Hakhel Email Community Awareness Bulletin
DECEMBER 2015 DAILY EMAIL ARCHIVE
THINK HASHEM DAILY:
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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
GALUS TO GEULAH!
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!
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:
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!”
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!].
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
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.
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!!
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?!
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,
Mattisyahu Salomon, Shlita, teaches that what made Shifra and Pu’ah so
successful was their Yiras Shomayim. Accordingly, 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
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
are a few of suggestions for invigoration.
try from today through Shabbos to:
in complete harmony with our spouse or boss--not even raising our voice once
to every Tefillah on time
that Hashem is listening to us in every Shemone Esrei--as we ourselves
attest “Ki Ata Shomaya…”
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
for someone else or do a Chesed Shel Emes every day
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:
“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
“He who hastens to the good will attain it today, while the fruit of
negligence is remorse.”
“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)”
“Scrutinize yourself. Be ashamed to act towards your Creator in a way you
would not permit yourself to act towards another human being.”
“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.”
“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?”
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.”
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
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
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).
SHOVAVIM REVIEW CARD!
Shiurai Torah has provided a wonderful review program of appropriate
sections of Yoreh Deah for men during the Shovavim period. Please see the
http://tinyurl.com/za286st for details and for further information.
HONOR OF SHOVAVIM:
Will you engage in one less indulgence today--even if it just one
less cookie than planned?
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
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
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):
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.
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.
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.
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”.
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
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
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.”
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
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!
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!”
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!
Note Two: A Rav quoted his Rebbetzin as saying: “Imagine if Hashem would
give us tomorrow only what we thanked him for today!”
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
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!
IMPORTANCE OF LIMUD ZECHUS!
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!
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!
reader advised us that in his bungalow colony a stop sign provided an
person should have many stop signs during the day--whether or not he is in a
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!
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
E. Many increase their recitation of Tehillim (especially on Erev Shabbos).
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
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
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:
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
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.
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.
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.
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!
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
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.
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!
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).
“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
“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
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?!
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.
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
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!
Relating to the concept of brachos in the Parasha, we add the following two
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.
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.
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
Special Note Three:
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:
leave Sefer Bereishis, and the lessons of the Avos....:
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:
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
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.”
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!
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 Hashem…Oseh 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
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!
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
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
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.
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
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!
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
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!
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.
IMPORTANT NOTES FROM READERS:
“Perhaps you can point your readers to
weeklytefilahfocus.com which provides great teachings relating to
Tefillah, and which provides wonderful inspiration on Tefillah.”
“Matar refers to blessed rains that bring food to
the world, and cause crops to grow, while
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
where we praise the might ofHashem
, we use the word
In the blessing of V’sein Bracha, where we ask for a blessing on the crops,
we use the word
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.
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.
too, are other leshonos of redemption and of ingathering and of consolation.
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
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
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.
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.
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
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”.
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?
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!”
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.”
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!
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!
Note: We provide below three brief and practical suggestions to help
ourselves along the right path to Teshuva:
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!
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.
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:
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
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
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
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:
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).
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!
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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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
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.
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.
The following teachings relating to Shabbos are excerpted from the Sefer
Shenei Luchos Habris (the classic work of the Sheloh Hakadosh).
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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!
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.
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
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.
HaRav Yaakov Meisels, Shlita, powerfully shows from Yosef how far one should
go to avoid humiliating, embarrassing, hurting or paining another:
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.
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!
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.
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
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
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
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!”
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!
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!
EMBARRASS YOURSELF! The Rosh in the Orchos Chaim L’Rosh (109) teaches:
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?!
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
30-SECONDS FOR PEACE:
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.
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!
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.
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:
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
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.
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.
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!
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
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:
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!
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!
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!
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
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
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.
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!!
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:
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.
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!
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
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.
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.
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
Special Note Two: Important Post-Chanukah Considerations:
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.
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
Another comment we received was that there is a difference between lighting
Chanukah candles--and Neiros Chanukah. Think about it!
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!
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.
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
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.
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!
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
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
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
firstname.lastname@example.org or visit their
The opportunity is here--let us take hold of it!
“...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:
Zos Chanukah, is the last day of our celebration of “Chanu-Kah”--our
resting from war on the 25th day of Kislev. While other nations may
celebrate victories in war, we celebrate our rest from the war--the
result of the victory--which is for us to return to our Avodas Hashem!
The Sefer Taamei Dinim U’Minhagim brings that 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
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
of the altar.”
to that which
of the week--while
eight alludes to
Day of Chanukah
of Shemini Atzeres
days of the
Awe and the
thanksgiving of the previous
to observe three festivals:
these three festivals
in the written
Torah, Chazal were given
as the moon reflects
by Hashem, their
for the establishment
is a reflection
of the light
of Sukkos and Shemini
Bnei Yisrael’s having
who sought to
in Heaven, she
in the shelter
the essence of whose rejoicing
to Torah and its mitzvos. The light of
in turn, is a reflection
of Shavuos --the ‘time of the giving of
Bnei Yisrael declared:
foot of Har
established a covenant
with Hashem, a covenant
that was renewed
Even when she
who set out
the Jews, she
her acceptance of the original
of “we shall
do and we
of a new
it come speedily
days--a new light
Bnei Yisrael, a
of the light of the redemption
new festival! It
merit of the fact that she did not
despair of being
she expected it daily
even in the
Regarding this future
day, our Nevi’im taught
the land of Egypt I shall show
the Bnei Yisrael up out
as Hashem lives,
land of the north and from all
And I shall
Chazal said: Even
of Purim and
can this be compared?
was given money
to invest in a
He did so and
come and take back that
will not be taken
which the Torah ordained.
to earn them on
and Chanukah, however, they
own deeds-- through their willingness
covenant of the Torah
was further enhanced
by virtue of
these things despite being in a state
Because Chanukah and Purim were achieved by Israel
the merit of
by all Jews wherever
is the reason that
outside the Land
day on which
suggested for celebrating
extra day outside
When we are in the
sanctity of the
one day alone.
the sanctity of
of the festival.
Jews earned with
their own merit.
‘s inner soul and we therefore
- even outside
require an extra day!”
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:
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.
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
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.
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!”
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!
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
AT THE NEIROS!
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
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
provide points and pointers relating to Shabbos Chanukah:
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
following Shailahs and Teshuvahs were provided to us by Rabbi Yisroel
Pinchos Bodner, Shlita:
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?
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).
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
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.
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!”
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.
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
Parashas Mikeitz is usually read on Shabbos Chanukah. There are many
possible links. Below are a few suggestions from the Sefer Baruch
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
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.
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!
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!
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:
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!
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!
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:
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:
Question: How many questions and answers do you think we will have?
44--representing the 36 Neiros of Chanukah, and the eight Shamashim!
Question: Why do we light 36 Neiros over Chanukah
(excluding the Shamash)?
(a) According to the Sefer Rokeach it is because Adam HaRishon used
the Ohr HaGanuz for 36 hours before it was hidden away. In fact, the Bnai
Yissoschar in the name of R’ Pinchas of Karitz writes that although we may
not see it when lighting, the Ohr HaGanuz itself is revealed at the time of
the Hadlakas Neiros! (b) The Neiros symbolize Torah 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?
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.
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?
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?
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?
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?
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
Question: Where is Chanukah alluded to in Hallel?
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
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”?
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].
Question: What else in the Beis HaMikdash had the number eight
associated with it?
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?
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 ____________ _____________.
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
16. Question: Why is it forbidden to get benefit from the
lights of the Menorah?
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?
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
18. Question: Can you give a Gematria relating to the dreidel?
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?
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
20. Question: How are the three Amudim of the
world--Torah, Avodah, and Gemilas Chassadim represented on Chanukah?
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?
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?
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?
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?
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
(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?
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?
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?
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?
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?
Chaim Kanievsky, Shlita, explains that they act towards us like dogs--not
only intending to bite us--but barking at us as well!
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?
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
33. Question: In Maoz Tzur we sing Bnei Vinah Yemei
Shemonah Kavu Shir U’Renanim. What is the difference between Shir
Chaim Kanievsky, Shlita, explains that the Shir refers to Hallel, and
the Renanim to Ahl HaNissim which we recite joyfully on
34. Question: Why does the Mishna Berurah say that we should
begin VeAl HaNissim--not just Al HaNissim?
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
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?
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
36. Question: In Ahl HaNissim we recite LeHashkicham
Torasecha U’LeHa’aviram MeiChukei Retzonecha--isn’t this redundant?
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
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?
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?
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
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?
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
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
42. Question: Is it considered a Hiddur Mitzvah if you put more
oil in the cup than you need?
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
43. Question: If one did not light at night, does he light in
the day without a bracha?
there is no Tashlumin, as a candle in daylight is ineffective (Chayei Adam
44. Question: Why do we eat Sufganiyo(s)(t) on Chanukah?
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!
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
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
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.
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
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
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
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
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!
REMINDER--TRY TO GIVE TZEDAKA
EVERY DAY OF CHANUKAH!
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?!
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:
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?
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.
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
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).
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?
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
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.
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?
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.
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.
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.
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?
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.
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!
“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.
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.
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
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!
FORGOT AHL HANISSIM:
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):
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):
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.”
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:
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.
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
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.
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.
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
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”
Special Note Four: The following points and pointers are excerpted from the
Sefer Pardes Chanukah by Rabbi Avrohom Rosenwasser, Shlita:
The Gematria of Nes Chanukah is the same as Tzedaka. The equation
speaks for itself--we must give on Chanukah!
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!
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
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:
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?
Together with the segulos--you still have to learn Torah!
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?
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.
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?
It depends on whether they will be happy about getting up. If one is in
doubt, he should not awaken them.
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
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.
Did the Kohanim light personal Menoros in the Beis HaMikdash, as they ate
and slept in the Lishkos?
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.”
Wouldn’t you like to be among this special group? We have the lessons and
the lead of the Macabim to follow!
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.
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!
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!
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. “
again, one should consult with his own Rav or Posek for a final ruling in
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).
ESSENTIAL CHANUKAH ACTIVITY!
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!
QUESTION THAT DESERVES AT LEAST EIGHT ANSWERS:
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!)?
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
Special Note Two: From Rabbi Moshe Goldberger, Shlita:
do we call the Righteous Jews “weak” in Al Hanisim if they were actually
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:
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.
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!
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):
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.
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
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.]
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.
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
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.
When one is on a plane above an area where the time to light has arrived
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
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
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.
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.
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.
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!
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
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….”
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
VERY POWERFUL NOTES!
From the Sefer Kav HaYasher on Chanukah (Chapter 96):
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
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!
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
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:
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’:
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!”
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.
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
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.
Because Shabbos is known as “Shabbos Kallah,” the first two meals are like
the Seudas Erusin and Seudas Nesuin!
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.
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
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
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
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!
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.
one allowed to fast on Chanukah?
forbidden to fast, even if one has Yahrzeit for a parent. A bride and groom
do not fast on their wedding day.
there other special Mitzvos on Chanukah?
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.
one work on Chanukah?
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
should women refrain from work?
the time the Menorah is lit for half-an-hour.
type of work is forbidden?
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.
far apart should the Menorah’s branches be?
should be sufficiently spaced that a distance of one thumbwidth (2 cm)
separates each light form the next.
one need to toivel the Menorah?
since this item has no direct connection to food.
some lights be lit with oil and some with candles?
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.
one throw away used wicks?
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
preferable to use oil but kindle only one light every night or to use
candles but add one each night?
preferable to use candles adding one each night. This is a bigger
enhancement of the Mitzvah than kindling only one oil light each night.
should be done if a person did not kindle enough lights?
lights are still burning, he should correct the situation by kindling the
appropriate number. The Brachos are not repeated.
child light the Menorah is Shul?
this is not respectable for the congregation.
one benefit from the lights of the Shul Menorah?
the wife kindle the Shabbos lights only after all the Chanukah lights have
Ideally yes, but if time is short she may kindle the Shabbos lights as soon
as her husband had kindled one Chanukah light.
other Menorahs are also to be lit (e.g. by children, visitors) should the
wife wait until all have been lit?
she may kindle the Shabbos lights as soon as her husband has lit his
husband is not ready to light the Menorah and time is short, may the wife
kindle the Shabbos lights first?
The husband may still light the Menorah afterwards, provided it is still
before sunset. The same applies if the wife mistakenly kindled the Shabbos
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
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!
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:
One should prepare Menorah and wicks in the morning or during the day so
that they are ready in the evening without undue delay.
is related that Hungarian Jewry preferred to use olive oil from Eretz
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!
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
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.
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
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
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?
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.
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
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
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.
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
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:
Lechatchila, one may use Shemen Zayis which was placed under a bed that was
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.
One need not use the candle that was used as the candle to light the Neiros
Chanukah as his Shamash.
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.
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
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
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.
One should wait for his wife to light if she is not home at the initial
candle lighting time.
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!
It is better to light with wax candles at the earliest time to light, than
to light with oil even a little bit later.
If the Shamash goes out within a half hour of lighting, and no other
electric lights are on, one should relight the Shamash.
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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:
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
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.
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!
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
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.
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
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).
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 “Baruch” includes the request
that Hashem as the Only Source provide you with the matter or item
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
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--
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
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.
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.
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
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
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
“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 Hazeh…what 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
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!
TAKING TO THE STREET!
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
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!
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!
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
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.
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):
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).
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).
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).
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.
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.
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).