Especially as we exclaim ‘Mi Chomocha Ba’al Gevuros U’Mi Domeh Loch’ we should picture and perhaps even feel one of the Gevuros of Hashem that he recently experienced!



Special Note Five:  A reader noted that we have been reciting the words “Mashiv HaRuach U’Morid HaGeshem” and now are requesting “Tal U’Matar.”  He asked why we modify the word from Geshem to Matar when actually requesting precipitation in the ninth bracha of Shemone Esrei?  Your responses are most welcome.  The same reader also pointed out a beautiful thought in the name of the Ya’avetz:  There are 13 Middos of Hashem and 13 Brachos of Request in Shemone Esrei--and the two correspond.  The last Bracha of Request, Shema Koleinu, corresponds to the Middah of Venakeh--in which Hashem cleanses us of iniquity...and if we are zoche--grants our request!



Special Note Six:  As we draw closer to Asara B’Teves, the order of the day is Teshuva.  We provide below three brief and practical suggestions to help ourselves along the right path:

a.  From Rabbi Shlomo Pearl, Shlita:  Chazal teach that one earns Olam Haba through the proper recitation of Ashrei three times a day.  This is no small or trite statement.  One should recite Ashrei just a bit slower--by devoting just 30 additional seconds to the recitation of your Ashrei--the Greatness of Hashem and His Beneficence can be revealed in a markedly more meaningful and praiseworthy way.  A beautiful kabbalah and goal--with Olam Haba at the end of it all!

b.  What if you are not sure whether a Chillul Hashem will result from the action that you are about to undertake.  Let us say...walking on someone else’s grass, beating a light, saying ‘what you feel’ at the time, not being especially careful or circumspect in the supermarket or store....a Chillul Hashem may or may not result.  The Sefer Sha’arei Teshuva (Sha’ar Daled), and the Rambam in Hilchos Teshuva (end of Chapter One) both record the severity of  the sin of Chillul Hashem--as reflected in the form of punishment necessary to expunge its effects upon the sinner.  May we suggest that one, bli neder, commit to not take the action or say the words that he realizes could result in Chillul Hashem--even if he is not sure at all that it really will.  By taking a step back from Sofek Chillul Hashem, one demonstrates his aversion to Chillul Hashem, and a level of Yiras Shomayim to which we should all aspire.

c.  The Chasida, or the “Kind One”, is remarkably the name of a treife bird.  Many of us have heard as the explanation for this anomaly that although the bird does kindness--it is only with her friends and not with strangers or those that it does not know.  We may, however, suggest another explanation.  The Chasida is treife because she does kindness with her neighbors--after all, she is known to all as the Chasida--but does not do Chesed with her own family, as she will win no special appellation in this regard.  This provides a great lesson to us.  We can improve ourselves from ‘treife’ to kasher by making the additional effort to do “unsung Chesed”--helping to clean up around the house in some additional way than before, doing something for a family member before being asked, taking the time out to think about and give a parent, sibling, spouse or child a thoughtful or creative idea geared just for them.  Ahavas Chinam doesn’t have to take place on the streets, in Shul or in the workplace--it can show its constant special presence--beautifully housed--in your very own home.  Yehi Ratzon that in this zechus, we will be zoche to the end of the effects of Asara B’Teves--as we come back to the House of All--the Bais HaMikdash, speedily and in our days--may we make it happen!



Special Note One:  The Asher Yotzar Poster is such an invaluable tool to IMPROVE the recitation of Asher Yotzar that most of you undoubtedly have it already.  We provide the following information for you to obtain additional copies of the poster (in different sizes), and be mezakeh others by distributing it on your block or in your neighborhood or Shul:  The contact information is as follows:  Foundations (USA): 1-800-700-9577, 845-352-0111, 718-972-1800,   Israel : 03-570-4633, or mail: Foundations: 10 Wallenberg Circle, Monsey, New York 10952, or fax: 845-352-0305.  The Posters are also available in various other languages from Foundations as well.

Special Note Two:  LezecherNishmas.com is a new service that makes it easy to create and join efforts to complete Shisha Sidrei Mishnah, the full six orders of the Mishnah, in time for a Shloshim or Yahrzeit.  Learning of Mishnayos as a zechus for the departed is a long-standing tradition, as the letters of Mishnah are the same as those in Neshamah, the soul.  If assistance is needed in making a siyum, including the study or completion of any tractates contact:

Chevrah Lomdei Mishnah
Tel: (732) 364-7029
Fax: (732) 364-8386


Special Note Three:  Today is the eighth day of Teves, the tragic day upon which the Torah was translated into Greek, the Septuagint, which is marked as a Ta’anis Tzadikim (Shulchan Aruch Orach Chaim 580:2).  For further detail on the tragedy of the Septuagint, we refer you to the Sefer HaToda’ah, translated into English as The Book of Our Heritage (Feldheim), by Rabbi Eliyahu Kitov, Z’tl.


Tomorrow, the ninth day of Teves is actually also a Ta’anis Tzadikim, for it is the Yahrtzeit of Ezra HaSofer (see Shulchan Aruch, Orach Chaim ibid., Mishna Berurah seif katan 13).  As a zechus for Ezra Hasofer, one can review the Takanos that Ezra instituted, as described in Bava Kamma 82A.


These two days are then followed by a third Ta’anis, Asara B’Teves, which is observed by all.


The Chasam Sofer in a Drasha that he gave on the eighth day of Teves (approximately 200 years ago) suggests that after the 70-day period of mourning in Egypt ended for Yaakov Avinu, the Bnei Yisroel traveled to Eretz Canaan and eventually buried Yaakov Avinu--on Asara B’Teves.  The date of Eisav’s death is then--yes, Asara B’Teves, as well.


There is much to learn from the Chasam Sofer’s conclusion in our observance of Asara B’Teves.  After all, Ma'aseh Avos Siman L’Bonim--that which occurred to our forefathers is a sign for future generations. Firstly, Chazal teach us that “Yaakov Avinu Lo Mais.”  That is, even though it may appear to us that Yaakov passed away, in fact, he lives on--most certainly so in spirit.  We, too, having experienced the devastating blow of the events of Asara B’Teves more than 2,500 years ago have not rolled over and died as scores of other nations have in the meantime.  Moreover, what ultimately happened on Asara B’Teves was the death of Eisav.  This, the Chasam Sofer writes, is symbolic of Asara B’Teves in the end being turned from a date of sadness to a day of “Sasson V’Simcha”--joy and happiness.


The missing link to bring us to what Asara B’Teves is supposed to be is Teshuva.  We all know that this is the shortest fast of the year, so it should be the easiest.  That is a gift in and of itself.  However long or short the fast is, in order to be meaningful, it must be accompanied by Teshuva.  We must do something.  We must make a move to revitalize Yaakov, and to once and for all, put Eisav away.


One suggestion may be to take out your Vidui booklet, or other Rosh Hashana/Yom Kippur reminder.  We especially note that Asara B’Teves is “Asiri Lakodesh”--the next tenth day in a series of ten day periods since Yom Kippur--an especially auspicious day for personal improvement!


One final, but important comment: Rashi explains that when Yosef and Binyamin fell on each other’s necks in last week’s Parsha (Bereishis 45:14), it was to symbolize the destruction of the two Batei Mikdashos, and the Mishkan of Shilo, which were located in their respective territories in Eretz Yisroel.  The Avnei Nezer explains that the “necks” symbolize the Bais HaMikdash and the Mishkan, because just as the neck connects the head (which is the resting place of the soul) to the rest of the body, so, too, does the Bais HaMikdash (and the Mishkan) fully and finally connect our physical lives to our spiritual existence.  When we yearn for the Bais HaMikdash, we are yearning to connect our corporeal life to the highest spiritual plane it can achieve.  By endeavoring to make a brocha (the spiritual) over food (the physical) properly, we demonstrate that we are sincerely preparing for--and awaiting--the day when we truly can connect our bodies to our souls in the most absolute and outstanding way that we can!


Special Note One:  The Sefer Talilei Oros (to last week’s Parsha, Vayigash) presents an outstanding teaching from HaRav Aharon Leib Shteinman, Shlita.  HaRav Shteinman brings the Sefer Rokeach who writes that the reason we take three steps forward before commencing Shemone Esrei is because the word “Vayigash” --and he approached--appears three times in Tanach:  First, “Vayigash Avrohom” (Bereishis18:23)--when Avrohom approached Hashem to plead for the people of Sodom;  Second, our Parsha—“Vayigash Eilav Yehuda”--when Yehuda approached Yosef to appeal for Binyomin; and Third, “Vayigash Eliyahu” (Melochim I 18:21)--when Eliyahu approached the people at Har HaCarmel--intending to bring them back to the service of Hashem.


HaRav Shteinman writes that this Sefer Rokeach requires explanation.  Yes, Yehuda approached Yosef, and Eliyahu drew close to the people, because when you want to engage another human being, you approach him, you come close to him.  Does one, however, come “close” to Hashem by taking three steps forward?  Hashem is everywhere--including immediately in front of you--even without taking three steps forward!  What does one accomplish at all by taking three steps in front of him?  There is, in fact, a great lesson here.  When one wants to draw close to Hashem in prayer, he must do something to show that he wants to draw close--that he is not standing in the same place as a moment ago and simply opening his mouth.  While one may not be drawing physically closer to Hashem, by deliberately taking measured steps forward, he demonstrates that is not staying in the same position and condition that he was in a few moments ago before this opportunity of personal tefillah.  Incredibly, the pasuk immediately preceding Vayigash Avrohom states that Avrohom Avinu was already “Omaid Lifnei Hashem--standing before Hashem” (attaining nevuah at the time)--yet before he could begin his entreaty on behalf of the people of Sodom, he still had to be Vayigash, he still had to take some action to indicate that he was about to begin a very special and privileged encounter-direct prayer before Hashem Himself!


Hakhel Note:  One should recite the introductory Pasuk to Shemone Esrei--“Hashem Sefasi Tiftach (Tehillem 51:17)…--Hashem open my lips…” only **after** having taken these three important steps forward (See Sefer Tefillah KeHilchasa 12:21 ).  One should be in his changed state--in his different place--prior to asking Hashem that in this Shemone Esrei He assist him by opening his mouth in prayer.


So, when taking those three steps forward prior to each Shemone Esrei--we must make sure that it is not only our feet that are moving--but our entire mind and being as well!



Special Note Two:  Because of the dangers of cell phone usage while driving, many (perhaps all) states have limitations and restrictions on cell phone use in moving vehicles.  Importantly, in New York , one can not even have his cell phone on his lap or on the seat next to him with the speakerphone on--as this is still considered to be a dangerous activity.  There are undoubtedly many lessons that one can derive from this seemingly overreaching --but really very rational--prohibition.  We suggest that a great lesson Hashem has planted in this law is that putting the Yetzer Hora just a little bit out-of-reach is simply not enough to keep you out of trouble.  If he is in ear's or arm's reach--he is dangerous to you--and indeed even makes you dangerous to others as well!  It is our real duty to take the Yetzer Hora out and move him far away from us to neutralize and eliminate his effect.  Additional Note:  If New York State can strictly enforce cell phone laws against even the greatest drivers, all the more so must every person set his own limits regarding cell phone use, which won't be exceeded except in the case of emergency.  Wearing a blue tooth during davening?  Loud music ring tone going off in public areas?  Picking up the phone when helping your child with homework?  Sending text messages when crossing a main street (perhaps even against the light)? ... are just a few areas where the Torah Jew can show his dominion over technology through his thoughts and efforts to do the right thing, and his personal decision to have mind control and rule over matter.



Special Note Three:  As we approach the last Parsha of Sefer Bereishis, we encounter Asara BeTeves in its path.  There is a clear common denominator between the two, as they both are the beginnings of a dreary and dreadful Galus period.  However, with that awareness comes the understanding that the Galus is a temporary one--and the faster we change and correct our ways--the faster we return to normalcy--and an elevated relationship with HaKadosh Baruch Hu and with others.  Yaakov Avinu thus gives us the brachos in this week's Parsha, which are at a minimum the realization that we are--and can do--much better.  Likewise, the stringencies of Tisha B'Av are not observed on Asara BeTeves even though it is the beginning of the series of calamities that led to our exile--because that exile is eminently rectifiable--if we make the right choices.  Most certainly, this week is a week to emphasize Teshuva and especially Teshuva BeChol Yom (especially our Kabbala sheets and review of recent Yetzer Hora tactics)--for there is a glowing light at the end of this reprehensible tunnel--what we have to do is not stand here dumbfounded--but once and for all make the final and oh so-needed push towards that end!



Special Note One: OBVIOUS OBSERVATION:  Almost as soon as the Bnei Chutz La’Aretz began davening the words VeSein Tal U’Matar Livracha, it began to rain heavily in Eretz Yisroel.  How powerful are the Tefillos of brothers for their brethren!  Having observed this so clearly, we note that HaRav Don Segel, Shlita has been hospitalized at Shaarei Tzedek.  Please daven for Don Zev ben Pessel Penina.

We also turn to our two brothers still incarcerated in Japan --PLEASE DAVEN FOR Yoel Zev ben Mirel Risa Chava and Yaakov Yosef ben Raizel.  There is also a MONETARY PIDYON SHIVUYIM OPPORTUNITY HERE--Please donate to help the Bochurim’s expensive legal defense. Donations can be sent to either HaRav Osher Kalmanowitz, 2024 East 7th Street, Brooklyn, New York 11223; HaRav Malkiel Kotler, 521 Fifth Street, Lakewood, New Jersey 08701, or HaRav Aharon Shechter 1317 East 8th Street, Brooklyn, New York 11239.  To donate by phone call/fax 718-534-0030 (24 hour Hotline) and in Canada :514-400-2261, or email: japanpidyon@gmail.com



Special Note Two:  UNIQUE OPPORTUNITY :  For those who may not yet be aware of it --the popular and powerful study of Chok LeYisroel, as urged by the Arizal, is available by the following link:  http://hokleisrael.110mb.com/index.htm



Special Note Three:  The Ba’Air Haitaiv to Shulchan Aruch (Orach Chaim 4, seif katan 1) writes in the name of the Sefer Emek Bracha that there are 13 words in the bracha of Al Netilas Yodayim that we make every morning--and that we should have kavana when reciting these 13 words to the 13 Middos of Hashem (Hashem, Hashem, Kel Rachum VeChanun...).  When a Jew washes his hands--he is not only cleansing his body--but really intending to edify his soul for the day as well!  We should remember this great thought when it otherwise appears that we are attempting only to ‘wash our hands’ in the morning.



Special Note Four:  In his masterful work Taking Action,  Rabbi Zelig Pliskin, Shlita brings an essential teaching of HaRav Chaim Shmuelevitz, Z’tl (whose Yahrzeit known to many was last Erev Shabbos):  “HaRav Shmuelvitz taught that a person’s own mind creates the quality of each experience.  He would give the following example to illustrate the point.  The wives of two fellows asked them to bring home potatoes for the family.  The men both agreed to do it, but they each viewed the task differently.  One man viewed it in a negative way. as he was carrying home the potatoes, he had an inner dialogue. ‘Look at what I got stuck with.  I was a scholar and was able to devote all of my time to elevated and spiritual studies.   Now I have become a shlepper of potatoes.   I feel awful and belittled.’  The other fellow experienced the opposite.  He thought:  ‘How fortunate I am.  I have an opportunity to do kindness for my wife and my children, and for the guests who will be eating at our home.  By carrying these potatoes to my house, I will be emulating Hashem in his glorious Middos.  This is a source of great joy to me.  I feel wonderful and more spiritual...and this in and of itself is a source of great joy to me.”

Hakhel Note:   Why be a Shlepper when with the very same act you can be a zariz veniskar--a successful human being?!



Special Note Five:  The following story was distributed by the Chofetz Chaim Heritage Foundation as part of its Shomrei Halashon Program for children.  We provide it here--because of its great practical significance to adults--once again, in following Hashem’s Middos.  Note:  This story is printed in Mrs. Chaviva Krohn Pfeiffer’s great storybook for children, published by Artscroll.


“Rabbi Yecheskel Abramsky, Z’tl would take a walk every afternoon.  Many people from the neighborhood would walk along with him.  One day, he saw a five-year old girl crying. HaRav Abramsky bent down and asked the girl ‘Why are you crying?’  She responded:  “I’m crying because my friend made fun of my dress--she said it’s not nice!”  HaRav Abramsky asked the girl:  ‘What is your name?’  ‘Shoshana,’ she answered.  HaRav Abramsky said to her:  ‘Tell your friend that the Rabbi said that your name is beautiful and that your dress is beautiful’.  Shoshana smiled and ran back to her friends.  Those who walked with the great Rabbi were amazed that he had stopped to talk to this little girl.  One of them asked HaRav Abramsky why, in fact, it was that he had taken the time to stop.  HaRav Abramsky explained:  “We must emulate Hashem.  Just as Hashem is kind, so should we be kind.  Just as Hashem visited Avrohom when he was sick, so we should visit the sick.  Yeshaya HaNavi said that ‘U’macha Hashem...Dimah Mai’Al Kol Ponim--Hashem will erase the tears from all faces (Yeshaya 25:10).  So, too, must we erase tears from those faces...even the tears of a little girl whose friend is not nice to her!”


Hakhel Note:  Beginning with Netilas Yodaim in the morning--through bringing home those heavy bags of potatoes--through erasing the tears from the face of another--let us emulate the ways of Hashem, for it is such an essential and pivotal part of all that we do in our daily life!



Special Note One:  Chanukah is now a very important part of our recent past and an eternal part of our fiber and being. As we have referenced over the past two weeks, Tefillah is such an important part of Chanukah’s lesson:  We can continue to demonstrate the effect of Chanukah upon us.  Improving our Kavanna daily in pleading for “Rachamecha HaRabbim”, focusing properly in Shemone Esrei during the bracha of Gevuros Hashem (the second bracha of Shemone Esrei relating to Hashem’s omnipotence), and the bracha of Re’eh Veanyeinu (the seventh bracha relating to individual and community geulos), in Modim (thanking Hashem for all of the daily spiritual and physical miracles you experience), are some core examples of how Chanukah 5771 can leave your life eternally improved.


Here is a practical idea as to how you can truly further this goal of Improved Tefillah--Improved Life.  The book Praying With Fire began a brand new cycle on 1 Teves--just two days ago.  Thousands upon thousands have literally become inspired to daven better (“with fire”) by this classic work, using the Five-Minute a Day Lessons in the book.  This is a great new opportunity to start improving your Tefillah.  It is important to note that there are about 150 simanim (chapters) in Shulchan Aruch relating to Tefillah, which is approximately the same number of chapters relating to all of Hilchos Shabbos, including the laws of Eruvin on Shabbos.


HaRav Chaim Kanievsky, Shlita, rules as follows (Orchos Yosher, p. 100):


“It is an absolute obligation to be proficient in the laws of prayer, since a person who approaches the King, and does not know how to behave, will certainly be expelled [from the palace] by the King.  All those who are careless about this, will eventually be held accountable, and there is no doubt that the study of these laws takes precedence over all other studies, since they apply three times a day.”  [Translation from the original Hebrew provided by Guidelines, p. 14 (Targum Press, 2004).] 


These powerful words of HaRav Kanievsky, Shlita, one of the great poskim of our generation, should be carefully considered.  We urge those who have not already done so, to begin the new cycle of Praying With Fire over the next three-month period.  Your personal growth in Tefillah--and in your relationship with Hashem--will be extremely tangible.



Special Note Two:  After the Chanukah milestone, 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 (for those who live in the Northern Hemisphere) 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 provide a suggestion that has proven to be successful in the past-- 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 preferably from a Siddur, and 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!



Special Note Three:  The following important insight on this week’s Parsha  is provided by HaRav Avigdor Miller, Z’tl, in his Sefer In the Beginning:  Yehuda initiated his dialogue with Yosef by asserting “Ki Kamocha KePharoh--for [to me] you are the same as Pharoh.”  We must take the lesson from Yehudah’s brilliant words.  Men in authority do not welcome obstinacy or argumentation because their authority is thereby impugned.  It is therefore highly advisable to preface any show of opposition [and any request] by a generous acknowledgement of that person’s authority.



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


1.  The Sefer Besomim Rosh (brought in the Siddur Otzer HaTefillos) writes that one should be careful not to tarry after Davening in Shul on Leil Shabbos, and one should certainly be careful not to stop and gather on the street and speak “Sichas Chulin”--about non-Shabbos matters--for not only is Sichas Chulin highly inappropriate on Shabbos, but the Malochim that accompany a person home will take leave of him if he begins to engage in unnecessary conversation before he gets home.


2.  In Birkas HaMazon on Shabbos, we add the Tefillah of Retzei VeHachalitzeinu.  The Kuntres Avodas HaTefillah explains the word Retzei to mean “May our Mitzvah performance and our Shabbos observance give Nachas Ruach to You.  The Kuntres continues with the meaning of the word VeHachalitzeinu as Vezarzeinu--please give us the ability and alacrity to properly perform these Mitzvos.  On the phrase “Lishbos Bo VeLanuach Bo,” the Kuntres explains that these are words of tefillah in which we ask for Hashem’s assistance in preventing us from performing any melacha or violating any shevus (Rabbinic prohibition) at all on Shabbos. 


3.  The following teachings relating to Shabbos are excerpted from the Sefer Shenei Luchos Habris (the classic work of the Sheloh Hakadosh).


a.  The Ri bar Yuda reported that he heard from Rav Hai Gaon when they were together in Rome  that the reason we arise later on Shabbos to learn or daven is because unlike the weekdays where the Torah uses the phrase Baboker BaBoker (i.e., early in the morning) in offering the Korban Tomid Shel Shachar, the Torah uses the term U’Veyom HaShabbos (on the day of Shabbos with no special morning emphasis) when alluding to the Korban Tomid of Shabbos Shacharis --indicating that they are brought at some other point during the day and not Baboker Baboker.


b.  It is forbidden to fast past Chatzos on Shabbos--even if one is otherwise learning.  Hakhel Note:  We must be especially careful about this in the winter when Chatzos is early--well before 12 noon in the New York area, for example.  One should be sure to make Kiddush prior to that time and be motzi all those of his family or guests who have not heard Kiddush yet as well--so that they can all eat or drink something prior to Chatzos.


c.  Even if one is doing Teshuva, he should not cry over his past sins on Shabbos, as one should try to experience Oneg and not Tza’ar on Shabbos.


d.  The reason we sing Eliyahu HaNavi on Motz’ai Shabbos is because he cannot come on Erev Shabbos as Chazal teach--so we once again  reaffirm our belief and prayer that he will come soon.  Another reason is because the Tosefta teaches that Eliyahu Hanavi himself sits on Motz’ai Shabbos and writes the zechusim of the Shomrei Shabbos.


e. At Havdala, one should pour enough wine into the cup at the outset for it to spill out and over the becher.  The Teshuvas Maharil adds that after Havdala is completed, the mavdil should sit down to drink the cup, and not drink standing up--as it is not the derech of a Talmid Chochom. 


Special Note Five:  The Shelah HaKadosh also makes the following important notes in this week’s Parsha, as excerpted from the Sefer Mussarei Shelah HaKadosh:


a.  Upon Yosef indentifying himself to his brothers, he kissed them and cried over them (Bereishis 45:15).  We see from here how far a person must go in forgiving and being Ma’avir Al Midosav--for they sinned to him, and he cried over them and kissed them!


b.  Yaakov taught his descendents for all times a crucial lesson when he send Yehuda ahead to establish a Yeshiva, a spiritual footing in Goshen .  Whenever one is to begin a new undertaking or start a new phase or project, he should begin by first providing for a Heavenly or spiritual need.  For instance, when moving into a new apartment or home, one should first consider the location and approach to Torah and Tefillah in the new home. 


c.  Yosef did not lay claim to the “Admas HaKohannim”--the property of the Egyptian priests, which he could have easily done in exchange for the live-giving food that he was giving them, and as he had in fact done with the rest of the Egyptians.  He did not treat them in this way in recognition of the Tova that they had done to him when the wife of Potifera brought her case against Yosef in front of the priests.  They realized he was telling the truth and so they saved his life (see Targum Yonasan Ben Uziel to Bereishis 39:20 and 47:22).  Yosef demonstrated his HaKoras HaTov to them in a grand manner.  The lesson is there for us all to see!



Special Note One:  In a recent Note, we brought the explanation of HaRav Shlomo Zalmen Auerbach, Z’tl, as to why we eat Sufganiyo(s)(t) on Chanukah--so that we can recite an Al HaMichya which is the only bracha which refers to the Mizbe’ach with the  words “V’Al Mizbechecha”--and this reminds us of the Chanukas HaMizbe’ach on Chanukah, after its defilement by the Greeks.  We pointed out that not even Birkas Hamazon refers to the Mizbe’ach in its third bracha for Yerushalayim.  A perceptive question we received was--why in fact does Birkas Hamazon not refer to the Mizbe’ach--after all, isn’t Al HaMichya simply a kind of adaptation of Bentsching for non-bread meals?  That being the case--why don’t they mirror each other in mentioning (or not mentioning) the Mizbe’ach?  We most certainly welcome your insights!


Related Note:  We also received the following from a reader:  “In addition to yesterday's note, I remember hearing in a shiur that the minhag to have jelly is to remember the fruits of Eretz Yisroel that lost their special taste after the churban.”



Special Note Two:  Today, Zos Chanukah, is the last day of our celebration of “Chanu-Kah”--our resting from war on the 25th day of Kislev.  While other nations may celebrate victories in war, we celebrate our rest from the war--the **result** of the victory--which is for us to return to our Avodas Hashem.


The Sefer Taamei Dinim U’Minhagim brings that today is the last Day of Judgment from the Din that began on Rosh Hashana more than three months ago.  Hashem is a very gracious Father and allows us tremendous opportunities to return to Him.  We should spend some time today contemplating how we can complete this process of judgment on a positive note--how we, too, can celebrate this period in which we rejoice in the result of the victory--with a renewed Avodas Hashem.  Some introspection and renewed commitment is certainly within the order of the day.



Special Note Three:  Many of us are familiar with the Machlokes between Bais Shammai and Bais Hillel as to whether we begin lighting on the first night of Chanukah with one Ner, and then build up to eight (which is the opinion of Bais Hillel, and the opinion that we follow at this time), or whether we begin with eight Neiros on the first night and reduce the number of Neiros, so that on the last day of Chanukah we light only one Ner.  A reader advised us that he had heard from HaRav Yosef B. Soloveitchik, Z’tl, at a Shiur in Boston that the reason Bais Shammai opines that we begin with eight Neiros is because when one wants to express his Hoda’ah, his thanks, he should express all of his thanks at the outset and not slowly build it up over time.  When it comes to appreciation and thanks one should be effusive and not hold back!  Hakhel Note:  Now that we are at the eighth day of Chanukah, we have reached the point at which even according to Bais Hillel we light all eight Neiros!  This means that even if we have been reserved and limited in our thanks and praise in the past, we now recognize--especially with the splendid additional daily miracle of the oil continuing to burn--the great Shevach VeHoda’ah, the true praise, appreciation, and thanks that we owe to Hashem for the miracles he has performed on our behalf and continues to perform daily for us as individuals and as a Tzibbur.  Just as last Tisha B’Av we reached the height of the Three Week Period, on the Eighth day of Chanukah we should attain a supernal and superlative feeling and experience of recognition and closeness to Hashem.



Special Note Four:  We had posed the question:  How many words are there in the bracha of She’Assa Nissim and what does this symbolize?


We received the following beautiful response from a reader:  “There are thirteen words in She’Assah Nissim, which corresponds to the gematria of the word Echad (unity), and to all thirteen shevatim together, including Ephraim and Menashe.  The Sefer Nissim V'Niflaos makes the point that the time of year between Chanukah and Purim entails an emphasis on communal Achdus--in contrast to the beginning of the year where the emphasis is on Teshuvah that usually involves personal introspection.  The initial Teshuvah period ends on Zos Chanukah, and simultaneously we expand our focus beyond ourselves to begin preparing for the nation's birth on Pesach, and Matan Torah on Shavuos, both of which have Achdus as prerequisites.”


“On Chanukah the focus is on the Bayis, as we begin at home to repair any rifts in the family.  [Hakhel Note:  Readers please take note of this Chanukah Avodah as Chanukah draws to a close!]  Subsequently, on Purim the effort gets expanded to the community at large, where the Mitzvos of Seudah, Mishloach Manos and Matanos Le'evyonim create a social ingathering that brings together all Klal Yisroel.”


““So She'Assah Nissim which is only recited on Chanukah and Purim appropriately has thirteen words because this time of year emphasizes Achdus (of family and community), as we join together in recognizing our life’s purposes and goals--which will bring Yeshua and Geulah as well--as it did for us on Chanukah and Purim!”


Hakhel Note:  Chanukah, then, is a time of selflessness--a time of bonding with Hashem, and those around us and taking it with us …  we should always remember the thirteen words!



Special Note Five:  In honor of this momentous day in the year 5771, we provide the following essential Chanukah lessons and insights from HaRav Shimshon Pincus, Z’tl, excerpted from the Sefer Sichos Moreinu:


1.  We can learn from the Nissim of Chanukah that if one acts with all of his willpower, he can chase away all of the Choshech--all of the darkness and blight.  Choshech takes on various forms in this world.  HaRav Pincus teaches that in his opinion the Choshech of a person viewing himself and his life as a ‘katan’--insignificant and minor--is perhaps the greatest Choshech of all, because he believes that he will not be able to reach higher levels in life.  The Chashmonaim demonstrated to us all that a small band of ‘chalashim and mu’atim’--a few unequipped foot soldiers could defeat the mightiest ‘tank battalions’ of the day.  This is because they opted to start driving away the Choshech on their own--and so Hashem took care of the rest for them. This is the how and the why for a ‘small’ light that should have lasted one night (or less) to actually last for eight nights.  We too should recognize that with the proper attitude and effort we can and will exceed our expectations, and defy any so-called natural order!  We must always remember that Chanukah remained a Yom Tov for a reason--even though the Chashmonaim dynasty of Kings failed.  Additional Note:  HaRav Pincus brings the famous story of the nursing home owner who succeeded in making an elderly secular Jewish woman religious so that he would not have to feed her unkosher food, as she had been continuously requesting.  When asked how he had succeeded--after all, hadn’t she spent eighty plus years in an unreligious environment--the nursing home owner responded:  Did I have a choice?!  When one feels the responsibility and acts upon it--he will succeed!


2.  The Rambam (Hilchos Chanukah 4:12)writes that “Mitzvas Ner Chanukah Mitzvah Chaviva Hi Ad Me’od--the Mitzvah of Chanukah lights is extraordinarily precious.”  By using the unique word “Chaviva”, as opposed to ‘Gedola’--great, the Rambam is emphasizing to us that Chavivus is an important lesson of Chanukah.  We have to take the special feeling we get from the Neiros, the warmth and the feeling of love and closeness to Hashem and take it with us beyond these initial Eight Days..  Indeed, the source of the word ‘Chanukah’ is chinuch--because it is a much needed opportunity for us of Hischadshus--renewal of zeal and effort --which is so vita in our battle against Mitzvas Anashim Melumadah--mitzvos performed out of rote and  habit and because it was what you did yesterday.  In fact, Hashem creates night once every day so that the next morning one ‘gets up’ to a new day with freshness.  Chanukah is a lengthier period for us to inculcate newly inspired Torah and Tefillah into our lives.


3.  Who really had the true beauty?  Chazal teach that ten measures of beauty came into the world, and Yerushalayim took nine out of the ten, with the rest of the world having beauty dispersed around.  The beauty of Yavan was and is illusory.  Beauty only has meaning and significance if it is ‘Yishkon BeOholei Shem’-if it is used for the purposes of Ruchniyus and spirituality, and not as an end in itself.


4.  At first blush, Yavan appears strangely similar to us.  Both of our ancestors jointly clothed Noach out of honor and respect for who he was.  The Menorah is a symbol of the Jew, and the symbol of the Greeks is the olive, whose oil was used to light the Menorah and which is mesugal for chochma.  The Greeks were known to the world as scholars as well--in philosophy and other disciplines.  Even the word Yavan has the same root letters as the word Yonah-- which symbolizes K’lal Yisroel.  Moreover, their beauty is supposed to find its place in our ‘ohalim’, in our tents.  In sum, we appear to be a true pair--brothers lehavdil--with the Greeks.  In reality, however, this is our greatest danger.  The Greek influence of Haskalah and secularism is a more dangerous enemy because it is the silent one.  Take Aristotle for example.  His students once found him fulfilling his animalistic desires in a horrible way, and he brushed them aside with the answer that ‘it was not Aristotle’ that had done it.  We, on the other hand, even when not actively involved  in chochma--such as when putting on our shoes or in the lavatory--are still consciously and actively governed by Hashem’s sets of laws--we are who we are everywhere. Moreover, we recognize Hashem’s Hand as the source of all of our success and daven to Hashem for everything that we are and can be.  About 100 years ago, a great Talmid Chacham’s granddaughter ran away from home to university in Europe.  She met her grandfather and said to him:  “Why do you sit in the darkness--go out into the world and see the great light!”  He responded:” My granddaughter, you see these planes that fly now--well, they will eventually get to the moon, they will eventually make bombs that can destroy the whole world.  We make people--we are the true light.


5..  Why do we celebrate the Nes of Chanukah which was for only eight days--while there were other seemingly greater Nissim that occurred in the Bais HaMikdash daily--and did so for hundreds of years,  For instance, the Ner Ma’aravi in the Menorah itself stayed lit and unextinguished for years and not only days?!  It must be that with the Nes of Chanukah Hashem is talking to us--showing us that we must learn its lessons--to see the niflaos and yeshuos and how the darkness itself is the source from where the Yeshua arises.  All events, natural and unnatural, ‘nissim nistarim and nissim geluyim’ all merge into one--Hashem’s Will.  Let us take this lesson with us --daily--for the rest of our lives!



QUESTION OF THE WEEK:  Why does Chanukah span two months--Kislev and Teves? 


Special Note One: Today, we begin our special emphasis on the fourth of the 13 Ani Maamins.  The Fourth Fundamental Principle teaches that unlike man, who is usually better off at being either first or last at any given time or occasion, Hashem is and always will be the First and the Last. His existence is infinite and unbounded. He always was, always is and always will be.  We look to Him as the Absolute and Unconditional Source of Everything for All Time.



Special Note Two:  The Hebrew spelling of the word Yavan--Yud, Vav, and Nun, points to three lines going further and further down.  We know what this means.  Our name, Yisroel, starts with the very same Yud, but--in our case--ends with a Lamed rising high! 



Special Note Three:  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)--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!



Special Note Four:  From the recently published Sefer Machsheves Tzaddik (5771), a compilation of the teachings of Rebbe Tzadok HaKohein on Chanukah, we excerpt the following beautiful points:


1.  Rosh Chodesh Teves is the Rosh HaKedusha.  The Nasi we read yesterday was the Nasi of Gad, from whom Eliyahu HaNavi will come.  The Nesi’im for today and tomorrow are Efrayim and Menashe.  Chazal (Bereishis Rabba 73:7) teach that Eisav will fall into the hands of the children of Rachel--Menashe and Efrayim!  The reason for this is that Yosef represents Gevurah DeKedusha, which is exactly what Amalek will fall to.  With this ultimate victory, Ohr and Kedusah will be Mosif VeHoleich--will grow and grow forever!


2.  When we recite “VeAl Nisecha SheBechol Yom Imanu” in Modim, we are referring to the fact that Hashem’s help is a Nes for us daily.  If we were left alone to our own Bechira, the Yetzer Hara’s fresh daily attacks would overwhelm us.  Hashem’s daily miracle with us is the Divine Assistance in not leaving us over to the Yetzer’s hands.  Hakhel Note:  We should have this Kavannah when reciting these words--daily!


3.  The reason that we read the Parsha of the Nesi’im on Chanukah is because their Korbanos were brought in the Mishkan--a portable place which moved through the desert in Chutz La’Aretz.  This is the ultimate symbol for each person to make a “Chanukas HaBayis” within himself--rededicating his heart to life’s purpose--wherever he may be!


4.  The Menorah is a K’li, a utensil which serves to hold important oil within it. Each member of K’lal Yisroel must take the lesson that he too can serve as a Menorah--to bring and inculcate the Hashpa’ah, the influence, of our oil--the Torah within him, and serve as a light to all of those around him.  Just as we own a Menorah, we can be Hashem’s Menorah!


Additional Note:  Rebbe Tzadok adds that the gold of the Menorah is a symbol of Yiras Shomayim--and that our Torah (which, once again, the oil symbolizes) is lit up best by us when we have Yiras Shomayim.  We may add that many of us today have silver Menorahs.  Perhaps with this we symbolize that our Kesef, our money, is dedicated to the study of Torah as well!



Special Note One:  We received the following important comment from a reader: “Your Hakhel on “Hashem Hu HaElokim” was particularly a “waker-upper”.  On the idea of "wage our wars," Rav Miller zt"l, on one of his Chanuka tapes, speaks of the idea that the wars became the wars of the Chashmona'im, even though they were fighting for HaShem.  In other words, HaShem's wars became their wars; HaShem's business became theirs.  So it seems to tie in: HaShem Hu HaElokim - not just accepting HaShem on ourselves, but making HaShem's “business”-ours!”



Special Note Two:  A reader pointed out to us that the Malbim in his commentary to Tehillim, Chapter 32, writes that the entire Chapter was composed because of a drought in the time of Dovid HaMelech.  Accordingly, he suggested that it would be very appropriate to especially recite this Kepitel for the current situation in Eretz Yisroel. 



Special Note Three:  As today is the last day of Kislev, we urge everyone to especially review lessons from the Third Ani Ma’amin, as we hope to place special emphasis on the Fourth Ani Ma’amin (4/13) in the month of Teves. 



Special Note Four:  HaRav Dovid Kviat, Z’tl, in the Sefer Sukkas Dovid writes that the Chofetz Chaim was asked how Hashem would bring Moshiach if the Jewish people had been experiencing deterioration in each succeeding generation.  The Chofetz Chaim responded that the Geulah will come based upon the pasuk in Malachi ( 3:16 ) “Az Nidbaru Yirei Hashem Ish El Raieihu--then they who fear Hashem will talk among themselves” [to strengthen the Jewish people]... and then Hashem will send Eliyahu HaNavi.  HaRav Kviat continues:  “Similarly, at the time of the miracle of Chanukah, the entire Jewish people had not yet repented.  It was only a small band that fought the Greeks.  The majority of the Jewish people were mired in sin.  But following the victory of the Chashmonaim and the miracle of the jug of oil, the nation repented.  Just as from the one small jug of oil, the Menorah was able to remain lit for eight days, so, too, did the few Torah-true Jews miraculously save all of Jewry.  We must understand that the miracle of Chanukah is different from other miracles because it happened at a time when only a minority was worthy.  Therefore, it was established for all generations.  This is alluded to in Al HaNissim, where we say that Hashem gave over “the many in the hands of the few.”  They were few not only in comparison to the Greeks, but they were also few in the people of Israel .  For this reason, their victory was exceptionally miraculous.  So, too, when Moshiach comes will the small knot of Yirei Hashem bring the entire people to salvation and repentance.”  Hakhel Note:  Wouldn’t you like to be among this special group?  We have the lessons and the lead of the Maccabim to follow!



Special Note Five:  In just two days, we will achieve the monumental day of ‘Zos Chanukah’.  The Gematria of Mattisyahu (861) matches to Rosh Hashana (861).  Rosh Hashana is the beginning of the judgment period, and Chanukah concludes the judgment period, as is alluded to in the Pasuk (Yeshaya 27:9) “BeZos Yechupar Avon Yaakov”--with Zos (i.e., Zos Chanuka, the last day of Chanukah), will our sins be forgiven.  It is especially important that we make the special effort over the next three days of “Teshuvah BeChol Yom”--focusing especially on our Kabbalah Sheet, as well as successfully parrying and quashing the new thrusts of the Yetzer Hara since the beginning of the Year!



Special Note Six:  In V’Al HaNissim every day, we have been reciting the words “U’Leamcha Yisroel Assisa Teshua Gedola U’furkan KHayom Hazeh…--and for Your people you worked a great victory and salvation as this day.”  What does “KeHayom Hazeh--as this day” really mean?  What is the day that we are referring to?


The Sefer Baruch She’Amar (written by the Torah Temimah) suggests it means to express that although we experienced great salvation then, it was not an eternal one, and that there is yet to come--for just as this thing called day gets light (as it did at the time of the Chashmonaim), and then turns dark, so, too, will it get to be light once again--and it is that daylight (this time an eternal one) that we once again await!



Special Note Seven:  Today is Rosh Chodesh.  As we all know, the Greeks attacked Shabbos, Bris Milah and Rosh Chodesh as the classic examples of Torah Judaism.  As we light the Menorah this evening, having passed through the sanctity of the first day of Rosh Chodesh, we should increase our appreciation of the Mitzvah in tonight’s Hadlokas HaNeiros.  The Sefer Kav HaYashar teaches that on Chanukah we fulfill the directive of Yeshayahu HaNavi:  ‘BaUrim Kabdu Hashem--Honor Hashem with lights’ (Yeshayahu 24:15).


In honor of the occasion, we present at this link a Tefillah found in the Siddur Bais Yaakov by HaRav Yaakov Emden, Z’tl, to be recited prior to kindling.  Its recitation, if possible, could put one in the proper state of joyous awe, as we bask--and indeed illuminate ourselves--in the Mitzvah over the last nights of Chanukah.  If you cannot recite this Tefillah, do your best to contemplate the moment!



Special Note Eight:  Why do we eat ‘Sufgoniyo(s)(t) on Chanukah?  Many have a common answer on the tip of their tongue (or is it lips?).  However, HaRav Shlomo Zalman Auerbach, Z’tl, has a different insight.  HaRav Auerbach teaches that after ousting the Greek forces from the Beis HaMikdash, the Chashmonaim were able to be me’taher--to purify--everything--except for stones of the Mizbeach which the Greeks had ruined and which accordingly had to be put away into genizah, and replaced with new stones.  In order for us to remember what happened to the Mizbeach, the custom was to eat something which required an after-bracha of Me’Ein Shalosh, such as Al HaMichya, for this is the only bracha which specifically asks Hashem to have Rachamim “Al Mizbachecha”--on Your Mizbe’ach.  Indeed, even Birkas HaMazon (in the third bracha), when asking Hashem to have Rachamim upon Yisroel, Yerushalayim, Zion and the Bais HaMikdash does not specifically request His Mercy for the Mizbeach as we do in Al HaMichya.  It is for this reason that we eat those wonderful doughnuts--so that we can remember what happened to the Mizbeach--and ask for Hashem’s Mercy in bringing it back to us!



Hakhel Note:  It is fascinating to note that when Megillas Ta’anis (Chapter 9-Kislev) describes Chanukah, it teaches as follows:  “Why was Chanukah established for eight days--after all, the dedication of the Mishkan was for only seven days (Aharon and his sons could not leave the Ohel Mo’ed for seven days), and the dedication of the First Bais HaMikdash was seven days (followed by seven days of Sukkos).  So, why here was Chanukah established for not seven, but eight days?  The Megillas Ta’anis answers that the Chashmonaim, upon retaking the Bais HaMikdash, had to rebuild and replaster the Mizbeach and prepare new utensils, new K’li Shareis, for it--and the Chashmonaim were involved with it for eight days.  In addition to providing another answer to the Bais Yosef’s question, this answer shows how our celebration of the rededicated Mizbeach is an important part of the Chag, and why we recite Kepital 30--Mizmor Shir Chanukas HaBayis--after davening and after Hadlakas Neiros during Chanukah.  If one reviews Megilas Antiochos, one will note that to the Greeks offering a chazir to their avoda zara on the alter that they had built in the Bais HaMikdash was especially important to them--but in the end it is our service to Hashem on the Mizbeach--the true G-d served on the true altar--that prevailed then and will prevail again.  It is always good to be on the side that ultimately wins--all you have to do is deserve it.  Chanukah is a time of rededicating ourselves to Hashem’s service--coming to Shul on time, davening with Kavannah, thanking Hashem and really meaning it, and realizing that five Kohanim can beat the Greek Army, elephants and all--through Hashem’s unrivaled, incomparable and incredible Great Mercy, which we must always believe in, and we must always beseech! 



Special Note Nine:  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!



Kashrus Alert 1:  Because of the shutdown of the US Pennsylvania Plant manufacturing Tylenol, the huge production slack has been taken up by manufacture in Canada , where some of the ingredients used in manufacture are definitely of non-Kosher origin.  Accordingly, we urge everyone to be in contact with their Posek or Va’ad HaKashrus regarding the continued acceptability of Tylenol’s use in your particular circumstances.


Kashrus Alert 2:  A nationally recognized expert in insect infestation contacted us yesterday (Sunday) and asked us to make the public aware of several incidents reported to him of infestation in boxes of Ronzoni Elbows.  He asked us to especially alert those who keep Yoshon--for the age of the item on the shelf or in storage may be a factor in any infestation.  He advised that consumers either empty the box and check for small dark specks, or after cooking in water check the top of the water for black spots or other items that have risen to the top.



Special Note One:  Now that the unprecedented tragic fire on Har HaCarmel is “under control”, we reflect upon its non-coincidental message of wild fire unleashed in the Festival of Neiros, and in a time when it is not fire--but water--which is so desperately needed in Eretz Yisroel.  By now, many have seen the reference to Shir Hashirim Rabbah (on the Pasuk of KeShoshana Bein Hachochim; 2:5) brought by Rabbi Lazer Brody (translator of The Garden of Emunah) which Rabbi Brody suggests points directly to the fire and its meaning.  We would like to provide the following message.  The Pesikta teaches (we do not follow this Pesikta LeHalacha) that the Haftarah for Shabbos Chanukah is the Haftarah of Eliyahu on Har HaCarmel against the Neviei Haba’al--in which a fire came down Min HaShamayim and consumed the Korban of Eliyahu--upon which the people spontaneously proclaimed Hashem Hu HaElokim! Hashem Hu HaElokim!  The essence of Chanukah and the essence of the lesson from Eliyahu Hanavi on the very same Har HaCarmel is Hashem Hu HaElokim--whether it be the miracle of the wars, the miracle of the oil, the quashing of Greece as a world power, the resurgence of the Bais Hamikdash--it was all by the hand of Hashem. As the Artscroll Siddur beautifully pits it in a brief explanatory note in Al Hanissim on the words ‘VeAchar Kein Ba’u Vonecha’:  “By their [immediate] actions after the success of the revolt, the Jews proved that they were interested not in military victory nor in political power, but in undisturbed service of Hashem (Chofetz Chaim).”  Our Emunah must take us to recognize the absolute and uncompromising reality of Hashem in all happenings, circumstances and events.  We have had a reinforcement of this lesson this Chanukah.  We hope that a new reality will emerge from these serious events--for almost immediately after the people unanimously exclaimed Hashem Hu HaElokim (Melochim I 18:39) at Har HaCarmel--the Pasuk teaches that the drought in the land miraculously ended with Achav’s sighting of a small cloud in the distance which quickly became a ‘geshem gadol.’ The lesson had been learned then and the people were saved--hopefully we too have sufficiently taken Hashem Hu HaElokim to heart now as well.  Practical Actions:  1.We emphasize in Al HaNissim that the Chanukah miracles were undertaken by Hashem “Berachamecha HaRabbim”.  Let us find where we use this exact phrase or language very similar to it in the course of our tefillos, and have Kavana to be saved, spared and redeemed again--for Hashem Hu HaElokim!  2.  The bracha in Shemone Esrei of Re’eh (Na) VeAnyeinu is a bracha in which we request Hashem’s salvation from difficult situations and peoples--and in which we ask Hashem to ‘wage our wars’ on our behalf just as he did for the Maccabim.  It is certainly an auspicious time, and a display of belief in the Chanukah Miracles--if we put extra Kavana into our pleas for contemporary salvations from the Sonei Yisroel and their inventions in the hidden and not so hidden locations all around us--for Hashem Hu HaElokim!



Special Note Two:  We received the following precious and related insight from a reader:  “I have a thought on the Dreidel.  The Dreidel has four letters.  When one plays it he either receives a Nun which means Nisht (nothing) or Gimel--Ganz (everything) or Hay--Chetzi (half) or Shin--Shalem (pay).  Life is this way. Sometimes we try something and the results are Nun.  Sometimes it’s a Gimel, we hit the Jackpot, sometimes it’s a hey, we only get half of what we expected and sometimes it Shin-we have to pay the price.  However, let us not despair because the One who is spinning it is on top.”



Special Note Three:  On Chanukah, we celebrate not only the defeat of the Greeks, but also our staunch dedication against the Greek influence.  It is interesting to note that the Chofetz Chaim, in his explanation of the Siddur, writes that the brocha of “Sheloh Asani Goy” is intended to cover not only that we were not born goyim, but also that we don’t have the same conduct and thoughts as the other nations.  Chanukah is the right time for us to evaluate our conduct--have we allowed into our mind or home something that would taint this brocha?  Some nice inner reflection may be in order.  In any event, a nice avodah over Chanukah would be to recite this brocha with a special thanks, and with a silent prayer, that we not be influenced in a negative way by the world around us, so that each and every one of us can fulfill our important special mission in life.



Special Note Four:  How many times is the Bais Aharon (from whom the Chashmonaim came) mentioned in Hallel?  Why do you think this is so?  [No, it is not eight.]


Additional Note:  As the last few days of Chanukah are soon 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 Aruch (Orach Chaim 683:1).  The Mishna 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!



Special Note One:  At a recent Shiur, Rabbi Ephraim Wachsman, Shlita, related the true story of a man who worked in Manhattan and gave himself $1.00 for each time that he could have looked up in the street and did not do so.  At the end of the year, he had amassed $2,000.00!  With the money he bought himself a beautiful Menorah--and now proudly and joyfully looks intently at the Neiros Chanukah.

Additional Note I:  This is truly a beautiful story. The Sefer Kav HaYashar (Chapter 96) writes that any Ner which is lit for the sake of a Mitzvah has a “Kedusah Nefla’ah Gedolah Ain Shiur--a wondrous and immeasurable Kedusah”.  The Sefer adds that if we would be zoche to Ruach HaKodesh, upon making the Bracha over the Neiros we would actually be able to see into and relate the future, for the Neiros of Mitzvah prophesize just as a Navi does--and relate the word of Hashem!

Additional Note II:  Chazal teach that “Ner Le’Echad Ner Le’Meah--the light of a Ner can benefit a hundred people in the same way as it helps only one person.  We may suggest another lesson from this Ma’amar Chazal as well:  One hundred different people can see the same light--and it will be the same light--but its meaning, profundity and experience will be different with each individual.  As we gaze upon the Neiros Chanukah this evening, let us be sure to study and reflect upon the Gevuros Hashem and Chasdei Hashem that have brought our people to this point starting with the Avos, and the personal Nissim VeNiflaos in our own lives that have brought us to this point as well.  We may not be making a Shehechiyanu when lighting, but we certainly can be feeling it!



Special Note Two:  Each Chag has its own central theme.  In Al HaNissim, we learn that with respect to Chanukah “ VeKavu Shemonas Yemei Chanukah Eilu LeHodos Ul’Hallel Leshimcha HaGadol--and they established these eight days of Chanukah to express thanks and praise to Your Great Name.”  It is interesting to note that the Al HaNissim does not end with the word “LeHodos Ul’Hallel” but continues with two other words-- Leshimcha HaGadol, to Your Great Name.  Fascinatingly, before the Bracha of Modim, of thanks to Hashem, then ends we continue to mention “Shimcha--Your Name” another three times!  What do we really mean by Shimcha and Shimcha HaGadol--which appears to be so essential to our proper understanding and observance of the essence of Chanukah? 



Special Note Three:  Question for Shabbos: Why is the major sugya in Shas about Chanukah in Meseches Shabbos? One Hint: See Sefer Pri Tzaddik by HaRav Tzadok HaKohen Z'tl, on Chanukah, Os Aleph.

We continue with our Erev Shabbos--Halachos of Shabbos Series:  We provide below several teachings of the Shelah HaKadosh in his Sefer, under the subtitle ‘Meseches Shabbos’:


1.  Although there is a special Ma’aleh to buying food for Shabbos on Erev Shabbos, that is only true regarding foods which will be better if purchased closer to Shabbos.  With respect to foods for which it will not make a difference, it is better to purchase them earlier in the week, based upon the principle of Zerizim Makdimin LeMitzvos--one should act with special alacrity when doing a Mitzvah.  Additionally, when purchasing an item, one should declare “Lichvod Shabbos Ani Koneh!”


2.  If one undertakes Shabbos preparations on his own without somebody else being his “Shaliach” for him, he is fulfilling the words of the Torah “La’asos Es HaShabbos--making the Shabbos on his own.”  One should even reduce his Torah learning to do so. 


3.  Chazal teach that the relationship between Erev Shabbos and Shabbos is a paradigm for the correlation between Olam Hazeh and Olam Haba--in which one prepares everything he needs now, so that he is fully ready for the great next step.  This also teaches us, the Shelah continues, that one should examine his ways and do Teshuvah on Erev Shabbos--so the he is prepared not only for his physical needs on Shabbos, but for his spiritual needs as well. 


4.  It is best for men to finish Shenayim Mikrah VeEchad Targem Friday afternoon after Chatzos.  If one cannot do so, he should try to finish before the Shabbos Seudah on Shabbos morning; if this is not possible as well, he should finish before Shabbos Mincha. 


5.  Because Shabbos is known as “Shabbos Kallah,” the first two meals are like the Seudas Erusin and Seudas Nesuin! 


6.  One should feel a high level of Shalom and Ahava on Shabbos, as on this day even the Reshaim in Gehenoim have a rest from their punishment.  If one gets angry on Shabbos, his Aveirah for doing so is ‘Kefulah’--doubled.  One should begin his special care against anger beginning at Chatzos on Erev Shabbos.  Indeed, continues the Shelah, the Sefer Chassidim writes that it is better to eat vegetables on Shabbos with warm feelings than to eat the fattiest of meats while unsettled or in a spirit of rife or dispute.


7.  In the Zechus of eating Shalosh Seudos, the third meal, one is saved from the war of Gog U’Magog.  The Gematriah of Gog U’Magog is 70, which teaches that one will thus be saved from all 70 nations of the world. 


Hakhel Note:  In this week’s Parsha, Yosef is referred to as an “Ivri.”  There is a powerful acronym here:  “Ivri”--Akshanus B’ruchniyus Yatzliach--one must be adamant about the proper performance of Mitzvos.  One example on these short Shabbosos, is the proper performance of the Mitzvah of Shalosh Seudos.  Neither the Torah nor Chazal provide an exception for the third meal in the shorter, winter months.  Neither man nor woman should fall prey to the weak attitude of those who may be around him, and should plan ahead (perhaps eating less at the earlier Seudah) in order to properly fulfill this Mitzvah.  



Special Note Four:  We received the following insight from Rabbi Moshe Goldberger, Shlita:


“Why do we call the Righteous Jews “weak” in Al Hanisim if they were actually strong?


“The Siddur HaGra explains that in their minds they realized that without Hashem’s help, we are always weak!  As when Yosef Hatzadik said, ‘Bilodoi--It’s not my power.’”



Special Note Five:   The Al Hanissim and what it describes is so pivotal to Chanukah, that the Siddur Rashban actually writes that Al HaNissim takes the place of a Korban Todah offering in gratitude for the Nes!  Hakhel Note:  This kind of ‘Karon Todah’ can even be brought on Shabbos!



Special Note Six:   In the Rinas Chaim on Shemone Esrei, HaRav Chaim Friedlander, Z’tl, makes the following great points:


1.      The leader of the Chashmonaim was Matisyahu Ben Yochanan.  Interestingly, and non-coincidentally, the name of both father and son essentially mean the same thing in Hebrew--a gift from Hashem.  Since a person’s name is indicative of his character (see Yoma 83B), we must surmise that both Matisyahu, and his father Yochanan, lived by the guiding principle that everything in this world was, is and always will be, a gift from Hashem.  HaRav Friedlander writes that a person who lives with this feeling--that everyday life, that even “natural” events and occurrences, are Hashem’s gifts--is worthy of having extraordinary, or “unnatural” gifts, otherwise known as nisim or miracles, performed for or on his behalf, as well.  It is for this reason that in the Al HaNisim text Chazal wrote “V’Ata B’Rachamecha HoRabim--and You, in Your great mercy”--for Matisyahu recognized that the salvation from the 52-year long Greek oppression would not come by military strategy or genius, but only come by and through Hashem’s outstretched hand.  Indeed, in the Al HaNisim, Chazal do not glorify or even praise the Chashmonaim, but instead focus only on thanking Hashem for fighting the battle in oh so many ways.  With this text, Chazal teach us that the essence of Chanukah is to recognize what the Chashmonaim themselves recognized--the outstretched and giving hand of Hashem in all aspects of life and at all times.  It is once again, non-coincidental, that the Greeks were of the completely opposite philosophy.  They believed that man himself was the master of wisdom, and through his own power and prowess he controlled and governed over his own successes and achievements.  It was, therefore, their ultimate goal “L’Hashkicham Torasecha--to cause Bnei Yisroel to forget” the divine and infinite nature of the Torah, and “U’LiHa’averum Maychukei Ritzonecha--to cause them to violate the chukim, the G-d given laws” which we as mortals do not understand but which we merely practice because they are “Ritzonecha--the Will of Hashem.”  Chanukah, then, is the victory of man’s eternal recognition of Hashem over man’s fleeting recognition of himself.  Al HaNisim is placed into the regular Modim prayer to reinvigorate and reestablish our connection and reliance, and our faith and belief that from Hashem come both our nature and our nurture.  Hakhel Note:  Now is the time to begin a “special efforts” program in our Modim Tefilla three times a day.


2.      In the second brocha over the neiros, we thank Hashem for making miracles for our fathers BaYamim HaHeim--in those days and BaZman HaZeh--at this time.  Similarly, in the Al HaNisim we once again thank Hashem for the miracles…“BaYamim Haheim BaZman HaZeh”--at this time.  What is the significance of the words “BaZman HaZeh” both in the Brocha and in the Al HaNisim?  The Eitz Yosef explains that every year in these days the neis--the miracle--is once again revealed, and, accordingly, Hashem instills in these days the power of salvation and redemption for His people.  We still have a little while left to utilize the power inherent in these days for yeshuos for ourselves--and for Klal Yisroel!  Let us do our utmost to fulfill this mandate of the bracha and the Al HaNisim which we have recited so many times over Chanukah--and bring the BaYomim Haheim--those days--into BaZman HaZeh--our very own lives and times!



Special Note Seven:   We received the following note from an important reader:

Parshas Mikeitz is always read on Shabbos Chanukah.  There are many possible links.  Below are a few suggestions from the Sefer Baruch She’Amar (p.143):


a.  Just as in Paroh’s dream, the seven gaunt cows consumed the seven healthy ones, and the seven ears of wind-beaten grain swallowed the seven full ears, so too did the few Chashmonaim defeat the mighty Greek army--there is and can only be one explanation--for this is Hashem’s will!


b.  The Parsha begins with the word VaYehi--seemingly (from its sound) a word of tza’ar, expressing the anguish of the times.  Yet, this event ended with the reuniting of Yosef and his brothers.  So, too, with the Chashmonaim, they suffered immensely at the hands of the Greeks, but emerged victorious spiritually and physically.


c.  Most Chumashim, at the end of laining Shabbos morning, list the number of Pesukim just read.  At the end of Parshas Mikeitz, however, most Chumashim also list the number of words in the Parsha--2,025.  This total number of words alludes to the gematria of Ner (50 plus 200=250)--eight times for the eight days of Chanukah--totaling 2000--all of which started on the 25th of Kislev--for 2,025!



Special Note Eight:  In what merit was Yosef referred to as “Ain Navan VaChacham Komocha”--there is no one wiser in the world than you?  The Pasuk says it is “because Hashem revealed the dream and its interpretation to you” (Bereishis 41:39, 40).  The next logical question is then, what merit did Yosef have that allowed Hashem to reveal the dream and its meaning to him and be considered the wisest man in the world?  The Alter of Slabodka, Z’tl, explains with Chazal’s words (Medrash Rabbah 23): “Machshava SheLo Chashva Ba’Aveira Tavoh VeTikra Chachma--A mind which did not think of sin--let it come and take wisdom”.  According to this Chazal, the key to Yosef’s success was that he did not let the temptation even enter his mind.  He cleared his thinking of the Yetzer Hora’s influence and did not let the otherwise obvious sinful thought in at all.  Because he had made his mind open and free--there was an equal measure of great wisdom that could enter in its place and stead.  We may not always have the same great temptation and the concomitant great wisdom that can flow from overcoming it, but we must realize the very practical lesson from this Chazal--the more you prevent ta’avah and sin from entering your thought process in the first place--the wiser, very literally, you can and will become!  Your own measure of wisdom is up to--you!



Special Note One: Rabbi Moshe Goldberger, Shlita writes the following: “If someone did you 10 favors, would it suffice to only thank him for only 1 or 2 of them? On Chanukah we need to wake up and see the lights to thank Hashem and appreciate the countless favors He is always performing for us.” Thank you Rabbi Goldberger for this truly enlightening thought! Based upon this teaching of Rabbi Goldberger, it would be difficult to imagine that a person could forget Al HaNisim in any one of the three Shemone Esrei’s daily (or in Birchas HaMazon) on Chanukah. Additionally, in times which we are threatened (and rachmana l’tzlan) attacked by those murderous enemies around us, we must particularly daven during these auspicious days for Yeshuos and further Nissim for our people. This should be a high priority during these Days of Light.

Special Note Two: 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 Three: 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 wonderful 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 Four: The Shelah 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 we mentioned yesterday: If there was enough oil to light for one day that means the miracle of Chanukah was for only which we mentioned yesterday. We came upon a Sefer which actually provides 500(!) answers to the Bais Yosef’s question. 

Special Note Five: 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).

Special Note Six: The days of Chanukah are known as the end of our Teshuvah and Kapara process that began on Rosh Hashana. The Divrei Chaim of Sanz writes that on Chanukah a person can do Teshuvah and fix even the most serious of Aveiros because of the closeness to Hashem that we experience during this time. He brings the Mashal of a king for whom it is more difficult to grant pardons when he is sitting in his palace surrounded by royalty and royal servants. However, when he travels the streets of the city, and enters a private home, even the commoners who otherwise could not have gained access to him are heard. With the Kedusha of the Hadlakas HaNeiros, the King of Kings makes his presence felt in our homes. Some write that our lighting of the Menorah at a level of less than 10 Tefachim is symbolic of the Shechina coming so far down to earth, in a manner which does not ordinarily occur. Based upon this, we should take the time to daven in front of the Neiros--both before and after Hadlakas Neiros (Sichos Ba’Avodas Hashem). The Sefer Kav Hayashar (Chapter 96) writes that “Malachim Kedoshim ViSarfei Ma’alah” (the Heavenly Host) arrive at a person’s home at the time of Hadlakas Neiros, surround him and answer Amen to his Brachos. We can well understand why some have the custom of putting on Bigdei Shabbos in preparation for lighting. We provide by clicking here a beautiful Tefilla to be recited prior to Hadlakas Neiros. May we be zoche to imbibe the unique blessing of these special moments!

Special Note Seven: This world is not as simple as it might sometimes appear. Dreidel is a pleasant, fun-filled and seemingly inconsequential game, reminding us about how the Jews hid in caves to study Torah, playing games at the mouth of the cave to scout for Greek Army troops, right? Yes, for sure. The Bnai Yissoschar adds, however, that those four letters on the Dreidel--Gimel, Shin, Nun and Heh are actually very lofty--for they together have a gematria, a numerical equivalent, of 358--which is also the gematria of Moshiach(!), and also of “Hashem Melech Hashem Malach Hashem Yimloch”--Hashem is, was and will be King. For Torah Jewry, there is profound depth and meaning infused even into what to the world is just fun and games!

Special Note Eight: The following insights are excerpted from the Sefer Leket Reshimos on Chanukah, from the teachings of HaRav Nosson Wachtfogel, Z’tl, the original Mashgiach of Lakewood:

1. In all generations, Hashem provides us with events to arouse us. Prior to the Chanukah wars, we were being humiliated in relative silence by the Hellenists. Mattisyahu was aroused when he saw a pig being brought on the Mizbe’ach--he could no longer remain silent, he took action, and the rest is history. We too must allow our hearts to be aroused--and Chanukah is a time for the arousal to be ‘chal’--to be felt deeply and acted upon. 

2. Rebbe Yeruchem from Mir taught that one can be of the wisest and most righteous of people--but if he is not fighter he will fall even in basic areas. We see from the nations around us that man’s nature is to fight, but their wars are often misplaced. Even when one country does not battle another, they compete against each other in sports--and tens of thousands of spectators go to see (and even pay for) how one side can hurt and defeat another. Man is truly intended to be a fighter, but it is against his Yetzer Hara and that which is wrong against which he must exert his efforts. 

Additional Note: The difference, HaRav Nosson explains, between Tamar and the wife of Potifar was the Tamar would not give up to the last--and was ready to be burned with her children for the sake of what was right. The wife of Potifar, on the other hand, fell and gave up when she encountered difficulty. The wife of Potifar is recorded for all time as a liar and cheater. Tamar is recorded for posterity as the mother of Moshiach.

3. The Alter of Kelm taught that at Hadlakas Neiros one should be Misbonen in Gevuras Hashem and Chasdei Hashem. This is the Avodah of Hadlakas Haneiros.

4. Rebbe Yeruchem also taught that should always remember the moments of light. If it was light before--it can be light again. One should yearn and pray to re-achieve those times of light. 

5. The definition of Mesiras Nefesh is not one’s intent to be burned “Al Kiddush Hashem”. Rather, it’s definition to go against one’s will and one’s nature. Mattisyahu was undoubtedly a peaceful person, and like all of those around him was not interested in fighting at all. He overcame his own nature and brought his sons to his level of Mesiras Nefesh as well. The victories and miracles that ensued then became “peshutim”--for the Makkabim acted against Tevah, so the Tevah itself changed. It was Mattisyahu who started it all--and that is why we begin with “Bimei Mattisyahu….” We too should place special emphasis on these days on breaking our desires, bad habit and nature--for these days are Mesugal for change. In turn, we too can be zoche to changes on our behalf which are “SheLo KiDerech HaTevah” as well. 


Special Note One:  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.”  HaRav Chaim Kanievsky, Shlita, explains that the custom to give Chanukah Gelt to children comes from this concept of Tzedaka on Chanukah--putting oneself into a frame of mind to help all those who cannot subsist on their own.  In fact, HaRav Kanievsky notes, his father, the Steipeler Gaon, Z’tl, would give the Chanukah Gelt to children in his family every year on the fifth day of Chanukah--apparently because it can never occur on Shabbos!



 Special Note Two:  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--unaffected 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.  Every day, 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.



Special Note Three:  What is the word “Macabi” an acronym for?  Many of us may be familiar with its acronym of “Mi Chamocha BaAilim Hashem--who is like You among the strong ones, Hashem?”--for the victory of the Chashmonaim was based upon their utter reliance on Hashem for victory against humanly impossible odds.  The Chasam Sofer, however, teaches that Macabi is also an acronym for “Matisyahu Cohen ben Yochanan,” referring specifically to Matisyahu, as the leader of the Chashmonaim.  What is the lesson for us in this term according to the Chasam Sofer?  We may suggest that it demonstrates the importance of mesiras nefesh by one individual.  Matisyahu, according to many, was not the Kohen Gadol (but the son of the Kohen Gadol, Yochanan), and did not have a leadership position.  He simply determined that action had to be taken, for the Jewish people faced defilement not only for that generation but for all future generations, as well.  He started with his five sons, who risked, and in some instances gave, their lives for salvation, and ended with a Kiddush Hashem of such proportions that the Sanhedrin decided to commemorate the nissim that resulted from this one man’s actions forever and ever.  We cannot underestimate the force--and the effect--that each one of us can have, not only upon ourselves and our families, but also on all of K’lal Yisroel.  Did Matisyahu realize that he and his tiny group of Talmidei Chachomim would bring down the Greek Army?  Did he realize that his single-handed actions would save Jewry from the reform movement of those days?  Quite possibly, he did not realize these effects--but he did what Hashem expected of him, for that was right.  Can we identify a Mitzvah that we, too, can do with mesirus nefesh--performing it fully against the popular or populist view because it is what is right and proper?  We each have tremendous power and potential within us.  We, too, can be a Macabi (what is your acronym--enable it now!).  Let us take the lesson from Chanukah--and empower our opportunities



Special Note Four:  There is a beautiful short tefillah from the Pele Yoetz (p. 426) to be recited prior to Hadlakas Neiros.  If you have (or can purchase) this wonderful Sefer, we highly recommend this meaningful tefillah.



Special Note Five:  The Magen Avraham (Shulchan Aruch, Orach Chayim 676, seif katan 2) writes that one recites 36 words in Haneiros Halallu (corresponding to the 36 neiros lit on Chanukah).  In most editions of the Siddur that we know of, the Nusach contains more than 36 words.  A copy of the published nusach of the prayer consisting of exactly 36 words, which is found in the Siddur Rashban, is available by clicking here



Special Note Six:  Now that you are assembling we hope at least 8 answers to the Bais Yosef’s great question as to why we observe 8 days of Chanukah and not 7 (because there was enough oil for one day so the oil only miraculously burned for 7 days), may we ask if you can identify:  A.  The Bais Yosef’s three answers, and a difficulty with each of the three answers; and B.  An answer that is alluded to in the Maoz Tzur itself (pay attention to what you are singing!)?



Special Note Seven:  Why do we light 36 Neiros over Chanukah (excluding the Shamash)?  Answer:  


a.  According to the Sefer Rokeach it is because Adam HaRishon used the Ohr HaGanuz for 36 hours before it was hidden away.  In fact, the Bnai Yissoschar in the name of R’ Pinchas of Karitz writes that although we may not see it when lighting, the Ohr HaGanuz itself is revealed at the time of the Hadlakas Neiros!


b.  The Neiros symbolize Torah SheBaal Peh, and there are 36 Revealed Mesechtos in Shas (Sefer Taamei Dinim U’Minhagim).



Special Note Eight:  When one lights a candle, it is used as a source of light and especially used to search for something.  In fact, Chazal at the outset of Mesectha Pesachim utilize the Pasuk “Achapes Es Yerushalayim B’Neiros--I will search Yerushalayim with candles” to teach that one uses candles for bedikas chometz.  This being so, what does one search for with the neiros Chanukah?  The Sefer Zerah Kodesh suggests that it is Yiras Shamayim that one can find in the Neiros!



Special Note Nine:  More from the Sefer Sichos Ba’Avodas Hashem by HaRav Yaakov Meisels, Shlita:  The Kedushas Levi, Rebbe Levi Yitzchok, Z’tl, once found a group of his acquaintances talking about the wealth and pleasures of the Polish magnate Grof Pototsky.  “There is no ta’anug--no pleasure--that he has not enjoyed,” said one of the people to the Rebbe.  “Does he light Neiros Chanukah?” asked the Rebbe.  “Certainly not, I’m sure that he doesn’t even know how or what it is.”  “In that case,” responded the Rebbe, “he has no clue--no idea whatsoever--of what true ta’anug really is!”



Related Note:  The Yesod VeShoresh Ha’Avodah writes that when one makes the bracha of She'Asah Nissim at Hadlakas Neiros, he should have in mind great thanks and praise for the miraculous victories in war that occurred, considering it as if these incredible nissim and yeshuos were performed for him personally.  Moreover, the Kedushas Levi adds that Hashem does in fact perform nissim, niflaos and yeshuos now (‘Bizman Hazeh”) for all of us both in ruchniyus and gashmius--each person in accordance with his individual needs.  Now **that** is real ta’anug!



Special Note Ten:   The Sefer Taamei Dinim U’Minhagim brings from the Tashbatz (Siman 258) that before the Chashmonaim went to war, they recited the Pasuk of “Vihi Noam Hashem…” (Tehillim 90:17 ) seven times, and then the Pasuk “Orech Yamim Asbiayhu…” (91:16) two times, and were then victorious in war!  It is for this (great) reason that some have the custom of reciting these two Pesukim these specified number of times after Hadlakas Neiros.



Special Note Eleven:  You can find the Megilas Antiochus in English by clicking here.  Why not read it after Hadlakas Neiros?



Special Note Twelve:  We provide the following P’Sakim of HaRav Shmuel Kamenetsky, Shlita, as excerpted from the very recently published (Kislev 5771) Sefer Koveitz Halachos by Rabbi Doniel Kleinman, Shlita:


1.  Lechatchila, one may use Shemen Zayis which was placed under a bed that was slept upon.  


2.  Although one may not use a combination of oil and candles for his Neiros, one may use different oils on any given night, because they are considered similar enough to each other.


3.  One need not use the candle that was used as the candle to light the Neiros Chanukah as his Shamash. 


4.  Even if the glass cups which are inserted into a Menorah cannot stand on their own because of the narrow piece of glass that fits snugly into the Menorah, one can consider the cup to still be a Kli--for it is specifically manufactured to be used in this way. 


5.  One need not clean out his glass cup from oil residue of the previous night, for the residue is considered “shiurei mitzvah”, and is not ma’us.  Similarly, yesterday’s used wicks may light better than new wicks, and accordingly, one may lechatchila use the previous night’s wicks to light with. 


6.  There is no Hiddur Mitzvah in oil burning for longer than one-half hour after lighting.  However, there is still a Ma’alah in putting in more oil as long as people are still passing by--for there is greater Pirsumei Nissa.  Pirsumei Nissa does not apply to Akum viewing the Neiros, but it does apply to non-Shomrei Torah U’Mitzvos who can view the Neiros out of your window.  In actuality, there is no difference between lighting in the dining room or bedroom--one should light where there is the greatest Pirsumei Nissa.


7.  The Halacha that the Neiros Chanukah be lechatchila lit more than three and less than ten tefachim above the ground applies if one places his Menorah at the doorway.  However,

if one places his Menorah on the window sill, then the flame of the Ner is recognizable even above ten tefachim, and the neiros may be lit there lechatchila, even if the flames of the Neiros will be above ten tefachim from the floor. 


8.  One should wait for his wife to light if she is not home at the initial candle lighting time.


9.  It is better for the Ba’al HaBayis to designate someone else to light on time as his Shaliach, rather than push off the lighting until later so that the Ba’al HaBayis will be able to light by himself.  This is true even if the Ba’al HaBayis is always at work at this time on weekdays, and will have a Shaliach lighting for him every week night! 


10.  It is better to light with wax candles at the earliest time to light, than to light with oil even a little bit later. 


11.  If the Shamash goes out within a half hour of lighting, and no other electric lights are on, one should relight the Shamash. 


12.  If the three Brachos on the first night are recited out of order, one is still Yotzei.  However, if after the Brachos one said something unrelated to the lighting--even HaNeiros Halallu which should be recited later, than he must recite the Brachos again.  Similarly, if one mistakenly recited Shehechiyanu on the second night after reciting the first two Brachos, he must recite the first two Brachos again. 


13.  If somebody is traveling in a car from the time of Hadlakas Neiros until the morning, and no one is lighting in his home, he should stop off at the side of the road, and light Neiros Chanukah in the car with a Bracha.  Even if they are lighting at home, but because of his traveling he will not otherwise see Neiros Chanukah that night, he should light in the car, having in mind not to be Yotzei with the lighting in the home so that he can make a Bracha on his lighting.  Similarly, if a guest wants to light on his own, he should not do so with a Bracha if Neiros are otherwise being lit in his home, unless he has specific intent not to be Yotzei with the lighting back in his home.


14.  One may extinguish the Neiros after they have stayed lit for the shiur of a half-hour, and one may even benefit from them after the half-hour period.  The Minhag, however, is not to use the Neiros for one’s personal benefit even after the half-hour period has passed.  If one needs to do so, he should first extinguish the Neiros and then relight them. 


15.  A son or son in-law at his parents or in law’s home for Shabbos Chanukah should light at their home on Motzei Shabbos even if he intends to return to his own home that night, and he does not even have to eat Melave Malka in their home.


Hakhel Note:  As with the P’Sakim of HaRav Elyashiv, Shlita, provided yesterday, all P’Sakim presented in our Bulletins are for the purposes of Torah study and discussion--but every person must consult with his own Rav or Posek on any Halachic Shailah that he may have.




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