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19 Shevat

STARTS TODAY!  Mishna Daily will be beginning Seder Mo’ed today. Your free daily email includes your choice of Ashkenaz audio, Sephardi video, phone number and access code and Mishna with English translation. An almost irresistible opportunity! To subscribe contact mishnadaily@ateresshimon.org.





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


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


3. Preceding the Aseres HaDibros, the Pasuk (Shemos 19:19) records the background:  “Vayehi Kol HaShofar Holeich Vachazeik Me’od Moshe Yidabeir VeHaElokim Ya’anenu Vekol--and the sound of the Shofar grew continually stronger--Moshe would speak….” What is the simple meaning of the phrase at the end of the Pasuk-- VeHaElokim Ya’anenu Vekol?





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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


4. A person can be Motzi others with Kiddush (who for some reason can’t do it themselves) even if he has already been Yotzei his Kiddush (we specifically note that this does not appear to be true of Havdalah).


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


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


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


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


Hakhel Note Three: Rabbi Maimon Elbaz, Shlita, Founding Director of TorahShows, provides an essential, informative and inspirational audio-visual presentation on Shabbos.  [Rabbi Elbaz, in fact, has presented in 40 cities worldwide.  If you would like to reach him, he may be reached at dearrebbi@gmail.com.]  To indicate how the Shabbos impacts on the coming week, Rabbi Elbaz shows how our five senses are used at Havdala.  With this, we demonstrate that our physical being has been significantly impacted, and that we will carry the spiritual essence of Shabbos with us into every aspect of our physical lives in the coming week!



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



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


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


Hakhel Point One:  The three Pesukim in Shofaros cited above refer to the great Shofar blast at Matan Torah.  The Rambam in Hilchos Teshuva writes (based upon the pasuk--Amos 3:6) that a Shofar is used because:  “Hayitaka Shofar BaIr Ve’Am Lo Yecheradu--can it be that a Shofar will be blown in the city and the inhabitants will not tremble?!”  Certainly, when tomorrow we take witness of the blowing of the Shofar for such a miraculously long period and from a non-human source--all the more so should we take heed of the awesome nature of the moment and act accordingly.  After experiencing the Shofar blast tomorrow, we must also rejuvenate our Teshuva Bechol Yom in a special way--as we look at our 5776 Kabbalah Sheet and plan for the future! 


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


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


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

2.  The Shofar blast could be heard worldwide.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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


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



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



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


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



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


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


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


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


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


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



18 Shevat

Special Note One:  The following four essential thoughts are excerpted from Chizuk! Practical Advice and Encouragement in Dealing with the Challenges in Life From Moreinu HoRav Avrohom Pam, Z’tl, by Rabbi Sholom Smith, Shlita:


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


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


B.  A Spiritually Rich Person.  HaRav Chaim Volozhin, Z’tl, in the Sefer Ruach Chaim (to Avos 6:6) writes that being happy with one’s lot refers to one’s spiritual aspirations. Success in ruchniyus takes time, effort and patience. One who is impatient to get rich” (see Mishlei 28:20) in ruchniyus will usually fail. Greatness in Torah requires steady, cumulative, intense study with regular periods devoted to review. Only then can one climb the ladder of Torah scholarship. If a person is in a rush and wants to become a talmid chacham ‘overnight’ he will usually fail. Thus, the definition of a spiritually rich person is one who is happy with his lot. This means that every bit of Torah knowledge he acquires gives him simcha and nothing in Torah is insignificant to him. Every brekkele of Torah is appreciated and cherished because the person understands that Torah is the infinite wisdom of the Creator of heaven and earth which he has been given the incredible privilege to acquire. Just as a wealthy person typically desires to attain more wealth, so too does the spiritually rich person desire more ruchniyus. This is not a contradiction to being happy with ones lot. Specifically because he appreciates every Mishnah, every line of Gemara, every pasuk of Chumash, every paragraph of the Shulchan Aruch that he learns, it gives him the desire to acquire more and more Divine knowledge. Being happy with ones spiritual lot does not mean once he finishes a parasha of Chumash he will ‘retire and be Sameiach BeChelko, happy with his lot. No! Vice versa, the more he learns, the more his appetite is whetted for more Torah knowledge.


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


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


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



Special Note Two:  In this week’s Parasha, we learned how essential Kibbud Av Va’eim is--included as one of the Aseres Hadibros.  In For Goodness Sake, by Rabbi Boruch Brull (which we have cited in the past, because of its outstanding and meaningful content), Rabbi Brull brings the story of a 12 year-old boy who traveled from Denver to Chicago to study Torah.  Before leaving, his father asked him to write every day.  The boy listened to his father--and as of the date the book was published had written to his parents every day for 43 years!  The “boy” is HaRav Yeruchem Pitter, Shlita, known so well for his guidance to the Bachurim at the Long Beach Yeshiva.



Special Note Three:  As we will receive the Torah in this week’s Parasha, we provide below several practical Halachos relating to taking out and reading the Torah, as excerpted from the Mishna Berurah (Dirshu Edition, 147-149):


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


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


C.  The Chazon Ish rules that when the Gemara states that the one who lifts the Torah is ‘notel sechar k’neged kulan’ of those who were called to the Torah--in our day, refers not only the magbe’ah, the one who lifts the Torah, but also to the golel, the one who wraps the Torah.  This being said, why do we often given gelilah to a katan?  The Mishna Berurah rules that gelilah should only be given to a katan who is of an age in which he understands what a davar shebekedusha is--and the reason we do so is to educate him in the Mitzvos.  (Shulchan Aruch, Orach Chaim 147, Mishna Berurah, seif katan 7)


D.  The Rema writes that the reason that children are encouraged to kiss the Torah is lechancham u’lezarzam b’mitzvos--to educate and to teach them to pursue the Mitzvos with alacrity.  (ibid., 149)


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


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


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


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



17 Shevat

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



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



A UNIQUE TEFILLAH! Today is the yahrzeit of HaRav Chaim (B’R Yaakov) Pilagi, Z’tl. The Tefillah known as Tefillas Rebbi Yishmael Kohen Gadol HaShaleim, is found in his Sefer Ateres HaChaim. We provide this Tefillah, as recently published by Kehillas Yeshivas Shiru LaHashem, by the following link  http://tinyurl.com/zm3va2v



YOU CAN SUBSCRIBE! Rabbi Doniel Travis, Shlita, of Har Nof, who provided such a moving Shiur on the current matzav in Eretz Yisrael at the last Hakhel Yarchei Kallah, also publishes a meaningful weekly email. For a free subscription, please email livingonrabbi@gmail.com.



REMINDER-- NEW PROJECT FROM TORAHDESIGNS.COM--FREE DOWNLOAD! By the following link http://www.torahdesigns.com/brachos-card/ we provide a newly designed Brachos Card, intended to assist in Kavannah in reciting brachos. There is also a suggestion for how the card can help remind you to recite Brachos Acharonos.



FOR MEN--SEDER MO’ED STARTS FRIDAY! -- Mishna Daily will be beginning Seder Mo’ed this Friday. Your free daily email includes your choice of Ashkenaz audio, Sephardi video, phone number and access code and Mishna with English translation. An almost irresistible opportunity! To subscribe contact mishnadaily@ateresshimon.org.



ON EMUNAH--FROM THE SEFER HACHINUCH: “The laws of this precept are that it is incumbent upon us to believe about Him that all ability, all grandeur, power and splendor all eminence, all blessing, all existence--are through Him; and we have neither the power nor the intelligence to conceive and relate His greatness and benevolence; for on account of His immense degree of eminence and glory He can be perceived by none but Himself alone.  [It is for us] to ascribe to Him, with all our ability, no shortcoming whatsoever and nothing which is in any way the opposite of total perfection and total excellence.  Then there are those matters which derive from it, such as to know that He is wholly perfect, without any body or physical power of a body; for physical bodies are ultimately subject to deficiencies and shortcomings, while He is not subject to any kind of deficiency or shortcoming whatsoever....This is one of the precepts for which there is no set time, since all the days of a man’s life he is required to live with this concept.”  (Translation courtesy of the Feldheim Edition --The Book of Mitzvos)



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



Hakhel Note Two:  We note that there is a Pasuk that we recite during Shacharis which brings this thought to life.  The Pasuk (Tehillem 81:11) reads as follows:  “Anochi Hashem Elokecha Ha’Ma’alcha Mai’Eretz Mitzrayim, Harchev Picha Va’Amalayhu...I am Hashem who raised you out of Egypt, open your mouth wide and I will fill it.  The Pasuk teaches us that we are to apply the lesson of Yetzias Mitzrayim --the Omnipotence and Hashgacha Pratis of Hashem--by placing it into our everyday lives.  Hashem not only took us out as a nation or as a group--he can and will fill each and everyone of our mouths if we demonstrate our Bitachon by ‘opening wide’ for Hashem to fill it. As you recite this Pasuk daily--don’t forget to remember what it means to open your mouth wide--when you are opening it before Hashem Himself! 



Hakhel Note Three:  Let us live this concept often--very often: Baruch Hashem!...  Thank You Hashem!... Im Yirtzeh Hashem!... Ma Norah Ma’asecha Hashem!  It wasn’t Kochi V’otzem Yadi...That was Min HaShamayim!... What Hashgacha Pratis!... Hashem please help me with...Ribono Shel Olam please guide me....With these thoughts, realizations and expressions, we bind with our Maker, and, albeit with the scorn and even derision of the western world--we thereby truly elevate our lives immeasurably!



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




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


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



Special Note Two:  In the preceding Parashiyos of Va’eira, Bo, and Beshalach, we experienced what one may refer to as “physical miracles--with the Mitzriyim being punished and beaten, and their super power status being forever quashed, while the Bnei Yisrael were saved from the plethora of natural and super natural disasters, and becoming a free people with a wealth of Egypt with them to boot!  In Parashas Yisro, with Matan Torah we learn that there can also be spiritual miracles.  The Bnei Yisrael were elevated to the sublime status of “Mamleches Kohanim VeGoy Kadosh--a Kingdom of Kohanim and a Holy Nation.”  There is a very great and important lesson here.  We are not only capable of being the recipients of physical miracles in this physical world, we are capable of witnessing and being party to spiritual miracles here as well!  Indeed, as we have noted in the past, HaRav Dessler. Z’tl, teaches in the name of HaRav Yisroel Salanter, Z’tl that even when the Gates of Tefillah are closed, the Gates of Tefillah for Ruchniyus are never closed.  One can truly aspire to attain and pray for spiritual heights which he previously thought were simply unattainable.  In short, the Gates Are Wide Open--one can daven for a miracle in Ruchniyus!  In fact, Chazal teach:  “Le’Ukmai Girsa, Siyata DeShimaya Hu--one must learn and put in the effort, but as for remembering and retaining one’s learning--that is a matter for the Heavenly Realm.”  We have to try hard, and daven sincerely--and we too can very literally achieve spiritual miracles!



16 Shevat

SUITABLE FOR FRAMING!  We provide by that following link a famed teaching of the Alter of Kelm, relating to the value of even our responses in Tefillah, and to the extraordinary importance of our Torah study http://tinyurl.com/6n4zo3u



REMEMBER THIS! The Chofetz Chaim brings Chazal (Nedarim 22B) who teach “Kol Hako’es BeYadua She’avonosav Meirubin Meizechuyosav--one who angers, it is certain that his aveiros exceed his Mitzvos.” In fact, Chazal quote an explicit Pasuk in Mishlei to prove it--”U’Va’al Cheima Rav Pasha--one who angers has more sins than Mitzvos.” Oh--how we must guard against--and if necessary take extraordinary steps--to quash anger even when the world would justify it--and even if you yourself would have justified it yesterday. One could certainly generate tremendous a tremendous zechus if he could take it upon himself at the end of the day to review the events of the day--and make sure that he did not get angry. As we noted the other day, Rav Elya Lopian, Z’tl, teaches that in the end bad Middos ‘did-in’ the Mitzriyim. We can take the lesson and heartily have good (and even great) Middos elevate us to heights previously thought unattainable!



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




Special Note One:  As we take leave of the magnificent Shiras HaYam, we realize that we are blessed with the opportunity of reciting it on a daily basis--including Shabbos, Yom Tov and even Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur.  Indeed, the Mishna Berurah brings from the Zohar that one should recite the Shira daily BeSimcha and visualize himself as if he is that very day passing through the Sea (ibid. 51, Mishna Berurah, seif katan 17).  Accordingly, although we are nearing the end of Pesukei DeZimra, and may be struggling to keep pace with the Shaliach Tzibbur who may not be aware of this Mishna Berurah (don’t be shy--tell him about it!), we should put special effort into the feeling of joy as our personal experience.  


In fact, there is a further remarkable teaching from the classic Sefer Chovos HaLevavos (Sha’ar HaBechina, Chapter 5). The Sefer first notes the miracles that took place at the time of Moshe Rabbeinu--the changes in the normal course of events and nature-- the awesome wonders to induce Emunah, which resulted in a newfound and everlasting “VaYa’aminu Bashem U’V’Moshe Avdo.”  The Chovos HaLevavos then incredibly continues (translation adapted from the monumental “Duties of the Heart”, translated by Rabbi Doniel Haberman, Shlita; Feldheim Torah Classics Library) :  “ If a person in our own times would like to witness something similar to these miraculous events, let him simply look at our position among the nations since the beginning of our Galus, at our orderly condition in their midst, though we disagree with them in our beliefs and practices, as they [very] well know. He will see that, in regard to standard of living and subsistence, our situation is close to theirs.... He will see that their middle class and villagers toil more than the middle and poorer classes among us. This is as we were promised by Hashem: “VeAf Gam Zos...yet for all [the aveiros that B’nai Yisrael may have done] when they are in their enemies land, I will not abhor them...as to break my covenant with them” (Vayikra 26:44); and as the Kesuvim further state “ Ki Avadim Anachnu...though we are servants, Hashem has not abandoned us in our servitude...”(Ezra 9:9); and as we recite in Tehillim: “Lulei Hashem SheHaya Lanu...had it not been for Hashem, who was for us... (Tehillim 124:1-2).”  Thus, our daily miraculous existence, as a sheep among the lions and the wolves-- the superpowers and third world countries--with some of them being hungrier than others--is an actual and practical example of the Sea Splitting for us daily.  So, as you rejoice in the Shiras HaYam as the Mishna Berurah instructs-- realize that you are not only reliving that  grand and glorious moment of passing through the Yam Suf--but that you are very miraculously passing through the Sea of Galus daily as well--Miracle upon Miracle--day after day anew!



Special Note Two:  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.



Special Note Three: If a tray of various fruits (such as the remainder of a Tu B’Shevat Assortment) is placed before you, and you intend to partake of one of each to appreciate Hashem’s bounty [as noted yesterday, the Mishna Berurah to Shulchan Aruch Orach Chaim 207, seif katan 5, writes that this is what the words in Borei Nefashos “Al Kol MaShebara LeHachayos Bahem Nefesh Kol Chai-” refer to--specifically thanking Hashem for providing us with so many beneficial foods beyond our requirements]--then which fruit from the impressive platter should you place into your right hand (lefties into their left hand) to make a bracha over?  The Shulchan Aruch (ibid. 211:1) rules that one should first take a fruit of the Shiva Minim, the seven species for which Eretz Yisrael is praised--such as a grape, date, fig, etc. and make the bracha on that, If there are no Shivas Haminim fruits, then he takes a Shalem--a whole (not cut-up or sliced) fruit such as a plum or peach. If there are no whole fruits, then one takes the fruit he usually likes best.



Special Note Four:  In the stirring autobiography To Remain a Jew, Rav Yitzchak Zilber, Z’tl, brings the following story from his life as frum Jew in Russia: “I had a friend in Kazan, Yosef Lipshitz.  He worked in the forest industry. Once in the fall, just before Shemini Atzeres, the cold air set in suddenly.  The river froze, logging came to a halt, and the lumber didn’t reach its destination.  Most likely, a problem like this should have been reported to the authorities, or there could-be negative consequences.  But Yosef Lipshitz went straight to the synagogue, sang and danced there, as if nothing had happened... I saw he had a warm Jewish heart and tried to persuade him.  I would say to him, “Yosef, do Teshuvah, start observing Shabbos and Kashrus.”  “Now I don’t have the time, there’s too much to do at work.  Wait a bit.  I am going to retire and then I will become a kosher Jew.  I will start observing everything,” he answered.  To my great regret, he passed away three days before retiring.”

Hakhel Note:  Perhaps the lesson (from an incident that hopefully will never occur) is that important deeds of good should not wait until later. Indeed, Avrohom Avinu provided us with a guideline--Vayashkeim Avrohom Baboker--Avrohom Avinu rose early in the morning, from which Chazal derive the great and famous principle--Zerizim Makdimim L’Mitzvos! Let’s get going!



Special Note Five:  What instruction would you give to a Chassan or Kallah under the Chuppah?  According to Rabbi Yechiel Spero, HaRav Chaim Stein, Z’tl, gave the following instruction:  “I was one of hundreds of talmidim who merited having Rav Chaim as a mesader kiddushin.  Prior to the Chuppah, he met with me and told me exactly what to daven for while I stood underneath the Chuppah:  Gezunt, Parnassah and Nachas-- Gefen.  And then Rav Chaim instructed me to accept, upon myself to learn for at least an hour a day.  This, he said, is what is required for a ben Torah’s hatzlacha in life.” 


Hakhel Note One:  Now, if any Chassan or Kallah asks you the question--you know what to answer!


Hakhel Note Two:  As to the last point of instruction given by Rav Chaim to Rabbi Spero above, it is well known that HaRav Stein accepted upon himself a kabbala when he was a teenager to learn one hour a day b’retzifus--uninterrupted.  He often urged his talmidim and listeners to take this kabbala upon themselves.  In his tzava’ah, he writes that he will intercede above for those who accept it upon themselves.  Rav Chaim himself would begin the hour again if he was interrupted during his hour of retzifus.  For those who could not do an hour--he urged them to do one half hour twice a day, or at least a half hour in this way.  When one undertakes any task, he recognizes the value of its being performed uninterrupted.  All the more so with Torah study--as we impart special significance, and show our special treasure, of Hashem’s words to us!



15 Shevat

FROM A READER:  “Now, I look outside and I still see homes that are not cleaned of snow, and why is that, maybe we should have a class called “How to clean snow in front of your home or business”, that way, we can save a life. Remember that Hashem gave you the monies to take care of yourself and your family, and by not cleaning, you put lives in jeopardy, and what about the consequences of someone falling and getting hurt and what are the ramifications of making a Chilul Hashem? I am not accusing anyone, but when I am asked by non-Jewish people, what can I say or what should I say…?”



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





Hakhel Note: Some may be confused over the bracha for papaya. According to the Halachos of Brochos by Rabbi Yisroel Pinchos Bodner, Shlita, the correct bracha is Borei Pri Ha’adama.



NEW FROM TORAHDESIGNS.COM--FREE DOWNLOAD! By the following link http://www.torahdesigns.com/brachos-card/ we provide a newly designed Brachos Card, intended to assist in Kavannah in reciting brachos. There is also a suggestion for how the card can help remind you to recite Brachos Acharonos.



FOR MEN--STARTING WEDNESDAY! Mishna Daily will be beginning Seder Mo’ed this Wednesday. Your free daily email includes your choice of Ashkenaz audio, Sephardi video, phone number and access code and Mishna with English translation. An almost irresistible opportunity! To subscribe contact mishnadaily@ateresshimon.org.



WITH SPIRIT! HaRav Chatskel Levenstein, Z’tl, is reported to have told his students that one should be especially careful to always properly utter the last of the Birchos HaShachar--HaGomel Chassodim Tovim LeAmo Yisrael.  HaRav Chatskel explained that this bracha is uniquely powerful because with the phrases Chassodim Tovim (beneficent kindnesses) and LeAmo Yisrael (to the entire nation of Israel), it is all-encompassing in nature.  There are, additionally, many significant Bakashos within this Bracha.  If one recites the bracha out loud, and word-for-word, he will gain a great insight into its omnibus nature--and to the Omnipotence of HaKadosh Baruch Hu in being able to grant all of these requests!




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


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

Hakhel Note:  The very fact that it is called Rosh Hashana should remind us that it is another opportunity to start again! 


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


3. Are candied Esrog slices--which clearly look like Esrog, but which have much sugar on them to make them more pleasant to eat--still considered a Ha’Eitz?  The Sefer VeSain Bracha writes that: “The bracha for sugar coated nuts such as sugar coated almonds is Ha’Eitz. The bracha for sugar coated peanuts is Ha’Adama. This applies when the coating is soft and the nut will be eaten in the first bite.”  Based upon this reasoning, it would appear that as long as the clearly recognizable fruit is eaten with the first bite, the bracha would be a Ha’Eitz (and the producers who marketed it as a Tu B’Shevat fruit were Baruch Hashem not mistaken!). For further reference, see Shulchan Aruch Orach Chaim 204, Mishna Berurah seif katan 51.


4.  Some eat 15 fruits, and recite the 15 Shir HaMa’alos.  One of the reasons for this may be to remind everyone in a grand way that the Year is a new one for Terumos and Ma’asros, Orlah, and Netah Revaii for the fruits of Eretz Yisrael.  Yesterday, we provided a Tefillah from the Ben Ish Chai to be recited on Tu B’Shevat for the coming year’s Esrog, as well.


5.  We additionally note that many have the custom of reciting the brocha of Shehechiyanu on new fruits in season today.  The recitation of this Bracha has become a bit more complicated in today’s times because of the availability of many fruits all-year round, taking them out of a particular season, and also because of grafted fruits (See Piskei Teshuvos II, p. 911-918 for further detail).  We therefore recommend that you consult with your Rav or Posek prior to making a Shehechiyanu for a final P’sak on whether or not to recite the bracha on a particular fruit in your area.  Of course, if one intends to eat dates, figs or carob, he should make sure that he knows how to properly check them for tolaim, and that dried fruits (banana chips, apples, etc.) he is given to partake of “in order to make a Hoetz” have an acceptable hashgacha.  We do not intend to be party poopers--we just want to ensure that it is a party that in which Hashem is honored!  Even if one does not make a Shehechiyanu, a special feeling of Simchas HaChaim is certainly in order!


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


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

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

(c) A Haeitz with the actual Bracha itself (which will cover all fruits one intends to partake of) to be made over a fruit in the following order of preference: olives, dates, grapes, figs, pomegranates, any other fruits.

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


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



12 Shevat

L’ZECHUS L’REFUAH SHELEIMA:  We provide by the following link the Sefer Piskei Halacha of HaRav Yisroel Belsky, Shlita, compiled by his close talmid Rabbi Moishe Dovid Lebovits, Shlita. We sincerely thank Rabbi Lebovits for making this Sefer available to our readers, as a zechus L’Refuah Sheleima L’Chaim Yisroel ben Chana Tzirel.  Please say Tehillim as well for HaRav Belsky, Shlita.  http://tinyurl.com/zetx4kx  Please print out, and please distribute the link to others as a zechus.  Yasher Kochachem.



FROM A READER--ON THE DEFINITION OF LIFE: “I saw the following definition:

Life- The time Hashem gives you to determine how to spend your eternity.”



BARUCH!  In a recent Emuna Daily Shiur, Rabbi David Ashear, Shlita cited the realization of Rebbi Yisroel Salanter, Z’tl’, relating to the word Baruch when reciting a bracha over food--Hashem not only provides me with energy and nourishment when I need it--but it is tasty, looks and smells pleasant, and I am able to sit down at a table in nice surroundings, pick up the food, and place it into my mouth....” Hakhel Note: Let us for a moment contemplate before uttering a bracha--’What Shevach V’hoda’ah I owe to Hakadosh Baruch Hu--Thank you, I appreciate it!’



REFRIGERATOR ALERT: In his recent Hakhel Shiur, Rabbi Doniel Osher Kleinman, Shlita, mechaber of the multi-volume Sifrei Kovetz Halachos pointed out the numerous issue with newer model refrigerators, whose new technology creates several Shabbos issues. Clearly, before purchasing a late model refrigerator, one should consult with a Rav or Posek familiar with the issues. For CD’s of the shiur, please call 718-252-5274.





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--or anything-- 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!


D. A reader sent us a passage from the Sefer Chofetz Chaim, together with a one word remark “Wow!”  This is certainly a great and admirable trait--for one to take a Sefer that he had perhaps learned several times before and find new and meaningful lessons in it.  Parashas Beshalach is certainly one of the Parashiyos with which we may be quite familiar.  We accordingly reiterate last week’s Erev Shabbos teaching, in which we urged that as part of his one develop his own questions and answers, his own chiddushim--especially on Shabbos (See Shulchan Aruch Orach Chaim 290, Mishna Berurah seif katan 3 who brings in the name of the Zohar that it is a special Mitzvah to be Mechadesh Chiddushei Torah BeShabbos).  Let us remember that one is granted a Neshama Yeseirah, one is granted a reward for Torah study equal to 1,000 times the reward of a regular weekday (as we have previously brought from the Ben Ish Chai), and that Shabbos is 1/60th of Olam Haba--and use the outstanding opportunity to the greatest extent that we can!


E.  Chazal (Shabbos 150B) bring the following Ma’aseh:  “Ma’aseh B’Chossid Echad…there was a chossid who noticed one Shabbos that there was a breach in the fence around his field and he resolved that it had to be fixed.  Once he realized that he had made this resolution to repair on Shabbos, he decided not to fix the fence at all.  A miracle occurred and a Tzelaf--a caper tree grew in the place of the breach.  A caper tree has three different kinds of fruits--and the man was able to sustain himself and his family thereafter from the tree’s produce!  Fascinatingly, this Ma’aseh is brought both by the Rif and the Rosh (who bring the Halachos gleaned from the Gemara), and is explained by the Taz (Shulchan Aruch, Orach Chaim 307, seif katan 14).  Accordingly, the meaning of the story does not appear to be limited to a wonderful story about a ‘Chossid Echad’.  We may suggest that there is a powerful lesson to us all:  Even if weekday thoughts which are not verbalized nor put into action may be permissible on Shabbos--it is nevertheless a great accomplishment for one to cleanse and purify his thoughts on this great day.  Accordingly, as a practical matter, we once again reiterate--let us bli neder undertake to absolve our minds as much as we can of the ‘weekday Mon’ that may otherwise concern us.  Let us instead regale in the Ruchniyus of the meaning-filled words in this week’s Parasha (Shemos 16:25)--Shabbos HaYom—LaHashem!


Special Note Two:  The exhilaration and intensity of this week’s Parasha are 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, and instead had to lead Bnei Yisrael towards the Yam Suf.  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 BaHashem--and the people had faith in Hashem.”  Indeed, the Ohr HaChaim HaKadosh writes that even Hashem’s Middas HaRachamim is insufficient to overtake His Middas HaDin--unless and until we sufficiently conclusively demonstrate our pure Emunah in Hashem.

Hakhel Note:  When we recite the words “Vaya’aminu BaHashem” every morning--we should feel a resurgence of Emunah within us!


B.  The Shelah 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 Shelah 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 avoda kasha 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.  HaRav Eliyahu Lopian, Z’tl, teaches we should focus upon what finally ‘did the Mitzriyim in’.  It was, essentially, their bad Middos!  They chased after their money (losing the majority of their money with which they decorated their chariots in the process), and their pride was belittled by the servants departing.  Had they not chased after the Bnei Yisrael for these reasons, they would have been left as a people.  The pursuit of money and the pursuit of Ga’aveh can ‘do in’ not only an individual--but an entire people--forever! 


E.  At the outset of the Parasha we learn that Moshe Rabbeinu took the Atzmos Yosef, while each Shevet took the Atzamos of their own ancestor (Reuven, Shimon, Levi…).  The obvious question is:  Why did Menashe and Efraim not take out the Atzamos of Yosef who was their ancestor?  Some answer that when two people or groups have job to do, it does not get done, because each party will look to the other.  We may suggest a different approach.  The Bnei Yisrael were responsible for sending Yosef down to Egypt, into exile.  It became their responsibility, Middah K’neged Middah to remove him from exile.  The one who makes the mess ultimately will have to clean it up.  If one avoids getting angry, speaking Lashon Hara or causing another harm, he will be far better off--for he will not have to go through a difficult process of rectification.


F.  Before Kriyas Yam Suf, Bnei Yisrael cried out to Hashem.  Rashi points out that they grabbed hold of the Uminos of their forefathers (Shemos 14:10)--of the tried and true profession that their forefathers had taught them.  HaRav Yisroel Dovid Schlesinger, Shlita, points out, that one can analogize calling out to Hashem to making a phone call.  All the numbers which constitute the full number must be dialed and they must be dialed in a particular order.  If one number is missed, or if all of the numbers are dialed except that even two are transposed, the call will not get to the right party.  All the elements of Tefillah or important for “the call to get through”.  One must daven from the beginning until the end, consciously following the proper order. With the proper care in our Tefillos--we too can be zoche to Dabeir El Bnei  Yisrael VeYisa’u!


G.  At the Yam Suf, Nachshon Ben Aminadav jumped in to the stormy demonstrating his Mesiras Nefesh for the command of Hashem.  Is this kind of Mesiras Nefesh possible in our time?  Well, there is a documented story about HaRav Mechel Yehudah Lefkowitz, Z’tl.  He was a bachur riding on a train in Europe when a woman in inappropriate dress walked in to the car.  Rather than face the situation which he obviously felt could impact upon his Kedusas Einayim, he actually threw himself out of the moving train.  While we may not necessarily expect ourselves to jump in the same way as Nachshon ben Aminadav or Reb Mechel Yehudah, we must realize that we are capable of much more than the world would ascribe to an ordinary human.  One should jump--in his own way, and at the time when he too can demonstrate that he would rather follow the will of Hashem--then cave to his human frailty.  We know where the Mesirus Nefesh took Nachshon and Reb Mechel Yehudah.  Where will it take you?


H.  Although the Malachim were not allowed to sing Shira Al HaYam, Bnei Yisrael were allowed to do so.  What was the difference?  Some suggest that when Bnei Yisrael wanted to sing Shira, the Mitzriyim had already been thrown into the sea.  They thus merited being Mekadesh Shem Shamayim


I.  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.


J.  Some additional popular 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 of 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?


K.  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”!


L.  As we have noted in the past, 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!


M.  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!


N.  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:  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?” 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! 



Special Note Four:  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!



11 Shevat

THOUGHTS ON GALUS FROM HARAV CHATZKEL LEVENSTEIN, Z’TL: “The decree of exile is an unnatural state that was expressly created for K’lal Yisrael. When we consider its consequences, we find that no nation other than K’lal Yisrael remains in existence after an appreciable time in exile. The Midrash relates that Hashem asked Avrohom Avinu what punishment he chooses for his children when they sin and there is no Beis HaMikdash to atone for their wrongdoing: exile or purgatory? According to one opinion quoted in the Midrash, Avrohom was unable to answer. In practical terms, the consequences of exile and purgatory are strongly equated. Contrary to our understanding, its deleterious effect upon our spiritual growth and well-being cannot be overstated, we have no appreciation of the great measure of Divine mercy needed as we pass from one regime to the next….” [Excerpted from the outstanding work, Rav Chatzkel, by Rabbi Yitzchak Kasnett, Shlita (Artscroll, p. 142)]



A HUMBLE SPIRIT: “The greater the person is, the more humble he should be. He should say to himself, “Look at the potential that Hashem has endowed me with. Am I using my capabilities to their fullest extent? Am I deserving of honor for my many achievements if I am only working at 75% of my potential? It could be that the town water carrier deserves more honor and respect because he struggles to attain 95% of his limited potential!” The Chofetz Chaim was once overheard talking to himself: “Yisroel Meir, look how much Hashem has given you. He gave you the privilege to write a Sefer Chofetz Chaim, a Shemiras HaLashon, an Ahavas Chesed and a Mishna Berurah. He has given you a large yeshiva with hundreds of students. He has done so much for you and what have you done for Him?” The Chofetz Chaim did not congratulate himself on his many accomplishments and the monumental Seforim which he authored. He was humbled by the realization that his prodigious achievements meant that a great deal more was expected of him. This prodded him to undertake new projects and write more Seforim for the benefit of K’lal Yisrael and the glory of Torah!” [Excerpted from A Humble Spirit--Practical and Down-to-Earth Insights and Ideas from the Teachings of HaRav Avrohom Pam, Z’tl, by Rabbi Sholom Smith, Shlita]



IT IS NOT BETTER! As we begin a new cycle of the Sefer Chofetz Chaim today, we note that the Chofetz Chaim deals with a crucial point that many may claim: “I want to be social, and I cannot keep these laws to the tee--so it is better that I not study them in detail, as it is better for a person to sin b’shogeig, than it is for him to sin intentionally.” The Chofetz Chaim alerts us to the Halacha that we do not say that it is better to sin unintentionally than intentionally when the Torah explicitly provides that the act is prohibited (Lo Seleich Rachil B’Amecha), and adds--would one dare say “I will not study the laws relating to robbery--so that I can rob with impunity!” Hakhel Note: As thousands start the new cycle--one should make it a point to join-in, and bolster himself in Shemiras HaLashon in a real and practical way.




Special Note One: 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.  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.


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


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


E.  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).


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


G.  Recite the complete Tefillah of the Chofetz Chaim on Shemiras HaLashon daily available at http://tinyurl.com/78fcytc    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. 


H.  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.


I.  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 Two: As we view the tragic events of the past week, we recall the words in the Torah (Shemos 33:23) in which Hashem advised Moshe Rabbeinu--”Ve’Ro’isa Ess Achorai U’Fanai Lo Yeira’u--You will see My ‘back’, but not My ‘face’--you will understand events after they happen but will not be able to understand them prior to then.  We all know that something is happening--we simply don’t know what it is--and we are not supposed to, for if we did we would have Nevi’im.  So what is left?  Of course, it cannot be said enough--it is Teshuva--the desire, the longing, the movement, the actual strides to put your life and the lives of those close to you in the right direction.--in that very same direction as those 20% who left Egypt, and not the 80% who tragically remained forever behind.  The first steps in Teshuva are identifying the foibles and the shortcomings, the failures and the faults.  The next step is feeling true remorse over them and realistically resolving how to not fall to them so easily again.  Every day, we recite the words “Selach Lanu Avinu Ki Chatanu--Hashem, please forgive us for having sinned”.  Without proper charata--remorse over a misdeed, what worth is the thrice daily lip movement?  Is there any redeeming value to saying something to Hashem which you don’t mean now--even if you do intend to mean it five or six months from now when Elul gets closer? The key is valuing each day here and now, and not letting it pass without a new step in the direction of sheleimus--making oneself whole as a person.  Just as with the body--when we bang our foot, we begin to walk funny, so too it is with the soul--if our tongues are a bit too loose with coarse, hurtful, or non-complimentary words (even if they are simply only words that you wouldn’t say in front of your Rav, your Rebbi…or your shadchan)--then our Tefillos are also hurt and wounded, and our words of Torah are far from pure.  Not letting the indiscretion, the carelessness, the instinct-over-intellect, happen again, and doing this consciously and consistently, day after day, will provide daily elevation--and will B’Ezras Hashem elevate us to the Geulah Sheleimah, may it come speedily and in our day!



10 Shevat

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



ESPECIALLY 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 (Chaim Yisroel ben Chana Tzirel, l’refuah sheleima): 


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 [we have previously provided Rabbi Vaye’s bedika guidelines] 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!



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





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


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


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


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





Special Note One:  HaRav Matisyahu Salomon, Shlita (Mattisyahu Chaim ben Etel, le’refuah sheleima), relates that his rebbe, HaRav Eliyahu Lopian, Z’tl, defines life as “that which a person can never have enough of.”  This is truly an amazing definition, for it teaches us that essentially every person must define life on his own.

To some people, money is life, because that is what they cannot get enough of, to others, it may be music, and to others, it may even be sports.  Hashem, of course, would like the Torah and Mitzvos to be how you define life, as the Pasuk states “ Lishmor La’asos……Ki Hu Chayeichem…--be careful to perform all the words of this Torah, for it is your life…(Devorim 32:46,47).”  Indeed, Chazal reiterated these words when they instituted the nussach of “Ki Heym Chayeinu--for it is our life” in the Maariv prayer.

With this definition, no one could claim that he has had “enough” of life, for life is only defined as something that one truly wants and pursues.

It is interesting to note that the Shem M’Shmuel writes that if a person’s aspirations are for Ruchniyus, spirituality, in this world, then these aspirations continue in Olam Haba, and he continues to soar from madregah to madregah--from level to level--in the next world as well.  His “life” actively continues there for he could never have enough in the here and now.  On the other hand, one whose “life” is defined by materialism, or any aspect of it, does not have much place to go in the next world, which has no materialism in it.

We should make sure that we do not distort the definition of life.  At the beginning of each day, as we sit down to map out or begin to perform the various tasks, chores, responsibilities and duties of the day, we should ask ourselves, “How will I define life today?”



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


Special Note Three: As noted above, Shemiras HaLashon Yomi commences a new cycle of five-minutes-a-day study of the Halachos of Shemiras Halashon.  In just four months, one can review the Halachos of Shmiras Halashon by just studying approximately two Halachos (or paragraphs) a day, in the Sefer Chofetz Chaim. For those not already involved in the Shemiras Halashon Yomi program, we strongly urge and recommend this study.  To understand its great importance in our daily lives, we provide the following excerpts from Guard Your Tongue (Part 4):

How Would You Like It?

Before speaking against someone else, think how you would like it if someone said that about you.

Slandering the Doctor

Ponder this:  A man lost his faculty of speech and after a painstaking search, obtained a physician who was able to cure him.  Would he have the insolence to use his newly-found speech to slander that doctor?  Definitely not!  Our situation is similar.  Hashem has endowed us with the ability to speak, let us not use it against His wishes.

Refraining from Loshon Hora

When you refrain from speaking because you fear that you might utter something forbidden, you are credited with a mitzvah.  This mitzvah is equal in status to a mitzvah which requires a positive action.

Set an Example

If a person guards his speech, others will emulate him and he will be rewarded for that merit, also.

Likewise Treatment Above

One who refrains from speaking about the faults of others and seeks to find their merits will be treated likewise on his day of reckoning.


At the Same Moment

When one speaks Loshon Hora about another person, at that very same moment, his sins are mentioned in Heaven. (HaRav Chaim Vital--Shaar HaKedusha)

Daily Account

A person should make a reckoning every day to examine his speech of that day.  If the entire day passed by without incident, he should joyfully mark this down in a notebook.  He should also praise Hashem for His past help and request His help in the future.

Common Excuses for Speaking Loshon Hora

The following excuses for speaking Loshon Hora are not valid justifications.  It is important to familiarize yourself with this list:

  1. “But it true.”

  2. “I didn’t actually say anything bad about the fellow” (when you have hinted about a fault).

  3. “I did the same thing myself.”

  4. “Everybody knows it.”

  5. “I’d say it even if he were here.”

  6. “I was only joking.”

  7. “He’ll never know about it.”

  8. “I wouldn’t mind if someone said that about me.”

  9. “We’re close friends, so he won’t mind.”


For all those joining in, may the Segulah of studying the laws of Shmiras HaLashon and the ultimate positive effect it will have on your daily life, serve as a great merit for you and your family.



9 Shevat

AVOID RIBBIS!  We once again reminder you that we have been advised that Emigrant Savings Bank (and Emigrant.com), Quicken Loans, and Intervest National Bank have substantial Jewish ownership. Please consult your Rav regarding depositing or borrowing money (e.g. mortgages) from them, as ribbis issues may be involved. For further information please email hakhelusa@gmail.com



YOUR DISCOVERY!  In the financial world, one of the best ways to get rich quick is to invent something useful or discover/uncover a need that others have not yet realized.  The physical world is, of course, a dugma for the spiritual world. There are constantly new opportunities to find or realize spiritual needs and fill them as soon as possible.  If you realize that your community or block needs a certain Gemach--establish it.  If your Shul  davens Nusach Sefard and only has a few Nusach Ashkenaz siddurim for those who come in--buy some and put them in the Shul. If you realize that you continuously face a particular situation (halachic/hashkafic) --find out how to best handle it.  Remember--the thought, the situation, the opportunity came to you--it’s your discovery-- just as minivans or mp3’s or chipwich’s were someone else’s.  Don’t let someone else capitalize on your opportunity. You saw the need, you discovered the necessity, you realized that something needed improvement, correction or a little bit of help--now become the spiritual successes that Hashem wants you to be!



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).



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” (Mishlei 10:8).  We know, of course, that this teaching is precisely what Moshe Rabbeinu followed when the Bnei Yisroel were busy with the booty of Mitzrayim--and he was busy with the Atzmos Yosef.  The Rambam in Hilchos Teshuva writes that we can all be like Moshe Rabbeinu--here, where we are likewise following the advice of Shlomo HaMelech--is a great place to start. If you need any additional incentive to “choose” the Mitzvah--think about who among the descendants of the Bnai Yisroel still has some of their ancestor’s Egyptian booty in his possession--and where the Atzmos Yosef are today--ready and poised in Shechem to greet us at Techiyas Hameisim.  The difference is eternity!




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. By the following link http://tinyurl.com/zj5fa6c we provide a list complied according to Rav Moshe Vaye’s Sefer Bedikas HaMazon, which lists the names of fruits, whether or not checking is required, and how the checking must be done in America.  For those outside of America, a similar list can be found at http://tinyurl.com/zdq62qq



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 for the next thirty (30) days 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!


Hakhel Note: Chazal (Brachos 6B) teach that Tefillah is Berumo Shel Olam--it stands at the top of the world. In fact, Rabban Gamliel Rabinovich, Shlita (in his Sefer Tiv HaTefillah, p.39) teaches that when one prays, he is really there-- at the top of the world--and that, accordingly, one should put great effort into improving his Tefillah.  Rabban Gamliel adds that one should attempt to add his own insights into the words and phrases--and that any insight that he has which arouses fear or love of Hashem within him is ‘bevadai emes’--is certainly true. This is so because Chazal formulated our Tefillos with Ruach HaKodesh, and included all of these thoughts within their meaning (see Ohr HaChaim HaKadosh to Beraishis 46:8)!  Accordingly, he urges everyone to engage in moving, thought-provoking Tefillah-- connecting to Hashem through your own ‘bevadai emes’--true and powerful initiative!



Special Note Three:  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 2001. 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 HaMan, we should consciously and wholeheartedly remember that a primary goal in the financial success that we seek is the support of Torah and those who study it!”


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


HaRav Mattisyahu related:  “I walked into a Shul in which someone was reading Parashas HaMon on the Tuesday of Parashas BeShalach, 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 morsal of parnassah and kalkala that is gifted to us by Hashem--whether or not we are millionaires or multi-millionaires--is part and parcel of the Mon that began falling for us more than 3,300 years ago!


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



8 Shevat

NOT HERE! We learned that there were above 61 recorded earthquakes in 2015 with magnitude above 6.5!  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!



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




Special Note One:  Just a few final points and pointers on last week’s Parasha:


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

Hakhel Note: This is the job, this is the role, of each and every one of us--if we want to be a part of the generation of Geulah! 


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


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


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



Special Note Two:  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 remain 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 to 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 Three: In the pamphlet VeNomar Amein, the story is brought about a religious Jew who was placed into one of Stalin’s, yemach shemo, Siberian labor camps.  One morning, as he awoke, he contemplated for a moment what he was going to say Modeh Ani about.  After all, he thought, what type of life was he leading--far off in a distant, forsaken corner of the world, a captive in the ice cold weather of Siberia?  Not only had he been separated from his family, but he was being forced not to observe Shabbos, not to put on Tefillin, and not to keep Kosher.  There were no Jews around him, either.  What, then, was he thanking Hashem for with the words She’hechezarta Bi Nishmasi Bechemla--for returning his neshama with compassion”?  The prisoner then recalled that the concluding words of Modeh Ani are Rabba Emunasecha--abundant is my faith in You [Hakhel Note:  Others translate it as-- abundant is Hashem’s Faithfulness].  He thought:  “They can take away so much of me physically and spiritually--but they can never take away my Emunah in Hashem.  For my Emunah in Hashem itself, it is worthwhile to get up in the morning and meet the day ahead.”  He had the will to live again and survived the inhumane conditions.  Later, after this Jew was released, he told his Rebbe of his mental debate and his ultimate conclusion on Modeh Ani.  His Rebbe responded:  “You should know that you were sent Min HaShomayim to the depths of Siberia in order for you to reach this conclusion and achieve this special relationship with HaKadosh Baruch Hu!”

Hakhel Note:  It is reported that Rav Chaim Stein, Z’tl, would not be satisfied with reciting Modeh Ani just once, but would be seen repeating it in the morning continuously after he left his home on the way to daven Shacharis in the Yeshiva.



Special Note Four:  Every day, three times a day, we recite in Birchas Avos that Hashem is “Maivi Go’el Livnei Venaihem Lema’an Shemo BeAhava-- that Hashem brings the Redeemer...with love”.  To what does this ‘love’ refer?  We provide the following insight of HaRav Moshe Cordevero, z’tl, at the end of the first chapter of the classic Sefer Tomer Devorah.

  “When our Zechus Avos and our other merits are exhausted, what can Hashem do for us when we are unworthy? He does as it is written: “Zocharti Lach Chesed Ne’uarayich Ahavas Kelulosayich...I recall for your sake the kindness of your youth, the love of your bridal days, how you followed Me in the wilderness in an unsown land” (Yirmiyah 2:2).  Hashem, takes the time and makes the effort, if you will, not to forget us and forget about us--but to reach back and recall the olden days and the previous love He had towards us-- and rekindles His mercy anew upon us.” With this recollection, HaRav Cordevero continues, “He remembers all the Mitzvos we have fulfilled since our birth as a nation and all the favors and good qualities with which He conducts His world. From all these, He fashions something especially auspicious with which to be merciful for our sake.”  This, we suggest, is the Ahava which we recall at every Shemone Esrei--it is the Ahava that began in the upcoming Parasha of Beshalach as we began ‘the love of our bridal days’ --as we followed Hashem in the desert, and undertook our observance of the ‘Chok U’Mishpat’--of Hashem’s loving guidelines to lead us properly through life.  What a touching and precious time and recollection--like the day of your chasuna or the chasuna of a loved one.  Every time we recite the word “BeAhava” we too can recall that love and reciprocate with the feeling that our people had for Hakadosh Baruch Hu at that incomparable time as well.  Feel it as you say it. May the Geulah come--from that reciprocal love--when we will once again experience it afresh and anew!



5 Shevat

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 provide this tefillah (as provided in the past) by the following link  http://tinyurl.com/6l5s2s



EAT WELL!  The Ba’alei Mussar teach that we daven three times a day--much like we eat three times a day, for just as our body must be phyically nourished--our neshama requires to be consistently fed with ongoing doses of real Emunah--without it, we are subject to the elements around us which weaken and break down our pure relationship with Hashem. With the Parashios of Yetzias Mitzrayim, we receive a special yearly charge of Emunah--with our daily Tefillos, we maintain and further that charge. What a wonderful time to undertake a daily Tefillah improvement!




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 from 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 (speaking of timely topics)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 One: We too MUST see the light! Hakhel Note Two: At the recent Lev L’Achim breakfast in Flatbush, former Chief Rabbi Lau, Shlita, taught that the Torah describes Makas Chosech with the words “Lo Ra’u Ish Es Achiv-one brother did not see the other”--and when a brother doesn’t ‘see’ another--it is the greatest darkness!


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?  In his famous answer, Rabbi Paysach Krohn, Shlita notes that shoresh of the term Rai’aihu and the term Re’ussa is actually 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 entire Torah is a Sefer HaMitzvos.  Even if many Pesukim, and even many Parashios, 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 on until the 14th of Nissan which had not yet occurred?!  He answers that the Torah highlights with these words for us that the Gemar Asiyah--the action and completion of any deed is really in the hands of Heaven.  What a person must do is display a Ratzon and Gemiras Da’as to want to do that which he has been commanded.  Whether the act itself will be performed or will be successful, is not for us to decide.  Succinctly stated--Rachamana Liba Bo’i--a person’s obligation in Kiyum HaMitzvos is the degree and extent of one’s Lev in it!  For an important extended discussion of this topic, see Sefer Chovos HaLevavos, Sha’ar HaBitachon.


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 in contrast the eirev rav electing to leave 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 requisite passion and 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.  HaRav Erlanger, Shlita, teaches that his father in-law (HaRav Shlomo Wolbe, Z’tl) would say that everyone should know the Ramban at the end of this week’s Parasha 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, Z’tl,  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!



4 Shevat

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



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



ETERNITY II!  The Sefer Loving Kindness points out that a person would walk at least a short distance and make the effort to get a ‘free gift’ (such as from a store that is opening).  Whatever it may be--it is still free! All the more so, then, should one walk that distance or make that effort to perform a Chesed for another--for here the free Chesed is for results in eternal reward.  We note that by eternal reward, we mean not only that the person obtains reward forever and ever--but that the person himself is on an improved and higher plane for eternity as well!



NO COINCIDENCE! There is no such thing as coincidence. Rabbi Zecharia Wallerstein, Shlita, makes the following points: The fact that the internet is abbreviated by the term ‘net’ should alert us to the trap that could be involved. The term ‘web’ can allude to the spiderweb--in which a ruthless spider can torture its victims by sucking their blood out and keeping them alive. Of course, the term ‘cell’ phone indicates how some people become jailed by their very own phone. A person has to be on guard--at all times--to protect his humanity.




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


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



Special Note Two:  Rabbi Yisroel Reisman, Shlita, conveys the following great lesson in Birkas HaMazon that he heard directly from the Skverer Rebbe, Shlita:  The last of all of the HaRachamans contains a Bracha, ‘HaRachaman Hu Yevorech Es...’ in which one specifically identifies whom he is giving a Bracha to (his parent, his wife, his children, his host, anyone at the table, etc.).  The Skverer Rebbe points out that the essence of this Bracha is sometimes missed by people--for after specifically expressing to whom you are giving the Bracha, it does not end there. Rather, the heart and core of the magnificent Bracha is only then eloquently expressed.  It is:  “[May you be blessed] KeMo Shenisbarchu Avoseinu…just as our forefathers Avrohom, Yitzchak, and Yaakov were blessed in everything, from everything, with everything.  So may he bless us all together with a perfect blessing and let us say Amen!”  Many may not realize that the last HaRachaman continues until this point--and miss having special Kavannah in expressing this great and important Bracha to and on behalf of others.  Let us spread the word about this HaRachaman--so that we can spread Bracha amongst all of Klal Yisrael! 



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


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


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


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



3 Shevat

ASK YOURSELF! Rabbi Moshe Elefant, Shlita, at the recent ASK OU Shiur in Brooklyn, urged everyone to check on whether the Party Planner that he was going to use for a simcha being planned--or the Party Planner used at the Simcha he was at--was under a reliable Hashgacha. Remember--the caterer’s Hashgacha is not the Party Planner Hashgacha!



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!



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


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



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




Special Note One: Concluding Rashi thoughts on Parashas Va’eira:


A. Rashi (Shemos 7:13) writes that it is the Middah of HaKadosh Baruch Hu to bring punishment to the nations in order for K’lal Yisrael to react. (see Tzefanya 3:6,7) Hakhel Note: Let us look at what is going on in the world around us--and react! Let us not be complacent and think that this is just the way of the world!


B. Although Paroh told Moshe Rabbeinu that he wanted the frogs to be removed the next day as a test to him, Rashi (Shemos 8:8) writes that Moshe immediately went out to daven to Hashem that the tzefardeia be removed the next day. There is a tremendous lesson here. We should never wait to daven--if there is a need, albeit for the future, one should talk to the Source immediately!


C. Several times in the Parasha the term Vaye’etar is used to describe Moshe Rabbeinu’s Tefillah. Rashi writes that the term Vaye’etar means that Moshe strengthened himself and engaged in Ribui Tefillah. The lesson to us is clear--if Moshe girded himself and davened qualitatively and quantitatively for the wicked Mitzriyim--all the more so how we have to daven for our brethren the world over--and for ourselves. What a significant part of the day it is for us--today, can we attempt Vaye’etar!



Special Note Two: Rabbi Zecharia Wallerstein, Shlita, teaches the following essential points:


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


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


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


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


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


F. One should consider that while computers, MP3’s, cell phones and so much other gadgetry requires a ‘power source’--the sun, the earth, the winds, are not plugged into any socket, battery, or charger. We should recall the Source of all energy from the greatest things that go on around us!


G. 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--proceed the words of V’Ahavta Es Hashem Elokecha in Kriyas Shema. Constantly feeling Hashem’s love in everything around is an essential first step for growth in one’s Ruchniyus!



Special Note Three: Many wonder whether, in fact, we are so much more sophisticated in our day than people were 1,000 years ago, 3,000 years ago, or 5,000 years ago.  The dearth of technological advancement over several thousand years in comparison to the recent giant steps would have otherwise indicated that man has recently advanced intellectually in an unparalleled manner.  Yet, Chazal teach us that Adam HaRishon was so great that he could “see from one end of the world to the other,” and, furthermore, we all know the intense degree of wisdom that our Avos, Neviim, Gaonim, and Rishonim possessed.  Shlomo HaMelech himself is known to us all as the “Chochom MiKol Adam--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 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’aleh knows all of the gadgetry and precisely what we are supposed to be (or not be) doing with it.  The use of our cell phone, for example, is very much a part of our Din VeCheshbon after 120 years--and it can be a misused and misguided tool that c’v embarrasses and hurts us--or quite to the contrary--an otherwise small and insignificant object that joyfully raises us to a higher level in Gan Eden!



2 Shevat

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!



A REAL LESSON! HaRav Chaim Kanievsky, Shlita, brings from the Zohar (Parshas 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?!




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

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



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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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



1 Shevat

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!


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



KASHRUS ALERT!  The OU has announced thatit does not certify fresh Jaffa mandarins that grow during shmita and are sold using a ‘heter mechira’.  Some Jaffa - Mehadrin Growers mandarins which state ‘heter mechira’ on the box bear an unauthorized OU symbol.  Corrective actions are being implemented.”


FROM A READER--NEW MIDDOS CHALLENGES PROGRAM! “A thoughtful new program to help Jews all over the world work on middos together.  Every week, participants receive a brief insight into the Middah of the Month, as well as activity challenges, creativity challenges, and Torah questions to help integrate the Middah into their daily life. Participants can earn points by completing the challenges each week, and the winners at the end of each month will receive a prize! The program began just yesterday--Erev Rosh Chodesh Shevat (January 10th). Following is a link with more information about the program:



...and  the link to join:






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



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


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



Special Note Three: The new cycle of Positive Word Power (Artscroll/Chofetz Chaim Heritage Foundation), the masterful and monumental work on Speaking Positively begins today, 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.  he 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 Four: In Friday’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 their expertise, in a given Olam Haba livelihood.  The Chofetz Chaim, for instance, suggests that those who are capable select a given area of Torah (such as a particular mesechta--Brochos, Shabbos, etc.) and know it very well--or at least much better than your friends. This thought can be applied in many other areas as well. You can stand out by:

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

·         Especially designating two hours a day which is Lashon-Hara free--and keeping it at all costs.

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

·         Recognizing the goodness that Hashem bestows upon you by constantly saying “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 you own skill set.


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



27 Teves

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 Avrohom 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:  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 Vuv 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 Vuv 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!



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 Bnei 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 other’s 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:  Tomorrow, 28 Teves, is the eighth 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 Heim 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 his recent 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.  Ham’an 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 descendents who converted, became Torah scholars and propagated Torah and its teachings!


5.  HaRav Berenbaum teaches that one should work on the honor due to 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 Avrohom Avinu’s actions on behalf of the three malochim, the three angels, under the tree.  Chazal teach that in reward for his one-time ostensible Gemilas Chesed to the three angels, his descendents, constituting millions of people, were sustained--nourished and protected--for 40 years in the desert.  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 Parnassa--L’Olam Vo’ed!



26 Teves

IN NEED OF YOUR TEFILLOS!  We have been informed by a reliable source that Gila bas Frances Tzipora (mother) and Tzipora bas Gila (daughter) Sassoon, survivors of the fire in Flatbush prior to last Pesach, are Boruch Hashem out of sakanah, but are still very much in need of our Tefillos for a Refuah Sheleimah. Hakhel Note: Thanks to the reader who cared enough to have us inquire.



HAYOREH EHS D’VAR HASHEM: At the end of this 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! 



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



THE DIFFERENCE: In a Hakhel Shiur, Rabbi Zev Smith, Shlita, taught that while one may tell a story to a child to put him to sleep--when one tells a story to an adult--it is to wake him up! Accordingly, when one hears a story he should not only think of how ‘nice’ or ‘moving’ it was--but how it can directly and actually move himself to new, better or improved conduct.




Special Note One: The following essential lessons were presented by Rabbi Yosef Eisen, Shlita, at a Shovavim Shiur:


1. A REAL GAUGE: In the Sefer Binyan Adei Ahd, HaRav Yoel Schwartz, Shlita, writes that an important part of one’s judgment on Bein Adam L’Chaveiro issues after 120 years will be how he/she treated his/her spouse--for the private nature of spousal interactions will accurately reflect a person’s middos. Remember--always be thoughtful, always be sensitive…excel at the real test!


2. STAY CALM: HaRav Pam, Z’tl, was approached by a young man who told Rav Pam that although he made it his practice to take care of his bodily needs before davening, he often felt as if he had to take care of his needs further during davening itself. HaRav Pam instructed him as follows: “Go to the bathroom once before davening, and that is all.”  Rav Pam continued: “The Ribbono Shel Olam does not want you to be nervous, He wants you to be calm--put all of the rest of those thoughts out of your mind. Be calm and stay calm--this is how you can give Hashem the most Nachas!”


3. YIFTACH B’DORO: When Chazal taught that Yiftach in his generation was like Shmuel in his generation, they are emphasizing to us that the Rabbanim of each generation are our leaders--and that we should constantly look to them for their advice and their p’sokim. One should realize that when he makes it his practice to ask Shailos, his family members and friends come to learn of the importance of doing so. Moreover, with the p’sak and with the hadracha, comes the bracha of the Talmid Chochom--whether explicitly or implicitly! Hakhel Note: With this yesod, we can well understand why Shlomo HaMelech, the wisest of all men, reiterates in Mishlei (11:14 and 24:6): “U’Seshuah B’Rov Yoeitz--Yeshuah comes from much counsel!”



Special Note Two:  Rabbi Eli Mansour, Shlita provides us with a powerful understanding of the pain of others, and how significant one’s personal pain is in the eyes of Hashem.  Rabbi Mansour teaches that, as the Torah explicitly states in the Bris Bain HaBesorim, the Galus Mitzrayim was to have lasted 400 years (Bereishis 15:13).  Instead, as the upcoming Parashiyos teaches us, 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 Sara waited collectively before they had Yitzchak (Avrohom was 100 and Sora was 90).  The pain that Avrohom and Sara 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 Three:  Rabbi Zecharia Wallerstein, Shlita brings the Chazal that “Borosi Yetzer Hara, Borosi Torah Tavlin Kenegda--I created the Yetzer Hara--but I created the Torah as the Tavlin --the spice--to fight and overcome it.”  Rabbi Wallerstein points out that the Chazal could have simply stated that “...and I created the Torah to counteract the Yetzer Hara”.  Why is the word ‘Tavlin’-- the spice-- used to describe the Torah’s essential efficacy against the Yetzer Hara?  He explains that we must appreciate that the Torah is not c’v like a bad-tasting medicine or an unwanted antidote.  Very much to the contrary, the Torah is effective against the Yetzer Hara because you feel its special taste, its ‘geshmak’, its sweetness, in assisting you to distinguish between good and bad--between what life is really not about--and what it is truly about.  When one learns--he should realize that he is tasting something oh so special--and not approach it as a body of knowledge, or simply as another part of his long (or short) day.  Rather--it is the ‘main course’, the essence, the best, the sweetest part of the day.  If one appreciates this and feels this way while learning , the Yetzer Hara is forced to cover himself with his cape in shame and scuttle away.  If one personally does not yet feel or sense the Tavlin of Torah, he may want to try learning something new that he has not learned before, start learning something that he has always wanted to but has never had the chance to,  or find the right study partner (don’t be shy-ask him if he can learn with you).  In any and all events--Hashem is telling us--here is the Yetzer Hara and here is the Tavlin--go and defeat him and enjoy it--because that is very much part of the process!



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



25 Teves

KAVANAH CARDS! The following is a link http://tinyurl.com/hyo2lv5

to wonderful Kavanah Kards. To obtain the actual laminated cards--we refer you to KavanahKards.com.



BEDIKAS TOLAIM: By the following link http://tinyurl.com/jzr5fkt, we provide the suggested preparation and inspection suggestion sheets prepared by Rabbi Isser M. Fuchs, Shlita, and distributed at the recent Ask OU Shiur at Agudath Israel Bais Binyomin.



STOP THE SIEGE! Rabbi Moshe Tuvia Lieff, Shlita, points out that Sancheirev’s army surrounding Yerushalayim was miraculously destroyed during the days of King Chizkiyahu. How was the siege lifted--how did hundreds of thousands of well-trained, expert soldiers die overnight, ending the planned onslaught instantaneously--and bringing victory and freedom to the Jewish people without so much as lifting a finger in battle. Rabbi Lieff teaches that in the time of Chizkiyahu even the children were students of Torah--well-versed in their times even in the laws of tumah and tahara. The lesson for us to glean is to increase our merits in the study of Torah--we too, can be successful over the mightiest and most dangerous of our enemies--with a Pasuk, a Mishna, or a Daf!



DON’T ACCEPT IT! In the recently published Dirshu Edition of the Sefer Chofetz Chaim, which contains rulings of contemporary Poskim in Shemiras Halashon, the issue is raised as to whether when one accepts Rechilus--is his aveira a one-time act of acceptance, or does it constitute an ongoing aveira for so long as one has accepted the Rechilus against him/her as being true? This is a Machlokes HaPoskim. HaRav Chaim Kanievsky, Shlita, does, in fact, rule that it is an ongoing aveira! (ibid., p. 605). Hakhel Note: From this stark p’sak--we see how careful we must be from accepting any Rechilus--no matter what the ‘proofs’ are regarding its truth--and most certainly not without discussing the matter with a Posek in Hilchos Shemiras Halashon! Once again, the number of the Chofetz Chaim Heritage Foundation Shemiras Halashon Shaila Hotline in the United States is 718-951-3696, 9:00PM  to 10:30 PM, 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).




Special Note One:  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 conduct which we should simply have no part of.  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!

Special Note Two:  We provide the following points and pointers from the Sefer Orchos Tzaddikim:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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



24 Teves

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



23 Teves

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. Again, will you engage in one less indulgence today--even if it is just one less cookie or bag of potato chips?



TITZLACH BIMELACHTECHA! The Gemara (Shabbos 89) records that when Moshe Rabbeinu came to Shomayim to receive the Torah, he found Hashem putting tagim on the letters of the Torah.  Moshe Rabbeinu did not say anything, for which Hashem reprimanded him.  What should he have said?  Rashi explains that he should have said, as a matter of Derech Eretz, “Titzlach Bimelachtecha--may You succeed in Your work!”  Obviously, Hashem did not need this bracha from Moshe--but Hashem instructed Moshe that there was still an appropriate reaction or response.  The Mishna Berurah (Orach Chaim 347, seif katan 7) brings this l’halacha with the words:  Derech Eretz Lomar L’Adam She’oseik B’MelachaTitzlach Milachtecha!”--it is proper conduct for a person to bless another engaged in work with the words: “May you be successful in that which you are doing!”

Hakhel Note:  A Rav related to us that he was attempting to resolve Shalom Bayis issues between a couple and that one of the complaints that the husband had against his spouse was that when he left for work, his wife gave him no bracha such as “Tatzliach!”  After all--didn’t she want to wish him well--especially if it was for their joint benefit?!




Special Note One: We provide several essential points made by HaRav Tzvi Meir Zilberberg, Shlita in a Shiur (in English):


1.  The Eight-Week Shovavim period that we are now in corresponds to the Parashios in the Torah during which we were upended from a status of tortured and debased, low-class slaves to that of a miraculously-freed people which received the Torah from Hashem Himself and honored to build the Mishkan to ‘house’ Hashem’s Presence in this world. The message of Shovavim is that we can during this especially endowed period do the same--by uprooting and overturning the Yetzer Hara’s presence all about us--and raising ourselves closer and closer to HaKadosh Baruch Hu--’housing’ Hashem’s Presence in our hearts and being in the here and now!


2.  It is essential for us to realize that elevating our relationship with Hashem is our purpose and goal in this world. The special gift that we are given to accomplish this goal is Tefillah. As Dovid HaMelech exclaimed and as we repeat to ourselves three times a day (Tehillim 145:18): “Karov Hashem Lechol Kore’av Lechol Asher Yikreu’hu V’Emes--Hashem is close to all who call upon Him--to all who call upon Him sincerely.” Indeed, in the Haftarah of Shuva Yisrael read on Shabbos Shuva, the first instruction we are given to accomplish our task of Teshuva is: “Kechu Imachem Devarim V’Shuvu El Hashem” (Hoshei’ah 14:2)--take your words of Tefillah with you in order to return to Hashem!


3.  Dovid HaMelech actually describes himself with the words (Tehillim 109:4): “V’ani Tefillah--and I am prayer”--for this is the metziyus, the essence, for which we should all strive.


4.  It is absolutely imperative that we recognize the importance of Tefillah prior to hardship or difficulty. Chazal especially emphasize to us that “Le’Olam Yevakeish Adam Rachamim Ahd She’lo…Leolam Yakdim Adam Tefillah L’Tzara---a person should ask for mercy before he gets sick, before any trouble comes.”


5.  Hashem has established the world on the basis of: “Hashme’ini Es Koleich--I want to hear your voice calling me to be close.” This is the way the world works--and it is accordingly not a miracle when Hashem listens to our prayers--even though the outside world might consider it miraculous under the circumstances.


6.  Hashem listens to Kol Peh--to every single person, for it is the obligation of every single person, no matter who he is, where he is, and what he does to draw closer to Hashem and to recognize that Ein Ohd Milevado--there is no source of anything in the world besides Hashem. The Ohr HaChaim HaKadosh teaches that in the last generation before Moshiach, the Yetzer Hara will attempt to pummel us into the 50th sha’ar of tumah (as he attempted to do in Mitzrayim) in order for us not to be worthy of being redeemed. The technological advancements of late are to fool a person into believing that he literally has the world at his fingertips, and that he can control or attain anything that he would like or needs within seconds--with nothing to stop him. In fact, when driving away this superficiality, we will recognize that whatever generation we live in, and whatever we in fact possess--we really and truly have nothing without Hashem’s ongoing beneficence. We must realize that we do not take care of ourselves, and should view ourselves as a child who is ‘at his father’s table’. It is for this reason that Chazal teach and that the Shulchan Aruch (Orach Chaim 98:5) rules that prior to prayer, a person should contemplate his inabilities and the kindnesses in which Hashem sustains and supports him. The more we recognize this, the more we gain, the more we grow--and the more Hashem will want to shower His blessings upon us!


7.  Chazal describe Tefillah as something which is “Berumo Shel Olam--at the height of the world because this is where it places us.” Tefillah is the eitzah shel kol haeitzos--the eitzah over all other eitzos!


8.  In the last year of his life, the Chofetz Chaim, Z’tl, advised HaRav Elchonon Wasserman, Z’tl, that when davening for the final Geulah, one should emphasize asking for Hashem’s Rachamim-”Velirushalayim Irecha B’Rachamim Tashuv” and “Vesechezenah EIneinu B’Shuvecha L’Tzion B’Rachamim” are two very important points in Tefillah in which we can ask for Hashem’s Rachmanus to speedily bring our redemption.


9.  The Navi (Yeshaya 56:7) teaches us: “VeHaviosim El Har Kodshi V’Simachtim B’Veis Tefillasi”--when we achieve the final Geulah, we will reach such a level of closeness to Hashem that we will especially rejoice in the Beis HaMikdash as a house of prayer!


10.  One should review these very basic lessons and process them--for by recognizing the significance of Tefillah and applying a high priority to Tefillah on a daily basis, he will change his life and bring it so very much closer to its great spiritual purpose and goal!



Special Note Two: 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 some 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 Mattisyahu 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 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 nor after they eat--and what a privileged position we are in by recognizing and expressing our true appreciation to the Source of everything in this world!  Additional Note:  The Pasuk in this week’s Parasha records “VaTa’al 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!



20 Teves

FROM A RAV: “You may try and fail--but don’t fail to try!”



BNEI YISRAEL! 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.



SHOVAVIM REMINDER: Many increase their recitation of Tehillim--especially on Erev Shabbos.




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


A. 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 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.   


B.  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 Olam 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” because of a snow or rain storm 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!


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!



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, R’L, the 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 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.  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).


D.  “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”.


L’Ma’aseh! 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!


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, which we remind our readers to think about well. 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 by the following links – (Hebrew version) -- http://tinyurl.com/ncm2ou3  and (English version) -- http://tinyurl.com/3ybyxq  Remember, if Moshe Rabbeinu would have had the opportunity to offer that 515th prayer--he would have entered Eretz Yisrael, as well.  It is no wonder, then, that Dovid HaMelech teaches us “Kaveh El Hashem…Vekaveh El Hashem---Hope to Hashem, strengthen yourself…and Hope to Hashem.”  Don’t give up--keep on coming and davening again and again.  There is a light at tunnel’s end--you have to have the drive, night vision and unrelenting goal to get there!


F.   The 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!


G.  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!


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