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20 Adar I

GENERATIONS II! In last week’s Bulletin, we provided a chart showing how few the generations really are since our receipt of the Torah at Sinai--and the transmission from generation to generation. A master mechaneich has provided us with two additional, more professionally-prepared, charts, which we present by the following links:







QUESTION OF THE WEEK: In last week’s Parasha we learned that one who observes Shabbos is called a Shomer Shabbos (VeShamru Vnei Yisrael Es HaShabbos), and we know that the term for guarding one’s speech is Shemiras HaLashon. What is unique to the concept of Shemira in these two Mitzvos?



A PURIM MOMENT: HaRav Nosson Wachtfogel, Z’tl, was asked: “What is the Avodas Hayom of Purim?” He responded that it is: “Ke’ish Echad B’Lev Echad--we are to unite as one person with one heart.” The Mitzvos HaYom of Purim clearly demonstrate this--Mishloach Manos, which increase love and friendship, Matanos L’Evyonim to any indigent person who presents himself, whether one knows him or not and without any further investigations, Seudas Purim in which people get together (‘misasfin yachad’), and even Kriyas HaMegillah at which there is a special ma’alah of reading together with the largest tzibur possible. How, then, can we grow in our Achdus, in our Ahavas Yisrael in this preparatory period of Adar before Purim? The Ahavas Yisrael (the Kapiznitzer Rebbe, Z’tl), teaches that one need not practice to love the Gedolei HaDor, or our most revered Talmidei Chachomim--who would not love HaRav Moshe Feinstein, Z’tl?   Rather, one must practice Ahavas Yisrael with those persons who do not have the same tendencies as he does, who ‘get on his nerves’, or who always seem to say the wrong things. [Rabbi Ozer Alport, Shlita] Hakhel Note: Let us not delay--and start today!



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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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



TODAY IS THE 21st YAHRZEIT OF RAV SHLOMO ZALMEN AUERBACH, Z’TL: There is a very well-known story that HaRav Shlomo Zalmen Auerbach, Zt’l, once repeated the paragraph of “Nodeh Lecha”(we thank You, Hashem), in which we list many important things that we thank Hashem for.  When he was asked why he repeated it, he responded that he experienced a momentary lapse of Kavanna, and that saying “Thank you” without meaning it is not true thanks.  In a related way, as we have noted in the past, Rabbi Yisroel Reisman, Shlita, teaches in the name of HaRav Pam, Zt’l, that one may put out a finger and count each one of the things that you are thanking Hashem for every time you recite “Nodeh Lecha”.  Example: “Al Yisrael Amecha-one, V’Al Yerushalayim Irecha-two etc.”  If you try this, you will see that it is a great method of focusing your appreciation, and rejoicing in what Hashem has given you.


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



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



20/20 VISION! In last week’s Parasha, Hashem told Moshe Rabbeinu (31:2): “Re’ei Karasi V’sheim Betzalel Ben Uri Ben Chur LeMateh Yehudah--see I have called the name Betzalel…” What does the word Re’ei--see, have to do with the appointment of Betzalel? Rabbi Eliyahu Schneider, Shlita, makes a marvelous observation. He suggests that millions of people were quite likely very astonished by the appointment of Betzalel to the highest position in the building of the Mishkan. After all, he was but a 13 year old young man, with no stated experience whatsoever in craftsmanship, nor any stated education or other qualifications. So how did he do it?  The next Pasuk gives us the answer--it continues that Hashem filled Betzalel with Ruach Elokim, Chochma, Tevunah and Da’as.  In short, this was another example of Nifla’os HaBorei--the wondrous acts of Hashem-- in taking a 13 year old and putting him in charge of the construction of such a holy place that Chazal teach it will endure Le’olmei Olamim--forever and ever. There was thus something very much to see--the amazing workings of Hashem! The lesson in ‘Re’eih’ , which is in the singular, is that we are to look and see, we are to study and understand--all of the Nifla’os HaBorei that we encounter daily. The snow, the rain, the sun, the food and gas deliveries, the warm coat, earmuffs and gloves, the hot shower and the hot drink….and beyond all of this, the ability to continue one’s daily studies, daily davening, daily chesed, and daily ‘routine’. It is not enough to recognize it in broad-painted strokes--as often as we can, let us open our eyes and ‘Re’eih’--let us see all of the glowing examples!



MORE THAN JUST A PAY-BACK:  Dovid HaMelech teaches in Tehillim:  “U’lecha Hashem Chosed Ki Atta SeShaleim LeIsh KeMa’aseihu--Hashem, kindness is Yours, for You repay a man according to his deeds” (Tehillim 62:13).


The Chofetz Chaim writes that many wonder as to why it is considered a special Chesed for Hashem to repay a person for that which he has done--for his performance of the Mitzvos.  After all, he did his part--didn’t he?  The Chofetz Chaim answers that the Chesed is much, much greater than we think, and to elucidate provides the following Mashal:  An inventor created machinery and equipment which were so technologically advanced that it was capable of building an entire  city in one day.  He knew that if he brought his invention to the king, he would surely be given a wonderful and rewarding gift, and then be sent away to let the king utilize all of the equipment to its greatest advantage.  Never in his wildest dreams, however, would the inventor imagine that the king would give him all of the cities that would be built using these machines, and that they would be named after him, as if he himself had built each and every one of them.  The Nimshal: When we study Torah, we literally keep the world going through the Torah’s holy words.  Because of our studies, Hashem continues to be “MeChadeish Ma’aseh Bereishis--to renew the acts of creation every day and every moment.”  Dovid Hamelech incredibly teaches us that even though it is Hashem Who is continuously creating and recreating the world, He credits us with it as if it is ‘Kemaseihu’--as if we ourselves are recreating the world daily.  It is not only a few  cities that our ours--but the entire world that Hashem deems to be our handiwork!  With this great  concept in heart and mind, we should understand and appreciate how significant our words of Torah really are--and perhaps more importantly how significantly Hashem Himself views them!  After a Shiur or a study session, look around.  The world is still going--it is because of you!!



17 Adar I

A PURIM MOMENT! Purim, of course, comes out in the month of Adar. Haman was quite happy when he found that the Pur, or lot, against the Jews came out on the 7th of Adar, as he knew that this was the date of Moshe Rabbeinu’s petirah. Chazal (Megillah13B), however, teach that just as it was the date of Moshe’s petirah--it was also the date of his birth, and accordingly, a happy and auspicious time. It is fascinating to note that ‘Adar’ is the last month (whether it be Adar in a regular year or Adar Sheinei in a leap year) of the Jewish calendar--with the next month of Nissan being the first month. Haman viewed Adar as an end--signifying an end to K’lal Yisrael. Moshe Rabbeinu’s birth, however, signifies that although Adar is the end--it also leads to the beginning. From Adar, we are to begin again with renewed force and strength. In a similar vein, we find that the last Shevet to travel in the Midbar was Shevat Dan--as me’aseif lechol hamachanos--gathering in the people from the Shevatim who had preceded them and lagged behind, saving them, and bringing them forward with the rest of the camp--giving them a new lease on life. Adar and Purim teach us that the Jewish people do not have an ‘end’--but instead use all that they have gathered to begin again--hopefully, in a stronger and more successful way. Let us treasure Adar as a portal for the up and coming season of Geulah ahead of us!



GENERATIONS! How many generations do you think there are from the time the second Luchos were given in this week’s Parasha--and today?  You may be relatively surprised to see one sample chronology that we provide by the following link--http://bit.ly/huQHEh   you are closer to Sinai then you think--and should be careful to keep the chain in fine condition!



A TIME OF GIVING!  Parashas Ki Sisah, begins with the zechus of giving money to the right causes--with one’s Shekalim being used for great and lofty purposes.  Chazal (Bava Basra 9B) teach that one who gives charity to a person in need is blessed with Six Brachos--as rooted and demonstrated by the Pesukim in Sefer Yeshaya.  What an incredible rate of return! It really is much better, however, for Chazal add--based upon a continuation of the words of the Navi Yeshaya--that one who is Mefayso BiDevarim, one who appeases the poor person with kind words and an uplifting spirit receives an Additional Eleven Brachos--so that if one gives money--and on top of that provides words of support and encouragement--He is Zoche to Seventeen Brachos! With this, we should begin to appreciate what our “Shekalim” do not only for the Ani--but for our very own Ruchniyus. Our giving to others--is a gift to us from Hashem.  So let us be careful as we begin to give over the next several days--and always give with the right attitude!





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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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


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


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


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


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

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

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

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

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

                    Giving meaningful advice or assistance to a Shabbos guest.


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




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


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


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



MORE NOTES ON THE PARASHA: We present several additional points from Parashas Ki Sisa to apply (and hopefully inculcate within ourselves) over the coming week:


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


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


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


D.  HaRav Moshe Rosenshein, Z’tl, approached his great Rebbe, the Mashgiach of Mir, HaRav Yeruchem Levovitz, Z’tl, and asked him to explain the Chait HaEigel to him.  After much study of the topic, HaRav Rosenshein was expecting a greatly detailed and long explanation from his Rebbe of what had transpired here.  HaRav Yeruchem answered with Two Words.  The Two Words....Yetzer Hara!  After all, could it make any sense that a people who owed so much to Moshe Rabbeinu would believe that he died--and almost immediately start to wildly party?  As we say in the Lechu Nerannena at the outset of Kabbalas Shabbos (Tehillim 95:10) “Va’Omar Am To’ei Levev Haim...--and I said they are a people who are mistaken of heart...”.  The Yetzer Hara’s effects were so devastating that the sin of the Golden Calf burdens us to this very day.  There is a great lesson for us all here.  If we could remind ourselves when making any daily decision that we must realize which side of the decision the Yetzer Hara is on--we can take a great step--on a daily basis--to overcoming, overriding and overruling the Chait HaEigel itself.  What an accomplishment!  What a great and enormous potential every day brings with it!



16 Adar I

A PURIM MOMENT: The Maharal (Ohr Chadash 56) explains that we read the Megillah both at night and in the morning because there were two different aspects to the tzara gedola: 1) K’lal Yisrael itself was in a lowly, dark, humiliated state in galus; and 2) Haman Harasha was in an extraordinary worldwide position of power.  We accordingly read the Megillah at night--representing the dismal darkness of our galus and Hashem’s drawing us out from the depths of despair to an Ohr Gadol. (Hakhel Note: …something we recognize can happen to us as well at any moment.) We then read the Megillah in the morning to recall how Hashem caused Haman’s extraordinary power to collapse and paradoxically for Mordechai to reign in his place--so that we bask in the daytime sunshine of Hashem’s love and compassion for us!


Hakhel Note: The Tefillah of Aleinu L’Shabeiach is the basic conclusion of all three of our daily Tefillos. In it, we recognize Hashem’s greatness and in the resounding effect of the ultimate Geulah. What a wonderful preparation for Purim it would be to better focus on Aleinu L’Shabeiach three times daily (perhaps reading it from a siddur or concentrating on a word-by-word or phrase-by-phrase basis).



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



THE PURPOSE OF TECHNOLOGY: A Rav advised us that he believes that technology has a very positive purpose--it is a Nisayon to prove our real Yiras Hashem!


Hakhel Note: Whether or not you necessary agree--one should certainly use the tests one faces in the world of technology as an important stepping stone for growth in Yiras Shomayim. Remember--Reishis Chochma Yiras Hashem!



HOW WAS THE SPEECH?  Can one who missed a lecture, shiur, drasha or class ask an attendee “I couldn’t make it--how was it?” The Dirshu Edition of the Sefer Chofetz Chaim (p. 207) brings an opinion that unless it is likely that the attendee will respond negatively, one is not oveir the prohibition of Lifnei Iver by asking him.  Others, however, rule that even if the prohibition of Lifnei Iver is not violated, asking someone who is not a Yerei Shomayim this question or a question like it would involve Avak Lashon Hara, which prohibits a person from causing another to speak negatively about someone. Hakhel Note: The great lesson here is that one must be quite circumspect as to what and whom he is asking about the shiur.





QUESTION 1: One enters a room after a bracha has been made and hears people answering ‘Amen’--Should he answer ‘Amen’ as well?


QUESTION 2: One is already in a room, and does not know what bracha everyone is responding’ Amen’ to, whether because he missed some words or was not listening—Should he answer ‘Amen’ anyway?


ANSWERS: No, one should not answer Amen to a bracha if he does not know which bracha is being recited, as this is one form of Amen Yesoma (Rema, Orach Chayim 124:8). However, if he knows the bracha that is being made, even if he did not hear all the words, he must answer

‘Amen’ (Mishne Berurah 215; seif katan 6). Moreover, when he hears someone davening or blessing another Jew (even without mentioning Hashem’s name), one should answer Amen

(Ibid, seif katan 9).


NOTE: If a person is called to the Torah and recites Borchu so softly that ten people do not hear him, the tzibur should not respond with Boruch Hashem Hamevorach but instead should simply answer Amen to the Baal Koreh’s response of Boruch Hashem Hamevorach (Rema, Orach Chayim 139:6).



TEACHING AKUM TORAH:  It is forbidden to teach an akum Tora--or even the Aleph Bais--as the posuk (Tehillim 147:20) states, “Lo Asah Chen L’chol Goy” (Chagiga 13A, Yorah Deah 246:6, Gloss of Shiurei Bracha). Many times a person may be faced with an akum at work or in the neighborhood who has a “question on the Bible” or who states that there is “something I don’t understand about Jewish ritual.” One must, in a polite way, immediately divert the topic of conversation, just as if it were any other prohibited activity, like Lashon Hora. There is also a second potential issur of Lifnei Iveir (Tosfos, Chagiga 13A dibur hamaschil Ain Mosrin).  Rav Moshe Feinstein Z’tl (Igros Moshe Yoreh Deah 3:89, 90) adds that the prohibition even includes relating the Agados of Chazal. However, in a situation where an akum is present in the room when Yidden are learning together, they need not necessarily stop learning until the akum leaves (See Ibid.). For the tape of a masterful Hakhel shiur on this topic entitled “Ambassadors of Torah” given by Rabbi Yosef Viener, Shlita, please call 718-252-5274.



MONEY AS A SOURCE OF GOOD: The Mishna Berurah (Orach Chayim 584:2 seif katan 8) writes that a mitzva is more elevated if one spends money on it than a mitzva that comes for free. Indeed, the Yesod V’Shoresh Ha’Avoda (11:2) writes that the ikar of a mitzva is to purchase it with money, “as is mentioned in the Zohar HaKodosh in many places—see Parashas Terumah 128A.” Similarly, the Chayei Odom (68:16) quotes Dovid HaMelech (Shmuel Beis 24:24) who insisted on paying Aravna for the land of the Beis HaMikdosh “so that sacrifices to Hashem would not be free.” Indeed, we recite in the Shema daily—we are to love Hashem “with all of our heart, all of our soul (our lives) and all our resources” which Chazal teach us includes our money. The dedication of our money to Hashem is equated with the dedication of our heart and even our very lives! Because a person is close to his money, it is difficult to make proper judgments as to monetary issues that arise. It is for this reason that our Gedolim have always urged us to ask a Rav help us decide and resolve monetary matters, including claims and disputes.


NOTE: Any person involved in business should know and understand that their Rav cannot be expected to approach them and ask them how they deal with onaah, ribis, hasagas g’vul, etc. Firstly, the Rabbonim do not, of course, know the details of each one’s business. Secondly, our Rabbonim are like our spiritual doctors. No doctors knock on our doors and ask us how they can help us! WE HAVE TO MAKE THE EFFORT OURSELVES TO SIT DOWN WITH OUR RAV AND REVIEW BASIC HALACHOS AND MAKE SURE WE PROPERLY CONDUCT OUR PARTICULAR BUSINESS. We are all familiar with the story of R’ Yisroel Salanter’s ZT’L talmid who wanted to leave his position as a shochet because he was worried that perhaps he would cause a shechita to be improperly performed. R’ Yisroel responded, “What will you become? A businessman? Shechita involves only the prohibition of neveilah—business involves many prohibitions, such as stealing, coveting, cheating, lying and keeping inaccurate measurements.” We must always remember that the Torah is Hashem’s guide for us—at home, in the streets and in our business. There are currently many practical seforim in English relating to Choshen Mishpat. For several series of excellent Hakhel tapes on the halachos and hashkafos of Choshen Mishpat, please contact 718-252-5274.


SECOND NOTE: There has been a proliferation of “women’s stores” both in storefronts and basements in our communities. It is important that the women proprietors (who are as equally bound to Torah law as men) be familiar with the same parameters of Choshen Mishpat and ribis as men who are involved in business, including such areas as Hilchos Onaas Mamon (overcharging), Gneivas Da’as (not disclosing mislabeling and hidden defects), responsibility for defective merchandise and the obligation to accept returned merchandise, fair competition, Dina D’Malchusa Dina (including sales and income tax laws), not selling D’varim HaAsurim (shatnez or goods from a questionable source), and clothing which meets the requirements of Tznius (such as sleeves past the elbow, dresses past the knees even when sitting, and no slits). Let us not forget what sealed the decree of the Mabul (Beraishis 6:13 and Rashi there); what causes Amelek to come upon us (Rashi on Devorim 25:17); and what we plead for at Neilah on Yom Kippur (L’Maan Nechdal Mai’oshek Yodeinu, See the Chofetz Chaim’s Sefas Tamim, Chapter 3). Instead, we should remember that Rashi explains the first word of Birchos Kohanim, “Yevorechacha (May [Hashem] Bless You)” as “a blessing for wealth.” Money comes only as a result of Hashem’s blessing, and not through acumen, cunning and guile, or even wisdom.



15 Adar I



1. Reminder--Your Daf Megillah! Don’t let yourself down--a glorious Siyum lies ahead! Hakhel Note: If you need resources…please let us know.


2. The Mishna Berurah (Shulchan Aruch Orach Chaim 697, seif katan 1) rules l’halacha that if one recited Ahl HaNissim today in davening or in bentsching--he would not have to repeat Shemone Esrei or bentsching, as mi’dinah Purim would have been in Adar Rishon, but for a final determination that it is better to place the Geulah of Purim in Adar Sheni--closer to the Geulah of Pesach. Indeed, Rebbi Eliezer B’ Rebbi Yosi (Megillah 6B) is of the opinion that the Megillah is read only in Adar Rishon--even when there is a second Adar.  Hakhel Note: A Ba’al Keriya also pointed out to us that the Megillah specifically states that Haman wanted to annihilate us B’Chodesh Sheneim Asar (Megilas Esther 3:13), and that the Jews were victorious against their enemies also in the twelfth month (Megilas Esther 9:1). The twelfth month correlates to Adar Rishon (Adar Sheini would be the thirteenth month) and seems to send a strong message to us that even if we do not celebrate Purim itself this month--the initial gezeirah and the yeshuah should certainly have a strong impact upon us--as we experience Shushan Purim Katan today worldwide.


3. As Purim is 30 days away, each and every one of us should most definitely have a plan of action--a goal--in counting up to Purim. We of course suggested above the Mesechta as a beautiful goal (after all, Chazal teach us that a reason for the gezeira against us was our weakening in Mitzvah performance)--V’Talmud Torah K’negged Kulam. Another important possibility is your keeping a Hava Nireh Es Yad Hashem diary for the next 30 days. What greater lesson from Purim could there be than Hashem’s Hashgacha Pratis even in the most hidden ways. Yet another thought would be a re-dedication to your original commitments from the Yomim Noraim--after all, it is still 5776! Finally, as we have mentioned in the past, the Pasuk in Tehillim 150 for Adar (both Adar Rishon and Adar Sheni) is “Kol HaNeshama Tehallel Kah Halleluka”; let us have special Kavannos of thanks when reciting these words in Shacharis every morning, and think about it during the day as well--with a wonderful climax on Purim itself! As Chazal teach, Dovid HaMelech emphasizes to us with this pasuk that Ahl Kol Neshima V’Neshima--for each and every breath--we should give hallel to Hashem!



A PURIM MOMENT: Beginning today and continuing through Purim we hope to provide a brief, meaningful thought gleaned from Purim:


The Megillah begins with the words “Vayehi Beyemei Achashveirosh”. Chazal (Megillah 10B) teach that the phrase Vayehi Beyemei indicates that tzaros were about to come. HaRav Chaim Kanievsky, Shlita, brings a Mashal from the Dubno Maggid, Z’tl, to explain: A pharmacist who owned a drug store was advised that his young son got into a locked cabinet of drugs in the store. The pharmacist began frantically running to the store. As he was running, a close friend accompanying him tried to calm him down, and asked him what he had to worry about--after all, why did he think that his son caused damage or swallowed something-- rather than straighten out the medicines or do something constructive or worthwhile with them. The father responded: “When a child plays with these kinds of things, certainly no good can result.” This, explains the Dubno Maggid, is why Chazal knew that Vayehi Beyemei Achashveirosh indicates tzaros--for when a person like Achashveirosh does something, certainly no good can come out of it. Hakhel Note: We can take the lesson today--as we encounter leaders and politicians worldwide (each person can look at his own country, in particular) whose aims, goals and messages have nothing to do with a Torah Jew’s attitudes and goals. We must be careful to stay away from their words, their mores, their teachings, and stand on our firm ground--so that only good will result!



ON HIS 70TH BIRTHDAY! Someone once told HaRav Elchanan Wasserman, Z’tl H’yd, that the Chofetz Chaim had just celebrated his 70th birthday. Rav Elchanan couldn’t believe that his modest Rebbi would ever celebrate or allow anybody else to celebrate his birthday. Research of the matter revealed, that there was indeed a celebration for the 70th birthday of the Chofetz Chaim, however for a different reason. The Chofetz Chaim explained that all his life he was worried that he would be niftar young, despite how careful he was with Shemiras HaLashon. Since he spent his whole life advocating the zechus of Arichus Yomim for being careful with Shemiras HaLashon, a r’l early petirah would cause a great Chilul Hashem. For this reason, he celebrated his 70th birthday, since past this age he felt his death would not be a cause for a Chilul Hashem. This is the greatness of our great Gedolim--who only celebrate Kavod Shomayim. (A teaching of Rabbi Mordechai Schmeltzer, Shlita)



TODAY’S BA’AL TESHUVAH! Can one speak about another, saying that ‘he is a Ba’al Teshuvah’ without violating the laws of Lashon Hora? The Dirshu Edition of the Sefer Chofetz Chaim (p. 199) brings various valuable opinions and contexts regarding this question. Of particular note is the opinion of HaRav Mattisyahu Salomon, Shlita (Mattisyahu Chaim Ben Ettel L’Refuah Sheleimah) who writes that in our days Ba’alei Teshuvah are like Gerei Tzedek--lifting themselves up from a lack of knowledge of Torah Judaism (Tinok She’nishba) to a wonderful new plane of existence. Accordingly, referring to someone as a ‘Ba’al Teshuva’ in and of itself --can only be an expression of praise!  Hakhel Note: For additional points by poskim--as to the Kavannah of the one speaking, the possible reaction of the listener, and whether or not the Ba’al Teshuvah himself is makpid, we urge you to see there.



SKELETONS IN THE CLOSET?:  One’s realization of the gadlus of a Ba’al Teshuva in our day should also bring to the fore an essential point regarding all of our friends and acquaintances--and even people we have just met. That is, while the negative character traits and characteristics of another may be easily observed or noticed, there is still good (in many cases--much good) that the person does which is hidden from the eye, and known only to the person himself or revealed to a select few on a need-to-know basis.  There is so much in every person’s mind and heart that we simply cannot get to. Yes, there are the negative points that are obvious--and there are also likely to be even more ‘skeletons in the closet’--but the Torah Jew’s attitude is to acknowledge and (rightfully) assume that above and beyond all of that there is hidden tzedakah, chesed, middos tovos, Tefillos and Torah study, which is not evident and not intended to be evident--and appreciate and value the goodness of another and the genuine Tzelem Elokim with which he has been endowed. If one can ignore all of another’s ‘skeletons’--it would seem that he will be blessed middah k’neged middah with others seeing--rather than so easily overlooking--the good within him as well!



THE NISAYON ATTITUDE: One’s initial reaction--especially to a difficult Nisayon--may be a negative one. “This is too difficult for me..., why is this happening..., there is so much hurt....” HaRav Yecheskel Levenstein, Z’tl, constantly taught his students that one must strengthen himself in Emunah on a daily basis. The more one hears about Emunah and Bitachon, and the stories of others, the more he strengthens himself.

For those who do not yet listen or subscribe, we remind our readers that Rabbi David Ashear, Shilta, continues to provide wonderful and meaningful essential Emunah lessons on a daily basis. To join and for further information contact:  emunadaily@gmail.com.  The recording is available via telephone as well:  Dial (605) 475-4799, access code 840886#. For those who already subscribe--we urge you to invite others to join you!



A BRACHOS PRIMER: A bracha must be recited loud enough so that one clearly hears himself say the entire bracha. B’dieved, if a bracha was whispered so quietly that he could not hear it, as long as the words were actually recited, it is valid (Shulchan Aruch Orach Chayim 206:3). We note, however, that if one fails to recite the bracha out loud:


A. He may unknowingly slur or skip words, rendering the bracha invalid;


B. He fails to take advantage of the “Kol Rom” arousing Kavana (Mishna Berurah 185, seif katan 3); and


C. He loses the opportunity for achieving the shleimus (completeness) of a bracha which results from others answering Amen to his bracha (Rema, Orach Chayim 167:2 and Mishne Berurah seif katan 20 and 85).


Hakhel Note: Who would want to recite something so essential as a bracha-- in a B’dieved way? One should instead rejoice with a Simcha Shel Mitzvah over the opportunity and knowledge to recite a Bracha with kavana and meaning!



14 Adar I

LAST CALL--THE MEGILLAH DAF!  As we count up from 14 Adar I to 14 Adar II--we can inject very special meaning into our short journey by learning just one blatt of Mesechta Megillah a day--and rejoicing with the Simcha of Torah on Purim.  A Siyum of the Mesechta won’t make you the life of the party--it will be the life of the party!  Please take us up on our suggestion--today is the last day before you would have to double up on a Daf.  What a beautiful way to connect Purim Katan to Purim!  Resources to learn with a free Shiur are available in many forms.  You can start with 718-906-6400 for a multitude of Mesechta Megillah Shiurim, or obtain mp3’s on line.  BeHatzlacha!


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


IMPORTANT REMINDER FOR TODAY:  As we noted yesterday, we must remember that Chazal in Mesechta Megillah raise the question as to which 14 Adar is to be observed as Purim--the 14th of Adar I or the 14th of Adar II.  We know how the Halacha resolves the issue--by putting the Geulah of Purim into Adar II, which is closer to the Geulah of Pesach. Otherwise, it is not a simple issue at all!   We must appreciate and understand the inherent Kochos of the day.  May we suggest that in addition to feeling the Simcha of the day, that we also remember the Koach of Tefillah and recite Tehillim Chapter 22, which is what Esther recited BeRuach Hakodesh as she attempted to enter the presence of Achashveirosh.  We know how she was answered--may we be answered in equal measure! We received the following from a reader, who wrote it from a Shiur given by HaRav Avrohom Schorr, Shlita: “THE MISHNA IN MEGILLAH THAT SAYS “EIN BAIN ADAR RISHON L’ADAR SHENI ELLA KRIYAS HAMEGILLAH U’MATANOS LE’EVYONIM BILVAD” Translated:  THERE IS NO DIFFERENCE BETWEEN THE FIRST ADAR AND THE SECOND ADAR EXCEPT THAT THERE IS NO OBLIGATION OF READING THE MEGILLAH AND PRESENTS FOR THE POOR.  IT FOLLOWS, THEN, THAT THE POWER OF TEFILLAH REMAINS EXACTLY THE SAME; HOWEVER, ON PURIM KATAN CHAZAL DID NOT IMPOSE AN OBLIGATION TO DRINK. SO HERE WE HAVE A DAY THAT HAS THE TREMENDOUS POWER OF PRAYER AND THE CHACHOMIM DID NOT LIMIT IT WITH AN OBLIGATION TO DRINK.  LET US USE IT TO OUR UTMOST!





1. The Rema ends Shulchan Aruch Orach Chaim (discussing Purim Katan) with the term”V’tov Lev Mishteh Tomid.” What does this mean in a practical sense?” The Aruch HaShulchan (Orach Chaim 697) writes that with this the Rema teaches us that “Ikar Avodas Hashem He B’Simcha”.


Hakhel Note: Repeat this teaching to yourself five times before moving on--and perhaps at least five times a day!


2. In a similar vein, the Chayei Adam (68:13) teaches that when the Torah (Devorim 28:47) reprimands Bnei Yisrael for not serving Hashem B’Simcha U’Vetuv Leivav--it is teaching us that we should have rejoiced in our Avodas Hashem more than had we enjoyed most of this world’s pleasures and a multitude of precious stones and pearls.


3. HaRav Shach, Z’tl, once asked the Brisker Rav, Z’tl, a question: “How is it that Hashem gave us a Mitzvah of Emunah? It is so clear to me that the Ribono Shel Olam created the world--that I don’t believe in Hashem--I see Hashem!” The Brisker Rav told him that he once asked the same question to his own father, HaRav Chaim Brisker, Z’tl, who answered: “It is true that we see Hashem; however, believing in Hashem begins when seeing Hashem ends.” This means that a moment may come when a person has a particularly difficult Nisayon and a question may come to mind as to whether Hashem is watching over him with love and care. If the question arises, it means one’s usual vision of Hashem has ended. This is when unconditionally belief and trust begins...and this is what we mean by ‘Emunah Sheleimah’! (Rabbi Mordechai Schmeltzer, Shlita)


4. With this last teaching in mind--how are we to approach our Tefillos? HaRav Ezriel Erlanger, Shlita, teaches: “Storming the heavens is right--fighting the heavens is wrong!”


5. The Chofetz Chaim brings the famous Chazal “Lemi Nosei Avon Lemi She’over Ahl Pesha”--whose sin is forgiven, one who has been wronged but ignores it or overcome his immediate reaction to the wrong committed against him. The Chofetz Chaim adds that one who acts with patience and prevails over himself can actually be rewarded with additional life in this world. Chazal (Rosh Hashana 17A) bring that Rav Huna B’Rei D’Rav Yehoshua was so weak that it appeared that he would not continue to live. He miraculously recovered and reported to one of his visitors as the time that he understood that he was supposed to pass on from this world, but heard HaKadosh Baruch Hu told the Beis Din “Since he forgives and does not stand in a strict and uncompromising manner against others--do not be strict with him.” The Chofetz Chaim concludes: “Therefore, if someone sticks closely to this holy midda of patience and compromise-rising above any initial hurt or bad feelings--it will be good for him in this world and the next!”





HILCHOS TEFILLAH:  We provide the following notes on Tefillah excerpted from the Mishna Berurah Dirshu Edition. As with all matters of Halacha, one should consult wit his Rav or Posek relating to his particular facts or circumstances:


1. One should not go out of his way to say Sholom Aleichem (or engage in personal conversation) with another before davening Shacharis, as one’s first order of the day (other than study of Torah or other Avodas Hashem) should be to meet Hashem in Tefillah and not to delay this meeting.  If one meets his friend, he should simply (pleasantly!) say Good Morning. If one stops you ands asks how you are, you may, however, respond. (Shulchan Aruch Orach Chaim 89:2, Mishna Berurah seif katan 16)


2. The preference to daven in a Bais HaKenesses is because it is a Makom Kavua L’Kedusha and one’s Tefillos are more accepted there. (SA OC 90:9, MB sk 33)


3. At the entranceway of a Shul, although one may want to enter as soon as possible, he must neverthless allow a person greater than him to enter first. This is true even if as a result one forfeits the great merit of being one of the first ten in Shul (SA OC 90:20, MB sk 62,and Dirshu Note 73)


4. One should have a set place to daven in any Shul or place that he frequents (e.g., if he has a Shul that he davens Shacharis in, and another place near work that he davens, etc.), and this rule applies even in one’s home. The space need not be exact, and can have a range of four amos. (SA OC: 90:19, MB sk 59) At the entranceway of a Shul, although one may want to enter as soon as possible, he must nevertheless allow a person greater than him to enter first. This is true even if as a result one forfeits the great merit of being one of the first ten in Shul (SA OC 90:20, MB sk 62, and Dirshu Note 73)


5. One should not daven in front of pictures or designs (even if they are pictures of Rabbanim). Additionally, one should not daven in front of a mirror (or clear glass such as a window where one’s reflection can be seen) even if his eyes are closed. (SA OC 90:23, MB sk 71 and Dirshu Note 82)


6.  The Chasam Sofer teaches that Chana stood within four Amos of Eli HaKohen when she was davening for a child because it is a segula nifla’ah to daven near a tzaddik. (SA OC 90:24, Dirshu Note 83)


7. A Halacha L’Kavod Purim Katan:  The Shevet Halevi, Z’tl, (10:18) rules that on Purim one may daven in his Purim costume--provided that he is fully clothed and does not engage in any levity during the Tefillah. (SA OC 91:5, Dirshu Note 17).



13 Adar I

IT’S NOT TOO LATE! If you begin by tomorrow (Tuesday) and learn one blatt a day, you will be able to make a Siyum on Mesechta Megillah at the Seudas PurimWhat a wonderful way to prepare for Purim--much Agadeta about the Megillah is contained in the Mesechta.  As in the past, for women, or those who find the task too difficult, may we suggest that one begin the study of the Megilla through a Sefer or Seforim that he/she has not previously studied--and continue daily through completion until reaching the Purim milestone! 



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


Hakhel Note: There is something extremely simple and straightforward that we can do in this world in order to better prepare ourselves for this great joy in the next world. It is to recognize Hashem’s Presence and involvement in our daily lives--His direct and personal Hashgacha Pratis over each and every one of us. Approximately 45 years ago, HaRav Chaim Friedlander, Z’tl, published a pamphlet entitled Hava Nireh Es Yad Hashem--in which a person was asked to write in a brief summary format Hashgacha Pratis that he had experienced on a daily or weekly basis, in order to better appreciate the Yad Hashem in one’s daily life. As we approach the 30-day point to Purim, and the 60-day point to Pesach--let us carefully consider and work on a great common denominator between these two chagim--Hashem’s loving Hashgacha Pratis!



ASHER YATZAR REMINDER!  The Mishna Berurah (Shulchan Aruch Orach Chaim 7, seif katan 1) rules that if one takes care of his bodily needs, forgets or delays the recitation of Asher Yatzar, and then has to take care of his bodily needs again--he has forever lost the opportunity to give Shevach V’Hoda’ah to Hashem for his previous opportunity in taking care of his needs. It would be truly absurd for a person to negligently forfeit this unique and special opportunity. Accordingly, although one may be tempted to ‘just make this phone call’ or ‘answer this one text’ or say this or do that--he should instead dedicate and reserve the time immediately after taking care of one’s needs to give one’s sincere and heartfelt thanks to Hashem for the miracle performed on his behalf!





1. From HaRav Mattisyahu Salomon, Shlita, (Mattisyahu Chaim Ben Ettel l’refuah sheleimah): “Kavod HaBeriyos is Kavod Shomayim!”


2. Why is the Mizbeiach in last week’s Parasha (Shemos 29:38) described only as the place from which the daily Karbon Tomid is brought--after all, do we not also bring Chata’os and Ashamos on the Mizbeiach to bring us Kappara for our sins?! The Abarbanel explains that it is to emphasize that: “Our ikar relationship with Hashem, as represented by the Mizbeiach, is one of Hoda’ah--thanks to Hashem for His loving kindness to us.” The daily Korbon Tomid is not for Kapparah--it is for thanks!” Hakhel Note: It is fascinating to note that our daily Shemone Esrei of Shacharis and Mincha, which take the place of the Karbon Tomid, are preceded by Pesukei D’Zimra and Ashrei, respectively, emphasizing our relationship of Shevach V’Hoda’ah to Hashem!


3. In whose zechus will the final Geulah come? The Ohr HaChaim HaKadosh on last week’s Parasha (Shemos 27:20) writes that of our four Geulos, the first Geulah was in the zechus of Avrohom Avinu, the second was in the zechus of Yitzchok Avinu, the third was in the zechus of Yaakov Avinu--and that the fourth and final Geulah which we so await will be in the zechus of Moshe Rabbeinu. Moshe Rabbeinu, continues the Ohr HaChaim HaKadosh “is not interested in bringing the Geulah to batlanim--he wants us to actively and powerfully be involved in the study of Torah.” When he sees how serious we really are….


4. From a Reader: “Why do you only ‘urge’ your readers to recite 100 brachos a day?  After all--the Shulchan Aruch (Orach Chaim 46:3) requires it?!”  Hakhel Note: There is a discussion among the Poskim as to whether women are obligated to recite 100 brachos.



A HEARTFELT CHESED: A reader provided a very meaningful suggestion to us. Although he does not currently have a daughter involved in Shidduchim, he felt that caring members of K’lal Yisrael should do something to help the ‘Shidduch Crisis’ affecting B’nos Yisrael. His suggestion was to take the Tefillah provided by the following link  http://tinyurl.com/j5qtstd  (which is recited by a girl looking for a Shidduch)--and change the dikduk--instead reciting it for one or more girls whom you know are looking for Shidduchim--specifically mentioning their names at the outset--i.e., Miriam Bas Sara, Rivka Bas Chana, etc. Perhaps one can bli neder commit to do so from today until Purim. Ahavas Yisrael--it should be penetrating our very being!


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


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


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


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


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


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



TEHILLEM CHAPTER 22 TOMORROW:  As tomorrow is Purim Katan, we must remember that Chazal in Mesechta Megillah raise the question as to which 14 Adar is to be observed as Purim--the 14th of Adar I or the 14th of Adar II.  We know how the Halacha resolves the issue--by putting the Geulah of Purim into Adar II, which is closer to the Geulah of Pesach. Otherwise, it is not a simple issue at all! We must appreciate and understand the inherent Kochos of the day.  May we suggest that in addition to feeling the Simcha of the day, that we recite Tehillim Chapter 22, which is what Esther recited BeRuach Hakodesh as she attempted to enter the presence of Achashveirosh.  We know how she was answered--may we be answered in equal measure!  Hakhel Note:  We received the following from a reader, who wrote it from a Shiur given by HaRav Avraham Schorr, Shlita: “THE MISHNA IN MEGILLAH THAT SAYS “EIN BAIN ADAR RISHON L’ADAR SHENI ELLA KRIYAS HAMEGILLAH U’MATONAS LE’EVYONIM BILVAD” Translated:  THERE IS NO DIFFERENCE BETWEEN THE FIRST ADAR AND THE SECOND ADAR EXCEPT THAT THERE IS NO OBLIGATION OF READING THE MEGILLAH AND PRESENTS FOR THE POOR.  IT FOLLOWS, THEN, THAT THE POWER OF TEFILLAH REMAINS EXACTLY THE SAME; HOWEVER, ON PURIM KATAN CHAZAL DID NOT IMPOSE AN OBLIGATION TO DRINK. SO HERE WE HAVE A DAY THAT HAS THE TREMENDOUS POWER OF PRAYER AND THE CHACHOMIM DID NOT LIMIT IT WITH AN OBLIGATION TO DRINK.  LET US REMEMBER TO USE IT TO OUR UTMOST!”





10 Adar I

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



REMINDER--START MEGILLAH TOMORROW! If you begin on Shabbos and learn one blatt a day, you will be able to make a Siyum on Mesechta Megillah at the Seudas Purim!  What a wonderful way to prepare--much Agadeta about the Megillah is contained in the Mesechta.  As in the past, for women, or those who find the task too difficult, may we suggest that one begin the study of the Megilla through a Sefer or Seforim that he/she has not previously studied--and continue daily through completion until reaching the Purim milestone! 



A SIMCHA MESSAGE! We bring you a Simcha message (of course, especially ripe for Adar) from the Sefer Orchos Tzaddikim: “Veyargil Ess Libo Liheyos Sameach Keshe’Yeish LeAcheirim Tovos U’VeYosair Yismach Bi’Reoso Bnei Adam HaMechazrim Al HaMitzvos La’asos Retzon HaBoreh Yisborach--One should accustom himself to feel the Simcha when good things happen to others, and one should be especially happy when he sees people performing Mitzvos--to do Hashem’s will.  Please read this important teaching again, for it can change one’s approach and attitude many times during the day upon witnessing an occurrence or event or hearing news.  Let us now reflect for a moment about a situation in which you don’t even personally know the ‘Ba’al Simcha’ and you practice the middah of Simcha--how noble, how spirited, how uplifting!.  With this in mind, before saying the Tehillim or making the call, imagine the joy that Yehonasan will feel when he can go to Shul on a Shabbos Morning and listen to K’riyas HaTorah and answer Amein;  picture the joy of Purim or Pesach for him B’EH THIS YEAR!  It is still very possible --we can participate in this joy--by doing our part in the here and now!




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


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

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


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


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



Special Note Two: The following moving message is excerpted from V’shee-Non-Tom, by Rabbi Elias Schwartz, Shlita: Ve’atah Tetzaveh Es Bnei Yisrael--and you shall command the children of Israel.” (Shemos 27:20)  “The first word of this pasuk, Ve’atah, and you, is entirely unnecessary, because the second word Tetzaveh starts with a Tav, and that in itself means you. The word Tetzaveh in itself means and you shall command.” What do we need the first word, Ve’atah for? In reality, Hashem is teaching us how to command others; how to inspire others; how to teach others. Ve’atah, and you: The way you act, the way you walk, the way you talk, will be the measure of success you will have in Tetzaveh, in your commanding others to do. If you want others to follow you, then watch yourself first. If you want to impress good deeds and good characteristics upon others, then practice what you preach. Character cannot be taught. It must be caught. You must want to emulate the character of your parents, Rabbonim or leaders because you have become impressed by them. A Rebbi must inject his own personality into his students if he wants them to follow in his footsteps. The students must be captivated by his Midos, by his characteristics. The degree of indoctrination is not in proportion to the knowledge acquired. It is the personality of the Rebbi that becomes part of his students. They are caught up in the aura of the greatness of their Rebbi. Thus is character molded. Yehoshua was the foremost student of Moshe Rabbeinu. He became the leader of K’lal Yisrael after his Rebbe passed away, after Moshe Rabbeinu died. Nowhere in the Torah do we refer to Yehoshua as the talmid (student) of Moshe Rabbeinu. He is rather called Meshareis Moshe”--he is referred to as the person who served Moshe. Yehoshua was always with Moshe. He observed Moshe all the time. This molded Yehoshua into the great leader that he became. How can I ever forget the influence that my Rebbi, Reb Shlomo Heiman, Z’tl, had on all of us. When I think of the way he spoke, the way he smiled, the way he walked in the street, I can actually visualize him. Good Midos shone on his face. It became much easier to grow up with good character when you had a Rebbi 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 Three:  A few additional brief points relating to this week’s Parashas Tetzaveh.  Although we cannot supply you with food for the meal--perhaps with some food to accompany the meal:


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


2.  The Bigdei Kehuna Gedola of Aharon as Kohen Gadol are described in the Torah as clothing which is LeChavod U’LeSifores--clothing that brings and displays honor and glory to the position.  The clothing of the regular Kohanim are also described in the Torah with the very same words of LeChavod U’LeSifores.  There is a moving message--even if one does not don the garb of a Rav or the zekeinim of the congregation--he is still an important part of the K’lal and brings Kavod V’Sifores to himself and his people in his own way.  With this privilege comes the responsibility.  Although Aharon’s sons did not wear Eight Garments--they did wear Four Garments of special dignity.  One must therefore be mindful--especially when going to daven 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 man who wears a baseball cap to Mincha or Ma’ariv with the emblem of a sports team, or touting a Bluetooth-equipped ear during Shemone Esrei, or the young man clad in an outdoor jacket which proudly displays a western world brand insignia may not be in comport with the LeChavod U’LeSifores expected of every Torah Jew.  This Shabbos is a time to reattach ourselves to the dignity of the Avodah --by rethinking the regard we intend to give to it in our everyday lives!


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


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


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



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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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



9 Adar I

BREAKTHROUGH!  For those not aware, a sefer on how to respond to the youth of our generation, written by Rabbi Uri Zohar, Shlita, has recently been published in English by Feldheim Publishers. May the sefer’s title provide the help needed by those so hopeful for guidance in this area!



ONE MILLION BRACHOS: Imagine someone told you that you were going to earn a fee or a commission of $36,500.00 this year.  Even to a wealthy person, $36,500.00 is money.  We are urged to make 100 Brachos a day.  Over the course of a year this amounts to 36,500 brachos.  This is true wealth.  Every time we make a bracha, we are building on the previous bracha we have made--building our investment in Ruchniyus.  If we don’t take the extra moment to appreciate the bracha as we make it, we may be demonstrating that we don’t appreciate the great capital that we are building.  In just over 27 years of making 100 brachos day, we will have made one million brachos.  In addition to the quantity, let us not forget the quality--which adds so much to their uniqueness and sanctity.  What an accomplished millionaire!



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



READ ALL ABOUT IT!  The Chofetz Chaim teaches that the issur of Lashon Hora applies not only to the spoken word, but to the written word as well. While many may already now take that as an obvious given, the Chofetz Chaim brought to light for us that the term ‘Lashon’ is not to be taken literally to mean the tongue--but instead refers to the communication of a negative message. The recently published Dirshu Edition of the Sefer Chofetz Chaim (p.155), provides some important insights into the written form of Lashon Hora:


              1. The Maharsham writes in the name of the Rema that Lashon Hora in writing is more chamur  than Lashon Hora that is spoken--for the writing strengthens the negative words by giving it a more powerful and obvious lasting effect. Hakhel note: LET THE EMAIL OR TEXT WRITER BEWARE!


               2. The Nesivos Chaim rules that one who writes Lashon Hora does not violate the issur until a second person reads what he has written. Even if one has remorse over what he has done before the Lashon Hora is read by another, once the second person reads it--he must ask the person harmed or pained for forgiveness. If a person writes Lashon Hora and passes away, and it is then read by another, it would appear that he will be punished for his sin in the next world--and this is an example of how Mitzvos and r’l Aveiros can continue to accrue to a person in the next world.


               3.  HaRav Nissim Karelitz, Shlita, rules that unless there is a Halachic to’eles, one cannot give another’s handwriting sample for handwriting analysis, as it may lead to negative commentary.


               4.  The Afikei Yam writes that when one writes Lashon Hora in a newspaper or periodical, it is obviously not only the publisher who is oveir for spreading the Lashon Hora, but the writer as well--for he knew all along that this would be the result. Moreover, the writer should know that he is oveir the prohibition of Lifnei Iveir hundreds or thousands of times, depending on the readership and their acceptance of the prohibited words. Even if a reader does not believe or accept the words as true--the reader is nevertheless oveir an issur of reading the words without to’eles (just as one is oveir an issur for listening to Lashon Hora without to’eles, even if he does not believe it--and the writer is responsible for each such violation. 


Hakhel Note One:  This is something very real about ‘the power of the pen’.  When one is r’l oveir an issur  622 times or 3,458 times--it does not mean that the Heavenly Court lumps everything together and he is judged on a ‘wholesale’ basis--it means that each count is separately considered and dealt with, one by painful one.


Hakhel Note Two: How important it is to make sure that the newspaper or periodical you are reading has a Rav or Posek reviewing its content!


Hakhel Note Three: Based upon the foregoing, one must be especially careful and circumspect about reading or participating in items of a blog nature--as words of an irretrievable nature pass around the world in seconds. 



IT MEANS A LOT TO BE FIRST:  The Shulchan Aruch (Orach Chaim 90:14) writes that one should arise early in the morning to be among the first ten to shul in the morning. The Dirshu Edition of the Mishna Berurah (ibid., note 46) provides the following valuable additional insights:


                1. Chazal (Brachos 47B) teach that one who is among the first ten receives reward equivalent to that of all those who come after him (with the larger the minyan, the larger the reward).  Hakhel Note: While we certainly do not perform Mitzvos with a focus only on reward, it should be clear to us that if the reward is so great, the chavivus of the act to Hashem is must be great as well. We had pointed out yesterday that one should take daily strides towards the life goal of Deveikus B’Hashem--a goal that determines one’s closeness to Hashem in the eternal world. Demonstrating one’s desire to be among the first ten to meet Hashem in prayer would seem to indicate how strongly one seeks a closeness and relationship with his Maker.


                   2.  According to the Ma’adanei Yom Tov, the earlier one is among the first ten, the greater his reward as well--so that the second person to Shul gets the reward of the next eight, the third the reward of the next seven, etc. Once again, the concept of reward should also be taken in its pristine sense. The Zohar at the outset of Parashas Terumah teaches how great the first person who arrives is....


                  3. Even if one is not going to make it as one of the first ten, the Aruch Hashulchan writes that one should strive to come to Shul early--so that he is closer to Yenikas HaKedusha.


                  4. When leaving Shul, one should endeavor to be one of the last ten out of Shul--keeping the special Kedusha with him as long as he can.


                  5. The Kaf HaChaim writes that the elevated nature of being among the first ten applies not only to Shacharis--but to Mincha and Ma’ariv as well.


 Hakhel Note:  One can take the lesson to be among the first to learn, the first to give tzedaka, the first to compliment another...don’t follow the leader--be the leader!



8 Adar I

FINAL REMINDER--IN SEARCH OF YOUR VALUABLE COMMENTS:  Some readers have suggested that the Bulletin be made shorter, as they do not have time to read all of its contents. While we know different areas are typically covered in each Bulletin, we try to make each Headnote or Special Note a short one, so that each reader can try to read what he can. We have been advised, however, that there are those who feel that because the entire Bulletin cannot be read--they do not read any of it. We would very much appreciate your view, as we are trying to do what is best for the K’lal. Please respond to this email.



GETTING CLOSER!  If you begin THIS SHABBOS and learn one blatt a day, you will be able to make a Siyum on Mesechta Megillah at the Seudas Purim!  What a wonderful way to prepare--much Agadeta about the Megillah is contained in the Mesechta.  As in the past, for women, or those who find the task too difficult, may we suggest that one begin the study of the Megilla through a Sefer or Seforim that he/she has not previously studied--and continue daily through completion until reaching the Purim milestone!  Hakhel Note: Zerizin Makdimin--start today!



QUOTABLE QUOTES: At his Hakhel Shiur this past Monday on Shidduchim, Rabbi Zev Smith, Shlita provided many essential halachos and hashkafos. We provide just a few points made:


                   1. There is no such thing as ‘the best Shidduch’--it is the best Shidduch for your son or for your daughter. Accordingly, if one is called as a reference and (inappropriately) is asked the general question of “Tell me all about ....”, he/she should respond with--”Why not tell me what your son/daughter is looking for--and I will be able to better respond to you....”


                    2.  Shlomo Hamelech teaches us “Lev Tzadik Yehega La’anos”--the righteous person thinks before he responds. Responses that are not weighed, sometimes referred to as ‘shotgun’ responses, might be exactly that--and cause injury to all concerned.


                    3.  Similarly, the Ramban on Chumash writes that the term Pessi in Hebrew, which is translated as an unwise person, is related to the word Pisom--sudden, for he acts or speaks without thinking. Accordingly, if one is unsure what to say to an inquiry over the phone--he should simply say that he can’t talk now...and take a number to call the person back after thinking it through, or asking a Shaila (The Chofetz Chaim Heritage Foundation Shemiras Halashon Shaila Hotline phone number in the United States is 718-951-3696, evenings from 9-10:30 pm, New York time).


                    4. One should be sure to give accurate information. Using vague terms, or terms which could be misinterpreted, is not fair to anyone. Saying that a boy is a B’aal Shitah, or ‘laid back’ or using other labels without defining them is patently incorrect.


                    5. A parent should make all necessary inquiries before a first date--and not say that he will look into it more after the second or third date, once it is determined that the boy and girl are more serious. When inquiring, one need not ask the same question to more people then necessary--instead one should carefully choose who he/she is asking the question(s) to.


To listen to the complete essential Shiur, one can obtain a CD by calling 718-252-5274.



WORD TO THE WISE!  An important follow-up to the previous note is the instruction of the Chofetz Chaim: Machmas Sofek Lo Haya Lo Ledaber--if one is in doubt as to whether to speak or not--do not speak. This is a simple, golden rule--which we can all make use of--many of us on a daily basis--and one has the Chofetz Chaim himself to rely on and back him up!  Hakhel Note: There are of course times when hurt can come from not saying something--and it is for those potential situations that one should consult his Rav or Posek, or contact the Shemiras Halashon Shaila Hotline....



GETTING CLOSER TO HASHEM!  At the outset of the Sefer Mesilas Yeshorim, the Ramchal teaches that one’s goal in life should be to grow in his Deveikus to Hashem.  Perhaps the most common way to meet this essence-of-life goal is to have the concepts of Shivisi Hashem Lenegdi Samid and Ain Ohd Milvado with oneself (and better yet on his lips) throughout the day.  There is an additional important daily avodah in this area. HaRav Naftali Kaplan, Shlita, brings from the Alter of Kelm, Z’tl, that any ‘small’ act that we do during the day--if consciously done for the sake of Heaven--forges the very same bond. Thus, even when one puts on or ties the appropriate shoe first (depending on whether he is a righty or a lefty), not because it is easier or more convenient--but because he wants to do the will of Hashem--he is taking a very real step closer to the essence of man.  Just as a fine young chosson or kallah would like to do anything to please or demonstrate their love to their mate--so too should one proceed though the day with the awareness of his pursuit of this supernal aspiration. One should especially remember that the degree of Deveikus--albeit so snubbed and rejected by western society as life’s purpose--will dictate and define his closeness to Hashem in Olam Haba--forever!




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



Special Note Two:  In this week’s Parasha, we find that Moshe Rabbeinu’s name is not mentioned, and we understand that this occurred because--in his defense of B’nai Yisroel--Moshe Rabbeinu said to Hashem: “V’Im Ayin Mechaini Na…(Shemos 32:32) that in the event Hashem would not bear the iniquity of K’lal Yisroel for the sin of the egel, then he should be erased from the Torah.  Because he said these words--in our defense--his name was “erased” from the Parasha.  We may suggest that although we may not be able to compare ourselves to Moshe’s Rabbeinu sublime and supernal madreigos and the chut hasa’arah for which he was held responsible, there are certain words which we can also avoid in our own level and in our own way.  A few examples:  “My tooth is killing me.”, “I am really dead now.” or “I am finished.”, “I would give my right arm for that”,”I am going to cheat a little bit on my diet.”…are a few examples.  Let us keep our words precious--for they really are!



Special Note Three:  Two articles of the Kohen Gadol which had to stay together when worn--were the Choshen and the Aifod--the breastplate and the apron.  Thus, the Choshen was tied on all four corners to the Aifod.  This requires some explanation.  After all, the Choshen was intended to provide forgiveness for the sin of “Kilkul Hadin--perverting justice.”  On the other hand, the Aifod was to provide forgiveness for the sin of Avoda Zara.  Why did these two articles--which brought about kapara for such diverse sins need to be tied together? 


HaRav Moshe Feinstein, Z’tl, explains that these two avairos are very much “connected”, for they both involve the grave sin of kefira--denial of Hashem.  When one worships Avoda Zara, even if he joins it with service of Hashem, he is denying Hashem’s Omnipotence.  So too, with someone who deals dishonestly in monetary matters.  If he feels that he can outsmart his colleague, customer or competitor, if he purchases a product with “shtick” in order to save money, if he takes advantage of a big company “because everybody does”, or if he gently pads his time…--all of these provide indication that the person believes that he is in control of his financial destiny--that it is he, his mental prowess, or his technical skill, who will determine whether he is or will be poor, middle-class or wealthy.  We are therefore, enjoined to always remember to keep the Choshen together with the Aifod--for we must always realize that just as we would never, ever, think of worshipping an idol, or the sun, or the stars in any form or manner--for that matter, so, too, should we never, ever cheat, lie or steal in any form or manner in our lives.



7 Adar I

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



USE DOVID HAMELECH’S EITZAH! The Pasuk teaches us that after Shimi Ben Geirah cursed Dovid HaMelech at Avshalom’s rebellion, Dovid’s reaction was: “Elokim Amar Lo Kalel”--it was from Hashem that he cursed me. Thus, rather than unleashing back at Shimi, or taking revenge against him in a way that many believed he should have--Dovid instead took a step back and recognized that all of his life’s experiences were messages from Hashem. Each and every one of us can take this lesson to heart when someone speaks to him in a put-down, nasty, rude, disgracing, disrespectful or humiliating manner. Rather than react in kind--which could even be recognized or understood by those around you, react with the words of “Elokim Amar Lo…”--this is from Hashem, and end the incident before it goes any further. Apply it even to close family members and friends. One can thereby turn a dishonor of Hashem into an act of sublime Emunah. Please keep this in mind--and use it--the next time it happens!



MORE THAN A SUMMER HOME! Chazal (Vayikrah Rabba 11:3) teach us on the Pasuk “Chochmas Nashim Bansa Beisa” that the Pasuk refers to the study of Torah--for one who has acquired Torah has acquired a home for himself in Olam Haba. Some might view it as a special level of success in this world to have a ‘summer home’, ‘winter home’ or even second home--whether in the country, Florida or even Eretz Yisrael. Chazal teach us that if one has to be selective in the type of additional home he is working on--he should focus on the home that will last forever, and ever and ever. The focus starts with improving some aspect of one’s Torah study…! Getting to the Shiur on time, not getting sidetracked while learning, having goals…everyone in accordance with his particular need for ‘home improvements’!




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



Special Note Two: 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 Three:  In the Parasha, we learn of the construction of the Mizbe’ach HaKetores, upon which the Ketores was brought, which Chazal teach brought forgiveness for the private sin of Lashon Hara.  The Chofetz Chaim writes that the study of the laws of Lashon Hara assist one in staving off Lashon Hara--for a person more fully appreciates and understands what speech is permitted, and what speech is not. It is extremely important to note, however, that the Chofetz Chaim also composed a Tefillah (there are short and long versions of it) for one to recite, in which one prays for Hashem’s assistance to be saved from improper speech.  There are so many situations, circumstances and temptations in our lives--that even those who study the laws still need the extra Tefillah that they be freed of those who are not careful in this regard, and of those tempting, instinctive and even unclear situations.  We once again provide the Tefillah by the following link --  http://tinyurl.com/cz4b2gw   Bringing the Ketores was part of the Avodah every day; we too should be sure to make our Tefillah to be saved from Lashon Hora an important part of our own daily Avodah as well!



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


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


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



6 Adar I

QUESTION TO OUR READERS: Some readers have suggested that the Bulletin be made shorter, as they do not have time to read all of its contents. While we know different areas are typically covered in each Bulletin, we try to make each Headnote or Special Note a short one, so that each reader can try to read what he can. We have been advised, however, that there are those who feel that because the entire Bulletin cannot be read--they do not read any of it. We would very much appreciate your view, as we are trying to do what is best for the K’lal.  Please respond to this email.



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



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




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



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



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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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



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



3 Adar I

ADAR I OR ADAR II? When did the nes of the Milchama on Purim occur--in Adar I or Adar II? Rabbi Shlomo Pearl, Z’tl, brings three shitos:


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


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


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




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


A. By the following link we provide an Erev Shabbos Checklist  http://tinyurl.com/gw7c8mk  from the Hilchos Shabbos Imitative, L’Zechus Refuah Sheleimah L’Chaya Malka Bas Bassheva. To receive the Hilchos Shabbos Initiative weekly Shabbos Halachos, email learnshabbos@gmail.com:


B. 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; Mishna 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!


C. 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.


D. 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 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; as an aside, one should ask his Posek whether he should eat corn on the cob or whether there is an issue of tola’im with respect to it); (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, once 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 of 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!



2 Adar I

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


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


Hakhel Note: During Shovavim, some have raised their level in an area or areas in which they felt a faltering.   If one feels the special time has passed by without making a real mark on him this year, may we propose the following brief but potent idea:  The Sefer Chovos Halevavos explains that the essence of a person is his thoughts--and this is where his Bechira Chofshis really lies, for whether or not (and in what manner) one effectuates his thoughts will be determined by Hashem’s especially dedicated Hashgacha Pratis over him.  One’s thoughts are therefore his true and very personal and personalized expression of self.  HaRav Chaim Friedlander, Z’tl, in Sefer Sifsei Chaim especially emphasizes the importance of ‘Rikuz HaMachshavos’-consistently focusing one’s thoughts towards what is right and away from wrong.  Failure to develop in this area affects one’s entire being, for it is not just the brief or passing improper thought that has entered and spoiled, but it is the impervious downgrade of one’s character and attitude that results from the improper notion or thought.  Accordingly, may we suggest that one attempt to go through a day (starting today, perhaps here and now) resolving not to have or allow a thought today that he would be embarrassed about in front of a close family member or friend--and certainly not in front of Hashem who knows all thoughts.  When one is aware that the thought is coming or has come--he should quickly banish it by reminding himself that the thought is not him--but like a foreign bacteria or virus, is there to harm him--in this case in a spiritual and everlasting way.  The gauge of ‘will this embarrass me’ is a simple but effective one.  Even if one feels that this is not possible for it is too much of a ‘cold turkey’ response to his thoughts until now--it should definitely be made a part of one’s day when he becomes aware of an unbecoming, unacceptable or inappropriate thought--and, realizing it, moves to cleanse and clarify his thoughts--and his life.



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


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




Special Note One: We continue today a short series culled from the Sefer Hizharu BeMamon Chaveireichem, by Rabbi Avraham Tovalsky, Shlita. 




A. Questions and Answers:


1. Q: If one avoids a line of waiting customers because he knows a worker or the store owner--has he done something wrong?  A: If that person has the authority to allow someone to avoid the line, then he may do so.


2. Q: Can a person who does not have to be on a line serve as a  ‘shaliach’ to save a space on the line for a friend?  A: Yes--just a he could save a space for himself--he can save a space for a friend who is not yet there.


3. Q: If one waited a moment on line, and asked the person in front of him to watch his place--may he come back a little while later?  A: Yes, the purpose of the line is for there to be order--nothing is being done to disrupt that order.


4. Q: One is waiting on a line and is approached by a relative or friend to buy something for him, so that he does not have to wait on line. Is one stealing the time of others in back of the line by doing so--or will this lead to unnecessary suspicion, anger, machlokes and chilul Hashem?... A: Perhaps you can provide the answer yourself.


5. Q: If one wants to open a window on a bus--need he ask the person in back of him or to the side of him in order to do so? A: One need not do so, for if the open window bothers another, he will ask for the window to be closed and in that event is should be closed.


B. One time, Rebbi Yehoshua Leib Diskin, Z’tl, heard a Kel Malei Rachamim prayer recited for the Neshama of a niftar. In the course of reciting the Tefillah, the reciter stated that the Tefillah for an aliyas neshama was being made in the zechus that those present were giving Tzedakah on its behalf (ba’avur she’nosnim Tzeadaka ba’avuro). Rebbi Yehoshua Leib promptly gave the shammash of the Shul some money--advising him that he was giving it on behalf of those present, so that the words of the reciter were true and that nobody stumbled in the halachos of pledges.


C. Among the Kabbalos of Rebbi Moshe Teitelbaum, Z’tl (the Yismach Moshe): To correct matters relating to money--and only afterwards to correct matters Bein Adam LaMakom!



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

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

  HaRav Salomon brings one way in which one can determine whether in fact he experienced Simcha Shel Mitzvah.  He analogizes to one coming home from a Chasunah.  How did you feel when you came back--”I had nothing to do”  “I was bored”  “I am still hungry”--or “I am so happy for the Chosson and Kallah”  “What a great Simcha”  “I felt real Achdus there.”  Your feelings after the Chasunah will give you the insight as to how meaningful it was for you.  Similarly, after you Daven, after you study Torah, or after you perform the other 611 Mitzvos--Do you feel uplifted? Do you feel happy? Do you feel accomplished? One can help himself grow in attaining Simcha Shel Mitzvah with some Hachana, simple preparation before doing a Mitzvah.  Reflect for a moment--what a great opportunity doing this Mitzvah is--what a great right--what a great privilege--from Hashem Himself

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



1 Adar I

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



IMPORTANT INSIGHT! In the Bein Adam L’Chaveiro area, Rabbi Yisroel Reisman, Shlita, 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.



IS ICE CREAM OR ICES A LIQUID OR A SOLID? The difference l’ma’aseh is whether you make a bracha achrona. If the ice cream or yogurt is considered a solid, you have up to three or four minutes to eat a k’zayis to make a borei nefashos. If it is a liquid, you must consume a reviis in a K’dei Shesiyas Reviis (less than a minute), which is impossible. The answer to this question is a great machlokes haposkim. According to Rabbi Aleksander Mandelbaum, Shlita, in Sefer V’zos HaBrocho, because of the machlokes, one should not make a bracha achrona on these items, but instead should preferably exempt these items with a borei nefashos on something else. Rabbi Yisroel Pinchos Bodner, Shlita, in The Halachos of Brochos follows the p’sak of Harav Shlomo Zalman Auerbach, Z’tl, that ice cream is considered a solid, and if a k’zayis is eaten within three minutes, a borei nefashos would be required. However, ices would be considered a liquid according to Rav Auerbach because it is made only with water and flavors (and not with eggs or other ingredients) and no borei nefashos would be made. Hakhel Note: As in all situations, one should consult with his Rav or Posek for a final ruling.




Special Note One: In light of the tremendous lessons derived for each and every one of us from Parashas Mishpatim, we commence today a short series relating to the proper conduct with the money of others, as culled from the Sefer Hizharu BeMamon Chaveireichem, by Rabbi Avraham Tovalsky, Shlita. 




A. The Sefer Kav HaYashar (52) provides the following principle: “One cannot judge a person by his general character or ostensible appearance. One should know, however, that if a person is careful that his money is not in any way gezel, does business with Emunah, and does not want to benefit from the possessions of others--you should know that this person is certainly a Tzaddik V’Yashar. The ikar Yirah and Tzidkus of a person is expressed by his attitude towards money. When a person conducts himself in an upright manner and his money is Kosher--you can be  assured that he is a Tzaddik Gamur of whom Dovid Hamelech writes: “Yagi’ah Kapecha Key Sochel Ashrecha V’Tov Lach--when one benefits from the work of his hands, he is fortunate and good will befall him--he is fortunate in this world and good will befall him in the next world (Tehillim 128:2; Brachos 8A).


B. When a person pays a worker on time, then in addition to his reward in Olam Haba, he will be zoche in Olam Hazeh to a Nefesh Kedusha which is called Neshama Yeseirah. This is alluded to by the words of timely payment in the Torah--BeYomo Titein Secharo, whose first letters spell Shabbos upon which day the Neshama Yeseirah is also given to a person (Sefer Negid U’Mitzvah). According to others, the Neshama Yeseirah that one receives in the upcoming Shabbos is enhanced (Neiran). Hakhel Note: Either way--timely payment translates into Neshama Yeseira!


C. The Peleh Yoetz writes that if a Jew c’v steals something from an akum, he causes the angel which represents that person’s nation in Shomayim to take away shefa from the Kedusha which was intended for K’lal Yisrael! The Ben Ish Chai adds that because of the inyanim amukim--deep matters involved in this, tzarich lehizaher me’od--one must be extremely careful not to violate this prohibition.


D. One of the great Ba’alei Mussar (Rebbi Avrohom Zalmens, Z’tl, of Novordak) was asked--is it permissible to borrow money from another if the borrower knows that in the normal course of events he will not be able to repay the loan--even if he feels true bitachon that Hashem will help him to pay it back on time. The Rav answered him--turn the tables and test yourself--if you yourself would be ready to lend this money to him, relying on his bitachon that he will pay you back--then you can borrow the money based upon your bitachon. If you would not rely on his bitachon to repay a loan--then you may not rely on yours!


E. Dovid Hamelech (Tehillim 24:3) asks: “Me Ya’aleh BeHar Hashem…who may ascend the mountain of Hashem and who may stand in the place of His sanctity?” In the next Pasuk, he answers the question: “Neki Chapayim U’var Leivav--one with clean hands and a pure heart.” The Chofetz Chaim explains that the pasuk is teaching that one who has dishonest money is far from the Har Hashem and is pushed away from a place of Kedusha on high. This is exactly why, the Chofetz Chaim continues, that Chazal teach that someone who is guilty of the sin of gezel is not permitted entry into the mechitzah of HaKadosh Baruch Hu. Accordingly, concludes the Chofetz Chaim, a person should place the Pasuk of Me Ya’aleh in front of him at all times--because through this Pasuk we clearly remind ourselves upon what our future p’sak din of attaining Mekom Kadesho is based!  



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


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



Special Note Three:  Why do we read Hallel on Rosh Chodesh, at the beginning of every new month?


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


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



30 Shevat

GREAT DISCOVERY! The Rabbeinu Bechaya provides an outstanding insight (Shemos 18:21) into how great Middos really are. He points out clearly that the Torah’s praise of Noach, Avrohom Avinu, Yaakov Avinu, and Moshe Rabbeinu relates to their Middos--not to their degree of chochma or tevunah. By the following link http://tinyurl.com/hagghho we provide the outstanding words of Rabbeinu Bechaya, provided to us by a Rav in Brooklyn.



RIBBIS ALERT! No lease or contract between Jews may contain provisions for the payment of interest without a Heter Iska. As a practical matter--this means that an apartment lease or an equipment lease among Jews cannot contain a late payment interest charge. Additionally, paying ‘a point’ or ‘points’ as an origination fee on a loan involves serious and potentially insurmountable ribbis issues. Let the parties and the attorneys beware! For further information, please consult with your Rav or Posek, or see The Laws of Ribbis by Rabbi Yisroel Reisman, Shlita (Artscroll).



FIVE MONTHS OF ACCOMPLISHMENT! Since the inception of 5776, we have hopefully succeeded in five months of real accomplishment. Whether or not we have succeeded to the extent we wanted to--we have eight 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 I begins--today or Sunday 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:  Why is last week’s Parasha of Mishpatim, which contains the basis of so much of our financial and civil law, brought in the Torah prior to the building of the Mishkan, which is the core of this coming week’s Parasha?  It seems like such a stark contrast between two items at opposite ends of the spectrum--the Aron HaKodesh on the one hand--and $ 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.  The Bais Halevi, however, 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 Behar 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 One:  As we noted yesterday, our mandate to strive for honesty and integrity is recorded in Shulchan Aruch (Choshen Mishpat 231:14) which requires us to err and give a little more from our side when weighing or measuring for another--as the Pasuk teaches”Vatzedek Yiheye Loch (Devorim 25:15), which Chazal teach means “Tzadek Mishelecha Vetitten Lo” (Bava Basra 68B).


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


The goal of being a N’ki Chapayim is not for the Rabbis and Scholars, and not left to the high Holy Days.  It is the calling of the descendants of 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!


It is no secret to anyone that Parashas Terumah this week follows Parashas Mishpatim of last week--ostensibly shouting out to us that if we follow the Torah’s teachings in money matters--then we get to the immediately following step --building the Mishkan!



Special Note Two:  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 Tzadkim 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!



Special Note Three: As we all know, “Mishenichnas Adar Marbin B’Simcha--when one enters into Adar, we increase our joy” (Taanis 29A).  There is discussion in the Achronim as to whether this increased level of joy commences with Adar I--i.e., tomorrow!  The Sefer Adar U’Purim by HaRav Yoel Schwartz, Shlita as well as the Aishel Avrohom (Butshatsh) both learn that in fact the joy commences with Adar I.  HaRav Schwartz understands this from the term “Mishenichnas”, which indicates that the initial entry into Adar warrants the increased degree of happiness.  He adds from the Sefer HaTodaah (by HaRav Eliyahu Kitov, Z’tl) that the Mazal of Adar is “Dagim”, which is “fish” in the plural (as opposed to Dag, in the singular), in order to indicate that the Mazal of both months of Adar is identical, and that they are both to be infused with joy.  The Shaalos Yaavetz (2:88), however, regards only the Adar which is close to Purim as the Adar of Simcha.


If we are “strict” in this matter, and rule that we must begin our increased Simcha in Adar I, 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 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. Since tomorrow is Shabbos--you can post the signs today!


Hakhel Addendum: We are pleased to note that HaRav Chaim Kanievsky, Shlita, is of the opinion that “Mishenichnas Adar Marbin B’Simcha” applies to Adar I as well, based on the fact that  there is a mitzvah to especially increase our Seuda on Purim Katan (the 14th of Adar I), as is brought by the Rema in his very last words to all of Shulchan Aruch, Orach Chaim (Chapter 697).  HaRav Kanievsky adds that the way we can express our Simcha in Adar is “if one has a Siyum, or other Simcha to make, he should make it in Adar” (Derech Sicha p. 187).



29 Shevat

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?



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 the following link http://tinyurl.com/qfreqtd  Please spread the word--cleanse yourself and your previous generations! What a zechus!



VERAPOH YERAPEH:   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 (last week’s Parasha--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 again (Sefer Talelei Oros).



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: We once again emphasize that 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 the HaRav Nosson Zvi (B’R’Moshe) Finkel, Z’tl--the Alter of Slabodka --who merited being the teacher of so many of the next generation Gedolim--HaRav Aharon Kotler, Z’tl, HaRav Yaakov Kamenetsky, Z’tl, and HaRav Yitzchok Ruderman, Z’tl, to name only a few.  His towering personality encompassed all areas of personal growth. Here is just one incident (brought in the Sefer Me’oros HaGedolim):  The Alter approached a recently married student, 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 which one has even greater obligations, and for which it is even a greater Mitzvah.  When performing a Mitzvah Bein Adam LaMakom--one should never forget the Bein Adam L’Chaveiro 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, Z’tl, 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 Ma’aseh 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 [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!


26 Shevat

FROM A READER: “In this 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!”



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!




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 noted last week 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:  What an important reason to learn Halachos of Shabbos! Once again, if you need a format to help guide you, we strongly recommend the Sefer Shabbos Beshabbato (arranged by Parasha) in Hebrew, and The 39 Melachos by Rabbi Ribiat, Shlita, in English.  Imagine if only one Shabbos act is improved upon by only one person at the table--what a wonderful accomplishment...and even if everyone already knew everything, aren’t you showing a special chiba and affection for Shabbos by showing that you want to get it right!


B.  HaRav Chaim Ozer Grodzinski, Z’tl, asks in the name of HaRav Chaim Brisker, Z’tl why it is that the Aseres HaDibros must specifically enjoin 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, one 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!


C.  There is an amazing ruling contained in the Shemiras Shabbos KeHilchasa (46:5).  If one realizes that because he is davening Mincha on Erev Shabbos he will not be able to be mekayem the Mitzvah of tosefes Shabbos for even two or three minutes--then it is better to daven beyechidus--privately and not with a Minyan--earlier--in order to be mekayeim the Mitzvah of Tosefes Shabbos.  A close talmid asked HaRav Shmuel Kamenetsky, Shlita about this Halacha--and he responded that ‘avada’--of course --it is correct--for this is the Mitzvah of tosefes Shabbos which according to many is a Mitzvas Asei  D’Oraysa!



Special Note Two: The S’forno 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.


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



Special Note Three: We provide the following short questions and answers 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.


  1. 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).


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

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


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

A:  The Chazon Ish (brought in the Sefer Pe’er HaDor) told his students that there is not even a “lifnim 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).


  1. 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.


  1. 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.


  1. 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 Four:  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 you leave 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 Five:  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 Six:  The Sidras Mishpat Moshe on many practical topics in Choshen Mishpat was published in 5758 under the auspices of HaRav Yisroel Belsky, Z’tl, (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!


25 Shevat

QUESTION OF THE DAY ONE:  Can you identify the only body organ that can be moved from its position inside of our body to outside of the body?  Why is this so?  What does this teach us?


QUESTION OF THE DAY TWO:  The Moshiach B’EH comes today--what cell phone takana will you be able to tell him that you made?




Today is the 133rd yahrzeit of Rebbi Yisroel Salanter (B’R’ Zev Vulf), Z’tl, whose light shines so glowingly until this day.  Of course, much has been written, studied and learned about the life of this great Torah Sage.  In the last few hours of his life, it is said that Rebbi Yisroel opened a conversation with his attendant about the fear people have of being alone in a room with a deceased person.  Rebbi Yisroel assured the man that the fear was groundless because a deceased person can harm no one.  A few hours later, Rebbi Yisroel passed away with no one present except for that attendant.  Rebbi Yisroel was niftar in the week which we read Parashas Mishpatim, which contains many of the laws Bain Adam L’Chaveiro--between man and his fellow man.  The time of his passing, then, serves as a reminder to us to rejuvenate and rededicate ourselves to proper conduct with, and care for, our fellow man.  


We provide the following points and pointers in his honor:


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


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


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


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


C.  In this week’s 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! 


D.  The Parasha specifically teaches us “Midvar Sheker Tirchak--stay away from falsehood” (Shemos 23:7).  The unusual term used by the Torah--to distance oneself--from untruth should cause us to picture in our minds how we would react when a wild dog or vicious anti-Semite was coming down the block.  Our reaction to untruth should be no different.  So, how can we help ourselves grow further and further in this area?  It is known that Rebbi Yisroel Salanter, Z’tl, would encourage the constant, meaningful repetition of a phrase in order for its message to penetrate into your heart and, deeper yet, into your soul.  Although, we may not feel as we should the direct connection between ourselves and some of the Halachos in this week’s Parasha (such as the laws regarding laborers or oaths) because our long and dark exile has distanced us from our land and our way of life, perhaps we can at least build on the important phrase “Midvar Sheker Tirchak”.  As we meet situations at home, in the office, and in the marketplace, in which our honesty, or even shades of it, is tried or tested, let the words of the Torah resound from within and emanate from without.  The Navi (Tzephania 3:13) simply and starkly teaches us who will be left of us as the End of Days:  “She’ayris Yisroel…Lo Yidabru Kazav--the remnant of Israel…will not speak deceitfully.”  Let us work hard, very hard--let us overcome the world around us and the temptations from within—in order to be one of those very special, everlasting Remnants of Israel!


E.  We provide several poignant remarks that he made, and comments about his life, excerpted from Sparks of Mussar, by HaRav Chaim Zaitchik, Z’tl:

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

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

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

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

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

  • A learned, G-d fearing shochet came to Rebbi Yisroel and told of his wish to leave his job because he was afraid of bearing responsibility for the prohibition of neveilah (improperly shechted meat).  ”What will you do to earn a living?” inquired Rebbi Yisroel.  ”I will open a store,” was the reply. Rebbi Yisroel was amazed.  ”You are worried about Shechita, which involves only one prohibition of neveilah.  How much more is there to worry about a store, which involves many prohibitions, such as stealing, oppressing, coveting, cheating, lying and keeping inaccurate measurements?”  Hakhel Note: Today, we are blessed with several excellent Halacha Seforim in English on Choshen Mishpat which deal with many, if not all of the pertinent issues.  Additionally, Hakhel has conducted several Yarchei Kallahs on these topics.  For tapes of the Hakhel Shiurim, please call: (718) 252-5274.

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

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

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

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


F.  Perhaps one of the most famous teachings attributed to Rebbi Yisroel are the 13 Middos (or Rules of Conduct) which he taught should be the guiding principles of one’s daily conduct.  The Luach Davar B’Ito notes that if one ‘works on’ each Middah for a week, he will be able to review each Middah four times a year.  We present the 13 Middos by the following link, in an easier Hebrew for all to study and grow from!   http://tinyurl.com/86cv8ed


24 Shevat




A PARASHA NEWSLETTER POSTING SITE: The following link posts many of the most popular Parasha newsletters (most are in Hebrew)…beautiful selections each and every week! http://www.ladaat.info/gilyonot.aspx



KAN MEFURESHES: Today is the Yahrzeit of HaRav Tzvi (B’ R’ Eliyahu) Guttmacher, mechaber of the Sefer Kan Mefureshes--which beautifully explains Mesechta Kinim. Study of the Sefer is a Segulah that can be used for all issues--minor to serious issues in which one needs a Refuah or a Yeshuah of any kind. As in the past, we provide some background to the Segulah:  HaRav Tzvi passed away at a young age, and when he was niftar, his father promised that whoever learns his son’s peirush will not need the care of a doctor.  HaRav Chaim Kanievsky, Shlita, has given copies of this Segulah to those who come to them for a Bracha for a Refuah.  For this Segulah, one learns the very first Mishna of the Mesechta with the Rav, Tosafos Yom Tov and the Peirush of Kan Mefureshes and then says the Tefillah printed in the Hakdamah of the sefer.  Follow the instructions printed there.  For further information, one can email chinuchlist@gmail.com We wish all of K’lal Yisrael only Gezunt!



SHATNEZ ALERT:  Hakhel had received a notice from the Vaad L’Mishmeres Shatnez regarding women’s garments.  The notice states that testing for Shatnez is recommended for women’s down coats, linen sweaters, woolen blend jackets, woolen blend skirts, woolen capes, woolen coats, woolen hats and woolen sweaters. For further information, please contact the Vaad at 877-4-SHATNEZ




Special Note One:  Now that we have moved through Matan Torah, we should be sure to take some of Matan Torah with us.  Everyone can take his own idea and go with it--we present here two  very practical suggestions.  One idea would be to choose a Pasuk to recite before learning in order to better appreciate what you are about to do.  If one would look at Tehillim 119--he would find a tremendous number of Pesukim (176 ) to choose from--all of which relate to Torah and the observance of its teachings.  Find a Pasuk that especially moves you--such as one that begins with the same letter as your name, or that you find especially touches you based upon your personal experiences.  A second idea would be to record in writing any one especial  item that you have taken with you from your just concluded study-whether your study was in a Shiur (yes, even a Daf Yomi Shiur), with a Chavrusa or on your own--with a special focus on something that you could apply practically in further study or in your life.  As the Ramban writes in the Igeres HaRamban--after you have completed your learning, search to see if there is something that can have an immediate impact, if there is something that you can fulfill right away.  Let us be richer from last Shabbos’ experience--we do have a ‘money tree’--or at least a tree of true wealth in our very own backyards--we just have to get a little better at realizing it--and harvesting it!



Special Note Two: 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 3,328 years ago!



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 Midda Tova, 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 this week’s 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 “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:  The Birchos HaShachar is an amazing listing of Brachos, thanking Hashem for so many important, life-giving gifts that he grants us daily.  Yet, they are  typically recited at the outset of davening, when we are tired, and may not have yet  particularly gotten ‘in’ to the davening, or when we are still subject to distraction.  How can we save these very, very special Brachos from not being given their due care and kavana?  We would like to reiterate a possible simple, and non-time-consuming suggestion.  Before reciting each bracha, simply look at and place your fingers on the words which constitute the end of the bracha , such as “Pokayach Ivrim” “Malbish Arumim”, “She’Assa Li Kol Tzorchi”.  In this way, you will know what you are making your bracha on--and this will give you a sense of focus and appreciation as you recite the important words of each and every bracha--properly thanking  and praising Hashem for what He gives you-- and truly acknowledging that He is the Source of this blessing among all others!


23 Shevat

NOT A TIME FOR SILVER AND GOLD: In the past, a reader pointed us to a potent Rabbeinu Bachaya 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 Bachaya 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!




Special Note One: As discussed yesterday, from last week’s Parasha we derive the Mitzvah of Bikur Cholim. In this week’s Parasha, the Torah writes: “VeRapo Yerapeih--and he shall provide for healing” (Shemos 21:19). Accordingly, we feel it very appropriate to provide our refresher on 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!


22 Shevat

HARAV CHAIM YISROEL BELSKY, Z’TL:  For those who were privileged to have had some personal contact with HaRav Belsky, the loss is a staggering one. His Gaon’us in Torah, Ahavas Yisrael and Chesed will certainly be demonstrated by Seforim, Shiurim and biographies on his unique and precious life to be brought to light in the near future. We recall how he painstakingly reviewed our first Bulletins, not only editing language in Halacha--but improving our grammar as well!  We would also sometimes send him Shailos by fax, and he would handwrite the answers--and fax them back! His life was dedicated to carrying on the mesorah of Halacha, providing the Halacha in new areas in the way that his Rebbeim would have paskened, and helping others better understand the Halachos and their underlying basis. When he gave a Halacha Shiur for us, it was invariably intertwined with practical hashkafa and effective mussar relating to the topic. In a typical Shiur, we would present him with a list of five to ten Shailos, and he would truly endeavor to answer all of them before ending the Shiur. He knew the areas that needed tikun--and spent time conveying his knowledge to K’lal Yisrael. A case in point would be “The Halachos of the Summer”, which we have presented in parts over the years. His specific knowledge of so much ‘scientific’ information made his p’sakim in the areas of electricity, brachos over contemporary foods, and other technical issues authoritative. He steadfastly held to his p’sakim, most recently in the areas of fish and water infestation, notwithstanding that other renowned Poskim disagreed. His vast knowledge of Halacha as it applies to each and every circumstance was legendary in his own time. For instance, a Shailah in one of our Shiurim was: “How can an older person be mekayeim the Mitzvah of Simchas Chosson V’Kallah if he can’t keep up with the dancing pace at Chasunahs?” HaRav Belsky responded that if one is genuinely happy at a Chasunah, his happiness will contribute to the Simcha in the entire hall--which will certainly be felt by the Chosson and Kallah. Another time, we asked him about what some referred to as “The Last Remaining Lachash”. That is, when one has a bone stuck in his throat, one should bring a bone of the same type, place it on the person’s skull and say “Chad Chad, Nochis Bola, Bola Nochis, Chad Chad.”  [Rebbi Akiva Eiger, Z’tl (Yoreh Deah 335, D’H Nasnah) brings from the Maharil that this lachash is the last one we can generally use even in our days--as it is still “boduk um’nuseh.” ] HaRav Belsky advised us that not only is this lachash in full force and effect in our time--but that he himself implemented it on two different occasions!  After September 11th, HaRav Belsky delivered a Shiur to an overflowing crowd who were seeking Da’as Torah at such a desperate moment. One of the questions presented was: “Should we daven that things ‘return to normal’”? HaRav Belsky responded: “Yes--most certainly we should. However, we must not lose focus on what is ‘normal’ to us. Normal means K’lal Yisrael living in Eretz Yisrael with a Beis HaMikdash as the focal point from which Kedusha emanates. We are never to lose sight of that fact!”


All are welcome to share their personal experiences with us. We will learn much about HaRav Belsky in the coming weeks. We should treasure the many lessons he has left for us, and look forward to seeing him again at the earliest possible Techiyas HaMeisim--B’Karov Bimheira Ve’yameinu.




Special Note One:  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. 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.  As we move farther and farther from Rosh Hashana 5776, it most certainly behooves us to become better--Yoseir MiMah She’Hayisi-- with our Koach HaDibbur today, on the Manchester Rosh HaYeshiva’s Yahrzeit. This would be an important step towards bringing 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 Two: 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 Three:  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 now?  Why is it so timely at this point? HaRav Simche Zisel Broyde, z’tl, provides us with a great lesson.  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: “Why is the giving of the Torah recorded in Parashas Yisro? Regarding the Torah it is stated Ein Tov Elah 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 this means that HaKadosh Baruch Hu turned the mountain over them (like a pot) and threatened the Bnei Yisrael. If you accept 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 the need to 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 in Birkas HaTorah of VeChayei Olam Natah BeSocheinu-- 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 life is impossible without it!”


D. In the last Pasuk of the Parasha (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 if one would have to walk up steps, he would act immodestly in light of the holiness of the place--thereby engaging in an inexcusable 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 , by concluding the Parasha in this way--the Parasha of Matan Torah-- is teaching us an outstanding lesson, and we must view it as timely and apply it in the coming week. Rather than ‘justifiably’ (just as it is justifiable to walk up steps) shaming, disgracing or embarrassing a person--we must be sure to turn the tables-- and instead replace the inappropriate, hurtful phrase or phrases with words of chizuk and expressions of encouragement!


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