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9 Teves

V’LIRUSHALAYIM IRECHA!  Beginning tonight, Asara B’Teves, we should most definitely bli neder increase our Kavannah in the bracha of V’Lirushalayim Irecha recited in each Shemone Esrei of Asara B’Teves!




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


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



 Special Note Two:  As we draw closer to Asara B’Teves, the order of the day is Teshuva.  We list below three brief and practical suggestions which we have provided in the past, to help ourselves along the right path:


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


B.  What if you are not sure whether a 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.... In truth, you are in doubt--a Chilul Hashem may or may not result. Stop for a moment and consider that 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.  Accordingly, 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 avoiding Sofek Chilul Hashem, one demonstrates his core aversion to Chilul Hashem--and a level of Yiras Shomayim to which we should all aspire!


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


D. In all events, we must take to heart the important teaching brought in the Sefer Sifsei Chaim (Moadim II, p. 116). HaRav Friedlander, Z’tl, teaches there that the first Beis Hamikdash was established in the zechus of our Avos, Avraham, Yitzchak and Yaakov. Avraham Avinu is the world representative of Chesed; Yitzchak Avinu of Avodah, and Yaakov Avinu of Ish Tam Yosheiv Ohalim--the glory of Torah. The first Beis Hamikdash was destroyed when Bnei Yisrael horribly sinned with Gilui Arayos, Avodah Zara and Shefichus Damim. Gilui Arayos is an abrogation of what is true Chesed, and thus a violation of the great principle that Avraham Avinu taught us. We thus then lost the zechus of Avraham. Avodah Zara demonstrates a nullification of Avodas Hashem, Yitzchak Avinu’s middah--and so we lost the zechus of Yitzchak. With the sin of Shefichus Damim, Bnei Yisrael adopted the middah of Eisav--the antagonist of Yaakov Avinu and everything that he represents. We thereby lost the zechus of Yaakov Avinu as well, and the first Beis HaMikdash, without a spiritual foundation, no longer could maintain a physical foundation. The Second Beis HaMikdash was built and stood only in our collective merit as K’lal Yisrael. When, through Sinas Chinam we no longer had collective merit--there was no longer a basis for the kiyum of the Second Beis Hamikdash either. The clear and undeniable result: We now have a mission statement--joining with others, uniting, taking strides and making efforts in Achdus Yisrael. This means not standing by and watching as others take action, not criticizing politics here or policies there--but performing genuine acts of chizuk, chesed, and Tefillah on behalf of others far and near. Let us each do what we can to deserve the Beis Hamikdash--we can’t do more, we can’t do less!



Special Note Three:  The actual fasting begins at Alos HaShachar tomorrow morning.  In many areas, Alos HaShachar will occur relatively late (in the New York area, for example, the fast begins in the 5:50-6:08 AM area, please check with your local shul or other listing for an exact time).  Accordingly, some may want to arise early to have a bite to eat or drink.  We provide two cautionary notes:


1.  In order eat or drink upon awakening, one must first make an express ‘tenai’, a condition, before going to sleep that he intends to arise before Alos HaShachar and eat and drink then before day; and


2. The amount of food that one may eat within one-half hour of Alos HaShachar may be limited--consult your Rav or Posek for details.




8 Teves

NOW AVAILABLE ONLINE! Bridging Worlds: The Life And Teachings Of Rav Azriel Chaim Goldfein, which Hakhel showed at its November 27th Yarchei Kallah is now available for download online, by visiting https://vimeo.com/ondemand/bridgingworlds.


NETILAS YADAYIM! A Rav from New York City contacted us after having visited a city in the Midwest. He noted that HaNeitz Hachama there now is after 8:00AM. This would mean that Alos Hashachar which is generally taken to mean 72 minutes before Neitz, was approximately 6:50AM. The Shulchan Aruch (Orach Chaim 4:14) writes that if one washed Netilas Yadayim before Alos Hashachar he may have to wash Netilas Yadayim again after Alos Hashachar because some say that the ruach ra’ah returns at Alos Hashachar. Accordingly, the Rema (ibid) writes that one should wash his hands again after Alos Hashachar without a bracha. The Rav advises that one should caution others who arise before Alos Hashachar in their city to wash their hands again.




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.  For further detail on the tragedy of the Septuagint, we refer you to the Sefer HaToda’ah, translated into English as The Book of Our Heritage (Feldheim), by Rabbi Eliyahu Kitov, Z’tl. 


Tomorrow, the ninth day of Teves is actually also a Ta’anis Tzadikim, for it is the Yahrtzeit of Ezra HaSofer (see Shulchan Aruch, Orach Chaim 580, Mishna Berurah, Seif Katan 13).  As a zechus for Ezra Hasofer, one can review the Takanos that Ezra instituted, as described in Bava Kamma 82A. 


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

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


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


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


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


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



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


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


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




7 Teves

NEW OPPORTUNITY--INSPIRATION DAILY! Start your day with a short inspirational audio by Rabbi Yechiel Spero, Shlita. By phone, call: 712.432.1219, Meeting ID: 875-753-968# , Reference #: 136. To subscribe by email, send an email to: chizukdaily@gmail.com


Hakhel Note: Yesterday’s THINK HASHEM Thought of the Day: Exile is when hope is enveloped in darkness. Hashem promised us, that though Jews would be exiled from their land, they would NOT be exiled from their Hashem--Hashem is always with us.



WHY YOUR SHUL NEEDS THE TEFILLIN AWARENESS PROGRAM! We have made mention many times of Hakhel’s free Tefillin Awareness Program--in which the placement and exterior examination of Tefillin is conducted--and has saved so many from not being Yotzei the Mitzvah of Tefillin. We provide two issues from a recent program--a ribuah issue (please click here), and an inverted kesher (please click here), both of which were unbeknownst to their wearers. Please take the opportunity to bring the Tefillin Awareness Program to your Shul--and be mezake the Rabbim--your neighbors, friends and Kehillah. For further information please contact: shelrosh@comcast.net.





THAT EXTRA LEVEL OF PATIENCE!  HaRav Moshe Cordevero, Z’tl, in the Sefer Tomer Devorah writes that the first two Middos of Hashem--described in the Pesukim of Mi Keil Kamocha (Michah 7:18 -20, poignantly recited at Tashlich) both relate to the Middah of Savlanus--of the patience that Hashem has with us.  HaRav Cordevero explains that not only does Hashem bear our iniquities without displaying intolerance, anger or insult (allowing us to continuously move our limbs during the moment of sin itself!)--but also allows the mashchisim--the destructive creatures created by the sin to continue to exist.  As the Tomer Devorah writes: “The strict letter of the law would justify that Hashem state-- ‘I do not nourish destructive creatures! Go to him who made you, and derive your sustenance from him!’ It is thus with tremendous tolerance that Hashem conducts this world. From this, man must learn to what extent he, too, should be tolerant and bear the yoke of his fellow and the wrongdoing committed against him--even if the wrongdoing remains. He should tolerate one who sinned against him until the sinner actually mends his ways or the sin disappears of its own accord....”   Hakhel Note: We can all put this into real practice--EMULATING HASHEM’S MIDDOS!



MECHALKEL CHAIM B’CHESED: It is important for each and every one of us to pay specific attention to the words “Mechalkel Chaim B’Chesed--Who sustains the living with kindness”, which we recite three times daily in Shemone Esrei. We should appreciate on a personal level the great kindnesses which we receive from Hashem on a daily basis. Indeed, if one would sit down, and begin writing the Chasodim down, he would realize that the detail would never stop. Let us not be counted among those who recite these words as mere lip service without thought--but among those who stop for a moment and think of just a few of the Chasodim that he has experienced since the last Shemone Esrei!




Special Note One:  As we approach the last Parasha of Sefer Bereishis, we encounter Asara B’Teves in its path.  There is a clear common denominator between the two, as they both are the beginnings of a dreary and dreadful Galus period.  However, with that awareness comes the understanding that the Galus is a temporary one--and the faster we change and correct our ways--the faster we return to normalcy--and an elevated relationship with HaKadosh Baruch Hu and with others.  Yaakov Avinu thus gives us the brachos in this week’s Parasha, 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 B’Teves even though it is the beginning of the series of calamities that led to our exile--because that exile is eminently rectifiable--if we make the right choices.  Most certainly, this week is a week to emphasize Teshuva and especially Teshuva BeChol Yom (especially our Kabbala sheets and review of recent Yetzer 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!



Special Note Two:  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 the person has done 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.  It is for this reason that Hashem views our importance and loves us--Ad LiMe’od as well!


2.  When a person judges his friend below, he stands in judgment above as well--so that with one’s very words he decides his own case in Shomayim--the place that counts. 


3.  A person must not only judge his friend favorably--but must use all of his kochos, all of his strength to do so.  One must picture himself as the object of judgment--and as people suspect him of this or accuse him of that--he should imagine how he would deflect and reject their words  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 father never wants his child to be looked down upon, degraded, shamed 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!



Special Note Three: We now continue our Monday/Thursday series on the practical aspects of Sta”m, written by Rabbi Reuvain Mendlowitz, Shlita, author of Inside Sta”m--An Insider Reveals The Answers To All The Questions You Should Ask When Purchasing Or Maintaining Tefillin, Mezuzos, Megillos, Sifrei Torah And Nevi’im. Of course, one should ask his own Rav or Posek in his particular circumstance or situation for a final p’sak.





I am hesitant to have my tefillin checked since I have been told that checking the tefillin ruins both the battim and the parashiyos. Is this true?




This is one of the most oft-repeated statements made by people who are usually unfamiliar with tefillin.


As far as the battim are concerned, if opening them up once in five years is going to ruin them, then you should not buy them in the first place. Any good pair of battim will not suffer any significant negative impact by being checked once in a while.


As far as the parashiyos are concerned, while it is true that excessive wear and tear can ruin the letters, the advantages of periodic checking clearly outweigh this concern – advantages such as catching something pasul or b’dieved, or being able to “refresh” the ink, thereby lengthening the lifespan of the parashiyos by a number of decades.


Indeed, only recently, I was privileged to check the tefillin parashiyos of one of the great geonim of our generation. He is 82 years old and has been wearing the same tefillin each day for the last 69 years.


Since his parashiyos were written by the greatest tzaddik and absolute finest sofer of his generation, this gaon never had his tefillin checked for fear of ruining the parashiyos. Finally, after years of pressure and cajoling from a grandson, he was convinced to go ahead and get them checked. And since I am a friend of the grandson – I received the parashiyos.


Sure enough they were beautiful – stunning as a matter of fact. Unfortunately, a single letter had faded to the extent that the parashiyos were no longer kosher.




4 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!



ROTE MAP :  We usually follow road maps. 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!



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




Special Note One:  As we all know by now, one of the great lessons of Chanukah is rededicating ourselves to thanking Hashem on a daily basis--”V’Ahl Nissecha SheBeChal Yom Imanu--for all of the ‘little’ and not so little miracles that are with us every day”. In fact, a reader once taught 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.  As we have noted in the past, 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 Machane 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 Irecha --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!



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


1. A reader sent us the following issued by the Star-K:  Based on the volume of calls that the STAR -K Kashrus Hotline has received about warming drawers, it appears that many consumers are unaware of how to properly use a warming drawer on Shabbos.  As mentioned on the Star-K’s website, one may not put food into a warming drawer on Shabbos. Apparently, the term “warming drawer”, a misnomer, is misleading consumers into thinking that they can warm up their food in it on Shabbos.  See link to the Star-K website here http://www.star-k.org/kashrus/kk-cooking-ovenshabbos.htm

What exactly is the problem? When one opens the warming drawer, one is letting cool air into the drawer. A thermostat will sense the loss of heat and make up for this loss by turning the heating element back on. Similarly when one opens the oven door, one indirectly will cause the burner or electric element to turn on. This is gram havarah which is prohibited.

If one leaves food in a warming drawer or oven and wishes to open either of them one time to remove all of the contents, this may be done. This is because normally one does not want the element or burner to go back on if the oven or warming drawer is empty. However if one leaves food in the oven after the door or warming drawer has been opened, they obviously want the oven to go back on. This is prohibited. It follows therefore that if one accidentally opens the oven door or warming drawer, they must remove all remaining food. Therefore, the oven door or warming drawer cannot be opened to check on the food. If the door or drawer was accidentally opened and closed and no food was removed, the food is still permitted to be eaten provided that it was completely cooked before Shabbos.

In conclusion, it is crucial to understand that the same halachos that apply to using an oven on Shabbos, apply to warming drawers. Just like you wouldn’t put food into an oven to warm up on Shabbos, you cannot put food in a warming drawer on Shabbos. And, similarly, as with ovens, you must also cover your warming drawer controls if you are leaving it on over Shabbos, and not change the setting.


Hakhel Note:  A Rav advised us that he advises to take all food out of the warming drawer on Erev Shabbos. Accordingly, one must consult with his Rav or Posek in this area.

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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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



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


A. HaRav Moshe Wolfson, Shlita teaches that “Vayigash Eilav--Yehuda”---if one really wants to come close to Hashem, it is with Yehuda--with admission to Hashem that all comes from Him--and with the great thanks this awareness engenders.  Hakhel Note:  Please remember the very first , and therefore ostensibly the primary, item that we thank Hashem for in Modim every day. It is actually not our lives, our souls, the daily nissim... it is “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 Talelei Oros on this week’s Parasha presents an outstanding teaching from HaRav Aharon Leib Shteinman, Shlita.  HaRav Shteinman brings the Sefer Rokeach who writes that the reason we take three steps forward before commencing Shemone Esrei is because the word “Vayigash” --and he approached--appears three times in Tanach:  First, “Vayigash Avrohom” (Bereishis18:23)--when Avrohom approached Hashem to plead for the people of Sodom;  Second, our Parasha—”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 continues 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 in front of him?  There is then a great lesson here.  When one wants to draw close to Hashem in prayer, he must do something to show that he wants to draw close--that he is not standing in the same place as a moment ago and simply opening his mouth.  While one may not be drawing physically closer to Hashem, by deliberately taking measured steps forward, he demonstrates that is not staying in the same position and condition that he was in a few moments ago before this opportunity of personal tefillah.  Indeed, the pasuk immediately preceding Vayigash Avrohom states that Avrohom Avinu was already “Omaid Lifnei Hashem--standing before Hashem” (attaining nevuah at the time)--yet before he could begin his entreaty on behalf of the people of Sodom, he still had to be Vayigash, he still had to take some action to indicate that he was about to begin a very special and privileged encounter-direct prayer before Hashem Himself!


Important Note: The Sefer Tefillah KeHilchasa ( 12:21 ) writes that 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.  One should be in his changed state--in his different place--prior to asking Hashem that in this Shemone Esrei He assist him by opening his mouth in prayer.


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


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


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


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


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


2.  When Yosef revealed his identity, and he saw that his brothers were so ashamed, he put aside all of his years of disgrace, disgust and exile, being away from his father, his home and his 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 Yisrael would be assured.  He kissed them--and even told them not to argue among themselves over this on the way home!  Hakhel Note:  We may add to Rabbi Meisels’ incredible observation that the thoughts of the Ba’alei Mussar on this point.  The Chofetz Chaim writes that from Yosef we learn that one must be Mai’tiv to those who are Mai’rah to him.  We note that Yosef is referred to as Yosef HaTzaddik, not Yosef HaChassid--which teaches us that we must follow this path which is not one of piety, but one of Tzedek--what is just and right.  Take the bold step--next time someone does something to you which was hurtful, try an act of goodness or kindness in return!


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



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


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


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




3 Teves

BRACHOS ALERT: The OU advises that Pringles corn tortillas are made from corn flour, and the bracha rishona is Shehakol.



IMMEDIATE ATTACHMENT TO CHANUKAH:  What are the last words about Chanukah that we recited yesterday at Mincha--perhaps this is the parting message that we should take with us. In practical furtherance of this message, we provide the following two helpful hints:


A. In Modim, when reciting the words Ve’Al Kulam, realize that Kulam is a broad, general term (in Chazal’s language, a ribui)--intending to include more than what was previously stated. Accordingly, one can think about something else that he should thank Hashem for not previously thought of until that point.


B. The last words of the bracha of Modim are: “U’Lecha Na’eh L’Hodos--and to You it is nice to give thanks.” When reciting these words--appreciate how pleasant it is to thank Hashem!


Hakhel Note: We can continue to demonstrate the effect of Chanukah upon us. Improving our Kavanna daily  in pleading for "Rachamecha HaRabbim"--a major theme of Ahl HaNissim of both Chanukah and Purim, focusing properly in Shemone Esrei during the bracha of Gevuros Hashem (the second bracha of Shemone Esrei relating to Hashem's omnipotence), and the bracha of Re'eh Veanyeinu (the seventh bracha relating to individual and community geulos). 



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




Special Note One:  Chanukah is now a very important part of our recent past and an eternal part of our fiber and being. As we have referenced over the past two weeks, Tefillah is such an important part of Chanukah's lesson:  We can continue to demonstrate the effect of Chanukah upon us.


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


We urge those who have not already done so in 5775, to begin the new cycle of Praying With Fire over the next three-month period.  Your personal growth in Tefillah--and in your relationship with Hashem--will be extremely tangible.



Special Note Two: Important Post-Chanukah Considerations:


A. Why do Chazal ask only about Chanukah--and not about any other Yom Tov--Mai Chanukah--what is Chanukah about? A Rav explains that this is to teach us that we must stop to reflect upon what Chanukah is and what it means to us.


B. A reader thought about why we don’t light the Neiros all day on Chanukah--or at least relight them in the morning (as we do in Shul). He came to the conclusion that this is to teach us that although Chanukah will be over, we must realize that the lessons of Chanukah are to last even after the Neiros are extinguished.


C. Another comment we received was that there is a difference between lighting Chanukah candles--and Neiros Chanukah. Think about it!


D. V’Ahl Hamilchamos is mentioned last in the series of Ahl HaNissim V’Ahl Hapurkan. Weren’t the wars chronologically the first thing to have happened? Some explain that the Milchamos refer to the ongoing Milchamos of galus that we continue to wage (including Gaza)--for which we must look solely to Hashem to bring us the miracles today--as He did then!


E. HaRav Shimshon Pincus, Z’tl, emphasizes that Yavan is described as Choshech. We know that the Makka of Choshech in Mitzrayim was tangible. So, too, was the Choshech of the influence of Yavan physical, as it disaffected so many in K’lal Yisrael. As we look at the emphasis placed on the physical and material in the world around us, we should realize that it is Choshech--and when we see it we should picture ourselves staring at the Neiros Chanukah and the light of Ruchniyus that they--and K’lal Yisrael--represent!



Special Note Three:  After the Chanukah milestone, we look to about six weeks of winter until Tu B’Shvat arrives and the first indications of blossoming flowers and fruits arrive in Eretz Yisrael.  The thought of winter (for those who live in the Northern Hemisphere) may make one feel chilled (even the word “Kar” sounds a bit frosty), but we, as Ma’aminim Bnei Ma’aminim, must realize that it is an opportunity for special, and, in fact, necessary growth--as this is the situation and circumstance in which Hashem in His Omniscient Wisdom has placed us.


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


We would first like to provide a suggestion that has proven to be successful in the past-- take the next 40 days in a row and, at least one time a day, make the brocha of SheHakol Niheyeh Bidevaro and the brocha of Borei Nefashos preferably from a Siddur, and with the special warm feeling that Hashem loves you with an unbounding love and wants to shower bracha of all kind upon you.


We would also like to provide a second thought based upon the teachings of HaRav Meir Schuck, Shlita, the Temesvar Rav.  HaRav Schuck brings the words of 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 truly 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 that it should not get lost among all those thousands of occasions that you have had until today, and B’Ezras Hashem, the tens of thousands that you will have in the future?  One should not simply “be Yotzei” his “obligation” by routine.  Instead, one should avoid the negative habit, the dry rote, the repetitive redundancy by taking a moment out before each Shema and Shemone Esrei to appreciate--and treasure--the truly monumental opportunity.  As one peeks out the window, and things may seem to look cold and bleary, day in and day out, as the pattern of Winter appears to be almost nothing but darkness, we should break out and recognize the new, fresh, stand-alone opportunities of the day--two Shema affirmations and three Shemone Esrei private encounters with the Almighty.  If we can work on this until Tu B’Shvat, we will have brought spring into our winter!



  Special Note Four: We now continue our Monday/Thursday series on the practical aspects of Sta”m, written by Rabbi Reuvain Mendlowitz, Shlita, author of Inside Sta”m--An Insider Reveals The Answers To All The Questions You Should Ask When Purchasing Or Maintaining Tefillin, Mezuzos, Megillos, Sifrei Torah And Nevi’im. Of course, one should ask his own Rav or Posek in his particular circumstance or situation for a final p’sak.




We have established that it is worthwhile having one’s tefillin checked. The only question now is, how often?


Truth be told, there is no clear answer to this question and it depends mainly on three factors:


1)                  The thickness of the letters and tagin.

2)                  The thickness of the klaf.

3)                  The width of the compartments of the shel rosh.


·                    Thicker writing generally needs to be checked less often, while thin writing can fade very quickly.


·                    Thicker klaf can cause letters to crack, while thin klaf won’t.


·                    Narrow compartments increase pressure on the folds of the parashiyos shel rosh, and can cause letters there to crack.


Tefillin with any one or more of the abovementioned issues should be checked fairly often – perhaps once in five years or so.


Tefillin with none of these issues may be checked fairly infrequently – perhaps once every fifteen years.


All tefillin however, even those with no potential problems, should be checked once within a few years of their purchase, just to be sure that everything is all right.




2 Teves

FROM A READER:  “...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….On Chanukah, we can think of the joy of the power of Torah to bring true illumination and wisdom!”




Special Note One:  Points and pointers on Zos Chanukah: 


A.  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.


B.  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 (the gematria of Matisyahu is the same as that of Rosh Hashana--861).  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 vitality and vigor.  Some introspection and renewed commitment is certainly within the order of the day.


C.  The following greater detail is excerpted from the unique 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 she 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 16:115):  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.  



Special Note Two:  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 immediate 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--let us make the most of this last precious day!




1 Teves

QUESTION OF THE DAY : Why does the powerful prayer of Ahl HaNissim--which thanks Hashem for all He has done for us--not have Hashem’s name in it?!



SEE THE LIGHTS! Rabbi Moshe Goldberger, Shlita writes the following: “If someone did you 10 favors, would it suffice to 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!” 



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!




Special Note One:  Thoughts on Rosh Chodesh Teves: 


A.  Today, Rosh Chodesh Teves is the Rosh HaKedusha. The Nesi’im for today 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 Yosef--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.  Although Chanukah appears to be ebbing away--do not get down! 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 on the eighth day of Chanukah (and today as well if you have not yet recited Hallel), 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 La’aretz)--and on Chanukah we say Hallel Shalem for all eight days).  Therefore, one should recite Hallel on Chanukah BeKavannah U’VeSimcha Rabba!


Hakhel Note: 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!



Special Note Three:   We provide the following essential Chanukah lessons and insights from HaRav Shimshon Pincus, Z’tl, excerpted from the Sefer Sichos Moreinu:


A. 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!


B. 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.  


C.  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.


D. 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 Yisrael. 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 when 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.


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



Special Note Four: Many of us may be familiar with the famous question of the P’nei Yehoshua--if the Halacha is that “tuma hutra b’tzibur”--impure objects are permitted to 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 Yisrael 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 Bereishis 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!




30 Kislev

MA’OZ TZUR! A reader has provided us with a practical translation of Ma’oz Tzur, which we provide by clicking here.



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 that one is crying for. 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 Ahl 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 Ahl 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 Berurah (Shulchan Aruch, Orach Chaim 682, seif katan 1) writes that the proper nusach of Ahl HaNisim is “V’Ahl 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.



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.?


Hakhel Note: 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.”




Special Note One: 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 today’s Rosh Chodesh, we should increase our appreciation of the Mitzvah in tonight’s Hadlokas 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!



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 Nes of the victory of the milchomoh occurred is the month of Shevet Gad (using the count of starting with Reuvein in Nissan). The brachos of Shevet Gad as we see from both Yaakov Avinu and Moshe Rabbeinu were for military prowess. Thus Chanukah begins in Kislev.  However, it continues into Teves which is a manifestation of the kochos of Shevet Asher.  Again as we see from both Yaakov Avinu and Moshe Rabbeinu, the brachos of Shevet Asher were for Shemen Zayis...the rest is history for us to learn from!”



Special Note Three: We 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 Parasha 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 Four:  In V’Al HaNissim, we have been reciting the words “U’LeAmecha Yisrael 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!



Special Note Five: We now continue our Monday/Thursday series on the practical aspects of Sta”m, written by Rabbi Reuvain Mendlowitz, Shlita, author of Inside Sta”m--An Insider Reveals The Answers To All The Questions You Should Ask When Purchasing Or Maintaining Tefillin, Mezuzos, Megillos, Sifrei Torah And Nevi’im. Of course, one should ask his own Rav or Posek in his particular circumstance or situation for a final p’sak.




We are in the midst of delineating the reasons why one should have his tefillin checked regularly.


3)                  Another problem is letters which become detached from the klaf with the passage of time. This happens when the ink was never properly absorbed into the klaf, and was essentially resting on the klaf. In this situation, it is just a matter of time until the letter becomes detached and falls off.


4)                  Finally, let us not forget that magihim are human beings, and not machines who never make a mistake. Even the best magihim can miss something. Occasionally, a sofer will omit a particular tag with the intention of returning to it at a later stage, and subsequently forget about it. It is not impossible for even an experienced, expert magiah to fail to catch a lone missing tag. And this missing tag downgrades the tefillin from mehudar to b’dieved.


If this consideration comes into play even when the tefillin were checked by a world-class magiah, how much more so must one be concerned when the tefillin were checked by a “regular” or sub-par magiah.


It cannot be overemphasized that all the above issues apply even if one’s tefillin were written by a world-class sofer and checked by a world-class magiah.


As a matter of fact, often the issue of faded letters or tagin is MORE common with top-level sofrim. This is because many of them write letters which are beautiful, but very delicate as well.


No pair of tefillin is immune to these issues.




27 Kislev

FROM A READER: A comment on the text of Haneiros Hallalu with 36 words:  The Machatzis Hashekel (s”k 3) gives a bit of a different text.  He begins with Haneiros Hallalu and then again half way through Haneiros Hallalu he omits the word “hem” and states that both the words “bahem” and “lirosam” should end with a “nun”.  He also adds the words “kedai” (l’hodos) and “v’al nisecha” (v’al yeshuosecha).  He says that the count of 36 does not include the words “Haneiros Hallalu” both times.  The Maharshal states that one should not change the text.”




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


We provide points and pointers relating to Shabbos Chanukah:


1. To the extent possible, one should prepare his Menorah and wicks on Erev Shabbos, so that he can light on Motza’ei Shabbos as quickly as possible. 


Additional Note One:  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.


Additional Note Two: 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. 




2. The following Shailahs and Teshuvahs were provided to us by Rabbi Yisroel Pinchos Bodner, Shlita:


Question: 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?

Answer: 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).


Question:  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?

Answer: 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 p. 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 family/group.


3.  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 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 Parashas 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!”


4.  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.


5.  The Ahl HaNissim and what it describes is so pivotal to Chanukah, that the Siddur Rashban actually writes that Ahl 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 Two:  Points and pointers on this week’s Parasha, Parashas Mikeitz:


A. Parashas 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 Parasha 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 Parashas Mikeitz, however, most Chumashim also list the number of words in the Parasha--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 V’Chacham Kamocha”--there is no one wiser in the world than you?  The Pasuk answers that 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 Parasha), (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 Parasha!  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 Three:  We once again 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 by Rabbi Dovid Meisels, Shlita:


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

Answer:   44--representing the 36 Neiros of Chanukah, and the eight Shamashim!


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). Hakhel Note: The Pasuk in Bereishis describing the creation of light reads: “Vayar Elokim Es Ha’ohr Ki Tov” (Bereishis 1:4). There are four tagim on top of the Tes (9) in Tov--4 times 9 is 36--an illuminating allusion to the 36 Neiros Chanukah.


3.         Question:   What does the word Chanukah mean?

Answer:  We all must know several answers to this question. The Ben Yehoyadah (Shabbos 21B) provides a unique teaching. He writes that it is a combination of Chinuch and Heh. The term Chinuch refers to the rededication of the Beis HaMikdash including the Mizbe’ach and of the Hadlakas HaMenorah and the Heh indicates ribui--demonstrating that the light that was originally revealed on the first `Chanukah is revealed yearly in each and every generation. Hakhel Note: The Chasam Sofer (in the Siddur Chasam Sofer) provides several marvelous acronyms for which Chanukah stands.


4.         Question:   Who was the Kohen Gadol at the time of Chanukah--Mattisyahu--or his father Yochanan?

            Answer:  The Sefer Shalal Rav (p. 147-148) presents a Machlokes Rishonim on this very point.


5.         Question: If the Kohanim themselves were temeiyim--did they not defile the oil when lighting the Menorah?

            Answer: Rebbi Tzvi Hersh Charif, Z’tl, presents one explanation: The Kohanim lit with long wooden sticks which were not keilim and which were accordingly not mekabel tumah. Apparently then, when lighting the Menorah they did not enter the Heichal, so as not to bring their tumah there, and stood outside--in the Azara, reaching in with the long wooden sticks to light the Menorah standing in the Heichal. This would uniquely explain the words of the Ahl HaNissim: “Vehidliku Neiros B’Chatzros Kadshecha” (while standing in the Azara)!


6.         Question:  How many words are there in the Bracha of V’lirushlayim Irecha?  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’lirushlayim Irecha, 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!)


7.         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:  As we have noted in the past, 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!


8.         Question:  Why does the Navi compare K’lal 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. 


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

Answer: Towards the end of Parashas Emor, the Torah describes Chag HaSukkos.  Incredibly, the next Parasha immediately following the Parasha of Sukkos--is the Parasha of lighting the Menorah in the Beis HaMikdash! (Vayikrah 23:33-24:4)


10.       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…BeChatsros 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.


11.       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.


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

Answer:  There are several answers to this question, perhaps the most well-known being that of the Chasam Sofer. The Ba’al Shem Tov explains because it is still incomplete, and will be completed at the time of Moshiach! Hakhel Note: When HaRav Chaim Kanievsky, Shlita, was asked this question, he immediately responded that there are at least seven Mishnayos in Shas that do, in fact, mention Chanukah, and proceeded to list them [if you would like the sites, please contact us].


13.       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).


14.       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.


15.       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!


16.       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.


17.       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.


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

Answer:  As we have noted in the past, the four letters--Gimmel, Shin, Nun, Hey add up to 358--which is, of course, the Gematria of Moshiach! HaRav Fischel Schachter, Shlita, explains that the Gematria of Satan is 359--which would at first glance indicate that he would have the upper hand. However--by our taking the Dreidel into our hand--by our taking action--we add on five for our five fingers to the Gematria of Moshiach--overcoming the Satan and bring the Yeshuah!


19.       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 Shemoneh, 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!


20.       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).


21.       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!


22.       Question:  What are three answers the Beis Yosef himself 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 days!


23.       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 )


24.       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 we may not have been celebrating Chanukah today!


25.       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 unable 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. 


26.       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, in addition to the original Menorah made by Moshe Rabbeinu.


27.       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. 


28.       Question:  Chazal teach that “LeShana Acheres”, the following 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.


29.       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!  


30.       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).


31.       Question: In Maoz Tzur, we describe our enemies as Tzor Hamenabeiach--what does this mean?

Answer: HaRav Chaim Kanievsky, Shlita, explains that they act towards us like dogs--not only intending to bite us--but barking at us as well!


32.       Question: In Maoz Tzur we say of Haman’s sons--Rov Banav--most of his sons--were hanged. Do not Chazal teach us that Haman had 208 (or perhaps 214) sons--yet we only know from the Megillah of 10 who were hanged. What then does Rov Banav mean?

Answer: HaRav Chaim Kanievsky, Shlita, answers that the 10 sons that were hanged were the greatest ones--and that the language of Rov is related to Rav--or greatest.


33.       Question: In Maoz Tzur we sing Bnei Vinah Yemei Shemonah Kavu Shir U’Renanim. What is the difference between Shir and Renanim?

Answer: HaRav Chaim Kanievsky, Shlita, explains that the Shir refers to Hallel, and the Renanim to Ahl HaNissim which we recite joyfully on Chanukah.


34.       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.


35.       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!  Similarly, Yosef Hatzadik exclaims in this week’s Parasha, ‘Biladai--it’s not my power.’ (Rabbi Moshe Goldberger, Shlita)


36.       Question:  In Ahl HaNissim we recite LeHashkicham Torasecha U’LeHa’aviram MeiChukei Retzonecha--isn’t this redundant?

Answer:  The Gerrer Rebbe explains that only a person whose mind is devoid 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 Retzonecha.  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!  


37.       Question: In  Ahl HaNissim, we have been reciting the words “U’Leamcha Yisrael Assisa Teshua Gedola U’furkan K’Hayom 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--which 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 await!


38.       Question: We conclude the words of Ahl 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.  What does LeShimcha HaGadol mean?

Answer: 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!


39.       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.


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

Answer: To Rosh Hashana--with the numerical equivalent of 861.  Rosh Hashanah 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 Chanukah, the last day of Chanukah), will our sins be forgiven.


41.       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 Adam 154:24)


42.       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. Hakhel Note: There may be an additional basis for distinction between Hiddur and Pirsumei Nissah--and the oil staying lit longer may constitute Pirsumei Nissah, even if it is not a Hiddur.


43.       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).


44.       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 Mizbe’ach 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 Mizbe’ach--and ask for Hashem’s Mercy in bringing the Geulah Shleimah--BeKarov Bimheira V’Yameinu!




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!



TEFILLIN! As many know, the families of the Har Nof Kedoshim have requested that today be a day designated for spreading the Mitzvah of Tefillin. May we suggest the following simple (hopefully permanent) improvement in the Mitzvah: Recitation of the Hineni Muchan U’Mezuman that one recites prior to putting on Tefillin in a loud enough voice to hear that which he is saying, which should undoubtedly increase Kavannah before Tefillin placement. The Shulchan Aruch (Orach Chaim 25:5) requires Kavannah in the placement of Tefillin--which the Hineni Muchan U’Mezuman Tefillah incorporates. One is reciting this essential Tefillah every day in any event--let it be charged with the proper spirit!




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


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



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


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


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


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


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


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


5.  The definition of Mesiras Nefesh is not one’s intent to be burned “Ahl Kiddush Hashem”. Rather, it’s definition is 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 in these days on breaking our desires, bad habit and nature--for these days are Mesugal for change.  In turn, we too can be zoche to changes on our behalf which are “SheLo KiDerech HaTevah” as well!



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


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


B.  The Magen Avrohom rules that if one has enough oil for himself for the last 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 Nisa 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 Nisa and Zecher LeMikdash.  A Shul represents a great Zecher LeMikdash.  For instance, the custom is to light along the southern wall of the Shul, just as the Menorah was lit in the southern part of the Heichal. Accordingly, our Minhag has been to light with a bracha in Shul.  We cannot extend the Minhag on our own to other areas.


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



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


Question: 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?

Answer: Together with the segulos--you still have to learn Torah!


Question: 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?

Answer: 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.


Question: 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?

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


Question: 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?

Answer: 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.


Question:  Did the Kohanim light personal Menoros in the Beis HaMikdash, as they ate and slept in the Lishkos?

Answer: 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 Six:  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 Seven: We now continue our Monday/Thursday series on the practical aspects of Sta”m, written by Rabbi Reuvain Mendlowitz, Shlita, author of Inside Sta”m--An Insider Reveals The Answers To All The Questions You Should Ask When Purchasing Or Maintaining Tefillin, Mezuzos, Megillos, Sifrei Torah And Nevi’im. Of course, one should ask his own Rav or Posek in his particular circumstance or situation for a final p’sak.






So what is the bottom line? Should I have my tefillin checked or not? If yes, how often?





The bottom line is that you should definitely have your tefillin checked. Let us see why this is so, and then how often they should be checked.



Reasons for checking (in order of relevance).


1)                  As we discussed a number of times, in order to insert the parashiyos shel rosh into their respective battim, they need to be folded. The fact is that very often the letters on the folds develop cracks and slits. Sometimes this happens as soon as the parashiyos are put in the battim for the very first time, and sometimes it happens with the passage of time. Either way, parashiyos certainly need to be checked for this potential problem. It is very possible, for multiple reasons, that in the times of Chazal, this problem did not exist.


2)                  Another very common problem is the fading of letters. Halachah dictates that the letters written in STA”M must be written with black ink. In many situations, the ink fades over time, and the STA”M item becomes pasul.


Now, you may ask: “If the ink fades over time, why did Chazal rule that tefillin never need to be checked?”


The answer to this is simple: In the times of Chazal, soot was added to the ink, which prevented fading. Today’s ink, however, is missing this ingredient, and the substitute ingredients do fade.


Tagin and kotzin in particular, due to their being very thin, fade very frequently. Often, the connection of two parts of a letter is made with a thin line which can easily fade. This is especially common with letters such as aleph, nun, tzaddi, and some others as well.


More reasons to check tefillin will be given BE”H in our next installment.




25 Kislev

CHANUKAH SAFETY:  Hatzolah publicized the following important safety message:


It is, however, important to ensure the safety of your family and avoid fire hazards when lighting your menorah.


• Choose a menorah that’s sturdy and made of fire-safe materials.

• Clear the table where you put your menorah from all flammable materials like papers and plastic items.

• Never put your menorah in closed areas like spaces between cabinets or bookshelves.

• If you are to display your menorah in your window, make sure that your curtains are not too close to the candle’s flames.

• Never leave lit candles unattended.

• Do not let children or pets play around the area where the menorah is placed.

• Always keep a fire extinguisher in your home for emergency use.


• Know where your fire extinguisher is located! WATER WILL NOT PUT OUT AN OIL FIRE .


In case of fire, CALL 911 and Hatzolah IMMEDIATELY!


A flyer was provided, available by clicking here for hanging in one’s Shul or place of business.



JUDGING ANOTHER: Chazal (Avos 2:5) teach : “Ahl Tadin Es Chavercha Ahd Shetagiyah Limkomo--do not judge your friend until you are in his place.” The Sefas Emes teaches--LeOlam Lo Tagiyah--you will never get there! Perhaps as a special avodah over Chanukah, we can dedicate ourselves to an eight-day introductory program of realizing and implementing--that we will never get to his place!



THIRTEEN! In the first bracha over the Neiros (if one does not recite the word Shel, as is the custom of many), as well as the second bracha over the Neiros, there are each thirteen words--corresponding to the thirteen middos of Rachamim from Hashem. Together, of course, the brachos combine to 26, the Sheim Havayeh. The Sefer Kav HaYashar accordingly and emphatically writes that one should recite these brachos in great Simcha over a Mitzvah that is so chaviv to us!



THE KEPITELECH OF TEHILLIM: As to which Kepitilech should be recited after kindling the Neiros Chanukah, there are various Minhagim. Perhaps the most well-known Kepitelach to be recited (in addition to of course Vehi Noam seven times and Yosheiv BeSeiser Elyon (Tehillim 91) seven times) are Kepitelech 19, 30, 33, 67, 100 and 133. Some additionally recite all of Kepitel 119, and all of the Shir HaMa’alos (120-134). When reciting Chapter 67, some recite it as it is published in the form of a Menorah, ahl pi kabbalah. Finally, some recite the powerful Shiras Chana (Shmuel I, 2:1-10). Hakhel Note: The great Rebbi Pinchas Koritzer, Z’tl (the Imrei Pinchas) writes that: “On Chanukah at the time of Hadlakas Neiros the Ohr HaGanuz descends to us…!” Oh, how we should stay close to the Neiros after lighting them!



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’ that Yaakov’s lessons to us in Parshas Vayishlach always come out…before Chanukah!  Hakhel Note: HaRav Erlanger is not giving a p’sak in Halacha regarding giving gifts on Chanukah. He is providing a lesson that he derived from the encounter between Yaakov and Eisav. One should, of course, consult with his Rav or Posek as to whether giving non-monetary gifts on Chanukah is to be frowned upon, encouraged… or treated in any other way!


On this point, from a reader: The Ponovezer 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). See also Shu”t Avnei Yashfeh Vol. 1 Siman 129:2 and Sha’arei Halacha U’Minhag Vol. 2 page 283. “  Hakhel Note:  Once again, one should consult with his own Rav or Posek for a final ruling in this area.



FROM A READER: For fellow readers who are considering adopting the Minhag you underscore of sitting near the Neiros following singing Ma’oz Tzur, I offer the following personal anecdote.  Last Chanukah, my wife and I began this practice for a 30 minute period following Hadlakas Neiros immersed in Mizmorei Tehilim and other expressions of Sheiros V’Sishbachos (each privately), and reflecting upon the message of Ner Chanukah.  I can say, in all candor, that the effect upon us was powerful and long-lasting well beyond expectation, and that this year we have hardwired this practice into our Mitzvas Ner Chanukah protocol.  That said, practices of Hidur Mitzva and Midas HaChasidus, inspired by aspirations for personal spiritual growth, must always be calibrated to align with the pragmatic demands of family living on a case-specific basis. Hatzlacha Rabba! Hakhel Note: One may also simply then review the specific miracles of Chanukah (Megillas Antiyochus); recall miracles in Tanach, miracles that happened in the world recently and miracles that have occurred to each of one’s family members. One can find the Megilas Antiyochus in English at the following link--http://www.tsel.org/torah/megant/eindex.html  



PLEASE NOTE! 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).



ANOTHER ESSENTIAL CHANUKAH ACTIVITY! 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!


THE ULTIMATE!  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! Hakhel Note: The Sefer Me’or Einayim (Parshas Mikeitz) writes that Chanukah is a time to come close to Hashem through Torah--for the Yevanim defiling all of the oils is symbolic of their defiling all of the chachmos--all of the wisdoms of the world--with only one vial of oil--the Torah--remaining pure!




Special Note One: 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, at a Hakhel Shiur, pointed out that, according to other Poskim, it would be best to keep the lighting flame on the wick for a short while, so that the wax will 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. [As we had previously noted, according to HaRav Elyashiv, a katan should not light in Shul, and if he did, it should be extinguished and relit with a bracha by a person of age so that there is proper Pirsumei Nisa.]


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 extinguishing.  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 Nisa.  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.


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.  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. 


12.  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 Two:  What is the word ‘Macabi’ an acronym for?  Many of us may be familiar with its acronym of “Mi Chamocha BaAilim Hashem--who is like You among the strong ones, Hashem?”--for the victory of the Chashmonaim was based upon their utter reliance on Hashem for victory against humanly impossible odds.  The Chasam Sofer, however, teaches that Macabi is also an acronym for “Matisyahu 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 Yisrael.  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!




24 Kislev

WHERE EMBARRASSMENT PAYS: The Chofetz Chaim clearly writes that when one realizes after he has begun speaking that his speech will lead to Lashon Hara or other Dibur Assur in some way, he must immediately steer his words elsewhere--and that even if he suffers embarrassment because of his obvious change in the course of his speech, or simply because he begins to fumble for the right words--this embarrassment is precious in the eyes of Hashem. Certainly, if one realized that he was eating something unkosher or milk and meat together--he would immediately expel the food--no matter how embarrassed he might be. Lashon Hara or other Dibur Assur might involve many more prohibitions than consuming a forbidden food--and most certainly, one must suffer the embarrassment if need be. One thing is for sure--moments of perceived shame are much better to experience, than other, more infinitely difficult suffering in this world and the next!



TESHUVAH! Prior to the commencement of Chanukah, let us make a special effort today to fulfill Teshuvah Bechol Yom!


Hakhel Note: As Tzedakah is also very much associated with Chanukah--especially giving money to Torah scholars (see below), it would certainly be wonderful for us to commence our special Tzedakah giving on the day before Chanukah--today!



WAR! On Chanukah we learn how different our approach is to war than the approach that many other nations of the world may have. To many other nations, war may be a means of conquering another people, taking over another property, or filling coffers with the spoils of others. To us, war is a means for us to attain spiritual ends. The Ahl HaNissim Tefillah that we will begin to meaningfully recite tonight clearly emphasizes this point. Unlike the other rules of war: “Masarta Giborim BeYad ChalashimYou delivered the strong into the hands of the weak, the many into the hands of the few, the impure into the hands of the pure, the wicked into the hands of the righteous, and the wanton into the hands of the diligent students of Torah” [Artscroll translation]. Indeed, as the commentaries point out, at the outset of the Ahl HaNissim, we mention first the Nissim, then the Purkan, then the Gevuros, then the Teshuos, and only last, the Milchamos--quite the opposite from the way other nations would view the nature and chronology of things. We can take an additional, very significant lesson from this. Any human act--whether it be eating, sleeping, taking care of one’s bodily functions, working, communicating with others--can all be done in the framework of a human being who is closer in thought to the physical nature of this world, and to the animal creations that are here. These very same acts could, on the other hand, be done with the view and goal of Torah, Mitzvos and Ma’asim Tovim--elevating ourselves spiritually in this world, and forever and ever!



EVEN A MINHAG CAN CHANGE! Some might claim that they have the custom of lighting the Neiros, singing Maoz Tzur and proceeding to go eat latkes (or supper). As we will learn over Chanukah, our Chachomim teach us that there is much to be gained from spending time with the Neiros--after all, we declare--”HaNeiros HaLalu Kodesh Heim--these lights are holy.” It is for this reason that many make the point of staying near the Neiros--observing them, reciting Tehillim, perhaps repeating Megilas Antiochus or other stories of Nissim V’Nifla’os while close to the Neiros HaKedoshim. If one’s ‘minhag’ was to light the candles, sing Ma’oz Tzur, and leave, perhaps he can make the effort to change this minhag this year!



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 provide important points and pointers on Chanukah:


A.  As we know, 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 homes, 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, as alluded to above, 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 eight 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 this is real ta’anug!


E. For those who missed it yesterday: 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, is available 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 Ta’amei 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.  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.


I.  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!”


J.  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).


K.  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, Shlita, 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.


L.  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 Two:  We provide the following p’sakim of HaRav Shmuel Kamenetsky, Shlita, as excerpted from the Sefer Koveitz Halachos by Rabbi Doniel Kleinman, Shlita. As with all Halacha, one should ask his own Rav or Posek for a definite ruling in his case or situation:


1.  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.


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


3.  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. 


4.  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. 


5.  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.


6.  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. 


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


8.  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! 


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


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


11.  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. 


12.  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.


13.  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. 


14.  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.



23 Kislev

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

(Love Your Neighbor, Parashas Vayeishev)



POWERFUL!  The Sefer Kav HaYashar (Chapter 96) writes that with every Mitzvah that one does, he creates Malochim Kedoshim. The Kav HaYashar then continues that it is pashut that on any Mitzvah over which one makes a bracha the Malochim gather around the person--listening to the bracha and answer Amen. This is alluded to by the fact that the Gematria of Malach and the Gematria of Amen--are both 91!



AN INVITATION: We received the following precious suggestion from a reader: “Please invite a not-yet religious person to your home for Chanukah lighting. Not only will it inspire them, but it will inspire you and your family--it will be a Lichtegen Chanukah!”



PLEASE WRITE THIS DOWN ON YOUR HADLAKAS NEIROS SHEET! As we approach Chanukah, the Holiday of the Home (Ner Ish U’Baiso) let us especially remember those who are away from their home and families as Shevuyim with a Tefillah after Hadlakas Neiros. In fact, your heartfelt Tefillos can commence in advance. If you believe in Yeshuos--they can happen today as well!: Begin by remembering Yonasan ben Malka (Pollard) and Sholom Mordechai ben Rivka (Rubashkin).




Special Note One: 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.


We recall the fascinating ma’aseh with the Bnai Yissoschar (R’Zvi Elimelech MiDinov). He had always felt a higher level of kedusha, of ruchniyus on Chanukah. His state was elevated in an unusual way over the eight days. He decided to ask his Rebbi, the Chozeh of Lublin why this was so--after all, he was not a Kohen and thus in all likelihood was not the descendant (or gilgul) of a Kohen back then, and was not a descendant of the Chashmonaim...so what was this heightened feeling about? The Chozeh answered that at the time of the Chashmonaim he had been on the Sanhedrin--who came from Shevet Yissochar (the B’nai Vinah, referred to in Ma’oz Tzur). R’ Zvi Elimelech therefore called his great work the Bnai Yissoschar in commemoration. We too should ready ourselves to be inspired by the uplifting kedusha of the Hadlakas Neiros, the Hallel and the Hoda’ah of Al Hanissim. We may not have a Chozeh of Lublin to tell us who we are or where we came from, but we most certainly recognize and appreciate this unique and powerful period that families and communities have utilized to raise themselves closer to Hashem for more than 2,000 years--and we should take special care to nurture the momentous occasion of Hadlakas Neiros not in the Bais Hamikdash but in our very home...and all of those other precious moments with Torah, Tefillah, Hallel and Hoda’ah.


Hakhel Note: 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 shown so bright on Chanukah that it was able to extinguish all of the darkness that the avodah zara of that time was encouraging--and has indeed lasted us to this very day.



Special Note Two: We provide the following notes on Hilchos Chanukah, as excerpted from the Dirshu Edition notes to the Mishna Berurah (Shulchan Aruch, Orach Chaim, Chapters 673-682):




A. The Neiros Chanukah of a child who is higi’a l’chinuch is certainly considered a Ner Mitzvah, and one is prohibited to benefit from its light. (ibid. 673, Dirshu Note 12)


B. The issur against having hana’ah from the Neiros extends to warming oneself (such as one’s hands) from them. If one has violated the prohibition against having hana’ah, he is still yotzei the Mitzvah, although he has violated the words of Chazal. (ibid. Dirshu Notes 13, 14)


C. It is a hiddur mitzvah for one using candles to use long and thick candles. (ibid. Dirshu Note 42)


D. HaRav Chaim Kanievsky, Shlita writes that the Chazon Ish, Z’tl, used thick wicks which produced a larger flame. (ibid.)


E. If a glass cup has blackened from the smoke, HaRav Chaim Kanievsky, Shlita teaches that it should be cleaned prior to re-use. (ibid. Dirshu Note 43)


F. Should one change the wicks every evening? The Kol Bo rules that one should, for the Nes was a new one every night, and also Zecher L’Mikdash where the wicks were changed daily. HaRav Chaim Kanievsky, Shlita, however, reports that the Chazon Ish did not change the wicks or remove the remaining oil from the previous evening. (ibid. Dirshu Note 44)


G. There is a tradition that HaNeiros Hallalu contains 36 words (the number 36 would correspond to the number of Neiros Chanukah). Although in most Siddurim there are more than 36 words in HaNeiros Hallalu, the Steipeler Gaon, Z’tl, suggests that the ikar nussach of HaNeiros Hallalu is from after Hallalu and continues until Bilvad --which is 36 words. (ibid. 676, Dirshu Note 16)  For a version of HaNeiros Hallalu that contains exactly 36 words, please click here.


H.  Since one has not recited Ahl HaNissim all year, he should read it from a siddur the first time he recites it on Chanukah. Before the Shemone Esrei of Ma’ariv, one is allowed to remind the tzibur by calling out “Ahl HaNissim”, although one would not repeat Shemone Esrei if he forgot to recite it. If one remembers that he did not say Ahl HaNissim before reciting Baruch Attah Hashem, then he recites Ahl HaNissim immediately upon remembering, and then continues with V’ahl Kulam again. If one remembers after reciting the words Baruch Attah Hashem--then he does not say Lamdeini Chukecha (i.e., he does not act as if he is reciting the pasuk in Tehillem of Baruch Attah Hashem Lamdeini Chukecha), and does not go back, but instead recites Ahl HaNissim before Yihyu L’Ratzon Imrei Fi, preceding it with the words HaRachaman Hu Ya’aseh Lanu Nissim V’Niflaos Ka’asher ... as he would at the end of bentsching, if he had forgotten Ahl HaNissim in bentsching [the full text of this HaRachaman is in most Bentschers where the special HaRachamans before Magdil/Migdol are listed] . HaRav Chaim Kanievsky, Shlita rules that this HaRachaman may be recited on Shabbos as well, since it is not a personal request. (ibid. 682, Dirshu Notes 1, 2, 4 and 6)


I.  If one mistakenly recited ‘Chatzi Hallel’ instead of the full Hallel on Chanukah, and completed the bracha after Hallel, HaRav Elyashiv, Z’tl, rules that he must recite the Hallel again with a bracha. Hakhel Note: A woman should especially consult with her Rav as to what she should do in this situation, as there is a difference of opinion as to a woman’s chiyuv of reciting Hallel on Chanukah. (ibid. 683, Dirshu Note 1)



Special Note Three: 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? In fact, 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 new technologies, scurrying about while multi-tasking, 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!



Special Note Four: We provide the following 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.


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. 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.


5. 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 corporeality 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 Five: We now continue our Monday/Thursday series on the practical aspects of Sta”m, written by Rabbi Reuvain Mendlowitz, Shlita, author of Inside Sta”m--An Insider Reveals The Answers To All The Questions You Should Ask When Purchasing Or Maintaining Tefillin, Mezuzos, Megillos, Sifrei Torah And Nevi’im. Of course, one should ask his own Rav or Posek in his particular circumstance or situation for a final p’sak. 






I was in a Shul last Shabbos and noticed that the klaf from which they were leining the haftarah was attached to only one eitz chaim (stave). It looked odd to me. I was informed that only one eitz chaim is supposed to be used.  Is that correct?



Yes.  The Gemara clearly states that Sifrei Nevi’im should have one eitz chaim, as opposed to Sifrei Torah, which should have two.


Many Acharonim reiterate the Talmudic rule, and express dissatisfaction with the custom of placing two atzei chaim on Sifrei Nevi’im.


For reasons that are largely unknown, the custom of two atzei chaim on Nevi’im has become dominant today, and the Shuls whose Nevi’im have only one eitz chaim are few and far between. When using only one eitz chaim, the custom is to place it at the end of the Sefer.



Are there any final instructions we need to be aware of before ordering Sifrei Nevi’im?



If one would really like to have the Sifrei Nevi’im written properly, then the margins must be accurate. A Sefer Torah requires a bottom margin of 4 thumb-widths, a top margin of 3 thumb-widths, and a “between column” margin of 2 thumb-widths.  Sifrei Nevi’im require a bottom margin of only 3 finger-widths, a top margin of 2 finger-widths, and a “between column” margin of 1 thumb-width. This is the ideal layout. But if, as often happens, the margins were made as large as those of a Sefer Torah, the kashrus of the sefer is unaffected.


There are no sources indicating a preference as to overall height or the number of lines per column. Each Kehilla may determine its own preference.




20 Kislev

QUESTION OF THE WEEK ONE : In this week’s Parasha, the Pasuk (Bereishis 37:28) provides detail on how the brothers sold Yosef. Rashi explains the Pasuk to mean that Yosef was sold “Pe’amim Harbeh--many times.” Why was this so--why did Yosef have to be sold many times--what was the Middah K’negged Middah in these multiple sales until he arrived in Mitzrayim?



QUESTION OF THE WEEK TWO: Chazal (Sotah 10B) teach that in the zechus of Tamar’s Tzinyus, she was zoche to have the Malchus Beis Dovid (who comes from her son Peretz) as her descendants. What is the relationship between Tzniyus and Malchus--aren’t they at first blush the opposite of each other--as the king would appear to be the most public figure possible?!



Special Note One: We continue with our Erev Shabbos--Halachos of Shabbos Series, as excerpted from the Mishna Berurah (Dirshu Edition):


A. If one inadvertently left price tags on a new garment--can he remove them on Shabbos? HaRav Shlomo Zalman Auerbach, Z’tl, rules that one would not violate the Halacha of Makeh B’Patish if one does so, as these tags are placed on a garment after it has been completed. However, if it is not possible to wear the garment with the tags on it, then HaRav Nissim Karelitz, Shlita, rules that one would violate Makeh B’Patish by removing them. (Shulchan Aruch Orach Chaim 302, Dirshu Note 17)


B. HaRav Shlomo Zalman Auerbach, Z’tl, rules that folding papers and napkins in a special manner on Shabbos (such as in the shape of a boat or other decorative form or shape) is prohibited as Tikkun Manah. Although there may be reason to claim that it is not Tikkun Manah because it is for a one-time use, the Shevet HaLevi nevertheless writes that l’ma’aseh he only permits a simple fold. (ibid., Dirshu Note 21)


C. There is a disagreement as to how one can fold his tallis after use on Shabbos. The Mishna Berurah writes that if one does not fold it on its regular folds, it would be permitted to do so. However, continues the Mishna Berurah, it is vadai adif--certainly better for a person to be machmir upon himself and not to fold the tallis at all. (ibid., seif katan 19)


D. HaRav Nissim Karelitz rules that it is permissible to wear rubber gloves on Shabbos while washing the dishes, for one does not intend to wash the gloves, and accordingly one is considered to be washing only the dishes and not the gloves. However, the Minchas Yitzchak is lenient only for a woman whose hands have scabs and the like, and even then she should be careful not to especially clean the gloves after their use (such as by rubbing them together). (SA, OC Dirshu Note 49)


E. With respect to contact lenses, HaRav Elyashiv, Z’tl, rules that one should not soak them in cleaning solution on Shabbos, as they may have a din of beged, and the prohibition against cleaning a garment would apply to them (this prohibition would include rubbing them clean as well). However, if one had cleaned the lenses on Erev Shabbos and they remained clean, one could place them in a solution which does not clean them but merely keeps their moisture. This is also the opinion of the Shevet HaLevi and R’ Nissim Karelitz. (ibid.)


F. If one needs to wash a child on Shabbos after he dirtied himself, one should take care not to let the clothes which may have been sullied come into contact with water, in order to avoid kibus--cleaning the beged in any manner. (SA OC 302, Mishna Berurah seif katan 25)



Special Note Two: Today, 20 Kislev, is the Yahrzeit of HaRav Yitzchak Hutner, Z’tl, (Yitzchak Ben R’ Chaim Yoel, Z’tl).  In the Sefer Pachad Yitzchak, HaRav Hutner teaches that just as there is a difference in the meaning of the word Amen when answering to a Birkas HaShevach or Birkas HaMitzvah (it is true, and I believe it), on the one hand, and a Birkas Bakasha (it is true and may my request be fulfilled soon) on the other--so too, is there a difference between the meaning of the word Baruch when recited in a Birkas HaShevach or Birkas HaMitzvah (when it connotes only praise--that Hashem is the All-Powerful Source and Grantor of all blessing), and that of a Birkas Bakasha (in which the word “Baruchincludes the request that Hashem as the Only Source provide you with the matter or item requested)



Special Note Three:  Who was Rashi?  Sometimes we take his help for granted… the Sefer Pardes Yosef Al HaTorah in this week’s Parasha brings that a person came to Rashi’s Kever to ask Mechilah for something he had said about the peirush.  Rashi appeared to him at that time and advised him that he had fasted 613 consecutive fasts (not including Shabbos and Yom Tov) before he began to put his Peirush down.  We can well understand why many Talmidei Chachomim say “Let’s see what the Heilege Rashi says” or why HaRav Avigdor Miller, Z’tl, would suggest that after mentioning Rashi, one say “May he have a lichteger Gan Eden”  in recognition of the self-sacrifice of  Rashi--which thousands benefit from every day and until this day!”



Special Note Four:  Points and Pointers on this week’s Parasha, Parshas Vayeishev:


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 apply this poignant and timely lesson from the Parasha 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.


Accordingly, we review the extremely important rules of Avak Lashon Hara. 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 Parasha’s fundamental lesson, this week we can begin an additional Shabbos Avak Lashon Hara Machsom L’fi --for the entire Shabbos as well!


B.  In the Parasha, 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, a person must give up his life rather than shame a person.  Chazal teach that one who shames another in public loses his share in Olam Haba. 


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 Mechila.  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 the Steipeler was trying to learn).  Let us take the great lessons of the Parasha with us--publicly and privately!


C. A Rav related that there was an outstanding lesson to be learned from Yosef Hatzaddik.  He was a tremendous Talmid Chochom who most closely absorbed his father’s teachings--as the Torah describes ‘Ki Ben Zekunim Hu Lo’.  Yet, with all of his knowledge and all of the messages he received from Hashem through his dreams, he had only one Eitzah to escape the clutches and guile of the Yetzer Hara--VaYanas VaYeitzeih HaChutzah--he ran.  When the temptation comes--we must run, simply run.  This is what kept Yosef a Tzaddik--and this is what can keep us a Tzaddik as well.   Hakhel Note:  After one has run away from the Aveirah opportunity--whatever it may have been, he can reflect: “I must be a very important person--after all, the Yetzer Hara picked me for that Aveirah and not the scores of others he could have selected.  He must have really needed to get me.  Just as I succeeded this time, I daven to Hashem that he give me the good sense and awareness, the strength and the ability to run--the next time he tries again.” 


D.  We provide the following essential teaching from Love Your Neighbor, by Rabbi Zelig Pliskin, Shlita: The Torah records that when Yosef noticed that Pharaoh’s officials were dejected, he asked them the cause. Yosef had good reason to keep to himself and concern himself only with his own welfare. He had been sold into slavery by his brothers, and now he was in prison due to a false accusation. Nevertheless, he cared about his fellow man, and when he saw someone with a problem he was eager to help.


Several years ago in New York , a man walking alone at night was accosted by a stranger with a gun. At gunpoint the man heard the stranger relate an hour-long tale of woe. Pouring out his heart, the stranger enumerated all his problems. When he finished talking, he apologized to his victim. “For weeks I’ve been trying to find someone who would listen to my story, but no one would,” he said. “I’m sorry that I frightened you, but I just had to get this off my chest.”

(Heard from Rabbi Chayim Zaitchik) Though this incident is an extreme example, all too often people suffer greatly because they are unable to find someone with a sympathetic ear. Chazal understood the therapeutic quality of telling one’s problems to others, and said: “When there is worry in the heart of a man, he should tell it to others” (Yoma 75A) . Talking things out helps relieve strain; it helps a person see his problem in a clearer perspective; and it often helps him discover how he can alleviate or solve his worries. We should appreciate this axiom and lend an ear to those who need it.


A disciple of Rebbi Yisroel Salanter once saw him standing on a street corner, engaged in commonplace chatter and jokes with a stranger. [The student was surprised that his Rebbi was acting in this way and] later asked his teacher about his out-of-character levity. Rebbi Yisroel explained to his student that the man had problems that were weighing very heavily on his heart, and he wanted to alleviate his depression. (Ohr Yisroel, p. 112)


Rebbi Akiva Eiger would adapt the length of his responses to halachic questions according to the nature of his correspondent. He wrote to his sons who were planning to publish his responsa: “[You may find] that I have digressed into lengthy discussions of theory, not directly concerned with practical law. Know that I was motivated by the knowledge that my correspondent was a man who had undergone many trials and much suffering. I have therefore lengthened my reply so that he may have greater pleasure and forget his troubles in the delight of the discussion.” (Introduction to Teshuvos Rebbi Akiva Eiger)


Many people would come to the home of HaRav Chayim Ozer Grodzenski in Vilna for assistance and guidance. Since HaRav Grodzenski was world-renowned, some of the people who needed his help were very nervous and apprehensive about speaking to him. HaRav Grodzenski would therefore jest with them in order to put them at ease. (Heard from Rebbi Simcha Wasserman, HaRav Grodzenski’s nephew)




Special Note Five:    We provide the following notes on Hilchos Chanukah, as excerpted from the Dirshu Edition notes to the Mishna Berurah (Shulchan Aruch, Orach Chaim, Chapter 672-673). As in all instances, one should consult with his Rav or Posek for a final p’sak in all areas.


A.  If a bachur is becoming Bar Mitzvah on one of the nights of Chanukah--should he wait until after Tzeis HaKochavim to light the neiros? HaRav Elyashiv, Z’tl, rules that he does not, as the ikar hadlaka is being performed by his father, and his hadlaka is a hiddur. Additionally, bein hashemoshos is a sofek yom-sofek laila to begin with. However, HaRav Wosner, Shlita and HaRav Shteinman, Shlita rule that the bachur should wait until Tzeis to light. (ibid. 672, Dirshu Note 2).


B.  Even though mai’ikar hadin the neiros need only be lit for one-half hour, HaRav Elyashiv, Z’tl, and HaRav Shlomo Zalmen Auerbach, Z’tl, hold that it is a hiddur to keep the neiros lit for as long as there are passersby--for it constitutes pirsumei nissa. (ibid. Dirshu Note 16)


C.  Is there a concept of pirsumei nissa to akum? HaRav Moshe Feinstein, Z’tl, rules that there is not, while HaRav Elyashiv, z’tl holds that there is pirsum hanes to the non-Jewish populace as well, and certainly a halacha of pirsum hanes to  not-yet observant Jews. (ibid.)


D.  The poskim write that the oil used for Neiros Chanukah should ideally be like that used in the Bais HaMikdash. Accordingly, HaRav Elyashiv, Z’tl, rules that one should be mehader to use olive oil that is edible and cold-pressed (not cooked).  (ibid. 673, Dirshu Note 8)


E.  The Kaf HaChaim, based on the Tur, writes that one should not light the Shammash until he has lit all of the Neiros for that evening --for it would constitute a hefsek in the hadlaka. (ibid. Dirshu Note 22)


F.  When lighting, one should keep the candle being used to light the Ner Chanukah on the wick until most of the wick that is exposed is lit. This is also true for Hadlakas Ner Shabbos.  The reason for this is so that the flame is significant as soon as one moves away his hand--and this was done in the Bais HaMikdash as well.  (ibid. Dirshu Note 33)


G.  If one purchases a new Menorah and he is very happy with it--he should recite a Shehechiyanu--even though one is going to use it to be motzi his family and one might otherwise believe that the appropriate bracha would be HaTov VehaMeitiv. (ibid. Dirshu Note 41)


H. The Kaf HaChaim brings 15 levels in hiddur of Menorahs --with the most mehudar being gold, then silver, then copper which appears gold, followed by red copper, iron.... (ibid.--see there for the complete list of priority)


I.  HaRav Shlomo Zalmen Auerbach, Z’tl, and yblch’t HaRav Wosner, Shlita, rule that the plastic cups used to place the oil in is a hiddur to the silver Menorah, as the plastic element is batel to the Menorah. (ibid.)


J. One is typically not required to spend more than a shlish of the cost of a Mitzvah for the purpose of hiddur.  If the Neiros cost $50 all together--how is it a hiddur to spend $500 on a silver Menorah? HaRav Chaim Kanievsky, Shlita explains that the silver Menorah is not a din in  hiddur Mitzvah--but is  Kavod Mitzvah--and on Kavod Mitzvah it is befitting to spend more than a  shlish (ibid.)  Hakhel Note: What a lesson in Kavod Mitzvah!



Special Note Six:  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!




19 Kislev

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!



U’SMAGER! 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 missiles 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!




Special Note One:  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 Yisrael 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 Milevado--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 Parasha, Yosef HaTzaddik places some eminently justifiable reliance on the Sar Hamashkim--after all that Yosef did for him. However, the end was, as the last word of the Parasha 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 Parasha 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!



Special Note Two: We provide the following notes on Hilchos Chanukah, as excerpted from the Dirshu Edition notes to the Mishna Berurah (Shulchan Aruch, Orach Chaim, Chapters 670-671):




A. When we have a Seudah to give Shevach or for Pirsumei Nisah, it is a Seudas Mitzvah (ibid. 670; Mishna Berurah seif katan 9). The same would be true for anyone who made a Seudas Hoda’ah over a miracle that occurred to him personally--for any Seudah that one makes to remember the Nifla’os Hashem is a Seudas Mitzvah (ibid. 671, Dirshu Note 25).


B. Just as there is a requirement to study the Halachos of each chag on the chag itself, so too, it is appropriate for one to study Hilchos Chanukah on Chanukah (ibid. Dirshu Note 26).


C. With respect to lighting the Menorah at gatherings in public places, HaRav Elyashiv, Z’tl, HaRav Shlomo Zalmen Auerbach, Z’tl, and the Minchas Yitzchak all rule that no bracha should be recited. Even if Ma’ariv will be davened there, such as at a simcha hall, HaRav Chaim Kanievsky, Shlita, rules that it is not considered a Makom Hameyuchad L’Tefillah and that accordingly reciting a bracha over Hadlakas Neiros there would be a bracha l’vatalah (ibid. Dirshu Note 70).


D. There is a great Machlokes Haposkim as to whether a katan can light the Menorah in Shul. Some Poskim are of the opinion that since no one is really fulfilling his obligation there, a katan may light. Other rule that a katan should not light, as, among other matters, it is not Kavod Hatzibbur. HaRav Elyashiv rules that if a katan lit in shul, the tzibbur is obligated to extinguish the neiros, and relight with a bracha (ibid. Dirshu Note 75). Hakhel Note: Of course, every Shul will follow the p’sak of its own Rav.


E. There is also a difference of opinion as to whether one who lit in his home and recited Shehechiyanu can recite Shehechiyanu again when he lights the Menorah in Shul. In fact, some Poskim rule that if everyone present in Shul had lit the Menorah prior to coming to daven Ma’ariv in Shul, the bracha of Shehechiyanu would simply then not be recited in Shul (ibid. Dirshu Note 75). Hakhel Note: Of course, once again, every Shul will follow the p’sak of its own Rav.


F. When Chazal teach that one who is ‘Ragil B’Ner’ will have children who are Talmidei Chachomim, they refer to one who goes beyond the letter of the law, and is careful to light the Menorah in a clean and beautiful manner, and with olive oil. Others say that they refer to one who fulfills the mitzvah of Neiros Chanukah b’chol perateha v’dikdukeha--taking care as to the details of the mitzvah (ibid. Dirshu Note 1).



Special Note Three: We now continue our Monday/Thursday series on the practical aspects of Sta”m, written by Rabbi Reuvain Mendlowitz, Shlita, author of Inside Sta”m--An Insider Reveals The Answers To All The Questions You Should Ask When Purchasing Or Maintaining Tefillin, Mezuzos, Megillos, Sifrei Torah And Nevi’im. Of course, one should ask his own Rav or Posek in his particular circumstance or situation for a final p’sak.






We have raised a good part of the money to begin writing Sifrei Nevi’im, and have begun looking into the practical issues involved in ordering. To our surprise, we learned that there are different “versions” of Nevi’im! How is that possible, and which one should we have written?




The complete answer to this question is too lengthy to include in this forum. What follows is a basic answer.


There are currently two “versions” of Nevi’im used by sofrim, and a controversy has been raging since the late 1980’s as to which one a shul should follow. The two “versions” are:


1)                  What is known as the Tikkun of Ben-Asher. (Written by Aharon ben Moshe ben Asher, tenth century).

2)                  The “Berditchov” Tikkun (named for the city where it was printed).


 It is beyond our scope to review these two positions, since tens of articles and a number of sefarim have been written on the subject. But let us take a moment to sum up the core disagreement:


The “Berditchov” side holds that Ashkenazim have a direct tradition from the Vilna Gaon regarding the spelling and parashiyos of Sifrei Nevi’im, and we should therefore follow that tradition. The fact that the Ben-Asher Tikkun may be extant is irrelevant since, our tradition regarding the writing of Sifrei Torah is that of the Ramah, and not Ben-Asher. Moreover, we cannot be certain that the Ben-Asher Tikkun we have today is authentic.


In contrast, the Ben-Asher side holds that there is no tradition from the Gaon at all regarding Nevi’im, since the actual Berditchov Tikkun only covers the five megillos; and since there are many inconsistencies between Nevi’im scrolls ascribed to that tradition.


It is the opinion of this author that while the Gaon’s Nevi’im are no longer extant, the Ben-Asher Tikkun is, and it is certainly authentic. Furthermore, since we have no tradition from the Ramah nor anyone else regarding Nevi’im, the prudent thing to do when writing Nevi’im is to use the Ben-Asher Tikkun. This is especially so since the authority of that Tikkun has been universally accepted by all communities with regard to the parashiyos of the Torah.


Ø                  Although a number of prominent Rabbanim have sided with “Berditchov,” in my opinion it is the consensus of contemporary poskim is that when a shul is writing Nevi’im, they should write according to Ben-Asher--excluding sections of Nach where we have an established mesorah contrary to Ben-Asher.


Hakhel Note: Accordingly, everyone must consult with his own Rav or Posek as to how to proceed when purchasing Sifrei Nevi’im.




18 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 G’ra in the Iggeres HaGra writes likewise....


Hakhel Note: Because of the extreme importance of speaking properly, and of avoiding any stain of negative speech on one’s soul, may we suggest that one keep a separate notebook or other written record, on a daily basis, of issues in speech that one has encountered. Not only should this help him rectify that which he has done wrong, but it will serve as an inspiration and guide for him not to repeat his mistakes…!



MORE ON CHANGE OF WEATHER: As ‘change of weather’ season continues in the northern hemisphere, we remember that it is not the Extra-Strength Tylenol, or any of the other remedies filling our pharmacy-aisle that gives us our cure.  Instead, we should know that there is a reason that we received this ailment (which could include not properly taking care of yourself), and that it is Hashem--and ONLY HASHEM--Who gives the relief and refuah, and not that ‘sure-fire’ acetaminophen or other ‘Special Formula’ which serves to ameliorate the symptoms, or, if it is a better medicine, serves as Hashem’s agent in the actual cure.  Before taking that aspirin or other tablet or fluid, we should especially reflect upon this, and recite the Tefillah before taking medicine with true recognition and feeling.   The Tefillah Recited before Visiting the Doctor or Taking Medications, is available by clicking here   and the Tefillas HaBori--asking Hashem to keep us healthy--is available by clicking here   Stay well!



FROM A READER: “The following is from the OU publication Daf HaKashrus December 2014: The Orthodox Union does not certify STREIT CHOCOLATE COINS (made in Turkey ), produced by Aron Streit Inc. New York, NY, and considers them as Non-Kosher products. Further, the unauthorized O-U on the Dark Chocolate Coins should not be relied on to assume they are dairy free. Corrective measures are being implemented.”



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 very special 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?! 




Special Note One: As one week from today is the first day of Chanukah, we present a ‘Chag Sameiach’ question to get us going!


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


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


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



Special Note Two:  Last week, we completed our Shmiras Einayim Series. 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 Kedusha”.  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! Let’s get ready!



Special Note Three:  In this week’s Parasha, we learn that Yaakov Avinu provided Yosef with a Kesones Passim, which his brothers were jealous of.  Why would such great brothers be so interested and envious of nothing more than a fancy coat or a special glove?  The easy answer is that this teaches us forever and ever how silly jealousy really is.  Some say, however, that the Kesones Passim referred to was really a Middah of “Nesias Chein” which Yaakov imbued Yosef with.  The brothers desired this special chein that Yosef had--for it brought him into the good graces of all.  Hakhel Note:  We can create our own Chein, we don’t have to be jealous of anyone--we just have to provide the Kesones Passim--to ourselves!



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




17 Kislev

YOU ARE A CRAFTSMAN: Chazal, based upon the Pasuk in Tehillim (58:2) teach : “Mah Umnaso Shel Adam BaOlam Hazehwhat should a person’s expertise be in this world, in what way should he be a craftsman?--It should be in the area of controlling his speech.” Chazal teach…that it is in the area of proper speech--when to speak and when to refrain. Once again, for further assistance in practical, real-life situations, one should ask his Shailos to the Chofetz Chaim Heritage Foundation Shemiras HaLashon Shailah Hotline, 718-951-3696, 9:00PM  to 10:30 PM, EST. In Europe: HaRav Yaakov Wreschner, Shlita (Manchester) is available between 9:15AM and 10:15AM and between 1:15 and 2:15PM. His mobile number is 07980641399. Dayan Aharon Dovid Dunner, Shlita, is available at 02088008555 (no set hours).



IMPORTANT QUOTE!  “Yargil Es Atzmo She’lo Lichos Afilu Ahl Davar Ha’raui 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!  



WOW--HOW CAN I DO THAT? The Rosh (Orchos Chaim L’Rosh, 81) teaches: “Ahl Tabit L’Mi She’hu Katan Mimecha Ba’avodah”--one should not look at one who is weaker than him in Avodas Hashem or in fear of Hashem--but one who is greater.


Hakhel Note: This means that we should not put any item of Ruchniyus automatically out of our reach. If he learns five hours a day, or davens a ten minute Shemone Esrei, or has his own Gemach that he runs--although one may not be near this madreigah--one can still make some improvement to demonstrate the direction he wants to be going in, what he admires and where he would like to be!



QUESTION OF THE WEEK:  Many recite the Pasuk of “Va’Ani BeRov Chasdecha Avo Veisecha...” every time they enter a Shul or Bais Midrash.  What Pasuk should one recite when he leaves a Shul?



A READER RESPONDS: We received the following thoughtful response from a reader on the questions we posed last Friday which he summarizes below:


The two points made were: (i) that this Parasha occurred as Yaakov is on his way back to Eretz Yisrael--and not on his way out to Chutz LaAretz.  It would have seemed that we would learn the Parashas HaGalus not from Yaakov’s encounter with Eisav--but from his encounter with Lavan, which is when Yaakov was exiting Eretz Yisrael for a while--and not on his way back!; and (ii) Lavan was a genuine Akum, whereas Eisav is described by Chazal as a Yisrael Mumar. Thus, wouldn’t Yaakov’s conduct with Lavan be the better standard and guide for us to learn from? Perhaps that is exactly the limud. Although we are in Galus and exiled from Eretz Yisroel, we - and the entire Galus experience - are preparing us for the way back to Eretz Yisroel as we know that the batei midrashim and even homes will be transplanted to Eretz Yisrael in Moshiach’s time.  Furthermore, the harshest treatment we’ve experienced is from the descendants of Esav and Yishmael, not the descendants of Lavan. So Parashas Vayishlach is the more preferred source for the limud of how to behave when confronted by the nefarious descendants of these reshaim.



GEMATRIA FROM A READER: “Everything is in the Torah--everything. In last week’s Parasha, the Torah records a name of Mai Zahav--gold water. The Gematria of Mai Zahav is 64. Barry Goldwater ran for President of the United States in…’64!”



KASHRUS ALERT! The following link http://www.kashrut.com/Alerts/?alert=A4760 to Kashrut.com was received from a reader and which was originally posted by the COR Detroit.



A BAD DATE! By the following link http://tinyurl.com/q3n6bgh  we provide the stark results of a bad date, as received from a reader.



BITACHON--IT’S UP TO US! There is a powerful Pasuk that we recite every day in Pesukei D’Zimra: “Ahl Tivtechu Vindivim Bevehn Adam She’ein Lo Seshu’ah…do not rely on nobles, nor on a human being, for he holds no salvation.” The Radak on this Pasuk provides an astounding comment. He writes that just as Galus Bavel drew to a close by Hashem arousing Koresh to give permission for the Jews to return to Eretz Yisrael, so too, the final Geulah will come through Hashem awakening the spirit of the world leaders to send us back to Eretz Yisrael. This will only happen, however, the Radak continues--if we demonstrate our Bitachon in Hashem and in no one else. Do we want the Geulah to come?--it is up to us, and to our Bitachon in Hashem! Hakhel Note: To strengthen our bitachon on a daily basis, we once again highly recommend Emuna Daily, a 3-5 minute daily phone message which one can call at any time during the day for no charge. The number is 605-475-4799. The pin number is 840886#. To listen to today’s Shiur, one need only hit # again. To listen to all of the prior wonderful Shiurim (now more than hundreds on file), begin with the number 1…and keep on going! Yasher Koach to Rabbi David Ashear, Shlita, for these wonderful Shiurim! To subscribe to the related short daily Emuna email message: emunadaily @gmail.com.




Special Note One:  Today, 17 Kislev is the Yahrzeit of the Alter of Novordak, HaRav Yosef Yozel Hurvitz, Z’tl. The Sefer Hizharu Bichvod Chaveireichem, by Rabbi Avraham Tovalsky, Shlita, provides the following great lesson: What propelled the Alter of Novordak to become the mussar giant that he was? HaRav Yozel was an extremely successful businessman who met Rebbi Yisroel Salanter in a city named Mamel. Rebbi Yisroel asked him to stay a few days so that they could get to know each other better. HaRav Yozel advised Rebbi Yisroel that he had already hired a wagon driver to take him home. Rebbi Yisroel thereupon urged him to hurry back to his hotel as soon as possible--for perhaps the wagon driver was looking for him--and by being late perhaps he was causing him tza’ar and agmas nefesh.  Perhaps noticing a bit of hesitation, Rebbi Yisroel urged him on further: “No matter how precious the discussion we are having is--it should not be at the expense of another.” HaRav Yozel was so moved by this attitude and approach that soon after he gave up his successful business pursuits--and followed after Rebbi Yisroel to learn true Avodas Hashem!



Special Note Two: It is fascinating to note that the Mitzvah in last week’s Parasha of Gid Hanashe commemorates Yaakov Avinu’s fight with the Sar Shel Eisav, who was unable to defeat Yaakov, and so injured his leg. At first glance, the need to commemorate this event appears problematic. After all, was not Yaakov soon fully healed from the attack, as the Pasuk records (Bereishis 33:18): “Vayavo Yaakov Shaleim”--which Rashi explains indicates that he was healed from his injury? There are two famous answers (perhaps among the many) to this question. The Sefer Hachinuch (Mitzvah 3) movingly writes that the Mitzvah is to remind us that no matter how powerful Eisav is and no matter how much he tries to hurt us--we must be mechazeik ourselves--for in the end we will emerge victorious. This is something we must always remember, especially in the darkest part of the Galus night, right before Alos Hashachar, when all seems so discouraging, and there is so much despair in the world around us. In the end (may it come speedily), we will follow in the footsteps of Yaakov Avinu--and emerge healed and victorious! A second approach relates to a specific Mitzvah which we can all strengthen ourselves in. It is the Mitzvah of leviyah--that of escorting guests out of our home, which helps them attain Hashem’s protection. If Yaakov Avinu’s sons had accompanied him, the Sar Shel Eisav would never have been allowed to attack in the first place. The Mitzvah of Gid Hanashe, performed on millions and millions of Kosher animals over the years--reminds us of all of the times that we have the opportunity to perform this great Mitzvah! Hakhel Note: For further beautiful detail on the Mitzvah of leviyah, see the Chofetz Chaim’s Sefer Ahavas Chesed.



Special Note Three: Yes, we are just one week away from Chanukah!  Of course, the week may be used to ready ourselves  with Menorahs, wicks, oils and everything else that we need to make sure that the Ma’aseh Mitzvah is performed B’Hidduro.  We note, however, that in addition to the Mitzvah objects being readied, those involved with and performing the Mitzva must also be readied.  We are approaching two months since the last of the Chagim ended, and the Yetzer Hara has tried his hardest to rid us of the sacred vestiges of those inspiring and uplifting days.  We can do much to counter his attacks by making the effort starting today to rise to the great occasion just ahead of us, especially in light of the Seforim that teach that the final judgment of a person is actually concluded on Chanukah.  We may even suggest that the reason one’s judgment is finally determined on Chanukah is in order for the Heavenly Tribunal to determine whether the Kabbalos and improvements we undertook really stayed with us, at least in some ways.  Teshuva B’Chol Yom should be especially implemented during these days, and one should also be careful to check himself against his Kabbala sheet each day in preparation for and in honor of the miracle-filled days ahead.  The Yetzer Hara does not sleep on other fronts, and so one may want to examine his ways in general--looking for the Yetzer’s thrusts into other areas of daily living (by way of example but not limitation--late to davening, late to learning, more (and not less) time on the cell phone, overindulging and truly wasting time).  Let us use the time ahead to grow in our Avodas Hashem--so that when we stare at the purity of the Neiros this Chanukah--we will also see its beautiful reflection in the purity within ourselves as well!  Remember--the time is now!



16 Kislev



1. The OU certifies Sensible Portions zesty ranch veggie straws produced by Sensible Portions, Boulder, CO as an OUD--dairy product. This product contains dairy ingredients as indicated in the ingredient and allergen statements. Corrective measures have been implemented for the missing OUD.


2. Not all Jolly Rancher products are Kosher. Jolly Rancher Bites-soft chewy candy produced by The Hershey Company are kosher when bearing an OU after the ingredient panel. Jolly Rancher Bites-filled gummies are not Kosher and do not bear the OU symbol. Consumers must always check for the presence of a Kosher symbol on a package, especially with brands that include Kosher and non-Kosher varieties.



YOU MUST CHECK! A reader provided us with a picture of his experience after opening a fresh cashew, which he had recently purchased. We provide the picture by clicking here.  If he would not have opened the cashew…. Let us remember that we are not only responsible for our actions--we are privileged to be responsible for our actions!



KIRUV RESOURCES! By clicking here, we provide excellent Jewish Website kiruv resources in English, Russian and Hebrew.



THE BRACHA OF THE TOSOFOS YOM TOV! By clicking here, we provide in a handy, pocket-size format the Mi Shebeirach of the Tosofos Yom Tov to be recited in honor of those who do not talk in Shul during davening. This is not only a powerful bracha--it is a powerful lesson!




KASHANIM HATOVOS! In order to help ensure that we will recite V’sein Tal U’Matar Livracha--may we suggest an effort to focus on the splendid end of the Bracha--U’Vareich Shenaseinu KaShanim HaTovos--and bless our years like the good years.  What do we mean by the ‘good years’?  HaRav Chaim Kanievsky, Shlita, writes in his Sefer Ta’amah D’ikra, that this refers to two specific years--years in which the fruits were never as plentiful in Eretz Yisrael as they were in those two years.  These two years were: (i) the year that Bnei Yisrael entered Eretz Yisrael; and (ii) the year that Bnei Yisrael were exiled from Eretz Yisrael.  In the future, HaRav Chaim writes, all years will be like those years--and that is what we daven for with the words U’Vareich Shenaseinu KaShanim HaTovos--that we will be zoche to the Geulah--i.e., that time when all our years will be like those two years!  The Siddur Siach Yitzchak interprets the phrase as referring even to our times--explaining that we are davening for goodness in gashmiyus from which will come not additional ta’avos or a yeridah of any kind (as in Vayishman Yeshurun VaYivat--as one waxes fat, he may rebel), but rather goodness in gashmiyus from which will come Hatzlacha in ruchniyus--i.e., the opportunity to grow in Torah and Yiras Shomayim without deterrents and disturbances, just as the past good years when we were blessed with gashmiyus and ruchniyus together!  


SHIRA! In last week’s Parasha we received a great re-awakening from none other than the Sar Shel Esav as to the power of our daily morning prayers. The Sar tells Yaakov--”Shalchuni Ki Alah Hashachar--send me for dawn has broken” (Bereishis 32:27). Rashi explains why he wants to go--’because I have to sing shira!”  If we take a step back for but a moment--it is none other than the Sar of Esav who is expressing how he does not want to MISS THE OPPORTUNITY to sing shira to Hashem in the morning!  Oh, how we should treasure our Pesukei D’Zimra--and allow ourselves the time and opportunity to recite the words meaningfully--each and every day!



ACHARON ACHARON CHAVIV: HaRav Shach, Z’tl, asks why it really was that Yaakov Avinu, when about to encounter Esav, sent the sons of the Shefachos first, then the sons of Leah--and kept his especially beloved Rochel and Yosef last and most protected.  HaRav Shach provides an incredible p’shat, which he says is Emes L’Amito” The Shefachos and their sons suffered most, as because they had the least honor in the family, they were ba’alei yissurin--thereby attaining greater kapparah--and the greatest natural protection from Esav.  Next came Leah and her sons who were also lower in spirit because they were not the ikar of Yaakov’s household--so, although not as great as the Shefachos and their children, they too had a higher level of kapparah and protection afforded to them.  It was those who were chaviv--Rochel and Yosef who had to come Acharon, Acharon--last--because they had the least kapparah...and thus needed the most protection!




Special Note One:  We once again provide the following important test on the appropriate thought(s) before making a bracha rishona.


Which of the following thoughts would  DEFINITELY NOT be in order prior to making a bracha and partaking of food or drink:


a.  In Whose presence you are.


b.  What the bracha is on, including the incredible process that brought this item from its creation (in Eretz Yisroel, Idaho, China or your backyard) to your consumption.


c.  That you are consuming this item in order to have a strong and healthy body so that you can serve Hashem and fulfill your life’s purpose.


d. That  Gomel Nafsho Ish Chosed’--one who treats his body properly is  actually  performing a Chesed to none other than himself.


e.  That you intend to elevate the food by its consumption and  extract  the ‘nitzotzos of kedusha’ within the food.


f.  That the bracha you are making will include all other items in your home that you may also consume now that share this same bracha.


g.  That even if you move into another room within the house, your bracha in this room will lechatchila cover your consumption in all other rooms as well.


h.  That you have Hakaras HaTov to Hashem for this, and that you are not a ‘kofui tova’-one who does not properly recognize Hashem’s beneficence to you. Instead, you are expressing your thanks and praise to the Source of All Creations.


i. That making a bracha prior to eating is a Mitzvah D’Rabbanan, and making a bracha after eating is either a Mitzvah D’Oraysa or D’Rabbanan (depending on what you have eaten)--so that even the most basic physical act of eating ( which for the right reasons, is  a mitzvah in and of itself!) is ‘sandwiched’ by Mitzvos!


j. That the reason the food is providing you with nutrition and energy is not because “Al HaLechem Levado Yichye HaAdam” there is power within the bread itself, but rather “Ki Al Kol Motze Fi Hashem Yiche HaAdam”--only because Hashem wills it and orders it every single time you eat.


k. An animal is hungry, and I am hungry. An animal eats and I eat. Human beings live here on earth with animals, and are far, far away from the malochim. Actually, some even call us ‘two-legged animals’. Let me make a quick bracha now because this is what I know I’ve gotta do so that I can eat, and snatch some of that food.



 Special Note Two: We now continue our Monday/Thursday series on the practical aspects of Sta”m, written by Rabbi Reuvain Mendlowitz, Shlita, author of Inside Sta”m--An Insider Reveals The Answers To All The Questions You Should Ask When Purchasing Or Maintaining Tefillin, Mezuzos, Megillos, Sifrei Torah And Nevi’im. Of course, one should ask his own Rav or Posek in his particular circumstance or situation for a final p’sak.





There is no way that our community can afford the expense of having the Sifrei Nevi’im written on klaf. (We checked it out and discovered that it costs more than a Sefer Torah!) However, it was suggested to write a Sifra d’Aftarta instead. What exactly is a Sifra d’Aftarta – and should we should write one?





In their original enactment of reading a “haftarah” from Sifrei Nevi’im, Chazal intended that it be read from a complete sefer. So, for instance, if the week’s haftarah was from Sefer Yehoshua, they would read from a Sefer Yehoshua. However, it soon became apparent that many communities were not able to afford so many complete Sifrei Nevi’im. Nonetheless, there is a clear halachah which prohibits writing only portions of any of the twenty-four Sifrei Tanach. Rather, the entire sefer must be written. Faced with the possibility of being unable to continue reading the haftarah, Chazal chose instead to override the prohibition of writing only parts of individual Sefarim, and allowed the use of what became known as the Sifra d’Aftarta (Book of Haftaros). A Sifra d’Aftarta is a sefer written on kosher klaf with kosher ink, and contains all the haftaros read throughout the year. Many poskim rule that a Sifra d’Aftarta should be used when no properly written Sifrei Nevi’im are available. It costs less than ten percent of an entire set of Nevi’im.


Most contemporary poskim agree that this option is preferable to reading from printed Nevi’im.


Should a shul elect to have a full set of Sifrei Nevi’im written one by one – finding that to be the most affordable and practical approach – they would be well advised to commission the sefarim in the order in which they are most frequently used:


1. Yeshayahu

2. Trei Asar

3. Melachim

4. Yechezkel

5. Yirmeyahu

6. Shmuel

7. Yehoshua

8. Shoftim


(In some years, there will be minor variations in this order depending on a number of factors.)




13 Kislev

GREAT INSTRUCTIONS!  By clicking here, we provide the essential teachings of a Rav and Mechanech relating to Shalom Bayis, based upon his tens of years of experience. The Rav has provided us with these teachings l’luy l’nishmas Chaye Reizel bas HaRav Shlomo Leib, a’h.



THE THANK YOU’S ADD UP! “At the conclusion of the Siyum HaShas of Daf Yomi in the summer of 2012, as the tens of thousands of Jews filed out of MetLife Stadium, a policewoman was seen making notations on a small pad. When someone asked her what she was doing, she responded, “I am marking down how many people are saying ‘Thank you’ as they leave.” She was not used to this. People who gather in stadiums for football games or soccer matches are not in the habit of thanking the stadium personnel or security officers. This woman was profoundly moved by the sincere expressions of gratitude she was receiving. Those who thanked her and others like her sanctified Hashem’s Name with this simple but important gesture. They demonstrated that we are a people that does not take others’ efforts on our behalf for granted. We appreciate what others do for us and we express that appreciation. In a hedonistic, self-centered world, this is something that others take note of and admire. It raises their esteem for the Jewish people and brings glory to Hashem’s Name.” (Excerpted from Let There Be Rain: A Lesson a Day on Making Gratitude a Part of Our Lives (Lesson 72), by Rabbi Shimon Finkelman and Rabbi Zechariah Wallerstein)



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



YOUR MESSAGES ARE MALOCHIM! At the outset of last week’s Parasha, which describes Yaakov Avinu sending Malachim to Esav, Rashi writes that they were “Malachim Mammash--real angels.”  What does Rashi mean to add by teaching that they were real Malachim?  The Chofetz Chaim explains (in another context) that Hashem has many, many Malachim to do his work--and not all of them are angels. As Dovid Hamelech teaches us in Tehillim--”Oseh Malachav Ruchos--Hashem makes the winds His messengers”....  It is up to you to realize that Hashem is constantly sending you messages through what other human beings say or do to you, through natural phenomenon, through an event that occurred in front of your eyes, and through changes in the lives of those you know or are close to.  Yaakov Avinu was zoche to deal with Malachim mammash.  We may not be in a position to benefit from the assistance or teachings of the Malachim mammash--but we most certainly should recognize and benefit from the Hashgacha Pratis, direction in life and messages being related to us through Hashem’s messengers in all sizes, shapes and forms. As a simple starting point in getting used to a constant appreciation of Hashem’s care for you--the next time you are about to get angry, raise your voice or say the wrong thing to someone--stop and think--’wait a second he was Hashem’s messenger’!



AS THE WINTER APPROACHES: RICOLA--FROM KEHILAH KASHRUS OF FLATBUSH: Subsequent to a great deal of research by the CRC of Chicago, the following flavors of Ricola Drops have been found to be acceptable for use in our establishments TO THE EXCLUSION OF ALL OTHER RICOLA VARIETIES: Green Tea with Echinacea (sugar free), Honey Herb, Honey Lemon with Echinacea, Lemon Mint (sugar free), Lemon Mint, Lemon Verbena, Menthol (sugar free), Mountain Herb (sugar free), Natural Herb (original).”




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


1.  At the outset of Tikanta Shabbos in Mussaf, we recite the phrase “Tzivisa Peirusheha”--to what do these words refer?


2.  It is forbidden to tell a Non-Jew to do on your behalf anything that you personally cannot do on Shabbos.  Some rule that this is an Issur D’Oraysa (Kol Melacha Lo Yei’Aseh Bohem), and some rule that it is an Issur DeRabbanan (so that the Jew does not come to do a forbidden act on his own, or because it appears that the Gentile is simply doing the work as a Shaliach on the Jew’s behalf).  Additionally, it is generally forbidden to derive benefit on Shabbos (and Bichdei She’yaasu on Motza’ei Shabbos) from work performed on Shabbos by a Non-Jew with the Jew in mind (even if the Jew did not ask for it).  Indeed, a Jew should be ‘moche’--should try to stop the Gentile from performing such work (for silence implies consent). If the work was done on behalf of the Jew publicly--it is forever forbidden to the Jew, and he can never derive benefit from it.  Even if the Gentile is doing work for himself--but may add on to the melacha in order to benefit the Jew as well (such as putting up more water to boil)--it is forbidden to derive benefit from this work on Shabbos.  In a place where there is no Eruv, it is generally forbidden to give a Gentile anything that he may take outside even on his own behalf, for it will appear as if he is doing so for the Jew (Maris Ayin).  There are leniencies in certain instances Mipnei Darchei Shalom, but they must first be discussed with your Rav.  Additional Note:  If one speaks about doing Melacha to a Gentile--he will also violate the separate Issur of Daber Dovor.


3. If one makes Kiddush on Shabbos morning on beer or other chamar medina, and would like to immediately proceed to wash for the Seudah--should he recite a Borei Nefashos--or will the bentsching cover the beer (or schnapps or orange juice…) that he drank before the meal for Kiddush? The Shulchan Aruch HaRav (Orach Chaim 174:8) rules that the chamar medina is to be treated like wine for Kiddush in this respect--and accordingly no bracha acharona would be made; one should instead have in mind to have the bentsching serve as its bracha acharona.


4. From Sefer Refuas Yisrael by Rabbi Yisroel Pinchos Bodner, Shlita:  On Shabbos: “…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.


5.  Remind Others! In the face of the multitude of activities that may take place after Havdala, the mavdil should not forget to make a bracha acharona.  Instead, the mavdil should take care to drink a reviis of wine/grape juice immediately, and make the bracha achrona of al hagefen before folding his talis, cleaning up, etc.  [If the mavdil, however, is about to start a meal after Havdala, see Orach Chaim 299:8,9].



Special Note Two: The Rabbeinu Bachya writes that Yaakov bowed down to Eisav seven times before meeting him--in order to demonstrate (and instill within us) that although a Tzaddik may fall along the way seven times--he will finally arise and succeed!



Special Note Three:  In his classic work, In the Beginning, HaRav Avigdor Miller, Z’tl provides the following beautiful and extremely meaningful lessons on this week’s Parasha:


A. “VaYevorech Oso Shom”--the Malach of Eisav--the Satan--the Yetzer Hara-- blessed Yaakov.  We learn from here that the Yetzer Hara, when properly resisted by a person, proves to be his greatest blessing--for according to the effort is the reward (Avos 5:23).  If not for tests of virtue, life would be bereft of value.  The long night of battling the Evil Inclination in the darkness of this world is the greatest blessing to us, as Yaakov’s descendants!”


B. When Yaakov met Eisav--they wept (Bereishis 33:4).  We also find that when Yaakov met Rochel he wept (ibid. 29:11), and that Yosef wept when his brothers came (43:30, 45:2, and 45:15).  Additionally, Eisav and Yaakov embraced and kissed each other, Yaakov kissed Rochel, and Yosef embraced and kissed his brothers. We see that the family of Avrohom and Yitzchak express their love of kin in a highly emotional manner, and we learn from this that it is an excellence of the soul to love one’s kin with powerful emotion.  By loving one’s kin, one comes to love his kin’s kin, and eventually he attains the feeling that the entire K’lal Yisrael is his kin.  The perfection of character toward one person tends to spread, and is subsequently broadened to include others.  The fact that even Eisav ran toward his brother, embraced him, kissed him and wept demonstrates how deeply ingrained the fervent love of kin should be in family life.



Special Note Four:  We provide the following points and pointers on this week’s Parasha, Parashas Vayishlach:


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


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


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


The Pasuk states “Im Lavan Garti--I have sojourned with Lavan” (Bereishis 32:5).  Rashi notes: “Yet I kept the 613 Mitzvos.” HaRav Zilberstein comments:  “R’ Gershon Kalivensky told me something about the self-sacrifice of Jews for Mitzvos, even in the land of their enemies-and especially for the Mitzvah of Tefillah:  “During all the years that we were in Siberia , our ‘library’ consisted of a single Sefer--a Siddur.  And even that would not have remained with us, if not for the incredible self-sacrifice of my righteous mother, who guarded that Siddur fiercely and would not let the suspicious Siberian police steal it from her. The police conducted a search through our barracks, and found the stained Siddur.  They wanted to take it away with them. My mother, with all the meager strength in her body, refused to let them so much as touch it with their polluted hands. Those accursed men stared at her sternly--a stare that meant something much more menacing than a punishment.  In Siberia that kind of stare meant only one thing--a bullet to the head.  But, amazingly, those evil men backed down from the confrontation and left us alone. I shook with fear. Had those policemen decided to shoot Mother, r’l, there would seemingly have been no one to defend her, for anyone who dared open his mouth would have been finished.  However, at that moment, I witnessed with my own eyes fulfillment of the verse (Tehillim 97:10), ‘He guards the lives of His devout ones; from the hand of the wicked He saves them.’  I later passed this story on to my children and grandchildren, along with the message that a Jew need not fear anyone--no matter what happens.  A Jew fears only Hashem.”         


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


Additional Note: One example of Ivri on these short Shabbosos, is the proper performance of the Mitzvah of Shalosh Seudos.  Neither the Torah nor Chazal provide an exception for the third meal in the shorter, winter months.  Neither man nor woman should fall prey to the weak attitude of those who may be around him, and should plan ahead (perhaps eating less at the earlier Seudah) in order to properly fulfill this Mitzvah.  Chazal teach that one who eats three meals on Shabbos is saved from three puroniyos--three difficult times-- the Din of Gehinnom, the Chevlei Moshiach, and the Milchemes Gog Umagog.  This teaching is, in reality, quoted in the Mishna Berurah, a Halacha work, in Shulchan Aruch, Orach Chaim, 291, seif katan 1.


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


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


D.  A second essential teaching on the battle of Yaakov and the Sar Shel Eisav:  The Aish Kodesh on Parashas VaYishlach (Bereishis 32: 27,28) poses two important questions:  Firstly, after the Sar Shel Eisav injured Yaakov, why did Yaakov ask him for a bracha--who needed a bracha from this mazik?  Moreover, hadn’t he already received a bracha from Hashem Himself--what more did he need?!  Secondly, why did the Sar Shel Eisav have to ask Yaakov his name--and why, upon hearing it, did he change it?  The Aish Kodesh astoundingly explains that Yaakov, by asking for the bracha, was establishing a precedent for his descendants (based upon Ma’aseh Avos Siman LeBanim)--he wanted a havtacha that after this “injury” something great--a yeshua--would come from it.  He asked for an assurance that when Bnei Yisrael have yissurim it should lead to bracha--not merely an ending of the yissurim--but an actual beginning of salvation and a showering of blessing.  The Sar Shel Eisav acquiesced to Yaakov’s request. Accordingly, he advised Yaakov that although you are called Yaakov now--i.e., getting brachos only after yissurim--your name will be changed to “Yisrael” and you will receive brachos without having to suffer first!  May we be zoche soon to always be referred to as Yisrael!


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


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


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


G. At the end of the Parasha, the Torah devotes 43 Pesukim to Eisav’s descendants.  Why?  We suggest that these special passages help us appreciate the Torah’s great and unfathomable depth.  If the Torah was simply telling us a story or giving us a genealogy lesson--most of us would undoubtedly just turn the page--for after all, our inner feelings would say: what interest do we have in this mumar’s descendants?! How could someone like this grow up in Yitzchak’s house anyways?  Who needs or wants these wicked and unwanted relatives?  It is obvious then that Sodos HaTorah--thoughts, ideas and principles beyond the average person’s grasp are placed into these words and letters.  Rather than let the words fly by us during Krias HaTorah--we should be awed and mesmerized by their deeper connotations currently not known to us--the Kedushas HaTorah! Most certainly, when the Moshiach comes we will have a lot to learn.  Until then, we must try to properly honor and respect the Great and Holy Treasure that has been handed down to us. It is much more than a priceless diamond--it is a limitless one!



12 Kislev



1. “I noticed that a few months ago when I was in Lakewood that BMG has on the entrances to the main Bais Hamidrash something to the effect that whoever enters the Bais Hamidrash with his cell phone on is there bli reshus. The notice is signed by each of the Roshei Yeshiva”.


2. “As an ordinary Ba’al HaBayis, I write this email with a measure of awe and trepidation.  However, since I have not heard the following message from more worthy proponents, I feel a powerful imperative to propose that we set the bar higher for upgrading our Tefilos and Kedushas Bais HaKeneses than simply controlling cell phone use and precluding conversations in Shul B’Sha’as HaTefilla.  A Ben Torah can and should afford the Mitzvos of Talmud Torah and Tefilla the time and focus each deserves.  Hence, the highly prevalent practice of reading/learning a Sefer during the “down-time” of Psukei Di’Zimrah and Birchos Krias Shma (and the “premeditated” practice of davening ahead of the Shaliach Tzibur for the purpose of garnering learning time) should be abandoned by all serious Bnei Torah.  Once implemented, one can proceed to train himself to listen intently, B’Kavanah, to the full Chazaras HaShatz.  To underscore, Torah and Tefilla should each be afforded its own independent time and Kavanah focus. “Zman Torah L’Chud U’Zman Tefilla L’Chud.”  Otherwise, the message we send to our children and to our peers (and, most fundamentally, to ourselves) is that the Seder HaTefilla is not sufficiently engaging to us to “hold our attention” during its designated time.  I ask the forgiveness of any reader who is perturbed by this proposal or feels it is overly bold or hypercritical of practices of the Klal.”




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



Special Note Two: We provide the following Halachos relating to the recital of VeSein Tal U’Matar Livracha, written by Rabbi Yisroel Dov Webster, Shlita, for review and study:


1. If one omitted “VeSein Tal U’Matar Livracha” during the winter months, and remembered while still in middle of the bracha of Bareich Aleinu, before saying the Hashem’s name at the end, he should return to “ VeSein Tal U’Matar Livracha” and continue from there once again.


2. If one already said Hashem’s name at the end of the bracha, one does not go back, but rather finishes the bracha and continues until the bracha of Shema Koleinu. In Shema Koleinu, before one says Ki Ata near the end of the bracha one adds the words VeSein Tal U’Matar Livracha (and no further text) and then continues with Ki Ata and concludes the bracha of Shema Koleinu. (Shulchan Aruch (117:5), Kitzur Shulchan Aruch (19:6) and Kaf HaChaim (117:37)).  The Aruch HaShulchan (117:6) seems to say that according to some, additional words are added, i.e. “Al Pnei Ha’adama…”, presumably in order to say a complete thought.


3. If one finished the bracha of Shema Koleinu but remembered before the bracha of Retzei was started, then one may just say the words VeSein Tal U’Matar Livracha and continue with Retzei. (Shulchan Aruch (117:5)


4. If one remembered after one started Retzei but did not recite the second Yihyu L’Ratzon in Elokai Netzor (i.e., for those who say it twice, the second time), then one should go back to the beginning of the bracha of Bareich Aleinu and remember to say V’Sein Tal U’Matar Livracha and then continue from there once again until the end of Shemone Esrei again. (ibid.)


5. If one is in doubt as to whether one said VeSein Tal U’Matar Livracha, the following rule applies. If it is in within the first thirty days, we assume that one was still used to the old text of V’Sein Bracha and therefore it was left out and one needs to repeat the entire Shemone Esrei. (See Shulchan Aruch (114:8) and Mishna Berurah seif katan 37). After thirty days we assume that one remembered to say it.


6. The reason for this thirty-day rule is not so much due to its being a month, but rather because one has recited ninety Tefillos in that period, and once something is said or done ninety times, it becomes “second nature”. (See Mishna Berurah (114:37))


7.  Based on the above minimum of ninety Tefillos, some Poskim suggest to say “V’Sein Tal U’Matar Livracha” ninety times in succession. If this is done, the entire segment of the bracha should be said, “…Ve’es Kol Minei Sevuasah L’Tovah, VeSein Tal U’Matar Livracha Al Pnei Ha’adama”.  Once this is done, anytime one is in doubt he can assume that it was said with the proper insertion. (See Shulchan Aruch (114:9) and Mishna Berurah seif katan 39-44).


8. All the Halachos stated above apply equally to men and women.



Special Note Three: We now continue our Monday/Thursday series on the practical aspects of Sta”m, written by Rabbi Reuvain Mendlowitz, Shlita, author of Inside Sta”m--An Insider Reveals The Answers To All The Questions You Should Ask When Purchasing Or Maintaining Tefillin, Mezuzos, Megillos, Sifrei Torah And Nevi’im. Of course, one should ask his own Rav or Posek in his particular circumstance or situation for a final p’sak.









Why has it become ever more popular in recent years for Shuls to commission the writing of Sifrei Nevi’im (Books of Prophets)? Did no member of Klal Yisrael fulfill his Rabbinic obligation to read or hear the Haftarah for the last 1,500 years?!





To answer this question, we must first understand the history of the Haftarah, and then all should become clear.


According to most authorities the Haftarah originated during, or shortly after, the time of the second Beis HaMikdosh when a law was enacted by the gentile rulers in Eretz Yisrael prohibiting the reading of the Torah. In lieu of the Torah reading, the Sages instituted the reading of Nevi’im, which had not been included in the prohibition. (Both the theme, length, and brachos of the Haftarah were intended to remind us of the weekly Torah reading, with its seven aliyos: the Haftarah is not less than twenty-one pesukim – three pesukim for each of the seven aliyos to the Torah – and a total of seven berachos are recited over it.)


The Nevi’im have to be written with kosher ink and, according to many, on kosher klaf as well.


The Gemara discusses the concept of the Sifra d’Aftarta – a complete sefer written on klaf with kosher ink containing only the Haftaros (without the rest of each sefer). It concludes that the Haftarah may be read from such a sefer. Indeed, only due to various leniencies was the Haftarah not read from klaf throughout the generations. For this reason a number of later authorities encouraged the reinstatement of writing Nevi’im on klaf (especially the Gaon of Vilna) and even considered it a higher priority than enhancing the aesthetic beauty of a Shul.


Although communities that continue to read the Haftarah from a printed sefer do have a halachic basis for their practice, it is certainly praiseworthy for any community which has sufficient means to use Sifrei Nevi’im written on klaf.




11 Kislev

FROM A READER: In response to the Har Nof Massacre, the following sign (with a sign-up sheet underneath) was posted in Sha’arei Tefillah in Providence , Rhode Island :


Dear Fellow Mispallelim, In an attempt to strengthen ourselves and strengthen our Shul, many in our Shul have taken upon themselves to refrain from any talking throughout the entire davening on Shabbos, for the month of Kislev. This includes all Tefillos from Mincha on Friday afternoon until Maariv on Motzaei Shabbos.  We ask you to please join us in creating the proper decorum in our Mikdash Me’at, our Shul. Thank you, Sha’arei Tefilla.


Hakhel Note: As we noted earlier in the week, we understand that Shuls are establishing cell phone takanos as well. If your Shul has not undertaken anything specific of yet, perhaps you can be in the forefront of instituting something meaningful--something for the Kedoshim, and something for the generation.



DAN L’CHAF ZECHUS! Rabbi Naftali Kaplan, Shlita, provides a wonderful suggestion for improvement in judging others favorably: Try to find and write down two or three examples a day (day after day) in which you judge another in a favorable light--even if the favorable light is a highly unlikely one. The cheshbon is a simple one. Every person has faults, and knows of them. Yet, he tries to justify or explain his actions whether for this reason, that reason or various and sundry reasons. Every person has his own background and his own experiences. Chazal teach (Avos 1: 6): “Hevei Dan Es Kol Ha’adam L’Chaf Zechus--judge the entire person with favor”. HaRav Yaakov Yitzchok Ruderman, Z’tl, explains that Ha’adam refers to the entirety of the other person--which is something that no other person can know. You may understand 20% of another person, or perhaps 40%, 60%, or even 80%. However, you will never understand 100% of another person’s thoughts and actions. Moreover, when one judges another unfavorably, he is feeling superiority over that person--and that is wrong. On the other hand, Chazal clearly provide the wonderful reality that when one judges another favorably, he is judged favorably in Heaven as well--and this is for eternity! There are exactly two weeks until Chanukah--try writing down two or three examples a day, and see whether you can build your mental muscles in Dan L’Chaf Zechus! 



PAST, PRESENT AND FUTURE: In a recent Shiur, Rabbi Yosef Eisen, Shlita, related in the name of an Adam Gadol that the past is chalomos, the future is dimyonos, and the present is nisyonos. Alternatively, the past is your rebbi, the future should be your talmid, and the present is your best friend!



ENJOYING OLAM HAZEH! It is reported that when HaRav Shmuel Berenbaum, Z’tl, was told of a certain gvir who gave in the 5-6 figures daily to Tzedakah, he was very impressed, and added: “I don’t know who will have a greater Olam Haba, but I am privileged to learn Torah all day--so I don’t think that he can have a greater Olam Hazeh than I do!”


Additional Note: The Torah records that the fifth son of Leah was Yissachar, and her sixth son was Zevulun.  We know that Yissachar symbolizes the diligent study of Torah, and Zevulun --its unwavering support.  We may suggest that there is a great lesson in the juxtaposition of their births.  As great as the support of Torah is—what is first needed is the assiduous dedication to Torah--its support is an opportunity that is only thereafter then afforded to us.  We should hold in the highest esteem those who apply themselves to full time study—for only after the birth of Yissachar is there an opportunity of Zevulun to come into existence .  First and foremost, the Torah is an ‘Eitz Chaim He’ in and of itself--we are then blessed with the opportunity to be machazikim ba—who grasp on to it by supporting those who study.  When you are approached asking to help support a Yeshiva or student—remember it is only after Yissachar that Zevulun honorably follows!




Special Note One:  At the outset of last week’s Parasha, we learn that after Yaakov Avinu saw his great vision—”Vayashkaim Yaakov BaBoker –Yaakov arose early in the morning” (Bereishis 28:18) in anticipation of a great new day in his life. In huge contrast, we find exactly the same term “Vayashkaim Lavan BaBoker –and Lavan arose early in the morning” (Bereishis 32:1)  in order to get away from Yaakov and everything he represented as quickly as possible, and go back to his regular despicable lifestyle. Yaakov and Lavan were at opposite ends of the spectrum—but each was in a great rush to get to where he felt his life should be.  We must take the lesson when we arise each morning—there are those who will energize themselves each morning leaning towards Lavan’s lifestyle, goal and purpose. We must balance this approach with a hearty Vayashkaim BaBoker of our own very much weighted in the direction of Yaakov Avinu--as Yaakov, looking forward to a day of Hashem’s blessing and protection, a day of purpose, a day of successfully meeting any challenges that face us, a day of fulfillment. As we awake in the morning, let us appreciate that morning of Vayashkaim Yaakov BaBoker—and make it our day’s guiding light as well!



Special Note Two: We provide just a few highlights from Hakhel’s recent Yarchei Kallah. To obtain CD’s of these meaningful Shiurim, we urge you to call 718-252-5274:


A. Based upon the Shiur of Rabbi Yisroel Reisman, Shlita:


1. Dovid HaMelech exclaims (Tehillim 24:3): “Mi Ya’aleh V’Har Hashem U’Mi Yakum Bimkom Kadsho”. There is a difference between going up to the Har Hashem--and actually staying there. After one has exerted an initial spiritual effort to grow, he has to stay with it, not allowing himself to falter. Just as a bad habit sticks in a negative way--one must make the habit of coming to Shul as one of the first 10, establishing a set learning time and not deviating from it, reciting Shemone Esrei (and especially the first bracha) with a level of Kavannah especially in these troubled times AS THE NORM, as the way one has set and established his conduct--as his way of life. Fascinatingly, Rabbi Reisman points out, the Hebrew word for victory, Netzach, is also the word for permanence. Accordingly, the Yetzer Hara does great battle not to allow new good ways to become entrenched, and this is why the second, third and fourth times are more and more difficult than one’s first attempt at improvement. Dovid HaMelech highlights this for us with the teaching of (Tehillim 27:14): “Kavei Ehl Hashem Chazak V’ya’ameitz Libecha V’Kavei Ehl Hashem”--the second act of Kavei Ehl Hashem requires a new Chazak V’Ameitz--a strengthening of oneself in order to overcome the Yetzer Hara’s strong resistance to one’s improvement, to one’s attempt at elevating himself.


2. In Galus, many of us spend most of our day in an environment that tries to pull us the wrong way. This is certainly a reason to daven for the Geulah. However, it should be far from us to admit defeat and not rise up to the challenge. Those who go to work and feel that their ‘best years’--their years in Yeshiva and in a Torah-only environment--are behind them are very much mistaken. If one maintains his Shemiras Einayim, still keeps to a meaningful learning schedule, conducts his interactions with others with a theme of Kiddush Hashem, and davens sincerely--he is also living his ‘best years’--in the present!


3. Why do Yeshivos stress a dress code for davening--isn’t that form over substance? Absolutely not--it is really very sensible and meaningful. Picture an akum entering a fast-food restaurant for a quick $1.99 meal. He may be dressed in a T-shirt and shorts, perhaps barefoot, and possibly unshowered and unshaven. Then consider another individual who has been invited to a repast at the Waldorf Astoria celebrating a gallery opening. He will most certainly be dressed in his finest (perhaps even renting or purchasing formal wear), fully groomed and having spent good time preparing for the event. When a person approaches Tefillah, he must consider its value to him. Is it like the $1.99 meal--or like the $199 meal? The environment is up to you--and this is not only true for those who study in Yeshiva--it is a choice each and every day--for one’s entire life!


B. Based upon the Shiur of Rabbi Yosef Viener, Shlita:


1. When one wants to perfect something, such as a report for work, he will review it and fix it a fourth time, a fifth time, a sixth time. We have to view ruchniyus in the same way. We all believe that we are good. The difference between good and fantastic is the extra few minutes to work towards perfection. When one is more pressured or times are more difficult and one is still able to do more--his accomplishments are all the greater.


2. In this very fast-paced world, when everything and everyone seems to be moving faster and faster, we can justify our lack of proper middos based upon the exigencies of the world around us. We would be much better served if we could envision a neon sign in front of us that flashed: “THIS IS A TEST”! If one ‘sees the sign’, he will respond successfully. In fact, the most appropriate or favorable response may be to be simply remain silent--or simply hold on and not respond or react in any way for 30 seconds or so. Whatever the appropriate response may be--the recognition of the Nisayon is a great step towards success!


3. When was the last time you blew up at your boss? Yes--you can control yourself! If this is true for your employer--then it can and most certainly should be true for your spouse, children, immediate family members and friends!


4. Never say: “This is the way I am”, “I can’t change”, or “This is not something that I can work on”. You can, you should, you must!


5. After so many years, why did Chana finally succeed in her Tefillos for a son? One answer is that the time for Shmuel to enter and help the world had now come. It was for the sake of K’lal Yisrael. We never know when, how or why our Tefillos are answered, nor why they are answered in the way that they are. In our generation, we don’t know how or when the Geulah will finally come. If we do what we are supposed to do--in the best possible way--we may find that we have done the right thing--at the right time!




10 Kislev

IMPORTANT INSTRUCTION FROM THE ROSH! In the Orchos Chaim LaRosh (20), the Rosh instructs: “Yaniach Kol Asakav VeYispallel--one must put to the side all of his business dealings and all matters that could distract him, in order to engage in direct and meaningful prayer to Hashem.” Perhaps, at least before beginning Shemone Esrei, we should think of these four words--”Yaniach Kol Asakav Veyispallel--clearing our heads for the great and comparable opportunity before us!”



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




Special Note One:  Today is the 10th day of Kislev--two months from the 10th of Tishrei --Yom Kippur (!).  We may add that it is certainly not just another one of those coincidences that the Haftarah for this past Shabbos actually incorporated the Shabbos Shuva Haftarah of “Shuva Yisrael Ahd Hashem Elokecha--return, Israel , to Hashem your G-d.”  The Yetzer Hara, disguising himself as Mother Nature, the cold of winter [for those in the northern hemisphere] or whatever else you may want to call him (Chazal say he has seven names) makes sure to remind us that we’ve got to slow down now--after all, birds fly south, animals hibernate, it’s dark when we wake up in the morning and already dark again in the late afternoon by the time we get home.  He shows us how cold, nasty or treacherous it is to go outside to the shiur or do the chesed, and how easy--and “important”--it is to turn over in bed just one (or two) more times.  Our response must be that we are not weakened by the external stimuli, by what the world looks like or does around us, but instead remember Shuva Yisrael--always keep your priorities straight, and keep the proper focus.  Today, on our Asiri LaKodesh, let us invigorate ourselves with a fresh breath of cold air--as we invite in the challenges of winter with a renewal of our own, personalized Avodas Hashem in a way that only we ourselves would know---and be proud of!



Special Note Two: HaRav Mattisyahu Salomon, Shlita, brings an amazing story that he himself heard from HaRav Shmuel Greineman, Z’tl: There was once a gathering at the house of the Chofetz Chaim which was attended by the Roshei Yeshivos in order to find a way to fund the Yeshivos and provide food for the Talmidei HaYeshivos. Those gathered sat together for an extended period of time but could not come to any conclusion, and agreed to reconvene the next day. The Chofetz Chaim was very pained and remained sitting in his place. HaRav Greineman, who was in attendance, could not bear to see the Chofetz Chaim so pained, and decided to rest with the hope that he could come up with an idea. He came up with what he thought was a fantastic idea. He was going to put on Tefillin the next morning. Since Tefillin is such a great Mitzvah, it must be that the reward for it would be enough to support all of the Yeshivos on an ongoing basis. He was therefore prepared to give his reward for the Mitzvah of Hanachas Tefillin that day to the Yeshivos--so that they could sustain themselves on an ongoing basis. Before he did so, however, he wanted to make sure that this was the right thing to do, and went to the Chofetz Chaim--who was still sitting and thinking in the same place. He approached the Chofetz Chaim and told him: “Rebbi, I have found the solution!” The Chofetz Chaim’s face lit up and asked him what it was. HaRav Greineman answered that he was going to give his reward in the Mitzvah of Tefillin today to the Yeshivos, so that they could support themselves! The Chofetz Chaim looked at Rav Greineman, smiled and said: “Mein Kihnd--my son, the Ribono Shel Olam will not accept this.” The Chofetz Chaim then went on to explain: “If a small child found a check for a million rubles on the street, he would probably take it to the candy store thinking that he could obtain a bag of candy for it. What would a responsible storeowner do upon looking at the check--would he take it for a bag of candy?! Of course not--he must tell the child that the check is worth much more than a bag of candy, and that the child should take it to his father.” The Chofetz Chaim then powerfully advised: “If you would only know how much more putting on Tefillin just one time is worth than supporting all of the Yeshivos! Hashem will most certainly not accept your request! This is what Chazal mean when they teach that there is no reward that can be given for a Mitzvah in this world--the whole world is not enough to satisfy the greatness achieved by the performance of one Mitzvah!”


Hakhel Note: One should contemplate how great the performance of each and every Mitzvah is. Before putting on Tefillin every morning--men can certainly think of this story. We can also think of the same story before the myriad of Mitzvos that we perform as well. With this, we can very well appreciate Rabbi Miller’s comment above on Kosi Revaya--o’ how my cup runs over--in this world and the next! Perhaps we can even repeat this phrase to ourselves several times during the day!




9 Kislev

ENLIGHTEN YOUR EYES ! Now that we have concluded our short series on Shemiras Einayim from the wonderful Sefer: V’Haeir Eineinu: Enlighten Our Eyes, A Practical Guide to Shemiras Einayim, we would like to provide you with international numbers to obtain the entire Sefer in Hebrew and English. In the USA, please call Rabbi Sonenzon: 732-363-8033, in Eretz Yisrael: Bnei Brak, Goldschmidt: 03-616-4314, Yerushalayim, Sheler: 02-623-5786, and in England, Gukovitzki: 0191-340-4278.



FROM RABBI AVIGDOR MILLER, Z’TL: “While you are still alive, think every day how lucky you are that you can accomplish something! Every day, you can say: ‘I love You Hashem!’ It is worth living just for that alone.” (Rabbi Avigdor Miller Speaks, by Rabbi Simcha Bunim Cohen, Artscroll/Mesorah, quoted in Lesson 69 of Let There Be Rain by Rabbi Shimon Finkelman and Rabbi Zechariah Wallerstein)



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



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



THREE POSSIBLE REACTIONS IN SHUL: Many Rabbanim felt that because the Har Nof Massacre occurred within the Kedusha of a Beis Haknesses, the lesson should not be forgotten--and every Beis Haknesses should institute a tikun relating to its Kedusha. Because our generation in the last few years in particular has been plagued by the appearance and use of cell phones, iPhones and smartphones within the Beis Haknesses, we provide three alternatives to this affront, which have been actually implemented in Shuls:


1. Rabbi Eliezer Ginsburg, Shlita (Agudath Israel Snif Zichron Shmuel) provides lockers and keys, for the phones to be placed before entering shul. We understand that the phones can even be charged while in the locker! Rabbi Ginsburg has up to 180 lockers for other Shuls, available free of charge. If this alternative could be used by your Shul, please call him immediately at 718-645-4698 (please leave a message).


2. “Please respect the Kavod HaMakom by turning off your ringer and do NOT talk on a cell phone after you enter.  Thank you.” This is what the sign reads in Rabbi Yosef Eisen’s shul (K’hal Kollel Bnai Torah).


3.  “In order to maintain the Kedushas Hamakom and reverence for Tefillah, our Shul’s policy to be strictly enforced by our Gaboim is that no cell phones, iPhones or smartphones of any kind may be taken out in the Beis Haknesses before, during or after times of Tefillah--whether one is actually davening or not. If you have an important call, text or email of any kind to make or to read, you must step out into the hallway. In this zechus, may all of our tefillos in this Makom Kadosh reach the Kisei Hakavod B’rachamim.” This is the policy instituted in Rabbi Moshe Tuvia Lieff’s shul (Agudath Israel Bais Binyomin).


Hakhel Note: Please read, and re-read the above new policies. If you can take part in your Shul’s improvement in Kedushas Beis Haknesses--we urge you from the bottom of our hearts to do so!



STARTLING QUESTION OF THE DAY : The Pasuk in last week’s Parasha (Bereishis 30:26) teaches us that Yaakov asked Lavan permission to leave: “Tena Es Nashai V’es Yeladai…V’aileicha--give me my wives and my children…and I will go.” The Pesukim then continue, however, that Yaakov Avinu and Lavan then went on to discuss and implement various financial payment arrangements for Yaakov’s services. As a result, Yaakov Avinu and his family did not leave until he ran away (as described more than 30 pesukim later)--six years later! Why didn’t Yaakov Avinu leave immediately--right then and there, without regard to Lavan’s payment? At first blush, was all of this worth it to stay with a terrible rasha and outside of Eretz Yisrael? Moreover, don’t we know that Avraham Avinu refused to accept payment for his services from the king of Sedom and clearly stated: “Velo Somar Ani He’esharti Es Avraham--so you will not say it is I who made Avrohom rich” (Bereishis 14:23).


Additional Note: We always appreciate reader responses to our questions. A reader wrote to us: “Regarding Question One about Rochel and Leah commenting about how they will be left out of their father’s estate rather than focusing on Hashem’s instructions, Rabbi Ozer Alport asks this question in his weekly Dvar Torah and answers from Rav Moshe Feinstein, Zt’l. Rav Moshe Feinstein answers that Rochel and Leah gave this explanation to teach that a person should not view the performance of Mitzvos as difficult. If one understands that doing Mitzvos will not result in financial loss or other setbacks, it will be much easier to do them. For this reason, they stressed that they would not be incurring any financial loss by following Hashem’s command because Lavan would not have given them a portion of his estate even if they remained, and as a result, following Hashem’s instructions was much less of a challenge. He adds that transmitting this insight to children is critical in ensuring that they will remain observant when they get older. If they view Mitzvos as burdens which their parents were strong enough to handle, (“Shver Tzu Zein A Yid”) they may choose to opt out, but if they appreciate that keeping mitzvos will not cost a person, they will be much more likely to continue doing so.” Hakhel Note: This wonderful teaching brought by Rabbi Alport may be found in the Sefer Darash Moshe. There, Rav Moshe adds that even if a person came to America and was Moser Nefesh for 50 years to be Shomer Shabbos--if he complained about it, his children could very well not be frum. Amazingly, this teaching is so true--that a wholly unrelated Sefer, Darkei Mussar, by Rav Yaakov Neiman, Z’tl, asks the same question, and gives the same answer!




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



Special Note Two: We now continue our Monday/Thursday series on the practical aspects of Sta”m, written by Rabbi Reuvain Mendlowitz, Shlita, author of Inside Sta”m--An Insider Reveals The Answers To All The Questions You Should Ask When Purchasing Or Maintaining Tefillin, Mezuzos, Megillos, Sifrei Torah And Nevi’im. Of course, one should ask his own Rav or Posek in his particular circumstance or situation for a final p’sak.





Some suggest using atzei chaim (staves) made of titanium since they are much lighter, while others prefer silver or even gold to beautify the mitzva. Now someone mentioned that atzei chaim must be made from wood. Is that so?





No, that is incorrect. Although the prevailing custom is to make them from wood, atzei chaim may be made from any suitable substance. And indeed there would be an “inyan” to beautify them.





I hired a sofer to write a Sefer Torah for me. He is about halfway through, but the work is schlepping forever. It is taking almost twice as long as it was supposed to. Is there any halachic reason not to switch sofrim in the middle of writing a Sefer Torah?




Although a Sefer Torah written by two sofrim may cause some people to feel uneasy and indeed the poskim address the issue from a halachic standpoint the prevailing custom is to allow such a practice. Indeed, one finds that many Sifrei Torah were written by more than one sofer. Obviously, this is limited to the aspect of the question relating to STA”M. As far as breaking contracts, financial obligations, and all other monetary issues, a competent halachic authority must be consulted.


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