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2 Adar

WHAT IS THE PURPOSE OF NIFLAOS HABOREI? What difference does it really make that we know that there are 60 trillion cells in the body, and that each cell gets the nutrients that it needs (calcium to bones, etc.)? In his recent Shiur, Rabbi Yaakov Astor, Shlita, brought in the name of HaRav Avigdor Miller, Z’tl, that, firstly, Niflaos HaBorei are to constantly remind us of a plan and purpose. Through our awareness of the world around us--which was created and exists only by Hashem’s Will--we recognize Hashem as the Source of anything and everything. We also feel the principle of sechar v’onesh, as we sense that everything has a purpose, and that our actions have consequences. Secondly, Hashem’s kindliness to us and to the world reiterates itself on a moment-to-moment basis! As we noted yesterday--we should be moved to recite Hodu LaShem Ki Tov Ki L’Olam Chasdo--with true feeling and fervor each and every day!



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



CONTINUING YOUR EMUNAH STUDY IN CHODESH ADAR: We remind you about a short (3-4 minutes) powerful Shiur of Chizuk on Emunah and Bitachon given by Rabbi David Ashear.   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#.



STARTING TO THINK ABOUT MISHLOACH MANOS: Now would also be a good time to begin thinking about not only who you have to send Mishloach Manos to, but also who would be truly moved and appreciative for being remembered, thought about, or reconciled with through the Mishloach Manos.  Rabbi Yechiel Spero, Shlita, in A Touch of Purity writes that in the phrase “Mishloach Manos Ish LeRei’eihu” both the word Ish and LeRei’eihu have the same Gematria to indicate the level of identification, affection, and oneness that one should have with another! 



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



MORE QUESTIONS AND ANSWERS:  To help continue to arouse the spirit of Mishenichnas Adar Marbim BeSimcha, we provide the following questions (this time--and answers!) relating to the events of Megillas Esther, which have been culled from the Sefer Sifsei Chachomim, introduction to Mesechta Megillah:


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


4. QUESTION: Why is Hashem’s name not written in the Megillah?


    ANSWER: There are several answers to this question:


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


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


C. Chazal (Chulin 139B) teach that the allusion to Esther in the Torah is from the Pasuk Veanochi Hastir Astir--and I will hide. Accordingly, we learn that Hashem wanted His name to be hidden from the events of Esther.



THE CONNECTION OF PARASHAS MISHPATIM TO PARASHAS TERUMAH: 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 bit of a different way.  He teaches that Hashem is indicating to us that the money that we use to build our spiritual goals in this world--cannot be just any money--but money that is pure and clean.  A person cannot ‘bless’ or justify tainted actions for tzedaka or spiritual causes.  The money given--as the giver himself--must be wholesome.  This lesson is beautifully furthered by Dovid Hamelech in Tehillim (24:3) with the moving words, fervently recited on the Yomim Noraim:  ‘Mi Ya’aleh BeHar Hashem U’Mi Yakum Bimkom Kodsho---N’ki Chapayim ... Who may ascend the mountain of Hashem, and who may stand in the place of His sanctity?  One with clean hands and a pure heart....


In fact, the Chofetz Chaim (in the Introduction to his Sefer Ahavas Chesed) writes that Hashem said that He loved Avrohom Avinu because he would teach his family ‘La’asos Tzedakah U’Mishpat...to do charity and justice’.  Tzedaka, righteousness, appears to be beyond the letter of the law whereas Mishpat is the letter of the law.  Avrohom Avinu would not be giving his children two contradictory messages--what does the Torah mean?  The Chofetz Chaim explains that there are two parts to a relationship--how a person acts to his fellow man, and how his fellow man acts towards him. One should use Mishpat--the strict letter of the law for everything that one is doing that involves someone else’s money, and be sure to avoid taking a penny that is not his.  On the other hand, when considering how another person is reacting to him, one should use tzedaka--employing a degree of flexibility and compromise--so that not everything is a fight or the ‘principle of the thing’, and so that one does not leave behind open, jagged potholes as he travels life’s road.  This is not simple or easy--but it is the path described by Dovid HaMelech in Tehillim, the path originally paved by Avrohom Avinu for all of his descendants, 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 1:  As we have noted in the past, 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 Lach” (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!



1 Adar

100,000 TODAY! At the recent Hakhel Yarchei Kallah, Rabbi Yaakov Astor, Shlita, in discussing Nefla’os HaBorei taught that the heart beats 100,000 times a day. In a year--this is 36,500,000 heartbeats--and in a lifetime, that number reaches the billions! Remember--Hodu LaShem Ki Tov Ki LeOlam Chasedo with sincere fervor--each and every day.



HALLEL ON ROSH CHODESH: 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 twelfth month of the year--Adar --is climactic--“Kol HaNeshama Tehallel Ka”--Let all souls praise Hashem!  [In fact, the reason we repeat the same Pasuk--Kol HaNeshama (i.e., a thirteenth Hallelu) when reciting this Chapter in the morning is to take into account second month of Adar--the thirteenth month of the year when it occurs!]  What appears clear from this is that our Avoda, our sacred and wonderful task, for this month is to raise our souls in the service of Hashem.


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



BARCHI NAFSHI: 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 (Medrash 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!





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


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


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


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


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



THE FIRST DAY OF ADAR: Now that we are at the first day of Adar, we are reminded of the words of Rav Dessler, Z’tl in Michtav Mai’Eliyahu (Volume 2, p.123).  Rav Dessler teaches that just as there are stages in the aveilus of Av beginning with Rosh Chodesh --which climax on Tisha B’Av, so too is there an increase in the Simcha one is to feel as he moves daily through Adar- reaching a pinnacle on Purim and Shushan Purim.  This avodah is not something that we wait until the last moment with.  Our joy is 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!



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


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

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


2. QUESTION: When Haman heard that Achashveirosh ordered him to take Mordechai around on the king’s horse--what did Haman suggest to Achashveirosh to give Mordechai instead?

ANSWER: He said that it would be enough to give him one village or one river (ibid.) Achashveirosh responded that he should be taken on the horse--and given what Haman had suggested!


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

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


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

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


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

ANSWER: (i) He decreed that no one could purchase a Jew as a slave--so that no one would be protected at the time of the intended annihilation (ibid. 11A); (ii) From the Pasuk of “LaYehudim Haysah Orah”--which teaches how the Jews celebrated after Haman’s plan was foiled, we learn what he decreed against: Orah--the study of Torah, Simcha--the observance of Yom Tov, Sason--bris milah, and Yikar--Tefillin. 

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



28 Shevat

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



THE YAHRZEIT OF THE ALTER OF SLABODKA--HARAV NOSSON TZVI FINKEL, Z’TL: Tomorrow, Shabbos is the Yahrzeit of the HaRav Nosson Tzvi (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.





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 Torah specifically enjoins us from allowing children to do work on Shabbos--after all, are we not already restricted across-the-board from allowing children to violate the Torah with the words of “Lo Sochilum--do not feed them, do not allow them to do prohibited acts?”  HaRav Chaim Brisker answers that the prohibitions of Shabbos are more chamur--they are more strict and severe, and accordingly by violating Shabbos laws, 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 much 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!


D. Last week, we had noted that if one has already been yotzei Havdala he should not be motzi a woman (see Shulchan Aruch Orach Chaim 296, Mishna Beurah seif katan 36). A reader asked us to affirmatively state that one who was already yotzei could be motzi a man in Havadala, based upon the principle of arvus. We accordingly so note, with the caveat that as in all matters of Halacha, one should consult with his Rav or Posek.



QUESTIONS AND ANSWERS ON THE PARASHA: 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 Shnayim Mikrah, published by his family after his Petirah (available in Seforim stores).


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

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


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

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


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

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


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

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


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

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


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

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


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

A:  There are two types of foods that we consume--a ma’achal mevorach and a ma’achal which is not mevorach. A ma’achal which is not mevorach weakens a person and brings impure and evil influence upon him, even sickening him.  On the other hand a ma’achal mevorach can remove sickness and is a great medication. What can one do (other than obviously eating the right foods and in proper amounts) to make his food a ma’achal mevorach?  Bentsching and making proper Brachos with simcha and tuv laivav. 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).



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 (this 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. The ultimate goal is dveikus--and Teshuvah! (Sefer Talelei Oros )

Hakhel Note: A clear reminder and incentive for Teshuvah Bechol Yom!



REPAIRING THE DAMAGE:  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! 



HOLINESS OF HOLINESSES:  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!



FOLLOWING THE LEAD:  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.



POSSESSIONS, POSSESSIONS: 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.





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 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!



CHOSHEN MISHPAT APPLIED:  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!



27 Shevat

FROM A READER: NEW ROUND OF MIDDOS CHALLENGES STARTING ON SUNDAY: HOW TO CONQUER TAIVAH. With the abundance of food, drinks and Purim parties happening around this time of year, the month of Adar is a great time to pause and consider how much we indulge in physical pleasures. Especially because Chazal teach us (Megillah 12a): Why did Hashem allow the Jewish people to be threatened with Haman’s evil decrees? Because they indulged in the feast of Achashveirosh. If we know that eating and drinking too much is unhealthy, why do we keep doing it? If we know that looking at questionable movies or images can harm our spiritual wellbeing, why can’t we stop? To gain insight into these questions, sign up for Middos Challenges - a FREE weekly email that offers tips and deep insights into mastering our middos. A new round of Middos Challenges will be starting this Sunday iyH, focusing on Taivah - how we can overcome our desires and temptations To sign up, click here. To see past emails, click here.



FROM A READER: “I am writing in response to your question of why we add Erev Vavoker V’ Tzaharyim, since we already said B’chol Eis.The peirush Siach Yitzchak in the Gra’s siddur, Ishai Yisrael, says that the phrase is referring back to Modim Anachnu Lach. L’chorah, he puts a period after Bechol Eis. That is the end of our expression of ho’daah.”


Hakhel Note: One reader provided this very same p’shat in the name of HaRav Shlomo Zalmen Auerbach, Z’tl. A third reader provided it on his own!



FOR BIRCHOS HASHACHAR:  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!



PRACTICAL PROBLEMS OF MEZONOS BREAD: The following exceptional excerpt is from the outstanding work The Laws of Brachos (Artscroll) by Rabbi Binyomin Forst, Shlita:


“Practical problems of “mezonos bread”:


A.  Franks, falafel and sandwiches: One who eats a filling meal of “frank-on-roll,” falafel or salami sandwich, regardless of the fact that the breads are kneaded with apple juice, is required by Torah law to recite Birkas Hamazon. Consequently, one who treats “mezonos bread” as cake often neglects a positive commandment of the Torah. The responsibility for this transgression is shared with the proprietors of the restaurants, since they serve these foods to a public often unaware of these halachic problems….


B.  “Mezonos challos”: Some caterers even serve “mezonos challos” at wedding banquets to save their guests the ‘inconvenience’ of al netilas yadayim and Birkas Hamazon. This practice is regrettable since the guests are encouraged to neglect their requirement of Birkas Hamazon. These challos are eaten before or during the meal in the place of normal challos, and are thus considered as pas ha’ba b’kisnin eaten together with other foods, which effects a k’vias seudah. However, one who eats cake or cookies for dessert need not be concerned with this problem. The cake is not eaten as part of the meal and does not combine with the other foods to effect a k’vias seudah (unless one eats a considerable amount of cake, in which case the cake alone may constitute a k’vias seudah).


C.  Airline meals: Airlines usually serve packaged kosher meals. These meals are commonly accompanied with a roll or bun marked “mezonos.” This practice is misleading and improper. Although the bun by itself may require only a mezonos (which is by no means certain), the fact that the bun is eaten with the other foods as a meal gives it a status of k’vias seudah. One must certainly wash, recite al netilas yadayim and hamotzi. One may eat the meal without the bun, recite a bracha achrona and eat the bun as a snack later during the course of the flight. In this case, one may perhaps rely on opinions which hold that one may recite mezonos on a roll of this type even if the taste of the fruit juice is not noticeable.”


Hakhel Note: Every person is faced with the challenge of Mezonos bread in various contexts--and must realize that there is no one to fool. Rather, he should consult with his Rav or Posek as to the appropriate conduct in the various circumstances with which he is presented.



SEICHEL! 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 an important lesson from these dogs and control our speech.   HaRav Chaim Kanievsky, Shlita adds that there was a nes--a miracle-- involving the dogs here. What was that Nes?  It was not, teaches 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!



IN HONOR OF THE PARASHA: We continue today a short series culled from the Sefer Hizharu BeMamon Chaveireichem, by Rabbi Avraham Tovalsky, Shlita. 






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!



26 Shevat

GET READY! At Monday’s Hakhel Yarchei Kallah, RABBI MOSHE TUVIA LIEFF, SHLITA, delivered a masterful Shiur on the Halachos and Hashkafos of Adar and Purim. To obtain a copy of the CD, as well as a copy of the CD’s of the other outstanding Shiurim by RABBI YISROEL REISMAN, SHLITA, RABBI ZEV SMITH, SHLITA, and RABBI YAAKOV ASTOR, SHLITA, please call 718-252-5274.



CAN YOU ANSWER THE QUESTION? 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 you?



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


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



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



IMPORTANT DEFINITION: In explaining the Mitzvas Asei of V’Ahavta L’Reiacha Kamocha, the Chofetz Chaim makes a point of emphasizing that one accomplishes this Mitzvah through Lachos Ahl Kavod Chaveiro U’Lesaper Bishevacho--to cherish his friend’s honor, and to speak his praises.


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



THE COMMON DENOMINATOR:  What is the common denominator among a cereal box, a soda bottle and a shampoo container?  They all make their way into your home in one form or another--and they all may contain messages or pictures which are equally inappropriate for your home.  Marketers try to sell product and are adept at finding ways to allure susceptible purchasers to their wares.  While the messages and pictures are certainly not the reason these products found their way into your special home, they will nevertheless be glaringly in front of you, and any family member, guest or friend--whether in your pantry, on your kitchen or dining room table, in the shower, in your bedroom...in short, like the Zefardea all over the house.  Of course, there are other consumables with inappropriate pictures or western-style messages which appeal to prurient interests--we name only a few.  Then, there are other products, circulars and advertisements which you don’t even purchase--but which get put into your mailbox, or pushed through your mail slot.  So, you say, what can you do--this is one of the prices to pay for galus--living in Rome with the Romans, no?  No-- not at all--one should encourage the manager of Kosher Supermarkets to especially avoid these products as a service to Hashem and his customers. Alert him to the presence of the alluring picture or the filthy message, and ask him to rid his store of the product.  When women go shopping, they should be on the lookout for products with labels or back-of-the-boxes unsuitable for the household, and especially for men and boys.  If men see a product which is questionable for their viewing, rather than taking a second look, they should ask a woman to take a look at it--or simply discard the label, wrapping or box as necessary.  Circulars delivered to the doorstep for clothing and department stores are especially suspect--and must be treated with great caution.  Some simply put it straight into recycling bin outside without as much as taking it out of its wrapping--with good reason!  We must remember that one inappropriate sight or thought can haunt a person for a long while thereafter--and especially when dealing with young and influenceable children and teenagers, the dangers can be especially deleterious.  Perhaps an important method of demonstrating your strong desire for the Geulah is not only by praying--but by actively demonstrating how the mores and desires of the world around us are an anathema to the purpose and goals of our lives-- in this world and the next.



IN HONOR OF THIS WEEK’S PARASHA: 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!



25 Shevat

NOT AN ALLEGORY! At yesterday’s Yarchei Kallah, Rabbi Zev Smith, Shlita, emphasized that the oft quoted Avos D’Rebbi Nosson which teaches: “Better one hundred times b’tza’ar than one time without tza’ar (or, easily)”, is not an allegory--it is literal. This means that learning one blatt of Gemara while in pain or with difficultly is viewed in Shomayim as 100 blatt without that pain or difficulty!



ON THE YAHRZEIT OF HARAV YISROEL SALANTER, Z’TL: Today is the 134th 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 Torah specifically teaches us “Midvar Sheker Tirchak--stay away from falsehood” (Shemos 23:7).  The unusual term used by the Torah--to distance oneself--from untruth should cause us to picture in our minds how we would react when a wild dog or vicious anti-Semite was coming down the block.  Our reaction to untruth should be no different.  So, how can we help ourselves grow further and further in this area?  It is known that Rebbi Yisroel Salanter, Z’tl, would encourage the constant, meaningful repetition of a phrase in order for its message to penetrate into your heart and, deeper yet, into your soul.  Although, we may not feel as we should the direct connection between ourselves and some of the Halachos in this week’s 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 taught in the Parasha--”Midvar Sheker Tirchak”--over the coming week.  As we meet situations at home, in the office, and in the marketplace, in which our honesty, or even shades of it, is tried or tested, let the words of the Torah resound from within and emanate from without.  The Navi (Tzephania 3:13) simply and starkly teaches us who will be left of us as the End of Days:  “She’ayris Yisroel…Lo Yidabru Kazav--the remnant of Israel…will not speak deceitfully.”  Let us work hard, very hard--let us overcome the world around us and the temptations from within--in order to be one of those very special, everlasting Remnants of Israel!


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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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



LISTEN TO THE MESSAGE: In his commentary in this week’s Parasha 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!



24 Shevat

QUOTABLE QUOTE: Filtering and monitoring do not kasher the Internet or eliminate the possibility to abuse it. Filtering and monitoring restore one’s bechirah so that his yiras shomayim may have a chance to protect him from aveiros.” [Excerpted from The Evolving Digital Challenge by Rabbi Nechemiah Gottlieb, Shlita].



TORAH TZIVAH! After our great Kabbalas HaTorah this past Shabbos--oh, how we should exclaim: “Torah Tzivah Lanu Moshe Morasha Kehilas Yaakov” with greater fervor and feeling each morning!


Hakhel Note: Two additional practical suggestions on taking Matan Torah with us:


1. 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. 


2. Write any one special  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!



SPEECH REVERSAL: Rabbeinu Bachya, in his introduction to last week’s Parasha, brings a Pasuk that Shlomo Hamelech, the wisest of all men, teaches in Sefer Mishlei (15:4):  “Marpeh Lashon Eitz Chaim--a healing tongue is a tree of life.”  Rabbeinu Bachya writes that a healing brought about through proper use of the tongue is an infinitely better cure than that of any standard or conventional medicine--because it not only heals but-- as the Pasuk clearly indicates--actually adds life itself to a person who until then had been a choli nefesh.  Now, we all know that sudden, all-encompassing reversals of a person’s conduct or manner of speech are difficult to accomplish.  What we could, however, begin with is taking that one person to whom you are most apt to speak to in an Ona’as Devorim manner (for he constantly annoys you, says the wrong thing, doesn’t treat or respect you properly, acts immaturely or improperly, etc.)--and work on him alone--I will not speak any Ona’as Devorim at all to him for the day or week--no matter the circumstances.  Instead, I will speak with nachas and aforethought--guided by my great desire to effect a ‘marpeh lashon’.  The same can be true for someone who you constantly find yourself speaking or hearing a word or sentence of lashon hora to or from--simply eliminate it as a choice for the next little while (if you can--tell the person about what you are doing--and it can become a joint project!). In this zechus, may the words of the wisest of all men--Marpeh Lashon Eitz Chaim-- ring true in your life--and may you be blessed with a lot more of it!





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


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


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


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


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


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



HALACHOS RELATING TO KRIYAS HATORAH:  Now that we all have received the Torah again in last week’s Parasha, we should feel energized with a new, unwavering and vibrant commitment to Torah study.  We provide several Halachos relating to Kriyas HaTorah from the Mishna Berurah--Dirshu Edition, (Chapters 147-149):


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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



21 Shevat



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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


4. A person can be Motzi others with Kiddush (who for some reason can’t do it themselves) even if he has already been Yotzei his Kiddush (we specifically note that this does not appear to be true of Havdalah).


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


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


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


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


 Hakhel Note Three: Rabbi Maimon Elbaz, Shlita, Founding Director of TorahShows, provides an essential, informative and inspirational audio-visual presentation on Shabbos.  [Rabbi Elbaz, in fact, has presented in 40 cities worldwide.  If you would like to reach him, he may be reached at torahshows613@gmail.com.]  To indicate how the Shabbos impacts on the coming week, Rabbi Elbaz shows how our five senses are used at Havdala.  With this, we demonstrate that our physical being has been significantly impacted, and that we will carry the spiritual essence of Shabbos with us into every aspect of our physical lives in the coming week!



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



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


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


Hakhel Point One:  The three Pesukim in Shofaros cited above refer to the great Shofar blast at Matan Torah.  The Rambam in Hilchos Teshuva writes (based upon the pasuk--Amos 3:6) that a Shofar is used because:  “Hayitaka Shofar BaIr Ve’Am Lo Yecheradu--can it be that a Shofar will be blown in the city and the inhabitants will not tremble?!”  Certainly, when tomorrow we take witness of the blowing of the Shofar for such a miraculously long period and from a non-human source--all the more so should we take heed of the awesome nature of the moment and act accordingly.  After experiencing the Shofar blast tomorrow, we must also rejuvenate our Teshuva Bechol Yom in a special way--as we look at our 5776 Kabbalah Sheet and plan for the future! 


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


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


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

2.                              The Shofar blast could be heard worldwide.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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


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



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


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



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


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


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


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


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


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



20 Shevat

ASIRI L’KODESH:  Today is Asiri LaKodesh, the conclusion of another ten-day period since Yom Kippur. May we sincerely recommend that you remember (and celebrate it)  today with extra special care in Shemiras HaLashon  Be careful--don’t say it if you are not sure that you can--as if it was Yom Kippur--and enjoy the control you can exert over yourself!



QUOTABLE QUOTE: Text cheapens and damages the emotional component in interpersonal communication. A mass Good Shabbos is not the same as a personal communication and an LOL or a smiley emoji does not impart the same warmth as laughter or smiles. A texted ‘sorry’ definitely does not communicate contrition in the same manner as a verbal request for forgivingness.” [Excerpted from The Evolving Digital Challenge by Rabbi Nechemiah Gottlieb, Shlita].





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


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


3. Preceding the Aseres HaDibros, the Pasuk (Shemos 19:19) records the background:  “Vayehi Kol HaShofar Holeich Vachazeik Me’od Moshe Yidabeir VeHaElokim Ya’anenu Vekol--and the sound of the Shofar grew continually stronger--Moshe would speak….” What is the simple meaning of the phrase at the end of the Pasuk-- VeHaElokim Ya’anenu Vekol?



EREV VAVOKER…: Every day in Modim of Shemone Esrei we exclaim that we thank Hashem for the miracles and for the wonders He does for us Bechol Eis--at all times, and then continue with the words Erev VaVoker V’Tzaharayim--evening, morning and afternoon. The question is obvious--if we have already expressed our thanks to Hashem for the miracles and wonders that He does for us at all times--why need we detail evening, morning and afternoon? A possible answer may be that the detail provides a special degree of thanks. For, though we ate dinner, davened Ma’ariv and had a comfortable bed to sleep in last night and the night before--this does not mean that we have a contract with Hashem for it to happen again this evening and the following evening. Similarly, our waking in the morning, being able to get dressed, being able to daven Shacharis, eating breakfast and being on our way repeated this morning in the same way as the previous day and the day before did not really have to be so. The same, of course, is true for every afternoon. One should pause for a brief moment when reciting each of Erev, VaVoker, V’Tzaharayim--to thank Hashem for each of these gifts today!



ANI MAAMIN: The Shelosha Asar Ikarim--the Thirteen Principles of Faith provided in almost all Siddurim after Shacharis, provides a wonderful, daily reinforcement of the basic principles of our Emunah. Indeed, many take the opportunity to recite the Thirteen Principles daily after Shacharis. However, because many are so familiar with the words and rushed at the outset of the day, this important Emunah reinforcement may get lost in a hurried recitation. In order to indicate the value of the Ani Ma’amins--one famous Rav suggested as a Kabbalah before Rosh Hashana for the year to take extra time and think about the first of the Ani Ma’amins every day. We may suggest that an outstanding reinforcement of your Emunah daily could take place, if you recite the 13 Ani Ma’amins together daily with a ‘partner’--whether in person or over the phone. The two individuals reciting the Ani Ma’amins together would engender greater focus and feeling in their recitation. This can be done at any time during the day--and may be an opportunity that you have been looking for--personal spiritual growth!



WHO IS YOUR SERVANT?:  Shlomo HaMelech, the wisest of all men, teaches us in Koheles (7:29):  “Asher Asah HaElokim Es Ha’adam Yashar VeHeimah Vikshu Chishvonos Rabim--Hashem has made man straight, but they have sought many intrigues [Artscroll translation]”.  The Chofetz Chaim asks:  This being the case--that Hashem has made man straight--how do we explain the Pasuk (Bereishis 8:21) “Ki Yetzer Lev Ha’adam Rah Mei’neurav--for a person’s inclination is evil from his youth”?  Indeed, the Chofetz Chaim forcefully adds--if Hashem says that it is Rah--then who can make it good?!  The Chofetz Chaim answers that many misunderstand what the words Rah Mei’neurav--evil from one’s youth really means.  The correct meaning is that if one looks at an innocent young child who has not sinned--he should view the child as Hashem’s pristine creation.  It is the person himself who--rather than exercising dominion over his Yetzer Hara--as Hashem has empowered him to--instead falls prey to it soon after he begins to make decisions on his own.  This occurs because one simply misunderstands and misuses his Yetzer Hara.  The Yetzer should truly be viewed as one’s eved, as one’s servant, to help him attain his goals in this world.  Instead, people sadly allow the Yetzer to rule over them.  Just as we can take a bitter vegetable and make it sweet with some effort--so too, concludes the Chofetz Chaim, can one take a mutinous servant who is trying to exercise dominion over him--and put the servant in his place!   Hakhel Note:  Many of us may not realize that we have a servant that accompanies us daily--and that this servant is given to us as a gift by Hashem.  Let us make sure we use him to the greatest extent possible--in a way that would make Hashem proud! 



THE FEELING OF JOY!  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 3,329 years ago!



TWO MILLION: Rabbi David Asher, Shlita (in a recent Emuna Daily) pointed out that, assuming one recites 100 Brachos daily and recites them for 70 years after his or her Bar or Bas Mitzvah, he or she will have recited more than 2,500,000(!) Brachos as an adult. Imagine, then, if one dedicates himself to a higher level of brachos recitation. He or she will then have 2,500,000 enhanced Mitzvos performed! Rabbi Ashear suggested that as a first step, one should divide his brachos into three parts: (i) Boruch Atta Hashem; (ii) Elokeinu Melech HaOlam; and (iii) the particular Mitzvah or item referred to in the bracha. Hakhel Note: What multiple outstanding enhanced daily opportunities!



19 Shevat

MODEH AFTER MAARIV: Chazal (Brachos 28B) teach that not only prior to commencing one’s studies should he daven to Hashem for success, but that he should also thank Hashem at the end of the day for having had the glorious opportunities to study Torah during that day. By the following link we provide a beautiful typeset of the Tefillah to be recited upon one’s completion of Torah study for the day, as published in the Oz V’Hadar (Mesivta) Shas  http://tinyurl.com/hmgtp55  One’s expression of proper appreciation demonstrates to Hashem how valuable he believes his Torah study really is!



YAHRZEIT OF HARAV YISROEL BELSKY, Z’TL: Today is the first Yahrzeit of HaRav Belsky, Z’tl: We recall how he painstakingly reviewed our first Bulletins (available at http://www.hakhel.info/archives.htm), 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 personally 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 (available at http://www.hakhel.info/archives_summer.htm ). 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!


HaRav Belsky once related the following Mashal:  “Reuven wanted to get from Brooklyn to New Jersey and drove his car to the Verrazano Bridge.  Upon arriving at the toll booths, he was stopped and told that he could travel no further.  Looking around, he saw people dressed in funny garb, and noticed a friend of his in the distance.  “Chaim, what is this all about?!”  Chaim responded:  “Don’t you know, today is the New York City marathon--I am running today, after having practiced for years, and intend run for miles and miles until I reach my destination at the finish line on Henry Street.”  Upon hearing the words ‘Henry Street’, Reuven was elated and exclaimed:  “Henry Street!  I can’t believe it! Do you know, Chaim, that my great-aunt lives on Henry Street.  She is homebound and I meant to get a couple of bags of potatoes to her so she could make latkes before Chanukah.  Incredibly, I even have the bags of potatoes in my trunk.  Would you mind taking them with you and bringing them to her after you reach the finish line?  Chaim, shocked at the request, had to advise Reuven that he wouldn’t even make it over the bridge carrying two bags of potatoes....  HaRav Belsky explained that people unnecessarily go through life with bags that weigh them down and so disturb them that it does not permit them to properly lead their lives.  They do not make it through the race for no good reason at all.  We have to know better--and not carry those bags of potatoes with us for the rest of our life!”


 After September 11th, HaRav Belsky delivered a Shiur to an overflow 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!”


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.



SHOVAVIM!  Incredibly, there are now less than two weeks left to Shovavim!  What can we do before this special period takes leave of us?  May we suggest that one take out his Viduy booklet or Yom Kippur Machzor--why view it as ‘out-of-season’--if we can use it so well now to review our personal status almost five complete months into the year? Perhaps each Ahl Cheit can be recited in a standing, bent over position, with feeling and resolve to do better.  These are the unwavering elements of Teshuvah:  Charata--remorse over the past; Kabbalah--the resolve to turn over a new leaf; and Viduy--expressing it to Hashem…and to ourselves!



WORDS TO KEEP ON ONE’S LIPS:  The following Emunah-filled words of advice were related by Yehonasan (the son of Shaul HaMelech) to his armor-bearer, although the forces of Bnei Yisrael were outnumbered by the Plishtim and were poorly armed:  “Ki Ein LaHashem Ma’atzor LeHoshe’ah BeRav Oh VeMe’at…for nothing prevents Hashem from saving whether through many or through few.”  (Shmuel I, 14:6).  Hakhel Postscipt:  The Plishtim were then routed, as Hashem caused a great terror to take hold of their entire camp.  Let us always remember that Hashem in any and all, and in every circumstance… is our Moshe’ah!



HALLEL--EVERY DAY?  Rebbi Yosi (Shabbos 118B) states:  “May my lot be among those who finish Hallel every day.”  The Gemara, however, questions Rebbi Yosi:  “But, one is not supposed to complete Hallel every day?!”  Rashi (ibid.) explains that there are certain times in which the Nevi’im instituted that Hallel should be recited to express one’s great thanks and praise to Hashem--and that it should not be an everyday experience.  Rebbi Yosi answers that he was referring to reciting Pesukei DeZimra.  Rashi explains that Rebbi Yosi was especially referring to the third and fifth chapters of the Hallelukahs (Hallelu Es Hashem Min HaShomayim--Tehillim 148 and Hallelu Kel BeKadsho--Tehillim 150) that we recite every morning.  What an especially great and important insight--the Pesukei DeZimra that we recite every morning is that which Chazal has instituted as our daily minimum of shevach v’hoda’ah to Hashem.  We should at least strive for the feeling of Hallel…when reciting Tehillim Chapters 148 and 150! 



HARAV CHAIM KANIEVSKY--ON ANGER!  We provide the following notes on the Middah of Ka’as--anger, from HaRav Chaim Kanievsky, Shlita, in the Sefer Orchos Yosher:


A.  Hashem loves three kinds of people--one of them is one who does not get angry (Pesachim 113B). 


B.  If one angers, it is certain that his sins are greater than his zechuyos (Nedarim 22B).


C.  If one angers, his wisdom leaves him, and even if he was supposed to be a great person, Hashem does not allow him to reach that position (Pesachim 66B). 


D.  The singular accomplishment of one who displays anger is only that--anger (Kedushin 41A).


E.  The Rambam (Hilchos Deios 2:3) writes that because anger is a Middah Ra’ah Ahd Me’od which one must avoid to the greatest of extremes, and not anger even over something that one may reasonably feel one can be upset about.  The Sefer Chassidim (Siman 655) brings the story of a son who honored his father greatly.  The father told the son:  “You respect me so beautifully while I am alive.  If you want to respect me after I am no longer alive, then I instruct you ‘Shetalin Ka’asecha Layla--that you withhold any anger that you want to express overnight’, and use this rule as your guidebook in life.”  The Sefer Chassidim then goes on to relate how the son listened to his father, and as a direct result of ‘sleeping on it’--the life of his wife and child were saved!


Hakhel Note:  There may be one or two people whom you know (perhaps a family member, a neighbor or a competitor) who always seem to irk you or rub your feelings the wrong way.  This may be Hashem’s special test to you in the Middah of Ka’as.  This is a chance to show your greatness!  Every night for the next ten days (except Shabbos) record every time you expressed anger against another.  Hopefully, the page will be left blank!



18 Shevat

AMAZING! HaRav Mattisyahu Salomon, Shlita, brings an amazing teaching from the Chida on the Pasuk “V’Ani Sefilasi Lecha Hashem Eis Ratzon Elokim B’Rov Chasdecha Aneini B’Emes Yishecha” (Tehillim 69:14). The Chida writes that we can extend an Eis Ratzon, a time that Tefillos are more accepted (such as Hadlakas Neiros, Bris…-- see Praying With Fire for other times of Eis Ratzon) by reciting the following Tefillah during the Eis Ratzon: “Ribono Shel Olam Bechol Eis She’espallel Lefanecha Ta’aneh Tefillasi V’sishlach Ezrecha Mekodesh--by reciting this Tefillah in the Eis Ratzon, any time and any place one is Mispallel it will simply be an extension of his Eis Ratzon Tefillah!  Indeed, the Chida explains--this is the explanation of the Pasuk: Hashem--what is my Tefillah to You in this Eis Ratzon--just this, that in Your great chesed please answer me any time that I daven for a Yeshua--as my Tefillah then originates from  my Tefillah in this Eis Ratzon!


Hakhel Note: We must appreciate the tremendous Koach of our Tefillos. The Ramban writes that the gezeirah of Galus that we suffered in the Galus Mitzrayim was extended from 400 years to 430 years because of our sins. That being the case, if we were on the 49th level of tumah even after 430 years--why were we redeemed then?! The Ramban’s answer--our cries to Hashem for Yeshuah…. Let us be mechazeik ourselves each and every time we daven with an appreciation of how great the koach of our Tefillos really is!



FOR THE SHLIACH TZIBBUR!  We provide by the following link a concise summary of pertinent Halachos for the Shliach Tzibbur, which Hakhel prepared in conjunction with The V’Ani Tefillah Foundation.  You will note that all of its contents have been approved by HaRav Yisroel Belsky, Z’tl, whose Yahrzeit is tomorrow.




TIME4MISHNA:  New Time 4 Mishna Cycle Began this past Sunday: Time4Mishna is an international program which involves learning 4 new Mishnayos each day from Sunday through Thursday reviewing that week’s 20 Mishnayos on Friday, and going over previous masechtos on Shabbos. A time commitment of just 15 minutes a day and you’ll finish Shas Mishnayos in 31/2 years--having reviewed it multiple times. For more information email time4mishna@gmail.com, or visit time4tora.com



WITH SPIRIT!  HaRav Chatskel Levenstein, Z’tl, is reported to have told his students that one should be especially careful to always properly utter the last of the Birchos HaShachar--HaGomel Chassodim Tovim LeAmo Yisrael.  HaRav Chatskel explained that this bracha is uniquely powerful because with the phrases Chassodim Tovim (beneficent kindnesses) and LeAmo Yisrael (to the entire nation of Israel), it is all-encompassing in nature.  There are, additionally, many significant Bakashos within this Bracha.  If one recites the bracha out loud, and word-for-word, he will gain a great insight into its omnibus nature--and to the Omnipotence of HaKadosh Baruch Hu in being able to grant all of these requests!



TESHUVAH FOR ALL:  The Sefer Tomer Devorah (Chapter 2) provides the following wonderful insight:  “Ve’afilu HaReshaim Ye’ehov Osam BeLibo VeYomar Mi Yitein VeYehiyu Eilu Tzadikim Shavim BeTeshuvah…and even sinners--he should love them in his heart and say:  ‘If only they would become Tzadikkim and do Teshuvah, becoming people who please Hashem with their actions.’  If one acts in this manner, he is following in the ways of Moshe Rabbeinu, the Ohev Ne’eman of K’lal Yisrael who said (Bamidbar 11:29):  ‘Mi Yitein Kol Am Hashem Nevi’im--if only the entire people of Hashem could become prophets!’….”


Hakhel Note:  There are two extremely meaningful lessons here:  Firstly, we must be sure to look to the unaffiliated--in spite of their deeds--in the hopeful light that they become Tzaddikim, returning in Teshuvah before Hashem.  Secondly, we must feel this way not only based upon our Bein Adam LeChaveiro--love of our fellow man, but also because we want Hashem, as our Father, to be pleased not only with our actions--but with the actions of all of His people.  We must remember that any time we hope and pray for our unaffiliated brethren, and certainly when we take action to help them--we are accomplishing in great measure both in Bein Adam LeChaveiro--and Bein Adam LaMakom!



L’CHAF ZECHUS! Rabbi Hillel Litwack, Shlita, in the Kuntres Mishpat Tzedek brings the following essential points regarding the daily Mitzvah of Dan L’Chaf Zechus:


1. The Mitzvah applies at all times and in all places, to males and to females, both with respect to what one would suspect to be an aveira of Bein Adam L’Makom or Bein Adam L’Chaveiro, including Aveiros D’Rabbanan.


2. Even if the person is a minor (katan or ketana), one must decide any safeik L’Chaf Zechus.


3. If a person is supposed to be Dan L’Chaf Zechus and instead is Dan L’Chaf Chova he violates the Mitzvas Asei of B’Tzedek Tishpot Amisecha.


4. If one was Dan L’Chaf Zechus, and it turned out that the other person was really guilty, one was nevertheless Mekayeim the Mitzvah of Dan L’Chaf Zechus.


5. Although one must be Dan L’Chaf Zechus, one should be chosheish that the person did something wrong to the extent of preventing him or others from harm if in fact a wrong was committed.



BAKOL MEKOL KOL: Every time we bentsch, we ask Hashem to bentsch us as He did Avrohom, Yitzchok and Yaakov--Bakol Mekol Kol. In the Daf Yomi recently (Bava Basra 17A), we learned four outstanding meanings of the brachos of Bakol Mekol Kol. If one has these Kavannos in mind when he bentsches, he is demonstrating how he too wants to attach to the brachos of the Avos! Indeed, Chazal teach Chayav Adam Lomar Masai Yagiya Masai L’Ma’asei Avosai L’Ma’asei Avrohom, Yitzchok, V’Yaakov--we must realize what their deeds led them to and join together with them to the greatest extent possible.



THE JOURNEY TO PARASHAS YISRO:  In the preceding Parashiyos of Va’eira, Bo, and Beshalach, we experienced what one may refer to as “physical miracles--with the Mitzriyim being punished and beaten, and their super power status being forever quashed, while the Bnei Yisrael were saved from the plethora of natural and super natural disasters, and becoming a free people with a wealth of Egypt with them to boot!  In Parashas Yisro, with Matan Torah we learn that there can also be spiritual miracles.  The Bnei Yisrael were elevated to the sublime status of “Mamleches Kohanim VeGoy Kadosh--a Kingdom of Kohanim and a Holy Nation.”  There is a very great and important lesson here.  We are not only capable of being the recipients of physical miracles in this physical world, we are capable of witnessing and being party to spiritual miracles here as well!  Indeed, as we have noted in the past, HaRav Dessler. Z’tl, teaches in the name of HaRav Yisroel Salanter, Z’tl that even when the Gates of Tefillah are closed, the Gates of Tefillah for Ruchniyus are never closed.  One can truly aspire to attain and pray for spiritual heights which he previously thought were simply unattainable.  In short, the Gates Are Wide Open--one can daven for a miracle in Ruchniyus!  In fact, Chazal teach:  “Le’Ukmai Girsa, Siyata DeShimaya Hu--one must learn and put in the effort, but as for remembering and retaining one’s learning--that is a matter for the Heavenly Realm.”  We have to try hard, and daven sincerely--and we too can very literally achieve spiritual miracles!



17 Shevat

A UNIQUE TEFILLAH! Today is the yahrzeit of HaRav Chaim (B’R Yaakov) Pilagi, Z’tl. The Tefillah known as Tefillas Rebbi Yishmael Kohen Gadol HaShaleim, is found in his Sefer Ateres HaChaim. We provide this Tefillah, as published by Kehillas Yeshivas Shiru LaHashem, by the following link  http://tinyurl.com/zm3va2v



ON EMUNAH--FROM THE SEFER HACHINUCH: “The laws of this precept are that it is incumbent upon us to believe about Him that all ability, all grandeur, power and splendor; all eminence, all blessing, all existence--are through Him; and we have neither the power nor the intelligence to conceive and relate His greatness and benevolence; for on account of His immense degree of eminence and glory He can be perceived by none but Himself alone.  [It is for us] to ascribe to Him, with all our ability, no shortcoming whatsoever and nothing which is in any way the opposite of total perfection and total excellence.  Then there are those matters which derive from it, such as to know that He is wholly perfect, without any body or physical power of a body; for physical bodies are ultimately subject to deficiencies and shortcomings, while He is not subject to any kind of deficiency or shortcoming whatsoever....This is one of the precepts for which there is no set time, since all the days of a man’s life he is required to live with this concept.”  (Translation courtesy of the Feldheim Edition --The Book of Mitzvos)



REWARD AND PUNISHMENT In his commentary to Avos 5:5, Rabbeinu Ovadiah MiBartenura distinguishes between the ten miracles that Bnei Yisrael experienced at the Sea and the ten (minimum) Makkos that the Mitzriyim received at the Sea.  Indeed, it is only the Makkos that the Mitzriyim received at the Sea that are specifically referred to in the Shira itself. This important distinction provides us with a great lesson:  Hashem’s reward, and Hashem’s punishment are two separate and distinct methods in which we see, feel, and understand Hashem’s guiding hand in the world around us.  Indeed, Moshe Rabbeinu was instructed to stretch out his hand upon the Sea two separate times--one time before the Bnei Yisrael entered, and a separate time for the sea to storm back upon the Mitzriyim.  There was not one event at the Sea--but two acts of Hashem converging in one place.  We must especially distinguish the Yad Hashem in the various daily forms and activities--from the extreme of reward to the opposite extreme of punishment--and whichever way in between it evidences itself!



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



OPEN WIDE We note that there is a Pasuk that we recite during Shacharis which brings this thought to life. The Pasuk (Tehillem 81:11) reads as follows:  “Anochi Hashem Elokecha Ha’Ma’alcha Mai’Eretz Mitzrayim, Harchev Picha Va’Amalayhu...I am Hashem Who raised you out of Egypt, open your mouth wide and I will fill it.”  The Pasuk teaches us that we are to apply the lesson of Yetzias Mitzrayim --the Omnipotence and Hashgacha Pratis of Hashem--by placing it into our everyday lives.  Hashem not only took us out as a nation or as a group--he can and will fill each and every one of our mouths if we demonstrate our Bitachon by ‘opening wide’ for Hashem to fill it. As you recite this Pasuk daily--don’t forget to remember what it means to open your mouth wide--when you are opening it before Hashem Himself! 



SHAGUR B’PEIV:  Let us live this concept often--very often: Baruch Hashem!.. Thank You Hashem!... Im Yirtzeh Hashem!... Ma Norah Ma’asecha Hashem!...It wasn’t Kochi V’otzem Yadi...That was Min HaShamayim!... What Hashgacha Pratis!... Hashem please help me with...Ribono Shel Olam please guide me....With these thoughts, realizations and expressions, we bind with our Maker, and, albeit with the scorn and even derision of the western world--we thereby truly elevate our lives immeasurably!



SEEING THE STONE: There is a second vital aspect of daily Emunah expression: At the end of last week’s Parasha, we learn that Yehoshua was instructed to go and fight Amaleik, while Moshe Rabbeinu went to the top of the hill to daven.  Moshe Rabbeinu raised his hands in Tefillah.  When his hands became heavy, Aharon and Chur supported them, and they took a stone and put it under him and he sat on it.  The Pasuk then records:  “Vayhi Yadav Emunah Ad Bo Hashemesh--his hands were faithful until sunset” (Shemos 17:13).  The Targum Onkelos translates the word ‘Emunah’ as ‘stretched out in prayer.’  This provides a tremendous lesson in how Emunah can also be demonstrated--through dedicated prayer.  We must learn from Moshe Rabbeinu.  A reader remarkably pointed out that Chazal teach that if one “sees the stone upon which Moshe Rabbeinu sat while fighting Amaleik” he recites the bracha of “Boruch She’asa Nissim LaAvoseinu….” In other words, Chazal do not teach that one recites the bracha when coming to the place where the war with Amaleik was waged, but rather where Moshe Rabbeinu’s hands were extended in prayer.  The lesson is inspiring:  It is not the military prowess, the armor, the equipment, the numbers that we rely upon--it is our Emunah--our extended and outstretched hands in sincere prayer-- which will bring the miracle that we so long for--may it come speedily and in our day!



14 Shevat

INSPECTION GUIDELINES: We had thus far provided Rabbi Vaye’s fruit inspection guidelines. A reader supplied us with the OU and CRC inspection guidelines, as well.


From the OU Daf HaKashrus:



and the audio file at https://www.ou.org/torah/kashrut/food/are_dried_fruits_moistly_kosher/


and to the Kosher dried fruit list of the CRC at http://www.crcweb.org/dried_fruit_list.php


Hakhel Note: Every individual must consult with his own Rav or Posek as to the guidelines that he is to follow.



ON THE YAHRZEIT OF THE PNEI YEHOSHUA: Today, 14 Shevat, is the Yahrzeit of the Pnei Yeshoshua (R’ Yaakov Yehoshua B’R’ Tzvi Hersh Falk, Z’tl), the mechaber the Pnei Yehoshua on Shas and the grandson of the mechaber of the Maginei Shlomo after whom he was named. The following moving incident is excerpted from Me’Oros HaTzaddikim.


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


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





A.  One of our Shabbos Zemiros begins with the words “Boruch Hashem Yom Yom Yaamos Lanu (see Tehillim 68:20).  The Midrash Rabbah teaches that the term ‘Yom Yom’ is used both with respect to the Mon in this week’s Parasha (see Shemos 16:5), and with respect to the study of Torah (Mishlei 8:34).  This is to teach us that if we accomplish that which we are supposed to spiritually ‘Yom Yom’, then Hashem will provide us with what we need ‘Yom Yom’--even on Shabbos--when we are not working at all.  Hakhel Note:  When someone asks how we are--and we respond “Baruch Hashem Yom Yom”--let it serve as a personal reminder to learn Torah as soon as possible!


B.  In this week’s Parasha, we find the Bnei Yisrael’s monumental acceptance of the Mitzvah of Shabbos at Marah (Shemos 15:25), and of the Mon “resting” on Shabbos as well, as a stark lesson for all future generations that financial matters are simply not part of the Shabbos experience.  The Rema (Shulchan Aruch, Orach Chaim 242:10) writes that some eat “pashtida” on Leil Shabbos (food covered on top and bottom with a filling inside) to remind us of the Mon.  The Chofetz Chaim asks, why do we need to be reminded on Shabbos of something that didn’t fall because it was Shabbos?  We may suggest that it is to help prevent monetary and financial discussions at the table.  The Sefer Toras Chaim, however, gives another, splendid answer.  He writes that our meals on Shabbos are not intended to be one of those “all you can eat” experiences.  Instead, they represent the future spiritually endowed meals of the days which are “Kulo Shabbos”.  The basar--meat--represents the Shor Habar--the special animal creation that Hashem will use as a meal for tzaddikim; the Shabbos fish makes us recall the Livyasan which we hope to be zoche to partake of; the wine is representative of the Yayin HaMeshumar--the special wine waiting for the tzaddikim; and, finally, the pashtida (and the Challah covered from above and below) serve to remind us of the Mon that tzaddikim will be zoche to once again enjoy.  May that be in the very near future--and may we share in their lot!


C. Chazal (Eiruvin 17B) derive from the words in this week’s Parasha of “Ahl Yeitzei Ish Mimkomo” that Hotza’ah--carrying is one of the 39 Melachos on Shabbos.  As this is ‘Inyana DeYoma’--a teaching about Shabbos directly from the Parasha, one should take the opportunity to bolster his shemira--even from unintentional acts of Hotza’ah.  Perhaps now is the time to undertake for one not to place tissues into his pocket at home or in Shul on Shabbos--to avoid any possibility at all of inadvertently carrying them out, and also to help others by reminding them to check their pockets right before Shabbos or on Shabbos itself.  To those who live within an Eruv-encompassed community, the laws of Hotza’ah are ever important for all those other times you find yourself elsewhere.  We should remember that there are more Perakim and more discussion in Mesechta Shabbos about Hotza’ah then about any other Melacha.  Let us take the special message--Carrying the Halachos--and thereby nothing else with us on Shabbos--wherever we go!



FEEL THE EXCITEMENT!  The exhilaration and intensity of this week’s Parasha is almost palpable.  We provide the following notes and comments relating to the Parasha:


A.  The Parasha begins by describing that Hashem would not lead the Bnei Yisrael through the land of the Pelishtim because He wanted to avoid Bnei Yisrael running back to Mitzrayim when they saw the Pelishtim out and poised for war.  HaRav Moshe Feinstein, Z’tl (in the Sefer Kol Rom) asks: Since Hashem is All-Capable, He could have simply had the erstwhile belligerent Pelishtim not challenge Bnei Yisrael in war, and let them peacefully cut through the Gaza Strip shortcut to enter into Eretz Yisrael.  This approach would most certainly have saved many issues and problems in the Midbar--we would have received the Torah in Eretz Yisrael--and the Bnei Yisrael and mankind would have been forever rectified!  HaRav Feinstein answers that the Pelishtim’s natural reaction of war needed a special counter-active force which Bnei Yisrael did not yet fully possess.  That counter-action consisted of a higher degree of Emunah.  This sufficient Emunah was only actually attained at the Yam Suf, where the Torah records: “Vaya’aminu BaHashem--and the people had faith in Hashem.”  Indeed, the Ohr HaChaim HaKadosh writes that even Hashem’s Middas HaRachamim is insufficient to overtake His Middas HaDin--unless and until we sufficiently conclusively demonstrate our pure Emunah in Hashem.  Hakhel Note:  When we recite the words “Vaya’aminu BaHashem” every morning--we should feel a resurging Emunah within us!


B.  The Sheloh HaKadosh provides a different insight on the Pelishtim nation and Hashem’s imperative for Bnei Yisrael to avoid them.  He explains that, even before we leave Mitzrayim, Hashem teaches us the primary and precedential importance of Harchakos--staying away from trouble and the potential for aveiros.  To the contrary, the Sheloh teaches--“Shalom-Shalom LaRachok--the farther away one places himself from spiritual dangers--the closer he comes to Shalom--HaKadosh Baruch Hu Himself!


C. A reader once advised us that he had 11 different explanations as to what the word “Chamushim” means in this week’s Parasha.  This is not surprising, as there are “Shivim Panim LaTorah”--so that number of explanations could be increased many times over.  One remarkable explanation is that the term Chamushim means one-fifth, and teaches us that Bnei Yisrael’s primary servitude in Mitzrayim lasted for 86 years--from the time Miriam was born. This number, 86, is exactly one-fifth of the 430 years of galus decreed upon us (Shemos 12:41).  Thus, Hashem in his great mercy let us go after having served only one-fifth of the decree!  (Sefer Shenayim Mikra in the name of the Toras Chaim).


D.  The Sefer Shenayim Mikra also brings an astounding question and answer from Rebbi Avrohom Yeshaya Berman, Z’tl.  The reshaim who did not want to leave Mitzrayim died during the Makka of Choshech, the plague of darkness.  Yet, at the Yam Suf, the Malach of Mitzrayim argued that “the Mitzriyim are idol worshippers, but so are the Bnei Yisrael-so why save one and put the other to death?”  No one seemed to dispute this claim.  But how could this be--that there were still idol worshippers among the Bnei Yisrael?  Weren’t all of them killed during the darkness?  HaRav Berman answers that the ones who were killed were those who were complacent with their lot, and had no desire to change, or to leave Mitzrayim.  Hashem saved everyone else--even if they were still idol worshippers--as long as they had the ratzon--the will and desire to change, those who were not at peace, and complacent with their situation.  This was their rope--this is how they remained alive, were zoche to redemption--and, in fact, quickly succeeded--as the Torah once again testifies  ”VaYa’aminu BaHashem U’VeMoshe Avdo”--they completed their Teshuva at the sea.  The lesson for us is clear--as we live in the Ikvasa DeMeshicha, as we stand at the portals of Geulah, and as we know that the final Geulah is derived from the Geulah of Mitzrayim, we must show the ratzon--the dedication, the willpower, the overriding desire to forsake the popular ideas and ideals of those around us--and sincerely cling to Hashem through His service.  We can be saved at the time of Makkas Choshech, but it must come through our own thoughts and through our own efforts--through our personal initiatives, mesirus nefesh, sincere Tefillah and extra Torah study, and an improved adherence to the careful performance of Mitzvos.  When the time comes, the Malach of Edom may argue against us, but he will not succeed if we can demonstrate where our ratzon lies--and thereby be zoche to be part of a full, final and everlasting Geulah--which is really so very much within our capabilities and reach!


E.  Picture the Scene: You have two phones ringing, two pieces of mail to open, two people standing directly in front of you at the moment--with one you can do a Mitzvah, and with the other you can earn some money or turn a profit. What do you do, which do you choose--after all, both are quite important! Happily, Shlomo Hamelech (the wisest of all men) has resolved your dilemma for you--“Chacham Lev Yikach Mitzvos--the wise of heart chooses the Mitzvos” (Mishlei10:8).  We know, of course, that this teaching is precisely what Moshe Rabbeinu followed when the Bnei Yisrael were busy with the booty of Mitzrayim--and he was busy with the Atzmos Yosef.  The Rambam in Hilchos Teshuva writes that we can all be like Moshe Rabbeinu--here, where we are likewise following the advice of Shlomo HaMelech--is a great place to start. If you need any additional incentive to ‘choose’ the Mitzvah--think about who among the descendants of the Bnei Yisrael still has some of their ancestor’s Egyptian booty in his possession--and where the Atzmos Yosef are today--ready and poised in Shechem to thwart off our enemies and greet us at Techiyas Hameisim.  The difference is, literally, eternity!


F.  Can you find the basic Ten Miracles at the Sea in the Az Yashir that you recite daily?  If you need help in identifying them (and you wish to highlight them in your Siddur to enhance your Kavannah), we refer you to the Mishna in Avos (5:5-easy to remember because five and five is ten!) and the classic commentary of Rabbeinu Ovadia MiBartenura there.


G.  Some additional questions on Az Yashir:


a.      According to the Mishne Berurah, what Kavannah should a person have when he begins to recite Az Yashir in Shacharis daily?

b.      Which Pasuk in Az Yashir has twelve words, and why?

c.      Which phrase in Az Yashir is repeated by Dovid HaMelech in Hallel?

d.      Which Pasuk of Az Yashir has five words in a row which begin with the letter Alef?

e.      Which phrase in Az Yashir refers to the splitting of the Yarden River ?

f.       With what words does the Shira conclude?


H.  A fascinating fact:  The Hallel HaGadol--the Great Song of Praise (Tehillim 136), lists 26 things for which we thank Hashem with the words “Ki L’Olam Chasdo--for His Kindness endures forever.”  Six of the 26 (at least!) are mentioned in this week’s Parasha.  Accordingly, especially this week, let us work on our recognition of “Ki L’Olam Chasdo--for His Kindness endures forever”!


I.  If one performs an etymological search for the word “money”, he will most likely find that it ostensibly comes from a Latin word meaning ‘warning.’  We know, however, that there are no such things as coincidences, and that, in our last throes of Galus, we are being reminded that notwithstanding its form, shape, denomination, or standing-- thinking or mentioning the word ‘MONey’ should always remind us from where it truly comes!


J.  With this is mind, we gain a better understanding of the juxtaposition of Kriyas Yam Suf and the Mon in this week’s Parasha.  We are reminded that Hashem intends not only for us to remember him in the extraordinary and ‘miracle-to-all’ events, but in our daily sustenance which comes equally from Him as well.  Whether the food falls from the sky, the water comes from a traveling well or rock, or the money comes out of your wallet to purchase food from a well-stocked supermarket, it is all the same Neis that is involved.  The difference between the two is that it is harder to perfect ourselves from blatant miracles, where even a non-believer can become a believer, than it is from the Teva-kind of miracle, the personal acknowledgment and thoughtful appreciation of which are so essential to our purpose and goal in this world.  Every day, three times a day, when we recite Modim, we thank Hashem for the “Nisecha SheBichol Yom Imanu.”  The Mefarshim explain that this thanks is specifically expressed for the not so blatant miracles that fill our lives.  We must come away from the Parasha with a greater expression of thanks (in Modim three times daily is a fine place to start)--a true daily awareness and appreciation of our daily miracles--up, down, and all around!


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



HARAV SCHWAB ON THE SHIRA:  We provide several important notes from HaRav Shimon Schwab, Z’tl, on the Shira, as presented in the monumental work Rav Schwab on Prayer (Artscroll) for us to take with us throughout the year:


1.  The communal recitation of the Shira at the Sea was a miraculous event in and of itself.  After all, how could it have been possible, before the advent of loudspeakers and sound systems, for hundreds of thousands/millions of people to recite the Shira together!  (Note: See Sotah 30B--they repeated at least the first words of each Pasuk after Moshe; R’Eliezer ben R’Yossi Ha’Glili holds they repeated the entire Pasuk).  Accordingly, by repeating it in our Pesukei D’Zimra after the other songs and praises in Pesukei D’Zimra (which, chronologically, actually occurred after Kriyas Yam Suf), we further raise our level of praise to Hashem--by remembering the miraculous way in which He assisted our forefathers in expressing their feelings of joy and thankfulness to Him through the nes of its recitation together.  (Hakhel Note:  We likewise should thank Hashem daily for the miracle of our being able to express our thanks to Him through our faculties of thought and speech in reciting the Shira--for starters.)


2.  The four-letter name of Yud Keh Vav Keh appears ten times in the Shira--alluding to the ten Makkos and ten salvations from the Makkos that the Bnei Yisrael experienced even prior to Yam Suf, as well as to the ten nissim by the Yam Suf--and further indicating that it all transpired through Hashem’s four letter name of Rachamim--of great mercy.  Hakhel Note:  We should endeavor to recall this when reciting these Shaimos in the Shira.


 3.  The Pasuk of “Mi Chamocha Ba’eilim Hashem…who is like You among the heavenly powers, Hashem….” is a critical portion of the Shira, and for this reason it is repeated in the Brachos of Kriyas Shema both at Shacharis and at Ma’ariv.  With this Pasuk, Bnei Yisrael demonstrated that they reached a level of Emunah in which they accepted--and even sang about as part of their Shira--the tza’ar of galus together with the geulah.  How could Hashem remain apart from the cries and screams for so long?  The answer is clear--He didn’t have to or need to--as there is no one as powerful; and just as there is no one as powerful, there is no one who is as far removed from our understanding as He.  Bnei Yisrael acknowledge that our being placed into a suffering-filled galus is for reasons we acknowledge that are good but that we simply do not and cannot comprehend--and we thank Him for the galus, as well.


4.  The Pasuk of “Hashem Yimloch Leolam Vo’ed--Hashem will reign for eternity” expresses the universal recognition that a worldwide Malchus Shomayim will happen at some time in the future.  With this exclamation and proclamation we conclude “VeHaya Hashem LeMelech”-- the final portion of praise of Pesukai D’Zimra--in which we declare that, once and for all, Hashem will be king over us all forever and ever--and that is really something to sing about!



THE SHIRA--CORRECTLY:  Before leaving the Shira, we add a few additional points and pointers, as previously provided:


1.  A reader has reminded us several times that the words immediately prior to the Shira read “VaYire’u Ha’Am--and the nation feared....” If one reads the word VaYiru--i.e., not pronouncing the sheva under the Raish, then he is saying that “the nation saw, which is not only incorrect, but c’v suggesting that the people could see Hashem which is an impossibility and against our basic tenets of belief.  One must be very careful to properly pronounce VaYire’u


2.  The same reader reminded us that later in the Shira we recite the pasuk “BiG’dol Zeroacha Yidemu Ka’Aven--at the greatness of Your arm, may they be still as stone”.  The proper pronunciation is Yidemu--which means ‘still’ or ‘silenced’.  If one does not pronounce the sheva under the Raish, then he is reading the word is read Yidmu--meaning may they be likened to stone--a wholly different meaning!  Let us come away from the Shira this week--with the proper pronunciation of its great and awesome words!


3.  Furthermore, the Mishna Berurah (Shulchan Aruch Orach Chaim 51, seif katan 17) emphasizes that the two words found at the end of Pasuk 10 in the Shira--”BeMayim Adirim--are not connected and should not be not read together.  This is not a phrase which means that the Egyptians sank in the ‘mighty waters.’  Rather, the two words should be separated, because their true meaning is that the Adirim--the mighty warriors sank like lead--in water.


4.  The Mishna Berurah (ibid.) brings from the Zohar that “One should say the Shiras HaYam with Joy--picturing himself as if he is crossing through the Sea today--and one who recites the Shira with Joy is forgiven for his sins (“Mochlin Lo Avonosav”!).  Could it be that for this special expression and experience of joyful Emunah a person is fully forgiven of his sins--is this what the Mishne Berurah is saying?!  HaRav Chaim Kanievsky, Shlita, (in Sefer Derech Sicha, II, p.99) explains the great potency of a joyful, personal expression of Shiras HaYam daily as follows:  A person must, of course, do Teshuva for his sins to be forgiven.  However, sometimes in addition to Teshuva, a person may have to also experience Yisurim and the like--and the Shira BeSimcha will replace the suffering or affliction.  Hakhel Note:  Why be in pain--when you can be happy--and build your Emunah together with it!



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





1. In honor of Tu B’Shevat, we provide a link http://tinyurl.com/27omq2 to a moving Tefillah from the Ben Ish Chai to be recited for your Esrog this Sukkos (courtesy of Mesivta Yochanan Shraga of Monsey). Before reciting the Tefillah remember how important the role of Tefillah is in actually accomplishing what one sets out to do. Hakhel Note: One should first check with his Rav or Posek as to whether he can daven for his Esrog on Shabbos.


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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



13 Shevat

START TODAY!  If you begin today 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!



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



A POWERFUL TEACHING! In a recent Emuna Daily Lesson, Rabbi David Ashear, Shlita, taught that one’s continuous Tefillos--even if they have gone seemingly ‘unanswered’ so many times--become more and more valuable to Hashem, as they indicate the mispallel’s unwavering and absolute Emunah in Hashem as the Always Present, All-Capable, and All-Powerful One, Who can do anything and everything at any time, in any place, in any situation--and for anyone!


Hakhel Note: To listen to Emuna Daily, one may call 605-475-4799, access number 840886#, with the current Shiur requiring an additional #.



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





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


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


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


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


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



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


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



12 Shevat

GETTING READY IN THE USA: With Tu B’Shevat coming soon, we move into thoughts of preparation for a Rosh Hashana not known to the world at large. By the following link http://tinyurl.com/j8524wh we provide a list compiled according to Rav Moshe Vaye’s Sefer Bedikas HaMazon, which lists the names of fruits, whether or not checking is required, and how the checking must be done in the USA for 5777.  [Previously supplied list, for Eretz Yisroel, now is available at http://tinyurl.com/zlkym7u]



GETTING CLOSER! If you begin tomorrow--February 9th and learn one blatt a day, you will make a Siyum on Mesechta Megillah at the Seudas Purim! What a wonderful way to prepare--much Aggadeta about the Megillah is contained in the Mesechta. For women, or those who find the task too difficult, may we suggest that one begin the study of Megillas Esther through a Sefer or Seforim that he/she has not previously studied--and continue daily through completion until reaching the Purim milestone!



TEFILLAH MOMENTS: Because Tefillah is so essential in our lives, we must take steps to ensure that we do not stagnate and keep at prior levels. An important suggestion may be for one, at each Tefillah, to focus on certain words and provide a deeper meaning into them, or personalize them to one’s personal situation at hand that day. Just as one example, we take the bracha of Atta Chonein L’Adam Da’as. There are so many reasons one needs Da’as, and so many reasons that one needs the Da’as of others properly applied to him. If one is going to be studying a hard blatt, or explaining a difficult concept, or is meeting with another to receive advice or counsel, he needs to pray that Hashem imbue appropriate Da’as so that whatever results--is successful! How potent this Tefillah can become by thinking about the true meaning of the words--all the more so as they apply to him! Hakhel Note: One can refer to the particular focus in one’s Tefillah as a ‘Tefillah Moment’. Please feel free to share your Tefillah Moments with us!



AMEN REMINDERS: Rabbi Hillel Litwack, Shlita, reminds us of the following important bullet points regarding answering Amen:


1. One must answer Amen immediately after a bracha ends (i.e, no later than toch kedei dibbur)--and if one cannot or will not be able to answer Amen during this immediate time period, then he should not answer Amen at all--for that would be an Amen Yesomah.


2. If a bracha is recited in a Tzibbur, then one can continue to answer as long as most of the Tzibbur has not answered Amen, provided that the Shaliach Tzibbur has not started the next bracha, or began to recite something else. To be clear, once the Shaliach Tzibbur has started something else--one cannot answer Amen even toch kedei dibbur.


3. Accordingly, is imperative that the Shaliach Tzibbur wait at the end of a bracha so that the Tzibbur has time to answer Amen. Similarly, the Shaliach Tzibbur should wait for the Tzibbur to respond the entire nusach of “Amen Yehei Shemei Rabba…” before beginning Yisborach.


4. One should not answer an Amen Chatufa--which is commencing to answer Amen before the bracha is completed (such as during the last word of the bracha). It would also be an Amen Chatufa if the kamatz under the Aleph of Amen was slurred so it sounded like a chataf kamatz. Similarly, one must make sure that the nun in Amen is properly enunciated and not cut off.  In the concluding bracha of Sim Shalom before reciting Hallel, the Shliach Tzibbur should not draw out the word “Bashalom,” as this often results in the tzibbur answering Amen before he completes the word.


5. One’s Amen should be in the time frame for one to say the words “Kel Melech Ne’eman” during that time.



MORE THAN TESTS: Rabbi Zechariah Wallerstein, Shlita, brings a Chasam Sofer who explains that the Greeks did not require us to stop studying Torah--rather, they only wanted us to forget the Torah after studying it. How would one forget the Torah--the same way that he forgets any other wisdom, by treating it as an academic course without love and feeling, and not caring enough to review that which he has learned. In this way it will be forgotten rather quickly by the average student, and can simply r’l be viewed as a bottomless container. Rabbi Wallerstein suggests that, accordingly, tests in Limudei Kodesh not be given in an identical manner to tests given in secular subjects--so that the students do not identify the two together in this way. While many Yeshivos may find it difficult to provide some kind of meaningful testing distinction, to be sure we as adults should not allow ourselves to follow the Greek line of thinking--and accordingly before we study Torah should spend a moment remembering the Birkos HaTorah that we recited at the beginning of the day, and take a moment to reflect upon Kedushas HaTorah, and the Simcha and sweetness we should have in our study!



LIKE THE MIRACLES OF EGYPT! We are taught (Micha 7:15) that: “Kimei Tzeisicha Erenu Nifla’os--Hashem will provide us with miracles at the time of our future (hopefully very close-by) Geulah in the same way as we were redeemed from Mitzrayim. On the other hand (Chazal Brachos 13A), bring the Pasuk: “VeKadmoniyos Al Tisbonenu” (Yeshayahu 43:18)--that the events of the future Geulah will be greater than the events of Yetziyas Mitzrayim. How can we reconcile these pesukim? Some suggest that Ein Ba’al HaNeis Makir Es Niso--one experiencing a Neis does not fully appreciate the Neis in all of its glory. The Nissim we will be experiencing in the coming Geulah will not necessarily then be greater than the previous Nissim--it is just that at that time we will be able to see and appreciate all of the Nissim that are happening around us. We can take this lesson into our daily lives. So many miracles surround each and every one of us every day on a 24/7 basis. Our finite minds recognize some that stand out from time-to-time, but they are only really a small fraction of the great picture. At the very least, we should try to reflect a bit every day on the Nissim that we don’t specifically think about--and that we don’t even know about!



K’TZAPICHIS BIDVASH! In describing the Mon, the Torah teaches “V’Ta’amo K’Tzapichis Bidvash--and its taste was like a tzapichis in dvash” (Shemos 17:31).  HaRav Joseph B. Soloveitchik, Z’tl (Boston, RIETS), once related the following important anecdote relating to these words:  There was once an experienced melamed teaching young children Parashas Beshalach.  When he came to the words “K’tzapichis Bidvash” he realized that he did not know what the phrase meant, so he fuddled over it in describing how incredible the Mon was.  As he was about to go to the next Pasuk, one student stopped him and said, “But Rebbi, what does ‘Tzapichis Bidvash’ mean?”  He responded, “Don’t you understand?  We left Egypt , there was no food in the desert, and Hashem sent Mon down from the Shomayim.  Not only that--it was incredibly delicious like Tzapichis in dvash!  Let’s move on to the next Pasuk!”  The student stopped him again, “Rebbi, I still don’t get it--what is a ‘Tzapichis Bidvash’?!”  The Rebbi responded, “I’ll say it once more, and only once more:  Our forefathers were enslaved in Egypt for hundreds of years.  Hashem took them out with all kinds of Makkos and Nissim.  When it came to the desert there were even more miracles--even unbelievably tasting Mon that came from Heaven!  “But Rebbi, I still…”  The Rebbi waved off the student, and moved on to the next Pasuk.  For the record, “K’tzapichis Bidvash” is translated in the Stone Edition of the Artscroll Chumash as “Like a cake fried in honey”.  The great lesson here, however, is that each and every one of us must be honest with himself and realize that there may be/are words, and, perhaps, even phrases, in the Parasha every single week that he simply does not understand on a simple level, perhaps not even knowing the simple translation of the words.  Before getting to the more advanced Peirushim or “nice thoughts”, he must make sure that he understands all of the words of the Parasha.  Even if we are not a Rebbi in front of his young students, let us at least avoid the embarrassment after 120 years of not being able to properly translate before the Beis Din Shel Ma’ala every Pasuk in Chumash.  Indeed, the entire concept of Shenaim Mikra V’Echad Targum, supplemented by Peirush Rashi, is intended to give us a complete knowledge of each and every Holy Word of the Torah!



SUCCESS AT SUCCESS:  Chazal (Arachin 15A) teach that the outstanding event of Kriyas Yam Suf did have two sorry aspects to it--as two of the ten Nisyonos that Bnei Yisrael tested Hashem with occurred at the Yam Suf--one as the Bnei Yisrael went in--and one as they went out.  As they went in, some uttered “HaMibli…” and as they came out they muttered--just as we are leaving the sea, so too, are the Mitzriyim leaving at another point.  There is a great lesson to be learned here.  At moments of happiness, of satisfaction, of success, of victory--we should not let the Yetzer Hara turn the situation around or find reasons to mar, shter, or twist the event into something other than it truly is.  An experienced Tzedaka collector once shared with us that he cannot understand how, when he approaches the father of a Chosson or the father of a Kallah at a Chasunah (or after) for a donation--they usually give him one, but it is typically with a scorn and feeling that the collector is ‘interfering’ with their Simcha.  He asked:  “Why don’t they smile at me, and be happy to share their joy with others in a truly meaningful way?”  Shlomo HaMelech, the wisest of all men, teaches “BeYom Tova Heyeh V’Tov” (Koheles 7:14).  We all have our own personal wonderful events like Kriyas Yam Suf--let us keep the Yetzer Hara out in any and all respects!  Rather than complaining, and rather than being self-focused...let us be sure to share and spread our joy with and to others!



11 Shevat

GETTING CLOSER!  If you begin this Thursday--February 9th and learn one blatt a day, you will make a Siyum on Mesechta Megillah at the Seudas Purim!  What a wonderful way to prepare--much Aggadeta about the Megillah is contained in the Mesechta.  For women, or those who find the task too difficult, may we suggest that one begin the study of Megillas Esther through a Sefer or Seforim that he/she has not previously studied--and continue daily through completion until reaching the Purim milestone!



THOUGHTS ON GALUS FROM HARAV CHATZKEL LEVENSTEIN, Z’TL: “The decree of exile is an unnatural state that was expressly created for K’lal Yisrael. When we consider its consequences, we find that no nation other than K’lal Yisrael remains in existence after an appreciable time in exile. The Midrash relates that Hashem asked Avrohom Avinu what punishment he chooses for his children when they sin and there is no Beis HaMikdash to atone for their wrongdoing: exile or purgatory?  According to one opinion quoted in the Midrash, Avrohom was unable to answer. In practical terms, the consequences of exile and purgatory are strongly equated. Contrary to our understanding, its deleterious effect upon our spiritual growth and well-being cannot be overstated, we have no appreciation of the great measure of Divine mercy needed as we pass from one regime to the next….” [Excerpted from the outstanding work, Rav Chatzkel, by Rabbi Yitzchak Kasnett, Shlita (Artscroll, p. 142)]



FROM A READER--ON THE DEFINITION OF LIFE: "I saw the following definition:

Life- The time Hashem gives you to determine how to spend your eternity."



BARUCH!  In an Emuna Daily Shiur, Rabbi David Ashear, Shlita cited the realization of Rebbi Yisroel Salanter, Z'tl', relating to the word Baruch when reciting a bracha over food--Hashem not only provides me with energy and nourishment when I need it--but it is tasty, looks and smells pleasant, and I am able to sit down at a table in nice surroundings, pick up the food, and place it into my mouth...." Hakhel Note: Let us for a moment contemplate before uttering a bracha--'What Shevach V'hoda'ah I owe to Hakadosh Baruch Hu--Thank you, I appreciate it!'



A HUMBLE SPIRIT: “The greater the person is, the more humble he should be. He should say to himself, “Look at the potential that Hashem has endowed me with. Am I using my capabilities to their fullest extent? Am I deserving of honor for my many achievements if I am only working at 75% of my potential? It could be that the town water carrier deserves more honor and respect because he struggles to attain 95% of his limited potential!” The Chofetz Chaim was once overheard talking to himself: “Yisroel Meir, look how much Hashem has given you. He gave you the privilege to write a Sefer Chofetz Chaim, a Shemiras HaLashon, an Ahavas Chesed and a Mishna Berurah. He has given you a large yeshiva with hundreds of students. He has done so much for you and what have you done for Him?” The Chofetz Chaim did not congratulate himself on his many accomplishments and the monumental Seforim which he authored. He was humbled by the realization that his prodigious achievements meant that a great deal more was expected of him. This prodded him to undertake new projects and write more Seforim for the benefit of K’lal Yisrael and the glory of Torah!” [Excerpted from A Humble Spirit--Practical and Down-to-Earth Insights and Ideas from the Teachings of HaRav Avrohom Pam, Z’tl, by Rabbi Sholom Smith, Shlita]



IT IS NOT BETTER! As we recently began a new cycle of the Sefer Chofetz Chaim, we note that the Chofetz Chaim deals with a crucial point that many may claim: “I want to be social, and I cannot keep these laws to the tee--so it is better that I not study them in detail, as it is better for a person to sin b’shogeig, than it is for him to sin intentionally.” The Chofetz Chaim alerts us to the Halacha that we do not say that it is better to sin unintentionally than intentionally when the Torah explicitly provides that the act is prohibited (Lo Seleich Rachil B’Amecha), and adds--would one dare say “I will not study the laws relating to robbery--so that I can rob with impunity!”


Hakhel Note One:  The Sefer Orchos Tzaddikim devotes a special Sha’ar to Lashon Hara and makes the following significant points: 


1. A person thinks to himself:  “What have I done, just saying a few words?”  He accordingly does not pay attention to the damage he has just caused, and will block things out and will not do Teshuvah.  Without Teshuvah for this aveirah, what will become of him?


2.  One who has spoken Lashon Hara requires mechila from those whom he has spoken against--and he may not even remember who they are or what he said. 


3.  When a person speaks about a family, or ‘something that is wrong with’ a family, he hurts not only this generation but future generations as well, and no forgiveness is possible at all. 


4.  The great Talmid Chochom, Doeg spoke Lashon Hara--and neither his wisdom nor his Torah were able to save him. 


5.  When a person speaks Lashon Hara he will not only be punished for the damage he caused, but for the enjoyment he derives from shaming or disgracing another--violating VeAhavta LeReiacha Kamocha


6.  Watching another speak every extra word of Lashon Hara without trying to stop him in some way is like watching a person eat another piece of chazir, and another piece, and another piece. 


7.  A person speaks about what matters to him.  If a person often speaks of food, wine, [technology] or clothing this is a priority concern of his.  Dovid HaMelech (Tehillim 119:97), however, exclaims:  “Mah Ahavti Sorasecha Kol  HaYom He Sichasi--How I love Your Torah, all day do I speak about it.”  Because he loved the Torah--this was his topic of discussion, his topic of conversation.  Let us study our speech--and move it as close as we possibly can to the speech of Dovid HaMelech!


Hakhel Note Two:  Some additional points on Shemiras Halashon:


1. Pass on the following information to as many people as you can, and keep it on hand to continuously pass on:  To order Shemiras Halashon tapes, books, learning programs and the Chofetz Chaim Heritage Foundation’s free catalog and for further information on free Shiurim on Shemiras HaLashon, call 845-352-3505For the Shemiras HaLashon Shailah Hotline (expert Poskim in Shemiras HaLashon to anonymously answer your real-life Shailah before saying the right or wrong thing), please call 718-951-3696, between the hours of 9:00PM until 10:30PM (EST).


2.  Observe a one or two hour Machsom L’fi daily.  For further information on a Machsom L’fi, please call 845-352-3505.


3.  Recite the complete Tefillah of the Chofetz Chaim on Shemiras HaLashon daily available at http://tinyurl.com/78fcytc    The Chofetz Chaim himself writes at the end of the Sefer Chovos HaShemira that one should recite this Tefillah in the morning after davening, or at any other time that he is able.  There is, of course, a shortened version of this Tefillah--but recitation of the extended version may demonstrate a re-dedication on your part for the new cycle. 


4.   Many high schools and elementary schools now have programs through the Chofetz Chaim Heritage Foundation in Shemiras HaLashon.  Make it a point to ask your child or another child what they learned to be mechazek them.


5.   Check yourself at the end of each day before retiring--and determine whether you have stopped yourself from speaking or listening to Lashon Hora or Rechilus at least one time during the day.



A TIMELY THOUGHT! Many have received several reminders to recite the Parashas HaMon as a Segulah for Parnassah on this day--the third day of the week of Parashas Beshalach. We provide the following essential insight once provided to us by Yeshiva Torah Vodaas:


“HaRav Moshe Wolfson, Shlita asks the following question: When the Malachim came to save Lot, the Torah tells us that Lot welcomed them into his home and performed the tremendous mitzvah of Hachnosas Orchim. It is common knowledge that the mitzvah of Hachnosas Orchim in the city of Sedom, was practically suicidal. We see how the people surrounded Lot’s home and threatened to kill the Malachim, Lot, his family, etc. Why was it necessary for the Ribono Shel Olam to engineer this entire story? Why couldn’t the Malachim just arrive in Sedom, give Lot a fifteen minute warning, and take him out? Why did Lot have to do the mitzvah of Hachnosas Orchim under such circumstances?”


Rav Wolfson answers as follows: “It may be that Lot did not have enough merits to be saved. During the years that he lived with Avrohom Avinu, he performed mitzvos, but they were mitzvos without mesiras nefesh. Possibly now, to warrant Hatzolas Nefoshos, he needed an extra credit mitzvah; a mitzvah performed with mesiras nefesh!”


Rav Wolfson concludes that it is rather evident that we are living in the Chevlei Moshiach, and that we can no longer assume the safety and security to which we had been accustomed prior to September 2001. Possibly the entire financial meltdown has been needed in order to give us yidden an opportunity to do Hachzokas HaTorah and to give tzedakah, even though it may come with more mesiras nefesh than in the past.”


So, when we recite Parashas HaMon, we should consciously and wholeheartedly remember that a primary goal in the financial success that we seek is the support of Torah and those who study it!”


Additional Note One: We would like to remind everyone of the real-life story that we related from HaRav Mattisyahu Salomon, Shlita, in the past.  The message remains as powerful now as it did then:


HaRav Mattisyahu related:  “I walked into a Shul in which someone was reading Parashas HaMon on the Tuesday of Parashas Beshalach, as is the custom in some Chassidic circles. Another individual walked in and noticed that he was reading Parashas HaMon.  He exclaimed, “You might as well stop doing that.  I have been reading it for 50 years on this very day, and nothing has ever happened for me!"  HaRav Salomon reprimanded this person.  “How could you say that it hasn’t helped you?!  Have you had what to eat for the last 50 years?  Have you made Shabbos and Yom Tov? You are wearing clothing, aren’t you?”


We must remember, whether or not we recite Parashas HaMon today, that every ounce and morsel of parnassah and kalkala that is gifted to us by Hashem--whether or not we are millionaires or multi-millionaires--is part and parcel of the Mon that began falling for us more than 3,300 years ago!


Additional Note Two:  We may suggest that a daily Segulah for Parnassah is to follow the words of the Shulchan Aruch, Orach Chaim 156, which is entitled “Seder Masseh U’Matan--The Order of Doing Business.”  To pick just one instruction contained in this Siman, it is: VeYissah VeYitein BeEmunah--and his conduct in business shall be with Emunah--without any aspect of thievery or deception whatsoever.  (See Mishna Berurah there, seif katan 4).  Perhaps one can take a quick or even glance look at this Siman every day--and may it bring true blessing to his work experience!



10 Shevat

ESPECIALLY FOR TU B’SHVAT SHOPPERS: The following question and answer is excerpted from the English Sefer Shulchan HaLevi; Halachic Responsa of HaRav Yisroel Belsky, Z’tl:


Q: Many stores sell nuts and dried fruits from large sacks and bins, or repackage them without supervision. May the consumer assume these items are kosher, or should one insist on buying only sealed containers that carry kosher certification?


A: Nuts and dried fruit have always been sold from large sacks. To say that one should never buy these items when sold this way would be an unnecessary restriction, and for many of these products there are no issues at all. On the other hand, any processing or cooking raises potential kashrus issues.


Hakhel Note: Among the items that Rabbi Belsky writes require a reliable Hechsher are dried apples, dried pineapples and other dried tropical fruits, banana chips and of course, any nuts roasted in oil. One should certainly consult with his Rav before Tu B’Shvat on the items he intends to purchase, as well as any necessary Bedikas Tolaim that must be done on these items or fruits of the Shivas Minim. We additionally note that supermarkets and fruit/nut/candy stores without a hashgacha may themselves re-package these items and claim that they come from a larger container with a reliable hashgacha. Let the buyer beware!



IMPORTANT QUESTION: Do you know the Shesh Mitzvos Temidios--Mitzvos that you can think about, reflect upon when you are not in a position to do anything else? Hakhel Note: We highly recommend “The Six Constant Mitzvos”  by Rabbi Yehuda Heimowitz and Rabbi Shai Markowitz, which is available wherever ArtScroll books are sold.





1.  From the Sefer Orchos Tzaddikim: “Yeish Kapparah BeRov Limud”--one seeking Kapparah should increase his study of Torah--the more one studies--the more he can achieve Kapparah!


2.  Rebbi Avrohom of Sochotchov, Z’tl, taught:  “If those being pursued would only know the good that their pursuers are doing for them--they would turn and run after their pursuers in order to kiss the hems of their garments!”  (Source: MeiAfar Kumi, by Rabbi Ronen Shaharbany, Shlita)


3.  It is said that Ashkenazim place their Mezuzah on a slant in towards the house to symbolize that although some opinions hold that the Mezuzah should be placed vertically, there are others who hold that it should be placed horizontally.  Accordingly, the compromise is to place the Mezuzah in between, on an angle.  This then is the symbol of the home, compromise.  Hakhel Note: We add that even though the result appears to be crooked to both sides--both sides should recognize it as the correct result!   


4.  Adapted in the name of an Adam Gadol:  “A word of Tefillah, is like a cookie or cake which has been made with all of the right ingredients; the proper pronunciation of that word is like the beautiful appearance that the cookie or cake has which makes it all the more appealing; but it is the Kavannah that goes into the word when reciting it--that is like the actual tasting of the cookie.  The cookie can have all the right ingredients, and it can look very delicious--but without tasting it, it will simply sit on the shelf!” 



THE MIDDAH OF BITACHON:  We provide the following words of chizuk from the Sefer Chovos HaLevavos (Sha’ar HaBitachon).  While we may know these words, and even understand them--chizuk in Bitachon is a constant requirement, and they should be constantly reviewed.  It is said that HaRav Chatzkel Levenstein, Z’tl, who was especially known for his Middah of Bitachon, would say:  “Any day that I do not study about Bitachon, I feel a weakening in it.”  The English translation below is excerpted from the Feldheim version--Duties of the Heart:  “When one is occupied in mind and body with one of the means of earning a living, let his intent be to fulfill the commandment of the Creator, Who has commanded man to engage in worldly means, as it is written: “Hashem took the man and placed him in the garden of Eden, to work it and to keep it” (Bereishis 2:15).  Hashem has commanded man to make use of the other living creatures for his benefit and sustenance; to build cities and prepare foods; to marry, be fruitful and multiply. He will be rewarded for the intent of his heart and mind to perform these for Hashem’s sake, as it is written: “You will eat the fruit of the labor of your hands; you will be happy and it will be well with you” (Tehillim 128:2)….  One should not think that his livelihood depends on a particular source and that, if that source were to fail, there would be no other way for him to earn a living. Rather, he should rely on Hashem for his sustenance and realize that to the Creator all the means are equal--He will support him by whatever means and at any time and from whatever elements He wishes, as the Pasuk says: “For nothing can prevent Hashem from saving, whether by many or by few” (Shmuel I, 14:6); “It is Hashem Who gives you the power to become prosperous” (Devarim 8:18); “Not by might and not by power, but by My spirit said Hashem Tzevakos” (Zecharia 4:6).  Hakhel Note:  With this in mind, we can approach the challenges of Parnassah with the awareness that Hashem in His Infinite Greatness gives us the Parnassah to the penny--and that any feeling of stress or overwork on the one hand, or the need for questionable charges on the other, are simply not within the realm of the Bitachon of a Torah Jew! 



AN IMPORTANT PERSPECTIVE ON THE MAKKOS:  As we leave the Makkos in Mitzrayim, and are about to witness the Makkos at the Yam Suf, we note the explanation of the G’ra to the Makkos, as related by HaRav Ezriel Erlanger, Shlita (as found in the Siddur HaG’ra):  The G’ra writes that the purpose of the Makkos was to lift up the spirit of Bnei Yisrael, who were otherwise so dejected and downtrodden after scores of years of physical and mental oppression at the hands of experts.  All of the Makkos were not really necessary for the end goal of the Geulah.  The Geulah could simply have started and ended with Makkas Bechoros.  However, Hashem is a Mishan U’Mivtach LaTzaddikim--Hashem supports us when we need support.  HaRav Erlanger notes, for instance, that it was likewise not essential for our ultimate victory on Purim to have Haman parade Mordechai around the capital on Achashveirosh’s horse--but it certainly encouraged and brought a newfound spirit to Bnei Yisrael that witnessed it.  Viewed in this light, the ten Makkos were not so much a punishment, as they were an encouragement to the Yidden.  The G’ra continues that before the Moshiach comes, there will be events that will be similar to those of the Makkos.  Some suggest that--after the cruelty and horrors of the Holocaust--the return of millions of Jews to Eretz Yisrael, and the accessibility of the Mekomos HeKedoshim in Yerushalayim, Chevron, Teveriah, and other places, is a similar display of the encouragement and strength that Hashem brings to His people…before the final Geulah! 



BRINGING THE GEULAH TO US:  Every day, three times a day, we recite in Birchas Avos that Hashem is “Maivi Go’el Livnei Venaihem Lema’an Shemo BeAhava-- that Hashem brings the Redeemer...with love”.  To what does this ‘love’ refer?  We provide the following insight of HaRav Moshe Cordevero, z’tl, at the end of the first chapter of the classic Sefer Tomer Devorah.  “When our Zechus Avos and our other merits are exhausted, what can Hashem do for us when we are unworthy? He does as it is written: “Zocharti Lach Chesed Ne’uarayich Ahavas Kelulosayich...I recall for your sake the kindness of your youth, the love of your bridal days, how you followed Me in the wilderness in an unsown land” (Yirmiyah 2:2).  Hashem takes the time and makes the effort, if you will, not to forget us and forget about us--but to reach back and recall the olden days and the previous love He had towards us-- and rekindles His mercy anew upon us.” With this recollection, HaRav Cordevero continues, “He remembers all the Mitzvos we have fulfilled since our birth as a nation and all the favors and good qualities with which He conducts His world. From all these, He fashions something especially auspicious with which to be merciful for our sake.”  This, we suggest, is the Ahava which we recall at every Shemone Esrei--it is the Ahava that began in the upcoming Parasha of Beshalach as we began ‘the love of our bridal days’ --as we followed Hashem in the desert, and undertook our observance of the ‘Chok U’Mishpat’--of Hashem’s loving guidelines to lead us properly through life.  What a touching and precious time and recollection--like the day of your chasuna or the chasuna of a loved one.  Every time we recite the word “BeAhava” we too can recall that love and reciprocate with the feeling that our people had for Hakadosh Baruch Hu at that incomparable time as well.  Feel it as you say it. May the Geulah come--from that reciprocal love--when we will once again experience it afresh and anew!



THE FULL BRACHA:  Rabbi Yisroel Reisman, Shlita, conveys the following great lesson in Birkas HaMazon that he heard directly from the Skverer Rebbe, Shlita:  The last of all of the HaRachamans contains a Bracha, ‘HaRachaman Hu Yevorech Es...’ in which one specifically identifies whom he is giving a Bracha to (his parent, his wife, his children, his host, anyone at the table, etc.).  The Skverer Rebbe points out that the essence of this Bracha is sometimes missed by people--for after specifically expressing to whom you are giving the Bracha, it does not end there. Rather, the heart and core of the magnificent Bracha is only then eloquently expressed.  It is:  “[May you be blessed] KeMo Shenisbarchu Avoseinu…just as our forefathers Avrohom, Yitzchak, and Yaakov were blessed in everything, from everything, with everything.  So may He bless us all together with a perfect blessing and let us say Amen!”  Many may not realize that the last HaRachaman continues until this point--and miss having special Kavannah in expressing this great and important Bracha to and on behalf of others.  Let us spread the word about this HaRachaman--so that we can spread Bracha amongst all of Klal Yisrael!



7 Shevat

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



A SHOVAVIM NOTE:  From a reader--“Rav Shimshon Pincus, Zt’l, said in a Rosh Hashana tape that the Choshech Mitzrayim was the *inability to change*! Omed Aino Yachol Lasheves, Yoshev Aino Yachol La’amod--one standing couldn’t sit, and one sitting couldn’t stand.  Rav Pincus pointed out that a prerequisite for Teshuva is the belief that one can actually change his habits and behavior.  (Of course, this dovetails exactly with what the Mefarshim say--Mitzrayim is from the word Meitzar--border or limit--for one is enslaved by his perceived limitations).”



A VERY SPECIAL QUOTE: “A bracha, when recited with proper intent and not absent mindedly, is an encounter with Hashem.” (Excerpted from Let There Be Rain: A Lesson a Day on Making Gratitude a Part of Our Lives (Lesson 127), by Rabbi Shimon Finkelman and Rabbi Zechariah Wallerstein).



A REAL LESSON! HaRav Chaim Kanievsky, Shlita, brings from the Zohar (Parashas Ki Sisa) that the eirev rav who left Mitzrayim with us included the chartumei Mitzrayim--who were sons of Bilam! Hakhel Note: If the chartumim would want to associate with good--and perhaps have some Teshuvah thoughts--oh, what should we say, what should we do?!



LET US WORK ON THIS!:  The Chofetz Chaim in the Sha’ar HaTevunah (Chapter 7) goes to special lengths to describe the imperative of judging others favorably.  In the course of his discussion, he brings a beautiful and emotional plea or Tefillah actually contained in the classic Sefer Tanna DeVei Eliyahu (containing the teachings of Eliyahu HaNavi) itself.  If we make the effort to look at the good side in others-- that is the side of ours that will appear before Hashem (and others) as well,. There is a tefillah which asks for Hashem’s guidance and assistance in one’s personal trials to judge others favorably. We provide this tefillah (as provided in the past) by the following link.  http://www.hakhel.info/archivesPublicService/PrayerforJudgingOthersFavorably.pdf



EAT WELL!  The Ba’alei Mussar teach that we daven three times a day--much like we eat three times a day, for just as our body must be physically nourished--our neshama requires to be consistently fed with ongoing doses of real Emunah--without it, we are subject to the elements around us which weaken and break down our pure relationship with Hashem. With the Parashios of Yetzias Mitzrayim, we receive a special yearly charge of Emunah--with our daily Tefillos, we maintain and further that charge. What a wonderful time to undertake a daily Tefillah improvement!


Hakhel Note: In the pamphlet VeNomar Amein, the story is brought about a religious Jew who was placed into one of Stalin’s, yemach shemo, Siberian labor camps.  One morning, as he awoke, he contemplated for a moment what he was going to say Modeh Ani about.  After all, he thought, what type of life was he leading--far off in a distant, forsaken corner of the world, a captive in the ice cold weather of Siberia?  Not only had he been separated from his family, but he was being forced not to observe Shabbos, not to put on Tefillin, and not to keep Kosher.  There were no Jews around him either.  What, then, was he thanking Hashem for with the words She’hechezarta Bi Nishmasi Bechemla--for returning his neshama with compassion”?  The prisoner then recalled that the concluding words of Modeh Ani are Rabba Emunasecha--abundant is my faith in You [Hakhel Note:  Others translate it as-- abundant is Hashem’s Faithfulness].  He thought:  “They can take away so much of me physically and spiritually--but they can never take away my Emunah in Hashem.  For my Emunah in Hashem itself, it is worthwhile to get up in the morning and meet the day ahead.”  He had the will to live again and survived the inhumane conditions.  Later, after this Jew was released, he told his Rebbe of his mental debate and his ultimate conclusion on Modeh Ani.  He Rebbe responded:  “You should know that you were sent Min HaShomayim to the depths of Siberia in order for you to reach this conclusion and achieve this special relationship with HaKadosh Baruch Hu!”  Hakhel Note:  It is reported that Rav Chaim Stein, Z’tl, would not be satisfied with reciting Modeh Ani just once, but would be seen repeating it in the morning continuously after he left his home on the way to daven Shacharis in the Yeshiva.





A. HaRav Chaim Kanievsky, Shlita, brings from the Ba’al Haturim that the Arbeh in this week’s Parasha rested on Shabbos. Why were the Mitzriyim zoche to a rest of the makkah on Shabbos? HaRav Kanievsky answers based upon the Midrash (Shemos Rabba 13:6) that the reason that Arbeh was brought upon the Mitzriyim was because they forced Bnei Yisrael to plant wheat and barley--and so the Arbeh ate everything that they forced the Bnei Yisrael to plant. Since, however, the Mitzriyim permitted the Jews to rest from this work on Shabbos (ibid., 5:18), the Arbeh also rested on Shabbos! Hakhel Note:  Every act of Kedushas Shabbos, of Kavod Shabbos of Shemiras Shabbos….goes very much noticed and is very much accounted for!


B. In the Shabbos Zemiros we sing “Hirhurim Muttarim, U’leshadech HaBanos--if a non-Shabbos matter enters into one’s mind he has not violated a Shabbos prohibition--and one can actually engage in trying to redt Shidduchim on Shabbos.  In fact, because one should be more circumspect with his speech on Shabbos in order to avoid the prohibition of “Dabbeir Davar”--it is quite likely that he will be most careful with his dibbur in general--and hopefully pure and Lashon Hora free in the course of the entire Shidduch discussion!


C.  Can one draw a lottery on Shabbos--for example to award a prize to children who had just recited Tehillim together?  The Sefer Shemiras Shabbos Kehilchasa brings an opinion of those who prohibit the use of written lots--as it appears like ‘mekach u’memkar’- a form of business activity on Shabbos.  As to the heter in general for lottery types of games for tzadakos--see Dirshu Mishna Berurah, end of Chapter 322.


D.  The Mishna Berurah brings that there is a special fulfillment of Torah study on Shabbos if one is able to formulate his own Torah chiddush--whether on the Parasha, in what he is learning--or based upon or rooted in the Rav’s Drasha or the D’var Torah of another.  If one particularly concentrates on a question he has on a Pasuk or Parasha on Shabbos--and tries to apply that which he already knows to the problem--he may find that he really does know the answer--just as the cholent on Shabbos tastes differently than during the week so too does one’s Shabbos study taste differently than during the week.  After all, the gashmius of this world serves as a role model for our ruchniyus





A.  The Chasam Sofer teaches that Moshe Rabbeinu told Paroh that we will go out with the young and the old, with the sons and with the daughters-- and even with the cattle and sheep in order to demonstrate to Paroh that the basis for our being able to leave Mitzrayim was our Achdus--our unity.  If we could leave all together--as one nation--then we deserve to be one nation--freed of the yoke of Paroh.  Let us apply the lesson to our times, as we try to forge bonds with each of our contemporary ‘Shevatim’. 


B.  Many are familiar with Arbeh--the locusts literally stopping in their tracks as they reached the gate of Komimiyus, the renowned Shomer Shemitta settlement.  The inhabitants were unsure as to whether they should publicize this great miracle--and asked direction of the Brisker Rav, Z’tl.  The Brisker Rav responded with the Pasuk (Divrei HaYamim I 16:9):  Sichu BeChol Niflaosav--speak of all His wonders!  When a wonderful or wondrous thing happens to us, let us recall the Brisker Rav’s teaching--and the words of the Pasuk itself--and repeat time and again--the Wonders of Hashem!


C.  The Toldos Yaakov Yosef brings the Pasuk in Makas Choshech--U’lechol Bnei Yisrael Haya Ohr BeMoshvosam--and to Bnei Yisrael there was light in the places they sat (Shemos 10:23).  What was this light, he asks.  The light was the realization that it was not good where they were sitting--and they had to take action to leave!  Hakhel Note: We too MUST see the light!


D.  In the Parasha, we learn of Hashem’s instruction for the men and women of Bnei Yisrael to ask ‘Ish Mai’ais Rai’aihu V’Isha Mai’ais Re’ussa Klei Kessef U’Klei Zahav U’Semalos--a man from his friend and a women from her friend should borrow silver and gold utensils and fine clothing.”  The question is so blaring--since when were the Mitzriyim friends (‘Rei’im’) of the Bnei Yisrael?  Had they not been beating and attacking our nation for so many years?  Rabbi Paysach Krohn, Shlita notes that shoresh of the term Rai’aihu and the term Re’ussa  is actually starkly similar or related to Ra-or evil--and that is how the Mitzriyim in fact treated the Bnei Yisrael.  In actuality, then, we were asked in Mitzrayim to go to the ones who had done badly to us and ‘borrow’ their property--not a paradox at all!  On the other hand, notes Rabbi Krohn, we have the Mitzvah of VeAhavta LeRayacha Komocha--which means we have to work on loving those of our people--and not only those who have been so nice to us and are like our ‘brothers’--but even those who are Rai’acha--who have treated us wrongly or improperly.  The acid test of our Mitzvah of loving others--is with this category of people!  For a detailed explanation of this concept--together with practical examples--see the first Chapter of the Sefer Tomer Devorah by HaRav Moshe Cordevero, Z’tl. 


 E. Many wonder as to why we were instructed “VeYishalu” (Shemos 11:2)--only to borrow from the Egyptians--and not to take from them--after all, had we not been enslaved for so many years for no pay?!  Wasn’t it high time to legitimately collect for all of the near-impossible work?  HaRav Yisroel Dovid Schlesinger, Shlita, teaches that before we became a free nation, we had to fully appreciate and completely understand-- that everything in this world is truly borrowed--from Hashem Who is its True, Ultimate --and Only Owner!


F.  The first Mitzvah given to K’lal Yisrael as a people is found in the Parasha with the words “HaChodesh Hazeh Lachem Rosh Chadashim” (Shemos 12:1).  HaRav Ezriel Erlanger, Shlita, explains that this is a moment that we have all been waiting for--Rashi, in the very first Rashi in Chumash, already is excited about it--and asks why, in fact, the Torah does not begin right here with this Mitzvah.  HaRav Erlanger explains that Rashi, by asking the question at the outset of his Peirush, is teaching us that the Torah is a Sefer HaMitzvos.  Even if many Pesukim, and even many Parashios, do not seem to contain Mitzvos, there are in fact countless directions in the Torah.  Rabbi Erlanger cites the G’ra, who teaches that the 613 Mitzvos are only kelalim--general rules--to which there is infinitely more detail.  There is a second, fundamental principle we must understand regarding Mitzvos, HaRav Erlanger continues.  That is, as Dovid Hamelech exclaims (Tehillim 119:105):  “Ner Leragli Devarecha VeOhr Linsivasi--Your words are a lamp for my feet and a light for my path.”  This means that the Torah and Mitzvos operate in a world of darkness, for Olam Hazeh Domeh Lelaylah.  The backdrop, the background of every Mitzvah is the darkness of the physical world, the murkiness of the mundane and the material, which the Torah literally lights up.  As one is performing a Mitzvah, he may visualize himself entering into a dark room--making the effort to find the light switch, turning it on and witnessing a bright and brilliant light!


G.  HaRav Yecheskel Levenstein, Z’tl, in the Sefer Yad Yecheskel, notes that when Bnei Yisrael were given the instruction to bring the Korban Pesach, the Pasuk writes “Vayelchu VaYa’asu Bnei Yisrael--and Bnei Yisrael went and performed it” (Shemos 12:28).  How could the Torah so testify--when Bnei Yisrael were given the instructions on Rosh Chodesh Nissan, and did not actually bring the Korban Pesach on until the 14th of Nissan which had not yet occurred?!  He answers that the Torah highlights with these words for us that the Gemar Asiyah--the action and completion of any deed is really in the hands of Heaven.  What a person must do is display a Ratzon and Gemiras Da’as to want to do that which he has been commanded.  Whether the act itself will be performed or will be successful, is not for us to decide.  Succinctly stated--Rachamana Liba Bo’i--a person’s obligation in Kiyum HaMitzvos is the degree and extent of one’s Lev in it!  For an important extended discussion of this topic, see Sefer Chovos HaLevavos, Sha’ar HaBitachon.


H.  In a significant and related thought, HaRav Levenstein points to the sad paradox of 80% of the Bnei Yisrael not leaving Egypt on the one hand, and the eirev rav leaving together with the Bnei Yisrael who did leave, on the other (Shemos 12:38).  To explain, he once again points to the person’s Lev.  What is required of a person is his Teshukah and Ratzon to do the will of Hashem to walk into the wilderness.  At the time of Yetzias Mitzrayim, one could have been a great Torah scholar--but if he did not want to leave Egypt, he would die there.  No Zechus Avos would help him--and he would not merit Matan Torah at Har Sinai and everything else that followed.  The eirev rav, however, had the passion, the feeling to want to leave--and to see what Hashem would do for Bnei Yisrael.  They left their homes and perhaps much of their family behind.  As a result, they joined with the Bnei Yisrael--and made it to Matan Torah.  In this world, with sincerity and dedication one can achieve great heights.  The G’ra explains on the Pasuk, Mai’ashpos Yarim Evyon that one who has true aspirations (the Shoresh of Evyon is Ta’ev)--he will be lifted up from the depths to the heights!


I.  In the Parasha, we are taught for the first time the Mitzvah of Tefillin. The Divrei Siach brings the following from the Sefer Minchas Todah: A man came to HaRav Chaim Kanievsky, Shlita, with a shailah as to what he should do from a ruchniyus perspective--his daughter had been born with right and left chambers of the heart reversed and required complex surgery. HaRav Chaim thought for several moments, and replied: “You should buy Tefillin and give them either to an orphan or a Ba’al Teshuvah.” He explained: “Tefillin, one would think, should be placed on the right or stronger arm--yet Hashem reversed the two for purposes of this Mitzvah. Your daughter’s chambers have been reversed as well--so in the zechus of Tefillin she should be zocha to a yeshua.” The man had a friend who was a chiloni--so he asked him if he knew of anyone who was becoming more religious and would consider putting on Tefillin, if purchased on his behalf. His friend responded that he wasn’t intending to begin putting on Tefillin--but was willing to do so for the rest of his life so that the daughter could be healed....The operation was a success!


J.  HaRav Erlanger, Shlita, teaches that his father in-law (HaRav Shlomo Wolbe, Z’tl) would say that everyone should know the Ramban at the end of this week’s Parasha by heart.  The Ramban teaches us three core principles of Emunah:  (1) There is a Creator Who owns the world.  Accordingly, He can change it--as evidenced by the Makkos; (2) Hashem knows what goes on in the world.  He is not removed from the world’s everyday existence--and controls and leads its events, circumstances and happenings; and (3) Hashem associates and communicates with us--and we should realize it. 


Based upon these principles, we emerge with a tremendous lesson.  The nations of the world may be apikorsim not because they do not know the truth--but because they are reshaim.  They excuse themselves by claiming that Hashem is too great and holy to be involved with lowly man.  This is what Dovid HaMelech means when he says (Tehillim 113:4):  “Rum Ahl Kol Goyim Hashem Ahl HaShomayim Kevodo--high above all nations is Hashem; above the Heavens is His glory.”  We, however, know better--for we exclaim in return (ibid. 5,6):  “Mi KaShem Elokeinu HaMagbihi Lashaves HaMashpili Liros BaShomayim U’Va’aretz MeKimi Mei’afar Dahl….who is like Hashem Who is enthroned on high, yet He lowers himself to look upon the heavens and the earth.  He raises the needy from the dust, from the trash heaps He lifts the destitute….”  It is a common ploy of the Yetzer Hara to have us ignore our shortcomings by emphasizing the purported insignificance of our actions:  “You did not answer Yehei Shemei Rabba with Kavannah--who cares?”; “You spoke only a few words of Lashon Hara--what is the big deal?” It is a spirit of pleasant lowliness--for it permits for the forbidden based upon an attitude of insignificance and defeat.  We, on the other hand, must understand that Hashem is not removed, far away and uncaring--but sincerely looks to raise us up from the trash heaps that the Yetzer Hara has planned for us.  All of our actions, all of our time, all of our thoughts--they really are important.  Rebbi Tzadok HaKohen, in the Sefer Tzidkas HaTzaddik writes:  “After you believe in Hashem Yisborach--then believe in yourself.  You are not a fish in the ocean--you are a Yid!”


Hakhel Note:  How incredibly beautiful--every part of our existence--24/7--is important…to Hashem!



6 Shevat

PLEASE WRITE THIS ESSAY: The topic for your essay is “From Challenge to Success!--Utilizing the Facts and Circumstances of Today’s Times to Become a Ben Olam Haba.” We would very much appreciate your submissions to us!


Hakhel Note: If not an essay--then an outline!



A REAL LESSON! HaRav Chaim Kanievsky, Shlita, brings from the Zohar (Parashas Ki Sisa) that the eirev rav who left Mitzrayim with us included the chartumei Mitzrayim--who were sons of Bilam! Hakhel Note: If the chartumim would want to associate with good--and perhaps have some Teshuvah thoughts--oh, what should we say, what should we do?!



20%: Rabbi Zecharia Wallerstein, Shlita, notes that in this week’s Parasha (Shemos 13:18), we learn that V’Chamushim Alu Bnei Yisrael MeiEretz Mitzrayim can be interpreted to mean that only 20% of Bnei Yisrael left Mitzrayim--and 80% did not experience Geulah. As the assimilation rate now horrifically hovers at 80% prior to our Geulah--it is terribly r’l similar to the 80% who did not make it out of Mitzrayim for Geulah. Everyone--everyone--has an obligation to try to save these souls so that they too may experience Geulah--speedily and in our days! Hakhel Note: Rabbi Moshe Faskowitz, Shlita, brings in the name of the Chasam Sofer that chamushim can also refer to the fact that each family of K’lal Yisrael that did leave brought along five children from those who were not zoche to leave. Accordingly, we each should make the effort--to bring along five of these children in our generation as well! Remember that-- unlike the Geulas Mitzrayim--the Geulah Sheleimah will be forever and ever!



SAVORING THE MOMENT:  We present below an essential insight derived from this week’s Parasha by Rabbi Zelig Pliskin, Shlita, in Growth Through Torah (p. 160):

U’Lichol Bnei Yisrael Lo Yecheratz Kelev Lishono--To all of Israel the dogs did not bark” (Shemos 11:7).  One can imagine the great feeling of liberation experienced by the Bnei Yisrael when they were finally freed from slavery after so many years.  Would it have been so terrible if a dog had barked at them when they were leaving?  We see from here that even though the irritation experienced would have been slight, under the circumstances, it would have nevertheless still been a blot on their joy.  From here we can learn that when someone is experiencing a joyous occasion, we should be careful not to say or do anything that would decrease his joy.  A person might have just bought a new house and feels very happy about it.  At that time do not needlessly point out the drawbacks of that house.  A person just got married and is very happy, do not voice any pessimistic comments that could cause a tinge of pain.  Some people have a tendency to make statements that deflate a person’s high feelings.  They might be motivated by a bit of envy, or they could be simply insensitive.  Allow others to savor their good fortune.  Don’t be like a barking dog and cause others irritation.

Thank you, Rabbi Pliskin, for these sage and truly meaningful words!



SEMICHUS GEULAH L’TEFILLAH: In this Parasha of Geulah, we provide the very special explanation of Semichus Geulah L’Tefillah, as presented in the magnificent work HaRav Schwab on Prayer, which we have noted so many times in the past is a Sefer which is essential for every Jewish home:


Briefly, HaRav Schwab teaches that to understand the deeper meaning of Semichus Geulah L’Tefillah, we must first understand the meaning of the word Geulah. In the Torah, the term Geulah refers to one who is close (see e.g., Vayikrah 25:25 and 48-49 and Bamidbar 5:8).


Similarly, by the term V’Ga’alti Eschem used at Yetziyas Mitzrayim, Hashem was telling Bnei Yisrael that He was then establishing close personal relationship with us. Through the miraculous events of  Yetziyas Mitzrayim, Hashem came as close to us as He can ever come. This is what the Ba’al Hagaddah means when he writes Ani VeLo Malach Ani VeLo Saraf…From the view point of Hakadosh Baruch Hu, His closest relationship to us is through Geulah.


Correspondingly, from the perspective of K’lal Yisrael the highest form of Avodas Hashem--that which brings us into the closest proximity of Him--is the korban, whose root is karov--to become as close as humanly possible to Him. In our times, Tefillah takes the place of korban. The highest form of Tefillah--the essence of which is Shemone Esrei--is when one offers himself as a korban to Hashem in sincere prayer. In the architecture of Tefillah, the Shemone Esrei actually corresponds to the Kodesh Hakedoshim, for this is where we bring our neshama from the mundane world into the closest possible way we can relate to Hashem. Indeed, when we take three steps forward and keep our feet together, we symbolize that we are leaving the mundane and drawing closer, binding ourselves before Hakadosh Baruch Hu.


Semichus Geulah L’Tefillah is, then, the connection between the closest possible relationship of HaKadosh Baruch Hu to us--through Geulah--with our closest possible relationship to Him--through Tefillah, in which we offer ourselves as a korban to HaKadosh Baruch Hu.


HaRav Schwab concludes that it is incumbent upon every individual to make the effort to work towards the goal of achieving the closest possible proximity to Hashem by connecting the concepts of Hashem’s Geulah and our Tefillah. Hakhel Note: We thereby accomplish the purpose of man!



THE FAMOUS RAMBAN:  We continue with the words of the Ramban at the end of this week’s Parasha, Parashas Bo (Shemos 13:16), which provide such essential guidance on our role in life.  The Ramban writes (slightly paraphrased), “For the ultimate objective of all of the Mitzvos is that we should believe in Hashem and acknowledge that He created us.  Moreover, this is the ultimate objective of the Creation itself…for we have no other explanation for the Creation , and Hashem has no desire for the lower world except for this, that man should know and acknowledge that Hashem created him.  Indeed, the purpose of raising one’s voice in prayer, and the merit of tefilla b’tzibbur, is for people to gather and acknowledge to Hashem that He created them--where we can declare before Hashem: “We are Your creations!”  [See Ramban Commentary on The Torah—Shemos (Artscroll, p.299-300) for the actual, full text, annotations and footnotes].


HaRav Mattisyahu Salomon, Shlita, (Mattisyahu Chaim Ben Ettel L’Refuah Sheleimah) explains the relevance and scope of these words in our daily lives.  The Mashgiach noted that the Ramban here uses the word “modeh”, to admit that Hashem is our Creator, no less than seven times in the course of his advice to us at the end of Parashas Bo.  The more we admit, and admit again, and again and again, that Hashem is our Creator, the easier it will be for us to do battle with our Yetzer Hara who constantly tells the individual that he is a creator and is in control of his life and his goals.  We must, instead, constantly repeat and reinforce the words of Dovid HaMelech (recited in the weekday Shacharis--Tehillim, 100:3), “Hu Asanu VeLo Anachnu--He has made us, and we are His.”  Indeed, the ksiv of the word “VeLo” here is with an Aleph (the word Lo, with this spelling, meaning “nought”)--so that we admit and confess that we are Hashem’s Creations, and that, concomitantly, by ourselves we are simply powerless.  When we daven, as the Ramban cited above teaches, we demonstrate our helplessness, because we ask (or should ask!) Hashem for help in every last detail of our lives.


HaRav Salomon notes that there are really three points included in the words of the Ramban.  First, that Hashem does everything.  Second, that Hashem can do everything.  Third, that everything that Hashem does is for the person’s good.  What man thinks is good for him may not really be good for him at all.  It is interesting to note that the first of the Aseres HaDibros states definitively who Hashem is, and the last of the Aseres HaDibros teaches us not to make or follow our own determinations as to what we should have and what we shouldn’t--seeming to teach us the lesson of the Ramban--that this awareness and appreciation of Who Hashem is and who we are--is the beginning and end of the Mitzvos, and, indeed, of creation itself.  If one reviews these three points at various times throughout the day, he will most definitely feel more at peace, serene, and fulfilled.


Imagine walking boldly over to a King who is sitting on his throne--and swiping away his crown.  The audacity!  The absurdity!  When we act with ga’avah--with haughtiness--when we view or place ourselves in charge, we foolishly take away the very crown that belongs only to Hashem, as we recite in Tehillim (93:1):  “Hashem Melech Gayus Lovesh--only Hashem dons ga’avah, grandeur”.  He is the Creator and the Omnipotent.  He is the One Who can do and does.  And all of this is for our benefit!  It is no coincidence, as it never is, that we recite the kepitel of “Hashem Melech Gayus Lovesh” as the Shir Shel Yom on Friday--the day of man’s creation--to remind us of life’s true purpose, and of our true role.



5 Shevat

SHOVAVIM PROGRESS: As we progress speedily through Shovavim, perhaps we can each take the following simple daily accounting:  Record in writing how many times(if at all) that you got angry [ or pick the middah that you know needs improvement on a daily basis], and why you did, at the end of the day.  If you are fearful that you will forget, then write it down then and there after you have regained full control.  In any event, think about how you can try to avoid its duplication.  You can come out of Shovavim a much greater person!

Hakhel Note: This suggestion is based on the pivotal Yesod of Sur Mai’Ra--turn away from evil.  There is, of course, the corresponding rule of Aseh Tov--Seek Ways to do Good.  A possible approach for Shovavim in this vein is to concisely commit to paper daily at least three new Torah thoughts or lessons (Halacha, Hashkafa, Parasha) that you learned.  You can read them over on Shabbos, or review them from time to time and k’vel (take nachas in yourself).  Over a week--it amounts to 21 teachings that you did not know before--and over the Year--it’s more than 1,000 new Torah points in your possession!  You can then begin doing the math on your own--10 years--10,000 teachings...20 years--20,000 Torah acquisitions...  Truly A Magnificent Accomplishment!!



THE BEGINNING OF OUR FREE WILL! In this week’s Parasha we find the first Mitzvah given to Bnei Yisrael as a people--HaChodesh HaZeh Lachem Rosh Chadashim--this month is for you a first month.  The Sforno beautifully explains that it is a first because beginning with this month, our months are now ours, to do as we would like--without being subject to servitude to another.  Because our time is now ours--Nissan became the month in which our free will began.  What a wonderful teaching--we are to cherish the time that our free will--our ability to choose the right path-began!  Our Avodah from then on was and continues to be--U’Bacharta BaChaim--choosing the path of life!



HOW A BA’AL BITACHON GOES TO WORK: The Sefer Chovos HaLevavos (Sha’ar HaBitachon, Chapter 3) teaches that when a person goes to work and is at work, his Kavannah should be to properly perform the Mitzvas Hashem to be involved in the upkeep of the world. As the Pasuk (Bereishis 2:15) teaches about Adam HaRishon--he was placed in Gan Eden “Le’avda U’Leshamra--to work it and to guard it”. With this in mind, none of our work tasks need be menial or insignificant. With the proper attitude and approach they are all meaningful, necessary, and not only fulfilling--but fulfilling the will of Hashem!



A WISE INVESTMENT: The following is excerpted from the newly published A Story from Rav Pam by Rabbi Sholom Smith, Shlita, a wonderful collection of personal and historical anecdotes from Harav Avraham Pam, Z’tl: A story is told about the Malbim, the great Torah commentator, who served as Rav in more than a dozen Jewish communities, where he was well known as a defender and protector of the poor and unfortunate. One day, when he was Rav in Mohilev, an almanah came knocking on his door. “Rebbi!” she cried, “I have nothing to feed my children. Please help me!” The Malbim asked, “Do you have any particular skills that you can use to earn some parnassa?” “Yes, I do,” she replied, “I can make delicious latkes.” “That’s wonderful. Why don’t you go into business making and selling the latkes?” he asked. “Oy, Rebbi,” the woman cried, “I don’t have any money to buy the ingredients to make the latkes.” The Malbim thought for a moment and then said, “Don’t worry. Let’s be partners. I’ll give you money to buy the ingredients and you make the latkes, and Hashem will give His bracha to our gesheft (enterprise).” With that, he took out a hundred ruble note from his drawer and handed it to the woman. “A hundred rubles?” the woman gasped in disbelief, “How can I hope to ever repay so much money?” She then burst into tears. “Don’t worry and don’t cry!” said the Malbim. “I don’t want to be a partner with someone who cries. Take the money and have bitachon that Hashem will help.” The woman took the money and left. With time, she became a successful latke maker and made enough to support her children, who took care of the “books” of the business. A few months went by and the woman came back to her “partner,” the Malbim, with a ledger of her expenses and profits. The Malbim carefully reviewed them and was satisfied that the latke business was being run properly. The woman then took out a hundred ruble note and offered to repay the Malbim’s original investment. “No, no,” said the Malbim. “It’s an old business rule that if a gesheft is running well you leave your investment in it so that it can go further and make more profits. Keep making those delicious latkes!”



SHIR HAMA’ALOS! Rabbi Yisroel Reisman, Shlita, teaches the following on the chapters of Shir HaMa’alos in Tehillim (Chapters 120-134):


A.  There are 150 Perokim of Tehillim, of which 15 Perokim are the Shir HaMa’alos.  Thus, the Shir HaMa’alos actually comprise 10% of the Perokim of Tehillim! 


B.  The 15 Perokim were sung on the 15 steps that separated the Ezras Noshim from the Ezras Yisrael in the Bais HaMikdash. 


C.  At first blush, there does not appear to be a common theme in these 15 Chapters.  However, the term Ma’alos--used in each one teaches that they are all songs of Aliyah, teaching how one can move up in one’s Avodas Hashem.  Indeed, the letter Hey before HaMa’alos is the definite article, teaching us that these are the steps of Aliyah. [Perek 121 is actually Shir LaMa’alos, but that is a contraction of LeHaMa’alos, so the definite article essentially remains].   


D.  The concept of 15 comes up many times in a parallel way to the 15 Shir HaMa’alos.  The Gra, for example, explains that the 15 steps of Dayeinu on the Seder Night correspond to the 15 Shir HaMa’alos.  Likewise, the 15 praises of VeYatziv VeNachon…correspond as well, as do the 15 words of Birchas Kohanim.  The Bnei Yisrael are compared more to the sun than to the moon, because the sun is visible every day in the same way--but the moon has a cycle where it goes from no visibility--to full visibility on the 15th day of the month.  The 15th day, then, represents the Bnei Yisrael at their highest point.  Likewise, Shlomo HaMelech was the 15th generation from Avrohom Avinu, and was then afforded the opportunity and honor to build the Bais HaMikdash. 


E.  The Radak explains that each Shir HaMa’alos was recited per step for each one of the 15 steps--representing the theme that one have a Derech Aliyah--an upwards path--in life.  In fact, HaRav Saadia Gaon teaches that each succeeding Shir HaMa’alos was recited louder and louder as they moved up to a higher step, representing an increase in strength and an increase in accomplishment. 


F.  The two-letter name of Hashem consisting of Yud and Heh (in Gematria, totaling 15) represents the awareness of Hashem in the Gashmiyus sense of this world--as evidenced by how our war with Amalek ended (Ki Yad Al Kais--Yud-Hey). Thus, many words relating to the physical in this world have both a Yud and a Hey in them--such as Achila, Shesiya, Sheina, Lena.  Even when we praise Hashem in this world--it is with the abbreviated name--HaLelukah.  With Gashmiyus alone, Hashem’s four letter name is incomplete.  Indeed, prior to the Moshiach’s arrival, we don’t even know the nekudos under the four letter name!  The remaining two letters of Hashem’s Name of four letters--Vav and Heh--represent an awareness of Hashem from the perspective of Ruchniyus.  This is why the words such as Torah, Avodah, and Mitzvah, have a Vav and a Hey within them.  When we recite the LeSheim Yichud before doing a Mitzvah, we endeavor to combine the Shem Yud Keh B’Vav Keh--we demonstrate our goal to merge the physical world and the spiritual world. 


G.  It is important to note that one of the Shir HaMa’alos refers to “Beshuv Hashem Es Shivas Tzion”--asking Hashem to return us back to Tzion.  How/why would this be recited while still in the Bais HaMikdash-- weren’t we already in Tzion?  One must answer that even then--with the Bais HaMikdash standing--Bnei Yisrael dreamt of the Yemos HaMoshiach--when we would stay on the fifteenth level--for all time! 


Hakhel Note:  With Rabbi Reisman’s enlightening introductory insights into the Shir HaMa’alos, shouldn’t our singing of the Shir HaMa’alos on Shabbos and Yom Tov-- and our recitation of all or any of the other Shir HaMa’alos (daily or however often one recites them) be infused with a special Kavannah, inspiration and sincerity!



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