Daily Email Archives

Bulletin Archives

Summer Archives

Gemach List

Public Announcements

Shatnez Publications

Past Events

Hakhel Recordings


Audio-Visual Resources


Hakhel Email Community Awareness Bulletin



5 Shevat

TESHUVAH MOMENT:  “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).





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 woman 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.  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!


G.  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.


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


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


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


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



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!



4 Shevat

TESHVUAH MOMENT: As we progress 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, then write it down then and there after 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!


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



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



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



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



A WISE INVESTMENT: The following is excerpted from A Story from Rav Pam by Rabbi Sholom Smith, Shlita, a wonderful collection of personal and historical anecdotes from Harav Avraham Pam, Z’tl: A story is told about the Malbim, the great Torah commentator, who served as Rav in more than a dozen Jewish communities, where he was well known as a defender and protector of the poor and unfortunate. One day, when he was Rav in Mohilev, an almanah came knocking on his door. "Rebbi!" she cried, "I have nothing to feed my children. Please help me!" The Malbim asked, "Do you have any particular skills that you can use to earn some parnassa?" "Yes, I do," she replied, "I can make delicious latkes." "That's wonderful. Why don't you go into business making and selling the latkes?" he asked. "Oy, Rebbi," the woman cried, "I don't have any money to buy the ingredients to make the latkes." The Malbim thought for a moment and then said, "Don't worry. Let's be partners. I'll give you money to buy the ingredients and you make the latkes, and Hashem will give His bracha to our gesheft (enterprise)." With that, he took out a hundred ruble note from his drawer and handed it to the woman. "A hundred rubles?" the woman gasped in disbelief, "How can I hope to ever repay so much money?" She then burst into tears. "Don't worry and don't cry!" said the Malbim. "I don't want to be a partner with someone who cries. Take the money and have bitachon that Hashem will help." The woman took the money and left. With time, she became a successful latke maker and made enough to support her children, who took care of the "books" of the business. A few months went by and the woman came back to her "partner," the Malbim, with a ledger of her expenses and profits. The Malbim carefully reviewed them and was satisfied that the latke business was being run properly. The woman then took out a hundred ruble note and offered to repay the Malbim's original investment. "No, no," said the Malbim. "It's an old business rule that if a gesheft is running well you leave your investment in it so that it can go further and make more profits. Keep making those delicious latkes!"



THE EZRAS AVOSEINU ORGANIZATION:  It has been quite some time since we first introduced the Ezras Avoseinu Organization to our readers.  Accordingly, we reintroduce you to this most noteworthy and important group with the following note:  


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



3 Shevat



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


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


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



GETTING READY! With Tu B’Shevat less than two weeks 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/TuBShevatUSA5780.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).



TESHUVAH MOMENT: 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 Kedusha into our bodies and souls--every time that we ...eat!



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!



A GENUINE VIEW OF MONEY:  We provide below the moving words of the Sefer Chovos HaLevavos in the Sha’ar Cheshbon 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



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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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



2 Shevat

TESHUVAH MOMENT: “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)]



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?!



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--ai, each represent a Geulah from one of our four exiles. The last--V’Lakachti--represents the Geulah from the most difficult 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!



ANI MA’AMIN: At a Hakhel Yarchei Kallah, Rabbi Aryeh Zev Ginzberg, Shlita, reminded everyone that the future Geulah will be based upon the Geulas Mitzrayim, as the Pasuk teaches “KiMei Tzeisecha MeiEretz Mitzrayim Erenu Niflaos”. Based upon this teaching, he continued, one could posit that just as only 20% left Mitzrayim—those with true Emunah in Hashem who really wanted to leave, so too, could our Geulah be limited to those with true Emunah in Hashem who really want to leave. He suggested that one could demonstrate his true Emunah by reciting the Ani Ma’amins daily with sincerity, and by reiterating ‘Ain Ohd Milevado’ during the day.



GETTING READY! With Tu B’Shevat less than two weeks 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/TuBShevatUSA5780.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).



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!



 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

TESHUVAH MOMENT: 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!



REMINDER--BRACHOS ALERT! The Shufra Crisp Rice Bar has the Hashgacha of both the OU and Hisachdus (CRC). Next to the CRC label, the label reads in Hebrew that the bracha is Borei P’ri Ha’adama. The OU does not concur with this, but rather holds that the bracha on a crisp rice type of product is Borei Minei Mezonos. The Hisachdus, however, holds that the bracha on crisp rice is Ha’adama. One should ask his Rav what bracha rishona he should make on this product.



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!





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.



A REAL LIFE DISTINCTION!: Relating to his Yahrzeit, 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 Brocha, it should be from a Siddur or a written text.

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

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

·         …add your own based upon your own wisdom and your own skill set.


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



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!



27 Teves

TESHUVAH MOMENT: 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.


See Note on the primacy of Tefillah below.



ON THE YAHRZEIT OF HARAV SHAMSHON (B’R REFOEL) HIRSCH, Z’TL:  Today is the Yahrtzeit of HaRav Shamshon (B’R Refoel) Hirsch, Z’tl.  HaRav Shimon Schwab, Z’tl, in the introduction to Rav Schwab on Prayer refers to HaRav Hirsch as the “Tefillah Lamdan”. We provide 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. 





A. Many individually wrapped candies, lollipops, ices, and other Shabbos Party type treats have lettering and/or designs just at the spots that you would open them to take out the candy or treat. This constitutes an Issur DeRabbanan of Mochek (Shulchan Aruch, Orach Chayim 340; Mishna Berurah, seif katan 17). We note that this problem is true of ‘heimishe’ products as well, as the manufacturers do not assume that you or your children will necessarily be opening these items on Shabbos. Perhaps we should add to the list of Erev Shabbos things to do-- checking packaging of this kind!


B. According to the Sefer HaShabbos BeTifarta by HaRav Avrohom Adas, Shlita, reattaching a broomstick back to a broom either by screwing it back in, or by pushing it with force back into place, constitutes an Issur D’Oraysa of Boneh. He likewise rules that one may not return a belt buckle to a belt on Shabbos.


C. Several important Borer points  from the Sefer “Pnei Shabbos--Halachos HaSchichos” by HaRav Yosef Glick, Shlita  of Yerushalayim, which provides the answers to many common Shabbos Shailos: (i) One may not pour off the liquid from cholent unless he leaves some amount of liquid in the cholent, or eats a little bit of the liquid that he poured off—so that he is selecting the Ochel (that which he now wants) from the Pesoles (that which he does not now want) for immediate use; (ii) When clearing the table, one should make sure that the dirty plates are somewhat separated from the plates with remaining food on them that he wants to put away, in order to avoid  the potential borer of separating  plates mixed together -- removing  dirty plates from the table to discard their contents while removing plates with food to store their contents. Likewise, there should be distance kept on  kitchen counters between the dirty plates and plates with items to be discarded, and the remaining clean plates, or items to be stored, in order to avoid borer issues of selecting Pesoles from Ochel—or even Ochel from Pesoles for non-immediate use; (iii) One should not remove noodles from chicken noodle soup simply because he does not want to eat them (and vice versa, one may not  pour out the chicken  soup in order to eat the noodles only), as this constitutes borer-- selecting the Pesoles from the Ochel; (iv) One should not remove the frosting or cream layer from a cake, unless he also removes some of the cake along with it, or leaves some of the cream on the cake; (v) If one took a fruit out of a bowl to eat, and then did not like the way it looked, HaRav Shlomo Zalmen Auerbach, Z’tl, writes that it may be best to put it back into the same bowl and not somewhere else, so it does not appear as borer; (vi) One is permitted to take the peel off fruits and vegetables immediately prior to consumption--even if the outer layer is inedible (such as a banana peel), because this is deemed to be its ‘derech achila.’ If a peel is otherwise commonly eaten, such as an apple peel, there is a Machlokes HaPoskim as to whether one can peel the apple for non-immediate consumption. HaRav Moshe Feinstein, Z’tl, forbids it; (vii)  If a candy wrapper is stuck to the candy, one should only remove the candy close to its consumption, as the wrapper would then be treated as the peel of a fruit;(viii)If one has different flavors of soda in the pantry mixed up together, and wants to select a few flavors to put into the refrigerator for the Shabbos Seudah in a few hours, there is an issue of borer, as he is selecting for non-immediate use. Accordingly, one should keep the same flavors grouped together so that he is not selecting one flavor from another, or, in the alternative, not be selective about the soda he is taking but simply picking up two or three bottles of whatever may come to his hand. Another alternative may be to immediately drink a little of the soda  one selects before putting it in the refrigerator, so that he is  selecting the soda for immediate use; (ix) One should avoid peeling corn off the cob unless it is close to the meal (even then there may be a separate issue of Dush--although one may eat corn directly from the cob; as an aside, one should ask his Posek whether he should eat corn on the cob or whether there is an issue of tola’im with respect to it); (x) There are various  opinions as to how close to the Seudah one is permitted to peel vegetables, set the table, and perform other Ochel Mitoch Pesoles activities. One should definitely not rely upon his own ‘common sense’ in this area, which could involve several Issurei D’Oraysa within the preparation of one Seudah. Instead, one should most definitely consult with his Rav or Posek in any case of doubt. If one never has any issues or doubts in this delicate area--than he is either being extra-specially superbly careful-- or he should immediately commence the study or review of the Halachos of borer, to help himself and others properly observe Shabbos Kodesh!





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!”



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!



THE PRIMACY OF TEFILLAH: As per the Teshuvah Moment, 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 SHMUEL BERENBAUM:  Shabbos, 28 Teves, is the twelfth 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!



26 Teves

TESHUVAH MOMENT: HaRav Eliyahu Lopian, Z’tl, provides an outstanding teaching on this week’s Parasha regarding the extra-ordinary miracles performed on our behalf in Mitzrayim. Hashem performed these miracles in order to teach us that just as Hashem breaks the rules of nature because of His love for us, so too, must we break our own ‘rules’ of nature—negative Middos, improper ‘natural’ desires and attitudes--in order to demonstrate our love of Hashem! Let us do it L’Sheim Shomayim!



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.



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].



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. 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!”



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 Sora was 90).  The pain that Avrohom and Sara felt was so significant, Rabbi Mansour explains, that it was able to replace and substitute for the pain of an entire nation for the corresponding number of years.  We must be sensitive to and deeply understand the suffering of someone in the hospital, in bed, or who has suffered any type of setback.  Their pain can be the equivalent of the pain of a nation.  To the one suffering, he should be aware that while no human may be able to fathom his sense of suffering--Hashem is All-Knowing and All-Powerful--and that the pain he is going through may be an important part of the final atonement of our nation.  It is impossible for us to know or fathom the complexities of a moment of a person’s, let alone the world’s, existence, but we can understand that the world is under His loving control, and that we only need to do what we are able.  We can begin by davening to Hashem for ourselves and for others carefully, meaningfully--and effectively!



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.  After a few weeks, he quite likely will need Chizuk in this area again, as he is 'going it alone'.  However, if the Minyan or the Shul took it upon themselves to strengthen themselves together in this Mitzva--and their was a marked pause before the word Shema was recited in order to incorporate the basic Kavanna to fulfill the Mitzvos involved, and then each word of the first Pasuk, for instance, was recited slowly-- imagine the outward impact on the tzibbur as a whole--and the inner impact of Kabbalas Ohl Malchus Shomayim on the inner recesses of each and every member's soul.  If you can be the one to help your Tzibbur with a better Shema recitation (or other Mitzva which you feel needs chizuk) --you will be helping yourself--and everyone else--make it through the forest--successfully!



25 Teves

TESHUVAH MOMENT: 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 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 email weddings@yadeliezer.org



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!



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!



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 nor after they eat--and what a privileged position we are in by recognizing and expressing our true appreciation to the Source of Everything in this World!  Additional Note:  The Pasuk in 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!



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.



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 because 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 head] (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 special 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.



24 Teves

TESHUVAH MOMENT: 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 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 “three months before Purim”, or “four 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



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!



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:  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

TESHUVAH MOMENT: 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:  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!



REMINDER--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].



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 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 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!



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: 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!



20 Teves

TESHUVAH MOMENT: The Ba’alei Mussar point out that on Erev Shabbos one should take the time for a Cheshbon HaNefesh on the previous week. Many of us may be rushed and busy, but perhaps at least while walking from one place to another or waiting on line, he can think through some events and occurrences of the week, and how to rectify them. Additionally, looking forward to Shabbos, one should utter a short Tefillah asking Hashem for assistance with Shemiras Shabbos in all respects, and in showing the proper Zechiras Shabbos, Kavod Shabbos, and Oneg Shabbos. In this way, one’s Kedushas Shabbos will definitely be enhanced.



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 Segal, 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!



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!



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 four 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 Matisyahu Salomon, Shlita); (b)coming on time to daven (as HaRav Simcha Bunim Cohen, Shlita pointed out in a Hakhel Shiur--what lengths would you go to not to be late to a meeting with 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!





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.  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!



19 Teves



We note that other agencies or Rabbanim may have different standards, and every person should follow his Rav or Posek in this area. 



Mites can be found in the crown, outer rind and blossoms cups of the pineapple.

1. The pineapple should be peeled until only yellow fruit is visible

2. The fruit and cutting board should be rinsed after peeling since the

insects often crawl onto the cutting board

3.The crown and rind should not be used on decorative platters since the insects can transfer to other fruit

No further checking is necessary

Check with your hashgacha for its policy



TESHUVAH MOMENT: 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!”





“Be somebody 

who makes everybody 

feel like a somebody”


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



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!



IT 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!



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!



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, provided 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!



FROM STRENGTH TO STRENGTH:  HaRav Matisyahu Salomon, Shlita (Mattisyahu Chaim Ben Ettel may he have a Refuah Sheleimah) teaches that one should be careful to always learn something immediately after Shacharis, as required by Shulchan Aruch Orach Chaim 155.  Indeed, even if it is only one Mishna, one should make this ‘Kevius Ittim LeTorah’ inviolate--even if one will lose a big deal in the process (the Shulchan Aruch itself actually uses this language --”af im savur leharviach harbeh”).  HaRav Salomon explains why this K’vius Ittim is so, so important. We recite in the Birchos HaTorah every morning that Hashem Himself is the Melamed Torah LeAmo Yisrael--Hashem Himself is our teacher as we learn.  Since, as Chazal provide, the Pasuk of Yailchu MaiChayil El Chayil adjures and instructs us to go straight from Tefillah to Torah, it is as if Hashem Himself is waiting for us to teach us right after davening-- we have an incredibly special appointment to learn--with Him!.  Most certainly, if we had a scheduled appointment with HaRav Chaim Kanievsky, Shlita in his apartment we would be sure not to miss it for any reason.  Every morning, we have an appointment with our Melamed Torah --our Teacher--Hashem Himself--and we definitely should not miss it either. The Pasuk of Yailchu MaiChayil even teaches us what will happen if you take the time and make the effort to attend the privileged meeting--for it concludes with the words “Yaira’eh El Elokim BeTzion”, which, HaRav Salomon explains, means that you will actually be zoche to the Siyata DiShemaya--to the Heavenly Help-- that comes when one is in the presence of the Shechina--for you just are and have been!  Remember--it is the consistency and diligence--the commitment to the daily meeting--even if it is not for a long period--that is important.  Hakhel Note:  The Bi’ur Halacha(there, Siman 155, d’h Ais Lilmod) adds that one should have the same Chayil El Chayil at night, such as after Mincha and Before Ma’ariv (or after Ma’ariv)...for one also must study Torah--with the Greatest of Teachers--at night as well.  Remember--this is no appointment that anyone would want to miss!!





A.  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!].


B.  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

TESHUVAH MOMENT: 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.



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 inkling of ‘stealing’ any grass from the idol-worshippers who 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!



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.”



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 of 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)]





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!



17 Teves



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



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.



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! 



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)]



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.



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 day.” We asked Rabbi Pinchos Bodner, Shlita, author of Halachos f 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’s 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!



THE 215TH YAHRZEIT: Today is the 215th 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 (Pesachim 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

A TESHUVAH MOMENT: 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!



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!



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)]



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!





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.



13 Teves

TESHUVAH MOMENT: 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 of 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)]



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


Reminder Note:  Now that in the Northern Hemisphere it may be a time when we r’l hear more sneezing around us than during the rest of the year, we once again provide the Tefillos to be recited before going to a doctor and before taking medicine http://www.hakhel.info/archivesPublicService/TefillahBeforeVisitingDoctor.pdf





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


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


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


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


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


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





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


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


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


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


E.  HaRav Chaim Kanievsky, Shlita, was asked how the bracha given to boys on Leil Shabbos, at a bris, and at other occasions is Yesimcha Elokim KeEphraim  V’ChiMenashe--after all isn’t that only

a part of a Pasuk in this week’s Parasha and we have no right to break up Pesukim like this.  HaRav Kanievsky sagaciously responded:  “It cannot be an aveira, as the Torah itself teaches ‘Becha Yevareich Yisrael Leimor Yesimcha Elokim KeEphraim  V’ChiMenashe’--this is the way we are to bless our children.”


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


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


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


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


I. Relating to the concept of brachos in the Parasha, we add the following two points:


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


2.   Having made this point, there is really no requirement that brachos be made directly to human beings.  It is well known, for example, that the Alter of Slobodka once passed by the home of a Talmid Chacham and blessed the home and everyone in it.  We can analogize a bit:  When an ambulance speeds by, or even when you hear the ambulance siren, you can daven/give a bracha that the person, whoever he or she may be, has a Refuah Shelaima.  Or, in another vein, when seeing the bakery line out the door on Erev Shabbos, you can silently bless everyone on the line to have an enjoyable Shabbos.  While at first all of this may appear a bit naïve, childish, or “overly frum”, it really only indicates that you are a thinking person with (or trying to develop) Ahavas HaBriyos and Ahavas Yisrael--love for Hashem’s creations and love for fellow Jews.  In fact, the Baalei Mussar denounce the term “frumkeit” as relating to observance and practice out of rote, rather than with feeling and freshness.


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


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





And the days of Yisrael drew near to die; and he called his son Yosef, and said to him:  If now I have found favor in your eyes, please…deal with me kindly and truly….” (Beraishis 47:29)  Based upon this Pasuk, Rabbi Zelig Pliskin, Shlita, in Love Your Neighbor (p. 125) brings the following story:


When Rabbi Moshe of Kobrin was seven years old, there was a severe famine in Lithuania. Poor people wandered from village to village in search of food.  Many of them flocked to the home of Rav Moshe’s mother, who readily cooked and baked for them.  Once a very large number of the poor came to her home and she had to cook for them in shifts.  When some individuals grew impatient and insulted her, she began to cry, since she felt that she was doing her utmost for them.  Her young son, the future Rabbi of Kobrin, said to her, “Why should their insults trouble you?  Don’t their insults help you perform the mitzvah with sincerity? If they had praised you, your merit would be less, since you might be doing the kindness to gain their praise, rather than to fulfill the Almighty’s command.” (Ohr Yeshorim, p. 50 footnote).


Based upon this extremely important concept, the principle of true and pure kindness, Rabbi Pliskin writes that one should not view many of his otherwise necessary daily tasks as a mere drudgery.   In the context of a housewife, for instance, Rabbi Pliskin quoting HaRav Chaim Pinchos Scheinberg, Z’tl, writes, “If a housewife had the opportunity to perform the same tasks [i.e., tasks performed on behalf of small children] for, let’s say, the Chofetz Chaim, she would certainly be happy to do them.  It is no less a chesed for one’s own children.”


Each and every one of us, rather than having to perform a Chesed Shel Emes only at, r’l, a levaya, should attempt to perform pure acts of kindness with those incapable of paying you back, or not knowledgeable enough to pay you back, or in some cases, aware or courteous enough to even saying thank you.  Providing behind the scenes, unappreciated chesed is the hallmark of the people of Israel.  Do the billions of people in the world today, for instance, know or appreciate that they are in existence only because of Torah and our study?  Indeed, with this thought in mind when learning, your study too becomes a Chesed Shel Emes!



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. HaRav Mattisyahu Salomon, Shlita, 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 next 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!



12 Teves

A TESHUVAH MOMENT: 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 this 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!



GREAT LESSON FROM PARASHAS VAYECHI: 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!



I AM A MA’AMIN:  At a Hakhel Yarchei Kallah, HaRav Yisroel Belsky, Z’tl, 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 this 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 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!”



11 Teves

TESHUVAH MOMENT: By the following link -- http://tinyurl.com/zcxlbnz -- we provide a beautiful Tefillah contained in the Sefer Yesod VShoresh Haavodah to be recited before studying mussar.



DON’T MISS THE OPPORTUNITY FOR KAPPARA: Chazal teach that when one reaches into his pocket for a coin and takes out the wrong one, this is actually yissurin--discomfort that a person feels. Accordingly, rather than shrugging it off when this happens--and certainly when one actually feels some type of ache or pain--one should recognize that these are yissurin which could bring Kappara on his behalf--and affirmatively plead to Hashem: “Tehei Yesurai Kappara Ahl Kol Avonosai”. By doing so, a person thus recognizes that nothing is by happenstance, chance or ‘just one of those things’ during the day--but is meaningful, actual Hashgacha Pratis for and to the one experiencing it!



QUESTION: Does one answer Amen if he hears someone, at the beginning of Birkos Kriyas Shema in the morning, recite the words “Baruch Atta Hashem…Oseh Shalom U’Vorei Es HaKol”--is this not the end of the first part of the bracha (as it is typically set off by itself in large letters in siddurim)--or don’t we say that after all it is just one long bracha that ends at Yotzer HaMe’oros?


ANSWER FROM A POSEK: The bracha certainly ends after Yotzer HaMe’oros, and therefore one should not answer amen after “Oseh Shalom U’Vorei Es HaKol”. I wish to comment on a common misunderstanding about the brachos before and after Kriyas Shema. Women and girls who do not have enough time to say Birkos Kriyas Shema often say Shema and then Shemone Esrei. Before starting Shemone Esrei, they stand up at Tehillos Le’Keil Elyon (as it states in the siddur) and recite their tefillah from that point until Go’al Yisrael, and then begin Shemone Esrei. This is a bracha levatala. A woman who wishes to say the words of Go’al Yisrael before Shemone Esrei, may only do so if she says the entire bracha after Shema that begins with the word  Emes V’Yatziv. This is an extremely common misconception and would be a huge mitzvah and zikui harabbim to spread the word!



REPAIR THE BREACHES: HaRav Moshe Tuvia Leff, Shlita, points out that unlike Shiva Assar B’Tammuz and Tisha B’Av, which commemorate tragic events which actually occurred on those days, Asara B’Teves represents an event that was to take place in the future--a breach which would lead to Churban. The future could have been different--the breach could have been repaired, with the Churban never to happen. At that time, it was up to us, but we did not succeed. Every year, we have the opportunity on Asara B’Teves to begin a repair of the breach and to lead to the Binyan Beis HaMikdash. It is for this reason that the Chasam Sofer teaches that Asara B’Teves will determine whether Tisha B’Av just a few months hence will become a day of joy. How can we repair the breach? Through our identifying and overcoming the guile and cunning of the Yetzer Hara. It is he who in fact forced the breach. We must take charge in the everyday ‘small matters’--the way we recite brachos, the way we daven, the way we learn (see more about this below), the way we talk, the way we relate to others, etc. Perhaps Asara B’Teves is a short and ‘easy’ fast but it is most definitely a signpost to us--an indication from Hashem that if we begin--we undertake those simple and straightforward actions to defeat the Jewish people’s greatest enemy--we will see the Binyan Bayis Shelishi not only in our lifetimes--but this very year!





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


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


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


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


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



NEFESH OR NEFASHOS?: The Chofetz Chaim provides an essential insight relating to last week’s Parasha.  The Bnai Yisrael as “Kol HaNefesh...Ha’ba’ah Mitzraima Shivim”--all of the souls who were descendants of Yaakov were 70 souls” (Bereishis 46:27).  The word nefesh, however, is actually in the singular--meaning soul.  The more expected word grammatically would be nefashos--meaning souls.  This, the Chofetz Chaim writes (Sha’ar HaTevunah, Chapter 6), is to teach us that all of the Nefoshos Yisrael--all of the souls of Bnai Yisrael are considered as one soul in the Heavens above.  Just as a single body is made up of different limbs and organs--each with its different function and purpose (the head and the heart, the hand and the foot)--so too is K’lal Yisrael composed of different parts which together make one functioning whole. Moreover, just as when there is an ache or pain somewhere it effects other parts of the body, so too it is with the body of K’lal Yisrael. And just as when there is joy the whole body is affected--so too is it with our whole Nefesh--the united family of Yisrael.  It is only an illusion in this world that we are not one--because every soul is encased in a different corporeality and has different businesses and tasks--but this a gross misapprehension.  The famous Midrash which brings home this point is to the ship sailing smoothly at sea.  One of the passengers decides to drill a hole underneath where he was standing on the bow of the ship.  The other passengers watched in astonishment and then began to yell and scream at him. “What’s bothering you” he shouts, “I am drilling the hole only underneath me--not underneath you?!”....


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


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



10 Teves

A TESHUVAH MOMENT: The Ra’avad, as brought by Rabbeinu Yonah teaches that breaking one’s desire by not continuing to eat when eating out of desire is considered as “a Ta’anis, a Korban and a Mizbeach Kapara--as a fast, a sacrifice and an altar of forgiveness.”  We must remember that these words are not expansive oratory, but the words of a Rishon brought in the Yesod HaTeshuva!  One can practice this truly remarkable opportunity on any day.  Nobody would really disengage from his physical desire unless he had a spiritual purpose (look at most of the world around you which is devoid of that purpose)--so by willfully and intentionally breaking your desire--you are on top of all else, undertaking a noble act of Kovod Shomayim, demonstrating that your dedication and striving is towards the ruchniyus of life, and what Hashem seeks of you in this world.



REMINDER--SPENDING YOUR MONEY: Chazal (Brachos 6B) teach that one should give the amount of money that he would have otherwise spent on food on a Ta’anis to Tzedakah. For those who have not yet done so--please consider this a gentle reminder!



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



AN ANNUAL REMINDER: Chazal (Medrash Tanchuma, Vayikra 9) teach that it was already fitting for the Bais HaMikdash to be destroyed on Asara B’Teves, but Hashem, in His incredible mercy, pushed things off to the summer, so that we would not have to be exiled in the cold.  We should take this as an important lesson and be especially considerate and helpful to those who are standing outside at your door, walking when you are driving, or even those who are suffering from colds and cold weather-related illnesses.  When you make sure that your family and friends are properly dressed, have soft tissues and the like, you are likewise demonstrating a middah of rachmanus, of special mercy and care, which warms those around you.


Along these lines, Chazal (Rosh Hashana 18A) teach us that, according to one opinion, Naval was granted an additional ten days of life because of the ten meals he fed to guests--Dovid’s men.  Doing the easy math, this means that Naval “bought” a day of life for each meal he served a guest.  Oh, how we should treasure the opportunities of doing a simple and seemingly short-term kindness to someone else, for it results in nothing short of life itself.


Interestingly, the last Pasuk we read in Kriyas Shema concludes with the phrase “Ani Hashem Elokeichem--I am the L-rd your G-d”, mentioned twice--once at the beginning of the Pasuk, and once at its conclusion.  Rashi there (Bamidbar 15:41), obviously troubled by the seeming repetition, concludes that it is to teach us that Hashem is faithful to punish those who do evil--and faithful to award those who do good.  As we leave Kriyas Shema (which provides us with a strong daily dose of the basic tenets of our faith) every day and notice the dual recitation of Ani Hashem Elokeichem, it should remind, and spur, us to “buy” life with our proper middos and conduct.


Hakhel Note:  Many teach that after the darkest point of night…comes sunrise.  We should use the three days ahead to bring the daylight to Klal Yisrael.  We each are responsible and we each can help do it!  ------





A.  During the week in which Asara B’Teves occurs, we encounter Parashas VaYechi in which the beginnings of Galus Mitzrayim begin to be evident.  There is a clear common denominator between the two, as they both are the beginnings of a dreary and dreadful Galus period.  However, with that awareness comes the understanding that the Galus is a temporary one--and the faster we change and correct our ways--the faster we return to normalcy--and an elevated relationship with HaKadosh Baruch Hu and with others.  Yaakov Avinu thus gives us the brachos in this week’s Parasha, which are at a minimum the realization that we are--and can do--much better.  Likewise, the stringencies of Tisha B’Av are not observed on Asara BeTeves even though it is the beginning of the series of calamities that led to our exile--because that exile is eminently rectifiable--if we make the right choices. 


B. Asara B’Teves, is certainly a day to ask for Rachamim from HaKadosh Baruch Hu.  In order to assist you in highlighting your requests for Rachamim in Shemone Esrei, may we suggest that you find the Brachos in Shemone Esrei in which ‘Rachamim’ (or a derivation of the word) is mentioned two and three times within the Bracha


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


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


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


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

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


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


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

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


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


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





A. From Rabbi Shlomo Pearl, Z’tl:  Chazal teach that one earns Olam Haba through the proper recitation of Ashrei three times a day.  This is no small or trite statement. One should recite Ashrei just a bit slower--by devoting just 30 additional seconds to the recitation of your Ashrei-- the Greatness of Hashem and His Beneficence can be revealed in a markedly more meaningful and praiseworthy way. A beautiful kabbalah and goal--with Olam Haba at the end of it all!


B. The Chasida, or the “Kind One”, is remarkably the name of a treife bird.  Many of us have heard as the explanation for this anomaly that although the bird does kindness--it is only with her friends and not with strangers or those that she does not know.  We may, however, suggest another explanation.  The Chasida is treife because she does kindness with her neighbors--after all, she is known to all as the Chasida--but does not do Chesed with her own family, as she will win no special appellation in this regard.  This provides a great lesson to us.  We can improve ourselves from ‘treife’ to kasher by making the additional effort to do “unsung Chesed”--helping to clean up around the house in some additional way than before, doing something for a family member before being asked, taking the time out to think about and give a parent, sibling, spouse or child a thoughtful or creative idea geared just for them.  Ahavas Chinam doesn’t have to take place on the streets, in Shul or in the workplace--it can show its constant special presence-- beautifully housed--in your very own home.  Yehi Ratzon that in this zechus, we will be zoche to the end of the effects of Asara B’Teves--as we come back to the House of All--the Bais HaMikdash, speedily and in our days--may we make it happen!


C. Let us recall our Vidui on Yom Kippur--exactly three months ago! Some thoughts:


(1) The Navi (Yirmiyahu 2:35) teaches:  “Hineni Nishpat Osach Al Amreich Lo Chatasi--Hashem judges a person by separate judgment for the person’s claim that he did not sin.”


(2) It is not the ‘major aveiros’ that may necessarily affect many people, but as Chazal teach it is the “Mitzvos that a person steps upon that surround a person at the time of his judgment”.  One must get serious in his reflection as to some of the everyday challenges and pitfalls that he encounters.  Here are just a few examples:


(a) Tzararnu--going through the day making the conscious effort not to hurt anybody with one’s words or actions.  Even if the other person is not a timid, weak, poor or suffering person--and even if that person is your parent, wife or child--one must take his own pain and care to avoid causing pain, suffering, anguish, or distress to another. 


(b) Kishinu Oref--we must not be stubborn and rigid, but flexible and attentive.  “I know better”; or “I will teach him”, without working with the person on his own level and in a way that bests suits the person is not only counterproductive--but offensive and wrong.  The prohibition against being stiff-necked likewise applies to an attitude of “I can’t change the way I daven”, “I can’t learn more than I do”, and “That’s the way it is--every once in a while Lashon Hara comes out.”   We add that as part of taking stock on Kishinu Oref, one think about something about himself that he knows bothers others, but that he has failed to correct because it is “him.”  If one realizes that a particular mannerism or ‘custom’ really does irk family, friends, or colleagues, it should become part of the “Nachpesa Deracheinu”--the search of our ways so essential to steering us back to the proper path in life.


(c) Overdue Items--one should not overlook the items or money he has borrowed or lent to others, or to whom he owes a phone call or an apology.


(d) Brachos Recitation--Have there been any times that you failed to make a Bracha Achrona?  Any times that you were unsure whether you recited an Asher Yatzar or not?  Any times that you recited the wrong bracha on a product?  Do you let your family/friends get by with the way they recite brachos--even though you know that they should do better?  Fascinatingly, the Orchos Chaim LaRosh teaches that one should be careful to instruct his family to be careful in three items:  Kavannah in Tefillah; the proper method of Netilas Yadayim; and proper brachos recitation.  It is not a long list--but it is a powerfully meaningful one!  Our dedication to improvement in brachos recitation is a demonstration of the honor that we feel in bringing Hashem into our life every day--throughout the day!



9 Teves

TESHUVAH MOMENT: Can you keep today clear of Avak Lashon Hara?



QUOTABLE QUOTE: The Internet should never be used for entertainment or aimless browsing. This attitude must be felt and projected by parents. It follows that children should not witness parents displaying emotional attachment or obsessive preoccupation with their digital devices.” [Excerpted from The Evolving Digital Challenge by Rabbi Nechemiah Gottlieb, Shlita].



THE MORE WE TRUST…:  In the remarkable Sefer, “28 Verses That Can Change Your Life”, Rabbi Moshe Goldberger, Shlita, provides practical suggestions on practical improvement in one’s personal life based on famous Pesukim in Tanach.  We provide below a summary of one of these pesukim and some of its lessons. Pasuk 22 (Sefer Yeshaya 26:4) teaches:  “Bitchu Bashem Adei Ad--trust in Hashem forever, for in Hashem is the strength of all worlds.” This pasuk, which is recited at the end of U’va LeTzion and soon before we will be going out into and encountering the world for the day reassures us--Hashem can handle all of the world’s issues and problems, let alone yours.  After all, let us be practical and realistic--Hashem has existed forever, and is with you for your entire life. Don’t think you are ever on your own--It’s simply not true.  Hashem is always in charge, and at times he tests us to see if we recognize that.  When you face adversity, remember the pasuk-- and say to yourself.  ”Bitchu Bashem Adei Ad--trust in Hashem forever”.  When one trusts in Hashem, he has a Powerful Ally, the best one.  Many times it is a lack of sufficient bitachon that is the problem, not the challenge itself.


Based upon this, we can understand the message of other Pesukim “Ukraini Beyom Tzarah---call Me when you have trouble, I will help you....” (Tehillim 50:15).  This does not mean only that one necessarily should pick up the phone and dial the direct number only once.  Keep calling.  Sometimes, it may seem that one is not getting through, that the lines are down or are overly busy.  Chas VeShalom!  Dovid Hamelech explicitly teaches “Kaveh El Hashem, Chazal VeYa’ametz Libecha--hope to Hashem, strengthen yourself and hope to Hashem [once again].  As Chazal (Brachos 32B) instruct--”If a person sees that his prayers were not answered, let him pray again!”


There is even something more.  It is a special blessing to trust in Hashem--as the Pasuk teaches “Baruch Hagever Asher Yivtach Bashem--blessed is a person who trusts in Hashem, and Hashem will fulfill his trust.  It follows then that the more we trust in Hashem --the more blessings we will receive!



THE EIGHTH DAY OF TEVES:  Yesterday was the eighth day of Teves, the tragic day upon which the Torah was translated into Greek, the Septuagint, which is marked as a Ta’anis Tzadikim.  For further detail on the tragedy of the Septuagint, we refer you to the Sefer HaToda’ah, translated into English as The Book of Our Heritage (Feldheim), by Rabbi Eliyahu Kitov, ztl. 


Today, the ninth day of Teves is actually also a Ta’anis Tzadikim, for it is the Yahrtzeit of Ezra HaSofer (see Shulchan Aruch, Orach Chaim 580, Mishna Berura, Seif Katan 13).  As a zechus for Ezra Hasofer, one can review the Takanos that Ezra instituted, as described in Bava Kamma 82A. 


These two days are then followed by a third Ta’anis, Asara B’Teves, which is observed by all.


The Chasam Sofer in a Drasha that he gave on the eighth day of Teves (approximately 200 years ago) suggests that after the 70-day period of mourning in Egypt ended for Yaakov Avinu, the Bnei Yisrael traveled to Eretz Canaan and eventually buried Yaakov Avinu--on Asara B’Teves.  The date of Eisav’s death is then--yes, Asara B’Teves as well.


There is much to learn from the Chasam Sofer’s conclusion in our observance of Asara B’Teves.  After all, Maaseh Avos Siman L’Bonim--that which occurred to our forefathers is a sign for future generations.  Firstly, Chazal teach us that “Yaakov Avinu Lo Mais.”  That is, even though it may appear to us that Yaakov passed away, in fact, he lives on--most certainly so in spirit.  We, too, having experienced the devastating blow of the events of Asara B’Teves more than 2,500 years ago have not rolled over and died as scores of other nations have in the meantime.  Moreover, what ultimately happened on Asara B’Teves was the death of Eisav.  This, the Chasam Sofer writes, is symbolic of Asara B’Teves in the end being turned from a date of sadness to a day of “Sasson V’Simcha”--joy and happiness.


The missing link to bring us to what Asara B’Teves is supposed to be is Teshuva.  We all know that this is the shortest fast of the year, so it should be the easiest.  That is a gift in and of itself.  However long or short the fast is, in order to be meaningful, it must be accompanied by Teshuva.  We must do something.  We must make a move to revitalize Yaakov, and to once and for all, put Eisav away.


One suggestion may be to take out your Vidui booklet, or other Rosh Hashana/ Yom Kippur reminder.  We especially note that Asara B’Teves is also our next ‘Asiri Lakodesh’--the  next tenth day in a series of ten day periods since Yom Kippur-- an especially auspicious day for personal improvement! 


One final, but important comment: Rashi explains that when Yosef and Binyamin fell on each other’s necks in last week’s Parasha (Bereishis 45:14), it was to symbolize the destruction of the two Batei Mikdashos, and the Mishkan of Shilo, which were located in their respective territories in Eretz Yisrael.  The Avnei Nezer explains that the “necks” symbolize the Bais HaMikdash and the Mishkan, because just as the neck connects the head (which is the resting place of the soul) to the rest of the body, so, too, does the Bais HaMikdash (and the Mishkan) fully and finally connect our physical lives to our spiritual existence.  When we yearn for the Bais HaMikdash, we are yearning to connect our corporeal life to the highest spiritual plane it can achieve.  By making a bracha (the spiritual) over food (the physical) properly, we demonstrate that we are sincerely preparing--and awaiting--for the day when we truly can connect our bodies to our souls in the most absolute and outstanding way that we can!



NOTES ON FASTING:  The actual fasting begins at Alos HaShachar tomorrow morning.  In many areas, Alos HaShachar will occur relatively late tomorrow morning (one should be careful to consult with his Rav as to the actual time of Alos HaShachar as there are different opinions as to how it is determined). Accordingly, some may want to arise early to have a bite to eat or drink.  We provide two cautionary notes:


1.  In order eat or drink upon awakening, one must first make an express ‘Tenai’, a condition, before going to sleep that he intends to arise before Alos HaShachar and eat and drink then before day; and


2. The amount of food that a man may eat within one-half hour of Alos HaShachar may be limited--consult your Rav or Posek for details.



6 Teves

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



CHANUKAH AND THE PARASHA!: What word in this week’s Parasha is spelled by the letters on the dreidel (see Bereishis 46:29)?  What does this teach you about how we can succeed against the other nations of the world--until Moshiach’s arrival?  Can we find one act in our daily life in which we can fulfill the dreidel’s teaching each and every day?!





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!



MUSSAREI SHELAH HAKADOSH: The Shelah HaKadosh also makes the following important notes in this week’s Parasha, as excerpted from the Sefer Mussarei Shelah HaKadosh:


A.  Upon Yosef indentifying himself to his brothers, he kissed them and cried over them (Bereishis 45:15).  We see from here how far a person must go in forgiving and being Ma’avir Al Midosav--for they sinned to him, and he cried over them and kissed them! 


B.  Yaakov taught his descendants for all times a crucial lesson when he sent Yehuda ahead to establish a Yeshiva, a spiritual footing in Goshen.  Whenever one is to begin a new undertaking or start a new phase or project, he should begin by first providing for a Heavenly or spiritual need.  For instance, when moving into a new apartment or home, one should first consider the location and approach to Torah and Tefillah in the new home. 


C.  Yosef did not lay claim to the “Admas HaKohannim”--the property of the Egyptian priests, which he could have easily done in exchange for the live-giving food that he was giving them, and as he had in fact done with the rest of the Egyptians.  He did not treat them in this way in recognition of the Tova that they had done to him when the wife of Potifar brought her case against Yosef in front of the priests.  They realized he was telling the truth and so they saved his life (see Targum Yonasan Ben Uziel to Bereishis 39:20 and 47:22).  Yosef demonstrated his HaKoras HaTov to them in a grand manner.  The lesson is there for us all to see!





A. HaRav Moshe Wolfson, Shlita, teaches that “Vayigash Eilav--Yehuda”---if one really wants to come close to Hashem, it is with Yehuda--with admission to Hashem that all comes from Him--and with the great thanks this awareness engenders.  Hakhel Note:  Please remember the very first , and therefore ostensibly the primary, item that we thank Hashem for in Modim every day. It is actually not our lives, our souls, the daily nissim... it is “She’Atta Hu Hashem Elokainu VaiLokai Avosainu--we thank You for being our Hashem our G-d, and the G-d of our fathers”. Hashem, You could have distanced Yourself from us.  We could have lived our lives without Your Hashgacha Pratis as most of the world does. We could have not known You. Instead, You have given us the opportunity to be close to You at all times--Torah, Tefillah, the Mitzvos--to do what is right, to lead meaningful lives, to have ruchniyus as our goal.  Thanks to You, we lead lives in a world of gashmius which can lead us to live for eternity! With this awareness, with this knowledge, shouldn’t we anxiously await each and every opportunity to recite Shemone Esrei--each and every opportunity to recite Modim!!


B.  The  following important insight on this week’s Parasha  is provided by HaRav Avigdor Miller, Z’tl, in his Sefer In the Beginning:  Yehudah initiated his dialogue with Yosef the Ruler by asserting “Ki Kamocha KePharoh--for [to me] you are the same as Pharoh.”  We must take the lesson from Yehudah’s brilliant words.  Men in authority do not welcome obstinacy or argumentation because their authority is thereby impugned.  It is therefore highly advisable to preface any show of opposition [and any request] by a generous acknowledgement of that person’s authority.


C.  HaRav Yaakov Meisels, Shlita, powerfully shows from Yosef how far one should go to avoid humiliating, embarrassing, hurting or paining another:


1.  When Yosef revealed his identity to his brothers, he first ordered all of the Mitzriyim out of the room so that his brothers would not feel the shame and embarrassment upon his disclosure.  Can one imagine the great risk literally of life that he had placed himself in?!  He had left himself alone in the room with his brothers, who had previously intended to take his life for Halachic reasons--and he had no knowledge or basis for determining that they had changed their Halachic Ruling!  The Midrash Tanchuma teaches, in fact, that Yosef had determined--better that I be killed than that my brothers be embarrassed before the Mitzriyim.


Moreover, we must remember that Yosef had gone through the entire episode with his brothers because he understood that his dreams had to be realized, not for personal purposes, but for K’lal Yisrael--and ultimately world history.  He had gone through such torment in Mitzrayim physically and spiritually awaiting fruition of the dreams, and was so close to their fulfillment (and to once again seeing his father which he so longed for in its own right), but made the decision that none of this--even fulfillment of the dreams for the world--was worth it--and he was going to very literally risk his life with the good possibility that his brothers (who could have taken on all of Mitzrayim) would kill him--all of this so that his brothers would be saved the pain and embarrassment before the Mitzriyim who were in the palace at that moment.


2.  When Yosef revealed his identity, and he saw that his brothers were so ashamed, he put aside all of his years of disgrace, disgust and exile, being away from his father, his home and his environment, and instead immediately tried to mollify them with words of appeasement--so that they should not even feel hurt before him.  He told them that they had not done wrong...as through their actions the future of K’lal Yisrael would be assured.  He kissed them--and even told them not to argue among themselves over this on the way home!  Hakhel Note:  We may add to Rabbi Meisels’ incredible observation that the thoughts of the Ba’alei Mussar on this point.  The Chofetz Chaim writes that from Yosef we learn that one must be Mai’tiv to those who are Mai’rah to him.  We note that Yosef is referred to as Yosef HaTzaddik, not Yosef HaChassid--which teaches us that we must follow this path which is not one of piety, but one of Tzedek--what is just and right.  Take the bold step--next time someone does something to you which was hurtful, try an act of goodness or kindness in return!


3.  Rabbi Meisels concludes as follows--certainly incorporating the thoughts of the Chofetz Chaim as well.  “How far must we distance ourselves from shaming another, from the hurt or disgrace they may feel, from the opportunity for even “justified” revenge, from making someone the subject of a cute joke, from making him feel foolish, childish, silly, ignorant or wrong.  Situations arise all the time, at home, at work, while driving, at the checkout counter.  We are faced with daily challenges where we can use that one line, that one opportunity, that one time that you can (finally) teach someone a real lesson.  In truth, these are all opportunities of life--not to demonstrate your mastery, superiority, prowess, verbal skills, wit or wisdom--but to show that you, too, can treat your brothers with the notion of concern and kindliness, with the compassion, with the sensitivity and caring, that Yosef did his!”





A.  Think of all the Nissim that you have remembered and thanked Hashem for over the eight days of Chanukah.  Now, think about “VeAl Nisecha SheBechol Yom Imanu!”  We all know that when one puts his hand into his pocket and takes out the wrong coin, or the object that he did not, this is considered to be yisurin.  What if a person does take out the right coin, or the right object--shouldn’t he express his thanks to Hashem for doing so?!  Additional Note:  If one would ask a medical laboratory how many medical tests it could perform, the answer would be in the thousands (we have verified this).  As a basic starting point--think of the thousands of tests that you do not need performed on you today!


B.  Are we allowed to ask for miracles?  Do miracles detract from our Zechusim?  Do they detract from the regular Hanhagas HaOlam?  These are, of course, complex questions.  However, on Chanukah we were allowed to say HaRachaman Hu Ya’aseh Lanu Nissim VeNaflaos Kemo She’Assa LaAvoseinu….  The Yeshuos Yaakov explains that even if we may not be allowed to ask for personal and private miracles, we can ask for great miracles--like the miracles of Chanukah--to recur again, because the Pirsumei Nissa--the public awareness will sanctify Hashem’s Name in a great way.  Thus, we can--and should--daven for great miracles--such as those that will accompany the coming of Moshiach!  Hakhel Note:  Some commentaries on the Siddur explain the words Ki Goel Chazak Atta--as expressing just this thought--asking Hashem for the great miracles that will accompany the Geulah!


C.  Rebbi Shlomo Karliner, Z’tl, noticed some black spots on his wall which resulted from placing his Menorah a bit to close.  He rejoiced, exclaiming:  “Now I will be able to visually remember Chanukah every day of the year!”   Hakhel Note:  Maybe we can rejoice in something similar--such as an oil spill, darkened window curtains or the like!


D.  At a Hakhel Yarchei Kallah, Rabbi Fischel Shachter, Shlita, taught that the Pach Shemen beautifully symbolizes that hope is never, ever lost--as from but a small jar of oil that Hashem gifted to us--an entire people was able to be rejuvenated.  This is also certainly the case on an individual level.  One should always find the Pach Shemen--for it is always there!


E.  The Satmar Rebbe, Z’tl, finds an allusion to the Neiros of Chanukah in the Pasuk “Orachti Ner Lemshichi”.  He explains that if one properly appreciates the lessons of Chanukah--then Hashem will consider it as if he has set up the lights--for Moshiach!  Now is the time to write down several lessons that you learned from Chanukah, and how you bli neder, can/will implement them in your everyday life.



THE LAST WORDS OF HALLEL:  It is interesting that we only recite Hallel at certain times or periods during the year.  One would think that Hallel should be the cornerstone of our daily life--after all, does not Dovid HaMelech teach us in the last Pasuk of the entire Sefer Tehillim: “Kol HaNeshama Tehallel Ka Halleluka--let all souls say Hallel to Hashem!”  Chazal to this Pasuk comment--”Al Kol Neshima--on each and every breath” that I take Hashem should be praised.  Thus, the language of “Hallel” applies, as Dovid Hamelech teaches, to all souls, and as Chazal further expound, to every breath.


So, why is it then that we do not recite Hallel every day of our lives?  The preliminary response might be that we would simply get “too used” to its recitation and it would not have the forceful effect that it is intended to have.  However, we do, in fact, recite Shema at least twice a day, and Shemone Esrei at least three times daily and we are enjoined and expected to have the proper thoughts and feelings in its recitation.  Why should Hallel be any different?


Perhaps the answer lies in the following:  Hallel begins with the word “Halleluka”.  One would expect that Hallel would end with this word, as well.  However, in fact, Hallel ends with the Pasuk “Hodu Lashem Ki Tov Ki L’Olam Chasdo (Tehillim 118:29)--give thanks to Hashem for He is Good; for His Kindness endures forever.”  Thus, we conclude, we walk away, from Hallel not with the word Halleluka but with a thought that is to be impressed upon our minds and in our hearts on a daily basis.  It is not Hallel that we are to achieve daily, but Hodu Lashem Ki Tov Ki L’Olam Chasdo--not an expression of intense exuberance, but a steady and consistent appreciation and understanding.


As we go through the winter months, when life seems more tedious and difficult, when even daily chores and responsibilities appear to be more of a struggle, we should try to keep that Pasuk with which we left the portal to winter, the last Hallel of Chanukah, “Hodu Lashem Ki Tov…” foremost in our minds.  Whether it is the green light or the red light, the broken phone or the new computer, the slush and ice or the bright sunshine, the compliment or the criticism--it is all for my good--and Hashem, thank You for it!!



5 Teves

A TESHUVAH MOMENT: As we all know by now, one of the great lessons of Chanukah is rededicating ourselves to thanking Hashem on a daily basis—”V’Ahl Nissecha SheBeChal Yom Imanu--for all of the ‘little’ and not so little miracles that are with us every day”. In fact, a reader once taught us that Torah and Todah (admission and thanks to Hashem for all He does for us) are different by only one letter--and even those two letters (Raish and Daled) look very much alike!


Hakhel Note: It is important for each and every one of us to pay specific attention to the words “Mechalkel Chaim B’Chesed--Who sustains the living with kindness”, which we recite three times daily in Shemone Esrei. We should appreciate on a personal level the great kindnesses which we receive from Hashem on a daily basis. Indeed, if one would sit down, and begin writing the Chasodim down, he would realize that the detail would never stop. Let us not be counted among those who recite these words as mere lip service without thought--but among those who stop for a moment and think of just a few of the Chasodim that he has experienced since the last Shemone Esrei!



MORE THAN LATKES: Once received from a reader: “What is the source of the Minhag of eating latkes on Chanukah?  If it is that we need to eat something with oil in it--why not simply eat French fries from your local pizza store?  I have heard that the word “lat” in Yiddish means patch, and that the reason we eat latkes on Chanukah is to symbolize that the breaches made by the Yevanim in the Bais HaMikdash were only temporarily patched.  Some even refer to “sufganiot” as “latkes” as well, very likely for the same reason.  The latkes teach that although we were able to mend the breach--Chanukah was not the complete Yeshua.  Based upon this, I understand much better what you brought in the name of the Ba’al Shem Tov that the reason Chanukah does not have its own Mesechta is because the Mesechta of Chanukah will not be over until Moshiach comes and completes that Tahara of the Bais Hamikdash!” 


Hakhel Note:  This is an excellent thought.  With this, we can understand the difference in the endings of Al HaNissim on Purim and on Chanukah.  On Purim, we end Al HaNissim with finality: “VeSalu Osso VeEs Banav Al HaEitz”--Haman and his sons were hanged, and the lives of Bnei Yisrael were now able to be saved.  With respect to Chanukah, however, the wars in fact continued for many years afterwards, and therefore Chazal instituted the days of Chanukah the next year, as the Al HaNissim concludes, as days which were “LeHodos U’LeHallel LeShimcha HaGadol.  This is an allusion to the Geulah as an ongoing process based upon our relationship with and closeness to HaKadosh Baruch Hu!  Thus, although we are now several days past Chanukah, we can continue to strive for the ultimate goal of Chanukah--which is the Geulah Shleimah and the final Bais HaMikdash BeKedusha U’Veteharah!



YOU BE THE JUDGE!:  The Chofetz Chaim makes the following powerful points in the all-encompassing Sefer Shemiras HaLashon:


1.  When a person looks at his friend, he can see a physical being--human, mortal, frail and insignificant.  All the more so will he take this view if the person has done something negative (especially if that negativity was addressed towards him).  Hashem, however, knows better--for He knows that the root of the Nishmas Yisrael is Gadol VeNorah Ad Me’od.  Indeed, the Zohar writes several times that the source of the Nishmas Yisrael is LeMa’alah BeMakom Norah Ad Me’od.  It is for this reason that Hashem views our importance and loves us--Ad LiMe’od as well! 


2.  When a person judges his friend below, he stands in judgment above as well--so that with one’s very words he decides his own case in Shomayim--the place that counts. 


3.  A person must not only judge his friend favorably--but must use all of his kochos, all of his strength to do so.  One must picture himself as the object of judgment--and as people suspect him of this or accuse him of that--he should imagine how he would deflect and reject their words with this reason, that rationale, these grounds and those explanations. 


4.  Ultimately, [as the Sefer Mesilas Yesharim writes], our goal is to give Nachas Ruach to Hashem.  A father never wants his child to be looked down upon, degraded, shamed or disgraced.  Hashem is much more than a loving father--He loves us beyond human love.  We must follow suit to the greatest extent possible--with each and every one of His children!



THAT EXTRA LEVEL OF PATIENCE!  HaRav Moshe Cordevero, Z’tl, in the Sefer Tomer Devorah writes that the first two Middos of Hashem--described in the Pesukim of Mi Keil Kamocha (Michah 7:18-20, poignantly recited at Tashlich) both relate to the Middah of Savlanus--of the patience that Hashem has with us.  HaRav Cordevero explains that not only does Hashem bear our iniquities without displaying intolerance, anger or insult (allowing us to continuously move our limbs during the moment of sin itself!)--but also allows the mashchisim--the destructive creatures created by the sin to continue to exist.  As the Tomer Devorah writes: “The strict letter of the law would justify that Hashem state-- ‘I do not nourish destructive creatures! Go to him who made you, and derive your sustenance from him!’ It is thus with tremendous tolerance that Hashem conducts this world. From this, man must learn to what extent he, too, should be tolerant and bear the yoke of his fellow and the wrongdoing committed against him--even if the wrongdoing remains. He should tolerate one who sinned against him until the sinner actually mends his ways or the sin disappears of its own accord....”   Hakhel Note: We can all put this into real practice--EMULATING HASHEM’S MIDDOS!



A LOOK INTO VAYIGASH!:  The Sefer Talelei Oros (to this week’s Parasha, Vayigash) presents an outstanding teaching from HaRav Aharon Leib Shteinman, Z’tl.  HaRav Shteinman brings the Sefer Rokeach who writes that the reason we take three steps forward before commencing Shemone Esrei is because the word “Vayigash” --and he approached--appears three times in Tanach:  First, “Vayigash Avrohom” (Bereishis18:23)--when Avrohom approached Hashem to plead for the people of Sodom;  Second, our Parasha—”Vayigash Eilav Yehuda”--when Yehuda approached Yosef to appeal for Binyomin; and Third, “Vayigash Eliyahu” (Melochim I 18:21)--when Eliyahu approached the people at Har HaCarmel--intending to bring them back to the service of Hashem.


HaRav Shteinman writes that this Sefer Rokeach requires explanation.  Yes, Yehuda approached Yosef, and Eliyahu drew close to the people, because when you want to engage another human being, you approach him, you come close to him.  Does one, however, come “close” to Hashem by taking three steps forward?  Hashem is everywhere--including immediately in front of you--even without taking three steps forward!  What does one accomplish at all by taking three steps in front of him?  There is, in fact, a great lesson here.  When one wants to draw close to Hashem in prayer, he must do something to show that he wants to draw close--that he is not standing in the same place as a moment ago and simply opening his mouth.  While one may not be drawing physically closer to Hashem, by deliberately taking measured steps forward, he demonstrates that is not staying in the same position and condition that he was in a few moments ago before this opportunity of personal tefillah.  Incredibly, the pasuk immediately preceding Vayigash Avrohom states that Avrohom Avinu was already “Omaid Lifnei Hashem--standing before Hashem” (attaining nevuah at the time)--yet before he could begin his entreaty on behalf of the people of Sodom, he still had to be Vayigash, he still had to take some action to indicate that he was about to begin a very special and privileged encounter-direct prayer before Hashem Himself!


Hakhel Note:  One should recite the introductory Pasuk to Shemone Esrei--”Hashem Sefasi Tiftach (Tehillim 51:17)…--Hashem open my lips…” only after having taken these three important steps forward (See Sefer Tefillah KeHilchasa 12:21).  One should be in his changed state--in his different place--prior to asking Hashem that in this Shemone Esrei He assist him by opening his mouth in prayer.


So, when taking those three steps forward prior to each Shemone Esrei--we must make sure that it is not only our feet that are moving--but our entire mind and being as well!



4 Teves

A TESHUVAH MOMENT: The G’ra in the Sefer Even Sheleima writes that Teshuvah requires repair of the past and commitment for the future. He continues that repair of the past is best accomplished by one being oseik in Torah and Gemilus Chassodim to attain forgiveness for sin. For the future, one should place special emphasis on Yiras Shomayim, remembering that Hashem is Meloh Kol Ha’aretz Kevodo, and that one is accordingly always in His Presence and should simply be embarrassed to violate His Will in such circumstances. Instead, one should regale in the fact that he is in Hashem’s Presence!



REMEMBERING THE RUBASHKIN RELEASE IN CONJUNCTION WITH ITS SECOND ANNIVERSARY--OUR PERSONAL MESSAGE! Thankfully, the time for Yeshuah is not limited to only the eight days of Chanukah.  The Sefer Sha’arei Teshuvah (published in the Shulchan Aruch, Orach Chaim, end of Siman 118) records as follows: “The Mahari Tzemach, Z’tl, wrote that:  I have Kavannah when reciting the words ‘Ki LiShuasecha Kivinu Kol Hayom’ to await the Yeshuas Hashem to save us from difficult times or moments daily--and I have found this Kavannah to be a great to’eles many times in situations of tzara.”   The Chofetz Chaim (in Sefer Machaneh Yisrael) writes that every Jew must anticipate Yeshuah every day--”For the Yeshuah of Hashem can come in the blink of an eye, and as we recite ‘Ki LiShuasecha Kivinu Kol Hayom’.  The Chofetz Chaim continues: “And it is written in the name of the Arizal that when a person recites ‘Ki LiShuasecha Kivinu Kol Hayom’, he should have in mind that he is awaiting the Yeshuah from any tzara that he finds himself in--’Vehu Mesugal Me’od LeHatzala’.  The Chofetz Chaim concludes: “My we merit to be among those who always await the Yeshuas Hashem--and in this zechus [Middah K’negged Middah] we will merit the final and lasting Yeshuah!”  Hakhel Note:  We may suggest that the Anshei Knesses HaGedolah placed these powerful words deep into the Shemone Esrei--not so that they be hidden--but rather so that we discover them at each and every Shemone Esrei in a special and meaningful way.  Our true Kavannah in the words of ‘Ki LiShuasecha Kivinu Kol Hayom’ will thereby radiate into appropriate Kavannah in our earlier Bakashos--as well as into a genuine Modim Anachnu Lach and a heartfelt prayer for Shalom



YOUR THOUGHTFUL TEFILLOS! We provide below the moving words of the Sefer Chovos HaLevavos in the Sha’ar Chesbon HaNefesh (Chapter 3).  The translation below is, once again, substantially excerpted from the outstanding Feldheim English translation Duties of the Heart


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


Hakhel Note:  Perhaps Yiheyu LeRatzon is placed at the end of our Shemone Esrei--and not at the beginning--in order to serve as our reality check, knowing we will be reciting the Pasuk shortly and making sure that we do so honestly in front of the King of Kings!



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



MEHADRIN:  There is one other lesson we must mention before we take leave of the recent momentous eight days. Chanukah is replete with beautiful menorahs, beautiful oil, Mehadrin and Mehadrin-Min HaMehadrin--Hiddur Mitzvah at its finest.  Hiddur Mitzvah--one’s beautification of his mitzvah-- is based upon a Pasuk that we read daily--”Zeh Kaili VeAnvaihu--This is my G-d and I will glorify Him” (Shemos 15:2).  The Chayei Odom (68: 5) in discussing Hiddur Mitzvah writes that one should make his Mitzvah as beautiful as possible--befitting the royal privilege that he is engaging in.  In fact, the Chayei Odom adds that some rule that if one has even already purchased an object used to perform a mitzvah (such as a Sefer Torah, Talis, Esrog, Sukkah), and then finds another one which is nicer, it is a mitzvah to actually go to the length of exchanging that which was already purchased and paying more for the more beautiful object. If one pays more than one-third more, the Chayei Odom concludes, ‘Yosifu Lo LaOlam Haba’--those additional funds become very significant indeed for they buy unique eternal reward!  HaRav Chaim Kanievsky, Shlita rules that Hiddur Mitzvah has the same halacha as the Mitzvah itself--and, accordingly, to the extent that one interrupts his Torah study to perform a mitzvah (i.e., it is a Mitzvah SheBeGufo, or there is no one else that can perform it and it has to be done now), he would also interrupt his Torah study for the Hiddur Mitzvah aspect of it as well.  With this principle, we can understand why Talmidei Chachomim spend so much time choosing esrogim and the like.  Perhaps we too can take the lesson--and stay within the beautiful Mehadrin mode of life.  When there is a special level of caring, dignity and glory attributed to a Mitzvah, not in an ostentatious way, but in a manner which is dedicated purely to the Kavod and Chibuv HaMitzvah, it most certainly has an effect on its performance-- and on those who view its performance.  Practical Application:  Choose a new Mitzvah which you will personally beautify over the winter.  It does not necessarily have to involve money, for extra time or effort to make sure that something really look, smell, taste, sound or feel more beautiful--beautifies the Mitzvah--and you as well!



AN IMPORTANT PERIOD OF TIME:  After the Chanukah milestone, we look to about six weeks of winter until Tu B’Shvat arrives and the first indications of blossoming flowers and fruits arrive in Eretz Yisrael.  The thought of winter (for those who live in the Northern Hemisphere) may make one feel chilled (even the word “Kar” sounds a bit frosty), but we, as Ma’aminim Bnei Ma’aminim, must realize that it is an opportunity for special, and, in fact, necessary growth--as this is the situation and circumstance in which Hashem in His Omniscient Wisdom has placed us.


So, we are faced with surroundings of leafless trees, long nights, cold days, bone-drenching rains, and for some of us a little or a lot of ice, sleet and snow.  Can we succeed at all in this environment?  No doubt that we can succeed--and thrive.


We would first like to once again provide a suggestion that has proven to be successful in the past-- take the next 40 days in a row and, at least one time a day, make the brocha of SheHakol Niheyeh Bidevaro and the bracha of Borei Nefashos preferably from a Siddur, and with the special warm feeling that Hashem loves you with an unbounding love and wants to shower bracha of all kind upon you.


We would also like to provide a second thought based upon the teachings of HaRav Meir Schuck, Z’tl, the Temesvar Rav.  HaRav Schuck brings the words of Rebbi Shimon (Avos 2:18): “Be meticulous in reading the Shema and in prayer; when you pray, do not make your prayer a set routine but rather [beg for] compassion and supplicate before the Omnipresent....”  HaRav Schuck notes that, at first glance, this Mishna does not appear to belong in Mesechta Avos, which teaches us pious behavior, and not required conduct.  After all, are not the proper recitation of Shema and Shemone Esrei absolute Halachic requirements?  Indeed, there are literally scores of chapters in Shulchan Aruch relating to the Laws of Kriyas Shema and Shemone Esrei!  HaRav Schuck, therefore, concludes that Rebbi Shimon wants us to understand that even when reciting Kriyas Shema and Tefillah properly--with no talking, no interruptions, starting on time, properly enunciating the words and reciting them loud enough to hear them, etc., there is still another important dimension of which we must continuously remind ourselves.  That is, each Kriyas Shema, each Shemone Esrei, is very literally a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, for it will never recur.  Yes, you have recited Kriyas Shema and Shemone Esrei thousands and thousands of times, but are you truly taking the opportunity to be “zahir”--careful to recognize and appreciate--that this particular Shema and Shemone Esrei in front of you is a one-time opportunity and that it should not get lost among all those thousands of occasions that you have had until today, and B’Ezras Hashem, the tens of thousands that you will have in the future?  One should not simply “be Yotzei” his “obligation” by routine.  Instead, one should avoid the negative habit, the dry rote, the repetitive redundancy by taking a moment out before each Shema and Shemone Esrei to appreciate--and treasure--the truly monumental opportunity.  As one peeks out the window, and things may seem to look cold and bleary, day in and day out, as the pattern of winter appears to be almost nothing but darkness, we should break out and recognize the new, fresh, stand-alone opportunities of the day--two Shema affirmations and three Shemone Esrei private encounters with the Almighty.  If we can work on this until Tu B’Shvat, we will have brought spring into our winter!


Other email archives