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3 Adar

TESHUVAH MOMENT: 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), then 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!





The following Halachos are culled from the Mishna Berurah Dirshu Edition. Of course, one should in all events consult with his own Rav or Posek pertaining to his particular facts or circumstances:


A. Frozen food in the freezer which his edible if one would defrost it is not Muktzah. Even if one has no intent of defrosting it on Shabbos--because one is able to defrost it if he would like (Shulchan Aruch Orach Chaim 310, Dirshu Note 29).


B. The Igros Moshe (Orach Chaim 4:78) rules that a closed carton (such as a milk or juice carton which is opened by separating the folds) may not be opened on Shabbos, as we do not view it as an original opening which has been closed. This is because the seal is done very well and the original opening is considered to be no longer in existence.


C. If after taking care of one’s bodily functions, he realizes that by cleaning himself blood will come out, HaRav Nissim Karelitz, Z’tl, rules that it is nevertheless permissible to do so because it is a pesik reisha d’lo neichalei k’lal and it is Kavod HaBriyos (Orach Chaim 312 and Mishna Berurah Note 4).


D.. One should be very careful not to hit another person (or an animal) in a way which will cause a wound (Shulchan Aruch Orach Chaim 316, Mishna Berurah seif katan 30). The Ben Ish Chai rules that even hitting a friend in jest or ‘play fighting’ or holding on to one’s or another’s flesh so that the skin reddens is assur (ibid., Dirshu Note 55)


E. The Chazon Ish rules that one may remove a fly from food together with a portion of the food to avoid Borer issues even though the fly is otherwise muktzah, because this is not considered to be tiltul muktzah, but instead making the food edible to eat. One cannot, however, kill spiders or other small insects on the pretense that they would be dangerous if they went into someone’s food. Instead, one should cover the food (especially if we do not know that they are, in fact, dangerous). Mishna Berurah (Shulchan Aruch Orach Chaim 216 seif katan 48).


F. In one owns a cat or dog, he can close the door in the room there are in, as they are considered as domesticated and living in the home and not subject to the Melacha of tzad--trapping (SA OC MB seif katan 53 and Dirshu Note 101).


G. HaRav Elyashiv and HaRav Nissim Karelitz rule that one should not tie any kind of knot in something which one does not intend to open again. For instance, when one has finished with a garbage bag--the fact that he has tied it up and does not intend to open it again renders it a Kesher Shel Kayama.





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


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


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


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


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


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



2 Adar

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



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


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




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


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



TRUE JOY!  Dovid HaMelech exclaims:  “Tashmieinu Sasson VeSimcha…Make me hear joy and gladness...” (Tehillim 51:10).  This Pasuk teaches us that the increasing Simcha that we would like to attain this month is a gift from Hashem, and we should daven for it! 


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


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


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



1 Adar

TESHUVAH MOMENT: 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. 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 us 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! 



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!



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 Masa 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.”  The Gemara [Shabbos 31a] relates that this will be the first issue about which a person will be questioned [by the Heavenly tribunal] in his ultimate judgmentHe will be asked: “Have you dealt and traded honestly?”


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


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


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


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


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


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


8.  In All Events:  A person should not invite a colleague to dinner when he knows that the colleague will not eatSimilarly, 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!


30 Shevat


TESHUVAH MOMENT: Since the inception of 5780, 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!



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 Bimkom 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 by Dovid HaMelech in Tehillim, the path originally paved by Avrohom Avinu for all of his descendants, and the very way we can leave Parashas Mishpatim and arrive very quickly at the portals of the Mishkan!  Let us remember that money is not useful currency in Olam Haba unless you exchanged it properly--very properly--when you had the chance and when the bank was open--in the here and now!


Additional Note 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

TESHUVAH MOMENT: 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 of Gedolim--HaRav Aharon Kotler, z’tl, HaRav Yaakov Kamenetsky, Z’tl, and HaRav Yitzchok Ruderman, Z’tl, to name only a few.  His towering personality encompassed all areas of personal growth. Here is just one incident (brought in the Sefer Me’oros HaGedolim):  The Alter approached a recently married student, and asked him if he helped his wife on Erev Shabbos to prepare for Shabbos. The student proudly affirmed to his Rebbi that of course he did, for after all, did not Chazal teach that the greatest Rabbanim undertook activities LeKavod Shabbos--to honor Shabbos (Shabbos 119). The Alter responded to his student with a pasuk from last week’s Parasha: “The Torah (Shemos 23:5) instructs us to help even a donkey which is crouching under its burden--’Azov Ta’azov Imo...you should repeatedly help him’. If this is true regarding a donkey, said the Alter--all the more so must one provide assistance to a human being, and certainly one’s wife to whom one has even greater obligations, and for whom 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.





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!



26 Shevat

STARTS WEDNESDAY--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!



TESHUVAH MOMENT: 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!





A.  This is the third Parasha in a row containing a reference to ShabbosOnce 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).


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.


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).


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)


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).


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.


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.


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).



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! 



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.



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






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


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


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


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


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


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


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



25 Shevat

TESHUVAH MOMENT: 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!



ON THE YAHRZEIT OF HARAV YISROEL SALANTER, Z’TL: Today is the 137th 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.”



IN HONOR OF THIS WEEK’S PARASHA: We commence today a short series relating to the proper conduct with the money of others, as culled from the Sefer Hizharu BeMamon Chaveireichem, by Rabbi Avraham Tovalsky, Shlita. 




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


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


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


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


E. Dovid Hamelech (Tehillim 24:3) asks: “Me Ya’aleh BeHar Hashem…who may ascend the mountain of Hashem and who may stand in the place of His sanctity?” In the next Pasuk, he answers the question: “Neki Chapayim U’var Leivav--one with clean hands and a pure heart.” The Chofetz Chaim explains that the pasuk is teaching that one who has money earned improperly 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!



24 Shevat

TESHUVAH MOMENT: 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 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?



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



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


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


1. Choose a Pasuk to recite before learning in order to better appreciate what you are about to do.  If one would look at Tehillim 119--he would find a tremendous number of Pesukim (176) to choose from--all of which relate to Torah and the observance of its teachings.  Find a Pasuk that especially moves you--such as one that begins with the same letter as your name, or that you find especially touches you based upon your personal experiences. 


2. Write any one special  item that you have taken with you from your just concluded study-whether your study was in a Shiur (yes, even a Daf Yomi Shiur), with a chavrusa or on your own--with a special focus on something that you could apply practically in further study or in your life.  As the Ramban writes in the Igeres HaRamban--after you have completed your learning, search to see if there is something that can have an immediate impact, if there is something that you can fulfill right away.  Let us be richer from last Shabbos’s experience--we do have a ‘money tree’--or at least a tree of true wealth in our very own backyards--we just have to get a little better at realizing it--and harvesting it!



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



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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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



23 Shevat

TESHUVAH MOMENT: 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 once again 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 Birchos 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 the 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. 


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 than 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 are 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

TESHUVAH MOMENT: 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 5780, 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!



19 Shevat

A TESHUVAH MOMENT: As the Daf HaYomi pays special attention to the primacy of brachos in our daily lives, we provide our previously published Question and Answer relating to Teshuvah in missed Brachos.



QUESTION FROM A READER:  Can you find a mekor to inform us of a proper Teshuva for one who missed Brachos Rishonos and Brachos Achronos?



ANSWER FROM HARAV PINCHOS BODNER, SHLITA, MECHABER OF THE HALACHOS OF BROCHOS:  This is an excellent and timely question. I have not personally seen any Rishonim or Achronim who discuss this issue per se. However, since the question begs to be answered, I offer my own thoughts on the matter.  The basic requirement for Teshuvah for any wrongdoing is well-known:   Regret for what was done, verbalizing the sin (Viduy), and accepting on oneself to act correctly in the future.  The Mishna Berurah writes in his introduction to Hilchos Shabbos that there is no way that one can observe Shabbos properly without learning the Halachos. It stands to reason that acceptance of making brachos properly cannot be accomplished without a resolve to spend at least a few minutes on a daily or regular basis studying the Halachos.  There is, however, another requirement for Teshuvah in this case. The Gemara relates: (Brachos 35B) Reb Chanina bar Popa said “Anyone who derives pleasure from this world without making a bracha is (in a sense) stealing from Hashem, stealing from his fellow Jew, and a comrade of Yeravam ben Nevat.”  By neglecting to make the bracha, he not only withholds the expression of gratitude due to Hashem, he also causes the flow of abundance to be withheld from his fellow Jews. We know that if someone steals, it is not sufficient just to repent--he must also return the money or compensate the victims. How does one compensate for somewhat withholding the flow of abundance to his fellow Jews? The Shulchan Aruch (Choshen Mishpat 366) states that the Teshuvah for persons who stole from the public is to fund a community need that will benefit the victims. Thus, he could donate to a food or clothing distribution organization, or to an organization that assists persons with obtaining a livelihood, etc. (The money should be given in a quiet or anonymous manner, so that he should not receive recognition or honor for his ‘donation’).



YAHRZEIT OF HARAV YISROEL BELSKY, Z’TL: Today is the fourth Yahrzeit of HaRav Belsky, Z’tl: We recall how he painstakingly reviewed our first Bulletins (available at Hakhel.info.--Bulletins), not only editing language in Halacha--but improving our grammar as well!  We would also sometimes send him Shailos by fax, and he would handwrite the answers--and 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, Nochis Bola, Bola Nochis, 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.





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 maimonelbaz613@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 5780 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!



18 Shevat

A TESHUVAH MOMENT: 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].


Hakhel Note: Texts may need to be sent and be a proper form of communication in the right circumstance. However, one must think twice as to whether it is truly the proper method of communicating a particular message to a particular individual or individuals.



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






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.  What happened to Matan Torah itself --the great event of this week’s Parasha, and indeed one of the greatest events in History?!  We invite your thoughts.  


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





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. 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!



17 Shevat

PURIM IS GETTING CLOSER!  If you begin today and learn one blatt a day, you will be only three blatt away from being able to make a Siyum on Mesechta Megillah at the Seudas Purim!  All you would have to do is learn an extra blatt three times—such as on Shabbos, or when you have some extra time. What a wonderful way to prepare--much Agadata about the Megillah is contained in the Mesechta.  As in the past, for women, or those who find the task too difficult, may we suggest that one begin the study of the Megilla through a Sefer or Seforim that he/she has not previously studied--and continue daily through completion until reaching the Purim milestone! 


A TESHUVAH MOMENT: 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 review this concept time and again—and use the Yetzer Hara to the greatest extent possible--in a way that would make Hashem proud!



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!



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!



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! 



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!



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 one feels pleasure from his Avodas Hashem-then he has 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!



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.



16 Shevat

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



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 for this week, as Chazal (Brachos 48B) teach that Moshe Rabbeinu composed the first bracha of bentsching upon Bnei Yisrael receiving the Mon, as described in 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 a 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 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 in the past, the Mishna Berurah to Shulchan Aruch Orach Chaim 207, seif katan 5, writes that this is what the words in Borei Nefashos “Al Kol MaShebara LeHachayos Bahem Nefesh Kol Chai” refer to--specifically thanking Hashem for providing us with so many beneficial foods beyond our requirements]--then which fruit from the impressive platter should you place into your right hand (lefties into their left hand) to make a bracha over?  The Shulchan Aruch (ibid. 211:1) rules that one should first take a fruit of the Sheeva Minim, the seven species for which Eretz Yisrael is praised--such as a grape, date, fig, etc. and make the bracha on that, If there are no Sheevas Haminim fruits, then he takes a Shalem--a whole (not cut-up or sliced) fruit such as a plum or peach. If there are no whole fruits, then one takes the fruit he usually likes best.


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



15 Shevat

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


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





1. In honor of Tu B’Shevat, we provide a link http://tinyurl.com/27omq2 to a moving Tefillah from the Ben Ish Chai to be recited for your Esrog this Sukkos (courtesy of Mesivta Yochanan Shraga of Monsey). Before reciting the Tefillah remember how important the role of Tefillah is in actually accomplishing what one sets out to do.


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


9. The following is excerpted from the wonderful Sefer Halachos of Brochos For All Seasons, by Rabbi Yisroel Pinchos Bodner, Shlita (Feldheim): “Al Hoetz is the brocha achrona required when one eats a k’zayis or more of olives, dates, grapes (or raisins), figs or pomegranates within three (or four) minutes. The brocha achrona for all other types of fruit is Borei Nefashos. However, if one ate fruit of the seven species (e.g., grapes) and also other tree fruits (e.g., apples, dried mango, almonds and kiwi) he is required to recite one bracha achrona only—al hoetz. The al hoetz will exempt all the other tree fruit as well.”





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


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


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


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


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



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


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


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


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


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



12 Shevat

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



FROM THE COMMISSION ON TORAH PROJECTS OF AGUDATH ISRAEL OF AMERICA:  We have a Daf Yomi Resource Guide on our new website https://www.dafyomidirectory.org/resources which is updated regularly as new resources are created.



FROM A READER: A reader provided the following wonderful rejuvenation suggestion for the coming Shemiras HaLashon cycle: “Organize a daily Shmiras Halashon conference call for your family; contact the Chofetz Chaim Heritage Foundation (845-352-3505) for instructions.  In addition to chizuk in shmiras halashon, it is a chance to speak to your loved ones daily!”



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



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



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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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



11 Shevat

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



FROM THE COMMISSION ON TORAH PROJECTS OF AGUDATH ISRAEL OF AMERICA:  We have a Daf Yomi Resource Guide on our new website https://www.dafyomidirectory.org/resources which is updated regularly as new resources are created.



FROM A READER: A reader provided the following wonderful rejuvenation suggestion for the coming Shemiras HaLashon cycle: “Organize a daily Shmiras Halashon conference call for your family; contact the Chofetz Chaim Heritage Foundation (845-352-3505) for instructions.  In addition to chizuk in shmiras halashon, it is a chance to speak to your loved ones daily!”



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



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



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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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



10 Shevat

TESHUVAH MOMENT: Bowing down before Hashem, includes two elements:


a.      We humble ourselves before Hashem in the knowledge that we are standing in the presence of the Creator of the Universe. This cognizance will bring us to a realization of our lowliness before Him. “Hashem leads the humbled... Hashem chooses the Humble. Hashem encourages the Humble”.


b.      This will bring us to realizing the greatness of Hashem, the King of Kings. He rules the entire universe. Veligdulaso Ain Cheker!


Once a day bow down before Hashem (in addition to the bow during the prayers) and think/say “I am a servant of Hashem.”


[Excerpted from Ten Steps to Greatness as heard from Rabbi Avigdor Miller, Z’tl]



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


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


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


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



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


Hakhel Note:


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


Hakhel Note: As in the past, we provide the following rejuvenation suggestions for the coming Shemiras HaLashon cycle HaBa’ah Aleinu LeTova. We welcome your rejuvenation possibilities as well!  


A.    There is a Sefer that is not widely known, Purity of Speech, which is divided into 122 Daily Lessons, and with review questions and answers. The Sefer was reviewed by both Rabbi Aryeh Beer, Shlita, and Rabbi Shimon Finkelman, Shlita. The time may be right for you to begin your next Chofetz Chaim Daily Study with this Sefer, available in your Seforim stores!


B.       Read the daily portion out loud, instead of just with your eyes. 


C.     Spend five-ten minutes to learn the daily portion with a family member or friend.  A Chavrusa always helps sharpen the study, and gives chizuk to its members.


D.      Even if you cannot learn with a Chavrusa, make it a point to talk to someone about the day’s study.


E.     Keep the Sefer you are learning on your desk or table at home as a daily reminder for Shemiras HaLashon.


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


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


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


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


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


NEW OPPORTUNITY FROM THE CHOFETZ CHAIM HERITAGE FOUNDATION: “Here’s an amazing opportunity to partner with us, at no financial cost to you, for our Global Learning Campaign!


 This campaign is in response to the recent anti-Semitism and challenges that Klal Yisrael are facing.  Our goal is to sign up 10,000 people to learn Shmiras Haloshon  for 1-5 minutes a day, and acquire the promise that the Chofetz Chaim ZT”L taught us; Hashem will save us from ALL harm, if we don’t speak Loshon Horah


 Please click this link short video below to better understand this project.


Join this historic movement by spending just a few minutes of your time to reach out to your family, friends, co-workers, and neighbors, to get them to sign up.   


 Sign up to be a partner TODAY at https://powerofspeech.org/signup .”




SHALOM BAYIS AT ITS BEST!  At a Hakhel Yarchei Kallah, Rabbi Maimon Elbaz, Shlita, presented a powerful PowerPoint presentation on Shalom Bayis. We highly urge all Shuls and groups to ask Rabbi Elbaz to present this Shiur to them--he may be contacted at nycmohel@gmail.com. We provide below just a few highlights of the very moving presentation:


A.  A Rav took his daughter out to eat in a restaurant the night before her Chasunah: “Why are you doing this, Totty?” she asked. He responded: “For one reason--I want you to see how the waitress serves and smiles, is pleasant and cooperative--no matter how her day has been. Your job is much more important than hers--and I want you to always be reminded of her pleasant disposition at all times!”


B. One should try to keep two diaries--one of the chassodim, the kindnesses that his spouse performs on his behalf [and perhaps on behalf of others], and a second diary which lists what his spouse really likes or loves--so that he can provide a much appreciated present or surprise from time-to-time.


C. Rabbi Frand teaches that before a teacher enters a classroom, he should recognize how significant his words will be by remembering the teaching of Shlomo HaMelech in Mishlei: “HaMaves V’HaChaim B’Yad HaLashon--what I say will make the difference between death and life.” Rabbi Frand’s teaching can be applied before one enters his home--even after a difficult day. By one’s words and actions, one can literally change the temperature of the home.


D. To paraphrase a well-known instruction: “Do not ask what your spouse can do for you…ask what you can do for your spouse!”


E. An important acronym that one can always apply is AAA--Attention, Affection and Appreciation. Hakhel Note: There is a related phrase: Give, Forgive and Give-In.


F. Shlomo HaMelech (Mishlei 31:12) teaches: “Gemalasu Tov V’Lo Ra’ah--she responds to him with good and not bad.” Even if he has not acted properly towards her..she is still Gemalasu Tov!


G. A couple married for 65 years was asked how they were able to stay together for so long. They responded: “We were born in a time that if something was broken we would fix it--not throw it away!”


H. According to police reports…no husband was ever shot when doing the dishes!


I. The Midrash teaches that Aharon HaKohen had 80,000 boys named after him by the couples whose Shalom Bayis he had helped. If Aharon made peace for 80,000 couples, then we can certainly begin…helping ourselves and others.


J. A Rav was asked how long a Chosson is Domeh L’Melech for. He responded that it is for as long as he treats his wife as a queen!


Hakhel Note: Please review--and apply daily in all interpersonal relationships!



9 Shevat

TESHUVAH MOMENT: The Chofetz Chaim, in his introduction to the Third Volume of the Mishna Berurah, provides a penetrating teaching: “We recite in the Birchas HaTorah (over the Torah) ‘VeChayei Olam Natah BeSocheinu--and You planted eternal life within us.”  What this means is that Hashem planted a sapling within us through which we can live forever--for the Torah is to the soul what the Eitz HaChaim was in Gan Eden--if one would eat of its fruits, he would live eternallySo too, will the light of the Torah that we study bring our bodies to life (or back to life)--and will cause it to live forever!  As we have previously noted, we are in the month of Shevat, and we should recognize by our actions that it is a month especially dedicated to the study of Torah--as Moshe Rabbeinu reviewed the entire Torah with Bnei Yisrael in the period between Rosh Chodesh Shevat and his passing on the Seventh Day of Adar.  During this special month, let us do our utmost to develop and enhance our everlasting life!  Incredibly, Rashi (Shabbos 150A) notes that the Torah’s requirement of “VeHaya Machanecha Kadosh --and your camp shall be holy [free of unclean matter]”, is based on the premise that Jews are constantly thinking about Torah--and they are only able to think about Torah in a clean place.  Remember our mantra-- VeHaya Machanecha Kadosh!



NOT HERE! We learned that there were 133 recorded earthquakes in 2019 with magnitude above 6!  Aside from the-underlying message--you can definitely thank Hashem that you were not in a place in which any of them occurred.  Remember, the miracle of each Makkah was doubled by each Makkah not happening in Goshen!



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



MORE THAN OF HISTORICAL IMPORTANCE! We cannot underestimate and overemphasize the importance of Tefillah to our Geulah.  The Pesukim in Shemos (2:23-25) had previously taught us that Hashem listened to our groans and cries, and ‘remembered’ His bris with us.  Then, again, in this week’s Parasha before Kriyas Yam Suf, we cry out to Hashem again (Shemos 14: 10).  Rashi explains that the Bnei Yisrael knew that this is what Avrohom, Yitzchok, and Yaakov did and would do --daven in time of need--and that they must follow suit.  The Targum Onklelus and Targum Yonasan Ben Uziel (Shemos 14:15) explain that Hashem once again heard and accepted their cries at the Yam Suf, and told Moshe Rabbeinu that they could now travel and would be saved.  How obvious need it be that what we have to do to bring about our Geulah is to cry out to Hashem as well?  If Bnei Yisrael would have been complacent in Mitzrayim, or at the Yam Suf, it is not likely that we would be here today.  We too, must grab onto what Avrohom, Yitzchok, and Yaakov did--and what our forefathers who needed the Geulah so badly did as well.  The Torah is not c’v a history book recording the history of what happened to our forefathers in Mitzrayim 3,300 years ago. That can be left to the hieroglyphics and historians. Rather, the Torah is telling us what we must do.  Practical Suggestion One:  In Elokai Netzor of each and every Tefillah ask Hashem for the Geulah, so that the Shechinah comes back to the Beis HaMikdash, and all of K’lal Yisrael can reach its epitome in Avodas Hashem, and our ultimate fulfillment in life--individually and collectively.  Practical Suggestion Two:  Many Shuls, especially with Minyanim which daven quickly, allow only four minutes or so for Shemone Esrei.  Ask the Rav or the Gabbai if they can allow an additional minute or two to Shemone Esrei before Chazaras HaShatz, in order to increase the awareness of Chashivus HaTefillah, or ask that some other needed Tefillah takanah in the Shul be instituted.  ”VaYishmah Elokim Es Na’akasam VaYizkor Elokim Es Briso (Shemos 2:24)--and Hashem heard their outcry and He remembered His covenant”--may it be fulfilled in its entirety--in our day.  It is up to us!





A.  On Monday or Thursday, if one is still in the middle of Tachanun and the Tzibbur is up to reciting Berich Shemei on taking out the Torah, the Yesod V’Shoresh HaAvodah (5:8), writes that one should stop reciting Tachanun and say Berich Shemei together with the Tzibbur (Dirshu Edition of Mishna Berurah, Siman 134, seif katan 12, note 12)--because the recitation of Berich Shemei is an Inyan Gadol!


B.  If one is outside the Shul for any reason when the Sefer Torah is being taken out or being returned, it is a Mitzvah to enter into the Shul to participate, based upon “BeRov Am Hadras Melech” (ibid., seif katan 10).


C.  When the Torah is being lifted to show it to the people, the Shulchan Aruch rules that that it is a Mitzvah to look at the words, to bow, and to say VeZos HaTorah (Siman 134:2).  The Mishna Berurah (ibid., seif katan 11) adds that it is good for one to see the letters to the extent that he can read them, for the Mekubalim write that through this an Ohr Gadol will be brought upon the person (ibid., seif katan 11).


D.  When leaving the Shul after davening, one should bow and recite the Pasuk “Hashem Nicheini VeTzidkasecha Lema’an Shorerai Haishar Lefanai Darkecha--Hashem guide me in Your Righteousness because of my watchful enemies; make Your Ways straight before me(Tehillim 5:9).  This is obviously a beautiful request for one to make before he heads out to face the outside world.  The Mishna Berurah adds that the reason we bow is because the Kohanim when leaving the Bais HaMikdash after finishing their Avodah would bow as they left (Tamid 6:1-3).  We, too, are finishing the Avodah in our Mikdash Me’at





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


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


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


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



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



8 Shevat

TESHUVAH MOMENT: As a technique to curbing one’s new-age instinct to pick up or take out his cell phone whether or not it is ringing, vibrating or otherwise emitting some form of noise--may we once again suggest that in all events one pause for a moment to consciously decide whether or not he should be picking up the phone at that moment. Even if in most instances he decides to do so, the moment of reflection will serve to modify the action from one of animal-like instinct to a reasoned decision of a human being. Hopefully, over time, one will advance and improve his discretion as to the time and place of his cell phone usage. Hakhel Note: As one mechaneches put it: “Don’t let your phone entrap you--if you do, it will truly become a (jail) cell for you!”



SHOMER YISRAEL:  HaRav Elchonon Wasserman, Z’tl, in the Sefer Kovetz Ma’amarim, writes that it appeared to him that any person or nation who wanted to ‘give a klap’ to K’lal Yisrael in his generation was able to do so--and Reb Elchonon strove to find a reason why this was so.  After all, Reb Elchonon questioned--is not the Shechina always with us in Galus as the Shomer Yisrael--the Guardian of Israel?  Reb Elchonon concluded that while Hashem is, in fact, our Shomer-he is not a Shomer Sachar (for we can never adequately pay or repay Him for everything that he does for us)--but a Shomer Chinam.  Now, the Halacha is that a Shomer Chinam can surrender his responsibilities at any time if he no longer would like to perform them for any reason.  Why, however, would HaKadosh Baruch Hu want to ‘give-up’ His capacity as a loving Shomer over us?  A Pasuk in Parashas Ki Seitzei (Devarim 23:15), he concludes,  provides the revealing answer for us.  The Pasuk states “VeLo Yirah Becha Ervas Davar VeShav Meiacharecha…so that He will not see a shameful thing among you and go away from behind you.”  What Hashem shuns, the reason He would (temporarily) not serve as our Shomer Chinam --is Ervas Davar--inappropriate breaches in the area of Tzniyus.  He therefore appealed to everyone--men and women alike--to improve and increase their level of modesty both inside and outside the home. Hakhel Note:  As we look around us--at the lions and wolves which seem to abound--some more friendly and some less--let us raise our levels of Tzniyus--of appropriate dress, demeanor and behavior-and ask Hashem to please, please watch over us as the Shomer Yisrael!





A.  Chazal (Brachos 4A) teach that Moshe Rabbeinu had to say that Makkas Bechoros would begin “KaChatzos HaLayla--at about midnight”, because although Hashem knew when midnight precisely was and would truly begin the Makkah at the point of midnight, the Mitzriyim did not exactly know.  As a result, the Mitzriyim would accuse Moshe Rabbeinu of being a bad’ai--a trickster or joker--for in their minds it would be 11:58PM or 12:03AM when the Makkah began.  The question is obvious--is this all the Mitzriyim would have on their minds at this most dire moment in their history--that the Makkah began a few minutes early or a few minutes late?!  We suggest that there is a great lesson here.  The Navi teaches us that those who will be left at the end of days in our final Geulah will be the ones who did not act deceitfully and did not speak dishonestly.  This then is the litmus test to determine whether it is a time of Geulah or not, and whether it is the generation and the people that will be redeemed.  If Moshe was found to be speaking even a tad inaccurately, then the Mitzriyim would have a ray of ‘hope’ that the time of Geulah had not yet come.  Moshe Rabbeinu wanted to be sure to dispel this notion--so that the time of Geulah--and the air of Geulah--was clear to all.  Let us take this lesson personally and to heart.  We can do so by being true, accurate and correct with our statements, with our writings, and with our dealings.  When the Geulah comes, the nations of the world will be able to point to us and say--”Yes, this nation displayed the signs of the Geulah--their word was their bond, their honesty was impeccable, and their integrity was stellar. We knew it--they were the generation of the Geulah!”  Hakhel Note: This is the job, this is the role, of each and every one of us--if we want to be a part of the generation of Geulah! 


B.  The Torah teaches that Bnei Yisrael took out their remaining Matzah and Marror on their shoulders as they left Egypt (Shemos 12:34).  Rashi (ibid.) explains that rather than let the animals carry out their precious Mitzvos--the Bnei Yisrael beautifully displayed their Chibuv HaMitzvos--their true appreciation and love for the Mitzvos by carrying out the Matzah and Marror by themselves.  There is much to learn here.  We should consider and reconsider how we treat and ‘handle’ our Mitzvos.  As we have noted in the past--how do we carry our Tallis and Tefillin--swinging in our arms below our waist, or perhaps hanging on a shoulder strap as it bangs against our hip?  Do we leave such precious Mitzvos unattended in a shelf in shul day after day, in the back seat of a car as we go shopping or on errands?  How do we make a bracha--with an open garbage bag close by and with different kinds of refuse on the table?  How do we treat our Seforim, our Siddurim, and our Zemiros books--are they scattered about, and not neatly placed away?  A good part of the Mitzvah is an awareness that it reflects one’s relationship with Hashem--and of its inherent infinite and eternal value.  When handling a Mitzvah, when performing a Mitzvah--we should recognize that while precious gems may be taken out and even viewed only at certain times--we are privileged with so many hundreds of  precious gems--available to us not only daily--but every minute of the day!  By showing our great honor, care and concern for each and every Mitzvah--we demonstrate our true Chibuv HaMitzvos--our understanding of how precious they really are . Ashreinu Mah Tov Chelkeinu--every minute of our lives--let us demonstrate it through our Mitzvah performance!


C.  The Pasuk (Shemos 12:17) teaches:  “U’Shemartem Es HaMatzos--and you shall make sure that the Matzos do not become Chometz.”  Chazal teach that from here we also derive “U’Shemartem Es HaMitzvos”--we must carefully watch the Mitzvos and make sure that we promptly perform any Mitzvah that comes our way, not allowing for any delay, and not letting the opportunity to somehow slip away. As we have noted in the past, HaRav Chaim Kanievsky, Shlita, brings from the Chazon Ish that “Segulah Shelo Lishkoach La’asoso MiYad--a Segulah to not forgetting is to do so immediately.”  For those who look for Segulos, we have the instruction of the Chazon Ish! 


Hakhel Note:  HaRav Kanievsky importantly adds the following teaching:  The Shulchan Aruch (Yoreh Deiah 232:12) brings that if one made a Neder to do something within a year and did not do so immediately because he felt he had time to do it--and did not end up fulfilling his neder, the Sefer HaAguda writes that it is not considered an ones (as one who acted inadvertently)--but a poshei’ah (as one who acted negligently or wantonly)! We can perhaps take this exercise at least once a day by deciding to do the Mitzvah, make the Bracha Acharonah, study Torah--not later, not in a few minutes, not after one does ‘just one more thing’--but now! We can live and relive U’Shemartem Es HaMitzvos--each and every day!



TIMES OF GEULAH!  As we move further in our Geulah, actually exiting Mitzrayim proper in this week’s Parasha, it behooves us to recognize the times and pay special attention to Yetzias Mitzrayim in our tefillos as well. Where do we refer to Yetzias Mitzrayim in Pesukei Dezimra even before VeCharos Imo HaBris? (Hint--In Hodu).  Why do we refer to Yetzias Mitzrayim both in Kriyas Shema and in Ezras Avoseinu? (Hint: See Shulchan Aruch, Orach Chaim 70; Mishne Berurah seif katan 2). What is the result of Yetzias Mitzrayim? (Hint: What do the last three Pesukim of Pesukei Dezimra immediately before Yishtabach and after the Shiras HaYam refer to?). These are times of Geulah--we should show our sincerity and dedication, our yearning, our longing and desire to not only to be a part of it --but for it to be a part of us!



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


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