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18 Teves

Special Note One:  We B’EH continue our Monday/Thursday study of the Sefer Mitzvos HaKatzar, with the Mitzvos Lo Sa’asei which the Chofetz Chaim writes are applicable in our times. Today, we present Mitzvos Lo Sa’aseh 56 and 57:


56.  Shelo Limno’ah Milehalvos--this is the Mitzvas Lo Sa’aseh which prohibits one from refraining from lending because he knows that the Shemitah year is coming which will absolve the debt.  The Chofetz Chaim notes that it is a cheit gadol to do so, and that the Torah refers to such a person as a bliya’al.  The Lo Sa’aseh applies from the Torah when Yovel is observed and in our times applies MiD’Rabanan.  The Rabbeinu Yonah adds that if a person’s loan will not be absolved--all the more so does he have the obligation not to harden his heart and lend money when appropriate.  This Mitzvah applies to men and women alike. 


57.  Shelo Litvoah Chov She’avrah Alav Shevi’is--this is the Mitzvas Lo Sa’aseh which prohibits a person from collecting a debt after the Shemitah has absolved it.  At this time, when observance of Yovel is not in effect, attempting to collect on a debt after the Shemitah year is prohibited MiD’Rabanan. 



Special Note Two:  When a spacecraft takes off, it travels a great distance on the initial burst of energy at blastoff.  Then, it must continue to travel on new and potent sources of additional energy.  As the Yomim Tovim of Tishrei conclude, in fact, on the last day of Yom Tov--Simchas Torah--we start the year off powerfully by immediately beginning Chumash Bereishis.  This week, however, we begin Sefer Shemos.  Just as a spacecraft cannot thrive on the initial energy from take off, so too, do we need to re-energize and re-inspire ourselves.  


Perhaps we can start with the “sur mei’ra”--not falling into the pitfalls of previous weeks--not going through another seven-day cycle of work, chores, learning, sleeping, Shabbos…work, chores, learning, sleeping, Shabbos…work, chores, learning, sleeping, Shabbos…. Instead, we can focus on how the next days will be different, will show a change, some kind of improvement.  They will not simply be yet another seven days of winter, or the week that is “two months before Purim”, or “three months to Pesach(!)”.


Here are a few of suggestions for a little invigoration.


Let this week be the week in which we:


  • Live in complete harmony with our spouse or boss--not even raising our voice once

  • Give additional Tzedakah every single day

  • Come to every Tefillah on time

  • Feel that Hashem is listening to us in every Shemone Esrei--as we ourselves attest “Ki Ata Shomaya…”

  • Pause to think about Yerushalayim and the Bais HaMikdash, either when mentioning them at one of the many points in davening, or at some time during the day

  • Daven for someone else or do a Chesed Shel Emes every day

  • Think about a mitzvah or middah that we would like to improve on and take some step--albeit small--in that direction


Parshas Shemos teaches us that Bnei Yisrael got into an unfortunate rut which lasted for 210 years.  Let us do our part to steer clear of that rut in the coming week!



Special Note Three:  Now that the Shovavim period has begun we provide the following points and pointers, based primarily on the Luach Davar BeIto:


A.  The term Shovavim is based on the Pasuk (Yirmiyah 3:22) “Shuvu Bonim Shovavim Erpah Meshuvoseichem”--return, wayward sons, and I will heal your waywardness.  It is thus an auspicious time for Teshuvah--just as when a sick person goes to a spa which has the medicinal qualities needed to heal him.  The Toldos Aharon adds that our sincere Tefillos to correct our Middos, to sanctify our senses and to be saved from depression, anger and pride are more acceptable to Hashem during these times.


B.  If we do not fast, there can be replacements--which include Tzedakah (based upon the Pasuk (Doniel 4:24) “VeChataich BeTzedakah Feruk”--and your sins shall be redeemed through Tzedakah), and also by being more circumspect with one’s words during this period.  Indeed, some say that a Ta’anis Dibbur is worth 1,000 times more than a Ta’anis from food.  Similarly, Rebbi Moshe Leib Sasover, Z’tl, specifically writes that if a person stops himself from getting angry, it is worth more than 1,000 fasts.  Rabbeinu Yonah brings in the Yesod HaTeshuva in the name of the Ra’avad that one who eats and stops as a matter of course without fulfilling his full desire is performing an act which is greater than fasting--for fasting is a one time display of dedication--and this is a constant breaking of desire. 


C.  V’Aileh Shemos Bnei Yisroel [Ha]Ba’im Mitzraymah is an acronym for Shovavim.  The last letters of Mitzraymah Es Yaakov Ish U’Beiso is an acronym for Teshuvah.  


D.  Some do not eat food which was once live (fish, poultry or meat) on various days during this period, and some not at all on weekdays--except at a Seudas Mitzvah. 


E.  There are 42 days of Shovavim which is representative of the word Bam (Gematria of 42) in the words VeDibarta Bam.  Accordingly, it is a time to increase one’s Torah study.  Accordingly, the Klausenberger Rebbe, Z’tl, taught in the name of Rebbi Elimelech of Lezinsk, Z’tl, that if it is difficult for one to fast he should instead learn two dafim of Gemarah with Tosfos or five dafim of Gemarah with the Rosh, and this would be greater than fasting.


F.  Many increase their recitation of Tehillim--especially on Erev Shabbos.


G.  The Yesod V’Shoresh HaAvodah’s instruction in the name of the Arizal for this period:  “…VeGam Yehai Zahir Me’od BeBirkas HaNehenin--one should be very careful with [the proper recitation of] brachos made before and after foods during this period”.  This teaching, of course, goes very well with the fact that there are those who actually fast, one, two or more days per week during this six-week period.  If we are in fact eating--it should at least be with a higher degree of Ruchniyus instilled into the act!  Many point out that the word Kavannah is related to the word Kivun--or direction.  Your Kavannah indicates the direction you take in your food consumption--as you inject spirit into the Gashmiyus with all that your bracha accomplishes in this World, the Upper Worlds--and the World to Come!




15 Teves

QUESTION OF THE DAY :  In the Parsha, Yaakov Avinu advises Yosef that Ephraim and Menashe will each be a Shevet, just like Reuven and Shimon.  Yaakov Avinu then continues (Bereishis 48:6) “U’Moladetecha Asher Holadeta Achareihen…any additional progeny born to Yosef after Ephraim and Menashe will be counted as part of Ephraim and Menashe.”  Did Yosef have any additional children?  If not, why would Yaakov make this statement--and why would the Torah record it?!



TODAY--OR TOMORROW?  Remember the sage words of HaRav Yisroel Belsky, Shlita:  “One should not put off to tomorrow that which he can do today--because tomorrow is only today all over again!”




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



Special Note Two:  The Parsha teaches as follows:


“And the days of Yisrael drew near to die; and he called his son Yosef, and said to him:  If now I have found favor in your eyes, please…deal with me kindly and truly….” (Bereishis 47:29)


Based upon this Pasuk, Rabbi Zelig Pliskin, Shlita, in Love Your Neighbor (page 125) brings the following story:


When Rabbi Moshe of Kobrin was seven years old, there was a severe famine in Lithuania. Poor people wandered from village to village in search of food.  Many of them flocked to the home of Rav Moshe’s mother, who readily cooked and baked for them.  Once a very large number of the poor came to her home and she had to cook for them in shifts.  When some individuals grew impatient and insulted her, she began to cry, since she felt that she was doing her utmost for them.  Her young son, the future Rabbi of Kobrin, said to her, “Why should their insults trouble you?  Don’t their insults help you perform the mitzvah with sincerity? If they had praised you, your merit would be less, since you might be doing the kindness to gain their praise, rather than to fulfill the Almighty’s command.” (Ohr Yeshorim, p. 50 footnote).


Based upon this extremely important concept, the principle of true and pure kindness, Rabbi Pliskin writes that one should not view many of his otherwise necessary daily tasks as a mere drudgery.  Instead, a person taking care of young children, or assisting someone who is ill and cannot otherwise take care of himself, is, in fact, providing a real chesed shel emes.  As Rabbi Pliskin quoting HaRav Chaim Pinchos Scheinberg, Z’tl, writes, “If a housewife had the opportunity to perform the same tasks [i.e., tasks performed on behalf of small children] for, let’s say, the Chofetz Chaim, she would certainly be happy to do them.  It is no less a chesed for one’s own children.”


Each and every one of us, rather than having to perform a chesed shel emes only at, Rachmana Litzlan, a levaya, should attempt to perform pure acts of kindness with those incapable of paying you back, or not knowledgeable enough to pay you back, or in some cases, even saying thank you.  Providing behind the scenes, unappreciated chesed is the hallmark of the people of Israel.  Do the billions of people in the world today, for instance, know or appreciate that they are in existence only because of Torah and our study?  Indeed, with this thought in mind when learning, your study too becomes a chesed shel emes!


As we leave Sefer Bereishis, let us proudly accept the legacy of our Avos--looking for opportunities in which we give for the sake of giving, and not give for the sake of getting something in return!



Special Note Three:  Let us take a closer look at how Sefer Bereishis concludes, and how the Bechir SheB’Avos, Yaakov Avinu, concludes his life.  In a word, with Brachos.  The Sefer HaYashar, and Yaakov Avinu, conclude that the greatest lesson, the greatest gift, which one can provide to another when taking leave or departing from them is a directed, sincere, meaningful blessing.  Perhaps by the great specificity within each one of the Brachos, the Torah is teaching us how directed our Brachos must be.


We can conclude from this that while a general Bracha given to another (especially if sincere) is important, it is no match for a more tailored version.  “Stay well”, “All the best”, “Be Good”, are important, but not as potent as “May you find your Bashert, your Zivug Hagun, very soon”, “May you make another Siyum again soon”, “You should have Nachas from each and every one of your children”, “May you have great Hatzlacha in your next business venture” and the like…  Suits bought off the rack in a department store may fit, but there is nothing like a hand-tailored ensemble.


Lest we think that our brachos are mere chatter, or at best, display some pleasant cheer or good will, we should turn to the first three Pesukim we recite after making Birchos HaTorah.  The Pesukim are, of course, “Birchas Kohanim”.  This is how we are to start our day of Torah--with words of blessing!  The Kohanim are the medium through which Hashem blesses us, as the Pasuk teaches (Bamidbar 6: 23), “So shall you bless B’nei Yisrael, say to them…”  We, too, in our own little--and big--way can be that conduit for Hashem’s blessings.  The classic greeting of one Jew to another is not “Hello”, “Hi”, “What’s up?”, but rather, “Shalom Aleichem”--in which you bless the other individual with the blessing of peace before anything else.  Once you then learn more about the other’s exact needs at that time, your blessings can then be made more precise.


We can all use bracha in our lives.  If we are effusive and sincere in our brachos to others, if we look for what  the brachos that others need are, we will in turn, B’Ezras Hashem, be likewise zoche to the bracha that Hashem Himself gave to our Forefather Avrohom Avinu, “I will bless those that will bless you” (Bereishis 12:3).



Special Note Four: Relating to the concept of brachos, we provide the following additional points:


A.  The Luach Davar BeIto brings that one should bless his children on this Leil Shabbos with great Kavannah, looking at the Peirush Rashi on the words Yesimcha Elokim KeEphraim V’CheMenashe before giving this bracha. 


B.  When one views how a father gives brachos to his children on Leil Shabbos, he will note that the father gives a bracha to each child individually.  Why was it so necessary then for Yaakov Avinu to ‘create’ the difficulty of giving Ephraim and Menashe a bracha simultaneously--rather than giving each one a bracha on accordance with their particular strengths?  The obvious answer is that they received one joint bracha--just as each tribe (they were, after all, the tribe of Yosef) received its own bracha.  Their joint and unified bracha was one of love, of recognizing each other’s roles, and of not being jealous of the other.  Yosef’s descendants were given the mission of teaching our people that although we are different, we are one and we can love and respect each other.  Indeed, Yaakov told Yosef that any future children that he had would become part of Ephraim and Menashe’s families, of their ultimate message, and would not need or have any independent nachalah [see Question of the Day above].  The Pasuk (Yecheskel 48:32) teaches that in the future there will be a gate for each one of the Shevatim to exit Yerushalayim, and “Shevet Yosef” will only have one gate--we may suggest that this is because at that time we will have all learned the lesson that Yaakov Avinu set out to teach us--Yesimcha Elokim KeEphraim V’CheMenashe!


C.  When Yaakov saw some of the progeny that would come out of Menashe and Ephraim, he exclaimed “Mi Eileh--who are these people?!”  After Yosef clarified that they were his legitimate children, Yaakov gave Menashe and Ephraim their Brachos.  At first glance, this may be difficult to understand--if people of the likes of Yeravam and Yei’hu are to descend from Ephraim and Menashe--what difference would it make that their ancestors were initially of good stock?  Why should Yaakov give the bracha?!  We may suggest that this teaches us the sheer potency and potential of a bracha.  Although the future seemed to indicate that there was much negativity that would arise--Yaakov still felt that the bracha could still help to attenuate and ameliorate the acts of the Reshaim--and that the progeny would ultimately be worthwhile.  We must understand that the Koach of our Brachos to another is beyond our comprehension (especially as we have noted in the past, if they come from Hakaras HaTov for what someone has done for you).  Ultimately good will win out and the brachos that we give can help speed the process.  Additional Note:  It is reported that the Brisker Rav, Z’tl, was upset that many people were davening for the Russians to win in World War I; instead, he insisted that people daven for the Yeshuas Hashem.  Who knows, he lamented, whether the Communists stayed in power in Russia after the war because of all of the Tefillos on behalf of the Russians at the time?!


D.  Prior to giving a Bracha, try to feel a greater closeness to the person.  Yaakov Avinu, for instance, first brought Menashe and Ephraim close to him, and kissed them and hugged them (Bereishis 48:10).  This may constitute an important component of the sincerity, depth and potency of the Bracha.  Having made this point, there is really no requirement that brachos be made directly to human beings.  It is well known, for example, that the Alter of Slobodka once passed by the home of a Talmid Chacham and blessed the home and everyone in it.  We can analogize a bit:  When an ambulance speeds by, or even when you hear the ambulance siren, you can daven/give a Bracha that the person, whoever he or she may be, has a Refuah Sheleimah.  Or, in another vein, when seeing the bakery line out the door on Erev Shabbos, you can silently bless everyone on the line to have an enjoyable Shabbos.  While at first all of this may appear a bit naïve, childish, or “overly frum”, it really only indicates that you are a thinking person with (or trying to develop) Ahavas HaBriyos and Ahavas Yisrael--love for Hashem’s creations and love for fellow Jews.  In fact, the Baalei Mussar denounce the term “frumkeit” as relating to observance and practice out of rote, rather than with feeling and freshness.



Special Note Five:  In the bracha of Yaakov Avinu to his bechor Reuven, we find words of instruction and admonishment--Pachaz KaMayim Al Tosar…you acted with water-like impetuosity.”  HaRav Mattisyahu Salomon, Shlita [may he have a Refuah Sheleimah--Mattisyahu Chaim Ben Ettel] explains that Yaakov told Reuven that he did not have the capability of kingship and the Kehuna because he lacked Menuchas HaNefesh--calmness, tranquility and peace of mind--and the clarity that goes along with it.  One who acts hastily and sometimes out of confusion, makes mistakes, and certainly cannot consistently make clear decisions.  For success, a sense of serenity and peace of mind is required.  Kingship and Kehuna are extreme examples in which this composure is so important, but it is the very same Menuchas HaNefesh that is required of each and every one of us to be successful at our particular mission in life.


 Hastiness, disorder, and lack of necessary care all lead to patent and latent error, explains HaRav Salomon, and this leads to a lack of achievement and life fulfillment.  Indeed, every day, at the end of the tefillah “Uva L’Tzion” we request “V’lo Neylayd Le’Behala…so that our actions are not confused, so that our accomplishments are not futile” (see Artscroll Siddur).  HaRav Salomon adds that Chazal teach that Noach “found favor in the eyes of Hashem” (Bereishis 6:8) precisely because of, as his name indicates, his “menuchas hanefesh”, his equanimity in a world of upheaval and turmoil.


Each and every one of us is subjected to a pace of life which would lead us straight down the stream of “behalah” if we allow ourselves to be forced along by its strong current.  HaRav Salomon suggests, therefore, that we must be vigilant with ourselves to take the slogan of “V’lo Neylayd Le’Behala” with us when confronting the foibles of our daily lives. He suggests something which he calls “simple but not easy”.  A person must have a method by which he could stop the pace--not immediately going from one completed item to the next.  Instead, he should get used to stopping and asking himself, “What am I doing?  “Am I doing it in an orderly fashion?”  “Am I doing it right?”  “What have I done?”  and “What am I going to do?”  Just as we stop an automobile engine from overheating by putting it into neutral, every so often through the day, we must put ourselves into neutral as well, compose ourselves and order our lives.


What a great lesson the Torah teaches us for success in life.  Noach, whose very name bore his essence of calmness and peace of mind, allowed the entire world to survive.  Reuven, the great Bechor of Yaakov Avinu, on the other hand, could not carry the positions of responsibility of his people because he lacked the requisite composure and tranquility.  How much better our lives would be if we could bring the words of HaRav Salomon, Shlita, with us into our work and home environments--that added degree of serenity, of composure could very well mean the difference between a gross error and an unbelievable achievement!  So, let us put those occasional checkpoints into our daily routine, and into an otherwise hectic situation--so that we, too, will find favor in the eyes of Hashem!



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


A.  In Lecha Dodi, we recite (sing) “V’Hayu Limshisah Shosayich V’Rachaku Kol Mevalayich”.  What is the difference between Shosayich and Mevalayich--don’t they both refer to the same thing--those that hate us with a passion?  Rabbi Dovid Goldwasser, Shlita, explains that Shosayich refers to those who wish to physically destroy us.  However, Mevalayich refers to those who wish to swallow us up--to have us become part of their culture, and their way of life.  This, Rabbi Goldwasser explains, is what facebook, twitter and blogging are all about….  Let us do our utmost to fight the Mevalayich!  In today’s world, we are faced with both kinds of enemies--and have to be on the alert for both. 


B.  Many have wondered as to what the Shir Shel Yom for Shabbos--Mizmor Shir LeYom HaShabbos has to do with Shabbos at all--after the mere mention of the words “LeYom HaShabbos” in the first Pasuk?  Some say that the very next words after the first Pasuk provide a key insight into what Shabbos is a time for--“Tov L’Hodos LaHashem…it is good to give thanks to Hashem.”  In a peaceful atmosphere, without the work day tribulations, one has a greater opportunity to literally count his blessings.  Shabbos is a time when one can thank Hashem not only for everything--but for each and every thing…something to think about while walking on Shabbos, or to talk about at the Shabbos table!


C.  Since we will be partaking of three Seudos Shabbos we provide the following reminders relating to Netilas Yadayim:


1.  The Magen Avraham brings that when drying one’s hands, one should not do so in his shirt, as it is Kasheh Leshichecha--leads to forgetfulness.  The Pri Megadim is unsure whether this problem relates only to drying one’s hands on a shirt--or any article of clothing (Shulchan Aruch, Orach Chaim 158, Mishna Berurah seif katan 45).  Hakhel Note:  When it comes to forgetfulness--who would want to get involved in the doubt!


2.  If one has dry ink on his hands because he constantly writes, this is not considered a chatzizah for Netilas Yadayim, for we can assume that one is not makpid about it (ibid., 161, seif katan 14).


3.  Water whose color has changed either because of the place where it is contained or because something has fallen into it, may not be used to wash one’s hands.  However, if the color changes due to natural causes, the water may be used.  Water that was used for work--e.g., to wash dishes, soak vegetables, or to cool containers of liquids placed in them is not fit for Netilas Yadayim. 


D.  As we have reached the last Parsha of Bereishis, we pause to think about how our study of the Parsha can be re-energized for Sefer Shemos.  In terms of following the leining itself--for those who do not yet do so, it may be an important idea for one to keep his finger on the words as the Ba’al Korei is leining.  This, of course, indicates a special attention and a special reverence to Kriyas HaTorah, which is brought L’Halacha as a reenactment and replacement for the Kabalas HaTorah at Har Sinai for the portion being read!  As far as improving our study of the Parsha, Sefer Shemos may be the opportunity to add on a Peirush--such as the Ba’al HaTurim, Sforno or Ramban.  The new Dirshu Chumashim incredibly provide all of these peirushim for the entire Chumash in one very special volume.  What a treasure! 



14 Teves

7-11 STORES: Many Torah communities have 7-11 convenience stores located within them. The Kof-K currently gives its Hashgacha on certain products in one such 7-11 store on Coney Island Avenue in Brooklyn. One may want to approach the 7-11 store in his neighborhood to find out whether it would be interested in a similar type of limited Kosher supervision--which could provide the store with additional business while assuring those who wish to purchase drinks and the like (slurpees) in the store that they are truly kosher. Rabbi Moshe Dovid Lebovits is the contact person on this matter at the Kof-K, and his email address is mlebovits@kof-k.org


Special Note One:  We B’EH continue our Monday/Thursday study of the Sefer Mitzvos HaKatzar, with the Mitzvos Lo Sa’asei which the Chofetz Chaim writes are applicable in our times. Today, we present Mitzvos Lo Sa’aseh 54 and 55:

54.  Lo Lehalvos B’Ribbis--this is the Mitzvas Lo Sa’aseh specifically upon the lender (in addition to the Mitzvas Lo Sa’aseh 53 mentioned last week, which is upon the lender and the guarantor and any witness as well), which prohibits him from lending money, any food item, or any other item for which he is to receive more back in return than that which he loaned. The lender violates other Lo Sa’asehs as well. This Mitzvah applies in all places and at all times and to men and women alike.

55. Lo Lelavos B’Ribbis--this is the Mitzvas Lo Sa’aseh specifically upon the borrower, which prohibits him from borrowing when he will have to pay back more than he borrowed. The borrower also violates a separate prohibition of Lifnei Iveir. This Mitzvah applies in all places and at all times and to men and women alike.


Special Note Two: We provide below a few brief highlights of the audio-visual presentation given by Rabbi Maimon Elbaz, Shlita--The Wonders of Birchos HaShachar. Rabbi Elbaz has a website advertising his presentations at TorahShows.org For further information, he can be reached at 347-967-9138 and nycmohel@gmail.com

A. The Rema concludes Shulchan Aruch, Orach Chaim with the words of the Pasuk "V’Tov Lev Mishteh Tomid." HaRav Avigdor Miller, Z’tl, explains that if someone appreciates the little things in life--then he will always be happy--he will always be at a party!

B. One should ask others to answer Amein to his brachos as, in addition to adding finality to the bracha--they also display their personal Emunah in Hashem. Thus, there is a great double benefit! Rabbi Elbaz related that HaRav Eliyahu Lopian, Z’tl, once recited an Asher Yatzar on a train amongst several people, so that they would answer Amein-- not at all being ‘embarrassed’ to do so. Shortly thereafter, the train came to an abrupt halt--someone had placed a bomb on the tracks! HaRav Lopian advised those that had answered Amein--that they had saved the train and everyone on it!

C. The bracha of Asher Yatzar describes so many of the remarkable functions of our body. Could you ever picture a pair of ripped pants mending themselves--time and time again?!

D. When we recite the bracha of Elokai Neshama there is truly another bracha within it--that of Shelo Asani Beheimah--that I have not been made an animal, for animals have no souls. The relationship between the guf and the neshama can be likened to a burning candle--the guf is the wax of the candle, while the neshama is the fire that is burning. The wax is necessary for the candle to burn--but ultimately what we really need is the light--and the radiance--of the candle! (In the name of Rabbi Fischel Schachter, Shlita)

E. The Chofetz Chaim teaches that one should be sure to recite Birchos HaTorah B’Simcha--with joy. When reciting the words V’Ha’arev Nah, one should take the words literally--asking Hashem that he be given the gift of tasting the sweetness of Torah. Rabbi Elbaz heard one popular Maggid Shiur remark that when he recited V’Ha’arev Nah--he davened to Hashem that people enjoy his Shiurim like they enjoy chocolate!

F. The first of the ordered Birchos HaShachar is Asher Nasan LaSechvi Vinah. Some say that this refers not necessarily to our own intelligence--but to the intelligence given to the rooster. Why is this the first bracha--why are we thanking Hashem for this? HaRav Shmuel Rozovsky, Z’tl, suggests that just as a rooster is excited when he begins to sense daybreak--so too, should we be excited with the opportunities of the coming day!

G. When reciting the next bracha of Shelo Asani Goy, one should spend a moment realizing that less than 1% of the world is Jewish, and of that how many Jews are…. We should also consider that we are the Bnei Avraham, Yitzchak, V’Yaakov, inheritors of the great middos, and all that means. Rabbi Elbaz related that in Yeshiva Torah Vodaas they collected sports cards and Pokemon cards and had Torah cards replace them. On Lag Ba’omer they took the sports and Pokemon cards and used them to light a bonfire! Rabbi Elbaz added that HaRav Yisroel Belsky, Shlita, ruled that one should not wear a sports shirt with the name of a player on the back--after all, one thanks Hashem daily that he is not like him--so why should he make himself like him?! In light of the recent Connecticut tragedy showing the violence of Eisav, Rabbi Elbaz urged that we further bring the Shelo Asani Goy into our days--taking more care of human life, such as by slowing down when driving and using blinkers.

H. Regarding the bracha of Pokeiach Ivrim, Rabbi Elbaz discussed the marvels of the human eye. On the other hand, he noted that HaRav Mattisyahu Salomon, Shlita, explains that the reason we close our eyes at the outset of Shema is because a real eved has to know when to close his eyes as well!

I. The bracha of Malbish Arumim teaches us how we have to treat clothes with respect. Indeed, HaRav Mordechai Schwab, Z’tl, would go through a procedure before he threw out any items of ruined clothing in order to demonstrate his appreciation for them. A person could think about how embarrassed he would be if he went to the mikvah in the river, and his clothes were no longer there when he was about to come out! We cannot--and should not--take anything for granted!

J. The bracha of Matir Asurim should bring to light not only that Hashem frees prisoners such as Gilad Shalit, but also that we are able to get out of bed (hopefully unassisted), and that we are able to actually physically walk, and free to travel to places without restraint.

K. The bracha of Rokah Ha’aretz Al HaMayim reminds us what the world would look like if r’l tsunamis or Superstorm Sandies were common place. (The Luach Davar BeIto brings that on this day--14 Teves--eight years ago a tsunami killed approximately 250,000 people in Asia). We accordingly thank Hashem for being able to put out feet on hard and firm ground--while at the same time knowing that the precious water that we need is close by.

L. With the brachos of Ozer Yisrael B’Gevurah and Oter Yisrael B’Sifarah, we highlight that the strength of Yisrael is a special strength to fight the Yetzer Hara and the trials and tribulations of Galus--and that the coverings that both men and women put on their heads are not merely pieces of cloth--but are exquisite crowns of glory!

For the entire Shiur…we urge you to bring Rabbi Elbaz to your neighborhood! Again, his contact information is listed above.




13 Teves

In honor of the truly marvelous audio-visual Shiur on Birchos HaShachar given by Rabbi Maimon Elbaz, Shlita, at yesterday’s Hakhel Yarchei Kallah, we provide the following note on Brachos:


The following notes from Hilchos Brachos are excerpted from the Dirshu Edition of the Mishna Berurah:


1.  In the Sefer Kesser Rosh (at its end, note 5), it is brought that a mumar told the G’ra that he would not make a bracha of Shehakol on schnapps for, after all, he was a mumar anyways.  The G’ra told him:  “You are a fool--so you think that because you claim you are a mumar you have freed yourself from fulfilling the details of each and every Mitzvah--even the ‘smallest’ Mitzvah.  You are a Jew, and, to the extent you have sinned you will be punished.  Your claim that you are a mumar will give you no protection, and will not save you in any way!”


2.  Bedi’eved, if one made a Shehakol--even on bread or wine, he is Yotzei.  However, the Eliyahu Rabba writes that if one does so when he could make the proper bracha, he is called a bur.  Additionally, bedi’eved if one recited a Borei Minei Mezonos over anything (except for water and salt), he would be yotzei as well. 


3.  When eating a nut or something with a shell, one should remove the shell before making the bracha--not only because of the delay involved, but also because he may decide not to eat the item after removing its outer component.


4.  The reason that one should hold a food item in his right hand (a lefty in his left hand) is so that he will have greater Kavannah when making the bracha.  This is required lechatchila;  bedi’eved it can be on the table in front of him and he is yotzei.  Once one has made a bracha over food, he cannot interrupt even to answer Amen or Kaddish or Kedusha. 


5.  If one made a bracha over something, and then was repulsed and decided not to eat it, he should still eat a bit so that the bracha is not levatalah. 


6.  One should not hum a tune (i.e., even without words) between making a bracha and eating. 


7.  Bedi’eved, if one made an Ahl HaEitz over a fruit which was not one of the Shivas HaMinim, he is yotzei, and does not make a Borei Nefashos.  In fact, if one ate fruits of the Shivas HaMinim and an apple, the appropriate after-bracha is only Ahl HaEitz. 


8.  If one is eating fruits from both Eretz Yisrael and Chutz La’aretz, he should conclude with the words Ve’al Peiroseha, as this is a chasima chashuvah b’yoser (The Steipeler Gaon).


9.  If one is to make both an Ahl HaMichya (or Ahl HaGefen or Ahl HaEitz), and a Borei Nefashos, the Ahl HaMichya comes first because it is a bracha chashuvah. 


10.  If a person knows that he heard a bracha, but does not know what the bracha was, he should not answer ‘amen’.  If one is uncertain as to whether or not he should answer ‘amen’, he should not do so as the rule is Safek Amen LeKulah. 


11.  If one heard someone reciting his Shemone Esrei out-loud, he nevertheless should not answer amen to the brachos--for the person who recited the brachos aloud modified the takanas Chazal, who required that Shemone Esrei be recited quietly. 


12.  If a person wants to eat something and smell something, he should first take the item he wants to eat in his right hand and make a bracha on that--for it is more chashuv because it enters the body. 


13.  If, rather than smelling the besamim themselves, one smells the besamim container which has absorbed the smell of the besamim, it is a bracha levatalah--for the smell is a rei’ach she’ein lo ikar.  Similarly, if the smell of an esrog one has held in his hand remains on his hand or on his clothing, one could not make a bracha on it--as it is a rei’ach she’ein lo ikar.


14.  It is forbidden to smell Chometz on Pesach.  Conversely, one should not smell the hadasim in one’s lulav on Sukkos for it has been designated for Mitzvah use only! 


15.  For Birchos HaRe’iyah one must wait 30 days between viewings.  The 30-day period excludes the day that he last saw it and the day that he is now seeing it again--i.e., 32 days are necessary.  The reason a 30 day interim is needed is because after 30 days it is viewed as a Davar Chadash--as something new.   That is why a month is called a Chodesh--as the lunar cycle begins anew. 


16.  Although one would bentsch Gomel for traveling over the water, one does not bentsch Gomel for traveling under the sea in a tunnel (such as the English Channel)--for this is considered traveling on dry land. 


17.  When bentsching Gomel, one should be standing--for the bracha is like Hallel which is recited when one is standing.


18.  A Seudah which one makes as a Seudas Hoda’ah over a nes is in and of itself a Seudas Mitzvah--for any Seudah made to remember the Niflaos Hashem is a Seudas Mitzvah! 


19.  One should not delay at all in making an after-bracha after he has finished eating.  This means not even to wait ‘a little’ (such as to take care of this phone call, that email, putting this away, or helping him with that).  Very often it leads one--even one who is sincere and dedicated to excellent bracha recitation--to forget to make the after-bracha.  Hakhel Note:  What should one do if one has to take care of his bodily needs before making the after-bracha?  We suggest that one leave a siddur directly in front of his seat, or perhaps leave another siman--such as one’s jacket lying on his chair--as a reminder--that after the Asher Yatzar comes the Ahl HaMichya or Borei Nefashos!  


20.  By clicking here, we once again provide a Kavannah sheet for both Ahl HaMichya and Borei Nefashos--which one can keep handy on his desk or table.




12 Teves

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


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



Special Note Two:  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 Mitzri’im 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 Midrash Tanchuma teaches, in fact, that Yosef had determined--better that I be killed than that my brothers be embarrassed before the Mitzriim.


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 would kill him--all of this so that his brothers would be saved the pain and embarrassment before the Mitzriyim 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!


3. Once Yaakov Avinu came to Mitzrayim, and Yosef was so desperate to make up for those 22 years of loss and lost time--he actually did not keep company with Yaakov Avinu --because he was afraid that he would reveal to Yaakov how he had gotten to Mitzrayim and embarrass his brothers (for even though Yaakov knew of it from other sources--he would not be the source of the disgrace).


These Middos of Yosef may be startling, but the lesson is manifest and clear for each and every one of us.  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--no matter how related the person is, nor how old or young he is.  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!



Special Note Three:  Over Chanukah, we learned how devastating violence could be, as little children and their teachers were butchered in cold blood in Connecticut.  How does the Torah Jew react to something as shocking, horrific, vile and unintelligible as this?  HaRav Ezriel Erlanger, Shlita, responds as follows:  In this week’s Parsha, Yaakov Avinu reprimands Shimon and Levi with the words (Bereishis 49:5): “K’lei Chamas MeCheiroseihem…their weaponry is a stolen craft.”  Violence is the trait of Eisav, and not of Yaakov.  Yet, the disgust of guns and hurt has worked its way even into our lives with such ‘recreational activities’ as paintballing, BB guns, and video games for little children where the player eliminates others in bloody pictures in order to win the ‘game’.  There are even some ‘kosher’ comics for children that present violence and blood as part of their plot.  It is our duty to remember that Yitzchak Avinu told only Eisav that VeAl Charbecha Tichyeh…he would live by the sword--not us!  We cannot change the world--but what we can do is eliminate the world’s influence from our homes.  In the previous note, we discussed how far it is that we must stay away from embarrassing another.  The Sefer Sha’arei Teshuvah refers to embarrassing another as Avizrayhu D’Shefichas Damim--as an aspect or attribute of murder.  If we must keep oh so far away from embarrassing another--all the more so from the realm of shedding another’s blood itself!  HaRav Erlanger incredibly adds that it was reported that senior government officials came to HaRav Shach, Z’tl, prior to the daring Entebbe mission in order to obtain his blessing.  HaRav Shach advised them that they should not go ahead with the mission--apparently, he felt that it would be better to exchange prisoners for the hostages than risk lives in the mission.  The next day after the mission was ‘successful’, someone came back to Rav Shach and reported what had happened.  He replied:  “They still should not have done it.”  Rav Shach simply did not feel it was the way that we go about our dealings, when the matter could be resolved otherwise.


We must keep in mind that Yaakov Avinu told Eisav that he would live by the sword, and also remember that the grand bracha we would all expect for Shimon and Levi was mired and entangled by the disapproval of Yaakov Avinu with the words “K’lei Chamas MeCheiroseihem”.  It behooves us to teach our families and others to stay as far away from the horrors of violence as we can.  When we daven Sim Shalom, and Shalom Rav, daily--let us pray for peace in our homes--and peace, once and for all, for Hashem’s world as well!




11 Teves

EVERY WORD IS IMPORTANT:  On Chanukah, we had asked our readers to study the last phrase of Ma’oz Tzur, as we know it today.  Perhaps the most difficult phrase is that of Betzel Tzalmon--in the shade of Tzalmon.  What is Tzalmon?  The term is found in Tehillim 68:15.  If one looks to the Targum there. as well as Mosaf Rashi, Radak, Ibn Ezra, and Metzudos there he will find many different possibilities as to its meaning. As additional references, please see Shoftim 9:48 and the Mishna in Kilayim 4:9. 




Special Note One:  We B’EH continue our Monday/Thursday study of the Sefer Mitzvos HaKatzar, with the Mitzvos Lo Sa’asei which the Chofetz Chaim writes are applicable in our times. Today, we present Mitzvos Lo Saaseh 52 and 53:


52. Lo Tivo’ah--this is the Mitzvas Lo Saaseh which prohibits a lender from demanding payment from a borrower when he knows that the borrower has no money to pay.  It is likewise forbidden for a lender to pass before the borrower when he knows that he has no money to pay, so as not to embarrass him.  However, it is also forbidden midivrei kabbalah for a borrower who has the money to pay to tell the lender to come back another time.  It is also forbidden for a borrower to borrow money without need and not to be able to repay it, and if he does so he is called a rasha, as the Pasuk states:  Loveh Rasha VeLo Yeshaleim…” (Tehillim 37:21).  This Mitzvah applies in all places and at all times and to men and women alike.


53.  Shelo Lehisaseik B’Ribbis--this is the Mitzvas Lo Saaseh which prohibits the lender, and any guarantor or witness from being involved in any transaction which involves ribbis.  Any broker who brought about the transaction violates Lifnei Iver Lo Sitein Michshol. This Mitzvah applies in all places and at all times and to men and women alike.



Special Note Two:  Today is the ‘day after’ Asara B’Teves.  It is a time to think about what we will take with us from yesterday’s fast. 


A.  HaRav Moshe Shmuel Shapiro, Z’tl, provides a tremendously important teaching:  In bentsching, we recite “Uvnei Yerushalayim Ihr HaKodesh Bimeheirah V’Yameinu”, and in Shemone Esrei we similarly ask Hashem for “V’Lirushalayim Irecha B’Rachamim Tashuv”.  Do we not know that Yerushalayim is the Ihr HaKodesh, and do we not know that Yerushalayim is Irecha--Hashem’s city?  Why need these words be added in our Tefillos?!  HaRav Shapiro explains that we must remember that although to us Yerushalayim is a holiness of the distant past that we yearn for, to Hashem the pain and mourning for Yerushalayim has not weakened--and is as strong as it was at the time that the Beis HaMikdash was set on fire.  The Shechinah has felt the same tza’ar since the destruction until this moment.  In fact, if anything, the pain is even greater, when the Shechinah sees that people are not in as much pain over the destruction of Yerushalayim--that people do not focus on the Ruach HaKodesh that existed; how a Korban could bring Kappara; what the avodah of Yom Hakippurim accomplished; and how even every child in Yerushalayim had such an in-depth understanding of Torah and a closeness to Hashem that we cannot even fathom.  It is therefore so incumbent upon us to make more effort to feel the Tza’ar HaShechinah--feel that which we are truly lacking--the Irecha, the Ihr HaKodesh--and with this we can hopefully bring everything back to the level of Gadlus and Ruach HaKodesh that we all should be living on!


B.  In bentsching, we ask that Hashem bring “U’Tzedakah Meilokei Yisheinu…and just kindness from the G-d of our salvation.”  What does ‘just kindness’ have to do with our Yeshuah?  HaRav Chaim Brisker, Z’tl, explains that the Pasuk (Yeshaya 1:27 ) teaches “Tzion BaMishpat Tipadeh V’Shaveha B’Tzedakah.”  HaRav Chaim interprets this to mean that Tzion was assured that it would be redeemed--accordingly, it must be redeemed, without any doubt.  This involves no Tzedakah at all--it is Mishpat, Hashem’s absolute assurance and decree.  However, who will be the returnees?  Here, there are no guarantees--whether this one or that one is included--will be up to the Tzedakah of Hashem--and we pray with these words that we be among them!  Oh, how Kavannah-filled these words should be! 


C.  When discussing the Middah of Rachamim, the Sefer Orchos Tzaddikim writes that there is no one that is more merciful than a Tzaddik who brings zechusim to his generation, and the 1,000 generations following him.  Accordingly, there is no person more cruel than a ba’al aveiros--for punishment in the world comes because of aveiros, and what will happen to his future generations.  With this great principle in mind, we understand that even if one is not in a position to give large amounts of Tzedakah--he can give Tzedakah with Ma’asim Tovim and Kiyum HaMitzvos--after all, is there anything greater than helping one’s own entire generation--and his 1,000 generations that follow?!


D.  The Kitzur Shulchan Aruch (121:1) writes:  V’Ein HaTa’anis Elah Hachana L’Teshuvah--the fast is only meant to prepare us for the real goal of Teshuvah.”  As we all know, the bracha of Teshuvah in Shemone Esrei begins with the words “Hashiveinu Avinu LeSorasecha.”  What greater Teshuvah can there be than Teshuvah in Talmud Torah--for as we all recite every single day in the beginning of the day V’Talmud Torah is K’neged Kulam?  Indeed, we learned in last week’s Parsha that the prime preparation that Yaakov Avinu made for the B’nei Yisrael to travel into Galus was for Yehudah to establish a Yeshiva, which, HaRav Yaakov Galinksy, Shlita, explains, was the vaccine necessary to protect them on their arrival and for their extended stay.  Indeed, HaRav Yisroel Newman, Shlita, brings the Chazal that when reshaim will be judged by the Heavenly Court they will claim that they had no time to study Torah because they were busy with their Yetzer Hara.  The Heavenly Court will respond by pointing to Yosef HaTzaddik:  Were you more busy than Yosef HaTzaddik in fighting off his Yetzer Hara--yet he had time to study Torah?!  But how, in fact, do we know that Yosef studied Torah--maybe he was just busy fighting off his Yetzer?  It must be, answers HaRav Newman, that Yosef was studying--for how else could he have succeeded against the Yetzer?!  As we move into the midst of winter, let us think of a practical way in which we can simultaneously fight the Yetzer and win--and help survive and extricate ourselves from this long and dark Galus.  Let each and every one of us somehow improve in our Torah study!


Practical Suggestion: In the Igeres HaRamban, the Ramban advises his son:  VeCha’asher Takum Min Hasefer, Chapeis Ba’asher Lamadeta Im Yeish Bo Davar Asher Tuchal LeKaymo--and when you get up from the Sefer look to see if there is anything you can apply in a practical way in connection with that which you have just learned.”  Perhaps one can keep a small notepad handy, to be used [hopefully many times] daily for something that he wishes to especially remember or apply on an ongoing basis after a Shiur, or after a personal study session--something to take with him from the winter, to spring, to summer…and from Galus to Geulah!




8 Teves

RECYCLED PRODUCTS:  We posed the following question to the Rabbinical Board of Vaad L’Mishmeres Shatnez:  “Could you please advise as to what we should tell our readers regarding recycled products such as stuffing in hats and clothing?” We received an answer from Rabbi Meshulam Polatshek, Shlita, Chairman of Halachic Issues for Vaad L’Mishmeres Shatnez and  Chaver of Hisachdus  Horrabonim: “One  should  be advised to avoid purchasing clothing and hats containing recycled products. If one purchased such a garment and replacing the recycled product is not an option, then Shatnez testing is mandatory. The Shatnez laboratory should be testing the recycled product for wool and linen threads and for any noticeable wool and linen.”




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



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


A.  Shabbos is the ninth day of Teves, which connects the eighth day of Teves to the national fast day of Asara B’Teves.  Actually, Shabbos is also the Yahrzeit of Ezra HaSofer (see Shulchan Aruch, Orach Chaim 580; Mishna Berurah, seif katan 13), and would also be a Ta’anis Tzadikim but for the fact that it is Shabbos Kodesh. As a zechus for Ezra HaSofer, one can review the Takanos that Ezra instituted, as described in Bava Kamma 82A.  Let us face the facts--these three days--the 8th, 9th and 10th, are connected for good reason. We should take a moment to contemplate the connection between them and grow from the experience.


B.  The following is excerpted from The Essence of the Jewish Home, by Rabbi Shmuel Elchonen Brog, Z’tl:  The Vishnitzer Rebbe, Rabbi Meir Hagar, Z’tl, once told me about one of the famous rebbis who always prayed with great fervor. The Satan, jealous of his  prayers, tried to restrain him. In the midst of his inspired supplications, especially when he said Nishmas, the Satan would come and tell the Tzaddik of his transgressions.  Then he would shout, “Where do you get the nerve to stand there and move the cosmos with your prayers when only yesterday you sinned?” In this way he hoped to make the Tzaddik falter. But the righteous man was not impressed. And in the midst of his Tefillah, he would reply, “Nothing will help you Satan. True, I sinned yesterday. Maybe I’ll even sin, c’v, tomorrow. But hurry and get out of here because right now I’m in the midst of Nishmas.”  Hakhel Note:  Perhaps each one of us should have the same thoughts--when he recites the precious Tefillah of Nishmas tomorrow!


C.  HaRav Chaim Friedlander, Z’tl, brings from the Sefer Reishis Chochma that Shabbos is the Shoresh of all Kedusha, and that [incredibly] one is obligated to be mekadesh the six days of the week from the Kedusha of Shabbos.  HaRav Friedlander adds that the effort that we put into elevating our Kedushas Shabbos will per se overflow into the degree of Kedusha we have in the Mitzvos we perform during the week--for the Kedusha of all of these Mitzvos are nurtured from the Kedusha of Shabbos.  In order to properly prepare for Kedushas Shabbos, HaRav Friedlander urges that a person spend 15 minutes on Erev Shabbos either learning the Halachos of Shabbos, or at least contemplating the enormity of Shabbos and how one intends to utilize the opportunity.  If one does not have the ability to do so immediately prior to Shabbos, he can try to do so earlier in the day--but one should remember that if he is able to prepare for the Kedusha just a bit--”Piryo Gadol V’Toalto Merubah--its fruits are great and its accomplishments are many.”


D.  HaRav Friedlander continues that the concepts of Kavod Shabbos and Oneg Shabbos are not especially intended for one to honor his physical needs--but more so to honor the Kedushas Shabbos in a unique and special way.  HaRav Friedlander brings the Zohar, which teaches that Nefesh D’Talmid Chachom Iskriyas Shabbos Malkesah…the soul of the Talmid Chachom is called the Shabbos Queen--for a Talmid Chachom understands that the purpose of his life is to bring Kedusha to the physical world at all times.  In order to take this path, we too must begin by taking the steps to elevate our Kedushas Shabbos--so that our acts take on a Kedusha not only on day 7--but inspire and influence our Mitzvos and conduct--24/7!


E.  If one wishes to rise early in order to eat or drink before the Ta’anis, on Motza’ei Shabbos he should make a tenai before he goes to sleep that he intends to rise early and eat or drink before Alos Hashachar the next morning.  Hakhel Note:  Although if one makes the tenai, he may eat and drink, there are Halachos relating to what one may eat within a half-hour before Alos.  One should consult with his Rav or Posek if he is unsure as to what he may eat in the one-half hour period before Alos.  Additionally, if one is unsure as to exactly when Alos (there are different opinions on this matter) is, he should consult with his Rav or Posek as well. 



Special Note Three:  The Luach Davar B’Ito writes that although the Halacha of Shelosha Yamim Lifnei Eideihem Shel Akum does not generally apply to doing business with them in our times, nevertheless there may be issues regarding giving gifts during this period.  The Luach also notes that in India and other Eastern Asian countries, their religion requires them to gives thanks to their avodah zara on the first business deal that they do in the morning--and that, accordingly, one should not engage in business transactions with them early on in the day, without first consulting a Halachic authority on the matter. 



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


A. HaRav Moshe Wolfson, Shlita teaches that “Vayigash Eilav--Yehudah”---if one really wants to come close to Hashem, it is with Yehudah--with admission to Hashem that all comes from Him--and with the great thanks this awareness engenders.  Hakhel Note:  What is the very first , and therefore ostensibly the primary, item that we thank Hashem for in Modim every day?  Is it for our lives, our souls, the daily nissim....  No, it is actually “She’Atta Hu Hashem Elokainu VaiLokai Avosainu--we thank You for being our Hashem our G-d, and the G-d of our fathers”. Hashem, You could have distanced Yourself from us.  We could have lived our lives without Your Hashgacha Pratis as most of the world does. We could have not known You. Instead, You have given us the opportunity to be close to You at all times--Torah, Tefillah, the Mitzvos--to do what is right, to lead meaningful lives, to have ruchniyus as our goal.  Thanks to You, we lead lives in a world of gashmius which can lead us to live for eternity!.  With this awareness, with this knowledge, shouldn’t we anxiously await each and every opportunity to recite Shemone Esrei--each and every opportunity to recite Modim!!


B.  The Sefer Talilei Oros to this week’s Parsha, Vayigash,  presents an outstanding teaching from HaRav Aharon Leib Shteinman, Shlita.  HaRav Shteinman brings the Sefer Rokeach who writes that the reason we take three steps forward before commencing Shemone Esrei is because the word “Vayigash”--and he approached--appears three times in Tanach:  First, “Vayigash Avraham” (Bereishis18:23)--when Avraham approached Hashem to plead for the people of Sodom;  second, our Parsha—”Vayigash Eilav Yehudah”--when Yehudah 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, Yehudah 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 forward?  There is, in fact, an outstanding 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, nevertheless 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 Avraham states that Avraham Avinu was already “Omaid Lifnei Hashem--standing before Hashem” (attaining nevuah at the time)--yet before he could begin his entreaty on behalf of the people of Sodom, he still had to be Vayigash, he still had to take some action to indicate that he was about to begin a very special and privileged encounter-direct prayer before Hashem Himself!


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


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



Special Note Five:  Points and pointers on Asara B’Teves:


A.  During the week in which Asara B’Teves occurs, we encounter Parshas VaYechi in which the beginnings of Galus Mitzrayim become evident.  There is a clear common denominator between the two, as  they both are the beginnings of a dreary and dreadful Galus period.  However, with that awareness comes the understanding that the Galus is a temporary one--and the faster we change and correct our ways--the faster we return to normalcy--and an elevated relationship with HaKadosh Baruch Hu and with others.  Yaakov Avinu thus gives us the brachos in this week’s Parsha, which are at a minimum the realization that we are--and can do--much better.  Likewise, the stringencies of Tisha B’Av are not observed on Asara BeTeves even though it is the beginning of the series of calamities that led to our exile--because that exile is eminently rectifiable--if we make the right choices. 


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


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


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


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


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


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


Of course, the flip side--the beginnings of Mitzvah performance are extremely significant and determinative as well.  It is known that the Vilna Gaon, prior to undertaking a mitzvah, would state, “Hareini Oseh K’mo She’tzivani Hashem B’Soroso--I am about to do what Hashem commanded in His Torah.” 


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


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


E.   Chazal teach that “Agra De’Taanisa Tzidkasa--in order to empower one’s fasting, he should give charity”.  One should be sure to at least give to Tzedaka the cost of the food for the meals that he did not eat (because of the fast). If you need a quick and important recommendation--Yad Eliezer at yadeliezer.org.  Don’t let the mitzvah slip away!


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


G.  Chazal (Midrash Tanchuma, Vayikra 9) teach that it was already fitting for the Beis HaMikdash to be destroyed on Asara B’Teves, but Hashem, in His incredible mercy, pushed things off to the summer, so that we would not have to be exiled in the cold.  We should take this as an important lesson and be especially considerate and helpful to those who are standing outside at your door, walking when you are driving, or even those who are suffering from colds and cold weather-related illnesses.  When you make sure that your family and friends are properly dressed, have soft tissues and the like, you are likewise demonstrating a Middah of Rachmanus, of special mercy and care, which warms those around you.  Related Note:  Along these lines, Chazal (Rosh Hashana 18A) teach us that, according to one opinion, Naval was granted an additional ten days of life because of the ten meals he fed to guests--Dovid’s men.  Doing the easy math, this means that Naval “bought” a day of life for each meal he served a guest.  Oh, how we should treasure the opportunities of doing a simple and seemingly short-term kindness to someone else, for it results in nothing short of life itself.


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


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


The missing link to bring us to what Asara B’Teves is supposed to be is Teshuva.  We all know that this is the shortest fast of the year, so it should be the easiest.  That is a gift in and of itself.  However long or short the fast is, in order to be meaningful, it must be accompanied by Teshuva.  We must do something.  We must make a move to revitalize Yaakov, and to once and for all, put Eisav away.   Most certainly, Asara B’Teves and the coming week is a week to emphasize Teshuva and especially Teshuva BeChol Yom (especially by evaluation of our Kabbalah sheets, and by careful review of recent Yetzer Hara tactics)--for there is a glowing light at the end of this reprehensible tunnel--what we have to do is not stand here dumbfounded--but once and for all make the final  and oh so-needed push towards that end!


I.  We provide the following additional important teaching from the Chasam Sofer related to us by a reader, on the essence of Asara B’Teves:  “The Chasam Sofer taught that every year on Asara B’Teves there is a Din on whether to restore the Beis HaMikdash to us during that year.  Also, it is brought down from the Avudraham that although fasting is Assur on Shabbos, if Asara B’Teves would fall on Shabbos we would fast.  The explanation for this may be based upon this teaching of the Chasam Sofer--fasting for the past is Assur--but fasting on Asara B’Teves is for the future to give us back the Beis HaMikdash




7 Teves

Special Note One: An Outstanding Thought from a Reader:  HaRav Chaim Friedlander (In the Sefer Emunah U’Bechirah, p. 188) writes that every time we do a mitzvah, we are enriching our neshama with added ruchniyus. We may or may not feel this enrichment of our neshama (depending on our spiritual level) at the time of Mitzvah performance, but even if we do feel this spiritually-uplifting sensation, the emotion quickly dissipates. The reaction can only last for a brief moment, because we live in Olam Hazeh, which is time-bound. In addition, our feelings are constantly changing in a changing physical world.


But HaRav Friedlander assures us that each time we do a mitzvah, the enrichment in our ruchniyus is ingrained in our neshama, and the ‘light’ created from our mitzvah is preserved for Olam Haba. When we enter Olam Haba (a world that is not time-bound), we will feel one HUGE blast of ruchniyus from ALL of the mitzvos that we have performed throughout our ENTIRE life, COMBINED into one huge simultaneous feeling of spiritual elevation! And thereafter and forever more we will feel this spiritual elevation on a much deeper level than we ever felt it during Olam Hazeh!


I find this thought to be particularly inspiring, because sometimes it is hard to keep motivating ourselves to do mitzvos, because we don’t really see the spiritual effect of each mitzvah that we do. But if we can just focus on that tiny, subtle uplifting feeling that we sometimes have when we do a mitzvah, and imagine it being magnified and multiplied many, many times over for all the billions of tiny mitzvos that we do throughout our lives... all combined into one HUGE blast of ruchniyus...!! Mah Rav Tuvcha Asher Tzafanta L’Reyacha! (Tehillim 31:20)”



Special Note Two:  We B’EH continue our Monday/Thursday study of the Sefer Mitzvos HaKatzar, with the Mitzvos Lo Sa’asei which the Chofetz Chaim writes are applicable in our times. Today, we present Mitzvos Lo Sa’aseh 49, 50 and 51:


49.-50.  Shelo Lehonos Ger Tzedek B’Dvarim U’Bemamon--this is the Mitzvas Lo Sa’aseh which especially prohibits one from overcharging a Ger, or from hurting a Ger with words.  If one does so, he violates these two prohibitions in addition to the previous two Lo Sa’asehs (47.-48.) relating to Ona’as Mamon and Ona’as Devarim--overcharging and hurting another with words, which apply to all of K’lal Yisrael.  These Lo Sa’asehs apply in all places and at all times and to men and women alike.


51.  Shelo Le’Anos Almanah V’Yasom--this is the Mitzvas Lo Sa’aseh which especially prohibits one from hurting a widow or orphan--even if they are the widows and orphans of means, or even of the king.  Included in this prohibition is not causing them pain or anguish with strong words, angering them, and certainly hitting them physically or cursing them.  One is also obligated to care for their money even more than for his own.  The punishment for violating this Lo Sa’aseh is great, and it is described in the Torah as:  VeChara Api…”.  One who is orphaned either from his father or his mother is considered an orphan until he becomes an adult and can take care of all of his needs on his own as all other adults.  It is permitted to pain an orphan for the sake of teaching him Torah or a trade, so that he goes on the proper path--nevertheless, to the extent possible, one should try and guide him with Chesed and Rachamim.  This Mitzvah applies in all places and at all times and to men and women alike.



Special Note Three:  The Shulchan Aruch (Orach Chaim 219) lists the situations over which one recites the special bracha of HaGomel LeChayavim Tovos Shegemalani Kol Tov.  The Shulchan Aruch (ibid. 9) then brings a difference of opinion as to other circumstances in which the bracha of HaGomel should be recited.  There is a related discussion in today’s times as to whether one bentsches Gomel after having taken a flight internationally or perhaps even domestically.  The Dirshu Edition of the Mishna Berurah (ibid., 1) brings from HaRav Shlomo Zalmen Auerbach, Z’tl, that in situations where one is unsure whether he should recite the bracha he should have Kavannah for this when reciting the last of the Birchos HaShachar which ends with the words:  Baruch Atta Hashem HaGomel Chassodim Tovim LeAmo Yisrael”, and the recitation of this bracha should preferably be done in front of a Minyan.  HaRav Shlomo Zalmen likewise gives this eitzah for a katan who wants to bentsch Gomel but cannot get an aliyah or a father who wants to bentsch Gomel on behalf of his son. Hakhel Note:  Every day--without any specific reason, we are graced with the opportunity to recite the bracha of HaGomel Chassodim Tovim LeAmo Yisrael.  We should appreciate its immense importance and the great opportunity it gives us.  With it, we can in a unique and special sense ‘bentsch Gomel ’--each and every day!  Oh, how it behooves us to have Kavannah in this bracha for everything that happened the day before, everything that has happened until that point in the morning and everything that will hopefully happen for the remainder of the successful day! 



Special Note Four:  The Chofetz Chaim makes the following powerful points in the all-encompassing Sefer Shemiras HaLashon:


1.  When a person looks at his friend, he can see a physical being--human, mortal, frail and insignificant.  All the more so will he take this view if he has seen the person do something negative (especially if that negativity was addressed towards him!).  Hashem, however, knows better--for He knows that the root of the Nishmas Yisrael is Gadol VeNorah Ad Me’od.  Indeed, the Zohar writes several times that the source of the Nishmas Yisrael is LeMa’alah BeMakom Norah Ad Me’od.  Hashem knows the importance of each and every one of and loves us--Ad LiMe’od as well! 


2.  When a person judges his friend below, he stands in judgment above at that very moment--so that with one’s very words he decides his own case in Shomayim--in the place where the judgment really counts.  How fortunate can we be--Hashem lets us decide our own case--we have to have the good sense to judge ourselves favorably--for eternity!


3.  A person must not only recognize that he must judge his friend favorably--but must use all of his kochos, all of his strength to do so.  One way to do this is for a person to view himself as the suspect or the object of the potential accusation. He should imagine how he would deflect, ward-off and thwart their words--defending himself with this reason, that rationale, these grounds and those explanations. 


4.  Ultimately, [as the Sefer Mesilas Yesharim writes], our goal is to give Nachas Ruach to Hashem.  A loving father never wants his child to be looked down upon, shamed, degraded or disgraced.  Hashem is much more than a loving father--He loves us beyond human love.  We must follow suit to the greatest extent possible--with each and every one of His children! Remember… that person in front of you--Hashem is his father, and his Neshama is Gadol VeNorah Ad Me’od!




6 Teves

“WHAT DID HE SAY ABOUT ME?”  Whenever one is asked this question or hears these words, he must know or advise others to proceed with an extraordinary level of caution and forbearance--for the potential danger, ruination and geometric amplification in serious aveiros are beyond the immediate comprehension of the moment.  Help yourself, and help others!



TA’ANUG RUCHNI!   A student of HaRav Moshe Wolfson, Shlita, related to us in the name of Rav Wolfson that if one would accustom himself to always answer  Amen Yehei Shemei Rabba’ from a Siddur--he would experience a Ta’anug Ruchni, a spiritual delight--that is ‘Ee Efshar Letaeir--otherwise indescribable!’  Hakhel Note: Give yourself a thirty day trial!



ROTE MAP :  We usually follow road maps.  As we noted yesterday, one of the great lessons of Chanukah is to get us out of our ‘rote’ Mitzvah behavior.  We are so busy during the day, and we are so used to doing things in a particular way.  It would be extremely advantageous for a person if, during a quiet meal or early or late part of the day, he could sit, think through and write down those Mitzvos which are truly rote on a daily basis.  There may be too many rote actions to cure at once--but at least the top and very significant ones could be a special focus for improvement.  Make yourself a rote map--and guide yourself to a better destination!



Special Note One:  As we all know by now, one of the great lessons of Chanukah is rededicating ourselves to thanking Hashem on a daily basis--”V’Al Nissecha SheBeChal Yom Imanu--for all of the ‘little’ and not so little miracles that are with us every day”. In fact, one reader reminded us that Torah and Todah (admission and thanks to Hashem for all He does for us) are different by only one letter--and even those two letters (Raish and Daled) look very much alike!


There is one other lesson we must mention before we take leave of the recent momentous eight days. Chanukah is replete with beautiful menorahs, beautiful oil, Mehadrin and Mehadrin-Min HaMehadrin--Hiddur Mitzvah at its finest.  Hiddur Mitzvah--one’s beautification of his mitzvah-- is based upon a Pasuk that we read daily--”Zeh Kaili VeAnvaihu--This is my G-d and I will glorify Him” (Shemos 15:2).  The Chayei Odom (68:5) in discussing Hiddur Mitzvah writes that one should make his Mitzvah as beautiful as possible--befitting the royal privilege that he is engaging in.  In fact, the Chayei Odom adds that some Poskim rule that if one has even already purchased an object used to perform a mitzvah (such as a Sefer Torah, Talis, Esrog, Sukkah), and then finds

another one which is nicer, it is a mitzvah to actually go to the length of exchanging that which was already purchased and paying more for the more beautiful object. If one pays more than one-third more, the Chayei Odom concludes, ‘Yosifu Lo LaOlam Haba’--those additional funds become very significant indeed--for they buy unique eternal reward!  HaRav Chaim Kanievsky, Shlita rules that Hiddur Mitzvah has the same halacha as the Mitzvah itself--and, accordingly, to the extent that one interrupts his Torah study to perform a mitzvah (i.e., where it is a Mitzvah SheBeGufo, or there is no one else that can perform it and it has to be done now), he would also interrupt his Torah study for the Hiddur Mitzvah aspect of it as well!  With this principle, we can understand why Talmidei Chachomim spend so much time choosing esrogim and the like.  Perhaps we too can take the lesson--and stay within the beautiful Mehadrin mode of life.  When there is a special level of caring, dignity and glory attributed to a Mitzvah, not in an ostentatious way, but in a manner which is dedicated purely to the Kavod and Chibuv HaMitzvah, it most certainly has an effect on its performance-- and on those who view its performance.  Practical Application:  Choose a new Mitzvah which you will personally beautify over the winter.  It does not necessarily have to involve money, for extra time or effort to make sure that something really look, smell, taste, sound or feel more beautiful--beautifies the Mitzvah--and you as well!


Special Note Two:  Thankfully, the time for Yeshuah is not limited to only the eight days of Chanukah.  The Sefer Sha’arei Teshuvah (published in the Shulchan Aruch, Orach Chaim, end of Siman 118) records as follows:  “The Mahari Tzemach, Z’tl, wrote that:  ‘I have Kavannah when reciting the words ‘Ki LiShuasecha Kivinu Kol Hayom’ to await the Yeshuas Hashem to save us from difficult times or moments daily--and I have found this Kavannah to be a great to’eles many times in situations of tzara.”   The Chofetz Chaim (in Sefer Machaneh Yisrael) writes that every Jew must anticipate Yeshuah every day--”For the Yeshuah of Hashem can come in the blink of an eye...and it is written in the name of the Arizal that when a person recites ‘Ki LiShuasecha Kivinu Kol Hayom’, he should have in mind that he is awaiting the Yeshuah from any tzara that he finds himself in--’Vehu Mesugal Me’od LeHatzala’.  The Chofetz Chaim concludes:  “My we merit to be among those who always await the Yeshuas Hashem--and in this zechus [Middah K’negged Middah] we will merit the final and lasting Yeshuah!”  Hakhel Note:  We may suggest that the Anshei Knesses HaGedolah placed these powerful words deep into the Shemone Esrei--not so that they be hidden--but rather so that we discover them at each and every Shemone Esrei in a special and meaningful way.  Our true Kavannah in the words of ‘Ki LiShuasecha Kivinu Kol Hayom’ will thereby radiate and spread over into appropriate Kavannah in our earlier bakashos such as  Teka BeShofar and Velirushalayim Ircha --as well as into a genuine and earnest Modim Anachnu Lach and a heartfelt and sincere prayer for Shalom--for ourselves, for K’lal Yisroel... forever!




5 Teves

Special Note One:  HaRav Ezriel Erlanger, Shlita, explains that Chanukah is the celebration of the Bar Mitzvah of K’lal Yisrael.  He explains:  The Yevanim did not want to kill us--they wanted to take away our Mitzvos.  It was obviously Min HaShomayim.  If they had the power to do so, it was given to them by Hashem.  The Bach explains that the Mitzvos were being done in a lazy way, with no inspiration, no enthusiasm, out of habit, and with no spirit.  Hashem showed K’lal Yisrael that He was not interested in these kinds of Mitzvos--and so the Yevanim were given the ability to make decrees against them.  Mattisyahu and his sons realized the problem--that their Avodah in the Beis HaMikdash was the ‘same, every day’ Avodah day after day, year after year.  They understood what they had to change.  Hashem was looking for a K’lal Yisrael of spirit, of inspiration, of Mesiras Nefesh.  Serving Hashem in this way would obviate all the decrees, all the laws, all the death threats--and would bring us back to the true Avodah in the Beis HaMikdash.  Based upon this, we can understand why the miracle of the one day Pach Shemen lasting for eight days occurred.  According to the requirements of Halacha--we did not need tahor oil, as tamei oil would have been permissible, because most of K’lal Yisrael was tamei.  Yes, we could have used tamei oil--but that would have gone against what Chanukah stood for--not settling for the lackadaisical way of performing Mitzvos, the bedi’eveds, the ‘it’s ok’ way of performing Mitzvos.  Rather, the Chashmonaim showed us that the way we live is V’Chai Bahem--with inspired Mitzvos.  People mistakenly believe that our lives take precedence to Shabbos or to other Mitzvos and that we can violate Shabbos and almost all other Mitzvos in order to save our lives.  This is simply not true.  We violate one Shabbos or one Mitzvah in order to preserve our lives--so that we can keep many Shabbosos and do many Mitzvos of the same kind in the future.  V’Chai Bahem means that we shall live not for ourselves--but in the performance of Mitzvos.  The Maccabim were moser nefesh, because of the essence of our life--where all our aspirations and inspirations should be directed--is our Mitzvah performance, our Avodas Hashem.  This is what the Chashmonaim learned the hard way and taught to all future generations.  We are now Bar Mitzvah--let us behave that way!



Special Note Two:  The Maharal (Netzach Yisrael, Chapter 4) explains the difference between the First Beis HaMikdash and the Second Beis HaMikdash:  The first Beis HaMikdash was built in the zechus of the three Avos--Avraham (Chesed), Yitzchak (Avodah) and Yaakov (Torah, the antithesis of Eisav).  K’lal Yisrael lost the first Beis HaMikdash because of the three cardinal sins of Avodah Zara, Giluy Arayos and Shefichas Damim.  With these three aveiros we lost the Zechus Avos, as follows:  (i) with the sin of Arayos, we lost the zechus of Avraham who represented Chesed in its purest form, while Arayos is the Chesed of Tumah--giving to another in a prohibited manner; (ii) with the sin of Avodah Zara we lost the zechus of Yitzchak, whose entire being was Avodas Hashem, and not c’v the worship of false deities and ideologies; and (iii) with the sin of Shefichas Damim, we lost the zechus of Yaakov--by instead acting like the murderous Eisav.  The Second Beis HaMikdash, then, existed without the Zechus Avos which had ended.  It was sustained through the Avodah of K’lal Yisrael acting as a unit together.  When Sinas Chinam caused separations and rifts among the people--their Avodas Hashem was no longer united and the Second Beis HaMikdash had no zechus kiyum either.  In the hundreds of years before the Second Beis HaMikdash there was a great flourishment of Torah Shebe’al Peh in K’lal Yisrael.  This, HaRav Chaim Friedlander, Z’tl, writes was the essence of the Second Beis HaMikdash--which required the proper actions of the people at that time for its survival.


Fascinatingly, HaRav Friedlander writes, even after the Beis HaMikdash was destroyed the growth of Torah Shebe’al Peh continues.  Although the generations get farther and farther from Har Sinai, Chidushei Torah abound and proliferate.  HaRav Friedlander concludes that this is a special gift from Hashem because of the bleakness of the Galus in the world around us.  Hashem gives us the light of Torah to guide us and uplift us although the world is dark around us.  We cannot hide from the fact that the light of the Chanukah Menorah is now gone for the year 5773.  It should, however, have kindled another light within each and every one of us--the light of Torah to guide the way through these last stages of our exile.  If there is one commitment that we are to bli neder take with us from the Great Days of Chanukah--it should be in some form of additional illumination of Torah in our daily life.  Even if it is only an additional short phone Shiur or an additional Mishna daily, the commitment to come to a daily Shiur on-time with a small k’nas if one does not do so, or the dedication to say or learn a D’var Torah at breakfast or before going to sleep…a little bit of light illuminates the darkest of darknesses.  Allow Chanukah 5773 to continue to radiate your life…Ad Biyas Moshiach Tzidkeinu!



Special Note Three:  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 Rebbi 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 Rebbi 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!




4 Teves

Special Note One: We B’EH continue our Monday/Thursday study of the Sefer Mitzvos HaKatzar, with the Mitzvos Lo Sa’asei which the Chofetz Chaim writes are applicable in our times. Today, we present Mitzvos Lo Sa’aseh 47 and 48:


47.  Shelo Lehonos BeMekach U’Memkar--this is the Mitzvas Lo Sa’aseh which prohibits one from overcharging. It does not matter whether one overcharged intentionally, or did not initially know that he overcharged--in either event he must repay the overcharge.  This Mitzvah applies in all places and at all times and to men and women alike.


48.  Shelo Lehonos BeDevarim--this is the Mitzvas Lo Sa’aseh which prohibits one from using words which are hurtful to another. Examples include telling someone who has done Teshuvah:  “Remember what you used to do?”; or telling a Ger: “Look at what your forefathers did.”; or asking someone who you know does not know the answer:  “Could you please explain…?”, in order to cause him tza’ar;…and other similar painful or hurtful words.  Hakhel Note:  We know how painful or hurtful the words can be--and we have to avoid our using them on others--even though he ‘really deserves it’, ‘must be taught a lesson once and for all’…or even thinking “I will just say it this one time.”



Special Note Two:  Chanukah is now a very important part of our recent past and an eternal part of our fiber and being. Tefillah is such an important part of Chanukah’s lesson: We can continue to demonstrate the effect of Chanukah upon us. Improving our Kavannah daily focusing properly in Shemone Esrei during: (a) the bracha of Gevuros Hashem (the second bracha of Shemone Esrei relating to Hashem’s Omnipotence); (b) the bracha of Re’eh Veanyeinu (the seventh bracha relating to individual and community geulos); (c) in Modim (thanking Hashem for all of the daily spiritual and physical miracles one experiences); and (d) in pleading for “Rachamecha HaRabbim” in Elokai Netzor or at any point during the day, are some core examples of how Chanukah 5773 can leave one’s 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 three 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 or revitalizing one’s 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 (or who have done so, but could take the Sefer off the shelf to review another time), 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 Three:  Some additional post-Chanukah points and pointers:


A.  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!!


B.  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!  We all know that when one puts his hand into his pocket and takes out the wrong coin, or the object that he did not, this is considered to be yisurin.  What if a person does take out the right coin, or the right object--shouldn’t he express his thanks to Hashem for doing so?!  Additional 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!


C.  Are we allowed to ask for miracles?  Do miracles detract from our Zechusim?  Do they detract 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!


D.  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!


E.  At a 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!


F.  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.



1 Teves

QUESTION OF THE DAY :  How is it possible to have five aliyos on Rosh Chodesh Teves?



QUESTION OF THE EVENING:  What does the last phrase of Maoz Tzur mean--”Dechei Admon B’Tzel Tzalmon Hakeim Lanu Ro’eh Shivah?”



REMINDER!  As it is Rosh Chodesh today, those who do not cut their hair or nails on Rosh Chodesh would not do so today as well! 



LOOK AT THE NEIROS!  Next week, if one would light the Menorah in the same place and at the same time, the light of the Neiros would simply not be the same.  We suggest that just as Rebbi advised Antoninus that Shabbos food does not taste the same because on Shabbos it has the ‘Shabbos spice’ in it--so too is the Ruchniyus that one can imbibe from the Neiros Chanukah on Chanukah incomparable to the light of the other 346 days of the year. Look, study and grow--tonight and tomorrow night!



FOR MEN AND WOMEN--HALACHA LEMA’ASEH SUNDAY EVENING SHIUR IN FLATBUSH!  Given by Rabbi Yisroel Pearl, Shlita, at Knesses Bais Avigdor, 1720 Avenue J from 9:15PM-10:00PM.  The topic this week is Sikum Al Amira L’Akum.  Topics include:  Amira L’Akum with regard to an Issur D’Oraysa vs. an Issur D’Rabanan, an akum doing a melacha with a Shinuy, when one can hint to an akum, having benefit from a melacha that an akum did on Shabbos, with many practical situations and solutions.  Free admission.  For further information, please call:  917-273-9610.



THE 36 QUESTIONS!  Last Erev Shabbos we provided 36 Questions and Answers relating to Chanukah for you, your family and friends.  If you have not completed them--there are still 2 1/2 days left!




Special Note One:  Thoughts on Rosh Chodesh Teves: 


A.  Today, 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 Kedusha will be Mosif VeHoleich--will grow and grow forever!  (From the Sefer Machsheves Tzaddik)


B.  Today is Rosh Chodesh Teves.  As we all know, the Greeks attacked Shabbos, Bris Milah and Rosh Chodesh as the classic examples of Torah Judaism.  As we light the Menorah this evening, having passed through the sanctity of Rosh Chodesh, we should increase our appreciation of the Mitzvah in tonight’s Hadlakas HaNeiros.  To gain a greater and deeper feeling and appreciation of the neiros of Chanukah, we present below a selection from the Sefer Kav HaYashar, as so recently beautifully translated by Rabbi Avrohom Davis, Shlita (Metsudah, 2007,Volume 2, p.455-456):


“…In commemoration of this miracle the Jews of every generation must observe the festival of Chanukah for eight days during which they must also kindle lights.  These lights have the status of mitzvah lights.  In many places we find that such lights are very precious in the eyes of Hashem.  Thus it states, ‘BaUrim Kabdu Hashem--Honor Hashem with lights’ (Yeshayahu 24:15).


“Any lamp that is lit for the sake of a mitzvah has wondrous and immeasurable sanctity.  If we merited Ruach HaKodesh, we would recite the blessings over them and immediately attain understanding and insight into the future by means of their kindling--for a mitzvah light causes an outpouring of prophecy completely analogous to that of a prophet prophesying by the command of Hashem!”


C.  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:  Before reciting Hallel tomorrow and on the eighth day of Chanukah, 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 for the rest of Chanukah--spread the word!



Special Note Three:  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 days of Chanukah, we must intend to keep the elevated spirit within us throughout the year!



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


A.  From the Sefer Guidelines to Chanukah (part of the wonderful Guidelines Series by Rabbi Elozor Barclay, Shlita, and Rabbi Yitzchok Jaeger, Shlita): 


1.  Should the wife kindle the Shabbos lights only after all the Chanukah lights have been lit?

Ideally, yes, but if time is short, she may kindle the Shabbos lights as soon as her husband had kindled one Chanukah light.


2.  If other Menorahs are also to be lit (e.g. by children, visitors) should the wife wait until all have been lit?

No, she may kindle the Shabbos lights as soon as her husband has lit his Menorah.


3.  If the husband is not ready to light the Menorah and time is short, may the wife kindle the Shabbos lights first?

Yes.  The husband may still light the Menorah afterwards, provided it is still before sunset.  The same applies if the wife mistakenly kindled the Shabbos lights first.


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.  It is reported that in the Beis HaMidrash 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 Nishmas.  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.


D.  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!


E.  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 Karbon Todah offering in gratitude for the Nes!  Hakhel Note:  This kind of ‘Karbon Todah’ can even be brought on Shabbos!



Special Note Five:  Points and pointers on the Parsha:


A. 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!


B.  In what merit was Yosef referred to as “Ain Navon VaChacham Kamocha”--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 (Midrash 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 Hara’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!


C.  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 Six:  The following are additional insights excerpted from the Sefer Leket Reshimos on Chanukah, from the teachings of HaRav Nosson Wachtfogel, Z’tl, the original Mashgiach of Lakewood:




1.  Mattisyahu and his sons showed everyone that one should not despair and let himself flounder in Galus, that one need not be influenced by the multitudes in the world around him, nor by the impurity of those in close proximity.  Rather, one who fulfills the Pasuk of Vayigbah Libo B’Darchei Hashem is not hurt by the condition of the broken generation around him--but rather elevates himself and tries to elevate those around him.  The world need not rule over me--if I keep in mind that Hashem is the Ruler of the world! 


2.  Perhaps we do not realize it, but the goal of the Umos HaOlam is to disturb us from learning Torah--to fulfill the words of LeHashkicham Sorasecha.  Our response is that we must be Oskei Sorasecha.  If we can accomplish this--if we can study more and more Torah--we ourselves will be able to succeed at the words of Al HaNissim--”V’Zeidim B’Yad Oskei Sorasecha--the enemies into the hands of the diligent students of Torah.”  Note:  HaRav Wachtfogel adds that the Chofetz Chaim would tell a person that the Yetzer Hara will advise him to sweat and toil as much as he wants to when it comes to the Mitzvos--as long as he does not learn Torah.  We know what our response has to be!


3.  HaRav Aharon Kotler, Z’tl, related that he had the following Kabbalah from the Chofetz Chaim:  At the time of World War I, many came to the Chofetz Chaim and asked him if it was the end--if the war was the Milchemes Gog U’Magog.  The Chofetz Chaim responded that after the war there would be a hefsek (an interruption), then it would be followed by another war.  After the second war there would be a hefsek.  There would then be a third war--and with this war the Moshiach will come!  Hakhel Note:  The Sefer Otzros HaTorah writes that the Yevanim oppressed the Jews for 52 years before the Yeshuah began--we always have to be ready!  



Special Note Seven:  Points and pointers on Zos Chanukah: 


A.  From a reader:  “The recent prolonged blackouts gave us a chance to think... what would the world be like, if we sat paralyzed by cold and darkness? That darkness is reminiscent of the darkness of ignorance, the cold of disconnection from Hashem and Torah.  This Chanukah we can think of the joy of the power coming back on... and the power of Torah to bring true illumination and wisdom.    Unlike other Chanukahs, this year’s Chanukah began on Motz’aei Shabbos and also ends with Motza’ei Shabbos--making it a “double Motza’ei Shabbos” Chanukah.  On Motza’ei Shabbos we say “LaYehudim Haysa Ora...Kayn Tiheyeh Lanu” and the Midrash on the Megillah  explains that “Ora” is Torah.  On the eighth night of Chanukah, as we look at the Havdalah light and we look at the brilliance of eight candles glowing in our menorahs, we can remember the power of the Ohr of Torah and we can bring that into our lives, by making an ongoing commitment to add at least five minutes more learning each day.


B.  Sunday, 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.


C.  The Sefer Taamei Dinim U’Minhagim brings that Zos Chanukah 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 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.


D.  The following greater detail is excerpted from the unique and powerful English Sefer The Book of Our Heritage, by Rabbi Eliyahu Kitov, Z’tl (Feldheim Publishers):  The last day of Chanukah 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 Yisrael 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 Yisrael’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 Yisrael 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 Yisrael, 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 (Micha 7:15):  As in the days when you left the land of Egypt I shall show you wonders, and (Yirmiyahu 16:14­15):  Therefore behold, days are coming, says Hashem, and it will no longer be said, as Hashem lives, who has taken the Bnei Yisrael up out of Egypt.  But rather, as Hashem lives, Who has taken the Bnei Yisrael 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.  




29 Kislev

QUESTION OF DAY :  How many times is the root word ‘Hallel’ mentioned in the full Hallel that we are reciting--such as in the words ‘Halelu’, ‘Halelukah’, etc.?




Special Note One:  We B’EH continue our Monday/Thursday study of the Sefer Mitzvos HaKatzar, with the Mitzvos Lo Sa’asei which the Chofetz Chaim writes are applicable in our times. Today, we present Mitzvos Lo Sa’aseh 45 and 46:


45. Shelo Lekalel--this is the Mitzvas Lo Sa’aseh which prohibits one from cursing another--including a deaf person who cannot otherwise hear the curse and will accordingly not be pained by it.  A person who curses himself also violates this prohibition.  The curse must utilize Hashem’s Name, and the curse may be in any language (one violates this prohibition even if he used Hashem’s Name in that language). This Mitzvah applies in all places and at all times and to men and women alike.


46.  Shelo Lekalel Av V’Eim--this is the Mitzvas Lo Sa’aseh which prohibits one from cursing his father or mother.  One who does so, receives the death penalty of sekilah.  It is also forbidden for a son to be a Shaliach Beis Din to put his father into nidui.  One who disgraces a parent, even by hinting, is cursed with the k’lala of “Arur Makleh Aviv VeEmo”.  This Mitzvah applies in all places and at all times and to men and women alike.



Special Note Two:  From A Reader:  “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:  From A Reader:  “The Sefer Nissim V’Niflaos, makes the point that the time of year between Chanukah and Purim entails an emphasis on communal Achdus--in contrast to the beginning of the year where the emphasis is on Teshuvah that usually involves personal introspection.  The initial Teshuvah period ends on Zos Chanukah, and simultaneously we expand our focus beyond ourselves to begin preparing for the nation’s birth on Pesach, and Matan Torah on Shavuos, both of which have Achdus as prerequisites.


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


On Chanukah, the Mitzvah of Neiros is directed to the Bayis, and we also have family Seudos as part of the Simcha of the festival.  Amazingly, the Brachos (including She’assah Nissim) are also directed to the family unit, which is the only time of the year that they are not directed to individuals.  Thus, if someone forgot to make a Shehechiyanu the first night, he is to recite it when he lights on the next night.  But, if he was Yotzeh the first night through someone else in the Bayis, he is exempt from Shehechiyanu thereafter, even though he was not present when the Bracha was made and didn’t say Amen.  This is unlike any other Bracha where one cannot be Yotzeh unless one actually heard the Bracha being recited.


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


Hakhel Note:  Chanukah, then, is a time of selflessness--a time of bonding with Hashem, and those around us!



Special Note Four: We excerpt the following beautiful points from the Sefer Machsheves Tzaddik, a compilation of the teachings of Rebbi 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 Yisrael 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: Rebbi 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 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.  Rebbi 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. Rebbi 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.


Additional Note: 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, 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!    


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!




28 Kislev

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!

Hakhel Note:  HaRav Yitzchok Isbee, Z’tl, notes that in Al HaNisim 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 One:  Would you ever have expected the news to announce “A few tzaddikim defeat Hannibal ’s elephants”!  Yet, this is exactly what happened.  The mightiest army of its time fell prey to a small band of “Orthodox Jews”.  How did this happen?  In what z’chus?


Rav Chaim Friedlander Z’TL teaches that the equation was straightforward and simple--since the Maccabim were moser nefesh--they broke their own will and were ready to give up their own lives to defeat the Greek influence, Hashem responded in kind, by breaking the rules of creation and nature, i.e., bringing us the miracles of Chanukah.  The Vilna Gaon in Mishlei ( 4:13 ) writes that a person should especially focus his life on becoming a better person-that is, breaking his bad habits and bad character traits.


In a similar vein, Rabbeinu Yonah, in the classic Yesod HaTeshuva, states that the Ra’avad recommended that a person with a great desire for something should attempt to in some way break the desire, by either not fulfilling it at all or at least curtailing it or alleviating it in some way.


Dovid HaMelech in Tehillim (121:5) teaches us that in truth, Hashem “is your shadow”--meaning, that if we can improve ourselves by ridding ourselves of, or weakening, our jealously, anger, hatred or another bad midah or middos we possess, Hashem will also break the bad decree or remove or alleviate in some way the difficult situation in which a person might find himself.


Practical Suggestion:  Let us take the lesson of the Maccabim.  Try overcoming something that would otherwise seem impossible during the remainder of Chanukah, such as a great desire or a midah which you have particular trouble with, and have almost given up on.  With even one victory, you may receive a miracle of your very own!



Special Note Two:  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 the ‘70 nations’, but also that we don’t have the same conduct and thoughts as may be common among them.


Chanukah is an auspicious time for us to evaluate our conduct--have we allowed into our mind or home something that would taint this brocha?  Some nice inner reflection may be in order.  In any event, a nice avodah over Chanukah would be to recite this brocha with a special thanks, and with a silent prayer, that we not be influenced in a negative way by the world around us, so that each and every one of us can fulfill our important special mission in life.



Special Note Three:   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!




27 Kislev

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



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



Special Note Three:  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.  In a word, 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.  HaRav Shmuelevitz asks why we place such a great emphasis on the miracle of finding the oil--even over and above the previously unimaginable victories in the wars against the Greeks themselves.  After all, it is much easier to find an item one would not expect to find-- than for a handful of chaloshim--people who were physically weak to defeat the mightiest army 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 retained the Bais HaMikdash for more than 200 years--and their fulfillment of the Torah was 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 malodorous 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 and 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 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.



Special Note Four:  The Meam Loez (Tehillim, Chapter 113) writes the following essential note regarding Hallel (which consists of Tehillim Chapters 113-118):


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


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



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


The Sefer Baruch She’Amar (written by the Torah Temimah) suggests it means to express that although we experienced great salvation then, it was not an eternal one, and that is yet to come--for just as 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.


The Sefer Rinas Chaim by HaRav Chaim Friedlander, Z’tl, brings three additional possibilities.  First, “day” indicates clarity--the yeshua we experienced then was a clear and unambiguous one.  Second, in the name of the Eitz Yosef, HaRav Friedlander writes that “every year during these days the Nes is once again revealed, and Hashem infuses these days with yeshua and pidyon---the days which started then as days of salvation continue on to this very day to  be especially mesugal to nissim ve’yeshua.”  This means, then, that we can put our finger on these days in our very times--they are now as they were then!  Third, the purpose of tzaros and I’YH the yeshuos from them are for us to return to Hashem, to do Teshuva.  The yeshua is not an end--but a means to get closer to Hashem.  So, every year when we arouse our feelings for these times through Hadlakas Neiros, Hoda’ah and Hallel, we strengthen our bond with Hashem--which means we accomplish the same goals as were accomplished then by the Chashmonaim--so there was not only a “teshua gedola” back then--but also “kehayom hazeh”--on this very day--in our very own Chanukah celebration as well!  How Great--How Wonderful-- if we properly bring Chanukah into our lives--the effect upon the Chashmonaim is actually mirrored in us!




26 Kislev

QUESTION OF THE DAY :   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.]  Hakhel Note:  Your insights or discoveries in Al HaNissim and Hallel--the Lehodos U’LeHallel of Chanukah--are very much welcome!



REMINDER!  Please give Tzedaka to Talmidei Chachomim--especially in honor of Chanukah!



A FORGETFUL MOMENT:  When one realizes that what he is about to say might be Lashon Hara--or it may even lead to Lashon Hara, he must stop himself in his tracks--’forgetting’ what he had to say or diverting the topic.  After all, writes the Chofetz Chaim, would one take another chew or bite of something that may be proven not to be Kosher?!




Special Note One:  We B’EH continue our Monday/Thursday study of the Sefer Mitzvos HaKatzar, with the Mitzvos Lo Sa’asei which the Chofetz Chaim writes are applicable in our times. Today, we present Mitzvos Lo Sa’aseh 43 and 44:


43. Lo LeHakos--this is the Mitzvas Lo Sa’aseh which prohibits one from hitting another person.  Even one who raises his hand against another without hitting him is referred to as a Rasha.  One who hits another in order to properly instruct him (such as a parent in permitted circumstances) does not violate this prohibition. 



44.  Shelo LeHakos Av V’Eim-- this is the Mitzvas Lo Sa’aseh which prohibits one from causing a wound in his father or mother.  If one does so in front of witnesses and after having received warning (hasra’ah), he receives the death penalty of chenek.  Based upon this prohibition, a child could not draw blood from a parent, but if there is no one else to draw the blood, then he may listen to their command to do so.  This Mitzvah applies in all places and at all times and to men and women alike.



Special Note Two:  From a reader:  “On Chanukah gifts:  Other Poskim discuss this and conclude that it is not a problem of chukas hagoyim, as in all likelihood the Goyim’s minhag of giving gifts on their holidays was taken from us and not vice versa. (See Emes L’Yaakov from Rav Yaakov Kamenetsky, Z’tl, Siman 670 in the footnote who says this.) The Ponovez Rav, Rav Yosef Shlomo Kahaneman, Z’tl, said that after the Greeks forbade the Jewish children from learning Torah, their parents had to “bribe” them with gifts to get them to learn once again. Giving gifts on Chanukah commemorates that aspect of the Chanukah miracle.  Indeed, children should be told when receiving gifts that it is for this reason and that they are expected to increase their Torah learning because of the gifts (see Sifsei Chaim from Rav Chaim Friedlander, Z’tl; Moadim Vol. 2 page 134).”  Hakhel Note:  As the matter appears to generate a difference of opinion, one should consult with his own Rav or Posek for a final ruling in this area.



Special Note Three:  We present below brachos Shailos relating to Chanukah--culled from the 100 Teshuvos in Hilchos Brachos that Rabbi Yisroel Pinchos Bodner, Shlita, provided to us last year: 


1.         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.


2.         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 Atta= and were about to finish the brocha of “Nodeh Lecha and caught the mistake before saying “Hashem”- you should recite Al Hanisim at that point, and then conclude the brocha Boruch Atta 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 HaHeim BaZeman Hazeh (Shulchan Aruch 682,1, Halachos of Brochos p. 320)


3.         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).


4.         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). 


5.         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).


6.         Q:  This Shabbos 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 does 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 People’s 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 People’s 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 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 ruchniyus 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.



Special Note Five:  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!  Hakhel Note:  This is a reminder for our above reminder!


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!




23 Kislev

FOOD FOR (AFORE)THOUGHT:  Can a sarcastic statement, comment or response ever be useful?



WHILE STILL IN THE STORE:  It has been brought to our attention that, based upon the environment of Eisav that we live in even the back of some cereal boxes now present pictures which are inappropriate for the Torah home.  Accordingly, shoppers should be alert in the supermarket--prior to putting items in their shopping cart. 



VERY IMPORTANT OBSERVATION:  From Rabbi Moshe Goldberger, Shlita, relating to this week’s Parsha: “Yosef brought bad reports to Father.  The Midrash says we learn to avoid Lashon Hara.  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!”



MORE TORAH!  The Chasam Sofer urges us to increase our Torah study both quantitatively and qualitatively on Chanukah--for it was Torah that illuminated our victory--and the Torah She’Be’al Peh which continued to shine thereafter for all of K’lal Yisrael!  Now is the time to think about what special Torah project one will celebrate Chanukah with!




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


A.  From Sefer Refuas Yisrael by Rabbi Yisroel Pinchos Bodner, Shlita:  “…someone suffering from heartburn may not drink a bicarbonate beverage such as Alka-Seltzer (which may pass as a seltzer beverage), or eat an antacid tablet such as Tums (which may pass as candy).  Although these preparations are edible, because they are primarily used as medicine (in this case, to relieve heartburn), they are included in the prohibition, and may not be taken on Shabbos.”  We asked Rabbi Bodner about the permissibility of sucking cough drops on Shabbos.  He responded as follows:  It may be that cough drops would not be treated like Tums, as people may suck on cough drops in place of candy. If this is so, perhaps cough drops would be considered ma’achel bri’im and would be permitted even if one eats it for a sore throat. We need a factual determination as to how the average person eats it. 

Hakhel Note:  One should accordingly consult with his Rav or Posek as to the permissibility of taking cough drops on Shabbos.


B.  When pouring the Kiddush cup, should it ‘run over’?  The Mishna Berurah (Orach Chaim 271, seif katan 42) writes that LeChatchila a Kos Shel Bracha should simply be full; however, as long as the cup contains a revi’is of wine, one can still make Kiddush with it as long as the cup contains a revi’is of wine. 


C.  A reader provided us with a picture of what one may find underneath a bottle cap--please click here for the photograph.  If one forgot to open a bottle before Shabbos, and hopes to ‘fix’ the situation by destroying the bottle cap--he might be faced with a mochek Shailah.  We asked a well known Posek as to whether this was an issue--he responded that some may be machmir, based upon their own facts and circumstances.  Accordingly, we suggest that anyone faced with such a situation ask his Rav or Posek. 



Special Note Two:  Points and Pointers on this week’s Parsha:


A.  The Torah teaches “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 Yisrael LeMitzrayim LeChatchila--the original main cause for the entire Galus Mitzrayim!”  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 Lashon Hara”--which is defined as making statements or taking action which lead to, cause, or result in Lashon Hara.  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 Lashon Hara is an iniquity impacting most directly upon a person’s soul.  Accordingly, the Yetzer Hara is especially focused on Avak Lashon Hara and urges everyone to falter here.  We accordingly provide the following Avak Lashon Hara prevention notes (as supplied in the past)--with the hope and intent that if it was Lashon Hara that started the Galus process for K’lal Yisrael, it will be our dedicated and special Shemira from the most predisposed form of Lashon Hara that will once and for all lead us out of this Galus and into an eternal Geulah Sheleima.


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


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


2.  “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 Lashon Hara.”


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


4.  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….”).


5.  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.


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


7.  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 Lashon Hara to speak about someone in a manner which appears to be Lashon Hara (even though it really is not) so that others suspect him of speaking Lashon Hara.  Thus, when speaking in a deprecatory manner about someone, one should explain to them why it is not Lashon Hara.


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 Hara  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 Hara Machsom L’fi --for the entire Shabbos as well!


B.  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.  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!


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 Yonah writes 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 shames 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 Beis 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!




Special Note Three:  We provide the following Eight Pre-Chanukah Notes from the Luach Davar BeIto:


1.  One should prepare Menorah and wicks in the morning or during the day so that they are ready in the evening without undue delay.  To the extent possible, one should likewise prepare his Menorah and wicks tomorrow so that he can light on Motza’ei Shabbos as quickly as possible. 


2.  It is related that Hungarian Jewry preferred to use olive oil from Eretz Yisrael. 


3.  The Gerrer Rebbe stated that Chanukah gives koach to the day before as well--and the proof of this is from Tehillim.  What did he mean?  The Rebbe’s mechuten explained the words of the Rebbe as follows:  If one divides Tehillim by the month, the Chapters of Tehillim that we recite on the 24th day of Kislev are those of Hallel--Tehillim 113-118!


4.  In order to perform Hadlakas Neiros Chanukah as close to the end of Shabbos as possible, the Chazon Ish, Z’tl,  and HaRav Shlomo Zalmen Auerbach, Z’tl, recited Veyitein Lecha after Hadlakas Neiros. 


5.  Likewise, the Divrei Chaim of Sanz, in order not to delay Hadlakas Neiros on Motza’ei Shabbos would not even recite the zemer of Hamavdil Bein Kodesh L’Chol, typically recited immediately after Havdalah. 


6.  No matter how early one lights (some in New York light 15 minutes after shekiyah)--the neiros should remain lit until at least a half-hour after tzeis hakochavim. 


7.  When lighting each Ner with the Shamash, one should not move the Shamash away from the wick until most of the wick has been lit. 


8.  The Sefer Mekor Chaim writes about the Hadlakah:  Ikar HaMitzvah Lirosam Lismoach Bahem Zecher LeSimchas HaHadlaka Achar HaNeis--it is essential after lighting to look at the candles and rejoice in them--which serves as a remembrance to the simcha that was experienced after the miracle occurred.”  Hakhel Note:  It is interesting to note that the epitome of the Greek culture, the Olympics, are symbolized by the burning torch.  Compare our neiros, lehavdil, to their torch--it is the illumination of ruchniyus, of closeness to Hashem, to the illusory illumination of corporality and self-satisfaction.  Additional Note:  In a shiur he gave after the Mumbai massacre, HaRav Shmuel Dishon, Shlita, said that he had recalled several years ago that a terrorist attack in Eretz Yisrael, rachmana litzlan, had occurred immediately prior to Chanukah.  It is the custom in his family to dance after lighting the Chanukah Licht.  One of his grandchildren asked whether they would dance that year after what had just happened.  His response to his grandchild was “Of course, all the more so, because this is just exactly what they are trying to stop us from doing!”  Let us use the time after the Hadlakas Neiros--in front of the Neiros--to thank Hashem for the nissim and yeshuos he has granted us in the past, and to pray for further nissim and Yeshuos in the near future. 



Special Note Four:  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 Chachomim.  Many people light and do not have children who are Talmidei Chachomim?

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 Five:  We provide additional important points and pointers on Chanukah:


A.  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 Shechinah 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 VeSarfei 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! 


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


C.  We present by clicking here a Tefillah found in the Siddur Beis 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!


D.  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 (‘Bazman Hazeh”) for all of us both in ruchniyus and gashmius--each person in accordance with his individual needs.  Now **that** is real ta’anug!


E. 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 Shamash, 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, can be viewed by clicking here.


F.  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 Mesechta 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 Shomayim that one can find in the Neiros!


G.  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.


H.  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.


I.  We may also suggest reading the Megilas Antiochus  after Hadlakas Neiros one night.  You can find the Megilas Antiochus in English by clicking here (The site also has a version in Hebrew.) 


J.  Some have the custom for a child under the age of Bar Mitzvah to light the Menorah in Shul.  In fact, lighting in Shul is Pirsumei Nisa D’Rabim.  Accordingly, it is a great honor to light the Menorah in Shul, and adults should run after the opportunity.  Moreover, one has the opportunity to make additional brachos that he would not otherwise have at home (Shailos U’Teshuvos Teshuvos V’Hanhagos: Volume 1: p. 282; Volume 4:p.163).


K.  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!


L.  The days of Chanukah are days especially dedicated “L’Hodos U’Lehalel--to thank and praise”, for when all is said and done we remained and remain separate and distinct as a people--unaffected by the false ideologies, philosophies, and beliefs of the outside world.  Of course, both thanks and praise involve the spoken word.  However, when we speak, our words are intended to emanate from our hearts.  Every day, when reciting Al HaNissim 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.


M.  In the Sefer Sichos Ba’Avodas Hashem by HaRav Yaakov Meisels, Shlita:  The Kedushas Levi, Rebbi 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 Rebbi.  ”Does he light Neiros Chanukah?” asked the Rebbi.  ”Certainly not, I’m sure that he doesn’t even know how or what it is.”  “In that case,” responded the Rebbi, “he has no clue--no idea whatsoever--of what true ta’anug really is!”


N.  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).


O.  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 entire Yarchei Kallah, please call 718-252-5274.


P.  The Alter of Novordok, Z’tl, was in hisbodidus, by himself in a hut in the forest for a considerable period of time.  One night, his candle burned out, and in complete darkness, he could not look into his Sefer.  He stepped out into the moonlight.  Suddenly, a man appeared, handed him a burning candle, and quickly disappeared, continuing on into the forest.  The Alter could now go back inside and learn again.  Upon returning home, he took what was left of the candle with him, to remember the great phenomenon that had occurred--how he had miraculously been given light at that moment of darkness.  Several years later, a fire broke out in his home, and the precious remnants of his candle were consumed.  The family feared telling him of this calamity.  When he learned of it, he actually expressed joy.  “This is a message to me from Hashem.  I should not only place emphasis on the great and obvious miracle that occurred to me, but on the miracles that literally occur to me every day.  I don’t need anything to remind me of them, either--I need only look around me, wherever I am and wherever I go!”  Hakhel Note:  If one visits a new doctor for the first time, he is asked to complete pages of questions relating to prior and current illnesses, operations, conditions, and medications.  BE’H, he will be checking the “No” box to most or all of these questions.  However, the fact that the questions are being asked is reason to believe that these conditions and concerns are, R’L, more prevalent than we think.  Every so often, one can imagine himself filling out those forms, checking “No” after “No” in each and every box--and exclaiming, “Thank You, Hashem, Thank You, Hashem for the nissim veniflaos that you bestow upon me--every day of the year!”



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

Answer:  (a)  According to the Sefer Rokeach it is because Adam HaRishon used the Ohr HaGanuz for 36 hours before it was hidden away.  In fact, the Bnai Yissoschar in the name of R’ Pinchas of Karitz writes that although we may not see it when lighting, the Ohr HaGanuz itself is revealed at the time of the Hadlakas Neiros! (b) The Neiros symbolize Torah SheBe’al Peh, and there are 36 Revealed Mesechtos in Shas (Sefer Taamei Dinim U’Minhagim).


3.         Question:  How many words are there in the Bracha of V’liYerushlayim Ircha?  What is the next bracha?  Similarly, how many letters are there in Baruch Sheim Kevod 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!)


4.         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 Beis 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!


5.         Question:  Why does the Navi compare Klal Yisrael 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. 


6.         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 Beis HaMikdash! (Vayikrah 23:33-24:4)


7.         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…Beis Aharon Bitchu BaHashem Ezram U’Maginam Hu…BeChastros Beis Hashem Besocheichi Yerushalayim..Yomru Nah Beis Aharon Ki LeOlam Chasdo…Hashem Li BeOzerai VeAni Er’eh BeSonai…Yemin Hashem Romeimah, Yemin Hashem Osah Chayil…Kel Hashem VaYa’er Lanu.


8.         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.


9.         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!


10.       Question:  What else in the Beis 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 Leviim, 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).


11.       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.


12.       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!


13.       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.


14.       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.


15.       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!


16.       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 K’lal Yisrael!


17.       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).


18.       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!


19.       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!


20.       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 )


21.       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!


22.       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. 


23.       Question:  How many Menoros were there in the Beis HaMikdash?

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


24.       Question:  What is the Mazal of the month of Kislev?

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 Beis HaMikdash to daven and blow the Chatzosros before doing battle. 


25.       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 Beis Yisrael 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.


26.       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 Beis 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!  


27.       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).


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--actually killing thousands upon thousands of mighty Greek warriors?

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 Yisrael 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 Shehechiyanu 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 Tashlumin, as a candle in daylight is ineffective (Chayei Adam 154:28).


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

Answer: Many have a common answer on the tip of their tongue (or is it lips?).  However, HaRav Shlomo Zalmen 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 Mizbe’ach 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 Mizbe’ach, 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 Mizbaichecha”--on Your Mizbe’ach.  Indeed, even Birkas HaMazon (in the third bracha), when asking Hashem to have Rachamim upon Yisrael, Yerushalayim, Zion and the Beis 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!




22 Kislev

WHAT IS THE BRACHA?  Herr’s All Natural Popped Chips is under the certification of the OU.   The first ingredient listed is potato flour, and the second is rice flour.  We asked the OU what the proper bracha is on this product and we received the following response:  “The correct Bracha for Herr’s All Natural Popped Chips is Shehakol.”



MAKE IT MEANINGFUL!  Our role in this world is to take the Chol and make it Kodesh.  We may sometimes engage in a short conversation which leaves us with an unaccomplished, empty or dry feeling, because it turned out to be meaningless, or there was nothing useful about it.  We suggest that if one realizes he is engaged, or has just concluded just a conversation, that he make it useful by adding something constructive--such as a compliment, a Torah thought related to it, or a useful tip based upon one’s experience.  Take the Chol--and make it Kodesh!



RECOGNIZE THE NON-COINCIDENCE!  Every day, one realizes at least once, and perhaps many times during the day, that two or more events converged upon him to produce a particular result.  Coincidence?! Never!!  When one experiences the realization that situations, circumstances or conversations occurred together or in such close proximity--one should immediately recognize it by the expression “Yad Hashem!”; “Hashgacha Pratis!”; or “Thank you Hashem!”.  Hashem is with us--and the more we recognize it--the more He will want to be with us!



TORAS CHANUKAH!  A Rav asked us to remind our readers that Chanukah is not a time to cancel Shiurim or Motzei Shabbos Avos U’Bonim programs--but a time to encourage them, as the light of Torah shone so brightly on Chanukah that it was able to extinguish all of the darkness that the avodah zara of that time was encouraging--and must continue to shine to this very day!



GIFTS?  HaRav Ezriel Erlanger, Shlita, points out that one of the greatest lessons Yaakov Avinu taught us in his encounter with Eisav was to avoid Eisav and that which he represents to the greatest extent possible.  Yaakov did not seek to be hurt by Eisav, nor did he seek his friendship.  HaRav Erlanger continued that while Chanukah Gelt is a holy minhag, the concept of Chanukah gifts is one that is taken from Eisav--and one that we must avoid.  A similar misconception taken from Eisav is the thought of the ‘Macabee’ being a strong and heroic figure--as inappropriately adapted by Jewish secular teams and events.  In fact, however, as we recite many times over Chanukah:  Masarta Giborim BeYad Chalashim--Hashem delivered the strong Greeks into the hands of the weak Macabim.”  It is no ‘coincidence’ (see the previous note) that Yaakov’s lessons to us in Parshas Vayishlach always come out…before Chanukah!  …For more on ‘Macabi’--see Special Note Four below.



DREIDEL!  This world is not as simple as it might sometimes appear.  Dreidel seems to be 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 One: We B’EH continue our Monday/Thursday study of the Sefer Mitzvos HaKatzar, with the Mitzvos Lo Sa’asei which the Chofetz Chaim writes are applicable in our times. Today, we present Mitzvos Lo Sa’aseh 41 and 42:


41. Lo Sisaveh--this is the Mitzvas Lo Sa’aseh which prohibits one from desiring in one’s heart the possessions of another.  One violates this prohibition even if he does not actually approach the other person--as long as one thinks about how he could go about obtaining the coveted item.  If in fact he actually acquires it by prodding the owner, he also violates the prohibition of Lo Sachmod   This Mitzvah applies in all places and at all times and to men and women alike.


42.  Lo Limnoah Chovos LeIshto--this is the Mitzvas Lo Sa’aseh which prohibits one from withholding his duties to his wife in order to cause her pain or suffering.  The Rabanan added on additional obligations, which are described in Mesechta Kesuvos.  This Mitzvah applies to men in all places and at all times.



Special Note Two:  We once again present below several rulings of HaRav Elyashiv, Z’tl, 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.  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 Yisroel Dov Webster, Shlita, in a Hakhel Shiur on Chanukah 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 have melted off]. 


3.  Even if there are many Minyanim in a Shul, the Menorah should 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.


4.  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.


5.  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!


6.  . 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. 


7.  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.


8.  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.


9.  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. 


10.  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. 


11.  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.


12.  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. 


13.  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. 


14.  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!



Special Note Three:  The Sefer Sichos BaAvodas Hashem notes that on other Chagim, we went into the Bais HaMikdash to bring karbanos and become inspired.  On Chanukah, however, we bring the Kedushas HaChag primarily into our own home with the lighting of the Menorah.  Just as Chassidim may wear Streimels on Chanukah--it is reported that HaRav Moshe Feinstein, Z’tl, wore his Shabbos shoes--to indicate the importance of this very special time.  Let us ready ourselves--from the top of our heads all the way down to our shoes!



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



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




21 Kislev

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 doubled expression means?!



START DRINKING! 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!’



START THINKING!:  At the end of HaNeiros Halalu we will 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?! 



ON PURCHASING OIL    : 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.”  Another reader suggested that the distinctions between Virgin and Extra Virgin are not necessarily accurate or truthful.  In any event, 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: 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 Two:  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:  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 one would be zoche to Ruach HaKodesh, upon making the Bracha over the Neiros he 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!



Special Note Three:  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:  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 Four:  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 prepare for and await the Menorah’s pure light, let us make room for its essence to penetrate within us, and, bli neder, commit to an aspect of Mesiras Nefesh for holiness in some way--so that it is not only Bayamim Haheim--but Bezeman Hazeh!



20 Kislev

The Chofetz Chaim On Fasting in Today’s Times: The Mishna Berurah (Shulchan Aruch Orach Chaim 571, seif katan 2) writes: “I have seen in a sefer that when one feels that he must accept a ta’anis upon himself, it is better to accept a ta’anis in dibbur, rather than to accept a ta’anis from food upon himself--for from this kind of ta’anis he will not weaken or hurt his body or constitution--and the Gra in the Iggeres HaGra writes likewise....



U’SEMAGER! We are beset my enemies worldwide. Chazal give us the opportunity, three times daily in the bracha of Velamalshinim, to pray that those who seek us harm should be brought down and punished themselves. Indeed, as we have noted in the past, HaRav Yonasan Eibeschutz, Z’tl writes that when reciting the words U’Malchus Zadon and pray for their destruction--we fulfill the Mitzvas Asei of remembering that which Amalek did to us. Even if our enemies are not shooting missles or nuclear weaponry at this moment, they would very much like to, and they definitely mean us harm.  Let us pre-empt their sinah and their vile and murderous intentions with meaningful Tefillah now. If you do not know what U’Semager means--please look it up--and mean it--for all of our sakes!



The Sweet Fragrance: Regarding the concept of Teshuva, and its continuous ongoing importance, the Sefer Tomer Devorah especially brings the Pasuk (Bereishis 8:21) of: “Vayarach Hashem Es Rai’ach HaNichoach-and Hashem smelled the pleasing aroma....Let us please Hashem with the aroma Teshuva BeChol Yom--today!




Special Note One: Tonight, those who currently reside in Chutz La’Aretz will begin reciting VeSein Tal UMatar 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 Two: We conclude our series on Yiras Shomayim with the moving thoughts of HaRav Eliyahu Dessler, Z’tl in the Sefer Michtav Mai’Eliyahu:




A.  Upon his son, Nachum Zev, putting on Tefillin shortly before his Bar Mitzvah, HaRav Dessler, who was then in London, lovingly wrote to him as follows (Michtav Mai’Eliyahu IV, p.308):  Ikar Kol HaIkarim MaiAsher Nischayavnu BaTorah Halo Hi Yiras Shamayim---the essential of all essentials is Yiras Shamayim.  One who has Yiras Shamayim is prepared to properly observe the entire Torah, and one who is deficient in Yiras Shamayim, has simply not prepared himself to keep the Torah, for he will let his personal needs, wants and desires--including his innate languor and the guiles of the Yetzer Hora to interfere with and in fact curtail his Mitzvah performance. Imagine the person who has a mansion and fails to put on the front door--all of his wealth and possessions become hefker as if he put them out on the street...so to the one who has not developed his Yiras Hashem--his heart is open for the Yetzer Hora to enter and do as he pleases. But one cannot buy Yiras Shamayim in any store, nor will Hashem Himself hand it to us--even though he gives us everything else. If so, how do we acquire something which is so essential to our entire life? HaRav Dessler himself responds: “Mi She’makshiv hetev me’od u’ve’iyun rav ledivrei mussar hu yisragel le’at le’at veyachnis Yiras Shamayim bilevavo. ...tishtadel liklot es hadevorim amok amok el libecha...one who pays special and in-depth attention to Mussar teachings, putting them deep into his heart, will steadily bring himself to Yiras Shamayim--try hard to ensure that the words of mussar from your teachers and others sink deeply into your heart.


B.  The second step in acquiring Yiras Shamayim, HaRav Dessler teaches (ibid. II, p.59), is for one to take action--and not allow himself to become resigned or complacent with his particular station in life. As long as one is active--alert and thinking of aitzos and ma’asim to improve himself--then his Yirah is awakened as well. The person who allows despondency and reticence to set in is like the soldier who in the heat of battle is no longer scared because he feels his life is in any event lost. What kind of soldier can he then be?


C. Chazal (Avos 3:9) teach that Kol She’Yiraso Kodemes Lechachmaso, Chachmaso Miskayemes--only one with Yiras Shamayim will one be successful in his Torah studies. Hakhel Note: The Sefer Otzros HaTorah brings the Maharal who teaches that the Yevanim were Reshaim Bechochma and so had the Torah translated into Greek. They did this, explains the Sefas Emes--rather than disallow the study of Torah--so that Torah would c’v become like the study of any other chochma. What they did not realize was that the Chochmas HaTorah is beyond the plane of mortal man--unless Yiras Shamayim precedes it--as Chazal have taught us. Indeed, the Greeks did study the Torah--but without Yiras Shamayim it was nothing more than a fleeting, short-lasted endeavor....As for us, if we build a tower of Yiras Shamayim --we can--and will-- build a citadel of Torah together with it!



Special Note Three: HaRav Mattisyahu Salomon, Shlita, provides fundamental introductory words to the Yom Tov of Chanukah.  Chanukah teaches us yesodos, basics, in Bitachon.  With the mighty falling into the hands of the weak, the many losing battle after battle to the few, a little bit of oil lasting eight days, we learn that natural law, statistics and probability are not relevant to the Ba’al Bitachon; What happened in the past is by no means determinative that the same will happen again in the future. On the other hand, Bitachon in Hashem does not mean that we are confident that whatever we want to happen will happen. What is Bitachon? The Rabbeinu Yonah teaches that Bitachon is hope. When statistics say that something is impossible, K’lal Yisroel still has hope, for Hashem can do anything. What we simply do not know is if Hashem, as the HaTov and HaMaitiv wants it to happen. We don’t know and often cannot see the Tov in events that occur. This is where the next step in Bitachon comes in--we believe that notwithstanding our subjective hope, what really happens is all good. One may have davened for what he thought was good for him, but when the opposite occurred, Hashem indicated that in reality what he davened for was not the best for him. When we properly exercise our Bitachon, we do not know what the outcome will be, for it depends on the Cheshbonos of the Ribbono Shel Olam.


Chanukah teaches that ‘Ain Od Milvado--there is nothing but His Will--is really the Metziyus, the reality. In everyday life, this is hidden by nature--but in special moments (such as Chanukah and Purim, and perhaps other special times in a person’s life), Hashem makes it visible. It was a clear statistical impossibility for thirteen people (no matter how able bodied they were) to defeat tens of thousands. Hashem willed otherwise --and the rest is history that we celebrate -which reignites the flame of Bitachon within us every year.


HaRav Salomon continues with a beautiful teaching of HaRav Chaim Volozhiner, Z’tl (in Sefer Ruach Chaim to Avos 2:4). There, HaRav Chaim brings the famous Kepital in Tehillim (23)--”Hashem Ro’i Lo Echsar--Hashem is my shepherd--I will lack nothing.” Dovid HaMelech compares himself to a sheep whose whole existence depends on the shepherd. He leads them in a way that they won’t be injured--all is for their benefit even if they have no understanding. Dovid HaMelech teaches us all to follow the shepherd and feel secure, for even if one may be tired, harassed and even forlorn, he must uplift himself and have full confidence that the shepherd is leading him in the path that is really best. Knowing this, the “Shivtecha”--the stick that hits me, and Mishantecha--the stick that I lean upon, are really the same stick. Thus, “Heimah Yenachamuni--they together assuage me because I have Bitachon that everything is LeTova--for the good-- for it all comes from the One who is All Good.  At the end of this week’s Parsha, Yosef HaTzaddik places some eminently justifiable reliance on the Sar Hamashkim--after all that he did for him. However, the end was, as the last word of the Parsha testifies--Vayishkacheihu--and he forgot him. With this, Yosef learned that our hallmark for survival in Galus among all those around us who in fact do us a favor if they only ‘forget us’--is looking to Hashem for anything and everything. The lesson learned is quickly brought to the world in next week’s Parsha as Yosef starkly and clearly advises Paroh--”Biladai--it is not me, it is Hashem who makes all determinations and all decisions, and it is to Him that we must turn--in all dreams, and in all realities!




19 Kislev

DAF TEST! If you would like to receive a weekly test on the Daf Yomi by email, you may register at www.daftest.org  We understand that grading may also be available in the future. Don’t sit back--be challenged!



IMPORTANT QUOTE!Yargil Es Atzmo She’lo Lichos Afilu Ahl Davar HaRaui Lichos --a person must accustom himself not to get angry, even over something that it would be appropriate to get angry about.” What is the source of this quote-- a book on anger? a book on bad middos? Actually, it is a Halacha Sefer--the Kitzur Shulchan Aruch (29:4). Please read the quote another time, and another time and another--as Halacha LeMa’aseh!



AS WE APPROACH CHANUKAH: TWO KEY REMINDERS--1. Remember Hashem’s Miracles for you personally when reciting V’Ahl Nissecha She’bechol Yom Imanu three times daily; and 2. Teshuva in something Bechol Yom!




Special Note One: We B’EH continue our Monday/Thursday study of the Sefer Mitzvos HaKatzar, with the Mitzvos Lo Sa’asei which the Chofetz Chaim writes are applicable in our times. Today, we present Mitzvos Lo Sa’aseh 39 and 40:


39. Lo Le’Ha’id Eidus Sheker--this is the Mitzvas Lo Sa’aseh which prohibits one from testifying falsely. The Lo Sa’aseh also applies if one testifies based on something witnessed by another who he deems to be reliable. One who hires false witnesses, and one who does not testify when he could have, will face his judgment at the hands of heaven. This Mitzvah applies in all places and at all times, to someone who is qualified to testify.


40. Lo Sachmod--this is the Mitzvas Lo Sa’aseh which prohibits one from coveting that which his friend possesses. The term ‘Sachmod’ applies to someone who attempts to bring his desires to actual fruition--such as by badgering the person through others to sell him the item--even if it is at a high price. This Mitzvah applies in all places and at all times and to men and women alike.



Special Note Two: We continue our series on Yiras Shomayim with additional thoughts from va’adim given by HaRav Chaim Friedlander, Z’tl, on this essential topic.




1. The Alter of Kelm, Z’tl teaches that Yiras Shamayim is the sakin chad, the sharp knife, by which one cuts through his own misplaced or misapplied desires. Not only was Yirah the epitome of Avraham Avinu’s accomplishment at the akeidah (Atah Yadati Ki Yerei Elokim Atta--Bereishis 22:12 ), but it also marked the greatness of Shifra and Pu’ah (Vayehi Ki Yaru Hameyaldos Es HaElokim--Shemos 1:21 ), and allowed the B’nai Yisrael to cross the Yam Suf (VaYire’eu HaAm Es Hashem--Shemos 14:31 ). Yiras Shomayim cuts through one’s personal cheshbonos, one’s personal negios and allows for purity of thought and deed--as Dovid HaMelech expressed (Tehillim 19:10 ): Yiras Hashem Tehorah Omedes Lo’ad--the fear of Hashem is pure--enduring forever.


2. Because Yirah is so essential, Dovid HaMelech, in another Pasuk in Tehillim (34:10), instructs us as to how to attain Yirah: Yeru Es Hashem Kedoshav....Fear Hashem, you His holy ones....By undertaking to act in a manner which is special or above the ordinary, by demonstrating a yearning for the spiritual in one’s everyday actions he advances in Yiras Shomayim. Every person’s Yiras Shamayim will then depend upon his personal station in life. We provide below several examples of everyday occurrences or events in which one can uplift himself by displaying a level of Kedusha. If any or all appear a bit strange or extraordinary to the ‘western’ man --let us at the very least remember Avraham Avinu, Shifra and Pu’ah and B’nai Yisrael at the Yam Suf--and what Dovid Hamelech teaches us is Tehora and Omedes Lo’ad--demonstrates purity and lasts forever!:


A. Recognize Hashem’s Presence by remaining silent for several minutes a day (even if others around you may be conversing). If one is in the presence of a king, he does not readily engage in free conversation, opening up to state his opinion at every opportunity. While engaged in these dedicated moments of silence, one can contemplate Hashem’s greatness--as evidenced by all that occurs in the world around him, and the tremendous detail involved in one’s daily life.


B. Sit Up Straight from time to time or at a particular time daily--once again to demonstrate Hashem’s Presence with one’s physical being.


C. When encountering a hot fire, a scary dog, a speeding car, or is walking alone on a dark night and hears a noise, there may be a certain apprehension aroused.  Any sense of fright or trepidation should be immediately transferred and utilized towards one’s sense of Yiras Shamayim.  Indeed, Chazal (Brachos 59A) teach that thunder was created to ‘straighten out’ the crookedness or perverseness in one’s heart.  Most certainly, one should not fear that which Hashem created--but Hashem Himself.


D. When entering and exiting one's home, stop at the Mezuzah for a moment, place your hand on it and recite:  Hashem Shomri Hashem Tzili Ahl Yad Yemini. Hashem Yishmor Tzaisi U'Vo'i MaiAtah Ve'Ad Olam--Hashem is my guardian and protector, watching over me. Hashem will watch my going out and my going in from now and forever more.”  See Rema to Yoreh Deah 285:2 and commentaries, and Kitzur Shulchan Aruch 12:23, 24.


E. In the first bracha of Shemone Esrei, when reciting the words HaKel HaGadol HaGibor VehaNorah, Kel Elyon, we can picture ourselves ‘climbing the ladder’--growing in our Yiras Hashem with each word: Hashem is not only HaKel--All Merciful, but He is also HaGadol--Great beyond our comprehension. He is not only Great, but is also HaGibor--incomparable in his Omnipotence. Even more than Omnipotent, Hashem is Awesome and so inspires Awe in me... and I now recognize that He is Kel Elyon--Who He Is and What He Does is beyond my comprehension in all respects--and so He is Gomel Chasadim Tovim...does complete kindness with me (for which I hope and yearn)...at all times and in all places!


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