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




Special Note One:  We continue our series on Brachos, with practical Teshuvos in Hilchos Brachos given by Rabbi Yisroel Pinchos Bodner, Shlita, author of Halachos of Brochos (Feldheim).  Of course, one should consult with his own Rav or Posek on every Shaila that he has.




Q:  I was in the coffee room this morning and started making a shehakol for my coffee but in the middle realized that I had taken a piece of cake and not coffee, so I quickly ended the brocha by saying mezonos.  Is the brocha “locked” when you say Hashem’s Name, in which case it was wrong to change it midstream?


A: When one recites Hashem’s Name, he must be fully cognizant of the purpose for which it is being said.  Therefore, anytime we are about to make a brocha we must know in advance what brocha will be needed, and what we want to subsequently cover with the brocha.  The Rambam is of the opinion that whatever your intention was at the time you say Hashem’s Name is what determines what type of brocha it is.  Most Poskim disagree and are of the opinion that even if you had intention to say one brocha (in your case shehakol) and you end off saying a different brocha (mezonos), the brocha is valid.  Therefore, since you could not end it as shehakol, you did the correct thing, and your mezonos was valid b’dieved.


Additional Note on Brachos:  It is both fascinating and significant to note that daily we make the Bracha of She’lo Asani Aved--that You did not make me a servant.  Just as every day we should not take for granted that we have clothing, that we can stand up straight (if we can), that there is land and not water beneath our feet, we must also thank Hashem DAILY that we are not servants or slaves--in Egypt or elsewhere.  Perhaps before each and every Bracha of Birchas HaShachar (or, indeed, each and every bracha!), one should think for a moment: “I have Hakaras HaTov--and I am not going to take this for granted.” 



Special Note Two:  Follow with us, as we continue our series on Shemiras HaLashon in Shidduchim, provided to us by Rabbi Dovid Weinberger, Shlita, Rav, Congregation Shaaray Tefilah, Lawrence, and the Mechaber of many renowned Seforim. 


Shemiras HaLashon in Shidduchim

Lesson #5


Specific Details-Inquiry Regarding a Shidduch


A person may ask numerous people until he feels comfortable that he has inquired sufficiently.  One may also ask any question that he feels a need to.  Although, unfortunately many questions border on the absurd, nonetheless, a person has the right to ask whatever it is that he feels he needs to know about a family or prospective boy or girl. 


We must be cautious however and realize that certain terminologies that are used by the inquirer might mean different things to the respondent.  This is especially true when we are dealing with different countries, cultures and backgrounds, i.e., litvish, chassidish, sefardi.  For example, the response given to an inquirer who is from a more modern background has a very different connotation than when given to a person an inquirer of a “yeshiva” or “chassidic” background.  Furthermore, the question such as “Is he  a Masmid?”, “Is he a Ba’al Chesed?”, or “Is he a Ba’al Kishron?”, are questions that to one individual might mean that the prospective shidduch learns Bain Hasedarim; while to someone else it may mean that he is Makpid only on the time during the Seder that he is learning.  Unfortunately, all too often when the responder does not fully understand or is not on the same wavelength as the inquirer, the answer can mean the end of a potential Shidduch.


The solution really is that people be very careful about what they are asking and not use generic terms, and rather be very specific about what they want to know.  Instead of just asking:  “Is he a Masmid?”, ask if he learns, during Sedarim, Bain Hasedarim, after night Seder.  In regard to a Ba’al Chesed one should ask very pointedly for examples of situations with his friend where he sees Chesed demonstrated etc.


In another scenario, many parents have a very strong belief that their son is a tremendous Ba’al Kishron and therefore deserves an extremely bright girl to match up to his intelligence.  You ,the responder, are aware that their son is but average, i.e., you are his Rebbi or past Rebbi, may say that the girl is of equal caliber, although she is just average.  The reason for this, says the Chofetz Chaim, is that the parents are fooling themselves into thinking that their son is more advanced or intellectually on a higher level than he is, unfortunately quite possibly ruining their child’s zivug--while in reality this young lady’s intelligence is on par with their son’s.


To be continued…



Special Note Three:  The Keurig coffee brewer has become a popular item in many American homes of late.  We were referred by a Rav to Rabbi Doniel Neustadt, Shlita, for his P’sak as to whether a “Keurig” requires tevilah, as Rabbi Neustadt has thoroughly researched its makeup.  Rabbi Neustadt responded that it is a sofek as to whether the Keurig requires tevilah, and that, accordingly, one should sell the Keurig to a non-Jew (in which case it would not require tevilah), and then borrow it back from him indefinitely.  In response to our inquiries, Rabbi Neustadt responded that one can purchase the Keurig lechatchila knowing that he will sell it to a non-Jew.  One can sell it for $1.00, and having the non-Jew make a Kinyan through meshicha or hagbaha would be preferable in addition to his giving you the monetary payment.  Even if the unit was already used before selling it to a non-Jew, one can still use this Eitzah and sell it to the non-Jew in the manner described.  One should, of course, consult with his Rav or Posek in all Halachic matters.



Special Note Four:  In the English Sefer Shulchan HaLevi; Halachic Responsa of HaRav Yisroel Belsky, HaRav Belsky, Shlita, writes the following regarding alternative medicines:  “The author [Rav Belsky] has encountered and researched several types of alternative medicine.  Some may be harmless enough, but a great many of the alternative healing methods available have nothing to do with any form of medicine, and claim to be methods of harnessing and focusing various healing powers that exist in some supposed ethereal realm.  Whether or not they actually work, these healing techniques frequently fall into the category of casting spells (menachesh, kosem kesamim), or conjuring up spirits (ov v’yidoni).  Others are actual forms of idolatry (avodah zarah).  These are methods of healing which purport to channel or focus some type of ‘universal energy’, and are accomplished by performing some act that placates or persuades that force to work upon the infirm person.  In other words, the practitioner is relating to the force as an independent power, and requesting its help.  That is avodah zarah.  Sadly, these techniques and the people who practice them have found their way into the observant Jewish community.  People in need of a yeshuah hear from a friend or a cousin about the miraculous cures a certain person performs, and thousands of otherwise frum Jews end up involved with these very questionable healers.  Jews must beware of these healing powers; anything that can be categorized as “Eastern” or “Alternative” is suspect.  This includes “new age” healing performed by very religious Jews, even those that are supported by well-meaning but ignorant Rabbonim.  Keep as far away from these people as possible, “Beni Al Teileich B’Derech Itam, Menah Raglecha Minsivasam--my son, do not walk on the way with them, keep your feet away from their paths” (Mishlei 1:15).”



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



Special Note Six:


Reality Check One:  Have you complimented someone today--or will you?


Reality Check Two: We are still very much in Shovavim--let us re-energize ourselves in Teshuva BeChol Yom!



Special Note One:  We continue our series on Brachos, with practical Teshuvos in Hilchos Brachos given by Rabbi Yisroel Pinchos Bodner, Shlita, author of Halachos of Brochos (Feldheim).  Of course, one should consult with his own Rav or Posek on every Shaila that he has.




Q:  I have enjoyed (and learned from) the brochos “situations” you have published for the last few months, and one occurred to me that I’d like to pose to the Rav.  My wife occasionally makes a casserole that has noodles, vegetables and chicken.  Everything is distinct and clearly visible, and I have no real preference for any one (no ikar and tofel).  I take a piece of pasta and make a mezonos on it, then a vegetable and make an hoadoma, and finally a piece of chicken and make a shehakol.  Is this correct, or should I be making one brocha on the whole dish?


A:  Not all foods cooked or mixed together are deemed a single entity, whereby one brocha, and only one brocha is required.  Only when the pieces are small and usually eaten together in a single spoonful do we deem it a single entity subject to the rule of ikar v’tofel.  Casseroles and cholents are like fingerprints--no two are alike.  Thus, if the ingredients in your wife’s casserole are small and are eaten together on one spoonful the brocha would be mezonos, which would cover all the other ingredients (Aruch Hashulchan 212.2, Halachos of Brochos, p. 64).  When mezonos is one of the ingredients in the single entity mixture (i.e., the various items together can be found on one spoonful) it is automatically the ikar.  The Mishna Berurah (168.23) states that after one makes a brocha on the ikar, he should not try to be machmir by making a brocha on the tofel.  Doing so is not only unwarranted, but more critically it is prohibited as it is a brocha she’ana tzricha.


Additional Note on Brachos:  When a zimun is present, we note that the mevareich (i.e., the person leading the zimun) must recite at least the first Bracha out loud word-for-word, and everyone present should recite along with him in a low voice, word for word--and answer Amein at the end of the bracha (the mevareich should wait for them to recite Baruch Atta Hashem… before he does, so that they can answer Amein to his bracha)  The Mishna Berurah states that it is truly preferable for this to continue (the mevareich reciting the bentsching word-for-word aloud, and everyone else reciting together with him in a low voice) throughout the four brachos of bentsching--with the listeners answering Amein at the end of each bracha.  Indeed, if there is more than a Minyan gathered, but those present would not be able to hear the mevareich recite the first bracha word-for-word, then the Mishna Berurah rules that it is better for them to separate into smaller groups of three, instead of bentsching with a Minyan--with the Shem Hashem!  The Mishnah Berura concludes that at a large party the mevareich should be someone with a strong voice so that everyone can hear him (Shulchan Aruch, Orach Chaim 193, Mishna Berurah seif katan 17).  The Dirshu Edition of the Mishna Berurah (ibid.) notes that there is a Machlokes among the contemporary Poskim as to whether one can utilize a ram kol to lead the bentsching.  HaRav Elyashiv, Shlita (quoted in Sefer VeZos HaBracha, p. 129), prohibits it, as it is not the person’s natural voice, while the Shevet HaLevi ( 10:40 ) permits it bedieved.  The Igros Moshe (Orach Chaim 4:91, Os 4), writes that one should be moche those who want to use a ram kol for bentsching.



Special Note Two:  The Sefer Chovos HaLevavos provides the following concise and life-bearing lesson.  The translation below is substantially excerpted from the outstanding Feldheim English translation Duties of the Heart:


For the tongue is the part of the body that is quickest to sin, and its sins are more numerous than [those of] all the rest, because of its swiftness and quick motion, [because of] the facility with which its deed is done, and [because of] its ability to do good or evil without any intermediary…. As the wise one said, “Death and life are in the power of the tongue” (Mishlei 18:21 ).”

Hakhel Note:  Choose life--through your words of Torah, sincere Tefillah, compliments and other words of Chessed!


Given the potent instruction of the Chovos HaLevavos, please follow with us, as we continue our series on Shemiras HaLashon in Shidduchim:


Shemiras HaLashon in Shidduchim

Lesson #4


Some additional rules for the Shidduch Inquirer: 


1. Do not ask about a number of candidates if you are really only interested in one of them, in order to hide the person you are truly looking into.


2. Although you are not permitted to believe the information you hear as being absolutely true, you may act on the basis that it MAY BE true.


3. Never ask a person for information who is known to have had a disagreement either with the party you are asking about or his/her family, or a competitor.



Special Note Three:  Not the Assurance You Would Like to Apply to Yourself.  Chazal (Nedarim 22B) teach:  Kol HaKo’eis, BeYadua SheAvonosav Merubin MiZechuyosav--one who gets angry certainly has more aveiros than merits to his name”, as the Pasuk in Mishlei (29:22) expressly states:  U’Ba’al Cheima Rav Pesha--and a wrathful man abounds in transgression.”  Hakhel Note:  The next time you feel ready to ‘let go’--recall this horrifying teaching! 



Special Note Four:  Concluding Points and Pointers on last week’s Parsha:


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

Hakhel Note:  The Toldos Yaakov Yosef brings the Posuk in Makas Chosech--U’lechol Bnei Yisroel Haya Ohr BeMoshvosam--and to Bnei Yisroel there was light in the places they sat in.  What was this light, he asks.  The light was the realization that it was not good where they were sitting--and they had to take action to leave!


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


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



Special Note One:  We continue our series on Brachos, with practical Teshuvos in Hilchos Brachos given by Rabbi Yisroel Pinchos Bodner, Shlita, author of Halachos of Brochos (Feldheim).  Of course, one should consult with his own Rav or Posek on every Shaila that he has.




Q:  Those who eat cholent outside of a Shabbos meal... where there are large chunks of potatoes and meat. What brocha (or brochos) should the Thursday night/Erev Shabbos cholent partaker make?


A: There are a great number of variations of this food--all generically referred to as cholent.  The appropriate brocha for cholent consisting of small pieces of potato, meat and barley is mezonos--provided that the potato, meat and barley are eaten together on the same spoonful or forkful.  Other cholents do not contain barley and the primary ingredients are beans and/or potatoes and/or kasha (eaten on the same spoonful). This type requires one brocha--borei pri hoadoma, which will cover the meat as well.  Yet other cholents have large pieces of meat and large pieces of potato which are not eaten on the same spoon with the other ingredients. This type of cholent requires separate brochos, borei pri hoadoma for the potato and shehakol for the meat, and if there is barley and it is eaten separately or mixed with beans, that would require borei minei mezonos. Finally, some cholents contain kishka. Generally the kishka does not become mixed with the other ingredients, but is eaten separately (not on a single spoonful).  The borei minei mezonos required for the kishka will not exempt the cholent from its appropriate brocha(s) if other than borei minei mezonos. Some cholents contain large portions of meat. Such pieces, not being part of the single entity, require a shehakol. (See Halachos of Brochos, page 80).


Additional Note on Brachos:  Bracha Acharona Alert:  We note that some snack bags (mini-cookies, mini-pretzels popcorn, potato chips) contain only small amounts of a food item, which amount may be insufficient for the amount needed to recite a Bracha Achrona (k'zayis) on that item.  Especially when one sees that the contents are listed as less than one ounce, he (on his own behalf, and on behalf of his children) should do further investigation to determine whether there is enough food inside to require a Bracha Achrona--or eat the snack and some other item--so that the minimum Shiur has been consumed.  A good place to begin one's search is another Sefer written by Rabbi Bodner, Shlita--The Halachos of K’zayis!



Special Note Two:  At the outset of Chumash Devarim, the Torah tells us that on the first day of 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 Three:  Follow with us, as we continue our series on Shemiras HaLashon in Shidduchim, provided to us by Rabbi Dovid Weinberger, Shlita, Rav, Congregation Shaaray Tefilah, Lawrence, and the Mechaber of many renowned Seforim. 


Shemiras HaLashon in Shidduchim

Lesson #3

General Guidelines- Inquiry Regarding a Shidduch


            We are all Dayanim when being asked regarding a Shidduch. We must understand the seriousness of our response realizing that we are dealing with people’s lives. As long as we are following Halacha, it is not our obligation to worry about the outcome, because we are doing what we are mandated to do according to the Torah.


            My advice when being asked about a particular party is not to just offer information, but rather to tell them to ask you specific questions and that you will try to respond as best as possible.  The reason for this is quite clear; when we are reflecting on someone’s life--their present and their past--we could very easily say something that Halachically should not be said and can become an actual detriment to the shidduch.  As such, tell the person to ask you pointed questions and you will do your best to answer correctly and with integrity.  In offering responses, you must bear in mind the prohibitions of Lifnei Iveir Lo Sitein Michshol–not placing a stumbling block in front of the blind, which in this case refers to the one seeking the information.  Additionally, we must also be cognizant of the Torah prohibition of Lo Sa'amod Al Dam Rei’echa–not to stand by while your brother’s blood is being spilled, which sometimes might necessitate a response that will negate the Shidduch in order to save a person from a horrific or very difficult marriage.


            If you who are being asked do not really know specifics, it is best to say that you really don’t know than to respond with bits of pieces of information that ultimately could be more hurtful and can give off negative impressions when in reality you just don’t know either way.  Just because you’re asked, there is no obligation to respond--especially when you really do not know the person well.


            Even where you do know but you do not want to get involved, you may tell the inquirer to ask someone else who might know them better. The Steipeler Rav, Z’tl, used to tell people when they didn’t want to respond to particular inquiries about a certain family, that they may say in a friendly manner:  "I am sorry, I am not the Lishkas Modi’in - the information booth!"


Specific details to follow in next segment.





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


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


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


C.  The Mishne Berurah brings that there is a special fulfillment of Torah study on Shabbos if one is able to formulate his own Torah chiddush--whether on the Parsha, in what he is learning--or based upon or rooted in the Rav's Drasha or the D'var Torah of another.  If one particularly concentrates on a question he has on a Pasuk or Parsha on Shabbos--and tries to apply that which he already knows to the problem--he may find that he really does know the answer--just as the cholent on Shabbos tastes differently than during the week (even if the brachos mentioned above are the same!)so too does one's Shabbos study taste differently than during the week.  After all, the gashmius of this world serves as a role model for our ruchniyus!  May we suggest that after Shabbos one write down his precious Shabbos novellae or Torah thoughts, and may we additionally suggest that if one has a difficulty and cannot think of an answer on his own to a question that disturbs him--he may want to look in one of the following Seforim, among others, for an answer: the Peirush HaTur HaAruch, the Ohr HaChaim HaKadosh, and the multi-volume Sefer Sha'arei Aharon on Chumash.  May the Chiddushim come!


Special Note Five:  We provide the following points and pointers on this week’s Parsha:


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


B.  In a significant and related thought, HaRav Levenstein points to the sad paradox of 80% of the Bnei Yisroel not leaving Egypt on the one hand, and the Eirev Rav --a mixed multitude of non-Jews leaving with Bnei Yisroel, on the other (Shemos 12:38).  To explain, he once again points to the person’s Lev.  What was required for Geulas Mitzrayim was a Teshukah and Ratzon to do the will of Hashem--to walk into the wilderness.  At the time of Yetzias Mitzrayim, one could have been a great Torah scholar--but if he did not want to do Hashem's bidding and leave Egypt , he would die there.  Not even zechus Avos would help him--and he would not merit Matan Torah at Har Sinai and everything else that followed.  The Eirev Rav, however, had the passion, the hisamtzus, the feeling to leave--and to see what Hashem would do for Bnei Yisroel.  They left their homes, their property and perhaps much of their family behind.  As a result, they joined with the Bnei Yisroel and experienced the miracle of Geulah.  In this world, with sincerity and dedication one can achieve great heights.  The G'ra explains on the Pasuk, Mai’ashpos Yarim Evyon that one who has true aspirations (the shoresh of Evyon is Ta’ev--to aspire)--he will be lifted up from the depths to the heights--to heights he never realized attainable!


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



D.  The famed words of the Ramban at the end of Parshas Bo (Shemos 13:16 ) provide 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 Tefillah 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.


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 Gai'us 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 Gai'us 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!



ALSO AVAILABLE!  Yesterday, we provided a Tefillah of the Chofetz Chaim to be recited daily, asking for Hashem’s help in the Nisyonos of Shemiras HaLashon.  We provide today by clicking here for those who do not have it, the more common, shorter version of the Tefillah with the same theme, as provided by the Chofetz Chaim Heritage Foundation--together with an appropriate nusach for one who is observing a one hour Machsom Lefi from 9:00AM to 10:00AM. 



IMPORTANT RESOURCE:  Rabbi Ari Marburger, Shlita, renowned expert in Choshen Mishpat and author of Business Halachah: A Practical Halachic Guide to Modern Business (Artscroll) has graciously provided us with a booklet entitled, Estate Planning, Wills, and Halachah: A Practical Guide to Hilchos Yerusha, which is available as a free download by clicking here.




Special Note One:  We continue our series on Brachos, with practical Teshuvos in Hilchos Brachos given by Rabbi Yisroel Pinchos Bodner, Shlita, author of Halachos of Brochos (Feldheim).  Of course, one should consult with his own Rav or Posek on every Shaila that he has.




Q:  I usually take my pills in the morning with a glass of orange juice.  I have heard that one should not make a brocha on something one drinks in order to take pills.  Please advise.


A:  You heard correctly with regard to water. A brocha is not required for water taken to swallow pills. However, this is not the case for orange juice, or any other pleasant tasting beverage besides water.  If you drink orange juice with your pills you must make a Brocha Rishona and a Brocha Achrona. (Mishna Berura 204.42, Halachos of Brochos page 201).


Additional Note on Brachos:  Dovid HaMelech exclaims in Tehillim Kein Avarechecha BeChayaiso shall I bless you all my life (Tehillim 63:5).  Before making a Bracha from time-to-time, perhaps we can take a breath in and out--and recognize that the opportunity to bless Hashem is an opportunity of life--and that life itself is a blessing!  



Special Note Two:  Follow with us, as we continue our series on Shemiras HaLashon in Shidduchim, provided to us by Rabbi Dovid Weinberger, Shlita, Rav, Congregation Shaaray Tefilah, Lawrence, and the Mechaber of many renowned Seforim. 


Shemiras HaLashon in Shidduchim

Lesson #2


May the Shadchan or anyone else deviate from the actual age of a prospective Shidduch candidate?


1.  In regard to this question, there are differences of opinion amongst the Poskim.  Clearly, without a Halachic directive, one may not just assume that he could lie about the age of a prospective Shidduch.


2.  HaRav Yosef Sholom Eliyashiv, Shlita permits a slight deviation of approximately one year.  On the other hand, HaRav Shlomo Zalmen Auerbach, Z’tl did not permit any deviation whatsoever.  HaRav Binyomin Zilber, Z’tl ruled that this issue is dependant upon what the norm for people to be makpid on was.  It is hard to be able to put this ruling into effect as different countries have different norms and there are different concerns at different ages. Thus, a Shaila should be asked of a competent Morah Hora’ah prior to making a decision on applying this rule.


3.  Numerous talmidim of HaRav Aharon Kotler, Z’tl have stated that Rav Aharon allowed a 30 year old to say that he was 28.


4.  Clearly, if a woman is above 40, it would be prohibited to say that she was younger, due to the possibility that she may no longer be of child bearing age.


5.  Notwithstanding any of the above, if a person tells you that he is unequivocally makpid on age, he has the right to know the truth, and you may not deviate one iota.


6. If it is known that the girl is older than the boy by a number of years, and one was not asked about it, there is no obligation to relay this information.


Sources:  Sefer Titein Emes LeYaakov, Siman 38; Sefer Chelkas Yaakov 1:177; Sefer Doveir Mayshorim  13; and Sefer Chavetzeles HaSharon 63.



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



Special Note Four:  We provide below only some excerpts from the inspiring Shiur on the Shir HaMa’alos Series in Tehillim (Chapters 120-134) given by Rabbi Yisroel Reisman, Shlita, at the recent Hakhel Yarchei Kallah.


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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



Special Note One:  Today, we begin the first day in the new cycle of the Sefer Chofetz Chaim and in its related English language Seforim.  Boruch Hashem, many of us have been zoche to go through some or all of these Seforim, perhaps once or even more than once.  How can we re-energize ourselves in this life-giving cycle, which has provided (and will continue to provide) personal Yeshuos for so many--and will hopefully hasten the Geulah Sheleima in our day?  We provide the following rejuvenation suggestions for the coming Shemiras HaLashon cycle HaBa’ah Aleinu LeTova:


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


B.  Change the Sefer that you learned the last cycle, as there are so many wonderful Seforim to choose from.


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


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


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


F.  Pass on the following information to as many people as you can, and keep it on hand to continuously pass on:  To order Shemiras Halashon tapes, books, learning programs and the Chofetz Chaim Heritage Foundation’s free catalog call  at 866-593-8399.  For free Shiurim in the Sefer Chofetz Chaim call the Chazal Hotline at 718-258-2008 (press 5).  For the Shemiras HaLashon Shailah Hotline (expert Poskim in Shemiras HaLashon to anonymously  answer your real-life Shailah before saying the right or wrong thing), please call 718-951-3696, between the hours of 9:00PM until 10:30PM (EST).


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


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


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


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


L.  Follow with us, as we begin a new and original series on Shemiras HaLashon in Shidduchim, provided to us by Rabbi Dovid Weinberger, Shlita, Rav, Congregation Shaaray Tefilah, Lawrence, and the Mechaber of many renowned Seforim. 


Shemiras HaLashon in Shidduchim

Lesson #1


A Word of Caution

Although I will attempt to delineate many of the halachos that pertain to Shemiras HaLashon in the realm of Shidduchim with appropriate sources, nonetheless, due to the complexities involved and minutia that change the Halacha drastically; Shailos must be asked from appropriate poskim.


Appropriate Conduct in Seeking Information about a Prospective Shidduch.


The Halacha is very clear that a person may request information from as many people as he would like in order to obtain accuracy and comfort regarding the prospective individual that he is inquiring about.  Although certain inquiries perhaps would seem to be absurd in certain people’s eyes, nonetheless, if this information is vital to the inquirer, one may inquire about it.  Additionally it is prudent to not be reliant on hearsay, and to make proper inquiries in order to avoid problematic situations later, including separation and divorce.


In spite of the Halachic permission one has to inquire, one must initiate the inquiry by stating that he is seeking information for a Shidduch.  It is generally not allowed to accept any derogatory information as fact, but only to be concerned about it as a possibility of truth insofar as its relevance for the Shidduch.


Although there are those individuals who when told that it is for a Shidduch might not be honest with their information and the inquirer would prefer not to mention that fact so that they will get accurate and true information, nonetheless, it is forbidden to do this and one must expressly mention at the outset that this information is relevant to a prospective Shidduch.


If a person is able to get the information without using an intermediary that would be preferable in order not to involve additional people in hearing the information.  In the event, however, that he believes that he will not get correct information and the Shaliach will, e.g. his Rav, his uncle, etc. then he may ask a third party to obtain the information on his behalf.


(Chofetz Chaim, K’lal Daled, Seif Yud Aleph, Be’eir Mayim Chaim Daled)



Special Note Two:  Today also begins the new cycle of the Sefer Praying with Fire II, which is an absolutely outstanding Sefer--providing 118 potent daily lessons in Emunah and on the advanced (but not esoteric) study of Tefillah.  We provide below the moving words of the Sefer Chovos HaLevavos on the sheer importance of appropriate focus on proper Tefillah.  The translation below is substantially excerpted from the outstanding Feldheim English translation Duties of the Heart:



“Look into the meaning of the words of your Tefillos, and the intention of their contents, so that when you recite them before Hashem you will understand the words you are uttering and what it is that your heart is asking for.  Do not [continue to] act in a haphazard fashion, without understanding the meaning [of what you are saying].  Contemplate them...and do not rely on what you understood at the beginning ... but demand of yourself that you approach the subject as though you were just beginning to study it.  What you understand, remember and review.  If you are in doubt about something, consult those wiser than you and examine it in a way that you never did before.  Let not conceit lead you to think that you are no more intelligent now than you always were, or that it is impossible that you would ever change previously held views or come to judge them as erroneous.  For such [thoughts] are part of the evil inclination’s attempt to deceive you, to keep you from exploring and searching for the truth of things.  It will instill in you the delusion that you are supremely wise and that you lack nothing of what you need [to know].  As the Wise One said: “In his own eyes, a lazy man is wiser than seven who answer with sound advice” (Mishlei 26:16)  “If you see a man who is wise in his own eyes, [know that] there is more hope for a fool than for him” (ibid. 26:12).”  Hakhel Note:  If one studies, he not only gains knowledge--but demonstrates that he wants to gain knowledge--and soundly defeats his Yetzer Hora, who attempts to make him lowly, in the process! 



Special Note Three:  We continue our series on Brachos, with practical Teshuvos in Hilchos Brachos given by Rabbi Yisroel Pinchos Bodner, Shlita, author of Halachos of Brochos (Feldheim).  Of course, one should consult with his own Rav or Posek on every Shaila that he has.




Q: I enjoyed the sobering question and answer in a recent Hakhel Bulletin regarding not saying a brocha while engaged in an activity. Sad to say, that a few minutes after reading that I ran out to daven Mincha and caught myself saying Asher Yotzar as I ran to the car, started the engine, and started driving to a minyan.  How can I correct this?


A: We have already taken the first step up the ladder of perfection, by realizing that we have a problem.  The next step is to stop and think a few seconds about the pirush hamilos, before reciting the brocha . The brocha of Asher Yotzar is an acknowledgement to Hashem of the total workings of the human body.  As science discovers tools to probe deeper into our anatomy, amazing facts are uncovered - displaying an awesome intricacy and precision that continuously boggles the mind. Chazal tell us that the frequent act of making a brocha, when done correctly, is a foolproof means for instilling in oneself yiras shomayim (and reality). (See Halachos of Brochos page 5).


Additional Note on Brachos:  There are two brachos in Shemone Esrei which have the word Bracha itself (or a variation thereof) contained within the text of the bracha--and not only in the words Baruch Atta Hashem.  These two brachos are Bareich Aleinu and Sim Shalom/Shalom Rav.  Since the term Bracha is so enriching, may we suggest that one especially focus on his request for Bracha within these brachos for a Year of Prosperity and for Peace! 



Special Note One:  We continue our series on Brachos, with practical Teshuvos in Hilchos Brachos given by Rabbi Yisroel Pinchos Bodner, Shlita, author of Halachos of Brochos (Feldheim).  Of course, one should consult with his own Rav or Posek on every Shaila that he has.



Q:  May I ask what brocha to make on sugar-coated almonds?  The sugar coating on sugar-coated almonds can be quite hard, and you may have to suck the sugar before getting to the almond.


A:  Since the almond is the ikar and the sugar coating is tofel the correct brocha should be borei pri hoetz which would cover the sugar (tofel) as well.  If you bite into the candy and eat some of the almond and some of the sugar coating in your first bite, there is no question that you make only one brocha-- borei pri hoetz.  However, if the coating is sucked first without tasting the almond, it is not so simple.  According to Rav S.Z. Auerbach, Z’tl, you first make a shehakol on the sugar coating.  As soon as you are ready to bite the almond you make a borei pri hoetz. (Halachos of Brochos page 418).  In the opinion of Rav Wosner, Shlita, you should make a borei pri hoetz (and no shehakol) even if you only taste the sugar first. (Shevet Halevi, Vol. 7 Teshuva 27).


Additional Note on Brachos:  Ezra HaSofer exclaims:  Boshti V’Nichlamti LeHarim Elokai Panai Eleicha …I am embarrassed and ashamed to lift my fact to You, Hashem.”  (Ezra 9:6)  It is said in the name of HaRav Chaim Volozhiner, Z’tl, that he remarked:  If Ezra HaSofer was embarrassed and ashamed before Hashem…how much more so must I be!  Let us consider the concept in another way.  We--each and every one of us--are actually making the same brachos that Ezra HaSofer--and HaRav Chaim Volozhiner did.  What an incredible honor, what an unmatchable privilege!  Although, we may be unable to reach their sublime levels in making a bracha--we can at least attach ourselves to them with the careful recital of the same words over the same kind of item that they made--hundreds or thousands of years ago.  With the additional aforethought and concentration, we can avoid unnecessary shame and embarrassment--and to the extreme contrary--attach ourselves all the more closely to them! 



Special Note Two:  It is important to note that although the first nine Makkos were plagues that hit home in a very earth-related way, the Makka of Makkos Bechoros clearly came directly from Heaven--with no hand or mateh bringing it about, as the neshamos of the Bechorim left them.  Some commentaries point out that we learn from here that ultimately nothing is in the hands of a human being or his ‘stick’--but instead, in the end it is all up to Hashem.  Moreover, as the Egyptian Bechorim were being killed, all the Bechorim of Bnei Yisroel were being saved (even if it would otherwise have been their time to pass away).  When we begin looking for human, logical, psychological, sociological, physiological, etc. causes for circumstances, situations and events in the world and in our homes--let us think of Aharon’s outstretched hand and of the wonderful mateh--and the fact that it finally became absolutely clear to all that it was none other than HaKadosh Baruch Hu who took us out of Mitzrayim!



Special Note Three:  One must be especially circumspect when it comes to rationalizations and rationales in the areas of making money and earning a living.  The following was contributed by an attorney:  “You brought the Chovos HaLevavos on understanding the Ruchniyus in our money.  I want to tell you how far one must go to fight the Yetzer Hara in monetary matters.  This is a true story that recently happened.  My client wanted to purchase a mortgage that was in foreclosure by a private lender.  Both the private lender and the borrower were frum.  I asked to see a copy of the Heter Iska on the loan (not only was there interest, but it was at a very high rate).  The lender could not find the Heter Iska after several days of searching, but advised me that he has a non-Jewish attorney “who knows that a Heter Iska must be executed on all of my transactions.  So, you can assume that my attorney [non-Jewish] prepared it, even though we can’t find it.”  “As a matter of fact”, he continued, “I checked with a Rabbi who is a specialist in Hilchos Ribbis--and he told me that you could rely on the fact that we had prepared one based upon my attorney’s past practice.”  I, as an attorney, was not offended by these words, but just taken aback at how far one could convince himself, and hear what he wanted to hear from a Rabbi after asking him a question.  Taking a step back--There was no Heter Iska.  If there was one, it was prepared by a non-Jew.  And ‘the Rabbi said’ you could rely on past practice of the attorney in other situations that one was prepared here.  You may think that what the Seller suggested was in the realm of Halachic reason even if it sounds outlandish. I checked with a Posek who wrote a famous Sefer on Hilchos Ribbis--and he told me that he could not understand how a non-Jewish attorney would know the details of the Halachos that go into preparing one.  He concluded that he would definitely not advise me to allow my client to purchase such a loan.  It is interesting to me that one of the rules of the lawyer’s code of professional responsibility here in New York is that a lawyer must avoid even the appearance of impropriety.  I believe that this would be a good standard for anyone in doubt to follow--especially in monetary matters.”



Special Note Four:  How significant is it for one to support Torah study?  The Chofetz Chaim at the end of his introduction to Sefer Toras Kohanim writes that one who supports those who study, merits the Zechus of “Sifsosav Dovevos BeKever…his lips move in his burial place.”  What does this mean?  Chazal teach that when one’s Torah that he originated in this world is repeated after he has departed, his lips “move” even after he is deceased, which is of course an extraordinary gift from HaKadosh Baruch Hu.  The Chofetz Chaim enlightens us with the fact that not only is this true of the originator--but also of the one who supported the Torah that was being studied!  It is as if the Torah taught by the Yissochor is the Torah that is taught by the Zevulun!



Special Note Five:  We provide the following synopsis of a special story from For Goodness’ Sake:  Inspirational Stories of Chesed by Rabbi Boruch Brull, Shlita (Feldheim):  We note that this highly recommended work is especially unique in that it contains approximately 70 short stories of inspirational Chesed in only approximately 200 pages. 


“R’ Moshe Cohen was sitting in a small Shul in Har Nof one Friday night, waiting for Kabbalas Shabbos to begin.  As he looked up from his Siddur, he noticed an elderly man walking around the Shul, offering each person a pinch of snuff from his little box.  R’ Moshe watched as most people politely refused.  Only rarely did anyone take a pinch from the elderly man’s snuff box.  R’ Moshe could tell that it gave the elderly man great pleasure when someone accepted the offer.  R’ Moshe watched carefully to see what Rav Yaakov Friedman, Rosh Yeshiva of Yeshivas Shaarei Meir in Har Nof, would do when the man approached him.  Sure enough, Rav Yaakov nodded to the man, nudging his son to do the same.  After receiving their ‘portion’ R’ Yaakov motioned to his son to put the snuff he had received in a tissue, and told him that he certainly did not want him to have to smell it.  “I realize how much pleasure this man has every time someone takes snuff from his box.  I knew it was not for us, but it is more important that this man feel good by sharing with us something that he considers precious.”  R’ Moshe Cohen, who observed it all understood something new that Friday night.  He learned that considering another person’s feelings sometimes means taking things that you don’t even need or want.  He also learned that sometimes--if you really care about how someone else feels--you put your feelings in second place!”



MORE ON MOUTHWASH:  A reader demonstrated to us that the position of Kof-K on mouthwashes is based upon of HaRav Belsky, Shlita, as published in the OU’s Daf HaKashrus in his name.  One should consult with his Rav or Posek regarding the use of non-Kosher certified mouthwashes such as Listerine (which has various flavors as well). 


Special Note One:  We continue our series on Brachos, with practical Teshuvos in Hilchos Brachos given by Rabbi Yisroel Pinchos Bodner, Shlita, author of Halachos of Brochos (Feldheim).  Of course, one should consult with his own Rav or Posek on every Shaila that he has.




Q:  When I drink a l’chaim for a Yahrzeit in shul after davening I often drink a small ‘schnapps cup’ of schnapps and two or three crackers.  In a recent Hakhel bulletin the Rav wrote that if one eats a total of one k’zayis of food, containing half a k’zayis of mezonos and half a k’zayis of something that requires a borei nefoshos (all together there is a k’zayis of food that was eaten) you would make a borei nefoshos.  May I assume that the same applies to my situation--and I can make a borei nefashos?


A:  No.  We can take the sum of two types of solid foods each requiring a different brocha achrona and if the total amount eaten is a k’zayis a borei nefoshos is required.  Even if one eats a half k’zayis bread and half k’zayis apple the two halves total one full k’zayis requiring a borei nefoshos.  However, solid foods and liquid drinks do not combine to their respective shiur.  Thus, the schnapps cannot supplement the amount missing for the shiur of crackers, and the crackers cannot supplement the amount missing for the shiur of drink (Mishna Berura 210.1)--but there is another important point to be addressed that may be implied from your question.  May I guess that you really are not a schnapps drinker, and you need the two crackers to offset the undesirable harsh taste of the schnapps that you only took in order to say “l’chaim” to the ba’al Yahrzeit.  If that is indeed the case then there would be no brocha for the crackers, because they are tofel to the schnapps. (Mishna Berura 212.5, Halachos of Brochos page 57).


Additional Note on Brachos:  In his Tzava’ah, his Ethical Will, to his son, Rebbe Eliezer HaGadol (the Great Rebbe Eliezer Ben Horkonus--the Rebbe of Rebbe Akiva), exhorts his son to properly make the brocha upon his clothing every day--for how can one derive benefit from his clothing every day without having thanked Hashem properly for it?!



Special Note Two:  As we continue through the Shovavim period, we provide the following two points and pointers:


1.  Rabbi Mordechai Becher, Shlita, in his masterful Shiur given at last week’s Hakhel Yarchei Kallah brought from the Sefer Maggid Meisharim (which contains the instructions of the Malach who learned with the Bais Yosef to the Bais Yosef), that the Malach told the Bais Yosef that he should certainly reduce the amount of what he was consuming in light of the Shovavim period.  Of course, one should consult with his Rav or Posek as to what actions he may or should take in recognition of this special time of Teshuvah.  One simple thought to quench desire, which is so important during this period, may be to, once-a-day, put the food that you are about to partake of in front of you--but wait to consume it for five minutes. 


2.  In response to reader questions as to whether a Kabbalas Ta’anis is needed for a Ta’anis Dibbur, HaRav Dovid Feinstein, Shlita rules that no Kabbalas Ta’anis for a Ta’anis Dibbur is required, as only a regular Ta’anis over food has a Kabbalas Ta’anis al pi din.



Special Note Three:  We provide below the moving words of the Sefer Chovos HaLevavos in the Sha’ar Chesbon HaNefesh--the Gate of Self Accounting, relating to the concept of contemplating how one uses his money.  The translation below is substantially excerpted from the outstanding Feldheim English translation Duties of the Heart.  For those who do not have it, we once again express our sincere belief that it is a must for every home:


“If one has money, he should make an accounting with himself as to how he acquired it, how he spends it, and whether he draws on it to meet his obligations to the Creator and his responsibilities to other people, as incumbent upon him.  He should not regard it as reserved for himself alone but should recognize that it is in his possession as a trust: it will remain with him as long as the Creator wishes; then, at the time that He desires, He will consign it to another.  When a person who has money takes this to heart, he will not live in fear of losing his fortune.  If the money remains with him, he will be grateful to the Creator and praise Him.  If he loses it, he will bear His judgment patiently and accept His decree.  It will be easy for him to make use of it and spend it in the service of Hashem, may He be exalted; to do good with it; and to return what is not his or what was gained dishonestly.  He will envy no man his money nor treat a poor man with disdain on account of his poverty.  [His wealth] will be one of the strongest factors in [his] attaining good qualities and avoiding negative ones.  As it says, “Kabed Es Hashem MeiHonecha…Honor Hashem with your wealth and with the first fruits of all your produce” (Mishlei 3:9); “Malvah Hashem Chonein Dal…He who is kind to the poor [in effect] lends to Hashem, and He will pay him his just reward”(ibid. 19:17). 21.



Special Note Four:  In last week’s Parsha, we are honored with the four Leshonos of Geulah--V’Hotzeisi, V’Hitzalti, V’Ga’alti, V’Lakachti.  In order to be saved--for Hitzalti--the Torah teaches V’Hotzeisi Eschem Mitachas Sivlos Mitzrayim--and I will take you out of the burdens of Mitzrayim.  The Gerrer Rebbe explains that in order to be saved from Golus, one must truly view it as a burden--one must really want to leave and get out.  If it is not a burden, if it is comfortable, and if one is pleased--then, quite simply and logically, there is nothing to be saved from.  The 80% who were killed in Makkas Chosech did not want to leave--and accordingly they did not.  The Gashmiyus comforts that we currently have around the world--and even the Ruchniyus comforts that we enjoy--should not prevent or in any manner inhibit our daily pleadings to HaKadosh Baruch Hu to get us out.  How can we not think of the Yeshua that the Geulah will bring to the Shechina and to Klal Yisroel when we recite the words Ki LiShuasecha Kivinu Kol HaYom three times daily in Shemone Esrei?  How can we not stretch out our hand as a beggar when we recite the words “Yehi Ratzon…SheYibaneh Bais HaMikdash BiMeheirah V’Yameinu V’Sein Chelkeinu BeSorasecha”?  How can we not recite the Ani Ma’amins for Bi’as Moshiach and Techiyas HaMeisim without feeling at least a touch of the burden of 2,000 years of Golus on our shoulders?  Hashem will certainly save us--let us show Him how important it is to us, and how desperately we want to be saved!



Hakhel Note:  We have the opportunity at this point to add two important comments to our note yesterday on Mesiras Nefesh:


A.  Mesiras Nefesh does not only have an effect on the body and soul of the person acting with relentless dedication.  In the documentary on Rav Tiefenbrunner (Monsieur), we learn that his dedicated actions actually saved the lives of hundreds of people--and that as a result, many of them remained religious, and are now grandparents and great-grandparents of generations themselves, and this point is clearly made and reiterated by the ‘survivors’ on the video. 


B.  Each act of Mesiras Nefesh is an act in and of itself, and is not simply part of an aggregate or lump-sum.  Rav Zilber, Z’tl, writes that he did not have a long term plan for the weekly Shabbos challenge, as he understood that from one week to the next that Moshiach could come, he could be expelled from the university or his job, or he could simply be executed.  Moreover, the actual nisayon was different depending upon the communist period that he was in.  In all events, however, each and every act of his resistance to Chillul Shabbos was knowingly and willingly in the face of his ‘sudden disappearance’ or actual execution--if but only one of his fellow communist students, professors, employers or neighbors understood what he was doing on ‘Saturday’ or on any of the Yomim Tovim.  A person should find strength in each and every act of his/her Mesiras Nefesh--for each and every act stands proudly on its own in its time and in its circumstances!




Special Note One:  We continue our series on Brachos, with practical Teshuvos in Hilchos Brachos given by Rabbi Yisroel Pinchos Bodner, Shlita, author of Halachos of Brochos (Feldheim).  Of course, one should consult with his own Rav or Posek on every Shaila that he has.




Q:  I often quickly take something for breakfast while standing and eating with one foot almost out the door.  Am I permitted to make a brocha while standing?


A: Yes, you can make a brocha rishona for food while standing, or while sitting. Bentsching is different, as you are required to sit for bentsching and may not recite it while standing. On the other hand, Birkas HaMitzvos should be made while standing and not while sitting (according to many Poskim). (See Halachos of Brochos, p. 37).


Additional Note on Brachos:  Rabbi Moshe Meir Weiss, Shlita, in Power Bentching notes that in bentsching we recite VeAl HaKol Hashem Elokeinu Anachnu Modim Lach--we thank Hashem for everything, and explains as follows:  “This includes all the peripherals we use such as cutlery, salt shakers, pots, ovens, barbecue grills, refrigerators, microwaves, sinks, and dish washers.  These too are part of the various gifts from Heaven that allow us to enjoy our food!”  Additional Note:  Rabbi Weiss also points out that the Gematria of Modim is 100--alluding to the 100 Brachos that give us an opportunity to be aware of--and thank--Hashem every day! 



Special Note Two:  The following is the position of the Kof-K on mouthwashes, as excerpted from its publication FAQ’s in Kashrus:


“There are many popular mouthwashes which contain large amounts of glycerin which are certainly not batul in the product.  These mouthwashes are swished around the mouth several times and then ejected. The company makes no pretense that the glycerin which is used is Kosher.  The first Taz in Hilchos Ta’aruvos in Siman 98, as well as all Poskim, prohibit issur to be swished around in one’s mouth.  Nevertheless, people who are usually very careful with matters of Kashrus are lenient here,without Halachic basis to use these uncertified mouthwashes.


Some users of non-certified mouthwashes maintain that they are permitted because they are not considered a food--that they are ‘nifsal mai’achilah.’  When asked why they do not use a mouthwash which contains no glycerin or flavors or one under a reliable Hechsher, they respond because they have a need to “feel more refreshed”.  This response clearly indicates that the non-certified mouthwash is certainly considered a tasty food product which is definitely not nifsal mai’achilah.’ The fact that ‘everyone’ uses non-certified mouthwashes is not a reason to consume a produce with a high Tarfus probability.” 


For further information on Kof-K standards, as well as a Shiur on FAQ’s in Kashrus, you may contact Rabbi Moishe Dovid Lebovits (Rabbinical Administrator, Kof-K and author of Halachically Speaking) at 1-201-837-0500 ext 127.



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


A.  The following observation regarding one’s Middos on Erev Shabbos and Shabbos is made by the Ben Yehoyadah:  “You should know that any person who raises an issue of disagreement or dispute with his/her spouse, children or any meshareis on Erev Shabbos certainly believes that he is correct and that it is befitting and correct to raise the issue with them because of what they have done.  However, truthfully, one who has a brain in his head should understand that if his spouse, child, or meshareis did indeed do something wrong--it is not them--but a ma’aseh Satan--in order to instigate a dispute or disagreement at that time, and if the Satan has done so--who is the spouse, child or assistant who can push the Satan away when he has already set the trap?  One, instead, should understand when he/she sees something was done improperly--that fault must not placed on his/her spouse, child or meshareis.  Instead one should use the opportunity to be silent, not get angry, and not raise a dispute--and it will be good for him in this world and the next”!


B.  In this week’s Parsha, we learn that Moshe Rabbeinu did not strike the waters of Mitzrayim because of the Hakaras HaTov that Moshe demonstrated towards the water for helping to protect him when he was cast into it as an infant.  We can take the lesson of HaKaras HaTov with us every Friday night as evidenced by the following: 


         When Rabbi Simcha Zissel Ziv came home from Shul Friday night, he would not immediately enter his home, but would pause by the door and gaze at the set table and good food his wife had prepared.  He did this to feel grateful for all that she did for him. (Tnuas HaMussar, Vol. 2, p. 45 as brought in Love Your Neighbor by Rabbi Zelig Pliskin)


C.  The Shemiras Shabbos KeHilchasa (end of Chapter 29) rules that if a pedestrian walking outside on Shabbos is stopped for directions by someone who may be Jewish and is driving a car, the pedestrian is not permitted to say “I don’t know” if he does know, for this is a sheker, and the Pasuk states Dover Shekarim Lo Yikon L’Neged Einai.  Instead, the pedestrian should say “I can’t tell you.  What he really means is that he can’t tell the driver, because he does not want the driver to be Mechalel Shabbos.  The driver will probably surmise on his own that he can’t tell him simply because he does not know.  This is not a lie--because this is the driver’s incorrect inference--and not the pedestrian’s untruth.  An alternative response permitted by some Poskim is that one tell the driver:  “Today is Shabbos and driving is not permitted.  You should not be driving, and I am going to give you the proper directions so that you drive less and not get lost--and thereby violate the Shabbos less.” It would appear from the Shemiras Shabbos KeHilchasa that he prefers the first method.


D.  HaRav Shlomo Zalmen Auerbach, Z’tl, rules that it appears to be assur to return a borrowed Sefer on Shabbos based on Chazal who are concerned that the lender may inadvertently come to ‘cross it off’ his list of lent items upon its return. 


E.  The Halachos of Shtarei Hedyotos are pervasive, and may not necessarily be known to all.  While everyone knows that on the one hand he may not read business materials on Shabbos and Yom Tov, and on the other hand everyone knows that he may study Seforim, there are very many items in the gray area in between.  The questions actually abound:  May one read a Torah newspaper or Torah magazine?  If so--may one read only the Torah portions--or even the news content?  May one open a telephone book to look up an address?  May a doctor read a medical journal in order to stay up to date?  Can women read recipes?  Does it make a difference if one is reading in the restroom?  Can one look through the items on his Shul’s bulletin board?  Although Chazal (Shabbos 149A) seem to prohibit reading captions under pictures--does this apply even in our day?  Can a child read a mystery book?  Can one go through a catalogue on Shabbos for enjoyment, knowing that he will not buy any of the items in it?  It is highly recommended that one study a Sefer relating to these Halachos and/or go to a Shiur of his Rav or Posek--and ask the Shailos that he/she needs to ask that relate to his/her circumstances--so that he/she can properly fulfill Shemiras Shabbos in this regard.  A well known Sefer (Hebrew) dedicated to this topic is the Sefer Ayil Meshulash by HaRav Menachem Aryeh Schlesinger, Shlita.  Remember--if Hashem has blessed us with the ability to read--let us use it in a manner which will not detract from--but rather enhance--our Shemiras Shabbos and Kedushas Shabbos!



Special Note Four:  Some points and pointers on this week’s Parsha:


A.  In this week’s Parsha we learn of seven of the ten Makkos.  We must remember that each Makka was on the one hand a warning and punishment of the Mitzriyim--and on the other hand an extraordinary salvation for K’lal Yisroel.  Thus, each Makka was really a double Nes.  In our own lives, when we recognize a clear event of Hashgacha Pratis or something that really evidences a private Yeshua or even a personal ‘Nes’, we must recognize that it is not a one-dimensional Hashgacha or Yeshua--but rather that very many people may be affected by it in very many ways.  Thus, when one experiences a ‘Nes’, it would perhaps be more accurate for him not to say “I just experienced a Nes”, but rather “We just experienced Nissim!”


B.  We received the following important insight from Rabbi Moshe Goldberger, Shlita:  In this week’s Parsha (Shemos 8:15 ), the Chartumim exclaimed: “Etzba Elokim He--It is a finger of Hashem!”  We should take a lesson from the Chartumim, and understand what even a finger can accomplish.  May we suggest that today you look at one of your fingers and EXCLAIM, “This finger is G-d-made!


C.  There is a stunning insight from the Chofetz Chaim in this week’s Parsha.  The Chofetz Chaim asks why the tefillos of Moshe Rabbeinu to save the Mitzriim from further pain and misery that had been brought on by the Zefardea were immediately listened to by Hashem, and the wicked Egyptians were immediately spared from further suffering--yet when the Mis’onninim--the complainers in the desert--were attacked by fiery snakes (Bamidbar 21:6) and Moshe prayed for them--Hashem did not immediately relieve them.  Instead, Moshe first had to make a pole, place the shape of a fiery serpent shape on top--and the people then had to look at it in order to be healed and live.  This was not the same kind of immediate respite at all.  Why were Moshe Rabbeinu’s tefillos not listened to in the same way as they were in Mitzrayim?  Could anyone be more perverse, more rotten, more deserving then the Mitzriim--and they did not have to suffer for an extra day?!  The Chofetz Chaim explains the difference as follows:  The Mitzriim were being punished for their cruelty and brutality, and the Bnai Yisroel and the world would concomitantly learn a lesson forever of Hashem’s greatness and power.  On the other hand, the Torah testifies that the complainers “Spoke against Hashem and Moshe, ‘Why did you bring us up from Egypt to die in this wilderness…’”(ibid., pasuk 5).  As a result of their lashon hora, not only was their own personal power of Tefillah damaged because their tool of Tefillah--their mouth--was sullied (can you eat a steak dinner with mud in your mouth?) and debased--but even the power of prayers of others on their behalf (indeed--even that of Moshe Rabbeinu who they spoke against) were weakened and undermined, as well.  What a great lesson of the after-effects of those few “irresistible” words--and how they terribly hurt the person saying them--for they stymie not only the Tefillos of the speaker, but those innocent and clean-mouthed ones, as well, who daven on his behalf!  Imagine, on the other hand, a mouth, prompted by the proper halachos studied--saved from those inappropriate words and fallen moments--and visualize prayers being lifted to the heavens with additional force--together with those who daven for them for a shidduch, a simcha, a refuah, parnassah, or any yeshua or need they may have.  Let us realize that our speech about others combines with our daily speech to Hashem, and if played properly and wisely with the assistance of others results in a moving symphony which can stir the heavens!


D.  The following meaningful lesson is excerpted from A Vort From Rav Pam, the masterful work by Rabbi Sholom Smith, Shlita (Artscroll):  “After Egypt was engulfed with swarms of croaking frogs, Pharaoh appealed to Moshe to pray to Hashem that they be removed.  Hashem listened and all the frogs (except those in the river) died, leaving huge piles of foul-smelling reptiles all over the land.  Although the odor was unbearable, Pharaoh saw that there had been a relief and kept making his heart stubborn ( 8:11 ).  The pasuk stresses that once the immediate danger was over, Pharaoh hardened his heart and went back to his old, evil ways of stubbornly refusing to let the Jewish nation leave Egypt .  The Torah underscores Pharaoh’s fickleness, in order to show us all a common fault in human nature:  When a person faces a crisis, an illness, accident, or pending disaster, this awakens in him a need for tefillah, teshuvah, and emotion-filled appeals to Hashem.  But once the crisis ends, or even if the situation merely takes a turn for the better, and he sees the proverbial ‘light at the end of the tunnel,’ the hisorerus (inspiration) often quickly dissipates.  He suddenly doesn’t ‘need’ Hashem as much anymore.  This is exactly what happened to Pharaoh.  As soon as the immediate predicament passed, he hardened his heart and refused to let the Jews leave his country.  There is an essential lesson in this concept.  When a person facing a crisis davens to Hashem, he should continue to pray even when he sees that the yeshuah (salvation) is on the way.  This is clearly seen in Megillas Esther.  When the Jewish people were facing their impending extermination, Esther ordered a three-day fast to appeal to Hashem for mercy.  As the Megillah describes, Haman’s planned request to Achashveirosh for permission to hang Mordechai turned into a disaster.  Instead, he was ordered to parade Mordechai through the streets in a way befitting a man whom the king especially wants to honor ( 6: 11 ).  After this great setback for Haman and personal triumph for Mordechai, Mordechai returned to the king’s gate ( 6:12 ).  Rashi explains that although Haman’s downfall was now beginning, Mordechai nevertheless returned to his sackcloth and fasting, and continued to beseech Hashem for mercy, pleading for the rescue of K’lal Yisroel.  There are many situations in life when a person going through a difficult situation suddenly sees a turn for the better.  That is not a signal to discontinue one’s hisorerus.  A person must pray until the full yeshuah (salvation) comes--and then express his full-hearted gratitude to the One Above!”


WILL IT BE KOSHER SCHWARMA TODAY?  A local restaurant in Flatbush was sold ‘overnight’ and turned from being a Glatt Kosher establishment to a non-Kosher one.  It is reported that a frum person walked by the store on Shabbos and was shocked to see that a “Kosher” restaurant was open on Shabbos, and he thought he even saw the Kashrus certificate still in the window!  The change had obviously been so quick that without intent, an innocent and unsuspecting consumer could have walked in (after Shabbos!) in the same way as he or she had before.  Based upon this real life event, may we suggest that an important indicia of Kashrus at a restaurant at any time is the presence of a religious worker behind the counter when you walk in.  If none are there--you may want to take a double take--at the menu!


YIZKEREIM:  The newest holocaust documentary in the moving Yizkereim: Remember Them documentary series is now available: Rav Yonah Tiefenbrunner (“Monsieur”) and the Orphanage He Established in Belgium During the Holocaust.  This is an incredibly inspiring story of courage, Mesiras Nefesh and Kiddush Hashem.  The introduction and conclusion are presented by Rabbi Moshe Tuvia Lieff, Shlita.  Yizkereim is an initiative jointly sponsored by Torah Umesorah’s Zechor Yemos Olam and the Rabbi Leib Geliebter Memorial Foundation.  Together, they have produced an outstanding series that document facts of the Holocaust not previously highlighted and stories of spiritual survival and resistance.  The audio-visual presentation is available for purchase through Torah Umesorah Publications at $30 a copy (plus shipping).  The phone number for orders is 718-259-1223 or email: publications@torah-umesorah.org.  Special thanks to Torah Umesorah for making this presentation available.  For more on Yizkereim, see www.yizkereim.com.  We urge you to contact them. 


Hakhel Note:  One who views this documentary can better understand what pure Mesiras Nefesh is all about.  At a recent Shiur, HaRav Yisroel Belsky, Shlita, said that he felt the term Mesiras Nefesh was being used a bit too broadly in our day and age.  Instead, he suggested, one should identify for himself what true Mesiras Nefesh would be on his part and follow through on it.  The book “To Remain a Jew”, is the memoirs of Rav Yitzchak Zilber, Z’tl, who was born into a frum family in communist Russia and remained frum throughout his life under ‘impossible’ circumstances--until he immigrated to Eretz Yisroel when he was finally given the opportunity to be a Torah Jew out of hiding.  As one example, Rav Zilber’s acts of Mesiras Nefesh in Shemiras Shabbos knew no bounds.  When he was asked, for instance, to take notes at a meeting of communists students on Friday night, he committed what was transpiring to memory until it got to the point that another student--frustrated with him and not understanding why he wasn’t writing--began to write everything down in his place.  Another time, a communist professor asked him to turn on the light in the classroom on Shabbos afternoon because it was getting dark--and he simply pretended that he did not hear him (more than once) until another student got up and turned on the light.  In whatever our Mesiras Nefesh may be, it must truly be with an unrelenting resolve no matter what the situation, no matter what the circumstance.  What will you choose--Shemiras HaLashon, Kashrus, being Ma’avir Al HaMiddos…we have real recent role models to look up to--even in this late generation!




Special Note One:  We continue our series on Brachos, with practical Teshuvos in Hilchos Brachos given by Rabbi Yisroel Pinchos Bodner, Shlita, author of Halachos of Brochos (Feldheim).  Of course, one should consult with his own Rav or Posek on every Shaila that he has.




Q:  I would like to know the following.  I was on the phone in my office and did not notice that my yarmulke had fallen off.  An associate brought me a coffee and I made a brocha without having my head covered.  My associate told me to put on my yarmulke and make another brocha.  Was that what I was supposed to do?


A:   No. B’dieved if one made a brocha while his head was uncovered, the brocha is nevertheless valid. (Aruch Hashulchan 206.6, Halachos of Brochos, p. 17).


Additional Note on Brachos:  In the Sefer Aleinu L’Shabeiach, HaRav Yitzchak Zilberstein, Shlita, brings a touching Ma’aseh that occurred with the Chassam Sofer, and his son, the K’sav Sofer, when the K’sav Sofer was a little boy.  The K’sav Sofer asked--we recite at the beginning of Kedusha:  Nekadesh Es Shimcha Ba’Alom Kesheim SheMakdishim Oso Bishmei Marom--let us sanctify Hashem’s Name in this world, in the same way that the Malochim sanctify it in the heavens above”--how at all would we know how the Malochim sanctify Hashem’s Name in the heavens above--and even if we could, how could we  emulate them--who do we think we are?  He was told to go under his father’s Tallis during Kedusha.  While under, he could feel the sweet and sincere voice in which the Chassam Sofer recited Kedushah--and he then understood how the Malochim recited Kedusha as well, and how he could  do the same!  We, too, can emulate the Malochim--and the Chassam Sofer--if we would recite our brachos in a similar sweet and sincere manner--with a ne’imus--to express our feelings and thanks! 



Special Note Two:  Today is the Yahrzeit of the great HaRav Eliyahu Eliezer Dessler, Z’tl, who has had such a magnificent influence on the Hashkafa of our generation.  As we have done in the past on the Yahrtzeit of HaRav Yisroel Salanter (his grandfather), Z’tl, and that of the Alter of Navardok, Z’tl, we provide a spiritual sprinkling of his insights as recorded in the Michtav M’Eliyahu.


1.                              “The reward of a mitzvah is a mitzvah and the reward of an avaira is an avaira” (Pirkei Avos 4:2).  This means that one’s greater attachment to the mitzvah through the toil exerted results in a much greater mitzvah than the one originally contemplated.  Conversely, the impurity that remains with a person as a result of his effort in performing an avaira constitutes in and of itself the punishment.  HaRav Dessler adds that if one does not feel that he has to wash his hands after leaving a “dirty place”--it is a sign that he has some ‘shaychus’--some attachment--to the uncleanliness that it represents!


2.                              From the body, one learns lessons for the soul.  When one exercises a limb, the limb rather than tiring, becomes stronger and stronger.  When one puts effort into the study of Torah or in the performance of a mitzvah even when one is exhausted or spent, he is building spiritual muscles.  These muscles are infinitely greater than mere additional flesh on bone.


3.                              Chazal teach:  ”Fortunate is the one who comes here (Olam Habo) with his Torah study in hand” (Pesachim 50A).  Chazal are careful with their words.  It is not enough for the Torah to be in his mind--it must be in his “hand”--which symbolize action or accomplishment, effort and exertion in the pursuit of what is right in life.  One’s place in Olam Habo will not be measured by his wisdom or acumen, but by how much he tried.  That is why Chazal teach that “one on the bottom here will be on top there.”


4.                              Chazal teach:  ”One must [chayav] say when will my actions reach the actions of my forefathers, Avraham, Yitzchak and Yaakov?”  Chazal use the word “must” very judiciously.  A person must view himself as having the capabilities of reaching true heights and spiritual levels, without despairing about his current state.  Ambition and drive must always uplift a person, no matter what his position.


5.                              “M’loh Kol Ha’Aretz K’Vodo--Hashem’s glory fills the earth.”  If that is so, how is it that he can ever sin?  The answer is that the entire goal and thrust of the Yetzer Hora is to obstruct and obfuscate one’s clarity of thought and mind, for with true clarity, one’s “choice” or “free-will,” would never be a matter of question--even in our times.


6.                              The pristine act of tzedaka or chesed is one performed in a situation in which one gives up his own personal benefit so that another will enjoy or gain.


7.                              “For man was created B’Tzelem Elokim” (Bereishis 1:27)--this means that just as HaKadosh Baruch Hu is King of the World, so, too, man must be ruler over his little World.  This can only occur when the soul and spirit rule over one’s body and physical desire.


8.                              The true madrega (level) of even a Navi or Ish Elokim is his attainment of truth about himself.


9.                              There are various ways to battle the Yetzer Hora; one of them is to “burn bridges” to your connections to him.  Another is to push him off with the words “Just this time…” or “Just a little longer” or “Just a little more”.  It is for this reason that Moshe Rabbeinu told Paroh that the Jews were to travel three days in the desert--not to fool Paroh, but to trick their own Yetzer Hora into believing that they would not be leaving the spiritual filth and disgust of Mitzraim.  Hakhel Note:  In another place, HaRav Dessler writes that the Ikar Kiddush Hashem is the ‘bechira tova’--making the proper choice against the Yetzer Hara. 


10.                          The Gra writes that a person does not stay in one place spiritually--he either goes up or goes down.  The reason for this, as explained by R’ Yozel, Z’tl, is that there is a spiritual force of gravity, as well.  That is, the same force that prevents him from rising is the one that brings him down.  We only need to look up and climb, and we will have overcome its force.


11.                          There is a Kabala from Rebbe Yisroel Salanter that even if all of the Gates of Prayer are closed--there is always one still open, and that is the Gate of improving your Ruchniyus--growing spiritually.  One should always face to this Gate with emotion and feeling--for your Prayers will then reach their destination!



Special Note Three:  One additional outstanding story from Rabbi Dovid Goldwasser’s Hakhel Shiur given earlier this week: 


Rabbi Goldwasser was asked to serve as the intermediary between a couple that was getting divorced, so that the divorce could take place without the gross acrimony that had been building up since the decision was made that they would end their relationship.  As one of the last items to be dealt with prior to the Get, each party requested that the gifts they had given to the other be returned.  Rabbi Goldwasser asked each of the husband and wife to come to his office at separate times with the gifts they had received, so there would be no ‘ugly meeting’.  The husband came first with the Menorah, the watch, etc., and left them on Rabbi Goldwasser’s desk.  Later, the wife came with the jewelry, the leichter, etc.--and among the items that she brought was the Korban Mincha Siddur that was given to her by her Chosson--to daven with under the Chuppah.  Stunned by the return of the Siddur, Rabbi Goldwasser opened it and leafed through the pages.  He closed it, and asked the wife if she would mind not taking what her husband had returned at this time--he had personal reasons--and she should not worry that he was going to pledge or use any of the items for himself.  She agreed.  He then invited the husband to return, and showed him everything that the wife had brought back.  The husband’s eyes became affixed on the Siddur.  “The Siddur--she did not have to return that!”  Rabbi Goldwasser asked him if he would take a look into the Siddur, he nodded, and opened it.  Leafing through the pages, he noticed that the pages were so tear soaked in certain places--at Shema Koleinu, at Aishes Chayil, and at the Tefillah of a Kallah for a Chosson under the Chuppah-- that the reading on those pages became difficult and cloudy.  The husband’s eyes now teared as well.  Rabbi Goldwasser turned to him and said:  “Maybe you want to write a note, explaining that she can keep the Siddur?”  He agreed.  “Maybe you want to suggest in the letter that the two of you try to meet and talk things through again?”  He agreed to that as well.  Rabbi Goldwasser delivered the note.


It is about two years later, and they are still married--and together.


Thank you, Rabbi Goldwasser.


There are many lessons in this story.  We leave it to you to go through them and apply them in your life and in your relationships.



QUESTION OF THE DAY :  Reuven tells Shimon about how Levi cutely joked about Shimon’s manner of speech to a few people as they were leaving Shul this morning.  Shimon loses control at Levi’s ‘jest’  and exclaims “I always suspected that Levi made fun of me behind my back, I will never do him a favor again, and I will never forgive him.”  As a result of Reuven’s Rechilus against Levi, how many times has Reuven been over the same Lo Sa’aseh of Lifnei Iver Lo Sitein Michshol?  After all--has he not caused him to do four aveiros:  (i) listen to [and believe] Rechilus; (ii) violate the prohibition against taking revenge (Lo Sikom); (iii) violate the prohibition against harboring a grudge (Lo Sitor); (iv) violating hating another Jew (Lo Sisnah).  Succinctly stated--Has Reuven been oveir the same Lav of Lifnei Iveir four separate times--with one sentence--and all of this besides speaking Rechilus?  What do you say?




Special Note One:  We continue our series on Brachos, with practical Teshuvos in Hilchos Brachos given by Rabbi Yisroel Pinchos Bodner, Shlita, author of Halachos of Brochos (Feldheim).  Of course, one should consult with his own Rav or Posek on every Shaila that he has.




Q: My chavrusa, when he is not learning, works as a doctor, and is a very quick thinker.  Last week he was eating lunch and made a borei pri hoadoma for some vegetables, but after saying boruch atoh Hashem Elokeinu Melech Haolom realized that he had already said that brocha.  In a flash he decided to prevent saying Hashem’s name in vain, by continuing with borei nefoshos.  Was that correct?


A: He sounds like a great chavrusa and a great doctor.  His solution in preventing a brocha l’vatolah was original and very quick-thinking indeed.  I have never seen this advice given by any of the Poskim, but I have seen similar aitzos to save a brocha from becoming a brocha l’vatolah.  The Aishel Avrohom (on Shulchan Aruch Siman 51) writes that he once davened Shacharis and mistakenly said Boruch Ato Hashem Elokeinu Melech Haolom  and before ending with “yotzer or” he realized that he was still in the middle of psukei d’zimroh.  He writes that he would have finished the brocha by saying Shehakol, but did not have anything to drink.  He decided to end the mistakenly started brocha with a shehecheyonu for new utensils that he happened to have.  A friend of mine related that he asked HaRav Chaim Kanievsky, Shlita, what one should do if he started saying Asher Yotzar and realized after saying Melech Haolom that he had not used the bathroom.  Rav Chaim told him that he should finish with a Shehakol and eat or drink something.  In the case at hand, I would have suggested that after saying borei nefoshos, he wait a while, then go outside for a few minutes. Then come back, make a new brocha rishona, and eat the rest of his lunch.  


Additional Note on Brachos:  When reciting a bracha we should indeed recognize that each and every word is important.  There are ten words, for instance, in the bracha of HaMotzi Lechem Min HaAretz.  The Shulchan Aruch (Orach Chaim 167:4) rules that we should hold the bread that we are about to eat with our ten fingers--as this corresponds to the number of words in the bracha--as well as to the ten Mitzvos relating to the preparation of bread (see ibid. Mishna Berurah, seif katan 24 for a complete listing of the ten Mitzvos), and the ten words in Pesukim reflecting Hashem’s bounty--which include Einei Chol Eilecha Yesabeiru and VeYiten Lecha.  If we count our currency one by one--all the more so should we recognize how each word of every bracha has a spiritual treasure chest behind it as well!



Special Note Two:  We provide below several important Shiur by the Hakhel Yarchei Kallah on Monday given by Rabbi Dovid Goldwasser, Shlita, on the topic of Shalom Bayis--Practical Situations and Solutions:


A.  HaRav Moshe Feinstein, Z’tl asks:  Why did Moshe Rabbeinu have to spend a full 40 days in Shomayim--as second time--in order to receive the Second Set of Luchos. After all, had he not learned the methodology and manner of Torah study while he was in Shomayim the first time?  HaRav Moshe answered that after the Eigel HaZahav, the world was simply not the same place--and new gedarim--a new set of rules had to be put in place which Moshe Rabbeinu had to learn.  Rabbi Goldwasser continued that with the advent of the Internet, a new set of rules for the Torah personality had to be put in place as well--for the Internet has brought new challenges in all areas--B’Oness, B’Shogeg, B’Maizid, U’VeRatzon.  He cited one example of how a frum young man who lived alone got so involved in email communication before Shabbos that he lost track of time--and didn’t realize what time it was--until it was an hour after Shabbos!  The young man got so depressed over what had happened--that he didn’t eat Leil Shabbos, didn’t go to Shul the next morning--and lied about what had happened and where he was to his family and friends.  On Motzai Shabbos, he told Rabbi Goldwasser: “I don’t think I can ever be the same person again!”  While the incident may seem extraordinary--on second thought one realizes that it is not that far away from something similar that can happen to others--missing Mincha, missing an appointment, getting involved in appropriate email dialogues and repartees, seeing the wrong things....  The possible number and degree of Nisyonos abound and are beyond our contemplation.  In fact, Rabbi Goldwasser noted, the gematria of Nisyonos is She’einam Gluyim Lanu --we don’t know how and when the Yetzer Hora’s ruses will present themselves to us.  Rabbi Goldwasser urged that everyone especially have Kavana when reciting Ve’lo Lidei Nisayon every morning that he not fall into any Internet trap or subterfuge of any kind at all. He noted that HaRav Wosner, Shlita in the Shevet HaLevi rules that if one must have Internet in his home for business reasons it can not be placed into a private room--but must instead be left in a public area such as the living room--so that essentially one’s stringencies with the Internet go beyond even the Halachos of Yichud!


B.  A women approached Rabbi Goldwasser on Erev Yom Kippur and advised him that she had not spoken to her brother in seven years, following a family squabble--you guessed it--about money that had arisen at that time.  Rabi Goldwasser asked her why she felt that she hadn’t spoken to him in so long--and she replied --because he hasn’t called me.  Rabbi Goldwasser suggested that she call her brother then.  “You think so?”  “Yes--try”.  She called him, and they made up Erev Yom Kippur-- and ate the seudah together on Motzei Yom Kippur.  No one has to wait until Erev Yom Kippur--instead--he/she should take the initiative and be the one who takes the initiative to make the peace. 

Hakhel Note:  HaRav Binyomin Zilber, Z’tl (known as “R’ Binyomin HaTzaddik” in Bnei Brak) would give his marriage advice with two words “Zeit Mevater”--you be the one to take the initiative and give in.


C.  A smile and pleasant countenance--Panim Me’iros--works wonders for the feelings and attitude of those around you.  When a father enters the room--the children should feel--MiShe’nichnas AV Marbin Besimcha!


D.  Relationships in this world continue in the next. Let us not be myopic in our views--our decisions, our relationships, our behavior, has everlasting effects.  If we stay close and warm now--it will last forever1


E.  The Mailitzer Rebbe, Z’tl, taught:  If none of us would harm each other, then no enemy of the Jewish People would be successful in harming us either.  We have so many enemies--let us stop them in their track.  Just as in Mitzrayim we gathered together to love and help each other and this ‘bris’ hastened their Geulah--let us do the same family by family--showing an extra special level of caring and joy to be with your parent, spouse and/or sibling.  Instead, perhaps, of being oveir Lifnei Iveir four times with one sentence--you can be mekayem V’Ahavta LeReiacha Komocha--and bring the Geulah closer to all of us-- with worked-out feelings of Ahavas Yisroel in its place and stead!



Special Note One:  We continue our series on Brachos, with practical Teshuvos in Hilchos Brachos given by Rabbi Yisroel Pinchos Bodner, Shlita, author of Halachos of Brochos (Feldheim).  Of course, one should consult with his own Rav or Posek on every Shaila that he has.




Q: Yesterday my friend and I davened at an early out of town Shacharis minyan so that we could get an early start on traveling back home. I helped myself to a coffee from the Shul’s kitchen. There were some wrapped platters of cake in a box marked “For Bris – Don’t Touch”. I took a small danish and ate it, but my friend felt it was not right. I reasoned that the owner would not be makpid. As we were leaving the Rav came for the Bris minyan and my friend asked the Rav if he can also take a danish. The Rav said come lets ask the owner, who gave my friend permission. I asked if it was ok that I had eaten a small danish, and the owner said ok. The Rav told me that I should not make al hamichya for the danish that I had eaten, but instead that my friend should be motzi me with his al hamichya. I am totally perplexed by this. Can you explain?


A: That Rav is really top notch, and was totally correct. Since the platters were wrapped and the box was marked “don’t touch” it would be very reasonable that owner would be makpid. Since at the time you took the danish you did not have permission, the danish had the status of a stolen item. According to most Poskim since the owner had not consented before the item was taken, even if he later consents, nevertheless, you were eating a stolen danish. The Shach, in a minority ruling says that if the owner consents after the fact, it is retroactively acceptable.  (See Halachos of Other People’s Money, pp. 26 and 56). The Shulchan Aruch (196.1) states that it is prohibited to make a brocha on food which was acquired illegally. (See Halachos of Brochos, p. 207). The Rav did not want you to make an al hamichya, since according to most Poskim you acquired your danish illegally. Nevertheless, since there is a minority opinion that the consent works retroactively, in which case you would need an al hamichya, the Rav told your friend to be motzi you (i.e., he had asked permission and had acquired his Danish legally, thus his brocha would be valid).


Additional Note on Brachos:  Rabbi Moshe Goldberger, Shlita (on the website www.gemsoftorah.com), points out that the waters plagued by the Makos of blood and frogs serves as a stark contrast to the fresh water which pours freely and plentifully out of our faucets when we use them.  With this thought in mind, we obviously will have a greater appreciation of the life-giving water that we are about to drink.  A related thought may be to think about how many billions of people will not be making a bracha on the food or drink that they will be having today--neither before or after they eat--and what a privileged position we are in by recognizing and expressing our true appreciation to the Source of Everything in this World!  Additional Note:  The Pasuk on last week’s Parsha records “VaTal Shavasam El HaElokim Min HaAvodah”--their cries reached Hashem from their work.  We can alternatively interpret Min HaAvodah as from their inability to properly serve Hashem because of their enslaved status.  Today, although we are in Galus, and are now unable to do the ultimate Avodah in the Bais HaMikdash--at the very least we are free enough to serve Hashem--through our properly recited Brachos and Tefillos!



Special Note Two:  Following the previous Note, we provide below the moving words of the Sefer Chovos HaLevavos in the Sha’ar Chesbon HaNefesh (Chapter 3).  The translation below is, once again, substantially excerpted from the outstanding Feldheim English translation Duties of the Heart: 


“….If his heart and consciousness are oblivious to the prayer’s meaning, Hashem will not accept his prayer, which is only mechanical, a mere movement of the tongue.  Just look at what we say at the conclusion of the Shemone Esrei: “Yihehu LeRatzon…May the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable before You.”  If a person’s thoughts during Shemone Esrei dwell on some worldly matter, permitted or forbidden, and then he concludes by saying, “May... the meditation of my heart be acceptable before You,” is this not most shameful--to claim to have communed with Hashem in his heart and innermost being--when he was actually distracted?  Then he asks Hashem to accept the prayer and be pleased with it!  He is like one of whom it was said, “...As if they were a people that had acted righteously…as if they desired closeness to Hashem....”  (Yeshayahu 58:2).  Hakhel Note:  Perhaps Yiheyu LeRatzon is placed at the end of our Shemone Esrei--and not at the beginning--in order to serve as our reality check, knowing we will be reciting the Pasuk shortly and making sure that we do so honestly in front of the King of Kings!



Special Note Three:  We provide the following additional notes on prayer, gleaned from the monumental Peylim/Lev L’Achim Event this past Sunday morning in Flatbush:


A.  Rabbi Moshe Tuvia, Lieff, Shlita, provided two insights into the phrase in last week’s Parsha “VeHinei Na’ar Boche”--and the child was crying, ostensibly referring to Moshe Rabbeinu after having been discovered by Paroh’s daughter.  First--what was he crying about--after all, wasn’t he about to be saved?!  To this question, HaRav Meir Shapiro, Z’tl, answers that he was crying for the other babies that were not being saved.  In his moment of success and salvation--Moshe was thinking about others.  What a great lesson for us--even if we are well, even if we have a Parnassa, even if matters are otherwise on track--we must still put our heart and soul into our prayers--not only for ourselves for every ounce of continued life comes from Hashem --but to help others as well!  For the second lesson, Rabbi Lieff brought the Midrash and Ba’al HaTurim, which points out that the Na’ar referred to here was actually not the baby Moshe who was too young to be called a ‘Na’ar’, but it was his older brother Aharon--who was crying over the fact that Moshe would be raised in a foreign and alien environment.  Both messages lead to the same result--we must be sure that our Kavannah-filled Tefillos are not only for ourselves, but for others as well.  It is obvious that thinking about the Mitzvah of VeAhavta LeReiacha Kamocha before davening (as the Arizal directs) not only brings Achdus into our Tefillos--but also allows us to bring the plight of others into our minds and hearts as well.  If one has prayed--and realizes that he had prayed for himself and not for others--then let him at the time of this realization daven for others (in specific ways) as well!


B.  As part of the audio-visual presentation at which Shailos were directed by HaRav Yitzchak Zilberstein, Shlita, to HaRav Chaim Kanievsky, Shlita, HaRav Zilberstein asked HaRav Kanievsky what people should be davening for on a general basis over and above individual needs.  HaRav Kanievsky responded--for the Moshiach to come!  This was explained on the audio-visual presentation to mean that one must daven with Kavannah when reciting such prayers as VeSechezenah Eiyneinu, U’Vneih Yerushalayim, and when making so many other similar requests in the course of our Tefillos.  

Hakhel Note:  The words of HaRav Kanievsky have become particularly poignant over the last few days in which there is greater indication that the situation with Iran , Israel and America is exacerbating to the point of a crisis.  We were redeemed from Mitzrayim through our calling out to Hashem--perhaps HaRav Kanievsky is telling us that it is time to do so again--this time, from the Galus of Edom! 


Additional Note on Tefillah for Those in Shidduchim, or for Those Who Know Others in That Parsha:  At yesterday’s Hakhel Shiur, Rabbi Yisroel Reisman, Shlita, taught that the recitation of Tehillim 121 (Esah Ainai El Hehorim) is an especially important one for the Shidduch process.  According to the Midrash Tehillim, Yaakov Avinu actually recited this Kepittel Tehillim as he left his parent’s home in search of his zivug.  Rabbi Reisman pointed out that the word Esah derives from the same root as Nesuin--and noted that one is to look at the Harim--at the Middos of the Avos in looking for a zivug, and not focus upon passing physical attraction.  The Ainai referred to, then, is the eye of our sechel--our understanding to search for what is proper and right.  When we do so--we can be zoche to “Ezri MeiIm Hashem Osei Shomayim VaAretz--my help will come from Hashem--Who made all of the Heavens and Earth--and can certainly make my Shidduch as well!


Special Note One:  Regarding the point we made last week on bolstering ourselves in the areas of Shelo Shinu Es Shemam, Leshonam and Malbusham, we present the following comment from a reader:  “When it comes to clothing, I believe it is more than the technical Tzinyus appearance of the clothing or dress which is important--our clothing is supposed to separate us from the rest of the world.  Why does our clothing have to be ‘adorned’ with large print such as, “AEROPOSTALE”, “JUICY”, “TOMMY” and the like?  What do our people have to do with this?--I believe that it was the ‘enlightenment’ leaders who said “You can be a Jew inside your tent, as long as you behave and look like a Non-Jew on the outside.”  Our success has always been keeping ourselves separate as Hashem’s chosen people--we should not let “COACH” and “HILFIGER” interfere with our heritage and our appearance!”



Special Note Two:  We continue our series on Brachos, with practical Teshuvos in Hilchos Brachos given by Rabbi Yisroel Pinchos Bodner, Shlita, author of Halachos of Brochos (Feldheim).  Of course, one should consult with his own Rav or Posek on every Shailah that he has.




Q: I see people washing their hands after using the bathroom, and saying “Asher Yotzar” during the process of taking a paper towel, wiping their hands, walking to the waste paper can, and tossing the paper towel.  It doesn’t seem right to make a brocha in this way.  I would like to know what the halacha is in this regard.


A: Your instinctive feeling is correct, those people are absolutely wrong. The Shulchan Aruch states that it is forbidden to make any brocha while one is working or engaged in an activity. (Shulchan Aruch 183.12 and 191.13). The Mogen Avrohom states that even engaging in a simple light activity while reciting a brocha is forbidden, because one is demonstrating that his observance of the mitzvah is superficial and not serious.  Therefore, people should stop and say “Asher Yotzar” as if it is the only important thing to be doing at that moment. B’dieved, if one recited “Asher Yotzar” (or any other brocha) while performing a task, the brocha is nevertheless valid. (Halachos of Brochos, p. 37).


Additional Note on Brachos:  From all of the events around us, it is evident that we live in a time of Hester Panim.  The Avodah of recognizing Hashem in everything around us (and within us) accordingly becomes a more difficult--and concomitantly a greater--one.  We peel away Hester Panim every time that we make a bracha in which we bring Hashem into our world,  as we proclaim that he provides us with our life, with all the necessary components that go along with it--and even many additional gifts over and above that which we really need.  Each and every bracha that we make is a separate hakara and hoda’ah--a separate revelation of HaKadosh Baruch Hu in our lives.  It is no small wonder, then, that Hashem is referred to (at the end of Modim D’Rabbanan) with the term “Boruch Kel HaHoda’os”--blessed is the G-d of Thanksgivings! Our continued success in improved Brachos can take down the wall that currently separates us from Gilui Shechina--and bring us to time when “V’chol Bnei Vasar Yik’reu Vishmecha--even the nations of the world will recognize and call out Hashem’s name as well!



Special Note Three:  As we progress through the Shovavim period, we note that HaRav Eliyahu Lopian, Z’tl, brings that one of the great Kabbalos in Kelm to assist in the process of Teshuvah and Kabbalas Ohl Malchus Shomayim was the breaking of one’s desire.  Accordingly, those who were in a Chaburah working on growth, were asked to break their desire three times a day (obviously keeping a record of the ‘when and how’).  Although this was Kabbala was made by students and alumni of the great Yeshiva of Kelm, the task seems highly achievable for each and every person--from Seattle to Yerushalayim--including those above, beyond and in between!  We can do it!



Special Note Four:  Some concluding points relating to Parshas Shemos:


A.  It is interesting to note that the abbreviation that is commonly used for Bnei Yisroel is Bais Nun Yud--which spells Bonai--My {Hashem’s!] Children.


B.  What do the following acts from the Parsha all have in common?  If one can find the common denominator--he may perhaps have gleaned the Great Lesson of the Parsha!


1.  The Torah especially describes how Bisya bas Paroh saves Moshe from the Nile . 


2.  The Torah especially describes how Miriam waited to see what would happen to Moshe?


3.  The Torah especially describes how Moshe goes out to see the suffering of his people, smites the Mitzri, and is ultimately zoche to the events of the Seneh, and everything afterwards that resulted from it.


4.  The Torah especially describes how Yisro tells his daughters--why did you leave the man alone--call him and we will give him a meal.


5.  The Torah especially describes how Aharon will be happy to see Moshe (VeRo’acha Vesomach BeLibo).


What would you say threads these events of the Parsha--as the seeds of Geulah-- together?


We suggest that each one of the above is a singular act by one individual. It is not the act of the many, nor is it the act of one person many, many times over.  Yet, each one of these singular acts by a single individual had great and everlasting ramifications.  Moshe was forever called by the name Moshe--the name given him by Bisya--rather than his original Lashon HaKodesh names of Avigdor, Tov, Tuvia etc.  This was the result of the selflessness and kindness of her act (Shemos Rabbah 1:26 ).  Miriam waited to see what would happen to Moshe for a few moments--and B’nei Yisroel forever learned what an act of caring meant--for in this zechus millions waited for her for a full week!  Moshe saw--and felt--the suffering, and became the Moshia’an Shel Yisroel.  Yisro called Moshe in--and not only became his father-in-law for eternity--but was zoche to have his descendants sit in the Lishkas HaGozis on the Sanhedrin.  Aharon was happy to see Moshe--despite the fact that Moshe would now be there leader--and was zoche to have the Choshen placed on his heart--as well as the hearts of all of the future Kohanim Gedolim who followed.  The process of Geulah, then, is inextricably the direct and causal result of individual acts of individuals.  What a lesson for each and every one of us--each and every act--of each and every one of us--really does tangibly and palpably count!  Let us not permit that one act of kindness, that one act of caring, that one conscious aforethought to slip away--to go unexercised, unused or unaccomplished.  Let us realize that we are part of the Geulah process--person by person--and act by act!



Special Note One:  We received the following important information from a reader:  Do you need advice on installing a filter for your Internet connection?  Need information on a kosher phone?  Looking for guidance about which iPod or MP3 to buy for your child or grandchild?  Want Wifi removed from your laptop?  Need advice on navigating a chinuch issue related to digital technology?   TAG --Technology Awareness Group-- will recommend a filter for you and walk you through installation and use of filter software, help you resolve any problems you have, and address any of the issues listed above.  Call the TAG hotline-- FREE OF CHARGE -  267-295-1954  .   TAG : Using Technology Responsibly -- Al Pi Torah.  Leave a message and they will call you back.  For further information please click here.  


Special Note Two:  From a reader:  “On the point you made about running away from the Yetzer Hara, I heard a Shiur from Rabbi Ben Zion Shafier of the Shmuz.  He gave the same eitzah--applying it to a situation when he felt he was going to express his anger against his best friend.  His hurrying out of the room before he let go--saved their relationship!”



Special Note Three:  We continue our series on Brachos, with practical Teshuvos in Hilchos Brachos given by Rabbi Yisroel Pinchos Bodner, Shlita, author of Halachos of Brochos (Feldheim).  Of course, one should consult with his own Rav or Posek on every Shailah that he has.



Q:  In a recent Hakhel bulletin you wrote that a person should not make a Brocha Achrona for the wine he drinks for Kiddush before the Shabbos morning meal.  You wrote that most Poskim say that since you cannot eat without first making Kiddush, that wine is needed for the meal and therefore covered by bentsching at the end of the meal. Here is my problem: I usually make Kiddush in shul and eat Mezonos to be yotzei “Kiddush b’Mokom Seuda”.  So when I come home and make Kiddush for my family, I really don’t need the Kiddush in order to eat the meal.  Does this mean that I should make a brocha Achrona for the second Kiddush?


A:  Excellent question. Actually this question was posed to the “Shevet Halevi” in Volume 9, Siman 40. Rav Wosner, Shlita, answers that you do not have to make a Brocha Achrona, because the wine at the second Kiddush is also needed for the meal, i.e., to permit your wife and family to eat the Shabbos meal.  Since it is needed for the meal--it becomes part of the meal and that wine is also covered by bentsching at the end of the meal.


Additional Note on Brachos:  HaRav Gamliel Rabanovitch, Shlita, in his Sefer Tiv HaEmunah, writes that we begin our day with the Birchos HaShachar--every single day, in order for us to appreciate the miracle that each one of the brachos represents actually occurs on an ongoing basis every single day.  When reciting these brachos, he continues, it is incumbent upon us to feel and experience that we are not only thanking Hashem for healing the person who previously could not see in Montreal, or for providing clothes to the poor child in London, or for allowing someone who previously had a broken leg in Melbourne to begin walking again, but one must personally internalize the brachos as applying to himself, so that he is somewhat overwhelmed by the fact that his wisdom, his ability to get out of bed, his clothing, and even the earth underneath his feet has been once again gifted to him upon awakening in the morning.  Hakhel Note:  As a suggestion to implement the caring instruction of HaRav Rabanovitch, Shlita, may we urge that one take a moment before reciting each one of the Birchos HaShachar and look at the two or three words such as “Malbish Arumim” or “Matir Assurim” that he is about to thank Hashem for--and recognize that the gift one is about to describe (hopefully) applies to him!  If he does not have the personal capability regarding the bracha that he is about to express ( he at this point cannot walk, cannot see) then in the zechus of his thanking Hashem for others having the capability, may Hashem grant him the capability as well!



Special Note Four:  Shlomo HaMelech, the wisest of all men, teaches in Mishlei (16:7) “BiR’tzos Hashem Darchei Ish Gam Oyvav Yashlim Ito”--when Hashem accepts a person’s ways, He [Hashem] will cause even his enemies to make peace with him.  What an astounding lesson for us at this time, when vehement enemies abound from within and without.  We must take the lesson and utilize this gift-filled period of Shovavim for us to move in the direction in which Hashem will accept our ways.  In a word, we must do Teshuvah.  In this regard, we provide below the moving words of the Sefer Chovos HaLevavos as he concludes his Sha’ar HaTeshuvah.  The translation below is substantially excerpted from the outstanding Feldheim English translation Duties of the Heart.  For those who do not have it, we hope it is now back in print, for it is a must for every home:


1.  “All that keeps a sinner from Teshuvah is his own corrupt inner life and a deceitful heart.  If he sincerely wishes to draw closer to Hashem, the gate of repentance is not closed to him and no obstacle will prevent him from reaching it.”


2.  “He who hastens to the good will attain it today, while the fruit of negligence is remorse.”


3.  “Whoever wishes to be in Hashem’s favor should enter by way of the narrow door through which the pious and patient ones enter.  We all hope to attain the good; but only those who hasten to it and run to it will attain it.  This is why Chazal teach ‘be bold as a leopard, light as an eagle, swift as a gazelle, and mighty as a lion, to do the will of Hashem’. (Avos 5:20 )”


4.  “Scrutinize yourself.  Be ashamed to act towards your Creator in a way you would not permit yourself to act towards another human being.”


5.  “The Creator has blessed you with wisdom, understanding, and knowledge, through which He has made you superior to other creatures.  Be wary, exceedingly wary, that these gifts not serve to implicate you.”


6.  “Do not be induced by lethargy to make light of your soul; for if your own soul is not important to you, what will you hold in esteem?”


7.  Finally, submit to the truth, rather than running away from it, and thank Hashem for alerting you to what you had not been aware of.  Do not use the long neglect of your friend who encourages you as a justification or excuse for yourself.  For such an argument is one of the deceitful devices used by the evil inclination to ensnare people of weak understanding.”


Hakhel Note:  Erev Shabbos is also one of the specially designated time periods for Teshuva--so that we can properly greet the Shabbos Queen.  Let us give an important moments of thought to the measured and hallowed words of the Chovos HaLevavos.



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


A.  We must understand the profundity of Shabbos.  The Ben Ish Chai writes that there are three different kinds of Tosefes Shabbos.  The first, Tosefes Nefesh, occurs when one recites the words Bo’i Chala, Bo’i Chala;  the second, Tosefes HaRuach, occurs when Barchu is recited at Ma’ariv;  and the third, Tosefes HaNeshama, occurs when we recite U’fros Aleinu Succas …., and one should have Kavannah at each one of these stages for the different Tosefes Shabbos that he is now acquiring.  He continues that according to the Arizal the Ikar Kabbalas Shabbos is with the words Bo’i Chala, which is a term not only from the Lecha Dodi--but is actually mentioned in Chazal. 


B.  The Ben Ish Chai continues that it is a Mitzvah to eat fish at each one of the Shalosh Seudos, even if it is only a little bit.  He continues that eating fish is even more important than eating meat on Shabbos Al Pi Kabbalah, and adds that fish themselves are similar to Shabbos in that just as fish does not need a Tikun( i.e.,shechita) in order to eat them, so too, we do not perform any Melacha on Shabbos in order to be ready for the day of Shabbos itself. 


C.  The Minhag of the Arizal (based upon the Zohar) was to leave a little bit of wine from the Kos Shel Bracha on the table after the meal, in addition to some pieces of Challah, so that the bracha of Leil Shabbos remains--just as the oil continued to flow out of the container through Elisha’s bracha.


D.  The Sefer HaMafteiach to the Shabsi Frankel Rambam (Shabbos 23:19) brings an opinion that the reason we recite Migdol, rather than Magdil, on Shabbos, is because Migdol is a Pasuk in Shmuel Bais, and Magdil is a Pasuk in Tehillim.  Chazal originally forbade the study of Kesuvim on Shabbos afternoon--so that everyone would come to the Rav’s Drasha in Halacha.  Accordingly, even reciting an additional Pasuk from Tehillim (i.e., from Kesuvim) in the course of Bentsching was eliminated!  Hakhel Note:  Let us take this thousands-of-year old tradition to heart--come to listen to the Rav’s Halacha Drasha on Shabbos afternoon!


E.  It is forbidden to read business and various kinds of non-Torah related material on Shabbos, otherwise known as the issur of Shtarei Hedyotos, which we hope to go into more detail in coming weeks.  HaRav Nissim Karelitz, Shlita, brings home the point as to how careful we have to be on what we read on Shabbos:  He rules that reading the inside of a bottle cap which provides some type of offer (or similarly labels which contain a promotional offer or a coupon) is forbidden on Shabbos because it falls within the category of Shtarei Hedyotos.  Hakhel Note:  This Shabbos--pay careful attention to what you may (inadvertently) be reading!



Special Note Six:  We provide the following notes on this week’s Parsha: 


1.  The Ramban writes that the Golus of Mitzrayim was a forerunner of the Golus of Edom.  In thinking about the Golus of Mitzrayim, we realize that the Bnei Yisroel fell into a complacent attitude in Egypt, with some even leaving Goshen, as part of an inappropriate Golus mentality.  We are to learn from our mistakes--especially from the mirror and forerunner of our current Golus--and we should consider how we can avoid the same kinds of traps.  As just one small example, we cite the names of the following food products available at the 7-11 food chain across the country--some of which may be ‘kosher’ Big Gulp, Super Big Gulp, Double Gulp--and wonder whether these terms and the large container of single-serving drink are truly fit for a Jewish home or Jewish consumption.  One can think of many other examples, and can share them with us if he would like.  Every year, at the Seder, we review the items that took the Bnei Yisroel out of Golus and into Geulah--Lo Shinu Es Shemam, Es Leshonam, Es Malbusham--we must bring these to life in our times, in order to get out of the mess of our current Golus!


2.  Yosef HaTzaddik gave the Bnei Yisroel the ‘password’ for the Go’el who would come, which was Pakod Yifkod.  Many ask if the ‘password’ was so simple and known by all, how could we rely on the Go’el when he truly came?  HaRav Simcha Soloveitchik, Z’tl (a brother of HaRav Chaim, who lived in America ), explained that Moshe was a Kevad Peh--which meant that it was difficult for him to say the letter Peh.  Accordingly, for Moshe Rabbeinu to say Pakod Yifkod--with two Pehs-- was truly a miraculous feat!


Hakhel Note:  The Ramban (Shemos 4:10) comments in this week’s Parsha that the only thing preventing Moshe Rabbeinu from being healed of his speech difficulties was his prayer to Hashem asking for a Refuah Sheleima.  Had he done so, the Ramban writes, he would have been healed forthwith.  In sharp contrast, the Torah records in the Parsha that the Bnai Yisroel were zoche to the Geulah by virtue of “Va’Taal Shavossom El HaElokim”--their Tefillos simply pierced the Heavens. Let us TAKE THE LESSON.  Over the next several weeks, we will be living through Parshios of Geulah, beginning with the first seven Maakos in this week’s Parsha--by which the Mitzriyim were sorely and severely punished and K’lal Yisroel came out unscathed and glorified.  Accordingly, may we suggest that this period is an auspicious one for reciting the Tefillah Al HaGeulah, available by clicking on the following links in both Hebrew and available in English.  Remember, if Moshe Rabbeinu would have had the opportunity to offer that 515th prayer--he would have entered Eretz Yisroel, as well.  It is no wonder, then, that Dovid HaMelech teaches us “Kaveh El Hashem…Vekaveh El Hashem---Hope to Hashem, strengthen yourself…and Hope to Hashem.”  Don’t give up--keep on coming and davening again and again.  There is a light at tunnel’s end--you have to have the drive, night vision and unrelenting goal to get there!


3.  The Pasuk teaches that when Moshe Rabbeinu left the king’s palace, he noticed the hard work of the Bnei Yisroel.  As the Pasuk records--VaYa’ar BeSivlosam--he saw their burdens.  The Sforno writes that Moshe Rabbeinu’s initial introduction to this Tza’ar of Klal Yisroel, inspired him to help not because of his royal bearing, or because it was the “right thing to do”--but rather, “Mitzad HaAchvah Hisorer La’azor”--he acted because he felt a brotherhood and kinship to his people.  The rest is more than history--as Moshe Rabbeinu is thereafter found constantly--through the last Pasuk of the Torah!  We must realize that it is important for us to do more than pity others, commiserate with them, or ‘do something good’--we must feel the oneness with our brothers.  HaRav Simcha Zissel wrote that frequently when people hear that one is recuperating from an illness, they are happy and no longer feel for his pain and suffering.  This is not proper.  As long as your brother still feels even slight pain, one feels for his suffering, just as the person himself feels the pain until he is entirely healed.  We must work on acquiring this sensitivity, as it does not come naturally (Chochom U’Mussar, Volume I, p. 11, as quoted in Love Your Neighbor, by Rabbi Zelig Pliskin, Shlita).


4.  HaRav Mattisyahu Salomon, Shlita, teaches that what made Shifra and Pu’ah so successful was their Yiras Shomayim.  Accordingly, HaRav Salomon urges--we should select a Mussar Sefer and study Mussar daily to attain Yiras Shomayim--and we will be able to succeed, as well. 


Additional Note One:  The Rabbeinu Yonah teaches that the Ikar of Yiras Shomayim is avoiding Sefeikos --doubtful activity--in daily life.  Not eating what could be the wrong thing, not saying what could be the wrong thing, not wearing what could be the wrong thing because you are not sure whether you should or not...is a great Kiyum of Yiras Shomayim!


Additional Note Two:  Chazal teach that Shifra and Pu’ah were rewarded with Batei Kehuna U’Batei Malchus--the Kehuna coming from Aharon and the Malchus coming from Dovid HaMelech.  The Meforshim point out that Chazal do not teach that Yiras Shomayim came forth from them--because Yiras Shomayim is not limited to them, as the Bais Aharon and Bais Dovid was.  There is no one Bayis--house--in which Yiras Shomayim is or will be housed.  Instead, if we personally follow the glorious teaching of Shifra and Pu’ah--we too will have a powerful and important chelek in Yiras Shomayim in the world--and for all eternity!



Special Note One:  From a reader:  “I purchased a men’s coat from H&M--gray wool.”  My Shatnez lab discovered that the tassel trim that that the toggles go into is linen.  This Shatnez cannot be removed!”

Hakhel Note:  Let the buyer beware--especially if wool or linen is mentioned as one of the fabrics in a garment.



Special Note Two:  On the topic of Shovavim, we provide by clicking here an audio link to an outstanding Shiur given by Rabbi Eli Mansour, Shlita.


Hakhel Note:  We add our own contribution to the topic of Shovavim today, with the following points:


A.  The Sefer Chovos HaLevavos (Sha’ar HaTeshuva, Chapter 7) writes:  “There is an old saying: No sin is small, if one persists in it.  No sin is great, if one seeks forgiveness for it!”


B.  The Sefer Peleh Yo’etz under the topic Ta’anis writes that any time one reduces a Hana’ah of Olam Hazeh in order to attain Kaparas Avonos--it is called a Ta’anis.  Indeed, he adds that, in his opinion, for those who are weaker or are involved in Meleches Shomayim, it is better to eat just bread than to voluntarily fast--for if one eats bread he fulfills a Mitzva Asei D’Oraysa of bentsching, as well as several Mitzvos DeRabbanan [including the opportunity to recite Asher Kideshanu BeMitzvosav upon washing one’s hands!].


C.  The Satmar Rebbe, Z’tl, taught that one cannot truly fathom the accomplishment of Teshuvas HaRabbim.  He writes that what can take an individual a very long time to accomplish can be accomplished by the Rabbim--B’Rega--in a minute.  Based on this great Yesod--may we suggest that if at all possible you arrange a Shiur during the Shovavim period so that the Rabbim can benefit--and the unfathomable can be accomplished! 



Special Note Three:  We continue our series on Brachos, with practical Teshuvos in Hilchos Brachos given by Rabbi Yisroel Pinchos Bodner, Shlita, author of Halachos of Brochos (Feldheim).  Of course, one should consult with his own Rav or Posek on every Shailah that he has.




Q: The other day I took a handful of “trail mix” which contained mostly nuts and raisins.  I made a Borei Pri Ho’etz and ate the mix but did not know what to do for the brocha Achrona.  There was more than a Kezayis of mix, but about half of it was raisins which should get Al Ho’etz, and the other half was nuts which should get Borei Nefashos.  If you subtracted the raisins there probably would not have been Kezayis there.  What should I have done?


A: You were correct in not making an Al Ho’etz on the less than a Kezayis of raisins. If you would have eaten a Kezayis of raisins within three minutes you would have indeed been obligated to make an Al Ho’etz.  In your case, since all together there was a Kezayis of food, the correct brocha Achrona would be Borei Nefashos. (Mishna Berurah, 210.1, Halachos of Brochos pg 382).  By the way, a large percentage of bags of raisins will contain a few raisins that are infested (with larve or pupa of  drosophila).  You can avoid the problem by making your own raisins, or purchasing raisins with a good Hechsher (such as Badatz).  To do this you purchase fresh grapes, remove any rotten ones, rinse well, and place overnight in oven at lowest temperature.  There are Heterim for not checking raisins (see Taz Y”D 64.12), however the Shach argues on use of these Heterim, (since this is not the proper forum, we will not elaborate on this issue).


Additional Note on Brachos:  The Ben Ish Chai (Shana Rishona, Parshas Pinchas) writes that Chazal instituted a bracha each time we eat or drink because:  “The Yetzer Hara goes to battle against the mouth more than any other organ or limb of the body.”  It is at the mouth, he continues, that one’s battle is waged against the Yetzer.  Making proper brachos, helps to subjugate the Yetzer.  In the words of the Ben Ish Chai:  HaNizhar BeBirkas HaNehenin Hu Yimshol BeYetzer Hara Memshal Rav VeYesaken Atzmo BaZeh Tikkun Gadol Atzum V’Rav--one who is careful to make Birkas HaNehenin will rule over the Yetzer Hara in a great way and will afford him a great, manifold and powerful tikkun.”



Special Note Four:  Today is the 207th Yahrzeit of the Maggid of Dubno, HaRav Yaakov b’r’ Zev (Wolf) Kranz, Z’tl, whose legacy of Meshalim to bring lessons of the Torah to us all remains unparalleled to this very day.  Some of the Maggid’s mesholim have been collected in English in The Maggid of Dubno and His Parables by Dr. Benno Heinemann (Feldheim Publishers).  We present below one of the great Mesholim, excerpted from this meaningful Sefer:


“The Maggid was once collecting funds for a charitable cause, when he met a wealthy man who had the unenviable reputation of being a miser.  In order to induce the man to make even a small donation, the Maggid proceeded to enumerate some of the contributions that he had already received, not from wealthy people but from simple artisans and shopkeepers.  ‘You know Chayim the blacksmith gave me five thalers, Yossel the shoemaker gave me six....’  The wealthy man interrupted--’I would not call these people charitable--they are poor men, and when they die they will not leave anything worth mentioning.  But I have made my will, and in it I leave much money to the poor after my death.’  The Maggid replied, ‘Your point is well taken, but let me provide you with an appropriate Moshol:  Do you know the difference between a hen and a pig?  The hen is a small animal, and does not have much to give.  Her eggs are small and light, and may weigh only two ounces each.  Yet, the farmer will coddle her like a baby.  Even if she would leave her coop, walk into her master’s house and track dirt over the newly washed floor --not even a feather on her back would be touched even by the mistress of the house.  Now, the pig is much larger.  It weighs 200 pounds, and of this 25 pounds are pure lard.  You would think it is quite valuable then, would you not?  Yet no one is ever nice to the pig.  If it leaves its sty, it is driven back with a broomstick, and if it dared to enter its master’s house it would get a beating it would not soon forget.  What then is the basis for the difference between the hen and the pig?  The hen may not have much--but what she does give, she gives faithfully each day as long as she lives.  The pig may have much more wealth to offer, but it will give it up only after it is dead.  Now tell me, which of the two is the worthier donor...?!”


With these words of the Maggid (may his teachings be a zechus for his holy neshama, and for us all), we provide the following additional salient reminders about Tzedaka-giving--as excerpted from the Kitzur Shulchan Aruch itself (the following translation is based upon the masterful translation of the Kitzur published by Feldheim):


1.  A person should reflect that, at every moment, he asks Hashem for his livelihood.  Just as he requests that Hashem hear his cry, so too should he hear the cry of the poor.


2.  One must at all times realize that he is not reducing his wealth by giving of it to the poor--for after all the money is not his, but rather a trust granted to him in order to carry out the will of the One who entrusted it to him. Tzedaka is the portion which he will ultimately receive for all his labor in this world, as the Pasuk (Yeshaya 58:8) states: ‘Your Tzedaka will proceed before you’.  Tzedaka wards off harsh decrees and prolongs one’s life.  The highest form of giving is to assist a poor Jew maintain his position before he reaches utter poverty. This includes giving him a proper gift in an honorable manner, granting him a loan, involving him in a partnership, or finding him a business or profession which allows him to support himself, and thus not be forced to rely on others.  This is taught by the specific words of the Torah (Leviticus 25:35): “You shall come to his aid - i.e., assist him so that he does not fall.


3.  One should take care to give Tzedaka secretly, hiding one’s gifts to the greatest extent possible. If it is possible to give in a manner where the donor is unaware of the identity of the recipient, and the recipient of the donor, this is very desirable. At the very least, one should not boast of the Tzedaka he gives.  Nevertheless, a person who consecrates an article as charity is permitted to write his name upon it, so that it will serve as a memorial for him, and It is fitting to do so.


4.  In particular, attention should be paid to give Tzedaka to a poor Torah Sage in a manner fitting to his honor.  If he does not want to accept charity, he should be offered merchandise for business dealings.  It should be sold to him at a low price and purchased from him at a high price.  If he is knowledgeable in commerce, he should be lent money to invest in a business.  Chazal (Pesochim 53b) declare, “Whoever supplies a Torah Sage with merchandise merits to sit in the Heavenly Academy ”. 


Hakhel Note:  At the very least, we should give some Tzedaka today L’ilyui Nishmas the Dubno Maggid--whose sage advice we have all heard at one time or more likely many times in the past--and who has provided us with this valuable instruction on Tzedakah which we should never forget!



CHOLOV YISROEL 5772: Based upon recent discussions, the issue of acceptability of Cholov Stam has once again come to the fore.  By clicking on the following links first statement, and second statement, we provide the OU’s recent position statements on the issue.


By clicking here we provide the Teshuvah of the Nirbator Rav, Shlita, (in Hebrew) relating to the same issue, with his differing conclusions.


The lively Halachic disagreement highlights the need for one to adhere to the final P’sak of his Rav or Posek--in this and all other issues of life!




Special Note One:   Reality Check!  It is now less than one month to Tu B’Shvat, less than two months to Purim, and less than three months to Pesach!  Have we recently viewed our Kabbalos sheet from the Yomim Noraim?  How is our Teshuvah BeChol Yom Program moving along?...Let us prepare for the upcoming festivities and festivals so that we are not only physically, but spiritually ready.  As our first stop, Tu B’Shvat. teaches us--only after the rain-- can the fruit grow!



Special Note Two:  We continue our series on Brachos, with practical Teshuvos in Hilchos Brachos given by Rabbi Yisroel Pinchos Bodner, Shlita, author of Halachos of Brochos (Feldheim).  Of course, one should consult with his own Rav or Posek on every Shailah that he has.




Q: (Continuation from last Shailah) So based on what the Rav writes, does that mean that when I buy a coffee from the vending machine in our coffee room, and then sometimes I want a second cup, I do not make a brocha on the second cup?


A:  Absolutely correct. Yesterday, we noted that when you buy one bread and leave the store you show that you had no intention of eating a second bread, therefore your brocha was specifically for only one bread. If you change your mind and want a second bread you must make a new brocha. In this situation, when you bought the first cup, you did NOT show that you only wanted one.  You knew that if you  would want a second you could simply deposit a few coins and vend a hot second one. There was no da’as at the time of brocha against having a second cup. However, if you were trying to limit your caffeine intake, and made a brocha on a cup of coffee with specific intention to have only one cup and no more--no fooling, and no cheating-- and then changed your mind and decided to have a second cup anyway, you would need a second brocha. (Mishna Berurah 174.18, Sha’ar Hatziyon 174.25, also see Halachos of Brochos pg 122).

Additional Note on Brachos:  In Ashrei every day we recite the Pasuk:  Yoducha Hashem Kol Ma’asecha VaChasidecha Yevarechucha--all that you have created will thank you and [but] your Chassidim will bless you (Tehillim 145:10).  What is the contrast between the first part of the Pasuk and the second part of the Pasuk?  Based upon the Radak (ibid.), we may suggest that everyone (Kol Ma’asecha)with a head on his shoulders recognizes that thanks is owed to Hashem for providing him with his needs.  However, a Chassid is one who recognizes Hashem’s Chessed and accordingly does not thank Him in a happenstance and theoretical way, but rather constantly expresses his thanks to Hashem through his purposefully made Brachos.  The Radak (ibid.) explains that the Chassid--the one who understands the Chessed--is one who is truly aroused by the situation, opportunity, or gift that Hashem has presented him with upon which he is about to make his newfound Bracha!



Special Note Three:  Who was Rashi?  Sometimes we take his help for granted… the Sefer Pardes Yosef Al HaTorah (Parshas Vayeishev) brings that a person came to Rashi’s Kever to ask Mechilah for something he had said about the peirush.  Rashi appeared to him at that time and advised him that he had fasted 613 consecutive fasts (not including Shabbos and Yom Tov) before he began to put his Peirush down.  We can well understand why many Talmidei Chachomim say “Let’s see what the Heilege Rashi says” or why HaRav Avigdor Miller, Z’tl, would suggest that after mentioning Rashi, one say “May he have a lichteger Gan Eden”  in recognition of the self-sacrifice of  Rashi--which thousands benefit from everyday and until this day!”



Special Note Four:  Some points and pointers regarding Middos for our times:


1.  What lesson can be learned from the fact that squirrels roam about the streets of New York City and its environs with acceptance as domesticated animals , but would be considered to be like rats if seen in the streets of Yerushalayim?  We may suggest that if one studies a squirrel he will note that he is never at rest--he is always on the move, moving quickly and alertly at all times--and using all of his abilities to attain his goal.  Those in Chutz LaAretz must understand that they must act with alacrity, dedication and zeal in their Avodas Hashem--so that we can once and for all leave the lands of Galus--and merit arrival and permanent dwelling in the place which is described as Lifnei Hashem!


2.  A Rav recently related that there was an outstanding lesson to be learned from Yosef Hatzaddik.  He was a tremendous Talmid Chochom who most closely absorbed his father’s teachings--as the Torah describes ‘Ki Ben Zekunim Hu Lo’.  Yet, with all of his knowledge and all of the messages he received from Hashem through his dreams, he had only one Eitzah to escape the clutches and guile of the Yetzer Hara--VaYanas VaYeitzeih HaChutzah--he ran.  When the temptation comes--we must run, simply run.  This is what kept Yosef a Tzaddik--and this is what can keep us a Tzaddik as well.


3.  After one has run away from the Aveirah opportunity--whatever it may have been, he can reflect: “I must be a very important person--after all, the Yetzer Hara picked me for that Aveirah and not the scores of others he could have selected.  He must have really needed to get me.  Just as I succeeded this time, I daven to Hashem that he give me the good sense and awareness, the strength and the ability to run--the next time he tries again.” 


4.  At the recent Hakhel Yarchei Kallah, Rabbi Maimon Elbaz, Shlita, reminded everyone of how HaRav Avigdor Miller, Z’tl, would teach how Hashem especially packaged fruits in beautiful colors so that their appearance would add to the wonder and enjoyment of the fruit.  He asked, however--what about the parking tickets given by traffic officers which are also beautifully packaged with an orange exterior (at least in New York City ).  How are we supposed to ‘enjoy’ these?  He explained that this packaging could be viewed as a demonstration of how even in the Middas HaDin there is Rachamim.  We would achieve a Kapparah through the monetary penalty without the need c’v for a mugging or of weapons being used against us.  Instead, we were being given a Kapparah opportunity in a ‘perforate and peel’ convenient and colorful envelope!  Hakhel Note:  Two points:  One should be careful not to disobey traffic laws.  In all events, one should not forget to exclaim:  “May I have a Kapparah from my payment of this!”


5.  Rabbi Elbaz also told the story of how HaRav Yosef Chaim Sonnenfeld, Z’tl, was once walking towards the Kosel.  An Arab in close proximity began throwing tomatoes at him.  HaRav Sonnenfeld mouthed something towards him.  The Arab--afraid and superstitious over the fact that he had been cursed--ran over HaRav Sonnenfeld to ask forgiveness--”What did you say Rabbi, what did you say?” “I thanked you for throwing tomatoes and not rocks!” he responded.  Sometimes, we have to recognize that the assault being hurled upon us can be worse than it is, and thank Hashem--and the complaining party--for not making it worse! 


6.  We learn in this week’s Parsha that the Bnei Yisroel that went down to Egypt were ‘Shivim Nefesh’--not Shivim Nefashos--they acted as one soul--with unity, caring for each other even in a manner that would seem to be against their best interests.  The fact that Shevet Levi studied and were supported by the other Shevatim (who had to work more because Shevet Levi was not working) is a perfect example of this unity.  As many know, one of the great stories relating to HaRav Nosson Tzvi Finkel, Z’tl, was the lesson he taught to the powerful corporate executives who came to visit him.  HaRav Finkel told them that the lesson for them from the Holocaust should be from the concentration camp inmates who pushed their blankets--their sole source of warmth during the cold winter--towards their fellow prisoner--so that they would be warmed as well.  HaRav Finkel, in a quivering voice, exclaimed to them--”Take your blanket. Take it back to America and push it to five other people.”  If the corporate executives were instructed to do this by the Rosh Yeshiva--we must at least do likewise!



Special Note One:  We continue our series on Brachos, with practical Teshuvos in Hilchos Brachos given by Rabbi Yisroel Pinchos Bodner, Shlita, author of Halachos of Brochos (Feldheim).  Of course, one should consult with his own Rav or Posek on every Shailah that he has.




(Continuation of yesterday’s Shailah)


Q: When I start driving to work I make a Shehakol and I start eating, and after about a half hour I always stop at the rest stop and buy a coffee.  Do I make another Shehakol for the coffee?


A: Yesterday we spoke of the Shinuy Makom issue, and said there was no Shinuy Makom. (Halochos of Brochos pg 148) There is another issue: Will a brocha be valid for something you do not as yet own or have in your possession? Since you did not own the coffee when you made the brocha, will the Shehakol you made before the coffee even came into existence be valid? The Mishna Berurah (174:18) rules that if one buys a bread and makes HaMotzi, and when done wishes to eat another bread, and goes back to the store to buy another one, he must make another HaMotzi. That is because when he first left the store with only one bread he shows he did not intend to eat a second one. However, in your case the fact that you did not have the coffee in your car when you made the Shehakol in no way indicated that you did not want a coffee. Since you always (or usually) stop for the coffee it is as if you had da’as at the time of the brocha to also have a coffee. Therefore, bottom line, your coffee was covered with the Shehakol you made when you started driving. (Based on Ma’amar Mordechai referenced in Sha’ar Hatziyon 174:25).


Additional Note on Brachos:  Yesterday, we noted that the Arizal writes that one should be very careful with his Birkas HaNehenin during the Shovavim period.  A Rav noted that another Tikkun in the area of food consumption during this period is the manner in which one eats.  Rather than eat in a ravenous or quick fashion--he should parallel his eating to the way he makes his bracha--slowly and surely, with the knowledge that this is bringing him closer to Hashem! 



Special Note Two:  Some additional notes on the Shovavim period, based on the Luach Davar BeIto, which may serve as a primer for the Hakhel Shiur next Monday by Rabbi Mordechai Becher, Shlita, on the topic of Shovavim 5772: The Meaning and Relevance of Shovavim in Our Times:


A.  If we do not fast, there can be replacements--which include Tzedakah (based upon the Pasuk (Doniel 4:24 ) “VeChataich BeTzedakah Feruk”--and your sins shall be redeemed through Tzedakah), and also by being more circumspect with one’s words during this period.  Indeed, some say that a Ta’anis Dibbur is worth 1,000 times more than a Ta’anis from food.  Similarly, Rebbi Moshe Leib Sasover, Z’tl, specifically writes that if a person stops himself from getting angry, it is worth more than 1,000 fasts.  Rabbeinu Yonah brings in the Yesod HaTeshuva in the name of the Ra’avad that one who eats and stops as a matter of course without fulfilling his full desire is performing an act which is greater than fasting--for fasting is a one time display of dedication--and this is a constant breaking of desire. 


B.  The term Shovavim is based on the Pasuk (Yirmiyah 3:22 ) “Shuvu Bonim Shovavim Erpah Meshuvoseichem”--return, wayward sons, and I will heal your waywardness.  It is thus an auspicious time for Teshuvah--just as when a sick person goes to a spa which has the medicinal qualities needed to heal him.  The Toldos Aharon adds that our sincere Tefillos to correct our Middos, to sanctify our senses and to be saved from depression, anger and pride are more acceptable to Hashem during these times.


C.  V’Aileh Shemos Bnei Yisroel [Ha]Ba’im Mitzraymah is an acronym for Shovavim.  The last letters of Mitzraymah Es Yaakov Ish U’Beiso is an acronym for Teshuvah.  


D.  Some do not eat food which was once live (fish, poultry or meat) on various days during this period, and some not at all on weekdays--except at a Seudas Mitzvah. 


E.  There are 42 days of Shovavim which is representative of the word Bam in the words VeDibarta Bam.  Accordingly, it is a time to increase one’s Torah study.  Accordingly, the Klausenberger Rebbe, Z’tl, taught in the name of Rebbi Elimelech of Lezinsk, Z’tl, that if it is difficult for one to fast he should instead learn two dafim of Gemarah with Tosfos or five dafim of Gemarah with the Rosh, and this would be greater than fasting.


F.  Many increase their recitation of Tehillim--especially on Erev Shabbos.



Special Note Three:  Set forth below are several points and pointers relating to the recitation of Nefilas Apayim (Tachanun) daily, which are primarily derived from the Dirshu Edition of the Mishna Berurah:


1.  The Mishna Berurah writes that one’s face should not merely be covered by his hand or arm, but by the clothing upon it.  This is one part of the body cannot serve as a covering to the other [just as one’s hand cannot serve as a yarmulke on his hand] (Shulchan Aruch, Orach Chaim 131, Mishna Berurah seif katan 3). 


2.  When one performs Nefilas Apayim on his right hand, he should think of the following Pasuk “Semolo Tachas LeRoshi Vi’Mino Techabekeini” (Mishna Berurah ibid., seif katan 5).


3. The Rabbeinu Bachya (Bamidbar 16:22) writes that the reason we cover our faces is because it is a especial display of Anavah and Busha--humility and shame.


4.  There is no prohibition of Lo Sisgodedu in one shul if people cover their faces at different times based upon their custom [such as Ashkenaz/ Sefard on Mondays and Thursdays]. 


5.  If a Shaliach Tzibbur mistakenly immediately began Chatzi Kaddish after Chazaras HaShatz the Chazon Ish rules that the opportunity to recite Tachanun has been lost, and the Tzibbur should go directly to Ashrei or Aleinu, as the case may be. 


6.  If one is davening in the Ezras Nashim [for an explainable reason], he can perform Nefilas Apayim, provided that the Aron HaKodesh can be seen through the windows.  


7.  In the Sefer Eretz Yisroel, HaRav Y.M. Tuketchinsky, Z’tl, writes that although many otherwise require the presence of a Sefer Torah in order to perform Nefilas Apayim, the Minhag Yerushalayim is to perform Nefilas Apayim even if there is no Sefer Torah--because all of Yerushalayim is considered Lifnei Hashem(!).  HaRav Shlomo Zalmen Auerbach, Z’tl, writes that this is the Minhag in all of Yerushalayim (i.e., even not within the walled city).  HaRav Moshe Feinstein, Z’tl (Igros Moshe, Yoreh De’ah 3:129) adds that even those who will not perform Nefilas Apayim without a Sefer Torah in Chutz La’Aretz must do so in Yerushalayim, for that is the Minhag HaMakom.


8.  Although Nefilas Apayim is not recited at night Al Pi Kabbalah, one may recite the Kepitel of Tehillim of Nefilas Apayim (Perek Vav) at night (Mishna Berurah ibid., seif katan 16). 


9.  Although many are familiar with a concept of a newly-married Chasson not coming to Shul so as not to prevent the recitation of Tachanun by the Tzibbur, the Chazon Ish held that the Chasson should come to Shul.  The Sefer Ishei Yisroel likewise writes that the Chasson’s attendance at Shul during the Sheva Brachos week is the accepted custom.  One should of course follow his own Rav's p'sak on this and every other issue.


10.  We asked Rabbi Dovid Weinberger, Shlita, (author of the Artscroll Women’s Siddur) why it is the custom of women not to recite Tachanun.  He replied based upon the Sefer Machazeh Eliyahu (Rav Eliyahu Falk, Shlita) that Tachanun represents an aspect of Tefillah which women are not obligated to perform--Nefilah, or falling.  The true obligation of a woman in Tefillah is Amidah--proper recitation of the Shemone Esrei.  He advised us that it would not be Assur for a woman to recite Tachanun--but that it is most important that she properly fulfill her Ikar Chiyuv of Tefillah--the Amidah!



Special Note One:  We continue our series on Brachos, with practical Teshuvos in Hilchos Brachos given by Rabbi Yisroel Pinchos Bodner, Shlita, author of Halachos of Brochos (Feldheim).  Of course, one should consult with his own Rav or Posek on every Shailah that he has.




Q: I have a simple question:  When I start driving to work I make a shehakol and I start eating a candy bar, and after about a half hour I always stop at the rest stop and buy a coffee.  Do I make another shehakol for the coffee?


A: Your question is far from simple.  There are actually two different halachic issues, which have very practical applications to many everyday situations.  We will take one issue today, and BE”H continue with the second issue in the next two posts.  The first issue is:  Is travelling in a car itself considered Shinuy Makom, which requires a new brocha. Let us rephrase your question.  You make a Shehakol, and a half hour later you pour yourself a coffee from the thermos in your car. When you made the Shehakol over the candy bar you were in New Jersey , and when you are ready to drink the coffee you are in Pennsylvania .  Does that constitute Shinuy Makom which requires a new bracha?  The answer is no, your brocha is valid for any subsequent food that you may want to eat during your entire drive.  The Shulchan Aruch (Orach Chaim 178.4) rules that holchei drochim, pedestrian travelers, make one brocha which is valid during his entire travels. The Poskim opine that this applies to a person traveling in a car as well. (Halachos of Brochos, p. 148, based on P’sak I heard from Rav Elyashiv, Shlita). Therefore, if the coffee would have been together with you in the car, then there would be no issue of your not needing to make another Shehakol. We have another issue to be discussed in the next two posts. 


Additional Note One on Brachos:  Now that the Shovavim period has begun, we remind everyone of the Yesod V’Shoresh HaAvodah’s instruction in the name of the Arizal for this period:  “…VeGam Yehai Zahir Me’od BeBirkas HaNehenin--one should be very careful with [the proper recitation of] brachos made before and after foods during this period”.  This teaching, of course, goes very well with the fact that there are those who actually fast, one, two or more days per week during this six-week period.  If we are in fact eating--it should at least be with a higher degree of Ruchniyus instilled into the act!  Many point out that the word Kavannah is related to the word Kivun--or direction.  Your Kavannah indicates the direction you take in your food consumption--as you inject spirit into the Gashmiyus with all that your bracha accomplishes in this World, the Upper Worlds--and the World to Come!


Additional Note Two on Brachos:  The International Brachos Contest for children continues in full swing.  The contest also hosts the Brachos Hotline for children--718-301-9889--which includes stories, chizuk, and a list of stores that carries the packets.  For questions, one should call 718-436-8566 or email zshain@koshernet.com



Special Note Two:  Concluding points and pointers on Parshas VaYechi:


A.  When Yaakov saw some of the progeny that would come out of Menashe and Efraim, he exclaimed “Mi Eileh--who are these people?!”  After Yosef clarified that they were his legitimate children, Yaakov gave Menashe and Efraim their Brachos.  At first glance, this may be difficult to understand--if people of the likes of Yeravam and Yei’hu are to descend from Efraim and Menashe--what difference would it make that their ancestors were initially of good stock?  Why should Yaakov give the bracha?!  We may suggest that this teaches us the sheer potency and potential of a bracha.  Although the future seemed to indicate that there was much negativity that would arise--Yaakov still felt that the bracha could still help to attenuate and ameliorate the acts of the Reshaim--and that the progeny would ultimately be worthwhile.  We must understand that the Koach of our Brachos to another is beyond our comprehension (especially as we have noted in the past, if they come from Hakaras HaTov for what someone has done for you).  Ultimately good will win out and the brachos that we give can help speed the process.  Additional Note:  It is reported that the Brisker Rav, Z’tl, was upset that many people were davening for the Russians to win in World War I; instead, he insisted that people daven for the Yeshuas Hashem.  Who knows, he lamented, whether the Communists stayed in power in Russia after the war because of all of the Tefillos on behalf of the Russians at the time?!


B.  When one views how a father gives brachos to his children on Leil Shabbos, he will note that the father gives a bracha to each child individually.  Why was it so necessary then for Yaakov Avinu to ‘create’ the difficulty of giving Efraim and Menashe a bracha simultaneously--rather than giving each one a bracha on accordance with their particular strengths?  The obvious answer is that they received one joint bracha--just as each tribe (they were, after all, the tribe of Yosef) received its own bracha.  Their joint and unified bracha was one of love, of recognizing each other’s roles, and of not being jealous of the other.  Yosef’s descendants were given the mission of teaching our people that although we are different, we are one and we can love and respect each other.  Indeed, Yaakov told Yosef that any future children that he had would become part of Efraim and Menashe’s families, of their ultimate message, and would not need or have any independent nachalah.  The Pasuk (Yecheskel 48:32).teaches that in the future there will be a gate for each one of the Shevatim to exit Yerushalayim, and “Shevet Yosef” will only have one gate--we may suggest that this is because at that time we will have all learned the lesson that Yaakov Avinu set out to teach us--Yesimcha Elokim Ke’Efraim VeChimnashe!


C.  Yaakov told Yosef that he was giving him one additional portion that he took from the Emori “BeCharbi U’Vekashti”.  The Gemara (Baba Basra 123A) asks, “Could Yaakov Avinu have really taken this portion with his sword and bow?”  After all, Dovid HaMelech teaches us all in Tehillim (44:7) “For I do not trust in my bow, nor does my sword save me”?  The Gemara therefore concludes that the word “BeCharbi--my sword” refers to his prayer and “U’Vekashti--my bow” refers to his supplication.   The Meshech Chochmah (Bereishis 48:22) reconciles the plain meaning of the words “my sword and my bow” with the Gemara’s explanation of “my prayer and my supplication” as follows:  In fact, Yaakov Avinu did go to war with a sword and bow, in much the same way as Avraham Avinu went to war with Eliezer his servant against the four superpowers of his time.  They each made all of the efforts they could make as human beings, and placed all else--and most importantly the outcome--in Hashem’s hands with their Tefillos.


The Chazon Ish further crystallizes the point.  He writes (Kovetz Igros Chazon Ish 3:62) that we must always remember that we are powerless to accomplish anything.  Our actions, really our efforts, arouse Heavenly mercy to fulfill our intentions.  The Chazon Ish continues that, in fact, the one who davens and intensely supplicates to be saved, accomplishes more than the one who puts in the effort.

Hakhel Note:  With this thought in mind, we can perhaps further understand the Pasuk relating to Yaakov’s bracha:  Sikeil Es Yadav--he made his hands smart (see Targum Yonasan Ben Uziel there).  We cannot really win wars with our weaponry, our hands and our skill.  It must be with our minds, properly directed to our Father in Heaven.  We were always known for our Sechel--we suggest that the Pasuk reveals to us what the Sechel we are to be known for really means!


At this point, of our brothers in Eretz Yisroel are besieged by enemies from within and without.  We are one with them.   We need to daven, and they need to daven.  Their tefillos may be likened to the “charbi--the sword”, for it is needed for its short-range effects.  Our tefillos, from New York to Sydney, and from London to Los Angeles, are to serve as bows--with long-reaching effects extending to our Holy Land.  It is our primary responsibility, and we are duty-bound from all perspectives--Bein Adam L’Makom, Bein Adam L’Chaveiro, and Bein Adam L’Atzmo--to intensify our prayers and supplications to Hashem that we win the wars that face us speedily and that Hashem bring the final brocha of peace to His people and the world.



Special Note One:  We received the following beautiful answer to our Question of the Week relating to the nexus between Teves as the tenth month--and Shevet Dan as the tenth tribe traveling in the desert:  “I’m looking at the Mefarshim on Yaakov Avinu’s brachah for Shevet Dan (in this week’s parshah), and it seems that Shevet Dan teaches us a lesson about how to view or own strength and our reliance on Hashem.  Yaakov Avinu first compares Dan to a snake, and then concludes the brachah with the exclamation “Lishuasecha Kivisi Hashem!”  The Kli Yakar writes that just as a snake has power only with its mouth (its bite), so too, the koach of Dan is with its mouth.  Yaakov Avinu even specifically calls Dan a “shififon,” which Rashi translates as a snake that hisses.  Rashi also writes on “Hanoshaich ikvei sus” (that bites a horse’s heels) that Yaakov compares Dan to a snake who can bite a person’s heels and cause them to call backwards off of a horse, even though the snake never touched the rider.  Shimshon did something similar when he simply davened to Hashem and then Hashem made the roof collapse and kill the Plishtim.  Yaakov then looks into the future and sees Shimshon’s strength, and calls out “Lishuasecha Kivisi Hashem!” According to the Daas Zekainim, this was Yaakov’s way of expressing his realization that even though Shimshon appeared to be so tremendously strong, all strength comes only from Hashem!  Perhaps these messages are particularly applicable to us during the month of Teves, when it is cold outside, the winter is setting in, and we have no yamim tovim to cheer us up.  We feel so vulnerable, unable to control the weather patterns, and we realize that all of our own strengths are just an illusion.  There is only One Power who can help us, if we use the koach of our mouth to daven to Him  - Lishuasecha Kivisi Hashem!”


 Additional Note:  Rebbe Tzadok HaKohein beautifully explains that both Shevet Dan and Shevet Yehudah are referred to as “Gur Aryeh” in the Torah (see Bereishis 49:9 and Devarim 33:22).  Furthermore, the leaders in charge of building the Mishkan were Betzalel from Shevet Yehuda and Ahaliyav from Shevet Dan; Rebbe Tzadok brings from the Medrash Tanchuma that this was the case in the Bais Hamikdash as well.  Shevet Dan, at the end is connected to Shevet Yehudah, which traveled first in the Midbar and which represented Malchus because this symbolizes our existence--connecting the top to the bottom, the end to the beginning.  In fact, he explains this is what is meant by Chazal (end of Ta’anis) who teach that in the future Hashem will make an ‘igul’, a circle for the Tzaddikim--for in a circle the end and the beginning are connected as one.  It is for this reason that Yaakov Avinu recited the words “LeYeshuasecha Kevisi Hashem” over Dan--for the end will be, the Moshiach can come when a low point has been reached which can join to the high point --so that we come full circle!



Special Note Two:  We continue our series on Brachos, with practical Teshuvos in Hilchos Brachos given by Rabbi Yisroel Pinchos Bodner, Shlita, author of Halachos of Brochos (Feldheim).  Of course, one should consult with his own Rav or Posek on every Shailah that he has.




Q:  I would like to know if I forget to say Retzei when I bentsched after Shalosh Seudos must I bentsch again?


A: Since you ask about forgetting Retzei in the bentching of Shalosh Seudos, you are obviously and correctly aware if one forgot to recite Retzei at the two main Shabbos meals, the Friday night meal, and the Shabbos day meal, he must recite the entire Birkas HaMazon again making sure to include Retzei. Most Poskim rule that eating a beizah (2 kezaysim of) bread at Shalosh Seudos is mandatory. According to this opinion, Retzei would also be mandatory. However, there is a minority opinion that one can be Yotzei Shalosh Seudos with foods other than bread. In deference to this minority opinion, if one forgot Retzei at Shalosh Seudos he should not bentsch again (Sofek brachos L’hokel).  (Shulchan Aruch, 188:8, Mishna Berurah 31, Halachos of Brochos pg 318).


Additional Note on Brachos:  In Power Bentching, Rabbi Moshe Meir Weiss, Shlita, writes:  “The Aruch HaShulchan explains that although Hashem certainly has not need whatsoever of our blessings, we nevertheless exercise our free will by showing that we want to offer Him our blessings. By doing so, we are fulfilling the Pasuk (Tehillim 68:35) Tenu Oz LaiLokim--ascribe power [only] to Hashem!”



Special Note Three:  With the recent Chareidi-bashing activities, a reader correctly suggested that ‘Chareidim’ undertake some kind of Kabbalah, bli neder, as they should view these events not simply as “unfortunate incidents” or “sad occurrences” or “more examples of the hatred displayed against us by the non-religious”--but rather as Hashem’s wake-up call to action for us .  Does a war start because two monarchs want to wield their power--or because Hashem wants certain goals to be accomplished?!  One response to this wake-up call of Sinas Yisroel expressed against us would be to especially increase one’s compliments and positive words towards his fellow man--to the point that rather than there being a nuance, or something reserved for a special occasion, they become part of our essence and being.  A related approach would be for us to review the Ahavas Yisroel Checklist, and determine where we could use improvement.  


Ahavas Yisroel Checklist


1.         Did you say hello to at least one person before they said hello to you?

2.                  Did you make someone smile or laugh today?  Did you boost someone’s spirits?

3.                  Were you truly happy to hear good news about a friend?  Even if you wish that the same good news would happen to you?

4.                  Did you judge someone favorably today?  Did you see people positively—or did you sum up their lifestyle, pros and cons, with one glance of the eye?

5.                  How often did you find yourself talking about someone else?

6.                  Did you actually do any of the following:

a.       Visit a sick person

b.      Help the needy in some way

c.       Invite a guest without family in town for a Shabbos meal

d.      Patronize Jewish products and stores

e.       Help a single person find a Shidduch

f.        Sincerely ask Hashem to bring the Geulah for all of us 


(This checklist is based largely on a checklist developed by N’shei Ahavas Chesed of Brooklyn .)



Special Note Four:  We received an important insight from a reader relating to Yaakov’s bowing a the head of the bed in Yosef’s presence, which we paraphrase as follows:  The very act of bowing was a sign of special respect to Yosef, although Yosef was only Yaakov’s son, and although the entire episode between Yosef and his brother over so many years had caused Yaakov so much distress.  An important lesson to be learned is that each and every member of one’s family must be shown proper respect and honor, notwithstanding their age, position in life, attitude, and even trouble that they may have indeed caused you.  Familiarity and your day-to-day existence with them is insufficient cause to deny someone the respect due to him as a person and as someone who Hashem has especially chosen and specifically designated to be closely related to you.  Chazal (Avos 4:1) teach “Aizehu Mechubad HaMechabeid Es HaBriyos--who is honored--one who honors Hashem’s creatures”--as the Posuk states “Ki Mechabdai Achabeid...for those who honor Me I will honor, and those who scorn Me shall be degraded (Shmuel I, 2:30 ).  If one is duty bound to honor all creatures, he must certainly show proper respect to the people Hashem wants him to interrelate with, learn from and teach to on a day-to-day-to-day basis.



Special Note Five:  In this week’s Parsha, Yaakov Avinu gives Yosef the reason behind his switching hands in blessing Menashe and Ephraim:  “...but his younger brother shall be greater than him”.  HaRav Avigdor Miller, Z’tl provides the following incisive insight here:  “ This is another instance of the surprises that Hashem caused in history.  Kayin and Hevel left no posterity, for only the seed of the younger Shais survived.  Yefes was older, but Shem was chosen.  Yishmael was older, but Yitzchak was chosen.  Esav was the first-born, but Yaakov gained the birthright and the blessings.  Reuven was the first-born, but the Bechorah was given to Yosef.  Menashe was the first-born, but Efraim was given the superiority.  Rochel was the best-loved--but Levi gained for his posterity the privilege of nearness to Hashem--Moshe, Aharon and the Kohanim came from the Levi; and it was Leah’s son Yehudah who was the progenitor of Dovid and his seed.  Indeed, the entire nation of the Jews today are the Yehudim and are accordingly labeled descendants of Leah.  Dovid, the youngest son of Yishai, was chosen by Hashem after all the older brothers were rejected.  These are not mere coincidences, but are Hashem’s plan of demonstrating by unexpected turns that men’s history is not a result of material causes but the hand of Hashem.”



Special Note Six:  Some additional points and pointers on the last Parsha of Chumash Bereishis:


A.  The Parsha begins with the words VaYechi Yaakov BeEretz Mitzrayim--Yaakov lived in Egypt .  This teaches us that no matter where we are, and no matter what our situation, Hashem has given us the breath of life--and we too must act with our own Chiyus--with motivation, inspiration and enthusiasm--notwithstanding the location and the circumstances! 


B.  Many think that Yaakov Avinu was upset with Shimon and Levi and that, accordingly, he gave them no expressed bracha.  We, however, note that Yaakov’s first words to them are Shimon and Levi Achim--Shimon and Levi you are brothers.  The feeling of, and acting as, brothers is in and of itself an outstanding blessing.  Hakhel Note:  A Rav once related to HaRav Yaakov Kamenetsky, Z’tl, how his family gets together for a Yahrzeit, after each has learned a Perek or so of Mishnayos, and they then make a Siyum together.  HaRav Kamenetsky responded to him:  “I don’t know if that is called a Siyum--but it is certainly an outstanding Zechus when the family gets together!”


C.  HaRav Chaim Kanievsky, Z’tl, was asked how the bracha given to boys on Leil Shabbos, at a bris, and at other occasions is Yesimcha Elokim KeEfraim U’CheMenashe--after all isn’t that only a part of a Pasuk in this week’s Parsha--and we have no right to break up a Pasuk.  HaRav Kamenetsky sagaciously responded:  “It cannot be an aveira, for the Torah itself teaches “BeCha Yevareich Yisroel Leimor Yesimcha Elokim KeEfraim VeCheMenashe”--this is the way--the Torah specifically teaches--we are to bless our children!


Additional Note:  Many ask why the Bracha of “Yesimcha Elokim K’Efrayim U’CheMenashe” is so fundamental that it overshadows all other Brachos.  One classic explanation is based upon the relative responses of Yosef and Menashe to Yaakov Avinu’s switching of his hands, so that Efrayim was blessed with the right hand and Menashe with the left.  Yosef’s response was shock and dismay--while Menashe’s (who was really the affected party) response was silence and acceptance!  Menashe’s brotherly love was coupled with a refined relinquishment of any notion of jealously.  These two traits could carry us together as a people through all situations and through all times.  


D.  After Yaakov’s Petirah at the end of the Parsha, the brothers asked Yosef to forgive them for what they had done.  Yosef advises them that it was obviously part of a Divine Plan, but does not actually express the words “Machul Lachem--I forgive you” to them. 


The extreme importance of expressing Mechila may be derived from the following Shailah that was asked to HaRav Chaim Kanievsky, Shlita, and his striking response (Sefer Derech Sicha II; p.67).


Shaila:  “There was a girl in seminary who was suffering from an emotional disorder, whose classmates further upset her.  Her disorder declined to the point where she was institutionalized.  Her classmates wanted to visit her to ask for Mechila.  Could they do so?  Would the Mechila be effective?”


Teshuvah:  “One cannot ask for Mechila in this state.  There is not Eitzah here other than to Daven that she become well so that they can ask Mechila of a mentally competent person, or r’l they must ask Mechila at her Kever if she passes away before them, for after death one can turn to the Neshama and the Neshama will forgive.  Going to visit her in the hospital is a good thing--but it is not Mechilah. 


HaRav Kanievsky continues by bringing the Rabbeinu Bechaya (end of Vayechi) who writes that the reason the Asara Harugei Malchus were punished was because Yosef did not expressly state that he forgave them.  It must be that the reason that they did not go to his Kever to ask for Mechila because they did not realize that one must obtain express Mechila until they saw that they had been punished. 


A great lesson we can learn from this is that rather than being hard hearted and resilient, even when you are absolutely right and the other person was definitely and admittedly wrong, one should be ‘pliable as a reed’ and expressly state (at least upon sincere request) that “I am Mochel B’Lev Shaleim.”  One should most definitely endeavor not to be the source of someone else’s punishment, of another’s suffering.


E.  In the Parsha we learn how the Torah of Yissachar is supported by the financing of Zevulun.  The menahel of a Talmud Torah which was in financial straits approached Harav Kanievsky and asked him if he could travel to Chutz La’Aretz to raise funds.  HaRav Kanievsky ruled that he could travel to Chutz La’Aretz to raise the needed funds, and promptly gave him a bracha that he should not be matzliach--so that he would not travel again--and that because of the hishtadlus that he made Hashem would help him in another way!



Special Note Seven:  We continue with our Erev Shabbos Halachos of Shabbos Series:  In this week’s Parsha, we learn of the power of Dibbur in the brachos of Yaakov Avinu to his children and grandchildren.  We can understand then that the Ma’aseh Beraishis is described in terms of speech as well--VaYomer--and as the Mishna in Avos teaches--BaAsara Ma’amaros Nivra HaOlam.  In fact, there is a Siman in Shulchan Aruch (Orach Chayim 307) entitled “Dinei Shabbos HaTeluyim BeDibbur”--as there are very important guidelines as to VeDabber Davar--what we should speak about on Shabbos and how we should speak about it.  We provide below just a few points relating to these pervasive Halachos, as excerpted from the Dirshu edition footnotes to this Siman in Shulchan Aruch:


A.  We should be especially careful to talk Torah on Shabbos--for the Ben Ish Chai writes in the name of Mekubalim that learning Torah on Shabbos is 1,000 times as great on Shabbos as it is on a weekday!


B.  Just as it is assur to ask an akum to do an actual melacha on your behalf--it is assur to ask them to do even an Uvda Dechol.  Furthermore, just as inappropriate gesturing is treated like speech and considered Lashon Hora--so too is gesturing to an akum to do a melacha or Uvda Dechol on Shabbos also prohibited.


C.  One should not tell his friend how much he paid for an item (i.e., he has already purchased it)--if his friend is in the market for the same item--for his friend is in need of this Dibbur Chol.


D.  Although one may not generally borrow from another Jew on Shabbos because the lender may come to write down the loan he has made, HaRav Shlomo Zalmen Auerbach, Z’tl rules that it would be permissible to borrow from an akum--for even if he will write down the loan, he is doing so for himself--and not for the Jew, and thus his writing is permitted.


E.  The Shelah HaKadosh writes that one should not say Good Morning to a person on Shabbos--but rather Shabbos Tava--Good Shabbos--and by doing so he will fulfill the Mitzvah of Zachor Es Yom HaShabbos LeKadsho! In fact, the Bi’ur Halacha brings in the name of Rebbe Akiva Eiger, Z’tl that one may actually fulfill his ikar chiyuv of Kiddush on Leil Shabbos by expressing the meaningful words of Shabsa Tava!



Special Note One:  We continue our series on Brachos, with practical Teshuvos in Hilchos Brachos given by Rabbi Yisroel Pinchos Bodner, Shlita, author of Halachos of Brochos (Feldheim).  Of course, one should consult with his own Rav or Posek on every Shailah that he has.




Q: In a previous Hakhel post to someone who was not sure that he had bentsched you wrote: When you have a Sofek, if the Sofek is for a D’Oraisa obligation you must adopt the stringent position and bentch again.  Isn’t bentsching always a D’Oraisa obligation?  Shouldn’t anyone who ever has a Sofek be required to bentsch again?


A: The Torah commands: And you shall eat and you shall be satiated, and you shall make a brocha to Hashem… (Devorim 8.10). Since the Torah connects bentsching with being satiated, the  D’Oraisa obligation is only when one ate enough and became satiated. (S. Aruch 194.4)  When a person washes for bread and eats a meal, but is not satiated, then his obligation to bentsch is Mi’Drabbonon. After such a meal, if he is not sure that he bentsched, he is not permitted to bentsch M’sofek.  For more details of what is considered “satiated” see Halachos of Brochos p. 285, note 16.


Additional Note One on Brachos:  HaRav Yitzchok Hutner, Z’tl, in the Sefer Pachad Yitzchak, writes that just as there is a difference in the meaning of the word Amen when answering to a Birkas HaShevach or Birkas HaMitzvah (it is true, and I believe it), on the one hand, and a Birkas Bakasha (it is true and may my request be fulfilled soon) on the other--so too, is there a difference between the meaning of the word Baruch when recited in a Birkas HaShevach or Birkas HaMitzvah (when it connotes only praise--that Hashem is the All-Powerful Source and Grantor of all blessing), and that of a Birkas Bakasha (in which the word “Baruchincludes the request that Hashem as the Only Source provide you with the matter or item requested).  How thoughtful recitation of the word Baruch should really be!


Additional Note Two on Brachos:  Rashi explains that when Yosef and Binyamin fell on each other’s necks in last week’s Parsha (Bereishis 45:14), it was to symbolize the destruction of the two Batei Mikdashos, and the Mishkan of Shilo, which were located in their respective territories in Eretz Yisroel.  The Avnei Nezer explains that the “necks” symbolize the Bais HaMikdash and the Mishkan, because just as the neck connects the head (which is the resting place of the soul) to the rest of the body, so, too, does the Bais HaMikdash (and the Mishkan) definitively connect our physical lives to our spiritual existence.  When we yearn for the Bais HaMikdash, we are yearning to connect our corporeal life to the highest spiritual plane it can achieve.  By making a Bracha (the spiritual) over food (the physical) properly, we demonstrate that we are sincerely preparing for--and awaiting--the day when we truly can connect our bodies to our souls in the most absolute and outstanding way that we can!



Special Note Two:  As today is Asara B’Teves, it is certainly a day to ask for Rachamim from HaKadosh Baruch Hu.  In order to assist you in highlighting your requests for Rachamim in Shemone Esrei this afternoon, may we suggest that you find the Brachos in Shemone Esrei in which ‘Rachamim’ (or a derivation of the word) is mentioned two and three times within the Bracha?



Special Note Three:  To some, fasting on Asara B’Teves may be perplexing for, after all, the Golus Bavel lasted only 70 years, and many great events occurred after Nebuchadnezzar’s initial siege of Yerushalayim--including Purim, Chanukah, the Nevuos of Chagai, Zecharya and Malachi, and the Bayis Sheni, which stood for 420 years.


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


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


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


Of course, the flip side--the beginnings of Mitzvah performance are extremely significant and determinative as well.  It is known that the Vilna Gaon, prior to undertaking a mitzvah, would state, “Hareini Oseh K’mo She’tzivani Hashem B’Soroso--I am about to do what Hashem commanded in His Torah.” 


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


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



Special Note Four:  We provide the following important teaching from a reader, which contains a different insight into the significance of Asara B’Teves for us:  The Chasam Sofer taught that every year on Asara B’Teves there is a Din on whether to restore the Bais Hamikdash to us during that year.  Also, it is brought down from the Avudraham that although fasting is Assur on Shabbos, if Asara B’Teves would fall on Shabbos we would fast.  The explanation for this may be based upon this teaching of the Chasam Sofer--fasting for the past is Assur--but fasting on Asara B’Teves is for the future to give us back the Bais Hamikdash! 



Special Note Five:  Chazal teach that “Agra De’Taanisa Tzidkasa--in order to empower one’s fasting, he should give charity”.  One should be sure to at least give to Tzedaka the cost of the food for the meals that he did not eat (because of the fast).   If one has not yet given Tzedaka in connection with his Asara BeTeves fast, may we recommend giving food to the poor right now?  If you need a quick and important recommendation--Yad Eliezer at yadeliezer.org.  Now is the time to fulfill the words of Chazal, and make your fast especially meaningful.  Don’t let the mitzvah slip away!


Special Note Six:  Three additional points about the Fast and fasting:


1.  The Sefer Pele Yoetz writes that one should not become angry on a fast day, as this is one of the day’s great nisyonos.  When one is hungry, he operates under greater strain, with less patience and forbearance.  If one feels that he may have become overly upset or intolerant, perhaps he can take another day in which he is especially careful to be fully tolerant and in control, Zecher LeAsara BeTeves!


2.  The Ra’avad, as brought by Rabbeinu Yonah teaches that breaking one’s desire by not continuing to eat when eating out of desire is considered as “a Ta’anis, a Korban and a Mizbeach Kapara--as a fast, a sacrifice and an alter of forgiveness.”  We must remember that these words are not expansive oratory, but the words of a Rishon brought in the Yesod HaTeshuva!  One can practice this truly remarkable opportunity on any day.  Nobody would really disengage from his physical desire unless he had a spiritual purpose (look at most of the world around you which is devoid of that purpose)--so by willfully and intentionally breaking your desire--you are on top of all else, undertaking a noble act of Kovod Shomayim, demonstrating that your dedication and striving is towards the ruchniyus of life, and what Hashem seeks of you in this world.


3.  Chazal (Medrash Tanchuma, Vayikra 9) teach that it was already fitting for the Bais HaMikdash to be destroyed on Asara B’Teves, but Hashem, in His incredible mercy, pushed things off to the summer, so that we would not have to be exiled in the cold.  We should take this as an important lesson and be especially considerate and helpful to those who are standing outside at your door, walking when you are driving, or even those who are suffering from colds and cold weather-related illnesses.  When you make sure that your family and friends are properly dressed, have soft tissues and the like, you are likewise demonstrating a Middah of Rachmanus, of special mercy and care, which warms those around you.


Related Note:  Along these lines, Chazal (Rosh Hashana 18A) teach us that, according to one opinion, Naval was granted an additional ten days of life because of the ten meals he fed to guests--Dovid’s men.  Doing the easy math, this means that Naval “bought” a day of life for each meal he served a guest.  Oh, how we should treasure the opportunities of doing a simple and seemingly short-term kindness to someone else, for it results in nothing short of life itself.



Special Note Seven:  The Chasam Sofer in a Drasha that he gave on the eighth day of Teves (approximately 200 years ago) suggests that after the 70-day period of mourning in Egypt ended for Yaakov Avinu, the Bnei Yisroel traveled to Eretz Canaan and eventually buried Yaakov Avinu--on Asara B’Teves.  The date of Eisav’s death is then--yes, Asara B’Teves, as well.


There is much to learn from the Chasam Sofer’s conclusion in our observance of Asara B’Teves.  After all, Maaseh Avos Siman L’Bonim--that which occurred to our forefathers is a sign for future generations. Firstly, Chazal teach us that “Yaakov Avinu Lo Mais.”  That is, even though it may appear to us that Yaakov passed away, in fact, he lives on--most certainly so in spirit.  We, too, having experienced the devastating blow of the events of Asara B’Teves more than 2,500 years ago have not rolled over and died as scores of other nations have in the meantime.  Moreover, what ultimately happened on Asara B’Teves was the death of Eisav.  This, the Chasam Sofer writes, is symbolic of Asara B’Teves in the end being turned from a date of sadness to a day of “Sasson V’Simcha”--joy and happiness.


The missing link to bring us to what Asara B’Teves is supposed to be is Teshuva.  We all know that this is the shortest fast of the year, so it should be the easiest.  That is a gift in and of itself.  However long or short the fast is, in order to be meaningful, it must be accompanied by Teshuva.  We must do something.  We must make a move to revitalize Yaakov, and to once and for all, put Eisav away.  One suggestion may be to take out your Vidui booklet, or other Rosh Hashana/Yom Kippur reminder.  Whatever you decide, may your act of Teshuva turn the tide for you and your family--and for us all--as it most definitely can and should!


[9 Teves]




CELL PHONE REMINDER:  Because of the dangers of cell phone usage while driving, many (perhaps all) states have limitations and restrictions on cell phone use in moving vehicles.  Importantly, in New York, one cannot even have his cell phone on his lap or on the seat next to him with the speakerphone on--as this is still considered to be a dangerous activity.  There are undoubtedly many lessons that one can derive from this seemingly overreaching--but really very rational--prohibition.  We suggest that a great lesson Hashem has planted in this law is that putting the Yetzer Hora just a little bit out-of-reach is simply not enough to keep you out of trouble.  If he is in ear’s or arm’s reach--he is dangerous to you--and indeed even makes you dangerous to others as well!  It is our real duty to take the Yetzer Hora out and move him far away from us to neutralize and eliminate his effect.


Additional Note One:  If New York State can strictly enforce cell phone laws against even the greatest drivers, all the more so must every person set his own limits regarding cell phone use, which won’t be exceeded except in the case of emergency.  Wearing a blue tooth during davening?  Loud music ring tone going off in public areas or during Shiurim?  Picking up the phone when helping your child with homework or talking to someone (after bushing them off with a quick ‘excuse me’?  Sending text messages when crossing a main street (perhaps even against the light)?... are just a few areas where the Torah Jew can show his dominion over a new fangled Yetzer Hora in technology through his thoughts and efforts to do the right thing, and his personal decision to have mind control and rule over matter.


Additional Note Two:  Even those who are pedestrians--walking in the street or in crowded areas while emailing or texting present more than a nuisance--and really a danger--to drivers and others in their immediate vicinity.  When using the cell phone in a situation which could have a bearing on one’s safety or the safety of another--one must always remember the Halachic teaching--Chamira Sakanta Mai’Issura--we must be more careful with dangerous situations than with prohibited ones! 



Special Note One:  From a reader:  “Regarding the Siddur/Chumash Borer question, I have the following thoughts….it would seem to me that if the person will not be able to get the Chumash later--either because they will all be gone by laining or if the shul is so crowded he can’t get to the seforim shelf, or for any other valid reason, then he needs it now.  Without any of these factors, he doesn’t really need it now, and it might be an issue of borer--unless one can look at the entire time a person spends in shul as one long episode of “now”, like one long meal.  I’m not qualified to make that determination, but it does seem reasonable.  There is a bigger problem when people collect all of the Siddurim or Chumashim, after davening or laining.  Typically, they pick up every Siddur or Chumash on the table, carry the pile to the shelves, and then put down the pile and literally sort them by size or format (the English Chumashim, the Artscroll Chumashim, and the older style Chumashim, for example), and then put all of the sorted seforim in the appropriate section of the shelf. It seems to be that this is Borer DeOraysah. One solution is to have each “collector” gather only one size or sort of sefer, take that pile to the back, and shelve that pile.  The people who gather seforim and clean up in any shul are doing a tremendous (and often unrecognized) Chesed for the Tzibbur... we should try to ensure that there is no aveirah involved in that Chesed.”

Hakhel Note:  Thank you very much for your thoughtful comments.  One should consult with his Rav for a final P’sak in all areas. 



Special Note Two:  We continue our series on Brachos, with practical Teshuvos in Hilchos Brachos given by Rabbi Yisroel Pinchos Bodner, Shlita, author of Halachos of Brochos (Feldheim).  Of course, one should consult with his own Rav or Posek on every Shailah that he has.




Q: The other night I was eating dinner (not with bread) with my family, when my wife discovered that we were out of drinks for the kids. She dispatched me to a nearby store to buy drinks. Was I required to make new brochos when I came back and resumed eating?


A: You are correct about this being a Shailah of Shinuy Makom.  Usually when one leaves the location in the middle of eating and then returns he must make a new Bracha Rishona.  There are a number of exceptions, and your case is one of them.  If one is eating with others (family, or friends) and they are still at the table waiting for him, his meal continues when he leaves and then returns, and he may continue eating without a new brocha when he returns. (Shulchan Aruch, 178:2, Halachos of Brochos, p. 145).


Additional Note on Brachos:  At yesterday’s Hakhel Shiur, Rabbi Yisroel Belsky, Shlita, noted that one should re-ignite his Emunah throughout the day by clearing his thoughts prior to making a Bracha.  For instance, one can look at the food in front of him and reflect “Kulam BeChochma Asisa!”--all of Your creations are with wisdom, or “Malah HaAretz Kinyanecha!”--the world is filled with that which You created.  He noted that the sin of the safsuf in the desert was that they were Hisa’avu Ta’ava--they desired a desire--meaning that they really did not need anything because of all that Hashem had blessed them with and actually they created a desire--which of course led to their downfall.  The more we appreciate that which we have before making the bracha--the more real and inspired the bracha will be! 



Special Note Three:  Today is the eighth day of Teves, the tragic day upon which the Torah was translated into Greek, the Septuagint, which is marked as a Ta’anis Tzadikim.  For further detail on the tragedy of the Septuagint, we refer you to the outstanding Sefer HaToda’ah, translated into English as The Book of Our Heritage (Feldheim), by Rabbi Eliyahu Kitov, Z’tl.


Tomorrow, the ninth day of Teves is actually also a Ta’anis Tzadikim, for it is the Yahrzeit of Ezra HaSofer (see Shulchan Aruch, Orach Chaim 580, Mishna Berura, Seif Katan 13).  As a zechus for Ezra HaSofer, one can review the Takanos that Ezra instituted, as described in Bava Kamma 82A.


These two days are then followed by a third Ta’anis, Asara B’Teves, which is observed by all.


At yesterday’s Hakhel Shiur, Rabbi Jonathan Rietti, Shlita, explained why the Septuagint which took place today was such a disaster for the world.  After all, at first glance, one could note that the translators were our Chachomim, and that they all miraculously translated the Torah in the same way (Chazal actually give 13 examples of how, although placed in different rooms, unanimously changed the meanings of words, so as not to offend the Greeks or cause hurt to the Jewish population).  The overriding calamity, nevertheless, was that the nations of the world would now feel that they had an understanding--and a direct and current chelek--in the Torah itself.  As a direct result, there appeared translations of the “Bible” known as the King James Version, etc. which mistranslated the Torah to the nations of the world.  As a classic example of this, the KJ version mistranslated the primary meaning of “Lev” as ‘heart’--although its primary meaning according to Chazal is mind.  Based upon this one mistranslation, the nations of the world misconstrued and continued to misconstrue the details and role of Machshava (which is our Lev) to the Torah Jew.  It is because of this and similar distortions, Rabbi Rietti taught, that Chazal in Mesechta Sofrim (1:7) teach that the catastrophe of the Targum Shivim was like that of the Cheit HaEigel(!).

Hakhel Note:  Rabbi Rietti brought from the Maharal, and as we have noted in the past, the first time the Torah uses a word is indicative of its primary meaning.  If one finds the first time that the word/concept of Lev is referred to in the Torah--we can understand what the term Lev means to us--and the Kavannos we are to have when we recite the words “BeChol Levavecha” in Kriyas Shema daily! 



Special Note Six: Based upon the above brief description of this three day period that we embark upon today, the order of the day is Teshuva.  Here is one suggestion of something we can all work on:  What if you are not sure whether a Chillul Hashem will result from the action that you are about to undertake.  Let us say...walking on someone else’s grass, beating a light, saying ‘what you feel’, not being especially careful or circumspect in the supermarket or store.... A Chillul Hashem may or may not result.  The Sefer Sha’arei Teshuva (Sha’ar Daled), and the Rambam in Hilchos Teshuva (end of Chapter One) both record the severity of  the sin of Chillul Hashem--as reflected in the form of punishment necessary to expunge its effects upon the sinner.  May we suggest that one, bli neder, commit to not take the action or say the words that he realizes could result in Chillul Hashem--even if he is not sure at all that they really will.  By taking a step back from Sofek Chillul Hashem, one demonstrates his aversion to Chillul Hashem, and a level of Yiras Shomayim and Teshuva to Hashem to which we should all aspire.


Hakhel Note:  Many teach that after the darkest point of night…comes sunrise.  We should use the three days ahead to bring the daylight to Klal Yisroel.  We each are responsible and we each can help do it!  



QUESTION OF THE WEEK:  HaRav Tzadok HaKohen teaches that the month of Teves is a very special one--for as the tenth month of the year it symbolizes Shevet Dan which was tenth Shevet to travel in formation in the desert.  What was so unique about Shevet Dan?



Special Note One:  Some concluding points and pointers on last week’s Parsha:


A.  The first word of the Parsha is “Vayigash”--and Yehuda drew near, or approached.  Last week, we saw how important this concept is in preparing for Tefillah.  Drawing near to someone is always an important approach (pun intended) for conciliation and reconciliation.  Every time one keeps his distance (sitting at the other end of the table, or standing at a distant point in the room), or communicates essential messages only by telephone or electronically (when they can be done in person), he is missing an essential opportunity to successfully mend or create an important relationship or bond.  One should remember that we are all created in the Tzelem Elokim and the more one draws close to another person--the more he feels the Tzelem Elokim of the other person--and can demonstrate his own Tzelem Elokim to the other person as well!


B.  Yaakov taught his descendents for all times a crucial lesson when he sent Yehuda ahead to establish a Yeshiva, a spiritual footing in Goshen .  Whenever one is to begin a new undertaking or start a new phase or project, he should begin by first providing for a Heavenly or spiritual need.  For instance, when moving into a new apartment or home, one should first consider how and where Torah and Tefillah will be housed in the new home! 


C.  Yosef did not lay claim to the “Admas HaKohannim”--the property of the Egyptian priests, which he could have easily done in exchange for the live-giving food that he was giving them, and as he had in fact done with the rest of the Egyptians.  He did not treat them in this way in recognition of the Tova that they had done to him when the wife of Potifera brought her case against Yosef in front of the priests.  They realized he was telling the truth and so they saved his life (see Targum Yonasan Ben Uziel to Bereishis 39:20 and 47:22).  Yosef demonstrated his HaKoras HaTov to them in a grand manner.  The lesson is there for us all to see!



Special Note Two:  We continue our series on Brachos, with practical Teshuvos in Hilchos Brachos given by Rabbi Yisroel Pinchos Bodner, Shlita, author of Halachos of Brochos (Feldheim).  Of course, one should consult with his own Rav or Posek on every Shailah that he has.




Q: In your recent Hakhel Bulletin you wrote that to avoid the halachic uncertainty of making a bracha when tasting food one should “first make a bracha and eat a bit of a food for enjoyment rather than for tasting, then she may continue tasting for the next half hour without a new bracha being necessary”. What is the source for only half an hour?  What caused the bracha Rishona to be interrupted?  In fact, Rabbi Bodner himself writes (Halachos of Brochos) on pages 157-158 that a lapse of time does not affect a Bracha Rishona.


A: There is a Machlokes between the Mogen Avrohom whose opinion is to make a new Bracha Rishona after shiur ikul, and most other Poskim.  The Mishna Berura rules in accordance to the opinion of most Poskim.  Therefore if one already ate a snack and later wishes to eat another snack even (after shiur ikul has elapsed), he should not make a new Bracha Rishona. However, if one plans to eat small amounts over an extended period of time (with lapses of a half hour), he should not cover all that he plans to eat with one bracha.  Rather, if more than a half hour will elapse until the next snack, he should make a Bracha Achrona after each snack and a new Bracha Rishona for the next one.  If each snack does not require a Bracha Achrona (i.e. less than a Kezayis), then before he starts--before he makes the first Bracha Rishona, he should have specific intention not to include the food which might subsequently be eaten.  Then when he eats again after a half hour or more, he makes a new bracha. (See first Biur Halacha, 190; Minchas Yitzchak (5: 102); and Halachos of Brochos, p. 163). 


Additional Note on Brachos:  From the Sefer Garden of Gratitude: “Gratitude leads to happiness, since grateful people are never bitter, and bitter people are never grateful.”



Special Note Three:  From a reader:  “What is the source of the Minhag of eating latkes on Chanukah?  If it is that we need to eat something with oil in it--why not simply eat French fries from your local pizza store?  I have heard that the word “lat” in Yiddish means patch, and that the reason we eat latkes on Chanukah is to symbolize that the breaches made by the Yevanim in the Bais HaMikdash were only temporarily patched.  Some even refer to “sufganiot” as “latkes” as well, very likely for the same reason.  The latkes teach that although we were able to mend the breach--Chanukah was not the complete Yeshua.  Based upon this, I understand much better what you brought in the name of the Ba’al Shem Tov that the reason Chanukah does not have its own Mesechta is because the Mesechta of Chanukah will not be over until Moshiach comes and completes that Tahara of the Bais Hamikdash!”  Hakhel Note:  This is an excellent thought.  With this, we can understand the difference in the endings of Al HaNissim on Purim and on Chanukah.  On Purim, we end Al HaNissim with finality: “VeSalu Osso VeEs Banav Al HaEitz”--Haman and his sons were hanged, and the lives of Bnei Yisroel were now able to be saved.  With respect to Chanukah, however, the wars in fact continued for many years afterwards, and therefore Chazal instituted the days of Chanukah the next year, as the Al HaNissim concludes, as days which were “LeHodos U’LeHallel LeShimcha HaGadol.  This is an allusion to the Geulah as an ongoing process based upon our relationship with and closeness to HaKadosh Baruch Hu!  Thus, although we are now past the days after Chanukah, we can continue to strive for the ultimate goal of Chanukah--which is the Geulah Shleimah and the final Bais HaMikdash BeKedusha U’Veteharah!



Special Note Four:  How can we accomplish this final and everlasting step?  Let us take a closer look at the time period we are in for enlightening guidance.  As we approach the last Parsha of Sefer Bereishis, we encounter Asara BeTeves in its path.  There is a clear common denominator between the two, as they both are the beginnings of a dreary and dreadful Galus period.  However, with that awareness comes the understanding that the Galus is a temporary one--and the faster we change and correct our ways--the faster we return to normalcy--and an elevated relationship with HaKadosh Baruch Hu and with others.  Yaakov Avinu thus gives us the brachos in this week’s Parsha, which are at a minimum the realization that we are--and can do--much better.  Likewise, the stringencies of Tisha B’Av are not observed on Asara BeTeves even though it is the beginning of the series of calamities that led to our exile--because that exile is eminently rectifiable--if we make the right choices.  Most certainly, this week is a week to emphasize Teshuva and especially Teshuva BeChol Yom (especially our Kabbala sheets and review of recent Yetzer Hora tactics)--for there is a glowing light at the end of this reprehensible tunnel--what we have to do is not stand here dumbfounded--but once and for all make the final and oh so-needed push towards that end!



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