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Sent February 27:

Questions for Seudas Purim


The Alshich HaKadosh, in his introduction to the Megillah writes:


“And even if we are all wise, all understanding, even if we all know all about the Megillah, it is a mitzvah for us to further study, further understand, and further delve into the Megillah, both generally and in its specifics, to study its depth and enjoy its sweetness—in order to obtain a sense of the power of the miracles and the salvations which Hashem performed on our behalf.”


  1. In what year of the Jewish calendar did Purim occur?

  2. How many wars between Bnei Yisroel and Amalek are mentioned in Tanach?

  3. How many mishtaos, or parties, are mentioned in the Megillah? Please identify them!

  4. How many people were hanged in the course of the Megillah?

  5. On what day did Haman make the “Pur”?

  6. If you ‘juggle’ the letters of “Shushan”, what does it spell?

  7. What does the word “Pas-shegen” mean?

  8. Why didn’t Esther tell Achashveirosh which nation she was from?

  9. Instead of blatantly not bowing to him, why didn’t Mordechai simply avoid Haman and not go near him?

  10. In addition to his plan to kill all the Jews, what edicts did Haman immediately issue against them?

  11. Agag and Haman each had a son with the same name—what was it?

  12. What is preferable—to increase the amount of Mishloach Manos you give or the Matanos Le’Evyonim that you give?

  13. What famous American object has the same gematria as “Amalek”? What can you learn from that?

  14. How many humps did the Achashdranim Bnei HaRamachim have? How many legs did it have?

  15. Why did Esther invite Haman to her party with Achashveirosh? The Gemara gives 12 reasons and Eliyahu HaNavi (as quoted in the Gemara) confirms that Esther had all 12 of them in mind. Can you name at least 3?

  16. What are the last five seforim in Tanach?

  17. What was the sin committed by Bnei Yisroel that prompted the great gezaira against them?

  18. Which cities in Eretz Yisroel today would read the Megillah on two days—the fourteenth and the fifteenth of Adar because of a doubt as to whether they were walled from the time of Yehoshua Bin Nun?

  19. Name two evil people in the Megillah whose names rhyme.

  20. True or false—in order to fulfill the mitzvah of Mishloach Manos, you must give two different foods that have two different Brachos?

  21. Identify six instances of Middah K’neged Middah that appear in the Megillah.


If you do not know the answers to all or any of these questions, you may ask your friends or family at the seuda or otherwise--but you should be paying a pretty penny for each answer (especially if it is right!).


Sent February 26:


Special Note  1:  We note that the Chicago Rabbinical Council (CRC) has recently alerted the public to the fact that all TCBY Yogurt Stores are now selling yogurt from other manufacturers, because the original TCBY yogurt base manufacturer is no longer in business.  Accordingly, “It is the responsibility of the individual consumer to inspect the kosher status of this and other products before EACH purchase.”


This is an important lesson to us before Purim, in which the Mishloach Manos market will be filled with new and unrecognized products, some of which may have multiple hashgachos, and none of which we may recognize or know enough about.  We should also, of course, be careful about “loose” products, ostensibly under a well-known, reliable Hashgacha.


Finally, we should be careful not to waste food (and also avoid only questionably fulfilling the mitzvah of Mishloach Manos) by giving thoughtfully prepared Mishloach Manos to the person receiving it--not sending caramel popcorn to an elderly couple; not sending non-Pas Yisroel products to your Rav.  The more the Mishloach Manos fits the person you are giving it to, the more beautiful and meaningful the mitzvah is!


Special Note 2:  It is interesting to note that Chazal (Baiza 15B) teach that the word Adar is related to the word “Adir”, which means strong and enduring, as the Pasuk (Tehillim 93:4) says “Adir Bamarom Hashem--Hashem endures on high.”  In fact, Chazal advise that one plant an “Adar Tree” on his property because of its fortitude and endurance.  This very much relates to our note of last week, in which we discussed why the Aron is described as a wooden and not golden Ark, and helps explain why, as we discussed, the month of “Adar” is a month of reinvigoration and renewal--as the barren winter comes to an end and life begins to sprout forth all around us.  Indeed, the Megillah testifies with the words “Kimu v’kiblu” that the Jewish people at the time of Purim reinvigorated and rededicated their Torah study, in celebration of the miracles at that time.  We should do likewise at this special time of year.


Here is a simple suggestion given to us by the Ramban in the Igeres HaRamban.  The Ramban writes that when we have finished our Torah study, either at a shiur, with a chevrusah, or on our own, we should immediately attempt to apply that which we have learned, so that it has an effect upon us--and hopefully a lasting one.  By promptly acting upon that which you have learned, you are invigorating yourself with the Torah you have just studied.  As you put your Torah study into practice, think of the words, “Kimu v’kiblu”, and it will come more and more a part of your being, as you yourself become an “Adar” and an “Aron”--in this month and throughout the year!!


Special Note 3:  Chazal (Megillah 11A) teach that the fourth and fifth words of the Megillah, “Hu Achashveirosh … (he is Achashveirosh)” teach us a profound lesson.  He “is” Achashveirosh--the very same Achashveirosh--before, during and after the Purim story.  Esther, his queen, who was a nevia (prophetess) and one of the greatest women in history, had no impact upon him.  Mordechai, as the Mishne L’Melech, the number two man in his government, who was a Tzaddik, a navi (prophet), and one of the great members of the Anshei Kenesses HaGadolah, had no effect on his life.  Indeed, even the miracles of Purim--the amazing turn of events which was years in the making--were personally overlooked and ignored, although they otherwise made the king’s chronicles and the history books for all time.  As a matter of fact, Achashveirosh had ordered that the work to reconstruct the Beis HaMikdosh be halted at the beginning of his reign--and continued his stop-work order throughout his 14-year reign.  The Beis HaMikdosh only continued to be rebuilt upon the succession to his throne by his son, Daryavesh.  What an important lesson this is for us!  We cannot let the time in which we currently find ourselves--the time of Purim and Geulah--march by us without it having an important impact upon us.  May we suggest learning to have a special kavanah in the first brocha of Shemone Esrei as we recite the words “Ozer” (Helper), “U’Moshia” (Savior), “U’Magen” (Shield):

·         Ozer--a Helper, who thwarts an existing immediate danger from overpowering a person (example:  you have already been attacked and the attacker is defeated);

·         Moshia--a Savior, who cancels danger threatening to overpower a person (example:  prior to his attacking, the attacker runs away);

·         Mogen--a Shield, who prevents trouble from reaching you in the first place (example:  the attacker never leaves home).

See Michtav M’Eliyahu 4:65 as brought in Praying with Fire (page 117).  By recognizing and realizing that Hashem helps, saves and shields--we, very much unlike Achashveirosh, will recognize Hashem’s protection over us in all situations and circumstances!

Sent February 23:


Special Note One:  As we see in tomorrow's Parsha, the Aron consisted of solid wood, plated inside and outside with gold.  In spite of the fact that the Aron was plated with gold much more valuable than the wood it covered, the Aron is nevertheless referred to in the Torah as the “Aron atzei shitim--the acacia wood Aron”.  Why is it that the Aron is described as wooden--and not as a more valuable and respected golden Aron?  HaRav Shimshon Dovid Pincus, Z’TL, answers that, in fact, wood more aptly describes the Aron because wood is something that grows and that regenerates.  Indeed, even if one cuts down a tree to the ground, its roots are left and a new tree can sprout forth.  Gold may be valuable in this world, but it has no inherent capacity to live or grow.  Our Torah is much more aptly described with wood for “etz chaim he--it is a living tree”--it enables one--even one who was down and out--to reinvigorate himself and renew his life.


Rav Pincus notes that this is the special nature of the month of Adar, and of Purim, as well.  It is a time of Hischadshus--of a new lease on life both physically and spiritually.  It is no wonder then, that after experiencing the miracles of Purim, our people’s immediate reaction was “kimu v'kiblu”--a rededication and revival to Torah commitment.


Special Note Two:  There is another important aspect to the days we are enveloped by.  When one is flying on a plane which begins to experience some turbulence, he may be annoyed and find his way back to his seat, but, despite the fact that he is miles above the ground in a relatively small hunk of metal, he is confident, and even certain, that the pilot will safely navigate through the clouds and storm--without the help of any of the passengers.  Now let us look at a lottery, or “Pur”, upon which the holiday of Purim is based.  When the winning number, or the winning day (as the case may be) is chosen, there is no talent, no third party, no expert consultant, who could have helped make the choice otherwise.  It is simply Hashem’s clear, indisputable, unadulterated act.  Haman HaRasha was looking for Hashem’s direction and seeming concurrence with his plan, and so he was elated with the lot falling out in the month of Adar--which he felt was Hashem telling him that he would be successful, since Moshe Rabbeinu passed away in that month (this Sunday is Moshe Rabbeinu's Yahrzeit).


Everyone in life goes through stages in which he feels unsuccessful in one way or another--and that there is simply nothing that can be done about it.  This is what his G-d-given capabilities simply are.  Some even feel that way all the time about certain things—I’ll never daven a complete Shemone Esrei with Kavana; I’ll never learn Chumash/Rashi on the Parsha; I'll never go through Mishnayos; I’ll never improve on my hastiness or my jealousy; I’ll never get rid of this middah or that habit...


In fact, Adar teaches us that the reality can be quite to the contrary.  As Chazal (Megillah 13B) teach: “but Haman did not know that Moshe Rabbeinu was **born ** in Adar.”  Yes, Moshe Rabbeinu passed away in this month--but he was born in the very same month--and look at what he accomplished for all of Mankind forever!  What we may feel that we are (and will always be) unsuccessful in are the very things, the very challenges, that Hashem is telling us we can succeed in.  We just have to realize that it is Hashem Who places that power into Adar that we may not otherwise know about--and do our part to meet those challenges.


Special Note Three:  One other note on lotteries:  One of our Gedolim has pointed out that there is actually a greater possibility that Moshiach will come today than it is that you will win the regular weekly lottery drawing.  The calculation is simple--there are 232 ½ years left until the year 6000.  This is only approximately 84,850 days.  Thus, the “chance” that Moshiach will come today is only 1:84,850.  The chance that you will win the New York Lotto is about 1:45,000,000.  Conclusion:  At the very least, we should anticipate and yearn for achieving the Redemption as much as those who are addicted to the lottery hope to win it--since the chances of such an occurrence are truly that much greater!


Let us especially hope and daven for the Geulah at this very special time of year!


Sent February 22:


Royal Wine Corp., the maker of Kedem, has formally clarified that the only grape juice it manufactures which is NOT mevushal is the grape juice contained in its 50 ounce bottle. Grape juice in the 50 ounce bottle is not mevushal according to both the standards of HaRav Moshe Feinstein, Z’TL, and the Tzeilemer Rav.




Special Note One:  In the Megillah, we find the great interdependence that Mordechai and Esther had upon each other.  The Megillah provides us with significant detail as to their interaction in bringing about the Purim result.  What lesson is the Anshei K’Nesses HaGedolah, with their Nevua and Ruach HaKodesh, teaching us with this detail?


We may suggest that it was not Mordechai alone or Esther alone whose actions could have brought about Haman’s downfall, as each one of them--although Mordechai was a Navi, and Esther was a Neviah--would have “fallen short.”  Each of them was truly needed--but, moreover, both of them were needed together.


Mordechai had to advise Esther not to reveal her nation, and Esther had to tell Mordechai to gather the people together.  Mordechai had to tell Esther that she must seek an audience with the king at the threat of her life, and Esther had to tell Mordechai to fast for three days and three nights, overriding the matzah and wine of the Seder night.


Indeed, we are taught in Avos (6:6) “One who says something in the name of the one who originally said it brings Geulah (Redemption (!)) to the World, as the Pasuk says, ‘And Esther [relayed the plot of Bigsan V’Seresh] to the King in the name of Mordechai’”.  Why do we learn the importance of correctly attributing statements from Esther and Mordechai--and why is it this act that brings Redemption to the world?  The same teaching appears to emerge--that we should not view ourselves as individuals with our own task, our own goals, to accomplish.  Because Esther brought Mordechai into the picture, Purim resulted.  We need each other, and we need to join together, to fight the battles we have in this world.


For example:

·         If I trouble myself to go to a Mincha minyan during lunch hour and do not urge my friend to do likewise, we are not in it together.

·         If I know something about a particular restaurant or a certain Hashgacha (utilizing the appropriate standards of Shemiras HaLashon--ask your Rav or call the Shemiras HaLashon Hotline at 718-951-3656 if you need guidance or have any particular questions), should I not tell my friend about it, as well?

·         If a friend is consistently talking in shul, should I be worried about discussing the sanctity of the Beis HaK’nesses with him?

·         If I learned a practical Halacha that affects everyone’s everyday life, should I not relate it to a colleague who I notice is not aware of it?

·         If I heard a moving Torah thought or even a lesson-filled story, should I not share it with my family and friends?


We must join--and bring others--together, and we must not be embarrassed, ashamed or feel that we are acting “holier than thou” to tell others that they, too, are needed.


In fact, from last week’s special Parsha, Parshas Shekalim, we learned that the Mitzvah of Machatzis HaShekel applies equally to the rich and the poor--one cannot give more, the other less.  The Sefer HaChinuch, in explaining the Mitzvah, writes that the lesson of the Torah is everyone joining equally together to participate, rather than the Mitzvah being left to the more knowledgeable, more sensitive, or even more worthy, few.


There is usually no reason why one should “know better” or “do better” than the other person.  In the Brocha of Hashivenu in Shemone Esrei, we ask “…and bring us back to Teshuvah Shleima before You.”  The commentaries on the Siddur explain that this is a Tefillah not only for oneself, but for all of K’lal Yisroel--and that we should think about all of our brethren when saying these words (see Sefer Avodas HaTefillah).  Our lives are in so many ways joint projects--we should do our part in encouraging others to join with us to reach our deeply-meaningful goals.


Special Note Two: The common aphorism claims that the road to a certain not-such-good place is paved with good intentions.  Our tradition is much to the contrary.


In Growth Through Torah (By Rabbi Zelig Pliskin, Shlita, p. 202), we find the following most incredible story (to share with your friends!):


HaRav Moshe Aharon Stern, Z’TL, related that he was once walking with his Rebbe, Rav Eliyahu Lopian, Z’TL, in Yerushalayim.  Upon seeing a city worker repairing the street, Rav Elya commented, “See how this person is constantly engaged in a Mitzvah, the mitzvah of Yishuv Eretz Yisroel (building the land of Israel).  What is missing?  Only the motivation for the sake of a Mitzvah!  If someone only thinks about making a livelihood and nothing more, he loses all the wonderful benefits of fulfilling a mitzvah.” (Lev Eliyahu, Volume 1, p. 30).


Let us take the great lesson--and put our good intentions into those “street repair” types of activities that we do daily.  The difference made by injecting our good intention in that very same activity is so vast, that it is, quite literally, the difference between Olam Hazeh and Olam Haba!


Sent February 21:


Special Note One:  Opportunity Knocks.  If you start learning Mishnayos Megillah on the fourth day of Adar (Thursday, February 22nd) and learn just three Mishnayos a day (after Maariv, with your son, etc.), you will complete the entire mesechta on Purim, and if you then continue to learn Mishnayos Pesachim starting on Purim (it is a mitzvah to begin learning Hilchos Pesach on Purim, as brought in the Shulchan Aruch, Orach Chayim 429; Mishne Berurah seif katan 2), you will complete Mishnayos Pesachim before Pesach!


Special Note Two:  A reader correctly pointed out to us that Adar is not the sixth month of the Jewish calendar year--it is the sixth month from Rosh Hashanah, but it is the last month of the Jewish year, since our first month is Nissan, in which Pesach occurs.  There is, of course, much to be learned from the fact that Purim, the last of the great miracles for the Jewish people occurs in the last month of our year, and Pesach--our first great redemption—occurs in the first month of the year.  The juxtaposition is so great that Rashi (Ta’anis 29A) writes that the reason that we increase our happiness when we enter Adar is because “these are days of miracles--Purim **and** Pesach.”  There is no question then that we are now in a very special time of year, a period that is extremely auspicious for our redemption.  We should be especially careful to study the Sefer Mesilas Yesharim at the end of chapter 19, and/or recite the Tefillah Al HaGeulah we have previously distributed.  It is very, very far from being far-fetched for Hashem’s response to be positive--after all did not the previous redemptions occur after our cries and entreaties? (See Shemos 2:23 and Esther 4:16).  Let each and every one of us make sure to do our part.


Special Note Three:  On Rosh Chodesh Adar, we noted that we had to begin the month with a feeling of Simcha, so that we could build our joy over the course of the month.  In fact, HaRav Dessler, Z’TL, (Michtav M’Eliyahu, Volume 2, Page 125) writes that the Simcha we experience should be built upon day after day, so that it continuously grows through the month.  For true Simcha to be built upon, the joy must be more than a superficial experience.  As Rabbi Mordechai Becher, Shlita, pointed out at his recent Hakhel Shiur, depressed people can be tickled and will laugh, but will quickly return to their depression after the tickling has ceased.  We suggest, therefore, that the Simcha we look to build upon over the course of this special month relate more to our Ruchniyus--specifically, to the mitzvos we perform.  


The Chayei Adam (68:13) writes that “HaSimcha HaGedolah B’Mitzvah--Joy is the greatest [or at least one of the greatest] elements in performing a Mitzvah.”  He continues, based upon the Arizal, that the happiness one experiences when fulfilling a Mitzvah should really be more blissful than that experience when one finds a host of pleasures and precious jewels.  In fact, the Mishne Berura (Shulchan Oruch, Orach Chaim 669:1, seif katan 11) writes in the name of the Arizal that the highest levels he reached came about through his great joy in performing Mitzvos.  It behooves us to take a Mitzvah that we perform daily, and put a little thought into it prior to its performance so that we can be truly joyful when performing the Mitzvah.  Why should Tefillin, for instance--the holy garb of men--be placed upon our arms and heads in a bleary-eyed, rote manner?  We should think instead for a moment about the privilege, honor, the meaning, and even the spiritual rewards of wearing Tefillin!  Is it any wonder then, that Tefillin were worn all day in past generations, and that some Gedolim even wear Tefillin all day today?  Tefillin, is, of course, only one example.  The opportunity to stand before Hashem in prayer, with the knowledge that the King of Kings, the Creator and Provider is listening, should likewise provide nothing less than unbridled ecstasy.  Most certainly, the privilege and the ability to study Torah--Hashem’s direct words and instructions--should bring us to bliss.  Of course, the opportunity to perform each and every Mitzvah, **large or small, easy or difficult** is an opportunity of infinite Olam Haba right here in this temporal Olam Hazeh.  We should certainly not rob ourselves of an opportunity for true spiritual joy--at least once a day during this special month!  One should make sure to put forethought into at least one Mitzvah he is about to perform daily, sincerely appreciate and delight at the opportunity, and simply bask in its performance.


Sent February 19:


Special Note One: Chazal (Taanis 27A) teach that when Adar arrives, we increase our joy. HaRav Moshe Wolfson, Shlita, points out that we must build up the joy within us now—so that we will have something to develop and enhance upon during the entire month of Adar. One place to begin may be by listening to Rabbi Mordechai Becher’s shiur on “Simchas Adar”-Simchas HaChaim—actually being delivered today! For tapes or cd’s of the shiur, please call 718-252-5274.


Special Note Two: Today, being the first day of the month of Adar, we begin the sixth (6th) month of the year(!)  Yes, we still have the majority of the year in front of us to grow and accomplish. Let us each give ourselves a gentle wake-up tap across our cheeks, and remind ourselves of our goals and hopes—and how we can practically accomplish them.


In order to help jump start the rest of the year in Tefilla improvement, we provide the Tefilla Calendar located here, which takes you from today until Purim. Please feel free to distribute and redistribute the attached…and Hatzlacha Rabba!!


Sent February 16:


Special Note One:  We received great feedback from one reader on her call to the White House Comment Line.  When she said, “I am calling on behalf of Jonathan Pollard”, the White House operator immediately interjected, “Do you want the President to pardon him?”  This is an important lesson for all of us.  What each and every one of us does makes an impact.  This impact increases dramatically and geometrically when we all work together towards a common goal.  Our united Tefillos which preceded the miracle of Purim, together with the aggressive and inexorable “political” efforts undertaken by Mordechai and Esther, brought about one of the most fantastic results in Jewish history.  If we can get together to save our entire nation, we should certainly try to save one individual.  Please be undaunting in your efforts, by reciting Tehillim Chapter 121 for Yehonasan Ben Malka, and by calling the White House Comment Line (202-456-1111; TTY/TDD comment line, 202-456-6213).


Special Note Two:  Our readers especially commented on two of the 13 Rules of Conduct of Rebbe Yisroel Salanter, Z’TL, which we recently distributed.  One reader noted that the rule of “Anavah” is defined by Rebbe Yisroel as not only recognizing one’s own faults, but **also forgetting about your friend’s faults and deficiencies.**  What a great way to demonstrate your humility--by recognizing the greatness of others!  A second Rule which drew readers’ attention was “Tzedek”.  We may have defined this rule as always doing what is just, correct, and proper.  Rebbe Yisroel, however, additionally defines it as being “mivater,” or giving in or up, on something which you believe you are really right about, or which is rightfully yours.  This may not be the “din” (the law), but it is, in fact, Tzedek--justice, Jewish justice, just as Tzedakah, which the world defines as “charity”, but is, in fact, that which is proper, what is right.


Hakhel Note:  These two rules are especially important--and interestingly enough, very much related--for the Pasuk (Zephania 2:3) teaches, “Bakshu Tzedek, Bakshu Anava…--Seek Tzedek, Seek Anava, perhaps you will be hidden on the day of (Rachmana Litzlan) Hashem’s wrath.”  The Navi is teaching us how important these two Middos, these two Rules, are, and it very much behooves us to follow Rebbe Yisroel’s rules in this area--especially in these turbulent times.


Special Note Three:  In this week’s Parsha, Mishpatim, the Torah specifically teaches us “Midvar Sheker Tirchak--stay away from falsehood” (Shemos 23:17).  Interestingly, HaRav Pam, Z’TL, once stated that not only were untruths never spoken in his parents’ home, but that even the word “lie” was never used.  Similarly, HaRav Chaim Kanievsky, Shlita, was asked whether the proper punishment for a child who speaks falsely would be to “potch”, or slap, him.  HaRav Kanievsky responded that he would not know how his father would rule in this area, because no one ever spoke falsely in his father’s (the Steipler Gaon’s) home.  The unusual term used by the Torah--to **distance** oneself--from untruth should cause us to picture in our minds how we would react when a wild dog or vicious anti-Semite was coming down the block.  Our reaction to untruth should be no different.  So, how can we help ourselves grow further and further in this area?  It is known that Rebbe Yisroel Salanter would encourage the constant, meaningful repetition of a phrase in order for its message to penetrate into your heart and, deeper yet, into your soul.  Although, we may not feel as we should the direct connection between ourselves and some of the Halachos in tomorrow’s Parsha (such as the laws regarding laborers or oaths) because our long and dark exile has distanced us from our land and our way of life, perhaps we can at least build on the important phrase taught in the Parsha--”Midvar Sheker Tirchak”--over the coming week.  As we meet situations at home, in the office, and in the marketplace, in which our honesty, or even shades of it, is tried or tested, let the words of the Torah resound from within and emanate from without.  The Navi (Zephania 3:13) simply and starkly teaches us who will be left of us as the End of Days:  “Sheayris Yisroel… Lo Yidabru Kazav--the remnant of Israel…will not speak deceitfully.”  Let us work hard, very hard--let us overcome the world around us and the temptations from within—in order to be one of those very special, everlasting Remnants of Israel!


Sent February 15:


In a recent issue of Halachically Speaking (Volume 3, Issue 6), the following important Halachos were discussed:


  1. One may not treat food with disrespect.  Even saying that a certain food is “not good” may be disrespectful.  Treating food with any level of disrespect displays a basic lack of HaKaros HaTov to Hashem for the goodness and bounty with which He provides us.  Many people may currently not show proper care for food because of its abundance (Baruch Hashem) and because of a lack of basic values in the world around us.

  2. Food may, however, be treated in what would otherwise be deemed a disrespectful manner if it is to satisfy the legitimate need of a person (tzorech adom) and it is normal (derech ha’olom) to use the food in that manner.  For example, one may use lemon juice to remove a stain from a garment because this is the derech ha’olom and there is a tzorech adom.  Similarly, children can make paste from flour and water to play with, since it is the derech ha’olom and satisfies a child’s need.  One should not, however, take a cucumber and carve out the inside to place chrein inside of it.  This is not permitted since it is not considered derech ha’olom.  Additionally, the cucumber does not get eaten afterwards.

  3. Foods being used for medicinal purposes may be utilized in what would otherwise be deemed to be a disrespectful manner.  Although some poskim say this heter (leniency) does not apply today since there are other methods of healing which do not involve treating food in a disrespectful manner, many poskim disagree and allow food to be used for medicinal purposes.  Interestingly, the Halachically Speaking issue actually provided some food “remedies”.  We provide them to you below without warranty, but with the hope that they can help someone, somewhere, someday.

*To avoid sun damage, place cucumbers on the eyes when laying in the sun.

*Treat sunburn by applying cucumber or a raw peeled potato to the burn spot.

*To get rid of a sty; wrap a hot hard boiled egg or potato in a clean cloth, and press against the outside of the eyelid.  The wrapped potato will stay hot for a long time.

*To get rid of lice, lather the head and scalp with mayonnaise, and cover with a shower cap.  The next morning all the lice will be dead.

*To sooth irritated skin, apply avocado or cucumber directly to the part of the skin which is irritated.


Now, continuing on with additionally important Halachos.

  1. If water is not available, it is permitted to wash one’s hands for mayim achronim with any liquid except for wine.  However, some say one may only use liquid which was left in a cup and would be thrown out anyways.

  2. One may not generally use food which is fit for humans to feed animals or birds.  Others say doing so is permitted.  There are other facts and circumstances which must be considered.  Accordingly, it is important for a person to ask his Rav what foods he may feed his pet, or birds and squirrels outside.  In no event should one give an animal bread upon which the brocha of Hamotzi has been recited.

  3. One should not let a child touch food on a central serving plate.  The reason is because we are afraid the child’s hands may be dirty and those present will not eat the food because they are disgusted by it.  If only family members are present, it may be permitted since they may not become repulsed.  When giving bread to a baby, one should not place the bread on the floor; instead one may place a plate on the floor and then place the bread onto the plate.

  4. It is permitted to discard crumbs which are smaller than a k’zayis in size in a respectful manner.  However, doing so disrespectfully may lead to poverty.  Throwing crumbs into the water would be permitted.  Some poskim say one should not throw leftover bread which is larger than a k’zayis directly into a garbage can with other dirty things, and instead should wrap the bread separately before discarding it.


The above sampling of Halachos relating to food is intended to jog our appreciation of this great gift from Hashem which keeps our bodies--and our souls--going and on the move.  Of course, any individual questions or issues relating to food, and a final Psak on the above issues, should be rendered by your Rav or Posek.


Sent February 14:



Shlomo HaMelech, the wisest of all men, concludes his review of life in Sefer Koheles (12:13) with the words: “Sof Dovor HaKol Nishma…--in the end, all has been heard; fear Hashem, and keep His Mitzvos, for this is all of man.”  This Pasuk, in a very direct and straightforward way, gives us the bottom line on how we should conduct our daily lives.  It is easier for us to understand what it means to “keep His Mitzvos.”  To fulfill this part of Shlomo HaMelech’s directive, we must study the Mitzvos, the practical Halachos that emanate from the Mitzvos, and apply them with care in our relationships and in our actions.  The first requirement, however, of Shlomo HaMelech--“Es HaElokim Yirah--To Fear Hashem”--is more elusive in its meaning and in its application.


Let us take a moment to contemplate the concept of fearing Hashem in a manner which is expected, and of which we are capable.  Rashi comments on the words “To Fear Hashem” (ibid.), “to the extent you can, with Libcha L’Shomayim--with a heart guided towards Heaven.”


HaRav Chaim Friedlander, Z’TL (Middos V’Avodas Hashem, Volume 1, p. 405 et seq.) expands beautifully on this thought.  He explains that a person must always feel that all of his actions are important, because they are all being performed in the presence of Hashem.  This means that a person must recognize that not only are loftier or more spiritual deeds a matter of  Hashem’s  concern, but also one’s every day, physical activities and otherwise more mundane conversations and actions are also being performed in Hashem’s presence.


Moreover, and perhaps more importantly, it means that the actions that we take for granted on a daily basis, and don’t give a second thought to, such as writing with a pen, stopping at a stop sign, buying milk in the supermarket, cleaning the house, and yes, even paying bills, are very literally under Hashem’s scrutiny.  We all may, of course, understand this intellectually, but the “fear” of Hashem requires us--not in a negative nor even in a thunderstruck sense--to actually feel and sense Hashem’s presence with us as we go about our daily lives.


With this guiding concept, we can finally understand what Dovid HaMelech, meant when he said (Tehillim 27:4), “One thing I asked of Hashem, that shall I seek--that I dwell in the house of Hashem **all the days of my life**, to behold the sweetness of Hashem….”  How could Dovid HaMelech, King over the entire Land of Israel and many areas beyond, even suggest that he wished to sit in the Bais HaMedrash or Bais HaKnesses when he was personally responsible for the lives of millions of people?  The answer is that he wanted to always be in the Bais Hashem--which means that during all of his activities he wanted to tangibly feel that he was in Hashem’s company, as Hashem’s guest.


With this special presence of mind, with this extraordinary outlook on life, one can instill in all of his actions a meaning and importance never thought possible--for each action is being guided, as Rashi puts it, by “Libcha L’Shamayim”--a heart walking with Heaven.  Life is then uplifted to what becomes almost an ongoing dialogue with Heaven.  As your pen runs out of ink or your mouse falls off your desk, as you get bitten by yet another mosquito, as you get splashed with muddy water by a car speeding by you in the rain…and as you hear that someone got engaged or had a baby, that your best friend has just made a large sum of money, or that all of your blood tests from your visit to the doctor came back all negative…you personally and deeply sense that **all** of this, yes, each and every bit of it, is from Hashem, who is  right there in front of you, providing you with what you need in your life (for reasons not necessarily within your comprehension) right there, then and now.


One should take a short period of time during the day--while cleaning, while shopping, while at lunch, while with somebody on the phone (especially someone who may not be so careful with his words), while in the car in traffic, or at least while davening, to be especially aware, to feel, to sincerely sense, that Hashem is right there with you, with His special concern, His real care, His omnipotent power, and His omniscient wisdom.


Sent February 13:


Today is the Yahrzeit of HaRav Yisroel Salanter (Lipkin), Z’TL.  We provide several poignant remarks that he made, and comments about his life, excerpted from Sparks of Mussar by HaRav Chaim Zaitchik, Z’TL.

  • “It is worthwhile for a person to learn Mussar throughout his life even if its only benefit is to prevent him just once from uttering one remark of Loshon Hora.”

  • “It is necessary to work hard at climbing levels of Mussar and fear of Hashem--just as a mountain climber must work to climb a mountain.”

  • “When I first began to learn Mussar,” reminisced R’ Yisroel, “I would get angry at the world but not at myself.  Later, I would get angry also at myself.  Finally, I got angry at myself alone.”

  • “A person who truly trusts in Hashem is truly rich. But a person who is only reputed to trust in Hashem is like a person who is only reputed to be rich.”

  • So careful was R’ Yisroel to honor others, that he would even address young boys with the formal you (Ihr) in Yiddish in order to develop their self esteem.

  • A learned, G-d fearing shochet came to R’ Yisroel and told of his wish to leave his job because he was afraid of bearing responsibility for the prohibition of neveilah (improperly shechted meat).  “What will you do to earn a living?” inquired R’ Yisroel.  “I will open a store,” was the reply. R’ Yisroel was amazed.  “You are worried about Shechita, which involves only one prohibition of neveilah.  How much more is there to worry about a store, which involves many prohibitions, such as stealing, oppressing, coveting, cheating, lying and keeping inaccurate measurements?”


Hakhel Note: Today, we are blessed with several excellent Halacha Seforim in English on Choshen Mishpat which deal with many, if not all of the pertinent issues.  Additionally, Hakhel has conducted several Yarchei Kallahs on these topics.  For tapes of the Hakhel Shiurim, please call: (718) 252-5274.


  • R’ Yisroel used to pray for the welfare of the government. When he happened to be in a synagogue where the prayer was not said, he read it himself.

  • R’ Yisroel used to hasten to make Kiddush Shabbos evening because the housekeeper, who had worked hard all day preparing the Shabbos delicacies, was surely hungry, and it was not right to keep her waiting.  On the Seder night, just as he and his family were about to sit down at the table, an urgent message came.  One of the city’s Jewish notables had been imprisoned and was in grave danger.  R’ Yisroel left the table and hurried out to arrange his release.  After many hours, he finally succeeded in freeing the prisoner.  Then he returned home and began the Seder.  When asked why he was not concerned this evening about his housekeeper’s hunger, he replied, “Tonight was the case of saving a life, and in such instances every Jew, man and woman, is obligated to give his all in order to help and in order to participate in the distress of his fellow-Jew.”

  • On Yom Kippur, R’ Yisroel kept cake in his drawer in Shul. That way if anyone came into danger because of the fast, R’ Yisroel would be able to feed the person on the spot.

  • A wealthy Chassid came to see R’ Yisroel.  Upon leaving, the Chassid put down a hundred ruble note as a pidyon and asked R’ Yisroel to pray for him.  R’ Yisroel refused to accept the money.  Thinking that R’ Yisroel had refused because the amount was too little for so wealthy a man, he added another hundred ruble note to the amount.  This too, R’ Yisroel refused to accept.  Finally, the Chassid pulled out a five hundred ruble note--a very large sum in those days--and put it down before R’ Yisroel.  R’ Yisroel smiled and said, “If you are willing to give away so much money, then **you** are the good one, and therefore I ask you to pray for me.”


Hakhel has available in MS Word format the 13 Middos (or Rules of Conduct) of R’ Yisroel in the original Hebrew.  Please email us if you would like a copy.


Of course, much has been written, studied and learned about the life of this great Torah Sage.  In the last few hours of his life, it is said that R’ Yisroel opened a conversation with his attendant about the fear people have of being alone in a room with a deceased person.  R’ Yisroel assured the man that the fear was groundless because a deceased person can harm no one.  A few hours later, R’ Yisroel passed away with no one present except for that attendant.  R’ Yisroel was niftar in the week which we read Parshas Mishpatim, which contains many of the laws “Bain Odom L’Chaveiro--between man and his fellow man.”  The time of his passing, then, serves as a reminder to us to rejuvenate and rededicate ourselves to proper conduct with, and care for, our fellow man.  Perhaps, as we move towards Parshas Mishpatim, we should attempt to improve ourselves in a specific, defined manner with our fellow man.  Working on “Dibbur B’Nachas Im HaBriyos”--speaking softly and not getting angry, would truly be a befitting avoda for the rest of the week!


Sent February 12:




As we learned in last week’s Parsha, our Kabolas HaTorah, our observance and performance of Torah, is based upon an initial allegiance and commitment.  HaRav Matisyahu Salomon, Shlita, provides us with a simple, yet astounding thought.  In order for us to have committed to the Torah and the Torah way of life, we had to initially have within us, as part of our Yisodei HaNefesh, the capability to honestly and wholeheartedly commit to something.  This capability proceeded and was a prerequisite to receipt of the Torah--otherwise we could simply change our mind at any point without any care or concern, and even with impunity.  So it is this middah that every human has within his soul, to unequivocally commit to a principle, and even a way of life, that we latched onto and carried with us as we made the commitment of “Naaseh V’Nishma”--we will do, and then we will study.


In fact, the other nations of the world at the time of Kabolas HaTorah refused to make the commitment--to bind themselves to something they were indeed capable of performing but elected not to.  This recognition that a Kaballah is a truthful and unwavering pledge has important ramifications for each and every one of us, as we try to accept upon ourselves reasonable and measured goals in our self-improvement.  It is simply an honest, personal conviction, and commitment which could raise a person from the self-denial of the gentile nations of that time to the level of our ancestors.  As a splendid but challenging example, HaRav Salomon quotes his Rebbe, HaRav Leib Gurevetz, Z’TL, who taught that if we would be truly committed to Shmiras HaLashon, we would not and could not speak Loshon Hora, for it would violate our very essence, our very being.


With this fantastic yesod--guiding principle--we can understand why it is only that “Kol Haschalos Kashos”--only beginnings should be difficult--for once one has thought something through and truthfully committed to it, the commitment should thereafter remain steadfast, resolute, and unfaltering.


As we take Kaballos upon ourselves, let us remember that, as with Kaballos HaTorah, our commitment must be so sincere and unwavering, that there should be no doubt, from the depths of our soul, that we can, and will fulfill our commitment.


Sent February 8:


Special Note One:  We would like to remind everyone that the Daf HaYomi begins Mesechta Megillah tomorrow.  Most of Mesechta will be completed before Purim.  This is an absolutely incredible opportunity to join with thousands upon thousands across the globe in pledging to increase our Torah Study during the week of Kaballos HaTorah, and in studying the Torah and in studying the Halachos and Hashkafos of Purim in detail prior to the Holiday.  We take this opportunity to personally urge you to join with so many of K’lal Yisroel in this momentous, wonderful project.


Special Note Two:  In furtherance of yesterday’s note relating to improvement on Tefillah focus prior to praying, we additionally refer our readers to Praying With Fire by Rabbi Heshy Kleinman (Artscroll 2005) Chapter 6, especially Days 46-53 for superb assistance and guidance in this area.


Special Note Three:  In another note yesterday, we joined with Rabbonim and Jewish Organizations in asking our readers to recite Tehillim Chapter 121, “Shir La’Maalos Esah Aynei El HeHarim--a Song to the Ascents--I lift my eyes to the mountains” on behalf of Yehonasan Ben Malka, Jonathan Pollard.  In the first two Pesukim of this Chapter, we find two very powerful messages.  Firstly, we are to lift our eyes up to the mountains.  Dovid HaMelech is teaching us that we should visualize ourselves looking up at the mountains when reciting this Kepitel, this Chapter of Tehillim.


What does a mountain symbolize?  To the Jew, many important things.  It reminds us to invoke the zechus, the merit, of our forefathers, who are referred to as our Horim--our mountains (See Shir HaShirim 2:8).  The mountains also remind us of how Eliyahu HaNavi was miraculously answered on Har HaCarmel--defying all logic and odds (see Ta’anis 16A).  Finally, of course, Horim (i.e., in the plural) reminds us of the two great mountains--Har Sinai, where we received the Torah as an eternal endowment, and Har Hamoriya, which spans the incredible history of mankind from the time that Adam HaRishon offered a sacrifice there, through the binding of Yitzchok and the two Holy Temples, through the rebuilding of the third everlasting Bais HaMikdash.  Succinctly stated, as we look to the mountains, we have merit and potential, and the hope--the real hope--that we will be answered.


This takes us to the second lesson from the second Pasuk in Chapter 121. “Ezri Mayim Hashem--My help comes from Hashem,” Maker of Heavens and the earth.  This should be a source of tremendous chizuk for us.  Nothing, not intafada, suicide bombers, deathly illness, nor incarceration for 22 years with even the Supreme Court of the United States rejecting your pleas, can stop Hashem, for he made the Heaven and earth.  We must never think that we are asking for the impossible, or even participating in Tefillos for a sick person or for Jonathan Pollard, because we want to be nice and can do nothing else.  Rather, we must appreciate and sincerely feel and believe that our Tefillos to the Maker of the World--and personal Supervisor of all World events--will be heard, and that He can and will respond in the manner He, in His omniscient wisdom, deems best.


Special Note Four:  The concept of visualization referred to above is *always* important.  It is related that the Kotzker Rebbe, Rebbe Menachem Mendel, Z’TL, frequently had guests of all kinds in his home.  It was once discovered that certain articles in the home were missing and someone suggested that one of the guests had actually been brazen enough to steal the items from his pious host.  Reb Menachem Mendel cried out:  “What--steal?!  The Torah forbids anyone from stealing!  To me, it is as if there is a stone wall between me and someone else’s property!”


There is, indeed, a similar story relating to HaRav Moshe Feinstein’s, Z’TL, refusal to pass in front of someone who was reciting Shemone Esrei, which is prohibited (see Shulchan Aruch, Orach Chaim, 102:4 for further detail).  When Rav Moshe was told that he was needed urgently outside, he responded, “I cannot pass in front of this person, it is as if there is a wall in front of me”.


A more classic example of the use of visualization is, of course, that of Yosef envisioning his father, Yaakov Avinu, in his presence, in order to avoid sinning (see Rashi to Bereshis 39:11).  We each can use visualization to assist us in our daily avoidance of potentially sinful situations, and even in our Mitzvah performance and prayer.  As we lift up our eyes and see those mountains, may Hashem grant us the Refuos and Yeshuos--the healings and salvations--we so desperately want and seek.


Sent February 7:


Special Note One:  Leading Gedolim and Rabbonim (including the Moetzes Gedolei HaTorah) together with major Jewish Organizations, are calling for a “Nationwide White House Call-In” on behalf of Jonathan Pollard.


Because the White House actually counts all incoming calls, **Every Single Phone Call Actually Counts**.  The White House’s Opinion Line phone number is 202-456-1111 (TTY/TDD comment line--202-456-6213).  If, B’Ezras Hashem, you find that the line is busy, please keep calling until you get through.  Hakhel is urging that, if at all possible, you call the White House daily, between the hours of 11 a.m. and 2 p.m. Eastern Standard Time for the sixty day period until Pesach.


We additionally ask that you daven for Mr. Pollard, Yehonasan Ben Malka, who has now been incarcerated for 22 years (!).  Everyone has been asked to say Tehillim Chapter 121 daily for his release.  As the Shulchan Aruch (Yoreh Deah 242:1) expressly rules: “There is no Mitzvah greater than Pidyon Shivuyim”.  This is actual, codified Jewish Law.


Special Note Two:  What makes someone studying in Yeshiva into a “Ben Torah”?  A good question--which was actually asked of the great Mashgiach, HaRav Shlomo Wolbe, Z’TL.  HaRav Wolbe (Collected Letters, Volume 1, #104) responds: “The rule is that a ‘Ben Yeshiva’ who has merited to taste the true taste of Tefillah has reached the level of a Ben Torah!”


This is, actually, quite an important point for every one of us, whether or not we are in Yeshiva.  A young student, studying together with his friends would typically have far less cares and concerns than the average adult.  Accordingly, he will have to put more effort into making his prayers meaningful and sincere, because, generally speaking, his needs are ostensibly taken care of by others.  He thus must motivate himself to daven sincerely and powerfully.  We, too, must sometimes put the same effort into our prayers--when we may otherwise lack the focus, time, immediate sense of need, or concern that davening deserves.


Chazal (Pesachim 117A) indeed teach that a Chapter of Tehillim may be found to begin with “L’Dovid Mizmor” or “Mizmor L’Dovid”.  The difference between the two is much more than stylistic.  When “L’ Dovid Mizmor” is used, it means that the inspiration first came to Dovid and he used it to communicate with Hashem.  On the other hand, with “Mizmor L’Dovid,” Dovid HaMelech was not yet in the proper frame of mind and worked upon himself in order to properly communicate with Hashem.  The concept of placing oneself in the proper frame of mind is discussed in Shulchan Aruch (Orach Chaim, Chapter 93 and Mishna Berura there), which provides certain guidelines and rules assisting a person to prepare and focus on his prayer.  Each and every person can become a Ben Torah--according to Rav Wolbe’s formula, with some real, dedicated effort.


Special Note Three:  In response to inquiries regarding Parmesan cheese (see Hakhel Bulletin of Monday, January 29th), we have been advised by the KIC (Kashrus Information Center of Brooklyn) that HAOLAM CHEESE produces Cholov Yisroel Parmesan cheese that is aged for 10 months, which would qualify as a hard cheese for which one must wait six hours according to the Rema.


This Cheese would not to be used as a matter of course on a regular slice of pizza, but as a grated cheese, which can be used in eggplant parmesan, other cheese dishes (including “three cheese pizza”), or sprinkled on salads.  One reader referred us to opinions in the Sefer Badei HaShluchan who would hold that hard cheese melted into another item looses its hard cheese status.


Interestingly, the KIC also noted that enzymes in cheese continue to process the cheese even as it sits in the refrigerator at your supermarket or at home, and, accordingly, there is a possibility for a cheese aging in a refrigerator to actually turn into a “hard cheese” between production and consumption!


Based upon the foregoing, one should note the kind of cheese being used in a restaurant, be especially vigilant as to cheeses at home for which the sale date has expired and refer any specific questions to your Rav for a final P’sak.


Sent February 6:



In this week’s Parsha, the Torah is finally given on Har Sinai, 2448 years after Creation.  Good things can take a long time to get to.  Chazal (Sotah 5A) teach that Har Sinai was a small mountain, and that the Torah was given there, rather than on a high peak (which would have otherwise been expected), because Hashem wanted to teach us the great importance of Anava, humility, in Torah study.  An original thought or a finer understanding, for instance, does not simply fly into one’s head or even develop because you are a sharp person, but is, in reality, a gift from Hashem, and depends upon your effort, desire, and prayer.  Similarly, one must at all times be ready, willing, and able to listen and learn from others--Rabbonim, Maggidei Shiur, friends, Chavrusas, and yes--even students and children--who are learning and spending more time and focus, on a particular Torah topic.  In fact, Chazal (Ta’anis 7A) also teach that the reason Torah is compared to water is because just as water runs from high places down to lower places and valleys, so too does the Torah run to those who humble themselves--and go so low as to become a valley--in order to inculcate Torah into their very being.


A question, however, arises--and this question was posed to HaRav Chaim Kanievsky, Shlita.  If the lesson from Har Sinai is that Anava is an absolute prerequisite for the true Torah Jew, why is it then that the Torah was not actually given in a valley--and a deep, deep valley at that?  HaRav Kanievsky, Shlita, responded that there is indeed a great lesson here.  That is, that we must first recognize the “mountain” that is given to us by Hashem--that we have great potential and capacities--but, in spite of all this, we must humble ourselves in any way that is necessary in order to receive the Torah and make the Torah a part of our being.  As Chazal teach (Avos 2:6), “Lo HaBayshan Lomeid--the person who is ashamed, cannot learn.”  A person must, then, recognize that he is actually a “small mountain”--neither an incapable valley nor a haughty peak.


The Vilna Goan (to Mishlei 4:13) writes that a person’s purpose in life is to break the inappropriate or negative Middos that he has, “and if he does not, why should he live?!”  The person in the valley has nothing to work on and is working on nothing, and the person on the high peak has everything to work on--yet is not working on anything.  The perfect place for one to grow is on that **low** **mountain**, Har Sinai.


This lesson is brought home dramatically by a story the Gemara relates (Ta’anis 25B).  There was a great need for rain--a drought--and Rebbe Eliezer led the Tzibur in prayer, but was not answered.  Rebbe Akiva followed, prayed briefly to Hashem and was answered forthwith.  The Gemara explains that Rebbe Akiva was not greater than Rebbe Eliezer--it was just that Rebbe Akiva was Ma’avir Al Midosuv--he overcame his negative character traits, and Rebbe Eliezer apparently was not on par.  In explaining this Gemara, the Mabit in the Beis Elokim writes that Rebbe Eliezer was so innately great that he had nothing that needed any serious correction--he had nothing to overcome!  On the other hand, Rebbe Akiva had to overcome great stumbling blocks and obstacles in his Avodas Hashem in the course of his self-improvement.  Rebbe Akiva was thus rewarded measure for measure--he worked to overcome his negative character traits, and Hashem worked to overcome a punishment of the people that was otherwise deserved.


As we noted in an earlier Bulletin, the Vilna Gaon (to Yonah 4:3) writes that the items one must work on in this world are those G-d-given tests which seem to constantly recur, and those aveiros for which one has a greater desire than others.  Of course, the way to work on them is by taking some type of action to thwart or hinder the negative act or trait, or at least reduce or minimize it in some way.


HaRav Chaim Shmuelevitz, Z’TL, writes on that a crucial lesson from the Pasuk (in the Shira in last week’s Parsha, Shemos 15:14) “Shamu Amim Yirgazun--people heard and they were shaken”--is that we must take action, we must respond--and we dare not be a spectator to the events and occurrences of our very own lives.  Sometimes, a person will take action for the moment, for the day, or even for a few days, but then falls back into the same rut, stepping comfortably backwards after some good but short-lived steps forward.  Projects are started, but unlike the old days in school, when the projects had to be completed, tests had to be taken, and term-papers handed in, the now “voluntary” situations of self improvement and growth fall, sometimes irresponsibly, by the wayside.  For the men, for instance, Mesechta Megillah will begin in the Daf HaYomi this Friday, with a great majority of the Mesechta actually finished in time for Purim!  Yet, many will start but lack the consistency, or responsibility to themselves, to actually complete the Mesechta.  Similarly, a woman may take it upon herself to say a specific chapter of Tehillim with Kavanna, or recite Shir Hashirim or Perek Shira, for 40 days in a row for a zechus for herself or someone else, but for reasons beyond her control (and they really are almost always good reasons) simply not complete the task.  One can see the same issue at Shul in the morning--one day a person comes on time, another day just a minute or two late, another day five or ten minutes late--it is almost as if the Pesukei D’Zimra and Kriyas Shema that he davens daily are never the same because the speed of his davening, and what he skips, is almost never the same.  It is the consistency that will overcome the bad habit.  Let us take a lesson from the fact that Moshe Rabbeinu was at Har Sinai not for one day, two days, or even six days, but for forty consecutive days.  We must recognize that we are mountains, and not valleys--each of us has great, untapped potential--and as low mountains, we can tap into that potential and change--surely and consistently.


This week is the week we can reach out to the lesson of Har Sinai.  It is our turn to take the study of Torah, and/or to take a middah that we must work on, and put ourselves on our very own Har Sinai--and stay there for 40 days!


Sent February 5:



Everyone in the morning has their own unique style of waking up--some open one eye and then two, some open and close their fist, some feel the need to stretch.  One thing is for sure--what we all must do is say **Modeh Ani**--Thank You Hashem for bringing me to another day of life--especially since our souls and bodies distance themselves at night.  We briefly discussed Modeh Ani in a note on Sleep several days ago.  Because it starts our day, both in Halacha (See Mishneh Berurah , Shulchan Aruch, Orach Chaim,seif katan 8), and in Hashkafa, it behooves us for a moment to analyze these potent and meaningful waking words.


Modeh Ani--I thank You.  I truly appreciate that You returned my soul to me even though I may have been otherwise undeserving.  I will now have the opportunity to once again see the sun high in the sky, feel the cold air, appreciate my close family and/or good friends, and learn Torah and do Mitzvos to acquire and expand my Eternity.  As Chazal teach, he who works on Erev Shabbos, will have that which can be enjoyed on Shabbos.  Baruch Hashem, I have the opportunity to work on Erev Shabbos.


Lefanecha--Before You.  What a way to start the day--acknowledging your Creator and your place--and recognizing that your Creator is right here, and you are laying before Him.  It makes no difference that you are wearing night clothes, and that you are covered by a blanket--He is there for you, and He is, and will be, before you throughout the day.


Melech Chai V’Kayam--King Who Lives Forever.  Unlike a mortal who loves you but cannot provide you with all of your needs, Hashem is all powerful--so He can give you anything and everything that you require--including the most precious gift of all--life for another day, life for growth, life for accomplishment, life to build upon and improve over yesterday.


ShHechezarta Bi Nishmasi--That You returned my soul within me.  I am now rejuvenated to start the new day right and [together with the separate gift of coffee, if necessary] refreshed.  There are billions of people going to sleep and getting up--and You switched no soul around with mine.  Yes, You returned my very soul to me--with my own goals and my own purpose.  You are concerned about me personally, my own Neshama and my accomplishments.  I am not only important to myself--I am also important to You!  (See Michtav M’Eliyahu, Volume 4, Page 234).


B’Chemla--With compassion.  Not only have You returned my soul, but You have returned it with compassion.  With what kind of compassion?  Rav Shimshon Pincus, Z’TL, teaches that as we awake, we should picture Hashem (k’viyachol) bending over and kissing us on our forehead, with love and parental wishes for a successful day.


Rabba Emunasecha--Great in Your Faithfulness.  Having just experienced a kind of Techiyas Hamaysim (since sleep is 1/60 of death), we express our belief in Hashem’s fulfillment of  the ultimate Techiyas Hamaysim, when we well be united with our family and ancestors in a wonderful and pristine world--where our awakening will literally be forever and ever.


Now, it’s time to get out of bed like a lion (these are actually the first words in Shulchan Aruch, Orach Chaim, 1:1), to rightfully meet and greet the day ahead of you!


Sent February 2:



Shlomo HaMelech, the wisest of all men, teaches us in Mishlei (12:18): “Yesh Boteh…V’Lashon chachamim marpei--there is one who speaks like the jabs of a sword, but the tongue of the wise brings healing.”  For now, we can put aside the speech that jabs like a sword, for we have all experienced it, and may be in a situation in which we continuously experience it on a daily basis.  This is one of the great nisyonos, or tests, in life.  Let us focus for a moment on the tongue of the wise.  Each one of us is blessed with constant, daily opportunities to be both wise, and an expert healer by helping make the life experience of another more joyful or uplifted.  This is certainly true when you notice someone who needs some encouragement, or whose spirits need to be boosted.  However, it is also true for anyone at any time.  Everyone, that is, **every one**, needs our positive words, feedback, and reinforcement.  As Shamai teaches (Avos 1:15) “Greet **everyone** with a cheerful demeanor.”  Helping someone turn his hour or even day around could, quite literally, have very significant effects in terms of his job, next conversations, and even mitzvah performance.


The story is told of two men walking along the seashore who noticed hundreds of starfish washed ashore.  As they are walking and talking, one begins to throw the starfish, one-by-one back home into the sea.  The second one comments, “Why are you doing this?  You will only be saving a small portion of all of these creatures that have washed ashore?!”  In response, the thoughtful individual picked up another one and tossed it into the sea.  “Well, I just made a difference in the life of that one!”


We too, can make a difference in the life of this one and that one, and this one and that one, and this one and that one.  In order to best accomplish this, however, we really have to feel--and wish to share--an inner happiness within ourselves.


Chazal (Ta’anis 22A--recently studied in the Daf HaYomi) teach that Eliyahu HaNavi pointed to individuals in the marketplace and advised Rebbe Beroka, who was accompanying him that these individuals were “Bnei Olam Haba”.  One explanation of a “Ben Olam Haba” (as opposed to all of us who have a chelek--some part--in Olam Haba) is that such a person will enter the next world directly without the need for any expiation, interruption, trial, or tribulation.  Who were these individuals whom Eliyahu referred to as Bnei Olam Haba?  They were two people who were “happy, and made others happy.”  We need not be professional jesters or comedians; instead, we should work on counting the blessings and rejoicing in the personalized gifts that are directed to us daily--and sharing our uplifted spirits with others.  A sincere and thoughtful comment such as: “You look good”; “That’s a nice suit”; “You always have something good to say”; “You’re smart”; “It’s an honor to know you”; “You’re special”; “Please give me a Brocha”; “I hope you have a great day!”; “I value your opinion--what would you say?”…all demonstrate an appreciation of your life and the lives of others.  The Torah teaches that whether or not we have family, roommates, or live alone, “It is not good for man to be alone” (Bereishis 2:18)--and we should never feel alone or allow others to feel down--by caring and sharing with them.


We are here to help each other, strengthen each other, be with each other, and warm each other.  We should each try to make sure that, at least four or five times a day, we have gone out of our way to do what is proper and correct--to rejoice in what we have, and let it overflow with a compliment, a happy tiding, a positive remark, a word of encouragement, an expression of friendship, appreciation, or oneness.


Reb Tzadok HaKohen (Parshas Bo, 11) writes that the Kedusha of each and every Shabbos is unique, emanating from the Parsha.  The Kedusha of Parshas Beshalach draws from the same Kedusha as the last day of Pesach, when the sea was split.  Next week, Parshas Yisro will draw from the Keduasha of Matan Torah, where we stood together “K’ish Echad B’lev Echad”--wholesome and unified as one (See Shemos 19:2).  As we experience the ecstasy of crossing the Sea and ready ourselves for Kabolas HaTorah, it behooves us now to practice with sincerity, meaning and detail our “Ish Echad and Lev Echad”--developing our inner joy and allowing it to overflow and lovingly encompass all of those around us!


Sent February 1:


Special Note One:  We received word that the following items may contain Shatnez:

GAP-Ladies’ and girls’ sweaters, and Banana Republic and Prada men’s ties.  For further information, please call The Lakewood Shatnez Laboratory at 732-364-7056.


Special Note Two:  We received the following important comments from readers relating to overcoming habit, and to succeeding at Tefillah.


A.     “Please note that in the last Brocha of Birchos HaShachar every morning, we ask ‘She’Targileinu B'Sorasecha--accustom us to Your Torah’.  What does it mean for one to be accustomed to Torah?  Rav Hutner, Z’TL, explained this as a goal that we should strive for--to make yesterday's chiddush, new discovery or innovation, today’s habit and course of conduct--and then go forward with new innovation, improvement, or originality as soon as you have made your previous step-upward into your new habit.”

B.     “Regarding your thought on how to defeat rote brought from R' Dessler, Z’TL, there is a related, very poignant thought I have heard in his name.  Rashi, in reference to the prayers of Yitzchok and Rivka, writes that the Tefillah of Yitzchok was more acceptable because he was also the son of a Tzaddik, whereas Rivka was the daughter of a Rasha.  This requires explanation--after all did not Rivka overcome greater obstacles in order to reach her position in life?  Rav Dessler explains that this was not necessarily the case.  Although Yitzchok was brought up in the house of Avraham Avinu, one would have thought that his actions would be performed by rote and therefore his Tefilla would be lacking and insubstantial, while the Tefilla of his wife Rivka would have been fused with pure and substantial feeling.  After all, she was a Ba’alas Teshuva.  And when we look around at the Ba’alei Teshuva around us, we see such pure faith, that it makes the FFB [those born into Torah-observant homes] feel somewhat lacking (this is not a knock; it is and should rather be inspiring--that we find this within ourselves to be lacking).  The Ba’al Teshuva genuinely searches for truth, and his passion for the cause is intense--Rivka surely possessed this quality.  However, Yitzchok was greater than Rivka because he possessed that very same passion, despite the fact that he was born into a pure faith and firm belief in Hashem.  His roadblocks, his obstacles, were then in a unique sense greater than Rivka’s, and it is for this reason that his Tefillos were more valuable--for he, incredibly, had to overcome even more than she did!!”


Hakhel Note: We too, even if we were initially “B.T.s” at some point, should strive to follow our forefather Yitzchak in this important area--breaking through rote as we strive for truth!


Special Note Three:  The following is an excerpt from Mann and Nature (based upon the teachings of HaRav Pam, Z’TL) written by HaRav Sholom Smith, Shlita.


“The Chasam Sofer has a truly fascinating observation concerning the mann.  For forty years the generation of the Exodus from Egypt lived on mann, bread from heaven.  For them, it was truly extraordinary because in Egypt their bread was derived from the earth--‘Hamotzi Lechem Min Ha’Aretz’.  Their children, however, who were born in the barren Sinai desert, grew up on the daily sustenance of the mann.  For them ‘Hamotzi Lechem Min HaShamayim’, bread from heaven, was the norm, and was actually the brocha that was recited over this food.  When they entered Eretz Yisroel, they experienced for the first time the phenomenon of wheat--and eventually bread--coming from the earth.  Imagine!  One put seeds into the ground which eventually sprouted forth into…bread!  What to the fathers was “nature” was to the children nothing less than a miracle, and what to the children was “nature” was to the fathers a wondrous miracle!  Of course, the only conclusion is that everything in “nature” is miraculous.  Had it not been for the “koach hahergel--the power of habit”--we would be astounded by even the smallest facet of the basic part of Creation and not take anything, any little thing, for granted.


“In our times there have been truly astonishing discoveries in the world of science and medicine.  Yet, scientists and researchers readily admit that they have barely touched the surface in understanding the infinitesimal complexities of the human body and the natural world.  It is amazing how the slightest malfunction in the human body can quickly have catastrophic results.  On the other hand it is equally fascinating to see how the body itself is equipped with extremely complex “back-up systems” to reinforce and/or replace bodily functions which are not working properly.


“A Ba’alas Teshuva once explained to Rav Pam, Z’TL, what motivated her to take upon herself the yoke of Torah and Mitzvos.  She had a PhD. in Chemistry.  In a basic laboratory experiment studying the molecular makeup of a drop of water, she came to the realization this could not have happened by chance.  There had to be a Creator Who had brought into being the infinite complexities of life.  She discovered Judaism and became a loyal Bas Yisroel--all from a drop of water…!


“By contemplating the greatness of “nature”, a person should be inspired to daven better, learn more Torah, recite better Brachos with more Kavannah, and experience closeness to Hashem.  When one feels the words of Tehillim (16:8) ‘Shivisi Hashem L’Negdi Samid--I have set Hashem before me always’, seeing G-dliness in animals, trees, grass, earth, and everything around him, it should fill his heart with intense gratitude to Hashem for creating such a world and he should recite the daily brocha of ‘Who has provided me my every need’ with a deeper understanding….”

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