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10 Shevat

GETTING CLOSER!  If you begin this Monday--February 2nd and learn one blatt a day, you will be able to make a Siyum on Mesechta Megillah at the Seudas Purim!  What a wonderful way to prepare--much Agadeta about the Megillah is contained in the Mesechta.  As in the past, for women, or those who find the task too difficult, may we suggest that one begin the study of the Megilla through a Sefer or Seforim that he/she has not previously studied--and continue daily through completion until reaching the Purim milestone! 



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


A.  One of our Shabbos Zemiros begins with the words “Boruch Hashem Yom Yom Yaamos Lanu (see Tehillim 68:20).  The 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 ‘Yom Yom’--even on Shabbos--when we are not working at all.  Hakhel Note:  When someone asks how we are--and we respond “Baruch Hashem Yom Yom”--let it serve as a personal reminder to learn Torah as  soon as possible!


B.  In this week’s 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!


C. 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 39 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!



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 Pelishtim because He wanted to avoid Bnei Yisrael running back to Mitzrayim when they saw the Pelishtim out and poised for war.  HaRav Moshe Feinstein, Z’tl (in the Sefer Kol Rom) asks: Since Hashem is All-Capable, He could have simply had the erstwhile belligerent Pelishtim 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 Pelishtim’s natural reaction of war needed a special counter-active force which Bnei Yisrael did not yet fully possess.  That counter-action consisted of a higher degree of Emunah.  This sufficient Emunah was only actually attained at the Yam Suf, where the Torah records: “Vaya’aminu BaShem--and the people had faith in Hashem.”  Indeed, the Ohr HaChaim HaKadosh writes that even Hashem’s Middas HaRachamim is insufficient to overtake His Middas HaDin--unless and until we sufficiently conclusively demonstrate our pure Emunah in Hashem.  Hakhel Note:  When we recite the words “Vaya’aminu BaShem” every morning--we should feel a resurging Emunah within us!


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


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


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


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


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

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

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

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

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

f.                    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 become 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 Mefarshim 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, Parashas 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 Bnei Yisrael experienced even prior to Yam Suf, as well as to the ten nissim by the Yam Suf--and further indicating that it all transpired through Hashem’s four letter name of Rachamim--of great mercy.  Hakhel Note:  We should endeavor to recall this when reciting these Shaimos in the Shira.


3.  The Pasuk of “Mi Chamocha Ba’eilim 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, Bnei Yisrael demonstrated that they reached a level of Emunah in which they accepted--and even sang about as part of their Shira--the tza’ar of galus together with the geulah.  How could Hashem remain apart from the cries and screams for so long?  The answer is clear--He didn’t have to or need to--as there is no one as powerful; and just as there is no one as powerful, there is no one who is as far removed from our understanding as He.  Bnei Yisrael acknowledge that our being placed into a suffering-filled galus is for reasons we acknowledge that are good but that we simply do not and cannot comprehend--and we thank Him for the galus, as well.


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



Special Note Four:  Before leaving the Shira, we add a few additional points and pointers, as previously provided:


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


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


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


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




9 Shevat

A VERY SPECIAL QUOTE: “A bracha, when recited with proper intent and not absent mindedly, is an encounter with Hashem.” (Excerpted from Let There Be Rain: A Lesson a Day on Making Gratitude a Part of Our Lives (Lesson 127), by Rabbi Shimon Finkelman and Rabbi Zechariah Wallerstein). In furtherance…please see the next note.



5775 BRACHOS ‘CONTEST’: An outstanding brachos contest has commenced for both adults and children, in which one marks a card when: (i) reciting brachos rishonos and borei nefashos for someone to listen and answer amen; (ii) reciting Asher Yatzar, Ahl HaMichya or Birkas HaMazon from a Siddur or chart; and (iii) having special Kavannah in the first six words--Baruch Atta Hashem Elokeinu Melech HaOlam. Aside from the self-evident gains, and among other possible prizes including tickets to Eretz Yisrael, one also can gain letters and words in a special Sefer Torah being written for those who participate. For further information, call the Brachos Hotline at 718-301-9889, or email zyshain@gmail.com.



Special Note One: With Tu B’Shevat less than 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 reliable hashgacha agencies. 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 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.


2.                  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 generally free from a chashash of insects.



Special Note Two: We cannot underestimate and overemphasize the importance of Tefillah to our Geulah.  The Pesukim in Shemos ( 2:23 -25) had previously taught us that Hashem listened to our groans and cries, and ‘remembered’ His bris with us.  Then, again, in this week’s Parasha before Kriyas Yam Suf, we cry out to Hashem again (Shemos 14: 10 ).  Rashi explains that the Bnei Yisrael knew that this is what Avrohom, Yitzchok, and Yaakov did and would do --daven in time of need--and that they must follow suit.  The Targum Onklelus and Targum Yonasan Ben Uziel (Shemos 14:15) explain that Hashem once again heard and accepted their cries at the Yam Suf, and told Moshe Rabbeinu that they could now travel and would be saved.  How obvious need it be that what we have to do to bring about our Geulah is to cry out to Hashem as well?  If Bnei Yisrael would have been complacent in Mitzrayim, or at the Yam Suf, it is not likely that we would be here today.  We too, must grab onto what Avrohom, Yitzchok, and Yaakov did--and what our forefathers who needed the Geulah so badly did as well.  The Torah is not c’v a history book recording the history of what happened to our forefathers in Mitzrayim 3,300 years ago. That can be left to the hieroglyphics and historians. Rather, the Torah is telling us what we must do.

Practical Suggestion One:  In Elokai Netzor of each and every Tefillah ask Hashem for the Geulah, so that the Shechinah comes back to the Beis HaMikdash, and all of K’lal Yisrael can reach its epitome in Avodas Hashem, and our ultimate fulfillment in life--individually and collectively.

Practical Suggestion Two:  Many Shuls, especially with Minyanim which daven quickly, allow only four minutes or so for Shemone Esrei.  Ask the Rav or the Gabbai if they can allow an additional minute or two to Shemone Esrei before Chazaras HaShatz, in order to increase the awareness of Chashivus HaTefillah, or ask that some other needed Tefillah takanah in the Shul be instituted.  ”VaYishmah Elokim Es Nakasam VaYizkor Elokim Es Briso (Shemos 2:24 )--and Hashem heard their outcry and he remembered His covenant”--may it be fulfilled in its entirety--in our day.  It is up to us!



Special Note Three: We now continue our 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. Of course, one should ask his own Rav or Posek in his particular circumstance or situation for a final p’sak.


PART 102




I recently saw a stunning, illustrated megillah selling for a small fortune. I was thinking about saving up to buy it, and thereby enhance my fulfillment of Mitzvas Megillah. My chavrusa claims that while it may be a nice piece of Judaica, in terms of Mitzvas Megillah, not only is it not a beautification, it is a disgrace. I am rather offended by his position. Could he possibly be correct?




Actually, he is correct. While disgrace may be a strong term, the rationale behind it is accurate. Megillas Esther is part of Kisvei HaKodesh (The Holy Writings), one of the twenty-four books of Tanach. The correct way of beautifying Kisvei HaKodesh is by fulfilling all the halachic requirements mandated by Chazal. To add to the physical megillah, however, is a kind of statement that the scroll lacks intrinsic beauty. This is quite an insult to the mitzvah since in fact, there is nothing more beautiful than a mehudar STA”M item. There is no need for us to add to what Hashem and Chazal find intrinsically beautiful.


Regarding the phenomenon of illustrated Megillos, Rav Elyashiv zt”l was wont to say “ain ruach chachamim nocheh haimenu”, or loosely translated “the chachamim are not pleased with him”.


An external adornment such as a silver case is indeed befitting. It communicates: “I value my beautiful megillah [or mezuzah] so much that I want to store it in an appropriately beautiful case.”




8 Shevat

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


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


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


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



GETTING CLOSER!  If you begin this Monday--February 2nd  and learn one blatt a day, you will be able to make a Siyum on Mesechta Megillah at the Seudas Purim!  What a wonderful way to prepare--much Agadeta about the Megillah is contained in the Mesechta.  As in the past, for women, or those who find the task too difficult, may we suggest that one begin the study of the Megilla through a Sefer or Seforim that he/she has not previously studied--and continue daily through completion until reaching the Purim milestone! 


REAL CHOSHECH:  From “the husband of a reader”: “It says by the Makka of Choshech that they couldn’t see each other.  That was real Choshech!”



NOT HERE! We learned that there were above*150* recorded earthquakes in 2014 with magnitude above 6!  Aside from the-underlying message--you can definitely thank Hashem that you were not in a place in which any of them occurred.  Remember, the miracle of each Makkah was doubled by each Makkah not happening in Goshen!



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:  HaRav Elchonon Wasserman, Z’tl, in the Sefer Kovetz Ma’amarim, writes that it appeared to him that any person or nation who wanted to ‘give a klap’ to K’lal Yisrael in his generation was able to do so--and Reb Elchonon strove to find a reason why this was so.  After all, Reb Elchonon questioned--does not the Shechina always with us in Galus as the Shomer Yisrael--the Guardian of Israel?  Reb Elchonon concluded that while Hashem is, in fact, our Shomer-he is not a Shomer Sachar (for we can adequately pay or repay Him for everything that he does for us)--but a Shomer Chinam.  Now, the Halacha is that a Shomer Chinam can surrender his responsibilities at any time if he no longer would like to perform them for any reason.  Why, however, would HaKadosh Baruch Hu want to ‘give-up’ His capacity as a loving Shomer over us?  A Pasuk in Parashas Ve’eschanan (Devarim 23:15 ), he concludes,  provides the revealing answer for us.  The Pasuk states “VeLo Yirah Becha Ervas Davar VeShav Meiacharecha…so that He will not see a shameful thing among you and go away from behind you.”  What Hashem shuns, the reason He would (temporarily) not serve as our Shomer Chinam --is Ervas Davar--inappropriate breaches in the area of Tzniyus.  He therefore appealed to everyone--men and women alike--to improve and increase their level of modesty both inside and outside the home. Hakhel Note:  As we look around us--at the lions and wolves which seem to abound--some more friendly and some less--let us raise our levels of Tzniyus--of appropriate dress, demeanor and behavior-and ask Hashem to please, please watch over us as the Shomer Yisrael!



Special Note Two:  We provide the following notes in Halacha relating to the portion of Davening after Shemone Esrei:


A.  On Monday or Thursday, if one is still in the middle of Tachanun and the Tzibbur is up to reciting Berich Shemei on taking out the Torah, the Yesod V’Shoresh HaAvodah (5:8), writes that one should stop reciting Tachanun and say Berich Shemei together with the Tzibbur (Dirshu Edition of Mishna Berurah, Siman 134, seif katan 12, note 12)--because the recitation of Berich Shemei is an Inyan Gadol!


B.  If one is outside the Shul for any reason when the Sefer Torah is being taken out or being returned, it is a Mitzvah to enter into the Shul to participate, based upon “BeRov Am Hadras Melech” (ibid., seif katan 10).


C.  When the Torah is being lifted to show it to the people, the Shulchan Aruch rules that that it is a Mitzvah to look at the words, to bow, and to say VeZos HaTorah (Siman 134:2).  The Mishna Berurah (ibid., seif katan 11) adds that it is good for one to see the letters to the extent that he can read them, for the Mekubalim write that through this an Ohr Gadol will be brought upon the person (ibid., seif katan 11).


D.  When leaving the Shul after davening, one should bow and recite the Pasuk “Hashem Nicheini VeTzidkasecha Lema’an Shorerai Haishar Lefanai Darkecha--Hashem guide me in Your Righteousness because of my watchful enemies; make Your Ways straight before me(Tehillim 5:9).  This is obviously a beautiful request for one to make before he heads out to face the outside world.  The Mishna Berurah adds that the reason we bow is because the Kohanim when leaving the Bais HaMikdash after finishing their Avodah would bow as they left (Tamid 6:1-3).  We, too, are finishing the Avodah in our Mikdash Me’at!



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



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




7 Shevat

AN AMAZING ASPECT OF GEULAH! Yeshaya HaNavi, in his words of consolation to K’lal Yisrael explains (51:3): “Ki Nicham Hashem Tzion Nicham Kol Chorvose’ha--for Hashem comforts Tzion, He comforts all her ruins….” As we know, every word of Sefer Yeshaya is Kadosh and part of Tanach. This means that Kol Chorvose’ha--all of Tzion’s ruins will be comforted. No ruin will be unaccounted for! Let us daven very well and very hard for the Geulah Sheleimah in our time! What an experience--what a time!




Special Note One:  Many have received several reminders to recite the Parashas HaMon as a Segulah for Parnassah on this day--the third day of the week of Parashas 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 11th. 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 Parashas HaMon, 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 Parashas HaMon on the Tuesday of Parashas B’Shalach, as is the custom in some Chassidic circles. Another individual walked in and noticed that he was reading Parashas 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 Parashas 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!



Special Note Two: At a 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. 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.


 D. 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.”


E. 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:  As the residents of the Northeastern United States experience the challenges and lifestyle impact of a blizzard, there is a greater appreciation of Gevuros Hashem. One can sense how different it must have been for the Mitzri’im after Makkas Dam than before.  With each passing Makkah that Moshe Rabbeinu warned against, the trepidation and apprehension undoubtedly increased as well.  The fear and consternation became more and more real, and the irrationality in Paroh’s failure to release B’nai Yisrael became more and more evident.  As we have left the Makkos in Mitzrayim, and arrive this week at the Makkos at Sea, Hashem has given those experiencing winter the opportunity to sense in some way the jitters and the worry. The Ba’alei Mussar actually teach that if one feels or senses fear, he should try to shift and transfer that fear into a Fear of Hashem.  Especially when it comes to these kinds of ‘natural’ events in which with all of the radar, sensors, computers, meteorologists and the like can only guess at what will happen but cannot stop or even limit its occurrence or effects--we should be uplifted to new heights of Yiras Shomayim.  Indeed, perhaps this is part of the reason this Fear is known as Yiras Shomayim--Fear of Heaven or the Skies--for we see the great power that can be unleashed from Above which is oh so beyond our control.  If we can demonstrate some small area of growth--at least during these days--in our Yiras Shomayim, we will show that we are living with the times--and not letting them pass us by.  A better davening, a greater sense of being in Hashem’s presence (especially while walking outside), spending a few extra minutes with a Mussar Sefer--could all be examples of appropriate reactions when one senses the Awe in the events around him--and certainly in preparation for the Awesome Event at the Sea this Shabbos.  Even if one is not a resident of the Northeastern United States and was not directly impacted by the storm, he can and should certain be moved together with the millions of his brethren who did experience it.


You may have your own ideas as to how you can show your appreciation and understanding of the times and events around you -- but show you can and show you must!



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



Special Note Five:  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 you learned.  You can read them over on Shabbos, or review them from time to time and k’vel (take nachas in yourself).  Over a week--it amounts to 21 teachings that you did not know before--and over the Year--it’s more than 1,000 new Torah points in your possession!  You can then begin doing the math on your own--10 years--10,000 teachings...20 years--20,000 Torah acquisitions...  Truly a magnificent accomplishment!




6 Shevat

THE 30-SECOND PEACE PROCESS: The bracha of Sim Shalom, even if recited paying attention to the words and in a deliberate manner will take no longer than 30 seconds to recite. Yet, it requests peace from the Source of All Peace--what greater chance for success can there be than that?! In these turbulent times for the family, community and for the world, let us focus on peace--and we can have a good part in bringing it--in only seconds a day! Focus--it will be worth it!



20%: Rabbi Zecharia Wallerstein, Shlita, notes that in this week’s Parasha (Shemos 13:18), we learn that V’Chamushim Alu Bnei Yisrael MeiEretz Mitzrayim can be interpreted to mean 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! Hakhel Note: Rabbi Moshe Faskowitz, Shlita, brings in the name of the Chasam Sofer that chamushim can also refer to the fact that each family of K’lal Yisrael that did leave brought along five children from those who were not zoche to leave. Accordingly, we each should make the effort--to bring along five of these children in our generation as well! Remember that-- unlike the Geulas Mitzrayim--the Geulah Sheleimah will be forever and ever!




Special Note One:  The Seforno in last week’s Parasha asks why it is “HaChodesh Hazeh Lachem Rosh Chadashim--this month is for you the first of the months.”  What made ‘this month’ so special, the Seforno 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: 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 Yisrael, 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 new 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!



 Special Note Three: We now continue our 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. Of course, one should ask his own Rav or Posek in his particular circumstance or situation for a final p’sak.


PART 101



Many stories go around about people who check their mezuzos and tefillin, and discover amazing connections between problems in the STA”M item and problems in their life. Are all these stories really true?



While I cannot vouch for the authenticity of every single story out there, there certainly are thousands of true stories. Allow me to share one of many with which I was personally involved:


A friend once brought me the mezuzos from his apartment for a “checkup.” As he was walking out he turned to me and said, “Do me a favor, keep a close eye on the word לבבך.” Resisting the temptation to ask what was wrong, I nodded and set to work, burning with curiosity.


The first six or seven mezuzos that I checked appeared to be in perfect order. However, as I opened the next mezuzah, I immediately noticed, right on the second line of the mezuzah, the word לבבך had been written with a space between the two ביתין. My amazement grew when I realized that the word לבבך on the third line and the word לבבכם on the ninth line suffered from the same deficiency. The shock was complete when I saw the word בניכם on line 18 was also separated.


I took a look at the label on the bag to see from which door this mezuzah had come (since the friend had wisely labeled each mezuzah in order to return each one to the door from which it had come). It was the mezuzah from the bedroom of his two year-old son.


When I called to tell him what I had found, he almost dropped the phone. “I can’t believe it!” he kept on muttering. He then proceeded to tell me that just a few days earlier he had taken his son to the local pediatrician for some very ordinary ailment.


But as soon as the doctor put the stethoscope to the child’s chest, he told the parents that the child must be taken to a cardiologist. They immediately arranged an appointment. After examining the child, the cardiologist pronounced: “The two chambers of the heart are too distant from one another. There is too much space there!”


The doctor then proceeded to express his amazement that this condition had not been discovered until now. Evidently, anyone listening to his heart with a stethoscope would immediately hear that something is not right. Furthermore, he explained, this is not a condition which develops over time. Rather the child must have been born with it. How could the pediatrician never have noticed this before?


My friend then related to me that they returned to the pediatrician and repeated what the cardiologist had told them.


“Of course I know that this is a condition that children are born with, and can immediately be detected with a stethoscope!” the doctor exclaimed. “However, I have examined this child many times, and I can guarantee you that this was never in evidence before! I was so amazed when I heard it now in your two year-old that I immediately sent you to a cardiologist!”


The still-reeling father then told me, “No one had ever slept in the room with this mezuzah until two weeks ago when we had a new baby. At that time, we moved my son from his previous room into this room. Obviously this was the first time he had been to the pediatrician since moving into the room with this mezuzah.”


Although from a halachic standpoint, the mezuzah could be fixed, my friend said he would prefer to buy a new one, since he was so agitated by what happened. He then went to an outstanding sofer, and purchased a brand new, very expensive mezuzah.


When they returned to the cardiologist six months later, as they had been instructed, there was good news. After examining the child, the cardiologist informed them that there had been “dramatic improvement” and the two chambers of the heart had become much closer together!




3 Shevat

A REAL LESSON! HaRav Chaim Kanievsky, Shlita, brings from the Zohar (Parashas Ki Sisa) that the eirev rav who left Mitzrayim with us 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?!



LET US WORK ON THIS!:  The Chofetz Chaim in the Sha’ar HaTevunah (Chapter 7) goes to special lengths to describe the imperative of judging others favorably.  In the course of his discussion, he brings a beautiful and emotional plea or Tefillah actually contained in the classic Sefer Tanna DeVei Eliyahu (containing the teachings of Eliyahu HaNavi) itself.  If we make the effort to look at the good side in others-- that is the side of ours that will appear before Hashem (and others) as well. There is a tefillah which asks for Hashem's guidance and assistance in one's personal trials to judge others favorably. We also provide this tefillah (as provided in the past) by clicking here.




Special Note One: 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 a rest of the 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 because they forced Bnei Yisrael to plant wheat and barley--and so the Arbeh ate everything 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. In the Shabbos Zemiros we sing “Hirhurim Muttarim, U'leshadech HaBanos”--if a non-Shabbos matter enters into one's mind he has not violated a Shabbos prohibition--and one can actually engage in trying to redt Shidduchim on Shabbos.  In fact, because one should be more circumspect with his speech on Shabbos in order to avoid the prohibition of "Dabbeir Davar"--it is quite likely that he will be most careful with his dibbur in general--and hopefully pure and Lashon Hora free in the course of the entire Shidduch discussion!


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


D.  The Mishna Berurah brings that there is a special fulfillment of Torah study on Shabbos if one is able to formulate his own Torah chiddush--whether on the Parasha, in what he is learning--or based upon or rooted in the Rav's Drasha or the D'var Torah of another.  If one particularly concentrates on a question he has on a Pasuk or Parasha on Shabbos--and tries to apply that which he already knows to the problem--he may find that he really does know the answer--just as the cholent on Shabbos tastes differently than during the week (even if the brachos mentioned above are the same!) so too does one's Shabbos study taste differently than during the week.  After all, the gashmius of this world serves as a role model for our ruchniyus



Special Note Two: 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 Arbeh--the locusts literally stopping in their tracks as they reached the gate of Komimiyus, the renowned Shomer Shemitta settlement.  The inhabitants were unsure as to whether they should publicize this great miracle--and asked direction of the Brisker Rav, Z’tl.  The Brisker Rav responded with the Pasuk (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!  Hakhel Note: We too MUST see the light!


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


 E. 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!


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


G.  The first Mitzvah given to K’lal Yisrael as a people is found in the Parasha 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--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 Linsivasi--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!


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


I.  In a significant and related thought, HaRav Levenstein points to the sad paradox of 80% of the Bnei Yisrael not leaving Egypt on the one hand, and the eirev rav leaving together with the Bnei Yisrael who did leave, on the other (Shemos 12:38).  To explain, he once again points to the person’s Lev.  What is required of a person is his Teshukah and Ratzon to do the will of Hashem to walk into the wilderness.  At the time of Yetzias Mitzrayim, one could have been a great Torah scholar--but if he did not want to leave Egypt , he would die there.  No Zechus Avos would help him--and he would not merit Matan Torah at Har Sinai and everything else that followed.  The eirev rav, however, had the passion, the feeling to want to leave--and to see what Hashem would do for Bnei Yisrael.  They left their homes and perhaps much of their family behind.  As a result, they joined with the Bnei Yisrael--and made it to Matan Torah.  In this world, with sincerity and dedication one can achieve great heights.  The G’ra explains on the Pasuk, Mai’ashpos Yarim Evyon that one who has true aspirations (the Shoresh of Evyon is Ta’ev)--he will be lifted up from the depths to the heights!


J.  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!


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


HaRav Mattisyahu Salomon, Shlita, explains the relevance and scope of these words in our daily lives.  The Mashgiach notes that the Ramban here uses the word “modeh”, to admit that Hashem is our Creator, no less than seven times in the course of his advice here.  The more we admit, and admit again, and again and again, that Hashem is our Creator, the easier it will be for us to do battle with our Yetzer Hara who constantly tells the individual that he is a creator and is in control of his life and his goals.  We must, instead, constantly repeat and reinforce the words of Dovid HaMelech (recited in the weekday Shacharis--Tehillim, 100:3), “Hu Asanu VeLo Anachnu--He has made us, and we are His.”


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


Imagine walking boldly over to a King who is sitting on his throne--and swiping away his crown.  The audacity!  The absurdity!  When we act with ga’avah--with haughtiness--when we view or place ourselves in charge, we foolishly take away the very crown that belongs only to Hashem, as we recite in Tehillim (93:1):  ”Hashem 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 Mei'afar 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!




2 Shevat

THE MOST DIFFICULT”: The Ba’al HaTurim, in last week’s Parasha teaches that the four verbs utilized to describe how Hashem takes us out of Mitzrayim--V’Hotzeisi, V’Hizalti, V’Ga’alti, V’Lakachti, each represent a Geulah from one of our four exiles. The last--V’Lakachti--represents the Geulah from the most difficult Galus--Galus Edom . As we strive towards the end of this most difficult Galus--let us capture as many opportunities for Talmud Torah and Mitzvos as we can--for the most difficult Galus will engender the most glorious Geulah, and to each person his state and status in the time of Geulah will very much depend on how he behaved in the Galus that brought him there!



HOW A BA’AL BITACHON GOES TO WORK : The Sefer Chovos HaLevavos (Sha’ar HaBitachon, Chapter 3) teaches that when a person goes to work and is at work, his Kavannah should be to properly perform the Mitzvas Hashem to be involved in the upkeep of the world. As the Pasuk (Bereishis 2:15 ) teaches about Adam HaRishon--he was placed in Gan Eden “Le’avda U’Leshamra--to work it and to guard it”. With this in mind, none of our work tasks need be menial or insignificant. With the proper attitude and approach they are all meaningful, necessary, and not only fulfilling--but fulfilling the will of Hashem!



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 Shevat! 


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



Special Note Two: At the outset of his Siddur, HaRav Yaakov Tzvi Emden, Z’tl (the “Ya’avetz”), brings a powerful and concise Tefillah from the Zohar Chodosh to battle Ka’as (anger) throughout the day. Of course, seforim and books have been written on means and methods to control this terrible Middah (including the relatively recent great work “Anger”, by Rabbi Zelig Pliskin, Shlita). The Ramban brings in the Igeres HaRamban that “Kol HaKoes, Kol Minei Gehinnom Sholtim Bo--anyone who angers, subjects himself to ‘all kinds of Gehinnom’.  Why to ‘all kinds’ of Gehinnom’--why is anger deemed so deleterious??  The Ba’alei Mussar explain that from this one bad Middah, one is catapulted into sins of all kinds --ranging from Ona’as Devorim to murder, and from Chillul Shabbos to Chillul Hashem.  A primary tool in combating Anger is tefillah, because by praying to Hashem, you show that you care enough about it to ask Hashem for assistance in helping you prevent it.  Accordingly, we are providing by the following link-- http://tinyurl.com/khv4xff  this short tefillah brought by HaRav Emden to be recited at the beginning of the day.  As you will see from the link, the Sefer Techinos U’Bakahshos (from which the typeset has been excerpted) writes that the Chidah states that this Tefillah is a Segulah Nifla’ah--a wonderous Segula--to be saved from anger [we have not independently verified this statement as to the Chidah’s words--but even the claim is highly significant].  May the tefillah’s recitation at the outset of the day provide a source of Siyata DeShemaya, of calmness and serenity, of shalom bayis and shalom bachutz...until the next morning!



Special Note Three: We now continue our 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. Of course, one should ask his own Rav or Posek in his particular circumstance or situation for a final p’sak.


PART 100



The magiah just returned my mezuzos and informed me that three of them are kosher only b’dieved. What do I do now? Must I replace them?




This is a fundamental question which depends on how one understands the concept of kosher b’dieved. The literal translation of b’dieved, which guides some poskim, is: “When it has (already) been done.” In other words, if the mezuzah has already been purchased and used, it is kosher and may continue to be used even though it should not have been purchased in the first place. Other poskim understand the matter as follows: “When it has already been done, we can accept its use until now; but from now on, a new, l’chatchilah mezuzah must be used.” (This assumes that you can afford it. If you cannot afford it, then it remains a b’dieved situation, and the mezuzah may still be used.)


There are a number of factors, though, which may help determine which of these approaches should be adopted in a given situation.


The first is to know in what way the mezuzah (or other STA”M item) is kosher only b’dieved. Here are two examples:


1) Sometimes a letter will be missing a component which, although required, does not invalidate the item according to any halachic opinion. Nevertheless the status of the item is now only kosher b’dieved.


2) There is a defect which most poskim rule does not invalidate the item (and the prevailing custom is in accordance with their lenient opinion), but many other poskim rule that it does. Such a letter is also only kosher b’dieved inasmuch as many Acharonim rule that it is actually pasul.


Now, while there may be room to be lenient in accordance with the first interpretation of b’dieved in the first case mentioned above, in a case like the second one, where a number of poskim actually hold the item is not kosher, a concerted effort should be made (if you can afford it) to acquire a new mezuzah.

Two additional factors to take into account are these: a) whether or not you are renting; b) which doorway the mezuzah came from. Some poskim will tell you that if you are renting, or if the mezuzah came from a doorway which is not a Torah obligation, you may continue to use the b’dieved mezuzos.




1 Shevat

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 we 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!



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). In Europe : HaRav Yaakov Wreschner, Shlita ( Manchester ) is available between  9:15AM and 10:15AM  and between  1:15 and 2:15PM . His mobile number is 07980641399. Dayan Aharon Dovid Dunner, Shlita, is available at 02088008555 (no set hours).


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


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




29 Teves

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 the coming 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 Parnassah 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 his/her 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 Lashon-Hara free--and keeping it at all costs.

·                                 Every time you recite Asher Yotzar or an after Brocha, it should be from a Siddur or a written text.

·                                 Recognizing the goodness that Hashem bestows upon you by constantly saying “Baruch 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! 



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



Special Note Four: The Chasam Sofer (brought in Love Your Neighbor) provides a highly meaningful teaching in last week’s Parasha, on the words of Hashem: V’gam Ani Shoma’ati Ehs Naakas Bnai Yisrael--and I also have heard the cries of Bnai Yisrael.  To what does the word also refer?  The Chasam Sofer answers that Hashem listened to the cries of Bnai Yisrael because the suffering brothers had first listened to each others’ cries and tried to help each other--it was because they listened to each other--that Hashem also listened. They did not say--”I have my own problems... I can’t hear more about this ...What do I need to hear out this nudnik for...”. Rather, in spite of their own personal suffering--they thought about others, cared about others, listened to them, and tried to help in whatever way they could. This, in spite of their closeness in proximity to the Mitzriyim--who were the archetypal ‘fair weather’ friends. As HaRav Ezriel Erlanger, Shlita points out, the “Sheva Paros Yefos Mareh”--the seven good looking cows were the seven good years--because the Mitzriyim only looked nicely at each other when all around them was well and good...but when the years of difficulty began--they became Paros Ra’os--everyone looking at each other with harshness and cruelty. It is the true hallmark of Bnai Yisrael to be Gomlei Chesed to each other under any and all circumstances--whenever and wherever they may be. 


Hakhel Note: At a Hakhel Shiur, Rabbi Zev Smith, Shlita, brought a Midrash which teaches that the gift Hashem sends someone in need (of parnassah or other yeshua) could very well be a miskein--a poor or unfortunate person whom Hashem especially directs towards the person in need, so that when one commiserates with him, shows brotherly love and tries to help--Hashem can also do likewise to him...!



Special Note Five:  It is important to note that although the first nine Makkos were plagues that hit home in a very earth-related way, the Makka of Makkos Bechoros clearly came directly from Heaven--with no hand or mateh bringing it about, as the Neshamos of the Bechorim left them.  Some commentaries point out that we learn from here that ultimately nothing is in the hands of a human being or his ‘stick’--but instead, in the end result it is all up to Hashem.  Once again, as the Egyptian Bechorim were being killed, all the Bechorim of Bnei Yisrael were being saved (even if it was otherwise their time to pass away).  When we begin looking for human, logical, psychological, sociological, physiological, etc. causes for circumstances, situations and events--let us think of Aharon’s hand, of the wonderful mateh--and the fact that it was finally absolutely clear to all that it was HaKadosh Baruch Hu who took us out of Mitzrayim!




28 Teves

FROM A READER: In your recent note on Tefillah, you had written: “If one is on a plane and has a choice between sitting for Shemone Esrei so that he does not see any “Tefach Beisha, or standing and turning away, then it is better to stand and turn away or at least close one’s eyes (Oz Nidberu 12:27).” I believe that contemporary poskim disagree with this element of davening on a plane, such as HaRav Shlomo Zalman Auerbach, Z’tl and others, who rule that it is ALWAYS better to sit when davening on a plane....”



HAYOREH EHS D’ VAR HASHEM: At the end of last week’s Parasha, we are taught that the Mitzriyim who feared the word of Hashem (Shemos 9:20) brought their animals in from the field in the wake of the oncoming barad, but in contrast one who did not put his heart to the word of Hashem (ibid., 21) left his animals in the field--and they were destroyed by the barad. The clear contrast provides a real lesson for us in the meaning of Yiras Shamayim--do the words of Hashem make an impact upon us--do we truly take them to heart? How do we perform the daily mitzvos of netilas yodayim, tzitzis, tefillin...mitzvos over which we recite the outstanding words ‘Asher Kideshanu Bemitzvosav’?  An ikar in our daily Yiras Shamayim is to be sam lev--not to be on auto-pilot, by-rote, or  in ‘weekday mode’--but rather to pay special daily attention to the word of Hashem--for it is from this that one’s salvation can come! 




Special Note One: Today, 28 Teves, is the Yahrzeit of HaRav Shmuel (Refoel Shmuel B’R Aryeh Leib) Berenbaum, Z’tl, who taught by conduct to his students and to the world the unparalleled Chashivus of even the smallest segment of Torah study.  We provide below a few brief samplings of his teachings:


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


2.  Every night at Maariv, we recite “Ki Haim Chayeinu”--for the Torah and Mitzvos are our life. HaRav Berenbaum asked his students to focus closely on these words.  Torah is not “merely” like oxygen or water--rather, as Chazal teach us, it is life itself!!  Oh, how we should value life!!  Hakhel Note:  In a Hakhel Shiur, Rabbi Yisroel Reisman, Shlita emphasized how important ‘those extra two minutes’ are to growth in Torah--when waiting for one’s  spouse who says “I just need another two minutes to get ready”, when reaching ‘the two dots’ a couple of minutes early, when waiting for a late bus or train--the extra review, the extra mishna, the extra Rashi one manages to cover--are not only signs of one’s personal attribution of importance or special dedication to Torah study--but the actual route to true Torah achievement!


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


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


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


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



Special Note Two: We now continue our 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. Of course, one should ask his own Rav or Posek in his particular circumstance or situation for a final p’sak.




Is it true that I am supposed to leave a mezuzah on the front door when I submit all the others to be checked?



No. The mitzvah of having a mezuzah on the front door is not any more “special” than any other door. As far as the shmirah (protection afforded by the mezuzah) is concerned, certainly no harm will befall an individual who is following the instructions of Chazal.




I just got my mezuzos back from the magiah and would like to put them back up. Do I need to make a berachah?




This question is a subject of great dispute among the poskim.


Just about all poskim agree that if the doorway has been left overnight without a mezuzah, a berachah is required.


If however the mezuzah is re-affixed on the same day, there is a major dispute as to whether a new berachah is required. But the number of poskim who maintain that a new berachah is indeed required even on the same day increases under any of the following circumstances.


a) If a significant amount of time elapsed from when the mezuzah was removed until the time it was returned it to its doorpost. (I.e., it was removed at 9 A.M. and is being re-affixed at 6 P.M.)


b) If you took a nap (of half an hour or more) after the mezuzah was removed, and before it was re-affixed.


c) If the mezuzah is re-affixed to a doorpost other than the one it came from.


d) If the magiah found a problem which rendered the mezuzah pasul according to some poskim, but was able to fix it. (If it was pasul completely, a new berachah is obviously required.)


e) If the mezuzah had fallen off the doorpost (or was hanging by one nail) prior to being checked.


f) If the previous brachah on the mezuzah had been made by a prior tenant or owner.




25 Teves

FROM A READER: “R’ Chaim Yechiel ben Malka (Rothman) remains comatose since the massacre in the Har Nof shul. He is one of the survivors of the Islamic terror attack in Kehillas Bnei Torah on Agassi Street in the Har Nof neighborhood of Yerushalayim on 25 Mar Cheshvan 5775 (November 18, 2014). Rav Chaim was moved to the Beit Levinstein Rehabilitation Hospital, which is designed for long-term care. R’ Chaim is the father of ten children. His wife Mrs. Risa Rothman reports that he is “ever so slowly” showing tiny signs of consciousness. Mrs. Rothman calls on the tzibur to be mispallel for her husband as well as doing acts of chesed in his name towards his recovery.”



Special Note One: We continue with our Erev Shabbos--Halachos of Shabbos Series. Today, we present several important p’sokim from Shulchan Aruch Orach Chaim 306-307:


1. The Pasuk of ‘Mimtzo Cheftzecha’ prohibits one from going to a place which can be perceived as work-related (such as his field or his business) and reviewing or studying something there. However, if it is not discernible that one is thinking about his work or business affairs and one thinks of pleasant or at least non-disturbing thoughts about work/business related issues, this kind of ‘hirhur b’asakav’ would be permissible. One should, however, keep in mind where his initial business-related thoughts may lead him to: ‘I did not do this’, ‘I should have done that’, ‘I forgot this’, ‘Did I lose money on that?....’ It is important that one remember the words we recite at Shabbos Mincha--how we should experience Shabbos: “Menuchas Shalom V’Shalva V’Hashkeit Vavetach Menucha Sheleimah She’ata Rotzeh Bah--a rest of peace and serenity and tranquility and security, a perfect rest in which Hashem would find favor”  (see SA OC 306, Mishna Berurah seif katan 1, Dirshu Note 38). Hakhel Note: Many wonder what the Mizmor Shir L’Yom HaShabbos has to do with Shabbos itself. Rabbeinu Avrohom Ben HaGra answers that the essential Shir of Shabbos is Tov L’Hodos LaShem. Rabbeinu Avraham explains that the neshama yeseirah which enters us on Shabbos always remains in its pure form and reminds us on Shabbos of all that we have to thank Hashem for. This is vital because during the work week, when one may be burdened with his business affairs and does not experience true Menuchas HaNefesh, his words of thanks may not be fully expressed. On Shabbos, when the light of our additional neshama gifted to us from above shines--what should shine along with it is our shevach to the Borei Olam. Based upon this teaching, we must recognize that ‘allowing’ ourselves to think about our businesses and jobs could really undermine the essence of Shabbos as Rabbeinu Avrohom explains it-- Tov L’Hodos Lashem!


2. A lessor or a lender should not prepare a rental or loan agreement which provides for daily rental rates or daily accrual of interest without first consulting with a Rav as to how to properly understand or structure the transaction--otherwise, the gains for the day of Shabbos would be Sechar Shabbos. For instance, there could be different reasons that hotel charges in a Shabbos setting could be permissible-such as payment being made for the food, for the cleaning of the room, etc. (ibid. Mishna Berurah, seif katan 19; Dirshu Note 13).


3. Doctors and midwives should be paid for the services they perform on Shabbos, and if they refuse, they should be given the money as a gift--so that they do not become discouraged in any way from performing such acts in the future (ibid., seif katan 24, Dirshu Note 21).


4. Although measuring on Shabbos is prohibited, measuring for the sake of a Mitzvah is permitted. Accordingly, if one needs to measure a specific amount of formula needed by an infant with the measurements listed on the baby bottle, the Ohr L’Tzion rules that he could do so (ibid., Dirshu Note 31).


5. One is permitted to announce that an object has been lost on Shabbos, even if it is Muktzah and could not be returned on Shabbos itself (SA OC 306: 12).


6. HaRav Shlomo Zalmen Auerbach, Z’tl, rules that one is permitted to own vending machines which operate on a 24/7 basis, and one does not violate Lifnei Iver--for one need not assume that they will be used on Shabbos. The Maharshag writes that they should not, however, be located on one’s property (SA OC 307, Dirshu Note 16).



Special Note Two: We provide the following points and pointers on this week’s Parasha--Parashas Va’eira:


A. The Makkos are divided over the course of two Parashios--seven in this week’s Parasha, and three in next week’s. We would like to suggest that perhaps one reason they have been so divided is that, after experiencing a majority of the Makkos, we have the time to take a step back and appreciate them without getting too used to all of the miracles.  If we keep going straight through all of the Makkos, by the eighth miracle, everything seems ‘old hat’, already to be expected, and not as ‘miraculous’.  This indeed is a trap that we can fall into in our everyday lives as well, with all of the daily miraculous events and occurrences around us not being properly appreciated.  It is perhaps for this reason that we are to re-ignite ourselves daily with a lively and joyous Mizmor LeSodah every Shacharis (see Shulchan Aruch, Orach Chaim 51:9), as well as a meaningful Pesukei DeZimra and Birchos Kriyas Shema-- reacquainting ourselves with the wondrous miracles and thanking Hashem for them anew.


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


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


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


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



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



Special Note Four:  This week, as we move from the Parasha of Shemos describing the horrors of Golus to the beginnings of redemption, we must definitely contemplate--what brought us to the Geulah--what turned the tide?  The Posuk is pellucidly clear: “Vayishma Elokiym Es Na’akasam--and Hashem heard their cries.”(Shemos 2:24)  It was the pain of Golus that we could no longer stand and which Hashem would not let go unnoticed.  As the Parashiyos are a signal in time for us, we must understand that these days are also days in which we must cry out from the pain of Golus and beseech Hashem in His great mercy for redemption.  We must be especially careful to recite the Brachos of Shemone Esrei relating to ending this Galus and beginning the Geulah with special fervor and real feeling.  As we have noted, the Golus Mitzrayim and the Golus Edom that we currently live in have a strong and direct correlation.  With these proper Kavannos, may we too experience in the upcoming days some of the Nissim described in the coming Parasha and Parashiyos.


With the primacy of tefillah in mind during these times, we provide several Halachos relating to tefillah from the Sefer Tefillah KeHilchasa by HaRav Yitzchak Yaakov Fuchs (author of the Halichos Bas Yisrael):


  1. The place where one davens (even for a woman at home) should have windows.  One can look up at the sky before starting Shemone Esrei, or look up when feeling that his Kavannah is weak, in order to arouse himself to Hashem’s greatness and one’s own humility.


  1. A man should not daven in a place when facing a “Tefach Meguleh Beisha”—the part of a woman’s body which should be covered.  Ideally, he should turn to another direction.  In cases of exigency, he can close his eyes.  The Yabi’ah Omer adds that Tefach Beisha is also prohibited if the exposed part of the woman is seen through a mirror or even in a picture.  However, if one is on a plane and has a choice between sitting for Shemone Esrei so that he does not see any “Tefach Beisha”, or standing and turning away, then it is better to stand and turn away or at least close one’s eyes (Oz Nidbiru 12:27).


  1. If one has the choice between davening Mincha earlier in the day, which will allow others you are unsure will daven with a Minyan to so daven , or to daven later in the day closer to sunset (which is otherwise the Halachically preferred time to daven Shemone Esrei--immediately after sunrise in the morning and immediately before sunset in the evening) , then it is better to daven earlier to allow the earlier Minyan to take place.  Additionally, it may in any event be better to daven at the first possible Minyan that you encounter, notwithstanding any other benefits of a later Minyan.


  1. One should not daven opposite pictures or artwork.  If one is already in such a position, he should keep his eyes closed.  One should not daven in front of a mirror, even with closed eyes.  In the evening, when davening opposite a window, he should pull down the shade so it does not appear that he is bowing down to his image.


  1.  There is a special zechus to be among the first ten to daven.  Even within the first ten, the earlier you are there, the greater the zechus.  Indeed, even after the first ten, the Iturei Zahav writes, “the earlier you are the closer you are to the “Shoresh Hakedusha-- to the source of holiness (!).”  If is difficult for one to be among the first ten in the morning, he should try to be among the first ten for Mincha and for Ma’ariv.  Always remember --the earlier --the better!


Hakhel Note: The Kuntres Havu LaShem Kavod points out that the only Pasuk in Ashrei (Tehillim 145) that does not contain a Vav Hachibur is the Pasuk of “Karov Hashem Lechol Koreav Lechol Asher Yikrauhu VeEmes--Hashem is close to all who call upon Him--to all who call upon Him sincerely.” The reason there is no Vav Hachibur explains the Kuntres is because Dovid HaMelech is emphasizing to us is that in order for Hashem to be close to us and to our Tefillos--we must daven with sincerity and feeling; bland, habitual and “have-to-daven” Tefillos do not bring one closer to Hashem. Accordingly, one must make special effort--especially in Shemone Esrei as one recognizes before Whom he stands to put one’s intellect and feelings, one’s being into his Tefillah--so that it brings him closer to Hashem, and is effective not only for himself--but for all of K’lal Yisrael!




24 Teves

PUBLIC NOTICE: We have been advised that the cRc is looking further into the previously published list of acceptable Ricolas, and that further information should be available within the week.



MEKOL AHM V’LASHON: Immediately before reciting Kriyas Shema during Shacharis, we affirm: “U’Vanu Vacharta Mekol Ahm V’Lashon--and You have chosen us from every language and tongue.” HaRav Ezriel Erlanger, Shlita, teaches that our addition of the word Lashon here is not simply for purposes of poetry or prose. Rather--it is to emphasize to us that one of the great aspects of our uniqueness is in how we speak and what we speak about. We are a people who demonstrate through our spoken words that our essence is Torah, Tefillah and words of Gemilas Chassodim. If we find that a significant part of our words do not involve one of these great elements of our existence--we must take the time and make the effort to re-evaluate, reconsider--and redirect the use of our speech so that we can proclaim daily with truth and pride--U’Vanu Vacharta Mekol Ahm V’Lashon!



ESSENTIAL INSIGHT: Rabbi Dovid Goldwasser, Shlita, provides the following essential insight: “The Mailitzer Rebbe, Z’tl, taught:  If none of us would harm each other, then no enemy of the Jewish People would be successful in harming us either.  We have so many enemies--let us stop them in their track.  Just as in Mitzrayim we gathered together to love and help each other and this ‘bris’ hastened their Geulah--let us do the same family by family--showing an extra special level of caring and joy to be with your parent, spouse and/or sibling.”




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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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



Special Note Two: Today is the Yahrzeit of the Ba’al HaTanya (HaRav Shneur Zalman B’ R’ Boruch, Z’tl). HaRav Shneur Zalman is also known as the Ba’al Shulchan Aruch HaRav and the Alter Rebbe. We once again provide a remarkable story, as presented in an issue of the Me’Oros HaTzaddikim:


There was once a chassid of the Alter Rebbe who was a peddler of goods and made a living traveling from town to town selling his items. One time, the Rebbe asked him questions and after hearing the chassids responses, the Alter Rebbe advised him that he should always carry with him three challahs. The chassid did not understand why the Rebbe would give him such a strange instruction, but the chassid did exactly as the Rebbe instructed, trusting that one day he would understand why he got such advice from the Rebbe. And so it happened, one day that the chassid was traveling before Shabbos and he lost his way. Shabbos was approaching soon so he quickly tried to find a place to stay. He knocked on a house and the owner came out with a friendly smile. They exchanged greetings and the chassid explained to the man that he needed a place to stay for the night. The man invited him in and led him to his room. Now, this man was a non-Jew, and when he opened the door to his room, the chassid realized that there was a friend that was going to be staying with him that night--a huge dog that was almost the size of the chassid himself! He realized that his host was not as friendly as he first appeared to be and quickly turned around to exit. By this time the door was locked, and the non-Jew told him through the door that in this room ‘people go in but do not come out’. The chassid started to daven to Hashem and said vidui. He then noticed that the dog was just sitting quietly in his corner. The chassid then began to daven Mincha. Still, the dog was quiet. He then davened Kabbalas Shabbos and Maariv. The chassid remembered that he had three challahs with him so he found some water in the room, washed and made kiddush on the bread. The dog listened to kiddush, so to speak, and afterwards was very excited. The chassid realized that the dog wanted some challah, so he ate a kezayis and gave the dog the rest of the loaf. Needless to say, the rest of the night, he did not sleep, with such a friend in the room who would sleep? Morning came and the chassid davened Shacharis and the same scene repeated itself with the challah. After Shabbos the owner of the house opened the door to the room carrying a broom and bucket hoping to clean up the bones of the man. Lo and behold he found the chassid sitting in one corner and the dog in the other. He screamed at the dog, “Get that Jew, eat him!” but the dog wouldn’t move. The chassid then said to the dog “Get that man!” and the dog jumped on the non-Jew, tore him apart and killed him. Then the dog took the Jew by his kappota and dragged him to the forest. There he took him to a place where the chassid found a great treasure, a chest filled with gold coins. The non-Jew acquired it all by killing and stealing it from his former guests. The dog grabbed the Jew again and took him outside the forest near his village. At that point the dog died. The Jew realized where he was and made his way home. Before going home he stopped by the Alter Rebbe to tell him all that had transpired. The Rebbe took him in and told him the following: The dog was a gilgul (reincarnation) of a Jew who did not properly fulfill the mitzvah of eating after making kiddush. His punishment was to be stuck in the body of this dog. When you made kiddush for him this was its rectification. The reason he took you to show the gold coins is because he wanted to repay you for helping him accomplish his tikun so he can go to Gan Eden. The Rebbe told the chassid that he should open a business with the gold coins which the chassid did and became a rich man. Needless to say, the chassid realized why the Rebbe gave him the seemingly strange instruction to carry the three challahs with him at all times….



Special Note Three: We now continue our 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. Of course, one should ask his own Rav or Posek in his particular circumstance or situation for a final p’sak.




The magiah told me to label each mezuzah to know which doorway it came from. Why?



There can be three reasons for this, one practical and two halachic:


The practical reason is that, unfortunately, one may be checking the mezuzos because illness or misfortune has befallen a family member. If, indeed, the mezuzah from the bedroom doorway of that person is found to be pasul, it can be a source of comfort and new hope to know that a new mehudar mezuzah will be affixed to that same doorway.


One halachic reason revolves around the idea of “horada b’kedushah.” Horada b’kedushah literally means “lowering the holiness.” A classic example would be the following: It is prohibited to take the parashiyos, battim, or retzuos from a tefillin shel rosh, and use them instead for a tefillin shel yad. This is because the tefillin shel rosh, once it has been used, is more kadosh (holy) than the tefillin shel yad, and it is prohibited to begin using something on a lower level of holiness after it has already been used on a higher level.


The principle comes into play regarding mezuzos because, as we have discussed, there are different types of doorways. Some doorways must have a mezuzah due to a Torah obligation, some due to a Rabbinic obligation, while still others are a matter of dispute. Many poskim contend that to place a mezuzah on a doorway that is a matter of dispute or only obligated by Rabbinic law after it had already been used on a doorway obligated by Torah law, constitutes a problem of horada b’kedushah – and is prohibited. By labeling each mezuzah prior to handing it over to the magiah, and subsequently returning each one to its previous doorpost, such problems are avoided.


The second halachic reason for this recommendation is related to brachos. The common custom is not to make a brachah when re-affixing mezuzos on the same day they were removed from their post. On the other hand, most poskim agree that when removing a mezuzah from one doorpost and re-affixing on another, a new bracha is required.


By labeling each mezuza one can avoid questions regarding brachos.



23 Teves

GETTING THE CHODOSH GUIDE: The free .pdf version of Guide to Chodosh for the year 5775 is available by sending an email to chodosh@sefer.org.


Hakhel Note: What a wondrous work!



FROM A READER: “The Rav of the Shul which is closest to the Paris supermarket has asked everyone to remember that the Kedoshim who were killed were shopping for Shabbos, performing the Mitzvah of Kavod Shabbos. Each and every one of us should think about how he can improve the Mitzvah of Kavod Shabbos, so that the Kedusha of Shabbos stretches into Erev Shabbos and the days which precede it.”



FROM A READER: “I want to comment on R’ Gamliel Rabinovitz’s comment in yesterday’s bulletin that  since the Sonai Yisrael are after our blood,  that we should be careful with our food because our food becomes our blood.  Damim also refers to money, and perhaps the additional lesson is that if the terrorists are after our dam, then middah k’neged middah we not only have to be careful about the kashrus of our food which becomes our blood, but the kashrus of our damim, our money.  Indeed, your comment in today’s bulletin regarding Moshe Rabbeinu taking his flock to graze in the desert to avoid gezel, and the geulah that results because of this, proves this point as well.”


Hakhel Note: See Special Note One below.



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



IN HONOR OF SHOVAVIM: We are now in the second week of Shovavim--special days of return to Hashem occurring over the first weeks of Sefer Shemos--weeks which take us out of the doldrums of personal galus into the mirth of personal Geulah. Will you engage in one less indulgence today--even if it just one less cookie than planned?




Special Note One: We are at a pivotal point in the year--what path will this year be directed in?  One should contemplate where tangible improvement is necessary, and where that improvement can be effectuated, even if only to a small degree.  To get to your destination, you have to get on the road.  Here are some examples:   Honesty--Avoiding the appearance, taint, and if you will, stench, associated with marginal honesty or dishonesty, and behavior or conduct  that your Rav (or someone else you look up to) would not be proud of; Giving up the extra few dollars to make sure that you are on the right side of the law.  Words--watching them in a new and special way, whether in the way brachos are expressed, or the elimination of sharp, rough, gruff or unbecoming words from your vocabulary (no matter how many letters they are)--so much purity or impurity can come out of that small aperture we call the mouth.  It is no wonder, then, that the Hebrew word for mouth is ‘Peh’-- having exactly the same letters and root as ‘Poh’-here---as if to indicate that it all starts and ends here--at the mouth.  In fact, in last week’s Parasha, Moshe Rabbeinu pleads with Hashem--who am I to speak to Paroh, and Hashem immediately reminds him--”Mi Sam Peh LaAdam (Shemos 4:11)--Who makes the mouth of man work--is it not Hashem--you must use it for what you are supposed to, recognizing that it is Hashem Himself who is making it work!.  Yiras Shomayim--think first--is the joke really that necessary, especially in Shul (even in the hallway), or while in the midst of  performing a mitzvah?  Other examples of Yiras Shomayim could include: (a) sitting straight in awareness of your Maker’s presence (as we have related in the name of HaRav Matisyahu Salomon, Shlita); (b)coming on time to daven (as HaRav Simcha Bunim Cohen, Shlita pointed out at a Hakhel Shiur--what lengths would you go to not to be late to a meeting with HaRav Chaim Kanievsky, Shlita--and HaRav Kanievsky also serves Hashem!); and (c) choosing silence for a few moments in honor of your realization that you are in the Creator’s presence (as  per HaRav Avigdor Miller, Z’tl).... There are, of course, those other Middos or Mitzvos you know you have to get to (the thoughts, the Kabbalos of just a few months  ago)--this is the time, and this is the place...you need only utilize the G-d given opportunities that lie very much ready and waiting in front of you!



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


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


We may suggest that the Kal V’Chomer does in fact work.  Moshe Rabbeinu was saying: If Bnei Yisrael--the slave people who were the subject of the good news were to be released and still refused to accept it, then why would Paroh as their master take it to heart?!  Chazal, by teaching us that this really is a Kal V’Chomer, are teaching us that the reason Bnei Yisrael did not listen was not a good one.  For, despite the fact that we can commiserate with their unbelievably difficult plight, they should, in fact, have listened to Hashem and to Moshe Rabbeinu.  So too, Paroh, despite his grand position and iron-clad rulership, should have recognized and understood Moshe Rabbeinu’s message to him as well.  Any excuses would simply be unacceptable, as they would more than pale in significance to following the clear and unequivocal mandate and directive of the Master of the Universe, Hashem and His messenger, Moshe Rabbeinu.


Bringing the Parasha’s lesson home:  If we are true believers--i.e., if we truly believe that all of the events and occurrences that surround us, everything that happens to us in life, all of the big and small events, the pain we may suffer and the pleasures and simchas we experience--are personally directed and “micromanaged” by Hashem--then there are certain attitudes and certain phrases which should have no room in our thought process or our vocabulary.  If Hashem has put you in the situation, no matter how stressful or troubling, then He wants you to act responsibly in that situation in accordance with the Torah and the Poskim, which in some instances may require further elucidation by your Rav or your Posek.


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


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




22 Teves

REMINDER OF OUR IMPORTANT NOTICE!  We provide by clicking here an Important Notice relating to the Jewish ownership of certain banking institutions.  Please spread the word!



TEVES! The Luach Bnai Yaakov points out that the Hebrew letters for Teves--Tes Veis and Tuff are an acronym for Tov Vori Tomid--My Creator is Always Good!



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



MESIRUS NEFESH! At the recent Lev L’Achim/P’eliym breakfast in Flatbush, stories of great Mesirus Nefesh by Lev L’Achim volunteers were related. We provide only one example, which may be a bit amusing, but brings the point home: A volunteer knocked on the door of someone in Lod and asked if he could learn with him just once a week. The response was a definite “no” and the door was about to be shut. Out of the corner of his eye, the volunteer noticed a dog at the other end of the apartment and exclaimed: “What a beautiful dog!” “Would you like to come in and pet it?” “Yes, sure.” After several minutes with the volunteer and the dog, the man did agree to learn once a week. When the volunteer was later asked by his friends whether he grew up with his family owning a dog, he responded: “No, and as a matter of fact, I am afraid of dogs!”


In a different vein, it was related that a wealthy individual came to HaRav Shteinman and asked him if he gave $500,000 to a particular Tzedaka, whether he could be in Olam Haba with HaRav Shteinman. After thinking about it, HaRav Shteinman said: “No, but I believe that for $6 million to this Tzedaka it could work out.” The man left, saying that $6 million was too large a sum. When HaRav Shteinman was asked why he was confident that the man would be in his Olam Haba for $6 million--HaRav Shteinman responded: “If he gave $6 million, it would truly be an act of Mesirus Nefesh and it is I who would hope to be together with him in his Olam Haba!”


Lev L’Achim is asking for $45 a month ($1.50 per day) to join Project Rishum--to save a Neshama in Eretz Yisrael. They unabashedly state that the claimed sinah against chareidim by the masses is very much untrue, and that the great majority of the people can be reached. It is up to us to show our Mesirus Nefesh--and participate! When you join Project Rishum, you are bringing a child closer to Torah--who in turn brings other members of his family closer to Torah as well. You may be saving much more than one Neshama! Even if $45 a month seems like a significant sum, one should give it serious consideration--if necessary making it a part of one’s Mesirus Nefesh! To join--please email levatthebay@gmail.com, or mail your check or headchecks to Lev L’Achim, 1126 East 23rd Street , Brooklyn , New York 11210 .




Special Note One:  Points and pointers on the Shovavim period we are in:


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


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


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



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


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


Hakhel Note: HaRav Yitzchak Zilberstein, Shlita asked HaRav Chaim Kanievsky, Shlita what people should be davening for on a general basis over and above one’s individual needs.  HaRav Kanievsky responded--for the Moshiach to come….Let’s do so with sincerity and feeling!



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



Special Note Four:  The following very meaningful episode is part of the Shomrei Halashon Program, as excerpted from the book Tales of The Tongue  by Esther Ehrenreich and Chaya Kahan (Artscroll/Mesorah):  “Gunshots and explosions filed the air.  Inside the shelter, people sat crowded together.  No one dared look outside.  A fierce battle was waging and the Jews of the land were the first to suffer.  HaRav Eliyahu Lopian, Z’tl sat among them, immersed in Torah thought.  Suddenly, a man broke his train of thought:  ‘Rebbe!’, he said anxiously, ‘they’re speaking Lashon Hara here!’.  “Really?  We must leave here right away!’   HaRav Eliyahu had less concern for the bombs falling right and left.  For him, the sin of hearing Lashon Hora was far greater than the possibility of being hit by falling explosives.   Hashem guided his steps in the right direction, for shortly afterwards a bomb fell on the shelter....’  Hakhel Note: Lashon Hora , the Chofetz Chaim especially reiterated and reinforced to our generation is reviled by Hashem to such an extent that it can involve up to 31 Torah violations. Let us follow the lead of HaRav Lopian--and in these dangerous times stay as far away as possible from this extremely deleterious and highly pernicious behavior--and from those who seek to endanger others with it.  As the wisest of all men taught:  “Holech Es Chachomim Yechkam--walk with the Chachomim to become wise--for “Ro’a Kesilim Yeiroa ....those who stay around those who promulgate evil... (we won’t say more--but will only add that it doesn’t make it better if the promulgator is a close family member, someone who you speak you at work who ‘isn’t frum anyway’ or an old classmate or friend who only calls you up from time to time--it is  still Lashon Hora). 


Hakhel Note:  To help, we remind you of the Chofetz Chaim Heritage Foundation’s free service--The Shemiras Halashon Shaila Hotline -by which expert Poskim in Shemiras Halashon answer all of your Shailos about Shemiras Halashon--in Shidduchim, Business, family matters--who doesn’t have a Shaila about what should be said or how you should say it?  The Hotline’s number is 718-951-3696, and its regular hours are 9pm to 10:30 pm , and in emergencies at other times, subject to a Rav’s availability. In Europe: HaRav Yaakov Wreschner, Shlita (Manchester) is available between 9:15AM and 10:15AM and between 1:15 and 2:15PM. His mobile number is 07980641399. Dayan Aharon Dovid Dunner, Shlita, is available at 02088008555 (no set hours).




21 Teves

REMINDER--DAM KADOSH: As we have noted in the past, HaRav Gamliel Rabanovitch, Shlita, explains that in this last Galus of Galus Yishmael, the Arabs seek nothing else but Jewish blood. He teaches that the way to prevent the Arabs from any future success in this area is by making our blood holy (‘Dam Kadosh’), so that they can have no shelita, no power, over it. How can we make our blood Kadosh? HaRav Rabanovitch explains that there are two primary ways to do so:


1. One should be as careful as possible with the Kashrus level of the food and drink he consumes--looking for Mehadrin products, and not settling for ‘bedi’eved’ Kashrus situations. The Kedusha of what one eats will be carried through his blood stream.


2. One should be careful to recite brachos over food and drink with Kavannah--thereby further instilling Kedusha invested in the food and drink into the blood stream of our bodies.




KE’ILU LO YODA:  Chazal teach that the ‘new’ Paroh that we encounter at the outset of last week’s Parasha really did know who Yosef was--but just acted as if he did not know him. The Ba’alei Mussar point out that the same is true of us when we sin--we act as if we don’t know the consequences of sin--but we really do.  Is it right to act like Paroh?!



VAYIZAKU!  In last week’s Parasha we learned that Bnei Yisrael cried out from their hard work--and Hashem listened to their plight.  Yet, the Pasuk does not specifically there record that they cried out to Hashem.  How was just crying out from work enough for Hashem to pay heed?  A Rav answered because whenever a member of K’lal Yisrael cries out--Hashem is in his words--”Oh, Hashem please help me!” This is still an awesome prayer!


FROM A READER--EXCERPT FROM A RECENT ARTICLE PUBLISHED IN THE WALL STREET JOURNAL ENTITLED “SCIENCE INCREASINGLY MAKES THE CASE FOR G-D”: “…The fine-tuning necessary for life to exist on a planet is nothing compared with the fine-tuning required for the universe to exist at all. For example, astrophysicists now know that the values of the four fundamental forces--gravity, the electromagnetic force, and the “strong” and “weak” nuclear forces--were determined less than one millionth of a second after the big bang. Alter any one value and the universe could not exist. For instance, if the ratio between the nuclear strong force and the electromagnetic force had been off by the tiniest fraction of the tiniest fraction--by even one part in 100,000,000,000,000,000--then no stars could have ever formed at all. Feel free to gulp. Multiply that single parameter by all the other necessary conditions, and the odds against the universe existing are so heart-stoppingly astronomical that the notion that it all “just happened” defies common sense. It would be like tossing a coin and having it come up heads 10 quintillion times in a row. Fred Hoyle, the astronomer who coined the term “big bang,” said that his atheism was “greatly shaken” at these developments. He later wrote that “a common-sense interpretation of the facts suggests that a super-intellect has monkeyed with the physics, as well as with chemistry and biology. . . . The numbers one calculates from the facts seem to me so overwhelming as to put this conclusion almost beyond question.” Theoretical physicist Paul Davies has said that “the appearance of design is overwhelming” and Oxford professor Dr. John Lennox has said “the more we get to know about our universe, the more the hypothesis that there is a Creator . . . gains in credibility as the best explanation of why we are here.” The greatest miracle of all time, without any close seconds, is the universe. It is the miracle of all miracles, one that ineluctably points with the combined brightness of every star to something--or Someone -- beyond itself.” [The Wall Street Journal, December 26, 2014 ]


Hakhel Note: It appears that we are getting close to the times of: “U’malah Ha’aretz Deiah Es Hashem



REMINDER--WITH WINTER UPON US: RICOLA--FROM KEHILAH KASHRUS OF FLATBUSH: Subsequent to a great deal of research by the CRC of Chicago, the following flavors of Ricola Drops have been found to be acceptable for use in our establishments TO THE EXCLUSION OF ALL OTHER RICOLA VARIETIES: Green Tea with Echinacea (sugar free), Honey Herb, Honey Lemon with Echinacea, Lemon Mint (sugar free), Lemon Mint, Lemon Verbena, Menthol (sugar free), Mountain Herb (sugar free), Natural Herb (original).”




Special Note One: As we have noted in the past, HaRav Mattisyahu Salomon, Shlita, teaches that what made Shifra and Pu’ah so successful was their Yiras Shomayim.  Accordingly, HaRav Salomon urges--we should select a Mussar Sefer and study Mussar daily to attain Yiras Shomayim--and we will be able to succeed, as well. 


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


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



Special Note Two:  When a spacecraft takes off, it travels a great distance on the initial burst of energy at blastoff.  Then, it must continue to travel on new and potent sources of additional energy.  As soon as the Yomim Tovim of Tishrei concluded, we immediately continued to be energized by Chumash Bereishis. As we began Chumash Shemos this past week, we must recognize that it is a time to re-inspire and re-energize ourselves


Perhaps we can start with the “sur mei’ra”--not falling into the pitfalls of previous weeks--not going through another seven-day cycle of work, chores, learning, sleeping, Shabbos…work, chores, learning, sleeping, Shabbos…work, chores, learning, sleeping, Shabbos…. Instead, we can focus on how the next days will be different, will show a change, some kind of improvement.  They will not simply be yet another seven days of winter, or the week that is “two months before Purim”, or “three months to Pesach(!)”.


Here are a few of suggestions for invigoration.


Let this week be the week in which we:


·                     Live in complete harmony with our spouse or boss--not even raising our voice once

·                     Give additional Tzedakah every single day

·                     Come to every Tefillah on time

·                     Feel that Hashem is listening to us in every Shemone Esrei--as we ourselves attest “Ki Ata Shomaya…”

·                     Pause to think about Yerushalayim and the Bais HaMikdash, either when mentioning them at one of the many points in davening, or at some time during the day

·                     Daven for someone else or do a Chesed Shel Emes every day

·                     Think about a mitzvah or middah that we would like to improve on and take some step--albeit small--in that direction


Parashas Shemos teaches us that Bnei Yisrael got into an unfortunate rut which lasted for 210 years.  Let us do our part to steer clear of that rut in the coming week!



Special Note Three: We now continue our 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. Of course, one should ask his own Rav or Posek in his particular circumstance or situation for a final p’sak.





When removing my mezuzos to have them checked, must I substitute borrowed mezuzos until I get them back from the magiah?



If substitute mezuzos are readily available, then it would certainly be praiseworthy to try to obtain them. If, however, this is not practical, you need not make strenuous efforts to obtain them, and may leave the doors without mezuzos. Of course, you should not delay in re-affixing the mezuzos to their doorposts once the magiah has completed the check.




I have already had my mezuzos checked a number of times, and was always told that they are of a good quality. Must I continue sending my mezuzos to a magiah to check, or may I check them myself?



Although from a halachic perspective you may indeed check them yourself, it would be advisable to continue sending them to a magiah. It would also be advisable not to send them to the same magiah each time.




18 Teves

THE WORLD’S BEST SEGULAH--THIS TIME WITH NEKUDOS! In last week’s drasha to his Shul (Agudath Israel of Madison ), Rabbi Yisroel Reisman, Shlita, described the card that we provide by clicking here. Once again, whether or not you follow ‘Segulos’, we suggest that following and observing it will provide you with great zechusim.




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


A.  As the vehicle spins in its tracks for an extended period of time over a patch of stubborn ice, one gets a glimpse of how easy it really is to “get stuck.”  With this in mind, we will better understand why, at the conclusion of our prayers for the coming week in Ata Chonantanu on Motza’ei Shabbos, we plead that our coming week be one in which we are “Medubakim B’Yirasecha”--attached to the fear of You.  Although we cannot keep the heightened Olom Haba-like quality of Shabbos the whole week, we pray that the element of closeness to Hashem we experienced on Shabbos be stuck with us through the week, so that we do not err in thinking that it is my special power that accomplished this, his bold ingenuity that accomplished that, their personal connections that changed this, or its access to money that bought that.  The one who is “stuck” to the fear of Hashem knows very well that the truck getting “stuck” on a patch of ice in a specific location, or someone getting “stuck” in Rhode Island because of a snow storm to the south is the act of the Creator and Observer in Whose presence we all stand, serve and function.  He also knows that the relief from any such uncomfortable situation is also under His guidance and direction!


B.  The following is excerpted from The Shabbos Home by Rabbi Simcha Bunim Cohen, Shlita:  “Mothers often put plastic bags over their children’s feet or shoes to enable them to don their boots more easily.  These plastic bags are not considered garments, and thus, it is forbidden to have children wear them when going outdoors on Shabbos (except in an enclosed yard).”  


C.  We are advised that HaRav Moshe Wolfson, Shlita, tells his students to write down on Motza’ei Shabbos those things which they did especially well, and the things which he did wrong, over Shabbos, and that they look at them next Erev Shabbos--so that one Shabbos is a building block for the next one--and one constantly builds.  What a grand idea!


D. The following are teachings from the revised Third Edition of Shemiras Shabbos Kehilchasa, published by HaRav Yehoshua Neuwirth, Z’tl, on the topic of activities of a gentile’s on a Jew’s behalf on Shabbos:


1.  Just as you cannot generally instruct a gentile to undertake a prohibited activity on Shabbos, you can likewise not generally benefit from a prohibited activity--even if you did not ask him to do it on your behalf.  For instance, if a gentile of his own volition turned on a light for a Jew on Shabbos--then no Jew--even one who the light was not turned on for may derive direct and actual benefit (even to daven or study Torah by its light) from the light--for the gentile has performed a Melacha D’Oraysa.  If one sees that a gentile is about to turn on a light for his benefit--he should prevent the gentile from doing so.  If the gentile did not listen to the Jew’s demands to stop, then the Jew may derive benefit from the light.


2.  The same Halachic analysis would apply to a gentile who cooked food, or adding water to a food in a pot on the fire for a Jew because the gentile smelled it burning. 


3.  If a gentile puts out a light in a Jew’s home without being asked and against the Jew’s will, and then puts back on the light--one may derive benefit from the new light.  However, if the gentile turned back on the light because of the Jew’s reproof over his extinguishing the light, then it is forbidden to benefit from the re-lit light.


4. If the gentile had performed prohibited activity on behalf of a Choleh She’Ain Bo Sakana, then everyone may derive benefit from the activity, provided there is no reason to suspect that the gentile did or will do more prohibited activity for anyone else other than the sick person, and that no muktza prohibition is involved.  Thus, if a gentile turned on a light for a sick person, everyone can benefit from the light (for ‘Ner LeEchad, Ner Leme’ah’--the light is needed by the sick person, and no additional light is being turned on for the healthy person) --but if the gentile cooked something for the sick person, a healthy person cannot eat it lest the gentile had put in more (or will put in more) on the healthy person’s behalf. 


5.   If a gentile performs work on Shabbos solely for his benefit or for the benefit of another gentile, and there is no chashash (no basis to suspect) that he has or will do more of the same in order for a Jew to also benefit, nor is there any muktzah issue as a result of the work performed, then a Jew can benefit from the activity on Shabbos as well.  For instance, if a gentile turned on a light for himself in a room and started to read, to look at something, to wash dishes or the like, and there was no Jewish person present in the room, and a Jew then walked in--he too would be able to sit down and read, because the same light will be used, and there is no additional light that needs to be turned on merely because another person has come into the room to read (Ner LeEchad Ner LeMe’ah).  The same would be true even if the non-Jew left the room--as the work was initiated by him exclusively for his own benefit.  Furthermore, if he is leaving the room one can even ask him not to turn it off--as no melacha is being performed by merely leaving on the original light.   



Special Note Two:  We provide the following notes on this week’s Parasha, Parashas Shemos: 


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


B.  There is another remarkable lesson from the fact that the Bnei Yisrael were able to multiply to such an extent under the horrifying conditions under which they lived.  That is, you may sincerely and legitimately come to a logical analysis and conclusion about a particular person, circumstance, situation, or event, and quite a different conclusion may (and in so many cases will, in fact) result.  There should have been no way for an oppressed, beaten, and downtrodden people to continue to exist for two hundred years, let alone thrive.  Yet, “the more they were afflicted, the more they increased and spread out in the land.”  Similarly, in last week’s Parasha, after Yaakov Avinu’s Petira, Yosef no longer sat with his brothers to eat their seudos together.  Rashi explains that the brothers “concluded” that Yosef was now showing his true feelings towards them--avoiding them at all costs because of his anger and disdain for them.  The Sifsei Chachamim to Rashi teaches that Yosef’s feelings were really just the opposite.  He did not want to eat a meal together with them, because he felt that as a younger brother it would be inappropriate for him to sit at the head of the table.  On the other hand, it would not be “Kavod HaMalchus,” showing the proper respect for royalty if he simply sat among them, and let his older brothers sit in the more dignified positions.  He therefore determined that it would be best to avoid the issue (the Sifsei Chachomim does not explain why he didn’t explain this to them, but it may be related to halachic concerns relating to mechila, or that he did explain it, and they were concerned about the other reason as well, but we certainly cannot judge).  So, from both last week’s Parasha and this week’s Parasha, we know that “jumping to a conclusion” albeit perfectly logical and justifiable, is absolutely incorrect.  One’s attitude towards another person should not be determined by a one-time look over, a few cursory conversations, or even a few misstatements, insulting remarks, or mistakes.  Very often, conclusions, even if scientific, can be wrong, and one must realize that Hashem runs the world, that there is more than meets the eye, and that if one consciously reframes his initial analysis, determination, or conclusion into a more favorable and positive one--he will ultimately see that this will prove constructive not only in his interpersonal relationships, but for his own personal optimism and happiness, as well.  Now, you may “conclude” that you know all of this--and that it is not you, but the other guy, who jumps to those conclusions.  Nevertheless, we ask that you reconsider this very conclusion--and, one by one, as they happen, catch yourself from jumping to those negative, unwarranted, and simply incorrect conclusions--instead seeing the beauty of Hashem’s Guiding Hand, and the beauty of His Wonderful Creations and His Wonderful world! 


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


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


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


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


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

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


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


Remember-you are always on holy ground!


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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



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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


Hakhel Note:  Erev Shabbos is also one of the specially designated time periods for Teshuva--so that we can properly greet the Shabbos Queen.  Even if one must wait until Sunday--let us give important moments of thought to the measured and hallowed words of the Chovos HaLevavos!




17 Teves

FROM A READER: Apropos to your bringing the comment of the Chofetz Chaim that a gilgul is worse than Gehenom: Rabbi Nachman of Breslov writes that after a person passes away and is brought before the Heavenly Court he should insist that they should “finish with him” there and then – even if it means Gehenom, c’v, rather than to be sent back in another gilgul.  And he writes that this is in a person’s power to do! May Hashem grant each of us the ability to “finish” what he has to do in his lifetime!”



FROM PRAYING WITH FIRE --RELATING TO GALUS AND GEULAH! Rashi cites a Mechilta that explains the phrase “it was at the end of four hundred and thirty years [that Bnei Yisrael left Mitzrayim]”. The Mechilta tells us that once the preordained end of the exile arrived, Hashem did not delay the Jews from leaving for even the ‘blink of an eye’. But the arrival of the preordained time was not enough by itself to set the redemption in motion, the Ramban explains. It was when “Hashem heard their moaning” that He remembered His covenant. “They were not... redeemed, except for the fact that their prayers were accepted with pity and mercy.” Tefillah, along with repentance, will be the catalyst that sets in motion the Final Redemption as well. The She’arim B’Tefillah (Harav Shimshon Pincus, Z’tl) notes that even if everything is prepared and ready for the Redemption, if the Gates of Tefillah are not opened--by us--nothing will be accomplished. This is the meaning of the pasuk, “With weeping will they come, and with supplications will I lead them.” (Yirmiyahu 31:8) As the Darchai Noam comments, “One must be very careful with his tefillos, certainly in the time when the arrival of Mashiach is at hand…for it is on them--those very tefillos--that the coming of Moshiach depends.”




Special Note One: Today is the 210th Yahrzeit of the Maggid of Dubno, HaRav Yaakov b’r’ Zev (Wolf) Kranz, Z’tl, whose legacy of Meshalim to bring lessons of the Torah to us all remains unparalleled to this very day.  Some of the Maggid’s Mesholim have been collected in English in The Maggid of Dubno and His Parables by Dr. Benno Heinemann (Feldheim Publishers).  We present below one of the great Mesholim, excerpted from this meaningful Sefer:


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


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


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


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


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


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


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



Special Note Two: We now continue our 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. Of course, one should ask his own Rav or Posek in his particular circumstance or situation for a final p’sak.







Everyone knows that mezuzos should be checked twice in seven years. Does that mean any two times within the seven-year period, or exactly once every 3½ years?



Once in 3½ years. Although, it does not appear that it needs to be strictly exact, as the minhag in Ashkenaz was to check them every time there is a second Adar. This is approximately twice in seven years.




I learned that although a private person’s mezuzos must checked twice in seven years, a public (communal) mezuzah, such as one on a city gate, must be checked only twice in fifty years. I live in an apartment building with sixteen families who are all Jewish. Do the mezuzos on the front door of the building and the stairwell fall into the category of a private or public mezuzah?



They have the status of a private person’s mezuzah, and thus need to be checked every 3½ years.




I remember hearing that nowadays mezuzos have the same status as tefillin, and don’t need to be checked at all. Is that the case?




There are a number of prominent poskim who indeed maintain that INDOOR mezuzos need not be checked at all. The logic behind this position is that nowadays our homes are insulated, and therefore present no possibility of damage from the elements. This was, of course, a primary reason for the Rabbinic ordinance to have them checked in the first place. However, experience has shown that nowadays fading or cracked letters and tagin are extremely common, often occurring with the passage of time. Furthermore, a magiah will often discover issues on subsequent checks which may have been overlooked (or deemed unimportant) by an earlier magiah.




16 Teves

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



WHITE TEETH! In last week’s Parasha, with the words U’levehn Shinayim Mei’chalav, we learn of the importance of white teeth (Bereishis 49:12). It is said that HaRav Avigdor Miller, Z’tl, once explained to someone why he felt that even as a zakein muflag he was still blessed with all of his beautiful teeth: “It is because I thank Hashem for them every day!”


Hakhel Note One: In contrast, we learn on the seder night that the rasha questions the need for what we do at the Seder--and we blunt his teeth!


Hakhel Note Two: A Rav quoted his Rebbetzin as saying: “Imagine if Hashem would give us tomorrow only what we thanked Him for today!”


Hakhel Note Three: We may additionally suggest that teeth is a part of the human body which emerges after the person is born, in a sense representing the person’s personal growth--the ‘nurture’ beyond the ‘nature’, the personal effort that we each have to put into life. HaRav Miller, Z’tl, used the teeth to teach how we have to thank Hashem for each and every thing--we can also use the teeth to remind ourselves that we must go beyond that which we are born with--and develop ourselves into someone not even imagined at birth!



STOP! A reader advised us that in his bungalow colony a stop sign provided an appropriate acronym:







Each person should have many stop signs during the day--whether or not he is in a motor vehicle!



THE NEXT GILGUL: One may have heard the quips: “I may have done that in a previous gilgul” or “I won’t do this in my next gilgul”. Although comments such as these may be intended to be humorous, or to gently push away a criticism or something in need of correction, one should definitely think twice--and ask others to think twice--about referring to gilgul in a light manner. The Chofetz Chaim (Sha’ar Hatevunah Chapter 8) writes that one hour in gehenom is more difficult than the yisurim of Iyov all of his life--and that the punishment of a gilgul is more difficult than the punishment of gehenom! Instead of ‘looking forward’ to the next gilgul--spend time in the here and now to make sure that it does not have to happen.



FROM PARNASSAH NETWORK:  “Kehillos across the map have answered the call we made at the recent Agudah convention, where we introduced Parnassah Network’s “Parnes Batei Knesses” program. They realized that we do not really know the parnassah needs of our fellow shul members--and we cannot properly help them--unless there is a proactive, well-resourced effort to do so. The growing number of Parnes Batei Knesses participants means that more and more amongst us are no longer shirking our achrayus. They realize that a kehilla is the most valuable grassroots venue to effectively help people. We have rolled up our sleeves and are working together to strengthen the households of our friends and neighbors – financially, emotionally and spiritually. Gabbaim will receive professional training and an array of resources to help them carry out their work. They will network with each other, along with various community leaders, on behalf of members of their kehilla. A special website has been set up to help facilitate this. Please click here for the Hamodia article for more details about the program. Don’t let your friends and neighbors be deprived of this invaluable assistance. Please consult with your Rav--the sooner the better--and discuss who would be ideally suited to appoint for this position, and how you can most effectively move ahead.  We look forward to help you succeed in every way we can. We look forward to you visiting www.shulparnes.com to register your shul’s Parnesim and get started. Please feel free to email duvi@parnassahexpo.com with any questions or comments.”




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



Special Note Two: The following touching lesson from HaRav Shimon Schwab, Z’tl, was published in an issue of the Pirchei Weekly, under the title ‘The Way of a Jew’:


HaRav Schwab was renowned for his integrity in all areas. In monetary matters, he went far beyond the strict requirements of Halacha, and in doing so, sanctified the Name of Hashem.  Once, HaRav Schwab visited his son Rav Myer when the latter was a student at Mesivta Rabbi Chaim Berlin. The two then went to a subway station to travel to Manhattan. Rav Myer spotted a few quarters lying on the ground near the token booth. His father instructed him to give them to the clerk at the token booth. Rav Myer was prepared to obey, but he was somewhat puzzled, for a subway station is considered a public domain and the Halacha clearly allows one to keep an item like money (which has no identifying characteristics) when it is found in such an area. Respectfully, he asked his father for an explanation. HaRav Schwab explained to his son: “Certainly you are correct—from a halachic standpoint, the money is yours. But in our day and age, we have to utilize every opportunity to be Mikadeish Sheim Shomayim and demonstrate what Torah Jews are all about. You hand the money to the man in the booth and I will stick my beard into the window so that he will see who we are!”


Years later, HaRav Schwab visited Rav Myer in Denver, where he serves as Dean of the city’s Bais Yaakov. One day, Rav Myer brought home two of his father’s suits from the cleaners. Upon examining the receipt and counting his change, HaRav Schwab realized that he had mistakenly been charged for only one suit. When R' Myer checked the figures, he said, “Yes, it’s certainly a mistake. Tomorrow I’ll pass by the store and pay the difference.” “It should not wait for tomorrow,” his father replied. “We should take care of it right now. I will come along.” At the time of his visit to Denver, R' Schwab was still able to walk, but with difficulty. Nevertheless, he insisted on accompanying his son to contribute his share to this Kiddush Hashem. They arrived at the shopping mall and Rav Myer pulled up right in front of the cleaners so that the proprietor could see his father sitting in the front seat. Rav Myer entered the store, explained what had happened and paid for the suit. The proprietor turned to look out the window and HaRav Schwab smiled and waved at him from the car. The proprietor told Rav Myer, “Rabbi, you didn’t have to make a special trip for this — you could have brought the money in tomorrow!” “I know,” Rav Myer replied, “but to my father, the matter could not wait until tomorrow; it had to be rectified right away.” [Adapted from: More Shabbos Stories with kind permission from Artscroll]


Hakhel Note: Something we can all learn from, something we can all do!




15 Teves

B’RACHAMECHA HARABIM! Every day of Chanukah in the Tefillah of Ahl Hanissim we exclaim: “V’Atta B’Rachamecha HaRabim--and You in Your great mercy….” Where in our daily Shacharis do we also utilize these very special words--B’Rachamecha HaRabim--to plead for Hashem’s mercy?



THE WORLD’S BEST SEGULAH: In last week’s drasha to his Shul (Agudath Israel of Madison ), Rabbi Yisroel Reisman, Shlita, described the card that we provide by clicking here as “the world’s best segulah”.  Whether or not you follow ‘Segulos’, we suggest that following and observing it will provide you with great zechusim.



SAGE ADVICE: HaRav Yisroel Belsky, Shlita recalls that HaRav Moshe Feinstein, Z’tl, had once come to Yeshiva Torah Vodaas to speak to the Bnei HaYeshiva.  He advised them to have special Kavannah when reciting the Brachos of Refaeinu and Boreich Aleinu, for it is “easier” to have Kavannah when making requests of Hashem in spiritual matters, than it is when making requests in physical or more mundane matters.  One simply believes that he need only take a pill, undergo a particular therapy which will help heal him, or make him feel better.  Similarly, one can very readily conclude that his wise business decisions, or the right contacts he has made, are the source of his financial success or livelihood.  True Emunah is also overcoming these barriers--those that one may himself put in the way to his proper belief and expected relationship with Hashem. 


 Hakhel Note:  Perhaps when reciting these Brachos, one can have special Kavannah that “I am a Ma’amin, I am a Ma’amin!” Of course, it wouldn’t hurt to have this in mind when your Emunah is challenged throughout the day by what you hear--or what you think!





Special Note One:  As we leave Sefer Bereishis, and the lessons of the Avos, we provide the following concluding points and pointers on Parashas VaYechi:


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


The Chazon Ish further crystallizes the point.  He writes (Kovetz Igros Chazon Ish 3:62) that we must always remember that we are powerless to accomplish anything.  Our actions, really our efforts, arouse Heavenly mercy to fulfill our intentions.  The Chazon Ish continues that, in fact, the one who davens and intensely supplicates to be saved, accomplishes more than the one who puts in the effort.  Hakhel Note:  With this thought in mind, we can perhaps further understand the Pasuk relating to Yaakov’s bracha:  Sikeil Es Yadav--he made his hands smart” (see Targum Yonasan Ben Uziel there).  We cannot really win wars with our weaponry, our hands and our skill.  It must be with our minds, properly directed to our Father in Heaven.  We were always known for our Sechel--we suggest that the Pasuk reveals to us what the Sechel we are to be known for really means!


Hakhel Note: Some describe BeCharbi as our regular, daily Tefillos, and Vekashti as our personal requests for something specific, and explain that we must first daven BeCharbi--at having success at our ‘close range’ Tefillos--and only then can we proceed with the more ‘long range’ specific Tefillos. We must first properly exercise our cherev--and this will empower our keshes!


B. Relating to the concept of Brachos in last week’s Parasha, we add the following two points:


1.    Prior to giving a Brocha, try to feel a greater closeness to the person.  Yaakov Avinu, for instance, first brought Menashe and Ephraim close to him, and kissed them and hugged them (Bereishis 48:10).  This may constitute an important component of the sincerity, depth and potency of the Bracha.


2.   Having made this point, there is really no requirement that brachos be made directly to human beings.  It is well known, for example, that the Alter of Slobodka once passed by the home of a Talmid Chacham and blessed the home and everyone in it.  The analogy is clear:

 When an ambulance speeds by, or even when you hear the ambulance siren, one can daven/give a Brocha that the person, whoever he or she may be, has a Refuah Sheleimah.  Or, in another vein, when seeing the bakery line out the door on Erev Shabbos, you can silently bless everyone on the line to have an enjoyable Shabbos.  While at first all of this may appear a bit naïve, childish, or “overly frum”, it really only indicates that you are a thinking person with (or trying to develop) Ahavas HaBriyos and Ahavas Yisrael--love for Hashem’s creations and love for fellow Jews.  In fact, the Baalei Mussar denounce the term “frumkeit” as relating to observance and practice out of rote, rather than with feeling and freshness.


Concluding Note: The Navi (Yirmiyahu 9:22, 23) exclaims:  “Thus says Hashem:  Let not the wise man boast of his wisdom, nor the strong man boast of his strength, nor the rich man boast of his riches; but, let him that boasts exalt in this, that he understands and knows Me, for I am Hashem who practices kindness, justice and righteousness on the earth, for in these things I delight, says Hashem.”


In whatever situation we find ourselves, Hashem tells us--what do we think that He would do in the same situation?  The man who “understands and knows Me” is the man in whom Hashem delights.  Who does more Chesed than Hashem and who gives more Brachos than Hashem?  These are, of course, only two examples, but they are important steps along the way to being Hashem’s delight!



Special Note Two:  Some notes on the Shovavim period we are in, based on the Luach Davar BeIto:


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


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


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


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


E.  Many increase their recitation of Tehillim (especially on Erev Shabbos).


Hakhel Note:  Irgun Shiurai Torah has arranged worldwide Shovavim Shiurim.  To learn how you can participate or start a Shovavim Shiur in your neighborhood, please call: 718-851-8651, or email tapecenter@yeshivanet.com.




14 Teves

IN THE WEEK FOLLOWING ASARA BETEVES: Let us remember-- ‘Emes, Emunah, Kiddush Hashem, and Kavannah in the bracha of V’lirushalayim Irecha!’



QUESTION OF THE DAY : In last week’s Parasha (Bereishis 49:14), the bracha to Yissocher begins with the words: “Yissocher Chamor Gorem” (Artscroll Translation: Yissocher is a strong-boned donkey). The Targum Onkelos translates these words as: “Yissocher Atir B’nichsin”--Yissocher will be wealthy. We know that Zevulun supported Yissocher and is even given the Birchas Yaakov first for this very reason (see Rashi ibid. Pasuk 13). If Yissocher is given the bracha of wealth--why does he need Zevulun’s sponsorship at all?



TENS OF THOUSANDS: The Sefer Positive Word Power points out that one speaks tens of thousands of words on an average day--and that accordingly the difference between bad habits in speech (speaking negatively) and good habits (speaking positively and encouragingly) truly has a tremendous impact on the nature and quality of a person’s day. Let us take this to heart, to mind--and to mouth! 



THE IMPORTANCE OF LIMUD ZECHUS! The Chofetz Chaim brings from the Zohar Chadash that in Shomayim Eliyahu HaNavi swore to Hashem that he would always be Melamed Zechus on K’lal Yisrael. Indeed, when a member of K’lal Yisrael does a meritorious act, Eliyahu reports it, and makes sure that it is properly recorded in the Heavenly seforim. Likewise, Gideon was given the ability to fight against Midyan because he defended K’lal Yisrael, and was actually commanded to do battle Bechocha Zeh--with this strength--the strength of his being Melamed Zechus on K’lal Yisrael! We know what a great victory it was!


Hakhel Note: Here is an important exercise: Three times a day (morning, afternoon and evening), be Melamed Zechus on someone or some group. Perhaps as a kviyus, one can do so before beginning to daven!




Special Note One:  R’ Tzadok (in the Sefer Pri Tzaddik) refers to the end of Sefer Bereishis as the “Tashlum Binyan Yisrael--the completion of the necessary building blocks for K’lal Yisrael.”  With this in mind, we provide a concluding lesson from the Avos: Chazal teach that Yaakov Avinu’s bowing down at the head of his bed teaches that the Shechina is on top of the head of a sick person--as Yaakov was bowing down to the Shechina. HaRav Shlomo Wolbe, Z’tl, explains that a sick or vulnerable person feels his weakness and truly realizes that he is dependent upon Hashem’s support and sustenance.  Because the weak person feels wholly reliant on Hashem, Hashem in turn comes closer and closer to him as well.  This is truly a lesson for all--the more dependent one is on Hashem, the more one supplicates with true feeling and asks and pleads from Hashem, the more Hashem will be close to him.  Dovid HaMelech succinctly expresses this tenet in Tehillim with the words “Karov Hashem Lechol Korav Lechol Asher Yikrauhu Ve’Emes--Hashem is close to all who call upon Him--to all who call upon Him sincerely” (Tehillim 145: 18, Artscroll Translation).   In fact, this Pasuk and its theme is so important to our daily existence that we are reminded of it every time we recite Ashrei--three times daily!



Special Note Two:  With the onset of Parashas Shemos, we have begun the special Teshuva- endowed period of Shovavim.  Indeed, the Luach Dovor B’Ito finds a special allusion to this period in the first Pasuk of the Parasha--the last letters of “Mitzraima Ais Yaakov Ish U’baiso”... spell Teshuva!  The Luach adds that the Arizal (in Sha’ar Ruach Hakodesh) requires that one give Tzedaka every day of Shovavim as the Pasuk expressly states (Doniel 4:24) “Vechata’ach Bitzedaka F’ruk...--redeem your sins through acts of tzedaka and your iniquities through kindness to the poor.”  A special dedication to daily tzedaka during this period would most certainly indicate the seriousness in which you view the requirements--and the opportunities-- of this incomparable period!


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



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


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


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



Special Note Four: We now continue our 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. Of course, one should ask his own Rav or Posek in his particular circumstance or situation for a final p’sak.




My sofer tells me that it will take him three to five days to check my tefillin, and I will need to borrow a pair. But there is a magiah who comes to my shul during Shacharis and “sets up shop” with his certification on display. He says that if I give him my tefillin after Shacharis, he can return them to me that evening. Is there any reason for me not to have him check my tefillin?




Yes, there certainly is something to be concerned about. When the sofer says that it can take him three to five days until your tefillin are ready, that generally means that your parashiyos and battim will be thoroughly examined and, if need be, repaired. They will then be re-sewn and sealed. All this will be done with the proper care, attention, patience, and workmanship your tefillin deserve.


When someone takes your tefillin in the morning – along with the tefillin of ten other people – promising to return them to you that evening, what that generally means is that your parashiyos and battim will be hastily examined and probably not repaired. They will then be re-sewn and sealed. All this will be done without the proper care, attention, patience, and workmanship your tefillin deserve.


It is practically impossible for a normal human being to perform all these functions for so many people in one day. Even if he has a number of people working under him, the very idea of these employees working daily with the pressure of having to completely check, repair, paint, sew, etc. all the tefillin assigned to them that very day is disconcerting.


This is not the way tefillin-checking should be done, certainly not on a regular basis.


Furthermore, although there are exceptions to every rule, this type of checking is often nothing more than a “gimmick.”


An additional point to be on the lookout for is this: What exactly does the “certificate” of the “one-day checker” state?


Separate certificates are awarded for safrus and hagahah. This means that although someone may be a certified sofer, he is not necessarily a certified magiah – a specialty which requires additional knowledge (see question 1).


Many of these one-day checkers never obtained a certificate for hagahah at all, and thus they have no business checking STA”M in the first place. If you see only a safrus certificate on display, ask to see a certificate for hagahah. If none is forthcoming, at the very least, stay far away. Ideally, if there is a Rav in the shul, pass along this information.




11 Teves

Special Note One:  Today is the ‘day after’ Asara B’Teves.  It is a time to think about what we will take with us from yesterday’s fast. 


A.  HaRav Moshe Shmuel Shapiro, Z’tl, provides a tremendously important teaching:  In bentsching, we recite “Uvnei Yerushalayim Ihr HaKodesh Bimeheirah V’Yameinu”, and in Shemone Esrei we similarly ask Hashem for “V’Lirushalayim Irecha B’Rachamim Tashuv”.  Do we not know that Yerushalayim is the Ihr HaKodesh, and do we not know that Yerushalayim is Irecha--Hashem’s city?  Why need these words be added in our Tefillos?!  HaRav Shapiro explains that we must remember that although to us Yerushalayim is a holiness of the distant past that we yearn for, to Hashem the pain and mourning for Yerushalayim has not weakened--and is as strong as it was at the time that the Beis HaMikdash was set on fire.  The Shechinah has felt the same tza’ar since the destruction until this moment.  In fact, if anything, the pain is even greater, when the Shechinah sees that people are not in as much pain over the destruction of Yerushalayim--that people do not focus on the Ruach HaKodesh that existed; how a Korban could bring Kappara; what the avodah of Yom HaKippurim accomplished; and how even every child in Yerushalayim had such an in-depth understanding of Torah and a closeness to Hashem that we cannot even fathom.  It is therefore so incumbent upon us to make more effort to feel the Tza’ar HaShechinah--feel that which we are truly lacking--the Irecha, the Ihr HaKodesh--and with this we can hopefully bring everything back to the level of Gadlus and Ruach HaKodesh that we all should be living on!


B.  In bentsching, we ask that Hashem bring “U’Tzedakah Meilokei Yisheinu…and just kindness from the G-d of our salvation.”  What does ‘just kindness’ have to do with our Yeshuah?  HaRav Chaim Brisker, Z’tl, explains that the Pasuk (Yeshaya 1:27 ) teaches “Tzion BaMishpat Tipadeh V’Shaveha B’Tzedakah.”  HaRav Chaim interprets this to mean that Tzion was assured that it would be redeemed--accordingly, it must be redeemed, without any doubt.  This involves no Tzedakah at all--it is Mishpat, Hashem’s absolute assurance and decree.  However, who will be the returnees?  Here, there are no guarantees--whether this one or that one is included--will be up to the Tzedakah of Hashem--and we pray with these words that we be among them!  Oh, how Kavannah-filled these words should be! 


C.  When discussing the Middah of Rachamim, the Sefer Orchos Tzaddikim writes that there is no one that is more merciful than a Tzaddik who brings zechusim to his generation, and the 1,000 generations following him.  Accordingly, there is no person more cruel than a ba’al aveiros--for punishment in the world comes because of aveiros, and what will happen to his future generations.  With this great principle in mind, we understand that even if one is not in a position to give large amounts of Tzedakah with money--he can give Tzedakah with Ma’asim Tovim and Kiyum HaMitzvos--after all, is there anything greater than helping one’s own entire generation--and his 1,000 generations that follow?!


D.  The Kitzur Shulchan Aruch (121:1) writes:  V’Ein HaTa’anis Elah Hachana L’Teshuvah--the fast is only meant to prepare us for the real goal of Teshuvah.”  As we all know, the bracha of Teshuvah in Shemone Esrei begins with the words “Hashiveinu Avinu LeSorasecha.”  What greater Teshuvah can there be than Teshuvah in Talmud Torah--for as we all recite every single day in the beginning of the day V’Talmud Torah is K’neged Kulam?  Indeed, we learned in last week’s Parasha that the prime preparation that Yaakov Avinu made for the B’nei Yisrael to travel into Galus was for Yehudah to establish a Yeshiva, which, HaRav Yaakov Galinksy, Shlita, explains, was the vaccine necessary to protect them on their arrival and for their extended stay.  Indeed, HaRav Yisroel Newman, Shlita, brings the Chazal that when reshaim will be judged by the Heavenly Court they will claim that they had no time to study Torah because they were busy with their Yetzer Hara.  The Heavenly Court will respond by pointing to Yosef HaTzaddik:  Were you more busy than Yosef HaTzaddik in fighting off his Yetzer Hara--yet he had time to study Torah?!  But how, in fact, do we know that Yosef studied Torah--maybe he was just busy fighting off his Yetzer?  It must be, answers HaRav Newman, that Yosef was studying--for how else could he have succeeded against the Yetzer?!  As we move into the midst of winter, let us think of a practical way in which we can simultaneously fight the Yetzer and win--and help survive and extricate ourselves from this long and dark Galus.  Let each and every one of us somehow improve in our Torah study!


Practical Suggestion: In the Igeres HaRamban, the Ramban advises his son:  VeCha’asher Takum Min Hasefer, Chapeis Ba’asher Lamadeta Im Yeish Bo Davar Asher Tuchal LeKaymo--and when you get up from the Sefer look to see if there is anything you can apply in a practical way in connection with that which you have just learned.”  Perhaps one can keep a small notepad handy, to be used [hopefully many times] daily for something that he wishes to especially remember or apply on an ongoing basis after a Shiur, or after a personal study session--something to take with him from the winter, to spring, to summer…and from Galus to Geulah!



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


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


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


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


3.  Another Reminder! One should not tell his friend how much he paid for an item (i.e., he has already purchased it)--if his friend is in the market for the same item--for his friend is in need of this financial information during the week and it therefore constitutes Dibbur Chol.


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


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



Special Note Three:  Points and pointers on the last Parasha of Chumash Bereishis, Parashas Vayechi:


A.  The Parasha begins with the words Vayechi Yaakov BiEretz Mitzrayim--Yaakov lived in Egypt.  This teaches us that no matter where we are, and no matter what our situation, Hashem has given us the breath of life and we too must act with a Chiyus--with motivation, inspiration and enthusiasm! 


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


C. Yaakov Avinu asked Yosef to do “Chesed V’Emes” with him--to act on his behalf with kindness and truth. What does this mean? Rabbi Zelig Pliskin, Shlita, in Love Your Neighbor explains that adding Emes to Chesed means that whenever you do something for others--have their benefit in mind, not your own. For instance, a woman should not look at her daily chores as drudgery--even if no one seems to appreciate them. Rabbi Pliskin brings the following story:


When Rabbi Moshe of Kobrin was seven years old, there was a severe famine in Lithuania . Poor people wandered from village to village in search of food. Many of them flocked to the home of Rav Moshe’s mother who readily cooked and baked for them. Once a very large number of the poor came to her home and she had to cook for them in shifts. When some individuals grew impatient and insulted her she began to cry since she felt she was doing her utmost for them. Her young son, the future Rabbi of Kobrin, said to her: “Why should their insults trouble you? Don’t their insults help you perform the Mitzvah with sincerity? If they had praised you, your merit could be less, since you could be doing the kindness to gain their praise, rather than to fulfill the Almighty’s command!


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


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


F.  HaRav Chaim Kanievsky, Shlita, was asked how the bracha given to boys on Leil Shabbos, at a bris, and at other occasions is Yesimcha Elokim KeEphraim V’ChiMenashe--after all isn’t that only a part of a Pasuk in this week’s Parasha and we have no right to break up Pesukim like this.  HaRav Kamenetsky sagaciously responded:  “It cannot be an aveira, as the Torah itself teaches ‘Becha Yevareich Yisrael Leimor Yesimcha Elokim KeEphraim V’ChiMenashe’--this is the way we are to bless our children.”


Additional Note:  Many ask why the Bracha of “Yesimcha Elokim K’Ephraim V’ChiMenashe” is so fundamental that it overshadows all other Brachos.  One classic explanation is based upon the relative response of Yosef and Menashe to Yaakov Avinu’s switching of his hands, so that Ephraim was blessed with the right hand and Menashe with the left.  Yosef’s response was shock and dismay--while the response of Menashe (who was really the affected party) was silence and acceptance!  Menashe’s brotherly love was coupled with a refined relinquishment of any notion of jealously. Their joint and unified bracha was one of love, of recognizing each other’s roles, and of not being jealous of the other.  Yosef’s descendants were given the mission of teaching our people that although we are different, we are one and we can love and respect each other.  Indeed, Yaakov told Yosef that any future children that he had would become part of Ephraim and Menashe’s families, of their ultimate message, and would not need or have any independent nachalah.  The Pasuk (Yecheskel 48:32) teaches that in the future there will be a gate for each one of the Shevatim to exit Yerushalayim, and “Shevet Yosef” will only have one gate--we may suggest that this is because at that time we will have all learned the lesson that Yaakov Avinu set out to teach us--Yesimcha Elokim KeEphraim VeChiMenashe!


G. Rashi (Bereishis 49:3) teaches us that Reuven, as the bechor, was destined for greatness--for him and his descendents to inherit the Kehuna and the Malchus of K’lal Yisrael. What prevented it all? The Torah describes it in two words--’Pachaz Kamayim’--the too-quick, unthinking, angry response that he displayed. Oh, how we must take the lesson, when we realize we are about to exhibit just the same kind of response in our home, in a store, or in a work place. If it is Pachaz Kamayim--we know it is wrong, and we know its r’l devastating results…


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


I. In his bracha to Naftali, Yaakov Avinu describes this Shevet as “HaNossein Imrei Shaffer--who delivers beautiful sayings” (Bereishis 49:22). The Targum explains what these beautiful sayings are--Modan U’Mevarechin--they thank and bless Hashem for the beautiful fruits within their territory. How wonderful! Each and every one of us is capable of Imrei Shaffer--beautiful sayings--through the meaningful and heartfelt brachos that we make!




10 Teves

FROM A READER: “It can be observed that Parashas Vayigash is always read right before Asarah B’Teves.  The haphtarah for Parashas Vayigash – also always read (meaning, the haphtarah for Vayigash is never replaced by any other haphtarah such as for Machar Chodesh, Rosh Chodesh, Chanukah, etc.).  It can be further observed that the haphtarah for Vayigash has an uncanny resemblance to the beginning of Parashas Va’eira, where HaSh-m foretells the impending geulah with the famous four (4) leshonos of redemption.


So, too, Haphtaras Vayigash, from Safer Yechezkel (Chapter 37) speaks movingly about the future redemption. There too, HaSh-m speaks in the first person saying what He will do to ingather the exiles and appoint a righteous King Mashiach as the sole leader of K’lal Yisrael. Interestingly, the lashon of “lekichah (taking)” and the word “v’heiveisee (bringing)” are used. 

So too, are other leshonos of redemption and of ingathering and of consolation.


I could never help thinking that we lain the haphtarah of the “refuah before the Makkah”:  before the fast of Asarah B’Teves, we lain about the ultimate geulah.  And additionally, before we lain in the Torah about the exile of Egypt , we lain the haphtarah of the “refuah before the Makkah” as well.”



FROM A READER: “Perhaps you can point your readers to weeklytefilahfocus.com which provides great teachings relating to Tefillah, and which recently completed Ashrei.”




Special Note One: Points and pointers on Asara B’Teves:


A.  The Chasam Sofer taught that every year on Asara B’Teves there is a Din on whether to restore the Beis HaMikdash to us during that year.  Also, it is brought down from the Avudraham that although fasting is Assur on Shabbos, even if Asara B’Teves would fall on Shabbos we would fast.  The explanation for this may be based upon this teaching of the Chasam Sofer--fasting for the past is Assur--but fasting on Asara B’Teves is for the future to give us back the Beis HaMikdash


B.   Chazal teach that “Agra De’Taanisa Tzidkasa--in order to empower one’s fasting, he should give charity”.  One should be sure to at least give to Tzedaka the cost of the food for the meals that he did not eat (because of the fast). If you need a quick and important recommendation--Yad Eliezer at yadeliezer.org.  Don’t let the mitzvah slip away!


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


D. As the physical fast is not a very long one, may we also add that to enhance the quality of the Ta’anis and the Teshuvah that goes along with it, one especially reserve one hour or so today for a Ta’anis Dibbur--in which one dedicates his speech only to words of Torah, Tefillah and Kedushah.



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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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



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


 Additional Note:  Rebbi Tzadok HaKohein beautifully explains that both Shevet Dan and Shevet Yehudah are referred to as “Gur Aryeh” in the Torah (see Bereishis 49:9 and Devarim 33:22).  Furthermore, the leaders in charge of building the Mishkan were Betzalel from Shevet Yehuda and Ahaliyav from Shevet Dan; Rebbi Tzadok brings from the Midrash Tanchuma that this was the case in the Bais Hamikdash as well.  In the Midbar, Shevet Dan traveling at the end--is connected to Shevet Yehudah which traveled first and which represented Malchus because this symbolizes our existence--connecting the top to the bottom, the end to the beginning.  In fact, he explains this is what is meant by Chazal (Ta’anis 31A) who teach that in the future Hashem will make an ‘igul’, a circle for the Tzaddikim--for in a circle the end and the beginning are connected as one.  It is for this reason that Yaakov Avinu recited the words “Lishuasecha Kivisi Hashem” over Dan--for the end will be, the Moshiach can come when a low point has been reached which can join to the high point --so that we come full circle!


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