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Hakhel Email Community Awareness Bulletin




In the Hakhel Community Awareness Bulletin, Volume IV, Number 1 (Adar 5764) (item entitled “Take a Deep Breath”), we had previously provided a form of successful breathing exercise.  We now provide the following tried-and-true exercise to improve your body’s spirit:


Three (3) times a day (upon waking, noon time, and upon going to sleep, or breakfast, lunch and dinner, or while walking), say the following words five (5) times, consecutively and slowly: ‘THANK YOU, HASHEM.”  Each time they are recited, think of something else you are thanking Hashem for.


It may be something:



  • your spouse

  • your children

  • your health

  • your sanity

  • your knowledge

  • your home

  • your job, etc.;


or it may be something SPECIFIC--

  • your keeping up with Daf Yomi or other learning schedule

  • your son’s success in school

  • your vision

  • your ability to walk and even run (well, at least when necessary!)

  • your old and new friends

  • your loyal clients/customers;


or it may be something RECENT--

  • your getting up this morning although you were so-so tired last night

  • any one of the 15 events described in Birchos HaShachar that we experience daily

  • the opportunity to answer “Yehei Shmei Rabba”

  • how about having coffee and milk in the house

  • a warm coat on a cold day

  • something that happens reminding you that you are human

  • getting a compliment from someone

  • …and…hopefully even for having received this message!


You can start right now—slowly, please:

THANK YOU, HASHEM FOR: __________________

THANK YOU, HASHEM FOR: __________________

THANK YOU, HASHEM FOR: __________________

THANK YOU, HASHEM FOR: __________________

THANK YOU, HASHEM FOR: __________________






QUESTION:  Which of the following Mitzvos from the Torah do not apply to women, i.e., from which of these are women exempt?


a.  U’Vo Sidbak--staying close to Talmidei Chachomim

b.  Mipnei Seiva Takum--standing when a wise person or a person over the age of 70 enters a room

c.  Shalosh Seudos, including the third Shabbos meal

d.  Giving Tzedaka

e.  Fearing the Mikdash (which may also apply to Batei Kneisios-shuls-on a M’Doraysa level)

f.  Paying workers on time

g.  Returning lost objects


ANSWER:  According to the Chofetz Chaim in the Sefer HaMitzvos HaKatzar, based on the Sefer HaChinuch, women are obligated in all of the above, just as men.





QUESTION:  Whom is a man required to honor more, his best friend or his wife?


ANSWER:  The Mishne in Avos ( 4:15 ) teaches that you should treat the honor of your friend in the same way as your Rav’s honor.  The Gemara in Bava Metzia (59A) teaches that you must always be careful to honor your wife because she brings brocha into the house.  So you are required to greatly honor both--for very different reasons.  This is not intended as a “politically-correct” response, but as a real reminder of the enormous respect we owe to those who are so close to us.




1.         After last week’s New York blizzard, one could see the snow and ice cleared thoroughly and beautifully from the sidewalks of some stores and homes, just adequately in front of others, and inadequately in front of yet others.  One lesson that may be gleaned from this is that if something is very important to you, you are careful to do it well--very well.  Ask yourself:  “How well ‘cleaned’ is my Shemone Esrei, my care with words, or my focus on helping others in specific, discrete ways?”


2.         Just as ice-breaking salt and sand and high-powered snow blowers may be needed in some circumstances, we must sometimes look to assistance from others in order to properly improve ourselves.  If one is wise and humble enough to be guided by those who know better, the end result may well be much better than scraping the ice on one’s own.


3.         As the 4,000 pound traction-controlled sport utility vehicle (SUV) spins in its tracks over a patch of stubborn ice one square foot in diameter, one gets a glimpse of how the chariots and warriors of Pharoh and Siseroh were spun, tumbled, muddled, tormented, flooded and drowned by the will of Hashem, “Who does not desire the might of the horse, nor the strength of the warrior” (Tehillim 147:10).  What does Hashem want?  He “wants those who fear Him, those who [recognize that He is the source of everything, and accordingly,] await His kindness.”


With this in mind, we will better understand why, at the conclusion of our prayers for the coming week in Ata Chonantanu on Motzei Shabbos, we plead that our coming week be one in which we are “Medubakim B’Yirasecha”--attached to the fear of You.  Although we cannot keep the heightened Olom Habo-like quality of Shabbos the whole week, we pray that the element of closeness to Hashem we experienced on Shabbos be stuck with us through the week, so that we do not err in thinking that it is my special power that accomplished this, his bold ingenuity that accomplished that, their personal connections that changed this, or its access to money that bought that.  The one who is “stuck” to the fear of Hashem knows very well that the Lexus Jeep getting “stuck” on a patch of ice in a specific location, or someone getting “stuck” in Florida because of the snow storm up North is the act of the Creator and Observer in Whose presence we all stand, serve and function.


4.         Meteorologists say that up to ten (10) inches of snow can constitute the equivalent of only one (1) inch of rain.


The Gemora (Taanis 7-9) teaches that rain displays the great Gevurah--the awesome strength--of Hashem, for in any particular location, many millions of droplets may fall, and all that falls is perfect as to timing, location and amount, and in exact accordance with Hashem’s Will--as reward, as punishment, for parnosah, etc.


Given that so much snow--ten inches-- could represent one inch of rain, it would seem that snow represents the midah of Rachamim--mercy--in which Hashem restrains and limits the Gevurah.  Indeed, Hashem shows us that when the conditions are right, He will freeze the Gevurah and instead produce a pure, white replacement which becomes muddied and dirty only when we, by our actions, trample upon it.


5.         Rav Chaim Volozhin (Nefesh HaChaim, Chapter 1) explains that “Hashem Tzilcha” (Tehillim 121:5) means Hashem is your shadow--and responds to us the way we respond to others and to the world around us.  How should we behave--Like a booming thunderstorm, or like a calming, frosty snow?


6.  Reflect upon the Chochma involved in planning how to mobilize after a storm.  First, the main arteries, then the larger streets, then the smaller streets--the entire situation is planned and mapped--and is remarkably and successfully accomplished.  The larger highways can have two feet of snow on their shoulders, yet no trace of ice on the highway.  All it took was planning, the right tools and implementation.  Anything that is attempted in a “quick and dirty” fashion-remains just that--quick and dirty.  As the Maharsha teaches on the Pasuk in Hallel--”Ani Amarti Bechafzi, Kol HaAdam Kozev--if a person says that he succeeded [in Torah study] quickly--he is lying”, for it is only through aforethought and effort that one succeeds.  One Mishna a day over 365 days equipped with the right Sefer, and the right time of the day will really equal to 365 Mishnayos, but 365 Mishnayos in one day, well,.... Let’s take the lesson!


7.  Finally, the feeling of Hakaras HaTov to all who put in the extra effort to help everyone else weather the storm a little easier--even if they do get paid (yes, even double time) for it.  From those who plow and sand the streets through the middle of the night, through the bread and milk delivery men , through those who turn on the heat in Shuls and public places for a little longer or a little higher...and of course to Hashem for giving us the opportunity to embolden our Mitzvos with the extra effort necessary to perform them, and for giving us the ability to take all of the above lessons--and many more not mentioned--and use them to improve our lives and the lives of those around us!





Every weekday morning in Pesukei D’Zimra, we recite Tehillim Chapter 100--“Mizmor L’Sodah”, which was the chapter recited in the Beis HaMikdosh when one brought a Korban Todah, a Thanks Offering.


The question, however, arises--the Korban Todah was required to be brought only on the happening of one of four events:


1)      Being released from captivity;

2)      Being healed from a serious illness;

3)      Having successfully passed through the ocean, or

4)      Having successfully passed through the desert.


Since, Boruch Hashem, these four occurrences generally do not happen to us every day, why is this particular Mizmor placed in our Pesukei D’Zimrah on a daily basis?


Rav Yaakov Emden Z’TL, in his Siddur Bais Yaakov, as well as the Besomim Rosh (published in the Siddur Otsar Hatefillos), both write (based upon the Zohar and the Gemora in Niddah 31A) that our premise is mistaken.  While one is obligated to bring a Korban Todah in these four cases, one should always express his thanks to Hashem for all forms of Nissim, miracles, that may happen to him.  Indeed, they write, “There is no day that passes in which a miracle has not occurred--but the recipient of the miracle does not recognize it.”


Morevever, Rav Emden adds, “...And especially we, scattered sheep among bears and wolves, are obligated to always thank Hashem” for the constant known and unknown miracles wrought on our behalf.


It is no small wonder then, that the Shulchan Aruch (Orach Chayim 51:9) rules uniquely about Mizmor L’Sodah that it should be said “B’Negina”--with a pleasant tune, for unlike other melodies, this song is an everlasting one.


Practical Suggestion:  When reaching Mizmor L’Sodah every morning, stop and say this short, but potent, Mizmor with a heartfelt gratitude for the known and unknown, small and large, “natural” and “unnatural” miracles that happen to you, your family, K’lal Yisroel, and the world on a daily basis.


We quote below not the words of an elderly ba’al mussar who has moved to a high spiritual level, or a contemporary “machmir”, but the words of the Mechaber himself, HaRav Yosef Karo Z’TL (Shulchan Aruch, Orach Chayim 231:1):


“The rule is that a person must place his eyes and his heart on his ways, and weigh his deeds with the scale of his sechel (his intellect), and when he sees something which will bring him to the service of the Creator, May He Be Blessed, he should do it, and, if not, he should not do it; and someone who conducts himself accordingly serves his Maker always.”


In reality, the ruling of the Shulchan Aruch echoes the words of the wisest of all men, Shlomo HaMelech, who said with Ruach HaKodesh “B’chol Derachecha Da’eyu, V’Hu Yeyasher Orchosecha” (Mishlei 3:6)--In all your ways, know Him and He will straighten your paths.


While on a very refined level, this serious concept may be difficult for the average person to follow, there are discrete areas (outlined by the Aruch HaShulchan in Orach Chayim 231:5-7) in which we can attempt to approach this conduct.  Beginnings are also important--as the popular Yiddish saying has it:  “Fin Klainkaitin Vert Groiskaitin”--from little things come big things.


Below are the three suggested areas:


1)  Eating and Drinking  Being careful to eat only unquestionably kosher items (this means only from a reliable Hashgacha) because your eating has a higher purpose, so why bring yourself down?  Additionally, being careful not to eat ravenously or even for the sake of eating simply because attractive food passes before your eyes (including avoiding needless consumption at a Smorgasbord).  Finally, eating to assist your body (Mishlei 12:10 , as explained at the conclusion of Tomer Devorah) to be healthy to fulfill its purpose in life.


2)  Sleeping  Not just going to sleep because you are so tired, but turning this otherwise everyday act into a life-fulfilling event.  Right before going to sleep, think of or study a Torah thought, and with this, one’s sleep will be sweetened, and overnight, the Torah will grow in a manner you cannot currently fathom (Rav Yerucham Levovitz ZT’L 2:155).  Think back on at least one good thing, and one bad thing you did today and the lesson learned from each one.  Remember to say K’rias Shema al HaMitah with feeling and forgive those who have sinned against you.


3)  Speech  Not only not speaking hurtful words or Loshon Hora, but totally avoiding coarse or improper words (“I promise”, “I swear”).  Also, taking an opportunity from time to time to speak in an elevated manner, because you are fulfilling your higher role in this world.


At a few check points during the day--eating, sleeping, in a conversation--one can seize the moment to refocus his life’s opportunities and efforts, to make everything all the more worthwhile and meaningful, for the purpose of the service of his Creator.




When one is not only in front of, or behind, but even in the general proximity of, someone smoking, he can sense the fumes and may even feel them entering his body.  To avoid the second-hand smoke, one must stay far away, cross the street, leave the room, etc.  In many cases, the smoker does not even realize the effect or damage he is having on the life of another, who is forced to scurry away to avoid any negative impact on his health, or even to just avoid the stench.


A person who sins may be likened to the smoker, for although he himself may be accustomed to the smoke, his actions have a negative impact on all those around him.  Just as the health conscious person scurries away from the smoking stench, or rushes his child away from it, so too, should we distance ourselves and our families from those who have a negative effect upon us.


It is no coincidence (for there are no coincidences!) that Dovid HaMelech starts all of Sefer Tehillim with the words “Fortunate is the man who does not follow the advice of the wicked, and in the path of the sinners he does not stand and in the sitting place of the scoffers he does not dwell.”


Everyone has his or her own real-life situations in which the spiritual “smoker” must be avoided:


  • The consistently hot-tempered person

  • The co-worker whose language is considered coarse or even vile

  • The business acquaintance whose practices are questionable

  • Those who make light of Rabbonim and Torah leaders and what they say

  • The “Kiddush Club” and “talkers’ table” members

  • Those who frequently speak devorim betalim in the Beis Medrash while others are trying to learn

  • Those who put material pursuits ahead of spiritual pursuits


Although the damage caused by these kind of “smokers” may not be as evident, one can view the damage in at least the same light as the effects of second-hand smoke.  Chazal teach “Oi L’Rasha V’Oi L’Scheino”(Rashi on Bamidbar 16:1, quoting Medrash Tanchuma) --Woe to the wicked one, and woe to his neighbors.  Perhaps we can interpret this to mean that there is a greater woe to the neighbor than to the Rasha himself, for the Rasha is described with only an “Oi”, whereas those around him get a “V’Oi”--an and OI, just as second-hand smoke may unfortunately be more dangerous to those nearby than the smoke to the smoker himself.


Let us all not be hurt by the presence of those who are around us.  Instead, we should consistently endeavor to find ourselves in the presence of those we would be proud to be with if it were the moment of the Moshiach’s arrival--for it very well may be that moment!



In response to our earlier Bulletin entitled “More Than Just Blowing Smoke”, we received an important message from a doctor in Miami Beach , Florida .  He felt that the impression we may have left on readers is that it is not as bad to be a smoker as it is to be the subject of second-hand smoke.  In fact, he stated that the smoker is absolutely and conclusively subjecting himself to different life-threatening diseases, and one who smokes should not think that the second-hand smoker is worse off than he.  We apologize--we did not intend for the smoking reader to feel that he was “better off” than the second-hand smoker.


On the second-hand smoke issue, we would like to add the following:


The Ramoh (Shulchan Aruch, Orach Chayim 603:1) writes that a “Safek Aveirah” (i.e., an act, which one is unsure is truly an Aveirah) requires more Teshuvah than a Vadai Aveirah (a certain Aveirah) because a person has more remorse when he is sure he has sinned, than when he is unsure.  Accordingly, the Ramoh continues, a Korban Asham Talui (a doubtful sin offering) is more expensive than a Korban Chattas (a regular sin offering), to impress upon the sinner-in-doubt that he must do Teshuvah.  We can add that one around the sinner or other bad influence may feel that he is free of the side effects, but in fact, may not be totally conscious of all the negative impact his company may have upon him.  On the other hand, when around the right kind of people, as the Torah teaches, “U’Lduvka-vo” (Devorim 11:22 ) (to stay close to Talmedei Chochomim and their students-see Rashi there) (see also “U’vo Sidbak” (Devarim 10:20 ) as interpreted in Kesuvos 111B), one can glean unknown and great advantages and benefits for himself and his family.


Shlomo HaMelech (Koheles 11:1) teaches us “Shalach Lachmecha al P’nei HaMayim, Ki B’Rov HaYomim Tim’zoenu”--Cast your bread upon the waters, because after many days you will find it.  This seemingly intends to teach us that when one does a Chesed for someone else (casting the bread), the doer will ultimately benefit, for he will find the bread there for himself when he is the one in need.  Yes, Chesed is a powerful boomerang--which helps the recipient and then comes back later, when, perhaps long forgotten--to aid the donor/giver, as well.


While the boomerang effect of Chesed may be a truism (as many of us may have already experienced in our lives), one may wonder why Shlomo HaMelech encourages us to do Chesed based only upon the fact that we will ultimately derive a benefit, a reward, from it.  Should we not do the Chesed because it is one of the pillars upon which the world was created and stands; because it is how the Torah begins and ends, and because it encompasses so many Mitzvos and Midos Tovos?  Why should we look at Chesed as something that benefits us--after all, isn’t the highest form of Chesed known as “Chesed Shel Emes”--a situation in which the person cannot possibly repay you or even express his thanks to you?  Indeed, one of the very first Mishnayos in Avos (1:3, which immediately follows the Mishnah that states that Chesed is a pillar of Creation) teaches “Do not consider yourself like a servant who serves his master in order to receive reward…”


Rav Chaim Voloziner Z’TL (Ruach Chaim 1:6) followed by Rav Yitzchok Blazer Z’TL (in Sefer Cochvei Ohr) provide the insight which may resolve our dilemma.  Hashem is our loving, giving Father and Creator who truly wants nothing more than to shower goodness upon us.  When the Shulchan Aruch (Orach Chayim 230:5) teaches that one should be used to saying “All that Rachmona [Hashem, Our Loved One] does is for the good,” the Shulchan Aruch is not suggesting mere lip service or recitation of trite phrases, but rather a constant recognition and reinforcement that all of Hashem’s expressions and actions towards us are “Tav”, for our own good.  When we do aveiros, or we need redirection, then the “good” we receive may not be very welcome by us, but we do need it for our own good.  Hashem would much more prefer to have Nachas from us, and to give us what we all recognize as good-because this means we are already on the right path.


So, Shlomo HaMelech says--do good, cast your bread upon the waters--Why?  So that you give Hashem the Nachas Ruach, the satisfaction and joy, that a father has when his son acts respectfully to him, or wins an award, or is praised by others (“Whose son is he?”).  Hashem will then more than readily supply you with those “good” rewards--NOT BECAUSE YOU WANT THE REWARD-BUT BECAUSE HE IS SO HAPPY AND SATISFIED WITH YOU THAT HE WANTS TO SHOWER THE GOOD--the good that we all sense as good--UPON YOU.


Your actions are not then service of Hashem for reward, but service of Hashem to the highest degree.  You are fulfilling your higher purpose of doing what you are supposed to, giving Hashem Nachas Ruach.  You become an “enabler”--you enable Hashem to give you the gifts He so wants to give.  When will He give you these gifts?  When you need them most--and this includes the infinite Olam Haba.


With this we can understand why we pray to Hashem every morning in davening “V’Nizkeh V’Nichyeh V’Nireh…U’Lchayei HaOlam Haba”--we are not asking to merit and experience the ultimate pleasure of Olam Haba for selfish or even personal reasons, but really to fulfill our purpose in this world and to bring much Nachas Ruach to our Maker, which will bring Olam Haba upon us in an unimaginably magnificent way.


Practical Suggestion:  When doing a Mitzvah one time a day, have in mind that you are doing it for the purpose of “casting your bread upon the waters”--to give Nachas Ruach to the One Who loves you, and always wants the best of the best for you.




Rav Yechezkel Levenstein Z’TL (Letter 208) writes that an absolute prerequisite to come close to Hashem is appropriate dealing and proper conduct with other people.  Specifically, he writes that if one makes a point to look for the ma’alos, the good qualities, of others and honors them because of these very qualities, “how close he has come to honoring Hashem.”  Rav Shlomo Wolbe Z’TL (Alei Shur 1:118-119) further guides us in this area “honoring friends is not simply good manners and proper courtesy, but is revealing the honor of a Tzelem Elokim (someone created in Hashem’s image).  In fact, when Rebbe Eliezer was asked by his students, “Rebbe, teach us the ways of life so that we will be merit the World to Come”, his first response was “Be careful to honor your friends.”


How can we begin displaying the honor due to another, the honor of his qualities, the honor of his Tzelem Elokim, the honor that will lead us to proper honor of Hashem…the honor that will lead us to true life in the World to Come?


We suggest the following fundamental, initial step.  The Orchos Chaim of the Rosh (Paragraph 57) writes that one should not show a sullen face towards others, but rather should greet people with “panim mei’iros”--a glowing face, a welcoming smile.  Indeed, the posuk in Koheles (8:1) states “Chochmas Odom Ta’ir Panav”-the wisdom of a person brings his face to glow.  We may understand this to mean that one who wants to be a wise person, i.e., he wants to attain his purpose in life of d’veikus (cleaving) to Hashem (as clearly explained in Mesilas Yeshorim, Chapter 1), will shine his face to others, for honoring another--his qualities and his Tzelem Elokim--is a very necessary step in drawing close to, and properly relating to, Hashem.


The brocha given by Yaakov to Yehudah (Genesis 49:12) was “U’leven Shinayim Mei’chalav”-and his teeth white with milk.  The Gemara (K’subos 111B) states that the posuk can be read as “When one shows his teeth by smiling to his fellow man, it is better than giving him milk to drink.”  Giving someone milk, with all the essential nourishment it provides, cannot compare to the feeling of humanity and respect given to another Tzelem Elokim with a warm countenance and a nice pleasant smile.  We may add that the beneficiary of your smile may likely feel so uplifted that the person, too, may smile to someone else—so your smile may literally progress to many others geometrically.


Rabbi Avigdor Miller Z’TL writes that, in addition to the feeling of respect that a smile engenders, “The smile enters the recipient’s mind and body and stimulates all the glands to produce their secretions in the most beneficial proportions.  Every one of the thousands of intricate processes of physical functions is optimally motivated” (Sing You Righteous page 294).


We can now well understand why Yehudah, a leader of his people who was responsible for them, was given this fundamental brocha, and why many of the common pictures of Gedolim show a very pleasant countenance and sincere, warm smiles.  Those who recall the special honor-filled manner of Rav Segel Z’TL, Rav Wolbe Z’TL, Rav Shlomo Zalman Auerbach Z’TL, Rav Yaakov Kamenetzky Z’TL, among other Gedolim, will certainly appreciate this point.


Practical Suggestion:  Choose a family member, friend or acquaintance and focus on this person’s ma’alos-and on his/her Tzelem Elokim.  When you see this person, show him respect with a loving face and a warm, meaningful smile, not merely out of common courtesy or even etiquette, but out of a sincere and true desire to properly honor him for his qualities and for his Tzelem Elokim, which, in fact, is such a fundamental first step in our drawing close to Hashem Himself, and realizing our own purpose in life.




This week’s Parsha contains the posuk “Zeh Keili V’Anveyhu”-This is my G-d, and I will glorify Him (Shemos 15:2).  Chazal learn from this that we should beautify the Mitzvos (Shabbos 133B).  It is interesting to note that this posuk is found in Parshas Beshalach in which there is only one mitzvah, and is placed between Parshas Bo, in which we are introduced to the first 20 Mitzvos received as a people, and Parshas Yisro where we have the Aseres HaDibros, almost as if to say to us that now that you have been introduced to Mitzvos, stop and reflect upon them before continuing further--how will I understand, appreciate and perform them?

We therefore present the following short Mitzvah principles for your reflection.  They are all based in and upon the Chayei Odom, Chapter 68-The Laws of Care in Mitzvos:


1.  Any mitzvah that can be done with a group, should be done in a group, as the posuk teaches “B’Rov-am Hadras Melech” (Mishlei 14:28 )--with the greater amount of people, there is more glory to Hashem.  What is the minimum number necessary to constitute a group?  The Chaye Odom (68:16, based on Menachos 62) followed by the Mishne Berurah (Orach Chayim 426, Biur Halacha D.H. Ellah) both write that three (3) individuals already constitute a group.  Examples of Mitzvos where groups are preferred (the more, the better) are studying Torah, Kiddush and Havdalah, Kiddush Levana, greeting a Talmid Chachom, a wedding or a bris, etc., etc..


2.  One should not look for “free” Mitzvos or “cheaper” Mitzvos.  Rather, one should pay for the cost of the Mitzvah, as Dovid HaMelech told Aravna (Shmuel II 24:24):  “No--I shall purchase it from you for a price and I shall not offer up Korbonos which were obtained for free.”  The Mishne Berurah (Orach Chayim 584, seif katan 8) similarly writes that a Mitzvah that is purchased is simply more elevated than a Mitzvah that costs nothing.  Indeed, the Maharik (Shoresh 9) writes that with respect to one who spends money to purchase an Aliyah in shul—“Ein Lecha Kibud HaTorah Gadol Mizeh”-There is no greater display that one cherishes Torah than one spending money for it.


3.  If you sense a Mitzvah is not being pursued by others, it becomes like a “Mais Mitzvah” and you must pursue it.  The lesson here is that one should be especially sensitive to the Mitzvah for, more than the Jews have kept the Mitzvos, the Mitzvos have kept the Jews (based upon the Chofetz Chaim).


Among the other important principles relating to Mitzvos that the Chayei Odom brings are:

  • A Mitzvah must be performed with joy--as if you had discovered precious stones and pearls in your home or at your doorstep.

  • A person should run to do Mitzvos-not only to Shul or to the Beis Medrash, but to do any Mitzvah, as the posuk teaches us “…and let us run after [the Mitzvos] in order to know Hashem” (Hoshea 6:3).

  • After starting a Mitzvah, you should endeavor to complete it, and not hand it off to others.  Indeed, the Maharsha teaches that the last two letters of Hashem’s name are Vav and Hay, which are the last letters of the word “Mitzvah”, for when one completes a Mitzvah, it is as if he is completing Hashem’s name (which may also be understood to mean that by completing a Mitzvah, a person completes his purpose).

  • Do not perform Mitzvos together-because if Mitzvos are performed “wholesale” (or suddenly, for that matter), they cannot be properly performed.

It appears that there is a common goal that pervades the above principles--which is that Mitzvos should be treated with love, care and concern--much in the same way one treats a close relative, special friend or most valued possession.  After all, this is really so for “Yisroel V’Oraysa V’Kedusha Brich Hu Chad Hu”-B’nei Yisroel, the Torah and Hashem are one.


Practical Suggestion:  Pick one Mitzvah--especially a Mitzvah that others are not being careful in--during the day, and fulfill it with a very special love and care--run to do it/pay full price for it--for money is no object/try to make sure you complete it, and rejoice and treasure every precious moment of its performance, as a gift that came only from Hashem.


The following Teshuvos were provided to Hakhel by Rabbi Yisroel Belsky, Shlita, in response to our questions.


QUESTION:  If one is sick and is visited, is it appropriate to “put a front” of Saver Ponim Yafos, or should one show his true pain and ask for others to be mispallel?  When asked how he feels, should he respond “Boruch Hashem”, or “Not so well, actually” or something else?


ANSWER:  One should put on a Saver Ponim Yafos and say “Boruch Hashem”, but should ask the visitor to be mispallel for him, unless he is in the recovery mode.


QUESTION:  In “Yehei Shmei Rabbah”, should one have Kavanah for the simple meaning of the words, or does “B’chol Kocho” mean something more in terms of the proper Kavanah one should have?


ANSWER:  Put your heart and soul into asking for Kavod Shomayim in the world.  Plead for it.  Cry out for it.  Nothing else!



QUESTION:  Can one say the posuk of “Lishuascha Kivsi Hashem”-Hashem, I await Your salvation (Bereshis 49:18) as a Tefillah, using Hashem’s name, for the purpose of asking Hashem for a yeshua?


ANSWER:  One can, but should not do it too often, as it breeds familiarity with Hashem and cheapens the use of His Name.



QUESTION:  Will it help for one to learn l’ilui nishmas a relative who intentionally went off of the Derech, and whose children married non-Jews?


ANSWER:  Include him with others.  Chazal indicate that his relatives’ mitzvos and tefillos can elevate his Neshama.



QUESTION:  When leaving money for tzedakah after 120 years, must/can one leave ma’aser from a life insurance policy purchased for the benefit of surviving family, or is that considered the beneficiary’s money, and only the beneficiary can decide to whom to give the tzedakah?


ANSWER:  The life insurance money belongs to the beneficiary and only he/they can give it away.



QUESTION:  Can one simply direct in his will that ma’aser/chomesh of the estate be put in trust for all Kollel Avreichim in the family who will receive a set sum per month until depleted?


ANSWER:  Definitely, but one should try to limit tzedakah money to his family members to no more than half of the total amount.



QUESTION:  If grandparents help parents pay tuition for their children by paying money directly to the Yeshiva, are the parents obligated to pay ma’aser on this money, since they saved having to pay it directly?


ANSWER:  No.  Ma’aser is given on money earned (revach), and not on money saved by other people’s donations.  On the other hand, if a person were to arrange for his company to pay part of his salary as a donation directly to the Yeshiva in place of tuition, this is considered revach, for he has earned it.



QUESTION:  If you utterly dislike a particular food, but must force yourself to eat it because, for example, your sister made it, would you make a Brocha Rishona on it?


ANSWER:  You should make the Brocha Rishona on another food requiring the same brocha.



QUESTION:  Can one think in learning while walking outside when there are garbage cans and black garbage bags placed outside for pick-up, where he can see them, but does not smell them?


ANSWER:  Garbage that does not smell does not have the din of “ashpah” and one may think Divrei Torah near it.




The Gemara in Shabbos 119A teaches that upon the Roman Caesar smelling Shabbos food, he asked Rebbe Yehoshua, “Why does your food have such a pleasant aroma?”  Rebbe Yehoshua replied, “We have a special Tavlin-a unique spice called Shabbos, which you cannot place in your food.”


The Ben Ish Chai explains that “Tavlin” is the orah--the light--of Kedusah that shines around the food that is cooked L’Kavod Shabbos.  Why is it called “Tavlin”?  He brings the story of a “Chasid Echad” who visited his friend on Shabbos and brought along his own food, because he had come uninvited and felt it was wrong to impose his food requirements on his host.  The host noticed that his guest’s food had a great aroma which far surpassed the smell of his food and asked the guest why this was so.  The guest replied that while the host’s food was prepared by workers and helpers, his food was prepared by his wife who said “L’Kavod Shabbos” at each step in the food preparation process.  In fact, the word “Tavlin” is to be juxtaposed with “T’ni Lev”--where we ask women to go beyond the baking, mixing, kneading, cooking, etc. and be careful to add the spiritual element of preparing the food L’Kavod Shabbos.  The Ben Ish Chai writes from the Arizal (Sha’ar HaKavanos, page 61) that whenever one buys something for Shabbos, he should say “L’Kavod Shabbos” and explains that this phrase is so meaningful and spiritual because it is so heartfelt.  The Mishne Berurah (Orach Chayim 250, seif katan 2) brings the words of the Arizal, as well.


Practical Suggestion:  Help to produce “Tavlin” this Shabbos by paying special, conscious attention to Shabbos preparations and Shabbos activities and by advising your family and friends to do the same.  Put your heart into it and say L’Kavod Shabbos during the preparation--so that the aroma of Shabbos warms and delights not only you, but your family and friends, as well.


As we travel the continuous tidal wave of Sinas Yisroel throughout history, we note that the wave has recently grown higher and mightier in location, position and force.  Iran threatens nuclear destruction; Hamas takes political power on the very shores of Eretz Yisroel, and the new guard of Israeli politicians totter in confusion as to who the Jewish nation is and what exactly our people are doing there.  The Amalek-like Europeans and the ever-pressuring Americans stand by in guilt-filled innocence--after all, they are Jews and this is Golus Edom , isn’t it?

Looking into ourselves-what do *we* do?  The Navi teaches: Ashur Lo Yoshiyainu, Al Sus Lo Nirkav, u’Lo Nomar od Elohainu LeMaaseh Yodei--Ashur will not save us, we cannot rely on the strength of horses, we can no longer worship the work of our hands (Hoshea 14:4).  So, again, what do *we* do?


Rav Feivel Cohen, Shlita, once remarkably pointed out that Dovid HaMelech himself in difficult and perhaps even desperate straits, raised his eyes and asked, “From where will come my help?” to which his Ruach HaKodesh responded, “My help is From Hashem [AND HASHEM IS TRULY THE ONE THAT CAN HELP BECAUSE HE IS] THE CREATOR OF THE HEAVEN AND THE EARTH” (Tehillim 121:2).


Should we compare ourselves to Dovid HaMelech, and also lift up our eyes for all of our answers?  The Chofetz Chaim writes that just as when the lieutenant is mortally wounded in battle, the sergeant or corporal assumes his position, we, as the Sh’earis Yisroel, the vestiges and remnants of K’lal Yisroel, have been deputized--we must rise to the occasion and not take a “sitting back” position or a “wait and see” attitude.


Indeed, the Mesilas Yeshorim seems to direct the following penetrating words to us today (end of Chapter 19):


If one would say, “Who am I and what am I worth that I should pray for Yerushalayim, etc….  Will the exiles be gathered in and will salvation sprout because of my prayer?” his answer awaits him.  As we are taught (Sanhedrin 37A), “Man was created individually so that each man should say, ‘The world was created for my sake.’”  It is the Blessed One’s pleasure that His sons desire and pray for this.  And though their desire may not be fulfilled because the proper time has not arrived or for some other reason, they will have done their part and HaKadosh Boruch Hu rejoices in it.  The Prophets stormed over the absence of this attitude (Yeshaya 59:16), “And he saw that there was no man and he was amazed that there was no contender” and (ibid. 63:5), “And I looked and there was no helper, and I was amazed and there was no supporter.” And (Yirmiyahu 30:17), “It is Zion ; no one inquires after it.”  Commenting upon this posuk, Chazal teach (Sukkah 41A), “This shows that it needs inquiring after.”  We see, then, that we are duty-bound in this respect.  We cannot exempt ourselves because of our inadequate strength, for in relation to all such things we learned (Avos 2:16 ), “The work is not yours to complete, but you are not free to abstain from it.”  And the Navi says elsewhere (Yeshaya 51:18), “She has no one to lead her from among all the sons to whom she has given birth; no one to hold her hand from among all the sons she has raised.”


Even to the casual observer, it would appear that Hashem is calling us to Jewish Arms.  The Chiddushei HaRim (Shemos 6:7) notes that the Jews in Egypt could only be redeemed “Mitachas Sivlos Mitzrayim”--once they no longer had any patience (i.e., “sivlos” means savlanut/savlanus) for the horrible exile--once they decided they can no longer live like this.  We must lose our patience in this regard, as well.


So, as another step in trying to move this Golus down and out, we are forming our very own Chevras Mitzapim L’Yeshua.  Each member of the Chevra undertakes, bli neder, to ask Hashem daily in his or her Shemone Esrei to bring the Geulah as soon as possible in order to fully and finally bring Kovod Shomayim and Kavod Yisroel to the level where they should be--and to bring Nachas Ruach to Hashem Yisborach and Klal Yisroel.


Practical Suggestion:  Please join our Chevras Mitzapim L’Yeshua today.  Please let us know, even anonymously, that you are a part of it!  If you cannot join, please remember to meaningfully daven as often as possible that the day of our Geulah arrive immediately.




We are all familiar with Chazal, as brought by Rashi (Shemos 7:19) that Moshe Rabbeinu did not initiate the first three makkos himself, because it involved hitting the waters and the earth and it would be Kofui Tovah for Moshe to hit something  which had helped him in the past.  So instead, it was Aharon, and not Moshe Rabbeinu, who brought on the makkos by hitting the waters and the earth.


Rav Mattisyahu Salomon, Shlita, asks-these makkos came solely from Hashem-Aharon’s hitting the water or the land did nothing other than demonstrate that Hashem was about to commence the makka, so why not have Moshe Rabbeinu himself accomplish this by kissing the land instead of hitting it!  Moreover, what did the sand actually do for Moshe Rabbeinu--let him sleep a bit better for one night by hiding the body of the Mitzri that had been killed--the next day Moshe Rabbeinu learned that he was discovered anyway!  Also, how long was he actually in the water before being observed and rescued by Paroh’s daughter?


Rav Salomon, Shlita, answers that the Torah here, at this pivotal point in K’lal Yisroel’s history, is teaching us all the magnitude-and the fundamental role--of Hakaros Hatov in a Jewish person’s life.  He adds that we would have gained Emunah if the makkos had occurred on the other side of the World-just as we saw Hashem’s power and control over the forces of creation and the world when the tsunami hit Southeast Asia or when New Orleans was flooded over--but we would have forever lacked the Hakaros Hatov to Hashem for redeeming us from the Beis Avodim-from the house of servitude-unless we were in Mitzrayim to experience it.


But we may ask--So what if I don’t learn the lesson from Moshe Rabbeinu, and so what if I didn’t live through the makkos?  I can still have complete Emunah that Hashem controls everything, but I will simply not have this particular midah of Hakaros Hatov so well-developed.


No, the Torah teaches, this cannot be--for Hakaros Hatov is so important that Emunah without it COULD NOT LEAD TO KABOLAS OL MALCHUS SHOMAYIM at Har Sinai.  There simply would not have been a Har Sinai without the midah of Hakaros Hatov successfully taught and embedded in the heart and mind of each Jew.  In fact, the Ramban in Chumash, in the first of the Aseres Hadibros, teaches that the reason the posuk says that Hashem took us out of Egypt, out of the house of servitude (Beis Avodim), is for us to recognize that we were in a house of servitude when Hashem saved us-and that is how we can properly recognize the “Anochi Hashem Elokecha” in our Kabalas Ol Malchus Shomayim.  We must be happy that we have the opportunity to recognize what Hashem did and does for us, and joyfully take upon ourselves the Ol Malchus Shomayim with this awareness and knowledge.


In stark contrast, the Torah takes the time specifically to highlight “And a new king arose in Egypt who did not know Yosef”--Did not know Yosef?!--Yosef had saved the world--and had made Egypt the world superpower—and a few short years later he is forgotten?!  This is pure, unadulterated Kofui Tovah, which is the antithesis of B’nei Yisroel and its existence in this world.


To further demonstrate the necessity of Hakaros Hatov as a prerequisite to Kabalas Ol Malchus Shomayim, Rav Salomon, Shlita, notes that the Chovos HaLevovos first teaches the Sha’ar HaBechina-the appreciation of Hashem’s greatness, wonders and kindness, and only afterwards teaches the Sha’ar Avodas Elokim-how to properly serve Hashem.


Someone once asked Rav Avigdor Miller Z’TL--Why do we have to thank Hashem for food--He created us, so he has a responsibility to feed us!  Without even dealing with the “Western Society” premise of the question, Rav Miller immediately responded--This may be true, but remember how a cat gets its food by rummaging through the garbage (or how a rat, dog, anteater get their food for that matter)--they do not have stocked supermarket shelves, refrigerators, freezers, glasses, eating utensils, etc., etc.--nor the knowledge or wherewithal to acquire them.  This is all Hashem’s gift.  As Rav Avrohom Chaim Feuer, Shlita, teaches--We do not make a living--we take a living!


How can we show our Hakaros Hatov to Hashem and to Hashem’s creations who/that have benefited us?  Rav Dessler Z’TL (Michtav M’Eliyahu 3:98) writes that at a minimum, we must verbally express our thanks.


The Pele Yoetz (on Kofui Tovah) adds the following practical advice for Hakaros Hatov to individuals:

1)  Keep the matter alive in your heart, e.g., identify the person with a Chesed that he performed on your behalf (even if he may otherwise have harmed you, this should not negate the good, just as Hashem does not allow aveiros to block a person’s mitzvos).


2)  Show particular respect (kavod) for the person who has benefited you.


3)  Try to repay the Chesed you received in the nicest or best way possible.


We asked Rav Salomon whether the word “Hakaros” (“recognition”) implied that recognition alone was sufficient.  He emphatically stated that it was not, and that one should reflect deeply into a benefit you have received from Hashem and/or others.


In fact, it is said that the Alter of Kelm would enter his home on Friday night and study the Shabbos table and the surrounding room in order to focus on the Hakaros Hatov he owed his wife in preparing so beautifully for Shabbos.  Rav Tovia Goldstein Z’TL explained that the term “Hakaros” Hatov (“recognizing” the good) is used to imply that whatever you do can only be a recognition of the good that was first given to you.


Rav Chaim Kanievsky, Shlita, in Derech Sicha (Parshas Toldos) adds that a brocha you give to someone out of Hakaros Hatov has special tokef and koach-strength and force.  It is for this reason that Yitzchok asked for tasty food (“Mataamim”) before he gave the brochos--so that they would be especially powerful and effective.  The Pele Yoetz and the Michtav M’Eliyahu incredibly note that both Eliyahu HaNavi and Elisha HaNavi were able to perform Techiyas HaMeisim as a result of the Hakaros Hatov they owed to their respective hosts.


Practical Suggestions: 

1.  Verbally express your Hakaros Hatov to Hashem, to your parents and to your friends.


2.  Show special kavod out of your Hakaros Hatov, and try to take action in return to show that you are “Makir” the tov.


3.  Give brochos out of your Hakaros Hatov.


4.  Always remember:  It is only Emunah *plus* Hakaros Hatov that brings us to Kabalas Ol Malchus Shomayim!



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