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28 Adar I

FROM A READER: “HaRav Noach Weinberg, Z’tl, has a great shiur on happiness in which he provides simple tasks to increase one’s happiness. This is not an exact summary of his shiur, but close to it:


Step #1:  Spend 15 minutes or so writing out a list of all the pleasures in your life.  Start with the obvious (eyes, ears, hands, feet) and then keep going and going until you cannot think of anything else.


Step #2: Review the list each night and add one new thing each night.


Step #3: Only for people who want serious joy--try to organize your list in order of what gives you the most pleasure.  This forces you to think deep and really consider how great your pleasures are (what do I appreciate more, my eyes or my ears?).


Anyone who does this and then reviews the list often is certain to increase their joy....and joy is the fuel that allows us to react well to what Hashem will have us encounter in our day--and to do all the good we need to do in our lives!”




Special Note One:  Shabbos, 29 Adar I, is the 28th Yahrzeit of HaRav Yaakov (B’ R’Binyomin) Kamenestky, Z’tl. The following is paraphrased in Praying with Fire, by Rabbi Heshy Kleinman from Reb Yaakov, The Life and Times of HaGaon Rabbi Yaakov Kamenetsky, by Yonoson Rosenblum (ArtScroll/Mesorah Publ.), pp. 108-110:


“In the 1930’s, Rav Yaakov Kamenetsky was Rav of a small, sixty-family community in a town called Tzitevien. His family lived in dire poverty and he could not even afford to buy a suit for his son Binyamin for his Bar Mitzvah. Unable to subsist on the income he earned, Rav Yaakov applied over the course of several years for rabbinical positions in larger towns. The last one for which he applied was in Vilkomir, the third largest Jewish community in Lithuania . After several interviews, Rav Yaakov was offered the position. He returned home to tell his wife the great news, and the household erupted in jubilation; finally their crushing poverty would be alleviated. Three weeks later, the jubilation turned to grief when Rav Yaakov received news that the position had gone to someone else. The Rebbetzin cried bitter tears over the loss of the rabbanus in Vilkomir, recognizing that it virtually ensured that Rav Yaakov would have to seek some means of support abroad.  The failure to win that position, as well as the others, profoundly affected Rav Yaakov’s own strong sense of Divine Providence . The successful candidates and their families eventually fell into the hands of the Nazis. ‘In counseling people undergoing difficult tests, Rav Yaakov would often point to his own experience as an example of how that which is perceived at the moment as the greatest tragedy may, with the passage of time, be revealed to be the greatest salvation.’”



Special Note Two: We provide the following notes relating to Erev Rosh Chodesh from the Sefer Tefillas Yom Kippur Koton, with b’urim of HaRav Chaim Kanievsky, Shlita, compiled by Rav Tzvi Yabrov, Shlita:


1. The Shelah HaKadosh teaches that since Rosh Chodesh is a Zeman Kaparah one should see to it that he does complete Teshuvah with a Lev Shaleim--rectifying any monetary, physical or emotional matters that need to be rectified. Through his charata and viduy, and the departure from his bad ways--one enters the month as a new person!


2. Once on Rosh Chodesh that fell out on Shabbos, HaRav Meir Tzvi Bergman, Shlita, went to see his father in-law, HaRav Schach, Z’tl. HaRav Schach, who was deeply engrossed in thought, motioned to Rav Bergman and said: “Not now--today is Rosh Chodesh and one should perform a Cheshbon Hanefesh. As we say in Mussaf--it is a Zeman Kaparah Lechol Toldosom.”  HaRav Schach’s grandson who was present asked HaRav Schach: “Does one conduct himself in this way even when Rosh Chodesh falls out on Shabbos?” HaRav Schach responded--”Yes, even on Shabbos!” (see Shulchan Aruch Orach Chaim 288, Taz seif katan 2)


3. Hashem gives us the opportunity for Kappara every month--so that our sins do not accumulate. In our Tefillos during the course of the month, we generally ask only for selicha or mechila--it is only on Yom Kippur and Rosh Chodesh that we use the language of Kappara--for just as Yom Kippur effects Kappara for the whole year, Rosh Chodesh effects Kappara for the previous month!


4. In the Siddur HaRosh M’Garmeiza, it is written that because Hashem sits in judgment every Rosh Chodesh, we ask for the Geulah. Indeed, although Chazal (Pesochim 13A) teach that Eliyahu HaNavi will not come on Shabbos or Yom Tov because people are busy--Eliyahu HaNavi could very well come on Rosh Chodesh as, once again, it is a time of Kappara for all. Hakhel Note: As we have noted in the past, HaRav Shlomo Zalmen Auerbach, Z’tl, writes that when the Moshiach comes we will recite four brachos: (i) Baruch Chacham Harazim (over the 600,000 that will be present); (ii) Shechalak Meichachmaso LiReiav (over the Gadol HaDor); (iii) Shechalak MiKevodo LiReiav (over the king); and (iv) Shehechiyanu (over reaching this time). HaRav Kanievsky adds that at the time of Techiyas HaMeisim we will also make the bracha of Mechayei HaMeisim. HaRav Kanievsky explains that the reason we do not expressly daven for Techiyas HaMeisim in our regular Tefillos for the Geulah is because it will take place forty years after the Geulah--and we pray for the Geulah to first begin as soon as possible!



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


A. The following Halachos are excerpted from  the pamphlet Piskei Shulchan HaLevi, the pesokim of HaRav Yisroel Belsky, Shlita, as compiled by R’ Shmuel Tzvi Cohen with an approbation from HaRav Belsky. As with all pesokim, one should ask his Rav or Posek for a final ruling:


1. If one has no cup other than a disposable one, he may use it for Kiddush or bentsching--but lechatchila one should use a nice cup (see Igros Moshe, Orach Chaim 3:39).


2. If one usually recites Kiddush over a regular size becher on Shabbos morning, and finds himself in a place in which he is given a schnapps glazel--he should not recite Kiddush over it. Even if the Ba’al HaBayis does so, one should nevertheless insist that it is his minhag to utilize a regular size becher.


3. If one is being yotzei kiddush through another--then he should follow the one who is reciting Kiddush as to whether to stand or sit. If one does not do so, then he does not appear to be kove’ah seudah with him.


4. If one skipped a Parasha or more in the weekly recitation of Shenayim Mikra V’echad Targum--then one should first read the Parasha of this week, and then go back and make up the Parshios of the prior weeks.


5. Bochurim who enjoy ‘taking two steps at a time’ may do so on Shabbos--and will not violate the issur of taking pesyiah gasa on Shabbos, since this is their enjoyment.


6. One may fold a paper napkin on its crease, and this is not considered to be fixing it--as it will be disposed of after its one-time use.


7. It is permissible to make a necktie on Shabbos only if it is tied in a manner in which one will be able to untie it by pulling it once.


8. Orange peels are not muktzah, for there are food items that are prepared from them.


9. One should not pour a drink over ice cubes on Shabbos. Rather, one should pour the drink in first and then put the ice into it. Then, if one wants to fill up his cup again, he should make sure that part of the original drink is left in the cup.


10. One should not clap a musical or rhythmic beat on the table.


11. When singing zemiros, one should say Hashem’s name, rather than saying the word ‘Hashem’--as reciting Hashem’s name in zemiros is not considered to be levatalah.


12. Even if one has a minhag to wait less than 50 minutes after shekiyah in order to do melacha on Motza’ei Shabbos--he should change his minhag and wait 50 minutes, and preferably 72.


B. We provide the following very meaningful teachings relating to Parashas 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’ah 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!



Special Note Four:  How many times in this week’s Parasha is the phrase “Kaasher Tzivah Hashem Es Moshe--[and the work was performed] as Hashem had commanded Moshe” repeated--and why.  We are happy to report that a reader had once calculated the answer on her own--and then found the confirmation and an incredible reason for this number in the Ba’al Haturim on the Parasha (Shemos 40:21)--all as brought in the wonderful publication by Rabbi Ozer Alport, Shlita--”Parsha Potpourri.” As Rabbi Alport writes, “As there are no coincidences in the Torah, the Baal HaTurim explains that this number alludes to the 18 blessings recited thrice daily in the prayers known as Shemoneh Esrei.”  Rabbi Alport then shows how our ‘standard daily prayers’ are really not so standard at all, and concludes, “Just as Betzalel followed Hashem’s precise guidelines for the creation of the Mishkan and still found room for creative expression by doing so with his own unique intentions and insights, so too our Sages established the standard wording of the prayers with Divine Inspiration, articulating within them every feeling we may wish to express. Many times, in the midst of a difficult situation, we begin the standard prayers with a heavy heart, only to find a new interpretation of the words which we have recited thousands of times jump out at us. This newfound understanding, which has been there all along waiting for us to discover it in our time of need, is perfectly fit to the sentiments we wish to convey, if we will only open our eyes to see it and use our Sages’ foresight to express ourselves.”  To subscribe to Parsha Potpourri weekly, email oalport@optonline.net.



Special Note Five: As we conclude Sefer Shemos tomorrow, we recognize that there is a new beginning next week with Sefer Vayikra.  It is a momentous ending of the Sefer HaGeulah, and the inauguration of the aftermath of Geulah--the Toras Kohanim--service of Hashem on a higher plane in a Mikdash . We are even ending the month and beginning anew early next week.  Especially in light of Rabbi Yabrov’s notes on Rosh Chodesh mentioned above, this Shabbos should most definitely be a Shabbos of real reflection--what am I concluding--and what will I be beginning?  How will I utilize the opportunity?  Will I realize that when Purim arrives the year will be close to half over--and that it would truly be an accomplishment to improve in Avodas Hashem before the second half of the year--with a concrete improvement that I have been meaning to make --especially in Torah or Tefillah?  As we see the great work product of the Mishkan come to final fruition in Parashas Pekudei--let us practically and meaningfully take the lesson of its building to the meaningful next step--real and actual growth in Avodas Hashem.


Additional Note:  As we will be finishing the last Parasha of Shemos, and commencing the first Parsha of Vayikra; as we will conclude the last day of Adar I on Sunday and start the first day of Adar II--it may also be a good time to review what we are FIRST or close to first to do and what we are LAST or close to last to do.  Where do we especially place our true Zerizus efforts and excel--and what do we particularly put off doing?  Is there any part of this that could or should change?  Where am I in terms of arriving in Shul for Minyan or a Shiur--at the head of the class, around the middle, or towards the end?  Is there anything that  should I put off to the end?  We know that there must be some way that last is important--after all in the Ani Ma’amins themselves--we affirm our belief that Hashem is Rishon and Acharon--first and last!  Here is a possible suggestion for what a person can do First or at the outset of every day--give Tzedaka (as the Pasuk teaches--“Ani BeTzedek Echezeh Ponecha”), and perhaps a LAST thing to do every day--highlight the most successful and least successful part of the day passed--and think about how to rectify and grow--and how to keep the successes coming!




27 Adar I

FROM A READER: “Rabbi Yisroel Reisman, Shlita, gave me a good idea which I wanted to share with you.  He said that he learned Navi when he was a bochur.  He learned one perek of nevi’im rishonim each night.


Bli neder, when I start this project next week, I will be able to finish all nevi’im rishonim (147 perakim) learning six nights a week well before Rosh HaShanah.


A worthwhile goal!”




Special Note One: Today is the second Yahrzeit of HaRav Chaim Pinchos Scheinberg, Z’tl, a Gadol of our generation. HaRav Scheinberg was once asked if he could provide “hadracha”, or guidance, in how one could better study Torah.  He provided a two-word response: “Learn more.”  HaRav Scheinberg is also said to have responded to some who requested a bracha for themselves or their children in Torah study, “I will give the bracha--but they have to do their part--will they take upon themselves to study a few extra minutes a day?” 


We provide the following excerpts from the recently published The Torah Home, by Rabbi Shlomo Furst, Shlita, based on the Shiurim of HaRav Scheinberg, Z’tl. To obtain the full, original English version and the Hebrew translation--and other books in Rabbi Furst’s Torah Way of Life series containing HaRav Scheinberg’s teachings, please call: 972-2-500-4682:


A. Sechel.


Our lives are precious. Therefore, people who are concerned train themselves to follow their sechel. We cannot ignore our emotions--but we can direct them. The emotions can become submissive to the sechel. Then they will be manageable, instead of assertive. Individuals who are successful with their sechel will not become angry or infuriated. They are settled and calm. Tranquility is the prevailing characteristic of their personalities.


There is something more. We have essential and undeniable physical needs. Life would be impossible without them. We must eat, drink and sleep. People must populate the world. These things are all true and appropriate. Nevertheless, thought, control and moderation must govern every physical act we do. The influence of Torah elevates us beyond the need for pleasure. Indulgence, the thoughtless pursuit of every whim, will not bring satisfaction. When our sense of priorities is wrong, an inner conflict will rage between an unquenchable need for physical gratification and the unfulfilled aspirations of the neshama.


Most of us want to be good. Nevertheless, the best of us can fall prey to daily stresses, fatigue and frustration. The sechel is certainly influenced by the body and its physical needs. Nevertheless, the more we fortify our sechel with Torah, the less vulnerable we will be to the influence of our emotions. Counterproductive emotions, especially anger, flourish best under stressful conditions.


The best response to a situation where anger has gained control is to remain silent. Try not to react. Instead, maintain your own composure. Be tolerant, for most good-natured people, although temporarily enraged, will surely come to their senses and snap out of it. We must realize and value the importance of sechel. We must behave like mature people and control the urge to vent our anger.


Self-control is vital for creating and maintaining a healthy marriage and relationships. If our sechel is so undeveloped and thereof weak, and we cannot resist a momentary upset, we will make many mistakes. We will have many regrets.


Under the influence of anger or frustration, spouses may make many hurtful statements. It is difficult to retract such harmful words. We have to be sensible enough to evaluate our loss against what we gain. Thoughtless outbursts of anger are destructive. Under all circumstances, whether we are provoked from within or from without, we must remain silent. To remain silent is very difficult, but the reward for holding back angry words of retort and revenge is very great. If we exercise control over ourselves, we will feel wonderful over our success and our marriage and relationships will flourish.


B. Menuchas HaNefesh.


Guided by sechel--clear and balanced thinking--we will fulfill the purpose of our lives. We will achieve ‘ashrecha v’tov lach’ (Tehillim 128:2). We will have menuchas hanefesh. We all desire and value shalom. Nevertheless, shalom is an elusive reality. We generally think of peace as being the lack of conflict among people. This definition, however, does not indicate the need for menuchas hanefesh.


Shalom is truly the result of personal, inner peace. We must achieve peace between our inner drives and motivations before shalom can be expected to flourish among people. We must be happy with ourselves before we can be happy with others. Shalom begins with us. The more menuchas hanefesh we have, the more we will be able to be calm in our homes and supportive to our families. If we have menuchas hanefesh, then even in the fact of daily challenges and ordeals, the quality of our home lives will be peaceful. Bickering is an outward expression of the lack of personal shleimus. It is a lack of menuchas hanefesh that leads to discord within the home. Our inner, spiritual life affects our behavior. The home is a place where we think we can be ‘ourselves’. Nothing can be further from the truth. At home, we have to be better than ourselves. We may be angered much more easily and lose our control at home. If we lack education and training about how to manage our emotions, wherever we may be--including the home, then this battle ranges throughout life. If we are at peace with ourselves--at all times--we can help bring peace to our families, our friends--and the world!



Special Note Two:  We continue an exciting Monday/Thursday series on the practical aspects of Sta”m, written by Rabbi Reuvain Mendlowitz, Shlita, author of Inside Sta”m--An Insider Reveals The Answers To All The Questions You Should Ask When Purchasing Or Maintaining Tefillin, Mezuzos, Megillos, Sifrei Torah And Nevi’im.


For a fuller treatment of all topics to be discussed, we urge you to purchase the Sefer, which provides practical and meaningful information and ideas.





I heard that klaf made from the hides of a fetus (shlil) is considered meshubach (praiseworthy). Why is that so? Is such klaf available?





Actually, almost all klaf sold today comes from fetuses. There is a high enough percentage of slaughtered animals that contain fetuses to supply the entire klaf industry. (The hides must only come from a kosher animal. They need not undergo shechitah.)


In kabbalistic thought it is considered to have a special status because a fetus is free of the impurities of this world.


Additionally, on a practical level, klaf from a fetus is much softer and easier to write on than the thick bulky klaf which comes from a full-grown animal.




I asked the sofer if he would write my megillah on white klaf because I like the way it looks. He told me that he can’t write on white klaf, only grey or yellow. This doesn’t make sense to me. Could it really be? I was also wondering if, from a halachic perspective, a specific color klaf is preferable?





Please judge the sofer favorably. I’ll explain what he meant.


As we mentioned previously, an experienced sofer can often tell which factory the klaf came from just by looking at it. This is because he will notice the texture of the surface and/or the color. A given factory produces klaf of a certain color, which is due to the various chemicals or ingredients used in the ibbud process.


Common colors include white, dark grey, light grey, brownish tan, and creamy yellow.


Each factory’s klaf also has its own unique texture. Some are smoother, some are more fuzzy, and so forth.


Most sofrim have a clear preference for the writing surface with which they feel most comfortable. Some prefer a fuzzy surface, claiming it provides more traction when writing. Others prefer a smoother surface for sharper looking letters.


When the sofer said he can’t write on white klaf, what he meant was that the writing surface of the white klaf is not to his liking. It is also possible that he prefers to write on colored klaf because writing on a white background irritates his eyes. Similarly, many people appreciate books printed on cream-colored paper simply because it is easier on the eyes.


Halachically there is no preference as to color.




26 Adar I

LOOKING FOR Z’CHUSIM? R’ Yehoshua ben Levi (Brachos 47B) teaches that a person should arrive early to shul so that he is among the first ten, “.for even if 100 come after him, he receives the reward k’neged kulam (equivalent to them all).” The Maharsha there incredibly explains that the first ten actually bring the Shechina to shul, and all the rest that come after them are only davening together with the original ten who had brought the Shechina to shul.




Special Note One: We had once received the following from a reader:  “I learned an invaluable lesson this morning.  I plopped down on the couch to daven, but without realizing it, I sat on a beautiful picture that we had just bought from R’ Yonah Weinreb for our cousin as a wedding gift.  It was ok, but it bent a bit and needs to be fixed up by their offices. I was very upset and started davening but not as well as I should have because I was upset at myself for always seeming to mess things up.  Then, I realized that this is what Teshuva is all about, you need to be upset about what you have done, resolve to fix it--and then start again.  I was thinking that’s what Teshuva BeChol Yom can be--you think about what you did wrong the day before, be upset over it, try to fix whatever possible (here, the picture!), and move on with a bit more awareness and drive to better yourself going forward (I’m not plopping on the couch in the future...).”


Additional Note:  The Sefer Orchos Tzaddikim writes that one of the principles of Teshuva isTo know the truth, that Teshuva is the Refuah Sheleima for aveiros”;  if a person who is ill doesn’t believe that a medicine will heal him won’t take it--but if he knows for sure that it will help, he will take the pill or medication, no matter how difficult it may be.  If a person truly appreciates the truth--the efficacy of Teshuva, and its enormous healing ability--he should and will be extremely vigilant, extremely caring and careful--to take Hashem’s Medication--daily!



Special Note Two: From the Sefer Chovos Halevovos, we learn that there are three different reasons why a person does not appreciate all of the good and pleasures that he really has in his life:


1) His trials and tribulations which are difficult to navigate and blind him to the good that he experiences;


2) He is personally used to waking up every day with two eyes that see, two ears that hear, legs with which to walk, a roof over his head, clothes that give him dignity, warmth and protection, a brain that discerns, a hot coffee, a shining sun, a warm sweater, a pen to write with, a friend, a car, etc.; and


3) Everybody, or at least most people, enjoy the same benefits.


How can we train ourselves in HaKoras Hatov to HaKodush Borcuh Hu? Here are a couple of ideas:



·        While you are walking in the street, imagine that you and only you are the one who is able to walk with legs on the street, and breathe without the assistance of a machine.


·        Would you exchange a functioning brain for $250 million? $1 billion? Think about it…and appreciate!


·        Provide your idea here--we look forward to hearing from you.



Special Note Three: It is forbidden to teach an akum Torah—or even the Aleph Bais—as the pasuk (Tehillim 142) states, “Lo Asah Chen L’chol Goy” (Chagiga 13A, Yorah Deah 246:6, gloss of Shiurei Bracha). Many times a person may be faced with an akum at work or in the neighborhood who has a “question on the Bible” or who states that there is “something I don’t understand about Jewish ritual.” One must, in a polite way, immediately divert the topic of conversation, just as if it were any other prohibited activity, like Lashon Hara. There is also a second potential issur of Lifnei Iveir (Tosfos, Chagiga 13A dibur hamaschil Ain Mosrin). Rav Moshe Feinstein Z’tl (Igros Moshe Yoreh Deah 3:89, 90) adds that the prohibition even includes relating the Agados of Chazal. However, in a situation where an akum is present in the room when Yidden are learning together, they need not necessarily stop learning until the akum leaves (See Ibid.). For the CD of a masterful Hakhel shiur on this topic entitled “Ambassadors of Torah” given by Rabbi Yosef Viener, Shlita, call 718-252-5274.



Special Note Four: As we all know, the Yetzer Hara goes to great lengths to stop a person from learning Torah. This is simply because the study of Torah destroys the Yetzer Hara—The Gemara states, “Borosei Yetzer Hara, Borosei Torah Tavlin K’nedgo” (Kiddushin 30B). One of the Bad One’s great tricks is either to make noise, have someone enter the room or otherwise cause the Torah student to raise his head and look up and around in order to interrupt his limud HaTorah. In Kelm, this would most certainly have been the subject of a kenas. In a similar vein, the Sefer Lev Eliyahu (Volume 1, page 27) states that Rav Eliyahu Lopian Z’tl was once waiting for a considerable amount of time for a bus. He looked up to see if the bus was coming, although his looking up would not have made the bus come sooner. As a result, he felt the need to do Teshuvah for the needless act of looking up. The Chazon Ish (Kovetz Igros, Part I, Letter 3) writes “Constant (uninterrupted) learning is the secret of holiness and…one should figure out ways to learn without interruption, and to daven for this always.”



Special Note Five:  How could we conclude Adar I and be on the portals of Adar II without beginning with a few short questions on the Megillah?


1. What other name was Achashveirosh known by in Tanach?


2.  Can you give at least three reasons why Achashveirosh made his incomparable Mishteh at the outset of the Megillah.


3.  What does the word HaPartemim mean?


4.According to the opinion that Memuchan was Haman, why was it, BeHashgacha,  that he had to give the advice to kill Vashti?  Also, al pi hatevah--why would he want to kill Vashti--what did she do to him already?!


5.  Why didn’t Esther relate where she was from--why did Mordechai tell her not to?


6.  Why was Mordechai sitting at the Sha’ar HaMelech not a ‘give away’ as to where Esther was from?


7. Why didn’t Mordechai tell Achashveirosh of the plot of Bigsan Veseresh directly--why did he relate it through Esther?


8.  Why was Achashveirosh 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?


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


10.  What was the special cause of VeHa’ir Shushan Tzhala VeSameicha--how was this Simcha different from Layehudim Hoysa Orah VeSimcha...?


For answers--we look forward to hearing from you!



25 Adar I

A DIRECT RELATIONSHIP!  How many times does the word Atta--You appear in Shemone Esrei.  According to Praying With Fire--it appears at least 33 times (you can check whether there is a difference between Nusach Ashkenaz and Nusach Sefard)!  What an incredible lesson for us-in Shemone Esrei we are not only talking in front of Hashem--we are talking directly to Him! What a privilege, what an opportunity--how can we ever treat it lightly?  Whenever we say the word Atta in Shemone Esrei--let us try to think well into its incredible ramifications!




Special Note One: Two years ago today, the horrific massacre in Toulouse in which Rabbi Sandler and two sons were murdered (a young girl, Miriam Monsonego was also murdered).  The pain of galus moves on and on--time passes, but the searing pain is remembered and we beg Hashem to avenge each and every suffering.  The Sefer Sifsei Chachomim on Mesechta Megillah brings a comforting Pasuk (Yeshayahu 65:16): Ki Nishkechu HaTzaros Harishonos ki nistaru mai’ainai--for the earlier travails will have been forgotten.... Remembrance of all of the tzaros we experienced in galus will be expunged in the bliss of the final Geulah.  With this thought in mind, how can we not daven with special zeal every day for the Geulah Sheleima to come once and for all--today!  When it does come--and it will--perhaps your Tefillos that day will be instrumental in its coming--with all the tzaros gone, and all the joy to begin, and you as an important part in its coming!



Special Note Two:  We provide the following pesokim of HaRav Yisroel Belsky, Shlita, excerpted from the pamphlet Piskei Shulchan Halevi  compiled by R’ Shmuel Tzvi Cohen, with an approbation from HaRav Belsky.  As with all pesokim, one should ask his Rav or Posek for a final ruling:


A.  One must wash his hands after touching leather shoes, even if he touched only the upper half of the shoe. For shoes made of other materials, one need wash his hands only if he touched the bottom of the shoe.  One need not wash his hands if he touches shoelaces or socks only.


B.  If one came late to Shul for Shacharis, after davening he should recite that which he skipped in accordance with the ruling of the Mishna Berurah.  If this occurs, one should feel embarrassment over having to skip part of Pesukei D’Zimra--not reciting it in its proper order--and should resolve to try with all his might to arise on time so that he does not need to skip in the future.


C.  When reciting Shema, one should be careful to recite the ayin in nishba, and in va’avadetem--otherwise the words will have different meanings.


D.  When placing his head down at the nefilas apayim of Tachanun, one’s head should face the Aron Kodesh. 


E.  If one is in the middle of Shemone Esrei when the Torah is being read, he should not stop to listen to Kriyas HaTorah-if it is reasonably possible to then hear leining from another minyan, one should endeavor to do so.


F.  For netilas yodaim, a plastic disposable cup is preferable to a Styrofoam cup (which can really be used only once, while a plastic cup can be used more than once).  B’sha’as hadechak, one can even use a paper cup.


G.  It is not derech eretz to bite directly into a piece of pizza which is larger than a k’beizah. Instead, one should take a smaller piece off with his fingers if feasible, or cut a piece off.  One should likewise conduct himself in this way if he is going to eat a large piece of melon or even an apple.


H.  One does not recite the bracha of Hatov V’Hamaitiv over a second ‘wine’--if the original Borei Pri Hagefen was made over grape juice.


I. One recites a Borei Pri Ha’eitz over cooked fruits (compot) in the course of a meal, in spite of the famous story in which the Chofetz Chaim is reputed not to have recited the bracha.


J. If one recited a Borei Pri Ha’adamah instead of a Borei Minei Mezonos, he is yotzei bedieved.


K. Pearled barley is a sofek as to whether the appropriate bracha is Borei Pri Ha’adamah or Borei Minei Mezonos  and accordingly one should make a Mezonos and Ha’adamah on other items, having it in mind when reciting the bracha--and then can consume the pearled barley. Because the after bracha on pearled barley may be an “Ahl Ha’adamah, V’ahl Pri ha’adamah”--which we do not recite (see Brachos 37A, Tosfos d’h’ Hakosses), it is preferable to eat this product during a meal [or speak tp your Rav about alternatives].


L. One would not make a bracha over lightning if he saw only a small flash--especially if he saw it from inside his home.


M.  If one arose in the morning and found meat in between his teeth, one should not be concerned with it--as it is not called meat.  One should remove it, and need not wait to eat dairy products.


N.  It is very appropriate to use toothpaste and mouthwash with a hechsher. Unflavored gold Listerine is kosher, but Scope has unkosher ingredients, and one should not rely on those who say that it is nosein ta’am lifgam.


O.  One should stand before a parent who enters the room every time there is a chiddush in doing so (such as upon his entering the home), and not only morning and evening.




24 Adar I

Special Note One: A reader supplied us with his own personal story of how Rabbi Meir Schuster, Z’tl, changed his life with a tap on the shoulder. Not only as a zechus for Rabbi Schuster, Z’tl, but y’blct as a demonstration of our own personal Ahavas Yisrael, let us consider how we can ‘tap someone else’s shoulder’:


“I was brought up as a Conservative Jew in the Midwest .  My parents did not keep a kosher home.  Pork products, however, were not allowed to be eaten either inside or outside of the house and shellfish could be eaten outside of the house, but not inside of the house.  My father, as far as I know, kept kosher until he went into the army.  The only grandmother I knew was his mother, and I think she was quasi-Orthodox.  I remember driving to her house on Saturday, and she would be sitting in the dark.  My mother, on the other hand, was brought up Reform with no Yiddishkeit and, in fact, does not have a Hebrew name.


While growing up, the family always had Friday night dinner together. My father made an abridged Kiddush and HaMotzi, and my mother lit Shabbos candles. After dinner, we all did our own thing.  We kept two Sedarim on Pesach and did not eat anything made obviously from bread. We went to Shul on Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur, and fasted on Yom Kippur.  We lit Chanukah candles. I went to religious school on Sundays and after school through the middle of 10th grade. This was the extent of my Yiddishkeit growing up.


I attended Miami University in Oxford, Ohio and experienced my first taste of anti-Semitism.  My nickname in the dorm was “Jew Boy.”  I remember asking one of my professors to reschedule a test because it was Yom Kippur, and the person sitting next to me said, “Oh, those Jews, are always getting their way.”


I went to the Hillel House and was also exposed to Chabad/Lubavitch but was not interested in Yiddishkeit.   In fact, in college, one of my friends tried to turn me on to Yoshka.  Another time, when I was traveling, the Mormons tried to convert me.  I graduated from college in three years, as I was not happy and wanted to begin the search to find meaning in my life.  I wanted to go to India to ‘find the truth’. After college graduation, I traveled to Europe with a friend who had recently become Lubavitch.  We parted midway through the trip, as his new found Yiddishkeit was driving me crazy. Next, I headed to a Kibbutz in Israel and would go to India after that.


The Jewish Agency sent me to Kibbutz Mizrach, near Afula, where I stayed for about one month.  They packaged pork products. I am not sure if the pigs were raised on platforms on the kibbutz or were brought in from Nazareth. This kibbutz experience helped open my eyes to Yiddishkeit.  I couldn’t reconcile the fact that pig products were being processed in Israel .  It just didn’t make sense to me. I had traveled to the Jewish nation and they were producing the very products that I could not eat while growing up.


I left the Kibbutz and traveled to Jerusalem, still searching.  I was at the Kotel one Friday night and this man, (Meir Schuster), asked me if I would like to spend  Shabbos with a religious family.  I said, “Why not?  Free food!” I spent the weekend at Reb Meir’s house.  I was really turned on! I saw a nice family spending time together and loving one another – the values I hoped for in my life.  I felt a really special feeling.  As I write this now, I can recall the special feeling that I felt then.  In the afternoon, I went to see Reb Noach Weinberg, who told me that I could join the Yeshiva anytime I wanted to find out about my own heritage.  After Shabbos, I left; I was off on my travels, again looking for meaning in my life, but, not Yiddishkeit – that wasn’t for me!


I went back to the Jewish Agency, and they sent me to Kibbutz Grofit, a totally secular Kibbutz, in the Arava near Eilat.  I stayed there for about three months.


After leaving Kibbutz Grofit, I was going to leave Israel to begin the trek to India.  However, before I was going to leave Israel, I decided to check out the Yeshiva.  I was drawn in at Aish, as I saw people like myself who were searching for meaning and had found their answers at the Yeshiva.  I stayed for around three months, attending a couple of classes a day, not putting on Tefillin, mostly hanging out, and going to cafes in the new city at night.


After three months, I left and decided to see how I felt about what I learned at the Yeshiva. I went down South, first stopping in Ashquelon. I saw the wonders of Hashem in the park, stayed with a frum family and thought about frumkeit. Then I went down to the Sinai. This was my turning point. I saw people there who were living the type of lifestyle I had lived my whole life.  I asked myself if this is what I wanted for the rest of my life.  It was empty and void of meaning.  I thought about the lifestyle at Aish and Rabbi Schuster’s home, and realized that that was really what I wanted.  This was what I was searching for.  I put on Tefillin for the second time in my life, the first being at my Bar Mitzvah.


After spending some more time down South, I continued my journey and went back to Aish to resume my studies.  Rav Noach did not want to let me back in, as when I was there before, I had hardly been to classes and was basically using it as a free place to stay.  After much begging and pleading, they let me back in. 


I stayed for three years at Aish. In this period, I worked at Aish Safat and Aish in St. Louis one summer. In the summer of 1983, I returned to Israel and worked for Reb Meir Schuster.


If I hadn’t been tapped on the shoulder, I would have continued on to India and who knows where I would be today.


Boruch Hashem, due to Reb Meir and Reb Noach Weinberg, I am a frum Jew today. I am married, have three children, one son-in-law and one granddaughter, all Shomer Shabbat.  They are not only mine and my wife’s children, but they are Reb Meir and Reb Noach’s children as well.


I believe in the next world, Reb Meir will be the gatekeeper in Shamayim, as he was responsible for introducing so many people to Yiddishkeit and making so many people frum.


May this be for a Zechus for the neshama of Reb Meir ben Mirka, Z’tl.”


Hakhel Note: An extremely important lesson derived from our reader’s personal diary is that even if one believes that he has made no impact on the life of another who seems to continue on in their ways--one may have very well done so and it may just take a little while to come to the fore.  There is a second, great lesson.  In a separate correspondence the reader advised us that in the short period that he was helping Rabbi Schuster at the Kosel--he himself assisted two uneducated brethren to return to Torah Judaism.  Both he, and Rabbi Schuster, now have these ‘children’ (and their children’s children) as well!


In these troubled and turbulent times--oh, how we need Ahavas Yisrael! Rabbi Meir Schuster made this a 40 year day-in and day-out project. Each and every one of us can certainly try to reach out--and touch someone!



Special Note Two:  We continue an exciting Monday/Thursday series on the practical aspects of Sta”m, written by Rabbi Reuvain Mendlowitz, Shlita, author of Inside Sta”m--An Insider Reveals The Answers To All The Questions You Should Ask When Purchasing Or Maintaining Tefillin, Mezuzos, Megillos, Sifrei Torah And Nevi’im.


For a fuller treatment of all topics to be discussed, we urge you to purchase the Sefer, which provides practical and meaningful information and ideas.




We continue our discussion of the K’laf--obviously such an important part of STA”M.




Another hiddur mentioned is klaf bli tnai. What is that?




As we have discussed, the ibbud must be done “lishmah” – with express intent. Therefore, for instance, if someone would want to process hides to use for a Sefer Torah, he would have to say, “l’shem kedushas Sefer Torah” (“[I am placing these hides in the ibbud mixture] for the sake of the sanctity of a Sefer Torah”), before placing the hides in the barrel or machine. Similarly, if someone would want to process hides to use for a mezuzah, he would have to say, “l’shem kedushas mezuzah,” and so on.


Inasmuch as the factories process hundreds of hides at a time, it can be extremely difficult for them to ensure that each hide is subsequently used for the expressed purpose of its ibbud.


Additionally, a large hide which was processed for a megillah can sometimes be found to have a hole in the center. In such a case, the whole hide is unusable and would have to be thrown out.


In order to be able to use each and every hide for any STA”M item, the system of performing the ibbud with a tnai (condition) was instituted. In other words, a hide can be processed l’shem kedushas Sefer Torah with a proviso that one can later change its purpose if necessary.


Indeed, in the majority of klaf factories, this is the standard practice today.


However, since a minority opinion considers this solution ineffective, some are careful to purchase only klaf processed bli tnai, without this condition, and produced instead specifically for the STA”M item they wish to have written.



21 Adar I

THE WISE MAN ’S EYES :  Koheles ( 2:14 ) states that ‘Chochom Einav B’rosho--the wise man’s eyes are in his head.” Of course, as we all know--everyone’s eyes are in their head. It is the wise man who realizes that his eyes are not in his heart--but in his head--for a reason! The next time one realizes he is looking at something he should not--if he is wise--he will remember where Hashem placed his eyes!



A MOMENT OF REFLECTION: After a tasty meal, one realizes he has overeaten. What does he do in order to ensure that it does not happen again (at least not so readily)?



ANOTHER MOMENT OF REFLECTION: The following extremely meaningful quote is excerpted from Questions You Thought We Were Afraid You’d Ask, by R’ Moshe Speiser (Targum Press): “The concept of forever is amazing, if one thinks about it.  If one would receive a penny a day, forever, there would not be enough money in the world to cover it. If every win and loss [against the Yetzer] affects us for eternity, it sounds like there is an awful lot at stake here!



SHADES OF PURIM ON THE HORIZON: On the 21st of Adar, Daryavesh, the son of Esther HaMalka and Achashveirosh, allowed the Jews to continue the building of the Second Bais HaMikdash--which had been halted in Achashveirosh’s time!  May it be a sign of things to come for the Third Bais Hamikdash and our final Geulah!




Special Note One: Today, is the Yahrzeit of HaRav Elimelech (B’R’ Elazar Lipman)--the famed Noam Elimelech M’Lizhinsk. As many were unable to daven at his Kever today--we still have the opportunity to  learn from his great teachings. The Tzetel Koton would be a wonderful place to start!



Special Note Two:  With the recent decision by the committee in Eretz Yisrael as to how to view the actions of Yeshiva Bochurim who want to study Torah, we sense the Chevlei Moshiach more painfully than before. In this regard, we present the following synopsis of a Shiur given by HaRav Mattisyahu Salomon, Shlita (R’ Mattisyahu Chaim Ben Ettel), may he have a Refuah Shleimah:


We are living in a tumultuous, confused world. One talks about Moshiach when times are dangerous--and it is not empty talk.  Ikvasa D’Mashicha means the footsteps of Moshiach.  As a person walks closer to you his footsteps become more audible.  The footsteps are definitely louder now than they were before; the world’s economy is asunder, people’s feeling of security is extremely low, governments are weak, and K’lal Yisroel is attacked physically and verbally by our enemies.  In a letter from HaRav Elchonon Wasserman, Z’tl, to HaRav Shimon Schwab, Z’tl, Rav Elchonon cautions that although the footsteps may be heard louder and louder, we will not know when the Moshiach arrives until he actually does so.  What we can do is to be Mechake Lo--not only believe that he will come--but also await him.  The Ba’alei Mussar explain it with the following test:  If our Emunah is strong, we should view the Moshiach’s coming as a situation similar to a person who loses a check for $1,000,000 in a room filled with cancelled checks.  If one is 100% certain that the check is there, he will not give up looking, for he knows that all of his searching will bring him closer to his desired goal.  So too, with Moshiach--if we are certain of his coming, then we know that time only brings us closer!  Because doing Teshuva after Moshiach comes will not be as effective, the time to do Teshuva, as part of our anticipation is now.  The day could be any day--so one must do what he has to today.  Rather than be nervous, upset and depressed--with the more fear that one may have should come the realization that the way out is Moshiach--and the more we prepare, the more we will benefit!



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


A.  Chazal (Shabbos 118B) teach “If Yisrael would observe two Shabbosos according to Halacha, they would be redeemed immediately.” In fact, the Midrash (Shemos Rabbah 25:16), reduces this guarantee to the proper observance of just one Shabbos.


Perhaps we can start the process in our own small way with the following suggestion:


In this week’s Parasha (Shemos 35:3), the Torah requires “Do not kindle a fire wherever you dwell on the day of Shabbos.”  Why is fire singled out as one of the 39 forbidden activities on Shabbos?  There is a disagreement between Rebbi Nosson and Rebbi Yosi on this very point in the Gemara (Shabbos 70A).  The Sheloh HaKadosh and the Akeida write that the “fire” singled out on Shabbos also refers to the fire of anger and of raised voices in the home, of anger, disagreement and machlokes, any and all of which are the antithesis of the Shalom Bayis to be brought into the home through the Neiros Shabbos.


As in previous years, we therefore urge that THIS SHABBOS--in which the Parasha specifically instructs us not to “kindle fire in our dwelling places”--to, bli neder, accept upon ourselves not to get upset and angry, not to raise our voice, and, instead, to override our sensitivity, our legitimate feelings and everything else in the way, to ensure that the Shabbos is and remains peaceful--with the only fire being relegated to the area under the blech.  To some, or perhaps many, of us, this may take a yeoman’s effort, but we will be taking an important step towards that “just one Shabbos” we so urgently and desperately require.


NOTE:  If we can achieve the seemingly impossible, and extend this “fire prohibition” to the hour before Shabbos, we will have additionally accomplished a level of “Tosefes Shabbos”--adding on to the Shabbos--perhaps never before imaginable.


ADDITIONAL NOTE:  Perhaps we can take our Shabbos success with us, and work on the Middah of ‘not kindling a fire’ through the coming week!


B. HaRav Chaim Kanievsky, Shlita, in the Sefer Ta’amah Dikrah bring the Midrash (Yalkut Shimoni 408) at the outset of this week’s Parasha, which teaches that on Shabbos we should gather together the multitudes and teach them the Halachos of Shabbos. Why is it, HaRav Chaim asks, that this is particularly true of Hilchos Shabbos? HaRav Chaim answers that one who is c’v mechalel Shabbos in public is treated l’halacha like an akum--and it is as if he publicly proclaims c’v that Hashem did not create the world. Conversely, then, when we gather together as a tzibbur to study the Halachos of Shabbos--we are publicly proclaiming that Hashem created the world! Hakhel Note: Learning Hilchos Shabbos, then…is Zecher Lema’aseh Bereishis!


C.  The Kitzur Shulchan Aruch (75:2), relating to Neiros Shabbos rules as follows: “The candles should be long so that they burn until after the meal. One should seek to purchase fine candles.  Rav Huna teaches (Shabbos 23B): A person who is accustomed to lighting Neiros Yafos--attractive Shabbos candles--will merit sons who will be Torah scholars. The Pasuk (Mishlei 6:23 ) indeed states: “Ki Ner Mitzvah, VeTorah Ohr--for a Mitzvah is a candle, and Torah light”--i.e., the candle of Mitzvah will bring about the light of Torah.”


D.  From a Reader: “We know that Shabbos is “Mekor Ha’bracha.”.  In this day and age, when people are looking and even paying for all sorts of segulos to solve their tzaros lo alaiynu, perhaps one place to start might be to undertake something small to enhance one’s Shabbos observance, something as small as setting the table the night before if one has a separate kitchen table where they can eat Friday’s breakfast and lunch. On a visit to Rav Chaim Kanievsky’s daughter last year, she advised learning a halacha at each of the Shabbos meals and to light licht 10 minutes early.   Undertaking to light the licht a few minutes early and to use the time to daven and to count one’s blessings is one way to bring real serenity to an otherwise hectic time. 
 I remember when the school I worked at decided to start the school day 15 minutes earlier to accommodate the bus schedule which added a new school to their route.  It meant waking up earlier...but as we know, “hergel naaseh tevah”, and very soon it became rote.  I think that it’s another delusion of the Yetzer Hara when we feel that we can’t undertake to bring Shabbos in a few minutes earlier.  It doesn’t mean doing more work, it just means doing the normal hachanos that one needs to do but just getting them done earlier. In addition,  oft-times, rushing causes people to say a sharp word or say the wrong thing- and in order to make amends to a loved one, or to patch things up with  a hurt child, it takes much more than 10 minutes of talk in order to pacify and rectify......  Also, going into Shabbos with a sense of serenity is a wonderful way to begin the   “Mayain Olam Habah” experience, as opposed to going into Shabbos with a nervous stomach and hurt feelings!”



Special Note Four: Points and pointers on this week’s Parasha, Parashas Vayakhel:


A. Last week’s Parasha ends with the radiance of Moshe Rabbeinu’s face being so great, that he had to put a mask on it--and this week’s Parasha begins with the Mitzvah of Shabbos--what is the connection between these two Parshios?


B. The Torah teaches that the Badim, the staves, were placed into the Aron for a particular purpose--”La’Sais Es HaAron--to carry the Aron” (Shemos 37:5).  Chazal (Sotah 35B) teach, however, that in fact the Aron was not carried by its bearers, but instead actually carried those very same apparent bearers. HaRav Nosson Adler, Z’tl, finds that the lesson is clear--those who support Talmidei Chachomim may appear to be the supporters--but are in fact and indeed--actually supported by those who study.  Hakhel Note:  There is an Olam Hazeh and Olam Haba way to look at what is actually taking place...since Olam Haba is much, much longer and indeed everlasting --one should very much adapt the long-term view!  Let us keep this in mind every time that we have the opportunity to in any manner honor or ‘support’ one who is studying Torah full time!


C. In the Parasha we find the term Lev mentioned in various ways--Asher Nisa’o Libo, Kol Nediv Lev, Chacham Lev, U’Lehoros Nasan BeLibo.  It is a time to remind ourselves of the precious words of the Mesilas Yesharim (end of Chapter 16):  “Chazal teach that Rachmana Liba Ba’i--Hashem wants us to serve Him with our hearts--for it is not enough for Hashem to see our deeds alone, such as our Ma’aseh Mitzvah.  Rather, it is most important to Him that our hearts be pure to serve Hashem in truth.  The heart is the king of all the other parts of the body and leads them, as so if the heart is not focused on the service of Hashem, then the service of the other limbs and organs is not worth anything, for they will just follow the heart.  In fact, this thought is expressed clearly by Shlomo HaMelech (the wisest of all men) in Mishlei ( 23:26 ) “Tena Bini Libcha Li…my son give me your heart!”


With this thought in mind, we can well understand why the Pasuk in discussing the construction of the Mishkan emphasizes the need not only for the building of the Mishkan--but that our hearts be first dedicated to the task!


Additional Note:  We once again provide the story of the g’vir in Flatbush who would open his door to all, giving to all with a generous heart.  Once, he sat down for dinner and his wife had prepared a soup for him.  There was a knock on the door, and he got up to answer.  His wife pleaded with him:  “I will let him in and he can sit a few moments, at least eat the soup while it is hot.”  He turned to his wife and said:  “This is my opportunity to give something of myself.  When I give money--I am simply distributing that which belongs to Hashem, hopefully in a manner which Hashem sees fit.  Now, however, I have the chance to give up my hot soup for this person.  Let me rejoice in the opportunity!”


D.  The Pasuk teaches regarding Betzalel “U’Lehoros Nassan BeLibo--and the ability to teach was placed in his heart.  The Mefarshim explain that with these words we are taught the difference between Lilmod and LeLameid--to learn and to teach.  It is a great level to learn, and an even greater one to be able to teach.  It is for this reason that we request of Hashem in Ahava Rabba/Ahavas Olam that he please give us the ability Lilmod U’LeLameid--to learn and to teach.  Everyone really has to be a teacher--chavrusos one to the other, husband and wife, parent and child.  We must therefore be careful to daven daily to Hashem that He give us the ability not only to learn--but to be a good teacher as well!


E.  The Torah records that the people brought donations to the Mishkan “BaBoker BaBoker” (Shemos 36:3).  The Sefas Emes interprets the repetition of the word ‘Boker’ to mean that the people brought their gifts early in the morning, and explains that there is special power in doing something early, or first, in the morning. It is for this reason, the Sefer Talelei Oros explains that the Vilna Gaon, Z’tl, would exclaim BeLev Shaleim U’VeSimcha when he rose from bed:  Hareini MeKabel Alai Ohl Torah HaYom!”  Likewise, the Siddur Siach Yitzchak (Siddur HaGra) notes that in the Bracha of HaMa’avir Sheina early each morning the first two requests we make following the Yehi Ratzon are “Shetargileinu BeSorasecha VeDabekeinu BeMitzvosecha--please accustom us to study Your Torah and attach us to Your commandments”--for the first efforts, the first requests of the day, have a special status and bearing.  In special fact, the Tefillah presented by the Zohar upon arising in the morning is “Yehi Ratzon…Sheyehei Libi Nachon U’Masur BeYadi Shelo Eshkachecha--May it be Your Will that I be upright, and in control of my heart today, so that I don’t forget You.”  The Siddur Siach Yitzchak concludes that when one has a Haschala Tova in the morning, then “Az Yiheyeh HaKol Tov--everything will be good.”


If we have not already inculcated the above message into our awakening each morning--let us seriously consider making this a turning point. As we arise in the morning and begin to ready ourselves for the day all kinds of new ideas and reminder bombard us--everything we have to do and even the order we have to do it in.  If we can take those first precious moments and focus them properly--”Shetargileinu BeSorasecha VeDabikeinu BeMitzvosecha”, “Sheyiheyeh Libi Nachon U’Masur BeYadi Shelo Eshkachecha”, and the Gra’s thought B’Lev Shaleim U’VeSimcha to accept upon oneself the Torah and the Mitzvos--then we have the express assurance of the Siddur Siach Yitzchak that Az Yiheyeh HaKol Tov!


F.  HaRav Yaakov Kamenetsky, Z’tl, whose Yahrzeit is next week, provides a great question and a remarkable insight on the Parasha. The Torah goes to great lengths to describe the Mishkan and its Keilim--both the instructions to build it, and the actual details as to its construction. We know the Mishkan was precious to Hashem, and that we gain special insight into the Dor HaMidbar with all of the detail. However, all of this detail is for a temporary structure that is supposed to be standing for only a short while--until the Bais HaMikdash is built. Remember that according to some Rishonim the Chait HaMeraglim had not yet taken place, so Bnei Yisroel were due to soon (within weeks or months) enter Eretz Yisrael and build the Bais HaMikdash shortly thereafter. Thus, the Mishkan was intended to function for perhaps a year or two (although ultimately it remained standing for 479 years). Yet, we see the detail which the eternal Torah provides for it--and the zeal, dedication, and effusiveness of the people towards a very short-term construction. The important and special lesson here is that our goal must be to accomplish. A Mitzvah may look to the eye as if it is fleeting--so why put in so much time, such difficult effort, and significant expense? This is absolutely not an appropriate cheshbon.  Our preparations can, and in many cases should, take longer than the Mitzvah performance itself--for in reality the Mitzvah lasts for eternity!  Time is a physical concept--and we must transcend it in order to attain our spiritual goals.


So, the next time you feel like you are spending so much time--whether it is trying to figure out what Bracha to make on a particular food or whether you can eat a particular item, waiting on a line long for a few, “last-minute” Shabbos items, davening or saying Tehillim for someone who is having surgery today, or talking with someone on the phone who always seems to need chizuk, remember…the ‘short-termeverlasting and eternal Mishkan!



Special Note Five: We share with our readers a few short additional points on the Parasha, culled from the new Sefer Shiurei Chumash--the Shiurim of HaRav Shlomo Wolbe, Z’tl, on Sefer Shemos:


A. Chazal teach that the Parasha begins with the instruction to keep Shabbos then discusses the building of the Mishkan--in order to teach us that we do not work on Shabbos even if it is to build the Mishkan. HaRav Wolbe, Z’tl, asks: Who would ever think that building the Mishkan would be doche Shabbos? Would writing a Sefer Torah be doche Shabbos? Quite to the contrary--when something is doche Shabbos (such as a bris milah on the eighth day, Karbanos brought in the Beis HaMikdash on Shabbos, or Pikuach Nefesh situations), Chazal must bring specific pesukim or limudim which allow Shabbos to be overridden. Based upon this question, HaRav Wolbe suggests that the Torah is, at the very least, teaching us an important mussar lesson. That is--one might think that sometimes in order to perform a Mitzvah one can ‘step-on’ other Mitzvos, even perhaps just a little bit. It is easy for one to rationalize performing something which was essentially a ‘Mitzvah HaBa’ah B’Aveira’. Rebbi Yisroel Yisroel Salanter warn about this. Indeed, the story is told of a person who in wrapping himself in his Tallis hit Rebbi Yisroel’s face with the Tzitzis of the Tallis. Rebbi Yisroel told him--why am I at fault that you are a Yerei Shomayim? Rebbi Yisroel would likewise reproach those who would push and not pay proper attention to others when trying to get closer to listen to a Shiur. So, too, with the Mishkan--one does not build a home for Hashem’s Presence by abrogating the Shabbos in any way.


B. The Pasuk teaches: “Kechu Me’itechem Terumah LaHashem Kol Nediv Libo--take for yourselves a portion for Hashem, everyone whose heart motivates him shall bring it.” (Shemos 35:5). HaRav Wolbe beautifully explains that the process of building the Mishkan did not simply entail a building being built and the Shechina thereupon coming to dwell within it. Rather, everyone who brought a Terumah brought it Menidvas Libo--meaning that he brought a part of the Shechina in his heart with it. The Shechina that rested on the Mishkan--was really the Shechina that rested on the hearts of K’lal Yisrael--which was now assembled into one, unified holy place!


C. The Ramban writes that Betzalel constructed the Aron by himself. The Ramban explains that this is because he was filled with the spirit and wisdom to do so--it was not a matter of craftsmanship--it was a matter of Ruach Elokim, Chochma, Tevunah and Da’as. This is a tremendous lesson for us. Greatness is measured by how much spirit and how mush hisbonenus, how much thought, one puts into what he cares about. When one goes to do a doctor, who quickly checks him and prescribes a medication--one knows that this doctor is not really an expert. A good doctor will listen well to the symptoms, think about them, put them together and then decide what is wrong and how to treat it. The difference between katnus and gadlus--one who is small and one who is great is in his power of hisbonenus--putting true spirit and real thinking into what is important!


D. Upon assembly of the Mishkan, the Pasuk (Shemos 36:13) concludes Vayehi HaMishkan Echad--and the Mishkan was one. HaRav Wolbe teaches that the word Echad here does not only mean that is was ‘one’ and not ‘two’, but also that it was one--that included everything, for everything in it was unified. Likewise, he concludes, when in Shema we recite the words Hashem Echad--we not only mean that Hashem is One and not two, but that Hashem is One and that everything is subsumed and included within Him--everything comes from Him--and all of the world’s needs and requirements are from Him!




20 Adar I

THE MOST IMPORTANT: HaRav Moshe Cordovero, Z’tl (at the outset of Chapter 4 of the Sefer Tomer Devorah), writes that there is nothing more important than Teshuvah because it is Misakenes Kol Pigam’--it rectifies every flaw. HaRav Cordovero concludes that each and every day, one should contemplate Teshuvah and repent in some way--so that all one’s days are spent in repentance! Hakhel Note: Teshuvah Bechol Yom--Teshuvah today!



TODAY IS THE YAHRZEIT OF RAV SHLOMO ZALMEN AUERBACH, Z’TL: There is a very well-known story that HaRav Shlomo Zalmen Auerbach, Zt’l, once repeated the paragraph of “Nodeh Lecha”(We thank You, Hashem), in which we list many important things that we thank Hashem for.  When he was asked why he repeated it, he responded that he experienced a momentary lapse of Kavanna, and that saying “Thank you” without meaning it is not true thanks.  In a related way, as we have noted in the past, Rabbi Yisroel Reisman, Shlita, teaches in the name of HaRav Pam, Zt’l, that one may put out a finger and count each one of the things that you are thanking Hashem for every time you recite “Nodeh Lecha”.  Example: “Al Yisrael Amecha-one, V’Al Yerushalayim Irecha-two etc.”  If you try this, you will see that it is a great method of focusing your appreciation, and rejoicing in what Hashem has given you.


Additional Note: HaRav Gamliel Rabanovitch, Shlita, teaches that when someone visits the Kever of a Tzadik, he connects with the Nefesh of the Tzadik, but when he studies from the Seforim of the Tzadik, he connects with the Ruach of the Tzadik. Today, for example, one can study the rulings of HaRav Shlomo Zalmen in the Shmiras Shabbos KeHilchasa, Halichos Shlomo, Minchas Shlomo, or learn some of the many lessons that he taught from Rabbi Hanoch Teller’s work, And From Jerusalem , His Word: Stories and Insights of Rabbi Shlomo Zalmen Auerbach.




Special Note One:  We continue with another sampling of the wonderful points made by Rabbi Ozer Alport, Shlita, relating to Adar and Purim, at the recent Hakhel Yarchei Kallah:




A. We are all familiar with the Midrash of how the Satan was mekatreig at the Yam Suf against Bnei Yisrael--pleading with Hashem that the Bnei Yisrael not  be saved--after all, both the Mitzriyim and Bnei Yisrael had worshiped idols--why should one be saved and the other drown? The Meshech Chochma asks--why wasn’t the Satan mekatreig in this way at each one of the ten makkos when the Mitzriyim suffered severely, and Bnei Yisrael looked on in amazement, totally spared of the makkah? The Meshech Chochma remarkably answers that the Satan had the ability to be mekatreig only at the Yam Suf--for that is when the Bnei Yisrael split into four groups, dividing themselves as to how to approach the situation and what to do. In Mitzrayim, quite to the contrary, they had formed a pact to do Chesed to each other--united as one people. In that event, the Satan had no ability, no power, no chance to lift his voice against us. 


B. A practical way in which one can prepare for the Achdus so much of which is the basis of Purim is by making a special effort NOW to daven for other people, and to reach out to those who one was previously uncomfortable or decidedly unfriendly with and connect and become closer with them.


C. Rabban Gamliel Rabanovitch, Shlita, once took a trip to the Kevarim in the Galil. On the way, he passed by a new tall office building, with a banner hanging from the top which read: Milmalah Hakol Nireh Acheres--from above, everything looks different. Raban Gamliel had a picture taken of the banner, and hung it on the door in his home--in a room where people come to him to share their problems and woes, and ask for his Tefillos. At the appropriate time, he shows them these comforting words--so that his guest recognizes that all is accounted for, all is seen--and that there is a light at the end of the tunnel!


D. The Gematria of Purim is 336--which is the number of days from the 13th of Nissan (the date of the initial decree) until the 13th of Adar--when the Jews were able to vanquish their enemies. This highlights how all was truly planned from the outset. Rebbi Tzadok HaKohen explains that the Megillah starts with a Vav and ends with a Vav--the connecting letter--for everything is connected, and in Hashem’s Omniscience is, in fact, all one!



Special Note Two:  We continue an exciting Monday/Thursday series on the practical aspects of Sta”m, written by Rabbi Reuvain Mendlowitz, Shlita, author of Inside Sta”m--An Insider Reveals The Answers To All The Questions You Should Ask When Purchasing Or Maintaining Tefillin, Mezuzos, Megillos, Sifrei Torah And Nevi’im.


For a fuller treatment of all topics to be discussed, we urge you to purchase the Sefer, which provides practical and meaningful information and ideas.






What does it mean when someone recommends that the klaf be “lo megurad”?




This concept is too complicated to discuss in this forum. Suffice it to say that the simple meaning is that the back (outside) of the klaf is unscraped. By leaving it unscraped, one has fulfilled the opinion of the Chayei Adam, and has an extra hiddur in his klaf. The face (inside) of the klaf is always scraped.




I decided to buy “klaf avodas yad lo megurad.” When I called the sofer to place the order, however, he asked me if I also wanted the klaf to be “zeese klaf.” What is zeese klaf?




Literally translated, zeese klaf means sweet parchment.


Years ago, when a sofer wanted to make klaf, he would find a shochet who had recently slaughtered an animal. After buying the hide, he would then begin the ibbud process to create the klaf.


Nowadays, when the klaf industry has become a multimillion-dollar business, a large portion of the hides are imported (to Eretz Yisrael and America) from foreign countries. These hides are sent by boat, and are often in transit for extended periods of time. It is common practice, therefore, that before shipping the hides, they are salted to prevent spoilage.


Generally, the salting is done by non-Jews working in the slaughterhouse. This is because the hides used to make klaf do not need a proper shechitah, and only have to be from a kosher animal.


Chazal tell us, however, that salting the hides is the beginning of the ibbud process. If so, the salting must be done by a Jew.


Although, for various reasons, the poskim feel that one may be lenient and even use klaf which was salted by a non-Jew, it is nevertheless praiseworthy to try to obtain non-salted, i.e., “sweet” klaf.


To avoid this issue, many klaf factories either use local hides which don’t need salting, or import frozen hides rather than salted ones. Some even send a mashgiach overseas to ensure that the salting is done by Jews.




19 Adar I

RABBI MEIR SCHUSTER, Z’TL: For extremely moving stories regarding Rabbi Meir Schuster, Z’tl, we refer you to www.rebmeirschuster.org It was truly a great zechus for our generation to have an individual with such remarkably outstanding Ahavas Yisrael and Mesiras Nefesh for his fellow Yid.  May he be the final great Meilitz Yosher we need to bring the Geulah.



DON ’T LET IT SLIP BY-- THE NECESSARY MISHNAYOS:  As we have noted in the past, HaRav Chaim Kanievsky, Shlita, teaches that in order to complete Shas, one also has to study the Mishnayos in Seder Zeraim and Taharos, which have no Gemara and which were left out of the Daf Yom cycle because ‘they were not on the Daf’.  HaRav Chaim accordingly suggests that one simply learn a Mishna-a-Day, and that he would finish all of Shas within the Daf Yomi cycle.  We received the following listing from a Daf Yomi Maggid Shiur--there is still plenty of time to learn the one Mishna-a-Day before the next Siyum HaShas--start today!

598    Zeraim without Berachos
74      Eduyos
108    Avos
916    Taharos without Nidah
1,696   Tota
l Mishnayos to be studied 



LOOK AND LOOK AGAIN! Rabban Gamliel Rabanovich, Shlita, teaches, “If one looks at his food while he is eating it--why would one not look at the words of one’s brachos in his brachos card, siddur or bentscher when thanking Hashem for it?!”



TEFILLAH SUGGESTIONS: We all want to continue to improve our Tefillah, by taking real and practical steps. For the now less-than one month period between today and Purim, we provide the following possible and very real and do-able suggestions for improving one’s Shemone Esrei. You may consider choosing one or more. In each Shemone Esrei:


1. Have Kavannah for the meaning of the words in the first bracha of Shemone Esrei.


Hakhel Note: At a Hakhel Shiur, Rabbi Shlomo Pearl, Shlita, recommended that we take the fourth word of every Shemone Esrei—”Elokainu”—and spend five seconds letting the Ol Malchus Shamayim pervade us.  This would then assist us with a greater sense of Hashem during the recitation of at least the first Bracha, and hopefully would improve even more of our Tefillah.


2. In Re’eih Nah Ve’anyeinu have Kavannah for redemption from the tzaros which you face daily.


3. In Refaeinu have Kavannah for your loved ones to stay healthy and for the sick to be healed.


4. In Bonei Yerushalayim have Kavannah for the Kedushas Yerushalayim and the Malchus Bais Dovid to be restored.


5. In Modim, have Kavannah for specific items for which you thank Hashem (this Kavannah can or should be changing on an ongoing basis).


6. In Sim Shalom have Kavannah for Shalom in Eretz Yisrael, for K’lal Yisrael and for the entire world!



YOU CANNOT DO THAT! At the recent Hakhel Yarchei Kallah, Rabbi Ari Marburger, Shlita, discussed the severity of the issur D’Oraysa of Geneivas Da’as--or ‘stealing the mind of another’--which does not have to actually involve stating an untruth directly. The issur of Geneivas Da’as is violated when one will be machazik tovah bechinam to another, based on false pretenses. For instance, one cannot place an inexpensive item into an expensive box and give it as a gift to another. Rabbi Marburger then mentioned a real-life case in which at a vort, the Kallah’s father re-filled a Johnny Walker Blue Label (i.e., a very expensive) bottle with the cheaper Chivas Regal after the expensive ‘Blue Label’ inside the bottle ran out. When he offered the unsuspecting guests the opportunity to have this ‘very expensive’ whiskey and ‘make a bracha’--he was over the issur of Geneivas Da’as with each such guest--notwithstanding that they did not know they were fooled or enjoyed the taste and exclaimed: “I’ve never tasted a smoother liquor”. It is not cute or funny--it is assur!




Special Note One: In last week’s Parasha, Hashem told Moshe Rabbeinu (31:2): “Re’ei Karasi V’sheim Betzalel Ben Uri Ben Chur LeMateh Yehudah--see I have called the name Betzalel…” What does the word Re’ei--see, have to do with the appointment of Betzalel? Rabbi Eliyahu Schneider, Shlita, makes a marvelous observation. He suggests that millions of people were quite likely very astonished by the appointment of Betzalel to the highest position in the building of the Mishkan. After all, he was but a 13 year old young man, with no stated experience whatsoever in craftsmanship, nor any stated education or other qualifications. So how did he do it?  The next Pasuk gives us the answer--it continues that Hashem filled Betzalel with Ruach Elokim, Chochma, Tevunah and Da’as.  In short, this was another example of Nifla’os HaBorei--the wondrous acts of Hashem--in taking a 13 year old and putting him in charge of the construction of such a holy place that Chazal teach it will endure Le’olmei Olamim--forever and ever. There was thus something very much to see--the amazing workings of Hashem! The lesson in ‘Re’eih’ , which is in the singular, is that we are to look and see, we are to study and understand--all of the Nifla’os HaBorei that we encounter daily. The snow, the ice, the rain, the sun, the clear streets among the snow-piled curbs, the food and gas deliveries during a storm, the warm coat, earmuffs and gloves, the ability to go through a week of turbulent weather without getting really sick, the hot shower and the hot drink….and beyond all of this, the ability to continue one’s daily studies, daily davening, daily chesed, and daily ‘routine’. It is not enough to recognize it in broad-painted strokes--as often as we can, let us open our eyes and ‘Re’eih’--let us see all of the glowing examples!



Special Note Two:  The following is a sampling of the wonderful points made by Rabbi Ozer Alport, Shlita, relating to Adar and Purim, at the recent Hakhel Yarchei Kallah:




A. Chazal teach that the Machatzis HaShekel that we gave pre-empted Haman’s shekalim which he intended to give to Achashveirosh in order to annihilate the Jewish people. The Machatzis HaShekel symbolizes our unity--our realization that we cannot go it alone, but that we need each other.


B. In fact, HaRav Nosson Wachtfogel, Z’tl, was asked: “What is the Avodas Hayom of Purim”. He responded that it is: “Ke’ish Echad B’Lev Echad--we are to unite as one person with one heart.” The Mitzvos HaYom of Purim clearly demonstrate this--Mishloach Manos, which increase love and friendship, Matanos L’Evyonim to any indigent person who presents himself, whether one knows him or not and without any further investigations, Seudas Purim in which people get together (‘misasfin yachad’), and even Kriyas HaMegillah at which there is a special ma’alah of reading together with the largest tzibur possible.


C. On Purim, we received the Torah in a new light--Kiymu VeKiblu--with open arms and with unabated love. This new Kabalas HaTorah was able to occur because we were Ke’ish Echad B’Lev Echad--just as we were when we encamped at Har Sinai (see Rashi to Shemos 19:2).


D. How, then, can we grow in our Achdus, in our Ahavas Yisrael in this preparatory period of Adar before Purim? The Ahavas Yisrael (the Kapiznitzer Rebbe, Z’tl), teaches that one need not practice to love the Gedolei HaDor, or our most revered Talmidei Chachomim--who would not love HaRav Moshe Feinstein, Z’tl?   Rather, one must practice Ahavas Yisrael with those persons who do not have the same tendencies as he does, who ‘get on his nerves’, or who always seem to say the wrong things. The Chidushei Harim notes that the chasida, despite its name, is a treif bird,  because it does Chesed only with chavrose’ha--her friends. This is not a Jewish attitude--it is a treif attitude.


E. In a similar vein, the Apter Rav, Z’tl, told his Chassidim that they could find Ahavas Yisrael in every word of the Torah. When the Rav related this, it was the week of Parashas Balak. One of his more brash Chassidim asked him where one could find Ahavas Yisrael in the word ‘Balak’ itself. The Rav responded: “What do you mean--Balak is an acronym for V’Ahavta LeReiacha Chamocha”. The Chossid, stunned for a moment, responded: “Rebbe--there is something wrong--the first letter of Balak is a Beis but the first letter of VeAhavta is a Vav. Also, the last letter of Balak is a Kuf, but Chamocha starts with a Chaf. The Rebbi responded: “This is what you are not understanding--if you focus on the little differences, you will never come to Ahavas Yisrael!”


F.  Indeed, Rabbi Zev Leff, Shlita, points out that Purim is unique in that the Holiday is celebrated by some Jews on Purim--and other Jews on Shushan Purim. If Purim is a day in which we emphasize our unity--then shouldn’t we be on the exact same page?! That is the point of Purim--to teach us that even if we are not doing the same thing--that is fine--as long as we are all doing what the Ribbono Shel Olam wants of us!




18 Adar I

SIX CONSTANT MITZVOS: The Six Constant Mitzvos are so unique, so special, so precious to us, for the very reason that they are constant, and can be thought of on a 24/7 basis. Because of the outstanding importance of one being extremely well-versed in these Mitzvos--to the point of knowing them by-heart, or close to by-heart, we provide our readers once again with four beautiful links which you can keep as close by as necessary.  English listing    Poster-size    Hebrew card     English card   [The last two links are also available as a laminated card which is free and can be obtained by sending a self-addressed stamped envelope to 90 High Street, Passaic, NJ 07055-4752]

We also remind you that an absolutely outstanding Hakhel Shiur on the Six Constant Mitzvos was provided by Rabbi Yerachmiel Milstein, Shlita. For CD’s of the Shiur, one should  contact 718-252-5274.



LIKE BODY, LIKE SOUL: Just as with gashmiyus--when we bang our foot, we hurt and begin to walk funny, so too it is with the ruchniyus--if our tongues are a bit too loose with a little Lashon Hara, or with coarse, hurtful, or non-complimentary words (even if they are simply only words that you wouldn’t say in front of your Rav, your Rebbi...or your shadchan)--then our Tefillos are wounded, and our words of Torah are no longer as pure. 




Special Note One: Today is the Yahrzeit of Chatzkel (HaRav Yechezkel B’ Reb Yehudah HaLevi) Levenstein, Z’tl, the great Mashgiach in Mir and Ponovezh. A disciple of HaRav Chatzkel related, “I once saw Rav Chatzkel in a state of extreme happiness, and asked him for the reason.” HaRav Chatzkel replied: “Someone greatly insulted me today, and I didn’t say anything in return. For this I am joyful” (Marbitzai Torah U’Mussar, Vol. 4, p.212, as published in Love Your Neighbor).


The following excerpt is from a truly remarkable sefer entitled Reb Chatzkel, on the life of Rabbi Yechezkel Levenstein, Z’tl, by Rabbi Yitzchak Kasnett (Artscroll, 2007).  This sefer is very highly recommended:  “On the way to Japan, the Mashgiach (Rabbi Levenstein, Z’tl) expressed to the Mirrer talmidim the following thoughts about the impending exile: ‘The decree of exile is an unnatural state that was expressly created for K’lal Yisrael.  When we consider the consequences of exile, we find that no nation other than K’lal Yisrael remains in existence after any appreciable time in exile.  The Midrash relates that Hashem Yisborach asked Avraham Avinu what punishment he chooses for his children when they will sin and there is no Beis HaMikdash to atone for their wrongdoing--exile or purgatory.  According to one opinion quoted in the Midrash, Avraham was unable to answer. Thus, in practical terms, the consequences of exile and purgatory are strongly equated.  Contrary to our understanding of exile, the deleterious effect of exile upon our spiritual growth and well-being cannot be overstated; we have no appreciation of the great measure of Divine mercy needed as we pass from one regime to the next.’” (Page 142)


Hakhel Note: As HaRav Chatzkel studied in Kelm as well, the book brings the following great teaching that we can all easily utilize in our daily lives:


The following was one of the rules that were in effect in the Kelm Talmud Torah:


To be careful not to say a Bracha hastily; therefore before making a Bracha, one must think:


What Bracha do I need to make?


Before Whom am I making this Bracha?



Special Note Two:  HaRav Chaim Kanievsky, Shlita teaches in the Sefer Derech Sicha on last week’s Parasha that the ongoing calamity of the Cheit Haeigel is due not as much to the sin of golden calf worship--as to the Mecholos--the dancing that took place in the wake of the sin  (See also Seforno to Shemos 32:19 in a similar vein). After the sin, the people were happy with what they had done.  We can all take a great lesson from this. If one realizes that he has sinned intentionally or unintentionally, accidentally or otherwise--he must immediately express remorse and disdain for what has happened and what he has done--and not ‘enjoy the benefits’ of the sin once ‘it has happened anyway’. In this way, he cripples the Malach Ra, the Kateigor, that was created to do battle against him and his people in Shomayim--and instead begins on the path of Teshuva--immediately.  It is our choice--Mecholos--or Mechila!


Hakhel Note: The Chayei Adam (68:13) writes that when it comes to Mitzvos--the rule is very much to the contrary. In the Tochacha, the Torah teaches us that r’l suffering is the result of not properly treasuring the Mitzvos and accordingly not performing them ‘BeSimcha U’vetuv Leivav’. The right approach is for one to think of all of the comforts, pleasures, precious jewels and riches that he can--and realize that they all plainly and really pale in significance to one easy and simply-performed Mitzvah.  In fact, our joy in each Mitzvah’s performance should be as boundless to us as the Mitzvah itself!



Special Note Three:  The following is excerpted from the outstanding Sefer Power Bentching by Rabbi Moshe Meir Weiss, Shlita: “I am fond of telling the following story to illustrate a fundamental truth. A man named Shmuel Yaakov lived to the age of eighty-six and then passed away. When he faced Hashem for his final Din V’Cheshbon, his Heavenly reckoning, Hashem tabulated all of his mitzvos and aveiros and computed his eternal reward. Hashem showed him a huge wooden portal and told Shmuel Yaakov to pass through, and he would be escorted to his eternal reward. Shmuel Yaakov looked upward and saw a silver gate, a pearly gate, a golden gate, a titanium gate, and other gates with such brilliance that he could not even open his eyes to look at them. Shmuel Yaakov timidly asked Hashem if he would ever be able to pass through those gates. Hashem looked at him sadly and said, “I’m sorry, Shmuel Yaakov, but you just did not do enough with your life to merit those Heavenly portals. You did not bring with you enough Torah or tzedakah. You did not shine in your marital devotion or dedication to your children and parents.” So Shmuel Yaakov passed through the wooden gate, comforted by the fact that there were many people in this Heavenly neighborhood whom he knew and recognized. Everything was okay until a few years later when Shmuel Yaakov’s neighbor, Moshe Chaim passed away. He too faced Hashem for judgment. But, unlike Shmuel Yaakov, Moshe Chaim was promptly fitted with a jet propeller on his back and Shmuel Yaakov saw him zooming up through the other shining gates. This was too much for Shmuel Yaakov to bear. So he approached Hashem and asked Him: “I don’t understand. Moshe Chaim, my friend, was an average a person as I was. How come he gets to pass through all of those Heavenly gates?” And once again, Shmuel Yaakov looked up and saw the lights streaming out from those celestial gates, with heavenly music and fragrances wafting from them causing him to be green with envy. Hashem answered Shmuel Yaakov, “Didn’t your Rebbe ever teach you what Chazal say so clearly--that whoever answers Amen with proper concentration-- all of the gateways of Gan Eden will open for him or her? Amen is the master key that opens all of these gates. Shmuel Yaakov, while you were daydreaming in shul or talking with your friends, Moshe Chaim was concentrating on each bracha and answering with a meaningful Amen.” This story should serve as a powerful incentive for us to make good use of the time we listen to the chazzan saying over the Shemone Esrei,·and to be attentive when our friends make brachos over the Torah. In truth, it is not only in the Next World that we benefit from a meaningful Amen. The Gemara in Berachos (47A) teaches us that “Kol HaMa’arich BeAmein…Whoever pauses to concentrate on his Amen, will enjoy quality day and longevity.” It is for this reason that we should also instruct our family members to make their brachos out loud, in order to give the gift of Amen-- long life and eternity--to their loved ones!”




17 Adar I



1. When wearing shatnez, it is a separate transgression for each time period that one is able to take off the shatnez garment and put it back on. Accordingly, if someone wears shatnez a whole day, it is literally hundreds if not thousands of transgressions!


2. An effective way to ensure a family is free of shatnez, is for a qualified shatnez laboratory expert to test the entire family’s wardrobe for shatnez. At recent shatnez house calls in Brooklyn and Lakewood, a number of worn garments were found to be shatnez!


Vaad L’Mishmeres Shatnez certifies shatnez laboratories in the tri-state area.

Vaad L’Mishmeres Shatnez can be reached at 1.877.4.SHATNEZ



FROM A READER: “A serious problem exists--many answer “Amen” before a bracha is completed. An “Amen” that is recited--even with all of the Kavanos and sincerity--before a bracha is completely finished is called an Amen Chatufah. According to Chazal (Brachos 47) an Amen Chatufah creates r’l a sakanah--a real danger.”


Hakhel Note: If one notices that a Shaliach Tzibur stretches out the end word or words of a bracha, so that people answer Amen before his completing the bracha--one should alert the Shaliach Tzibur to the issue, so that he is not machshil people with this serious issue.




Special Note One :  In last week’s Parasha, Hashem advises Moshe Rabbeinu--”Ve’Roisa Es Achorai U’Fanai Lo Yeira’u--you will see My ‘back’, but not My ‘face’--as the  Chasam Sofer is well-known to explain--you will understand events after they happen but will not be able to understand them prior to then.  We all know that in our turbulent world something is happening--we simply don’t know what it is--and we are not supposed to, for if we did we would have Nevi’im . So what is it for us to do? Of course, it cannot be said enough--it is Teshuva--the desire, the longing, the movement, the actual strides to put your life and the lives of those close to you in the right direction.--in that very same direction as those 20% who left Egypt, and not the 80% who tragically remained forever behind.  The first steps in Teshuva are identifying the foibles and the shortcomings, the faults and the failures. The next step is feeling true remorse over them and realistically resolving how to not fall to them so easily again.  Every day, we recite the words “Selach Lanu Avinu Ki Chatanu--Hashem, please forgive us for having sinned.”  Without proper charata--remorse over a misdeed, what worth is the thrice daily lip movement?  Is there any redeeming value to saying something to Hashem which you don’t mean now--even if you do intend to mean it five or six months from now when Elul gets closer.  The key is valuing each day here and now, and not letting it pass without a new step in the direction of shleimus--making oneself whole as a person. Not letting the indiscretion, the carelessness, the instinct-over-intellect, happen again, and doing this consciously and consistently, day after day, will provide daily elevation--as we ready ourselves for the day, may it come soon, when we will no longer have to see the ‘Achorai’--but instead will be mekabel the Pnei Hashem--U’fanai Yeira’u!



Special Note Two: Chazal teach that “HaDan Chaveiro L’Chaf Zechus Danin Oso L’Chaf Zechus”--one who judges his friend favorably will be judged favorably by the Heavenly Tribunal.  HaRav Chaim Friedlander, Z’tl (in the Sefer Sifsei Chaim I: p. 219) asks a pointed question:  ”How can the Heavenly Tribunal have any license or ability to judge one “favorably” if in Heaven everything is clearly known, and there are no doubts about the meanings and intentions of the person?  HaRav Friedlander answers that the fact that one judges another L’Chaf Zechus demonstrates that he has a “Mabat Shel Rachamim V’Ahava Al Acheirim--that he looks at others mercifully and lovingly”, and that accordingly they will look upon him with mercy and love in Heaven.”  Thus, when Chazal state that he will be judged “L’Chaf Zechus” in Heaven, it does not mean that they will ignore what he really intended, but that he will be looked upon mercifully and lovinglywhich is the root of his Middah of being Dan L’Chaf Zechus.  HaRav Shlomo Wolbe, Z’tl, explains the concept in a related way.  He notes that when one is Dan L’Chaf Zechus he is demonstrating an “Ayin Tova--he wants his friend to be zakkai, to be innocent, not to be culpable and searches for ways to get to that result”.  In Heaven, therefore, they will act with an Ayin Tova--searching for the ways and means to likewise understand his deeds in a positive light. 



Special Note Three:  We continue an exciting Monday/Thursday series on the practical aspects of Sta”m, written by Rabbi Reuvain Mendlowitz, Shlita, author of Inside Sta”m--An Insider Reveals The Answers To All The Questions You Should Ask When Purchasing Or Maintaining Tefillin, Mezuzos, Megillos, Sifrei Torah And Nevi’im.


For a fuller treatment of all topics to be discussed, we urge you to purchase the Sefer, which provides practical and meaningful information and ideas.






Does the recommendation that one use klaf avodas yad apply to all STA”M items, or are there items where there is more room to be lenient?




There are differences. By way of introduction, let us emphasize again that the ibbud process must be done lishmah. The reservations of the poskim to machine klaf all revolve around the validity of the lishmah aspect during various stages of the ibbud when done by machine.


It follows, then, that the more stringent the poskim are regarding the need for ibbud lishmah of each particular item, the more desirable klaf avodas yad.


Let us look at each STA”M item individually – from the most stringent to the least stringent.



The halachah is that the klaf used for writing parashiyos of tefillin requires ibbud lishmah. This is the opinion of most Rishonim. Therefore, if someone had tefillin written on klaf which was not processed lishmah, he may not make a berachah.



According to most Rishonim, the halachah is that a mezuzah requires ibbud lishmah. Nevertheless, if no such mezuzah is available, one should rely on the Rambam, who rules that a mezuzah does not require ibbud lishmah, and use a mezuzah not processed lishmah. (No berachah is recited.) When possible, it should be replaced with a mezuzah made of klaf processed lishmah (me’ubad lishmah).


Sefer Torah

Most Rishonim maintain that a Sefer Torah requires ibbud lishmah. Nevertheless, since a number of prominent Rishonim assert that it does not require ibbud lishmah, the halachah is that if no other Sefer Torah is available, it is permissible to use a Sefer Torah lacking this feature for leining. One is even permitted to make berachos on such a Sefer Torah.


Megillas Esther

The Shulchan Aruch cites a machlokes between the Rambam and Rabbeinu Tam as to whether or not the klaf used to write a Megillas Esther needs to be me’ubad lishmah. Rabbeinu Tam maintains that it does – in keeping with his opinion that all the halachos of a Sefer Torah also apply to Megillas Esther.


The Rambam, on the other hand, is of the opinion that although a Sefer Torah does require ibbud lishmah, Megillas Esther does not. Hence, using a Megillas Esther written on klaf me’ubad lishmah would be a lower priority than using a Torah scroll me’ubad lishmah.



Nevi’im scrolls do not need ibbud lishmah.

In light of the foregoing discussion, we see that it would be most worthwhile to invest in klaf avodas yad when purchasing STA”M items, in the following order of priority: tefillin, mezuzos, Sifrei Torah, Megillas Esther, and then all other Nevi’im and megillos.




14 Adar I

PURIM KATAN! Today, 14 Adar I and tomorrow 15 Adar I--or Purim Katan and Shushan Purim Katan--are the subject of the entire last Siman of Shulchan Aruch Orach Chaim (697). The Rema there concludes that one should in all events have a bit more for his seudah this morning (or for those living in Yerushalayim--Shushan Purim Katan and tomorrow’s Seudah)  in order to fulfill the opinion of those who rule that on Purim Katan one should increase his mishteh and simcha. The Mishnah Berurah brings that when one does so, he increases the Kavod HaNes--the honor of the miracle that happened in those times. Hakhel Note: If one has already eaten his morning seudah--then at least he should be marbeh b’simcha today…and remember the Nes!


Hakhel Note One: We must remember that Chazal in Mesechta Megillah raise the question as to which 14 Adar is to be observed as Purim--the 14th of Adar I or the 14th of Adar II.  We know how the Halacha resolves the issue--by putting the Geulah of Purim into Adar II, which is closer to the Geulah of Pesach. Otherwise, it is not a simple issue at all!   We must appreciate and understand the inherent Kochos of the day.  May we suggest that in addition to feeling the Simcha of the day, that we also remember the Koach of Tefillah and recite Tehillim Chapter 22, which is what Esther recited BeRuach Hakodesh as she attempted to enter the presence of Achashveirosh.  We know how she was answered--may we be answered in equal measure!






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


A.  The Sefer Yereim writes that Hadlakas Neiros is “Gemara Gemiri La”--is actually a Halachah LeMoshe MiSinai!  Rebbe Akiva Eiger, Z’tl suggests that men (Hakhel Note: or other able-bodied person) take part in the Mitzvah by making sure that the Neiros are in fine order for the woman of the house to light.  We may add that this could include testing the candles and fixing them well into the leichter, putting the matches in place, making the Sefer with special Tefillos for the time readily available on the table--as the time of Hadlakas Neiros is an Eis Ratzon, etc. The moment the Queen enters is a powerful one--and a proper--and not hurried and hassled-- Hadlakas Neiros is like the rolling out of a beautiful red carpet to meet her!


B. In response to a question we posed to him, Rabbi Yisroel Pinchos Bodner, Shlita rules that:  ”Moving muktza even if it moves only in its place is prohibited. Touching muktza without causing it to move, wobble, or tilt is permitted.”


C.  In the Parasha, we find the following powerful Pasuk describing Moshe Rabbeinu’s initial reaction to the events of the Chait Haegel:  ”VaYomer Ein Kol Anos Gevura VeAin Kol Anos Chalusha Kol Anos Anochi Shomea--Moshe Rabbeinu told Yehoshua “It is not a sound shouting strength nor a sound shouting weakness--it is  a sound of distress that I hear (Shemos 32:18).  HaRav Yisroel Belsky, Shlita teaches that the meaning of the word Anos the third time it is mentioned in the Pasuk is different than the first two times that it is mentioned. The first two times it means ‘sounding’, and the third time it means ‘distress’--inui.  It is truly a different word--which is why there is a dagesh in the Nun of the third Anos of the Pasuk, and not in the first two. Accordingly, to the extent possible--the ba’al kriyah who is laining, and one being ma’avir sidra should read the third occurrence as ANNOS and not as ANOS--i.e., with a greater accent or drawing out of the nun, not actually making it onto a ‘double-nun’--but extending it a bit--so that one recognizes and demonstrates the different word being read!


 D.  Also in the Parasha, we find that the Torah requires that: “Veshomru Vnei Yisroel Es HaShabbos--Bnei Yisroel shall observe the Shabbos,” to make the Shabbos an eternal covenant for their generations (Shemos 31:16).  This Pasuk, together with the Pasuk which follows it, are so essential to our understanding of Shabbos that we repeat them both at Ma’ariv and in Shacharis on Shabbos.  What is the concept of “Shemiras Shabbos?”


As we recently noted, HaRav Shlomo Mandel, Shlita, explained at a Hakhel shiur that a “shomer” is someone who guards, watches out for, is on the alert, and anticipates.  Indeed, the Torah uses the concept of “Shemira” when it describes how Yaakov Avinu responded to Yosef’s dreams.  The Torah states:  V’Aviv Shamar Es HaDavar--and his father [Yaakov Avinu] was waiting and anticipating for [the dreams] to happen.” (Bereishis 37:11, and Rashi there)


This is an extremely important lesson for us.  The Torah requires us to be “Shomrei Shabbos”.  In order to fulfill this properly, we cannot start with candle lighting and/or “Lecha Dodi”.  Instead, we must appropriately prepare our thoughts and actions, so that, to the greatest extent possible, we can enter the Shabbos in a state of preparedness and equanimity--watching out and anticipating for the Shabbos the come.


There are many practical examples in which one can make strides towards this end.  For instance, one can, as much as possible, undertake Shabbos preparations earlier in the week, and on Thursday evening and Friday morning.  Additionally, business matters such as taking care of bills, or even going through the mail, when it does not require immediate attention, can become part of “Shemiras Shabbos” if they are put off until Sunday or Monday.  Interestingly, it was HaRav Aryeh Levin Z’TL’s custom not to open letters that arrived Friday afternoon, so that bothersome thoughts and worries should not trouble him on Shabbos (Growth Through Torah p. 220, quoting A Tzaddik In Our Time p. 100).


There are other activities which could help you become a superior “Shomer Shabbos”.  Making a list of the things that have to be done--and especially those things which you have had issues with in the past--making sure you have wine, candles, matches, open tissue boxes, clothes (without stains from the previous week), Torah thoughts for the Shabbos table--and accomplishing these, and many other items which could truly be taken care of, hours and hours and even a day or days before Shabbos.


If a man is more often late than on time for Mincha in shul on Friday afternoon, or if a woman customarily, or even usually, lights the neiros “just a minute or two” after the published Z’man, there is an indication of weakness in his/her anticipating, watching out for, guarding, longing for, the Shabbos that is coming.  If the scene is one in which the husband is still in the bedroom area at candle lighting time, or the woman of the house has to choose between davening Mincha before candle lighting--or lighting neiros five minutes late, some corrections may be in order.


Indeed, the Shulchan Aruch, rather than requiring raised voices, anger, and tension, immediately prior to Shabbos, instead requires that a person “arise early” on Erev Shabbos to properly prepare (Shulchan Aruch, Orach Chaim 250:1).  In fact, the Mishna Berurah there requires that some Shabbos preparation be done after davening Shacharis (and, if necessary, even before Shacharis--see there).  Furthermore--the Shulchan Aruch (ibid. 260:2) actually requires that one speak “B’Lashon Raka” (in a soft voice)--immediately before Shabbos(!)--even as to those matters which require correction before Shabbos arrives.


In an ideal world, Shemira would include being ready a few minutes in advance and waiting for the Shabbos queen to come, by saying Tehillim, learning Torah, or the like--just as the watchman watches and anticipates.  For the men, there are undoubtedly great zechusim to be had when one is not dashing out the door to shul with suit jacket in hand, tie not made, and wet hair.  For the women, there is very much to be gained lighting neiros two or three minutes before the Z’man, instead of a minute or two or three after the Z’man.  Each one of us should sit down and think about how we can improve our quest for a greater appreciation, a greater understanding, a greater accomplishment, in being a “Shomer Shabbos” Jew!


E.  We provide below an extremely important thought provided in the past on our unique and wonderful relationship to Veshomru Vnei Yisroel Es HaShabbos:


Shabbos is the only day of the week in which each Tefillah of Shemone Esrei is different.

·                    In the evening, we recite “Ata Kidashta”--You have sanctified us.

·                    In the morning, we recite “Yismach Moshe”--Moshe was gladdened.

·                    In the afternoon, we recite “Ata Echad”--You are one…

The Sefer Avudraham (1:163) asks--why is it only on Shabbos--and not on the weekdays--or even on Rosh Hashana, Yom Kippur or the Shalosh Regalim--that the text of the Shemone Esrei changes at each one of the Tefillos? The Avudraham provides an amazing answer.  Because Shabbos is called the “Kallah” (Bava Kama 32B), and Hakadosh Baruch Hu is called the Choson, we first celebrate our initial participation in the Kiddushin, i.e., the commencement of the installment of Kedusha into Shabbos--by reciting “Ata Kidashta” on Leil Shabbos.  Indeed, it would seem that we joyously sing Lecha Dodi just as we escort the Choson to greet the Kallah.

At Shacharis, we recite “Yismach Moshe”--Moshe rejoiced--as the Choson’s and Kallah’s and participants’ joy increases after the Chuppah, and as the Chassuna progresses.  We are now invited to take an even more active role in the joy, as the Choson asks us to take good care of his precious Kallah and we proudly recite “Veshomru Vnei Yisroel Es HaShabbos”.”  It is with the greatest honor and pleasure that we take the Choson’s request to heart, mind and action.  As Chazal teach, our Shabbos observance is even more important than even the building of the Bais Hamikdash (see Rashi, Shemos 31:13).  We hope and pray for the Bais Hamikdash daily, yet we cannot violate Shabbos to attain it, because we have been asked to guard the Kallah.

We then continue with Mussaf, with the bringing of Korbanos as the “Seudas Mitzvah.”

Finally, at Mincha we celebrate “Ata Echad”--the conclusion of the Chassuna--and the resulting unity and oneness of the Choson and Kallah.

We may add that just as when you come home from a really joyous, nice Chassuna, or from the Chassuna of a close relative or friend, you bring the joy home with you (compare this to the Melave Malka), and the joy lasts for a few days--or even for the week, through the Sheva Brochos, so should our honored participation in the Simchas Shabbos last for several days, or perhaps even a week, until the next Shabbos--when we can once again experience transcendent and sublime joy.

There is no doubt that a direct correlation exists between the way we celebrate at a Chassuna and its lasting effect upon us.  If our celebration is with the fish crepe, squash soup or well-done prime ribs in duck sauce, there will definitely be some kind of lasting effect (at least somewhere in--or on--the body!).  But if we feel an internal joy out of close friendship and oneness with the Choson and Kallah, the feeling will have even a greater impact and most certainly endure for a longer period.  The feeling of closeness will cause you to “stay in contact” with the Choson and Kallah.


Similarly, Rav Shlome Wolbe, Z’tl, once commented, that while a tasty Cholent is truly an important aspect of Shabbos, it should not in and of itself be the highlight of this sacrosanct day.  Instead, we should actually try to establish the highlight of the day ourselves--our greatest moment of joy with the Choson and Kallah at their celebration.

One’s highlight should be something special and meaningful, and may be:

·                    A heartfelt Lecha Dodi or Zemiros with feeling or even intensity.

·                    Learning Rashi, Ramban or Midrash or other commentaries on the Parsha.  We can always draw wellsprings of information on how to conduct ourselves during the week by applying the Parsha’s timeless and timely lessons.

·                    In Shacharis, reciting Nishmas slowly, word by word, or feeling moved at “Kel Adon” (not just waiting for the tune the Chazan will use).

·                    Helping to make the Shabbos table warm and inspirational with a poignant Devar Torah or lesson-filled story you have prepared.

·                    Giving meaningful advice or assistance to a Shabbos guest.

So, as we shower, shine our shoes, set the table or otherwise prepare for the great Chassuna  this Shabbos, or even when we are at the Chassuna itself, let us go beyond the delectable kugels and cakes and pleasant and refreshing Shabbos nap, and think about how and what we will do this Shabbos that will permeate and elevate us and leave a supernal effect upon us through the week!


Special Note Two:  In the Parasha, we learn of the horrific sin of the Golden Calf.  In its aftermath, Hashem told Moshe Rabbeinu: “Say to Bnei Yisroel--you are stiff-necked people…” (Shemos 33:5).  In fact, this exact same description of our “stiff-neckedness” is repeated two other times in the Parsha (Shemos 33:3 and 34:9).   Likewise, in the Viduy we recite “Kishinu Oref--we have been stiff-necked.”  There is a very important message here for us.  The neck, as opposed to the front, symbolizes the back of the person and shows that the person is turned away from someone, rather than facing him.  It is our job not to turn away from what we have done, and certainly not to turn away from Hashem.  Instead, we must face that which we have done with a plan to improve, and face Hashem asking Him for nothing less than Divine assistance going forward.


We believe that there is also a vital second lesson:  The Torah is teaching that the heinous “Chait Haegel” is related to being obstinate and inflexible.  In our stubbornness, we must be careful to distinguish between fact and opinion, between “teaching lessons to others” and learning to control our self-interest or pride.  It is now a very auspicious time to deal with this middah, in order to indicate that we, on our own personal level and in our own private way, are looking to correct the stiff-neckedness within us--and our recognition that obstinacy could eventually result in something that is r’l catastrophic.  If our actions are “just because” or “because that is the way I do things” or because “I know I am right” or “because I don’t do it that way”… (you can fill in another phrase that better summarizes your own stiff-neckedness) then we may have to work on some adjustments in attitude.


Of course, being tough in some areas is good--such as not flinching from the requirements of Halacha or proper Hashkafa in spite of work, financial or even social pressures to do so.  However, Chazal advise specifically that “a person should be soft as a reed, and not hard as a cedar tree” (Taanis 20B).  Reeds are malleable and do not break--even in the face of a harsh wind or thunderous storm.  Incredibly, the mighty cedar may fall earlier than the thin little reed.  Let us take this lesson to heart as we practice acting with more pleasance than presence, the way Hashem would like us to!



Special Note Three:  We present several additional points from Parshas Ki Sisa to apply (and hopefully inculcate within ourselves) over Shabbos, the coming week...and beyond!:


A.  The Pasuk teaches that the letters on the Luchos were engraved through and through, and that, by Miracle, they could be read from both sides although the writing was not reversed.  HaRav Pam, Z’tl, as quoted in the wonderful work The Pleasant Way, by Rabbi Sholom Smith, Shlita, brings the following important lesson relating to this Miracle:  HaRav Chaim Elazar Wachs, Z’tl, (the “Nefesh Chayah”) was a partner in a paper factory.  His partner came to him with an idea that would bring him a great deal of profit in a short amount of time.  When the partner presented all of the details, HaRav Wachs concluded that the idea involved some degree of impropriety, and bordered on geneiva.  His partner still wanted to go ahead with the “get-rich-quick” scheme.  HaRav Wachs exclaimed, “Don’t you realize why the Luchos had to be readable from either side?!  Because no matter which way you turn the Luchos--you have to see the Lo Signov!”  [In Yiddish:  “Az men dreit a hin, oder men dreit a heir, es shteit noch ales Lo Signov!”]  We may all be faced with the temptations of improprieties--some bigger and some smaller.  We must, however, realize that the Luchos preceded these temptations and manipulations--and covers them from whatever angle they may be coming!


B.  Chazal (Rosh Hashanah 17B) teach of the great power of the Thirteen Middos of Rachamim found in the Parsha (Shemos 34:6,7), which are first introduced to us after the Chait Haegel.  Indeed, their introduction to us after the Eigel indicates their great potency--as we are kept going as a nation after such a devastating aveira.  The Netziv makes an amazing point as to one of these Middos.  He writes that it is not correct to read this Middah as “Rav Chesed” and then simply continue with “Emes”, as the next Middah.  Instead, and in fact, the word “Rav” modifies BOTH Chesed and Emes--for Hashem not only provides Abundant Chesed but also Abundant Truth.  It is this Middah that we must emulate--not to allow ourselves into the singular comfort of “Rav Chesed” which we are so incredibly blessed with in K’lal Yisroel--but also to be the Rav Emes--being an overflowing source of Truth as well!


C.  The Taz asks what is the Attribute of Mercy contained in the word “Lo Yinakeh”.  We know that Yinakeh means that Hashem cleanses the sin of one who does Teshuva--but how is the Lo Yinakeh--Not Cleansing the Sin--helpful to us?  The Taz answers that it means that Hashem will not eliminate the sin and will in fact punish the sinner somewhat --but still waits for him to do Teshuva, and in the interim does not give him the punishment that he truly otherwise deserves.  There are thirteen different levels of Mercy--it is up to us to determine which levels of Mercy we will be zoche to--we do not have to be at the bottom of the class--so why should we put ourselves there?  Teshuva is a much better alternative!


D. By clicking here, Hebrew link   English link, we provide descriptions of the 13 Middos of Hashem listed in this week’s Parasha --how great it is to study, absorb and follow them!


E.  HaRav Moshe Rosenshein, Z’tl, approached his great Rebbe, the Mashgiach of Mir, HaRav Yeruchem Levovitz, Z’tl, and asked him to explain the Chait Haegel to him.  After much study of the topic, HaRav Rosenshein was expecting a greatly detailed and long explanation from his Rebbe of what had transpired here.  HaRav Yeruchem answered with Two Words.  The Two Words....Yetzer Hora!  After all, could it make any sense that a people who owed so much to Moshe Rabbeinu would believe that he died--and almost immediately start to wildly party?  As we say in the Lechu Nerannena at the outset of Kabbalas Shabbos (Tehillim 95) “Va’Omar Am To’ei Levev Haim...--and I said they are a people who are mistaken of heart...”  The Yetzer Hora’s effects were so devastating that the sin of the Golden Calf burdens us to this very day.  There is a great lesson for us all here.  If we could remind ourselves when making any daily decision that we must realize which side of the decision the Yetzer Hora is on--we can take a great step--on a daily basis--to overcoming, overriding and overruling the Chait Haegel itself.  What an accomplishment!  What a great and enormous potential every day brings with it!




13 Adar I

RECEIVED FROM THE CHOFETZ CHAIM HERITAGE FOUNDATION RELATING TO THE US NORTHEAST WINTER STORM: Dear Friends: We will be presented with challenges (parking, ice, dismissal, cancellations, etc.) that are inherent with storms like this, let's remember to be patient and understanding with each other. Some drivers will drive or park carelessly, people will be late, tempers will flare, and unfortunately, things can be said and done that are normally unlike us. The snow will melt, our lives will quickly return to normal and this storm will be forgotten. But a word, action, or even a gesture, will be remembered long after by your friends and neighbors. Please be patient and understanding and we will get through this together. Wishing you safety, warmth and continued hatzlocha. (Thanks to Yeshiva Darchei Noam / Yeshivas Ohr Reuven for this reminder.)



Special Note One:  In this week’s Parasha, Moshe Rabbeinu was taught by Hashem to invoke the Thirteen Middos of Mercy (Shemos 34:6, 7) because of the danger facing the Bnai Yisroel.  Remarkably, the first four of these Attributes relate directly, as you may have guessed, to Hashem’s Compassion.  We present below the basic meaning of each one of these four Attributes--which are “Hashem,” “Hashem,” “Kel” and “Rachum,” (as published by the Irgun Harbotzas HaTorah of Lakewood , New Jersey ):


1. Hashem--Compassionate before one has sinned.  Even before a person has sinned he still needs Heavenly Compassion, for Hashem owes us nothing; all that we have is only due to His grace and compassion.  Also, even when Hashem sees that a person will sin in the future, His Compassion for him at present remains, since the person has not yet sinned.


2. Hashem--Compassionate after one has sinned and repented.  Even after a person has sinned, after repentance, Hashem’s compassion is immediately rekindled towards him. This is unlike the behavior of a human being, who will distance himself from a person who has wronged him, and will often never accept him back.  Hashem’s Being, however, is unchanging (as hinted in this word), and therefore even after a person sinned (even seriously) His Compassion still remains.


3. Kel--This, too, is an attribute of compassion.  There are different levels of compassion.  This is not the same type of compassion as is denoted in the name Hashem.  Some explain that the two letters of this Attribute--Alef and Lamed--denote total mercy.


4. Rachum--Compassionate to ease even the punishment of sinners when they call out to Him.


THIS IS A WAKE UP CALL--this time from the Parasha ahead of us!  If we can back up all of these Tefillos with our own personal empathy and feeling for others--and with kind words and quiet actions which stave off their need to ask us for Chesed from us--we will be in a better position, a much better position, to beg Hashem to shower His Compassion upon us and all around us!



Special Note Two: The following is published in this week’s Divrei Siach, presenting Teshuvos of HaRav Chaim Kanievsky, relating to the Mitzvah of Yishuv Eretz Yisrael:


1. Question: The Ramban writes that dwelling in Eretz Yisrael is a Mitzvas Asei even during the time of Galus. Does the Halacha follow the Ramban?

    Answer: One should be concerned for the shita of the Ramban.


2. Question: Does one fulfill the Mitzvah every minute that he is in Eretz Yisrael--or only when he first comes to live there?

Answer: Every minute.


3. Question: What if one is born in Eretz Yisrael-does he still fulfill the Mitzvah?

    Answer: One does not have to move from Chutz La’aretz to Eretz Yisrael--one fulfills the Mitzvah even when born in Eretz Yisrael.


4. Question: Is a woman commanded in the Mitzvah of Yishuv Eretz Yisrael?

    Answer: Yes


5. Question: Does one living in Eretz Yisrael have to have Kavannah that he is being mekayeim the Mitzvah of Yishuv Eretz Yisrael--at least from time-to-time?

    Answer: It would seem appropriate to have this Kavannah.


6. Question: If one owns an apartment in Eretz Yisrael but does not live there--is he mekayeim a Mitzvah?

    Answer: No, for he does not live there.


7. Question: Is one mekayeim the Mitzvah if he visits for a week, but does not live there        permanently?

     Answer: Yes (there may be two separate Mitzvos--one of Yeshivas Eretz Yisrael, and one of Yishuv (permanently dwelling) in Eretz Yisrael).



Special Note Three:  We continue an exciting Monday/Thursday series on the practical aspects of Sta”m, written by Rabbi Reuvain Mendlowitz, Shlita, author of Inside Sta”m--An Insider Reveals The Answers To All The Questions You Should Ask When Purchasing Or Maintaining Tefillin, Mezuzos, Megillos, Sifrei Torah And Nevi’im.


For a fuller treatment of all topics to be discussed, we urge you to purchase the Sefer, which provides practical and meaningful information and ideas.




 We have been discussing the differences between hand-made and machine-made klaf.


Machine-made klaf is produced by simply using a massive tub equipped with an electronic mixer, filling it with chemical and ibbud ingredients, saying l’shem kedushas STA”M, putting in the hides, and pushing a button, the entire process could be completed in one third the time – with less untidiness.


The biggest advantage of the machine method is that the quality of the klaf produced is far superior to the rough, uneven klaf (avodas yad) previously available to the sofrim. Naturally, this new klaf became extremely popular. Until recently, almost all the klaf sold in the world was klaf mechonah.


Although the poskim had a number of reservations concerning klaf mechonah, there was really no viable alternative because all sofrim agreed that the old-style klaf  was difficult to write on and caused letters to crack. (One Rav termed the old-style klaf “rolled concrete,” and quipped that it was like writing on “floor tiles.”) Hence, the custom became to write on klaf mechonah.


However, since some of the gedolei haposkim were uncomfortable with klaf mechonah from a halachic standpoint, various klaf machers dabbled in trying to improve klaf avodas yad. Slowly, but surely, they began to succeed. As the quality improved, the demand grew. Today, all major klaf machers offer klaf avodas yad.


The fact is that nowadays the quality of klaf avodas yad is just as good as klaf mechonah. Any sofer who says he “can’t write on klaf avodas yad” simply hasn’t tried it. Many sofrim have switched over to klaf avodas yad in recent years, heeding the call of leading poskim, and they all say that it only takes a couple of weeks to get used to it, and then everything goes smoothly.


As to the exact halachic status of the machine-klaf there are three basic opinions:

1) HaRav Nissim Karelitz is of the opinion that machine-klaf is mehudar.

2) HaRav Shmuel Wosner is of the opinion that machine-klaf is l'chatchilah, but not mehudar.

3) HaRav Elyashiv z”l was of the opinion that machine-klaf is b'dieved.




The cost of klaf avodas yad is almost identical to the cost of machine-klaf. Consequently, while it may not be necessary to buy STA”M written only on klaf avodas yad, if one wants a truly mehudar item, he would be well advised to insist on it.




12 Adar I

REMEMBER--YOU CAN REALLY DO IT!  If you start Mesechta Megillah this week (latest start this Thursday) and learn one blatt a day--you will make a Siyum on Mesechta Megillah at the Seudas Purim!  What Joy for Purim!  If you need a Blatt Shiur--one hour (or less) a day to help you--once again, you may call 718-906-6400, in addition to the many Shiurim available on line.  Don’t wait--start today.  The greater the preparation for Purim--the more one puts in to make it great--the grander the Simchas Purim will be!



STANDING BEFORE HASHEM: “In his will, Rav Naftali Amsterdam left several suggestions for preparing to recite Shemoneh Esrei: One method is to think about the sequence of the berachos when reciting them. Another is to stop periodically at appropriate points to focus on the fact that one is standing before Hashem, Who can grant any request. He suggested “Atah Chonein” (fourth berachah), “Teka B’Shofar” (tenth berachah), and “Retzei” (seventeenth berachah) as berachos particularly suited to this thought. (Praying with Fire, p. 172)




Special Note One: The Orchos Chaim L’Rosh (94) provides a crucial daily teaching:  Ahl Tochal Achila Gasa Ahd She’temalei Kereisecha, Ki Harbeh Chalaim Ba’im Ahl Rov Achila--do not overeat-- until your stomach is full, because many sicknesses come from excessive eating.”  On this point, the Ponovizher Rav, Zt’l, brings the Rambam, who teaches that a guf bari--a healthy body is part of Avodas HaBorei, for not only is it harder to learn Torah and do mitzvos when sick, it also adversely impacts on a person’s ruchniyus. This is true simply because the purpose of eating is to enable a person to conduct all of his affairs in a clear and coherent fashion--to reach his life’s potential and goals.


HaRav Yecheskel Levenstein, Z’tl, adds that, as a practical matter, one can work towards making eating a tool in Avodas Hashem in various ways:


A.  Think about how much you are going to eat of something before eating it.


B. Do not eat in one continuous intake stream, but instead wait a bit after starting, or perhaps while in the course of eating, and/or when close to completion.  The Alter of Kelm, Z’tl, viewed this as an act of sheviras hayetzer--breaking one’s desire.


C. In any event, notwithstanding how hungry one may be, he should not eat in a ravenous or famished manner, but benachas u’beshalva--in a calm and peaceful manner--always.


Hakhel Note:  An additional level of spiritual control in eating would be for a person to recite his bracha rishona--the bracha before eating--from a siddur or card, so that the physical act is clothed in spiritual garb--as it cannot begin for another few seconds until one locates the bracha and perforce recites it with more Kavannah than if recited by heart and mouth alone.



Special Note Two:  With all of the snowy and icy weather in the Northeast United States , a thinking person (the Mashgiach Ruchani in a Yeshiva) provided the following thought:


In icy weather, one has to be careful--very careful. It is not enough, however, to be duly vigilant 999 of 1,000 times--for if one does not exercise the necessary caution and care only on the 1,000th time and slips and hurts himself--he has failed, and has no one to blame but himself. At first glance, this doesn’t seem very fair. After all 999 out of 1,000 earns one a score of 99.9%!


Let us take one other example, however. A driver exercises all necessary defensive driving techniques, and utilizes extra caution when behind the wheel, justly viewing driving the city streets not as recreation but as responsibility.  After twenty years of successful driving, once, in a lightheaded mood, he decides that he is at last not going to put on his seat belt, and not stop only at the first three stop signs he encounters. At the second stop sign--r’l the driver side is hit by a car that had the right of way--but going well over the speed limit. Was that fair?


Yes, all of this is fair, for we live in a world where there are rules. One of the most important rules is that we have to be careful all of the time.  If we are not, we are personally accountable for the consequences. We, as Shomrei Torah U’Mitzvos are Metzuvin V’Osein--required to perform the mitzvos on a 24/7 basis.  Unlike the other nations of the world, who lost their status as Metzuvin V’Osein on the Sheva Mitzvos B’nai Noach because they failed to perform them (they will receive reward, but now on a lower level, merely as someone who has performed a good deed)--we retain our status as trusted servants and confidants of the King--Who looks to us to serve Him with true dedication and complete loyalty. If a person would aver to steadfastly adhere to 612 of the 613 Mitzvos, he would be a mumar as to that Mitzvah--an utter abrogation of his divine duty and of his sacred trust. 


The ice is too slippery to run on to make the bus, the cold too biting and potentially harmful to take even a short walk without adequate covering.  There are no excuses for laxity, for ‘just this one time’--neither in the gashmius of this world or in the ruchniyus of the next!



Special Note Three: Let us take the previous message to its glorious conclusion:   Dovid HaMelech teaches in Tehillim “U’lecha Hashem Chosed Ki Atta SeShaleim LeIsh KeMa’aseihu--Hashem, kindness is Yours, for You repay a man according to his deeds” (Tehillim 62:13).


The Chofetz Chaim writes that many wonder as to why it is considered a special Chesed for Hashem to repay a person for that which he has done--for his performance of the Mitzvos.  After all, he did his part--no?  The Chofetz Chaim answers that the Chesed is much, much greater than we think, and to elucidate provides the following Mashal:  An inventor created machinery and equipment which were so technologically advanced that it was capable of building an entire city in one day.  He knew that if he brought his invention to the king, he would surely be given a wonderful and rewarding gift, and then be sent away to let the king utilize all of the equipment to its greatest advantage.  Never in his wildest dreams, however, would the inventor imagine that the king would give him all of the cities that would be built using these machines, and that they would be named after him, as if he himself had built each and every one of them.  The Nimshal: When we study Torah, we literally keep the world going through the Torah’s holy words.  Because of our studies, Hashem continues to be “MeChadeish Ma’aseh Bereishis--to renew the acts of creation every day and every moment.”  Dovid Hamelech incredibly teaches us that even though it is Hashem Who is continuously creating and recreating the world, He credits us with it as if it is ‘Kemaseihu’--as if we ourselves are recreating the world daily.  It is not only a few cities that are ours--but the entire world that Hashem deems to be our handiwork!  With this great concept in heart and mind, we should understand and appreciate how significant our words of Torah really are--and perhaps more importantly how significantly Hashem Himself views them!  After a Shiur or a study session, look around.  The world is still going--it is because of you!!




11 Adar I

WHAT IS THE JOY OF THE WORLD TO COME? “We have a description of the happiness in the world to come. It is the happiness of seeing, recognizing and understanding. Seeing and recognizing and understanding what? The great truth about Hashem. This is the great truth that no one could understand in our world. Even Moshe Rabbeinu begged Hashem [in this week’s Parasha]: ‘Hareini Nah Es Kevodecha--Hashem, please show me Your Glory.’ Hashem said: ‘Even you, Moshe, will not be able to see that in this world, you have to wait for the world to come.” (From Simcha Minute--Inspiring Quotations by Rabbi Avigdor Miller, Z’tl)




Special Note One: How well do you know last week’s Parsha? We provide below a portion of the questions and answers on this week’s Parsha as presented in the outstanding English Sefer Torahific! By Rabbi Maimon Elbaz, Shlita:


1. Why were there two Mizbachos in the Mishkan and in the Beis Hamikdash? (Kli Yakar, Taam V’daas quoting Yoma 21a)


The human body has two main decision-makers: the brain and the heart. The two mizbachos (altars) symbolized that just as we offer sacrifices to Hashem on two vessels, we should always sacrifice our minds and heart’s desires to Hashem to fulfill His will! It has been said that the best Korban to sacrifice on the mizbeiyach of your heart is the Yetzer Hara itself!


2. Why were the Avneitim (belts) of the Kohanim so long (32 amos = approximately 50 feet)? (See Shita Mekubetzes to Erchin 15a, see Baal Haturim 28:6)


The numerical ‘value of the word Lev is 32. The Kohanim had a very long belt tied around the middle portion of their body to remind them that no matter how hard you work to do mitzvos, the main objective is that your heart should be involved in the mitzvah! One must do mitzvos wholeheartedly. If someone performs mitzvos superficially, the mitzvah loses its value in Hashem’s eyes. The Kohanim, the official servants of the King and the role models of Bnei Yisroel, must be very careful that all their avodah is performed with their heart. It should be pointed out that adults have 32 teeth because Hashem wants our mouth and our heart to be in sync, especially when we daven.  The 32-amah belt also acts as a separation between the upper, more spiritual part of the body, and the lower, more physical half. This divide reminds the Kohanim that they must be more involved in spiritual pursuits than physical pleasure. [It is for that reason Chassidim wear a gartel when they daven, which is called avoda shebelev, the work of the heart.]


3. When should you imagine that you are standing inside the Kodesh Kodoshim? (Mishnah Berurah Hilchos Tefillah 94:3)


When you daven before Hashem and take three steps forward, you are supposed to imagine that you are walking into a new world: that of the Holy of Holies, where you stand before the King of kings! (If we only knew how holy and powerful prayers really are!)


4. How do we know that money donated for community projects should be collected by at least two people? (Bava Basra 8b; see Rav Ovadyah Mi’Bartenura on Peah 8:7)


The pasuk uses the plural, “they collected” when speaking about the collection of gold, silver, etc., for use in the Mishkan. The procedure was to collect in pairs to avoid anybody suspecting a collector of pocketing money for himself. In order that there shouldn’t be anyone in “yichud” (seclusion) with the money, they collected in groups!


5. Which two creatures appeared upon the Eiphod? (Midrash Halachah)


The lion and the eagle were embroidered into the Eiphod. This surely reminded the Kohen Gadol and all those who beheld him of Yehuda ben Teimah’s maxim: “Be bold as a leopard, light as an eagle, swift as a dear, and mighty as a lion, to carry out the will of your Father in Heaven!” (Avos 5:23)


6. Why was the Menorah situated on the left of the·Shulchan, and not on its right side? (Peninim-Rabbi A.L. Scheinbaum shlit’a)


To one who stands outside the Kodesh Hakodashim, it appears that the Menorah is on the left of the Shulchan. However, to one who is more spiritual and views things from the Kodesh Hakodashim’s vantage point, the Menorah is on the right! The Menorah represents wisdom while the Shulchan represents wealth. We must never forget which is more important.


7. What else was inside the courtyard of the Mishkan, besides the vessels mentioned explicitly in the Torah? (Mi’shulchan Gavo’ah quoting the Brisker Rav)


The Brisker Rav z”tl said that there must have been a mikvah in the courtyard of the Mishkan. He bases this on the pasuk that says Moshe was commanded to bring Aharon and his sons to the entrance of the Ohel Moed and then immerse them in water to purify them.


8. Why were there 72 bells on the Me’il? (Zevachim 88b, Ramban, Toras Ha’olah, Rabbeinu Bachya)


Rabbeinu Bachya calculates that the world was created in 72 daylight hours during the six days of creation. The 72 ringing bells should remind us that the entire world was created for one purpose--Avodas Hashem!


9. Why is it common practice for Bnei Torah to wear black hats? (Ben Torah V’Yeshivah, Rabbi Avigdor Miller zt’l; see Shir Hashirim 1:5)


A hat is a symbol of one’s affiliation. A baseball player, police officer, or the guards at Buckingham Palace proudly wear their hats. A black hat represents the class of Bnei Torah, the group of Bnei Yisroel completely dedicated to the study of Torah as transmitted by Roshei Yeshiva. Rabbi Avigdor Miller, z”tl, once said, “I am prouder of a boy wearing a black hat than his wearing Tefillin. Although Tefillin is a mitzvah d’oraysa and a black hat is only a custom, it is an idealistic expression of commitment to Torah scholarship!”


10. What does Hashem love even more than the bringing of Korbanos? (Shemos Rabbah 38:4)


Hashem loves when we learn Torah more than when we bring Korbanos! Indeed, Hashem told Dovid Hamelech, “I appreciate your words of Tehillim and Torah more than the thousands of Korbanos that your son Shlomo will offer in the Beis Hamikdash!”



Special Note Two:  We cannot pass up the following closing note on last week’s Parsha:  Two articles of the Kohen Gadol which had to stay together when worn-- were the Choshen and the Aifod--the breastplate and the apron.  Thus, 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.”  On the other hand, the Aifod 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, explains that these two avairos are very much “connected”, for they both involve the grave sin of kefira--denial of Hashem.  When one worships Avoda 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 particular situation “because everybody does”, or if he gently pads his billable hours---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.




10 Adar I

TODAY IS THE FIFTH-MONTH ANNIVERSARY of Yom Kippur--Teshuva Bechol Yom--let us be driven by Yosair Mi’mah She’hayisi!



YOU CAN REALLY DO IT!  If you start Mesechta Megillah this week (latest start this Friday) and learn one blatt a day--you will make a Siyum on Mesechta Megillah at the Seudas Purim!  What Joy for Purim!  If you need a Blatt Shiur--one hour (or less) a day to help you--once again, you may call 718-906-6400, in addition to the many Shiurim available on line.  Don’t wait--start today.  The greater the preparation for Purim--the more one puts in to make it great--the grander the Simchas Purim will be!



IS THERE A LIMIT TO HUMAN GREATNESS? “We have so much greatness that even if we lived a thousand years we would not exhaust our potential!” (From Simcha Minute--Inspiring Quotations by Rabbi Avigdor Miller, Z’tl)




Special Note One:  We had received the following “timely and timeless” thought from a reader:


“Chazal teach (Taanis Daf 29) ‘Mishenichnas Adar Marbin B’simcha,’ and they also teach ‘Mishenichnas Av Mima’atin B’simcha.’  The Shulchan Aruch only mentions the latter--’Mishenichnas Av Mima’atin B’simcha’ and not ‘Mishenichnas Adar Marbin B’simcha.’  The question is, why is this so--why is the increased happiness of Adar not brought in Halacha as a quote from Chazal, in the same way as the Halacha about Av?  The answer, I believe, is because you can’t tell a Yid to be ‘happier’--the Halacha is that one always has to be as happy as he can be.  Chazal give you an eitza tova, good advice, that if you are not as happy as you should be, at least make sure that in Adar you work on it more. In fact, the entire Shulchan Aruch Orach Chaim ends with the words “Tov Lev Mishteh Tomid”--you are always supposed to be as happy as you can!”



Hakhel Note: Let us bring the point home a bit further: the Sefer Orchos Tzaddikim in Sha’ar HaSimcha writes:  “V’Chol Ha’Oseh HaMitzvos BeSimcha Yaish Lo Sechar Eleph Yados Mi’Mi She’Hamitzvos Alav LeMaso--One who performs Mitzvos with joy receives 1,000 times the reward of one who treats the Mitzvos as a burden.”  Many of us can easily become drained because of all of our daily tasks--as despite all of the machines and devices which are intended to save us time and make life more convenient and accomplishment-filled, we are left with a seemingly unending list of modern-man meanderings.  Our Mitzvah performance is truly threatened daily by the rush, the haste, the rote and habit, the weariness, and the hurried and harried environment around us.  If we can instead get into the habit of taking a moment to STOP and SAVOR a MITZVAH before performing it, a second to inhale the wonderful opportunity and benefit before davening, reciting a bracha, studying Torah, helping another, consciously refraining from Lashon Hara, paying a compliment to lift another’s spirit, helping a child or elderly person even if they are immediate family, then we will perform Mitzvos with the unabated joy that they deserve.  What a special Avodah for Adar--to work on appreciating our G-D given daily opportunities and taking them out of the mode of something that ‘I have to do’ into something that ‘I am happy and spirited to do’.  Ivdu Es Hashem BeSimcha (Tehillim 100:2)--let Dovid Hamelech’s guiding words be a meaningful mantra and beacon of bright light for us in the coming weeks!



Special Note Two:  In the Northeast, some have begun to see grass again! A reader once commented to us on the re-emergence of grass as follows:  “If grass, which is a simple living thing, can survive under what appears to be such difficult conditions as having a huge blanket of snow many times its own size and thickness, and of such low temperature as to be below freezing, covering it for so long, even more so should K’lal Yisrael be able to survive amidst the most adverse of situations in which we find ourselves, as we surely have survived until now--every single ‘blade’ of ours only by Hashem’s grace and His Ratzon.  Hashem is being Mechazek  us--showing us that after the harshest winter comes a regenerated spring.  We must appreciate and understand Hashem’s lesson and strengthen ourselves!”



Special Note Three:  We continue an exciting Monday/Thursday series on the practical aspects of Sta”m, written by Rabbi Reuvain Mendlowitz, Shlita, author of Inside Sta”m--An Insider Reveals The Answers To All The Questions You Should Ask When Purchasing Or Maintaining Tefillin, Mezuzos, Megillos, Sifrei Torah And Nevi’im.


For a fuller treatment of all topics to be discussed, we urge you to purchase the Sefer, which provides practical and meaningful information and ideas.






My son insists that I should buy STA”M items written only on handmade klaf (avodas yad). That is what his rebbi in Eretz Yisrael told him. I asked my local sofer, and he says it’s not necessary. First of all what exactly is klaf avodas yad? Second, who is right?




There are two types of klaf on the market: klaf mechonah (machine-made) and klaf avodas yad (handmade).


Let us try to explain the difference between the two, along with the halachic ramifications.


In order for an animal hide to acquire the halachic status of klaf, it must undergo a process called ibbud. A hide that has not undergone ibbud is called diftera, not klaf.


STA”M must be written on klaf, and may not be written on diftera.


The ibbud process includes various stages: primarily soaking the hides in various ingredients specified by Chazal. Once this has been completed, we now have klaf.


However, there is another essential halachah: The ibbud must be done “lishmah” (with specific intent). If the ibbud was done without the specific (and ideally, verbal) consecration that these hides will be used for STA”M, they are rendered pasul (invalid).


Until the mid-twentieth century, all klaf was avodas yad for the simple reason that there were no machines capable of carrying out the ibbud process. Only with the advent of modern machinery did it become possible to process hides by machine.


Formerly, the ibbud had been done by filling vats with the various ingredients required for the ibbud process, and then stirring the mixture until it became thick. Then the hides were placed in this mixture lishmah, and remained there for about eight to nine days, by which point the hairs had fallen out on their own. Then the skins were removed from the vats, and any remaining hairs were scraped off. The hides were then returned to the vats for an additional three to six days (depending on the size of the skins) to complete the ibbud. The hides were then be cleaned up and used for STA”M.


With the advent of modern machinery, a quicker and simpler method to process the hides was introduced to the world.


In our next installment we will BE’H explain further.




7 Adar I

Special Note One: As we have noted in the past, the Chasam Sofer explains that the month of Adar, according to his reckoning, is representative of Shevet Binyamin. He explains that the stone on the Choshen for Binyomin is Yospheh--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 Yisrael.  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 until the time came to be declared King;  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.  The closed mouth of Binyomin--the Yoshpheh literally brought salvation to us all.  By following in the Yoshpheh tradition (you may even very well be from Shevet Binyomin!), you are not only saving your mouth from evil, you are not only immensely approving your words of Torah and your words of Tefillah--but you are bringing us all one step closer to the Bais Hamikdash --Hashem’s House--especially nestled to a great and special extent in the nachala of Shevet Binyomin!



Special Note Two: When did the nes of the Milchama on Purim occur--in Adar I or Adar II? Rabbi Shlomo Pearl, Shlita, brings three shitos:


1. Rebbi Eliezer B’ Rebbi Yosi (Megillah 6B) is of the opinion that the Nes happened in Adar I and the Megillah is read in Adar I--even though there was then a second Adar.


2. Rabban Shimon Ben Gamliel (ibid.)--according to the Rosh holds that the miracle occurred in Adar II, and so there is no Kedusha to Adar I.


3. Rebbi Shimon Ben Gamliel (ibid.)--according to the Rambam holds that year was going to have two Adars and the gezeirah was going to happen in Adar I, but in the end there was only one Adar, and because it is preferable to place the Geulah of Purim close to the Geulah of Pesach, Purim is observed in Adar II.



Special Note Three:  Today is 7 Adar--and as we know 7 Adar is the Yahrzeit of Moshe Rabbeinu. It is the Minhag among Bnei Ashkenaz to observe the first Adar as the ikar Yahrzeit (although some are machmir to even fast a ta’anis yahrzeit in the second Adar, as well). 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--particularly because it was the month of Moshe’ Rabbeinu’s Yahrzeit--and whose petira was undoubtedly was a great calamity for K’lal Yisrael.  Haman 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 Techias Hameisim of Tzaddikim (which some say will occur first before the general Techias 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 fitting 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 then lead (sooner than you think!) 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!



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


A.  Chapped Lips.  During the winter months, many suffer from dry or chapped lips.  Although there is at least one kosher lip balm on the market, please note that it is prohibited to use any lip balm on Shabbos because the rubbing of the balm stick onto the lip constitutes the melacha of memachek.  Additionally, special care must be taken not to bite the skin off the lips on Shabbos. 

In fact, according to The Shabbos Home (Rav Simcha Bunim Cohen, Shlita), biting skin off the lips “does fall under the Biblical prohibition [of gozez] since this skin is normally removed by biting.”  Note: With regard to lipstick itself, we note that from a kashrus perspective, one should consult with her Rav as to whether lipsticks require proper kashrus certification. On Shabbos, once again, use of lipsticks would be prohibited because of memachek.


B.  Inexpensive Tissues, etc.  Some less expensive brands of facial tissues are manufactured in a less-than perfect manner which results in some or many of the tissues in a box being attached, at least partially, to the tissue(s) underneath, frequently at one or more of the tissue’s corners. When one quickly or in a rapid movement pulls tissues out--he may be separating the tissues--which may involve issues of Koraya or Mechatech (one should consult with his Rav on this serious topic).  Accordingly, one should check the tissue brand one has available before Shabbos.  There is a similar issue with pre-cut toilet paper in Shuls and Yeshivos-which are in some instances put into dispensers, they may be attached at corners, and be prone to ripping as one removes them from their container or dispenser.  One should urge the person in charge of tissues and paper in Shul to purchase only the right brands to avoid all such issues--and one should advise his Shomer Shabbos supermarket to especially stock the “Shomer Shabbos” brands in which the issues do not exist.


C.  Muktza items may be touched as long as they are not moved.  Thus, one may touch most appliances and put things on them, as the appliance will not move as a result.  What if an appliance such as a refrigerator has a door with Muktza and non-Muktza items on its shelves, or an oven which is not turned on has some food left inside from Erev Shabbos --can you open the appliance door?  The Sefer Shemiras Shabbos Kehilchasa (Third Edition 20:79) rules that it is permissible to open the door to take food out--but that if possible lechatchila  one should remove the muktza items (such as medicines that will not be used on Shabbos) off the refrigerator door (or frozen meats off the freezer door) before Shabbos--because by opening the door one would be moving muktza.  We once again remind our readers of the special care and regard for Shabbos that the cautious observance of Hilchos Muktza demonstrates--as one carefully guards his actions within the 25 hours of Mai’ain Olam Haba--much as one would when in the grand and palatial palace of...the King of the World!



Special Note Five: Rabban Gamliel Rabinovich, Shlita notes that every morning, before putting on his Tefillin, he reminds himself that unlike the Tzitz--one of the Eight Garments of the Kohen Gadol which had Hashem’s name on it one time (in the words Kodesh LaShem), one’s Tefillin has the name of Hashem in it 42 times.  This is a great source of inspiration and appreciation when donning Tefillin.  The Bi’ur Halacha in Hilchos Tefillin adds that when we tie the knot on our arm every morning--we are tying the “Kesher HaYichud VeHaKedusha--the knot which declares Hashem’s Oneness and Mastery, and the knot of Holiness.  A Rav once saw his Mispalel with a tired and distracted face as he was about to don his Tefillin. He turned to him and said--in the Megillah what you are about to do is referred to as “Yekar”--something very honored, and very precious.  You should be smiling from ear to ear that you have an opportunity now to wear not any crown jewels--but Hashem’s crown jewels! 


Hakhel Note One:  One of the reasons the  events which called for our annihilation at the time of Purim occurred is because “Yoshanu Min HaMitzvos--we were asleep with the Mitzvos, for the Mitzvos were ‘old hat’ to us; rephrased just a bit-- we were doing the Mitzvos in our sleep.  The threat of annihilation woke us to realize that Torah was not an instruction book with many details--but was true Orah--the infinite and pervasive light , that Yom Tov was not an interruption from the daily routine, forced vacation, or expensive--but real Simcha, a human’s ultimate joy together with his Creator even in this world; that a Bris Milah was not simply the mark of a Jew--but was Sasson, the reality that 24/7 one could be bonded with Hashem.  So, Re-feeling the Yekar of Tefillin each and every day before we put them on--especially at this time of year is an important step in making us worthy to eventually observe and celebrate Purim.  It only takes an extra moment or two of reflection--and the difference may very well be phenomenal. 


Hakhel Note Two:  For women, who do not don Tefillin, their Yekar may easily be seen as the honorable Bigdei Tznius--the clothing and attire that befits an Am Hashem.  After all, Shlomo Hamelech, the wisest of all men, describes this clothing with the words “Oz VeHadar Levusha--her dress is powerful and beautiful--quite similar to the Yekar of Tefillin--no?  In truth, men are supposed to wear their Tefillin all day, but most are not capable; women, then, whose clothing is with them throughout the day, succeed to sustain their Yekar far beyond the average man.  It definitely follows that just as men must spend a little time to appreciate their Yekar, women too--especially when they see the deportment of other females in stores and businesses--should not sleep through--but very much appreciate, and be very grateful for the badge of honor that envelops them daily.  Let us start practicing now--so when we begin to sing the words LaYehudim Hoysa Orah...on Purim they have very, very special meaning to us!



Special Note Six:  The following moving message is excerpted from V’shee-Non-Tom, by Rabbi Elias Schwartz, Shlita: Ve’atah Tetzaveh Es Bnei Yisrael--and you shall command the children of Israel .” (Shemos 27:20) “The first word of this pasuk, Ve’atah, and you, is entirely unnecessary, because the second word Tetzaveh starts with a Tav, and that in itself means you. The word Tetzaveh in itself means and you shall command.” What do we need the first word, Ve’atah for? In reality, Hashem is teaching us how to command others; how to inspire others; how to teach others. Ve’atah, and you: The way you act, the way you walk, the way you talk, will be the measure of success you will have in Tetzaveh, in your commanding others to do. If you want others to follow you, then watch yourself first. If you want to impress good deeds and good characteristics upon others, then practice what you preach. Character cannot be taught. It must be caught. You must want to emulate the character of your parents, Rabbonim or leaders because you have become impressed by them. A Rebbi must inject his own personality into his students if he wants them to follow in his footsteps. The students must be captivated by his Midos, by his characteristics. The degree of indoctrination is not in proportion to the knowledge acquired. It is the personality of the Rebbe that becomes part of his students. They are caught up in the aura of the greatness of their Rebbe. Thus is character molded. Yehoshua was the foremost student of Moshe Rabbeinu. He became the leader of K’lal Yisrael after his Rebbe passed away, after Moshe Rabbeinu died. Nowhere in the Torah do we refer to Yehoshua as the talmid (student) of Moshe Rabbeinu. He is rather called Meshareis Moshe”--he is referred to as the person who served Moshe. Yehoshua was always with Moshe. He observed Moshe all the time. This molded Yehoshua into the great leader that he became. How can I ever forget the influence that my Rebbi, Reb Shlomo Heiman, Z’tl, had on all of us. When I think of the way he spoke, the way he smiled, the way he walked in the street, I can actually visualize him. Good Midos shone on his face. It became much easier to grow up with good character when you had a Rebbe like him to inspire you. As you left Rebbi’s home, there was one little step, by itself, before you reached the entire flight of steps leading to the outside. Rebbe always walked with you till that one step. Besides the mitzvah of walking somebody to the door (which Rebbe always did), he would say: “Watch that step, dont trip and fall.” The greatest obligation that we have to students and children is to inspire them with wanting to become men of character and goodness. We may not always be successful in the teaching of the various phases of Torah, but we can be successful in teaching others to behave and grow properly.”



Special Note Seven:  Just a few additional brief points relating to this week’s Parashas Tetzaveh.  Although we cannot supply you with food for the meal--perhaps with some food to accompany the meal:


1.  At the outset of last week’s Parasha, Teruma, Hashem commands B’nai Yisrael with the words “VeYikchu Li Teruma --they shall take for Me Teruma.  This week’s Parasha however begins with the words “VeYikchu Eilecha--they shall take for you Shemen Zayis, highly refined olive oil.  Rabbi Schwartz explains why the Parasha begins with Ve’atah--but what is the explanation for this change from the great Li-Lishmi lesson of Parashas Terumah to Moshe Rabbeinu’s personal involvement with the Shemen Zayis here?


2.  The Bigdei Kehuna Gedola of Aharon as Kohen Gadol are described in the Torah as clothing which is LeChavod U’LeSifores--clothing that brings and displays honor and glory to the position.  The clothing of the regular Kohanim are also described in the Torah with the very same words of LeChavod U’LeSifores.  There is a moving message--even if one does not don the garb of a Rav or the Elders of the congregation--he is still an important part of the K’lal and brings Kavod V’Sifores to himself and his people in his own way.  With this privilege comes the responsibility.  Although Aharon’s sons did not wear Eight Garments--they did wear Four Garments of special dignity.  One must therefore be mindful--especially when going to pray or even when making a bracha in his own home that he also bring Kavod V’Sifores (or c’v the opposite) to his Avodas Hashem by his dress and comport.  A person who wears a baseball cap to Mincha or Ma’ariv with the emblem of “Mitzvah Man” perched on top of a cartoon character amusingly sprawled underneath the emblem may be demonstrating the same (or negative) degree of Kavod V’Sifores to his Avodah as the person touting a Bluetooth-equipped ear during Shemone Esrei, or the young man clad in an outdoor jacket which proudly and widely displays the Puma or other Western World Insignia.  This Shabbos is a time to reattach ourselves to the dignity of the Avodah --by rethinking the regard we intend give to it in our everyday lives!


Hakhel Note: The concept of wearing proper clothing for davening is codified in Shulchan Aruch (Orach Chaim 98:4): “VeRaui Sheyiheyu Lo Malbushim Na’im Meyuchadim LeTefillah Kemo Bigdei Kehunah--it is befitting for a person to have nice clothing especially for davening like the Bigdei Kehunah.” The Shulchan Aruch explains that this is because our Tefillos are in the place of Karbonos--each person is his own Kohein!


3.  The first of the Kohen Gadol’s Eight Garments listed in the Parasha is the Choshen.  Chazal (Zevachim 88B) teach that the Choshen brings forgiveness for injustices in monetary matters.  We can well understand why this article of the Bigdei Kehuna is listed first--for, after all, the first question that a person will be asked after his 120 year stay in this world is Nossasa VeNosata Be’Emuna--did you deal honestly with people?  Straightening out our actions in monetary and financial matters is a primary matter --a matter of first concern.  As we get set to do the Avodah-we must first be a N’Ki Kapayim--as our living in Olam Hazeh requires that clean hands be the pre-requisite for elevation of our spirit.  When we think of what to do or how to conduct ourselves in a particular monetary matter--let us visualize the holy Choshen--and let us remember it as the very first of the Kohen Gadol’s Eight Garments!




6 Adar I

Special Note One: Remember--this is Adar. Every day one should go out of his way  to do something to make yourself and others happy--learn and/or tell a D’var Torah, give someone a compliment, show somebody that you were thinking about them...each person should set a daily goal over this period of Mishe’nichnas Adar, so that when he leaves Adar I and Adar II to the freedom of Nissan and Pesach he will have uplifted his mind and spirit to new and special heights.  May we strongly urge that you keep a record of your joyful accomplishments.  In the secular world, it is software and electronic devices that get updates and upgrades, and then only it is from time to time--in the Torah world we can and should move to upsurge in wonderful measure each and every day.  Remember--a real Simcha upgrade--today!



Special Note Two: “What role do others play in our quest for greatness? Your generation is your world. It is your sole opportunity. One’s parents, one’s brothers and sisters, one’s kin, one’s wife, one’s children, one’s neighbors and employers and employees: all are his opportunities. To fritter it away is the greatest of catastrophes. By his relations with them he gains the success for which he came into this world!” (From Simcha Minute--Inspiring Quotations by Rabbi Avigdor Miller, Z’tl).



Special Note Three: Every day, several times a day, we may recite the Pasuk Kadosh, Kadosh, Kadosh...Meloh Chol Ha’aretz Kevodo--Hashem You are Holy--and Your Glory fills the World--every part and aspect, and every minute of it.  The most mundane, if we take it properly, will be seen to truly be among the sacred.  The Chasam Sofer notes that the Torah’s command to build the Shulchan in last week’s Parasha comes before the command to build the Menorah.  He explains that Olam HaZeh, symbolized by the Shulchan which housed the Lechem HaPonim must perforce come before Olam Haba--symbolized by the Menorah as the supernal radiance and illumination of Torah.  Only if we are successful with our attitude and approach to the holiness of the Shulchan--to bringing Kedusha to Olam Hazeh-- will we merit the Menorah of Olam Haba.  The Shulchan, after all, was in the very same Ohel Moed/Heichal--known as the Kodesh--as the Menorah itself.  Let us remember how important each and every aspect of our lives is--so that we personally demonstrate throughout our entire day our true recognition, our complete belief, our whole and resounding awareness that Meloh Chol Ha’Aretz Kevodo--His Glory Fills the World and Every Part of It--Every Single Part of It!



Special Note Four:  We continue an exciting Monday/Thursday series on the practical aspects of Sta”m, written by Rabbi Reuvain Mendlowitz, Shlita, author of Inside Sta”m--An Insider Reveals The Answers To All The Questions You Should Ask When Purchasing Or Maintaining Tefillin, Mezuzos, Megillos, Sifrei Torah And Nevi’im.


For a fuller treatment of all topics to be discussed, we urge you to purchase the Sefer, which provides practical and meaningful information and ideas.




There are a number of reasons why a hechsher on Klaf is advantageous:


1) Mistakes can happen.


Even in a factory where everyone is ehrlich, and everything is on the up and up, mistakes and errors can occur. For example, hides might arrive salted when they were supposed to be unsalted, or a worker might begin processing the hides without saying the appropriate l’shem kedushas (consecration) beforehand. There are many other potential pitfalls as well.


When a mashgiach is present, many of these problems are avoided because he is there watching and double-checking.


2) The hechsher is more halachically up-to-date.


Sometimes the klaf macher can be extremely ehrlich, yet not necessarily be the greatest talmid chacham. He may not know the piskei halachah of the Gedolim, and has probably been using the same methods for the last thirty-five years.


With a hechsher, his klaf could be--with just some minor tweaks and changes--mehudar according to many more contemporary poskim.


3) The caliber of the workers.


Although the owner of the factory may be very reliable, the workers may not always be up to par.


The stench in a klaf factory can be almost unbearable, and it is not always easy to get the biggest yirei Shomayim to work there.


An important Rav in Eretz Yisrael told me that he once visited a klaf factory owned by a very ehrlich person. He wanted to see firsthand what goes on there, and arrived unannounced.


“When I walked into the factory,” he related, “the first thing that hit me was the terrible stench. The next thing I noticed was the fact that Rock n’ Roll music was blasting from the loudspeakers. I looked around the factory, but the owner was nowhere to be seen. I then went to watch the workers who are supposed to put the hides into the vats with the appropriate intent (l’shem kedushas) for the item being manufactured. I must say, I wasn’t sure which was the beheimah (animal)--the one being put in the vat or the one putting it into the vat!”


One would like to assume that in a klaf factory with a hechsher, such a scene would never occur.


The bottom line is that although for the last 2,000 years Klal Yisrael managed without hechsherim on klaf, things have changed. In the old days, the sofer made the klaf himself, and one would buy directly from him. Even as recently as thirty or forty years ago, the klaf factories were small operations.


Today, however, when the klaf business has turned into a multi-million dollar industry producing thousands of tons of klaf per year, it is advisable to avoid potential problems by purchasing klaf – or demanding that the sofer purchase klaf – with a reliable hechsher.




5 Adar I

DAF YOMI REVIEW:  In the past we have mentioned the wonderful Daf Yomi Chazara website http://www.shaschabura.org.  We provide the Chazara program for Mesechta Sukkah by clicking here.  We thank a reader who helped us with this important link. 



PLEASE REMEMBER! A valuable service is available to the Daf Yomi community worldwide.  Daf Notes (www.dafnotes.com), which produces a wonderful daily review of the Daf, takes questions by email relating to the Daf Yomi Mesechta being studied--as yet another one of its outstanding free services!  To correspond with Daf Notes, or to ask any questions that you like relating to the Daf or the Mesechta contact info@dafnotes.com




Special Note One:  In this propitious month, we must strive to find new and different ways to serve Hashem through Simcha.  Not every move or attempt towards this goal has to involve major or earth-shattering events.  May we simply suggest approaching a friend or colleague and asking him “Did you smile today?”  Hopefully, this will evoke a smile.  One can then follow up with asking them to think about something in their life that they can smile about now--and hopefully they will smile again!  Their smile(s) could be fleeting--or they could take the uplifted feeling with them a little while longer--and your Ruach Adar may have changed their day.  You, in turn, have much cause for sublime rejoicing--in having made someone else’s day a happier one!  Keep up the Ruach Adar in others--and most certainly don’t allow yourself to falter!



Special Note Two:  It is interesting to note the times that we recite at least the first Pasuk of Shema--before Pesukei DeZimra in the morning; before Shemone Esrei in the morning and evening; before laining from the Torah on Shabbos and Yom Tov, before going to sleep every night--and at the conclusion of the Yom Kippur Katan and Yom Kippur tefillos--which is really before the new month and before the newly renewed ensuing year will begin.  It would appear that Shema is the portal, the entranceway, to approach a new and next stage in life--for it is the essence of Kabbalas Ohl Malchus Shomayim--the recognition that whatever you are about to do or undertake is in the presence and service of the One and Only Hashem Who loves you and watches over you.  One may want to add other occasions before which he recites this Pasuk--such as before heading out to work, before going out on a date, and other situations and circumstances before one is going to start something new.  Your Kabbalas Ohl Malchus Shomayim at that time is a clear statement of your recognition and awareness that whatever you do and whatever results --you are in and under Hashem’s great and loving care!



Special Note Three:  The Sefer Orchos Tzaddikim teaches that the Middah of Boshess, of being reserved rather than brazen, shamefaced rather than shameless, is essential to a person’s character and conduct.  However, the Orchos Tzaddikim continues, there are certain circumstances where reticence is the incorrect reaction or response.  In the strongest of terms, he writes: “V’Ain LeHone’ach Shum Mitzvah Avur HaBoshess”--one should not fail to observe or perform a Mitzvah because others are not doing so, or others are not careful in its performance--for a true servant of the King would not leave His service even if he was mocked or ridiculed, and certainly if only smirked upon or if his actions would not be understood by those who lack sufficient Yiras Shomayim to appreciate the eternal importance of each and every Mitzvah--and each and every Mitzvah performed properly!  In the words of the Orchos Tzaddikim, it is a “Boshes Ra’ah Me’od”--a very bad Boshess if one is more ashamed of a person than of Hashem.  If one sees laxity in others--whether it be in areas of Kashrus or Bedikas Tolaim (which from all of the recent findings seems to be one of the real and final tests of our generation), of failing to eat Shalosh Seudos, of batala during the course of Torah Study, of questionable financial meandering, of zip-zap Brachos or Tefillah, one should not join the crowd but instead stand up for Hashem and demonstrate what and how it should be done.  Of course, if one feels that the people around would be far from receptive or would be ‘hurt’ or ‘insulted’ by his actions , one should consult with his Rav or Posek on a definitive course of conduct--but action of some kind must most definitely be taken.  A ganev, as someone who steals secretly, is more scared of man than of Hashem and must therefore must pay kaifel or double for his actions.  Let us not c’v fall into a ganev mode by being more shamefaced of man than of Hashem --but instead serve Hashem in each and every Mitzvah with the dignity and honor--with the unwavering nobility--that is attached to being part of the Mamleches Kohanim Vegoy Kadosh!



Special Note Four:  The following is excerpted from the Brachos Tabletop Card graciously provided by the Chofetz Chaim Heritage Foundation:


Reasons We Make Brachos


1. Hashem created an endless variety of species of trees, fruits and plants, differing in appearance, taste and fragrance. Clearly the purpose of these things is not merely that of physical sustenance. For if it were so, why would there be such great variety? Rather, brachos serve as an excellent means of drawing ourselves closer to Him. They give us the opportunity to speak to Him, to our Father, our King, the King of kings. We are reminded of Him and are helped to come close to Him. (Based on Hamivareich Yisbareich)


2. The essence of making a bracha is Hakaras Hatov--recognizing the good someone does for you. As Chazal state: “One may not benefit from this world unless one has made a bracha.” (Brachos 22A) The entire world belongs to Hashem. Given that it is obvious that one must thank whoever allows him to use his property, how much more so would this be true when one benefits from that which belongs to the One on High! (Tzlach, ibid.)


3. Through brachos, one recalls his Creator: “Chazal instituted that there be many brachos to serve as expressions of praise, thanks and supplication, in order that we remember the Creator on a constant basis.” (Rambam)



Special Note Five:  In the Parasha, we learn of the construction of the Mizbe’ach HaKetores, upon which the Ketores was brought, which Chazal teach brought forgiveness for the private sin of Lashon Hara.  The Chofetz Chaim writes that the study of the laws of Lashon Hora assist one in staving off Lashon Hora--for a person more fully appreciates and understands what speech is permitted, and what speech is not. It is extremely important to note, however, that the Chofetz Chaim also composed a Tefillah (there are short and long versions of it) for one to recite, in which one prays for Hashem’s assistance to be saved from improper speech.  There are so many situations, circumstances and temptations in our lives--that even those who study the laws still need the extra Tefillah that they be freed of those who are not careful in this regard, and of those tempting, instinctive and even unclear situations.  We once again provide the Tefillah by clicking hereBringing the Ketores was part of the Avodah every day; we too should be sure to make our Tefillah to be saved from Lashon Hora an important part of our own daily Avodah as well!




4 Adar I

Special Note One: Not a position to be in:  The Chofetz Chaim in the name of the Sefer Chareidim writes that when one does not judge another favorably, he becomes the merkava, the carrier or bearer, of a K’lipas HaTumah known as Chovah.  Important Recommendation:  Today, as you are about to experience that situation in which you do not at all understand how or why that person could have said this or done that, resolve that instead of devolving into a merkava for Chovah, you will instead fulfill the Mitzvas Aseh D’Oraysa of Betzedek Tishpot Amisecha--judging another favorably even under the most puzzling or extremely difficult set of circumstances.  It follows that, in that event, rather than becoming a bearer of Tumah--one will instead be the bearer of the special spirit of Tahara.  Chazal teach that Hashem’s Midah Tovah is at least 500 times greater than his Middah of Puraniyos.  Let us re-examine each and everyone of these daily meetings, situations and circumstances.  Far more than being a thorny challenge or trying time--each one is more truly an incredibly great opportunity--which should not get away.  Every day--every time--go for the purity that will come upon you and your Neshama in such great measure!



Special Note Two:  Today, tens of thousands of Acheinu Beis Yisroel around the world are mesayem Mesechta Yoma, which concludes with so much direction, instruction and chizuk in the area of Teshuva. Teshuva is reverberating in K’lal Yisroel!  It is no coincidence--as it never, ever is --that this week we will also conclude the Shovavim period for 5774.  During Shovavim, some have raised their level in an area or areas in which they felt a faltering.   If one feels the special time has passed by without making a real mark on him this year, may we propose the following brief but potent idea:  The Sefer Chovos Halevavos explains that the essence of a person is his thoughts--and this is where his Bechira Chofshis really lies, for whether or not (and in what manner) one effectuates his thoughts will be determined by Hashem’s especially dedicated Hashgacha Pratis over him.  One’s thoughts are therefore his true and very personal and personalized expression of self.  HaRav Chaim Friedlander, Z’tl, in Sefer Sifsei Chaim especially emphasizes the importance of ‘Rikuz HaMachshavos’-consistently focusing one’s thoughts towards what is right and away from wrong.  Failure to develop in this area affects one’s entire being, for it is not just the brief or passing improper thought that has entered and spoiled, but it is the impervious downgrade of one’s character and attitude that results from the improper notion or thought.  Accordingly, may we suggest that one attempt to go through a day (starting today, perhaps here and now) resolving not to have or allow a thought today that he would be embarrassed about in front of a close family member or friend--and certainly not in front of Hashem who knows all thoughts.  When one is aware that the thought is coming or has come--he should quickly banish it by reminding himself that the thought is not him--but like a foreign bacteria or virus, is there to harm him--in this case in a spiritual and everlasting way.  The gauge of ‘will this embarrass me’ is a simple but effective one.  Even if one feels that this is not possible for it is too much of a ‘cold turkey’ response to his thoughts until now--it should definitely be made a part of one’s day when he becomes aware of an unbecoming, unacceptable or inappropriate thought--and, realizing it, moves to cleanse and clarify his thoughts--and his life.

Siyum Mesechta Yoma and Siyum Shovavim 5774--may we make sure to leave them with a meaningful impact upon our lives!



Special Note Three:  Dovid HaMelech exclaims:  Tashmieinu Sasson VeSimcha…Make me hear joy and gladness...” (Tehillim 51:10).  This Pasuk teaches us that the increasing Simcha that we would like to attain this month is a gift from Hashem, and we should daven for it!  Indeed, Rabbi Moshe Tuvia Lieff, Shlita, notes that because we have a double Adar this year we can take 59 days of joy, add on a 1 representing the month of Adar Sheini, and attain 60.  We thus have a possibility of Bittul BeShishim--we have enough to be mevatel, to nullify an attitude and feeling of atzvus, sadness... for the rest of the year!


There are some great additional steps we can take towards attaining Simcha this month.  HaRav Mattisyahu Salomon, Shlita, suggests in general that everyone study the concept of Simcha as related in the Sefer Mesilas Yesharim, Chapter 19.  There, the Mesilas Yesharim teaches that a person should recognize that the true Simcha is Simcha Shel Mitzvah, which is the recognition and appreciation of one’s entitlement and privilege to daven to Hashem who is all-powerful, to study Hashem’s Torah, and to serve him through the performance of Mitzvos.  Simcha Shel Mitzvah is not simply a Simcha that is contained in our life--it is the Simcha that actually sustains our life.  Indeed, the Kuzari writes that each Mitzvah opportunity should be viewed as an incredible invitation by Hashem Himself to be taken out of emptiness and squalor and instead to sit and eat at the King’s Table!  Moreover, the more Hashem wants to invite you to Olam Haba, the more opportunity of Mitzvah--the more invitations--he gives to you. Each such invitation brings you to a position at the table which is closer and closer to the King.  Remember, your ultimate stay at the King’s table will not be for a short meal or even a banquet--rather, your final position at the table--will be an everlasting one!


HaRav Salomon brings one way in which one can determine whether in fact he experienced Simcha Shel Mitzvah.  He analogizes to one coming home from a Chasunah.  How did you feel when you came back--”I had nothing to do”  “I was bored”  “I am still hungry”--or “I am so happy for the Chosson and Kallah”  “What a great Simcha”  “I felt real Achdus there.”  Your feelings after the Chasunah will give you the insight as to how meaningful it was for you.  Similarly, after you Daven, after you study Torah, or after you perform the other 611 Mitzvos--Do you feel uplifted? Do you feel happy? Do you feel accomplished?


One can help himself grow in attaining Simcha Shel Mitzvah with some Hachana, simple preparation before doing a Mitzvah.  Reflect for a moment--what a great opportunity doing this Mitzvah is--what a great right--what a great privilege--from Hashem Himself! 

Adar is an especially graced time for growth in Simcha Shel Mitzvah--for this is the Avodah of the Month.  Let us work on this great accomplishment together by taking a moment to reflect before we perform a Mitzvah--and then feel the joy after we have performed it…and forever thereafter!




3 Adar I

SUGGESTION OF THE WEEK:  Every day, Hashem’s kindnesses to us are so great that we describe them in Shemone Esrei as “Ki Lo Samu Chasodecha--Hashem’s Chesed is Unending”.  When reciting these all-encompassing words we should feel the bliss of the many (countless) blessings we have at that moment--relating to the body, soul, family, personal miracles and experiences, etc.  One can and should sense a shower of Chasodim upon him, just as one senses the pleasure of a hot shower on a tired or perspired body--the water keeps on coming and coming-bringing salvation, relief and renewal!  Indeed, even throughout the day--as one realizes the specific blessing here and the definite blessing there--exclaim ‘Ki Lo Samu Chasodecha--Your Chesed keeps coming and coming!



AN IMMEDIATE LESSON FROM THE KERUVIM:  Rebbe Yisroel Salanter, Z’tl, explains that the Keruvim had the appearance of children--for us to realize that in our relationship with Hashem and with others we should view ourselves as children--not stuck in any kind of bad habit or rut--and always willing to try something new, always trying to explore--to get up and grow.  Let us be guided by the light of doing more than in the past, doing Yoseir MiMah She’Hayisi--not being a Kacha Jew--but being like the Keruvim --better today than the day before!


Hakhel Note: With the Daf Yomi concluding Mesechta Yoma tomorrow--tens of thousand of Jews across the globe are learning about Teshuva in the concluding Dafim! Teshuva is timely--let’s bring it into reality-we now have the Koach HaTzibbur as the powerful tailwind behind us!



ANOTHER LESSON FROM CHILDREN--THE CHILD’S CRY :   A toddler is happily playing with a little rattle or toy. Suddenly, its mother enters the room. It turns--and realizing its mother is now present begins to painfully cry--after all it needs to be picked up, held, hugged kissed, fed.... At any point in the day, we may be actively engaged in chesed, learning, parnassah--however, when the time comes for Tefillah does it not make the greatest of sense to follow the child’s great lesson, and put everything aside--in order to pursue   Hashem’s warm and caring embrace.  The child has made the real and right decision--so should we!


Hakhel Note: As the outstanding work Praying With Fire (Artscroll) reminds us:  “Rav Elimelech M’Lizhensk (cited in Nefesh Shimshon, p.35) would say the following words before entering Shul to daven: Know where you are entering; What you will do there; Who is in this house; Whose house it is; and Who empowered you to enter this house.’




Special Note One:  Now that we are at the third day of Adar Rishon (!), we are reminded of the words of Rav Dessler, Z’tl in Michtav Mai’Eliyahu (Volume 2, p.123).  Rav Dessler teaches that just as there are stages in the aveilus of Av beginning with Rosh Chodesh --which climax on Tisha B’Av, so too is there an increase in the Simcha one is to feel as he moves daily through Adar- reaching a pinnacle on Purim and Shushan Purim.  This avodah is not something that we wait until the last moment with.  This year, with the extra month of Adar, we are given more and greater opportunity to develop this joyfulness.  Our joy is never marked by a one-time chuckle at a joke or one-liner, but at the Simcha of our relationship with HaKadosh Baruch Hu, as the world turns on the axle of His Hashgacha Pratis over us. 


In connection with this fundamental point, we received the following correspondence from a reader:  “HaRav Avrohom Schorr, Shlita brings the Sefer Chovos Halevavos which teaches that one who trusts Hashem, i.e., a Ba’al Bitochon, is always BeSimcha.  It follows that if wants to be Marbeh Besimcha, it would mean that he should work on increasing Bitachon (such as by studying the Chovos Halevavos Sha’ar HaBitochon) in Chodesh Adar”.  Hakhel Note:  The Sefer Orchos Tzaddikim, which consists of 28 She’arim or Chapters, each of which is named by and describes a particular Midah, also contains a discussion of Bitachon--can you guess the name of the Sha’ar--the topic, in which the discussion of Bitachon is contained?  The Sha’ar HaSimcha! Let us get the message from these most classic of Seforim--and let us use this precious time period to expand our Simcha horizons!



Special Note Two:  As we paid special, indeed exclusive, attention in last week’s Parsha to the Mishkan, to Hashem’s Sanctuary in this world, we recognize that it is time for us to re-focus on the Mikdash Me’at in our neighborhoods and lives as well.  One of the great interferences and degradations of our Mikdash Me’at, of our Shuls and Batei Medrashim in our time, is--as we have written so many times in the past-- the wholly inappropriate use and display of cell phones, smart phones and related devices before, after, and shockingly even during Davening. Some more reserved individuals may only allow themselves the luxury of texting and emailing in Shul--but they still do so in the presence of the King and in His very throne room.  While it is true that we are waiting for the final glorious Palace to be built, right now we MUST REALIZE that Rav Elimelech M’Lizhensk’s teaching is real--it is our Shuls and Batei Midrashim that are Hashem’s Home in this world.  Would one have his cell phone on the Oval Office table, if he was in a meeting with LeHavdil Eleph VeAlphei Rivevos Havdalos the President of the United States ?!  In many Kehillos, Rabbanim may have already prohibited the use of these phones and related electronic devices in the Shul itself at any time.  In those Holy Places where this is not yet the case, we urge YOU to take an active role in making it happen. We cannot allow those uneducated in the meaning in the reverence one should have for a Shul or in the importance of communicating with Hashem to spoil (really defile) the sanctity of the Place for us all.  Is there anything wrong with going over to a person who is talking or typing and asking him to do so outside, because the walls are imbued with Kedusha?  Even if they argue that what they are doing is for a mitzvah overess, explain to them that others will not understand and will learn to do likewise in any circumstance.  The Torah in last week’s Parsha does not directly and openly refer to ipads, iphones, or any less sophisticated instruments--but it does teach us, in the form and context of a complete, non-digressing Parsha, how important the Mikdash Me’at is to Hashem and, therefore, to K’lal Yisrael.  Let us really take action--and, in this zechus, may we literally uplift ourselves from our Mikdash Me’at to the Third and Final, Permanent and Everlasting Third Bais Hamikdash...speedily and in OUR days!



Special Note Three:  We continue an exciting Monday/Thursday series on the practical aspects of Sta”m, written by Rabbi Reuvain Mendlowitz, Shlita, author of Inside Sta”m--An Insider Reveals The Answers To All The Questions You Should Ask When Purchasing Or Maintaining Tefillin, Mezuzos, Megillos, Sifrei Torah And Nevi’im.


For a fuller treatment of all topics to be discussed, we urge you to purchase the Sefer, which provides practical and meaningful information and ideas.






Ø      Klaf is the parchment on which STA”M items are written. It is made by processing the hide of a kosher animal through a specific procedure known as ibbud.




Does klaf need a hechsher (kosher certification), or is all klaf kosher?



Until recently, there was no such thing as a hechsher on klaf or klaf factories. All the klaf manufacturers were trusted to do everything properly.


The manufacture of kosher klaf involves many halachos – from avoiding the skins of a bechor (firstborn) to properly scraping and sanding the skin.


Some of the klaf machers (parchment makers) were insulted when people started asking if they had a hechsher. After all, for the previous fifty years, all the sofrim and many Gedolim had relied on them and trusted them implicitly.


Their feelings are understandable. Imagine if you owned an appliance store for fifty years on Main St., and you were considered to be an honest man who knew his products like the back of his hand. All the old-timers still talk about how they bought their appliances from you when they got married.


Then one year, a group of young upstarts begins to notice that not all the appliance store owners are totally honest and reliable. They decide to set up a watchdog organization that will offer their stamp of approval, for a fee, to any storeowner who will allow them to inspect all the appliances in the store and examine their books. Would you let them into your store? Of course not! You’d send them right back to where they came from.


Another reason that some klaf machers are not acquiring hechsherim is because all klaf machers have their own unique methods for processing the klaf. A knowledgeable sofer can tell you instantly whose piece of klaf you are holding in your hand – usually just by looking at it, and sometimes just by feeling it.


Therefore, they are extremely hesitant to allow anyone into their factories, lest it be revealed how they process their klaf, and someone steal their “recipe.”


While these concerns are legitimate, and we can sympathize with the plight of these klaf machers, the fact remains that some of the other factories have hechsherim while they don’t.


In our next installment we will delineate various reasons why in our days a hechsher is important.


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