Daily Email Archives

Bulletin Archives

Summer Archives

Gemach List

Public Announcements

Shatnez Publications

Past Events

Hakhel Recordings


Audio-Visual Resources


Hakhel Email Community Awareness Bulletin



4 Menachem Av

MAKE YOUR MEAL WORTHWHILE! During the Three Weeks, we do not make or attend chasunas, may this be soon reversed and the Bais HaMikdash rebuilt speedily and in our days.  In the interim, we can, however, experience some aspect of a wedding while eating a regular (even weekday) meal in our own home.  The Mishna Berurah (Shulchan Aruch, Orach Chaim 170, Seif Katan 45) brings from the Shelah HaKadosh that one should be glad of heart at all of his meals, whether large or small, and eat “b’simcha” in happiness, reflecting upon all of the goodness from Hashem, that the simple meal involves.  Moreover, the Mishna Berura continues, if one eats and drinks in a healthy manner, with the purpose of energizing his body for the sake of his soul, then his Seudah, his meal, is actually L’Halacha, deemed a “Seudas Mitzvah.”  Thus, just as at a wedding one is happy and partakes in a Seudas Mitzvah, one can make his own little “chasunah” at home at every meal!


Your thoughts and your feelings--these are what Hashem leaves up to you.



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 this very important period 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:  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 an essential 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 Kepitel, 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 pointed 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.  So, once again, what does it have to do with the Bais HaMikdash?!  HaRav Elyashiv answers that Dovid HaMelech truly felt that as long as the Bais HaMikdash was not in a position of great prominence--he himself was suffering, he himself was in anguish and incomplete.  However, with a built Mikdash, he exclaims “He’elisa Min Sheol Nafshi--You have raised up my soul from the lower world!”  This, 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 Kepitel 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 personal joy and joy for the world at large.  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 Two:  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 Bash” (equating the first letter and the last letter of the Aleph Bais, the second letter with the second to last letter, the third letter with the third to last letter, through the whole Aleph Bais ) also spells Tzedaka --with the tzadik (the fifth letter from the end of the Aleph Bais) being the equivalent of the hey (the fifth letter from the beginning of the Aleph Bais), and the daled (fourth letter from beginning) being the equivalent of the kuf (fourth letter from end), and the same analysis continuing for the final two letters of Tzedaka--the kuf and the heh.  Tzedaka is thus Tzedaka--no matter which end of the Aleph Bais you start from!  The great lesson is that one who gives Tzedaka in the beginning (represented by counting from the beginning of the Aleph Bais)--loses nothing, for Hashem ensures that in one way or another he receives it all back (represented by the counting from the end of the Aleph Bais).  Let us remember these words as we prepare to give Tzedaka over the next several days in order to fulfill the words of the Navi Yeshaya--”VeShaveha BiTzedaka--and those who return…with acts of charity!”  If you need an important Tzedaka address to help feed the poor in Eretz Yisrael--we refer you to yadeliezer.org



Special Note Three:  What will Eliyahu HaNavi accomplish upon his arrival?  The last Mishna in Edios (8:7) brings different opinions as to Eliyahu’s actual role, and concludes with the words of the Chachamim:  ”Eliyahu will not come to make distant those who are currently close, or to make close those that are currently distant.  Rather, his purpose it to make peace in the world.” Oh, how we need this now! The world and all its inhabitants, including parents and children, students and teachers, all of the estranged, and the erstwhile enemies, will no longer have a shread of Machlokes between them.  Peace and only peace will be the common thread of all humanity.  With this realization--that the singular task of Eliyahu HaNavi is to bring peace to the world--perhaps we should realize what an important goal peace really is even now--and place especially important focus and attention on the last Bracha of Shemone Esrei, and the other areas of Davening in which we plead for peace.  If we conclude Shemone Esrei with this plea, conclude Birkas Kohanim with this plea, conclude Bentching with this plea…and Eliyahu HaNavi’s sole role will bring its ultimate realization, then we must do our part to realize its essential and unparalleled place in our lives, and in the lives of our family, community, and the world at large.  The next time (and every time!) you say Sim Shalom, Shalom Rav, Hashem Yivarech Es Amo BaShalom... or even Shalom Aleichem--especially during these perilous times of war--give it the special meaning and inspired intent that it actually, realistically and so very truly deserves!



Special Note Four: We continue an exciting Monday/Thursday series on the practical aspects of Sta”m, written by Rabbi Reuvain Mendlowitz, Shlita, author of Inside Sta”m--An Insider Reveals The Answers To All The Questions You Should Ask When Purchasing Or Maintaining Tefillin, Mezuzos, Megillos, Sifrei Torah And Nevi’im.


For a fuller treatment of all topics to be discussed, we urge you to purchase the Sefer, which provides practical and meaningful information and ideas.




Why have I seen tefillin with the sides as well as the top of the retzuos (but not the bottom) painted black?



The Gemara states that the “outside” (i.e., top) of the retzuos must be black. Rabbi Shlomo Ganzfried, zt”l (18041886, author of Kitzur Shulchan Aruch) posited that the sides of the retzuos are also considered the “outside” since they are equally visible when worn.


This opinion, however, was not accepted by the poskim since his time. Indeed, the prevailing custom is to paint only the top and not the sides.



My retzuah shel yad is somewhat stretched and curled in the spot where I tighten the retzuah to my arm. Is this a problem?



As we have discussed in the past, the required width of a retzuah is approximately one centimeter. You say that your retzuah is “stretched and curled.” Well, there is a great halachic difference between the two.


If your retzuah is stretched, and is currently less than one centimeter wide, it is now too narrow. A new one should be purchased. (This usually occurs when one pulls on the retzuah more than necessary when putting them on).


If, however, the retzuah is curled in such a way that one could, with his fingers, uncurl the retzuah to a width of one centimeter or more, the retzuah is kosher and need not be replaced.


One who is conscious of these issues before putting on his tefillin each day is often more able to avoid them…




3 Menachem Av

80,000! The Chofetz Chaim provides the following stark words: “If someone is not as careful as he should be and speaks ‘only four or five’ words of Lashon Hara in a day--then over the week that will be 30 words of Lashon Hara. Over the year, the Chofetz Chaim continues, this will aggregate 1,500 words of Lashon Hara. Over 60 years, this will result in 80,000 words of Lashon Hara. Since Chazal (Avos 4:13 ) teach that one who does an aveirah creates an accompanying kateigor (prosecuting Malach)--one will have r’l created an astounding legion of 80,000 mekatregim against him. This would occur if r’l one is not careful with four or five words every day. Imagine, then, if one is not careful with 15 or 20! On the other hand--if those very same words were used as words of Torah, Tefillah or Chesed--in their place there would be 80,000 malochim who are saneigorim--who will eternally benefit the one who created them. A little laxity could be a terrible thing--while just a small amount of Mitzvos in their place can bring everlasting gain!”



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!’



RECOMMENDATIONS: Set forth below are some of the suggestions provided by a noted Mashgiach in order to better appreciate the true feelings one should have during the Nine Days:


1.  Study Sefer Nefesh HaChaim Sha’ar Beis Perakim 11 and 12.


2.  Study the Rambam’s Mishna Torah, at the end of Hilchos Melochim relating to Biyas HaMoshiach--and what we are expecting when that happens.


3.  Have Kavannah for the meaning of the words when reciting Ahl Kein Nekaveh three times a day.


The Mashgiach teaches that it is absolutely essential that we heighten our sensitivity, Kavannah and feeling to the realization of Churban, Galus and Tza’ar HaShechina--and what will be gained if the world can achieve what Hashem wants it to achieve--true normalcy, once and for all.




Special Note One:  Rabbi Heshy Kleinman, Shlita explains some of the basic parameters of Tzipisa Lishua--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 k’negged 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 Lishua, 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 Irecha” 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 Bracha 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 PROJECT INSPIRE: “In these times of Tzoroh for Klal Yisroel, and especially during these 9 days leading up to Tisha B’Av, it is surely the greatest of  zchusim when HaKodosh Boruch Hu sees His children uniting as one. In the merit of Eyal, Naftali and Gilad, Hy”d, learn for yourself, and share with others, whether affiliated or unaffiliated, the Torah of Achdus and Ahavas Yisroel. Please sign up for the daily insights to receive these emails over the rest of the 9 days by this link-- http://intheirmerit.com/   and share this email with all you know by this link-- http://tinyurl.com/ppc7bpy  , to bring zchusim to Am Yisroel b’ezras Hashem. May we see Shalom for our People, and the geulah shleimah bekarov mamash, Rabbi Chaim Sampson, Director Project Inspire.”



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 from 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 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 more so at the great Simcha that we have brought to our Father and Maker--fulfilling our purpose in creation!





A. HaRav Yosef Shalom Elyashiv, Z’tl: While it is permissible to purchase Seforim during the Nine Days, it is better to buy them beforehand. One should not give gifts, or even send flowers during the Nine Days, but one can be lenient with a Bar Mitzvah gift.


B. Pesakim of Rav Shmuel Kamenetsky:


1. One should not have ‘body work’ done on his car during the Nine Days, if its purpose is to enhance the car’s appearance.


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


Hakhel Note: Of course, one must consult with his own Rav or Posek and receive a definitive p’sak with respect to his own personal Shailos, circumstances and situations.


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 Haftarah, 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: Chazal (Shabbos 151B) teach that “Anyone who has mercy on others, HaKadosh Baruch Hu will have mercy upon him, as the Pasuk says ‘...and He will give you mercy and be merciful to you’“(Devorim 13:18 ). The two phrases contained in the Pasuk quoted seem redundant--if Hashem gives us mercy--He is being merciful to us, so what does the second phrase come to add? HaRav Pam, Z’TL, explains that the Torah is teaching us that in order to be worthy of Hashem’s mercy, we must act with mercy ourselves. Hashem therefore gives us opportunities to act mercifully (“and He will give you mercy”). If we succeed at these G-d given opportunities by acting mercifully to others, then He, in turn, will be “merciful to you”. Mercy in our time is more than necessary. The Chofetz Chaim, at the end of Sefer Ahavas Chesed, writes as follows: “Nowadays we see with our own eyes that the attribute of strict justice is increasing in strength each and every day in the form of many types of sicknesses and strange types of death and there is a lack of Hashem’s influence in the world. Also, we have reached a point that there is not a day whose curses are not greater than the previous day’s. Therefore, a person should try to increase his acts of Tzedaka and Chesed all the more, and perhaps in that merit the strict justice will be overturned and the world will become filled with Hashem’s mercy.” (Translation from The Laws of Tzedeka and Ma’aser by Rabbi Shimon Taub (Artscroll) page 180).


With the tzaros we are facing in Eretz Yisrael and worldwide, it behooves us to feel, utilize and excel in the opportunities Hashem is surely giving us daily. It is important for us to realize that it is not only the dropping of a dollar into the Pushka, or the shiva visit that is important, but the manner, the way, in which the act of mercy is performed. The Navi (Hoshea 10:12 ) writes, “Sow for yourselves charity and you will reap according to the kindness.” There is a bold lesson here, for we all know that the act of sowing pales in its significance to reaping--which is the goal of the planting process. Yes, sowing is an absolute necessity in the food-making process. But, if one
sows for weeks and weeks from morning to night, and very little rain falls, the crop will be ruined and all will be for naught, or something close to it. So, too, the Navi teaches, the act of tzedaka--the righteous act--is crucial, but the actual harvesting will be solely dependent on the chesed which nurtures the act to a successful reaping. Tzedaka with Sever Ponim Yofos, with a smile; chasing after the tzedaka collector who was walking away from your front yard as you pulled up; offering to help someone before they ask you for the favor or help; visiting a mourner when it will be best for them, not for you; reading up on a sickness or thinking about things that will cheer up a sick person before going to visit; spending time to find the right tutor for your child; going out of your way to make five phone calls to find a shidduch for one particular single you have in mind.... The list can literally go on and on and on. We must strive to infuse the Chesed opportunities we have--and that we perform many times daily whether we know it or not--with pure, down to earth, actual mercy.


As Dovid HaMelech teaches (Tehillim 121:5) “Hashem is your shadow”--Hashem will reflect your actions by shadowing them. Now, we all know that shadows cast are much larger than the original image--our mercy, if it is strong enough to cast that original shadow can result in a much more magnificent mercy than was originally projected. We know what we have to do. We face the hard part--we have to do it. But it is worth it--it is really worth it, so let’s try.


PRACTICAL SUGGESTION: That next Chesed opportunity that Hashem gifts to you--that you KNOW Hashem gifted to you--infuse it with the thought, with the feeling, with the mercy, with the compassion, that you would expect from Hashem Himself.




1 Menachem Av

FROM RABBI YISROEL REISMAN, SHLITA, IN YERUSHALAYIM: “We are seeing incredible siyata d’shmaya here.  A roadblock recently caught Arabs in a car, equipped as a car bomb (with gasoline and shrapnel), headed to Yerushalayim.  As the Nine Days begin and we observe days of aveilus, try to feel with the new Aveilei Zion V’Yerushalayim, the families that are sitting Shiva for lost sons, brothers and husbands.  By feeling their aveilus, we pray that the Ribono Shel Olam will limit the Aveilei Zion in the days to come.”


Hakhel Note One: A reader pointed out to us that the Parasha last week reiterated the term Miklat--shelter very many times, alluding to our current situation--even though the Operation began over three weeks ago. We are still in a very difficult matzav and we must not weaken in our recitation of Tehillim, in our Torah study--Dovid HaMelech’s teaching, Kavei Ehl Hashem Chazak Ve’ameitz Libecha V’Kavei Ehl Hashem must be on our lips--and in our hearts!


Hakhel Note Two: Another reader pointed out that 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.  The reader added that: “It becomes 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 !”


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



Special Note Two:  One of the rare dates mentioned in the Torah (actually mentioned in last week’s Parasha!) is today’s date, the first day of Av.   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 pointed 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 requested that we were to be “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 Three:  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), during the Nine Days.


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 Four: We continue an exciting Monday/Thursday series on the practical aspects of Sta”m, written by Rabbi Reuvain Mendlowitz, Shlita, author of Inside Sta”m--An Insider Reveals The Answers To All The Questions You Should Ask When Purchasing Or Maintaining Tefillin, Mezuzos, Megillos, Sifrei Torah And Nevi’im.


For a fuller treatment of all topics to be discussed, we urge you to purchase the Sefer, which provides practical and meaningful information and ideas.




We mentioned last time tht when painting one’s own retzuos they should be painted lishmah (with specific intent)




I painted my retzuos just the other day, but I forgot to say l’shem kedushas tefillin. What should I do now?




The fact is that most poskim are in agreement that the retzuos must be painted lishmah. However, since these retzuos had already been used, they have acquired kedushas retzuos, and cannot be used for any other purpose. Hence, we may possibly be able to apply the principle of stama lishmah. This principle means that even when an action is done without any specific intent to fulfill a mitzvah, the halachah considers it as if it were done with specific intent.


The logic behind this is simple: Why else would you be painting your retzuah?


Therefore, it is possible to say that your retzuos may be kosher without your taking any further action. But by re-painting the area, this time lishmah, the uncertainty is removed.




I have recently noticed some people who have retzuos which are black on both sides. What is the reason for this, and should I buy them as well?




As has been previously noted, if a retzuah has even the smallest area which is no longer (or never was) black, its kashrus is questionable.


To avoid this problem, the following idea was conceived: soaking the retzuah in black paint so as to saturate the entire retzuah. This eliminates shailos (doubts) regarding white spots on the retzuah because even if a bit of paint fades or scrapes off the surface, the visible part remains black.


If you are nervous about such an eventuality occurring with regular retzuos, you may purchase this type – and, indeed, some poskim encourage this. However, since this approach has not been enthusiastically endorsed by the gedolei haposkim, and none of them wear these retzuos, there appears to be no compelling reason for you to act differently.




27 Tammuz

IMPORTANT REMINDER FOR THE SHABBOS LEINING: The Sefer Talelei Oros relates that on Parashas 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”).


PRE -WEARING CLOTHING: With regarding to ‘pre-using’ articles before the Nine Days so that they may be worn during the Nine Days, HaRav Elyashiv, Z’tl, held that one should wear them to the extent that it is clear that they have been used, which should be approximately for one-half hour.  Children above the age of 9 should likewise wear pre-used clothing.



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 Oyavti 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)



FROM A READER: “Please see and study Chapter 58 of Tehillim--it should hopefully lead you out of feelings of distress in our current situation.”



A GREAT CHESED--ESPECIALLY AT THIS TIME!  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!




Special Note One: Additional Important War Notes:


1. From Rabbi Yisroel Reisman, Shlita: There are new Aveilei Tzion; we need to feel the pain as a family. The radio/papers discuss each fallen chayal as if he were the only one. He is mourned, his family is interviewed. Let us not become insensitive to the numbers we hear. Each loss is a tragedy for our whole family. The entire country is in a state of great concern. This has added a significant level of seriousness to the davening and learning here. Please connect to it.”


2. Operation: Fill the Clock! Please see the following link for how you can help with this literally outstanding project-- http://tinyurl.com/n58hbjn


3. Demonstrate Your Emunas Chachomim: Yesterday, we noted that HaRav Chaim Kanievsky, Shlita, as part of his practical direction and advice on our current matzav, recommended that Hilchos Shevi’is be studied. We note that this recommendation was not limited to those living in Eretz Yisrael, or to those studying in a Brisker Kollel in Chutz La’aretz. Although this study may seem extra-ordinary at this time to Torah Jew in Chutz La’aretz, we must recognize that we are living in extra-ordinary times, and that we should pay careful attention to the recommendation of the Gedolei Hador. We remind our readers that Artscroll has an outstanding two-volume Talmud Yerushalmi as well as the regular Artscroll Mishnayos Shevi’is--for those worried that they are very uninitiated in the concepts and parameters of the upcoming Shemitah year. Let us take direction--let us take action!


4. The Apter Rav’s Recommendation: As we have noted in the past, when a person recognizes the yisurim that he is experiencing as coming from Hashem, the yisurim can serve as a true Kapparah. It is said in the name of the Apter Rav, Z’tl, that a person should affirmatively state: “Tehei Yisurai Kapparah Al Kol Avonosai--let my yisurim serve as a Kapparah for all of my sins and then recite the following Pasuk from Tehillim: “Re’eh Anyi VaAmali Vesah Lechol Chatosai (Tehillim 25:18)--see my afflictions and my toil and forgive all my sins.” Each and every one of us, as a concerned and thinking Torah Jew, is experiencing the feeling of yisurim for our people at this time. Let us properly express this--so that the greatest Kapparah possible is achieved!


5. Heard from HaRav Simcha Scheinberg, Shlita, Rosh Yeshivas Torah Ore, (yesterday): “HaRav Yechezkel Abramsky, Z’tl, would quote the Pasuk in Tehillim (125:2): “Yerushalayim Harim Saviv Lah V’Hashem Saviv L’Amo--Yerushalayim, mountains surround it, and Hashem surrounds His nation.” HaRav Abramsky asks: ‘What do the mountains that surround Yerushalayim have to do with Hashem surrounding His nation?’ He answers that--just as it is perfectly clear to us that mountains surround Yerushalayim--so too, should it be perfectly clear to us that Hashem always surrounds us and always watches over us!”


6. Emuna Daily: In a recent segment of Emuna Daily, Rabbi David Ashear, Shlita, provided an astounding p’shat in a Heavenly response. When Rebbi Akiva was being tortured to death by the Romans, a heavenly voice cried out: “Where is Rebbi Akiva’s reward for his Torah study?” The heavenly response was--”Do you want me to turn the world back into the oblivion from which is started?” How was this an appropriate response to the question? The explanation is that what we see at a particular moment in time is just a very small part of a much larger picture that started at the world’s creation, and continues into the future. We cannot understand particular events and circumstances with our finite framework--for in order to do so we would have to go back to the beginning of history and reach forward to the end of time. As Ba’alei Bitachon, we must understand that Tov Hashem Lakol-everything that Hashem does is for the good of each individual and for the good of the world--and that when Hashem becomes one to the entire world, we will all understand the perplexing and difficult situations in our history.


To emphasize the point, we provide the following from this week’s Peninim Ahl HaTorah, by Rabbi L. Scheinbaum, Shlita: “I could have selected from a plethora of stories that underscore the idea that we are clueless as we go through life. We must maintain our conviction, and believe that everything will work out. We may not ignore any incident by relegating it to the dung heap of coincidence, because there is no such thing as coincidence. Everything is part of Hashem’s Master Plan. The following episode--which my Rav, Rabbi Aharon Dovid Lebovics, Shlita, related this past Shabbos--accentuates this idea. This story was originally told by the hero’s son, who is a fine ben Torah. His father was a pilot, originally trained by the Israeli air force. Upon retirement from the military, he took a position as a commercial airline pilot. Slowly, he began to gravitate towards religious observance. Although he had been raised in a totally non-observant home, he felt a tug at his heart, knowing that, for a Jew, observance is like air: one must have it to survive. He was far from observant, but he was not prepared to renege Judaism totally. Therefore, when his flight schedule for the next few months showed that he would have to fly on Rosh Hashana, he immediately called around to see if another pilot was willing to trade days with him. One pilot agreed, but in order to make it worth it for him, he wanted one more flight. In other words, he would take the Rosh Hashana shift on the condition that the Jewish pilot give him one other flight. The Jewish pilot needed the money, but he felt committed enough that he was not going to fly on Rosh Hashana, so he relinquished one more flight. That second flight which he gave up to allow him to observe Rosh Hashana was United Airlines flight 93, which was a tragic victim of a terrorist attack on September 11, 2001. By trading a few dollars for his religious conviction--he ended up saving his own life.”



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


A. We have referred in the past to the great zechus one engenders by being mekabel Shabbos early for the sake of bringing Kedushas Shabbos into one’s life sooner. If at all possible, consider bringing Shabbos in ten minutes (at least) early this week--as a zechus for Acheinu B’nei Yisrael!


B.  We remind everyone of the importance of having Kavannah when reciting Al Naharos Bavel (Tehillim 137), on weekdays, and Shir HaMa’alos BeShuv Hashem Es Shivas Tzion (Tehillim 126) on Shabbos and Yom Tov, in each case before bentsching. Rabbi Avrohom Chaim Feuer, Shlita, in his classic Tehillim translation (Artscroll), points out the great difference between Al Naharos Bavel and Shir HaMa’alosAl Naharos Bavel reminds us of our entering into Galus, as we are exiled into Babylonia.  The Shir HaMa’alos, on the other hand, provides detail as to how our final redemption will appear to be a dream because the wonders that will accompany it will exceed our greatest expectations.  Shabbos, which is May’ein Olam Haba, is a perfect time for us, as exiled Jews, to get a glimpse of our future elevation and glory, as Hashem returns us to Tzion.  Let us appropriately regale--as we sing the words with Kavannah!


C.  The Shulchan Aruch (Orach Chaim 270) writes that on Friday evenings in Shul it is the custom to recite the Perek of BaMeh MadlikinBaMeh Madlikin is the second Perek of Mesechta Shabbos, which describes the Halachos of Erev Shabbos (mostly of lighting candles), through the point of the Ba’al HaBayis gently directing that the candles be lit.  There is a stark and obvious question.  Of all Chapters of Mishnayos in Shas--this Chapter seems to be the least practical to be recited--as, after all, all of the Erev Shabbos preparations including Hadlakas Neiros have just been completed--and will not be applicable again for seven days hence!  We suggest that the reason it is our Minhag to recite this particular Chapter is in order to emphasize the importance of Torah study on Shabbos--not only for the practical aspect of the review of Hilchos Shabbos, but also as Torah study for its own sake--even if it may not have any practical and immediate application!  


D.  The last Mishna in Mesechta Shabbos (157A) teaches us that measuring on Shabbos for the sake of a Mitzvah is permissible.  Examples of measuring for a Mitzvah (provided by Rabbi Simcha Bunim Cohen, Shlita in his Sefer The Shabbos Home, Vol. I) include measuring a cup to determine whether it can hold a sufficient amount of wine for Kiddush, measuring a Matzah to determine if it is the proper shi’ur, measuring a proper dose of medicine, taking one’s blood pressure in order to determine whether one is ill, using a mercury thermometer (which may be shaken down before use, but not after use) to determine whether one has a fever.  We can infer from the fact that measuring only for a Mitzvah is permissible, that there must be a good reason why other measuring is prohibited.  Many explain that the reason for the prohibition is that measuring is an uvdah d’chol--a weekday activity, even if not done in a commercial setting, but in the comfort of one’s home or kitchen.  In The Shabbos Home, Rabbi Cohen provides the following important additional detail (ibid., p. 24-25):  “It is forbidden to measure or weigh with a specialized instrument, such as a ruler, tape measure or scale, as well as with a non-specialized object, such as a stick of a certain length, or a stone of a certain weight.  It is also forbidden to measure without using any instrument, for example, to measure the size of a room by counting paces or tiles.  Additionally, except in the case of illness, as mentioned above, it is forbidden to weigh food on a kitchen scale to determine the proper size of a serving (this would apply to a healthy person on a weight reduction diet as well); it is forbidden to weigh oneself or measure one’s height; and it is forbidden to hang a thermometer outdoors in order to determine the temperature.  One may, however, use a measuring cup to pour ingredients if one does not measure them precisely, but utilizes the cup merely for approximation purposes only.” 



Special Note Three: Points and pointers on this week’s Parasha, Parasha Masei:


A. At the beginning of Parashas Masei, Rashi teaches us that all of the travels of Bnei Yisrael are listed in the Parasha 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:  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!


B. HaRav Chaim Kanievsky, Shlita, notes that the word ‘Rotzeiach’ is mentioned exactly 17 times in the parasha 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 Four: Shabbos 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 Five: Shabbos is the second Yahrzeit of HaRav Yosef Shalom Elyashiv, Z’tl. We provide below a brief excerpt of his rulings with regard to the Nine Days, as excerpted from the Sefer Ashrei HaIsh. Of course, one must consult with his own Rav or Posek and receive a definitive p’sak with respect to his own personal Shailos, circumstances and situations:


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 if he does not have any.


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


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


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


K.  Not only grape juice, but grape juice concentrate is prohibited.  Therefore, soft drinks which have grape juice concentrate in them are not permitted.  When making Havdalah, it is best to give the wine/grape juice to a child who can make a bracha but has not reached the age of understanding the aveilus on Yerushalayim.  If the katan is older than this age, it is still better to give the wine or grape juice to him than for the adult to drink it himself.  If there is only a young girl present at Havdalah, then 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.    If one needs to wash the frequently soiled clothes of children, it should only be done for children up to the age of 5/6. One does not have to buy new clothing for these children, if one can wash clothes instead.  If there is a stain on one’s garment, one can wipe the stain clean, but if one has something else to wear and one will need water to remove the stain--it is better to wear something else.  One can wash clothing that will become moldy unless washed.  One may dry clothing in a dryer.


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


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


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


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


Q.  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. 


R.  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. 


S. 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. 


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


U.  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 Bais HaMikdash built in this place--and sincerely daven for mercy that it be rebuilt Ad SheYikshav Hashem V’Yishmah--until the time that Hashem listens to our prayers…Bimheirah BeYameinu!




26 Tammuz

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!



Special Note One:  Important War Notes:


1. The other day, we had mentioned that the two most often repeated Shir HaMa’alos Kepitelech (121 and 130) are the basis for separate special additional Brachos in Shemone Esrei on a Ta’anis (Ta’anis 15A). In fact, there is a third Kepitel, the first one of the Shir Hama’amos (Tehillim 120), which is also the basis of a separate special bracha on a Ta’anis. It begins with the pasuk: “Shir HaMa’alos El Hashem BaTzarasa Li Karasi Vaya’aneini--to Hashem, in my distress, I cry and He answered me”. The Kepitel concludes with the following three pesukim, which are oh so apposite: “Ohyah Li Ki Garti Meshech Shachanti Im Ahalei Keidar. Rabas Shachna La Nafshi Im Sonei Shalom. Ani Shalom Vechi Adabeir Heimah Lamilchama--woe unto me, for my drawn out sojourn, I dwelt with those who inhabit the tents of Keidar [Artscroll: Keidar is the Arab empire of Yishmael (Radak; Ibn Ezra)]. Long has my soul dwelt with those who hate peace. I am peace--but when I speak, they are for war.


Hakhel Note: Oh, how sorely this Pasuk has been fulfilled in our times! We must realize, however, that the last of the 15 Shir HaMa’alos concludes with the words  Yevarechecha Hashem MiTzion Osei Shomayim Va’aretz--may Hashem bless you from Tzion, as Maker of heaven and earth!” (Tehillim 134:3). In the not too distant future--the clear blessing will come from Tzion itself--from  none other than the Maker of the heaven and the earth!


2. In this week’s Divrei Siach, Rabbi Yitzchak Goldshtoff, Shlita, reports that he personally heard from Rav Chaim Kanievsky, Shlita, that our most important goal in this trying period is to strengthen ourselves in Torah and Tefillah, and one who feels weakened should say to himself: “I am strong!” Everyone should add Chizuk to his Tefillah in any way that he can. HaRav Kanievsky added that because our generation is the generation of Ikvesa D’Moshicha, we should strengthen ourselves in the study of Hilchos Shevi’is--which will hopefully be Halacha L’Maaseh--on a D’Oraysa level!


3. Chazal (Ta’anis 16A) explain why in the most extreme public fasts the Aron Kodesh itself was taken out to the street (where the people prayed) and ashes placed upon it. Chazal provide two explanations. One is based on the Pasuk: “Imo Anochi B’Tzara”--in which Hashem declares: “I am with you in your pain.” The second explanation goes a step beyond this--based upon a different Pasuk--”Bechol Tzarasam Lo Tzar”--when they (K’lal Yisrael) are in pain, Hashem is also k’vayachol in pain. He does not merely commiserate with us, but actually primarily suffers together with us. Based on this Pasuk--let us make no mistake about it--Hashem is suffering with Acheinu B’nai Yisrael in Eretz Yisrael, the Chayalim, and each and every one of us. We must do our utmost through our actions, words and deeds to stop the Heavenly suffering, as well as our own. It is not a matter for a Ba’al Bitachon to complain to One who suffers together with him--that is a distorted view, and a shirking of responsibility. It is for a Ba’al Bitachon to recite the 13 Ani Ma’amins with feeling, with conviction, and with fervor.


4. The downing of a civilian Malaysian airliner by an anti-aircraft missile at the same time that civilians are being attacked in Eretz Yisrael has demonstrated to us that we have reached the stage in history which is beyond wars between countries, and have come to the point of a war against humanity (Pereh Adam).  We should most definitely not let the Malaysian airline tragedy get lost by the continuous trials and horrors of war that we face, as we must realize that all global events occur for us to react.  The world’s time clock appears to have taken a tremendous leap, and will not be turned back.  We must do more than take note--we must take action, personal action of a real kind!


5. In the Tochacha, we are punished for (Vayikra 26:27): “Va’Hialachtem Imi BeK’eri--[when experiencing retribution around you,] you view that which happens around you as mere events or happenings. The American Secretary of State--by his name alone--non-coincidentally (as it never is) reminds us that Hashem is telling us to awake from our slumber--all so that we can merit the final zechusim for the coming of Moshiach--in our day!


6. In this week’s Parasha, the Pasuk records (Bamidbar 33:40): “Vayishma HaKena’ani Melech Arad....” Chazal teach that what had in fact happened was that Amaleikim  dressed up like Kena’anim and attacked B’nai Yisrael--in order to fool K’lal Yisrael into improperly praying to Hashem that he ‘help them against their battle with the Kena’anim’--instead of the Amaleikim, so that they could win the war. K’lal Yisrael realized that they spoke the Kena’ani language--but wore Amaleiki dress--and to avoid any doubt prayed in general to be saved from their enemies. Astoundingly, this past week, terrorists were dressed as Israeli soldiers--but had equipped themselves with Russian assault rifles! Whatever the guile of our enemy--whatever their uniform--they will be caught and destroyed, if we properly pray to Hashem to give us a Yeshua--remember the words LISHUASECHA KIVISI HASHEM!!


7. At his shiur last week, Rabbi Simcha Bunim Cohen, Shlita, said in the name of the Alter of Kelm, Z’tl, that a significant reason that the Three Weeks and the Churban occurred during the summer is to test how serious and dedicated we are to our Kedusha--and to our longing for normalcy through the building of the Beis HaMikdash. Are we more interested in following the world’s direction and ‘taking a break’, being ‘a little more casual’ or moving at a more relaxed pace? Perhaps, then, something we can do to affirmatively demonstrate that we have had enough of this Galus  and the enemies of Hashem and K’lal Yisrael--that we have had enough of the Shechinta BeGalusa, and of mankind at such an unexpected nadir--is by taking upon ourselves bli neder to study one Mishna in Kodoshim daily (men), or by studying the daily lessons contained in the essential and timely Sefer Tzipisah L’Yeshuah/Yearning with Fire by Rabbi Heshy Kleinman, Shlita (men or women).


8. We are pleading with Hashem for forgiveness, and for great Rachamim. We must be especially sure to mochel others, and especially careful to be ma’avir on our middos--so that Hashem will look with nachas ruach at our attempts--and hear our pleas--on a Middah K’negged Middah basis! 


9. At the very least, at the end of the day, we should be looking back, and thinking to ourselves how my brothers are being terrorized and how their lives are at risk--what did I do to help? 


10. U’Seshuvah U’Tefillah U’Tzedakah Ma’avirin Es Ro’ah HaGezeirah--this is true not only three times a year--but each and every day!  Let us internalize it!



Special Note Two: We continue an exciting Monday/Thursday series on the practical aspects of Sta”m, written by Rabbi Reuvain Mendlowitz, Shlita, author of Inside Sta”m--An Insider Reveals The Answers To All The Questions You Should Ask When Purchasing Or Maintaining Tefillin, Mezuzos, Megillos, Sifrei Torah And Nevi’im.


For a fuller treatment of all topics to be discussed, we urge you to purchase the Sefer, which provides practical and meaningful information and ideas.






The person sitting next to me in Shul pointed out that there are some small spots on my retzuos where the paint has faded. He is concerned that my retzuos are now pasul. Is there a basis for concern?





The Gemara teaches us that Moshe Rabbeinu was taught at Sinai that the retzuos of tefillin must be black. This would seem to mean that the entire top side of the retzuah must be black – making your retzuos pasul.


Nevertheless, we might have thought that small spots might not be a problem for the following reasons:



Reason 1


In many situations, halachah recognizes the principle of “rubo k’kulo” (the majority has the halachic status of the entirety). So, too, concerning retzuos – if the majority of the retzuah is black, perhaps the entire retzuah is considered black. Therefore, since you say that there were only a few small, faded spots, clearly the majority is black, and the retzuah would be kosher.


Reason 2


Both the retzuah shel yad and the retzuah shel rosh have a minimum length and width. The minimum width of both is 1 cm. The minimum length of the retzuah shel rosh beyond the kesher (knot) is 16 cm. The minimum length of the retzuah shel yad is the length needed to fasten the tefillin to the arm, extend the retzuah to the fingers, and then encircle the middle finger three times.


According to this second reason, the portion of the retzuah beyond the required area need not be black .The simple logic behind this is that if it does not have to be there at all, then when it is there, it does not have to be black.


The Mishnah Berurah, however, is not willing to accept either of these heteirim.


Therefore, the opinion of the poskim is that you should paint your retzuah (l’shem kedushas tefillin--with specific intent for the sanctity of tefillin) as soon as possible.




25 Tammuz

LISHUASECHA KIVISI HASHEM: In this difficult period, perhaps we should recite this Pasuk with feeling several times a day.  Rav Shimshon Pincus, Z’tl, notes that it was known that the Brisker Rav, Z’tl, recited this Pasuk from time to time--and it may have been for this very purpose--when he felt an eis tzara.





“Today our hearts are pounding in fear. Who of us will die? And who will return safely?


“We are your messengers in fighting. We are fighting so you can live peacefully with your children. So you can stay alive. We are your protection. Will you be ours? We are going to this dangerous mission knowing some of us will not come back, but will rise to their next position in a storm to heaven, as Eliyahu the Navi did.


“We are going with devotion and dedication.


“We are asking you to be our protection with your prayers. Protect us by going above and beyond yourselves through Ruchniyus and good deeds.


“Pray for us. Pray that you won’t see another mother burying her son. Pray that you won’t see our wives as widows raise our children in tears. Pray that our children will grow up knowing who their fathers are. Pray that we will eliminate the terrorists who aim to destroy us, and that we will not injure innocent women and children.


“Please, we are begging you, as you are reading this, don’t just go on to the next thing you are doing. Say a chapter of Tehillim. Wake up David HaMelech to ask Hashem for full Geulah and peace for the all world. Take upon yourselves another good deed. And please pass this on. I’m certain that your prayer will make a difference.


“Remember, we are in it together. We are on the front lines carrying the weapons and you are fighting along with us in your prayers. Each word of your prayer gives us strength, protection and success!!!!!!”



KIDDUSH HASHEM ALERT! Chazal (Avos 5:11 ) teach that “Chaya Ra’ah Ba’ah L’Olam Ahl Shevu’as Shav V’Ahl Chilul Hashem--we are punished with wild beasts that come upon the earth for vain oaths and for desecration of Hashem’s Name.” As the enemies of Hashem and K’lal Yisrael act in such an astoundingly inhumane fashion, we should consider the pertinence of this Chazal to our current matzav. Many of us may not feel we are involved in vain oaths at all--but let us be especially circumspect and scrupulous to ensure that we are very careful not to be involved in Chilul Hashem, and, quite to the contrary, very much involved in Kiddush Hashem! We can provide our very own remedy!



OHR HATESHUVAH: Rabbeinu Yonah in the Sha’arei Teshuvah (2:8) provides the following especially moving direction and advice--which should speak to each and every one of us: “There are many men from whom the light of repentance is withheld, for they are righteous and pure in their eyes and give no thought to the correction of their deeds. They consider their actions proper although they sin greatly to G-d. Is it not written, ‘For there is not a righteous man upon the earth, that does only good and does not sin?’ (Koheles 7:20). Such men, in that they hold transgressions lightly, will neither sense nor understand them; and if they are apprised of their sins, they will afterwards forget about them. They are like a sick man who is unaware of his illness and gives no thought to curing himself, so that he grows constantly worse and can no longer be cured. They are sometimes brought to this pass through their shortness of understanding. They do not come to inquire of G-d and do not desire a knowledge of His ways, and, therefore, do not pay faithful attendance upon the doors of scholars and disciples, as it said. ‘A scorner does not want to be reproved; he will not go to the wise’ (Mishlei 15:12 ).”


Hakhel Note: Perhaps we can identify at least one way in which we consider ourselves ‘self-righteous’--and determine how we will improve in that very area. Teshuvah Bechol Yom!




Special Note One: Today, 25 Tammuz, is the Yahrtzeit of the HaRav Meir Mai’Apta, the Ba’al Ohr LaShamayim.  A reader has provided us with a beautiful copy of the Tefillah that the Ba’al Ohr LaShamayim composed, which would most certainly be appropriate to recite on his Yahrtzeit.  The tefillah is available at the following link  http://tinyurl.com/25ngcr7



Special Note Two:  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 the Three Weeks. 


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 of the Shiur, please call 718-252-5274.




24 Tammuz

SEVEN CHAPTERS: We have been advised that different sources have listed the following Kepitelech as the Chapters that HaRav Chaim Kanievsky, Shlita, has asked that we recite daily during this time of tza’ar: 91, 83, 130, 121, 144, 142, 141. It appears that HaRav Kanievsky is presenting the recital in this order.


Hakhel Note: One may find it difficult to recite the same Chapters of Tehillim several (or even many) times during the day. It should be pointed out that perhaps the two most often repeated Chapters, 121 and 130, are actually mentioned as the basis for additional brachos that were instituted by Chazal when public fasts were instituted (Ta’anis 15A). It is essential, absolutely essential, that we not tire--but instead invigorate and reinvigorate ourselves with the ever-powerful messages of:


1. Ezri Mei’im Hashem Osei Shomayim Va’aretz--my help can only come from Hashem, Who created the heavens and the earth…. As we have noted several times in the past, HaRav Feivel Cohen, Shlita, teaches that Hashem as Creator of the heavens and the earth can solve any problem--even a problem as seemingly insolvable as the one we are in.


2. Kivisi Hashem Kivesa Nafshi--I put my hope in Hashem, I put my hope…. We must not develop the false attitude that our Tefillos are ineffective or for naught. We must not despair. Instead, we follow the path of our Avos--to daven, and daven and daven again.


3. MiShomerim Laboker Shomerim LaBoker--Longing for the dawn, longing for the dawn. We have come to this point--and from this moment of darkness there will come light. The period of Chevlei Moshiach will end, and we will get to the Yemos HaMoshiach and beyond!



APPRECIATING KARBANOS: In the Selichos of Shiva Asar B’Tammuz, we learn that it was not only the Karbon Tamid that became batel, that could no longer be brought effective on Shiva Asar B’Tammuz, but that all other Karbanos stopped then as well. Chazal (Megillah 31B) teach that the bringing of Karbanos bring Kapparah not only to K’lal Yisrael, but bring kiyum to the world. The cessation of the ability to bring the Karbon Tamid is by no means ‘an additional reason’ for fasting. It is just that we are so far from the reality of what is good and normal for the world, that we have become dissociated from the concept. Now, we have witnessed how human Karbanos--which should not happen--have had to be sacrificed, Hashem Yinkom Damam. As we place special emphasis this week on the bracha of Teka B’Shofar--let us reflect on our great need to come back to true reality--to the place that the world is really supposed to be, not subject to terrorists, politicians and anti-Semites of all kinds across the world--but to the purity of Shevisi Hashem L’negdi Somid and Davka Nafshi Acharecha!


Hakhel Note One: If you are not sure what we are referring to by a world that is “abnormal”, please see the brief notes of a woman from France below:


“We cannot take any public transportation, nor let our children play or go outside to do errands.  Just stay at home or to take our cars.  Schools are closed.  This past Sunday, the first Dati area in Paris, the ‘Rue Pavee, Rue des Rosiers,’ in which one will find our Batei Midrashot and the oldest Shul had to be closed.  All of our buildings, shuttered, just like before World War II.  People in my office understand nothing about the conflict other than the ‘poor Palestinians.’  I would feel better under the Israeli sky, even with the rockets falling…”


Hakhel Note Two: Remember--Tekah B’Shofar!




Special Note One: As we commence the second week of the Three Week period, we may address a fundamental question.  Every year, for almost 2,000 years, we have been observing the very same Three Week period, beginning with the calamities that befell us on Shiva Asar B’Tammuz, and ending with the catastrophes that occurred on Tisha B’Av.  There may be differences of Minhagim among the different communities, but the sullenness and solemnity of the days are common to them all.  True, one may ask his Rav whether it is permitted to eat a particular food or go to a particular place during the Nine Days, and even receive a definitive response that it is not prohibited.  However, a question of this sort emphasizes the ‘tofel, and disregards the ‘ikar’ of the period that we are in.


So here is the fundamental question:  Do we simply continue observing the period that we are now in the same way as we did last year--10 years ago and 20 years ago--or do we do something different?  After all, on the one hand, we have been and are doing everything that we thought was, and is, right according to Halacha during this time--to the point that when we are doubtful, we ask a Rav (as above).  On the other hand, it does not appear that we have succeeded, for the Bais HaMikdash is still in ruins and we find ourselves in a world pervaded by terrorism [and now almost sympathizing with it!] on the one hand, and materialism on the other, and with a value system completely incongruous to Torah.  So perhaps we should try something different, something else, and something we have not done before.  Perhaps we should approach the Churban and exile from a different angle.  After all, in the business and professional world, if something does not work one way, you try another way, before giving up.


In order to deal with this dilemma, in order to determine whether we should continue doing the same (proper) things we have always been doing, and that our fathers and forefathers have been doing for hundreds upon hundreds of years--or whether we should do something else--we look to the analogy of our Galus existence, as taught to school children.  You may recall being taught that while in exile, we rebuild the Bais HaMikdash brick by brick, with every Mitzvah that we perform being at least one brick in the new, magnificent, everlasting, Third Bais HaMikdash.


Thus, as we continue to do what we are supposed to do, and as our ancestors have done over all these years, we are continuously building and building and building an edifice that we can simply not currently fathom.  However, to continue the analogy, sometimes one can build faster if he has the right plans, the right equipment, and the right skill.  Yet at other times, the construction process may be quickened simply by pure effort, toil and exertion.  


It is no secret that Tisha B’Av always falls on the same day of the week as the Night of the Seder (which is the reason, some explain, that we have the egg symbolizing mourning on the Seder Plate, and that some actually eat the egg at the beginning of the otherwise festive Seder Meal).  Obviously, we are to learn from the exodus from Egypt how we are to accomplish the Exodus from our current exile as well. In Egypt , for example, Chazal teach that the bitterness of our toil significantly curtailed the decreed term of our exile (the “quality” of the labor making up for the additional time that had to be spent there).  It is for this reason, many teach, that Maror, the bitter herbs, are eaten after the Matzah on the night of the Seder--for through the Maror the redemption was hastened.


We may therefore suggest that while we can and should continue to build the third and final Bais HaMikdash in the same manner as we have done in the past; there is room for us to perhaps further hasten the redemption by taking some new and different action so that those bricks are put up faster and faster.  Picture the difference between viewing a bricklayer building a wall in regular motion, and watching him build that very same wall in “fast-forward.”  It will most certainly take a much shorter time for the wall to be completed.


There are two items that we may readily suggest:


1.  Bein Adam LaMakom:  Chazal (Nedarim 81A) teach that at least one reason we lost Eretz Yisroel was because: “They did not make the Bracha before studying Torah”.  Many find it difficult to learn that this means that the appropriate Bracha was not actually recited by the masses prior to Torah study.  Rather, it is suggested that the Bracha was not recited with the sufficient feeling and thought, as is befitting Torah and all that it is and that it represents.  After all, what makes me different from all of the nations, all other peoples, all of the beings around me?  It is the Torah--with its Divine source, and the Mitzvos and Ma’asim Tovim that emanate directly and unabatedly from it.  If we do not appreciate this, if we recite the brachos hastily and/or sleepily, while walking in the home or to Shul, and not from a Siddur, then perhaps we ought to go out to (or stay in) Exile--among the nations--to study and finally appreciate what makes us different.  Accordingly, one tikun, one improvement that we can undertake over the next two weeks is to recite Birchos HaTorah a little more properly--from a Siddur, slowly, understanding the meaning of the words, and with an appreciation for what the Torah means to each one of us individually, and to us as a people.  If we do, we may be laying some of those last rows of bricks--at a “fast-forward” pace!


2.  Bein Adam LeChaveiro--As Chazal teach that the Second Bais HaMikdash was destroyed because of Sinas Chinam, and related Bain Odom LeChaveiro aveiros, it would seem appropriate for us to DO SOMETHING--to make a discrete effort in improving in this area.  Even for the “almost perfect” person, there is room to improve.  The Center for Jewish Values, under the auspices of Rabbi Yitzchak Berkovits, Shlita, delivers a daily portion of Kitzur Mishpatei HaShalom--a guide to Hilchos Bain Odom LeChaveiro--into your email box free daily, in either Hebrew or English. By taking a few moments to read and apply the daily halacha--you are showing that you really want to do more than clean up this mess that we are in--but actually complete construction of a new and everlasting structure.  You may subscribe to this type of “Korban Tomid”-your daily commitment to learn and improve at interpersonal relationships--by turning to www.jewishvalues.us  If you already receive this publication, may we suggest that you today ask someone else to subscribe as well. You never know what that final brick will be, and who will be the exalted one to place it--put yourself in position for the golden opportunity!




23 Tammuz

A RESPONSE: As we are shocked and numbed by the retzicha of yiddishe neshamos Ahl Kiddush Hashem, perhaps we can respond by reiterating our Emunah in HaKadosh Baruch Hu by going out of our way to answer Amen to brachos others recite during the day or night. Amen may be our most simple and potent response. We note that the Ba’al HaTurim in last week’s Parasha explains why the Parasha of nedarim is juxtaposed with the war with Midyan. It is, teaches the Ba’al HaTurim, to teach us that in a time of war or tza’ar one makes nedarim. While each of us individually might not be capable of making a neder which we are sure we can keep, perhaps we can at least bli neder attempt to seek ways to answer Amen--including asking others to make brachos aloud in this time of milchama and tza’ar--so that we can answer Amen!



AN ESSENTIAL MESSAGE FROM RAV YISROEL REISMAN, SHLITA!:  Greetings from Yeshivas Ohr Someach in Yerushalayim.  As you know, the Yishuv here is struggling with a war whose boundaries and purpose are not clear; a war without a clear “victory” goal; a confusing war in confusing times.  The children here are suffering.  So many live in areas where there is at least one siren a day.  They look to their parents, who cannot reassure them that it’ll end soon.  We, here in Yerushalayim, don’t have the news readily available.  People in this area do not have smartphones with news updates.  People don’t drive cars, where they’d hear the news in transit.  As a result, people talk about it more, asking for news.  There is an air of great concern.  After Maariv, one of the Rebbeim made a suggestion.  I wish to share it with you.  It may not be easy to make new kabalos; not so easy to add time to our learning schedules. Let’s do this.  During the time that we are learning, let us undertake not to be interrupted with the usual distractions.  Let’s get 60 minutes to the hour.  The air of concern which is so apparent in the street, should carry over to the Beis HaMedrash.  Shut the cell phone during the Daf.  Ignore the distracting thoughts.  Feel the seriousness of the moment.  Think of the seriousness in the minds of the young soldiers in Gaza , in a place of terrible danger.  Our hearts go out to them.  Children of Avrohom, Yitzchok and Yaakov don’t belong on the battlefield.  When will this end?  There is no rhyme or reason in this strange war.  It should be as obvious as ever: When God wants it to end, it will.  Let us help it happen.  Yerushalayim is as beautiful as ever!




Special Note One:  Today is the yahrzeit of the unparalleled HaRav Moshe Cordevero, Z’tl, perhaps most well known for the Sefer Pardes Rimonim and the Sefer Tomer Devorah, among his many other works.  According to the Arizal’s testimony, the procession bringing HaRav Cordevero to burial was preceded by a pillar of fire, and, because he was so pure, his death could only be attributed to the chait of Adam HaRishon.  In Chapter 4 of the Tomer Devorah, HaRav Cordevero writes: “A person can purify his Yetzer Hara by leading it towards good, and then even his Yetzer Hara becomes rooted in holiness.


Special Note Two:   For New York City Metropolitan Area Residents:  Tomorrow is the 112th Yahrzeit of HaRav Yaakov Yosef, the first and only Chief Rabbi of New York over 100 years ago.  His kever in Brooklyn, New York is known as a remarkable makom of Tefillah. The address of the cemetery is Union Field Cemetery, 8211 Cypress Avenue, Ridgewood, NY. We understand that the cemetery will be open tomorrow from 7:30AM to 7:30PM .  For driving directions, please click here (note that the notice is from a prior year, so the date referenced is incorrect) 



Special Note Three:  Rashi (Bamidbar 31:21) provides an amazing insight in last week’s Parasha.  It was Elazar HaKohen, Moshe Rabbeinu’s nephew and student, who taught the Halachos of Kashering unkosher utensils, rather than Moshe Rabbeinu.  Why?  Because Moshe Rabbeinu had recently become angry (see there), and as a result, had erred and forgotten these Halachos.  In fact, Rashi there cites two other instances in which Moshe erred as a result of his becoming angry (all of the “anger” on his level, of course).  We all can gain tremendously from this teaching.  When one “loses it” and gets angry, he is losing more than his composure and control for the moment.  He is going to err, he is going to forget, other things--important things--as well.  The effects of anger go well beyond that momentary loss of mind.


As we carefully work on our Bein Adam L’Chaveiro during the Three Weeks, we should pay special attention to this great lesson from the Parasha and try as best as we can to maintain ourselves despite the hot weather and the difficult environment, and always speak “B’Nachas Im HaBrios”--whether they be family, friends, employees, co-workers or others—-which will certainly bring Nachas not only to those around you--but to Hashem Yisborach and to K’lal Yisrael, as well!



Special Note Four: We continue an exciting Monday/Thursday series on the practical aspects of Sta”m, written by Rabbi Reuvain Mendlowitz, Shlita, author of Inside Sta”m--An Insider Reveals The Answers To All The Questions You Should Ask When Purchasing Or Maintaining Tefillin, Mezuzos, Megillos, Sifrei Torah And Nevi’im.


For a fuller treatment of all topics to be discussed, we urge you to purchase the Sefer, which provides practical and meaningful information and ideas.





We left off discussing the various types of retzuos available for purchase



Medium-Priced Retzuos


These retzuos usually come with a hechsher, and the entire production process is supervised by a Mashgiach. The ibbud is avodas yad, and every single one of the (over fifty!) ingredients used in the paint has been checked to ensure the kashrus of its source. The consumer should be aware, though, that some hechsherim are much more comprehensive than others. This is reflected in the price. A better hechsher will have to charge more for their supervision since they invest many more hours into ensuring that their halachic standards are enforced. Generally speaking, it is worthwhile to pay more in order to acquire retzuos produced under stricter and more comprehensive supervision.


Expensive Retzuos


Although the medium-priced retzuos are certainly kosher and halachically sound, they do have the disadvantage of being mass-produced. As we mentioned concerning battim, mass-production always involves halachic leniencies. Just as when people cook in their own kitchen, they can do things exactly the way they want to, without any compromises – as opposed to a restaurant or hotel where such stringencies would not be practical – so it is with the production of retzuos.


The expensive retzuos are privately made to the most exacting standards of kashrus, with no compromises whatsoever. When a problem arises concerning a batch of retzuos, the manufacturer disposes of them instead of finding halachic loopholes on which to rely.


The production is open to the public – there are no secrets. Indeed, Rabbanim and Roshei Yeshivah can often be seen on site observing the retzuah-making process.




20 Tammuz

NIKMAS HASHEM! It is no coincidence, as it never is, that the ground invasion occurred in this week’s Parasha--in which Moshe instructed the people to take out Nikmas Hashem on the Midyanites (Bamidbar 31:3).  Rashi brings Chazal who teach Lefi Sheha’omeid K’neged Yisrael Ke’ilu Omeid K’neged HaKadosh Baruch Hu--for one who fights against K’lal Yisrael is one who fights against Hashem Himself. Hakhel Note: Let us make no mistake about it--through this war and through our Tefillos--it is not only a matter of Nikmas Yisrael--it is Nikmas Hashem Himself!



AS WE DAVEN FOR ACHEINU B’NEI YISRAEL: At a Hakhel Shiur, Rabbi Dovid Goldwasser, Shlita, referred to the famous Chazal (Bava Kamma 94A): “One who asks for mercy for his friend, and he needs that thing, is answered first.”  Rabbi Goldwasser brought the teaching of Rebbi Yitzchok of Vorki, Z’tl, who explains that Chazal are telling us that when praying for your friend, you must daven as if you need [‘and he needs that thing’] what you are praying for your friend for. You must take your Tefillos for your friend personally and to heart--as if it was for you and you alone--this is the kind of Tefillah that Chazal teach is answered first! As we daven for Acheinu Bais Yisrael--let us treasure these words!


Hakhel Note One:  In this week’s Parasha, 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 Two:  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 Gaza to North Korea, and from England 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 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!


Hakhel Note Three: Especially in this period, we must remember the words of the Mesilas Yesharim, who teaches that the Tefillos of each and every person for the Geulah make a difference and are important. By the following links we once again provide the Tefillah Ahl HaGeulah http://tinyurl.com/2u3l4e  (Hebrew version) and  http://tinyurl.com/3ybyxq  (English version).  Let us remember that, in this week’s Haftarah, Hashem tells Yirmiyahu HaNavi (Yirmiyahu 1:7): “Ahl Tomar Na’ar Anochi--don’t say that I am unworthy; there is no reason for excuse.”


Hakhel Note Four: Based upon the above, perhaps we can think about reciting some additional Tehillim with feeling--rather than looking at the news update yet another time and another time and another time.


Hakhel Note Five: Let us remember the last Pasuk of this week’s Haftarah (Yirmiyahu 2:3) and take it as an ongoing message: “Kodesh Yisrael LaShem Reishis Tevuaso Kol Ochlav Ye’eshamu Ra’ah Tavo Aleihem Ne’um Hashem--K’lal Yisrael is holy to Hashem, it is the first of His crop; all who attempt to devour it will be held accountable, evil shall come upon them--so says Hashem!”



A COMMON THEME: In the Sefer Sha’arei Teshuvah (at the outset of Sha’ar Sheini), Rabbeinu Yonah writes: “V’Yoser Meiheimah Beni Hizaher Lashuv Bechol Yom Nafshecha LeTaher…my son, be careful to do Teshuvah every day in order to purify your soul.”  Strikingly, the Sefer Tomer Devorah (end of Perek Daled) similarly writes: “V’zos Hi Ma’alas HaTeshuvah She’adam Yisnaheig Bah--Tzarich Shebechol Yom V’Yom Yeharher Bah V’Ya’aseh Teshuvah B’Tzad Mah Kedei Sheyiheyu Kol Yamav B’Teshuvah.”


Hakhel Note: What an outstanding undertaking--bli neder a daily commitment to achieve Teshuvah in even some small way! What a zechus for oneself--and for K’lal Yisrael!



THE THREE MOST IMPORTANT WORDS: Rabbi Paysach Krohn, Shlita, reports that he heard from Dr. Meir Wikler that the three most important words in a marriage are: “…I was wrong.”



IS THERE A GREATER MITZVAH? Rashi (Kedushin 39B, d’h Hasam) writes that when a person is tempted to perform an aveirah but overcomes his Yetzer Hara, and is not oveir--then Ein Mitzvah Yeseriah Meizuh--there is no greater Mitzvah.


Hakhel Note: Try it--and reap all of the benefits!




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


A.  In honor of the Parasha of Nedarim in this week’s Parasha, we provide the following Halachos relating to Heter Nedarim on Shabbos:


1. One can be matir a neder for the sake of Shabbos--for instance, if he had made a neder not to eat or drink a certain item, and he now wants to be able to do so on Shabbos, he  may ask a Beis Din of three to be matir the neder on Shabbos--even if he had time to be matir it before Shabbos (Shulchan Aruch Orach Chaim 341:1). Indeed, the Meleches Shlomo writes that it is actually a Mitzvah to be matir the neder in honor of Shabbos (ibid., Dirshu Note 1).


2. The Mishna Berurah adds that one may also be matir a neder if it is L’Tzorech Mitzvah. However, if it is not L’Tzorech Shabbos, nor L’Tzorech Mitzvah, it is not permissible--as there will be time to do so after Shabbos (ibid. seif katan 1).


3. If someone accepted Shabbos early and wants to be matir a neder before three people who did not yet accept Shabbos, he may do so even if the neder does not relate to a Mitzvah--for the issur to be matir a neder is on the ‘beis din’--the matirim--as it appears that they are conducting a court case which is prohibited on Shabbos (ibid., Dirshu Note 2).


4. If someone ate on Shabbos and made a neder that he would not eat anymore that Shabbos--we are not matir his neder…for there is no chiyuv to eat the entire Shabbos (ibid., Dirshu Note 6).


5. Additional examples of what one may be matir on Shabbos include nedarim in which a person said he would not eat challah (even though rolls are available), or in which he said that he would not learn or would not take a walk that Shabbos (ibid., Dirshu Note 8).


B. The following is excerpted from the outstanding work The Underground, by Rabbi Yaakov Astor (with Mordechai Neustadt). It is a dvar Torah on Nishmas said in the name of the Chofetz Chaim by R’ Avrom Miller, a student of the Chofetz Chaim, who even the KGB made an exception for--and allowed him to teach Torah in the USSR (although it was not without danger)!: “In Nishmas, it says there that even if we were superhuman, even if we had an infinite amount of power, we could not thank Hashem for all that He does for us--feeding us, saving us from illness, and so on...how much more impossible is it to thank Him for the things He did for us from the time He redeemed us from Egypt until now.” At first blush, it is so impossible to give proper thanks to Hashem that one could argue that one should not even try. However, the Nishmas prayer concludes: “…we will nevertheless thank Him with what we have, with our limbs and with our soul”. If the fact is that it is impossible to give proper gratitude to Hashem, then why should we--pitiful finite beings--give gratitude anyway? Rabbi Miller answered this with his own mashal: A poor person saved the life of the king. The king wanted to show his gratitude and gave him a precious silver cup. He told him, “Whenever you use this cup you will remember that you saved the life of the king. As for me, I will never forget what you did for me.”  Then they went their separate ways. One day, the king thought to himself, ‘.’It was not right what I did. All I did was give him a silver cup. I want to visit my friend, the poor person, who saved my life.” He sent a messenger to tell the poor person that the king wished to visit him. The poor man was beside himself with horror. “The king is coming to my dilapidated house,” he thought. “It is so beneath his honor. And even if I mortgaged and sold everything that I own to make a banquet for the king it would be nothing for him. Even if I went to everyone in the village and we all did everything we possibly could to honor him it would be nothing. How can I properly give respect to the king who is coming to my house?” Then he remembered that he had something befitting royalty. He had the cup that the king had given him. The poor man said, “I’ll give him a drink in his own cup. That silver cup is the one thing I have that is fitting for a king.” . That is why Nishmas says, “the soul that You blew into me.” We each have something royal; we each have a soul that G-d blew into us. Our soul is like the poor man’s royal cup. Even though we are otherwise spiritually and intellectually impoverished, it is a worthy vehicle with which to praise Hashem!”


Hakhel Note: This is Nishmas! Let us recite it with the Kavannah that it deserves!



Special Note Two: Points and pointers on this week’s Parasha, Parashas Matos:


A. From a reader:  “Regarding the Parasha of Nedarim--where the Parasha 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!


Hakhel Note: Indeed, the Torah expressly states: “Lo Yachel Devaro” (Bamidbar 30:3). Rashi immediately explains that the Torah is teaching us: “Lo Ya’aseh Devarav Chulin--no one should treat his words as mundane and every day--after all, our holy words of Torah and Tefillah emanate from this same great source!”


B. The Pasuk (Bamidbar 30:16) teaches us that if a husband does not advise his wife that he annulled her vow, and she goes ahead and violates her vow thinking that she is committing an aveira (when she really is not, as it was annulled)--then the husband will actually be held accountable for the ‘sin’ that his wife thought she was committing. Rashi teaches that from here we learn that one who causes his friend to stumble, takes the friend’s place regarding punishment for the transgression.


Hakhel Note: Let us especially remember this--when it comes to speaking or listening to Lashon Hara!


C. When Moshe Rabbeinu became upset at the officers who returned from the war against Midyan, 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 Parasha.  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. Perhaps the most famous words in this week’s Parasha (32:22) are “V’Heyisem Nekiyim MeiHashem U’MeiYisrael--and you shall be clean in that which you do both to Hashem and to K’lal Yisrael. Especially in these dangerous and trying times--let us be above all suspicion and question in all of our thoughts and all of our deeds!



Special Note Three: Some notes for the Three Week period we are in:


1. HaRav Avigdor Miller, Z’tl, was asked what one should think about in the Three Weeks. He responded that one could focus on three things:


A. KAVOD SHOMAYIM--the honor of Heaven has been brought so low, as we wallow in the values established by the lower elements of mortal man. Our everyday experiences would truly be difficult for us, but for the fact that we have become so accustomed to it. Imagine, then, the pain of the Shechinah as He sees His children as low as the dust, and not as high as the stars of the sky.


B. SO MUCH LIFE --because of the Galus and persecutions, so many millions of lives have been lost--all with such potential for growth and for life.


C. A PERSONAL LACK OF SHELEIMUS--because we are not in our optimum state, we are simply incomplete. Nobody wants something that is broken or missing something. Certainly, then, when it comes to ourselves--we should yearn for the day of full accomplishment!


2. Technology seems to be so foreign to the world of the Beis Hamikdash as we picture it. Maybe in some way we can control ourselves during the Three Weeks for an hour a day--separating ourselves from our connection to the most modern of worlds--either our computer, our phone, or some other device--as we strive to connect to the Third Beis Hamikdash and the most modern world--the eternal world!


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


4. The Sefer Bnei Yissaschar (brought in the Luach Davar B’Ito) writes that the months of Tammuz and Av are called Dalim, or The Poor Ones. He continues that when reciting the words before Shemone Esrei V’Ozer Dalim, we should have Kavannah that Hashem will help these two poor months to be lifted up. Hakhel Note:  We all know that Hashem has established this world on a Middah K’negged Middah basis--if we help the poor--then Hashem will also help the poor. Accordingly, especially in these days, when a poor person approaches us or knocks on the door, one should make the effort to be an Ozer Dalim--not hoping that the poor person goes away or doesn’t see him--but rather showing care and concern, and giving them whatever he can!


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


6. Reminder--Sever Panim Yafos!


7. Reminder--Kavannah in the Yehi Ratzon at the end of Shemone Esrei and in the Tefillah Ahl HaGeulah!


8. At the Chanukas HaBayis of the Yeshiva in Radin, the Chofetz Chaim told those gathered that every Jew in every generation needs to have a part in the Binyan Beis HaMikdash. Indeed, the Chofetz Chaim continued, Chazal teach that when the Torah records V’Chein Ta’asu (relating to the construction of the Mishkan), this meant L’Doros Haba’im--for future generations. Incredibly, Shlomo HaMelech, with the wealth of the world at his reach, built the Beis HaMikdash out of wood and not out of stone or metal, in order to give the future generations an opportunity, from time-to-time to upkeep, repair and revitalize the Binyan Beis HaMikdash. Let us utilize our opportunities each day and every day to bring the final Geulah and Yeshuah--and the everlasting Beis HaMikdash--in all of its glory!




19 Tammuz

LESSONS FROM HARAV CHAIM KANIEVSKY, SHLITA: The following points are presented in this week’s Divrei Siach relating to the Da’as Torah of HaRav Chaim Kanievsky, Shlita, on the dangerous and difficult period in which we are now living:


1. On the first day of the war, HaRav Kanievsky asked that his regular meal not be served him. Since then, HaRav Kanievsky has not taken his regular morning health walk after Shacharis--even though it is solely for health purposes and not for hana’ah, in order to demonstrate his co-misery with his brothers in other areas who cannot take such walks.


2. Thousands of Shailos have come to him. Many involve the question as to whether one should leave an area in which there are many rockets and sirens to a quieter place further away--or whether one should remain.  In most cases, HaRav Kanievsky has responded that one should not leave, but instead recite Tehillim and strengthen one’s Limud HaTorah.  To those who had already left their residences and had come to Bnei Brak, HaRav Kanievsky told them to remain and not return.


3. There was an incident where there was a special gathering for a great chesed purpose and many attended. Suddenly, in the middle of the gathering, a siren went off and some panic ensued.  An emergency call was made to HaRav Kanievsky as to whether the gathering should be continued.  He responded: “Yiheyeh B’seder”.  The gathering continued peacefully.


4. A great number of Shailos came to the Rav regarding putting off Chasunahs which were scheduled in Ashkelon, Ashdod and other areas of the South. Many guests had advised that they would not travel to these cities, and even those working in the catering halls advised that they would rather not work. Of course, every case was dealt with separately. In many cases, HaRav Kanievsky advised for the Chasunah to take place in Bnei Brak. To one questioner who asked where he could get married in Bnei Brak as--”Aren’t all the halls taken?” HaRav Kanievsky warmly responded: “You can get married on my roof”--for one does not put off a Chasunah.




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


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



Special Note Two: Some notes for the Three Week period we are in:


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


2. There is another custom to recite Tikkun Chatzos at midday on each day of the Three Weeks. If this is something we cannot do, perhaps we can recite Tehillim Chapters 79, 83 and/or 137, which are very much related to Tikkun Chatzos, preferably at Chatzos, or at least at some point during the day.


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



Special Note Three: We continue an exciting Monday/Thursday series on the practical aspects of Sta”m, written by Rabbi Reuvain Mendlowitz, Shlita, author of Inside Sta”m--An Insider Reveals The Answers To All The Questions You Should Ask When Purchasing Or Maintaining Tefillin, Mezuzos, Megillos, Sifrei Torah And Nevi’im.


For a fuller treatment of all topics to be discussed, we urge you to purchase the Sefer, which provides practical and meaningful information and ideas.




We left off discussing the differences between various retzuos available for purchase


1)   Inexpensive


The situation regarding inexpensive retzuos is out of control and unacceptable. This has been well-known in the world of STA”M for decades, and has been publicized in recent years by various Kashrus organizations.


These retzuos are often manufactured in foreign countries with no Mashgiach present. Many non-Jews work in these factories, and there is no way of knowing if all (or any) of the actions which need to be done lishmah, such as painting the retzuos, were actually performed by Jews – let alone lishmah.


Furthermore, it is impossible to know the ingredients used to produce the paint – specifically, if by-products of a non-kosher animal were used. Unfortunately, this is extremely common.


Rabbi Landau of Bnei Brak relates how he flew to a country in Western Europe to inspect a retzuos factory, and was greeted at the airport by the “Mashgiach.” During the car ride to the factory, the Mashgiach boasted about the high level of kashrus maintained at the factory he was overseeing.


“But where do the hides come from?” queried the Rav.

“I have no idea,” admitted the Mashgiach, “My supervision begins only at the processing stage.” “Well,” countered the Rav, “are you capable of discerning the difference between the hide of a kosher animal, such as a cow, and a non-kosher animal, such as a horse?”

“No, not at all,” answered the now red-faced Mashgiach.


Indeed, as shocking and difficult as it is to believe, many factories were found to be unsupervised, and using hides of non-kosher animals for their retzuos.


When retzuos are being mass-produced in distant countries with no real supervision – in factories where local workers are receiving a minimal or sub-minimal salary – it is not difficult to sell retzuos at rock-bottom prices. Even the inexpensive retzuos produced in Eretz Yisrael are generally highly questionable in terms of their kashrus.


Suffice it to say that these retzuos should be avoided, and anyone who owns such retzuos should replace them. This is not to say that all such retzuos are pasul. But since it is impossible to ascertain their kashrus, and a large percentage are not kosher, a G-d-fearing Jew would be well-advised to purchase new retzuos.




18 Tammuz

FROM A READER: “Rabbi Munk, Zt’l, founder of Camp Munk , used to encourage the staff and campers to end their letters written during the Three Weeks with the notation, “Nechomas Tzion”.  We should undertake this meaningful hanhaga in our correspondence, including emails, to remind ourselves and others of the import of the period of bain hametzarim. Nechomas Tzion.”



HAVE A PLAN ! It is essential that we not let the Three Weeks pass without a plan. On Monday, we presented the Sever Panim Yafos calendar. Yesterday, we presented the Ahavas Yisrael cards. We may add that the two programs are not mutually exclusive--and individually or together they are a beautiful way to show that you want to change and be better (as we all can be, each in our own way) in Bein Adam L’Chaveiro. In Bein Adam LaMakom, we had suggested a special emphasis on the end of Shemone Esrei--Oseh Shalom Bimromav for the current matzav in Eretz Yisrael and Sheyibaneh Beis HaMikdash to demonstrate our yearning for a new and rebuilt Beis Hamikdash by this Tisha B’Av--instead of mourning over the first and second Batei Mikdash. One may also place special emphasis on the bracha of V’Lirushalayim Irecha--thoughtfully pleading with Hashem to return Yerushalayim to its status of glory. In all events, we must not allow this crucial period to pass with a ‘summer’ attitude.


Hakhel Note: Especially with the tense and dangerous situation in Eretz Yisrael, we should remember the words of Dovid HaMelech--Ki Shamah Hashem Kol Bichyi--for Hashem has heard the cry of my voice. If we are not physically capable of crying, at least our pleas should be in the right mode and in a proper tone of voice!



ON BAREICH ALEINU [OUR BRACHA OF THE WEEK]: A reader wrote: “I have a thought on the Bracha of Bareich Aleinu. You had pointed out that, ‘Moreover, when we recognize that our livelihood, our sustenance--every dollar and cent, every agorah, is from Hashem--then ipso facto our monies will be blessed because we will seek, earn, keep and possess only honest funds--as we recognize it all as emanating from Hashem.’ Perhaps that is why this Bracha starts off “Bareich Aleinu - H-shem E-lokeinu - es hashana hazos”. Rabbi Mayer Birnbaum, Shlita, in his Pathway to Prayer, translates H-shem E-lokeinu as “Master of all, the Master of all strength, Who is able to do anything and Who takes care of us with Divine Providence ”. This is one of the middle Brachos in which these two names of H-shem appear together in the body of the Bracha. Perhaps the reason is because we have to ingrain the concept that parnassah comes from H-shem and not our expertise, my skill, my unique abilities, my training, as you mentioned that it may be easier to have Bitachon in other areas--Teshuva, Refuah, Geulah which is clearly the domain of H-shem --it is more difficult to have a complete trust in areas of Parnassah. So the use of E-lokim possibly indicates to us that He takes care of us with Divine Providence to provide our needs. How often does it seem like our parnassah efforts are not successful and then at the right moment, things just turn out right? There is another Bracha that these two names appear together in the body of the Bracha; in the Bracha of Al Hatzaddikim – “Yehemu nah rachamecha H-shem E-lokeinu – v’sain sachar tov lechol habotchim bishimecha be’emes, v’sim chelkeinu imahem…” Maybe a similar connection is made with the name E-lokeinu that connotes, “Who is able to do anything and Who takes care of us with Divine Providence ”, since this is talking about Bitachon, the basis of which is that He is able to do anything and Who takes care of us with Divine Providence .



STARTING THURSDAY MORNING--A NEW SHIUR--IN WHICH YOU GET THE CALL! For the summer weeks, Rabbi Noach Isaac Oelbaum, Shlita, will give a 10-minute teleconference shiur on the Parasha on Thursday mornings from 10:30AM-10:40AM. You do not need to remember a call-in number or pin! If you register by the following link https://lefkowitzleadership.wufoo.com/forms/new-shiur-from-rabbi-oelbaum/  you will receive a call to join in the Shiur at that time!



FROM PROJECT INSPIRE:In Their Merit is a campaign established under the guidance of Rav Yitzchok Dovid Grossman, Chief Rabbi of Migdal Emek, to bring the Jewish People together by learning the Torah of Unity and Loving Your Neighbor as Yourself, in the merit of Eyal Yifrach, Naftali Frankel and Gilad Shaar, may they rest in peace. Short emails will be sent each day in which you will receive insight and inspiration about developing unity and love for our fellow Jews, in their merit. To join, please visit http://intheirmerit.com/




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


Pesakim of HaRav Yosef Shalom Elyashiv:


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


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


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


Pesakim of Rav Shmuel Kamenetsky:


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


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


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


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


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


F. One should not begin painting his home during the Three Weeks.



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


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

A) From the Seventeenth of Tammuz

B) From Rosh Chodesh Av

C) The week of Tisha B’Av

D) Tisha B’Av


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


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


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




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


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


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





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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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





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


The Sephardic community is lenient and does not start this prohibition until the week that Tisha B’Av occurs (SA 551-3 & 12). Others are more stringent and start the prohibition from Rosh Chodesh Av, while others are not lenient and conduct themselves like the Ashkenazic community from the seventeenth of Tammuz (Yaskil Avdi Vol. 7-35).]


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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





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


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


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


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


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


If there is a big sale, one may purchase the garment although it would require that one recite a Shehechiyanu when worn for the first time; however, it may not be worn until after Tisha B’Av (MB-11, Shar Hatzion-12, KH-21).


If a person wore a suit or dress once, it is not considered as new anymore and it may be worn during the Three Weeks (KH-90).


One should refrain from looking at or buying a house or apartment, during the Three Weeks unless one is in need of it desperately (MB 551-12, Chazon Ish, Z’tl, see Archos Rabbeinu Vol. 2 Daf 129-15, Rivevos Ephraim Vol. 2-155 & Vol. 3 341, Nitai Gavriel 7-9). Similarly, one should not move into a new apartment or house during the Three Weeks.


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


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


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


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




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


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


Some poskim state that one should not plan a pleasure trip during the Three Weeks (Sedai Chemed Pas Hasada 1-10 in the name of Rabbi Chaim Pilagi, Z’tl). Others state that it is only during the Nine Days (Nitai Gavriel 7-4).


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


Some Poskim in Eretz Yisrael are of the opinion that one should not fly by plane during the Three Weeks from Eretz Yisrael to America (Availus Hachurban Page 134). However, many are lenient.


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





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


Written in loving memory of my Mother in-law Channa Sara Bas R’ Pesach A”h niftera 13th of Tammuz 5756 (1996), and my daughter Ita Tzipporah A”h niftera 23rd of Menachem Av 5753 (1993).



17 Tammuz

AHAVAS YISRAEL CARDS: By the following links  Hebrew -- http://tinyurl.com/oq8ez5b  English -  http://tinyurl.com/pgkm6wh  we provide special cards--a beautiful project promulgated by the Bostoner Kollel of Har Nof (Rosh Kollel, Rav Aschkenasy, Shlita). This is the message that the Rosh Kollel conveys with the cards: “In the spirit of the three weeks we are sending out the attached “Ahavas Yisrael” cards.  Each individual creates a big zechus for all of Klal Yisrael when he takes note of the points and puts them into practice one by one, so valuable at this time of the year when we remember the destruction of the Beis Hamikdash, and particularly in these difficult days. Please feel free to print them and give them to others.



A FRIGHTENING SOURCE FOR PERAH ADAM : HaRav Doniyel M’Kelm, Z’tl, H’yd, the last Rosh Yeshiva of Kelm who was niftar Ahl Kiddush Hashem explains why the Bnei Yishmael behave as a perah adam--in an abnormal, wild manner. It is because Hagar, his mother was mezalzel in the honor due to Sara Imeinu, her mistress, as the Torah records (Bereishis 16:4): “Vateikal Gevirtah B’Eine’ah--and her mistress was treated lightly, or disgraced, in her eyes.” As a result--Hagar herself conceived a perah adam--a disgraceful person--b’li chashivus, b’li sechel, b’li da’as, bli kavod. Because she disgraced those who deserved respect--her progeny became a disgrace to mankind.


Hakhel Note:  Oh how we, being the descendents of Sara Imeinu--must show the proper Kavod to all!




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


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



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


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


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


It is the custom of some to recite “Tikun Chatzos” during the Three Week period (see Rabbi Webster’s Halacha discussion below)--some even in the middle of the day.  We may not as yet be on this level. However, we provide a suggestion that we have made in the past--If we can conclude the Yehi Ratzon at the end of Shemone Esrei with Kavannah during these three weeks, three times a day, we will have sincerely davened for the Beis Hamikdash and our redemption more than 60 times during this short period!  Rather than wallowing in self-pity, we will demonstrate a renewal of our faith and have beautifully affirmed our supreme goals.


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



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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


One should make the special effort not to get angry on a fast day (ER 568-18).



16 Tammuz

SEVER PANIM YAFOS! Over the Three Week period, one of a person’s great accomplishments would be true improvement in Bein Adam L’Chaveiro. As the Chofetz Chaim outlines at the outset of the Sefer Chofetz Chaim, the Second Beis HaMikdash was destroyed because of the aveira of Sinas Chinam/Lashon Hara. HaRav Chaim Friedlander, Z’tl, in the Sefer Sifsei Chaim, writes that Sever Panim Yafos--meeting and reacting to a person with thought, care and pleasantness would be a great accomplishment resulting from the Three Week period. Even when not meeting someone in person, HaRav Friedlander continues, one should talk over the phone in a way in which the person on the other end feels the smile. To aid in the sometimes difficult task, no matter how busy or preoccupied you may be, we provide a check-off calendar for the Three Weeks, starting tomorrow. If you feel that the constant obligation to do so is too difficult, may we suggest that you undertake this goal consciously, one or two or three times a day, or perhaps with one or two or three specific people a day (could be family members or difficult people to work or deal with!). We wish everyone Hatzlacha in this endeavor, and may the Geulah Sheleimah be before us all!



















































      AUGUST 5







Special Note One: Some additional suggestions for the difficult period we are going through--and how we can help bring the daytime earlier:


1. At the end of Shemone Esrei every day, and at the end of each Kaddish, “Oseh Shalom Bimromav Hu Ya’aseh Shalom Aleinu V’Ahl Kol Yisrael V’Imru Amein” is recited. [The Meforshim on the Siddur explain that the V’Imru Amein in our silent Shemone Esrei is addressed to the Malochim who accompany us.] What a powerful phrase--especially at this time--to have Kavannah in, and to which to respond Amein (in Kaddish) with great Kavannah and fervor.


2. The Sefer Mesilas Yesharim teaches that a person’s ultimate and true goal should be to give Nachas Ruach to HaKadosh Baruch Hu. Focus on what you are about to say or do several times a day--do I think that this is going to give Hashem true Nachas Ruach?


3. If K’lal Yisrael is in this desperate situation because Hashem is upset or angry with us, then we must act to others in a manner in which we are not upset or angry with them. Likewise, if it is Din that K’lal Yisrael is experiencing, then we are looking for Rachamim B’Din--which we can receive on a middah k’neged middah basis by our acting with mercy towards others. Remember--Hashem Tzilecha--Hashem is our shadow!  It is all very much related!


4. The Gedolim have suggested that one should try to study more Torah [Hakhel Note: Especially to make up for the lost Torah study of those busy running to bomb shelters and soldiers on alert.] The Steipeler Gaon would urge those seeking Kapparah to relearn things that they already knew--as this would bring about Kapparah, for a person wants to by nature learn something new--and that reviewing over again what one already knows can serve as ‘yissurin’ and bring about Kapparah!


5. Towards the end of Mesechta Ta’anis, we learn that Abba Umna was given Shalom by the Mesivta D’Rakiyah every day. The Gemara explains that this was largely because in treating his patients while bloodletting, he kept the men and women separate and gave the women modest garments to wear during the procedure. The Gemara then continues that Eliyahu Hanavi showed Rav Bruna a prison warden who would be a Ben Olam Haba because he kept the male and female prisoners separate, and did not let them co-mingle. In last week’s Parasha, we find that Bilam praised K’lal Yisrael with the words Mah Tovu Ohalecha Yaakov--how beautiful is our modesty and privacy. In turn, last week’s Haftarah (Micha 6:8) concludes with the question: What does Hashem seek of you?: “…V’Hatznei’ah Leches Im Elokecha--walking modestly with Hashem.” On Erev Shabbos, we referred to not allowing ourselves to be deluged by the lack of modesty of the foreign cultures in which we may reside. Now, we emphasize that both men and women must demonstrate their own unique and royal status and privilege by dressing themselves (and their children) appropriately when going out into the world, when in Shul, and when in the confines of one’s own home. Remember--V’Hatznei’ah Leches Im Elokecha--we must walk modestly with Hashem--that is what Hashem expects of us!



Special Note Two: We provide the following points and pointers regarding tomorrow’s Ta’anis, as culled from the Mishna Berurah (Dirshu Edition). Of course, one should consult with his own Rav or Posek on any question of Halacha that he may have:


A. If a person wants to eat or drink by waking up early before the Ta’anis, he must so verbally state before going to sleep. It does not help for a person to make this verbal statement one time (such as at the beginning of the year)--and for it to work for many fasts. If a person recites Hamapil and then remembered that he did not so state, the Ohr L’Tzion rules that if it is necessary one may be lenient and so state even after reciting Hamapil (Shulchan Aruch Orach Chaim 564, Dirshu Note 4).


B. The reason that the Shaliach Tzibbur recites Aneinu between the brachos of Go’el Yisrael and Refa’einu is because of the Pesukim in Tehillim which are juxtaposed: “…Hashem Tzuri V’Go’ali (end of Kepitel 19) and “Ya’anecha Hashem B’Yom Tzara…” (beginning of Kepitel 20) (ibid. 566 Mishna Berurah seif katan 1).


C. If the Shaliach Tzibbur forgot to say Aneinu between the brachos of Go’el Yisrael and Refa’einu, then he should recite Aneinu in Shema Koleinu (as an individual does at Mincha). If he did not remember to recite it then either--even if he did not yet begin Retzei, then he should not go back to recite it, but instead says it after completing Shemone Esrei and does not conclude with a bracha (Shulchan Aruch Orach Chaim 565, Mishna Berurah seif katan 3, Dirshu Note 4).


D. If an individual reciting Shemone Esrei mistakenly concludes Aneinu with the bracha of Baruch Atta Hashem Ha’oneh B’Eis Tzara rather than Baruch Atta Hashem Shomei’ah Tefillah--HaRav Shlomo Zalmen Auerbach, Z’tl, and HaRav Chaim Kanievsky rule that he must recite the bracha of Shema Koleinu again. HaRav Tzvi Pesach Frank, Z’tl, rules that he does not (ibid. Dirshu Note 5).


E. The reason that we lein Parashas Vayichal on a Ta’anis is because the Inyan HaYom is to plead for Selicha and Rachamim, and in this Parasha Moshe Rabbeinu asked for  Selicha and Rachamim on behalf of all of K’lal Yisrael. Additionally, we show our hope that just as Hashem forgave us for the Cheit Ha’eigel and gave us the Luchos Sheniyos--so too do we hope that Hashem will forgive us for our sins and return the Beis HaMikdash to us! We then repeat the leining again at Mincha because it is a special Eis Ratzon (ibid. 566, Dirshu Note 1).


F. In the course of the leining, the Ba’al Kriya stops and the Tzibbur begins to recite the 13 Middos, beginning with the words “Hashem, Hashem”, which is in the middle of a Pasuk. How can we start in the middle of a Pasuk? The Sha’arei Ephraim answers that we may do so because we are not reciting it as a Pasuk but as a Techina U’bakasha. The Chazzan does not, however, recite the words with the Tzibbur--but instead waits for the Tzibbur to finish, and then recites the Pesukim. This is because he is in the middle of leining--and it is inappropriate for him to make a bakasha at this time (ibid. Dirshu Notes 4 and 5).


G. The Shulchan Aruch expressly writes that one who is engaged in a Ta’anis should not conduct himself in a leisurely way, nor be lightheaded--rather, he should be solemn and serious, as the Pasuk says: “Mah Yisonein Adam Chai”. The Mishna Berurah adds that especially on a Ta’anis when one may be more on edge--he should be sure not to get angry, and if he must do business he should be sure to do so with faith and serenity--so that he does not come to anger at all (ibid. 568:12, Mishna Berurah seif katan 50).


H. In all events, as the Mishna Berurah expressly instructs: “Ve’ein HaTa’anis Elah Hachana L’Teshuvah--a Ta’anis is only a preparation for Teshuvah” (ibid. 549 Mishna Berurah seif katan 1). Let us remember this--let us prepare ourselves!



Special Note Three:  We continue an exciting Monday/Thursday series on the practical aspects of Sta”m, written by Rabbi Reuvain Mendlowitz, Shlita, author of Inside Sta”m--An Insider Reveals The Answers To All The Questions You Should Ask When Purchasing Or Maintaining Tefillin, Mezuzos, Megillos, Sifrei Torah And Nevi’im.


For a fuller treatment of all topics to be discussed, we urge you to purchase the Sefer, which provides practical and meaningful information and ideas.








·    The Gemara tells us that black retzuos (straps) of tefillin are a “Halachah l’Moshe mi’Sinai” – a law transmitted to Moshe Rabbeinu at Sinai. There is a retzuah attached to the tefillin shel rosh as well as a retzuah attached to the tefillin shel yad. Their function is to hold the tefillin in place.


·    Like battim and klaf, the retzuos must be made from the hide of a kosher animal.


·    The hide must be me’ubad lishmah (processed specifically for the sake of retzuos of tefillin).


·    The smooth, shiny side of the retzuah is worn facing out, while the rough, untreated side remains hidden, adjacent to the skin.


·    Of the three letters of the divine Name ש-ד-י visible in the leather parts of the tefillin, two are in the retzuos. The dalet is at the back of the head. The yud is adjacent to the bayis of the tefillin shel yad.


·    NOTE: If one’s retzuos are pasul – the entire set of tefillin is rendered pasul as well!




When I went to purchase my son’s tefillin, I was shown retzuos ranging from $50 to over $120. Why is there such a great price difference? What is so special about the expensive retzuos?




In order to appreciate the wide range of prices, we need to be aware that the retzuos on the market vary significantly in quality and level of kashrus. For practical purposes, there are three categories of retzuos:


1)     Inexpensive

2)     Medium priced

3)     Expensive


BE’H next time we will address the differences between them.




13 Tammuz

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



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



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



STARTING THIS SUNDAY--DAF YOMI MESECHTA MEGILLAH! An important and valuable service is available to the Daf Yomi community worldwide:  Daf Notes (www.dafnotes.com), which produces a wonderful daily review of the Daf, also takes questions by email relating to the Daf Yomi Mesechta being studied and responds--as yet another one of its outstanding free services.  To correspond with Daf Notes, or to ask any questions that you like relating to the Daf or the Mesechta contact info@dafnotes.com


Hakhel Note: It is well known that HaRav Chaim Kanievsky, Shlita, maintains a certain rigorous daily program in order to complete Shas and many other parts of Torah on an annual basis. It is referred to as his ‘Limud HaChovos’--his obligatory learning. During the Three Weeks, his annual Limud Hachovos includes Mesechta Megillah as well. According to the Sefer Minchas Todah--HaRav Kanievsky views learning about the Purim Megillah during the Three Weeks as a siman of Tanchumin. May it be so this year--as tens of thousands study Mesechta Megillah during the three weeks--may it be the final siman of Tanchumin for all of K’lal Yisrael!




Special Note One:  With the crisis situation in Eretz Yisrael, we experience a feeling of fear and strict justice.  Bilam himself exclaimed in last week’s Parasha, “Oi-Mi Yichyeh M’Sumo Kel-- Oh! Who will survive when He imposes these?” (Bamidbar 24:23). The following are just a few supplemental recommendations--possible life vests for the turbulent waters we find ourselves in:


1. A Rav has just asked us to consider refraining from the use of a cell phone for one designated hour a day. Breaking one’s great need and attachment to the cell phone would demonstrate a dedicated desire for personal self-improvement--and could in turn generate a very great zechus in Eretz Yisrael.


2.  The Gemara (Rosh HaShanah 17A) teaches “For one who passes over his Middos (e.g., does not anger, does not take vengeance, and does not react--even when the situation may completely justify it)--Hashem will, in turn, pass over his sins.  The Cheshbon is simple--you control yourself even when justified, and Hashem likewise controls His anger against you--even when justified.


3.  The Gemara (Sotah 21A) teaches that the study of Torah does not only save one from punishment once punishment has commenced--but actually even shields and protects one before the onset of any new punishment, as well.  The Gemara explains (based upon the Pasuk in Mishlei (6:23)), that Torah is compared to the light of the sun, which unlike the light of a candle that eventually is extinguished, successfully provides light for a person day after day.  In the summertime, when the Tinokos Shel Beis Rabban--the schoolchildren--study less than when in school, we should try to make up the slack by learning a little more ourselves. Indeed, just five (5) more minutes a day--as a special zechus--could very literally mean the difference of life!


4.  It is said that in the name of Gedolim, that one should make Brachos aloud in order to cause others to answer “Amen.”  This special level of gratitude and faith serves as an affirmation and reaffirmation of Hashem’s control over the world, obviating the need for Hashem to remind us personally in other ways.  For an excellent review of this concept, you can order the tape “Attitude of Gratitude” (Rabbi Jonathan Rietti and Rabbi Yechiel Spero) from the Chofetz Chaim Heritage Foundation at 845-352-3505.


Hakhel Note:  Hashem is not asking that we stand on our hands, stretch or shrivel, or do 180 degree flips!  Some nicely-made Brachos, some additional Torah study, some self-control in situations which last only a fleeting moment anyway, can be literally life-saving--we must light up the darkness long enough and strong enough for us to survive until daybreak.



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


A. Shabbos Tissue Alert! Kirkland tissue boxes (which one may purchase at Costco) have a seam in the plastic cover which is almost unnoticeable. In preparing for Shabbos, in addition to removing the cardboard cover, please make sure to open the seam in the plastic as well--so that the box of tissues is fully open.


B. From the Conference of Synagogue Rabbonim of Agudath Israel of America :  By the following link http://tinyurl.com/p6oayht   we provide an outstanding Halachic summary entitled Guidelines For Travel on Erev Shabbos published by Agudath Israel . It is available in hard stock card format by contacting torahprojects@agudathisrael.org.


C. The following Halachos are excerpted from the Dirshu Edition of the Mishna Berurah:


1. Notwithstanding that a person is a righty or a lefty--he is chayav for any melacha that he does with ‘the other hand’--except for the melacha of koseiv, writing. Indeed, the Avnei Nezer, and the Shevet HaLevi rule that even erasing with ‘the other hand’ is not a shinui. It is only when a lefty writes with his right hand or a righty with his left hand--that it is not a melecha d’oraysa (but is still assur m’drabanan) (Shulchan Aruch Orach Chaim 340:4 Mishna Berurah seif katan 22 and Dirshu Note 62).


2. If one wears his Shabbos clothes during the week, he is misma’et, or reduces, his Kavod Shabbos (ibid. 262, Note 6).  However, when a woman puts on her jewelry on Shabbos, she should nevertheless leave one thing that she does not wear, Zecher LeChurban. This would not be considered aveilus befarhesya, because people would not be able to tell that she is missing an item of her jewelry (SA, OC 260, Dirshu Note 9).


3. HaRav Shlomo Zalman Auerbach, Z’tl, rules that one may put water in the freezer before Shabbos even though it will freeze on Shabbos, because the action was undertaken before Shabbos (SA, OC 252, Note 24). However, HaRav Auerbach rules that one cannot turn on a washing machine before Shabbos so that it will continue to wash on Shabbos for this is a zilzul in the Kavod of Shabbos. HaRav Moshe Feinstein, Z’tl, rules that starting a dryer before Shabbos in order for it to continue running on Shabbos is likewise prohibited (ibid. Note 25).


4. If one does not like hot food during the summer, HaRav Nissim Karelitz, Shlita, writes that one should nevertheless eat hot food on Shabbos--unless he would be hurt by it. His ruling is based on the words of the Mishna Berurah (SA, OC 297 seif katan 48). Additionally, HaRav Karelitz writes that because the ikar Seudah on Shabbos is by day, hot food must be eaten at the day meal, and that drinking a hot drink is insufficient. HaRav Karelitz bases his ruling on the words of the Ba’al HaMa’or in Mesechta Shabbos(end of Perek Kirah): “HaMashmin Hu HaMa’amin Vezoche LeKeitz HaYamin”--one demonstrates his Emunah and is zoche to merit participating in the end of days--through properly partaking of his Seudos Shabbos! (ibid. 257, Notes 47,49 and 50).


D.  We received the following note from a reader:  “The Gemara (Shabbos 118A), teaches that if one is mekayem--properly fulfills--the Shalosh Seudos, the three meals on Shabbos, he will be saved from three things--”the Chevlei Mashiach, the Din of Gehinom, and the War of Gog U’Magog”  This is a very tremendous reward--yet, this is what Chazal explicitly state.  I urge all of your readers to be very especially careful to properly fulfill the three Shabbos Seudos (men, women and grown children)--including the third meal, Shalosh Seudos--with the proper Kavod and Oneg.  By this, I mean, to make an extra special effort to have good food, Divrei Torah, zemiros, and whatever else every person in his condition could have to increase the Kavod and Oneg of the meal.  Hashem is helping us by giving us the ‘refuah before the makka--the cure before the malady’.  Let’s make the effort to increase our Kavod and Oneg Shabbos, and may the word of our Chazal be fulfilled in each of your readers (including me)!”


E.  The Sefer Peleh Yoeitz under the heading ‘Shabbos’ emphasizes the need for proper speech on Shabbos.  He especially decries those who precede a financial discussion, or a discussion of what they intend to do after Shabbos, with the words ‘Nisht Auf Shabbos Gerret’.  Not only is this prohibited on Shabbos based upon the prohibition of “Vedaber Davar “(Yeshaya 58)--but it is Sheker because he is in fact speaking these words on Shabbos!  To the contrary, he continues, what we should be using our mouths for is to speak about, learn and teach Torah--and especially the Halachos of Shabbos to others.  The Peleh Yoeitz actually refers to one who improperly uses his speech on Shabbos as a “Mechalel Shabbos”.  The converse would then seem to be true as well--for one who speaks words of Torah and especially the Halachos and Hashkafos of Shabbos--is a “Mekadesh Es HaShabbos!”


F. The following story is related by HaRav Yitzchak Zilberstein, Shlita, and brought in the Sefer Tuvecha Yabi’u. HaRav Zilberstein relates that when he went to visit Rabbi Eliyahu Brody, Shlita, in the hospital, HaRav Brody introduced him to someone as a Ba’al Teshuvah Amiti--a true Ba’al Teshuvah. HaRav Zilberstein asked for the story.


As it turns out the gentleman was a barber in a suburb of Tel Aviv, who did most of his business on Friday nights, as most of his clientele were airforce pilots who were in the neighborhood. During the week they were busy and could not make it. Their only ‘available’ time was on Leil Shabbos. The barber was not le’hachis, but determined that because his ikar parnassah was on Friday night, he could not close for Shabbos. Rabbi Brody convinced him to close his shop on Shabbos for one month--and then determine whether he had made more profit or less profit during the month. In order to induce him to close, HaRav Brody told him: “I guarantee you that your profits will increase by more than 30%.” The barber did so for the month--and his profits increased by 50%! From then on, he and his family became Shomrei Torah U’Mitzvos.


One may wonder how HaRav Brody could have been so bold--guarantying a 30% increase in profits. Why was this not a violation of Lo Sinasun Es Hashem Elokeichem (Devorim 6:16 )? HaRav Zilberstein believes not--for the combination of Kiddush Sheim Shomayim together with the Rav’s Tefillos for success were the determining factor. When HaRav Zilberstein presented the matter to his brother in-law, HaRav Chaim Kanievsky, Shlita, HaRav Kanievsky brought a mekor from Tanach for what had transpired. At the outset of Sefer Doniyel, the king instructed his officer to feed Doniyel with pasbag hamelech--which was obviously a treife food. Doniyel, resolved not to be defiled by the food, requested the chief officer to give him seeds. The chief officer was afraid that he would be executed for not following the king’s orders. Doniyel, in turn, said to the steward whom the chief officer had assigned to him (and to Chananya, Mishael and Azarya) to give them a ten-day test with seeds and water--and then to see whether their appearance was better and healthier than the appearance of those eating the king’s food. After the ten days were over they did in fact look better and healthier! We clearly see, concludes HaRav Kanievsky, that when it comes to Kiddush Hashem we can ‘test’ Hashem--and especially when it comes to Shabbos observance--which is the Mekor Habracha!


Hakhel Note: Before one attempts to do so on his own, one should consult with his Rav or Posek on how to best accomplish this great task!



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


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


To reiterate the practical teaching of HaRav Yisroel Belsky, Shlita, to those working in the city:  “To the extent possible, put your head down, and walk in a determined manner to your destination.”  One should not allow himself the excuse that what is around us is the “normal” way of the world, and that we cannot get around it.  What is--or should be--considered normal is the way Hashem wants us to conduct ourselves. Rabbi Yisroel Reisman, Shlita, reiterates this with the following essential teaching:  A Kiddush Hashem is not doing what people like or think is right--but what Hashem says is right.


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


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


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



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


“Why is he the best?!”


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


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


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


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


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


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




12 Tammuz

12 TAMMUZ: According to the daughter of HaRav Elchanan Wasserman, Z’tl, H’yd, he was killed Ahl Kiddush Hashem on either the 12th or 13th of Tammuz in 5701 (1941). HaRav Elchanan teaches that the words “Nachamu Nachamu Ami” refer to a double nechama--the first nachamu for the disasters and suffering experienced by the world at large that we live through and experience together with them, and a second nachamu for the punishment meted out directly against us.  Let us daven to Hashem that He provide the double nechama that we all need without the need of any further reminders, tribulations or harm.


A WONDERFUL TEACHING FROM RABBEINU YONAH: “An advantage accruing to one who breaks a physical desire is that if at a later time his Yetzer Hara urges upon him the commission of a wicked deed or transgression, he will reasonably think to himself: ‘I did not grant my desire for what is permitted; how, then, could I stretch forth my hand for what is forbidden?!’” (Sefer Sha’arei Teshuvah 1:32)



FROM A READER: “The Sefer Shulchan Gavo’ah brings from the Chofetz Chaim that one who recites the bracha of Asher Yatzar with Kavannah has the ability to quash many sicknesses. A Talmid Chochom of a previous generation relates that he once visited the Chofetz Chaim and noted that when the Chofetz Chaim recited Asher Yatzar he did so from a Siddur, moving his finger from word to word as he recited it.” Hakhel Note: If a Gadol HaDor can do this--perhaps we can try to do so as well!




Special Note One: In 1970, two airplanes with many Jews on board (including HaRav Yitzchak Hutner, Z’tl) were hijacked and taken to the Jordanian desert. At that time, HaRav Nosson Wachtfogel, Z’tl, the Mashgiach of the Lakewood Yeshiva, continuously urged the Bnei HaYeshiva to daven and daven again. There were those who wondered why Tehillim was constantly being recited, over and over and over again. HaRav Wachtfogel replied that if one’s own family member be taken--would he have the same reaction?! He also taught the Bnei Yeshiva that just as those who were hijacked had a cheshbon meyuchad in heaven--each and every one of those who were not subject to the terror personally, nevertheless had his own cheshbon meyuchad--would he properly be nosei b’ohl im chaveiro, or would he not. To be nosei b’ohl im chaveiro is not so simple, and not so quick. For instance, in our current matzav: How is one nosei b’ohl with the young ‘soldiers’ facing a coldblooded and diabolical enemy in a highly unconventional battlefield?  How is one nosei b’ohl with the beleaguered residents of Eretz Yisrael in the South, and now those even in the center of the country--who are the subject of such ruthless terror?  In fact, HaRav Wachtfogel taught that in order to truly be nosei b’ohl, one must sit down, think and put one’s heart to consider their situation--the danger, the unknown, the fear of harm at any moment, the inability to lead a semblance of a normal life--how one’s brother’s life has been taken apart! If upon such reflection a person truly commiserates and feels the pain and anguish--then his soul joins together with theirs.



Special Note Two: HaRav Yecheskel Levenstein, Z’tl was well known for the famous Mashal of a very ill person in the home for whom the doctor had been summoned. Every time there was a knock at the door, every time the phone or doorbell rang, the family members jumped—was it the doctor?! Even though it turned out to be a well wishing neighbor, a repairman, or someone else, the family was courteous and did not despair—the doctor would still come with the next knock—and would come in time, for he had to, they knew it because they believed it. This, HaRav Levenstein taught, should be our anticipation for Moshiach--even though the knocks on the door until today have not been what we have been waiting for--the real knock will most certainly come--and hopefully at the earliest possible next moment. The Six-Day War and no Moshiach, the Yom Kippur War and no Moshiach, the Lebanese War and no Moshiach, the Gaza War and no Moshiach--and now a new Gaza War is before us--is this it?!        


It is very well known that the Brisker Rav was heard to say the three-word Pasuk---LiShuasecha Kivisi Hashem (Bereishis 49:18) …For Your salvation do I long—several times throughout the day. It is no coincidence (as it never is) that this Pasuk is placed in the Siddur at the end of the 13 Ani Ma’amins that we recite daily.


We all know that the redemption will come—this is part of world history, established by Hashem at the time of the world’s creation. Our thoughts and our Tefillos should be permeated by a sincere and unrelenting want and desire that we ourselves be zocheh to see it—”Bechayechon U’Vyomeichon”—in your lifetimes, and in your days. We owe it to ourselves and to our destiny to be able to answer the Question:  “Tzipisa LiYeshua?” with a clear and truthful--better yet--a resounding and resourceful: “Yes –LiShuasecha Kivisi Hashem!!”


Hakhel Note: We don’t know when the knock will be the real one. B’EH if we are at that point--here is our reminder as to the four brachos that (it is said in the name of HaRav Shlomo Zalmen Auerbach,Z’tl) are said upon the arrival of Moshiach: (i) Baruch Chacham Harazim (over the 600,000 that will be present); (ii) Shechalak Meichachmaso LiReiav (over the Moshiach as Gadol HaDor); (iii) Shechalak MiKevodo LiReiav (over the Moshiach as king); and (iv) Shehechiyanu (over reaching the Moshiach’s arrival). We note that according to HaRav Chaim Kanievsky, Shlita, the bracha of Shehechiyanu over the arrival of Moshiach is mei’ikar hadin.



Special Note Three:  We continue an exciting Monday/Thursday series on the practical aspects of Sta”m, written by Rabbi Reuvain Mendlowitz, Shlita, author of Inside Sta”m--An Insider Reveals The Answers To All The Questions You Should Ask When Purchasing Or Maintaining Tefillin, Mezuzos, Megillos, Sifrei Torah And Nevi’im.


For a fuller treatment of all topics to be discussed, we urge you to purchase the Sefer, which provides practical and meaningful information and ideas.




As we discussed, the stitching in Tefillin must be perfectly square. This raises the question, must the threads actually touch in the corners? To clarify: there are threads running from east to west and north to south. Since we are creating a square, one may think that for the stitching to be considered halachically square, the north-south thread must actually touch the east-west thread in the corner.[Whenever we speak of threads or stitching, we are referring to threads made of ligaments or sinews from a kosher animal.]


There are three differing opinions among contemporary poskim:


1. As long as the stitching is aligned properly, the threads need not actually touch in the corners.

2. The threads must touch at the corners. If they don’t, the Tefillin are pasul.

3. As long as one of the threads, were it to be extended, would touch the other--the stitching is considered squared. (This differs from the first opinion, which allows for an imaginary extension of both threads.)


If one sees that his Tefillin stitching does not touch at the corners, he should discuss the matter with a Rav knowledgeable in this field for guidance.




11 Tammuz

Special Note One: We are unquestionably living in times of terror which could be extremely perplexing to the average observer. 


What are we to do?!


We provide several suggestions:


A. Dovid HaMelech, who lived through so much in his lifetime, provides a Pasuk in Tehillim which we can use to guide us. This Pasuk is recited every day, twice a day, from Rosh Chodesh Elul through Shemini Atzeres--a period when we know that our lives, and indeed the whole world around us, hangs in the balance.  The Pasuk is the climax--the final and concluding Pasuk of LeDovid Hashem Ori--it is “Kavey El Hashem, Chazak V’Yaametz Libecha V’Kavey El Hashem--Hope to Hashem, strengthen yourself and He will give you courage, and [once again] Hope to Hashem!”  (Tehillim 27:17)


The Pasuk’s lesson is clear: An important part of our nisayon in life (especially during these days of Chevlei Mashiach) is that our Emunah is confronted and challenged.  When this happens, after our initial hoping to Hashem, which may in the ordinary course be followed by feelings of weakness to cope, we must strengthen ourselves and hope to Hashem again.  Of course, improving one’s Tefillah (especially Shema and Shemone Esrei), one’s regular brachos (especially when reciting the word “Ata” and Hashem’s Names), and feeling Hashem’s actual Presence at times of challenge, helps one to reinforce and ignite the initial hope--and obliterate depression and despair.


We may additionally suggest that even reciting this very Pasuk when one experiences confusion, dejection or despondency can help a person get back on track to refocus--there is Divine Purpose, and Ani Maamin--I believe with all my heart in the details of the Shelosha Asar Ikarim--the Thirteen Principles of Faith (which can also be recited more than once a day!).


When we strengthen ourselves, we should not forget to strengthen others as well.  Remember--Kavey El Hashem…V’Kavey El Hashem--with Faith--and Joy!


B. Let us also look at the last three Pesukim of Tehillim Chapter 6, which is the Chapter which forms the integral part of Tachanun every morning and afternoon. How powerful and timely these Pesukim are!:


Suru Mimeni Kol Po’alei Aven Ki Shamah Hashem Kol Bichyi. Shamah Hashem Techinasi Hashem Tefilasi Yikach. Yeivoshu Veyibahalu Me’od Kol Oyevai Yashuvu Yeivoshu Ragah--depart from me, all evildoers, for Hashem has heard the sound of my weeping. Hashem has heard my plea, Hashem will accept my prayer. Let all my foes be shamed and utterly confounded, they will regret and be shamed in an instant.” [Artscroll translation]


Perhaps we can recite this Kepitel with special fervor.


C. By the following link-- http://tinyurl.com/5a6qmy  we once again provide the words of HaRav Chaim Volozhiner, Z’tl, in the Sefer Nefesh HaChaim--words which bring home that everything---absolutely everything--is within Hashem’s power and control. Any degree of Intifada, no matter what direction a rocket is faced in, and no matter what its size, Hashem determines EVERYTHING that has occurred, is occurring and will occur. Let us demonstrate our full faith in Hashem by perhaps reading these several lines and reminding ourselves that any desperate situation can become Simcha-filled in a very short period of time.


D. For those who have been learning the current Daf Yomi of Mesechta Ta’anis, they will realize that the reaction to an Eis Tzara includes Teshuvah and Ta’anis--fasting. Everyone can do some kind of ‘small’ Teshuvah today as a zechus. Additionally, even if one may not be physically capable of fasting--perhaps he can curb his desire to consume one or more food items, and/or perhaps he can curb his urge to say that word or two of questionable speech.


E. In his Sefer Tiv HaEmunah, HaRav Gamliel Rabanovitch, Shlita, brings the words of Tehillim 20:6: “Neranenah Bishuasecha--we will sing for joy at Your salvation.” Based upon this Pasuk, HaRav Rabanovitch teaches that when one faces a situation of tzara and needs a yeshuah--he should proceed to thank Hashem now for the Yeshuah that is to come.


F. In a related vein, HaRav Chaim Kanievsky, Shlita, teaches that when one is in a difficult situation, he can be mekabel upon himself to do something upon his being saved from it. For instance, one can be mekabel to give a certain amount of Tzedakah when the Yeshuah comes, or to recite Nishmas in the presence of a Minyan. For other examples of Kabalos, one should consult with their Rav or Posek.


G. As Chilul Hashem is perhaps the gravest offense, as is evidenced by its uniquely severe punishment, the converse--the performance of Kiddush Hashem should engender great zechusim for us. We should be especially cognizant and sensitive to perform acts of Kiddush Hashem during this Nisayon-filled period. The following event is brought in the outstanding work Touched by a Story, by Rabbi Yechiel Spero, Shlita:


Rav Yehoshua Leib Diskin lived in Yerushalayim. Once, in his old age, a new shamash came in the morning to bring him to shul. When Rav Yehoshua Leib emerged from his house, instead of setting out for shul, he made his way to a stairway outside his house that led up to the roof. He climbed the stairs slowly and painfully, looked around for something, then came downstairs with a sigh. The shamash could not help but ask the rav for the reason for his peculiar behavior. Rav Yehoshua Leib explained, ‘The first two Batei Mikdash were built by human hands, but the third Beis HaMikdash is going to descend from Heaven in fire. That is something that could happen even overnight. I wanted to check if the Beis HaMikdash came last night. But it didn’t,’ he concluded with tears in his eyes, and turned to make his way to shul.”


Hakhel Note: The Bais HaMikdash does not have to be built at night--it can most certainly be built during the day as well. May the current matzav be our final taste of this bitter Galus--and may we be zoche to the Geulah Sheleimah!



10 Tammuz

FROM A READER: “On the topic of Summertime Nisyonos, I would add that there are likewise difficult nisyanos in travelling to/from Manhattan , in proximity of the pritzus on the subway trains. This is one of the major reasons I decided a few years ago to start driving to work every day (to Jersey City , via Manhattan ) instead of using mass transit, despite the additional cost and effort.”



IT’S NOT FACEBOOK: After it was reported that six of the seven pairs of Tefillin that were found by a Rabbi in the Alabama unclaimed baggage store were returned to their rightful owners after he posted the pictures on Facebook, a reader commented that perhaps Facebook does have a ‘real use’.  We do not believe that this is the case.  We must always remember that Harbei Sheluchim LaMakom--and that whenever Hashem willed for these Tefillin to be returned to their respective owners it would have happened.  Most of us probably received several emails regarding the Tefillin discovery from various sources, with the appropriate email address to contact.  It is a small world and we are a big people! The Tefillin would have made their way to their rightful owner without the need for the social network that Rabbonim speak so negatively about.



THE GREATEST TEACHER: Although each of us should have his Rosh Yeshiva, Rav, Posek or Rebbe whom he closely follows and whose guidance he adheres to, Rabbi Yosef Eisen, Shlita, points out in the name of Gedolim that our first and most prominent teacher is Avraham Avinu himself--as the Mishna in last week’s Perek (Avos 5:22) teaches: “Whoever has the following three traits is among the disciples of Avraham Avinu--Ayin Tovah, Ruach Nemucha V’Nefesh Shefalah--a good eye towards others, a humble spirit and one who does not pursue desires.” It behooves us greatly to follow each of the fundamental teachings of our first and foremost Rebbi!




THE DAN L’CHAF ZECHUS IMPERATIVE: We are living in very troubled times (and this is an understatement). Rashi in last week’s Parasha (Bamidbar 24:1) gives us a very important lesson: Bilam wanted so badly to curse K’lal Yisrael, but was unable to. He realized, however, that there was one way in which he could ‘sneak-in’ a curse. That was “Azkir Avonoseihem V’Hakelalah Ahl Hazkaras Avonoseihem Tachul--I will mention their sins, and the curse will be able to affect them through the portal of their mentioned sins.” There is a great lesson here. When we judge another unfavorably, viewing that which he has done in a negative light--referring to their sins or egregious behavior--we are allowing r’l for Kelalah to make its way in to our troubled world. As a zechus for all of K’lal Yisrael, we should focus strongly and well on being Dan L’Chaf Zechus in the so-many daily situations that confront us--beginning with the ‘average’ Jew and most certainly through the Talmid Chochom and Tzaddik.




Special Note: At the recent Hakhel Yarchei Kallah, Rabbi Yisroel Reisman, Shlita, pointed out that a striking fault of Bilam was his shocking inability to be moved by the events around him. Bilam had so many indications that Hashem was displeased with his intentions, yet in one way or another Bilam continued to resist and ignore the lessons. His failure to be moved, to be inspired, by the messages screaming out to him to modify his intentions and his goals--soon resulted in his death at the hands of Pinchos. Rabbi Reisman called this a Lev Ha’even--a stone heart, which regrettably becomes a person’s tool for his own self-imposed punishment. There are situations, events, findings and news every day, Rabbi Reisman explains, which a person should utilize to assist himself and be inspired to modify his thinking and change his behavior--and do what one realizes that he really should be doing based upon the circumstances.


Indeed, Rabbi Yissocher Frand, Shlita, in his Shiur on Keeping the Faith in Troubled Times, brings the ma’aseh of Rebbi Chananyah Ben Teradyon who asked Rebbi Yosi Ben Kisma whether he would be a Ben Olam Haba.  Rebbi Yosi Ben Kisma asked Rebbi Chananyah to describe something he had done so that Rebbi Yosi could make the determination. Rebbi Chananyah told him that he had once mistakenly mixed Purim Matanos L’Evyonim money together with his other monies and as a result he gave the entire amount to Tzedakah. Rebbi Yosi thereupon responded to Rebbi Chananyah that yes, he would be a Ben Olam Haba. Now let us take a step back for a moment. What was the greatness in Rebbi Chananyah’s deed that earned him great and everlasting reward? Rabbi Frand suggests that it was not simply giving a nice amount of Tzedaka one time, nor the avoidance of any doubt as to how much he should give to Tzedaka. Rather, it was Rebbi Chananyah determining that the monies got mixed together for a reason, and that Min HaShomayim he was being told that he had to give it all away to Tzedakah. It was this sensitivity, this understanding, that demonstrated the personality of Rebbi Chananyah that made him a Ben Olam Haba. Rabbi Frand notes therefore that we too must look at daily events and understand that they are messages--we must be sensitive, open and ready to respond to the sometimes gentle, sometimes strong, taps on our shoulder.


As a primary recent example of this, Rabbi Frand cites the Chofetz Chaim who, when hearing thunder would exclaim: “Vus Vill De Tatteh--why did this happen?” The Chofetz Chaim realized that thunder is not simply a ‘natural’ phenomenon, but that if he heard it--there was a reason and purpose for it.


Likewise, Rabbi Frand learned from HaRav Elya Svei, Z’tl, that this reaction need not be limited to the great Tzaddikim of the world--but to the average man as well. HaRav Svei recalled that when he was a young boy in the Lithuanian town of Poltava he walked into the Shul and heard Tehillim being recited with tremendous fervor and cries. Stunned, he asked one of the participants what had happened. A person told him that they heard that there was an earthquake somewhere in the world and that people were killed. They knew this meant that the Ribono Shel Olam was upset and that they needed to do Teshuvah and sincerely plead with Hashem for Rachmanus.


On the other side of the spectrum, Rabbi Frand added, was the famous encounter between HaRav Chatzkel Levenstein, Z’tl, and the chiloni cab driver. The cab driver, seeing that HaRav Chatzkel was obviously a Rav, told him that he would like to tell him a story. The driver said that after he finished the Israeli army, he decided to backpack with two of his friends in Africa .  At one point, as they encamped in the wild outdoors, he heard shrieks in the middle of the night at a close-by distance which woke him up.  As it turned out--one of his friends was being squeezed to death by a python.  No amount of beating would help--and in desperation one of the three recalled the Pasuk of Shema Yisrael, which they all exclaimed together.  The python promptly released his hold and scurried off into the night.  The driver continued: “My friend then took upon himself to become religious upon his return to Eretz Yisrael, which he did--he married a religious girl and he now lives a fully religious life.” HaRav Chatzkel turned to the driver and said: “…and what about you?!” The driver said: “Kevodo Aino Maivin--Rabbi--you didn’t understand the story. The snake was wrapped around him--not around me!”


We have to make sure that we do not make the grievous mistake of this foolish cab driver, as world shaking events unfold around us on a daily basis. For those who do not know, residents all the way up in Ramat Beit Shemesh were forced into bomb shelters yesterday. The situation cries out for our action--not only the action of those living in Sderot, Ashdod, Be’er Sheva, motorists in Yehudah and Shomron, or the residents of Ramat Shlomo in Yerushalayim. In Kelm, the students were urged not to have Kelbene Hispa’alus--a calf’s reaction. What is that? It is that of a young cow eating grass in the field who hears a tremendous roar above, lifts up its head for a moment to see a supersonic jet streaking by, and then quickly lowers its head to continue eating the grass.


React we must--in our thoughts, in our Tefillos, in our Tehillim--and in our change!




9 Tammuz

SHOMER YISRAEL: In these dangerous times--may we suggest that when reciting Tachanun in the morning, we have special Kavannah when reciting the three sentencesShomer Yisrael…Shomer Goy Echad…Shomer Goy Kadosh…”. With this--we will strengthen ourselves in feeling and experiencing Chazal’s teaching (Sotah 49A): “Ein Lanu Lehisha’ein Elah Ahl Avinu Shebashomayim”.




Special Note One: We conclude our annual review of Summer Shailos, with the Teshuvos of Rabbi Yisroel Belsky, Shlita, to the Shailos we had posed to him. If one needs further clarification, he should consult with his Rav or Posek, who in any event should be the final decisor for any person’s particular Shailah.




QUESTION: Until what age is a woman/man permitted to take her young son/daughter to the pool?

ANSWER: The age of five is a good cut-off point for taking children of the opposite gender to the pool.  In the case of a more mature, or maturely-formed child, a younger age should be set as the limit.


QUESTION: Does a married woman have to cover her hair at the pool, both in and out of the water?

ANSWER: I have always understood that covered hair is the acceptable norm for married women at pools and is definitely the correct and proper thing to do.  There are deviations from the gidrei tznius at the swimming pool, as is understood, but hair covering is not one of them.


QUESTION: Does a married woman have to cover her hair at the pool in order to recite a brocha?

ANSWER: The previous item covers this question. L’daati, even those who are lax with regard to the aforesaid matter should not be meikil when making a brocha.


QUESTION: Is one permitted to recite a brocha at the pool even though the other women are not properly dressed?

ANSWER: In such a situation, one should turn aside and position herself so that her field of vision will encompass only properly-attired individuals.


QUESTION: Is one permitted to read a chumash or a hashkafa sefer at the pool?

ANSWER: One can definitely read a sefer at the pool.  Men should (at the very least) cover their heads while doing so.  Women should put on a robe.  For reading Jewish books (including hashkafa-oriented novels), less is required.


QUESTION: Is a woman permitted to sing in the bungalow if someone who cannot see her would still be able to hear her outside?

ANSWER: A woman may sing in her bungalow at the normal range of volume and male passers-by should keep their distance.  Where this is not practical, she should lower her voice or refrain from singing until they leave the area.


Overcoming Summer Time Nisyonos


QUESTION: Can one take his children to Hershey Park and similar places while on vacation?

ANSWER: There is another question that is related to the above.  How can you work in Manhattan in the summer?  Rabbosai, I would like to tell you that we are subjected to very big nisyonos.  It is not comparable to a person who is occasionally subjected to things that one’s eyes shouldn’t see.  It is more than that.  It is an incessant bombardment from all sides and at all times, especially in Manhattan, where all the pritzim come together to display their immorality in the most provocative manner.  For a person who has to pass through the streets in order to get to his work place, this constitutes a major challenge that would seemingly require him to keep his eyes focused towards the ground with the exception of not bumping into another person or crossing the street without getting struck by the traffic.  It might seem that by my humor I am declaring that this is too much to ask of a person.  It is not too much to ask.  A person should keep his eyes down and avoid looking directly at those whose aim is to stimulate one’s passions in order to encourage them to purchase a certain brand of cigarettes or liquor, or a car or even a screwdriver for that matter, associating their product with something that a person has an attraction to because of his yetzer hara.  A person should definitely keep his eyes away and it is not easy.  The designers of these advertisements do it in a very expert way, with the knowledge that their provocative appeals will be very difficult to ignore.  That is just the reason why we must thwart their enticements they swamp us with and try to float in front of our eyes.  One has to avoid these influences unless it is absolutely impossible to avoid them. In such cases, one should avoid looking directly at these enticements. While it is true that one may look ridiculous in the eyes of others, it is worth it, gaining many precious zechusim.  We must struggle to clear things away from our eyes that we shouldn’t be seeing.  It is best that if one sees something and one wonders whether or not such a sight is mutar or assur, one should refrain from taking a second glance.  Better to remain ignorant.  You won’t regret it!



Calling Someone Else’s Spouse by Their First Name


QUESTION: We have all been in the same bungalow colony for the last ten years.  Is there anything wrong with referring to somebody else’s spouse on a first name basis?

ANSWER: The way the question is worded, there is an implication that something is not correct about calling somebody’s spouse by his or her first name if you have only known them for eight or nine years—but that ten years is different, and at that point, a first-name basis would be permissible.  However, the opposite is true.  The longer one knows a person of the opposite gender, the less likely you should call him or her by his or her first name.  There is more danger in such situations when you become very familiar with another person’s spouse.  Tznius is something that has to be learned.  The best way is to promote an elevated level of tznius in the relaxed, summer setting, whether in the bungalow colony or elsewhere.  During the weekdays, when women are alone in the country, they should still not go out to the swimming pool from their bungalow without the proper outerwear attire.  Tznius should be an important issue at all times.  A person should use chachma and seichel and not put themselves into potentially harmful

situations.  We live in a world where everyone else considers normal those activities that we recognize as to’aivah (abominations).  Therefore, you have to be careful that you behave and talk in a manner that reflects tznius and self-control.  These tiny breaches if not controlled can be the openings for dangerous situations.



Use of One Sink for Both Milk and Meat


QUESTION: My kitchen in the bungalow has only one sink.  In the past I used a separate rack in the sink for milk and a second rack for meat.  Is there anything else I need to do since I wash my dishes with hot water?

ANSWER: Yes, there is absolutely something that you can and must do.  Throw out the racks and get large dish pans (shisselach).  Rabbosai, racks are not a good system.  Whenever someone tries to use racks, there is cutlery (i.e. forks and knives) that slip through the holes in the racks.  The bottom of the sink has a fine layer covering of fleischig schmaltz combined with cheese and cream, butter and who knows what else.  It is almost impossible to control.  There will be backups and the water will rise and maybe it will be a k’li sheni.  The backup will get all over the dishes and it will be an impossible situation for you to wash off all the dishes.  You shouldn’t use racks.  If you want to use a rack, put it under a dish pan.  The stores have plenty of these plastic dish pans in every color or shape to fit your particular need.



Yichud Issues


QUESTION: My husband goes shopping on Thursday night and oftentimes some neighbors want to go along.  Sometimes it is just one woman.  Is there a problem of yichud?

ANSWER: The answer is yes!  It can become a yichud issue when you travel on a dark country road late at night that is not well-traveled.  Again, even if it is something that is done once, it is a problem.


QUESTION: Sometimes I have to go to the City during the week and stay late at night.  I would like a female counselor to stay overnight in the bungalow to watch over the children.  What is the best thing to do to ensure that there will not be a problem with yichud?

ANSWER: If the female counselor is going to stay in the bungalow with a nine year-old boy, there is really no way to get away from the problem of yichud.  If the child is seven or eight years old, young enough to not have an active yetzer hara, it might be permissible to have the counselor stay overnight to watch the children.



Am I Required to Help a Stranded Motorist?


QUESTION: If I see someone pulled over to the side of the road with car trouble, am I required to stop and help?  Does it matter if I have my family with me and my stopping will inconvenience and make it harder for them?  What if my wife is expecting me home?

ANSWER: This is a very serious question and you have to utilize a lot of judgment.  To help someone and yet in the process cause a lot of tza’ar (hardship) and hurt others is not a simple thing to do.  One must think very carefully and make a judgment.  I was once driving up to the country and it was a very difficult ride.  It was very hot outside and there was a major traffic jam just north of the City.  There was a Yid who was stuck changing a tire on a very crowded spot on a little traffic island, surrounded by traffic on both sides.  There was no place to park.  I decided it would be better to drive on to the toll booths which was another five minutes away and inform them that there was a motorist stuck and that they should send an official vehicle to help him out.  As I was driving, a goy pulled up to me and stated loudly, “You didn’t stop to help your brother!”



Removing Yarmulkes and Tzitzis


QUESTION: May my son take off his yarmulke when playing ball?

ANSWER: While one is playing ball or engaged in any sport, G-d forbid that he should remove his yarmulke, for this leads to lightheadedness and stems from a lightheaded attitude.  One who fears that his yarmulke might fly off should attach it with bobby pins or the like.


QUESTION: May I take off my Tzitzis when going to the pool?

ANSWER: A ben Torah should walk to and from the pool wearing tzitzis (and when playing ball).  Tzitzis should not be the clothing which we show we are more lax in during the summer months.  If you are going in the swimming pool and take off your tzitzis for more than an hour’s time, you must make a new brocha when putting them back on.  When taking off the tzitzis for only a half-hour, no new brocha is needed.  If the tzitzis are off from anywhere between a half-hour and an hour, you should not make a new brocha based on sofek brochos l’hakel.


Food-Related Items Under Bed


QUESTION: My wife and children say that because of lack of space in their bungalow/bunk in camp, they would like to store snack foods, drinks and plastic eating utensils underneath the beds. Is this permissible?

ANSWER: One should not use the space to store food or drinks, but utensils may be kept there.  If you mistakenly left food or drink there, you may use them.



Special Note Two:  We continue an exciting Monday/Thursday series on the practical aspects of Sta”m, written by Rabbi Reuvain Mendlowitz, Shlita, author of Inside Sta”m--An Insider Reveals The Answers To All The Questions You Should Ask When Purchasing Or Maintaining Tefillin, Mezuzos, Megillos, Sifrei Torah And Nevi’im.


For a fuller treatment of all topics to be discussed, we urge you to purchase the Sefer, which provides practical and meaningful information and ideas.





Which parts of the tefillin have to be square, and must they be perfectly square?



Three parts of the tefillin must be square.

1)         The titura (base of the tefillin).

2)         The ketzitzah (the actual compartment containing the parashiyos). Note that the height is not a factor – the k’tiztzah need not be a cube.

3)         The tefiros (stitching).

Most poskim agree that as long as the tefillin appear to be perfectly square to the human eye, they are mehudar.




The corners of my battim are somewhat dull. Are they now not considered square?




The consensus among the poskim is that when attempting to determine whether or not a bayis is perfectly square, one need not measure with a precise measuring instrument such as a caliper. Rather, as long as the bayis gives the appearance to the human eye of being perfectly square, it is perfectly kosher.

Therefore, generally speaking, even when the corners are dull, the overall appearance of the squareness is not affected, and the tefillin are still kosher.



6 Tammuz

SUMMERTIME SHEMIRA:  The Chofetz Chaim brings the Midrash that when Yaakov Avinu davened to Hashem as he was running away from Eisav (Bereishis 28:20):  U’Shemarani BaDerech Hazeh--and You guard me on the road that I am taking”--that it refers to Hashem saving him from Lashon Hara along the way. The Chofetz Chaim adds that it is pashut that when a person travels he needs an extra level of shemira--and that the way to attain that extra level of shemira is to have Hashem accompany the person. When Lashon Hara is spoken, the Shechina leaves us--and we are in greater sakana. It is for this reason that Yaakov Avinu davened that he be saved from the cheit of Lashon Hara--so that he be protected in the difficult situation that he faced. We may apply Yaakov Avinu’s teaching to our increased summer travel --so that the Shechina remains with us to give us that extra level of protection that we may very well need!



QUESTION OF THE WEEK:  Chazal (Sanhedrin 105A) teach that Bilam’s father, Be'or, was none other than Lavan himself.  What does that make the relationship between Bilam and the 12 Shevatim (and their descendants) that Bilam sought to curse?  What lesson can you derive from this important and incredible fact?



ENTEBBE ! Today is the 38th anniversary of the Entebbe miracle.  As we are once again terrorized and even drawn towards all-out war with the ruthless and barbaric Pereh Adam enemy--let us pray for Nissim V'niflaos not only of the caliber of recent history--but even of the sort and kind She'na'asu La'Avoseinu and beyond--as we anxiously await the Geulah Sheleima!




Special Note One: We continue with our Erev Shabbos--Halachos of Shabbos Series. We continue our annual review of Summer Shabbos Shailos, with the Teshuvos of Rabbi Yisroel Belsky, Shlita, to us:






QUESTION: On Shabbos my bungalow colony makes kiddush after davening. Can we make it on the grass?

ANSWER: The Shulchan Aruch says that you shouldn’t drink water on Shabbos near where there are plants growing, because it might fall upon and nurture them, thus constituting toldos of zore’ah and choresh. But, drinking wine is acceptable, because it doesn’t help the grass or growing plants.


QUESTION: What about other drinks?

ANSWER: They should be treated as water. Since most of the drinks that we have fall into that category, one shouldn’t have a lawn kiddush on Shabbos.


QUESTION: What about drinking over lawns where one doesn’t care about the grass or the grass is half dead anyway? Or if it has just rained?

ANSWER: This is a strange question. As far I know, in most places, people do pay a lot of attention to ensure that the patches of ruined grass are re-seeded or patches of sod are put on them. It is the wish of each individual or bungalow colony committee to see that the place looks nice. Whenever there is a drought for a period of time and grass begins to turn yellow, people do worry. Therefore, it is practically never true that people are not concerned about the condition of the grass. You will see directly before and after the summer season, large amounts of money are spent on improving or restoring the grass. If we just had a heavy rain outside and the grass was soaked, it would be permitted to have a kiddush on the grass. However, I don’t think that people would really want to attend such a kiddush on unpleasant, heavily rain-soaked grass.




QUESTION: On Shabbos is a person permitted to spray insect repellent on one’s hands?

ANSWER: Yes. There is no choleh and the spray is not remedying an ailment.




QUESTION: If I notice a bee or wasp flew into my home, can I close the window if that will cause the bee or wasp to be trapped in between the window and the screen?

ANSWER: The Klal is that if you have a little creature that can sting you and you are afraid that it will sting you, then you are allowed to capture it. The reason is because it is something that you really don’t want to capture for any use or purpose. Indeed, you would like it to just go away and escape to the wilds of Australia. Therefore, you are allowed to trap it on Shabbos, but you should try to avoid trapping it directly.




QUESTION: If someone’s window screen fell out on Shabbos, is a person allowed to put it back on Shabbos?

ANSWER: I think that if the screen is of the old simple type that you easily put in and take out, it is not considered a chelek or part of the actual window. In such a case, you would be allowed to either insert or remove it. However, the more modern window screens which are more a chelek of the window would be forbidden to insert or remove on Shabbos.




QUESTION: Are you allowed to ask a non-Jew to turn on the air conditioner on Shabbos?

ANSWER: I remember when air conditioning was non-existent. However, today, it has become such a necessity. I imagine that if the situation was very uncomfortable, one could ask a non-Jew to turn on the air conditioner, especially as air conditioners work on electricity. Unlike creating heat, creating electricity that runs the air conditioner is not a Melacha DeOraysa. It is probably even less problematic to ask a non-Jew to turn off the air conditioner if the room is too cold. Just as you can ask a non-Jew to put on the heat in winter in order to prevent people from becoming sick, you can similarly ask a non-Jew to turn off the air conditioner if you are trying to prevent people from getting sick from the extreme cold generated by the air conditioner.


QUESTION: If the circuit breaker went off on Shabbos, is one allowed to ask a non-Jew to restore it?

ANSWER: Simply put, there are times at night when if you don’t have electricity, it constitutes Sakanos Nefashos. It is simply dangerous, especially if you have children who are going around at night without light.  In such a dangerous situation, you can certainly ask a non-Jew to restore the electricity.


QUESTION: Are you allowed to ask a non-Jew to restore the electricity merely in order to save the food from spoiling?

ANSWER: The answer is yes. However, if the food is not endangered, but it is a question of just keeping the soda colder, you should not ask a non-Jew to fix the circuit breaker. If you had cholent in an electric crock pot when the circuit breaker went out, the cholent is still hot and the electricity, if restored, will stop other food from spoiling, as before, you may ask a non-Jew to restore the electricity




QUESTION: I have an electric water cooler. Is it a problem to use on Shabbos? If not, am I permitted to change the empty bottle?

ANSWER: A water cooler is like a refrigerator. In fact, it is a refrigerator. It contains a chamber with five, six, seven or eight cups of water. You take a cup of water and another comes into it from the bottle. The temperature rises by a couple of degrees and after a while, a mechanism will trigger the thermostat to start the compressor, kicking in the cooling system again.  With a refrigerator, there are many people who are machmir not to open it in order to take something out (or return a food item) unless the motor is running. If the motor is running, you will not trigger the thermostat to turn it on.  It is possible that with a water cooler, there is less stringency involved than with regard to a regular refrigerator, because the hot air that comes in when you open a refrigerator, is going to result in the release from the refrigerator itself of a lot of cold air into the room, because it is a very large appliance. The release of the cold air from the refrigerator will result in the influx of warm air from the room into the refrigerator, which will surely trigger the compressor to start within a very short period of time. The water cooler on the other hand is a closed system and only that one cup that you take will be replaced by another cup. Maybe five or six cups are required to trigger off the system. Regarding replacing an empty bottle of water into a water cooler on Shabbos, doing so would surely trigger the thermostat and compressor to initiate the cooling system and should not be done, if you are machmir about opening refrigerators when the motor is not running.




QUESTION: I have small children who cannot stay up until the end of Shabbos. Do they have to make Havdalah on Sunday morning?

ANSWER: Rabbosai, you have to make Havdalah for little children. I’ll tell you a very interesting Halacha. If a little child did not hear Havdalah, but the parent was yotzei Havdalah in shul, the father could make Havdalah with a brocha and be motzi the little child. I have always made an effort to have my children listen to Havdalah (on Motza’ei Shabbos). And if that was not possible, I would have the child recite Havdalah from a siddur the next morning. If the child is too young to make Havdalah the next morning, then he is not considered to have reached the age of chinuch (education in mitzvos) for Havdalah and can do without hearing it.



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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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



Hakhel Note:  We must take the step ahead, and be proactive in our mitzvah performance.  In war, one wins only by taking the offensive, and will not succeed merely by demonstrating great defensive maneuvers, no matter how valuable and important they may be.  This being said, we must realize that we cannot wait simply for mitzvos to come to us--we should seek out mitzvos to perform.


Think for a few moments.  How can I accomplish this essential task?  Is it by making a private “Shidduch meeting” with friends to think about those who are single? Is it by making sure to compliment at least one person a day every day for the next 30 days?  Is it by closing my eyes when saying the name of Hashem when reciting a brocha before and after food?  Is it by make sure that I have learned at least something--a Pasuk, a Mishna, a Vort, after davening Shacharis and Maariv and before leaving Shul?  Is it by going over to the poor person and giving him Tzedaka before he comes to me?  …


We, too, can act like our forefather Avraham Avinu--who saddled his donkey to do the will of his Creator, which in the end will accomplish much to defeat the designs of the Bilams of the world--who saddle their donkeys to go against the will of his Creator.  We, too, can bring success we so desperately need to our generation and to all future generations as well!  All we need to do

is take action!  Now!  Today!



Special Note Three:  Additional points and pointers on this week’s Parasha, Parashas Balak:


A.  HaRav Chaim Kanievsky, Shlita, observes that Bilam is more severely criticized than Balak.  Why is this so?  After all, was it not Balak who started the whole process?  Was he not the one who instigated Bilam, inducing him to come, and moving him from one mizbe’ach to another?  Yet, Balak counts Rus as one of his descendents, while Bilam’s name lives in infamy forever.  HaRav Kanievsky explains that Balak acted in fear--having observed first-hand what happened as a result of the wars of Bnei Yisrael against Sichon and Og.  Bilam, on the other hand, was a non-party to all of this, and joined in only because of his Middos Mushchasos--his destructive or rotten Middos.  HaRav Kanievsky notes that all of those listed in the Mishna in Sanhedrin (90A) as not having a portion in the World to Come, lost their portion because of Middos Mushchasos.  With this, we can understand the great contrast provided in the Mishna in Avos (5:22--studied this week, the week of Parashas Balak!) between the students of Avraham Avinu and the students of Bilam HaRasha.  The differences:  Ayin Tova vs. Ayin Ra’ah, Ruach Nemucha vs. Ruach Gevoha, and Nefesh Shefalah vs. Nefesh Rechava should therefore be especially focused upon this week.  Chazal are incredibly telling us that above and beyond their differences in Torah, Tefillah, and Emunah, what rests at the heart of the distinction between Avraham Avinu and his future generations, and Bilam HaRasha and his followers are (as explained by Rabbeinu Ovadia M’Bartenura):


a.  Ayin Tova-- being satisfied with what one has and not desiring the money or possessions of others.  Example:  You do not need a summer home, and if you have one, you do not need his or her summer home.


b.  Ruach Nemucha--humble spirit.  According to the Sefer Sha’arei Teshuva, this includes a person not being Machazik Tova to himself, and not seeking Kavod for the honorable things that he does or accomplishes.  


c.  Nefesh Shefalah--deemphasizing the desires of this world.  Indeed, there is a story of one of the Gedolim, who tasted ice cream once and was so impressed with its good taste that he elected never to eat it again. 


B.  Mah Tovu Ohalecha Yaakov Mishkenosecha Yisrael”.  We recite this Pasuk upon entering Shul every morning.  The Chasam Sofer notes that there are two kinds of unacceptable behavior when it comes to one’s relationship with his Bais HaKnesses or Bais HaMidrash.  Some are hesitant to go to Shul, claiming that they can learn better at home, or accomplish more in their office.  To them, the Shul is only an Ohel.  To another who frequents the Shul or Bais Midrash, the Shul may appear to lose a tad of its sanctity, as he talks loudly across the Shul, walks around with food or drink in his hand, and even engages in friendly conversations on all kinds of topics here and there.  Thus, he slightly abrogates the Mikdash nature of the Makom Kadosh, although, because he goes frequently, he still considers it a Mishkan.  It is for this reason, the Chasam Sofer continues, that we immediately recite the next Pasuk (from Tehillim 5:8) “Va’ani BeRov Chasdecha Avoh Vaisecha--Hashem, I know that it is only because of Your great Chessed that I can enter”; moreover, “Eshtachaveh El Heichal Kadshecha BeYirasecha--I bow towards the Holy Heichal in fear of You.”  With these important words, we demonstrate our appreciation, and our inestimable value of the Makom that we are about to enter.  Hakhel Note:  As we have mentioned in the past, although Mah Tovu is only recited when one enters Shul in the morning, many recite the Pasuk “Va’ani BeRov Chasdecha” (in a bowed position) when they enter Shul and other times during the day as well.  We can now understand why!


C.  Another aspect of Mah Tovu is Bilam’s special awareness on how Klal Yisrael treats the right of privacy of others--as he noticed how the entrance ways to each person’s tent was carefully positioned not to face another’s entrance.  There are many ways that we can inculcate this into our daily lives:  When walking by a house with a door open or the shades up, one should not look in simply based upon the theory that they have left their door open or windows uncovered--so they must not care so much about it.  Indeed, one should be careful not to do so even absentmindedly. As noted in the past, in our day and age, we may also include peeking in to someone’s car as they are driving (even if they have pulled up next to you at a light).  We can also add to the list listening in to the conversation between two people which is obviously between them--even if they have not asked you to leave so as not to shame you.  Rabbi Zelig Pliskin, Shlita, in his Sefer Love Your Neighbor, adds: Because of our obligation to respect the privacy of others, Rabbeinu Gershom placed a Chairem on reading someone else’s mail without permission (Be’er HaGolah, Yorah Deiah 334:123).  Even parents should not read the mail of their children without permission (see Rav Chaim Palaji, p. 18). We update this a bit by adding finally that Mah Tovu also reminds us not to look at the emails of others without their permission--and all the more so when you have received an email for someone in error.  Curiosity was never claimed as one of the great Jewish traits, and we should not start the Minhag now. 


D. In Parashas Balak (Bamidbar 23:9), we find the prophecy of Bilam come to life before our eyes:  “Hain Am Levodod Yishkon U'VaGoyim Lo Yischashav...behold, it is a nation that will dwell in solitude and will not be counted among the nations.”  As we see how the nations have turned --to the point where they have championed the cause of terrorists (really out to kill them too) against us--we see how disregarded and despised we really are to them--because of who we are.  Perhaps one simple lesson we should take and apply for our times is to recite the bracha of “Shelo Asani Goy” with added Kavannah.  Would we ever want to act like this?!  One thing is for sure, just as the foregoing Pasuk in the Parasha was fulfilled--so too will the later words of Bilam to Balak in the Parasha also be fulfilled: “Lecha Iatzecha Asher Ya'aseh Ha'am Hazeh LeAmecha B'Acharis HaYomim--Come and I will advise you what this people will do to your people in the end of days...”. May it come speedily and in our days--after all-- it is all in one and the very same Parasha!”



Special Note Four:  Rabbi Moshe Soloveichik, Z'tl, notes that one of the 10 items described in this week's Perek (Avos 5:9) as having been created on Erev Shabbos at Bain HaShemoshos is the “Pi Ha'Ason”--the capacity of Bilam's donkey to speak.  Indeed, it is in this very week's Parasha that the Torah describes how Hashem opened that donkey's mouth--and how strongly and cogently the donkey responded to Bilam's beating (some learn that this Pasuk is the source for the prohibition to cause animals pain).  Rabbi Soloveichik, however, queries: Is it not, in fact, two separate miracles that took place here which do not seem to be adequately described by merely referring to the “mouth of the donkey”?  Firstly, the donkey spoke, which no animal had ever done to date, and no animal has ever done since.  Secondly, however, and more importantly, the donkey articulated his point in a poignant and coherent manner.  Should not this incredible accomplishment be given an even greater stature in the Mishna in Avos, perhaps using the term “Chochmas Ha'ason”, wisdom of the donkey, or the like?


Rabbi Soloveichik responds that Chazal are teaching us a lifelong lesson by teaching that the donkey's actions constituted only one miracle.  When one speaks, but speaks nonsense, gibberish, in trivialities, or generally not to the matter at hand, it is viewed by the Torah as if he is not really speaking at all.  After all, when the Torah describes the creation of man (Bereishis 2:7), it states “...And He blew into his nostrils the Soul of Life.”  What exactly is the Soul of Life?  The Targum Onkelos (which the Gemara in Megilla 3A teaches was given with the Torah at Sinai) defines it as the “Ruach Memallalah”, or Speaking Spirit.  Thus, the power of speech is not independent of the thinking mind, but the key trait that defines and distinguishes human intelligence, and is furthermore considered according to the Targum given at Sinai,  to be the essence of the Soul of Life itself.


HaRav Chaim Kanievsky, Shlita, adds to the concept.  Shlomo HaMelech, the wisest of all men, teaches (Koheles 3) that there are times and places for everything--for extremes and everything else between those extremes: for example, a time for love and a time for hate--including, of course, everything else in between; a time to carefully guard and a time to lose--including, of course, everything else in between; a time of war and a time for peace--including, of course, everything else in between.  However, one of the contrasts listed in the Pasuk there is 'a time to talk and a time to remain silent'--here there does not seem to be any in between, for you are either talking or not talking.  Not so, says HaRav Kanievsky, because some people talk without saying anything, and so are lost somewhere in between. There are, indeed, extremes within speech itself.  The word of Torah being infinitely distant from the word of Lashon Hora, or hurtful or insulting words.  However, we must remember that there are many kinds of other words in between--words of consolation, words of encouragement, words of endearment, words of advice, words of business, words of interest, words to pass the time, words of trivialities, words of non-meaningful politics, and other kinds of words, before getting to Lashon Hora, in between.


We should really try, at least from time to time during the day, to measure our words just a bit more.  Was the extra comment to the person of the opposite gender at work really necessary?   Does what I am about to say have any meaningfulness or relevance?  Does he really care about what I am telling him? A short thought before making a comment can mean the difference between speaking--and a Speaking Spirit.  We need only once again look to last week's Parasha--if only Moshe Rabbeinu, on his exalted level, had spoken the right words to the right rock just that one time, mankind would have been guided to eternal bliss some 3,300 years ago.


As we demonstrate to Hashem that we want to fulfill our role in creation--that we want to be the true Speaking Spirit for which we were created, may we be blessed with the words of Moshiach Tzidkeinu, as he speaks to us and tells us that he can now arrive!




5 Tammuz

PRE -EMPT TERROR:   Three times daily, as part of our personal requests in Shemone Esrei, we plead: “Vechol HaChoshevim Alai Ra’ah Meheira Hofair Atzasam Vekalkel Machashavtam--and for all those who plan evil against me, quickly annul their intent and thwart their plans.”  We certainly can have special Kavannah here on a going forward basis for ourselves and the rest of K’lal Yisrael.  Dovid HaMelech goes out of his way to teach us the efficacy of our prayers in this regard:  “Dorashti Es Hashem V’anani U’Mikol Megurosai Hitzilani--I sought out Hashem and He answered me, and from all my terror He delivered me (Tehillim 34:5).  We can take these few moments during the day to PRE -EMPT TERROR as only our Tefillos can.  Let us bli neder make the commitment to help ourselves and K’lal Yisrael at this crucial time in world history--in an incredibly real and result-filled way!



NOT JUST ONE TIME: We are advised of the following story relating to Rav Shach, Z’tl: One zeman, HaRav Shach established a nighttime Seder once a week with an American bachur. At some point into the zeman, HaRav Shach advised him that he would not be able to learn with him for the next several weeks. The bachur--curious as to what HaRav Shach would be doing during this time followed him out of the Yeshiva that evening, onto a public bus to a suburb of Tel Aviv and saw him enter an apartment and stay there for approximately an hour. HaRav Shach then got back onto a public bus to the Yeshiva. The bachur who was following him could not contain himself and on the way back sat down next to his Rosh Yeshiva on the bus, apologized for the chutzpah and asked whether he could explain to him where he went and why the chavrusah was cancelled for the next several weeks. HaRav Shach shared with the bachur that a man who had been married for more than 30 years had come to him with Shalom Bayis issues. After speaking with him, HaRav Shach realized that he needed to speak to his wife as well, and he further realized that not enough would be resolved in one sitting with the husband and one sitting with the wife. It was for this reason he forewarned the Talmid that the chavrusah would have to be cancelled for the next several weeks--as he would be traveling to their home on a weekly basis until he was satisfied that the issues were well along the way of being resolved.


Hakhel Note: If a Gadol HaDor with such limited time did not excuse himself by providing advice for a few minutes, an hour, or even an hour to each spouse--how much more so must we realize that our acts of Chesed must be true and complete--and not merely only the beginnings, or a nice gesture!



IMPORTANT INFORMATION! The Chofetz Chaim teaches that one who is consistently not careful with his words…has ‘earned’ much more than a few enemies in this world. In what way? The Chofetz Chaim chillingly responds that even if such a person is zoche to arise at Techiyas HaMeisim, it will be as someone who cannot speak--as the Pasuk states: “Yachreis Hashem Kol Sifsei Chalakos.” (Tehillim 12:4). The Chofetz Chaim then pleads with all who will listen: ‘Who can gauge the great tza’ar of such a person--whose disgrace will be eternal, as he will be unable to speak forever?! From this we must understand how severe this sin is and how it affects a person in this world and the next!’ (Sefer Shemiras HaLashon II:7)




Special Note One: We continue an exciting Monday/Thursday series on the practical aspects of Sta”m, written by Rabbi Reuvain Mendlowitz, Shlita, author of Inside Sta”m--An Insider Reveals The Answers To All The Questions You Should Ask When Purchasing Or Maintaining Tefillin, Mezuzos, Megillos, Sifrei Torah And Nevi’im.


For a fuller treatment of all topics to be discussed, we urge you to purchase the Sefer, which provides practical and meaningful information and ideas.



Another way to make battim is by what is known as Avodas Mechonah (machine-made)

With this system, the bayis is positioned under or alongside a machine that cuts the bayis into a perfect square, with no human intervention in the shaping process.


There is another way of creating the ribua (squareness of battim) known as “avodas regel”.


Last time we discussed how a wheel which runs on electricity and spins at high speed allows the battim macher (or merabei’a) to shape the bayis by positioning it against the wheel.

Of course, the wheel does not have to run on electricity. And, indeed, a machine has been created in which the spinning wheel is powered solely through the energy created by pedaling! The wheel turns at high speed, allowing for the same level of precision, without using electricity. This is affectionately called avodas regel (footwork) because the power is generated by the feet of the battim macher.

More expensive battim are often created using this method, since it is considered even more mehudar than the electric wheel.

Creating the Ribua on the battim is a time consuming and tedious job. Great skill is required to achieve this goal--much like cutting diamonds! In the next installment we will discuss be”h what parts of the bayis have to be square and to what extent.




4 Tammuz

For those saying Tehillim, studying Mishnayos, giving Tzedaka, and/or performing a personal act of Teshuvah, below are the names of the bachurim H’YD, including their father’s names.



Yaakov Naftali ben Avraham

Gilad Michael ben Ofir

Eyal ben Uriel


For those who were not able to hear the moving Divrei Tza’ar V’Aveilus of Rav Yisroel Reisman, Shlita, on Monday evening, we provide just several basic points that he made:


1. The Torah describes the procedure for what was to be done when a person was found deceased in the field between two cities. The Sanhedrin had to come out and say: “Yadeinu Lo Shafechu Es Hadam Hazeh.” Why would they have to do that? Who would ever suspect them? The answer, of course, is that the possibility existed that they had done something wrong which could have been a cause which ultimately led to the murder. In the situation we are in, every person should feel that he too has to do something.


2. Chazal teach that Lashon Hara can kill the one who speaks it, the one who accepts it, and the one spoken about. Over the past year some may have engaged in what they may have felt was acceptable speech or ‘shmoozing’ about different kinds of Machlokes and strife in Eretz Yisrael. It is especially not within the purview of those living in Chutz La’aretz to do so. If you hear two people speaking about something negative that is going on in Eretz Yisrael--say to them: “Say something bad about Iran or the Arabs--not about Eretz Yisrael or its inhabitants.”


3. Always remember--what you say and what you do matters!


4. We have to remember that we are one Mishpacha, and that we need to protect each other against the Bnei Eisav of all shapes and sizes all over the world.


5. We cannot replace lives, but something must result from what has happened. We must do more than be mechazeik ourselves--every person should feel a level of personal association and responsiveness.


Hakhel Note: Among the Tehillim recited after the Kinus were Chapter 16, 79 and 83, which are eerily related to the tragic events which have just transpired.


Rabbi Reisman’s entire message (approximately 30 minutes) can be heard by calling the Chofetz Chaim Heritage Foundation’s Chazak Line (718-258-2008, followed by 5 and 4).



THE THIRTEEN ANI MA’AMINS: We are living in such a turbulent period, a time in which our Emunah Peshutah is certainly being tested. We must demonstrate our spiritual strength and resilience. Perhaps one way that we can do this and help ourselves is to recite the Thirteen Ani Ma’amins after Shacharis a little slower and perhaps with more Kavannah.



A READER’S ENLIGHTENING THOUGHT: The word “Mishpacha” family, spelled -mem, shin, pay, ches, hey, and the world “Simcha”, happiness, spelled -sin, mem, ches, hey, are different only in that the word “Mishpacha” has the letter Pay  (spelled pay-hey).  Namely, it is how we use pay-hey, our mouth, that will determine if our family is happy or not!”



THE CORRECT BRACHOS:  The Paskesz Honey Nut Clusters cereal box lists two Brachos Rishonos on its side panel, which, according to the OU, are not correct. If one consumes the clusters as a regular cereal, according to the OU, the bracha combination on this cereal is Borei Minei Mezonos and Borei Nefashos.




Special Note One:  In last week’s Perek (4:1), the Mishna teaches “Who is a Gibor?  One who quashes his Yetzer Hara.”  Rashi to Sanhedrin (111B) provides a great insight as to the higher form of Gibor one should strive for.  Although one can simply deflect the Yetzer Hara--much like one distracts a baby in order to get him to stop crying, one can also channel the Yetzer Hara’s seemingly patented drive and desire to sin into zerizus and hiddur in the performance of a mitzvah--just as the baby may be led to stop crying not by a petty distraction but by giving it a challenging, new or more interesting or learning experience.  With this approach, the legs which are running to do an aveira-- rather than simply stopping in their tracks-- instead run to do a chesed or to get to Shul early; the tongue ready to speak sharp or biting words instead recall a d’var torah from the previous week’s Parasha or speak gentle and calming words; the mind pondering something waste-filled or evil instead contemplates redting a Shidduch or figuring out how one can best help a neighbor or friend in need with a thoughtful measure of dignity and respect.  In all of these circumstances, the vanquished Yetzer Hara is not merely put into prison to rot--but instead is used to build the very fort and castle of the Mitzvos and Ma’asim Tovim so necessary for one to realize his potential.  It’s great to beat the Yetzer Hara--it’s even greater if you take his assault and turn his plans into a part of your offensive and success!  If you are already ready to be a Gibor--why not try taking it to the higher level suggested by Rashi -- not only subverting the sin-- but converting it into your Neshama’s delight!


Hakhel Note:  Chazal taught us as well in last week’s Perek ( 4:21 ) that one hour of Teshuva and Ma’asim Tovim in this world is ‘yofeh’--better than all of Olam Haba.  Let us contemplate the awesome nature of this statement.  One hour of good deeds in this world is greater than the goodness of a World to Come that is so great that our corporeal being cannot even fathom or imagine.  The Mishna does not qualify its reference as to an hour of good deeds by clarifying that it is referring to one hour of Rashi or the Ramban’s life, or the good deeds of Rebbi Akiva Eiger, the Vilna Gaon or the Chofetz Chaim.  Rather, it clearly refers to any one’s hour and any one’s good deeds.  Here, one is on common ground with the Gedolim of all previous generations and of his generation--he has the same potential to make the next hour shine more brilliantly than, using the Tanna’s words, ‘all of Olam Haba’.  We should each try to find at least one hour a day which we consciously choose to make more ‘yofeh’ --better than all of Olam Haba.  The greatness resounds within us --as we hoist up and elevate an Olam Hazeh that is sinking so low to all the world all around us to a very, very special place in the Highest of Heavens above.  When someone asks you-- “Do you have the time?  You can answer--”I have even more than that--I have the hour!”



Special Note Two: We provide several pesakim from the Sefer Da’as Noteh (Volume 1), of HaRav Chaim Kanievsky, Shlita, as published by his son Rav Yitzchok Shaul Kanievsky, Shlita.  Every person should consult with his own Rav or Posek as to the application of these Halachos on a personal basis:


1.       The Mishna Berurah (Shulchan Aruch, Orach Chaim 90, seif katan 8) writes that if one finds that his Kavannah is faltering, he should raise his eyes to Shomayim (through the windows in Shul or at home) to arouse one’s Kavannah.  One may also study an Adam Gadol (such as a Rav) while he is Davening, in order to arouse one’s Kavannah.  A.  This appears to be appropriate.


2.      What is the difference between the word ‘Elokeinu’ and ‘Elokim’?  A:  The Kavannah one should have when reciting ‘Elokim’ is explicitly stated in (Shulchan Aruch, Orach Chaim Chapter 5).  When reciting ‘Elokeinu’ one should additionally have in mind that that we have accepted His kingship (Malchus) over us.  Similarly, when one recites “Elokei’ he should have in mind that he is accepting Hashem’s Malchus over himself.  Reciting “Hashem Elokeinu” in the first Pasuk of Kriyas Shema is Kabbalas Ohl Malchus Shomayim.  When we recite the words “Elokei Avraham, Elokei Yitzchak” (such as in the first Bracha of Shemone Esrei) we likewise should have in mind that they accepted Hashem’s Malchus as well


3.      Can one make a personal request two times in Shemone Esrei--for instance once in Shomea Tefillah and once in Elokai Netzor?  A:  It is not proper to do so, for one would not ask something of the King, and then go back and ask it again later in the same audience, however, within one bakasha, one can engage in continuous entreaty, just as Eliyahu HaNavi exclaimed “Aneini Hashem Aneini”.


4.      When reciting the word ‘Modim’ in Shemone Esrei what Kavannah should he have?  A:  The word ‘Modim’ indicates HaKaras Hatov, and this is the Kavannah one should have.


5.  When one recites Tehillim should he have in mind as if he is ,making personal requests, or that these are the words of Dovid HaMelech?  If a Tzibur is reciting Tehillim, is it better to recite with them Pasuk by Pasuk, or to recite another Pasuk on your own?  A:  He should have both his personal; requests, and that these are the words of the Mechabrei Tehillim in mind.  There is a special Ma’aleh when a Tzibbur recites a Pasuk together.




3 Tammuz

L’ilui Nishmos:

Yaakov Naftali ben Rachel Devorah

Gilad Michael ben Bat Galim

Eyal ben Iris Teshurah


For those who did not hear of HaRav Chaim Kanievsky, Shlita’s reaction to the tragedy, these were his words after an initial period of silence: “Shezachu HaBachurim, Hashem Yinkom Damam, L’Zechus Gedolah Me’od Vechizuk HaGadol VeHahishorirus VeHakabalos HaTovos Shekiblu Ahm Yisrael B’Zechusam. Zehu Zechus Gedolah Me’od.” HaRav Kanievsky repeated these thoughts several times.


Yeisheiv Badad V’Yidom--let one sit in solitude and be submissive” (Eicha 3:28): We should consider--and act upon--something we can now do personally as a zechus for them, whether it be the study of Mishnayos, the giving of Tzedaka, and/or a personal act of Teshuvah.




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


The most recent shock of this bitter Galus, can once again lead us in one and only one direction--to HaKadosh Baruch Hu. 


Each and every one of our Tefillos, and each and every one of our zechusim that we generated, and each and every act of Achdus, Ahava, and Achava had its meaning and its everlasting effect for the bochurim and for K’lal Yisrael in ways we cannot currently in the least bit fathom or appreciate.


Let us remember that Karov Hashem Lechol Korav--Hashem is close to all those who call out to Him--and we need to feel his closeness so much more now.


Rabbeinu Yonah in the Sha’arei Teshuvah (2:5) writes that a Botei’ach BaShem--one who trusts in Hashem--who is in the midst of a t’zara, a difficulty, or even only a challenge, must view the situation differently than the millions of people surrounding him.


The Pasuk in Micha (7:8) as explained in Midrash Tehillim (22) teaches, “If I had not fallen, I could not now stand, if I had not sat in darkness, I would not now have light.”  The common perception that one “passes through”, “recovers”, “rebounds” or “survives” his suffering is foreign to the one who truly trusts in Hashem.  Rather, the one who trusts views his suffering as an opportunity ordained by G-d--only FROM THE FALL comes the rise, only FROM THE DARKNESS comes the light.


It is not the Ribono Shel Olam pushing him down, letting go, making it difficult for him--it is a fall created by Hashem Himself to enable him to rise, a nadir of darkness required in order to attain the truest of light.


As we have noted in the past, Rav Matisyahu Salomon, Shlita, may Hashem bentsch him with a Refuah Sheleima BeKarov, explains that the Botei’ach BaShem does not say “Hashem will get me out of this” or “There is a light at the end of this tunnel.”  Instead, he acknowledges and understands that the purpose of the tunnel is for him to arrive at the light.  One must, as a given, acknowledge and understand that the All-Knowing, All-Present, Creator and Supervisor has intentionally designed the process by which one can attain the goals he is to reach in his lifetime.  The trials, tribulations, and difficulties are not established out of cruelty, disdain or indifference, but arise because He, in His Omniscience, knows (infinitely more than us) who are we are really and what we really need.


Taking a look back at our history:


Esther, a descendent of royalty, wife of a leader of the generation, and a Neviah in her own right, is forced to live in the most repulsive place imaginable, away from her family and her people--in a literal prison without walls--for nine (9) long years, without any seeming rhyme or reason.  What had she done?!  Can we fathom what her suffering could have been?  What emerged was the saving of all of K’lal Yisroel, and the rebuilding of the Beis HaMikdash as a direct result of the few discussions she had with Achashveirosh, as recorded in the Megillah.


Similarly, in Mitzrayim, hundreds of thousands of B’nei Yisrael suffered from “Avodas Perech”--in all its definitions, systematic torture--for scores of years.  What went wrong?  How did all this happen?  And the Torah supplies a two-word answer--[We were placed in Mitzrayim as a] “KUR HABARZEL”--a smith’s oven, used to refine metal.  Why were they there under these horrific conditions?  So that K’lal Yisrael could survive from then-on and bring us to the Moshiach’s times and forever thereafter.


Other email archives