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19 Teves



“Be somebody

who makes everybody

feel like a somebody”


Hakhel Note: To subscribe to Think Hashem Daily email: ThinkHashem@gmail.com.



SHALOM RAV: In Nusach Ashkenaz at Mincha and Ma’ariv, and at Nusach Sefard at Ma’ariv, we begin the last bracha of Shemone Esrei with the words “Shalom Rav”. What does Shalom Rav mean? The Kuntres Avodas HaTefillah writes that when we recite these two short and simple words, we are asking for Shalom HaKollel Harbeh Shelomos--peace that includes many forms of peace…peace from war, peace from jealousy, peace in health of mind and body, peace at home, peace with one’s possessions, and peace from all happenings, instances and occurrences. These two brief words are packed with meaning. With the proper Kavannah…they can bring us a long and powerful way!



FROM GALUS TO GEULAH! In this week’s Parasha, we learn of the horrific plight of Bnei Yisrael at the hands of the Mitzriyim. Yet, by the time we reach the middle of the second aliyah--Moshe Rabbeinu is born! We then proceed for the balance of Parashas Shemos, and will continue in Va’eirah, Bo and Beshalach--with the seeds of and the actual Geulah! This should give us a tremendous feeling of chizuk for the future. Although this Galus has been so difficult and so very long--the Geulah once it comes will vastly overshadow it and continue for a much longer period--actually forever and ever!



THE CLOTHES QUESTION: A popular question relating to Yetziyas Mitzrayim is: If we did not change our clothing and did not wear what the Mitzriyim wore-- this being one of our zechusim for Geulah--why then did we take their finest clothing (semalos) with us when we left? HaRav Chaim Kanievsky, Shlita, answers that the clothing that we took with us had to be changed in some way--and so was in fact symbolic of our not wearing their clothing the way they did! Perhaps we can analogize it in our day to taking those designer names off the shirts, jackets and other articles of clothing….in preparation for our Geulah!



HASHEM ELOKEINU:  A Rav pointed out to us that in Birkas HaMazon--other than in the conclusion of each of the four brachos themselves--wherever Hashem’s Name is mentioned, it is mentioned as Hashem Elokeinu--Hashem our G-d. This demonstrates to us the great level of Hashgacha Pratis that each and every one of us experiences--even down to the particular food that one had just eaten at his meal. Hakhel Note: Oh--how we should rejoice over the Hashgacha Pratis each time we recite Hashem Elokeinu in bentsching!




Special Note One:  Points and pointers on the Shovavim period we are in:


A.  The Sefer Chovos HaLevavos (Sha’ar HaTeshuva, Chapter 7) writes:  “There is an old saying: No sin is small, if one persists in it.  No sin is great, if one seeks forgiveness for it!”


B.  The Sefer Peleh Yo’etz under the topic Ta’anis writes that any time one reduces a Hana’ah of Olam Hazeh in order to attain Kaparas Avonos--it is called a Ta’anis.  Indeed, he adds that, in his opinion, for those who are weaker or are involved in Meleches Shomayim, it is better to eat just bread than to voluntarily fast--for if one eats bread he fulfills a Mitzva Asei D’Oraysa of bentsching, as well as several Mitzvos DeRabbanan [including the opportunity to recite Asher Kideshanu BeMitzvosav upon washing one’s hands!].


C.  The Satmar Rebbe, Z’tl, taught that one cannot truly fathom the accomplishment of Teshuvas HaRabbim.  He writes that what can take an individual a very long time to accomplish can be accomplished by the Rabbim--B’Rega--in a minute.  Based on this great Yesod--may we suggest that if at all possible you arrange a Shiur during the Shovavim period so that the Rabbim can benefit--and the unfathomable can be accomplished!



Special Note Two:  Rabbi Moshe Tuvia, Lieff, Shlita, provided two insights into the phrase in this week’s Parasha “VeHinei Na’ar Boche”--and the child was crying, ostensibly referring to Moshe Rabbeinu after having been discovered by Paroh’s daughter.  First--what was he crying about--after all, wasn’t he about to be saved?!  To this question, HaRav Meir Shapiro, Z’tl, answers that he was crying for the other babies that were not being saved.  In his moment of success and salvation--Moshe was thinking about others.  What a great lesson for us--even if we are well, even if we have a Parnassa, even if matters are otherwise on track--we must still put our heart and soul into our prayers--not only for ourselves for every ounce of continued life comes from Hashem --but to help others as well!  For the second lesson, Rabbi Lieff brought the Midrash and Ba’al HaTurim, which points out that the Na’ar referred to here was actually not the baby Moshe who was too young to be called a ‘Na’ar’, but it was his older brother Aharon--who was crying over the fact that Moshe would be raised in a foreign and alien environment.  Both messages lead to the same result--we must be sure that our Kavannah-filled Tefillos are not only for ourselves, but for others as well.  It is obvious that thinking about the Mitzvah of VeAhavta LeReiacha Kamocha before davening (as the Arizal directs) not only brings Achdus into our Tefillos--but also allows us to bring the plight of others into our minds and hearts as well.  If one has prayed--and realizes that he had prayed for himself and not for others--then let him at the time of this realization daven for others (in specific ways) as well!



Special Note Three:  Rabbi Yosef Eisen, Shlita relates how HaRav Pam, Z’tl, would constantly relate a great lesson he learned from another Rav regarding Chinuch.  The Pasuk (Shemos 4:3) states that when Moshe Rabbeinu threw down the Mateh, his staff from his hand, it immediately became a snake. Yet, when he picked it up--holding on even only to its tail, it became a staff in his hand.  With this incident, Moshe Rabbeinu, as a teacher of the multitudes, was being taught how to treat all--even the weakest and poorest of his students and disciples.  If you cast them down, they will end up as snakes--by and through your doing.  On the other hand, if you grab hold of them--even to any part of them, they can be rebuilt into the Mateh--and we all know the mateh’s subsequent history.  It is, then, very much up to the teacher, the Rebbi, the Partner-In-Torah, the Ben Torah, to demonstrate an affection and caring to those who can learn from him.  Casting another aside may be justified under the circumstances, and is certainly the easier approach, but it is that grabbing hold of and drawing near, the real concern and the ‘no-let-go and no-give-up’, caring feeling that will ultimately prove successful.  In the mateh’s case, taking hold and holding on literally brought miracles--and in the successful mechanech and Ben Torah’s case, no less is to be expected.  Success will be found in the overriding love, the reaching out in affection, of parent to child, teacher to student, and frum to not-yet-observant.  All you have to do is bring close and keep near, and the rest will be history--that we hope keeps repeating itself!



Special Note Four:  HaRav Mattisyahu Salomon, Shlita, (Mattisyahu Chaim Ben Ettel may he have a Refuah Sheleimah) teaches that one should be careful to always learn something immediately after Shacharis, as required by Shulchan Aruch Orach Chaim 155.  Indeed, even if it is only one Mishna, one should make this ‘Kevius Ittim LeTorah’ inviolate--even if one will lose a big deal in the process (the Shulchan Aruch itself actually uses this language --”af im savur leharviach harbeh”).  HaRav Salomon explains why this K’vius Ittim is so, so important. We recite in the Birchos HaTorah every morning that Hashem Himself is the Melamed Torah LeAmo Yisrael--Hashem Himself is our teacher as we learn.  Since, as Chazal provide, the Pasuk of Yailchu MaiChayil El Chayil adjures and instructs us to go straight from Tefillah to Torah, it is as if Hashem Himself is waiting for us to teach us right after davening-- we have an incredibly special appointment to learn--with Him!  Most certainly, if we had a scheduled appointment with HaRav Chaim Kanievsky, Shlita, in his apartment we would be sure not to miss it for any reason.  Every morning, we have an appointment with our Melamed Torah --our Teacher--Hashem Himself--and we definitely should not miss it either. The Pasuk of Yailchu MaiChayil even teaches us what will happen if you take the time and make the effort to attend the privileged meeting--for it concludes with the words “Yaira’eh El Elokim BeTzion”, which, HaRav Salomon explains, means that you will actually be zoche to the Siyata DiShemaya--to the Heavenly Help-- that comes when one is in the presence of the Shechina--for you just are and have been!  Remember--it is the consistency and diligence--the commitment to the daily meeting--even if it is not for a long period--that is important.

Hakhel Note:  The Bi’ur Halacha (there, Siman 155, d’h Ais Lilmod) adds that one should have the same Chayil El Chayil at night, such as after Mincha and Before Ma’ariv (or after Ma’ariv)...for one also must study Torah--with the Greatest of Teachers--at night as well.  Remember--this is no appointment that anyone would want to miss!!



18 Teves

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



KE’ILU LO YODA:  Chazal teach that the ‘new’ Paroh that we encounter at the outset of this week’s Parasha really did know who Yosef was--but just acted as if he did not know him. The Ba’alei Mussar point out that the same is true of us when we sin--we act as if we don’t know the consequences of sin--but we really do.  Is it right to act like Paroh?!



VAYIZAKU!  In the Parasha, we learn that Bnei Yisrael cried out from their hard work--and Hashem listened to their plight.  Yet, the Pasuk does not specifically there record that they cried out to Hashem.  How was just crying out from work enough for Hashem to pay heed?  A Rav answered because whenever a member of K’lal Yisrael cries out--Hashem is in his words--”Oh, Hashem please help me!” This is still an awesome prayer!




Special Note One: As we have noted in the past, HaRav Mattisyahu Salomon, Shlita, teaches that what made Shifra and Pu’ah so successful was their Yiras ShomayimAccordingly, HaRav Salomon urges--we should select a Mussar Sefer and study Mussar daily to attain Yiras Shomayim--and we will be able to succeed, as well. 


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


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



Special Note Two:  When a spacecraft takes off, it travels a great distance on the initial burst of energy at blastoff.  Then, it must continue to travel on new and potent sources of additional energy.  As soon as the Yomim Tovim of Tishrei concluded, we immediately continued to be energized by Chumash Bereishis. As we begin Chumash Shemos this week, we must recognize that it is a time to re-inspire and re-energize ourselves


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


Here are a few of suggestions for invigoration.


Let us try from today through Shabbos to:


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

·                     Come to every Tefillah on time

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

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

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

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


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



Special Note Three:  Shlomo HaMelech, the wisest of all men, teaches in Mishlei (16:7) “BiR’tzos Hashem Darchei Ish Gam Oyvav Yashlim Ito”--when Hashem accepts a person’s ways, He [Hashem] will cause even his enemies to make peace with him.  What an astounding lesson for us at this time, when vehement enemies abound from within and without.  We must take the lesson and utilize this gift-filled period of Shovavim for us to move in the direction in which Hashem will accept our ways.  In a word, we must do Teshuvah.  In this regard, we provide below the moving words of the Sefer Chovos HaLevavos as he concludes his Sha’ar HaTeshuvah.  The translation below is substantially excerpted from the outstanding Feldheim English translation Duties of the Heart.  For those who do not have it, we hope it is now back in print, for it is a must for every home:


1.  “All that keeps a sinner from Teshuvah is his own corrupt inner life and a deceitful heart.  If he sincerely wishes to draw closer to Hashem, the gate of repentance is not closed to him and no obstacle will prevent him from reaching it.”


2.  “He who hastens to the good will attain it today, while the fruit of negligence is remorse.”


3.  “Whoever wishes to be in Hashem’s favor should enter by way of the narrow door through which the pious and patient ones enter.  We all hope to attain the good; but only those who hasten to it and run to it will attain it.  This is why Chazal teach ‘be bold as a leopard, light as an eagle, swift as a gazelle, and mighty as a lion, to do the will of Hashem’. (Avos 5:20)”


4.  “Scrutinize yourself.  Be ashamed to act towards your Creator in a way you would not permit yourself to act towards another human being.”


5.  “The Creator has blessed you with wisdom, understanding, and knowledge, through which He has made you superior to other creatures.  Be wary, exceedingly wary, that these gifts not serve to implicate you.”


6.  “Do not be induced by lethargy to make light of your soul; for if your own soul is not important to you, what will you hold in esteem?”


7.  Finally, submit to the truth, rather than running away from it, and thank Hashem for alerting you to what you had not been aware of.  Do not use the long neglect of your friend who encourages you as a justification or excuse for yourself.  For such an argument is one of the deceitful devices used by the evil inclination to ensnare people of weak understanding.”


Hakhel Note:  Erev Shabbos is also one of the specially designated time periods for Teshuva--so that we can properly greet the Shabbos Queen.  Let us give an important moments of thought to the measured and hallowed words of the Chovos HaLevavos.



Special Note Four:  The following very meaningful episode is part of the Shomrei Halashon Program, as excerpted from the book Tales of The Tongue by Esther Ehrenreich and Chaya Kahan (Artscroll/Mesorah):  “Gunshots and explosions filed the air.  Inside the shelter, people sat crowded together.  No one dared look outside.  A fierce battle was waging and the Jews of the land were the first to suffer.  HaRav Eliyahu Lopian, Z’tl sat among them, immersed in Torah thought.  Suddenly, a man broke his train of thought:  ‘Rebbe!’, he said anxiously, ‘they’re speaking Lashon Hara here!’.  “Really?  We must leave here right away!’   HaRav Eliyahu had less concern for the bombs falling right and left.  For him, the sin of hearing Lashon Hara was far greater than the possibility of being hit by falling explosives.  Hashem guided his steps in the right direction, for shortly afterwards a bomb fell on the shelter....’  Hakhel Note: Lashon Hara , the Chofetz Chaim especially reiterated and reinforced to our generation is reviled by Hashem to such an extent that it can involve up to 31 Torah violations. Let us follow the lead of HaRav Lopian--and in these dangerous times stay as far away as possible from this extremely deleterious and highly pernicious behavior--and from those who seek to endanger others with it.  As the wisest of all men taught:  “Holech Es Chachomim Yechkam--walk with the Chachomim to become wise--for “Ro’a Kesilim Yeiroa ....those who stay around those who promulgate evil... (we won’t say more--but will only add that it doesn’t make it better if the promulgator is a close family member, someone who you speak you at work who ‘isn’t frum anyway’ or an old classmate or friend who only calls you up from time to time--it is  still Lashon Hara). 


Hakhel Note:  To help, we remind you of the Chofetz Chaim Heritage Foundation’s free service--The Shemiras Halashon Shaila Hotline -by which expert Poskim in Shemiras Halashon answer all of your Shailos about Shemiras Halashon--in Shidduchim, Business, family matters--who doesn’t have a Shaila about what should be said or how you should say it?  The Hotline’s number is 718-951-3696, and its regular hours are 9pm to 10:30 pm, and in emergencies at other times, subject to a Rav’s availability. 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).



17 Teves

SHOVAVIM REVIEW CARD!  Irgun Shiurai Torah has provided a wonderful review program of appropriate sections of Yoreh Deah for men during the Shovavim period. Please see the following link  http://tinyurl.com/za286st for details and for further information.



IN HONOR OF SHOVAVIM: Will you engage in one less indulgence today--even if it just one less cookie than planned?



WHERE DOES IT ALL BEGIN?  Rashi in this week’s Parasha teaches us how Moshe Rabbeinu got to the Seneh--became Hashem’s Shaliach--and later received the Torah for all of eternity at the very same location.  It was because he went into the desert with his flock so that he would avoid any inkling of ‘stealing’ any grass from the idol-worshippers which surrounded him.  What a lesson--how can we become great, how can we ready ourselves to grow in Torah, what can we do to gain eternity-- the first step is to stay as far away from gezel of any kind as we can!



FROM PRAYING WITH FIRE--RELATING TO GALUS AND GEULAH! Rashi cites a Mechilta that explains the phrase “it was at the end of four hundred and thirty years [that Bnei Yisrael left Mitzrayim]”. The Mechilta tells us that once the preordained end of the exile arrived, Hashem did not delay the Jews from leaving for even the ‘blink of an eye’. But the arrival of the preordained time was not enough by itself to set the redemption in motion, the Ramban explains. It was when “Hashem heard their moaning” that He remembered His covenant. “They were not... redeemed, except for the fact that their prayers were accepted with pity and mercy.” Tefillah, along with repentance, will be the catalyst that sets in motion the Final Redemption as well. The She’arim B’Tefillah (Harav Shimshon Pincus, Z’tl) notes that even if everything is prepared and ready for the Redemption, if the Gates of Tefillah are not opened--by us--nothing will be accomplished. This is the meaning of the pasuk, “With weeping will they come, and with supplications will I lead them.” (Yirmiyahu 31:8) As the Darchai Noam comments, “One must be very careful with his tefillos, certainly in the time when the arrival of Mashiach is at hand…for it is on them--those very tefillos-- that the coming of Moshiach depends.”




Special Note One: Today is the 211th Yahrzeit of the Maggid of Dubno, HaRav Yaakov b’r’ Zev (Wolf) Kranz, Z’tl, whose legacy of Meshalim to bring lessons of the Torah to us all remains unparalleled to this very day.  Some of the Maggid’s Mesholim have been collected in English in The Maggid of Dubno and His Parables by Dr. Benno Heinemann (Feldheim Publishers).  We once again present below one of the great Mesholim, excerpted from this meaningful Sefer:


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


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


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


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


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


4.  In particular, attention should be paid to give Tzedaka to a poor Torah Sage in a manner fitting to his honor.  If he does not want to accept charity, he should be offered merchandise for business dealings.  It should be sold to him at a low price and purchased from him at a high price.  If he is knowledgeable in commerce, he should be lent money to invest in a business.  Chazal (Pesochim 53b) declare, “Whoever supplies a Torah Sage with merchandise merits to sit in the Heavenly Academy”. 


Hakhel Note:  At the very least, we should give some Tzedaka today L’ilyui Nishmas the Dubno Maggid--whose sage advice we have all heard at one time or more likely many times in the past--and who has provided us with this valuable instruction on Tzedakah which we should never forget!



Special Note Two: Some points and pointers regarding Middos for our times:


1.  What lesson can be learned from the fact that squirrels roam about the streets of New York City and its environs with acceptance as domesticated animals, but would be considered to be like rats if seen in the streets of Yerushalayim?  We may suggest that if one studies a squirrel he will note that he is never at rest--he is always on the move, moving quickly and alertly at all times--and using all of his abilities to attain his goal.  Those in Chutz LaAretz must understand that they must act with alacrity, dedication and zeal in their Avodas Hashem--so that we can once and for all leave the lands of Galus--and merit arrival and permanent dwelling in the place which is described as Lifnei Hashem!


2.  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.


3.  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.” 


4.  At a Hakhel Yarchei Kallah, Rabbi Maimon Elbaz, Shlita, reminded everyone of how HaRav Avigdor Miller, Z’tl, would teach how Hashem especially packaged fruits in beautiful colors so that their appearance would add to the wonder and enjoyment of the fruit.  He asked, however--what about the parking tickets given by traffic officers which are also beautifully packaged with an orange exterior (at least in New York City).  How are we supposed to ‘enjoy’ these?  He explained that this packaging could be viewed as a demonstration of how even in the Middas HaDin there is Rachamim.  We would achieve a Kapparah through the monetary penalty without the need c’v for a mugging or of weapons being used against us.  Instead, we were being given a Kapparah opportunity in a ‘perforate and peel’ convenient and colorful envelope!  Hakhel Note:  Two points:  One should be careful not to disobey traffic laws.  In all events, one should not forget to exclaim:  “May I have a Kapparah from my payment of this!”


5.  Rabbi Elbaz also told the story of how HaRav Yosef Chaim Sonnenfeld, Z’tl, was once walking towards the Kosel.  An Arab in close proximity began throwing tomatoes at him.  HaRav Sonnenfeld mouthed something towards him.  The Arab--afraid and superstitious over the fact that he had been cursed--ran over HaRav Sonnenfeld to ask forgiveness--”What did you say Rabbi, what did you say?” “I thanked you for throwing tomatoes and not rocks!” he responded.  Sometimes, we have to recognize that the assault being hurled upon us can be worse than it is, and thank Hashem--and the complaining party--for not making it worse! 



Special Note Three:  A reader wrote to us as to the importance of reciting Aleinu with Kavannah--as the Rema to Shulchan Aruch (Orach Chayim 132:2) writes “Yizaher LeOmro Bekavannah--one should be careful to recite it with Kavannah.”  Another reader related the following about HaRav Don Segel, Shlita: “Rav Don always went back to his office at the end of davening to say Aleinu. A few Mirrer bochurim listened by the window as he said Aleinu for 10 minutes, as a lesson in Yiras Shomayim and Avodas Hashem.”


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



16 Teves

REALITY CHECK!  It is now less than one month to Tu B’Shvat, less than three months to Purim!  Have we recently viewed our Kabbalos sheet from the Yomim Noraim?  How is our Teshuvah BeChol Yom Program moving along?...Let us prepare for the upcoming festivities and festivals so that we are not only physically, but spiritually ready.  As our first stop, Tu B’Shvat. teaches us--only after the rain-- can the fruit grow!



WHITE TEETH! In last week’s Parasha, with the words U’levehn Shinayim Mei’chalav, we learn of the importance of white teeth (Bereishis 49:12). It is said that HaRav Avigdor Miller, Z’tl, once explained to someone why he felt that even as a zakein muflag he was still blessed with all of his beautiful teeth: “It is because I thank Hashem for them every day!”


Hakhel Note One: In contrast, we learn on the seder night that the rasha questions the need for what we do at the Seder--and we blunt his teeth!


Hakhel Note Two: A Rav quoted his Rebbetzin as saying: “Imagine if Hashem would give us tomorrow only what we thanked him for today!”


Hakhel Note Three: We may additionally suggest that teeth is a part of the human body which emerges after the person is born, in a sense representing the person’s personal growth--the ‘nurture’ beyond the ‘nature’, the personal effort that we each have to put into life. HaRav Miller, Z’tl, used the teeth to teach how we have to thank Hashem for each and every thing--we can also use the teeth to remind ourselves that we must go beyond that which we are born with--and develop ourselves into someone not even imagined at birth!



TENS OF THOUSANDS: The Sefer Positive Word Power points out that one speaks tens of thousands of words on an average day--and that accordingly the difference between bad habits in speech (speaking negatively) and good habits (speaking positively and encouragingly) truly has a tremendous impact on the nature and quality of a person’s day. Let us take this to heart, to mind--and to mouth! 



THE IMPORTANCE OF LIMUD ZECHUS! The Chofetz Chaim brings from the Zohar Chadash that in Shomayim Eliyahu HaNavi swore to Hashem that he would always be Melamed Zechus on K’lal Yisrael. Indeed, when a member of K’lal Yisrael does a meritorious act, Eliyahu reports it, and makes sure that it is properly recorded in the Heavenly seforim. Likewise, Gideon was given the ability to fight against Midyan because he defended K’lal Yisrael, and was actually commanded to do battle Bechocha Zeh--with this strength--the strength of his being Melamed Zechus on K’lal Yisrael! We know what a great victory it was!


Hakhel Note: Here is an important exercise: Three times a day-- perhaps morning, afternoon and evening--be Melamed Zechus on someone or some group. Perhaps as a kviyus, one can do so before beginning to daven!



STOP! A reader advised us that in his bungalow colony a stop sign provided an appropriate acronym:







Each person should have many stop signs during the day--whether or not he is in a motor vehicle!



THE NEXT GILGUL: One may have heard the quips: “I may have done that in a previous gilgul” or “I won’t do this in my next gilgul”. Although comments such as these may be intended to be humorous, or to gently push away a criticism or something in need of correction, one should definitely think twice--and ask others to think twice--about referring to gilgul in a light manner. The Chofetz Chaim (Sha’ar Hatevunah Chapter 8) writes that one hour in gehenom is more difficult than the yisurim of Iyov all of his life--and that the punishment of a gilgul is more difficult than the punishment of gehenom! Instead of ‘looking forward’ to the next gilgul--spend time in the here and now to make sure that it does not have to happen.




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



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


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


Some additional notes on the Shovavim period we are in, based on the Luach Davar BeIto:


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


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


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


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


E.  Many increase their recitation of Tehillim (especially on Erev Shabbos).


Hakhel Note:  Irgun Shiurai Torah has arranged worldwide Shovavim Shiurim.  To learn how you can participate or start a Shoavaim Shiur in your neighborhood, please call: 718-851-8651, or email tapecenter@yeshivanet.com



13 Teves

THE DEFINITION!:  Rabbi Mordechai Becher, Shlita related the definition of “forgiveness of others” he had heard from Rabbi Y.Y. Rubenstein, Shlita:  “It is the understanding that the past cannot be changed, and that one must move on.”  Hakhel Note: Something to think about, the next time you are wronged.



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


We continue with our Erev Shabbos Halachos of Shabbos Series:  In this week’s Parasha, we learn of the power of Dibbur in the brachos of Yaakov Avinu to his children and grandchildren.  We can understand then that the Ma’aseh Beraishis is described in terms of speech as well--VaYomer--and as the Mishna in Avos teaches--BaAsara Ma’amaros Nivra HaOlam.  In fact, there is a Siman in Shulchan Aruch (Orach Chayim 307) entitled “Dinei Shabbos HaTeluyim BeDibbur”--as there are very important guidelines as to VeDabber Davar--what we should speak about on Shabbos and how we should speak about it.  We provide below just a few reminders relating to these pervasive Halachos, as excerpted from the Dirshu edition footnotes to this Siman in Shulchan Aruch:


1.  First--An Essential Reminder! We should be especially careful to talk Torah on Shabbos--for the Ben Ish Chai writes in the name of Mekubalim that learning Torah is 1,000 times as great on Shabbos as it is on a weekday!


2.  Just as it is assur to ask an akum to do an actual melacha on your behalf--it is assur to ask them to do even an Uvda D’Chol.  Furthermore, just as inappropriate gesturing is treated like speech and considered Lashon Hara--so too is gesturing to an akum to do a melacha or Uvda D’Chol on Shabbos also prohibited.


3. One should not tell his friend how much he paid for an item (i.e., he has already purchased it)--if his friend is in the market for the same item--for his friend is in need of this financial information during the week and it therefore constitutes Dibbur Chol.


4.  Although one may not generally borrow an item from another Jew on Shabbos because the lender may come to write down the loan he has made, HaRav Shlomo Zalmen Auerbach, Z’tl rules that it would be permissible to borrow from an akum--for even if the akum will write down the loan, he is doing so for himself--and not for the Jew, and thus his writing is permitted.


5.  The Shelah HaKadosh writes that one should not say Good Morning to a person on Shabbos--but rather Shabbos Tava--Good Shabbos--and by doing so he will fulfill the Mitzvah of Zachor Es Yom HaShabbos LeKadesho! In fact, the Bi’ur Halacha brings in the name of Rebbi Akiva Eiger, Z’tl that one may actually fulfill his ikar chiyuv of Kiddush on Leil Shabbos by expressing the meaningful words of Shabsa Tava!



Special Note Two:  Points and pointers on the last Parasha of Chumash Bereishis, Parashas Vayechi:


A.  The Parasha begins with the words Vayechi Yaakov BiEretz Mitzrayim--Yaakov lived in Egypt.  This teaches us that no matter where we are, and no matter what our situation, Hashem has given us the breath of life and we too must act with a Chiyus--with motivation, inspiration and enthusiasm! 


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


C.  Chazal teach that Yaakov Avinu’s bowing down at the head of his bed teaches that the Shechina is on top of the head of a sick person--as Yaakov was bowing down to the Shechina.

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


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


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


Teshuvah:  “One cannot grant Mechila in this state.  There is no Eitzah here other than to Daven that she become well so that they can ask Mechila of a mentally competent person, or r’l they must ask Mechila at her Kever if she passes away before them, for after death one can turn to the Neshama and the Neshama will forgive.  Going to visit her in the hospital is a good thing--but it does not effect Mechila.”   HaRav Kanievsky continues by bringing the Rabbeinu Bechaya (end of ParashasVayechi) who writes that the reason the Asara Harugei Malchus were punished was because Yosef did not expressly state that he forgave them.  It must be that the reason that they did not go to his Kever to ask for Mechila was because they did not realize that one must obtain express Mechila until they saw that they had been punished.  This then becomes a fundamental lesson for us for all time.  Rather than being hard hearted and resilient, even when one is absolutely right and the other person was definitely and admittedly wrong, one should be ‘pliable as a reed’ and expressly state (at least upon sincere request) that “I am Mochel you B’Lev Shaleim.”  To the greatest extent possible, one should endeavor not to be the source of someone else’s punishment, suffering or harm.


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


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


G.  HaRav Chaim Kanievsky, Shlita, was asked how the bracha given to boys on Leil Shabbos, at a bris, and at other occasions is Yesimcha Elokim KeEphraim  V’ChiMenashe--after all isn’t that only a part of a Pasuk in this week’s Parasha and we have no right to break up Pesukim like this.  HaRav Kanievsky sagaciously responded:  “It cannot be an aveira, as the Torah itself teaches ‘Becha Yevareich Yisrael Leimor Yesimcha Elokim KeEphraim  V’ChiMenashe’--this is the way we are to bless our children.”


Additional Note:  Many ask why the Bracha of “Yesimcha Elokim K’Ephraim  V’ChiMenashe” is so fundamental that it overshadows all other Brachos.  One classic explanation is based upon the relative response of Yosef and Menashe to Yaakov Avinu’s switching of his hands, so that Ephraim was blessed with the right hand and Menashe with the left.  Yosef’s response was shock and dismay--while the responses of Menashe (who was really the affected party) was silence and acceptance!  Menashe’s brotherly love was coupled with a refined relinquishment of any notion of jealously. Their joint and unified bracha was one of love, of recognizing each other’s roles, and of not being jealous of the other.  Yosef’s descendants were given the mission of teaching our people that although we are different, we are one and we can love and respect each other.  Indeed, Yaakov told Yosef that any future children that he had would become part of Ephraim and Menashe’s families, of their ultimate message, and would not need or have any independent nachalah.  The Pasuk (Yecheskel 48:32) teaches that in the future there will be a gate for each one of the Shevatim to exit Yerushalayim, and “Shevet Yosef” will only have one gate--we may suggest that this is because at that time we will have all learned the lesson that Yaakov Avinu set out to teach us--Yesimcha Elokim KeEphraim VeChiMenashe!


H. Rashi (Bereishis 49:3) teaches us that Reuven, as the bechor, was destined for greatness--for him and his descendents to inherit the Kehuna and the Malchus of K’lal Yisrael. What prevented it all? The Torah describes it in two words--’Pachaz Kamayim’--the too-quick, unthinking, angry response that he displayed. Oh, how we must take the lesson, when we realize we are about to exhibit just the same kind of response in our home, in a store, or in a work place. If it is Pachaz Kamayim--we know it is wrong, and we know its r’l devastating results…


I.  Many think that Yaakov Avinu was upset with Shimon and Levi and that, accordingly, he gave them no clearly expressed bracha.  We, however, note that Yaakov’s first words to them are Shimon and Levi Achim--Shimon and Levi you are brothers.  The feeling of and acting as, a brother is in and of itself an outstanding blessing. Hakhel Note:  The following was once provided to us by a reader:  A Rav related to HaRav Yaakov Kamenetsky, Z’tl, how his family gets together for a Yahrzeit, after each has learned a Perek or so of Mishnayos, and they make a Siyum together.  HaRav Kamenetsky responded “I don’t know if that is called a Siyum, but it is certainly an outstanding zechus when the family gets together!”


J. In his bracha to Naftali, Yaakov Avinu describes this Shevet as “HaNossein Imrei Shaffer--who delivers beautiful sayings” (Bereishis 49:22). The Targum explains what these beautiful sayings are--Modan U’Mevarechin--they thank and bless Hashem for the beautiful fruits within their territory. How wonderful! Each and every one of us is capable of Imrei Shaffer--beautiful sayings--through the meaningful and heartfelt brachos that we make!


K. Relating to the concept of brachos in the Parasha, we add the following two points:


1.    Prior to giving a bracha, try to feel a greater closeness to the person.  Yaakov Avinu, for instance, first brought Menashe and Ephraim close to him, and kissed them and hugged them (Bereishis 48:10).  This may constitute an important component of the sincerity, depth and potency of the bracha.


2.   Having made this point, there is really no requirement that brachos be made directly to human beings.  It is well known, for example, that the Alter of Slobodka once passed by the home of a Talmid Chacham and blessed the home and everyone in it.  We can analogize a bit:  When an ambulance speeds by, or even when you hear the ambulance siren, you can daven/give a bracha that the person, whoever he or she may be, has a Refuah Shelaima.  Or, in another vein, when seeing the bakery line out the door on Erev Shabbos, you can silently bless everyone on the line to have an enjoyable Shabbos.  While at first all of this may appear a bit naïve, childish, or “overly frum”, it really only indicates that you are a thinking person with (or trying to develop) Ahavas HaBriyos and Ahavas Yisrael--love for Hashem’s creations and love for fellow Jews.  In fact, the Baalei Mussar denounce the term “frumkeit” as relating to observance and practice out of rote, rather than with feeling and freshness.


Concluding  Note: The Navi(Yirmiyahu 9:22, 23 )  exclaims:  ”Thus says Hashem:  Let not the wise man boast of his wisdom, nor the strong man boast of his strength, nor the rich man boast of his riches; but, let him that boasts exalt in this, that he understands and knows Me, for I am Hashem who practices kindness, justice and righteousness on the earth, for in these things I delight, says Hashem.


In short, in whatever situation we find ourselves, Hashem tells us--what do we think that He would do in the same situation?  The man who “understands and knows Me” is the man in whom Hashem delights.  Who does more Chesed than Hashem and who gives more Brachos than Hashem?  These are, of course, only two examples, but they are important steps along the way to being Hashem’s delight!



Special Note Three:  Rebbi Tzadok HaKohein beautifully explains that both Shevet Yehudah and Shevet Dan are referred to as “Gur Aryeh” in the Torah (see Bereishis 49:9 and Devarim 33:22).  Furthermore, the leaders in charge of building the Mishkan were Betzalel from Shevet Yehuda and Ahaliyav from Shevet Dan; Rebbi Tzadok brings from the Midrash Tanchuma that this was the case in the Bais Hamikdash as well.  In the Midbar, Shevet Dan traveling at the end--is connected to Shevet Yehudah which traveled first and which represented Malchus because this symbolizes our existence--connecting the top to the bottom, the end to the beginning.  In fact, he explains this is what is meant by Chazal (Ta’anis 31A) who teach that in the future Hashem will make an ‘igul’, a circle for the Tzaddikim--for in a circle the end and the beginning are connected as one.  It is for this reason that Yaakov Avinu recited the words “Lishuasecha Kivisi Hashem” over Dan--for the end will be, the Moshiach can come when a low point has been reached which can join to the high point--so that we come full circle!



Special Note Four:  As we leave Sefer Bereishis, and the lessons of the Avos....:


And the days of Yisrael drew near to die; and he called his son Yosef, and said to him:  If now I have found favor in your eyes, please…deal with me kindly and truly….” (Beraishis 47:29)  Based upon this Pasuk, Rabbi Zelig Pliskin, Shlita, in Love Your Neighbor (p. 125) brings the following story:


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


Based upon this extremely important concept, the principle of true and pure kindness, Rabbi Pliskin writes that one should not view many of his otherwise necessary daily tasks as a mere drudgery.   In the context of a housewife, for instance, Rabbi Pliskin quoting HaRav Chaim Pinchos Scheinberg, Z’tl, writes, “If a housewife had the opportunity to perform the same tasks [i.e., tasks performed on behalf of small children] for, let’s say, the Chofetz Chaim, she would certainly be happy to do them.  It is no less a chesed for one’s own children.”


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



12 Teves

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



REMINDER: As noted in our Bulletin on Asara B’Teves, Chazal (Brachos 6B) teach that one should give the amount of money that he would have otherwise spent on food on a Ta’anis to Tzedakah. For those who have not yet done so--please consider this a gentle reminder!



QUESTION: Does one answer Amen if he hears someone, at the beginning of Birkos Kriyas Shema in the morning, recite the words “Baruch Atta HashemOseh Shalom U’Vorei Es HaKol”--is this not the end of the first part of the bracha (as it is typically set off by itself in large letters in siddurim)--or don’t we say that after all it is just one long bracha that ends at Yotzer HaMe’oros?


ANSWER FROM A POSEK: The bracha certainly ends after Yotzer HaMe’oros, and therefore one should not answer amen after “Oseh Shalom U’Vorei Es HaKol”. I wish to comment on a common misunderstanding about the brachos before and after Kriyas Shema. Women and girls who do not have enough time to say Birkos Kriyas Shema often say Shema and then Shemone Esrei. Before starting Shemone Esrei, they stand up at Tehillos Le’Keil Elyon (as it states in the siddur) and recite their tefillah from that point until Go’al Yisrael, and then begin Shemone Esrei. This is a bracha levatala. A woman who wishes to say the words of Go’al Yisrael before Shemone Esrei, may only do so if she says the entire bracha after Shema that begins with the word  Emes V’Yatziv. This is an extremely common misconception and would be a huge mitzvah and zikui harabbim to spread the word!



NOW OR LATER?  In the Orchos Chaim L’Rosh (75), the Rosh teaches: “Ahl Tomar Ahl Shum Mitzvah E’eseh Osah L’Machar Shemah Lo Tipaneh La’asos--do not say about any Mitzvah I will do it tomorrow--lest you be unable to perform the Mitzvah the next day.” The key to remember is that every single Mitzvah is eternity-and one should not put off any Mitzvah no matter how ‘big’ or ‘small’ it is perceived to be--for one does not put off the possibility to attain everlasting greatness!




Special Note One:  How does the Torah Jew react to something as shocking, horrific, vile and unintelligible as the terrorist actions perpetrated against us?  HaRav Ezriel Erlanger, Shlita, responds as follows:  In this week’s Parasha, Yaakov Avinu reprimands Shimon and Levi with the words (Bereishis 49:5): “K’lei Chamas MeCheiroseihem…their weaponry is a stolen craft.”  Violence is not the trait of Yaakov.  Yet, the disgust of violence, weaponry, hurt and murder has worked its way even into our lives with such ‘recreational activities’ as paintballing, BB guns, and video games for little children where the player eliminates other players, complete with graphic imagery, in order to win the ‘game’. It is our duty to remember that Yitzchak Avinu told only Eisav that VeAhl Charbecha Tichyeh…he would live by the sword--not us!  We cannot change the world--but what we can do is eliminate the world’s influence from our homes. Moreover, the Sefer Sha’arei Teshuvah refers to embarrassing another as Avizrayhu D’Shefichas Damim--as an aspect or attribute of murder.  If we must keep oh so far away even from embarrassing another--all the more so from the realm of shedding another’s blood itself!  HaRav Erlanger incredibly adds that it was reported that senior government officials came to HaRav Shach, Z’tl, prior to the daring Entebbe mission in order to obtain his blessing.  HaRav Shach advised them that they should not go ahead with the mission--apparently, he felt that it would be better to exchange prisoners for the hostages than risk lives in the mission.  The next day after the mission was ‘successful’, someone came back to Rav Shach and reported what had happened.  He replied:  “They still should not have done it.”  Rav Shach simply did not feel it was the way that we go about our dealings, when the matter could be resolved otherwise. We must keep in mind that Yaakov Avinu told Eisav that he would live by the sword, and also remember that the grand bracha we would all expect for Shimon and Levi was mired and entangled by the disapproval of Yaakov Avinu with the words “K’lei Chamas MeCheiroseihem”.  It behooves us to teach our families and others to stay as far away from the horrors of violence as we can.  An extremely important reminder--when we daven Sim Shalom, and Shalom Rav, daily--let us pray for peace in our homes--and peace, once and for all, for Hashem’s world as well!



Special Note Two:  In this week’s Parasha, we find perhaps the shortest Pasuk in the Torah--Lishuasecha Kivisi Hashem…for Your salvation do I long Hashem (Bereishis 49:18).  As we have noted in the past, HaRav Shimshon Pincus, Z’tl, brings that the Brisker Rav could often be found reciting this Pasuk, and HaRav Pincus suggests that this was possibly so because it is a Mitzvah Min HaTorah to daven to Hashem when one finds himself in a time of tza’ar.  It may have been that the Brisker Rav felt a tza’ar, and accordingly used the words of this Pasuk as his basis for davening be’eis tzara to Hashem.  There is another usage of the Pasuk Lishuasecha Kivisi Hashem, as brought by the Mishna Berurah (Orach Chaim 230: seif katan 7).  There, the Mishna Berurah writes that when one sneezes, his friend should give him the bracha of “ossusa” (the equivalent of “You should be healthy”), which is perhaps replaced by some today with the phrase “gezuntheit” or “labriut”.  After one receives the bracha of ossusa, the Mishna Berurah continues, he should respond to the well-wisher with the words “baruch tiheyeh”, and then recite the Pasuk for himself of Lishuasecha Kivisi Hashem.  By then reciting the Pasuk, one is davening to Hashem that just as He saved him while sneezing, so too, should He save him in the future (Dirshu Edition of the Mishna Berurah, in the name of the Rivevos Ephraim).  Hakhel Note:  When we realize that Hashem is the Source of all Yeshuos--we can ask Him for more!


Reminder Note:  Now that in the Northern Hemisphere it may be a time when we r’l hear more sneezing around us than during the rest of the year, we once again provide the Tefillos to be recited before going to a doctor and before taking medicine




Special Note Three:  As the weather gets colder in the Northern Hemisphere, many have taken out their winter gear.  Do gloves or hats need to be checked for Shatnez?  We provide answers via the following link, which has hats, caps and gloves among its important categories.  http://tinyurl.com/zrkd689



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



Special Note Four:  The Chofetz Chaim provides an essential insight relating to last week’s Parasha.  The Bnai Yisroel as “Kol HaNefesh...Ha’ba’ah Mitzraima Shivim Nofesh--all of the souls who were descendents of Yaakov were 70 souls (Bereishis 46:27).  The word nefesh, however, is actually in the singular--meaning soul.  The more expected word grammatically would be nefashos--meaning souls.  This, the Chofetz Chaim writes (Sha’ar HaTevunah, Chapter 6), is to teach us that all of the Nefoshos Yisroel--all of the souls of Bnai Yisroel are considered as one soul in the Heavens above.  Just as a single body is made up of different limbs and organs--each with its different function and purpose (the head and the heart, the hand and the foot)--so too is K’lal Yisroel composed of different parts which together make one functioning whole. Moreover, just as when there is an ache or pain somewhere it effects other parts of the body, so too it is with the body of K’lal Yisroel. And just as when there is joy the whole body is affected--so too is it with our whole Nefesh--the united family of Yisroel.  It is only an illusion in this world that we are not one--because every soul is encased in a different corporeality and has different businesses and tasks--but this a gross misapprehension.  The famous Midrash which brings home this point is to the ship sailing smoothly at sea.  One of the passengers decides to drill a hole underneath where he was standing on the bow of the ship.  The other passengers watched in astonishment and then began to yell and scream at him. “What’s bothering you” he shouts, “I am drilling the hole only underneath me--not underneath you?!”....


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


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



11 Teves

REPAIR THE BREACHES: HaRav Moshe Tuvia Leff, Shlita, points out that unlike Shiva Assar B’Tammuz and Tisha B’Av, which commemorate tragic events which actually occurred on those days, Asara B’Teves represents an event that was to take place in the future--a breach which would lead to Churban. The future could have been different--the breach could have been repaired, with the Churban never to happen. At that time, it was up to us, but we did not succeed. Every year, we have the opportunity on Asara B’Teves to begin a repair of the breach and to lead to the Binyan Beis HaMikdash. It is for this reason that the Chasam Sofer (which we mentioned yesterday) teaches that Asara B’Teves will determine whether Tisha B’Av just a few months hence will become a day of joy. How can we repair the breach? Through our identifying and overcoming the guile and cunning of the Yetzer Hara. It is he who in fact forced the breach. We must take charge in the everyday ‘small matters’--the way we recite brachos, the way we daven, the way we learn (see more about this in Special Note One below), the way we talk, the way we relate to others, etc. Perhaps Asara B’Teves is a short and ‘easy’ fast but it is most definitely a signpost to us--an indication from Hashem that if we begin--we undertake those simple and straightforward actions to defeat the Jewish people’s greatest enemy--we will see the Binyan Bayis Shelishi not only in our lifetimes--but this very year!




Special Note One:  Some additional thoughts on the ‘day after’ Asara B’Teves:


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


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


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


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


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



Special Note Two:  The Shulchan Aruch (Orach Chaim 219) lists the situations over which one recites the special bracha of HaGomel LeChayavim Tovos Shegimalani Kol Tov.  The Shulchan Aruch (ibid. 9) then brings a difference of opinion as to other circumstances in which the bracha of HaGomel should be recited.  There is a related issue in today’s times as to whether one recites this bracha after having taken a flight internationally, even domestically, or perhaps not to recite the bracha in either circumstance.  The Dirshu Edition of the Mishna Berurah (ibid. 1) brings from HaRav Shlomo Zalmen Auerbach, Z’tl, that in situations where one is unsure whether he should recite the bracha he should gather together ten people to listen to him recite the last of the Birchos HaShachar which ends with the words:  “Baruch Atta Hashem HaGomel Chassodim Tovim LeAmo Yisrael.”  Hakhel Note:  Every day--without any specific reason, we are graced with the opportunity to recite this Bracha of Gomel Chassodim Tovim, we should appreciate its great importance and meaning.  With it we can in a unique sense ‘bentsch Gomel’--each and every day!  Oh, how it behooves us to have Kavannah in this bracha for everything that happened the day before, everything that has happened until that point in the morning and everything that will hopefully happen for the remainder of the successful day.



10 Teves



1. “Perhaps you can point your readers to weeklytefilahfocus.com which provides great teachings relating to Tefillah, and which provides wonderful inspiration on Tefillah.”


2. “Matar refers to blessed rains that bring food to the world, and cause crops to grow, while Geshem refers to all forms of rain, beneficial or harmful(Rav Shlomo HaDayan MiVilna, Hakdama L’Meseches Ta’anis). This is evident in its usage, since in the blessing of Gevuros, where we praise the might ofHashem , we use the word Geshem. In the blessing of V’sein Bracha, where we ask for a blessing on the crops, we use the word Matar.”


3. “See Leket Reshimos 3 weeks (Rav Nosson Vachtfogel, Z’tl) near the beginning where he discusses how Asara B’Teves was the first time the Sorei Ha’Umos were released from their subjugation since the akeida!”


4. “It can be observed that Parashas Vayigash is always read right before Asarah B’Teves.  The haphtarah for Parashas Vayigash – also always read (meaning, the haphtarah for Vayigash is never replaced by any other haphtarah such as for Machar Chodesh, Rosh Chodesh, Chanukah, etc.).  It can be further observed that the haphtarah for Vayigash has an uncanny resemblance to the beginning of Parashas Va’eira, where HaSh-m foretells the impending geulah with the famous four (4) leshonos of redemption.


So, too, Haphtaras Vayigash, from Safer Yechezkel (Chapter 37) speaks movingly about the future redemption. There too, HaSh-m speaks in the first person saying what He will do to ingather the exiles and appoint a righteous King Mashiach as the sole leader of K’lal Yisrael. Interestingly, the lashon of “lekichah (taking)” and the word “v’heiveisee (bringing)” are used. 

So too, are other leshonos of redemption and of ingathering and of consolation.


I could never help thinking that we lain the haphtarah of the “refuah before the Makkah”:  before the fast of Asarah B’Teves, we lain about the ultimate geulah.  And additionally, before we lain in the Torah about the exile of Egypt, we lain the haphtarah of the “refuah before the Makkah” as well.”




Special Note One: The Chasam Sofer in a Drasha that he gave on the eighth day of Teves (approximately 200 years ago) suggests that after the 70-day period of mourning in Egypt ended for Yaakov Avinu, the Bnei Yisrael traveled to Eretz Canaan and eventually buried Yaakov Avinu--on Asara B’Teves.  The date of Eisav’s death is then--yes, Asara B’Teves as well. There is much to learn from the Chasam Sofer’s conclusion in our observance of Asara B’Teves.  After all, Ma’aseh Avos Siman L’Bonim--that which occurred to our forefathers is a sign for future generations.  Firstly, Chazal teach us that “Yaakov Avinu Lo Mais.”  That is, even though it may appear to us that Yaakov passed away, in fact, he lives on--most certainly so in spirit.  We, too, having experienced the devastating blow of the events of Asara B’Teves more than 2,500 years ago have not rolled over and died as scores of other nations have in the meantime.  Moreover, what ultimately happened on Asara B’Teves was the death of Eisav.  This, the Chasam Sofer writes, is symbolic of Asara B’Teves in the end being turned from a date of sadness to a day of “Sasson V’Simcha”--joy and happiness. 


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


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 Mikdashos, and the Mishkan of Shilo, which were located in their respective territories in Eretz Yisrael.  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 bracha (the spiritual) over food (the physical) properly, we demonstrate that we are sincerely preparing--and awaiting--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: Points and pointers on Asara B’Teves:


A.  The Chasam Sofer also teaches that every year on Asara B’Teves there is a Din on whether to restore the Beis HaMikdash to us during that year.  Also, it is brought down from the Avudraham that although fasting is Assur on Shabbos, even if Asara B’Teves would fall on Shabbos we would fast.  The explanation for this may be based upon this teaching of the Chasam Sofer--fasting for the past is Assur--but fasting on Asara B’Teves is for the future--to give us back the Beis HaMikdash


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


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


D. As the physical fast is not a very long one, may we also add that to enhance the quality of the Ta’anis and the Teshuvah that goes along with it, one especially reserve one hour or so today for a Ta’anis Dibbur--in which one dedicates his speech only to words of Torah, Tefillah and Kedushah.



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


Yet, we know that the fast of Asara B’Teves is so stringent that even it if it occurs on Erev Shabbos--unlike all of the other fasts--we fast the entire day until Shabbos begins (and, as noted earlier, it if occurred on Shabbos--we would fast on Shabbos!).  Let us now reflect. The initial siege was, in fact, the horrifying beginning to the end of the most glorified time in our history to date--The First Beis Hamikdash with all of its open miracles--the Shechina’s palpable presence, the Aron with the Luchos, and literally hundreds of thousands (!) who had reached the level of nevuah (Megillah 14A).  With the enemy surrounding the city, the downfall of this singularly unique period began. 


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


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


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


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


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


In the z’chus of our starting from the beginning, we can reverse the infamous, and literally world-shattering events, that began on Asara B’Teves, and we can start anew with “She’Yiboneh Bais Hamikdosh Bimheira V’Yameinu.”



9 Teves

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



GILUI ELIYAHU: Last week’s Divrei Siach, brings a fascinating exchange between HaRav Chaim Kanievsky, Shlita, and his grandson. HaRav Kanievsky asked his grandson: “Are you interested in seeing Eliyahu HaNavi?” “Of course!” replied his grandson “Who wouldn’t want to see him?!” HaRav Kanievsky then showed his grandson the wording of Masechta Kallah Rabasi (end of Chapter 5): “Aba Eliyahu Zochur LaTov said…I will only reveal myself to one who is not a kapdan!” HaRav Kanievsky then repeated this phrase with feeling and said: “This is the eitzah of how one is zoche to Gilui Eliyahu…not to be makpid and to be “B’Nachas Im HaBeriyos!”




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!


Hakhel Note: We provide below three brief and practical suggestions to help ourselves along the right path to Teshuva:


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.... A Chilul Hashem may or may not result.  The Sefer Sha’arei Teshuva (Sha’ar Daled), and the Rambam in Hilchos Teshuva (end of Chapter One) both record the severity of  the sin of Chilul Hashem--as reflected in the form of punishment necessary to expunge its effects upon the sinner.  May we suggest that one, bli neder, commit to not take the action or say the words that he realizes could result in Chilul Hashem--even if he is not sure at all that they really will.  By taking a step back from Sofek Chilul Hashem, one demonstrates his aversion to Chilul Hashem, and a level of Yiras Shomayim to which we should all aspire.


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



Special Note Two: Today is the ninth day of Teves, which connects the eighth day of Teves (the tragic day upon which the Torah was translated into Greek, the Septuagint, which is marked as a Ta’anis Tzadikim) to the national fast day of Asara B’Teves.  Actually, today is also the yahrzeit of Ezra HaSofer (see Shulchan Aruch, Orach Chaim 580, Mishna 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 Three:  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 award those who do good.  As we conclude 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.



6 Teves

YOUR THOUGHTFUL TEFILLOS! We provide below the moving words of the Sefer Chovos HaLevavos in the Sha’ar Chesbon HaNefesh (Chapter 3).  The translation below is, once again, substantially excerpted from the outstanding Feldheim English translation Duties of the Heart:


“….If his heart and consciousness are oblivious to the prayer’s meaning, Hashem will not accept his prayer, which is only mechanical, a mere movement of the tongue.  Just look at what we say at the conclusion of the Shemone Esrei: “Yihehu LeRatzon…May the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable before You.”  If a person’s thoughts during Shemone Esrei dwell on some worldly matter, permitted or forbidden, and then he concludes by saying, “May... the meditation of my heart be acceptable before You,” is this not most shameful--to claim to have communed with Hashem in his heart and innermost being--when he was actually distracted?  Then he asks Hashem to accept the prayer and be pleased with it!  He is like one of whom it was said, ‘...As if they were a people that had acted righteously…as if they desired closeness to Hashem....’”  (Yeshayahu 58:2).


Hakhel Note:  Perhaps Yiheyu LeRatzon is placed at the end of our Shemone Esrei--and not at the beginning--in order to serve as our reality check, knowing we will be reciting the Pasuk shortly and making sure that we do so honestly in front of the King of Kings!



THE TENTH MONTH: We received the following beautiful thought relating to the nexus between Teves as the tenth month--and Shevet Dan as the tenth tribe traveling in the desert:  “I’m looking at the Mefarshim on Yaakov Avinu’s brachah for Shevet Dan (in next week’s Parasha), and it seems that Shevet Dan teaches us a lesson about how to view or own strength and our reliance on Hashem.  Yaakov Avinu first compares Dan to a snake, and then concludes the bracha with the exclamation “Lishuasecha Kivisi Hashem!”  The Kli Yakar writes that just as a snake has power only with its mouth (its bite), so too, the koach of Dan is with its mouth.  Yaakov Avinu even specifically calls Dan a “shififon,” which Rashi translates as a snake that hisses.  Rashi also writes on “Hanoshaich ikvei sus” (that bites a horse’s heels) that Yaakov compares Dan to a snake that can bite a person’s heels and cause them to call backwards off of a horse, even though the snake never touched the rider.  Shimshon did something similar when he simply davened to Hashem and then Hashem made the roof collapse and kill the Plishtim.  Yaakov then looks into the future and sees Shimshon’s strength, and calls out “Lishuasecha Kivisi Hashem!” According to the Daas Zekainim, this was Yaakov’s way of expressing his realization that even though Shimshon appeared to be so tremendously strong, all strength comes only from Hashem!  Perhaps these messages are particularly applicable to us during the month of Teves, when it is cold outside, the winter is setting in, and we have no yamim tovim to cheer us up.  We feel so vulnerable, unable to control the weather patterns, and we realize that all of our own strengths are just an illusion.  There is only One Power who can help us, if we use the koach of our mouth to daven to Him  - Lishuasecha Kivisi Hashem!”



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




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


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


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


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


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


B.  It is forbidden to fast past Chatzos on Shabbos--even if one is otherwise learning.  Hakhel Note:  We must be especially careful about this in the winter when Chatzos is early--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 Motze’ai Shabbos is because he cannot come on Erev Shabbos as Chazal teach--so we once again reaffirm our belief and prayer that he will come soon.  Another reason is because the Tosefta teaches that Eliyahu Hanavi himself sits on Motz’ai Shabbos and writes the zechusim of the Shomrei Shabbos.


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



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


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


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


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



Special Note Three:  We provide the following additional 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 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.


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


1.  When Yosef revealed his identity to his brothers, he first ordered all of the Mitzriyim 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 Mitzriyim.


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 Mitzriyim 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 Four:  In the remarkable Sefer, “28 Verses That Can Change Your Life”, Rabbi Moshe Goldberger, Shlita, provides practical suggestions on practical improvement in one’s personal life based on famous Pesukim in Tanach.  We provide below a  summary of  one of these pesukim and some of its lessons. Pasuk 22 (Sefer Yeshaya 26:4) teaches:  “Bitchu Bashem Adei Ad--trust in Hashem forever, for in Hashem is the strength of all worlds.” This pasuk , which is recited at the end of U’va LeTzion and soon before we will be going out into and encountering the world for the day reassures us--Hashem can handle all of the world’s issues and problems, let alone yours.  After all, let us be practical and realistic--Hashem has existed forever, and is with you for your entire life. Don’t think you are ever on your own--It’s simply not true.  Hashem is always in charge, and at times he tests us to see if we recognize that.  When you face adversity, remember the pasuk-- and say to yourself.  ”Bitchu Bashem Adei Ad--trust in Hashem forever”.  When one trusts in Hashem, he has a Powerful Ally, the best one.  Many times it is a lack of sufficient bitachon that is the problem, not the challenge itself.


Based upon this, we can understand the message of other Pesukim “Ukraini Beyom Tzarah---call Me when you have trouble, I will help you....” (Tehillim 50:15).  This does not mean only that one necessarily should pick up the phone and dial the direct number only once.  Keep calling.  Sometimes, it may seem that one is not getting through, that the lines are down or are overly busy.  Chas VeShalom!  Dovid Hamelech explicitly teaches “Kaveh El Hashem, Chazal VeYa’ametz Libecha--hope to Hashem, strengthen yourself and hope to Hashem [once again].  As Chazal (Brachos 32B) instruct--”If a person sees that his prayers were not answered, let him pray again!”


There is even something more.  It is a special blessing to trust in Hashem--as the Pasuk teaches “Baruch Hagever Asher Yivtach Bashem--blessed is a person who trusts in Hashem, and Hashem will fulfill his trust.  It follows then that the more we trust in Hashem --the more blessings we will receive!



5 Teves

TORAH AND TODAH! 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!


Hakhel Note: 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!



MORE THAN LATKES: From a reader: “What is the source of the Minhag of eating latkes on Chanukah?  If it is that we need to eat something with oil in it--why not simply eat French fries from your local pizza store?  I have heard that the word “lat” in Yiddish means patch, and that the reason we eat latkes on Chanukah is to symbolize that the breaches made by the Yevanim in the Bais HaMikdash were only temporarily patched.  Some even refer to “sufganiot” as “latkes” as well, very likely for the same reason.  The latkes teach that although we were able to mend the breach--Chanukah was not the complete Yeshua.  Based upon this, I understand much better what you brought in the name of the Ba’al Shem Tov that the reason Chanukah does not have its own Mesechta is because the Mesechta of Chanukah will not be over until Moshiach comes and completes that Tahara of the Bais Hamikdash!” 


Hakhel Note:  This is an excellent thought.  With this, we can understand the difference in the endings of Al HaNissim on Purim and on Chanukah.  On Purim, we end Al HaNissim with finality: “VeSalu Osso VeEs Banav Al HaEitz”--Haman and his sons were hanged, and the lives of Bnei Yisrael were now able to be saved.  With respect to Chanukah, however, the wars in fact continued for many years afterwards, and therefore Chazal instituted the days of Chanukah the next year, as the Al HaNissim concludes, as days which were “LeHodos U’LeHallel LeShimcha HaGadol.  This is an allusion to the Geulah as an ongoing process based upon our relationship with and closeness to HaKadosh Baruch Hu!  Thus, although we are now several days past Chanukah, we can continue to strive for the ultimate goal of Chanukah--which is the Geulah Shleimah and the final Bais HaMikdash BeKedusha U’Veteharah!



“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 progression of serious aveiros are beyond the immediate comprehension of the moment.  Help yourself, and help others!



DON’T EMBARRASS YOURSELF! The Rosh in the Orchos Chaim L’Rosh (109) teaches: Ahl Ta’as BeSaiser Mah She’tisbayeish Begalui Ve’ahl Tomar Mi Ro’eini--do not do in private that which you would be embarrassed to do openly and do not say ‘who sees me?’”


Hakhel Note: As a practical matter we can apply this to our daily activities in which we may be a bit lax, because we perceive ourselves as being more ‘alone’. For instance, at the breakfast, lunch or dinner table--how do we eat and drink--consider the grace, the dignity, the respect in which one would eat or drink when in the presence of a dignified individual--and certainly in the presence of HaKadosh Baruch Hu Himself?!



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!



30-SECONDS FOR PEACE: The bracha of Sim Shalom, even if recited paying attention to the words and in a deliberate manner will take no longer than 30 seconds to recite. Yet, it requests peace from the Source of All Peace--what greater chance for success can there be than that?! In these turbulent times for the family, community and for the world, let us focus on peace--and we can have a good part in bringing it--in only seconds a day! Focus--it will be worth it!




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


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


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


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



Special Note Two:  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!



4 Teves

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: There is an essential 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 She’begufo, 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:  Some additional post-Chanukah points and pointers:


A.  Think of all the Nissim that you have remembered and thanked Hashem for over the eight days of Chanukah.  Now, think about “VeAl Nisecha SheBechol Yom Imanu!”  We all know that when one puts his hand into his pocket and takes out the wrong coin, or the object that he did not, this is considered to be yisurin.  What if a person does take out the right coin, or the right object--shouldn’t he express his thanks to Hashem for doing so?!  Additional Note:  If one would ask a medical laboratory how many medical tests it could perform, the answer would be in the thousands (we have verified this).  As a basic starting point--think of the thousands of tests that you do not need performed on you today!


B.  Are we allowed to ask for miracles?  Do miracles detract from our Zechusim?  Do they detract from the regular Hanhagas HaOlam?  These are, of course, complex questions.  However, on Chanukah we were allowed to say HaRachaman Hu Ya’aseh Lanu Nissim VeNaflaos Kemo She’Assa LaAvoseinu….  The Yeshuos Yaakov explains that even if we may not be allowed to ask for personal and private miracles, we can ask for great miracles--like the miracles of Chanukah--to recur again, because the Pirsumei Nissa--the public awareness will sanctify Hashem’s Name in a great way.  Thus, we can--and should--daven for great miracles--such as those that will accompany the coming of Moshiach!  Hakhel Note:  Some commentaries on the Siddur explain the words Ki Goel Chazak Atta--as expressing just this thought--asking Hashem for the great miracles that will accompany the Geulah!


C.  Rebbi Shlomo Karliner, Z’tl, noticed some black spots on his wall which resulted from placing his Menorah a bit to close.  He rejoiced, exclaiming:  “Now I will be able to visually remember Chanukah every day of the year!”   Hakhel Note:  Maybe we can rejoice in something similar--such as an oil spill, darkened window curtains or the like!


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


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



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


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


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


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



3 Teves

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’Ahl 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 5776, 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 against terrorism)--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 once again 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 bracha 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, Z’tl, the Temesvar Rav.  HaRav Schuck brings the words of Rebbi Shimon (Avos 2:18): “Be meticulous in reading the Shema and in prayer; when you pray, do not make your prayer a set routine but rather [beg for] compassion and supplicate before the Omnipresent....”  HaRav Schuck notes that, at first glance, this Mishna does not appear to belong in Mesechta Avos, which teaches us pious behavior, and not required conduct.  After all, are not the proper recitation of Shema and Shemone Esrei absolute Halachic requirements?  Indeed, there are literally scores of chapters in Shulchan Aruch relating to the Laws of Kriyas Shema and Shemone Esrei!  HaRav Schuck, therefore, concludes that Rebbi Shimon wants us to understand that even when reciting Kriyas Shema and Tefillah properly--with no talking, no interruptions, starting on time, properly enunciating the words and reciting them loud enough to hear them, etc., there is still another important dimension of which we must continuously remind ourselves.  That is, each Kriyas Shema, each Shemone Esrei, is very literally a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, for it will never recur.  Yes, you have recited Kriyas Shema and Shemone Esrei thousands and thousands of times, but are you 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!



2 Teves

THE NESI’IM: The seventh and eighth Nesi’im, corresponding to the seventh and eighth days, are the Nesi’im of Ephraim and Menashe.  Chazal (Bereishis Rabba 73:7) teach that Eisav will fall into the hands of the children of Yosef--Menashe and Ephraim!  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)



THE CHANUKAH ‘STORY’: HaRav Mattisyahu Salomon, Shlita, in his Sefer Ma’amarim emphasizes that the actual ‘story’ of Chanukah is not interesting to us from a historical perspective, as history could simply be viewed in a social, political and a particular historian’s context. In fact, whatever has occurred throughout the world’s existence has happened only because it was Hashem’s express and explicit will. When Chazal (Shabbos 21b) ask Mai Chanukah--what is Chanukah?--they respond not by going into lengthy details of the various strategies and battles, but rather with our relationship with Hashem and the miracles He performs on our behalf. Our view of ‘history’ is replete with r’l our falling prey to sin, suffering the consequences and then returning to Hashem--Who brings about our salvation, sometimes in a clearly miraculous way, and other times hidden in the guise of politics, movements and the like. History’s message of Chanukah to us in this protracted galus is to once and for all not fail and fall--so that we have the ultimate salvation that only Hashem can bring. HaRav Salomon points out that this is inherent in the term ‘Macabi’--Mi Chamocha Ba’eilim Hashem--we realize that it is only Yeshuas Hashem that we need--and that will come about only through our own thoughts, words and actions. Let us take the lessons of Chanukah with us--committing to rid ourselves of the tzaros, of the pain and suffering, that we find ourselves in, through our own Teshuvah--so that we can witness that final and ultimate Yeshuas Hashem! Hakhel Note: Perhaps you can begin with what you might perceive as a Hellenistic influence upon you--and try to curb and eliminate it!



LAST CALL--IMMEDIATE AND AMAZING OPPORTUNITY! We remind you that, the Kitzur Shulchan Aruch, in the first Halacha of Hilchos Chanukah (139:1), writes as follows: “It is customary to give generously to Tzedaka during Chanukah, for a unique potential is granted on these days to correct one’s pigmei hanefesh-- blemishes of his soul through gifts to charity. In particular, this charity should be directed to the support of poor Torah scholars.” You can donate right now by calling Yad Eliezer at 718-258-1580 or by email info@yadeliezer.org or visit their website at www.yadeliezer.org


The opportunity is here--let us take hold of it!



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 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.  We once again excerpt the following greater detail relating to Zos Chanukah 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 ChanukahThe 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 HaSukkosJust 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 sunWhen 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 interferenceMoreover, 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 declaredWe shall do and we shall hear (Shemos 24:7) when standing at the foot of Har SinaiShe 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 exileRegarding 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 EgyptBut 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!



29 Kislev

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!”



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!


Hakhel Note: 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 coming days of Rosh Chodesh Teves--Yosif Simcha Al Simchaso--one should add Simcha on top of the Simcha that he is already experiencing!”




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 ballroom 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. There are now specific types of Menorohs which do not actually have flames upon which a bracha can be recited--consult with your Rav as to which Menorohs are acceptable.


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.  Reminder! 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 2,000--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 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:  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…BeChatzros 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!



28 Kislev

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



TZUGEGREIT! One of the hallmarks of the Maccabim that is consistently emphasized is their mesiras nefesh for Avodas Hashem. Rabbi Naftali Kaplan, Shlita, emphasizes that every time we recite the first Pasuk of Shema, when we conclude with the word Echad, we are to have Kavannah that we too are willing to give our very lives in dedication to our service of Hashem. Quoting his Rebbi, HaRav Dovid Krohnglass, Z’tl, he said that in our minds we should think that we are ‘Tzugegreit’--ready and prepared--to sacrifice our lives. If possible, one can envision for a moment the scene of being moser nefesh Ahl Kiddush Hashem. If one does this, concludes Rabbi Kaplan--it will strengthen his Emunah--and his resolve--to do what is right. In the zechus of our sincere and dedicated feelings--may we be zoche to perform Kiddush Hashem throughout our long lives, and to the Bi’as HaMoshiach Bimheira Viyameinu!



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




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


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


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


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


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



Special Note Two:  On Chanukah, we celebrate not only the defeat of the Greeks, but also our staunch dedication against the Greek influence.  It is interesting to note that the Chofetz Chaim, in his explanation of the Siddur, writes that the bracha of “Sheloh Asani Goy” is intended to cover not only that we were not born into the ‘70 nations’, but also that we do not have the same conduct and thoughts as may be common among them.


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



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


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


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


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


4. At first blush, Yavan appears strangely similar to us. Both of our ancestors jointly clothed Noach out of honor and respect for who he was. The Menorah is a symbol of the Jew, and the symbol of the Greeks is the olive, whose oil was used to light the Menorah and which is mesugal for chochma .The Greeks were known to the world as scholars as well--in philosophy and other disciplines. Even the word Yavan has the same root letters as the word Yonah-- which symbolizes K’lal 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 in the lavatory--are still consciously and actively governed by Hashem’s sets of laws--we are who we are everywhere. Moreover, we recognize Hashem’s Hand as the source of all of our success and daven to Hashem for everything that we are and can be. About 100 years ago, a great Talmid Chacham’s granddaughter ran away from home to university in Europe .She met her grandfather and said to him: “Why do you sit in the darkness--go out into the world and see the great light!” He responded: “My granddaughter, you see these planes that fly now--well, they will eventually get to the moon, they will eventually make bombs that can destroy the whole world. We make people--we are the true light!


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



27 Kislev




QUESTION OF THE DAY: Chazal wanted us to place special focus during these days on “LeHodos U’Lehallel”. We fulfill the minimal Hoda’ah through reciting Ahl HaNisim in each Shemone Esrei of the day, as well as whenever we bentsch. Yet, Hallel is recited only once a day--after Shemone Esrei of Shacharis. Why is it not recited after the Shemone Esrei of Mincha as well? After all, Chazal (Megillah 17A) teach that Hallel is to be recited during the day based upon the Pasuk (Tehillim 113:3) “Mimizrach Shemesh  Ahd Mevo’oh Mehullal Sheim Hashem--from when the sun comes out to when the sun goes down, Hashem’s name is to be praised”. If we recite Hallel ‘when the sun comes up’ at Shacharis--why not ‘when the sun goes down’ at Mincha as well?!



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




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


Question: Last year I forgot to say Shehechiyanu on the lighting of the first night of Chanukah. Somehow I did not realize it until the next day. I thought that since the happiness of the arrival of Chanukah was over, I would no longer be able to recite Shehechiyanu. Is this correct?

Answer:  No, it is not correct. If one forgot to recite the Shehechiyanu, he should recite it the next night when he performs the mitzvah of lighting the Chanukah menorah. If he forgot to recite it the second night he must recite it the third night and so on, until the last night of Chanukah.


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

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


Question: 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?

Answer: 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). 



Special Note Two:  HaRav Yitzchok Isbee, Z’tl, notes that in the Ahl HaNisim tefillah on Chanukah we refer to Matisyahu as “Matisyahu ben Yochanan”, although we refer to Mordechai and Esther in the Ahl 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.



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



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



Special Note Five :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.



Special Note Six:  One additional point: In V’Ahl 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!



26 Kislev

FROM YAD ELIEZER: “Chanukah… It’s a holiday of lights, miracles, family and food.  It’s a time to be thankful that we can live our lives free of persecution and despair. At Yad Eliezer – we’ve been feeding and clothing the neediest and the most vulnerable for over three decades. 

People like Malka Suissa, a single mother who owes 3900NIS ($1,000) to the water company.  She needs to repay this in order to have any water in her tiny apartment.  Malka cleans floors every day in order to feed her children.  The water bill is totally beyond her ability to pay.  

We send food to the homes of the poorest people in Israel. We provide for orphans and widows, and for people who are totally alone. This year we had a huge amount of requests for children’s coats.  We were able to buy them for $18 (8 for $144) and the quality is great. This Chanukah, as you brighten your home with the beautiful lights of the menorah, you can also bring light and joy and comfort to those who need us the most. To donate visit www.yadeliezer.org, or a check can be mailed to American Friends of Yad Eliezer, 1102 E. 26th Street, Brooklyn, NY 11210. Hakhel Note: Please!



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!



IF ONE FORGOT AHL HANISSIM:  One should, of course, endeavor greatly not to forget Ahl HaNissim--as it is a great expression of hoda’ah, and one of the ikarim of LeHodos U’Lehallel on Chanukah. If one did forget Ahl HaNissim and remembers while still in the bracha of Modim before saying Hashem’s name at the end of the bracha, he would go back to where it is recited, and then continue Ve’ahl Kulam (Shulchan Aruch, Orach Chaim 682, Dirshu Note 2). If one remembers after he has said the name of Hashem at the end of the bracha, then he should recite Ahl HaNissim before Yehiyu L’Ratzon Imrei Phi is recited at the end of Elokai Netzor. In such event, before reciting Ahl HaNissim there, he should first recite the HaRachaman that is typically published in bentsching (HaRachman Hu Ya’aseh Lanu Nissim V’Nifla’os…) where one recites Ahl HaNissim if he forgot to do so in the proper place in bentsching and remembers after reciting the second bracha of bentsching (Shulchan Aruch, Orach Chaim 682, Mishna Berurah seif katan 4).




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


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


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


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


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



Special Note 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 all seven days in a Mehadrin manner, but his friend does not have any oil at all, it is better for one to light only one candle each night and fulfill the Ikar Mitzvah--and give the additional oil to one’s friend, so that he can also be Yotzei the Mitzvah.  Hakhel Note:  Although we went to war, we always seek to increase true brotherhood among ourselves--this is our Hiddur Mitzvah!


C.  If one attends a Chanukah party in which there are people in attendance who did not light, could he make a bracha lighting a Menorah at the party--intending to be Motzi them?  After all, isn’t there Pirsumei Nisa in the lighting?  HaRav Wosner, Z’tl, 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:  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!



Special Note Seven:  In a similar vein, HaRav Dovid Kviat, Z’tl, in the Sefer Sukkas Dovid writes that the Chofetz Chaim was asked how Hashem would bring Moshiach if the Jewish people had been experiencing deterioration in each succeeding generation.  The Chofetz Chaim responded that the Geulah will come based upon the pasuk in Malachi (3:16) “Az Nidbaru 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!



25 Kislev

VESAIN TAL U’MATAR LIVRACHA! Now that even those who live in Chutz La’Aretz have commenced the recitation of VeSain Tal U’Matar Livracha, we may pose the following basic question:  True, we need and ask for rain during this winter season in Eretz Yisrael, but why leave the all-encompassing words of VeSain Bracha—please give us [all] brachos that we had been requesting the entire spring, summer and fall until this point--and replace the broad, omnibus request of bracha with the seemingly limited request of specifically ‘Tal U’Matar Livracha’—particularly dew and rain for a blessing. Your thoughts are welcome.



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!



ON GIFTS:  As we have noted in the past, 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 Parashas 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.



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).



AN 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!



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



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



Special Note Two:  From Rabbi Moshe Goldberger, Shlita:


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


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



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



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


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


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

We received the following note from an important reader:



Special Note Five: 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. [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.  Remember--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 his 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!





22 Kislev

SHABBOS WITH THE MAGGID: Agudath Israel of Flatbush (Rav Moshe Weinberger, Shlita, Mora D’asra) will be hosting Rav Paysach Krohn, Shlita, this week, Parashas Vayeishev. On Leil Shabbos at 8:15PM, Rabbi Krohn will be giving a special Shiur open to men and women (followed by an Oneg Shabbos with Rabbi Krohn for men only). The Agudah is located at the corner of Avenue M and Ocean Parkway. All are welcome!



FROM A RAV: “Before checking on the news, one should put himself into the proper perspective and frame of mind. He should say or at least think: I am about to see what Hashem has recently done….”



L’HODOS U’LHALEL! In his recent outstanding Chanukah Shiur at the Hakhel Yarchei Kallah, Rabbi Yisroel Pinchos Bodner, Shlita, pointed out that the ikar of Chanukah is L’Hodos U’Lehallel--the object of the lighting is to give Hoda’ah for the open Nisim that HaKadosh Baruch Hu performed and performs for us. This Chanukah--let us be sure not to ‘miss the boat’! With this in mind, we urge you to study the next Headnote--which highlights the potency of the Hadlaka itself. Oh--how Hashem blesses us--with opportunity, and with greatness!



TWO VERY POWERFUL NOTES! From the Sefer Kav HaYasher on Chanukah (Chapter 96):


A. Any Ner which is lit for the sake of a Mitzvah has a “Kedusah Nefla’ah Gedolah Ain Shiur--a wondrous and immeasurable Kedusha”.  Furthermore, 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!


B. With every Mitzvah that one does, he creates Malochim Kedoshim. The Kav HaYashar continues that it is pashut that on any Mitzvah over which one makes a bracha the Malochim gather around the person--listen 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 to have a Lichtegen Chanukah!”


Hakhel Note:  Your very own Project Inspire!



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’amin 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 come 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:  We provide below several teachings of the Shelah HaKadosh in his Sefer, under the subtitle ‘Meseches Shabbos’:


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


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


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


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


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


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


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



Special Note Two:  Points and Pointers on this week’s Parasha, Parashas 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.


Additional Notes:


1. 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!


2. We must especially remember that notwithstanding publicity or news items which reflect negatively upon any person--we cannot accept the news in any manner as being true--and Ahl Pi Halacha must be Dan L’Chaf Zechus. No judge, jury, politician, businessman, psychologist, attorney--or anyone else--can adversely impact upon our view of another, unless in line with the Sefer Chofetz Chaim as determined by a  Rav or Posek. The news is a nisayon--and we must overcome and succeed!


B. 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!


C.  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 Habba. 


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


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.


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 Three: In order to help move us further towards the tremendous ruchniyus we hope to experience when Chanukah commences, we prepare with certain important Questions and Answers, as presented in the Sefer Guidelines to Chanukah” (part of the wonderful Guidelines Series by Rabbi Elozor Barclay, Shlita and Rabbi Yitzchok Jaeger, Shlita). The actual Sefer contains more than 200 Questions and Answers on Chanukah, and should be available in all Seforim stores.  Of course, any final Halachic decisions should be rendered by your own Rav or Posek.


 Is one allowed to fast on Chanukah?

It is forbidden to fast, even if one has Yahrzeit for a parent. A bride and groom do not fast on their wedding day.


Are there other special Mitzvos on Chanukah?

There is a special mitzvah to give Tzedaka on Chanukah and in particular to support needy Torah students. In this way we recall the miraculous fall of the evil Greeks into the hands of the righteous adherents to the Torah. The widespread custom to give Chanukah gelt to children may have developed from this mitzvah. There is also a Mitzvah to devote extra time to Torah study. This demonstrates the defeat of the Greeks who prevented Torah study by their evil decrees.


May one work on Chanukah?

All forms of work are permitted. Women though have a custom to refrain from work for a short time every evening, since they were instrumental in causing the miracle.


When should women refrain from work?

From the time the Menorah is lit for half-an-hour.


What type of work is forbidden?

There are different customs about this. The main custom is to refrain from heavy household chores such as laundering, house cleaning, ironing, and sewing. In Yerushalayim, some women also refrain from cooking.


How far apart should the Menorah’s branches be?

They should be sufficiently spaced that a distance of one thumbwidth (2 cm) separates each light form the next.


Does one need to toivel the Menorah?

No, since this item has no direct connection to food.


May some lights be lit with oil and some with candles?

No, one should not mix the two. All the lights should be either oil or candles. However, one may use oil on one night and candles on another night. This is particularly relevant to a person who must travel during Chanukah and is unable to take an oil menorah.


May one throw away used wicks?

Since the wicks were used for a Mitzvah one may not disgrace them by throwing them away in the garbage. One should burn them or wrap them in a bag before discarding them.


Is it preferable to use oil but kindle only one light every night or to use candles but add one each night?

It is preferable to use candles adding one each night. This is a bigger enhancement of the Mitzvah than kindling only one oil light each night.


What should be done if a person did not kindle enough lights?

If the lights are still burning, he should correct the situation by kindling the appropriate number. The Brachos are not repeated.


May a child light the Menorah is Shul?

No, this is not respectable for the congregation.


May one benefit from the lights of the Shul Menorah?



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

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


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

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


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

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



Special Note Four:  In preparation for Chanukah, we recall the words of the Seder HaYom, who teaches as follows: “Yemei HaChanukah Ain LeHisatzeiv Bahem…--on the days of Chanukah one should not be sad, but should show joy and happiness for all the good that we received in these days…and the Mitzvah of Chanukah, although it is ‘only’ a Mitzvah D’Rabbanan should not be viewed lightly in one’s eyes, because it is one of our Mitzvos which are Gedolos V’Nora’os--huge and awesome, as it expresses appreciation for the great kindness that Hashem showed to us. One who is lax in the Mitzvah of Chanukah c’v demonstrates that he denies the goodness that Hashem has given him, that he does not rejoice together with K’lal Yisrael and that he does not care about their rejoicing and comforting….”


Hakhel Note One: The Rambam (Hilchos Chanukah 3:1-3) actually writes that the days of Chanukah are Yemei Simcha V’Hallel. There is much discussion in Halacha on this point--but we can certainly take the words of the Seder HaYom deeply to heart!


Hakhel Note Two: The Bach (to the Tur Orach Chaim 670) writes that the ikar gezeirah of the Yevanim against us was because we became weakened in our Avodas Hashem-- and this is why the decrees of the Yevanim affected our service in the Beis HaMikdash--as they ruined our Mizbe’ach and stopped us from bringing our Karbon Tomid. As a last straw, they attempted to stop us from lighting the Menorah, by defiling all of our oils. Through the Teshuvah brought about by the Chashmonaim who were moser nefesh for the Avodah--great miracles occurred with the very neiros--with the very Avodah--that the Yevanim wanted to prevent. We therefore continue every year Lehodos U’LeHallel --to thank and praise HaKadosh Baruch Hu--which is our very own Avodah Shebalev!



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


6.  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.” [Recall the teaching of Rabbi Bodner above--L’Hodos U’Lehallel!]


 Hakhel Note:  It is interesting to note that the epitome of the Greek culture, the Olympics, are symbolized by the burning torch.  Compare our neiros, lehavdil, to their torch--it is the illumination of ruchniyus, of closeness to Hashem, to the illusory illumination of corporality and self-satisfaction.  Additional Note:  In a shiur he gave after the Mumbai massacre, HaRav Shmuel Dishon, Shlita, said that he had recalled several years ago that a terrorist attack in Eretz Yisrael, rachmana litzlan, had occurred immediately prior to Chanukah.  It is the custom in his family to dance after lighting the Chanukah Licht.  One of his grandchildren asked whether they would dance that year after what had just happened.  His response to his grandchild was “Of course, all the more so, because this is just exactly what they are trying to stop us from doing!”  Let us use the time after the Hadlakas Neiros--in front of the Neiros--to thank Hashem for the nissim and yeshuos he has granted us in the past, and to pray for further nissim and Yeshuos in the near future--the very near future!



21 Kislev

NO HOLES IN THE CUP! On the words of Dovid Hamelech in Tehillim (23, 5) “Kosi Revaya--my cup runs over”--HaRav Avigdor Miler, Z’tl provides the following great insight (in his Sefer Shaarei Orah I, p.96, as brought in Growth Through Tehillim, by Rabbi Zelig Pliskin, Shlita): “A cup can only run over if it becomes full first. If there is a hole in the cup, it will never become full and will never run over. This is a lesson for us to constantly remember the good things that Hashem does for us. Don’t forget them. Then the good things will add up--and the happiness will flow!



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 madreiga--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!




Special Note One:  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 Two:  We continue with our Hachanos for Chanukah.  The Sefer ‘Sichos BaAvodas Hashem’ notes that on other Chagim, we went into the Bais HaMikdash to bring karbanos and become inspired.  On Chanukah, however, we bring the Kedushas HaChag primarily into our own home with the lighting of the Menorah.  Just as Chassidim may wear Streimals on Chanukah, it is reported that HaRav Moshe Feinstein,z’tl, wore his Shabbos shoes--to indicate the importance of this very special time.


There is a 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 rebbe, 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.



Special Note Three:  We provide the following P’Sakim of HaRav Shmuel Kamenetsky, Shlita, as excerpted from the Sefer Koveitz Halachos by Rabbi Doniel Kleinman, Shlita:


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


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


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


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


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


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


7.  The Halacha that the Neiros Chanukah be lechatchila lit more than three and less than ten tefachim above the ground applies if one places his Menorah at the doorway.  However, if one places his Menorah on the window sill, then the flame of the Ner is recognizable even above ten tefachim, and the neiros may be lit there lechatchila, even if the flames of the Neiros will be above ten tefachim from the floor. 


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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



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


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


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


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


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



20 Kislev

MORE ON PEACE! As we daven daily for peace in Eretz Yisrael and the world over (remember to say with feeling--Bechol Eis U’Vechol Sha’ah Bishlomecha), we should recall the following two exceedingly important points:


1. If one is aware of a dispute among family or friends which he himself cannot stop, he must not take part in it in any way, as taking sides only fuels the dispute and could even enlarges it. Furthermore, if one of the principals in the machlokes simply stops in his tracks--he has eliminated the danger to the lives of himself and his family in this world and the next (Chofetz Chaim, Sefer Shemiras HaLashon, Chapter 16)


2. As we learned in last week’s Parasha, the only legitimate fight to have is with the Yetzer Hara. Let us look for a moment at the results of that battle: Yaakov was temporarily injured at his thigh and subsequently healed, yet his descendents for all time remember what the Yetzer Hara can do to a person through the prohibition of Gid Hanasheh. On the other hand, the Yetzer Hara, having been bested in battle, went back to sing shira to Hashem! Beating the Yetzer Hara is, simply put, a win-win situation!



HATZLACHA IN YIRAS SHOMAYIM: Chazal teach us that Yiras Shomayim Hi Otzaro--is our treasure. How can one attain it? HaRav Chaim Kanievsky, Shlita, was asked for a bracha for Yiras Shomayim. He responded that one needs to study Mussar to attain Yiras Shomayim. A second important point is to sincerely daven for it whenever we can!


Hakhel Note: HaRav Naftali Kaplan, Shlita, teaches that one should perform one intended extra-ordinary act daily (i.e., beyond the ordinary nisyonos/events that he encounters) to demonstrate his dedication and sincerity in his Avodas Hashem. Examples would include a special extra-ordinary act of Chesed, davening an entire Shemone Esrei with Kavannah word-for-word, or learning an entire hour without any interruptions allowed whatsoever.



GETTING READY:  At the end of HaNeiros Halalu we will recite words in which we thank and praise Hashem--Al Nisecha VeAl Niflaosecha VeAl Yeshuasecha.  Please recall or study the difference between these three important acknowledgments--Nisecha, Niflaosecha and Yeshuasecha



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!’




Special Note One: 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 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)  The following link contains a version of HaNeiros Hallalu that contains exactly 36 words-- http://tinyurl.com/33uv5d


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


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


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


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


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


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



19 Kislev

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



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).



INSPIRATION PRIOR TO DAVENING IN SHUL: Davening is such an important part of our lives--and having the privilege of davening in Shul and B’Tzibur is a triply special gift from Hashem. To uplift oneself prior to prayer in Shul--may we recommend Dovid HaMelech’s especially designed words--Tehillim Kepitel 84. Take the minute or two--it could truly change your davening in Shul!



BEFORE TAKING TO THE STREET! Dovid HaMelech also provides us with an extremely appropriate Pasuk (Tehillim 119:37) which we can recite prior to leaving our homes and encountering the challenges of the world around us: “Ha’aveir Einai Maireos Shav Bidrachecha Chayeini--avert my eyes from seeing futility; let me live in Your ways!”



VELO NEIVOSH! The Kaf HaChaim writes that one davens not to be embarrassed by the actions of his children in this world or the next (Shulchan Aruch Orach Chaim 60, Dirshu Note 1) when reciting the words Velo Neivosh L’Olam Va’ed in Ahava Rabba every morning. We should take solace in the fact that this is not only a contemporary problem--and that we have already been given instructions as to what we can do to help our children rise above the mores and actions of the society around them!



WILL YOU BE AS SUCCESSFUL AS A TURTLE, OR PERHAPS AS A FROG? At his recent Hakhel Shiur, Rabbi Maimon Elbaz, Shlita, noted that a monitor was placed on a turtle in order to determine how much it actually walked during its lifetime. The monitor read approximately 3,000 miles! In a similar vein, Rabbi Elbaz taught that a frog is said to recite 3,000 shevachim--praises of Hakadosh Baruch Hu--every day. Let us take the lessons we are supposed to--we must make sure and daily progress, keeping in mind our main goal of Avodas Hashem!



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




Special Note One:  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. Others 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).



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