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18 Adar

A GREAT RESOURCE!  A Posek for the CCHF Shemiras Halashon Shaila Hotline, who has perhaps answered thousands of real life Shailos in Shemiras Halashon, has supplied us with an extremely important outline of “General Guidelines about Lashon Hara in the Workplace or in a School”.  We provide it by clicking here.  One may want to print out the Guidelines and keep them handy.  The Shaila Hotline’s number is 718-951-3696, from 9PM to 10:30 pm , Eastern time, Monday through Thursday.


Hakhel Note:  The Chasam Sofer explains that each month of the year corresponds to one of the twelve Shevatim. The month of Adar, according to his reckoning, is representative of Shevet Binyamin. He explains that the stone on the Choshen for Binyomin is Yoshpheh--which can be split into two words--Yesh Peh--he has a mouth.  This, the Chasam Sofer explains, is what allowed Mordechai from Shevet Binyomin to be victorious over the Lishna Bisha--the evil words of Haman which were set to literally destroy K’lal Yisroel.  Mordechai was a descendant of Binyomin who had a mouth--but kept it closed and did not tell his father Yaakov what his brothers had done to Yoseph;  Binyomin’s descendent,  Shaul Hamelech also had a mouth, but once again kept it closed and did not reveal that Shmuel HaNavi had consecrated him as king--until the time came;  Esther HaMalka as well did not reveal ‘moladata’, where she was from, despite the immense pressure from the king for her to do so--and as a result all of K’lal Yisrael was saved.  Succinctly stated, the closed mouth of Binyomin--the Yoshpheh-- literally brought salvation to us all. When one follows in the Yoshpheh tradition (you may even very well be from Shevet Binyomin!), he is not only saving his own mouth from contamination, he is not only immensely aiding his words of Torah and his words of Tefillah--but he are bringing us all one step closer to the Bais Hamikdash and Geulah--as Hashem’s House is especially nestled... in the nachala of Shevet Binyomin!  Be a part of it!



DID YOU KNOW THAT LACTAID, SOME OF THE MAX FACTOR LINE , CHANEL LINE , SOME OF THE DIAL AND COAST BODY WASH PRODUCTS… MAY BE A PROBLEM FOR PESACH?  Rabbi Gershon Bess, Shlita has prepared the “5773/2013 Passover Guide to Cosmetics and Medications,” containing UPDATED information on thousands upon thousands of products, ranging from Tums and mouthwashes to moisturizing lotions, from body washes and shampoos to cold tablets, and from acne creams and makeup foundations to calcium tablets and azithromycin.  Rabbi Bess writes that HaRav Elyashiv, Z’tl, and yblch’t HaRav Wosner, Shlita, urged his continued publication of the List--both for reasons in Halacha and in Minhag Yisroel.  For questions to Rabbi Bess regarding the guide one may email rgbess@hotmail.com or to put oneself on the mailing list for the Guide, one may call 323-933-7193.  For the latest updates to Rabbi Bess’ list we refer you to www.kehilasyaakov.org




Special Note One:  We B’EH continue our Monday/Thursday study of the Sefer Mitzvos HaKatzar, with the Mitzvos Lo Sa’asei which the Chofetz Chaim writes are applicable in our times. Today, we present Mitzvos Lo Sa’aseh 90 and 91:


90.  Lo Le’echol Eiver Min HaChai-- this is the Mitzvas Lo Sa’aseh which prohibits one from eating the limb that has been cut off of a live animal.  One who eats a kezayis of a live animal receives malkos.  This Mitzvah applies in all places and at all times and to men and women alike.


91.  Shelo Levashel Basar V’Chalav--this is the Mitzvas Lo Sa’aseh which prohibits one from cooking a goat in its mother’s milk.  One who cooks a kezayis of basar v’chalav receives malkos, even if he does not partake of it.  It is forbidden to derive benefit from this cooked item, and it must be buried.  The prohibition applies only to the milk and meat of Kosher animals (but even if not properly shechted).  It does not apply if either the milk or meat is from a non-Kosher animal, nor to the meat of a chaya or bird even if they are Kosher (although one could not, of course, eat a Kosher chaya or bird which has been cooked in milk).  This Mitzvah applies in all places and at all times and to men and women alike.



Special Note Two:   From a reader:  “In the monumental Sefer Rav Schwab on Prayer, he gives an electrifying insight into being Somech Geula L’tefillah. He says that through the miraculous events of Yetziyas Mitzrayim, HaKadosh Baruch Hu came as close to us as He will ever come.  Correspondingly, from the viewpoint of K’lal Yisrael, the highest form of Avodas Hashem, that which bring us into the closest possible proximity of HaKadosh Baruch Hu is the Karbon (the word Karbon means something that brings us very close to Hashem).  Through the Karbon, an individual--or K’lal Yisrael as a nation--can come as close to Hashem as humanly possible.  In the absence of a Beis HaMikdash, our Korban is achieved via Tefillah. So, the moment of closest connection is at the beginning of the Shemone Esrei.  In this month, my Shacharis goal is to concentrate on the Pesukim after Shema which mention Yetzias Mitzrayim and use that consciousness of His closeness to heighten my Kavannah for at least the first bracha of the Shemone Esrei.”



Special Note Three:  Chapter Two of the Megillah concludes with the plot of Bigsan V’Seresh being uncovered, and Mordechai’s life-saving deed being recorded in the king’s records. Chapter Three then begins with the king raising Haman HaRasha into a position of high authority...which leads directly to his major plot to destroy the Jewish people.  Only much later when the entire Jewish people are at real and great risk does the King decide to repay his debt--to show his appreciation to Mordechai.  Imagine if the King would have acted properly--and showed his Hakaras Hatov to Mordechai immediately.  Instead of Chapter Three beginning with his raising Haman to power--it would have been his raising of Mordechai to a great position of authority in recognition and thanks for his life-saving act.  What a lesson for each and every one of us in Hakaras Hatov! The delay in one act of appropriate Hakaras Hatov was almost fatal for our people.  Although this happened to Achashveirosh, the lesson is there for us all to take with us. Don’t wait until it is almost too late to show your Hakaras Hatov--for not only may you not have the opportunity to express it or show it--but who knows the lives you may even be saving (literally) by its proper and timely expression--and imagine what Achashveirosh’s end would have been for eternity had Haman  even somewhat succeeded in his plot!  Just like it would hurt to think about it--it should hurt to not immediately respond to a kindness with recognition, gratitude and appreciation.



Special Note Four:  Some Poskim write that the Mishloach Manos that we give on Purim--two gifts to one person, is based upon Achashveirosh giving two gifts--his Royal Ring to Mordechai, and the House of Haman to Esther.  Thus, we remembered these very, very significant gifts with gifts on Purim of such items as hamantashen, wine, challah, snacks from all over the world, and various assorted trifles and dainties.  Perhaps we can take this “gifted” lesson through the year, and every time that we receive a gift, whether large or small and whether tangible or in the form of a compliment or other intangible item, and be sure to pass on that gift in some form to someone else.  The gifts one receives and that one subsequently gives may not necessarily be comparable at all, but in more cases than you may think, they may be just as memorable!




17 Adar

FIBER ONE UPDATE:  We have now complied together the appropriate bracha to be recited on each of the following Fiber One Cereals:


The bracha to be recited on Fiber One (original) is Borei Minei Mezonos.

The bracha to be recited on  Fiber One Honey Clusters is Borei Minei Mezonos.

The bracha on the Fiber One – Caramel Delight is Borei Minei Mezonos.

The bracha to be recited on Fiber One 80 Calories Chocolate Squares is Borei Pri Ha'adama.

The bracha on the Fiber One Honey Squares 80 Calories is Borei Pri Ha’adama.


Hakhel Note:  If you know anyone who uses these cereals, it would be a great Mitzvah to supply them with the appropriate brachos to be recited!



IMMEDIATE INSPIRATION FOR THIS TIME OF YEAR!  We urge you to take out a Sefer Tehillim and recite the words of Tehillim, Chapter 40, Pasuk 6.  How moving! How especially timely!  Keep the Pasuk handy!


Special Note One:  Kiymu VeKiblu (continued).  Before learning, simply take a moment to dedicate and devote yourself to the study or the Shiur itself--forgetting about work, old issues, new problems, the last phone call or email, what you still have to do today, the mistake you recently made and how you can correct it, how to do this or say that--and instead and instead to wholly focus with joy only on Hashem's Torah--because this is really what Hashem wants.  It is reported that the Steipeler Gaon, z'tl, who heard so many of the world's problems, said that the only way he could learn effectively with so much weighing down upon him, was by simply putting everything else out of mind and devoting the precious time in front of him to pure study.  A simple--but very effective--way for us to take Kiymu VeKiblu with us throughout the year!


For us to better appreciate the tremendous importance of any Kiymu VeKiblu kabbalah (bli neder), we provide special insights from the Chofetz Chaim into the greatness of Torah (found in the Sha’ar HaTorah, Chapter 1, of the Sefer Shemiras HaLashon): 


1.  Chazal teach that there are 600,000 explanations of each Pasuk of the Torah.


2.  The light that emanates from the names of HaKadosh Baruch Hu above emanates for 420,000,000 parsa’os.


3. The reason that the Parshios of the Torah are not in chronological order is because if they would be--anyone who read them would be able to be mechayeih meisim and perform wonders. 


4.  A person should reflect upon the fact that if he was to receive a letter from the king which was difficult to read, or which required further study--how much time and effort he would put into understanding the king's directive.  How much more so when it comes to the eternal teachings of the King of all Kings-- the Torah--of which we openly aver: Ki Heim Chayeinu V’Orech Yameinu--for it is our life and the length of our days!”


5.  The Pasuk (Tehillim 62:13) states:  U’lecha Hashem Chosed Ki Atta Teshaleim Le'ish KeMa’aseihu--You Hashem are kind--for You repay a person according to his deeds.”  Many ask--what is the kindness that the Pasuk is referring to--after all, if a person does Mitzvos, isn’t it just for him to be rewarded for them?  The Chofetz Chaim answers with a potent Mashal:  If a person would invent a machine which could build an entire city in a day from scratch, and would bring this machine to the king, the king would surely reward him very handsomely.  The king, however, would in no event gift to him the cities that were built through the machine, or even  call all of the cities by the inventor’s name. After all, it is the king who is building and outfitting the cities--and they are all within his province and domain. Not so with Hashem. Although it is Hashem Who is of course empowering creation at every moment, He in His chesed deems it as if the one studying Torah is the one who is empowering the world--for by doing so he is fulfilling the purpose of creation .  This is the incredible meaning of the word KeMa’aseihu in the Pasuk--Hashem treats the student of Torah as the one who is keeping the world going--as if he himself is continuously creating it! 


6.  The Zohar (Parshas Shelach) teaches that one who is oseik  in Torah is considered as if he brought all of the Karbanos before Hashem, and Hashem provides multiples kisa’os for him in Olam Haba. 


7.  The Zohar (Parshas Vayeishev) also teaches that for one who is oseik in Torah, the gates preventing his neshama from going to higher locations break until it gets to its rightful place, and the Torah continues to protect him and is melamed zechus on him until Techiyas HaMeisim.


8.  Because the Torah is composed of the names of Hashem, one who is oseik  in Torah is considered as if he is oseik in the Shem Hashem itself. 


9.  The Zohar (Parshas Pinchas) writes that there is no joy to Hashem but for one who is oseik in Torah--and if one stays up at night to study--his study is listened to by the Tzaddikim in Gan Eden, with Hashem’s presence in their midst. 


10.  The Zohar (Parshas Bereishis) writes that one who actually moves his lips reciting the words of Torah as he studies is considered like a Malach on earth--as the Pasuk (Tehillim 103:20) states:  Barchu Hashem Malachav Giborei Koach..--blessed are you, the Malochim who do the will of Hashem...”  Hakhel Note:  This was one of our previous Kiymu VeKiblu suggestions--there for the taking!



Special Note Two:  The following is an extremely important excerpt from the Sefer Geulah B’Rachamim by Rabbi Pinchas Winston, Shlita.  For further information on how to obtain this special Sefer, one may contact www.thirtysix.org


“The Jewish people are on a mission and it can be summed up in two words:  Kiddush Hashem, to sanctify the Name of Hashem.  This is not just something we do on the side, something that is supposed to result from everything we do, whether alone or in public.  Rav Papa asked Abaye, ‘Why is it that for the former generations miracles were performed and for us miracles are not performed?  It cannot be because of their learning, because in the years of Rav Yehudah, their learning was confined to Nezikin, and we learn all six orders.  And yet, when Rav Yehudah took off one shoe [during a drought on a fast day], rain used to come.  We torment ourselves and cry loudly, and no one pays attention to us!’  He answered, ‘The former generations used to sacrifice themselves for Kiddush Hashem; we do not sacrifice ourselves for Kiddush Hashem’ (Brochos 20a).  What does it mean to sanctify the Name of Hashem?  There are many ways to do it, but they all result in the same thing:  more of Hashem’s Presence in Creation.  The opposite term, ‘Chillul Hashem,’ the profanation of Hashem’s Name, comes from the word ‘challal,’ which means a ‘void.’  Something that profanes Hashem’s Name has the impact of making Creation somewhat void of the Presence of Hashem, the extent to which depends upon the severity of the Chillul Hashem.  Kiddush Hashem has the opposite effect, by drawing more Divine Light into Creation, thereby making the Presence of Hashem more pronounced.  That’s why a Kiddush Hashem can occur even when a person is alone, and no one else is around to witness it; it will still impact Creation in a positive way.  The longer the Jewish people remain in exile, the more we begin to mimic the host nations amongst whom we live, blurring the distinction between Jew and gentile.  Eventually, our actions, even as Torah Jews, may fall into the category of those which are acceptable by world standards, but not by Torah standards, resulting in a Chillul Hashem, and sometimes, severe ones.  This is very dangerous for everyone.  Reducing the Shechinah in Creation, L’havdil, is like not keeping up sanitary conditions in a hospital--unhealthy stuff fills the void, endangering the lives of everyone.  The more Creation becomes void of the Presence of Hashem, the more spiritual impurity fills the void, corrupting man and Creation, a situation that Heaven will put up with for only so long.  We’ve seen what results when we cross that line.  As the Gemora says, doing that which sanctifies the Name of Hashem brings special Divine Providence, anything from success in business to good relationships, to, perhaps, personal salvation from a life-threatening circumstance.  Aside from being a Torah mitzvah, it is a wise step in the direction of the Final Redemption.”


As we continue through this auspicious time of Geulah, let us purposefully do all that we can…to bring us to that Final Redemption!




16 Adar

BRACHOS ON CEREALS:  Over last week, we provided the differing brachos to be made on the various Fiber One cereals, as given to us by the OU.  The OU has now graciously provided us with a listing of many of the cereals under its Hashgacha, with the appropriate bracha rishona and bracha achrona to be recited, according to the ruling of HaRav Chaim Yisroel Belsky, Shlita.  Please click here for the list.  We recommend that this valuable list be further distributed to your shul and/or yeshiva in order to avoid the recitation c’v of brachos levatalos, and in order to bring the proper hashpa’ah  and shefa into the world by reciting the correct and proper bracha over the food that you are about to eat or have eaten.  In the zechus of your further promulgation of this list…may you be zoche to brachos ahd bli dai!



KIYMU V’KIBLU--PART TWO:  Supplied to us by a reader:  “We are told about Simchas Purim that one should drink “Ahd Delo Yadah…--until he cannot distinguish between cursed is Haman and blessed is Mordechai.”  Rav Mordechai Zuckerman explained this phrase in the following manner: Until a shidduch is finalized, the shadchan remains at the center of things.  Once the shidduch is finalized, the shadchan falls to the wayside, and no one pays attention to him anymore. On Purim, the shidduch’ between Hashem and K’lal Yisrael was finalized. Since the shidduch was finalized, it does not matter if the catalyst, or shadchan, was the cursed Haman or the blessed Mordechai. The essence of Purim is the Kiymu V’Kiblu--the ‘shidduch’--between Hashem and K’lal Yisrael--in which we accepted the Torah out of love--as opposed to the events that led to it.”  Hakhel Note:  If one has not already done so, now is the time to put the Kiymu V’Kiblu of Purim into real action.  We had provided some suggestions yesterday, you can craft your own personalized suggestion--the goal is to demonstrate your special love or dedication to Torah study in a new, meaningful and doable way!  We look forward to your sharing your Kabbalah (bli neder) with us!



REMINDER!  As we are now less than 30 days before Pesach, we should try to learn the Halachos of Pesach (including the Halachos of the Seder) from a practical Sefer.  To some, it can be the Mishna Berurah or the Aruch HaShulchan; to others it can be an English Sefer such as The Halachos of Pesach, by Rabbi Shimon Eider, Z’tl.  The importance of studying the Halachos within the 30 days before Pesach is highlighted by the Mishna Berurah (Shulchan Aruch, Orach Chaim 429 seif katan 1), who writes that the source for the 30 day study period is actually found in the Torah itself (see ibid.).  We may also add our reminder that if one simply studies three Mishnayos a day in Mesechta Pesachim (perhaps one after Shacharis, one after Mincha, and one after Ma’ariv), he will be able to make a Siyum on Mishnayos Pesachim on Pesach.  Simply put, this is a beautiful preparatory step for Pesach--and a wonderful personal accomplishment! 




Chazal teach that we learn from the words “Velo Yaavor” contained in the Megillah that if one had not read the Megillah by the 15th, he could not go beyond that date and read the Megillah on the 16th or at any future date in Adar.  From the fact that Chazal had to derive this teaching from a Pasuk, and that otherwise we would be correct in assuming that if we had not already done so, we could read the Megillah today as well--we see that we are still very much within the spirit and verve of Purim and Shushan Purim.  Accordingly, we provide the following additional post-Purim points and questions for thought.  Your answers and comments are most welcome, as well as your novellae from Purim and the Megillah:


A.  As we know, Esther risked her life by going to the Chatzer Hapenimis--the inner courtyard in front of the king’s throne room.  The general consequence for one who did so without being called by the king was death.  Yet, a short while later, Haman came to see the king and simply went to the Chatzer Hachitzona--the outer courtyard, in order to ask the king to be allowed to hang Mordechai on the tree he had prepared.  The king asked:  Mi VehChatzer--who is in the courtyard?”  Apparently, going to the outer courtyard was not punishable by death--as Haman did so and the king merely asked “Who is in the courtyard?” and let him in.  This being the case, why didn’t Esther simply go to the outer courtyard--instead of going through the life-endangering experience of appearing in front of the king in the Chatzer Hapenimis?


B.  The Pasuk (Esther 7:7) relates that when Esther told Achashveirosh of her request, and that it was Haman who was intending to exterminate her people, the king was “Kahm Bechamaso--he rose in a rage.”  What was his rage about--after all, did he not know about the decree against the Jews?  Had he not in fact granted this right to Haman--gratis?


C.  It is the custom after the Megillah reading to recite the Pasuk “V’Ata Kadosh Yosheiv Tehillos Yisrael--You are the Holy One enthroned upon the praises of K’lal Yisrael.”  The commentators explain that the reason that we recite this Pasuk and the remainder of the Tefillah that follows on the night of Purim is because it is in Chapter 22 of Tehillim (Ayeles HaShachar)--the Kepitel that Esther recited as she was going to meet Achashveirosh at the Chatzer Hapenimis.  We suggest that just as we take the Tefillah of Aleinu L’Shabeiach with us every day of the year from our Rosh Hashana prayers, and the Tefillos of Viduy and Mah Anu Meh Chayeinu every day of the year from our Yom Kippur prayers, that which we take with us from Purim daily is V’Ata Kadosh Yosheiv Tehillos Yisrael--how Hashem is enthroned by our recognition and awareness of His greatness-even if His hidden miracles are not as evident to the rest of the world.  We should relive the lesson of Purim every day when we recite U’vah L’Tzion--V’Ata Kadosh Yosheiv Tehillos Yisrael!


D.  At the end of Shemone Esrei, prior to taking three steps back, many recite a Pasuk whose first letter is the first letter of their name, and whose last letter is the last letter of their name.  Fascinatingly, one whose name is Mordechai recites the Pasuk (Tehillim 119:97):  Mah Ahavti Sorasecha Kol HaYom He Sichasi--How I love Your Torah--it is what I talk about all day.”  Although Chazal teach that some members of the Sanhedrin separated themselves from Mordechai because of his governmental affairs, many may mistakenly believe that Mordechai was greatly diverted from his attention to Torah because of his involvement with the king.  We suggest that this Pasuk teaches us that Mordechai’s clear essence was Torah--and not even being second-to-king could change that.  Hakhel Note:  To follow suit, if your name is not Esther--it most certainly pays to look up the Pasuk for Esther and see how beautifully it applies to her role and her teaching as well! 


E.  Now that we are in the second half of the month of Adar, is Chazal’s teaching of Mishe Nichnas Adar Marbim B’Simcha in the same force and effect as it was prior to Purim? Rashi (Ta’anis 29A) explains that the reason we increase our Simcha in Adar is because:  Yemei Nissim HaYu LeYisrael Purim U’Pesach--these are days of miracles for K’lal Yisrael--Purim and Pesach.”  HaRav Chaim Friedlander, Z’tl, explains that the Mitzvah of Simcha continues all-the-way through Pesach because the common thread and theme is one of Nissim that Hashem performs on our behalf, and the Geulah that results.  A closer focus at this common thread, he continues, shows that our Yeshuah comes only from Hashem--and that the thought that our actions aid or assist in any way are both foolish and untrue.  In fact, HaRav Friedlander teaches, although there were still 11 months left before the decree against the Jews was to take effect, and although Esther could have waited until the king called for her rather than risk her life--Mordechai and Esther both wanted to demonstrate (each in their own way)--through the sack cloth, fasting, Tefillos and life-risking actions that they realized that everything was dependent on the Yeshuas Hashem.  We likewise read in the Haggadah that when Hashem took us out of Mitzrayim, it was Lo Ahl Yedei Malach, Lo Ahl Yedei Saraf, VeLo Ahl Yedei Shaliach--but Hashem in His honor and by Himself took us out.  Accordingly, in this period between Purim and Pesach, our joy should continue to build as we recognize that we are so especially and uniquely privileged to be in Hashem’s loving hands-and that He will likewise perform Nissim on our behalf to bring us the Geulah Sheleimah!


Hakhel Note:  For personal Chizuk in Emunah, we once again provide the number of the Daily Chizuk Hotline:  Dial (605) 475-4799, access code 840886#--which provides a thoughtful three-minute message daily--bolstering the awareness of Yeshuas Hashem in our daily lives!




15 Adar

KIYMU V’KIBLU:  Today is the day to ensure that your Kiymu V’Kiblu thoughts turn into daily action, bli neder!  How will your Torah study be improved?:  Will you try to not only read the words but say them--at least in one aspect of your daily Torah study? Will you be sure to learn at least one Halacha a day about Hilchos Pesach until Pesach and continue in some way from there?  Will you think about how beloved the opportunity to study Torah is--each time before beginning your Torah studies…?  We look forward to you sharing your Kiymu V’Kiblu commitments, bli neder, with us!



YOM HAKIPURIM:  In how many ways were you able to discover that Purim is really like Yom HakiPurim?  The lots are certainly a place to begin….  If you have not thought through the various possibilities--it is still Shushan Purim today--try to get a better understanding!




Special Note One:  We B’EH continue our Monday/Thursday study of the Sefer Mitzvos HaKatzar, with the Mitzvos Lo Sa’asei which the Chofetz Chaim writes are applicable in our times. Today, we present Mitzvos Lo Sa’aseh 88 and 89:


88.  Shelo Le’echol Cheilev--this is the Mitzvas Lo Sa’aseh which prohibits one from eating the cheilev--which is forbidden fats from an ox, sheep or goat.  If one does so intentionally he is chayav kareis.  If he does so b’shogeig, he must bring a korban chatas.  The areas of the forbidden fats on these animals are the fats which must be brought as part of a Korban.  The fats of a chaya are permissible.  This Mitzvah applies in all places and at all times and to men and women alike.


89.  Shelo Le’echol Dom--this is the Mitzvas Lo Sa’aseh which prohibits one from eating the blood of a bird or animal.  If one does so intentionally he is chayav kareis.  If he does so b’shogeig, he must bring a korban chatas.  The blood of a human being which has left the body is assur to eat MiD’Rabbanan.  The blood of a fish and of Kosher grasshoppers is permitted.  This Mitzvah applies in all places and at all times and to men and women alike.



Special Note Two: Whereas on other Yomim Tovim, the “second day of Yom Tov” is for the people in Chutz L’Aretz, on Purim the “second day”--Shushan Purim--is today for Yerushalayim (and certain other formerly-walled cities, almost all of which are in Eretz Yisroel, in which a Second Day is only celebrated for reasons relating to a doubt as to the proper day to observe).  Why the turnabout?  Why is the “Second Day of Yom Tov” observed in Yerushalayim on Purim unlike all the other Chagim?  As in the past, we suggest the following:  the ikar, the essence, of the celebration of the Shalosh Regalim--Pesach, Shavuos and Succos--is in Eretz Yisroel, which is why they are referred to in the Torah as the Shalosh Regalim--the three times a year we go up to Yerushalayim and the Beis HaMikdash and bring sacrifices to rejuvenate ourselves through the open miracles seen there (see these miracles listed in Avos 5:5) and inculcate ourselves with the pristine holiness of the people and the place (See Sefer HaChinuch, Mitzvah 489, Bava Basra 21A and Tosfos there, dibur hamaschil Ki Mitzion).


The Nes of Purim, on the other hand, is the last of our miracles found in Tanach, and it is a miracle in a very different way, for it is a miracle taking place in Chutz L’Aretz, and occurring, not instantaneously, but over a nine-year period, all b’hester--concealed event after concealed event after concealed event--until we looked back and determined that an outstanding miracle had occurred.


Thus, unlike the Shalosh Regalim, which celebrated the open miracles of Yetzias Mitzrayim, Matan Torah and the Ananei Kavod (the clouds of glory), and which were replete with the miracles of Yerushalayim in their observance, the miracle of Purim was a miracle for the Golus.  It teaches us how we are to lead our lives with Bnei Yisrael and Eretz Yisrael still in a state of defilement and impurity.  Indeed, the Gemara (Megillah 14A) teaches that on Purim we do not read the regular Hallel in order to rejoice in the remembrance of the miracle, but “the reading of the Megillah--this is the Hallel.”  The Megillah (the word is related to the Hebrew word “Megaleh”--to reveal) reveals to us Hashem’s hidden, rather than open and clear role, in our experiences, our successes and our sheer continuity in Galus.


On Purim, it is Yerushalayim that takes a “second day” because the miracle of Purim is to be our guiding light through the Nisim Nistarim of Golus which have occurred, primarily outside of Eretz Yisroel.  Our role is to uncover the Nissim, to recognize the hidden miracles of Hashem in our every day lives.  We can do this, overcoming the mirages, the illusions and our own delusions of a lifestyle which does not have Hashem accompanying and guiding us in our daily life, and replace it with a sincere and meaningful awareness that we should appreciate and thank Hashem for (as we recite in Modim three times daily):


·         Al Nisecha She’Bakol Yom Imanu-Your hidden miracles with us every day,

·         Val Nifleosecha- Your daily and natural wonders,

·         V’Tovasecha- Your daily kindnesses,

·         She’bechol Es Erev VaVoker V’Tzaharayim-which are not only with us daily, but throughout the entire day--evening, morning and afternoon….


If we can focus on these words three times a day, then we can demonstrate that we have learned this key lesson of Golus and we can once again merit the day when miracles are openly revealed to us and to all nations of the world.

The unique period between Purim and Pesach is the period of time which leads us from the hidden miracles of Purim to the revealed miracles of Pesach--Let us use this time wisely by coming to a proper appreciation of the lessons of Purim--which will lead us to Pesach--in Yerushalayim on the First Day of Yom Tov!



Special Note Three:  A thought about Shushan Purim that we believe is poignant.  Yerushalayim is remembered on Shushan Purim, by our observing Purim on that day in its environs in order to increase its honor.  We provide the moving words of Dovid HaMelech in Tehillim 122: “Sh’alu Sha’lom Yerushalayim Yishlayu Ohavoyich…pray for the peace of Yerushalayim; those who love you [Yerushalayim] will be serene.”  The Radak in his commentary to this Pasuk teaches that these are the words that Jews must utter in Galus--Pray to Hashem for the peace of Yerushalayim.  What is the “peace of Yerushalayim?”  The Radak (almost prophetically) writes that this can only be attained with kibutz galios--the ingathering of the exiles--because there will not be peace as long as the “Arailim” and “Yishma’aylim”--the Christians and Arabs--war over the City.


In his commentary to this very same Pasuk, HaRav Avrohom Chaim Feuer, Shlita, brings the following Chazal (from Meseches Derech Eretz Zuta):  “HaKadosh Baruch Hu said to Bnei Yisrael:  ‘It was you who caused the Bais HaMikdash to be destroyed and My children to be driven into exile.  All I ask is that you pray for the peace of Yerushalayim and I will forgive you!’”


Let us honestly reflect:  Haman was a Rasha, and Achashveirosh was a Rasha and/or a fool, but ultimately it was the Jews at that time that got themselves into that mess and had to get themselves out of it.  The responsibility for Yerushalayim--for our kibutz galios--which is so imminent, falls squarely on our minds and hearts.  We must hold ourselves accountable, not as a matter of guilt, but as a matter of responsibility--to ourselves, our families, and our people.  Dovid HaMelech instructs us:  Sh’alu Sha’lom Yerushalayim Yishlayu Ohavoyich”--Daven! Daven! Daven!


If one does not feel he has any more time to recite additional Tehillim during the day, let him at least be sure to recite the brocha of “Vl’Yerushalayim Ircha”--which he is reciting in any event three times a day in Shemone Esrei--with purity of mind and heart. For the next four weeks until Pesach, let us use our power of prayer--for the sake of Yerushalayim, which is oh so much for the sake of ourselves, for the sake of K’lal Yisrael--and for the honor of Hashem!!




12 Adar

FIBER ONE UPDATE:  We provide the appropriate bracha to be recited on the following additional Fiber One Cereals:

The bracha on the Fiber One Honey Squares 80 Calories is Ha’adama.

The bracha on the Fiber One – Caramel Delight is Mezonos and Al Hamichya.



MISHNAYOS MESECHTA PESACHIM:  If you start on Purim (which is 30 days before Pesach) and learn just three Mishnayos a day--you will complete the entire Mishnayos Mesechta Pesachim--for Pesach! 



ANOTHER REMINDER:  As we partake of the Mishloach Manos and Seudas Purim--let us remember that we can express our thanks to Hashem for these wonderful Mitzvos through the sincere and Kavannah-filled brachos that we make over the Purim feast and gifts He has given us--oh how the day is blessed!  Dovid HaMelech (Tehillim 139:14) expresses it so beautifully:  “Odecha Al Ki Nora’os Nifleisi, Nifla’im Ma’asecha VeNafshi Yoda’as Me’od--I acknowledge You for I am so awesomely fashioned; wondrous are Your works and my soul knows it well!”




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


1.  When Haman complained about the Jewish People to Achashveirosh, Chazal say he said “They spend their years with statements like ‘Shabbos HaYom, Pesach HaYom’, and are thereby not loyal to the king.”  The Chasam Sofer explains that Haman meant to indicate with these words that the Jewish people were so attached and enamored to their past and to their ways, and so dedicated to Hashem, that every Shabbos they felt as if it was truly ‘Shabbos HaYom’--the first Shabbos ever, and that every Pesach was ‘Pesach HaYom’--that this was the first Pesach ever.  They would, accordingly, never be loyal subjects for they had their own set of priorities.  In honor of his marvelous ‘accusation’ let us truly feel the excitement of the ‘Shabbos HaYom’ on Shabbos! 


2.  What does the phrase of “Maharu Es Haman La’asos Es Dvar Esther” in the Zemiros of Shimru Shabsosai have to do with Shabbos?  The Eitz Yosef (in the Siddur Otzar HeTefillos) writes that Shabbos is referred to as ‘Esther’ in the Zohar and Tikkunim--so that this phrase in the Zemiros in actuality is referring to us preparing the Shabbos meals with alacrity in honor of Shabbos.  The nexus between Shabbos and Esther deserves further reflection.  On a simple level, both Esther and Shabbos represent our recognition and awareness of Hashem’s presence in the ‘hidden’ and natural events of every day of our existence.  It is on Purim and on Shabbos especially that we have a greater Hargasha, a greater experiential sense, of this feeling.  Your additional reflections would be very much appreciated.


3.  In preparation for the annual Mitzvah of reading Parshas Zachor tomorrow, we provide the following important points:


A.  The opportunity to read Parshas Zachor this Shabbos is of such great significance that, according to the Mishna Berurah (Shulchan Aruch, Orach Chaim 685, seif katan 16), if one can only come to hear either Parshas Zachor or the reading of the Megillah, one should go to hear Parshas Zachor.


B.  There is a Mitzvas Aseh, a positive Torah commandment, to “always remember the wicked deeds of the people of Amalek and their attack upon us, to arouse our hatred of them”--as they were the first to attack us without fear after the nations quaked and trembled over us (as described in Oz Yoshir, the Song of the Sea).  See Rambam Hilchos Melachim 5:5, S’mag Mitzvas Aseh 115, Chayei Odom 151:2.


C.  The Sefer HaChinuch (Mitzvah 603) writes that one of the purposes of this Mitzvah is for us to recognize that one who causes pain to K’lal Yisrael is despised by Hashem, and according to the level of enmity against K’lal Yisrael is their level of destruction.  Since Amalek’s enmity of us was greater than that of all other nations, they are to be completely obliterated.  Indeed, the Ramban (end of Parshas Ki Setzeh) writes that we should “teach our children and future generations--so did the rasha to us, and that is why we have been commanded to erase his name.”


D.  There is a Mitzvas Lo Sa’aseh, a Torah prohibition, of “Lo Tishkach”--not to forget the deeds of Amalek.  This means that we should not forget to despise them despite the passage of time, and to remember that Hashem saved us from them, and that we will eventually avenge their deeds and eradicate them.  See S’mak 53 and Sefer Yereim 189.


E.  One should review the words of Parshas Zachor (with Rashi and/or other meforshim) before the laining.  We suggest reviewing it at the Leil Shabbos Seudah in order that you and/or others are prepared for the laining, since the Mitzvah is to arouse within us both a strong reaction to their despicable deeds, and our obligation to eradicate them.  Indeed, the Maharam Shick writes that we do not make a special bracha on this Mitzvah because we do not make a bracha on hashchosa--acts of destruction.


F.  The Rambam (Hilchos Melachim 6:4) writes that an Amaleiki who makes peace with K’lal Yisrael and accepts the seven Mitzvos B’nei Noach is not to be hurt.  In fact, some learn that the reason that the descendents of Haman “learned Torah in Bnei Brak” (Gittin 57B) is because they were the descendents of those sons of Haman who did not fight against K’lal Yisrael (Sefer Adar U’Purim p. 68).


G.  The Mitzvah of Mechias Amalek, eradicating the Sonei Hashem and Sonei Yisrael--those pure haters of Hashem and His people--began with Moshe Rabbeinu and Yehoshua, continued in the times of Shaul HaMelech, Dovid HaMelech and in the times of Purim, and we will be Zoche to complete it in the times of Moshiach (S’mag-Mitzvas Lo Sa’aseh 226).  As these are days of Nissim and Geulah--miracles and redemption, may we be Zoche to do all the Mitzvos of Hashem with Moshiach leading and teaching us, speedily in our days.


H.  For further detail see Sefer Adar U’Purim by HaRav Yoel Schwartz, Shlita, upon which this note is based.  For the enlightening words of the Ramban on the relationship between the war against Amalek and the end of our current Golus Edom , see the Ramban in Shemos 17:9.



Special Note Two:  We provide the following points and pointers on the Parsha: 


A.  Two articles of the Kohen Gadol which had to stay together when worn-- were the Choshen and the Aifod--the breastplate and the apron.  It is for this reason that the Choshen was tied on all four corners to the Aifod.  This requires some explanation.  After all, the Choshen was intended to provide forgiveness for the sin of “Kilkul Hadin--perverting justice.”  The Aifod, on the other hand, was to provide forgiveness for the sin of Avoda Zara.  Why did these two articles--which brought about kapara for such diverse sins need to be tied together?  HaRav Moshe Feinstein, Z’tl, whose Yahrzeit is on Shabbos, explains that these two aveiros are very much ‘connected’, for they both involve the grave sin of kefira--denial of Hashem.  When one worships Avodah Zara, even if he joins it with service of Hashem, he is denying Hashem’s Omnipotence.  So too, with someone who deals dishonestly in monetary matters.  If he feels that he can outsmart his colleague, customer or competitor, if he purchases a product with “shtick” in order to save money, if he takes advantage of a big company “because everybody does”, or if he gently pads his time…--all of these provide indication that the person believes that he is in control of his financial destiny--that it is he, his mental prowess, or his technical skill, who will determine whether he is or will be poor, middle-class or wealthy.  We are therefore enjoined to always remember to keep the Choshen together with the Aifod--for we must always realize that just as we would never, ever, think of worshipping an idol, or the sun, or the stars in any form or manner--for that matter, so, too, should we never, ever cheat, lie or steal in any form or manner in our lives.


B.  HaRav Ezriel Erlanger, Shlita, explains that we should not feel disappointed that Parshas Tetzaveh seems to be overshadowed by Purim.  In fact, there is a great common message between the Parsha and the Holiday.  It is not just that Achashveirosh dressed himself in the garments of the Kohein Gadol.  Rather, it is the lesson of how a Jew must act with his body.  Unlike Chanukah, in which we celebrate our Geulah from the Galus Yavan--the battle for spirituality, Purim is a day in which we celebrate our Geulah from the Galus of Paras U’Madai, which emphasized the physical world.  They drank from gold and silver containers, for example--even though these kinds of containers adversely affect the taste of the wine, in order to emphasize the importance of the physical.  Achashveirosh, as king over 127 provinces, could have worn the most finely tailored garments at all times--and especially at his royal bash.  Nevertheless, he wanted to demonstrate victory of the Paras U’Madai concept of the body over the Jewish concept of the body, so he wore the garments of the Kohein Gadol as he engaged in the basest of physical pleasures.  The Jews who attended demonstrated their acquiescence with his conclusions--they were ne’heneh--they enjoyed the party in the same way as a party is enjoyed by the Paras U’Madai world.  How different we in fact are!  Chazal point out that when a Jew starts a Shabbos meal, he begins with a D’var Torah or words of Shiros V’Sishbachos to HaKadosh Baruch Hu.  At Achashveirosh’s party, the conversation turned around to who were the fairest of maidens.  By the Jews participating, they succumbed to the attitude of superiority of the enticements of the physical world.  If they would have separated themselves, they would have demonstrated that the true goal of the physical world is to bring Hashem into its midst--which is exactly the meaning and symbol of the Mishkan described in the Parshios of the weeks surrounding Purim.  On Purim, by dedicating the Seudah, the Mishloach Manos, the Matanos L’Evyonim--even the drinking, to the Kedusha which it represents, we build a Mishkan in which Hashem resides--even as we are still in a temporary Galus.  Our food, our clothing, our very being is sanctified! 



Special Note Three: Final Important Purim Points and Pointers:


1. Mikrah Megillah: GREAT AND IMPORTANT REMINDER: When following the Megillah Reading at night and in the morning your are urged to point from word to word in order to keep yourself actively involved in following Kriyas HaMegillah.


2. Mishloach Manos:


A. Mishloach Manos must just consist of two different  portions of food--they can both be meat, or any other type of food or drink (See Shulchan Aruch, Orach Chaim 695:4 and Mishna Berurah there). Rabbi Shlomo Pearl, Shlita, brings that HaRav Shlomo Zalmen Braun, Shlita, ruled that one may cut a pineapple in half, put the two halves on a plate and be Yotzei the Mitzvah! Not all would agree with this P’sak, and would require two different items. See, for example, Aruch HaShulchan, Orach Chaim 695:14.


B. Several people can ‘partner’ together for Mishloach Manos as long as there are enough portions (two per giver) i.e., 12 people can jointly send 24 items to one person and all be Yotzei the Mitzvah! (Sefer Halichos Shlomo p. 337)


C. According to the Rambam (Hilchos Megillah 2:17 ) it is preferable to increase the amount of Matanos L’Evyonim that you give over the amount of Mishloach Manos. See the moving words of the Rambam there.


3. Matanos L’Evyonim:


A. One can be Yotzei the Mitzvah with a check if the poor person can use it in a store. (Sefer Halichos Shlomo p. 342)


B. The Sefer Pele Yo’etz provides the following moving words regarding Matanos L’Evyonim: “It is befitting to have mercy on them, and for one to realize that just as money comes in it goes out--for the eyes of the poor look to those who are wealthier--and the eyes of the wealthier look to Hashem who will give more if the person gives more. Accordingly, if one feels weak or weakened by so much giving, he should realize that ‘Birkas Hashem Hi Ta’ashir--the bracha of Hashem will make one wealthy’, and he should strengthen himself by saying “Gibor Ani”--I am a Gibor to help those whom Hashem wants me to help--and Hashem will help them--and you!”


4. Seudas Purim:


A. For those of you will be making a Siyum on Mesechta Megillah or Mishnayos Megillah as part of our daily program--Mazel Tov and Many More!!


B. The Rema (in Shulchan Aruch, Orach Chaim 695:2) writes that the Seudas Purim, the festive Purim meal, should commence with Divrei Torah. The Mishna Berurah (in Orach Chayim 429, seif katan 2) rules that one must begin learning about Pesach on Purim--which is exactly 30 days before Pesach. Accordingly, putting the Rema and Mishna Berurah together, it is therefore a custom to commence the Purim Seudah with a Halacha about Pesach. In this way, one also connects the Geulah of Purim to the Geulah of Pesach (see Ta’anis 29A, which states that the reason we should increase our simcha to such a great extent in Adar is because it is the commencement of both the miracles of Purim and Pesach).


C. Some have the custom of eating zaronim at the Purim Seudah, in remembrance of the food that Esther, as well as Doniel, Chananya, Mishael and Azarya had to eat while in the royal court.


D. If a father tells his son not to get drunk on Purim, the son should listen to him--for he can fulfill the Mitzvah of drinking through drinking a little more than usual and going to sleep--and still beautifully fulfill the Mitzvas Asei D’Oryasah of Kibbud Av Va’eim! (Rabbi Shlomo Pearl, Shlita) Hakhel Note: For a listing of Rabbi Pearl’s Shiurim visit www.SeeTorah.com


E. Let us remember an essential result of Purim--’Kiymu VeKiblu--the Jewish People reaffirmed their voluntary commitment to the Torah.’ Rashi (Shabbos 88A) importantly explains that the reason that we uniquely reaffirmed our commitment after Purim was ‘MeiAhavas HaNeis SheNa’aseh Lahem’--from the love, from the deep appreciation of the miracle that was performed on their behalf. HaRav Henoch Leibowitz, Z’tl, teaches that if we truly appreciate Purim--if we too have an Ahavas HaNeis--then each and every one of us should undertake his own Kiymu VeKiblu. At the Purim Seudah itself--one may want to Bli Neder take on his own Kiymu VeKiblu in Torah--and perhaps encourage others to do so as well. Here as an example is a simple suggestion: In the Iggeres HaRamban, the Ramban writes that when one completes his studies he should search for something that he can take with him and apply or fulfill. Make it a part of each study session--before you “close the book… or mp3 or cd” think about something that you learned and how and will it have a daily Kiyum in your life. With this you can take the Kiymu VeKiblu with you every day of the year!



Special Note Four: As we move through Purim Day, we should remind ourselves of the words of the Arizal (found in the Pri Eitz Chaim) that EVERY Purim the Neis of Mordechai and Esther is re-aroused. What a day--what an experience!



Special Note Five:  The Rema (Shulchan Aruch, Orach Chayim 690:17) writes “the children’s custom is to make an image of Haman HaRasha on sticks or stones, or to write the name of Haman HaRasha on them, and to hit them against each other, so that his name is erased…and from here comes the custom to make noise at the mention of the name of Haman HaRasha when the Megillah is read in shul--and one should not be Mevatel (nullify) a Minhag (custom) or make light of it.”


The Mishna Berurah there (seif katan 59) writes that this is not only the Minhag of children, but of adults, as well, and adds that the Chacham Tzvi would bang with his leg at the mention of Haman HaRasha. Although many communities and Rabbonim objected to this custom as disturbing the Megillah reading and perhaps for other reasons, it is indeed reported that the Chofetz Chaim himself stomped with his foot when Haman HaRasha’s name was mentioned (Chofetz Chaim Chayav U’Poalo). The Piskei Teshuvos (6:554) notes that this was the Minhag of other Gedolei Yisrael, as well.


The Piskei Teshuvos (ibid.) brings the explanation of the Chasam Sofer as to why we have noise and disturbance--so as to demonstrate that we do not want to hear his name. We may add that we should feel the same way about other Reshaim--past and present. After all, the Posuk in Mishlei 10:7 states, “V’Shem Reshaim Yirkav--the name of the wicked shall rot.” It is one thing to take something into your mouth not knowing it was rotten, but would you let your mouth touch something knowing it was spoiled?! This is something we would most certainly be careful about. Our noise and stomping at the mention of his name are the equivalent of saying the words “Yimach Sh’mo” (we just do not want to talk during K’riyas HaMegillah)--which is like ejecting the rotten item out of your mouth. See Sefer Avudraham 2:230-231. We must recognize that Haman HaRasha’s despised name had to be written (in various ways) in the Megillah only for the very many lessons and reasons that the Anshei Knesses HaGedolah determined with their Ruach HaKodesh.


Now, please make sure that you are sitting down for what you are about to read, for, although it is Torah about Purim, it is not “Purim Torah”:


The Piskei Teshuvos (ibid.) adds from the Ba’al Shevet Mussar, Z’tl, and Rav Chaim Pilagi, Z’tl, that when we hit at the mention of Haman HaRasha’s (and according to some Minhagim, his family members’) name, Hashem makes him actually feel these smites--so that he is in tremendous pain. Why? Because the miracle of Purim happened to every Jew in every generation--after all, if Haman HaRasha’s plan had been successful, R’L, we would never have been born. Therefore, he must feel all of the smites of all Jews of all generations since Purim.

Let us appreciate Purim deeply--and literally rejoice in our salvation.



Special Note Six: Our Annual Purim Bonus Below!


The following Questions and Answers are Kosher for Purim and Year-Round use:


QUESTION: In what year of the Jewish calendar did Purim occur?

ANSWER: According to Yalkut Me’am Loez, Achashveirosh came to power in the year 3392,

and Haman was hung in 3404.


QUESTION: How many years did Purim occur before Chanukah?

ANSWER: Approximately 216 years (Sefer Targum Sheini by Rav Tzvi Dov Cohen, Shlita).


QUESTION: Why isn’t the Shaim Hashem in the Megillah?

ANSWER: Many answer because Hashem’s presence is hidden in the in the subtle events of the Megillah. We may suggest that this is to teach us that we should not fool ourselves--the final battle with Amaleik was not fought then. Only when the final battle is fought before the building of the Third Beis HaMikdash will Hashem’s Name become complete. Hakhel Reminder: Chazal teach that whenever the term ‘HaMelech’ is used in the Megillah in lieu of HaMelech Achashveirosh that it also LeHavdil refers to Hashem (Esther Rabba 3:10). Look out for it and think about how!


QUESTION: How many wars between Bnei Yisrael and Amaleik are mentioned in Tanach?

ANSWER: Actually, there were at least eleven (11) battles with Amalek in Tanach, in one form or another. In the Torah--3 BATTLES: a) Shemos 17: 8 and Devorim 25:17; b) Bamidbar 14:45; and c) Bamidbar 21:1 and 33:40. In Neviim--6 BATTLES : a) Shoftim 3:13; b) Shoftim 6:3; c) Shoftim 6:33; d) Shmuel Aleph 14:48; e) Shmuel Aleph 15:3; f) Shmuel Aleph 30:1. In Kesuvim--2 BATTLES: a) Divrei HaYamim Aleph 4:43…and of course b) MEGILLAS ESTHER! It is clear that this nation has really been out to get us--but in the end we will prevail!


QUESTION: Who was the king before Achashveirosh?

ANSWER: Coresh-see first Rashi to the Megillah.


QUESTION: Who brought Mordechai from Bavel to Shushan?

ANSWER: Coresh--see Targum to Megillah 2:6.


QUESTION: Mordechai was the tenth generation to which great personage?

ANSWER: Shaul HaMelech (Targum Sheni 2:5)


QUESTION: What other name was Achashveirosh known by in Tanach?
ANSWER: Artachshaste, mentioned in Ezra 4:7. Chazal (Esther Rabbah 1:3) note and interpret each name.

QUESTION: Can you give at least three reasons why Achashveirosh made his incomparable Mishte at the outset of the Megillah?

ANSWER: 1. Because he stopped the building of the Beis HaMikdash, and he was sure the Beis HaMikdash would no longer be rebuilt. With the party, he wanted to happily demonstrate his final and complete rulership over the Jews (based upon the Alshich). 2. In honor of his birthday (Midrash Aba Gurion). 3. It was his wedding feast with Vashti, and this is why Vashti also made a party (see Targum Yonasan, Ibn Ezra, and Kad HaKemach).


QUESTION: Why does the Megillah go to such great lengths to describe the wealth of Achashveirosh’s palace and party? Why do we care?!

ANSWER: It is to teach us that if this is what those who anger Hashem receive--Kal Vachomer to those who do Hashem’s will! The G’ra (Al Derech Hapshat) adds that it is to teach that--if this is how grand Olam Hazeh is – imagine how great Olam Habah will be--after all, an hour of Olam Habah is worth all of Olam Hazeh of all time!


QUESTION: Why didn’t Achashveirosh force people to drink to join in his joy--why was there no “Oness” to drink?

ANSWER: The Megillas Sesorim (Megillah 1:8) explains that Achashveirosh wanted the Jews to sin willingly--”Kedi SheYehenu Beratzon.”


QUESTION: What did Mordechai do during the seven days of Achashveirosh’s party?

ANSWER: He served as a Sar HaMashkim, as did Haman (see Rashi to Megillah 1:8). HaRav Chaim Kanievsky, Shlita, explains that he did this in order to save Bnei Yisrael from Ma’acholos Asuros. However, the Targum teaches that he wasn’t there and that he davened, and did not eat and drink, for the seven days of the party (Targum Esther 1:10 ).


QUESTION: One of the especially named attendees at the Mishte were the HaPartemim’(Esther 1:3)--what does ‘HaPartemim’ mean?
ANSWER: Some form of rulership. The Me’am Lo’ez writes that they ruled over areas near the
Euphrates , the Pras River --hence the letters of the word Peih Reish Tes Mem Yud Mem.


QUESTION: According to the opinion that Memuchan was Haman:

(A) why was it, BeHashgacha, that he had to give the advice to kill Vashti?; and (B) Also, al pi hatevah--why would he want to kill Vashti--what did she do to him already?!
ANSWER: (A) So that he himself should be the cause for Esther to marry Achashveirosh--so that she could kill him and his sons. (B) He saw through sorcery that a queen would kill him and he thought it would be Vashti.


QUESTION: What is the significance in the fact that the Gematria of Haman and HaMelech are the same?

ANSWER: One may suggest that that this is to signify that both Achashveirosh and Haman had the same feeling of hatred towards Bnei Yisroel.


QUESTION: Why didn’t Esther relate where she was from?
ANSWER: The easy answer is, because Mordechai instructed her not to--as the Pasuk clearly states (Esther 2:20). As to the reason for Mordechai’s instruction, various explanations are given--including a recognition by Mordechai that perhaps some disaster was going to threaten K’lal Yisrael and her royal position would be the means of their salvation--identifying herself now as a Jew could mean an early end to her position. The Gemara (Megillah 13B) additionally indicates that, even if there was not an absolute directive by Mordechai to hide her identity, Esther herself did not want to reveal to Achashveirosh her royal ancestry (she was a descendent of Shaul HaMelech)--because of her tzniyus and anava.


QUESTION: Why was Mordechai sitting at the Sha’ar HaMelech not a ‘give away’ as to where Esther was from?
ANSWER: Daniel appointed his friends to high positions, and appointed Mordechai to be one of the people in the Sha’ar HaMelech before Esther was taken as queen (Ibn Ezra).


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

ANSWER: There are various explanations for this. The Chofetz Chaim learns that Mordechai was correcting the mistake of his ancestor Shaul HaMelech, who had compassion on Haman’s ancestor, the King of Amalek--Agag. As a result of this misplaced pity, Haman was eventually born and issued his evil edicts. Mordechai, therefore, was unyielding, and stood up to Haman like a pillar of iron refusing to give even an inch for the sake of the honor of Heaven and the honor of Klal Yisroel.


QUESTION: Why didn’t Mordechai and Esther let Achashveirosh be killed by Bigsan and Seresh so that Esther could be freed and go back to Mordechai and her people?

ANSWER: She would have been taken as the queen by the next king anyways, and Mordechai and Esther understood that a special Hatzalah of Bnei Yisrael would result from the unique circumstance of her being taken as queen.


QUESTION: Why didn’t Mordechai tell Achashveirosh of the plot of Bigsan Veseresh directly--why did he relate it through Esther?
ANSWER: He wanted Esther to be more highly regarded and more influential before the king (Yosef Lekach).


QUESTION: What was the sin committed by Bnei Yisrael that prompted the great gezeira against them?

ANSWER: The Gemara (Megillah 11A and 12A) lists three reasons: 1) a laxity in Torah study and Mitzvah observance; 2) participating in Achashveirosh’s first party in which he used the Keilim of the Beis HaMikdash, and which he hosted in celebration of the Jews not being redeemed; and 3) bowing down to the tzelem (idol) of Nevuchadnezzar and/or Haman--, which violated a prohibition of Avoda Zara. HAKHEL NOTE: We see how severe sin the first one really is, if it can be compared to such grievous sins as the second two!


QUESTION: On what day did Haman make the “Pur”?

ANSWER: The 13th day of Nisan (see Rashi to Mesechta Megillah 15A and Malbim to Esther 3:7).


QUESTION: If the Megillah says that a ‘Pur’ is simply a Goral, a lottery, why is the term ‘Pur’ used at all?

ANSWER: Pur’ indicates a lottery for the bad, whereas Goral indicates a lottery for the good (HaRav Yaakov MiLisa). Hakhel Note: Thus we see the Venahafoch Hu in the name Purim itself! Alternatively, the ‘Pur’ is a special name for the dice that Haman cast (Ya’aros Devash).


QUESTION: Why was Achashveirosh’s notice to kill the Jews issued so far--almost a year-- in advance--didn’t he realize that this would provide ample time for the Jews to act?
ANSWER: It was done at Haman’s urging so that the king would not rescind the decree, for once it was sealed with the royal seal, it could not be recalled (Malbim Manos HaLevi). Alternatively, one can suggest that Achashveirosh thought the Jews were powerless before Hashem, based on his miscalculation they were “not redeemed at the end of their 70 year exile.”


QUESTION: The Megillah records that Pas-shegen HaKesav’ (Esther 3:14 )--what does the word “Pas-shegen” mean?

ANSWER: Rashi and the Ibn Ezra write that Pas-shegen means: the text, the nussach, the content. Artscroll translates it as “copies” (of the document containing the decree).


QUESTION: How many humps did the Achashdranim Bnei HaRamachim have? How many legs did it have?

ANSWER: According to HaRav Yaakov Emden, Z’TL (Megillah 18A), these were a unique type of camel with two humps and eight legs, and were accordingly, exceedingly fast. Fascinatingly HaRav Emden notes that these camels were reportedly in existence in Persia even in his time. According to others, the phrase refers to a special type of mule which was driven by expert riders. (See Ibn Ezra to Esther 8:11 and Rashash to Megillah 18A).


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

ANSWER: Chazal (Megillah 16B) teach us what the other edicts were from the Pasuk “LaYehudim Hoysa Orah…” (Esther 8:16 ): The additional decrees included prohibiting the

study of Torah, the observance of Yom Tov, performing a Bris Mila and the wearing of Tefillin.


QUESTION: Why did Esther initially refuse Mordechai’s request to appear before the king?

ANSWER: She thought that she did not have to put herself into danger without first being called by Achashveirosh, as there would be ample time over the year to speak to him, and she would probably see Achashveirosh soon as she had not seen him in 30 days.


QUESTION: Why did Mordechai emphasize to Esther that she should not be silent “Ba’eis Hazos”--at this time?

ANSWER: Because it was Nissan, the time of Geulah, and one should not wait for a different time.


QUESTION: Why did Esther ask first that the people fast for her, and then state that she and her maidens would also fast--wouldn’t it have been Derech Eretz for her to say that she would fast--and then ask them to fast too?

ANSWER: Chazal (Bava Kama 82A) teach that if one davens for his friends and needs the same thing, then he is answered first. She therefore asked them to fast for her, so that they would be answered and saved first (Maharal).


QUESTION: Why did Esther ask that everyone fast for three days?

ANSWER: We provided the Ben Ish Chai’s answer earlier in the week. Alternatively, Chazal teach that Kinah (jealousy), Ta’ava (desire), and Kavod (honor seeking) take a person out of this world. Thus, one day was designated for each of these Middos, as the Zohar HaKadosh teaches that Yamim represent Middos--these three Middos that had to be corrected (Pri Tzaddik, Parshas Chukas).


QUESTION: The Megillah teaches that Esther told Mordechai that not only should the Bnei Yisrael not eat and drink for three days--but that she and her Na’aros would also fast. Yet, she said “Gam Ani Ven’aarosai Atzum Kein”--Atzum is in first person singular. What happened to her maidens--weren’t they supposed to fast as well?

ANSWER: Rav Shlomo Kluger, Z’tl, in the Sefer HaChaim explains that Esther could only state what she knew to be the truth--that she would fast. She did not know what her Na’aros would do privately and she would not say something that she did not know for certain to be the truth.


QUESTION: Who in the Megillah was smitten BeSanveirim (illusions) and how was he cured?

ANSWER: The Sefer Orah VeSimcha brings the Midrash that Achashveirosh was suffering from Sanveirim--but when Esther came to the Chatzer, Gavriel tilted the king’s head towards her and he was healed. Achashveirosh therefore put out his golden scepter to bring her closer since he was healed by seeing her.


QUESTION: Why did the tree that Haman had prepared for Mordechai have to be 50 Amos tall?

ANSWER: Haman was afraid that the noose would break, and that Mordechai would thereupon be free of the death penalty (as is the custom in all kingdoms), he thus wanted to ensure that Mordechai would die from the fall in all events (Ben Dovid). Alternatively, Haman saw Mordechai in a dream flying on top of his house. He knew that dreams have substance, so he wanted the tree to be higher than his house to ensure that this was the meaning of the dream. What the dream really meant would be (and was) that Mordechai was placed “Al Beis Haman--in charge of Haman’s house” shortly thereafter!


QUESTION: According to Chazal, how many students was Mordechai learning with when Haman came in to take him on the royal horse?

ANSWER: Twenty-two thousand. This is equivalent to the number of Malochim who escorted Hashem to Har Sinai. This perhaps demonstrates the new Kabalas HaTorah by Bnei Yisrael of Kiymu V’Kiblu…we replaced the Malochim when we accepted to Torah of our own free will!


QUESTION: How could Mordechai ask Haman for a haircut, after all it was the 16th of Nissan--the first day of Chol HaMoed?

ANSWER:  The Maharatz Chayes explains that because Mordechai was wearing sack cloth and ashes, and was about to put on royal garments, he was treated as one who had just left the Beis HaAssurim--who is permitted to take a hair cut on Chol HaMoed! 


QUESTION: 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 three?

ANSWER: The Gemara may be found in Megillah 15B. Here are several reasons: a) she wanted Achashveirosh to suspect that she and Haman were plotting together against him; b) she wanted the Jews not to be overconfident with her political abilities to get them out of their life threatening situation--by her inviting Haman to the party(!), they would daven with even greater intensity; c) she wanted all the other ministers to be jealous of Haman and so unite against him; d) she wanted Haman to be available to trip himself up in some way ; e) so that Achashveirosh would not realize that she was Jewish prior to the party ; and f) so that Hashem would have special mercy on her--seeing that she, a Nevia and a Tzadekes, would have to be in the same room with this arch-enemy of the Jews.


QUESTION: At the first Mishte--Esther’s request was that Achashveirosh and Haman come back for a second Mishte--why couldn’t she accomplish her goal at the first Mishte?

ANSWER: Esther did not sense any change that had occurred in K’lal Yisrael’s situation at the time--and she was expecting to see a sign that the Tefillos and fasts were accepted. Indeed, the next morning brought Haman parading Mordechai through the streets of the capital--the sign was there! (Ibn Ezra) Alternatively, the Chasam Sofer explains that Amaleik is defeated by “Machar”--you wait until ‘tomorrow’ in order to defeat them (see Rashi to Shmuel I 30:17).


QUESTION: Esther told Achashveirosh “She’eilasi U’Vakashasi”.  What is the difference between a She’eilah and a Bakasha

ANSWER:  Some explain that a She’eilah is for the short term, and Bakasha is for the long term.  It is for this reason that Esther later said “Nafshi V’She’eilasi VeAmi BeVakashasi” (7:3)--for it was the nation’s long term future that was at stake, not only the life of Esther. 


QUESTION: Who killed his wife because of someone he loved, and killed someone he loved because of his wife?

ANSWER: Achashveirosh killed Vashti based on Memuchan’s accusation, and killed Haman based upon Esther’s accusation. ....Yet another reminder that Hashem makes the world go around and around.


QUESTION: For how long was Haman hung on the tree?

ANSWER: From 16 Nisan--until 14 Adar of the next year. This was for the world to see that the Bnei Yisrael were not to be killed but respected. Finally, on the 14th of Adar almost a year later, his sons were hung on the gallows below him (Shailos U’Teshvous Torah LeShma 321, based upon the Targum Sheni).


QUESTION: Why is Haman specifically called an Agagi (8:3) when Esther pleads with Achashveirosh to reverse his decree after Haman was hanged?

ANSWER: The Bnei Yissaschar explains that usually when a ruler dies, his decrees are nullified, as his death is viewed as a sign that the decree was inappropriate. However, because Haman was an Agagi and not really from the ruling authority of Paras U’Madai, the decree was not nullified, and Esther had to make a special appeal.


QUESTION: Agag and Haman each had a son with the same name--what was it?

ANSWER: Veyzasa (see Esther 9:9 and Targum Sheni).


QUESTION: Which son of Haman was hung on the lowest rung of the gallows, hanging just an Amah above the ground?

ANSWER: Veyzasa (Targum Sheini 9:14). There is a reason for everything--even as to how and where each of our enemies are punished--otherwise Chazal would not record it. We similarly find at the Yam Suf that the Mitzriyim were punished in different ways (being treated in the waters as lead, stones, or straw, depending upon how they treated the Bnei Yisrael). Everything has a Cheshbon--everything!


QUESTION: What was the special cause of VeHa’ir Shushan Tzhala VeSameicha (and the city of Shushan rejoiced)--how was Shushan’s Simcha different from the Jews’ Simcha of Layehudim Hoysa Orah VeSimcha...?
ANSWER: Not only were the Jews happy, but those who respected true justice were happy as well. When Haman’s decree was first issued, the city of
Shushan was Navocha--they were confused (Manos HaLevi). This was a direct fulfillment of the Pasuk teaches “Birvos Tzaddikim Yismach Ha’am…when the righteous become great the people will rejoice, when the wicked men rule the people sigh.” (Mishlei 29:2) Alternatively, the term “VeHa’ir Shushan” indicates that not only did the people rejoice, but even the inanimate objects of the city--the trees and rocks also rejoiced together with the rejoicing of Mordechai HaTzaddik.


QUESTION: Why did Achashveirosh suddenly turn from a Jew-hater into a king who provided a royal decree helping the Jews to quash all of their enemies?

ANSWER:  The Sefer Ya’aros Devash explains that Achashveirosh, through necromancy, learned that his successor as king would be a Jew.  He bitterly hated the Jews for this reason, for he assumed that they would rebel against him and take over his throne.  When he learned that Esther was a Jew--he realized that his son Daryavesh--a Jew--would be the next king, and he was greatly relieved and pleased that the rulership would stay in his ‘family’.


QUESTION: Why is Charvona “Zachor Latov”?

ANSWER: Some learn that the officer Charvona is spelled earlier in the Megillah with an “Aleph”, and later in the Megillah with a “Hey” (when he tells Achashveirosh about Haman’s tree) because it is actually not the same person. Earlier in the Megillah (1:10) he is an officer of Achashveirosh. Later, it is Eliyahu HaNavi, merely posing as Charvona, who we remember for the good. Others learn that the officer Charvona had Hirhurei Teshuva, and is thus remembered for the good.


QUESTION: How many mishtaos, or parties, are mentioned all-told in the Megillah?

ANSWER: Six--a) the Mishte of Achashveirosh for all of Persia; b) the additional Mishte which Achashveirosh made for seven days for just Shushan; c) the separate Mishte of Vashti; d) the Mishte made by Achashveirosh when Esther became queen; e) the first Mishte among Esther, Achashveirosh and Haman; f) the next day--the second Mishte among Esther, Achashveirosh and Haman. If that isn’t enough, the Megillah separately records that Haman and Achashveirosh sat down separately simply “to drink” when the King’s initial order against the Jews was sent out (Esther 3:15 )!


QUESTION: How many people were hanged in the course of the Megillah?

ANSWER: 13--Haman, his ten sons, Bigsan, and Seresh.


QUESTION: Name two evil people in the Megillah whose names rhyme.

ANSWER: Zeresh and Seresh (Seresh, one of the infamous plotters whose plan was overheard by Mordechai).


QUESTION: Why did Esther request of the king that the Bnei Yisrael be given an extra day to fight their enemies in Shushan (Megillah 9:13 )?

ANSWER:  The Megillas Sesarim (HaRav Yaakov MeLisa--the Nesivos) writes that Shushan had more Kedusha in it because the Sanhedrin was there, and because Mordechai was a Navi. When Haman’s Gezeira was put into effect the Kedusha was lost, and could not return until the Tumah was eradicated. Esther saw that the Ruach HaKodesh had not yet come back, so she understood that the Tumah in the city was still there. Accordingly, the 10 sons of Haman had to be hung, the other Amaleikim in the city obliterated--and the Kedusha then returned!


QUESTION:  What happened to Zeresh?

ANSWER:  Well, first of all, we curse her every year--”Arura Zeresh Aishes Mafchidi”. The Targum ( 9:14 ) writes that she ran away with 70 of her sons, and they became beggars. A Rav taught that this was truly a tremendous punishment--for not only is an Ani considered like a Mais--but she lived to see Mordechai the Jew in control of all Haman’s property and possessions.


QUESTION:  What happened to all of Haman’s possessions?

ANSWER:  The Midrash (Shocher Tov 22) teaches that Haman’s money was distributed as follows: 1/3 to Mordechai and Esther, 1/3 to those involved in Torah study, and 1/3 toward reconstruction of the Beis Hamikdash. What a V’Nahafoch Hu!


QUESTION: Why do the unwalled cities and walled cities have different days for observing Purim?

ANSWER: The Shoel U’Maishiv brings the Ramban who writes that the walled city dwellers didn’t sense the miracle as much because they thought that they were secure in their walled cities--and Mordechai and Esther got them to understand that the miracle very much applied to them as well! Do you think you’re secure because you have an alarm system?...


QUESTION: If you rearrange the letters of “Shushan”, what does it spell?

ANSWER: “Sasson”--or happiness!


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

ANSWER: a) Vashti made Jewish girls who were her captives work for her unclothed--and so she was ordered to come before the king unclothed (Megillah 12B); b) Haman was hung on the tree that he prepared for Mordechai; c) Bigsan and Seresh wanted to kill the king, yet they were killed instead; d) The Jews ate and drank at Achashveirosh’s party, so they were forced to fast for three days; e) Haman wanted everyone to bow to him--at the penalty of death, and in the end Achashveirosh ordered him to be killed--because he fell before Esther; and f) Mordechai put on sackcloth and ashes on his head over what Haman had decreed, and in the end, took over Haman’s position, wearing the royal apparel and a large gold crown.


QUESTION: What famous American object has the same gematria as “Amaleik”? What can you learn from that?

ANSWER: Amaleik has the same gematria as “dollar”--both have the numerical equivalent of 240. As far as the lesson, we will only point to Amaleik’s grandfather--Esav--and his passion for money and worldly goods. We leave other lessons up to you.


QUESTION: Which cities in Eretz Yisrael (and outside it) 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?

ANSWER: Among the cities: In Eretz Yisrael: Chevron, Yafo, Gush Chalav, Akko, Tzefas, Lod, Shechem and Teveria (which is a separate issue--See Megillah 5B). In Chutz La’Aretz: Damascus and Baghdad . See Sefer Adar U’Purim by HaRav Yoel Schwartz, Shlita, for further discussion.


QUESTION: What are the last five seforim in Tanach?

ANSWER: According to the printed Tanach, the last five Seforim are the Megillos of Koheles and Esther, followed by Daniel, Ezra-Nechemia and Divrei HaYamim. However, the Gemara in Bava Basra 14B-15A lists the following as the last Seforim of Tanach: Eichah (describing the Churban), followed by Daniel, Megillas Esther, Ezra-Nechemia and Divrei HaYamim. This second listing is, obviously, also chronological, as Sefer Daniel discusses periods prior to the events of Megillas Esther.


QUESTION: Who in the Megillah sought after the peace of one person and was rewarded with being Zoche to seek the peace of his entire people?

ANSWER: The Megillah teaches that Mordechai went “Lidrosh Es Shlom Esther” ( 2:11 ). Chazal teach that Hashem said “You went to seek the peace of one person--in this merit you will seek the peace of your entire nation--Vedover Shalom Lechol Zaro.” (Esther Raba 6:6). What a great lesson--how great it is to seek someone else’s peace--think about to where it can lead! Perhaps our Mishloach Manos and Matanos L’Evyonim are to serve as our jump start in seeking the peace of others!


QUESTION: How many words are there in the “Al Hanisim” of Purim?

ANSWER:  In Nusach Ashkenaz, there are 68. HaRav Yaakov Emden in his Siddur writes that 68 is the Gematria of “Chaim”--and we thank Hashem for the life he granted us at that time--which has its life-bearing effects to this day, which will continue forever and ever!


QUESTION: Why do we refer to the giving of gifts as Mishloach Manos, and not merely as Shlo’ach Manos? 

ANSWER:  The letter mem means ‘from’.  The Pasuk states ‘Mishloach Manos Ish L’Rei’aihu U’Matanos LaEvyonim’ (Esther 9:22 ).  The goal is that from dedicated Mishloach Manos will result sincere Matanos LaEvyonim as well!


QUESTION:  True or false?  In order to fulfill the mitzvah of Mishloach Manos, you must give two different foods that have two different Brachos.

ANSWER:  False.  Mishloach Manos must just consist of two different portions of food--they can both be meat, or any other type of food or drink (See Shulchan Aruch, Orach Chaim 695:4 and Mishna Berurah there).


QUESTION:  What did the G’ra send for Mishloach Manos?

ANSWER:  The Sefer Ma’aseh Rav (249) provides the answer: Cooked chicken and cooked fish, and similar ready-to-eat items.


QUESTION: How can one fulfill the principle of Nosei BeOl Im Chaveiro by accepting Mishloach Manos?

ANSWER:  The Torah Jew generally does not like to receive gifts as that Pasuk teaches, Sonei Matanos Yichyeh.  Thus, by accepting another’s gift to help him fulfill the Mitzvah, one is overcoming his overall hesitancy to accept gifts!


QUESTION:  Why were two days of Purim necessary --Purim itself and Shushan Purim, after all, was not the majority of the miracle completed by the 14th of Adar?

ANSWER:  Perhaps the most common answer to this question is that with Shushan Purim we give special Kavod to the cities of Eretz Yisroel, as Shushan Purim is celebrated in cities walled from the time of Yehoshua ben Nun--which included many cities in Eretz Yisroel.  The Chasam Sofer, however, explains that since people are so busy with the Mitzvos of the day, there may not be as much Torah learning on Purim as there is on other days.  Accordingly, Purim is ‘split’ into two days--so that there will be Torah studied in one place, when it is not studied in another!


QUESTION: What is the source for the wearing of costumes on Purim?

ANSWER:  The Sefas Emes explains that after Achashveirosh’s second decree in favor of the Jews, many people dressed up as Jews (Misyahadim) in order to save their lives.  We dress up to remind ourselves of how they dressed up--to be like us!






11 Adar

KIDDUSH LEVANA:  A reader noted that it appeared we were suggesting to wait for Kiddush Levana until Motza’ei Shabbos.  We did not mean to imply that--especially in the winter months, one should recite Kiddush Levana at the earliest possible time.  Our point simply was that if the situation comes up in which one is faced with the opportunity to perform the two Mitzvos of Kiddush Levana and Mikrah Megillah--which one of the two would one perform first?




A.  Give two examples in the Megillah where Hashem provided for the Refuah before the Makkah.

B.  Esther told Achashveirosh that the decrees against the Jewish people were Lehashmid LeHarog U’Le’abeid.  This means that we were saved from three different decrees--what were they? 

C.  There is a dispute among Tanaim as to where the Megillah needs to be read from.  According to Rebbi Yehuda--from where must we begin to read? Hint:  Note Rebbi Yehuda’s name.

D.  The Megillah contains the phrase Rochvei HaRechesh (Esther 8:10)--what does the word HaRachesh mean?

E.  It is a Minhag Yisrael to eat hamantaschen.  Why--did Haman have bizarre ears? a strange wallet? weird pockets? What is the basis of the Minhag? 



Special Note One:  We B’EH continue our Monday/Thursday study of the Sefer Mitzvos HaKatzar, with the Mitzvos Lo Sa’asei which the Chofetz Chaim writes are applicable in our times. Today, we present Mitzvos Lo Sa’aseh 86 and 87:


86.  Shelo Le’echol Neveilah--this is the Mitzvas Lo Sa’aseh which prohibits one from eating a neveilah--which is the meat of an animal or a bird which was not properly shechted, or which has otherwise died.  One who eats a kezayis of this meat receives malkos.  This prohibition includes eating the meat of an animal which is less than eight days old, unless it is known that its mother had a full gestation period.  This Mitzvah applies in all places and at all times and to men and women alike.


87.  Shelo Le’echol Tereifah--this is the Mitzvas Lo Sa’aseh which prohibits one from eating a treife--which includes an animal or bird which was attacked by another animal or bird in a manner in which it cannot continue to live as a result.  Even if a kosher shechitah took place before it died, it is nevertheless considered to be a treife.  This type of treife is called a derusa.  There are seven other kinds of treifos which we learn Halacha L’Moshe MeSinai.  If an animal or bird is wounded in a way which it cannot live for 12 months because of the wound, it is forbidden to be eaten.  Likewise, meat from a living animal is also referred to as treife, and one who eats a kezayis of it receives malkos.  This Mitzvah applies in all places and at all times and to men and women alike.



Special Note Two:  Thoughts for Ta’anis Esther:


1.  There is a special inyan to recite Tehillim Chapter 22 on Ta’anis Esther and Purim, for this is the Kepitel recited by Esther herself upon entering Achashveirosh’s throne room uninvited (See Kav HaYashar 97). The Kav HaYashar adds that when we gather today in Shul to daven, we are considered to be in the “Chatzar HaMelech”--and “Bevadai”, surely through our Selichos and Tefillos we arouse Mordechai HaTzaddik and Esther HaMalka--who will “certainly join” in our Tefillos. Accordingly, he writes, that Ta’anis Esther is a day which is “MESUGAL ME’OD” for our tefillos to be accepted in the zechus of Mordechai V’Esther. “One who needs mercy from Hashem should recite Tehillim Chapter 22, and then pour his heart out to Hashem for the mercy he needs--especially mentioning the Zechus of Mordechai and Esther in whose Zechus the Sha’arei Rachamim should be opened and his Tefillos should be accepted.


Additional Note One: The Luach Davar B’Ito writes that we should recite Chapter 22 at Mincha--for Mincha is an Eis Ratzon. 


Additional Note Two:  The G’ra holds that this Chapter is actually the Shir Shel Yom for Purim itself.


2.  In the past, a flyer was distributed with the bracha of Rebbetzin Kanievsky, a’h, urged women on Ta’anis Esther to recite Tehillim Chapters 28, 32, 79, 92, and 22, followed by Acheinu Kol Bais Yisrael. Hakhel Note: The Chasam Sofer writes that the Megillah especially teaches that Mordechai expressed a “Tze’akah Gedolah U’Marah” when he heard the tragic news. In the end, however, his pleas and the pleas of his people turned the decree 180 degrees. This should teach us that whatever the situation, Hashem is in control, and the Tze’akah Marah can unbelievably change to Tzahalah V’Simcha!


3.  The Yesod V’Shoresh HaAvodah (Sha’ar 12: Perek 3) writes that one should increase his Torah study on Ta’anis Esther…perhaps you can learn just a little more in honor of this great day?


4.  When contributing Machatzis HaShekel today, one should say “Zecher L’Machatzis HaShekel”--this is the remembrance of the Machatzis HaShekel, so as not to leave the impression that this is an actual contribution to the Bais HaMikdash, which was given at this time of year. (Luach Eretz Yisrael of Rav Tukchinsky Z’tl).  The Luach Davar B’Ito suggests that the Machatzis HaShekel be given after Mincha. 


5. The Mishna Berurah (Shulchan Aruch Orach Chaim 686, seif katan 2) writes that the fast commemorates the fasting of the Jews as they went to battle their enemies on the 13th day of Adar, for we can be sure that on a day of war the Jews fasted--knowing that their victory was completely in Hashem’s hands.  [Oh--what the difference is between a Jewish army and the army of akum!]  The Mishna Berurah then continues about Ta’anis Esther: “It is called Ta’anis Esther so that we remember that Hashem Yisborach sees and listens to each person in his time of trouble when he fasts and returns to Hashem with all of his heart, as was done at that time.” We must not lose sight of the fact that Teshuva is a tremendously important part of the day today.


6.  HaRav Chaim Friedlander, Z’tl, explains that an intrinsic part of Purim is, as the Megillah ( 9:31 ) records, the Divrei Tzomos VeZa’akasam--our fasts and our cries to Hashem.  In fact, HaRav Friedlander writes, that Mordechai understood that the Jews would be saved--and knew that their salvation would come about through their gathering together for Tefillah.  Esther appears to have come to this same conclusion independently, as she responded to Mordechai:  Leich Kenos…Vetzumu Alai” (Esther 4:16 ).  The resulting yeshuos contained in the Megillah proved Mordechai and Esther correct. HaRav Friedlander teaches that every year this very same power is re-instilled at the very same time--and this is why the Anshei Knesses HaGedolah directed us to engage in tzom and tefillah as well--so that we too can attain the Yeshuos that we need--and B’EH the Geulah Sheleimah!  


7.  The Luach Davar B’Ito brings from Rebbi Yitzchak MiVorka, Z’tl, that the three days before Purim correspond to the three days before Shavuos--the Sheloshes Yemei Hagbalah--and the more that a person purifies himself to receive the Torah of Purim--Kiymu V’Kiblu--the more he will succeed. Let’s get to work!


8.  Let us remember that Chazal teach (Brachos 6B) Igra D’Tanisa Tzedkasa--to give Tzedaka today!  The Yad Eliezer matching fund for the Talmidei Chachomim of Brachfeld is still available--http://www.yadeliezer.org/



Special Note Three:  We provide additional points and pointers for Purim:


1.  The essence of Purim is the realization that “Ain Od Milvado.”  This means that everything that preceded this world’s existence, that everything that currently exists, and that everything that will exist forever and ever is Hashem and His Will.  Indeed, the name of the holiday Purim, indicates that something as ‘by chance’ as a lottery is under the sole and complete jurisdiction of Hashem. 


2.  The Chofetz Chaim, Z’tl, writes in a published letter (Michtevei Chofetz Chaim 20):  “We all know very clearly that Hashem can bring the Geulah BeChol Regah V’Regah--at any moment--as in the times of Mordechai and Esther the complete Geulah happened overnight.  This is actually an explicit Posuk recorded in the last Navi, Malachi:  Ki Pisom Yavoh El Heichalo--for He will suddenly come to His Sanctuary.’  We have to be ready always!”  Hakhel Note:  Teshuva Bechol Yom--for each and every one of us!


3.  As noted above, an essential part of Purim Day is Kiymu V’Kiblu.  This does not only refer to all of Klal Yisrael’s voluntary acceptance of the Torah--but to each individual’s rededication to Torah as well.  Every person should view it as part of his Simchas Purim, as part of his Purim mandate, to rededicate himself to Torah study.  Hakhel Note:  We will all be pressured for time over the next month, with many demands and obligations upon us.  The Chofetz Chaim teaches that when one keeps his set time for study without fail, and in the case of a ‘Dochak Gadol’ makes up his studies within the day, then a “Kedusha Gedolah Venora’ah--a great and awesome Kedusha rests on him every single time he learns in this way.  Let us not forget this Kedusha Gedolah Venora’ah every time that we keep our set time for learning.  We suggest that our Kiymu V’Kiblu this Purim involve a special effort in this regard.  Remember the words of the Chofetz Chaim--Kedusha Gedolah Venora’ah--on you!


4.  Based upon the teaching of the Mirrer Mashgiach, HaRav Yeruchem Levovitz, Z’tl,.  on Purim, one should endeavor to give Mishloach Manos not only to his relative, his best friend or his neighbor, but also to someone whom you are a little bit “on the outs” with, or with whom you do not speak enough, or with whom you have a somewhat cool relationship for various reasons, or for a particular reason, or for no reason at all. Now--today--is the time to think about who this person or those people will be…there is no better time to break the ice--or even to warm the cool water--by knocking on someone’s door unsolicited with a smile and a colorful Mishloach Manos. What better way could there be to dispel the claims of Haman HaRasha that we are “a dispersed and separated people”? Anyone who dislikes coolness, discord or dispute between two groups or even within one group of our people should also move to eliminate it from within himself and his family, as well. So…get ready, practice and rehearse--knock on that door…and “PURIM SAMEACH”-”A FREILICHIN PURIM”-”HAPPY PURIM”!


5.  We provide by clicking here a flyer relating to The Power of Purim that has been distributed for many years. Please feel free to distribute and redistribute!


In a very similar vein, by clicking here, you will find an important message that is being distributed by the Chofetz Chaim Heritage Foundation.

Hakhel Note: Dovid HaMelech teaches us in Hallel (Tehillim 116:1 et. al.) “Ahavti Ki Yishma Hashem Es Koli Tachanunai…Dalosi Veli Yehoshia--I love Him, for Hashem hears my voice, my supplications…I was brought low, but He saved me.” Chazal teach that even when we are poor in Mitzvos, Hashem saves us through our Tefillos--let us activate our Koach HaTefillah on Purim--and urge others to do so as well!  


Additional Note:  It is fascinating to note that Rav Amram Gaon writes that the Minhag in the two main Yeshivos during the time of the Geonim, Sura and Pumbedisa, was to actually recite Tachanun on Purim--”for it is a day of miracles, and upon which we were redeemed, and so we must ask for mercy that we will be redeemed in the end in the same way that we were initially redeemed.”  As we will soon enter the period between the Geulah of Purim and the Geulah of Mitzrayim, a time in which for the next two weeks we will all be reciting Tachanun and/or other prayers for Geulah, we should be very mindful to recite them with strong and special Kavannah because, without mincing words, it is, simply stated, a time of Geulah.  Everyone should try and keep a daily record, or at least a real mental note, of the special and sincere prayers he has made for the Geulah during this auspicious period.



Special Note Four:  We present below many Pesakim of HaRav Shmuel Kamenetsky, Shlita, relating to Purim from the expanded version of Kovetz Halachos for Purim, by his close Talmid, Rabbi Doniel Kleinman, Shlita. 




A. Each time one gives Mishloach Manos, he fulfills the Mitzvah of Mishloach Manos.  The two items of Mishloach Manos must be of two different species--so that one would not fulfill the Mitzvah by giving the top and the bottom of a piece of chicken, a red and green apple, or white wine and red wine--even though they may have different tastes.  A salad, even if it contains several different vegetables, is considered one portion.


B. Mishloach Manos should be of a Shiur which one usually honors a guest with in his home.  The food or drinks supplied should be a davar chashuv.  Even though if one or a few chips or candies, for instance, it would not be a davar chashuv--if one gives an entire bag or box, the individual items collectively, would be considered a davar chashuv.  The item being sent should be based upon the recipient--so one who is sending to a minor could give cake and candies, and these would be chashuv in his eyes.  Water or seltzer would not be considered chashuv, but other drinks could be.  Spices and condiments are not considered valid manos--for they are not eaten by themselves, but only used to aid other foods.  Ketchup and mustard would likewise not be a valid item for Mishloach Manos.  One can send an item to his friend who may not be able to eat it because he is allergic, as other members of his family could eat it in his stead.  The items sent must be ready-to-eat, and therefore could not consist of raw fish or meat, a coffee container, or tea bags, all of which require further preparation.  Both portions of the Mishloach Manos must be delivered at the same time, and cannot be delivered one after the other. 


C.  If one delivers Mishloach Manos to another who is not home and leaves it by the door and does not tell him--and the recipient returns home after Purim--he is not Yotzei the Mitzvah of Mishloach Manos with that person.  However, if a person sends Mishloach Manos before Purim and it arrives on Purim, he is Yotzei the Mitzvah.  Similarly, if one leaves Mishloach Manos at his friend’s door Purim night and his friend discovers it in the morning, one is Yotzei Mishloach Manos.


D.  If one gives Mishloach Manos to a mumar who is Mechalel Shabbos, he has nevertheless fulfilled the Mitzvah.  If an adult sends Mishloach Manos to a minor--he has nevertheless fulfilled the Mitzvah.


E.  It is a Machlokes HaPoskim whether a person who purchases a utensil in order to give it to his friend as a present is considered as if he ‘is doing business’ with the utensil, in which case it would not require tevilah while in his possession.  Indeed, according to the Taz, the giver cannot tovel the item--the tevilah does not help--and the bracha is a bracha levatalah, for the recipient must tovel the item.  HaRav Kamenetsky, however, holds that when one buys an object with the intent of giving it to his friend, it is considered as if he is buying it for himself, and it is considered his--it is just that he intends in the future to give it to his friend.  Accordingly, he would be able to tovel the utensil, and give it to his friend. Hakhel Note:  Based upon this Machlokes HaPoskim, one resolution may be to put a sticker on the utensil stating that it is ‘Not Toveled’.  In all events, one should consult with his Rav or Posek as to the proper method for delivering Mishloach Manos--when giving a utensil with it. 


F.  Once a child has reached a basic level of understanding, then a boy should not be dressed as a girl, nor a girl as a boy.


G.  As brought in the Rema to Shulchan Aruch, one should learn Torah immediately prior to the Purim Seudah, since the Pasuk states “LaYehudim Haysa Orah V’Simcha”--the light of Torah must precede the Simcha of the meal because it brings a person to true Simcha.  It is not sufficient for a person to rely on his study of Torah in the morning [such as at Yeshivas Mordechai HaTzaddik!].


H.  Women are equally as obligated in the Seuda as men.  Women should also drink a little bit (a revi’is or less) of wine, and can also be Yotzei with grape juice instead of wine.  However, there is no obligation for children under Bar/Bas Mitzvah to drink even grape juice.  It is, in all events, forbidden for anyone to become drunk.  Hakhel Note:  HaRav Kamenetsky’s lesson is clear--our Seudah should be graced only by the Yetzer Hatov and the Torah atmosphere that Mordechai HaTzadik and Esther HaMalka were ready to give their lives for--and would be so proud of!


Additional Note:  As Mishloach Manos time draws nearer and nearer, we are reminded not to forget the Bain Odom LaMakom when beautifully performing this great Mitzvah of Bain Odom LeChaveiro.  This means that especially meaningful brachos should be made upon the Manos received.  One point:  If you received a small cookie and a large, but sliced piece of cake, and you intend to eat both, which item would you make the Borei Minei Mezonos on?  The Shulchan Aruch (Orach Chaim 168:1) rules that it is more chashuv to make a bracha on a shalem--on a whole, uncut item even if it is smaller--than to make a bracha on a non-whole item--even if it is larger.  One can also deduce the obvious mussar lessons from this as well!




10 Adar



A.  From a reader:  We know that Mordechai did not bow down to Haman.  What did the rest of the Sanhedrin do?


B.  The Pasuk (Esther 4:2) teaches us that Mordechai could only come up to the front of Sha’ar HaMelech, for it was forbidden to be found in the Sha’ar HaMelech while clothed in sackcloth.  However, the Pasuk (Esther 5:9) records that when Haman left the presence of Achashveirosh after being invited to Esther’s first party, he left in a happy mood--until he saw Mordechai in the Sha’ar HaMelech not standing up for him.  Later (Esther 6:12), after Haman paraded Mordechai around on the king’s horse, Mordechai returned to the Sha’ar HaMelech--and Chazal teach that he returned to his sackcloth and fasted.  How do we explain this--was Mordechai able to remain in the Sha’ar HeMelech in sackcloth--or not?


C.  The Pasuk ( Esther 8:15) states:  U’Mordechai Yatzah MiLifnei HaMelech BiLevush Malchus Techeiles V’Chur V’Ateres Zahav Gedolah…Mordechai left the king’s presence clad in royal apparel of turquoise and white with a large gold crown and a robe of fine linen and purple….”  In the pizmon of Shoshanas Yaakov, we only mention:  “…Techeiles Mordechai “.  Why is the rest of the description of Mordechai’s royal attire--as specifically mentioned in the Pasuk--omitted?  Why is only the Techeiles mentioned? 


D.  Which name in the Megillah has the same Gematria as “Zeh Haman”?


E.  Doesn’t the term Mishloach Manos definitely indicate that the gifts have to be sent through a Shaliach--through a messenger?





Special Note One:  As we move closer to Purim, we provide the following points and pointers:  


A.  One of the most prestigious Megillahs that one may own is a “HaMelech” Megillah, which has the word “HaMelech”, or the King, as the first word of every column in the Scroll.  Obviously, this is to continuously remind us as we proceed through the Megillah that the King, Hashem Himself, is running through and controlling each and every one of the Megillah’s events and personages.  One may try going through the day and at various points realize and even exclaim “HaMelech!”, or perhaps one may try finding each and every one of the times that the word Melech appears in Shacharis while davening (if you think this may be too much at the outset, then begin with Mincha, continue to Maariv, and then go to Shacharis).


B.  A very relevant insight on Al HaNissim:  HaRav Chaim Kanievsky was asked why we thank Hashem in Al HaNissim for “Al HaMilchamos”--the wars.  Wouldn’t it have been better for there not to be these wars at all?  He responded that this statement provides us with a great lesson that we must always remember: “Milchamos Ani Asisi She’ne’emar Hashem Ish Milchama”--Hashem says “I am the One Who makes wars.” It is not, nor has it ever been, nor will it ever be, the nations of the world that control their fate and enter into conflict or even war.  It is Hashem Who is in control of the world and of all of the people in it.  Our role is to pray and work for Shalom--which is another name of Hashem--and is the ultimate in blessing, as with this we conclude in Birkas Kohanim, Birkas HaMazon, Shemone Esrei, the Siyum of every Mesechta.  May the message ring clear to us, and with it may we stave off all future wars, and thank Hashem for not having to make war, and blessing us with peace! 


C.  One other point in Al HaNissim--we specifically mention “U’Shelolom Lavoz”--that the evil Haman wanted to loot the possessions of the Jews.  The question is clear:  If no Jew would be left alive any longer, what difference would it make to the deceased if their property was taken as booty or not?  In response to this question, HaRav Chaim Kanievsky, Shlita provides two alternative answers.  Firstly, these words teach us how wicked Haman's designs were--to obliterate any trace of the Jewish people--even their property would not be remembered--and thus how great our yeshua--salvation--really was.  Secondly, these words teach us that, because the Gentiles had a vested interest in killing the Jews, they could have well only “believed” the first letters ordering the destruction of our People, and ignore the second ones, in our favor.  Nevertheless, the miracle was so pervasive and so resoundingly complete that the nations favored the second letters over the first, even though with it they lost their incredible opportunity to plunder what was the equivalent of billions and billions of property, assets and possessions. 


D.  Our Kabalas HaTorah on Purim differed from our Kabalas HaTorah on Shavuos, in that our acceptance of the Torah on Purim came out of love rather than fear.  How does one express this new-found love?  The Mishna Berurah (Shulchan Aruch, Orach Chaim, 61; seif katan 2) quotes a Yerushalmi which identifies each one of the Aseres HaDibros in different phrases in Kriyas Shema.  The words “V’Ahavta Es Hashem--and you shall love Hashem”--at the outset of Krias Shema alludes to the second of the Aseres HaDibros--not to take Hashem’s name in vain.  Thus, one very practical way to demonstrate his love for Hashem is to be very, very careful  with reciting Brachos, as these are the crucial moments of the day that we are privileged to actually recite the name of Hashem.  If one is unsure whether or not he made a Bracha Achrona or has made an Asher Yatzar, he must realize that he is not being careful enough, and should undertake some form of correction, at least on a temporary basis, to demonstrate that he really does love Hashem.  You may have other ways to demonstrate your love--and they may all well be within the Purim Spirit!  We welcome your thoughts.



Special Note Two:  We present below many Pesakim of HaRav Shmuel Kamenetsky, Shlita, relating to Purim from the new and expanded version of Kovetz Halachos for Purim, by his close Talmid, Rabbi Doniel Kleinman, Shlita. 





A. Even if one is exempt from fasting because of illness, he should minimize the amount of food and drink that he consumes on the Ta’anis.  A pregnant woman and a nursing woman may consume regular amounts, as necessary.


B. If one intends to rise early on Ta’anis Esther and eat before Alos Hashachar, he must start his Seudah at least a half hour before Alos, although it is permissible to eat less than a Kebeitzah within the half hour period.


C. This Shabbos, a Megillah is not Muktzah (not even Machmas Chisaron Kis) for one can study Torah from it.


D. Before one touches his Megillah, he should wash his hands (see Shulchan Aruch Orach Chaim 147:1).


E. When Chazal teach that a person who does melacha on Purim will not see a siman bracha from it, this does not refer to permissible melacha--such as a dovor ho’avad (matters relating to preventing a financial loss) and melacha for simcha.  Additionally, one is permitted to cut his hair and nails and do laundry.


F. It is best if women go to Shul to hear the Megillah read BeTzibbur.  If one has a wife, a son who has reached the age of Chinuch, and a baby in the house--who should go to Shul--his wife, or the older child?  It would appear better for the wife to stay home (and hopefully hear the Megillah together with ten women later) and that he should bring his son to Shul to fulfill the Mitzvah of chinuch (BeRov Am).


G. If someone knows that he will not be able to hear every word in Shul, and will have to make up the words he does not hear from a Chumash (which is only Bedi’eved)--it is better to make a smaller Minyan in one’s home and be yotzeh LeChatchila by hearing every word from a Megillah.  However, if one will be forced to read or hear the Megillah without a Minyan, it is better to go to Shul and make up the words from one’s Chumash when necessary.


H. If a person was unable to hear the Megillah at night, he cannot make it up by hearing the Megillah two times during the day.  If one person didn’t hear the Megillah, and finds nine people who agree to listen again even though they were already yotzeh, it is still called Megillah B’Tzibbur, which is Pirsumei Nissah!


I. If a person senses that he lost his focus on the Megillah, he should read from his Chumash from the place where he lost his focus until he catches up to the Ba’al Kriyah.  This holds true for both men and women.  It is for this reason that it is best to have one’s own Kosher Megillah, and to lein the Megillah together with the Chazan.  Indeed, if one is uncertain whether he missed one word of the Megillah (either at night or during the day), he must hear the entire Megillah reading again.


J. One does not fulfill his Seudas Purim with a Seudah that he eats on Leil Purim.  Nevertheless, at night, one should have candles burning, the table set, eat a meal with bread, although he does not need to eat meat.  One should also drink a little wine, but there is no Mitzvah at all at night to drink beyond that.


K. One can be Yotzei the Mitzvah of Matanos L’Evyonim with a check even if it is postdated, because one can use the check in payment or otherwise negotiate it to someone else.


L.  In a footnote, Rabbi Kleinman brings from the Yesod V’Shoresh HaAvodah that one who gives freely on Purim makes ‘Tekunim Gedolim BeOlamos HaElyonim HaKedoshim’.  One fulfills Matanos L’Evyonim if he gives Tzedaka to a Katan and if he gives Tzedaka anonymously. 


M.  A woman can be Yotzei her Matanos L’Evyonim through her husband’s giving, but it is better for her husband to tell her that he is giving on her behalf.


BE’H to be continued tomorrow… 




9 Adar

CELL PHONES AND PURIM PREPARATIONS: As the time gets closer to Purim, many may feel more pressured by that which has to be accomplished in a short period of time.  We must be careful, however, not to lose our dignity and proper manners and conduct--for it is all but a test of perseverance and excellence.  We received the following correspondence from a reader, which highlights the issue:  “Last Erev Shabbos, I was in the middle of an important business discussion, and had the need to enter a Judaica/Seforim store for Purim related matters.  I continued my important business discussion while on the phone in the earshot of other customers in the store--with the quick thought that I did not know them and that it would not make a difference to them.  I was multi-tasking--concentrating both on the seriousness of the phone call and taking care of what I intended to purchase.  Suddenly, I looked up--and there was a neighborhood Rav whom I knew well close by, and who seemed to be consciously attempting to avoid making eye contact or recognizing what I was doing.  My ill-mannered and improper public conversation hit home.  My phone conversation and my business belonged outside the store--not in it.  I had fallen prey to the Yetzer Hara’s guile…yes, it was Erev Shabbos, Erev Purim (well, almost)…and an important call with much money at stake--but, none of it was worthy of my bringing down the character of a Torah Jew.  I had learned my lesson!”



HARAV SHLOMO ZALMEN AUERBACH’S DEFINITION:  The Sefer Halichos Shlomo, which contains the rulings of HaRav Shlomo Zalmen Auerbach, Zt’l, writes that, according to HaRav Auerbach the definition of an “Evyon” for purposes of Purim is someone who does not have money “l’tzrochim hahechreichim l’farnes baiso--the funds which are necessary to provide for the necessities of one’s family.”





A. This Motza’ei Shabbos will provide an opportunity to recite Kiddush Levana for those who will have not already done so--and we have previously learned how splendid it is to recite Kiddush Levana on a Motza’ei Shabbos.  Which has first priority--the recitation of Kiddush Levana, or the reading of the Megillah?


B.  After Haman was hung, Achashveirosh gave two gifts--one to Esther and one to Mordechai.  What were they? 


C.  Some explain that Matanos L’Evyonim--a gift to each of two poor people commemorates these two gifts, and that Mishloach Manos--two gifts to one person also commemorates these two gifts.  If so, why is the commemoration not the same--why is Matanos L’Evyonim one gift to two people, and Mishloach Manos two gifts to one person?


D.  According to the Bach (Orach Chaim 695), how else can one fulfill the Mitzvah of Mishloach Manos other than through presenting someone with two fully prepared food items, ready for his Seudah? 


E. Purim is referred to by this name because of the lot that Haman drew.  Where else in Tanach were lots utilized?


F.  Was Mordechai a unique name at the time of the Megillah?  What Pasuk in the Megillah answers the question? 


G.  In the Megillah, are more Pesukim spent on the tzaros of K’lal Yisrael from Haman, or on the yeshuah that K’lal Yisrael experienced as a result?




Special Note One:  The Midrash teaches us that Achashveirosh had a middah tova.  When someone did something good for him, he would write it down.  Thus, when Achashveirosh could not sleep that night, Mordechai’s good deed was read and rewarded…and we are here today as a result!  If Achashveirosh could maintain this midda tova--all the more so should we put it into use in our lives! 



Special Note Two:  HaRav Chatzkel Levenstein, Z’tl, teaches that in our times we cannot obliterate Amaleik--for even to begin with, we do not know with certainty all the people who constitute Amaleik.  So, for us, our ikar Mitzvas Mechiyas Amaleik is to despise and destroy the Amaleik, the evil within us--in preparation for destroying the Amaleik from without--which as a result will hopefully take place in the very near future!



Special Note Three:  We provide the following important P’sokim of HaRav Elyashiv, Z’tl, relating to Mishloach Manos--as recorded in the (Hebrew) Sefer Yevakshu MiPihu, which contains hundreds of Pesakim of HaRav Elyashiv, Z’tl, relating to Purim and is available in many Seforim stores.  (This sefer would make a very special Pre-Purim gift!)  Before we begin, we remind everyone who has not yet conceived of this year’s theme for their Mishloach Manos that to be yotzei Mishloach Manos it must consist of at least two ready-to-consume food/drink items:


1.  Each portion given should be at least a kezayis, and should be something that is viewed as chashuv.  One could not, for instance, give a slice of bread and an onion and be yotzei the Mitzvah.  However, one could give chocolates or candies--provided that there is as least a kezayis of them.


2.  A roll and a container of butter (or jelly) are considered two portions and one has fulfilled the mitzvah with them--but if the butter or jelly has already been spread on the bread it is only one portion.  Two kinds of meat (prepared with different spices, or one cooked and the other roasted) would also be considered two different portions.


3.  One can be yotzei the Mitzvah by giving two kinds of wine, or two kinds of soda.  However, one is not yotzei the Mitzvah with water, soda water or mineral water.


4.  One is not yotzei the Mitzvah with tavlin such as a container of tea bags or coffee.  [The mechaber of the Sefer surmises that one could not be yotzei with a drink of tea or coffee, for that is only a combination of two items that you cannot be yotzei with:  water and the tavlin of tea or coffee].  One could be yotzei with a container of sugar, since it is edible as is.


5.  One is yotzei the Mitzvah even if the food would taste better warmed up--as long as it is edible as is.


6.  It is better to give items which comport with the chashivus of the giver and the receiver--but this is not me’akev, as long as the other halachos (such as those above) are satisfied.


7.  One can fulfill the mitzvah in giving to a parent--for one should be “BeRayus” with them as well!


8.  Children of age should give to their friends.  A child who is 13 years-old may give to his 12 year-old friend (although he is still a katan) and still be yotzei the Mitzvah--as this is his Rayus.


9.  One must know who sent the Mishloach Manos in order for the sender to be yotzei (it cannot be anonymous!)--otherwise there is no increase in love and friendship.


10.  The two portions do not have to be given at the same time--they can be given one after the other.


11.  It is permitted to eat in the morning before performing the Mitzvah.  However, the Mitzvah of “Zerizin Makdimin--acting with alacrity when performing Mitzvos”--applies to Mishloach Manos as it applies to all others!




8 Adar

FIBER ONE UPDATE:  We have provided the appropriate bracha to be recited on the following Fiber One Cereals:


The bracha rishona to be recited on Fiber One (original) and Fiber One Honey Clusters is Mezonos.


The bracha rishona to be recited on Fiber One 80 Calories Chocolate Squares is Borei Pri Ha’adama.


We intend to provide the appropriate bracha to be recited on Fiber One 80 Calories Honey Squares and Fiber One Caramel Delight once we receive the information back from the OU.





A.  The Megillah (3:1) records that Achashveirosh promoted Haman.  Why did he do so--after all, wasn’t he the one who advised Achashveirosh to kill Vashti?!


B.  It is said that Purim is so great that Yom Kippur is like Purim and that it is referred to as Yom HaKippurim.  In whose name is this said?


C.  The Shulchan Aruch (Orach Chaim 690:17) writes that the Minhag Kol Yisrael is that when the Megillah is read it should be spread out K’Iggeres--like a letter.  Why? 


D.  The Megillah ( 9:30 ) records that Esther sent Divrei Shalom V’Emes to all of the Jews in the 127 countries over which Achashveirosh ruled.  What were these Divrei Shalom V’Emes?


E.  Fill-in the blanks:  Haman advised Achashveirosh to kill Vashti.  In Vashti’s place,_____________________________. Haman picked a day upon which all the Jews would be killed.  On that day, ______________________________.  Haman picked a tree upon which Mordechai would be hung.  On that tree, ______________________________. 


F.  If you successfully filled in the blanks in E, then what is the proper way to sing the following words:  Is it Venahapoch Hu or Venahafoch Hu?  Hint: See Esther 9:1




Special Note One:  We B’EH continue our Monday/Thursday study of the Sefer Mitzvos HaKatzar, with the Mitzvos Lo Sa’asei which the Chofetz Chaim writes are applicable in our times. Today, we present Mitzvos Lo Sa’aseh 84 and 85:


84. Lo Lishos Middah Chaser--this is the Mitzvas Lo Sa’aseh which prohibits one from keeping in his home or business any inaccurate weights or measurements--even if one does not utilize it to weigh or measure with. This Mitzvah applies in all places and at all times and to men and women alike.


85. Lo Lehasig Gevul Rei’eihu-- this is the Mitzvas Lo Sa’aseh which prohibits taking away part of the real property of another by changing a boundary.  This Lo Sa’aseh applies specifically in Eretz Yisrael.  If one infringes on the boundary of another in Chutz La’aretz--even by a fingerbreadth--then if he does so in a strong-armed manner he is a gazlan, and if he does so discreetly he is a ganav.  This Mitzvah applies in all places and at all times and to men and women alike.



Special Note Two:  The Shach writes that it is possible that on every utensil made in the Mishkan, a separate Bracha was made of “Asher Kideshanu BeMitzvosav Vetzivanu Al Asiyas Kli Ploni”  so that kedusha would come on to the Kli not only through its making-but also through the dibbur of the Bracha!  What a great lesson for us --every time we say the words “Asher Kideshanu BeMitzvosav Vetzivanu...” we are bringing kedusha on to the Mitzvah we are performing or upon the item we are performing the Mitzvah on. 



Special Note Three:  Sometimes in life we have to look up, sometimes we must look down. Instead of looking down at the seemingly ravenous person at a smorgasbord who eats hovering near the serving trays or sits down with two to four plates of various delicacies in front of him, we suggest looking up and aspiring to the following description of how Rav Moshe Aharon (B’ R’ Yomtov Lipman) Stern, Z’tl, whose Yahrzeit is today (The Mashgiach of Kaminetz, p. 383) conducted himself:  “The preparatory steps he took before eating were a true divine worship.  He said a supplication not to stumble by eating forbidden foods, that his eating be kosher, that his Creator would consider it like a Mincha offering and a sacrifice.  He would then meditate intensely on the exalted purpose of eating to strengthen one’s body to serve the Creator.” 


Hakhel Note One:  If the above seems way out of reach for the average individual, perhaps we can try it at least occasionally.  We have noted in the past that the Mishna Berurah (Orach Chaim 231, seif katan 5) writes in the name of the Chayei Odom that he saw men of good deeds who would say “Hineni Rotzeh Le’echol V’lishtos K’dei She’eheye Bori V’chazak La’avodas Hashem Yisborach (I now would like to eat/drink in order to be healthy and strong in the service of Hashem, Blessed be He).” Only with aspiration, inspiration and effort (and davening) can one turn the mundane into the spiritual!


Hakhel Note Two:  HaRav Stern once gave a Shiur, in which he told of how he and a group of other young married men (presumably this was in the 1950’s) had for a long time pleaded with their Rebbi, HaRav Eliya Lopian, Z’tl, to disclose to them when the Moshiach would come, for they knew he had a Kabbalah through the Chofetz Chaim as to when this would exactly be.  HaRav Lopian would not respond to their entreaties; however, one Purim, when everyone was in a splendid Purim mood, the avreichim once again posed the question to him.  This time HaRav Lopian responded:  “I cannot tell you exactly when, but (pointing to some children playing in the room) these children will be the soldiers of Moshiach.”  HaRav Stern then exclaimed:  “These children are now grown men!”  Let us take the message! 

Additional Hakhel Note: These boys are now in their 50’s or 60’s...and how old can you be to be a soldier...Teshuva BeChol Yom!


Special Note Four:  In reviewing our current world situation, a crazy man with crazy ideas in Iran tries to destroy the Jewish people.  This sheds light on the situation of Purim--it was definitely not within the realm of normalcy for Haman at the height of his power to go after a people who had done nothing wrong.  Yet, as Chazal explain, the decree against the Jews was such that they could not even be sold into slavery--they all had to be killed.  The situation was possibly just as (or more) absurd then as it is now!  What is our action plan?  As we know, much of our success in overturning the mad request of Haman and its fulfillment by Achashveirosh was through the power of our collective Tefillos. 


Accordingly, let us specifically recall:


THE POWER OF A TZIBBUR:  Any Tzibbur, acting together, can bring about Refuos and Yeshuos (healings and deliverances) that all of K’lal Yisrael, acting individually, may not necessarily accomplish.  The Gemara in Rosh Hashana (18A) teaches that Hashem is ready to accept the Teshuva of a Tzibbur the whole year the same way that he accepts the Teshuva of an individual in the Aseres Y’mei Teshuvah.  In the Megillah, we learn from the words of Lech K’nos ( 4:16 ) that Mordechai and Esther elected to gather all of the Jews in Shushan to daven, instead of asking everyone to do something on his own.


THE POWER OF TEFILLAH:  The power of Tefillah is immeasurable.  It can break the harshest of decrees.  Our cries brought about Yetzias Mitzrayim.  Moshe Rabbeinu’s pleas broke the decree of destruction at the time of the golden calf--and brought us victory against Amalek on more than one occasion!


OUR GOAL:  HAVE KAVANNAH IN THE FIRST BRACHA OF SHEMONE ESREI:  According to the Shulchan Aruch (101:1), one is required to have Kavannah in the first Bracha of Shemone Esrei.  According to the Mishna Berurah, this means that one should not daven at all until he feels that he will have Kavannah in the first Brocha of Shemone Esrei.  This is how important the first Bracha is.


Our goal, as in previous years, is to activate the power of the Tzibbur and the power of Tefillah by asking each member of the Tzibbur to have special Kavannah in the first Bracha of Shemone Esrei when davening each day from today, through Purim.  Please especially have Kavannah when reciting 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).




IMAGINE THE Z’CHUSIM:  The z’chusim which can be created by the thousands of us getting together to have dedicated Kavannah--in the first Bracha of Shemone Esrei, are literally astounding.  Davening properly, that is, having Kavannah for the simple translation of the words of the first Bracha, which we are all capable of doing with little effort, can convert a Shemone Esrei that perhaps should not have been said, into a true prayer to Hashem.  The results will B’EH be Refuos and Yeshuos for K’lal Yisrael.


IMPLEMENTATION--BE’H STARTING TODAY:  It is recommended that you B’EH make a daily notation in the calendar provided below.



8 Adar






9 Adar








10 Adar







11 Adar







12 Adar








13 Adar













14 Adar








15 Adar










5 Adar



A.  In addition to Shushan, walled cities from the time of Yehoshua Bin Nun also read the Megillah on the Fifteenth of Adar.  Why walled cities?  Why specifically from the time of Yehoshua Bin Nun? 


B.  If we do not read the Megillah on Shabbos because of a gezeirah that one might come to carry the Megillah in a public domain on Shabbos--then why is it permitted at all to lein from a Sefer Torah on Shabbos--would not the same gezeirah apply to the Sefer Torah?


C.  The Megillah itself tells us that the Chag is called Purim: “Ahl Shem HaPur--because of the lot that Haman cast.” (Esther 9:26)  If that is the case, why is the Chag simply not called Pur--and is the lot really the most important part of the Nes for it to be called by that name? 


D.  The Megillah teaches us that Achashveirosh wanted to find a replacement for Vashti--so he sought after “na’aros besulos--young unmarried girls” to become queen.  If so--why was Esther snatched--after all, wasn’t she married to Mordechai, or couldn’t she at least have claimed to have been married to Mordechai?  Moreover, according to the Midrash, wasn’t she already in her seventies--how could anyone confuse her with being a ‘na’arah’--a young maiden. 



GIVING THANKS!  We may forget all too quickly the Chasodim that Hashem performs for us, and the Refuos and Yeshuos that we are granted.  May we suggest that a person keep on his desk or in a conspicuous place the bottle of antibiotics that he has now finished, the remaining cold tablets that he did not have to take or the ace bandage that once served him well and/or that he does not have to use.  Thinking and thanking--will hopefully lead to more grounds and causes--for thanks!  



MAKE THE SIMCHA LAST!  A recently issued important public notice signed by HaRav Moshe Wolfson, Shlita, provides many important points on how one could preserve and effectively utilize food and other items left over from a Simcha.  Below are some excerpts from the great words of advice and direction: 


1.  Rather than bringing full plates to the table, waiters should serve a person what he will eat, based on request.  This is referred to as ‘French service’.  Although it may cost more, the amount of food saved from going to waste is staggering. 


2.  Since many people do not wash at a Seudah, not every setting requires a bulkeleh or fancy challah roll.  They (or some attractive, fancier bread product) could be placed in the middle of the table, with perhaps smaller rolls, if necessary, at each seat. 


3.  Any food that is left should be taken by the Ba’al Simcha, who should not leave it to the caterer (whose workers may readily throw everything away or keep it for themselves).  In the alternative, if the Ba’al Simcha does not want to take home all or any portion of the food, the following are numbers of people/organizations, which will pick up catered items leftover from a Simcha (not in small quantities): 


Borough Park (Hachnossas Orchim): 718-686-2750, ext. 3


Borough Park/Flatbush: 917-763-6697 or 347-782-3940 (S.T.O.P.)


Borough Park/Kensington: 718-436-2305 and 718-436-3024


Monsey: 917-692-3137


Borough Park/Flatbush/Crown Heights/Lakewood/Monsey--flowers and cakes only: 917-776-5642


The Sefer HaChinuch (Mitzvah 529) writes that one who is careful to avoid ba’al tashchis (the wasting of food) will be zoche to hadbakas hatov--for goodness to cling to him!  One may want to contact the above numbers a day or two before the Simcha to arrange the great avoidance of ba’al tashchis and the performance of wonderful Chesed…in advance.  Let your Simcha bring more and more Simcha to others--for days to come!




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


A.  This Shabbos is known as the Shabbos Hafsaka--the Shabbos that separates Parshas Shekalim and Parshas Zachor.  The Sefer Chashava L’Tova brings a fascinating lesson from this Shabbos Hafsaka.  A person should not think that because he has given a Machatzis Hashekel he is ‘off-the-hook’, and does not have to fear VaYavo Amaleik.  Instead, he must reflect upon what more he must do in order to thwart off our enemies.  Hakhel Note:  Perhaps we could use the Hafsaka to reflect upon our Yom Kippur Kabbalos--and where we are with them--while we are still in the first half of the year! 


B.  For those who will be fasting on 7 Adar, a Ta’anis Tzaddikim, they should be mekabel the Ta’anis at Shabbos Mincha. 


C.  We recently noted that it is not insulting to gently and carefully help or guide a person to do a Mitzvah properly.  In the Shabbos context, one can remind someone who does not otherwise eat Shalosh Seudos:  “I recently learned that someone who eats Shalosh Seudos is saved from the Milchama of Gog U’Magog.  It’s definitely worth it to start now--even if you have not been so careful with it in the past…especially in our times!”


D.  A reader kindly advised provided us with the following:  “At Havdalah I was holding my 2½  year old grandson who of course at that age has very long hair. I tilted him to blow out the candle after the Berachot (I do realize some have a minhag not to blow out the candle but to dip in wine or snuff) and his hair caught on fire. It was only with Siyata Deshmaya that we were able to squash it almost instantly to avoid a major accident! A lesson to be learned--be careful!”


E.  Mishna Berurah Yomi has recently begun the third volume of the Mishna Berurah--Hilchos Shabbos.  Below are several points and pointers, as excerpted from the Dirshu Edition:


1.  When it comes to traveling on Erev Shabbos, the Ohr L’Tzion writes that one must leave enough time to be quite sure to arrive at least one hour before Shabbos.  The Chazon Ish would in fact not travel outside of his city after Chatzos on Friday.  The Steipeler would not take any trip on Erev Shabbos which was longer than four hours.  The Ohr L’Tzion also adds that one must leave enough time if taking a cab to allow the driver to arrive home before Shabbos as well.  (Shulchan Aruch, Orach Chaim 249:1, Dirshu Note 5)


2.  The reason that one may not schedule a Seudah (other than a Seudas Mitzvah, such as a Bris or Pidyon HaBen ) on Friday is so that he enters Shabbos with a desire to eat--rendering the food he consumes on Shabbos a greater Oneg Shabbos.  (ibid., 249:2)


3.  If one for some reason cannot eat bread on Friday night, he should eat three Seudos with bread by day. (ibid., Dirshu Note 15)


4.  There are two separate times on Erev Shabbos when one should demonstrate his Kavod Shabbos by undertaking special preparations.  The first time is early in the morning, and the second time is in the afternoon--when some new action LeKavod Shabbos should be undertaken.  This dual preparation is alluded to in the Torah with the words:  VeHaya Mishneh--prepare a second time as well!”  The Rambam (Hilchos Shabbos 30:6) adds that one should not be satisfied with one or two deeds LeKavod Shabbos--rather, “Kol HaMarbeh Harei Zeh Meshubach”--the phrase is not limited only to the Seder night, but to each and every Shabbos as well!  (ibid., 250:1, Mishna Berurah seif katan 2 and Dirshu Note 15)


5.  When one changes his clothes on Erev Shabbos, he should have in mind that he is doing so in order to greet the King.  There is something more that the changing of clothing symbolizes, however.  That is, one should also have in mind that he is removing the soil of sin that is on his clothing and replacing it with new clean clothing before the King.  It is for this reason that we should look into our deeds on Erev Shabbos and do Teshuvah for specific actions that we realize may have been done over the week.  This is Teshuvah Bechol Yom--at its finest! (ibid., Mishna Berurah seif katan 3)



Special Note Two:  In this week’s Parsha, we begin to learn how to construct a Mikdash to Hashem.  At this moment in our lives, although we may not have the ultimate Mishkan or Beis HaMikdash, we do have our Beis Haknesses and Beis HaMidrash, as our Mikdashei Me’at.  According to many Rishonim, the Mitzvas Asei MiD’oraysah of Mikdoshi Tira’u applies to our Mikdashei Me’at as well.  We provide below several points and pointers from Hilchos Beis HaKnesses (Shulchan Aruch, Orach Chaim 150-153), as excerpted from the Dirshu Edition of the Mishna Berurah:


A.  It is a great Mitzvah to donate Seforim to a Shul or Bais Midrash for study.  The Chasam Sofer (Yoreh De’ah 244) writes that one fulfills the words of “Oseh Tzedaka Bechol Ais--doing an act of righteousness at all times” by doing so.


B.  The Sha’arei Teshuvah to Orach Chaim 46, writes that when one enters a Shul he should bow towards the Aron Kodesh.


C.  The Shulchan Aruch (151:1) itself rules that simply sitting in our Mikdash Me’at is a Mitzvah, as Dovid Hamelech writes:  Ashrei Yoshvei Veisecha”.


D.  Chazal teach that if a person embarrasses another in front of a Talmid Chochom, then he is an apikores and does not have a chelek in Olam Haba.  All the more so, writes the Mishna Berurah, would this apply to one who disgraces his friend in front of the Sefer Torah and the Kavod HaShechina--in Shul.  (151: Mishna Berurah, seif katan 2)


E.  One should not enter a Mikdash Me’at with a knife or similar object, because the Torah lengthens a person’s days, and a knife shortens a person’s days in this world.  (151: Mishna Berurah, seif katan 22, Dirshu Note 20)


F.  It is inappropriate for antennas to be placed on top of a Shul, and if it was done against the will of those who daven there, they should not take rent or a fee for the antenna--for it is forbidden to make profit from the bizayon of a Shul.  (Shevet HaLevi, quoted in Dirshu Note 26)


G.  It may be permissible to sell a Sefer Torah in order for a Shul to acquire Gemaros and Halacha Seforim--because this may be considered putting one’s study into practice. 


H.  One fulfills a Mitzvah if he enters and leaves a Shul by different entranceways; this is based upon the pasuk relating to the Bais HaMikdash:  HaBa’ah Derech Sha’ar Tzafon LeHishtachavos Yetzeih Derech Sha’ar Negev” (Mishna Berurah, ibid., seif katan 21).  The Mishna Berurah explains that this demonstrates your chavivus to the Bais HaKnesses.  



Special Note Three:  As we know Sunday, 7 Adar is the Yahrzeit of Moshe Rabbeinu.  We note a great lesson that our Chazal provide from 7 Adar:  Chazal teach that Haman was elated when the lottery of the month in which he would annihilate the Jews fell upon the month of Adar--for this is the month of Moshe Rabbeinu’s Yahrzeit--which undoubtedly was a great calamity for K’lal Yisrael.  He concluded, therefore, that c’v the month was opportune for further Jewish catastrophe.  He was very much mistaken, Chazal continue, because he did not know that Moshe Rabbeinu was also born on 7 Adar, as Hashem completes the years of Tzaddikim to the day.  The month of Adar was then an incredibly successful one for K’lal Yisrael--for where would any of us be for all of eternity --without Moshe Rabbeinu coming into this world?!  He may have temporarily expired from Olam Hazeh, but he is still working hard for us in the upper world;  he will be back soon in the Techiyas Hameisim of Tzaddikim (which some say will occur first before the general Techiyas Hameisim); and he left the legacy of ‘Toras Moshe Avdi’--for us all to live by generation after generation!  In reality, the month of Adar is a time of joy--a time very much befitting for the salvation of the Jewish people.  Most certainly, then, we unlike Haman, should recognize the inherent might and greatness of this month and especially endeavor to fulfill the Mishna’s teaching: ‘MiShe’Nichnas Adar Marbin BeSimcha’ in whatever way that we can.  May we suggest that one begin by absolutely banishing sad, troublesome or disheartening thoughts that may enter his mind (Yetzer Hara, hard at work) and replace those thoughts with positive and appreciative realizations of the elevated and unique position any one reading this has in relation to the many, many billions of humans and other creatures on this planet. Our elevated Simcha period will soon lead into the incomparably potent Geulah Period of Purim and Pesach--and hopefully along with it into the Final and Everlasting Geulah--so bring the Simcha in--and be sure let it out and share it with all around you as well!




4 Adar

Special Note One:  We B’EH continue our Monday/Thursday study of the Sefer Mitzvos HaKatzar, with the Mitzvos Lo Sa’asei which the Chofetz Chaim writes are applicable in our times. Today, we present Mitzvos Lo Sa’aseh 82 and 83:


82. Lo Limnoah Milehatzil--this is the Mitzvas Lo Sa’aseh which prohibits one from refraining to help another whose life is in danger, as the Pasuk states:  Lo Sa’amod Ahl Dam Reiacha.  This Mitzvah also requires one not to refrain from saving another’s money or property--for instance--when one knows that thieves want to steal something that belongs to another, and he can deter them in some way.  This Mitzvah applies in all places and at all times and to men and women alike.


83.  Lo La’asos Avel BaMiddos U’vamishkalos--this is the Mitzvas Lo Sa’aseh which prohibits one from having incorrect weights or measurements--even if they are off  ‘only slightly’.  If one violates this negative prohibition he will violate the Mitzvas Asei of Moznei Tzedek…Yiheyeh Lechem as well.  If one commits this sin against an akum, he is considered to have performed a toeivah, and must return the excess amount.  One who utilizes inappropriate weights and measurements will be punished even more severely than one who violates the arayos, and is considered a kofer in the fact that Hashem took us out of Egypt (as the concept of yetzias mitzrayim is especially reiterated at the parsha of honest weights and measures in order to remind us that we are relying upon Hashem’s Hashgacha, and should not at any time act deceitfully or wrongfully).  This Mitzvah applies in all places and at all times and to men and women alike.



Special Note Two:  Yesterday, we noted that one is not intruding into the life of another if, out of care and concern, he would like to aid another perform a Mitzvah properly.  As one example, we provided cases where the bracha over an item is not well known.  A reader commented that the bracha on several of the foods that we noted, is in fact, the subject of dispute among authorities.  Accordingly, we provide our most recent brief notes on the brachos at hand:


A.  Fiber One.  The OU, which gives the Hashgacha on Fiber One cereal, has determined that the proper brachos on this cereal are Mezonos and Al HaMichya.  We note that the original determination as to Fiber One was that its bracha was a Shehakol, but that position changed over a year ago [we do not know whether this was due to a change in the constitution of the product]. 


B.  Pringles.  This snack product is made from denatured potatoes. According to Rav Moshe Feinstein Z’tl, Rav Shlomo Zalman Auerbach Z’tl (The Halachos of Brochos, page 407), and Rav Elyashiv, Z’tl (V’zos Habrocha, page 239), the appropriate brocha is Borei Pri Ha’adomah.


B.  Craisins.  Craisins are essentially dried cranberries. The Laws of Brachos by Rabbi Binyomin Forst, Shlita writes that the bracha on cranberries is Borei P’ri Ha’eitz.  However, The Halachos of Brochos by Rabbi Yisroel Pinchos Bodner, Shlita, states, based upon the p’sak of HaRav Shlomo Zalman Auerbach, Z’tl, “Cranberries grow on creeping vines which grow along the ground. Although the plant produces fruit year after year, nevertheless, since cranberries grow within nine inches of the ground, its bracha is Borei P’ri Ha’adomah.”  The Sefer V’zos HaBracha by Rabbi Aleksander Mandelbaum, Shlita, also writes that the bracha is Borei P’ri Ha’adomah.  We note that if the proper bracha is Borei Pri Ha’adomah, the recitation of Borei Pri Ha’eitz would be improper, and would result in a bracha levatala and no bracha rishona having been recited on the food!  Accordingly, one should ask his Rav what bracha rishona to recite over cranberries and craisins (and while with the Rav--over cranberry juice as well!).


C.  Corn Cakes.  Rabbi Yisroel Pinchos Bodner, Shlita, writes that in general products made with corn flour would require a Shehakol, but since “rice cakes made from corn” are made from corn kernels which are whole and intact like popped corn the brocha would be Borei Pri Ha’adoma and Borei Nefashos.


D.  Granola Bars.  Rabbi Belsky and Rabbi Bodner both rule that the proper bracha rishona on Nature Valley Granola Bars is Borei Pri Ha’adoma.  Rabbi Bodner adds that the bracha achrona is problematic--as it theoretically may require a bracha achrona of Ahl Ha’adoma Ve’ahl Pri Ha’adoma (see Brachos 37A, Tosafos d’h’ Hakosses), but the text of this bracha does not exist.  Since we have no text for such a brocha, the Shulchan Aruch brings that a yorei shomayim should only eat a product such as this during the course of a bread meal to avoid the need to make a bracha achrona (Shulchan Aruch Orach Chaim 208: 4; and Mishna Berurah ibid., seif katan 17); otherwise, the ‘default’ bracha acharona would be Borei Nefashos. Alternatively, one can eat less than a k’zayis, which will avoid the need to make a bracha acharona (e.g., Nature Valley packages contain 2 granola bars. Eat less than ¾ of one of those bars, wait 6 minutes before eating another ¾.) (see Halachos of K’zayis by Rabbi Bodner, p. 130). A child need not classify himself as a yorei shomayim and could accordingly eat a shiur and recite a Borei Nefashos.


Once again, one should consult with his Rav regarding any particular issue that he may have. 



Special Note Three:  HaRav Wolbe, Z’tl, once remarked that of the four leshonos or languages of Geulah found in the Torah, the ikar Lashon was Velakachti--Hashem telling us that He will take us to Him as a nation.  HaRav Ezriel Erlanger, Shlita, explains what he believes was HaRav Wolbe’s intent:  Velakachti Eschem Li La’am is followed in the Torah with the words VeHayisi Lachem Leilokim--I shall be a G-d for you.”  Non-coincidentally we conclude Shema every day with the words:  Asher Hotzeisi Eschem MeiEretz Mitzrayim Liheyos Lachem Leilokim.” In other words, the goal of Yetzias Mitzrayim was lema’aseh--for us to conduct ourselves with the knowledge at all times that Hashem is our G-d.  Accordingly, when we say the words Liheyos Lachem Leilokim in Shema, we should think about how we will actualize it today.  It is said about HaRav Yisroel Salanter, Z’tl, that a main focus of his on Yom Kippur was not only his remorse over the past and his heartfelt Viduy, but his actual plan for the coming year.  Every day--just as we are commanded to remember Yetzias Mitzrayim by day and by night--we must likewise remember the great, direct and true result of Yetzias Mitzrayim--Liheyos Lachem Leilokim--and put the words into practical use--in our daily actions and interactions!




3 Adar

RECOMMENDATIONS!  The following contemporary Sefarim (Hebrew) are recommended by the Sefer Luach Davar B’Ito in preparation for Purim: Purim V’Chodesh Adar (HaRav Cohen); Yemei HaPurim (HaRav Schwartz); Nitei Gavriel--Purim (HaRav Tziner); and Yismach Yisrael (HaRav Dardik).



DIGITAL WATCHES:  It is reported that HaRav Shlomo Wolbe, Zt’l, was not in favor of digital display watches, as they merely report the exact time that one looks at his watch.  Time, however, explains HaRav Wolbe, is not only the exact moment in front of a person--it is also the time before one got to this moment, and the time that results from this moment.  It is for this reason that a traditional watch has a twelve hour period shown on it.  A person must not only tell time--he must understand time--where he was, where he is now, and what the ‘now’ will take him to in the future!



IT’S NOT INSULTING!  In a friendly and pleasant way, one can remind others to perform Mitzvos--even if they are otherwise expected to do so.  On Rosh Chodesh, for instance, thoughtfully reminding a person of the words “Ya’aleh V’Yavo” before he starts Shemone Esrei is a sign of caring and thoughtfulness--not intrusion.  Likewise, when one sees another about to partake of a food in which he knows the bracha is not well known--such as Fiber One cereal, Pringles, craisins, corn cakes, granola bars, and the like, he can politely say:  “Oh, you know that I read that the bracha on that is….”  When doing so, one may not only prevent a bracha levatalah, but one also fulfills the Mitzvah of VeAhavta L’Reiacha Kamocha!



A PUBLIC NOTICE !  When one benefits from the public domain or something within it, he should think about how, just as he benefited from the sidewalk, street, signage, he can benefit others from it as well.  This would obviously include not littering or otherwise leaving any obstacles that were not there before--but would moreover include moving away something that could hurt another on the street or sidewalk, perhaps straightening out a sign if possible, or alerting others (or the authorities) to a potentially dangerous situation--keeping his mind on others.  In doing so, one keeps his focus not on the myself--but on the ourselves!  Hakhel Note:  At the outset of the Sefer Tomer Devorah, HaRav Moshe Cordovero, Z’tl, writes:  Ikar HaTzelem VeHademus HaElyon Hein Pe’ulosav”--the principal way one demonstrates his Tzelem Elokim is by his deeds!




Some concluding points and pointers on Parshas Mishpatim: 


A.  In the Parsha (Shemos 22:24 ) we learned:  Lo Sesimun Alav Neshech…do not charge interest.”  Today’s consumers are indeed faced with many contemporary situations relating to ribbis--banks, credit cards, business loans and private loans.  In the past, we have provided alerts regarding certain and banks. This was a recent advisory:  “IMPORTANT NOTICE!  Please be advised that upon the information made available to us:  Emigrant Savings Bank (and Emigrant.com), Quicken Loans, and Intervest National Bank have substantial Jewish ownership.  Please consult your Rav regarding depositing or borrowing money (e.g. mortgages) from them, as ribbis issues may be involved.”  A reader recently refinanced his home mortgage with another Jewish company which delivered the following statement to him at the closing:  “Attention:  According to Torah law we cannot take interest.  We are therefore stating that wherever a document states the word interest it actually means dividends, for this transaction is taking place using the rules of Heter Iska.”  We asked a renowned Posek in hilchos ribbis whether this was acceptable.  His response was:  He should use a traditional Heter Iska; not this piece of paper.”  Chazal (as will be shown below) teach that one who violates the Halachos of ribbis does not arise at techiyas hameisim.  It is a very, very serious matter.  We present below the introductory words of the Kitzur Shulchan Aruch (65:1;Moznayim Edition, translation by Rabbi Eliyahu  Touger) on this fundamental Torah topic:  … it is more likely that a person will succumb and violate the prohibition against taking interest than other prohibitions involving financial matters. With regard to theft, deception, and the like, a person naturally takes precautions to see that no one will steal from him or cheat him. [Accordingly, he will hold himself back from acting in this manner towards a colleague.] Furthermore, even a person who desires to steal from or cheat a colleague will often hesitate to do so out of shame or out of fear of detection.  In contrast, concerning interest, the borrower pays the money willingly and is happy that he has found a loan, even though it requires paying interest.  Indeed, the lender can rationalize that he is doing the borrower a great favor.  With this money, the borrower can earn many times more than the amount of interest which he has to pay. Therefore, it is very easy for a person to succumb to temptation and violate this prohibition.  For the above reasons, our holy Torah refers to this prohibition very severely, mentioning it several times. A person who lends money at interest violates six Torah prohibitions. He will not arise at the resurrection of the dead, as [Yechezkel 18:13 ] states: “He gave [money] at interest and took an increase - shall he live? He shall not live.” A person who borrows at interest also violates three Torah prohibitions. The scribe [who writes the contract of loan], the witnesses to it, and the guarantor each violate one prohibition. Similarly, a broker and anyone else who helped arrange the loan - e.g., a person who informed the borrower of a potential lender or one who informed the lender of a potential borrower - also violate a prohibition.”  Hakhel Note:  As we take leave of Parshas Mishpatim, let us carefully review our care and concern in this area--and make provisions for the future.  We especially refer businessmen, accountants and attorneys to The Laws of Ribbis by Rabbi Yisroel Reisman, Shlita (Artscroll).  If one has particular Shailos, he should contact his Rav or Posek.  Bais HaVaad and Business Halacha Institute also provide guidance in this area.  Bais HaVaad can be contacted at info@baishavaad.com or by calling 1.888.485.VAAD.  Business Halacha Institute  can be contacted at ask@businesshalacha.com or by calling their confidential hotline: 877-845-8455.


B.  The Mishna in Avos (4:1) first teaches “Who is a Gibor--who is strong? -He who overcomes his Yetzer Hara”, and only afterwards teaches “Who is rich?  He who is satisfied with his lot.”  One must first vanquish the Lo Sachmod within him (which is so important that it culminates the Aseres HaDibros), as we have recently learned--and only afterwards will he properly regard money and possessions in this world.  At a Hakhel Yarchei Kallah, Rabbi Yisroel Reisman, Shlita, taught that people are very mistaken about Jewish Law in monetary matters.  Choshen Mishpat provides us with detailed laws as to what to do in particular circumstances.  We do not follow peshara-compromise-if a person asserts a specious or meritless claim, or a claim that is lacking.  We follow peshara when both sides have relative equities in their positions--which each party may very well be blinded to.  When Dayanim make a decision, their role, Rabbi Reisman explained, is not to effectuate what they may think works out nicest for both sides--it is to rule in accordance with the teachings of Hashem as put forth by Rebbi Yehuda HaNassi in the Mishna, Ravina and Rav Ashi in the Gemara, and as promulgated by the Tur and Shulchan Aruch and their commentaries.  Unlike other bodies of law which are left up to the foibles of fallible mortals, our monetary laws are actually G-d given, developed by extraordinary men imbued with Ruach Hakodesh, and applied by spiritual guides--Rabbonim, Dayanim and Poskim who must realize that being a Yirei Elokim is part of their role in life--as opposed to secular jurists with no pure knowledge of truth, who state what they feel is right based upon their upbringing and own ideas, often resulting in marred conclusions.  When it comes to monetary matters, we must know that Hashem wants us to follow his laws, and we must understand that not everything is based upon one's good sense, business practices or custom in the community.  We should ask those who know what the right thing to do is.  Rabbi Reisman, in fact, pointed out that when Yirmiyahu Hanavi was exhorting the people to prevent the Churban Beis HaMikdash, one would think he would spend all of his time convincing them to rid themselves of all of the avoda zara that was then being practiced.  Yirmiyahu, however, focused to a great extent on proper dealings with money--honesty and integrity in monetary matters according to Torah law-- and the Churban could have been prevented.  Now is the time to end the state of Churban--and build the Beis HaMikdash with our actions!



2 Adar

QUESTION OF THE DAY :  When Purim was first instituted by the Anshei Knesses HaGedolah--was it instituted worldwide in the same year? 




Special Note One:  Just yesterday, we began to recite, sing and post the words:  Mishenichnas Adar Marbim B’Simcha”.  In fact, HaRav Dessler, Z’tl, (Michtav M’Eliyahu, Volume 2, p. 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 a 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 Mishna Berurah (Shulchan Aruch, 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 quick, reflexive, 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.  Dovid HaMelech teaches us what truly gladdens a person’s heart (Tehillim 19:9):  Pekudei Hashem Yesharim Mesamchei Lev.”  Most certainly, the privilege and the ability to study Torah--Hashem’s direct words and instructions--should bring us to bliss.  Every time we sit down to learn we must appreciate the joy we bring to our inner selves--and the eternity that will result from it.  Additionally, 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.  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 delight in its performance.



Special Note Two:  In last week’s Parsha, the Torah wrote (Shemos 21:19):  VeRapoh Yerapeih--and he shall be healed.”  HaRav Yecheskel Sarna, Z’tl, notes that in the bracha of Refaeinu, we plead as follows:  Refaeinu Hashem V’Nerafeih Hoshieinu V’Nevasheiah…heal us Hashem, then we will be healed, save us, then we will be saved.”  HaRav Sarna then asks:  “We understand that we ask Hashem--the Source of all healing to heal us--but what does Hoshieinu V’Nevasheiah mean?”  We have actually provided different answers to this in the past--but HaRav Sarna’s explanation is remarkable.  He teaches that sickness typically comes as a form of punishment or as Heavenly direction, based upon one’s spiritual sickness or misdeeds.  Accordingly, one must generally undergo spiritual healing in order to attain a physical healing as well.  There are instances, however, in which through a zechus that one or others may have he can be healed of the physical issue without remedying the spiritual one.  Thus, although he may have been healed physically--the underlying cause was not resolved.  Accordingly, in Refaeinu we ask not only that we be physically healed--but Hoshieinu V’Nevasheiah--that Hashem help us attain the spiritual healing that we need--helping to heal us spiritually of the underlying root cause, so that we will be healed in every respect.  We are not only praying for our physical health--we are praying for our spiritual health--so that not only our bodies, but our eternal souls are fully healed and fully healthy! 



Special Note Three:  The Chofetz Chaim (in the Introduction to his Sefer Ahavas Chesed) writes that Hashem said that he loved Avrohom Avinu because he would teach his family “La’asos Tzedakah U’Mishpat...to do charity and justice”.  Tzedaka, righteousness, appears to be beyond the letter of the law whereas Mishpat is the letter of the law.  Avrohom Avinu would not be giving his children two contradictory messages--what does the Torah mean?  The Chofetz Chaim explains that there are two parts to a relationship--how a person acts to his fellow man, and how his fellow man acts towards him. One should use Mishpat--the strict letter of the law for everything that one is doing that involves someone else’s money, and be sure to avoid taking a penny that is not his.  On the other hand, when considering how another person is reacting to him, one should use Tzedaka--employing a degree of flexibility and compromise--so that not everything is a fight or the ‘principle of the thing’, and so that one does not leave behind open, jagged potholes as he travels life’s road.  This is not simple or easy--but it is the path described Dovid HaMelech in Tehillim, the path originally paved by Avrohom Avinu for all of his descendents, and the very way we can leave Parshas Mishpatim and arrive very quickly at the portals of the Mishkan!  Let us remember that money is not useful currency in Olam Haba unless you exchanged it properly--very properly--when you had the chance and when the bank was open--in the here and now!


Additional Note One:  Our mandate to strive for honesty and integrity is recorded in Shulchan Aruch (Choshen Mishpat 231:14) which requires us to err and give a little more from our side when weighing or measuring for another--as the Pasuk teaches:  Vatzedek Yiheye Loch” (Devorim 25:15), which Chazal teach means “Tzadek Mishelecha Vetitten Lo--give of what is yours to the party on the other side of the table.” (Bava Basra 68B)


Additional Note Two:  HaRav Pam, Z’tl, would often quote the teaching of the Chofetz Chaim  applicable when hiring workers of any kind:  One should try to describe exactly what has to be done, and how much will be paid for doing it.  Otherwise, it is highly probable that a problem will develop, and in the end a tinge (or more than a tinge) of ill will and gezel, may develop.  Be clear--up front, to avoid any avoidable wrangling and aggravation.


The goal of being a N’ki Chapayim is not for the Rabbis and Scholars, and not left to the high Holy Days.  It is the calling of the descendants of Avraham Avinu.  This is a great lesson with which we should leave Parshas Mishpatim--and it is the absolute basis and prerequisite for the upcoming Parshios--our building a Mishkan in this world.  How mighty are our challenges--but how immense are our accomplishments!



1 Adar 



A.  Today, being the first day of the month of Adar, we begin the twelfth 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.


B.  As we all know, “MiShenichnas Adar Marbin B’Simcha--when one enters into Adar, we increase our joy” (Taanis 29A).  HaRav Yoel Schwartz understands from the term “MiShenichnas” that the initial entry into Adar warrants the increased degree of happiness. 


C.  Rabbi Moshe Goldberger, Shlita wrote the following: “When Adar begins we increase our joy.  This alone is a great lesson.  HaRav Avigdor Miller, Z’tl, explained that we have the capacity to choose to learn how to increase our joy.




Special Note One:  We B’EH continue our Monday/Thursday study of the Sefer Mitzvos HaKatzar, with the Mitzvos Lo Sa’asei which the Chofetz Chaim writes are applicable in our times. Today, we present Mitzvos Lo Sa’aseh 80 and 81:


80. Lo Linkom Meichaveiro--this is the Mitzvas Lo Sa’aseh which prohibits one from taking revenge against another.  What is revenge?  It is doing the same hurtful thing to another as he had done to you.  For instance, if Reuven asked Shimon to lend him an item and he refuses, and the next day Shimon asks Reuven for an item and he refuses, saying: “I will not lend to you, just like you did not lend to me.”  These simple words of explanation constitute vengeance--prohibited by Torah law.  This Mitzvah applies in all places and at all times and to men and women alike.


81.  Shelo Lintor Sinah BeLev Ahl Chaveiro--this is the Mitzvas Lo Sa’aseh which prohibits one from harboring hatred in his heart against another.  What is the ‘harboring of hatred’?  In the last example, it would be reflected by the response of Reuven being:  “I am going to lend it to you--and I will not do what you did to me.”  Rather, what Reuven should do is lend his object to Shimon with a full heart, and erase any feeling of enmity from within--forgetting about it.  The Chofetz Chaim adds that both the Middos of Nekama and Netira are very evil--for they relate to matters of this world and it is simply not worth it to take revenge or harbor a grudge over something like this.  The Mitzvah applies in all places and at all times and to men and women alike.  Hakhel Note:  If one has taken revenge, violating Lo Sikom then it means per se that he has also violated Lo Sitor as well…sadly fulfilling Chazal’s teaching of aveira goreres aveira.  On the other hand, if one erases the hatred from his heart, he will not come to take revenge--a beautiful example of mitzvah goreres mitzvah!



Special Note Two:  Why do we read Hallel on Rosh Chodesh, at the beginning of every new month?  As we have noted in the past, the Tanya Rabosi (quoted by the Sefer Taamei Dinim U’Minhagim) provides us with the following answer:  Dovid HaMelech in the last Chapter of Tehillim (Chapter 150--Halleluka Hallelu Kel B’Kadsho), which we recite every morning, uses the word “Hallelutwelve separate times in order to express the different kinds of Hallel that we are to give to Hashem during each of the twelve corresponding months of the year.  Thus, for example, the sixth time Hallelu is used in this chapter, is in the phrase “Hallelu B’Teka Shofar”, corresponding to the sixth month of the year--the month of Elul--in which we blow Shofar the entire month, and the seventh time Hallelu is used is “Halleluhu B’Nevel V’Chinor” (with lyre and harp), corresponding to the Simchas Bais Hashoeva of Sukkos, so befittingly culminating the month of Tishrei.  Now, the twelfth Hallelu, which corresponds to the 12th month of the year--Adar --is climactic--”Kol HaNeshama Tehallel Ka”--Let all souls praise Hashem!  [In fact, the reason we repeat the same Pasuk--Kol HaNeshama (i.e., a thirteenth Hallelu) when reciting this Chapter in the morning is to take into account a second month of Adar--the thirteenth month of the year when it occurs!]  What appears clear from this is that our Avoda, our sacred and wonderful task, for this month is to raise our souls in the service of Hashem.


This month, as we recite “Kol HaNeshama” daily, let us feel within ourselves a raising of our souls, a heightening of our spiritual awareness, a supernal inner joy--in our lot (pun intended)--and in our life!



Special Note Three:  In this morning’s Musaf we recited stirring words for Rosh Chodesh “U’Seshu’as Nafsham MiYad Sonei--Rosh Chodesh serves as a salvation for us from the hand of our enemy”--May it be so for us from both our physical and spiritual enemies!  As the days progress we recognize more and more that we are writing our own script through our Torah, our Tefillos, and our actions.  Everything is set on the world’s stage--only Hashem now knows the outcome.  May it be a happy one for our Father in Heaven, and for His children here.  We remind our readers that based upon our past discussion of the brachos of Shemone Esrei, the bracha of Go’el Yisroel contains our hopes to Hashem to redeem us speedily and in great and miraculous ways as the Go’el Chazak.  In the bracha of Sim Shalom, we affirm that Hashem can bring peace to each of us individually, to K’lal Yisroel, and to the world as a whole.  Let us focus on the words of these brachos, and of all of our other Tefillos in these times--which are packed with so much concern, and so much potential for us--especially during the months of Adar and Nissan--the months of redemption! 



Special Note Four:  The Sidras Mishpat Moshe on many practical topics in Choshen Mishpat was published in 5758 under the auspices of HaRav Yisroel Belsky, Shlita (in memory of Rabbi Moshe Sherer, Z’tl, by Ruach Country Publications).  Before taking leave of the vast amount of Hilchos Choshen Mishpat contained in and encompassed by  Parshas Mishpatim, we provide below but a few significant points from this wonderful publication.


1.  To appreciate the broad scope of Choshen Mishpat, one must recall that its Halachos apply every day of the week--even on Shabbos and Yom Tov--in contrast even to the essential Halachos of the 39 Melachos on Shabbos--which apply one day a week. 


2.  A non-Torah person thinks of possessions and money as being items to accumulate in any way possible.  This attitude is described by Shlomo Hamelech (Koheles 2:26) with the words “VelaChotai Nossan Inyan Leh’Essof VeLichnos...To the sinner he gave the urge to gather and collect.  Such a person thinks that accumulating wealth is a goal unto itself, and accordingly pursues a path based upon terminology such as ‘sharpness’ and ‘shrewdness’ which r’l taint all of his possessions with at least a touch of theft or misappropriation in some form or nature.


3.  The Torah’s attitude towards possessions and money should be studied well.  In English, we have the verb ‘to have’. One says, for instance, “ I have a new car”, or “I have a new phone”.  HaRav Shamshon Refoel Hirsch, Z’tl, points out that the verb ‘to have’ does not exist in Lashon HaKodesh.  One says instead Yaish Li”--there is to me--instead of I have. Rather than saying “I own this pen”, in Lashon HaKodesh one says “There is a connection between me and this pen”-we call this connection ownership--but all the connection really means is that a person has some right to control the pen.


4.  If one is able to develop a fear of having someone  else’s money in his possession--and learns to feel a repulsiveness for it, one will be well on his way to protect himself from even a small gezel--which always, of course, leads to a larger gezel.


5.  A Torah Jew’s need for possessions and property should be motivated by his desire to take care of his needs and responsibilities, i.e., to have a place to live, to provide for one’s family, and to support the community in a way that is filled with Torah and Mitzvos. If one’s aspiration for money and possessions is correct, and one is careful that they are acquired without any taint of gezel, then each one of them is a Cheifetz Shel Mitzvah, just like a beautiful Esrog--without any blemish.  One does not have to wait until Sukkos--he can be surrounded by the beauty of his Mitzvos --with his Chafatzim Shel Mitzvah --every day--at home and wherever he goes!



28 Shevat

THE DEFINITION OF NATURE:  It is said in the name of HaRav Yerucham Levovitz, Z’tl, that the definition of “Nature” is miracles that happen more often!



SHOVAVIM!  With tomorrow’s Parsha of Mishpatim, we conclude the Shovavim period. To add to it, Erev Shabbos is a time of Teshuvah--and Erev Rosh Chodesh is a time of Teshuvah.  At the very least, let us take a look at ourselves today--and accomplish Teshuvah Bechol Yom--HaYom!  We should leave the Shovavim period with concrete and clear Kabbalah for improvement!  Hakhel Note:  The Shelah HaKadosh provides an amazing insight from the Zohar  into the power of Teshuva.  In this week’s Parsha, we are taught that “VeChi Yiftach Ish Bor”--if a man digs a pit in a public area he is responsible and must pay for all of the damage that it causes.  If someone caused another to sin, which has far greater ramifications because it can permanently affect the other’s Olam Haba forever and ever, one would think that the damages he is liable for are much larger and exceedingly great.  Yet, this is not so--for the power of Teshuva is so great that it repairs the damage done above, the damage done below, the damage done to oneself--and the damage done to the world!  Let us think of the pit and all the responsibility that it entails--and realize that with Teshuva one does not have to fall in it or anywhere near it!



BITACHON! For those who placed a special focus on bitachon during the month of Shevat, we note the moving words of HaRav Gamliel Rabanovitch, Shlita:  HaRav Gamliel points to the riches that Bnei Yisrael left Mitzrayim with, and the even greater riches that they received at the Yam Suf, and then points out that the immediately succeeding Parshios in the Torah describe how the Bnei Yisrael did not have a drop of water in Marah without Hashem giving it to them, and did not have food to eat until Hashem gave them the Mon.  A person must never allow the Yetzer Hara to delude him.  Bitachon is the realization of Hashem’s unlimited gifts to us--quite literally every millisecond of our lives. 




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


A.  We provide the following very meaningful teachings relating to Parshas Shekalim in Galus, excerpted from the Sefer HaToda’ah by Rabbi Eliyahu Kitov, Z’tl (as translated by Rabbi Nachman Bulman, Z’tl, and published by Feldheim Publishers as that essential-for-the home-work The Book of Our Heritage):


“Today, when we no longer have the Beis HaMikdash and we longer bring sacrifices, the mitzvah of the half-shekel is no longer applicable.  Nevertheless, we still read the portion of the Machatzis HaShekel at the appropriate time so that the Torah reading might be regarded as if we had actually fulfilled the mitzvah - -as the Pasuk (Hoshe’a 14:3) states:  ”U’Neshalma Forim Sefaseinu... our words shall take the place of the animals which we can no longer sacrifice.  Another reason that we continue to read Parshas Shekalim is because we pray that the Beis HaMikdash will soon be rebuilt, and therefore it is incumbent upon us to be familiar with the proper manner of fulfilling this mitzvah.  This Mitzvah is especially favored, for it teaches us that we are all equal before Hashem --as we all participated (and will participate) equally in the Karbanos Tzibbur--the offering of all communal sacrifices.  There are no rich or poor before Hashem--we are all beloved.  All are close to Him and all of their sacrifices come before Him pleasantly, bringing atonement for all their sins.”  Hakhel Note:  The Half-Shekel that we give on Ta’anis Esther is only a remembrance of the Mitzvah D’Oraysa--may we speedily merit our participation in the Machatzis HaShekel of the Bais Hamikdash--we have plenty of time--as it is only finally due on Rosh Chodesh Nissan--more than a month away! 


Hakhel Note:  The Luach Davar B’Ito writes that it is appropriate to learn Mishnayos Mesechta Shekalim today.


B.  This Shabbos is the Yahrzeit of the HaRav Nosson Zvi (B’R’Moshe) Finkel, Z’tl--the Alter of Slabodka --who merited being the teacher of so many of the next generation Gedolim--HaRav Aharon Kotler, z’tl, HaRav Yaakov Kamenetsky, Z’tl, and HaRav Yitzchok Ruderman, Z’tl, to name only a few.  His towering personality encompassed all areas of personal growth. Here is just one incident (brought in the Sefer Me’oros HaGedolim):  The Alter approached a recently married student, an d asked him if he helped his wife on Erev Shabbos to prepare for Shabbos. The student proudly affirmed to his Rebbe that of course he did, for after all, did not Chazal teach that the greatest Rabbanim undertook activities LeKavod Shabbos--to honor Shabbos (Shabbos 119). The Alter responded to his  student with a teaching from tomorrow’s Parsha.  “The Pasuk (Shemos 23:5) instructs us to help even a donkey which is crouching under its burden--’Azov Ta’azov Imo...you should repeatedly help him’.  If this is true regarding a donkey, said the Alter, --all the more so must one provide assistance to a human being, and certainly one’s wife to which one has even greater obligations, and for which it is even a greater Mitzvah.  When performing a Mitzvah Bein Adam LaMakom--one should never forget the Bein Adam LeChaveiro so often very much a part of proper conduct!” Let us try to apply the Alter’s teaching today and tomorrow (at least!), as we remember all that he did for the generations that succeeded him.


C.  As Rosh Chodesh will begin on Motza’ei Shabbos, an issue arises as to whether one who is eating Shalosh Seudos and continues to eat bread at night should recite Retzei and/or Ya’aleh V’yavo.  Some Poskim rule that both should be recited, some only Retzei, and some only Ya’aleh V’Yavo (the latter view is the view of the Mogen Avraham and the Mishna Berurah).  The best way to resolve the entire issue is to bentsch before nightfall.  If one cannot do this, then it would be best if he avoided eating bread after nightfall.  One should consult with his Rav or Posek with any particular questions or issues.


D.   This is the third Parsha in a row with an allusion to Shabbos.  Once we have left Mitzrayim--the great importance of Shabbos is repeated and repeated again--almost as if to give it a chazaka in the Torah!  In any event, the classic Sefer Eglei Tal on the melachos of Shabbos provides a remarkable conclusion in its Hakdama.  The Eglei Tal writes that the study of Hilchos Shabbos weighs against the study of all other Halacha--just as Shabbos is weighed against all the other Mitzvos!  Hakhel Note:  What an important reason to learn the Halachos of Shabbos--at least at the Shabbos table!  For those who do not already do so, if you need a format to help guide you, we strongly recommend the Sefer Shabbos Beshabbato (arranged by Parsha) in Hebrew, and The 39 Melachos by Rabbi Ribiat, or any of Rabbi Simcha Bunim Cohen Shlita’s Shabbos seforim, in English.  Imagine if only one Shabbos act is improved upon by only one person at the table--what a wonderful accomplishment...and even if everyone already knew everything, aren’t you showing a special chiba and affection for Shabbos by showing that you want to get it right!



Special Note Two: There are oh so many practical lessons for life to be gleaned from Parshas Mishpatim. We present in summary form just three of those lesson bellows, as presented in the incomparable Sefer Tallilei Oros:


A.  The punishment for cursing a parent (skila, or stoning) is a more severe punishment than that of hitting a parent (chenek, or choking).  The G’ra to Mishlei (18:8) explains that hitting only affects the body, whereas speech penetrates through to the soul. Additionally, the wound from a physical smite can heal, but the effect of those words….

Hakhel Note:  It is no coincidence that three of the seventeen  negative prohibitions that a person can violate for speaking Lashon Hara (listed at the outset of the Sefer Chofetz Chaim) are found in the Parsha!


B.  The story is told of how a Gadol of our generation visited someone in the hospital, who told the Gadol—”I am not worried, Hashem will help.” The Gadol responded: “Actually, Hashem will heal you, it is the doctor who will help.” The Torah, with the words VeRapoh Yerapeh (Shemos 21:19 ), simply allows the doctor to be involved in the process (See Shulchan Aruch, Yoreh De’ah 336:1). Modern technological advances test our Emunah in this regard. Sickness comes from Hashem, who also heals us in the very same way. The purpose of the sickness may very well be for us actually to come closer to Hashem through Tefilla. HaRav Yechezkel Sarna, Z’tl, when in the hospital in Switzerland , wrote that all physical ailments are related to spiritual matters.  Through a particular zechus that a person may have he may be healed, but the spiritual cause may still exist—this is called, he writes, a refuah, without a yeshua, and could lead, c’v, to a recurrence of the illness again. It is for this reason that in Refaenu we ask not only for “Refaeinu Hashem Veneirapheh—but also for Hoshe’anu V’Nivasheia—with the Refuah accompanied by everything we need for it to be permanent—for the yeshua as well!


C.  When someone creates a ‘bor’, a pit or stumbling block, in the public domain, he is responsible. For the Torah Jew, there is a more refined lesson from ‘bor’.  The Chofetz Chaim was once walking on the street and saw a paper on the floor. Thinking it was shaimos, he rushed to pick it up. When he realized that it was not meaningful, he simply discarded again in its place. A moment later, he stopped, turned back and picked it up again in order to dispose of it elsewhere. The onlookers must have been stunned-- a Gadol HaDor picking up rubbish in the street! The Chofetz Chaim explained--If I don’t pick it up, someone else will—why can’t I save the next person the effort!


Hakhel Note: As we have pointed out in the past, HaRav Avigdor Miller, z’tl would advise people to do private chesed everyday that no one else knew about. How about taking the Chofetz Chaim’s lesson and picking up that unwanted item from the floor-- in the office, dining room, staircase, etc.—aside from ridding others of a potential hazard—**you** have bent down and exerted the effort instead of the next guy. You will never in this world know the beauty and breadth of your accomplishment.



Special Note Three:  Additional points and pointers on the Parsha: 


A.  The Seforno at the outset of Parshas Mishpatim explains that the entire Parsha is really a continuation of the last of the Aseres HaDibros--which is Lo Sachmod--not to covet another’s possessions.  Once we respect the fact that his possessions are not ours--then the next step is to recognize all of his rights in those possessions.


B.  In his commentary in this week’s Parshas Mishpatim on the requirement of boring a hole in the recalcitrant Eved Ivri’s ear, the Sefas Emes (5645) notes that the measure of reward, or Middah Tovah, is always greater than Middas Puraniyus.  Accordingly, if an awl must be bored through the ear of one who wants to stay an Eved to another human, then the reward for one who accepts upon himself the service of Hashem and expresses the words “V’Ahavta Es Hashem” with fervor will be granted divine assistance to be able to clearly hear the voice of Hashem.  We must make sure that we use our ears for the right reasons--so that they be amply rewarded!  Hakhel Note:  It is no coincidence (as it never, ever is) to note that our very same Parsha contains the mitzvah of Lo Sisa Sheima Shav--do not listen to/accept Lashon Hara or falsehood (Shemos 23:1).  Fascinatingly, this prohibition against listening to Lashon Hara is found in the Torah even before the prohibition against speaking Lashon Hara, which does not occur until Parshas Kedoshim!  We suggest that the reason for this may be actually quite simple--without a listener there is simply no Lashon Hara at all to be spoken-- notwithstanding that it is at the tip of someone’s tongue already mixed with venom, pride, disregard and anger!  This is the one occasion in which one should not at all be a good listener.  Conversely, we note that of the 48 Ways in which Torah is to be acquired are set forth in Pirkei Avos (6:6)--and the first is Torah study, the second is Shemiyas HaOzen--attentive listening, and only the third is Arichas Sefasayim--appropriate speech.  Thus, an extremely important Avodah for the coming week--taught to us at the outset of the Parsha so that everybody appreciates and gets to it-- is to reevaluate and reconsider how we treat and use our ears.  Getting within earshot of an argument between people, a conversation between two people who are of a lower element of society, or someone screaming on a cell phone allows destructive foreign influences to enter into your body and soul through those precious and miraculous apertures placed on either side of your brain for good reason.  Stay Away--don’t become an Eved Ivri!  On the other hand, if you see a lively Torah discussion taking place--listen in!  Our ears heard the Voice of Hashem at Har Sinai--let them continue in the way of their bold and royal tradition and upbringing each and every day--let us remember that we say Shema Yisrael for good reason!


C.  A Shomer Chinam is one who performs the Chesed of watching an object (including money) as a favor to another.  The Shomer Chinam must treat articles another leaves in his possession to a standard of care which may even be higher than he has for his own possessions. For instance, if he keeps his car door open and leaves his own possessions inside without worry, he could not do so for possessions that another leaves with him.  If he did, he would be a poshe’a--negligent, and would be responsible if it was damaged or stolen. What if one gives a Shomer Chinam some cash to watch and he puts it into his back pocket?  Is this a satisfactory safeguarding--or is he obligated to reimburse the money on account of his negligence if he is pick pocketed?  This question came before the Bais Yitzchak of Lemberg, who ruled that since now-a-days people keep money in their back pocket, there was no liability.  The Bais Yitzchak was advised, however, that the Chasam Sofer had ruled to the contrary-and that it was, in fact, negligence.  The Bais Yitzchak thought for a moment and explained as follows:  In the Chasam Sofer’s area, men wore short coats, so that the back pants pocket was easily accessible to a thief--and it would, then, be negligent, to guard someone’s money by placing it there. However, in Lemberg ( Galicia ), the men wore long jackets, so the back pocket was difficult to access--making it a reasonable place to safeguard another’s money!  Hakhel Note:  Think about what you are watching (or what you have borrowed) from someone else--are you taking good care of it--based upon our times in your area?


D.  Unlike the world’s misinterpretation of an ‘eye for an eye’, Chazal (Bava Kamma, Chapter 8) prove that monetary payment , as opposed to physical blemish, is what the Torah means here for someone who has injured another.  Yet, the Torah uses this language, which many mistake, for a reason--what would you suggest that reason is?


E.  The Torah teaches us that we may discard treif meat by ‘throwing it to the dogs--’LaKelev Tashlichun Oso’.  (Shemos 22:30). Rashi brings that this is in appreciation for the dogs not barking on the night we readied to leave Mitzrayim.  It is well known that the Chofetz Chaim writes that we are to take an important lesson from these dogs--and control our speech.  HaRav Chaim Kanievsky, Shlita adds that there was a Nes--a miracle--involving the dogs here. What was that Nes?  It was not, teaches HaRav Chaim, that the dogs did not bark in spite of the natural consternation and fear arising from the death and yelling and screaming of Makkas Bechoros all around them.  After all, if that was the miracle--why would they be rewarded with meat--they had done nothing, as Hashem had simply sealed their mouths.  Instead, Rav Chaim explains, the miracle was that Hashem gave them the sechel to understand that if they refrained from barking despite all that was going on around them, they would enhance the Geulah--including the Kavod Shomayim and Kavod Yisrael.  This then, is the lesson that the Chofetz Chaim wants each and every one of us to learn--if dogs who were temporarily granted sechel made the right decision and guarded their mouths--all the more so should we , who are blessed with sechel all of the time. Moreover, if the dogs of that generation only, located in Mitzrayim only, and for one night only, merited reward to dogs all over the world for all future generations--imagine the zechusim we can build over a lifetime of care-- for ourselves and for the world.  It is no coincidence, then (as it never, ever is) that the Pasuk immediately following LaKelev Tashlichun Oso is Lo Sisa Sheyma Shav--forbidding gossip and evil talk.  Chazal teach that one who falls prey to the sin of Lashon Hara is fit to be thrown to the dogs--why be thrown to the dogs if you could learn eternal lessons from them instead?  Let us remember that unlike the dogs who had a night of sechel, we are blessed with it every day--and it is our sublime duty and merit to put it to the best possible use.  As we are about to say something that we are not sure is appropriate --remember the word--sechel!


F.  The Pasuk in this week’s Parsha teaches: “Lo Siheye Acharei Rabim L’raos--Do not go after the majority to do evil.” (Shemos 23:2)  Rabbi Zelig Pliskin, Shlita, in Growth Through Torah teaches the following vital lesson:


“Rabbeinu Bachya explains that the plain meaning of this Pasuk is that if you see many people doing something that is wrong, you should not follow their example.


“It is very natural for a person to follow the behavior of others, when many people do something that is wrong it is easier for a person to tell himself ‘so many other people are doing this, it can’t be so wrong if I do it also.’  In this Pasuk, the Torah is teaching us the principle that each person is responsible for his own behavior.  Even when many others do something that is improper, you have an obligation to be careful with your own behavior.  It takes much courage and strength of character to be different from others for one’s ideals.  However, anyone who appreciates that the most important thing in the world is to do the Will of the Almighty will not be impressed by the fact that many people are doing something.  He will weigh his own behavior against the Torah standards and not the standards of others, regardless of how numerous they are.”


The importance of the lesson is clear--let us take common situations in which we may each individually fall prey to following inappropriate leads--such as care in Kashrus and Shabbos observance, proper Kavannah in Tefillah and take this crucial message into our everyday lives.


G.  Ki Seitzeh Aish--when a fire goes out and finds thorns....”  The Shelah HaKadosh explains that one might think that he is not responsible for a fire that unintentionally went out on its own from his property.  The Torah teaches that this is not the case, and that one must be especially circumspect with fire and its power--where even for an ‘accident’ or an ‘unintentional’ act will one be held fully responsible.  This, the Shelah continues (in the name of Rebbe Menachem HaBavli, Z’tl) is an important allusion to the ‘fire’ of machlokes or anger--where one simply must guard himself with greater effort and care, even if it ended up happening by accident or without intention.  The Shelah concludes with these important words: U’Klal Gadol Hu Zeh Lehavio LiHeyoso Kadosh Bechol HaKedushos--this is a great principle--the recognition and practice of which will bring him to holiness of holinesses

Hakhel Note:  These are the Shelah’s words--not ours--we only need take his advice to heart--and action!




27 Shevat

Special Note One:  We B’EH continue our Monday/Thursday study of the Sefer Mitzvos HaKatzar, with the Mitzvos Lo Sa’asei which the Chofetz Chaim writes are applicable in our times. Today, we present Mitzvos Lo Sa’aseh 78 and 79:


78. Shelo Lisno B’Lev--this is the Mitzvas Lo Sa’aseh which prohibits one from hating another member of K’lal Yisrael, even if a person sins against him.  Rather, if one is upset over the evil that another has done to him, he should not hold it back in his heart and remain silent, but rather discuss it with the person, and erase the hatred.  However, in the event that one sees another doing an aveira and warns him not to do so, and the person nevertheless goes ahead and does the aveira, then one should hate him (because he is not acting as a brother).  This Mitzvah applies in all places and at all times and to men and women alike.


79.  Shelo LeVayeish Es Chaveiro--this is the Mitzvas Lo Sa’aseh which prohibits one from embarrassing his friend even in private-- and all the more so in public.  It is a great sin to embarrass another, and Chazal teach that one who causes his friend’s face to become white in public does not have a chelek in Olam Haba.  Accordingly, it is extremely important to be careful not to embarrass anyone, of any age, nor call him by any name which is embarrassing.  Note:  There are Mili D’Shemaya--matters relating to Bein Adam LaMakom, in which a person must be reproved, even in public if necessary, until he does Teshuvah for his deeds. This Mitzvah applies in all places and at all times and to men and women alike.



Special Note Two:  The following fascinating event is recorded in the Sefer Otzar HaGedolim, and brought by HaRav Chaim Kanievsky, Shlita, in the Sefer Orchos Yosher:  Rabbeinu Shmuel HaNagid was once walking with the Caliph of Spain. A non-Jew suddenly appeared and began to hurl curses at Rabbeinu Shmuel.  The Caliph, shocked and angered, commanded Rabbeinu Shmuel to cut the offender’s tongue out.  After the incident, Rabbeinu Shmuel proceeded to send the offender gifts--until he became friendly and even grew to love Rabbeinu Shmuel.  A while later, the Caliph was once again walking with Rabbeinu Shmuel and the prior offender appeared and began to bless Rabbeinu Shmuel.  The Caliph angrily turned to Rabbeinu Shmuel:  “Did I not order you to cut out his tongue?!”  Rabbeinu Shmuel responded:  “Caliph, I followed your orders and more--I cut out his evil tongue, and replaced it with a tongue of goodness!”

Hakhel Note:  HaRav Kanievsky concludes his relating of the story with the words of Avos D’Rebbi Nosson (Chapter 23):  Aizehu Gibor HaOseh Sono Ohavo--who is the true hero--one who turns his enemy--into his friend”.  Upon reflection, each and every one of us probably has the same opportunity as Rabbeinu Shmuel HaNagid--at least from time-to-time (perhaps some more than others)--let us do our utmost to follow the advice of Rabbeinu Shmuel HaNagid…of Avos D’Rebbi Nosson…as brought up to date by HaRav Chaim Kanievsky! 



Special Note Three:  We provide the following short questions and answers relating to this week’s Mitzvah-filled Parshas Mishpatim, which have been gleaned from the Divrei Torah compiled by Rebbe Yissocher Dov Rubin, Z’tl, in the Sefer Shenayim Mikrah, published by his family after his Petirah (a great Sefer, which should be available in local Seforim stores):


  1. Q:  The first Pasuk in the Parsha teaches us to obtain decisions from Batei Dinim.  Typically, we make a bracha on a Mitzvah prior to its performance.  Why is there no bracha of “Asher Kideshanu BeMitzvosav V’Tzivanu Al HaDinin” made?

A:  Many answers may be given to this question.  A simple one we may suggest is that the parties can settle the dispute P’shara (compromise)--obviating the need for the judgment or decision.

  1. Q:  Why does the Parsha begin with a ‘Vav’--connecting the Aseres HaDibros to the so much of Jewish civil law (relating to monetary matters)?

A:  The civil law of all the other nations of the world is based on man’s own (fallible) reasoning.  The ‘Vav’ at the beginning of our Parsha teaches us that our laws relating to monetary matters emanate from the same divine source as the Aseres HaDibros themselves--”Anochi Hashem Elokecha!” (Alshich Hakadosh in Sefer Toras Moshe).

  1. Q: Chazal teach that the first question that a person is asked after 120 years is whether he did business with Emunah.  Why aren’t Chazal more concerned with what one spent his money on--such as Tefillin, Shabbos, Chinuch, Esrog, Chesed, etc.?

A:  A person must determine whether the money in his possession is truly his to spend.  One cannot talk about Mitzvos or Ma’asim Tovim that one performs with money--unless it is his money! (Kesav Sofer)

  1. Q:  If a person finds money in the street without any special markings, can he keep it in the first instance--or is it better to put up signs, or otherwise try to locate the person who lost it?

A:  The Chazon Ish (brought in the Sefer Pe’er HaDor) told his students that there is not even a lifnim mishuras hadin to try and find the original owner--and that the money belongs to the finder.  The Chazon Ish explained that losing and finding money is part of Hashem’s way of moving funds from one party to another for a particular reason (which could even include residual monetary matters from the losers and finders in their previous lifetimes--the Sod HaGilgul).

  1. Q:  Why does the Torah begin the Parsha of monetary matters with the laws of a ganav--would it not have been more pleasant to start with Chesed such as loans or acting as a Shomer Chinam, etc.?

A:  The Alter of Kelm answers that if a father has several children, with all of them acting normally except for one who is going off the derech, the father is going to put a great deal of attention on the wayward child.  He will spend much of his time focusing on the wayward child, searching for Eitzos and ways to help him.  So too, does Hashem place His attention on the ganav and those acting improperly, which alerts us to spend time and help him as well.

  1. Q:  The Torah teaches that if one person hits another, he has to compensate him with up to five different kinds of payments (nezek, tza’ar, ripui, sheves and boshess).  However, if the hit causes damages of less than a Perutah (let’s say less than a $1.00), then the one who inflicted the damages must get Malkos, as there is really nothing to pay.  How could this be that one who inflicted a $100.00 worth of damage pays $100.00 and does not get Malkos--yet a comparatively light tap which inflicts no monetary damage brings up to 39 lashes on the wrongdoer?! 

A: HaRav Elchanan Wasserman, Z’tl, H’yd, said in the name of the Chofetz Chaim that the Torah teaches us with this law how careful we have to be about showing the proper respect for our friends and not hurting them in even the slightest and even so-called ‘harmless’ way!

  1. Q:  The Parsha teaches (Shemos 23:25) that if we serve Hashem, He will bless our food and drink and remove sickness from our midst.  What is the connection between Hashem blessing our food and drink and removing sickness from our midst?

A:  There are two types of foods that we consume--a Ma’achal Mevorach and a Ma’achal which is not Mevorach. A Ma’achal which is not Mevorach weakens a person and brings impure and evil influence upon him, and sickens him physically well .  On the other hand, a Ma’achal Mevorach can actually remove sickness and has great medicinal properties. What can one do (other than obviously eating the right foods and in proper amounts) to make his food a Ma’achal Mevorach?  Bentsching and making proper Brachos with Simcha and Tuv Laivav. The health of the other nations of the world is dependent on their Mazal--but our health is dependent on our Avodah! (Rebbi Moshe Dovid Valli, Z’tl, a student of the Ramchal, in his Sefer Bris Olam).



26 Shevat

YOUR OWN MIRACLE:  The Kitzur Shulchan Aruch (61:3) rules as follows:  “A person to whom a miracle occurred should set aside a donation to tzedakah appropriate to his financial status, and divide it among Talmidei Chachomim. He should say: “Hareini Nosein Zeh L’Tzedakah VeYehi Ratzon Sheyihei Nechshav BeMakom Todah Shehayisi Chayav BeZeman HaMikdash--Behold, I am giving these funds to charity. May it be Your will that it be considered as if I brought a thanksgiving offering.” It is proper and appropriate to also institute a benefit to the local community.  Each year, on the day of the miracle, he should meditate in solitude and give thanks to Hashem Yisborach.  He should rejoice and tell of the miracle.”  Hakhel Note One:  The Mishna Berurah, Orach Chaim 218 seif katan 32 adds that one should also recite the Parshas Todah in the Torah.  Hakhel Note Two:  We experience so many hidden miracles every day…let us especially take proper note of the not-so-hidden miracles that Hashem bestows upon us!



TODAY’S KAVOD SHABBOS!  Chazal (Shabbos 119A) teach that there was an extremely wealthy person in the city of Ludkaya who explained how he had become wealthy:  “I was a butcher, and when I came upon a nice animal I would say: ‘I will use this for Shabbos’.”  Upon reflection, we are all able to follow in the footsteps of this Ludkaya resident--whose words made it into the Gemara itself!  Whenever going shopping one should think about what nice thing he can purchase for Shabbos.  Not only may it be a Segulah for wealth--even more importantly when one utters the words:  “I am buying/doing this in honor of Shabbos”, he fulfills a Mitzvas Asei in the Torah of Zachor Es Yom HaShabbos LeKadesho (which we were reminded about in last week’s Parsha).  Now, this is a great daily habit to get into!


Hakhel Note:  In discussing this ba’al habayis from Ludkaya, the Gemara relates that when food was first brought before him, he would recite the Pasuk (Tehillim 24:1):  LaHashem Ha’aretz U’Melo’ah Tevel V’Yoshvei Vah …the earth and its fullness belongs to Hashem.”  When the remaining food would be taken away from before him, he would recite the Pasuk (Tehillim 115:16):  HaShomayim Shomayim LaHashem V’Ha’aretz Nasan LeVenei Adam…as for the heavens, the heavens are Hashem’s, but the earth He has given to mankind.”  Rashi (ibid.) explains that with these words he acknowledged that it was only by the gift of Hashem that he ate and benefited in this wonderful way.  These two special Pesukim recited by Dovid HaMelech, when respectively thought of or recited before a bracha rishona and bracha achrona over food could certainly provide a greater appreciation of the bracha one is about to recite--and the impetus to make it more potent and more meaningful!



FEEL EMPOWERED!  Here it is--the opportunity that you have been waiting for.  A person who constantly hurts you, insults you, rubs you the wrong way, is a thorn in your side, or any similar or related person--needs a favor.  “Does anyone have $10 I can borrow?”; “Do you know how I can get to…?”; “Which is the best store to go to for…?”  You certainly would not do something nasty or say something wrong, but the desire may be great to remain silent or act as if you did not hear or do not know.  If one can overcome this initial, perhaps innate, reaction--put his hand into his pocket and lend the $10, or give the right information or advice--oh, how great the feeling will be.  In such an event--one has not only overcome--but has passed with honors the test Hashem has given him with flying colors.  How empowering!  How joyful!




Special Note One:  It is reported that a man who was unhappy with his marriage conveyed his difficulty in a letter to HaRav Chaim Kanievsky, Shlita.  He wrote that:  In looking back, perhaps I could have done better, perhaps I could have found a mate who would have been more similar, and more caring for my needs.  What should I do now?  HaRav Chaim answered the distraught husband that at his Sheva Brachos, the fifth bracha that was recited was:  Sameiach Tisamach Rayim HaAhuvim…be happy beloved companions as Hashem made you happy in Gan Eden of old.”  What does the relationship of Adam HaRishon and Chava in Gan Eden have to do with the Chosson and Kallah in current times?  HaRav Chaim explained that just as Adam and Chava realized that they were the perfect mates for each other--for there was no one else to marry, so too, should every couple once married not look at others, or think about other possible or better relationships.  Rather, they should view themselves as the only two people on earth together--and as the obvious only mates for each other!  Hakhel Note:  A great related rule of thumb in any relationship (as discussed in the Sefer Michtav Mei’Eliyahu at the onset of Volume I), is that one should not have any expectations at all from the other person--whether it be a spouse, child, close friend, partner, employer, or the like.  Rather, one should be the giver--giving and not expecting in return.  As one grows in this area, even a ‘thank you’ becomes superfluous.  With this attitude and approach, one can feel happy, fulfilled and content! 



Special Note Two:  Chazal teach that we learn from the fact that Dasan and Aviram encamped next to Korach and accordingly participated in his rebellion that:  Oy LeRasha Ve’oy LeShecheino” (see Rashi to Bamidbar 16:1 in the name of the Midrash Tanchuma).  HaRav Shlomo Wolbe, Z’tl, asks a strong and pointed question:  How can we say that Dasan and Aviram were merely the ‘neighbors’ of Korach--and that is why they acted the way they did?  After all, were not Dasan and Aviram the paradigm examples of evil--were they not the ones fighting in Mitzrayim who went to report Moshe Rabbeinu to the authorities?  Were they not the ones who planted Mon on Shabbos to undermine what Moshe Rabbeinu had taught?  If anything--it would appear that they would be the ones who would adversely impact upon Korach--and not vice versa?  Why were they then culpable only as ‘neighbors’?  HaRav Wolbe answers that there is a tremendous lesson here.  Every person has two Yetzer Haras.  One Yetzer Hara is the internal, inborn Yetzer Hara (Yetzer Hara Hapenimi) of middos ra’os, which is one’s life-charge to correct--anger, desire, jealousy, pride and the other middos ra’os that we know about.  Every person has his own personal challenges in each and every one of them--some greater, some smaller--successfully overcoming these middos ra’os helps bring about a remarkable eternity.  There is a second Yetzer Hara, though.  It is the Yetzer Hara of the external environment (Yetzer Hara Hachitzoni).  This Yetzer Hara is one that a person brings upon himself by associating with the wrong people, going to the wrong places and reading the wrong things.  For this, a person is more culpable, for he brings it all upon himself.  In the rebellion of Korach, Dasan and Aviram did not start out as the reshaim--Korach did--but since they associated with him, it became Oy LeShecheino.  Hakhel Note One:  It is telling to note that Dasan and Aviram did not die for what they did to Moshe in Mitzrayim, or for what they did with the Mon, they died together with Korach--when they allowed the Yetzer Hara Hachitzoni to best them.  Hakhel Note Two:  The Torah expressly prohibits associating with people engaged in sin, as the Pasuk teaches:  Lo Siheyeh Acharei Rabbim L’Ra’os…do not associate with the many to do evil.”  Instead, the Torah commands:  U’vo Sidbak--associate with the righteous, the Torah scholars who can lead you on the right path.”  Indeed, the Chofetz Chaim (Sefer Chofetz Chaim, Mitzvas Asei 6) writes that the purpose of U’vo Sidbak is for us to learn from their deeds and know how to properly conduct ourselves.  One who associates with the right people will so much more readily quash his Yetzer Hara Hachitzoni--leaving him only with the Yetzer Hara Hapenimi--to battle…and win!



Special Note Three:  In last week’s Parsha, we learned the basis for many Mitzvos of Chesed (Bikur Cholim, Hachnossas Kallah, etc.) in the Pasuk (Shemos 18:20) of: “VeHodata Lahem Es HaDerech Yeilchu Vah Ve’es HaMa’aseh Asher Ya’asun…you should teach them the way in which they shall go and the deeds that they shall do.”  Rabbi Shimshon Lonner, Shlita, asks a very important question:  If the Torah would like us to do acts of Chesed such as making the Chosson and Kallah happy, visiting the sick, providing Chesed to those in need--then why does it not specify the acts that we should perform in detail?  Rabbi Lonner suggests that perhaps the Torah is teaching us that even more important than the particular act that we perform is Es HaDerech…Es HaMa’aseh--the way in which we perform it.  Our Chesed is not left to our internal reaction, but to a thought process as to how Hashem would perform the Chesed, and how He would like to see His children perform it.  In furtherance of this, Rabbi Lonner adds, the Torah describes at the outset of Parsha VeYeirah how Hashem came to visit Avraham when he was sick after the Bris Milah.  Fascinatingly, the Torah does not state what Hashem said in this regard or what He did--only that He came.  It may be that the coming and caring was all that was necessary!  As we move away from Matan Torah of Parshas Yisro into the actual details of many laws in Parsha Mishpatim, we must remember that a great part of the Halachos must be based in Es HaDerech…Es HaMa’aseh.  The way we perform them--in the manner Hashem would really like them to be performed!




25 Shevat

Today is the 130th Yahrzeit of Rebbi Yisroel Salanter (B’R’ Zev Vulf), Z’tl, whose light shines so glowingly until this day.  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 Rebbi Yisroel opened a conversation with his attendant about the fear people have of being alone in a room with a deceased person.  Rebbi Yisroel assured the man that the fear was groundless because a deceased person can harm no one.  A few hours later, Rebbi Yisroel passed away with no one present except for that attendant.  Rebbi Yisroel was niftar in the week which we read Parshas Mishpatim, which contains many of the laws Bain Adam 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.  


We provide the following points and pointers in his honor:


A.  Rebbi Yisroel taught that even if the gates of prayer are closed--they can never be shut to our tefillos for growth in Ruchniyus.  Let us show our Hakaras Hatov to Rebbi Yisroel for all he has done for us--by giving Tzedaka and learning l’ilui nishmaso--and give him that extra special incredible nachas--with a sincere, directed and meaningful prayer to Hashem today that we grow in a particular area of Ruchniyus!


B.  Rabbi Dov Katz, in his Sefer T’nuas HaMussar (translated into English by Leonard Oschry) provides the following essential description of what Rebbi Yisroel sought to accomplish, and what the study and practice of Mussar is to accomplish for us daily:


“The Mussar Movement went out to do battle against worthless acts, against routine, indifference, apathy, dilatory and half-hearted efforts, against distortion and perversion.  It called for honest intent, clear understanding, deeper feeling, involvement of spirit and soul.  From perfection in Torah observance and in human action, the Mussar Movement proceeded to the topic of the perfection of man.  This is regarded as the ultimate goal of the Torah, i.e. for man to attain personal perfection in his ideas, in virtuous conduct, in his character.”

Hakhel Note:  Let us use the occasion of disorder and confusion in the world that so directly and personally affects each and every one of us to take the lessons to heart and strive for this perfection day-by-day. 


C.  In this week’s Parsha we learn of the laws of guarding borrowed objects--the laws of a Shomer Sho’el.  The story is told of Rebbi Yisroel who was on his way to give a shiur in Shul in Lomza upon visiting the city.  Suddenly, a heavy rain began to fall and someone lent him an umbrella, Rebbi Yisroel did not let the umbrella out of his sight, keeping it perched at the bima next to him--with the full knowledge and awareness of the responsibilities that borrowing entails.  (Tnuas HaMussar, Volume 1; p.353, brought in Love Your Neighbor by Rabbi Zelig Pliskin, Shlita).

Hakhel Note:  Rebbi Yisroel was not acting like a Tzaddik--he was teaching by example how one has to live his life! 


D.  The Torah specifically teaches us “Midvar Sheker Tirchak--stay away from falsehood” (Shemos 23:7).  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 Rebbi Yisroel Salanter, Z’tl, 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 this week’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 (Tzephania 3:13 ) simply and starkly teaches us who will be left of us as the End of Days:  “She’ayris 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!


E.  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 Lashon Hara.”

  • “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 Rebbi 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 Rebbi 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 Rebbi 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 Rebbi Yisroel.  “I will open a store,” was the reply. Rebbi 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.

  • Rebbi 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.

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

  • A wealthy Chassid came to see Rebbi Yisroel.  Upon leaving, the Chassid put down a hundred ruble note as a pidyon and asked Rebbi Yisroel to pray for him.  Rebbi Yisroel refused to accept the money.  Thinking that Rebbi 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, Rebbi 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 Rebbi Yisroel.  Rebbi 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.”


F.  Perhaps one of the most famous teachings of Rebbi Yisroel are the 13 Middos (or Rules of Conduct) which he taught should be the guiding principles of one’s daily conduct.  The Luach Davar B’Ito notes that if one ‘works on’ each Middah for a week, he will be able to review each Middah four times a year.  We present the 13 Middos by clicking here, in an easier Hebrew for all to study and grow from!



24 Shevat

Special Note One:  We received the following thoughts from readers:


A.  A reader expressed the need to be dan lechaf zechus if one sees another who wears or brings his winter coat into Shul.  He may, for instance, have received a p’sak that he can do so because of the difficulties he may have in finding his coat in the Shul’s cloak room; he may have decided that he will miss Tefillah B’Tzibbur unless he does so (and received a p’sak that in such event it is permissible); he may not have a dress jacket, and received a p’sak that it is better to daven in a winter coat than in shirt sleeves; or he may simply be following his teachers whom he has seen wearing their coats into Shul.  Hakhel Note:  Thank you for the reminder--we must always be dan others lechaf zechus…perhaps we can be a bit tougher with ourselves!


B.  Regarding the p’sak of the Shevet HaLevi on not inviting a mechalel Shabbos to a Simcha, a reader wrote:  “The Ba’al Simcha should ask a Shaila, as it is not always forbidden to invite a non-frum person even if they will travel on Shabbos. It is dependent on a number of factors.”



Special Note Two:  We B’EH continue our Monday/Thursday study of the Sefer Mitzvos HaKatzar, with the Mitzvos Lo Sa’asei which the Chofetz Chaim writes are applicable in our times. Today, we present Mitzvos Lo Sa’aseh 76 and 77:


76. Shelo Lehachshil LeChaveiro BeShum Davar--this is the Mitzvas Lo Sa’aseh which prohibits one from placing a stumbling block in front of his friend, as the Pasuk states:  VeLifnei Iver Lo Siten Michshol.”  The prohibition applies in any situation where one gives another advice which is inappropriate--whether it is related to Torah or to matters of Olam Hazeh.  One cannot bring or assist another person to commit a sin--and the prohibition includes assisting a gentile to violate that which the Torah prohibits of him (the Sheva Mitzvos Bnei Noach).  This Mitzvah applies in all places and at all times and to men and women alike.


77. Lo Seileich Rachil BeAmecha--this is the Mitzvas Lo Sa’aseh which prohibits a person from telling another how a third party had spoken against him.  Even if it is true, it is a great sin, causes people to die (as we find with Do’eg HaAdomi), and is machriv haolam.  There is a sin which is included in this prohibition which is even greater than rechilus--and that is lashon hara. Lashon hara is speaking disparagingly about another, even if it is true.  If it is not true then it is [an even greater sin of] motzi sheim rah.  Included in lashon hara is one who says:  “He did…”; “His fathers, or his forefathers were…”; “This is what I heard about him…”--with all of the blanks filled in with words of disparagement.  Chazal teach that there are three sins for which a person is punished in this world, and as a result of which he does not have a chelek in Olam Haba.  They are the three cardinal sins of avodah zara, giluy arayos, and shefichas damim--but lashon hara is equivalent to all of them combined.  Chazal also relate that one who speaks lashon hara is considered as if he is a kofer be’ikar.  Chazal also teach that lashon hara kills three--the speaker, the one who received it, and the one who was spoken about--and that the receiver is more culpable than the speaker.  There is also a prohibition of avak lashon hara, which includes statements such as:  “Who would think that he would be like he is today?” and “Let’s not talk about him--I don't want to tell you what happened with him.”  Likewise, one who speaks well of another in front of a person whom he knows does not like him, will cause lashon hara to be spoken.  Even if one speaks disparagingly in jest, or in an innocent fashion (not seeming to realize that what he is saying is lashon hara), he has violated this prohibition.  It does not make a difference whether the one spoken about is present or not--the prohibition is violated in either event.  The important rule is that if one relates something which directly or indirectly causes fright, or pain or hurt either mentally, physically or monetarily to one’s friend, he has violated this prohibition.  If one is malshin his friend, and he loses money as a result--it is considered as if he killed his friend, his wife and his family.  About such a moser it is said:  gehenoim kolloh vehu aina kolloh”--his punishment knows no bounds.  This Mitzvah applies in all places and at all times and to men and women alike.


Hakhel Note:  The Chofetz Chaim’s digest of lashon hara in the above paragraph points to its great primacy in Torah observance.  In another Sefer (Sefer Shemiras HaLashon, Sha’ar HeTevunah, Chapter 16), the Chofetz Chaim provides the following significant instruction and direction:  “A person should know that as long as it is not absolutely clear to him ahl pi din about whether what he is about to relate is permissible or whether it is lashon hara--he should be careful not to utter the words.  Even if the Yetzer Hara attempts to persuade him that it is a ‘mitzvah to do so’, and that by relating the information ‘he will be zoche to Olam Haba’, nevertheless, he should not listen to him, for by not speaking he will in all events be saved from judgment in the heavens above.  For even if he should have related the words, and the Beis Din Shel Ma’alah will ask him why he did not relate them--‘Did you not know that it was a Mitzvah to do so?’ he will be able to answer: ‘I had a sofek, I was unsure, and therefore I did not say anything.’  With this, he will be exonerated from all punishment, even if ahl pi din he should have related the information.  On the other hand, if he relates the derogatory information because the Yetzer Hara prods him to--even though he had a sofek about it--what will he do when he finds out in from the Beis Din Shel Ma’alah that he should not have spoken the words and that he committed an aveirah.  He will not be able to answer that because of a sofek--he spoke--for when one is in sofek--he must not speak!”  The Chofetz Chaim goes on to add that the famous Pasuk (Mishlei 21:23):  Shomer Piv U’Leshono Shomer MeTzaros Nafsho…he who watches his mouth and his tongue guards his soul from troubles”--refers to exactly this situation, where one who has a sofek as to whether his speaking may in fact be a Mitzvah, and still guards his tongue--will in all events be saved from tzaros and the Beis Din Shel Ma’alah--for he did the right thing in guarding his tongue! 

Additional Note:  In our day and age we are blessed with the Chofetz Chaim Heritage Foundation Shemiras HaLashon Shailah Hotline (718-951-3696, between the hours of 9:00PM until 10:30PM EST ) which can help one resolve his doubts! 



Special Note Three:  As we have noted in the past, the Yerushalmi teaches that the Aseres HaDibros are contained within the Kriyas Shema that we recite daily.  In fact, Tosfos writes that the reason that we recite these three Parshios is to remind ourselves of the Aseres HaDibros (Shulchan Aruch, Orach Chaim 61, Ba’air Haitaiv, seif katan 1).  There is one of the Aseres HaDibros which is alluded to not once, but twice.  It is the prohibition of ‘Lo Sachmod--do not covet that which is not yours’--apparently because we need a double reminder of this important guide in life.  The Pasuk in Shema that reminds us of this is “U’Chesavtam Al Mezuzos”--the Mitzvah of Mezuzah (which is repeated at the end of both the first and second Parsha of Shema), which teaches us that Hashem is carefully watching over us--and so there is no need for us to ‘watch over’ what our friends and neighbors have and compare them and theirs--to us and ours.

Hakhel Note:  HaRav Chaim Kanievsky, Shlita, was asked whether if one feels jealous when he hears in Shul that another has purchased an aliyah for $1,000--is he oveir Lo Sachmod?  HaRav Kanievsky responded:  “It may very well depend upon why he is jealous--is it because the other person received an aliyah to the Torah--or because he had the money to purchase it?!”  Additional Note:  Oh, how important, our thoughts really are!




21 Shevat

Special Note One:  As it is not yet Pesach, we will begin with three questions, rather than four:


A.        The Rabbeinu Bachya to this week’s Parsha writes that there are exactly 620 letters in the Aseres Hadibros.  To what does this correspond?


B.  Har Sinai has six names.  Can you provide them, and the meaning behind each name? See Midrash Tanchuma, Bamidbar, Piska 7.


C.  Hallel HaGadol (Tehillim 136), which we recite every Shabbos Morning, contains 26 Pesukim, each of which concludes with the words “Ki LeOlam Chasdo--for His kindness endures forever.”  The kindnesses of Hashem found in this chapter especially focus on Yetzias Mitzrayim and our subsequent entry into Eretz Yisrael.  There appears to be a glaring omission in the kindnesses mentioned--actually, what seems to be the greatest kindness of all--Hashem giving us the Torah while in the Midbar--is omitted, as the Pesukim in the chapter skip from Hashem throwing Paroh and his army into the sea, to leading us with the Clouds of Glory through the Midbar, and then on to defeating the Mighty Kings, Sichon and Og, followed by our entry into EretzYisrael.  What happened to Matan Torah itself --the great event of this week’s Parsha, and indeed one of the greatest events in History?!  We invite your thoughts.  As a starting point, may we suggest the words of HaRav Avrohom Chaim Feuer, Shlita in his work on Tehillim (Artscroll, p.1608).



Special Note Two:  We continue our Erev Shabbos--Halachos of Shabbos Series, deeply rooted this week in the Mitzvah of “Zochor Es Yom HaShabbos LeKadesho”:


A.  The Rema (Shulchan Aruch, Orach Chaim 242:10) writes that some eat ‘pashtida’ on Leil Shabbos (food covered on top and bottom with a filling inside) to remind us of the Mon.  The Chofetz Chaim asks, why do we need to be reminded on Shabbos of something that didn’t fall because it was Shabbos?  We may suggest that it is to help prevent monetary and financial discussions at the table.  The Bi’ur Halacha (ibid.), however, gives another, splendid answer.  He writes that our meals on Shabbos are not intended to be one of those “all you can eat” experiences.  Instead, they represent the future spiritually endowed meals of the days which are “Kulo Shabbos”.  The basar--meat--represents the Shor Habar--the special animal creation that Hashem will use as a meal for tzaddikim; the Shabbos fish makes us recall the Livyasan which we hope to be zoche to partake of; the wine is representative of the Yayin HaMeshumar--the special wine waiting for the tzaddikim; and, finally, the pashtida (and the Challah covered from above and below) serve to remind us of the Mon that tzaddikim will be zoche to once again enjoy.  May that be in the very near future--and may we share in their lot!


B. HaRav Chaim Kanievsky, Shlita, teaches that [with the right Kavannah], all food that one eats on Motza’ei Shabbos can have the din of Melave Malka! 


C.  A good part of the initial chapters in Shulchan Aruch discussing the Halachos of Shabbos, deal with partnerships and business relationships with non-Jews, and how they can or cannot be conducted on Shabbos.  There are, of course, many important details that relate to a non-Jew working on Shabbos when it affects a Jew--a Rav must definitely be consulted on the specifics.  The Mishna Berurah (Orach Chaim 244, seif katan 35), however, movingly writes:  VeHaBotei’ach BaHashem Ve’eino Mechapeis Tzedadei Kulos Ahl Shabbos Ashrav--and one who trusts in Hashem and does not look for kulos approaches on Shabbos--fortunate is he!”


D.  Can one invite a non-frum person to a Simcha if it is likely that he will travel on Shabbos to come?  The Shevet HaLevi rules that it is forbidden to do so because it brings about an element of Chilul Hashem, and is considered to be aiding another to do an aveirah.  However, if a person specifically writes on the invitation that one should not violate the Shabbos in order to come and the person comes anyways, the Ba’al Simcha would not be liable. 


E.  Although Shabbos itself is only one day of the week, Hashem directs us to be “Zachor”--to remember it-- not only on Shabbos itself, but during the six days which precede it.  Every single time we purchase, bake, cook, clean, wash, shine, work late, leave work early--we are always remembering the Shabbos!  HaRav Shlomo Zalmen Auerbach, Z’tl, taught that one even fulfills a Mitzvas Asei of Zachor Es Yom HaShabbos by reciting “HaYom Yom Rishon L’Shabbos, HaYom Yom Sheini L’Shabbos...” every day prior to the Shir Shel Yom.  In fact, he would state “Zachor Es Yom HaShabbos LeKadesho, and then recite HaYom Yom to demonstrate that he was fulfilling the Mitzvas Asei D’Oraysa.”  All of this, of course, teaches us the enormity of the Mitzvah of Shabbos--for it requires so much aforethought and attention, so much preparation, thinking and care. 


F.  As we have noted in the past, each of the Aseres HaDibros is alluded to in the Kriyas Shema that we recite twice daily.  The Mishna Berurah, citing the Yerushalmi writes that the allusion to the Dibra of “Zachor Es Yom HaShabbos” is in the words in the third parsha of “Es Kol Mitzvosai--all of my Mitzvos”--for Shabbos weighs against all of the other Mitzvos combined!


G.  The awesome power and reach of Shabbos transcends this world into the next--and even extends from the righteous to the wicked.  What do we mean?  The Rabbeinu Bachya writes that the reason we do not begin Ma’ariv on Leil Shabbos with the words:  “Vehu Rachum Yechaper Avon…” as we do on a weekday is the following:  There are three Malochim, with the names Mashchis, Aff, and Cheima, who are in charge of meting out the reshaim’s punishments in Gehenom daily.  On Shabbos, they are not permitted to mete out punishment, and the Reshaim have Menucha on Shabbos as well.  Each of these three Malochim is, of course, alluded to in the VeHu Rachum.  By our not reciting VeHu Rachum then, we indicate that these Malochim have no power on this awesome day--for everyone must benefit from its spiritual power and strength! 



Special Note Three:  We provide the following unique and moving description of the events at Har Sinai:  “You were revealed in Your cloud of glory to Your holy people to speak with them.  From the heavens You made them hear Your voice and revealed Yourself to them in thick clouds of purity.  Moreover, the entire universe shuddered before You and the creatures of creation trembled before You during Your revelation, our King, on Har Sinai to teach Your people Torah and commandments.  You made them hear the majesty of Your voice and Your holy utterances from fiery flames. Amid thunder and lightning You were revealed to them and with the sound of Shofar You appeared to them, as it is written in Your Torah:  ’And it was on the third day when it was morning, there was thunder and lightning, a heavy cloud was on the mountain and the sound of the Shofar was very strong, and the entire people in the camp trembled.’  And it is said, ‘and the sound of the Shofar became increasingly stronger, Moshe would speak and Hashem would respond with a voice.’  And it is said, ‘and the entire people saw the sounds and the flames and the sound of the Shofar and the smoking mountain, and the people saw and trembled and stood from afar.’” 


This special description, as many may have noted, is actually the first paragraph of the Shofaros section of the Rosh Hashana Mussaf Shemone Esrei!  Our translation is actually that of the Artscroll Machzor.  The momentous and outstanding occasion of Matan Torah is demonstrated by its placement at such a pinnacle point of our Rosh Hashana Tefillos-- in Mussaf after concluding Malchiyos and Zichronos.  As we daven for our lives on the Yom HaDin, we reach back for our greatest of zechuyos to Kabbalas HaTorah, and concomitantly bring and accept upon ourselves an elevated level of Awe for Hashem and His Torah.  The magnificent significance of this very same Matan Torah tomorrow should be properly accepted and acted upon by us.  We must renew and reinvigorate our Torah Study in order to demonstrate our appreciation of an event which non-coincidentally rests at the high point of our prayers on Rosh Hashana--when we pray for life and show that we are worthy because we recognize what life is really all about.  If someone would ask you tomorrow after laining --What are you walking away from Matan Torah with?--be prepared with an answer that truly befits you!


Additional Note One:  The three Pesukim in Shofaros cited above refer to the great Shofar blast at Matan Torah.  The Rambam in Hilchos Teshuva writes (based upon the Posuk--Amos 3:6) that a Shofar is used because:  “Hayitaka Shofar BaIr Ve’Am Lo Yecheradu--can it be that a Shofar will be blown in the city and the inhabitants will not tremble?!”  Certainly, when we tomorrow take witness of the blowing of the Shofar for such a miraculously long  period and from a non-human source--all the more so should we take heed of the awesome nature of the moment and act accordingly.  After experiencing the Shofar blast tomorrow, we must also rejuvenate our Teshuva Bechol Yom in a special way--as we look at our Kabbala Sheet and plan for the future! 


Additional Note Two:  Every morning, when we recite the words “Asher Bochar Bonu MiKol Ho’amim VeNosan Lonu Es Toraso” in Birchas HaTorah, it behooves us to treasure the wonder and awe of the event, for at that irreplaceable moment in history we became forever distinguished as a People, and each of our very souls became infused with the Kedusha, the unparalleled holiness, of a Nishmas Yisrael.  We provide below from the Sefer Ma’amad Har Sinai (by Rav Shlomo Rosner, Shlita) a small portion of the description of Matan Torah, as culled from the Gemara and Midrashim--which, we reiterate, forever changed world history, our history--and each of our lives.  The import, extent and unparalleled nature of the event is described by the Torah itself (Devorim 4:32, 33) with the words:  ”Ki She’al Na …--When you ask of the earlier days from the day Hashem created man on the earth, and from one end of the heaven to the other…has there ever been anything like this…has a people ever heard the voice of Hashem speaking from the midst of a fire as you have heard….?!”


Just some of the wondrous events at Har Sinai brought by Rav Rosner:


1.                              The lightning bolts and thunder were not uniform and consistent, but were different from each other to add to the reverence and uniqueness of the occasion.  The thunder could be seen, and the lightning bolts heard.

2.                              The Shofar blast could be heard worldwide.

3.                              600,000 ministering Melachim came to attend, and rested on Har Sinai itself.

4.                              Har Sinai was raised from its place, and was suspended in midair with the B’nai Yisrael standing underneath it.

5.                              Although many were wounded and maimed from the years of slavery in Mitzrayim, they were all healed.  Moreover, they were healed from spiritual and mental illness as well, and there were no zavim, metzoraim, or shotim.  The zuhama, the spiritual contamination planted in man by the nachash was removed from us, so that we would have the quality of Adam before the chait.

6.                              The mountain itself was burning, with its fire reaching the heavens.

7.                              The Seven Heavens opened up to the Kisei HaKavod--with more being revealed to the B’nai Yisrael than was revealed to Yechezkel HaNavi and Yeshaya HaNavi in their visions of the Merkava.

8.                              The Seven Tehomos (Depths) below also opened, so that B’nai Yisrael understood that Hashem was singular in all worlds, and most definitely that “Ain Od Milvado--there is nothing else but for Hashem.”

9.                              The mountains of Tavor and Carmel in Eretz Yisrael were uprooted from their place and came to Midbar Sinai.

10.                          The World was still and silent--the sun remained in one place, seas did not move, birds did nor chirp or fly, the animals were silent.  Even the Serafim did not say “Kadosh, Kadosh, Kadosh….”

11.                          Tal, a special Dew, fell to revive the B’nai Yisrael after their souls had left them from the awe of the Dibros.

12.                          The letters of each of the Aseres HaDibros could be seen as they were said.

13.                          Every nation heard each Dibur in its own language, so that it could not later claim that “had it heard…”

14.                          With each Dibur, the World became filled with the aroma of besamim.


We have provided above 14 special details of Matan Torah at Har Sinai.  In fact, there are 14 Azkaros--Hashem’s name is mentioned a total of 14 times--in the Aseres HaDibros.  The Tashbatz writes that there are also 14 Azkaros in the Sheva Brachos that we recite at a Chasuna and the days following in celebration.  Indeed, a Great Wedding is taking place this Shabbos--and **you ** are one of the Ba’alei Simcha--so prepare--and celebrate!



Special Note Four:  In the first of the Aseres HaDibros, we are taught that Hashem took us out of Mitzrayim, the House of Bondage.  What does the phrase “House of Bondage” add--we all know what Mitzrayim was, and what happened to us there?  HaRav Mattisyahu Salomon, Shlita, explains that it is intended for us to especially focus--at the *outset* of the Aseres HaDibros--on the Hakaras HaTov that we owe to Hashem for His freeing us from bondage.  HaRav Salomon explains that the Kabalos Ol Malchus Shomayim that took place at Har Sinai could not have been based on “Anochi Hashem”, on Emunah, alone.  There is an absolutely essential, second prerequisite--and that is thoroughly appreciating Hashem’s gifts to us in this world.  Indeed, HaRav Salomon notes that the Mitzriyim, who “forgot” what Yosef did for them, represent the antithesis of Hakaras HaTov--and that is why Hashem not only literally--but figuratively--took us out of there!  We must accordingly understand that Hakaros HaTov is not simply a Midah Tovah, a good character trait, concludes Rav Salomon, but a precondition to our daily Kabalas Ol Malchus Shomayim!


Hakhel Note: Based upon this essential teaching, we must be careful to have Kavannah daily in the brachos which precede Kriyas Shema in Shacharis and Ma’ariv daily, as they are infused with the HaKaras Hatov necessary to boost us to the proper recitation of Shema!



Special Note Five:  The Fifth of the Aseres HaDibros is the Mitzvah of Kibbud Av VaEim.  This Dibra is the only one in tomorrow’s leining which describes the reward for its performance--so that your days will be lengthened upon your land that Hashem gives you.  HaRav Chaim Kanievsky, Shlita, was asked whether, in addition to length of days, the reward also implied good health during the lengthened days.  He replied that even though the reward does not absolutely imply Briyus--but it is ‘Yitachein’-- it can well be it includes good health as well(!).  We provide this Teshuva in order to especially emphasize the great care in which one should undertake the Mitzvah of Kibbud Av VaEim.  Strikingly, Rabbeinu Sa’adya Gaon writes that:  “And that which the Posuk established the reward for honoring one’s parents as length of days is because sometimes a person’s parents can live a long time and could be perceived by the children as a heavy burden.  Therefore, Hashem by providing the reward of long life, indicates to the children that you should give them their due honor in their older age and live with them--and if one is Mitzta’er because of their life then he is essentially being Mitzta’er on his own life--for his length of days comes through his parents! 


Additional Note One:  In the Sefer Aleinu L’Shabeiach (the teachings and rulings of HaRav Yitzchak Zilberstein, Shlita), on this week’s Parsha, the following Shailah was posed to him:  A person who was going to be sentenced to what he assumed would be 10 years in prison asked HaRav Zilberstein whether he could blame his father for what had happened, which he felt would reduce his sentence.  HaRav Zilberstein replied that he could not.  The person then responded that he did feel that he owed his father Hakaras HaTov because of all of the negative things that he had done to him.  HaRav Zilberstein responded that the Mitzvah of Kibbud Av VaEim is a Mitzvah that is required by Hashem, and is not based in thanks that one owes to his parents.  Even if a person feels ill will towards a parent, Hashem requires the same level of Kibbud Av VaEim from him. 


Additional Note Two:  With the foregoing in mind, we provide the following essential review points as provided in the past--and most certainly when one has feelings of love towards his parents!:


A.  Unless a parent is knowingly mochel, it is forbidden to refer to your father or mother by their first name (even when requested for identification purposes) without a title of honor preceding the first name, whether or not they are present and whether or not they are alive.  When being called to the Torah, one must refer to his father as Reb or Avi Mori.  Whenever referring to one’s mother, one can use the title HaIsha or Moras (Yoreh De’ah 240:2).  Hakhel Note:  “Even if a parent foregoes [is mochel] his honor, a child still fulfills a mitzvah by **nonetheless** honoring him, but in such a case he will not be punished for failure to do so.  (Chidushai Rebbi Akiva Eiger).”


B.  When honoring parents, very special care and concern must be taken to do it b’sever ponim yofos —pleasantly (Yorah De’ah  240:4).  The Sefer Chareidim (Mitzvos Asei of the Heart 1:35) and Rav Chaim Shmulevitz (Sichos Mussar 5731:22) both explain that in order to properly perform the mitzvah, one must mentally gain a true appreciation and honor of their parents and literally view them as royalty. Indeed, the Chayei Adam (67:3) known for his succinctness in recording Halacha, writes that the “Ikar Kibud”--the most important [aspect of] Kibud is that “He should view his parents as GREAT personages and important dignitaries.


C.  In addressing a crowd of many middle-aged adults, Rabbi Moshe Faskowitz, Shlita, provided the following amazing insight. The Torah juxtaposes the Mitzvah of Shabbos and Kibud Av VaEim in the Aseres HaDibros. Why?  What is the relationship between the honor of parents and Shabbos observance?  Although there may be several answers to this question, Rabbi Faskowitz, a scion of the great Novordaker dynasty, suggested the following novel approach:  When it comes to Shemiras Shabbos, one cannot be too busy, too taken, to do what he has to in order to observe, and not Chas V’shalom violate, the Shabbos. When Shabbos arrives, one cannot say he needs “another five minutes” or that he “will do it later” because he is too busy now.  So too, when it comes to parents (especially elderly parents), no matter how busy one is— even if he is the busiest person in the world —HE CAN NEVER BE TOO BUSY to have time for his parents.  Every person must apply this great insight to his own circumstances.  Your parents are like your  Shabbos. This is what the Torah instructs.




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