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ADDITIONAL POINT ON BEDIKAS TOLAIM:  Kehillah Kashrus (Brooklyn, New York)  has advised us that they have no checking guidelines in effect for their stores for either raisins or fresh strawberries, and do not permit their use at this time in stores under their supervision.  We understand that other Kashrus agencies may have different standards; a reader referred us to the Chicago Rabbinical Council (cRc) website, for example, which sets forth its standards. It is therefore imperative that a person consult with his Rav or Posek in this crucial area (many Lo Sa’asehs are involved in connection with eating tolaim), which takes on special significance during the summer months. 



FROM A READER:  “This week’s Parsha--Parshas V’eschanan, Perek 4, Posuk 34, is one of only two Pesukim in the entire Chumash that has the entire Alef-Bais in the Posuk!”




Special Note One:  We continue with our focus on the Thirteenth Bracha of Shemone Esrei--Tzadikim--The Righteous.  We continue with the phrase:  VeAl Pleitas Sofreihem VeAl Geirei HaTzedek V’Aleinu Yehemu Rachamecha Hashem Elokeinu--and for the remnant of the scholars, the righteous converts, and on ourselves, may Your mercy be aroused, Hashem our G-d.”  HaRav Chaim Kanievsky, Shlita, explains that the Talmidei Chachomim are called Sofrim because they count all of the words and letters in the Torah (Kiddushin 30A), and they are the remnants of the original Talmidei Chachomim of prior years.  The Eitz Yosef explains that the term Sofrim here refers to those who write Seforim.  HaRav Chaim Friedlander, Z’tl, points out that because we are the She’eiris HaPleitah--the remnants of our people, we are blessed with the remnants of the Talmidei Chachomim to lead us--every generation having scholars befitting it (Dor Dor V’Dorshav).  Then, in addition to our pleading for the welfare of the Talmidei Chachomim, we ask that Hashem have mercy on the Geirei Tzedek, on the righteous converts who come to Yiddishkeit on their own and with a Kavannah Tehorah.  The Pirkei D’Rebbi Eliezer gives as an example the sailors on the ship of Yonah HaNavi--they converted because they saw with their own eyes Hashem’s Hashgacha and strength, and for no other reason.  They and their like are true Geirei Tzedek.  We daven for them because there is a special Mitzvah to love Geirim (the Sefer Ya’aros Devash teaches that we fulfill the Mitzvah of VeAhavtem Es HaGer by having the Mitzvah in mind when davening for them here!)  We then go on to include ‘Aleinu’, ourselves--together with the Tzaddikim, Chassidim, Zikeinim, Sofrim and Geirei Tzedek--and even though we do not have the Ma’alos that they have--we ask Hashem, as Hashem Elokeinu, to infuse and sweeten His Middas HaDin with Rachamim upon all those listed within the Bracha, including ourselves.  We at least associate ourselves with the right people, demonstrating that this is where our aspirations lie.  HaRav Shimon Schwab, Z’tl, provides a beautiful explanation of the use of the word Yehemu (which we translated as ‘aroused’, based upon the Artscroll Siddur), which he translates as ‘activated’:  We know that HaKadosh Baruch Hu is Malei Rachamim, mercy per se, but we do not always feel His mercy. The Rachamim of HaKadosh Baruch Hu, like the air that we breathe, is always there--we could not live without it.  However, we feel the air only when the wind blows.  We ask here that HaKadosh Baruch Hu make His mercy evident to all of the aforementioned!  Hakhel Note:  Our references of HaRav Schwab’s words cannot serve as a replacement for studying his entire monumental Sefer on Tefillah Rav Schwab on Prayer (Artscroll)--an absolutely essential work for every home. 



Special Note Two:  We provide below several points relating to post Tisha B’Av lessons:




A.  Based on the calculation that it has been 1,942 years since the destruction of the Beis HaMikdash, this amount to 708,830 days and over 17,000,000 hours.  This is an extremely, extremely long time.  As we heard on the Haftarah read on Tisha B’Av morning(Yirmiyahu 8:13 ): “Ain Anavim BaGefen V’ein Te’einim BaTe’einah--there are no grapes on the grape vine and no figs on the fig tree.”  What we live is an illusory world--not the world in the state that it is supposed to be, and K’lal Yisrael in an unnatural habitat wherever its people may be scattered in the world.  Even in a time such as this, in which people can enjoy special comforts including Glatt Kosher international cuisine, the latest model cars and conveniences, and all kinds of medicines and therapies which help us feel better, we truthfully live in a stormy calm.  Iran threatens nuclear destruction, tens of thousands of missiles face Eretz Yisrael , Egypt is in the hands of a radical government, and Syria ’s government may become even more radical than it is today.  The fear of terrorism and crazed human beings pervades the world.  So, with all the comforts and conveniences, we look at our times, Rabbi Yoni Zakutinsky, Shlita, explains with the following Mashal:  One is in attendance at a huge Chasunah at a prestigious hall, with prominent rabbinic and lay leaders, an outstanding Chosson, the finest delicacies, a large band--there is just one thing missing--the Kallah.  Without the Kallah, all of the above simply does not get us to a true wedding.  In fact, all of this without a Kallah--is a disaster.  We really have to recognize that we need the Geulah, and take steps to achieve it.  Whatever daily act (or two, etc.) it may be, we must try to do it for thirty days in a row, so that it ‘sticks’.  We have already given some examples in previous Notes (see there), and need not repeat them here.  We have to take the Galus out of us--daily--so that we can attain the Geulah! 


B.  Chazal (Brachos 6B) teach that “Igra D’Ta’anisa Tzidkasa--the reward of a Ta’anis is the Tzedaka that one gives (at least giving to Tzedakah the money he and his family saved from not eating).”  This fact should be no different regarding the fast of Tisha B’Av.  We especially note that the Haftarah of Shabbos Chazon ended with the words quoted so often, by so many (Yeshayahu 1:27 ):  Tzion BaMishpat Tipadeh V’Shaveha BeTzedakah”.  The final word--even before we get to Tisha B’Av is--give Tzedakah!  We add one essential point to giving Tzedakah as made in the Sefer Sha’arei Teshuvah ( 3:35 ).  There, Rabbeinu Yonah explains that an essential part of giving is taught to us by the Pasuk (Devarim 15:10 ): “Nason Titein Lo VeLo Yeirah Levavecha Besitcha Lo--give to him and your heart should not feel bad as you give to him.”  It is not enough to give with the hand--for the Pasuk continues that one must not feel bad about giving, but rather feel a Midas Nedivus--good and happy about being generous.  HaRav Mattisyahu Salomon, Shlita, in his explanation of the Rabbeinu Yonah, actually teaches that if a person feels bad when he gives Tzedakah, then he violates the Lo Sa’aseh listed in this Pasuk of Lo Yeirah Levavecha Besitcha Lo(!).  We must feel happy and privileged over the opportunity to give at all times.  As a matter of fact, the ability to give should be included in our thoughts of thanks to Hashem when we recite the words in Modim of VeHamerachem Ki Lo Samu Chasadecha.  Give every day in the right frame of mind--so that we may all see V’Shaveha BeTzedakah! 


C.  There is a great teaching from HaRav Chaim Pinchos Scheinberg, Z’tl, brought in the Sefer To Live Among Friends, by Rabbi Dovid Castle , Shlita:  Chazal teach that the Torah begins with Chesed and ends with Chesed.  It begins with Chesed as it describes how Hashem clothed Adam and Chava after they realized they were unclothed.  It ends with Chesed as it describes how Hashem buried Moshe Rabbeinu upon his Petira.  HaRav Scheinberg asks--there is much Chesed in the Torah at its beginning before Hashem clothed Adam and Chava--Hashem created a world filled with riches for Adam and Chava; they were close to being angels, lived in Gan Eden and had everything they needed to live in eternal happiness.  Is this not, in fact, a prior Chesed and an infinitely greater one than merely clothing two individuals?!  HaRav Scheinberg answers that the Chesed of Hashem that Chazal wish to convey at the outset of the Torah is not the Chesed to Tzadikim Gemurim--people of the highest caliber, and of the greatest Yichus.  Rather, the Chesed of clothing Adam and Chava is a Chesed to two sinners, people who were at the top and of their own volition sank to the bottom--in reckless rebellion against Hashem.  Nevertheless, they were still Hashem’s precious creations--and the lesson was then and now not to look away from such people.  One would run to do Chesed for the Chofetz Chaim, HaRav Moshe Feinstein, Z’tl, and yblch’t to HaRav Chaim Kanievsky, Shlita.  If we are to emulate Hashem, and His concept of ‘Olam Chesed Yibaneh--building the world with Chesed’--then the Chesed we have to look for is the Chesed to those who may be looked over, those who are down and out, those who really need one’s help.  Looking at the two Chesed opportunities that Chazal could have described--and the one they chose--is a great lesson to us--let us learn it, each and every day!





Special Note One:  We continue our regular Monday/Thursday listing of the Mitzvos Asei which the Chofetz Chaim writes are applicable in our times, as set forth in his Sefer Mitzvos HaKatzar. Today, we present Mitzvos 49 and 50:


49.  Kisui HaDom--this is the Mitzvas Asei to cover the blood of a bird or animal which is a Chaya (such as a deer), after Shechita.  This is accomplished by placing dirt underneath the place where the blood will fall, then perform the Shechita, and then cover the blood.  This Mitzvah applies in all places and at all times and to men and women alike. 


50.  VeKidashto--this is the Mitzvas Asei to give special honor to a Kohen, to designate and prepare him so that he is ready to bring Karbanos in the Bais HaMikdash, and also to give him honor by letting him go first in any matter of holiness--such as getting the first Aliyah to the Torah, and making the bracha on behalf of others.  We likewise give him the first portion of food  to demonstrate his special designation.  We must honor him even against his will.  Even a Kohen who is a Ba’al Mum and is not otherwise fit to bring Karbanos in the Bais HaMikdash [he can still check the wood for the Mizbe'ach] is nevertheless honored under this Mitzvah.  This Mitzvah applies in all places and at all times and to men and women alike. 



Special Note Two:  We continue with our study of the Nineteen Brachos of Shemone Esrei. This week we focus on the Thirteenth Bracha of Shemone Esrei--Tzadikim--The Righteous.  We begin with the first phrase of :  Al HaTzadikim VeAl HaChassidim VeAl Ziknei Amecha Bais Yisrael--on the righteous, on the devout, and on the elders of Your people, the family of Israel ”.  The Sefer Avudraham notes a special difference between Tzadikim and Chassidim.  He writes that the Tzadikim are Gedolim who have not tasted the taste of sin, having consistently and continuously fulfilled all of the Mitzvos and laws as set forth in Shulchan Aruch, whereas the Chassidim are Ba’alei Teshuvah who, in order to avoid sins similar to those that they have committed in the past, must take on special additional precautions and fences.  The difference between a Tzadik and a Chassid can thus be compared to one who has not been sick and thus has no restrictions on his diet, as compared to one who has been ill and must be careful not to eat certain items.  The Eitz Yosef provides a second explanation of the difference between Tzadikim and Chassidim--Tzadikim are the Shomrei Mitzvos, while Chassidim are those who do an abundant amount of Ma’asim Tovim--great Ba’alei Chesed.  The Zekeinim are, of course, the Chachomim who lead us.  The reason, explains the Eitz Yosef that the term Amecha Bais Yisrael is appended to the description of the Zekeinim and not to the Tzaddikim or the Chassidim is because through their Da’as Torah they keep the Bais Yisrael--the family of Israel --going.  With the words of Amecha Bais Yisrael we remind ourselves to express our Hakaras HaTov by davening for them.  Hakhel Note:  We should certainly have specifically in mind the Gedolim of our generation when reciting these words.



Special Note Three:  We provide below several points relating to the day after our fasting on the Tenth of Av:


A.  When we envision Yerushalayim, we should always picture it as a pe’eir--with a special glory.  As the Pasuk in Yeshaya (60:13) teaches:  Lefa’er M’kom Mikdashi”--to glorify the place of my Mikdash.  Every day, perhaps, as we recite V’l’Yerushalyaim Ircha, we can picture the sight of a glorified Yerushalayim--and pine for it. 


B.  As many may know, the concept of the recitation of Tikun Chatzos is mentioned in the very first Siman of Shulchan Aruch, Orach Chaim (1:2, 3).  Even those who sincerely believe that they ‘are not holding’ at the level of those who actually sit on the floor and recite several Kepitelech of Tehillim (which basically constitutes Tikun Chatzos), should nevertheless know that if he is up for some reason at Chatzos anyways (currently approximately 1:00 A.M. in New York City), there is certainly nothing wrong with your occasionally attempting to recite Tikun Chatzos in the few minutes that it takes. Imagine sitting by the doorway on the floor (by the Mezuzah)--and meaningfully reciting a few chapters of Tehillim for the Shechina and K'lal Yisrael to come home.  The Shulchan Aruch itself (ibid.) teaches us that Chatzos is a unique and outstanding time for this--why not exercise it, at least when you are up for it?!  We note that Tikun Chatzos can be found in many standard Siddurim, without having to purchase a separate Sefer for it. 


C.  A Rav wanted us to convey that we can bring the Geulah even if we are not deserving. How so?  In every Shemone Esrei, in the first bracha of Avos, we state that Hashem will bring the Go'el  to the descendants of the Avos--LeMa'an Shemo b'Ahava--for the sake of His Name with love. This is our OPPORTUNITY to daven to Hashem to bring the Geulah even if we are undeserving--so that the Chillul Hashem of Galus stops and is replaced with the Kiddush Hashem of Geulah-- and all of this with love!


D.   We recited the term Tzion many times in the Kinos, perhaps not understanding the context so well when reciting it then.  Every day in our Tefillos we refer to Tzion as well--perhaps the most famous occasion being Hamachazir Shechinaso LeTzion--who restores the Shechina to Zion .  The Navi laments:  "Tzion He Doresh Ain La--She is Zion , no one cares about her (Yirmiyahu 30:17).  Chazal explain that the Navi is teaching us with these words that we must care about her.  Let us try--at least--to focus upon the word Tzion in our davening-and show that we care about her!



E.  After a Tisha B'Av experience, we should try--at least for the rest of Menachem Av--to recite the 13 Ani Maamin principles with fortitude and sincerity....I believe in Mashiach...I believe in Techias HaMeisim...Allot an extra minute or two for the Ani Maamin recitation--which is the standard difference--between failure and success!


F.   We should use the Tisha B'Av period as a breaking point.  The sour relationships, the negative quips, the daily disconnects between husband and wife and parent and child, between co-workers and employers and employees, now have a place to come to an end. Many Bain Adam LeChaveiro issues are the products of bad habits renewed daily--for no good reason other than 'this is the way we behaved to each other yesterday'.  The sorrow-filled day of tragedy and grief of the ages has sobered us to the realities of the past, and the 'day after' teaches us that there is hope for the future--the Geulah will come, and it is up to each and every one of us  as to whether he will be a part of it.  So too with any past, sad history we may have in our inter-personal relationships--they too can leave us yesterday as we begin the day with a view towards personal Geulah as well.  Sinas Chinam and its ilk destroyed the Bais HaMikdash--bringing back  Ahavas Yisroel in a real and meaningful way will rebuild it--for each individual and for all of K'lal Yisrael.  The Mishnah Berurah (Shulchan Aruch Orach Chaim 156; seif katan 4) brings that the Mitzvah of VeAhavta Lerayacha Kamocha requires one to respect his friend as one himself would want to be respected.  What a simple but meaningful yardstick--before making the gesture, motioning, uttering that word or two, or taking that action, THINK--'Would I like this  done to me?'  If the answer is no--remember that you have turned a new leaf, and stop.  If the answer is yes--a very special thank you from us all--for helping us move an IMPORTANT STEP CLOSER towards next year's Tisha B'Av--being a day of celebration in the Bais Hamikdash. May we all live to see it!




Special Note One:  We conclude with our focus on the Twelfth Bracha of Shemone Esrei--V’lamalshinim--Against Heretics.  We conclude the Bracha with the words “Baruch Atta Hashem Shover Oyvim U’Machniyah Zaydim--who breaks enemies and humbles the intentional sinners.”  HaRav Chaim Friedlander, Z’tl, writes that by the breaking of our enemies we mean Ad LeKilyon--to their total destruction.  HaRav Chaim Kanievsky, Shlita, points out that enemies must be broken because they want to harm us directly, while Zaydim are broad-based Reshaim and therefore humbling them may be sufficient.  HaRav Schwab, Z’tl, provides a slightly different explanation as to why we specifically ask that our enemies be broken and that the evildoers be humbled.  Oyvim means enemies who wish to destroy us physically--they must be broken. Zaydim refers to the evildoers who wish to destroy us spiritually. If they are humbled, they will not have the audacity to attempt to proselytize us.  What we are asking for here is that eventually all the movements that are bent on destroying the Jewish people--physically or spiritually--be eliminated.  Rav Schwab concludes that this Bracha is said in the present tense--as if it is happening now--because we have absolute faith that this will be realized!



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


1.  This Shabbos, Shabbos Chazon, we should try to be a bit more careful with the greatness of Shabbos.  If we feel that somehow we end up on some way moving Muktzah, inadvertently doing Borer, or not knowing what to do in a particular situation and ‘gambling’ with our own Shabbos P’sak, then this is the Shabbos for us to set out to rectify this kind of act or that kind of thing.  If one is used to playing with his hair and often then finds hairs pulled out in front of him, or if one is used to biting his nails or peeling at his skin, then this Shabbos should be the dividing line.  The Kedusha of Shabbos is so great, as is evidenced by its special observance in the face of the Nine Days and Tisha B’Av (see the next paragraph)--let us make sure that we inject Kedusha into our personal situations and circumstances as well!


2.  What more needs be said about the Kedusha of Shabbos than-- even though today is Erev Tisha B’Av and Shabbos itself is Tisha B’Av--many of us today will take hot showers and put on our Shabbos finest!  The powers of Kavod Shabbos and of Oneg Shabbos that emanate from Kedushas Shabbos simply overtake the limitations and prohibitions of the point in time we may otherwise find ourselves in.  We urge our readers to turn to Yeshaya 58:13, which perhaps contains more Shabbos instructions than any one Pasuk in all of Tanach.  In this one Pasuk, we are taught about Kavod Shabbos, Oneg Shabbos, a required No-Business Mode, and the need to even walk and talk differently on Shabbos, all of which are defined in Halacha (See, for example, Shulchan Aruch, Orach Chaim 242:1  and first Mishna Berurah there, and ibid., 301:1-6, and 307).  Fascinatingly, just like the rules of the Beis HaMikdash are different in many respects from Yerushalayim which adjoins it--so too is the course of one’s conduct on Shabbos--to the point of talking and walking --different than the rest of the week!  Since one is overcoming the Nine Day Halachos that would otherwise apply because of the requirements contained in this Pasuk in Yeshaya, it would appear meaningful to take a few moments on Leil Shabbos or Shabbos morning to study the Pasuk, and at least some of the related Halachos (cites referenced above) which emanate from it.  We will leave you only with the additional thought that if one views (and studies) the Pasuk immediately preceding and the Pasuk immediately succeeding our Pasuk of Yeshaya 58:13 and its fulfillment --perhaps he will gain an even greater appreciation of the well-known Shabbos Zimra “Mai’ain Olam Haba--Yom Shabbos Menucha”!


Hakhel Note:  The Sefer Toras Shabbos asks, Oneg Shabbos--properly celebrating Shabbos--is such a great Mitzvah--why don’t we make a bracha on it?  He suggests as one answer that each person participates in Oneg Shabbos in his own particular way--so it is not like the KeZayis Matzah that we eat on the Leil HaSeder, and so is not subject to a particular bracha.  The Sefer Piskei Teshuvos ( III :1) brings other possible answers as well: (a) The bracha of MeKadesh HaShabbos in Kiddush includes the mitzvah of  Oneg  (have it in mind!), and (b) the words of “Baruch Hashem Asher Nossan Menucha LeAmo Yisrael” in Kol Mekadesh Shevii allude to a bracha over the Oneg and Menucha of Shabbos (pay attention to your Zemiros!).  Our dear readers, Mekadesh HaShabbos…Kol Mekadesh Shevii...let us especially feel and appreciate it tomorrow!



Special Note Three:  The following important rulings are excerpted from the Kuntres Lev Ita--The Halachos of The Nine Days When Tisha B’Av Occurs on Shabbos, By Rabbi Yisroel Dov Webster, Shlita.  Of course, one should obtain a final ruling on all personal matters from his Rav or Posek: 




A.  MOTZA’EI SHABBOS. One should instruct the women and children in one’s family to recite Hamavdil Bein Kodesh L’Chol before doing any work at nightfall. Some Poskim are of the opinion that it is preferable for a woman to daven Maariv this Motza’ei Shabbos and recite Atta Chonantanu in Shemone Esrei. When Tisha B’Av falls out during the week one removes one’s shoes at sunset.  However, this year, one must wait until nightfall on Motza’ei Shabbos, say Baruch HaMavdil Bein Kodesh L’Chol, remove one’s shoes and change one’s clothing--for one is not permitted to show public mourning on Shabbos.  When removing one’s shoes care must be taken not to touch them with one’s hands because one would be required to wash one’s hands. If one touched one’s shoes but is unable to wash one’s hands, one should rub them on the wall or table. If one will definitely touch one’s shoes while removing them, then one should untie the laces before Maariv.  Prior to the reading of Eicha the bracha of Borei Meorei Haeish is recited in Shul.  If one forgot to recite it before Eicha, one may recite it until dawn on Sunday morning. If one is at home at nightfall, one may recite it at home before Maariv (or when he comes home from Shul, if he was not Yotzei in Shul).  Most Poskim are of the opinion that one is permitted to fold his Shabbos Tallis as one does every week on Motza’ei Shabbos after Kinos. Other Poskim disagree and state that one should wait until Sunday after Chatzos.  One should wait until Sunday after Chatzos to wash the dishes from Shabbos.  However, if one is afraid of insects (e.g. bungalow), then one may wash the dishes Motza’ei Shabbos.  Either way one is permitted to clean off the table after nightfall and put the dishes into a basin full of water to soak in.  When a woman washes the dishes she is not required to wear gloves.  Some have the Minhag to light candles every Motza’ei Shabbos, however, this Motza’ei Shabbos they do not light one.


B.  HAVDALAH ON SUNDAY EVENING.  After the fast is over, one is not permitted to eat until one recites Havdalah.  If one made a mistake and started to eat he should stop and recite Havdalah.  When reciting Havdalah, one starts from the bracha on wine or beer etc. followed by the bracha of HaMavdil Bein Kodesh L’Chol. The bracha of Borei Meorei Haeish is omitted since it is pertinent only at the end of Shabbos, when fire was created. Even one who forgot to say this bracha on Motza’ei Shabbos does not recite it after dawn on Sunday morning. The bracha of Borei Minei Besamim is also omitted, for this bracha too is pertinent only at the end of Shabbos.


Hakhel Note:  One is required to make a Bracha Achrona on the wine, grape juice or chamar medina that he is using for Havdalah (he should drink a revi’is).  This is so even though he will imminently be washing for a meal (Shulchan Aruch, Orach Chaim 174, Mishna Berurah seif katan 15). 


C.  RESTRICTIONS ON MOTZA’EI TISHA B’AV (THE ELEVENTH OF AV).  This year, eating meat and drinking wine is not permitted Sunday evening, but is permitted Monday morning (the eleventh of Av) (except for wine for Havdalah, which according to many Poskim may be used on Sunday evening), because of the mourning of the day.  However, bathing, washing clothing, taking haircuts, wearing freshly laundered clothing, shaving, sewing, and reciting the bracha of Shehechiyanu is permitted on Sunday night after the fast.  There is a dispute among the Poskim whether music is permissible on Sunday night.  Some Poskim are of the opinion that it is in the same category as wine and meat and is permissible only beginning Monday morning. Others are of the opinion that one may be lenient and permit music Sunday evening.



Special Note Four:  We provide a few additional thoughts for one’s ‘Leil Tisha B’Av Shiur’--what to reflect upon on Tisha B’Av--and what to change in a meaningful way--so that, if it must come, this is the final Tisha B’Av in Galus. 




1.  On Yom Kippur the Sefer Yesod V’Shoresh HaAvodah teaches us that whenever one feels pangs of hunger or thirst, he should promptly react with:  “I am fulfilling the Mitzvas Asei of Inuy with this pang!”  So too, we suggest, one can have a related thought on Tisha B’Av.  It is said in the name of Gedolim that “Uff Yom Kippur Ver Ken Essen , un Uff Tisha B’Av Vir Vill Essen --on Yom Kippur who can eat, and on Tisha B’Av, who wants to eat?”  If one feels the pangs of hunger or thirst--he should look back, look at the present, and look to the future--and think of what he is fasting for. 


2.  On Sinas Chinam.  The following is excerpted from the outstanding Sefer Yearning with Fire--a Sefer which we highly recommend for every Torah home:  “For many years, Yeshivah Middos Tovos prided itself on turning out graduates who were honest, helpful, and kind-hearted.  The boys developed these traits through their sincere Torah learning and the example of their rosh yeshivah, Rabbi Goodman.  Gradually, however; the students became less receptive.  Each new class was slightly more selfish and abrasive than the class that had preceded it.  The harder the yeshivah tried to revitalize the spirit of its earlier years, the more the students scoffed.  Finally, Rabbi Goodman decided to close the doors of the institution.  If, ten years later, a group of parents were to approach Rabbi Goodman and ask him to reopen his school, his first step would be to ascertain who their sons were.  If they were no different from the classes enrolled a decade earlier, he would undoubtedly decline to reopen.  That reasoning helps to explain the Chofetz Chaim’s teaching’ that If Hashem destroyed the Beis HaMikdash because of Sinas Chinam (baseless hatred) [and lashon hara, evil gossip], He won’t permit it to be rebuilt if we have not cured ourselves of these spiritual maladies.” 


The goal, then, is to rid ourselves of Sinas Chinam as quickly and as completely as possible.  What is Sinas Chinam?  The Sefer Yearning with Fire continues:  “Surprisingly, the Torah does not regard a string of hateful insults, nor even a punch in the nose, as a transgression of the commandment of ‘Lo Sisnah Es Achicha Bilvavecha’!” Rather when a person acts or speaks against his fellow Jew, his transgression is defined by his act, such as hitting, insulting, cursing, bearing a grudge, or taking revenge, rather than by the hatred motivating his act.  It is, rather, hateful thoughts that are prohibited by Lo Sisnah.  In the secular legal system, one cannot be prosecuted solely for his inner feelings, but only for his express actions.  Yet the Torah seems to teach that there is a special toxicity to unexpressed hatred.  The Rambam explains why:  When a person expresses negative feelings to his adversary, there is a potential for reconciliation. Hiding one’s hatred leaves no possibility to improve the relationship and foster unity.  Besides the damage hatred causes on its own, many other transgressions sprout from its toxic soil.  That is why Rabbeinu Yonah advises ridding oneself of hatred as a vital part of teshuvah.  Without attacking this root cause, says Rashi, a person will inevitably speak lashon hara about the subject of his hatred.  Baseless hatred is the tiny splinter of negative feeling that gets under our skin and makes another person an irritation to us.  Getting rid of these sharp shards of strife and smoothing out the edges of our relationships with our fellow Jews is a paramount objective for making our world ready for redemption.  As the clock moves forward, minute by minute, day by day, and the struggles and anguish of the exile continue unabated, it becomes all the more urgent to dig in and complete this essential task that has eluded us for nearly 2,000 years.” 


3.  Tomorrow, Shabbos, is the Yahrzeit of HaRav Meir Schuck, Z’tl, who was Rav in Temesvar , Romania before the war.  Immediately after the war ended, a train arrived in Temesvar with merchandise for sale.  Across the one of the train cars was written in German:  “Soap--Pure Jewish Fat”.  The community of Temesvar gathered together their monetary resources and purchased the train load of ‘pure Jewish fat’.  They unloaded the fat, and buried it in the most proper Jewish burial that they could have.  HaRav Schuck giving a moving eulogy at the cemetery.  At the time, he was a man in his late 30’s with a flaming red beard.  His family relates that, almost overnight after the eulogy, his beard turned completely white.  We should learn from HaRav Schuck.  We should take the tragedies of our Galus into the deep recesses of our heart--to the point that it moves us, really moves us. 


As we have noted in the past, if we have to sit down this Tisha B’Av, we should take the time out to go over in our mind some of the difficult concepts that we tend to ignore, or at least avoid, during the rest of the year—the churbonos and the tzaros that have accompanied us through the ages and into our day.


Can we not shed a tear over:

  • The pain of the Shechina over the chillul Hashem of the Galus (the Father’s pain is greater than the child’s)

  • The void left by the Beis Hamikdash that is not with us and the concomitant void of sanctity within us (we could be closer to angels, and not closer to animals)

  • The honor of Klal Yisroel that has been cast to the ground and trampled upon

  • The hundreds of thousands of Russian Jews who have been numbed by Communism

  • The sorry hatred of secular Jews to Torah Jews

  •  The strong push against inducting Yeshiva Bachurim--endangering the entire Yishuv in Eretz Yisrael

  • The  Shapiros and Horowitzes of the world who are not Jewish

  • The Crusades

  • The Pogroms

  • The 1648-1649 Massacres

  • The Holocaust

  • The Bulgaria murders, the Toulouse murders of Rabbi Sandler and the three little children, the Fogel massacre, the Mumbai atrocity, the Sbarros bombing, the bombing of Bus Number 2, the Leil HaSeder Attack, the drive-by murders, the tractor terror, the Merkaz HaRav murders, the hundreds of other terrorist attacks, the murders and maimings, the mortars and bombs, the soldiers and the children all under attack

  • All of the unnecessary sickness and suffering for 2000 years (multiplied by each second of pain)

  • The desolation and ruination of the Har Habayis, Har Hazeisim, Chevron, Teveria…

  • Sinas Chinam (see above)—include within it smiling at the mishap of another, failing to properly rejoice at another’s simcha, and finding it hard to accept another’s honor and success

  • The Jews who do not even know that Tisha B’Av exists

  • The Jews who know that Tisha B’Av exists and do not grow in their resolve to do something to end this Churban as soon as possible


The Navi (Yeshaya 1:3, which we read as part of the Haftara on Shabbos Chazon) teaches “Ami Lo Hisbonan--My nation did not consider.” 

Rashi adds that the people knew they were acting improperly but “tread with their heels” on this knowledge, and simply “did not take it to heart.” 


We all know too well the desperate straits we are in at this time, in which we deal with the Churban of Eretz Yisroel and Yerushalayim--the defiling of a land and of a people on the one hand; and the turmoil in Eretz Yisroel today--upon which the nations of the world have heaped additional disgrace and scorn, on the other. 


Haven’t we yet reached a point where we will, as the Navi asks, at least “consider”? It is not, it cannot, and should not, be beyond us to go off into a room--our bedroom, dining room, study, or even the floor somewhere, to sit down and cry: “Oh, what has befallen us! A nation in ruins, the holiest people on Earth berated by the lowest nations on Earth. What makes us better today than the captives of Judea taken by the Romans more than 1940 years ago?  We cannot allow ourselves to be fooled by the amenities, luxuries, or even just the relative comfort in which we live. We have been in exile far too long, and the longer we are here, the worse off we are.

L’Maaseh, living with reality and practically speaking, we are walking about badly wounded in this bitter exile.  Even in Eretz Yisroel itself, the very Holy Land, an estimated 40,000 Russian-manufactured missiles, many of which possess long-range capability, are said to be available in Lebanon alone (without even including what the murderers have in Gaza ).


We cannot be ashamed to cry. Ashamed?!--Why, and from whom?! Why can we not pour out our hearts to Hashem, as Yirmiyahu HaNavi cries out (Eicha 2:19 ) “Shifchi Kamayim Libeich--pour out your heart [to Hashem] like water.” 


On Tisha B’Av, on the day of pain and mourning over the Chilul Hashem that exists in the world today, over Hashem’s pain which is infinitely greater than ours, over a world that has been lowered to the bottom of the bottom-most depths, over all the individual and communal pain and anguish, over these and much more, we must cry real, very real, tears. 

Yirmiyahu HaNavi further teaches (31:14), “A voice is heard on high, lamentation, bitter weeping, Rochel weeping for her children, she refuses to be comforted for her children, for they are not.” On this Pasuk, the Mahari Kara (in the Mikraos Gedolos) writes that Rochel Imeinu represents K’lal Yisroel, and that our weeping in exile is heard by Hashem’s ears. 


So, as much as we would not like to, we must cry--really cry. We must realize that we are in the nadir of our exile. The Tay-Sachs test, when originally developed, required a person to shed a tear, which was then tested. One had to think of something sad to shed that tear. Is it such a great challenge to cry unabashedly over an unfulfilled world, over the world’s most precious possessions disgraced and derided, over all the unnecessary anguish, unnecessary suffering, destruction, and death that we are currently experiencing?


If, for some reason you cannot cry--at least cry out--as our forefathers did in Mitzrayim. Remember, the gates of tears--and the gates of ruchniyus--are never closed.  If we have to sit on the floor, it should do more than cause us some temporary physical pain. Plead to Hashem as Dovid HaMelech does: “El Dimosi Al Techerash--Do not be silent to my tears!” (Tehillim 39:13) Hashem, I will not find comfort with the few pleasures I have when the Heavens and the Earth writhe in pain! 


Please join with your brothers this Tisha B’Av, as our sincere tears and cries reach the Heavens. 

May these tears and cries turn into overflowing sounds of salvation for each and every one of us, as we join together to witness the comforting of our people and the ultimate final and glee-filled redemption--speedily and in our days.






A. Blueberries. (Va’ad HaKashrus of the Five Towns) Thrips can be found on the top of the berry near the hole.  Until recently, cultivated premium blueberries (Grade A) were able to be used without any special preparation. However, blueberries have been found, both in the U.S. and in Eretz Yisrael, to have thrips on the top of the blueberry near the hole. Therefore, the following simple process should be followed.  Note: The following steps are for premium blueberries (Grade A) and to the exclusion of wild blueberries that can be found in the country or other similar areas which can be infested with insects. 


Steps for Cleaning Blueberries

1. Fill up a large receptacle with water and a soapy solution. The receptacle should be large enough to accommodate the amount of product you are using and still enable you to vigorously agitate the berries as described below. The amount of soapy solution should be enough to make the water feel slippery and be “sudsy”.

2. The product should be completely submerged in the water and allowed to soak for three minutes.

3. Vigorously agitate the berries in the soapy solution.

4. Remove the blueberries from the receptacle, place them in a colander and rinse them very thoroughly, making sure the stream of water reaches all the berries.

5. No further inspection is necessary.


B. Grapes. (Kehilah Kashrus--Brooklyn, New York)


Steps for Cleaning Grapes

1.  Place cluster of grapes in a large receptacle or sink filled with water. Larger clusters should be broken down to manageable sizes.

2.  Hold cluster firmly and thoroughly agitate in a circular motion, first in one direction and then in the other direction. 

3.  Refill or fill another large receptacle or sink with very soapy water, then fully submerge and soak grapes for 5 minutes.

4.  Repeat step #2 in the soapy water.

5. Under a heavy stream of water rinse grapes very well. (Please be sure water pressure is very strong)

6.  No further inspection is necessary.


C.  Cherries. We are advised by Bedikas Tolaim experts that at this time whole cherries do not need to be checked.


TZOM KAL:  Some take a pill called ‘Tzom Kal’ that is intended to making fasting easier. The following ruling is taken from the Kuntres Lev Ita--The Halachos of The Nine Days When Tisha B’Av Occurs on Shabbos, By Rabbi Yisroel Dov Webster, Shlita, Rav, K’hal Zichron Tuvia, Av Beis Din Sha’arei Mishpat, and Maggid Shiur BeHalacha for Hakhel in Boro Park:  Some Poskim permit one to take a pill (Tzom Kal) in order to make the fasting easier on Shabbos until sunset, some Poskim disagree and do not permit one to take it on Shabbos (as it is like a medicine that may not be taken on Shabbos).  However, even according to those that are stringent, one may be lenient and take the pill if it was mixed in food or liquid before Shabbos.”  Hakhel Note:  We likewise noted last week that HaRav Elyashiv, Z’tl, allowed mixing the Tzom Kal pill in water before Shabbos, and drinking the water on Shabbos. 




Special Note One:  We continue our regular Monday/Thursday listing of the Mitzvos Asei which the Chofetz Chaim writes are applicable in our times, as set forth in his Sefer Mitzvos HaKatzar. Today, we present Mitzvos 47 and 48:


47.  Bris Milah--this is the Mitzvas Asei to perform a Bris on a boy once he reaches his eighth day.  A Bris may only be performed during the day, beginning at Alos HaShachar.  Only a Bris which is performed on the eighth day itself may be performed on Shabbos.  If one reaches Bar Mitzvah and does not have Bris, he is subject to the penalty of Kareis, if he dies with intentionally not having a Bris performed on him.  One of the Mitzvos incumbent upon a father to his son is to give him Bris, and if the father does not do so, the father has voided the Mitzvas Asei but is not Chayav Kareis himself.  Great is the Mitzvah of Bris Milah, over which Hashem made thirteen brisos with K’lal Yisrael.  This Mitzvah applies in all places and at all times. 


48.  Shechita--this is the Mitzvah Asei to slaughter Kosher animals and birds if one wants to eat of their meat.  Through Torah Shebe’al Peh, Hashem taught Moshe Rabbeinu the laws of Shechita, including the acts and actions which invalidate a Shechita, and the Simanim and the extent of the Simanim that are required to be cut in order for the Shechita to be valid. This Mitzvah applies in all places and at all times and to men and women alike. 



Special Note Two:  We continue with our focus on the Twelfth Bracha of Shemone Esrei--V’lamalshinim--Against Heretics.  We continue with the phrase “V’Hazeidim Meheirah Se’aker U’Seshaber U’Semager V’Sachinah BeMeheirah V’Yameinu--and may the purposeful evildoers be quickly uprooted, smashed, thrown down, and humbled speedily and in our day.  The Kuntres Avodas HaTefillah explains that the Zaydim are those who make Tzaros for K’lal Yisrael.  HaRav Shimon Schwab, Z’tl, includes the practice of communism and missionary practices (including the fundamentalists) as examples of Zaydim--for they intentionally fight against Torah and the Jewish religion.  We, of course, can include the leaders of certain Mideastern and other countries within the category of Zaydim against our people--and daven for the Se’aker, Seshaber…of each and every one of them.  It is extremely important to realize (as we have noted in the past) that within our one phrase we reference the word Meheirah--quickly--twice!  The second time we ask that it be BeMeheirah V’Yameinu--not only quick from a historical perspective--but so quick that it happens in our times so that we ourselves can see the Kavod Shomayim that results!  One additional point:  There are, of course, real differences between Se’aker, Seshaber… (in Nusach Sefard there are even more)--and we should accordingly feel the difference of the simple meaning of each word as we recite it. 



Special Note Three:  Today, we will primarily focus on important Halachos for Erev Shabbos and Shabbos, in Special Note Four below.  We will now provide just a few additional thoughts for one’s ‘Leil Tisha B’Av Shiur’--what to reflect upon on Tisha B’Av--and what to change in a meaningful way--so that, if it must come, this is the final Tisha B’Av in Galus. 




1.  The physical actions that we do perform prior to Tisha B’Av and on Tisha B’Av are by no means meant to be Mitzvos Anashim Melumdah--physical acts without one’s thoughts and feelings behind them.  The Halachos of what we can do and what we cannot do should be Me’orer or arouse us--as the Sefer HaChinuch teaches:  Hachitzoniyus Misoreres Es HaPenimiyus--our outward actions inspire us within”.  Accordingly, one should not sigh, groan or complain about what he must do--for each and every act is intended for the individual to grow and reach his potential in Avodas Hashem. 


2.  Chazal (Baba Metziah 30B) teach that another primary cause of the destruction of Yerushalayim was that people did not conduct themselves Lifnim Mishuras HaDin--going beyond the exact letter of the law:  “I only have to do this”; “I don’t have to do that”; “I do what I am supposed to”; “I don’t owe him a dime”; “I am one hundred percent right and he is one hundred percent wrong”; “I do exactly what it says”--all may be technically correct, but Chazal teach that we must do better than the letter of the law.  In business, there is a saying that a good businessman ‘leaves a little bit of money on the table’--not taking the last penny for himself at the closing of a deal.  Nobody wants strict justice--why should we impose ours on others?!  Think about how you can improve in acting Lifnim Mishuras HaDin with at least one person or in at least one way. 


3.  Rabbi Yisroel Reisman, Shlita, importantly explains the term She’eiris Yisrael or She’eiris Hapleitah--i.e., the remnants of K’lal Yisrael, and most recently the remnants of those that survived the horrors of World War Two.  The term Nishar, according to the Malbim, is different than the term Nosar, in that Nishar indicates something that was left over deliberately and with a plan, while Nosar refers to something left over incidentally or unintentionally.  For instance, the Shirayim of a Rebbe is intentionally left for his Chassidim, while the meat of a Karbon that is left over past its time and must be burnt is called Nosar--nobody wanted that to happen.  The Malbim brings many proofs for this distinction from Chumash and Tanach.  What we have to realize is that we are not Nosarim but Nisharim--the intentional remnants of K’lal Yisrael--not having been left here incidentally, without a plan, because of unforeseen circumstances or by mistake.  We have a purpose and we must live with that purpose every day.  Rabbi Reisman teaches that one who is a Nishar must know and understand that he must exert the extra effort to rise above his weaknesses (and perhaps laziness) and undertake the actions that a survivor would undertake.  One should not necessarily quit on a Shiur, or on doing a Chesed because he has a headache, feels weak, is in despair or feels like he is ‘falling apart’.  Instead, he must rise above the situation to survive and further survive--for there is a plan and he has a purpose.  Each and every one of us is a part of the She’eiris--let us not only wear the badge with honor--but with action!



Special Note Four:  The following important rulings are excerpted from the Kuntres Lev Ita--The Halachos of The Nine Days When Tisha B’Av Occurs on Shabbos, By Rabbi Yisroel Dov Webster, Shlita, referenced earlier.  Of course, one should obtain a final ruling on all personal matters from his Rav or Posek: 


A.  BATHING.  During The Nine Days one does not shower or bathe even in cold water if it is for enjoyment; however, one may shower or bathe with hot water if is for a medical purpose. According to many Poskim, one is not allowed to shower or bathe even with cold water for Shabbos. However, one is permitted to wash one’s face, hands and feet with hot water and soap if one is accustomed to do so every Erev Shabbos.  According to some Poskim, since in today’s time we shower or bathe frequently and many people are sensitive and cannot go into Shabbos without a clean feeling, one may be lenient Erev Shabbos Chazon for those that shower/bathe themselves every Erev Shabbos. Therefore, according to these Poskim one may shower or bathe with hot water, soap and shampoo, but this should be done preferably before midday on Friday.  According to all Poskim, one is permitted to bathe children under bar mitzvah.  If one bathes the children Thursday evening during the year, one may do so this week. 


B.  MIKVAH.  It is permitted for a person to immerse himself in a cold- lukewarm mikvah Erev Shabbos Chazon if he is accustomed to do so every Shabbos.  However, if one omits immersing in the mikvah occasionally either because he is too busy or due to cold weather than one should not immerse himself this week. Whenever one is permitted to immerse in a mikvah, one may not remain in the water longer than he needs to. Furthermore, one may not immerse in a hot mikvah. One is permitted to immerse themselves Shabbos morning in a cold mikvah.


C.  CUTTING NAILS.  One is permitted to cut one’s nails in honor of Shabbos on Erev Shabbos even after midday.


D.  CHANGING INTO SHABBOS CLOTHING FOR SHABBOS.  There is a dispute among the Poskim as to whether one may change from his weekday garments into Shabbos garments for Shabbos Chazon. The Minhag is to follow the ruling of the Gra and permit changing to Shabbos clothing. However, there are some who do follow the Minhag of the Rema and do not change into Shabbos clothing except for a clean shirt.  Some are stringent and do not permit putting on their Shabbos clothing until after Plag HaMincha. Others are lenient and permit one to change into Shabbos clothing after midday.  Note:  One is permitted to change the hand towels and tablecloth in honor of Shabbos.


E.  WASHING FLOOR.  One is permitted to wash the kitchen floor in honor of Shabbos.


F.  POLISHING SHOES, POLISHING SILVER.  One is permitted to polish, shine one’s shoes and/or polish silver in honor of Shabbos. However, one is not permitted to get a shoe shine.


G.  PREPARING FOR MOTZAI SHABBOS.  One should prepare his Kinos, sneakers, etc. for Tisha B’Av before Shabbos, for one is prohibited to prepare them on Shabbos.  One who lives far from shul should prepare everything and take them to shul before Shabbos.  One may not take them on Shabbos even if one lives in area that has an Eruv due to the prohibition of preparing on Shabbos for after Shabbos.


H.  LEARNING TORAH ON FRIDAY AFTER MIDDAY.  During a regular year when Erev Tisha B’Av occurs during the week one must stop learning Torah except for those portions and topics that are permitted on Tisha B’Av from midday.  However, this year the prohibition does not apply to Erev Shabbos.


I.  EATING OR TASTING MEAT ITEMS EREV SHABBOS.  One is permitted to give meat to small children after midday Erev Shabbos.  Some Poskim are of the opinion that it is permitted only one to two hours before Shabbos and only if one normally give the children to eat at this time.  One is permitted to make Shabbos early and eat meat at the Shabbos meal even though it is not dark yet.


J.  SHABBOS CHAZON.  One is not allowed to show public mourning on Shabbos Chazon; therefore the Minhag of changing the niggun for some of the tefillos on Shabbos is a matter of discussion among the Poskim. Some Poskim are of the opinion that one should sing all the nigunim that are sung in the davening with their regular tunes and not of those of Eicha etc. (e.g. Lecha Dodi, Kail Adon, Haftarah).  However, other Poskim permit one to change the niggun for these Piyutim.  One is permitted to wear his Shabbos Tallis.  There are diverse opinions as to whether all Torah topics may be studied after midday, and what kind of public Shiurim may be given.  Accordingly, one must consult with his Rav or Posek as to what may be studied. One is permitted to say Tehillim even after midday.  One is not permitted to take a leisure walk or visit friends after midday.  One who takes a walk every Shabbos and his refraining from the walk would constitute a form of public mourning should ask a Shailah. A short walk after the meal is not included in this prohibition.  After Mincha, the Gabbai should announce when the fast begins in order to avoid any mistakes.  At Shalosh Seudos, there are no restrictions with regard to what one may eat at the meal.  The halachos of Seudah HaMafsekes do not, of course, apply.  There are different customs as to whether Zemiros are sung or recited at the meal at Shalosh Seudos.  One is permitted to eat the meal with one’s whole family. However, one should not invite guests for this meal unless one is accustomed to doing so.  One is permitted to eat as much as he feels is necessary in order not to be hungry on the fast day. However, one should not state verbally that he is eating in order to be able to fast.  One must finish eating, drinking and wash Mayim Achronim before sunset. If one did not wash Mayim Achronim before sunset, then one may do it afterwards.  One is permitted to bentsch b’zimun with a cup of wine. If one finishes bentsching before sunset one may drink the wine. If one bentsches after sunset, one may still bentsch on a cup of wine but one does not recite a bracha on the wine. If one finished eating and bentsched before sunset, one may still eat or drink until sunset since it is Shabbos and one is not required to make a stipulation that he wants to eat as one does during the week.




Special Note One:  We continue with additional thoughts on one’s ‘giving a Shiur’ (at least to oneself) on Leil Tisha B’Av--what to reflect upon on Tisha B’Av--and what to change in a meaningful way so that, if it must come, this is the final Tisha B’Av in Galus. 



1.  It is easy to improperly reflect on Tisha B’Av.  One may mistakenly think that his actions today are no different than the actions he has undertaken since before his Bar Mitzvah, and not really different than his grandfather’s actions in Europe or Syria, or his great-great-grandfather’s actions in Poland, Turkey, Italy or Eretz Yisrael.  The experience of Tisha B’Av should not be one of Yei’ush--despair, combined with a feeling of hypocrisy--knowing that one will eat on Sunday night, have Shabbos Nachamu in a week and hopefully take a few vacation days before September.  No, Tisha B’Av is quite to the contrary a time for us to revitalize our Achakeh Lo--our anticipation, our outstretched hope, our true yearning that the Moshiach really finally does come, and mankind reaches its final goal.  It is one of the most basic tenets of Torah belief, as told and retold by our Nevi’im, that the Geulah will come.  As to why the Moshiach did not come in the times of Rav and Shmuel, in the times of Ravina and Rav Ashi, or those of Rashi, the Rambam, the Ramban, the Bais Yosef, the Gra, Rebbi Akiva Eiger, the Belzer Rebbe, the Ben Ish Chai or any of the outstandingly great Gedolei HaDor we have had in the past, it is simply not something we can understand at this moment.  Furthermore, for all of those who thought that it would be the Chofetz Chaim, the Chazon Ish, the Baba Sali, the Steipeler, HaRav Shach, or HaRav Elyashiv that would lead us to Moshiach, this is also, devastatingly, not the reality now.  Nevertheless, we must intensely believe, and intensely demonstrate, that we know that the Geulah will come.  We must bring home to ourselves that it is not another Tisha B’Av because it was so last year, the year before, or a hundred years before.  It is another Tisha B’Av because in the stretch between Tisha B’Av 5771 and 5772, we simply did not put enough bricks on the wall.  The absolute truth is that it may literally be his one extra hour of Torah study, or her one act of Chesed that brings us over the top.  The Alter of Kelm teaches that one of the greatest lessons of Tisha B’Av is rooted in the Sefer Nefesh HaChaim:  The stabbing of the Paroches by Titus after he and his soldiers had come into the Bais HaMikdash and defiled it in any way they thought possible was, in fact, deemed by Hashem to be a meaningless act, with no effect in the Heavens whatsoever.  Indeed, as Chazal teach, the Heavens cried out at the time of the destruction:  “[What have you done--nothing!] You have burned a burnt building.”  Each one of us, on the other hand, can make the Heavens shake with a deed of kindness, an act of goodness, a sincere prayer, and meaningful Teshuvah.  It is up to us, each and every day until the Geulah arrives.  There is hope, there is a future, there is an end.  All of the sad Tisha B’Avs will vanish into past history, hopefully sooner than later.  We all chant together at the end of Megillas Eicha (5:21):  Hashiveinu Hashem Eilecha VeNashuva Chadeish Yameinu KiKedem--bring us back to You Hashem, and we shall return, renew our days as of old.”  When we can achieve this point--not only will Eicha be at an end--but so will this bitter Galus, and the sweet Geulah will begin! 


2.  From a reader:  “You might want to point out the meaningful hanhaga, as exhorted every summer by Rabbi M.L. Munk, Zt’l (founder of Camp Munk), to close all correspondence (including by extension today, e-mails) during the Nine Days with the salutation “Nechomas Tzion.”  I am not aware of the makor for this, but it certainly invokes the powerful Tefillah from Retzei V’hachalitzeinu“Vehar’einu Hashem Elokeinu B’Nechomas Tzion Irecha U’v’vinyan Yerushalayim Ir Kadshecha....”


3.  From a reader:  “I believe that Tehillim Chapter 15 teaches us what we must do at this time.  There, Dovid HaMelech begins by asking the direct question:  Mee Yagur BeAhalecha--Hashem, who will dwell in Your tent?”  Dovid HaMelech then goes on, with Ruach HaKodesh, to give a four Pasuk response to the question.  See there!”


4.  It is brought in Halacha that one should not hit his students during this time, as it is a time of danger, and even a mild hitting could have, r’l, more dire consequences.  We may add that there is another lesson here.  Chazal teach that “Shafach Hashem Es Chamaso Al Eitzim VeAvanim--Hashem let out His wrath against us on the trees and stones of the Bais HaMikdash--He destroyed His own home--rather than destroy us.  We must take the lesson from Hashem’s actions--redirecting or reducing our anger to a point or place where they will do no harm.  HaRav Chaim Friedlander, Z’tl, points out that one of the most effective means of battling anger is by diffusing it temporarily--i.e., telling yourself (and your Yetzer Hara) that you will revisit the topic in an hour or so.  Eventually, HaRav Friedlander, teaches, one’s own internal anger will become weaker and weaker to the point that it will not even register as a possible initial reaction.  Tisha B’Av reminds us to take Hashem’s lead in this essential rebuilding of character. 


5.  We know that being Dan L’Chaf Zechus is part of Tzion BaMishpat Tipadeh.  What are the ways that one can be Dan L’Chaf Zechus?  The Chofetz Chaim suggests several, which include one’s thinking that the person does not realize that what he is doing is wrong, or realizing that he does not understand the full context of the event (which is almost always the case), and yet another is that even if one feels that he understands the context and knows the person to be capable, it may be that the person must act in this manner or in order to save someone else.  If one does not consciously realize, at least once a day, that he is judging another L’Chaf Zechus--then perhaps he is not being Dan L’Chaf Zechus often enough! 


6.  Rabbi Yisroel Reisman, Shlita, points out that the oldest Kinah we find in Kinos is the Kinah the Yirmiyahu recited over the murder of Yoshiyahu HaMelech--a Kinah which preceded the destruction of the Bais HaMikdash by over 20 years.  In fact, Rabbi Reisman teaches, that if one can only recite one Kinah it should be this one--as this was composed by Yirmiyahu HaNavi himself.  There is a great lesson here.  We must look to a root cause of an issue and resolve it.  If Yoshiyahu HaMelech had not been suddenly killed, Bnei Yisrael would have continued advancing in their Teshuvah and Avodas Hashem as they had been during his reign.  He was only 39 years old when he was murdered.  He could have easily still been king at the time that the Bais HaMikdash was otherwise destroyed--and it would then never have happened.  The Hashgacha was otherwise--but the lesson remains.  One searching for gold will not readily find it on the surface of the ground--he will have to mine to get there.  Tisha B’Av is a time to mine the soul--reaching to the depths in order to accomplish. 


7.  Shemor Raglecha Ka’asher Teleich El Bais HaElokim (Koheles 4:17)--Shlomo HaMelech, the wisest of all men, teaches us that before we reach Bais HaElokim we should prepare ourselves, and not merely walk in and act as if “I am here!”  How does one prepare himself?  One thing a person can do is have Hirhurei Teshuva prior to entering, and think about how much he has to thank Hashem for prior to entering.  A second extremely important consideration is a feeling of reverence for the Mikdash Me’at.  Our Shul or our Bais HaMidrash, is our current replacement for the ultimate Mikdash Hashem.  We must rethink how we can treat our Mikdash Me’at with greater reverence and honor--so that we will be able to build ourselves up to show the proper reverence for the Bais HaMikdash as well.  We really don’t know how much time we have to prepare--so let’s start our extra efforts today! 


8.  On the night of Tisha B’Av we are instructed to make our sleeping arrangements somewhat more uncomfortable than usual:  One who sleeps with two pillows should sleep with one, one with one should perhaps not use the pillow or even use a rock.  One who sleeps on a bed can sleep on the floor.  In the words of the Kitzur Shulchan Aruch (and others):  HaKol Lefi Mah Shehu Adom--all in accordance with who the person is.”  It is easier for us to claim about ourselves:  “I am not holding there.”; “I am not capable of this”; “Who am I?”; or “I can’t do this.”  You, however, are left to be the judge, and far be it from you to shortchange yourself--for eternity.  It is very likely that you can, and even if you can’t--you certainly can try.  Most people will not study you, or be concerned with how you personally slept on Leil Tisha B’Av, what you may have thought about, what you resolve to do, or how you resolve to do it.  All of this falls into the realm of HaKol Lefi Mah Shehu Adom.  It is up to you to stand up and be counted--among those who will help bring the world to full and final fruition!



Special Note Two:  We continue with our focus on the Twelfth Bracha of Shemone Esrei--Velamalshinim--Against Heretics.  The next phrase is “Vechol HaRisha KeRega Toveid--and may all wickedness perish in an instant.”  The Sefer Sifsei Chaim points out that we do not ask for the wicked to perish--but for the wickedness to vanish.  This is based upon Chazal who teach that Dovid HaMelech asked: “Yitamu Chataim Min Ha’aretz--that sin be expunged from the earth--and not the sinners.”  The Sifsei Chaim also points out that the language here is strikingly similar to the language we recite on the Yamim Noraim:  Vechol HaRisha KeAshan Tichleh”--where we ask that all evil go up in smoke.  All of this will happen when the world realizes Hashem’s authority--as then all of the designs of those fighting against that authority are shown to be nothing more than a smoke screen which suddenly dissipates.  The next phrase is “VeChol Oyvecha Meheirah Yikareisu” in which we pray that the enemies of Hashem, which are the enemies of K’lal Yisrael, are removed without achieving their intentions.  In Shemone Esrei we infrequently use the word ‘Meheirah’--quickly.  Whenever we do, teaches the Sifsei Chaim, it is because we are emphasizing that any delay in fulfilling our request causes Chilul Hashem, and--when our request is met, Kiddush Hashem will immediately result.  We daven for Kiddush Hashem--let us do so with full intent and sincerity!





Special Note One:  We continue with our study of the Nineteen Brachos of Shemone Esrei. This week we focus on the Twelfth Bracha of Shemone Esrei--Velamalshinim--Against Heretics.  The Levush writes that this bracha corresponds to the bracha recited by the Malochim at Kriyas Yam Suf--“Baruch Atta Hashem Shover Oyvim U’Machnia Zaidim--which they recited when the Mitzriyim were drowning at sea.”  The first phrase of the Bracha is:  VeLamalshinim Al Tehi Sikvah--and for the slanderers let there be no hope.”  HaRav Chaim Kanievsky, Shlita, explains that this is not necessarily a curse against the slanderers--but a plea to Hashem that the slanderers not see the fruits of their slander, and thus cease to slander on their own.  However, to the extent any Malshin is a Mosser, that Malshin does have the Halacha of a rodef, and it is a Mitzvah to kill him rather than allow oneself to be killed.  Although the bracha does address our non-Jewish enemies later as well, the Eitz Yosef points out that the Malshinim here are the heretics within our people, those that do not believe in Torah Shebichsav and Torah Shebe’al Peh.  Hakhel Note:  We know so many of our brethren who are unaffiliated, or who ascribe to denominations under the term ‘Judaism’, which do not believe in Torah MiSinai and the other basics of our faith.  Although the leaders of these denominations may be more ‘educated’ and disbelieve maliciously or at least recklessly, many of their followers are simply ignorant of true Torah beliefs.  If we can use HaRav Kanievsky’s explanation, and pray with the words Al Tehi Sikvah that our ‘educated’ and uneducated brethren realize that there is no hope in their misbeliefs and disbeliefs--we can bring them back to the point that they too may recite the other 18 Brachos of Shemone Esrei.  May it be speedily and in our day! 



Special Note Two:  It is important, extremely important, that we take a few moments now to reflect upon what Tisha B’Av means to us.  We suggest that one way to inspire oneself in refection is to envision that one has been asked (or told) by his Rav that he will be speaking in Shul this Motza’ei Shabbos and that he should move the people and have them walk away with meaningful concepts and ideas.  In order to aid in the preparation of the Shiur, we provide a listing of thoughts--many of which we have provided over the last several days.  We very much invite your thoughts as to what you would include in the Shiur as well:


1.  What does the lack of a Bais Hamikdash mean?  We are taught (see for example Divrei HaYamim 1:25 and Rashi there) that the Chapters of Tehillim were so inspirational that their recitation by the Levi’im in the Bais Hamikdash brought them to Ruach HaKodesh.  What do we feel like after reciting a very same chapter of Tehillim?!  How can we live with such a stark void?  How can we live without Nevi’im to guide us and Kohanim to teach us?  How can we live without Korbanos which by its very meaning teaches us that our bringing them is a guaranteed means of coming closer to Hashem?  The holiest place in the world is the Kodesh HaKedashim--how can we allow the world to continue to exist--without its holiest place? 


2.  How deadened have my senses become in Galus?  How can I be content with what my eyes see around me?  How can I be used to the words that my ears hear?  What parts of Western civilization are emblazoned in my home, on my clothing (even glasses and sneakers!), and worse yet--in my heart?!  What fads and styles are a part of my daily life and living just as Torah and Tefillah are? 


3.  The Shechina is out of its home.  It is in Galus!  Dovid HaMelech cried out to Hashem that he could not live like that--without the Shechina in its resting place.  How could we then be complacent, and look away at the Tza’ar HaShechina.  Shouldn’t we at least feel the Tza’ar three times a day, every day when reciting the bracha of V’LeYerushalayim Ircha BeRachamim Tashuv? 


4.  Do I realize what the world will be like when the Geulah finally comes?  HaRav Shlomo Zalmen Auerbach, Z’tl, taught that there will even be four brachos that are recited when the Moshiach comes.  The Mishna (Brachos 9:2) itself teaches that when we see Avodah Zara uprooted from Eretz Yisrael we will be able to recite the bracha of:  Baruch She’akar Avodah Zara MeiArtzeinu”!  Oh, how we must await the Geulah!  Chazal teach that the Ananei Kavod--the cloud of glory will even return to transport us, that the sick will be healed, that the agony and groans of this world will be no more--and that we will live in eternal happiness.  Moreover, if one truly mourns the destruction of the Mikdash, HaRav Mattisyahu Salomon, Shlita, adds that he will be zoche to a Techiyas HaMeisim which precedes the general Techiyas HaMeisim--so that he can truly see the Bais Hamikdash being rebuilt with his own eyes!


5.  With all of the problems of Galus, we must see the Yad Hashem leading us from place to place, from trial and tribulation to respite, and from another trial and tribulation to another respite.  HaRav Yisroel Reisman, Shlita, teaches that the Kinus are presented in a seeming disorder or disarray in order for us to understand that the trial and tribulation in the 1500’s is not different than the trial and tribulation of the 1800’s, and the respite in the 1700’s is not different than the respite in the 2000’s.  It is all Yad Hashem walking with us, staying with us, leading us in a Derech Hanistar until that time that we are zoche for His glory to be revealed to us in all its splendor--and this time to the entire world!


6.  We must read the last few paragraphs of Chapter 19 of the Mesilas Yesharim, in which the Ramchal teaches us how each and every one of us is personally important and responsible to bring the Geulah.  We must teach this lesson to our friends, to our neighbors and to our children.  When pleading to Hashem for the Geulah, can we not be contrite enough to stick out our hand as a pauper does as we say:  Yehi Ratzon…Sheyibaneh Bais Hamikdash BeMiheirah V’Yameinu Visein Chelkeinu BiSorasecha…”?


7.  Even though many us of are not in a position to recite Tikkun Chatzos every day, perhaps we can recite Al Naharos Bavel (Tehillim 137) every day from a Siddur or Tehillim. 


8.  We should take upon ourselves certain simple daily practices (everything, bli neder, of course), which indicate our discomfort or displeasure with our remaining in Galus.  Every person knows what he can do--skipping one’s first choice for dinner, not eating a particular food (ketchup, mustard, popcorn--you choose it), not speaking one time a day when you could--all in order to remember where you are and where you have to go. 


9.  The Arizal teaches that in order to be zoche to Ruach HaKodesh, one should recite Birkas HaNehenin properly.  We provide by clicking here a simple translation of Al HaMichya and Borei Nefashos in Hebrew.  By using these translations (at least once a day), one may demonstrate that he aspires to the days when Ruach HaKodesh will once again be prevalent among us, and that he too aspires to that very same Ruach HaKodesh. 


10.  Lashon Hara--we need say nothing more than these two words, which the Chofetz Chaim teaches is the Sinas Chinam which brought about the destruction of the Second Bais Hamikdash.  We have to know that a slip even one time a day has horrific results.  Picture five packs of cigarettes in front of you ready to be smoked--five words of Lashon Hara are infinitely worse than smoking all five packs!  Hakhel Note:  The Sefer Yearning with Fire points out that the current Golus is now more than 27 times longer than Galus Bavel.  Think about it--27 times longer--and the Galus Bavel was a result of the three major sins of Gilui Arayos, Shefichas Damim and Avodah Zara!  We have to get the message--and stop once and for all!


11.  Yeshayahu HaNavi (1:27) reveals to us:  Tzion BaMishpat Tipadeh ViShaveha B’Tzedakah--we will be redeemed through justice and through Tzedakah.”  This does not apply only to judges and to the wealthy.  It applies to each and every Jew.  If we judge others favorably, and we give Tzedakah daily--especially when doing so for the sake of the Geulah--we demonstrate that we are personally trying to fulfill the Navi’s words! 


12.  Tzefanayah HaNavi (3:13) teaches us that “She’eiris Yisrael Lo Ya’asu Avlah VeLo Yedabru Chazav VeLo YeMatzei BiPhihem Leshon Tarmis--those who remain at the time of the Moshiach…will be those that did not speak falsely or deceitfully.”  How important is honesty in one’s life!  It is literally the difference as to whether one will be present at the end of days, says the Navi.  What an important ambition in life! 


13.  Finally, let us remember that, as HaRav Shmuel Dishon, Shlita, teaches, the greatest Chilul Hashem ever is that we are still in Galus--and the greatest Kiddush Hashem will occur when the whole world is rectified with the Bi’as HaMoshiach--and those who merit it are blessed with a life of spiritual eternity.  Not only the Kohen Gadol--but each and every one of us, we are taught, will be on a level where we will be able to recite the four letter ineffable Name of Hashem--“VeHaya Hashem L’Melech Al Kol Ha’aretz BaYom HaHu Yehiyeh Hashem Echad”!  We must live daily with the thoughts, words and actions that will bring us (including oneself) to the culmination of all of mankind!  Sacrifice may be required--but, oh--how important it is and how worth it--it will be!




QUESTION OF THE DAY : Yirmiyahu HaNavi laments in Eicha ( 3:19 ) “Zechor Anyee U’Merudi.” What does the word Merudi mean? See Rashi there for a startling interpretation. What lesson can you learn from this? Note: If one studies one Perek a day of Eicha beginning today, he will have completed preparing the Sefer before Tisha B’Av.



Special Note One: Today is the Yahrzeit of the Maharam MiPanu (R’Menachem Azarya ben R’Yitzchak Berechia), Z’tl.  The Maharam taught that the word Tzedaka in “Aat Bosh” (equating the first letter and the first letter of the Aleph Bais, the second letter with the second to last letter, the third letter with the third to last letter, through the whole Aleph Bais ) also spells Tzedaka --with the tzadik (the fifth letter from the end of the Aleph Bais) being the equivalent of the hey (the fifth letter from the beginning of the Aleph Bais), and the daled (fourth letter from beginning) being the equivalent of the kuf (fourth letter from end), and the same analysis continuing for the final two letters of Tzedaka--the kuf and the heh. Tzedaka is thus Tzedaka--no matter which end of the Aleph Bais you start from!  The great lesson is that one who gives Tzedaka in the beginning (represented by counting from the beginning of the Aleph Bais)--loses nothing, for Hashem ensures that in one way or another he receives it all back (represented by the counting from the end of the Aleph Bais).  Let us remember these words as we prepare to give Tzedaka over the next several days in order to fulfill the words of the Navi Yeshaya--”VeShaveha BiTzedaka--and those who return…with acts of charity!” Let us try to give special Tzedaka every day through Tisha B’Av (maybe a little extra every day, because we won’t be able to give on Shabbos). For an always important Tzedaka address to help feed the poor in Eretz Yisroel--we refer you to yadeliezer.org



Special Note Two: Many Halachic issues arise during the Nine Days, and perhaps a Rav must be consulted more often during these days than throughout the year.  At a Hakhel Shiur, Rabbi Dovid Ribiat, Shlita, provided an important guideline in areas of doubt or in instances when your Rav is not reachable:  Remember, you are observing this period because of the “Shechinta BeGalusa--the Shechina is in Galus.”  If the issue at hand it is a question of your personal comfort, you should remember that the Shechina is also not comfortable.  Rabbi Ribiat ruled, for example, that while it may be permissible to sleep on freshly laundered linen in your hotel room because you ostensibly have no choice--it would truly be better for you to bring your own linen from home, or at least try to make the linen not feel so freshly laundered.  It is not a matter of how to treat yourself--but how you feel towards the Shechina, and the rest of us suffering in Galus together with you.



Special Note Three: Today is marked on the Jewish calendar in an incredible way. On the Fourth Day of Av, Nechemiah, the leader of the Jewish people who had returned from Galus Bavel, began to repair the broken walls of Yerushalayim.  Indeed, portions of this rebuilt wall can still be seen today.  The repair process took 52 days, and was completed on the 25th of Elul.  Thus, the ‘repair’ of Yerushalayim began during the very Nine Day Period in which we commemorate and commiserate over its destruction and loss.  There is no doubt that the time period we are in reverberates with our relationship to Yerushalayim and the Bais HaMikdash.  It is up to us to steer it away from the direction of destruction and ruin and towards the course of an everlasting rebuilding and rededication.


HaRav Elyashiv, Z’tl, made a wonderful point in this regard. Chazal teach that when adding on to the Mikdash, one of the chapters of Tehillim that was recited was Tehillim Chapter 30, appropriately entitled “Mizmor Shir Chanukas HaBayis LeDovid--a song for the inauguration of the Bais HaMikdash by Dovid HaMelech.”  We are all very familiar with this Kepital, for we recite it in Shacharis every morning, and daily on Chanukah when we also commemorate the rededication of the Bais HaMikdash.  HaRav Elyashiv asked a stark question--after we recite the first Pasuk of Mizmor Shir Chanukas HaBayis--what does the rest of the Kepitel have to do at all with the Bais HaMikdash?  Take a look at the rest of the Pesukim, such as “Shivati Eilecha Vetirpa’eini--I cried out to You, and You healed me.”  Histarta Phanecha Hayisi Nivhal--You conceal Yourself, and I am confounded.”  Hashem Heyei Ozer Li--Hashem be my Helper.”  In looking at the Kepitel, it appears to be a moving and personalized plea for Hashem’s help.  So, once again, what does it have to do with the Bais HaMikdash?!  HaRav Elyashiv answers that Dovid HaMelech truly felt that as long as the Bais HaMikdash was not in a position of great prominence--he himself was suffering, he himself was in anguish and incomplete.  However, with a built Mikdash, he exclaims “He’elisa Min Sheol Nafshi--you have raised up my soul from the lower world!”   This is Dovid HaMelech’s lesson to us from Tehillim Chapter 30.  Because we lack the Bais HaMikdash in all of its splendor--we must inwardly feel the full measure of the Yiddish expression: “Se Gait Mir In Laiben--it troubles me terribly, it troubles me personally.”  Please look at the Kepital again and envisage how your need for the Chanukas HaBayis bothers you as much as your own predicaments and circumstances, your own troubles and difficulties--and how the Chanukas HaBayis itself will usher in the utmost joy.  Every time we recite this Chapter (for Nussach Ashkenaz it actually inaugurates the Pisukei DeZimra)--we should have in mind not only our own trials and tribulations, but also how much the absence of a Bais HaMikdash personally means--after all it is the Mizmor Shir Chanukas HaBayis.  With this zechus of a true and proper recital of this Kepitel daily, we come to its conclusory and climactic Pasuk--”LeMan Yezamercha Chavod VeLo Yidom, Hashem Elokai LeOlam Odeka--so that my soul might sing to you and not be still-- Hashem I will thank you forever!”



Special Note Four:  To some, it may seem puzzling that suddenly during the Nine Days there are so many Siyumim which don’t appear to occur to this extent the rest of the year.  As we have noted in the past, the Luach Davar BeIto, has a beautiful Limud Zechus in this area.  The outward appearance of the lower- level person craving meat during a time when it is otherwise forbidden should be largely overshadowed in our minds by two important purposes that are being accomplished simultaneously.  First, there is an increase in pride in Torah study. As we know, after the Bais HaMikdash was destroyed what remains with Hashem is the “Daled Amos Shel Halacha--our world of Torah.  By studying and accomplishing a Siyum, we demonstrate to Hashem that we want to do our best with what He and we have left in these sorry circumstances of Galus.  Second, we invite others to join along with us in friendship and togetherness, thereby demonstrating the Ahavas Yisroel so necessary to extricate us from our Galus condition.  In most, if not all, events and circumstances, an act is really determined by the intentions behind it.  The turkey platter or corned beef sandwich can simply serve to satisfy one’s desires--or be a byproduct of Talmud Torah and Ahavas Yisroel!



Special Note Five: Notwithstanding the current comforts that we may enjoy in certain countries, we are still very much in Galus--and we are reminded of it every day.  We cannot, and must not, however, ignore the reality of the relative comforts that we do experience--to the point that, Baruch Hashem U’Bli Ayin Hora, we cannot even fathom how one could survive though the Holocaust circumstances that our grandparents and parents actually lived through.  Just as we are reminded that we are in Galus daily, we must likewise remind ourselves of the Chesed that we are currently experiencing in this Galus.  Shlomo HaMelech, the wisest of all men, teaches (Koheles 7:14 ) “Beyom Tova Heyeh Vetov… On a day of good, one should recognize and be happy with it.”  Particularly during this time of year, when we emphasize our lament over the Galus and take concrete steps to end it--we should also express our genuine and heartfelt Hakaras HaTov and thanks to HaKadosh Baruch Hu, for His chesed in easing the pain of Galus for us.  May it get no worse--only better for us--until the Geulah.  One should think about this during Modim, at the end of Shemone Esrei, or in his personal conversations with Hashem.

Hakhel Note:  Kepitel 137 of Tehillim-Al Naharos Bavel, is immediately preceded by Kepitel 136--otherwise known as Hallel HaGadol--which begins with the Pasuk Hodu Lashem Ki Tov Ki Le’Olam Chasdo, and ends with the Pasuk Hodu LeKail HaShomayim Ki Le’Olam Chasdo.

Do we get the message--even in Galus?!



Special Note Six: We continue our regular Monday/Thursday listing of the Mitzvos Asei which the Chofetz Chaim writes are applicable in our times, as set forth in his Sefer Mitzvos HaKatzar. Today, we present Mitzvos 45 and 46:


45. Yibum--this is the Mitzvas Asei for a brother to perform Yibum to the wife of his deceased brother who died without descendants--marrying her so that the deceased’s name will continue on.  In our times, however, because the intent of one performing the Mitzvah is not necessarily for the sake of the Mitzvah, the [Ashknazic] Minhag is to perform Chalitzah (the next listed Mitzvah) in its place.


46. Chalitzah--this is the Mitzvas Asei for the woman whose husband has passed away without descendants, whose husband’s brother(s) do not want to perform Yibum, to remove the shoe of the remaining brother, in accordance with a specific procedure directed by expert Rabbonim in this area.  Any man who does not undertake the Chalitzah when he should has voided this Mitzvah.  There are men who refuse to go through with the Chalitzah procedure, claiming that it is dangerous--but this is a mistake, and no harm will befall a man who undertakes this Mitzvah.  To the contrary, if the Mitzvas Asei of Chalitzah is not performed, the sin is very great.  This Mitzvah applies in all places and at all times.



Special Note Seven: Before we begin our focus on the Twelfth Bracha of Shemone Esrei, Velamalshinim, we provide one additional important thought on the bracha of Hoshiva Shofteiniu.  The Rabbeinu Yonah to Brachos writes that there are those who are very mistaken in our current Golus and c’v believe, because of the sufferings of exile, that Hashem has forsaken us, and does not watch over us.  The phrase of VeHaser Mimenu Yagon VeAnacha refers to this Yagon and Anacha in Galus from which c’v people have erred.  At the time of the Geulah, however, it will be clear for all to see that Hashem rules over us with Chesed and Rachamim, with Tzedek and Mishpat.  Accordingly, we are praying for the day when the sorry misconceptions depart, and all recognize Hashem’s true essence--an essence that was there all along!

In the Bracha of VeLamalshinim, we ask Hashem to remove from our midst any and all heretical teachings and thoughts, so that all will in unison wholeheartedly believe in the Torah SheBichsav and the Torah Shebe’al Peh. The Sefer Ya’aros Devash writes that when reciting the words U’Malchus Zadon/ VeHazeidim we should have in mind that we are davening for the destruction of Amalek (who attack us be’zadon).  In fact, the Ya’aros Devash writes that we fulfill a Mitzvas Asei from the Torah of Zachor Eis Asher Asah Lecha Amalek when we have this Kavannah.  We should feel an enmity in our hearts for Amalek, and pray that the enemies of Hashem and His people receive their just punishment (including any punishment we would deserve--for our sins stem from and through them), and that any bounty that they have or are to receive should flow through to us from Hashem’s Hand, Kime’az U’Mikedem--as in previous days.  Hakhel Note: We especially use the word Meheirah here in the bracha--quickly---may it happen speedily and in our day--even today, before Tisha B’Av!




Special Note One:  With the Petira of HaRav Yosef Shalom Elyashiv, Z’tl, we are all reminded of the Chazal that the Petira of Tzaddikim brings a Kapparah (Mo’ed Koton 28A).  Chazal actually provide two separate Limudim, or sources to teach that Misas Tzaddikim is Mechaper (both are from Parshas Chukas).  The first is the fact that the Torah places the passing of Miriam next to the Parsha of Parah Aduma (which is mechaper), and the second is the fact that Aharon’s passing is placed next to a reference to the Bigdei Kehuna (which are mechaper).  Why are there two separate examples in the Torah for what appears to be the same teaching?  We may suggest that there are two different kinds of Kaparos that the Misah of Tzaddikim brings.  The Kapparah of Parah Aduma represents forgiveness for the Ma’aseh Eigel (see Tosfos ibid., d’h’ Mah Parah)--which was the chait of Klal Yisrael, a sin of our community. The Kapparah of the Tzaddik thus atones for the sins of the community. The Kapparah of the Bigdei Kehuna, on the other hand, to which the Misah of Tzadikim is also compared, atones for an individual’s sins, as demonstrated in Zevachim 88B.  From the breath and extent of the Kappara that is effected, on an individual and communal level, we can begin to understand the enormity of a Tzaddik, what he represents to his generation, and how he defends and assists his people--even with his Petirah.  In addition to our personal recognition of ‘Oy Nah Lanu Kee Chatanu’, and in our resulting personal strive to do Teshuvah in at least one area of Mitzvas Anashim Melumada, may we suggest that each and every one of us do something (give Tzedaka, learn something extra, take on some additional Kavannah, etc.) so that we demonstrate our personal Hakaras HaTov and Kavod--at the very least for the Kapparah that HaRav Elyashiv effected for us individually and as a community. Let us not tarry or delay in this sacred obligation.


Hakhel Note:  Chazal (Brachos 43B) teach that one of the traits that we should emulate is ‘not to walk in last into the Bais HaMidrash’, for a person who does so is called a Poshei’ah.  Rashi there defines a Poshei’ah not as somebody who is of a rebellious lot, or someone who acts willfully and wantonly, but simply as a ‘Misatzeil’--a lazy person, one who puts off and delays to another day that which he can do today.  HaRav Elyashiv brought us collectively and individually what seems to be a much needed Kappara.  Let us now do for him--properly, respectfully--and promptly!



Special Note Two:  Some explain that the Aleph and Bais of the word Av stand for Elul Bah!


Hakhel Note:  The Ben Ish Chai explains that one of the reasons that our month is called “Av” is because it will be the Av, the Father, of a new joyous period which will commence in Av, and continue for a long period thereafter.  May it commence this Av!



Special Note Three:  One of the rare dates mentioned in the Torah actually is today’s date, the first day of Av (mentioned in this week’s Parsha!).   What happened on this date?  It is the day of the petira, the passing, of Aharon HaKohen.  Chazal teach that the Ananei Kavod, the protective clouds of Glory, which surrounded us in the desert (and will once again surround us in the future) were in the Zechus of Aharon HaKohen (see Rashi on Bamidbar 33:40).  Once the Ananei Kavod left us, the initial reaction of the outside world was to attack us, as is described in the Torah there (Bamidbar 33:40).  What did Aharon HaKohen do for which he merited the protective clouds both for himself and for the rest of Bnei Yisrael?  We may suggest the following:  The Mishna in Avos ( 1:12 ) teaches that he was an Oheiv Shalom V’Rodef Shalom- that he loved peace and pursued it.  The Middah K’Neged Middah--the measure for measure reward becomes very evident.  Because Aharon made peace among people, he merited peace being brought upon all of Klal Yisrael with the Clouds of Glory.


Indeed, Hillel in the aforementioned Mishna, enjoins us all to “be among Aharon’s students” in this regard--to learn the value of peace among brothers.  In a letter once issued by HaRav Elyashiv, Z’tl, and yblch’t HaRav Shteinman, Shlita, in the past they especially asked that we be very careful in these perilous times “not to fall prey to the opposite of Gemilas Chasodim” which is to cause pain or suffering to your friend.  They point out that in the generation of the wicked king Achav, Bnei Yisrael were victorious over their enemies because there was no Machlokes, no strife, among brothers.  The Gedolim therefore request that we are “me’od mishtadel”--that we put in greater effort at this time to make peace among ourselves.


PRACTICAL SUGGESTION:  It is essential that we take the lessons of Aharon HaKohen, as specifically reiterated by Rav Elyashiv and Rav Shteinman, very much to heart.  We may even posit that the petira of Aharon HaKohen comes out at the beginning of the Nine Days to remind us that if we could rid ourselves of machlokes, of causing pain to others, and of the need quite to the contrary to love and pursue peace between and among ourselves, we can go a long way in bringing immediate and long lasting Yeshuos.  Let us at the very least focus on one or two people over the next few days and try to promote a peaceful or more peaceful relationship with them.  Peace brings peace, for as Dovid HaMelech teaches in Tehillim (121:5)--”Hashem is Your Shadow.”


Additional Note:  The Torah records that the outside world (Amaleikim) attacked Bnei Yisrael after Aharon’s Petira.  Some suggest that the reason the date of the first of Av is mentioned in the Torah is because the Amaleikim attacked because they knew that it was the month of Av, and they believed that our Mazal would not be good and they would be successful.  We know that the opposite occurred as the Bnei Yisrael vanquished them in battle, although the enemy had originally taken one maidservant captive.  This is truly a message to us.  Although many terrible events have happened in Av in the past (as evidenced by the taking of the maidservant), ultimately and forever thereafter we will vanquish our enemies (including the Amaleikim!) even, and perhaps all the more so, in the month of Av--may it be this year! 



Special Note Four:  Chazal teach us that once Av enters, we are to reduce the amount of our joy.  Many have pointed out that the context Chazal use, even in Av, is one of joy.  We are not instructed to ‘increase our mourning,’ but to ‘decrease our joy’.  This thought fits in beautifully with the commentary of the Tiferes Yisrael to this week’s Perek, Chapter 2 of Pirkei Avos.  There, Rabban Yochanan Ben Zakkai asked his five primary disciples, “What is the proper way to which a man should be “Yidbak”--to which he should cling?”  The first four primary disciples each responded in his own way.  Rebbi Elazar then responded that one should cling to “a Lev Tov--a good heart.”  Rabban Yochanan then said to his students, “I prefer the words of Elazar to your words, for your words are included in his words.”  What is so all-encompassing about the words “Lev Tov” that it per se includes the other responses of Rabban Yochanan’s other four top students?!  The Tiferes Yisrael explains that the phrase “Lev Tov” means “Leebo Tomid Sameach, U’Mezuman L’Heitiv Lakol--that one’s frame of mind is a happy one, and that he is ready to help everyone.”  It is this Middah that Rabban Yochanan and Rebbi Elazar instruct us is so primary and all-encompassing.  Accordingly, even in these days of Av, and even as we approach Tisha B’Av, we should not forget these six Hebrew words as the attitude and approach to life that our Sages teach us to cling to.  We especially note that the Hebrew word ‘Yidbak’ (cling) is utilized by Chazal--it is not simply a nice approach or a good thing, but something we should not deviate from--but practice sticking to--as if it were with glue or honey.  Leebo Tomid Sameach U’Mezuman L’Heitiv Lakol--let us live and act with these precious by-words, even in these difficult times.


Special Note Five:  Some additional points and pointers on the Parsha:


A.  From a reader:  “Regarding the Parsha of Nedarim--where the Parsha provides that one can take something otherwise permissible to him, and promise not to eat it or use it--how could it be that a mortal being can have the power to actually change or convert something that is Muttar (permissible) from the Torah’s (Hashem’s) perspective to become Assur (forbidden)?   The Sefer Nesivos Sholom explains (based upon Rabbeinu Yonah in Avos) that a mouth is a Kli Sharais--a holy utensil.  Just as a Kli Sharais in the Bais Hamikdosh is Mekadesh--sanctifies--what you put into it and, accordingly, everything that is taken out of it is Kadosh, so, too, are the words that come out of your mouth Kadosh!”  Hakhel Note:  Defiling a Kli Sharais is a horrible act--while bringing more and more Kedusha to it so beautifully fulfills its purpose!


B.  In the Parsha, the Torah records that “Elef LeMateh, Elef LeMateh--or “1,000 soldiers, 1,000 soldiers” were to be taken from each Shevet to do battle with Midyan.  Why does the Torah phrase it as “1,000 soldiers, 1,000soldiers”--and not simply as “2,000 soldiers”?  It is because 1,000 soldiers actually went to war, and the other 1,000 were enlisted to daven for victory.  HaRav Yechezkel Levenstein, Z’tl, teaches that the 1,000 who were davening did not stay behind--but actually accompanied the fighting soldiers to battle, so that the soldiers would understand that it was not their military prowess (‘Kochi VeOtzem Yadi’) that was the basis of their victory--but rather it was Hashem who was the Source of victory--through our Tefillos. 


Hakhel Note:  Perhaps all of the disturbing action and incitement surrounding the use of Yeshiva Bachurim as soldiers in our time is in order for us to review again and again the lesson that it is not Kochi VeOtzem Yadi--but it is Hashem to Who even the bravest and most heroic soldier, and indeed the greatest and most experienced general, must turn for any and all success.  There may be spies and counter spies, politicians and statesmen, military analysts and advisors and the most advanced of weaponry, but the battles are won in Hashem’s Court, and Hashem’s Court only.  We emphasize that it is not only the soldiers and generals who should be aware of the singular power of our Tefillos, but it is we ourselves who must know and understand that when we pray tefillos such as “Re’eih VeAnyeinu”, “VeLeYerushalayim Ircha”, “Es Tzemach”, “Shema Koleinu”, and the like, with sincerity of heart, we are fighting--and defeating-- those who mean us harm from Iran to Bulgaria, and from France to the United States.    Incredibly, Chazal teach that Nevuchadnezzar did not allow the Jewish people to rest upon exiling them, until they got to “Al Naharos Bavel” because he was fearful of their ability to wholly reverse the entire earth-shattering decree against them by simply turning and returning to Hashem.  Let us not lose the opportunities that the soldiers in battle were made aware of, that Nevuchadnezzar knew about, and that has been a recurrent theme of our existence since the days of Yetzias Mitzrayim.  Let us take out the time in these days to cry out to Hashem--as HaRav Leib Chasman, Z’tl, teaches “KeShekoeiv Zoakim--when one is in pain, he cries out.”  Together we can turn this period from a time of nuclear armament to nuclear disarmament, from a time of swords into a time of plowshares, from a time of terror to a time of love and peace, from a time of mourning over the Galus to celebrating the Geulah!  This is Hashem’s World and no one else’s--we all know it--now is the time to feel it--and to meaningfully express it!



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


A.  The following rulings are taken from the Kuntres Lev Ita--The Halachos of The Nine Days When Tisha B’Av Occurs on Shabbos, By Rabbi Yisroel Dov Webster, Shlita, Rav, K’hal Zichron Tuvia, Av Beis Din Sha’arei Mishpat, and Maggid Shiur BeHalacha for Hakhel in Boro Park :


1.  It is permitted to give meat to small children today (Erev Shabbos), who will eat their supper early and go to sleep.  Some Poskim are of the opinion that this is permitted only 1-2 hours before Shabbos, and only if one usually gives the children to eat at that time. 


2.  One is permitted to take in Shabbos early and eat meat and drink wine at the Shabbos meal, even though it is not yet nightfall.


3.  According to most Poskim, since one customarily showers or bathes LeKavod Shabbos, even though today is the first day of the Nine Days, one is allowed to bathe with hot water, soap and shampoo. 


4.  It is permitted for a person to immerse himself in a lukewarm mikvah even on Erev Shabbos Chazon, if he is accustomed to doing so every Erev Shabbos.  Although one is permitted to immerse in a mikvah, one may not remain in the water longer than he needs to.  Furthermore, one may not immerse in a hot mikvah. 


5.  Although it is permitted to cut one’s nails on Erev Shabbos during the Nine Days, some do not cut their nails today, for it is Rosh Chodesh, and they follow the Tzava’ah of Rebbi Yehudah HaChassid in this area.


6.  One is permitted to polish silver in honor of Shabbos.


7.  One should not change into his Shabbos clothing until after midday.  Some are more stringent, and allow Shabbos clothing only after Mincha Ketanah.


8.  One is permitted to change the hand towels and tablecloth in honor of Shabbos.


9.  One is permitted to make a Shalom Zachor as one would during the year.


10.  There is a dispute among the Poskim if one is permitted to have meat or drink wine at Melave Malka during the Nine Days.  The Minhag is not to serve meat or wine at Melave Malka, even if one normally has them. 


B.  During the summer months, it may be more common for fruit salads to be served either as dessert, or as Oneg Shabbos on Leil Shabbos, or some time on Shabbos afternoon.  The fruit salad may typically involve fruits of the seven species (such as pomegranate seeds), whole fruits (such as cherries), large pieces of fruit (such as watermelon), and smaller slices of fruit which one personally prefers over all of the other fruits (such as kiwi or pineapple).  Bracha issues arise as to what item a Borei Pri Ha’eitz is made upon and what a Borei Pri Ha’adama is made upon.  Additionally, certain fruits require inspection for insects, or cleaning in a soapy solution.  Accordingly, may we recommend that, as an integral part of one’s Oneg Shabbos, one carefully think through and apply what should be done before partaking of the fruits--so that its partaking will truly be Oneg Shabbos! 


C.  We may of course, sing all of the Zemiros, notwithstanding the restrictions on singing and music during the remainder of the Nine Days.  This Shabbos, may we specifically suggest the recitation of the Piyut: Baruch Hashem Yom Yom Ya’amos Lanu, which is found at the beginning of Zemiros for Shabbos day.  The author of Baruch Hashem Yom Yom was Rebbi Shimon HaGadol of Mayence, one of the early Rishonim.  This particular Piyut goes through the four exiles of K’lal Yisrael--and our Geulos from them.  As we are reciting this Piyut, it should become eminently clear to us that just as Hashem accompanied us into each and every Galus--He will indeed accompany us back as well --in the final and everlasting Geulah!



Special Note Seven:  We conclude with our focus on the Eleventh Bracha of Shemone Esrei--Hashiva Shofteinu--Restoring Justice.  The Bracha concludes with: Baruch Atta Hashem Melech Oheiv Tzedaka U’Mishpat.  Hashem loves to do Tzedakah even while exercising justice.  HaRav Shimon Schwab, Z’tl, (HaRav Schwab on Prayer) insightfully teaches that because we realize that Hashem’s Heavenly Judgment is so influenced by His Tzedakah, we may be complacent in our efforts to do Teshuvah.  It is for this reason that during the Aseres Yemei Teshuvah we end this Bracha with HaMelech HaMishpat, rather than Melech Oheiv Tzedaka UMishpat--for during this period, we must apply a much stricter standard of mishpat to ourselves if we are to expect Rachamim from HaKadosh Baruch Hu.  HaRav Schwab then beautifully concludes:  The Torah tells us BeTzedek Tishpot Amisecha--judge your fellow man with righteousness (Vayikra 19: 15). Our Chachomim learn from here Hevei Dan Es Chavericha LeChaf Zechus (Shavuos 30a). If a person sees another doing something which, on the surface, appears wrong, he should not assume the worst, but rather, he should ‘judge’ him favorably in his own mind.  Although the average person is not a judge, nevertheless, we all form our own opinions, ‘judgments’, of our fellow man. It is in this sense that we say to HaKadosh Baruch Hu in this Bracha, VeTzadekeinu BaMishpat.  Since now--before the Geulah-we do not have the high caliber of judges and advisors to lead and advise us how to avoid our pitfalls, because we are an orphaned and leaderless people, we ask HaKadosh Baruch Hu to judge us favorably, to judge us Lechaf Zechus and thereby to apply Tzedakah to our Mishpat!




Special Note One:  A Gadol HaDor is lost to our generation.  It is reported that when the Chazon Ish was Niftar, the Brisker Rav lamented:  “Yesterday it was a world with the Chazon Ish, today it is a world without the Chazon Ish.”  This is how great the impact is--not only upon us, but upon the entire world, literally upon the entire world. 


  Although the Gadol HaDor was 102, we must recognize that he could most definitely have been with us, leading in the greeting of Moshiach.  Our only conclusion are the words of Yirmiyahu HaNavi that are found in Eicha ( 5:16 ): 


Oy Nah Lanu Kee Chatanu”--Woe unto us, for we have sinned

Oy Nah Lanu Kee Chatanu” --Woe unto us, for we have sinned

“Oy Nah Lanu Kee Chatanu”--Woe unto us, for we have sinned


If one’s repetition of these words three times is not enough to have an impact and make a difference--than perhaps he should recite the phrase 20,40,60 80 or 100 times if necessary.  This tragedy happened in this generation, this tragedy happened in this decade, this tragedy happened this year, this tragedy happened yesterday.  We must do Teshuvah--no one is patur, and no one should restrain himself-- at the very, very least, he should rid himself of at least one Mitzvas Anashim Melumadah, one Mitzvah done by habit or rote daily--without the proper thinking or feeling. 


Our comfort and consolation at this time is that Tzadikim, even after they have passed on from this world, are still referred to as ‘Chaim’.  We provide below part of his Toras Chaim--the teachings of HaRav Elyashiv, Z’tl, his rulings with regard to the Nine Days, including Halachos of the ta'anis of Tisha B'Av when it falls out on Sunday, as excerpted from the Sefer Ashrei HaIsh:


A.  It is permissible to make reservations for a vacation after the Nine Days from Rosh Chodesh until Tisha B’Av--the reason is that there may not be space available after then.  On Tisha B’Av itself, it is, of course, not permissible. 


B.  If a Bar Mitzvah occurs during the Nine Days, the Bar Mitzvah  Bachur and his parents can wear Bigdei Shabbos--especially this year, as there is an opinion that holds that there is no Shavuah SheChol Bo--as the observance of Tisha B’Av will be on the following Sunday.  Only a limited number of those invited to partake in the Seudas Bar Mitzvah ( when occurring on the actual day of the Bar Mitzvah) may eat meat.  All others may eat fish and the like. 


C.  It is permissible to make a Vort and to have refreshments available.


D.  A Siyum made by a child under Bar Mitzvah does not permit one to eat meat. 


E.  It is not appropriate to sing during the Nine Days--even in order to put a child to sleep.


F.  One should not purchase a home or enter a new home--or even sign a contract to purchase a home, for all of these involve Simcha (unless one may lose the home to another as a result).  One should not make improvements in his home, unless he started before the Nine Days and the improvements do not bring him joy. One should not paint or perform any type of all-inclusive clean up of his home.  One should also not plant flowers or beautify his garden. 


G.  One should not buy any type of new clothing--even if they do not require a Shehechiyanu such as shoes--even for children.  If one ordered a new bookcase or sofa and it is scheduled to be delivered during the Nine Days--it should be pushed off until after the Nine Days.  If it must be delivered, one should have in mind not to be zoche in it until after Tisha B’Av, and cover it up or put it away.  One may buy Tzitzis and put it into a garment.  Although it is permissible to purchase new Seforim if necessary, it is better to do so before the Nine Days.  One is permitted to purchase very small or insignificant objects, such as pens and pencils.  One is permitted to buy shoes for Tisha B’Av is he does not have any.


H.  It is inappropriate to take group pictures or engage in similar activities of Kalus Da’as during the Nine Days. 


I.  With respect to eating meat, one should eat meat on Shabbos and should not be machmir not to.   For health purposes, one may eat meat, and a weak child may do so for health reasons even if he is not sick. 


J.  Nails of adults should be cut only for Shabbos; but the nails of children may be cut during the week.


K.  Not only grape juice, but grape juice concentrate is prohibited.  Therefore, soft drinks which have grape juice concentrate in them are not permitted.  When making Havdalah, it is best to give the wine/grape juice to a child who can make a bracha but has not reached the age of understanding the aveilus on Yerushalayim.  If the katan is older than this age, it is still better to give the wine or grape juice to him than for the adult to drink it himself.  If there is only a young girl present at Havdalah, than the man making Havdalah should drink the wine himself.  When drinking by himself, he should be careful to drink a Revi’is--so that he is sure that he can make a Bracha Achrona. 


L.  The prohibition against freshly laundered items also applies to towels, tablecloths, sheets (unless one is a guest in someone else’s home or a hotel, in which case the freshly laundered sheets placed down for him may be used), and applies even if the clothing is only washed and not ironed.  Undergarments and socks that are not clean may be changed.  For shidduch purposes, freshly laundered garments or Bigdei Shabbos may be worn, if necessary.  In ‘pre-using’ articles before the Nine Days so that they may be worn during the Nine Days, one should wear them to the extent that it is clear that they have been used, which should be approximately for one-half hour.  Children above the age of 9 should likewise wear pre-used clothing.  If one needs to wash the frequently soiled clothes of children, it should only be done for children up to the age of 5/6.  One does not have to buy new clothing for these children, if one can wash clothes instead.  If there is a stain on one's garment, one can wipe the stain clean, but if one has something else to wear and one will need water to remove the stain--it is better to wear something else.  One can wash clothing that will become moldy unless washed.  One may dry clothing in a dryer.


M.  On Erev Shabbos, it is permissible to shine one’s shoes.  If one regularly shines his shoes even during the week, he may continue to do so.  


N.  One may wash floors, unless one is not usually accustomed to doing so--but for Shabbos it is permissible in all events.  One should not have a carwash done, unless he otherwise does so every few days. 


O.  One can brush the dust out of a hat, but one should not set a shaitel (which typically involves washing it). 


P.  On Erev Shabbos it is permissible to put on Shabbos clothes after Chatzos.


Q.  On Shabbos Tisha B’Av, when the Ta’anis will be observed on Sunday, it is best for one to learn privately that which is permissible on a regular Erev Tisha B’Av after Chatzos.  However, if there is usually a Shiur on Shabbos and the people would not otherwise learn, then one can give the Shiur as usual.  One should not, even privately, study things on Shabbos which will bring him to cry, such as the Kinos.  A Shabbos afternoon father and son learning program in which a father and son learn together privately--albeit as part of a group, is permissible. 


R.  On Shabbos Tisha B'Av, one should not say that he is going to eat now in order to have strength to fast.  One should not take pills on Shabbos which make it easier to fast for two reasons:  (i) a fasting pill is considered like a vitamin, which is not permitted on Shabbos; and (ii) it is hachana in preparation for a weekday.  It is, however, permissible to mix the pill into water on Erev Shabbos--and then drink the water on Shabbos. 


S.  On Shabbos Tisha B'Av Bain HaShemashos one may sit on a chair until nightfall. 


T.  One who is accustomed to washing his hands four times each upon arising or taking care of his needs may do so on Tisha B’Av itself, but should wash the fingers only.  However, if a person entered the bathroom but did not take care of his needs, he does not wash his hands.  One who touched a covered area of his body should wash only the part of the hand that touched the covered area. 


U.  It is proper to wear shoes which are not so comfortable and which one feels that he is walking on the street.  There is no prohibition against wearing shoes that look like leather, if they are not leather.  One should not wear leather inserts in his shoes. 


V. One may sit on a low stool even if it may be more than three tefachim above the ground, as long as it is clear that it is close to the ground.  If one is traveling in a car or in a bus, he may sit in the regular seat, even though he could otherwise stand on the bus. 


W.  Although one cannot say “Good Morning” or “Shalom” on Tisha B’Av, one may wish another “Mazal Tov”. 


X.  One may read Seforim which will bring him to do Teshuvah and to correct his ways such as Sifrei Mussar and the Agados of Chazal. 


Y.  Children who will eat on Tisha B'Av do not need to make Havdalah before doing so.  However, adults who must eat on the fast must make Havdalah.  They should not use wine or grape juice--but instead should use pure orange juice, pure grapefruit juice or beer, and should drink a melo lugmav.  If a woman needs to make Havdalah for herself, she should give the kos to a child to drink, and if there is no child she should drink it herself.  Havdalah should be made before eating--so that if a sick person need not immediately eat and can still fast on Motza’ei Shabbos, he should not make Havdalah on Motza'ei Shabbos but wait until Sunday before he eats. 


Z.  On the Monday morning after Tisha B’Av this year, all restrictions are lifted, since it is already the 11th day of Av. 


Remembering The Churban:  The immediate Kosel Ma’aravi area has the Din of Kedushas Beis Haknesses in all aspects.  However, the upper Plaza does not, and one should not daven there unless the Kosel area is filled.  As far as washing the stones of the Kosel so that the dirt is removed and they appear clean, HaRav Elyashiv, Z’tl, said that it is better to leave the Kosel the way it is--for the aged stones and the grass sprouting out brings agmas nefesh to those who see it, and through this they will remember that there was once a glorious Bais HaMikdash built in this place--and sincerely daven for mercy that it be rebuilt Ad SheYikshav Hashem V’Yishmah--until the time that Hashem listens to our prayers!



Special Note Two:  We continue our regular Monday/Thursday listing of the Mitzvos Asei which the Chofetz Chaim writes are applicable in our times, as set forth in his Sefer Mitzvos HaKatzar.  Today, we present Mitzvos 43 and 44:


43.  Peru U’Revu--this is the Mitzvas Asei to be fruitful and multiply in order for the species to continue to exist. In no event should one delay this Mitzvah past the age of 25.  This Mitzvah applies at all times and in all places.


44.  Kiddushin--this is the Mitzvas Asei for a man to betroth a woman through an act of Kiddushin in which the man says to the woman:  Harei Aht Mekudeshes Li Bazeh Keda’as Moshe V’Yisrael” in front of Kosher Eidim.  Before the act of Kiddushin, the Birchas Airusin is recited. Once Kiddushin takes place the Kallah is called an Arusa.  Before the Chuppah takes place a Kesuvah must be written.  Once this is done and the Sheva Brachos occur, the Kallah becomes a Nesuah.  This Mitzvah applies at all times and in all places.  The Torah commands that if a man wants to divorce his wife for permissible reasons he must do so by a Get.  A Get can only be effectuated by one who is an expert in this area, and even if one is a Lamdan Gadol, he should not be involved in this area unless he has particular expertise in it.   It is a Mitzvah to divorce a woman who a Koferes in Emunas Hashem or the Torah, or is not a Tz'nuah, or does not observe the laws of women, as the Pasuk teaches:  Gareish Leitz--cast away a scoffer”. This Mitzvah applies at all times and in all places. 



Special Note Three:  We continue with our focus on the Eleventh Bracha of Shemone Esrei--Hashiva Shofteinu--Restoring Justice. With HaRav Elyashiv no longer with us in this world, this Bracha to restore our Judges and Counselors takes on a more direct and personal meaning.  The Sefer Ya’aros Devash writes that when reciting the bracha of Hashiva Softeinu, one should place upon his heart that Hashem return the Sanhedrin who are the Kisei Hashem--Hashem’s throne--to us.  As long as the Sanhedrin were in their place, they taught us the Torah She’Be’al Peh, quashed Machlokes, and kept the knowledge of Torah She’Be’al Peh up to a high standard amongst K'lal Yisroel.  Moreover, they performed outstanding Chesed to resha’im whom they punished in this world--saving them from being punished in the next world(for instance, by giving a person lashes, thereby saving him from kareis). As the Ya’aros Devash concludes:  BeZema’an SheHaDayanim Kesheirim--HaBracha Sheruyah BaOlam!"




FROM A READER:  “In the past, when I thought of “doing teshuva,” I pictured myself with a notebook, listing all my sins, verbally confessing them, feeling charatah, and making plans for the future.   But recently, it occurred to me that that’s not what teshuva looks like!  Yes, it is important to verbally confess your sins, feel charatah, and make plans for the future-- that’s the essential first step.  However, the MAIN part of teshuva happens later, when you encounter the same situation of nisayon, and Hashem is watching to see if you’ll strengthen yourself to act properly this time around!  This thought helps me a lot because when I’m in a situation of nisayon, often I don’t put enough effort into overcoming the nisayon, because I see it as just “another part of my day.”  But truthfully-- it is that exact moment of being in a nisayon that is my “teshuva opportunity!”  I say to myself: “Wait! Don’t give up so fast!  THIS is your chance to actually DO teshuva!  All of your vidui and charatah have been waiting on the sidelines for THIS MOMENT to see whether or not you are going to actually implement your thoughts of teshuva!  May we all be zoche to do a Teshuva Sheleima Bikarov.”  Hakhel Note:  A wonderful and powerful insight!




Special Note One:  We continue with our focus on the Eleventh Bracha of Shemone Esrei--Hashiva Shofteinu--Restoring Justice.  In the Bracha we ask that Hashem remove from us both Yagon and Anacha.  What is the difference between Yagon and Anacha?  The Kuntres Avodas HaTefillah brings that Yagon is worry and troubled concern, whereas Anacha is a feeling that comes from actual tzaros that the person is experiencing.  All of this will be gone when true Torah leadership is restored to our land, our people and to the world.  The next phrase, which is seemingly innocuously placed here actually goes to the core of our Davening on the Yamim Noraim!  U’Mloch Aleinu Atta Hashem Levadecha B’Chesed U’VeRachamim V’Tzadekeinu BaMishpat.”  Here, we ask that Hashem’s singular rulership become evident to the entire world, and that, moreover, all see once and for all that Hashem acts with Chesed (i.e., even when we do not have Zechusim), with Rachamim (i.e., not punishing us for what we have done), and with Tzedek B’Mishpat (i.e., His finding us innocent in our deeds below, so that we will not have to face the heavenly court for punishment any time in the future).  Just as our recitation of Aleinu at the end of davening should remind us of the Malchiyos that we recite on the Yamim Noraim, so too, should this request for Hashem’s peaceful, kind and singular rulership over us cause us to instill within ourselves a new striving and sincerity in the middle of our Shemone Esrei! 



Special Note Two:  In Pirkei Avos, Rebbi Meir teaches:  Hevei Memaeit B’Eisek VeAsok B’Torah--reduce the amount of time you spend in business related matters, and study more Torah.”  Based upon this non-mincing words thought, the Ba’alei Mussar explain Chazal (Sanhedrin 98A) who teach that in order to be saved from the Chevlei Moshiach, one should be oseik in Torah and Gemilas Chasadim.  This means, explain the Ba’alei Mussar, that it is simply not sufficient for one’s Torah and Chesed to be secondary to one’s Parnassah and to his other worldly affairs that ‘must be taken care of first”.  Rather, to be saved from the pangs of Moshiach, one must make his pursuit of Torah and Chesed his Eisek--his primary concern, his primary business! 

Hakhel Note:  Without necessarily focusing on the relative rewards of making Torah and Chesed one’s primary focus above his Olam Hazeh needs, while in the course of one’s making a decision as to what to do in a particular situation, one can definitely bring this thought to mind:  ‘The path I take should demonstrate that it is the Torah and Chesed that is the main focus in my life!’  At the very least, as one makes the bracha of La’asok B’Divrei Sorah every morning--he should refocus on what his Eisek will be today!



Special Note Three:  Today is the Yahrzeit of HaRav Chaim Friedlander, Z’tl, the Mashgiach of Ponovezh, known as the Sifsei Chaim, whose pure and potent lessons in all areas of Torah have influenced thousands upon thousands throughout the world.  We provide below several points and pointers of HaRav Friedlander, Z’tl, relating to the Bain Hametzarim period we are in, from the Sefer Sifsei Chaim (Mo’adim 3, p.247-395):


A.  Chazal (Sanhedrin 96B) say about Titus HaRasha that “Heichla Kalyah Kalis--you burned a burnt building.”  This means that the sins of K’lal Yisrael destroyed the Bais Hamikdash in Shomayim.  Because the upper Bais HaMikdash was destroyed, the Hashra’as HaShechina--Hashem’s Hashgacha could no longer be present in the Bais HaMikdash below.  When the inner Bais HaMikdash is destroyed, then there is no place for the Bais HaMikdash in the outside world below. 


B.  With the removal of the Shechina and the Churban HaMikdash, Hashem became largely concealed in this world.  Even though we all have flashes of a sense of Hashgacha Pratis here and there--the clear and constant presence of the Shechina being permanently with us is lacking to an unfathomable degree.  Hakhel Note:  It is said that HaRav Mordechai Gifter, Z’tl, asked some students who visited Eretz Yisrael where they felt more emotional--at the Kosel or at Kever Rochel.  The students said that truthfully they felt a greater connection at Kever Rochel.  HaRav Gifter told them:  “Let me explain why.  You do not know what Churban is--so you feel closer to your Mama Rochel.  I was in Telz, so I know what Churban is--the Churban of Telz.  When I go to the Kosel I feel a greater connection--I feel the powerful emptiness and agony of spiritual and physical destruction.”


C.  Chazal (Chagiga 13B) teach that before the Churban the Malochim in Shomayim had six wings, and that after the destruction of the Bais HaMikdash the two middle wings were removed, and they were left with four.  The G’ra explains that the six wings correspond to the six words of “Baruch Shem Kevod Malchuso LeOlam Va’ed”.  The two wings that were thus removed were Kevod Malchuso--as Hashem’s revealed presence in the world has been covered.  This is why we daven that:  Galei Kevod Malchusecha Aleinu--please reveal the Kevod Malchuso once again!”  Hakhel Note:  When reciting Boruch Shem at least twice daily, let us put particular feeling into the words of Kevod Malchuso! 


D.  The Bais HaMikdash was also the point that united all of K’lal Yisrael in an Avodas HaTzibbur.  The daily Karbanos, the special Mussafim--even the Avodah on Yom Kippur which brought a Kapparah for every individual--were all based on our unity as one whole.  In Galus, much of what we do is ‘on our own’.  Let us look at the difference:  When a person opens up a store by himself, his profits result only from those customers that come in.  On the other hand, if one invests his money in a large consortium of stores, his profits have the potential to multiply many times over.  The Bais Hamikdash was our spiritual consortium.  Moreover, because of our achdus, we all joined together as one--sharing the profits of each other as well!  


E.  The Galus is not our constant natural state.  Every day that we remain in Galus, we face a new day of unnatural living.  We are like a people on medicine.  If we must stay on medication for a long time, the longer the stay, the more potentially detrimental it is.  Chazal teach that what brought us into this unnatural state is Sinas Chinam.  One must therefore strive daily to battle Sinas Chinam in every way that he can.  It is important for one daily to show a pleasant countenance to one’s fellow, greet another with a smile and with warmth, and show love and concern.


F.  One significant way in which one can demonstrate his true desire for Kevod Shomayim to return to the world is to recite with focus and Kavannah: “Amen, Yehei Shemei Rabba Mevarach LeAlam U’LeAlmei Olmayah--may Hashem’s Great Name be blessed forever and ever.”  Indeed, we have so many opportunities during the day such as these moments to re-set our perspectives and realize what is important--we just have to think clearly and exercise the opportunities!” 


G.  The Three Week period is especially designated for K’lal Yisrael to be Misabel on Yerushalayim.  This is because during this period we can move to rectify that which we have lost in a more direct way than the rest of the year.  Now is the time when we can sense to a greater extent that Hashem is out of His palace--in Galus.  When a person senses this--he, in his Galus draws closer to Hashem in His Galus.


H.  The Aveilus that we to feel is not only a Tza’ar on what we had and lost--but a desire to reinstill within us the ties and connections to the Bais Hamikdash and the Hashra’as HaShechina that we once had.  It is a feeling of emptiness and loneliness, recognizing that the daily miracles that inspired us in the Bais HaMikdash, the Kadshim that we ate which was absorbed into our very being and fiber as Man, our daily association with men of Ruach HaKodesh are all lacking--and that, in fact, we are not ‘big people’, but only shadows of the people that once lived--and who will be reborn with the Third Bais HaMikdash.


I.  In one’s davening for Geulah, he can accomplish what his neighbor standing literally right next to him cannot.  We each are like separate bricks building the same building.  If one brick is left out, then it has to be made up in some other way, which could take longer or different planning.  In all events, one should strive to daven for the incredible Tza’ar HaShechina as it resides in such a troubled and such an incomplete world.


J.  It may very well be that, because we are so far removed from the Kedusha and Tahara of 1,000 years ago, and certainly that of 2,000 years ago and 3,000 years ago--it becomes easier and easier for us to truly bring the Geulah.  Indeed, in the low level of the world around us may rest the secret of our Yeshuah--we need not reach the heights of the previous generations.  Instead, we simply need to use this time to once and for all recognize the emptiness and void of our surroundings--no matter how rich and complete they may appear--and look to a repaired, rebuilt and renewed world--a world that will exist forever Lifnei Hashem--with each man’s potential realized, and each person’s life full and complete!




EVERY DAY !  HaRav Nosson Wachtfogel, Z’tl, brings the Chazal that teaches: Chayav Adam Lomar:Masai Yagiyah Ma’asai LeMa’asei Avosai, LeMa’asei Avraham, Yitzchak V’Yaakov--A person is obligated to say:  “When will my actions reach [or at least touch] the deeds of my fathers, Avraham, Yitzchok and Yaakov?” It is reported that, because one is chayav--obligated to say these words, HaRav Wachtfogel was mekabel bli neder to say them--every single day.  A student of his remarked that there must have been a particular point in the day in which he reminded himself to reach out to the level of the Avos.  We suggest as a possibility that he did so every day--before his Mussar Seder.  This would seem like a wonderful way to begin one’s daily Mussar study--reaching in and reaching out--to the level of the Avos!



A GREAT CHESED!  Shlomo HaMelech, the wisest of all men, teaches in Mishlei ( 15:30 ) that Shmuah Tovah Tidashein Atzem--Good news fattens the bone.”  One would think that only the ear, or perhaps the brain, would rejoice with good news--but in truth, Shlomo HaMelech advises us--the good news has a much greater impact on one’s body--even to the extent of fattening the bone.  As many may know, this teaching is not allegory--but was used by Rebbi Yochanan Ben Zakkai in explaining to Aspasyanus why he could not put on his shoe--for his foot had swelled after he learned that he had become emperor of Rome ! (Gitten 56B).  Shlomo HaMelech is thus teaching us all a very practical lesson:  One should try his best to relay good news to others when one hears of it.  By doing so, one does not only demonstrate a refined level of V’Ahavta L’Reiacha Kamocha--feeling so good about someone else’s tiding that he relates it to others--but one also performs a tremendous Chesed--as he can very well make the person whom he is relating it to feel good--not only in mind but in body as well!  A Chesed many times over!



AN IMPORTANT STUDY!  A student of human nature will notice that a clothier will look first at a person’s clothes, an optician will look first at a person’s glasses, a hatter will look first at a person’s hat, a shoemaker will look first at a person’s shoes….  What should the Torah Jew look for when first meeting a person?  The Sefer Sifsei Chaim (Middos V’Avodas Hashem I, p. 167) suggests that the first thing we look for is the positive only-- Dan LeChaf Zechus--judging the person in front of us only in a favorable light. In this way, the first questions--Why does he look like this?  Why does he speak like that?  Why does he act in that way?--are all answered! Furthermore, with this initial instinct, the Sifsei Chaim writes, we will personally grow immeasurably--for we will not only fulfill the Mitzvos of V’Ahavta L’Reiacha Kamocha and B’Tzedek Tishpot Amisecha, but we will grow in the most essential Middos of not being haughty and  looking down at other people, and concomitantly being humble--recognizing that every man is simply the product of his Hashgacha Pratis and the specific and particular tests, challenges, wisdom, expertise and skill granted to him by Hashem.  If one can seriously master the skill to be Dan LeChaf Zechus--he will be greater than the clothier, the optician, the hatter, the shoemaker…because every time one encounters another person--he will be improving himself immeasurably! 



SUMMER ABOVE THE EQUATOR!  Summer is a time when one leaves at some time and in some way his regular routine and course of events and travels to new places, does new things, meets new people, and may even eat new foods, and ‘try this’ or ‘try that’. However, it is extremely urgent for one to recognize that summer is not intended to be a time of laxity, or a time ‘when Hashem understands’ that we are more prone to sin or to acting in a lighter manner than we would the rest of the year.  The Yetzer Hara, is, of course, happy to see when one picks up a kula here and does an unexpected aveirah there in the Summer--because he can then argue that the individual really is generally not so good--and it is just because he is in the habit of doing all of those Mitzvos during the rest of the year that he does them.  The Yetzer Hatov therefore beckons us--please strengthen yourselves, so that you rise to the occasion of the summer months.  It is, in fact, in the Three Weeks of summer that we pine spiritually for the Third Bais HaMikdash to come--from nowhere else other than to drop Shomayim itself--and for it to rest among us.  Let us be realistic, let us be clear. In two months from now it will be only a few days before Rosh Hashana.  We will be looking back at our accomplishments, or r’l our failings over the summer. Two months is a very short time.  We all know that Chacham Ainav B’Rosho--the wise person’s eyes are not directed at this desire or that one--but look into the future and realize that in one’s decisions it is literally eternity at stake.  Let us bli neder make the commitment not to fall, even ‘just here’ or ‘just there’--but to remain true and steadfast to who we are--whether it be winter, summer, spring--or summer.  In two months let us look back at the successes of our summer and kvell--not only in what we accomplished for ourselves--but even moreso at the great Simcha that we have brought to our Father and Maker--fulfilling our purpose in creation!




Special Note One:  We continue with our focus on the Eleventh Bracha of Shemone Esrei--Hashiva Shofteinu--Restoring Justice--through our leaders.  The Siddur Otzar HaTefillos brings from the Levush that the Malochim recited our bracha of “Baruch Atta Hashem Melech Oheiv Tzedaka U’Mishpat” at the time that Moshe taught Bnei Yisrael the Parsha in the Torah of Mishpatim.  Every letter of the Aleph Bais is found in this Bracha--except for the ‘Zayin’ which (among other things) represents our seven great leaders (the Ushpizin)--how exact our Brachos are!  The reason this Bracha comes immediately after the ingathering of our exiles is because Hashem will punish those who must be punished before we settle in Yerushalayim (as described in a coming bracha).  Additionally, we require a Sanhedrin as soon as possible in our Geulah process because the Ikar Hashra’as HaShechina is through the Sanhedrin.  It is for this reason that the Lishkas HaGazis, which housed the Sanhedrin HaGadol, was located in the Bais HaMikdash itself.  We note the stark similarity in brachos between the opening of our Bracha for Teshuvah:  Hashiveinu Avinu LeSorasecha”--and our Bracha now to restore our leadership--”Hashiva Shofetinu KiVarishona”.  We suggest that there is a great lesson here which may not be so evident--that is, we need to have our Avos and Neviim of the past before us--in order to fully attain our quest that HaRav Wachtfogel so urged us to seek Masai Yagiyah Ma’asi LeMa’asei Avosai.  The living lessons in front of us will serve as our greatest reminders of who we are, where we come from, and what we can attain!  Let us sincerely pray now for these days!





QUESTION OF THE WEEK:  The Pasuk of Hodu LaHashem Ki Tov Ki L’Olam Chasdo appears several times in Tehillim.  In what other Sefer of Tanach does this powerful Pasuk appear?



REJECTING THE LASHON HARA:  Last week we made the extremely important point that one could undo his acceptance of Lashon Hara by reversing it--and judging the person spoken about favorably. In such event one should additionally be mekabel, accept upon himself not to accept Lashon Hara again, and also recite Viduy over the fact that he originally accepted the Lashon Hara.



PUBLIC NOTICE:  From the Kitzur Shulchan Aruch:  “It is forbidden for a person to get benefit from something that belongs to his friend without the friend’s knowledge, even though he is absolutely certain that when his friend finds out that he did so, he would be happy for him to have so benefited because of their mutual love for each other.  It is therefore forbidden for a person to go into an orchard or garden of his friend and take fruits or vegetables--even if the orchard or garden belongs to his best friend.  This is because we look at the taking at this point in time when one did not have the express permission to do so--and one is ‘Neheneh B’Issur--benefits impermissibly’.  We must warn the public about this for they lack knowledge of it” concludes the Kitzur. (182:13--The Laws of Geneivah and Gezeilah)




Special Note One:  A reader’s beautiful thought:  “Pinchas was given a ‘Bris of Shalom’ by Hashem.  I would like to suggest that everyone consider the absolute Pashut P’shat of these words--in reward for Pinchas acting in such a self-sacrificing way for the honor of Hashem, Pinchas was awarded the gift of peace--inner peace; this means tranquility and calmness in his personal life and his personal decisions.  If one acts with alacrity and unrelenting dedication towards the Torah and Mitzvos, his closeness to Hashem will build a great Emunah within him.  He will thus be at peace.  I think that this is a lesson that we can all internalize and aspire to.”



Special Note Two:  We continue our Monday/Thursday listing of the Mitzvos Asei which the Chofetz Chaim writes are applicable in our times, as set forth in his Sefer Mitzvos HaKatzar.  Today, we present Mitzvos 41 and 42:


41.  Kibbud Av V’Eim--This is the Mitzvas Asei to honor one’s father and mother.  Examples include feeding and clothing them--albeit from the parent’s possessions (if the child has means, and the parent does not, then we force the child to sustain the parent in accordance with his means).  The child must also serve the parent in the same way that a servant serves his master, and must honor the parent even after he/she passes away.  If a father asks his son for water, and the son has another Mitzvah to do which cannot be done by anyone else, then the son does the other Mitzvah.  If a father tells his son to do an aveirah, even if it is an aveirah MiD’Rabanan, the son is not permitted to do so, for all--including the father--are required to show honor to Hashem.  Honoring one’s father comes before honoring one’s mother, for one’s mother must also honor the father.  One who is lax in honoring a parent has voided this Mitzvas Asei, unless it is with the parent’s knowledge and Mechilah.  A married woman is also obligated to honor her parents, unless her husband stops her from doing so.  The Mitzvah applies to men and women alike.  [Hakhel Note:  In his masterful Shiur on Kibbud Av V’Eim in the Chofetz Chaim Heritage Foundation Torah Video Series, Rabbi Fischel Schachter, Shlita, brought the Sefer Chassidim, who writes that it is ‘Tov’--it is good for a husband to allow his wife to perform acts of honor for her parents.  He noted that the inference of this teaching is that it is Rah--it is bad for one not to allow his wife to demonstrate and perform acts of respect for her parents.]


42.  Yiras Av V’Eim--This is the Mitzvas Asei to fear one’s father and mother.  Examples include not standing or sitting in the places they usually do, not disagreeing with what they say, not saying “You are right--I agree with what you say,”  Not calling a parent by his or her name while alive or after he or she passes away--rather, for example, one should refer to his father as “Aba Mori--my father, my teacher”.  One is obligated to fear his father and mother, as the Pasuk equates their honor and fear to the honor and fear one must have of Hashem.  One who is lax in fearing a parent has voided this Mitzvas Asei, unless it is with the parent’s knowledge and Mechilah.  The Mitzvah applies to men and women alike. 



Special Note Three:  We continue with our study of the Nineteen Brachos of Shemone Esrei. This week we focus on the Eleventh Bracha of Shemone Esrei--Hashiva Shofteinu--Restoring of Justice.  The Seder HaYom writes that for so long as we are in Galus we cannot fulfill the Mitzvos and the study of Torah properly because of the tzaros and agonies that we face.  In this bracha, therefore, we daven to Hashem that He rid us of Yagon Va’Anacha--sorrow and groan--and this will be accomplished through the establishment of the Sanhedrin, and that the Chachomim reestablish themselves as those who give the proper advice to our people in both Ruchniyus and Gashmiyus.  HaRav Chaim Kanievksy, Shlita, points out that the first phrase of the bracha:  Hashiva Shofetinu KiVarishona V’Yoatzeinu KeVatechilah is clearly based on the Pasuk in Yeshaya ( 1:26 ):  V’Hashiva Shoftayich Kevarishona V’Yoatsayich KiVatechilah.  The G’ra actually teaches that the Shoftim we are referring to are Dovid and Shlomo, and the Yoatzyim are Moshe and Aharon themselves who will return to give us their sage advice.  Hakhel Note:  Let us reflect upon this incredible leadership that we will have.  We can then truly understand why we will no longer have any Yagon V’Anacha!  May it come speedily and in our day.



Special Note Four:  The following important stories are excerpted from The Sefer Aleinu L’Shabeiach by HaRav Yitzchak Zilberstein, Shlita, and written by Rabbi Moshe Zoren (Artscroll).  The lessons speak for themselves: 


A.  “The Chofetz Chaim was once speaking to someone about the importance of Yom Kippur Katan and the prayer service of that day.  But the person replied that he was a chassid of a well-known Rebbe, who did not place much emphasis on Yom Kippur Katan.  “Let me tell you a story that I saw with my own eyes,” the Chofetz Chaim then told him. “Some time ago, I was traveling by train from Russia to Warsaw .  Near me was an empty seat, and when I saw another Jew board the train, I invited him to sit near me in that seat.  When he sat down, I asked him where he was heading, and he replied that he was heading to Warsaw .  “Several stops later, I noticed that he was preparing to get off the train, even though it was still a long way to Warsaw .  ‘Why are you getting off now?’ I asked him.”The man answered, ‘I am a pauper, and I did not have enough money to buy a ticket to Warsaw . I therefore bought a ticket that is valid until this station.  I will leave the train here and collect charity, until I have enough money to buy a ticket to take me a few more stops.  I will continue to do this until I arrive at my destination.”  The Chofetz Chaim then turned to the chassid and said, “Your Rebbe is a wealthy man, in the spiritual sense, and he can therefore afford to ‘travel’ the entire distance from one Yom Kippur until the next in one journey. His spiritual reservoirs are so full of holiness and fear of Heaven that he does not need to ‘stop’ on the way.  “Other people, however, have to get off the train at the stops along the way, and observe a Yom Kippur Katan every Erev Rosh Chodesh.”  Hakhel Note:  It is Yom Kippur Katan this Thursday--let us do what we can to prepare--as the Chofetz Chaim did!


B.  “R’Shaul Kosovsky-Shachor, a God-fearing lawyer, told me the following ruling that he heard from the Chazon Ish.  After Shacharis, R’ Shaul would learn Torah for several hours before going to work. Once, he told the Chazon Ish that although he tries not to interrupt his learning, it occasionally happens that a person will ask him to help him with the wording of a contract.  On those occasions, he removes his Tefillin and helps the person with the contract.  “The Chazon Ish told me,” R’ Shaul related, “that I do not have to remove my Tefillin when I interrupt my learning to help people.  ‘Even if you were not wearing Tefillin,’ the Chazon Ish told me, ‘you would be allowed to put them on in order to write the contract.  According to the basic halachah, a person should wear Tefillin the whole day, even while he is working. You should certainly work on the contract while wearing your Tefillin, out of fear of Heaven,’ the Chazon Ish said.”  Hakhel Note: Let us contemplate what can add to our fear of Heaven throughout the day--and keep strong hold of them!




YOU WILL AFFECT HIS FUTURE!  The Chofetz Chaim writes that if one listens to Lashon Hara--even with the specific intent not to believe it--he is Nosein Yad L’Poshim--he is spreading intentional sin.  Why?  Because if a person speaking sees that his Lashon Hara is being listened to today, then he will try again tomorrow--with you or someone else.  On the other hand, one who responds by saying:  “I do not want to listen to this” or “This is not for me” will discourage the speaker from speaking Lashon Hara in the future--to you and to others.  Thus, by stopping the wrongdoer--you are not only protecting yourself with the proper response, the Chofetz Chaim teaches, but you may be helping the person who started to speak improperly--for the rest of his life--and all to your credit!  Hakhel Note:  We remind our readers that if one has heard Lashon Hara before he had the chance to stop it, or before he realized what was coming--he still has a way out of the issur.  One should immediately search for a zechus regarding the one spoken about--which has the effect of undoing the Lashon Hara that was theretofore spoken.  This is one of those rare instances--like Teshuvah--in which one can actually undo that which may have been done.  Remember to use it--and to tell others about it!



VE'ROMAMTANU MIKOL HALESHONOS--You Exalted us Above All the Tongues:  This important phrase from the Yom Tov davening is explained in a stunning way by HaRav Shlomo Mandel, Shlita (in the name, he believes, of the Bnai Yissaschar): One should understand the term as follows--there is not a single language in the entire world that can describe the beauty of K'lal Yisrael!  This being the case--we certainly must look within and see the beauty within ourselves--and the beauty of each other.  Even if another has hurt you, frustrated you, disappointed you, or not performed in a way that was expected of him--remember that you have probably disappointed others in similar ways as well--and you would not want to be remembered by these disappointments either. We are all uplifted and beautiful in a way that no language on earth can describe--let us be sure not bring others down--for we bring ourselves down together with them!




NOW IS THE TIME!  That one item that you were meaning to get to--improving your Kavannah in Pesukei D’Zimrah, Shema or Shemone Esrei; making sure to be on time for davening in Shul or to the Shiur; starting the new Gemach; making a daily Chesed call….  Whatever it may be that you have intended to begin but have not yet done so--now during The Three Weeks in which we strive to increase our levels of Kedushah--to show that we are ready for more--is truly the time to get started!



 Special Note One:  Today is the Yahrzeit of the unparalleled HaRav Moshe Cordevero, Z'tl, perhaps most well known for the Sefer Pardes Rimonim and the Sefer Tomer Devorah, among his many other works.  According to the Arizal's testimony, the procession bringing HaRav Cordevero to burial was preceded by a pillar of fire, and, because he was so pure, his death could only be attributed to the chait of Adam HaRishon.  Chapter 4 of the Tomer Devorah concludes as follows:


"A person can purify his Yetzer Hora by leading it towards good, and then even his Yetzer Hora becomes rooted in holiness. This is the elevated level of repentance that a person should contemplate every day--and one should also repent in some [even minor] way every day--so that all his days will be spent in Teshuva!"


Special Note Two:  Upon being asked how Moshiach can come in a generation such as ours, without the great luminaries of yore--R' Shmelke of Nickolsburg responded, "after a war leaves a great mess in a city, the simple workers come to clean up....”


Special Note Three :  We conclude with our study of the Nineteen Brachos of Shemone Esrei.  This week we focus on the Tenth Bracha of Shemone Esrei--Kibutz Galios--Gathering in our Exiles!  The bracha concludes with the words Baruch Atta Hashem Mekabeitz Nidchei Amo Yisroel--Who gathers in the dispersed of His people Yisrael. HaRav Shimon Schwab, Z'tl,  teaches that this bracha ends in the present tense because we have such Emunah that the Geulah take place--we can 'taste' the ingathering of the exiles!  HaRav Chaim Friedlander, Z'tl, teaches that the term Nidchei--the dispersed--is a crucial one, for it is based in the Pasuk of "...U'va'u HaOvdim B'Eretz Ashur Vehanidachim B''Eretz Mitzrayim...--and those who are lost in Ashur and dispersed in Mitzrayim will return to Yerushalayim (Yeshayah 27:13).  This means that even those who may have been previously 'lost' their Yiddishkeit  may be gathered in as well (obviously based upon factors beyond our understanding). One thing is for sure though--those who will meet the criteria of Amo Yisrael (,those who do Hashem's will show that they want to be his nation)--as the bracha concludes--they will all surely be gathered in. What gives us even additional hope and aspiration is that, as the Kuntres Avodas HaTefillah teaches, when the Geulah comes, Yisrael--including the Aseres HaShevatim will be reunited--this time inseparably and invincibly!  The conclusion of this bracha spirits us to pray for the day!


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


A.  We continue to provide notes excerpted from the recently published Mesivta Zemiros Shabbos HaMevu’ar:


1.  This Yismach Moshe writes that it is a kabala beyadeinu (we have a Mesorah) that the Zemiros which are popular in K’lal Yisrael were composed with Ruach HaKodesh.  It is reported in the Sefer Minhagei Chasam Sofer that all of the Zemiros for Leil Shabbos and Shabbos morning were recited at his table.  The Ibn Ezra himself composed Tzamah Nafshi which is sung on Leil Shabbos, and Kee Eshmera Shabbos, which is sung on Shabbos morning.  One of the Ba’alei Tosfos, Rebbi Boruch B'Rebbi Shmuel composed Boruch Kehl Elyon, and Rebbi Yehuda HaLevi composed Yom Shabbason Ein Lishkoach!


2.  With respect to Hadlakas Neiros: (a) Some have the custom of using candles which are braided, because the words Zachor and Shamor were miraculously recited together by Hashem at Har Sinai; (b) Although all the Neiros should be in the place where one is eating the seudah, not all of the Neiros need to be on the table (Shulchan Aruch, Orach Chaim, 263:1 and Mishna Berurah there); (c) There is a special inyan to use a silver menorah for Hadlakas Neiros (Sefer Nishmas Shabbos 1: p. 323); (d) Some say that one should have a special lighter to light the Shabbos candles from, as it is not a beautification of the Mitzvah (in starker terms, it a bizayon to the Mitzvah according to these opinions) when one lights the candles with a simple match (ibid. p. 320); and (e) There are two customs as to how a husband participates in Hadlakas Neiros.  One custom is that the husband prepares each candle's wick for a better lighting, by lighting it first and extinguishing it.  The second custom is for the husband to recite the words (in a soft tone!) “Hadliku Es Haner--it is time to light the candles”.


3.  Ahl Pi Kabbalah one should kiss the hand of his father and mother before Kiddush, and have the Kavannah to fulfill the Mitzvah of Kibbud Av Va’eim (Ben Ish Chai 2, Bereishis 29).


4.  Some question how it is that we seemingly direct the Malachim to leave our homes with the words:  Tzeisechem L’Shalom Malachei HaShareis”.  The Sha’arei Teshuvah (Shulchan Aruch, Orach Chaim 262 seif katan 2) explains that since we do not know when the Malachim are in fact going to leave, we say to them that whenever you do leave, it should be L’Shalom! 



Special Note Five:  The Parsha last week ended with the sad event of Bnei Yisrael falling prey to the Bnos Midyan and their deceit.  This week’s Parsha begins with the after-effects, and the vengeance taken by Bnei Yisrael against the Midyanim . As with all sin--we must get to its root, its source.  What caused this sin?  How did the Bnei Yisrael get involved with the Bnos Midyan at this late stage of their encampment in the desert, after so many years of extraordinarily miraculous living in the Midbar--as they were soon to approach their destination-- Eretz Yisrael?  Rabbi Shmuel Smith, Shlita, brings the words of the Pasuk (Bamidbar 25:1) “Veyeishev Yisrael BaShitim…--and Bnei Yisrael camped in Shitim”.  This can be interpreted to mean, Chazal teach,  that they went out into the foreign environment (Shatu) of the gentile nations to see how they lived.  Rather than appreciating the extremely important lessons that Hashem taught them--how they could be successful and live an extraordinary existence if they remained separate and distinct--they ventured out to see how the people around them lived--what these people did and how they did it.  The tragedy that resulted was transgression compounded by transgression--as they first sinned with the daughter’s of Midyan and went on to worship Avodah Zara.  Incredibly, what Bilam could not accomplish with his expertise and mastery at sorcery and cursing--the people brought upon themselves by leaving the protection and confines of their Torah environment. This is truly a great lesson for us during the Three Week period, as the outdoors becomes a more enticing environment and ‘enjoyable’, fun-filled vacations become the standard that one is expected to be guided by.  We must take the lesson from the Bnos Midyan event--and lean much to the side of Pinchas Ben Elazar--who went far out of his way to combat what had quickly become the ‘acceptable’ standard.


Sometimes a little bit of something is good.  Here, however, the Vilna Gaon (Even Shelaima 1:7) in his great wisdom notes: “A man should never say, ‘I will follow my physical lust and inquisitive desires a little and afterwards will withdraw from them.’  For as a man begins to draw toward them he becomes busy and forfeits his eternal life completely.  For it is very difficult to withdraw from them.  Even the man who fears Hashem, who is versed in the Torah, and observes the mitzvos, when he draws toward lust, he will lose all.”


As HaRav Yisrael Belsky, Shlita, once told men walking on the streets of New York City , “To the extent possible, put your head down, and walk in a determined manner to your destination.”  One cannot argue that what is around us is the “normal” way of the world, and that we cannot get around it.  What is--or should be--considered normal is the way Hashem wants us to conduct ourselves. Rabbi Yisroel Reisman, Shlita, reiterates this with the following essential teaching:  A Kiddush Hashem is not doing what people like or think is right--but what Hashem says is right.


The task is a difficult one--both from the Yetzer Hora within, and the Yetzer Hora without.  Chazal teach that according to the effort is the reward (Avos: 5:26 ). We are in Galus, a bitter Galus.  Rabbi Smith concludes that the Three Weeks are positioned right here in these summer months as if to teach us that if we really want to leave this Galus and achieve Geula, we must demonstrate that we are different, and that we conduct ourselves by a different set of rules.


It is “hand-to-hand combat” out there for each and every one of us--but what greater victory can there be then each of us doing more than our part in bringing the Geulah!


Additional Note:  Tomorrow night, we will recite the words of Havdala. HaMavdil Bein Kodesh Lechol, Bein Ohr Lachosech Bein Yisrael La'Amim Bein Yom HaShevii LeSheishes Yemei HaMa'aseh--Who separated the holy and the profane, the light from the darkness, Yisrael from the other nations.... Rabbi Smith said that he heard from a Rav that these words teach us that the same Havdala---the same separation--that exists between the holy and the profane, between the light and the darkness--is the separation that exists between K'lal Yisrael and the nations. We begin the new week with this early reminder of who we are--and how we are to conduct ourselves!



Special Note Six: HaRav Chaim Shmuelevitz, Z’tl, relates the following now famous  story:   When HaRav Chaim was learning as a bochur in the Grodno Yeshiva, he once went to visit his uncle, HaRav Avraham Yoffen, Z’tl, the Rosh Yeshiva of Novardok.  While there, he asked his uncle who the “best” bochur in the Yeshiva was.  His uncle toured the yeshiva with him.  He pointed to one young man and said “He is the greatest in-depth studier we have.”  He pointed to another bochur and said, “He is our biggest masmid.”  About another bochur he said, “He is the sharpest that we have.”  About another, “He has the greatest body of knowledge.” Rav Chaim pressed his uncle--but in the end, who is the best bochur in the yeshiva?!  The Rosh Yeshiva pointed to another student whom he had not previously mentioned.


“Why is he the best?!”


“Because he is the greatest ‘mevakesh’--the greatest seeker in his service of Hashem.”  This young man turned out to be the Steipeler Gaon, Z’tl.


Thus, we see, that even if we may not be blessed with the greatest memory, the most proficient skills, or even simply the most dedicated hasmada, each and every one of us still has the ability to be the best, if we would only excel in the aspect of personal bakasha--in our sincere quest and drive to fulfill our potential in this world.


When we look around at others in this world, we can see the failed lives of those like Bilam, who had such capabilities of greatness, yet squandered them over temporal and fleeting desires.  On the other hand, there are people like Pinchas who rise above what others, and perhaps even they, perceive as their limitations, and reach greatness through their actions.


Now, while there is a concept of “Yesh Koneh Olamo B’Shaah Achas”--one can acquire greatness in one hour, as Pinchas initially did (and went on from there), there is a second, more paced road which the mevakesh can follow.  It is the serious and deliberate growth in areas which one has not previously developed.  We find this in this week’s Parsha as well--with the life of Yehoshua Bin Nun.  There are those who may have been stunned with his selection to be the next leader--were there not other, more recognized and great personages of the generation?  Yehoshua’s bakasha--his drive to stay associated and learn from Moshe Rabbeinu on a day-in, day-out basis--his relentless quest--made him the next leader over and above everyone else.


Each one of us can and should demonstrate to Hashem--and to ourselves--that we are also a mevakesh.  Our measured steps need not necessarily demonstrate anything superlative, they need only show our desire to grow bigger and better. ask yourself at the end of the day--was I a mevakesh today?


We can be like Yehoshua Bin Nun, we can be like the best bachur in the Yeshiva--no special skills are necessary--other than to be a mevakesh!





Special Note One:  We continue our Monday/Thursday listing of the Mitzvos Asei which the Chofetz Chaim writes are applicable in our times, as set forth in his Sefer Mitzvos HaKatzar.  Today, we present Mitzvos 39 and 40:


39. LeKayem Motzah Sefasav--this is the Mitzvas Asei for one to fulfill what he took upon himself as a Neder or as a Shavuah--as the Torah teaches “KeChol HaYotzei Mipiv Ya’aseh--one should fulfill everything that his mouth utters”.  This Mitzvah applies to men and women alike.


40.  Hafaras Nedarim--this is the Mitzvas Asei for one who regrets having made a promise or taken a Shavuah to go to a Chochom or Bais Din and state:  “I [promised] [swore] as follows: [insert the facts]. I now retract that which I have done, and if I had known that I would be as troubled as I am now by what I had promised, or had I known what would happen as a result, I would not have made the promise or sworn in the way that I did.”  The Chochom or Bais Din then say to the man:  “Did you regret that which you have done?”  If he responds: “Yes”, they thereupon respond:  Sharui Lecha, Machul Lecha, or Mutar Lecha”. This Mitzvah applies to men and women alike.



Special Note Two:  We continue with our study of the Nineteen Brachos of Shemone Esrei.  This week we focus on the Tenth Bracha of Shemone Esrei--Kibutz Galios--Gathering in our Exiles!  The next phrase is “VeKabetzeinu Yachad MeiArba Kanfos Ha’aretz--the ingathering that we request now is not a small or partial one, as at the time we left Bavel to return to Eretz Yisrael (when only slightly more than 40,000 people returned and the Aseres HaShevatim did not return), but instead we request “Yachad--for everyone to return together”.  Our physical return is, once again, only a byproduct of the spiritual return--as we ask to be taken out of the mores and cultures of the foreign ideologies that surround us--from South Africa to the United States, and from Hungary to Chile.  Indeed, the test of Galus in each and every country is different--and for us to be gathered together and reunited in common purity is certainly a profound request and an unfathomable accomplishment.  We thus should be very much inspired when reciting the word ‘Yachad’--for it means so much!  On the latter half of the phrase-- MeiArba Kanfos Ha’aretz--from the four corners of the earth, HaRav Shimon Schwab, Z’tl, provides an important additional insight.  The word Kanfos (corners) is very much related to the word ‘wings’--and is rooted in the Pasuk (Yeshaya 24:16):  MiKnaf Ha’aretz Zemiros Shamanu Tzvi LaTzadik--from the wing of the earth, we have heard songs ‘beauty belongs to the Tzadik’.  HaRav Schwab explains:  This means that when that time comes, not only the Jewish people, but the whole world, will recognize HaKadosh Baruch Hu, and will be elevated to a higher level--the earth will have ‘sprouted wings’.  People everywhere will understand that they will have to change their lives-- simply stated, there will be a moral uplifting in the whole world.  So, concludes, Rav Schwab, we ask HaKadosh Baruch Hu to gather us together and unite us--in a newly uplifted world!  Hakhel Note:  Who can wait?!



Special Note Three:  We provide below the following points and pointers relating to the special Three Week period that we are in:


1.  At a Hakhel Shiur, HaRav Shmuel Dishon, Shlita, once posed the following question:  “What is the greatest Chilul Hashem in the world today?!  What is the one thing that we should most ashamed of?!”  He answered that the greatest Chilul Hashem, the greatest shame to us today, is that we are still in Galus. The Sefer Sha’arei Teshuvah explains that the great remedy for Chilul Hashem is Kiddush Hashem.  Accordingly, it very much behooves us to focus on acts of Kiddush Hashem--which is the antitheses of the Chilul Hashem of Galus, and which will, in fact, constitute the essence of Geulah.  Let us each remember the teaching of Chazal--he who bothers to prepare on Erev Shabbos, will be the one who eats on Shabbos!  Kiddush Hashem--work on it today--and every day!


2.  Our Halacha teaches us as a people how we are to conduct ourselves during the Three Weeks, the Nine Days, Erev Tisha B’Av, and Tisha B’Av itself.  The Halacha does not, however, provide the ‘four corners’ of the law, and accordingly, we can each take our own individual, personal steps to evidence our feelings, and to show our personal disenchantment/misery with the Galus we are in.  It is a custom among some, for instance, not to eat meat or drink wine not only during the Nine Days--but even during the Three Weeks (except, of course, on Shabbos). Others may make their hot shower just a little less hot.  Yet others may attempt to somewhat quash or limit their needs or desires in some way during this time--not putting on the mustard, ketchup or extra condiment, or perhaps by taking the second choice of food or drink--the roll instead of the bagel, the ginger ale rather than the coke--simply to demonstrate a recognition of Imo Anochi B’Tzarah with Hashem at least during this period--as the Shechina continues in its tza’ar, exiled from its home, and awaiting the return of His children. 


3.  Another important project is for one to especially look out for how often he makes excuses for his conduct during the day:  “I usually would not eat this, but…”; “I do not get angry, but…”; “I am doing this now because…”; or “I have the right, since…”; etc.  Rabbi Yissocher Frand, Shlita, teaches that the Shevatim at the time of their ordeal with Yosef recognized their mistake and exclaimed:  Aval Asheimim Anachnu--but, we are guilty!”  This means, Rabbi Frand teaches--that the Shevatim recognized that what they had done to Yosef was full of inappropriatebuts’--”but he dreamt that…”; “but he said that…”; “but he wore that…”.  As we realize the ‘buts’ that brought us into Mitzrayim--let us reflect on how our reflection upon and Teshuvah from the ‘buts can bring us out of our current Galus! 


4.  In his recent outstanding Hakhel Shiur, Rabbi Dovid Goldwasser, Shlita, made the following extremely important points about what to think about and what to do during this time.  Note:  To obtain a CD or tape of the Shiur, please call 718-252-5274.


A.  On Motza’ei Shabbos leading into Tisha B’Av, it is said that the Belzer Rebbe, Z’tl, waited and kept on his shtreimel, hoping desperately that the Geulah would come instead.  After waiting a long time, he sorrowfully exclaimed:  Oy, Nach a Mal Tisha B’Av, Oy, Nach a Mal Tisha B’Av--again Tisha B’Av, again Tisha B’Av!”  We should not become complacent, feeling like we are going through a routine year in and year out.  We need to move ourselves to work on tikun, on repair.  You may want to repeat the phrase of the Belzer Rebbe throughout this period.


B.  We should think about the Bais HaMikdash--the majestic scene of the Kohanim doing the Avodah, the Leviim singing, every Yisrael present being like a member of the royal family, welcome in the palace.  If we cannot be in the Bais HaMikdash, let us at least bring the feelings to mind. 


C.  Chazal teach:  MeiIgra Rama LiBira Amikta--from the high floor to the bottom of a pit.”  Despite the relative comfort of one’s particular Galus--with modern cars, modern appliances, modern conveniences, and Glatt Kosher foods from all over the world--the reality is that we are in the bottom of a pit.  Think about how many Mitzvos we can perform now--as compared to the Mitzvos we can perform in Eretz Yisrael with K’lal Yisrael together.  Think about the levels of Torah study that we cannot reach because of the cloudiness generated by Galus.  Think about how much higher your personally can go from a Bira Amikta to a Igra Rama!


D.  The Navi teaches: “VaEshtomem Ki Ain Mafgiah--I was stunned that no one was praying.”  We have to daven for the Geulah, more and more and more.  Our relentlessness can demonstrate our sincerity and true need.  We accordingly, once again, provide the Tefillah Ahl HaGeulah (both in Hebrew and in English), for one to recite (hopefully at least daily)--with passion!  Click here for the Hebrew version and click here for the English version.


E.  When eating, whether or not one is at a meal in which he washed, recite Al Naharos Bavel (Tehillim 137).  One should think about what he is saying--reciting it not only while sitting--but from a Siddur or a Tehillim as well. 


F.  Reciting Tikkun Chatzos, or at least a part of it.


G.  Trying (perhaps at least once a day) to recite a bracha at which there will be someone there to answer “Amen”.


H.  In Galus, what Hashem has is the “Daled Amos Shel Halacha”--and as for us, “Ain Lanu Shiur Elah HaTorah HaZos.”  One should accordingly try learning more--and especially beretzifus (consecutively)-at least for an hour a day.  If we can demonstrate that we value the opportunities we have now--then Hashem will give us the opportunity to value even more later!


I.   VeShaveha B’Tzedaka--we will be redeemed through Tzedaka”--give some Tzedakah every day for the sake of Geulah. 


Rabbi Goldwasser noted that the Three Weeks is an auspicious time to not only take action--but to accomplish Geulah, for as some interpret the Pasuk in Eicha--Kol Rodefeha Hisiguha Bein HaMetzarim--all those who run after Tzion--will reach her during this time.  Let us take the steps that we can (perhaps one should read the above thoughts again, or put some of his own into place)--and may we reach Tzion speedily and in our days--this year!



Special Note One:  Regarding our note on ‘Hydrating’ and the Bracha Rishona/Achrona thereon, a reader provided the following additional important Halachic opinions to us: 


1.  Rabbi Mansour, Shlita, teaches that:  “A person who drinks for this purpose does not recite a bracha, unless he happens to feel thirsty at that moment in which case the water also serves to quench his thirst.  The work “Mishne Halachot” applies this Halacha to seltzer, as well.  Seltzer, like water, does not have any flavor, and therefore, according to this view, one does not recite a bracha over seltzer unless he drinks it to quench his thirst or he derives enjoyment from the taste.  But if he drinks seltzer to swallow a pill or to hydrate his body, then he would not recite a bracha.


2.  The reader personally asked Rabbi Binyomin Forst, Shlita (author of The Halachos of Brachos, Artscroll) and Rabbi Herschel Welcher, Shlita (Rav and Posek in Queens), and they both ruled that one would make a bracha when hydrating (but not when drinking water in order to swallow a pill).

Hakhel Note:  We are not aware of any Rav or Posek who would rule that one would make a Shehakol or Borei Nefashos if drinking water merely to swallow a pill, or because he has something stuck in his throat.  In the case of doubt as to if one truly feels thirsty; one may simply want to solve the issue by drinking something other than plain water (or seltzer according to the “Mishne Halachot”).



Special Note Two:  We continue with our study of the Nineteen Brachos of Shemone Esrei.  This week we focus on the Tenth Bracha of Shemone Esrei--Kibutz Galios--Gathering in our Exiles!  The bracha continues with the phrase VeSah Nes LeKabeitz Galuyoseinu--and raise a banner to gather in our exiles.  HaRav Chaim Friedlander, Z’tl, brings two key Pesukim from Yeshaya which do, in fact, refer specifically to a banner being raised at the time of the Geulah:  VeNasah Nes LaGoyim VeAsaf Nidchei Yisrael U’Nefutzos Yehudah Yikabetz MeiArba Kanfos HaAretz…--He will raise a banner for the nations and assemble the disbursed of Yisrael…from the four corners of the earth” (Yeshaya 11:12); and “Kol Yoshvei Sevel VeShochnei Eretz Kinsoh Nes Harim Tiruh…--all the inhabitants of the world and dwellers of the earth will see when the banner is hoisted up upon the mountains” (Yeshaya 18:3).  The raising of a banner for us all to see, explains HaRav Friedlander, means that there will be two different kinds of spiritual redemption--one through the hearing of the Shofar (described yesterday) and a second through the sight of the banner.  The term for banner is ‘Nes’--which has the same meaning as miracle--for what we will see are outstanding and extraordinary miracles which will arouse us to do new spiritual heights.  Just as each Shevet had a banner or flag which symbolized and identified the Shevet, Hashem’s banner will be the blatant and awesome miracles which will cause us to see Hashem’s complete mastery and rulership over the world.  When we experience the great miracles at the time of Geulah we will be existentially uplifted in ways which we cannot imagine now.  Through these miracles, the ikar Galus--which is the spiritual Galus within us, our attachment to the culture and habits of the nature around us--will be completely uprooted, and with this will come an end to our physical Galus as well.  Additionally and remarkably, adds HaRav Friedlander, the miracles will gather in all those who are deserving --no matter what the nature of their particular Galus may be, no matter how disparate our exiles are across the globe.  No matter who we are or where we are--if we are worthy, Hashem’s outward manifestation will cure us of any and all Galus-generated ills--simultaneously!



Special Note Three:  HaRav Chaim Kanievsky, Shlita, teaches that one would have thought that Balak was more of a villain than Bilam--after all, was he not the originator of the idea to curse K’lal Yisrael--did he not offer immense wealth to Bilam for doing so, and did he not pursue his goal continuously seeking Bilam out, building mizbeiach after mizbeiach, and finally effectuating whatever he could to induce Bnei Yisrael to sin (as woefully described at the end of last week’s Parsha)?!  However, it is clear from the Torah that Bilam is the more wicked one, and Chazal in Avos (5:22) reiterate this--with the differences between the students of Avraham Avinu, and the students of Bilam (and not Balak).  HaRav Kanievsky teaches that the lesson is clear--the horrible Middos of Bilam overshadowed the wanton attempt of Balak to save his people.  In fact, the Seforno (Bamidbar 22:6) writes as follows:  When Balak called upon Bilam he praised him with the words: “Ki Yadati Ais Asher Tevarech Mevorach, Va’Asher Ta’or Yu’ar--for I know that which you bless will be blessed, and that which you curse will be cursed.”  However, Balak truly believed that Bilam was not capable of blessing--for if he was, Balak would simply have called on him to bless his people.  Nevertheless, Balak did not want to impinge on Bilam’s honor--having it appear that he could only be a mazik, and could do no good to anyone.  He thus ascribed the power of blessing to him as well, although he believed him to be wholly incapable of it.  Balak, then, even in his desperate straits, had a level of Middos about him.  Let us bring this lesson home to us as an elevated people--it is our Middos that must be our mainstay in life--no matter what the situation.  Indeed, the Chazal just mentioned teach us what it takes to be a student of none other than Avraham Avinu--it is not scholarly achievement or extensive skill or expertise--but the Middos of “Ayin Tovah, Ruach Nemucha and Nefesh Shefalah--a good eye, a humble spirit, and a soul which is not lustful and desirous.” 


Let us now take a closer look at one of these Middos for a moment--that of Ayin Tovah.  At the Chofetz Chaim Heritage Foundation Torah Video Shiur we referred to yesterday, Rabbi Yaakov Salomon, Shlita, pointed out that the Mishna (Avos 2:11) teaches that Rebbi Yochanan Ben Zakkai enumerated the praises of his students--Hu Haya Moneh Shivchan--and the Mishna then goes on to recount each one of the respective praises that he used for them.  Why, asks Rabbi Salomon would the Mishna take up the time to relate the praise of the students of Rebbi Yochanan Ben Zakkai if the Mishna is the embodiment of Halacha--of Torah She’be’al Peh?  The answer, suggests Rabbi Salomon, is that it is part of our Halacha--to be Moneh Shivchan--to recount the praises of others.  This is how we can demonstrate our Ayin Tovah--that we are the students of our great father Avraham Avinu.  A ‘lazy eye’ is not only a physical problem (in which the eye could get worse and worse and seriously affect vision)--it is also a spiritual issue if our Ayin Tovah is not properly exercised and exercised time and again.  At the same Shiur, Rabbi Meir Wikler, Shlita, added that the way to properly express the goodness of others is by relating details in one’s compliments--’specific praise’--for what the other has actually performed or accomplished. 


May we suggest that during this period of the Three Weeks, we especially exercise and focus our Ayin Tovah on the circumstances and people around us.  It is no coincidence, as it never is, that we have studied the Parsha of Balak and Bilam at this time of year.  It is time for fresh focus--looking at our daily situations, and at each individual--in a way that Avraham Avinu would be proud!  Ayin Tovah--keep a record of your success!



HYDRATING:  During the hot summer months one may make it a point of drinking water before he ventures out and after he comes back into his home or office.  One may similarly drink several cups of water both before and after a Ta’anis--even if he does not feel especially thirsty.  Would one make a bracha on the water that he drinks--or not, as he just forcing himself to drink, and gaining no pleasure?  In the past, we has asked HaRav Yisroel Pinchos Bodner, Shlita, a similar question, as to whether one could drink water on Shabbos morning before going to Shul (i.e., before a chiyuv of Kiddush set in)--not because one was necessarily thirsty, but because one was worried that he would not make Kiddush before Chatzos--and one is not allowed to fast on Shabbos beyond Chatzos.  You may recall that Rabbi Bodner had responded as follows:  I do not have a good proof, but m’svorah since he is definitely having hana’ah from the water, even though the primary reason he is drinking is not to be considered fasting, or to hydrate himself, nevertheless, he should make a bracha . There is somewhat of a proof from the ruling of HaRav Nissim Karelitz, Shlita, who writes that someone who drinks a large amount of water before Yom Kippur just to hydrate himself for the fast makes a bracha--because it is not possible that he has no hana’ah from the water.”

Hakhel Note:  If one has any particular circumstances or conditions, he should consult with his Rav as to the Bracha Rishona/Achrona when ‘hydrating’--this summer, or any other time.



FROM THE SEFER YEARNING WITH FIRE :  Being metzapim l’yeshuah is not only mandatory, but especially essential now, because, as the Chofetz Chaim and the Michtav MeiEliyahu write, ‘all the signs pointing to Mashiach’s arrival have already been fulfilled’.  We are like people coming to the end of a long journey, who are told, Go over the bridge, pass two sets of traffic lights, and just keep going until you see the sign that says ‘Entrance.’ Then youre there.”  Would a person travel the entire way and then, just when he must start looking for the “Entrance” sign, give up the effort?  We have come so far, the Chofetz Chaim and Michtav MeiEliyahu are telling us. Now, more than ever, we must indeed keep our eyes focused on the horizon, trying to catch a glimpse of the rapidly approaching Mashiach.  Hakhel Note:  How is one metzpeh l’yeshuah?  That is what Yearning with Fire is about!  89 Day, 5 Minute Lesson-A-Day Program.  We once again urge you to being the Program--it is extremely enriching--and we hope you will see the Yeshua before its completion!




Special Note One:  We continue with our study of the Nineteen Brachos of Shemone Esrei.  This week we focus on the Tenth Bracha of Shemone Esrei--Kibutz Galios--Gathering in our Exiles!  HaRav Chaim Friedlander, Z’tl, points out that the bakashos in Shemone Esrei until this point were essentially personal bakashos for ourselves--and are only requested in the plural because we join our brothers together with us.  Beginning with Tekah B’Shofar, we begin a series of brachos on behalf of all of K’lal Yisrael as a Tzibbur.  HaRav Friedlander emphasizes that we must recognize that to us redemption means not merely the physical redemption from the lands of the 70 nations and the return of us all to Eretz Yisrael (in and of itself a great accomplishment), but also our spiritual redemption--an unfathomable lifting of our spirits in Avodas Hashem.  Our physical redemption, and our tribulations and sufferings will end because the spiritual redemption has occurred.  HaRav Friedlander explains that the Shofar blast to occur at the outset of our Geulah is more than a physical sound--it is a symbol (as it is on Rosh Hashanah) of the weakening and downward fall of the Yetzer Hara within every member of K’lal Yisrael.  Indeed, the Shofar Gadol at that time will have a greater impact and affect upon us even than the unrelenting Shofar blast at Har Sinai--for it will effect a Nitzachon Gamur over the Yetzer Hara.  This is the meaning of Tekah B’Shofar Gadol L’Cheiruseinu--to be freed, this time entirely--from the Yetzer Hara’s misplaced drives, animal-driven desires and core antagonism towards Avodas Hashem.  Hakhel Note:  It would seem that the blast will be a Tekiyah sound only--representing no weakness, no let up, and no staggered or slow approach--but rather a strong, unrelenting and decisive victory.  The Kavannah we have when reciting the words Tekah B’Shofar Gadol L’Cheiruseinu may be telling as to how sincerely we want to attain this great and lofty moment--victory, at last!



Special Note Two:  HaRav Shlomo Mandel, Shlita, brings a Maharsha (to Bechoros 8), who compares the three week period between Rosh Hashanah and Hoshana Rabbah to the three weeks between Shivah Assar B’Tammuz and Tisha B’Av.  It is a twinship of process, and a twinship of culmination.  These are days of examination, thinking, repairing, changing one’s mindset and ways, a time in which one must put himself into his best working order.  HaRav Mandel teaches that much of what we must do during this period is to re-forge our relationship with Hashem.  Why?  Let us look at the words of the Navi.  In the Haftarah of Shabbos Chazon, Yeshayahu HaNavi (Yeshaya 1:3) laments:  Yadah Shor Koneinu V’Chamor Eivus Be’alav…--the ox knows its owner, and a donkey his master’s trough, Yisrael does not know, my nation does not perceive….”  If the animals recognize who provides them with their sustenance and enables them to live, function and achieve that which they are supposed to--then we, or the more so, must apply the lessons ‘a million times over’ and recognize HaKadosh Baruch Hu in all that we do.  HaRav Mandel brings an incredible Maharal (in Parshas Bereishis) who teaches that if a person is not a Makir Tovah, then it is forbidden to do him a Tovah.  HaRav Mandel explains that it seems like Lifnei Iver for a person to do a good deed to someone who will not recognize it--for he will then be punished for being a Kafui Tovah--for denying the good(!).


At the recent Chofetz Chaim Heritage Foundation Torah Video Shiur, Rabbi Yaakov Salomon, Shlita, pointed out that it is not by coincidence that we are to recite the Birkos HaShachar--every day--at the top of the day.  These brachos should definitely reintroduce us to a Hakarah, to a recognition of what Hashem does for us on a 24 hour a day, 7 day a week basis.  It is also no coincidence, Rabbi Salomon adds that the first bracha is Asher Nasan Lasechvi Vinah.  According to one interpretation, this refers to Hashem giving the rooster the understanding to distinguish between day and night.  What is the great understanding here?  After all, this is something that the rooster does day in and day out, when it senses the same thing that it sensed the day before?!  Rabbi Salomon answers that a true appreciation is one in which we thank Hashem for the daily abilities of our legs to walk together in the same direction, for our bodies to be able to be lifted out of bed, and for all of the senses, intellect and gifts that we are blessed with today.  It is not because we had them yesterday that we by any means or ‘automatically’ get them again today.  Will we eat good food today--or dog food?  Will we be able to articulate the words of our brachos and tefillos, the Torah thought and the compliment--or will the words not come out properly, or in disarray?  Will we be able to pass by aisles and aisles of over-the-counter medications in the pharmacy as we go to purchase a tube of toothpaste, without having to purchase any of them?  Will we be able to check “no” to the scores of health and illness related questions on the doctor’s questionnaire when seeing him for the first time?  Remember--when the Beis HaMikdash comes the foremost result will be that we have an extremely direct and personal relationship with Hashem--if we work on that now, to the extent that we can--how the more ready we will be for the day when our Ruchniyus will be lifted further and our lives fully fulfilled!  Hakaras HaTov--let us work on it over the Three Weeks with focused Birkos HaShachar, an understanding in our brachos throughout the day--and by recognizing throughout the day how Hashem allows us, guides us and moves us through the circumstances, situations and events of each and every day!



POWERFUL THOUGHT:  Rabbi Shimon Finkelman, Shlita writes in The Chofetz Chaim -A Daily Companion that “One can compare Lashon Hora to toxic waste, and the laws of Shemiras Halashon to the protective suit of people who must handle it. Properly protected--one can save others from harm--and not hurt oneself in the process!” Let us strengthen ourselves now and be especially vigilant to keep out even the harmful ‘second-hand Lashon Hora’--for if not now--then when?!  Hakhel Note: During the Three Week Period, let us take affirmative action to remedy the systemic state of Galus that we are in.  Our vigilance in the area of Shemiras HaLashon will certainly be a great and irreplaceable step in our healing. When we talk about vigilance in Shmiras HaLashon--it is not just ‘words’--it is ACTION!




Special Note One: We continue our Monday/Thursday listing of the Mitzvos Asei which the Chofetz Chaim writes are applicable in our times, as set forth in his Sefer Mitzvos HaKatzar.  Today, we present Mitzvos 37 and 38:


37.  BaYom HaShemini Mikrah Kodesh --This is the Mitzvah to rest from Melacha on Shemini Atzeres, except that one may perform the Melachos of Ochel Nefesh for himself and other Jews.  If one violates this Mitzvas Asei, he will also violate a LoSa’aseh--of not doing Melacha on Yom Tov. Chazal teach that two Melachos are permissible even if not for ochel nefesh purposes--kindling a fire and carrying.  MiD’Rabanan, outside of the borders of Eretz Yisroel, two days of Yom Tov are kept. This Mitzvah applies to men and women alike.


38. Poso’ach Tiftach Es Yodecha--This is the Mitzvah to give Tzedakah to the poor. Chazal teach from the apparent repetition of the words--Pos’ach Tiftach--that we must give even several times to the same person if requested. The Torah also teaches “Vachai Imach--your brother shall live with you", meaning that you have to take action in order for him to be able to live with you. One must give the poor person what he needs and what is befitting him--for instance, if he does not have clothing, one should focus on clothing him; if the giver does not have the entire means to, for instance cloth him, than he gives in accordance with what he has.  Even a poor person is required to give tzedaka to other poor people. In terms of giving, a poor relative takes precedence over other poor people, and the poor of one’s city take precedence over the poor of other cities. If one sees a poor person begging and turns the other way, he  has voided this Mitzvas Asei, violated a  Lo Sa’aseh, and has committed a serious transgression, being referred to as a bliya’al, choteh, and rasha.  We are obligated to be careful with this Mitzvas Asei more than all others, for tzedaka is a siman that one is MiZerah Avrohom.  The Geulah will come through our fulfilling this Mitzvah--as the Pasuk teaches VeShaveha BiTzedaka. Someone who is cruel and does not give can be suspected of his not being a part of our people, as we are all brothers for the Pasuk states--Bonim Attem LaShem Elokeichem--and if a brother will not have mercy on his very own brother--who will?!  One must give with a pleasant countenance and besimcha.  Nothing bad will result from giving, and one will not become poor from it, as the Pasuk teaches --VeHaya Ma’aseh HaTzedaka Shalom--peace will come from tzedakah!  One should be careful to pacify the ani with words, and certainly should not rebuke him or yell at him-for his heart is broken. Woe to the person who embarrasses an ani. One who joins others into the Mitzvah has even greater reward than the people he asked to give, and remember that one who has mercy on others--the Heavenly Court will have mercy on him. With respect to Pidyon Shevuyim, Ain Mitzvah Gedolah Heimenah-there is no Mitzvah that surpasses it--and one who turns away from an opportunity of  Pidyon Shevuyim violates several Mitzvos Asei and Lo Sa’aseh. This Mitzvah applies to men and women alike.  

Hakhel Note: Chazal teach that Igra DeTaanisa Tzidkasa--the reward for a Ta’anis is in the tzedaka that one gave as a result (at least giving the money ‘saved’ by not eating!) in order to feed the poor who also fasted. If you have not yet given--please do so now. If you need a good address, please go to--yadeliezer.org



Special Note Two:   We continue with our study of the Nineteen Brachos of Shemone Esrei. This week we focus on the Tenth Bracha of Shemone Esrei--Kibutz Galios--Gathering in our Exiles!  HaRav Chaim Kanievsky, Shlita teaches that we see from the order of our bracha that FIRST Eliyahu HaNavi will blow the Shofar Gadol--the great Shofar (others say  that it will be Mich’ael as the Sar Yisrael who will blow, and others say that HaKadosh Baruch Hu kevaychol Himself, as at Har Sinai, will blow), then Eliyahu will lift a banner as a sign for us all to gather--and we will do so! According to Chazal, the Shofar Gadol is the right horn from the ayil that replaced Yitzchak at the Akeidah--and will be extended to a length of 1,000 amos!  HaRav Chaim makes a cheshbon based upon Chazal that a shofar of this size can literally be heard THE WORLD OVER!  Because  the speed of sound is slower--we may see the banner before we hear the Shofar which was blown first.  Hakhel note:  As we recite the words Tekah Beshofar Gadol LeChairuseinu--let us envision the moment and movingly pray that it become reality--bimheira veyameinu!


Special Note Three: In order to begin to appreciate the great number of issues that these times generate, we once again provide below several Halachos from the Sefer Ashrei HaIsh, written by Rabbi Yechezkel Feinhandler, Shlita, containing the Pesakim of Rav Elyashiv, Shlita, and from the Sefer Koveitz Halachos which contains the Pesakim of HaRav Shmuel Kaminetzky, Shlita on the Bain HaMetzarim Period, as written by his close Talmid, Rabbi Doniel Kleinman, Shlita:


Pesakim of HaRav Elyashiv:

a. HaRav Elyashiv rules that one cannot play an acapella tape during this period, because turning on the recorder is like turning on a musical instrument. He also rules that it is assur to listen to Chazanus during this period. One need not change the ‘hold music’ on his telephone line, however.


b. Until Rosh Chodesh Av, one can buy and use utensils or clothing, but only if a Shehechiyanu need not be recited.


c. During the Nine Days, it is permissible to travel to relatives for Shabbos, and this is not considered a ‘tiyul’.


d. One should avoid any activity which involves ‘me’at sakana’--which may be a little dangerous. If at all possible, one should not schedule non-emergency surgery during this period.


e. While it is permissible to purchase Seforim during the Nine Days, it is better to buy them beforehand. One should not give gifts, or even send flowers during the Nine Days, but one can be lenient with a Bar Mitzvah gift.


Pesakim of Rav Shmuel Kaminetzky:

a. One need not change the ring tone on his phone to a regular ring.


b. If one has non-Jewish workers in his home, he need not instruct them to turn off their music.


c. One is permitted to sit in a waiting room or to enter a store, where music is ‘piped in’.


d. One is permitted to recite Shehechiyanu on Shabbos. If one was Mekabel Shabbos early, one can recite Shehechiyanu even if it is still daylight outside.


e. One should not purchase a new Tallis during the Three Weeks, as it would require a Shehechiyanu. However, it one’s Tallis was lost, one can buy a new one and make a Shehechiyanu even during the Three Weeks--he need not bother his friend to borrow his Tallis.


f. One should not begin painting his home during the Three Weeks. Similarly, one should not have ‘body work’ on his car during the Nine Days, if its purpose is to enhance the car’s appearance.


g. It is permissible for a woman to wear her regular, everyday jewelry during the Nine Days. It is best to be mechanech children to be ‘me’ma’ait BeSimcha’ during the Nine Days. For instance, they should not go to an amusement park or build a clubhouse. Generally, one should also not make a ‘birthday party’ during the Nine Days--but if there is a specific situation one should ask a Shaila.  One should not plant flowers for beauty’s sake during the Nine Days.


Special Note Four:  We now provide greater specifics as to Halachos of the Three Week Period from HaRav Yisroel Dov Webster, Shlita, noted Posek, Dayan--Shaarei Mishpat, and author of The Halachos of Pregnancy and Childbirth, who gives a Hakhel Halacha Shiur in Boro Park .    As with all Halachos, in case of one’s particular circumstances, he/she should consult with their own Rav or Posek:


There are four levels of mourning for the destruction of the Bais Hamikdash.

A) From the Seventeenth of Tammuz

B) From Rosh Chodesh Av

C) The week of Tisha B’Av

D) Tisha B’Av


Some restrictions begin from the Seventeenth of Tammuz, others from Rosh Chodesh Av, others during the week that Tisha B’Av occurs and others until the eleventh of Av (since the Bais Hamikdash continued to burn until then). One should be careful to distinguish properly the exact period of each restriction.


Why are there so many restrictions such as not reciting Shehecheyanu on new fruits, buying new clothing or making a wedding in the weeks preceding Tisha B’Av?


Chazal tells us that Hashem Yisborach destroyed the Bais Hamikdash because of baseless hatred that existed within the Jewish nation. In Pirkei Avos we are instructed that jealously, lust and pride bring the downfall of man. These restrictions such as refraining from wearing new clothing (symbolic of status of a person) or not eating meat from the day of Rosh Chodesh Av (want for earthly pleasures) tend to remove hatred and jealously, often considered sister traits in man and may bring a spirit of harmony and humility to man. These qualities found through these restrictions are the proper correction in character of the Jewish nation that will lead to the third and final rebuilding of the Bais Hamikdash. B’Ezras Hashem Amen (ER-1).




Chazal felt that during this tragic time for Klal Yisroel it is not a time for one to be very joyous, therefore holding a wedding during this time of sadness demonstrates a lack of sensitivity regarding the destruction of the Bais Hamikdash (Bach 551, MB-14).


It is customary in the Ashkenazic community not to make a wedding even if they will not serve the wedding meal, from the seventeenth of Tammuz until midday on the eleventh of Av. In the Sephardic community there are differences of opinions with regard to this restriction whether it applies to the whole three weeks or from Rosh Chodesh (SA 551-2, MA-9, MB-15, YO Vol. 6-43, YD Vol. 1-36). Many Sephardic communities have taken upon the minhag not to make a wedding from the seventeenth of Tammuz. This halacha applies even to someone who has never been married (Sh’vus Yaakov Vol. 2-35, Sedai Chemed Vol. 6-1:14).


Engagements or Tenaim are permitted throughout the three weeks including the nine days, however, one should refrain from dancing at the affair (SA 551-2, MA-6, MB-16, KH-44). A festive meal is permitted only until Rosh Chodesh, during the nine days refreshments may be served (MA-10, MB-16 & 19, KH-38). Some Poskim are of the opinion that one should refrain from making an engagement during the nine days (Ben Ish Chai Parshas Devorim-4, See TE Vol. 13-60).




Dancing and playing musical instruments are prohibited during the three weeks (MA 551-10, MB-16, KH-39), this includes music tapes (Silmas Chaim 29-1, Halachos Moshe (Mamon) 43, Kapi Aharon 52, Igros Moshe Vol 6 OC 21-4, YD Vol. 6-32). However, one may sing without any musical accompaniment (Sedai Chemed 1-10, Yalkut Yosef Daf 561 (5)).


A musician who earns his living by playing for a non-Jew may play the instrument until Rosh Chodesh (PM Eshel Avraham 551-10, KH-39, Mahram Shick YD 368, Zachar Simcha 67). A music teacher who earns their living by giving lessons may do so until Rosh Chodesh (PM 551, TE Vol. 16-19, Rivovos Ephraim Vol. 2-155 & Vol. 6-291(1), Chai Halavi Vol. 2-40).


A child may practice playing a musical instrument until Rosh Chodesh (S.B. 122-2, Igros Moshe OC Vol. 4-21, Rivovos Ephraim Vol. 2-155:2,Vol 3-334, Am Kilavi Vol. 1 OC 305 not like Bitzel Hachachma Vol 6-61). Some are lenient and permit the child to practice until the week of Tisha B’Av (Zacher Simcha 67), one should consult a Rav.


A couple that was married before the three weeks may celebrate their sheva brachos- the seven day period of joy. There is a dispute among the Poskim whether one is permitted to play music and dance at the sheva brachos (See MH Vol. 7-109 & 2nd ED. Vol 1-443, Igros Moshe EH Vol. 1-97, Binyan Tzion, Shraga Hameir Vol. 2-13, MU Vol. 8-338, Kovets Or Yisroel Tammuz 1996, Archos Rabbeinu Vol. 2 Daf 128, KH-40). One should consult their Rav.


One is permitted to sing without a musical accompaniment, only if it does not bring one to an over joyous mood (Sedei Chemed Vol. 6 Pas Hasaday 1-10). One is permitted to sing zemiros songs on Shabbos during the entire three weeks (Igros Moshe OH Vol. 4-112:1, KH-41, Rivovos Ephraim Vol. 6-291(1)).


One is permitted to teach new songs to others, however, they should not be over joyous tunes (KH 551-41).


It is permissible for one to play music in one’s office for their non-Jewish workers until midday on erev Tisha B’Av (Eshel Avraham (Butshasha) 554, Tzitz Eliezer Vol. 15-33 & appendix).


One is permitted to play a musical tape for small children until Rosh Chodesh e.g., Uncle Moshe etc. (See Marshag Vol. 2-125, Kol Sinai Daf 146, S.B. 122 Kunt. Ach. 2).


It is permissible for one to exercise to a music beat.


One is permitted to sing a tune while learning (YD Vol. 6-32, Shevet Hakahati Vol. 1-189).




The custom among the Ashkenazic community is not to cut one’s hair from the eve of the fast on the seventeenth of Tammuz until midday on the eleventh of Av (Rama 551-4, MB-82, Chaim Shaul 24, Eshel Avraham Vol. II 551-3, Igros Moshe OC Vol. 3-100) even for the honor of Shabbos (MA-14, MB-32, see PM -14, Matai Yehudah-4, R’ Akiva Eiger, CA 133-17).


The Sephardic community is lenient and do not start this prohibition until the week that Tisha B’Av occurs (SA 551-3 & 12). When Tisha B’Av occurs on Shabbos, many Sephardic communities take on this prohibition from Friday prior to Tisha B’Av (Ben Ish Chai Devorim-12, KH 551-68). Others are more stringent and start the prohibition from Rosh Chodosh Av, while others are not lenient and conduct themselves like the Ashkenazic community from the seventeenth of Tammuz (Yaskil Avdi Vol. 7-35). One should consult a Rav


Although haircutting (the head, beard and the rest of the body) is forbidden the entire three weeks, one is permitted to cut one’s nails until the week that Tisha B’Av occurs (MA-11, MB-20, KH-48). A woman before her ritual immersion may cut her nails the entire three weeks. Similarly, it is permissible for a mohel to trim his nail in preparation for a circumcision (KH-49,182).


If one has a hanging nail or one’s nails are so long that they are causing one discomfort, one may cut them even during the week of Tisha B’Av, however, one should bite them and not use a nail clipper or scissors if possible (Ben Ish Chai-13, KH-49).


One is permitted to trim one’s mustache  the entire three weeks if it interferes with one’s eating (SA-13, MB-80). Some poskim are of the opinion that it is permissible only until Rosh Chodesh (KSA-4, see Shar Hatzion-90).


One is permitted to tweeze one’s eyebrows (Nitai Gavriel 8-4 in the name of HaGaon Rav Shlomo Zalman Auerbach ZT”L and Rav Shmuel Wozner Shlita, Rivovos Ephraim Vol. 5-376(3)).


Combing one’s hair is permissible throughout the three weeks (MB-20, AH-15, see KH-46 & 47).


A married woman may cut her hair around her temples or in the back of her head for modest reasons the entire three weeks. (MB-79, Igros Moshe YD Vol. 2-137 & OC Vol. 4, KH-47, Rivovos Ephraim Vol. 4-135(8)). A married woman or a girl of marriageable age may shave her legs the entire three weeks (HaGaon Rav Moshe Feinstein ZT”L see Rivovos Ephraim Vol. 5-376(2) & Vol. 6-291(2) HaGaon Rav Shlomo Zalman Auerbach ZT”L see Halichos Baisoy 25- note 70).


A person who shaves daily and by not doing so may jeopardize his job should refrain from shaving from Rosh Chodesh or at least during the week that Tisha B’Av occurs (SMB 122-2, Igros Moshe CM Vol. 1-93 OC Vol. 4-102, Yaskil Avdi Vol. 5-55).


An adult may not even give a haircut to a child under the age of chinuch during the three weeks (SA 551-14, MA-38, ER-31, CA 133-18, MB-81& 82, KSA -4). Some poskim state that the prohibition starts only the week that Tisha B’Av occurs (CA). In case of great necessity one should consult a Rav.


A mourner whose thirty days of mourning over a relative was completed during the three weeks may shave and take a haircut until Rosh Chodesh Av (SA 551-15, Bach). However, after Rosh Chodesh he may only trim his hair with a knife or razor and not with a scissors unless it is necessary but it is permitted only until the week that Tisha B’Av occurs (KSA 122-5, CA 133-20, MB-87).


In honor of a Bris, the Mohel, Sandek and the father of the infant may take a haircut and shave, but only until the week that Tisha B’Av occurs (Nodah Biyehudah OC Vol. I 28 & Vol. II YD 213, KSA 122-15, see Sedai Chemed ). Some poskim permit one to take a haircut and shave even during the week of Tisha B’Av (Chasam Sofer OH 128). One should consult a Rav.


There is a dispute among the poskim whether a child that has his bar mitzvah during the three weeks may take a haircut. One should consult a Rav. (MH Vol. 6-45, Devrai Shalom Vol. 3-6, Bais Avi Vol. 2-58, SMB Kunt. Ach. 120-8, Rivovos Ephrayim Vol. 1-237 Vol. 2-155).


A Sefardic boy who is studying in an Ashkenazic yeshivah is permitted to take a haircut or shave according to their minhag, however, if they follow the minhag of the ashkenazim and do not shave or take a haircut from the seventeenth of Tammuz they should preferably state that it is without a neder-vow (YD Vol 3-39 & Vol. 4-36, see Yaskil Avdi Vol. 7 OC 35).



The minhag is to refrain from wearing new clothing, eating a new fruit or buying new items during the three weeks that require a bracha of Shehecheyanu, so as not to require the recital of the bracha of Shehecheyanu which is recited over a joyous event (SA 551-17, MB-99, KH-207, Igros Moshe OC Vol 3-80). Therefore, one should not buy or wear a new garment or eat a new fruit that requires a Shehecheyanu (MB-99, KH-210).


Many poskim are of the opinion that those that recite the Shehecheyanu at the time of circumcision (as in Eretz Yisroel), or at a Pidyon Haben the Shehecheyanu may be recited (SA-17, DT 551-17).


Many poskim are of the opinion that one may recite the bracha of Shehecheyanu on Shabbos (ER-42, CA 133-8, KSA 122-2, MB-98) till Rosh Chodosh (AH 551-38, Toras Chaim 551-35, Kinyan Torah B’Halacha Vol. 6-32). Therefore, if the new fruit can last until Shabbos, one should wait until Shabbos, otherwise it may be recited during the week (Rama, MB-101). Some poskim are of the opinion that one may wear a new suit or dress on Shabbos if there is a special occasion such as a bar mitzvah, bris milah until the week of Tisha B’Av (YD Vol. 1-37). Others are stringent and permit this only with regard to a fruit but not with regard to clothing (ER-17, CA-14, KSA).


A pregnant woman or a person that is ill and desires this new fruit, may eat it even during the week (MB-99, KH-211). Preferably she should wait to eat it on Shabbos and recite the bracha of Shehecheyanu. Some poskim are of the opinion that she should eat the fruit without the bracha of Shehecheyanu and after Tisha B’Av eats another fruit that requires a Shehecheyanu (Birkai Yoseph 551), however, one may rely on the lenient view (KH-211, Tosfos Chaim on CA 133-13).


One may not purchase clothing etc. that requires the recitation of Shehecheyanu during the three weeks even if one will wear them after the three weeks. However, clothing etc. that do not require a bracha of Shehecheyanu may be purchased until Rosh Chodesh, therefore, one may purchase socks, shirt, shoes, ties, dishes or any other item (MB-45).


If there is a big sale than one may purchase the garment although they require that one recite a Shehecheyanu, however, it may not be worn until after Tisha B’Av (MB-11, Shar Hatzion-12, KH-21).


If a person wore a suit or dress once, it is not considered as new any more and it may be worn during the three weeks (KH-90).


One should refrain from looking or buying a house, apt, during the three weeks unless one is in need of it desperately (MB 551-12, Chazon Ish ZT”L see Archos Rabbeinu Vol. 2 Daf 129-15, Rivovos Efraim Vol. 2-155 & Vol. 3 341, Nitai Gavriel 7-9). Similarly, one should not move into a new apt, or house during the three weeks.


One is permitted to recite the bracha of Shehecheyanu upon the birth of a girl during the three weeks (Nitai Gavriel 9-6, Yad L’Yoledes).


According to all poskim one is permitted to recite the bracha of Hatov V’Hamativ during the three weeks (ST 551, Yavetz).


One should not give a gift that will cause great rejoicing to the recipient during the three weeks (Rivovos Efraim Vol. 3-336, Tisha B’Av Sh’chal B’Shabbos (Dibliski) Daf 111, Yad L’Yoledes).


One is permitted to recite Hagomel during the three weeks (Sidai Chemed 2 note 3. Yad L’Yoledes).



Since these days are full of tragedies and misfortune, one must be careful to refrain from doing things that may be dangerous (Mikor Chaim 551-14).


One should not hit one’s child or student during the three weeks (SA 551-18, MB-102 & 103, KSA 122-12, see Eshel Avraham (Butshasha)).


Some poskim state that one should not plan a pleasure trip during the three weeks (Sedai Chemed Pas Hasada 1-10 in the name of Rabbi Chaim Pilagi ZT”L). Others state that it is only during the nine days (Nitai Gavriel 7-4).


Some Poskim are of the opinion that one should not go swimming in a pool during the three weeks unless they went swimming prior to the three weeks. Most Poskim state that there is no basis for this and it is permissible to go swimming in a pool (Sedai Chemed Pas Hasada 1-1, Rivovos Ephraim Vol. 4-135(14) & Vol. 6-285, Avalos Hachurban Page 133, Hilchos U’Minhagim Bein Hamitzarim Page 34, TV Vol. 2-263). However, many Poskim agree that one should not go swimming in the deep parts of a lake or river (Mikor Chaim-16, Steplier Rav ZT”L Archos Rabbanu Vol. 2 Daf 129, Rabbi YS Elyashiv Shlita see Hilchos U’Minhagim Page 34).


Some Poskim in Eretz Yisroel are of the opinion that one should not fly by plane during the three weeks from Eretz Yisroel to America (Avalis Hachurban Page 134). However, many are lenient.


Although minors are exempt from the observance of mourning in cases of personal bereavement, some poskim are of the opinion that children of chinuch age are obligated to observe the laws of the three weeks (MA 551-38, MB-70, 81, AH-31).



The Ari Zt”l held that during these days one mourns the destruction of the Bais Hamikdash more than the rest of the year. Some have the minhag to recite Tikan Chatzos (MA 550-42, MB-103), others do not follow this minhag (Aphrikasta D’anya 13, Minhaga Torah Yisroel Vol. 3 551). The Dubno Maggid relates that those who mourn most bitterly for our loss will witness the grief that one has turn into a great rejoicing. This is based on the passage “Rejoice with Jerusalem , and be glad with her, all those who love her, rejoice, receive her in her great rejoicing, all of you who mourn for her” (Isaiah 66-10).


Written in loving memory of my Mother in law Channa Sara Bas R’ Pesach A”h Niftaras 13th of Tamuz 5756 (1996) and my daughter Ita Tzipporah A”H Niftaras 23d of Menachem Av 5753 (1993).



Special Note One:  We continue with our focus on the Ninth Bracha of Shemone Esrei--Birkas HaShanim.  The next phrase of the Bracha is Baruch Atta Hashem Mevarech HaShanim--blessed are You Hashem, Who blesses the years.  HaRav Shimon Schwab, Z’tl, in the monumental work Rav Schwab on Prayer (Artscroll), provides us with the following insight at the conclusion of our Bracha:  If a person has difficulties with his Parnassah, he should add his own personal tefillah here just before Baruch Atta Hashem Mevarech HaShanim.…The Bracha concludes in the present tense, in expression of our Emunah Sheleima that HaKadosh Baruch Hu will fulfill His promise to bless the future years that are to come….    Additionally, although our livelihood for the present year has already been decided on Rosh Hashanah, nevertheless, we ask HaKadosh Baruch Hu here to increase the predetermined amount, in the merit of our extensive expenditures in the areas of Shabbos and Yom Tov, and for the support and promotion of Torah learning.  The more we expand our efforts for these objectives, and practice them on a large scale, the more we can expect the blessings of HaKadosh Baruch Hu in return--Im Hosif Mosifin Lo--if one adds on to the expenditures for these Mitzvah purposes, then Hashem will add to his income.  In a different vein, HaRav Chaim Friedlander, Z’tl, notes that the word HaShanim (the years) is related to the word HaShinuyim (the changes).  In the broader world view, HaRav Friedlander writes, changes and variations may prove more harmful than helpful.  Indeed, some people may be heard to say “Hopefully the economy won’t be worse than it is now.”  People recognize that change brings with it the unknown.  We know that with Hashem’s protective embrace of us, His blessing--He will be Mevareich these Shinuyim, these changes--even if they are part of what others consider to be economic downturns or seasonal cycles….and we pray here that they will be for our good--as Hashem adds on to all the blessing He is already providing us with!”



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


A.  Chazal (Eruvin 43B) teach that Eliyahu HaNavi will not come on Erev Shabbos because K’lal Yisrael has to be involved in the needs of Shabbos--and cannot spend the time to go greet Eliyahu.  The Mishna Berurah (Shulchan Aruch, Orach Chaim 295; seif katan 6) writes that we accordingly daven for Eliyahu HaNavi to come as soon as Shabbos is over.  This Motza’ei Shabbos let us especially daven for Eliyahu HaNavi--so that the Ta’anis of Shivah Assar B’Tammuz will not only be pushed off because of Shabbos--but perhaps permanently pushed off in light of the Geulah! 


B.  This Shabbos, our Kavod and Oneg Shabbos will override the Ta’anis of Shivah Assar B’Tammuz.  At our Seudah--as we partake of the Shabbos delicacies and sing the Shabbos Zemiros instead of fasting, it would certainly behoove us to recite the Shir HaMa’alos Bishuv Hashem Es Shivas Tzion with increased hope and anticipation:  “Hashem--please let our dream come to reality!”


Additional Note:  In honor of the great and primary importance of our Kavod and Oneg Shabbos, we provide the following notes on Zemiros, as excerpted from the Mesivta Zemiros Shabbos HaMevu’ar:


1.  Tosfos (Sanhedrin 37B) bring a Midrash that teaches that on Shabbos the heavenly creatures are not able to sing Shira, and Bnei Yisrael sing Shira to Hashem in their place.  The Sefer Ohr Zaruah writes that based upon this Midrash, additional Chapters of Tehillim are added into our Shabbos davening--into our Pesukei D’Zimrah.  It is for this reason that we also recite Nishmas and HaKol Yoducha.


2.  The Zohar (II: p.205B) refers to Shabbos as a day of Simcha--where we come to Shul and daven and sing Shiros V’Sishbachos to Hashem.  


3.  The Midrash (Shir HaShirim Rabba 8:16 ) teaches that when K’lal Yisrael eat and drink and sing praises to Hashem, Hashem hears our voices and is appeased.  The Sefer Peleh Yo’ez (under the topic of Shir) teaches how important it is for everyone to sing at his table as part of his Avodas Hashem. 


4.  The Shulchan Aruch, Orach Chaim (670; seif katan 2) writes that every Seudah in which Zemiros are recited is a Seudas Mitzvah for that reason alone. 


5.  The Chidah (Pnei Dovid, Bereishis 33) writes that the Gematriah of ‘the Seventh Day’--HaShevi’i (397) is the same Gematriah as Praising Hashem with one’s mouth--Shevach B’Peh (397)!  Indeed, the Sefer Yetzirah writes that there are seven gates to the soul--the two eyes, the two ears, the two nostrils--and the Seventh--which is the mouth!  Accordingly, we must use our mouths properly on the Seventh Day!


C.  Earlier this week, we had presented the important teachings of HaRav Chaim Friedlander, on the Middah of Emes.  On Shabbos and Yom Tov we uniquely and particularly pray “VeTaher Libeinu LeAvdecha B’Emes--please purify our hearts to serve You in truth.”  It would appear that Shabbos is a particularly auspicious time to focus on the Middah of truth--and to daven for it.  We will have the opportunity four times (including Mussaf) this Shabbos to recite these words in Shemone Esrei--and we can additionally sing the words to one of its popular tunes with feeling as often as we would like.  Let us cherish these special opportunities.  Additional Note:  If we pay attention to the Chazzan’s recitation as we should, we will have heard the phrase an additional four times!  Rabbosai--this Shabbos--let us take the lessons of HaRav Friedlander and movingly recite and imbibe to VeTaher Libeinu LeAvdecha B’Emes!



Special Note Three:  We provide the following essential teaching from Growth Through Torah, by Rabbi Zelig Pliskin, Shlita (pages 350-352).  Although the general concept described below may be familiar to us all, we note the important conclusion--which is there for all of us to put into daily practice:


“Chazal (Makos 10b) take note that Hashem initially told Bila’am not to go with Balak’s messengers, who requested that he accompany them to curse Bnei Yisrael.  Hashem later told Bila’am that:  ‘If these people came to call you, arise, go with them.’ 


From here Chazal derive the principle, “In the way a man wishes to go, he is led.” 


If a person wants to do evil, he will be able to do so. Of course, he will have to pay a heavy price for the successful completion of his evil wishes. Conversely, someone who wishes to study Torah and fulfill the Hashem’s commandments will be successful. For this, he will be greatly rewarded. When you wish to travel along the proper path in life, you will be Divinely assisted. Nothing stands in a way of a strong will. There are many things that you may wish for half-heartedly, but when you strongly set your mind on a particular goal, you will have the strength and abilities necessary to meet that goal. What a person truly wants in life, he will usually obtain (Alai Shur, pages 120-121). 


Rabbi Avigdor Miller (Rejoice O Youth, page 1) comments that Hashem guides that person who seeks wisdom, and the amount of guidance is in proportion to the earnestness of the seeker. 


When you feel a strong need for something, you will not feel the difficulties which you encounter insurmountable, even though you might have to work very hard to accomplish your goals. On the other hand, when you are not strongly motivated to do something, you will procrastinate and it will take you a very long time. Moreover, you will not do a very good job (Chochmah U’Mussar, Vol.2, p.180). 


It is up to you to intensify your will to do good. The stronger your will, the more you will actually accomplish. Lack of spiritual accomplishment does not come from lack of ability, but from lack of will. Work on developing a strong desire for spiritual growth and you will be amazed at the positive changes you will experience. 


Rabbi Ben Zion Yadler used to quote the Alter of Navardok, “There is no such thing as ‘I cannot.’ What happens is that a person is missing the will and then he claims that he cannot” (Betuv Yerushalayim, p.116).”



Special Note Four:    We typically remember that the first frightful event that happened on Shivah Assar B’Tammuz was Moshe Rabbeinu’s breaking of the Shnei Luchos which contained the Aseres Hadibros, as a result of the sin of the Golden Calf.  If only the people had shown enough faith to wait one more day for their venerable and venerated leader, their happiness and dancing would have resulted in the greatest Simchas Torah ever(!).  Instead, we still feel the pain from the torturous event.


In fact, there was one prior significant event on this fateful day which preceded the breaking of the Luchos.  The Luach Dovor B’Ito writes that the Yona, the dove sent by Noach out of the Ark, could not find a place to land and so returned to the Teiva (Bereishis 8:8).  The obvious question is, why would Noach bother sending the dove out without any indication whatsoever (from Hashem directly, or otherwise) that the waters had receded?  Was he taking a stab in the dark?  We may posit that Noach sensed or knew that the day was right for renewal and joy.  The fact that the dove returned indicated to him that it was he and his family, representing all of mankind, who were the ones not ready for this renewal.  The same lesson carried through on this date to the Golden Calf, and thereafter the subsequent tragedies on this day in which our people’s spiritual growth was stunted rather than cultivated.


The Three Weeks in front of us should not be viewed as a burden to be overcome, evidence by our expression to others to have “an easy time of it.”  Instead, it should be a meaningful and important time in which we hope, pray and take action.  Depression and despair should not be the hallmark of these days, for they may evidence a breach or lack of faith which is the antithesis of spiritual growth.  We should learn from the gift of gravity that Hashem has given us to always keep both feet firmly on the ground despite the forces working against us.


It is the custom of some to recite “Tikun Chatzos” during the Three Week period (see Rabbi Webster’s Halacha discussion below)--some even in the middle of the day.  We may not as yet be on this level.  However, we should remember that every day, three times daily in Modi’im, we thank Hashem “for the goodness given to us in the evening, in the morning, and in the afternoon.”  What goodness is it that Hashem gives us at these especially designated times?  We suggest that it is Tefillah itself.  We provide a suggestion that we have made in the past--If we can conclude the Yehi Ratzon at the end of Shemone Esrei with Kavannah during these three weeks, three times a day, we will have sincerely davened for the Beis Hamikdash and our redemption more than 60 times during this short period!  Rather than wallowing in self-pity, we will demonstrate a renewal of our faith and have beautifully affirmed our supreme goals.


In the merit of our prayers, may we see with our own eyes the ultimate redemption at the beginning of the short period of special thought that lies ahead.



Special Note Five:  HaRav Yisroel Dov Webster, Shlita, noted Posek, Dayan--Shaarei Mishpat, and author of The Halachos of Pregnancy and Childbirth, gives a Hakhel Halacha Shiur in Boro Park .  We provide below a review by Rabbi Webster of the Halachos of fasting.  As with all Halachos, in case of one’s particular circumstances, he/she should consult with their own Rav or Posek:


The Three Weeks (Bein Hametzarim-between the days of distress) is the time period between the 17th of Tammuz, when the first breach was made of the walls of Jerusalem to the 9th of Av, exactly Three Weeks afterwards when the Bais Hamikdash was destroyed (Eicha Rabba 1-29).


Five tragedies occurred on Shivah Assar B’Tammuz (Ta’anis 26b, Rambam Hilchos Ta’anis 5-2):


1. The walls of the second Bais Hamikdash were breached by the Roman general Titus. (The Talmud Yerushalmi (Ta’anis 4:5) maintains that the breaching of the walls during the first Bais Hamikdash occurred on the seventeenth of Tammuz. The Talmud Bavli (Ta’anis 29a) however, maintains that the breach of the walls of the first Bais Hamikdash occurred on the ninth of Tammuz.


2. The two daily sacrifices (Korban Tamid) ceased during the first Bais Hamikdash because the Kohanim were unable to find a lamb to offer as a Korban.  [Hakhel Note: It is no coincidence, as it never is, that we learned of the Korban Tomid in last week’s Parsha].


3. The first set of Luchos was broken when Moshe Rabbeinu descended Har Sinai.


4. Prior to the destruction of the second Bais Hamikdash, Apostomus, a Roman officer, r’l burned the Torah.


5. An idol was r’l erected in the Bais Hamikdash (Some say it was erected by Apostomus, others say it was Menashe, the idolatrous king of Yehudah during the first Bais Hamikdash) (Ta’anis 28b, Rambam 5:2, Talmud Yerushalmi Ta’anis 4:5, Rashi Ta’anis 26b).


Since these five tragedies occurred on the seventeenth of Tammuz, Chazal designated this day as a fast (Rambam, SA 649-1).  The purpose of the fast day is to stir our hearts and do Teshuva-repentance for our own deeds and those of our forefathers (MB 549-1, KSA 121-1, Rabbi Chaim Brisker ZT”L see TV Vol. 3-154, Moadim B’Halacha). One should not make a mistake and think that by just refraining from eating and drinking one fulfills this requirement and the purpose of the day. Just the opposite, one must search one’s soul and repent for any sins that they may have committed, if one just sits around and wastes the day without contemplating one’s deeds one has not fulfilled the purpose of the fast. Similarly, one should not go on a pleasure trip on a fast day (CA 133-1, MB-1, KSA 121-1, Sefer Erech Apayim). In a situation that one does not need to fast (e.g. a sick person), one nevertheless is required to do Teshuva (TV Vol. 3-154).


The fast this year will be delayed to the first day of the week, as we do not fast on Shabbos other than on Yom Kippur.  The fast commences at dawn on Sunday morning and ends at nightfall..  If one intends to eat or drink early in the morning before dawn, one should have in mind to do so before going to sleep. If one normally drinks a hot beverage before Shacharis, it is not necessary to have it in mind before going to sleep that one will drink before dawn (SA 564-1, MA-3, CA 132-17, MB-6, KH-9).  One must consult with his Rav as to the time of dawn in his locality.


Men and women must fast (SA 550-1). Boys below the age of thirteen years of age and girls below the age of twelve years are not obligated to fast (ER 549). Parents should encourage their children (boys 9-12, girls 9-11) to fast for a few hours, such as delaying their breakfast by an hour or skipping breakfast until lunch. However, they should not be induced to fast an entire day (CA 133-6, MB 550-5, KH-9 & 554-23, BM Vol. 8-98).


Chazal did not prohibit all types of pleasures on this fast day as they did on Tisha B’Av and Yom Kippur. On this fast only eating and drinking was prohibited. Washing, anointing, wearing leather shoes, marital relations are permitted (SA 550-2, K’sav Sofer OC Vol. 100, see Likutai Hoaros on the K’sav Sofer). Some are stringent upon themselves in these other matters, and only allow wearing leather shoes (MA 550-3 in the name of the Shelah, CA 133-7, MB-10), however, many do not follow this view.  Washing for medical purposes is permitted according to all opinions, even with hot water (MB 550-6, KH-13).  Although washing with cold water is permitted and therefore one is permitted to go swimming on this fast day, some Poskim are of the opinion that one should not go swimming on this day (BM Vol. 3-77). Other Poskim permit one to go into the water to cool oneself off if it is a hot day or for health reasons (Rivevos Ephraim Vol. 1. 363 (1), BM).  Some are stringent and do not eat meat or drink wine before or after a fast (Marshal 92, ER 558-4, KH 564-12).


On all fast days other than Yom Kippur and Tisha B’Av, an ill person should not fast even if the illness is not life-threatening (MB 550-4, KH -7). One should consult with his Rav in all situations.


Some Poskim are of the opinion that a pregnant woman or nursing mother should fast. If she is suffering or is very weak, even if there is no danger to her life, she should not fast (SA 554-5, MB-5, YO Vol. 7-49). Other Poskim disagree, and rule that a pregnant woman or nursing mothers are not required to fast (Nitai Gavriel 2:6). The Steipler Rav ZT”L held that if she is a little weak she does not need to fast on this day (Orchos Rabbeinu Vol. 2 Page 127). One should consult with their Rav, especially this year, as the fast is Ta’anis Nidcheh, and accordingly additional leniencies could apply.


Those that are not required to fast should not indulge in sweets and candies. Even young children above the age of six years old, if they understand the meaning of the fast, should not be given chocolate and cake, but only that which is necessary for their sustenance ( MA 550-2, DT 550, MB-5, Nitai Gavriel 2-4, KH 550-9, BM Vol. 8-98). If the child take items by himself than one is not required to stop them (BM).


One is permitted to brush one’s teeth with a dry toothbrush on all minor fast days except Yom Kippur and Tisha B’Av. If this causes discomfort, it is permissible to brush one’s teeth with toothpaste and water, (except for Yom Kippur and Tisha B’Av). However, one must be careful not to lean one’s head back so as not to swallow any water (MB 567-11, AH-3, BM Vol. 8-94, Minchas Yitzchok Vol. 2-109).  One is permitted to swallow one’s saliva (MB 567-13, see CA 132-22, Bais Meir, ME 612-7).


It is permissible for an ill person to take medication on minor fast days. A pill or bitter-tasting liquid medicine should be taken without water, if possible. If one needs water, only a small amount should be taken. Some add salt or other substance to the water to make it somewhat bitter (Halachos Ketanos Vol. 2-97, KH 554-34, Igros Moshe OC Vol. 3-91, TE Vol. 10-25 Chap. 22, Yalkut Yoseph, Daas Torah 567-1).


If one made a mistake and recited a bracha and than remembered that it is a fast day, one should not taste the food but rather say “Boruch Shem K’vod Malchuso Leolam Vaed” (ST 568-1, MH 7-80,TV Vol. 1-329, YO Vol. 2 YD-5).


If one made a mistake and ate something on the fast day, one should nevertheless continue to fast. One is not obligated to fast another day (Matai Ephraim 602-23, Maharsham Vol. 4-20, MB 549-3 & 548-8, KH 549:7, YD, TV Vol. 1-328).


One should try not to get angry on a fast day (ER 568-18).



A THREE WEEKS THOUGHT:  In his outstanding Hakhel Shiur yesterday, Rabbi Dovid Goldwasser, Shlita, noted that we refer to the 21 day period between Shivah Asar B’Tammuz and Tisha B’Av more readily by the term the “Three Weeks” than by the term “The 21 Days”.  He explained that this may be to remind us that we must focus on seeking the Third Bais HaMikdash!

Hakhel Note:  It is well known that the Chofetz Chaim (in the beginning of the Sefer Chofetz Chaim) teaches that the Sinas Chinam that brought about the destruction of the Second Bais HaMikdash and keeps us in exile essentially refers to the Lashon Hara that is spoken.  The Chofetz Chaim (in the Sefer Shemiras HaLashon) writes that Yosef received twelve years in jail, which was comprised of one year for the Lashon Hara that he spoke against each of his ten brothers (Binyomin was not included), and two years for his apparent expression of non-Bitachon (on his level), by reliance of the Sar HaMashkim.  One year in jail per person--for the Lashon Hara spoken.  This important picture may be something to visualize--as you are about to speak what may be Lashon Hara--picture the Third Bais HaMikdash to your right side--and r’l prison bars to the left.  The choice is yours! 



AN EXTREMELY IMPORTANT POINT-- From the extremely important Sefer Yearning with Fire:  “A person who is suffering ill health due to being overweight will go to the trouble of keeping a journal and involving people and so on if it means a longer, healthier life.  Someone who just wants to lose the weight for vanity's sake, however, would find the routine onerous.  Likewise, for us, our willingness to make spiritual growth a serious, sustained effort depends on how keenly we feel its necessity and how motivated we are.”




Special Note One:  We continue our Monday/Thursday listing of the Mitzvos Asei which the Chofetz Chaim writes are applicable in our times, as set forth in his Sefer Mitzvos HaKatzar.  Today, we present Mitzvos 35 and 36:


35.  Leishaiv BaSukkah--this is the Mitzvas Asei to dwell in the Sukkah for seven days.  The Mitzvah is for one to eat, drink and live in the Sukkah day and night, making his home a temporary residence and the Sukkah his permanent residence.  One is not permitted to eat a Seudah outside the Sukkah.  On the first night, one is obligated to eat at least a K’zayis of bread in the Sukkah; after the first night, if one wants to eat bread he must eat in the Sukkah, but if he wants to subsist only on fruits he is allowed to eat them outside of the Sukkah.  A katan who has reached the age of Chinuch is obligated in the Mitzvah of Sukkah M’Divrei Sofrim.  This Mitzvah is an obligation on men, but not an obligation on women.


36.  Daled Minim--this is the Mitzvas Asei on the first day of Sukkos for one to take one Lulav, one Esrog, three Haddas branches, and two Aravah braches.  One must take these four items in the manner that they grow and when one lifts them up, he has fulfilled the Mitzvah.  One may take them at any time during the day.  It is a Mitzvah M’Divrei Sofrim to take the Daled Minim all seven days of Sukkos, except Shabbos.  Indeed, even if the first day of Sukkos falls out on Shabbos, Chazal prohibited one from taking them lest he carry them in a Reshus HaRabbim.  All four of the Minim are required--if one is missing, then he has not fulfilled the Mitzvah.  If one of the Daled Minim is borrowed, it may not be used on the first day, but may be used on the other six days.  A stolen min is never permissible, and one does not fulfill the Mitzvah with it. A katan who knows that the Lulav is shaken is obligated in this Mitzvah M’Divrei Sofrim, so that he is trained in the Mitzvos.  This Mitzvah is an obligation on men, but not an obligation on women.



Special Note Two:  We continue with our focus on the Ninth Bracha of Shemone Esrei--Birkas HaShanim.  The next phrase of the Bracha is U’Vareich Shenaseinu KaShanim HaTovos--and bless our years like the good years.  What do we mean by the ‘good years’?  HaRav Chaim Kanievsky, Shlita, writes in his Sefer Ta’amah D’ikra, that this refers to two specific years--years in which the fruits were never as plentiful in Eretz Yisrael as they were in those two years.  These two years were: (i) the year that Bnei Yisrael entered Eretz Yisrael; and (ii) the year that Bnei Yisrael were exiled from Eretz Yisrael.  In the future, HaRav Chaim writes, all years will be like those years--and that is what we mean with the words U’Vareich Shenaseinu KaShanim HaTovos--that we will be zoche to the Geulah--i.e., that time when all our years will be like those two years!  The Siddur Siach Yitzchak interprets the phrase as referring even to our times--explaining that we are davening for goodness in gashmiyus from which will come not additional ta’avos or a yeridah of any kind (as in Vayishman Yeshurun VaYivat--as one waxes fat, he may rebel), but rather goodness in gashmiyus from which will come Hatzlacha in ruchniyus--i.e., the opportunity to grow in Torah and Yiras Shomayim without deterrents and disturbances, just as the past good years when we were blessed with gashmiyus and ruchniyus together!   



Special Note Three:  Before we arrive at the coming’s week’s Parsha tomorrow, we provide the following two final points on Parshas Chukas below:


A.  The Meforshim struggle with what the cheit of Moshe Rabbeinu and Aharon HaKohen was which did not allow them to enter Eretz Yisrael.  Some note that the real cheit was not that Moshe Rabbeinu got angry at K’lal Yisrael--which may have been deserved and expected, but it was the aftermath of the anger that was originally perhaps legitimately expressed.  The lesson to us is clear.  Even when the anger can be justified under the circumstances, it in all likelihood is extremely unwise to express it--for one does not know where it will lead.  As noted above, according to the Chofetz Chaim, what destroyed the Second Bais HaMikdash and put us into exile for 2,000 years was not necessarily the Sinas Chinam the people felt in their hearts--but the Lashon Hara that was its aftermath--this Sinas Chinam’s expression in this world.  The wise person sees not only the immediate situation in front of him--but understands where that action will lead.  Even if ka’as is justified, the ultimate result is almost certainly not.  May we suggest that the Three Week period be especially designated bli neder as a period of non-ka’as--with any ka’as that occurs ‘in violation’ of one’s intent recorded in writing--and forgiveness asked of the appropriate party if necessary. 


B.  In the Parsha, the Pasuk writes:  Al Kein Yomru HaMoshlim Ba’u Cheshbon (Bamidbar 21:27 )--therefore the ones who relate parables say:  “Come to Cheshbon….”  Chazal teach that this Pasuk refers to one who wants to rule--be moshel over his Yetzer Hara.  How does he do so?  He must be a ‘Ba’u Cheshbon’--do a constant Cheshbon HaNefesh.  The Chofetz Chaim explains that if a person in business does not review and update his books constantly, he will have no idea if he is making money or losing money--and, moreover, the extent of his gain or loss.  Additionally, when one reviews his accounts receivable, he will notice those who have not paid in months and realize that they are having financial difficulties or are bankrupt.  On the other hand, one who constantly pays something every month--even if only in small amounts is clearly still in business, and trying to remain an active customer.  The Chofetz Chaim writes that our spiritual practices deserve no less attention than our business practices.  We have to review our books and records in order to determine how our spiritual business is running.  Moreover, we have to note where we have stopped ‘making payments’--has our davening come to a standstill in terms of improving our Kavannah?  Is our learning routine and uninspired?  Are we making no new inroads in Chesed?  These are the spiritual accountings to which we must turn.  On the other hand, even if we make ‘small payments’ then we should recognize and encourage ourselves--for Hashem certainly notes and records them.  We emphasize that Chazal teach that the Cheshbon we are referring to regarding each person is not a small matter or an individual Cheshbon--it is ‘Cheshbono Shel Olam’--accounting for the world.  One can explain this to mean that each person is a world onto himself, an Olam Katan--and that accordingly every person’s Cheshbon is a Cheshbono Shel Olam.  However, there is an aspect that is even more significant--the thoughts, words and deeds of one person can constitute the zechus that tips the scale and sways all of K’lal Yisrael and indeed the world to continued life--and to Geulah!  Every time one undertakes to do a Cheshbon--he should remind himself that he is doing so not only for his spiritual benefit and reaching his potential--but for the benefit of his family, his friends, his community, K’lal Yisrael--and very literally, the entire world!  Remember this--and keep us all in mind--with your Cheshbono Shel Olam!



Special Note One:  We continue with our focus on the Ninth Bracha of Shemone Esrei--Birkas HaShanim.  The next phrase of the Bracha is V’Sein Bracha Al P’nei HaAdamah.  The Eitz Yosef beautifully notes that with this phrase we pray that “Shelo Yihei Ein Briyah Tzarah B’Chaverta”--that all peacefully coexist in their attainment of Parnassah, without the trials and tribulations of undercutting another, looking good at the expense of another, unfair competition, etc.  The next two words of the Bracha are V’Sa'b’ei'nu MiTuvah/MiTuvecha--there is a dispute among the authorities as to what the proper girsa is.  The G’ra rules that the proper word is MiTuvah--i.e., from the goodness of the Land, referring to Eretz Yisrael.  Indeed, the Eitz Yosef brings that the last letters of the words P’nei HaAdamah V’Sab’einu MiTuvah constitute the letters of Yud-Key-Vav-Key--providing weight to this girsah.  The Rosh, however, teaches that we should recite the word MiTuvecha--i.e., asking Hashem that we be satiated from His Goodness.  In the Sefer Ya’aros Devash, HaRav Yonasan Eibishitz, Z’tl, adds an important insight towards the girsa of MiTuvecha:  “If c’v there is some taint of issur in one’s food--if it comes from any kind of gezel, if there is some prohibited matter within the food, or even if the meal is eaten together with the wrong company--then the Ruach HaKedushah that is in the food leaves it, and the Ruach HaTumah that replaces it is digested with the food, and leaves its negative mark on the character of the person who consumes it.”  If, instead, we are satiated MiTuvecha--from the bounty of Hashem, and in the permissible and appropriate way that Hashem would like us to eat, then we will actually imbibe holiness and purity from our food.  Accordingly, the Ya’aros Devash writes, one should daven ‘me’od b’kavannah’ when reciting the words V’Sab’einu MiTuvecha that the food he consumes come from and through the proper sources--so that one attains a purity from the food he consumes--“and if he does so, Hashem will listen to his Tefillos--and no sin will befall him when eating foods(!).”


Hakhel Note:  We received the following related note from a reader on Birkas HaShanim:


“One thing that I wondered about is why it's Birkas HaShanim, and not Birkas HaParnassah.  In other words, why do we ask Hashem to bless the year that the year may provide for us, rather than asking Him directly to provide for us.  The Kavannah that emerged from that question is that perhaps we are not asking only for support, but for a means of support--the time spent earning the money--be a bracha as well. That we earn our money through a process that makes us better and holier people….”



Special Note Two:  One other related point:  The following essential teaching is excerpted from Growth Through Tehillim by Rabbi Zelig Pliskin, Shlita, on the Pasuk of Ana Hashem Hoshiah Nah, Ana Hashem Hatzlicha Nah--please Hashem save now, please Hashem bring success now (Tehillim 118:25): 


“The two halves of this verse are separated in Hallel, and are usually said with great fervor.  Let these two phrases be on your lips whenever you need Hashem's help. When you are faced with a difficulty of any kind, call upon Hashem to save you.  Even when you need fellow human beings to come to your rescue, ask Hashem to send the right help at the right time. A fire engine or ambulance needs to arrive at the correct destination safely, to be of help. If you ever need their services, say this short prayer. If you need to ask someone for financial assistance, say this short prayer. If you are in a highly challenging situation, remember to ask Hashem for help. You might have an emergency that needs immediate attention. The words of this verse take only a brief moment to say with feeling. Call upon the Omniscient and Omnipotent One to save you.


When you repeat the second half of this verse--Ana Hashem Hatzlicha Nah, you are asking Hashem to make your efforts successful. We may say what we think needs to be said for success. We may take the actions we think need to be taken for success. We may make great plans and have ambitious goals. We may mentally visualize ourselves being successful.  We may use affirmations and auto-suggestion. We may learn from the most successful role models that there are. We may hire a personal coach. We may network and gain rapport with all the right people. We may read the best-selling books on success, and listen to the latest audio programs. We may attend success seminars. Ultimately, however, whether or not we will be successful will depend on the Almighty's Will. If He wishes, we can be successful even if we do not do everything that success experts advise us to do, and if Hashem does not want us to succeed, we will not--even if we make all the proper efforts.  We need to do our part, and we should take the advice of experts and learn from those who have been successful--but uppermost in our minds should be our connection with our Father, our King, Creator and Sustainer of the universe. Repeat this verse whenever you need success: "Please, Hashem, bring success now." Together with whatever else you are doing, you are adding the most important ingredient for success. Throughout your life you will strive for major goals. Your entire future may seem to depend on whether or not you will be successful. Ask Hashem for success.  In addition, there are relatively minor goals where you will want to be successful. Even a relatively mundane thing like going to the store to buy groceries, needs success. The same applies to many things that we often take for granted: Making a routine telephone call. Asking someone for directions to get somewhere. Buying or selling any item. Requesting a small loan. Arriving on time for an appointment-- even getting the appointment in the first place.  The impact of many of these things might not be great, but your success in your endeavors will enhance your life, while not being successful could cause distress. When you realize that your success is absolutely dependent on the will of Hashem and you connect with Him by asking for His blessing of success, the spiritual impact of what you are doing increases the value of your success.  You are already successful, regardless of how the specific details ultimately unfold!


I was talking with someone who tended to panic easily. When faced with difficulties, he generally lost all sense of perspective. He viewed molehills as mountains, and as soon as anything would go wrong, he immediately pictured the worst possible outcome. His extreme anxiety prevented him from thinking clearly. When he was calm, he was able to come up with highly creative solutions. But his intense stress created such static, that his thinking process shut down. Anxiety blocked his ability to use his common sense, and he certainly could not think creatively - even obvious solutions were overlooked. I suggested that he pray to Hashem for Divine assistance. Simply knowing that he had "dialed the number for emergency help" was likely to help him become calmer. Then he would be able to think more clearly. Even if he himself couldn't think of what to do, Hashem has many ways to assist him. "But when I am in my panic state, I cannot pray," he said. I recommended that he recite this verse, as his prayer. I told him he should practice saying it, when he is calm, and then, he could visualize himself being in his panic state. As soon as he was aware that he was experiencing panic, he should repeat this verse a number of times, and then he should see himself becoming calm. "Keep imagining this, many times. Every time you visualize this, you are making these pictures stronger and stronger in your brain's neurons. Be patient. With enough practice, eventually - without any conscious effort: on your part-- you will automatically start asking Hashem to save you and make you successful. With your calmer state and with the power of prayer, you will find solutions faster than ever before. This has worked for many, and it is very likely that it will work for you. "


Whether or not he persisted until this worked for him, you, the reader, can choose to put this into practice. All those who have done so - since the first time these words were written in Tehillim --have benefited spiritually, emotionally, and practically!”


Hakhel Note:  Let us review this teaching a second and a third time--and strive to implement it in the most practical ways in our daily lives!



Special Note One:  We continue with our focus on the Ninth Bracha of Shemone Esrei--Birkas HaShanim.  The next phrase of the Bracha is Es HaShana HaZos--this year.  HaRav Chaim Kanievsky, Shlita, explains that every year one has a different gezeirah relating to Parnassah, and that one therefore does not as a matter of course remain wealthy, middle class or poor.  We see this in real life with those around us--and this is our opportunity to daven for success now.  Furthermore, we ask for V’Es Kol Minei Sevuasah--every single aspect of the Parnassah--to be LeTovah.  HaRav Chaim explains that even if there was r’l a gezeirah lera’ah, we ask Hashem for it now to be changed to Tovah.  The Sefer BeRumo Shel Olam adds that our Kavannos should include that our Parnassah be given to us BeNachas Velo Betza’ar--with calmness and serenity and not with pain, and additionally, that the indigent of K’lal Yisrael be taken out of their dire straits as well.  Thus, the term LeTovah has both a quantitative and qualitative meaning--and we should keep them both in mind! 



Special Note Two:  As we continue within the thirty day period before Tisha B’Av--a day which will be one of celebration with the advent of the Bayis Shelishi, we recall that the Navi (Tzefanya 3:13) teaches us who be present at the time of the final Geulah: “She’eiris Yisrael…the remnant of Israel will not act perversely, nor will they speak with lies.  We provide the following extremely important instructions to us on the Middah of Emes, excerpted from the Va’adim of HaRav Chaim Friedlander, Z’tl, and as presented in the Sefer Sifsei Chaim (Middos VeAvodas Hashem, Volume I):


A.  The Torah (Shemos 23:7) teaches: MiDvar Sheker Tirchak--stay far from falsehood.  The Seforno explains that the Pasuk teaches us that we are to stay far away from anything that could lead to sheker.  He derives this from the word MiDvar--which indicates that one should distance himself from anything that has any relationship to falsehood. 


B.  There is more to truth than just speaking the truth.  Speaking the truth is just one aspect of the Middah of truth that one establishes within himself. 


C.  Many of a child’s games are based on his imagination.  Holding onto a broken piece of furniture, the child views himself as the captain of the ship, or pushing a baby carriage the child views herself as the mother of the household.  Children also enjoy reading stories of fantasy, and relating what he or she would do if he was king, or she was queen.  Many adults have left the world of toys, but still live in the world of fantasy and imagination.  One person may see himself in a position of great honor, and another dreams that he is extremely wealthy.  Indeed, there are adults who intentionally read books and watch films which bring them into this fantasy world--leaving reality for a world of illusion.  All of this illusion is sheker to be shunned.  What, then, is the purpose of imagination--is it not to take a person out of his problems and difficulties?  HaRav Friedlander teaches that it is really all for a person to raise his spiritual plane and for nothing else.  For example--a person should imagine the Ma’amad at Har Sinai--the ‘voice’ of Hashem, the stillness of the entire world, the burning fire to the heavens, and the unceasing and progressive sound of the Shofar.  All this was in order to instill within us Yiras Shomayim and the divine nature of the Torah forever!  Picture also the pain of purgatory on the one hand (“I must avoid this at all costs!”) and vividly envision the limitless and eternal bliss of Gan Eden on the other (“All of the world’s greatest Tzaddikim ever--they are all here--and me too?!”).  One’s imagination is housed in none other than his mind, and one should not allow this most precious possession to wallow on the level of a four year old. 


D.  The reason that Chazal refer to Olam Hazeh as Almah D’Shikrah is not only because one can speak untruths here, but because the physical, mortal aspect of our existence is temporary and fleeting.  A world that is not permanent cannot be a world of truth, for it is incomplete--and the truth is complete.  Accordingly, values based in this world cannot be based in truth.  In contrast, the spiritual world is an eternal one and so the spiritual world is the true metzi’us in which a person lives.  One can--and must--build a world of truth out of his existence in Olam Hazeh through ensuring that his acts are acts of nitzchiyus--as he observes the Torah and performs the Mitzvos L’Sheim Shomayim--thereby overriding falsehood for truth. 


E.  HaRav Friedlander remembers how the words of his Rebbi, HaRav Dessler, Z’tl, still ‘ring in his ears’.  Aber D’Emes Iz Emes”--but truth is truth; meaning that a person must think well as to what is really the truth, and sincerely try not to fool himself by justifying his deeds.  HaRav Dessler teaches that the Yetzer Hara works at making that which is false true, covering the truth as much as he can.  However, the Yetzer Hara cannot fully cover the truth--just as a tablecloth which is too small for the table still leaves part of the table uncovered, no matter which way one pulls it.  Because the Yetzer Hara cannot fully cover the Emes--if a person truly wants to find it, he can rid himself of the false Dimyonos--of the trivialities which form the basis of an Olam HaZeh person, and instead focus upon Torah, Tefillah and Chesed--the only true values--the values of one’s eternity.  The more one focuses upon truth--the less regard he has for the illusions of this world and the more truth will reign in all of his actions and activities.  When one has to make a decision, he must first think to himself:  What is the Emes here?  Remember Rav Dessler’s words--Aber D’Emes Iz Emes!


F.  Even within one’s spiritual activities, one can strive for more and more Emes.  The Middah of Yaakov is Emes (Titein Emes L’Yaakov, Micha 7:20 )--and Yaakov is referred to in the Torah as the Ish Tam--the complete person.  Thus, within one’s Torah study, within one’s Tefillah, within one’s Chesed, the more Emes one can inject into it, the more whole and complete he will become. 


G.  Although, as noted earlier, speech is only one aspect of the Middah of Emes, if one does work on especially refining his speech to the real truth, then one’s outward actions will affect his innermost recesses as well.  Thus, the more circumspect one is with his speech--admitting, for instance, that he does not know when he does not, the more truthful he will become as a person within.  The ‘small’ acts of control, the daily words of care, build a person who is more and more truthful--more and more complete.   Likewise, when performing a Chesed, if it is done wholeheartedly with a genuine smile and not merely to fulfill one’s obligation--one steers his entire being in the direction of truth--and one moves closer to attaining degrees of Sheleimus in this world. 


H.  One may view life in this world as an iceberg floating at sea, with only the top of the iceberg above the water and most of it submerged.  The onlooker only sees the tip--for it is Olam HaZeh.  The more we work on attaining our Sheleimus through Emes, the more the truth (the great majority of the iceberg that is under the water) is revealed to us--even in this world! 


I.  Another way of viewing the mistaken drives of Olam Hazeh is through the view of one who is on medication which lifts his spirits in an unnatural way. [Hakhel Note:  Drug addicts do this illegally--and we should take a lesson from the fact that it is illegal for them even according to earthly governments.]  To the onlooker, those on the medication are, sadly, in an unreal world--just as one who dreams at night that he has become king or won the lottery wakes up and finds that his illusion was not based in reality.  So too, when one is drawn by his whims and desires, he believes he has experienced something good and pleasant--but the truth is otherwise. 


J.  In this week’s Parsha, we learn that the donkey reprimanded Bilam with the words (Bamidbar 22:30 ):  Hahasken Hiskanti La’asos Lecha Ko--did I ever do something like this to you before?”  The haughty Bilam immediately responded in contrition:  “No”.  How were these words of the donkey such effective words of reprimand--after all, the words do not appear overly sharp or overly demanding?  What brought Bilam to the realization that he was wrong so quickly?  HaRav Friedlander explains that the donkey was telling Bilam--you are such a wise person, why don’t you simply think? Think about what is happening here.  Try to understand why I was doing something so different and so unexpected.  Use your head!  HaRav Friedlander says that these are words that we must all take to heart.  If we are sincere when we ask Hashem in our davening and in our bentsching that “Velo Neivosh LeOlam Va’ed--that we should not be eternally embarrassed, and if we are sincere when we ask Hashem to please be “Ha’er Eineinu BiSorasecha V’Dabeik Libeinu B’Mitzvosecha”, then we must be truthful not only in the way we speak, and in the way we act--but in the way we think and in making our eternal Emes the real and only priority. 


K.  At the end of Shema daily, we all say Hashem Elokeichem Emes--let us join with Hashem each and every day--in truth--and for eternity!




PLEASE NOTE!  The Kitzur Shulchan Aruch (165:6) teaches the following:  “If a child steals something and it remains in existence (such as a toy), we are obligated to return the item; if it is no longer in existence (such as a candy from the candy store), the child is patur from returning the value of the item even after he becomes of age, but in order to fulfill his obligation MiDinei Shomayim--according to the Heavenly Laws--he should then pay back what he stole.  Similarly, if he had done other aveiros as a child, at a point where he already had a level of understanding, he should accept something upon himself to demonstrate his Teshuvah in this regard--as the Pasuk teaches in Mishlei (19:2) “Gam BeLo Da’as Nefesh Lo Tov--it is not good that a soul be without knowledge.”  The Metzudas Dovid there explains that even when one does not intentionally violate a sin, it is certainly not good for his soul.  Some indication of Teshuvah is, therefore, very much in order when one later fully realizes the gravity and importance of his prior deed.




Special Note One:  Readers notes and responses, and more on brachos:


A.  As we noted last week, one of the great paradoxes of the Nechash HaNechoshes was that we were required to look at the image of a snake in order to be healed from what a snake had done to us--why?!  The answer is to teach us that it is not the snake that hurts or kills, nor the snake that heals--it is only Hashem--Who simply uses different shlichim in different contexts to fulfill His Will.  We must always recognize Ain Od Milevado.  A reader asked us to emphasize that the correct pronunciation of Milevado is with a shvah nah under the Lamed.  As we repeat the phrase often--let us say it correctly!


B.  Last week, we noted Rabbi Bodner’s Pesakim in the Halachos Of Brochos relating to onions, as served in various forms.  As a result, we received the following questions and present Rabbi Bodner’s responses to these questions: 


1. Reader Question:  Regarding the Halacha on Onion Soup-- you wrote that “*clear* soup is considered a liquid with regard to the shiur for Brachah Acharona.”  But what if the soup is not clear-rather, it has small pieces of onion in it?  If you consumed a k’zayis of the small pieces of onion within K’dei Achilas Pras, would you make a brachah acharonah of borei Nefashos--even if you don’t eat enough of the hot soup in the time of K’Dei Shesiyas Reviis?


Rabbi Bodner’s Response:  If, in your judgment, the pieces are just to give mouth-feel flavor to the liquid, like the orange juice “with lots of pulp” they are botel to the soup--and you would look only to your consumption of the soup. Otherwise if there is a k’zayis of solid eaten within K’dei Achilas Pras--one would recite a bracha acharona upon them, even if the rest of the soup is consumed slowly.


2.  Reader Question:  I wonder if the bracha of mezonos would be true of the Kineret onion rings one finds in the freezer section or in your local fast food restaurant. Aren’t they simply coated in bread crumbs with no noticeable batter?


Rabbi Bodner Response:  I do not remember examining Kineret Onion Rings. Without looking at one, I would guess that there is much more coating than onion, but you be the judge.  Hakhel Note:  For any questions on a particular product, one should consult with (and perhaps exhibit the product to) his own Rav or Posek. 


C.  We additionally asked Rabbi Bodner the following (unrelated) questions:


1.  Hakhel Question:  If one puts a piece of herring on a flat kichel at a kiddush--what bracha would he make? 


Rabbi Bodner Response:  Generally, the Mishna Berura (212:6) rules in a case such as this that one should only make a Mezonos because “the Mezonos is probably the ikar for him.” In the case of cracker and herring, I would think that most people would consider the herring the ikar for them. Therefore, in order to exercise caution, me’sofek, I would make a Shehakol and Mezonos on other items.


2.  Hakhel Question:  When making the Hamotzi, should one have specifically in mind that he intends with the Hamotzi to also cover the cake that will be served for dessert?


Rabbi Bodner Response:  The Poskim advise, that since in many cases making a bracha for cake eaten during the meal is questionable, one should have specific intent when making the HaMotzi to exempt any cakes he might subsequently eat during the meal (For further information, see Halachos of Brochos page 96 footnote 36).



Special Note Two:  We continue our Monday/Thursday listing of the Mitzvos Asei which the Chofetz Chaim writes are applicable in our times, as set forth in his Sefer Mitzvos HaKatzar.  Today, we present Mitzvos 33 and 34:


33.  Vihisvadu Es Chatasam--this is the Mitzvas Asei for one to do Teshuvah when he realizes that he has sinned, and to confess with words before Hashem, saying from the depths of his heart: “Ana Hashem Chatasi Avisi U’fashati Lefanecha Vechach Vechach Asisi [specify the sin] VeHarei Nichamti U’Boshti MeMa’asai U’LeOlam Ain Ani Chozer La’asos HaDavar Hazeh--Hashem, I have sinned before You with the following (unintentional) (negligent) (willful) sin [specify the sin], and I have remorse over, and am embarrassed by, my deed--I will not do it ever again.”  The remorse that one expresses must be sincere and one must sincerely accept upon himself not to do the sin ever again.  This is the ikar of Teshuvah, and the more one confesses the more praiseworthy he is.  Neither death nor the Vidui of Yom Kippur effect a Kapparah unless one has done Teshuvah.  This Mitzvah applies to men and women alike. 


34.  Lishbos MiMelachah BeYom Rishon Shel Sukkos--this is the Mitzvas Asei to rest from work on the first day of Sukkos, as the Pasuk teaches:  BaYom HaRishon Mikrah Kodesh.”  If one violates this Mitzvas Asei, he will also violate a Lo Sa’aseh--which prohibits us from doing Melacha on Yom Tov.  One may, however, perform the Melachos of Ochel Nefesh for himself and other Jews.  Chazal teach that two Melachos are permissible even if not for Ochel Nefesh purposes--kindling a fire and carrying.  MiDivrei Sofrim, we observe a second day of Yom Tov in Chutz La’aretz, which is known as Yom Tov Sheini Shel Galiyos.  This Mitzvah applies to men and women alike. 



Special Note Three:  We continue with our study of the Nineteen Brachos of Shemone Esrei.  This week we focus on the Ninth Bracha of Shemone Esrei--Birkas HaShanim.  Since the First Bracha of Shemone Esrei, we have not began a Bracha with the term ‘Bareich’--bless us with.  Here, we will ask Hashem for the blessing of Parnassah and sustenance.  We note that the first word in Birkas Kohanim is ‘Yevarechecha--bless us, which Rashi (Bamidbar 6:24 ), quoting Chazal, writes refers to blessing one with prosperity.  With this word, then, we especially emphasize our absolute recognition that all of our monetary matters, all of our wealth and all of our possessions are a blessing from Hashem.  Indeed, the second word of the Bracha--’Aleinu’--upon us is a direct request that Hashem bring these blessings down upon us.  HaRav Chaim Kanievsky, Shlita, points out that there are only three brachos in Shemone Esrei (after the First Bracha) that begin not only with the  one name of  Hashem’ or with ‘Atta’, but with ‘Hashem Elokeinu’--they are Bareich Aleinu Hashem Elokeinu, Shema Koleinu Hashem Elokeinu, and Retzei Hashem Elokeinu.  In his unique and unparalleled manner, HaRav Chaim explains that each reference is based on a specific Pasuk--Lema’an Yevarechecha Hashem Elokecha (Devarim 14:29 ); Hashem Elokim Shemah Tefillasi (Tehillim 84:9); and Hashem Elokecha Yirtzecha (Shmuel II 24:23)! 


Hakhel Note:  The story is related in the Sefer Talelei Oros of how the Maharil Diskin, Z’tl,  once gave a Shiur in which he thoroughly analyzed whether it was a greater nisayon (test) to be wealthy, or a greater nisayon to be poor.  He concluded that it was a greater nisayon to be wealthy.  A short while later a student came in distraught and crying.  The Maharil Diskin looked up, and lovingly asked the student why he was so disturbed.   The student replied that he had just learned that he had come upon a fortune--and would now be faced with the more difficult test of wealth--and that he did not really want to face this difficult test.  The Maharil responded that being wealthy was only a greater nisayon if a person did not recognize or understand the sakanah involved with it.  Since you do understand, my precious child, what the dangers are--to you, it is not a nisayon, but a blessing.”  He then asked the student to recite the bracha of HaTov VeHaMeitiv [not Shehechiyanu --as the student’s family would also be benefiting from the wealth] in his presence--so that the Maharil could answer “Amen”!

Hakhel Note:  Let us appreciate the lesson well--and seek to apply it in our monetary matters!



Special Note Four:  The following is excerpted from the foreword by HaRav Mattisyahu Salomon, Shlita, to the Sefer Yearning with Fire by Rabbi Heshy Kleinman, Shlita:


“Who among us mourns for Yerushalayim? Who among us appreciates what we are missing? Who among us pleads with Hashem for a rebuilt Yerushalayim because he feels an aching need for it?  Who among us exclaims in complete sincerity, “If I forget you, O Yerushalayim, may my right hand forget its power”?  The Yerushalayim for which we long so desperately and whose loss we have mourned for thousands of years - it is not the land and the buildings of Yerushalayim that we miss. It is the supreme connection with Hashem that Yerushalayim represents.  Recreating Yerushalayim in our imaginations as a conduit for our prayers is the best available to us right now, but it is no comparison to a rebuilt Yerushalayim, crowned with a shining Temple in which the Divine Presence will dwell forever. Only when we appreciate what Yerushalayim represents and what we have lost can we grieve over its destruction….Deep in our hearts, we must recreate the exalted idea of Yerushalayim, of unity among all Jews in the quest for ever greater closeness to Hashem.  If only we can do this, Hashem may just decide to let us see Yerushalayim rebuilt speedily in our days!”


Hakhel Note:  Chazal teach that within thirty days of a Yom Tov, we are to begin learning about that Yom Tov.  As we know, Tisha B’Av is referred to as a ‘Mo’ed’--and it would behoove us to begin thinking the thoughts during these thirty advance days of Yerushalayim and the need for our Geulah.  In his masterful work, Yearning with Fire, Rabbi Kleinman explains how one can do his part in fulfillment and accomplishment of Tzipisah LiShuah.  This clear and movingly written Sefer is divided into 5-minute a day segments, to study over an 89 day period.  If one starts today, he will finish approximately on Yom Kippur.  Hopefully our Geulah will have taken place well before then--while one is in the process of longing for it!  In all events--after 120 years one of the questions a person is asked is ‘Tzipisah LiShuah--did you truly anticipate the redemption?’  If one has read the Sefer, he certainly has the beginnings of a good answer…and if one applies what he learned from the Sefer--he will have even a better answer!



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