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20 Shevat

QUESTION OF THE DAY :  Chazal (Brachos 54A) teach that we recite a bracha over Nissim that occurred to K’lal Yisrael, and provide a Pasuk as the source for this Halacha.  Can you identify the Pasuk?  Hint:  Why are we asking the question now?  



A WINTER COAT’S PLACE:  Many housewives are careful to have their household hang up their coats in the front closet--not leaving them draped on living room couches, dining room chairs, or any other convenient but conspicuous place.  We suggest that there is an even more important place that one’s winter coat does not belong.  That is, in Shul.  Would the king appreciate one walking into the throne room in his down coat?  Would it make a difference to the king that the person doing so was late to arrive--and that was why he was doing so?  Is it proper for one to leave his coat on the chair or bench next to him --or even worse, wear it--while he is standing before his Maker in prayer?  The Chofetz Chaim (Sefer Chofetz Chaim, Mitzvas Asei 7) authoritatively brings the opinion that “U’Mikdashi Tira’u--and you shall fear My sanctuary” applies to contemporary Shuls on a D’Oraysa level.  HaRav Yisroel Belsky, Shlita, recently taught that after his recent bout with illness which kept him out of the Bais HaKnesses, he now recites the Pasuk:  VeAni BeRov Chasdecha Avo Vaisecha…and I, due to Your great kindness enter Your home…” (Tehillim 5:8) with much greater awareness, feeling and fervor.  As we are about to enter our Shuls, we should have in mind the Mitzvas Asei of U’Mikdashi Tira’u --and enter with the proper comportment, feeling and frame of mind!



BRACHA ON COUGH MEDICINES?: “We provide the following important reminder relating to cough medicines as excerpted from Halachos of Brochos, by Rabbi Yisroel Pinchos Bodner, Shlita (Feldheim):  Foods which are unpleasant tasting, but are eaten for medicinal purposes (e.g., mineral oil), do not require a brocha.  However, foods which are eaten primarily for medicinal purposes, but are pleasant tasting (e.g., herbal teas, cough drops, chewable vitamins, etc.) are subject to a brocha. Medicines, such as cough preparations that are pleasantly flavored with a sweet syrup, are subject to a brocha. Some Poskim, however, rule that they are not subject to a brocho and it is advisable, therefore, to have intention to exempt the pleasant tasting medicine by first making a Shehakol on another food or drink other than water (unless he is drinking the water in order to quench his thirst, in which event one can recite a brocho on the water as well).” 




Special Note One:  We B’EH continue our Monday/Thursday study of the Sefer Mitzvos HaKatzar, with the Mitzvos Lo Sa’asei which the Chofetz Chaim writes are applicable in our times. Today, we present Mitzvos Lo Sa’aseh 74 and 75:


74. Lo Lekabel Eidus Karov--this is the Mitzvas Lo Sa’aseh which prohibits a judge from accepting the testimony of the relative of a litigant.  The Pasuk actually states:  Lo Yumsu Avos Ahl Bonim--fathers should not be put to death on their children’s testimony”, but this includes the prohibition to accept the testimony of any relative for or against a litigant.


75.  Shelo Lekabel Eidus Ba’al Aveirah-- this is the Mitzvas Lo Sa’aseh which prohibits a judge from accepting the testimony of a rasha.  If one Eid knows that his fellow Eid is a rasha, he may not testify with him even if his co-Eid is testifying truthfully.  This Mitzvah applies in all places and at all times



Special Note Two:  Suggestion on Ka’as:  Many may be in enough control of themselves to not snap out, yell or insult another--even though they feel ‘legitimate’ anger.  We always have to strive for more.  Once a day (if it happens that often), may we suggest that a person who is feeling unexpressed/repressed anger decide to immediately annul it and erase it from his feelings.  With this, one fulfills the words of Shlomo HaMelech, the wisest of all men, who teaches (Koheles 11:10 ):  VeHaser Ka’as Meilibecha--banish anger from your heart...!”.  A wise person learns from the wisdom of others--and certainly from the wisdom of Shlomo HaMelech! 



Special Note Three: The following is excerpted from Love Your Neighbor, by Rabbi Zelig Pliskin, Shlita, on this week’s Parsha:


VeIm Mizbe’ach Avanim Ta’aseh Liand when you make an altar of stone for Me, you shall not build it of hewn stone, for if you lift up your sword upon it you will have desecrated it.” (Shemos 20:22).


Stones used for the mizbe’ach in the Bais HaMikdash  are ruled unfit for use if they were touched by an iron implement (Rambam, Hilchos Bais HaMikdash 1: 15 ). Rashi cites the Mechilta which explains that because the mizbe’ach established peace between  Bnei Yisrael and their Father in heaven, it was forbidden to use an instrument of violence in its construction. The Mechilta proceeds with a kal vechomer:  “Stones do not see, hear or speak, but because they establish peace, the Torah said that you shall not lift up your sword upon it; therefore someone who makes peace between a man and his wife, between one family and another family, or between a man and his fellow man, will surely merit that no harm shall befall him.


Rabbi Refael of Bershid was once visiting a certain town. On Tisha B’av, he was informed of a bitter feud between two groups, and was asked to serve as mediator. “We assume, however, that you will not want to hear the two sides until tomorrow, since today is a fast day,” they told him.”

“On the contrary,” responded Rav Refael.  “The destruction of the Bais HaMikdash was caused by unwarranted hatred (Yoma 9b). What is more appropriate than trying to promote peace and brotherhood on this day?”


Hakhel Note:  If the Chazal noted above teaches that one who makes peace between a man and his fellow man will surely merit that no harm will befall him, then certainly one who is actually involved in a dispute or feels wronged by another--and instead overcomes his feelings, and instead forgives and makes peace--should surely merit that no harm will befall him!  Be the peacemaker--even if/especially if you are one of the parties!




19 Shevat

HOW CHAVIV IS IT?  Now that many of us enjoyed new and tasty fruits on Tu B’Shevat, we provide an essential teaching from the Mishna Berurah (Shulchan Aruch, Orach Chaim 225, seif katan 19):  Kasvu HaAchronim B’Sheim HaYerushalmi D’Mitzvah Le’echol Me’at MeKol Min Chadash BaShanah, VeHata’am Kedei LeHaros Shechaviv Alav Briyaso Shel HaKadosh Baruch Hu--the Achronim write in the name of the Talmud Yerushalmi that it is a Mitzvah to eat a little from each species in season--and the reason is to show how precious the creations of Hashem are to you.”  As we look at the many colored fruits, at the blue sky, the white snow, the so-many shades of green in the various grasses, shrubs and trees, the color of water, milk and wine…as we hear the sound of the wind, thunder and the ocean waves…as we smell the scores of scents of flowers and spices…as we taste the fruits, the vegetables, the fish and the meat…as we touch all aspects of the world at large--let us express our appreciation and endearment of what Hashem has endowed us with--by exclaiming (Tehillim 104:24): “Mah Rabu Ma’asecha Hashem Kulam BeChochma Asisa Mahl’ah Ha’aretz Kinyanecha--how great are Your works Hashem, You make them all with wisdom, the world is full of Your creations!”



HALLEL--EVERY DAY ?  Rebbi Yosi (Shabbos 118B--yesterday’s Daf Yomi) states:  “May my lot be among those who finish Hallel every day.”  The Gemara, however, questions Rebbi Yosi:  “But, one is not supposed to complete Hallel every day?!”  Rashi (ibid.) explains that there are certain times in which the Nevi’im instituted that Hallel should be recited to express one’s great thanks and praise to Hashem--and that it should not be an everyday experience.  Rebbi Yosi answers that he was referring to reciting Pesukei DeZimra.  Rashi explains that Rebbi Yosi was especially referring to the third and fifth chapters of the Hallelukahs (Hallelu Es Hashem Min HaShomayim--Tehillim 148 and Hallelu Kel BeKadsho--Tehillim 150) that we recite every morning.  What an especially great and important insight--the Pesukei DeZimra that we recite every morning is that which Chazal has instituted as our daily minimum of shevach v’hoda’ah to Hashem.  We should at least strive for the feeling of Hallel…when reciting Tehillim Chapters 148 and 150! 



WORDS TO KEEP ON ONE ’S LIPS:  The following Emunah-filled words of advice were related by Yehonasan (the son of Shaul HaMelech) to his armor-bearer, although the forces of Bnei Yisrael were outnumbered by the Plishtim and were poorly armed:  Ki Ein LaHashem Ma’atzor LeHoshe’ah BeRav Oh VeMe’at…for nothing prevents Hashem from saving whether through many or through few.”  (Shmuel I, 14:6).  Hakhel Postscipt:  The Plishtim were then routed, as Hashem caused a great terror to take hold of their entire camp.  Let us always remember that Hashem in any and all, and in every circumstance… is our Moshe’ah!



SHOVAVIM!  Incredibly, there are now less than two weeks left to Shovavim!  What can we do before this special period takes leave of us?  May we suggest that one take out his Viduy booklet or Yom Kippur Machzor--why view it as ‘out-of-season’--if we can use it so well now to review our personal status almost five complete months into the year? Perhaps each Ahl Cheit can be recited in a standing, bent over position, with feeling and resolve to do better.  These are the unwavering elements of Teshuvah:  Charata--remorse over the past; Kabbalah--the resolve to turn over a new leaf; and Viduy--expressing it to Hashem…and to ourselves!




Special Note One:  Shlomo HaMelech, the wisest of all men, teaches us in Koheles ( 7:29 ):  Asher Asah HaElokim Es Ha’adam Yashar VeHeimah Vikshu Chishvonos Rabim--Hashem has made man straight, but they have sought many intrigues [Artscroll translation]”.  The Chofetz Chaim asks:  This being the case--that Hashem has made man straight--how do we explain the Pasuk (Bereishis 8:21 ) “Ki Yetzer Lev Ha’adam Rah Mei’neurav--for a person’s inclination is evil from his youth”?  Indeed, the Chofetz Chaim forcefully adds--if Hashem says that it is Rah--then who can make it good?!  The Chofetz Chaim answers that many misunderstand what the words Rah Mei’neurav--evil from one’s youth really means.  The correct meaning is that if one looks at an innocent young child who has not sinned--he should view the child as Hashem’s pristine creation.  It is the person himself who--rather than exercising dominion over his Yetzer Hara--as Hashem has empowered him to--instead falls prey to it soon after he begins to make decisions on his own.  This occurs because one simply misunderstands and misuses his Yetzer Hara.  The Yetzer should truly be viewed as one’s eved, as one’s servant, to help him attain his goals in this world.  Instead, people sadly allow the Yetzer to rule over them.  Just as we can take a bitter vegetable and make it sweet with some effort--so too, concludes the Chofetz Chaim, can one take a mutinous servant who is trying to exercise dominion over him--and put the servant in his place!   Hakhel Note:  Many of us may not realize that we have a servant that accompanies us daily--and that this servant is given to us as a gift by Hashem.  Let us make sure we use him to the greatest extent possible--in a way that would make Hashem proud! 



Special Note Two:  We provide the following notes on the Middah of Ka’as--anger, from HaRav Chaim Kanievsky, Shlita, in the Sefer Orchos Yosher:


A.  Hashem loves three kinds of people--one of them is one who does not get angry (Pesachim 113B). 


B.  If one angers, it is certain that his sins are greater than his zechuyos (Nedarim 22B).


C.  If one angers, his wisdom leaves him, and even if he was supposed to be a great person, Hashem does not allow him to reach that position (Pesachim 66B). 


D.  The singular accomplishment of one who displays anger is only that--anger (Kedushin 41A).


E.  The Rambam (Hilchos Deios 2:3) writes that because anger is a Middah Ra’ah Ahd Me’od which one must avoid to the greatest of extremes, and not anger even over something that one may reasonably feel one can be upset about.  The Sefer Chassidim (Siman 655) brings the story of a son who honored his father greatly.  The father told the son:  “You respect me so beautifully while I am alive.  If you want to respect me after I am no longer alive, then I instruct you ‘Shetalin Ka’asecha Layla--that you withhold any anger that you want to express overnight’, and use this rule as your guidebook in life.”  The Sefer Chassidim then goes on to relate how the son listened to his father, and as a direct result of ‘sleeping on it’--the life of his wife and child were saved! 


Hakhel Note:  There may be one or two people whom you know (perhaps a family member, a neighbor or a competitor) who always seem to irk you or rub your feelings the wrong way.  This may be Hashem’s special test to you in the Middah of Ka’as.  This is a chance to show your greatness!  Every night, for the next week, record every time you expressed anger against another.  Hopefully, the page will be left blank! 




18 Shevat

The following four essential thoughts are excerpted from a newly published work entitled Chizuk! Practical Advice and Encouragement in Dealing with the Challenges in Life from Moreinu HoRav Avrohom Pam, Z’tl, by Rabbi Sholom Smith, Shlita:


A.  Honoring the Torah.  Jews have a Torah obligation to give honor to their Torah scholars (see Kiddushin 32b).  However, they also have an obligation to honor their Kohanim. This is based on the pasuk in Parashas Emor (Vayikra 21:8):  Vekidashto--You shall sanctify him.” The Rema (Shulchan Aruch, Even HaEzer, 3:1) rules that if a person claims he is a Kohein, he is believed and can be honored with the first aliyah to the Torah and be allowed to duchen for Birchas Kohanim. The Chasam Sofer, in Toras Moshe (Emor, p. 55b), wonders why this is so. If the person is really not a Kohein and is given the aliyah normally reserved for a Kohein, isnt that a violation of Vekidashto, if there is a real Kohein in the shul at that time?


The Chasam Sofer answers that the centralpurpose of Vekidashto is to give honor to the zerah Aharon, the descendants of Aharon HaKohen.  Thus, even if this person who claims to be a Kohein is, in reality, an imposter, no violation of Vekidashto has taken place. This is because the congregation has shown honor to the Kohanim.  If it is in this particular person that they are mistaken.  In relating the Chasam Sofer’s insight, Rav Pam would add an interesting corollary, which is a source of consolation to a person who is considered a great talmid chacham and tzaddik by the masses. Thinking that he is one of the gedolei hador, they shower him with honor and recognition and address him as gaon and tzaddik, titles that he knows quite well he is not worthy of. The person feels bad about receiving all this undue honor. However, in the insight of the Chasam Sofer, there is a bit of consolation. When people honor him, they do so because of the Torah he, supposedly, embodies. Thus, even if he is not the great gaon and tzaddik the people think he is, the honor they give him is, not in vain. Their intention is to honor the Torah and its scholars. This they are doing. It is in the true stature of this particular person that they are mistaken....


B.  A Spiritually Rich Person.  HaRav Chaim Volozhin, Z’tl, in the Sefer Ruach Chaim (to Avos 6:6) writes that being happy with one’s lot refers to one’s spiritual aspirations. Success in ruchniyus takes time, effort and patience. One who is impatient to get rich” (see Mishlei 28:20) in ruchniyus will usually fail. Greatness in Torah requires steady, cumulative, intense study with regular periods devoted to review. Only then can one climb the ladder of Torah scholarship. If a person is in a rush and wants to become a talmid chacham ‘overnight’ he will usually fail. Thus, the definition of a spiritually rich person is one who is happy with his lot. This means that every bit of Torah knowledge he acquires gives him simcha and nothing in Torah is insignificant to him. Every brekkele (lit., crumb) of Torah is appreciated and cherished because the person understands that Torah is the infinite wisdom of the Creator of heaven and earth which he has been given the incredible privilege to acquire. Just as a rich person is rarely satisfied with his material wealth and often desires more, so, too, does the spiritually rich person desire more ruchniyus. This is not a contradiction to being happy with ones lot. Specifically because he appreciates every Mishnah, every line of Gemara, every pasuk of Chumash, every paragraph of the Shulchan Aruch that he learns, it gives him the desire to acquire more and more Divine knowledge. Being happy with ones spiritual lot doesnt mean that a person will be complacent and never strive to accumulate more Torah and other spiritual accomplishments.  It does not mean that once he finishes a parasha of Chumash he will ‘retireand be Sameiach BeChelko, happy with his lot. No! Vice versa, the more he learns, the more his appetite is whetted for more Torah knowledge.


C.  Easy Come. Easy Go.  Every human being is endowed with a certain level of intellectual understanding and ability to retain in memory that which he has learned. One has a quick, incisive mind.  Nevertheless, since his mind is able to rapidly process the information that he learns, it does not leave a lasting impression and so, he quickly forgets what he has learned.  Another has to devote great energy to understand what he is being taught, but once he knows it, he won’t quickly forget it.  He may be slow to grasp the subject matter, but he is also slow to lose it, which is a positive attribute.  The intense and unrelenting effort that he puts into the subject matter makes an indelible impression on his memory bank which retains what he has learned.


There is an important lesson inherent in contrasting these two people, which can be encapsulated in a well-known expression, Easy come ... easy go.” When a person puts in kochos to shteig in Torah study, his success is commensurate with his level of diligence, not necessarily with his level of intellect. Any experienced mechanech can verify the fact that it is not necessarily the brilliant students who become attached to Torah. Often it is the average ones who develop an inseparable bond with Torah study, much more than what many thought was possible.  Ask a yeshivah student which mesechta (tractate) of the, Gemara is his favorite. Invariably, he will say that it is one which he exerted great effort to learn and understand. He shvitzed (lit.,sweated) to comprehend his rebbis shiurim and spent many hours reviewing and rewriting them. He studied late into the night to resolve a difficulty in a Tosafos or solve a contradiction in a statement of the Rambam. Tills developed within him a great love for that particular mesechta, which he will carry with him for the rest of his life.


On the other hand, a student endowed with. a lightning-quickmind will not always feel the need to exert himself that much. Torah knowledge comes (relatively) easy for him. This can ultimately be to his disadvantage if he doesn’t strive to devote kochos to remember what he learns.


D.  A Tzaddik in His Time. When one compares our generation to that of our grandparents, he can see the difference. Torah-true Jews who remember the great talmidei chachamim of the pre-Holocaust era or read about the towering Torah personalities and baalei ruach hakodesh of a century or two ago, feel totally insignificant in comparison.  When one studies the Talmudic novellae or halachic responsa of Jews who lived a mere few decades ago and sees how the entire Shas and Poskim were at their fingertips, he realizes how he pales in comparison, even if he considers himself a distinguished talmid chacham.  When he contemplates the fact that mastery of the entire Talmud and fluency in all four sections of the Shulchan Aruch and its basic commentaries was a minimum requirement to apply for a rabbinical position in many tiny Eastern European Jewish communities, he sees how far our generation has fallen in aspiring for and attaining Torah greatness.  Nonetheless, a Torah-true Jew today is like Noach, the tzaddik of his generation.  He has to fight the overwhelming spiritual pollution all around him and deal with enormous nisyonos (moral tests) that his ancestors never dreamed of facing.  Remaining a tzaddik under such difficult circumstances is, indeed, a great accomplishment.  Therefore, he should not minimize his own achievements, even if, in relation to that of previous generations, they may seem to be insignificant.  Each and every one of us has the opportunity to be a Tzaddik in His Time!




17 Shevat

QUESTION OF THE DAY :  We are all familiar with the numerous times that the mateh was used in the course of the Makkos in Parshas Bo.  How many times was the mateh used in last week’s Parsha--Parshas Beshalach? [Hint: Perhaps more than you may otherwise think!]




Special Note One:  We B’EH continue our Monday/Thursday study of the Sefer Mitzvos HaKatzar, with the Mitzvos Lo Sa’asei which the Chofetz Chaim writes are applicable in our times. Today, we present Mitzvos Lo Sa’aseh 72 and 73:


72. Shelo Yirah HaDayan MaiHaba’al Din--this is the Mitzvas Lo Sa’aseh which prohibits a judge from fearing one of the litigants, even if the litigant is powerful and could do the judge harm.  The Chofetz Chaim notes here that as long as the judge does not realize which side will be victorious in the case, he can excuse himself; however, once he is aware of what the outcome should be, he cannot excuse himself because he is afraid of being harmed.  The prohibition against failure to act because of fear also applies to a student who is sitting before his rebbi and sees a point of merit for a poor person, or a point of obligation for a rich person and remains silent. This Mitzvah applies in all places and at all times.


73. Lo LeHakim Ahl Pi Eid Echad--this is the Mitzvas Lo Sa’aseh which prohibits a judge from obligating a person based on the testimony of one (and not two) witnesses.  [While there are certain circumstances where one witness has some limited effect, the broad and pervasive rule is that two witnesses are required].  This Mitzvah applies in all places and at all times.



Special Note Two:  The Sefer Tomer Devorah (Chapter 2) provides the following wonderful insight:  Ve’afilu HaReshaim Ye’ehov Osam BeLibo VeYomar Mi Yitein VeYehiyu Eilu Tzadikim Shavim BeTeshuvah…and even sinners--he should love them in his heart and say:  ‘If only they would become Tzadikkim and do Teshuvah, becoming people who appease Hashem with their actions.’  If one does so, he is following in the ways of Moshe Rabbeinu, the Ohev Ne’eman of K’lal Yisrael who said (Bamidbar 11:29):  Mi Yitein Kol Am Hashem Nevi’im--if only the entire people of Hashem could become prophets!’….”


Hakhel Note:  There are two extremely meaningful lessons here:  Firstly, we must be sure to look to the unaffiliated--in spite of their deeds--in the hopeful light that they become Tzaddikim, returning in Teshuvah before Hashem.  Secondly, we must feel this way not only based upon our Bein Adam LeChaveiro--love of our fellow man, but also because we want Hashem, as our Father, to be pleased not only with our actions--but with the actions of all of His people.  We must remember that any time we hope and pray for our unaffiliated brethren, and certainly when we take action to help them--we are accomplishing in great measure both in Bein Adam LeChaveiro--and Bein Adam LaMakom!



Special Note Three:  We provide final points and pointers on Parshas Beshalach:


1.  In his commentary to Avos 5:5, Rabbeinu Ovadiah MiBartenura distinguishes between the ten miracles that Bnei Yisrael experienced at the Sea and the ten (minimum) Makkos that the Mitzriyim received at the Sea.  Indeed, it is only the Makkos that the Mitzriyim received at the Sea that are specifically referred to in the Shira itself (you can look them up in his commentary, and circle them in your Siddur if you would like to remember them each time you recite the Shira).  This important distinction provides us with a great lesson:  Hashem’s reward, and Hashem’s punishment are two separate and distinct methods in which we see, feel, and understand Hashem’s guiding hand in the world around us.  Indeed, Moshe Rabbeinu was instructed to stretch out his hand upon the Sea two separate times--one time before the Bnei Yisrael entered, and a separate time for the sea to storm back upon the Mitzriyim.  There was not one event at the Sea--but two acts of Hashem converging in one place.  We must especially distinguish the Yad Hashem in the various daily forms and activities--from the extreme of reward to the opposite extreme of punishment--and whichever way in between it evidences itself! 


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


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


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




14 Shevat

DOWN COATS:  Many believe that a nice, warm down coat does not need to be Shatnez checked.  However, we discovered a high quality down coat under the brand name “Eddie Bauer” upon whose label the words “30% wool” were listed. Once wool is used in a lining--there is the danger that linen is also found there. Accordingly, we recommend that such a coat be checked for Shatnez.



ALEPH BAIS QUESTION OF THE WEEK:  From a reader:  Which Pasuk in this week’s Parsha contains every letter of the Aleph Bais?





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

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

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

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

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

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

G.  With what words does the Shira conclude?




Special Note One: Reuven comes to an agreement with Shimon that Reuven will purchase Shimon’s used car tomorrow for $3,000. That night, Reuven sees a better car available for the same price. Can Reuven renege on his agreement? What if, instead of finding a better car to buy, that night Reuven’s uncle offers to give him his car for free--does that make the case better in order to renege? To obtain the answer to this and other important financial issues addressed by Rabbi Moshe Kaufman at the recent Hakhel Yarchei Kallah, please call 718-252-5274 for tapes and CD’s. 



Special Note Two:  At the same Yarchei Kallah, Rabbi Yisroel Reisman, Shlita, pointed out how desperately we need the Bais HaMikdash:  According to the G’ra, the meaning behind the Pasuk, “Baruch Kevod Hashem Mimekomo--Blessed is the glory of Hashem from His place” (Yecheskel 3:12) is that Hashem kevayachol is metzamzeim, or limits His presence in this world.  The essence of Giluy HaShechinah is Bein HaKeruvim in the Kodesh HaKedashim.  If we want to experience the world at its finest moment--we simply need the Keruvim back!



Special Note Three:  The following remarkable insight and story is excerpted from www.umeinvumein.com, a site that contains powerful teachings in Amen and Amen Yehei Shemei Rabba in Hebrew, Yiddish and English.  The following is especially appropriate for this Shabbos, as Chazal (Brachos 48B) teach that Moshe Rabbeinu composed the first bracha of bentsching upon Bnei Yisrael receiving the Mon.  [Hakhel Note:  Oh, what Kavannah we should have especially in the first bracha on this special Shabbos!]:


“Oftentimes one would like to have bread for breakfast but when he reminds himself that Birchas HaMazon will be required he opts for a quicker Mezonos item and short Ahl HaMichya. The Zohar HaKadosh says: “When one bentsches Birchas HaMazon, he is given his Parnassah with happiness and ease”.  People look for all kind of segulos for Parnassah, especially in today’s difficult economy times. The Sefer HaChinuch states the best segulah for Parnassah: “A person who says Birchas HaMazon with Kavannah is guaranteed that he will not lack food his entire life”.  It is not enough just to recite Birchas HaMazon, one must also take care as to how it is recited. As it is written in Midrash Talpiyos: “One should have Kavannah when saying Birchas HaMazon and be careful not to swallow his words. One should always bentsch from a Siddur because the written word arouses the Kavannah.”  Take a look at the amazing words in the Maharsha: “Since a man’s Parnassah is as difficult as Kriyas Yam Suf, the Ribono Shel Olam commanded that one who eats and is satisfied should bentsch, because that is how Hashem actually fulfills the bracha of Parnassah. Since every person has mekatrigim that work against his earning a Parnassah, he needs the brachos of Birchas HaMazon to act as his Melitzei Yosher against the mekatrigim.” It is well known that the holy Maggid of Mezritch, Z’tl, said that Birchas HaMazon needs more Kavannah than Tefillah, as Birchas HaMazon is D’Oryasah and Tefillah is D’Rabanan. 


A chosheve Yid relates in the name of a principal of a well-known cheder in Yerushalayim, in whose neighborhood lived an elderly Jew. What was very extraordinary about this Jew was the way he would recite Birchas HaMazon--with unbelievable Kavannah and Hislahavus--word by word.  The previously mentioned principal asked this Yid to please tell him what was the background behind his bentsching this way.  The Yid related: “I was 12 years old in my cheder in Poland , when the renowned Gaon, HaRav Meir Shapiro of Lublin , Z’tl, came to speak to us children about the importance of Birchas HaMazon.  He taught us that the Ba’eir Heiteiv (Shulchan Aruch, Orach Chaim, 185:1) writes that the Peh Sofis is not found in Birchas HaMazon because whoever will recite Birchas HaMazon with Kavannah will be spared from af and ketzef--Hashem’s anger, and he will be blessed with bountiful Parnassah his whole life.  HaRav Shapiro urged us all to undertake to always say Birchas HaMazon with much Kavannah, and blessed us that we will be spared from tzaros our whole lives and that we will have Parnassah B’revach.  Many years passed and one day I found myself at the gates of Auschwitz , behind a line of people being sent by the Nazis yemach shemam to the right or left.  Suddenly I remembered the lesson I had learned from HaRav Shapiro as a young child. In those frightening moments I prayed from the bottom of my heart: “Ribono Shel Olam! I have a promise from the Ba’eir Heiteiv that whoever will bentsch Birchas HaMazon with Kavannah will not have any troubles. Here in Auschwitz I beg you Hashem, spare me from pain and suffering…!” While I was davening I was sent to the ‘right’. My life was spared at that moment. We were told that we would have to tell the Nazis yemach shemam what type of skill we had so that we could be given appropriate work.  Being a Yeshiva Bocher I did not know what to say and I again davened to Hashem: “Ribono Shel Olam! I have a promise for Parnassah, I must have what to eat in Auschwitz , I don’t have a profession to tell the Nazis yemach shemam, please help me!...” Suddenly I once again saw the open hand of Hashem in the misery of Auschwitz .  The Yid behind me whispered in my ear:  “Tell him that you are a cook and that I am your assistant.” I did as he said and found myself placed as the cook in Auschwitz .  While so many others were dying of hunger, I was in the kitchen with all the food.  With that, the elderly Yid finished his story. “I saw how the promise of the Ba’eir Heiteiv was fulfilled during the horrendous years of WWII… should I now not bentsch Birchas HaMazon with all my strength and Kavannah?!”


Hakhel Note:  Let us take the lesson to heart and action!


Special Note Four:  We provide the following point and pointers relating to Tu B’Shevat (tomorrow), and its various customs:


1. In honor of Tu B’Shevat, we provide by clicking here a moving Tefillah from the Ben Ish Chai to be recited for your Esrog this Sukkos (courtesy of Mesivta Yochanan Shraga of Monsey).  We note that because Tu B’Shevat falls out on Shabbos this year, many would not recite this personal request; accordingly, you may recite it today!  We will provide additional alternatives in the Halachos of Shabbos below.


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


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


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


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


6.  Of course, if one intends to eat dates, figs or carob, he should make sure that he has properly checked them for tolaim before Shabbos.


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


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


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


10.  For additional points, please continue with the Halachos of Shabbos below.



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


A.  The following points and pointers for this special Shabbos are excerpted from the Luach Davar B’Ito:


1.  Some have the custom to make a special kugel or krepelach type of food for this Shabbos in honor of the Mon which was encased on top and on bottom with dew.  The Chasam Sofer would specifically eat wheat products, and others eat kasha products.


2.  We have provided earlier the Tefillah of the Ben Ish Chai to be said on Tu B’Shevat and suggested that it be recited on Erev Shabbos.  The Luach suggests that one could have in mind his thoughts for a beautiful Esrog in the davening when reciting the words:  Vetaher Libeinu LeAvdecha B’Emes” (which is an acronym for Lulav), or simply when reciting the words “Kadesheinu BeMitzvosecha--sanctify us with Your Mitzvos”. 


3.  The Aderet would learn Mesechta Rosh HaShana (14B) on Tu B’Shevat, and also study the Rambam, Hilchos Ma’aser.  A special Shabbos study!


4.  As it is also Shabbos Shira, there are various customs as to putting food out for the birds in honor of their singing at Kriyas Yam Suf and/or because they ate the Man that Dasan and Aviram had deceitfully planted on Shabbos.  Since there are halachic issues with placing food for birds out on Shabbos, some put out the food on Erev Shabbos, and others put the food on a porch or window sill on Erev Shabbos covered by a plate and then merely lift the plate off.  Others say that this defeats the Minhag.  Yet another opinion is that of the Chazon Ish, who put out food on Motza’ei Shabbos, explaining that until Melaveh Malka, we can still refer to the day as Shabbos.  Finally, the Shemiras Shabbos Kehilchasa suggests that if it is possible one can simply shake out his tablecloth on the porch, and the birds will be able to indirectly benefit from the result! Because of the various opinions, one should consult with his Rav or Posek. 


5.  The Sefer Ramatayim Tzofim Zutah (16:7) writes that one should be B’Simcha Gedolah on Shabbos Shira, and records that the Chidushei Harim would dance at Kabbalas Shabbos with greater Simcha on Shabbos Shira than the rest of the year. 


6.  When eating fish at the Seudah, one can have in mind the Chazal (Pesachim 118B) which connects the Parsha to the Haftarah--i.e., that the fish at Yam Suf who lost their food as the Mitzriyim were expelled to the shore--got it back with the army of Sisrah who drowned in Nachal Kishon! 


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


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



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


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


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


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


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


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



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



 Special Note Eight:  We provide several important notes from HaRav Shimon Schwab, Z’tl, on the Shira, as presented in the monumental work Rav Schwab on Prayer (Artscroll) for us to take with us throughout the year:


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


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


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


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



Special Note Nine:  Before leaving the Shira, we add a few additional points and pointers, as provided in the past:


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


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


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


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




13 Shevat

FROM A READER:  “Do you ever spend five minutes a day on ‘kosher browsing’?  I believe that even when one goes through otherwise ‘clean’ sites for purposes other than Torah or business related purpose it is chaval ahl hazeman--lost time that cannot be replaced.  Additionally, why should one open up ‘click’ prompts in any emails that one receives…unless business related or Torah?!  Such an important part of life is using our time wisely--every day we are challenged at the computer, and every day we can succeed!”



Special Note One:  We B’EH continue our Monday/Thursday study of the Sefer Mitzvos HaKatzar, with the Mitzvos Lo Sa’asei which the Chofetz Chaim writes are applicable in our times. Today, we present Mitzvos Lo Sa’aseh 70 and 71:


70. Shelo LeHader Penei Gadol--this is the Mitzvas Lo Sa’aseh which prohibits a judge from favoring a litigant who is otherwise an important person. This means that the important person should not be given special honor or treatment or dealt with in any way which is different from the other litigant.  This Mitzvah applies in all places and at all times.


71. Lo Likach Shochad--this is the Mitzvas Lo Sa’aseh which prohibits a judge from taking a bribe, even if it is to judge the truth.  Even bribery ‘with words’ is forbidden.  The one who provides the bribe violates Lifnei Iver Lo Sitein Michshol.  A judge may, however, be compensated by both litigants equally for the amount of time he is otherwise unable to work because he is hearing the case. 



Special Note Two:  HaRav Chaim Kanievsky, Shlita, in the Sefer Orchos Yosher provides guidance in the four areas which Chazal (Brachos 32B) teach require special Chizuk:  Torah, Ma’asim Tovim, Tefillah, and Derech Eretz.  In the 30 Chapters of the Sefer, the greatest attention (by far) is provided to Tefillah.  Set forth below are several points of Chizuk in Tefillah which HaRav Kanievsky provides.  Some of the following may be known or even well-known, but HaRav Kanievsky deemed it necessary to expressly provide them in his Sefer:


A.  Chazal (Brachos, ibid.) teach that Tefillah is greater than Ma’asim Tovim, for there is no one greater than Moshe Rabbeinu in ma’asim tovim--yet Moshe was only answered through his Tefillah. [Hakhel Note:  See the end of this week’s Parsha, as yet another example of this!]


B.  The Mishna Berurah (Orach Chaim 90, seif katan 29) rules that one is not permitted to miss Tefillah B’Tzibbur--even in order to study Torah.  Indeed, Chazal (Devarim Rabba 2) teach that “Tefillas Tzibbur Ein Chozeres Reikam LeOlam--the Tefillah of the Tzibbur is never returned empty-handed.”


C.  HaRav Zalman Mereles, Z’tl, was once walking to Shul to daven, and met a man who wanted to sell him precious stones on which he would make a great profit.  He told the man to come back after he would finish davening.  The man, who was in a great hurry, sold the stones to someone else who made a hon rav--a tremendous amount of money.  When HaRav Mereles heard this, he was elated--for he was zoche to give up so much money for the sake of Tefillah B’Tzibbur!


D.  It is an issur gamur to speak devarim beteilim in Shul.  Hakhel Note:  A reader sent us a sign from a Beis Midrash in Yerushalayim, which does not even permit speaking about business matters in the chatzer--in the courtyard of the Beis Midrash.  Apparently, the fear is that the conversation will be taken in to the building itself.


E.  Chazal (Yalkut Tehillim, 2) teach that when a person stands in Tefillah he should rejoice that he is serving a G-d to Whom there is no comparison. 


F.  In order to understand the issur of kalus rosh--of lightheadedness, while wearing Tefillin, we need only realize that Tefillin were really intended to be worn all day.  The reason we do not do so is for fear that we would not properly conduct ourselves while wearing them the entire day. 


G.  In Shir HaShirim, Hashem says:  HaShme’ini Es Koleich…I want to hear your voice!”  When we daven, we should daven aloud and in a sweet tone [provided that we do not disturb others, and that our Shemone Esrei should not be heard by others].


H.  Chazal (Brachos 9A) teach that one who davens Vasikin will not be injured that entire day.  HaRav Kanievsky points out that if a Tanna would appear in our days--one who we knew whose brachos were fulfilled--oh, how we would try to receive his bracha.  When Chazal themselves give us the bracha of davening Vasikin--how we should strive to receive it!


I.  There is a chiyuv gamur to be proficient in the Halachos of Tefillah as set forth in Shulchan Aruch.  If one came before the king to serve him and did not know the true protocol--he would quickly (at a minimum) be driven away for his lack of concern, and for his lack of respect to the king.


J.  If one comes late to Shul, Chazal (Brachos 43B) say that he is referred to as a poshei’a (reckless/negligent).  Rashi (ibid.) explains that one who comes late demonstrates that he is an atzel (lazy).  HaRav Kanievsky adds that if one is accustomed to coming late, he will be referred to in the next world by these terms of poshei’a and atzel, as one is referred to in the next world by what he does here.  HaRav Kanievsky continues that we cannot imagine the embarrassment that one will suffer in the next world if he is referred to in this way.  


K.  During Tefillah, one must be aware of the fact that the Shechinah is present, witnessing one’s prayers. 


L.  One must learn how to bow properly in Shemone Esrei.  [If one if not sure he knows the proper way, he should watch his Rav or Posek, or ask them to demonstrate how to do so.]


M.  It is forbidden to speak or say Tehillim or learn during Chazaras HaShatz.  If one learns or reads the Parsha during Chazaras HaShatz or Kaddish--not only will he not receive a reward for learning, but he will be punished for doing so.


N.  Piytum HaKetores should not be recited by-heart, but only from a Siddur.


O.  All of the Pesukim which are recited when we take out a Sefer Torah and return a Sefer Torah to the Aron Kodesh have a basis in Shas and Poskim (see Mesechta Sofrim, Perek 14).  Therefore, c’v, for one to be lax in reciting these Pesukim. 


P.  Chazal (Brachos 8A) teach:  Kadimu V’Chashichu Lebei Kenishta…”--one should arrive early to Shul and leave only after Tefillah has been fully completed--and if one does so, it causes arichus yamim v’shanim--long days and long years!




12 Shevat

A SHOVAVIM NOTE:  From a reader: “Rav Shimshon Pincus, Zt’l, said in a Rosh Hashana tape that the Choshech Mitzrayim was the *inability to change*! Omed Aino Yachol Lasheves, Yoshev Aino Yachol La’amod--one standing couldn't sit, and one sitting couldn't stand.  Rav Pincus pointed out that a prerequisite for Teshuva is the belief that one can actually change his habits and behavior.  (of course this dovetails exactly with what the Mefarshim say--Mitzrayim is from the word Meitzar--border or limit--for one is enslaved by his perceived limitations).”



Special Note One:  The Chofetz Chaim, in his introduction to the Third Volume of the Mishna Berurah, provides a penetrating teaching:  “We recite in the Birchas HaTorah (over the Torah) ‘VeChayei Olam Natah BeSocheinu--and You planted eternal life within us.”  What this means is that Hashem planted a sapling within us through which we can live forever--for the Torah is to the soul what the Eitz HaChaim was in Gan Eden--if one would eat of its fruits, he would live eternallySo too, will the light of the Torah that we study bring our bodies to life (or back to life)--and will cause it to live forever!  As we have previously noted, we are in the month of Shevat, and we should recognize by our actions that it is a month especially dedicated to the study of Torah--as Moshe Rabbeinu reviewed the entire Torah with Bnei 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 guiding light--VeHaya Machanecha Kadosh!



Special Note Two:  Just a few final points and pointers on last week’s Parsha:


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


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


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


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




11 Shevat



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


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


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


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





Special Note One:  In honor of many reciting the Parshas HaMon today, we provide the following words of chizuk from the Sefer Chovos HaLevavos (Sha’ar HaBitachon).  While we may know these words, and even understand them--chizuk in Bitachon is a constant requirement, and they should be constantly reviewed.  It is said that HaRav Chatzkel Levenstein, Z’tl, who was especially known for his Middah of Bitachon, would say:  “Any day that I do not study about Bitachon, I feel a weakening in it.”  The English translation below is excerpted from the Feldheim version--Duties of the Heart:  “When one is occupied in mind and body with one of the means of earning a living, let his intent be to fulfill the commandment of the Creator, Who has commanded man to engage in worldly means, as it is written: “Hashem took the man and placed him in the garden of Eden, to work it and to keep it” (Bereishis 2:15).  Hashem has commanded man to make use of the other living creatures for his benefit and sustenance; to build cities and prepare foods; to marry, be fruitful and multiply. He will be rewarded for the intent of his heart and mind to perform these for Hashem’s sake, as it is written: “You will eat the fruit of the labor of your hands; you will be happy and it will be well with you” (Tehillim 128:2)….  One should not think that his livelihood depends on a particular source and that, if that source were to fail, there would be no other way for him to earn a living. Rather, he should rely on Hashem for his sustenance and realize that to the Creator all the means are equal--He will support him by whatever means and at any time and from whatever elements He wishes, as the Pasuk says: “For nothing can prevent Hashem from saving, whether by many or by few” (Shmuel I, 14:6); “It is Hashem Who gives you the power to become prosperous” (Devarim 8:18); “Not by might and not by power, but by My spirit said Hashem Tzevakos” (Zecharia 4:6).

Hakhel Note:  With this in mind, we can approach the challenges of Parnassah with the awareness that Hashem in His Infinite Greatness gives us the Parnassah to the penny--and that any feeling of stress or overwork on the one hand, or the need for questionable charges on the other, are simply not within the realm of the Bitachon of a Torah Jew!

Additional Note: Perhaps before every important business meeting, one should take a moment to read these hallowed words!



Special Note Two:  As we leave the Makkos in Mitzrayim, and are about to witness the Makkos at the Yam Suf, we note the explanation of the G’ra to the Makkos, as related by HaRav Ezriel Erlanger, Shlita (as found in the Siddur HaG’ra):  The G’ra writes that the purpose of the Makkos was to lift up the spirit of Bnei Yisrael, who were otherwise so dejected and downtrodden after scores of years of physical and mental oppression at the hands of experts.  All of the Makkos were not really necessary for the end goal of the Geulah.  The Geulah could simply have started and ended with Makkas Bechoros.  However, Hashem is a Mishan U’Mivtach LaTzaddikim--Hashem supports us when we need support.  HaRav Erlanger notes, for instance, that it was likewise not essential for our ultimate victory on Purim to have Haman parade Mordechai around the capital on Achashveirosh’s horse--but it certainly encouraged and brought a newfound spirit to Bnei Yisrael that witnessed it.  Viewed in this light, the ten Makkos were not so much a punishment, as they were an encouragement to the Yidden.  The G’ra continues that before the Moshiach comes, there will be events that will be similar to those of the Makkos.  Some suggest that--after the cruelty and horrors of the Holocaust--the return of millions of Jews to Eretz Yisrael, and the accessibility of the Mekomos HeKedoshim in Yerushalayim, Chevron, Teveriah, and other places, is a similar display of the encouragement and strength that Hashem brings to His people…before the final Geulah! 



Special Note Three:  Last week, we noted that the fundamental nature of the last Ramban in Parshas Bo.  HaRav Erlanger in fact teaches that his father in-law (HaRav Shlomo Wolbe, Z’tl) would say that everyone should know this Ramban by heart.  The Ramban teaches us three core principles of Emunah:  (1) There is a Creator Who owns the world.  Accordingly, He can change it--as evidenced by the Makkos; (2) Hashem knows what goes on in the world.  He is not removed from the world’s everyday existence--and controls and leads its events, circumstances and happenings; and (3) Hashem associates and communicates with us--and we should realize it. 


Based upon these principles, we emerge with a tremendous lesson.  The nations of the world may be apikorsim not because they do not know the truth--but because they are reshaim.  They excuse themselves by claiming that Hashem is too great and holy to be involved with lowly man.  This is what Dovid HaMelech means when he says (Tehillim 113:4):  Rum Ahl Kol Goyim Hashem Ahl HaShomayim Kevodo--high above all nations is Hashem; above the Heavens is His glory.”  We, however, know better--for we exclaim in return (ibid. 5,6):  Mi KaShem Elokeinu HaMagabeehee Lashaves HaMashpili Liros BaShomayim U’Va’aretz MeKimi MeiAfar Dahl….who is like Hashem Who is enthroned on high, yet He lowers himself to look upon the heavens and the earth.  He raises the needy from the dust, from the trash heaps He lifts the destitute….”  It is a common ploy of the Yetzer Hara to have us ignore our shortcomings by emphasizing the purported insignificance of our actions:  “You did not answer Yehei Shemei Rabba with Kavannah--who cares?”; “You spoke only a few words of Lashon Hara--what is the big deal?” It is a spirit of pleasant lowliness--for it permits for the forbidden based upon an attitude of insignificance and defeat.  We, on the other hand, must understand that Hashem is not removed, far away and uncaring--but sincerely looks to raise us up from the trash heaps that the Yetzer Hara has planned for us.  All of our actions, all of our time, all of our thoughts--they really are important.  Rebbi Tzadok HaKohen, in the Sefer Tzidkas HaTzaddik writes:  “After you believe in Hashem Yisborach--then believe in yourself.  You are not a fish in the ocean--you are a Yid!”

Hakhel Note:  How incredibly beautiful--every part of our existence--24/7--is important…to Hashem!




10 Shevat

GETTING CLOSER!  If you begin this Friday--January 25th and learn one blatt a day, you will make a Siyum on Mesechta Megillah at the Seudas Purim!  What a wonderful way to prepare--much Aggadeta about the Megillah is contained in the Mesechta.  For women, or those who find the task too difficult, may we suggest that one begin the study of the Megillah through a Sefer or Seforim that he/she has not previously studied--and continue daily through completion until reaching the Purim milestone! 



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


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


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


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



CORRECTION! We provide the following corrections to the points and pointers on last week’s Parsha, in which there was a typographical error, which had made the following two points unclear:


·        The Toldos Yaakov Yosef brings the Pasuk in Makas Choshech--U’lechol Bnei Yisrael Haya Ohr BeMoshvosam--and to Bnei Yisrael there was light in the places they sat in (Shemos 10:23).  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! 

·        Many wonder as to why we were instructed “VeYishalu” (Shemos 11:2)--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!



QUESTION OF THE DAY :  If a person ate half a kezayis of a Mezonos food and half a kezayis of either a Shehakol/Borei Pri Ha’etiz/Borei Pri Ha’adama food --what Bracha Achrona would he make?  Hakhel Note on Brachos:  Two important, practical Kavannos one should have before making a Bracha Rishona on food is that: 1.  That he may move into another room in the home/building, and that the bracha is intended to cover his move into the other room; and 2. The bracha is intended to cover any food items which he may intend to consume together with the food he is making the bracha on.  Example:  If one makes a Shehakol on a chocolate bar; if he has in mind that the bracha will cover other Shehakol items, then it will cover the milk that he may decide to drink after eating the chocolate bar.




Special Note One:  We B’EH continue our Monday/Thursday study of the Sefer Mitzvos HaKatzar, with the Mitzvos Lo Sa’asei which the Chofetz Chaim writes are applicable in our times. Today, we present Mitzvos Lo Sa’aseh 68 and 69:


68. Shelo Lehatos Mishpat Ger VeYasom--this is the Mitzvas Lo Sa’aseh which prohibits a judge from favoring a convert or an orphan.  If a judge does so, he also violates the next prohibition (Mitzvas Lo Sa’aseh 69) of perverting justice.  This Mitzvah applies in all places and at all times.


69.  Shelo La’asos Avehl BaMishpat-- this is the Mitzvas Lo Sa’aseh which prohibits the perversion of justice. Included in this Mitzvas Lo Sa’aseh is the prohibition against absolving one who should be obligated, and obligating one who should be absolved.  Also included in this prohibition is delaying the rendering of a p’sak without good reason.  This Mitzvah applies in all places and at all times.



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


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




7 Shevat

QUESTION OF THE WEEK:  In Parshas Shemos, we find that Hashem tells Moshe at the S’neh (Shemos 3:22):  VeSha’alah Isha Mishechenta U’Migaras Beisah Klei Kesef…each woman shall request from her neighbor and from the one who lives in her house silver vessels….”  Yet, in this week’s Parsha, as the leaving of Egypt is now imminent, the Pasuk (11:2) records “Veyishalu Ish Meyeis Rei’aihu VeIsha Meyeis Reusah Klei Chesef…let each man request from his fellow and each woman from her fellow silver vessels….”--why the change from shechenta (neighbors) to reusah (friends), and why are men now added as well?




Special Note One:  Rabbi Zev Smith, Shlita, related at a recent Hakhel Shiur that the Chofetz Chaim’s granddaughter who had ‘seen the world’ a bit, approached the Chofetz Chaim and asked him why it was that time spent learning is so supreme over everything else.  The Chofetz Chaim told her that whether she realized it or not, the greatest of minds were busy at that time inventing all kinds of technology and weaponry which would be used to hurt and kill people.  He explained to her that they were making bombs which could “Charuv Machin Ah Velt--destroy a world”.  The Chofetz Chaim lovingly instructed:  “We, on the other hand, study Torah because Torah Macht Mentschen--Torah makes us into what human beings are supposed to be!”

Hakhel Note:  With this in mind, we should consider and reconsider again whether or not we should interrupt our learning (whether it is in private, with a chavrusah, or at a shiur), in order to respond to a phone call, text or email--or in fact, whether even to look at one’s phone or allow any other interruption during our precious Torah-study session.  Every minute of Torah study is a minute of building--not only of the world, but of oneself! 

Hakhel Note:  Even when not in a formal Torah study setting, if one finds himself in a situation in which he can be involved in Torah thoughts (such as on a crowded commute, on a walk, in a meeting in which his input is not really relevant or important) then he should use his time to…build!  Chazal’s words: Talmud Torah K’negged Kulam--are words we recite every day, at the start of the day--let us take action to demonstrate that we mean it!



Special Note Two:  At a recent Hakhel Shiur, Rabbi Zechariah Wallerstein, Shlita, noted that the tremendous outpouring of Chessed in the Torah community in the aftermath of Superstorm Sandy clearly served as a Haganah, as a protection, for the events of a week or so later in the Gaza strip and in Eretz Yisrael, where tremendous Yeshuos took place.  The lesson was clear:  “We are one all over the world, and our acts of Chesed protect us in times of Din.”  It is our job now to continue our acts of outstanding Chesed--so that no times of Din such as those that have recently occurred need ever occur again. 

Hakhel Note:  Rabbi Moshe Tuvia Lieff, Shlita, reported that when he went to visit the devastation in Belle Harbor , Queens , a National Guardsman saw by his garments that he was a Rabbi and actually saluted him for the Chesed that he had witnessed by Torah Jews in the area.  Every day, as we go about our daily lives, let us keep outstanding Chesed at the forefront--resolving to ‘go the extra mile’--bringing a salute from the world, and an outpouring of a much greater kind of Chesed…from on high!



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


A.  OPPORTUNITY NOT ONLY KNOCKS--IT POUNDS!  This coming Shabbos, the Mishna Berurah Amud Yomi Program begins the study of Hilchos Shabbos (Mishna Berurah Volume III )!  What a tremendous opportunity to begin the steady, dedicated study of Hilchos Shabbos, on a daily basis.  Indeed, if one recites the words “Zachor Es Yom HaShabbos LeKadesho--by studying the Halachos of Shabbos I am fulfilling the Mitzvas Asei DeOraysa contained in the Aseres HaDibros to remember Shabbos”--then, he even further enhances his study of Torah and of practical Halacha with yet another Mitzvah.  The Amud Yomi calendars can be downloaded from the website www.mishnaberurayomi.org.  One can also register on the website to receive a daily PDF of the Amud Yomi and an audio file of renowned Posek Rabbi Yitzchak Berkovits, Shlita, explaining the Amud.  What a wonderful enhancement this will be to one’s life--especially if he is now studying Mesechta Shabbos in the Daf Yomi!


B.  When the Chasam Sofer would be Ma’avir Sedrah (Shenayim Mikrah V’Echad Targum) on Erev Shabbos morning for this week’s Parsha, he would be careful to do so with his Tefillin on--for the end of the Parsha contains the Mitzvah of Tefillin, and he did not want it to appear that he was not following the directions of the Torah to wear Tefillin! 


C.  On Shabbos, rather than giving a person who does not feel well the bracha of “Refuah Sheleimah”, we instead give him the bracha of “Shabbos He Melizok U’Refuah Kerovah Lavoh--it is Shabbos and you should not cry out, for Refuah will come shortly!” (Shulchan Aruch, Orach Chaim 287:1).  Rabbi Yisroel Pinchos Bodner, Shlita (in the introduction to The Halachos of Refuah on Shabbos), writes that the reason this bracha is given on Shabbos is because we feel closer to Hashem--and there is accordingly no need to cry out to Him, as we are beyond that--because of our closeness to Him! 


D.  The following Questions and Answers in Hilchos Shabbos as posed to HaRav Chaim Kanievsky, Shlita, are excerpted from the Sefer Machsheves Am by Rabbi Emanuel Ralbag, Shlita:


1.         Question:  There are new clocks that have thermometers built into them.  Is the clock considered Muktzah, or do we say that the main purpose of the clock is for time-keeping?

Answer:  It would appear to be Muktzah.


2.         Question:  If a person has a string of keys and has to pass from key to key until he finds the right key--is there an issur of borer?

            Answer:  This requires some further investigation.


3.         Question:  Can a Shadchan who does the job professionally propose matches on Shabbos?

Answer:  Yes, but if one can wait until after Shabbos, it is better to wait.


4.         Question:  The second and third paragraph of Yekum Purkan may be said only B’tzibbur.  What if one had to step out, and when he gets back, the Tzibbur has already finished Yekum Purkan.  Can he still recite it?

            Answer:  Yes, he can recite it even after davening, as long as a tzibbur is still there.


5.         Question:  Chazal teach that one is paid back for his expenditures for Seudos Shabbos.  Is one paid back for his expenditures for Melaveh Malka as well?

            Answer:  Yitachein (it is likely)



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


A.  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!


B.  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’. 


C.  The Toldos Yaakov Yosef brings the Pasuk in Makas Chosech--U’lechol Bnei Yisrael Haya Ohr BeMoshvosam--and to Bnei Yisrael there was light in the places they sat in (Shemos 10:23).  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!  Many wonder as to why we were instructed


D.  VeYishalu” (Shemos 11:2)--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!


E.  Rabbi Zelig Pliskin, Shlita, in Growth Through Torah (p. 160) writes as follows: “U’Lichol Bnei Yisrael Lo Yecheratz Kelev Lishono--to all of Israel the dogs did not bark” (Shemos 11:7).  One can imagine the great feeling of liberation experienced by the Bnei Yisrael when they were finally freed from slavery after so many years.  Would it have been so terrible if a dog had barked at them when they were leaving?  We see from here that even though the irritation experienced would have been slight, under the circumstances, it would have nevertheless still been a blot on their joy.  From here we can learn that when someone is experiencing a joyous occasion, we should be careful not to say or do anything that would decrease his joy.  A person might have just bought a new house and feels very happy about it.  At that time do not needlessly point out the drawbacks of that house.  A person just got married and is very happy, do not voice any pessimistic comments that could cause a tinge of pain.  It is easy to make a statement that can deflate a person’s high feelings.  Be sensitive to the joy of another.  Allow others to savor their good fortune.  Don’t be like a barking dog and cause others irritation.  Instead, be like a Tzadik traveling through--to the joy of all who have met him!


F.  The first Mitzvah given to K’lal Yisrael as a people is found in the Parsha with the words “HaChodesh Hazeh Lachem Rosh Chadashim” (Shemos 12:1).  HaRav Ezriel Erlanger, Shlita, explains that this is a moment that we have all been waiting for--as Rashi, in the very first Rashi in Chumash, already is excited about it--and asks why, in fact, the Torah does not begin right here with this Mitzvah.  HaRav Erlanger explains that Rashi, by asking the question at the outset of his Peirush, is teaching us that the Torah is a Sefer HaMitzvos.  Even if many Pesukim, and even many Parshios, do not seem to contain Mitzvos, there are in fact countless directions in the Torah.  Rabbi Erlanger cites the G’ra, who teaches that the 613 Mitzvos are only kelalim--general rules--to which there is infinitely more detail.  There is a second, fundamental principle we must understand regarding Mitzvos, HaRav Erlanger continues.  That is, as Dovid Hamelech exclaims (Tehillim 119:105):  Ner Leragli Devarecha VeOhr Linesivasi--Your words are a lamp for my feet and a light for my path.”  This means that the Torah and Mitzvos operate in a world of darkness, for Olam Hazeh Domeh Lelaylah.  The backdrop, the background of every Mitzvah is the darkness of the physical world, the murkiness of the mundane and the material, which the Torah literally lights up.  As one is performing a Mitzvah, he may visualize himself entering into a dark room--making the effort to find the light switch, turning it on and witnessing a bright and brilliant light!


G.  HaRav Yecheskel Levenstein, Z’tl, in the Sefer Yad Yecheskel, notes that when Bnei Yisrael were given the instruction to being the Korban Pesach, the Pasuk writes “Vayelchu VaYa’asu Bnei Yisrael--and Bnei Yisrael went and performed it.” (Shemos 12:28)  How could the Torah so testify--when Bnei Yisrael were given the instructions on Rosh Chodesh Nissan, and did not actually bring the Korban Pesach on the 14th of Nissan which had not yet occurred?!  He answers that the Torah 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--Rachamana 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.


H.  In a significant and related thought, HaRav Levenstein, points to the sad paradox of 80% of the Bnei Yisrael not leaving Egypt on the one hand, and the Eirev Rav leaving together with the Bnei Yisrael who did leave, on the other (Shemos 12:38).  To explain, he once again points to the person’s Lev.  What is required of a person is his 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 leave Egypt, he would die there.  No 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 feeling to want to leave--and to see what Hashem would do for Bnei Yisrael.  They left their homes and perhaps much of their family behind.  As a result, they joined with the Bnei Yisrael--and made it to Matan Torah.  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)--he will be lifted up from the depths to the heights!


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

HaRav Mattisyahu Salomon, Shlita, explains the relevance and scope of these words in our daily lives.  The Mashgiach notes 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 here.  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 Hara who constantly tells the individual that he is a creator and is in control of his life and his goals.  We must, instead, constantly repeat and reinforce the words of Dovid HaMelech (recited in the weekday Shacharis--Tehillim, 100:3), “Hu Asanu VeLo Anachnu--He has made us, and we are His.”

HaRav Salomon especially 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!  When we act with ga’avah--with haughtiness--when we view or place ourselves in charge, we foolishly take away the very crown that belongs only to Hashem, as we recite in Tehillim (93:1):  ”Hashem Melech Gayus Lovesh--only Hashem dons ga’avah, grandeur”.  He is the Creator and the Omnipotent.  He is the One Who can do and does.  And all of this is for our benefit!  It is no coincidence, as it never is, that we recite the kepitel of Hashem Melech Gayus Lovesh” as the Shir Shel Yom for Friday--the day of man’s creation--to remind us of life’s true purpose, and of our true role.




6 Shevat

NO REFRIGERATION NECESSARY--OR WANTED!  Unlike food, for which we are blessed in our day with refrigerators and freezers, the Torah is to come fresh to us every day.  It is for this reason that we recite Birchas HaTorah every morning.  Even if one has the same Torah study program day in and day out--he must approach each and every opportunity daily with the realization that this is infinitely more pleasurable than the most pleasurable steak dinner prepared in the finest of restaurants.  There is no ‘routine’ to Torah--there should always be a fresh and exhilarating taste each and every day! 




Special Note One:  We B’EH continue our Monday/Thursday study of the Sefer Mitzvos HaKatzar, with the Mitzvos Lo Sa’asei which the Chofetz Chaim writes are applicable in our times. Today, we present Mitzvos Lo Sa’aseh 66 and 67:


66. Shelo LeRacheim Al Ani BaDin--this is the Mitzvas Lo Sa’aseh which prohibits a judge from favoring a poor person in a matter because he is poor, so that he need not beg for money.  This Mitzvah applies in all places and at all times.


67.  Shelo Lehatos Mishpat Chotei--this is the Mitzvas Lo Sa’aseh which prohibits a judge from ruling against a party because he is a rasha, or someone devoid of Mitzvos.  This Mitzvah applies in all places and at all times.



Special Note Two:  The Seforno in this week’s Parsha asks why it is “HaChodesh Hazeh Lachem Rosh Chadashim--this month is for you the first of the months.”  What made ‘this month’ so special?  The Seforno answers that until that point, the minds of Bnei Yisrael were ‘meshubad’--subjugated and diverted by the will of their masters.  Now that Bnei Yisrael would be free, their minds would be free as well.  They would now be able to undertake activities in which they could exercise their very own bechira chafshis--their own free will.  They would be able to accomplish their purpose in life--making the right choices and decisions-- and there could be no greater pleasure or joy.  When we face a test or a challenge we can think these words: “HaChodesh Hazeh Lachem Rosh Chadashim”--this is my moment, this is my time, this is my opportunity--and I will come out on top!



Special Note Three:  As we proceed in our daily quest for Teshuvah Bechol Yom, we provide the following points and pointers:


A.  At the recent Pelyim Lev L’Achim gathering in Flatbush, Rabbi Uri Zohar, Shlita, highlighted what we may refer to as The Teshuvah Imperative.  Rabbi Zohar explained that there is a real sense in Eretz Yisrael that the Moshiach is coming soon, and that we, and as many other Jews as we can gather together with us, should be as ready as we can for his arrival.  Rabbi Zohar stressed that all that Kiruv organizations really need is money to help fund their educational programs--for Teshuvah is truly in the air.  As an example, he related that a benefactor visiting with Rabbi Eliezer Sorotzkin, Shlita, of Lev L’Achim at his office in Netanya told Rabbi Sorotzkin that he no longer intended to contribute to Lev L’Achim, for after all, with all the publicized hatred of the chareidim (relating to the army draft), who would want to become religious now?   Rabbi Sorotzkin asked the ‘prior’ benefactor to come downstairs with him and he would ask ten different non-religious people on the street and ask them if they would come to a Shiur.  Only one was angry and said “no”--the majority were readily interested!  Accordingly, Rabbi Zohar urged those who are not involved directly in Kiruv to at least participate by helping to fund others who are doing so.  Lev L’Achim, for instance, needs hundreds of cars and cell phones for use by their volunteers to travel for Shiurim and chavrusos with those beginning to learn about their heritage.  Hakhel Note:  Let us do our part.  The Teshuvah Imperative is not only for us--but for all of K’lal Yisrael!


B.  The Sefer Orchos Tzaddikim teaches that there is an aspect of Teshuvah importantly referred to as Teshuvas HaGader--or Teshuvah of the Fence.  When a person sins in a certain area, he is weakened or compromised, just as a fence that has been broken and is re-patched is not as strong as the original fence.  In order to eliminate any sign of weakness, what one must do is simply build a new fence outside the damaged one.  So, too, must one who has sinned in a particular area build a new fence, a new barrier to protect himself from the previous weakening inflicted by the Yetzer Hara.  What this effectively means is that when one says or thinks:  “I will never do it again”, or “I don’t want to do this again”, he must take his words to a real and practical level.  For instance, if one realizes that a certain person frequently speaks Lashon Hara, or another person frequently uses improper language--he must make the special effort to not encounter or spend time with that person.  Likewise, if a person feels that his texting is out of control (whether in terms of time spent or needless chatter), then he should set limitations as to whom he will text and why, or perhaps have text-free times during the day.  One must realize that he must look into himself in order to most properly effectuate and personalize his Teshuvas HaGader--for if I do not build the fence, who will? 


C.  The Orchos Tzaddikim also teaches:  Yeish Besheviras HaTa’avah Toeles Gedolah Ki Bazeh Yigaleh Shelibo Tov V’Yashar Ki Hu Mo’es HaTevah Asher Garam Lo HaCheit--when one breaks his desire (such as by not eating a particular food, or by stopping to eat before one’s fill), he reveals that his heart is good and upright--for he is fighting his instincts, his base desires which had previously brought him to sin.”  Hakhel Note:  It would appear to be an important exercise for one to look back at the end of the day and ask himself:  “Did I overcome my desire at least one time today?”


D.  Chazal (Bava Kama 119A) teach:  Kol Hagozel Es Chaveiro Shaveh Perutah Ke’ilu Notel Nishmaso Mimenu--if one steals from his friend, it is as if he took his friend’s soul”--and moreover he burdens Hashem with the need to find a way to return the stolen item to its true owner.  Hakhel Note:  Many of us do not view ourselves as people who steal or take from others.  However, because the Chazal above actually refers to a gazlan as a murderer we must take an important second (and perhaps third) look at our actions:  Did we borrow items--even Sefarim or books, and then not return them to neighbors and friends because we forgot about it--even if they did as well?  Did we have disputes with service workers that came to some kind of settlement which nobody was happy with because we did not originally put it into writing or come to full agreement to begin with?  Did we pay those who work for us or provided services for us on time?  Did we force a person to provide us with items by saying:  “You wouldn’t mind if I took this--right?”, or asked a person in public “Can you do me a favor and give me this?”  It is no coincidence that the meaning of the word damim can mean both blood…and money!  From today and onward, let us resolve to be oh, so careful--with both!


E.  Rabbi Zev Smith, Shlita at a recent Hakhel Shiur emphasized that the Torah is defined by the words (Mishlei 3:17 ): “Deracheha Darchei No’am--its ways are ways of pleasantness”.  He explained that this is the litmus test of determining whether one’s actions properly follow the Torah.  If it is not Darchei Noam--then it is not Torah.  One can apply this test in many situations in life, especially when interacting with other people--such as when driving, shopping, and appreciating what others due.  Accordingly, if one is uncertain on the path to take--one should remember that the path of Torah is conducting one’s life wherever one is and whatever situation one finds himself in as Darchei No’am…and that the path of Teshuvah is the very same path!




5 Shevat

Special Note One:  The Luach Davar Be’Ito brings that Shevat is an acronym for Shalom, Bracha, Tovah, and also for Shomreim, Borcheim, Tahareim! Additional Note:  The Luach also brings from the Shatzer Rebbe (R’ Shalom MeShatz), Z’tl, that the place in davening to daven for a Zivug Hagun is at the words Sim Shalom Tovah U’Bracha--for Shalom, Tovah and Bracha is represented by one’s proper mate.  Let us use this month to its fullest!



Special Note Two:  This coming Shabbos, the Mishna Berurah Amud Yomi Program begins the study of Hilchos Shabbos (Mishna Berurah Volume III )!  What a tremendous opportunity to begin the steady, dedicated study of Hilchos Shabbos, on a daily basis.  Indeed, if one recites the words “Zachor Es Yom HaShabbos LeKadesho--by studying the Halachos of Shabbos I am fulfilling the Mitzvas Asei DeOraysa contained in the Aseres HaDibros to remember Shabbos”--then, he even further enhances his study of Torah and of practical Halacha with yet another Mitzvah.  The Amud Yomi calendars can be downloaded from the website www.mishnaberurayomi.org.  One can also register on the website to receive a daily PDF of the Amud Yomi and an audio file of renowned Posek Rabbi Yitzchak Berkovits, Shlita, explaining the Amud.  What a wonderful enhancement this will be to one’s life--especially if he is now studying Mesechta Shabbos in the Daf Yomi!


In honor of this monumental occasion, we provide points and pointers from the end of Volume II of the Mishna Berurah (Dirshu Edition):


1.  Any Seudah made to commemorate a Nes is a Seudas Mitzvah, for any Seudah made in which Niflaos Hashem are remembered is a Mitzvah.


2.  If one made a bracha over lightning, and heard thunder within ‘toch kedei dibur’ thereafter, HaRav Aharon Leib Shteinman, Shlita, rules that one is yotzei his bracha over the thunder with his bracha made over the lightning, even though he did not know that the thunder was coming.


3.  HaRav Shlomo Zalmen Auerbach, Z’tl, rules that if one makes a bracha on thunder and lightning, and then goes to sleep overnight and arises before day break, he can make a new bracha even though daylight has not yet broken.  The Shevet HaLevi concurs, ruling that the bracha over lightning and thunder has the same din as Birchos HaTorah--as long as one has gone to sleep overnight, a new chiyuv bracha occurs upon rising.


4.  If one saw lightning or heard thunder after he left the bathroom, he can recite the bracha over the lighting and thunder before he recites an Asher Yatzar (as long as one’s hands have been washed).


5.  Even if one is in the middle of learning, HaRav Chaim Kanievsky, Shlita, rules that one stops to make the bracha over lightning and/or thunder.


6.  The bracha of Oseh Ma’aseh Bereishis is recited over a splendor in nature which was created in the Sheishes Yemei Bereishis.  The Mechaber rules, however, that one makes a bracha of Oseh Ma’aseh Bereishis only upon unique mountains (such as especially high ones; in fact, the Chazon Ish rules that one can only recite this bracha over mountains over whose height one marvels), and not simply upon a typical mountain range. In any event, one would not recite the bracha unless he is moved by what he sees.


7.  The Minchas Yitzchak and HaRav Shlomo Zalmen Auerbach both rule that over the ocean one would recite the bracha of Oseh HaYam HaGadol, and over the Mediterranean one would recite the bracha of Oseh Ma’aseh Bereishis and then quickly add toch kedei dibur to the end of the bracha Oseh HaYam HaGadol [as there is a Machlokes as to whether the bracha of Oseh HaYam HaGadol is recited over the Mediterranean].  Note:  As pointed out in a previous Bulletin, one recites the bracha of Oseh Ma’aseh Bereishis only after 30 full days of not having seen the ocean or mountain.


8.  The Mishna Berurah brings that Anshei Ma’aseh say the following before eating:  Hineni Rotzeh Le’echol VeLishtos Kedei She’eheyeh Bori V’Chozok LeAvodas Hashem Yisborach--I would like to eat and drink now so that I will be healthy and strong to serve Hashem.”  The Rema writes that when one eats with this Kavannah, it is like he is partaking of a Karbon, and the Mishna Berurah adds that it also makes his meal into a Seudas Mitzvah. 


9.  If one intends to do any work or undertake any activity in which there is a danger that it will drag out, or one will be distracted (such as engaging in commerce, or perhaps even going shopping), then lechatchila, one should not begin to do so until he davens Mincha first.  Hakhel Note:  When one davens Mincha at the earliest possible time, the earliest possible time that is listed does not refer to Shemone Esrei, but to the beginning of Mincha (such as Karbanos or Ashrei). 


10.  The Shevet HaLevi rules that if one who is not chassidish finds himself in a chassidish Beis Midrash or shteibel where they are davening Mincha after shekiyah, he can still answer Kedusha and Amen to the brachos and Chazaras HaShatz.


11.  The Perisha writes that the reason we must wash our hands before davening is because our Tefillah is in the place of a Karbon Tomid, and the Kohanim would wash themselves at the Kiyor before offering the Karbon Tomid.  Hakhel Note:  Let us appreciate how sacred our Tefillos really are!


12.  If the Shatz made a mistake and after concluding Chazaras HaShatz of Mincha immediately began to recite Kaddish without beginning to recite Tachanun, the opportunity for Tachanun has been lost.  HaRav Chaim Kanievsky rules that this appears to be the case even if the Shatz only recited the first word of Kaddish. 


13.  One reason that we begin Ma’ariv with Vehu Rachum is because there is no Korban Tomid at night to bring us Kapparah.  Accordingly, we daven for Kapparah with the recitation of this Pasuk!  Hakhel Note:  Rabbosai--have Kavannah!


14.  At the commencement of Ma’ariv, once one has responded to Barchu, he is in the midst of Birchos Kriyas Shema.  This means that he cannot finish the sentence that he was in the middle of with his Chavrusah or with anyone else, or otherwise communicate with someone--even though he has not actually begun to recite the words “Baruch Atta Hashem Elokeinu Melech HaOlam….”


15.  If one enters a Shul and hears the Tzibur answering Baruch Hashem HaMevorach LeOlam Va’ed, he may answer with them, but if he walks in a moment later and hears the Shatz responding Baruch Hashem HaMevorach LeOlam Va’ed, then he should only answer “Amen” to the Shatz’ words.


16.  If one mistakenly concluded Hashkiveinu with the words Shomer Amo Yisrael La’ad on Shabbos, or with the words HaPoreis Sukkas Shalom during the week, he should not repeat the bracha. 


17.  If one encountered a Tzibur davening Ma’ariv early, he may answer Barchu, not daven with them, and it need not be considered night for him--he can still daven Mincha afterwards (hopefully with another Minyan somewhere else).  However, if one answers Barchu on Leil Shabbos, then unless he had specific intent not to be mekabel Shabbos at that time, he is mekabel Shabbos and he can no longer daven Mincha.  If he had specific intent not to be mekabel Shabbos and still daven Mincha, he cannot do so in that Shul--as the Tzibbur has already been mekabel Shabbos. 


18.  If one who lives in Eretz Yisrael (where the pesukim of Baruch Hashem LeOlam Amein V’Amein are not recited at Ma’ariv) is visiting Chutz La’aretz, should he recite Baruch Hashem LeOlam with the Minyan he is at?  Conversely, if one who lives in Chutz La’aretz is visiting Eretz Yisrael--should he recite the pesukim of Baruch Hashem LeOlam Amein V’Amein? See Igros Moshe, Orach Chaim II, siman 102.


19.  When reciting the words Tomid Yimloch Aleinu LeOlam Va’ed at the end of Baruch Hashem LeOlam Amein V’Amein, one should realize that this is not a request but rather a shevach that Hashem will rule forever and ever! 


20.  One must establish a time to learn at night.  Lechatchila, it is better to learn in a chaburah--with a group of people, for there is then more Kavod Shomayim.  Additionally, if ten men are learning together--there is a special presence of the Shechinah among them. 


21.  Beginning at the age of nine, boys should be taught not to sleep on their backs, but only on their sides. 


22.  Before retiring for the evening, one should review his day to make sure that he did not commit at least any of the aveiros which are common pitfalls, such as chanifus, shekarim, leitzanus and lashon hara.  One should also review how he fared in the study of Torah over the day, make up any Torah that he has not learned (to the extent possible) or learn something, and recite Viduy over any sins that he knows he committed.  Additionally, before retiring, one should forgive those who wronged him--in the zechus of forgiving others, one is ma’arich yomim!  Hakhel Note:  What a beautiful way to end the day--studying Torah and forgiving others--bringing one the zechusim to merit many, many more days!




4 Shevat

FREE GIFT !  The Sefer Loving Kindness points out that a person would walk at least a short distance and make the effort to get a ‘free gift’ (such as from a bank or other institution).  Whether it be a microwave, toaster oven, a sandwich maker or anything of the like--the fact of the matter is, it is still free.  All the more so, then, should one walk that distance or make that effort to perform a Chesed for another--for here the free Chesed results in eternal reward.  We note that by eternal reward, we mean not only that the person obtains reward forever and ever, but that the person himself is on an improved and higher plane for eternity as well!



LISTEN TO WHOM?  In Avos D’Rebbi Nosson Chazal teach that if one has friends some of whom praise him and some of whom provide constructive criticism to him--he should gravitate towards those who provide words of correction and gravitate away from those who praise:  “For those guide you to be a better person rather than praise and flatter you are the ones who will bring you to eternity!”




Special Note One:  It has been quite some time since we introduced the Ezras Avoseinu Organization to our readers.  Accordingly, we reintroduce you to this most noteworthy and important group with the following note:  


Perhaps one of the most downtrodden Tefillos is the brocha in the morning after Shema and before Shemone Esrei. Apparently, because Shema takes a little longer, as does Shemone Esrei, less time may be allotted to this brocha. Yet, as the Mishna Berurah (Orach Chayim 70; seif katan 2) points out, the paragraph of Ezras Avoseinu contains a Mitzvas Aseh D’oraysa of remembering Yetziyas Mitzrayim. Moreover, in this short Tefillah we have the precious words “U’Mibaladecha Ain Lanu Melech Goel U’Moshiah--and besides You we have no other King, Redeemer, or Source of salvation.”--which very phrase is one of the highlights of Nishmas on Shabbos!  Indeed, some especially have the custom of reciting the phrase of U’Mibaladecha out loud and with special Kavannah--so that they enter Shemone Esrei in the proper frame of mind. In all events, you can take the lead in your shul to make that timespan between Emes V’Yatziv and Tehillos L’kel Elyon just a bit longer in order to say and mean the precious words of this brocha. This is your chance to be a leader of the Ezras Avoseinu Organization!  Note: If you are more of a nighttime person, you can try to do the same with the grand brocha of Hashkiveinu. Look at the words—V’Hogen Ba’adeinu V’Hoseir Mei’oleinu…--and shield us and remove from us enemies, disease, violent…Imagine the power of this tefilla if tens of thousands reignited it with just a little more meaning and feeling. As the Gemara (Rosh Hashana 18A) teaches, according to the level of Kavannah in tefilla is it accepted.  Additional Note:  The sefer Shaarei Orah (pp 51-53) writes that there are three times a person will daven (aside from the regularly-scheduled Tefillos): 1) In a time of trouble r’l, 2) In order to thank Hashem for specific benefits he has been given (as the Pasuk (Koheles 7:14) says, B’Yom Tova Heyeh B’Tov), 3) Prior to a tzara (V’Hogen Ba’adeinu; please prevent me from getting sick…) We leave it to you to choose your time and place!



Special Note Two:  We continue with the following important questions and answers from one of the renowned Poskim with whom we correspond for distribution to our readers (Part 2 of 2).  For a final p’sak on a particular issue one should, of course, consult with his own Rav or Posek:





The following questions were posed to Rav Shmuel Fuerst, Dayan of Agudath Israel in Chicago at a kashrus symposium in Detroit on December 30, 2012. Some of the answers below have been edited and modified to reflect the position of the Vaad Harabbonim of Greater Detroit.




Which stringency is more important to observe—the stringency of eating only chalav Yisrael products, or the stringency of eating only pas Yisrael products?


Eating only chalav Yisrael products and avoiding chalav stam is more important. Pas palter, as opposed to pas Yisrael which is baked by a Jew, refers to bread and other baked goods that are kosher but were baked in a non-Jewish bakery. Pas palter is permitted to be eaten according to the Shulchan Aruch and most major poskim. While it is certainly meritorious to partake of pas Yisrael only, it is only a chumrah, above and beyond the strict letter of the law. The permissibility of drinking chalav stam, on the other hand, which is milk that was milked by non-Jews without Jewish supervision but under government regulation, is a subject hotly debated among the poskim. While there are prominent poskim who allow drinking chalav stam in the United States and one is permitted to rely on their ruling, the vast majority of poskim do not agree with this leniency. According to the majority opinion, therefore, chalav stam is not merely a chumrah but is strictly forbidden.


Which stringency is more important to observe--the stringency of eating only yashan products and refraining from chadash or the stringency of eating only chalav Yisrael products and refraining from chalav stam?


Eating only chalav Yisrael and avoiding chalav stam is more important, even though chadash is a biblical prohibition while chalav akum is not. Whether or not chadash is forbidden nowadays outside of Eretz Yisrael where the fields are owned by non-Jews, is an age-old dispute among the early authorities with no clear consensus reached. Indeed, most European Jews did not refrain from eating chadash, in keeping with the ruling of the more lenient opinions concerning chadash outside of Eretz Yisrael. Those who are lenient about chadash, therefore, are following a long-standing tradition based on the opinion of early, classic poskim. The leniency to drink chalav stam, on the other hand, is different. There is no long-standing tradition to permit it, as chalav stam was not available in Europe. It was always assumed and accepted by all poskim that unless a Jew was present at the milking, the milk was forbidden. It is only recently in the United States, where some prominent poskim ruled that we may rely on U.S. government regulation to permit milk that was not supervised by a Jew, that chalav stam became an option. This controversial ruling does not have the same halachic force as a ruling based on a centuries-old tradition, and thus chalav Yisrael is the more important stringency to observe.


Should a seven-year-old child be forced to wait six hours between meat and dairy?


Using force is the wrong approach, but at the same time the child should be taught that this is the correct thing to do. The child should be trained to observe this halachah gradually, taking into consideration his level of maturity and physical development. By the age of nine or ten, the child should be ready to understand and accept that this is what the halachah demands of him.

What procedure should be followed when baking an uncovered pareve liquid cake batter or dough in a meaty or dairy oven?


The oven should be thoroughly cleaned from any meat or dairy particles and residue, preferably with an abrasive cleaning agent. Some Poskim are of the opinion that the oven should then be heated to its highest setting for an hour and the racks should be covered with a fresh piece of foil. [You may poke holes in the foil to allow the hot air in the oven to circulate freely.] The oven is now ready to be used and anything baked in it will be considered pareve. Many Poskim are more stringent and wait 24 hours before using the oven for pareve.

An open bottle of non-mevushal wine was left in the fridge door, and a non-Jew opened the door and cleaned the fridge. Is the wine permitted?


When leaving a non-Jew alone in a house, all non-mevushal wine should be sealed with a tamper-proof seal. If the bottle is unsealed, it should be put away under lock and key. Bedi’eved, however, we do not prohibit drinking the wine from the unsealed bottle unless we have reason to believe that the cleaning lady either drank from the bottle directly, poured herself a drink from the bottle into a glass, touched the wine itself (not merely the bottle), or picked up the bottle, opened or uncorked it, and shook the wine. If we have no reason to believe that any of the above occurred, we do not forbid drinking the wine. If an unsealed bottle of wine was left in the refrigerator door, and the non-Jewish cleaning lady opened the door of the refrigerator but did not remove the bottle of wine from its place, the wine may be drunk.

All of the above halachos apply to non-mevushal grape juice as well.

Note: Contemporary poskim are divided as to whether or not the mevushal wines and grape juices on the market today are “cooked” enough to be exempt from the halachos of stam yeinam and permitted to be handled by a non-Jew or not. In the United States it is customary to rely on the more lenient views.

Is Challah taken from dough that is made out of six pounds of flour, half of which will be used for challah and half for cinnamon buns? Is the bracha recited?


Challah should be taken but the blessing for hafrashas challah should not be recited. Although the original dough contained six pounds of flour which is sufficient to require hafrashas challah with a blessing, in this case it is questionable whether or not the divided dough—which will be used for two different types of baked goods and will not be combined—is considered as one dough or as two separate batches, each one containing only 3 pounds of flour. Since the halachah remains unresolved, we fulfill the mitzvah but we do not recite the blessing.

Is a kosher pizza store required to double tape pizza being delivered by a non-Jew?

It is strongly recommended that they do so, and the kashrus agency supervising the pizza shop should insist on it. Bedi’eved, if an unsealed box of pizza was delivered by a non-Jew (or a Jew who does not keep kosher) a Rav should be consulted. It may still be permissible to eat the pizza depending upon the particulars of the case.




3 Shevat

SHOVAVIM!  The Luach Davar Be’Ito brings that many Sefardim have the custom on the first Monday after Rosh Chodesh Shevat to either fast or have a Ta’anis Dibbur and recite Tehillim.  Hakhel Note:  Even if one may not be a Sefardi, it behooves us to touch on this very special Minhag, perhaps with a Ta’anis Dibbur--if done in a dedicated way even for a short period of time.  In fact, the Luach also brings that on this day 80 years ago the leader of the Nazis, yemach shemo and shemam, took power in Germany.  It is certainly a day in which we should shudder and remember that we should do Teshuvah Bechol Yom, and especially today!




Special Note One:  We B’EH continue our Monday/Thursday study of the Sefer Mitzvos HaKatzar, with the Mitzvos Lo Sa’asei which the Chofetz Chaim writes are applicable in our times. Today, we present Mitzvos Lo Sa’aseh 64 and 65:


64. Lo Limnos Dayan She’eino Hagun--this is the Mitzvas Lo Sa’aseh which prohibits one from appointing a judge based upon ma’alos chitzoniyos--for the true qualifications of a judge are Torah and Yiras Shomayim.  This Mitzvah applies in all places and at all times and to men and women alike.

Hakhel Note:  Those who were privileged to attend the P’eylim Lev L’Achim reception yesterday heard (audio-visually) the brachos of HaRav Aharon Leib Shteinman, Shlita, both to the Ba’alei Teshuva students assembled in his apartment, as well as to the Lev L’Achim supporters.  Both brachos began with the Tefillah that the recipient should have Yiras Shomayim.  In discussing Yiras Shomayim, the Sefer Orchos Tzaddikim brings the Pasuk (Yeshayahu 33:6):  Yiras Hashem He Otzaro--Yiras Shomayim is His treasure.”  The Orchos Tzaddikim continues that the way to measure a true treasure is by looking at what Hashem (rather than what a billionaire or politician) determines is most valuable--and, as the Navi expressly records--it is Yiras Hashem that is that treasure.  We highly recommend a study of the last Chapter of the Sefer Orchos Tzaddikim which goes into wonderful detail regarding Yiras Shomayim--and how one’s own human body is literally a world onto itself, which should proclaim Yiras Hashem from its very essence and being!


65.  Lo Lishmoah Ta’anas Ba’al Din Echad--this is the Mitzvas Lo Sa’aseh which prohibits a judge from listening to the words of one litigant when not in the presence of the other litigant. The prohibition is, in fact, not only on the judge, but also on the litigant from trying to get his position heard by the judge when not in the presence of the other side. This Mitzvah applies in all places and at all times and to men and women alike.  



Special Note Two:  From a reader:  As I was reading the last Pointer on the Parsha, I was reminded of a story which helped me realize how often we need to thank Hashem for all He does for us:  A man was driving around the block looking for a parking space, to no avail.  So, he decided to daven to Hashem please to give him a space.  Suddenly, as he rounded the corner yet again, he saw a car pulling out right in front of his destination!  So he said, “Never mind, Hashem, I just found a space myself!”  I saw immediately the foolishness of the man’s thinking he had gotten that space, especially when he had specifically asked Hashem to give it to him--Hashem will answer all prayers.  There are times when what we pray for might not be what we need, and then Hashem might answer “No” or “Not yet,’ “but if you can keep your eyes and ears (read:  your heart, your neshama) open, you will hear His reply.”



Special Note Three:  We received the following important questions and answers from one of the renowned Poskim with whom we correspond for distribution to our readers (Part 1 of 2).  For a final p’sak on a particular issue one should, of course, consult with his own Rav or Posek:





The following questions were posed to Rav Shmuel Fuerst, Dayan of Agudath Israel in Chicago at a kashrus symposium in Detroit on December 30, 2012. Some of the answers below have been edited and modified to reflect the position of the Vaad Harabbonim of Greater Detroit.


May a housewife have a non-Jewish cleaning lady clean her kitchen if no frum person is at home?


It is never a good idea to allow a person who does not keep kosher—Jewish or not—to have free access to your kitchen. It is quite common for a cleaning lady to bring her own non-kosher food into your kitchen and use your oven or microwave to warm it up, or use your kosher utensils to stir or serve her non-kosher food. Even if the cleaning lady does not bring her own food into your home, there remains the likelihood that she will prepare something for herself in your kitchen in a manner which will render your oven, pots, pans or dishes non-kosher. Mixing meat and milk together, transgressing the laws of bishul akum or gaining access to unsealed meat and fish are just some of the things that could go wrong when a kitchen is accessed by an individual who is not knowledgeable or reliable concerning kashrus. Whenever possible, such a person should not be left in your kitchen unsupervised.


In the event that this truly cannot be avoided, there are a number of safeguards that can be instituted to lessen the likelihood of making your kitchen non-kosher. First and foremost, the cleaning lady must be told in no uncertain terms that she may not bring any of her own food into the house, nor may she cook, bake or warm any food in the kitchen—not for herself or for anyone else. The slightest infraction of this rule will result in her immediate dismissal. Secondly, all unsealed food which cannot be clearly identified as kosher, e.g., meat, chicken, skinned fish, cheese or wine, should either be resealed or stored under lock and key. Thirdly, the microwave oven should be sealed with a tamper proof seal. In addition, one of the following two procedures must be implemented:


1. A neighbor or a relative must drop in at random times throughout the day to check up on the cleaning lady. The cleaning lady should be told in advance that someone will be checking up on her.


2.  A video camera must be installed to monitor the kitchen area. The cleaning lady should be told that a camera is operating at all times. The tape should be periodically reviewed to verify that no cooking, baking or warming has taken place anywhere in the kitchen and that no outside food has been brought in.


In the event that the above precautions were not followed and a cleaning lady was left alone in the kitchen without any supervision, a Rav should be consulted to decide the status of the kitchen appliances, pots and pans, and dishes. Depending on the exact circumstances, the Rav may decide that nothing at all needs to be done and everything in the kitchen remains kosher, or he may decide that the ovens must be koshered, and that the pots and dishes—or at least some of them—may not be used for 24 hours.


A related question arises when a wife needs to step out for a few hours, but does not wish to leave her kitchen unsupervised while the cleaning lady is working there.  May she ask her husband to remain at home to supervise the cleaning lady?  Depending on the circumstances, that may entail a gross violation of the laws of yichud or other restrictions pertaining to modesty and purity.  Cases such as these, ostensibly commonplace and innocuous, do, in fact, have to be carefully weighed and balanced and, if necessary, presented to a Rav for a ruling


If a microwave was mistakenly used for both meat and dairy dishes, what could be done?


It is forbidden to use the same microwave to warm or cook both dairy and meat if both the dairy and meat dishes are uncovered. It is strongly recommended not to use the same microwave for meat and dairy even if one is careful to keep all of the food covered while being cooked or warmed. One should make every effort to get two separate microwave ovens and designate one for meat and the other for dairy.


In the event that uncovered dairy food was heated in a meat microwave or vice-versa, the microwave is considered not-kosher, especially if there was a substantial amount of liquid in the food being warmed. Whether or not the microwave can be koshered is a subject of debate among contemporary poskim: Some hold that it can be koshered using a modified hagalah procedure, which entails scrubbing the roof, walls and turntable of the microwave clean, waiting twenty-four hours, placing a cup of water inside the microwave and heating it for 5-10 minutes until thick steam fills the oven. If the food being warmed touched the turntable directly (without a plate or napkin in between) then the turntable should be koshered through hagalah in hot water. Other poskim, however, are wary of koshering a microwave using this procedure. The practical halachah will depend on the specific details of the case which should be presented to a Rav for a ruling.


If an item is labeled DE, may it be eaten in a fleischig meal?


An item which is labeled DE means that pareve food was processed on hot equipment that was previously used for dairy and no koshering took place between the dairy run and the pareve run. [Sometimes, DE means that the pareve product was processed on dairy equipment which was not totally clean of dairy residue.] There is no way for the consumer to tell whether or not the dairy equipment was ben yomo at the time the pareve food was processed or not. Therefore, we are careful not to eat any DE products together with meat or chicken, since it is forbidden LeChatchila to eat meat or chicken together with pareve foods that were processed in hot ben yomo dairy equipment. It is, however, permitted to eat DE products after eating meat or chicken, even during the same meal, and even without cleaning one’s mouth in between.


If onions cut with a clean meaty knife are ground in a food processor, does the food processor become meaty?


The answer to this question is a matter of dispute. Some poskim hold that the “absorbed meaty taste” that was transferred into the onion from the meaty knife is further transferred into the blades of the food processor, thus rendering the blades of the food processor meaty. Other poskim disagree and maintain that the taste cannot be transferred further and the food processor remains pareve. Although LeChatchila one should avoid this problem by taking care to cut onions with a pareve knife or by designating a food processor for meaty items only, when necessary, one may rely on the lenient poskim who rule that the processor does not lose its pareve status.



29 Teves

Special Note One:  Tomorrow, Shabbos Kodesh, we will welcome Chodesh Shevat.  At the Flatbush Asifa (L’zechus LeRefuah Sheleima L’Chizkiyahu Yisroel ben Sara) this past Wednesday night, HaRav Avrohom Schorr, Shlita, and HaRav Shimshon Sherer, Shlita, provided outstanding ideas on how one could improve one’s life.  Below we briefly present their great conclusions, each of which we sincerely suggest become 30-day Kabbalos for the month of Shevat:


A.  HaRav Schorr--The Jew lives outside of tevah.  Hashem watches and guides our every action.  Avraham Avinu was 100 and Sara Imeinu 90 when they gave birth to Yitzchak--so that we would know that the creation of our people was above tevah, and that we always exist beyond tevah.  Accordingly, there is never room for despair based upon Olam HaZeh standards. HaRav Gedaliah Schorr, Z’tl, would say that on many bridges there are two levels--they symbolize the two levels of human existence--the lower level is that of tevah. It is what the world calls ‘being realistic’. However--it is not the Torah Jew’s realism.  We are on the higher level of the bridge--the level above tevah.  To us, only something that is eternal is realistic.  Our relationship with Hashem, and Torah and Mitzvos is what is eternal.  As HaRav Eliya Lopian, Z’tl, taught:  “We must live Keymei Hashomayim Al Ha’aretz--heavenly days while in this world.”  We must all live this way--but we are weakened by the morals, attitudes and standards of the Western world around us.  The way to overcome the tevah pulling us down to the lower level of existence is by strengthening our relationship to eternity--daily.  A starting point is to study the Sha’ar HaBitachon of the Chovos HeLevavos for five minutes--each and every day.  If we do so with dedication and with sincerity--we will experience a change in our lives, the way we look at things and the way we act at home, in business--and with ourselves.  Five minutes a day of the Sha’ar HaBitachon--during the month of Shevat--let’s do our part!  Hakhel Note:  Many of us recite the 13 Ani Ma’amins daily--perhaps we can supplement the five minutes of Sha’ar HaBitachon with reciting the 13 Ani Ma’amins with a few extra moments of Kavannah--by simply translating the words in our minds as we recite them. 


B.  HaRav Sherer--There is a great misbelief that Hakaras HaTov is a Middah Tova found in very nice and very special people.  This is very far from the truth.  HaKaras HaTov is an absolute obligation of a Torah Jew--to the extent of Mesiras Nefesh.  Indeed:  HaKafui Tova BeChaveiro Sofo Leheyos Kafui Tova BeHakadosh Baruch Hu--one who denies the good done to him by another will also deny the good that Hashem does to him.”  If a person feels that what others do for him is coming to him (for one reason or another), then this mentality will carry on to what Hashem does for him as well.  Moshe Rabbeinu did not want to go to save K’lal Yisrael from Mitzrayim unless he received permission from Yisro to leave--for he owed him HaKaras HaTov for taking him in at a time of difficulty.  The salvation of all of K’lal Yisrael would have been delayed or thwarted, so to speak, had Yisro not agreed.  What greater lesson of HaKaras HaTov could there be than Moshe Rabbeinu not hitting the water or the ground--inanimate objects--because he had to physically express his thanks?  Even if one is up to the point of being grateful--it cannot be merely in one’s heart alone.  It must be expressed with words or with actions.  Every day we must express our appreciation to parents, spouses, children and those who provide help or services to us or our families in any way.  Do not say “I am not good with words”; “I am not expressive”; or “He/She knows how I feel”--one must take the time, make the effort and ‘humble himself’ to express it.  This is the essence of Hakaras Hatov--the outward expression of true and sincere appreciation.  A personal campaign of HaKaras HaTov during the month of Shevat--let’s do our part! Hakhel Note:   We may add that Kol HaMarbeh Harei Zeh Meshubach--the more the better.  “Thank you!” is a start--but may only be the beginning!



Special Note Two:  Tomorrow, we begin a new cycle in the Sefer Chofetz Chaim, the related work Guard Your Tongue, and all of the outstanding Chofetz Chaim Heritage Foundation Seforim and Shiurim.  Please contact the Chofetz Chaim Heritage Foundation at 845-352-3505 for all of the possibilities and resources to enrich your life during the coming cycle.  The Sefer Orchos Tzaddikim devotes a special Sha’ar to Lashon Hara and makes the following significant points: 


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


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


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


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


E.  When a person speaks Lashon Hara he will not only be punished for the damage he caused, but for the enjoyment he derives from shaming or disgracing another--violating VeAhavta LeReiacha Kamocha.  Additional Note:  For the effects that Lashon Hara can have on one’s Tefillos, please see Special Note Four (C) below. 


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


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



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


A.  As Shabbos is also Rosh Chodesh, we add an additional food to the Shabbos meal, as a special Kavod to the Seudas Rosh Chodesh (see Mishna Berurah, Shulchan Aruch, Orach Chaim 419 seif katan 2).  If one has not done so, he may do so on Motza’ei Shabbos at Melave Malka (Siddur Yaavetz, brought in the Sha’ar Hatzion, ibid., os 5).  Hakhel Note:  Some learn that one cannot properly have a Seudas Rosh Chodesh on Shabbos because it is not noticeable, and accordingly the Seudah in honor of Rosh Chodesh should be on Sunday (the second day of Shevat)--see Magen Avraham to Orach Chaim 419. 


B.  HaRav Pinchus of Koritz, Z’tl, would eat fruit on Rosh Chodesh Shevat as it is the Rosh Hashana LaIlanos according to Bais Shammai.  A special Oneg Shabbos!


C.  Two extra Shemone Esreis?  Chazal (Brachos 28B) teach that the 18 Brachos of Shemone Esrei correspond to the 18 times in which the name of Hashem (Yud-Key-Vuv-Key) appears in Mizmor L’Dovid Havu LaHashem Bnei Eilim (Tehillim 29).  The 19th Bracha corresponds to the one time that Hashem’s name Kel appears in the Kepitel.  On Shabbos, we have the unique opportunity of reciting this Kepitel twice--in Kabbalas Shabbos, and when returning the Sefer Torah to the Aron Kodesh on Shabbos morning. The number of brachos in Shemone Esrei are guided by this great Chapter--let us recite it with the Kavannah it deserves--perhaps it can be considered as something like an additional two Shemone Esreis on Shabbos! 


D.  Before the leining, we uniquely recite the Pasuk of VeAtem Hadeveikim BaHashem Elokeichem Chaim Kulchem HaYom.  Perhaps when reciting the Pasuk one can feel an elevated sense of deveikus--after all, it is Shabbos, and one is about to receive the weekly portion of the Torah--just as the Aseres HaDibros were given on Shabbos! 


E.  During the leining: 


1.  Remember, if possible, to keep your finger on the place--it should increase your concentration!


2.  Pay special attention to how differently the Torah describes the Makkos--Was the Mateh used for each Makkah? 


F.  Rabbi Aharon Kahn, Shlita, teaches that if one looks into a Sefer or reads a Parsha newsletter during the Rav’s drasha (even if he is trying to listen simultaneously), he is not simply showing disrespect to a Talmid Chochom--but is actually committing a form of Lashon Hara with his body--for others will understand that what the Rav has to say is not worth listening to.  The after-effects of this can be terribly poisonous--both to the Rav, and to others who may no longer respect his pesokim, teachings and guidance in the same way--especially if the person who appears not to be paying attention is an important person or a Talmid Chochom himself.


G.  Question for the Shabbos table:  Chazal (Brachos 34B) teach that although we are to bow to Hashem in the Modim of Shemone Esrei, it is meguneh (a disgrace) to bow down when giving thanks to Hashem at two other times--during Hallel when reciting Hodu Lashem Ki Tov, and during bentsching when reciting Nodeh Lecha.  This Shabbos, we will have the opportunity to express our thanks to Hashem three times at Modim, three times in Nodeh Lecha, and we will recite the Pasuk of Hodu Lashem Ki Tov six times in Hallel.  Why is it so--why must we bow down in the Modim of Shemone Esrei, when it is meguneh to bow down when expressing our thanks in Hallel and bentsching?!



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 to 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.  The Chofetz Chaim asks why the tefillos of Moshe Rabbeinu to save the Mitzryim 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 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 Mitzryim--and they did not have to suffer for an extra day?!  The Chofetz Chaim explains the difference as follows:  The Mitzryim 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 Hara, 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 whom 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 Yeshuah 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!”




28 Teves

QUESTION OF THE DAY : We are all familiar with the Mitzvah of Leveeya--escorting a guest out of one’s home for a distance (at least 4 amos, and making sure that he knows where he is going if that is relevant).  When is one considered a ‘guest’ in order for the obligation to escort him to apply?--Is he even one who merely knocks on your door with a request? Is he one who has actually entered the home?  Is he someone who has at least been served a meal (or a meal and lodging)? Does it apply only to someone who is a stranger in the community--but not to a Shabbos guest or relative? Your responses are welcome!





A.  A reader advised us that the person who composed the popular tune for bentsching is actually someone who was not a practicing Torah Jew, and that he had composed the tune for non-Orthodox students.  Whether this impacts upon you, your family or your child’s Yeshiva should be discussed with your (or their) Rav or Posek. 


B.  For clarification purposes, the reader yesterday wrote that the mistake was reading the phrase as V’zar’o Mevakesh la-CHEM--with the accent on the last syllable when it should be read LA-chem--with the accent on the first syllable.


C.  From another reader:  It should not be read as Bamorom Yelamdu, Alayhem V’olaynu, Z’chus Shetehay...  It should be Bamorom Yelamdu, Alayhem V’olaynu z’chus!, Shetehay…, with the comma after z’chus, not before.”


D.  In the phrase VeAchalta VeSavata U’Veirachta, the proper pronunciation is VeAchal-TA Vesa-VA-ta, U’VeirachTA.


E.  Likewise, we have also been provided with a listing of various mistakes in various parts of davening and bentsching, which we provide by clicking here and here.



GETTING READY!  The new cycle of Praying With Fire II, by Rabbi Heshy Kleinman, an incredible handbook on Emunah, Bitachon and Tefillah starts on Shabbos, Rosh Chodesh Shevat.  The cycle will guide you for four months--through Rosh Chodesh Sivan--when you will make an incredibly rewarding Siyum!  For those who have not yet done so, we strongly urge taking up this outstanding five minute a day Program.




Special Note One: It is Yom Kippur Koton today! Even if one will not be reciting the special Yom Kippur Koton Tefillos, it is certainly a day of Teshuva--reflecting upon the past and looking forward to the future! 



Special Note Two:  We B’EH continue our Monday/Thursday study of the Sefer Mitzvos HaKatzar, with the Mitzvos Lo Sa’asei which the Chofetz Chaim writes are applicable in our times. Today, we present Mitzvos Lo Sa’aseh 62 and 63:


62. Lo Le’ametz Lev--this is the Mitzvas Lo Sa’aseh which prohibits one from hardening his heart and from closing his hand and not giving Tzedaka to one who is in need. This Mitzvas Lo Sa’asei is accompanied by the Mitzvas Asei to open one’s hand (Pasoach Tiftach).  The Chofetz Chaim especially writes that we have to be especially careful in the Mitzvah of Tzedaka because it is the siman that a person is Mizerah Avraham--a descendant of Avraham Avinu.  This Mitzvah applies in all places and at all times and to men and women alike.  


63.  Lo Lekallel Dayan--this is the Mitzvas Lo Sa’aseh which prohibits one from cursing a judge.  This prohibition also includes cursing using Hashem’s Name, and under certain circumstances could involve the death penalty (in our times when there is no death penalty, the person would be put into cherem).  This Mitzvah applies in all places and at all times and to men and women alike.  



Special Note Three:  HaRav Chaim Kanievsky, Shlita, in the Sefer Orchos Yosher explains the concept of Simcha Shel Mitzvah as follows:  Each and every Mitzvah that presents itself to a person is a gift which has been sent by Hashem from heaven.  Accordingly, if one experiences joy with the incomparable gift, he is demonstrating that he recognizes its inestimable value, and that the gift is beloved and precious to him.  In turn, the very joy experienced will cause one to further his love for Mitzvos--and to actively seek more and more Mitzvos to perform.  A person should simply contemplate that the Mitzvah in front of him is incomparable even to thousands upon thousands of golden coins--for it is eternal richness--and Hashem’s joy.  In fact, a person will be zoche to an Ohr Elyon from the Mitzvah relative to the true Simcha he experiences in the Mitzvah’s performance.  HaRav Chaim continues in the name of HaRav Chaim Vital in the Sha’ar HaMitzvos:  VeIm Yasmid Bazeh Ein Safek Sheyashreh Alav Ruach HaKodesh--if one continuously experiences Simchas HaMitzvah upon performance there is no doubt that Ruach HaKodesh will rest upon him!”


Hakhel Note:  We sometimes see in this world how a person can become very involved in a mundane and physical activity, enjoying the experience (going out to eat, eating a steak at home, putting on a new, expensive tie or dress, buying a new device or app) in a unique and special way.  When we view these events, they should move us to appreciate the supernal, incalculable benefit, reward and experience of each and every Mitzvah.  The joy of each and every Mitzvah--make it a part of your day--each and every day!




27 Teves

RECEIVED FROM A READER! The famous ‘bentsching niggun,’ which most of us grew up singing, mangles quite a few words and phrases, and even after maturing beyond the niggun, many people continue to say the words incorrectly.


 A few examples that immediately come to mind:
 1) hu nosein le-CHEM (should be LE-chem) l’chol basar
 2) ki l’olam chasdo u’vtuvo ha-gadol, tamid lo chasar... (there should not be a break after ha-gadol)
 3) v’al achilas mazon sha’atah zan, u’mefarnes... (no break after zan)
 4) v’lo ra’isi tzaddik ne’ezav v’zar’o mevakesh la-CHEM (should be LA-chem - how many people think the word is Lechem??)”



Special Note One:  Today is the Yahrtzeit of HaRav Shamshon (B’R Refoel) Hirsch, Z’tl.  HaRav Shimon Schwab, Z’tl, in the introduction to Rav Schwab on Prayer refers to HaRav Hirsch as the “Tefillah Lamdan”. We provide below only three short samples of HaRav Hirsch’s monumental teachings culled from Rav Schwab on Prayer: 


A.  Just as we make a separation between the human and animal parts of the body, so do we separate our mind, our intelligence, from that of HaKadosh Baruch Hu by covering our head and, symbolically, our intelligence, as “ervah,” “unrefined nakedness,” compared to the Daas Elyon, the omniscience of HaKadosh Baruch Hu. Women express this same idea through the tznius of their clothing, and for married women this includes the covering of the hair.


B.  Beni Bechori Yisrael--I consider Bnei Yisrael to be My bechor was the message which Moshe Rabbeinu brought to Pharaoh in the Name of HaKadosh Baruch Hu. Just as the bechor is to be the role model for the other children, so is Am Yisrael to be a role model for the rest of the world--to save the whole world!


C.  At the outset of Pesukei DeZimrah we recite “Hodu LaHashem Kiruh VishmoThe words “Kiruh Vishmo  are based on Bereishis (12:8) in connection with Avraham Avinu: “Vayikrah BeSheim Hashem”, which is usually translated, He called out the Name of Hashem, meaning, he proclaimed the existence of HaKadosh Baruch Hu to the world. However, HaRav Hirsch writes that “Veyikrah BeSheim Hashem”--He called everything by the Name of Hashem, meaning he proclaimed to the world that everything that exists is created by HaKadosh Baruch Hu.  It is with this awareness that we begin Pesukei DeZimrah. 



Special Note Two:  The last Pasuk of Tehillim Chapter 29 reads:  Hashem Oz LeAmo Yitein Hashem Yivareich Es Amo VaShalom…Hashem will give strength to His people, Hashem will bless His people with peace.”  In Growth Through Tehillim, Rabbi Zelig Pliskin, Shlita, brings the following outstanding insights into the bracha peace--and how to bring it about:


The blessing of the Almighty is peace. Therefore, allow yourself to experience joy every time you go out of your way or make a sacrifice, for peace. The long-term benefits of peace are so numerous and all-encompassing that it is considered the blessing of Hashem Himself to His people.


I had an opportunity to observe a rabbi who was an expert at making peace between people, in a situation that seemed almost impossible to resolve. “What is your secret?” I asked him. “I don’t have any secrets,” he replied. “But, I do have an approach, that can be learned with practice. There are many ways to look at each situation. When two people are involved in a quarrel--and a bitter one, at that--one thing is certain: they are viewing the situation very differently. Each one sees what is going on, but only from his own perspective. Each one thinks that his position is correct and right. Each one thinks that the other’s position is wrong. Each one feels justified for speaking the way he does, and each one feels that the other person is making a mistake. The other one is speaking rudely and disrespectfully. The other one is stubborn. The other one is the cause of the fight.


My goal is to teach both parties to see the situation from more than one perspective. Each one needs to enter the mind of the other person, for a while. He does not need to agree with the other one, but he does need to review what was said and done from that person’s perspective. After that, he needs to see the situation from the perspective of an outside observer. Each outside observer might also look at it differently, so I have each one imagine an outside observer who would agree with the other person, and an outside observer who would agree with him. 


Depending on with whom I’m talking, I make suggestions as to the identities and approaches of various role models. One favorite is looking at the situation from the perspective of Rabbi Levi Yitzchak of Berditchev, who was famous for his love of people, and his mastery of judging people favorably. How would he view this situation? What would he say to each person? What would he suggest I say and do?


At times, I will tell the people involved to view the situation from the perspective of a professional humorist. What would he find funny, ironic, comical, and ludicrous about the way both people are speaking and acting? I am careful to be sensitive to the hurt feelings and dignity of each person involved, but when the participants themselves are open to this, they often acknowledge that the way they are handling this challenge is a bit silly.


I often ask them to imagine that they would be given a gigantic fortune of money, if they would make peace. From this perspective, what would they be willing to say and do for peace?


The ultimate point of view I ask them to integrate is to see the situation from Hashem’s perspective. Hashem is their loving Father. How would He want them to speak and act? Hashem sees infinitely and eternally. How would they see what they were saying and doing from the entire scheme of the universe and their own purpose in life?


Hakhel Note:  Hashem allows us to share His blessing of peace by promoting peace among others. The wonderful suggestions presented by this Rav to Rabbi Pliskin can be implemented by anyone--with a little bit of concern and thought, and a lot of true and sincere feeling!





26 Teves

Special Note One: Rabbi Moshe Goldberger, Shlita 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 in last week’s Parsha records “VaTa’a 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: We provide the following points and pointers from the Sefer Orchos Tzaddikim:


A.  A person who wishes to attain Middos Tovos must mix Yiras Hashem into each Middah--for Yiras Hashem is like the knot on a strand of pearls that holds them all together.


B. One may be blessed with wisdom, but if he does not go to Chachomim to teach him how to apply it and guide him--he is like the person who has a treasure chest in his home and does not realize it. In the end, he sells the home without knowing--and has nothing to show for the wealth that he truly possessed.


C. When a person enters an unknown wilderness, he knows that he may face all kinds of attackers--bears, lions, leopards, wolves--and he must be on the alert to ward each one of them off as best he can. Every day, we face the middos ra'os of ta'avah, ga'avah, sinah, ka'as and their ilk daily--and we must do battle with them with the same sense of alertness--for here our eternity is at stake. Practicing Shivisi Hashem Lenegdi Samid can go a long way towards our ongoing success against each of these attackers.


D. Shlomo Hamelech, the wisest of all men, teaches in Mishlei: To'avas Hashem Kol Gevah Lev (Mishlei 16:5)--a haughty heart is an abomination to Hashem. The phrase to'avas-- it is an abomination-- is not very common in Tanach and is not to be taken lightly. One must also note that it is an abomination to Hashem even if the haughtiness is not expressed in word or deed--but is merely etched in a person's heart. A person faced with arrogant thoughts must work at recognizing his position in the universe, and vis-a-vis Hashem. What does one really control? What does one really own? One does have an important role to play in this world--because after all Hashem brought him here--but it is definitely not to delude oneself. Everything that was created in the world was created to foster and promote Kavod Shamayim--if we pay attention to this, then our actions will be focused, more proper and more correct.


E. The way to practice anava--proper humility is by humbling oneself before those who are otherwise 'under' him, such as one's workers, children, and the poor. Another important step in the practice of anava is accepting insult, embarrassment or disgrace and remaining silent. In fact, the Torah itself records after Miriam and Aharon had spoken about Moshe that "Vehaish Moshe Anav Me'od--and Moshe was very humble--for--even as a leader of millions-- he had remained silent after they spoke about him. Moreover, when one does not respond--the disagreement cannot continue on at that time--thereby quieting further ill-will and the possibility of an expanded dispute.


F. The purpose of simcha is to rejoice in proper conduct--in proper Avodas Hashem. It is for this reason that we are not permitted to 'fill our mouths with laughter' in Galus--for only with the Geulah Sheleima and the rebuilt Bais Hamikdash can our service be complete. Most certainly, when we smirk or laugh at the mistake or misconduct of another, we are abusing the wonderful middah of simcha. On the other hand, when we perform a mitzvah with an internal sense of joy--Hashem will view the mitzvah as being worth '1,000 times' that of a mitzvah performed without it. One should also feel joy when seeing others performing mitzvos--or even striving to perform them.


G. Anger can be quashed by silence and by a pleasant tone of voice. When one speaks loudly, he ferments his anger.


H. The single greatest accomplishment of a person is his Torah study. One should write down a Torah thought in order to remember it, and one should verbalize his words of Torah when studying them.


I. One who gives even a large gift to a poor person when asked to cannot be compared to the person who gives before being asked--and this latter person (even if he gives less)-is called a Nadiv HaShalem-- a complete giver.


J. Staying quiet in Shul is a manifestation of the middah of tzniyus.


K. Why does man traverse on two legs, while animals walk on “all fours”? All animals have only a nefesh behemis, and accordingly, they always look down, for their whole life is dedicated to this world’s pursuits. Man, on the other hand, is blessed with a neshama which strives for its source in the heavens. However, man faces sideways, and does not naturally look up, because he always has the bechira chofshis as to whether he will look down as an animal—or look up as an angel!




25 Teves

Special Note One: We B’EH continue our Monday/Thursday study of the Sefer Mitzvos HaKatzar, with the Mitzvos Lo Sa’asei which the Chofetz Chaim writes are applicable in our times. Today, we present Mitzvos Lo Sa’aseh 60 and 61:


60.  Shelo Lemashkain Beged Almanah--this is the Mitzvas Lo Sa’aseh which prohibits a lender from taking an article of clothing of a widow as collateral--whether she is rich or poor, and whether it is at the time of the loan, or later.  If one inappropriately takes such collateral, it can be taken away from him against his will.  If one does so and loses the item before it is returned, he violates this prohibition.  This Mitzvah applies in all places and at all times and to men and women alike.


61.  Shelo Limnoah Mashkon MeBe’alav--this is the Mitzvas Lo Sa’aseh which prohibits a lender from holding onto collateral when it is needed by the borrower--such as his blanket when he needs it to sleep.  This Mitzvah applies in all places and at all times and to men and women alike.



Special Note Two:  There is a remarkable lesson from the fact that the Bnei Yisrael were able to multiply to such an extent under the horrifying conditions under which they lived.  There should have been no way for an oppressed, beaten, and downtrodden people to continue to exist for two hundred years, let alone thrive.  Yet, “the more they were afflicted, the more they increased and spread out in the land.” The lesson? You may sincerely and legitimately come to a logical analysis and conclusion about a particular person, circumstance, situation, or event, and quite a different conclusion may (and in so many cases will, in fact) result.  Jumping to a conclusion albeit perfectly logical and justifiable is simply wrong.  One’s attitude towards another person should not be determined by a one-time look over, a few cursory conversations, or even a few misstatements, insulting remarks, or mistakes.  Very often, conclusions, even if scientific, can be wrong, and one must realize that Hashem runs the world, that there is more than meets the eye, and that if one consciously reframes his initial analysis, determination, or conclusion into a more favorable and positive one--he will ultimately see that this will prove constructive not only in his interpersonal relationships, but for his own personal optimism and happiness, as well.  Now, you may “conclude” that you know all of this--and that it is not you, but the other guy, who jumps to those conclusions.  Nevertheless, we ask that you reconsider this very conclusion--and, one by one, as they happen, catch yourself from jumping to those negative, unwarranted, and simply incorrect conclusions--instead seeing the beauty of Hashem’s Guiding Hand, and the beauty of His special creations and His special world!



Special Note Three:  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 were.  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!


Hakhel Note:  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!



Special Note Four:  Rabbi Yosef Eisen, Shlita, relates how HaRav Pam, Z’tl, would constantly relate a great lesson he learned from another Rav regarding Chinuch.  The Pasuk (Shemos 4:3) states that when Moshe Rabbeinu threw down the Mateh, his staff from his hand, it immediately became a snake. Yet, when he picked it up--holding on even only to its tail, it became a staff in his hand.  With this incident, Moshe Rabbeinu, as a teacher of the multitudes, was being taught how to treat all--even the weakest and poorest of his students and disciples.  If you cast them down, they will end up as snakes--by and through your doing.  On the other hand, if you grab hold of them--even to any part of them, they can be rebuilt into the Mateh--and we all know the Mateh’s subsequent history.  It is, then, very much up to the teacher, the Rebbi, the Partner-In-Torah, the Ben Torah, to demonstrate an affection and caring to those who can learn from him.  Casting another aside may be justified under the circumstances, and is certainly the easier approach, but it is that grabbing hold of and drawing near, the real concern and the ‘no-let-go and no-give-up’, caring feeling that will ultimately prove successful.  In the Mateh’s case, taking hold and holding on literally brought miracles--and in the successful mechanech and Ben Torah’s case, no less is to be expected.  Success will be found in the overriding love, the reaching out in affection, of parent to child, teacher to student, and frum to not-yet-observant.  All you have to do is bring close and keep near, and the rest will be history--that we hope keeps repeating itself!



Special Note Five:  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!


Hakhel Note:  On Friday, we pointed out that the coming weeks of Geulas Mitzrayim appear to be an auspicious time to daven for our own Geulah--for our own sakes, as well as for the sake of all of K’lal Yisrael.  The Chazon Ish (Kovetz Igros II) writes the following:  HaTefillah He Mateh Oz BeYad Kol Adam, Bechol Sheyasim HaAdam Mivtacho Bo Yisbarach Ken Ya’aleh VeChein Yatzliach--Tefillah is a powerful tool in the hand of every individual, and the more one places his trust in Hashem--so will he be raised and so will he succeed!...  Let us all put special effort now in davening together--for the Geulah Sheleimah!




22 Teves

Special Note One:  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 Two:  The Chayei Odom (Chapter 143) writes that there is a Pasuk in Tehillim Chapter 86, which if recited daily (i.e., is on the lips of the reciter) will help save a person “Mikol Chait--from any sin”.  The Pasuk is actually the very Pasuk in which the Sefer Mesilas Yeshorim concludes his Introduction--Horeini Hashem Darkecha Ahaleich Ba’amitecha Yached Levovi LeYirah Shemecha--Teach me Hashem your way so that I may travel in Your truth--unite my heart to fear Your name.  If one takes this Pasuk with him during the trials and tribulations of the day, he will be truly traveling a long way even if only going a short distance--or even staying home!

Hakhel Note:  The Sheloh Hakadosh points out that we see the value of each and every day in one’s Avodas Hashem from the words of Paroh who demands  “Callu Ma’seichem Devar Yom Beyomo--complete your work--the daily amount each day.”  Everyone can give excuses--but it is an uphill battle to get them accepted--and, after all, it is your life that is in question--and your life that is important.  The daily Tzedaka, the daily Pasuk (Pesukim) of Yiras Shomayim, the daily attempt or drive for Teshuva--especially in these auspicious days--will certainly move us very well towards our life’s goal and our life’s purpose.  Who is it all up to--you only have to look in--to make the wonderful discovery!


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

A.  Every day, before we partake of a Seudah, we should recite Tehillim Chapter 23 (Mizmor L’Dovid Hashem Roee Lo Echsar).  It is considered as both words of Torah and a Tefillah. As we open our Shabbos Zemiros booklets, we find Mizmor L’Dovid presented once again--even on Shabbos Kodesh!  In fact, many have the custom of reciting/singing this Chapter three times at the third Shabbos meal.  Rabbi Eli Mansour, Shlita, points out that the Chapter has 57 words, corresponding to the Gematria of zon--symbolizing that Hashem sustains us.  It would, accordingly, seem most appropriate to sing this Kepitel on Shabbos!

B.  The Kitzur Shulchan Aruch (44:4) writes as follows:  “In many places the custom is not to cover knives on Shabbos and Yom Tov. They are covered during the week, because they are manifestations of Eisav’s power. However, on Shabbos and Yom Tov, Satan and the forces of evil have no power.  This [and other customs] adopted by K’lal Yisrael have the weight of Torah law.” 

C.  On Shabbos we will have the opportunity to bentsch three times.  How should one recite bentsching?  The Mishna Berurah (Shulchan Aruch, Orach Chaim 185 seif katan 3) writes that it is good to recite it aloud in order to arouse one’s Kavannah.  The Kitzur Shulchan Aruch (44:6) adds that bentsching should be recited B’Eimah V’Yirah--with awe and reverence.  Bentsching is such a tremendous opportunity--we should not lose it just because we may be tired at the end of a meal! 

D.  The following Halachos are excerpted from The Halachos of Refuah on Shabbos by Rabbi Yisroel Pinchos Bodner, Shlita, relating to the treatment of wounds on Shabbos.  May our study of these Halachos serve as a segulah for us not to need to practically apply them:

1.  On Shabbos, one is permitted to apply pressure to wound, even a minor one, in order to stop it from bleeding.  One may place a sterile gauze pad on the wound to apply the pressure.  However, one should preferably not use a towel or cloth to stop the bleeding, unless he has no other way to stop it. 

2.  In order to wash the wound, one may fill a container or wash bowl with hot water from an urn that was heated before Shabbos.  Because the hot water in the wash bowl is in a kli sheini he may add as much or as little cold water as needed.

3. One may use hydrogen peroxide, or any disinfectant liquid to clean a wound.  One should not soak cotton or gauze with a disinfectant liquid and then apply the wet cotton or gauze to the wound.  Rather, one should pour the disinfectant liquid directly onto the wound, and then may use dry cotton or gauze to clean the wound. 

4.  If there are any foreign particles on the wound, one may disinfect a pair of tweezers with an antiseptic (e.g., alcohol, Betadine) and then remove the foreign particles. 

5.  One may not apply topical antibiotic ointments to minor cuts and scratches on Shabbos.  However, if the wound is serious (i.e., the cut is deep or the wound appears to be open), one is permitted to apply antibiotic ointment in order to prevent serious infection.  When applying the ointment, one should squeeze the desired amount on top of the wound, being careful not to smear it on, and being careful not to rub it in.  One may then put a bandage or gauze pad onto the wound, over the ointment, even though this will ultimately cause the ointment to spread itself out evenly over the wound.  Application of topical medication should be done with a shinuy, for example, one should cause the ointment to fall from above the wound onto the wound, rather than applying it directly onto the wound. 

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

A.  We find an emphasis on Yosef and his descendents not being subject to Ayin Hora.  In this week’s Parsha, we likewise find that Bnei Yisrael multiply at an absolutely incredible rate--with the Mitzriyim being unable to stop it, either by brutality or sorcery.  What is the secret of success--how can one avoid the, r’l, potentially devastating effects of an Ayin Hora?  HaRav Dessler, Z’tl, in the Michtav Me’i Eliyahu (4: p.6) teaches that if one lives a life of giving, and his days are full of doing for others, then no one will be jealous of him.  It is only when one conducts himself in a manner which could engender jealousy that the Middas Hadin could be aroused against him, and an Ayin Hora result.  A person whose life is centered around Chesed and helping others, as opposed to the “I” and a self centered life, will simply fall under the radar, be “hidden from the eye”, and will enjoy the resulting benefit of an Ayin Hora-free life! 

 B.  There is an astonishing Pasuk in this week’s Parsha.  The Pasuk states: “But the midwives feared Hashem and they did not do as the king of Egypt spoke to them…” (Shemos 1:17).  How could it be that two women could flagrantly violate and disobey the direct orders of the king of Egypt--the most powerful monarch of his time?!  We could understand if the Pasuk would teach us that they tried saving some babies or that they pleaded with the king--but to wholeheartedly and completely disobey--would surely mean execution in a matter of minutes!  HaRav Matisyahu Salomon, Shlita, explains that the basis, the source of the actions, of Shifra and Puah are revealed by the first part of the Pasuk--”But the midwives feared Hashem…”--it was their fear of Hashem that allowed and caused them to overcome all obstacles.  They obviously had devoted much time and effort in developing such a level of Yiras Shomayim.  HaRav Salomon therefore suggests that a great lesson that we each can learn from the midwives is to spend time studying Sifrei Mussar and absorbing shiurim which helps us develop our Yiras Shomayim.  If, as the Pasuk specifically describes them, “midwives”, can stand up and succeed against the king of the only superpower on earth at that time, we, too, can accomplish much in our own personal environments with the proper thought and study--by taking a set time every day and learning how we in our personal lives can battle--and win against--all those “kings of Egypt”--all the machinations of the Yetzer Hara--around us so often in our daily lives.

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

The Ohr HaChaim HaKadosh (ibid.) asks a stark question. Moshe Rabbeinu is first commanded not to get closer to the burning bush, and only after that to take his shoes off, for he was on holy ground. Should he not have been commanded first to take off his shoes-as he was already on holy ground-and then, not to get closer to the bush? The Ohr HaChaim responds that with the order of this Pasuk, Hashem reveals His true will-His main concern-is fulfillment of the Mitzvos Lo Saaseh-for when violating a Lo Saaseh, by taking action, a person actually wounds his soul.  It is for this reason that when the Torah urges us “to be careful” and “to do” in the same Pasuk, the Torah always precedes “shemira” (guarding oneself from violating a negative prohibition) and then follows it with the “asiyah” (doing the positive commandments of Hashem).

Dovid HaMelech (Tehillim 34:15) reinforces this priority by teaching that a person who wants life, who loves days to see good, is the one who is “sur meirah” (turns away from evil), and is “aseh tov” (does good).  Of course, there are 365 negative prohibitions and the 365 days of the solar calendar correspond to them. Perhaps this is to teach us that we are to be on constant guard-on a day in, day out basis-to avoid violating the negative prohibitions.

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

Not saying Hashem’s Name in vain (Shemos 20:7) 
Not eating something which is questionably kosher (even though it may have some Hebrew writing on it) (Vayikra 11) 
Not holding back wages (Vayikra 19:13 ) 
Not insulting someone else (Vayikra 19:14 ) 
Not to cause another to sin or give him bad advice (Vayikra 19:14 ) 
Not delaying to save someone in danger (Vayikra 19:16 ) 
Not to embarrass another (Vayikra 19:17 ) 
Not to cheat with weights and measures (Vayikra 19:35 ) 
Not doing something which could result in Chillul Hashem (Vayikra 22:23 ) 
Not to be closed-handed to the poor (Devarim 15:7) 
Not refraining from getting involving in returning a lost item (Devarim 22:3) 
Not allowing ourselves or our children to wear Shatnez (Devarim 22:11 ) 
Not delaying fulfillment of a promise you have made (Devarim 23:22 ) 

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

Practical Suggestion: Each day for (at least) the next 7 days, take a Mitzvas Lo Saa’seh you feel may need some chizuk in your life and be especially mindful and careful with it, or learn more about a Mitzvas Lo Saa’seh that you are relatively unfamiliar with (see Sefer HaChinuch –in English published by Feldheim Publishers; Sefer HaMitzvos of the Rambam; and Sefer HaMitzvos HaKatzur of the Chofetz Chaim for further study).

Remember-We are always on holy ground!

D.  The Ramban writes that the Galus of Mitzrayim was a forerunner of the Galus of Edom.  In thinking about the Galus of Mitzrayim, we realize that the Bnei Yisrael fell into a complacent attitude in Egypt, with some even leaving Goshen, as part of an inappropriate Galus mentality.  We are to learn from our mistakes--especially from the mirror and forerunner of our current Galus--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 Yisrael 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!

E.  Yosef HaTzaddik gave the Bnei Yisrael 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 and 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 Yisrael 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 Makos in this week’s Parsha--by which the Mitzriyim were sorely and severely punished and K’lal Yisrael came out unscathed and glorified.  Accordingly, may we suggest that this period is an auspicious one for especially dedicated Tefillos for Geulah.  Remember, if Moshe Rabbeinu would have had the opportunity to offer that 515th prayer--he would have entered Eretz Yisrael, 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!

F.  The Pasuk teaches that when Moshe Rabbeinu left the king’s palace, he noticed the hard work of the Bnei Yisrael.  As the Pasuk records--VaYa’ar BeSivlosam--he saw their burdens.  The Seforno writes that Moshe Rabbeinu’s initial introduction to this Tza’ar of K’lal Yisrael, 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 brothersHaRav 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).

G.  It is interesting to note that the abbreviation that is commonly used for Bnei Yisrael is Bais Nun Yud--which spells Bonai--My [Hashem’s!] children

H.  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 Yisrael 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 Yisrael.  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 the 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 the 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!



21 Teves


WHERE DOES IT ALL BEGIN? Rashi in this week’s Parsha teaches us how Moshe Rabbeinu got to the Seneh--became Hashem’s Shaliach--and later received the Torah for all of eternity at the very same location. It was because he went into the desert with his flock so that he would avoid any inkling of ‘stealing’ any grass from the idol-worshippers which surrounded him. What a lesson--how can we become great, how can we ready ourselves to grow in Torah, what can we do to gain eternity-- the first step is to stay as far away from gezel of any kind as we can!




Special Note One: We B’EH continue our Monday/Thursday study of the Sefer Mitzvos HaKatzar, with the Mitzvos Lo Sa’asei which the Chofetz Chaim writes are applicable in our times. Today, we present Mitzvos Lo Sa’aseh 58 and 59:

58.  Shelo Lemashkain Klei Ochel Nefesh--this is the Mitzvas Lo Sa’aseh which prohibits a lender from taking collateral from a borrower that the borrower needs in order to earn his livelihood--it makes no difference whether one takes the collateral at the time of the loan or after the loan was given. If the collateral inappropriately taken is lost or stolen, one has thereby violated the prohibition. This Mitzvah applies in all places and at all times and to men and women alike.


59.  Shelo Lemashkain B’Zeroah--this is the Mitzvas Lo Sa’aseh which prohibits a lender from taking any collateral by force, such as by entering into the borrower’s property. Instead, the borrower must agree and give it to the lender. This does not apply to a guarantor, from whom collateral can be taken by force. This Mitzvah applies in all places and at all times and to men and women alike.



Special Note Two: Chazal teach that because of Kamtzah and Bar Kamtzah the Bais HaMikdash was destroyed--and we are all familiar with the incredibly sad and troubling story.  We should remember that the word Kamtzah is not only a person’s name, but is the word for a small insect--a grasshopper or ant (See Rashi to Shabbos 77B), and there is a great lesson in this for us. When all is said and done, it is the ‘little things’--the Kamtzah and the Bar Kamtzah-- in a person’s day which constitute a significant and perhaps overwhelming part of a person’s life.  Being unconcerned with the small items is a sign of lack of concern with life itself. It was the Kamtzah and the Bar Kamtzah--the ‘small’ things and the ‘even smaller’ things which caused the Churban. None of us want to get anywhere near a Tisha B’Av of Churban again this year. Let us plan ahead--let us work on the ‘small’ items--the extra annoyance that we cause to others, the word that you know you would like to take back after you say it, waiting the extra moment before making a bracha to contemplate what you are doing or to ask someone to answer ‘amen’ to the bracha you are about to recite, making a heartfelt short request in Elokai Netzor, checking the Hashgacha on the product or store to make sure that it has not changed, getting to Shul five minutes earlier so that you are among the first ten, and can recite a few Chapters of Tehillim before davening, doing an unnoticed Chesed, smiling at or complimenting someone who appears to need it…with this, we can once and for all rid ourselves of the Kamtzah and Bar Kamtzah in our lives. The next three especially marked days of our calendar are Tu B’Shvat, Purim and Pesach--symbols of rebirth, recreation and rededication--times of happiness--let us continue in this mode for the rest of the year--through and including Tammuz and Av--by giving both Kamtzah and Bar Kamtzah the treatment that they truly deserve!



Special Note Three: The Chofetz Chaim writes movingly as follows:  HaTorah HaKedosha Tzivesa Ossanu She’nizaher BeLimud HaTorah Tomid--Ulefachos Bikvius Ittim LaTorah--the Holy Torah commanded us to take care to learn Torah always--and at least take care of our set times for Torah study.”  The Yetzer Hora, continues the Chofetz Chaim, persuades and gently attacks a person--how can he not spend more time in business--going here and traveling there, and if he is not going to make the needed money now--then when? To quash the deceitful Yetzer, Dovid HaMelech exclaims in Tehillim (37:3) Betach BaHashem Va’Aseh Tov--put your Bitachon in Hashem and do the right thing--for He will surely provide fulfill that which is to come to you. Furthermore, the Chofetz Chaim clearly adduces--is it possible that Hashem would deduct from that which was designated for him to earn for the year on Rosh Hashanah--because one kept his learning seder--rather than improperly engage in business at that time? Even if one would really lose a deal, a client, a meeting opportunity--our true Bitachon tells us that if it is not today, it is tomorrow, and if not with this person it will be with another. Most certainly, no true gain could come out of violating Hashem’s instruction to us to carefully keep our dedicated learning times. Look at the dollar in front of you-and the Sefer in front of you--they are both from Hashem--and He is telling you how to work with them!

Hakhel Note:  We had asked HaRav Mattisyahu Salomon, Shlita, what to do if someone has a seder kavua on his commute to and from work--and an acquaintance he hasn’t seen in a while gets on the train or bus--isn’t it derech eretz to spend the time ‘catching-up’ with him? HaRav Mattisyahu responded that one should exchange a few warm and caring remarks --and then advise the friend that he has a seder kavua, and make up how they will be in contact in the near future.  It is with this dedication and earnestness that we must approach our dedication to Torah study-and this is the greatest derech eretz!

Additional Hakhel Note: If for some reason one missed a seder kavua that day, the Chofetz Chaim urges him to make it up before retiring for the evening--and not waiting until the next day. What better way to live--then to follow Hashem’s rules!




20 Teves

QUESTION OF THE DAY :  Tomorrow we hope to continue with our series in the Sefer Mitzvos HaKatzar.  Those that have been following the order in the Sefer note that the Chofetz Chaim presents the Mitzvos Asei before presenting the Mitzvos Lo Sa’aseh.  Yet, in the Sefer Chofetz Chaim, where the Chofetz Chaim lists the possible aveiros one could violate by speaking Lashon Hara--he first lists the Mitzvos Lo Sa’aseh, and then afterwards the Mitzvos Asei.  Why does the Chofetz Chaim present the Mitzvos Asei first in the Sefer Mitzvos HaKatzar and the Lo Sa’asehs first in the Sefer Chofetz Chaim? 



A LESSON FOR US ALL !  HaRav Chaim Kanievsky, Shlita, wrote the following to HaRav Yaakov Galinsky, Shlita, regarding his recently published Seforim on Chumash, which contain beautiful lessons from the Parshas HaShavuah, and are entitled Vehigadeta:  Ani Korei B'seforim Vehigadeta V'zeh Mosif Harbei Yiras Shomayim--I read your Seforim and they add much Yiras Shomayim....”  Hakhel Note:  If Rav Chaim Kanievsky is reading Seforim to increase his Yiras Shomayim--we should most certainly be following suit!



ENERGY BAR:  What does one need energy for?  Chazal teach V’Talmud Torah K’negged Kulam--Torah study is above all.  If for any reason one feels tired, sluggish or hungry--the best possible time for him to eat or drink is before learning.  What greater L’Sheim Shomayim could be instilled into the food or drink that he is to partake of?!  Even if one does not have food, or does not need to eat immediately--he should most certainly learn or listen to the Shiur--with the same energy and zest as if he had eaten an energy bar!  Bring the Torah that you are to bring into this world--with all of the verve, enthusiasm, zeal, and spirit that it truly deserves!




Special Note One:  We are now in the first week of Shovavim--special days of return to Hashem occurring over the first six weeks of Sefer Shemos--weeks which take us out of the Exile of Mitzrayim (to which our contemporary galus is compared)..and lead us to redemption and Kabalas HaTorah VeHaMitzvos.  Today especially, the 20th of Teves, is Asiri LaKodesh--the culmination of another ten-day period since Yom Kippur, in which we dedicate ourselves to a higher level of practice, at least in some way(s).  Remember how you were careful about something in particular on Yom Kippur--try to re-enact that special concern, that particular care, today.  Indeed, it is now more than three months since Yom Kippur, and as our female readers well realize, less than three months to Pesach(!).  We are at a pivotal point in the year--what path will this year be directed in?  One should contemplate where tangible improvement is necessary, and where that improvement can be effectuated, even if only to a small degree.  To get to your destination, you have to get on the road.  Here are some examples:   Honesty--avoiding the appearance, taint, and if you will, stench, associated with marginal honesty or dishonesty, and behavior or conduct that your Rav (or someone else you look up to) would not be proud of; Giving up the extra few dollars to make sure that you are on the right side of the law.  Words--watching them in a new and special way, whether in the way brachos are expressed, or the elimination of sharp, rough, gruff or unbecoming words from your vocabulary (no matter how many letters they are)--so much purity or impurity can come out of that small aperture we call the mouth.  It is no wonder, then, that the Hebrew word for mouth is 'Peh'-- having exactly the same letters and root as 'Poh'-here---as if to indicate that it all starts and ends here--at the mouth.  In fact, in this week's Parsha, Moshe Rabbeinu pleads with Hashem--who am I to speak to Paroh, and Hashem immediately reminds him--"Mi Sam Peh LaAdam (Shemos 4:11)--Who makes the mouth of man work--is it not Hashem--you must use it for what you are supposed to, recognizing that it is Hashem Himself who is making it work!.  Yiras Shomayim--was the joke really that necessary, especially in Shul (even in the hallway), or while in the midst of  performing a mitzvah--remember the words of HaRav Chaim Kanievsky above--one should add--and to and not diminish his Yiras Shomayim every day.  Other examples of Yiras Shomayim could include: (a) sitting straight in awareness of your Maker's presence (as per HaRav Matisyahu Salomon, Shlita); (b) coming on time to daven (as HaRav Simcha Bunim Cohen, Shlita pointed out in a Hakhel Shiur--what lengths would you go to not to be late to a meeting with a Gadol HaDor--and that Gadol HaDor also serves Hashem!); and (c) choosing silence for a few moments in honor of your realization that you are in the Creator's presence (as per HaRav Avigdor Miller, Z’tl).  You can even talk about what you are doing--your personal acts of Yiras Shomayim--although your words may not be socially acceptable in Western society, for, after all, "Divrei HaRav VeDivrei HaTalmid, Divrei Mi Shomi'in--if one must choose between the words of the teacher, and the words of the student, whose words should he choose?”  Just in case you are really enveloped in the society--it is the words of the teacher!  There are, of course, those other Middos or Mitzvos you know you have to get to (the thoughts, the Kabbalos of just a few months  ago)--this is the time, and this is the place...you need only utilize the G-d given opportunities that lie very much ready and waiting in front of you!



Special Note Two:  The Pasuk records that initially even the Bnei Yisrael did not listen to Moshe Rabbeinu “Because of shortness of breath and hard work” (Shemos, 6:9).  Hashem then tells Moshe to go to speak to Paroh himself to send Bnei Yisrael from his land.  Moshe responds that “…Bnei Yisrael have not listened to me, so how will Paroh listen to me?...”  Rashi, quoting the Midrash (Bereishis Rabbah 92:7) writes that this is one of the ten Kal V’Chomer (ipso facto or a priori) arguments in the Torah.


HaRav Eliyahu Lopian, Z’tl, wonders “Why is this a Kal V’Chomer?”--i.e., why is it so that if Bnei Yisrael would not listen to Bnei Yisrael, then, ipso facto, neither would Paroh.  After all, the Pasuk explicitly expresses the reason that Bnei Yisrael would not listen to Moshe--because of shortness of breath and hard work.  Paroh certainly did not suffer from these, as he sat comfortably on the throne with everything being performed for him and on his behalf.  While Bnei Yisrael may be unable to listen to or accept what Moshe Rabbeinu was saying because of their true predicament, Paroh certainly had the wherewithal, the ability and the understanding to appreciate Moshe Rabbeinu’s message!


We may suggest that the Kal V’Chomer, the ipso facto argument, does in fact work.  The argument simply is as follows: If Bnei Yisrael--the slave people who were to be released wouldn’t accept what I was saying, then why would Paroh--as their master?!  Chazal, by teaching us that this really is and remains a Kal V’Chomer, are teaching us that the reason Bnei Yisrael did not listen (albeit a good one) was simply not important.  For, despite the fact that we can commiserate with their unbelievably difficult plight, they should, in fact, have listened to Hashem and to Moshe Rabbeinu.  So too, Paroh, despite his grand position and seemingly incontrovertible  iron-clad rulership, should have recognized and understood Moshe Rabbeinu’s message to him as well.  Any excuses would simply be unacceptable and downright wrong, as they would more than pale in significance to following the mandate and directive of the Master of the Universe, Hashem and His messenger, Moshe Rabbeinu.


Bringing the Parsha’s lesson home:  If we are true believers--i.e., if we truly believe that all of the events and occurrences that surround us, everything that happens to us in life, all of the big and small events, the pain we may suffer and the pleasures and simchas we experience--are personally directed and “micromanaged” by Hashem--then there are certain attitudes and certain phrases which should not have room in our thought process or our vocabulary.  If Hashem has put you in the situation, no matter how stressful or troubling, then he wants you to act responsibly in that situation in accordance with the Torah and the Poskim, which in some instances may require further elucidation by your Rav or your Posek.


Thus, a feeling or a statement of “I cannot do it”, “It is too hard”, “It is beyond my capability”, “I can’t handle this”, “This situation is impossible for me”, which may come sincerely out of real pain, extreme stress and great frustration, should really in truth be avoided or overcome.  If one cannot control himself, he must at least realize that his statement should not be taken literally, for his Creator and Maker has determined that this situation or event is needed and/or best for him at this time.  Instead, one should ‘listen to Moshe Rabbeinu’, despite the ‘shortness of breath’, the adverse circumstances--even if they are extremely, extremely adverse--and dig in and rise to the occasion.


Bnei Yisrael, in their pain and misery, did not listen.  Their failure to hear and accept was for naught.  Ten Makkos and a Splitting of the Sea later, they received the Torah at Har Sinai, which made them an eternal people with an eternal life.  Let us take the lesson from the Parsha, and with unfettered faith and complete belief rise up and through the event, position, circumstance or situation.  In this zechus, in the merit of our pure faith and belief--each person in his own way will be zoche to his own beautiful part and portion in the Geulah Sheleimah which we will then hopefully see BiMeheirah V’Yameinu Amen!




19 Teves

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Special Note One:  In last week’s Parsha, we find perhaps the shortest Pasuk in the Torah—“Lishuasecha Kivisi Hashem…For Your salvation do I long, Hashem” (Bereishis 49:18).  As we have noted in the past, HaRav Shimshon Pincus, Z’tl, brings that the Brisker Rav could often be found reciting this Pasuk, and HaRav Pincus suggests that this was possibly so because it is a Mitzvah Min HaTorah to daven to Hashem when one finds himself in a time of tza’ar.  It may have been that the Brisker Rav felt a tza’ar, and accordingly used the words of this Pasuk as his basis for davening be’eis tzara to Hashem.  There is another usage of the Pasuk Lishuasecha Kivisi Hashem, as brought by the Mishna Berurah (Orach Chaim 230: seif katan 7).  There, the Mishna Berurah writes that when one sneezes, his friend should give him the bracha of “ossusa” (the equivalent of “You Should Be Healthy”), which is perhaps replaced by some today with the phrase “gezuntheit” or “labriut”.  After one receives the bracha of ossusa, the Mishna Berurah continues, he should respond to the well-wisher with the words “baruch tiheyeh”, and then recite the Pasuk for himself of Lishuasecha Kivisi Hashem.  By then reciting the Pasuk, one is davening to Hashem that just as he saved him while sneezing, so too, should he save him in the future (Dirshu Edition of the Mishna Berurah, in the name of the Rivevos Ephraim).

Hakhel Note:  When we realize that Hashem is the Source of all Yeshuos--we can ask Him for more! Additional Note:  Now that in the Northern Hemisphere it may be a time when we R’L hear more sneezing around us than during the rest of the year, we once again provide by clicking here the Tefillos to be recited before going to a doctor and before taking medicine.



Special Note Two:  A reader pointed out a wonderful teaching from a Rashi in yesterday’s Daf Yomi (Shabbos 89).  There, the Gemara records that when Moshe Rabbeinu came to Shomayim to receive the Torah, he found Hashem putting tagim on the letters of the Torah.  Moshe Rabbeinu did not say anything, for which Hashem reprimanded him.  What should he have said?  Rashi explains that he should have said, as a matter of Derech Eretz, “Titzlach Bimelachtecha--may You succeed in Your work!”  Obviously, Hashem did not need this bracha from Moshe--but Hashem instructed Moshe that there was still an appropriate reaction or response.  The Mishna Berurah (Orach Chaim 347, seif katan 7) brings this l’halacha with the words:  Derech Eretz Lomar L’Adam She’oseik B’MelachaTitzlach Milachtecha!”--it is proper conduct for a person to bless another engaged in work with the words: “May you be successful in that which you are doing!”  Hakhel Note:  A Rav related to us that he was attempting to resolve Shalom Bayis issues between a couple and that one of the complaints that the husband had against his spouse was that when he left for work, his wife gave him no bracha such as “Tatzliach!”  After all--didn’t she want to wish him well--especially if it was for their joint benefit?!



Special Note Three:  Dovid HaMelech teaches us (Tehillim 16: 8) “Shivisi Hashem L’Negdi Somid Ki Memini Ba’al Emot--I have placed Hashem before me always; because He is at my right hand, I will not falter.”  HaRav Chaim Friedlander, Z’tl, explains that a person does not forget his right hand even for a moment because he always needs it.  Indeed, if a person’s right hand cannot be used even temporarily, he feels the great restriction.  We too, must keep the presence of Hashem first and foremost in our minds.  The more one does so--the more one clings to Hashem--keeping Him at his right, the more Hashem will watch over him, stay on his right, and not allow him to fall.  The purpose of Torah study and Mitzvah performance is to dissociate ourselves from the natural tendency to cling not to Hashem but to Olam Hazeh, its dealings and its trappings.  Torah study and Mitzvos, when performed sincerely, keep Hashem close by.  Perhaps more than all else for most people, Tefillah and brachos recitation are great times for Shivisi--from which a person can draw the strength not to falter in other situations as well.  It may do well for a person to recite or think the Pasuk Shivisi Hashem L’Negdi Somid Ki Memini Ba’al Emot before reciting Birchos HaNehenin--or at least some of the Birchos HaNehenin--during the course of the day.  If one consciously makes the effort not to falter in this area--Hashem will be there with him--and not let him falter as well!



Special Note Four:  The Chofetz Chaim provides an essential insight relating to the coming week’s Parsha.  The Bnei Yisrael are described at the outset of the Parsha as “Kol Nefesh Yotzei Yerech Yaakov Shivim Nofesh--all of the souls who were descendents of Yaakov were 70 souls (Shemos 1:4).  The word nefesh (used twice in the Pasuk), however, is actually in the singular--meaning soul.  The more expected word grammatically would be Nefashos--meaning souls.  This, the Chofetz Chaim writes (Sha’ar HaTevunah, Chapter 6), is to teach us that all of the Nefoshos Yisrael--all of the souls of Bnei Yisroel are considered as one soul in the Heavens above.  Just as a single body is made up of different limbs and organs--each with its different function and purpose (the head and the heart, the hand and the foot)--so too is K’lal Yisrael composed of different parts which together make one functioning whole. Moreover, just as when there is an ache or pain somewhere it affects other parts of the body, so too it is with the body of K’lal Yisrael. And just as when there is joy the whole body is affected--so too is it with our whole Nefesh--the united family of Yisrael.  It is only an illusion in this world that we are not one--because every soul is encased in a different corporeality and has different businesses and tasks--but this a gross misapprehension.  The famous Midrash which brings home this point is to the ship sailing smoothly at sea.  One of the passengers decides to drill a hole underneath where he was standing on the bow of the ship.  The other passengers watched in astonishment and then began to yell and scream at him. “What’s bothering you” he shouts, “I am drilling the hole only underneath me--not underneath you?!”....


With this truth in mind, continues the Chofetz Chaim, we should understand that when one harbors a grudge, shows hatred, wants to take revenge against another for something that was hurtfully done--it can be compared to one who had tripped over his own feet and, in anger, the brain ordered his hands to gun down his legs.  Is it the leg’s fault--did the leg really want to hurt the body--or was it Hashgacha Pratis that the person had to fall?  Could the person possibly gain anything by maiming himself even further?  So too when we harbor ill-will and take action in wrath or out of emotion only--we are literally acting against ourselves--it is our hands shooting our legs!  We may not see it--but that is the reality in Shomayim--and that is the true and the ultimate and eternal reality.


We went down to Mitzrayim--the first Galus of our people-- as what appeared to the naked eye to be 70 souls--but which the Torah teaches constituted a ‘Nefesh’--a unified soul.  To come out of this last and final Galus, we have to reverse the track--in our private lives and in our personal experiences we must always remember that although some of us may be clumsy and trip--we are truly one soul...and live by, breathe-out, and rejoice in our oneness!




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