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24 Menachem Av

THE HERE AND NOW !  In last week’s Parsha (Devarim 10:12 ), the Torah writes “Ve’Atta Yisrael Mah Hashem Elokecha Sho’el Mai’imach--and now what does Hashem ask of you...?”  The Chofetz Chaim provides an essential insight here:  The Torah emphasizes the word Ve’Atta--and now--to teach that a person must realize that what is expected of him changes, and that a person must ask himself from time to time--What Is My Avodah Now?  We note that the word for now--Ve’Atta is (at least in current Ashkenaz practice) pronounced the same as Ve’Atta--meaning ‘and You’ (the only difference being that the former word has an Ayin, and the latter, an Aleph).  Thus, a person must recognize that he has his own set of circumstances, his own obligations, his own potential and his own path--and it is in the here and now!



TREAT YOURSELF TO A BETTER NIGHTTIME SNACK!  So the cereal label reads….  At night, when we have a few (albeit) tired moments for ourselves, we have the opportunity in addition to perhaps giving our body a treat for its hard work during the day, to give our Neshama a gift for its patiently waiting for us to spend a few moments of quality time with ourselves. Whether it be after Ma’ariv, at a set time (such as 11:00PM), or before retiring to bed, we should attempt to provide some special nourishment to our Neshama by studying a different peirush on the Parsha, a new Sefer, reading the biography of a Gadol, or the like, in order to ignite, inspire and uplift ourselves for the rest of the evening and the coming day. Treat yourself!



POSTSCRIPT:  Yesterday, we spent a moment on Dibarnu Dofi--the sins of speech. The Chofetz Chaim points out that the Yetzer Hara lures us into improper communications with the guise that there is no Ma’aseh involved and the few negative words uttered are accordingly a davar she’ein bo mammash--something without real substance, as they get lost in thin air never to be seen again [in this world] after being uttered. Strikingly, however,  the Chofetz Chaim continues: “ HaKilkul Shemagiyah L’Ma’alah Ahl Yidei Diburav Hu Harbei Yoser Me’mah Shemagiya Ahl Yedei Ma’asav--for the damage and ruin created in heaven through one’s speech is much greater than the damage and ruin created by improper physical deeds(!)” Hakhel Note: In our times, the  of blogging can unfortunately straddle the kilkul of dibur (communicating) and of ma’aseh (typing)--and we suggest that it may be one of the most important things to avoid participating in, unless one can be sure that the context is truly pristine.




Special Note One: Today, we continue our series in which we will refer to one Ahl Cheit a day through the Yomim Nora’im period, so that we have the opportunity to briefly review each one of them in steady steps. Today, we study the second Ahl Cheit under the letter Daled:


Ahl Cheit Shechatanu Lefanecha BeDa’as U’v’mirmah--With Knowledge/With Deceit


HaRav Eliyahu Dessler, Z’tl, explains that the Da’as referred to here is knowledge which exceeds the person’s actual deeds. For instance a person who studies Kabbalah before he corrects his Middos could bring true harm upon himself. Mirmah then continues HaRav Dessler, refers to one who fools himself (which can be worse than fooling others). The more common explanation of this Ahl Cheit refers to sins which we committed with knowledge, allowing ourselves to succumb to our desire [Bein Adam LaMakom], or deceitfully claiming that what we had done to another was unintentional [Bein Adam LeChaveiro]. The Dover Shalom adds that the Yetzer Hara can work in one of two ways--either he can convince the person that even though he knows it is wrong, he should still go ahead with it for one reason or another, or he convinces the person that there is nothing wrong with what he is about to do. As people of intelligence, we must recognize the Yetzer Hara’s approach in both cases--and be on the alert.



Special Note Two:  As we noted, yesterday was the Steipeler’s Yahrzeit.  A reader had pointed us to one (of the thousands) of the profound lessons from the Steipeler, with the following story found in the sefer The Rosh Yeshivah Remembers (Artscroll, p.307):  “One time, when an additional volume of Kehilas Yaakov was published, the printer (who was anonymous) neglected to put the Steipeler’s address in one of the first pages of the Sefer.  The Steipeler lamented: ‘I am so disappointed--How will the public know where I live so that they can buy a copy (it was not sold in Seforim Stores)?’  Someone who heard tried to console him--’Everyone knows where the Rav lives--don’t worry!’  The Steipeler remained disturbed: ‘The printing of the entire sefer is not worth it for me if it causes even one person to have to trouble himself to search for my address!’”  Hakhel Note:  Causing another person some excess effort or ‘trouble’ was ‘not worth’ even a wonder Sefer as the Kehilas Yaakov--this was the Steipeler’s P’sak.  How we can learn from this to value the time, patience and efforts of another--and not cause them any undue stress or distress.  Can we act like the Steipeler --at least one conscious time a day?!



Special Note Three:  The Zohar (to Parshas Balak) brings from Rebbi Abba that there are three types of Tefillos: Tefillah L’Moshe (Tehillim 90), Tefillah L’Dovid (Tehillim 86) and Tefillah L’Ani (Tehillim 102). Of the three Tefillos, which is the most chashuv? It is that of the Ani, of the poor person, for his heart is most broken and Karov Hashem L’Nishbirei Lev--Hashem is close to those who have a broken heart. When the Ani davens, Hashem allows his Tefillos to rise directly to Him. Dovid HaMelech realized that the windows and gates of heaven are open for the Ani, and he accordingly took off his crown and sat on the earth as a poor person and exclaimed (Tehillim 86:1):  Hateh Hashem Aznecha Aneini Key Ani V’Evyon Ahni”. The great lesson for each and every person to learn is to view himself as an Ani before HaKadosh Baruch Hu in Tefillah--knowing that each and every thing is a gift from Hashem, nothing is to be taken for granted--and that Hashem, and Hashem only is the Source of all--from the smallest speck of salt to Dovid HaMelech’s palace in Yerushalayim. If one does so, his Tefillos can pass through all ostensible barriers, and arrive at the heavenly throne!



Special Note Four: For all that He does for us, it would be only right that we tried to do something to make HaKadosh Baruch Hu happy.  The Zohar HaKadosh (brought by the Ohr HaChaim HaKadosh in last week’s Parsha) writes that what makes Hashem happiest is when we study Torah.  In a Sefer that was written by a grandson of HaRav Shmuel Berenbaum, Z’tl, he writes that his zeide told him that what he should work on most in contemplating Teshuva is the study of Torah, because with improvement in learning, midos and all else would fall into place (as evidenced by the Steipeler story presented above).  A week from today is the first day of Elul.  Perhaps an appropriate undertaking might be that prior or even during learning to have kavannah that you are studying Torah to give Nachas Ruach—happiness--to Hashem, and that you are studying in order to understand the Torah and properly fulfill the Mitzvos!




23 Menachem Av

LEMA’AN SHEMECHA:  HaRav Avigdor Miller, Z’tl, explains that when we ask Hashem to do something LeMa’an Shemecha--for the sake of His Name (such as in the Seventh Bracha of Shemone Esrei--Re’eh VeAnyeinu, and in Elokai Netzor at the end of Shemone Esrei, and many times in the Vehu Rachum Tefillah on Mondays and Thursdays)--we do not mean to ask Hashem to do something simply so that He has a ‘greater Name in the world’. Hashem does not need a greater Name--after all, who are we to improve Hashem’s Name?! What we actually mean is that if our prayers are answered, then we will attribute the Geulah, the Yeshuah, etc. to Hashem and we will constantly thank Hashem for it--and this will improve our relationship with, and our Dveikus to Him. We ask Hashem to help us--so that we can come closer to Him! HaRav Miller adds that one should not recognize Hashem’s saving hand just on the day or the week in which he experiences it--but rather he should keep it with him and recall it from time-to-time [when reciting Modim or at some other time]. Hakhel Note: Perhaps one can keep a brief record of the Yeshuos that Hashem has provided for him, and look through his records from time-to-time!




Special Note One:  Today is the Yahrzeit of the Steipeler Gaon, Z’tl, whose righteousness and Ahavas Yisrael were already legendary in his own time.  The Luach Dovor BeIto brings that he would advise people to daven Yom Kippur Koton to be saved from sickness and negative events or occurrences.  He would also recommend (based on the Sefer Kaf Hachaim, Orach Chaim 281) that people in need of a Yeshua undertake as a kabbala to recite Nishmas Kol Chai with joy in the presence of a minyan--when the Yeshua would be received.  This undertaking, in turn, would serve as a great zechus for the needed Yeshua. 



Special Note Two: Today, we continue our series in which we will refer to one Ahl Cheit a day through the Yomim Nora’im period, so that we have the opportunity to briefly review each one of them in steady steps. Today, we study the first Ahl Cheit under the letter Daled:


Ahl Cheit Shechatanu Lefanecha BeDibur Peh--Sins of Speech


Iyun Tefillah explains that sins of speech go beyond what we usually refer to as Lashon Hara, and include mentioning Hashem’s Name flippantly without proper regard, excessive talk, words of friction and dispute, and using coarse language or biting words, rather than speaking softly and gently. In the essential Sefer Pathway to Prayer (for Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur), by Rabbi Mayer Birnbaum, Shlita, he relates that soon after Reb Itzele Peterburger, Z’tl, passed away, he appeared to his dear friend, HaRav Chaim Berlin, [Z’tl], who asked him how he had fared in his judgment in the Next World. HaRav Itzele answered that the judgment was very stringent--but that there is an especially great strictness regarding forbidden words.  The Rabbeinu Yonah (Sha’arei Teshuvah 3:63) notes that one who curses a parent receives the punishment of sekilah, which is a more severe form of death penalty than one who hits and draws blood from a parent, in which the punishment is chenek. It is noteworthy that we recite Viduy not simply over Dibur Ra’ah--but over Dibur Peh--words of the mouth, which indicates that we have not properly thought through that which we have said, rather allowing words to carelessly leave our mouths, which can definitely result in hurt, havoc and destruction. As one of our readers advised us, he tries to make his brachos over food not only from his mouth--but from his heart. As much as possible, this is the place from which all of our speech should originate!



Special Note Three:  We asked the following shailos to Rabbi Yitzhak Jaeger, Shlita, (mechaber with Rabbi Elazar Barclay of the Guidelines to Halacha Series, which includes the Sefer Guidelines to Brachos). We thank him for his responses below.  As in all matters of halacha, one should consult with his own Rav or Posek for a definitive P’sak.


Question: If one hears thunder which wakes him up (and sees lightening out the window as he opens his eyes) can he make a bracha or does he require netilas yodaim first in which case he will miss this opportunity. 

Answer:  He should wipe his hands quickly on his bed sheets and recite the bracha.

Question:  If one is in the middle of learning--let us say actually saying the words of the Gemara and hears thunder--does he stop learning in order to make a bracha? If there is the slightest chance that it is something else (even though it is raining hard outside) should he go outside in order to be sure?

 Answer:     See Be’er Moshe 2:10 that one should be mafsik in the middle of learning. I would assume though that only if one is certain. I don’t think it is necessary to stop learning and go and see if it was thunder one heard.


 Question:  Is rumbling enough for thunder--or must one hear a crashing type of sound?

Answer:  Rumbling is enough.



Special Note Four:  Some final points and pointers on last week’s Parsha, Parshas Eikev:


A.  The Parsha teaches that Hashem seeks for us to fear Him. Rabbi Elias Schwartz, Shlita, notes that very often we refer to fearing Hashem not as ‘Yiras Hashem’, but as ‘Yiras Shomayim (Fear of the Heavens)’.  Rabbi Schwartz explains that this may be so because the heavens have never moved nor changed since the very beginning of creation--the heavens today are the very same heavens of the first and second days of creation!  We must demonstrate that our service of Hashem is also immutable--without faltering or compromise, without being pliable to the winds of time, without being torn by the problems of modern civilization.  Yiras Shomayim means that we will follow the path that Hashem has set for us in this world--and will not deviate, diverge, swerve or sway from our life’s mission.  From time to time--you can look up at the sky--and remind yourself that you, too are blessed with Yiras Shomayim! 


B.  Rashi on the Pasuk VeAvadetem Meheirah Meiahl Ha’aretz (found in the second parsha of Shema, Devarim 11:17 ) writes that we learn from the word Meheirah that Hashem reserves the right to punish us even without prior warning. How could this be--after all, wasn’t the Dor HaMabul given due warning, why shouldn’t K’lal Yisrael be given notice as well?! Chazal explain--because the Dor HaMabul did not have from whom to learn--”VeAtem Yeish Lachem Me’me Lilmod--you do have from whom to learn!”  Hakhel Note:  We must make proper connection with our Rabbanim and our teachers--from whom we can learn. Even if they do not appear readily available because they are so busy, one should take the time and make the effort to get close to them, call them, and understand that they are ‘someone from whom I must learn’. If one has from whom to learn--Hashem expects him to do so!


C.  The Pasuk (also in the second Parsha of Shema, 11:18 ), teaches that we are to internalize the teachings of the Torah, by “placing it upon our hearts and souls”.  Rashi here adds that this Pasuk is specifically written to the Jews in Galus (after they have been driven from their land in punishment)--we in Galus are to observe the Mitzvos, so that when we return to our land at the time of the Geulah, the Mitzvos will not be new and strange to us.  We must seriously reflect on the words of Rashi--we are keeping the Mitzvos in the here and now--so that we will be better prepared for the time of Geulah!  How we must long for the Geulah--for that is truly the time when our Mitzvah performance reaches its real meaning, and we reach our true fulfillment!




22 Menachem Av

THE LINK TO EMES!:  By clicking here we provide a compilation of our short notes on Tikun Midas HaEmes, as excerpted from the Sefer MiDevar Sheker Tirchak by Rabbi Avraham Tovalsky--read, review, enjoy...and grow!



Special Note One: We B’EH continue our Monday/Thursday study of the Sefer Mitzvos HaKatzar, with the Mitzvos Lo Sa’asei which the Chofetz Chaim writes are applicable in our times.  Today, we present Mitzvos Lo Sa’aseh 176 and 177:


176. Shelo Legaleiach Peios HaRosh-- this is the Mitzvas Lo Sa’aseh which prohibits one from shaving the ‘corners’ found on his head with each corner being a separate prohibition. It is the one who actually does the shaving who receives makkos for each corner shaved, with the one whose head is being shaved getting makkos only if he helps in the shaving through a physical act. Not only is shaving the corners prohibited, but even utilizing scissors as a razor is prohibited as well. A women is not subject to this prohibition relating to her own head, but she is nevertheless prohibited from shaving a man’s or even a young boy’s head. This prohibition applies in all places and at all times.


177. Shelo Lehashchis Pe’as Hazakan--this is the Mitzvas Lo Sa’aseh which prohibits one from destroying [shaving with a razor] any one of the five corners of his beard, with each corner being a separate prohibition. One is only prohibited from shaving with a razor [Hakhel Note: the prohibition includes utilizing a shaver which shaves like a razor, in accordance with the various rulings of contemporary Poskim]. Once again, it is the one who actually does the shaving who receives makkos for each corner shaved, with the one whose head is being shaved getting makkos only if he helps in the shaving through a physical act. One who shaves his entire beard with a razor or a shaver that cuts like a razor is not only oveir on five lavin--one for each of the five corners-- but also violates “U’vechukoseihem Lo Seileichu” and “Velo Yilbash Gever Simlas Isha”.  A woman is not subject to this prohibition relating to herself, but she is nevertheless prohibited from shaving a man’s beard. This prohibition applies in all places and at all times.



Special Note Two: Today, we continue our series in which we will refer to one Ahl Cheit a day through the Yomim Nora’im period, so that we have the opportunity to briefly review each one of them in steady steps. Today, we study the second Ahl Cheit under the letter Gimmel:


Ahl Cheit Shechatanu Lefanecha BeGiluy Arayos--Immoral Behavior


Although certain relationships are prohibited by the Sheva Mitzvos Bnei Noach to the entire world, the Torah Jew’s restrictions relating to immorality are far more pervasive. The great importance of the arayos restrictions, and their essential application to our way of life is highlighted by the fact that of all the Parshios of the Torah, we specially read the Parshas Arayos on Yom Kippur afternoon, after reading only about the Yom Kippur service in the morning Torah reading. To be sure, not only is the definition of what constitutes a forbidden relationship much more expanded for Bnei Yisrael, but the paths and directions which could c’v lead us there are very much guarded by the Torah and Chazal as well. It is for this reason that, unless otherwise permitted by familial relationship, it is forbidden to chat with members of the opposite gender for no particular reason, for a man to walk behind a women, to come into physical contact with a member of the opposite gender, or to otherwise look, listen, smell, think or talk in a manner which even has the theoretical or indirect potential of something that could lead to a violation of the Torah’s prohibitions against any of the forbidden relationships.  HaRav Eliyahu Dessler, Z’tl, notes that sin begins by allowing one’s initial desire to be awakened.... Hakhel Note: In Kosher supermarkets, it is apparent that female cashiers have been trained to put change down on the counter rather than hand the change to a male--one should keep the distancing in other stores and situations as well, “Thanks very much you can just put it down”, etc. One must also make the effort to avoid to the extent possible places and circumstances which are rife with temptation--e.g., the check-out counters in non-Jewish stores ( CVS , Rite Aid and the like)--...“can’t I really buy it elsewhere even if it costs a little more--it will really be worth it!”



Special Note Three:  Rabbi Jonathan Rietti, Shlita made a great observation: When one person has a complaint against another person, he wants that person to change. In his eyes, that person is doing something wrong or inappropriate.  In reality, if you simply complain directly to the person about his attitude or conduct, in all likelihood he will not modify his conduct, for people resist challenge and change in a negative or confrontational setting. Indeed, when was the last time that you told a person to change to meet your ideas about what was right--and he listened to you  simply because of your demand or request?!  Rabbi Rietti therefore suggests a wholly different approach to an adverse situation or feeling: Rather than being upset with the person, recognize that Hashem has sent the person or situation into my life--not to change him or it--but to change you! I have to learn from the experience to grow personally. If I change...that is the way they may change as well!




19 Menachem Av

VESAVATA: In this week’s Parsha, we encounter the word Vesavata--and you will be satiated, twice--once in the Mitzvah of bentsching, Ve’achalta Vesavata, and another in the second Parsha of Kriyas Shema--VeNasati Eisev BeSadecha…VeAchalta Vesavata--in both instances the proper pronunciation of the word Vesavata is by emphasis on the middle of the word--vesaVAta. We suggest that this teaches us that to the Torah Jew, one does not eat to the end--to his fill, but is satiated well before then!



NO COINCIDENCE!  In this week’s Haftara, Yeshayahu HaNavi advises us (49:17) “Mehorsayich U’Machrivayich Memeich Yeitzeiu--which can be interpreted to mean, those who are out to bring you down and destroy you will come from within.” This past week, we have witnessed how members of the Israeli government have acted towards the Torah and those that follow it. In a certain sense, we feel and suffer the pain of those who witnessed the Churban after hearing the Navi warn against it. What should we do? The beginning of this Pasuk gives us the answer:  Meharu Banayich”--which can be interpreted to mean hurry to do Teshuvah--so that we are not forced to witness further acts of horror and disgust from amongst our own people. Let us hurry--starting today!




Special Note One:  Today, we continue our series in which we will refer to one Ahl Cheit a day through the Yomim Nora’im period, so that we have the opportunity to briefly review each one of them in steady steps. Today, we study the first Ahl Cheit under the letter Gimmel:


Ahl Cheit Shechatanu Lefanecha BaGalui U’Vasaser--Openly or Secretly


Whether a sin is performed in public or in private, there is a common denominator of rebelliousness against Hashem. When done in public, the sinner shows no shame, and causes others to follow suit--which is a Chilul Hashem. On the other hand, when one sins privately, he demonstrates that he is more concerned with what people think than with Hashem’s actual presence and direct knowledge of what he is doing. HaRav Eliyahu Dessler, Z’tl, adds that the term galui also refers to the sin of a person performing a Mitzvah publicly in order to gain the honor and respect of others, for a person’s service of Hashem must be with modesty and truth. The question becomes why these two very different kinds of sin--galui and saser are placed together in one Ahl Cheit--after all, they appear to truly be opposites? Based upon the Anaf Yosef commentary found in the Siddur Otzar HaTefillos, we suggest that the two are placed together to highlight for us that there is indeed no ‘better’ or ‘worse’ way to sin--sins in a public place or in seclusion are both awful--but for different reasons. The public sin involves r’l a greater Chilul Hashem and causes others to stumble, while the secluded sin r’l implies a personal denial of the existence of Hashem’s presence at that moment. The continuum of sin between the extremes of public display and innermost hiding is not a pleasant one--with the only question being, is the particular act a greater Chilul Hashem, or greater lack of Shevisi Hashem L’negdi Somid? One should think about any ‘public’ or ‘private’ sins that he has performed--whether in the presence of tens of others on the street, or in the privacy of his closed office--and jot them down--for Teshuvah is very much in order, and very much required.



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


A. One should recite VaYechulu after Shemone Esrei on Leil Shabbos aloud, for he is testifying and exclaiming to the world that Hashem created the heavens and the earth in six days. Although one must stand if at all possible when doing so, he may lean against a table. If one is towards the end of Shemone Esrei, having recited Yeheyu L’Ratzon Imrei Phi and started Elokai Netzor, when the Tzibbur has started VaYechulu, he can recite VaYechulu with the Tzibbur even though he has not taken three steps back (Shulchan Aruch Orach Chaim 268, 7 and Dirshu Notes 21, 22 and 23). Note: The Mishna Berurah brings a Tur in the name of the Sefer Chassidim as follows: There was one chossid to whom another chossid appeared in a dream after his death. The deceased’s face was green. When the chossid who saw this asked the deceased why his countenance appeared so, he replied: “Because I talked when the Tzibbur was reciting VaYechulu, Magein Avos and Kaddish.”


B. We do not recite Mizmor Lesodah (Tehillim 100) at Shacharis on Shabbos because we do not bring a Korban Todah on Shabbos. However, if one mistakenly began Mizmor Lesodah, he can finish the Chapter, because the only place where the Korban Todah is actually mentioned is the second word of the Kepitel, which he has already recited. Moreover, one is reciting the Kepitel in order to praise Hashem (SA OC 281, Dirshu Note 3).


C. The Levush writes that we recite Nishmas on Shabbos because of the neshama yeseira we have, and the Eliyahu Rabba there adds that when we recite Nishmas, we attain a chochma yeseirah (SA OC ibid. Note 5).


D. The Chayei Adam rules that one cannot skip the pizmonim that we add in Birkos Kriyas Shema on Shabbos of LaKeil Asher Shavas or HaKol Yoducha in order to be able to recite the Shemone Esrei together with the Tzibbur. This is because they are part of the Nusach HaBracha (ibid. Mishna Berurah seif katan 3). It would appear that the same would be true for Keil Adon--one could not skip it in order to recite the Shemone Esrei together with the Tzibbur (SA OC ibid., Dirshu Note 3).


E. If a Chazan extends his niggun in Kaddish at the words V’Imru Amein, one should answer Amen immediately, and not wait until the end of his niggun, because with the words in Kaddish of U’Vezman Kariv or DeAmiran B’Olma the request is concluded and so the Amen should be the immediate response (SA OC ibid., Dirshu Note 11).



Special Note Three:  Because this week’s Parsha provides the great Mitzvah of Birkas HaMazon, we provide a review of certain Halachos and Hashkafos relating to it:


A. The following points and pointers are culled from the Dirshu Mishna Berurah:


1.  If one finished his meal and washed Mayim Achronim, or picked up a Kos in order to lead bentsching, he can no longer eat and drink, and should not even speak (even Divrei Torah) until he has bentsched.  If the Ba’al HaBayis said “Let’s bentsch” and then someone wants to drink, he must make a new bracha on the drink.  If one wants to eat, it is a Machlokes Rishonim as to whether he must make a new bracha or not.  Accordingly, the Mishna Berurah rules that lechatchila one should be careful not to eat after the Ba’al HaBayis has said “Let’s bentsch”.  If, however, the Ba’al HaBayis has merely said “Let’s wash our hands”, the Ben Ish Chai rules that one may continue to eat and drink--as this is not the equivalent of “Let’s bentsch”. Similarly, the reciting of Shir HaMa’alos or Al Naharos Bavel do not in and of themselves end the Seudah, and one can continue to eat afterwards (unless, of course, one had decided that he no longer intended to eat). 


2.  One should leave over a piece of bread on the table while bentsching in order to demonstrate how Hashem provides for everyone’s needs, and so that the bracha of bentsching has something to rest upon (like the oil of Elisha).  HaRav Elyashiv, Z’tl, rules, however, that leaving something on the table is only necessary for bentsching, and need not be done for Al HaMichya.  From a reader: “The Mishna Berurah to Shulchan Aruch Orach Chaim 180 seif katan 4 (from G’ra) says that one should only not bring a whole loaf if there are crumbs, but if there are no crumbs, it might even be better to bring a whole loaf (Zohar).”


3.  If there are crumbs left over at the end of a meal, HaRav Scheinberg, Z’tl, rules that it is better to give them to an animal than to dispose of them. 


4.  Although we are required to take knives off the table for bentsching (because the table is like a Mizbe’ach and items similar to items of war do not belong on a Mizbe’ach, and in order to avoid a person stabbing himself with the knife when thinking about the current status of Yerushalayim as he recites U’Vnei Yerushalayim), HaRav Moshe Feinstein, Z’tl, rules that this is not true of a spreading knife, such as a butter knife.  There is a disagreement as to whether the knife must be taken off the table or can simply be covered.  The Kaf HaChaim (al pi kabbalah) writes that the knife must be taken off the table, while the Steipeler Gaon, Z’tl, and HaRav Scheinberg, Z’tl, both rule that the knife can be covered--and even then only the sharp part of the knife need be covered, and not the handle.  There is also a disagreement among the Poskim as to whether a knife which is not made of metal such as a plastic knife need be covered. The Shevet HaLevi, Shlita, rules that it must be covered, while the Tehillah L’Dovid rules that only metal knives need be covered.  On Shabbos and Yom Tov, the Shulchan Aruch writes that it is the Minhag not to remove or cover knives on the table during bentsching. 


5.  Even though we do not have Melech Sedomis, which is the physical reason given for which Mayim Achronim is required, the Sefer Peleh Yoetz writes that we must nevertheless fulfill the Halachos of Mayim Achronim--for even if the physical salt which blinds the eye no longer exists and need not be washed away--we must still follow the words of the Chachomim, so that our Einei Sechel V’Nefesh--the eyes of our intellect and soul remain intact, for “the words of the Chachomim reach the Heavens--and their essence is uplifted and exalted!”


6.  It is Mitzvah Min HaMuvchar for a zimun of three to bentsch over a cup of wine/grape juice--and if this is not available--even chamar medina will do.  There is a difference of opinion as to what chamar medina is.  It is reported, for instance, that HaRav Elyashiv, Z’tl, allowed pure orange juice as chamar medina, but that the Chazon Ish did not.  Accordingly, one should consult with his Rav or Posek as to what is deemed chamar medina should he wish to use anything other than wine or grape juice for bentsching (or Havdalah).  It is the opinion of HaRav Elyashiv, Z’tl, and HaRav Scheinberg, Z’tl, that coffee and tea would be considered chamar medina. 


7.  Although a Kos Shel Bracha must be cleaned inside and outside before use, HaRav Nissim Karelitz, Shlita, rules that if the becher was cleaned on the previous Motza’ei Shabbos, it need not be cleaned again for Kiddush on Friday night.  Similarly, if the becher was cleaned prior to being put away last and is now intended to be used for bentsching, one need not re-wash the cup. 


8.  The kos being used for bentsching should be lifted a tefach (3-4 inches above the table), in order to fulfill the Pasuk of “Kos Yeshuos Esah”.  If the kos has a long stem, HaRav Shlomo Zalman Auerbach, Z’tl, rules that one can hold the kos a tefach from where the kos is attached to the stem, and not a tefach from the bottom of the stem (its base).  Although the Minhag HaOlam appears to be to hold the cup only until LeOlam Al Yechasereinu, the Chacham Tzvi, the Kaf HaChaim, and the Shevet HaLevi rule that the kos should be held until one makes a Borei Pri HaGafen over it. 


9.  The person leading the zimun should say at least the entire first bracha out loud, and one should follow along with him in an undertone, in order to properly fulfill the Mitzvah of zimun.  He should only go ahead a bit at the end, so that all can answer Amen to his bracha. 


10.  One must appreciate how important it is not to disturb his bentsching.  As we have noted in the past, the Yesod V’Shoresh HaAvodah brings in his tzava’ah to his children that he would daven before he bentsched that nobody would knock on his door, which would disturb his concentration.  In any event, one is not allowed to talk or to greet someone, and the Kaf HaChaim writes that one must treat the bentsching as the Shemone Esrei--and not even answer to Kaddish, Kedusha, or Barchu, but just listen and be a ‘Shome’ah K’Oneh’.  It follows then HaRav Shlomo Zalman Auerbach rules, that one would not answer Amen to the brachos of another person bentsching together with him--except for the person leading the zimun.  The Ben Ish Chai rules that once one begins the HaRachamans at the end of bentsching he can answer Amen, but he cannot speak generally. 


Note:  As far as what one can answer in the bracha HaTov V’HaMaitiv, see the Orach HaShulchan 183:8.


11.  If a child has eaten to satiation and is unsure whether he bentsched or not, HaRav Shlomo Zalman Auerbach rules that he should bentsch again so that the child learns that when he reaches of age he should bentsch again.  Similarly, if a child has eaten less the a kezayis, HaRav Shlomo Zalman Auerbach rules that if he is satiated he should bentsch--for he must learn that when one is satiated he will have a Mitzvah D’Oryasah to bentsch when he comes of age.  There is a difference of opinion among authorities as to whether a child should learn and recite only one bracha of bentsching at a time, or whether the child should say a little bit from each bracha.  HaRav Shlomo Zalman Auerbach, for instance, rules that the child should learn one bracha at a time.  HaRav Elyashiv, Z’tl, rules that the child can say a portion of every bracha, and this apparently appears to be the ruling of the Mishna Berurah as well (see Shulchan Aruch, Orach Chaim 186, Mishna Berurah seif katan 4). 


12.  There is a difference of opinion among authorities as to whether a woman who ate to satiation and is unsure whether she bentsched, should nevertheless bentsch.  Although the Mishna Berurah rules that the woman can bentsch, the Kaf HaChaim writes that another eitzah for her would be to make HaMotzi, eat another kezayis, and bentsch --having in mind her previous eating as well. 


13.  When one says Amen after U’Vnei Yerushalayim, it is in order to distinguish the first three brachos of bentsching from the last bracha--as the first three is MiD’oraysa--and the last is MiD’rabanan.  However, one should not wait more than 2-3 seconds between the word Yerushalayim and Amen.


14.  The Aruch HaShulchan (189:2) writes that the bracha of HaTov V’HaMaitiv, which was instituted over the fallen of Beitar being taken to burial in their complete state years later, is intended to teach us that even when Hashem is upset with us he does not leave us and still performs miracles and wonders on our behalf. 


15.  The Mishna Berurah writes that one should study the Sefer Eliyahu Rabbah, Siman 187, for additional Halachos relating to Birkas HaMazon. 


B. The following points and pointers are culled from the Sefer VeZos HaBracha by HaRav Aleksander Mandelbaum, Shlita:


1.  The Pasuk which sets forth the Mitzvah is actually recited in the second bracha of Birkas HaMazon: “VeAchalTA VeSaVAta U’VairachTA...” Hakhel Note: Just as in Kriyas Shema where  the emphasis on the word ‘VeAhavTA’ is on the last syllable--the ‘ta’, and not on the middle syllable of ‘hav’(which incorrect pronunciation would change the meaning of the word to past tense), so too the emphasis on the word VeAchalTA is placed  on the ‘ta’ and not on the ‘achal’  (which mispronunciation would likewise alter the meaning of the word to the past tense).


2.   Before commencing Birkas HaMazon, one should have in mind or recite that he is about to fulfill the Mitzvas Aseh of Birkas HaMazon--with awe and love. From a reader: “The Sefer Shem Olam by the Chofetz Chaim reminds us that in the second bracha of Nodeh, we must remember to have Kavannah and to give thanks to Hashem for Eretz Yisrael, for Food, for our Bris with Hashem and for the Torah.  The Chofetz Chaim even writes “Ba’Avoseinu HaRabbim” we say Nodeh--we give thanks without Kavannah.  One should be SHTARK especially in the second bracha!”


3.  While bentsching, one should feel ‘Simcha Yeseira’--an extra measure of joy, just as one would feel after having received a beautiful gift from another.


4.  Lechatchila, in the first instance, one should Bentsch from a Siddur or Bentscher, and bentsch out loud, or at least loud enough to hear the words one are saying .


5.  One should be sure to be respectably dressed.


6.  One should bentsch while sitting, to increase Kavanna.


7.  If one is thirsty, he should be sure to drink before ending the meal, for some opinions require drinking if thirsty in order to fulfill the Mitzvas Aseh D’Oraysa to Bentsch.


8.  One should eat a kezayis of bread within a three (3) minute span at some point during the course of the meal, so that he will have eaten the minimum shiur required for Birkas HaMazon bichdei achilas peras. If one does not do so, than according to HaRav Moshe Feinstein, z’tl, he should not bentsch. It is for this reason that many are careful to eat a kezayis of bread bichdei achilas peras ( once again, three minutes according to HaRav Feinstein) at the beginning of the meal, rather than nibbling on bread or challah in between courses of a meal.


9.  One must bentsch in the place that he ate. If one left that place, and it is possible to return within 72 minutes after his meal was completed, he should return, unless there is real reason that he cannot return, in which event, a sheas hadechak or bedieved, he is Yotzeh bentsching elsewhere.


10.  Each guest should bless his host with the Birchas HaOreyach. If the siddur or bentscher given to him does not have it, he should ask his host for a siddur that does have it.  It should be recited immediately after the conclusion of the fourth bracha (‘LeOlam Ahl Yechaserainu’), and before all of the other HaRachamans, as its nusach is found in the Gemara itself (Brachos 46A). (Sefardim may recite it before Migdol Yeshuos).


11.  One should avoid motioning or signaling with his eyes, hands, and the like while bentsching, unless it is to stop something that is disturbing Kavanna. Similarly, one should avoid moving crumbs, adjusting his clothing, or conducting any other activity while bentsching.


12.  The Pele Yoetz writes that, according to Kabbala, the four Brachos of bentsching correspond to the four letters of Hashem’s ineffable name.  One should especially try to have Kavanna in the words--and most certainly when reciting the opening and closing words of the bracha.


13.  If we would simply focus on the powerful words of bentsching, and would take the extra minute or two necessary to recite bentsching in the manner described above, we would gain a greater appreciation of its hallowed words.  For instance, just look at the paragraph of “BaMorom Yelamdu Aleyhem V’Oleinu Zechus, Shetehey Lemishmeres Shalom--in Heaven may a merit be pleaded for them and for us for a safeguard of peace….”  If one properly appreciates it, one will not try to avoid bentsching like little children do, but rather value it for the great Mitzvah D’Oraysa--the incredible privilege and opportunity--that it truly is.


14.  Finally, the extreme importance of Birkas HaMazon is demonstrated by the great emphasis that is placed upon it in the Chinuch of children.  It is one of the first subjects taught to children--and in a joyful and singing manner.  We had asked HaRav Chaim Pinchas Scheinberg, Z’tl, whether it would be better for a newcomer to Torah Judaism to recite the bentsching in English or to listen word-for-word to the bentsching of another in Hebrew.  He responded that the newcomer should recite the bentching in English.  While a major reason for this may be the difficulty encountered by a newcomer in following the entire Birkas HaMazon in Hebrew, an ancillary reason for this P’sak may be so that the person who has just eaten can truly appreciate the import and meaning of Birkas HaMazon.


May our recitation of Birkas HaMazon be a time that we look forward to and anticipate--to express our appreciation with joy--and fulfill a Mitzvas Aseh D’Oryasah on top of it!



Special Note Four: This week’s Parsha, Eikev, is not limited to the Mitzvah of Bentsching. We provide the following additional points and pointers on this week’s Parsha:


A. The Parsha begins with the words “Vehaya Eikev Tishmiun”. Chazal teach that the Mitzvos that a person treads upon  with his Eikev--with his heel, i.e., the Mitzvos that a person deems ‘relatively unimportant’ will surround him after 120 years at the time of judgment. It may be these Mitzvos that surround him that ultimately determine his fate--and his level in Gan Eden (or c’v elsewhere).  In honor of the Parsha, perhaps we can select one of these Mitzvos in our daily routine--remove it from under our heal, and elevate to a high position in our head!


B. The  Parsha contains the famous phrase “VeLo Savi So’eiva El Baisecha--do not bring something abominable into your home” (Devorim 7:26 ).  The Torah is of course referring to avodah zara related matters.  We can take the hint, though, as to other related various and sundry to’eivos which confront us.  In order to demonstrate that we not only read the Torah, but learn from it (and especially from the weekly Parsha--for it is appearing in my life now--before Elul-- for very good reason), we should perhaps [just as HaRav Gifter, Z’tl, asked the meshulachim to do in his home, as noted yesterday] go through our homes and see if there is something there that should not be there.  Improper reading or viewing material is what first comes to mind even if in the guise of children’s books or educational materials, and even if it is only intended to reflect the current world environment rather than be overtly obscene .  If some of those magazines or circulars that are dropped at your doorstep never make it into the house--you may literally be fulfilling the sacred words “do not bring them into the house”.  You may have some other ideas as to what to purge from your home (even if it is only for the news and sports).  Perhaps the litmus test could be to walk around as if it was your Rav, Posek or Rebbi looking around your home--and remove anything that he would! Additional Note: The Sefer HaChinuch adds on this very Mitzvah of VeLo Savi So’eiva (Mitzvah 429), that money gained improperly or inappropriately falls within the definition of to’eiva as well.  We should take a good look around the house--does everything here really belong to me--and even if it does belong to me --does it really belong here with me?


C.  We are also blessed with the second Parsha of Kriyas Shema, within which we accept the Ohl HaMitzvos, and in which we recognize Hashem’s Perfect Reward and Punishment.  In the first Pasuk we reiterate the Mitzvah (mentioned in the first Parsha of Shema ) of Ahavas Hashem --Leahava Es Hashem Elokeichem.  The Chofetz Chaim writes that this Mitzvah is especially significant because it is always done Lishma--for there can be no ulterior motive to loving Hashem!


D. The second parsha of Shema also teaches us that we must first feed our animals before we eat ourselves, based on the Pasuk--”VeNosati Esev...Levhemtecha VeAchalta VeSovata...”-first the Beheimos eat--and then you eat. HaRav Chaim Kanievsky, Shlita, likewise rules that fish have to  be fed first as well, so that if breakfast or dinner is around your aquarium’s feeding time, the fish must be fed first. By analogy, anyone who is dependent on you should be taken care of first as well--after all isn’t Hashem taking care of you!


 E. Yet another mitzvah found in the second parsha of Shema is that of Tefillah itself--with the words “Ul’Avdo BeChol Levavchem”. HaRav Chaim Kanievsky, Shlita was asked the following question by friends of a young man who was  seriously ill: They had gotten together several times to recite Tehillim and daven for him. He is unfortunately still ill. Is there something else they should do--perhaps take upon themselves  a special Mitzvah together...? If so, what should they do? HaRav Kanievsky answered that Chazal teach: “Im Ro’eh Adam SheHispallel Velo Ne’eneh, Yachzor VeYispallel”(Brachos 32A)...if a person sees that he prayed and that his prayers were not seemingly answered, he should pray again.” He thus advised the friends that, ahead of all else, to make another Kinus of Tefillah on their friend’s behalf. From this P’sak we should grow in our appreciation of the utter potency of  Tefillah. As Chazal teach--Moshe Rabbeinu davened 515 times to enter Eretz Yisroel--and Hashem did not let him daven again--for on that 516th time he would have been answered!


F.  The second parsha of Shema once again instructs us in the mitzvah of Tefillin.  HaRav Shmelke of Nikolsburg, Z’tl , notes that if even the nartik, the outside case holding the Tefillin, falls to the ground, it is our natural, sincere and almost inborn reaction to quickly pick it up and  to kiss it in many places in order to show our affection for the Tefillin.  If we show our affection in this way to casing, he teaches, then all the more so should we naturally and sincerely show our unbounding love to the Tefillin’s wearer!


G.  In his commentary to Mesechta Brachos, Rabbeinu Yonah refers to the mitzvah of Mezuzah, reinforced at the end of the second Parsha of Shema.  He teaches that through the Mitzvah of Mezuzah one demonstrates that the possessions (in this house, in this room) are dedicated to the service of Hashem.  The Mitzvah serves not just as a protection from harm--but as a statement-in-deed that you have a deeper understanding of what your worldly possessions mean and to what purpose they should be dedicated.  One thereby is actually Mekabel Ohl Malchus Shomayim through his earthly possessions --with the proper intent of the Mezuzah on his doors. 


Hakhel Note:  When looking at or kissing a Mezuzah upon entering or leaving the room, one can momentarily reflect upon the great and famous words of Dovid HaMelech in Tehillim--LaShem Ha’aretz U’Meloah--To Hashem is the earth and its fullness!”




18 Menachem Av

ARRIVE EARLY; LEAVE LATE:  In concluding his Sefer Orchos Yosher, HaRav Chaim Kanievsky, Shlita, brings Chazal in Brachos (8A)--”arrive early to Shul and stay to the end of davening--and this will assist one with length of days and length of years.” Hakhel Note:  Nevertheless, HaRav Kanievsky rules that it is better to daven slowly with a Minyan that is not in a Shul, then to daven in a hurried Minyan in a Shul (Divrei Siach).



A GOOD QUESTION: HaRav Avigdor Miller, Z’tl, was asked how one could improve the feeling of Simcha in performing a Mitzvah. HaRav Miller responded that on a basic level, one could start by feeling that he is being paid $1,000 for the Mitzvah that he is performing. In truth, the payment is much greater and much more long-lasting than $1,000, but the image of ten $100 bills will conjure up the joy and alacrity… in which one should perform the Mitzvah!




Special Note One: We B’EH continue our Monday/Thursday study of the Sefer Mitzvos HaKatzar, with the Mitzvos Lo Sa’asei which the Chofetz Chaim writes are applicable in our times. Today, we present Mitzvos Lo Sa’aseh 174 and 175:


174. Shelo Lidrosh Ehl HaMeisim-- this is the Mitzvas Lo Sa’aseh which prohibits one from seeking to consult with the deceased by fasting and sleeping in a cemetery in order for the deceased to come to him in a dream and answer his question, and the like. This prohibition applies in all places and at all times, and to men and women alike.


175. Shelo Lehisnabos Sheker--this is the Mitzvas Lo Sa’aseh which prohibits one from falsely prophesying by claiming that Hashem had given him a prophecy which he now must relate. If one does so, he is liable for the death penalty by chenek. This prohibition applies in all places and at all times, and to men and women alike.



Special Note Two: Today, we continue our series in which we will refer to one Ahl Cheit a day through the Yomim Nora’im period, so that we have the opportunity to briefly review each one of them in steady steps. Today, we study the second Ahl Cheit under the letter Beis:


Ahl Cheit Shechatanu Lefanecha Bevitui Sefasayim--With Our Verbal Expressions


Unlike a thief who we can run after and catch up to, once we have uttered words they cannot be caught or brought back. Among the limited instructions that the Ramban gives to his son in the famous Igeres HaRamban, he significantly instructs him to consider his words before he utters them. One who constantly lets his words leave his lips without adequate care will find himself hurting himself and others on a constant and consistent basis. ‘Loose lips sink ships’ probably has its idiomatic equivalent in each and every language and tongue. Sins of verbal expression also include making vows, being quick to promise something that which one will be sorry about later, complaining, and speaking without purpose. Man was uniquely given the power of speech in order to serve Hashem through the study and teaching of Torah, Tefillah and words of Chesed (including compliment and chizuk) to others. Even when the donkey spoke to Bilam, its words had purpose and meaning. If one has already opened his mouth and everyone recognizes that he is about to speak--he can still stop himself and not continue, if he feels his words would not be constructive or pleasant. The slight embarrassment one may feel will be far overshadowed by his teaching others how important it is not to say what should not be said. Some additional examples of misuse of speech would be giving ‘lip service’ to something without being serious about it, not making the phrase “Im Yirtzeh Hashem” a part of one’s everyday speech, reciting a bracha or speaking words of Torah in unclean places, speaking unnecessarily to members of the opposite gender in the workplace or the like, and stopping to engage in conversation in the middle of davening even if it is a place ‘where one can stop’, such as before Baruch She’amar or after the second Ashrei of Shacharis. Even if one feels that he cannot control his words all the time, he must make the effort to do so as much as he can. A good place to begin is the first time he speaks in the morning, and the last time he speaks before going to bed.



Special Note Three:  In a recent Chofetz Chaim Heritage Foundation Motza’ei Shabbos video Shiur, Rabbi Zev Leff, Shlita, provided the following significant words of instruction:


1. A home has a door for a reason. Sometimes it must be opened, and sometimes it must be closed. We have to let the right things in, and keep the wrong things out. When HaRav Mordechai Gifter, Z’tl, was Rav in an out-of-town community, he felt that he did not have peers to keep his conduct in-check. Thus, when meshulachim would come to his city to raise funds, he would ask them to walk around the house, looking for things that should not be there….


2. Chazal teach that in Mitzrayim we did not change our dress to that of the Egyptians, and this is one of the reasons that we were redeemed. Yet we ‘borrowed’ the Egyptian clothing and took it with us--didn’t this fly in the face of our unwillingness to wear the Egyptian clothing for all of the years that we were there?! One answer may be that even if there is nothing intrinsically wrong with something, it does not mean that we can or should wear it--because we are different. It was only once they left Mitzrayim that K’lal Yisrael no longer had to prove to the Egyptians that they were different from them. Sometimes, we have to make a statement to others as to who we are and what we represent.


3. Chazal teach: “Kach He Darka Shel Torah Pas B’Melach Tochal U’Mayim BaMesura Tishteh…this is the way of Torah, eat bread and salt, drink water with measure….” Chazal are not teaching that the only way to a Torah Jew should live is by eating bread and water; rather, they are instructing a person to be satisfied with whatever Hashem has endowed him with. One person’s steak and champagne, is another person’s tea and toast. In Olam Hazeh we have to be comfortable and content with Hashem’s gifts, which are uniquely and personally fit for each person’s life, goals and potential.


4. Each time after we conclude our Viduy recitation on Yom Kippur, we admit: “VeLo Shavah Lanu.” We typically understand this phrase to mean that while we thought we would gain by the aveira, we realize we did not--it was simply not worth it. There, however, an alternative, important understanding: What I did was not shaveh-befitting me. What I did is not who I am. I am not a nothing.


5. In a related way, we can understand the difference between ga’avah and true self-awareness. Ga’avah is a person who says: I am important because I make myself important--I have rights! True self-awareness is feeling: I am important because Hashem made me important--I have responsibilities!




17 Menachem Av

Special Note One: Today, we continue our series in which we will refer to one Ahl Cheit a day through the Yomim Nora’im period, so that we have the opportunity to briefly review each one of them in steady steps. Today, we study the first Ahl Cheit under the letter Beis:


Ahl Cheit Shechatanu Lefanecha Bivli Da’as--Without Thought


Hashem has blessed each of us with intelligence, and most certainly expects us to use it in accordance with our true capabilities. The starting point is for one’s mind and being to realize that Hashem stands before him at all times, and that Hashem’s glory fills the earth. With this essential thought kept at the forefront, it simply makes no sense at all to sin, and the urgings and temptations provided by the Yetzer Hara become insignificant and even insulting to the intelligence. There is a second point: Many of our actions during the day can be Mitzvos if performed with the right intent. If instead we fail to put our minds in the right direction, or simply speak and act out of rote, we are squandering precious time and valuable opportunities. Finally, by not adequately concentrating when learning or when davening, we do not fulfill our true potential in Dveikus B’Hashem--which as the Sefer Mesilas Yesharim describes at the outset, is the core and essence of our very existence. Hakhel Note: This Ahl Cheit is so essential, that perhaps one could reawaken himself from time-to-time during the day--inspiring himself to make proper use of Hashem’s extraordinary gift--Da’as…and davening to Hashem for His help in doing so!



Special Note Two: This week’s Parsha contains within it what is known by many as the Parshas HaYirah. The Parshas HaYirah, together with a short and powerful Tefillah, is found in many Siddurim after daily Shacharis. Even if we may not have enough time after Shacharis to recite the Parshas HaYirah every day, it would certainly behoove us to do so at least one time this week (...especially if you read the Parshas HaMann on the Tuesday of  Parshas Beshalach).  We add that if the Parshas HaYirah is in THIS WEEK’S PARSHA we should view it, BeHashgacha Pratis, as a wake-up call for us to elevate ourselves in our personal Yiras Shomayim.  In this regard, we note that the Talmidei Rabbeinu Yonah at the outset of Mesechta Brachos teach that the Ikar HaYirah--the Essence of Yiras Shomayim is Lizaheir MaiHasefeikos  Vesheloh La’asos HaMitzvos Ahl Derech Hahergel--to stay clear of doubtful actions and not to do Mitzvos out of habit.’  As we continue through the week --one can apply this definition whenever he can--and see how he climbs the ladder of Yiras Shomayim!



Special Note Three: We are now ‘on the other side’ of Menachem Av--the second half, which bridges the sad events of the first part of Av with the month of Elul--the month that helps us prepare for the next year, and for the rest of our lives. We are also, concomitantly, in the heat of summer (in the Northern Hemisphere) and at the height of vacation season.  To this end, we provide several short lessons which we can take with us through the end of the month into Elul--and up to the time that we B’EH will be zoche to greet the Moshiach!:


1.The beginning of the Haftarah on Tisha B’Av morning begins with the words Asof Asifeim Ne’um Hashem.  Many incorrectly believe that these words mean:  “I will gather them in, says Hashem”.  The real meaning of the phrase is:  “I shall destroy them, says Hashem.”  The paradox is clear--and its meaning should be equally as clear to us.  The same Hebrew letters that can be used to describe destruction, can also be used to describe the ingathering of our exilesIt is up to us which way it will turn out. 


2.  Rabbi Yoni Zakutinsky, Shlita, points out that according to our calendar Tisha B’Av always comes out on the same day as the first day of Pesach.  One explanation for this, he taught, is that discord among brothers brought us down to Mitzrayim, and it is the very same discord (Sinas Chinam and Lashon Hara) that brought us into this Galus and keeps us here until today.  When a person r’l sneezes and coughs, has the chills and a stomach ache--the first thing to do is to diagnose what the problem is. Only then will he be able to find a cure. We are a step ahead.  Chazal have diagnosed the problem and have even taught us the cure--how can we not bother to heal ourselves?!


3.  Yirmiyahu HaNavi ( 9:13 ) cries out:  “VaYeilchu Acharei Sherirus Libam VeAcharei HaBe’alim Asher Limdum Avosam--they followed the desires of their heart and they followed the idols, as their fathers taught them.”  Incredibly, the Pasuk compares one following the desires of his heart to worshipping idols.  What, then, can one do if following desire is equated with idol worship?  The Ba’alei Mussar on the Pasuk of VeAhavta Es Hashem Elokecha in last week’s Parsha of Shema teach that one can demonstrate his love of Hashem by curbing those very desires--eliminating one here and one there for the sake of Hashem.  Especially in the summer months--when the world around us is especially involved in fulfilling and even furthering the extent of their desires--is it a time of breaking the idols--and curbing our desires in honor of Hashem! The next time you recite VeAhavta Es Hashem Elokecha--think of how you recently demonstrated it!


4.  Chazal (Ta’anis 31A) teach that with the advent of the Fifteenth of Av, where the nights begin to get longer as we reach the other side of summer, we are duty-bound to increase our Torah study. This is codified by the Rema in Shulchan Aruch, Yoreh De’ah 246. In this regard, we especially remind ourselves that, as Chazal teach, while the Beis HaMikdash is not standing what remains for Hashem is the Daled Amos Shel Halacha--our study as to how to properly live by and perform the words of the Torah.  It is essential that with whatever we study--whether it be Daf Yomi, Amud Yomi, Parshas HaShavuah, or any Sefer Mussar, we walk away in some way knowing better what to do in a practical situation or in a meaningful way.  As the Ramban writes to his son in the Igeres HaRamban:  “Tichapeis BaAsher Lamadeta, Im Yeish Bo Davar Asher Tuchal LeKayemo--when you are about to get up from your Torah study--look into it to see if you can fulfill something that you did not know or properly understand before.”  Before closing our Gemara, our Chumash, or other Sefer, spend a few moments thinking about (or even writing down) something that one has learned during the study session that you can apply or improve upon in your daily life!  


5. The Sefer Chaim SheYeish BaHem brings the words of HaRav Baruch Ber Lebowitz, Z’tl.  “After 120 years I will be asked what I accomplished in this world. I will say that I learned Torah.  But what if they say --you call that Torah?  Then I will say that I had some Yiras Shomayim.  But what if they say--you call that Yiras Shomayim?  I will still be able to say that I had some Ahavas Yisrael--for when another Yid would be near me on the street I would say—‘Brachos Ahl Rosho--may brachos come upon his head!’  This will certainly serve as some kind of limud zechus for me....”  Hakhel Note:  At least in this regard--we too can be like Reb Baruch Ber!


6. In the end, the damage, death and destruction perpetrated against us over the years demonstrate how unfulfilling the pursuit of gashmius, in the long run, really is.  When people’s lives were at stake or even sacrificed, the earthly possessions turned out to be inconsequential.  If an anti-semitic tyrant would take power in any country even today, our first reaction would be to flee for our lives to a safer haven.  Now take a look at the so-called great and powerful king, Nevuchadnezzar.  His temporal grandiose palace is another old ruin in Iraq , and there is not even a surviving likeness that we are sure is him.  When you feel too involved in gashmius, look at the world around and realize that life has much more to offer.  When stretching to look for the next bus, or for your luggage on the baggage carousel, think about the other, more needed and more permanent things we search for as well.  As Yirmiyahu HaNavi bemoans--Betzipeyaseinu Tzipinu--we longed for the aid of the Egyptians-when we should have been stretching out our necks--and longing for the Shechina!


7. Rabbi Shmuel Dishon, Shlita, points out that the shortest Sefer of Navi and the longest Sefer of Navi each begin with the same word--Chazon (the vision).  The shortest Sefer is Ovadia which is one Perek and relates to the destruction of Edom (from whom Ovadia had originally descended), and the largest Sefer is Yeshayahu (whose close relatives were the Kings of Yehudah at the time) which has 66 Perakim, and which contains many nevuos of consolation.  Everyone has a task and a role in making K’lal Yisrael succeed--and one should spend the time to determine what it is.  Hakhel Note:  It is said that HaRav Zundel Salanter, z’tl, was once seen practicing how he bowed during Shemone Esrei in the middle of the day.  When asked why he was doing so, he responded that he couldn’t wait until Shemone Esrei--when he was already standing before the King of Kings--to figure out what to do and how to do it.  As Av wanes and in anticipation of redemption, we too should not wait very much longer in order to figure out what exactly it is that we have to do!


8. The Geulah from Mitzrayim happened miraculously.  The Geulah from Galus Bavel happened in the so-called ‘ordinary course’ as part of the apparent plan of King Koresh to re-unite us with our homeland.  Which will the final Geulah be?  It is said that the Chofetz Chaim did not rejoice at all when he heard of the Balfour Declaration--for the third and final Geulah could come either way--and the miraculous route is much preferred.  Perhaps with this we can appreciate the special, double entendre in our daily Shemone Esrei as we recite the words “VeSa Nes LeKabetz Goluyoseinu--and lift up a banner [a miracle] to gather together our exiles.”  If the Chofetz Chaim preferred a miracle--certainly so too should we!  Let us remember at these words to daven with sincerity that Hashem lift the Nes--high up for all of us to see--Bekarov Bimeheira Veyameinu!




16 Menachem Av

QUESTION OF THE DAY : Rashi in last week’s Parsha, based on the word Venoshantem, teaches that the Beis HaMikdash was destroyed 850 years after our entry into Eretz Yisrael rather than 852 years after our entry into Eretz Yisrael, for, if Hashem would have waited the additional two years, all of K’lal Yisrael would have been destroyed.  Why did Hashem not allow us an extra year--the 851st year in Eretz Yisrael as well? After all--did not Hashem wait until the last possible moment in Mitzrayim--before we reached the 50th level of tumah, and only then did he take us out?  Certainly, then--for the good--couldn’t we have stayed in Eretz Yisrael one year longer?



POSTSCRIPT: “On the first Ahl Cheit of B’Oness U’VeRatzon, we add that sometimes you feel good about yourself when hearing others speak improperly or negatively--and thinking to yourself: “It is not me--they have the problem”. This is not the case at all, you may have started out as an Oness, but by your not properly reprimanding them or teaching them, you are sinning as well, whether it be in willingly listening to Lashon Hara, or by your failure to reprove them. There is a second point as well. There are aveiros that involve thought alone, including sinah, and as we say in Shema every day “Velo Sasuru Acharei Levavchem V’Acharei Eineichem Asher Atem Zonim Achacreihem”--do not follow your heart and your eyes.... Chazal teach that this refers to improper thoughts regarding the fundamentals of our belief and to immoral or immodest thoughts.  Even if one is not in control of the initial thought that enters his mind (let us say as a test), if he allows the sinful thought to fester and develop, then he has turned the initial Oness into Ratzon.


Hakhel Note:  While this particular Ahl Cheit is here because Oness begins with an Aleph--it certainly is appropriate for it to have this prominent position in the Ahl Cheits!




Special Note One: Today, we continue our series in which we will refer to one Ahl Cheit a day through the Yomim Nora’im period, so that we have the opportunity to briefly review each one of them in steady steps. Today, we study the second Ahl Cheit under the letter Aleph:


Ahl Cheit Shechatanu Lefanecha Be’Imutz HaLev--Hard heartedness


HaRav Eliyahu Dessler, Z’tl, explains that the sin referred to here is stubbornness, based on one’s opinion that everything that he does is right. In this way, one can justify almost any of his thoughts, words or actions. It becomes justifiable, then, for a person to withhold compassion for a poor person, and to show harshness and even ‘deserved cruelty’ to others. Even when one actually gives Tzedaka, but feels any heaviness of heart or reluctance in doing so, he is demonstrating a coldness and toughness which is unbefitting of a Torah Jew and his character. When one gets the urge to be tough or difficult, or not to be giving, he should think about whether he is involved in Imutz HaLev...and avoid and overcome!



Special Note Two:  Gems from the Rabbeinu Yonah:


A. In last week’s Pirkei Avos (4:1), Ben Zomah teaches that the true hero is not one who conquers cities, but one who conquers his own Yetzer Hara. The Rabbeinu Yonah explains that this Mishna is teaching us that just as the body’s strength and prowess is its greatest and most important attribute, so too, is the ability to vanquish one’s Yetzer Hara the quintessence of one’s neshama.


B. A king once asked a loyal subject to make of him one request--and he would grant it. The subject thought it through: “if I ask for money, he will give it to me; if I ask for real estate, he will give it to me--but these are so finite, and so limited. I know--I will ask to marry his daughter--this will include everything I could ask for from the king--and  on a going forward basis! When Hashem asked Shlomo HaMelech, the wisest of all men, what he wanted--Shlomo responded that he wanted Chochma--wisdom--for all else is included in it! Hakhel Note:  Oh, how important it is to have Kavannah in the bracha of Attah Chonen, and to ask Hashem for wisdom and understanding on one’s personal Tefillos during the day!


C. Although there is a Beis Dovid--the kingdom of Dovid, a Beis Aharon--the Kehuna, there is no similar one house for those who are Yirei Hashem--for Yiras Shomayim is open to all those who seek it!


D. The true Avodah of one’s ears is to listen to tochacha--to the instruction and reproof of others, as the Pasuk teaches (Mishlei 15:31 ):  Ozen Shoma’as Tochachas Chaim Bekerev Chachomim Talin--the ear that listens to the reproof of life resides among the wise”. Likewise, Yeshaya HaNavi exclaims (55:3): “Hatu Aznechem U’Lechu Eilai Shimu U’Sechi Nafshechem”--incline your ear and come to Me; listen and you shall live!



Special Note Three:  We conclude today our series on the Middah of Emes, as culled from the Sefer MiDvar Sheker Tirchak, by Rabbi Avraham Tovalsky, Shlita:




A. HaRav Eliya Lopian, Z’tl, notes that on the Yomim Nora’im we recite several times: “Key Attah Elokim Emes U’Devarecha Emes--for You are true and Your words are true”. This is what counts on the Yom HaDin!


B. HaRav Lopian made the following takana with his Talmidim:  LeHizaher Me’od LeHisracheik MeiHasheker--to be very careful to distance oneself from sin.”  After all, Shlomo HaMelech exclaims:  To’avas Hashem Sifsei Sheker--lips which utter falsehood are abominable to Hashem.”  If one who speaks falsely is abominable to Hashem--how could he ever ask Hashem for anything--especially forgiveness?!


C. HaRav Yechezkel Levenstein, Z’tl, was against his students making different or strange motions in the course of the Tefillah, for fear that they were not truthful.


D. Closely related to the sin of speaking falsely is the sin of swearing in vain or falsely. One need not swear in Hebrew in order for it to be a shevuah. Any of the following phrases constitute a shevuah--which should be avoided even if one feels it is absolutely true--and most certainly if there is any element of inaccuracy:  “I swear”; or “By G-d --this is what happened” or “--this is what I did”; “G-d is my witness”; “By my soul”; “I should be cursed or “Something bad should happen to me”-- if I did/did not do that”; “What I told you is true just as G-d is true”; “I should be zoche to Olam Haba just as you did that”. Each of these phrases must be avoided at all costs.  The Midrash Aseres HaDibros brings the story of a  wealthy person who at the end of his life, told his son: “All of my wealth that I have accrued over a lifetime is due to my not swearing at all--even when I knew that what I was going to say was true.” 


E.  Perhaps the most sublime level of Emes is being Modeh Ahl HaEmes--admitting that one has said or done something wrong--and that the other person is right. If one does not remember the last time he said “I made a mistake”, or “You are right”, he should consider how close he really is to the Middah of Modeh Ahl HaEmes. After Tamar presented the mashkon that was left with her, Yehudah proclaimed (Beraishis 38:26) --Tzodka Mimeni--She is right, it is from me! He attained forgiveness--and the rest is history. His descendants are the royal house of Dovid HaMelech and Moshiach! Until then, we are all called by his name--Jews-- perhaps to always remind ourselves to follow suit!




15 Menachem Av

Special Note One: We B’EH continue our Monday/Thursday study of the Sefer Mitzvos HaKatzar, with the Mitzvos Lo Sa’asei which the Chofetz Chaim writes are applicable in our times. Today, we present Mitzvos Lo Sa’aseh 171 and 172-173:


171. Shelo La’asos Ma’aseh Yidoni-- this is the Mitzvas Lo Sa’aseh which prohibits one from taking the bone of a particular bird whose name is Yido’ah, placing it into one’s mouth and offering incense to it, then undertaking other actions until its wing falls off, enabling him to predict future events. This prohibition applies in all places and at all times, and to men and women alike.


172-173. Shelo Lishol B’Ohv VeLo Lishol BeYidoni--this is the Mitzvas Lo Sa’aseh which prohibits one from asking either an ohv or a yidoni a question, in order to receive an answer. If one does so, he would not receive makkos from the Torah because he did no physical action, but he would still receive makkas mardus. If he does an act as a result of his inquiry, he would receive makkos. This prohibition applies in all places and at all times, and to men and women alike.



Special Note Two:  Today, we bli neder begin a new series in which we will refer to one Ahl Cheit a day through the Yomim Nora’im period, so that we have the opportunity to briefly review each one of them in steady steps. Vidui is an essential part of the Teshuvah process. HaRav Chaim Volozhiner, Z’tl, explains why the Vidui is recited by the Aleph-Bais:  Every person is a Sefer Torah.  The letters in every person’s Sefer Torah are comprised of his thoughts, words and actions in Avodas Hashem. If a person, c’v, commits a sin he has in some way ripped his Sefer Torah, with the result that some of the letters are porchos--flying away or coming off. Through appropriate Teshuvah, a person can bring back the letters of his Sefer Torah and make it Kosher again. Our Vidui recitation requires each one of the twenty-two letters, so that they can all be returned to our Sefer Torah. The Sefer Dover Shalom adds that there are two aspects to the gravity of an aveira--one being the sin as committed, and the other being the person who committed it. This dual  aspect of sin is represented by the terms Ahl Cheit--referring to the sin itself, and Shechatanu Lefanecha--one’s admission that although he is a person of sense, of intelligence and of reason, he has done wrong. 


Ahl Cheit Shechatanu Lefanecha Be’Oness U’VeRatzon


Each ohs, each letter of the Aleph Bais, is represented in the Ahl Cheit by two categories of sin. We begin with the first category of sin under the letter Aleph: Ahl Cheit Shechatanu Lefanecha Be’Oness U’VeRatzon--for the sin committed by accident (or by force) and by will. HaRav Eliyahu Dessler, Z’tl, explains that Oness is an aveira for which Vidui is required, because when a person feels that he is forced into doing something, then it is not his ‘fault’ and he will accordingly be more lenient with himself than he should be. The second half of the phrase--U’VeRatzon--sin with actual intent is, however, the main source of sin. Oness and Ratzon, which at first glance appear diametrically opposed to each other, are placed together in this first category. Several reasons can be suggested for this: One, of course, is that aveiros bridge the gamut from small levels of fault to great levels of culpability. Another is to teach that sometimes Oness is simply no excuse (examples of this would be aveiros b’sha’as hagezeira or befarhesya--for which a person, although being forced to do so, must give his life rather than commit the sin)--and thus is the Halachic equivalent of Ratzon. There is an additional important explanation as to why they are placed together--referring to an aveira which may start out as an Oness but continues as a Ratzon. One example of this would be a person who finds himself with one or more people whom he realizes are not properly guarding their tongue and then continues to converse with them, perhaps thinking that he will simply not believe what they say. This is insufficient--for even if it started in the category of Oness, it moves into the category of Ratzon. Another example would be a person walking up the street in a business district and noticing improperly dressed people. While the first time may have been permissible (in order to know where he was, etc.), if he knows when he looks up again in the same direction he will be faced with a similar sight, then there is an aspect of Ratzon in it as well. A person must take care to avoid the Oness--but if the Oness occurs, he must certainly take care to avoid a Ratzon resulting from it!


Hakhel Note:  In a situation where a person knows that as he walks in the city it will be inevitable for him to come upon an improper sight, he must  [perhaps with his Rav] come up with a solution, so that he does not thoughtlessly ‘walk into the lion’s den.’



Special Note Three:  Since last week’s Parsha contained the essential three-word message we carry with us 24/7 of “Ain Od Milvado--There is none beside Him (Devorim 4:35)”, we recall the legendary words of HaRav Chaim Volozhiner, Z’tl in the Sefer Nefesh HaChaim, which is available by clicking hereHaRav Chaim himself describes as a Segulah Gedola VeNifla’ah to one who can properly attach itself to the special words.  What an opportunity each and every day!



Special Note Four:  Just a few final lessons from Tisha B’Av:


A.  The Mishna Berurah rules that, at a Chasunah, one can use a whole (unbroken) cup to break under the Chupah, and that there is no prohibition of ba’al taschis associated with its breakage, for it is for a real purpose--”L’Rameiz Mussar L’Ma’an Yitnu Lev--so that all in attendance take the lesson to heart, and realize the importance of Yerushalayim in our lives.”  For those in attendance at a Chasunah, please make sure that the cup’s shattering is meaningful to you!


B.  In Eicha, Yirmiyahu HaNavi laments “Lamah LaNetzach Tishkacheinu--which ostensibly means why will you forget us forever?”  However, we all know that Hashem will not forget us forever, and that He will bring Moshiach and a everlasting Beis Hamikdash back for us.  So what does the word “LaNetzach” mean here?  HaRav Yitzchak Ezrachi, Shlita, suggests that it refers to every minute before the Moshiach comes in which we lose the nitzchiyus--the true and full potential of that moment.  When will we finally be remembered--we lament every lost minute of potential until the final Geulah takes place!


C.  In several places Chazal give many reasons for why we were sent into exile.  However, Chazal (Nedarim 81A) also bring one reason brought by Yirmiyahu HaNavi in the Name of Hashem--”Al Asher Azvam Es Torasi--for they forsook my Torah”, which the Meforshim there explain refers to a lack of proper honor and respect for the Torah…even though it was studied.  How could Chazal have given alternate reasons if the Pasuk itself--in the name of Hashem--explains why we were exiled.  Many explain that Chazal pinpoint various sins that we were truly guilty of.  However, had we shown proper reverence for the Torah, studying it lishma and honoring it properly, then the Torah would have protected us from exile even in the wake of all of the egregious sins, as the Torah is a Magnoh U’Matzlei--a source of true and ultimate protection.  It thus very much behooves us to take a great lesson away from Tisha B’Av--learning to accord an extra level of respect and reverence to the Torah and those that study it.  This includes standing for Rabbanim, addressing them with a high level of respect, and learning Torah with the knowledge that it is Hashem’s gift to us, and that he wants us to utilize His gift!



Special Note Five:  Today, joyously, is the 15th day of Av, Tu B’Av.  We are all too familiar with the five major tragedies that occurred on Tisha B’Av through the fall of Beitar and the plowing over of Zion (succeeded by other later tragedies as well).  We may be equally as familiar with the five corresponding great events of Tu B’Av:  Very briefly,  1.  It was finally determined that the final group of men aged 20-60 (previously part of the decree to pass away in the Midbar) were allowed the privilege of entering Eretz Yisrael.  2.  The shevet of Binyamin was saved from extinction by the shevatim being permitted to marry their daughters to the few hundred men left---so that there would be a kiyum of the shevet forever.  3.  The guards posted by the Kings of the Aseres Hashevatim for hundreds of years, which prevented the ten tribes from freely traveling to the Beis Hamikdash, were removed--and all were allowed to make their way to the Mikdash.  4.  The people of Beitar who were murdered by the Roman legions, and whose bodies miraculously did not decompose for years, were finally allowed by the Romans to be buried (and as a result the bracha of HaTov U’Maitiv was composed).  5.  The people would no longer cut firewood for the Bais HaMikdash commencing on this date, because the sun’s rays had begun to weaken, and the people celebrated the completion of the Mitzvah (which also allowed for more time for the study of Torah, as explained by the commentaries). 


There is, however, an additional significant point about this day mentioned in the
Mishna in Ta’anis (4:5).  There were nine days during the year in which families donated necessary wood to the Bais HaMikdash and celebrated the privilege by bringing a special sacrifice--a Korban Eitzim along with it.  One of these special nine days of the year was Tu B’Av.  However, there was something more special about the wood brought on Tu B’Av than on the other eight days--for on the other eight days the wood brought was limited to one particular family’s gift--but on Tu B’Av, as the Mishna specifically records it was a particular family --”the children of Zeitu ben Yehuda”--but together with Kohanim and Leviim; and together with anyone who no longer knew which shevet he was from, and together with other families who had demonstrated mesirus nefesh to reach the Beis Hamikdash in the past (see Bartenura there for details). In other words, there was a unique achdus on this day which went well beyond the singular family donation, and extended it to a united gift from various groups together.  It was almost as if the events of Tu B’Av were to be a blatant demonstration as to how the issues of Tisha B’Av have to be resolved--with togetherness and selflessness.  Indeed, the Bnai Yissoschar explains that it is no coincidence (did you really think that it was?!) that all of this happened on the fifteenth of AV--and that the fifteenth letter of the Aleph Vais is a Samech.  The Samech has no top and no bottom, no beginning and no end--indicating unity, harmony and accord.  It is for this reason, as the Mishna teaches, that the unwed girls would go out on this day in shared clothing (so that there was equality among rich and poor as well)--and dance in a circle --demonstrating that although one may be a Kohen, another a Levi, a third not know which shevet he was from, another rich, another poor--we are all joined as one, and will always be one.


The last Mishna in Ta’anis teaches that there were no greater Yomim Tovim for K’lal Yisrael than Tu B’Av and Yom Kippur.  On the surface, we could explain that this is because on Yom Kippur we united with Hakadosh Baruch Hu, and on Tu B’Av we united with each other.  The Kopshitzer Rebbe, z’tl teaches, however, that when we dance with each other on Tu B’Av--holding on to the next one’s hand and going around in that undefined circle joined together B’Achdus as one--then HaKadosh Baruch Hu’s hand is very much holding on to ours as well. 


Most certainly, when we dance together at any simcha, we should feel the spiritual elevation--the unity and oneness with everyone in our circle, and with HaKadosh Baruch Hu who joins with us as well.  On this very special day, Tu B’Av, let us consciously demonstrate that we appreciate and understand the very special juxtaposition of Tisha B’Av and Tu B’Av.  Let us practice extra-special acts of love and caring for our brothers--holding on tight and joyously dancing in that broad and meaningful circle with everyone--whether or not we may actually be on any one plywood floor together!




12 Menachem Av




QUESTION OF THE DAY : Yoshiyahu HaMelech believed that everything was perfect in Eretz Yisrael--yet he hid the Aron and the Mahn because of the impending Churban, how do we reconcile the two?



QUESTION FOR SHABBOS: The Rambam (at the beginning of Hilchos Talmud Torah) and Rashi (Kiddushin 29B) both bring a Pasuk from this week’s Parsha which is not in Shema as the source of the Mitzvah of Talmud Torah. What is the Pasuk?




Special Note One:  In this week’s Parsha, we find that the Beis HaMikdash is referred to as HaLevanon. Rashi explains that it is referred to in this way because it is “MeLabein Es Ha’adam Min Ha’aveiros--it simply cleanses and purifies a person from the aveiros he had committed”. Oh, how we should pine for the Beis HaMikdash to cleanse us again!


Hakhel Note:  Although Tisha B’Av 5773 is over, let us resolve this year to truly keep the Beis HaMikdash and Yerushalayim close to us every day of the year. Our lives are not regular; we are not now ‘back to normal’.  A normal, regular life for us is a life with  a Yerushalayim as the spiritual, focal point of the world, and with the Shechina in all of its glory on earth resting in the Bais HaMikdash. Accordingly, it is not enough to say that we believe in Moshiach. We must anxiously await Moshiach. The phrase in Ani Maamin of ‘Achake Lo’ is not a figurative expression but a literal one. Thus,when we recite the words “Velirushalayim Ircha”--we are pleading that Hashem finally get back to His Home in His City; when we recite the words “VeSechezena Einainu” we are davening that our  very eyes  actually see the Shechina’s  return; when we say the words “Vesain Chelkainu BeSorosecha” we are imploring that the Torah  finally return to its former glory by our reaching levels in Torah Study that we cannot achieve in Galus. These special times in Shemone Esrei when we daven for our lives ‘to really return to normal’ should not be brushed over, c’v. Instead, truth be told, they should be one of the main areas of our life’s focus, one of the highlights of our day.


Let us not leave any of the lessons of Tisha B’Av behind us. At the very least, let us keep the Shechina, the Beis HaMikdash, Yerushalayim, and the Geulah Sheleima at the forefront of our thoughts and Tefillos. Let our Tefillos literally come alive as we recite and supplicate over the day that the world will be filled with the knowledge of Hashem, and mankind finally reaches its true goal and purpose.



Special Note Two:  We now approach Shabbos Nachamu, after having just attempted to appreciate the enormity of the devastation that has befallen us.  Shabbos Nachamu is intended to enlighten us as to how great the consolation will be.  There is no Pasuk that says “Eichah, Eichah.”  There is, however, a Pasuk which repeats “Nachamu, Nachamu--be consoled, be consoled...!”


Chazal teach us that “Kol Hamesabel al Yerushalayim--anyone who mourns over Yerushalayim,” is “Zoche V’roeh--merits and sees”--its rejoicing.  HaRav Meir Schuck, Zt’l, notes that Chazal do not teach that the person who mourns over Yerushalayim will merit and see its rejoicing, but rather, in the present, now merits and sees its rejoicing.  How is this so?  After all, do not Arabs still occupy the Temple Mount ?  Is not the Beis HaMikdash still in ruins?  HaRav Schuck explains that if someone truly appreciates the loss of a rebuilt Yerushalayim, he takes action, practical and meaningful steps, towards its rebuilding, just as someone with a tattered roof on his home, or a car in his driveway that doesn’t start, will do in order to fix things--to bring them back to normal.  How does one ‘fix’ the situation in this instance?  He davens hard when he reaches the places in Shemone Esrei asking for the rebuilding of Yerushalayim, as noted earlier, and he undertakes special Mitzvos for the sake of the redemption.  His participation in the rebuilding brings him joy, much in the same way as someone still building a house envisions all of the room and conveniences it will provide when completed, or as a woman repairs the hem of a dress hums, realizing that she will be wearing it to a chasunah in just a few hours.


Let us begin to rejoice in the ‘building’ now--for there will be much more to rejoice about when our ultimate House is done, and when our great chasunah arrives.



Special Note Three:  In a related vein, Rabbi Yosef Eisen, Shlita, brings an amazing teaching of the Ritva to Ta’anis 30B.  The Ritva explains that there will be a unique Techiyas HaMeisim that occurs at the time of the rebuilding of the Beis HaMikdash which will especially occur for those who passed away in Galus but who were Mechakim LeYeshua--who awaited the redemption.  The general Techiyas HaMeisim for everyone else comes only later at the time of Final Judgment.  The Middah KeNeged Middah is as clear as it is remarkable.  Since you anticipated, you yearned, you pursued, the yeshua--you attain it far ahead of anyone else.  It’s almost like the person who knows to go quickly through the side streets to avoid the massive traffic jams at the bridge--turning a one-hour delay into a five minute ride--because he knew enough to anticipate and plan ahead---he knew how valuable the outcome really was, and succeeded to get there much faster!   



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


1.  Rabbi Zecharia Wallerstein, Shlita, also points out that this Shabbos is not called Shabbos Nachamu because it is a time of relaxation or comedy--but because it is a time to appreciate your closeness to HaKadosh Baruch Hu.  The notion of laxity associated with this Shabbos, and its related Motza’ei Shabbos, is immediately dispelled by the words of the Aseres HaDibros (coincidentally?) in this week’s Parsha!


2.  There are some special points of interest this Shabbos:


·        One should study and sing the words of Lecha Dodi in order to better appreciate and recognize the nexus between the Beis HaMikdash and Shabbos.  One reader advised us that he heard from an Adam Gadol that the Three Weeks and the Seven Weeks of Nechama are all alluded to in the Lecha Dodi! 

·        When reciting Av HaRachamim on Shabbos morning, let us remember that we are apparently given the permission to do so because we profoundly combine the Kedusha of the Kedoshim described, together with the Kedusha of Shabbos. 

·        In each Birkas HaMazon we will recall Yerushalayim, Malchus Beis Dovid, and the Beis HaMikdash--and ask for Hashem’s Mercy in restoring them.  Remarkably, we then inextricably bind the Kedusha of Shabbos to the Kedusha of the Beis HaMikdash with a special Retzeih recited for Shabbos placed into this Bracha of Boneh Yerushalayim!


3.  In this week’s Parsha, the Aseres HaDibros teaches us: “Shamor Es Yom HaShabbos LeKadesho--guard the Shabbos Day to keep it holy”. We should especially be diligent this Shabbos with our deeds and actions in guarding the Shabbos--especially in the areas of borer and muktzah to which people seem to fall especially prey. We additionally note that a reader asked us to warn people that he has seen children tie knots in filled plastic garbage bags in the same way that they do during the week--and one should advise his children to be careful against doing so. Hakhel Note:  Every action on Shabbos requires care, from the epitome of Kiddush to Shabbos Tefillos to…lehavdil how one takes care of the waste from the Shabbos table!


4.  The Chofetz Chaim also brings from HaRav Chaim Vital, Z’tl, that when making a bracha on a Mitzvah, we recite Asher Kideshanu B’Mitzvosav--but that the time itself during the performance of the Mitzvah is not necessarily Kadosh.  However, through our Kiyum HaShabbos, the Kedusha of Shabbos stretches and lasts through our other work days, so that all the time that a person lives on this earth becomes Kadosh--all because of Shabbos!  Savor the Kedusha!


5. Reality check--seven weeks from Shabbos…is Shabbos Shuva! Let us most certainly begin putting our treatment and feelings towards Kedushas Shabbos in good working order!



Special Note Five:  Tomorrow, we will read in the Torah the first Parsha of Shema, the cornerstone of our faith.  It is, then, no “coincidence” (as it never is) that we always read it on the Shabbos after Tisha B’Av, for it provides focus for our lives at all times and in all places.  It is certainly an extremely auspicious time now to review and renew our connection to the Shema, both as to its proper recitation, and the Halachos and Hashkofos which are associated with, and emanate from, its holy words. Moreover, Yeshaya HaNavi (29:13) exhorts us not to perform Mitzvos in a manner which is “Mitzvas Anashim Melumada--by habit or rote.” Because we recite Shema so often we could, c’v, fall into this trap--and especially in light of the Kedusha of Shema we must make special efforts to invigorate our Shema daily. Indeed, Rashi in this week’s Parsha (Devarim 6:6) writes that it should be viewed as a new proclamation from the King each and every day. One can visualize the King’s messenger or royal crier unrolling the King’s message on parchment each and every time that he reads the Shema. Helpful Hint: One additional way to maintain appropriate Kavannah while reciting Shema is to find the allusions each one of the Aseres HaDibros in the Shema every time that he recites it (they are brought by the Mishna Berurah from the Talmud Yerushalmi, in Shulchan Aruch Orach Chaim 61 seif katan 2).


We additionally provide below several points regarding Shema, which we hope is only a brief starting point and motivator to improve one’s daily Shema (remember these words that we are privileged to recite daily are the very same words with which we conclude Neilah--the Final Service--on the Holiest Day of the Year!).


1.  Before reciting Shema, we should have in mind that we are fulfilling the Mitzvah of Kabbalas Ol Malchus Shomayim, and the separate Mitzvah of Kriyas Shema.


2. “Shema” means listen, understand and accept.


3.  ”Yisrael” means to include you.  Rebbi Yisrael Salanter, Z’tl, used to say that while reciting the word “Echad,” we are to think about how Hashem, by Himself rules over the seven heavens and the earth, and all four directions of the world (Shulchan Aruch Orach Chaim 61:4).  However, when thinking about this vast and limitless expanse--we must never forget that Hashem rules over us, as well, and we should sincerely subjugate our entire being, including all of our will and desires to Him.


4.  When reciting Hashem’s names--especially in the first two pesukim--we should understand what each name--i.e., “Hashem” and “Elokeinu,” mean and represent.  This can be accomplished quickly once you know the meanings well.


5.  When saying “VeAhavta (careful--emphasis on last syllable when pronouncing),” one should feel love for Hashem in his heart--at least for all the kindness that He bestows upon us!  See Shulchan Aruch Orach Chaim 25, Mishna Berurah, seif katan 14.


6.  One should recite Shema from a Siddur which aids in the essential understanding of the words and in their proper pronunciation (the various Artscroll Siddurim, for instance, provide lines between words which could be slurred together if a small break is not made, and indicate through horizontal lines on the top of letters which Shevas are Sheva Na’s and which are Sheva Nach’s).


7.  One should not motion with his eyes or hands, even for the sake of a Mitzvah, during the first Parsha of Shema (Shulchan Aruch, Orach Chayim 63:6).


8.  Rabbi Moshe Goldberger, Shlita, teaches that there are seven (!) Mitzvos alone referred to in the first Parsha of Shema.


9.  The Chofetz Chaim brings Chazal (Sotah 42A) that the words Shema Yisrael are written in the Torah relating to our gathering before we go to war, in order to teach that if we properly recite Shema in the morning and evening, and that is the only Mitzvah that we do--it would be sufficient to be victorious in war.  Moreover, the Chofetz Chaim brings the Midrash that the entire creation is worthwhile just for the sake of this Mitzvah!


10. HaRav Zalman Sorotzkin, Z’tl, asks why the first Pasuk of Shema must begin with the words “Shema Yisrael”--Hear [and understand and accept] Yisrael. After all, the essence of the Pasuk is Kabbalas Ohl Malchus Shomayim-accepting upon oneself Heavenly Kingship--wouldn’t it have been sufficient to succinctly convey this very primary message with only the four words of “Hashem Elokeinu Hashem Echad”? What do the  words ‘Shema Yisrael’ add?  HaRav Sorotzkin answers that if we are to properly accept upon ourselves Ohl Malchus Shomayim, we must be sure to advise and proclaim it to others as well; it is insufficient for us to maintain this unwavering belief without joining in others. After all, if a person knew the secret of life--would he keep it to himself?!  If a soldier knew how to save himself when surrounded by the enemy--would he not save his comrades as well? If a person knew the difference between right and wrong--would he smile smugly as others faltered?! No--we must remember that as a prerequisite to our own Ohl Malchus Shomayim--we must first begin with Shema Yisrael --  a real quest  for others to know, learn, study, and appreciate as well!


 Once again, the above are just a few thoughts to help you get started.  May this week’s Parsha bring with it a reinvigoration of our recitation of Shema--so that we properly fulfill the words of the Navi--”Yisrael Asher Becha Espoer--the People of Israel--in Whom I Glory!”



Special Note Six: The last Pasuk of Shema contains the Mitzvah of Mezuzah.   The Rema (Shulchan Aruch, Yoreh Deah 285) writes that when a person enters and leaves his home, he should place his hand on the Mezuzah, to remind what is written in the Mezuzah, and that Hashem is watching over him at all times. HaRav Chaim Kanievsky, Shlita notes that he observed that the Chazon Ish (at least in his older years) would look at the Mezuzah, rather than touch it, as he entered and exited, because by looking at it his mind was  also directed to the Mezuzah, its content and its meaning. 


Hakhel Note: As we enter a room or leave it, Let us remember to touch (or at least look at) the Mezuzah that we are blessed with on our doors--so that the two Parshios of Shema contained within it are with us not only at Shacharis and Ma’ariv but through the entire day!



Special Note Seven: We provide the following fundamental insights from the Sefer Hachinuch (English translation from the five volume masterpiece Sefer HaChinuch, Feldheim Publishers):


A. On the Mitzvas Lo Sa’aseh contained in the last of the Aseres HaDibros of ‘Lo Sisaveh’--do not desire what belongs to someone else, the Sefer Hachinuch writes as follows: “For it is indeed in each man’s power to restrain himself, his thoughts and his longing desires, from whatever he wishes. It lies in his free choice and in his decision to repel his desire--or to draw it near-- in all matters, as he wishes; and his heart is given over to his control; however he pleases he may move it. Hashem, before Whom all secrets are revealed, ‘searches all the chambers of the innards’ (Mishlei 20:27 ), seeing the organs of understanding and the heart. Not one, large or small, good or bad, out of all the thoughts of a man is hidden from Him, or concealed from the range of His sight. For there is nothing so good for a man as a good, pure thought, since that is the beginning of all the good deeds and their end....”


Hakhel Note: If you can, please read this again (and again)!


B. On the Mitzvas Aseh of Ahavas Hashem, the Sefer HaChinuch writes as follows: “It applies in every place, at every time, for both men and women. If a person transgresses this and fixes his thoughts on the material interests and vapid vanities of the world, not for the sake of Heaven but only to pleasure himself in them, or to attain esteem in this [lowly] world, to make his name great, not with any intention to do good for good people and to strengthen the hands of the honest--he disobeys this positive precept, and his punishment will be great. This is one of the constant precepts for a man [i.e., one of the Shesh Mitzvos Temidios--the six constant Mitzvos], forever placed upon him to observe.” 


Hakhel Note: Once again, if you can, please read this again (and again)!




11 Menachem Av

FROM A READER:  “I was listening to Charlie Harari’s talk on Tisha B’Av about how the central issue of Tisha B’Av is that we fall prey to thinking “I can’t” instead of seeing ourselves ‘like a lion’ who can do anything we set our minds to accomplish in ruchniyus. I just wanted to point out that I think the reason why we think “I can’t” is really that we are afraid of something. We don’t mean “I can’t” - we mean “I’m afraid to do XYZ because if I do try, and I fail, I will be disappointed (or some other fear).” So whenever we find ourselves thinking “I can’t” - I can’t repair this relationship, I can’t make that phone call, I just can’t commit to having more Kavannah in my tefillos, I just can’t control my speech - we can ask ourselves: What exactly am I afraid of? What’s the worst that will happen if I just try?  Am I afraid of failure? Rejection? Disappointment?  How will I deal with those fears if they do indeed occur By thinking through what’s holding us back from trying, we will IY”H have the strength to step into the Yam Suf and take a leap of faith in ourselves and our potential!”




Special Note One: We B’EH continue our Monday/Thursday study of the Sefer Mitzvos HaKatzar, with the Mitzvos Lo Sa’asei which the Chofetz Chaim writes are applicable in our times. Today, we present Mitzvos Lo Sa’aseh 169 and 170:


169. Shelo Leheyos Chover Chaver--this is the Mitzvas Lo Sa’aseh which prohibits one from casting spells, which involves whispering uncommon phrases or incantations, so that for instance, a snake or scorpion will not bite. Sometimes, this involves the spell-caster holding an object such as a key or rock. If he holds such an object, or if he does any kind of action while casting the spell--even pointing with his finger or moving an object, he receives makkos. If he does no act other than casting the spell with his words he has violated an Issur D’Rabbanan. Likewise, the one who asks for a spell to be cast, has violated an Issur D’Rabbanan. This prohibition applies in all places and at all times, and to men and women alike.


170. Shelo La’asos Ma’aseh Ohv--this is the Mitzvas Lo Sa’aseh which prohibits one from doing the act of an ohv--which occurs when one who inquires of him hears noises or sounds from under the ground, or in the event the ohv asks something of the skull of a deceased person, having an answer emerge from under the armpit of the ohv. Both the ohv and the one who asked the ohv the question violate this prohibition. This prohibition applies in all places and at all times, and to men and women alike.



Special Note Two:  Although Tisha B’Av is a sad and mournful time, it does not mean that we should quickly move away and shut the door on its meaning and import in our daily lives.  Indeed, it is interesting to note that immediately after teaching us the Halachos of Tisha B’Av, the Shulchan Aruch (Orach Chaim 560) provides us with the Halachos of what we must do Zecher L’Churban, in remembrance of the Churban--every day.


Accordingly, we provide below only a few additional lessons one could glean from Tisha B’Av:


1. Kinah 25 describes an ‘unidentified event’. What a tragic symbol of Galus--the uncertainty, the difficulties, the trials and the tribulations that we have faced oh so many times. Isn’t it time that we put an end to this? We note that the word Kinah sounds strangely similar to the word kinah--jealousy. As he leaves Tisha B’Av, one’s personal Kabbalah can be not to be jealous of anyone for any reason--no more kinnos!


2. Kinah 29 states “Siman Tov L’Adam…--it is a good sign for a person if he is not eulogized or buried properly…. let him not fear the day of wrath.”  The Artscroll commentary explains that death in this way serves to fully purge a person of any stain on his soul caused by sin, and that such a person will be spared the punishments of the next world (Sanhedrin 46B; 47A).  This should serve as a great consolation for all of us who had relatives that perished in the Holocaust in so many diverse and cruel ways.


3. Dovid HaMelech, in perhaps the most renowned chapter of Tehillim (Chapter 130) begins “Shir HaMa’alos Mima’amakim--a Song of Ascents.  From the depths I called you…”  HaRav Klonymous Kalman Shapiro, Zt’l, H’yd, (the Rebbe of Piazeczna) taught the following about the word “Mima’amakim” to the Jews of the Warsaw Ghetto with him:  Sometimes a person is in a situation from which he cannot extricate himself barring an absolute miracle.  For example, the Jews in the Warsaw Ghetto, especially after the uprising.  Dovid HaMelech, by using the word “Mima’amakim,” refers to this kind of situation, for he does not refer to only one singular depth (which would be Emek), but to the depth of the depths (Mima’amakim, in the plural).  The Piazeczner concluded that Dovid HaMelech was teaching us that we cry out to Hashem whether or not we can reasonably be saved--for there are two kinds of prayer.  The first, basic type of prayer is to make requests of Hashem, the Omnipotent One.  The second, more sublime prayer is one in which one prays not to achieve a personal request, but only to connect and cleave to Hashem.  This is the “Mima’amakim” in which we cry out to Hashem--not only because we realize that He is the only source of our salvation, but also to demonstrate to Him that, when all is said and done, what we ultimately seek is dveikus with Him.


4. The Telzer Rav Zt’l, H’yd, before being murdered, was beaten by a ruthless Nazi with a hammer.  “Herr Rabbiner! Where is your G-d now?” he mocked.  The Telzer Rav responded, “He is your G-d too--and you will find that out later!”  Whenever we recite Av HaRachamim (on Shabbos or after Yizkor), we should take the few moments necessary to recite it slowly and thoughtfully (some actually stand, as a symbol of respect, but this is not required by Halacha).  Remember, we are praying not only for the Kedoshim, but also for the honor of Hashem and His People.


5. The Pasuk in Eichah (1:2) states “Bocho Tivkeh Ba’Layla V’Dimasah…--cry, cry at night, and its tears….”  The Midrash teaches that there are three words for crying at the outset of Eicha to teach us that there are three tears--one for the first Beis HaMikdash, a second for the second Beis HaMikdash, and a third either for the Bitul Torah that the Churban has caused to this very day (we cannot attain our full potential without a Beis HaMikdash), or for the Kavod Yisrael, the honor of our People, which has been disgraced and defiled even by the nations which are friendly to us.  Thus, the last tear referred to in Eichah is being shed for us!


6. What is left of the great Roman Empire are the many ruins in the ancient city of Rome together with the Arch of Titus, which remains standing, as if to remind us that although Rome and all those like it in history are gone, we are still in Galus, and that we should not forget it.  If we don’t picture the Arch of Titus in front of us to remind us of our plight, then every person can find his own simple method to help put things in perspective daily.  We may suggest: (i) Reciting Tehillim Chapter 79 daily with feeling; and (ii) Thinking about what a small percentage of World Jewry are Torah Jews, and how many Jews are being lost to Judaism daily through intermarriage and attrition--for no other reason than the churban we find ourselves in--and davening especially for them every day.  


7. Finally, it is important to note that Chazal teach that both Nevuzradan (the Chief General of the Babylonians), and Nero (the first Chief General of the Romans to besiege Yerushalayim at the time of the Churban) realized that the destruction of the Beis HaMikdash that they were involved in was only by the Hand of Hashem.  They each fled and converted to Judaism.  Perhaps this is to teach us that, ultimately, all the nations of the world will have the proper perspective on life.  It is up to us now to live each and every precious day of our life--a day in which we are a step ahead of the rest of the entire world (!)--staying as close to Hashem as possible in everything that we do--so that by next year, when Tisha B’Av arrives, we will experience the greatest joy possible, with the rebuilding of the Beis HaMikdash and the World in all of its Glory!



Special Note Three: The following is excerpted from the Sefer Aleinu L’Shabeiach, which contains the remarkable teachings of HaRav Yitzchak Zilberstein, Shlita (Artscroll English translation, Devarim p. 205, 206):


A couple came to me and lamented that their 10-year-old son was having an exceedingly difficult time in school. He still had difficulty reading, and his comprehension of the material his Rebbi taught was very poor. He could not grasp Gemara, or Mishnayos, or even Chumash. “What should we do about this?” they asked despondently. After giving them some practical advice, I added that the most effective solution to their son’s predicament would be for them to pray for the rebuilding of the Beis HaMikdash. “The root of all of the problems we have today is the lack of the Beis HaMikdash,” I told them, “since the Beis HaMikdash was the source of all wisdom.” I then showed them that Responsa Beis Hillel (71) writes that a tried-and-true remedy for all ailments is that a person should take upon himself to recite Tikkun Chatzos tearfully every Thursday night, after performing complete Teshuvah. It seems to me that the reason why this ‘remedy’ works is because in mourning the Beis HaMikdash, a person shows that he shares in Hashem’s pain over the fact that His children are not able to achieve even a fraction of the spiritual achievements that they were able to achieve when the Beis HaMikdash was standing.


The Kuzari (second essay, 26-30) writes that the Aron was the repository of wisdom. Two types of wisdom emanated from the Aron: the wisdom of Torah, whose bearers were the Kohanim, and the wisdom of prophecy, whose bearers were the prophets. When the Beis HaMikdash was standing, all of this wisdom belonged to the Jewish people. But after the destruction of the Beis HaMikdash, all of the various bodies of wisdom were transferred to the gentiles. For this reason, I feel considerable anguish over the loss of our Holy Temple any time I hear that a person won a prestigious, award for a brilliant invention or scientific discovery.


Rabbi Zilberstein concludes:”If you pray with intense Kavannah for the rebuilding of the Beis HaMikdash,” I told the anxious parents who had come to me, “then with Hashem’s help you will merit that the wisdom contained in the Aron will have a positive effect on your son as well!”


Hakhel Note:  In his Shiur at the Chofetz Chaim Heritage Foundation Tisha B’Av Event, HaRav Elya Brudny, Shlita, explained that the Beis HaMikdash is referred to as “Beis Chayeinu”--for from it we draw true life. As we recite the bracha of V’Lirushalayim Ircha from now and at least until Rosh Hashana--let us think of the pure and complete life we will experience with a rebuilt Yerushalayim, a rebuilt Beis HaMikdash! Rabbosai--Kavannah!




10 Menachem Av

HOW TO WAIT FOR MOSHIACH: HaRav Yechezkel Levenstein, Z’tl, (Or Yechezkel, Emunah p. 292) states that he remembers the Chofetz Chaim’s mashal as to how we should wait for Moshiach:  Imagine a person who is very unwell and who is waiting for the expert doctor who will give him the medication needed to cure him of his illness.  When will he arrive?  Every knock at the door…Is it the doctor?…And every delay in his coming causes a greater longing for him.




Special Note One: We provide below several points relating to the day after our fasting on Tisha B’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 Ma’amin 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 Mishna Berurah (Shulchan Aruch Orach Chaim 156; seif katan 4) brings that the Mitzvah of VeAhavta Lerei’acha 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!


G.  Based on the calculation that it has been 1,943 years since the destruction of the Beis HaMikdash, this amounts to more than 709,000 days and over 17,000,000 hours.  This is an extremely, extremely long time.  As we heard on the Haftara read on Tisha B’Av morning (Yirmiyahu 8:13 ): “Ein 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 in 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, neighboring Egypt and Syria are in turmoil.  The fear of terrorism and crazed human beings pervades the world.  So, with all the comforts and conveniences, our times are nevertheless fraught with unrest, turbulence and confusion. Rabbi Yoni Zakutinsky, Shlita, explains our situation 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--could end in 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 should 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! 


H.  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! 



Special Note Two:  Yirmiyahu HaNavi (Yirmiyahu 2:5), in the Haphtarah we recently read teaches us that the people severely erred because “VaYelchu Acharei Hahevel Va’Yehbalu--and they went after nothingness and turned into nothingness.” There is a great, yet simple and practical lesson here--you are that which you pursue.  For example, if a person pursues Torah, he becomes a “Ben Torah.”  If, on the other hand, he pursues Lashon Hara, he becomes a “Baal Lashon Hora.”  Everybody has to take a good look at what they really are pursuing.  There is an old quip about an uneducated Jew who came to Shul, and was asked by the Gabbai whether he was a Kohen, Levi or Yisroel.  He responded: “I am none of those.  I am a businessman!”  We, as educated Jews, have to make sure that it is clear to us--and to others--who we really are, and where our primary focus is. It is interesting to note that HaRav Dovid Kviat, Z’tl, (the “Sukkas Dovid,” who was one of the senior Rabbonim in America in modern times) when asked to make a remark to children (on Torah Umesorah’s “Shanghai Miracle” audio-visual presentation) asked them one thing only--to “Learn with Cheshek”--with enthusiasm.  Are we any different than children in this regard?  May we suggest that at the end of the day, one thinks to oneself--what did I pursue today--what did I do with enthusiasm? It is up to us whether we pursue nothing and become nothing, or whether we pursue a life of Torah fulfillment--and literally become models for the entire world!



Special Note Three:  As we have noted in the past, In the unparalleled Artscroll Kinos, by Rabbi Avraham Chaim Feuer, Shlita, Rabbi Feuer writes the following in the course of his introduction:


“The tears of Kinos are a never-ending stream.  When I began to translate and elucidate the Kinnos on the day after Succos, I called my Rebbi, HaRav Mordechai Gifter, [Z’tl], and asked, ‘How can I get into the mood of writing about Kinnos just a day after Simchas Torah, while all the happy tunes of joy still resonate in my ears and Tisha B’Av is still so far off in the future?  Who can think of Kinos now?’


“He replied, ‘You are mistaken. Kinos are not only for Tisha B’Av, they are for the entire year, except that throughout the year we recite Kinos in a whisper, while on Tisha B’Av we shout them out loud!  Whoever neglects Kinos all year long and attempts to start reciting them on Tisha B’Av will not succeed in saying them even then, because he will recite the verses without any feeling and he will become bored.  We must cry and mourn over the Churban all year long, in every season, and then our Kinnos will reach their climax of pain on Tisha B’Av.’


“This concept of regular mourning over the Churban is codified in the very first chapter of Shulchan Aruch (Orach Chaim 1:3).  It is proper for every G-d-fearing person to feel pain and anguish over the destruction of the Holy Temple.


“The Sefas Emes was once asked, ‘And what should someone do if he feels no anguish over the Churban of the Temple ?’  The Rebbe replied, ‘Then he should be consumed with pain and anguish over his own personal Churban.  If a Jew doesn’t feel real pain over the Churban, it shows that his soul is in a wretched, abysmal state!’


“True, Kinos are for all year round--but when does one begin to develop a feeling for them?  On Tisha B’Av.  If one truly comprehends and feels the Kinos he recites on this day, he will be inspired to refer back to them throughout the year….”




8 Menachem Av

FROM A READER: “On your point of maintaining the middah of Sever Panim Yafos, I might add, my mother, zal zein gezunt, recently underwent surgery and was in the hospital for a period of time. We noted that when you talk to the nurses and you greet them happily and you talk to them B'saiver Panim Yafos, you express appreciation for the good things that they do, that the nurses then tend to respond by living up to the expectation that you place upon them. They do become better nurses when they are spoken to that way. I couldn't help but reflecting that it would probably work at home as well. When you talk to your wife with appreciation, if you talk to your family in a language of thanks of B'saiver Panim Yafos they will no doubt respond. That type of She'ailas Shalom of caring when you come home not just to say how was your day but to show that you care how the other person’s day was, that you are connected, that brings out the good in people. The reset button of Tisha B’Av is to reset that idea of She'ailas Shalom.”



AN APPRECIATION: The Mishna Berurah (Shulchan Aruch, Orach Chaim 554 seif katan 21) rules that on Tisha B’Av it is permissible for one to wash his hands [until his knuckles] before Mincha “Dehavi Kemekabeil Pnei HaShechina U’cheTevilas Mitzvah Shehitiru--for washing one’s hands before davening Mincha is performed in order to greet the Shechina--and can be compared to tevila in a mikva for the sake of a Mitzvah”. Oh, how we should appreciate Tefillas Mincha--and most certainly wash our hands prior to davening--each and every day of the year!



OUR ACTIONS ON TISHA B’AV: 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 Melumadah--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!



IKAR AVODAH: One of our readers met with HaRav Chaim Kanievksy, Shlita, this past Motza’ei Shabbos, and at our request asked him what the Ikar Avodah of Tisha B’Av is. He responded: “LeHagid Kinos”. This is HaRav Kanievsky’s instruction--the sincerity, feeling and meaning that is put into our Kinos is up to each and every one of us....



QUESTION:  A person should reduce the hana’ah (pleasure) he experiences on Tisha B’Av as much as possible, true or false?

ANSWER:  The Ramo (Orach Chaim 555:2) states that this is true.



QUESTION:  If the Moshiach comes on Tisha B’Av after chatzos ( midday ) will we continue to fast for the balance of the day?

ANSWER:  HaRav Chaim Kanievsky, Shlita, in Sefer Derech Sicha, rules that we will continue to fast if the Moshiach comes after midday because Teshuvah is an element of the mourning that we are to feel and experience on Tisha B’Av. Hakhel Note: Let us not forget to do Teshuvah on Tisha B’Av--wouldn’t it be so remarkable and special if the Moshiach actually came while you were doing Teshuvah?



NOW , A QUESTION FOR YOU TO ANSWER: How many different names or titles is the Beis Hamikdash given in Megillas Eichah alone?  What does that teach us?




Special Note One: We B’EH continue our Monday/Thursday study of the Sefer Mitzvos HaKatzar, with the Mitzvos Lo Sa’asei which the Chofetz Chaim writes are applicable in our times. Today, we present Mitzvos Lo Sa’aseh 167 and 168:


167. Shelo Liksom--this is the Mitzvas Lo Sa’aseh which prohibits one from practicing divination, which involves hitting a staff or a stick in one’s hand many times on the ground and crying out in strange ways, getting lost in thought and staring at the ground for a long time until one becomes ill and is able to tell the future. There are those who do so with sand or stones or a leather sash. A similar prohibited act is for one to hold a stick and divine whether to go somewhere or not. This prohibition applies in all places and at all times, and to men and women alike.


168. Shelo Lechasheif-- this is the Mitzvas Lo Sa’aseh which prohibits one from practicing sorcery, which involves certain species of grasses and stones and attachment of certain objects. One who performs an act of sorcery is chayav sekila. This prohibition applies in all places and at all times, and to men and women alike.



Special Note Two:  We provide the following Pesakim from the Sefer Ashrei HaIsh (Pesakim of HaRav Elyashiv, Z’tl, by Rabbi Yechezkel Feinhandler, Shlita) and from the Sefer Kovetz Halachos (Pesakim of HaRav Shmuel Kamenetsky, Shlita by Rabbi Doniel Kleinman, Shlita) relating to Tisha B'Av:


From the Sefer Ashrei HaIsh:


1. There are various degrees as to the extent one should clean/wash his hands after having touched a covered part of the body, his shoes, or dirtied part of his hand but not the whole hand.  Hakhel Note:  One should consult with his Rav or Posek as to the specific rules.


2.  One who rides on a bus on the night of Tisha B'Av or before Chatzos can sit on the regular seat (without having to remain standing), as this is not considered a special act of pleasure or comfort.  Of course, the same would be true for a cab ride, and one would not have to [go out of his way to] make himself uncomfortable in some way.


3.  One should not fly on Tisha B'Av, as it constitutes a Hesech HaDa'as from the Ta'anis.


4.  Although one should not say Shalom or Good Morning in the morning, wishing someone Mazel Tov is permissible.


5.  If someone has taken upon himself to go to the Kosel for 40 days in a row and recite Shir HaShirim as a segulah for a shidduch, he should go to the Kosel at the same time on Tisha B'Av but not recite Shir HaShirim (as it is Tisha B'Av), and then go back later after Tisha B'Av and recite Shir HaShirim.  With this, he should not lose the segulah.


6.  HaRav Elyashiv rules that although the area adjacent to the Kosel has the din of a Bais Tefillah, and although one should of course honor the makom and keep it clean, we should not clean the stones of the Kosel from the dirt that has accumulated since the Churban, for the darkened stones and any growing vegetation bring us to the realization of Churban--and serve as a constant reminder to us  to continue to beg and plead with Hashem for His mercy to restore the stones to their pristine state--it may be that because of these prayers the time will come when Hashem will replace the old black and uneven green with the glow and shine, with the wondrous splendor of everlastingly new and brilliant stones!


From the Sefer Kovetz Halachos:


1.  The requirement to sit on the ground begins immediately at Bain Hashemashos on Leil Tisha B'Av. If one is sitting on the ground itself (as opposed to a low chair), he does not have to put something like an article of clothing or towel between his body and the ground. While on or close to the ground (until Chatzos), one does not have to stand up for a zaken or talmid chochom who passes by, just as an avel is patur from this Mitzvah..


2. Although one cannot greet another, one can say Lehitraot, or Refuah Sheleimah, because these do not involve She'ailas Shalom.  One should in any event not engage in unnecessary conversation, because it removes one's mind from what it should be thinking about-- Teshuva and aveilus of the rabim. Similarly, one should not take a baby unto his lap when not necessary, for he may come to laughter.


3. Although in Shul the lights are dimmed, they need not be dimmed in the home.


4. Whenever one sleeps on Tisha B'Av (day or night) he should take away something from his usual custom, so that he is 'mitzta'er ketzas'--a little pained or put out (such as one less pillow or the like).


5. One can complete reciting Kinnos after Chatzos, if necessary.


6. It is permissible to say Tehillim for one who is ill at any time on Tisha B'Av; one who usually recites a certain number of Kepitelach every day can recite them after Chatzos.


7. On Tisha B'Av there is an absolute requirement of Talmud Torah--but only of the sefarim that it is permissible to learn.


8. It is best for men to daven Mincha early on Tisha B'Av, so that they can put on Tefillin at the earliest possible time.  Hakhel Note: As we have noted in the past, the mother of Rabbi Mordechai Zuckerman, a noted Talmud Chochom in Yerushalayim, davened Mincha close to sunset (which is usually preferred, see Shulchan Aruch, Orach Chayim 233:1) every day of the year, except Tisha B’Av, when she would daven Mincha as early in the day as was possible.  Rabbi Zuckerman asked his mother why her practice on Tisha B’Av was different than the other days of the year.  She responded that the Mincha of Tisha B’Av is the one time during the year where we add a special Tefillah, asking Hashem to “Nachem”, to console, the mourners of Zion and Yerushalayim.  She simply could not wait to daven Mincha until later, as this would mean an extra few hours of delay in begging Hashem to console us.



Special Note Three: Important reflections for Tisha B’Av:


 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 Bilevavecha’!” 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 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.  Tisha B’Av is the Yahrzeit of HaRav Meir Schuck, Z’tl, who was Rav in Temesvar , Romania before the war.  As we have noted in the past, 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. 


4. 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.  


5. 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 Gemara (Megilla 21A) teaches that Moshe Rabbeinu would learn the more difficult laws and concepts of the Torah sitting down.


As we sadly noted last year, 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 K’lal Yisrael 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--even within Eretz Yisrael

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

  • The Cohens and Levys 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—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 last week’s Haftara) 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 Yisrael and Yerushalayim--the defiling of a land and of a people on the one hand; and the turmoil in Eretz Yisrael 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.” 


At least today, on the eve of Tisha B’Av, and no less certainly tomorrow itself, 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 Yisrael, 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 in a few hours, 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.



Special Note Five:  ONE FINAL, VERY IMPORTANT POINT: Please, please do not mistakenly think that one’s actions on Tisha B’Av 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 Tuesday 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 G’ra, 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 5772 and 5773, 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 Beis 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! 







5 Menachem Av




FROM A RAV, WHO REQUESTED THAT WE PROVIDE THE FOLLOWING NOTIFICATION TO OUR READERS: “Beware of someone calling you and telling you that he is from Microsoft and that he received a report from your computer that it is running slow--and that he will fix it as part of a warranty. You then allow him access to your computer and he proceeds to hack in, copy all of your information and wipe out your computer. Microsoft advises that it will never call you.”





1. We had previously published the following from a Rav in Kiruv: “Remember, they don’t care what you know, they know that you care!” A Rav who is a reader wrote to us that the correct quote is:  Remember, they don’t care what you know, UNTIL they know that you care!”


2. “The word BABY is an acronym for Blame Anyone But Yourself.”


3. “Anger is the Middah of hurting yourself because another person made a mistake!”



EVEN IN OUR GENERATION! In a Shiur related to Tisha B’Av, Rabbi Zev Leff, Shlita, explained that in the Haggada Shel Pesach there are two times the phrase “Bechol Dor V’Dor” appears: (1) Bechol Dor V’Dor Chayav Adam Liros Es Atzmo--in every generation a person is obligated to view himself as having been redeemed from Egypt; and (2) Bechol Dor V’Dor Omdim Aleinu Lechaloseinu-- in every generation our enemies attempt to destroy us (whether blatantly or not). Chazal, by putting both phrases of Bechol Dor V’Dor into the Haggada are teaching us that just as each generation in Galus deserves to be in Galus--each and every generation--including ours--has the potential for redemption.  It is up to us not to look this way or that way, backwards, frontwards or sideways--but into ourselves--so that we can experience the preferred Bechol Dor V’Dor!





1.  In this week’s Parsha (always read before Tisha B’Av), Rashi teaches us an incredible fact.  On the words “Ba’eir Es HaTorah--explaining the Torah” (Devorim 1:5), Rashi brings the Midrash that Moshe Rabbeinu explained the Torah to the Bnei Yisroel in 70 languages.  Why?  After all, the people in the desert knew Lashon Hakodesh and maybe a little Egyptian, but why teach them in 70 languages?!


2.  If you were given a 10 minute notice that Eliyahu HaNavi was about to arrive-- or even a one-minute notice--how would you prepare?



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!”




Special Note One: As many may know, today is the Yahrzeit of the Arizal.  It is particularly noteworthy during this time of year that the Arizal is known for instructing us to be mekabel the Mitzvas Aseh of VeAhavta LeRayacha Komocha before davening.  What greater Mitzvah can we be involved in on his Yahrzeit--knowing that our lack of brotherhood (Sinas Chinam) drove us away from meriting the Bais Hamikdash--and how its repair --through VeAhavta LeRayacha Komocha -can bring us back home.  There is a fascinating Maharal at the outset of Sefer Gevuras Hashem, in which the Maharal explains that the word for exile (Golah--Gimel, Lamed, Heh), and the word for redemption (Goel--Gilel, Aleph, Heh) are different in that the word for exile contains a Heh, and the word for redemption contains an Aleph.  He explains as follows:  A Heh has the numerical equivalent of five--and this symbolizes the four corners of an object (such as the earth), together with its fifth point-- its center.  The letter Aleph has a numerical equivalent of one--symbolizing the center point which unites all else around.  In the Galus we are in, we are spread to the four corners of the world--but we have not lost the center--the power of unity that brings us all together.  We must always remember that our Galus is not marked by a Daled--with only four corners--but instead is made up of a Heh -- a fifth point at the center at which the four points can unite.  We have not lost this bond in thousands of years--as Jews from such diverse Galus-countries as Afghanistan, Argentina, Russia, France and the United States will all get together in camaraderie and to help each other.  This link has never been, and will never be, broken. Our role in Galus is to bring the four corners closer and closer towards the middle point--bonding closer and closer to achieve an Aleph.  When we have made sufficient gains with each other-- we will be zoche to bond with Hashem in the Bais HaMikdash again. When this happens and the Geulah Sheleimah comes--the Aleph will be permanent--and our bonds with Hashem will be unshakable, unbreakable, eternal and everlasting.



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


1. The following important rulings are excerpted from the Kuntres Lev Ita, by Rabbi Yisroel Dov Webster, Shlita.  Of course, one should obtain a final ruling on all personal matters from his Rav or Posek: 


A.  BATHING.  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.  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 then 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 oneself in a hot mikvah. One is permitted to immerse oneself Shabbos morning in a cold mikvah.


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


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.  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 gives 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.


H.  NIGGUNIM.  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. 


2. This Shabbos, Shabbos Chazon (as we eat meat and drink wine during the Nine Days), we should be especially aware of the Kedushas Shabbos, with the knowledge that as great as the Binyan Bais HaMikdash is--and what it would accomplish for the whole world--it is still not doche, does not push aside, the Shabbos…and must wait until after Shabbos has concluded!  Indeed, even if Tisha B’Av would occur on Shabbos, we still celebrate Shabbos--with the gefilte fish, the cholent…the Oneg Shabbos in its honor!  Indeed, this Shabbos, we should try to be a bit more careful with the greatness of Shabbos.  If we feel that somehow we end up in 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--let us make sure that we inject Kedusha into our personal situations and circumstances as well! Our dear readers, Mekadesh HaShabbos…Kol Mekadesh Shevii...let us especially feel and appreciate it tomorrow!


3. HaRav Chaim Kanievsky, Shlita, rules that the Havdala wine on Motza’ei Shabbos Chazon should preferably be given to a child--even if he is of age to understand about the aveilus of Yerushalayim--rather than one drinking it himself. However, if one does have to drink the cup one does not have to be makpid about drinking exactly a revi’is--and can drink the whole cup.



Special Note Three: The following are Piskei Halacha from HaRav Chaim Kanievksy, Shlita, as published in the Divrei Si’ach relating to Tisha B’Av, and the Churban:


A. At the Seuda HaMafsekes on Erev Tisha B’Av, before bentsching, one recites Ahl Naharos Bavel and not Shir HaMa’alos, even though it is a time when Tachanun is not recited. This is because Ahl Naharos Bavel describes the Churban HaMikdash.


B. For Kriyas Shema Ahl HaMita on Leil Tisha B’Av, HaRav Kanievsky recites only the Parsha of Shema, the Pasuk of BeYadecha Afkid Ruchi, and the bracha of HaMapil.


C. The Minhag to stand when reciting Ali Tzion is out of respect for the Kinah, and is not a chiyuv.


D. When putting on Tefillin in the afternoon, one may recite the Pesukim which he normally says when putting on Tefillin.


E. HaRav Kanievsky reports that the Chazon Ish permitted women to recite Tehillim on Tisha B’Av.


F. Anything that is prohibited in the Nine Days is prohibited on the Tenth of Av until Chatzos.


G. Halachos which are Zecher LeChurban:


1. A Simcha Hall which is owned by an individual requires an amah by an amah which is unfinished.


2. When traveling to the Kosel, the Steipeler would close his eyes upon entering the Old City until the Kosel, so that he would not have to tear his clothing twice--once for the walls of Yerushalayim--and the other for the Kosel.


3. One cannot be mafkir his clothing in order to avoid tearing it when seeing the Kosel. After tearing, one need not continue to wear it and one can replace it immediately.



Special Note Four: Important reflections for the days before Tisha B’Av:


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’Lirushalayim 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.  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. 


8.  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. 


9.  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!


10.  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! 


11.  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! 


12.  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!


13.  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 it 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. 


14.  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 culpable, 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! 


15.  Rabbi Yisroel Reisman, Shlita, points out that the oldest Kinah we find in Kinos is the Kinah that 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. 


16.  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 think and rethink how we can further improve our treatment of 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! 




4 Menachem Av

Special Note One: We B’EH continue our Monday/Thursday study of the Sefer Mitzvos HaKatzar, with the Mitzvos Lo Sa’asei which the Chofetz Chaim writes are applicable in our times. Today, we present Mitzvos Lo Sa’aseh 165 and 166:


165. Shelo Lenacheish--this is the Mitzvas Lo Sa’aseh which prohibits one from practicing augury. This refers, for example, to those who say “My bread fell from my mouth” or “My cane fell from my hand--I will not go to a certain place today” or if one makes signs for himself, such as: “If this and this will happen to me, I will do this and that.” If a person did some action through augury such as this, he violates this prohibition. This prohibition applies in all places and at all times, and to men and women alike.


166. Shelo Leonein-- this is the Mitzvas Lo Sa’aseh which prohibits one from soothsaying, like those who say that this time is good for this, or that month is good for that, or vice versa--and one who does this violates this negative prohibition. Additionally, one who practices ‘slight of the hand’ and fools people as to what they are seeing violates this prohibition. This prohibition applies in all places and at all times, and to men and women alike.



Special Note Two:  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, makes 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 asks 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.”  “Histarti 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.  But, 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, then 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 last, conclusory and climactic Pasuk--“LeMa’an 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 Three:  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.  We once again provide a beautiful limud zechus in this area, from the Luach Davar BeIto: 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 Yisrael 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 Yisrael! 



Special Note Four:  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 Be'Tzedaka--and those who return…with acts of charity!”  If you need an important Tzedaka address to help feed the poor in Eretz Yisrael--we refer you to yadeliezer.org



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.




3 Menachem Av

PLEASE DAVEN!:  It would seem especially appropriate to look for the terms 'geulah' and 'yeshua' in your davening and make them real-very real!









Special Note One:  Rabbi Heshy Kleinman, Shlita explains some of the basic parameters of Tzipisa LiYeshua--Anticipating the Redemption.  The term 'tzipisa' is especially used by Chazal because it describes someone looking out in search of something--such as someone standing on a mountain in anticipation of the caravan with the life-sustaining supplies (Har Hatzofim has the same root).  It describes a state of real eagerness, something that one really needs and has to have.  On a more advanced level, it is really an existential longing--as the longing of a parent, sibling or child who has not seen their beloved relative in many years.  As the feeling of what one is lacking continues to grow, so too does the intensity of his lacking.  Rabbi Kleinman very importantly teaches that we can demonstrate our earnest and true yearning not only in our Tefillos [as mentioned above] and in our tears, but also by our conduct in the world that we live in.  After all, our yearning is for the Shechina to return and for us to be closer to it.  We can bring the Shechina into our lives--in this world--through Kiddush Shem Shomayim, through the study of Torah, and through the care with which we undertake and perform Mitzvos.  If we can demonstrate to Hashem, and to ourselves, that we want to be closer to the Shechina in the very world that we live in--then Hashem will middah kenegged middah bring the Shechina closer to us in a grand and eternal way--speedily and in our days.


Hakhel Note: Rabbi Kleinman's compelling Sefer--especially for this time of year-- Yearning with Fire (Artscroll), is on this very topic of practical fulfillment of Tzipisa LeYeshua, in which he develops and explains how we can do our part *in this world*in these the last throngs of our Galus--and thereby once and for all not only be zoche to the yeshua's anticipation --but to its full and final fulfillment! 



Special Note Two: Many Halachic issues arise during the Nine Days, and perhaps a Rav must be consulted more often 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 DeGalusa--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.  He posited, for example, that while it may be permissible to sleep on freshly laundered linen in your hotel room--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 in Galus with you. 



Special Note Three:  As we have noted in the past, in his explanation of the Siddur (in the monumental work HaRav Schwab on Prayer, published by Artscroll), HaRav Schwab, Z’tl, asks why the brocha of “VeLirushalayim Ircha” begins with a Vav (“And”).  What is the meaning of “And” here--to what is the beginning of the bracha connecting?  HaRav Schwab suggests that the Vav alludes to the Yerushalayim Shel Ma’alah, where thousands, and perhaps millions, of Tzadikim who hoped and prayed for the rebuilding of Yerushalayim over the past 2,000 years now reside.  When the time comes for Yerushalayim to be rebuilt, these neshamos will experience it B’shamayim together with the people who are physically experiencing the rebuilding here on earth.  Moreover, HaRav Schwab teaches, although we do not really understand what it means at this time, Chazal teach that Hashem will return to the Yerushalayim Shel Ma’alah only after He has returned to the Yerushalayim Shel Matah, for He has been “absent” from the Yerushalayim Shel Ma’alah since the Churban, as well.  We are thus mispallel for Hashem to return to both cities of Yerushalayim.


HaRav Schwab concludes his explanation of the Brocha with the following comforting words:


“Just as a deep foundation must be placed in the ground before a very large structure can rise, so, too, have the historical events of the Galus been the foundation for the rebuilding of the future Yerushalayim.  Our entire Galus experience--and it is longer than we have hoped and thought it would be--is the deep, dark, underground pit into which the foundation of the future city of Yerushalayim is being placed.  This can be compared to a construction site of a large building, which is enclosed by a wall.  If a man manages to peek behind that wall, all he will see is a huge hole in the ground for the foundation.  The higher the planned structure, the deeper the foundation must be.  However, eventually the structure will begin rising above the wall until it reaches its completion.  Similarly, HaKadosh Baruch Hu, the Boneh Yerushalayim, has been digging the foundations of the future Yerushalayim ever since the Churban Bais HaMikdash, and the rebuilding process has never ceased throughout the Galus. At the time of Bi’as HaMoshiach, the structure will be completed.”  May it be speedily and in our days!




2 Menachem Av

FROM A RAV IN KIRUV: “Remember, they don’t care what you know, they know that you care!”



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! 



THE MOUTH IS A SHIELD: The Chofetz Chaim writes that just as armor on a soldier protects him from the arsenal thrown at him, so too does one who keeps his mouth closed during a time of dispute or argument protect himself from further harm, further disgrace and further enmity. In fact, one who closes his mouth so powerfully shields himself--that he is also able to shield his adversary and stop the war entirely! When Hashem sees this, He will credit the person who succeeds in keeping his mouth closed with bringing Shalom to the world…keeping the entire world going!



AS WE WORK ON OUR BEIN ADAM L’CHAVEIRO DURING THIS PERIOD, one easy but important ‘habit’ we can develop is provided to us in the Kitzur Shulchan Aruch (183:6): “When one sees someone involved in his work, give him a bracha of ‘Tatzliach B’Ma’asecha--may you have success in your endeavors!’”




Special Note One:  If we take a moment to engage in a Reality Check we will note that two months from today’s date will be the second day of Tishrei, the second day Rosh Hashanah!  Of course, another aspect of the Reality Check is that we are in the Nine Days.  Rather than being depressed or gloomy, we should recognize the current daily situation as a series of opportunities--opportunity after opportunity for growth and advancement.  In last week’s Haftorah, the Navi exhorted us with the words “Vayeilchu Acharei HaHevel Vayehebalu--they went after nothingness, and they became nothing.” (Yirmiyahu 2:5)  If we can make the effort to recognize and act upon opportunity after opportunity, we can convert nothingness into something very, very huge and important.  HaRav Avraham Davis, Shlita, (of Metsudah Publications) said in the name of HaRav Yitzchak Hutner, Z’tl, that if an adult would play ball like a child, he would be unfortunately viewed as an adult playing like a child.  However, if he would have continuously developed his talents since childhood, he could even become a professional.  LeHavdil, the same is also true in everything that we do.  It is up to us to determine whether, as adults, we are just playing like children in the way we learn, the way we daven, the way we speak, and the way we behave towards others.  In which direction are we moving--are we moving away from nothingness, are we using our opportunities--are we trying to grow (up)?  Let’s learn from the Navi--and make something of ourselves.  HaRav Avrohom Chaim Feuer, Shlita, in a Shiur on the Three Weeks, taught that Hashem leaves His palace during the Three Weeks looking for us--may He find us and be happy with His find!


Hakhel Note One:  The time may be right for us to buy a small notebook, and write on the outside “Sefer HaTeshuva.”  In there, one can jot down the items he senses that he is doing wrong either on a consistent basis or whenever he gets into this kind of situation or that kind of discussion--and ultimately (after thinking about it, and trial and error) how he can fix what he writes about.  Similarly, he could write down where he may have not acted honorably or befittingly (how did he show honor to the elderly person, how did he eat that food or drink that drink).  Writing this down is the indication that one feels that it is important enough for him to deal with, and is an important step in the improvement process.  Each and every one of us is far, far from nothingness, as Yirmiyahu teaches--for one has to travel (Vayeilchu Acharei HaHevel) to get there.  Our own personal Sefer HaTeshuva will lead us farther and farther away from that nothingness, and closer and closer to the highroad to greatness! 


Hakhel Note Two:  HaRav Chaim Volozhiner’s teaching in the Sefer Nefesh HaChaim regarding Titus HaRasha should especially reverberate within us during this time of year.  As many know, HaRav Chaim teaches that, unlike Titus’ action of stabbing the Paroches, which was limited to Olam HaZeh and had no effects in Shomayim--when a Jew sins in  this world, it not only creates after-effects and after-shocks in the person’s self and in the world in general, but it creates reverberations in the upper worlds as well.  This is not meant to be allegorical.  Although we cannot see it with our naked eye, it is real, very real.  We have the power to literally shake worlds for the bad--or for the good.  Let us wisely utilize our opportunities!



Special Note Two:  We continue today a series on the Middah of Emes, as culled from the Sefer MiDvar Sheker Tirchak, by Rabbi Avraham Tovalsky, Shlita:




A.  The Rebbi of Kobrin, Z’tl, advised someone who was used to fasting on Mondays and Thursdays as follows: “It would be more pleasing before Hashem for you not to say Sheker the whole week, than for you to fast two days a week!”


B.  The Ba’alei Mussar teach that one should take one Middah which he believes goes to the root of his being and personality, and especially work on that Middah throughout his lifetime. Rebbi Nochum Zev Ziv, Z’tl, the son of the Alter of Kelm, Z’tl, chose the Middas HaEmes as the central Middah of his life. He would remind others that on the Yomim Noraim we recite in our Tefillos: “Key Attah Elokim Emes U’Devarecha Emes--for You are the G-d of truth, and Your words are truth.”  He would continue: “We see from this that Hashem’s ‘language’ is truth. Moreover, in the Olam HaEmes--Emes is the only language that can be used.”


C.  Rebbi Yisrael Hager, Z’tl, the Vizhnitzer Rebbe known as the Ahavas Yisrael was very careful not to allow any Sheker into his speech. Accordingly, he would therefore be careful to constantly say: “I believe” or “I think”, so that he would not say any untruth.


D.  A person once approached the Chazon Ish and asked him if he could have a heter to change the truth on a Gemach application, in order to obtain a much-needed loan. The Chazon Ish responded that a person who accepts upon himself to go through life utilizing only the Middah of Emes will have special Siyata Dishmaya to succeed in everything that he needs to succeed in. The Chazon Ish was also makpid not to allow a person to say the word ‘Sheker’--or ‘lie’, but rather to use the phrase ‘Lo Emes’--or ‘not true’.


E.  HaRav Aharon Kotler, Z’tl, once went to a g’vir to collect for a third-party cause, which was unrelated to his Yeshiva. The wealthy person did not wish to support this cause, but felt badly that a Gadol HaDor had come to him, so he told HaRav Aharon that he would instead give a nice sum to his Yeshiva in Lakewood. To the g’vir’s great surprise, HaRav Aharon rejected the offer--stating emphatically that he came to collect for the other institution and not his own Yeshiva. The man was so impressed by this Middas HaEmes that he became a major supporter not only of the Yeshiva--but of the institution that he originally refused to support! On another occasion, HaRav Aharon was advised by someone not to be so openly against the Eruv in Manhattan , as well-to-do individuals in Manhattan would not support the Yeshiva when they heard of HaRav Aharon’s objections. HaRav Aharon responded: “It is better for my Yeshiva to close than not to advocate and pursue the Halachic truth!”




1 Menachem Av

FROM A READER: “The word Galus, in which we suffer so much and for so long, has a root of gimel-lamed- hay .  The word Geulah, redemption, for which we all daven, is spelled gimel-aleph- lamed-hay.  It became obvious that when we put the aleph in between the gimel and

the lamed, Aleph of course representing Hashem, the one (galus) will be changed into the

other (geulah), and we will then be zocheh to see the Geulah Shleimah bim'herah

uv'yameinu AMEN !”


DREAMING OF THE BEIS HAMIKDASH:  Where was marble utilized in the Beis HaMikdash? See Rashi to Divrei HaYamim 1:29, Pasuk Bais.




Special Note One: We B’EH continue our Monday/Thursday study of the Sefer Mitzvos HaKatzar, with the Mitzvos Lo Sa’asei which the Chofetz Chaim writes are applicable in our times. Today, we present Mitzvos Lo Sa’aseh 163 and 164:


163. Shelo Lichtov Kesoves Ka’aka Bivsaro--this is the Mitzvas Lo Sa’aseh which prohibits one from tattooing any marking on his flesh. A tattoo consists of making an incision into the flesh, and then filling the place of the incision with ink or dyes. One who does so, receives makkos. This prohibition applies in all places and at all times, and to men and women alike.


164. Shelo La’asos Karcha-- this is the Mitzvas Lo Sa’aseh which prohibits one from ripping hair out of his head in grief over a deceased person. This prohibition applies in all places and at all times, and to men and women alike.



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



Special Note Three:  One of the rare dates mentioned in the Torah actually is today’s date, the first day of Av (just mentioned in last 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 recognize 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 Mazel 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! Indeed, 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 Four:  The following are pesokim of HaRav Chaim Kanievsky, Shlita, relating to the Nine Days:


A. If a group recites Kiddush Levana before Tisha B’Av, afterwards they may dance and sing Tovim Meoros.


B. If one hears music he need not close his ears, provided that he does not have intent to have hana’ah from it.


C. An Ashkenazi should not give a haircut to a Sefardi who may still take a haircut this week. Once a child reaches the age of three, he/she should not be given a haircut until after Tisha B’Av.


D. If somebody cannot eat dairy products, he should still not eat meat if there is an adequate meat-substitute. Even if the substitute costs more than meat, he should spend the money to purchase the substitute.


E. The Chazon Ish rules that one should not sew clothing (even old clothing), at least during the Nine Days [and perhaps during the entire Three Weeks].


F. The issur rechitzah is so great, that a Sofer cannot even be tovel before writing the Shem Hashem.


G. If one owns a meat restaurant, he cannot open the store in order to save those who might otherwise eaten in a non-kosher restaurant, because it is a Chilul Hashem to keep the store open.


H. Even if one needs to purchase a car for his Parnassah, he should not do so and he should wait until after Tu B’Av (the fifteenth of Av).



Special Note Five: Special Note Two:  We continue today a series on the Middah of Emes, as culled from the Sefer MiDvar Sheker Tirchak, by Rabbi Avraham Tovalsky, Shlita:



A. The wise men of Athens asked Rebbi Yehoshua Ben Chanania to tell them something that was false. They were obviously looking to define the Middah of Sheker. Rebbi Yehoshua told them that a mule gave birth. They responded:  “Can a mule give birth?!” He told them that this was Sheker. The Maggid of Vilna, HaRav Yecheskel Feivel, Z’tl, explains their dialogue: The wise men were claiming to Rebbi Yehoshua that the definition of Sheker is one and the same for the Jews and the entire world. Rebbi Yehoshua told them that they were wrong. To the nations of the world, something is Sheker only if it can cause damage or hurt to someone else. To the Torah Jew, however, Sheker is prohibited in any and all circumstances, and even if clearly not true and wholly innocuous.


B. Shlomo HaMelech, the wisest of all men, teaches us in Mishlei (23:23):  Emes Kenei--purchase the truth.”  The Shela HaKadosh brings the example of a father who would pay his children when they spoke the truth, even when admitting that they had done something wrong--but would punish a child who denied the truth [even if what the child did was helpful to the father]. The Shelah recommends that all parents do likewise!


C. Many Chassidim came to Reb Simcha Bunim M’Peshischa for Rosh Hashana. As they were taking leave of him, he would ask each one to assure him that they would not speak Sheker--for Emes is the foundation of Avodas Hashem!




27 Tammuz


ASHER YATZAR! A reader provided us with the following links for more inspiration and information on Asher Yatzar:


The Bracha of Asher Yatzar is now available in a beautiful color poster format, suitable for posting in the home or in public places,

See http://www.torahtots.com/birchtam/asheryatzar.htm

http://www.torahtots.com/birchtam/ayposter.htm (See bottom of page for instructions)

You can print both sides of the poster on a color printer.


Please spread the word!




IMPORTANT REMINDER FOR THE SHABBOS LEINING: The Sefer Talelei Oros relates that on Parshas Masei in the last year of his life, a Minyan was convened for the Brisker Rav in his apartment, and he stayed in his bedroom.  During the leining of the boundaries of Eretz Yisrael, the Ba’al Kriyah read the location of ‘Tzeena’ (Bamidbar 34:4) with the accent on the second syllable as ‘TzeeNAH’.  Suddenly a loud voice was heard calling from the Rav’s room exclaiming ‘TZEEna’--with emphasis on the ‘Tzee’.  He explained that when one places the emphasis on the first syllable of ‘Tzee’, the meaning of the word is ‘L’Tzeen’, to Tzeen, which is what the Torah means.  The Ba’al Kriyah though, by putting the emphasis on the last syllable, changed its meaning to TzeeNAH, which may or may not have been the name of a place at all, and has its own meaning related to the word shield (as in the Pasuk “Tzeena VeSocheira Amito”).



FROM THE SHA’AREI TESHUVAH: “VeYeish Ahl HaBoteiach BaHashem Lehochil Meme’uf Tzukaso…--it is for him who trusts in Hashem to hope, in the gloom of his anguish, that the darkness be the cause of light”, and as the Pasuk (Micha 7:8) says: “Ahl Tismichi Oyafti Li--rejoice not against me my enemy; though I have fallen, I shall arise, though I sit in darkness, Hashem is a light onto me.” Chazal (Midrash Tehillim 22) explain: “If I had not fallen, I would not have risen; if I had not sat in darkness, it would not have been light onto me.” (Sha’arei Teshuva 2:5)



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 lessonOne 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!



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 Beis 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 Erev Shabbos--Halachos of Shabbos Series:


A. We have been advised that the Halacha Hotline of the Five Towns and Far Rockaway (under the leadership of Rav Binyomin Forst, Shlita) is available for those who may be stuck in traffic on Erev Shabbos, and for other emergencies. The Hotline also has regular hours. The Hotline’s number is: 516-239-2500.


B. In last week’s Parsha, we learned that the Korban Mussaf of Shabbos consisted of two kevasim, both brought as a Korban Olah, and not as a Korban Chatas. A Korban Olah is typically brought for the violation of a Mitzvas Asei in some form, or for an improper thought. The Ba’alei Mussar derive from the fact that the Korban Mussaf of Shabbos is only Olos--that one must especially focus on having proper thoughts on Shabbos. Even if we begin to think about financial or business matters in a positive way which may be technically permissible (the nice amount of money one made in the previous week, how much money one has in the bank, or how successful one was in a business meeting or a business relationship in the previous week)--he should nevertheless try to banish business and financial thoughts from his mind on Shabbos--as they can easily move into an area which is not permissible on Shabbos because it causes distress--such as what one forgot to do on Friday, what one needs to order on Monday, how that supplier shouldn’t have done that, what new advertising needs to be done …. Shabbos is a wonderful time for one to work-on thought purification!


C. In a typical Shabbos day, one may encounter many Muktzah challenges. Here is an important story told to us by a reader this week relating to his Muktzah encounters of the previous Shabbos:  “I noticed a small manila clasp envelope on the bottom shelf in the front closet. It was addressed to me from my daughter’s Bais Yaakov.  I reasoned--it must be her report card; it’s probably not financial or other administrative information from the school, such as where to buy uniform skirts for next year. Without thinking further, I picked up the envelope, opened the clasp--and took out…the Hebrew report card which was on top! Boruch Hashem it was a good report, and I received Nachas. After reading it and putting it down, I thought about whether I could now pull out the English report card and decided not to. I then realized that I should not have impulsively picked up the envelope without better thinking it through--for if it was administrative it would have been Muktzah, and even if it was a report card--maybe it would have said that ‘your daughter’s work needs improvement’, or ‘her behavior must be worked on over the summer’. I was not careful enough regarding Muktzah. Later that day, I went into the kitchen to take something out of the pantry. Not thinking, I opened up the drawer next to the pantry which only has Muktzah items in it--bills, pens, etc. Why would I have done that? The drawer is only next to the pantry. I realized that I had not been careful about Muktzah earlier in the day and was ‘rewarded’ with an unthinking act of Muktzah in turn. I took the lesson--said Vidui on Motza’ei Shabbos over this, and hope that in the coming Shabbosos I will be more successfully on guard and alert to Muktzah situations!...” Hakhel Note: Let us take these heartfelt words--and be careful with our own Muktzah situations this Shabbos--and every Shabbos!



Special Note Two:  We provide points and pointers on this week’s Parshios of Matos and Masei:


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 Beis HaMikdash 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.  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, 1,000 soldiers”--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 Whom 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”, “VeLirushalayim Irecha”, “Es Tzemach”, “Shema Koleinu”, and the like, with sincerity of heart, we are fighting--and defeating-- those who mean us harm from Iran to North Korea, and from Egypt 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!


C.  When Moshe Rabbeinu got upset at the officers in last week’s Parsha, Chazal teach that he was “Bah LiChlal Ka’as--he came within the boundaries of Ka’as” and lost out as a result (See Rashi, Bamidar 31:21).  HaRav Yecheskel Levenstein, Z’tl, explains that he did not need to actually get angry.  It was simply allowing himself to come within the boundaries of Ka’as that prevented Moshe from becoming the one who would teach the army the laws of Kashering Kaylim as set forth in the Parsha.  From this, HaRav Levenstein teaches, we learn that it is insufficient that one prevent his anger from exploding when he feels that it is about to erupt.  Rather, one must not allow himself those initial thoughts and the knee-jerk first reactions which egg-on the upset feelings and the anger--for even those initial thoughts and reactions--even without the anger spell following--mean real trouble down the line.  We must not only avoid “Bah L’Ka’as”, we must also avoid the “Bah LiChlal Ka’as.”  As we work on improving ourselves and our relationships with others during this important period--let us be sure to catch ourselves early and on time-- to avoid the “LiChlal Ka’as”--so important to our character and to our life!


D.  At the beginning of Parshas Masei, Rashi teaches us that all of the travels of Bnei Yisrael are listed in the Parsha to show us the great Chesed of Hashem, in that the Bnei Yisrael had to travel only 20 times in 38 years, and not twice every month or even twice a year.  The Luach Bnei Yaakov provides a fascinating insight here:  What does Rashi mean by the “Chesed” provided in moving only 20 times in 38 years?  Would anyone like to move his home 20 times in 38 years?  If one has to move every four or five years, it is considered burdensome.  People don’t like to move even once in ten years. The Luach answers that Rashi is providing us with a great lesson.  We have to keep things in perspective.  In truth, it could have been so much worse--we could have been required to move in the Midbar 60, 70, or even 100 times during the 40-year period.  Yes, it could have been much, much worse.  A person has to look at the positive, and not focus on the negative.  Look at all of our daily Chasodim which you receive, not at the Chasodim that you want to receive (which may or may not be best for the tachlis of your neshama in this world).  When saying the words in Modim “VihaMerachem Ki Lo Samu Chasodecha--and the Compassionate One for Your kindnesses never end” think of several kindnesses you recently experienced, and several kindnesses that you receive “as a matter of course” every day, day-in and day-out.  Hakhel Note:  HaRav Dessler, Z’tl, adds an additional note with respect to the Mas’aos themselves.  The travels at that time very much relate to the travels in the length of our Galus today.  Ultimately, they served their purpose, for they got us to our ultimate destination.  We, too, in our exile after exile, in our move after move after move should also recognize that they will all lead to a great--and this time, permanent--dwelling place with the Shechinah!


E. HaRav Chaim Kanievsky, Shlita, notes that the word ‘Rotzeiach’ is mentioned exactly 17 times in the parsha of Ir Miklat--corresponding exactly to the 17 times in Tanach in which a murder was committed--commencing with the murder of Hevel by Kayin, and ending with the murder of Gedaliah Ben Achikam by Yishmael Ben Nesanya.  The lesson:  We must really appreciate how exact and exacting the Torah is with each and every one of its words.



Special Note Three: Shabbos, 28 Tammuz, 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 (Middos V’Avodas Hashem I, p. 167 and Mo’adim 3, p.247-395):


A. 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. Hakhel Note: This is the source of our Sever Panim Yafos project!


B. How can we further promote Ahavas Chinam? HaRav Friedlander suggests that when meeting a person for the first time [or for the first time in a long time] the only thing one look for when meeting a person is the positive-- 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--every time one encounters another person--he will be improving himself immeasurably! 


C.  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 Beis Hamikdash in Shomayim.  Because the upper Beis HaMikdash was destroyed, the Hashra’as HaShechina--Hashem’s Hashgacha could no longer be present in the Beis HaMikdash below.  When the inner Beis HaMikdash is destroyed, then there is no place for the Beis HaMikdash in the outside world below. 


D.  With the removal of the Shechinah 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 Shechinah 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.”


E.  Chazal (Chagiga 13B) teach that before the Churban the Malochim in Shomayim had six wings, and that after the destruction of the Beis 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! 


F.  The Beis 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 Beis Hamikdash was our spiritual consortium.  Moreover, because of our achdus, we all joined together as one--sharing the profits of each other together as well! 


G.  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!” 


H.  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. 


I.  The Aveilus that we to feel is not only a Tza’ar on what we had and lost--but a desire to re-instill within us the ties and connections to the Beis 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 Beis 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 Beis HaMikdash. 


J.  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. 


K.  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!    



Special Note Four: Shabbos is the first Yahrzeit of HaRav Yosef Shalom Elyashiv, Z’tl. We provide below a brief excerpt of his Toras Chaim, his rulings with regard to the Nine Days, 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.  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.  An adult’s nails should be cut only for Shabbos; but the a child’s nails 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 in the Nine Days, 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 nine 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 five or six.  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. One can brush the dust out of a hat, but one should not set a shaitel (which typically involves washing it). 


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


N.  On Erev Shabbos Chazon it is permissible to: (i) put on Shabbos clothes after Chatzos; and (ii) shine one’s shoes.  If one regularly shines his shoes even during the week, he may continue to do so.  


O.  On Tisha B’Av itself, 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. 


P.  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. 


Q. 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. 


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


S.  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. 


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 Beis 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!



We B’EH intend to continue our series on the Sefer Midvar Sheker Tirchak on Monday, Rosh Chodesh Av.




26 Tammuz

FROM THE SHA’AREI TESHUVAH:U’Min HaTemihah VeHapeliah Ki Ya’amod Adam BaChatzi Yamav--it is indeed cause for great wonderment…. One finds himself in the middle of his days and sees the days passing and the destruction of the edifice beginning, his natural humors declining…how can his eyes be so covered that they cannot see, and his heart so closed that it does not understand, so that he fails to see himself continuously advancing, continuing his travel day and night to reach his destination…. This person should instead realize the Ohr HaTeshuva--the light of repentance--and correct his deeds!” (Sha’arei Teshuvah:7:8)



THE WISDOM OF SHLOMO HAMELECH: Chazal teach that Shlomo HaMelech, the wisest of all men, compiled Mishlei in his younger years, and Koheles when he was older.  In Mishlei ( 11:22 ), Shlomo HaMelech teaches “Nezem Zahav B’Af Chazir Isha Yaffa V’soras Ta’am--as a gold ring in a swine’s snout is a beautiful woman from whom sense has departed.”  The Ba’alei Mussar take this to mean that when performing a Mitzvah, which is compared to a Nezem Zahav--a gold ring, we must be careful that it not be placed B’Af Chazir--by placing it with thoughts or actions which are improper or inappropriate for the Mitzvah. Shlomo HaMelech in his older age in Koheles then importantly reminds us of this with another analogy (10:1): “Zevuvei Maves Yavish Yabi’ah Shemen Rokei’ach…--dead flies putrefy the perfumer’s oil; a little folly outweighs wisdom and honor.”  The phenomenal lesson from Mishlei to us deserves its apparent repetition in Koheles! We must strengthen ourselves to perform Mitzvos in the purest possible manner--L’Sheim Shomayim, and with all of the zerizus and dikduk possible. We should be inspired to do so by the realization that the gold ring can be worn by something that is not so beautiful thereby taking away much of its charm, and that the perfumed oil can be almost ruined by the few flies that may be found in it. When performing a Mitzvah we may be likened to a king in his palace--would he eat his dinner in the kitchen, or would he take a drink in the bathroom?! If we would simply take a moment to recognize the value and import of even the ‘smallest’ Mitzvah prior to performing it, and before Whom we stand during its performance--our thoughts at the time would be clearer and perhaps more innovative, our words then spoken would be purified, and our actual Mitzvah act more whole, complete and pristine. Let us take the golden ring and the perfumer’s oil--and be sure to watch over and cherish them in accordance with the honor, respect and love they deserve. This is the wisdom of Shlomo HaMelech--the wisest of all men--in his younger years…and in his older years!




Special Note One: We B’EH continue our Monday/Thursday study of the Sefer Mitzvos HaKatzar, with the Mitzvos Lo Sa’asei which the Chofetz Chaim writes are applicable in our times. Today, we present Mitzvos Lo Sa’aseh 160-162:


160-161. Shelo La’asos Evehn Maskis--this is the Mitzvas Lo Sa’aseh which prohibits one from making a paved stone in order to bow down upon it--even if one intends to bow to Hashem on the stone. If one bows down with outstretched arms and legs, he receives makkos and even without outstretched arms and legs he receives makkas mardus. If he does so for the purposes of avodah zara, his punishment is sekila. Based upon this prohibition, if a Shul is paved with stones, one must spread mats, straw or the like on the ground before prostrating [on Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur]. This prohibition applies in all places and at all times, and to men and women alike.


162. Shelo LeHakim Matzeivah--this is the Mitzvas Lo Sa’aseh which prohibits one from setting up a structure of stones around which people will gather in order to worship. It is forbidden to do so even if the intent is to worship Hashem there, for this is the way of idol worshipers. Accordingly, even if one builds such a structure in order to worship Hashem, he receives makkos. This prohibition applies in all places and at all times, and to men and women alike.



Special Note Two:  We continue today a series on the Middah of Emes, as culled from the Sefer MiDvar Sheker Tirchak, by Rabbi Avraham Tovalsky, Shlita:




A. The Rambam, in his ethical will to his son, taught him that he should keep the truth even if it ‘costed him’--as the Pasuk in Mishlei teaches (23:23: “Emes Knei V’Ahl Timkor--buy truth and do not sell it!”


B. The Maggid of Slonim and Kelm, HaRav Moshe Yitzchak Darshan, Z’tl, explained that a Shakran is worse than a Ganav or a Gazlan. A Ganav steals at night when no one can see. A Gazlan steals by day and night but only from an individual who is weaker than him, being scared of the many. A Shakran, on the other hand, can speak untruth day and night, to one person or to many….


C. It is permissible to say something that is not true in order to save somebody from embarrassment. However, even when one is halachically entitled to say something that is not true, he should try to do so in a way in which what he is saying does not have the appearance of falsehood (Sahedrin 11A; Sefer Chassidim 6:42).


D. One should not ask a person for a loan or a favor if he believes that the person would not want to do it--for one may be causing him to speak falsely in denying the request. Similarly, one may not ask a friend to reveal something, if one suspects that it is a personal matter or a secret and the friend will not tell him the truth in order to avoid relating it. Likewise, if one realizes that a friend did not attend his Simcha he should not ask him where he was, for it may cause his friend to misstate what really happened.


E. The Sefas Emes teaches that we must daven to be saved from speaking falsehood, as Dovid HaMelech exclaims (Tehillim 120): “Hatzila Nafshi Mesfas Sheker M’Lashon Remiyah--Hashem, rescue my soul from lying lips, from a deceitful soul!”


F. If one needs something for ‘a day or so’ he must be careful to keep his word--and return it within ‘a day or so’--and not within a month or so--and certainly not wait until Erev Rosh HaShana or Erev Yom Kippur!


G. One should try to not even think about something that is not true or exaggerated. One can purify his thoughts by actually doing that which he mentally undertook to do--even though, when thinking about it further, it appears difficult. In this way he will train himself to be clearer and more truthful, and fulfill the words of Dovid HaMelech (Tehillim 15:2): “VeDover Emes Bilevavo--he speaks the truth in his heart!




25 Tammuz



Question to the OU: “Would you know whether Quaker or any other OU oatmeal is still Yoshon at this time?”


Answer of the OU: “In response to your inquiry, currently all products can be considered Yoshon until the end of August.”



VE’ROMAMTANU MIKOL HALESHONOS--You Exalted us Above All the TonguesThis 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 or other 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!



MORE FROM THE SHA’AREI TESHUVAH ON LISTENING: Shlomo HaMelech teaches in Mishlei ( 15:31 ): “Ozen Shoma’as Tochachas Chaim BeKerev Chachomim Tolin--the ear that listens to reproof of life lives among the wise….” The service of the ear is listening to words of reproof--as Yeshayahu (55:3) HaNavi exclaims: “Hatu Aznechem U’Lechu Ailai Shemu U’sechi Nafshichem--incline your ears and come towards Me--hear and you shall live.” (Sha’arei Teshuvah 2:12)



EVEN IF YOU LOOK AT THE PHONE…: Many may have the habit of picking up their cell phone from time-to-time--even if they do not have a specific reason to. Perhaps somebody called, perhaps somebody texted….May we suggest that as part of the process of training to fight one’s Yetzer Hara, he fight the urge to pick up the cell phone, unless there is a real need to do so. If one has already picked it up, let him not open the email, or the text for five minutes--even if it turns out that he has received one. Every morning in the last of the Birkos HaShachar we daven to Hashem that He assist us with our Yetzer Hara using the following words: “Vechof Es Yitzreinu Lehishtabed Lach--and humble our Yetzer Hara to be subservient to You.” If we sincerely mean these words, we too must take some basic steps in our everyday life to bring down the Yetzer Hara as well. Everyone in his personal life may have simple and practical examples in his daily experience in which he can quash his Yetzer Hara and take control of his actions--whether they be large or small (is anything small?)!



IT IS REALLY NOT LOST!  By clicking here we provide a Ma’amar to be recited when one realizes that he has lost or misplaced an item. People have related from personal experience that the recitation of this Ma’amar--and the inherent declaration of Emunah within it--is baduk u’menusah to help one find the missing object!



HALACHIC PYRAMID: One of the most successful marketing concepts in our time is the ‘legal pyramid’ (or “multi-level marketing”), in which sales representatives find other sales representatives who find other sales representatives to find clients for different products and industries (from cosmetics to energy services).  Each person in the chain then earns something on the sale of the product or service to the ultimate consumer.  Each sales representative in the chain also finds his own clients, thereby producing additional revenues to the sales rep above him.  We should take the dugma into our spiritual lives as well.  For instance, if one performs a Chesed to someone who will then be able to perform a Chesed to another, who in turn will be able to do a Mitzvah--then the possibly long chain of Mitzvah events started with the original act of Chesed.  A wise person should consider the further ramifications of his positive deed.  Another example would be starting to learn with a chavrusah a few minutes before davening--another two people, or perhaps four or six might get the same idea…and perhaps someone will even start a Shiur for others before the Minyan as well.  The possibilities are precious and boundless--how about asking a person to answer ‘Amen’ to your bracha over the food that you are about to eat? His ‘Amen’ will be a beautiful statement of pure Emunah--because he is not even partaking of the food--and he may in turn ask somebody to do the same when the times comes for him to eat as well! As we anxiously await the completion of the Third Beis HaMikdash--we can speed-up the process by doing more than adding one brick at a time-- instead acting dedicatedly and creatively-- having five or ten or more people adding bricks as a result of one’s original brick!



We continue today a series on the Middah of Emes, as culled from the Sefer MiDvar Sheker Tirchak, by Rabbi Avraham Tovalsky, Shlita:




A.  Our first personal requests at the end of Shemone Esrei are:  Netzor Leshoni Meirah U’sefasai MiDaber Mirmah--guard my tongue from evil and my lips from speaking deceitfully.”  These words are based on the teaching of Dovid HaMelech who asks:  Me HaIsh HaChofetz Chaim--who is a person who wants life, who loves days of seeing good?”, and who immediately responds “Netzor Leshonecha Meirah U’Sefasecha MiDaber Mirmah…” (Tehillim 34:14). From the pasuk, we see clearly that we must exercise the same care and caution with deviation from the truth as we would from Lashon Hara. One wrong word constitutes Lashon Hara, and one untruthful word constitutes Sheker.


B.  In the Sefer Ya’aros Devash, HaRav Yonasan Eibeshutz, Z’tl, points out that Olam Haba is the Olam HaEmes. If one is deceitful, he cannot be zoche to Olam Haba, because Emes is its hallmark--the hallmark of eternal life. 


C.  If one tells a child that he is going to give him something, even if it is simply to quiet him from crying--one must be sure to fulfill that which he said. Otherwise, one is teaching the child to be untruthful in his dealings as well.


D.  In the Pesikta Rabasi (24), Chazal teach that Hashem created everything in the world--except for Sheker which he did not create, but which was created by man himself, as the Pasuk in Yeshayahu (59:13) teaches: “Horro V’hogo MiLev Divrei Sheker--they conceived and contemplated words of falsehood from the heart.


E.  After 120 years, the first question that a person is asked by the Bais Din Shel Ma’alah is “Nasaso V’Nasata B’Emunah?” and the second question is “Kavata Itim LaTorah?” This means that the first question a person is asked about is his honesty and integrity--and only afterwards is he asked about his Torah studies. The Pri Megadim (to Shulchan Aruch Orach Chaim 156) explains that if a person is not honest, then he is mechalel Sheim Shomayim with the Torah that he studies--and it accordingly serves no purpose, and is destructive. Only after a person passes the first question--can he go on to the second question! Hakhel Note: A powerful thought--to read again!


F.  Rebbi Zushia MiAnipoli, Z’tl, explains the Pasuk “MiDvar Sheker Tirchak” as follows: MiDvar Sheker--because of words of falsehood, Tirchak--you will become distant from Hashem.  Because it is our primary goal in life to draw close to our Creator, it is Emes that must be our stamp and seal--and with this we will come closer and experience dveikus with our Creator--achieving our true purpose in life!




24 Tammuz


FROM THE OU REGARDING PAS YISRAEL:  “In response to your inquiry: Sensible Portions Pita Bites are not Pas Yisrael.  An OU certified grain product should not be assumed to be Pas Yisrael unless so indicated on the label.  In general, the OU follows the Halachic opinion that does not require Pas Yisrael status.”



A POWERFUL LESSON FROM THE SEFER SHA’AREI TESHUVAH: “When one hears the reproof of the wise and of others who admonish him, he should pay heed and hear, and humble himself and repent, and accept all of the words of reproof. If a person does so, in a brief instance he goes from pitch darkness into great light; for when he listens attentively upon hearing the words, and takes it upon himself to improve from that day forward, he realizes Teshuvah and is considered a different person. When one does so, he fulfills the words of Chazal (Mechilta, Bo 12:2 and Avos D’Rebbi Nosson 22:11 ) who teach that one whose deeds exceed his wisdom--his wisdom will endure. One should view those who deliver the words of reproof as Malochim--messengers from Hashem…” (Sha’arei Teshuvah 2:10,11). Hakhel Note:  What a privilege, what an opportunity it is--to listen to Malochim!



MUCH TO LOOK FORWARD TO! Rabbeinu Sa’adia Gaon teaches as follows:  Hashem related to Avraham Avinu just two words about what would happen to the Mitzriyim when the time for Geulas Mitzrayim would come--’Dun Anochi--I will judge them’. Yet, we all know the fantastic miracles and wonders that subsequently occurred. Imagine, then, continues Rabbeinu Sa’adia Gaon about the future Geulah--think of the [perhaps thousands of] words of nechama in the Seforim of Yirmiyahu, Yeshayahu, Yecheskel and Trei Asar--how great and wondrous will the Geulah Sheleimah be! Hakhel Note:  All we have to do is take it seriously--and properly ready ourselves!



PERHAPS YOU CAN START HERE…!  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 Avodah--to show that we are ready for more--is truly the time to get started!




Special Note One:  In an 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.


A.  We should think about the Beis 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 Beis HaMikdash, let us at least bring the feelings to mind. 


B.  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 you personally can go from a Bira Amikta to a Igra Rama!


C.  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. 


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


E.  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!


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


G.  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.


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!


Hakhel Note: To obtain a CD or tape of the Shiur, please call 718-252-5274.



Special Note Two:  We being today a series on the Middah of Emes, as culled from the Sefer MiDvar Sheker Tirchak, by Rabbi Avraham Tovalsky, Shlita:




A.  The Torah provides a Mitzvas Asei to us of MiDvar Sheker Tirchak--one must distance himself from falsehood. The Torah’s use of the word richuk--or distancing oneself is unique to the horrible Middah of Sheker. By this, the Torah is teaching us that we should stay far from anything with even a semblance of untruth associated with it--even if one is not totally sure that it is untrue. It is similar to what Chazal teach: “Harcheik Min HaKiyur VeHadomeh Lo--stay away from that which is abhorrent--and anything close to it” (Sefer HaChinuch, Mitzvah 74).


B.  Rebbi Levi Yitzchak of Berditchev, Z’tl, teaches that when a person is engaged in a conversation or discussion, and he could say something that is not true, but is careful not to do so because of the Pasuk MiDvar Sheker Tirchak--then it is considered as if he is then studying Torah. Likewise, when he accurately measures that which he sells, remembering the Pasuk of Hin Tzedek Yeheyeh Lecha, which details the Mitzvah of honest weights and measurements--it is considered as if he is then studying Torah (Kedushas Levi, p. 105).


C.  The Sefer Chasidim HaChodosh writes that one who truly loves himself should steer far from falsehood--because it is “Shakul Neged Kol Ha’aveiros--as weighty as all other aveiros”.


D.  The Chayei Adam refers to Sheker as the Avi Avos HaTumah, which causes great evil (Beis Avraham 19).


E.  The Navi (Tzefanyah 3, 13) teaches: “She’eiris Yisrael Lo Ya’asu Avlah VeLo Yidabru Chazav-the remnant of Yisrael will not do iniquity or speak lies ”--this means that to be eligible for the Geulah Sheleimah, one must be stalwart in honesty and integrity.


F.  The Menoras HaMe’or (Chapter 35) writes that the last letter of the first three words of the Torah spell Emes--to teach us that everything that was created in this world stands on truth.


G.  The Kad HaKemach (Rebbeinu Bachya) teaches that Avodas Hashem begins with steering clear of anything that is false, and through this it will be easy for one to overcome all other Middos Ra’os. Moreover, through the Middas HaEmes one will have true understanding of his life and the situations he is in--and he will not fall prey to thinking that an act that he is about to perform is a Mitzvah when it is really an aveira, and vice versa.


H.  Hashem saves those who speak the truth--as the Navi (Yeshayahu 63:8) strikingly teaches: “VaYomer Ach Ami Heimah Banim Lo Yishakeiru VaYehi Lahem LeMoshia--Hashem said: ‘Indeed they are My people, children who will not be false…and He became to them their savior!”



23 Tammuz




EXTREMELY IMPORTANT! Chazal (Makkos 23A) teach that there are three people who are fit to be ‘thrown to the dogs’--one who speaks Lashon Hara, one who accepts Lashon Hara, and one who testifies falsely. Let us take a step back--one who speaks or accepts Lashon Hara is on par with someone who testifies falsely in front of a Beis Din! Before one allowing his emotion to get ahead of his intellect in making a remark or comment--perhaps he should ask himself: Will my statement be considered like I am testifying falsely in front of a Beis Din?!


Practical Suggestion: The Ba’alei Mussar teach that one should always think before he speaks. If one finds this to be too tall of an order at this time, perhaps he can practice doing so before the first statement he makes to someone else in the morning, and the last thing he says at night before going to sleep! He can then take it from there when ready….



NINETEEN WEEKS! We are now in the tenth of the nineteen week period prior to Rosh Hashana. In the past two years, we have proceeded weekly, Bracha by Bracha, through Shemone Esrei with a special emphasis on Kavannah on that week’s Bracha. This week’s Bracha is… Teka BeShofar!


When we recite the three key terms Shofar Gadol, Sa Neis, and Kabbtzeinu Yachad, we should put our hearts into it, and visualize the enormity and significance of the Geulah--which will come, but which we want to come now.  One reader commented that the Shofar Gadol may allude to the similar Kol Gadol of the Shofar of Mattan Torah which did not weaken.  So too, the Geulah that the Shofar will herald will be forever and ever--is there anything greater?!  Similarly, the Neis, the banner will be high enough for the world to see as our exiles are ingathered from Johannesburg and Buenos Aires, from Vancouver and Stockholm, and from New York and London as well.  What an event--what a happening--and it could be before our very eyes!  Finally, we will be gathered Yachad, all together--side by side in ultimate peace and harmony.  Let us focus on the sheer enormity of the event--and give these unparalleled requests the heartfelt clear Kavannah that they, very literally, so greatly deserve!


In addition to the above note, we provide by the following link additional notes to the Nineteen Brachos for the years 5771 and 5772 http://www.hakhel.info/TefillahArchive.html May we highly recommend the Nineteen Week Program again this year--either based upon your own study (such as by utilizing the Praying with Passion Series (available at www.prayingwithfire.org), the magnificent Rav Schwab on Prayer, the Tefillah Tapes of Rabbi Berel Wein, Shlita, or other wonderful resources), or by utilizing the link provided on a daily basis throughout the week!


Additional Note: At this time of year, the words of the Mesilas Yesharim (end of Chapter 19) should reverberate within us: “Im Yomar Adam Me Ani…She’espalel Ahl Yerushalayim--if a person will say who am I to daven for Yerushalayim?”  Will the Yeshuah come about because of my Tefillos? Yes! Man was created as an individual so that a person could exclaim: ‘Because of me the world was created!’, and even if the Geulah does not come because of your Tefillos, it still gives Nachas Ruach to Hashem that His children ask and daven for this. Indeed, it was because individuals failed to daven that the Navi cried out: “Tzion He Doresh Ein Lah--it is Tzion, and no one seeks it!” It must be sought after! Each and every one of us must plead for the Geulah and we cannot excuse ourselves based upon our lack of ability or strength, and we must remember that it is impossible for Kavod Shomayim to abound unless K’lal Yisrael is redeemed--for Kavod Shomayim is bound together with Kavod Yisrael!...



MODIM AND THE THREE WEEKS: Except on Shabbos or under certain circumstances, it is an established custom amongst Ashkenazim that the bracha of Shehecheyanu not be recited within the Three Weeks. We do have the ability, however, to recite something very similar to Shehechiyanu three times a day even during the Three Week period--and even on Tisha B’Av! As a reader pointed out to us, in the Modim D’Rabbanan we essentially paraphrase the bracha of Shehechiyanu as we thank Hashem “Ahl Shehecheyisanu V’Kiyamtanu--for giving us life and sustaining us.” Moreover, we then add a wonderful request--Kein Techayeinu U’Sekayemeinu V’Se’esof Galuyoseinu Bechatzros Kadshecha…so may You continue to give us life and sustain us and gather our exiles to the Beis HaMikdash…!


Hakhel Note One: Practical Suggestion: Recite Modim D’Rabbanan from a Siddur--with Kavannah!


Hakhel Note Two: Fascinatingly, the Sefer Ishei Yisrael, which contains the Pesakim of HaRav Chaim Kanievsky, Shlita, writes that if the Shaliach Tzibbur mistakenly recited Modim D’Rabbanan in Chazaras HaShatz, rather than the regular Modim--he is Yotzei, and it is a valid Chazaras HaShatz.


Hakhel Note Three: In last week’s Pirkei Avos (1:2), Shimon HaTzaddik teaches that the world was created for the accomplishment of three goals: Torah, Avoda and Gemilas Chasodim. Rabbeinu Yonah (ibid.) explains that in the time of the Beis HaMikdash, Avodah means bringing Karbanos. At the current time, when there is no Beis HaMikdash, Rabbeinu Yonah continues, Tefillah takes the place of Karbanos. Indeed, Dovid HaMelech exclaims in Tehillim:  Hashem Sefasai Tiftach U’fi Yagid Tehilasecha--may my Tefillah stand in the place of a Karbon to effect forgiveness for me for intentional and non-intentional sins.” Oh, how we must appreciate the importance of our Tefillos--and if we find them lacking, make efforts to improve them in some way. Sincerely Davening for Teshuvah, for the Geulah, and having Kavannah in these words of Modim may be a wonderful place to begin!




Special Note One: We B’EH continue our Monday/Thursday study of the Sefer Mitzvos HaKatzar, with the Mitzvos Lo Sa’asei which the Chofetz Chaim writes are applicable in our times. Today, we present Mitzvos Lo Sa’aseh 158 and 159:


158. Shelo Sasur--this is the Mitzvas Lo Sa’aseh which prohibits one from deviating from the words of the Beis Din HaGadol, which also includes the teachings of Chazal in Shas. Anyone who believes in Toras Moshe, must rely on their teachings and interpretations of the Torah--whether in the form of Torah Shebe’al Peh, interpretations, or gezeiros and takkanos made by Chazal. Likewise, we must also follow the teachings of the Talmidei Chachomim of our day. This prohibition applies in all places and at all times, and to men and women alike.


159. Shelo Lehosif Ahl Mitzvos HaTorah--this is the Mitzvas Lo Sa’aseh which prohibits one from adding on to any Mitzvos of the Torah. Included in this prohibition would be a Kohein wanting to add on to the brachos of Birkas Kohanim with additional words of bracha at that time. Other examples would include adding a fifth Parsha to Tefillin or adding a fifth species to the Daled Minim. Chazal did not add on to Mitzvos D’Oryasah by establishing Mitzvos on a D’Rabbanan level, such as Mikrah Megillah and Ner Chanukah, for the purpose of expressing our praise and thanks to Hashem. This prohibition applies in all places and at all times, and to men and women alike.



Special Note Two: 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!”



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