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13 Adar

SHIUR BY RABBI SOROTZKIN:  We once again make available by the following link a remarkable and masterful Shiur in honor of Purim given for Hakhel by Rabbi Yitzchok Sorotzkin, Shlita, entitled “Shushan American Style” http://tinyurl.com/4sv4oqn


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


We provide two Halachos for you to begin:


1. The Rema (Shulchan Aruch Orach Chaim 429:1) begins Hilchos Pesach by writing that it is our Minhag to give wheat to the poor in order to help them celebrate Pesach. The Mishna Berurah (seif katan 3) notes that this Minhag dates back to the time of Chazal.


2. Rabbi Shimon Eider, Z’tl, in the Halachos of Pesach writes that in lieu of wheat, some have the custom to distribute flour or other food supplies. In our time, most communities distribute money for the poor, in order for them to purchase their needs. The leaders of our community do not tax or otherwise assess their constituents, but instead everyone is expected to give to the best of his ability.


Hakhel Note: As we connect Matanos L’Evyonim to Ma’os Chitim--let us remember the Pasuk (Yeshaya 1:27): “Tzion B’Mishpat Tipadeh V’Shaveha B’Tzedaka”--speedily and in our day!



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



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



TEFILLAH AHL HAGEULAH--ON PURIM: Once again, may we suggest that on the auspicious day of Purim we recite the Tefillah Al HaGeulah we have previously distributed: http://tinyurl.com/2u3l4e  (Hebrew version) and  http://tinyurl.com/3ybyxq  (English version).



AN IMPORTANT ADVERTISEMENT: The following notice appeared in an advertisement regarding Purim: “On Purim, when Tzedakah collectors enter your home, from yeshiva bochurim to elderly Rabbanim, women should be extra vigilant in maintaining a modest demeanor. In the zechus of your extra vigilance in adhering to the laws of Tzniyus on this holy day, may you and your loved ones experience great blessing and reward!”





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


2. Mishloach Manos:


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


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


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


D. The following are psakim of HaRav Elyashiv, Z’tl, relating to Misloach Manos, excerpted from the Sefer Yevakshu MiPihu, which contains hundreds of Pesakim of HaRav Elyashiv relating to Purim and is available in many Seforim stores:


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


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


(iii). One can be Yotzeh the Mitzvah by giving two kinds of wine, or two kinds of soda. However, one is not yotzeh the Mitzvah with water, soda water or mineral water.


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


(v).  One is yotzeh the Mitzvah even if the food would taste better warmed up--as long as it is edible as is.


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


(vii).  One can fulfill the mitzvah in giving to a parent--for one should  be 'BeRayus'  with them as well!


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


(ix).  One must know who sent the Mishloach Manos in order for the sender to be yotzeh (it can't be anonymous!)--otherwise there is no increase in love and friendship.


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


3. Matanos L’Evyonim:


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


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


Hakhel Note: HaRav Naftali Kaplan, Shlita, points out that when giving, your feelings and attitude towards the fifth, tenth, fifteenth and twentieth recipient, should be no different than your feelings and attitude towards the first!


4. Seudas Purim:


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


B. Some have the custom of eating zaronim at the Purim Seudah, in remembrance of the food that Esther, as well as Doniyel, Chananya, Mishael and Azarya had to eat while in the royal court. Some Poskim hold that Zaronim need not necessarily be beans or seeds--but can be any vegetables.


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


D. Let us remember an essential result of Purim--’Kiymu VeKiblu--the Jewish People reaffirmed their voluntary commitment to the Torah.’ Rashi (Shabbos 88A) importantly explains that the reason that we uniquely reaffirmed our commitment after Purim was ‘MeiAhavas HaNeis SheNa’aseh Lahem’--from the love, from the deep appreciation of the miracle that was performed on their behalf. HaRav Henoch Leibowitz, Z’tl, teaches that if we truly appreciate Purim--if we too have an Ahavas HaNeis--then each and every one of us should undertake his own Kiymu VeKiblu. At the Purim Seudah itself--one may want to Bli Neder take on his own Kiymu VeKiblu in Torah--and perhaps encourage others to do so as well. Here as an example is a simple suggestion: In the Iggeres HaRamban, the Ramban writes that when one completes his studies he should search for something that he can take with him and apply or fulfill. Make it a part of each study session--before you “close the book… or mp3 or cd” think about something that you learned and how and will it have a daily Kiyum in your life. With this you can take the Kiymu VeKiblu with you every day of the year! Remember--Mishna Yomis beginning March 30th!




A GRAGER FOR ONE AND ALL! As we have noted in the past, the Rema (Shulchan Aruch, Orach Chayim 690:17) writes “the children’s custom is to make an image of Haman HaRasha on sticks or stones, or to write the name of Haman HaRasha on them, and to hit them against each other, so that his name is erased…and from here comes the custom to make noise at the mention of the name of Haman HaRasha when the Megillah is read in Shul--and one should not be Mevatel (nullify) a Minhag (custom) or make light of it.”


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


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


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

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



THE HALACHOS OF ONE WHO IS INTOXICATED: The following Important Halachos were provided to us by Rabbi Yisroel Pinchos Bodner, Shlita:


1. Three Halachic Levels of Intoxication

Chazal classify a person who has been drinking wine or other alcoholic beverages into one of three halachic levels of intoxication.


A. High (shosuy) – he drank three or more ounces of wine or one to two ounces of whiskey, and feels relaxed and somewhat euphoric (“high”). He has minor impairment of reasoning and memory but is in control of his actions and his speech.


B. Recognizably Drunk (shikur) - i.e., to the extent that he is “unable to speak to a king.” The Poskim explain that a person is in this category when his drunkenness can be recognized by his difficulty in walking or balance, and/or if his speech is slurred. One would not want to be in a position to have to speak to his boss, and would certainly be unable to speak to a king in that condition.


C. Drunk “Like Lot” (shikur k’Lot) – i.e., he is disoriented and has inadequate comprehension of where he is or what he is doing.


2. Davening while Under the Influence

The Shulchan Aruch states that one should l’chatchilla not daven (Sh’mone Esrei or Sh’ma) if he is even just a little high. Rather, he should try to eliminate his intoxication by taking a walk, or a short nap, before endeavoring to daven. Nevertheless, on Purim some Poskim permit a person who is “high” to daven l’chatchilla, provided that he is not at the intoxication level of “recognizably drunk”. In such a case, he should take care to daven from a siddur.


According to all views, if he is at the intoxication level of “recognizably drunk” he must absolutely refrain from davening. If he insists on davening in that condition, his davening is not valid, and he must daven again when he is sober.


Thus, if after the Purim seuda one was at the level of “recognizably drunk” he should not attempt to daven maariv. Rather he should go to sleep and try to wake up before alos hashachar (72 minutes before sunrise) and daven at home. If he was unable to get up, he should daven a second Shemone Esrei at shacharis as restitution for missing maariv.


Hakhel Note: One should advise those who are in level B or C as to how to properly conduct themselves as to davening.



Our Annual Purim Bonus Below! Over the last two weeks, we have provided questions and answers, which are culled together here, along with additional questions:



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


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

ANSWER: According to Yalkut Me’am Loez, Achashveirosh came to power in the year 3392, and Haman was hung in 3404.


QUESTION: How many years did Purim occur before Chanukah?

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


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

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


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

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


QUESTION: Who was the king before Achashveirosh?

ANSWER: Coresh-see first Rashi to the Megillah.


QUESTION: Who brought Mordechai from Bavel to Shushan?

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


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

ANSWER: Shaul HaMelech (Targum Sheni 2:5)


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


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

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


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

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


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

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


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

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


QUESTION: One of the especially named attendees at the Mishte were the HaPartemim’(Esther 1:3)--what does ‘HaPartemim’ mean?

ANSWER: Some form of rulership. The Me’am Lo’ez writes that they ruled over areas near the Euphrates , the Pras River --hence the letters of the word Peih Reish Tes Mem Yud Mem.


QUESTION: According to the opinion that Memuchan was Haman:

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


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

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


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


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


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

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


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

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


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


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

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


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

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


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

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


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


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

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


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

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


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

ANSWER: Chazal (Megillah 16B) teach us what the other edicts were from the Pasuk “LaYehudim Hoysa Orah…” (Esther 8:16 ): The additional decrees included prohibiting the study of Torah, the observance of Shabbos and Yom Tov, performing a Bris Mila and the wearing of Tefillin (see Targum Sheini).


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

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


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

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


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

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


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

ANSWER:  Chazal teach that Kinah (jealousy), Ta’ava (desire), and Kavod (honor seeking) take a person out of this world. Thus, one day was designated for each of these Middos, as the Zohar HaKadosh teaches that Yamim represent Middos--these three Middos that had to be corrected (Pri Tzaddik, Parashas Chukas).


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

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


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

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


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

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


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

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


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

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


QUESTION: Why did Esther invite Haman to her party with Achashveirosh? The Gemara gives 12 reasons and Eliyahu HaNavi (as quoted in the Gemara) confirms that Esther had all 12 of them in mind. Can you name at least three?

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


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

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


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

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


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

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


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

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


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

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


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

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


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


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

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


QUESTION: Why is Charvona “Zachur Latov”?

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


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

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


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

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


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

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


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

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


QUESTION:  What happened to Zeresh?

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


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

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


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

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


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

ANSWER: “Sasson”--or happiness!


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

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


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

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


QUESTION: Which cities in Eretz Yisrael (and outside it) in our time would read the Megillah on two days--the fourteenth and the fifteenth of Adar because of a doubt as to whether they were walled from the time of Yehoshua Bin Nun?

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


QUESTION: What are the last five seforim in Tanach?

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


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

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


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

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


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

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


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

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


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

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


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

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



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

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


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

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


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





12 Adar



1. One should be sure to prepare a list of what he will be davening for on Purim, so that it is thought through in advance and readily available for timely use.


2. We had pointed out in the past that HaRav Mattiyahu Salomon, Shlita, brought a special Tefillah from the Chida to be recited in a Eis Ratzon--to allow all further Tefillos on a daily basis to be connected to the Eis Ratzon. By the following link http://tinyurl.com/zraeg8z  we provide the amazing actual text of HaRav Salomon’s teaching from his Sefer Matnas Chaim.


3. May we suggest that on the auspicious day of Purim we recite the Tefillah Ahl HaGeulah we have previously distributed: http://tinyurl.com/2u3l4e  (Hebrew version) and  http://tinyurl.com/3ybyxq  (English version).



A PURIM MOMENT! We provide by the following link--http://tinyurl.com/yjsytzl  a flyer relating to The Power of Purim that has been distributed for many years. Please feel free to distribute and redistribute!


In a very similar vein, by the following link--http://tinyurl.com/ysf6m7  you will find an important message distributed by the Chofetz Chaim Heritage Foundation. Hakhel Note: Dovid HaMelech teaches us in Hallel (Tehillim 116:1 et. al.) “Ahavti Ki Yishma Hashem Es Kol Tachanunai…Dalosi Veli Yehoshia--I love Him, for Hashem hears my voice, my supplications…I was brought low, but He saved me.” Chazal teach that even when we are poor in Mitzvos, Hashem saves us through our Tefillos--let us activate our Koach HaTefillah on Purim--and urge others to do so as well!  


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





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


Additional Note One: The Kav HaYashar also brings that the days of Ta’anis Esther and Purim are days of Ratzon V’Ahava--let us utilize them to our utmost.


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


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


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


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


5. The Mishna Berurah (Shulchan Aruch Orach Chaim 686, seif katan 2) writes the following about Ta’anis Esther: “It is called Ta’anis Esther so that we remember that Hashem Yisborach sees and listens to each person in his time of trouble when he fasts and returns to Hashem with all of his heart, as was done at that time.” We must not lose sight of the fact that Teshuva is a tremendously important part of the day on Ta’anis Esther.   As we look at the troubled state of our brethren in Eretz Yisrael and worldwide, and at the turbulent and tottering state of all of mankind, Teshuva should certainly be a high priority on Ta’anis Esther --make it yours!


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



MACHATZIS HASHEKEL: Chazal teach that Haman told Mordechai “Your Machatzis HaShekel contributions preceded and bested my offer of 10,000 talents of silver.” Indeed, on Ta’anis Esther we are, once again, giving our Zecher L’Machatzis HaShekel.  This may very well be a reminder to us that we should be on the alert to give “Shekalim”, Tzedakah, in order for us to stave off and avert the designs and decrees of the Hamans of our generation. Let us remember, as we recite in the Haggadah, that “in every generation they stand up to destroy us and HaKadosh Baruch Hu saves us from their hand.” With our Tzedaka, we will hopefully give HaKadosh Baruch Hu all the ammunition that He needs.


Hakhel Note: In fact, HaRav Matisyahu Salomon, Shlita, quotes the famous Rambam in Hilchos Megillah. The Rambam writes that “it is better for a person to give more Matanos L’Evyonim than it is to spend money on a larger Seudas Purim or Mishloach Manos--for there is no Simcha Gedola U’Mefo’ara--there is no greater or more glorious joy--than one who makes the unfortunate happy.” Indeed, HaRav Salomon notes, both the Nefesh HaChaim and the Zohar HaKadosh write that if one brings Simcha to the world; he is bringing Rachamim--mercy--into the world, and changing Din, the attribute of strict justice, to Rachamim, Heavenly Mercy--and there can be nothing better than that! Our service, then, at this time of year, is to open the gates of Rachamim that we so desperately need opened so wide by bringing Simcha into the world through our own Simchas HaChaim, and all the more so by bringing others Simchas HaChaim--making others happy as well!


Additional Note: If you have not yet given to the Matanos L’Evyonim Kiryat Sefer dollar for dollar match for Bnei Torah--remember yadeliezer.org!!




GETTING READY: To help continue to arouse the spirit of Mishenichnas Adar Marbin B’Simcha, we provide the following questions and answers:


1. QUESTION: What two words in the Megillah have the Gematria of 95?


ANSWER:  Both Hamelech and Haman. This may suggest that neither was a lesser enemy of K’lal Yisrael than the other one was! Fascinatingly, Rabbi Ozer Alport, Shlita, points out that 95 is also the Gematria of Keis Kah (Shemos 17:16), from which phrase Chazal teach that Hashem swore that neither His Name nor His Throne will be complete until Amaleik is destroyed. See Rashi (ibid). The phrase Keis Kah with respect to Amaleik may also teach us that Hashem’s Hand is hidden in the Megillah--there for us to discover.


2. QUESTION: Who was the first to do battle with Amaleik?


    ANSWER: Yehoshua Bin Nun (Shemos 17: 9). Some suggest that it is for the honor of Yehoshua that Chazal required cities walled from his time to read the Megillah on the 15th.


3. QUESTION: At the end of the Megillah, the Pasuk brings that Achashveirosh levied taxes on both the mainlands and the islands (Esther 10:1). Why does the Megillah need to teach us this--what is the connection to the events of the Megillah?


    ANSWER: HaRav Nosson Wachtfogel, Z’tl, teaches that although K’lal Yisrael was tremendously uplifted by the great miracles that had occurred--Achashveirosh did not raise himself spiritually at all, and he continued to focus on mundane and monetary pursuits--more money, more money…(Leket Reshimos, p. 113).


4. QUESTION: At the conclusion of the Purim miracle, Haman and later his sons are hanged. Why is there no Mitzvah on Purim that relates to Mechiyas Amaleik which was such a great part of the Purim salvation?


    ANSWER:  HaRav Wachtfogel, explains that Simcha Alein Makt Ouf Amaleik--a Jew’s Simcha itself destroys Amaleik--and that there is no greater mechiyas Amaleik than Simcha (ibid., p. 120).


5. QUESTION: If one, under the direction and guidance of his Rav, engages in Ahd Delo Yadah--then other than the actual Mitzvos HaYom, what must one be sure to do prior to Ahd Delo Yadah?


    ANSWER:  Teshuvah in Ahavas Reiyim and Ahavas Chaveirim in a real and substantial way (ibid., 136).



PESAKIM OF HARAV SHMUEL KAMENETSKY, SHLITA We present below many Pesakim of HaRav Shmuel Kamenetsky, Shlita, relating to Purim from the expanded version of Kovetz Halachos for Purim, by his close Talmid, Rabbi Doniel Kleinman, Shlita. 




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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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



11 Adar

YOUR TEFILLOS ARE STILL NEEDED:  In response to a reader’s inquiry, we 

have received the following updates on the medical condition of some of the victims of the horrific Har Nof Shul attack over three years:


Eitan ben Sarah - He is still suffering from bleeding in the brain and other after-effects of the attack.  He is not functioning well and needs our tefillos.


Shmuel Yeruchem ben Baila - He is much better at this point (learning and teaching at the Mir all day), but he still gets very tired at the end of a full day at yeshiva.  He is thankful to be able to be there all day, but when he comes home he is too tired to go to night seder, as he did every evening before the attack.  His wife was informed by their Rav that we should continue to daven for him until he gets his strength back.


Yitzchak ben Brocha - One of the police responders, he was badly injured in his leg and is still suffering from his leg injury.  He is still in pain, and we should still daven for him.



THE ELEVENTH!  Today is the 11th day of Adar--the first day mentioned in Mesechta Megillah (2A) that the Megillah could be read under certain circumstances. Do you feel greater Simcha coming on? If not…start working on it!


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



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



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





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


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


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


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


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


F.  The Megillah (Esther 7:8)  teaches that the last thing that Achashveirosh saw before ordering Haman executed was the tree that Haman intended to hang Mordechai on. Chazal, in fact, teach that the allusion to Haman in the Torah is from the Pasuk: “HaMin HaEitz Asher Tzivisicha Levilti Achol Mimenu Achalta.(Bereishis 3:11) What is the meaning of the association of Haman with trees?



LEARNING FROM THE GEMATRIA OF MORDECHAI HAYEHUDI: We once again provide the following exceptional excerpt from The Light of the Ben Ish Chai on Megillat Esther--the commentary of the Ben Ish Chai on the Megillah, as translated by Rabbi Yerachmiel Bratt, Shlita (as you give your Mishloach Manos with one hand, perhaps you can give this wonderful sefer to your friend with the other!):  “The Chida in the name of Rav Germiza stated that the gematria of the expression Mordechai HaYehudi (Mordechai the Jew) equals the name of Hashem as Shakai (shin dalet and yud; 314).  The name Shakai indicates that Hashem controls all and that He can completely up heave the powers of the spheres of the universe.  As a true Amaleki, after Haman told his family of his honor and fortune, he stated that all was valueless to him when he saw Mordechai HaYehudi.  Haman specifically referred to Mordechai as Mordechai HaYehudi because he was really referring to Hashem’s control over the balance of power in the universe.  In one fell swoop, Hashem could shift power from Haman to Mordechai.  Indeed, Zeresh and Haman’s advisors urged Haman to take swift action before the balance of power in the universe shifted in favor of Mordechai. Their human thoughts fell short and unaccomplished.  Shortly thereafter, Mordechai HaYehudi ascended to power while Haman and his sons were overthrown and hanged....”


Hakhel Note:  Is it no small wonder, then, that this name of Hashem--Shakai--is placed upon our Mezuzos  to remind us Who is in control of all as we come and go!



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



PESAKIM OF HARAV SHMUEL KAMENETSKY, SHLITA:  We once again present below many Pesakim of HaRav Shmuel Kamenetsky, Shlita, relating to Purim from the expanded version of Kovetz Halachos for Purim, by his close Talmid, Rabbi Doniel Kleinman, Shlita. As in all matters relating to Halacha, one should consult with his own Rav or Posek regarding his particular facts and circumstances.




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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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



8 Adar



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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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



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



THE MONTH OF ADAR AND THIS WEEK’S PARASHA: As we have noted in the past, the Chasam Sofer explains that the month of Adar, according to his reckoning, is representative of Shevet Binyamin. He explains that the stone on the Choshen for Binyomin is Yospheh--which can be split into two words--Yesh Peh--he has a mouth.  This, the Chasam Sofer explains, is what allowed Mordechai from Shevet Binyomin to be victorious over the Lishna Bisha--the evil words of Haman which were set to literally destroy K’lal Yisrael.  Mordechai was a descendant of Binyomin who had a mouth--but kept it closed and did not tell his father Yaakov what his brothers had done to Yoseph; Binyomin’s descendant, Shaul Hamelech also had a mouth, but once again kept it closed until the time came to be declared King; Esther HaMalka as well did not reveal ‘moladata’ where she was from despite the immense pressure from the king for her to do so--and as a result all of K’lal Yisrael was saved.  The closed mouth of Binyomin--the Yoshpheh literally brought salvation to us all.  By following in the Yoshpheh tradition (you may even very well be from Shevet Binyomin!), you are not only saving your mouth from evil, you are not only immensely approving your words of Torah and your words of Tefillah--but you are bringing us all one step closer to the Bais Hamikdash --Hashem’s House--especially nestled to a great and special extent in the nachala of Shevet Binyomin!





Although we cannot supply you with food for the meal--perhaps with some food to accompany the meal:


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


2.  It is not only women who bring honor to themselves and their people by their dress and comportment. The Bigdei Kehuna Gedola of Aharon as Kohen Gadol are described in the Torah as clothing which is LeChavod U’LeSifores--clothing that brings and displays honor and glory to the position.  The clothing of the regular Kohanim are also described in the Torah with the very same words of LeChavod U’LeSifores.  There is a moving message--even if one does not don the garb of a Rav or the Elders of the congregation--he is still an important part of the K’lal and brings Kavod V’Sifores to himself and his people in his own way. Although Aharon’s sons did not wear Eight Garments--they did wear Four Garments of special dignity.  One must therefore be mindful--especially when going to pray or even when making a bracha in his own home that he also bring Kavod V’Sifores (or c’v the opposite) to his Avodas Hashem by his dress and comport.  A person who wears a cap or jacket to Mincha or Ma’ariv with a cartoon character or perhaps another western world symbol highlighted or displayed upon it may be demonstrating the same (or negative) degree of Kavod V’Sifores to his Avodah as the person touting a Bluetooth-equipped ear during Shemone Esrei. This Shabbos is a time to reattach ourselves to the dignity of the Avodah --by rethinking the regard we intend give to it in our everyday lives!


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


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


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



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


Hakhel Note 1:  One of the reasons the events which called for our annihilation at the time of Purim occurred is because “Yoshanu Min HaMitzvos--we were asleep with the Mitzvos, for the Mitzvos were ‘old hat’ to us; rephrased just a bit-- we were doing the Mitzvos in our sleep.  The threat of annihilation woke us to realize that Torah was not an instruction book with many details--but was true Orah--the illuminating infinite light , that Yom Tov was not an interruption from the daily routine, forced vacation, or expensive--but the ultimate joy of special togetherness with one’s Creator even in this world; that a Bris Milah was not simply the mark of a Jew--but was Sasson, the reality that 24/7 one could be bonded with Hashem.  So, feeling the Yekar of Tefillin each and every day before we put them on--especially at this time of year is an important step in making us worthy to eventually observe and celebrate Purim.  It only takes an extra moment of two of reflection--and the difference may very well be phenomenal. 


Hakhel Note 2:  For women, who do not don Tefillin, their Yekar may easily be seen as the Tznius--the clothing and comportment that befits an Am Hashem.  After all, Shlomo Hamelech, the wisest of all men, describes a woman’s clothing with the words “Oz VeHadar Levusha--her dress is powerful and beautiful--quite similar to the Yekar of Tefillin--no?  In truth, men are supposed to wear their Tefillin all day, but most are not capable; women, then, whose clothing is with them throughout the day, succeed to sustain their Yekar far beyond the average man.  It definitely follows that just as men must spend a little time to appreciate their Yekar, women too--especially when they see the deportment of other females in stores and businesses--should not sleep through--but very much appreciate, and be very grateful for the badge of honor that envelops them daily.  Let us start practicing now--so when we begin to sing the words LaYehudim Hoysa Orah...on Purim they have very, very special meaning to us!



QUESTIONS AND ANSWERS ON THIS WEEK’S PARASHA? We provide below a portion of the questions and answers on this week’s Parasha as presented in the outstanding English Sefer Torahific! By Rabbi Maimon Elbaz, Shlita:


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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



7 Adar

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



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



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



MISHLOACH MANOS--BRACHOS ALERT: At this time of year, many new products surface, which contain ingredients in various proportions, and in which the appropriate bracha rishona (and bracha acharona) is not clear. When shopping for one’s own home--and certainly when shopping for Mishloach Manos--one should attempt to purchase only those products on which the brachos are clear. After all, no one would want to be machshil an adult or child with the wrong bracha. Undoubtedly, an ikar of Mishloach Manos are the brachos that you are being mezake another Jew to make!



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



A RELATED MEGILLAH NOTE--Q & A: The following Q & A--as had been provided to us in the past by Rabbi Reuvain Mendlowitz, Shlita, author of Inside Sta”m--An Insider Reveals The Answers To All The Questions You Should Ask When Purchasing Or Maintaining Tefillin, Mezuzos, Megillos, Sifrei Torah And Nevi’im.




I recently saw a stunning, illustrated megillah selling for a small fortune. I was thinking about saving up to buy it, and thereby enhance my fulfillment of Mitzvas Megillah. My chavrusa claims that while it may be a nice piece of Judaica, in terms of Mitzvas Megillah, not only is it not a beautification, it is a disgrace. I am rather offended by his position. Could he possibly be correct?




Actually, he is correct. While disgrace may be a strong term, the rationale behind it is accurate. Megillas Esther is part of Kisvei HaKodesh (The Holy Writings), one of the twenty-four books of Tanach. The correct way of beautifying Kisvei HaKodesh is by fulfilling all the halachic requirements mandated by Chazal. To add to the physical megillah, however, is a kind of statement that the scroll lacks intrinsic beauty. This is quite an insult to the mitzvah since in fact, there is nothing more beautiful than a mehudar STA”M item. There is no need for us to add to what HaShem and Chazal find intrinsically beautiful.


Regarding the phenomenon of illustrated Megillos, Rav Elyashiv Zt”l was wont to say “ain ruach chachmim nocheh haimenu”, or loosely translated “the chachamim are not pleased with him”.


An external adornment such as a silver case is indeed befitting. It communicates: “I value my beautiful megillah [or mezuzah] so much that I want to store it in an appropriately beautiful case.”




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


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


So, when we read and refer to--and even pray about--the Tree of Haman this Purim, let us make sure that we glean its great lesson. We will tell the Yetzer Hara--“No, I am not going to begin--the one word of Lashon Hara, the one bite of questionable food, picking up the muktza item because there ‘must be some heter’, not paying the worker what he asks because you want to teach him a lesson… all of the good intentions, all of the ‘practically no aveira’ of what you may be thinking, doing or saying--remember that 50 Amos high tree--look up to its top--and to the ‘little’ sapling! We will not follow Haman--we will follow Mordechai!





THE POWER OF A TZIBBUR:  Any Tzibbur, acting together, can bring about Refuos and Yeshuos (healings and deliverances) that all of K’lal Yisrael, acting individually, may not necessarily accomplish. 


In the Megilla, we learn from the words of Lech K’nos (4:16) that Mordechai and Esther elected to gather all of the Jews in Shushan to daven, instead of asking everyone to do something on his own.


THE POWER OF TEFILLA:  The power of Tefilla is immeasurable.  It can break the harshest of decrees.  Our cries brought about Yetzias Mitzraim.  Moshe Rabbeinu’s pleas broke the decree of destruction at the time of the golden calf and brought us victory against Amalek.  In fact, our Tefillos broke Haman’s decree to destroy the entire Jewish people during this time of year.


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


Our goal is to activate the power of Tzibbur and the power of Tefilla together by asking each member of the Tzibbur to have Kavanna in the first Bracha of Shemone Esrei when davening each day from today, through Purim.  Please especially have Kavanna when reciting the words “Ozer” (Helper), “U’Moshia” (Savior), “U’Magen” (Shield):


·         Ozer--a Helper, who thwarts an existing immediate danger from overpowering a person (example:  you have already been attacked and the attacker is defeated);

·         Moshia--a Savior, who cancels danger threatening to overpower a person (example:  prior to his attacking, the attacker runs away);

·         Mogen--a Shield, who prevents trouble from reaching you in the first place (example:  the attacker never leaves home).

            See Michtav M’Eliyahu 4:65 as brought in Praying with Fire (page 117).


IMAGINE THE Z’CHUSIM:  The z’chusim which can be created by the thousands of us getting together to have Kavanna--in the first Bracha of Shemone Esrei, are literally astounding.  Davening properly, that is, having Kavanna for the simple translation of the words of the first Bracha, which we are all capable of doing with little effort, can convert a lackluster Shemone Esrei into a true prayer to Hashem.  The results will B’EH be Refuos and Yeshuos for K’lal Yisrael.


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



7 Adar






8 Adar







9 Adar
















11 Adar





□ Maariv


12 Adar









13 Adar








14 Adar








Hatzlacha--to all of us!



6 Adar

TOMID! HaRav Mattisyahu Salomon, Shlita, points out that the Rema begins Shulchan Aruch with the Pasuk: “Shevisi Hashem L’Negdi Somid” (Tehillim 16:8), and ends Shulchan Aruch with a Pasuk: “V’Tov Lev Mishteh Tomid” (Mishlei 15:15). HaRav Salomon teaches that the Rema wants us to understand that all aspects of life [Orach Chaim!] are miracles, and that there is no teva or way of the world. Rather, everything that occurs in our lives is B’Hashgacha Pratis, and we must realize that Hashem is always a Tov U’Maitiv, with even difficult situations, hurt and pain part of a larger good. The intricacies of the Neis Purim over a nine year period, with interlocking events and people should help us realize that not only do we constitute living miracles--but that miracles are constantly occurring to us and all around us each and every moment of our lives. Hashem is with us--Tomid!



RASHI’S ANSWER: Many are familiar with the question as to why Mordechai needed to act so quickly when, after all, the gezeirah to annihilate the Jews would not take effect for another eleven months. Rashi (Esther 4:14) writes that Mordechai told Esther that she must take action immediately--for who knows if she will be in the same position of power the following year at the time of the decree. Hakhel Note: We learn from Mordechai that there may be legitimate reasons for delay--but that we should not use them unless one is absolutely certain that he will not forfeit the opportunity or the circumstance that he currently possesses. HaRav Shmuel Berenbaum, Z’tl, taught that atzlus is the bad middah from which all other bad middos come! Our renewed zerizus should begin even before Purim by preparing to make the most of this great 24 hour period!



IMPORTANT PURIM INSIGHTS:  At a Hakhel Shiur on the meaning of Purim, Rabbi Zev Smith, Shlita, made many great points, including the following:


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


2.  HaRav Yeruchem Levovitz, Z’tl, taught that one should not only give Mishloach Manos to friends--but to his “ex-friends” as well. 


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


4.  An essential part of Purim Day is “Kiymu VeKiblu.”  This does not only refer to all of Klal Yisrael’s voluntary acceptance of the Torah--but to each individual’s rededication to Torah as well.  Every person should view it as part of his Simchas Purim, as part of his Purim mandate, to rededicate himself to Torah study.  Rabbi Smith cited two examples:  One--His favorite Siyum--a subway rider who was not capable of learning Gemara and who completed Mishnayos in English on his back and forth commute every day.  What an accomplishment!  Two--an elderly gentlemen who “did not have time” to come to a Shiur that Rabbi Smith was giving because he was studying with tremendous diligence for a Dirshu test.  Hakhel Note:  We will all be pressured for time over the next month, with many demands and obligations upon us.  The Chofetz Chaim notes that when one keeps his set time for study without fail, and in the case of a ‘Dochak Gadol’ makes up his studies within the day, then a “Kedusha Gedolah Venora’ah--a great and awesome Kedusha rests on him every single time he learns in this way.  Let us not forget this Kedusha Gedolah Venora’ah every time that we keep our set time for learning.  We suggest that our Kiymu VeKiblu this Purim involve a special effort in this regard.  Remember the words of the Chofetz Chaim--Kedusha Gedolah Venora’ah--on you!



QUESTIONS & ANSWERS: To help continue to arouse the spirit of Mishenichnas Adar Marbin B’Simcha, we provide the following questions relating to the events of Megillas Esther, which have been culled from the Sefer Sifsei Chachomim, introduction to Mesechta Megillah, and other sources:


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


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


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


    ANSWER: Esther Livracha (Steipeler Gaon).


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


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


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


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


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


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



5 Adar

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





1. Although I did not learn it inside, I once asked a Rav about what to do if one misses saying V’vhei Bnsai Haron and the Torah is already on the Bimah. He said to wait for Hagbah, then say both V’vhei Bnsai Haron and Berich Shemei. 


2. On our note from the Yesod V’Shoresh Ha’avodah that one should interrupt Tachanun in order to recite Berich Shemei with the Tzibbur, a reader wrote: “There was a discussion about this in shul, and two reliable rabonim took exception with this. Further research revealed that the poskim - Marshag and Shevet Halevi , as well the Ishei Yisrael, all say that in their opinion one should not interrupt vhu rachum to say brich shmei.”


Hakhel Note: As with any Halachic matter, one should consult with his own Rav or Posek for a final p’sak.



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




A. Kiryat Sefer:  Up to $142,000 (a half a million shekel)


B. Elad: Up to $43,000 (150,000 shekel)


Please, please respond generously--as you multiply your Chesed so beautifully. You may call 718-258-1580, or visit yadeliezer.org, and in the Comment section respond with the match you are participating in.


Please note that the Yad Eliezer address has changed to 410 Glenn Road, Jackson, NJ 08527.


Yasher Kochachem!




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


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


    ANSWER:  There are several answers given.


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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



EXPANDING THE ADAR GROUP:  Once, after resolving a difficulty in a Rambam, Rebbi Yisroel Salanter, Z’tl fainted.  “If I have such talent,” Rebbi Yisroel explained upon coming to, “I have a tremendous responsibility,” the Heavenly Court will demand of me:  “Why didn’t you get the whole world to do Teshuva?” 


Hakhel Note One:  We all have tremendous Kochos, more than we know. With these Kochos comes responsibilities, not only to ourselves but to others. May we suggest that you go to the www.kiruv.com website and review the great possibilities that you have of bringing a brother closer to Torah.  Even if you simply refer an uneducated acquaintance to some inspirational websites, you will have accomplished a great deal.  These include:  ohr.edu, aish.com, simpletoremember.com, beingjewish.com, jewishresourcecard.com.  You don’t have to faint--and Hatzlacha Rabba! 


Hakhel Note Two:  The Maharal explains that the reason Haman was so happy that the month in which he would kill the Jews came up as Adar was because it was the last month of the year, thus symbolizing that it was the month which would c’v be the end of Klal Yisrael’s existence.  He was so mistaken, because Adar as the last month, symbolized our existence beyond that of all of the other nations--we would continue and be last!  We each can do our part in not only keeping ourselves part of those that are ‘last,’ but bringing our neighbors, friends, co-workers, etc. into the great ‘Adar Group’ as well!



PERSONAL AND CONFIDENTIAL:  This time of year represents and reminds us of the special level of Hashgacha that Hashem graces us with.  Sometimes it is clear to see, and sometimes we may not even realize how we were lead in a particular direction or on a specific path.  Indeed, some commentaries to Tehillim 117 explain that the reason we exclaim:  “Halelu Es Hashem Kol Goyim, Shabechuhu Kol HaUmim--praise Hashem all nations, praise Him all nationalities” is because we do not even know the nature or extent of the designs and schemes against us from which we were saved--and only they do.  On the other hand, with the Nes of Purim, it was clear for all to see Hashem’s tremendous ‘behind-the-scenes’ actions for many years--and that but for the great Hashgacha Pratis we would have been annihilated--as had actually happened to scores of nations previously in existence.  Indeed, the term “Megillas Esther” expressly affirms the dual nature of our Hashgacha--sometimes it is ‘Megillah,’ meaning thoroughly revealed--and sometimes it is ‘Esther,’ meaning wholly hidden.  It would certainly be an appropriate Avodah at this time of year to work on experiencing and appreciating the Hashgacha Pratis in each one of our personal lives.  “Why did I feel that I was coming down with a cold and then not get it?”  “Why did my cell phone break today?”  “How did I get involved in redting this Shidduch?”  “Why did I learn this today--is there some way in which I should be applying it?”...  Although one cannot go through an entire day noting this and noting that, it most certainly behooves us during the month of Adar to write down at least one Hashgacha Pratis incident of the day which you recognized as a clear indication of Hashem’s hand in your life.  It is no secret, and we have noted here before, that once a person recognizes the tremendous Hashgacha to which he is subject, the more Simcha he will feel in his closeness to Hashem.  Your own personal Adar 5778 Hashgacha Pratis Calendar--a marvelous goal and special achievement for what we hope will be a Simcha-filled month!



4 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 a Hakhel 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!





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


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



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#.



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



PURIM COSTUME ALERT:  The Luach Davar B’Ito reminds all that Purim costumes (especially hats from Eastern Europe) may contain Shatnez, and accordingly should be checked in advance of Purim to make sure that the costume is usable.  The Luach also strongly advises against using costumes which can scare others.  It also suggests that the child ‘tries the costume on’ in front of a parent so that it fits, is clean and no buttons are missing…to avoid any last minute consternation or disappointment.  Hakhel Note: We had previously pointed out that a Halachic issue is raised as to whether one may daven in a Purim costume. The Dirshu Mishna Berurah (Shulchan Aruch, Orach Chaim 91, Note 17) brings a Teshuvah from the Shevet HaLevi (10:18) in which the Shevet HaLevi rules that if a Chossid is dressed as a misnagid, or vice versa, he may daven in the costume, provided that he is in a respectful frame of mind and his body is covered. Although as previously noted, the Dirshu Note appears to read this ruling more expansively, one should consult with his Rav or Posek with respect to other costumes.



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 on Erev Shabbos, 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 experienced 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).


5. 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.



1 Adar

STARTS TODAY--SHA’AR HABITACHON! By the following link, we provide a magnificent opportunity to review the Chovos Helevavos Sha’ar Habitachon in 29 short segments over the month of Adar http://www.hakhel.info/archivesPublicService/Sha’arHaBitachonScheduleAdar.pdf  This outstanding opportunity can then be easily repeated over the month of Nissan. What a special way to connect Purim, Pesach and our daily lives! Spread the word!




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 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!





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


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


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





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


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


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


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


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



NOT HIDDEN AWAY IN A TOWER:  Why was the Torah put into an Aron and then into the Kodesh HaKodoshim seemingly isolated from the people? When we posed this question in the past, we received the following excellent responses from readers:


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


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


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



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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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



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



30 Shevat

FIVE MONTHS OF ACCOMPLISHMENT! Since the inception of 5778, we have hopefully succeeded in five months of real accomplishment. Whether or not we have succeeded to the extent we wanted to--we have seven more months of accomplishment left in the year--let’s go to it--Teshuvah Bechol Yom!


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



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 (Midrash HaNeelam, Parashas Vayera) also adds to our understanding of this Chapter--writing that every Rosh Chodesh the souls of the Tzadkim in Gan Eden recite this very same Mizmor!


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



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.



WITH CLEAN HANDS AND A PURE HEART:  Why is last week’s Parasha of Mishpatim, which contains the basis of so much of our financial and civil law, brought in the Torah prior to the building of the Mishkan, which is the core of this coming week’s Parasha?  It seems like such a stark contrast between two items at opposite ends of the spectrum--the Aron HaKodesh on the one hand--and $ on the other!  One simple suggestion to explain this paradox may be that before we can even begin to establish our bond with Hashem, we must first properly conduct our relationships with humans in the way Hashem tells us is correct.  If you want to further elevate your human existence--first get to the point at which you can elevate it, as you can’t get to the second floor without passing through the first.  The Bais Halevi, however, explains the juxtaposition in a different way.  He teaches that Hashem is indicating to us that the money that we use to build our spiritual goals in this world--cannot be just any money--but money that is pure and clean.  A person cannot ‘bless’ or justify tainted actions for tzedaka or spiritual causes.  The money given--as the giver himself--must be wholesome.  This lesson is beautifully furthered by Dovid Hamelech in Tehillim (24:3) with the moving words, fervently recited on the Yomim Noraim:  ‘Mi Ya’aleh BeHar Hashem U’Mi Yakum Behar Kodsho---N’ki Chapayim ... Who may ascend the mountain of Hashem, and who may stand in the place of his sanctity?  One with clean hands and a pure heart....


In fact, the Chofetz Chaim (in the Introduction to his Sefer Ahavas Chesed) writes that Hashem said that he loved Avrohom Avinu because he would teach his family ‘La’asos Tzedakah U’Mishpat...to do charity and justice.  Tzedaka, righteousness, appears to be beyond the letter of the law whereas Mishpat is the letter of the law.  Avrohom Avinu would not be giving his children two contradictory messages--what does the Torah mean?  The Chofetz Chaim explains that there are two parts to a relationship--how a person acts to his fellow man, and how his fellow man acts towards him. One should use Mishpat--the strict letter of the law for everything that one is doing that involves someone else’s money, and be sure to avoid taking a penny that is not his.  On the other hand, when considering how another person is reacting to him, one should use tzedaka--employing a degree of flexibility and compromise--so that not everything is a fight or the ‘principle of the thing’, and so that one does not leave behind open, jagged potholes as he travels life’s road.  This is not simple or easy--but it is the path described Dovid HaMelech in Tehillim, the path originally paved by Avrohom Avinu for all of his 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 One:  As we noted yesterday, our mandate to strive for honesty and integrity is recorded in Shulchan Aruch (Choshen Mishpat 231:14) which requires us to err and give a little more from our side when weighing or measuring for another--as the Pasuk teaches”Vatzedek Yiheye Loch (Devorim 25:15), which Chazal teach means “Tzadek Mishelecha Vetitten Lo” (Bava Basra 68B).


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


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


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



29 Shevat

WEBBANK?: The Lending Club and other peer to peer lending sites transact through a Jewish-controlled bank, which may be considered Ribbis.








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


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



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



 IN HONOR OF LAST WEEK’S 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!



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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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



28 Shevat

SHA’AR HABITACHON: By the following link, we provide a magnificent opportunity to review the Chovos Helevavos Sha’ar Habitachon in 29 short segments over the month of Adar http://www.hakhel.info/archivesPublicService/Sha’arHaBitachonScheduleAdar.pdf  This outstanding opportunity can then be easily repeated over the month of Nissan. What a special way to connect Purim, Pesach and our daily lives! Spread the word!



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



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!



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 LAST 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!



27 Shevat

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…?



LISTEN TO THE MESSAGE: In his commentary in last 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!





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!



24 Shevat



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


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.



ON THE YAHRZEIT OF HARAV YISROEL SALANTER, Z’TL: Tomorrow is the 135th 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.”



23 Shevat

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





As discussed yesterday, from last week’s Parasha we derive the Mitzvah of Bikur Cholim. In this week’s Parasha, the Torah writes: “VeRapo Yerapeih--and he shall provide for healing” (Shemos 21:19). Accordingly, we feel it very appropriate to provide our refresher on the bracha of Asher Yatzar, and the care we can take in reciting its precious words. We encourage you to share with others:


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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



22 Shevat

THE MANCHESTER ROSH HAYESHIVA, HARAV YEHUDA ZEV B’R MOSHE YITZCHAK HALEVI SEGAL, Z’TL:  We recall that today is the Yahrzeit of the Manchester Rosh HaYeshiva, HaRav Yehuda Zev B’R Moshe Yitzchak HaLevi Segal, Z’tl.  HaRav Segal put the Koach HaPeh at the forefront of his Avodas Hashem and assured others that they would experience personal Yeshuos through the proper study and application of Shemiras Halashon. One can continuously edify and refine his speech and his manner of speech. ’I am going to cheat on my diet with this piece of cake.’; ’Can I steal a moment of your time?’; ‘What a disgusting bug!’; ‘That food is nasty’; ‘I have no patience for this!’; ’I can’t talk to you.  Bye [click]’--are all examples of short statements which ultimately impact a person’s mindset and overall personality.  Replacing the snaps, remarks and quips, and the gruff, negative and unseemly words with wise words of compliment, praise, optimism and encouragement may appear to have a limited effect upon a small part of the overall day--but actually will impact surely and steadily on a large part of one’s personality. The time to begin to improve with better, more chosen words is not tomorrow or next week--if for no other reason than there is simply more to accomplish tomorrow and more to grow in the next week.  As we move farther and farther from Rosh Hashana 5778, it most certainly behooves us to become better--Yoseir MiMah She’Hayisi-- with our Koach HaDibbur today, on the Manchester Rosh HaYeshiva’s Yahrzeit. This would be an important step towards bringing us the individual Yeshuos that the Manchester Rosh HaYeshiva so seriously attributed to a worthy Ruach Memalela--the expression of our spirit from within--as expressed to the outside world by our power of speech. Perhaps each and every one of us can begin his noble trek, by recording in writing in a personal, actual, short daily Refrain from Inappropriate Word Note--or perhaps better yet--a daily Meaningful Compliment Note.  Life--your life--is too precious to let the days go by--without each day being a little bit ...Yoseir MiMah She’Hayisi!



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! 



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


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


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


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


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


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


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


Three important additional thoughts on Bikur Cholim:


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


2. Chazal (Shabbos 32A) teach that a person should ask Hashem for Rachamim that he not become sick, for if one becomes sick he needs a zechus in order to be healed. Every day we ask Hashem to heal the sick in the eighth bracha of Shemone Esrei, Refaeinu. We may not, however, focus on the fact that in this very bracha we also ask Hoshieinu Venivashei’ah--save us and we will be saved. What does this phrase mean? The Kuntres Avodas HaTefillah explains that with these words we plead with Hashem to save us from sickness. Accordingly, one should most certainly have Kavannah when reciting these words on behalf of himself and others. We additionally provide by the following links, two short Tefillos asking Hashem to maintain one’s health:  http://tinyurl.com/cex6xau and  http://tinyurl.com/pbdd5va


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



21 Shevat

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!



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!



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!



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.



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! 



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!



20 Shevat

SHOVAVIM!  Incredibly, we are in the last week of 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!



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].



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 was yesterday.






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 last 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?





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. Tosfos and the Midrash ask: “But Bnei Yisrael said Na’aseh V’Nishma and were mekabel the Torah willingly--why force them?”


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


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


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



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!



17 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 L’Shabbos”, “HaYom Yom Sheini L’Shabbos...” every day prior to the Shir Shel Yom.  In fact, he would state “Zachor Es Yom HaShabbos LeKadesho”, and then recite HaYom Yom to demonstrate that he was fulfilling the Mitzvas Asei D’Oraysa.”  All of this, of course, teaches us the enormity of the Mitzvah of Shabbos--for it requires so much aforethought and attention, so much preparation, thinking and care. 


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


3. The awesome power and reach of Shabbos transcends this world into the next--and even extends from the righteous to the wicked.  What do we mean?  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 seriuos 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:  As in previous years, we provide the following 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 5778 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! 




YAHRZEIT OF HARAV YISROEL BELSKY, Z’TL: Sunday, 19 Shevat, will be the second 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. 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.



16 Shevat

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]



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 now, as Chazal (Brachos 48B) teach that Moshe Rabbeinu composed the first bracha of bentsching upon Bnei Yisrael receiving the Mon, as described in last 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.”



ABOUT INITIATIVE:  In the stirring autobiography To Remain a Jew, Rav Yitzchak Zilber, Z’tl, brings the following story from his life as frum Jew in Russia: “I had a friend in Kazan, Yosef Lipshitz.  He worked in the forest industry. Once in the fall, just before [Simchas Torah], the cold air set in suddenly.  The river froze, logging came to a halt, and the lumber didn’t reach its destination.  Most likely, a problem like this should have been reported to the authorities, or there could-be negative consequences.  But Yosef Lipshitz went straight to the synagogue, sang and danced there, as if nothing had happened... I saw he had a warm Jewish heart and tried to persuade him.  I would say to him, ‘Yosef, do Teshuvah, start observing Shabbos and Kashrus.’  ‘Now I don’t have the time, there’s too much to do at work.  Wait a bit.  I am going to retire and then I will become a kosher Jew.  I will start observing everything,’ he answered.  To my great regret, he passed away three days before retiring.”

Hakhel Note:  Perhaps the lesson (from an incident that hopefully will never occur) is that important deeds of good should not wait until later. Indeed, Avrohom Avinu provided us with a guideline--Vayashkeim Avrohom Baboker--Avrohom Avinu rose early in the morning, from which Chazal derive the great and famous principle--Zerizim Makdimim L’Mitzvos! Let’s get going!



DA’AS TORAH!:  What instruction would you give to a Chassan or Kallah under the Chuppah?  According to Rabbi Yechiel Spero, HaRav Chaim Stein, Z’tl, gave the following instruction:  “I was one of hundreds of talmidim who merited having Rav Chaim as a mesader kiddushin.  Prior to the Chuppah, he met with me and told me exactly what to daven for while I stood underneath the Chuppah:  Gezunt, Parnassah and Nachas-- Gefen.  And then Rav Chaim instructed me to accept, upon myself to learn for at least an hour a day.  This, he said, is what is required for a Ben Torah’s hatzlacha in life.”  


Hakhel Note One:  Now, if any Chassan or Kallah asks you the question--you know what to answer!


Hakhel Note Two:  As to the last point of instruction given by Rav Chaim to Rabbi Spero above, it is well known that HaRav Stein accepted upon himself a kabbala when he was a teenager to learn one hour a day b’retzifus--uninterrupted.  He often urged his talmidim and listeners to take this kabbala upon themselves.  In his tzava’ah, he writes that he will intercede above for those who accept it upon themselves.  Rav Chaim himself would begin the hour again if he was interrupted during his hour of retzifus.  For those who could not do an hour--he urged them to do one half hour twice a day, or at least a half hour in this way.  When one undertakes any task, he recognizes the value of its being performed uninterrupted.  All the more so with Torah study--as we impart special significance, and show our special treasure, of Hashem’s words to us! 



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


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


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


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


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


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