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Hakhel Email Community Awareness Bulletin



The following Teshuvos were provided to Hakhel by Rabbi Yisroel Belsky, Shlita, in response to our questions regarding today’s eggs, which, when purchased commercially, are not fertilized.  

QUESTION:  If one finds blood in an egg, does one need to throw out the whole egg or can one just throw out the blood and use the rest of the egg?


ANSWER:  HaRav Moshe Feinstein Z’TL says that the custom is to throw out the whole egg in such a situation.


QUESTION:  If one forgot to check the egg and mixed it with food (e.g. dough), can one use the dough?  If one mixed the egg in flour and sees some blood, if one takes out the blood that is visible may one use the rest of the dough?


ANSWER:  If the egg is already mixed with other ingredients, just remove the blood itself and whatever other parts of the egg that had not been mixed with anything else.  The rest may be used l’chatchila.


QUESTION:  If one cracked an egg over a hot frying pan and sees that there is some blood in the egg, can one just take out the blood?  What is the halacha with regard to the frying pan?


ANSWER:  Throw out the entire egg.  The frying pan does not need to be kashered.


QUESTION:  When one cooks a hard boiled egg, does one need to check it for blood?  If yes, how?


ANSWER:  There was no need to check hard-boiled eggs, even in earlier times, when eggs were fertilized.  Certainly today, no checking is necessary.


QUESTION:  When one cooks a hard boiled egg, does one need to cook three eggs at a time or due to the fact that our eggs are not fertilized one may cook even just one egg at a time?


ANSWER:  There is no need to cook three eggs at a time today.  Your question should not have mentioned hard-boiled eggs, because the real concern applied to soft-boiled eggs which have to be checked.  If one found a blood spot (in a soft-boiled egg) and there were only two eggs cooking, the other one would have had to be thrown out and the pot kashered.  Similarly, if three eggs were cooked (the common practice) and blood spots were found in two of them, the third egg was discarded and the pot would be kashered.


QUESTION:  Does one need a special egg pot today as our mothers and grandmothers had?


ANSWER:  No, it is no longer necessary.  The reason for the special egg pot was so that in case of a “blitztrop” the pot could be kashered, or if it was only a makeshift pot-like an empty can-thrown out.  Today, there is no need to kasher the pot and thus no need for a specially-designated egg pot.


QUESTION:  If one made a soft boiled egg and finds a blood spot, may one just take out the blood and eat the rest of the egg?  What is the halacha if one removed the blood which was hot (yad soledes bo) with a kosher spoon?


ANSWER:  As before, throw out the egg.  The spoon need not be kashered.




The following Teshuvos were provided to Hakhel by Rabbi Yisroel Belsky, Shlita, in response to our questions relating to Hilchos Shabbos.


QUESTION:  Before taking medicine, one davens “Yehi Ratzon She’yeheh Esek Zeh Li L’refuah Ki Rofeh Chinam Ata” (Shulchan Aruch, Orach Chayim 230:4, Mishne Berurah seif katan 6).  Can one recite this before taking permitted medicine on Shabbos or Yom Tov or Yom Tov Sheni?


ANSWER:  One should think these words, but not say them, because it is a personal bakasha, a personal request, which is not made on Shabbos.  The same applies even on Yom Tov Sheni.


QUESTION:  Can one pray “Tehay Yisorai Kapora al Kol Avonosai” (May my pain/suffering serve as an atonement for my sins) on Shabbos or Yom Tov?


ANSWER:  I do not believe so, because it is also a bakasha, a personal request.


QUESTION:  Is one permitted to heat up a challah on top of the crock pot on Shabbos morning?  What is the status of the challah-is it still parve? Would its status change if it were wrapped up in aluminum foil?


ANSWER:  One can do “chazara” on a solid food on the top of a full pot (“kedera me’lea”).  You do not need a second pot.  The challah should be treated as fleishig unless separated by aluminum foil.


QUESTION:  If you have leftover challah after Shabbos, it is best to double wrap and discard it, or can one leave it in the park for squirrels or ducks?


ANSWER:  You can feed animals and birds with left over food, but you should place it down in a manner in which it will not be stepped upon.




Our special addition to the Shabbos Birchas HaMazon is Retzai V’Hachalitzeinu.  Two notes follow:


1.  We are familiar with the word “Retzai” which is also the first word of the 17th brocha of Shemone Esrei-May our acts be acceptable and appeasing to HaKadosh Boruch Hu, but what does “Hachalitzeinu” mean?  The Eitz Yosef brings the Yerushalmi’s various definitions for the word and concludes that in the z’chus of our Shemiras Shabbos, we will be redeemed and go up to Eretz Yisroel with “chilutz atzamos”-strengthened and physically healthy.  Thus, we are asking Hashem not only to be strengthened-but to be strengthened by the Geulah.


2.  Shabbos is described in Retzai as “HaGadol V’Hakadosh Hazeh-Ki Yom Zeh Gadol V’Kadosh Hu Lefanecha”-this great and holy day Shabbos-because this day is great and holy.”  It is important to note that the term “HaGadol V’Hakadosh” (which is even repeated in the same sentence here) is only used to describe Hashem (in the beginning of “Yishtabach” every morning) and the Beis HaMikdash (in the third brocha of bentching-“HaBayis Hagadol V’Hakadosh”).  How we should treasure and revere the Shabbos-for it is described only with the highest and rarest of company!


49er GOLD




Imagine the unbridled joy of a 49er who had traveled all the way out West by foot and wagon, without regular food supply, clothing tattered, sleep-deprived…and…he really finds it--Gold!  Real Gold!


Compare this to the well-fed and clothed gentlemen with a fine cane who notices something shiny on the ground and bends down to pick it up-amazing-Gold!  It goes without saying that both men are quite happy with their find.  However, the 49er had dedicated days, months, and maybe even years to the task of finding gold, while the other man merely leaned over to pick it up.  He will enjoy the benefit of the gold, but will lack the ecstasy of accomplishment, and will not feel the joy of seeing the fruits of his labor.  They both have real gold-but only one has that special ephemeral feeling-the wealth of spirit that accompanies the great find.


The Chofetz Chaim (Chovas HaShemira, Chapter 8) writes that the “Ikar Kedushas Mitzvah He K’She’ose Osa B’Kevius Gemura.”  The primary sanctity of the mitzvah is in its dedicated regularity.  One cannot compare “finding” a mitzvah (which is most certainly gold, in all events) at any time or from time-to-time, but without any plan, aforethought or program, to the prior commitment to perform a mitzvah on a day-in and day-out basis-which is the gold together with the very special Kedusha that accompanies it.


Learning Torah for 20 minutes a day after davening because this is your dedicated seder has that “Ikar Kedushas Mitzvah” which learning for 20 minutes when you have the time simply does not have.  Accepting upon oneself to learn for 15 minutes without interruption of any kind is not the same as learning uninterrupted because nobody called on the cell phone during that time.  Likewise, learning two Mishnayos, or one-seventh of the Parsha, every single day of the week is not the same as studying an entire Perek or the entire Parsha all in one day.


The concept extends, of course, to all mitzvos.  This “kevius” is the source for the great segulah of “Machsom L’fi” in which a person undertakes (b’li neder) to be especially, especially careful to guard his tongue from evil during a designated two-hour time slot (e.g., 2PM-4PM ) every single day.  Similarly, one can, b’li neder, undertake to give some tzedaka every day before Mincha, or plan to honor parents or elders daily in a special way, or be very conscious daily in matters of honesty, etc.


Indeed, the Chofetz Chaim in the Toras HaBayis (Chapter 1) asks-Why did we have to be brought down to this world?  Could we not have studied Torah and performed mitzvos in the Upper World, instead?  He responds that the essence of a mitzvah is the “amal v’nisayon”-the toil and the difficulty-one has in its performance, which one can experience only down here in this world.


When one obligates himself (b’li neder) to perform a mitzvah b’kevius against the “amal v’nisayon”-that go along with this dedication and consistency-he has attained the essence of the mitzvah and has sanctified himself in the process.


Practical Suggestion:  Choose a mitzvah (within easy reach that you may even do every day now, but without commitment) and b’li neder dedicate yourself to its performance for the next 30 days in a particular manner, no matter what the amal or nisayon.  Record your daily success in your private calendar.




In a recent issue, we quoted HaRav Chaim Kanievsky’s psak (Orchos Yosher, page 100) that the study of the laws of Tefillah takes precedence over the study of all other topics--for we daven three times daily (over 1,000 times a year).  If we know the halachos of Tefillah, we have consistently acted properly, but if we do not, it amounts to a huge mistake.


One of the seemingly great paradoxes in Hilchos Tefillah is how one should view himself both prior to and during Shemone Esrei.


The Shulchan Aruch (Orach Chayim 95:2) writes that prior to beginning Shemone Esrei, one should picture himself as if he is actually standing in the Beis HaMikdash.  The Mishne Berurah (Orach Chayim 94, seif katan 3), based on the Gemara in Berachos (30A) amplifies this concept by adding that one should feel as if he is actually standing in the Kodesh Kodoshim itself.  Of course, with all of the current replicas, facsimiles, photo plates, schematics and drawings, this has become much easier for us to visualize.


The paradox?  The Shulchan Aruch is also posek that we are to place ourselves in two other places before commencing Shemone Esrei:


In Orach Chayim 98:1, the Mechaber rules that just as when one is about to stand in front of an earthly king, he would clarify and crystallize his thoughts, certainly should he do so when he imagines himself as standing in front of the King of Kings-Who knows all thoughts.  The picture here is of one being alone in the Throne Room before, not just any earthly King, but the King of Kings, who knows what you should be thinking.


So, at this point, we should view ourselves both as in the Holy of Holies and in audience with the ultimate King.  Perhaps we can reconcile this by surmising that the Kodesh Kodoshim is the equivalent of the inner recesses of the palace, even though this may not be how we would ordinarily picture it.


However, the Shulchan Aruch (Orach Chayim 98:3) then writes that our in Tefillah we should beg Hashem for mercy--just as a poor person begs at the door.


How can we imagine ourselves in the Holy of Holies, and/or standing in the magnificent palace of the King, directly in front of not only the King, but the King of Kings, and be begging at the door simultaneously?  Could a pauper asking for a dollar find himself in the King’s palace, much less a palace that even the Kohen Gadol only fearfully entered on Yom Kippur?


It appears that there are three separate and distinct thoughts that we should bring to mind before the 1,000-plus Shemone Esreis we recite each year (approximately 20,000 brochos annually):


1.  The Place:  Wherever we are, we are in the Kodesh Kodoshim(!), for we are davening--and our tefillos perforce travel--through the most sacred place on Earth-the Kodesh Kodoshim-to reach the Heavens (Brachos 30A).


2.  Hashem’s Greatness:  We are in audience with the World’s Creator and the World’s Supervisor--Who knows all thoughts, hears all pleas and can grant all requests.


3.  Our Humility:  Truth be told, we can do nothing on our own.  Everything, literally **every**thing, is Hashem’s gift to us.  We must knock on the door and plead for **every**thing.  Hashem, as the Ba’al HaBayis, knows how to best respond to a person’s sincere requests.


Thus, the Shulchan Aruch teaches us exactly how to focus on, and appreciate, the great meeting we are about to experience.  The actual experience will be measured by the quality of our focus and appreciation of this precious time.


Practical Suggestion:  L’Havdil, at a stop sign, we are taught to Stop, Look and Listen.  As you prepare to begin Shemone Esrei, spend three moments--to appreciate the Place, to understand in front of Whom you are standing, and to reflect upon who you are--and try to draw it all into the private audience, known as your Shemone Esrei.




The Mishna in Avos (5:9) lists the seven qualities which characterize a Chochom-a learned person.  In contrast, the Mishna teaches that a Golem-an uncultivated person-is succinctly defined by his lacking of these important traits.


There is a common denominator which links all seven--you may be able to discern the connection among them upon your review of the seven traits, which are listed immediately below:


1)      He does not begin speaking before someone who is greater than he;

2)      He does not interrupt his friend while speaking;

3)      He does not respond in a hurried manner;

4)      He asks relevant questions, and he responds to questions accurately;

5)      He speaks first things first, and last things last;

6)      On that which he has not heard, he responds, “I have not heard”; and

7)      He admits the truth.


Rabbi Moshe Goldberger, Shlita, teaches that the seven traits listed by Chazal show us that a wise person is not necessarily the one with the most knowledge, or the greatest capacity to derive from, or compare, one teaching to another.  Rather, the learned person is the one who uses his gift of speech properly:

  • He knows when to talk-and when not to talk;

  • He does not interrupt the words of another;

  • He knows how to speak--humbly, sensibly and truthfully.

His opinion is not the only opinion, and certainly not the only correct opinion.


Indeed, Shlomo HaMelech, the wisest of all men (see Melachim I 3:12 ) teaches us elsewhere that “The words of the wise--are heard softly…” (Koheles 9:17).


Once again, in contrast, a Golem-an uncultivated person-is not defined as the one who is illiterate, unlearned, childish or boorish in character, but as simply one who lacks the proper mode or refinement of speech.


The Mishna here does not refer to Loshon Hara, Onaas Devorim, bad advice and other Torah prohibitions of speech.  Instead, it refers to the manner of communication in which one relates to his fellow man.


If talk is cheap, blame it on…


Practical Suggestion:  Review the seven traits of a Chochom before going into a planned conversation, phone call or meeting with the firm resolve to be a Chochom during the entire course of that communication.


The Gemara (Shabbos 10B)teaches that HaKodosh Boruch Hu advised Moshe Rabbeinu:  “I have a good present for you in my treasure house-and Shabbos is its name-go and tell B’nei Yisroel.”


At first glance, the language of the Gemara is quixotic.  Why does Hashem need to add “and Shabbos is its name”?  And why only after Moshe is told of “its name” is he commanded to tell B’nei Yisroel about Shabbos?  After all, the B’nei Yisroel themselves named the Mon (Shemos 16:15 ).


The Sefer Ahavas Shalom writes that unlike all of the other chagim u’moadim, which arrived through the auspices of Beis Din and currently through our established Calendar, Shabbos’ arrival is established by Hashem and is purely “l’eyla”-entirely from above.  It therefore becomes our privileged role to draw down and arouse the Kedushas Shabbos in this world by “calling out its name.”


How does one “call out” the name of Shabbos?  One method is quite literal.  When we bentch our family and friends with a “Gut Shabbos”, it should be with a feeling of warmth and appreciation for the ruchniyus of the day.  In fact, the Ahavas Shalom points out that when we tell a choleh “Shabbos he mi’lizok u’refuah k’rova lavo”, we are actually arousing the Kedushas Shabbos itself to bring the refuah closer.


Although this first way to draw upon Kedushas Shabbos is really less esoteric than you may otherwise believe, there is a second, perhaps more tangible, method of drawing the Kedushas Shabbos upon us.  The Medrash Tanchuma (Bereishis 3) authoritatively states: “Kavod Shabbos odif mai’elef taaniyos-honoring Shabbos is greater than 1,000 fasts.”  While there are general aspects of Kavod Shabbos that apply to us all (neiros Shabbos, Shabbos clothing, preparatory bathing, etc.), it is clear that each individual should bring upon himself the “name of Shabbos” by demonstrating or performing acts of Kavod Shabbos in his own special way.  Indeed, the Mesilas Yesharim (Chapter 19) points to the “Chachomim HaRishonim”, the Early Scholars, who would prepare for Shabbos-“each person according to his own way” (see Shabbos 119A), and then adds to this that a person should be wise on his own-to find his own path-to call upon the name of Shabbos.


We should truly work on this--our personal Kavod Shabbos is so important.  In fact, the Sefer Chasidim (Siman 122) brings the story of a woman who used to weave Erev Shabbos and did not properly involve herself in Shabbos preparations.  After she passed away, a person saw in a dream that her eyes and hands were burned using strands of flax.  He asked her why her judgment was such and she responded that it was because she was busy with flax on Erev Shabbos, and not sufficiently occupied with the needs of Shabbos.  This may be an extreme example, but the wasted opportunity is clear.


So what can we do?  The possibilities are truly boundless.


For instance, the Sefer Ta’anug Shabbos writes that one does not appreciate how great the act of cleaning his shoes before Shabbos is, as the posuk (Shir HaShirim 7) states: “How beautiful are your steps in your shoes!”


To someone else, attendance at a special shiur, establishment of a special chavrusah, or learning a unique sefer on Shabbos (for instance, Chumash with Ramban, Minchas Chinuch, or Chovos HaLevovos) may be his properly “calling out the name” of Shabbos.


Yet to another, the resolve to bake--rather than “bake-ry”--challahs may draw the Kedusha in.


And, as a final thought, let us not forget Zemiros.  The Shelah HaKadosh (Mesecheta Shabbos) quotes the Reishis Chochma that Kedushas Shabbos comes from “Shiros u’Zemiros”.  We can readily note the special effect that Zemiros have on little children-they hum the tunes and may even say the words when doing other things, because it obviously has had a supernal effect on them.


Practical Suggestion:  This Shabbos, when saying “Gut Shabbos” to a family member or friend, try to instill in it your desire to bring Kedushas Shabbos both in and around you.


Also, as you go through this Shabbos, think of ways you could improve your Kedushas Shabbos through new acts of kavod that may be unique, special or important for you personally.




It is said that Rabbi Simcha Bunim of Peshischa ZT’L was once asked-we know that everything in Creation has a reason and purpose-What is the purpose of a “kruma svara”-perverse reasoning?  What end could crooked logic serve in this world?  He answered that twisted thought could actually help a person fulfill a MITZVAS ASEH D’ORAISA(!)


What and how?  The Torah commands “B’tzedek Tishpat Amisecha”(Vaykira 19:15 )-you must judge your friend favorably.  There are important distinctions in Halacha as to how to judge the acts of different types of people (tzaddikim, beinonim and reshoim).  For a review of these distinctions, see Sefer Chofetz Chaim 3:7,8, and in English Guard Your Tongue by Rabbi Zelig Pliskin 4:6,7 or The Chofetz Chaim, A Lesson a Day, Days 52-54.  After reviewing these halachos, it certainly becomes imperative to learn, practice, train and re-train yourself in this fundamental mitzvah, which helps in controlling and distancing oneself from Loshon Hora, needless hatred, machlokes and other similar and serious aveiros.



  • My wife “forgot” to make supper for the second time this week

  • He said he would help me with this and now he is ignoring me

  • He only gives a quarter to poor people-he could afford to give so much more

  • She is a real complainer

  • He always comes late to meetings

  • She eats, and eats and eats


The truth is that each one of us is constantly challenged by the actions of people which do not live up to our standards, or how we believe a person should act, in the situation at hand.


This is where dynamic, and yes, even crooked, thinking is necessary:

  • He always gives quarters to the poor--Wow!  He is sacrificing not having money for the parking meter in order to give to the poor

  • She always complains--She probably does this to everyone else, so by the time she gets home, she will be nice to her husband, or, her Rabbi must have instructed her to get her problems out rather than harbor them

  • He always comes late to meetings--He doesn’t know how much it bothers people, his father probably did it-and he is so used to it, it has become his second nature

  • She eats, and eats and eats--The doctor probably told her that she has to have a certain vitamin constantly absorbed by her body


And the list, and the obtuse reasoning, goes on and on.  The harder you work at it, the more proficient, and the greater a person, you become.  Of course, there are occasions where your instruction and reproof are necessary, but this is a separate mitzvah and should be done with the guidance of an experienced Rav.


Chazal teach: “One who judges his friend to the side of merit will be judged [by the Heavenly Court ] to the side of merit” (Shabbos 127B).


Practical Suggestion:  In the many situations in which judging another comes up in a day, use your perverse logic to its fullest capacity!  Come up with at least a couple of reasons as to why he did this or she is like that.  In addition to being judged favorably by Heaven, it would also seem quite logical (this is straight logic) that, in this merit, Hashem will help straighten out your thoughts in other situations where straight thinking is really required!




“And [Hashem] said: ‘Do not get close to there; remove your shoes from your feet, because the place you are standing on is holy ground.’” (Shemos 3:5, this week’s Parsha).


The Ohr HaChaim HaKadosh (ibid.) asks a stark question.  Moshe Rabbeinu is first commanded not to get closer to the burning bush, and only after that to take his shoes off, for he was on holy ground.  Should he not have been commanded **first** to take off his shoes-as he was already on holy ground-and then, not to get closer to the bush?  The Ohr HaChaim responds that with the order of this posuk, Hashem reveals His true will-His main concern-is fulfillment of the Mitzvos Lo Saa’seh-for when violating a Lo Saa’seh, by taking action, a person actually wounds his soul.


It is for this reason that when the Torah urges us “to be careful” and “to do” in the same posuk, the Torah always precedes “shmira” (guarding oneself from violating a negative prohibition) and then follows it with the “asiyah” (doing the positive commandments of Hashem).


Dovid HaMelech (Tehillim 34:15) reinforces this priority by teaching that a person who wants life, who loves days to see good, is the one who is “sur meirah” (turns away from evil), and is “aseh tov” (does good).


Of course, there are 365 negative prohibitions and the 365 days of the solar calendar correspond to them.  Perhaps this is to teach us that we are to be on constant guard-on a day in, day out basis-to avoid violating the negative prohibitions.


The Ohr HaChaim HaKadosh concludes that this seems to be quite an expensive lesson for Moshe Rebbeinu-he was standing on holy ground and did not even know it-yet, he was first instructed to avoid the Lo Saa’seh before taking off his shoes-doing the aseh.  See there for two possible answers.


Perhaps we can also suggest that there was an additional lesson to Moshe Rebbeinu here-that, in fact, he had to be careful wherever he may be-for everywhere he or we go is “admas kodesh” (holy ground).  We are on “holy ground” when we consciously refrain from violating Torah prohibitions, including:

  • Not saying Hashem’s Name in vain (Shemos 20:7)

  • Eating something which is questionably kosher (even though it may have some Hebrew writing on it) (Vayikra 11)

  • Not holding back wages (Vayikra 19:13 )

  • Not insulting someone else (Vayikra 19:14 )

  • Not to cause another to sin or give him bad advice (Vayikra 19:14 )

  • Delaying to save someone in danger (Vayikra 19:16 )

  • Not to embarrass another (Vayikra 19:17 )

  • Not to cheat with weights and measures (Vayikra 19:35 )

  • Doing something which could result in Chillul Hashem (Vayikra 22:23 )

  • Not to be closed-handed to the poor (Devarim 15:7)

  • Refraining from getting involving in returning a lost item (Devarim 22:3)

  • Allowing ourselves or our children to wear Shatnez (Devarim 22:11 )

  • Delaying fulfillment of a promise you have made (Devarim 23:22 )


And all of the other mitzvos Lo Saa’seh.  We have a great opportunity, on a daily basis, to stand on holy ground, as the Ohr HaChaim HaKadosh states-when we avoid violating the Mitzvos Lo Saa’seh we are performing HaKadosh Boruch Hu’s “Ikar Daas and Ratzon”.


Practical Suggestion:  Each day for the coming week, take a Mitzvos Lo Saa’seh you feel may need some chizuk in your life and be especially mindful and careful with it, or learn more about a Mitzvos Lo Saa’seh that you are relatively unfamiliar with (see Sefer HaChinuch –in English published by Feldheim Publishers; Sefer HaMitzvos of the Rambam; and Sefer HaMitzvos HaKatzur of the Chofetz Chaim for further study).


Remember-We are always on holy ground!




The Sefer Chovas HaShemira (written by the Chofetz Chaim Z’TL) makes the following fundamental observations:


1)  The mouth is actually the doorway to the body--allowing in and directing out.  As we know, if a doorway is kept open too long, too much hot air will escape and the house will become cold and unpleasant.


2)  The Bais Hamikdosh will be rebuilt--but its construction will not be paid for in dollars-but with our pure words.  How much more valuable could our speech be?


3)  The enormity of the mitzvah of Shemiras Haloshon is so great that “B’Vadai Yimchol L’Avosov B’Zchuso”-“Certainly even deceased parents will be forgiven in its zechus.”


4)  One who is on guard not to speak Loshon Horah is rewarded for his vigilance on a constant basis--whether or not he encounters a potentially sinful situation.  He can be compared to an expert security guard or bodyguard who is well-paid at all times--whether or not a break-in occurs or a criminal attacks, because of the difficulty of his task.


The Orchos Tzaddikim writes that while we have two eyes, two ears and two nostrils, we only have one mouth, and the reason for this is that it is to be used less than these other faculties. It is noteworthy that the very first words we utter as we begin Shemone Esrei are “Hashem Sifasai Tiftach”-Hashem, open my mouth,-- and then the very first words we utter as we conclude Shemone Esrei are “Elokei Netzor L’Shoni Mairah”-My G-d, save my tongue from evil.”


Practical Suggestion:  In a conversation you are having today, try to picture yourself as a well-paid security guard-on careful alert-who does not want to lose his great-but tough-job!


Today may be viewed by some, R’L, as a burden or nuisance occurring annually in the middle of the winter, and by others as the “easiest fast of the year” (due to its brief length).  To yet others, the fasting itself is somewhat perplexing for, after all, the Golus Bavel lasted only 70 years, and many great events occurred after Nebuchadnezzar’s initial siege of Yerushalayim--including Purim, Chanukah, the Nevuos of Chagai, Zecharya and Malachi, and the Bayis Sheni, which stood for 420 years.


Yet, we know that the fast of Asara B’Teves is so stringent that even it if occurs on Erev Shabbos--unlike all of the other fasts--we fast the entire day until Shabbos begins.  For the initial siege was, in fact, the horrifying beginning to the end of the most glorified time in our history to date-The First Beis Hamikdosh with all of its open miracles--the Shechina’s palpable presence, the Aron with the Luchos, and literally hundreds of thousands (!) who had reached the level of nevuah (Megillah 14A).  With the enemy surrounding the city, the downfall of this singularly unique period began.


As we look in the Torah, we find that very bad endings have to start somewhere, and that it is the terrible beginning that we need to control and avoid.  Perhaps the greatest example of this is one of the Aseres Hadibros.  The last of the Aseres Hadibros warns us “Lo Sachmod/Lo Sisaveh” (see Shmos 20:14; Devorim 5:18)-Do not covet/Do not desire.  The Shulchan Aruch (Choshen Mishpat 359:10,11,12) explains that desiring leads to coveting which leads to stealing--so that from the initial prohibited desire, three negative prohibitions can be violated.  It is telling that the Aseres Hadibros does not contain the prohibition to steal property--which is the last step in the process--but rather it contains the prohibition to desire and to covet which are the initial steps leading to the horrible end result.  The Torah teaches that it is the beginning of the process where your action is required--for the end may be too late.


Similarly, the parsha of Arayos (Vayikra 18:6, read on Yom Kippur at Mincha) begins with “Lo Sikrivu L’Galus Ervah”-Do not get close to forbidden relationships which Chazal teach refers to prohibiting initial touching and thoughts.  Likewise, the Torah goes out of its way when prohibiting Loshon Hora to say “Lo Selech Rochil B’Amecha” (Vayikra 19:16)-Do not even begin walking in order to speak Loshon Hora, for this will lead to downfall.


Of course, the flip side is also true.  It is known that the Vilna Gaon, prior to undertaking a mitzvah, would state, “Hareini Oseh K’mo She’tzivani Hashem B’Soroso-I am about to do what Hashem commanded in His Torah”.  See Haggadah of the Gra.


So, it is really the planning, or at least the forethought, which sets the tone and the standard for what is about to happen and what you are going to do.  Will it be up with Yaakov’s ladder--or down like the dominoes?


Practical Suggestion:  In the last bracha of Birchas Hashachar, have kavana when reciting “V’lo Lidei Nisayon” to ask for Hashem’s help not to come to the first step of a situation in which you can falter--and if you see such a situation coming, think “THIS IS THE BEGINNING-I must avoid or circumvent it.”


In the z’chus of our starting from the beginning, we can reverse the infamous, and literally world-shattering events, that began on Asara B’Teves, and we can start anew with “She’Yiboneh Bais Hamikdosh Bimheira V’Yameinu.”




The second brocha of Shemone Esrei is known as the brocha of “Gevuros”, for in this brocha we demonstrate HaKadosh Boruch Hu’s absolute omnipotence.


The Ritva (Taanis 2A) notes that the concept of T’chiyas HaMeisim--revival of those not alive--is mentioned four (4) times in this brocha.  While T’chiyas HaMeisim is certainly unparalleled gevura--why need it be mentioned four different times within one short brocha?  As we know, the Anshei K’nesses HaGadola compiled each brocha B’Ruach HaKadosh, and each word is very literally counted and deeply meaningful.  See the remarkable words of the Aruch HaShulchan (Orach Chayim 112:4,5).


Because of the strength of this question, the Ritva teaches that in fact there is no reiteration here at all.  Rather, there are four separate and distinct forms of T’chiyas HaMeisim mentioned in this brocha:


FIRST:  “Mechaye Meisim Ata Rav L’Hoshia” is immediately followed by Morid HaGeshem, because this phase refers to Hashem’s bringing us to life with proper rain, which bring us our food and sustenance.


SECOND:  “Mechaye Meisim B’Rachamim Rabim” (which is followed by Somech Noflim) refers to people who are seriously or even deathly ill whom HaKadosh Boruch Hu brings back to life through miraculous healing power.


THIRD:  “Melech Meimis U’Mechaye” refers to the departed whom the Neviim (such as Eliyahu HaNavi and Elisha HaNavi) helped bring back to life, and additionally to those whom Hashem brings to life “B’Olom HaNeshomos” (obviously this is a niftar concept).


FOURTH:  “V’Neeman Ata L’Hachayos Meisim” refers to the ultimate T’chiyas HaMeisim, which we all anxiously await.


We see here how Hashem’s greatest gevuros have always been with us, are currently with us and will in the future be with us, as well.


PRACTICAL SUGGESTION:  During this week, appreciate the great Gevuros Hashem, by stopping at each of the four references to T’chiyas HaMeisim and thinking for a second about its particular meaning.


Also, if you want to take on a special, additional suggestion, before each Shemone Esrei this week, take a moment to appreciate how practical, meaningful and powerful each word of Shemone Esrei really is.  Hatzlacha!


Millions of people per year suffer from eye disease and disorders, such as glaucoma, cataracts and the like.  In some cases, these people have their lens replaced and can then see with a clarity and crispness they had never thought possible.


Dovid HaMelech (Tehillim 36:10) teaches us that “Because with You is the life source-in Your light we see light.”


When looking at the world around us on an everyday, day-in-day out basis, we may be accustomed to looking at things with our limited, obscured and obstructed vision and not in the way HaKodosh Boruch Hu expects and empowers us with.  It is important to note that the words “ayin” (eye) and “iyun” (investigate) have the same root, for when we look at something we are expected to go beyond the superficiality and imbue the objects or events with true meaning and significance.


The posuk in Shma which we recite twice daily states: “V’lo Sosuru Acharei Levavchem V’Acharei Eineichem-you shall not go after your heart’s desires and what you see.”  Yet, Rashi there incredibly comments that first the eye sees and then the heart desires (Bamidbar 15:39 ).  Rashi seems to be sending the message--you believe that the heart desires and then you look for evil--but it is the reverse, it is your eye--inappropriate sights and views of the world around you--that initiates your inappropriate conduct.


Fascinatingly, the ramifications of this fundamental principle pervade deep into Halacha.  The Shulchan Aruch (Choshen Mishpat 378:5) states:  “Even looking-if damage results to his friend from his looking-is forbidden.  It is therefore forbidden for a person to stare at the field of his friend when it is standing full of crops.”


The S’MA on the Shulchan Aruch (ibid.) explains that the act of viewing itself will bring damage to the neighbor’s crop (“hezek re’eah”).


Rabbi Avrohom Ehrman, Shlita, brings this closer to home for us in a related ruling:  “It is forbidden to stare into a neighbor’s house or yard because any intrusion into a person’s privacy is considered a form of damage.”  Journey to Virtue, p. 344 (Artscroll 2002).  See Shulchan Aruch (Choshen Mishpat 154:6).


Practical Suggestion:  It is said that Rav Elya Eliyahu Lopian Z’TL was once learning Torah while waiting for a bus at a bus stop for a long time.  He finally looked up to see if it was coming.  Afterwards, he was upset with what he had done-his looking up did not make the bus come any faster.


Once a day, for the next week, before you are about to look at something, think-should I really look at this or not-will it serve a positive purpose-or any purpose at all?


Use your eyes to see all this world really has to offer-with Hashem’s light!


Note:  A literally tried-and-true method of locating an object one cannot find is to recite the following teaching (See Bereshis Rabbah 53): “Omar Rebbe Binyamin Bar Abba, ‘HaKol B’Chezkas Sumin Ad She’HaKodosh Boruch Hu Meir Es Aineihem, She’ne’emar VaYifkach Elokim Es Aineha’-Everyone is presumed to be blind until Hashem enlightens their eyes as it is says ‘And Elokim opened her eyes.’”


The lesson here is that if we allow ourselves to recognize and appreciate that our vision is Hashem’s gift (for which the lost item may be a slight reminder), then Hashem will further enlighten us.  We note that this method of locating items should apply in spiritual matters, as well.  For instance, if you are looking for a posuk, a ma’amar Chazal, a shiur or a chavrusa, you should remind yourself that it is Hashem who enlightens you.  In fact, we pray daily “V’haeir aineinu b’Sorasecha.”


A greater awareness of Hashem providing our guiding view will make it harder for us to act improperly with our eyes--rolling eyeballs, winking to ridicule someone or something, looking at the wrong thing, staring without legitimate purpose, reading inappropriate items, letting our eyes wander from our sefer or siddur for no reason, etc.


It is interesting to note that the Remah, quoting the Maharil (Shulchan Aruch, Orach Chayim 271:9), writes in Hilchos Kiddish as follows: “And when he begins [Kiddish on Friday night], he should look at the candles.”  The Mishne Berurah there (seif katan 48) explains the reason for those who are careful (medakdek) to do this: it is a “segulas refuah” for the eyes which have dimmed from “pesiah gasa”--from what appears to be rushing around during the work week.


Perhaps the underlying lesson in this ruling is that looking at the neiros Shabbos which bring Hashem’s light into the home--peace, harmony, honor and enjoyment--corrects the lost vision brought about by the aimless actions of the past.


This Shabbos, as we “take a good look” at the neiros, may we be moved and inspired so that their light helps correct our past--and refines our concept of vision for the coming week.



The book Praying With Fire began a brand new cycle on 1 Teves (January 1)-just three days ago.  Thousands upon thousands have literally become inspired to daven better (“with fire”) by this classic work, using the Five-Minute a Day Lessons in the book.  This is a great new opportunity to start improving your Tefillah.


It is important to note that there are about 150 simanim (chapters) in Shulchan Aruch relating to Tefillah, which is approximately the same number of chapters relating to all of Hilchos Shabbos, including the laws of Eruvin on Shabbos.


HaRav Chaim Kanievsky, Shlita, rules as follows (Orchos Yosher, p. 100):


“It is an absolute obligation to be proficient in the laws of prayer, since a person who approaches the King, and does not know how to behave, will certainly be expelled [from the palace] by the King.  All those who are careless about this, will eventually be held accountable, and there is no doubt that the study of these laws takes precedence over all other studies, since they apply three times a day.”


[Translation from the original Hebrew provided by Guidelines, p. 14 (Targum Press, 2004).]


These powerful words of HaRav Kanievsky, Shlita, one of the great poskim of our generation, should be carefully considered.


We urge those who have not already done so, to begin the new cycle of Praying With Fire over the next three-month period.  Your personal growth in Tefillah--and in your relationship with Hashem--will be extremely tangible.




It is said in the name of the Alter of Kelm that one should study “the nature of miracles—and the miraculousness of nature”.


Today is known as “Zos Chanukah”-This is Chanukah!  As Chanukah ends, we must be able to point to the beautiful days and say “This is what I will take with me from Chanukah.”  With all of the great lessons-the little light eclipsing the overbearing darkness, the weak and downtrodden defeating the brazen warriors, rededication, overcoming despair and hopelessness, perhaps one of the most poignant lessons we take from Chanukah is contained in a posuk in Tehillim (104:24) which we recite every morning in Birchos Kriyas Shma:


“Ma Rabu Ma’asecha Hashem, Kulam B’Chochma Asisa…”-How great [important] are Your works, Hashem-all of which have been made with Divine wisdom.


When all is said and done, with all the skyscrapers, iPods, Concorde jets and satellite transmission, the world and all in it, the nature and the miracles, the everyday events and the near-misses, victory and defeat, sadness and joy, is all Hashem’s creation and wealth.


The Kitzur Sefer Chareidim (1:15) writes that it is a Mitzvas Aseh from the Torah to be “misbonen”-to think about and into-the greatness of Hashem, as the posuk (which we recite three times daily in Aleinu) states, “V’Yadata Hayom V’Hasheivosa el L’evovacha…Ein Od.”  Succinctly stated, we should place upon our hearts that Hashem is in the Heavens above and in the Earth below-and there is nothing else.


Practical Suggestion:  In your Siddur, with a yellow highlighter, highlight the posuk ”Ma Rabu Ma’Asecha Hashem…” in Birchos Kriyas Shma and the posuk in Aleinu “V’Yadata Hayom”.  When reciting these posukim in davening, appreciate the greatness of Hashem-that He is Creator and Maker of everything for all time!


A very happy “Zos Chanukah” today, and may it last not only today, but every day of the year!


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