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Special Note One:  The toppling of the Lebanese government, followed by the revolt in Tunisia , and most recently followed by the upheaval in Egypt and sense of unrest in Iran and Syria could lead to various conclusions.  Militarily, of course, Israel must be on extreme guard, and we must share in our brothers concern for the instability and turbulence around Eretz Yisroel--from Lebanon in the north to Egypt in the south.  Perhaps we can recite Tehillim Chapter 91--the Shiur Shel Pega’im for Hashem to help us in time of danger.  There are other things to think about here, however, as well.  In the final throes of Galus Edom , the kingdom of Yishmael is also supposed to reign.  Could all of this upheaval in Yishmael’s kingdom be signaling a toppling of Yishmael?  Is Yishmael falling apart in final preparation for the Geulah?  This suggestion is not intended to evoke a smirk or a reaction of disbelief, but rather to bring us into a reality check--for we must react to the events that occur around us as we recognize that Hashem controls the world--and does so with exactitude as to time, place, and all else.  A related thought is that, as we have learned from terrorism over the last decade, turmoil and upheaval are not limited to third-world governments and countries.  Just because one government has the most advanced ballistic missiles and supersonic jets, the most brilliant military tacticians and diplomats, it by no means ensures the stability of the government, or the safety of the people who reside in that country.  The story is told that Rav Moshe Leib Sassover traveled with a fur coat in the height of the summer.  When someone who did not know him or recognize him asked him why he did so, he answered:  “Who said it won’t be freezing today?!”  We cannot rest on our laurels of yesterday.  We are not immune--even if we live in a brick home, have two cars and eat meat a few times a week. Rather, the manifest of upheaval all around us should move us to a greater appreciation and awareness of Hashem’s Presence--and the importance of our recognition that we are always in that Presence.  A most important way to accomplish the goal of the above thoughts is through the dedicated pursuit of Teshuva BeChol Yom--improving in the areas that need improvement so that one is ‘Yoser MiMah Shehayisi’--better in this or in that than the day before! 



Special Note Two:  In furtherance of this essential goal, we provide an absolutely incredible observation of the Rabbeinu Bachya (to Shemos 18:21 ).  The Rabbeinu Bachya writes as follows:  ‘Bo U’Re’eyh….come and see how powerful and great are the importance of Middos, for the Tzaddikim and Nevi’im in the Torah such as Noach, Avraham, Yaakov, and Moshe were praised not by their wisdom, but by their Middos:  Noach is referred to as an ‘Ish Tzaddik Tamim’; Hashem addresses Avraham Avinu with the words ‘Veheyeh Samim’; Yaakov Avinu is referred to as an ‘Ish Tam’, and Moshe Rabbeinu is described as an ‘Anav Meod’ and a ‘Ne’eman’.  All of this is to teach us is that the ikar in one’s life is not Chochma but proper Middos--just as the most important part of a tree is not the bark but its fruit.  Indeed, Rebbeinu Bachya concludes, every morning we recite the words ‘Seichel Tov LeChol Oseiyhem.’  More important than study to the Seichel Tov is not the Chochma of the Seichel Tov--but the Oseiyhem--the proper practice of Middos in our daily life.  It is no small wonder, then, that we recite this Pasuk at the start of our day before our morning prayers. 


As we noted Erev Shabbos, yesterday, was the Yahrzeit of Rebbe Yisroel Salanter, Z’tl, who lifted the ideas of the Mussar Movement, began by his Rebbe, HaRav Zundel of Salant into the Jewish world at large.  Rabbi Dov Katz, in his Sefer T’nuas HaMussar (translated into English by Leonard Oschry) provides the following essential description of what Rebbe 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.”


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.  As many of us today begin the work week, let us recall that the climax of our prayers for the coming week in Atah Chonantanu was that the week ahead be “Medubakim BeYirasecha--a week in which we are attached to You and Your Presence with us.  May the week ahead see the fulfillment of our prayers!



Special Note One:  In his commentary in this week’s Parshas Mishpatim on the requirement of boring a hole in the recalcitrant Eved Ivri’s ear, the Sefas Emes (5645) notes that the measure of reward, or Middah Tovah, is always greater than Middas Puraniyus.  Accordingly, if an awl must be bored through the ear of one who wants to stay an Eved to another human, then the reward for one who accepts upon himself the service of Hashem and expresses the words “V’Ahavta Es Hashem” with fervor will be granted divine assistance to be able to clearly hear the voice of Hashem.  We must make sure that we use our ears for the right reasons--so that they be amply rewarded!

Hakhel Note:  It is no coincidence (as it never, ever is) to note that our very same Parsha contains the mitzvah of Lo Sisa Sheima Shav--do not listen to/accept Lashon Hora or falsehood (Shemos 23:1).  Fascinatingly, this prohibition against listening to Lashon Hora is found in the Torah even before the prohibition against speaking Lashon Hora, which does not occur until Parshas Kedoshim!  We suggest that the reason for this may be actually quite simple--without a listener there is simply no Lashon Hora at all to be spoken-- notwithstanding that it is at the tip of someone’s tongue already mixed with venom, pride, disregard and anger!  This is the one occasion in which one should not at all be a good listener.  Conversely, we note that of the 48 Ways in which Torah is to be acquired are set forth in Pirkei Avos (6:6)--and  the first is Torah study, the second is Shemiyas HaOzen--attentive listening, and only the third is Arichas Sefasayim--appropriate speech.  Thus, an extremely important Avodah for the coming week--taught to us at the outset of the Parsha so that everybody appreciates and gets to it-- is to reevaluate and reconsider how we treat and use our ears.  Getting within earshot of an argument between people, a conversation between two people who are of a lower element of society, or someone screaming on a cell phone allows destructive foreign influences to enter into your body and soul through those precious and miraculous apertures placed on either side of your brain for good reason.  Stay Away--don’t become an Eved Ivri!  On the other hand, if you see a lively Torah discussion taking place--listen in!  Our ears heard the Voice of Hashem at Har Sinai--let them continue in the way of their bold and royal tradition and upbringing each and everyday--let us remember that we say Shema Yisroel for good reason!



Special Note Two:  The Shelah HaKadosh provides an amazing insight from the Zohar into the power of Teshuva.  In this week’s Parsha, we are taught that “VeChi Yiftach Ish Bor”--if a man digs a pit in a public area he is responsible and must pay for all of the damage that it causes.  If someone caused another to sin, which has far greater ramifications because it can permanently affect his Olam Haba forever and ever, one would think that the damages he is liable for are much larger and exceedingly great.  Yet, this is not so for the power of Teshuva is so great that it repairs the damage done above, the damage done below, the damage done to oneself--and the damage done to the world!  Let us think of the pit and all the responsibility that it entails--and realize that with Teshuva one does not have to fall in it or anywhere near it!

Hakhel Note:  If the snow does not still serve as your reminder--may these words of the Zohar serve as an exciting reminder for...a daily inspiration of Yoseir Mi’mah She’Hayisi!



Special Note Three:  A related teaching of the Shelah Hakadosh is on the Pasuk tomorrow “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 Rebbe Menachem HaBavli, Z’tl) is an important allusion to the ‘fire’ of machlokes or anger--where one simply must guard himself with greater effort and care, even if it ended up happening by accident or without intention.  The Shelah concludes with these important words: U’Klal Gadol Hu Zeh Lehavio LiHeyoso Kadosh Bechol HaKedushos--this is a great principle--the recognition and practice of which will bring him to holiness of holinesses.

Hakhel Note:  These are the Shelah’s words--not ours!



Special Note Four:  This Sunday, 25 Shevat, is the Yahrzeit of Rebbe Yisroel Salanter, Z’tl.  In this week’s Parsha we learn of the laws of guarding borrowed objects--the laws of a Shomer Sho’el.  The story is told of Rebbe 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, Rebbe 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:  Rebbe Yisroel was not acting like a Tzaddik--he was teaching by example how one has to live his life.



Special Note Five:  We continue with our Erev Shabbos--Halachos of Shabbos series:


1.  This is the third Parsha in a row with an allusion to Shabbos.  Once we have left Mitzrayim--the great importance of Shabbos is repeated and repeated again--almost as if to give it a chazaka in the Torah!  In any event, the classic Sefer Eglei Tal on the melachos of Shabbos provides a remarkable conclusion in its Hakdama.  We noted last week that Shabbos is Shekula--weighs against all of the other Mitzvos and that Chazal teach that Shabbos is alluded to in Shema with the words of “Va’Asisem Es Kol Mitzvosai!”  This, the Eglei Tal writes also applies to the study of Hilchos Shabbos--with the study of its Halachos weighing against the study of all other Halacha!  Hakhel Note:  What an important reason to learn Halachos of Shabbos--at least at the Shabbos table!  If you need a format to help guide you, we strongly recommend the Sefer Shabbos Beshabbato (arranged by Parsha) in Hebrew, and The 39 Melachos by Rabbi Ribiat, or any of Rabbi Simcha Bunim Cohen Shlita’s Shabbos seforim, 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!


2.  In fact, HaRav Chaim Ozer Grodzinski, Z’tl, asks in the name of HaRav Chaim Brisker, Z’tl why it is that the Aseres HaDibros must specifically enjoin us from allowing children to do work on Shabbos--after all, are we not already restricted across-the-board from allowing children to violate the Torah with the words of “Lo Sochilum--do not feed them, do not allow them to do prohibited acts?”  HaRav Chaim Brisker answers that the prohibitions of Shabbos are more chamur--they are more strict and severe, and accordingly by violating Shabbos laws, he is going even one step beyond what is a already wrong.  It follows then that being especially careful with the Halachos of
Shabbos brings one to an elevated level of Torah observance--and draws mush ruchniyus and reward into one’s life!


3.  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 Mekayem 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 Aseh  D’Oraysa!



Question of the Week: How many times is the word ‘Sheleg--snow’ used in Pesukei DeZimra every day (even in the summer!) to demonstrate Hashem’s Gevura, His unfathomable potency and power?


Special Note One:  Indeed, this year, the Northeastern United States has experienced a higher than usual level of this unique Gevura, drawing our specific attention to look up and appreciate the words of Dovid HaMelech in Tehillem--Hallelu Es Hashem Min HaShamayim--Praise Hashem--from the Heavens!  We most certainly cannot take the weekly threats of snow, the actual snowfall itself, and the after-effects of the snow, as merely part of mother nature and the wilds of winter.  This is Hashem talking to us--and if no one else around realizes it--at least we should!  Many messages and lessons can and should be gleaned and utilized to grow--so that we demonstrate that we did not merely pass through the snow--but that the snow passed through us.  We provide an exceptional lesson from the Seforno to Tehillem 51:9.  There, Dovid Hamelech prays to Hashem:  “Techabeseini U’MiSheleg Albin--cleanse me and I shall be whiter than snow.”  The Seforno explains that Dovid is teaching that “Eshmor Mikol Chait Yoser MiMah She’Hayisi Nishmar LeShe’avar-- part of the Teshuva process is the personal pledge that ‘I will be more careful than I was before--I will be whiter than the snow--I will rise above my previous level, and not be complacent or satisfied with my previous safeguards or results.  I will be more circumspect about another’s feelings, another’s money and of my actions and reactions.  I will be better than before--whiter than that snow.’  The snow in front and all around many of us this morning teaches us where Teshuva is to lead--it is to the level of YoseirMiMah She’Hayisi-- which takes us over the top.  Once one undertakes that one important step, makes those small but crucial adjustments, stays away from those few people, is more circumspect with today’s kinds of ‘weights and measures’ while shopping or in the office, attempts those two or three protective measures and safeguards to avoid the home becoming a haven for outside influences--then he can look back at the snow and regale--for he has managed to become whiter than it!  Hakhel Note:  To our readers elsewhere--Whether in Yerushalayim, Netanya , Australia or Miami --you have the opportunity of joining with your fellow Jew in a colder climate--and growing from his experience together with him!



Special Note Two:  With this great lesson in mind, we recall that today is the Yahrzeit of the Manchester Rosh HaYeshiva, HaRav Yehuda Zev B’R Moshe Yitzchak HaLevi Segel, Z’tl.  HaRav Segel 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.  The concept of Yoseir MiMah She’Hayisi can especially be used with the words one allows himself to speak, for 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.  May our election to become Yoseir MiMah She’Hayisi  with our Koach HaDibbur today, on the Manchester Rosh HaYeshiva’s Yahrzeit, bring 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. Can we perhaps begin our noble trek, by recording next to our daily Anger note, and our daily Ohr HaGanuz note--a daily Refrain from Inappropriate Word note--or perhaps better yet--a daily Meaningful Compliment Note.  Life--Your Life--is to precious to let the days go by--without each day being a little bit ...Yoseir MiMah She’Hayisi!



Special Note One:  We received the following  meaningful correspondence from a reader:  “Apropos to the ‘leaning’ you spoke about today, there is an amazing story told about the leader of the Breslov Chassidim in Poland before the War--Reb Yitzchok Breiter (May Hashem avenge his blood--he was murdered in Treblinka).  Reb Yitzchok owned a store from which he made a Parnassa.  One night the store and all its contents burned to the ground and he was left penniless.  The next morning Reb Yitzchok was in shul and davening with his usual great fervor and Simcha.  After davening, the people asked him--Reb Yitzchok--you just lost everything--how is it that you look like nothing happened?  He replied that his actions were based on a clear Halacha in Shulchan Aruch.  When one davens Shemone Esrei he is not allowed to lean on an object in a way that if the object is removed he would fall.  Reb Yitzchok continued, ‘I rely totally on Hashem for my Parnassa--my store was just the Hishtadlus I was doing.  Now that the store was “removed” why should I fall?  I was not leaning on it anyway!’  May we be zoche to truly and totally ‘lean’ on Hashem for all our needs!”



Special Note Two:  The Sefer Mesilas Yesharim (end of Chapter 23) writes:  “Improper food and drink can hurt a person’s body, while improper or inappropriate friends or acquaintances can damage a person’s soul and being.  Dovid HaMelech teaches:  ‘Holeich B’Derech Tamim Hu Yesharaseini’ (Tehillim 101:6)--and there is no better thing for a person than seeking wholesome friends who will shed light upon things that he is ‘in the dark’ about, and reprove him with love.  By this, they will save him from all evil, for the reason a person ‘is in the dark’ is because he cannot see anything wrong with himself--and they will see, understand, and warn him.  This is similar to what Shlomo Hamelech, teaches in Mishlei (24:6):  ‘Uteshua BeRov Yo’eitz--one will achieve a Yeshua for himself through obtaining Eitzos from others.”‘


The Chofetz Chaim (Sha’ar HaTevunah, Chapter 13), quoting the Zohar, provides awesome advice as to how one should select a friend.  How can one tell who to draw close to and who to stay away from?  The gauge is by the Anger that he displays.  If a person guards himself against anger when he feels it coming on, if he recognizes that Anger is an “Ail Zar--a foreign G-d” entering him, and does not allow it to so enter--this is a person to befriend.  On the other hand, one who is not so careful with the Middah of Anger demonstrates that he is not careful about uprooting the Neshama HaKedosha within him and replacing it at least temporarily with a Sitra Achra.  This person, the Zohar writes, is certainly someone who rebels against his Maker--and it is forbidden to draw close to him and befriend him.  It is to this person, the Zohar concludes, who Yeshaya (2:22) HaNavi refers to with the Words ‘Chidlu Lachem Min HaAdam Asher Neshama BeApo Ki Bameh Nechshav Hu’--withdraw from a man who has anger in his nostrils, for with what is he deemed worthy?! 


Hakhel Note:  Chazal are teaching us that the importance of good friends goes to the heart of our existence, and that we must understand and appreciate what a good friend really means.  A good friend can never be someone who angers easily.  There is a lesson within a lesson here as well.  One must be ever vigilant to vanquish the Middah of Anger within himself--for how then could he be a good friend to others, and how could he allow others to associate with him against the advice of the Zohar and the Chofetz Chaim?!  A good place to start is by practicing silence and calm speech in unnerving situations, and especially with that one person who always manages to say or do the wrong thing. 


This week’s Parsha is very much based in Bein Adam LeChaveiro.  It would be a beautiful introduction to the coming Parsha for a person to work on finding good friends--and becoming a good friend himself!!



Special Note One:  Rabbi Yisroel Reisman, Shlita, highlights the contrast between a beginning and an end.  One can have performed Mitzvos for 80 years, and r’l look back unfavorably over what he had done as a “Toheh Al HaRishonos.”  With this sudden turn in attitude, he has forfeited the millions of Mitzvos performed until that point!  In a few moments--he has put his life up in smoke!  On the far other hand, R’ Elazar Ben Durdaya, Chazal (Avoda Zara 17B) teach that R’ Elazar Ben Durdaya  was “Koneh Olamo BeSha’ah Achas--received Olam Habba for doing Teshuvah in the last hour of his life”--very truly and literally raising himself from the depths of depravity to a real and close association with Tzaddikim in the Next World!  What a person must know and appreciate is that he must update himself--it is the now that counts--the last hour, not the first hour!  Hakhel Note:  With our Teshuva Bechol Yom Program, one is constantly putting himself in the right perspective and direction.  Every day, reflect upon your Kabblah Sheet or think about where you can/must improve.  Are you keeping a record of the times you angered?  Of the times that you were Zoche to the Ohr HaGanuz?  Let us make Teshuva a wonderful and important part of our day! 



Special Note Two:  Rabbi Solomon B. Shapiro, Z’tl, would tell the story of a Rabbi of a city who one day began traveling to the city’s train station every day, waited and watched for a train to pull into the train station, and then to pull out, and then left and went back home.  After several weeks of wonderment, one of his students finally summoned the nerve to ask him why he would take time out of his incredibly busy and pressed day and schedule to do so.  The Rabbi turned to the young man and responded:  “My beloved student, I go there every day to remind myself that I am not in charge of everything!” 


With this in mind, we provide a brief summary of Rabbi Ben Tzion Shafier’s recent integral Hakhel Shiur on Emunah and Bitachon:


Rabbi Shafier taught that there are four levels of Emunah, as follows:


1.  Borei.  One must know and make a part of his fiber and being that there is a Creator, a Borei Olam.  One’s inculcation of this awareness within himself is so vital to his essence that Shabbos, a Zecher LeMaaseh Bereishis, occupies one-seventh of our week--and the whole week we look towards Shabbos!  We should constantly look at and appreciate the wonders, complexities, and intricacies of the world.  All of this was made for a purpose-- you are that purpose--and you have a purpose!


2.  Manhig.  Hashem is involved in the details of the world.  The headlines of every newspaper, and, in fact, every single page of every newspaper is all written back on Rosh Hashana--billions of words daily--multiplied by the billions of people that occupy this planet.  Look at yourself.  You are davening for so many things, there are so many complex situations going on in your life.  Now look to your neighbor on your right and on your left, then to everyone in front and in back of you in shul, and multiply it by the tens of thousands of shuls and homes in the world where people pray publicly and privately.  All of it--including all divergent and conflicting interest and goals--is being processed by Hashem, Who is in complete, loving control to the finest detail.  You need not “go to the train station” to learn humility and recognize Hashem’s Magnificent Omnipotence.  


3.  Thoughts.  Hashem knows your thoughts--not only your current thoughts, but all of the facts and factors involved in your past and future thinking, all of your notions, your plans, your deliberations, your ideas.  He knows exactly what your mindset is at every moment.  Your essence is your thought--for whether or not you carry it out or can carry it out is up to Hashem.  Your intentions don’t color your actions--they define your actions.  Hashem is Just because He knows your exact matzav.  As we recite several times daily:  “Yehiyu LeRatzon Imrei Phi VeHegyon Libi Lefanecha--May the expressions of my mouth and the thoughts of my heart find favor before you Hashem” (Tehillim 19:15 ).  One should purify and crystallize his thoughts so that they do indeed find favor in Hashem’s eyes!


4.  Daily Life.  Not only does Hashem know exactly what you are thinking, He is also extremely involved in your daily life.  As the Rema teaches at the outset of Shulchan Aruch:  “Shivisi Hashem LeNegdi Samid Hu Klal Gadol BeTorah”--Placing Hashem before you at all times is an great principle of the Torah.


Based upon the above, and fascinatingly, Rabbi Shafier avers that even Paroh must have had a certain level of Emunah when the Bnei Yisroel left.  He did not, however, have Bitachon.  What then is Bitachon?


Bitachon is trusting and relying in Hashem to the extent of knowing not only in knowledge but in practice that every outcome is not in your control.  You do your part, perform your role, but understand that you and the outcome is in Hashem’s hands.  It is the realization that “My job is to think and do, His job is to control the outcome”.  There are two corollaries to Bitachon:  (a) Hashem is more concerned for your best interests than even you are, for He really knows your true best interests; and (b) Do not “play G-d.”  Don’t tell Hashem that you want this wife, this job, or this class.  Don’t ask Hashem to “cooperate “with you.  Instead, remember and repeat to yourself that “Hashem is the Borei (Creator), and I am the Nivrah (created)”


There are (at least) three Tests in which one can gauge his Bitachon: 


A.  Anxiety. A person with perfect Bitachon will never feel anxiety, fear, dread, or depression.  Hashem is your Guide--the plan He is taking you on is not necessarily the plan you had envisioned, but it is absolutely correct, true and just.  Picture a mother holding on to her child’s hand through thick and thin--with loving and incredibly intuitive direction and leadership! 


B.  Would’ve Been--Could’ve Been.  Avoiding the “would’ve been could’ve been” syndrome--oh, if I only would have purchased that stock, or could have gone on vacation there.  You made the money or lost the money, not because of your prowess or failure to buy or sell; you bought the spoiled milk or got stuck behind the garbage truck not because you are a shlmozzel; you sprained your finger not because you were playing punch ball--but because of Hashem’s supervision and closeness to you.  There is no “would’ve--could’ve”; there is a G-d Whose Deveikus you enjoy, and Whose Deveikus you should always seek to bask in.


C.  Leaning.  The Halacha is that certain acts must be performed while standing--the recitation of Shemone Esrei, the Ba’al Kriyah at Kriyas HaTorah, the Ba’al Tokeiyah at Tekiyas Shofar, etc.  Halachically if one is leaning upon something, he is not considered to be standing.  When is one considered to be leaning?  It is when if you would pull away that item the person would fall.  We should be leaning on no one or no thing except for Hashem.  In fact, Dovid Hamelech expresses it exactly with the words “Hashleich Al Hashem Yehavecha--Cast upon Hashem all of your burdens--and He--alone--will support you (Tehillim 55:23).  Don’t stand too straight--and don’t fall.  Lean upon Hashem!


With this wonderful Emunah/ Bitachon primer in mind, we can reset ourselves throughout the day as we meet new events, people, situations, and circumstances.  As a follow-up, we strongly recommend Rabbi Shafier’s new book Stop Surviving: Start Living (available in hard copy, as an audio book and as an ebook) which can be obtained at www.theshmuz.com …and start living!



Special Note One:  Last week, we had asked how one could demonstrate his Ahavas HaTorah in light of his new Kabblas HaTorah, and how he could demonstrate that the Parsha itself had left an impact upon him--that the Kolos U’Verokim and the Sinaitic Experience were now a part of his life as well.  May we suggest that a new and special focus and attention be placed upon the Second Bracha of Kriyas Shema both in the morning and evening. In both of these Brachos, we show are love and striving for Torah with sincere and meaningful praise, thought and request.  If one truly loves his close friend or family member, he expresses it with the words “I love you.”  These Brachos express this thought in a meaningful way--VeHo’air Eineinu BesoresechaVeDabek Libeinu BeMitzvosecha... Ki Haim Chayeinu....Don’t let the recent events go by without being uplifted--the whole world witnessed the Event--only the wise learn and grow from it.  Count Yourself in--now!



Special Note Two:  In last week’s Parsha, the Torah teaches; “Vayesaper Moshe LeChosno (Shemos 18:8)--And Moshe told his father-in-law everything that Hashem had done….”  There is a fascinating and important lesson derived from these words by HaRav Yitzchok Zev Soloveitchik, Z’tl, (the Brisker Rav) as reported in the Sefer MiShulchan Govoha.  On the Shabbos of Sheva Brachos for one of the Rav’s sons, the Chosson was saved from an apparently life threatening situation by a miracle.  HaRav Soloveitchik, otherwise known for his assiduous dedication to Torah study, spent the day recounting time and again and again to those whom he met the miracle that had happened to his son and his family.  Relating and reliving the miracle was a kiyum, a fulfillment, of “Sichu  B’Chol Nifleosav--one must speak about all His wonders.”  This idea was first taught to us by Moshe Rabbeinu in the pasuk referred to above when he recounted to Yisro all of the miracles that had occurred for B’nai Yisroel since he had last seen him.  Until Yisro arrived, Moshe Rabbeinu had no outside persons or parties to relate the miracles to, for all of B’nai Yisroel had themselves witnessed and experienced the wonder-filled Nissim.  Moshe Rabbeinu, then, was not simply telling stories--he was thanking and praising Hashem in a new way that he was very eager to do.  If one studies the pasuk (ibid.), he will note that the word “Kol--all” is mentioned twice in describing Moshe’s recounting of the events--Moshe wanted Yisro to know it all--every last miracle and yeshua that Hashem had wrought on our behalf!


In perhaps the most famous Ramban in Chumash (Shemos 13: 16), the Ramban writes starkly and clearly:  ”For a person has no share in Toras Moshe unless he believes that all our affairs and experiences are miracles, that there is no element of ‘nature’ or ‘the ordinary course of the world’ in them at all, whether regarding the community or the individual.”  [Translation from the outstanding English translation Ramban Commentary on the Torah (Artscroll, p.300)].  We definitely want to have a chelek, a portion, in the Toras Moshe Rabbeinu.  It is perhaps for this reason that in the Modim we recite three times daily we say that “Nodeh Lecho U’nesaper Tehilasecha--we thank you and tell the story of your praise , for our lives…for our souls…for the daily miracles, and for the wonders and favors at all times--evening, morning and afternoon.”  We should recite these words slowly and thoughtfully, for, the Ramban teaches, they go to the heart of our faith.


The additional teaching of Moshe Rabbeinu in last week’s Parsha, as understood by the Brisker Rav, is that when those extraordinary situations come up--the miracle beyond miracle, if you will--we must be sure to recognize, appreciate and express the miracle to others in detailed gratitude--thereby teaching yourself and others the greatness of Hashem--and His love for His creations!



Special Note Three:  In the preceding Parshiyos 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 Yisroel 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 Parshas Yisro, with Matan Torah we learn that there can also be spiritual miracles.  We not only received the Blueprint of Creation at no charge--but we 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 (Megillah 6B):  “Le’Ukmai Girsa, Siyatta Min Shmaya 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!



Special Note Four:  HaRav Reuvain Feinstein, Shlita brings a pointed question in the name of his father, HaRav Moshe Feinstein, Z’tl.  In Parshas Yisro, we reach new heights and become forever connected to Hashem in a magnificent and previously incredible way.  Yet, the next Parsha, Mishpatim, begins with the laws of an Eved Ivri--one who sells himself into slavery because he cannot re-pay the object that he stole.  How does such a pinnacle of achievement at Har Sinai then descend to a discussion of the laws of a Gonnuv turned-servant?!  Rav Moshe answers that there is a crucial teaching here--right after Matan Torah.   Each and every person must recognize that every bit, piece and morsel of his Parnassah is from Hashem.  He cannot accomplish anything on his own--for it is like a human pushing a speeding train from behind.  When a person steals, cheats or decides to ‘do things my way’, Rav Moshe teaches, then in a sense he becomes  r’l a denier in the Mastery of Hashem in the Universe--which is something that he accepted upon himself in the very first of the Aseres Hadibros!  The Torah therefore provides a very practical guideline for Anochi Hashem Elokecha--believe in Me, Hashem says--and not in yourself, and not that you know better.  Do not ever lose this faith and trust--for you will end up a servant of your own desire and perhaps even of another! Our Emunah is evidenced in actual terms by our Bitachon--we will not be anxious or nervous, we will not reach out for things we should not have, we will not strive for items we do not own or take items which arguably do not belong to us-- we will lean on nothing--besides Hashem.  Allow Anochi Hashem Elokecha into every aspect of your life--truly making it one of your Six constant Mitzvos.  When the thought or temptation arises--don’t become an Eved Ivri--think and repeat the words Anochi Hashem Elokecha!



Special Note One:  Six Constant Mitzvos in the Car.  Yesterday, we noted that Two of the crucial Six Constant Mitzvos are found at the outset of the Aseres HaDibros in tomorrow’s Parsha.  Many years ago, we received a correspondence as to how someone in Atlanta , Georgia is especially Mekayaim the Six Constant Mitzvos several times a day.  Every time he sits down in his car, he:  1) looks up to the One and Only Hashem;  2) looks down to demonstrate  that Hashem created the world and its fullness (Ma’aseh Bereshis) and continuously supervises it (Yetzias Mitzrayim);  3) looks to the right and thinks of his love for Hashem;  4) looks to the left and thinks of his fear of Hashem;  5) looks through the rear view mirror in back of him to demonstrate that there is no other force ‘in back of” Hashem; and  6) looks in the  front of him and commits not to look at things he need not, or should not, be looking at. What a beautiful way to start your drive!



Special Note Two:  As it is not yet Pesach, we will begin with three questions, rather than four:


EASY BUT MEANINGFUL QUESTION:  The Rabbeinu Bachya to this week’s Parsha writes that there are exactly 620 letters in the Aseres Hadibros.  To what does this correspond?


HARDER BUT MEANINGFUL QUESTION:  Har Sinai has six names.  Can you provide them, and the meaning behind each name? See Medrash Tanchuma, Bamidbar, Piska 7.


A MORE INVOLVED QUESTION:  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 Yisroel.  There appears to be a glaring omission in the kindnesses mentioned--actually, what seems to be the greatest kindness of all--Hashem giving us the Torah while in the Midbar--is omitted, as the Pesukim in the chapter skip from Hashem throwing Paroh and his army into the sea, to leading us with the Clouds of Glory through the Midbar, and then on to defeating the Mighty Kings, Sichon and Og, followed by our entry into EretzYisroel.  What happened to Matan Torah itself --the great event of this week’s Parsha, and indeed one of the greatest events in History?!  We invite your thoughts.  As a starting point, may we suggest the words of HaRav Avrohom Chaim Feuer, Shlita in his work on Tehillim (Artscroll, p.1608).



Special Note Three:  We provide the following unique and 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 noted, 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 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!


Additional Point 1:  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 Posuk--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 we tomorrow 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 Kabbala Sheet and plan for the future! 


Additional Point 2:  Every morning, when we recite the words “Asher Bochar Bonu MiKol Ho’amim VeNosan Lonu Es Toraso” in Birchas 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 Yisroel.  We 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 Medrashim--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 B’nai Yisroel 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 chait.

  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 B’nai Yisroel 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 B’nai Yisroel understood that Hashem was singular in all worlds, and most definitely that “Ain Od Milvado--there is nothing else but for Hashem.”

  9. The mountains of Tavor and Carmel in Eretz Yisroel 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 B’nai Yisroel 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!



Special Note Four:  The monumental occasion of Har Sinai is relived in Shul four times a week at Kriyas HaTorah.  How so?  The Mishne 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 Yisroel, 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!



Special Note Five:  The Yerushalmi teaches that the Aseres HaDibros are contained within the Kriyas Shema that we recite daily.  In fact, Tosfos writes that the reason that we recite these three Parshios is to remind ourselves of the Aseres HaDibros (Shulchan Aruch, Orach Chaim 61, Ba’air Haitaiv, seif katan 1).  There is one of the Aseres HaDibros which is alluded to not once, but twice.  Can you guess which one?  Yes, you are right--Lo Sachmod--do not covet that which is not yours--apparently because we need a double reminder of this important guide in life.  The Pasuk in Shema that reminds us of this is “U’Chesavtam Al Mezuzos”--the Mitzva of Mezuzah (which is repeated at the end of both the first and second Parsha of Shema), which teaches us that Hashem is carefully watching over us--and so there is no need for us to “watch over” what our friends and neighbors have and compare them and theirs--to us and ours.  



Special Note Six:  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, 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!



Special Note Seven:  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 Posuk 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.  (Chidushai Rebbe Akiva Eiger).”


b.  When honoring parents, very special care and concern must be taken to do it b’sever ponim yofos —pleasantly (Yorah Deah  240:4).  The Sefer Chareidim (Mitzvos Asei of the Heart 1:35) and Rav Chaim Shmulevitz (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 Adom (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 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 Shmiras 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.



Special Note Eight:  We continue our Erev Shabbos--Halachos of Shabbos Series, deeply rooted this week in the Mitzvah of “Zochor Es Yom HaShabbos LeKadesho”:


a.  Although Shabbos itself is only one day of the week, Hashem directs us to be “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, 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 DeOraysa.”  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. 


b.  We noted earlier that each of the Aseres HaDibros is alluded to in the Kriyas Shema that we recite twice daily.  The Mishna Berura, citing the Yerushalmi writes that the allusion to the Dibra of “Zachor Es Yom HaShabbos” is in the words in the third parsha of “Es Kol Mitzvosai--all of my Mitzvos”--for Shabbos weighs against all of the other Mitzvos combined!


c.  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?  The Rabbeinu Bachya 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, Aff, 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! 


d.  At this week’s Yarchei Kallah, Rabbi Maimon Elbaz, Shlita, provided 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 torahguide@yahoo.com.]  To indicate how the Shabbos impacts on the coming week, Rabbi Elbaz showed 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!


Special Note One:  We provide the following point and pointers relating to Tu B’Shvat, and the custom to partake of fruits today:

1.  The Magen Avraham writes that the reason that we do not recite Tachanun today is because it is the Rosh Hashana LeIlanos (Shulchan Aruch Orach Chaim 131:6).  Indeed, the Mordechai (to the first Perek of Mesechta Rosh Hashana) writes that it is forbidden to fast on Tu B’Shvat because it is a Rosh Hashana.  The G’ra (ibid.) adds that all four Rosh Hashanas that are written in the beginning of Maseches 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!

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

3.  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 Yisroel.  Yesterday, we provided a Tefillah from the Ben Ish Chai to be recited on Tu B’Shvat for the coming year’s Esrog as well.

4.  We additionally note that many have the custom of reciting the brocha of Shehechiyanu on new fruits in season today.  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.  Of course, if one intends to eat dates, figs or carob, he should make sure that he knows how to properly check them for tolaim, and that dried fruits (banana chips, apples, etc.) he is given to partake of “in order to make a Hoetz” have an acceptable hashgacha.  We do not intend to be party poopers--we just want to ensure that it is a party that in which Hashem is honored!  Even if one does not make a Shehechiyanu, a special feeling of Simchas HaChaim is certainly in order!

5.  If one has a plate of fruit in front of him which includes fruits of the Sheeva Minim, then he should make his Borei Pri Haeitz over a Sheeva Minim fruit (unless he doesn’t want to eat any Sheeva Minim fruit).  Note that within the Sheeva Minim fruits there is a priority as well--dates come before grapes (unless, of course, one does not want to eat dates).  See below for further detail!

6.  The Bracha on beer is Shehakol.  Therefore, even though it comes from barley which is one of the Sheeva Minim, it has no bracha priority.  The following is the priority order of Brachos:  

(a) Hamotzi--with a preference of wheat bread over barley bread.

(b) If not making a Hamotzi, Mezonos with preference of a wheat product over a barley product.  

(c) A Haeitz with the actual Bracha itself (which will cover all fruits one intends to partake of) to be made over a fruit in the following order of preference: olives, dates, grapes, figs, pomegranates, any other fruits.  Note:  If one made a Borei Pri Haeitz over an orange, and had intended to eat the grapes in front of him as well, the Bracha over the orange would cover the grapes BeDieved.  However, if one made a Shehakol over a drink or a candy, or a Borei Pri Haadama over a carrot, he would nevertheless still make a Borei Pri Haeitz over fruit that he wanted to eat, as he clearly did not intend for the Shehakol or Haadama, which are more general Brachos (and could theoretically encompass the fruit that he intends to eat), to cover the fruit as well.  Please be sure to consult with your Rav or Posek to consult with any particular Bracha Shaila you may have.  The very first Mesechta in Shas is Mesechta Brachos--this shows you how important Brachos really are!

7.  The Mishna Berura (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!

8.  We refer you to Rabbi Vaye’s list of fruits and nuts that require checking (and how to check them) that we provided a link for yesterday.  For nuts that require checking, one should crack open the nut, inspect it for bugs in the manner required, and then make the Bracha--as making the Bracha before opening it to be checked would result in the Bracha being made too far in advance.

 Special Note Two:  In this week’s Parsha, in addition to being honored with the World-Changing Event of Matan Torah, we are also incredibly honored with something else very special as well.  In the introduction to the Sefer HaChinuch, its Mechaber singles out Six Mitzvos that one is obligated to fulfill on a constant basis.  These mitzvos, he writes, should not be absent from a person’s consciousness for even one moment of his life.  The Six Constant Mitzvos are the Torah's framework for living with Emunah and of developing a meaningful relationship with Hashem – constantly.  We provide a brief overview of the “temidios” of the first two of these Mitzvos, contained in this week’s Parsha, which has been graciously provided to us by Rabbi Shai Markowitz, Shlita, from The Six Constant Mitzvos (Artscroll/Mesorah):  

Mitzvah 1--Emunah As opposed to just “faith” or “belief,” Emunah is the clear-cut knowledge of Hashem’s existence, a deep-seated knowledge of His existence will prevent a person from acting in a way that counters that knowledge. Emunah requires us to realize that Hashem must have created this world for a purpose. That purpose is to benefit mortals by offering us the greatest pleasure possible: basking in His glory in the World to Come. Since we can experience that pleasure only if we earn it, our role in this world is to pursue spiritual growth and perfect ourselves.  Included in Emunah is the knowledge that Hashem has given us the guide to reach that purpose and plays an active role in bringing us towards that purpose.  Hakhel Note:  Our space in this text is limited.  For essential additional insight, we provide a practical “Mitzvah Review of Emunah” from the The Six Constant Mitzvos by clicking here.


Mitzvah 2--Lo Yihiyeh forbids us from believing that any force other than Hashem possesses power, even if we realize that it is a mere servant to Him and Lo Yihiyeh forbids us from believing that any other path can take us to that purpose. Therefore, Lo Yihiyeh forbids us from living for any purpose other than the one for which Hashem created the world, because such an existence would be meaningless and hollow and from taking any other directions towards that purpose.  For important additional insight, we provide a “Mitzvah Review of Lo Yihiyeh” by clicking here.


To get a better sense of the Sheish Mitzvos Temidios and Mitzvah OneEmunah,” we provide by the following link the introduction and a fuller description of Emunah from the Sefer The Six Constant Mitzvos.  We thank Artscroll and Rabbi Markowitz for their allowing us to share these essential lessons with us  http://artscroll.files.wordpress.com/2010/03/six-constant-mitzvos.pdf


Hakhel Note:  May today be a day that we will always remember--as a meaningful Tu B’Shvat, and a day that we began to draw closer and closer to Hashem on a constant basis!


DAILY OPPORTUNITY !  Rabbi Moshe Meir Weiss, Shlita, renowned for his especially clear Shiurim, is now giving a Mishna Yomis telephone Shiur daily which is available at Kol Halashon:  718-906-6400.  After dialing the number, continue by pressing 1, 2, 4, and then 1 again.  Of course, this is one of the thousands of Shiurim available on the free Kol Halashon number--but it is an exceptional daily 15 minute program.  Moreover, it is a great way to navigate through Mishnayos Zerayim (the Mishna Yomis is currently in Maseches Terumos) which may be less known to the average individual than Mo’ed, Nashim, and Nezikim.  



Special Note One:  In honor of the commencement of Chofetz Chaim Yomi this week, we provide a fascinating insight of the Chofetz Chaim:  The Posuk states “Zachor Ais Asher Asa Hashem Elokecha L’Miriam BaDerech BeTzaischem MiMitzrayim--remember what Hashem did to Miriam on the way when you departed from Egypt ” (Devarim 24:9).  The Chofetz Chaim notes that while this is one of the Sheish Zechiros which one recites daily, it does not appear to be sufficient to simply read the Pasuk--for the Pasuk requires you to remember what Hashem did to Miriam on the Way from Egypt .  Thus, the Chofetz Chaim suggests that in addition to reciting the Pasuk one must note that Miriam, who was a Tzadekes and the sister of Moshe Rabbeinu who meant him no harm, was nevertheless punished with the incomparable punishment of Tzora’as--which punishment could not wait until they got to Eretz Yisroel, but was instead meted out on the Way in the desert causing millions of people to wait--with the sin occurring soon after they left Egypt and not after much time for reflection as the Meraglim had before they sinned.  From this we begin to get an appreciation of the devastating effects of Lashon Hara not only on the one spoken against and the one listening--but on the speaker himself and on the entire nation!  Our Suggestion Stands:  In the place and stead of Lashon Hara, let us accumulate--on a daily basis the Ohr HaGanuz that we referred to yesterday, and be sure to note daily the times that you accrued this unparalleled and everlasting Light!



Special Note Two:  Yesterday, we asked, how one can demonstrate his Ahavas HaTorah.  After all, Yisro was known as Chovav because of his love for Torah--shouldn’t we follow suit?  We provide below several suggestions through which one can demonstrate his Ahavas HaTorah, each of which can be implemented on a personal basis based upon one’s particular situation and circumstances:


(a) Coming early to learn.

(b) Traveling to learn.

(c) Repeating something new that you learned to others.

(d) Learning a little bit more than the scheduled time.  Certainly not being the first one (barring emergency) to leave the Shiur after it is over.

(e) Helping others to learn.

(f) Writing down new thoughts that you learned or developed on your own.

(g) Buying Seforim for yourself and buying suitable Seforim for family members and others.

(h) Treating Seforim with a high degree of respect and appreciation.

(i) Learning with happiness.  Hakhel Note:  HaRav Shmuel Berenbaum, Z’tl, once remarked:  “Does anybody understand why, in the Birchas HaTorah, we ask Hashem “Veha’arev Na…sweeten the words of Your Torah in our mouth…?”  Isn’t it already so beautifully sweet without us having to ask?!

(j) Spending or giving up money to learn.  The more one spends for a Mitzvah, the more beloved he demonstrates it is in his eyes.

(k) Making Torah a primary topic of your speech.  Dovid HaMelech exclaims:  “…Mah Ahavti Sorasech Kol HaYom He Sichasi…--Oh how I love Your Torah! All day long it is my conversation…(Tehillim 119:97).  Speaking constantly about something shows your love for it.

(l) Being especially careful to practice what the Torah teaches, avoiding doubtful situations.

(m) Not responding to your Blackberry or other interruptions while together with your Beloved.

(o) Sincerely davening to do better in learning.

(p) Making it the first and last thing that you do every day.

(q)  You can add the list.  We always welcome your comments and suggestions to help others.


As we are approach the momentous occasion this Shabbos of our rededication to “Naaseh VeNishma,” let us Bli Neder commit to one or more of the above-list on a daily or weekly basis.  You know yourself--but improve we each must, so that we meet the call to each and every one of us. 



Special Note Three:  Rabbi Ben Tzion Shafier, Shlita, (of The Shmuz) provided a fascinating insight at the Inauguration the Hakhel--Learn and Network Kollel in Flatbush this week.  Why is it that Chazal teach that a poor person will be shown Hillel (on the roof, frozen in snow) when he claims that he was too impoverished to have time to learn, and a wealthy person will be shown R’ Elazar ben Charsom (who inherited 1,000 cities), when he claims that he was too wealthy and busy managing his affairs to learn?  How and why does the Bais Din Shel Maalah compare him to others--after all, were they not great personages?  Moreover, doesn’t each person have his own facts and circumstances upon which he should be judged?  Indeed, doesn’t every single person have a separate place in Gan Eden--with my place not even being my relative or neighbor’s place--let alone Hillel’s?!  Rabbi Shafier provided a Mashal to answer the question:  In Asia, the heavy work animal is the elephant, who spends his day in the jungle working for his master.  At night, to avoid the elephants desire to escape back into the jungle, he is tied with a simple rope which is hooked to a peg in the ground.  How could this be?!  A 14,000 lb. animal which could break through a wall with ease, being restrained with a simple piece of rope?!  The answer is that when it was born it was restrained by this very same rope attached to a peg in the ground, and it realized that it could not shake itself free.  This restraint was then utilized for a few months on the newborn elephant until it realized that it could not break free of the rope.  It gives up and keeps this perspective for the rest of its life.  Rabbi Shafier continued that many people are “tied to pegs in the ground”--shackled to a tiny understanding of themselves.  Each person must strive, must aspire to attain the special goals that he truly can achieve.  It is for this reason that the Mishna in Sanhedrin teaches that “Chayav Adam Lomar Beshvili Nivra HaOlam--it is not simply a nice thing or a good thing, but one is obligated to state that the world was created for him.”  A person must tell himself that there may be one hundred billion galaxies and one hundred billion stars in each galaxy--but the key is what does Hashem want me to do--for it is for this reason that the world that I am in was created! 


We can begin the process with an added level of Ahavas Torah this week and thereafter.  All you have to do is rise to the occasion--and that occasion is the potential within yourself!



BRACHA OF THE WEEK:  Jolly Rancher Chews lists “Enriched Wheat Flour” as its third ingredient after, Corn Syrup and Sugar.  We inquired of the OU (which gives the Hashgacha on this product) as to the Bracha of this very popular children’s ‘Shabbos party’ snack.  The Rav Hamachshir on the product responded that the Bracha is Shehakol.



QUESTION OF THE WEEK:  Rashi, quoting the Mechilta and the Medrash Rabba at the outset of this week’s Parsha, teaches us that one of Yisro’s names was ‘Chovav’ because ‘Chivev Es Hatorah’--because he showed his love and affection for the Torah.  We will be receiving the Torah anew this Shabbos as we read Parshas Yisro.  Can you make a list of how you are Mechavev Es HaTorah--how you show your appreciation and love for the Torah on a daily basis?  We very much invite you to share your thoughts and comments with us.



Special Note One:  In honor of this week’s commencement of the new cycle of Sefer Chofetz Chaim Yomi, we remind everyone to take part in the Gra’s shining ‘Ohr HaGanuz.’  The Chofetz Chaim brings from the Gra that when one refrains even just one time from saying something that he shouldn’t have said, he is Zoche to an Ohr HaGanuz--a remarkable light that even Malochim cannot fathom.  Every day, make it your goal to earn at least one Ohr HaGanuz a day.  If you are Zoche to more than one--all the better.  At the end of each day, together with or next to your recording of how many times you got angry that day, also jot down how many times you were Zoche to an Ohr HaGanuz!  Start today!!



Special Note Two:  At yesterday’s Hakhel Yarchei Kallah, Rabbi Yisroel Reisman, Shlita, explained (in the name of both HaRav Yosef Shalom Elyashiv, Shlita, and HaRav Mattisyahu Salomon, Shlita) what we mean by “Avinu Malkeinu Zacreinu LeZechuyos--Our Father, Our King, remember us for merits.”  What we are really asking for is for Hashem to gift to us Mitzvos and credits even if we have not necessarily worked to obtain them.  We are recognizing that Hashem is the source of EVERYTHING in our lives--including the Mitzva opportunities that come before us.  Indeed, not all of the opportunities, nor all of the Mitzvos, have to come hard or even with difficulty.  As Chazal teach in Avos (4:2) “Hevei Ratz LeMitzvah Kalla--run to even perform a ‘minor’ mitzvah for they too are extremely precious.  We need not wait until we recite Avinu Malkeinu to ask Hashem to bring Zechuyos our way.  We can ask Hashem for this every single day!  Hakhel Note:  For example, at the end of Shemone Esrei, at Elokai Netzor, one can simply and sincerely plead from time-to-time:  “Avinu Malkeinu Zacreinu LeZechuyos!”



Special Note Three:  Also at yesterday’s Hakhel Yarchei Kallah, Rabbi Moshe Meir Weiss, Shlita, presented an outstanding teaching from the Spinka Rebbe, Z’tl.  The Rebbe asked:  “Why is it that we must remember Yetziyas Mitzrayim at least twice a day--each time we say Kriyas Shema?  True, it was one of the world’s outstanding events--but Matan Torah was as well, and we have no similar twice a day requirement?  The Mitzvah of Zecher LeYetzias Mitzrayim is not just 24/7/365--but 24/7/365 times 2!  Why?!”  The Spinka Rebbe beautifully answered that it is because we must constantly remind ourselves that even when we were on the brink of disaster--about to plummet from the 49th level of Tumah--to a point of no return--that the TURNAROUND occurred--and we were redeemed.  Zecher LeYetzias Mitzrayim provides us with hope, inspiration, and guidance especially in these times, the last remnants of an exceedingly long and horribly difficult Golus.  We too can be Zoche to the TURNAROUND--through our sincere prayers and deeds! Zecher LeYetzias Mitzrayim every day--twice a day!


Hakhel Note:  To obtain tapes and CDs of yesterday’s oustanding Shiurim by Rabbi Reisman, Rabbi Weiss, and Rabbi Shafier, please call: 718-252-5274.



Special Note Four:  We provide a few parting points and pointers on Parshas Beshalach:


1.  If one reviewed the Mishna in Avos (5:5) we referred to last week, he will have noted that Rabbeinu Ovadiah MiBartenura in his commentary explains the Mishna, which divides the ten miracles and the ten Makkos, as referring to two different sets of miracles.  The first set of ten refer to the miracles that happened to the Bnei Yisroel themselves at the Sea (which he enumerates in his commentary--see there).  The second set is the Makkos that the Mitzriyim received at the Sea--each of which he finds a specific reference to in the Shira itself (you can look them up in his commentary, and circle them in your Siddur if you would like to remember them each time you recite the Shira).  This bifurcation provides us with a great lesson:  Hashem’s Reward, and Hashem’s Punishment are two separate and distinct methods in which we see, feel, and understand Hashem’s Guiding Hand in the world around us.  Indeed, Moshe Rabbeinu was instructed to stretch out his hand and lift up the Mateh upon the Sea two separate and distinct times--one time before the Bnei Yisroel entered, and a separate time for the Sea to storm back upon the Mitzriyim.  There was not one event at the Sea--but two Acts of Hashem converging in one place.  We must segregate and separate the Yad Hashem in the various daily forms and activities--from the extreme of Reward to the opposite extreme of Punishment--and whichever way in between it evidences itself! 


2.  Chazal teach that “Kashe Mezonasav Shel Adam KeKriyas Yam Sef--a person’s Parnassa is as difficult as the Splitting of the Sea.”  The Gra always attempted to find a Mekor for the words of Chazal in the Torah itself.  One of the Gra’s top Talmidim told him that he believed that he had found the Mekor for this Ma’amar Chazal in the words of the Shira:  “U’Veruach Apecha.”  He explained his proof to the Gra, and his Rebbi was very pleased with it.  Can you figure out what theT meant?


3.  In our day and age, we have not yet seen anything the likes of the Ten Makkos in Mitzrayim, the Splitting of the Sea for the Bnei Yisroel, or the Makkos at Sea upon the Mitzriyim.  A Gadol remarked that now that we have the Torah we no longer need see these Wonders, for, as Dovid HaMelech teaches in Tehillim:  “Gal Aeinei VeAbita Niflaos MeTorasech--Open my eyes that I my perceive wonders from Your Torah ” (Tehillim 119:18).  All the Wonders we need to witness are in the Torah--all we have to do is have the higher sense to see them and appreciate them!!  Every time we learn and study, let us work on recognizing the Neflaos in front of us!


4.  At the end of the Parsha, 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 is truly demonstrated--through dedicated prayer.  We must learn from Moshe Rabbeinu.  A reader remarkably pointed out that Chazal teach that if “sees the stone upon which Moshe Rabbeinu sat while fighting Amaleik” he recites the Bracha of “Boruch Sheasa Nissim LeAvoseinu….”  Fascinatingly, 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 clear:  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!



Special Note One:  We provide several important notes from HaRav Shimon Schwab, Z’tl, on the Shira, as presented in the monumental work Rav Schwab on Prayer (Artscroll) for us to take with us in this post-Shira (but always-Shira!) week:


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


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


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


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


Special Note Two:  Before leaving the Shira, we add a few additional points and pointers:


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


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


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


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



Special Note One:  A reader provided the following Question and Answer:  “Who discovered the use of a lightning rod?”  His answer:  See Tosefta Shabbos Perek 7 for a pleasant surprise!



Special Note Two:  The exhilaration and intensity of this week’s Parsha is almost palpable.  We provide the following notes and comments relating to the Parsha:


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


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


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


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


E.  Picture the Scene: You have two phones ringing, two pieces of mail to open, two people standing directly in front of you at the moment--with one you can do a Mitzvah, and with the other you can earn some money or turn a profit. What do you do, which do you choose--after all, both are quite important! Happily, Shlomo Hamelech ( the wisest of all men) has resolved your dilemma for you--”Chacham Lev Yikach Mitzvos, the wise of heart chooses the Mitzvos” (Mishlei10:8).  We know, of course, that this teaching is precisely what Moshe Rabbeinu followed when the Bnei Yisroel 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 Yisroel still has some of their ancestor’s Egyptian booty in his possession--and where the Atzmos Yosef are today--ready and poised in Shechem to thwart off our enemies and greet us at Techiyas Hameisim.  The difference is eternal...and eternity!


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



G.  Some additional questions on Az Yashir:


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

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

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

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

  5. What does the phrase “B’Mayim Adirim” mean?

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

  7. With what words does the Shira conclude?


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


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


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


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


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



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


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


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


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



Special Note One:  Before taking leave of Parshas Bo, we provide an essential insight derived from the Parsha by Rabbi Zelig Pliskin, Shlita, in Growth Through Torah (p. 160):

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



Special Note Two:  In this week’s Parsha, we learn that Bnei Yisroel became Ma’aminim with the words:  “Vayaaminu BaHashem--and they had faith in Hashem.” (Shemos 14:31).  This is clearly a lesson to us to bolster our faith--so that “Vayaaminu BaHashem” can likewise be said about us today!  We provide the following insights and practical Emunah applications of Rabban Gamliel Rabanovitch, Shlita, in his Sefer Tiv HaEmunah:


1.  A Chossid once came back from a trip to his Rebbe.  His friend asked him --what did you learn there?  He responded:  “I learned there that there is a Borei Olam--a Creator in the world.”  His friend smirked and said:  “My cleaning lady knows that!”  The Chassid responded:  “She knows it--but now I feel it!”


2.  An Ikar of Emunah is for a person to make himself re-aware daily that Hashem not only created the world, but is “MeChadeish Bechol Yom Tamid Maaseh Bereishis--He recreates the world daily.”  Bringing the point home, this means that a person is a Briah Chadasha daily, and that all of the galaxies, including the billions of stars and billions of creatures in the entire universe, are recreated daily as well.  With a true appreciation and awareness of this basic fact, one’s Tefillah will not be lip service, but instead will be a fresh and new expression of praise, thanks, and request, daily.  Indeed, this is why we begin each morning with the words:  “Shehechezarta Bi Nishmasi BeChemlah”--because each day is, by Hashem’s Graciousness, a splendid new creation.  It follows, then, that each day we immediately also follow these words with the exclamation: “Rabba Emunasecha--how great is Your faithfulness to us in recreating me--and the world--today!”


3.  Not only does Hashem recreate the world daily, but He revitalizes it every instant.  As we recite in Pesukei DeZimra:  “VeAta MeChayeh Es Kulam--You give them all life.”  When reciting these words, one should feel the breath of life being inspired within him. 


4.  Later in Davening, in the Second Bracha of Shemone Esrei, we recite something a bit different, it is:  “VeNe’eman Atta LeHachayos Meisim--and You are faithful to resuscitate those no longer alive.”  Why are these words used in the Second Bracha of Shemone Esrei as a precursor to the Brachos of request that are soon to follow?  The words are intended to convey that Hashem is All-Powerful and can and will change what is otherwise considered to be nature.  Thus, Hashem can help you in whatever circumstance(s) you are in--and you have something to Daven about.  As Hashem can even help a deceased person to bring him back to life--He can certainly help you who is still very much alive!


5.  The reason that Chazal teach that “One who gets angry, it is as if he worships idols” is because when one is angry it means that his Emunah has then left him.  This is because if one had Emunah that the event that just occurred, or the statement that was just made, was from Hashem, then he would not have angered at all.  True, the person who angered him had Bechira Chafshis not to serve as Hashem’s tool, and may/ will be punished both by a Bais Din below and a Bais Din above for his actions or statements.  Nevertheless, the offended or hurt party must recognize that it was “Min HaShomayim”, and that Hashem has other messengers if the offender would have properly exercised his Bechira. 


6.  Based upon the last insight, one may ask: ‘Why is Hakaras Hatov to another party warranted or meaningful?!”  After all, if the good person was merely Hashem’s tool in rewarding one or bringing one happiness--then just as one should not get angry at another for something bad, why thank another for something good?  In response:


A.  First, one is expressing his praise and appreciation to the other party who exercised his Bechira Chafshis properly.


B.  Second, our expression of Hakaras Hatov to another human being serves as a preparation and primer for us to express our HaKaras Hatov to Hashem.  We are all familiar, for instance, with the teaching of the Sefer HaChinuch who explains that the Mitzvah of Kibbud Av VaEim provides a special emphasis on HaKaras Hatov, serving as a dugma or template, to properly thank and express our appreciation to Hashem as well. 


7.  If a person feels overwhelmed and incapable of proper and precise prayer, one should follow the teaching of Dovid HaMelech in Tehillim (116:3-9) who pleaded:  “…Ana Hashem Malta Nafshi--please Hashem save my soul.”  Exclaiming “Ana Hashem HaTzileini” alone with feeling can break down the Mechitzos that are separating you from Hashem.  Dovid HaMelech, who composed much of Sefer Tehillim, teaches us this potent and concise lesson as well.


8.  In Ashrei we recite three times daily that:  “Tzadik Hashem BeChol Derachav.”  This can also be read as “Tzadik--Hashem BeChol Derachav,” meaning that a person can attain a level of a Tzaddik by having Hashem with him everywhere he goes.   Whatever the path, whatever the place, whatever the situation, Hashem is with you.  Hashem’s hand should not only be evident through the Makkos or at the Sea, but in each and every one of our daily activities.  At times, the awareness is and should be more intense such as during Tefillah, and at times it is less intense as when engaged in bodily needs--but Hashem is always there with us and for us--and it is a great purpose of life to appreciate it and come as close to Him as we possibly can.  One should focus on his situation throughout the day and use his own intellect and ingenuity in keeping his Deveikus at the forefront of his day.


Let us remember that almost as soon as the Torah in this week’s Parsha records “Vayaaminu BaHashem”--it begins the monumental Shira of “Az Yashir Moshe.”  In the Zechus of our revitalized and reenergized Emunah may we too be Zoche to sing a new monumental Shira in the very near future!



Special Note One:  As the residents of the Northeastern US braced for a second blizzard in a few weeks, the anxiety and nervous anticipation became more evident on the faces of the people than for the previous first storm of the season, as there was now a greater appreciation for the snow’s effects and after-effects.  One could sense how different it must have been for the Mitzriim after Makkas Dam then before.  With each passing Makkah that Moshe Rabbeinu warned against, the trepidation and apprehension undoubtedly increased as well.  The fear and consternation became more and more real, and the irrationality in Paroh’s failure to release B’nai Yisroel became more and more evident.  As we leave the Makkos in Mitzrayim, and arrive this week at the Makkos at Sea, Hashem has given those experiencing winter the opportunity to sense in some way the jitters and the worry.  Lest one believe that those in the southern hemisphere are free of all of this--the awesome ‘torrential rain--inland tsunami’ in Australia yesterday reminded us of Hashem’s Kochos beyond our fathom.   The Ba’alei Mussar actually teach that if one feels or senses fear, he should try to shift and transfer that fear into a Fear of Hashem.  Especially when it comes to these kinds of ‘natural’ events in which with all of the radar, sensors, computers, meteorologists and the like can only guess at what will happen but cannot stop or even limit its occurrence or effects--we should be uplifted to new heights of Yiras Shomayim.  Indeed, perhaps this is part of the reason this Fear is known as Yiras Shomayim--Fear of Heaven or the Skies--for we see the great power that can be unleashed from Above which is oh so beyond our control.  If we can demonstrate some small area of growth--at least during these days--in our Yiras Shomayim, we will show that we are living with the times--and not letting them pass us by.  A better davening, a greater sense of being in Hashem’s presence (especially while walking outside), spending a few extra minutes with a Mussar Sefer--could all be examples of appropriate reactions when one senses the Awe in the events around him--and certainly in preparation for the Awesome Event at the Sea this Shabbos.  You may have your own ideas as to how you can show your appreciation and understanding of the times and events around you -- but show you can and show you must!



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



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



Special Note One:  We provide the answers to two additional points regarding craisins which we stated in yesterday’s Bulletin that we intended to discuss:


(a) Would one be permitted to make a Shehechiyanu on cranberries (Tu B’Shvat is coming!)?


Answer:  Rabbi Forst:  “One does not make a Shehechiyanu on cranberries.”


(b) If craisins are used in salads and desserts as an alternative to raisins because of the infestations problem in raisins--need one check craisins in any manner for infestation prior to using them?


Answer:  A nationally renowned Rabbinical expert in insect infestation answered: “Checking craisins is not necessary.  Raisins are sun dried outside.  Rotten raisins attract fruit flies which immediately lay their eggs on the sticky surface of the drying raisins.  Some eggs start hatching before the raisins are fumigated.  Craisins are not sun dried.  Fruit flies are not present.”


This is confirmed by clicking here for a valuable link, with the Psakim (as to the bedika required on various kinds of produce) of Rabbi Moshe Vaye, Shlita, internationally renowned expert in Bedikas Tolaim:




Special Note Two:  PARENTING TIPS VIA EMAIL by the world-renowned mechanech, Rabbi Dov Brezak, Shlita are now available!  To subscribe, please send an email to tips@kavey.org.  To join live Project Kavey parenting lines, or to consult privately with Rabbi Brezak, we provide the following additional contact information:  415-639-3002 (US), 0207-043-5619 ( UK ), 082-441-2713 (SA), 052-769-7588 (IL).


The following is a recent sample Tip:

Discipline is only a preparation for bringing out your child’s potential.  Dedicating most of your time to discipline is tantamount to spending most of your time in preparation, but in not actually parenting.  Your main focus should be on those interactions which help your child to realize his potential.  Believing in your child, taking interest in your child, catching your child doing things right and expressing love for your child openly, will truly help your child become the best they can be.



Special Note Three:  Many of us today will be reciting Parshas HaMan.

Yeshiva Torah Vodaath published the following Question and Answer from HaRav Moshe Wolfson, Shlita, in honor of the occasion.


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


Answer:  It may be that Lot did not have enough merits to be saved.  During the years that he lived with Avrohom Avinu, he performed Mitzvos, but they were Mitzvos without Mesiras Nefesh.  Possibly now, to warrant Hatzolas Nefoshos, he needed an extra-strength Mitzvah; a Mitzvah performed with Mesiras Nefesh!  It is rather evident that we are living in the Chevlei Moshiach, turbulent times, and we can no longer assume the safety and security to which we had been accustomed to prior to 9/11.  Possibly the entire financial meltdown has been needed in order to give us an opportunity to perform Hachzokas HaTorah and to give Tzedakah, even though it may come with more Mesiras Nefesh than in the past.  We are still feeling the effects of the meltdown--and it must be that we need the additional Zechusim! 

Hakhel Note:  What a great thought--let’s go to it with a clear understanding of the message!



Special Note Four:  Many wonder whether, in fact, we are so much more sophisticated in our day than people were 1,000 years ago, 3,000 years ago, or 5,000 years ago.  The dearth of technological advancement over several thousand years in comparison to the recent giant steps would have otherwise indicated that man has recently advanced intellectually in an unparalleled manner.  Yet, Chazal teach us that Adam HaRishon was so great that he could “see from one end of the world to the other,” and, furthermore, we all know the intense degree of wisdom that our Avos, Neviim, Gaonim, and Rishonim possessed.  Shlomo HaMelech himself is known to us all as the “Chochom MiKol Odom—the wisest of all men”.  So why did he not, at least, invent an automobile or a train to demonstrate his mental abilities?!  In fact, the Sefer Benayahu (the Ben Ish Chai to Gittin 68a) writes that Shlomo HaMelech did invent and personally use transportation of this sort, but did not spread the technology, because he did not want it used by other nations.  With his Ruach HaKodesh, he understood that in the future enemies (Bavel, Yavan, and Edom ) would come to fight K’lal Yisroel, and could use the technology in war against us.  He therefore limited its availability to his own individual needs. The transportation he invented was referred to as “Shiedeta,” which alluded to its great speed.  Precisely and only at the time that Hashem wills it, a technology becomes available in the world in a certain way and with a certain goal.


Hakhel Note:  The obvious and great lesson we must learn from all of this is that we must view all of the advancements that we have in our time as items which are intended directly for us--and not something which just happens to be available during the times that we live in. We must be able to incorporate the lessons, and often the tests, presented by the devices which benefit and challenge us daily.  If we treat their function and use with the same lack of clarity and seriousness as the world around us, then we have not met the purpose of their creation at this point in world history.  We should look to Shlomo HaMelech, oh so wise, as our guiding light.  He contemplated and reflected upon what the invention meant, what its benefit and use should be--and what its benefit and use should not be.  One can take a look at his phone, his computer, his I pod, his microwave, his GPS , his digital camera--everything that your grandfather or grandmother did not have--and think about how you can better use or change the use of these items to further the purpose and goals of your life.


Certainly, Hashem’s eyes are not turned away (even for a few moments) from how we act in and react to the times around us.  Despite all of technology’s Olam Hazeh trappings, the Bais Din Shel Ma’aleh knows all of the gadgetry and precisely what we are supposed to be (or not be) doing with it.  The use of our cell phone, for example, is very much a part of our Din VeCheshbon after 120 years--and it can be a misused and misguided tool that c’v embarrasses and hurts us--or quite to the contrary--an otherwise small and insignificant object that joyfully raises us to a higher level in Gan Eden!



Special Note Five:  The Seforno in last week’s Parsha why it is “HaChodesh Hazeh Lachem Rosh Chadashim--this month is for you the first of the months.”  What made ‘this month’ so special, the Seforno writes, is that until that point, the minds of Bnei Yisroel were ‘meshubad’--subjugated and diverted by the will of their masters.  Now that Bnei Yisroel would be free, their minds would be free as well.

They would now be able to undertake activities in which they could exercise their very own Bechira Chafshis--their own free will.  They would be able to accomplish their purpose in life--making the right choices and decisions-- and there could be no greater pleasure or joy.  When we face a test or a challenge we can think these words:  “HaChodesh Hazeh Lachem Rosh Chadashim”--this is my moment, this is my time, this is my opportunity--and I will come out on top!”



Special Note One:  Before taking leave of the last Ramban in Parshas Bo (Shemos 13: 16), perhaps we should recite the following passage (translated from the Hebrew) a few times today--and even print it out and keep it handy to look at from time-to-time as well.  The Ramban writes starkly and clearly:  “For a person has no share in Toras Moshe unless he believes that all our affairs and experiences are miracles, that there is no element of ‘nature’ or ‘the ordinary course of the world’ in them at all, whether regarding the community or the individual.”  [Translation from the outstanding English translation Ramban Commentary on the Torah (Artscroll, p.300)].


Special Note Two:  We received correspondence from Rabbi Forst relating to last week’s Note on Craisins.  Rabbi Forst advised us that he had changed his P’sak on Craisins from Borei Pri Haeitz to Borei Pri Ha’Adama, and changed the bracha listing in subsequent issues of The Laws of Brachos.  He also indicated that in his opinion it would not be a bracha levatala if one recited a Borei Pri Haeitz.  The full text of Rabbi Forst’s correspondence is set forth below:


“As of several printings ago, I changed the listing in the Laws of B’rachos from Borei Pri Ha’eitz to Borei Pri Ha’Adamah. The reason that I originally wrote Ha’eitz was because I found information that sometimes the plants reach a height of 12 inches, as I explained there on page 283.  However, since Poskim are quoted as saying that the B’rachah should be Ha’Adamah, and since I could no longer find the source upon which I relied, I changed the B’rachah in the latest printings of the book to Ha’adamah.


“I must add that the statement in the Email ‘If the proper bracha is Borei Pri Hoadomah, the recitation of Borei Pri Ha’eitz would be improper, and would result in a bracha Levatala’ is incorrect.  The B’rachah of cranberries is essentially Ha’eitz, the reason that one recites Ha’adamah is because of a Minhag only.  Therefore the B’rachah of Ha’eitz is certainly valid after-the-fact.”


Hakhel Note:  We thank Rabbi Forst, Shlita, for his Responsa.  It now appears that in the first instance all are in agreement that the Bracha on craisins in the first instance is Borei Pri Ha’Adama.  We hope to discuss two additional points:  (a) Would one be permitted to make a Shehechiyanu on cranberries (Tu B’Shvat is coming!)?; and (b) If craisins are used in salads and desserts as an alternative to raisins because of the infestations problem in raisins--need one check craisins in any manner for infestation prior to using them?



Special Note Three:  In a recent Note, we had suggested stretching out one’s hand a bit at the beginning of each of the thirteen Brachos of Request in Shemone Esrei.  A reader suggested that for the thirteenth and ultimate Bracha of Request, Shema Koleinu, that the hand remain outstretched throughout the course of the Bracha so that one fully incorporates and emphasizes all of his needs in this powerful final request.



Special Note Four:  In another recent Note, we brought the teaching of HaRav Shmuel Berenbaum, Z’tl, relating to our need to distinguish between “Parnassah” and “Parnassah LeOlam Va’ed.” 


There is one additional essential point to be made relating to the comparison between our sustenance in this world and our eternal sustenance.  Those who are extremely successful in their Parnossah have a certain degree of expertise in a particular field.  One person may be a dermatologist, another a creative writer, the third an actuary, and the fourth a refrigeration technician.  The point is that if one is an expert in his field, he is simply more valuable.  We should take this lesson into our Parnossah L’Olam Voed and try to become experts in a given field.  Every person, of course, has his/her own given talents, and could be well on the way to becoming an expert, or fully developing their expertise, in a given Olam Haba livelihood.  The Chofetz Chaim, for instance, suggests that those who are capable select a given area of Torah (such as a particular mesechta--Brochos, Shabbos, etc.) and know it very well--or at least much better than your friends.  It is well known that the “Olam Haba Mesechta” of the Chasam Sofer was Mesechta Beizah.  This thought can be applied in many other areas as well. You can stand out by:

  • Opening your own Gemach--clothing, Simcha, baby, service, lending library.

  • Especially designating two hours a day which is Loshon-Hora free--and keeping it at all costs.

  • Every time you recite Asher Yotzar and an after Brochos, it should be from a Siddur or a written text.

  • Recognizing the goodness that Hashem bestows upon you by constantly saying “Boruch Hashem” or “Thank you Hashem” to the point that you realize that you (or better yet, others) realize that this is a hallmark of yours.

  • Studying a Torah topic for five minutes before going to bed.

  • Add your own based upon your own wisdom and you own skill set.


Of course, these are only suggestions, but the point is there.  Shlomo Hamelech, the wisest of all men, twice bemoans the person who says “A little bit more sleep, a little bit more slumber, a little folding of the hands to lie” (Mishlei 6:10 and 24:33).  We should do all that we can to avoid the “just a little more sleep syndrome”, and instead, move ourselves in the direction of becoming experts in our own right, and in our own way. 


Many will be focusing tomorrow on reciting “Parshas HaMan” as a Segulah for Parnassah.  We must have Bitachon that Hashem will take care of our Parnassah--but we must take care of our Parnassah LeOlam Va’ed!



KASHRUS ALERT!  We received a copy of the following notice issued by Rabbi Nochum Teitelbaum, Shlita, Av Beis Din of Volove and a Rav HaMachshir.  “This is to advise that after careful investigation it was determined that insects are found in the intestines of “Gefen” sardines from Portugal (not in the flesh).  They must first be opened and the guts completely cleaned out.  This is equally so in water sardines, soya oil or olive oil.  The ‘skinless and boneless’ sardines are not infested.”



YOU CAN SUBSCRIBE!  There is a short beautiful Parsha Newsletter containing concise Chassidic thoughts on the Parsha published by Rabbi Naftali Ganzweig, Shlita.  One can subscribe to the free weekly publication by sending an email to chizuk@yeshivanet.com   You can ask for either the Lashon HaKodesh or English version.  Enjoy!



Special Note One:  At the outset of Chumash Devarim, the Torah tells us that on the first day of this month (now known as Shevat), Moshe Rabbeinu began to explain the Torah to the Bnei Yisroel.  A reader suggested that this month, therefore, is an especially auspicious time to improve the quality of one’s Torah learning--for just as Moshe Rabbeinu worked on explaining the Torah, so should we--for nothing is by coincidence, and the Torah goes out of its way to specify that all of this began on Rosh Chodesh Shevat!  We additionally note that according to the Luach Bnei Yaakov, Shevat is Rashei Teivos (an acronym) for Shenisbaser Besoros Tovos.  Accordingly, may this month be especially blessed with enhanced Torah study…and with Besoros Tovos! 


Additional Note:  We received the following interesting thought from a reader:  “We make our calendar using the moon which revolves around us - while the solar calendar is based on the sun - which we revolve around.  One explanation can be that the Yomim Tovim are based on when we set Rosh Chodesh--so it revolves around us--as opposed to the other calendars which work automatically without the necessity of our determinations or input-so we only revolve around it.”  Hakhel Note:  Isn’t it better to be the ikar instead of the tofel?!



Special Note Two:  We would like to remind everyone that just as there are 13 months this year, there are also 13 Brachos of Bakasha in Shemone Esrei.  As this is the fifth month of the year since Rosh Hashana, a quick calculation will show that the corresponding fifth Bakasha is Re’faeinu--our Request for Health and Healing .  May we suggest a special focus on Re’faeinu during the coming month.  Indeed, the Chasam Sofer, on last week’s Parsha, specifically notes that Hashem expressed his reason to redeem Bnei Yisroel as:  VeGam Ani Shama’ati Es Na’akas Bnei Yisroel…I have also heard the cries of Bnei Yisroel” (Shemos 6:5).  The Chasam Sofer explains that the word ‘VeGam--I have also is especially intended to convey that Hashem heard our cries only because He noted that the other members of Bnei Yisroel first heard the cries of their brethren and commiserated with them.  Once Hashem saw that they were so caring and concerned for each other--He determined that this is a people to be saved.  The conclusion is simple--our care and concern, our sincere cries for our brethren in Re’faeinu--can also play an important part in the Geulah--for all of K’lal Yisroel!



Special Note Three:  At the recent Hakhel Yarchei Kallah, Rabbi Dovid Weinberger, Shlita, provided important guidance in health and safety related areas.  Among the many items he discussed:


a.  If you know someone who should not be driving because of the danger he presents to other people on the road (for whatever reason), then in does not constitute Mesirah to relate this information to the appropriate persons or authorities.


b.  With respect to any surgery which requires general anesthesia, one should first consult with a Rav to the extent possible. 


c.  A person is not permitted to undertake activities beyond the normal scope of risk.  As an example, a novice at skiing should first go to the appropriate slope for beginners--it is forbidden to go to anything more advanced.  Becoming involved in any area or activity of Sofek Sakana requires prior consultation with a Rav or Posek--for your life, health and safety is very much the subject of Hashem’s overriding concern and the Torah’s loving guidance!


To obtain tapes or CDs of our most recent Yarchei Kallahs, please contact:  718-252-5274.



Special Note Four:  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 Avraham, 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 Yisroel! 



Special Note Five:  “How R U 2day?  Come 2 me at 4.  I have a q for u.  Pleez B on time b/c

I will B waiting.  Don’t 4get. thnx. TTYL.”  Hakhel Note:  Believe it or not, people exchange these kinds of text messages daily, somehow thinking that it is not a derogation of their own self respect--or of the respect of the person to whom it was conveyed.  The usage of this kind of communication, which so de-emphasizes the honor due to oneself and to others, has become yet another casualty of the influence of the outside world upon us.  The laxity and loose standard has especially taken its toll upon teenagers and young adults who have not yet matured sufficiently to understand the lack of discipline and slackness that this attitude and conduct engenders.  Rabbi Zechariah Wallerstein, Shlita, taught that he recently provided guidance to a young woman enrolled in a fine Yeshiva High School who was found to have been texting her friends on Shabbos(!).  When asked how she could be doing such a thing, she explained that “it is only a DeRabbanan!”  [Her ‘p’sak’ is of course not at all simple to begin with].   It appears obvious that the laxity in the mode of conduct by texting leads to a greater sense of laxity--to the extent even of Chillul Shabbos!  We must appreciate the extreme gravity of the dereliction in this kind of communication.  If one needs to text, may we suggest to take the extra few seconds to communicate “like a mentsch”--so that our dignity remains with us, with our correspondent relatives and friends--and we remain true to the honor of Torah values and a Torah lifestyle.



Special Note Six:  We continue with our Erev Shabbos Halachos of Shabbos Series.  We conclude our discussion of benefiting from prohibited activity performed by a Gentile on Shabbos, as discussed in the newest [third] edition of Shemiras Shabbos KeHilchasa:


a.  Even if the Gentile intends to benefit other non-Jews by his activity, but works for the Jew, then it is considered as if he performed the activity for the Jew, and the Jew cannot directly benefit from this activity. If however it is clear that the non-Jew primarily intended to benefit himself--which can be demonstrated by his getting immediate personal benefit from the melacha-- then it is treated as if he performed the work for himself (so that if it is clear that he has not done or will not do additional work on behalf of the Jew, and their are no muktza issues involved, a Jew will be able to benefit from the melacha). If we are mesupak, if there is any doubt, as to whom the prohibited activity was performed for, we must treat it stringently--and deem it to have been performed for the Jew.


b.  Example:  A non-Jew goes down the stairwell in an apartment building, and turns on the lights so that he can see--a Jew may go with him and otherwise benefit from it, since the non-Jew lit it so that he personally could see.  If a Jew, however, asked his friend or the super to accompany him on the steps--so that he essentially would turn on the light for the Jew--this would not be considered to be a benefit to the Gentile, and it is forbidden for the Jew to derive benefit from this light.


c.  Use of an elevator operated by a non-Jew in an apartment building or hotel has special rules, and one’s Posek should be consulted as to the manner and circumstances of its use.


d.  One may enter a door in which he is electronically buzzed in by a non-Jew if he could have opened the door manually as well--for the door can be opened in a permissible fashion, and the non-Jew buzzed him in to make it easier for himself--sitting rather than having to get up and walk to the door.


e.  If a Jew does not obtain a real benefit from the prohibited activity of the non-Jew, the Jew may benefit for the activity. Example:  If a non-Jew shines a Jew’s shoes on Shabbos without having being asked to do so--and the Jew was going to wear the shoes unshined anyway--then he may wear the newly-shined shoes even on Shabbos, for even without the prohibited activity performed upon them, he was going to wear the shoes.  


Because these Halachos are detailed and depend on particular relationships, all specific situations and interrelationships should be discussed with your Rav or Posek--especially if you find recurring circumstances and situations.



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


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


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


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



KASHRUS ALERT!  The OU has announced that General Mills is discontinuing the OU-D kosher certification from all sizes of Bugles Original due to operational changes at the production sites, and that the product will no longer be certified.  The OU-D symbol will begin to be removed from packaging in February of 2011. Consumers are likely to see some Bugles Original packages with the OU-D symbol and some without as the transition occurs. The Bugles with the OU-D are in fact kosher.


BRACHOS ALERT!-In honor of Rosh Chodesh Shevat which according to Bais Shammai is Rosh Hashana LeIlanos--Let us move to a ‘FRUIT’ snack product where there may be some confusion as to the proper bracha.  Craisins essentially consists of dried cranberries. The Laws of Brachos by Rabbi Binyomin Forst, Shlita writes that the bracha on cranberries is Borei P’ri Hoetz.  However, The Halachos of Brochos by Rabbi Yisroel Pinchos Bodner, Shlita, states, based upon the p’sak of HaRav Shlomo Zalman Auerbach, Z’TL, “Cranberries grow on creeping vines which grow along the ground. Although the plant produces fruit year after year, nevertheless, since cranberries grow within nine inches of the ground, its bracha is Borei P’ri Hoadomah.”  The Sefer V’zos HaBracha by Rabbi Aleksander Mandelbaum, Shlita, also writes that the bracha is Borei P’ri Hoadomah.  We note that if the proper bracha is Borei Pri Hoadomah, the recitation of Borei Pri Hoetz would be improper, and would result in a bracha levatala and no bracha rishona having been recited on the food!  Accordingly, one should ask his Rav what bracha rishona to recite over cranberries and craisins (and while with the Rav--over cranberry juice as well!).



Special Note One:  As we begin the fifth month of the year, we also begin our special attention to the fifth of the thirteen Ani Ma’amins.  This fifth of the Ani Ma’amins focuses on the importance of directing our Tefillos directly, purposefully and intently to HaKadosh Baruch Hu.  The Yetzer Hara is allowed my illusions down here--and he tries very hard to convince or in some manner sway us even a little to believe that the doctor’s knowledge and skill brings the Refuah, the accountant’s acuity and book knowledge saves you tax dollars, and the lawyer’s negotiating skill puts you ahead of the fellow on the other side of the table.  He will also have you believe that it is cold outside in the Northern Hemisphere because the earth is turned away from the sun, that apples grow on that tree because they have done so for the last 50 years since it was planted, and that computers work by those magnificent microchips developed, refined, and further refined by brilliant techies.  This, the fifth Ani Ma’amin, wages war against the Yetzer Hora’s devious daily obfuscations--by bringing us back to the absolute and unconditional reality that there is truly only One Source for E-v-e-r-y-t-h-i-n-g.  This realization and reawakening should truly inspire and embolden our Tefillos during this month.  In fact--it may be a good idea to recite this Ani Ma’amin--before starting to daven!



Special Note Two:  At last week’s Yarchei Kallah, Rabbi Yisroel Reisman, Shlita, asked why the words ‘Mutar’ (literally, untied) and ‘Assur’ (literally, tied) are utilized by Chazal in describing whether something is permissible or not.  After all, would it not be simpler and more direct to use the words ‘kosher’ and ‘non-kosher’, or ‘forbidden’ and ‘permitted’. Why use the words ‘tied’ and ‘untied’?  He explained based on the Arizal and the Zohar that when we say something is ‘Mutar’ what we mean is that the Nitzozos, the sparks, of Kedusha can be untied and released from within the item and enter into the body or into the world.  On the other hand, if something is ‘Assur’, then it is tied up, meaning that the Nitzozos of Kedusha within the item are inextricably entwined in to it and cannot be further shared, utilized or released. 


Hakhel Note:  If we can take a moment to consider the ramifications when we eat something that is “Mutar”--we will realize that something much more than the miracle of nutrients being released into our digestive system is occurring--and that we are accomplishing a great deal for our spiritual health that is not found or listed on any ingredient panel!  In the coming month, let us, bli neder, attempt to improve in a small way our Kedusha HaAchila by improving, for example, the Brachos that we recite (from a Siddur or with closed eyes), the manner in which we eat (can we go for an entire month without eating or drinking standing up--or can we at least count the number of times that we do so), or what we actually eat (what will your hand reach for in that cabinet)--as we bring new and Kedusha into our bodies and souls--every time that we EAT !



Special Note Three:  As today is Asiri LaKodesh, and the four-month anniversary of Rosh Hashana (and a Rosh Hashana itself according to Bais Shammai, as noted earlier), it certainly behooves us to recall, reflect and re-vitalize the kabalos that we made to make this Year a better one than the last.  Let us also take stock realize that if we come to the conclusion that this person is so stubborn, that person is honor-seeking, or that one angers easily, etc. we may really be getting Divine messages of the Middos that we have to improve in--and shift the responsibility to ourselves so that the conclusion we have just made becomes meaningful and something that you can do something about!  We should also remind ourselves that just because we have done something mediocre many times in the past--we need not repeat it again and again--and we can just go either cold turkey-or stop it from time to time to demonstrate self-control and mastery over ourselves.  One thing is clear:  A real majority of the Year is left, and there is still great opportunity for the Moshiach to come this Year--with the world in an ostensible continuous state of turmoil and terrorism--and the Daf Yomi well into the study of Seder Kodshim, the study of the Bais HaMikdash and Korbanos!  Let us make the effort to bring out our best (keeping a brief written record of our goals and accomplishments) in the coming months--starting out sincerely and strong with the fresh, new month ahead!



Special Note One:  Yesterday, through the Chofetz Chaim Heritage Foundation sticker link, we provided an opportunity for rejuvenation in our fundamental daily Mitzvah of Kriyas Shema.  As we approach the portals of a new month, we now provide what may prove to be an extremely helpful new aid in providing essential focus on the 13 Brachos of Request in Shemone Esrei.  Here it is--and while it is free, based on experience--it is concomitantly invaluable.  At the outset of each Bracha, beginning with Ata Chonen, extend your hand a bit and shape your palm as if you are about to receive alms.  Then recite the first phrase of the Bracha, and bring your hand back.  This should serve to remind you that you are pleading with the Omnipotent and Omniscient Hashem --who can wholly fulfill the request that you are about to make.  It should also serve to revitalize your mindset for each and every Bracha in a very brief but really effective manner.  After you physically acknowledge that you are about to make a new request that can be fulfilled, it is also significantly easier to maintain your concentration on the balance of the short words of the Bracha that follow.  We must not let the great opportunity that we have three times a day fall prey to Mitzvos Anashim Melumadah--bad habit and a pre-occupied mind.  Our bakashos in Shemone Esrei are so important and so powerful--we must make each and every one of them count daily!


Additional Note One:   Now that a formal request for clemency for Yehonasan ben Malka Pollard has been made--we should recognize and realize that the awakening below must serve as a reminder to us to plead with Hashem for an awakening above.  Just as Hashem is the ONLY Somech Noflim and Rofeh Cholim, he is also the ONLY MATIR ASSURIM--THE ONLY ONE WHO CAN DECLARE YEHONASAN’S RELEASE.  Let us use this propitious reminder to storm the heavens with Tefillos on his behalf--and may we finally see Yehonasan’s yeshua, amongst yeshuos for all of K’lal Yisroel.


Additional Note Two:  We had made a similar suggestion as a practical program in the aftermath of Tisha B’Av--to keep one’s hand open as he recited the Yehi Ratzon SheYiboneh Bais HaMikdash at the end of Shemone Esrei--and we understand that the suggestion has produced excellent results.  One reader advised us that because of the additional direction and focus, he realized something very meaningful and important.  There are really four different ascending requests in this Yehi Ratzon--first, that the Bais HaMikdash be speedily rebuilt;  second, that as a result we attain our true lot in Torah;  third, that we thereby and then serve Hashem with appropriate reverence, and fourth and at the highest rung of the ladder--that “VeOrvah Lashem”... that our service be pleasing to Hashem--reaching the ultimate and highest level of understanding--a never before attained or attainable closeness to the Creator Himself!  We appreciate this very beautiful thought, and hope that other readers will share with us their new awarenesses and insights gleaned from beginning their Brachos with an outstretched hand.  We do not have to wait to Purim, which is still two and a half months away, to fulfill the Bain Odom LeChaveiro concept of “Kol Haposhet Yado Nosnin Lo--he who stretches out his hand is given to”--when, on a Bain Odom LaMakom level, we can hopefully act upon and succeed at it-- each and every day!



Special Note Two:  The Chofetz Chaim in the Sha’ar HaTevunah (Chapter 7) goes to special lengths to describe the imperative of judging others favorably.  In the course of his discussion, he brings a beautiful and emotional plea or tefillah actually contained in the classic Sefer Tanna DeVei Eliyahu (containing the teachings of Eliyahu HaNavi) itself.  We provide this passionate plea by clicking here.  The tefillah begins with the asterisk and continues to the second page.  It would certainly be meaningful to recite this tefillah when one has the urge to judge another (person or group) Lechaf Chov, rather than LeChaf Zechus.  If we make the effort to look at the good side in others-- that is the side of ours that will appear before Hashem (and others) as well!  For those who want to strengthen themselves in the Middah of Judging Others Favorably, may we suggest reciting the above heartfelt tefillah daily or weekly. 

Related Note:  There is a second tefillah--not focusing on the merits of K’lal Yisroel as the previous one--but which asks for Hashem’s guidance and assistance in one’s personal trials to judge others favorably. We also provide this second tefillah (as provided in the past) by clicking here



Special Note Three:  Rabbi Eli Mansour, Shlita provides us with a powerful understanding of the pain of others, and how significant one’s personal pain is in the eyes of Hashem.  Rabbi Mansour teaches that, as the Torah explicitly states in the Bris Bain HaBesorim, the Galus Mitzraim was to have lasted 400 years (Bereishis 15:13).  Instead, we were released 190 years early--after 210 years.  Non-coincidentally (as it never is), this number of years directly corresponds to the 190 years that Avrohom and Sora waited collectively before they had Yitzchak (Avrohom was 100 and Sora was 90).  The pain that Avrohom and Sora felt was so significant, Rabbi Mansour explains, that it was able to replace and substitute for the pain of an entire nation for the corresponding number of years.  We must be sensitive to and deeply understand the suffering of someone in the hospital, in bed, or who has suffered any type of setback.  Their pain can be the equivalent of the pain of a nation.  To the one suffering, he should be aware that while no human may be able to fathom his sense of suffering--Hashem is All-Knowing and All-Powerful--and that the pain he is going through may be an important part of the final atonement of our nation.  It is impossible for us to know or fathom the complexities of a moment of a person’s, let alone the world’s, existence, but we can understand that the world is under His loving control, and that we only need to do what we are able.  We can begin by davening to Hashem for ourselves and for others carefully, meaningfully--and effectively!



Special Note One:  It is now almost four months since Rosh Hashana!  As we grow, we must also remember to stay firm and close to our ‘everyday’ important Mitzvos.  As one example, we provide by clicking here the contents of a wonderful sticker distributed by the Chofetz Chaim Heritage Foundation with essential Halachos and Hashkafos relating to the proper recitation of Shema daily.  Applying its clear contents can ensure your proper recitation of the Shema approximately 750 times in the course of just one year alone.  You can do the math on proper recitation over a long lifetime.  Use it well--and try sharing it with friends and family!



Special Note Two:  Rabbi Eliyahu Schneider, Shlita brings a meaningful Mashal from the Alter of Navardok in the Alter's Sefer Madreigas HaOdom:  If 20 people each need a light to get through the forest, and each lights a candle in his hut and makes his way outside, the likelihood is that his candle will be extinguished by a wind (even on a non-windy day) before he makes it significantly through the trees and brush--and he very really may be left alone and in the dark.  On the other hand, if those same 20 individuals pool their candles and light one big torch--not only will the torch lead them through the forest--but any sudden or unexpected wind will actually fan the fire--making it stronger and larger!  Such, the Alter teaches, is the strength of a Tzibbur united.  Alone, one may be unable to accomplish.  However, as a group the individual's weakness actually becomes a part of the group's strength.  Consider, for instance, one person being careful in the recitation of Shema (as per the previous Note).  After a few weeks, he quite likely will need Chizuk in this area again, as he is 'going it alone'.  However, if the Minyan or the Shul took it upon themselves to strengthen themselves together in this Mitzva--and their was a marked pause before the word Shema was recited in order to incorporate the basic Kavanna to fulfill the Mitzvos involved, and then each word of the first Pasuk, for instance, was recited slowly-- imagine the outward impact on the tzibbur as a whole--and the inner impact of Kabbalas Ohl Malchus Shomayim on the inner recesses of each and every member's soul.  If you can be the one to help your Tzibbur with a better Shema recitation (or other Mitzva which you feel needs chizuk) --you will be helping yourself--and everyone else--make it through the forest--successfully!



Special Note Three:  Today is the third Yahrzeit of HaRav Shmuel Birnbaum, Z’tl, who taught by conduct to his students and to the world the unparalleled Chashivus of even the smallest segment of Torah study.  We provide below a few brief samplings of his teachings:


1.  A reader advised us that “I once heard from HaRav Shmuel Berenbaum, Z’tl, that Atzlus is the source of all midos ra’os--all bad character traits.”


2.  Every night at Maariv, we recite “Ki Haym Chayeinu”--for the Torah and Mitzvos are our life. HaRav Berenbaum, asked his students to focus closely on these words.  Torah is not “merely” like oxygen or water--rather, as Chazal teach us, it is life itself!!  Oh, how we should value life!!


3.  In a Sefer that was written by a grandson of HaRav Berenbaum, he writes that his Zeide told him that what he should work on most in contemplating Teshuva is the study of Torah, because with improvement in learning, midos and all else would fall into place.


4.   HaRav Berenbaum brings the Gemara in Megillah (16A) which describes the encounter between Mordechai and Haman when Haman came to put Mordechai on the King’s horse while wearing the royal garments.  Haman finds Mordechai teaching Torah to his students, and asks what he is teaching them.  Mordechai responds that he is teaching them about the Korban Omer.  Upon hearing this, Haman responds that the laws regarding the “handful of kometz” that you taught your students have defeated the 10,000 talents of silver that I dedicated to annihilate the Jews.  HaRav Berenbaum points out that this terrible Haman HaRasha, this most horrible of horrible human beings, in spite of his brazen and almost unequaled wickedness, still somewhat appreciated and fathomed the value of a few words of Torah, and understood its enormous power in that only a few words among a few Jews quashed what was something like “all the money in the world” to destroy the Jewish people.  Because he appreciated what a word of Torah was, he was rewarded with descendents who converted, became Torah scholars and propagated Torah and its teachings!


 5.  HaRav Berenbaum teaches that one should work on the honor due to Torah study.  He explains that the reason the Torah was given “B’Kolos U’Verokim”--with loud noise and thunder--is to forever instill within us the attitude and approach that one should not learn Torah with his face leaning on his elbow, or slouched over, head back, sefer on lap....you get the picture(s).  Being mekabel to learn with greater respect could be a very significant step to significantly increase the quality of one's Torah study.


6.   HaRav Berenbaum notes that we all invest time and effort in some way into making a Parnossah--our sustenance in this world.  However, it would be truly unfortunate for one to sacrifice his Parnossah L’Olam Vo'ed--his Parnossah for eternity, in favor of Parnossah for only 100 years or so in this world.  He points to Avraham Avinu’s actions on behalf of the three malochim, the three angels, under the tree.  Chazal teach that in reward for his one-time ostensible Gemilas Chesed to the three angels, his descendents, constituting millions of people, were sustained--nourished and protected--for 40 years in the desert.  Simply stated, the importance of our actions is boundless.  We must, therefore, take stock and make sure that the essence of these actions count for eternity--giving ourselves a Parnossah--L'Olam Vo'ed!



Question of The Week:  As in previous year’s we remind you of the Question--Why is it that the Makkos are split up over two Parshios --Va’Eira and Bo--and furthermore why is it that they are split in just this way--with the first seven Makkos last week--and this week’s three Makkos beginning with Makkas Arbeh?  We look forward to your thoughts!  Related Note:  A reader inquired as to why we are suggesting to recite the Tefillah Al HaGeulah during this time.  Our suggestion is based upon the teaching of Rebbe Tzadok HaKohen that the Parshios are ‘signs of the times’--so that, for instance, Parshas Yisro, in which the Aseres HaDibros are given, is a paradigm of Matan Torah once again...and the Parshios of Geulah--may they bring the Geulah Sheleima along with them as well!



Bracha of the Week:  Although sunflower seeds seem more like a summer food, they are marketed in the winter--apparently to give us the feel for summer as well.  In any event--what bracha does one make over sunflower seeds?   Rabbi Yisroel Pinchos Bodner, Shlita in The Halachos of Brachos (Feldheim Publishers) writes that the bracha rishona is Bore P’ri Ha’Adama and the bracha acharona is of course Borei Nefashos --but only if one eats the Shiur in K’dei Achilas Pras which would be difficult (unless he is eating another food with it, which he could be mitztaref to the Shiur; note that a drink is not mitztaref to the shiur as food and drink are not combined to attain a shiur for bracha acharona).  Rabbi Bodner adds that one does not have to be concerned that one sunflower seed is already a ‘briya’ (a complete entity in and of itself) which would have rendered the consumption of even one seed a sofek bracha achrona.  Rather, the food shiur of a full Kezayis in K’dei Achilas Pras remains the Shiur for a bracha acharona. 

Additional Note One:  Given the time and effort it takes to open the shell, and the emptied shells in front of you not necessarily being the most pleasant of sights, we do not mean to advocate the regular consumption of sunflower seeds--however, it is definitely something that Hashem put into this world with Divine Purpose--and it is our job to determine if and how it becomes part of our Avodas Hashem.  When someone says to us something like: ‘What are you doing--what world are you in?!’ we must remember that this is really a complex question--for we most definitely live in Olam Hazeh and are here to benefit from its goodness (See MesilasYeshorim, Chapter 13), but we must also remember that the ultimate of our existence is to attain a fine and wonderful place in an eternal and everlasting Olam Haba.  It therefore becomes difficult to understand how a person could consume a food ‘assuming’ that this or that was its bracha rishona, and later ‘presuming’ that he has consumed enough or not consumed enough for a bracha acharona . As we eat, whatever it may rightfully be, and in whatever measure it may rightfully be, let us remember that we are eating--in and for two worlds!  

Additional Note Two:  A very practical additional application of this concept:  Often, a person finds himself in a situation in which one or a variety of foods--perhaps even of a catered or gourmet variety-- is placed in front of him, and it is all absolutely free (or could at least be a partial return on your donation or gift!).  Whether at a parlor meeting, a school gathering, a Sheva Brachos or Simchas Chosson VeKallah to which you are coming to extend your warm Mazel Tov, or other pleasant gathering , the mere existence or presence of the free culinary product or delight does not require you to partake of them.  If you have already eaten dinner, are ‘really not supposed to eat this’ or are simply not hungry--what is the point in acquiescing to the base demands of the Yetzer Hora--when all you may be left with at the end of the day is a belly enriched by an extra piece of something eaten while standing up, with a bracha rishona sandwiched in between two sentences to someone, then perhaps forgetting to make a bracha acharona (or perhaps making it in a rush and under your breath so that you can leave)--and a final feeling of ‘why did I eat that’ afterwards. ‘Hey--what world do you live in?’  Let’s always try to remember the answer!  A little more about this in the following Note.



Special Note One:  Rabbi Zecharia Wallerstein, Shlita brings the Chazal that “Borosi Yetzer Hora, Borosi Torah Tavlin Kenegda--I created the Yetzer Hora--but I created the Torah as the Tavlin --the spice--to fight and overcome it.”  Rabbi Wallerstein points out that the Chazal could have simply stated that “...and I created the Torah to counteract the Yetzer Hora”.  Why is the word ‘Tavlin’-- the spice-- used to describe the Torah’s essential efficacy against the Yetzer Hora?  He explains that we must appreciate that the Torah is not c’v like a bad-tasting medicine or an unwanted antidote.  Very much to the contrary, the Torah is effective against the Yetzer Hora because you feel its special taste, its ‘geshmak’, its sweetness, in assisting you to distinguish between good and bad--between what life is really not about--and what it is truly about.  When one learns--he should realize that he is tasting something oh so special--and not approach it as a body of knowledge, or simply as another part of his long (or short) day.  Rather--it is the ‘main course’, the essence, the best, the sweetest part of the day.  If one appreciates this and feels this way while learning, the Yetzer Hora is forced to cover himself with his cape in shame and scuttle away.  If one personally does not yet feel or sense the Tavlin of Torah, he may want to try learning something new that he has not learned before, start learning something that he has always wanted to but has never had the chance to,  or find the right study partner (don’t be shy-ask him if he can learn with you).  In any and all events--Hashem is telling us--here is the Yetzer Hora and here is the Tavlin--go and defeat him and enjoy it--because that is very much part of the process!



Special Note Two:  At last week’s Hakhel Yarchei Kallah, Rabbi Mordechai Becher, Shlita noted that the gathering was being held on HaRav Dessler’s yahrzeit--and brought the following ma’aseh from his Rebbe, HaRav Moshe Shapiro, Shlita one of the foremost Ba’alei Mussar in Eretz Yisroel today:  HaRav Shapiro, as a bachur, was apparently constantly in Rav Dessler’s home.  One morning, the young Rav Shapiro had a troubled or puzzled look on his face.  Rav Dessler asked him what was the matter.  He responded--”Rebbe, I don’t recall whether I said Sholom Aleichem to you this morning”.  Rav Dessler looked back at him affectionately and replied “Sofek Shalom Aleichem LeHachmir--if you are unsure whether you greeted someone or not--you must be ‘stringent’ and be sure to greet him--again-- if need be!”



Special Note Three:  As the Northeastern United States clears up from the recent blizzard, its inhabitants can take the lesson that we brought from Rav Pam, Z’tl, on last week’s Parsha.  We should not stop davening that we emerge safe and sound from the storm--as slippery snow, black ice and unusual walking and travel conditions continue to exist.  As walkers daintily (and sometimes skillfully) maneuver, we should remember that “Ahl Kol Tza’ad VeSha’’al Anachnu Modim Loch--we thank Hashem for every single step of the way-as only one wrong or difficult step can mean the difference between happiness and health and pain and suffering.

Additional Note:  It is fascinating to note that in the Birchos HaShachar we thank Hashem for an earth to step upon, then for shoes, then for the ability to take our own steps--and only afterwards for Oter Yisroel BeSifora-- for our Tefillen or headcovering.  Our legs and steps are a very important part of our existence--for they enable us to get to the places where we can reach our potential in Torah and Mitzvos.  We make these Brachos first in thanks to Hashem--for not only giving us the ability to ‘use our heads’--but also for all the things in between--all the intermediary steps--that it takes to get us there!


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