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8 Adar

ESSENTIAL ADVICE:  By clicking here we provide essential Purim safety advice to us all from Hatzolah and the Torah Safety Commission. Please spread the word!



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

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

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

3. Fascinatingly, Chazal (Megillah 23A) teach that the seven aliyos we have on Shabbos correspond to the shiva ro’eh pnei hamelech. Rashi (ibid.) cites the Pasuk in the Megillah for this: “Shivas Sarei Paras U’Madai” (Esther 1: 14 ). Every Shabbos--we are reminded of the Purim miracle! 

4. In preparation for the Mitzvah of reading Parashas Zachor tomorrow, we provide the following important annual reminders:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Special Note Two: 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 referred to in tomorrow’s Parasha ,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 1:  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 illuminating infinite light, that Yom Tov was not an interruption from the daily routine, forced vacation, or expensive--but the ultimate joy of special togetherness with one’s 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, 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 of two of reflection--and the difference may very well be phenomenal. 


Hakhel Note 2:  For women who do not don Tefillin, their Yekar may easily be seen as the Tznius--the clothing and comportment that befits an Am Hashem.  After all, Shlomo Hamelech, the wisest of all men, describes a woman’s 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 Three: 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 Tuff, 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. 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 Four:  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? Your suggestions are most welcome!


2.  It is not only women who bring honor to themselves and their people by their dress and comportment. 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. 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 cap or jacket to Mincha or Ma’ariv with a cartoon character or perhaps another western world symbol highlighted or displayed upon it 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. 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 prerequisite 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!


 Special Note Five:  To help continue to arouse the spirit of Mishenichnas Adar Marbin B’Simcha, we provide the following questions relating to the events of Megillas Esther:

 1. QUESTION: How many Pesukim are there in the Megillah?


    ANSWER: 166--corresponding to the number of words in Hallel HaGadol (Tehillim 136).  (Sefer Rokeach)


 2. QUESTION: On what day and in what year did Haman intend to annihilate the Jews?


    ANSWER: 13 Adar 3405. Note: Achashveirosh only ruled for 14 years--from 3392 to 3406. Hakhel Note: Coincidence??


 3. QUESTION: What Pasuk in the Megillah teaches us that we will celebrate Purim even in the days of Moshiach?


    ANSWER:Vimei HaPurim Ha’eileh Lo Ya’avru Mitoch HaYehudim Vezichram Lo Yasuf Mizaram--and these days of Purim will never cease among the Jews…” (Megillas Esther 9:28).


 4. QUESTION: If when blowing the Shofar, we recite the bracha of Lishmo’ah Kol Shofar, then why when reciting the Megillah do we not recite the Pasuk Lishmo’ah Kriyas HaMegillah?


    ANSWER: The reading of the Megillah involves havanas halev--an understanding beyond just hearing, like Kriyas Shema (Sefer Avudraham).


 5. QUESTION:  A question obvious to all--why is Hashem’s name not written in the Megillah?


    ANSWER: There are several answers to this question:


     A. Since the Persians recorded the story as well, they would have replaced any Sheim with the name of their own false deity. Accordingly, it is an honor to Hashem for His name not to be mentioned (Maharil).


     B. So that the unlearned people at the time would not mistakenly rationalize that they could intermarry, for after all, had not Esther done so?


     C. Chazal (Chulin 139B) teach that the allusion to Esther in the Torah is from the Pasuk Ve’anochi Hastir Astir--and I will hide Myself [at that time]. Accordingly, we learn that Hashem wanted His name to be hidden relating the events of Esther.



 Special Note Six: HaRav Shimon Schwab, Z’tl (Rav Schwab on Prayer, Artscroll, p.526) poses a “I should have thought of that” question: Why does the Megillah in some detail, and why do Chazal subsequently in Al HaNissim, spend the time and effort to describe that Haman was hung on a tree, and that his 10 sons were hung on the tree almost a year later. Why do we have to remind ourselves of this every year in the Megillah and in the Ahl Hanissim so many times?  Indeed, Rav Schwab points out—even in the Maoz Tzur of Chanukah (!) we sing “Rov Bonov Vekinyanav Al Hoetz Tolisa—Haman and a good number of his sons were hung on the tree.” What special significance does the tree have to this very special day?


Rav Schwab luminously suggests that Chazal (Chullin 139B) teach that Haman is alluded to in the Torah with the Eitz HaDaas—Hashem asks Adam:  Hamin Hoetz Asher…—Did you eat of the tree which I commanded you not to eat?” What is the relationship of Haman to the Eitz HaDaas –is it merely a play on words of Haman and Hamin? Obviously not. There is a great lesson here. Haman intended to commit the most heinous crime imaginable—the genocide of an entire people. The aveirah of Adam and Chava seems to be of no comparison whatsoever.  After all, they wanted to grow spiritually—to know the difference between Tov and Ra (Beraishis 3:5)—it was an Aveira for them to eat only because Hashem did not want to grow in this way at this time. They succumbed to the appeal which the fruit had to their senses—albeit a lofty one. As Rav Schwab teaches: “This was the most exalted form of an aveirah ever committed.” Nevertheless, the Megillah and Chazal teach that the worst possible aveirah known to man—genocide-- had its origins in the sublime and elevated desire of Adam and Chava.  This is the route of aveira, this is the path of the Yetzer Hora. Those ‘worst kind’ of aveiros start somewhere—they have their origin in the slightest of aveiros. Haman’s aveira only began…because of the Hamin that engendered it.


So, when we read and refer to--and even pray about --the Tree of Haman, let us make sure that we glean its great lesson. We will tell the Yetzer Hora--”No, I am not going to begin—the one word of Lashon Hora, the one bite of questionable food, picking up the muktza item because maybe it is a ‘mitzvah’ to do so, not paying the worker what he asks because you want to teach him a lesson… all of the good intentions, all of the ‘practically no aveira’ of what you may be thinking, doing or saying—remember that 50 Amos high tree-- look up to its top—and to the Shomayim which lies beyond!




7 Adar

Special Note One:  Today is 7 Adar--and as we know 7 Adar is the Yahrzeit of Moshe Rabbeinu.  We note a great lesson that our Chazal provide from 7 Adar:  Chazal teach that Haman was elated when the lottery of the month in which he would annihilate the Jews fell upon the month of Adar--for this is the month of Moshe’ Rabbeinu’s Yahrzeit--which undoubtedly was a great calamity for K’lal Yisrael.  He concluded, therefore, that c’v the month was opportune for further Jewish catastrophe.  He was very much mistaken, Chazal continue, because he did not know that Moshe Rabbeinu was also born on 7 Adar, as Hashem completes the years of Tzaddikim to the day.  The month of Adar was then an incredibly successful one for K’lal Yisrael--for where would any of us be for all of eternity --without Moshe Rabbeinu coming into this world?!  He may have temporarily expired from Olam Hazeh, but he is still working hard for us in the upper world;  he will be back soon in the 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: ‘Mishenichnas Adar Marbin B’simcha’ in whatever way that we can.  May we suggest that one begin by absolutely banishing sad, troublesome or disheartening thoughts that may enter his mind (Yetzer Hara, hard at work) and replace those thoughts with positive and appreciative realizations of the elevated and unique position any one reading this has in relation to the many, many billions of humans and other creatures on this planet. Our elevated Simcha period will soon lead into the incomparably potent Geulah Period of Purim and Pesach--and hopefully along with it into the Final and Everlasting Geulah--so bring the Simcha in--and be sure let it out and share it with all around you as well!





1. QUESTION:  What does “HaPartemim” mean in the third Pasuk of the Megillah?

ANSWER:  Rashi says it means ‘Shiltonim’, rulers, or noblemen. 


2. QUESTION:  Which of the 15 Siman of the Leil HaSeder is mentioned in the first Perek in of the Megillah? 

ANSWER:  Karpas’ (Megillas Esther 1:6)


3. QUESTION:  Chazal (Megillah 9A)teach that there are two words of Targum (Aramaic) in the same Pasuk in the Megillah--which Pasuk is it, and what are the words?

ANSWER:  The Pasuk is Megillas Esther 1:20.  The words of ‘Pisgam HaMelech’ and ‘Yekar Leva’aleihen


4. QUESTION:  When the letters were sent by Haman to r’l destroy the Jewish people, the Pasuk ( 3:14 ) reports ‘Pashegen HaKesav’, what does ‘Pashegen’ mean?

ANSWER:  Rashi there explains that it refers to the text of what was contained in the document. 


5. QUESTION:  How many times is Charvona mentioned in the Megillah?

ANSWER:  Charvona is mentioned twice in the Megillah--once at the outset of the Megillah ( 1:10 ) (with an aleph as the last letter of his name), and once in the more popular place (7:9)--when he told Achashveirosh about Haman’s tree.  We may suggest that this symbolizes for us how the entire Megillah is one story throughout--and how evil can be turned to good!



Special Note Three PRE -SHABBOS ALERT REMINDER!  Please take the time to examine your plastic garbage bags (Glad, Hefty, no brand name, etc.) to determine how the bag is manufactured and packaged.  A reader advised us that he found that each individual Hefty ‘cinch’ bags are fused together on their folded sides, and that by opening them you are separating the bonded folds; other bags may have the opening at the top fused in a special way when wrapped.  We are not providing any ruling on any one kind of bag--for some may be perfectly permissible, and others may not.  If one believes that there may be an issue with the bags that he is using, he should show a folded bag to his Rav or Posek, who will open it and make a Halachic determination.  To be clear, there may be one or more Melachos D’Oraysa associated with opening one of these bags on Shabbos (easily obviated by pre-opening before Shabbos)--so real caution is URGED and ADVISED.  Like much of life--those little things can mean a great, great deal. 


Additional Note One:  By taking care of this today, you can, to the contrary, fulfill a Mitzvas Aseh D’Oraysa--on Thursday--of Zochor Es Yom HaShabbos LeKadsho--remembering the Shabbos day--to keep it holy. 


Additional Note Two:  Ashreinu Ma Tov Chelkeinu--How fortunate is our lot!  Dealing with plastic bags that hold waste materials is not a matter for the commoner or proletariat--but a topic and issue for the Gedolei Haposkim, for we know that every single part of our lives is meaningful and must be properly undertaken and guided.  A reader mused to us that he was working in close proximity to an individual who constantly used nivul peh. One day, our reader finally decided that ‘his ears had been burned’ and could be burned no longer, so he turned to the foul-tongued one and sincerely exclaimed and urged: “Can’t you stop cursing? “  To which, the co-worker responded:  “Stop?  From what?  What do you think this is--church or something?!”  We understand the world and its workings much, much differently than this co-worker.  Every day, several times a day, we may recite the Pasuk Kodosh, Kodosh, Kodosh...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 now continue our 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. Of course, one should ask his own Rav or Posek in his particular circumstance or situation for a final p’sak.


PART 110



Do Sifrei Nevi’im and megillos also require a computer check?




Although there is a well-known halachah that Megillas Esther may be read even from a megillah with spelling errors, that is only b’dieved. When an error-free megillah is available, one may not use a megillah with even one mistake. Therefore, clearly, a Megillas Esther should be computer checked.


A Sefer Nevi’im must be spelled correctly as well. Therefore, these sefarim should also be computer checked.




My Sefer Torah is now complete and ready to use. It occurred to me that I should make some kind of identifying mark or stamp somewhere in the Sefer Torah to be able to track it down and identify it should it ever be stolen, God forbid. Is this permitted? If not, is there some other way to earmark the Sefer Torah?




To answer your first question: many poskim hold that any extra marking on a Sefer Torah (or tefillin or mezuzah) is prohibited. Even poskim who feel that it might not actually be prohibited, discourage such markings on a practical level.


What can be done is to create a digital image of all, or parts, of the Sefer Torah. Then it can be registered with any one of a number of organizations who keep central databases containing such information. These organizations are found in many countries and work in conjunction with local police departments. Inquiries should be made to determine which is most suitable to your needs.




6 Adar

AVOID RIBBIS! We once again reminder you that we have been advised that Emigrant Savings Bank (and Emigrant.com), Quicken Loans, and Intervest National Bank have substantial Jewish ownership. Please consult your Rav regarding depositing or borrowing money (e.g. mortgages) from them, as ribbis issues may be involved. For further information please email hakhelusa@gmail.com



THE CLIP: Many have viewed the short clip released by a Foundation which shows the Chofetz Chaim and other Gedolim. It is truly amazing that this 92 year old clip for us to view at this time. An important lesson that we all can take from actually watching the Chofetz Chaim walk and move is that yes, he was truly alive--a human being. We too can be a Chofetz Chaim--it is within our reach!



WHAT ROLE DO OTHERS PLAY IN ONE ’S 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 One:  As we paid special, indeed exclusive, attention in last week’s Parasha 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 Midrashim 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 may 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 Parasha 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 Parasha, 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 Two: Remember--this is Adar. Every day one should go out of his way to do something to make himself 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 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 Three: 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 Four:  One week from tonight we look forward to Kriyas HaMegillah.  Let us continue to get ready--here is some help!


1. QUESTION:  How does one fulfill the concept of Pirsumei Nissa on Purim? 

ANSWER:  The reading of the Megillah publicizes the miracle--and as a result everyone praises (or should praise) Hashem in its aftermath!  As a matter of fact, the reason that we read the Megillah at night and during the day is to remember how Klal Yisrael cried out to Hashem to be saved both at night and during the day--and through this we remember the Nes!


2. QUESTION:  On what day did the Ikar Neis of Purim occur?

ANSWER:  The thirteenth day of Adar, when the major wars against our enemies were fought (Rashi to Megillah 2A). 


3. QUESTION:  Why does the Megillah refer to Haman’s lottery with the term “Hipil Pur, Hu HaGoral”(Megillah 3:7)-was is the difference between a Pur and Goral?  

ANSWER:  The Meforshim (ibid.) explain that a Pur is a lottery which is intended to have a negative result, while a Goral is intended to have a positive.  Thus, Haman had intended for it to be a Pur for Klal Yisrael--however--the Megillah already testified at that time that it would be a Goral--a lottery in which we were the winners!


4. QUESTION:  When was Haman hung? 

ANSWER:  Haman was hung in the evening after the 16th of Nissan, i.e., the night of the 17th (Rashi to Megillah 15A)


5.  QUESTION:  What does the word Manos in Mishloach Manos refer to?

ANSWER:  Although we commonly translate the term as portions, Rashi (Megillah 7A) defines Manos as Minei Ma’adanim, kinds of delicacies. 


Hakhel Note: At a Hakhel Shiur relating to Purim, Rabbi Ben Tzion Shafier, Shlita, urged everyone to prepare for Purim by reading the Megillah anew without the influences of his childhood thoughts--but as a Sefer of Tanach.  Rather than view King Acashveirosh as a roly- poly, fickle nitwit, we should realize instead Chazal’s teaching on the beginning words of the Megillah:  ‘Hu Achashveirosh’--Hu BeRisho Mitechilaso Ve’Ad Sofo--he is Achashveirosh--evil from the beginning until the end.  Haman, then, could find no better partner to annihilate the Jews than him--for their annihilation was a great desire of his as well.  It is very telling that even after the Neis Purim occurred, he still did not allow the rebuilding of the Bais HaMikdash for as long as he was king!  Yet, with all of his hatred for us, Hashem caused him to move his kingdom’s capital to Shushan, the place of the Jews, so that Mordechai would not have to burden himself in traveling any distance to his palace.  With this in mind, let us take the time to study and appreciate the depth of every nuance and detail in the Megillah--and make many new discoveries this year.  We most certainly invite you to share your discoveries and original thoughts with us!




5 Adar



1. “I have an idea for a website to build that will help people work on their Middos and stick to their Kabbalos. Do you know any web developers who might be able to help build this website for free (and earn tremendous zechusim as a result)?”


2. “Regarding cities which are a Safek Mimei Yehoshua, the Ben Ish Chai includes Baghdad as one of those cities.”


3. A reader pointed out to us that Shushan Purim is not, in fact, the midpoint of the year beginning from Rosh Hashana--rather it is Rosh Chodesh Nissan. Hakhel Note: We thank our reader for her careful reading--in any event, we are getting close to the mid-year point. Let us focus on accomplishment!



STARTING TO THINK ABOUT MISHLOACH MANOS: Now would also be a good time to begin thinking about not only who you have to send Mishloach Manos to, but also who would be truly moved and appreciative for being remembered, thought about, or reconciled with through the Mishloach Manos.  Rabbi Yechiel Spero, Shlita, in A Touch of Purity writes that in the phrase “Mishloach Manos Ish LeRei’eihu” both the word Ish and LeRei’eihu have the same Gematria to indicate the level of identification, affection, and oneness that one should have with another!  Hakhel Note: Consideration in thinking about Mishloach Manos would be to include some bakavodik--and even healthy food. We note that at least one of the Kosher salad manufacturers has a Mishloach Manos product.



SUGGESTION OF THE DAY :  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!




Special Note One:  As we learned in last week’s Parasha, when one entered the Kodesh, the Shulchan, or the table with the Lechem HaPanim on it was on the right and the Menorah was on the left.  The Shulchan, of course, symbolizes prosperity and blessing in this world while the Menorah represents the light of Torah and its study.  We would have better understood it if the Menorah was to the right and the Shulchan to the left.  After all, we attribute greater Chashivus to the right, and, moreover the right was north--which was the direction in which the Kadshei Kadshim--the most holy of Karbanos were brought.  In order to resolve this paradox, some commentaries explain that there is a great difference between our approach to attaining the ‘Shulchan’ and our approach to attaining the ‘Menorah’ in life.  What do we mean?  Chazal (Pesachim 50B) teach that Torah can first be studied She’lo Lishmah--not for its own sake, and that will eventually lead to Lishmah.  As Chazal especially express it:  “Mitoch She’lo Lishmah Bah Lishmah.”  With this, we can understand why we first begin teaching young children with candies and treats, prizes and more prizes.  As a person grows, however, he realizes that it is the Torah itself which is the eternal treat and the everlasting prize.  When it comes to the Shulchan, however, there is no room for She’lo Lishmah.  We cannot focus upon earthly passions, desires, goals, and attainments as an end in itself--even with the intent of eventually making one’s life more noble and elevated.  One should not ever place the emphasis on satisfaction of Olam Hazeh needs as an end in and of itself.  It is for this reason that the Shulchan must be on the right--for it must always be in the ‘Lishmah mode.’  What a great lesson!  Many times throughout the day when one finds the challenge arise as to a particular indulgence, gratification or desire, he should remember that the Menorah is to the left… but that the Shulchan always remains to the right!



Special Note Two:  Rabbi Eli Mansour, Shlita brings Chazal who teach about how the Yetzer Hara operates: “HaYom Omeir Lo Aseh Kacha, U’lemachar Aseh Kacha--today the Yetzer Hara says ‘do this’ and tomorrow ‘do this’.  Why is the same term--do this today, do this tomorrow used?  Rabbi Mansour beautifully teaches that the tachlis of the Yetzer Hara is to keep you at status quo--whatever you are doing today---do it tomorrow.  Don’t grow, don’t become better, don’t get anywhere in life.  you are five minutes late every day to Shul, that’s just fine--keep it like that;  you don’t have time to go over the Parasha--hey, you did that when you were younger, no need to start something new now;  you sometimes lose yourself--that’s good, you have to every once in a while--keep it up.  Our task in life is to fight him at his “Kacha’s”--just do it and do it again.  We have to become better than yesterday--and not allow yesterday’s Kacha in!  Hakhel Note :  Rebbi 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!



Special Note Three: To help continue to arouse the spirit of Mishenichnas Adar Marbin B’Simcha, we provide the following questions (this time--and answers!) relating to the events of Megillas Esther, which have been culled from the Sefer Sifsei Chachomim, introduction to Mesechta Megillah, and other sources:


1. QUESTION:  What are the ten significant kingdoms that span all of human history?


    ANSWER: (i) Hashem when He created the world, and was recognized by all; (ii) Nimrod, when he rebelled before Hashem in front of the world; (iii) Paroh Melech Mitzrayim; (iv) the kingdom of Ahm Yisrael in Eretz Yisrael; (v) Nevuchadnezzar, king of Baval; (vi) Achashveirosh; (vii) Yavan; (viii) Rome; (ix) Moshiach; and (x) when Hashem once again is recognized by all as Ruler of the world, as the Navi teaches: “VeHaya Hashem LeMelech Ahl Kol Ha’aretz”.


2. QUESTION: We know that the Gematria of Boruch Mordechai and Arur Haman are the same. To what is the Gematria of Arurah Zeresh equivalent?


    ANSWER: Esther Livracha (Steipeler Gaon).


3. QUESTION: The word Purim is written five times in the Megillah--twice with a Vav and three times without a Vav--why?


    ANSWER:  The two times with a Vav (i.e., with the word complete) allude to the 14th and 15th of Adar, each of which are celebrated as Purim in all respects, only depending upon whether the city was originally walled or not. The three times Purim is written without a Vav represents the 11th, 12th and 13th of Adar, days upon which in certain circumstances in the past the Megillah could have been read (and Matanos L’Evyonim given)--but Simchas Purim was in any event even in these circumstances celebrated on the 14th(Cheishek Shlomo). Hakhel Note:  Oh, how much we can learn from the presence or absence of even one letter in the Megillah!


4. QUESTION:  Can you name at least three Nevi’im--other than Mordechai and Esther--that lived at the time that the miracle of Purim took place?


    ANSWER:  Baruch Ben Neryah, Sraya Ben Machsaya, Daniel, Chagai, Zechariah and Malachi. (Rashi to Megillah 15A)


5. QUESTION: What was the name of Haman’s mother?


    ANSWER: Her name was Amasla’i (Bas Urvasi). Chazal (Baba Basra 91A) teach that the name of Avrohom Avinu’s mother was also Amasla’i (Bas Karnevo). One suggested reason for the two mothers having the same name is that whenever Haman Bas Amasla’i is mentioned, it will be me’orer the zechus of Avrohom Avinu--just as when we mention the city of Chevron , we are me’orer the zechus Avos (see Yoma 28B).



Special Note Four: We now intensify our feelings in the words:  “Mishenichnas Adar Marbin B’Simcha”.  In fact, HaRav Dessler, Z’tl, (Michtav M’Eliyahu, Volume 2, p. 125) writes that the Simcha we experience should be built upon day after day, so that it continuously grows through the month.  For true Simcha to be built upon, the joy must be more than a superficial experience.  As Rabbi Mordechai Becher, Shlita, pointed out at a Hakhel Shiur, depressed people can be tickled and will laugh, but will quickly return to their depression after the tickling has ceased. The Simcha we look to build upon over the course of this special month relate more to our Ruchniyus--specifically, to the Mitzvos we perform. As we have noted in the past, the Chayei Adam (68:13) writes that “HaSimcha HaGedolah B’Mitzvah--joy is the greatest [or at least one of the greatest] elements in performing a Mitzvah.”  He continues, based upon the Arizal, that the happiness one experiences when fulfilling a Mitzvah should really be more blissful than that experience when one finds a host of pleasures and precious jewels.  In fact, the Mishna Berurah (Shulchan Aruch, Orach Chaim 669:1, seif katan 11) writes in the name of the Arizal that the highest levels he reached came about through his great joy in performing Mitzvos.  Most certainly, the privilege and the ability to study Torah--Hashem’s direct words and instructions--should bring us to bliss.  Every time we sit down to learn we must appreciate the joy we bring to our inner selves--and the eternity that will result from it. Additionally, the opportunity to stand before Hashem in prayer, with the knowledge that the King of kings, the Creator and Provider is listening, should likewise provide nothing less than unbridled ecstasy.  Of course, the opportunity to perform each and every Mitzvah, large or small, easy or difficult is an opportunity of infinite Olam Haba right here in this temporal Olam Hazeh.  We should certainly not rob ourselves of an opportunity for true spiritual joy--at least once a day during this special month!  One should make sure to put forethought into at least one Mitzvah he is about to perform daily, sincerely appreciate and delight at the opportunity, and simply delight in its performance.




4 Adar 

MEGILLAH READING --TODAY!  The Chovos HeLevavos teaches us:  “Ki HaYamim Megillos Kisvu Bahem Mah Shetachpetzu Sheyizacher Lachem--Everyone’s days are like Megillos--write in them what you wish to be remembered for.” (Sha’ar Cheshbon HaNefesh, Chapter 3). 



MAKE SURE THAT YOUR SHUL JOINS YESHIVAS MORDECHAI HATZADDIK THIS PURIM!  Yeshivas Mordechai Hatzaddik, in special session for one hour of Torah study in Shul on Purim day, has hundreds of branches worldwide, with tens of thousands participating.  If your Shul does not yet participate in this noble project (Torah study on such a busy day--what a Zechus!), all it takes is some simple signs as to the time, several nice raffle prizes, and perhaps a door prize for each child participating.  For further information on a discounted door prize available, please contact avotusa@kewnet.com., and for signs or raffle ticket forms, please respond to this Bulletin



PURIM COSTUME ALERT:  The Luach Davar B’Ito reminds all that Purim costumes (especially hats from Eastern Europe ) may contain shatnez, and accordingly should be checked in advance of Purim to make sure that the costume is usable.  The Luach also strongly advises against using costumes which can scare others.  It also suggests that the child ‘tries the costume on’ in front of a parent so that it fits, is clean and no buttons are missing…to avoid any last minute consternation or disappointment. 



AN IMPORTANT THING TO REMEMBER! As Purim approaches, one may feel that he has to be a little bit tighter with Tzedaka until Purim comes, and may also feel uneasy about all of the contributions on Purim as well.  There is a story related about R’ Itzele Petteburger, Z’tl, who reached into his pocket and gave a stranger Tzedaka.  After the person left, R’ Itzele remarked that he felt no difficulty, no hold-back, with his act of giving--so the Tzedaka in that case was probably not a true one.  The Yetzer Hara would only bring about hesitation and resistance when the Mitzvah was real--otherwise, he will let it go by with pleasure. So, if you are approached for Tzedaka within the next ten days--remember for the large part where your inner resistance is coming from.  Similarly, when giving Matanos Le’Evyonim--overcome the challenge and remember to give each and every person wisely--and B’Sever Panim Yafos!




Special Note One:  Now that we are at the fourth day of Adar (!), 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.  Our joy is not 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 explained at his Rosh Chodesh Adar Seudah that the Sefer Chovos Halevavos writes 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 Sha'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?  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:  To help continue to arouse the spirit of Mishenichnas Adar Marbin B’Simcha, we provide the following questions (this time--and answers!) relating to the events of Megillas Esther, which have been culled from the Sefer Sifsei Chachomim, introduction to Mesechta Megillah:


1. QUESTION: Why is the Megillah called Megillas Esther--and not Megillas Mordechai?


    ANSWER:  There are several answers given.


A. Mordechai was on the Anshei Knesses HaGedolah that approved the Megillah's codification as one of the Sifrei Tanach. Referring to the Megillah as Megillas Mordechai could cause some to claim that Mordechai endorsed it because of his own honor, or as a remembrance as to how the king raised his position and accorded him great honor and wealth. Indeed, the Pasuk found in the Megillah ( 9:29 ) records “Vatichtov Esther HaMalka…U’Mordechai HaYehudi--mentioning Esther’s name first.”


B. Esther acted with greater Mesiras Nefesh, as she stated (Esther 4:16 ): “V’cha’asher Avadeti Ovodeti.” Rashi (Shemos 37:1) provides a similar comment on the Pasuk: “Vaya’as Betzalel Es Ha’aron--Betzalel made the Aron”. Because he did more than others, it was called by his name.


C. The ikar hanes occurred through Esther (see Megillah 4A Tosfos d’h she’af).


D. Esther was the one who requested of the Chachomim: ‘Kisvuni L’Doros--write down my story for future generations.’ (Megillah 7A).


E. Even though Esther was a yesoma and raised by others--nevertheless a Yeshua Gedolah for all of K’lal Yisrael came through her. This should provide a nechama to all those who are downtrodden to strengthen their bitachon in Yeshuas Hashem.


F. To remind us that because Esther reported what Bigsan and Seresh intended to do in the name of Mordechai she brought Geulah to the world--and that we too can bring Geulah to the world, by fulfilling Chazal’s teaching (Avos 6:6): “Kol Ha’omer Davar B’sheim Amro Meivi Geulah L’Olam”!


2. QUESTION: Are there any cities in Chutz La’aretz that could have possibly been walled from the times of Yehoshua Bin Nun?


    ANSWER:  Possibly, Prague, Czechoslovakia and Temesvar, Romania--the Shela HaKadosh writes that an individual should be machmir on himself and read the Megillah in these cities at night and in the day without a bracha on the 15th of Adar as well.


3. QUESTION: How much time passed between Vashti being put to death and Esther becoming queen?


    ANSWER:  4 years--for Vashti was killed in the 3rd year of Achashveirosh’s reign and Esther became queen in the 7th year of his reign.


4. QUESTION: How many generations were there from Mordechai back to Yaakov Avinu?


    ANSWER:  40 (see Targum Sheini to Esther 7:6 for a listing of Mordechai’s ancestry generation by generation).


5. QUESTION: How many years had Mordechai been in Galus before the Nes of Purim happened?


    ANSWER:  Mordechai went into Galus with Yechanya the king of Yehuda in the year 3328. The Nes of Purim occurred in the year 3405. This means that Mordechai had been in galus for 77 years prior to the Nes of Purim! 



Special Note Three:  This time of year represents and reminds us of the special level of Hashgacha that Hashem graces us with.  Sometimes it is clear to see, and sometimes we may not even realize how we were led in a particular direction or on a specific path.  Indeed, some commentaries to Tehillim 117 explain that the reason we exclaim:  “Halelu Es Hashem Kol Goyim, Shabechuhu Kol HaUmim--praise Hashem all nations, praise Him all nationalities” is because we do not even know the nature or extent of the designs and schemes against us from which we were saved--and only they do.  On the other hand, with the Nes of Purim, it was clear for all to see Hashem’s tremendous ‘behind-the-scenes’ actions for many years--and that but for the great Hashgacha Pratis we would have been annihilated--as had actually happened to scores of nations previously in existence.  Indeed, the term “Megillas Esther” expressly affirms the dual nature of our Hashgacha--sometimes it is ‘Megillah,’ meaning thoroughly revealed--and sometimes it is ‘Esther,’ meaning wholly hidden.  It would certainly be an appropriate Avodah at this time of year to work on experiencing and appreciating the Hashgacha Pratis in each one of our personal lives.  “Why did I feel that I was coming down with a cold and then not get it?”  “Why did my cell phone break today?”  “How did I get involved in redding this Shidduch?”  “Why did I learn this today--is there some way in which I should be applying it?”...  Although one cannot go through an entire day noting this and noting that, it most certainly behooves us during the month of Adar to write down at least one Hashgacha Pratis incident of the day which you recognized as a clear indication of Hashem’s hand in your life.  It is no secret, and we have noted here before, that once a person recognizes the tremendous Hashgacha to which he is subject, the more Simcha he will feel in his closeness to Hashem.  Your own personal Adar 5775 Hashgacha Pratis Calendar--a marvelous goal and special achievement for what we hope will be a Simcha-filled month!



Special Note Four:   Special Note Four: We now continue our 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. Of course, one should ask his own Rav or Posek in his particular circumstance or situation for a final p’sak.


PART 109


One way that mistakes occur during computer checking is by accident. This simply means that the checker did his job properly, worked hard, was an ehrlich person, but simply pushed the wrong button once out of 3,700 times. No-one is perfect, and these things can and do happen.


Another way is through negligence. The checker was, for instance, distracted, and did a quick scan of the screen before deleting everything and feeding the next column into the computer.


A third possibility is that the checker is not qualified. If the person performing the computer check is not an expert in the halachos of STA”M, the possibility of a mistake increase drastically. Although there are tens, if not hundreds of situations which prove this, we will cite just one example.


Often the screen will show what is considered by the program to be a problematic letter. As we have already mentioned, most times there is nothing wrong with the letter in question. When the computer displays the letters which are “problematic,” they are grouped by letter. The problematic alephs are followed by the problematic beis’ etc. A person who is not an expert in Hilchos STA”M may not notice various flaws in particular letters.


The rule is: The computer checker must be a qualified and experienced magiah, not just an apprentice learning on the job.


A fourth possibility is that the checker can sometimes be “fooled” by the screen. There are many different ways that the checker can be “fooled” by the screen if he is not paying careful attention.


When displaying its finds, the computer presents them so that an image of the required letter appears on the right of the screen, followed to the left by pictures of those letters in the STA”M item which the program has deemed problematic.


Very often the picture on the right and left are quite similar, such as with a dalet and hei; vav and yud; dalet and chof sofis; vav and zayin; zayin and nun sofis; hei and tav, mem sofis and samech. There are also myriad other possibilities where two letters which are touching can look exactly like a different letter. For example, a chof touching a vav can look exactly like a mem, which could change a word like “הכוכבים” to “המכבים”.




1 Adar



A. Today, being the first day of the month of Adar, we begin the sixth month of the year(!)  Yes, we still have the majority of the year in front of us to grow and accomplish. Shushan Purim is the midpoint of the year--what a wonderful midpoint! Let us each give ourselves a gentle wake-up tap across our cheeks, and remind ourselves of our goals and hopes—and how we can practically accomplish them.


B.  If you start learning Mishnayos Megillah today and learn just three Mishnayos a day (after Maariv, with your son, etc.), you will complete the entire Mesechta on Purim, and if you then continue to learn Mishnayos Pesachim starting on Purim (it is a mitzvah to begin learning Hilchos Pesach on Purim (as brought in the Shulchan Aruch, Orach Chaim 429; Mishna Berurah seif katan 2), you will complete Mishnayos Pesachim before Pesach!


C. If you start today, and learn one perek of Megillas Esther a day, you will have reviewed the Megillah in time for its laining on Leil Purim.  Remember--the Torah Jew places special emphasis not only on the Mitzvah--but on the Hachana --the preparation for the Mitzvah!


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


E. MAKE SURE THAT YOUR SHUL JOINS YESHIVAS MORDECHAI HATZADDIK THIS PURIM!  Yeshivas Mordechai Hatzadik, Torah study in Shul on Purim day, has hundreds of branches worldwide, with tens of thousands participating.  If your Shul does not yet participate in this noble project (Torah study on such a busy day--what a Zechus!), please contact Avos U’Banim (contact information below) to learn how you can join.  Most certainly, it is a special merit to contribute towards the prizes given to the children for learning on this day!  Avos U’Banim even supplies Shuls with a prize for every young man that attends at a significantly reduced cost.  For more information please contact Avos U’Banim’s US director, Rabbi Yosef Tenenbaum at 1-845-798-6637, or contact Avos U’Banim by e-mail at avotusa@kewnet.com




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


A. Many individually wrapped candies, lollipops, ices, and other Shabbos Party type treats have lettering and/or designs just at the spots that you would open them to take out the candy or treat. This constitutes an Issur DeRabbanan of Mochek (Shulchan Aruch, Orach Chayim 340; Mishne Berurah, seif katan 17). We note that this problem is true of ‘heimishe’ products as well, as the manufacturers do not assume that you or your children will necessarily be opening these items on Shabbos. Perhaps we should add to the list of Erev Shabbos things to do-- checking packaging of this kind!


B. According to the Sefer HaShabbos BeTifarta by HaRav Avrohom Adas, Shlita, reattaching a broomstick back to a broom either by screwing it back in, or by pushing it with force back into place, constitutes an Issur D’Oraysa of Boneh. He likewise rules that one may not return a belt buckle to a belt on Shabbos.


C. Several important Borer points  from the Sefer “Pnei Shabbos--Halachos HaSchichos” by HaRav Yosef Glick, Shlita  of Yerushalayim, which provides the answers to many common Shabbos Shailos: (i) One may not pour off the liquid from cholent unless he leaves some amount of liquid in the cholent, or eats a little bit of the liquid that he poured off—so that he is selecting the Ochel (that which he now wants) from the Pesoles (that which he does not now want) for immediate use; (ii) When clearing the table, one should make sure that the dirty plates are somewhat separated from the plates with remaining food on them that he wants to put away, in order to avoid  the potential borer of separating  plates mixed together -- removing  dirty plates from the table to discard their contents while removing plates with food to store their contents. Likewise, there should be distance kept on  kitchen counters between the dirty plates and plates with items to be discarded, and the remaining clean plates, or items to be stored, in order to avoid borer issues of selecting Pesoles from Ochel or even Ochel from Pesoles for non-immediate use; (iii) One should not remove noodles from chicken noodle soup simply because he does not want to eat them (and vice versa, one may not  pour out the chicken  soup in order to eat the noodles only), as this constitutes borer-- selecting the Pesoles from the Ochel; (iv) One should not remove the frosting or cream layer from a cake, unless he also removes some of the cake along with it, or leaves some of the cream on the cake; (v) If one took a fruit out of a bowl to eat, and then did not like the way it looked, HaRav Shlomo Zalmen Auerbach, Z’tl writes that it may be best to put it back into the same bowl and not somewhere else, so it does not appear as borer; (vi) One is permitted to take the peel off fruits and vegetables immediately prior to consumption--even if the outer layer is inedible (such as a banana peel), because this is deemed to be its ‘derech achila.’ If a peel is otherwise commonly eaten, such as an apple peel, there is a Machlokes HaPoskim as to whether one can peel the apple for non-immediate consumption. HaRav Moshe Feinstein, Z’tl forbids it; (vii) If a candy wrapper is stuck to the candy, one should only remove the candy close to its consumption, as the wrapper would then be treated as the peel of a fruit;(viii) If one has different flavors of soda in the pantry mixed up together, and wants to select a few flavors to put into the refrigerator for the Shabbos Seudah in a few hours, there is an issue of borer, as he is selecting for non-immediate use. Accordingly, one should keep the same flavors grouped together so that he is not selecting one flavor from another, or, in the alternative, not be selective about the soda he is taking but simply picking up two or three bottles of whatever may come to his hand. Another alternative may be to immediately drink a little of the soda  one selects before putting it in the refrigerator, so that he is  selecting the soda for immediate use; (ix) One should avoid peeling corn off corn on the cob unless it is close to the meal (even then there may be a separate issue of Dush--although one may eat corn directly from the cob); (x) There are various  opinions as to how close to the Seudah one is permitted to peel vegetables, set the table, and perform other Ochel Mitoch Pesoles activities. One should definitely not rely upon his own ‘common sense’ in this area, which could involve several Issurei D’Oraysa within the preparation of one Seudah. Instead, one should most definitely consult with his Rav or Posek in any case of doubt. If one never has any issues or doubts in this delicate area--than he is either being extra-specially superbly careful-- or he should immediately commence the study or review of the Halachos of borer, to help himself and others properly observe Shabbos Kodesh!



Special Note Two: Points and pointers on this week’s Parasha--Parashas Terumah:


A. This week, we are introduced for the first time to the Mishkan, which we sometimes view as only a “temporary” structure (actually used for over 400 years).  Chazal, however, teach us that the Torah emphasizes that the Mishkan was made from “Atzai Shitim Omdim”--”standing” Shitim wood--in order for us to know that the Mishkan will “stand” forever.  The question we pose is--why is this so?  After all, once the first Bais HaMikdash was built, were there not many more miracles and much more glory to Hashem there, being the holiest place in the world?  Why must the Mishkan “stand”--remain with us forever?  We look forward to your thoughts.


B. As we see in tomorrow’s Parasha, the Aron consisted of solid wood, plated inside and outside with gold.  In spite of the fact that the Aron was plated with gold much more valuable than the wood it covered, the Aron is nevertheless referred to in the Torah as the “Aron Atzei Shitim--the acacia wood Aron”.  Why is it that the Aron is described as wooden--and not as a more valuable and respected golden Aron?  HaRav Shimshon Dovid Pincus, Z’tl, answers that, in fact, wood more aptly describes the Aron because wood is something that grows and that regenerates.  Indeed, even if one cuts down a tree to the ground, its roots are left and a new tree can sprout forth.  Gold may be valuable in this world, but it has no inherent capacity to live or grow.  Our Torah is much more aptly described with wood for “Etz Chaim He--it is a living tree”--it enables one--even one who was down and out--to reinvigorate himself and renew his life.  Rav Pincus notes that this is the special nature of the month of Adar, and eventually of Purim, as well.  It is a time of Hischadshus--of a new lease on life both physically and spiritually.  It is no wonder then, that after experiencing the miracles of Purim, our people’s immediate reaction was “Kimu V’kiblu”--a rededication and revival to Torah commitment.


C. Chazal teach that one who gives money to a poor person is misboreich with six brachos, while one who additionally gives him words of encouragement and support is blessed with eleven brachos by Hashem.  A wonderful explanation of the concept is presented in the Sefer MiShulchan Gavoha, on this week’s Parasha:  There is a commodity more precious to a human being than even money--it is his time.  When a person takes the time to encourage another, he is giving of himself something more precious than gold.  At a Hakhel Yarchei Kallah, Rabbi Dov Brezak, Shlita, noted that he passed a man whom he had not seen in a while on the street.  In passing, he asked him how everything was.  As they were walking by each other the man responded:  Lo BeSeder--things are not well.”  Rabbi Brezak heard these words as he was already past the person and had a quick debate in his mind.  He was in a rush, in fact an absolute rush, to get to a store that was going to close. The matter was urgent for him.  But, how could he leave a man who just said that things were not well--and now 20 or 30 meters behind him?!  His Yetzer HaTov got the best of him, he ran back towards the distraught person, and gave him words of care and Chizuk for a few moments.  A few days later the man called him to express his Hakaras HaTov to Rabbi Brezak for stopping to talk with him.  Because of the desperateness of the situation at the time, the man was actually contemplating suicide--and Rabbi Brezak’s thoughtfulness and words--reversed his thinking and frame of mind!  This is literally Chaim BeYad HaLashon--and we are all capable of it! 


D.  The Shach writes that it is possible that on every utensil made in the Bais HaMikdash, a separate Bracha was made of “Asher Kideshanu BeMitzvosav Vetzivanu Al Asiyas Kli Ploni”  so that kedusha would come on to the Kli not only through its making-but also through the dibbur of the Bracha!  Accordingly, we once again remind our readers that every time we say the words “Asher Kideshanu BeMitzvosav Vetzivanu...” we are bringing kedusha on to the Mitzvah we are performing or upon the item on which we are performing the mitzvah. 


E. We learn that those who were Nedivei Lev--givers from the heart--were able to accomplish an incredible task--the building of a house and its furnishings the likes of which were never built before--and which is in fact hidden away to this very day and forever thereafter.  The Sefer Orchos Tzaddikim teaches us that there is something even more special than a Nadiv, a giver--it is a Nadiv HaShalem--a complete giver.  He writes that a Nadiv HaShalem is one who gives--whether large or small amounts before being asked to do so.  By doing this, he performs the act of giving not out of coercion or embarrassment, not to be ‘left alone’, and not even out of rethinking or reconsideration--but purely because he is a giver.  It may take a little time to get used to--but if one could sway his charitable donations, even if in only small amounts, in this direction--he will actually move towards Shleimus in the act of giving.  The Torah teaches us the value of the Nedivei Lev...let’s see if we can make this attribute a part of ourselves in the most complete way possible!



Special Note Three:  Why was the Torah put into an Aron and then into the Kodesh HaKodoshim seemingly isolated from the people? When we posed this question in the past, we received the following excellent responses from readers:


A.  “If the Torah would just be “there” for us, it wouldn’t make us want it at all.  One must view and seek out the Torah just as one would a hidden treasure in order to properly appreciate how invaluable it is to our lives”.  Hakhel Note:  We can apply this lesson daily by treating our Maggidei Shiur and Seforim with an added level of appreciation, care and respect--for they are very much helping us to reach an essential part of our life--the ‘VeSein Chelkeinu BeSoresecha’--uncovering and revealing the Torah for us, so that we can attain our life’s potential and portion in Torah knowledge and study.  One should very much try to improve his hakara, his recognition and affection to those who help him take the Torah out of the Aron and imbibe Hashem’s Wisdom into his being daily-and everlastingly!


B. “The Declaration of Independence is kept under lock and key in a pneumatically sealed chamber with atmospheric conditions perfect for its preservation, and back in the times when it was written, copies were disseminated among the states for their publicizing the Declaration. Lehavdil, we need to have one copy of the Torah that is sacrosanct as a proof that over all of these millennia, not a dot has been changed in the Torah.  We will need this proof one day when the nations that surround us make the final accusations, and the original scroll will appear and we will be able to compare that the scrolls that we read in Shul today are exact copies of the original scrolls written by Moshe Rabbeinu and dictated by Hashem Yisborach.  And since that will be Y’may Mashiach, Am Yisrael--and the very same Torah will continue to live L’olam Va’ed!”


Hakhel Note: We look forward to your responses as well!



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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


Hakhel Note: To get a better feeling of the awe and empowerment we should feel upon entering a Shul, we provide some of the closing words of HaRav Moshe Cordevero, Z’tl, to the Sefer Tomer Devora:


“As one enters the Bais Knesses, he should recite the verse “V’Ani B’Rov Chasdecha…--and I, through Your abundant kindness, come into Your house; I bow toward Your holy sanctuary in awe of You” (Tehillim 5:8).  With this, one binds himself to the three Avos, as “Your abundant kindness” corresponds to Avrohom, “I bow toward Your holy sanctuary” corresponds to Yitzchok, and “In awe of You” corresponds to Yaakov.  His prayer will then be in a propitious time, for the outflow of His Compassion will be drawn downwards towards him.”


During the upcoming weeks, as we learn more and more about the holy Mishkan, let us make a special effort to have the proper regard, respect and appreciation for the sanctuaries of Hashem that are in our midst!



Special Note Five: One last thought: We all try to improve our learning, for, after all, “VeTalmud Torah KeNeged Kulam--Torah study is equivalent to them all.”  As we learn of the Aron’s construction in this week’s Parasha, we realize that we must also build ourselves to house the Torah within us. Every individual knows himself best, and can make real progress and strides in his own way.  However, one area which may be particularly frustrating to many in their Torah growth is their inability to remember where they learned something--e.g., where exactly it is in Shulchan Aruch or the Gemara, which commentary said it, or what the particular language may be.  If a person would take but one item a day that he has learned that day, write down its source, and try to commit the item and its source to memory whether through memory association techniques or otherwise (it will obviously require review), than over the course of a year--he will know more than 350 sources!  Each and every day has so much potential inherent within it--if we merely ‘tap’ on it we can accomplish so much over a month, a year, a decade...120 years!



Special Note Six:  When is ga’avah good? One answer is that its letters--gimel, aleph, vav and heih, represent the days upon which Purim can fall--Tuesday, Sunday, Friday and Thursday! To help arouse the spirit of Mishenichnas Adar Marbim BeSimcha, we provide the following questions (and answers!) relating to introductory events to Megillas Esther:


1. QUESTION: How long was Haman a barber for before he became Achashveirosh’s right-hand [or, perhaps, second-hand] man?

ANSWER: He was a barber in K’far Kartzum for 22 years (Megillah 16A)


2. QUESTION: When Haman heard that Achashveirosh ordered him to take Mordechai around on the king’s horse--what did Haman suggest to Achashveirosh to give Mordechai instead? ANSWER: He said that it would be enough to give him one village or one river (ibid.)


3. QUESTION: Name at least two acts that are attributed to the Malach Gavriel in the Purim story.

ANSWER: He placed a tail on Vashti so that she would be too ashamed to appear at Achashveiroh’s feast (Megillah ibid. 12B). Also, when Achashveirosh could not sleep and he ordered that his Divrei HaYamim be read before him, Shimshi, the king’s scribe kept on trying to erase the recording of how Mordechai had saved Achashveirosh’s life from Bigsan and Seresh--and Gavriel kept on re-writing it (ibid. 16A).


4. QUESTION: Can you identify a Pasuk in Tanach that Haman knew?

ANSWER: Chazal teach that after Haman told Mordechai to get up onto the king’s horse, Mordechai advised him that he was too weak from fasting to do so. Haman then had to bow down so that Mordechai could step on him to ascend onto the horse. When Mordechai did so, he kicked Haman. Haman responded: “Does it not state in Mishlei ‘Binfol Oyvecha Ahl Tismach’?” (Mishlei 24:17) Mordechai responded that the Pasuk does not refer to the enemies of K’lal Yisrael (ibid.).


5. QUESTION: What gezeiros did Haman make against K’lal Yisrael, besides for his intent to ultimately r’l annihilate them?

ANSWER: (i) He decreed that no one could purchase a Jew as a slave--so that no one would be protected at the time of the intended annihilation (ibid. 11A); (ii) From the Pasuk of “LaYehudim Haysah Orah”--which teaches how the Jews celebrated after Haman’s plan was foiled, we learn what he decreed against: Orah--the study of Torah, Simcha--the observance of Yom Tov, Sason--bris milah, and Yikar--Tefillin. Hakhel Note: Once again, the Pasuk reads: “LaYehudim Haysah Orah V’Simcha”--we may learn from this that the prerequisite to Simcha is Orah--Torah. Certainly, one thing we should be learning now in preparation for Purim is learning more Torah--especially relating to Purim and the Megillah!

Hakhel Note: Once again, the Pasuk reads: “Laihudim Haysah Orah V’Simcha”--we may learn from this that the prerequisite to Simcha is-- Orah--Torah! Certainly, one thing we should be doing now in preparation for Purim is learning more Torah--especially relating to Purim and the Megillah!




30 Shevat

IT IS SO SWEET! Every morning, as part of Birkos HaTorah, we recite VeHa’arev Nah Hashem Elokeinu Es Divrei Sorasecha--please Hashem, sweeten the words of Your Torah in our mouth…. Rabbi Dovid Goldwasser, Shlita, in the name of the Anaf Yosef (a classic commentary on the Siddur) writes: “After VeHa’arev Nah there are 30 additional words in this Tefillah. The 30 words represent the 24 books of Tanach in 6 orders of the Mishna.” We pray that we, and children from the earliest age, experience the sweetness of Torah, and that the entire Torah should be beloved by them.


Hakhel Note: In order for this prayer to be effective--we must have Kavannah when reciting it! Dovid HaMelech (Tehillim 19:11 ) teaches that in fact Torah is: “Mesukim M’Devash V’Nofes Tzufim--even sweeter than honey and drippings from the honey combs.” Perhaps when reciting the words VeHa’arev Nah we should attempt to feel the sweetness on our lips--and in our mind!



FIVE MONTHS OF ACCOMPLISHMENT! Since the inception of 5775, we have hopefully succeeded in five months of real accomplishment. Whether or not we have succeeded to the extent we wanted to--we have seven more months of accomplishment left in the year--let’s go to it--Teshuvah Bechol Yom!


Hakhel Note: As the month of Shevat ends and the month of Adar begins--today or tomorrow may be a very good time to review who is owed money and to whom Seforim or articles of clothing must be returned.




Special Note One:  Every Rosh Chodesh, in addition to the regular Shir Shel Yom, we also recite Barchi Nafshi (Tehillim 104).  The Tur writes that this is because this Chapter contains the phrase “Asa Yorayach L’Moadim--He made the moon for the festivals”--for through the new moon and the new month, we know when to properly celebrate our Moadim.  The Zohar (Midrash HaNeelam, Parashas Vayera) also adds to our understanding of this Chapter--writing that every Rosh Chodesh the souls of the Tzadikim in Gan Eden recite this very same Mizmor!

 It behooves us to recognize and reflect upon the power and profundity of what we may sometimes view as “nice” Minhagim--and appreciate each and every one of our Minhagim for the sublime and purifying effect it truly has upon us--whether we know it or not!


Additional Note One:  This morning in Musaf, we recited the words “Roshei Chadashim LeAmcha Nossata--You have given Your people the gift of Rosh Chodesh.”  If someone today had given you a designer’s gold watch, wouldn’t you feel uplifted--perhaps even joy--for the rest of the day?!  Today, not only being Rosh Chodesh, but Rosh Chodesh Adar(!!), we should try to internalize a special feeling of elation for the special gift of Rosh Chodesh that, on top of all else, Hashem Himself has given to us directly.  Will you learn for an extra few minutes today and/or will you have a special Seudah in its honor?


Additional Note Two:  Happily, we must begin our increased Simcha tomorrow--how can we begin to manifest it?  The Sefer Nimukei Orach Chaim (to Shulchan Aruch, Orach Chaim Chapter 685) writes that each person should engage in activities or do things that make him personally happy.  HaRav Yoel Schwartz adds that it is a nice custom to post signs in your home reading “MiShenichnas Adar Marbin B’Simcha”--in order to have a constant reminder to feel and experience an increased level of Simcha.  Start working on Simcha…today!



Special Note Two:  At the end of yesterday’s Bulletin, we mentioned the connection between Parashas Mishpatim and Parashas Terumah. At first blush, it seems like such a stark contrast between two items at opposite ends of the spectrum--the Aron HaKodesh on the one hand--and money on the other!  One simple suggestion to explain this paradox may be that before we can even begin to establish our bond with Hashem, we must first properly conduct our relationships with humans in the way Hashem tells us is correct.  If you want to further elevate your human existence--first get to the point at which you can elevate it, as you can’t get to the second floor without passing through the first.  As we alluded to yesterday, however, the Bais Halevi, explains the juxtaposition in a different way.  He teaches that Hashem is indicating to us that the money that we use to build our spiritual goals in this world--cannot be just any money--but money that is pure and clean.  A person cannot ‘bless’ or justify tainted actions for tzedaka or spiritual causes.  The money given--as the giver himself--must be wholesome.  This lesson is beautifully furthered by Dovid Hamelech in Tehillim (24:3) with the moving words, fervently recited on the Yomim Noraim:  ‘Mi Ya’aleh Behar Hashem U’Mi Yakum Bimkom Kodsho---N’ki Chapayim... Who may ascend the mountain of Hashem, and who may stand in the place of His sanctity?  One with clean hands and a pure heart....”


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


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


The goal of being a N’ki Chapayim is not for the Rabbis and Scholars, and not left to the high Holy Days.  It is the calling of the descendants of Avrohom Avinu--and it is the basis for our building a Mishkan in this world.  How mighty are our challenges--but how immense are our accomplishments!



Special Note Three: There are oh so many practical lessons for life to be gleaned from Parashas Mishpatim. We conclude our notes on Parashas Mishpatim with a the following two lessons, presented in the incomparable Sefer Talelei Oros:


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


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



Special Note Four: We now continue our 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. Of course, one should ask his own Rav or Posek in his particular circumstance or situation for a final p’sak.


PART 108


How can it be that the computer check has been proven to detect spelling errors with 99% accuracy when we have heard about Sifrei Torah which were found to have errors even after having been subjected to a computer check?




There are many different reasons for these failures which have nothing to do with the reliability of the computer. You may be surprised to learn that the person conducting the check is often at fault.


To gain a clear understanding of how this can be, let us take a quick look at exactly how the computer check is performed.


Step 1: An image of the STA”M item is fed into the computer, either through scanning or digital photo.


Step 2: The computer “reads” and “analyzes” the text.


Step 3: All the apparent problems the computer has identified are displayed on the screen. These may include missing letters or words, extra letters or words, substituted letters or words, touching letters, cracked letters, letters too far apart, words too close to each other, etc.


Step 4: The individual conducting the computer check must then review each and every instance to determine if it is indeed a problem, or rather “a mere figment of the computer’s imagination.”


Step 5: If he determines that it is indeed a problem, he clicks “Confirm,” and this will then be included in the eventual printout of all the issues when the check is complete. Alternatively, if he determines that there is no real problem, he clicks “Delete,” and the issue is removed from the active file.


The creators of the program set it up in such a way that causes the computer to take note of even the slightest possibility of what may be a shailah. Nine times out of ten, there is no problem, and the checker presses “Delete.”


In the average Sefer Torah, the computer discovers anywhere between five and thirty “problems” per column. The standard Sefer Torah has just under 250 columns. So at a rate of about fifteen problems per column, the individual conducting the computer check will review about 3,700 problems per Sefer Torah, and hit the “Delete” key thousands of times!


All it takes is one press of the “Delete” key instead of the “Confirm” key, and we have a pasul Sefer Torah.


Sometimes it is only an accident, while at other times it is through negligence. Sometimes the checker is not qualified, and sometimes the checker is “fooled” by the screen. Next time we’ll explain each of these possibilities.



29 Shevat

PUBLIC NOTICE: The cRc has concluded its review of Ricola, and recommends the following Ricola products:


1. Ricola Honey Herb

2. Ricola Honey Lemon with Echinacea

3. Ricola Lemon Mint

4. Ricola Lemon Verbena

5. Ricola Natural Herb (original)

6. Ricola Sugar Free - Green Tea with Echinacea, Lemon Mint, Menthol, and Mountain Herb


To clarify, the cRc adds:  “Yes, the recommended products are recommended regardless of whether it has a sticker on it.  The hashgachah covers specific varieties or flavors, but whichever are certified/kosher have that status regardless of whether it has the Rabbi’s name on it or not.”



A REMARKABLE TEACHING: The Chofetz Chaim (in Sefer Chovas Hashemira Chapter 8) writes that if a person follows in the ways of a parent and speaks negatively of others, then Chazal (Sanhedrin 27) teach that he will be held accountable for his own sins--and in addition, the sins of up to four previous generations. Of course, this is extremely frightening, but is squarely based on the Pasuk of Poked Avon Avos Ahl Banim Ahl Shileishim V’Ahl Ribei’im…. “Who”, the Chofetz Chaim writes, “will be able to stand against the angel created by each one of these sins of improper speech?!” Conversely, however, the Chofetz Chaim continues: “If one strengthens himself not to sin in the way of a previous generation or generations--and accepts upon himself the Chovas Hashemirah, a guideline of life not to speak incorrectly--then not only will he be clean and pure of this sin, but Bevadai Bezechuso Yimchol HaKadosh Baruch Hu L’Avosav Gam Kein--certainly in this zechus Hashem will forgive the previous generations as well!” We provide this essential teaching of the Chofetz Chaim in the Hebrew by clicking here.  Please spread the word--cleanse yourself and your previous generations! What a zechus!



QUESTION: Did you make a commitment to understand at least the plain meaning of every word of the week’s Parasha? In last week’s Parasha, we encountered the unusual word (Shemos 23:23 ) Vehichad’tiv--what does it mean?



THE EFFECT OF GEULAH: In last week’s Parasha (Shemos 24:10) on the words: “U’Ch’etzem HaShomayim LaTohar”, Rashi explains that upon our redemption from Mitzrayim, HaYah Ohr V’Chedvah Lefanav--there was light and joy before Hashem. If this was true for the Geulas Mitzrayim--imagine Hashem’s radiance and delight at the Geulah Sheleimah! Let us do our utmost in Torah, Tefillah and the performance of Mitzvos--so that we can all experience not only our own joy, but Hashem’s joy as well!


Hakhel Note: Perhaps we can begin by trying to have some level of better Kavannah in all the brachos relating to Geulah in Shemone Esrei! 




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


Hakhel Note: Let us try to apply the Alter’s teaching (at least today!), as we remember all that he did for the generations that succeeded him.



Special Note Two:  HaRav Yaakov Galinsky, Shlita, brings the following story with HaRav Yosef Feimer, Z’tl, the Rav of Slutsk.  The governor of Slutsk approached him, as the Rav of the city, and asked HaRav Feimer:  “Why do you Jews glorify yourselves as ‘The Chosen People’--how are you different than all of the other nations?”  The Rav responded: “What do you mean--how are we different?--with everything--; we are especially circumspect in Kashrus and what we eat--being careful to check even our vegetables; we are vigilant regarding forbidden relationships; and we are even careful as to what we say--so what is your question?” “True” responded the governor, “but all of this is an aside.  The majority of our days are spent in earning a living.  In this, Jew and gentile are alike.  I believe, in fact, that Jews have a greater desire for money than us.”  The Rav readily responded:  “Yes, we spend a good portion of our day with our livelihood--but we have an entire code of Jewish law--Choshen Mishpat, which guides and binds us in monetary matters.  Furthermore, no matter how much we are pressed by Parnassah, when Shabbos comes we stop everything, and try not even to think about our business--which is a separate Mitzvah in and of itself!  Can you claim any of this?” “No”, said the governor, admitting his defeat.  “You are right--you are The Chosen People!”  In this vein, as we take leave of Parashas Mishpatim and its lessons of how we must guide ourselves, we provide for review--and inspiration--certain Halachos of Masoh U’Matan, as excerpted from the Kitzur Shulchan Aruch, relating to the way a Jew conducts his business in this world.  The excellent English translation of the Kitzur is provided by Rabbi Eliyahu Touger, Shlita, Moznaim Publishing: 


1.  Great care must be taken not to deceive or cheat a colleague.  Whoever cheats or deceives a colleague violates a Torah prohibition.  This applies whether the seller deceives the purchaser or the purchaser deceives the seller, as the Pasuk [Vayikrah, 25:14] states: “VeChi Simkaru Mimkar…when you sell something to a colleague or buy something from a colleague, do not wrong each other.[Shabbos 31a] relates that this will be the first issue about which a person will be questioned [by the Heavenly tribunal] in his ultimate judgment.  He will be asked: “Have you dealt and traded honestly?”


2.  Just as one is forbidden to cheat a colleague with regard to a sale, so, too, there is a prohibition against cheating with regard to hired work, contracted labor, and exchange of currency.


3.  A person who trades faithfully need not worry about the prohibition against cheating a colleague.  What is meant by “trading faithfully”?  A person who says: “I bought this article for this amount and I want to make this much as a profit.  Even if he was cheated when he purchased the article--though a person who was cheated has no right to cheat a colleague--nevertheless, the above-mentioned practice is permitted.  He clearly tells the purchaser not to consider the worth of the article, but the amount which he had paid for it.


4.  One must weigh and measure generously, giving the purchaser slightly more than the required measure, as implied by the Pasuk [Devarim, 25:15] Aipha Shleimah VaTzedek…a full, honest measure.” What is meant by “honest”?  The Torah teaches:  Seek honesty at your expense and give him from your own (Bava Basra 88b).  Hakhel Note:  This would appear to apply to “billing by the hour” as well.


5.  When a person seeks to buy or rent a certain object, whether land or goods, from a colleague - whether Jew or gentile--and they have already agreed on the price, but before they have completed the transaction, another person comes and purchases it or rents it, the latter is considered a wicked person. The above applies only when a price has already been agreed upon.  However, when a sale has been discussed, but the purchaser seeks to pay a lesser sum than requested by the seller, another person is entitled to purchase it.  It is forbidden to encroach on a colleague’s rights with regard to the rental of property from a gentile and other similar matters.


6.  When a person makes even a small down payment on a purchase or marks a desired object as his own in the presence of the seller, or the seller tells him: “Make a mark on your purchase” - even if the transaction has not been formally concluded--should either the seller or the purchaser desire to renege upon his commitment, he is considered to have performed an act unbecoming to a Jew and must receive a Mi She’Porah. The latter term implies that he is brought to court and cursed, as follows:  Mi She’Porah …may He who exacted retribution from the generation of the f1ood, the generation of the Tower of Babel, the inhabitants of Sodom and Amorrah, and the Egyptians whom He drowned in the sea, also exact retribution from a person who does not fulfill his word.”


7.  It is proper for a person to abide by his word even when he gave no money, made no mark on the object of sale, and did not complete the transaction.  As long as the buyer and the seller agreed on the price, neither should renege on his commitment. If either the purchaser or the seller reneges, he is considered as “a faithless person,” and the Sages do not approve of him. It is fitting for a Jew to fulfill his word, as the Navi [Tzefania, 3:13 ] states: “She’eiris Yisrael…the remnant of Israel will not act perversely, nor will they speak with lies.”  A person who fears Hashem should even carry out a commitment which he made in his heart--e.g., if he decided to sell an object to a colleague at a particular price and the latter was not aware of his decision and offered a higher sum, he should take only the sum which he had originally decided upon, in fulfillment of [Tehillim, 15:2]: “Dover Emes B’levavo…he speaks truth in his heart.”  Similarly, a purchaser who made a commitment to purchase an object at a particular price should not renege on his commitment.  Similarly, with regard to other dealings between a person and a colleague, he should carry out the decisions of his heart--e.g., if he decided to do a favor for a colleague and it is possible for him to do so, he should carry out his commitment. 


8.  In All Events:  A person should not invite a colleague to dinner when he knows that the colleague will not eat.  Similarly, he should not offer him a present which he knows he will not accept.  It is also forbidden to perform any action in which one’s statements do not express his true feelings--e.g., to make it appear that he honors a colleague when he does not feel that way.  One should speak truth and act with upright feelings and a pure heart. 


Hakhel Note:  With a proper understanding of this, we can move on to the next level--Parashas Terumah--donating funds to build the Mishkan!




28 Shevat

PHENOMENAL!  Yesterday’s Hakhel Yarchei Kallah presentation and live demonstration by Rabbi Yosef Sayagh of the Vaad L’Mishmeres Shatnez was truly outstanding. Those gathered learned about the importance of Shatnez checking in fabric shoes, woolen hats, pompoms, slippers, unusual pillows, work gloves, appliqué sweaters and other sweaters, oven mitts, certain kinds of ties, and fabrics which list “hairs or other fibers” as part of their material content.  One cannot be impressed by brand name and realize that coats and jackets must generally be checked, that there is no minimum shiur to Shatnez in a garment and when there is Shatnez, one is constantly being over an issur as long as he is wearing the garment.  To bring this especially important presentation to your neighborhood, contact the Va’ad at 1-877-4Shatnez.


Hakhel Notes: To obtain CD’s of yesterday’s other outstanding Shiurim by Rabbi Yisroel Reisman, Shlita on 22 Difficult Pesukim, Rabbi Shimon Finkelman, Shlita on Hakaras Hatov: The All - Encompassing Middah and Rabbi Yisroel Pinchos Bodner, Shlita, Purim 5775: Practical Shailos U’teshuvos, please call 718-252-5274.




WHERE DOES KIDDUSH HASHEM BEGIN? Rabbi Dovid Goldwasser, Shlita, teaches that for every person the concept of Kiddush Hashem must begin with himself. Chazal (Yoma 86A) teach that Rav and Rebbi Yochanan used practical examples of their own conduct as to what would be befitting or not befitting, so too--should we focus on our own personal conduct--as it is seen by the outside world. As Rabbi Goldwasser put it--because of the now instant worldwide information and access to which our lives are subjected, we should view ourselves as living in a fishbowl…our actions are open for all to see--and we must act accordingly!



IMPORTANT INSIGHT! Rabbi Yisroel Reisman, Shlita, asks why it is that the Halachos of Kavod Talmidei Chachomim are juxtaposed with the Halachos of Talmud Torah itself in Shulchan Aruch Yoreh De’ah. He answers that if one wants to learn Torah successfully--as a prerequisite one must first be mechabeid learning and those who learn!



ANOTHER IMPORTANT INSIGHT! In the Bein Adam L’Chaveiro area, Rabbi Reisman points out that the Torah requires one to help an enemy before he helps his friend. If one thinks a bit into this, this means that if one’s brother r’l, has a flat tire on the side of the highway, and one’s enemy does as well--he would be obligated to help his enemy fix the tire before he helps his brother! With this, we see that the Torah is not a man-made body of laws based upon what is socially acceptable or politically correct--but is Hashem’s guidebook as to how we must act. Even our mishpatim in social interactions are not guided by ‘common sense’, ‘civility’ or ‘the right thing to do’--but by the Torah, as explained by the Rishonim, and as brought l’halacha in the Shulchan Aruch and later Poskim. Indeed, HaRav Shlomo Wolbe, Z’tl, would say that Judaism is not a religion because it not only describes a relationship between man and Hashem--but Mishpatim--the laws of Bein Adam L’Chaveiro. The Aseres HaDibros contain laws of Bein Adam LaMakom and Bein Adam L’Chaveiro --and the same detail that was given relating to Shabbos and to the rejection of idolatry is given to the laws to respect parents and the laws not to steal, murder or covet that which belongs to other.



ON ACCEPTING GIFTS: The Peleh Yoetz writes that when a person gives a gift out of discomfort or embarrassment--it is forbidden to take the gift and there is an element of gezel if one does so. Accordingly, continues the Peleh Yoetz, one should always refuse a gift until he sees that it is being given with a full heart. In no event should one ever ask for a gift (in a non-Tzedakah context). The same is true if one only wants to borrow an item--if one sees that the owner does not want to lend it and is only doing so out of shame or embarrassment, one should refrain from borrowing it. Finally, the same would be true if one tries to push down the price of an item and the seller agrees only out of discomfiture or frustration. One must avoid not only gezel--but those actions which have even a slight reek of it!



WHAT DOES LOVE TRULY MEAN? In explaining the Mitzvas Asei of V’Ahavta L’Reiacha Kamocha, the Chofetz Chaim makes a point of emphasizing that one accomplishes this Mitzvah through Lachos Ahl Kavod Chaveiro U’Lesaper Beshivacho--to cherish his friend’s honor, and to speak his praises.


Hakhel Note: This is a great acid test. When speaking or otherwise relating to someone--is it with Lachos Ahl Kavod Chaveiro U’Lesaper Beshivacho very much at the fore…?




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


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


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


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


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


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



Special Note Two:  We continue with our excerpt from Love Your Neighbor, by Rabbi Zelig Pliskin, Shlita, on the importance of lending objects--today focusing on the borrower’s obligations with respect to these objects: 


1) A borrower may use an article only in accordance with any conditions stipulated by the lender. (Ahavas Chesed, part 2, ch. 22)


At a New York airport shortly before his plane was scheduled to depart for Israel, Rabbi Aharon Kotler asked to see Moshe Carlebach, a student of his.  Those present were under the impression that the Rosh Hayeshiva had an important message to tell this student and rushed to find him.  They were surprised when they found out that Rabbi Kotler had previously borrowed Moshe Carlebach’s copy of Nefesh Hachayim.  Now that he was leaving the country for a few weeks, he wanted to ask explicit permission to take the book with him.  Needless to say, the student readily gave his permission. (Heard from Rabbi Moshe Carlebach)


2) A borrower may not lend the article to others. (Ahavas Chesed, ibid.)


3) A borrower must be careful to return the article when he finishes using it or when the time allotted to him to use the article is over.  Failure to return the borrowed article on time might cause the lender much inconvenience. This is especially true when the lender does not recall to whom he loaned the article and has to search for it. (ibid.)


4) A borrower is obligated to pay for any damage that occurs to the article, even if the damage was entirely accidental, unless it was in the normal course of use (ibid.). For example, if a person borrows a pen and loses it or something falls on the pen and breaks it, the borrower has to reimburse the lender. If, however, the pen runs out of ink during normal usage, the borrower is not held liable.  A halachic authority should be consulted whenever questions arise.


5) In all events, we must be very careful with someone else’s possessions to prevent their getting ruined or damaged (Rambam, Hilchos Daios 6: 3).  When one borrows something, it must be kept away from small children.


Once on Erev Yom Kippur, Rebbi Yisroel Salanter was seen bringing a cat into his house.  He had a number of borrowed books in his house and he feared that when everyone would be in Shul  on Yom Kippur, mice might nibble on those books.  If he did not guard those books properly, he would be guilty of violating the laws of a borrower. (T’nuas Hamussar, vol. 1, p. 353).




27 Shevat

FILTERING INFORMATION! The phone number for TAG (Technology Awareness Group), which provides free information and assistance on internet filtering is.718-437-1824.


FROM A READER: “In last week’s Parasha the Torah records the words of Bnei Yisrael as to their attitude toward the Torah, Na’aseh V’nishma. Do you know where it is in the Parasha? It is in Perek 24 Pasuk 7. This is to remind us that it is a non-stop approach, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week--something to think about!”



THREE IMPORTANT RIBBIS ISSUES! Rabbi Avrohom Moshe Lewanoni, Shlita, points to three important contemporary Ribbis issues:


1. If one invests in a company or in a property--and the principal portion of his investment is guaranteed (i.e., there is no risk of loss)--then Halachically the investment is considered a loan and a Heter Iska is required in order to go forward.


2. It is forbidden to take interest from a Jew, no matter what the form of interest may take. This means that one cannot direct the interest payment be made to a Shul or to Tzedakah--it is still interest.


3. If one borrows another’s credit card and the credit card holder is thereby solely responsible for the payment of interest, the credit card holder becomes a borrower from the Bank and subsequently a lender (with the interest originally charged by the Bank) to the one who borrowed his card, which is Assur Min Hatorah. Note: However, when one earns points from the credit card company simply because he loaned his card to someone else, this is not considered ribbis as it is a service provided by the credit card company, and has nothing to do with the person who borrowed the card.




Special Note One:  With so many Mitzvos in last week’s Parasha, upon which so much Torah SheBe’al Peh is based, it is difficult to select any one Mitzvah to delve into--but that should not stop us, to the extent that it can.  Accordingly, as but one example, we provide a bit of iyun into the topic of borrowing  and lending objects, as so beautifully set forth in Love Your Neighbor, by Rabbi Zelig Pliskin, Shlita:


A person is obligated to lend his possessions to others and a borrower has an obligation to carefully guard that which he borrows.  First we shall discuss the obligation to lend articles, then we shall discuss the borrower’s obligations.


1) You fulfill the commandment of doing chesed when you lend any article to another person. The mitzvah applies even to very minor items, such as a can opener or comb.  This form of chesed is easy for everyone to fulfill, even someone who is not wealthy. (Ahavas Chesed, part 2, ch. 22)


When Rabbi Eliyahu David Rabinowitz-Teumim (“Haaderes”) the Rabbi of Jerusalem , used to travel, he would take along a special satchel full of articles that people might want to use when they travel, so that he could lend them out if they were needed. (B’tuv Yerushalayim, p. 367)


2) If the item you lend will be used by the borrower to earn a livelihood, the reward for lending it is even greater. (Ahavas Chesed, ibid. )


3) The mitzvah of lending applies even when the borrower is wealthy.  But the obligation is greater when a poor person who is unable to buy the item asks to borrow it. (ibid.)


4) Some people do not like to lend their belongings to others even when they themselves are not using them.  This is a very bad trait and must be corrected. (ibid.)


5) There are people who do not mind lending their belongings, but mind the bother involved. For instance, if the item they are asked to lend is in the basement, they are too lazy to go down and get it.  The cure for this is to acquire a realization of the importance of chesed.  A person should actually be happy when he has an opportunity to lend his possessions to others (ibid.).  A person is willing to walk to the Shul to hear the blowing of the shofar; he should also be willing ‘to walk to do chesed!


6) It is a very big mitzvah to lend someone your seforim (Torah books).  The merit of the Torah knowledge which the borrower will gain from the books will be credited to you. (ibid.; also see Sefer Chasidim 868-877)


7) Some people refuse to lend articles to someone with whom they are angry.  The Chofetz Chayim writes that people should consider all the times they acted against Hashem’s wishes and still Hashem continues to bestow His kindness upon them. (Ahavas Chesed, ibid.)


8) One should act in a very friendly manner toward someone who wants to borrow his possessions, so that the person should not hesitate to ask again. ‘(ibid.)


9) Although the borrower should return the article on his own initiative, one should not discontinue lending his belongings even when it happens that he must approach a borrower to return an article.  A storekeeper who extends credit knows that sometimes he will have to remind his customers to pay their debts.  Yet, he will not close down his business just because he finds it bothersome to collect debts.  He knows that this is his means of a livelihood, and that no business is without its difficulties and losses.  Similarly, says the Chofetz Chayim, a person should not discontinue lending his possessions to others just because it is bothersome.  Every loan is a mitzvah, and the greater the bother, the greater the reward for fulfilling the mitzvah.  This is a person’s means of obtaining eternal life, arid nothing should deter him from it. (Ahavas Chesed)  It is a good idea to have a special notebook for writing down the names of people who borrow his possessions. As a result of the record, he will know who has a certain article in case it is needed, and thus will be more inclined to lend his belongings to others.  Also, a person should write his name on his belongings to insure that the borrower will remember who the owner is!


Tomorrow, BE’H, we will continue with the borrower’s obligations.  Remember--Chazal teach that in order to be saved from the Chevlei Moshiach one should be involved in Torah study and Gemilas Chesed.  There is no better time than the present!



Special Note Two:  We provide several other important teachings from the Parasha:


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


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


3.  The Torah teaches us that we may discard treif meat by ‘throwing it to the dogs--’LaKelev Tashlichun Oso’.  (Shemos 22:30). Rashi brings that this is in appreciation for the dogs not barking  on the night we readied to leave Mitzrayim.  The Chofetz Chaim brings from the Maharal of Prague that we are to take important lesson from these dogs and control our speech.   HaRav Chaim Kanievsky, Shlita adds that there was a nes--a miracle-- involving the dogs here. What was that Nes?  it was not,  teaches Rav Chaim that the dogs did not bark in spite of the natural consternation and fear arising from the death and yelling and screaming of Makkas Bechoros all around them.  After all, if that was the miracle--why would they be rewarded with meat--they had done nothing, as Hashem had simply sealed their mouths.  Instead, Rav Chaim explains, the miracle was that Hashem gave them the sechel to understand that if they refrained from barking despite all that was going on around them, they would enhance the Geulah--including the Kavod Shomayim and Kavod Yisrael.  This then is the lesson that the Chofetz Chaim wants each and every one of us to learn--if dogs who were temporarily granted sechel made the right decision and guarded their mouths--all the more so should we , who are blessed with sechel all of the time. Moreover, if the dogs of that generation only, located only in Mitzrayim only, and for one night only merited reward to dogs all over the world for all future generations--imagine the zechusim we can build over a lifetime of care-- for ourselves and for the world. Let us remember then that unlike the dogs who had a night of sechel, we  are blessed with it every day--and it is our sublime duty and merit to put it to the best possible use.  As we are about to say something that we are not sure is appropriate --remember the word-- sechel!



 Special Note Three: We now continue our 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. Of course, one should ask his own Rav or Posek in his particular circumstance or situation for a final p’sak.


PART 107



You refer to the computer check only in conjunction with spelling errors. Doesn’t the computer check for other problems as well, such as touching and cracked letters?





You must keep in mind that the computer check is done either by scanning, copying, or taking a digital picture and then transferring the image into the computer (which usually happens automatically). The computer then “reads” or “checks” that image and displays on the screen all the “problems” it has discovered.


The fact is, though, that factors such as lighting, resolution, and color of the klaf, can easily affect the results, causing the computer to see broken letters as whole, non-touching letters as touching, or the opposite – as well as myriad other inaccuracies. Therefore, computers absolutely cannot be relied upon for such issues.


The only things which the computer has been proven to be able to detect with 99% accuracy are spelling-related issues. These include extra letters or words, missing letters or words, substituted letters or words, and the like.


Indeed the poskim have made it abundantly clear that the computer check may only be used for such issues, while a live magiah must be used for everything else.


Hakhel Note: A reader pointed out to us that although man may be unable to catch a spelling or word error--Hashem nevertheless endowed man with the ability to develop a computer program--which could find the mistake that he himself could not! Niflaos HaBorei!




24 Shevat

MORE THAN JUST AN UMBRELLA-- LIFE ! This Shabbos, 25 Shevat, is the Yahrzeit of Rebbi Yisroel Salanter, Z’tl.  In this week’s Parasha we learn of the laws of guarding borrowed objects--the laws of a Shomer Sho’el.  The story is told of Rebbi Yisroel who was on his way to give a shiur in Shul in Lomza upon visiting the city.  Suddenly, a heavy rain began to fall and someone lent him an umbrella,  Rebbi Yisroel did not let the umbrella out of his sight, keeping it perched at the bima next to him--with the full knowledge and awareness of the responsibilities that borrowing entails.  (Tnuas HaMussar, Volume 1; p.353, brought in Love Your Neighbor by Rabbi Zelig Pliskin, Shlita).   Hakhel Note:  Rebbi Yisroel was not acting like  a Tzaddik--he was teaching by example how one has to live his life! 


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


A.  This is the third Parasha in a row containing a reference to Shabbos.  Once we have left Mitzrayim--the great importance of Shabbos is repeated and repeated again--almost as if to give it a chazaka in the Torah!  In any event, the classic Sefer Eglei Tal  on the melachos of Shabbos provides a remarkable conclusion in its Hakdama.  We know that Shabbos is shekula--weighs against all of the other Mitzvos and that Chazal teach that Shabbos is alluded to in Shema with the words of “Va’Asisem Es Kol Mitzvosai!”  This, the Eglei Tal writes also applies to the study of Hilchos Shabbos--with the study of its Halachos weighing against the study of all other Halacha!  Hakhel Note:  We once again emphasize the importance of learning Hilchos Shabbos--especially on Shabbos itself. What an important reason to learn Halachos of Shabbos! Imagine if only one Shabbos act is improved upon by only one person when a halacha of Shabbos is mentioned at the Shabbos table--what a wonderful accomplishment...and even if everyone already knew everything, you are definitely showing a special chiba and affection for Shabbos by showing that you want to get it right!

B.  Chazal (Shabbos 150B) bring the following Ma’aseh:  “Ma’aseh B’Chossid Echad…there was a chossid who noticed one Shabbos that there was a breach in the fence around his field and he resolved that it had to be fixed.  Once he realized that he had made this resolution to repair on Shabbos, he decided not to fix the fence at all.  A miracle occurred and a Tzelaf--a caper tree grew in the place of the breach.  A caper tree has three different kinds of fruits--and the man was able to sustain himself and his family thereafter from the tree’s produce!  Fascinatingly, this Ma’aseh is brought both by the Rif and the Rosh (who bring the Halachos gleaned from the Gemara), and is explained by the Taz (Shulchan Aruch, Orach Chaim 307, seif katan 14).  Accordingly, the meaning of the story does not appear to be limited to a wonderful story about a ‘Chossid Echad’.  We may suggest that there is a powerful lesson to us all:  Even if weekday thoughts which are not verbalized nor put into action may be permissible on Shabbos--it is nevertheless  a great accomplishment for one to cleanse and purify his thoughts on this great day. 


C.  HaRav Chaim Ozer Grodzinski, Z’tl, asks in the name of HaRav Chaim Brisker, Z’tl why it is that in last week’s Parasha the Aseres HaDibros specifically enjoins us from allowing children to do work on Shabbos--after all, are we not already restricted across-the-board from allowing children to violate the Torah with the words of “Lo Sochilum--do not feed them, do not allow them to do prohibited acts?”  HaRav Chaim Brisker answers that the prohibitions of Shabbos are more chamur--they are more strict and severe, and accordingly by violating Shabbos laws, he is going even one step beyond what is already wrong.  It follows then that being especially careful with the Halachos of Shabbos brings one to an elevated level of Torah observance--and draws mush ruchniyus and reward into one’s life!



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



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



Special Note Four:  The Shelah HaKadosh provides an amazing insight from the Zohar  into the power of Teshuva.  In the Parasha, we are taught that “VeChi Yiftach Ish Bor”--if a man digs a pit in a public area he is responsible and must pay for all of the damage that it causes.  If someone caused another to sin, which has far greater ramifications because it can permanently affect his Olam Haba forever and ever, one would think that the damages he is liable for are much larger and exceedingly great.  Yet, this is not so for the power of Teshuva is so great that it repairs the damage done above, the damage done below, the damage done to oneself--and the damage done to the world!  Let us think of the pit and all the responsibility that it entails--and realize that with Teshuva one does not have to fall in it or anywhere near it!  Hakhel Note:  If the snow does not still serve as your reminder--may these words of the Zohar serve as an exciting reminder for...a daily inspiration of Yoseir Mi’mah She’Hayisi!



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



Special Note Six:  We provide the following short questions and answer relating to this week’s Mitzvah filled Parashas Mishpatim, which have been gleaned from the Divrei Torah compiled by Rebbi Yissocher Dov Rubin, Z’tl in the Sefer Shinayim Mikrah, published by his family after his Petirah (available in Seforim stores).


1.                  Q:  The first Pasuk in the Parasha teaches us to obtain decisions from Batei Dinim.  Typically, we make a Bracha on a Mitzvah prior to its performance. Mitzvos have Brachos Why is there no Bracha of “Asher Kideshanu BiMitzvosav V’Tzivanu Al HaDinin” made before judges issue a decision? 

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


2.                  Q:  Why does the Parasha begin with a Vav--connecting the Aseres HaDibros especially to Jewish Civil Law (relating to monetary matters)?

A:  The civil law of all the other nations of the world is based on mans own reasoning.  The “Vav “at the beginning of our Parasha teaches us that our laws relating to monetary matters emanate from the same divine source as the Aseres HaDibros--”Anochi Hashem Elokecha” (Alschich Hakadosh in Sefer Toras Moshe).


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

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


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

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


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

A:  The Alter of Kelm answers that if a father has several children, all of them acting normally except for one who is going off the derech, he is going to put a great deal of attention on the wayward child.  He will search for Eitzos and ways to help him.  So too, does Hashem place His attention on the Ganav, and alerts us to help him as well.


6.                  Q:  The Torah teaches that if one person hits another, he has to compensate him with up to five different kinds of payments.  However, if the hit causes damages of less than a perutah, then the one who inflicted the damages must get Malkos, as there is nothing to pay.  How could this be that one who inflicted a $100.00 worth of damage pays $100.00 and does not get Malkos--yet a comparatively light tap which inflicts no monetary damage gets up to 39 lashes?! 

A: Rav Elchanan Wasserman, Z’tl said in the name of the Chofetz Chaim that the Torah teaches us with this how careful we have to be about showing the proper respect for our friends and not hurting them in even the slightest way.


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

A:  There are two types of foods that we consume--a ma’achal mevorach and a ma’achal which is not mevorach. A ma’achal which is not mevorach weakens a person and brings impure and evil influence upon him, even sickening him.  On the other hand a ma’achal mevorach can remove sickness and is a great medication. What can one do (other than obviously eating the right foods and in proper amounts) to make his food a ma’achal mevorach?  Bentsching and making proper Brachos with simcha and tuv lavav. The health of the other nations of the world is dependent on their mazel.  Our health is dependent on our Avodah! (Rebbi Moshe Dovid Valli, a student of the Ramchal in his Sefer Bris Olam).



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


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


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


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



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


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


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


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


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


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




23 Shevat

NOT A TIME FOR SILVER AND GOLD : In the past, a reader pointed us to a potent Rabbeinu Bachya on the Pasuk at the end of Parashas Yisro.  The Pasuk (Shemos 20:20 --giving us the right vision!) teaches: “Lo Sa’asun Itti Elohei Chesef Veilohei Zahav, Lo Sa’asu Lochem...do not make images of silver and gold together with me.”  The Rabbeinu Bachya gives several interpretations to this Pasuk. His second one is as follows:  “When you are standing in Tefillah with me, do not think about your silver and gold--for if you do, I shall consider it as if you made silver and gold idols.”  What a powerful way of moving yourself not to think about business, work, or financial affairs during davening!

 ---------------------------------------------------------- cleardot



Special Note One: From last week’s Parasha, we derived the Mitzvah of Bikur Cholim (as described earlier in the week). In this week’s Parasha, the Torah writes: “VeRapo Yerapeih--and he shall provide for healing” (Shemos 21:19 ). Accordingly, it may be very appropriate to review the bracha of Asher Yatzar, and the care we can take in reciting its precious words. We encourage you to share with others:




A.  In this bracha, after we recite the regular nusach of every bracha--”Baruch Atta...”, we continue with the word Asher’.  We usually recite the word Asher in a bracha when it relates to a Mitzvah--such as Asher Kideshanu BeMitzvosav.  We also use the term Asher in Birchas HaTorah--Asher Bachar Banu, and in the first of the 15 Birchas HaShachar, Asher Nasan LaSechvi…. Otherwise it is reserved for ‘special occasions’ such as Sheva Brachos or a Bris, and is not recited in our brachos either before or after we partake of food.  We may suggest that the word Asher is related to the word Ashrei, indicating a special level of appreciation and thanks.  Indeed, HaRav Schwab, Z’tl, in his commentary on Ashrei Yoshvei Veisecha teaches that Ashrei ‘definitely means happiness’ (although he does not connect Asher to Ashrei).  We use this apparent nexus of Asher and Ashrei as a suggestion--to experience a sense of appreciation and thanks at the outset of the bracha--when expressing the word Asher.


B.  The next term, ‘Yatzar Es HaAdam--Who formed man,’ teaches us that man was miraculously created this way at the outset of creation, and that accordingly, many billions of people have been blessed with a phenomenally functioning system-- every day, several times a day--and even throughout their entire lives.  Nevertheless, we should not get lost in the fact that our bodily functions and systems are part of an act of creation thousands of years ago--but instead we should recognize that in actuality Hashem is the Rofei Chol Basar (in the present tense)--the One Who makes each system of every human being work each day--on an ongoing basis! 


C. The next phrase in this bracha is Es HaAdam.  How, after all, is man different than animal in the miraculous constitution of his body?  After all, do not a myriad of live creatures in various kingdoms have incredibly complex and truly incomprehensible digestive, circulatory and other body systems?  What makes ours so special and unique? Do not we in fact, conclude the bracha with the words Rofei Chol Basar--Who heals all flesh?  We may suggest that the answer lies in the meaning of the word HaAdam.  When Hashem first created Adam HaRishon, the Pasuk states VaYivrah Elokim Es HaAdam BeTzalmo BeTzelem Elokim Barah Oso (Bereishis 1:27).  We are thus thanking Hashem not only for all of the incredible body systems in (hopefully) perfect working order and place, but also for our unique Tzelem Elokim.  With the expression of Es HaAdam we express our true appreciation to Hashem for giving us the ability to lead spiritual lives in a physical world--to elevate all of our physical processes.  Indeed, there are even Simanim in Shulchan Aruch (Orach Chaim 3,6,7) which provide specific Halachos as to a conduct of a person when taking care of one’s needs!  We are not merely like the other creatures who Hashem keeps in miraculous existence as well--we are sanctified as Es HaAdam in the process!


D.  With the next phrase of BeChochma we indicate that Hashem’s wisdom is not a wisdom which we can duplicate or even comprehend.  As but one short example to remember--miles worth of intestines within a person just a few feet tall deserves our real attention and special appreciation!


E. The next phrase in the bracha is U’Vara Vo Nekavim, Nekavim.  The term U’Vara--and created, explains the Malbim (Bereishis 2:7), is used to indicate Yeish MaiAyin--something created from nothing (as opposed to yetzirah and asiyah, which are later stages of development).  Here, we recognize that Hashem created apertures, or openings, from nothing.  What needs to be ‘created’ in an opening?  Firstly, the size of each opening, and the particular constitution of each opening, is detailed for each individual.  Additionally--it is not just one aperture that was created but a series--and different parts of the body have openings with different purposes.  The openings in the ear help us hear, the openings in the nose help us breathe and smell….It is perhaps for this reason that we thank Hashem for Nekavim, Nekavim--many apertures which function independently and relate to each other, and which provide us with the experience of oh so many daily miracles!


F. The term Vo means ‘within’.  We thank Hashem for what is within us--that which we cannot see, but which keep us functioning minute-to-minute and second-to second.  We cannot even claim control over them, because we do not see them nor their processes!  With our express appreciation of the physical items within us, we will better able to appreciate in Elokai Neshama--our Neshama--the spirituality within us which we also cannot see--and which is also described in the same way as Shenasatah Bi!


G.  In his introduction to the bracha of Asher Yatzar, HaRav Schwab, Z’tl, notes that the 19th-Century naturalist Alexander Von Humboldt is said to have commented that he reviewed the prayer books of many religions, and found no other prayer comparable to Asher Yatzar.  A Rav reported to us that he was told by someone who had visited HaRav Yehuda Zev Segal, Z’tl, that HaRav Segal had said the bracha in three languages at the time that he has visited with him (obviously in a manner where there were no Sheim U’Malchus issues).


H.  We continue in the bracha with the term Chalulim, Chalulim.  As noted last week, the G’ra points out that the Gematria of this phrase is 248--corresponding to all of the limbs of the body.  The Sefer VeZos HaBracha, provides specific examples of Chalulim--as organs with hollows--the stomach, and large and small intestines, which house the chemicals and enzymes necessary for digestion.  As but one example of our incredible makeup, www.designerperfect.com teaches that the two kidneys that most human beings possess weigh only five ounces each--and filter 450 gallons of blood each day--expelling all toxins from the body in the process!


I.  The word Nekavim and the word Chalulim are both immediately repeated a second time in the bracha.  We may suggest that this is because there are two types of Nekavim and two types of Chalulim--there are two holes within the same system (such as the opening of the mouth and the opening of the esophagus), and the opening of the ear and the opening of the nose--which are of two different systems.  Similarly, there are two kinds of Chalulim--within the same system--and within different systems.  We thus marvel at the complexity of each system--and of the totality of all of the systems!


J.  We continue with the phrase “Galuy Veyadua Lifnei Chisei Kevodecha--it is obvious and known before Your Throne of Glory”.  What is the difference between Galuy and Yadua?  We may suggest that with the term Galuy we affirm our belief that Hashem sees everything--everything is revealed to Him even in the most hidden of places.  The term Veyadua, on the other hand, is our affirmation that Hashem not only sees everything, but also knows everything.  The term Lifnei, of course, is a contraction of the words “Le and P’nei-- to the face of”, in which we indicate that not only does Hashem see and know everything, but that it is directly before Him.  The term Chisei Kevodecha, explains HaRav Chaim Kanievsky, Shlita, is a term of honor, referring to the fact that that we always stand before Hashem--before the throne of glory itself!  Picture it!


K. As many may know, the Shulchan Aruch itself (Orach Chaim 6:1), goes into great detail explaining the meaning of Asher Yatzar in detail.  The term we are up to in the bracha is “She’im Yipase’ach Echad Mai’hem, O Yisaseim Echad Mai’hem”.  Here, the Shulchan Aruch gives several explanations.  One of the explanations is that in the mother’s womb, the fetus’ mouth is closed, and when he enters into the air of this world, it opens.  If it would remain closed even for a short period of time (“sha’ah achas”), or if one of the organs which are ‘closed’ (such as the heart) would open even for a short period of time, the human being would not be able to exist.  The Shulchan Aruch also suggests that if a person had to take care of his bodily needs too often, and the process of excreting harmful fluids and waste occurred too continuously, the person’s life would be endangered.  In the Sefer VeZos HaBracha, Rabbi Aleksander Mandelbaum, Shlita, adds that the phrase She’im Yipase’ach… conveys that all of our organs are in exact measure--both in size and in proportion.  If an opening was a bit larger, or a size was a bit smaller, the processes necessary for a person’s functioning could not continue. 


L. The next phrase is “Iy Efshar LeHiskayem VeLa’amod Lefanecha--it would be impossible to exist and stand before you.”  To the Torah Jew, not much is impossible.  With these words, accordingly, we emphasize the extreme need for Hashem’s continued gift to us of the proper functioning of our bodies.  What is the difference between LeHiskayem (to exist)--and La’amod (to stand)?  The Olas Tamid (based upon the Ra’avad) explains that LeHiskayem means that without the proper operation of our bodily systems, we would lose our human form of existence and simply crumble back into dust, while our inability to be La’amod Lefanecha, refers to our inability to stand before Hashem in Tefillah and in the study of Torah--for to do so most properly requires a clean and healthy body.


M. The bracha concludes with the words: “Baruch Atta Hashem” a second time.  We may suggest that after having just gone through all of the remarkable processes and descriptions in the bracha until this point, we are now ready to recite Baruch Atta Hashem in perhaps a more uplifted way then when we first started the bracha!  We then praise Hashem for being a Rofeh Chol Basar.  As we have previously noted, with these words we bring our thanks to Hashem to the present moment, as the phrase is in the present tense.  We thank Hashem for His Hashgacha Pratis in keeping us well, for we know that taking the waste matter out of our body is essential to our continuous and continued existence.  The concluding words of the bracha is U’Mafli La’asos--Hashem acts are simply wondrous.  The Shulchan Aruch (Orach Chaim 6) and the Rema give important explanations to these concluding words.  One of the explanations of the Shulchan Aruch is that man can be compared to a flask full of air--if a hole is pricked in the flask all the air would go out.  Yet, man has many openings and the breath of life stays within him.  The Rema explains that the wonder is how the gashmiyus of the body holds within it the ruchniyus of the soul.  The Sefer Kavannos (brought by the Mishna Berurah, ibid.) teaches that the Neshama is nourished from the ruchniyus of the food and the body is nourished from the gashmiyus--and through food they are joined together!  Thus, with the term U’Mafli La’asos we affirmatively declare that Hashem cares both for our gashmiyus and our ruchniyus.  We may add that the bracha concludes with the word La’asos--to do, which incorporates our Tefillah for the future--that Hashem continue to perform all of these miracles for us! 



 Special Note Two: We now continue our 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. Of course, one should ask his own Rav or Posek in his particular circumstance or situation for a final p’sak.


PART 106


Last time we mentioned that eighty three of the first hundred Sifrei Torah put through the computer check in the early 1980’s were found to contain spelling errors. How could this be?


The answer is that there are 304,805 letters in a Sefer Torah, and human beings are not computers.


There is a fascinating story which illustrates this point:


The Rebbe of Munkacs, R’ Tzvi Hersh Shapira (18501913), known by the name of his Sefer Darkei Teshuvah, was the world renowned owner of a beautiful Sefer Torah. So concerned was he to ensure that the Sefer Torah would meet the very highest standards of kashrus, that he had it checked by thirty magihim!


One day, R’ Tzvi Hersh was informed that R’ Eliezer of Brigel , Galicia – who was known as the best magiah in all of Europe – was passing through Munkacs. Immediately, he dispatched a messenger to request that he check his Sefer Torah before departing the city. Of course, the magiah was honored to have the merit of checking the Sefer Torah of one of the giants of the generation.


Upon completing his examination, he gravely informed R’ Tzvi Hersh that two words had been interchanged!


R’ Tzvi Hersh was dumbfounded! How could thirty magihim have missed such an error? He then asked R’ Eliezer not to reveal the mistake to him until he had a few other magihim check the Sefer Torah. Sure enough, they checked the Sefer Torah once again and could find no flaw at all.


R’ Tzvi Hersh then asked the magiah to reveal which Sefer contained the error.


Sefer Shemos,” was the reply.


So again he had the magihim comb Sefer Shemos in search of the mistake. Once again they came up empty-handed.


“Which Parashah is the mistake found in?” asked the R’ Tzvi Hersh. “Parashas Beshalach,” was the reply.


When they still could not find it, R’ Eliezer hinted: “It is in Shiras HaYam!”


However, search as they may, the magihim could not find two words which had been switched.


Finally, R’ Eliezer showed them that in the pasuk, מכון לשבתך פעלת יקוק מקדש אד’ כוננו ידיך ( 15:17 ) the Shem Hashem appears twice; once spelled יקוק and once spelled אד’. In this Sefer Torah, the sofer had accidentally reversed them!


A computer check would have immediately uncovered such an error.




22 Shevat

QUESTION OF THE WEEK (ESPECIALLY FOR THOSE IN THE NORTHEAST, UNITED STATES): How many times is the word ‘Sheleg--snow’ used in Pesukei DeZimra every day (even in the summer!) to demonstrate Hashem’s Gevura, His unfathomable potency and power?




Special Note One:  Indeed, this year, the Northeastern United States has experienced a higher than usual level of this unique Gevura, drawing our specific attention to look up and appreciate the words of Dovid HaMelech in Tehillim--Hallelu Es Hashem Min HaShamayim--praise Hashem--from the Heavens!  We most certainly cannot take the threats of snow, the actual snowfall itself, and the after-effects of the snow, as merely part of mother nature and the wilds of winter.  This is Hashem talking to us--and if no one else around realizes it--at least we should!  Many messages and lessons can and should be gleaned and utilized to grow--so that we demonstrate that we did not merely pass through the snow--but that the snow passed through us.  We provide an exceptional lesson from the Seforno to Tehillim 51:9.  There, Dovid Hamelech prays to Hashem:  “Techabeseini U’MiSheleg Albin--cleanse me and I shall be whiter than snow.”  As we have pointed out in the past, the Seforno explains that Dovid is teaching that Eshmor Mikol Chait Yoser MiMah She’Hayisi Nishmar LeShe’avar”--part of the Teshuva process is the personal pledge that I will be more careful than I was before--I will be whiter than the snow--I will rise above my previous level, and not be complacent or satisfied with my previous safeguards or results.  I will be more circumspect about another’s feelings, another’s money and of my actions and reactions.  I will be better than before--whiter than that snow.’  The snow in front and all around many of us over the last few days teaches us where Teshuva is to lead--it is to the level of Yoseir MiMah She’Hayisi-- which takes us over the top.  Once one undertakes that one important step, makes those small but crucial adjustments, stays away from those few people, is more circumspect with today’s kinds of ‘weights and measures’ while shopping or in the office, attempts those two or three protective measures and safeguards to avoid the home becoming a haven for outside influences--then he can look back at the snow and regale--for he has managed to become whiter than it!  Hakhel Note:  To our readers elsewhere--whether in Yerushalayim, Netanya, Australia or Miami--you have the opportunity of joining with your fellow Jew in a colder climate--and growing from his experience together with him!



Special Note Two:  With this great lesson in mind, we recall that today is the Yahrzeit of the Manchester Rosh HaYeshiva, HaRav Yehuda Zev B’R Moshe Yitzchak HaLevi Segal, Z’tl.  HaRav Segal put the Koach HaPeh at the forefront of his Avodas Hashem and assured others that they would experience personal Yeshuos through the proper study and application of Shemiras Halashon.  The concept of Yoseir MiMah She’Hayisi can especially be used with the words one allows himself to speak, for one can continuously edify and refine his speech and his manner of speech. ’I am going to cheat on my diet with this piece of cake.’; ’Can I steal a moment of your time?’; ‘What a disgusting bug!’; ‘That food is nasty’; ‘I have no patience for this!’; ’I can’t talk to you bye [click]’--are all examples of short statements which ultimately impact a person’s mindset and overall personality.  Replacing the snaps, remarks and quips, and the gruff, negative and unseemly words with wise words of compliment, praise, optimism and encouragement may appear to have a limited effect upon a small part of the overall day--but actually will impact surely and steadily on a large part of one’s personality. The time to begin to improve with better, more chosen words is not tomorrow or next week--if for no other reason than there is simply more to accomplish tomorrow and more to grow in the next week.  May our election to become Yoseir MiMah She’Hayisi  with our Koach HaDibbur today, on the Manchester Rosh HaYeshiva’s Yahrzeit, bring us the individual Yeshuos that the Manchester Rosh HaYeshiva so seriously attributed to a worthy Ruach Memalela--the expression of our spirit from within--as expressed to the outside world by our power of speech. Perhaps each and every one of us can begin his noble trek, by recording in writing in a personal, actual, short daily Refrain from Inappropriate Word Note--or perhaps better yet--a daily Meaningful Compliment Note.  Life--your life--is too precious to let the days go by--without each day being a little bit ...Yoseir MiMah She’Hayisi!



Special Note Three:  Three important additional thoughts on Bikur Cholim:


1. A reader had provided us with their following rules: “My rules of Bikur Cholim are as follows: You should not visit anyone if you are angry; Do not ask the patient personal questions, instead, ask the patient “Do you need anything?”; Make sure to bring a smile to the patient; Treat what the patient tells you with care--do not simply relate everything he says to others; Treat the patient as if he/she was a relative of yours; If the patient does not want visitors, do not press the patient for an explanation, just leave the patient, but do so with a smile.”


2. Chazal (Shabbos 32A) teach that a person should ask Hashem for Rachamim that he not become sick, for if one becomes sick he needs a zechus in order to be healed. Every day we ask Hashem to heal the sick in the eighth bracha of Shemone Esrei, Refaeinu. We may not, however, focus on the fact that in this very bracha we also ask Hoshieinu Venivashei’ah--save us and we will be saved. What does this phrase mean? The Kuntres Avodas HaTefillah explains that with these words we plead with Hashem to save us from sickness. Accordingly, one should most certainly have Kavannah when reciting these words on behalf of himself and others. We additionally provide by the following links, two short Tefillos asking Hashem to maintain one’s health:  by clicking here and by clicking here.


3. Rabbi Shimshon Lonner, Shlita, asks a very important question:  If the Torah would like us to do acts of Chesed such as visiting the sick--then why does the Torah itself not specify the acts that we should perform in detail? Rabbi Lonner suggests that perhaps the Torah is teaching us that a great element of the acts that we are about to perform is Es HaDerech…--the way in which we perform them.  Our Chesed acts should not be knee-jerk reactions, but rather accompanied by the thought of how Hashem would perform the Chesed, and how He would like to see His children perform it. In furtherance of this, Rabbi Lonner adds, the Torah describes at the outset of Parashas Vayeirah how Hashem came to visit Avraham when he was sick after the Bris Milah.  Fascinatingly, the Torah does not state what Hashem said in this regard or what He did--only that He came. As we move away from Matan Torah of Parashas Yisro into the actual details of many laws in Parashas Mishpatim, we must remember that a great part of the Halachos must be based in Es HaDerech…Es HaMa’aseh--the way we perform them--in the manner Hashem would really like them to be performed!




21 Shevat

Special Note One:  In last week’s Parasha, as what appears to be a condition precedent to Kabalas HaTorah, the Torah first teaches us that we are to establish a proper system of judges and leaders.  The Torah adjures that they be qualified and capable.  In our days, we have Rabbonim and Dayanim who also issue rulings and decisions in all matters--ranging from whether the animal is kosher to whether Reuven owes Shimon five million dollars.  Yet, there are those who will complain--saying “The Rav or Beis Din is wrong in saying that this is not kosher--or in ruling that I owe him money--when it is he who owes me the money!”  In fact, the Chofetz Chaim (Sefer Chofetz Chaim 6:8) writes that even if you are right, you have no right to openly balk, criticize or complain against a ruling--because it could very well be that, BeHashgacha Pratis, Hashem has caused this to happen to you (see there for further detail).  We should take a lesson from the fact that the Torah places the administering of Torah before the actual giving of the Torah itself in Parashas Yisro--without the due respect for our Rabbanim, Dayanim and leaders we simply do not get to Kabbalas HaTorah.  It is no coincidence then (as it never is), that in Shulchan Aruch (Yoreh Deah 243-246) the laws of respecting Talmidei Chachimim are actually placed before the laws of Talmud Torah itself! Let us take the lesson closely and seriously for the honor and respect due to Hashem’s designated ones.  Perhaps, to make up  or any inappropriateness in the past, we can add a meaningful Kabbalah, bli neder, in this area.  The time could not be better...



Special Note Two:  Another area of high respect we are re-instructed in tomorrow is Kibbud Av V’aim.  By now, we are all familiar with the enlightening words of the Chayei Odom (67:3)--who teaches that the mitzvah is not only to demonstrate your honor physically, but to also mentally contemplate and consider that your parents are nobility.  What if someone’s parents are or were not well-respected or ‘good’ people--at least in the son’s mind?  We remind everyone that HaRav Pam, Z’tl, has the easy answer for that--how could they not deserve great honor and respect--after all, they were zoche to have you as a child!!



Special Note Three:  In last week’s Parasha we found the Mitzvah of Bikur Cholim--visiting the sick. As Chazal teach “Es Haderech Yailchu Ba--the way you shall go in--this refers to Bikur Cholim.  In order to review important highlights of this great Mitzvah, we provide a previously published note entitled “Bikur Cholim Revisited”.



1.  According to the Chochmas Odom (151:3) the ikar (main point) of Bikur Cholim is davening for the sick person while visiting him.  In fact, the Kitzur Shulchan Aruch (193:3) paskens that one has not fulfilled the mitzvah of Bikur Cholim if he visits, but does not daven to Hashem while there.  This is because the Shechina is present above the head of the sick person, and your tefillos are, k’viyachol, in front of the Shechina itself (Shulchan Aruch, Yoreh Deah 335, Shach seif katan 3).  In your Tefillah, you should ask for Hashem’s mercy for that particular choleh “B’soch Cholei Yisrael” (amongst the other sick of
Israel ), because, in the merit of the many, your tefillos will be better received (ibid., Shach seif katan 4).

2.  Bikur Cholim should not be performed when it is convenient for the visitor, but when it is best for the choleh.  As the halacha states, one should not visit in the first three hours of the day... the last three hours of the day..., etc. (Shulchan Aruch, Yoreh Deah 335:4).

3.  In addition to tefillah, there is a mitzvah to give the choleh “nachas ruach” (Kitzur Shulchan Aruch 193:3).  This does not mean that one should speak on and on, or even with witticisms.  Statements should as “You’ll now have to take that medicine for the rest of your life,” or “Next time, you’ll be more careful,” or even “How will this affect your life going forward?” may be equated with smacking a poor person across the face and knocking out a few teeth as you hand him a hundred dollars with a smile.

4.  The Chazon Ish (Collected Letters, Volume I:138) writes that everyone has the mitzvah to perform “Bikur Cholim” upon himself, as well.  This means that he must take care of his body and use the most effective means possible for his personal health.

5.  One should try to tidy up and make the atmosphere more cheery for the choleh, if possible.  The Gemara (Nedarim 40A) relates that Rebbi Akiva himself swept and cleaned the floor for his sick student.  As a result, the student told him, “You have caused me to live.”  Rebbi Akiva then taught, “He who does not perform the mitzvah of Bikur Cholim, it is as if he spilled blood.”  The reverse is also, of course, true.  In fact, the Gemara clearly teaches that one who acts wisely with the ill will himself be saved from “a bad day” by Hashem (see Tehillim 41 and Gemara, Nedarim 40A).

6.  Finally, one should consider a choleh’s status after he leaves the hospital, and even after he returns to shul or to work.  The fact that he has somewhat healed does not necessarily mean that he is not suffering pain or is otherwise in distress.  One should continue to daven for, and inquire as to, a person’s welfare, until he is confident that the choleh has received his Refuah Sheleimah.



Special Note Four:  A reader provided the following insight on the Pasuk we recite every morning in Shacharis--”Anochi Hashem Elokecha Ha’Ma’alcha Mai’Eretz Mitzrayim, Harchev Picha Va’Amalayhu...I am Hashem who raised you out of Egypt, open your mouth wide and I will fill it.  “I learned that this Pasuk teaches us that all Hashem asks of us is to open our mouth and He will do the rest!  Just like it is so simple and easy for us to open our mouth, that’s how easily and clear it should be to us to rely on Hashem for everything.  When remembering that Hashem took us out of Mitzrayim, we should remind ourselves that He can do anything, big or small and that all we need to do is something little to show Hashem that we care and that we want to be better -something as simple as opening our mouth which takes little effort on our part.  When we show Hashem that we trust in Him, He will fill our mouths - He will do the rest!!  We can also take this lesson to heart when it comes to financial matters.  All we have to do is the minimum hishtadlus that we need -opening our mouth and then when we see that we have accomplished, we should remember that it is only Hashem who is the one who filled our mouth with the bounty that we have!!



Special Note Five:  As we move towards Chodesh Adar, we provide a beautiful thought from the Sefer Tiv HaTefillah (Rabban Gamliel Rabinovich, Shlita) on the phrase we recite every morning at the outset of Hodu:  “Yismach Lev Mevakshei Hashem...be glad of  heart those who seek Hashem.”  Rabban Gamliel explains that this Pasuk reveals  something extremely important to us.  How can a person know and tell that he is truly a “Mevakesh Hashem”--one that seeks Dveikus and Ruchniyus in his life--or whether he serves Hashem outwardly, with his mind and thoughts really not there?  The answer is that if one is a ‘yismach lev’--if he truly feels joy when he learns, davens, and performs a mitzvah; when was feels pleasure from his Avodas Hashem-then he is reached the level of a Mevakesh.  As the Sha’ar HaKavanos writes about simcha:  “And almost the ‘ikar ma’aleh and shleimus’... is dependent on the joy one feels during tefillah and when performing mitzvos.”  We suggest that the feeling of joy may begin with the sublime realization of the incomparable privilege one has, with the incredible opportunity one experiences, each and every time he can open a Sefer, recites 19 Brachos in Shemone Esrei (or any bracha at all), or performs any act that Hashem Himself has requested that he perform in the Torah.  As we have just received the Torah in Parashas Yisro, where all of these unique and special privileges-started--so it can likewise be the place to  renew our heightened awareness of this privilege--and the special joy you should feel  each and every time you put on any one of those literally priceless crown jewels we first put on 3,327 years ago!




20 Shevat

A TERRIFIC LESSON! “The great Chassidic master, the Rebbe, Reb Bunim, was once asked if he would like to change places with Avraham Avinu; he would get Avraham Avinu’s talent and potential, and Avraham would get his. He smiled and replied: “I would not want to change places with Avraham, because what would Hashem gain on this exchange? There would still be one Avraham Avinu and one Bunim…!” (excerpted from A Sense of Responsibility, by Rabbi Sholom Smith, Shlita).



ASHER YATZAR ENHANCED: We provide by clicking here a wonderful excerpt from the Siddur Kavanas Hashem (available in Sefard and Ashkenaz), which provides the Kavannah for each Sheim Hashem when mentioning the Sheim at every point of davening. What a wonderful way to enhance your Asher Yatzar--by looking at the Kavannah of the particular Sheim when reciting it!




Special Note One:  Final points and pointers from Parashas Yisro:


A. At the outset of the Parasha, the Torah records the names that Moshe Rabbeinu gave to his two sons--and the reasons for those names.  Why does the Torah recount this at this point?  Why is this so timely at this point? HaRav Simche Zisel Broyde, z’tl, derives a great lesson for us from this.  Moshe Rabbeinu had just witnessed --and even personally participated-- in miracles the likes of which the world has not seen since.  The Makkos, the Splitting of the Sea, the multitude of Miracles in the Sea, the Mon, etc.  Yet, Moshe Rabbeinu did not and would never forget the ‘smaller’ miracles that he personally experienced in his own lifetime--whether it was having a child, staying alive in galus, or being saved from Paroh’s executioner.  One’s personal miracles, one’s daily survival is something that should not be overshadowed even by something as powerful as the Geulah itself!  When we give thanks to Hashem in Modim daily--and thanks Hashem for “Ahl Nisecha Shebechal Yom Imanu--the miracles that are with us daily”--we should (in thought) name some of them just as Moshe named his sons--and realize that we will be thanking Hashem for them forever--even after witnessing the miracles of the Geulah Shelaima--speedily and in our days!


B. From a Reader: The following is from Vedibarta Bam by Rabbi Moshe Bogomilsky: “And Hashem spoke all these words” Why is the giving of the Torah recorded in Parashas Yisro? Regarding the Torah it is stated Ein Tov Ela Torah--the true good is only Torah as it is written Ki Lekach Tov Nasati Lachem--I have given you a good teaching—the Torah” (Pirkei Avos 6:3) The word Tov-- Tes Vav Vais has the numerical value of 17. Counting from the first Parasha of the Torah (Bereishis) Yisro is the 17th Parasha. Thus it is most appropriate that the ultimate good be expounded in the 17th Parasha.


C. From a Reader (who received if from a Rav): “Vayisyatzevu  BeTachtis HaHar. The Pasuk says they stood under the mountain. Chazal tell us it means HaKadosh Baruch Hu turned the mountain over them (like a pot) and threatened the Bnei Yisrael. If you are Mekabel the Torah-good, if not, you’ll be buried under. Tosfos and the Midrash ask: “But Bnei Yisrael said Na’aseh V’Nishma and were mekabel the Torah willingly--why force them?”


The Maharal explains: It is not enough for the Bnei Yisrael to figure out on their own that the Torah is worth receiving--this is not yet the essence of Kabalas HaTorah. They must understand that Torah is life itself--without Torah, we are not really living. As we know, the real definition of life means existing in a way that it remains forever. Without Torah, every moment of life dies away as soon as the moment passes. This is called death, not life since it is only temporary. The only way to really live is by transforming every instant into Chayei Olam. This is the meaning of VeChayei Olam Natah BeSocheinu, because the Torah is what takes the ‘instant’ of physical life and makes it last forever. In truth, every moment and every particle of existence must have a shaychus to Torah in order to become Chayei Olam.


This is why we had to be forced to be mekabel Torah, because Torah is life itself and it is not up to ‘choice’ --therefore, Hakadosh Baruch Hu had to show K’lal Yisrael that Torah is a must, and accepting it voluntarily, leaves the thought that it is a good thing and if I want that good thing-fine, if not, it is my decision, but forcing it shows that just as breathing is a must and a person does not say: “I guess I will breathe now”, so too, Torah must be accepted with the realization that I have to live a life of Torah. So there are two parts to Kabalas HaTorah, one the great ma’alah that we said Na’aseh V’Nishma on our own and second that we know it is impossible otherwise.”


D. In the last Pasuk of the Parasha of Matan Torah (Shemos 20:23 ), we learn Velo Sa’aleh B’Ma’alos Ahl Mizbichi--you shall not ascend the mizbei’ach on steps. Rashi explains, that by doing so, one would act in an immodest fashion in light of the holiness of the place--thereby engaging in an act of bizayon. Quoting the Mechilta, Rashi continues, if the Torah is concerned with the shame or disgrace of stones--which do not have the mental capacity to be makpid on this bizayon--then certainly must one be especially careful with not shaming or disgracing another human being who does have the sense and sensitivity to feel hurt--and who is, after all, a Tzelem Elokim. The Torah is teaching us a lesson, and we must view it as timely and apply it this week. Rather than shaming, disgracing or embarrassing a person, we should turn the tables and instead replace the inappropriate, hurtful phrase or phrases with words of chizuk and encouragement!



Special Note Two:  Now that we all have received the Torah again in last week’s Parasha, we should feel energized with a new, unwavering and vibrant commitment to Torah study.  Last week, we provided several important Halachos relating to Kriyas HaTorah on an ongoing basis. We once again provide several additional Halachos relating to Kriyas HaTorah, once again from the Mishna Berurah--Dirshu Edition, (Chapters 147-149):


A.  The Chofetz Chaim writes:  “Ashrei Me Shenosein Kavod LaTorah--Praiseworthy is the one who honors the Torah, as the Pasuk says “Ki MiChabdai Achabeid”.  Thus, when one honors the Torah it is considered as if one has honored Hashem Himself.  (Bi’ur Halacha, d’h Vehanachon).


B.  The opening of the Aron Kodesh is a remez to a “Sod Gadol BeOlamos HaElyonim”  (Elef HaMagen; Dirshu Note 11).


C.  The Chazon Ish rules that when the Gemara states that the one who lifts the Torah is ‘notel sechar k’neged kulam’ (his reward is commensurate with all of those who were called to the Torah)--this in our day refers not only to  the magbe’ah, the one who lifts the Torah, but also to the golel, the one who wraps the Torah.  This being said, why do we sometimes given gelilah to a child under Bar-Mitzvah?  The Mishna Berurah answers the question--gelilah should, in fact, only be given to a katan who is of an age in which he understands what a davar shebekedusha is--and the reason we do so is to properly educate him in the Mitzvos.  (Shulchan Aruch, Orach Chaim 147, Mishna Berurah, seif katan 7)


D.  The Rema writes that the reason that children are brought or urged to go to kiss the Torah is lechancham u’lezarzam b’mitzvos--to educate and to teach them to pursue the Mitzvos--rather than perform Mitzvos passively, or to wait for the mitzvah to come to the person.  (ibid., 149:1)


E.  HaRav Shlomo Zalmen Auerbach, Z’tl, rules that the kaddish immediately following Kriyas HaTorah was instituted le’ilui the Neshamos all of the meisim who do not have someone to say Kaddish over them, and that if an aveil (and not the ba’al kriyah) recites this Kaddish, then he should have in mind that he is reciting it for the Neshamos of these other meisim as well.  (Dirshu, note 19)


F.  The Chazan holds the Sefer Torah with the open part towards the people because “the light of the Sefer Torah” emanates to the Tzibbur from the side by which it opens(!).  (ibid., note 16)  Hakhel Note:  Let us appreciate the light of the Sefer Torah when we are in its presence--whether or not we see it! 


G.  On Simchas Torah, HaRav Chaim Brisker, Z’tl, would not give away the Sefer Torah to someone else, but would wait until someone took it from him.  (ibid., note 21)


H.  When the Sefer Torah is being returned to the Aron:  (i) it is a hiddur to escort it back, as the Pasuk says “Acharei Hashem Elokeichem Teileichu”,  (ii) even if the Sefer Torah is not passing in front of the person, he should move closer a bit, to be able to see it at a closer distance,  (iii) if one is unable to kiss the Torah with his mouth, he should at least use his hand (so that an effect of Kedusha is left on his hand), and  (iv) if possible, if one is close enough it is preferred that he hug the Torah with his right hand.  (Shulchan Aruch, Orach Chaim 149, Mishna Berurah, seif katan 3 and Dirshu note 5)



 Special Note Three: We now continue our 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. Of course, one should ask his own Rav or Posek in his particular circumstance or situation for a final p’sak.


PART 105




Do all STA”M items really need to be computer-checked? Why can’t I just rely on the magiah?





Today, all STA”M items must be computer checked. The job of the magiah is to check for all kinds of problems that can arise in the writing of the STA”M. Throughout the years, the magihim also checked spelling to ensure that no words were misspelled because any spelling error invalidates the entire STA”M item. With the advent of computer checking, magihim may or can rely upon computer checking that will accompany their inspection.


As a matter of background, in the mid-1980s the Vaad Mishmeres STA”M created a computer program that could “read” Sifrei Torah, tefillin, mezuzos, as well as megillos and Nevi’im, and determine if a word was misspelled, substituted, etc.


Various communities agreed to have the Sifrei Torah they had been using for years checked by this new computer program. Of the first one hundred Sifrei Torah which were in use to undergo a computer check, eighty three were found to have spelling mistakes!


Tefillin and mezuzos, which have far fewer words than a Sefer Torah, should also be computer checked. This is, once again, because many magihim will only scan superficially (if at all) for spelling errors since they rely on the computer check to find all spelling errors. Their primary attention will be directed toward the hundreds of other potential problems to be found in the individual letters.


If, however, one is absolutely certain that the magiah checked for spelling mistakes as well, then from a halachic perspective, the tefillin or mezuzos may be used without a computer check. This assumes that the magiah is well-acquainted with the correct spelling and placement of each and every word and letter.




17 Shevat



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


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


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


4. Preceding the Aseres HaDibros, the Pasuk (Shemos 19:19 ) records the background:  Vayehi Kol HaShofar Holeich Vachazeik Me’od Moshe Yidabeir VeHaElokim Ya’anenu Vekol--and the sound of the Shofar grew continually stronger--Moshe would speak….” What is the simple meaning of the phrase at the end of the Pasuk-- VeHaElokim Ya’anenu Vekol? Hakhel Note: This question is part of the endeavor we are asking everyone to bli neder undertake--look up the simple meaning of any words or phrases that one does not understand in the Parasha!




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


A. We provide the following thoughts on the Mitzvah of Zachor Es Yom HaShabbos LeKadesho, contained in the Aseres HaDibros:


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


2. Each of the Aseres HaDibros is alluded to in the Kriyas Shema that we recite twice daily.  The Mishna Berurah, citing the Yerushalmi writes that the allusion to the Dibra of “Zachor Es Yom HaShabbos” is in the words “Es Kol Mitzvosai--all of My Mitzvos”--for Shabbos weighs against all of the other Mitzvos combined!


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


B. The Mitzvah of Kiddush is also derived from the words “Zachor Es Yom HaShabbos LeKadesho”. Accordingly, we review certain points about Kiddush, as presented in the Sefer Bris Olam by HaRav Binyomin (HaTzadik) Zilber, Z’tl:


1.  One should make Kiddush promptly after coming home from Shul. However, if one has not recited Kriyas Shema in its proper time in Shul--and its time has now arrived-- he should recite it before Kiddush. 


2. A woman could be motzi’a a man with Kiddush-but lechatchila this should not be done if they are not from the same household.  All halachos of Kiddush--such as Kiddush Bemakom Seudah apply equally to men and women.  A person cannot hear Kiddush in one place--and then go to another place to eat--because the listener too must have Kiddush Bemakom Seudah


3. The one making Kiddush should tell the listeners to have Kavannah to be yotzei with his Kiddush. One should not be walking around, and should be careful to follow--word by word.


4. A person can be Motzi others with Kiddush (who for some reason can’t do it themselves) even if he has already been Yotzei his Kiddush.


5. Lechatchila, the person making Kiddush (as opposed to another participant) should drink a minimum shiur of a Rov Revi’is--to be safe, 2.5 ounces.  It is best if everyone drinks a little bit from the Kos--but if there will not be enough for Kiddush and Havdala tomorrow, they need not drink.


6.  In the morning Kiddush, one should not begin with the words “Al Kein Bairach”--as this is the middle of a Pasuk. One should instead begin with the Pasuk of Veshamru or of Zachor Es Yom HaShabbos LeKadesho.


Hakhel Note One:  The Ba’al HaTurim, in his Peirush on the Pasuk of Zachor Es Yom HaShabbos LeKadesho writes that if we can fulfill this Mitzvah every day by doing something LeKavod Shabbos--then all the more so on Erev Shabbos [and certainly on Shabbos itself!] He continues that this Pasuk is the seventh Pasuk of the Aseres HaDibros, begins with a zayin (seven), and seven individuals are commanded to keep the Shabbos in the commandment. He concludes that there are five words in the Pasuk, which teaches us that if one keeps the Shabbos it is considered as if he kept the Chamisha Chumshei Torah! It is no small wonder, then, that HaRav Moshe Feinstein, Z’tl, and HaRav Elyashiv, Z’tl, are known to have made it a point to shine their own shoes on Erev Shabbos!


Hakhel Note Two: Throughout this Shabbos and every Shabbos, we can remember these inspiring words from the Parasha--Zachor Es Yom HaShabbos-LeKadesho--for when we sanctify the Shabbos day--we are most certainly sanctifying ourselves as well!



Special Note Two: In the preceding Parashiyos of Va’eira, Bo, and BeShalach, we experienced what one may refer to as ‘physical miracles’--with the Mitzriyim being punished and beaten, and their super power status being forever quashed, while the Bnei Yisrael were saved from the plethora of natural and super natural disasters, and becoming a free people with a wealth of Egypt with them to boot!  In Parashas Yisro, with Matan Torah we learn that there can also be spiritual miracles.  We not only received the blueprint of creation at no charge--but we were elevated to the sublime status of “Mamleches Kohanim VeGoy Kadosh--a kingdom of kohanim and a holy nation.”  There is a very great and important lesson here.  We are not only capable of being the recipients of physical miracles in this physical world, we are capable of witnessing and being party to spiritual miracles here as well!  Indeed, as we have noted in the past, HaRav Dessler, Z’tl, teaches in the name of HaRav Yisroel Salanter, Z’tl that even when the Gates of Tefillah are closed, the Gates of Tefillah for Ruchniyus are never closed.  One can truly aspire to attain and pray for spiritual heights which he previously thought were simply unattainable.  In short, the gates are wide open--one can daven for a miracle in Ruchniyus!  In fact, Chazal teach:  “Le’Ukmai Girsa, Siyatta DeShimaya Hu--one must learn and put in the effort, but as for remembering and retaining one’s learning--that is a matter for the Heavenly Realm.”  We have to try hard, and daven sincerely--and we too can very literally achieve Spiritual Miracles!



Special Note Three:  In the Parasha, as what appears to be a condition precedent to Kabbalas HaTorah, the Torah first teaches us that we are to establish a proper system of judges and leaders.  The Torah adjures that they be qualified and capable.  In our days, we have Rabbonim and Dayanim who also issue rulings and decisions in all matters--ranging from whether the animal is kosher to whether Reuven owes Shimon five million dollars.  Yet, there are those who will complain--saying “The Rav or Beis Din is wrong in saying that this is not kosher--or in ruling that I owe him money--when it is he who owes me the money!”  In fact, the Chofetz Chaim (Sefer Chofetz Chaim 6:8) writes that even if you are right, you have no right to openly balk, criticize or complain against a ruling--because it could be that, BeHashgacha Pratis, Hashem has caused this to happen to you (see there for further detail).  We should take a lesson from the fact that the Torah places the administering of Torah before the actual giving of the Torah itself in tomorrow’s Parasha--without the due respect for our Rabbanim, Dayanim and leaders we simply do not get to Kabbalas HaTorah.  It is no coincidence then (as it never is), that in Shulchan Aruch (Yoreh De’ah 243-246) the laws of respecting Talmidei Chachomim are actually placed before the laws of Talmud Torah itself! Let us take the lesson closely and seriously for the honor and respect due to Hashem’s designated ones.  Perhaps, to make up for any inappropriateness in the past, we can add a meaningful Kabbalah, bli neder, in this area.  The time could not be better...



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


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


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


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


Just some of the wondrous events brought by Rav Rosner, Shlita:


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

2.                              The Shofar blast could be heard worldwide.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

11.                          Tal, a special dew, fell to revive the Bnei Yisrael after their souls had left them from the awe of the Dibros.

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

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

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


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



Special Note Five: The monumental occasion of Har Sinai is relived in Shul four times a week at Kriyas HaTorah.  How so?  The Mishna Berurah (Shulchan Aruch Orach Chayim 141, seif katan 16) writes that the Ba’al Kriyah is the Shul’s equivalent of Moshe Rabbeinu, relating the Torah to all assembled--men and women, young and old--at the behest of the Gabbai, who kevayachol, is “in the place of” Hashem, designating whom he wants to call to the Torah to hear its teaching.  The person receiving the aliyah represents K’lal Yisrael, serving as their special, designated representative!  With this in mind, and for the rest of our lives, the Kriyas HaTorah we experience--whether on a Monday or Thursday, Shabbos or Yom Kippur must take on new and precious meaning, as we feel the unique privilege of our participation in an absolutely incomparable event! We provide several important Halachos relating to Kriyas HaTorah on an ongoing basis, excerpted from the Mishna Berurah--Dirshu Edition, (Chapters 147-149):


A. The Chofetz Chaim writes:  “Ashrei Me Shenosein Kavod LaTorah--Praiseworthy is the one who honors the Torah, as the Pasuk says “Ki MiChabdai Achabeid”.  Thus, when one honors the Torah it is considered as if one has honored Hashem Himself.  (Bi’ur Halacha, d’h Vehanachon).


B. The opening of the Aron Kodesh is a remez to a “Sod Gadol BeOlamos HaElyonim” (Elef HaMagen; Dirshu Note 11).


C.  The Rema writes that the reason that children are brought or urged to go to kiss the Torah is lechancham u’lezarzam b’mitzvos--to educate and to teach them to pursue the Mitzvos--rather than perform Mitzvos passively, or to wait for the mitzvah to come to the person.  (ibid., 149:1)


D.  The Chazan holds the Sefer Torah with the open part towards the people because “the light of the Sefer Torah” emanates to the Tzibbur from the side by which it opens(!).  (ibid., note 16)  Hakhel Note:  Let us appreciate the light of the Sefer Torah when we are in its presence--whether or not we see it! 


E. The Chazon Ish rules that when the Gemara states that the one who lifts the Torah is ‘notel sechar k’neged kulam’ (his reward is commensurate with all of those who were called to the Torah)--this in our day refers not only to  the magbe’ah, the one who lifts the Torah, but also to the golel, the one who wraps the Torah.  This being said, why do we sometimes given gelilah to a child under Bar-Mitzvah?  The Mishna Berurah answers the question--gelilah should, in fact, only be given to a katan who is of an age in which he understands what a davar shebekedusha is--and the reason we do so is to properly educate him in the Mitzvos.  (Shulchan Aruch, Orach Chaim 147, Mishna Berurah, seif katan 7)


F.  HaRav Shlomo Zalmen Auerbach, Z’tl, rules that the kaddish immediately following Kriyas HaTorah was instituted le’ilui the Neshamos all of the meisim who do not have someone to say Kaddish over them, and that if an aveil (and not the ba’al kriyah) recites this Kaddish, then he should have in mind that he is reciting it for the Neshamos of these other meisim as well.  (Dirshu, note 19)


G.  On Simchas Torah, HaRav Chaim Brisker, Z’tl, would not give away the Sefer Torah to someone else, but would wait until someone took it from him.  (ibid., note 21)


H.  When the Sefer Torah is being returned to the Aron:  (i) it is a hiddur to escort it back, as the Pasuk says “Acharei Hashem Elokeichem Teileichu”,  (ii) even if the Sefer Torah is not passing in front of the person, he should move closer a bit, to be able to see it at a closer distance,  (iii) if one is unable to kiss the Torah with his mouth, he should at least use his hand (so that an effect of Kedusha is left on his hand), and  (iv) if possible, if one is close enough it is preferred that he hug the Torah with his right hand.  (Shulchan Aruch, Orach Chaim 149, Mishna Berurah, seif katan 3 and Dirshu note 5)



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


In connection with this great Mitzvah, we provide the following essential review points as provided in the past:


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


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


Hakhel Note: What if someone ‘s parents are or were not well-respected or ‘good’ people--at least in the son’s mind?  HaRav Pam, Z’tl has the easy answer for that--how could they not deserve great honor and respect--after all, they were zoche to have you as their child!




16 Shevat

SUITABLE FOR FRAMING!  We provide by clicking here a famed teaching of the Alter of Kelm, relating to the value of even our responses in Tefillah, and to the extraordinary importance of our Torah study.




Special Note One:  As we take leave of the magnificent Shiras HaYam, we realize that we are blessed with the opportunity of reciting it on a daily basis--including Shabbos, Yom Tov and even Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur.  Indeed, the Mishna Berurah brings from the Zohar that one should recite the Shira daily BeSimcha and visualize himself as if he is that very day passing through the Sea (ibid. 51, Mishna Berurah, seif katan 17).  Accordingly, although we are nearing the end of Pesukei DeZimra, and may be struggling to keep pace with the Shaliach Tzibbur who may not be aware of this Mishna Berurah (don’t be shy--tell him about it!), we should put special effort into the feeling of joy as our personal experience.


In fact, there is a further remarkable teaching from the classic Sefer Chovos HaLevavos (Sha’ar HaBechina, Chapter 5). The Sefer first notes the miracles that took place at the time of Moshe Rabbeinu--the changes in the normal course of events and nature-- the awesome wonders to induce Emunah, which resulted in a newfound and everlasting “VaYa’aminu Bashem U’vemoshe Avdo.”  The Chovos HaLevavos then incredibly continues (translation adapted from the monumental “Duties of the Heart”, translated by Rabbi Doniel Haberman, Shlita; Feldheim Torah Classics Library):  “If a person in our own times would like to witness something similar to these miraculous events, let him simply look at our position among the nations since the beginning of our Galus, at our orderly condition in their midst, though we disagree with them in our beliefs and practices, as they [very] well know. He will see that, in regard to standard of living and subsistence, our situation is close to theirs.... He will see that their middle class and villagers toil more than the middle and poorer classes among us. This is as we were promised by Hashem: “VeAf Gam Zos...yet for all [the aveiros that B’nai Yisrael may have done] when they are in their enemies land, I will not abhor them...as to break my covenant with them” (Vayikra 26:44); and as the Kesuvim further state “Ki Avadim Anachnu...though we are servants, Hashem has not abandoned us in our servitude...” (Ezra 9:9); and as we recite in Tehillim: “Lulei Hashem SheHaya Lanu...Had it not been for Hashem, who was for us...” (Tehillim 124:1-2).  Thus, our daily miraculous existence, as a sheep among the lions and the wolves-- the superpowers and third world countries--with some of them being hungrier than others--is an actual and practical example of the Sea Splitting for us daily.  So, as you rejoice in the Shiras HaYam as the Mishna Berurah instructs-- realize that you are not only reliving that  grand and glorious moment of passing through the Yam Suf--but that you are very miraculously passing through the Sea of Galus daily as well--Miracle upon Miracle--day after day anew!



Special Note Two:  Our recent celebration of Tu B’Shevat brought to light some important Halachos of Brachos for the year round.  As the Minhag is to eat Pairos Ha’Ilan--fruits of the tree. As in all matters of Halacha, one should consult with his own Rav or Posek for a final Halachic ruling:


1.  Could one eat cranberries or ‘Craisins’ and be considered as having eaten fruits of the tree--does one make a Borei Pri Ha’Eitz on them?  The Sefer VeSain Bracha by Rabbi Pinchos Bodner, Shlita writes (in the name of HaRav Shlomo Zalmen Auerbach, Z’tl) as follows:  “Technically, the cranberry vine is considered a tree; however, there is a minhag not to make Ha’Eitz on berries from bushes which are less than nine inches high. Since cranberries grow within nine inches of the ground, its bracha is Ha’Adama.”


2.  Are candied Esrog slices--which clearly look like Esrog, but which have much sugar on them to make them more pleasant to eat--still considered an Ha’Eitz?  The Sefer VeSain Bracha writes that: “The bracha for sugar coated nuts such as sugar coated almonds is Ha’Eitz. The bracha for sugar coated peanuts is Ha’Adama. This applies when the coating is soft and the nut will be eaten in the first bite.”  Based upon this reasoning, it would appear that as long as the clearly recognizable fruit is eaten with the first bite, the bracha would be an Ha’Eitz (and the producers who marketed it as a Tu B’Shevat fruit were Baruch Hashem not mistaken!). For further reference, see Shulchan Aruch Orach Chaim 204, Mishna Berurah seif katan 51.


3.  If a tray (such as a leftover Tu B’Shevat Assortment) of various fruits is placed before you, and you intend to partake of one of each to appreciate Hashem’s bounty [as we have noted in the past, the Mishna Berurah to Shulchan Aruch Orach Chaim 207, seif katan 5, writes that this is what the words in Borei Nefashos “Al Kol MaShebara LeHachayos Bahem Nefesh Kol Chai” refer to--specifically thanking Hashem for providing us with so many beneficial foods beyond our requirements]--then which fruit from the impressive platter should you place into your right hand (lefties into their left hand) to make a bracha over?  The Shulchan Aruch (ibid. 211:1) rules that one should first take a fruit of the Sheeva Minim, the seven species for which Eretz Yisrael is praised--such as a grape, date, fig, etc. and make the bracha on that, If there are no Sheevas Haminim fruits, then he takes a Shalem--a whole (not cut-up or sliced) fruit such as a plum or peach. If there are no whole fruits, then one takes the fruit he usually likes best.


The common denominator in the above Halachos is that there is more to reciting a bracha then mouthing ten words or so. Like any Mitzvah, it deserves a moment or two of thought, to ensure that the privileged words one is about to recite are proper and pure!



Special Note Three: We now continue our 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. Of course, one should ask his own Rav or Posek in his particular circumstance or situation for a final p’sak.


PART 104


We once again provide Rabbi Mendlowitz’ important teachings on the G’ra Megillah


“One of the more sought after items this time of year is the famous “G’ra Megillah”. Although many people know that they want it, few people actually know why they want it or what it is. And even among those who know that it is an 11 line Megillah, few know why it is so. Most people would be surprised to hear that the G’ra himself never insisted on an eleven-line Megillah, nor did he ever own one. With all this in mind, let us explore the origins of “The 11 line, G’ra Megillah”.


In the Talmud Yerushalmi, we find the following passage: “R’ Yosi, the son of R’ Bun, said [about writing the names of the ten sons of Haman]: The word ‘ish’ must be at the beginning of the page, and [the word] ‘es’ at the end of the page.” The Maseches Sofrim adds: “Ish at the beginning of the page, es at the end of the page, written on eleven lines, aseres at the end of the page.”


Some explain the words “beginning and end of the page” to mean the “top and bottom of the page.” According to them, even if the Megillah has many more than eleven lines, the names of the ten sons of Haman must be written on a separate page to allow the word ish to be the first word on the top of the page, and the word aseres the last.


The Gra disagrees with this interpretation and explains that “beginning and end of the page” means “beginning and end of the line.” According to him, then, the word ish needs to be at the beginning of the page – on the right side of the page, i.e., the beginning of the line. And the word es needs to be at the end of the line. The Gra does agree that the word aseres should be at the bottom of the page.


Practically speaking, what this means is that, according to the Gra, as long as the word ish is written at the beginning of the line, even if many regular lines are written above it, the Megillah has been written properly.


Moreover, argues the Gra, the Megillah should be written that way. The reason is that according to the other opinions – which place the word ish at the top of the page and the word aseres at the bottom – the aseres bnei Haman must be written in enlarged letters in order to fill up the page. For instance, in a twenty-eight line Megillah, the letters would have to be more than double their normal size. In a forty-two line Megillah the letters would have to be almost four times the normal size‼ Since we find no tradition that the names of the aseres bnei Haman should be enlarged, this practice is an obvious error. The Gra, therefore, felt that the aseres bnei Haman should be written as the last eleven lines of the column in regular-size print.


The other opinions argue that such a Megillah is not correctly written since other lines are written above the names of the aseres bnei Haman, and the word ish is not at the top of the page. A possible reason for having no clear tradition to make enlarged letters can be simply because, theoretically, one could write an eleven-line Megillah and not have to enlarge any letters – i.e., the only requirement is to have ish as the first word on the page and aseres as the last. There is indeed no tradition as to the size of the letters simply because this varies based on how many lines the Megillah actually has.


The custom in all of Klal Yisrael is in accordance with these other poskim who say that the Megillah should have the names of the aseres bnei Haman written on their own page. Hence, in order to accommodate the opinion of the Gra as well, the concept of an eleven-line Megillah was “created.” This way the aseres bnei Haman are on their own page with no lines above them while at the same time the print is the same size as the rest of the Megillah.”




15 Shevat

FROM A READER:  Good morning:  Now, I look outside and I still see homes that are not cleaned, and why is that, maybe we should have a class called “How to clean snow in front of your home or business”, that way, we can save a life. Remember that Hashem gave you the monies to take care of yourself and your family, and by not cleaning, you put lives in jeopardy, and what about the consequences of someone falling and getting hurt or dies and what are the ramifications of making a Chilul Hashem. I am not accusing anyone, but when I am asking by non-Jewish people, what can I say or what should I say….”



HOW CHAVIV IS IT?  Now that many of us are enjoying new and tasty fruits today, we provide an essential teaching from the Mishna Berurah (Shulchan Aruch, Orach Chaim 225, seif katan 19):  “Kasvu HaAchronim B’Sheim HaYerushalmi D’Mitzvah Le’echol Me’at MeKol Min Chadash BaShanah, VeHata’am Kedei LeHaros Shechaviv Alav Briyaso Shel HaKadosh Baruch Hu--the Achronim write in the name of the Talmud Yerushalmi that it is a Mitzvah to eat a little from each species in season--and the reason is to show how precious the creations of Hashem are to you.”  As we look at the many colored fruits, at the blue sky, the white snow, the so-many shades of green in the various grasses, shrubs and trees, the color of water, milk and wine…as we hear the sound of the wind, thunder and the ocean waves…as we smell the scores of scents of flowers and spices…as we taste the fruits, the vegetables, the fish and the meat…as we touch all aspects of the world at large--let us express our appreciation and endearment of what Hashem has endowed us with--by exclaiming (Tehillim 104:24): “Mah Rabu Ma’asecha Hashem Kulam BeChochma Asisa Mahl’ah Ha’aretz Kinyanecha--how great are Your works Hashem, You make them all with wisdom, the world is full of Your creations!”





The following fruits do not require checking:


apples (including dried)

apricots, canned


banana chips

Brazil nuts

coconut (whole and shredded)

craisins (cranberries)

esrog, candied

fruit leather (in closed pkg.)


kumquat, candied

Macadamia nuts


melon, round

papaya from abroad (fresh, dried, canned)

passion fruit

pecans in shell

pecans, sugared

peaches, canned



pignolias (pine nuts)

pineapple, canned



quince (imported, yellow smooth peel)

star fruit (wash well before eating)



Hakhel Note: Some may be confused over the bracha for papaya. According to the Halachos of Brochos by Rabbi Yisroel Pinchos Bodner, Shlita, the correct bracha is Borei Pri Ha’adama.




Special Note One:  We provide the following point and pointers relating to Tu B’Shvat, and the custom to partake of fruits today:


1.  The Magen Avraham writes that the reason that we do not recite Tachanun today is because it is the Rosh Hashana LeIlanos (Shulchan Aruch Orach Chaim 131:6).  Indeed, the Mordechai (to the first Perek of Mesechta Rosh Hashana) writes that it is forbidden to fast on Tu B’Shvat because it is a Rosh Hashana.  The G’ra (ibid.) adds that all four Rosh Hashanas that are written in the beginning of Maseches Rosh Hashana are all Yomim Tovim.  Hakhel Note:  The very fact that it is called Rosh Hashana should remind us that it is another opportunity to start again! 


2.  It is the custom to eat fruits from trees on the Rosh Hashana LeIlanos (ibid, Mishna Berurah seif katan 31).  This is the case even though it is on Shavuos that we are judged on fruits of the tree.  The author of the Luach Bnei Yaakov suggests that perhaps we eat fruits today because man is compared in the Torah to an “Eitz HaSadeh”--and the fruit that he consumes today is to remind him of his own fruits--what are his deeds like, is he producing beautiful fruits…?  After all, it is four and half months since Rosh Hashana--and we will not experience the great spiritual resurgence of Pesach for an additional three months.  Accordingly, it is a time to remind ourselves of our own personal fruits, and further nurture them--to ensure that they are worthy of Bracha. 


3.  Some eat 15 fruits, and recite the 15 Shir HaMa’alos.  One of the reasons for this may be to remind everyone in a grand way that the Year is a new one for Terumos and Ma’asros, Orlah, and Netah Revaii for the fruits of Eretz Yisroel.  Yesterday, we provided a Tefillah from the Ben Ish Chai to be recited on Tu B’Shvat for the coming year’s Esrog as well.


4.  We additionally note that many have the custom of reciting the brocha of Shehechiyanu on new fruits in season today.  The recitation of this Bracha has become a bit more complicated in today’s times because of the availability of many fruits all-year round, taking them out of a particular season, and also because of grafted fruits (See Piskei Teshuvos II, p. 911-918 for further detail).  We therefore recommend that you consult with your Rav or Posek prior to making a Shehechiyanu for a final P’sak on whether or not to recite the bracha on a particular fruit in your area.  Of course, if one intends to eat dates, figs or carob, he should make sure that he knows how to properly check them for tolaim, and that dried fruits (banana chips, apples, etc.) he is given to partake of “in order to make a Hoetz” have an acceptable hashgacha.  We do not intend to be party poopers--we just want to ensure that it is a party that in which Hashem is honored!  Even if one does not make a Shehechiyanu, a special feeling of Simchas HaChaim is certainly in order!


5.  If one has a plate of fruit in front of him which includes fruits of the Sheeva Minim, then he should make his Borei Pri Haeitz over a Sheeva Minim fruit (unless he doesn’t want to eat any Sheeva Minim fruit).  Note that within the Sheeva Minim fruits there is a priority as well--dates come before grapes (unless, of course, one does not want to eat dates).  See below for further detail!


6.  The Bracha on beer is Shehakol.  Therefore, even though it comes from barley which is one of the Sheeva Minim, it has no bracha priority.  The following is the priority order of Brachos:  (a) Hamotzi--with a preference of wheat bread over barley bread.

(b) If not making a Hamotzi, Mezonos with preference of a wheat product over a barley product.  (c) A Haeitz with the actual Bracha itself (which will cover all fruits one intends to partake of) to be made over a fruit in the following order of preference: olives, dates, grapes, figs, pomegranates, any other fruits.  Note:  If one made a Borei Pri Haeitz over an orange, and had intended to eat the grapes in front of him as well, the Bracha over the orange would cover the grapes BeDieved.  However, if one made a Shehakol over a drink or a candy, or a Borei Pri Haadama over a carrot, he would nevertheless still make a Borei Pri Haeitz over fruit that he wanted to eat, as he clearly did not intend for the Shehakol or Haadama, which are more general Brachos (and could theoretically encompass the fruit that he intends to eat), to cover the fruit as well.  Please be sure to consult with your Rav or Posek to consult with any particular Bracha Shaila you may have.  The very first Mesechta in Shas is Mesechta Brachos--this shows you how important Brachos really are!


7.  The Mishna Berura (Shulchan Aruch Orach Chaim 207, seif katan 5) specifically writes that the word “VeChesronam” in Borei Nefashos specifically includes Hashem’s gift to us of fruits above and beyond the needs of our daily sustenance.  We should have fruits in mind every day of the year!




14 Shevat

FROM A READER ON THE DAF YOMI SIYUM OF MESECHTA YEVAMOS: “As one who is a Maggid Shiur for Daf Yomi - I think a great Yeyasher Kochacha goes to all who have studied Mesechta Yevamot.  It is an extremely hard gemara and personally I am thrilled that so many talmidim tried their utmost to understand it. That really is Limud Torah!”



DOES ONE MAKE A BRACHA ON COUGH MEDICINES? The following is excerpted from the Halachos of Brochos, by Rabbi Yisroel Pinchos Bodner, Shlita (Feldheim): “Foods which are unpleasant tasting, but are eaten for medicinal purposes (e.g., mineral oil), do not require a bracha.  However, foods which are eaten primarily for medicinal purposes, but are pleasant tasting (e.g., herbal teas, cough drops, chewable vitamins, etc.) are subject to a bracha. Medicines, such as cough preparations that are pleasantly flavored with a sweet syrup, are subject to a bracha. Some Poskim, however, rule that they are not subject to a bracha and it is advisable, therefore, to have intention to exempt the pleasant tasting medicine by first making a Shehakol on another food or drink other than water (unless he is drinking the water in order to quench his thirst, in which event one can recite a bracha on the water as well).”




Special Note One: Today, 14 Shevat, is the Yahrzeit of the Pnei Yeshoshua (R’ Yaakov Yehoshua B’R’ Tzvi Hersh Falk, Z’tl), the mechaber the Pnei Yehoshua on Shas and the grandson of the mechaber of the Maginei Shlomo after whom he was named. The following moving incident is excerpted from Me’Oros HaTzaddikim. To subscribe to Me’Oros HaTzaddikim, email:  meoros.hatzaddikim@gmail.com


He served as the head of the rabbinical court in Lwow after the Chacham Tzvi and afterwards in Berlin, Metz and Frankfurt. During his tenure in Lwow a terrible calamity occurred and there was an explosion of several barrels of gun powder which caused a terrible fire that killed thirty six Jews including his in laws, his wife and daughter. It was during this tragic episode which the author of Pnei Yehoshua describes in great detail in the introduction to his multi volume Talmudic commentary, that he was trapped under the rubble. Lying there beneath the heavy beams of his destroyed home, paralyzed by shock he waited for the collapsing structure to subside. As he lay there immobile he vowed to Hashem that just as his illustrious maternal grandfather, the author of Maginei Shlomo, for whom he was named, authored a commentary on the Talmud, should Hashem help him survive this terrible calamity, he vowed that he, too, would not rest until he had studied, reviewed and authored a similar Talmudic commentary. Miraculously, no sooner had he vowed this, then the rubble mysteriously parted and he found a path through which he crawled out unscathed and unhurt. Seeing this open miracle and understanding that Hashem had accepted his vow, he undertook to study and write novel interpretations and commentary on the Talmud and its commentaries, Rashi and the Tosfos. It is this famous multi volume work which has preserved his fame till this day.


Hakhel Note: There are many remarkable additional incidents relating to the Pnei Yehoshua. When opening the Sefer or other Seforim such as these, we should be moved by the dedication and greatness of the authors who compiled them!



Special Note Two:  The following remarkable insight is excerpted from www.umeinvumein.com, a site that contains powerful teachings in Amen and Amen Yehei Shemei Rabba in Hebrew, Yiddish and English.  The following is especially appropriate for this week, as Chazal (Brachos 48B) teach that Moshe Rabbeinu composed the first bracha of bentsching upon Bnei Yisrael receiving the Mon, as described in this past week’s Parasha.


“Oftentimes one would like to have bread for breakfast but when he reminds himself that Birkas HaMazon will be required he opts for a quicker Mezonos item and short Ahl HaMichya. The Zohar HaKadosh says: “When one bentsches Birkas HaMazon, he is given his Parnassah with happiness and ease”.  People look for all kind of segulos for Parnassah, especially in today’s difficult economy times. The Sefer HaChinuch states the best segulah for Parnassah: “A person who says Birkas HaMazon with Kavannah is guaranteed that he will not lack food his entire life”.  It is not enough just to recite Birkas HaMazon, one must also take care as to how it is recited. As it is written in Midrash Talpiyos: “One should have Kavannah when saying Birkas HaMazon and be careful not to swallow his words. One should always bentsch from a Siddur because the written word arouses the Kavannah.”  Take a look at the amazing words in the Maharsha: “Since a man’s Parnassah is as difficult as Kriyas Yam Suf, the Ribono Shel Olam commanded that one who eats and is satisfied should bentsch, because that is how Hashem actually fulfills the bracha of Parnassah. Since every person has mekatrigim that work against his earning a Parnassah, he needs the brachos of Birkas HaMazon to act as his melitzei yosher against the mekatrigim.” It is well known that the holy Maggid of Mezritch, Z’tl, said that Birkas HaMazon needs more Kavannah than Tefillah, as Birkas HaMazon is D’Oryasah and Tefillah is D’Rabanan.”



Special Note Three:  We provide the following point and pointers relating to Tu B’Shevat (tomorrow), and its various customs:


1. In honor of Tu B’Shevat, we provide by clicking here a moving Tefillah from the Ben Ish Chai to be recited for your Esrog this Sukkos (courtesy of Mesivta Yochanan Shraga of Monsey). Before reciting the Tefillah remember how important the role of Tefillah is in actually accomplishing what one sets out to do.


2.  The G’ra (Shulchan Aruch Orach Chaim 131:6) writes that all four Rosh Hashanas that are written in the beginning of Meseches Rosh Hashana are all Yomim Tovim.  Hakhel Note:  The very fact that it is called Rosh Hashana should remind us that it is another opportunity to start again!


3.  It is the custom to eat fruits from trees on the Rosh Hashana LeIlanos (ibid, Mishna Berurah seif katan 31).  This is the case even though it is on Shavuos that we are judged on fruits of the tree.  The author of the Luach Bnei Yaakov suggests that perhaps we eat fruits on Tu B’Shevat because man is compared in the Torah to an “Eitz HaSadeh”--and the fruit that he consumes on Tu B’Shevat is to remind him of his own fruits--what are his deeds like, is he producing beautiful fruits…?  After all, it is four and a half months since Rosh Hashana--and we will not experience the great spiritual resurgence of Pesach for an additional three months. Accordingly, it is a time to remind ourselves of our own personal fruits, and further nurture them--to ensure that they are worthy of Bracha. 


4.  Some eat 15 fruits, and recite the 15 Shir HaMa’alos.  One of the reasons for this may be to remind everyone in a grand way that the year is a new one for Terumos and Ma’asros, Orlah, and Netah Revaii for the fruits of Eretz Yisrael.


5.  We additionally note that many have the custom of reciting the bracha of Shehechiyanu on new fruits in season on Tu B’Shevat.  The recitation of this bracha has become a bit more complicated in today’s times because of the availability of many fruits all-year round, taking them out of a particular season, and also because of grafted fruits (See Piskei Teshuvos II, p. 911-918 for further detail).  We therefore recommend that you consult with your Rav or Posek prior to making a Shehechiyanu for a final P’sak on whether or not to recite the bracha on a particular fruit in your area.  Even if one does not make a Shehechiyanu, a special feeling of Simchas HaChaim is certainly in order! 


6.  Of course, if one intends to eat dates, figs or carob or other types of Bedika fruits, he should make sure that he has properly checked them for tolaim in accordance with current Halachic guidelines.


7.  We received the following wonderful idea from Parasha Thoughts relating to Tu B’Shevat:  “Why does the world have to be colorful, wouldn’t a black and white world have sufficed? Do we need such variety of foods? We would be able to sustain ourselves with (plain) bread and water! R’ Yaakov Naiman, Z’tl, in the Sefer Darchei Mussar, explains that the reason Hashem created the world in color with a whole variety of foods was to make the world pleasant for mankind and give them Joie de vivre.  Because we are obligated to follow in His ways, we therefore have the responsibility to make other peoples’ lives more pleasant in any way we can.  It doesn’t take much to make someone’s day more pleasant.  Never underestimate the power of a smile or a kind word.”


8.  The Siddur Ya’avetz writes that eating Peiros HaIlan on Tu B’Shevat creates a Tikun Gadol BaOlamos HaElyonim--a great tikun in the upper worlds. 


9.  Some have the special custom of eating Esrog jelly--as this is our premium example of our Pri Eitz Hadar--our finest fruit!




13 Shevat

REMINDER REGARDING DRIED FRUITS:  With the growing popularity of dried fruits (and the increased number of Heimeshe brand dried fruits), we remind our readers to exercise caution as to the appropriate bracha over the particular dried fruit. For instance, dried guava may literally be the product of pureed guava, in which case the bracha would be a Shehakol--just as in the case of fruit leather. Similarly, dried fruit mixtures such as ‘kiwi/pineapple’ slices which appear green and are in larger slices than the size of a kiwi may very likely constitute a bracha of Shehakol. Let the proper bracha reciter beware! Hakhel Note: If one is not sure, he should make the possible brachos that are necessary on other foods, with the dried fruit in mind--or simply not eat the dried fruit until he determines what the bracha is.



AN INESCAPABLE CONCLUSION: At the outset of Sefer Chofetz Chaim, the Chofetz Chaim definitively writes: “Vecha’asher Nachpesah Deracheinu…when we investigate all of our deeds we will find that although there may be several significant aveiros that have contributed to the length of the current Galus, it is the cheit of Lashon Hara that overrides them all.” No matter how many times we hear it or think about it, we have to emphasize and re-emphasize this point to ourselves. Lashon Hara overrides them all. This Galus is so difficult, and so differs from the life we can lead after Geulah. Each and every one of us must work hard to bring the Geulah as quickly as possible!




Special Note One:  In the outstanding book To Remain a Jew (which we hope to discuss a bit more later this week), Rav Yitzchak Zilber, Z’tl, brings the following from his first cousin, who was with this Chofetz Chaim:  “The Chofetz Chaim sighed and said to his son, “Listen, you are colder than I am.  Your children will be colder than you are.  And their children will be even colder.  How far will this cooling go?”  Yesterday, we witnessed the sad event of Yeshiva Bochurim, Bnei Torah, dedicating several hours of their life, in a spirited way, to watch the other nations of the world engage in sport--a sport of battle for pay.  How can we not but quiver at the words of the Chofetz Chaim coming true before our very eyes.  To witness the horrifying sight of Torah-filled youth being brought to the level of the uneducated bully, to the partying masses, and to one’s with time to waste, is sad and disheartening.  What can we do--the Yetzer Hara is strong, the generation is weak, and the possibility of their immediate Teshuva (without the Moshiach coming) is not apparent.  We did not ask Rav Chaim Pinchas Scheinberg, Z’tl, this question.  However, we know that HaRav Scheinberg would often suggest to one who was in a difficult situation, or who had done something wrong to “Give Tzedakah”.  Perhaps we can show our Achdus and Achvah for the Bochurim who so sadly fell prey yesterday by giving Tzedakah to Talmidei Chachomim or otherwise to the poor in Eretz Yisrael or in our community.  If you need an address, we provide www.yadeliezer.org  May it help bring a Kapparah for us all.



Special Note Two:  Several points and pointers relating to Parashas BeShalach:


A.  HaRav Eliyahu Lopian, Z’tl, teaches we should focus upon what finally ‘did the Mitzriyim in’.  It was, essentially, their bad Middos!  They chased after their money (losing the majority of their money with which they decorated their chariots in the process), and their pride was belittled by the servants departing.  Had they not chased after the Bnei Yisrael for these reasons, they would have been left as a people.  The pursuit of money and the pursuit of Ga’aveh can ‘do in’ not only an individual--but an entire people--forever! 


B.  At the outset of the Parasha we learned that Moshe Rabbeinu took the Atzmos Yosef, while each Shevet took the Atzamos of their own ancestor (Reuven, Shimon, Levi…).  The obvious question is:  Why did Menashe and Efraim not take out the Atzamos of Yosef who was their ancestor?  Some answer that when two people or groups have job to do, it does not get done, because each party will look to the other.  We may suggest a different approach.  The Bnei Yisrael were responsible for sending Yosef down to Egypt, into exile.  It became their responsibility, Middah K’neged Middah to remove him from exile.  The one who makes the mess ultimately will have to clean it up.  If one avoids getting angry, speaking Lashon Hara or causing another harm, he will be far better off--for he will not have to go through a difficult and very much required process of rectification.


C.  Before Kriyas Yam Suf, Bnei Yisrael cried out to Hashem.  Rashi points out that they grabbed hold of the Umenos of their forefathers (Shemos 14:10)-- the tried and true profession that their forefathers had taught them.  HaRav Yisroel Dovid Schlesinger, Shlita, points out that one can analogize calling out to Hashem to making a phone call.  All the numbers which constitute the full number must be dialed and they must be dialed in a particular order.  If one number is missed, or if all of the numbers are dialed except that even two are transposed, the call will not get to the right party.  All the elements of Tefillah or important for “the call to get through”.  One must daven from the beginning until the end, consciously following the proper order. With the proper care in our Tefillos--we too can be zoche to Dabeir El Bnei  Yisrael VeYisa’u!


D.  At the Yam Suf, Nachshon Ben Aminadav jumped in to the stormy demonstrating his Mesiras Nefesh for the command of Hashem.  Is this kind of Mesiras Nefesh possible in our time?  Well, there is a documented story about HaRav Mechel Yehudah Lefkowitz , Z’tl.  He was a bachur riding on a train in Europe when a woman in inappropriate dress walked in to the car.  Rather than face the situation which he obviously felt could impact upon his Kedusas Einayim, he actually threw himself out of the moving train.  While we may not necessarily expect ourselves to jump in the same way as Nachshon ben Aminadav or Reb Mechel Yehudah, we must realize that we are capable of much more than the world would ascribe to an ordinary human.  One should jump--in his own way, and at the time when he too can demonstrate that he would rather follow the will of Hashem--then cave to his human frailty.  We know where the Mesirus Nefesh took Nachshon and Reb Mechel Yehudah.  Where will it take you?


E. Although the Malachim were not allowed to sing Shira Al HaYam, Bnei Yisroel were allowed to do so. What was the difference? Some answer that when Bnei Yisroel wanted to sing Shira, the Mitzriyim had already been thrown into the sea. As a result, the Mitzriyim merited being Mekadesh Shem Shamayim through the punishment that they received. Thus, the Bnei Yisroel were not singing over the death of the Mitzriyim--but over the ten different ways in which the Mitzriyim perished at the sea, demonstrating in detail how HaKadosh Baruch Hu controls the world, punishing when he has to punish, and rewarding (the Bnei Yisroel at the sea) whenever he can. Indeed, Rabbeinu Ovadia MiBartenurah (Avos 5:5) highlights the Pesukim in the Shiras HaYam which detail the differing punishments that the Mitzriyim received. With Yetzias Mitzrayim, and perhaps with the war of Gog U’Magog, we witnessed and will witness Hashem’s Hand in both reward and punishment. We look forward to the day, as we exclaim in Aleinu every day of “LeSaken Olam BeMalchus Shakai VeChol Bnei Vasar Yikre’u ViShmecha…when the need for punishment will no longer exist--and Hashem’s Name will be sanctified by the unified goodness of all the world’s inhabitants. May our sincere Tefillos in Aleinu bring us closer to the reality that we seek!



Special Note Three: We now continue our 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. Of course, one should ask his own Rav or Posek in his particular circumstance or situation for a final p’sak.


PART 103


Before Purim approaches, every socher of St”am begins to receive phone calls inquiring about Megillos Esther – usually from Chanukah time! Often the potential consumer wants one for himself, while equally common is one who wishes to purchase the Megillah as a present for a son-in-law, husband etc. It is therefore worthwhile to take some time out and explore some of what one should be aware of when entering the Megillah market.


1.      Price. Many who are interested in purchasing Megillos are expecting to pay in the $700-800 range. It is important to understand that in the current economic climate it is difficult to find mehudar Megillos for under $1,200. The equation is simple. Most good sofrim charge no less than $100 per 42-line column. Klaf for a Megillas Esther is no less than $150. Since a Megillas Esther is the length equivalent of ten 42-line columns, we have come to a $1,150 minimum – before checking and computer checking. And of course before the socher has added his fee.  I would like to be perfectly clear – this is not to say that a mehudar Megillah cannot be obtained for under $1,200. Rather, I believe that the majority of Megillos sold for under $1,200 are not mehudar.


2.      Kashrus. A line often heard from potential clients is; “I don’t need such a good Megillah, as long as it is kosher l’kriah that’s fine too.” What they are referring to is the famous halachah that only requires a Megillah to be 51% kosher. As long as this is the case one may lein from the Megillah. This however, is an error. Halachah clearly dictates that a Megillah be kosher. Only b’dieved, when no kosher Megillah is available may a Megillah with even a single pesul be used. The fact is that the majority of inexpensive Megillos (below $1,000) are written by inexperienced sofrim and rarely undergo a quality hagahah. Hence, such a Megillah should not be used to lein from unless it has been meticulously examined by a quality magiah.


3.      HaMelech. One of the most common phrases a socher hears this time of year is, “Do you have a nice HaMelech Megillah available?” This is referring to the purported “hiddur” of HaMelech being the first word on each column. The fact is that no such hiddur exists. How this “got in” as a “recognized” enhancement of Hilchos Megillah to the extent that it is often the first question asked by the potential consumer, remains top me one of the great unsolved mysteries of modern times.


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