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11 Teves

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


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






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


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


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


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


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


5.  The Shelah HaKadosh writes that one should not say Good Morning to a person on Shabbos--but rather Shabbos Tava--Good Shabbos--and by doing so he will fulfill the Mitzvah of Zachor Es Yom HaShabbos LeKadesho! In fact, the Bay’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!





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


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


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


D. 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?!


E. 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!”


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


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


G. Rashi (Bereishis 49:3) teaches us that Reuven, as the bechor, was destined for greatness--for him and his descendants 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…


H.  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!”


I. 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!


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


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


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


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


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





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


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


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


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



10 Teves

REMINDER--SPENDING YOUR MONEY: 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!



REMINDER--BREAKING YOUR DESIRE:   The Ra’avad, as brought by Rabbeinu Yonah teaches that breaking one’s desire by not continuing to eat when eating out of desire is considered as “a Ta’anis, a Korban and a Mizbeach Kapara--as a fast, a sacrifice and an altar of forgiveness.”  We must remember that these words are not expansive oratory, but the words of a Rishon brought in the Yesod HaTeshuva!  One can practice this truly remarkable opportunity on any day.  Nobody would really disengage from his physical desire unless he had a spiritual purpose (look at most of the world around you which is devoid of that purpose)--so by willfully and intentionally breaking your desire--you are on top of all else, undertaking a noble act of Kovod Shomayim, demonstrating that your dedication and striving is towards the ruchniyus of life, and what Hashem seeks of you in this world.



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



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


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



NEFESH OR NEFASHOS?: The Chofetz Chaim provides an essential insight relating to last week’s Parasha.  The Bnai Yisrael as “Kol HaNefesh...Ha’ba’ah Mitzraima Shivim Nofesh--all of the souls who were descendants 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 Yisrael--all of the souls of Bnai Yisrael 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 Yisrael 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 Yisrael. And just as when there is joy the whole body is affected--so too is it with our whole Nefesh--the united family of Yisrael.  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!






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

B. 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--she is only with her friends and not with strangers or those that she 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!

C. Let us recall our Vidui on Yom Kippur--exactly three months ago! Some thoughts:

(1) The Navi (Yirmiyahu 2:35) teaches:  “Hineni Nishpat Osach Al Amreich Lo Chatasi--Hashem judges a person by separate judgment for the person’s claim that he did not sin.”


(2) It is not the ‘major aveiros’ that may necessarily affect many people, but as Chazal teach it is the “Mitzvos that a person steps upon that surround a person at the time of his judgment”.  One must get serious in his reflection as to some of the everyday challenges and pitfalls that he encounters.  Here are just a few examples:


(a) Tzararnu--going through the day making the conscious effort not to hurt anybody with one’s words or actions.  Even if the other person is not a timid, weak, poor or suffering person--and even if that person is your parent, wife or child--one must take his own pain and care to avoid causing pain, suffering, anguish, or distress to another. 


(b) Kishinu Oref--we must not be stubborn and rigid, but flexible and attentive.  “I know better”; or “I will teach him”, without working with the person on his own level and in a way that bests suits the person is not only counterproductive--but offensive and wrong.  The prohibition against being stiff-necked likewise applies to an attitude of “I can’t change the way I daven”, “I can’t learn more than I do”, and “That’s the way it is--every once in a while Lashon Hara comes out.”   We add that as part of taking stock on Kishinu Oref, one think about something about himself that he knows bothers others, but that he has failed to correct because it is “him.”  If one realizes that a particular mannerism or ‘custom’ really does irk family, friends, or colleagues, it should become part of the “Nachpesa Deracheinu”--the search of our ways so essential to steering us back to the proper path in life.


(c) Overdue Items--one should not overlook the items or money he has borrowed or lent to others, or to whom he owes a phone call or an apology.


(d) Brachos Recitation--Have there been any times that you failed to make a Bracha Achrona?  Any times that you were unsure whether you recited an Asher Yatzar or not?  Any times that you recited the wrong bracha on a product?  Do you let your family/friends get by with the way they recite brachos--even though you know that they should do better?  Fascinatingly, the Orchos Chaim LaRosh teaches that one should be careful to instruct his family to be careful in three items:  Kavannah in Tefillah; the proper method of Netilas Yadayim; and proper brachos recitation.  It is not a long list--but it is a powerfully meaningful one!  Our dedication to improvement in brachos recitation is a demonstration of the honor that we feel in bringing Hashem into our life every day--throughout the day!



9 Teves


A new round of Middos Challenges began this Sunday, focusing on the Middah of Menuchas HaNefesh. Rav Chaim Friedlander Zt’l writes (Sifsei Chaim Middos Vol. 2) that Menuchas HaNefesh is not just an optional personality trait that some are born with and some are not - rather, it is an essential middah that every Yid must develop in order to excel in his or her Avodas Hashem.


Middos Challenges is a FREE weekly email that offers tips and deep insights into mastering our middos. This month, the emails are offering tips and insights into how to develop Menuchas HaNefesh in a deep and lasting way - all based on sources from Chazal. 


To sign up for these FREE weekly emails, visit this link. To see all past emails, click here.

For more information, email MiddosChallenges@gmail.com



CD’s AVAILABLE: CD’s of this past Monday’s outstanding Yarchei Kallah Shiurim are available --Rabbi Yisroel Reisman, Rabbi Eytan Feiner, Rabbi Eli Reisman, and Rabbi Fischel Schachter, Shlita--by contacting 718-252-5274.



TAKING A STEP BACK: 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.





A.  During the week in which Asara B’Teves occurs, we encounter Parashas VaYechi in which the beginnings of Galus Mitzrayim begin to be evident.  There is a clear common denominator between the two, as they both are the beginnings of a dreary and dreadful Galus period.  However, with that awareness comes the understanding that the Galus is a temporary one--and the faster we change and correct our ways--the faster we return to normalcy--and an elevated relationship with HaKadosh Baruch Hu and with others.  Yaakov Avinu thus gives us the brachos in this week’s 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 BeTeves even though it is the beginning of the series of calamities that led to our exile--because that exile is eminently rectifiable--if we make the right choices. 


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


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


D.  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!


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


Yet, we know that the fast of Asara B’Teves is so stringent that even it if occurs on Erev Shabbos--unlike all of the other fasts--we fast the entire day until Shabbos begins.  For 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 Hamikdosh with all of its open miracles--the Shechina’s palpable presence, the Aron with the Luchos, and literally hundreds of thousands (!) who had reached the level of nevuah (Megillah 14A).  With the enemy surrounding the city, the downfall of this singularly unique period began. 

As we look in the Torah, we find that very bad endings have to start somewhere, and that it is the terrible beginning that we need to control and avoid.  Perhaps the greatest example of this is one of the Aseres Hadibros.  The last of the Aseres Hadibros warns us “Lo Sachmod/Lo Sisaveh” (see Shemos 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 Sikrevu L’Galos Ervah”-Do not get close to forbidden relationships which Chazal teach refers to prohibiting initial touching and thoughts.  Likewise, the Torah goes out of its way when prohibiting Loshon Hora to say “Lo Selech Rochil B’Amecha” (Vayikra 19:16)-Do not even begin walking in order to speak Loshon Hara, for this will lead to downfall. 


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

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


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


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



NOTES ON FASTING:  The actual fasting begins at Alos HaShachar on Thursday morning.  In many areas, Alos HaShachar will occur relatively late on Thursday morning (one should be careful to consult with his Rav as to the actual time of Alos HaShachar as there are different opinions as to how it is determined). Accordingly, some may want to arise early to have a bite to eat or drink.  We provide two cautionary notes:


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


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



8 Teves

CELL PHONE REMINDER:  Because of the dangers of cell phone usage while driving, many (perhaps all) states have limitations and restrictions on cell phone use in moving vehicles.  Importantly, in New York, one cannot even have his cell phone on his lap or on the seat next to him with the speakerphone on--as this is still considered to be a dangerous activity.  There are undoubtedly many lessons that one can derive from this seemingly overreaching--but really very rational--prohibition.  We suggest that a great lesson Hashem has planted in this law is that putting the Yetzer Hora just a little bit out-of-reach is simply not enough to keep you out of trouble.  If he is in ear’s or arm’s reach--he is dangerous to you--and indeed even makes you dangerous to others as well!  It is our real duty to take the Yetzer Hora out and move him far away from us to neutralize and eliminate his effect.


Additional Note One:  If New York State can strictly enforce cell phone laws against even the greatest drivers, all the more so must every person set his own limits regarding cell phone use, which won’t be exceeded except in the case of emergency.  Wearing a blue tooth during davening?  Loud music ring tone going off in public areas or during Shiurim?  Picking up the phone when helping your child with homework or talking to someone (after brushing them off with a quick ‘excuse me’?  Sending text messages when crossing a main street (perhaps even against the light)?... are just a few areas where the Torah Jew can show his dominion over a new fangled Yetzer Hara in technology through his thoughts and efforts to do the right thing, and his personal decision to have mind control and rule over matter.


Additional Note Two:  Even those who are pedestrians--walking in the street or in crowded areas while emailing or texting present more than a nuisance--and really a danger--to drivers and others in their immediate vicinity.  When using the cell phone in a situation which could have a bearing on one’s safety or the safety of another--one must always remember the Halachic teaching--Chamira Sakanta Mai’Issura--we must be more careful with dangerous situations than with prohibited ones! 



THE EIGHTH DAY OF TEVES:  Today is the eighth day of Teves, the tragic day upon which the Torah was translated into Greek, the Septuagint, which is marked as a Ta’anis Tzadikim.  For further detail on the tragedy of the Septuagint, we refer you to the Sefer HaToda’ah, translated into English as The Book of Our Heritage (Feldheim), by Rabbi Eliyahu Kitov, ztl. 


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

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


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


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


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


One final, but important comment: Rashi explains that when Yosef and Binyamin fell on each other’s necks in last week’s Parasha (Bereishis 45:14), it was to symbolize the destruction of the two Batei Mikdash, and the Mishkan of Shilo, which were located in their respective territories in Eretz 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!



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



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


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


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


Hakhel Note:  Many teach that after the darkest point of night…comes sunrise.  We should use the three days ahead to bring the daylight to Klal Yisrael.  We each are responsible and we each can help do it!



7 Teves

QUOTABLE QUOTE: The Internet should never be used for entertainment or aimless browsing. This attitude must be felt and projected by parents. It follows that children should not witness parents displaying emotional attachment or obsessive preoccupation with their digital devices.” [Excerpted from The Evolving Digital Challenge by Rabbi Nechemiah Gottlieb, Shlita].



THE BRACHA ON CRISPIX: As many may know, Kellogg’s Crispix is now OU certified. Although much may have been written on what the bracha rishona/brachos rishonos are for Crispix, the OU advises that HaRav Yisroel Belsky, Z’tl, ruled that there is only one bracha rishona--Shehakol. Accordingly, if one is now purchasing this product, he should inquire from his Rav or Posek as to the appropriate bracha to be recited.



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



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


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



THE MORE WE TRUST…:  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 is simply not true.  Hashem is always in charge, and at times he tests us to see if we recognize that.  When you face adversity, remember the pasuk-- and say to yourself.  ”Bitchu Bashem Adei Ad--trust in Hashem forever”.  When one trusts in Hashem, he has a Powerful Ally, the best one.  Many times it is a lack of sufficient bitachon that is the problem, not the challenge itself.


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


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



CHANUKAH AND THE PARASHA!: What word in last 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?!



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


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





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


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


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


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


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



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


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


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


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



4 Teves

IN WAKE OF THE RUBASHKIN RELEASE--OUR PERSONAL MESSAGE! Thankfully, the time for Yeshuah is not limited to only the eight days of Chanukah.  The Sefer Sha’arei Teshuvah (published in the Shulchan Aruch, Orach Chaim, end of Siman 118) records as follows:  “The Mahari Tzemach, Z’tl, wrote that:  I have Kavannah when reciting the words ‘Ki LiShuasecha Kivinu Kol Hayom’ to await the Yeshuas Hashem to save us from difficult times or moments daily--and I have found this Kavannah to be a great to’eles many times in situations of tzara.”   The Chofetz Chaim (in Sefer Machaneh Yisrael) writes that every Jew must anticipate Yeshuah every day--”For the Yeshuah of Hashem can come in the blink of an eye, and as we recite ‘Ki LiShuasecha Kivinu Kol Hayom’.  The Chofetz Chaim continues:  “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 into appropriate Kavannah in our earlier Bakashos--as well as into a genuine Modim Anachnu Lach and a heartfelt prayer for Shalom



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


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


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



THE TENTH MONTH: We once received the following beautiful thought from a reader 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 fall 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!”



MEHADRIN:  There is one other lesson we must mention before we take leave of the recent momentous eight days. Chanukah is replete with beautiful menorahs, beautiful oil, Mehadrin and Mehadrin-Min HaMehadrin--Hiddur Mitzvah at its finest.  Hiddur Mitzvah--one’s beautification of his mitzvah-- is based upon a Pasuk that we read daily--”Zeh Kaili VeAnvaihu--This is my G-d and I will glorify Him” (Shemos 15:2).  The Chayei Odom (68: 5) in discussing Hiddur Mitzvah writes that one should make his Mitzvah as beautiful as possible--befitting the royal privilege that he is engaging in.  In fact, the Chayei Odom adds that some 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., it is a Mitzvah SheBeGufo, or there is no one else that can perform it and it has to be done now), he would also interrupt his Torah study for the Hiddur Mitzvah aspect of it as well.  With this principle, we can understand why Talmidei Chachomim spend so much time choosing esrogim and the like.  Perhaps we too can take the lesson--and stay within the beautiful Mehadrin mode of life.  When there is a special level of caring, dignity and glory attributed to a Mitzvah, not in an ostentatious way, but in a manner which is dedicated purely to the Kavod and Chibuv HaMitzvah, it most certainly has an effect on its performance-- and on those who view its performance.  Practical Application:  Choose a new Mitzvah which you will personally beautify over the winter.  It does not necessarily have to involve money, for extra time or effort to make sure that something really look, smell, taste, sound or feel more beautiful--beautifies the Mitzvah--and you as well!





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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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



MUSSAREI SHELAH HAKADOSH: The Shelah HaKadosh also makes the following important notes in this week’s Parasha, as excerpted from the Sefer Mussarei Shelah HaKadosh:


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


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


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





A. HaRav Moshe Wolfson, Shlita, teaches that “Vayigash Eilav--Yehuda”---if one really wants to come close to Hashem, it is with Yehuda--with admission to Hashem that all comes from Him--and with the great thanks this awareness engenders.  Hakhel Note:  Please remember the very first, and therefore ostensibly the primary, item that we thank Hashem for in Modim every day. It is actually not our lives, our souls, the daily nissim... it is “She’Atta Hu Hashem Elokainu VaiLokai Avosainu--we thank You for being our Hashem our G-d, and the G-d of our fathers”. Hashem, You could have distanced Yourself from us.  We could have lived our lives without Your Hashgacha Pratis as most of the world does. We could have not known You. Instead, You have given us the opportunity to be close to You at all times--Torah, Tefillah, the Mitzvos--to do what is right, to lead meaningful lives, to have ruchniyus as our goal.  Thanks to You, we lead lives in a world of gashmius which can lead us to live for eternity! With this awareness, with this knowledge, shouldn’t we anxiously await each and every opportunity to recite Shemone Esrei--each and every opportunity to recite Modim!!


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


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


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


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


2.  When Yosef revealed his identity, and he saw that his brothers were so ashamed, he put aside all of his years of disgrace, disgust and exile, being away from his father, his home and his environment, and instead immediately tried to mollify them with words of appeasement--so that they should not even feel hurt before him.  He told them that they had not done wrong...as through their actions the future of K’lal Yisrael would be assured.  He kissed them--and even told them not to argue among themselves over this on the way home!

Hakhel Note:  We may add to Rabbi Meisels’ incredible observation the thoughts of the Ba’alei Mussar on this point.  The Chofetz Chaim writes that from Yosef we learn that one must be Mai’tiv to those who are Mai’rah to him.  We note that Yosef is referred to as Yosef HaTzaddik, not Yosef HaChassid--which teaches us that we must follow this path which is not one of piety, but one of Tzedek--what is just and right.  Take the bold step--next time someone does something to you which was hurtful, try an act of goodness or kindness in return!


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



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


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


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


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



3 Teves

LEAVE THE WICKS! If one does not display his Menorah in his living room or dining room during the year, so that he can be constantly reminded about the Yeshuos that HaKadosh Baruch Hu brings, then perhaps he can leave a small bag of his unused wicks in a conspicuous place (such as with his bentschers)--so that he can be constantly reminded of Yeshuas Hashem! Hakhel Note: Rabbi Fischel Schachter, Shlita, points out that there is no such thing as a “good dreidel player”. Clearly, the letter that the dreidel will land on is clearly B’Yad Hashem. We may fool ourselves in other areas--but dreidel is far more than a toy or a game--it is a lesson for life!



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?



CONTINUE TO PRAY WITH FIRE!  Chanukah is now a very important part of our recent past and an eternal part of our fiber and being. As we have referenced over the past two weeks, Tefillah is such an important part of Chanukah’s lesson: We can continue to demonstrate the effect of Chanukah upon us.


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


We urge those who have not already done so in 5778, to begin the new cycle of Praying With Fire over the next three-month period.  Your personal growth in Tefillah--and in your relationship with Hashem--will be extremely tangible.



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


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


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


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





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


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


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


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


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



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


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


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


We would also like to provide a second thought based upon the teachings of HaRav Meir Schuck, Z’tl, the Temesvar Rav.  HaRav Schuck brings the words of Rebbi Shimon (Avos 2:18): “Be meticulous in reading the Shema and in prayer; when you pray, do not make your prayer a set routine but rather [beg for] compassion and supplicate before the Omnipresent....”  HaRav Schuck notes that, at first glance, this Mishna does not appear to belong in Mesechta Avos, which teaches us pious behavior, and not required conduct.  After all, are not the proper recitation of Shema and Shemone Esrei absolute Halachic requirements?  Indeed, there are literally scores of chapters in Shulchan Aruch relating to the Laws of Kriyas Shema and Shemone Esrei!  HaRav Schuck, therefore, concludes that Rebbi Shimon wants us to understand that even when reciting Kriyas Shema and Tefillah properly--with no talking, no interruptions, starting on time, properly enunciating the words and reciting them loud enough to hear them, etc., there is still another important dimension of which we must continuously remind ourselves.  That is, each Kriyas Shema, each Shemone Esrei, is very literally a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, for it will never recur.  Yes, you have recited Kriyas Shema and Shemone Esrei thousands and thousands of times, but are you truly taking the opportunity to be “zahir”--careful to recognize and appreciate--that this particular Shema and Shemone Esrei in front of you is a one-time opportunity and that it should not get lost among all those thousands of occasions that you have had until today, and B’Ezras Hashem, the tens of thousands that you will have in the future?  One should not simply “be Yotzei” his “obligation” by routine.  Instead, one should avoid the negative habit, the dry rote, the repetitive redundancy by taking a moment out before each Shema and Shemone Esrei to appreciate--and treasure--the truly monumental opportunity.  As one peeks out the window, and things may seem to look cold and bleary, day in and day out, as the pattern of winter appears to be almost nothing but darkness, we should break out and recognize the new, fresh, stand-alone opportunities of the day--two Shema affirmations and three Shemone Esrei private encounters with the Almighty.  If we can work on this until Tu B’Shvat, we will have brought spring into our winter!



2 Teves

DON’T MISS THE OPPORTUNITY--START TODAY! We provide by the following link --https://tinyurl.com/ya79mzmf  a calendar for the study of Sefer Mesilas Yesharim now over the two-month period of Teves and Shevat 5778. Please feel free to print out, make your own postcard, and spread the word!  This Program is for men and women--there are outstanding English translations of the Mesilas Yesharim available both through Artscroll and Feldheim.  This bli neder two-month undertaking will most certainly demonstrate your real desire for continued improvement during 5778! PLEASE JOIN US!!


THE NESI’IM: The seventh and eighth Nesi’im, corresponding to the seventh and eighth days, are the Nesi’im of Ephraim and Menashe.  Chazal (Bereishis Rabba 73:7) teach that Eisav will fall into the hands of the children of Yosef--Menashe and Ephraim!  The reason for this is that Yosef represents Gevurah DeKedusha, which is exactly what will defeat Amalek.  With this ultimate victory, Ohr and Kedusha will be Mosif VeHoleich--will grow and grow forever!  (From the Sefer Machsheves Tzaddik)



FROM A READER:  “...what would the world be like, if we sat paralyzed by cold and darkness? That darkness is reminiscent of the darkness of ignorance, the cold of disconnection from Hashem and Torah….On Chanukah, we think of the joy of the power of Torah to bring true illumination and wisdom!”



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 we can begin with what you might perceive as a Hellenistic influence upon you--and try to curb and eliminate it!





AZos Chanukah, is the last day of our celebration of “Chanu-Kah”--our resting from war on the 25th day of Kislev.  While other nations may celebrate victories in war, we celebrate our rest from the war--the result of the victory--which is for us to return to our Avodas Hashem!


B.  The Sefer Taamei Dinim U’Minhagim brings that Zos Chanukah is the last Day of Judgment from the Din that began on Rosh Hashana more than three months ago (the gematria of Matisyahu is the same as that of Rosh Hashana--861).  Hashem is a very gracious Father and allows us tremendous opportunities to return to Him--as alluded to in the Pasuk BeZos Yechupar Avon Yaakov (Yeshaya 23:9).  We should spend some time contemplating how we can complete this process of judgment on a positive note--how we, too, can celebrate this period in which we rejoice in the result of the victory--with a renewed vitality and vigor.  Some introspection and renewed commitment is certainly within the order of the day.


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


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


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


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



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


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


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


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


Hakhel Note:  Chanukah, then, is a time of selflessness--a time of bonding with Hashem, and those around us--let us make the most of this last precious day!



1 Teves

START TODAY! We provide by the following link --https://tinyurl.com/ya79mzmf  a calendar for the study of Sefer Mesilas Yesharim now over the two-month period of Teves and Shevat 5778. Please feel free to print out, make your own postcard, and spread the word!  This Program is for men and women--there are outstanding English translations of the Mesilas Yesharim available both through Artscroll and Feldheim.  This bli neder two-month undertaking will most certainly demonstrate your real desire for continued improvement during 5778! PLEASE JOIN US!!



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


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


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



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 which 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!” 



TZUGEGREIT! One of the hallmarks of the Maccabim that is consistently emphasized is their mesiras nefesh for Avodas Hashem. Rabbi Naftali Kaplan, Shlita, emphasizes that every time we recite the first Pasuk of Shema, when we conclude with the word Echad, we are to have Kavannah that we too are willing to give our very lives in dedication to our service of Hashem. Quoting his Rebbi, HaRav Dovid Kronglass, 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!



SHELOH ASANI GOY:  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.



ON THIS VERY DAY: In V’Ahl HaNissim, we have been reciting the words “U’LeAmecha Yisrael Asisa Teshua Gedola U’furkan KeHayom Hazeh…--and for Your people You worked a great victory and salvation as this day.”  What does “KeHayom Hazeh--as this day” really mean?  What is the day that we are referring to?


The Sefer Baruch She’Amar (written by the Torah Temimah) suggests it means to express that although we experienced great salvation then, it was not an eternal one, and that is yet to come--for just as day gets light (as it did at the time of the Chashmonaim), and then turns dark, so too will it get to be light once again--and it is that daylight (this time an eternal one) that we once again await.


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



THE SMALL MIRACLES: Many of us may be familiar with the famous question of the P’nei Yehoshua--if the Halacha is that “tuma hutra b’tzibur”--impure objects are permitted to be used by the tzibur--then what was the problem using all of the oil rendered impure by the Greeks?  The Menorah had to be lit for all of K’lal Yisrael and, accordingly, the impure oil was perfectly permissible for use by the tzibur--in a word, the miracle of the oil was simply not necessary--according to Halacha!  There is a beautiful answer to this question given by HaRav Chaim Shmuelevitz, Z’tl.  HaRav Shmuelevitz asks why we place such a great emphasis on the miracle of finding the oil--even over and above the previously unimaginable victories in the wars against the Greeks themselves.  After all, it is much easier to find an item one would not expect to find-- than for a handful of chaloshim--people who were physically weak to defeat the mightiest army in the world!  Furthermore, with the finding of the small jug of oil, a miracle happened for only an additional seven days.  Yet, because of the successful wars, the Jewish people retained the Bais HaMikdash for more than 200 years--and their fulfillment of the Torah was saved forever.


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


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


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


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


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



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


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


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


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


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



30 Kislev

MAOZ TZUR: By the following link, we provide a running translation of the universally recited Maoz Tzur piyut which we sing on Chanukah after Hadlakas Neiros. Enjoy!  https://tinyurl.com/ommdl3t



THE SEARCH: When one lights a candle, it is used as a source of light and especially used to search for something.  In fact, Chazal at the outset of Mesechta Pesachim utilize the Pasuk “Achapes Es Yerushalayim B’Neiros--I will search Yerushalayim with candles” to teach that one uses candles for bedikas chometz.  This being so, what does one search for with the neiros Chanukah?  The Sefer Zerah Kodesh suggests that it is Yiras Shamayim that one can find in the Neiros!



THANK YOU, HASHEM!  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, as we had previously noted) that we must study the name “Matisyahu Ben Yochanan”.  ”Matisyahu” means gift from Hashem and “Yochanan” likewise means gift from Hashem.  Chazal, as the authors of Ahl HaNisim, are obviously teaching us that a great lesson of Chanukah is to recognize that all we have are gifts from Hashem.  In fact, the Mishna Berurah (Shulchan Aruch, Orach Chaim 682, seif katan 1) writes that the proper nusach of Ahl HaNisim is “V’Ahl HaNisim”, which means “AND all of the miracles.…”  In other words, we are only extending the gratitude we give to Hashem daily by applying it to the miracles of Chanukah, as well. We cannot, therefore, overemphasize what a great lesson it would be to take the “Thank You, Hashem” with us and into our constant daily parlance after Chanukah.



MORE ON THANK YOU: 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!



ANOTHER ANSWER:  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 HaBayis--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. 





1. Our battle with Yavan is referred to as Galus Yavan--why is it referred to as Galus if the Beis Hamikdash was still standing?!


2. What does the word Chashmonaim mean--to whom does it specifically refer?


3. In Ahl HaNissim we refer to Kohanecha HaKedoshim. All Kohanim are Kedoshim--what does the adjective of Kedoshim add?


Hakhel Note One:  Once again, your responses are most welcome.


Hakhel Note Two:  Your insights or discoveries in Al HaNissim and Hallel--the Lehodos U’LeHallel of Chanukah--are very much welcome!



CHANUKAH LESSONS FROM HARAV SHIMSHON PINCUS, Z’TL: We provide the following essential Chanukah lessons and insights from HaRav Shimshon Pincus, Z’tl, excerpted from the Sefer Sichos Moreinu:


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


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


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


4. At first blush, Yavan appears strangely similar to us. Both of our ancestors jointly clothed Noach out of honor and respect for who he was. The Menorah is a symbol of the Jew, and the symbol of the Greeks is the olive, whose oil was used to light the Menorah and which is mesugal for chochma .The Greeks were known to the world as scholars as well--in philosophy and other disciplines. Even the word Yavan has the same root letters as the word Yonah-- which symbolizes K’lal Yisrael. Moreover, their beauty is supposed to find its place in our ‘ohalim’, in our tents. In sum, we appear to be a true pair--brothers lehavdil--with the Greeks. In reality, however, this is our greatest danger. The Greek influence of Haskalah and secularism is a more dangerous enemy because it is the silent one. Take Aristotle for example. His students once found him fulfilling his animalistic desires in a horrible way, and he brushed them aside with the answer that ‘it was not Aristotle’ that had done it. We, on the other hand, even when not actively involved in chochma--such as when putting on our shoes or in the lavatory--are still consciously and actively governed by Hashem’s sets of laws--we are who we are everywhere. Moreover, we recognize Hashem’s Hand as the source of all of our success and daven to Hashem for everything that we are and can be. About 100 years ago, a great Talmid Chacham’s granddaughter ran away from home to university in Europe .She met her grandfather and said to him: “Why do you sit in the darkness--go out into the world and see the great light!” He responded: “My granddaughter, you see these planes that fly now--well, they will eventually get to the moon, they will eventually make bombs that can destroy the whole world. We make people--we are the true light!


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



27 Kislev

QUESTION OF THE DAY ONE: In Maoz Tzur, we recite: “Az Egmor B’Shir Mizmor Chanukas Hamizbeiach.” Is not the thrust and focus of Chanukah  the Nissim relating to the wars and the Menorah--why does Maoz Tzur at the outset specifically refer to Chanukah in terms of the Mizbeiach?



QUESTION OF THE DAY TWO: 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? After all, Chazal (Megillah 17A) teach that one may recite Hallel all 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?!



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



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


Hakhel Note: Although Chanukah appears to be moving on-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!”





We provide points and pointers relating to Shabbos Chanukah:


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


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


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


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


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

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


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

Answer: Since the hotel specifically does not allow placement of the Chanukah menorah in the bedrooms, doing so would be considered “gezel”. (See Halachos of Other People’s Money p. 55, note 132). The Shulchan Aruch rules that gezel of an akum is totally asur. (S Aruch C”M 348, Halachos of Other People’s Money pg 32).  Therefore doing the mitzvah of lighting in the bedroom would be considered ‘mitzvah haboah b’avairah’. Thus you should light in the ballroom, where there is ample parsumei nissa for your family/group. There are now specific types of Menorohs which do not actually have flames upon which a bracha can be recited--consult with your Rav as to which Menorohs are acceptable.


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


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


5.  Reminder! The Ahl HaNissim and what it describes is so pivotal to Chanukah, that the Siddur Rashban actually writes that Ahl HaNissim takes the place of a Karbon Todah offering in gratitude for the Nes!  Hakhel Note:  This kind of ‘Karbon Todah’ can even be brought on Shabbos!





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


a.                  Just as in Paroh’s dream, the seven gaunt cows consumed the seven healthy ones, and the seven ears of wind-beaten grain swallowed the seven full ears, so too did the few Chashmonaim defeat the mighty Greek army--there is and can only be one explanation--for this is Hashem’s will!


b.                  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.


c.                  Most Chumashim, at the end of laining Shabbos morning, list the number of Pesukim just read.  At the end of Parashas Mikeitz, however, most Chumashim also list the number of words in the Parasha--2,025.  This total number of words alludes to the gematria of Ner (50 plus 200=250)--eight times for the eight days of Chanukah--totaling 2000--all of which started on the 25th of Kislev--for 2,025!


B.  In what merit was Yosef referred to as “Ain Navon V’Chacham Kamocha”--there is no one wiser in the world than you?  The Pasuk answers that it is because “Hashem revealed the dream and its interpretation to you” (Bereishis 41:39, 40).  The next logical question is then, what merit did Yosef have that allowed Hashem to reveal the dream and its meaning to him and be considered the wisest man in the world?  The Alter of Slabodka, Z’tl, explains with Chazal’s words (Midrash Rabbah 23): “Machshava SheLo Chashva Ba’Aveira Tavoh VeTikra Chachma--a mind which did not think of sin--let it come and take wisdom”.  According to this Chazal, the key to Yosef’s success was that he did not let the temptation even enter his mind.  He cleared his thinking of the Yetzer Hara’s influence and did not let the otherwise obvious sinful thought in at all.  Because he had made his mind open and free--there was an equal measure of great wisdom that could enter in its place and stead.  We may not always have the same great temptation and the concomitant great wisdom that can flow from overcoming it, but we must realize the very practical lesson from this Chazal--the more you prevent ta’avah and sin from entering your thought process in the first place--the wiser, very literally, you can and will become!  Your own measure of wisdom is up to--you!


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





1. When we recite “VeAl Nisecha SheBechol Yom Imanu” in Modim, we are referring to the fact that Hashem’s help is a Nes for us daily. If we were left alone to our own bechira, the Yetzer Hara’s fresh daily attacks would overwhelm us. Hashem’s daily miracle with us is the Divine Assistance in not leaving us over to the Yetzer’s hands. Hakhel Note: We should have this Kavannah when reciting these words--daily!


2. The reason that we read the Parasha of the Nesi’im on Chanukah is because their Korbanos were brought in the Mishkan--a portable place which moved through the desert in Chutz La’Aretz. This is the ultimate symbol for each person to make a “Chanukas HaBayis” within himself--rededicating his heart to life’s purpose--wherever he may be!


3. The Menorah is a k’li, a utensil which serves to hold important oil within it. Each member of K’lal Yisrael must take the lesson that he too can serve as a Menorah--to bring and inculcate the Hashpa’ah, the influence, of our oil--the Torah within him, and serve as a light to all of those around him. Just as we own a Menorah, we can be Hashem’s Menorah!


Additional Note: Rebbi Tzadok adds that the gold of the Menorah is a symbol of Yiras Shomayim--and that our Torah (which, once again, the oil symbolizes) is lit up best by us when we have Yiras Shomayim. We may add that many of us today have silver Menorahs. Perhaps with this we symbolize that our Kesef, our money, is dedicated to the study of Torah as well!





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

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


2.         Question:   Why do we light 36 Neiros over Chanukah (excluding the Shamash)?

Answer:  (a)  According to the Sefer Rokeach it is because Adam HaRishon used the Ohr HaGanuz for 36 hours before it was hidden away.  In fact, the Bnai Yissoschar in the name of R’ Pinchas of Karitz writes that although we may not see it when lighting, the Ohr HaGanuz itself is revealed at the time of the Hadlakas Neiros! (b) The Neiros symbolize Torah SheBe’al Peh, and there are 36 Revealed Mesechtos in Shas (Sefer Taamei Dinim U’Minhagim). Hakhel Note: The Pasuk in Bereishis describing the creation of light reads: “Vayar Elokim Es Ha’ohr Ki Tov” (Bereishis 1:4). There are four tagim on top of the Tes (9) in Tov--4 times 9 is 36--an illuminating allusion to the 36 Neiros Chanukah.


3.         Question:   What does the word Chanukah mean?

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


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

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


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

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


6.         Question:  How many words are there in the Bracha of V’lirushlayim Irecha?  What is the next bracha?  Similarly, how many letters are there in Baruch Sheim Kevod Malchuso LeOlam Voed?  What is the next word in Shema?  

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


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

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


8.         Question:  Why does the Navi compare K’lal Yisrael to a Zayis--to an olive?

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


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

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


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

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


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

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


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

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


13.       Question:  What else in the Beis HaMikdash had the number eight associated with it?

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


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

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


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

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


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

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


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

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


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

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


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

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


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

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


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

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


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

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


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

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


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

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


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

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


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

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


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

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


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

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


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

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


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

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


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

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


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

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


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

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


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

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


35.       Question: Why do we call the righteous Jews ‘weak’ in Al Hanisim if they were actually strong--actually killing thousands upon thousands of mighty Greek warriors?

Answer:  The Siddur HaGra explains that in their minds they realized that without Hashem’s help, we are always weak!  Similarly, Yosef Hatzadik exclaims in this week’s Parasha, ‘Biladai--it’s not my power.’ (Rabbi Moshe Goldberger, Shlita)


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

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


37.       Question: In  Ahl HaNissim, we have been reciting the words “U’Leamcha Yisrael Assisa Teshua Gedola U’furkan K’Hayom Hazeh…--and for Your people You worked a great victory and salvation as this day.”  What does “KeHayom Hazeh--as this day” really mean?  What is the day that we are referring to?

Answer: The Sefer Baruch She’Amar (written by the Torah Temimah) suggests it means to express that although we experienced great salvation then, it was not an eternal one--which is yet to come--for just as this thing called day gets light (as it did at the time of the Chashmonaim), and then turns dark, so, too, will it get to be light once again--and it is that daylight (this time an eternal one) that we await!


38.       Question: We conclude the words of Ahl HaNissim not only with the words VeKavu Shemonas Yemei Chanukah Eilu LeHodos Ul’Hallel, but with the additional words LeShimcha HaGadol--to Your Great Name.  What does LeShimcha HaGadol mean?

Answer: When we refer to Hashem’s “Name”, we are referring to how Hashem reveals Himself to us in this world.  Moreover, the word Gadol, explains HaRav Chaim Friedlander, Z’tl, refers to Hashem’s revealing to us of His Middah of Chessed.  This Middah is especially referred to as “Gadol” because it is the Ikar HaGedulah Shel Hashem Yisborach Shemegaleh Lanu--i.e., the Chesed that Hashem bestows upon us in this world is the greatest way He reveals Himself to us.  Accordingly, it very much behooves us to recognize and appreciate that Hashem is revealing Himself to us in this world through the kindness upon which we are making a bracha (or the kindness which we are requesting).  In the Zechus of our appropriate expression of recognition and thanks, HaRav Friedlander concludes, Hashem will increase the measure by which He shows us this “Shimcha HaGadol.”  As we continue through Chanukah let us use it as a springboard of appreciation of the Shimcha HaGadol for the rest of the year by measurably improving in some way the manner in which we make our Brachos.  Just briefly rethinking this thought of HaRav Friedlander before making a bracha could go a long way!


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

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


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

Answer: To Rosh Hashana--with the numerical equivalent of 861.  Rosh Hashanah is the beginning of the judgment period, and Chanukah concludes the judgment period, as is alluded to in the Pasuk (Yeshaya 27:9) “BeZos Yechupar Avon Yaakov”--with Zos (i.e., Zos Chanukah, the last day of Chanukah), will our sins be forgiven.


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

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


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

Answer: The Chayei Adam (154:21) writes that, when using wax candles, there is a hiddur to use longer ones.  This is because longer wax candles appear nicer, not because they will stay lit after the zeman.  See Magen Avraham to Shulchan Aruch, Orach Chaim 672, seif katan 3.  Based upon this Magen Avraham, it would appear that the same hiddur does not apply to oil.  One can discuss this with his Posek. Hakhel Note: There may be an additional basis for distinction between Hiddur and Pirsumei Nissah--and the oil staying lit longer may constitute Pirsumei Nissah, even if it is not a Hiddur.


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

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


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

Answer: Many have a common answer on the tip of their tongue (or is it lips?).  However, HaRav Shlomo Zalmen Auerbach, Z’tl, has a different insight.  HaRav Auerbach teaches that after ousting the Greek forces from the Beis HaMikdash, the Chashmonaim were able to be me’taher--to purify--everything--except for stones of the Mizbe’ach which the Greeks had ruined and which accordingly had to be put away into genizah, and replaced with new stones.  In order for us to remember what happened to the Mizbe’ach, the custom was to eat something which required an after-bracha of Me’Ein Shalosh, such as Al HaMichya, for this is the only bracha which specifically asks Hashem to have Rachamim “Al Mizbaichecha”--on Your Mizbe’ach.  Indeed, even Birkas HaMazon (in the third bracha), when asking Hashem to have Rachamim upon Yisrael, Yerushalayim, Zion and the Beis HaMikdash does not specifically request His Mercy for the Mizbe’ach as we do in Al HaMichya.  It is for this reason that we eat those wonderful doughnuts--so that we can remember what happened to the Mizbe’ach--and ask for Hashem’s Mercy in bringing the Geulah Shleimah--BeKarov Bimheira V’Yameinu!






26 Kislev

QUESTION OF THE DAY:   How many times is the Bais Aharon (from whom the Chashmonaim came) mentioned in Hallel?  Why do you think this is so?  [No, it is not eight.]  Hakhel Note:  Your insights or discoveries in Al HaNissim and Hallel--the Lehodos U’LeHallel of Chanukah--are very much welcome!



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



CHANUKAH--THE MITZVAS ASEI! We remind our readers that the Sefer Piskei Teshuvos (Volume 6, Chapter 670) brings the following remarkable note from the Chasam Sofer (Yoreh Deah, Teshuva 233):


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



MORE ON HALLEL: The Meam Loez (Tehillim, Chapter 113) writes the following important note regarding Hallel (which consists of Tehillim Chapters 113-118):


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


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



FROM THE SEFER LEKET RESHIMOS:  The following insights are excerpted from the Sefer Leket Reshimos on Chanukah, from the teachings of HaRav Nosson Wachtfogel, Z’tl, the original Mashgiach of Lakewood:


1.  In all generations, Hashem provides us with events to arouse us.  Prior to the Chanukah wars, we were being humiliated in relative silence by the Hellenists. Mattisyahu was aroused when he saw a pig being brought on the Mizbe’ach--he could no longer remain silent, he took action, and the rest is history.  We too must allow our hearts to be aroused--and Chanukah is a time for the arousal to be ‘chal’--to be felt deeply and acted upon. 


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


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


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


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


5.  The definition of Mesiras Nefesh is not one’s intent to be burned “Ahl Kiddush Hashem”. Rather, its definition is to go against one’s will and one’s nature.  Mattisyahu was undoubtedly a peaceful person, and like all of those around him was not interested in fighting at all.  He overcame his own nature and brought his sons to his level of Mesiras Nefesh as well.  The victories and miracles that ensued then became “peshutim”--for the Makkabim acted against Tevah, so the Tevah itself changed.  It was Mattisyahu who started it all--and that is why we begin with “Bimei Mattisyahu….”  We too should place special emphasis on these days on breaking our desires, bad habit and nature--for these days are Mesugal for change.  In turn, we too can be zoche to changes on our behalf which are “SheLo KiDerech HaTevah” as well!



FROM THE SEFER PARDES CHANUKAH: The following points and pointers are excerpted from the Sefer Pardes Chanukah by Rabbi Avrohom Rosenwasser, Shlita:


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


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


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


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



TESHUVOS ON CHANUKAH FROM HARAV CHAIM KANIEVSKY, SHLITA:  The following questions relating to Chanukah were asked of HaRav Chaim Kanievsky, Shlita:


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

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


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

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


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

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


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

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


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

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



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


Hakhel Note:  Wouldn’t you like to be among this special group?  We have the lessons and the lead of the Macabim to follow!





25 Kislev

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



THE ULTIMATE!  The Chasam Sofer urges us to increase our Torah study both quantitatively and qualitatively on Chanukah--for it was Torah that illuminated our victory--and the Torah She’Be’al Peh which continued to shine thereafter for all of K’lal Yisrael!  Now is the time to think about what special Torah project one will celebrate Chanukah with! Hakhel Note: The Sefer Me’or Einayim (Parashas Mikeitz) writes that Chanukah is a time to come close to Hashem through Torah--for the Yevanim defiling all of the oils is symbolic of their defiling all of the chachmos--all of the wisdoms of the world--with only one vial of oil--the Torah--remaining pure!





1. A Rav has warned that if all are leaving the home after the z’man hadlaka has been achieved, one should extinguish the neiros, rather than create a sakanah.


2. 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).



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


KORBAN TODAH!   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 ‘Korban Todah’ can even be brought on Shabbos!



WEAK? From Rabbi Moshe Goldberger, Shlita:


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


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





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


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



CHANUKAH--PESOKIM OF HARAV ELYASHIV, Z’TL: We once again present below several rulings of HaRav Elyashiv, Z’tl, relating to Chanukah, as excerpted from the monumental Sefer Ashrei HaIsh (Volume III):


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


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


3.  Even if there are many Minyanim in a Shul, the Menorah should be lit with a bracha only once at the first Minyan, or in the main Shul Minyan only.  Of course, the other Minyanim and/or the other locations should preferably have the Menorah lit, but without a bracha. [According to HaRav Elyashiv, a katan should not light in Shul, and if he did, it should be extinguished and relit with a bracha by a person of age so that there is proper Pirsumei Nisa.]


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


12.  One should not put the words “HaNeiros Halallu Kodesh Heim” into an advertisement, because it is a part of a Ma’amar Chazal, and would require Genizah.  Hakhel Note:  Let us consider the sanctity of the words that we are privileged to know so easily and so well!



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


 Is one allowed to fast on Chanukah?

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


Are there other special Mitzvos on Chanukah?

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


May one work on Chanukah?

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


When should women refrain from work?

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


What type of work is forbidden?

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


How far apart should the Menorah’s branches be?

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


Does one need to toivel the Menorah?

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


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

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


May one throw away used wicks?

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


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

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


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

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


May a child light the Menorah is Shul?

No, this is not respectable for the congregation.


May one benefit from the lights of the Shul Menorah?



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

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


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

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


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

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






24 Kislev

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



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


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



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



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



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





A.  As we know, the days of Chanukah are known as the end of our Teshuvah and Kapara process that began on Rosh Hashana.  The Divrei Chaim of Sanz writes that on Chanukah a person can do Teshuvah and fix even the most serious of aveiros because of the closeness to Hashem that we experience during this time.  He brings the Mashal of a king for whom it is more difficult to grant pardons when he is sitting in his palace surrounded by royalty and royal servants.  However, when he travels the streets of the city, and enters private home, even the commoners who otherwise could not have gained access to him are heard.  With the Kedusha of the Hadlakas HaNeiros, the King of Kings makes his presence felt in our homes.  Some write that our lighting of the Menorah at a level of less than 10 tefachim is symbolic of the Shechinah coming so far down to earth, in a manner which does not ordinarily occur. Based upon this, as alluded to above, we should take the time to daven in front of the Neiros—both before and after Hadlakas Neiros (Sichos Ba’avodas Hashem).  The Sefer Kav Hayashar (Chapter 96) writes that “Malachim Kedoshim VeSarfei Ma’alah” (the Heavenly Host) arrive at a person’s home at the time of Hadlakas Neiros, surround him and answer Amen to his Brachos.  We can well understand why some have the custom of putting on Bigdei Shabbos in preparation for lighting! 


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


C.  We present by the following link  http://tinyurl.com/2btzd4 a Tefillah found in the Siddur Beis Yaakov by HaRav Yaakov Emden, Z’tl, to be recited prior to kindling.  Its recitation, if possible, could put one in the proper state of joyous awe, as we bask--and indeed illuminate ourselves--in the Mitzvah over the last nights of Chanukah.  If you cannot recite this Tefillah, do your best to contemplate the moment!


D.  The Yesod VeShoresh Ha’Avodah writes that when one makes the bracha of She’asah Nissim at Hadlakas Neiros, he should have in mind great thanks and praise for the miraculous victories in war that occurred, considering it as if these incredible Nissim and Yeshuos were performed for him personally.  Moreover, the Kedushas Levi adds that Hashem does in fact perform Nissim, Niflaos and Yeshuos now (‘Bazman Hazeh”) for all of us both in ruchniyus and gashmius--each person in accordance with his individual needs.  Now this is real ta’anug!


E. For those who missed it yesterday: The Magen Avraham (Shulchan Aruch, Orach Chayim 676, seif katan 2) writes that one recites 36 words in Haneiros Halallu (corresponding to the 36 Neiros, excluding the Shamash, lit on Chanukah).  In most editions of the Siddur that we know of, the Nusach contains more than 36 words.  A copy of the published Nusach of the prayer consisting of exactly 36 words, which is found in the Siddur Rashban, is available at the following link  http://tinyurl.com/33uv5d


F.  When one lights a candle, it is used as a source of light and especially used to search for something.  In fact, Chazal at the outset of Mesechta Pesachim utilize the Pasuk “Achapes Es Yerushalayim B’Neiros--I will search Yerushalayim with candles” to teach that one uses candles for bedikas chometz.  This being so, what does one search for with the Neiros Chanukah?  The Sefer Zerah Kodesh suggests that it is Yiras Shomayim that one can find in the Neiros!


G.  The Sefer Ta’amei Dinim U’Minhagim brings from the Tashbatz (Siman 258) that before the Chashmonaim went to war, they recited the Pasuk of “Vihi Noam Hashem…” (Tehillim 90:17) seven times, and then the Pasuk “Orech Yamim Asbiayhu…” (91:16) two times, and were then victorious in war!  It is for this (great) reason that many have the custom of reciting these two Pesukim these specified number of times after Hadlakas Neiros.


H.  The days of Chanukah are days especially dedicated “L’Hodos U’Lehalel--to thank and praise”, for when all is said and done we remained and remain separate and distinct as a people--unaffected by the false ideologies, philosophies, and beliefs of the outside world.  Of course, both thanks and praise involve the spoken word.  However, when we speak, our words are intended to emanate from our hearts.  Every day, when reciting Al HaNissim and Hallel, they should not be viewed as an “extra” which lengthens the davening in honor of the Holiday, but rather as an opportunity to demonstrate your “Avoda Shebalev--your service of the heart” in true thanks and sincere appreciation for our lives--and for the ordinary and extraordinary miracles that we have, and B’ezras Hashem will continue to be blessed with.


I.  In the Sefer Sichos Ba’Avodas Hashem by HaRav Yaakov Meisels, Shlita:  The Kedushas Levi, Rebbi Levi Yitzchok, Z’tl, once found a group of his acquaintances talking about the wealth and pleasures of the Polish magnate Grof Pototsky.  ”There is no ta’anug--no pleasure--that he has not enjoyed,” said one of the people to the Rebbi.  ”Does he light Neiros Chanukah?” asked the Rebbi.  ”Certainly not, I’m sure that he doesn’t even know how or what it is.”  “In that case,” responded the Rebbi, “he has no clue--no idea whatsoever--of what true ta’anug really is!”


J.  The Sefer Piskei Teshuvos (Volume 6, Chapter 670) brings the following remarkable note from the Chasam Sofer (Yoreh Deah, Teshuva 233):  “The establishment of a special day on the day that a miracle has occurred is a Mitzvah D’Oraysa, and, therefore, the days of Purim and Chanukah are D’Oraysa…and one who violates this and does not make any remembrance of the days of Chanukah violates a Mitzvas Asei D’Oraysa…and it is possible that reciting the Hallel on Chanukah fulfills this Torah obligation.”  These words of the “Heilige Chasam Sofer” have, of course, drawn lively discussion in the Achronim (see Piskei Teshuvos there).


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


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



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


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


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


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


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



P’SAKIM OF HARAV SHMUEL KAMENETSKY ON CHANUKAH:  We provide the following p’sakim of HaRav Shmuel Kamenetsky, Shlita, on Chanukah as excerpted from the Sefer Koveitz Halachos by Rabbi Doniel Kleinman, Shlita:


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


Hakhel NoteAll 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.






23 Kislev


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


Hakhel Note:  Your very own Project Inspire!



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



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



ON GIFTS:  As we have noted in the past, HaRav Ezriel Erlanger, Shlita, points out that one of the greatest lessons Yaakov Avinu taught us in his encounter with Eisav was to avoid Eisav and that which he represents to the greatest extent possible.  Yaakov did not seek to be hurt by Eisav, nor did he seek his friendship.  HaRav Erlanger continued that while Chanukah Gelt is a holy minhag, the concept of Chanukah gifts is one that is taken from Eisav--and one that we must avoid.  A similar misconception taken from Eisav is the thought of the ‘Macabee’ being a strong and heroic figure--as inappropriately adapted by Jewish secular teams and events.  In fact, however, as we recite many times over Chanukah:  “Masarta Giborim BeYad Chalashim--Hashem delivered the strong Greeks into the hands of the weak Macabim.”  It is no ‘coincidence’ that Yaakov’s lessons to us in Parashas Vayishlach always come out…before Chanukah!  Hakhel Note: HaRav Erlanger is not giving a p’sak in Halacha regarding giving gifts on Chanukah. He is providing a lesson that he derived from the encounter between Yaakov and Eisav. One should, of course, consult with his Rav or Posek as to whether giving non-monetary gifts on Chanukah is to be frowned upon, encouraged… or treated in any other way!


On this point, from a reader: The Ponovezer Rav, Rav Yosef Shlomo Kahaneman, Z’tl, said that after the Greeks forbade the Jewish children from learning Torah, their parents had to ‘bribe’ them with gifts to get them to learn once again. Giving gifts on Chanukah commemorates that aspect of the Chanukah miracle.  Indeed, children should be told when receiving gifts that it is for this reason and that they are expected to increase their Torah learning because of the gifts (see Sifsei Chaim from Rav Chaim Friedlander, Z’tl; Moadim Vol. 2 page 134). See also Shu’t Avnei Yashfeh Vol. 1 Siman 129:2 and Sha’arei Halacha U’Minhag Vol. 2 page 283.

Hakhel Note:  Once again, one should consult with his own Rav or Posek for a final ruling in this area.



AN ESSENTIAL CHANUKAH ACTIVITY! The Kitzur Shulchan Aruch (Hilchos Chanukah, 139:1) writes, “We increase our Tzedaka during the days of Chanukah, for these days are especially endowed with the ability to rectify shortcomings of the soul through Tzedaka--and especially Tzedaka 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!



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


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



GETTING READY!  We provide the following Pre-Chanukah Notes from the Luach Davar BeIto:


1.  One should prepare Menorah and wicks in the morning or during the day so that they are ready in the evening without undue delay. 


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


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


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


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


6.  The Sefer Mekor Chaim writes about the Hadlakah:  “Ikar HaMitzvah Lirosam Lismoach Bahem Zecher LeSimchas HaHadlaka Achar HaNeis--it is essential after lighting to look at the candles and rejoice in them--which serves as a remembrance to the simcha that was experienced after the miracle occurred.”


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



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




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


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


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


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


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


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


G. There is a tradition that HaNeiros Hallalu contains 36 words (the number 36 would correspond to the number of Neiros Chanukah). Although in most Siddurim there are more than 36 words in HaNeiros Hallalu, the Steipeler Gaon, Z’tl, suggests that the ikar nussach of HaNeiros Hallalu is from after Hallalu and continues until Bilvad --which is 36 words. (ibid. 676, Dirshu Note 16)  The following link contains a version of HaNeiros Hallalu that contains exactly 36 words-- http://tinyurl.com/33uv5d


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


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



20 Kislev

START DRINKING! With Chanukah advertising everywhere, and Chanukah products filling the stores, we should take it as a real reminder to begin our spiritual preparations for this very special period as well.  Is there a new Peirush on Chanukah that I will study, a new Sefer that I will buy?  ‘Water, water is everywhere--and there is plenty to drink!’



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



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



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?!



FROM A READER: FROM THE HEIGHTS TO THE DEPTHS AND BACK AGAIN:  Rabbi Daniel Glatstein, Shlita (Morah D’asra of Kehilas Ahavas Yisroel, Cedarhurst, and Maggid Shiur, Kollel Agra D’Pirka, Kew Gardens Hills) points out the stark contrast between Yosef’s status at the beginning of Parashas Vayeishev and at the end of our Parasha, and the contrast with Yosef’s status in the middle of next week’s Parasha, Mikeitz.  At the outset of Vayeishev, Yosef is seemingly on top of the world, learning from the holy mouth of his father all that he learned in Yeshivas Shem V’Eveir and being gifted with a special coat.  However, our Parasha ends with Yosef in the dungeon in Egypt.  In Mikeitz, he starts out in the same place, but is quickly overtaken by circumstances and ends up second to the ruler of the world’s superpower at the time.  What changed?  Rabbi Glatstein quoted Rav Isaac Bernstein, who stated that Vayeishev begins with a description of Yosef telling the brothers about his dream, and his personal success.  From there, he is thrown into a pit and sold as a slave into Egypt.  However, at the end of this Parasha, while in the dungeon, we read about his change in attitude, how he has changed the focus from himself, to the prisoners in his charge that are upset.  He asks them to tell him their dreams, perhaps he can offer them some solace, some peace-of-mind.  He is rewarded by being brought out of the prison and undergoing an extreme change of status.  Rabbi Glatstein also pointed out that in all of Tanach, only two people are referred to as “tzaddik”, Noach and Yosef, two people who fed the entire world, again focusing on the merit of giving, of focusing on the needs of others.



WE CONTINUE WITH OUR EREV SHABBOS--HALACHOS OF SHABBOS SERIES:  We provide below several teachings of the Shelah HaKadosh in his Sefer, under the subtitle ‘Meseches Shabbos’:


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


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


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


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


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


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


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





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


Accordingly, we review the extremely important rules of Avak Lashon Hara. The Chofetz Chaim (Hilchos Lashon Hara, Chapter 9--recently studied in Shemiras Halashon Yomi) provides us with seven kinds of statements or expressions of Avak Lashon Hara:


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


Additional Notes:


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


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


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


C.  In the Parasha, we learn how Tamar was willing to give up her own life in order to avoid embarrassing Yehuda in public.  Chazal considered shaming another in public to be a form of murder.  Rabbeinu Yonah writes that just as a person must give up his life, rather than commit murder (unless in self defense), so too, a person must give up his life rather than shame a person.  Chazal teach that one who shames another in public loses his share in Olam Habba. 


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


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


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


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


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



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


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


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



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




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


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


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


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


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


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



19 Kislev

QUOTABLE QUOTE: No one is too old, too smart or too sophisticated to appreciate a sincere compliment. [Excerpted from Positive Word Power (Artscroll, Chofetz Chaim Heritage Foundation)]



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



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 descendants 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!



WORLD OVERVIEW: “When we look at the world in general, we reach an important conclusion, based on its history since creation as well as on the predictions of the prophets. This is the fact that humanity as a whole can exist in four basic states. In this respect, the history of man is very much like the life of an individual. Like a single person, the entire human race is born and reaches maturity.


The first state was one where ignorance and darkness prevailed among mankind, and true knowledge of God and His perfection were greatly obscured. Our sages call this period the “two thousand years of desolation.”


The second state is somewhat better, and it is the one in which we now live. We have knowledge of both the existence and perfection of God, His Torah is available to us, and we can thus serve Him.


Still, we live in a time when there is neither sign nor prophet, and the true enlightenment of Divine Inspiration (Ruach HaKodesh) is lacking. Even though man can gain very much knowledge through his own intellect and human endeavor, this cannot be compared to what he can gain through the spiritual inspiration granted by God. The two are as different as the body and the soul.


The third state is still better, and this is the state that existed while the Holy Temple (Beis HaMikdash) stood. During this period, there were wonders and miracles, and prophecy could be found among men. Prophetic inspiration, however, was not granted to all mankind, but only to a few select individuals. Such inspiration was furthermore very difficult even for such persons to attain, for there were things preventing one from attaining it and otherwise holding it back.


The fourth state is the very best, and this is the state that the prophets predicted for the ultimate future. This will be a time when folly will cease to exist completely. Divine Inspiration will be poured out on all mankind, and will be attained without any difficulty whatsoever. At this time, humanity will be considered to have attained full maturity. From then on, mankind will experience constant elevation, and will delight [in God] for ever and ever.”


[Excerpted from Derech Hashem by HaRav Moshe Chaim Luzatto, Z’tl (Feldheim Publishers, Translated by Rabbi Aryeh Kaplan, Z’tl)]



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


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


2.  People commonly hide behind the wobbly facade that most people do not utilize their time to learn.  Unfortunately, many people eat without making a bracha. Does that mean we should follow suit?

  Learning Torah is no different.  If someone walking with friends noticed a large sum of money on the ground that his friends didn’t notice--would he ignore it because his friends did? This applies no less to the Torah, which is “more desirous than gold and multitudes of precious jewels” (Tehillim 19: 11).


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


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


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


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


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



18 Kislev

COUGH DROPS: In Friday’s Bulletin, we wrote that we had asked Rabbi Bodner about the permissibility of sucking cough drops on Shabbos, and he responded as follows:  “It may be that cough drops would not be treated like Tums, as people may suck on cough drops in place of candy. If this is so, perhaps cough drops would be considered ma’achel bri’im and would be permitted even if one eats it for a sore throat. We need a factual determination as to how the average person eats it.” 


A Posek read Rabbi Bodner’s response and asked us to conduct a survey among our readers as to whether cough drops are used them as a ma’achal bri’im. Please be a part of it--by responding!



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



ADAM ATEM: Rabbi Moshe Tuvia Lieff, Shlita, teaches a fantastic lesson: Prior to the Mendel Beilis trial the Czar had for all intents and purposes announced that after Beilis was found guilty there would be a pogrom in Russia. The Jews united worldwide in Beilis’ defense. HaRav Meir Shapiro, Z’tl, then a young Rav, sent a letter to the defense team assembled that he felt that the main argument of the prosecution, who had allegedly gone through the Talmud, would be that Jews did not consider non-Jews to be human beings based upon the Talmudic teaching of ‘Adam Atem--Atem Keruyim Adam…’, and they were therefore given the license to kill non-Jews for religious (such as Matzah baking) purposes. HaRav Shapiro told the defense team that this was absolutely the wrong p’shat in Atem Keruyim Adam. In fact, the word Atem means you, in the plural--and means to convey that all of K’lal Yisrael together (i.e., you--in the plural) are called Adam--one human being--for you are all united. The nations of the world would not unite in defense of a person they did not even know--but Jews worldwide acted together as one. This is our mantra. When we know that Chesed is needed, it does not matter that we don’t otherwise know the person or that he or she may live 6,000 miles away. It only matter that we, as a collective unit, are called--Adam!





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


B.  When reciting the Pasuk of Kadosh Kadosh and the Pasuk of Baruch Kevod in Kedusha, one should lift his opened eyes towards the Heavens.  The Mishna Berurah brings from the Sefer Heichalos that Hashem teaches:  “Ki Ain Li Hana’ah BaOlam K’osah Sha’ah…--for there is no pleasure for Me in the world, as those times when their eyes are lifted towards Me…at those times I grasp onto the Kisei HaKavod where the image of Yaakov is placed, hug it and kiss it, mention their zechusim and bring the Geulah quicker.” (Mishna Berurah, ibid., seif katan 5 and 6) 


Hakhel Note:  Although we cannot fathom these anthropomorphisms, we are given an absolutely essential glimpse into the true profundity of the moment!


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


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


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


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


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



DAVENING FOR THE WELL-BEING OF OTHERS:  Points and pointers on davening for the wellbeing of others from the monumental Sefer Praying with Fire II, by Rabbi Heshy Kleinman, Shlita:


1.  HaRav Chaim Kanievsky, Shlita, rules that saying the name of a sick person is preferable to merely thinking it (based on the Pasuk in Tehillim 21:3).


2.  HaRav Shlomo Zalmen Auerbach, Z’tl, rules that when a group is reciting Tehillim for an individual, one should be careful to mention the name before praying.  In that way, each member of the group will have that person in mind, and the unique merit of the Tefillos of a Tzibbur will be effective on the person’s behalf. 


3.  If one does not know the sick person’s mother’s name, than the father’s name should be used.  The Iyun Yaakov (Brachos 34) writes that one can mention the father’s name--especially if the father has many merits that will stand in good stead for the sick person.  If one does not know the name of the mother or father, he can say the family name or just the name of the person. 


4.  When one davens for himself and others, he should mention the other names first, and then his own name.


5.  HaRav Kanievsky also rules that if one intends to pray for a lengthy list of people, one can pray for them collectively by saying:  “For all those on this list”, rather than reciting each individual name, which may be difficult especially when under a time constraint. 


6.  Even though by maintaining privacy others will not pray for him, HaRav Kanievsky rules that one must respect a person’s request and his name may not be revealed.  Even if the patient has not requested secrecy, but the family has requested it, one must obey the family’s wishes.  However, the Yesod V’Shoresh HaAvodah (Sha’ar 5) writes that one can daven for a sick person even if the sick person did not ask him to pray on his behalf.  Doing so fulfills the Mitzvah of VeAhavta LeReiacha Kamocha



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


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


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


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


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


Shlomo Hamelech, renowned for both his knowledge of Torah and his vast wealth, declared (Mishlei 3:15): “It is worth more than pearls, and all of your possessions do not equal it.’ Chazal (Yerushalmi Pe’ah 1:1) explain that one word of Torah is worth more than all the physical possessions of the world combined. People scuba-dive to collect pearls. We need only to start learning!” Hakhel Note:  Especially remember the Chofetz Chaim’s analogy when it appears that you may have a learning roadblock--and figure out a way to get to the pearls!



17 Kislev

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



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



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


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



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



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



SO MUCH GOOD! Here are some unusual words which appear in large type on the front label of a particular food product (not otherwise particularly known as a health food).  “DAIRY FREE  GLUTEN FREE  WHEAT FREE  EGG FREE  NUT FREE  100% VEGETARIAN  NO PRESERVATIVES”.  After all of that, on the back of the label for this very product, one will find the words “For best results--deep fry.”  [Hakhel note--while deep frying may provide the ‘best results’ in terms of taste, deep frying may be the most harmful way of preparing a product, and we provide it here not as an endorsement, but to accurately report the contents of the label].  Labels such as these should serve as a great reminder to us to always look at the good in a person, place, event, item or thing--and not take an immediate and  negative approach towards the person’s or object’s qualities, and most certainly avoid harming in any way or maligning in any way the ability and character of others.  Yes, he may possess the human midos-equivalents of gluten, eggs, nuts or saturated fats--but there is really oh much good in him as well.  So put the deep frying part on your friend’s ‘back label’ in small type--and put all those healthy FREEs in large type on his ‘front-label’--so that you see that when you greet him-- there is really so much good for you to see!



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



THE ROOTS OF CHANUKAH: The Sefer Sichos BaAvodas Hashem by Rav Yaakov Meisels, Shlita, writes that the root of the word Chanukah is chinuch--indicating that Chanukah requires chinuch--real preparation in order to perform the mitzvah properly. One sure way to begin the preparations is to recognize what the days of Chanukah were intended for--’LeHodos U’LeHallel’--to thank and praise Hashem.  With this awareness, we look to Leah’s naming of her fourth child Yehudah--when she stated “This time, I will thank Hashem”.  Incredibly, as we have noted in the past, this one name--Yehudim or Jews--is the name that has lived with us for the last 2,000 years.  The Sefas Emes (in the name of his grandfather, the Chidushei HaRim) explains that this appellation has remained with us because it serves as a daily reminder to live our lives with the recognition and awareness to thank Hashem--for everything--not just the Six-Day War type of miracles--but the daily miracles as well.  Our preparation for Chanukah, then,  is to begin by thinking and thanking--especially in Modim of Shemone Esrei--to which we will soon be only adding Al HaNisim --to all else that we recognize and thank Hashem for.


Rav Meisels beautifully concludes that the reason the bracha of Sim Shalom, which contains so many brachos for us, was placed by Chazal immediately after Modim, is because if we properly demonstrate our thanks to Hashem--we will be deserving of more  and more and more  brachos!


Hakhel Note: The Sefer Avodas Penim asks whether every time that we get Hana’ah, a benefit from this world, it actually detracts from a benefit we would have in Olam Haba.  He answers with the following Mashal:  A worker in a supermarket agrees to get paid his salary in kind with items from the store.  The storeowner permits him to take whatever he would like without payment, keeping a record of how much he has purchased on credit, and reduces it from the salary owed.  If, however, the worker elects to pay cash for the items purchased, then his salary will not, of course, be reduced.  When we give the proper recognition and thanks to Hashem for his beneficence, we are paying ‘in cash’ for the Olam HaZeh, and this will not reduce any of the salary that we work for in this world! 


The Chozeh of Lublin actually takes this lesson a step further:


Dovid HaMelech in the Posuk that begins and ends Chapter 118 exclaims “Hodu LaShem Ki Tov Ki LeOlam Chasdo--give thanks to Hashem for He is good; His kindness endures forever.” The Chozeh explains that Dovid HaMelech is teaching us by the juxtaposition of these phrases that the second half of the Posuk is actually a direct and proximate result of the first. If one recognizes and understands that Hodu LaShem Ki Tov--Hashem gives him everything that he has and rightfully and properly thanks Him for it, then Ki LeOlam Chasdo--he will merit that unparalleled second half of the Posuk--Hashem’s enduring kindness forever and ever!



16 Kislev

AVAK LOSHON HARA:  Why are words which are prohibited because they could lead to Lashon Hara called Avak Lashon Hara?  What does the term Avak mean and teach us?



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



THE FIRST OF THE ANI MA’AMINS: In the first Ani Ma’amin, we affirmatively state our belief that Hashem is the Borei U’Manhig Lechol HaBeru’im--that He creates and guides all creatures. A reader pointed out that we must never forget that the term Lechol Heberu’im includes each and every one of us--and that it is HaKadosh Baruch Hu Himself Who is guiding one through life--whatever the situation, whatever the circumstance.



A MINUTE CLOSER: In the past, we have noted the four brachos to be made upon the coming of Moshiach, as taught by HaRav Shlomo Zalmen Auerbach, Z’tl. The Sefer Otzros Acharis HaYomim, by Rabbi Yehuda Chayun notes that according to the Sefer Lev Chaim (Volume 2, Orach Chaim 41), we would also recite the bracha Goel Yisrael.


Hakhel Note: The Sefer Otzros Acharis HaYomim also brings Rav Chaim Volozhiner, Z’tl’s description of the Moshiach’s arrival: “I will be sitting in my courtyard learning Torah, and my wife will rush in and exclaim: “Chaim--how are you learning--the Moshiach is coming?!” I will ask her: “How do you know?” and she will answer: “Go outside and you will see that everyone is out to greet him!” It is thus apparent that HaRav Chaim held that the Moshiach would come suddenly, as Chazal teach that the Moshiach will come at a time of hesech hada’as--unexpectedly (ibid. p. 135)


Additional Note One: It is well known that the Chofetz Chaim urged everyone to prepare as best as he could for the Moshiach’s arrival. In fact, he had prepared a special Shabbos Kapote which he put on from time to time and sat down with to await the Moshiach’s arrival. He also had a suitcase ready with essential items so that he would be ready to travel to Eretz Yisrael immediately.  Once on Erev Shabbos Bein Hashemashos a Gadol came to the Chofetz Chaim and the Chofetz Chaim promptly asked him whether they are talking about Moshiach on the streets. The Gadol did not have an answer. The Chofetz Chaim responded--this is the problem--they don’t talk about the Moshiach. Are we not taught--Achakeh Lo--I await him? How can we not await him?! (ibid. 147 to 149)


Additional Note Two: In the house of the Chozeh of Lublin the clock sounded every minute. Once a guest entered and told the Chozeh that as he hears the minutes tick by he is saddened--for he realizes that he is getting closer to his 120 years. The Chozeh responded: “As for me--with every passing minute I feel happier and happier--for every minute brings me closer to Moshiach’s arrival!”


Additional Note Three:  Let us take the messages to heart today!



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





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


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



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



WHAT IS A BA’AL MIDDOS?:  We were advised by a reader that upon attaining bar mitzvah, a bachur from the U.S. visited with HaRav Michel Yehuda Lefkowitz, Z’tl, and asked him for various Brachos.  One of the brachos that he (or perhaps his father) requested was that he become a ‘Ba’al Middos’.  Upon hearing this, HaRav Lefkowitz asked: “Do you know what a Ba’al Middos is?”  After a moment of silence he continued “It is someone who is mevater--someone who steps into the shoes of the other person—and accedes to their needs and requests.”  Fascinatingly, a different reader advised us that he went to HaRav Binyomin Zilber, Z’tl, to receive various brachos from him.  When he asked for a bracha for Shalom Bayis, HaRav Zilber advised him that he would not give a bracha for that--because in order to achieve and maintain  Shalom Bayis, one needs only to be ‘Mevater Al HaKol’—step into the place and view of the other person and give in--thus creating your own Shalom Bayis!


Additional Note: Rabbi Bentzion Klatzko, Shlita, reports in the name of an Adam Gadol that, after 120 years, 95% of the Bein Adam L’Chaveiro that one is judged upon will be the Bein Adam L’Chaveiro within one’s own home!  It may be much easier to be nice, pleasant, courteous and understanding to someone whom you see less often, or upon whom it is important to make a good impression. It is in one’s own home where the essence of one’s Derech Eretz, Middos Tovos, and ways of pleasantness are the true indication of his inner self…and in which they must sparkle and shine!



ENERGIZE!  Several to many times a day, one receives brachos of various kinds from various people:  “Have a good day!”; “Hatzlacha!”; “Be gebentsched!”; “Zei Gezunt!”; “Stay well!”; “Yasher Kochacha!”; “Auf Simchas!”; “Make a lot of money!”….  We suggest that aside from answering “Amen” to the bracha--that one do so in a relatively resounding way--with feeling and gusto (“Amen!!”), which will have the effect of not only accepting the bracha wholeheartedly, but of also energizing the one giving the bracha to give brachos to others as well!  Hakhel Note:  We add that the Mishna Berurah (Shulchan Aruch, Orach Chaim 215, seif katan 10) brings that when one hears someone davening for another or giving a bracha to someone else, he must answer “Amen!!” as well!



13 Kislev

YOUR MESSAGES ARE MALOCHIM! At the outset of this week’s Parasha, which describes Yaakov Avinu sending Malochim to Esav, Rashi writes that they were “Malochim Mammash--real angels.”  What does Rashi mean to add by teaching that they were real Malochim?  The Chofetz Chaim explains (in another context) that Hashem has many, many Malochim to do His work--and not all of them are angels. As Dovid Hamelech teaches us in Tehillim--“Oseh Malachav Ruchos--Hashem makes the winds His messengers....”  It is up to us to realize that Hashem is constantly sending us messages through what other human beings say or do to you, through events in the world at large, through an event that occurred in front of your eyes, and through changes in the lives of those you know or are close to.  Yaakov Avinu was zoche to deal with Malochim mammash.  We may not be in a position to benefit from the assistance or teachings of the Malochim mammash--but we most certainly should recognize and benefit from the Hashgacha Pratis, direction in life and messages being related to us through Hashem’s messengers in all sizes, shapes and forms.


Hakhel Note  As a simple starting point in getting used to a constant appreciation of Hashem’s Presence in your life--the next time you are about to get angry, raise your voice or say the wrong thing to someone--stop and think--’wait a second he was Hashem’s messenger’!



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



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



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







1.  Where is this week’s Parasha can we find a Pasuk in which all the words end with an Enda-Mem?? 


2.  Where in this week’s Parasha can we find the only Pasuk that ends with Vayomer Yaakov??


3.  Where in this week’s Parasha can we find a Pasuk that has 5 straight words that all begin with the letter of aleph?? 




1.  Perek 32, Pasuk 15.


2.  Perek 32, Pasuk 28.


3.  Perek 36, Pasuk 41.





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


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


C. We received a request from one of our readers that everyone properly appreciate the ba’alei kriyah in their shuls—who spend so much time, and put in so much effort to be mezakeh us with a proper laining, including proper trop, dikduk and pronunciation. May we suggest that men in Shul should go out of their way after laining to express their Hakaras HaTov to the baal kriyah, with a personal compliment relating to the particular laining, if possible, as well.  Whether they get paid or not is really not the issue—it is your thanks and middos tovos that must be expressed!


D. As Chanukah is fast approaching, we note that Chazal (Shabbos 23B) teach:  “HaRagil B’Ner Havyan Lai Banim Talmidei Chachomim--if one is careful to properly perform the Mitzvos of Ner Chanukah and Ner Shabbos, he will have children who are Talmidei Chachomim.  Rashi (ibid.) explains that this is based upon the Pasuk (Mishlei 6:23):  “Ki Ner Mitzvah V’Torah Ohr--through the Ner Mitzvah of Shabbos and Chanukah will come the light of Torah.”  It would certainly be an auspicious time for one to begin to study in a careful and meaningful way the Halachos of Neiros Shabbos and the Halachos of Neiros Chanukah--whatever your particular reward may be--it will certainly be bright!  Lest you think this is a ‘drasha’--what we have stated is brought in the Mishna Berurah (Shulchan Aruch, Orach Chaim 671, seif katan 1)!





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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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




ON THE YAHRZEIT OF REBBI YEHUDA HANASI:  Sunday, 15 Kislev is the Yahrzeit of Rebbi Yehuda HaNasi, the Mesader of all of Mishanyos.  The Shelah HaKadosh writes that “Kabbalah BiYadi--I have a personal Kabbalah that a person who is a baki--well versed-- in Mishnayos will not be ‘Roeh Penei Gehenom’--will not see the face of Gehenom.”  The Maharal calls the study of Mishnah the “Yesod HaGadol VeAmud HaBarzel--the great foundation and the iron pillar to all of Torah”(Luach Davar B’Ito).  We provide by the following link an outstanding Limud Mishnayos Chart distributed by Congregation Darchei Tzedek of Baltimore, Maryland http://www.hakhel.info/archivesPublicService/LimudMishnayosChart.pdf The chart allows you to follow your progress in learning, on a Mishna-by-Mishna basis, and provides valuable information as to how many Mishnayos there are in each Mesechta and in each Perek of each Mesechta--for all of Shas!  Imagine the glee one will experience if he can mark off his success and complete the entire chart!  Even one Mesechta, and certainly an entire Seder is cause for great celebration as well!  May you be blessed with much success in filling in this very special chart!


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