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30 Shevat

RIBBIS ALERT! No lease or contract between Jews may contain provisions for the payment of interest without a Heter Iska. As a practical matter--this means that an apartment lease or an equipment lease among Jews cannot contain a late payment interest charge. A one-time fixed penalty payment may be charged--but not interest, in the absence of a Heter Iska. Let the parties and the attorneys beware! For further information, please consult with your Rav or Posek, or see The Laws of Ribbis by Rabbi Yisroel Reisman, Shlita (Artscroll).



FIVE MONTHS OF ACCOMPLISHMENT! Since the inception of 5774, we have hopefully succeeded in five months of real accomplishment. Whether or not we have succeeded to the extent we wanted to--we have eight more months of accomplishment left in the year--let’s go to it--Teshuvah Bechol Yom!


Hakhel Note: As the month of Shevat ends and the month of Adar I begins--today or Sunday may be a very good time to review who is owed money and to whom Seforim or articles of clothing must be returned.




Special Note One: As we all know, “Mishenichnas Adar Marbin B’Simcha--when one enters into Adar, we increase our joy” (Taanis 29A).  There is discussion in the Achronim as to whether this increased level of joy commences with Adar I--i.e., tomorrow!  The Sefer Adar U’Purim by HaRav Yoel Schwartz, Shlita as well as the Aishel Avrohom (Butshatsh) both learn that in fact the joy commences with Adar I.  HaRav Schwartz understands this from the term “Mishenichnas”, which indicates that the initial entry into Adar warrants the increased degree of happiness.  He adds from the Sefer HaTodaah (by HaRav Eliyahu Kitov, Z’tl) that the Mazal of Adar is “Dagim”, which is “fish” in the plural (as opposed to Dag, in the singular), in order to indicate that the Mazal of both months of Adar is identical, and that they are both to be infused with joy.  The Shaalos Yaavetz (2:88), however, regards only the Adar which is close to Purim as the Adar of Simcha.


If we are “strict” in this matter, and rule that we must begin our increased Simcha in Adar I, how can we begin to manifest it?  The Sefer Nimukei Orach Chaim (to Shulchan Aruch, Orach Chaim Chapter 685) writes that each person should engage in activities or do things that make him personally happy.  HaRav Schwartz adds that it is a nice custom to post signs in your home reading “MiShenichnas Adar Marbin B’Simcha”--in order to have a constant reminder to feel and experience an increased level of Simcha. Since tomorrow is Shabbos--you can post the signs today!


Hakhel Addendum: We are pleased to note that HaRav Chaim Kanievsky, Shlita, is of the opinion that “Mishenichnas Adar Marbin B’Simcha” applies to Adar I as well, based on the fact that  there is a mitzvah to especially increase our Seuda on Purim Katan (the 14th of Adar I), as is brought by the Rema in his very last words to all of Shulchan Aruch, Orach Chaim (Chapter 697).  HaRav Kanievsky adds that the way we can express our Simcha in Adar is “if one has a Siyum, or other Simcha to make, he should make it in Adar”(Derech Sicha p. 187).


Increased Joy for two consecutive months--yet another benefit of a Jewish Leap Year!



Special Note Two:  Why do we read Hallel on Rosh Chodesh, at the beginning of every new month?


The Tanya Rabosi (quoted by the Sefer Taamei Dinim U’Minhagim) provides us with the following answer: Dovid HaMelech in the last Chapter of Tehillim (Chapter 150--Halleluka Hallelu Kel B’Kadsho), which we recite every morning, uses the word “Hallelu” twelve separate times in order to express the different kinds of Hallel that we are to give to Hashem during each of the twelve corresponding months of the year.  Thus, for example, the sixth time Hallelu is used in this chapter, is in the phrase “Hallelu B’Teka Shofar”, corresponding to the sixth month of the year--the month of Elul--in which we blow Shofar the entire month, and the seventh time Hallelu is used is “Halleluhu B’Nevel V’Chinor” (with lyre and harp), corresponding to the Simchas Bais Hashoeva of Sukkos, so befittingly culminating the month of Tishrei.  Now, the twelfth Hallelu, which corresponds to the 12th month of the year--Adar I--is climactic--Kol HaNeshama Tehallel Ka--Let all souls praise Hashem!  In fact, the reason we repeat the same Pasuk--Kol HaNeshama (i.e., a thirteenth Hallelu) when reciting this Chapter in the morning is to take into account second month of Adar--the thirteenth month of the year!  What appears clear from this is that our Avoda, our sacred and wonderful task, for this month (and continuing into Adar II), is to raise our souls in the service of Hashem.


This coming month, as we recite “Kol HaNeshama” daily, let us feel within ourselves a raising of our souls, a heightening of our spiritual awareness, a supernal inner joy--in our lot (pun intended)--and in our life!



Special Note Three:  Every Rosh Chodesh, in addition to the regular Shir Shel Yom, we also recite Barchi Nafshi (Tehillim 104).  The Tur writes that this is because this Chapter contains the phrase “Asa Yorayach L’Moadim--He made the moon for the festivals”--for through the new moon and the new month, we know when to properly celebrate our Moadim.  The Zohar (Midrash HaNeelam, Parashas Vayera) also adds to our understanding of this Chapter--writing that every Rosh Chodesh the souls of the Tzadikim in Gan Eden recite this very same Mizmor!

 It behooves us to recognize and reflect upon the power and profundity of what we may sometimes view as “nice” Minhagim--and appreciate each and every one of our Minhagim for the sublime and purifying effect it truly has upon us--whether we know it or not!



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


A. The first time we received the Aseres HaDibros, they contained the words Zachor Es Yom HaShabbos --enjoining us to remember the Shabbos with our positive acts, beyond the care we exercise not to do melacha. Many understand Shamor Es Yom HaShabbos in the second luchos simply as a warning not to do melacha. Rabbi Shlomo Mandel, Shlita, however, teaches that the term Shamor also means to positively remember--as evidenced by how Yaakov Avinu responded to Yosef’s dreams--V’Aviv Shamar Es Hadavar (Bereishis 37:11)--which Rashi explains to mean Mamtin U’metzapeh Masai Yavoh--he eagerly anticipated it. We too, continues Rabbi Mandel, should be Shomer Shabbos--not jumping around and hitting Shabbos on the run, but taking the steps to ensure that one is ready a few minutes before Shabbos and sitting thoughtfully learning or the like--eagerly anticipating for it to come!


B. Every Wednesday HaRav Yisroel Dov Webster, Shlita, noted Posek, Dayan Sha’arei Mishpat, and author of The Halachos of Pregnancy and Childbirth, gives a Hakhel Shiur to women in Borough Park attended now by approximately 125 women.   This winter, Rabbi Webster’s Shiurim are on Hilchos Muktzah. Last winter he gave a series of Shiurim on Hilchos Borer, and at the end of the series the women were given a bechina of 100 questions. We have previously provided the answers to the first 75 questions, and we will now continue with the goal of completing all 100 questions. For tapes and CD’s of the Shiur, please call: 718-435-6974.


76. If one found a dairy fork with the meat cutlery, is one permitted to remove the dairy fork in order not to make a mistake later?

No, removing the dairy fork would be considered as taking the pesoles mitoch haochel unless the dairy fork is needed for immediate use. Therefore, unless one will utilize the piece of dairy cutlery for immediate use, one should take a handful of cutlery and scatter them on the counter, whereupon all the silverware becomes unmixed and then one will be able to place each piece of silverware in its proper place.


77. If one has small different pieces of a game mixed together, can one separate them?

If the purpose is to play the game now then it is permitted for each piece is considered as ochel. However, after the game is over one cannot separate the pieces in order to put them back into their proper compartments. If one wants to put them back then one should take them and scatter them so there is no longer a mixture and then each piece can be placed into its proper place.


78. When washing dishes is one permitted to pull out all the big plates from the sink in order to wash all of them at once and then take all of the next item, etc.?

Unless one needs to utilize all of the big plates for immediate use, it is prohibited due to the fact that there is a mixture of different size of plates in the sink. However, one is permitted to wash whatever plate he picks up to wash and then place in one pile with other items of its kind.


79. If one has orange juice with pulp, may one strain the juice in order to make a bottle for a baby?

HaRav Moshe Feinstein, Zt’l, held that it is permitted because one is straining the pulp not because he wants the pesoles or ochel but because one does not want the nipple to get clogged up with the pulp.



Special Note Five: Points and pointers on this week’s Parasha--Parashas Terumah:


A. This week, we are introduced for the first time to the Mishkan, which we sometimes view as only a “temporary” structure (actually used for over 400 years).  Chazal, however, teach us that the Torah emphasizes that the Mishkan was made from “Atzai Shitim Omdim”--”standing” Shitim wood--in order for us to know that the Mishkan will “stand” forever.  The question we pose is--why is this so?  After all, once the first Bais HaMikdash was built, were there not many more miracles and much more glory to Hashem there, being the holiest place in the world?  Why must the Mishkan “stand”--remain with us forever?  We look forward to your thoughts.


B. As we see in tomorrow’s Parasha, the Aron consisted of solid wood, plated inside and outside with gold.  In spite of the fact that the Aron was plated with gold much more valuable than the wood it covered, the Aron is nevertheless referred to in the Torah as the “Aron Atzei Shitim--the acacia wood Aron”.  Why is it that the Aron is described as wooden--and not as a more valuable and respected golden Aron?  HaRav Shimshon Dovid Pincus, Z’TL, answers that, in fact, wood more aptly describes the Aron because wood is something that grows and that regenerates.  Indeed, even if one cuts down a tree to the ground, its roots are left and a new tree can sprout forth.  Gold may be valuable in this world, but it has no inherent capacity to live or grow.  Our Torah is much more aptly described with wood for “Etz Chaim He--it is a living tree”--it enables one--even one who was down and out--to reinvigorate himself and renew his life.  Rav Pincus notes that this is the special nature of the month of Adar, and eventually of Purim, as well.  It is a time of Hischadshus--of a new lease on life both physically and spiritually.  It is no wonder then, that after experiencing the miracles of Purim, our people’s immediate reaction was “Kimu V’kiblu”--a rededication and revival to Torah commitment.


C. Chazal teach that one who gives money to a poor person is misboreich with six brachos, while one who additionally gives him words of encouragement and support is blessed with eleven brachos by Hashem.  A wonderful explanation of the concept is presented in the Sefer MiShulchan Gavoha, on this week’s Parasha:  There is a commodity more precious to a human being than even money--it is his time.  When a person takes the time to encourage another, he is giving of himself something more precious than gold.  At a Hakhel Yarchei Kallah, Rabbi Dov Brezak, Shlita, noted that he passed a man whom he had not seen in a while on the street.  In passing, he asked him how everything was.  As they were walking by each other the man responded:  Lo BeSeder--things are not well.”  Rabbi Brezak heard these words as he was already past the person and had a quick debate in his mind.  He was in a rush, in fact an absolute rush, to get to a store that was going to close. The matter was urgent for him.  But, how could he leave a man who just said that things were not well--and now 20 or 30 meters behind him?!  His Yetzer HaTov got the best of him, he ran back towards the distraught person, and gave him words of care and Chizuk for a few moments.  A few days later the man called him to express his Hakaras HaTov to Rabi Brezak for stopping to talk with him.  Because of the desperateness of the situation at the time, the man was actually contemplating suicide--and Rabbi Brezak’s thoughtfulness and words--reversed his thinking and frame of mind!  This is literally Chaim BeYad HaLashon--and we are all capable of it! 


D.  The Shach writes that it is possible that on every utensil made in the Bais HaMikdash, a separate Bracha was made of “Asher Kideshanu BeMitzvosav Vetzivanu Al Asiyas Kli Ploni”  so that kedusha would come on to the Kli not only through its making-but also through the dibbur of the Bracha!  What a great lesson for us --every time we say the words “Asher Kideshanu BeMitzvosav Vetzivanu...” we are bringing kedusha on to the Mitzvah we are performing or upon the item on which we are performing the mitzvah.


E. We learn that those who were Nedivei Lev--givers from the heart--were able to accomplish an incredible task--the Building of a House and its Furnishings the likes of which were never built before--and which is in fact hidden away to this very day and forever thereafter.  The Sefer Orchos Tzaddikim teaches us that there is something even more special than a Nadiv, a giver--it is a Nadiv HaShalem--a complete giver.  He writes that a Nadiv HaShalem is one who gives--whether large or small amounts before being asked to do so.  By doing this, he performs the act of giving not out of coercion or embarrassment, not to be ‘left alone’, and not even out of rethinking or reconsideration--but purely because he is a giver.  It may take a little time to get used to--but if one could sway his charitable donations, even if in only small amounts, in this direction--he will actually move towards Shleimus in the act of giving.  The Torah teaches us the value of the Nedivei Lev...let’s see if we can make this attribute a part of ourselves in the most complete way possible!



Special Note Six:  Why was the Torah put into an Aron and then into the Kodesh HaKodoshim seemingly isolated from the people? In the past, we received the following excellent responses from readers:


A.  “If the Torah would just be “there” for us, it wouldn’t make us want it at all.  One must view and seek out the Torah just as one would a hidden treasure in order to properly appreciate how invaluable it is to our lives”.  Hakhel Note:  We can apply this lesson daily by treating our Maggidei Shiur and Seforim with an added level of appreciation, care and respect--for they are very much helping us to reach an essential part of our life--the ‘VeSein Chelkeinu BeSoresecha’--uncovering and revealing the Torah for us, so that we can attain our life’s potential and portion in Torah knowledge and study.  One should very much try to improve his hakara, his recognition and affection to those who help him take the Torah out of the Aron and imbibe Hashem’s Wisdom into his being daily-and everlastingly!


B. “The Declaration of Independence is kept under lock and key in a pneumatically sealed chamber with atmospheric conditions perfect for its preservation, and back in the times when it was written, copies were disseminated among the states for their publicizing the Declaration. Lehavdil, we need to have one copy of the Torah that is sacrosanct as a proof that over all of these millennia, not a dot has been changed in the Torah.  We will need this proof one day when the nations that surround us make the final accusations, and the original scroll will appear and we will be able to compare that the scrolls that we read in Shul today are exact copies of the original scrolls written by Moshe Rabbeinu and dictated by Hashem Yisborach.  And since that will be Y’may Mashiach, Am Yisrael--and the very same Torah will continue to live L’olam Va’ed!”


Hakhel Note: We look forward to your responses as well!



Special Note Seven: In Parashas Terumah, we begin to learn how to construct a Mikdash to Hashem.  At this moment in our lives, although we may not have the ultimate Mishkan or Bais HaMikdash, we do have our Bais Haknesses and Bais HaMidrash, as our Mikdashei Me’at.  According to many Rishonim, the Mitzvas Asei MiD’oraysah of Mikdoshi Tira’u applies to our Mikdashei Me’at as well.  We provide below several points and pointers from Hilchos Bais HaKnesses (Shulchan Aruch, Orach Chaim 150-153), as excerpted from the Dirshu Edition of the Mishna Berurah:


A. It is a great Mitzvah to donate Sefarim to a Shul or Bais Midrash for study.  The Chasam Sofer (Yoreh De’ah 244) writes that one fulfills the words of “Oseh Tzedaka Bechol Ais--doing an act of righteousness at all times” by doing so.


B. The Shulchan Aruch (151:1) itself rules that simply sitting in our Mikdash Me’at is a Mitzvah, as Dovid Hamelech writes:  Ashrei Yoshvei Veisecha”.


C.  Chazal teach that if a person embarrasses another in front of a Talmid Chochom, then he is an apikores and does not have a chelek in Olam Haba.  All the more so, writes the Mishna Berurah, would this apply to one who disgraces his friend in front of the Sefer Torah and the Kavod Hashechina--in Shul.  (151:Mishna Berurah, seif katan 2)


D.  One should not enter a Mikdash Me’at with a knife or similar object, because the Torah lengthens a person’s days, and a knife shortens a person’s days in this world.  (151: Mishna Berurah, seif katan 22, Dirshu Note 20)


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


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


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


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


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


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



Special Note Eight: One last thought: We all try to improve our learning, for, after all, “VeTalmud Torah KeNeged Kulam--Torah study is equivalent to them all.”  As we learn of the Aron’s construction in this week’s Parasha, we realize that we must also build ourselves to house the Torah within us. Every individual knows himself best, and can make real progress and strides in his own way.  However, one area which may be particularly frustrating to many in their Torah growth is their inability to remember where they learned something--e.g., where exactly it is in Shulchan Aruch or the Gemara, which commentary said it, or what the particular language may be.  If a person would take but one item a day that he has learned that day, write down its source, and try to commit the item and its source to memory whether through memory association techniques or otherwise (it will obviously require review), than over the course of a year--he will know more than 350 sources!  Each and every day has so much potential inherent within it--if we merely ‘tap’ on it we can accomplish so much over a month, a year, a decade...120 years!




29 Shevat

Special Note One: Today is the Yahrzeit of the HaRav Nosson Zvi (B’R’Moshe) Finkel, Z’tl--the Alter of Slabodka --who merited being the teacher of so many of the next generation Gedolim--HaRav Aharon Kotler, Z’tl, HaRav Yaakov Kamenetsky, Z’tl, and HaRav Yitzchok Ruderman, Z’tl, to name only a few.  His towering personality encompassed all areas of personal growth. Here is just one incident (brought in the Sefer Me’oros HaGedolim):  The Alter approached a recently married student, and asked him if he helped his wife on Erev Shabbos to prepare for Shabbos. The student proudly affirmed to his Rebbe that of course he did, for after all, did not Chazal teach that the greatest Rabbanim undertook activities LeKavod Shabbos--to honor Shabbos (Shabbos 119). The Alter responded to his student with a pasuk from last week’s Parasha: The Torah (Shemos 23:5) instructs us to help even a donkey which is crouching under its burden--’Azov Ta’azov Imo...you should repeatedly help him’.  If this is true regarding a donkey, said the Alter--all the more so must one provide assistance to a human being, and certainly one’s wife to which one has even greater obligations, and for which it is even a greater Mitzvah.  When performing a Mitzvah Bein Adam LaMakom--one should never forget the Bein Adam LeChaveiro so often very much a part of proper conduct!”


Hakhel Note: Let us try to apply the Alter’s teaching (at least today!), as we remember all that he did for the generations that succeeded him.



Special Note Two: We continue today a short series culled from the Sefer Hizharu BeMamon Chaveireichem, by Rabbi Avraham Tovalsky, Shlita. 




A. Questions and Answers:


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


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


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


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


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


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


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



Special Note Three: We continue an exciting Monday/Thursday series on the practical aspects of Sta”m, written by Rabbi Reuvain Mendlowitz, Shlita, author of Inside Sta”m--An Insider Reveals The Answers To All The Questions You Should Ask When Purchasing Or Maintaining Tefillin, Mezuzos, Megillos, Sifrei Torah And Nevi’im.


For a fuller treatment of all topics to be discussed, we urge you to purchase the Sefer, which provides practical and meaningful information and ideas.




When purchasing Sta”m people often ask; why is STA”M so expensive?


Before we take a look at the specifics, allow me to reassure you that I have yet to meet the sofer who became wealthy by writing Sta”m. I include in that statement some of the best sofrim in the world. So you can relax: no one is getting rich at your expense.


Now let’s take a look at some figures.


We’ll start with a Sefer Torah. As of this writing, a good, mehudar Sefer Torah sells for about $45,000. Let’s assume that there is no socher involved, and the buyer is purchasing directly from the sofer. (This is rarely the case.) The major expenses–including klaf, hagahah, computer check, and sewing the Sefer Torah together–come to approximately $5,000. The cost of ink and quills is negligible. A Sefer Torah takes, on average, about one year to complete. The bottom line, then, is that a very good sofer can make $40,000 in a year. Not exactly the next Rothschild.


Let’s take a look now at your sofer writing the $95 mezuzos. Once again, let’s assume that there is no socher. The sofer’s expenses – including (avodas yad) klaf, hagahah and computer check–come to about $15.


The average sofer can write one to one and a half mezuzos per day. But let’s assume that our sofer (whose mezuzos are very expensive) writes quickly and can turn out two mezuzos per day. That means he’s making $160 per day, $800 per week. Working fifty weeks during the year (without any vacation!), that comes to–you guessed it–$40,000 per year.


Finally, we have the sofer who sells his tefillin parashiyos for $750. Again let’s assume that there is no middle man. The (avodas yad) klaf, hagahah, and computer check come to approximately $75. This leaves the sofer with $675 for each set of parashiyos. Most sofrim can’t write more than one and a half sets of parashiyos per week, meaning that our sofer is making $1,000 per week, which comes to a grand total of $50,000 per year.


Bear in mind, however, that these calculations are based on unattainably ideal conditions: the sofer 1) constantly has customers 2) doesn’t sell through a socher at a lower price 3) never gets sick or goes away 4) doesn’t have trouble with his eyes, shoulders, arms, hands, fingers, back, or knees – all of which are extremely common ailments for sofrim 5) never has a pesul (halachic invalidation) which causes him to lose anywhere from a day’s work to a week’s work – part of life for even the best sofrim.


Of course, the calculations above also assume that the sofer is very good, and can get such prices. The fact is that for most sofrim, these figures are no more than wishful thinking. Furthermore, we have not even taken into account the various other expenses of running a business.


It should be crystal clear by now that STA”M is not really so expensive after all. Also, bear in mind that many years of training and experience – in a profession that is both physically and emotionally draining – are usually required before a sofer reaches such a point in his career.


In closing, I feel that I must add a few words from the heart.


Why is it that when a plumber or electrician spends an hour fixing something in our house, we have no problem accepting a $100 charge? Why is it that when a math tutor asks $30 (or more) per hour to help our children, we understand that he has to earn a parnassah? Yet when it comes to paying $95 for a mezuzah, we gripe that the sofer is overcharging. We can fargihn (not begrudge) the gentile plumber $100 per hour to fix our toilet, but we find it hard to fargihn a fellow Jew an honestly earned wage?! Let us think clearly.


Another point: An average mezuzah lasts at least twenty years. That means that with a $100 mezuzah, the consumer fulfills a Torah obligation and also receives 24-hour shemirah (protection) for less than two cents per day, per doorway. That sounds like a pretty good deal to me!




28 Shevat

REMINDER--KIRUV CARDS: There are several important Jewish websites which can provide useful and non-challenging information to our unaffiliated and uneducated brethren.  You may simply suggest in a courteous and pleasant conversation to one who you realize needs to learn more that he/she browse any of the following sites:  Ohr.edu, simpletoremember.com, beingjewish.com, or aish.com.  A related and useful site is jewishresourcecard.com, which provides information as to how one can obtain a personal study partner for free, or learn about weekend retreats and live events.  In order to obtain ‘Kiruv-cards’, in which these websites are listed and which you can have available to hand out after meetings and other occasions, please call: 718-501-2110. For further information, please visit www.kiruvcards.com


Hakhel Note: R’ Nosson of Breslov writes that one should endeavor to receive the brachos of those who are Mekareiv Rechokim!



WHAT DOES LOVE TRULY MEAN? In explaining the Mitzvas Asei of V’Ahavta L’Reiacha Kamocha, the Chofetz Chaim makes a point of emphasizing that one accomplishes this Mitzvah through Lachos Ahl Kavod Chaveiro U’Lesaper Bishevacho--to cherish his friend’s honor, and to speak his praises.


Hakhel Note: This is a great acid test. When speaking or otherwise relating to someone--is it with Lachos Ahl Kavod Chaveiro U’Lesaper Bishevacho very much at the fore…?



IT IS SO SWEET! Every morning, as part of Birkos HaTorah, we recite VeHa’arev Nah Hashem Elokeinu Es Divrei Sorasecha...--please Hashem, sweeten the words of Your Torah in our mouths…. Rabbi Dovid Goldwasser, Shlita, in the name of the Anaf Yosef (a classic commentary on the Siddur) writes: “After VeHa’arev Nah there are 30 words in this Tefillah. The 30 words correspond to the 24 books of Tanach and 6 orders of the Mishna. We pray that we, and children from the earliest age, experience the sweetness of Torah, and that the entire Torah should be beloved by us.”


Hakhel Note: In order for this prayer to be effective--we must have Kavannah when reciting it!  Dovid HaMelech (Tehillim 19:11 ) teaches us that in fact Torah is: “Mesukim MiDevash V’Nofes Tzufim--even sweeter than honey and drippings from the honey combs.” Perhaps when reciting the words VeHa’arev Nah we should attempt to feel the sweetness on our lips--and in our minds!




Special Note One: The following exceptional excerpt is from the outstanding work The Laws of Brachos (Artscroll) by Rabbi Binyomin Forst, Shlita:


“Practical problems of “mezonos bread”:


A.  Franks, falafel and sandwiches: One who eats a filling meal of “frank-on-roll,” falafel or salami sandwich, regardless of the fact that the breads are kneaded with apple juice, is required by Torah law to recite Birkas Hamazon. Consequently, one who treats “mezonos bread” as cake often neglects a positive commandment of the Torah. The responsibility for this transgression is shared with the proprietors of the restaurants, since they serve these foods to a public often unaware of these halachic problems….


B. “Mezonos challos”: Some caterers even serve “mezonos challos” at wedding banquets to save their guests the ‘inconvenience’ of al netilas yadayim and Birkas Hamazon. This practice is regrettable since the guests are encouraged to neglect their requirement of Birkas Hamazon. These challos are eaten before or during the meal in the place of normal challos, and are thus considered as pas ha’ba b’kisnin eaten together with other foods, which effects a k’vias seudah. However, one who eats cake or cookies for dessert need not be concerned with this problem. The cake is not eaten as part of the meal and does not combine with the other foods to effect a k’vias seudah (unless one eats a considerable amount of cake, in which case the cake alone may constitute a k’vias seudah).


C.  Airline meals: Airlines usually serve packaged kosher meals. These meals are commonly accompanied with a roll or bun marked “mezonos.” This practice is misleading and improper. Although the bun by itself may require only a mezonos (which is by no means certain), the fact that the bun is eaten with the other foods as a meal gives it a status of k’vias seudah. One must certainly wash, recite al netilas yadayim and hamotzi. One may eat the meal without the bun, recite a bracha achrona and eat the bun as a snack later during the course of the flight. In this case, one may perhaps rely on opinions which hold that one may recite mezonos on a roll of this type even if the taste of the fruit juice is not noticeable.


Hakhel Note: Every person is faced with the challenge of Mezonos bread in various contexts--and must realize that there is no one to fool. Rather, he should consult with his Rav or Posek as to the appropriate conduct in the various circumstances with which he is presented.



Special Note Two: We commence today a short series relating to the proper conduct with the money of others, as culled from the Sefer Hizharu BeMamon Chaveireichem, by Rabbi Avraham Tovalsky, Shlita. 





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


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


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


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


E. Dovid Hamelech (Tehillim 24:3) asks: “Me Ya’aleh BeHar Hashem…who may ascend the mountain of Hashem and who may stand in the place of His sanctity?” In the next Pasuk, he answers the question: “Neki Chapayim U’var Leivav--one with clean hands and a pure heart.” The Chofetz Chaim explains that the pasuk is teaching that one who has dishonest money is far from the Har Hashem and is pushed away from a place of Kedusha on high. This is exactly why, the Chofetz Chaim continues, that Chazal teach that someone who is guilty of the sin of gezel is not permitted entry into the mechitzah of HaKadosh Baruch Hu. Accordingly, concludes the Chofetz Chaim, a person should place the Pasuk of Me Ya’aleh in front of him at all times--because through this Pasuk we clearly remind ourselves upon what our future p’sak din of attaining Mekom Kadesho is based!




27 Shevat

FILTERING INFORMATION! The phone number for TAG (Technology Awareness Group), which provides free information and assistance on internet filtering is.718-437-1824.


FROM A READER: “In last week’s Parasha the Torah records the words of Bnei Yisrael as to their attitude toward the Torah, Na’aseh V’nishma. Do you know where it is in the Parasha? It is in Perek 24 Pasuk 7. This is to remind us that it is a non-stop approach, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week--something to think about!”



WHERE DOES KIDDUSH HASHEM BEGIN? Rabbi Dovid Goldwasser, Shlita, teaches that for every person the concept of Kiddush Hashem must begin with himself. Chazal (Yoma 86A) teach that Rav and Rebbi Yochanan used practical examples of their own conduct as to what would be befitting or not befitting, so too--should we focus on our own personal conduct--as it is seen by the outside world. As Rabbi Goldwasser put it--because of the now instant worldwide information and access to which our lives are subjected, we should view ourselves as living in a fishbowl…our actions are open for all to see--and we must act accordingly!



IMPORTANT INSIGHT! Rabbi Yisroel Reisman, Shlita, asks why it is that the Halachos of Kavod Talmidei Chachomim are juxtaposed with the Halachos of Talmud Torah itself in Shulchan Aruch Yoreh De’ah. He answers that if one wants to learn Torah successfully--as a prerequisite one must first be mechabeid learning and those who learn!



ANOTHER IMPORTANT INSIGHT! In the Bein Adam L’Chaveiro area, Rabbi Reisman points out that the Torah requires one to help an enemy before he helps his friend. If one thinks a bit into this, this means that if one’s brother r’l, has a flat tire on the side of the highway, and one’s enemy does as well--he would be obligated to help his enemy fix the tire before he helps his brother! With this, we see that the Torah is not a man-made body of laws based upon what is socially acceptable or politically correct--but is Hashem’s guidebook as to how we must act. Even our mishpatim in social interactions are not guided by ‘common sense’, ‘civility’ or ‘the right thing to do’--but by the Torah, as explained by the Rishonim, and as brought l’halacha in the Shulchan Aruch and later Poskim. Indeed, HaRav Shlomo Volbe, Z’tl, would say that Judaism is not a religion because it not only describes a relationship between man and Hashem--but Mishpatim--the laws of Bein Adam L’Chaveiro. The Aseres HaDibros contain laws of Bein Adam LaMakom and Bein Adam L’Chaveiro --and the same detail that was given relating to Shabbos and to the rejection of idolatry is given to the laws to respect parents and the laws not to steal, murder or covet that which belongs to others.



THREE IMPORTANT RIBBIS ISSUES! Rabbi Avrohom Moshe Lewanoni, Shlita, points to three important contemporary Ribbis issues:


1. If one invests in a company or in a property--and the principal portion of his investment is guaranteed (i.e., there is no risk of loss)--then Halachically the investment is considered a loan and a Heter Iska is required in order to go forward.


2. It is forbidden to take interest from a Jew, no matter what the form of interest may take. This means that one cannot direct the interest payment be made to a Shul or to Tzedakah--it is still interest.


3. If one borrows another’s credit card and the credit card holder is thereby solely responsible for the payment of interest, the credit card holder becomes a borrower from the Bank and subsequently a lender (with the interest originally charged by the Bank) to the one who borrowed his card, which is Assur Min Hatorah. Note: However, when one earns points from the credit card company simply because he loaned his card to someone else, this is not considered ribbis as it is a service provided by the credit card company, and has nothing to do with the person who borrowed the card.



ON ACCEPTING GIFTS: The Peleh Yoetz writes that when a person gives a gift out of discomfort or embarrassment--it is forbidden to take the gift and there is an element of gezel if one does so. Accordingly, continues the Peleh Yoetz, one should always refuse a gift until he sees that it is being given with a full heart. In no event should one ever ask for a gift (in a non-Tzedakah context). The same is true if one only wants to borrow an item--if one sees that the owner does not want to lend it and is only doing so out of shame or embarrassment, one should refrain from borrowing it. Finally, the same would be true if one tries to push down the price of an item and the seller agrees only out of discomfiture or frustration. One must avoid not only gezel--but those actions which have even a slight reek of it!



PREVENTIVE MEDICINE: Chazal teach that Habah L’Tameih Poschin Lo--if a person wants to do something wrong, the door will be open for him, but he will have to lead himself through it. On the other hand, Chazal teach Aveirah Goreres Aveirah--one sin leads to another. How could it be that one sin will lead to another if in fact the door is only to be left open for him? We may suggest that it is only before the first time that one sins that the door is only left open for the person to enter on his own. Once the aveirah has been committed, however, then the door previously only opened is converted into a revolving door making it much easier to keep on going in, and going in and going in…. The lesson: Avoid that initial entry!



IS IT TODAY OR TOMORROW? Rabbi Yosef Eisen, Shlita, teaches that it is a very negative Middah to put off something good for tomorrow if there is a way that it can be done today. In fact, we find that Paroh put off until machar--being relieved of makkos! Similarly, the Middah of Amaleik is machar--to delay anything good until tomorrow. On the other hand, HaRav Dessler, Z’tl, points out that one way to defeat the powerful Yetzer Hara is to push him off ‘until tomorrow’--when you will deal with the issue that he is raising. Then, on the morrow--one pushes him off until the next day once again. Accordingly, when a person is making a list of things that he must do today and things that can be done tomorrow, he should look at it not only from an Olam Hazeh perspective--but from an Olam Haba perspective as well! Think about it--when creating that list!




26 Shevat

Special Note One:  The story is told of how a Gadol of our generation visited someone in the hospital, who told the Gadol—”I am not worried, Hashem will help.” The Gadol responded: “Actually, Hashem will heal you, it is the doctor who will help.” The Torah, with the words VeRapoh Yerapeh (last week’s Parasha--Shemos 21:19), simply allows the doctor to be involved in the process (See Shulchan Aruch, Yoreh Deah 336:1). Modern technological advances test our Emunah in this regard. Sickness comes from Hashem, who also heals us in the very same way. The purpose of the sickness may very well be for us actually to come closer to Hashem through Tefilla. HaRav Yechezkel Sarna, Z’tl, when in the hospital in Switzerland, wrote that all physical ailments are related to spiritual matters. Through a particular zechus that a person may have he may be healed, but the spiritual cause may still exist—this is called, he writes, a refuah, without a yeshua, and could lead c’v to a recurrence of the illness again. The ultimate goal is dveikus--and Teshuvah! (Sefer Talelei Oros ) Hakhel Note: A clear reminder and incentive for Teshuvah Bechol Yom!



Special Note Two: At the recent Hakhel Yarchei Kallah, Rebbi Yisroel Reisman, Shlita, taught that of the 16 places that the term atzel is used in Tanach--15 of those times are in Sefer Mishlei--for it is a middah to be most definitely avoided in the course of any Torah study or Mitzvah performance. Although the term atzel is commonly taken to refer to laziness, Rabbi Reisman points out that an atzel is truly one who is constantly distracted by other things. For example, it is someone who wants to learn--but must go to the bank, go to the store, take care of this errand and that errand until when it comes time to learn, there is much less time to do so. On the other hand, one with true dedication pushes forward to make time and find time. The builders of the Mishkan in this week’s Parasha are not described as those who went to trade school or who had great talents--but rather those who strived for Kedusha. The Pasuk writes of Yehoshafat “Vayigbah Libo BeDarchi Hashem--his heart was elevated in the ways of Hashem” (Divrei HaYamim II, 17:6)--words that describe the hallmark of every Torah Jew. When one spends his time taking care of various and sundry errands, ‘things around the house’, and the like--leaving spiritual matters to when he has the time to do so--he is classified as an atzel, by the wisest of all men--Shlomo HaMelech. One way for a person to raise himself beyond atzlus and to energize himself is to feel happy with his spiritual potential and really appreciate his ability to reach higher spiritual heights. As Dovid HaMelech exclaims (Tehillim 119:162): “Sas Anochi Ahl Imrasecha Kemotzei Shalal Rav--I rejoice at the Torah and Mitzvos like one who finds a great treasure!” One must become accustomed to feel the geshmak in living in Olam Hazeh--with a full-time eye on the Ruchniyus of Olam Haba! Don’t be an atzel--build a Mishkan!



Special Note Three:  More on the Mishkan: Why is last week’s Parasha of Mishpatim, which contains the basis of so much of our financial and civil law, brought in the Torah prior to the building of the Mishkan, which is the core of this coming week’s Parsha?  It seems like such a stark contrast between two items at opposite ends of the spectrum--the Aron HaKodesh on the one hand--and $ on the other!  One simple suggestion to explain this paradox may be that before we can even begin to establish our bond with Hashem, we must first properly conduct our relationships with humans in the way Hashem tells us is correct.  If you want to further elevate your human existence--first get to the point at which you can elevate it, as you can’t get to the second floor without passing through the first.  The Bais Halevi, however, explains the juxtaposition in a bit of a different way.  He teaches that Hashem is indicating to us that the money that we use to build our spiritual goals in this world--cannot be just any money--but money that is pure and clean.  A person cannot ‘bless’ or justify tainted actions for tzedaka or spiritual causes.  The money given--as the giver himself--must be wholesome.  This lesson is beautifully furthered by Dovid Hamelech in Tehillim (24:3) with the moving words, fervently recited on the Yomim Noraim:  ‘Mi Ya’aleh BeHar Hashem U’Mi Yakum Bimkom Kodsho---N’ki Chapayim ... Who may ascend the mountain of Hashem, and who may stand in the place of His sanctity?  One with clean hands and a pure heart....


In fact, the Chofetz Chaim (in the Introduction to his Sefer Ahavas Chesed) writes that Hashem said that He loved Avrohom Avinu because he would teach his family ‘La’asos Tzedakah U’Mishpat...to do charity and justice’.  Tzedaka, righteousness, appears to be beyond the letter of the law whereas Mishpat is the letter of the law.  Avraham Avinu would not be giving his children two contradictory messages--what does the Torah mean?  The Chofetz Chaim explains that there are two parts to a relationship--how a person acts to his fellow man, and how his fellow man acts towards him. One should use Mishpat--the strict letter of the law for everything that one is doing that involves someone else’s money, and be sure to avoid taking a penny that is not his.  On the other hand, when considering how another person is reacting to him, one should use tzedaka--employing a degree of flexibility and compromise--so that not everything is a fight or the ‘principle of the thing’, and so that one does not leave behind open, jagged potholes as he travels life’s road.  This is not simple or easy--but it is the path described by Dovid HaMelech in Tehillim, the path originally paved by Avraham Avinu for all of his descendents, and the very way we can leave Parashas Mishpatim and arrive very quickly at the portals of the Mishkan!  Let us remember that money is not useful currency in Olam Haba unless you exchanged it properly--very properly--when you had the chance and when the bank was open--in the here and now!


Additional Note 1:  As we have noted in the past, our mandate to strive for honesty and integrity is recorded in Shulchan Aruch (Choshen Mishpat 231:14) which requires us to err and give a little more from our side when weighing or measuring for another--as the Pasuk teaches: “Vatzedek Yiheye Lach” (Devorim 25:15), which Chazal teach means “Tzadek Mishelecha Vetitten Lo” (Bava Basra 68B).


Additional Note Two:  HaRav Pam, Z’tl, would often quote the teaching of the Chofetz Chaim applicable when hiring workers of any kind:  One should try to describe exactly what has to be done, and how much will be paid for doing it.  Otherwise, it is highly probable that a problem will develop, and in the end a tinge (or more than a tinge) of  ill will and gezel, may develop.  Be clear--up front, to avoid any avoidable wrangling and aggravation.


The goal of being a N’ki Chapayim is not for the Rabbis and Scholars, and not left to the high Holy Days.  It is the calling of the descendants of Avraham Avinu--and it is the basis for our building a Mishkan in this world.    How mighty are our challenges--but how immense are our accomplishments!



Special Note Four: We continue an exciting Monday/Thursday series on the practical aspects of Sta”m, written by Rabbi Reuvain Mendlowitz, Shlita, author of Inside Sta”m--An Insider Reveals The Answers To All The Questions You Should Ask When Purchasing Or Maintaining Tefillin, Mezuzos, Megillos, Sifrei Torah And Nevi’im.


For a fuller treatment of all topics to be discussed, we urge you to purchase the Sefer, which provides practical and meaningful information and ideas.



We continue our discussion of Hiddurim in Sta”m



Shem Hashem written as in the Zohar:


The Zohar discusses writing the Shem Hashem with a specific configuration of the letters.


In spite of the fact that most sofrim nowadays are not on the spiritual level to understand the kavanos, the custom when writing Kesav Arizal remains to configure the letters of the Shem as specified by the Zohar in accordance with the Arizal’s opinion.


Since the changes involved in the writing of the Shem Hashem actually originate in the Zohar, while only the kavanos came from the Arizal, at first glace it would appear to be a hiddur to write the Shem Hashem as instructed by the Zohar.


However, the only sources we have that encourage this “hiddur” are the sources for writing Kesav Velish (Sephardi) and Kesav Arizal. Furthermore, we haven’t heard about Gedolim writing STA”M in Kesav Beis Yosef, yet insisting upon this “hiddur.” On the contrary, the Brisker Rav, the Chazon Ish, the Steipler and R’ Elyashiv clearly instructed their sofrim not to use this configuration when writing their STA”M. The Klausenberger Rebbe also had his Sefer Torah written with the “normal” Shaimos. Therefore, when writing Kesav Beis Yosef, it does not appear to be a significant hiddur. (The Klausenberger Rebbe’s Sefer Torah was written in Kesav Beis Yosef – a different discussion for a different time…)


It should be noted however, that in Kesav Arizal, the accepted custom is to write the Shaimos as instructed by the Zohar. In Kesav Velish, the “normal” Shaimos are most commonly written, although often one does see the Zohar’s configuration as well.



23 Shevat 




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KAN MEFURESHES: Shabbos, 24 Shevat, is the Yahrzeit of HaRav Tzvi (B’ R’ Eliyahu) Guttmacher, mechaber of the Sefer Kan Mefureshes--which beautifully explains Mesechta Kinim. Study of the Sefer is a Segulah that can be used for all issues--minor to serious issues in which one needs a Refuah or a Yeshuah of any kind. As in the past, we provide some background to the Segulah:  HaRav Tzvi passed away at a young age, and when he was niftar, his father promised that whoever learns his son’s peirush will not need the care of a doctor.  HaRav Chaim Kanievsky, Shlita, has given copies of this Segulah to those who come to them for a Bracha for a Refuah.  For this Segulah, one learns the very first Mishnah of the Mesechta with the Rav, Tosafos Yom Tov and the Peirush of Kan Mefureshes and then says the Tefillah printed in the Hakdamah of the sefer.  Follow the instructions printed there.  For further information, one can email chinuchlist@gmail.com We wish all of K’lal Yisrael only Gezunt!



MORE THAN JUST AN UMBRELLA-- LIFE ! This Sunday, 25 Shevat, is the Yahrzeit of Rebbi Yisroel Salanter, Z’tl.  In this week’s Parasha we learn of the laws of guarding borrowed objects--the laws of a Shomer Sho’el.  The story is told of Rebbi Yisroel who was on his way to give a shiur in Shul in Lomza upon visiting the city.  Suddenly, a heavy rain began to fall and someone lent him an umbrella,  Rebbi Yisroel did not let the umbrella out of his sight, keeping it perched at the bima next to him--with the full knowledge and awareness of the responsibilities that borrowing entails.  (Tnuas HaMussar, Volume 1; p.353, brought in Love Your Neighbor by Rabbi Zelig Pliskin, Shlita).   Hakhel Note:  Rebbi Yisroel was not acting like  a Tzaddik--he was teaching by example how one has to live his life! 



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


A.  This is the third Parsha in a row containing a reference to Shabbos.  Once we have left Mitzrayim--the great importance of Shabbos is repeated and repeated again--almost as if to give it a chazaka in the Torah!  In any event, the classic Sefer Eglei Tal  on the melachos of Shabbos provides a remarkable conclusion in its Hakdama.  We noted last week that Shabbos is shekula--weighs against all of the other Mitzvos and that Chazal teach that Shabbos is alluded to in Shema with the words of “Va’Asisem Es Kol Mitzvosai!”  This, the Eglei Tal writes also applies to the study of Hilchos Shabbos--with the study of its Halachos weighing against the study of all other Halacha!  Hakhel Note:  What an important reason to learn Halachos of Shabbos! If you need a format to help guide you, we strongly recommend the Sefer Shabbos Beshabbato (arranged by Parsha) in Hebrew, and The 39 Melachos by Rabbi Ribiat, or any of Rabbi Simcha Bunim Cohen Shlita’s Shabbos Seforim (the newest is entitled The Aura of Shabbos), in English.  Imagine if only one Shabbos act is improved upon by only one person at the table--what a wonderful accomplishment...and even if everyone already knew everything, aren’t you showing a special chiba and affection for Shabbos by showing that you want to get it right!


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


C.  There is an amazing ruling contained in the Shemiras Shabbos KeHilchasa (46:5).  If one realizes that because he is davening Mincha on Erev Shabbos he will not be able to be mekayem the Mitzvah of tosefes Shabbos for even two or three minutes--then it is better to daven beyechidus--privately and not with a Minyan--earlier--in order to be mekayeim the Mitzvah of Tosefes Shabbos.  A close talmid asked HaRav Shmuel Kamenetsky, Shlita about this Halacha--and he responded that ‘avada’--of course --it is correct--for this is the Mitzvah of tosefes Shabbos which according to many is a Mitzvas Asei  D’Oraysa!


D. Every Wednesday HaRav Yisroel Do Webster, Shlita, noted Posek, Dayan Sha’arei Mishpat, and author of The Halachos of Pregnancy and Childbirth, gives a Hakhel Shiur to women in Borough Park attended now by approximately 125 women.   This winter, Rabbi Webster’s Shiurim are on Hilchos Muktzah. Last winter he gave a series of Shiurim on Hilchos Borer, and at the end of the series the women were given a bechina of 100 questions. We have previously provided the answers to the first 71 questions, and we will now continue with the goal of completing all 100 questions. For tapes and CD’s of the Shiur, please call: 718-435-6974.


72. Is one permitted to select all the Siddurim from a mixture of Seforim after Shacharis and put them back into the bookcase in order for them to be available for Mincha?

Due to the fact that there is a mixture of Seforim, there is an issue of borer because they are all not for immediate use. Therefore, one should just take all the Seforim and place them together on a shelf. However, if there is a second minyan following immediately, then one is permitted to replace them on the shelf because they will be needed for immediate use. If the Seforim are just lying on the table but are not mixed up, then there is no prohibition of borer and one is permitted to put the Seforim back into their proper places.


73. Is there a prohibition of borer by peeling a fruit in which many people eat the peel, e.g. an apple?

Since  many people eat the peel, some poskim are of the opinion that there is no issue of borer. Nevertheless, most poskim disagree and one should be stringent and peel the item only prior to eating and not peel the fruit with the use of a specialized vessel.


74. If there is a sticker on a Challah, is one permitted to remove it?

Some poskim permit one to remove the sticker as long as one careful not to tear any of the letters on the label. Other poskim permit one to remove it only if one takes the sticker off with some of the challah. As a practical matter, due to the possibility of tearing letters one should always cut the label off with some challah with it (i.e., irrespective of whether a borer issue exists).


75. Why do some have the Minhag to eat gefilte fish instead of regular fish that has bones?

This Minhag was developed as a result of the issue of borer when eating fish with bones.



Special Note Two:  The S’forno at the outset of Parshas Mishpatim explains that the entire Parasha is really a continuation of the last of the Aseres HaDibros--which is Lo Sachmod--not to covet another’s possessions.  Once we respect the fact that someone else’s possessions are not ours--then the next step is to recognize all of his rights in those possessions.


Hakhel Note:  The Mishna in Avos (4:1) first teaches “Who is a Gibor--who is strong? -He who overcomes his Yetzer Hara”, and only afterwards teaches “Who is rich?  He who is satisfied with his lot.”  One must first vanquish the Lo Sachmod within him (which is so important that it culminates the Aseres HaDibros)--and only afterwards will he properly regard money and possessions in this world.  At a Hakhel Yarchei Kallah, Rabbi Yisroel Reisman, Shlita taught that people are very mistaken about Jewish Law in monetary matters.  Choshen Mishpat provides us with detailed laws as to what to do in particular circumstances.  We do not follow peshara-compromise-if a person asserts a specious or meritless claim, or a claim that is lacking.  We follow peshara when both sides have relative equities in their positions--which each party may very well be blinded to.  When Dayanim make a decision, their role, Rabbi Reisman explained, is not to effectuate what they may think works out nicest for both sides--it is to rule in accordance with the teachings of Hashem as put forth by Rebbi Yehuda HaNassi in the Mishna, Ravina and Rav Ashi in the Gemara, and as promulgated by the Tur and Shulchan Aruch and their commentaries.  Unlike other bodies of law which are left up to the foibles of fallible mortals, our monetary laws are actually G-d given, developed by extraordinary men imbued with Ruach Hakodesh, and applied by spiritual guides--Rabbonim, Dayanim and Poskim who must realize that being a Yirei Elokim is part of their role in life--as opposed to secular jurists with no pure knowledge of truth, who state what they feel is right based upon their upbringing and own ideas, often resulting in marred conclusions.  When it comes to monetary matters, we must know that Hashem wants us to follow his laws, and we must understand that not everything is based upon one’s good sense, business practices or custom in the community.  We should ask those who know what the right thing to do is.  Rabbi Reisman’s sefer on Ribbis, Rabbi Marburger’s sefer on Business Halacha, and Rabbi Bodner’s sefer entitled The Halachos of Other People’s Money are starters for everyone’s home.  Rabbi Reisman, in fact, pointed out that when Yirmiyahu Hanavi was exhorting the people to prevent the Churban Beis Hamikdash, one would think he would spend all of his time convincing them to rid themselves of all of the avoda zara that was then being practiced.  Yirmiyahu, however, focused to a great extent on proper dealings with money--honesty and integrity in business matters according to Torah law-- and the Churban could have been prevented.



Special Note Three:  In his commentary in this week’s Parshas Mishpatim on the requirement of boring a hole in the recalcitrant Eved Ivri’s ear, the Sefas Emes (5645) notes that the measure of reward, or Middah Tovah, is always greater than Middas Puraniyus.  Accordingly, if an awl must be bored through the ear of one who wants to stay an Eved to another human, then the reward for one who accepts upon himself the service of Hashem and expresses the words “V’Ahavta Es Hashem” with fervor will be granted divine assistance to be able to clearly hear the voice of Hashem.  We must make sure that we use our ears for the right reasons--so that they be amply rewarded!  Hakhel Note:  It is no coincidence (as it never, ever is) to note that our very same Parasha contains the mitzvah of Lo Sisa Sheima Shav--do not listen to/accept Lashon Hara or falsehood (Shemos 23:1).  Fascinatingly, this prohibition against listening to Lashon Hara is found in the Torah even before the prohibition against speaking Lashon Hara, which does not occur until Parshas Kedoshim!  We suggest that the reason for this may be actually quite simple--without a listener there is simply no Lashon Hara at all to be spoken-- notwithstanding that it is at the tip of someone’s tongue already mixed with venom, pride, disregard and anger!  This is the one occasion in which one should not at all be a good listener.  Conversely, we note that of the 48 Ways in which Torah is to be acquired are set forth in Pirkei Avos (6:6)--and  the first is Torah study, the second is Shemiyas HaOzen--attentive listening, and only the third is Arichas Sefasayim--appropriate speech.  Thus, an extremely important Avodah for the coming week--taught to us at the outset of the Parsha so that everybody appreciates and gets to it-- is to reevaluate and reconsider how we treat and use our ears.  Getting within earshot of an argument between people, a conversation between two people who are of a lower element of society, or someone screaming on a cell phone allows destructive foreign influences to enter into your body and soul through those precious and miraculous apertures placed on either side of your brain for good reason.  Stay Away--don’t become an Eved Ivri!  On the other hand, if you see a lively Torah discussion taking place--listen in!  Our ears heard the Voice of Hashem at Har Sinai--let them continue in the way of their bold and royal tradition and upbringing each and every day--let us remember that we say Shema Yisroel for good reason!



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



Special Note Five:  A related teaching of the Shelah Hakadosh is on the Pasuk tomorrow “Ki Seitzeh Aish--when a fire goes out and finds thorns....”   The Shelah explains that one might think that he is not responsible for a fire that unintentionally went out on its own from his property.  The Torah teaches that this is not the case, and that one must be especially circumspect with fire and its power--where even for an ‘accident’ or an ‘unintentional’ act will one be held fully responsible.  This, the Shelah continues (in the name of Rebbi Menachem HaBavli, Z’tl) is an important allusion to the ‘fire’ of machlokes or anger--where one simply must guard himself with greater effort and care, even if it ended up happening by accident or without intention.  The Shelah concludes with these important words: U’Klal Gadol Hu Zeh Lehavio LiHeyoso Kadosh Bechol HaKedushos--this is a great principle--the recognition and practice of which will bring him to holiness of holinesses.  Hakhel Note:  These are the Shelah’s words--not ours!



Special Note Six:  We provide the following short questions and answer relating to this week’s Mitzvah filled Parshas Mishpatim, which have been gleaned from the Divrei Torah compiled by Rebbi Yissocher Dov Rubin, Z’tl in the Sefer Shinayim Mikrah, published by his family after his Petirah (available in Seforim stores).


  1. Q:  The first Pasuk in the Parasha teaches us to obtain decisions from Batei Dinim.  Typically, we make a Bracha on a Mitzvah prior to its performance. Mitzvos have Brachos Why is there no Bracha of “Asher Kideshanu BiMitzvosav V’Tzivanu Al HaDinin” made before judges issue a decision? 

A:  Many answers may be given to this question.  A simple one we may suggest is that the parties can settle the dispute peshara (compromise)--obviating the need for the judgment or decision.


  1. Q:  Why does the Parasha begin with a Vav--connecting the Aseres HaDibros especially to Jewish Civil Law (relating to monetary matters)?

A:  The civil law of all the other nations of the world is based on mans own reasoning.  The “Vav “at the beginning of our Parasha teaches us that our laws relating to monetary matters emanate from the same divine source as the Aseres HaDibros--”Anochi Hashem Elokecha” (Alschich Hakadosh in Sefer Toras Moshe).


  1. Q: Chazal teach that the first question that a person is asked after 120 years is whether he did business with Emunah.  Why aren’t Chazal more concerned with what one spent his money on--such as Tefillin, Shabbos, Chinuch, Esrog, Chesed, etc.

A:  A person must determine whether the money in his possession is truly his to spend.  One cannot talk about Mitzvos or Ma’asim Tovim that one performs with money--unless it is his money! (Kesav Sofer)


  1. Q:  If a person finds money in the street without any special markings, can he keep it in the first instance--or is it better to put up signs, or otherwise try to locate the person who lost it?

A:  The Chazon Ish (brought in the Sefer Pe’er HaDor) told his students that there is not even a “lifnim meshuras hadin” to try and find the original owner--and that the money belongs to the finder.  The Chazon Ish explained that losing and finding money is part of Hashem’s way of moving funds from one party to another for a particular reason (which could even include left over monetary matters from the losers and finders previous lifetimes--the Sod HaGilgul).


  1. Q:  Why does the Torah begin the Parasha of monetary matters with the laws of a Ganav--would it not have been more pleasant to start with Chesed such as loans or acting as a Shomer Chinam, etc.

A:  The Alter of Kelm answers that if a father has several children, all of them acting normally except for one who is going off the derech, he is going to put a great deal of attention on the wayward child.  He will search for Eitzos and ways to help him.  So too, does Hashem place His attention on the Ganav, and alerts us to help him as well.


  1. Q:  The Torah teaches that if one person hits another, he has to compensate him with up to five different kinds of payments.  However, if the hit causes damages of less than a perutah, then the one who inflicted the damages must get Malkos, as there is nothing to pay.  How could this be that one who inflicted a $100.00 worth of damage pays $100.00 and does not get Malkos--yet a comparatively light tap which inflicts no monetary damage gets up to 39 lashes?! 

A: Rav Elchanan Wasserman, Z’tl said in the name of the Chofetz Chaim that the Torah teaches us with this how careful we have to be about showing the proper respect for our friends and not hurting them in even the slightest way.


  1. Q:  The Parasha teaches (Shemos 23:25) that if we serve Hashem, he will bless our food and drink and remove sickness from our midst.  What is the connection between Hashem blessing our food and drink and removing sickness from our midst?

A:  There are two types of foods that we consume--a ma’achal mevorach and a ma’achal which is not mevorach. A ma’achal which is not mevorach weakens a person and brings impure and evil influence upon him, even sickening him.  On the other hand a ma’achal mevorach can remove sickness and is a great medication. What can one do (other than obviously eating the right foods and in proper amounts) to make his food a ma’achal mevorach?  Bentsching and making proper Brachos with simcha and tuv lavav. The health of the other nations of the world is dependent on their mazel.  Our health is dependent on our Avodah! (Rebbi Moshe Dovid Valli, a student of the Ramchal in his Sefer Bris Olam).



Special Note Seven:  We provide several other important teachings from the Parasha:


1. A Shomer Chinam is one who performs the Chesed of watching an object (including money) as a favor to you.  The Shomer Chinam must treat articles you leave in his possession to a standard of care which may even be higher than he has for his own possessions. For instance, if he keeps his car door open and leaves his own possessions inside without worry, he could not do so for possessions that you leave with him.  If he did, he would be a poshe’a-negligent, and would be responsible to you if it was damaged or stolen. What if you give a Shomer Chinam some cash  to watch and he put it into his back pocket?  Is this a satisfactory safeguarding--or is he obligated to reimburse you for his negligence if he is pick pocketed?  This question came before the  Bais Yitzchak of Lemberg, who  ruled that since in his day people keep money in their back pocket, there was no liability.  He was advised, however, that the Chasam Sofer had ruled to the contrary-and that it was, in fact, negligence.  The Bais Yitzchak thought for a moment and explained as follows.  in the Chasam Sofer’s area, men wore short coats, so that the back pants pocket was easily accessible to a thief--and it would, then, be negligent, to guard someone’s money by placing it there. However, in Lemberg ( Galicia ), the men wore long jackets, so the back pocket was difficult to access--making it a reasonable place to safeguard another’s money.  Hakhel Note:  Think about what you are watching (or what you have borrowed) from someone else--are you taking good care of it?


2.  Unlike the world’s misinterpretation of an ‘eye for an eye’, Chazal (Bava Kamma, Chapter 8) prove  that monetary payment , as opposed to physical blemish, is what the Torah means here for someone who has injured another.  Yet, the Torah uses this language, which many mistake, for a reason--what would you suggest that reason is?


3.  The Torah  teaches us that we may discard treif meat by ‘throwing it to the dogs--’LaKelev Tashlichun Oso’.  (Shemos 22:30). Rashi brings that this is in appreciation for the dogs not barking  on the night we readied to leave Mitzrayim.  The Chofetz Chaim brings from the Maharal of Prague that we are to take important lesson from these dogs and control our speech.   HaRav Chaim Kanievsky, Shlita adds that there was a nes--a miracle-- involving the dogs here. What was that Nes?  it was not,  teaches Rav Chaim that the dogs did not bark in spite of the natural consternation and fear arising from the death and yelling and screaming of Makkas Bechoros all around them.  After all, if that was the miracle--why would they be rewarded with meat--they had done nothing, as Hashem had simply sealed their mouths.  Instead, Rav Chaim explains, the miracle was that Hashem gave them the sechel to understand that if they refrained from barking despite all that was going on around them, they would enhance the Geulah--including the Kavod Shomayim and Kavod Yisroel.  This then is the lesson that the Chofetz Chaim wants each and every one of us to learn--if dogs who were temporarily granted sechel made the right decision and guarded their mouths--all the more so should we , who are blessed with sechel all of the time. Moreover, if the dogs of that generation only, located only in Mitzrayim only, and for one night only merited reward to dogs all over the world for all future generations--imagine the zechusim we can build over a lifetime of care-- for ourselves and for the world. Let us remember then that unlike the dogs who had a night of sechel, we  are blessed with it every day--and it is our sublime duty and merit to put it to the best possible use.  As we are about to say something that we are not sure is appropriate --remember the word-- sechel!



Special Note Eight:  The Pasuk in this week’s Parsha teaches: “Lo Siheye Acharei Rabim L’raos--Do not go after the majority to do evil.” (Shemos 23:2. )  Rabbi Zelig Pliskin, Shlita, in Growth Through Torah teaches the following vital lesson:


“Rabbeinu Bachya explains that the plain meaning of this Pasuk is that if you see many people doing something that is wrong, you should not follow their example.


“It is very natural for a person to follow the behavior of others, when many people do something that is wrong it is easier for a person to tell himself ‘so many other people are doing this, it can’t be so wrong if I do it also.’  In this Pasuk, the Torah is teaching us the principle that each person is responsible for his own behavior.  Even when many others do something that is improper, you have an obligation to be careful with your own behavior.  It takes much courage and strength of character to be different from others for one’s ideals.  However, anyone who appreciates that the most important thing in the world is to do the Will of the Almighty will not be impressed by the fact that many people are doing something.  He will weigh his own behavior against the Torah standards and not the standards of others, regardless of how numerous they are.”


The importance of the lesson is clear--let us take common situations in which we may each individually fall prey to following inappropriate leads--such as care in Kashrus and Shabbos observance, proper Kavannah in Tefillah and take this crucial message into our everyday lives.



Special Note Nine:  The Sidras Mishpat Moshe on many practical topics in Choshen Mishpat was published in 5758 under the auspices of HaRav Yisroel Belsky, Shlita (in memory of Rabbi Moshe Sherer, Z’tl, by Ruach Country Publications).  Before taking leave for the moment of the vast amount of Hilchos Choshen Mishpat contained in and encompassed by  Parashas Mishpatim, we provide below but a few significant points from this wonderful publication.


1. To appreciate the broad scope of Choshen Mishpat, one must recall that its Halachos apply every day of the week--even on Shabbos (!)--in contrast even to the essential Halachos of the 39 Melachos on Shabbos--which apply one day a week. 


2. A non-Torah person thinks of possessions and money as being items to accumulate in any way possible.  This attitude is described by Shlomo Hamelech (Koheles 2:26 ) with the words “Velachotai Nassan Inyan Le’essof VeLichnos...To the sinner He gave the urge to gather and collect.  Such a person thinks that accumulating wealth is a goal unto itself, and accordingly pursues a path based upon terminology such as ‘sharpness’ and ‘shrewdness’  which r’l taint all of his possessions with at least a touch of theft or misappropriation in some form or nature.


3. The Torah’s attitude towards possessions and money should be studied well.  In English, we have the verb ‘to have’. One says, for instance, “ I have a new car”, or “I have a new phone”.  HaRav Shamshon Refoel Hirsch, Z’tl, points out that the verb ‘to have’ does not exist in Lashon HaKodesh.  One says instead “Yaish Li”--there is to me--instead of I have. Rather than saying “I own this pen”, in Lashon HaKodesh one says “There is a connection between me and this pen”-we call this connection ownership--but all the connection really means is that a person has some right to control the pen.


4.  If one is able to develop a fear of having someone  else’s money in his possession--and learns to feel a repulsiveness for it, one will be well on his way to protect himself from even a small gezel--which always, of course, leads to a larger gezel.


5.   A Torah Jew’s need for possessions and to own property should be motivated by one’s desire to take care of one’s needs and responsibilities, to have a place to live, to provide for one’s family, and to support the community in a way that is filled with Torah and Mitzvos. if one’s aspiration for money and possessions is correct, and one is careful that they are acquired without any taint of gezel, then each one of them is a Cheifetz Shel Mitzvah, just like a beautiful Esrog--without any blemish.  One does not have to wait until Sukkos--he can be surrounded by the beauty of his Mitzvos --with his Chafatzim Shel Mitzvah --every day--at home and wherever he goes!




22 Shevat

PUBLIC SERVICE ANNOUNCEMENT (RECEIVED FROM ANEINU): If you are traveling in the United States with someone, i.e., an elderly parent that will have difficulty waiting in the long security line, there is something you can do to expedite the screening process: You can call ‘TSACare’ 72 hours before flight time at 855-787-2227 and press 2 . You will speak to a person and give them the date, time, and airport you will be leaving and returning from. They will contact the TSA customer representative in that airport. They call back and give you the cell phone number of the representative who will be on duty at the time of your travel. They tell you how to contact the customer representative on the day of your flight. The representative will meet the person (and whoever is traveling with the person in need) at the beginning of the security line and the representative takes the person through the screening process avoiding the long line. The other option is to call the TSA number (not TSACare): 866-289-9673 press 5 to get the number of the ‘customer support manager’ in the airport you are going to. You list the 3 letters of the airport code, and they give you the phone number. In New York City : For JFK-718-917-3818 /La Guardia-718-505-6695. You can call this number 72 hours before flight time, and they will call you back and give you the instructions stated above.



QUESTION OF THE WEEK (ESPECIALLY FOR THOSE IN THE NORTHEAST, UNITED STATES): How many times is the word ‘Sheleg--snow’ used in Pesukei DeZimra every day (even in the summer!) to demonstrate Hashem’s Gevura, His unfathomable potency and power?




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



Special Note Two:  With this great lesson in mind, we recall that today is the Yahrzeit of the Manchester Rosh HaYeshiva, HaRav Yehuda Zev B’R Moshe Yitzchak HaLevi Segal, Z’tl.  HaRav Segal put the Koach HaPeh at the forefront of his Avodas Hashem and assured others that they would experience personal Yeshuos through the proper study and application of Shemiras Halashon.  The concept of Yoseir MiMah She’Hayisi can especially be used with the words one allows himself to speak, for one can continuously edify and refine his speech and his manner of speech. ’I am going to cheat on my diet with this piece of cake.’; ’Can I steal a moment of your time?’; ‘What a disgusting bug!’; ‘That food is nasty’; ‘I have no patience for this!’; ’I can’t talk to you bye [click]’--are all examples of short statements which ultimately impact a person’s mindset and overall personality.  Replacing the snaps, remarks and quips, and the gruff, negative and unseemly words with wise words of compliment, praise, optimism and encouragement may appear to have a limited effect upon a small part of the overall day--but actually will impact surely and steadily on a large part of one’s personality. The time to begin to improve with better, more chosen words is not tomorrow or next week--if for no other reason than there is simply more to accomplish tomorrow and more to grow in the next week.  May our election to become Yoseir MiMah She’Hayisi  with our Koach HaDibbur today, on the Manchester Rosh HaYeshiva’s Yahrzeit, bring us the individual Yeshuos that the Manchester Rosh HaYeshiva so seriously attributed to a worthy Ruach Memalela--the expression of our spirit from within--as expressed to the outside world by our power of speech. Perhaps each and every one of us can begin his noble trek, by recording in writing in a personal, actual, short daily Refrain from Inappropriate Word Note--or perhaps better yet--a daily Meaningful Compliment Note.  Life--your life--is too precious to let the days go by--without each day being a little bit ...Yoseir MiMah She’Hayisi!



Special Note Three:  Three important additional thoughts on Bikur Cholim:


1. From a reader: “My rules of Bikur Cholim are as follows: You should not visit anyone if you are angry; Do not ask the patient personal questions, instead, ask the patient “Do you need anything?”; Make sure to bring a smile to the patient; Treat what the patient tells you with care--do not simply relate everything he says to others; Treat the patient as if he/she was a relative of yours; If the patient does not want visitors, do not press the patient for an explanation, just leave the patient, but do so with a smile.”


2. Chazal (Shabbos 32A) teach that a person should ask Hashem for Rachamim that he not become sick, for if one becomes sick he needs a zechus in order to be healed. Every day we ask Hashem to heal the sick in the eighth bracha of Shemone Esrei, Refaeinu. We may not, however, focus on the fact that in this very bracha we also ask Hoshieinu Venivashei’ah--save us and we will be saved. What does this phrase mean? The Kuntres Avodas HaTefillah explains that with these words we plead with Hashem to save us from sickness. Accordingly, one should most certainly have Kavannah when reciting these words on behalf of himself and others. We additionally provide by clicking on the following links, two short Tefillos asking Hashem to maintain one’s health:  Tefilas HaBori and The Chidah's Prayer for Health


3. Rabbi Shimshon Lonner, Shlita, asks a very important question:  If the Torah would like us to do acts of Chesed such as visiting the sick--then why does the Torah itself not specify the acts that we should perform in detail? Rabbi Lonner suggests that perhaps the Torah is teaching us that a great element of the acts that we are about to perform is Es HaDerech…--the way in which we perform them.  Our Chesed acts should not be knee-jerk reactions, but rather accompanied by the thought of how Hashem would perform the Chesed, and how He would like to see His children perform it. In furtherance of this, Rabbi Lonner adds, the Torah describes at the outset of Parashas Vayeirah how Hashem came to visit Avraham when he was sick after the Bris Milah.  Fascinatingly, the Torah does not state what Hashem said in this regard or what He did--only that He came. As we move away from Matan Torah of Parshas Yisro into the actual details of many laws in Parashas Mishpatim, we must remember that a great part of the Halachos must be based in Es HaDerech…Es HaMa’aseh--the way we perform them--in the manner Hashem would really like them to be performed! 



Special Note Four: We continue an exciting Monday/Thursday series on the practical aspects of Sta”m, written by Rabbi Reuvain Mendlowitz, Shlita, author of Inside Sta”m--An Insider Reveals The Answers To All The Questions You Should Ask When Purchasing Or Maintaining Tefillin, Mezuzos, Megillos, Sifrei Torah And Nevi’im.


For a fuller treatment of all topics to be discussed, we urge you to purchase the Sefer, which provides practical and meaningful information and ideas.



Hiddurim in Sta”m


People have created lists of hiddurim which can be incorporated into STA”M items. Sometimes it can be difficult to put it all in perspective. Since there is no end to potential hiddurim, let us limit ourselves to some of the more significant ones and their relative importance.  Before doing so, however, please accept some friendly advice. Be aware that a sofer is under considerable stress when attempting to produce a mehudar STA”M item. Ironically, if you approach him with a list of “extra” hiddurim that you want him to incorporate in your parashiyos, you may actually be defeating your own purpose. This is because he will now be departing from his normal routine, and this may detract from his concentration on the many requirements of the basic halachos. It is therefore wise to first determine which hiddurim you really want, and then seek out a sofer who writes to that standard as a matter of course. This can prevent heartache in the future, both for you and the sofer. Now, let us begin.


The “Famous Rashba”


The halachah is that if two letters touch each other, the STA”M becomes pasul. Can this be fixed by merely scraping away the connection between the two letters?


As we have previously noted (Part X), the Rashba rules that it depends when the letters touched. If the letters touched before the completion of the second letter, the connection may not be scraped away to kasher the Sta”m item. His reasoning is that once the letters touched, the item became pasul. Therefore, even if one scrapes away the connection to allow each letter to stand free, part of the second letter was written in a pasul state. This cannot be undone by merely separating the letters. Rather, says the Rashba, the entire second letter must be erased and rewritten. However, if the letters touched after the completion of the second letter, the Sta”m item can be made kosher by merely scraping away the connection.


Most Rishonim, however, are of the opinion that one may kasher the item by scraping away the connection, even when the two letters touched before the completion of the second letter.


This latter, majority opinion is the only one cited in the Shulchan Aruch, and none of the major commentators disagree with this ruling. The halachah is therefore clearly not like the Rashba. Nevertheless, the Sta”m item may not be considered mehudar. The reason for this is simply because the Rashba is not the only Rishon who ruled this way, and there are a small number of prominent Acharonim who concur with his opinion as well.


Therefore, even though the Rashba’s opinion is not accepted as the final halachah, it is questionable whether a Sta”m item which does not conform to the Rashba’s ruling can be considered mehudar. Rather, it would be considered “kosher l’chatchilah.”


Practically speaking, if the sofer was not careful to observe the Rashba’s opinion when writing the tefillin, it is difficult to justify selling such parashiyos as mehudar when selling them at above average prices.




21 Shevat

Special Note One: In last week’s Parasha, we learned the basis for many Mitzvos of Chesed (Bikur Cholim, Hachnossas Kallah, etc.) in the Pasuk (Shemos 18:20) of: “VeHodata Lahem Es HaDerech Asher Yeilchu Vah Ve’es HaMa’aseh Asher Ya’asun…you should teach them the way in which they shall go and the deeds that they shall do.” Unlike the remainder of the world to whom ‘kindness’ is defined by the whims of the person performing it, Halacha provides the laws for properly performing acts of kindness, whether in the giving of tzedakah (Yoreh De’ah 247-259), comforting mourners (Yoreh De’ah 376) or visiting the sick (Yoreh De’ah 335).  Among the important requirements of properly performing the mitzvah of visiting the sick person are:


A. Davening for the choleh while visiting. Since the Shechinah rests above the head of a sick person, Tefillah is more efficacious in front of the sick person (Rema, Yoreh De’ah 335:4). The Tefillah should include the following nusach “Hamakom Yerachem Alecha B’soch Cholei Yisrael”, so that the choleh benefits from the z’chus harabim (Yoreh De’ah 335:6). Tefillah in the presence of the choleh can be said in any language, because the Shechinah is present and, of course, understands all language of prayer (Yoreh De’ah 335:5).


Hakhel Note:  According to the Chochmas Adam (151:3) the ikar of Bikur Cholim is davening for the sick person while visiting him.  In fact, the Kitzur Shulchan Aruch (193:3) rules that one has not fulfilled the mitzvah of Bikur Cholim if he visits, but does not daven to Hashem while there.


B. Seeking help for the choleh, both physically and emotionally.  Does he have everything he needs—all the medications, the deodorant, toothpaste?  Does his nurse know what an important person he is?  Does he need to see a Rav or more friends? (Yoreh De’ah 335:8)


C. Providing Positive Reinforcement.  Is the choleh kept in the right frame of mind all day? Provide positive reinforcements, words of encouragement, bring in light (open the shades). (Nedorim 40A; Ahavas Chesed 3:3; Kitzur Shulchan 193:3)


Hakhel Note: Positive reinforcement does not mean that one should speak on and on, or even with witticisms.  Additionally, needless rambling and even statements expressing concern such as “You’ll now have to take that medicine for the rest of your life,” or “Next time, you’ll be more careful,” or even “How will this affect your life going forward?” may be equated with smacking a poor person across the face and knocking out a few teeth as you hand him a hundred dollars with a smile.


D.  Additional Points and Pointers:


1.  Bikur Cholim should not be performed when it is convenient for the visitor, but when it is best for the choleh.  As the Halacha states, one should not visit in the first three hours of the day… the last three hours of the day…, etc. (Shulchan Aruch, Yoreh De’ah 335:4).


2.  The Chazon Ish (Collected Letters, Volume I: 138) writes that everyone has the mitzvah to perform ‘Bikur Cholim’ upon himself, as well.  This means that he must take care of his body and use the most effective means possible for his personal health.


3.  One should try to tidy up and make the atmosphere more cheery for the choleh, if possible.  The Gemara (Nedarim 40A) relates that Rabbi Akiva himself swept and cleaned the floor for his sick student.  As a result, the student told him, “You have caused me to live.”  Rabbi Akiva then taught, “He who does not perform the mitzvah of Bikur Cholim, it is as if he spilled blood.”  The reverse is also, of course, true.  In fact, the Gemara clearly teaches that one who acts wisely with the ill, will himself be saved from “a bad day” by Hashem (see Tehillim 41 and Gemara, Nedarim 40A).


4.  One should consider a choleh’s status after he leaves the hospital, and even after he returns to shul or to work.  The fact that he has somewhat healed does not necessarily mean that he is not suffering pain or is otherwise in distress.  One should continue to daven for, and inquire as to, a person’s welfare, until he is confident that the choleh has received his Refuah Sheleimah!


5.  HaRav Chaim Kanievsky, Shlita, was asked whether one should take the stairs rather than take an elevator when going to visit one who is ill--for one is then exerting himself to a greater extent, and doing a Mitzvah with each step.  He responded that if it would involve bitul Torah, one should take the elevator.  [Hakhel Note:  The question teaches the great importance of Bikur Cholim on the one hand--and the great importance of Talmud Torah on the other!]  HaRav Kanievsky additionally commented that HaRav Elyashiv, Z’tl, had raised the question as to whether one is obligated to travel to another city to visit one who was ill.  HaRav Kanievsky answered that Chazal (Nedarim 40A) teach that visiting a sick person causes him to live!


Hakhel Note: Perhaps one can review these points prior to visiting or calling someone--so that he can accomplish the kind of Bikur Cholim that Hashem cherishes!



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



Special Note Three:  Taking Emunah one step further:  The following is excerpted from A Sense of Responsibility by Rabbi Sholom Smith, Shlita, a new pamphlet which contains practical and timely insights of HaRav Pam, Z’tl: “A frum Jew is called a ma’amin, a believer in Hashem. However, the word ma’amin also has another meaning (in the hif’il tense)--to make others believe. A true ma’amin understands that all Jews are part of the same spiritual body, all descendents of our great father, the rosh hama’aminim, Avraham Avinu. How can we pride ourselves with our spiritual achievements when there are millions of fellow Jews who have no idea of the basic tenets of Yiddishkeit? This underscores the importance of making others believe in Hashem and in His Torah. The way to bring Jews back to Hashem is by acting in a peaceful manner with everyone, and displaying a concern and interest in one’s fellow Jews.”


Hakhel Note: Each one of us must be a ma’amin --and must bring this to the fore of his daily life!




20 Shevat

CORRECTION! Several days ago, when discussing dried fruits and the possibility that the bracha on certain dried fruits may really be a Shehakol because they are pureed (much like fruit leather), we had written:  “If one recites a Borei Pri Ha’eitz over a food item whose bracha is Shehakol--he has recited a bracha levatalah and has not made a bracha on the food.”  A reader pointed out to us that he believed that according to the Mishna Berurah (Shulchan Aruch Orach Chaim 208, seif katan 40), reciting a Borei Pri Ha’eitz over a pureed fruit would be valid bedie’ved, although the appropriate bracha is a Shehakol. Our reader is correct.  We confirmed this with Rabbi Yisroel Pinchos Bodner, Shlita (see Halachos of Brochos, p. 410, 411.).



A TERRIFIC LESSON! “The great Chassidic master, the Rebbe, Reb Bunim, was once asked if he would like to change places with Avraham Avinu; he would get Avraham Avinu’s talent and potential, and Avraham would get his. He smiled and replied: “I would not want to change places with Avraham, because what would Hashem gain on this exchange? There would still be one Avraham Avinu and one Bunim…!” (excerpted from A Sense of Responsibility, by Rabbi Sholom Smith, Shlita).




Special Note One:  Final points and pointers from Parasha Yisro:


A. At the outset of the Parasha, the Torah records the names that Moshe Rabbeinu gave to his two sons--and the reasons for those names.  Why does the Torah recount this now?  Why is it so timely at this point? HaRav Simche Zisel Broyde, z’tl, provides us with a great lesson from this.  Moshe Rabbeinu had just witnessed--and even personally participated in--miracles the likes of which the world has not seen since.  The Makkos, the Splitting of the Sea, the multitude of Miracles in the Sea, the Mon, etc.  Yet, Moshe Rabbeinu did not and would never forget the ‘smaller’ miracles that he personally experienced in his own lifetime--whether it was having a child, staying alive in galus, or being saved from Paroh’s executioner.  One’s personal miracles, one’s daily survival, is something that should not be overshadowed even by something as powerful as the Geulah itself!  When we give thanks to Hashem in Modim daily--and thank Hashem for “Ahl Nisecha Shebechal Yom Imanu--the miracles that are with us daily”--we should (in thought) name some of them just as Moshe named his sons--and realize that we will be thanking Hashem for them forever--even after witnessing the miracles of the Geulah Shelaima--speedily and in our days!


B. From a Reader: The following is from Vedibarta Bam by Rabbi Moshe Bogomilsky: “Why is the giving of the Torah recorded in Parashas Yisro? Regarding the Torah it is stated Ein Tov Elah Torah--the true good is only Torah--as it is written Ki Lekach Tov Nasati Lachem--I have given you a good teaching—the Torah” (Pirkei Avos 6:3) The word Tov-- Tes Vav Vais has the numerical value of 17. Counting from the first Parasha of the Torah (Bereishis)--Yisro is the 17th Parasha. Thus it is most appropriate that the ultimate good be expounded in the 17th Parasha!”


C. From a Reader (who received if from a Rav): “Vayisyatzevu  BeTachtis HaHar. The Pasuk says they stood under the mountain. Chazal tell us this means that HaKadosh Baruch Hu turned the mountain over them (like a pot) and threatened the Bnei Yisrael. If you accept the Torah--good, if not, you’ll be buried under. Tosfos and the Midrash ask: “But Bnei Yisrael said Na’aseh V’Nishma and were mekabel the Torah willingly--why the need to force them?”


The Maharal explains: It is not enough for the Bnei Yisrael to figure out on their own that the Torah is worth receiving--this is not yet the essence of Kabalas HaTorah. They must understand that Torah is life itself--without Torah, we are not really living. As we know, the real definition of life means existing in a way that it remains forever. Without Torah, every moment of life dies away as soon as the moment passes. This is called death, not life, since it is only temporary. The only way to really live is by transforming every instant into Chayei Olam. This is the meaning in Birkas HaTorah of VeChayei Olam Natah BeSocheinu-- the Torah is what takes the ‘instant’ of physical life and makes it last forever. In truth, every moment and every particle of existence must have a shaychus to Torah in order to become Chayei Olam.


This is why we had to be forced to be mekabel Torah, because Torah is life itself and it is not up to ‘choice’--therefore, Hakadosh Baruch Hu had to show K’lal Yisrael that Torah is a must, and accepting it voluntarily, leaves the thought that it is a good thing and if I want that good thing-fine, if not, it is my decision, but forcing it shows that just as breathing is a must and a person does not say: “I guess I will breathe now”, so too, Torah must be accepted with the realization that I have to live a life of Torah. So there are two parts to Kabalas HaTorah, one the great ma’alah that we  said Na’aseh V’Nishma on our own--and second that we know life is impossible without it!”


D.  In the first of the Aseres HaDibros, we are taught that Hashem took us out of Mitzrayim, the House of Bondage.  What does the phrase “House of Bondage” add--we all know what Mitzrayim was, and what happened to us there?  HaRav Mattisyahu Salomon, Shlita, explains that it is intended for us to especially focus--at the outset of the Aseres HaDibros--on the Hakoras HaTov that we owe to Hashem for His freeing us from bondage.  HaRav Salomon explains that the Kabalos Ol Malchus Shomayim that took place at Har Sinai could not have been based on “Anochi Hashem”, on Emunah, alone.  There is an absolutely essential, second prerequisite--and that is thoroughly appreciating Hashem’s gifts to us in this world.  Indeed, HaRav Salomon notes that the Mitzriyim, who “forgot” what Yosef did for them, represent the antithesis of Hakoras HaTov--and that is why Hashem not only literally--but figuratively--took us out of there!  We must accordingly understand that Hakoras HaTov is not simply a Midah Tovah, a good character trait, concludes Rav Salomon, but a precondition to our daily Kabalas Ol Malchus Shomayim!


Hakhel Note: Based upon this essential teaching, we must be careful to have Kavana daily in the brachos which precede Kriyas Shema in Shacharis and Ma’ariv daily, as they are infused with the Hakoras Hatov necessary to boost us to the proper recitation of Shema!



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


F. In the last Pasuk of the Parasha of Matan Torah (Shemos 20:23 ), we learn Velo Sa’aleh B’Ma’alos Ahl Mizbichi--you shall not ascend the mizbei’ach on steps. Rashi explains that if one would have to walk up steps, he would act immodestly in light of the holiness of the place--thereby engaging in an inexcusable act of bizayon. Quoting the Mechilta, Rashi continues, if the Torah is concerned with the shame or disgrace of stones--which do not have the mental capacity to be makpid on this bizayon--then certainly must one be especially careful with not shaming or disgracing another human being who does have the sense and sensitivity to feel hurt--and who is, after all, a Tzelem Elokim. The Torah, by concluding the Parasha in this way--once again the Parasha of Matan Torah-- is teaching us an outstanding lesson, and we must view it as timely and apply it this week. Rather than ‘justifiably’ (just as it is justifiable to walk up steps) shaming, disgracing or embarrassing a person--we must be sure to turn the tables-- and instead replace the inappropriate, hurtful phrase or phrases with words of chizuk and expressions of encouragement!




19 Shevat

QUESTION OF THE DAY : Halomeid BeKol…one studying Torah in an audible tone. Can you identify the special benefits of doing so?



FROM THE TEACHINGS OF REB NOSSON M’BRESLOV:Me Shemishaleim Tovah Tachas Ra’ah Ma’arich Yomim V’Shonim--he who repays something bad done to him with good, will have length of days and years.”  Hakhel Note: Whether you are a chossid or misnagid--the words ring loud and clear!



AVOID PUNISHMENT! At the end of last week’s Parasha, we are taught that we are prohibited from using metal instruments to construct the mizbei’ach (Shemos 20:22 ). Rashi (in the name of the Mechilta) explains that the mizbei’ach brings peace between Hashem and His people and so it is unfitting for a weapon of destruction or harm to be brought upon it. Rashi continues that if a mizbei’ach which does not see, hear or speak is undeserving of having a metal instrument brought upon it because it is an medium of peace--all the more so is someone who brings peace between man and his wife, between families, between man and his neighbor, worthy of not having punishment befall him at all! Hakhel Note: Each one of us can serve as a mizbei’ach--and reap the incredible rewards!




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




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



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


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


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



Special Note Three: We continue an exciting Monday/Thursday series on the practical aspects of Sta”m, written by Rabbi Reuvain Mendlowitz, Shlita, author of Inside Sta”m--An Insider Reveals The Answers To All The Questions You Should Ask When Purchasing Or Maintaining Tefillin, Mezuzos, Megillos, Sifrei Torah And Nevi’im.


For a fuller treatment of all topics to be discussed, we urge you to purchase the Sefer, which provides practical and meaningful information and ideas.




We have been discussing the concept of “Hiddur Mitzvah ad Shlish” and how it applies practically to purchasing STA”M. See the previous piece for two questions the poskim deal with. We will now present a third and fourth question.


The third question:


There are Mitzvah objects available for a variety of prices. For instance, when Chaim told Moshe that tefillin cost $1,200, perhaps Chaim was referring to a mehudar pair of tefillin. However, he also sells tefillin for $900 which are kosher l’chatchilah, and even carries tefillin for as little as $600 which are kosher b’dieved.


When the halachah says to add one third to the price in order to acquire a better pair of tefillin, which price are we referring to?


Does Moshe have to add one third to the price of the mehudar $1,200 tefillin, for a total cost of $1,600? Does Moshe have to add one third to the price of the l’chatchilah $900 tefillin, for a total cost of $1,200? (This is the amount he was planning on spending anyway, so there is no extra expense.) Or does Moshe have to add one third to the price of the b’dieved $600 tefillin, for a total cost of only $800. (This is actually one third less than he was planning on spending.)


The fourth question:


How do we calculate the extra third that needs to be added? Do we divide the base price by three, as we have been doing until now? Or, do we consider the added third to be a third of the higher final price? If so, we would need to divide the price of the tefillin in half, and then add that amount to the original total.


In other words, does Moshe look at the $1,200 tefillin, divide that sum in half ($600), and then add that to the original $1,200 for a total cost of $1,800? Following this formula, the $900 tefillin would become $1,350 and the $600 tefillin would become $900.


All four of these questions are discussed and debated from the earliest Rishonim down to modern-day poskim.


It would seem that since the halachah of Hiddur Mitzvah ad Shlish is a Rabbinic directive (d’Rabbanan) and not a Torah obligation (d’Oraisa), one may be lenient when purchasing STA”M. Therefore, practically speaking, one may add a third of the original price, and use the least expensive pair as his base price. Translated into the above scenario, Moshe may use the $600 (b’dieved tefillin) as the base price, and add one third to that figure, for a total of $800.


We can see from here that for anyone who is purchasing STA”M of reasonably good quality, the halachah of Hiddur Mitzvah ad Shlish does not come into play at all. This is because the price one pays for a quality STA”M item will already be higher than the total amount “Hiddur Mitzvah ad Shlish” would require him to pay.




16 Shevat



1. The Rabbeinu Bachya to this week’s Parasha writes that there are exactly 620 letters in the Aseres Hadibros.  To what does this correspond?


2. Har Sinai has six names.  Can you provide them, and the meaning behind each name? See Midrash Tanchuma, Bamidbar, Piska 7.


3. Hallel HaGadol (Tehillim 136), which we recite every Shabbos Morning, contains 26 Pesukim, each of which concludes with the words “Ki LeOlam Chasdo--for His kindness endures forever.”  The kindnesses of Hashem found in this chapter especially focus on Yetzias Mitzrayim and our subsequent entry into Eretz Yisrael.  There appears to be a glaring omission in the kindnesses mentioned--actually, what seems to be the greatest kindness of all--Hashem giving us the Torah while in the Midbar--is omitted, as the Pesukim in the chapter skip from Hashem throwing Paroh and his army into the sea, to leading us with the Clouds of Glory through the Midbar, and then on to defeating the mighty kings, Sichon and Og, followed by our entry into Eretz Yisrael.  What happened to Matan Torah itself --the great event of this week’s Parasha, and indeed one of the greatest events in History?!  We invite your thoughts.  As a starting point, may we suggest the words of HaRav Avrohom Chaim Feuer, Shlita in his work on Tehillim (Artscroll, p.1608).


4. Preceding the Aseres HaDibros, the Pasuk (Shemos 19:19 ) records the background:  Veyehi Kol HaShofar Holeich Vachazeik Me’od Moshe Yidabeir VeHaElokim Ya’aneinu Vekol--and the sound of the Shofar grew continually stronger--Moshe would speak….” What is the simple meaning of the phrase at the end of the Pasuk-- VeHaElokim Ya’aneinu Vekol? Hakhel Note: This question is part of the endeavor we are asking everyone to bli neder undertake--look up the simple meaning of any words or phrases that one does not understand in the Parasha!




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


A. We provide the following thoughts on the Mitzvah of Zachor Es Yom HaShabbos LeKadesho, contained in the Aseres HaDibros:


1. Although Shabbos itself is only one day of the week, Hashem directs us to “Zachor”--to remember it-- not only on Shabbos itself, but during the six days which precede it.  Every single time we purchase, bake, cook, clean, wash, shine, work late, leave work early--we are always remembering the Shabbos!  HaRav Shlomo Zalmen Auerbach, Z’tl, taught that one even fulfills a Mitzvas Asei of Zachor Es Yom HaShabbos by reciting “HaYom Yom Rishon L’Shabbos”, “HaYom Yom Sheini L’Shabbos...” every day prior to the Shir Shel Yom.  In fact, he would state “Zachor Es Yom HaShabbos LeKadesho”, and then recite HaYom Yom to demonstrate that he was fulfilling the Mitzvas Asei D’Oraysa.”  All of this, of course, teaches us the enormity of the Mitzvah of Shabbos--for it requires so much aforethought and attention, so much preparation, thinking and care. 


2. Each of the Aseres HaDibros is alluded to in the Kriyas Shema that we recite twice daily.  The Mishna Berurah, citing the Yerushalmi writes that the allusion to the Dibra of “Zachor Es Yom HaShabbos” is in the words “Es Kol Mitzvosai--all of My Mitzvos”--for Shabbos weighs against all of the other Mitzvos combined!


3. The awesome power and reach of Shabbos transcends this world into the next--and even extends from the righteous to the wicked.  What do we mean?  The Rabbeinu Bachya writes that the reason we do not begin Ma’ariv on Leil Shabbos with the words:  “Vehu Rachum Yechapeir Avon…” as we do on a weekday is the following:  There are three Malochim, with the names Mashchis, Ahf, and Cheima, who are in charge of meting out the Reshaim’s punishments in Gehenom daily.  On Shabbos, they are not permitted to mete out punishment, and the Reshaim have Menucha on Shabbos as well.  Each of these three Malochim is, of course, alluded to in the VeHu Rachum.  By our not reciting VeHu Rachum then, we indicate that these Malochim have no power on this awesome day--for everyone must benefit from its spiritual power and strength! 


B. The Mitzvah of Kiddush is also derived from the words “Zachor Es Yom HaShabbos LeKadesho”. Accordingly, we review certain points about Kiddush, as presented in the Sefer Bris Olam by HaRav Binyomin (HaTzadik) Zilber, Z’tl. 


1.  One should make Kiddush promptly after coming home from Shul. However, if one has not recited Kriyas Shema in its proper time in Shul--and its time has now arrived-- he should recite it before Kiddush. 


2. A woman could be motzi’a a man with Kiddush-but lechatchila this should not be done if they are not from the same household.  All halachos of Kiddush--such as Kiddush Bemakom Seudah apply equally to men and women.  A person cannot hear Kiddush in one place--and then go to another place to eat--because the listener too must have Kiddush Bemakom Seudah


3. The one making Kiddush should tell the listeners to have Kavannah to be yotzei with his Kiddush. One should not be walking around, and should be careful to follow--word by word.


4. A person can be Motzi others with Kiddush (who for some reason can’t do it themselves) even if he has already been Yotzei his Kiddush.


5. Lechatchila, the person making Kiddush (as opposed to another participant) should drink a minimum shiur of a Rov Revi’is--to be safe, 2.5 ounces.  It is best if everyone drinks a little bit from the Kos--but if there will not be enough for Kiddush and Havdala tomorrow, they need not drink.


6.  In the morning Kiddush, one should not begin with the words “Al Kein Bairach”--as this is the middle of a Pasuk. One should instead begin with the Pasuk of Veshamru or of Zachor Es Yom HaShabbos LeKadesho.


Hakhel Note One:  The Ba’al HaTurim, in his Peirush on the Pasuk of Zachor Es Yom HaShabbos LeKadesho writes that if we can fulfill this Mitzvah every day by doing something LeKavod Shabbos--then all the more so on Erev Shabbos [and certainly on Shabbos itself!] He continues that this Pasuk is the seventh Pasuk of the Aseres HaDibros, begins with a zayin (seven), and seven individuals are commanded to keep the Shabbos in the commandment. He concludes that there are five words in the Pasuk, which teaches us that if one keeps the Shabbos it is considered as if he kept the Chamisha Chumshei Torah! It is no small wonder, then, that HaRav Moshe Feinstein, Z’tl, and HaRav Elyashiv, Z’tl, are known to have made it a point to shine their own shoes on Erev Shabbos!


Hakhel Note Two: Throughout this Shabbos and every Shabbos, we can remember these inspiring words from the Parasha--Zachor Es Yom HaShabbos-LeKadesho--for when we sanctify the Shabbos day--we are most certainly sanctifying ourselves as well!



Special Note Two: In the preceding Parshiyos of Va’eira, Bo, and BeShalach, we experienced what one may refer to as ‘physical miracles’--with the Mitzriyim being punished and beaten, and their super power status being forever quashed, while the Bnei Yisrael were saved from the plethora of natural and super natural disasters, and becoming a free people with a wealth of Egypt with them to boot!  In Parashas Yisro, with Matan Torah we learn that there can also be spiritual miracles.  We not only received the blueprint of creation at no charge--but we were elevated to the sublime status of “Mamleches Kohanim VeGoy Kadosh--a kingdom of kohanim and a holy nation.”  There is a very great and important lesson here.  We are not only capable of being the recipients of physical miracles in this physical world, we are capable of witnessing and being party to spiritual miracles here as well!  Indeed, as we have noted in the past, HaRav Dessler, Z’tl, teaches in the name of HaRav Yisroel Salanter, Z’tl that even when the Gates of Tefillah are closed, the Gates of Tefillah for Ruchniyus are never closed.  One can truly aspire to attain and pray for spiritual heights which he previously thought were simply unattainable.  In short, the gates are wide open--one can daven for a miracle in Ruchniyus!  In fact, Chazal teach:  “Le’Ukmai Girsa, Siyatta DeShimaya Hu--one must learn and put in the effort, but as for remembering and retaining one’s learning--that is a matter for the Heavenly Realm.”  We have to try hard, and daven sincerely--and we too can very literally achieve Spiritual Miracles!



Special Note Three:  In the Parasha, as what appears to be a condition precedent to Kabbalas HaTorah, the Torah first teaches us that we are to establish a proper system of judges and leaders.  The Torah adjures that they be qualified and capable.  In our days, we have Rabbonim and Dayanim who also issue rulings and decisions in all matters--ranging from whether the animal is kosher to whether Reuven owes Shimon five million dollars.  Yet, there are those who will complain--saying “The Rav or Beis Din is wrong in saying that this is not kosher--or in ruling that I owe him money--when it is he who owes me the money!”  In fact, the Chofetz Chaim (Sefer Chofetz Chaim 6:8) writes that even if you are right, you have no right to openly balk, criticize or complain against a ruling--because it could be that, BeHashgacha Pratis, Hashem has caused this to happen to you (see there for further detail).  We should take a lesson from the fact that the Torah places the administering of Torah before the actual giving of the Torah itself in tomorrow’s Parasha--without the due respect for our Rabbanim, Dayanim and leaders we simply do not get to Kabbalas HaTorah.  It is no coincidence then (as it never is), that in Shulchan Aruch (Yoreh De’ah 243-246) the laws of respecting Talmidei Chachomim are actually placed before the laws of Talmud Torah itself! Let us take the lesson closely and seriously for the honor and respect due to Hashem’s designated ones.  Perhaps, to make up for any inappropriateness in the past, we can add a meaningful Kabbalah, bli neder, in this area.  The time could not be better...



Special Note Four:  We provide the following unique and moving description of the Events at Har Sinai:  “You were revealed in Your cloud of glory to Your holy people to speak with them.  From the heavens You made them hear Your voice and revealed Yourself to them in thick clouds of purity.  Moreover, the entire universe shuddered before You and the creatures of creation trembled before You during Your revelation, our King, on Har Sinai to teach Your people Torah and commandments.  You made them hear the majesty of Your voice and Your holy utterances from fiery flames. Amid thunder and lightning You were revealed to them and with the sound of Shofar You appeared to them, as it is written in Your Torah:  ’And it was on the third day when it was morning, there was thunder and lightning, a heavy cloud was on the mountain and the sound of the Shofar was very strong, and the entire people in the camp trembled.’  And it is said, ‘and the sound of the Shofar became increasingly stronger, Moshe would speak and Hashem would respond with a voice.’  And it is said, ‘and the entire people saw the sounds and the flames and the sound of the Shofar and the smoking mountain, and the people saw and trembled and stood from afar.’” 


This special description, as many may have noted, is actually the first paragraph of the Shofaros section of the Rosh Hashana Mussaf Shemone Esrei!  Our translation is actually that of the Artscroll Machzor.  The momentous and outstanding occasion of Matan Torah is demonstrated by its placement at such a pinnacle point of our Rosh Hashana Tefillos-- in Mussaf after concluding Malchiyos and Zichronos.  As we daven for our lives on the Yom HaDin, we reach back for our greatest of zechuyos to Kabbalas HaTorah, and concomitantly bring and accept upon ourselves an elevated level of Awe for Hashem and His Torah.  The magnificent significance of this very same Matan Torah tomorrow should be properly accepted and acted upon by us.  We must renew and reinvigorate our Torah Study in order to demonstrate our appreciation of an event which non-coincidentally rests at the high point of our prayers on Rosh Hashana--when we pray for life and show that we are worthy because we recognize what life is really all about.  If someone would ask you tomorrow after laining --”What are you walking away from Matan Torah with?”--be prepared with an answer that truly befits you!


Additional Point One:  The three Pesukim in Shofaros cited above refer to the great Shofar blast at Matan Torah.  The Rambam in Hilchos Teshuva writes (based upon the pasuk--Amos 3:6) that a Shofar is used because:  “Hayitaka Shofar BaIr Ve’Am Lo Yecheradu--can it be that a Shofar will be blown in the city and the inhabitants will not tremble?!”  Certainly, when tomorrow we take witness the blowing of the Shofar for such a miraculously long  period and from a non-human source--all the more so should we take heed of the awesome nature of the moment and act accordingly.  After experiencing the Shofar blast tomorrow, we must also rejuvenate our Teshuva Bechol Yom in a special way--as we look at our Kabbalah Sheet and plan for the future! 


Additional Point Two:  Every morning, when we recite the words “Asher Bachar Bonu MiKol Ho’amim VeNosan Lonu Es Toraso” in Birkas HaTorah, it behooves us to treasure the wonder and awe of the event, for at that irreplaceable moment in history we became forever distinguished as a People, and each of our very souls became infused with the kedusha, the unparalleled holiness, of a Nishmas Yisrael.  We provide below from the Sefer Ma’amad Har Sinai (by Rav Shlomo Rosner, Shlita) a small portion of the description of Matan Torah, as culled from the Gemara and Midrashim--which, we reiterate, forever changed world history, our history--and each of our lives.  The import, extent and unparalleled nature of the event is described by the Torah itself (Devorim 4:32, 33) with the words:  ”Ki She’al Na …--When you ask of the earlier days from the day Hashem created man on the earth, and from one end of the heaven to the other…has there ever been anything like this…has a people ever heard the voice of Hashem speaking from the midst of a fire as you have heard….?!”


Just some of the wondrous events brought by Rav Rosner, Shlita:


1.                              The lightning bolts and thunder were not uniform and consistent, but were different from each other to add to the reverence and uniqueness of the occasion.  The thunder could be seen, and the lightning bolts heard.

2.                              The Shofar blast could be heard worldwide.

3.                              600,000 ministering Melachim came to attend, and rested on Har Sinai itself.

4.                              Har Sinai was raised from its place, and was suspended in midair with the Bnei Yisrael standing underneath it.

5.                              Although many were wounded and maimed from the years of slavery in Mitzrayim, they were all healed.  Moreover, they were healed from spiritual and mental illness as well, and there were no zavim, metzoraim, or shotim.  The zuhama, the spiritual contamination planted in man by the nachash was removed from us, so that we would have the quality of Adam before the cheit.

6.                              The mountain itself was burning, with its fire reaching the heavens.

7.                              The Seven Heavens opened up to the Kisei HaKavod--with more being revealed to the Bnei Yisrael than was revealed to Yechezkel HaNavi and Yeshaya HaNavi in their visions of the Merkava.

8.                              The Seven Tehomos (depths) below also opened, so that Bnei Yisrael understood that Hashem was singular in all worlds, and most definitely that “Ain Od Milvado--there is nothing else but for Hashem.”

9.                              The mountains of Tavor and Carmel in Eretz Yisrael were uprooted from their place and came to Midbar Sinai.

10.                          The World was still and silent--the sun remained in one place, seas did not move, birds did nor chirp or fly, the animals were silent.  Even the Serafim did not say “Kadosh, Kadosh, Kadosh….”

11.                          Tal, a special dew, fell to revive the Bnei Yisrael after their souls had left them from the awe of the Dibros.

12.                          The letters of each of the Aseres HaDibros could be seen as they were said.

13.                          Every nation heard each Dibur in its own language, so that it could not later claim that “had it heard…”

14.                          With each Dibur, the World became filled with the aroma of besamim.


We have provided above 14 special details of Matan Torah at Har Sinai.  In fact, there are 14 Azkaros--Hashem’s name is mentioned a total of 14 times--in the Aseres HaDibros.  The Tashbatz writes that there are also 14 Azkaros in the Sheva Brachos that we recite at a Chasuna and the days following in celebration.  Indeed, a Great Wedding is taking place this Shabbos--and you are one of the Ba’alei Simcha--so prepare--and celebrate!



Special Note Five: The monumental occasion of Har Sinai is relived in Shul four times a week at Kriyas HaTorah.  How so?  The Mishna Berurah (Shulchan Aruch Orach Chayim 141, seif katan 16) writes that the Ba’al Kriyah is the Shul’s equivalent of Moshe Rabbeinu, relating the Torah to all assembled--men and women, young and old--at the behest of the Gabbai, who kevayachol, is “in the place of” Hashem, designating whom he wants to call to the Torah to hear its teaching.  The person receiving the aliyah represents K’lal Yisrael, serving as their special, designated representative!  With this in mind, and for the rest of our lives, the Kriyas HaTorah we experience--whether on a Monday or Thursday, Shabbos or Yom Kippur must take on new and precious meaning, as we feel the unique privilege of our participation in an absolutely incomparable event! We provide several important Halachos relating to Kriyas HaTorah on an ongoing basis, excerpted from the Mishna Berurah--Dirshu Edition, (Chapters 147-149):


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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



Special Note Six: The Fifth of the Aseres HaDibros is the Mitzvah of Kibbud Av VaEim.  This Dibra is the only one in tomorrow’s leining which describes the reward for its performance--so that your days will be lengthened upon your land that Hashem gives you.  HaRav Chaim Kanievsky, Shlita, was asked whether, in addition to length of days, the reward also implied good health during the lengthened days.  He replied that even though the reward does not absolutely imply briyus--but it is ‘yitachein’-- it can well be it includes good health as well(!).  We provide this Teshuva in order to especially emphasize the great care in which one should undertake the Mitzvah of Kibbud Av VaEim.  Strikingly, Rabbeinu Sa’adya Gaon writes that:  “And that which the pasuk established the reward for honoring one’s parents as length of days is because sometimes a person’s parents can live a long time and could be perceived by the children as a heavy burden.  Therefore, Hashem by providing the reward of long life, indicates to the children that you should give them their due honor in their older age and live with them--and if one is mitzta’er because of their life then he is essentially being Mitzta’er on his own life--for his length of days comes through his parents! 


In connection with this great Mitzvah, we provide the following essential review points as provided in the past:


A.  Unless a parent is knowingly mochel, it is forbidden to refer to your father or mother by their first name (even when requested for identification purposes) without a title of honor preceding the first name, whether or not they are present and whether or not they are alive.  When being called to the Torah, one must refer to his father as Reb or Avi Mori.  Whenever referring to one’s mother, one can use the title HaIsha or Moras (Yoreh Deah 240:2).  Hakhel Note:  “Even if a parent foregoes [is mochel] his honor, a child still fulfills a mitzvah by nonetheless honoring him, but in such a case he will not be punished for failure to do so.  (Chidushei Rebbi Akiva Eiger).”


B.  When honoring parents, very special care and concern must be taken to do it B’sever Ponim Yafos —pleasantly (Yorah De’ah  240:4).  The Sefer Chareidim (Mitzvos Asei of the Heart 1:35) and Rav Chaim Shmulevitz, Z’tl (Sichos Mussar 5731:22) both explain that in order to properly perform the mitzvah, one must mentally gain a true appreciation and honor of their parents and literally view them as royalty. Indeed, the Chayei Adom (67:3) known for his succinctness in recording Halacha, writes that the “Ikar Kibud”--the most important [aspect of] Kibud is that “He should view his parents as GREAT personages and important dignitaries.


C.  In addressing a crowd of many middle-aged adults, Rabbi Moshe Faskowitz, Shlita, provided the following amazing insight. The Torah juxtaposes the Mitzvah of Shabbos and Kibud Av V’Aim in the Aseres HaDibros. Why?  What is the relationship between the honor of parents and Shabbos observance?  Although there may be several answers to this question, Rabbi Faskowitz, a scion of the great Novordaker dynasty, suggested the following novel approach:  When it comes to Shemiras Shabbos, one cannot be too busy, too taken, to do what he has to in order to observe, and not c’v violate, the Shabbos. When Shabbos arrives, one cannot say he needs “another five minutes” or that he “will do it later” because he is too busy now.  So too, when it comes to parents (especially elderly parents), no matter how busy one is— even if he is the busiest person in the world —HE CAN NEVER BE TOO BUSY to have time for his parents.  Every person must apply this great insight to his own circumstances.  Your parents are like your  Shabbos. This is what the Torah instructs.


Hakhel Note: What if someone ‘s parents are or were not well-respected or ‘good’ people--at least in the son’s mind?  HaRav Pam, Z’tl has the easy answer for that--how could they not deserve great honor and respect--after all, they were zoche to have you as their child!




15 Shevat

HOW CHAVIV IS IT?  Now that many of us are enjoying new and tasty fruits today, 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!”




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


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


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


3.  The Bracha on beer is Shehakol.  Therefore, even though it comes from barley which is one of the Sheeva Minim, it has no bracha priority. The following is the priority order of Brachos:  (a) Hamotzi--with a preference of wheat bread over barley bread.

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


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



Special Note Two: We have been discussing the question; what are the definitions of mehudar, l’chatchilah, and b’dieved?


We continue an exciting Monday/Thursday series on the practical aspects of Sta”m, written by Rabbi Reuvain Mendlowitz, Shlita, author of Inside Sta”m--An Insider Reveals The Answers To All The Questions You Should Ask When Purchasing Or Maintaining Tefillin, Mezuzos, Megillos, Sifrei Torah And Nevi’im.


For a fuller treatment of all topics to be discussed, we urge you to purchase the Sefer, which provides practical and meaningful information and ideas.





How does the concept of “Hiddur Mitzvah ad Shlish” apply practically to purchasing STA”M?





Hiddur Mitzvah ad Shlish literally means that in order make the mitzvah more beautiful, one should spend up to one third more. In other words, when a person intends to purchase a particular mitzvah object, and the opportunity arises to purchase it in a mehudar form for up to one third more than the price quoted, the halachah is that he is obligated to add the extra third and purchase the mehudar variety.


For example, Moshe decides the time has come to buy himself a new pair of tefillin. He meets his friend Chaim who is a socher and asks, “How much does a good pair of tefillin cost?”


“Twelve hundred dollars,” Chaim replies.


 Since one third of $1,200 is $400, the rule of Hiddur Mitzvah ad Shlish would seem to dictate that Moshe should add $400 to the price of a “regular” pair of tefillin, and spend a total of $1,600 for a more mehudar pair of tefillin.


However, it is not quite that simple. There are a number of halachic questions which are dealt with by the poskim, and only after addressing these issues can we come to a conclusion as to how this rule applies in practice.


The first question:


What exactly is the case? Is the halachah dealing with an individual who has already purchased the item, and directing him to exchange it for a more mehudar item by adding one third of the original price? Or is the halachah dealing with an individual who has two items available for purchase – one more mehudar than the other, and priced at up to one third more – and directing him to spend the extra money to acquire the more mehudar item?


The second question:


Since the terminology of this halachah is “Hiddur Mitzvah,” does it apply only to mitzvos which involve the concept of hiddur (such as esrog, which is referred to as pri eitz hadar), or does it apply to all mitzvos?


BE”H, next time we will deal with two other questions pertaining to this halachah and attempt to provide the practical application.




14 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: Today, 14 Shevat, is the Yahrzeit of the Pnei Yeshoshua (R’ Yaakov Yehoshua B’R’ Tzvi Hersh Falk, Z’tl), the mechaber the Pnei Yehoshua on Shas and the grandson of the mechaber of the Maginei Shlomo after whom he was named. The following moving incident is excerpted from Me’Oros HaTzaddikim. To subscribe to Me’Oros HaTzaddikim, email:GutFinAvrohom@gmail.com.


He served as the head of the rabbinical court in Lwow after the Chacham Tzvi and afterwards in Berlin, Metz and Frankfurt. During his tenure in Lwow a terrible calamity occurred and there was an explosion of several barrels of gun powder which caused a terrible fire that killed thirty six Jews including his in laws, his wife and daughter. It was during this tragic episode which the author of Pnei Yehoshua describes in great detail in the introduction to his multi volume Talmudic commentary, that he was trapped under the rubble. Lying there beneath the heavy beams of his destroyed home, paralyzed by shock he waited for the collapsing structure to subside. As he lay there immobile he vowed to Hashem that just as his illustrious maternal grandfather, the author of Maginei Shlomo, for who he was named, authored a commentary on the Talmud, should Hashem help him survive this terrible calamity, he vowed that he too would not rest until he had studied, reviewed and authored a similar Talmudic commentary. Miraculously, no sooner had he vowed this, then the rubble mysteriously parted and he found a path through which he crawled out unscathed and unhurt. Seeing this open miracle and understanding that Hashem had accepted his vow, he undertook to study and write novel interpretations and commentary on the Talmud and its commentaries, Rashi and the Tosfos. It is this famous multi volume work which has preserved his fame till this day.


Hakhel Note: There are many remarkable additional incident relating to the Pnei Yehoshua. When opening the Sefer or other Seforim such as these, we should be moved by the dedication and greatness of the authors who compiled them!



Special Note Two:  The following remarkable insight 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 week, as Chazal (Brachos 48B) teach that Moshe Rabbeinu composed the first bracha of bentsching upon Bnei Yisrael receiving the Mon, as described in this past week’s Parsha.


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



Special Note Three:  We provide the following points 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). 


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


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 three months. Accordingly, it is a time to remind ourselves of our own personal fruits, and further nurture them--to ensure that they are worthy of Bracha. 


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 or other types of Bedika fruits, he should make sure that he has properly checked them for tolaim in accordance with current Halachic guidelines.


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!




13 Shevat



This was a message from an owner of a retail clothing store who is a Shomer Torah Umitzvos to his valued customers. This message is being offered by some other stores also, albeit not in print:


Dear Valued Customer,


Thank you for being our valued customer. Our store tries to keep its valued customers informed  of any concerns regarding its products.


Shatnez in garments is of great concern to us. Regardless of what steps we take, garments can only be verified Shatnez-free at a laboratory.


Therefore, woolen garments purchased at our stores do require Shatnez testing. We apologize for any inconvenience or misunderstanding. 


Thank you, 



Attached to the letter was a picture of a 100% woolen sweater with the brand name “Arosa”.

Under the picture it stated the following:

This men’s woolen sweater was purchased at our store. Shatnez testing revealed linen threads. 


Note: The sweater was distributed by a Jewish distributor and is the typical type of sweater worn in Yeshivos by Bais Medrash Bochurim.


Vaad L’Mishmeres Shatnez certifies shatnez laboratories in the tri-state area.

Vaad L’Mishmeres Shatnez can be reached at 1.877.4.SHATNEZ



DRIED FRUITS:  With the growing popularity of dried fruits (and the increased number of Heimeshe brand dried fruits), we must caution that care be taken as to the appropriate bracha over the particular dried fruit. For instance, dried guava may literally be the product of pureed guava, in which case the bracha would be a Shehakol--just as in fruit leather. Similarly, dried fruit mixtures such as ‘kiwi/pineapple’ slices which appear green and are in larger slices than the size of a kiwi may very likely constitute a bracha of Shehakol. Let the proper bracha reciter beware! Hakhel Note: If one recites a Borei Pri Ha’eitz or Borei Pri Ha’adama over a food item whose bracha is Shehakol--he has recited a bracha levatalah and has not made a bracha on the food. If one is not sure, he should make the possible brachos that are necessary on other foods, with the dried fruit in mind--or simply not eat the dried fruit until he determines what the bracha is.



AN INESCAPABLE CONCLUSION: At the outset of Sefer Chofetz Chaim, the Chofetz Chaim definitively writes: “Vecha’asher Nachpesah Deracheinu…when we investigate all of our deeds we will find that although there may be several significant aveiros that have contributed to the length of the current Galus, it is the cheit of Lashon Hara that overrides them all.” No matter how many times we hear it or think about it, we have to emphasize and re-emphasize this point to ourselves. Lashon Hara overrides them all. This Galus is so difficult, and so differs from the life we can lead after Geulah. Each and every one of us must work hard to bring the Geulah as quickly as possible!




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


1. From a reader:


A.  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


B.  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 as 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!


C. Towards the end of the Shira, one should pause after reciting the word Mikedash (shvah nah under the kuf)--as the next word Hashem is connected to the words which follow Konenu Yadecha.


Additional Note: Last week, we had pointed out that the Steipeler Gaon, Z’tl, would recite the Pasuk of V’Atem Hadeveikim before being Ma’avir Sidra--our reader pointed out to us the proper pronunciation of this Pasuk as well: V’Atem Hadevaikim BaHashem Elokeichem Chaim Kulechem HaYom”.


2. 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 the water.


3.  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!



Special Note Two: Just a sampling of the many essential lessons from the recent Lev L’Achim gathering in Flatbush:


A. It is not true that the general Israeli public is anti-Chareidi. They are open and receptive to hear about their heritage. It is the influential small group of people who control the media who paint the picture differently. Proof of this can be deduced by the close to one million people who attended the levaya of HaRav Ovadia Yosef, Z’tl. The majority of them were not wearing Yarmulkahs. Moreover, it is said that if not for the impossibility of entering Yerushalayim at that time two million people would have participated to show Kavod to HaRav Yosef.


B. There is a small community south of Haifa called Kiryat Yam, which, as its name suggests, is ‘on the beach’. After Lev L’Achim began classes in the community, a great turnaround occurred. Recently 147 girls from Kiryat Yam--now married, gathered--and they now were the mothers, collectively, of 403 children!


C. If a person knocked at your door and explained that he had not eaten in three days and only wanted bread and water--would you not rush to give it to him? All the more so, should we provide the ‘bread and water’ to our brethren who so desperately need it!


D. Lev L’Achim has begun a special ‘Adopt-A Neshama’ Project in which for $540 a year one obtain the zechus of a child that Lev L’Achim is working to make frum and provide a Torah education for. Many times his parents and siblings will become frum with him--increasing the zechus in a manifold manner! For further information, contact hakhelusa@gmail.com.




12 Shevat

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



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



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




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



Special Note Two:  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 “HaMibli…” 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 once shared with 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?”  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 Three:  We continue an exciting Monday/Thursday series on the practical aspects of Sta”m, written by Rabbi Reuvain Mendlowitz, Shlita, author of Inside Sta”m--An Insider Reveals The Answers To All The Questions You Should Ask When Purchasing Or Maintaining Tefillin, Mezuzos, Megillos, Sifrei Torah And Nevi’im.


For a fuller treatment of all topics to be discussed, we urge you to purchase the Sefer, which provides practical and meaningful information and ideas.


We have been discussing the question; what are the definitions of mehudar, l'chatchilah, and b'dieved?






1.      Unlike the tagin on the lamed (see our previous discussion), which are not mentioned in the Talmud, there are many other letters upon which Chazal clearly direct the sofer to place tagin. Should a sofer omit any of these tagin, the Sta”m item would only be kosher b'dieved.


2.      Other times, a letter is considered b'dieved not because part of it was omitted, but because part of it was written improperly.


For instance, a normal aleph has the upper head facing forward. (Have a look at any aleph and notice that this “head”, as well as the base of an aleph, is essentially a yud). If the sofer would make this head facing backward (and don’t think these things never happen), the aleph is kosher b'dieved.


3.      Often, "b'dieved" can also mean that although most poskim maintain that the Sta”m item is pasul, post-facto or b’sha’as ha’dechak (when no substitute is available), we will rely on a minority opinion. The item is then known as kosher b'dieved. (Sometimes the poskim may say that although one can still use the item, a berachah should not be recited on it. This will depend on just how b’dieved it is considered).


For example, the halachah is that one must hear Krias HaTorah from a kosher Sefer Torah. Hence, when a Sefer Torah is found to be pasul after having been used for some time we are faced with an issue. Technically, all those who heard Krias HaTorah this year from that Sefer Torah should have to hear those parshiyos leined again! Yet we don’t find that to be the custom.


The reason for this is as follows. The opinion of the Rambam in a teshuva (in Yad Hachazaka he says the opposite), is that one may actually hear Krias HaTorah from a pasul Sefer Torah! Most poskim disagree and indeed the halachah is like the majority opinion that one must hear Krias HaTorah from a kosher Sefer Torah. (This is why we return a Sefer Torah to the Aron Kodesh when a pesul is found during leining).


However, b’dieved, we do not require the baal koreh to start again from the beginning of the parshah, nor do we require earlier parshiyos to be leined again. This is because post-facto we rely on the Rambam.




9 Shevat

KASHRUS ADVISORY: By clicking here, we provide an advisory recently issued by the Kashrus Council of Lakewood relating to the importance of properly peeling fresh pineapple because of insect infestation.



WHERE DOES IT SAY TO DO IT? It is the minhag in many families to partake of different fruits on Tu B’Shevat. Indeed, the Mishna Berurah clearly brings about Tu B’Shevat: “VeNohagim HaAshkenazim LeHarbos BeMinei Peiros Shel Ilanos--it is the Minhag of Ashkenzaim (Shulchan Aruch Orach Chaim 131, seif katan 31).



AVRAHAM, YITZCHAK AND YAAKOV: Chazal (Brachos 26B) teach that Avraham Avinu instituted Tefillas Shacharis, Yitzchak Avinu--Tefillas Mincha and Yaakov Avinu--Tefillas Ma’ariv. The Kuntres Avodas HaTefillah adds that in the first bracha of Shemone Esrei, the term HaGadol refers to the Middah of Hashem’s Chesed [corresponding to Avraham], the term HaGibor refers to the Middah of Hashem’s Din [corresponding to Yitzchak], and the term Norah refers to Hashem’s awesome power--there is no one to fear but Him, for no one can do anything except Him [this corresponds to Yaakov Avinu’s recognition of Mah Norah HaMakom Hazeh]. May we suggest that in the first bracha of each Shemone Esrei one recall the Av who instituted it when reciting his name, and the Middah that he represents when reciting the Middah. In this way…one starts off his Shemone Esrei with the realization that it is truly timely!




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


A. HaRav Chaim Kanievsky, Shlita, brings that his father, the Steipeler Gaon, Z’tl [and apparently he as well], recited the Pasuk: “V’Atem Hadveikim BaHashem Elokeichem Chaim Kulchem HaYom” prior to being Ma’avir Sidra.


B. In a recent Shiur, a Rav expressed that children were improperly taught only about the things one cannot do on Shabbos. He stated that in addition to the 39 prohibited Melachos, children should also be taught 39 wonderful activities that one can do on Shabbos. Hakhel Note: In next week’s Parasha--we will be introduced to Shabbos in the Aseres HaDibros with the words: “Zachor Es Yom HaShabbos LeKadesho”--which is how to properly make positive, excellent use of the great Shabbos day!


C. The Orchos Chaim LaRosh brings that a father should be careful to teach his children to properly daven, make brachos and wash netilas yadayim. As we will be reciting the bracha of Asher Kideshanu B’Mitzvosav V’Tzvinau Ahl Netilas Yadayim three times over Shabbos, and hopefully a fourth time for Melaveh Malka as well, we should take the time to make sure that we are properly washing our hands. The Kitzur Shulchan Aruch (40:4) rules that when washing one’s hands, the entire hand should be rinsed with the water, and so one should spread his fingers and point them upward so that the entire hand is reached. We add that those who are careful slowly turn each hand as the water is being poured over it.


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


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


F. Chazal (Eiruvin 17B) derive from the words in this week’s Parasha of “Ahl Yeitzei Ish Mimkomo” that Hotza’ah--Carrying is one of the melachos on Shabbos.  As this is ‘Inyana DeYoma’--a teaching about Shabbos directly from the Parasha, 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!


G. What is the status of a telephone book on Shabbos? HaRav Elyashiv, Z’tl, rules that it is to be treated as a Kli Shemilachto L’Issur--so that one could look up a person’s address in it, as this would be l’tzorech gufo. HaRav Nissim Karelitz, Shlita, rules that it is prohibited to use a telephone book because of the issur of shtarei hedyotos (Shulchan Aruch Orach Chaim 308, Dirshu Note 12).


H. If the right or left side of one’s glasses broke off, HaRav Shlomo Zalmen Auerbach, Z’tl, rules that the glasses are Muktzah because one may come to repair them (ibid., Dirshu Note 93).


I. If the broom stick breaks off a broom, HaRav Nissim Karelitz, rules that one can still use the actual broom itself and we need not be concerned that one will reinsert and fix the stick in it. However, the stick itself is assur to move, as it has no independent purpose (ibid.).


J. If a wheel falls off of a carriage, HaRav Shlomo Zalmen Auerbach and HaRav Elyashiv rule that the wheel is Muktzah. Even if the wheel is still weakly on the carriage and one can still wheel the carriage itself, it would be forbidden to take the wheel off for fear that one will come to fix it on Shabbos (ibid.).


K. According to HaRav Moshe Feinstein, Z’tl, an aquarium with fish is Muktzah, and it may not be carried. HaRav Shlomo Zalmen Auerbach, however, rules that because an aquarium’s purpose is beauty one can carry it--especially if one commonly does so (ibid., Dirshu Note 147).


L. HaRav Elyashiv rules that an article of clothing which has not been checked for Shatnez is Muktzah, as one cannot wear it until it is checked (ibid., Dirshu Note 168).



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


A.  The Parasha 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 otherwise 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 Emunah was only actually attained at the Yam Suf, where the Torah records: “Vayaaminu Bashem--and the people had faith in Hashem.”  Indeed, the Ohr HaChaim HaKadosh writes that even Hashem’s Middas HaRachamim was insufficient to overtake His Middas HaDin--unless and until we sufficiently conclusively demonstrated our elevated Emunah in Hashem.  Hakhel Note:  When we recite the words “Vayaaminu Bashem” every morning--we should feel a resurging Emunah within us!


B.  The Sheloh HaKadosh provides a different insight on the Plishtim nation and Hashem’s imperative for Bnai 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 Parasha.  We are not surprised, as there are “Shivim Panim LaTorah”--so that number of explanations could be increased many times over.  One remarkable explanation is that the term Chamushim means one-fifth, and teaches us that Bnai 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 Rebbi Avrohom Yeshaya Berman, Z’tl.  The reshaim who did not want to leave Mitzraim died during the makkah of Choshech, the plague of darkness.  Yet, at the Yam Suf, the Malach of Mitzrayim argued that “the Mitzriim are idol worshippers, but so are the Bnai 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 Bnai 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, once again, the Torah testifies  ”VaYa’aminu Bashem UveMoshe Avdo”--they completed their Teshuva at the sea.  The lesson for us is clear--as we live in the Ikvasa DeMoshicha, 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 truly 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, literally, eternity!


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


G.  Some additional questions on Az Yashir:


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

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

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

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

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

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

  7. Perhaps the most famous question--With what words does the Shira conclude?


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


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


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


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



Special Note Three:  We 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 Bnai 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.  Bnai 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!




8 Shevat

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




Special Note One: Towards the end of U’Vah L’Tzion, there is a moving Yehi Ratzon which we should not allow to get lost every morning. In this Yehi Ratzon, we ask Hashem that in the zechus of our proper Shemiras HaMitzvos in Olam Hazeh we be zoche to live to and see the Yemos HaMoshiach and Olam Haba. Moreover, there is an additional significant request in this Tefillah that we add--V’Nirash Tova U’Vracha--that we inherit good and blessing in Olam Haba as well. HaRav Feivel Cohen Shlita, points out that it is one thing to live and see Olam Haba--but, it is much greater to inherit good and blessing in that eternal world as well. Think about it--if we truly make Torah and Mitzvos the primary part of our life in this world and we genuinely daven to Hashem to assist us with this--we will be zoche not only to see the Yemos HaMoshiach and Olam Haba but to Tova U’Vracha forever and ever! Hakhel Note: How can we not instill true kochos into the proper recitation of this great Tefillah?!



Special Note Two: With Tu B’Shevat a week away, we move into thoughts of preparation for a Rosh Hashana not known to the world at large. We provide below a guide of the Vaad HaKashrus of the Five Towns and Far Rockaway. We note that with respect to fresh figs, we have been advised that they are a top concern, as they can be infested with tolaim. We also add that we have been advised that there is no issues of tolaim with respect to pomegranates. As always, one should consult with his own Rav or Posek for a final p’sak in all matters.




Very Important Note: This section is only relevant when using dried fruit or nuts in America. However, in Israel, dried fruit or nuts can have a substantially more serious insect problem. One needs to seek guidance from a credible Rabbinic source when eating Israeli dried fruits and nuts.

In order to eat the vast majority of dried fruits a reputable hashgacha is required. Some of the popular dried fruits, because of storage and long shelf life can be subject to insect presence. Certain dried fruits have a more frequent insect presence than others. Nevertheless, in this guide we will list those dried fruits which have occasionally been found with insects. We will also provide methods of clear and easy bedikah for them.  


Note: Any dried fruits that appear to be damaged or rotting should either be discarded or, when applicable, opened completely and carefully examined internally for signs of infestation.


TURKISH APRICOTS: Worms can be found inside the apricot.

Although in general Turkish apricots (the thick orange apricots) do not contain worms, at times worms can be found in the middle of the sealed apricot. No statistics have been gathered indicating whether worm presence in Turkish apricots are a Miut HaMatzui halachically requiring Turkish apricots to be checked for worms. Nevertheless, when one eats Turkish apricots, several of the apricots should preferably be opened (by taking apart the two halves which easily come apart).


DATES: Worms can be found inside the date. There is a more prevalent presence of worms in dates than the Turkish apricots mentioned previously. However, no statistics have been gathered indicating whether worm presence in dates are a Miut HaMatzui, halachically requiring dates to be checked for worms.


Nevertheless, the following steps are recommended for checking dates.


Steps for cleaning dates:


1.      Take several dates from the container.

2.      Slice dates lengthwise.

3.      Examine the dates by opening up the dates completely and looking for worms.


Note: It is recommended to use pitted dates (dates that have had the pit removed). The reason for this is that the worm can be positioned on the pit itself, thus being removed when the pit is taken out. This does not mean that more premium dates, such as Medjool dates, containing the pit, cannot be checked. The above mentioned steps should be used for those dates as well. 


FIGS: Fig beetles or worms can be found inside of the fig. Note: The discovery of fig beetles or worms in figs is a very common occurrence. Therefore, there is a halachic requirement to check figs before eating them.


Steps for cleaning figs:


1.      Take each fig from the package, slice it open and turn the fig inside out.

2.      Look for presence of fig worm or fig beetle.

3.      If any insect presence is found discard that fig and continue checking the rest of the figs.


CASHEWS: Worms or small insects can be found in the cashews.


Although in general cashews do not contain worms or insects, at times worms or insects can be found. No statistics have been gathered indicating whether insect presence in cashews are a Miut HaMatzui halachically requiring cashews to be checked for insects. Since the frequency of insects in cashews is yet to be clearly determined, we can only offer some general guidelines that can indicate signs of insect presence.


  1. Cashews that look shriveled and have discoloration such as black dots can indicate that there are worms inside of them.


  1. Cashews that contain visible holes can also be a sign of insect presence.

    • In either case, the cashew should be separated and examined for the presence of small insects or worms.

    • A healthy looking cashew that is completely closed and looks fresh is free from a chashash of insects.



Special Note Three: We continue an exciting Monday/Thursday series on the practical aspects of Sta”m, written by Rabbi Reuvain Mendlowitz, Shlita, author of Inside Sta”m--An Insider Reveals The Answers To All The Questions You Should Ask When Purchasing Or Maintaining Tefillin, Mezuzos, Megillos, Sifrei Torah And Nevi’im.


For a fuller treatment of all topics to be discussed, we urge you to purchase the Sefer, which provides practical and meaningful information and ideas.




We have been discussing the question; What are the definitions of mehudar, l'chatchilah, and b'dieved?





L'chatchilah means that there is a halachic issue with the STA”M even though it is perfectly kosher according to the accepted (majority) halachic opinion. Nevertheless, there are a few prominent poskim who would question the kashrus of the item.


A common example:


The halachah is that if two letters touch each other, the STA”M becomes pasul. Can this be fixed by merely scraping away the connection between the two letters?


The Rashba rules that it depends when the letters touched. If the letters touched before the completion of the second letter, the connection may not be scraped away to kasher the STA”M item. His reasoning is that once the letters touched, the item became pasul. Therefore, even if one scrapes away the connection to allow each letter to stand free, part of the second letter was written in a pasul state. This cannot be undone by merely separating the letters. Rather, rules the Rashba, the entire second letter must be erased and rewritten. However, if the letters touched after the completion of the second letter, the STA”M item can be made kosher by merely scraping away the connection.


Most Rishonim, however, are of the opinion that one may kasher the item by scraping away the connection, even when the two letters touched before the completion of the second letter.


This latter, majority opinion is the only one cited in the Shulchan Aruch, and none of the major commentators disagree with this ruling. The halachah is therefore clearly not like the Rashba. Nevertheless, the STA”M item may not be considered mehudar. The reason for this is simply because the Rashba is not the only Rishon who ruled this way, and there are a small number of prominent Acharonim who concur with his opinion as well.


Therefore, even though the Rashba's opinion is not the accepted, final halachah, it is questionable if such an item can be considered mehudar. Rather, it would be considered “kosher l'chatchilah.”


Here is an additional, common example of how an item can be downgraded from mehudar to l'chatchilah. This one is not connected with a halachic machlokes: The proper way (for Ashkenazim) to write a lamed is with two tagin (crowns) on its head. This minhag is recorded by all Rishonim and Acharonim who discuss the letter lamed.


Unfortunately, many sofrim omit one or both tagin on many lameds for no reason, other than apparently that it is based in minhag.


Inasmuch as these tagin are not an integral part of the letter--rather additions to the existing letter--coupled with the fact that this minhag is not mentioned in the Talmud or Midrash, the lamed can still be considered kosher l'chatchilah. However, since all the poskim agree that the minhag is for a letter to be written a certain way, and the sofer does not follow this practice, the STA”M item cannot be considered mehudar.




7 Shevat

IMPORTANT REMINDER: One can help others not fortunate enough to have their own Tefillin by sponsoring a pair for someone who cannot afford it. Importantly, this can be done by men and women--yes, women can have a part of Mitzvas Tefillin as well! For further information on sponsoring a pair of Tefillin for a Shuvu child, please email: yma@shuvuusa.org.




Special Note One:  As we progress through Shovavim, perhaps each of us can take the following simple daily accounting:  One can record in writing how many times and the reason (if at all) that he got angry [or pick the middah that he knows he personally needs to improve on a daily basis]. If one is fearful that he will forget by the end of the day--then he can write it down after he realizes that he has regained full control.  In any event, when writing it down, one should think about how he can try to avoid its duplication.  One can come out of Shovavim a much greater person!



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



Special Note Three: A reader asked us to relate HaRav Schwab’s special explanation of Semichus Geulah L’Tefillah, as presented in the magnificent work HaRav Schwab on Prayer, which we have noted so many times in the past is a Sefer which is essential for every Jewish home:


Briefly, HaRav Schwab teaches that to understand the deeper meaning of Semichus Geulah L’Tefillah, we must first understand the meaning of the word Geulah. In the Torah, the term Geulah refers to one who is close (see e.g., Vayikrah 25:25 and 48-49 and Bamidbar 5:8).


Similarly, by the term V’Ga’alti Eschem used at Yetziyas Mitzrayim, Hashem was telling Bnei Yisrael that He was then establishing a close personal relationship with us. Through the miraculous events of  Yetziyas Mitzrayim, Hashem came as close to us as He can ever come. This is what the Ba’al Hagaddah means when he writes Ani VeLo Malach Ani VeLo Saraf…From the view point of Hakadosh Baruch Hu, His closest relationship to us is through Geulah.


Correspondingly, from the perspective of K’lal Yisrael the highest form of Avodas Hashem--that which brings us into the closest proximity of Him--is the korban, whose root is karov--to become as close as humanly possible to Him. In our times, Tefillah takes the place of korban. The highest form of Tefillah--the essence of which is Shemone Esrei--is when one offers himself as a korban to Hashem in sincere prayer. In the architecture of Tefillah, the Shemone Esrei actually corresponds to the Kodesh Hakedoshim, for this is where we bring our neshama from the mundane world into the closest possible way we can relate to Hashem. Indeed, when we take three steps forward and keep our feet together, we symbolize that we are leaving the mundane and drawing closer, binding ourselves before Hakadosh Baruch Hu.


Semichus Geulah L’Tefillah is, then, the connection between the closest possible relationship of HaKadosh Baruch Hu to us--through Geulah--with our closest possible relationship to Him--through Tefillah, in which we offer ourselves as a korban to HaKadosh Baruch Hu.


HaRav Schwab concludes that it is incumbent upon every individual to make the effort to work towards the goal of achieving the closest possible proximity to Hashem by connecting the concepts of Hashem’s Geulah and our Tefillah. Hakhel Note: We thereby accomplish the purpose of man!



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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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




6 Shevat

OK-NOT OK! Rabbi Yisroel Reisman, Shlita, points out that a person tends to baby, or perhaps mislead, himself by thinking: “It’s OK...to sleep late, to pamper myself, to avoid the struggle, to give in this time.” What a person should instead realize is that it is NOT OK. Using his intellect, he will be able to stop himself from a misdeed or misstatement that is truly not necessary or could have easily been avoided. When the moment of temptation comes--and one is about to think to himself: “This times it’s…”--he should add the word NOT before the word OK!


Hakhel Note: Rabbi Reisman adds that a person will battle a snowstorm to attend minyan or go to a shiur. That same dedication and zeal should be there even without the otherwise deterrent effects--for one’s intellect should always carry the way…!



DO NOT STEAL! Rabbi Yisroel Belsky, Shlita, teaches that it is the Jewish practice for one to ‘tip the scale’ in favor of a consumer when measuring something that he is selling. When one takes a bit away from the purchaser rather than adding--it is simply a dishonest dollar. No bracha rests on dishonest money earned. It is simply not ‘Gebentschedte Gelt’. Rabbi Belsky decries those who rent apartments or homes and do not pay the rent on time--even if they have a claim against the Landlord. “Not paying the Landlord that which is due--despite claims--is simply gezel”, Rabbi Belsky declared at the recent Hakhel Yarchei Kallah. Additionally, he continued, we should not be interested in finding ways or heterim for taking or keeping another’s money or property. One’s attitude to life should be straight and unwinding, clear and pristine!




Special Note One:  Many have received several reminders to recite the Parshas HaMon as a Segulah for Parnassah on this day--the third day of the week of Parshas BeShalach. We provide the following essential insight once provided to us by Yeshiva Torah Vodaas:  


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


Rav Wolfson answers as follows: “It may be that Lot did not have enough merits to be saved. During the years that he lived with Avrohom Avinu, he performed mitzvos, but they were mitzvos without mesiras nefesh. Possibly now, to warrant Hatzolas Nefoshos, he needed an extra credit mitzvah; a mitzvah performed with mesiras nefesh!”


Rav Wolfson concludes that it is rather evident that we are living in the Chevlei Moshiach, and that we can no longer assume the safety and security to which we had been accustomed to prior to September 2011. Possibly the entire financial meltdown has been needed in order to give us yidden an opportunity to do Hachzokas HaTorah and to give tzedakah, even though it may come with more mesiras nefesh than in the past.


So, when we recite Parshas HaMan, we should consciously and wholeheartedly remember that a primary goal in the financial success that we seek is the support of Torah and those who study it!”


Additional Note One: We would like to remind everyone of the real-life story that we related from HaRav Mattisyahu Salomon, Shlita, in the past.  The message remains as powerful now as it did then:


HaRav Mattisyahu related:  “I walked into a Shul in which someone was reading Parshas HaMon on the Tuesday of Parshas B’Shalach, as is the custom in some Chassidic circles. Another individual walked in and noticed that he was reading Parshas HaMon.  He exclaimed, “You might as well stop doing that.  I have been reading it for 50 years on this very day, and nothing has ever happened for me!”  HaRav Salomon reprimanded this person.  “How could you say that it hasn’t helped you?!  Have you had what to eat for the last 50 years?  Have you made Shabbos and Yom Tov? You are wearing clothing, aren’t you?”


We must remember, whether or not we recite Parshas HaMon today, that every ounce and morsel of parnassah and kalkala that is gifted to us by Hashem--whether or not we are millionaires or multi-millionaires--is part and parcel of the Mon that began falling for us more than 3,300 years ago!


Additional Note Two:  In furtherance of Rabbi Belsky’s  teaching above, we may suggest that a daily Segulah for Parnassah is to follow the words of the Shulchan Aruch, Orach Chaim 156, which is entitled “Seder Masseh U’Matan--The Order of Doing Business.”  To pick just one instruction contained in this Siman, it is: VeYissah VeYitein BeEmunah--and his conduct in business shall be with Emunah--without any aspect of thievery or deception whatsoever.  (See Mishna Berurah there, seif katan 4).  Perhaps one can take a quick or even glance look at this Siman every day--and may it bring true blessing to his work experience!



Special Note Two: At the recent Hakhel Yarchei Kallah, Rabbi Zecharia Wallerstein, Shlita, made the following essential points:


A. Life is potential--for as long as one lives, he should strive to realize that which he can.


B. Before giving words of instruction or words of tochacha to another, one should offer a small prayer: “Hashem, may my words be what they need to hear--not what I need to say.”


C. In this week’s Parasha, we learn that only 20% of Bnei Yisrael left Mitzrayim--and 80% did not experience Geulah. As the assimilation rate now horrifically hovers at 80% prior to our Geulah--it is terribly r’l similar to the 80% who did not make it out of Mitzrayim for Geulah. Everyone--everyone--has an obligation to try to save these souls so that they too may experience Geulah--speedily and in our days!


D. One may interpret the Mitzvah of V’Ahavta L’Reiacha Kamocha to mean that your best friend is yourself.  How can one demonstrate that his best friend is himself--it is by ignoring the unnecessary distractions, the Olam Hazeh diversions-- it is by spending time with himself--carefully considering what he needs to correct, and what he needs to accomplish.


E. A popular word in today’s society is ‘random’: “Oh, I don’t know it was random”; or “That was so random”…. We must understand that random is the byword of Amaleik--who saw the sea split and said “Oh, that was random.”


F. The Zohar teaches that the reason that sunrise and sunset do not occur in an instant is because Hashem loves us so much that He does not want to make us blink for no reason. Before we can truly express our love to Hashem--we must first understand how much Hashem really loves us. This is why the brachos of Kriyas Shema--Ahava Rabbah and Ahavas Olam which express Hashem’s love of us--precede the words of V’Ahavta Es Hashem Elokecha in Kriyas Shema. Constantly feeling Hashem’s love in everything around is an essential first step for growth in one’s Ruchniyus!



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


 Hakhel Note:  The obvious and great lesson we must learn from all of this is that we must view all of the advancements that we have in our time as items which are intended directly for us--and not something which just happens to be available during the times that we live in.  We must be able to incorporate the lessons, and often the tests, presented by the devices which benefit and challenge us daily.  If we treat their function and use with the same lack of clarity and seriousness as the world around us, then we have not met the purpose of their creation at this point in world history.  We should look to Shlomo HaMelech, oh so wise, as our guiding light.  He contemplated and reflected upon what the invention meant, what its benefit and use should be--and what its benefit and use should not be.  One can take a look at his phone, his computer, his ipod, his microwave, his GPS , his digital camera--everything that your grandfather or grandmother did not have--and think about how you can better use or change the use of these items to further the purpose and goals of your life.  Certainly, Hashem’s eyes are not turned away (even for a few moments) from how we act in and react to the times around us.  Despite all of technology’s Olam Hazeh trappings, the Bais Din Shel Ma’alah knows all of the gadgetry and precisely what we are supposed to be (or not be) doing with it.  The use of our cell phone, for example, is very much a part of our Din VeCheshbon after 120 years--and it can be a misused and misguided tool that c’v embarrasses and hurts us--or quite to the contrary--an otherwise small and insignificant object that joyfully raises us to a higher level in Gan Eden!




5 Shevat

FEEL THE HASHGACHA: As Jews in the Northeast endured a significant storm, many felt Hashgacha Pratis in an extremely direct way--slipping but not falling, falling but not being hurt, or c’v falling and suffering pain or injury. While this kind of clearly-felt Hashgacha serves as an immediate reminder that Hashem is with us--we should always keep Hashgacha Pratis at the forefront of our minds. If there is no milk available when one goes to buy milk in the store, if one meets a person he has not seen in quite a while, if one attends a Minyan that he does not usually attend…--this is all part of a Divine Plan and a person should always be aware of it and on the lookout for it. In the last bracha of Birchas HaShachar, we make a series of requests to Hashem, asking Hashem’s Hashgacha to be directed to us in the most successful way possible for us. Events over the recent days should reinforce the sincerity of our requests--Shetargileinu Besorasecha V’Dabekeinu BeMitzvosecha…!


Hakhel Note: In a related vein, HaRav Tzvi Meir Zilberberg, Shlita, emphasizes that whenever we daven we must believe and feel that it is in Hashem’s Hand to make anyone great or strong. Most certainly, every morning when we recite these words--U’veyadecha Legadel U’lechazeik Lakol (Divrei HaYamim I 29:12), we should reinvigorate ourselves with this magnificent and rejuvenating awareness!



TEFILLIN! In last week’s Parasha, we were introduced to the great Mitzvah of Tefillin--which contains with it eight Mitzvos Asei daily. This week should be a time for men to reacquaint themselves and reenergize their Kavannah in the “Hareini Michavein BeHanochas Tefillin…” recited before putting on Tefillin, which embodies the Kavannah that the Shulchan Aruch (Shulchan Aruch Orach Chaim 25:5) requires when putting Tefillin on every day.


Hakhel Note: One can help others not fortunate enough to have their own Tefillin by sponsoring a pair for someone who cannot afford it. Importantly, this can be done by men and women--yes, women can have a part of Mitzvas Tefillin as well! For further information on sponsoring a pair of Tefillin for a Shuvu child, please email: yma@shuvuusa.org .



IN HONOR OF SHOVAVIM: Will you engage in one less indulgence today--even if it just one less cookie than planned?




Special Note One:  The Seforno in last week’s Parasha provides an essential explanation of the words (Shemos 12:2): “HaChodesh Hazeh Lachem Rosh Chadashim--this month is for you the first of the months.”  What made ‘this month’ so special, the Seforno writes, is that until that point, the minds of Bnei 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 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: In a recent Shiur relating to Shalom Bayis, Rabbi Yosef Eisen, Shlita, made the following absolutely essential points:


1. At a major gathering in Brooklyn, HaRav Mattisyahu Salomon, Shlita, taught that if the Anshei Knesses HaGedolah were in existence today, they would establish a twentieth bracha of Shemone Esrei asking Hashem to give us back our minds--removing all of our anxieties, pressures, strains, and all of the pulls and pushes from within and without--so that our actions and our thoughts are undamaged, purified and clear. Although we do not have the Anshei Knesses HaGedolah to institute this bracha--we can certainly daven to Hashem for help especially when feeling the stresses and difficulties--in our very own sincere words.


2. HaRav Shlomo Wolbe, Z’tl, reported that the Steipeler once realized that his wife had a particularly difficult day. Late in the evening when his wife was asleep--he went into the kitchen--doing the dishes and making it spotless. He explained to a student who witnessed what he had done: “When the Rebbetzin wakes up in the morning she will see the clean kitchen and have harchavas hada’as--it will be like lifting a mountain off of her mind.” Be thoughtful!


3. Chazal (Gittin 90B) teach that when a man divorces his first wife, even the mizbei’ach sheds tears. If so--when a couple stays together in harmony--it must be a reiach nicho’ach--a very fragrant offering to Hashem on the very same mizbei’ach. HaRav Pam, Z’tl, would always point to the fact that at the time of Nechemiah, many of the returnees contributed to building the new wall around Yerushalayim, by each putting up ‘his portion’. Each one of us, through the special attention care and concern that we give to our close family members can do his part in building his portion of the wall of Yerushalayim--once again!



Special Note Four: We continue an exciting Monday/Thursday series on the practical aspects of Sta”m, written by Rabbi Reuvain Mendlowitz, Shlita, author of Inside Sta”m--An Insider Reveals The Answers To All The Questions You Should Ask When Purchasing Or Maintaining Tefillin, Mezuzos, Megillos, Sifrei Torah And Nevi’im.


For a fuller treatment of all topics to be discussed, we urge you to purchase the Sefer, which provides practical and meaningful information and ideas.






What are the definitions of mehudar, l'chatchilah, and b'dieved?




This is a very difficult question since there are no clear rules for defining these terms, and definitions often vary depending on whom you ask. We will try to give a general idea as to the definitions of these terms in as clear a fashion as possible.




Mehudar means that there are no halachic problems with the item at all. A solitary, individual halachic opinion which states that the item is problematic would not be enough to downgrade the item from mehudar, provided that this opinion has been rejected by all other poskim.


The level of beauty in the handwriting can make the item either more or less mehudar. This can be compared to a car, l’havdil, where the most important aspects are the power and quality of the engine, smooth functioning of all gears and components, clear and understandable display panel, comfort of the seats, etc. Hence, a $30,000 car can be 100% mehudar. The aesthetic beauty of the car--although noticed and appreciated--merely adds or detracts from the already-existing hiddur of the car (and the price).


So, too, with STA”M. What really “makes” the mezuzah mehudar is the halachic quality, whereas the beauty of the handwriting merely adds to or detracts from the hiddur.


Only if the handwriting is especially poor would the beauty factor alone deter us from labeling the STA”M as mehudar. This is rare, however, because most sofrim who are so careful to meet all halachic requirements generally invest effort and care in producing a STA”M product which is aesthetically pleasing as well.


We mentioned earlier, and it is worth repeating; the unfortunate reality of today’s marketplace is that when a socher says that an item is mehudar, all it means is that the handwriting is aesthetically pleasing. It has nothing to do with the kashrus of the item or with the initial determination as to the mehudar status of the STA”M.



2 Shevat

AN OUTSTANDING LINK ! Rabbi Ari Marburger, Shlita, renowned expert in Choshen Mishpat and author of Business Halachah: A Practical Halachic Guide to Modern Business (Artscroll) has graciously provided us with a booklet entitled, Estate Planning, Wills, and Halachah: A Practical Guide to Hilchos Yerusha, which is available as a free download at the following outstanding link http://www.shtaros.com/4301.html



A REAL LESSON! HaRav Chaim Kanievsky, Shlita, brings from the Zohar (Parshas Ki Sisa) that the eirev rav who left Mitzrayim with Bnai Yisrael included the chartumei Mitzrayim--who were sons of Bilam!  Hakhel Note: If the chartumim would want to associate with good--and perhaps have some Teshuvah thoughts--oh, what should we say, what should we do?! The Parasha is reminding us--let us say and do it NOW !




Special Note One:  At the outset of Chumash Devarim, the Torah tells us that on the first day of Shevat, Moshe Rabbeinu began to explain the Torah to the Bnei Yisroel.  A reader suggested that this month, therefore, is an especially auspicious time to improve the quality of one’s Torah learning--for just as Moshe Rabbeinu worked on explaining the Torah, so should we--for nothing is by coincidence, and the Torah goes out of its way to specify that all of this began on Rosh Chodesh and continued through the month of Shevat! 


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




Special Note Two:  As the Northeastern United States experiences and clears up from the recent storm, we should not stop davening that we emerge safe and sound from the storm--slippery snow, black ice and unusual walking and travel conditions.  As walkers daintily (and sometimes skillfully) maneuver, we should remember that “Ahl Kol Tza’ad VeSha’al Anachnu Modim Loch--we thank Hashem for every single step of the way-as only one wrong or difficult step can mean the difference between happiness and health and pain and suffering.  Additional Note:  It is fascinating to note that in the Birchos HaShachar we thank Hashem for an earth to step upon, then for shoes, then for the ability to take our own steps--and only afterwards for Oter Yisroel BeSifarah-- for our Tefillen or headcovering.  Our legs and our steps are a very important part of our existence--for they enable us to get to the places where we can reach our potential in Torah and Mitzvos.  We make these Brachos first in thanks to Hashem--for not only giving us the ability to ‘use our heads’--but also for all the things in between--all the intermediary steps--that it takes to get us there!



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


A. HaRav Chaim Kanievsky, Shlita, brings from the Ba’al Haturim that the Arbeh in this week’s Parasha rested on Shabbos. Why were the Mitzriyim zoche to rest from this makkah on Shabbos? HaRav Kanievsky answers based upon the Midrash (Shemos Rabba 13:6) that the reason that Arbeh was brought upon the Mitzriyim was that they forced Bnei Yisrael to plant wheat and barley--and so the Arbeh ate every last morsel that they forced the Bnei Yisrael to plant. Since, however, the Mitzriyim permitted the Jews to rest from this work on Shabbos (ibid., 5:18 )--the Arbeh also rested on Shabbos!  Hakhel Note:  Every act of Kedushas Shabbos, of Kavod Shabbos of Shemiras Shabbos….goes very much noticed and is very much accounted for!


B. The following p’sakim are provided from Shulchan Aruch Orach Chaim 307-308 (Dirshu Edition). One should consult with his Rav or Posek for a final ruling on any situation or circumstance:


1. Anything that is forbidden for a Jew to do on Shabbos, is forbidden for a gentile to do on behalf of a Jew (unless it is not done because of  minhag or chumra, in which case it would be permitted to ask a non-Jew to do so).  As a very practical example, one could not ask a non-Jew to turn on the lights in his house even in order to learn or daven (SA OC 307; Mishna Berurah seif katan 8,9).


2. One cannot hint to a non-Jew to take action by saying: “Why didn’t you do this?”, or by gesturing rather than speaking. A person may be mistaken as to the particular situations in which ‘hinting’ to a non-Jew is in fact permitted--before any hinting of any kind, a person must be certain the halacha permits it (ibid., Mishna Berurah seif katan 76, Dirshu Notes 13 and 19).


3. It is not permitted to read an advertisement on a food or drink wrapper which offers a reward or prize (ibid., Dirshu Note 56).


4.  One is permitted to read a notebook of his Chidushei Torah, and we are not concerned that he will cross-out and rewrite portions (ibid., Dirshu Note 57).


5.  Books that are forbidden to read (because of their content), whether they are forbidden to read at all or only on Shabbos, are Muktza (ibid., Mishna Berurah seif katan 62).


6. The following items would be Muktza under the category of Machmas Chisaron Kis--because of their specific use or unique value: A marriage certificate, birth certificate, passport, and any electrical or related item which its owner would not use for any other purpose (SA OC 308, Dirshu Notes 3 and 5).


7. If one has a key ring with Muktza-related keys on them--he must take off these keys before Shabbos (ibid., Dirshu Note 7).


8. Although Hashovas Aveida is a Mitzvah, one cannot fulfill the Mitzvah on Shabbos by returning a Muktza item (ibid., Dirshu Note 13).


9.  If a heel falls off a shoe and the shoe is otherwise intact and one can walk with it, it is not Muktza even if walking with it is difficult (ibid., Dirshu Note 84).


10. If a food item has been disposed of in the garbage, it should be considered Muktza because one would not take it out to eat it (ibid., Dirshu Note 75).



Special Note Four: We provide the following points and pointers on this week’s Parasha, Parashas Bo:


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


B.  Many are familiar with the contemporary Arbeh--the locusts that literally stopped 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 (Divrei 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!


C.  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 (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! 


D. 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!


E.  Rabbi Zelig Pliskin, Shlita, in Growth Through Torah (p. 160) writes as follows: “U’Lechol Bnai Yisrael Lo Yecheratz Kelev Leshono--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 Tzaddik 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 Bnai Yisrael were given the instruction to being the Korban Pesach, the Pasuk writes “Vayelchu VaYa’asu Bnai Yisrael--and Bnai 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 until 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 Bnai Yisrael not leaving Egypt on the one hand, and the eirev rav leaving together with the Bnai 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 Bnai Yisrael.  They left their homes and perhaps much of their family behind.  As a result, they joined with the Bnai 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.  In the Parasha, we are taught for the first time the Mitzvah of Tefillin. The Divrei Siach brings the following from the Sefer Minchas Todah: A man came to HaRav Chaim Kanievsky, Shlita, with a shailah as to what he should do from a ruchniyus perspective--his daughter had been born with right and left chambers of the heart reversed and required complex surgery. HaRav Chaim thought for several moments, and replied: “You should buy Tefillin and give them either to an orphan or a Ba’al Teshuvah.” He explained: “Tefillin, one would think, should be placed on the right or stronger arm--yet Hashem reversed the two for purposes of this Mitzvah. Your daughter’s chambers have been reversed as well--so in the zechus of Tefillin she should be zocha to a yeshua.” The man had a friend who was a chiloni--so he asked him if he knew of anyone who was becoming more religious and would consider putting on Tefillin, if purchased on his behalf. His friend responded that he wasn’t intending to begin putting on Tefillin--but was willing to do so for the rest of his life so that the daughter could be healed....The operation was a success!


J.  Perhaps the most famous Ramban on Chumash is the Ramban at the end of Parshas Bo:  In this fundamental Ramban, he writes (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 Malach 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 Malach 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.


Additional Note: 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 HaMagbihi 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!




1 Shevat

FROM THINK HASHEM DAILY: “Every Jew should realize how much he, as a part of K’lal Yisrael, can bring good to the world. As our Sages teach, everyone should say “The world was created for my sake.” Hashem showers benefits upon the entire Jewish nation in the merit of individuals (HaRav Tzvi Meir Zilberberg Shlita).


Hakhel Note: To subscribe to Think Hashem Daily email: ThinkHashem@gmail.com.



FROM A READER: Shevat is also an acronym for Shenishma Besuros Tovos!




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


Additional Note: We had once received the following very meaningful note from a reader:  “Regarding Teshuva BeChol Yom, a while back you had a link to a 4x5 card-size reproduction of Vidduy.  I printed it, glued it onto a small piece of tag board, and keep it in my Siddur.  Every Rosh Chodesh, I start with Ashmanu on the first day of the month, and I focus on that particular “Chet” in Selach Lanu in Shemone Esrei each day of the month, trying to think of examples of where I’ve been nutshell.  I do one (sequentially) each day. After 24 days, I have reviewed all of the 24 items in the Vidduy.  I begin anew each month. Starting Yom aleph with Ashamnu helps me to keep my place if I forget one day (although I try not to forget.)  I found this less cumbersome, more private, and more portable than keeping out my Vidduy book.”  Hakhel Note: What a wonderful hands-on idea!  We provide by clicking here the Ashamnu our reader is referring to--so that you too can adapt the idea!



Special Note Two: Today, 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: 


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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



Special Note Three: We continue an exciting Monday/Thursday series on the practical aspects of Sta”m, written by Rabbi Reuvain Mendlowitz, Shlita, author of Inside Sta”m--An Insider Reveals The Answers To All The Questions You Should Ask When Purchasing Or Maintaining Tefillin, Mezuzos, Megillos, Sifrei Torah And Nevi’im.


For a fuller treatment of all topics to be discussed, we urge you to purchase the Sefer, which provides practical and meaningful information and ideas.






Is there any reason not to order STA”M from a sofer who is left-handed or a sofer who writes with one hand, but performs all other actions with his other hand?




For Ashkenazim, using a sofer who is left-handed presents no problem at all.


For Sephardim, there may be kabbalistic reasons to refrain from using such a sofer.


HaGaon HaRav BenZion Abba Shaul, Zt’l, writes (basing himself on the Ben Ish Chai and Kaf HaChaim) that it is an extra hiddur for a Sephardi to use a right-handed sofer.


However, HaGaon HaRav Yaakov Hillel, Shlita, in a lengthy responsa, disputes this and rules that left-handed sofrim are perfectly acceptable for Sephardim as well. HaRav Dovid Yosef in Halachah Berurah and HaRav Shlomo Moalem in Yerios Shlomo concur.


According to the Mishnah Berurah, a sofer who writes with one hand, but performs all other actions with his other hand, should not be used.


Although a number of acharonim dispute this, I have heard from HaGaon HaRav Mordechai Friedlander, Shlita, in the name of Maran HaRav Elyashiv, Z’tl, that one should only rely on these other opinions b’dieved (post facto).


It is important to be aware of these halachos at a hachnasas Sefer Torah, where all sorts of people are honored with writing letters. (The halachos relative to writing letters at a hachnasas Sefer Torah will BE”H be addressed in a future discussion).


See Shaarei Teshuva siman 27 s”k 7; Shut Rav Pealim Chelek 2 Siman 9; Kaf HaChaim Siman 27 s”k 31; Kol Yaakov siman 32 s”k 24; Shu”t Vayashav Hayam Chelek 2 siman 2; Halachah Berurah siman 32 Birur Halachah s”k 12; Yerios Shlomo perek 4 footnote 5. Mishnah Berurah siman 32 s”k 18 and Mishnas HaSofer siman 3 s”k 29.




29 Teves

CORRECTING A MISUNDERSTANDING: In a recent Bulletin, we noted the words of HaRav Pam to a person who was nervous about the necessity of taking care of his physical needs during the course of davening--after he had done so once prior to beginning to pray. A reader had inquired whether this actually meant l’halacha that if one had taken care of his needs prior to beginning to daven--that he no longer had to do so during davening itself. We by no means meant to suggest that one who felt the need to take care of bodily functions during davening should not do so. There are, of course, specific Halachos regarding this--see, for example, Shulchan Aruch, Orach Chaim 92:2. HaRav Pam was responding to an individual whom he felt was overly nervous, and whose needs were in all likelihood not physical. It is accordingly imperative that one consult with his Rav on this topic in his particular situation or situations.



MULTI-MILLIONAIRE: Rabbi David Ashear, Shlita, in a recent Emuna Daily message related how an anonymous person paid $610,000 in order to merit having a coffee meeting with Tim Cook, the CEO of Apple.  Rabbi Ashear posed the astounding question--if the privilege of having coffee with the CEO of a Company that is here today and gone tomorrow is worth $610,000--what is the worth of a full Nineteen-Bracha Shemone Esrei private audience with the Ribbono Shel Olam--followed by Elokai Netzor and all of the personal requests one can insert?!


Hakhel Note: We add that the CEO could only share his human wisdom and advice, but could not help the person be wiser, healthier, wealthier…and certainly not help with the Geulah Sheleimah. To say that we are multi-millionaires at each and every Shemone Esrei is an incredible understatement…. Let us use our astounding private opportunities to their fullest--all we need is real sincerity and feeling!



THE BRACHA OVER A CHACHAM YISRAEL: The bracha over an outstanding Talmid Chochom is “Baruch Atta Hashem…Shechalak Meichachmaso Lirei’av--Who has apportioned of His knowledge to those who fear Him.” It is well known that HaRav Chaim Kanievsky, Shlita, would recite this bracha with Shem U’Malchus when he met his father-in-law, HaRav Elyashiv, Z’tl. In the Divrei Siach, HaRav Kanievsky, relates that his father (the Steipeler Gaon, Z’tl) had instructed him to also make the bracha when he met HaRav Aharon Kotler, Z’tl, and when he met HaRav Moshe Feinstein, Z’tl. When HaRav Chaim was asked upon whom one can currently recite the bracha, he replied--HaRav Aharon Leib Shteinman, Shlita.



WHEN LEAVING THE HOUSE…: HaRav Nesanel Quinn, Z’tl, menahel of Yeshiva Torah Vodaas was reknowned to say: “You’re always safer with a Sefer!”


Hakhel Note: What else are inside jacket pockets for?



GETTING READY! 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 One: The new cycle of Positive Word Power (Artscroll/Chofetz Chaim Heritage Foundation), the masterful and monumental work on Speaking Positively will begin tomorrow, Rosh Chodesh Shevat.  This Sefer is not just “recommended reading”.  It is a truly essential work, which provides for reasoned, directed, practical, and effective growth--both in the areas of personal development and in interpersonal relationships.  If you have not already done so, we urge you to obtain this Sefer, and study and really apply its useful and true-to-life lessons. 


The Sefer is actually arranged in short and poignant daily lessons.  Below is a sample of a Daily Lesson.  Even for those who are already studying the book, the following can certainly be read, reread, and reread (and applied!).  Here it is:


Everyone is well aware of the negative impact of hearing unkind words passed along about oneself.  People do not often consider, however, the ripple effects of good words being passed along.  Everyone loves to hear that something nice was said about them.  It enhances their self-esteem, and more importantly, it builds their desire to continue doing the good thing for which they were praised.  The child who was told, “Your teacher says you always have interesting ideas to add to the class discussion,” will look forward to the next opportunity to raise his/her hand in class.  The husband who is told, “Your wife always quotes your opinion,” will feel honored and admired by his wife, thereby encouraging him to continue earning her respect.  The wife who hears, “You husband says he couldn’t manage anything without you,” will be happy to dig in and provide the support her husband counts on.  People long to feel acknowledged and appreciated.  Praising someone to his face is one way to convey this recognition, yet there is always the lingering thought that perhaps the praise is meant “just to be nice.”  When a person hears that he was praised to another, the praise rings that much truer, for there can be no ulterior motive.  Aharon HaKohen employed this method to foster peace and friendship among the Jewish people.  He would tell each person how much the other person valued him, thereby building friendship and warmth.  Often, we hear good things about someone, but fail to pass it on.  It just takes a little awareness to tuck that compliment away and bring it out when it counts.  Doing so takes the positive power of the comment itself and amplifies it a thousand times over, giving someone the encouragement to keep on doing what they do well, and the blessing of knowing they are appreciated.


Hakhel Note:  Remember:  When one hears a compliment or a positive statement about someone, he should try to pass it on to the subject of the comment.



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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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


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