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15 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)]



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



A TESHUVA INSIGHT:  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!’….”  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!



SHIRA IN OUR LIVES! 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, as noted last week, 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 (Shulchan Aruch Orach Chaim 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!


Hakhel Note One:  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 every one 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 Two:  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 Three: There is another 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!



TRANSITIONING FROM THE PHYSICAL TO THE SPIRITUAL:  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!



14 Shevat

YOU CAN DO IT--PURIM IS GETTING CLOSER!   You can still begin today to learn one blatt a day of Masechta Megillah--and make a Siyum on Mesechta Megillah at the Seudas Purim!  What a wonderful way to prepare--much Agadeta about the Megillah is contained in the Mesechta.  As in the past, for women, or those who find the task too difficult, may we suggest that one begin the study of the Megilla through a Sefer or Seforim that he/she has not previously studied--and continue daily through completion until reaching the Purim milestone!



ON THE YAHRZEIT OF THE PNEI YEHOSHUA: Today, 14 Shevat, is the Yahrzeit of the Pnei Yeshoshua (R’ Yaakov Yehoshua B’R’ Tzvi Hersh Falk, Z’tl), the mechaber the Pnei Yehoshua on Shas and the grandson of the mechaber of the Maginei Shlomo after whom he was named. The following moving incident is excerpted from Me’Oros HaTzaddikim.


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


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



HOW CHAVIV IS IT?  Now that many of us will be enjoying new and tasty fruits tomorrow, 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!”





1. In honor of Tu B’Shevat, we provide a link http://tinyurl.com/27omq2 to a moving Tefillah from the Ben Ish Chai to be recited for your Esrog this Sukkos (courtesy of Mesivta Yochanan Shraga of Monsey). Before reciting the Tefillah remember how important the role of Tefillah is in actually accomplishing what one sets out to do. Hakhel Note: One should first check with his Rav or Posek as to whether he can daven for his Esrog on Shabbos.


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


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


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


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


6.  Of course, if one intends to eat dates, figs or carob or other types of Bedika fruits, he should make sure that he they had been properly checked for tolaim in accordance with current Halachic guidelines.


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


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


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


10. 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!



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



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



A POWERFUL TEACHING! In a Emuna Daily Lesson, Rabbi David Ashear, Shlita, taught that one’s continuous Tefillos--even if they have gone seemingly ‘unanswered’ so many times--become more and more valuable to Hashem, as they indicate the mispallel’s unwavering and absolute Emunah in Hashem as the Always Present, All-Capable, and All-Powerful One, Who can do anything and everything at any time, in any place, in any situation--and for anyone!


Hakhel Note: To listen to Emuna Daily, one may call 605-475-4799, access number 840886#, with the current Shiur requiring an additional #.



13 Shevat


ITS NOT TOO LATE-MISHNA YOMIS BEGAN SEDER NOSHIM ON SHABBOS! Learn only two Mishnayos a day--grow and accomplish!  To view and print a concise Hebrew calendar which contains the 5778 daily Nach Yomi, Mishna Yomis, Daf Yomi and Halacha Yomis, please see the following link   http://tinyurl.com/ya39q54m


Spread this wealth of information to others!



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



BRACHOS AND DRIED “FRUITS”:  With the growing popularity of dried fruits (and the increased number of Heimeshe brand dried fruits), we remind our readers to exercise caution as to the appropriate bracha over the particular dried fruit. For instance, dried guava may literally be the product of pureed guava, in which case the bracha would be a Shehakol--just as in fruit leather. Similarly, dried fruit mixtures such as ‘kiwi/pineapple’ slices which appear green and are in larger slices than the size of a kiwi may very likely constitute a bracha of Shehakol. Let the proper bracha reciter beware! Hakhel Note: If one is not sure, he should make the possible brachos that are necessary on other foods, with the dried fruit in mind--or simply not eat the dried fruit until he determines what the bracha is.



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



PEARLS OF CHESED:King Shaul did not actually kill the Givonites, but he was held accountable as if he did so, since he destroyed the city of Nov, from which the Givonites earned their livelihood. If King Shaul was held accountable for the indirect damages of his sin, how much more so are we credited with the indirect benefit of our mitzvos. A person who does a favor that enables someone else to earn a livelihood is credited with all the benefit enjoyed by that person’s family from then on.” [Sefer Ahavas Chesed 2: 6, as excerpted from The Concise Ahavas Chesed The Classic Work of the Chofetz Chaim Adapted to a Daily Learning Schedule in English by Rabbi Asher Wasserman, Shlita]



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



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



AMEN REMINDERS: Rabbi Hillel Litwack, Shlita, reminds us of the following important bullet points regarding answering Amen:


1. One must answer Amen immediately after a bracha ends (i.e, no later than toch kedei dibbur)--and if one cannot or will not be able to answer Amen during this immediate time period, then he should not answer Amen at all--for that would be an Amen Yesomah.


2. If a bracha is recited in a Tzibbur, then one can continue to answer as long as most of the Tzibbur has not answered Amen, provided that the Shaliach Tzibbur has not started the next bracha, or began to recite something else. To be clear, once the Shaliach Tzibbur has started something else--one cannot answer Amen even toch kedei dibbur.


3. Accordingly, is imperative that the Shaliach Tzibbur wait at the end of a bracha so that the Tzibbur has time to answer Amen. Similarly, the Shaliach Tzibbur should wait for the Tzibbur to respond the entire nusach of “Amen Yehei Shemei Rabba…” before beginning Yisborach.


4. One should not answer an Amen Chatufa--which is commencing to answer Amen before the bracha is completed (such as during the last word of the bracha). It would also be an Amen Chatufa if the kamatz under the Aleph of Amen was slurred so it sounded like a chataf kamatz. Similarly, one must make sure that the nun in Amen is properly enunciated and not cut off.


5. One’s Amen should be in the time frame for one to say the words “Kel Melech Ne’eman” during that time.





A.  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! 


B.  At the outset of the Parasha we learned 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 and very much required process of rectification.


C.  Before Kriyas Yam Suf, Bnei Yisrael cried out to Hashem.  Rashi points out that they grabbed hold of the Umenos of their forefathers (Shemos 14:10)-- 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!


D.  At the Yam Suf, Nachshon Ben Aminadav jumped in to the stormy waters 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?


 E. Although the Malachim were not allowed to sing Shira Al HaYam, Bnei Yisrael were allowed to do so. What was the difference? Some answer that when Bnei Yisrael wanted to sing Shira, the Mitzriyim had already been thrown into the sea. As a result, the Mitzriyim merited being Mekadesh Shem Shamayim through the punishment that they received. Thus, the Bnei Yisrael were not singing over the death of the Mitzriyim--but over the ten different ways in which the Mitzriyim perished at the sea, demonstrating in detail how HaKadosh Baruch Hu controls the world, punishing when he has to punish, and rewarding (the Bnei Yisrael at the sea) whenever he can. Indeed, Rabbeinu Ovadia MiBartenurah (Avos 5:5) highlights the Pesukim in the Shiras HaYam which detail the differing punishments that the Mitzriyim received. With Yetzias Mitzrayim, and perhaps with the war of Gog U’Magog, we witnessed and will witness Hashem’s Hand in both reward and punishment. We look forward to the day, as we exclaim in Aleinu every day of “LeSaken Olam BeMalchus Shakai VeChol Bnei Vasar Yikre’u ViShmecha…when the need for punishment will no longer exist--and Hashem’s Name will be sanctified by the unified goodness of all the world’s inhabitants. May our sincere Tefillos in Aleinu bring us closer to the reality that we seek!



10 Shevat

STARTING SHABBOS--MISHNA YOMIS BEGINS SEDER NOSHIM! To view and print a concise Hebrew calendar which contains the 5778 daily Nach Yomi, Mishna Yomis, Daf Yomi and Halacha Yomis, please see the following link   http://tinyurl.com/ya39q54m


Spread this wealth of information to others!



SHATNEZ ALERT:  Hakhel has received a notice from the Vaad L’Mishmeres Shatnez.


The notice contained a photo of a style of dark Uggs boots, which had a blue lining and a toggle cord at the back.  These boots were found to contain Shatnez, but so far, no other Uggs boots were also found to contain Shatnez, but the Vaad suggests bringing any Uggs boots containing wool in to a Shatnez lab for checking.  The Vaad also stated that other Uggs products (not boots) have been found to contain Shatnez.


For a copy of the actual Shatnez notice, please see the following link --



For further information, please contact the Vaad at 877-4-SHATNEZ



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



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


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


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


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



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



BRINGING THE GEULAH TO US:  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!





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


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


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



FEEL THE EXCITEMENT!  The exhilaration and intensity of this week’s Parasha is almost palpable.  We provide the following notes and comments relating to the Parasha:


A.  The Parasha begins by describing that Hashem would not lead the Bnei Yisrael through the land of the Pelishtim because He wanted to avoid Bnei Yisrael running back to Mitzrayim when they saw the Pelishtim out and poised for war.  HaRav Moshe Feinstein, Z’tl (in the Sefer Kol Rom) asks: Since Hashem is All-Capable, He could have simply had the erstwhile belligerent Pelishtim not challenge Bnei Yisrael in war, and let them peacefully cut through the Gaza Strip shortcut to enter into Eretz Yisrael.  This approach would most certainly have saved many issues and problems in the Midbar--we would have received the Torah in Eretz Yisrael--and the Bnei Yisrael and mankind would have been forever rectified!  HaRav Feinstein answers that the Pelishtim’s natural reaction of war needed a special counter-active force which Bnei Yisrael did not yet fully possess.  That counter-action consisted of a higher degree of Emunah.  This sufficient Emunah was only actually attained at the Yam Suf, where the Torah records: “Vaya’aminu 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 resurging Emunah within us!


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


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


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


E.  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.


F.  Some additional questions on Az Yashir:


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

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

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

d.  Which Pasuk 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?


G.  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”!


H.  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!


I.  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!


J.  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!



HARAV SCHWAB ON THE SHIRA:  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!



THE SHIRA--CORRECTLY:  Before leaving the Shira, we add a few additional points and pointers, as previously provided:


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


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


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


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



9 Shevat

GETTING READY! 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 we provide a list compiled 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 http://www.hakhel.info/archivesPublicService/TuBShevatUSA5778.pdf and in Eretz Yisrael http://www.hakhel.info/archivesPublicService/TuBShevatEY5778.pdf


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




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



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





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


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


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


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





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.  Hakhel Note: 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!” 



THE FULL BRACHA:  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!



8 Shevat

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



NOT HERE! We learned that there were 106 recorded earthquakes in 2017 with magnitude above 6!  Aside from the-underlying message--you can definitely thank Hashem that you were not in a place in which any of them occurred.  Remember, the miracle of each Makkah was doubled by each Makkah not happening in Goshen!



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



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





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!



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



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



7 Shevat

REALITY CHECK:  Have you complimented someone today--or will you?





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



2.  The previous suggestion is based on the pivotal Yesod of Sur Mai’ra--turn away from evil.  There is, of course, the corresponding rule of Aseh Tov--Seek Ways to do Good.  A possible approach for Shovavim in this vein is to concisely commit to paper daily at least three new Torah thoughts or lessons (Halacha, Hashkafa, Parasha) that you learned.  You can review them from time to time and k’vel (take nachas in yourself).  Over a week--it amounts to 21 teachings that you did not know before--and over the Year--it’s more than 1,000 new Torah points in your possession!  You can then begin doing the math on your own--10 years--10,000 teachings...20 years--20,000 Torah acquisitions...  Truly a magnificent accomplishment!



SEMICHUS GEULAH L’TEFILLAH: In this Parasha of Geulah, we once again provide the very special explanation of Semichus Geulah L’Tefillah, as presented in the magnificent work HaRav Schwab on Prayer, which we have noted so many times in the past is a Sefer which is essential for every Jewish home:


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


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


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


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


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



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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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



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



6 Shevat



1. JAFFA/AMC CLEMENTINES FROM ISRAEL in 5 lb. bags are now being sold at Costco, and require taking of Terumos & Maaseros.


2.  DRIED FRUIT - Following is a very partial list of some common types of dried fruit, etc. and their Kashrus status. The omission of any item does not indicate that it does not require certification or checking.


Require reliable Kashrus certification:

• Any from Israel (e.g. dates)

• apples

• banana chips

• cherries

• cranberries / craisins

• currants

• guava

• kiwi

• mangoes

• papayas

• pineapples

Require checking for infestation:

• apricots (checking is recommended)

• carob

• dates [American pitted (pit removed) do not require checking. From Pakistan or Tunisia should





Apple Cinnamon          Mezonos       Borei Nefashos



Chocolate Chex


Borei Nefashos


Cinnamon Chex


Borei Nefashos


Rice Chex


Borei Nefashos


Wheat Chex


Al Hamichya


Honey Nut Chex


Borei Nefashos


Multi-Bran Chex


Borei Nefashos


Corn Chex


Borei Nefashos





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



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


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



IN PREPARATION FOR THE THIRD DAY OF THE WEEK OF PARASHAS BESHALACH: Many will soon receive several reminders to recite the Parashas HaMon as a Segulah for Parnassah tomorrow--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 9/11. 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 story that we related from HaRav Mattisyahu Salomon, Shlita, in the past.  The message remains as powerful now as it did then:


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


We must remember, whether or not we recite Parashas HaMon today, that every ounce and 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!



3 Shevat

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



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://www.hakhel.info/archivesPublicService/PrayerforJudgingOthersFavorably.pdf



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 physically 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!


Hakhel Note: 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.  He 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.



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



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





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


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


C.  Can one draw a lottery on Shabbos--for example to award a prize to children who had just recited Tehillim 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 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





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


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


C.  The Toldos Yaakov Yosef brings the Pasuk in Makas Choshech--U’lechol Bnei Yisrael Haya Ohr BeMoshvosam--and to Bnei Yisrael there was light in the places they sat (Shemos 10:23).  What was this light, he asks.  The light was the realization that it was not good where they were sitting--and they had to take action to leave!  Hakhel Note: We too MUST see the light!


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


 E. Many wonder as to why we were instructed “VeYishalu” (Shemos 11:2)--only to borrow from the Egyptians--and not to take from them--after all, had we not been enslaved for so many years for no pay?!  Wasn’t it high time to legitimately collect for all of the near-impossible work?  HaRav Yisroel Dovid Schlesinger, Shlita, teaches that before we became a free nation, we had to fully appreciate and completely understand-- that everything in this world is truly borrowed--from Hashem Who is its True, Ultimate --and Only Owner!


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


G.  The first Mitzvah given to K’lal Yisrael as a people is found in the Parasha with the words “HaChodesh Hazeh Lachem Rosh Chadashim” (Shemos 12:1).  HaRav Ezriel Erlanger, Shlita, explains that this is a moment that we have all been waiting for--Rashi, in the very first Rashi in Chumash, already is excited about it--and asks why, in fact, the Torah does not begin right here with this Mitzvah.  HaRav Erlanger explains that Rashi, by asking the question at the outset of his Peirush, is teaching us that the Torah is a Sefer HaMitzvos.  Even if many Pesukim, and even many 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 bring 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 the eirev rav leaving together with the Bnei Yisrael who did leave, on the other (Shemos 12:38).  To explain, he once again points to the person’s Lev.  What is required of a person is his Teshukah and Ratzon to do the will of Hashem to walk into the wilderness.  At the time of Yetzias Mitzrayim, one could have been a great Torah scholar--but if he did not want to leave Egypt, he would die there.  No Zechus Avos would help him--and he would not merit Matan Torah at Har Sinai and everything else that followed.  The eirev rav, however, had the passion, the feeling to want to leave--and to see what Hashem would do for Bnei Yisrael.  They left their homes and perhaps much of their family behind.  As a result, they joined with the Bnei Yisrael--and made it to Matan Torah.  In this world, with sincerity and dedication one can achieve great heights.  The G’ra explains on the Pasuk, Mai’ashpos Yarim Evyon that one who has true aspirations (the Shoresh of Evyon is Ta’ev)--he will be lifted up from the depths to the heights!


J.  In the Parasha, we are taught for the first time the Mitzvah of Tefillin. The Divrei Siach brings the following from the Sefer Minchas Todah: A man came to HaRav Chaim Kanievsky, Shlita, with a shailah as to what he should do from a ruchniyus perspective--his daughter had been born with right and left chambers of the heart reversed and required complex surgery. HaRav Chaim thought for several moments, and replied: “You should buy Tefillin and give them either to an orphan or a Ba’al Teshuvah.” He explained: “Tefillin, one would think, should be placed on the right or stronger arm--yet Hashem reversed the two for purposes of this Mitzvah. Your daughter’s chambers have been reversed as well--so in the zechus of Tefillin she should be zocha to a yeshua.” The man had a friend who was a chiloni--so he asked him if he knew of anyone who was becoming more religious and would consider putting on Tefillin, if purchased on his behalf. His friend responded that he wasn’t intending to begin putting on Tefillin--but was willing to do so for the rest of his life so that the daughter could be healed....The operation was a success!


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


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


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


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


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


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


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



2 Shevat

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



ASK YOURSELF!  Rabbi Moshe Elefant, Shlita, at an 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!



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!



IT BEGAN ON ROSH CHODESH SHEVAT:  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?!



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, Z’tl, 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.” Additionally, Rabbi Belsky continues, 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!



IMPORTANT GEMS FROM RABBI ZECHARIA WALLERSTEIN, SHLITA: 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 he needs to hear--not what I need to say.”


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



TECHNOLOGY: A PERSPECTIVE: 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!



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!


Hakhel Note:  As today is the four-month anniversary of Rosh Hashana (and a Rosh Hashana itself according to Bais Shammai), it certainly behooves us to recall, reflect and 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 confusion.  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!



TRUE POWER! The new cycle of Positive Word Power (Artscroll/Chofetz Chaim Heritage Foundation), the masterful and monumental work on Speaking Positively will begin 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.  The child who was told, “Your teacher says you always have interesting ideas to add to the class discussion,” will look forward to the next opportunity to raise his/her hand in class.  The husband who is told, “Your wife always quotes your opinion,” will feel honored and admired by his wife, thereby encouraging him to continue earning her respect.  The wife who hears, “You husband says he couldn’t manage anything without you,” will be happy to dig in and provide the support her husband counts on.  People long to feel acknowledged and appreciated.  Praising someone to his face is one way to convey this recognition, yet there is always the lingering thought that perhaps the praise is meant “just to be nice.”  When a person hears that he was praised to another, the praise rings that much truer, for there can be no ulterior motive.  Aharon HaKohen employed this method to foster peace and friendship among the Jewish people.  He would tell each person how much the other person valued him, thereby building friendship and warmth.  Often, we hear good things about someone, but fail to pass it on.  It just takes a little awareness to tuck that compliment away and bring it out when it counts.  Doing so takes the positive power of the comment itself and amplifies it a thousand times over, giving someone the encouragement to keep on doing what they do well, and the blessing of knowing they are appreciated.


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



TIED AND UNTIED: 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!



A REAL LIFE DISTINCTION!: On 28 Teves, 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!



29 Teves

IT IS YOM KIPPUR KOTON TODAY! Even if one will not be reciting the special Yom Kippur Koton Tefillos, it is certainly a day of Teshuva--reflecting upon the past and looking forward to the future! 



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



THE QUOTABLE QUOTE: The explosion of Jewish ‘pop culture’ in the last few years is an entirely different type of threat. Music is seen primarily as a form of entertainment, corrupting our emotional relationship with a fundamental aspect of our Ruchniyus.” [Excerpted from The Evolving Digital Challenge by Rabbi Nechemiah Gottlieb, Shlita].



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.



USING THE WORLD: “Man’s use of the world for his own needs, however, should be circumscribed by the limits imposed by Hashem’s will and not include anything forbidden by Hashem. It should be motivated by the need to best maintain his health and preserve his life, and not merely to satisfy his physical urges and superfluous desires. One’s motivation in maintaining his body should furthermore be so that the soul should be able to use it to serve its Creator, without being hampered by the body’s weakness and incapability. When man makes use of the world in this manner, this in itself becomes an act of perfection, and through it one can attain the same virtue as in keeping the other commandments. Indeed, one of the commandments requires that we keep our bodies fit so that we can serve Hashem, and that we derive our needs from our environment to achieve this goal. In this manner, we elevate ourselves even through such activities. The world itself is also elevated, since it is then also helping man to serve Hashem.” [Excerpted from Derech Hashem by HaRav Moshe Chaim Luzzatto, Z’tl, as translated in the outstanding English translation by Rabbi Aryeh Kaplan, Z’tl (Feldheim)]





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


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



THE SPICE OF LIFE!  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!




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



SHVACH: HaRav Chaim Volozhiner, Z’tl, teaches: “Don’t say I am shvach at this”, rather, where you think you are weak, is where you should develop strength. One should achieve gadlus in an area that he thinks he is incapable of. Similarly, Rebbi Tzadok HaKohen, Z’tl, teaches that the reason Moshiach will come riding on a chamor, which is a beheimah temeiah, is because greatness can come from ‘riding on top of’ tumah. One should push himself in the down times--when he otherwise thinks that he is not successful. At a Hakhel Yarchei Kallah, Rabbi Yisroel Reisman, Shlita, reported that he had heard from a successful real estate investor: “I don’t understand why people don’t buy real estate when the market is down--that is the time to buy!” The successful man’s ‘business’ lesson--is truthfully an essential lesson in ruchniyus as well!



28 Teves

PAIN SENSITIVITY:  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 Sara 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!



ALSO…: 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 Shomati 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...!



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


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



THE YAHRZEIT OF HARAV SHMUEL BERENBAUM:  Today, 28 Teves, is the tenth 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, 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 Hakhel Shiur, Rabbi Yisroel Reisman, Shlita emphasized how important ‘those extra two minutes’ are to growth in Torah--when waiting for one’s  spouse who says “I just need another two minutes to get ready”, when reaching ‘the two dots’ a couple of minutes early, when waiting for a late bus or train--the extra review, the extra mishna, the extra Rashi one manages to cover--are not only signs of one’s personal attribution of importance or special dedication to Torah study--but the actual route to true Torah achievement!


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


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


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


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





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!”



25 Teves

MY RIGHT HAND! 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!



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





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).





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!”



THE PRIMACY OF TEFILLAH:  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.


2.  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).


3.  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.


4.  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.


5.  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!



THE YAHRZEIT OF HARAV SHAMSHON (B’R REFOEL) HIRSCH, Z’TL:  Sunday, 27 Teves, is the Yahrtzeit of HaRav Shamshon (B’R Refoel) Hirsch, Z’tl.  HaRav Shimon Schwab, Z’tl, in the introduction to Rav Schwab on Prayer refers to HaRav Hirsch as the “Tefillah Lamdan”. We provide below only three short samples of HaRav Hirsch’s monumental teachings culled from Rav Schwab on Prayer


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


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


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



24 Teves

THE SHIDDUCH CHECKLIST: As we all know, it is not only what you say--but how you say it. It is certainly a great Mitzvah to redt Shidduchim. By the following link  http://hakhel.info/archivesPublicService/ShidduchGuidelinesforLH.pdf  we provide helpful guidelines in redting a Shidduch properly and effectively.



CHUPAH TEFILLOS! Yad Eliezer makes a beautiful and decorative card available for Chupah participants as part of its renowned Adopt-A-Wedding Program. By the following link, we provide the Tefillos contained in the card http://www.hakhel.info/archivesPublicService/TefillosVarious.pdf. For more information, please contact Yad Eliezer at 718-227-0207, or email weddings@yadeliezer.org



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.”



THE YAHRZEIT OF HARAV DESSLER, Z’TL: Today is the Yahrtzeit 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, Z’tl, who was one of the foremost Ba’alei Mussar in Eretz Yisrael in contemporary times:  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!”



THE YAHRZEIT OF THE BA’AL HATANYA: Today is also the Yahrtzeit of the Ba’al HaTanya (HaRav Shneur Zalman B’ R’ Boruch, Z’tl). HaRav Shneur Zalman is also known as the Ba’al Shulchan Aruch HaRav and the Alter Rebbe. We once again provide a remarkable story, as presented in an issue of the Me’Oros HaTzaddikim:


There was once a chassid of the Alter Rebbe who was a peddler of goods and made a living traveling from town to town selling his items. One time, the Rebbe asked him questions and after hearing the chassids responses, the Alter Rebbe advised him that he should always carry with him three challahs. The chassid did not understand why the Rebbe would give him such a strange instruction, but the chassid did exactly as the Rebbe instructed, trusting that one day he would understand why he got such advice from the Rebbe. And so it happened, one day that the chassid was traveling before Shabbos and he lost his way. Shabbos was approaching soon so he quickly tried to find a place to stay. He knocked on a house and the owner came out with a friendly smile. They exchanged greetings and the chassid explained to the man that he needed a place to stay for the night. The man invited him in and led him to his room. Now, this man was a non-Jew, and when he opened the door to his room, the chassid realized that there was a friend that was going to be staying with him that night--a huge dog that was almost the size of the chassid himself! He realized that his host was not as friendly as he first appeared to be and quickly turned around to exit. By this time the door was locked, and the non-Jew told him through the door  that in this room ‘people go in but do not come out’. The chassid started to daven to Hashem and said vidui. He then noticed that the dog was just sitting quietly in his 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….



23 Teves

SHLOSHIM OF HARAV SHTEINMAN: As the Shloshim of HaRav Shteinman, Z’tl, approaches, we remind our readers of the recent hespedim arranged by Agudah Israel of America. The Agudah has audiovisuals available at www.agudathisrael.org



THE BLESSING OF SUCCESS! 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 Melachtecha!”--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?!



WATER! WATER!  Rabbi Moshe Goldberger, Shlita points out that the waters plagued by the Makos of blood and frogs serves as a stark contrast to the fresh water which pours freely and plentifully out of our faucets when we use them.  With this thought in mind, we obviously will have a greater appreciation of the life-giving water that we are about to drink.  A related thought may be to think about how many billions of people will not be making a bracha on the food or drink that they will be having today--neither before or after they eat--and what a privileged position we are in by recognizing and expressing our true appreciation to the Source of Everything in this World!  Additional Note:  The Pasuk in last week’s 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!



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


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


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


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


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


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



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


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


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


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


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


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



22 Teves

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



SET UP SEFER FOR LATER: We recite the Birkos HaTorah once a day, notwithstanding that our Torah study may be interrupted for hours by work, Chesed or other activities. This is very much unlike other Mitzvos, for which the bracha is recited every time the person does the Mitzvah during the day (e.g., sitting in the Sukkah, putting on Tzitzis, etc.). Tosafos (Brachos 11B, d’h Shekevar) explains that the study of Torah is different in that the person’s mind is always on going back to learn, for he realizes that he should be studying at the times that he is not engaged in other legitimate activities. Accordingly, the Birkos HaTorah made in the wee hours of the morning covers one’s study during lunch, and indeed even late into the night. May we suggest that, as a means of demonstrating one’s dedication to Torah study that in the morning before one leaves for work or to undertake other tasks--that he already set up his Sefer or Seforim for his evening study…. Chazal’s teaching of V’Talmud Torah K’neged Kulam should be a living reality--each and every day!



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


Hakhel Note: We provide several essential points made by HaRav Tzvi Meir Zilberberg, Shlita on Shovavim:


1. The Eight-Week Shovavim period 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 (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-”Velirushalyaim 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!


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



TALES OF THE TONGUE:  The following very meaningful episode is part of the Shomrei Haloshon Program, as excerpted from the book Tales of The Tongue by Esther Ehrenreich and Chaya Kahan (Artscroll/Mesorah):  “Gunshots and explosions filled the air.  Inside the shelter, people sat crowded together.  No one dared look outside.  A fierce battle was waging and the Jews of the land were the first to suffer.  HaRav Eliyau Lopian, Z’tl sat among them, immersed in Torah thought.  Suddenly, a man broke his train of thought:  ‘Rebbe!’, he said anxiously, ‘they’re speaking Loshon Hora here!’.  “Really?  We must leave here right away!’   HaRav Eliyahu had less concern for the bombs falling right and left.  For him, the sin of hearing Loshon Hara was far greater than the possibility of being hit by falling explosives.   Hashem guided his steps in the right direction, for shortly afterwards a bomb fell on the shelter....’  Hakhel Note:  Of course, we do not know or understand the ways of Hashem--as we have been focusing in the Ani Maamin’s on the fact that He is First and He is Last--and our role and purpose is to be here successfully for a segment in between--so that we can be together in Olam Haba.  What we are to do now is His Will.  Loshon Hara , the Chofetz Chaim especially reiterated and reinforced to our generation is reviled by Hashem to such an extent that it can involve up to 31 Torah violations. Let us follow the lead of HaRav Lopian--and in these dangerous times stay as far away as possible from this extremely deleterious and highly pernicious behavior--and from those who seek to endanger others with it.  As the wisest of all men taught:  “Holech es Chachomim Yechkam”--walk with the Chachomim to become wise--for “Roa Kesilim Yeiroa” ....those who stay around those who promulgate evil... (we won’t say more--but will only add that it doesn’t make it better if the promulgator is a close family member, someone who you speak you at work who ‘isn’t frum anyway’ or an old classmate or friend who only calls you up from time to time--it’s  still Loshon Hora).  We additionally remind you of the Chofetz Chaim Heritage Foundation’s free service--The Shemiras Haloshon Shaila Hotline -by which expert Poskim in Shemiras Haloshon answer all of your Shailos about Shemiras Halashon--in Shidduchim, Business, family matters--who doesn’t have a Shaila about what should be said or how you should say it?  The Hotline’s number is 718-951-3696, and its regular hours are 9pm to 10:30 pm, and in emergencies at other times, subject to a Rav’s availability.



21 Teves

BRACHOS ALERT: We have been advised by the OU that the bracha rishona on Post Cookies and Cream Cereal is Mezonos and the bracha achrona is Borei Nefashos.



QUOTABLE QUOTE: Habituated to being hyper-stimulated by new snippets of information, we lose the ability to follow long, involved arguments. Book reading becomes a chore rather than a delight.” [Excerpted from The Evolving Digital Challenge by Rabbi Nechemiah Gottlieb, Shlita].



MECHAPEIS SIBA L’HEITIV: HaRav Mattisyahu Salomon, Shlita, teaches that Hashem looks at us daily and is “Mechapeis Siba L’Heitiv--searching for reasons to do good to K’lal Yisrael.” He is looking for sincere Mitzvos, real Tefillos, acts of Chesed, the study of Torah even in pressing circumstances. Hashem is looking for reasons to do good to our people--let us try to intentionally try to give Him at least one a day!



THE RIGHT WAY TO PLAN AHEAD:  Chazal teach that because of Kamtzah and Bar Kamtzah the Bais HaMikdash was destroyed--and we are all familiar with the sad and troubling story.  We should also remember that the word Kamtzah refers to a small insect--a locust, and there is a great lesson in this as well.  When all is said and done, the ‘little things’ in a person’s day constitute a significant and perhaps overwhelming part of a person’s life.  Being unconcerned with the small items is a sign of lack of concern with life itself.  It was the Kamtzah and the Bar Kamtzah--the small thing and the even smaller thing (or perhaps the disregarded small thing, and that which resulted from the disregard that caused the Churban).  None of us want to get anywhere near a Tisha B’Av of Churban again this year.  The next three especially marked days of our calendar are Tu B’Shvat, Purim and Pesach--symbols of rebirth, recreation and rededication.  Let us plan ahead--let us work on the ‘small’ items--the extra annoyance that we cause to others, the word that you know you would like to take back after you say it, waiting the extra second before making a bracha to contemplate what you are doing--or to ask someone to answer ‘amen’ to the bracha you are about to recite, making a heartfelt short request in Elokai Netzor, checking the Hashgacha on the product or store to make sure that it has not changed, getting to Shul five minutes earlier so that you are among the first ten, and can recite a few Chapters of Tehillim before davening, doing an unnoticed Chesed, smiling at or complimenting someone who appears to need it…with this, we can once and for all rid ourselves of the Kamtzah and Bar Kamtzah in our lives--and ready ourselves for the big gift from Hashem--eternal joy for ourselves, and for all of K’lal Yisrael!



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


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


Here are a few of suggestions for invigoration.


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

·                     Give additional Tzedakah every single day

·                     Come to every Tefillah on time

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

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

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

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



PARNASSAH--JEWISH STYLE: Parashas Shemos teaches us that Bnei Yisrael got into an unfortunate rut which lasted for 210 years.  Let us do our part to steer clear of that rut in the coming week! The Chofetz Chaim writes movingly as follows:  HaTorah HaKedosha Tzivesa Ossanu She’nizaher BeLimud HaTorah Tomid--Ulefachos Bikvius Ittim LaTorah--the Holy Torah commanded us to take care to learn Torah always--and at least take care of our the set times for Torah study.  The Yetzer Hara, continues the Chofetz Chaim, persuades and gently attacks a person--how can he not spend more time in business--going here and traveling there, and if he is not going to make the needed money now--then when? To quash the deceitful Yetzer, Dovid HaMelech exclaims in Tehillim (37:3) Betach BaHashem Va’Aseh Tov--put your Bitachon in Hashem and do the right thing--for He will surely provide fulfill that which is to come to you.  Furthermore, the Chofetz Chaim clearly adduces--is it possible that Hashem would deduct from  that which was designated for him to earn for the year on Rosh Hashanah--because one kept his learning seder--rather than improperly engage in business at that time? Even if one would really lose a deal, a client, a meeting opportunity--our true Bitachon tells us that if it is not today, it is tomorrow, and if not with this person it will be with another. Most certainly, no true gain could come out of violating Hashem’s instruction to us to carefully keep our dedicated learning times. Look at the dollar in front of you-and the Sefer in front of you--they are both from Hashem--and He is telling you how to work with them!  Hakhel Note: we had asked HaRav Mattisyahu Salomon, Shlita what to do if someone has a seder kavua on his commute to and from work--and an acquaintance he hasn’t seen in a while gets on the train or bus--isn’t it derech eretz to spend the time ‘catching-up’ with him?  HaRav Mattisyahu responded that one should exchange a few warm and caring remarks --and then advise the friend that he has a seder kavua, and make up how they will be in contact in the near future. It is with this dedication and earnestness that we must approach our dedication to Torah study-and this is the greatest derech eretz!.  Hakhel Note:  If for some reason one missed a seder kavua that day, the Chofetz Chaim urges him to make it up before retiring for the evening--and not waiting until the next day. What better way to live--than to follow Hashem’s rules!



A LESSON IN YIRAS SHOMAYIM:  Last week, we brought the essential teaching of HaRav Mattisyahu Salomon, Shlita--what made Shifra and Puah so successful was their Yiras Shomayim from the outset.  Accordingly, HaRav Salomon urges--we should study Mussar to attain Yiras Shomayim--and we will be able to succeed as well. The Rabbeinu Yonah teaches that the Ikar of Yiras Shomayim is avoiding Sefeikos --doubtful activity--in daily life.  Not eating what could be the wrong thing, not saying what could be the wrong thing, not wearing what could be the wrong thing because you are not sure whether you should or not  ...is a great Kiyum of Yiras Shomayim!  Additional Note Three:  Chazal teach that Shifra and Puah were rewarded with Batei Kehuna U’Batei Malchus--the Kehuna coming from Aharon and the Malchus coming from Dovid HaMelech.  The Meforshim point out that Chazal do not teach that Yiras Shomayim came forth from them--because Yiras Shomayim is not limited to them as the Bais Aharon and Bais Dovid is.  There is no one Bayis--house--in which Yiras Shomayim is or will be housed.  Instead, if we personally follow the glorious teaching of Shfira and Puah--we too will have a powerful and important chelek in Yiras Shomayim in the world--and for all eternity!





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


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


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



18 Teves

ALEINU!:  A reader wrote to us as to the importance of reciting Aleinu with Kavannah--as the Rema to Shulchan Aruch (Orach Chayim 132:2) writes “Yizaher LeOmro Bekavannah--one should be careful to recite it with Kavannah.”  Another reader related the following about HaRav Don Segel, Shlita: “Rav Don always went back to his office at the end of davening to say Aleinu. A few Mirrer bochurim listened by the window as he said Aleinu for 10 minutes, as a lesson in Yiras Shomayim and Avodas Hashem.”


  Hakhel Note:  Perhaps it will never take us ten minutes to recite Aleinu, but as we are about to recall and experience the horrific Galus of our ancestors in Mitzrayim, our Aleinu over this week-end and week-beginning should be infused with special thanks that the Galus Mar that we are in is not like that one--and our ‘Ahl Kein Nekaveh’  should likewise express the sincere hope that these final throws of exile come to an end peacefully--LeSakein Olam BeMalchus Shakai--with the world once and for all fixed up as it should be!



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WOULD BE BETTER: HaRav Ephraim Wachsman, Shlita, is world-renowned for his Shiurim on Emunah and Bitachon. He teaches: If it ‘could be better’--it would be better!



HASHEM ELOKEINU: A Rav pointed out to us that in Birkas HaMazon--other than in the conclusion of each of the four brachos themselves--wherever Hashem’s Name is mentioned, it is mentioned as Hashem Elokeinu--Hashem our G-d. This demonstrates to us the great level of Hashgacha Pratis that each and every one of us experiences--even down to the particular food that one had just eaten at his meal. Hakhel Note: Oh--how we should rejoice over the Hashgacha Pratis each time we recite Hashem Elokeinu in bentsching!



SHALOM RAV: In Nusach Ashkenaz at Mincha and Ma’ariv, and at Nusach Sefard at Ma’ariv, we begin the last bracha of Shemone Esrei with the words “Shalom Rav”. What does Shalom Rav mean? The Kuntres Avodas HaTefillah writes that when we recite these two short and simple words, we are asking for Shalom HaKollel Harbeh Shelomos--peace that includes many forms of peace…peace from war, peace from jealousy, peace in health of mind and body, peace at home, peace with one’s possessions, and peace from all happenings, instances and occurrences. These two brief words are packed with meaning. With the proper Kavannah…they can bring us a long and powerful way!



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



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



FROM GALUS TO GEULAH! In this week’s Parasha, we learn of the horrific plight of Bnei Yisrael at the hands of the Mitzriyim. Yet, by the time we reach the middle of the second aliyah--Moshe Rabbeinu is born! We then proceed for the balance of Parashas Shemos, and will continue in Va’eirah, Bo and Beshalach--with the seeds of and the actual Geulah! This should give us a tremendous feeling of chizuk for the future. Although this Galus has been so difficult and so very long--the Geulah once it comes will vastly overshadow it and continue for a much longer period--actually forever and ever!



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



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



SHOVAVIM IN PRACTICE: We are now concluding the first week of Shovavim--special days of return to Hashem occurring over the first six weeks of Sefer Shemos--weeks which take us out of the Exile of Mitzraim (to which our contemporary galus is compared)..and lead us to redemption and Kabalas HaTorah VeHaMitzvos. Indeed, it is now more than three months since Yom Kippur, and as our women readers well realize, less than three months to Pesach(!).  We are at a pivotal point in the year--what path will this year be directed in?  One should contemplate where tangible improvement is necessary, and where that improvement can be effectuated, even if only to a small degree.  To get to your destination, you have to get on the road.  Here are some examples:

Honesty--Avoiding the appearance, taint, and if you will, stench, associated with marginal honesty or dishonesty, and behavior or conduct that your Rav (or someone else you look up to) would not be proud of; Giving up the extra few dollars to make sure that you are on the right side of the law.

Words--watching them in a new and special way, whether in the way brachos are expressed, or the elimination of sharp, rough, gruff or unbecoming words from your vocabulary (no matter how many letters they are)--so much purity or impurity can come out of that small aperture we call the mouth.  It is no wonder, then, that the Hebrew word for mouth is ‘Peh’-- having exactly the same letters and root as ‘Poh’-here---as if to indicate that it all starts and ends here--at the mouth.  In fact, in this week’s 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--was 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 per HaRav Mattisyahu Salomon, Shlita); (b)coming on time to daven (as HaRav Simcha Bunim Cohen, Shlita pointed out in his 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).  You can even talk about what you are doing--your personal acts of Yiras Shomayim--although your words may not be socially acceptable in Western society, for, after all, “Divrei HaRav VeDivrei HaTalmid, Divrei Mi Shomi’in--if one must choose between the words of the Teacher, and the words of the Student, whose words should he choose?”...Just in case you are really enveloped in the society--it is the words of the teacher!  There are, of course, those other Middos or Mitzvos you know you have to get to( the thoughts, the Kabbalos of just a few months  ago)--this is the time, and this is the place...you need only utilize the G-d given opportunities that lie very much ready and waiting in front of you!



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’s on a Jew’s behalf on Shabbos:


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


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


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


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


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


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!




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


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


E.   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!



17 Teves

SHOVAVIM REVIEW CARD Irgun Shiurai Torah has provided a wonderful review program of appropriate sections of Yoreh Deah for men during the Shovavim period. Please see the following link  http://tinyurl.com/za286st for details and for further information.



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



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



HOW TO EARN PERFECTION: The primary, essential creature is man. All other created things, whether above or below man, only exist for his sake, to complete his environment through their various different qualities, appropriate for each of them. The elements of perfection through which man can perfect himself are his intellectual powers and all good human traits. Material matters and evil human traits, on the other hand, are the elements deficiency among which man is placed to earn perfection. [Excerpted from Derech Hashem by HaRav Moshe Chaim Luzzatto, Z’tl, as translated in the outstanding English translation by Rabbi Aryeh Kaplan, Z’tl (Feldheim)]



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





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


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


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


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


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



THE 213TH YAHRZEIT: Today is the 213th Yahrzeit of the Maggid of Dubno, HaRav Yaakov b’r’ Zev (Wolf) Kranz, Z’tl, whose legacy of Meshalim to bring lessons of the Torah to us all remains unparalleled to this very day.  Some of the Maggid’s Mesholim have been collected in English in The Maggid of Dubno and His Parables by Dr. Benno Heinemann (Feldheim Publishers).  We once again present below one of the great Mesholim, excerpted from this meaningful Sefer:


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


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


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


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


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


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


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



16 Teves

WHAT IS REALLY BEST!  “Since the period of earning and that of reward are different, it is appropriate that man’s environment and experiences be different in the two. While he is striving toward perfection, he must be in a setting containing elements necessary for such effort. The period of earning must therefore be one [where a maximum challenge exists and] where the spiritual and physical are in constant strife. In this environment, there must be nothing to prevent the material from prevailing and doing what it can, and conversely, there must be nothing to prevent the spiritual from doing likewise. Nothing should exist that would give either one an inappropriate advantage. Although it might seem best to make the spiritual stronger than the physical, in the light of man’s true purpose and what Hashem desires of him, namely, that he earn perfection through his own effort--it would not be good at all!” [Excerpted from Derech Hashem by HaRav Moshe Chaim Luzzatto, Z’tl, as translated in the outstanding English translation by Rabbi Aryeh Kaplan, Z’tl (Feldheim)]



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



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


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


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


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



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


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



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



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



THE HALACHOS OF NEFILAS APAYIM:  Set forth below are several points and pointers relating to the recitation of Nefilas Apayim (Tachanun) daily, which are primarily derived from the Dirshu Edition of the Mishna Berurah:


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


9.  Although many are familiar with a concept of a newly married Chasson not coming to Shul so as not to prevent the recitation of Tachanun by the Tzibbur, the Chazon Ish held that the Chasson should come to Shul.  The Sefer Ishei Yisrael likewise writes that the Chasson’s attendance at Shul during the Sheva Brachos week is the accepted custom, and this does not prevent the recitation of Tachanun.



15 Teves

AVAILABLE! To order CDs of yesterday’s outstanding Yarchei Kallah with Shiurim given by Rabbi Yisroel Reisman, Shlita, Rabbi Aryeh Zev Ginzberg, Shlita, and Rabbi Doniel Kleinman, Shlita, or other past Hakhel events, please contact 718-252-5274.



QUOTABLE QUOTE: We cannot partake of the offerings of the Internet with gusto and expect ourselves to stop right at the threshold of cheit.” [Excerpted from The Evolving Digital Challenge by Rabbi Nechemiah Gottlieb, Shlita].



THE SOUL’S SECOND FUNCTION: “We are normally aware of the soul’s existence only because it provides us with life and the ability to think. It is necessary to realize, however, that the soul also has another function, and that is to purify even the physical matter of the body. The soul has the power to elevate the body step by step, until even the body can derive pleasure from perfection along with the soul.” [Excerpted from Derech Hashem by HaRav Moshe Chaim Luzzatto, Z’tl, as translated in the outstanding English translation by Rabbi Aryeh Kaplan, Z’tl (Feldheim)]



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



THE DEFINITION!:  Rabbi Mordechai Becher, Shlita related the definition of “forgiveness of others” he had heard from Rabbi Y.Y. Rubenstein, Shlita:  “It is the understanding that the past cannot be changed, and that one must move on.”  Hakhel Note: Something to think about, the next time you are wronged.



AN IMPORTANT TEACHING ON BIRKAS HAMAZON: The Sefer Hachinuch (Mitzvah 430) remarkably writes that: “Kol Hazahir B’Birkas HaMazon Mezonosav Metzuyin Lo B’Kavod Kol Yamav--one who is careful with bentsching will have Parnassah with honor all of his days.” We asked Rabbi Pinchos Bodner, Shlita, author of Halachos of Brochos, if he could guide us on the term ‘zahir’. Rabbi Bodner shared the following essential thought with us:  “This teaching of the Sefer Hachinuch is quoted by many Poskim.” To understand that you must see the beginning of that mitzvah how the Sefer Hachinuch explains the mechanics of a brocha.  To oversimplify, Hashem gives us a brocha solely for our good - as a tool for us to draw “shefah” abundance from Him. The Zohar (VaYakhel 218) teaches that if one makes a bracha with chedva and einah tavah, Hashem will give him with chedva and einah tavah. If when we bentsch we totally believe with every fiber of our being that the sustenance we have received is from Hashem and we praise and thank Him with the same joy and sincerity and really believe what we are saying with the same degree of sincerity that we would thank someone who just gave us with no strings attached, a twenty floor building on Fifth Avenue and our expression of thanks is b’ayin tova-- then midda for midda Hakodosh Boruch Hu continuously  will give us our sustenance with happiness and b’ayin tova!



I AM A MA’AMIN:  At a Hakhel Yarchei Kallah, HaRav Yisroel Belsky, Z’tl, once noted that one of the Avodos of our day is “overcoming the barriers” to Emunah.  Our barriers include the secular views of the events around us, as espoused by the public and in the media, even trickling into the reporting of politics and news events by persons or publications within the Jewish community.  We simply do not view the news and what it means as the rest of the world does.  There is a Guiding Hand.  What purpose is there in expressing anger at this politician, or in questioning the strategy of an army, when the wisest of all men has already told us thousands of years ago that “Lev Melochim Vesorim Biyad Hashem”--the conduct of kings and princes is the conduct of a puppet!  If we hear the news, and it affects us, we should translate it into Yiras Shamayim and Tefillah. 


Interestingly, HaRav Belsky recalled that HaRav Moshe Feinstein, Z’tl, had once come to Yeshiva Torah Vodaas to speak to the Bnei HaYeshiva.  He advised them to have special Kavannah when reciting the Brachos of Refaeinu and Bareich Aleinu, for it is “easier” to have Kavannah when making requests of Hashem in spiritual matters, than it is when making requests in physical or more mundane matters.  One simply believes that he need only take a pill, undergo a particular therapy which will help heal him, or make him feel better.  Similarly, one can very readily conclude that his wise business decisions, or the right contacts he has made, are the source of his financial success or livelihood.  True Emunah is also overcoming these barriers--those that one may himself put in the way to his proper belief and expected relationship with Hashem.  Hakhel Note:  Perhaps when reciting these Brachos, one can have special Kavannah that “I am a Ma’amin, I am a Ma’amin!” Of course, it wouldn’t hurt to have this in mind when your Emunah is challenged throughout the day by what you hear--or what you think!


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



A COMMON THEME: Yosef’s life takes a good part of the last four Parashiyos of Sefer Bereishis.  What was that special quality, the unique aspect, of Yosef which made him so deserving of our attention--as the successor to Yaakov Avinu, and the Avos, and as the fitting person with whom to conclude Sefer Bereishis--which is also sometimes known as Sefer HaYoshor (our Guidebook for Proper Conduct)?


There are obviously many different aspects of Yosef’s tzidkus--his righteousness. We recently mentioned his enormous concern for the humiliation, disgrace and embarrassment of another human being. HaRav Mattisyahu Salomon, Shlita, however, focuses on a common theme which extends through various events described in the Torah about his life.


First, we find that Yosef was taken down to Mitzraim in a “bed of roses”--not in the typical slave-trade manner, but amongst sweet smelling spices.  Why?  Because Yosef, even in his forlorn state, could still appreciate a pleasant aroma or a calming scene.  Later, we find that Yosef, while muddled in a deep-and-dark dungeon kind of setting (the Torah states that he was in a bor--a pit--not exactly like the prisons of today) asks the ministers placed there with him: “Why do you not look good?”  Is Yosef’s line of questioning a logical one?  The answer seems to be a resounding--Yes, to Yosef, it was quite logical--because of Yosef’s true equanimity, his presence of mind, and his clarity of thought.  He was simply telling those ministers--do not sulk over your state; do not overindulge in self-pity, for it will get you nowhere.  Maybe I can help you in some way…


Then, when Yosef is taken out of the pit/prison to be admitted to Paroh’s presence after not one, two, or even three or four--but twelve--years, Yosef does not start running head first towards the palace.  Instead, despite the fact that “VaYeritzuhu--they rushed him” from the pit to bring him to Paroh, nevertheless “VaYegalach VaYechalef Simlosav” (Bereishis 41:14)—Yosef--by himself and for himself--shaved and changed his clothes, for, as Rashi (ibid.) teaches, it would simply not have been “Kavod HaMalchus”--the proper respect due to a king, if he had presented himself before Paroh in his prison garb and appearance.  Yosef’s clarity of mind and spirit once again triumphed over his erstwhile instinctive reactions.


What follows next is--rather than Yosef ingratiating himself to Paroh, or accepting any form of aggrandizement--he tells Paroh “Biladai--it is not me” whom you should attribute anything to, I am truly only a Hebrew slave--it is all up to Hashem.  I have no special secrets, powers or even sagacious advice--anything and everything I do or say will not come from me.  Once again, his menuchas hanefesh overcame any of the easily-attainable ambitions before him.


Finally, in the end, Yosef explains to his brothers that he is not angry with them; as it is obvious that Hashem directed them in their mission to send Yosef to Mitzraim--and, in Yosef’s words “Al Tirau…--fear not, I will sustain you and your young ones.  He spoke to them and comforted their hearts” (Bereishis 50:20, 21).


The Menuchas HaNefesh, the calmness and clear thinking Yosef exhibited even in difficult situations, is, HaRav Salomon states, the hallmark of true bitachon--faith.  A wonderful by-product of this bitachon is that Yosef is able to keep his hopes and spirits up in all situations--ranging from the dark dungeon to the viceroy’s palace.


With the opening of Sefer Shemos this week, we quickly find ourselves as “The Jew in Galus.”  It is apparent that the Torah, by providing us with the model of Yosef, is teaching us how to best survive the ordeals of suffering and exile.  The Ramban (on Parashas Vayechi) writes that our current Galus, Galus Romi, is a mirror of Galus Mitzraim, and explains why (see there).  We should, then, take some time out from the lessons of Yosef’s life to help us better manage our current Galus Romi, as well.  Perhaps one can try to take a seemingly “negative” event that has occurred, and try to look at it in a calm and reasoned light--recognizing the positive--the sweet aroma or the silver lining--that may be found in Hashem’s guiding hand.  If this is difficult to do on your own, one can attempt to do so with a relative or friend.


May the lessons from Yosef in bitachon building help to bring us out of the Galus--and into the Geula that we will B’Ezras Hashem be witnessing--as the parashios of the coming weeks unfold upon us!



14 Teves

GEVUROS HASHEM:  The extreme cold, strong winds and snow in the North, and the warmth of summer in the South, should especially alert us to Gevuros Hashem ranging from the scathing hot to the frostbiting cold.  Not only do these extremes both occur--but do so simultaneously in different not-so-far-away points of the globe.  Moreover, the cold and heat affects each person differently--not so much based upon his corporeal homeostatic mechanism as on his personal Hashgacha Pratis.  This is certainly a time of year for us to especially appreciate and emphasize the second bracha of Shemone Esrei--Gevuros Hashem.  Especially as we exclaim ‘Mi Chamocha Ba’al Gevuros U’Mi Domeh Loch’ we should picture and perhaps even feel one of the Gevuros of Hashem that he recently experienced!



QUOTABLE QUOTE: When confronted with the Nisayon of technology, we must factor in mesirus nefesh as part of how Hashem wants us to respond.” [Excerpted from The Evolving Digital Challenge by Rabbi Nechemiah Gottlieb, Shlita].



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



GUR ARYEH!  Rebbe Tzadok HaKohein, Z’tl, beautifully explains that both Shevet Dan [the tenth tribe corresponding to the tenth month of Teves] and Shevet Yehudah are referred to as “Gur Aryeh” in the Torah (see Bereishis 49:9 and Devarim 33:22).  Furthermore, the leaders in charge of building the Mishkan were Betzalel from Shevet Yehuda and Ahaliyav from Shevet Dan; Rebbe Tzadok brings from the Medrash Tanchuma that this was the case in the Bais Hamikdash as well.  This teaches us forever that Shevet Dan, which traveled at the end (tenth) of the Shevatim in the Midbar, is connected to Shevet Yehudah, which traveled first in the Midbar and which represented Malchus, because it is essential that we connect the top to the bottom, the end to the beginning.  In fact, Rebbe Tzadok explains that this is what is meant by Chazal (end of Ta’anis) who teach that in the future Hashem will make an ‘igul’, a circle for the Tzaddikim--for in a circle the end and the beginning are connected as one.  It is for this reason that Yaakov Avinu recited the words “Lishuasecha Kivisi Hashem” over Dan--for the Moshiach can come when such a low point has been reached [look around] that it is ready to join to the high point--and man’s existence comes full circle!





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


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


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



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


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





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


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


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


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


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


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


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