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REMEMBERING CHANUKAH:  At the end of HaNeiros Halalu we recite words in which we thank and praise Hashem--Al Nisecha VeAl Niflaosecha VeAl Yeshuasecha.  What is the difference between these three important acknowledgments--Nisecha, Niflaosecha and Yeshuasecha?! 




Special Note One:  We continue our series on Brachos, with practical Teshuvos in Hilchos Brachos given by Rabbi Yisroel Pinchos Bodner, Shlita, author of Halachos of Brochos (Feldheim).  Of course, one should consult with his own Rav or Posek on every Shailah that he has.




Q I would like to know what bracha should be made for rice cakes made from corn.


A. Products made from corn flour would require a Shehakol, but since the “rice cakes made from corn” are made from corn kernels which are whole and intact like popped corn the brocha would be Hoadoma and Borei Nefashos.


Additional Note One on Brachos:  How do we know that we are to mention the term Melech HaOlam in a bracha?  It is from the very familiar Pasuk Aromimcha Elokai HaMelech (Tehillim 145:1)--I will exalt You Hashem the King.  What a wonderful thought to have before reciting a bracha-- Aromimcha Elokai HaMelech!


Additional Note Two on Brachos:  We have embarked on our goal of greater Kavannah in Borei Nefashos over the next approximately 40 day period.  Assuming one makes a Borei Nefashos just five times a day--this will result in an improved 200 brachos in a little over a month.  The Mishna Berura (Orach Chaim 207, seif katan 5) takes the time to bring from the Tur the essential meaning of Borei Nefashos.  The following is largely based on the words of the Mishna Berura, as expounded by Rabbi Bodner, in the Halachos of Brochos:  “The acknowledgement expressed in Borei Nefoshos is unique.  It contains a much broader acknowledgement than that of other Brachos Achronos.  Borei Nefoshos acknowledges that Hashem gives and sustains life to the entire Universe.  The explanation of the bracha is as follows: “We acknowledge that:


Borei Nefashos Rabbos--He created (and continues to create) numerous living creatures;


VeChesronam--and supplies them with their basic essentials (e.g., bread, water)


Al Kol Mah SheBarah…---and on top of this even supplies all creatures (of which we are a part!) with beneficial non-essential things (i.e., abundant varieties of foods, fruits, and other delicacies).”


Boruch Chei HaOlamim--Thank you Hashem for giving life to the entire universe!”  The Avudraham notes that term used here is in the plural Olamim--not just Olam--because Hashem is the Life Giver of both Olam HaZeh and Habba!  


Let us meaningfully express Borei Nefashos throughout the day!


Additional Note Three on Brachos:  Those studying the Daf HaYomi have been exposed over the last days to various kinds of mumin, or blemishes that a person can have.  On each mum that one does not have--one can and should thank Hashem for being ‘normal!’  There is a wonderful thought on the Shemone Esrei which is related in the name of the Chassidic masters:  “Why does the bracha of Sim Shalom come after the bracha of Modim?  After all, isn’t our request for Shalom a preeminent request which should be found even before the all-encompassing bracha of Shome’ah Tefillah?!  An essential answer is that only if we express proper Hoda’ah, proper thanks to Hashem for what we have--can we be zoche to the ultimate bracha of Shalom.  Once we have sincerely and meaningfully expressed Modim Anachnu Lach--do we have the right and privilege to request Sim Shalom…--and receive it!



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


A.  A Borer question:  On Shabbos morning, we all understand that we can pick a Siddur out of a pile or out of a Seforim Shrank which has mixed kinds of Siddurim in order to use it to daven with as one enters the Shul.  After all, davening will begin shortly.  However, can one also select a Chumash as he enters Shul if it is mixed with other kinds of Chumashim on the shelf or in a pile--after all Leining will not begin for an hour or so?!


B.  Fascinatingly, the last Halacha in Hilchos Chanukah of the Rambam teaches that if one is capable of purchasing either Shabbos licht or Chanukah licht--then he should purchase Shabbos licht because of the Shalom Bayis that they bring along with them.  With this Halacha, placed at the climax of Hilchos Chanukah, the Rambam is at the very least pointing out to us that although we treasure the yearly opportunity to bask in the warm and astounding glow of the Chanukah candles, the wonderful privilege of the weekly Shabbos candles should be perhaps even more enjoyed and appreciated!  In the outstanding new Sefer on Shabbos for children (and the entire family), Can’t Wait for Shabbos!, Rabbi Yehuda Winzelberg, Shlita, teaches the following (p.95):  “The Mitzvah of lighting the Shabbos candles is extremely precious.  Rabbeinu Bachya in Parshas Yisro teaches that when a woman lights the candles with Simcha--genuine happiness, she has the power to have all of her Tefillos answered by Hashem!”


C.  Every Wednesday HaRav Yisroel Dov Webster, Shlita, noted Posek , Dayan Shaarei Mishpat, and author of The Halachos of Pregnancy and Childbirth, gives a Hakhel Shiur to women in Boro Park attended now by approximately 150 women.  Last winter he gave a series of Shiurim on Hilchos Bishul, and at the end of the series the women were given a bechina of 100 questions. We have previously provided the questions to the first 59 questions, and we will now continue with the goal of completing all 100 questions.


**PLEASE NOTE** Rabbi Webster’s Shiur, which this year is on the Halachos of Kashrus in the Kitchen, has now moved to the Agudah of 18th Ave , 5413 18th Avenue .  It is on Wednesday mornings from 10AM to 11AM , and admission is free.


60. What is Hatmana?
    Hatmana is the wrapping of food in order to store or contain heat.  There are two types of Hatmana. Hatmana that adds heat - Mosif Hevel, and Hatmana that retains the heat -Aino Mosif Hevel Ela Ma’amid Hevel.  Enveloping a food item with towels, sheets or cloth near or on a heat source is Hatmana that adds heat.  Although the wrappings do not add heat, the entire arrangement does, as we view the wrappings together with the heat source as a method that adds heat.


61. Is one permitted to wrap a piece of kugel and put it into a cholent pot?
One is permitted to wrap a kugel in order for it not to fall apart and put it in the cholent before Shabbos.


62. Is one permitted to insulate a pot that became unwrapped-- in a heat-retaining material on Shabbos?
Yes, as long as the food is completely cooked and wrapped in the heat retaining material before Shabbos.



Special Note Three:  At the recent Hakhel Shiur, Rabbi Fischel Shachter, Shlita, brought an important teaching from someone who has greater monetary wealth than him:  “Do you know what the difference is between you, Rabbi Shachter, and me is?  You think that when you come into some money, all of problems will be solved.  I already have the money--so I already know that this is not so!”



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 was yesterday):  “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:  We provide the following points and pointers on the Parsha: 


A.  The Sefer Talelei on this week’s Parsha 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!


Important 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 together!


B.   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.


C.  HaRav Yaakov Meisels, Shlita, powerfully shows from Yosef how far one should go to avoid humiliating, embarrassing, hurting or paining another:


1.  When Yosef revealed his identity to his brothers, he first ordered all of the Mitzriim out of the room so that his brothers would not feel the shame and embarrassment upon his disclosure.  Can one imagine the great risk literally of life that he had placed himself in?!  He had left himself alone in the room with his brothers, who had previously intended to take his life for Halachic reasons--and he had no knowledge or basis for determining that they had changed their Halachic Ruling!  The Medrash Tanchuma teaches, in fact, that Yosef had determined--better that I be killed than that my brothers be embarrassed before the Mitzriim.


Moreover, we must remember that Yosef had gone through the entire episode with his brothers because he understood that his dreams had to be realized, not for personal purposes, but for K’lal Yisroel--and ultimately world history.  He had gone through such torment in Mitzrayim physically and spiritually awaiting fruition of the dreams, and was so close to their fulfillment (and to once again seeing his father which he so longed for in its own right), but made the decision that none of this--even fulfillment of the dreams for the world--was worth it--and he was going to very literally risk his life with the good possibility that his brothers (who could have taken on all of Mitzrayim) would kill him--all of this so that his brothers would be saved the pain and embarrassment before the Mitzriim who were in the palace at that moment.


2.  When Yosef revealed his identity, and he saw that his brothers were so ashamed, he put aside all of his years of disgrace, disgust and exile, being away from his father, his home and environment, and instead immediately tried to mollify them with words of appeasement--so that they should not even feel hurt before him.  He told them that they had not done wrong...as through their actions the future of K’lal Yisroel would be assured.  He kissed them--and even told them not to argue among themselves over this on the way home!  Hakhel Note:  We may add to Rabbi Meisels’ incredible observation that the thoughts of the Ba’alei Mussar on this point.  The Ba’alei Mussar write that from Yosef we learn that one must be Mai’tiv to those who are Mai’rah to him.  We note that Yosef is referred to as Yosef HaTzaddik, not Yosef HeChassid--which teaches us that we must follow this path which is not one of piety, but one of Tzedek--what is just and right.  Take the bold step--next time someone does something to you which was hurtful, try an act of goodness or kindness in return!


3.  Rabbi Meisels concludes as follows--certainly incorporating the thoughts of the Ba’alei Mussar as well.  “How far must we distance ourselves from shaming another, from the hurt or disgrace they may feel, from the opportunity for even “justified” revenge, from making someone the subject of a cute joke, from making him feel foolish, childish, silly, ignorant or wrong.  Situations arise all the time, at home, at work, while driving, at the checkout counter.  We are faced with daily challenges where we can use that one line, that one opportunity, that one time that you can (finally) teach someone a real lesson.  In truth, these are all opportunities of life--not to demonstrate your mastery, superiority, prowess, verbal skills, wit or wisdom--but to show that you, too, can treat your brothers with the notion of concern and kindliness, with the compassion, with the sensitivity and caring, that Yosef did his!”


D.  What word in this week’s Parsha is spelled by the letters on the dreidel (see Bereishis 46:29)?  What does this teach you about how we can succeed against the other nations of the world--until Moshiach’s arrival?  Can we find one act in our daily life in which we can fulfill the dreidel’s teaching each and every day?!



Special Note One:  We continue our series on Brachos, with practical Teshuvos in Hilchos Brachos given by Rabbi Yisroel Pinchos Bodner, Shlita, author of Halachos of Brochos (Feldheim).  Of course, one should consult with his own Rav or Posek on every Shailah that he has.




Q: May I ask what brocha to make on ice cream in a cone?


A: . Most people eat ice cream cones to enhance the ice cream.  Therefore, the ice cream requires a Shehakol, and the cone (even though it is a tofel) requires a Mezonos (thus two brachos rishona are to be made).  If wafer cone is used in place of a cup (just a convenient way of holding ice cream and eating it without a cup or plate) no brocha is required for the cone.  If you do not eat a k’zayis within a maximum of 6 minutes (i.e., you lick the ice cream and nibble on the cone) then no brocha achrona at all is required.


Additional Note on Brachos: 



Special Note Two:  It is interesting that we only recite Hallel at certain times or periods during the year.  One would think that Hallel should be the cornerstone of our daily life--after all, does not Dovid HaMelech teach us in the last Pasuk of the entire Sefer Tehillim: “Kol HaNeshama Tehallel Ka Halleluka--let all souls say Hallel to Hashem!”  Chazal to this Pasuk comment--”Al Kol Neshima--on each and every breath” that I take Hashem should be praised.  Thus, the language of “Hallel” applies, as Dovid Hamelech teaches, to all souls, and as Chazal further expound, to every breath.


So, why is it then that we do not recite Hallel every day of our lives--and, in fact, Chazal teach that we must refrain from doing do?  The preliminary response might be that we would simply get “too used” to its recitation and it would not have the forceful effect that it is intended to have.  However, we do, in fact, recite Shema at least twice a day, and Shemone Esrei at least three times daily and we are enjoined and expected to have the proper thoughts and feelings in its recitation.  Why should Hallel be any different?


Perhaps the answer lies in the following:  Hallel begins with the word “Halleluka”.  One would expect that Hallel would end with this word, as well.  However, in fact, Hallel ends with the Pasuk “Hodu Lashem Ki Tov Ki L’Olam Chasdo (Tehillim 118:29)--give thanks to Hashem for He is Good; for His Kindness endures forever.”  Thus, we conclude, we walk away, from Hallel not with the word Halleluka but with a thought that is to be impressed upon our minds and in our hearts on a daily basis.  It is not Hallel that we are to achieve daily, but Hodu Lashem Ki Tov Ki L’Olam Chasdo--not an expression of intense exuberance, but a steady and consistent appreciation and understanding.


As we go through the winter months, when life seems more tedious and difficult, when even daily chores and responsibilities appear to be more of a struggle, we should try to keep that Pasuk with which we left the portal to winter, the last Hallel of Chanukah, “Hodu Lashem Ki Tov…” foremost in our minds.  Whether it is the green light or the red light, the broken phone or the new computer, the slush and ice or the bright sunshine, the compliment or the criticism--it is all for my good--and Hashem, thank You for it!!



Special Note Three:  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 5772 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.


As we have noted in the past, 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 Four:  Some additional post-Chanukah points and pointers:


A.  Think of all the Nissim that we have remembered and thanked Hashem for over the last eight days.  Now, think about “VeAl Nisecha SheBechol Yom Imanu!”.  Hakhel Note:  If one would ask a medical laboratory how many medical tests it could perform, the answer would be in the thousands (we have verified this).  As a basic starting point--think of the thousands of tests that you do not need performed on you today!


B.  Are we allowed to ask for miracles?  Do miracles detract from our Zechusim?  Do they detract from from the regular Hanhagas HaOlam?  These are, of course, complex questions.  However, on Chanukah we were allowed to say HaRachaman Hu Ya’aseh Lanu Nissim VeNaflaos Kemo

She’Assa LaAvoseinu….  The Yeshuos Yaakov explains that even if we may not be allowed to ask for personal and private miracles, we can ask for great miracles--like the miracles of Chanukah--to recur again, because the Pirsumei Nissa--the public awareness will sanctify Hashem’s Name in a great way.  Thus, we can--and should--daven for great miracles--such as those that will accompany the coming of Moshiach!  Hakhel Note:  Some commentaries on the Siddur explain the words Ki Goel Chazak Atta--as expressing just this thought--asking Hashem for the great miracles that will accompany the Geulah!


C.  Rebbi Shlomo Karliner, Z’tl, noticed some black spots on his wall which resulted from placing his Menorah a bit to close.  He rejoiced, exclaiming:  “Now I will be able to visually remember Chanukah every day of the year!” 

Hakhel Note:  Maybe we can rejoice in something similar--such as an oil spill, darkened window curtains or the like!


D.  At the recent Hakhel Yarchei Kallah, Rabbi Fischel Shachter, Shlita, taught that the Pach Shemen beautifully symbolizes that hope is never, ever lost--as from but a small jar of oil that Hashem gifted to us--an entire people was able to be rejuvenated.  This is also certainly the case on an individual level.  One should always find the Pach Shemen--for it is always there!


E.  The Satmar Rebbe, Z’tl, finds an allusion to the Neiros of Chanukah in the Pasuk “Orachti Ner Lemshichi”.  He explains that if one properly appreciates the lessons of Chanukah--then Hashem will consider it as if he has set up the lights--for Moshiach!  Now is the time to write down several lessons that you learned from Chanukah, and how you bli neder, can/will implement them in your everyday life.



Special Note Five:  After the Chanukah milestone, we look to about six weeks of Winter until 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 also like to provide a thought based upon the teachings of HaRav Meir Schuck, Z’tl, 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 the Spring time, we will have brought Spring into our Winter!



Special Note One:  We continue our series on Brachos, with practical Teshuvos in Hilchos Brachos given by Rabbi Yisroel Pinchos Bodner, Shlita, author of Halachos of Brochos (Feldheim).  Of course, one should consult with his own Rav or Posek on every Shailah that he has.




Q: My office will be having a small Chanukah party today.  I ordered potato latkes with sour cream and apple sauce and jelly doughnuts.  What are the correct brachos?


A: Mezonos for the doughnuts, no additional brocha for the jelly.  Hoadoma for the latkes, no additional brocha for the sour cream or for the apple sauce eaten together with the latke. (Halachos of Brochos, p. 58).


Additional Note on Brachos:  As we have now concluded the months of Tishrei, Cheshvan and Kislev, the first quarter of the year has now been completed.  What a glorious way to start the second quarter--with Chanukah reaching its climax!  The inspiration of Chanukah should imbue us with a spirit of Hoda’ah LaHashem for the remaining 75% (a substantial majority!) of the year--which can find no greater expression then in uplifted brachos 100 times a day, each and every day. 

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--as alluded to in the Pasuk BeZos Yechupar Avon Yaakov (Yeshaya 23:9).  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:  The following is excerpted from the unique and powerful English Sefer The Book of Our Heritage, by Rabbi Eliyahu Kitov, Z’tl (Feldheim Publishers):  Today is referred to as Zos Chanukah [literally, This is Chanukah”] because the Torah portion read on this day concludes with the phrase, Zos Chanukas Ha-Mizbe’ach (Bamidbar 7:88) This is the dedication of the altar.”  Chazal interpreted this Pasuk allegorically:  Zos Chanukah-this, the Eighth Day, is the essence of Chanukah.  The number eight alludes to eternity, to those things which transcend nature and which are not constrained by time.  The number seven alludes to that which is time bound e.g., the seven days of the week--while eight alludes to that which is no longer bound by time.  The Eighth Day of Chanukah parallels the Chag of Shemini Atzeres which follows the seven days of the Chag HaSukkos.  Just as Shemini Atzeres contains the essence of all of the festivals that precede it -the atonement aspect of the Days of Awe and the joyous aspect of Sukkos--so too does this last day of Chanukah contain all of the aspects of happiness, salvation, praise, and thanksgiving of the previous days.  The Torah commands us to observe three festivals:  Pesach, Shavuos, and Sukkos.  Parallel to these three festivals which are specifically mentioned in the written Torah, Chazal were given the ability--as the masters of the orally transmitted Torah--to create three festivals.  These three festivals are reflections of the clear light of the written Torah which illuminates them, just as the moon reflects the light of the sun.  When Bnei Yisroel accepted the three festivals which were given to them by Hashem, their observance of these festivals formed an impression upon them which allowed for the establishment of other festivals which are illuminated by the light of the original ones.  Thus the light of Chanukah is a reflection of the light of Sukkos and Shemini Atzeres--the period of our rejoicing.”  Sukkos commemorates Bnei Yisroel’s having faithfully followed Hashem into a wilderness, entering under the shelter of His faith. She found her joy in Him, extending the time of rejoicing for still another day on Shemini Atzeres.  This “light” formed’ an impression on her soul, and therefore, even when she faced tormentors who sought to sink her into darkness and to separate her from her Father in Heaven, she had the merit to be able to leave the dark and bask in the light, to once again dwell in the shelter of His faith without interference.  Moreover, she was given a new light, the light of Chanukah, the essence of whose rejoicing is manifested in cleaving to Torah and its mitzvos.  The light of Purim, in turn, is a reflection of the light of Shavuos -the “time of the giving of the Torah.”  Bnei Yisroel declared:  We shall do and we shall hear (Shemos 24:7) when standing at the foot of Har Sinai.  She established a covenant with Hashem, a covenant that was renewed in every generation, a covenant which formed an impression on her soul.  Even when she was subjugated to a hard” king who set out to annihilate all the Jews, she reaffirmed her acceptance of the original covenant of “we shall do and we shall hear”.  Moreover, she was given a new light, the light of Purim, the essence of whose rejoicing is the establishment of a new covenant pledging her loving willingness to keep that which they had already received.  At the time of our final Geulah--may it come speedily in our days--a new light shall shine upon Bnei Yisroel, a reflection of the light of the redemption of Pesach--our third new festival!  It shall shine in the merit of the fact that she did not despair of being redeemed, because she expected it daily and because she retained the joy of that first redemption even in the darkest hours of her exile.  Regarding this future day, our Nevi’im taught (Michah 7:15):  As in the days when you left the land of Egypt I shall show you wonders, and (Yirmeyahu 16:115):  Therefore behold, days are coming, says Hashem, and it will no longer be said, as Hashem lives, who has taken the Bnei Yisroel up out of Egypt.  But rather, as Hashem lives, Who has taken the Bnei Yisroel up out of the land of the north and from all of the lands in which He dispersed them.  And I shall return them to their Land which I gave to their fathers.


Chazal said: Even if all the other festivals will be annulled, the festivals of Purim and Chanukah will not be annulled.  To what can this be compared?  To one who was given money to invest in a business. He did so and earned great profit.  Even if later they should come and take back that which they give him, what he profited on his own will not be taken from him.  The same is true of the festivals which the Torah ordained.  They were given in grace to Israel, who lacked the merit to earn them on their own.  As for Purim and Chanukah, however, they earned them through their own deeds-- through their willingness to sacrifice themselves for the purity of their faith on Chanukah, and through their having voluntarily accepted the covenant of the Torah on Purim.  This merit was further enhanced by virtue of the fact that they accomplished all these things despite being in a state of oppression and enslavement.


Because Chanukah and Purim were achieved by Israel through the merit of her own deeds, the sanctity of these festivals is equally experienced by all Jews wherever they live.  The later Sages explained that this is the reason that these festivals-- as opposed to those ordained by the Torah--are not celebrated for an extra day outside the Land of Israel.  In addition to the doubt as to the correct day on which the festival is to be observed, another reason has been suggested for celebrating an extra day outside the Land of Israel.  When we are in the Diaspora, we lack the spiritual strength to absorb the sanctity of the festival in one day alone.  In the Land of Israel, the sanctity of the land assists us in absorbing the holiness of the festival.  Chanukah and Purim,  however, are festivals which the Jews earned with their own merit.  Their sanctity is thus closer to Israel ’s inner soul and we therefore find it easier to bask in their glow - even outside the Land of Israel- and thus do not require an extra day!”

Hakhel Note:  What outstanding and beautiful thoughts.  The Book of Our Heritage is filled with these thoughts, and of course we highly recommend purchasing this Sefer and studying its wonderful words.  

 Special Note Four:  We received the following meaningful note from a reader:  “As you’ve so often pointed out, Minhagai Yisroel are so very precious to us, on many levels.  Our daughter reminded us of the significance of playing dreidel (which I think comes from the Maharal):  Although in Chutz Laaretz we play with a dreidel that has a nun, gimmel, hey, shin, many even in Eretz Yisroel play with a dreidel that has nun, gimmel, hey, shin, as well, because these letters allude to the 4 exiles, so when the dreidel “falls” on a letter, it alludes to that malchus’ downfall: Nun=nefesh, which is Malchus Bavel who tried to destroy our nefesh, namely our ruchnius and gashmius.  Gimmel =guf, which symbolizes Paras U’Madai who tried to destroy our bodies.  Shin=seichel, which symbolizes Yavan, who tried to coerce us to accept their seichel (values).  Hei =hakol, all, which is symbolized by Malchus Edom which encompasses all of the previous three.  And Hashem is The Spinner, on top of it all, who allowed these kingdoms to fall and who will, speedily in our days, make the Malchus Edom fall, as well.  Hakhel Note:  Although today is the last day of Chanukah, we can still do our part in pleading with Hashem to make the dreidel fall on Hei--in which case the whole world will once and for all be the winners!


Special Note Five:  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.]


Special Note Six:  Many of us may be familiar with the famous question of the P’nei Yehoshua--if the Halacha is that “tuma hutra b’tzibur”--impure objects are permitted to be used by the tzibur--then what was the problem using all of the oil rendered impure by the Greeks?  The Menorah had to be lit for all of K’lal Yisroel and, accordingly, the impure oil was perfectly permissible for use by the tzibur.  Succinctly stated, the miracle of the oil was simply not necessary according to Halacha!  There is a beautiful answer to this question; given by HaRav Chaim Shmuelevitz, Z’tl, (whose Yahrtzeit is tomorrow, 3 Teves).  HaRav Shmuelevitz asks why we place such a great emphasis on the miracle of finding the oil--even over and above winning the wars against the Greeks themselves.  After all, it is much easier to find things one would not expect to find than for a handful of people to defeat the mightiest warriors in the world!  Furthermore, with the finding of the small jug of oil, a miracle happened for only an additional seven days.  Yet, because of the successful wars, the Jewish people and their fulfillment of the Torah were saved forever.


To answer this question, HaRav Shmuelevitz notes that the Torah goes out of its way to teach us that when Yosef was brought down to Egypt by the merchants, they were carrying all kinds of fine-smelling spices, rather than the odorous items that they usually carried (See Beraishis 37:25, and Rashi there).  At first glance, it is difficult to understand why what they were carrying mattered at all.  Yosef is at the nadir of his life.  A few days ago, he had been learning Torah with his father, the Gadol HaDor, and now he was surrounded by idol worshippers who are going to sell him into slavery in a morally bereft country.  In a time of darkness such as this, would it make any difference at all what the odors were around him?


The answer is a most definitive “Yes!”  The sweet smell of the spices and fragrances were intended to be a sign to Yosef that even in his darkest hour Hashem was with him, and that he was not lost or forgotten.  Yosef now understood that there was purpose, meaning, and a plan to what was going on around him.  Every miracle, large or small, indicates a “Haoras Panim”--a light from Hashem which shines upon the person and reminds him that he is at all times in Hashem’s embrace.


So, too, here, the miracle of finding a jug of pure oil does, in fact, pale in significance to the miracles that took place during the incredible wars, and the glorious result for the Torah and the Jewish people.  Nonetheless, we celebrate the small jug because it demonstrates Hashem’s “Haoras Panim”--His singular love, His unique care, His special concern for us as His children at all times and in all circumstances.


A parent who does not appreciate his child will only provide him with the absolute essentials that he really needs.  On the other hand, a parent who truly loves his child will go beyond what the child absolutely requires, and will, in fact, go overboard and indulge the child.  If the miracle of Chanukah had only been to give the “mighty into the hands of the weak” or the “many into the hands of the few,” this would have exemplified Hashem providing for our absolute needs only, for He had assured our forefathers that we would continue to exist as a Torah people, and His word must be kept.  But the miracle of Chanukah went well beyond that--it reached to the jug of oil.  It is this Haoras Panim that we celebrate--that Hashem’s affection for us is so great that it extended to that little jug.


Yes, tuma may be hutra b’tzibur--but His love for us goes so much beyond that, and we can and should reciprocate this feeling.


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


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



Special Note Seven:  One final thought:  A reader pointed out to us that the first four letters of Mizmor Shir Chanukas HaBayis, which we have been reciting over Chanukah, form the word Simcha.  Our Avodah over Chanukah has been the Avodah of LeHodos U’LeHallel--which are Avodos SheBalev.  As we imbibe the last day of Chanukah, we must intend to keep the elevated spirit within us throughout the year.  For those in Chutz LaAretz--we can view ourselves as having just elevated ourselves by taking a trip to Eretz Yisroel.  We don’t have to get down after Chanukah--as we keep our elevated Eighth Day spirit--and stay in Eretz Yisroel for the rest of the year!



Special Note One:  The Taz writes from the Rambam in Hilchos Chanukah, it appears that the days of Chanukah are “Yemei Simcha”.  In fact, the Seder HaYom specifically writes:  “On the days of Chanukah, one should not be down or sad.  Rather, one should express Sasson and Simcha for all of the good that Hashem did for us during these days, and on the day of Rosh Chodesh Teves--Yosif Simcha Al Simchaso--one should add Simcha on top of the Simcha that he is already experiencing!”



Special Note Two:  From A Reader:  “In response to your question of why Chanukah spans two months--Kislev and Teves,  the Sefer Avodas P’nim (a choshuve Slonimer Chossid) writes that the two Nissim of Chanuka were a manifestation of the Kochos of the particular Shevet represented by these two months.  The first month of Kislev in which the Neis of the victory of the Milchomoh occurred is the month of Shevet Gad (using the count of starting with Reuvein in Nissan). The brachos of Shevet Gad as we see from both Yaakov Avinu and Moshe Rabbeinu were for military prowess. Thus Chanukah begins in Kislev.  However, it continues into Teves which is a manifestation of the Kochos of Shevet Asher.  Again as we see from both Yaakov Avinu and Moshe Rabbeinu the Brachos of Shevet Asher were for Shemen Zayis...the rest is history for us to learn from!”



Special Note Three:  We continue our series on Brachos, with practical Teshuvos in Hilchos Brachos given by Rabbi Yisroel Pinchos Bodner, Shlita, author of Halachos of Brochos (Feldheim).  Of course, one should consult with his own Rav or Posek on every Shailah that he has.




Q:  Erev Shabbos my Chanukah menorah was set up next to my neighbor’s menorah. He lit my menorah by mistake, and rushed off to shul. There was no time before Shabbos to run and ask him permission to light his menorah. So I just lit his. Was I correct?


A:  When similar items are mistakenly switched, such as switched galoshes in shul, it is customary for people not to mind if the other person uses theirs. Therefore you were correct. (Based on Igros Moshe Orach Chaim Vol. V 9, 7, see Halachos of Other People’s Money p. 199).


Additional Note on Brachos:  Al HaNissim is placed into the bracha of Hoda’ah both in Shemone Esrei and in bentsching.  Although we do not do so when bentsching (perhaps because we must be in a sitting position), we bow when we recite the words Modim Anachnu Lach.  One explanation given for the act of bowing is that it brings the brachos which are in the heavens above down to this earth through our appreciation and submissiveness.  Fascinatingly, in the Al HaNissim, rather than emphasize the Nes of the Pach Hashemen, Chazal emphasize the Nissim that took place in the Milchamos.  We may mistakenly think that the victories in the wars were a result of the great valor, talent and skill of the Maccabim elite forces.  To dispel this notion, we instead emphasize that everything, everything--even those items which we think are within and determined by our own ‘skill set’ and our own actions comes by, from and through Hashem.  You may have gone to the store to buy the fruit and pay money for it--but trace the money, the fruit--and yourself--back to their Origin and Source.  Now make the bracha!



Special Note Four:  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 Five:  Rav Shlomo Volbe, Z’tl, (Alei Shor, Vol. 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 Six:  We excerpt the following beautiful points from the Sefer Machsheves Tzaddik, a compilation of the teachings of Rebbe Tzadok HaKohein on Chanukah:


1.  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!


2.  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!


3.  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 Seven:  Before reciting Hallel tomorrow on the eighth day, let us take the following moving words of the Ben Ish Chai to heart:  VeYizaher BeHallel Shel Chanukah…one should be very careful when reciting Hallel on Chanukah--for on Pesach we say Hallel Shalem for only one day (two days in Chutz LaAretz)--and on Chanukah we say Hallel Shalem for all eight days).  Therefore, one should recite Hallel on Chanukah BeKavannah U’VeSimcha Rabba!

Hakhel Note:  Let’s especially feel the joy tomorrow--spread the word!



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


 Special Note One:  Rosh Chodesh Teves is the Rosh HaKedusha.  The Nasi we read today is the Nasi of Gad, from whom Eliyahu HaNavi will come.  The Nesi’im for tomorrow and the last day of Chanukah 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 will defeat Amalek.  With this ultimate victory, Ohr and Kedusah will be Mosif VeHoleich--will grow and grow forever!  (From the Sefer Machsheves Tzaddik)



Special Note Two:  We continue our series on Brachos, with practical Teshuvos in Hilchos Brachos given by Rabbi Yisroel Pinchos Bodner, Shlita, author of Halachos of Brochos (Feldheim).  Of course, one should consult with his own Rav or Posek on every Shailah that he has.




Q:  This Chanukah we are staying in a hotel. The hotel provides our group with a ballroom where we daven and have our kosher catered meals. The ball room does not have windows to the outside. The hotel dose not allow candle lighting in the bedrooms. Should we light in the bedrooms anyway, since only the bedrooms have windows to the outside, and hopefully they will not go so far as asking us to put it out, or should we just light in the ballroom?


A. Since the hotel specifically does not allow placement of the Chanukah menorah in the bedrooms, doing so would be considered “gezel”. (See Halachos of Other Peoples Money pg 55, note 132). The Shulchan Aruch rules that gezel of an akum is totally asur. ( S Aruch C”M 348, Halachos of Other Peoples Money pg 32).Therefore doing the mitzvah of lighting in the bedroom would be considered “mitzvah haboah b’avairah”. Thus you should light in the ballroom, where there is ample parsumei nissa for your Jewish family/group.


Additional Note One on Brachos:  We conclude the words of Al HaNissim not only with the words VeKavu Shemonas Yemei Chanukah Eilu LeHodos Ul’Hallel, but with the additional words LeShimcha HaGadol--to Your Great Name.  When we refer to Hashem’s “Name”, we are referring to how Hashem reveals Himself to us in this world.  Moreover, the word Gadol, explains HaRav Chaim Friedlander, Z’tl, refers to Hashem’s revealing to us of His Middah of Chessed.  This Middah is especially referred to as “Gadol” because it is the Ikar HaGedulah Shel Hashem Yisborach Shemegaleh Lanu--i.e., the Chesed that Hashem bestows upon us in this world is the greatest way He reveals Himself to us.  Accordingly, it very much behooves us to recognize and appreciate that Hashem is revealing Himself to us in this world through the kindness upon which we are making a bracha (or the kindness which we are requesting).  In the Zechus of our appropriate expression of recognition and thanks, HaRav Friedlander concludes, Hashem will increase the measure by which He shows us this “Shimcha HaGadol.  As we continue through Chanukah let us use it as a springboard of appreciation of the Shimcha HaGadol for the rest of the year by measurably improving in some way the manner in which we make our Brachos.  Just briefly rethinking this thought of HaRav Friedlander before making a bracha could go a long way!


Additional Note Two on Brachos: 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 to pray 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 Three: In honor of this momentous day in the year 5772, 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 vital 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!



Special Note One:  We continue our series on Brachos, with practical Teshuvos in Hilchos Brachos given by Rabbi Yisroel Pinchos Bodner, Shlita, author of Halachos of Brochos (Feldheim).  Of course, one should consult with his own Rav or Posek on every Shailah that he has.




Q: My wife is an exceptional cook, but is always busy tasting the food till she feels it is perfect. She would like to know if she is required to make a brocha whenever she tastes her food.’


A: If she can taste the food by savoring it in her mouth without swallowing, she may do so without making a brocha.  If she feels that this is not practical, then she do as the Mishnah Berura advises which is to first make a brocha and eat a bit of the food for enjoyment rather than for tasting, then she may continue tasting for the next half hour without a new bracha being necessary. (Mishnah Berura 210:19, Halachos of Brochos, p. 204).


Additional Note One on Brachos:  An essential element of Chanukah is Hoda’ah, and it accordingly becomes a highly propitious time for us to bli neder undertake some improvement in Brachos.  In Chassidic circles, the Pasuk Hodu LaHashem Ki Tov Ki LeOlam Chasdo is explained as follows:  If you may it a practice of giving thanks to Hashem for the goodness He bestows upon you--then you will see His Chessed upon you forever and ever! 


Additional Note Two on Brachos:  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 into other nations, 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 bracha 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 Two: We continue with our Erev Shabbos--Halachos of Shabbos Series:


A.  If you have the Sefer Pele Yoetz, we highly recommend the short and strong section entitled “Ner Shabbos VeNer Chanukah”, which contains the Tefillah that HaRav Pappo, Z’tl, would recite prior to kindling Neiros Chanukah. 


B.  It is reported that in the Beis HaMedrash of Reb Moshe of Kabrin, Z’tl, there were many Chasidim who would nearly faint (or even faint) from the great Hislahavus and Hishtapchus Hanefesh they experienced in giving Shevach V’Hoda’ah to Hashem while reciting Neshmas.  In fact, there were actually people appointed to revive them.  Certainly this Shabbos, in which the very atmosphere is especially infused with the Hoda’ah to Hashem inherent in Chanukah, should our Nishmas be inspiring and inspired.


C.  HaRav Shmuel Greineman, Z’tl, (the brother in- law of the Chazon Ish) was sent on a mission to a different city for the sake of Kavod Shabbos.  Upon boarding the train, HaRav Greineman was hit by its closing doors, and his nose bled profusely as a result.  Upon his return and his relating the story to the Chofetz Chaim, the Chofetz Chaim responded “I am Mekaneh you, for you were wounded LeKavod Shabbos!”  Clearly, everyone can do something LeKavod Shabbos for his community.  This special Shabbos, Shabbos Chanukah, should be suffused with a special Kedushas Shabbos, Kavod Shabbos, and some thoughts on how you can assist or inculcate your community with a higher level of Kedushas and Kavod Shabbos each and every week.  Be practical--and creative!


D.  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 ‘Karbon Todah’ can even be brought on Shabbos!


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


  1. 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!


  1. 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.


  1. 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 Three:  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 Four:  At a 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 Five:  We provide the following questions and answers relating to Chanukah, which are Kosher for Shabbos table and Chanukah Mesiba use.  Among the sources for these Shailos and Teshuvos are the Sefer Pardes Chanukah by Rabbi Avrohom Rosenwasser, Shlita, and The Essence of Chanukah Rabbi Dovid Meisels, Shlita:


1.         Question:  How many questions and answers do you think we will have?

Answer:   36, in addition to this question--representing the Neiros of Chanukah, and one Shamash.


2.         Question:  How many words are there in the Bracha of V’liYerushlayim Ircha?  What is the next brocha?  Similarly, how many letters are there in Baruch Sheim Kvode Malchuso LeOlam Voed?  What is the next word in Shema?  

Answer:  There are 24 words in the bracha of V’liYerushlayim Ircha, and 24 letters in Baruch Shem, which correspond to the 24 days of Kislev before Chanukah.  The next bracha in Shemone Esrei is Es Tzemach, alluding to the Yeshua of the Chanukah period (which, of course, we, too, can be zoche to during this time), and the 24 letters of Baruch Shem are followed by V’Ahavta, demonstrating the love of Hashem that was felt at that time.  (Which we, too, should practice during Chanukah, as well!)


3.         Question:  According to many Poskim, the first bracha every evening is LeHadlik Ner Chanukah, with the word “Shel” omitted in order to indicate that the Neiros may only be used for viewing and not for personal purposes.  Based upon this Nusach, how many words are there in this bracha, in the next bracha of Al HaNissim, and in the two brachos together?  What do each of these three numbers teach us?

Answer:  Each of these brachos has 13 words, representing, of course, the 13 Middos of Hashem’s Mercy, as well as being the Gematria of Echad.  Together they equal 26, representing Hashem’s Name of Mercy Yud-Key-Vuv-Key.  Hakhel Note:  The Mishna teaches that the Greeks made exactly 13 holes in the outer wall of the Bais HaMikdash--this was by no means a happenstance number on their part.  Chazal, in turn, teach that after these pirtzos were repaired, we bow down at those 13 locations--in thanks to HaKadosh Baruch Hu for his miracles on our behalf!


4.         Question:  Why does the Navi compare Klal Yisroel to a Zayis--to an olive?

Answer:  The Midrash explains that other liquids mix together, but oil will not mix with them.  We too must not mix with the other nations of the world and their ideologies--as beautifully demonstrated in the olive oil of Chanukah. 


5.         Question: Where is Chanukah alluded to in the Torah?

Answer: Towards the end of Parshas Emor, the Torah describes Chag HaSukkos.  Incredibly, the next Parsha immediately following the Parsha of Sukkos--is the Parsha of lighting the Menorah in the Bais HaMikdash! (Vayikra 23:33-24:4)


6.         Question: Where is Chanukah alluded to in Hallel?

Answer: Where is it not alluded to?...Veylokeinu BaShomayim Kol Asher Chofetz Asah; Atsabeihem Kesef V’Zahav…Bais Aharon Bitchu BaHashem Ezram U’Maginam Hu…BeChastros Bais Hashem Besocheichi Yerushalayim..Yomru Nah Bais Aharon Ki LeOlam Chasdo…Hashem Li BeOzerai VeAni Er’eh BeSonai…Yemin Hashem Romeimah, Yemin Hashem Osah Chayil…Kel Hashem VaYa’er Lanu.


7.         Question:  Why is the major sugya in Shas about Chanukah in Mesechta Shabbos?

Answer:   An Ikar Avodah relating to Shabbos and Chanukah is Hadlakas Neiros--for Ner Hashem Nishmas Adam. We also refer you to the last Halacha of the Rambam in Hilchos Chanukah, and to the Sefer Pri Tzaddik by HaRav Tzadok HaKohen Z’tl, on Chanukah, Os Aleph.


8.         Question:  Why is there no Mesechta in Shas called “Mesechta Chanukah”--like “Mesechta Megillah”?

Answer:  The Ba’al Shem Tov explains because it is still incomplete, and will be completed at the time of Moshiach!


9.         Question:  What else in the Bais HaMikdash had the number eight associated with it?

Answer:   There were eight begadim of the Kohein Gadol, eight instruments which accompanied the songs of the Levim, and eight items which had a good smell that were used in the Shemen HaMishcha and the Ketores, and an animal can only be brought as a Korban when it is eight days old (Sefer Kad HaKemach).


10.       Question:  The flask of oil was sealed so it could not contract Tumas Mais by touch or carrying, but why could it not contract Tumas Heseit by it just being moved by the Greeks?

Answer:  The Orach HaShulchan explains that it must have been deep in the ground, and so it was clear to all that it had not been moved.


11.       Question:  Please fill in the blank:  The Rambam in Hilchos Chanukah (3:3) writes that Hadlakas Neiros on Chanukah is a Mitzvah Midivrei Sofrim like ____________ _____________.

Answer:  Kriyas HaMegillah.  Hakhel Note:  We may add that by lighting the Menorah the miracles that occurred to the Maccabim should unfold before us and be experienced with joy in the same way as we enjoy and appreciate the Megillah reading!


12.       Question: Why is it forbidden to get benefit from the lights of the Menorah?

Answer:  The Kol Bo says that it would be a Bizui Mitzvah.  The Bnei Yissaschar writes that the Ner Chanukah alludes to the light of Torah that the Yevanim wanted to dim.  We, in turn, show our Kavod HaTorah, and demonstrate that we don’t want to use Torah for our own personal gain.


13.       Question:  Why do we give out Chanukah Gelt?

Answer:  It is said in the name of the Belzer Rebbe that we really must give Tzedakah to the poor in order for them to have money to light the Menorah, to further Pirsumei Nissa.  In order not to embarrass the poor, we freely give to all.


14.       Question:  Can you give a Gematria relating to the dreidel?

Answer:  The four letters--Gimmel, Shin, Nun, Hey add up to 358--which is, of course, the Gematria of Moshiach!


15.       Question: Other than “Nes Gadol Hayah Sham”, what do the four letters on the dreidel stand for?

Answer:  Rebbi Pinchas MiKoritz writes that the Nun Shin stands for Neiros Shemone, and the Hey Gimmel stands for Hallel Gamur-- two precious Mitzvos of these days.  Rebbi Pinchas adds, however, that just as there are Shivim Panim LaTorah--there are also Shivim Panim to the Minhagim of Klal Yisroel!


16.       Question:  How are the three Amudim of the world--Torah, Avodah, and Gemilas Chassadim represented on Chanukah?

Answer:  Torah is represented by the Ohr of the Ner--as Torah Ohr, Avodah is represented by Hallel V’Hoda’ah, and Gemilas Chassadim is represented by the extra Tzedaka given in merciful amounts on Chanukah (Sefer Ziv HaMinhagim).


17.       Question: Why don’t we make a Shehechiyanu every night of Chanukah--if every night was a new miracle?

Answer:  The Sefer Mateh Moshe writes that the miracle occurred with the same oil that we made the Shehechiyanu on the first night--it was just that the miracle kept on recurring!


18.       Question:  What are three answers the Beis Yosef gives to his question as to why Chanukah is eight days and not seven?

Answer:  (i)  Initially, the oil was divided up into eight parts, because they knew it would take eight days to obtain new oil, each day they would put in only that one-eighth portion and this small amount kept the Menorah burning until morning. (ii)  Alternatively, after they poured all of the contents of the oil into the Menorah each evening the jug remained full. (iii)  Alternatively, they poured all the oil into the Menorah and in the morning the cups were full, as they had poured them.  In any one of these circumstances the miracle happened even on the first day, and so the miracle actually happened for eight day!


19.       Question:  What Pasuk in Mishlei teaches you that you must learn Torah after you have completed Hadlakas Neiros?

            Answer:  Ki Ner Mitzvah VeTorah Ohr (Mishlei 6:23 )


20.       Question:  There is a Minhag to eat cheese because Yehudis gave the Greek Hegmon cheese, he became thirsty, she gave him wine…and the rest is history.  Since it is the wine that put him to sleep, why is it not the Minhag to drink wine--after all wasn’t that the more direct cause for her success?

Answer:  HaRav Chaim Shmuelevitz, Z’tl, answers that we learn from here that one must plan ahead and carefully weigh his actions in order to achieve success.  Without the cheese, she would never have gotten to the wine--and without the wine--we may not have been celebrating Chanukah today!


21.       Question:  What was the original source of the container of oil that was found by the Kohanim?

Answer:  The Shach Al HaTorah writes that this was the oil that was revealed to Yaakov Avinu,, which he used to pour on the stone on which he had slept.  Because it came down from Shomayim it really should have been unusable to be consumed by a physical fire.  A Nes occurred and the Kohanim were able to light the oil as a tangible physical oil in the Menorah. 


22.       Question:  How many Menoros were there in the Bais HaMikdash?

Answer:  Chazal (Menachos 29A) teach that Shlomo HaMelech made 10 Menoros for the Bais HaMikdash.  In fact, Rebbi Eliezer b’Rebbi Shimon holds that all ten Menoros were lit. 



23.       Question:  What is the Mazal of the month of Kisleiv?

Answer:  The Mazal is a Keshes, or a bow, serving as a harbinger of the wars of the Chashmonaim.  The Sochotchover Rebbe, Z’tl, asks “but we have no mazal, so why do we need the sign of the Keshes?”  He answers that to us the bow is our Tefillos, and brings from the Sefer Chashmonaim that before they went to war against the Greeks they would go to the Bais HaMikdash to daven and blow the Chatzosros before doing battle. 


24.       Question:  Chazal teach that “LeShana Acheres”, the next year the days of Chanukah were established forever as a time to give thanks and praise Hashem.  Why did they have to wait a year--after all weren’t the miracles immediately self-evident?

Answer:  The Bais Yisroel answers that this is meant to teach us that the act of Mesiras Nefesh of the Chashmonaim was not at a fixed point in history--but rather that the time of Chanukah is Mesugal for Mesiras Nefesh in all future generations as well.


25.       Question:  Was there ever a time or will there ever be a time when we will keep Chanukah for nine days?

Answer:  The Minchas Chinuch (Mitzvah 301) writes that when the Bais HaMikdash will be rebuilt and we will once again sanctify the moon based upon the testimony of witnesses, those far away from Yerushalayim will keep nine days!  


26.       Question:  Why was a special Yom Tov established over the Neis of Chanukah and not, for example, for the Neis of the wars against Siserah or Sancheirev?

Answer:  The Anshei Knesses HaGedolah foresaw that the Neis of Chanukah would light up every generation in every year as at the time they had occurred--because of this special Koach of Ruchniyus, a Yom Tov was established on these days for all time! (based upon the Kedushas Levi).


27.       Question:  The letters of the word “Chanukah” appear in a row (but juxtaposed) in two words in this week’s Parsha.  The two words allude to the Mesibos that we have on Chanukah.  What are the words?

Answer:  Tevach VeHachein--beginning with the Ches of Tevach and the entire words of VeHachein (Bereishis, 43:16--referring to the Seudah that Yosef was to eat with his brothers).


28.       Question:  Why does the Mishna Berurah say that we should begin VeAl HaNissim--not just Al HaNissim?

Answer:  Many answer because on Chanukah we are to thank Hashem not only for the Nissim of Bayamim HaHeim--but also for the Nissim that we each experience in our own lives.



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

Answer:  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.’ (Rabbi Moshe Goldberger, Shlita)


30.       Question:  In Al HaNissim we recite LeHashkicham Torasecha U’LeHa’aviram MeiChukei Ritzonecha--isn’t this redundant?

Answer:  The Gerrer Rebbe explains that only a person whose mind is free of wisdom will engage in sin.  Therefore, the Greeks wanted us to forget the Torah--which would cause us to do Aveiros--U’LeHa’aviram MeiChukei Ritzonecha.  It is for this reason that we make extra efforts in Torah study on Chanukah--to fill our hearts with wisdom--with the result that we will stay free of sin!  


31.       Question: Also in Al HaNissim, 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?

Answer: 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!


32.       Question: When did the Chashmonaim win the war--on the 24th or the 25th of Kislev--if on the 25th--should not we begin to light on the 26th?

Answer: There is a major dispute on this point.  The Meiri (Shabbos 21B) writes that the victory occurred on the 24th, and the Neiros were lit on the 25th.  The Pri Chadash brings that it is the opinion of the Rambam that the victory occurred on the 25th, and that we begin lighting on the night of the 25th (rather than on the night of the 26th after the victory) because Chazal established the night of the 25th for future generations to specifically remember the miracle of the victory in war which had occurred on that day. The Har Tzvi (by HaRav Tzvi Pesach Frank, Zt’l) has a fuller discussion of this disagreement in his sefer on Chanukah, Chapter 2.  The Har Tzvi actually brings one authority who used a new Menorah on the second night so that he could make a Shehechiyanu on the second night, as well--making a Shehechiyanu on the first night (the 25th) for the miracle of the war, and the Shehechayanu on the new Menorah on the second night (the 26th)--to also include the miracle of the oil on that night.


33.       Question: To what Yom Tov does the Gematria of Mattisyahu match and why?

Answer: To Rosh Hashana--with the numerical equivalent of 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.


34.       Question: On the fifth day of Chanukah, if one does not have enough oil, is it better to light one cup of oil or light five wax candles?

Answer: It is better to light five wax candles, to be among the “Mehadrin” who light the number of Neiros which correspond to the night of Chanukah. (Chayei Adom 154:24)


35.       Question: Is it considered a Hiddur Mitzvah if you put more oil in the cup than you need?

Answer: The Chayei Adam (154:21) writes that, when using wax candles, there is a hiddur to use longer ones.  This is because longer wax candles appear nicer, not because they will stay lit after the zeman.  See Magen Avraham to Shulchan Aruch, Orach Chaim 672, seif katan 3.  Based upon this Magen Avraham, it would appear that the same hiddur does not apply to oil.  One can discuss this with his Posek.


36.       Question: If one did not light at night, does he light in the day without a bracha?

            Answer: No, there is no Tashlumim, as a candle in daylight is ineffective (Chayei Adam 154:28).


37.       Question: Why do we eat ‘Sufgoniyo(s)(t) on Chanukah? 

Answer: 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 the Geulah Shleimah--BeKarov Bimheira B’Yameinu!



Special Note One:  We continue our series on Brachos, with practical Teshuvos in Hilchos Brachos given by Rabbi Yisroel Pinchos Bodner, Shlita, author of Halachos of Brochos (Feldheim).  Of course, one should consult with his own Rav or Posek on every Shailah that he has.




Q: What bracha do I make if I want to eat a half of a cheese blintz, where the Mezonos part is less than a Kezayis?


A: The brocha rishona is Mezonos. For the brocha achrona you may not make an Al Hamichya since you did not eat a Kezayis of Mezonos. Normally a Borei Nefashos is not valid for a k’zayis of Mezonos. However, in situations where you have part of a Kezayis Mezonos and the other part of a Kezayis Borei Nefashos (all together there is a Kezayis of food that was eaten) you would make a Borei Nefashos. (Halachos of Brochos pg 382).



Additional Note on Brachos:  More from The Garden of Gratitude: The son who comes before his father in tears inspires his father’s mercy and receives whatever it is that he requests.  Yet the son who is constantly praising his father and thanking him joyfully inspires his father’s attribute of love.  Consequently, the father will always give to such a son generously.  Crying may arouse the attribute of mercy and result in receiving the specific thing for one is crying.  At the same time, joy and thankfulness arouse love and desire, attributes much more powerful than mercy. Joy and gratitude invoke Divine abundance!



Special Note Two:  A reader had previously advised us 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 Three:  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 Four:  More on Hallel:  The Meam Loez (Tehillim, Chapter 113) writes the following important note regarding Hallel (which consists of Tehillim Chapters 113-118):


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


The Rambam (Hilchos Chanukah 3:5) writes that the full Hallel is to be recited “b’chol yom v’yom--on each and every day” of Chanukah.  This is, of course, codified in the Shulchan Oruch (Orach Chaim 683:1).  The 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.  In tomorrow’s Hallel, may we additionally suggest that you attempt to locate an allusion to Chanukah in the Hallel itself!


Special Note Five:  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. 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. 


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


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 Six:  The following points and pointers are excerpted from the Sefer Pardes Chanukah by Rabbi Avrohom Rosenwasser, Shlita:


A.  The Gematria of Nes Chanukah is the same as Tzedaka.  The equation speaks for itself--we must give on Chanukah! 


B.  The Magen Avrohom rules that if one has enough oil for himself for all seven days in a Mehadrin manner, but his friend does not have any oil at all, it is better for one to light only one candle each night and fulfill the Ikar Mitzvah--and give the additional oil to one’s friend, so that he can also be Yotzei the Mitzvah. 

Hakhel Note:  Although we went to war, we always seek to increase true brotherhood among ourselves--this is our Hiddur Mitzvah!


C.  If one attends a Chanukah party in which there are people in attendance who did not light, could he make a bracha lighting a Menorah at the party--intending to be Motzi them?  After all, isn’t there Pirsumei Nissa in the lighting?  HaRav Wosner, Shlita, rules that although we do light in a Shul with a Bracha, it is because in Shul there are three elements to the lighting--Hiddur Mitzvah, Pirsumei Nissa and Zecher LeMikdash.  A Shul represents a great Zecher LeMikdash.  For instance, the custom is to light along the southern wall of the Shul, just as the Menorah was lit in the southern part of the Heichal. Accordingly, our Minhag has been to light with a bracha in Shul.  We cannot extend the Minhag on our own to other areas.


D.  The Chozeh of Lublin was once given a k’vitel that was sent to him by a Moser Jew who caused much tzaros to his brethren.  The Chozeh looked at the k’vitel and exclaimed:  “This person is shining in the upper worlds!”  The Chassidim standing around were astonished and the Chozeh’s son, Rav Yosef asked him how this could be the case.  The Chozeh responded:  “When I read the k’vitel, this Moser had just lit Chanukah licht and his performance of the Mitzvah lit up the upper worlds for him.”

Hakhel Note:  Let us remember that when we light in the world below--we are also lighting in the Worlds above!



Special Note One:  As “change of weather” season takes effect in the northern hemisphere, we remind ourselves that if we are one of those who, R’L, are experiencing a cold, sore throat, headache, congestion, etc., we should remember that it is not the extra-strength Tylenol, or any of the other remedies filling our pharmacy-aisle that gives us our cure.  Instead, we should consider that there is a reason that we received this ailment (which could include not properly taking care of yourself), and that it is Hashem--and ONLY HASHEM--Who gives the relief and refuah, and not that “sure-fire” acetaminophen or other “Special Formula” which serves to ameliorate the symptoms, or serves as Hashem’s agent in the cure.  Before taking that aspirin or other tablet or fluid, we should especially reflect upon this, and recite the tefilah before taking medicine with true recognition and feeling.  The Tefillah Recited before Visiting the Doctor or Taking Medications is available by clicking here and the Tefillas HaBori--asking Hashem to keep us healthy is available by clicking hereZei Gezunt!



Special Note Two:  We continue our series on Brachos, with practical Teshuvos in Hilchos Brachos given by Rabbi Yisroel Pinchos Bodner, Shlita, author of Halachos of Brochos (Feldheim).  Of course, one should consult with his own Rav or Posek on every Shailah that he has.




Q:  Last year I forgot to say Shehechiyanu on the lighting of the first night of Chanukah. Somehow I did not realize it until the third night. I thought that since the happiness of the arrival of Chanukah was over, I would not have to make the Shehechiyanu at that time. Was that right?


A.  Unfortunately, it was not right. If one forgot to recite the Shehechiyanu, he should recite it the next night when he performs the mitzvah of lighting the Chanukah menorah. If he forgot to recite it the second night he must recite it the third night and so on, until the last night of Chanukah.


Additional Note on Brachos:  The following is excerpted from The Garden of Gratitude by Rabbi Shalom Arush (as translated by Rabbi Lazer Brody):  “Emunah--the pure and complete belief in the Almighty-is above nature. Gratitude is the great expression of Emunah.  Gratitude therefore has the power of invoking Divine intervention and blessings that transcend nature.  Simply speaking, those who express their gratitude to the Almighty experience miracles.”



Special Note Three:  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 Four:  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 Five:  You can find the Megilas Antiochus in English at the following link--http://www.tsel.org/torah/megant/eindex.html   (The site also has a version in Hebrew)  Why not read it after Hadlakas Neiros?



Special Note Six:  Are you assembling 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:  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:  We provide the following P’Sakim of HaRav Shmuel Kamenetsky, Shlita, as excerpted from the 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 Brachos on Hadlakas Neiros 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, then 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.





Special Note One:  Special Note One:  We continue our series on Brachos, with practical Teshuvos in Hilchos Brachos given by Rabbi Yisroel Pinchos Bodner, Shlita, author of Halachos of Brochos (Feldheim).  Of course, one should consult with his own Rav or Posek on every Shailah that he has.




Q: I would like to know what to do if I forget to say Al HaNisim in bentsching.


A: First of all, if you forgot Al HaNisim and finished bentsching you are not required to bentsch again. If you realized your mistake right away before concluding the second brocha of bentsching (i.e. you said Boruch Atah and were about to finish the brocha of “Nodeh L’cho and caught the mistake before saying “Hashem”- you should recite Al Hanisim at that point, and then conclude the brocha Boruch Atah Hashem Al Ha’aretz V’al HaMazon. If you realized your mistake after that point (after saying Hashem in that second brocha), you should not go back, but you still have one eitzah. You should continue bentsching till after you recite the HaRachaman text, then add Al HaNisim to the end of the HaRachaman text: HaRachaman Hu Ya’aseh Lanu Nissim VeNeflaos Ka’asher Asah LaAvoseinu Bayamim HaHem BaZeman Hazeh (Shulchan Aruch 682,1, Halachos of Brochos p. 320)


Additional Note on Brachos:  A reader pointed out to us the following:  How possible statistically was it to appoint as the Viceroy of Egypt an individual who only the day before was (a) totally unknown to Paroh, (b)a young, unmarried and unsettled man, (c) a non-citizen who was even an Ivri (per se despised, as seen from Rashi on the words of the Sar HaMashkim to Paroh in this week’s Parsha), (d) an Eved, and as if to add insult to injury (e) a convicted criminal who was still in prison?!?  Because Hashem runs the world and all parts of it, there is not even the smallest element of shock or surprise to us... or even to any Mitzri recorded in this week’s Parsha!  Hakhel Note:  As we strengthen ourselves in Bitachon on Chanukah--may we suggest especially focusing on the Second Bracha of Shemone Esrei--Gevuros--in which we attest to Hashem’s limitless and unfettered power in all areas of our existence.



Special Note Two:  At a Hakhel Shiur, Rabbi Yisroel Dov Webster, Shlita, provided a masterful review of many Halachic Shailos relating to Chanukah.  As an example, he discussed the concept of women not doing Melacha for one-half hour after candles are lit.  Rabbi Webster explained that according to most Poskim, the Melachos that are prohibited are the Melachos that cannot be done on Chol HaMoed--laundry, sewing, ironing, etc.  HaRav Chaim Kanievsky rules that even baking and cooking (the latkes!) should only be done if there is a need to then do so, and one should not otherwise be washing the floor, washing the dishes, or the like.  Much of Rabbi Webster’s shiur was devoted to contemporary Shailos and the opinions of our Gedolei HaDor.  For tapes or CD’s of the entireYarchei Kallah, please call 718-252-5274.



Special Note Three:  The following questions relating to Chanukah were asked of HaRav Chaim Kanievsky, Shlita:


1.      Q:  Chazal teach that if one is careful with lighting the Neiros, he will have children who are Talmidei Chachamim.  Many people light and do not have children who are Talmidei Chachamim?

A:  Together with the Segulos--you still have to learn Torah!


2.      Q:  Is it better to prepare your own wicks as was done until recently, or to use the ready made wicks, and save yourself ten minutes of preparation?

A: If it will involve Bitul Torah for a Talmid Chochom, it is better for him to use the ready made wicks.  However, for all others, it is better to be Osek in the Mitzvah.  Hakhel Note:  The preparation of the wicks is a tradition in many families, and certainty in Chassidic circles, where Rebbes spend much time and effort preparing for the Mitzvah.


3.      Q: If one arrives at his house at a late hour, and has not yet lit, can he awaken his parents for them to be present while he lights?

A:  It depends on whether they will be happy about getting up.  If one is in doubt, he should not awaken them.


4.      Q:  What is considered a greater Hiddur--a silver menorah of great value, but which is not so pretty, or a beautiful Menorah made of an inferior metal?

A:  Just as with the Se’ir Hamishtoleiach, a fat Se’ir is preferable to a nice looking one, so too here does the actual value of the Menorah take precedence over its appearance.


5.      Q:  Did the Kohanim light personal Menoros in the Beis Hamikdash, as they ate and slept in the Lishkos?

A:  It would be forbidden to light in the Azara because of Ba’al Tosif, but in the places where they ate and slept it would appear that they did light Menoros on Chanukah.



Special Note Four:  The Shailos U’Teshuvos Rivivos Ephrayim (II: 185: Note 11) brings in the name of HaRav Moshe Feinstein, Z’tl, that although the accidental recitation of Al HaNisim in Shemone Esrei on other days of the year would be a Hefsek, on the Mincha of Erev Chanukah after Plag HaMincha it is not a Hefsek, as it falls within the ‘Zeman Hazeh’ of Chanukah.  Indeed, as the Meiri (2 Shabbos 21B) teaches, the miracle of the victory in war actually occurred on the 24th of Kisleiv.  Not only is there a Chanukah--there is an Erev Chanukah!



Special Note Five:  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 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! 



Special Note Six:  We present by clicking here 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 Seven:  Why do we light 36 Neiros over Chanukah (excluding the Shamash)?


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:  In 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 many have the custom of reciting these two Pesukim these specified number of times after Hadlakas Neiros.



VERY IMPORTANT OBSERVATION:  We had received the following from Rabbi Moshe Goldberger, Shlita, relating to this past week’s Parsha:


“Yosef brought bad reports to Father.  The Medrash says we learn to avoid Loshon Hora.  What were the costs of those words?  Yosef was in prison for 12 years.  His father who had listened suffered for 22 years.  Words can be very costly!”




Special Note One:  We continue our series on Brachos, with practical Teshuvos in Hilchos Brachos given by Rabbi Yisroel Pinchos Bodner, Shlita, author of Halachos of Brochos (Feldheim).  Of course, one should consult with his own Rav or Posek on every Shailah that he has.




Q:  The other night we were eating supper and I had forgotten if I had made a particular brocha. My wife was about to make that brocha.  In a situation such as this may I ask my wife to be Motzi me, and will a woman’s recital help for a man’s bracha obligation?


A: Yes, your wife could and should be Motzi you to help you bypass your Sofek.  The Gemorah (Succah 38.2) states that a woman may be Motzi a man, but cursed is the man who has not learned how to make a brocha and must rely on his wife.  In your case you have done nothing wrong, you know how to make a brocha but have a Sofek.  It is, therefore, perfectly fine for your wife to be Motzi you.  She may not be Motzi a group of men, but she may be Motzi a group of women.  (Tosafos ibid, Rav Shlomo Zalmen Auerbach, Halachos of Brochos p. 196)


Additional Note on Brachos:   The days of Chanukah almost upon us, 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 Two:  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 Three:  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, excluding the shamesh, 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 at the following link 




Special Note Four:  We once again present below several rulings of HaRav Elyashiv, Shlita, relating to Chanukah, as excerpted from the monumental Sefer Ashrei HaIsh (Volume III ):


1.  One should attempt to use the nicest Menorah and Neiros possible, even though the Chashmonaim themselves may have lit with broken earthenware vessels.  The Mitzvah is to be performed based upon “Zeh Keili VeAnveihu”--and not to replicate that which Chazal did not instruct to replicate. 


2.  We published this past Erev Shabbos:  All oils can be used to light, but olive oil is a Mitzvah Min HaMuvchar.  Pure olive oil is better than regular olive oil, and edible olive oil is better than non-edible olive oil--as the closer one gets to the oil of the Bais HaMikdash, the great the Hiddur Mitzvah! 

Hakhel Note:  We had recommended that one purchase Virgin Olive Oil.  A reader pointed us to articles which indicate that one cannot be sure that even the term “Extra-Virgin Olive Oil” properly reflects that the product is truly as pure as can be, and the true nature of the product.  One can, of course, do his own research and come to his own determination as to what he could do to be MeHader the Mitzvah.


3.  One may use floating wicks LeChatchila, notwithstanding that at the moment that one lights the wicks he is actually lighting the flammable wax coating and not the oil.[Rabbi Webster in his Shiur pointed out that, according to other Poskim, it would be best to keep the lighting flame on the wick for a short while, so that the wax will melted off]. 


4.  If one lit at home, and is then asked to light in Shul, he should not make a new Shehechiyanu in Shul, as the Brachos in Shul are based upon Minhag, and it is not a separate Mitzvah.  In fact, even if there are many Minyanim in a Shul, the Menorah should only be lit with a bracha only once at the first Minyan, or in the  Main Shul minyan only.  Of course, the other Minyanim and/or the other locations should preferably have the Menorah lit, but without a bracha.  A katan should not light in Shul; if he did so, it should be extinguished and relit with a bracha by a person of age so that there is proper Pirsumei Nissah.


5.  It is appropriate for a katan who has already reached the age of Chinuch to be Yotzei with his father’s lighting(and for the father to have him in mind)--even if the katan will light again on his own [HaRav Elyashiv actually rules that it would be best for the katan who has reached the age of Chinuch not to light at all because he cannot fulfill the Mitzvah which is on the Bayis, so it is a Hadlakah Pesulah, MeIkar HaDin].  HaRav Elyashiv brings that this is also the ruling of the Kli Chemda (to Bamidbar 17:8).  On the other hand, the other household members who are above the age of Bar Mitzvah should have in mind not to be Yotzei with the Ba’al HaBayis and be Yotzei the Ikar Mitzvah themselves.


6.  What does one do when looking at the Neiros?  In his Divrei Aggadah, HaRav Elyashiv writes that one should think about how close we had come to extinguishment of the Menorah--…and how the Chashmonaim did not sit back and wait as it was being extinguished.  Instead, the Chashmonaim worked diligently to purify the oil so that after the Tekufah of the Chashmonaim came the Tenoim, the further development of Torah She’Be’al Peh, and ultimately the Talmud Bavli and Talmud Yerushalmi.  Chanukah is a time to remind ourselves to take action on behalf of Torah--and to actually begin taking that action!


7.  . If one cannot light on time, but either at P’lag HaMincha or later in the night--he should light at the time when there is greater Pirsumei Nissah.  To a soldier, HaRav Elyashiv ruled that he should light when more Chayalim would see the Neiros. 


8.  When one is on a plane above an area where the time to light has arrived [see www.chaitables.com], he too has a Chov of Hadlakah at that time.  Of course, one cannot light on a plane, and if one would do so, it would be a bracha levatalah.  If at this very time they are actually lighting in home, he can be Yotzei with their Hadlakah.  If the neiros were already lit in the home, he would not be Yotzei because “Hadlakah Oseh Mitzvah”--the actual act of lighting is what counts --and no lighting was done at the time that his obligation to light occurred.

Hakhel Note:  We thus see how important it is to avoid being on an airplane if at all possible during this time.


9.  Lighting must be done in a ‘Bayis’--accordingly one can light in the Bais Haknesses at the cave of the Kosel, but cannot light at the open area of the Kosel.


10.  If a hotel does not allow a person to light by the doorway (but only in the lobby on a table), then one is not allowed to light at the doorway without the hotel’s permission for this is theft, and one is not Yotzei.  Instead, one should make it his business to be elsewhere for Chanukah. 


11.  One is not permitted to fast on Chanukah.  Accordingly, if one sees that his breakfast is being delayed, he should eat or drink something before Chatzos, so that he is not fasting. 


12.  If one forgot Al HaNissim in Shemone Esrei, he should recite “HaRachaman Hu Ya’aseh Nissim VeNaflaos Kisheim She’asissa LaAvoseinu Bayamim HaHaeim BaZeman HaZeh…Bimei Mattisyahu…” at the end of Elokai Netzor, just before Yeheyu LeRatzon. On Shabbos, he should start directly with Bimei Mattisyahu, since one may not add additional HaRachamans (personal  requests) on Shabbos.


13.  We recite full Hallel every day Chanukah because a new miracle occurred daily.  If one mistakenly recited half Hallel, he should recite the entire Hallel anew gain.  If he cannot find anyone to be Motzi him with the bracha, he should think the Bracha in his heart before reciting the full Hallel. 


14.  With respect to the Segulah of giving Tzedaka on Chanukah, it need not especially be before or after lighting--for it is a Segulah any time during the day.  The Segulah also applies to distributing Ma’aser money on Chanukah.  One should try to make sure that the tzedakah money actually gets to the poor person on Chanukah, so that he can derive benefit from it. 


15.  One should not put the words “HaNeiros Halallu Kodesh Heim” into an advertisement, because it is a part of a Ma’amar Chazal, and would require Genizah.

Hakhel Note:  Let us consider the sanctity of the words that we are privileged to know so easily and so well!



FOR THOSE PURCHASING OIL ON SUNDAY: The following is a ruling of HaRav Elyashiv, Shlita, relating to Chanukah, as excerpted from the monumental Sefer Ashrei HaIsh (Volume III ):  All oils can be used to light, but olive oil is a Mitzvah Min HaMuvchar.  Pure olive oil is better than regular olive oil, and edible olive oil is better than non-edible olive oil--as the closer one gets to the oil of the Bais HaMikdash, the great the Hiddur Mitzvah.  


Hakhel Note:  A reader has suggested to us that perhaps as a hiddur one can purchase olive oil which is labeled as “Virgin” or “Extra Virgin.”  We provide the following important definition of Virgin Olive Oil which we obtained--“oil obtained only from the olive using solely mechanical or other physical means in conditions, particularly thermal conditions, which do not alter the oil in any way.  It has not undergone any treatment other than washing, decanting, centrifuging and filtering.  It excludes oils obtained by the use of solvents or re-esterification methods, and those mixed with oils from other sources.”  One can consult with his Rav or Posek as to whether any extra cost involved in purchasing this oil is considered a beautification of the Mitzvah, for its refinement excludes traces of other oils.  We do note that on Chanukah there is a special concept of Mehadrin Min HaMehadrin--so we certainly do look for hiddurim where we can!




Special Note One:  We continue our series on Brachos, with practical Teshuvos in Hilchos Brachos given by Rabbi Yisroel Pinchos Bodner, Shlita, author of Halachos of Brochos (Feldheim).  Of course, one should consult with his own Rav or Posek on every Shailah that he has.




Q:  I heard that it is not so pashut that the wine I drink for Kiddush before my Shabbos meal is covered by bentsching, and that I should have Kavannah when I bentsch to include the wine I drank for Kiddush and also for the wine that I drank during the meal. Is what I heard some type of chumrah, or is it required?


A:  In two situations wine before the meal would automatically be covered by bentsching and would not need special Kavannah at bentsching to cover it. If you drink wine to give yourself an appetite to eat the meal, it would be covered by bentsching, because the wine before the meal is being used for the meal. If you drink wine before the meal and make a Borei Pri Hagofen with specific intention to exempt the wine you plan to drink during the meal, that wine before the meal is also covered by bentsching, because it too is being used for the meal. Wine used solely for Kiddush is subject to a Machlokes Rishonim. Most say that since you cannot eat without first making Kiddush that wine is needed for the meal and covered by bentsching. Others say since it is not being used as an appetizer, or to exempt wine in the meal, it is not really part of the meal. The Poskim advise that although we accept the first view, nevertheless, in this case when you benstch have Kavannah for the wine from Kiddush. (Biur Halacha 174.6, Halachos of Brochos pg 332).


Additional Note One on Brachos:  Dovid HaMelech teaches us in a familiar Pasuk in Tehillim:  Baruch Habba B’Shem Hashem Beirachnuchem MiBeis Hashem.  The Maggid of Mezritz, Z’tl, whose Yahrzeit was this past week, learns from this Pasuk that if we start a Bracha with the word baruch with the strong Kavannah as if we were saying the name of Hashem (i.e., a baruch that comes B’Shem Hashem)…then we will be especially blessed MiBeis Hashem.  We must remember the importance of a bracha before we begin--not realize its importance only as you realize that you are mentioning Hashem’s name. 


Additional Note Two on Brachos:  As we noted yesterday, we will make one million brachos in approximately 27 years.  Since every bracha has at least two names of Hashem, this means that a person will be reciting Hashem’s names well over two million times during this very same period.  Let us treasure each and every Shem Hashem…and each and every Baruch! 



Special Note Two:  As many may know, the Gemara teaches that anointing one’s body on Yom Kippur is forbidden, because the Pasuk (“VaTavoh Kamayim BeKirbo, VeChashemen BeAtzmosav”) compares anointing one’s body with oil to drinking water.  Something that is absorbed into the skin makes its way into the body, in a dissimilar but related way to the manner in which water makes its way in as well.  Accordingly, there are those who are stringent in utilizing non-Kosher soaps and oils, even if not ingesting them through the mouth.  The following communication is an excerpt from a correspondence to us from the Colgate Palmolive Company.  Interestingly, it refers to ‘halal’ products, indicating that Muslims lehavdil have stringency in this area as well.


We appreciate this opportunity to provide information regarding animal fats used in Colgate-Palmolive products sold in the United States in order to facilitate the selection of Halal products. All of Colgate-Palmolive Company's bar soaps contain tallow-derived ingredients.  The tallowates used in these soaps are obtained only from beef tallow.

The following Personal Care and products are currently free of all animal-derived ingredients:

   Speed Stick Gel and Lady Speed Stick Gels and Teen Spirit Antiperspirant Sticks
   Lady Speed Stick 24/7 Antiperspirant Sticks
   Lady Speed Stick Antiperspirant Soothing with Aloe Stick
   Speed Stick 24/7 Antiperspirant Sticks
   Speed Stick Pro Antiperspirant Sticks and Gels

   Softsoap Brand Foam Works Liquid Hand Soap
   Softsoap Brand Ensembles Liquid Hand Soap
   Softsoap Brand Liquid Hand Soaps except Shea Butter, Pomegranate & Mango, Milk
                   Protein & Honey and Kitchen Fresh Hands

  Softsoap Brand Body Wash - Body Butter Coconut Scrub, Body Butter Apricot Scrub
                   and Nutra-Oil

   Softsoap Brand Body Wash for Men - Ocean Fresh
   Irish Spring Brand Body Wash - Cool Relief Scrub

   Colgate seeks to provide consumers with the most accurate and up-to-date product information possible.  All of the products listed above are free of animal-derived ingredients as of the date of this letter [received one week ago].  Because Colgate's sourcing of ingredients and/or the ingredients themselves may be subject to change in the future, however, please contact Colgate's Consumer Affairs Department toll-free at: 1-800-221-4607 or log onto www.colgate.com if you have a question about a product on this list or if you have a question about a Colgate product not listed here.


Hakhel Note:  To the extent possible, we would recommend obtaining liquid soaps with the Hashgacha (such as Palmolive).  For cleanliness purposes, there are those who may place Soft Soap or other brands which do not have Hashgacha on their kitchen sinks, with the thought that it is only there to remove germs from one’s hands.  However, once these items make their way into the kitchen, they could make their way into improper places.  In all instances, one should, of course, consult with their Rav or Posek. 



Special Note Three:  HaRav Gamliel Rabanovitch, Shlita, recently made the following simple, yet brilliant and moving comment:  “From Mah Tovu until Atta Chonein, one has expressed continuous and non-stop praises of Hashem!”  As one perceives this advancing through Pesukei DeZimra, he should be energized by these Ruach HaKodesh imbued praises--and by the incredible number of ways in which he realizes that praises re due to the entire world’s Creator and Maintainer--who also astonishingly watches over each and every one of us individually with personal and unique, loving Hashgacha Pratis!



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


A.  As we move towards winter, we will find ourselves more typically with gloves in our coat pockets.  Of course, one who lives in a neighborhood without an Eruv must check his pockets before each and every time he leaves a Reshus HaYachid on Shabbos, whether it be his home, someone else’s home, or the Shul.  To avoid the issue, many have the custom of not putting anything into their pockets on Shabbos.  Nevertheless, what would the Halacha be if someone walked out of his house and realized that he had a glove in his pocket?  Should he put it on and keep on walking?  Should he leave it in his pocket and continue walking back to where he came from?  HaRav Shlomo Pearl, Shlita, rules (based upon the opinion of HaRav Moshe Feinstein, Z’tl) that as one is walking he should knock it out of his pocket in an indirect manner.  Once it is on the ground, he could then pick it up and even put it on--if it is his custom to allow the wearing of gloves on Shabbos.


B.  At this time of year, Chatzos (mid-day) is early, as the daylight hours are short.  As we all know, one should not willingly fast on Shabbos after Chatzos.  If one ends Shul late, or has matters to attend to before he can make Kiddush--how can he avoid fasting past Chatzos on Shabbos?  One possibility would be to drink a glass of water before davening--before the Chiyuv of Kiddush begins.  If one chooses this option the question becomes whether, if one is not really thirsty at the time, he should make a bracha rishona and achrona on the water.  Although on the one hand, he would have not otherwise have taken something to drink, on the other hand he must be somewhat thirsty, for, he has recently awoken, and probably has had nothing to drink for at least six hours.  We asked Rabbi Yisroel Pinchos Bodner, Shlita, this question, and he responded as follows:  “I do not have a good proof, but m’svorah since he is definitely having hana’ah from the water, even though the primary reason he is drinking is not to be considered fasting, or to hydrate himself, nevertheless, he should make a brocha. There is somewhat of a proof from the ruling of HaRav Nissim Karelitz, Shlita, who writes that someone who drinks a large amount of water before Yom Kippur just to hydrate himself for the fast makes a brocha because it is not possible that he has no hana’ah from the water.”



Special Note Five:  We provide the following points and pointers on the Parsha:


A. In this week’s Parsha, the Torah teaches that “VaYaveih Yosef Es Dibasam Ra’ah El Avihem (Bereishis 37:2)--and Yosef brought bad reports about them to their father (Bereishis: 37:14).”  The Chofetz Chaim at the outset of the Sefer refers to these bad reports as the “Ikar Sibas Yeridas Yisroel LeMetzrayim LeChatchila--the original main cause for the entire Galus Mitzraim!”  We must be sure to grow this poignant and timely lesson from the Parsha in a practical way.  Chazal (Bava Basra 165A) teach that while only some individuals may be predisposed to arayos (immorality), and more individuals to gezel (thievery), everyone is prone to “Avak Loshon Hora”--which is defined as making statements or taking action which lead to, cause, or result in Loshon Hora.  The Maharsha (ibid.) explains that while arayos is a sin which most directly relates to the body, and gezel is a sin directly involving money, Avak Loshon Hora is an iniquity impacting most directly upon a person’s soul.  Accordingly, the Yetzer Hora is especially focused on Avak Loshon Hora and urges everyone to falter here.  We accordingly provide the following Avak Lashon Hara Prevention Reminder Notes (as supplied in the past)--with the hope and intent that if it was Lashon Hora that started the Galus process for K’lal Yisroel, it will be our dedicated and special Shemira from the most predisposed form of Lashon Hora that will once and for all lead us out of this Galus and into an eternal Geulah Sheleima.


The Chofetz Chaim (Hilchos Loshon Hora, Chapter 9--recently studied in Shemiras Halashon Yomi) provides us with seven kinds of statements or expressions of Avak Loshon Hora:


“Who would have thought that Ploni (Mr. X) would be where he is today…”  The implication to be gleaned is clear.


“Don’t talk about Ploni--I don’t want to discuss what happened or what will be with him”. Or saying, “I don’t want to speak about Ploni because I don’t want to speak Loshon Hora.”


Praising Ploni in front of those who dislike him (this includes his business competitors)--for we all know where this will lead.


Praising anyone excessively (for you will end up saying--”except for this” or “besides that…” or because the listeners will respond--”why do you praise him so highly? What about….”).


Praising anyone in public unless: (a) he is known as a Tzaddik, for anyone who tries to attack him will not succeed because of the Tzaddik’s reputation; or (b) you know that the listeners will not disparage him, for they do not know him.


A praise that implies a deficiency--”when he actually does something, he does it properly.”


Praise that will result in harm or loss to (or ill will by) the individual spoken about.  For instance, “Ploni likes to cook a lot”--and, as a result, riffraff come knocking on his door, looking for meals.


Interestingly, the Chofetz Chaim adds that it is also Avak Loshon Hora to speak about someone in a manner which appears to be Loshon Hora (even though it really is not) so that others suspect him of speaking Loshon Hora.  Thus, when speaking in a deprecatory manner about someone, one should explain to them why it is not Loshon Hora.


May we suggest that each of these seven kinds of statements be reviewed two or three times, preferably out loud--to help cleanse ourselves of these deceptive tactics and suggestions of the Yetzer Hora designed to keep us in Galus.


As we know, many already observe the “Shabbos Machsom L’fi” at their Shabbos tables.  Perhaps, in honor of the Parsha’s fundamental lesson, this week we can begin an additional Shabbos Avak Lashon Hora Machsom L’fi --for the entire Shabbos as well!


B.         The Pasuk in this week’s Parsha teaches that Yosef Hatzaddik was thrown into an empty pit without water.  Chazal teach that by the Torah specifying that there was no water--it meant to also convey that there were in fact snakes and scorpions in the pit.  Rabbi Yonasan Garfinkel, Shlita, provides a unique and beautiful explanation of this Chazal, as follows:  In Perek Shira, we are taught that the snake recites the comforting Pasuk “Somech Hashem Lechol HaNoflim...--Hashem provides support to all who have fallen...”.  The scorpion, in turn, recites the assuring Pasuk of “Tov Hashem LaKol VeRachamov Al Kol Ma’asav--Hashem is good to all, His mercies are on all his works.”  Although the snakes and scorpions may have otherwise been potentially dangerous in that pit--there was a much more potent message of Hashgacha Pratis and hope that they were conveying to Yosef through the Shira that they represented.  There is a splendid lesson here for each and every one of us as well.  We must try to rise above the everyday appearances, the physical circumstances, the material make-up, the ‘first take on things’ to appreciate the spiritual realm of a person, place or event.  There is a whole other world that we may not be able to see with our eyes--but we must remember that our eyes are placed in close proximity to our brain for good reason.  After having made a superficial determination or analysis, try re-thinking or evaluating it for what is really going on--even if a few billion of your neighbors in this world would not know otherwise.  Is it sufficient for us to simply shudder when we see a snake in the zoo--or is there much more for us to think about?  When we are about to make a conclusory judgment about someone--can we not give it another minute of thought as to the 20 or 30 or 40 years of other life experiences that brought him to that point in his life or to the comment he has made or the act he has taken?  If we can strip away the gashmius coatings and attempt to reveal a ruchniyus truth, we can turn ostensibly venom-filled snakes into the creations that began to give Yosef the encouragement and drive to survive away and alone for 22 years.  Of course, we should discuss some of our thoughts with others--especially mentors such as Rabbonim and teachers--but is our initiative that will help get us ‘out of the pit’ and on the road to being a wise and perceptive asset for all of K’lal Yisroel!


C.        In the Parsha, we learn how Tamar was willing to give up her own life in order to avoid embarrassing Yehuda in public.  Chazal considered shaming another in public to be a form of murder.  Rabbeinu Yonahwrites that just as a person must give up his life, rather than commit murder (unless in self defense), so too, must a person must give up his life rather than shame a person in public.  Chazal teach that one who shaming another in public loses his share in Olam Habba.  In order to bring the point home, Rabbi Zelig Pliskin, Shlita, brings the following story in Love Your Neighbor:


Someone once saw Rabbi Yisroel Chayim Kaplan, menahel ruchani of Bais Medrash Elyon, looking extremely pale. He hastened to Rabbi Kaplan's side and asked him if he was ill. Rabbi Kaplan replied, I have just witnessed someone publicly humiliate another person. Chazal teach that shaming someone in public is tantamount to murder. If someone were to witness a murder, wouldn't he be greatly upset!? A person should react similarly if he witnesses someone being shamed"


The Chofetz Chaim teaches that the strong Halacha against shaming a person applies not only in public but in private, as well.  Even when giving tochacha to another, one must not shame him (except in certain very limited circumstances).  HaRav Chaim Kanievsky, Shlita, was asked what one can do if he shamed a child, after all, a child is incapable of Mechilla.  Rav Chaim answered, one had no choice, one must wait until the child is bar or bas mitzvah and then ask for Mechilla. Indeed, it is reported that the Steipeler Gaon, Z’tl, went to a child’s bar mitzvah in order to ask him mechilah because he was afraid that he wrongly rebuked the boy when he was young (the boy was making noise when Rav Chaim was trying to learn).  Let us take the great lessons of the Parsha with us--publicly and privately!


D.        In what merit was Yosef referred to as “Ain Navon 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:  We continue our series on Brachos, with practical Teshuvos in Hilchos Brachos given by Rabbi Yisroel Pinchos Bodner, Shlita, author of Halachos of Brochos (Feldheim).  Of course, one should consult with his own Rav or Posek on every Shailah that he has.




Q:  On Shabbos we like to mix wine with seltzer. What is the bracha?


A:  The criteria for whether to make a Borei Pri Hagofen or Shehakol is as follows:  If most people would drink this particular mixture in place of wine (e.g., it tastes just like wine) then the brocha is Hagofen.  If most people would not consider this drink to be wine mamash then the bracha would be Shehakol.  Practically speaking, I think you will find that even a small amount of water will corrupt the taste of any of today’s wines.  However, if you drink the mixture at the Seuda, and it required a Shehakol - the Hamotzi will cover it.  If it required a Hagofen--the Hagofen you made for Kiddush will cover it. (See Halachos of Brochos pg 448).


Additional Note on Brachos:  Imagine someone told you that you were going to earn a fee or a commission of $36,500.00 this year.  Even to a wealthy person, $36,500.00 is money.  We are urged to make 100 Brachos a day.  Over the course of a year this amounts to 36,500 brachos.  This is true wealth.  Every time we make a bracha, we are building on the previous bracha we have made--building our investment in Ruchniyus.  If we don’t take the extra moment to appreciate the bracha as we make it, we may be demonstrating that we don’t appreciate the great capital that we are building.  In just over 27 years of making 100 brachos day, we will have made one million brachos.  In addition to the quantity, let us not forget the quality--which adds so much to their uniqueness and sanctity.  What an accomplished millionaire!



Special Note Two:  The following is Part II, the second and final part of our excerpt from Toras HaBayis, an English booklet adapted by Rabbi Shalom Naumann, from the Chofetz Chaim’s great work Toras HaBayis.  The Chofetz Chaim would constantly utilize practical analogies to everyday life, and to making money and earning a living, as we will see below.  The next time that you look at a dollar bill, see if you can see beyond it--to the so much that you can learn from it:


1.  Someone once found a farmer sobbing. "Why are you crying?" the person asked.  "You see these fields?  I paid an expensive fee to rent them for ten years. I didn't work them, and I'm not even earning back enough to pay for the rent, let alone support my family."  The person replied, "That is indeed a reason for distress.  But bemoaning your fate won't help you.  What you can do is stop being lazy and work the field for the remaining time.  Maybe, with Hashem's help, you will succeed in making a profit." The lesson for us is clear.


2.  People commonly hide behind the wobbly facade that most people do not utilize their time to learn.  Unfortunately, many people eat without making a bracha. Does that mean we should follow suit?  Learning Torah is no different.  If someone walking with friends noticed a large sum of money on the ground that his friends didn't notice--would he ignore it because his friends did? This applies no less to the Torah, which is "more desirous than gold and multitudes of precious jewels" (Tehillim 19: 11 ).


3.  Shlomo HaMelech, the wisest of all men, reveals to us the secret of achieving greatness in Torah and fear of Hashem:  "If you seek it like money and search for it like hidden treasures, then you shall understand the fear of Hashem, and His wisdom shall you discover" (Mishlei 2:4-5).  A man once traveled to a distant country on business.  In the course of his short trip, he expected to earn enough money to last him for the rest of the year.  During a crucial meeting, someone offered him a newspaper to read.  The businessman looked at him in astonishment, "What are you doing! Can't you see that I'm doing important business?!"  We are here in this world for a short time, during which we have to earn enough Torah and good deeds for the rest of eternity.  Do we have time to study newspapers? [The Chofetz Chaim's message applies to a much greater extent today. The entire world revolves around news, media, Internet, and other forms of electronic communications.  The situation is far worse than during the time of the Chofetz Chaim, when newspapers were only one page. Today, one can spend an entire day doing and learning 'interesting' things--but it is like a newspaper offered to us at a time when we have infinitely and everlastingly more important business at hand.


4.  We are careful not to lose our money by leaving it unguarded or investing it in a risky venture.  In the same manner, we must take care not to lose our merits by using our tongues improperly, by speaking slander, lies, or other forbidden speech.


5.  People are willing to try various means of earning money, even if their peers tease them or tell them that they will never succeed.  Likewise, we must learn and grow spiritually even if it means withstanding peer pressure.  Chazal (Avos 2:4) teach:  Do not say I will study when I am undisturbed, for perhaps you will never be undisturbed.  Remember that someone carrying an inappropriate heavy load puts down the load immediately at his earliest opportunity.  We too should not want our shortcomings to remain with us even one moment more than necessary.  If we can improve in someway in our Torah study, we must think about how we can do so--and act on it!


6.  If someone discovers an opportunity for a good investment, but he doesn't have enough money for it, he borrows from others.  Similarly, someone who never learned how to learn should ask others for help.  He should look for a chavrusa who is willing to help him, or a shiur he can attend.  Hashem is the one who created us and knows the extent of our intelligence and memory, yet he still commands us to learn and desires to reward us for our efforts--in accordance with our talents.


7.  Even if a person has amassed a fortune, he wants to gain more.  If we would view spiritual achievement the way we do financial success, we would always yearn for more. The opposite end of the spectrum is also true.  If one's business fails, he does not just say, "Oh well, I guess I'm just not cut out for earning money.  I'd better give up."  Earning a living is a necessity; one does not give up even if he does not succeed initially.  Similarly, a person cannot survive spiritually without Torah and the fear of Hashem. If we do not succeed at first, we must continue and try again.  Sometimes, the effects of a drug are not immediately felt--rather, one must take it several times until your dedication...sees wonderful and lasting [in our case--everlasting] results!



Special Note One:  We continue our series on Brachos, with practical Teshuvos in Hilchos Brachos given by Rabbi Yisroel Pinchos Bodner, Shlita, author of Halachos of Brochos (Feldheim).  Of course, one should consult with his own Rav or Posek on every Shailah that he has.




It is one week to Chanukah...

Q: I am aware that if I eat a large amount of Pas Haboh B’kisnin (bread family product), I must wash and bentsch. On Chanukah, my office supplies us with what seems to be an unlimited supply of jelly doughnuts.  Some of us could get pretty full from coffee break.  It would not be too comfortable to wash and bentsch, but if we have to we will.  What is the halacha?


A: Doughnuts are generally made from dough which is deep fried. According to most Poskim they are not considered Pas Haboh B’kisnin, and there would be no requirement to wash and bentsch. (Halachos of Brochos, p. 497). 


Additional Note on Brachos:  In Alei Shur, HaRav Shlome Volbe, Z’tl, writes that the principal purpose that we were given our five senses is not for our mere sensual pleasures and satisfactions, but in order to better appreciate the benefits that Hashem bestows upon us.  If the physical, temporal taste and smell of an orange, as so beautifully seen by your eyes and picked up and peeled by your hands can evoke such pleasure and appreciation--then imagine its spiritual benefits in allowing your soul to gain eternity through the Brachos made over it, and through the Torah and Mitzvos that it energizes you to perform.  The next time you use realize that you are using one of the senses, try to take it beyond the immediate moment--and into eternity!



Special Note Two:  In this week’s Parsha, we learn that Yaakov Avinu provided Yosef with a Kesones Passim, which his other brothers were jealous of.  Why would such great brothers be so interested and envious of nothing more than a fancy coat or a special glove?  The easy answer is that this teaches us forever and ever how silly jealousy really is.  Some say, however, that the Kesones Passim referred to was really a Middah of “Nesias Chein” which Yaakov imbued Yosef with.  The brothers desired this special chein that Yosef had--for it brought him into the good graces of all. 

Hakhel Note:  Over the last two (2) days, we have brought many teachings, as compiled by Rabbi Dovid Flagler, Shlita, which demonstrate the great importance of a pleasant countenance, and a sincere and proper greeting.  We can create our own Chein, we don’t have to be jealous of anyone--we just have to provide the Kesones Passim--to ourselves!



Special Note Three:  At the major Hesped for HaRav Nosson Tzvi Finkel, Z’tl, held in Brooklyn on Tuesday night, one of the real common denominators of the Maspidim was the point most emphasized by Rabbi Yisroel Reisman, Shlita.  Rabbi Reisman suggested that the life of HaRav Finkel, Z’tl, as an “American” Rosh Yeshiva should especially teach to all of those born and bred in Chutz LaAretz in this generation the value and importance of Mesiras Nefesh.  Rabbi Reisman brought the case of a Mechaneches who asked her students to take a piece of paper and write an act of Mesiras Nefesh that one of her grandparents had performed.  Many of the grandparents were in the Holocaust, others sacrificed greatly to remain Shomer Shabbos in America .  Most everyone had a story from their grandparents.  The Mechaneches then asked her students to turn over the paper and write an act of Mesiras Nefesh that they themselves had performed in their lifetime.  Most students were stumped.  This, Rabbi Reisman, suggested, was a very sorry state of affairs.  Not everybody’s Mesiras Nefesh is the same--but everyone can act with Mesiras Nefesh.  One can get up for Minyan even though he is extremely tired and it is “really OK” to turn over and miss his regular Minyan.  Another, can give Tzedaka until it hurts.  A third can learn Torah even if it is difficult to get to the Shiur, or some arrangements or rearrangements have to be made in order to do so.  Rabbi Reisman told of one time when HaRav Finkel was unable to fall asleep at all one night because he was unable to find any comfortable position (he otherwise was only able to sleep for very short intervals at a time).  He was going to tell the Rebbitzen that he would not be able to make it to Yeshiva that morning, as he had not slept.  Instead, he pushed himself and went.  Soon after he finished davening in Yeshiva--he turned to a Talmid and told him: “When something is very hard to do and you do it anyways--you feel good!”


Hakhel Note:  May we each live and be completely healthy, and try to formulate an act of Mesiras Nefesh that we can perform--perhaps consistently.  We are not only to look up to our Gedolim--we are to learn from them!



Special Note Four:  The following is excerpted from Toras HaBayis, an exceptional English booklet adapted by Rabbi Shalom Naumann, Shlita, from the Chofetz Chaim’s great work Toras HaBayis.


“There was once a prince, who was beloved by his father the king.  The pampered prince had everything he needed or wanted.  One day, the king summoned his son and told him he had an important task for him.  The prince was to travel to a faraway land.  His destination was a primitive land where he would dwell in a hut, wear coarse, uncomfortable clothing, and eat unsavory foods.  The inhabitants of this faraway country were not particularly sophisticated, and he would have no friends.


Why, the prince wanted to know.  Why would his wise, caring father send him to such a terrible place?  The king explained, “In this faraway land, there are millions of precious, shining gems, each one unique.  The gems lie on the floor, as common as pebbles in our lands, and are free for the taking.  The ignorant people of that land do not appreciate the treasure lying at their feet.  You, however, being well acquainted with precious jewels from the palace, will be able to evaluate each stone.”  Spending just a short time under uncomfortable conditions, the prince would collect the jewels and become one of the wealthiest men in the world, famous for his spectacular treasury.


Hashem is the King, and we are His sons.  Although we were happily basking in His presence, He sent us to this world, because only here can we accumulate mitzvos, valuable jewels in the World-to-Come.  To help us, Hashem gave us His precious Torah.  If we dedicate ourselves to its study, it will guide us on our mission.  Every word of Torah we learn is another mitzvah, so in a single twenty-four hour period, we can amass thousands of precious jewels. If we learn constantly, we can earn countless gems each year and many times more throughout a lifetime.


However, because the Torah is so readily available, not everyone appreciates its worth, much like the natives of that faraway land.  We must be wise like the prince and recognize the value of the Torah while we are still in this world. 


Shlomo Hamelech, renowned for both his knowledge of Torah and his vast wealth, declared (Mishlei 3:15 ): “It is worth more than pearls, and all of your possessions do not equal it.’ Chazal (Yerushalmi Pe’ah 1:1) explain that one word of Torah is worth more than all the physical possessions of the world combined. People scuba-dive to collect pearls. We need only to start learning!”

Hakhel Note:  Especially remember the Chofetz Chaim’s analogy when it appears that you may have a learning roadblock--and figure out a way to get to the pearls!



Special Note One:  We continue our series on Brachos, with practical Teshuvos in Hilchos Brachos given by Rabbi Yisroel Pinchos Bodner, Shlita, author of Halachos of Brochos (Feldheim).  Of course, one should consult with his own Rav or Posek on every Shailah that he has.




Q  My 10 year old son ate supper with bread but did not remember if he bentsched. What should I tell him?


A. A child’s obligation to bentsch is Mid’rabonon, and therefore, technically he is not required to bentsch again.  However, since an adult (who is satiated) who is in this situation must bentsch again, we are required to instruct the child to bentsch. (Halachos of Brochos p. 296).


Additional Note on Brachos:  HaRav Volbe, Z’tl, teaches that Hashem always watches over us with Hashgacha Pratis.  However, the Hashgacha Pratis can be benigleh, or it can be benistar.  When we make a bracha, he writes, we bring the Hashgacha Pratis benigleh--in a manner in which we can clearly see and appreciate its benefits.  Succinctly stated, bracha brings bracha.  HaRav Volbe brings a Pasuk from Tehillim to convey the point:  Tenu Oz LeiElokim Al Yisroel Ga’avaso...acknowledge Invincible Might to Hashem [then] His Grandeur will be upon Israel (Tehillim 68:35).  Rabbi Yisroel Reisman, Shlita, likewise teaches us as follows: To Akum, Hashem is high and far up in the blue, as the Pasuk states Rom Al Kol Goyim Hashem.  However, to Bnei Yisroel, Hashem is not Rom--far removed in the skies--but instead Gadol, as in the Pasuk Gadol Hashem U’Mehulal Me’od  The word Gadol, Rabbi Reisman teaches, does not indicate that Hashem is distant, but rather that He is close and we have made Him big--we have elevated Him.  With sincere brachos, we acknowledge Hashem’s closeness to us, expressing His greatness in a close and warm rather than distant way--and bring further brachos upon us benigleh--with wonderful clarity!



Special Note Two:  The Kitzur Shulchan Aruch (end of Chapter 27) writes that an even greater act of Kibbud of VaAim than the recitation of Kaddish in memory of a parent is the careful following of the Torah and the Mitzvos.  We asked a Posek if this ruling was true only after a loved one’s petira, or if one could fulfill the Mitzvah of Kibbud of VaAim by having intent before studying Torah or performing a Mitzvah that he intended to perform the Mitzvah of Kibbud Av VaAim as well, by giving his parents the spiritual benefit and elevation from his own Ruchniyus.  The Posek responded that he believed that in this way one would fulfill the Mitzvah of Kibbud of VaAim in his/her parent’s lifetime as well!  We may accordingly suggest that before studying Torah or performing Mitzvos, one also have in the mind the Mitzvah of honoring your parents by doing so.  You can, of course, review this P’sak with your own Rav or Posek as well.  Honoring your parents while studying Torah and doing Ma’asim Tovim--what a great combination!



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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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



Special Note Four:  We all know that Hashem put the rule of Middah K’neged Middah into our world order.  If we can keep the rule with us in our daily lives, it can help guide us through difficult encounters and situations.  We know, for example, that if one has mercy on another, or shows Ahava to another, then Hashem will show that attribute towards him.  As the Pasuk explicitly teaches “V’Nassan Lecha Rachamim VeRichamcha--Hashem will give you the opportunity to have mercy, and if one exercises that opportunity, Hashem will thereupon show mercy to him (HaRav Avrohom Pam, Z’tl).  It follows that with a greater effort that is needed to demonstrate this mercy also comes a greater degree of Mercy from Above (in accordance with the rule of Lefum Tza’ara Agra).  Thus, when one has mercy or shows love to one who has insulted him, hurt him financially or otherwise wronged him, the degree of Divine Mercy and Love increases proportionally (at least!).  The more severe the wrong, the greater the responding act of love or mercy is--our success at navigating the most trying of personal moments is not a temporal one--it brings with it Heavenly Blessing in an incredible and wonderful way.  Hakhel Note:  Try it--seize the moment--for your everlasting benefit!



Special Note Five: Yesterday we noted that in last week’s Parsha, we learned of the great importance of Yaakov’s appearance and greeting before Eisav,--and that Rabbi Dovid Flagler, Shlita, has compiled a beautiful pamphlet entitled the great benefits of greeting another pleasantly.  Below are some additional highlights from this very meaningful booklet, which contains lessons that we can all learn from.  To obtain the complete pamphlet, please call 718-645-6526.




A. From 10 Steps to Greatness, by Rabbi A. Miller, Z’tl:


·        Your face is like a screen and you soul like a projector that projects on your face the glory of the human soul that has in it the Greatness of Hashem.


·        Once a day pick a face and think “I see the Image of Hashem.”  You will then begin to understand the endless nobility of a human face.


B.  One time HaRav Nosson Tzvi, Z’tl (the Alter of Slabodka), and a student passed by the house of a Rosh Yeshiva.  “Good Morning!” Rav Nosson Tzvi said turning to the house of the Rosh Yeshiva.  The student looked all around to see if he could see the Rosh Yeshiva, but he could not find him.  Then Rav Nosson Tzvi turned to his student and said, “Why should a person give his friend a bracha only when he sees him? It is true that I did not see the Rosh Yeshiva, but I still wanted to wish him a “Good Morning.”

(Sparks of Mussar, p.166)


C.  There was once a righteous man whose name was Rav Zushe.  When Rav Zushe would get up in the morning he would say, “I wish a good morning to everyone!” (Gateway to Happiness, p.140)


D.  Reb Avraharn Biderman, co-chairman of Shuvu, had worked very closely with Rav Pam, Zt’l, for many years.  He told the following story: As Rav Pam was leaving the yeshiva building before undergoing his first operation, he turned to Reb Avraham and said, “Avraham, think of a special z’chus that will perhaps help me pull through the operation.”  Shocked, Reb Avraham said, “What new z’chus can I mention that the Rebbi does not have?!”  Suddenly Rav Pam went back into the building. He turned to the maintenance man who was washing the floor and wished him a “Good Morning!” Then he turned to Reb Avraham and continued towards the waiting taxi.





A.  Beech Nut - Whole Wheat Pasta Parmesan Brand bears an OU-D symbol. This product is not certified by the Orthodox Union. Corrective action is being implemented.


B.  Quaker Instant Oatmeal, Weight Control Instant Oatmeal - Cinnamon flavor, Banana Bread flavor:  A small amount of Instant Oatmeal Weight Control Instant Oatmeal, Cinnamon flavor and Banana Bread flavor was mistakenly labeled with an OU Symbol without the “D”. This product is dairy and corrective measures were implemented.




QUESTION OF THE WEEK:  The Parsha of Yaakov meeting Eisav is sometimes referred to as the “Parshas HaGalus”, and trains us how we are to behave with those seeking us harm or antagonistic to us in Galus.  Yet, this Parsha occurred as Yaakov is on his way back to Eretz Yisroel--and not on his way out to Chutz LaAretz.  It would have seemed that we would learn the Parshas HaGalus not from Yaakov’s encounter with Eisav--but from his encounter with Lavan, which is when Yaakov was exiting Eretz Yisroel for a while--and not on his way back!  Moreover, Lavan was a genuine Akum, whereas Eisav is described by Chazal as a Yisroel Mumar (Kedushin 18A).  Thus, wouldn’t Yaakov’s conduct with Lavan be the better standard and guide for us to learn from?




Special Note One:  We continue our series on Brachos, with practical Teshuvos in Hilchos Brachos given by Rabbi Yisroel Pinchos Bodner, Shlita, author of Halachos of Brochos (Feldheim).  Of course, one should consult with his own Rav or Posek on every Shailah that he has.




Q: We have been struggling with a clunker of a car for a few years.  We just bought a used car, which to us is equivalent to a luxury car.  Should we make a Shehechiyanu?


A: Although the minhag is not to make a Shehechiyanu for kaylim, nevertheless, if this new acquisition brings you and your family such joy that you really want to recite a brocha, you are permitted to recite a Shehechiyanu.  However, bear in mind that if your wife and/or children and/or others will benefit from this purchase, the brocha would be HaTov V’Hamaytiv. (Heard from Rav Shlomo Zalmen Auerbach Z’tl).


Additional Note on Brachos:  HaRav Shlomo Volbe, Z’tl, notes that the bracha of Shehakol NiHiyeh B’Divaro appears to be so wonderfully all-encompassing and inspiring-- as we proclaim “everything is created by His Word!”  Why, then, is it, that if one has a specific bracha to make in addition to a Shehakol NiHiyeh B’Divaro-- for instance, one is taking a drink and eating a fruit, then the Borei Pri HaEitz takes priority and one would make it before the Shehakol NiHiyeh B’Divaro?! HaRav Volbe beautifully answers that, in fact, a more specific bracha takes precedence because it is better to realize that Hashem not only created the entire world--but that he created every particular item within it. Yes, Hashem created an entire universe with complex galaxies, and an earth with billions of people.  But, Hashem also created the individual and unique orange, kiwi, tomato, and butternut squash in front of you.  As we express our more refined appreciation of that which Hashem bestows upon us, we come closer to our Creator in a more refined way as well!



Special Note Two:  The Kitzur Shulchan Aruch: (28:2) brings from Chazal (Kesuvos 50A) “Vetzidkaso Omedes La’Ad…and his righteousness lasts forever (Tehillim 112:3).  The Pasuk refers to one who writes (or buys) Seforim and lends them out to others.  Hakhel Note:  Do you know any Seforim or Seforim Sets that your local Shul or Yeshiva are missing?  If you supply them…your righteousness will last forever!



Special Note Three:  In last week’s Parsha, we learned of the great importance of Yaakov’s appearance and greeting before Eisav (see Question of the Week above).  Rabbi Dovid Flagler, Shlita, has compiled a beautiful pamphlet entitled the great benefits of saying good morning.  Below are some of the highlights from this very meaningful booklet, which contains lessons that we can all learn from:




A.  Rebbi Yisroel Salanter, Z’tl, had a Chabura which worked on the Middah of Sever Panim Yafos, a Sakin Chotachas, a knife which cuts through the covers of a potential relationship and allows a bond between two human beings to be properly formed. 


B.  Chazal (Avos D’Rebbi Nasson 13:4) teach:  “If someone greets his friend with a pleasant face, then even if he did not give him anything, it is considered as if he gave him all of the Matanos Tovos--all of the good presents in the world!


C.  When you say “Good Morning” to a person, you are giving him a bracha.  HaRav Yecheskel Sarna, Z’tl, taught that whenever you sincerely give a person a bracha, you actually fulfill the Mitzvas Asei of VeAhavta LiReiacha Kamocha.


D.  Moreover, when you say “Good Morning” to a person, you are giving Kavod to Hashem.  Since every person is a Tzelem Elokim, you are giving Kavod to Hashem when you give Kavod to one of His creations.


E.  What is Sinas Chinam?  HaRav Chaim Shmulevtiz, Z’tl, in his Sefer Sichas Mussar, writes that it is the He’edar Shalom Rei’us VeAhava--the concealment of peace, friendship and love between one and another.  What we have to work on is bringing Shalom, Reius and Ahava into the world.  We can begin by greeting people in a warm and friendly manner.


F.  “A person always has to be kind to others.  Above all he as to greet his friend with a smile, because it makes the other person fell good and it helps make people better friends.”  (HaRav Nosson Tzvi Finkel, Z’tl, The Alter of Slabodka, Sparks of Mussar, p. 154)


G.  In the Sefer Michtav Me’Eliyahu, HaRav Dessler, Z’tl, explains the significance of the Gemara in Brachos which states that Rebbi Yochanan ben Zakkai never allowed anyone to give Shalom to him first-- even an Akum in the marketplace.  Rav Dessler marvels: “Rebbi Yochanan ben Zakkai--who never stopped learning p’sukim, mishnayos, gemara, halachos, gematrios, the conversations of the Malachei Hashareis, and Maaseh Ha’merkava, he was the Nasi of the entire Jewish people during the trying time of the destruction of the Bais Hamikdash, and had the needs of the entire Jewish people upon his shoulders...and yet never did it happen that Rebbi Yochanan was so burdened by his thoughts that he forgot to be the first to give Shalom even to an Akum in the marketplace! What tremendous importance this must have--and it is something we can all do and accomplish!”


H.  The Tosfos Yom Tov (Avos 4:15 ) writes:  “Be first to greet every person--by doing this all will love you--and this is the greatest success that you can attain in this world!




Special Note One:  We continue our series on Brachos, with practical Teshuvos in Hilchos Brachos given by Rabbi Yisroel Pinchos Bodner, Shlita, author of Halachos of Brochos (Feldheim).  Of course, one should consult with his own Rav or Posek on every Shailah that he has.




Q  In a recent Hakhel Community Bulletin you wrote that the brocha for rice cakes is hoadoma and borei nefoshos. I buy what looks like square rice cakes but they are made from puffed wheat.  Do they require the same brochos?


A. The Brocha Rishona is the same, because the brocha on roasted wheat kernels is hoadoma.  The same is true for puffed wheat (See Igros Moshe O”H vlm4 44 and 45). However, if you classify yourself as “Yorei Shomayim” you will have a problem with the brocha acharona for a puffed wheat products.   The Shulchan Aruch refers to roasted kernels as k’loyos. As we have written in previous posts, the problem is that Chazal never created a text for the brocha acharona for k’loyos (there is no text of “al hoadoma”). The Shulchan Aruch states that a Yorei Shomayim should only eat k’loyos during the course of a bread meal to avoid the need to make a brocha acharona. (Shulchan A 208.4). This obligation to avoid eating a k’zayis of k’loyos is only directed to persons who are Yorei Shomayim, and all others may make a borei nefoshos. (Shulchan A 208.4)  Perhaps the Jewish companies who manufacture these wheat cakes should print the equivalent of the surgeon general’s warning on the label!   


Additional Note on Brachos One:  The Tosefta to Mesechta Brachos (1:8) teaches “MiBirchosav Shel Adam Nikar Im Hu Yode’ah Sefer Oh Im Hu Bur--from the way a person makes brachos, one can discern whether he is someone who is knowledge, or an ignoramus.  We must carefully value each world of a Bracha.  The Sefer Pele Yoetz brings (from the Gemara in Chulin 67) that one who ‘stole’ a bracha from another had to pay him 10 zehuvim--10 gold pieces.  The Peleh Yoetz asks us to reflect upon how much effort one would put into earning 10 gold pieces--and then think about the value of making a bracha properly! 


Additional Note on Brachos Two:  At the outset of bentsching this Shabbos (three times!) we will be reciting the words B’Chein B’Chesed U’Verachaimim.  As we note the value of each word of a bracha, may we pose the question to you--what is the practical difference in meaning among these three words?



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


A.  How many possible prohibitions could one violate by opening a food or drink packaging or container on Shabbos that should have been opened before Shabbos?  The Sefer Orchos Shabbos lists six possible Melachos:  (i) Makeh BePatish--completing a utensil, (ii) Boneh--building, (iii) Soser--destroying the previously existing structure, (iv) Kore’ah--tearing, (v) Mechateich--cutting to size, and (vi) Mocheik--erasing letters on the container.  Thus, when attempting to open anything on Shabbos that was mistakenly not opened before Shabbos--from a can of tuna fish to a bottle of black cherry soda--from a box of Matzos to a bag of potato chips--and from a freeze pop to a can of beer, one must be very certain that his Rav or Posek permits what he is about to do and the manner in which he proposes to do it.  Hakhel Note:  Many Poskim do not allow the opening of a soda bottle when a ring is left on the bottle as the cap is removed.  Accordingly, as part of the Erev Shabbos Checklist of many, one will find:  Open soda bottles--which means taking a knife or other sharp instrument before Shabbos and completely separate the ring from the cap (if one simply twists off the cap it will allow some of the carbonation to escape, taking away from the complete Oneg Shabbos of the drink!).  One reader recently proudly advised us that he doesn’t remember “even one occasion when I forgot to open soda bottles before Shabbos--and I never had to come to open the bottle in a strange manner on Shabbos itself--by poking holes in the bottle or otherwise”.  Hakhel Note:  Let the Shabbos observer beware--and keep assiduously to his/her Erev Shabbos Checklist!


B.  Every Wednesday HaRav Yisroel Dov Webster, Shlita, noted Posek , Dayan Shaarei Mishpat, and author of The Halachos of Pregnancy and Childbirth, gives a Hakhel Shiur to women in Boro Park attended now by approximately 150 women.  Last winter he gave a series of Shiurim on Hilchos Bishul, and at the end of the series the women were given a bechina of 100 questions. We have previously provided the questions to the first 51 questions, and we will now continue with the goal of completing all 100 questions.


**PLEASE NOTE** Rabbi Webster’s Shiur, which this year is on the Halachos of Kashrus in the Kitchen, has now moved to the Agudah of 18th Ave , 5413 18th Avenue .  It is on Wednesday mornings from 10AM to 11AM, and admission is free.


52. Is one permitted to put uncooked food on a blech before Shabbos?


One should make sure that all food that is put on the blech should be completely cooked before Shabbos. However, as long as the food is half cooked (in great need at least one-third cooked) it may be placed onto the blech before Shabbos and continue to cook on Shabbos. With regards to a liquid, the liquid must be cooked at least to 160F before Shabbos (preferably one should bring all liquids to a boil before Shabbos).


53. If one removed a pot from a blech and did not put it down can one return it back onto the blech?
The answer was given in # 51 last week--do you remember it?


54. Can one put back onto the blech a pot that was removed by mistake and was put on the counter?


The answer was given in # 51 last week--do you remember it?


55. One was organizing the blech on Erev Shabbos and one removed a completely cold pot from the blech but forgot to put it back on the blech. Is one permitted to put it on the blech on Shabbos?


No, but if one removed (and placed down on the counter) before Shabbos a warm pot of food that was completely cooked with the intention to put it back onto the blech before Shabbos but forgot one is permitted in case of great necessity to place the pot back onto the blech on Shabbos as long as the food is still warm.


56. If the fire under the blech went out on Shabbos, can one move the pot to another stove?


If one of the flames under a pot went out, it is permitted to transfer the pot to another flame as long as the food is still hot, fully cooked, and the second flame is covered. However if the food in the pot has cooled, it may not be transferred. It should also be noted that if the gas flame blew out, one is permitted to turn off the gas, but one should use a shinui to turn the control knobs for they are muktzeh.


57. In # 56 does it matter if the fire went out before Shabbos or on Shabbos?




58. If my cholent is drying out how can I add water to it?


One must move the pot from Area A (over the fire, on the blech) to areas on the blech not on the fire--Area B or Area C, and then pour hot water from a kettle that is on the blech. One may also transfer hot water from an urn to a cholent by use of a ladle. The ladle should be inserted into the hot water and held there for a few seconds before the water is ladled into the cholent. Hagaon Harav Shlomo Zalmen Auerbach, Zt’l, held that one may take water from an urn by the use of a cup and then pour the hot water into the cholent. After one adds water to the cholent then the pot may be re-covered and then put back onto Area A.


59. In # 58 can one take water from an urn and then pour it into a cholent pot?


See #58



Special Note Three:  We provide the following points and pointers from this week’s Parsha:


A. Although Hashem had promised Yaakov Avinu that he would be sustained, Chazal teach that Yaakov was worried “Shemah Yigrom HaCheit”--maybe Aveirah would do away with the Brachos that would otherwise come.  What Aveirah was Yaakov referring to?  HaRav Daniel Movshovitz, Z’tl (the last Rosh Yeshiva in Kelm, who was killed Al Kiddush Hashem), provides an incredible explanation.  He teaches that Hashem’s assurance of Bracha to Yaakov was really an assurance to him that he was capable of attaining that blessing--and that if he did the proper hishtadlus, he would be zoche to it.  Yaakov, then, was worried that he would not realize his potential-- not live up to the capabilities that Hashem told him he was in fact capable of.  This is, of course, a great and important lesson to us all. Hashem wants to give us brachos and has unlimited resources--we simply have to properly step into the shoes of the very person whom He wants to give them to.  We are simply hurting ourselves--we are taking away our very own bracha-- if we are weak in Lashon Hara here, easy to get angry there, come even a little late to davening, or in general are not careful enough in areas in which you know you really could be.  Instead of worrying--let’s realize our potential and draw the bracha in! 


Additional Note:  It is no secret that while a child may like to wallow in the mud or dirt, spreading more and more grime on his arms, face and feet, an adult will try to avoid any of this--and will instead attempt to promptly remove any residual evidence of stain on his clothes or body.  This obvious contrast should serve as a real-life lesson for us all.  When one is tempted to speak when he shouldn’t, miss a learning seder, eat of an unknown Hashgacha, or engage in conduct that he would not feel comfortable with on Rosh Hashana or Yom Kippur--he should picture himself both as a little child and as a well-respected adult--and then make the choice of getting dirty--or staying clean!


B.  We provide the following outstanding excerpt from the Sefer Aleinu L’Shabei’ach, containing the teachings of HaRav Yitzchok Zilberstein, Shlita, as presented by Artscroll in an outstanding English translation. 


The Posuk states “Im Lavan Garti--I have sojourned with Lavan” (Bereishis 32:5).  Rashi notes: “Yet I kept the 613 Mitzvos.”  HaRav Zilberstein comments:  “R’ Gershon Kalivensky told me something about the self-sacrifice of Jews for Mitzvos, even in the land of their enemies-and especially for the Mitzvah of tefillah.  During all the years that we were in Siberia , our ‘library’ consisted of a single Sefer--a Siddur.  And even that would not have remained with us, of not for the incredible self-sacrifice of my righteous mother, who guarded that Siddur fiercely and would not let the suspicious Siberian police steal it from her.  The police conducted a search through our barracks, and found the stained Siddur.  They wanted to take away with them.  My mother, with all the meager strength in her body, refused to let them so much as touch it with their polluted hands.


“Those accursed men stared at her sternly--a stare that meant something much more menacing than a punishment.  In Siberia that kind of stare meant only one thing--a bullet to the head.  But, amazingly, those evil men backed down from the confrontation and left us alone.  I shook with fear.  Had those policemen decided to shoot Mother, r’l, there would seemingly have been no one to defend her, for anyone who dared open his mouth would have been finished.  But only ‘seemingly.’  At that moment, I witnessed with my own eyes fulfillment of the verse (Tehillim 97:10), ‘He guards the lives of His devout ones; from the hand of the wicked He saves them.’  I later passed this story on to my children and grandchildren, along with the message that a Jew need not fear anyone--no matter what happens.  A Jew fears only Hashem.


This is what the Gra meant when he wrote, ‘Akshanus B’ruchniyus Yatzliach--Obstinacy in spiritual matters will succeed!’  And I heard from Hagaon R’ Adess that the letters of the word ‘Ivri’ also hint at this idea, as the acronym of ‘Akshanus B’ ruchnius Yatzliach’ spells ‘Ivri.  In other words, anyone who is called an ‘Ivri’--a Jew--must be stubborn in his service of Hashem.  And then he will succeed.”


Additional Note: One example of Ivri 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.  Chazal teach that one who eats *three* meals on Shabbos is saved from three Puroniyos--three difficult times--the Chevlei Moshiach, the Din of Gehinnom, and the Milchemes Gog Umagog.  This teaching is, in reality, quoted in the Mishna Berura, a Halacha work, in Shulchan Aruch, Orach Chaim, 291, seif katan 1.


C. The Torah makes it very clear to us in this week’s Parsha that Yaakov Avinu had a long and difficult battle overnight--with none other than, as Chazal explain, the Sar Shel Eisav himself.  The Chofetz Chaim teaches that neither Avrohom nor Yitzchak had this incredible battle--only Yaakov. What was it that so upset the Satan--that he went to do battle head on at this point?!  The Chofetz Chaim explains that this was a pivotal moment in world history.  Avrohom Avinu was the Amud HaChesed which became a mark of his descendants for all time.  Yitzchak Avinu was the Amud of Avodah which separates us from all peoples.  Now, however, came Yaakov--who learned Torah in Eretz Yisroel--kept it in Chutz La’Aretz-- and was returning with Torah to Eretz Yisroel.  The Amud HaTorah would mean the ultimate effective defeat of evil--for it would prove that the Torah of Galus would last and be successfully transplanted back to Eretz Yisroel.  HaRav Elchanan Wasserman, Z’tl, in explaining his Rebbe’s teaching, writes that Torah is literally a Jew’s ammunition--without it, all of the guns, artillery, fighter jets and manpower can simply not do battle.  It is for this reason, Chazal teach, that even if Hashem is mevater on the sins of Avodah Zara, Gilui Arayos and Shefichus Damim--Hashem will not be mevater on the sin of Bitul Torah.  One who disregards his Torah study time and/or does not learn as he could or should is really like a sentry who has been asked to guard the ammunition depot--turns away and lets the terrorists steal it all. Yaakov showed the Sar Shel Eisav that even if he could be temporarily maimed, our essence of Torah could not be defeated.  It is our role as Yaakov’s progeny to follow in his ways.  This means EVER STRENGTHENING OURSEVES in the study of Torah--and not letting weakness set in.  As we are now more than two months after Yom Kippur and counting, with the detours and distractions of Esav’s Sar all around us--we must fight off the difficulties and temptations--to make sure that we are learning more this year--not less. We must make sure that we are utilizing our wisdom and our capabilities to devise and develop new ways to learn and new times to learn-so that we are constantly growing and modernizing our arsenal.  Starting another shiur in your Shul (like Mishna Berurah Amud Yomi!), going through another Sefer, finding another five minutes of ‘downtime’ during the day to learn, trying to help someone else grow in Torah, or utilizing another technique in modern technology for learning--are some of the actual examples of  the weaponry of our survival.  We are soldiers in a lonely army--but the world’s most important and the world’s best.  If we fail in our individual duty, we are hurting ourselves and making the world a more dangerous place.  If we succeed--then we will have realized the full and potential of Yaakov Avinu--and unite with him to together be called Yisroel!


We hope to soon kindle the Chanukah lights.  If we are to sincerely take the lesson from this week’s Parsha --the time is now to rekindle the flame of Torah is now.  It takes just a few minutes of reflection, of thinking ‘out of the box’--to take yourself to the next step in the great and surprising strides you can make over your lifetime in Torah study.


D.  A second essential teaching on the battle of Yaakov and the Sar Shel Eisav:  The Aish Kodesh on Parshas VaYishlach (Bereishis 32: 27,28) poses two important questions:  Firstly, after the Sar Shel Eisav injured Yaakov, why did Yaakov ask him for a bracha--who needed a bracha from this mazik?  Moreover, hadn’t he already received a bracha from Hashem Himself--what more did he need?!  Secondly, why did the Sar Shel Eisav have to ask Yaakov his name--and why did he voluntarily and unilaterally then need to change it?  The Aish Kodesh wonderfully explains that Yaakov, by asking for the bracha, was establishing a precedent for his descendants (based upon Ma’aseh Avos Siman LeBanim)--he wanted a havtacha that after this “injury” something great--a yeshua, would come from it.  He asked for an assurance that when Bnei Yisroel have yissurim it should lead to great bracha--not merely an ending of the yissurim--but an actual beginning of salvation and a showering of blessing.  One day this Sar will change names from Samael to Sael (losing the “mem” of maves--death) and be a true Malach Kadosh, attaining a place among the other Malochim.  Yaakov, in turn, began that process of tikkun then--so the Malach wanted to give Bnai Yisroel a bracha that we should no longer be “Yaakov” i.e., getting brachos only after yissurim--but rather we should be “Yisroel” and receive brachos without having to suffer for them.  May we be zoche soon to *always* be referred to as Yisroel!


E.  Yaakov then meets Eisav, and they have their world-affecting encounter.  The Sefer Sechel Tov notes that Eisav, upon Yaakov taking leave of him, had Kefitzas HaDerech in traveling to Se’ir.  We can well understand why Eliezer or Yaakov would have Kefitzas HaDerech--but why would Eisav HaRasha--who is even referred to as a Yisroel Mumar have Kefitzas HaDerech?  The Sechel Tov answers that Hashem sped his departure so as not to cause Yaakov Avinu undue discomfort in being in close proximity with the Rasha.  This is the degree to which Hashem watched the righteous.  If you have a Rasha who is bothering you--you must remember that it is your fault--not his!


F.  Shimon and Levi are each referred to in this week’s Parsha as an Ish in describing their battle against the wicked people of Shechem--as the Pasuk states “Ish Charbo” (Bereishis 34:25).  We derive from here that that the age of Bar Mitzvah is 13, since Levi was 13 at the time and the Torah goes out of its way to specifically refer to him as an Ish.  As Rabbi Maimon Elbaz, Shlita, puts it: this is because the true sign of being a man--is to be able to stand up against evil!


Hakhel Note:  Indeed, this is the great lesson in preparation for the time that we are in--as the Chashmonaim dedicated their lives to fight those who thought that they were really ‘men’.  In the end, it was not the Greeks who were the ‘Ish’--it was the Chashmonaim who fought against all odds for the honor of Hashem and his Torah.  This too is our mission--to be the Ish…in our times.



QUESTION OF THE WEEK:  Which of the Avos and Imahos are included in the acronym of the name Yisroel given to us in this week’s Parsha? The easy to conclude, but Powerful Answer--Rabbi Maimon Elbaz, Shlita, brings that all seven of them are! We--as the Bnei Yisroel--thus proudly carry the Avos and Imahos each and every place that we go.




Special Note One:  We continue our series on Brachos, with practical Teshuvos in Hilchos Brachos given by Rabbi Yisroel Pinchos Bodner, Shlita, author of Halachos of Brochos (Feldheim).  Of course, one should consult with his own Rav or Posek on every Shailah that he has.




Q We are planning a family trip to Switzerland.  Is there a brocha for seeing the Alps ?


A. Yes, the brocha for major mountains oceans and other natural creations is “Oseh Maseh B’Reishis.”  (Shulchan A 228).  It would be hard to find a mountain range more awe inspiring than the Alps .  The  Mishna Berura explains that when we see creations that were obviously created in Shayshes Yemei Bereishis, it is an opportunity for us to praise Hashem. (Mishna Berurah 228.1)  I assume that your family does not live in the vicinity of the Alps , and has had not seen the Alps within 30 days prior, and will truly be awed by the awe inspiring natural creation. (Mishna Berurah 228.2)


Additional Note on Brachos:  Chazal (Brachos 35A) teach that one who benefits from this world without first reciting a bracha is considered as if he unlawfully benefitted from Kodshei Shomayim, for the Pasuk states LaHashem HaAretz U’Melo’a--Hashem owns everything in the Heavens and on the earth.  That being the case, does--or how does--reciting of a Bracha change anything?  Doesn’t Hashem still own everything?  Rabbi Aleksander Mandelbaum, Shlita, the author of the Sefer V’Zos HaBeracha, answers that by a person humbling himself before Hashem and thanking Hashem for His graciousness--he himself becomes Kadosh LaHashem!  The fruit or other food has not left Hashem’s Ownership--it remains Kadosh--but the person has raised himself to be a Kadosh as well! 



Special Note Two:  On the subject of Kedusha, we provide the following important points and pointers relating to one’s answering of Kedusha at Shacharis, Mincha and Mussaf:


A.  The Mishna Berurah (Shulchan Aruch, Orach Chaim 125, seif katan 4) urges us to have Kavannah in Kedusha LeKadeish Es Hashem Yisborach--adding that one should intend to fulfill the Mitzvas Asei of VeNekdashti Besoch Bnei Yisroel when reciting Kedusha.  The Mishna Berurah adds:  U’Vezechus Zeh Yashreh Alav Hashem Yisborach Kedusha MiLemalah--in this merit, Hashem will cause Kedusha to descend upon him from heaven.”

Hakhel Note:  Adding these words to the teaching of Rabbi Mandelbaum above certainly gives us an idea of how we can bring real sanctity to ourselves throughout the day!


B.  When reciting the Pasuk of Kadosh Kadosh and the Pasuk of Baruch Kevod in Kedusha, one should lift his opened eyes towards the Heavens.  The Mishna Berurah brings from the Sefer Heichalos that Hashem teaches:  Ki Ain Li Hana’ah BaOlam K’osah Sha’ah…--for there is no pleasure for Me in the world, as those times when their eyes are lifted towards Me…at those times I grasp onto the Kisei HaKavod where the image of Yaakov is placed, hug it and kiss it, mention their zechusim and bring the Geulah quicker.” (Mishna Berurah, ibid., seif katan 5 and 6)  Hakhel Note:  Although we cannot fathom these anthropomorphisms, we are given an absolutely essential glimpse into the true profundity of the moment!


C.  HaRav Chaim Kanievsky, Shlita (in the Sefer Ishei Yisroel), states that he does not know of the source as to why people turn to their sides when they recite “VeKarah Zeh El Zeh VeAmar”. (Brought in the Dirshu Edition of the Mishna Berurah 125, footnote 15)


D.  Although the Kaf HaChaim (125:10) teaches that one should lift his body each time he recites Kadosh--or three separate times, the Aruch HaShulchan (125:3) writes that one should raise his body once and keep his body lifted for all three times one recites Kadosh.  We note that Rebbi Akiva Eiger, Z’tl, learns that even if one is standing and only listening to Kedusha because he is only in the middle of Shemone Esrei, he can still raise his body at this time, but the Kapos Temarim disagrees. (ibid.)


E.  If one finds himself constantly missing Kedusha because his personal Shemone Esrei takes longer than most of the Tzibbur, he should consult with his Rav or Posek on how to conduct himself.


F.  HaRav Moshe Feinstein, Z’tl, in the Igros Moshe (3:89) writes that even if one hears Kedusha 100 times a day, he must respond--for it is a Mitzvah of Kiddush Hashem and each and every time he responds, he fulfills the Mitzvah another time.

Hakhel Note:  Those who are blessed with this daily opportunity should truly treasure and regal in the great moments!



Special Note Three: The Pasuk in Iyov (5:7) teaches Ki Adam LeAmal Yulad--for man is born to toil.  Chazal explain that this refers to the toil of Torah.  The Maharsha to Sanhedrin (in further explaining this Chazal) teaches that the word LeAmal is actually an acronym for the words Lilmod Al M’nas LeLamed--learning in order to teach others.  We must strive to properly understand our studies and, having done so, we will be able to share our Divrei Torah with others.  In this way, the Maharsha teaches, we are fulfilling our Yulad--the purpose of our birth!



WHEN DAVENING FOR A TALMID CHACHOM:  We were recently asked to daven for the health of HaRav Elyashiv, Shlita.  How should we mention his name in our Tefillos?  HaRav Elyashiv’s son in-law, HaRav Chaim Kanievsky, Shlita (in the Sefer Ishei Yisroel) rules that when davening for a Talmid Chachom one should not only say his name, but as a sign of respect place the title ‘Reb’ in front of the name.  Thus, according to HaRav Kanievsky, when davening for Rav Elyashiv, one would say Reb Yosef Shalom Ben Chaya Musha.



Special Note One:  We continue our series on Brachos, with practical Teshuvos in Hilchos Brachos given by Rabbi Yisroel Pinchos Bodner, Shlita, author of Halachos of Brochos (Feldheim).  Of course, one should consult with his own Rav or Posek on every Shailah that he has.




Q: I usually wear my hat and jacket while bentsching. Last night I had already dressed in my pajamas when I remembered that I had not bentsched, so I bentsched without a hat and jacket. Was that acceptable?


A: The Shulchan Aruch likens the recital of Birkas HaMazon to the recital of Shemone Esrei in many respects (Shulchan Aruch Orach Chaim 193:8).  This correlation has a number of halachic implications, one of which is to be respectfully dressed while reciting the brocha. Wearing a hat and jacket for bentsching is preferable, but not mandatory. However, it is not correct to bentsch while dressed in pajamas. Ordinarily, one should not bentsch while attired in a bathrobe. However, if he is ill in bed, he may bentsch while wearing a bathrobe, but not in pajamas or nightgown or undergarments.  (Rav Shlomo Zalmen Auerbach Z’tl, Halachos of Brochos pg 311).  


Additional Note on Brachos:  The Rema (Shulchan Aruch, Orach Chaim 124:7) brings from the Kol Bo that a child obtains a chelek in Olam Haba when he first begins to answer Amen.  We see from here what a building block of Emunah the proper answering of Amen really is! 



Special Note Two:  In last week’s Parsha, the Torah accords special attention to names and their meaning.  The custom of many at the end of Shemone Esrei before reciting Yiheyu LeRatzon and taking three steps back is to recite a Pasuk from Tanach which begins and ends with the same letters as one’s name begins and ends, or a Pasuk in which his name is itself mentioned.  This custom is referred to by the Chofetz Chaim (in the Sefer Shemiras HaLashon II:8), the Kitzur Shulchan Aruch (18:15), and even by the Eliyahu Rabba to Shulchan Aruch (Orach Chaim 124, seif katan 3).  The Maharsham brings that for one recites ‘his’ or ‘her’ Pasuk--the Torah itself will save him from Gehenom! 

Hakhel Note:  What’s in a name--plenty!  Perhaps it is for this reason that calling someone by a nickname even if it is not derogatory--must be carefully reviewed, with a Shailah being asked in any question of a doubt. Making a nick in a name is not a Torah standard!



Special Note Three:  If one forgot to recite V’Sein Tal U’Matar Levracha in the bracha of Bareich Aleinu, he can, of course, recite the phrase in Shema Koleinu--immediately before reciting Ki Atta Shomeah.  What phrase should he insert there?  The Kitzur Shulchan Aruch rules that he need only recite those four words--V’Sein Tal U’Matar Levracha.  However, it appears from the Aruch HaShulchan (Orach Chaim 117:6) that one recites the term V’Sein Tal U’Matar Levracha Al Penei HaAdama [see Dirshu Edition to Mishna Berurah, 117, footnote 23). 

Hakhel Note:  What does the term Al Penei HaAdama mean?  The Kuntres Avodas HaTefillah suggests that it is a request for the rain to fall and remain on the top layer of earth so that the water will be readily available for plants to grow.  HaRav Chaim Friedlander, Z’tl, suggests that we are asking for the earth’s face to appear fresh, healthy, and green from the vegetation that grows upon it--so that the earth recovers from its previous dried out and heated appearance. Hakhel Note:  Countenance to the rest of the world is always important--even if is that of the inanimate earth!



Special Note Four:  Chazal provide, as one sign of a Shoteh, a foolish or crazed person, that he loses that which he is given.  Far be it from us to ignore, fumble, or simply allow to slip away the opportunity Hashem is giving us now--as the swords of the world clamor--to daven to Hashem and to increase our own piety through increased acts of Emunah, Avodah and Chesed.  As Dovid HaMelech exclaims, BaiElokim Na’aseh Chayil VeHu Yavus Tzareinu--Through Hashem we shall act valiantly, and He will trample our oppressors (Tehillim 60:14).  Hashem will ‘take over’ any army role that is necessary--if we act through Him! 

Hakhel Note:  We stress that it is of extreme importance that we daven for the Shemira of ourselves and of all of Klal Yisroel.  We have a Kabbalah from the G’ra that the world order--the world as we know it today--can change in a matter of minutes.  Thus, just an extra Kepitel of Tehillim with Kavannah a day, just an extra few minutes for the sake of Shalom for ourselves and our brethren can really accomplish an incomprehensible amount.  Consider then that if not only you--but hundreds if not thousands--of sincere brothers do likewise.  We can easily be taken from Tzara to Revacha, from Afeilah to Orah and from Shibud to Geulah--and this can happen very, very quickly--quite literally in minutes!  Let each and every one of us be a part of it!



Special Note Five:  Two weeks from today is Chanukah.  With Chanukah advertising everywhere, and Chanukah products filling the stores, we should take it as a real reminder to begin our spiritual preparations for this supernal period as well.  Is there a new Peirush on Chanukah that I will study, a new Sefer that I will buy?  ‘Water, water is everywhere--and there is plenty to drink!’



Special Note Six:  Shlomo HaMelech, the wisest of all men, teaches us in Koheles (3:15) VeHaElokim Yivakeish Es Nirdaf--Hashem seeks those who are pursued.  The Midrash Rabba teaches that we can see this clearly from the kinds of Karbanos that Hashem accepts in the Bais HaMikdash:  An ox is chased by a lion, a goat is pursued by a leopard, and a sheep is hunted by a wolf.  Hashem is not at all interested in the pursuers--but only in the pursued.  Based upon this, the Chofetz Chaim writes, one should learn and appreciate how far he should stay from even associating with those who pursue Machlokes--for Hashem rejects them outright.  In the end, they will be called to task and punished.  However, one who avoids any tinge of Machlokes in the end will be honored before all--as the very same Shlomo HaMelech, the wisest of all men, teaches Kavod LaIsh Sheves MeiRiv--abstention from quarrel is a man’s honor.  (Mishlei 20:3) 

Hakhel Note:  A quarrel does not have to mean a battle between two sects or large groups--the Hadfields and the McCoys and their ilk.  It can also mean a disagreement among friends, among family, and yes, even among siblings or spouses.  Why should we be among the pursuers--when we can be counted among the pursued--and enjoy all the true honor of being human--guaranteed to us by the wisest of all men!



QUESTION OF THE WEEK:  Last night we began asking for Tal U’Matar.  What is compared to both Tal  and Matar--and what do you think the double entendre means?!



Special Note One:  We continue our series on Brachos, with practical Teshuvos in Hilchos Brachos given by Rabbi Yisroel Pinchos Bodner, Shlita, author of Halachos of Brochos (Feldheim).  Of course, one should consult with his own Rav or Posek on every Shailah that he has.




Q After I washed mayim achronim, the phone rang. I answered it. Do I wash mayim achronim again, or just bentsch?


A. According to many Poskim, when one washes mayim achronim it is as if the mitzvah of bentsching has begun. He may not answer the phone, speak, eat, or even speak Divrei Torah. However, if an urgent matter arises, he may take care of it, but should wash mayim achronim again and start bentsching without delay.  (Shulchan Aruch 179.1 and Halachos of Brochos pg 306).


Additional Note on Brachos:  Several additional points on the great opportunity of answering “Amen”! from the Sefer Piskei Teshuvos (IV: p.428-431):


A. The Rema (Shulchan Aruch, Orach Chaim 167:2) teaches that the Mevarech should have Kavannah to the meaning of Amen that is being answered--as the Amen completes his bracha in a more refined manner!


B.  The Chayei Adam (6:1) writes that it is a serious offense for one to hear a Bracha and not answer Amen.  Accordingly, if a person sees that people around him are not paying careful attention to his making a Bracha, it is better for him to recite the Bracha silently, so as not to potentially hurt others.  It is for this reason that we recite the HaRachamans in bentsching in an undertone, unless we know that the people around us will answer Amen to each HaRachaman.


C.  One must definitely answer Amen to the bracha of  a Katan who has reached the age of Chinuch (i.e., one who knows how to make a bracha and who knows to Whom a bracha is made).  However, many authorities rule that even if a Katan has not reached the age of Chinuch, one should still answer Amen to his brachos--as this will train him in the answering of Amen to the brachos of others.  The Steipeler Gaon, Z’tl, would, for example, answer Amen to a child’s bracha if a child was three or older.



Special Note Two:  The author of the Chayei Adam (the great Halachic work noted above) was HaRav Avrohom Danzig, Z’tl.  In addition to writing the Chayei Adam, he wrote the Nishmas Adam, the Zichru Toras Moshe (among other works) and was an accomplished merchant.  HaRav Danzig left instructions that upon his Petira, the only words of Hesped about him would be that he was “Nosei V’Nosein BeEmunuah”, and that he believed that he had never wronged anyone in monetary matters.  We note that the essence of Yaakov Avinu was his Torah (as a Yosheiv Ohalim)--and his Emes.  It is evident that the two--the study of Torah and honesty and integrity in business affairs go hand-in-hand. As we live the Parshios, let us not only strengthen our Torah study--but the integrity in which we conduct our everyday business and affairs--even if it is ‘only’ shopping and the way we deal with workers inside the home and out. 



Special Note Three:  We provide below some essential excerpts from the Sefer Chovos HaLevavos in the Sha’ar HeBechina--the Gate of Reflection--in which we are urged to consider the constant goodness we receive in this world.  The translation is from the highly recommended Duties of the Heart (Feldheim, two volumes, translation by Rabbi Daniel Haberman):


A. “Reflect further on the good which Hashem has bestowed on man by [granting him] speech and coherence of language.  Through speech he can express what is in his soul and innermost self, and can communicate with others.  The tongue is the heart’s pen and the mind’s messenger.  Without speech, a man would have no social relationship with his fellow, and would live the [solitary] life of an animal, through speech it becomes apparent that one man is superior to another.  Through speech, bonds of friendship are formed among men, and covenants are made between Hashem and His servants.  Through speech a man turns from his mistaken path and seeks atonement for his sins.  The way a man speaks is the best proof of his worthiness or unworthiness.  It has been said that a man [in essence] is his heart and tongue.  Speech is the defining element of a human being.  For a man is defined as “a living, speaking, and mortal being”; it is speech that distinguishes man from beast.”


B. “…The third reason [people fail to perceive Hashem’s graces] is that misfortune befalls them in this world and harm comes to them in body and property.  They fail to discern how these serve as means to their ultimate good, [nor do they appreciate] the benefits to be gained from the trial and discipline [which these provide], as it says: “Happy is the man whom You discipline, Hashem, whom You teach from Your Torah” (Tehillim 94:12). They forget that they owe their own existence and all that belongs to them to the graces which the Creator-- in His generosity and love--bestows on them, and that His decrees upon them are just, in accordance with the dictates of His wisdom.  They are resentful when His judgment is visited upon them; they do not praise Him when His loving-kindness is manifested to them; and their ignorance brings them to deny both the benefits and the Benefactor.  Ignorance may even bring many of them to assume that they are wiser than He is in regard to His acts and the various created things which He created for their benefit. How closely they resemble in this regard men who are not able to see and who are brought to a house prepared for them with everything that could benefit them:  Everything in it is arranged perfectly; it is fully equipped and ideally suited to benefit them and provide for their welfare.  In addition, effective medications--and a skilled physician to administer them--are provided for their treatment, so that their sight be restored.  Nevertheless, the men neglect to undergo treatment for their eyes, and disregard the advice of the physician who was to treat them.  They walk about the house, handicapped greatly by their blindness, stumbling over the very things that had been prepared for their benefit, falling their faces; some suffer bruises, and others broken limbs.  They suffer much, and their troubles are compounded.  They complain bitterly about the owner and builder of the house and condemn his actions.  In their eyes he has been negligent and a poor leader, and they believe that his motivation had not been to do them good and show them kindness, but to cause them pain and injury.  This leads them to deny the benevolence and kindness of the owner.  As the Wise One said: “Even while the fool walks on the road, he has no sense, and he says of everyone: ‘He is a fool’ (Koheles 10:3).  Since this is so, it is the obligation of men of wisdom and knowledge to rouse those who fail to perceive the favors of the Creator and to teach people to recognize these blessings intellectually.  For there are many blessings which people possess and yet fail to profit from altogether--do not fully enjoy--simply because they are not aware of them and do not appreciate their value.  Once they are alerted to the many benefits of these blessings--and what had been hidden from them is revealed to them, they will sing the praises of and express full gratitude to their Benefactor--and as a result find pleasure and enjoyment in this world--and a fitting reward in the next!”


Hakhel Note:  Please reread each of these excerpts!



Special Note Four:  Today, the 10th of Kislev, marks two months since Yom Kippur!  We should certainly take a few moments to review our Kabbalos for the Year, and what we need to modify or improve upon.  It is also a time to check upon or enhance our personal Teshuva BeChol Yom program.  If the Iranian Army is in a supposed state of alert--all the more so should we be.  Let us remember that the small Machatzis HaShekel of the INDIVIDUALS of K’lal Yisroel upended and defeated the 10,000 talents of Haman and the Iranian henchman of his day.  As common wisdom dictates that history repeats itself--let’s do OUR PART to make GREAT history repeat-- with the opportunity of real Yeshua ahead --Bekarov Bimheira VeYameinu!



KASHRUS NOTE:  As we have noted many times in the past, one must review labels before purchasing a product.  As an example, a reader recently notified us that he had purchased Minute Maid orange juice, knowing that it was part of the Coca Cola family, and accordingly believing that it too was under the OU.  Moreover, “what could be in orange juice already?”  After most of the container had been drunk, someone noticed that the symbol on the orange juice was a Triangle K, which is obviously a different supervision than the OU, and which his Rav did not have adequate information on.  We add that in addition to regular orange juice, Minute Maid offers other flavors of drinks, including grape flavored drinks.  Let the buyer beware!



Special Note One:  We continue our series on Brachos, with practical Teshuvos in Hilchos Brachos given by Rabbi Yisroel Pinchos Bodner, Shlita, author of Halachos of Brochos (Feldheim).  Of course, one should consult with his own Rav or Posek on every Shailah that he has.





Q  I would like to know what brocha to make on kugel made from mashed vegetables (carrots, celery, kosher broccoli, sweet potato)?


A.  Often vegetable kugel contains solid pieces of vegetables which would be recognizable. That is to say if you showed the kugel to a few friends and asked them to identify the vegetables they would be able to do it.  In that case the brocha would be hoadoma. However, if the kugel was made by mashing or blending the vegetables, to the extent that the individual vegetable is no longer identifiable, the brocha is shehakol. (Halachos of Brochos, p. 408).


Additional Note on Brachos:  When answering Amen! to another’s Bracha, al pi Halacha (Shulchan Aruch, Orach Chaim 124:8), must be careful:  (a) to make sure that the mevarech has completed the last word of the bracha;  (b) that the first and last letters of one’s Amen! are properly enunciated and not cut off;  and (c) that the time it takes for one to answer Amen! is the time it would take him to recite the words Keil Melech Ne’eman, of which Amen! is an acronym.  If one notices that a person who is making brachos (such as a Shaliach Tzibbur) is not allowing enough time for those listening to answer Amen! properly or is drawing out the last word so that people begin to answer Amen! before the bracha is over, he should gently remind/ teach the reciter that Amen! is a sacred opportunity and response--and the Gemara mentions r’l difficult and severe punishments for improper Amen responses.  Conversely and so importantly, Chazal (Shabbos 119B) teach that who answers Amen! properly and with the proper intent--the Gates of Gan Eden are opened especially for him!



Special Note Two:  Tonight, those who currently reside in Chutz La’Aretz will begin reciting VeSein Tal U’Matar Livracha.  As we begin, let us reflect--is not the standard term for rain ‘Geshem’--if so, why do we specifically request Matar in the bracha?  Although noting that the Aruch HaShulchan Orach Chaim 114:2) learns to the contrary, HaRav Chaim Friedlander, Z’tl brings the Rabbeinu Bachya (to Devorim 11:17), and the Malbim (in Yair Ohr--Os Mem) who teach that Geshem is related to the word Gashmiyus--and it refers only to rainwaters which arise from the waters of the seas and oceans which form clouds and then come back down to earth.  Matar, on the other hand, also refers to waters whose origins are in Shomayim itself--accordingly representing Hashem’s direct Hashgacha Pratis, as these waters would clearly not descend upon us from on high--unless there was a Ko’ach Ruchni especially making it happen!  Starting this evening--let us invest our proper Kavannah into the words we will recite over the winter months--as we especially ask Hashem to not only give us Geshem--but the Ruchniyus of Matar as well!



Special Note Three:  This week, we continue learning of the quality of Emes L’Yaakov.  In fact, the quality of ‘Titein Emes L’Yaakov’ is the Tenth Middah of Hashem, as explained in the Sefer Tomer Devorah:  “and to those who conduct themselves in this world with uprightness, Hashem also conducts towards them with this quality of truth, having mercy on them in a way that is upright and just.  So, too, must a person act towards his fellow in a way that is upright and true, never perverting the justice of his friend.  He should have true mercy on him, just as Hashem has true mercy on his creatures [even of] average stature.  We see from the Tomer Devorah that even Hashem’s truth relates back to the truth--of mercy.  If this is the truth that we seek from Hashem--this is the truth that we should mete out to others!



Special Note Four:  HaRav Herschel Zolty, Shlita, brings the G’ra on the first bracha of Shemone Esrei.  The G’ra explains that there are 18 praises of Hashem in the first bracha because the way one begins is a true portend of how things will continue.  If we have Kavannah in the first bracha...our Shemone Esrei can then go places!  As we begin the work week for those outside of Eretz Yisroel, let us begin in a strong an uncompromising way--not allowing the Yetzer Hora to stick his perverse logic into ruining that Tefillah, missing that learning opportunity, or not performing the Mitzvah as completely as you really can....  Let’s put all 18 Shevachim into today’s beginning Avodos--and be zoche to see its fruits the rest of the week...and beyond!



Special Note Five:  On the words of Dovid Hamelech in Tehillim (23, 5) “Kosi Revaya--my cup runs over”--HaRav Avigdor Miler, Z’tl provides the following great insight (in his Sefer Shaarei Orah I, p.96, as brought in Growth Through Tehillim, by Rabbi Zelig Pliskin, Shlita):  “A cup can only run over if it becomes full first.  If there is a hole in the cup, it will never become full and will never run over.  This is a lesson for us to constantly remember the good things that Hashem does for us.  Don’t forget them.  Then the good things will add up--and the happiness will flow!




Special Note One: We continue our series on Brachos, with practical Teshuvos in Hilchos Brachos given by Rabbi Yisroel Pinchos Bodner,Shlita, author of Halachos of Brochos (Feldheim). Of course, one should consult with his own Rav or Posek on every Shailah that he has. 

                                                                                               SITUATION #22

Q: You recently wrote that one should eat granola bars during the meal or alternatively should eat less than a k’zayis (to eat less than 3/4 of one Nature Valley bar then to wait 6 or more minutes until you eat another 3/4). We eat granola cereal for breakfast, and if we would eat less than a K’zayis it would not be much of a breakfast. Must we wash on bread?

A: First of all, the obligation to avoid eating a k’zayis of k’loyos is only directed to persons who are yorei shomayim; all others may make a borei nefoshos. Your children are probably not yet in the category of yorei shomayim, and may make due with a borei nefoshos. (Shulchan A 208.4) You and any other person who may be considered yorei shomayim, can avoid the brocha achrona problem by washing for bread, but there is an easier way. Mix the granola cereal with a k’zayis of cooked oatmeal or cheerios, or a k’zayis of any other mezonos, and eat the bowl of cereal within 3 or 4 minutes. The mezonos becomes the ikar and covers the granola as well. The brocha rishona would be mezonos and the brocha achrona would be al hamichya. (Halachos of Brochos pg 65).

Additional Note on Brachos: The Name of Hashem that is preeminently utilized in a Bracha is Yud-Keh-Vuv-Keh. Why would this Name be used more than the Name which is spelled Aleph-Dalet-Nun-Yud? We may suggest that the Name of Yud-Keh refers not only to Hashem’s Mastery over the world, but also to the fact that He Was, Is, And Will Be and that He creates everything on a continuous basis--whereas the Name of Aleph-Daled relates only to His Mastery over the world. The additional meanings included in the Name of Yud-Keh are thus very much related to the Brachos that we make daily! 

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

A. In his recent Hakhel Shiur, Rabbi Yisroel Reisman, Shlita, pointed out that the Yetzer Hara does not endeavor to tempt the average Torah Jew to commit Chilul Shabbos. Instead, the Yetzer Hara works on the periods immediately prior to Shabbos and immediately after Shabbos--attempting to force the person to jump into Shabbos at the last moment, rather than calmly greet the Shabbos queen. Similarly, and strangely, we find that even if a person has no set place to rush to after Shabbos, he will daven at the early Minyan (they even make Minyanim in Shul hallways, which begin a few minutes before the scheduled time, or which are ‘quicker’). In short, the Yetzer Hara’s field of work is at the coming and going of Shabbos. Rabbi Reisman homiletically suggests that this is one reason that we unusually sing Shalom Aleichem indicating that we greet the Shabbos in a happy and warm way) and Tzeisichem L’Shalom (treating the departure of Shabbos with the same warmth and feeling). This concept is also imbued in the term ‘Kabbalas Shabbos’ for the Tefillos that we recite at the beginning of Shabbos--as we accept Shabbos upon ourselves willingly, treasuringly, and lovingly! 

B. In a Note earlier this week, we brought that HaRav Shlomo Zalmen Auerbach, Z’tl, rules that at the beginning of the bracha of Mai’ein Sheva on Leil Shabbos, the Shaliach Tzibbur should bow in the same manner that he bows at the beginning of Shemone Esrei. We add to this that according to the Aishel Avraham (Butchach, 268), the Shaliach Tzibbur should also recite Yehiyu L’Ratzon at the end of the Bracha of Mai’ein Sheva. (see Shulchan Aruch, Orach Chaim 124, Mishna Berurah, seif katan 21 and Dirshu Edition there Note 27)

C. The four brachos we make at Havdalah--Besamim, Yayin, Ner, and Havdalah, are the acronym for Binah--understanding. Oh, what we gain from the Shabbos--even as it departs! 

D. Every Wednesday HaRavYisroel Dov Webster, Shlita, noted Posek, Dayan Shaarei Mishpat, and author of The Halachos of Pregnancy and Childbirth, gives a Hakhel Shiur to women in Boro Park attended now by approximately 150 women. Last winter he gave a series of Shiurimon Hilchos Bishul, and at the end of the series the women were given a bechina of 100 questions. We have previously provided the questions to the first 50 questions, and we will now continue with the goal of completing all 100 questions.

**PLEASE NOTE**Rabbi Webster’s Shiur, which this year is on the Halachos of Kashrus in the Kitchen, has now moved to the Agudah of 18th Ave, 5413 18th Avenue. It is on Wednesday mornings from 10AM to 11AM, and admission is free. 

51. What are the five conditions to permit returning food to a blech- Chazarah?

We have explained above, that a fully cooked solid is not subject to the laws of Bishul, because Ein Bishul Achar Bishul. Therefore, one would think that it should be permissible to replace a fully cooked pot of food onto the stove after it has been removed. However, Chazal teach that if a person is seen to be placing a pot on the stove, it would give the appearance that one is cooking on Shabbos--Mechzei Kimivashel. Chazal therefore made a rule that a pot may not be returned to the stove unless it is clear that this is not a new act of cooking but rather only a continuation of the previous act of cooking.

Due to the above reasoning, Chazal prohibited the pot to be returned to the stove unless five conditions are fulfilled. Only when all the conditions are present may the pot be returned to the stove.

These are five conditions:
1. The flame onto which the pot is returned is covered (blech).
2. The food must be fully cooked.
3. The food must still warm (even if not yad soledes bo, as long as it is still warm).
4. The pot is removed with the intention of returning it.
5. The pot is continuously held by the person while it is off the stove.

Let us explain some of the conditions:

1. The Flame Is Covered
To place a pot on a covered flame does not look like a typical act of cooking.
NOTE: The pot does not necessarily have to be returned to the same flame upon which it was originally placed. As long as it is placed on a flame that is covered, it is permitted. A pot may therefore be transferred from one blech to another, or even from an open flame onto another flame covered with a blech. 

If the stove top was not covered by a blech on Erev Shabbos, it is permissible to cover the flame with a blech on Shabbos. Once the flame has been covered, the pot maybe placed on the blech as long as all the other conditions have been fulfilled.

4. The pot is removed with the intention of returning it
If a pot is removed from the stove with the intention to return it, this intention indicates that the returning of the pot to the stove is merely a continuation of the previous act and is not a new act of cooking. 
However, if by mistake a pot was removed from the stove without the intention to return it, e.g., on Friday night the cholent (for use on Shabbos day) was removed by mistake from the stove with no intention to return it, and when the pot was opened it was seen to be the cholent, then it is permissible to return the pot to the stove even if the pot has already been placed on a table. If a pot slips off the blech it may be replaced. The same would apply if the pot was removed with the intention to return it and it accidentally slipped out of one’s hands. 

5. The Pot Is Still in the Hand 
Holding the pot indicates that the removal of the pot is only temporary and when the pot is returned it is one continuous act of cooking. There is a dispute among the Poskim as to the extent to which one must hold the pot. Some Poskim are of the opinion that the pot must literally be held in the air, or rested on the edge of a surface in such a manner that if the person holding the pot would let go, the pot would fall. Other Poskim are of the opinion that even if the pot is placed on a surface, as long as the pot is still held in the hand, it may be returned. In the case of a very large pot that could not beheld in the air, one may rest the pot on the surface. If the pot was removed from the stove and was placed on the ground it may not be returned to the stove, however, if it was on a countertop or table then it may be returned. 

Special Note Three: We provide the following points and pointers on this week’s Parsha, Vayeitzei:

A. At the outset of the Parsha, Rashi teaches that the Torah goes out of its way to state that Yaakov left the place, to teach that when a Tzaddik leaves a place, it leaves an impact. Why was this lesson taught to us by Yaakov Avinu--and not by Avraham and Yitzchak? HaRav Chaim Kanievsky, Shlita, explains that Yaakov Avinu was an Ish Tam Yosheiv Ohalim--one who spent his time in the Bais HaMidrash, and would not otherwise be known to the people in the same way as others. Nevertheless, we must know that his departure from a place makes a lasting impression--just as in the same way as Avraham Avinu who was known to all! 

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

dditional Note: HaRav Kanievsky, teaches that the Yeshiva of Shem V’Ever where Yaakov studied for 14 years was actually in Be’er Sheva itself. Why, then, was he not worried that Eisav would find him there? It must be, HaRav Kanievsky teaches, that Yaakov knew that Eisav would not set foot into a Yeshiva--notwithstanding the primary importance he placed on attacking Yaakov. 

Hakhel Note: If Eisav had such an overbearing revulsion to entering a Yeshivah, we must appreciate this and conversely instill within ourselves a great passion for entering a Yeshiva at each and every opportunity that we can!

C. If Yaakov was told by Rivka not to come back from Lavan’s house until she called for him--why is Yaakov held accountable for not showing Kibbud Av, to the extent that Yosef was separated from him for the same 22 years that he did not demonstrate Kibud Av V’Aim to his parents? HaRav Kanievsky, Shlita, incredibly explains that it was Yaakov’s responsibility to daven that he should not be put into a position in which he would not be able to honor his parents! 

D. Yaakov Avinu came back to the place of the Bais HaMikdash when he realized he had passed it, exclaiming “Can it be that I passed by the place where my fathers davened and I did not daven there?!”(Rashi to Bereishis 28:17) HaRav Kanievsky explains that we should learn from here that one should daven in a place that a Tzaddik davened, and that it is a segulah to daven in a place where Tefillos previously had been accepted. 

E. How could Rochel have given the Simanim to Leah, when she knew that Yaakov thought that he was marrying her? She was helping Leah--but was she not hurting Yaakov!? HaRav Kanievsky explains that Rochel understood that Yaakov would accept Leah as his wife as well--so that in this way she was saving her sister and at the same time fulfilling Yaakov’s quest for marriage. As the Pasuk shows, she was in fact correct--as Yaakov remained married to Leah, who gave birth to the majority of his children! 

F. Yaakov Avinu told Lavan “Im Asher Timzah…--with whomsoever you find your gods, he shall not live.” Rashi cites the Midrash which states that because of this curse, Rochel died shortly thereafter. This teaches how careful one must be with his words--even if he feels totally in the right and otherwise fully protected. Rabbi Zelig Pliskin, Shlita, in Love Your Neighbor, brings this teaching, and the following story to further illustrate the point:

The Chofetz Chayim was once eating a meal at an inn together with Rabbi Elchonon Wasserman and a few other people. One of the guests present mentioned that the, food lacked salt. The Chofetz Chayim whispered to him, “That’s loshon hora.” At first Rabbi Elchonon Wasserman did not understand how such an innocent statement could be construed as loshon hora. But a short while later when Rav Elchonon entered the kitchen, he saw the owner, who had overheard the guest’s comment, strongly censure the cook for not having taken sufficient care in preparing the meal for his prominent guests. (Heard from Rabbi Aharon Paperman, who heard the story from Rabbi Elchonon Wasserman)

G. After Lavan accused Yaakov of stealing his idols, and did not subsequently find anything to verify his accusation, Yaakov did not say anything that would antagonize Lavan or stir up further animosity. He merely defended himself and restated his own innocence. TheChofetz Chaim teaches that we learn from here that a person should avoid becoming involved in a dispute even when he knows that he is right. (ibid.)


Special Note One:  We continue our series on Brachos, with practical Teshuvos in Hilchos Brachos given by Rabbi Yisroel Pinchos Bodner, Shlita, author of Halachos of Brochos (Feldheim).  Of course, one should consult with his own Rav or Posek on every Shailah that he has.




Q:  This past summer we experienced a very minor earthquake in Lakewood.  As it was happening I wasn’t even sure that it was an earthquake, but there was no mistaking it, the doors were swinging and the chairs were moving and ground was actually shaking.  Should I have made a brocha?


A:  Any tremor, no matter how minor, can cause fear and awe of Hashem.  Therefore, if one experiences a tremor, even a minor one, he should recite the brocha.  Chazal noted that earth tremors are natural creations which can be quite fearful and awe inspiring.  They therefore mandated that a brocha be recited when one witnesses these phenomena--preferably “Oseh Ma’aseh Bereishis.”  (Shulchan Aruch 227, Shevet Hakohosi 5: 26).  The brocha should be recited during the occurrence, or no more than a second or two after it occurs (Shulchan Aruch 227:3).


Additional Note One on Brachos:  In Rav Schwab on Prayer (Artscroll) HaRav Shimon Schwab, Z’tl, asks “How can we, mere mortals, give our sanction to the Borei Olam, as if we had the power to affect Him through our words of blessing?  He answers that the essence of Boruch Atta Hashem is our Tefillah that Hashem be increasingly recognized in the world--by our personal, enhanced Emunah, and also by the world at large, so that more and more people will live their lives according to His will--thereby bringing Kiddush Hashem into the world!” 


Additional Note Two on Brachos:  In the Modim that each of us recite in our daily Shemone Esrei, we bow down only once at the beginning of its recitation.  Yet, as we recently noted, in the Modim DeRabbanan of Chazaras HaShatz, many have the custom (based on the Rema) to remain in a bowed position for the entire Modim, and others do not remain in a bowed position throughout, but do bow once again at the end.  Why is it that there is more bowing when reciting Modim “the second time around” in Chazaras HaShatz--than in one’s own private Shemone Esrei?!  We may suggest that the more one thanks Hashem, the more one realizes that he must thank Hashem even more--with a greater feeling of humility, subservience and appreciation for all that Hashem provides him with. Based upon this thought, we suggest that one’s Kavannah while making a bracha not wane after reciting the words “Baruch Atta Hashem”--but carry through and even become stronger as we express our specific appreciation with the words “Shehakol Nehiyeh BiDvaro”, “Borei Minei Mezonons”, “Hazan Es HaOlam”….



Special Note Two:  As the issues with Iran continue to exacerbate, we provide the following follow-up on yesterday’s thought on how we can help to take charge of all of this from the confines of our Shuls and homes:


A.  By the following link-- http://tinyurl.com/864a857  --we provide the words of the Rabbeinu Yonah, at the conclusion of his Sefer HaYirah, in which he instructs us on what to daven for our daily needs in our own language.  We may add that if one feels that the Nusach of his personal Tefillos would be insufficient, perhaps he can add at the end of those Tefillos (in any language he is capable of) “Yehi Ratzon…--may it be Your Will Hashem that my Tefillos are accepted as if I had recited them with the proper language, in the proper manner, and with the proper Kavannos.”


B.  Aside from one’s personal Tefillos, we remind everyone that the Sefer Ya’aros Devash teaches that in the bracha of V’lamalshinim the term malchus zadon or zeidim refers to Amaleik and all of our enemies--and we definitely know at least some of them are. 


C.  One of the important Kavannos when answering Yehei Shemei Rabba is for Hashem to be mevatel gezeiros ra’aos vekashos against Klal Yisroel.



Special Note Three:  Today is the Yahrzeit of HaRav Boruch Ber Leibowitz, Z’tl.  When HaRav Chaim Ozer Grodzinsky, Z’tl, learned of HaRav Boruch Ber’s passing, he said in a frightened voice:  “Now that Rebbi Shimon (Shkop) and Rebbi Boruch Ber are gone, the Ameilus BaTorah that protected the generation is also gone.  I am worried that the way now will be open for the accursed Germans.”  (Reb Boruch Ber, by Rabbi Chaim Shlomo Rosenthal (Feldheim p.625))


The following is excerpted from the excellent Sefer on HaRav Boruch Ber, which was just quoted:


“During a walk one Shabbos, Rabbeinu passed a Jewish shop that was closed and securely locked.  There was a padlock on the door and Rabbeinu walked up to it and kissed it. “Heilige shlesser!” he exclaimed. “Holy lock!  This lock announces that Hashem is Elokim and we, the nation of Israel , are His servants!”  When someone told him that he closed his shop in honor of the Shabbos, Rabbeinu replied, “Next time, after you put on the lock, put your ear to that lock and you will hear it saying, ‘Hashem Hu HaElokim:”


In one of the cities that he visited, there had been a number of Jewish barbers who had kept their shops open even on Shabbos and they had personally given haircuts on Shabbos.  There had been a spiritual awakening in the city about this specific problem, and all the barbers agreed to keep their shops dosed on Shabbos.  They even put their commitment into writing.  When Rabbeinu heard this story, “he went and kissed the barbers and asked them to bless him!  He said with emotion, ‘In a place where ba’alei teshuvah stand, not even the greatest tzaddikim can stand!’”


The following is excerpted from a biographical sketch in the outstanding work The Torah World, written by Rabbi Chaim Shapiro (Artscroll):


A.  “One morning; after Shacharis, a woman entered, crying pitifully. She was a widow. Her daughter was in labor, suffering an unusually difficult delivery, with both mother and infant in danger.  The widow begged Reb Baruch Ber to say Tehillim on their behalf and to pray for their welfare.  He fulfilled her request with much feeling, and tears filled his eyes.  Before leaving, she handed the Rosh Yeshivah some money wrapped up in newspaper as a donation for the Yeshivah.  I glanced into the scrap of paper. It only held several pennies, hardly enough to buy two loaves of bread!  Reb Baruch Ber carried the paper containing the money to the stairs, calling: “Reuven, [HaRav Reuven Grozovsky, Z’tl] Hurry!  A lady brought money for the Yeshivah!  Come take it!”  Some claimed that Reb Baruch Ber actually could not recognize the value of currency.  I had the feeling that he wanted to impress the poor widow with his gratitude.”


B.  “His Lecha Dodi on Friday night would warm us with his welcoming fervor.  Even his daily Ahavah Rabbah would move us with him as he sang out his blessings and prayer to Hashem for teaching us His Torah. He often quoted a leading scholar as saying, “The day I don’t cry during Ahavah Rabbah I cannot be creative in my Torah studies.”


C.  “He would not refer to any Rabbinical figure Tanna, Amora, or Rishon - without preceding his name with the adjective ‘eiliker’ - holy.  Thus it was always ‘der eiliker Abbaya,’ ‘der eiliker Rambam,’ and so on.  He once stopped in the middle of a lecture to comment, “What a geshmaker (tasty) Rashba!” Then he paused for a moment of reflection and added, “It is Elul today. One must do teshuvah. The entire Torah is geshmak” He once remarked, “What can compare to my situation?” I wake up in the morning, and it’s as though I have the Shaagas Aryeh, K’tzos HaChoshen, and Rebbi Akiva Eiger waiting for me at my bedside! I can’t wait to wash my hands and arise to my riches!” Seeing a copy of Rebbi Akiva Eiger’s commentary on tractate Kiddushin for the first time, he excitedly pronounced the Shehecheyanu blessing. Perhaps his attitude can best be summed up with his outburst at a rabbinical meeting: A speaker had intoned: “We are slipping from our hallowed perspective that the Jewish Nation cannot survive without Torah.” Said Reb Baruch Ber:  “Cannot? And if we could, would we want to? What is life without Torah?!”


D.  “When he was told about a colleague from his younger days in Volozhin who abandoned Yiddishkeit and became a famous literary figure, Reb Baruch Ber said:  “He knows where and when der ‘eiliker Abaye died, but I know where der ‘eiliker Abaye lives!” Indeed, his students still know Reb Baruch Ber, very much alive today in his great and eiliker sefarim!”


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