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Erev Shabbos

The Chofetz Chaim (in Sefer Shem Olam, Chapter4) brings the famous Chazal that one who was Shomer Shabbos in this world, but may otherwise be required to go through the punishment of Gehinnom for other sins, will have respite on Shabbos, because it becomes Shabbos for him forever--even in Gehinnom.  The Chofetz Chaim then remarkably adds that he heard from a “Gadol HaDor” that the time Shabbos starts for a person in Gehinnom (i.e., the time his punishment stops) actually begins from the time on EREV SHABBOS that he would begin preparing for Shabbos while in this world.  Therefore, the Chofetz Chaim urges us to begin preparing for Shabbos as early on Erev Shabbos as is possible.  In this way, the “Kedushas HaShabbos” will be brought upon a person from early Erev Shabbos-- and it will be good for him in all worlds and forever!


Motza’ei Shabbos

The Shulchan Aruch (Orach Chaim 299:10) rules:

“It is forbidden to do any work before Havdala [unless one recited ‘Ata Chonantanu’ in Shemone Esrei]...and if one needs to do ANY WORK (including activity prohibited M’DiRabanan, as explained by the Mishna Berura there) before Havdala and has not recited ‘Ata Chonantanu’, one must state ‘Boruch HaMavdil Bein Kodesh L’Chol.’”  This means that women who may not daven Maariv, and men and boys who forgot to recite ‘Ata Chonantanu’, cannot pickup Muktza items, answer the phone, drive home from shul, open the mail, etc. unless one recites ‘Boruch HaMavdil Bein Kodesh L’Chol’.


Can you ask a non-religious Jew to do work for you on Motza’ei Shabbos knowing that he has not made Havdala, or would your request fall within the prohibition of placing a “stumbling block in front of the blind”?

HaRav Chaim Kanievsky, Shlita, (in Derech Sicha) rules that if one does not observe Shabbos, the concept of Havdala, which separates Shabbos from the weekday, does not exist.  Similarly, the Piskei Teshuvos (Volume 3, 299:4) and the Teshuvos V’Hanhagos (2:161) rule that it is permissible, for instance, to enter a cab on Motza’ei Shabbos driven by a non-religious driver, notwithstanding that you know he has not made Havdala.  However, the Piskei Teshuvos does bring the Tzitz Eliezer ( 11:34 ) who records the possibility of saying “Shavua Tov!” or “Have a Good Week!” in order to elicit a response which would provide at least some allusion to Havdala.



This Shabbos, let us try to activate our Kedushas Shabbos as early as possible on Erev Shabbos.

Let us also make a special effort to thank Hashem for the Shabbos as we escort it out with the words of “Baruch HaMavdil” and Havdala.




The following are three Questions and Answers presented in the Sefer Cases in Monetary Halacha by Rabbi Tzvi Spitz, Shlita. (Artscroll).  These questions come up in everyone’s life at one time or another (some more than others).  The Answers provided should not be taken as your p’sak, and are presented so that you can properly discuss the relevant issues, and any nuances present in your particular situation, with your Posek.


Pushing Ahead In Line


Q:  Is it halachically permissible to enter a bus or to be served in a store or bank, etc. where people are waiting in line, without fully waiting one’s turn?


A:  “Cutting” in line is prohibited according to the Halacha.  Doing so is a violation of the Torah’s prohibition, “You shall not take advantage (Lo sonu) of one another” (Vayikra 25:17), which refers to non-monetary (through word or action) disparagement or exploitation of another person (Bava Metzia 58b).  If every person standing in line is willing to allow someone to go ahead of them, then it is permissible.


It is forbidden to approach a friend, etc. who is standing in line and give him documents, money, etc. to hand to the clerk or salesman in order to avoid your waiting in line.  [When a person arrives at his place in line he has “acquired” the right to be served in that position in line, to attend to whatever business he requires.  Therefore, he cannot expand this right to include attending to a friend’s business as well after he has already taken his place in line.]  If the friend, etc. is given these items before he has entered the line, however, it is permitted.


It is permitted for the owner of a store, etc. to give precedence to a friend, relative, etc. who is standing in back of the line.  A worker or salesman, however, may not offer this preferential service (without permission of the proprietor).


The situation sometimes calls for showing consideration and understanding to someone who is standing in back of the line-such as an elderly or weak person, or someone tending a small child-and allowing them to be served first.  In such cases those in the front of the line should waive their right to go first.


Saving a seat in a crowded public place

Q:  Is it permitted for a passenger on a public bus to reserve the seat next to him for a friend or relative (who will board the bus later), preventing others from sitting in that seat?


A:  It is permitted to do so if there are other seats available on the bus; if the seat in question is the only unoccupied seat, however, one has no right to hold it for another traveler and thereby cause other travelers to remain standing.


If the first traveler paid for two seats, he may save the second seat in any event.


If there is an established custom among bus travelers, this custom should be followed. Hence, a person may save a seat for his or her spouse, parent, child etc., if this is the accepted practice in the locale.


In a situation in which the bus is provided as a free service, and the travelers do not pay for their seats in any event, saving a seat for a friend involves an issue which is a controversy among early authorities.  This practice should therefore be avoided.


Public Arguments over whether a window should be open or closed

Q: What should be done when a disagreement arises in a public place (bus, classroom, etc.) as to whether a window should be kept open or closed?  Is it a relevant consideration that the preference of some people involved is based on health considerations while that of others is simply a matter of comfort or convenience?


A: In cold weather, the group favoring the closing of the window prevails, even if they are a minority.  In warm weather, the group favoring the opening of the window prevails, even if they are a minority.


This rule applies even if the health of members of the opposing side might be adversely affected.  [Hakhel note: An extended footnote there, at page 143 explains the reasoning behind this ruling.]


On days with moderate weather, the two sides have equal rights, and must come to a compromise on their own.  In this case, if one of the parties involved is guided by personal health considerations, that party prevails.


Although these rules represent the Halachic stand on these issues, it is always worthwhile for the two opposing parties to come to some sort of peaceful mutual agreement and to show understanding for the other side.


For additional interesting and important questions we recommend further study of the book.



The following quotations are excerpted from the book The Mussar Movement, Volume 1, Part 2, page 131, by R. Dov Katz, translated by Leonard Oschry.

(1) "Every controversy for the sake of Heaven will yield enduring results" (literally "will endure") (Avos 5:17). The greatest danger is to believe that your quarrel is for the sake of Heaven--for then it will endure and endure.

(2) "You shall not place a stumbling block before the blind" does not apply to character. One should never refrain from honoring the next person for fear of making him proud and arrogant.

(3) One does good only if it causes no harm to others.




In our daily Shemone Esrei, we ask three times a day “VeSein Sachar Tov L’Chol Habotchim BeSheemcha Be’Emes--and give a good reward to those who truly believe in Your Name.”


What is the meaning of this request--which we make more than 800 times a year?  After all, are we not enjoined from “being like the servants who serve their master for reward” (Avos 1:2)?  Additionally, what is a “good” reward as opposed to a bad reward or just a plain reward?  And, to whose standards of good are we referring?  Moreover, since Chazal teach that “Sechar Mitzvah Behai Alma Leica”--that nothing that we know of in this world, olam hazeh, can adequately reward us for a Mitzvah--are we really supposed to know ourselves what we have in mind when we say the words, or is it like going to the ice cream store and asking the proprietor to serve you whatever flavor is “good” today?


We provide three alternative explanations:


Rav Avrohom Chaim Feuer, Shlita (Shemone Esrai, (Artscroll) page 193), teaches that we are here asking for spiritual rewards--for spiritual growth--and this kind of reward may always be requested.  Indeed, Rebbe Yisroel Salanter Z’TL, would always teach that when Chazal said that all gates of prayer were closed, except the gates of tears--the general closure did not refer to the gates of ruchniyus--of spiritual requests--which were never, ever closed.  Thus, we ask Hashem to make us reach our potential-our purpose in life--which is our true goal.


A second explanation is provided by the Avudraham who, citing Tehillim 31:20, writes that our request demonstrates our belief that Hashem has ultimately reserved wondrous rewards for the righteous (just as He ultimately will punish the wicked, in accordance with their wickedness).  According to this explanation, we can understand the word “tov” in the phrase “sochor tov” to mean the same as it does in reference to the Six Days Of Creation where the Torah writes “ki tov” when some aspect of Creation has been completed.  We thus affirm our belief that Hashem’s reward of the deserving will ultimately be completed.  With this occurrence, all those who trusted in Hashem will rejoice in the sanctification of Hashem’s Name, and the deniers and disbelievers will walk away in shame.  The reward referred to then is not a purely selfish treat, but the pleasant means to a heavenly end.


Another marvelous insight is provided by Rav Schwab Z’TL in his sefer on Tefilla (Iyun Tefilla, pages 359-361).   Rav Schwab suggests that the word “tov” here is related to the bracha of “Hatov Ve’Hameitiv”--where we thank Hashem for providing good not only to us, but to others as well.  Here, we ask Hashem that He provide those who are “Bothcim BeEmes”--who are true believers--to be so effusive in their faith and trust that it ignite and awaken within us and others that very same pure and complete belief.  With this, we can well understand the next phrase in the bracha, “And place our lot with theirs”--we are praying that their “sochor tov” not only reach the leaders, the teachers, the maggidei shiur etc., but that it come and touch us in a wonderful way as well!


PRACTICAL SUGGESTION:  Each of the three above explanations fits beautifully into the Ruach HaKodesh-imbued words of this brocha.  This week, work on having kavanah in our phrase ““VeSein Sachar Tov L’Chol Habotchim BeSheemcha Be’Emes”--perhaps at each Shemone Esrei, having one of the three kavanos we have mentioned.




Have you ever noticed that a conversation over the telephone is different than a face to face dialogue?  There is a certain degree of human emotion, a closeness, an unintelligible feeling when speaking to someone directly, which does not come across over wires or airwaves.  Yes, you may be connected and communicating, but you are not connected in the same manner and with the same force as when a human being is before you.  Indeed, some attorneys have advised us that their years of experience have taught them to encourage meetings if their client will be on the receiving end--i.e., stands to gain, as opposed to give up, in the negotiations that are to ensue, for the face-to-face encounter will engender humane and brotherly feeling--which may be converted into more advantage to their client.  In turn, these attorneys will discourage the face to face--in favor of a conference call--when their client will be asked to be more on the giving end.


Why is this so?


We suggest that the answer may be found in last week’s Pirkei Avos ( 3:18 ), where Rebbe Akiva teaches “Beloved is Man for he has been created in the Image [that Hashem especially designed--a thinking, talking form], it is indicative of a greater love...as the Posuk says ‘For in the image of Hashem He made man’” (Bereishis 9:6).  When we actually see our brother, his appearance, his image has a great impact on us.  Indeed, Chazal often teach “One cannot compare hearing about something to seeing it” (See Mechilta, Shemos 19:9).  You will find this teaching adapted in other languages as well--“Seeing is believing”, “A picture is worth a thousand words” , being derivatives on the general theme.  All the more so can we apply these adages when it comes to the human image especially designed for us, given the further recognition that we would even all LOOK ALIKE but for the reasons given by Chazal (Sanhedrin 38A).  We can readily understand how twins feel very close because they look alike--and we are all just one step removed from them.  The Tiferes Yisroel on the Mishnah (Avos 3:18 ) has a fascinating discussion of “Tzelem Elokim” which we seriously recommend if you have a little time.  Suffice it to say that you can grow and gain much if you would, in moments of weakness or DISCONNECT, look at the person in front of you not as a clod of earth, or as a talking bag of hot air---but as that same Tzelem Elokim that usually means so much to you.


We would also like to share with you the following brief but moving thought sent to us by a reader on YOUR VERY OWN Tzelem Elokim:


A well-known speaker started off his seminar by holding up a $20 bill. In the room of 200, he asked, “Who would like this $20 bill?”

Hands started going up.

He continued, “I am going to give this $20 to one of you but first, let me do this.” He proceeded to crumple the bill up.

He then asked, “Who still wants it?”

Still the hands were up in the air.

“Well,” he replied, “What if I do this?”  And he dropped it on the ground and started to grind it into the floor with his shoe.

He picked it up, now all crumpled and dirty.  “Now who still wants it?”  Still the hands went into the air.

“My friends, you have all learned a very valuable lesson.  No matter what I did to the money, you still wanted it because it did not decrease in value.  It was still worth $20.”


Many times in our lives, we are dropped, crumpled, and ground into the dirt by the decisions we make and the circumstances that come our way.  We may sometimes feel as if we are almost worthless.  But no matter what has happened or what will happen, you will never lose any of your value.  You are special--You are Tzelem Elokim--and remember it!




The Shulchan Aruch (Orach Chayim 580:2) writes that today, the 27th of Sivan, is the day that Rebbe Chanina Ben Tradyon, one of the Asara Harugei Malchus (the Ten Great Martyrs) was burned together with a Sefer Torah--for he was caught learning and teaching Torah in violation of a Roman Decree.  The vicious, barbaric Romans placed wet wool around him to slow the process, and despite the urgings of those around him, he refused to speed the process--to voluntarily give up any moments in this world which could never be replaced--by opening his mouth to suffocate or otherwise ingest the flames.  Because of his horrifying and tragic passing, the Shulchan Aruch lists today as a Ta’anis Tzaddikim, a day of fasting by a select few.


The Gemara (Avoda Zara 17B-18A) relates that Rebbe Chanina was a Tzedaka collector.  Once, his Tzedaka funds were mixed with money he set aside for Seudas Purim.  To avoid any doubt whatsoever that he had misappropriated Tzedaka funds, he gave up all of his own money mixed into the pile, and donated it all to charity.  Rashi there explains that this action showed he was a “mevater with his money”--he did not act strictly when there were doubts as to who money really belonged.  The Gemara further relates that Rebbe Chanina’s rebbe, Rebbe Yossi Ben Kisma, foretold Rebbe Chanina’s execution, and actually advised him that he would be a “Ben Olam Haba” because of his conduct in the charity mix-up.


The Luach Dovor B’ito suggests that even if we cannot fast, we should do something to recognize the solemnity of the day.  Some recommend that being especially careful in speech is a form of substitute for fasting (this would be an appropriate idea in light of the lesson of tomorrow’s Parsha resulting from the tragic Lashon Hora of the Meraglim).  Others suggest that giving Tzedaka is a form of substitute as well (as when Tefillin, Chas V’Shalom, fall).  This would seem particularly appropriate for Rebbe Chanina --as his charitable deed was the act that, according to his rebbe, would make him a “Ben Olam Habo”(!)  Another fitting remembrance may be to discuss a Torah topic with another person today, for not only did Rebbe Chanina Ben Tradyon give his life for Torah teaching, but  in this very week’s Perek (Avos 3:3)--Rebbe Chanina himself recommends to us all that “…two who sit and speak Torah between them, the Shechinah dwells among them…”


We may not have known Rebbe Chanina personally--but we do refer to the Ten Great Martyrs on the solemn days of Yom Kippur and Tisha B’Av.  It behooves us to in some manner show our recognition and respect for Rebbe Chanina and his teachings--as the Shulchan Aruch--the Code of Jewish Law--itself records this date as a date to remember forever.


May our speech, our Torah, and Tzedaka today also make us “Bnei Olam Haba”--and may we learn from Rebbe Chanina every day of the year both the importance of being “mevater” when you are unsure about whose money it may be, and…what the value of a moment of life really means!




“And we were in our eyes like grasshoppers, and so were we in their eyes” (Bamidbar 13:33 ).


Rav Eliyahu Mann, Shlita asks the following--What is the point of all of the [incessant] [excess] [time-consuming] “sheva brochos” Divrei Torah in which we praise the chosson, the kallah, the families.... where is the tznius and the anava, the modesty and the humility?  Moreover, why take up everyone’s time with this--it seems like an expensive price to pay for a free meal!  Rav Mann answers, in the name of his father, that these words of chizuk are actually very important.  His father explains as follows:  After 24 years of uninterrupted study with his students, Rebbe Akiva told his students “All that we have comes from [Rochel--Rebbe Akiva’s wife]”.  Why was this so?  Because Rochel, as the daughter of one of the wealthiest men of the generation, could have literally married the most eligible bochur in the world.  Instead, she saw, and brought out, in Rebbe Akiva (then a 40 year old Am Ha’Aretz) his great kochos--his ability to be one of the supreme leaders in Klal Yisroel’s decorated history.


We learn from this history-changing incident that it is imperative that we point out, bring out and build up our friend’s strengths and attributes so that they will be encouraged to work on their G-d given gifts, and realize their potential and tafkid, or purpose, in life.  Whether it be a particular clarity of either oral or written expression, a beautiful voice, a keen sensitivity, a strong willpower, an ability to sit and study, a charismatic Tzedakah-raising personality, or an unusually pleasant nature--these strengths should be used for their benefit, and the benefit of others.  It goes without saying that we need not love our friends more than ourselves (Love Your Neighbor AS YOURSELF).  Thus, if we know that Hashem has given us certain special abilities or talents, we should not brush them under the rug, ignore them or even wait to develop them--rather, we should try our utmost to use these gifts in our daily activities.  Shlomo Hamelech, the wisest of all men, advises “Honor Hashem with your wealth” (Mishlei 3:9).  Rashi (ibid) writes that the wealth referred to by the wisest of all men is not limited to money--but most definitely includes whatever Hashem has graced you with.


Rav Dessler Z’TL (Michtav M’Eliyahu 4:98) writes that “Mazal” is a person’s utilization of his “nature and nurture”--his innate talents and particular surroundings-- to realize and fulfill his mission in life.  Rav Aryeh Carmel, Shlita, in his gloss there, notes that when we say “Mazal Tov” we are providing a very meaningful bracha--that Hashem bless the young couple (or the bar mitzva bochur or the newly-born baby, etc.) with those very talents needed to fulfill their purpose without difficulty.


When we help others (and ourselves), work on developing and encouraging capabilities and strengths, we are literally helping to fulfill their and our purposes in life.  Could anything be more important than to provide the necessary direction and encouragement to a chosson or kallah, and to help guide the new mates to help each other?


As we noted at the beginning of this writing, the Meraglim, the spies, in this week’s Parsha stated “We were in our eyes like grasshoppers...”  When you feel like an insect, you do not feel like you have much potential.  The resulting report that the spies came back with, and its effect on Klal Yisroel then, and for eternity, is history.


Far be it from us to repeat this great mistake.  Perhaps each one of us should take a pad out and begin listing those attributes, those traits, those capabilities, those strengths that we and our best friend(s) really do have, and begin to make sure that they are properly utilized, so that we, like Yehoshua and Calev, will be among those who readily realize their ultimate purpose and mission in life!




Rabban Yochanan Ben Zakkai praised his great student Rebbe Eliezer Ben Hurkanus by referring to him as “a cemented cistern that does not lose a drop” (Avos 2:11 ).  The question is obvious--what kind of compliment is this--that he had a photographic memory?  Rabban Yochanan praised his other students by saying “Happy is the woman who bore him” and “He is a Chasid” and “He fears sin” and “He is like a fierce wellspring”... but it appears to be only a compliment of Hashem when you say that someone does not forget anything--that he has a photographic memory.  Indeed, an incredible memory is one of the most self-evident gifts from Hashem.


The Chofetz Chaim explained as follows.  There was a very elderly man in his town who recalled how one of the earlier czars had visited the man’s hometown some eighty years earlier.  But it was more than just a recollection--it was almost a reenactment.  How many carriages preceded the czar’s, the color of uniform and other detail and even minutiae about the procession, the moment the czar put his head out of the carriage--and of course, his words to the people.  How or why would this elderly gentleman have such a vivid recollection of an event so far gone?  The answer:  Because it was so precious, so meaningful, to him.  How could he ever forget this--and he didn’t!


Of course, there are very valuable memory techniques we can all learn and study--association, mnemonics... (maybe even more sleep).  However, one important point we must always remember is that there is no material asset, no Olam Hazeh kind of event, more precious then the study of Torah.  If we can appreciate how special the moments are, how rare, how they will never return, then we will remember our studies better for two reasons--firstly, because we will review it in our minds, and, moreover, because it will be something more valuable than even our bank account numbers, our social security numbers, this password or that password, etc.  Rebbe Eliezer did not have a photographic memory--he had the willpower and the longing.


We may not be Rebbe Eliezer, but what we can do is try the following experiment--for the next shiur we attend or the next Torah we study, focus on it with care and intent--even more carefully than that young boy studied the czar’s honor guard--and the moment will endure for more than 80 years--it will last for eternity.




The Sefer Avudraham poses the following question:  It is indisputable that we fulfill a Mitzvas Asey D’Oraysa two times a day when we recite Shema.  This being so, why do we not make a Birchas HaMitzvah--a bracha of “Asher Kidishanu Bimitzvosav V’tzivanu Likro Es Shema” (or “Al Krias Shema”) every time we recite Shema?


The Avudraham remarkably answers that every bracha that we make is “Kabalas Ol Malchus Shomayim”--a demonstration of our servitude to the Creator.  Thus, each bracha that we make throughout the day is then in a sense only our renewal of the Malchus Shomayim that we took upon ourselves in Shema.  No bracha is needed for Shema, for it, in and of itself, is the source of all brochos--as the ultimate in Kabalas Ol Malchus Shomayim.  Indeed, the concluding posuk in the Rosh Hashana Malchiyos is the very posuk of Shema itself, for it is the greatest source of Malchus--its entirety is bringing the Malchus of Hashem upon us.


What more need we say about the chashivus, the importance, of every bracha that we make during our day--we are actually Mekabel Ol Malchus Shomayim throughout the day through our bracha recitation!  We should really try to stop ourselves from time to time immediately prior to making a bracha during the day, in order to appreciate the awe, sanctity, and opportunity of the moment.  A jettisoned, mumbled slightly under-the-breath bracha should be left to the child desirous only of that sugary candy!


PRACTICAL SUGGESTION:  This week, try counting how many brochos you can make between breakfast and dinner in which you stop for a moment and think “Kabalas Ol Malchus Shomayim--everything is from Hashem!”




This week’s Parsha, BeHaaloscha, describes how the meat-mongers (for want of a better term) among the Dor Deah, who had otherwise witnessed so many great events, had their fleishig consumption request fulfilled--they received the slav “until it would come out of their nostrils” (Bamidbar 11:20).  Fittingly, the location of the terrible desire and the horrific aftermath that resulted was renamed “Kivros HaTaava--the graves of desire.”  After this difficult and horrible ordeal, the Parsha makes it a point of telling us that Bnei Yisroel left Kivros HaTaava and traveled to Chateizros.  Incredibly, according to the Seder Olam as brought in the Siddur Bais Yaakov, TODAY (the 20th of Sivan) is the very day, described in tomorrow’s Parsha, that the 30-day stay at Kivros HaTaava ended.  We might think, then, that it is an auspicious time for great events to occur.  And it most likely is.  However, to date, two great tragedies are marked by this date.  First, the Second Crusades in France took place.  More recently, the 1648-1649 Cossack Massacres (known as the Gezeiros Tach V’Tat) in the Ukraine/Poland are specifically marked on this date.  The Rabbonim of the time required all able-bodied women over 15 and men over 18, to fast and recite special Selichos known as the “Selichos of the 20th of Sivan.”  In fact, it is recorded that this day was especially chosen because it can never (under our current calendar) come out on Shabbos, and the Rabbonim wanted to make sure that a year did not go by without properly remembering and repenting on this date. 


It is well known that the Tosfos Yom Tov, HaRav Yom Tov Lipman Heller Z’TL attributed the Cossack Massacres to talking in Shul.  He accordingly composed a special Mi She’Berach to be recited on behalf of those who refrained from talking in Shul, which is recited to this very day.


A true story:  A young man had arrived early to shul, and, realizing that there was not yet a minyan, he took out his cell phone and began to have a friendly telephone conversation.  When an onlooker said, “Shmoozing--in Shul--on a cellphone?!?”  He responded, “What’s the difference between talking to a friend, and talking on the phone?”  The absurdity of talking on the cell phone in Shul did not strike him, but then again, he seemed pretty comfortable with engaging in ordinary conversation with his friend there, as well.  The young man did, however, comport with the onlooker’s request.  In this regard, we suggest that every reader take part in helping build a new or higher level of decorum and respect in his/her Shul.  Perhaps one can begin with a sincere remark (NOT “SHUSH”) to a thoughtless congregant, or requesting the institution of the Tosfos Yom Tov’s bracha, given by the Rabbi or Gabbai.  Let us never forget that, according to the Tosfos Yom Tov, one of the Gedolei HaDor at the time of the Gezeiros, the direct result of Shul talk was (if you have learned only a little bit about the calamity) literally ravage and massacre in its grossest form.


Let us return for a moment, however, to our departure from Kivros HaTaava on this day--why did it not become an auspicious time forever?  Why is this very day marked by such suffering, such torture, such pain?  Perhaps the answer belies the question.  It may simply be that we have not sufficiently left the taavos--the improper desires--that we began with.


The story is told of a formerly wealthy man who was so beset by creditors that he could not leave the confines of his home for fear of his well-being.  His Rabbi came to visit and comfort him while the man was eating dinner, and noticed the finest French wine on the table.  When asked about the wine, the man replied, “Rabbi, I crave it.  I simply crave it.  I cannot be without it.”  In truth, it is not the fine wine of this once-wealthy individual that should concern us, but our own behavior.  The Ra’avad writes that breaking a desire is a key factor and display of Teshuva.  From that extra helping of unhealthy food, that tempting smorgasbord, that unnecessary electronic (adult) gadget (no, there is no Mitzva to discover every last trick your cell phone can do), that extra measure of honor... even that extra pair of shoes are really serious mistakes, as they could (and probably will) mean the stunting of both one’s physical and one’s spiritual growth.  As Akavya ben Mehallel taught, “I would rather be a fool in the eyes of all my entire life, rather than a rasha in the eyes of Hashem for one moment.”  Even the adage: “A second on your lips, forever on your hips” should ring true to our ears at the moment of temptation.  It would seem that if we can consciously combat one temptation daily--we will be on the road of taking ourselves out of the graveyard of temptation and its historic tragic aftermath--to the pinnacles of success.  How our world would have been different if Adom and Chava did not fall prey to the one temptation of the Eitz Hadaas.


One last point. The Parsha teaches (Bamidbar 9:23 ) that “Al Pi Hashem Yachanu, V’Al Pi Hashem Yi’sawu--by the word of Hashem they encamped, and by the word of Hashem they traveled.”  If we can remember that Hashem is always with us, we would sincerely feel the uncontrollable desire to do, or take, or go…  In fact, HaRav Chaim Shmulevitz, Shlita, provides the following mashal:  A baby is in its mother’s lap on the bus ride from Tel Aviv to Yerushalayim.  At any one point in the trip, where would you say the child is?  Near Motza, Telz Stone, K’far Chabad?  No, you would say that the child is in its mother’s lap.  We are always in Hashem’s embrace--whether we in a restaurant, ice cream store, dress store, home ...  If we can remember and appreciate this--why would we go after that second scoop?


Let us each do our part to begin with this--yes, auspicious--day to travel from the Kivros HaTaava to the true Gan Eden we can experience in the very same world.





As we noted yesterday, a daily donation to charity--especially before davening--goes a very long way towards the blessings of life.


In fact, there are (at least) two other, non-monetary contributions which a responsible and responsive person will want to make sure occur in his daily schedule.  Both are found in the classic Sefer Orchos Tzaddikim-Sha’ar HaNedivus.


The gift of your efforts, your physical capacity, to another’s needs, is of tremendous daily importance.  These efforts by no means need only be expended on strangers or wayfarers.  Indeed, the Navi (Yeshiya 58:7) teaches “U’mibesarecha Lo Tisalem”--from your own relatives, do not hide---meaning that you have an absolute duty to assist them with their needs.  In fact, they should benefit from your kindness, from your skills, from your expertise, in greater measure than others (See Radak there, and Kesubos 52B).  The Gemara (Kesubos 50A) actually teaches on the Posuk in Tehillim (106:3) “Oseh Tzedaka B’chol Ais”--one who performs Tzedaka **at all times**--this is the person who provides parnossah to his family.  His work day thereby becomes a 24/7 Tzedaka project.  If your parent or spouse or child (or even you, because you have a duty to your own body, as explained at the end of the Sefer Tomer Devorah) can go to sleep at night without being hungry, or can play in the playground because they have pants and shoes that you bought them to wear, you are in a 24/7 Tzedaka mode.


A young Talmid Chacham was once asked to babysit for small children of a close family relative in a situation that no one else could.  The children were jumping all over him, acting really childish and, to a certain (really great) extent, annoying him.  After going through the ordeal, he found that he had missed some time from learning, for even the studying he was able to accomplish while babysitting was not too effective.  He went to the Brisker Rav and asked him what his kavana should have been while babysitting--that Hashem “make-up” any lost time from learning? Or that the children become Talmidei Chachomim? Or that he have a zechus in the children’s growth?  Or..  The Brisker Rav is said to have responded that his sublime kavana should have been that he was using his body to do chesed to little children--children who concomitantly could not take care of themselves and could never repay him.  Thus, he would get nothing in return other than his pure “nedivus haguf”--a special refinement of character which brought his physical body in sync with loftier aspirations.  Other examples of nedivus haguf--of sharing and caring--include assisting the downtrodden, visiting the sick, and comforting mourners.  These latter situations are often difficult, and a person has a natural tendency to shy away from them, push them off, move them to the end of his schedule, and perhaps not even get to them.  Rav Fishel Schachter, Shlita, in a Hakhel shiur on improving Bein Odom L’Chaveiro, pointed out that, both because of this hesitancy and because we should move ourselves to feel for the pain or needs of another, we should perform these much-needed but more difficult forms of nedivus haguf not at our LAST OPPORTUNITY, but at our FIRST OPPORTUNITY.  If we move ourselves to act earlier, rather than later, we are acting more like those who were first to bring their donations to the Mishkan, instead of those who were criticized for coming late--and certainly far from those who never ended up donating, because they were told there was already enough.


The second special form of nedivus taught to us by the Orchos Tzaddikim is Nedivus Hachochma--sharing your wisdom with others.  As we grow older, we are more praised for our wisdom then our physical prowess--as the Mishna in Avos ( 5:22 ) teaches, “At 30--one attains full strength, at 40--one attains understanding, and at 50--one can offer counsel.  The more mature we become, the more we can contribute our Torah wisdom to others.  Even if we have not yet reached a particular age, we dare not shy away from teaching another a halacha he apparently does not know, from sharing a thought on the parsha which is new, or stimulating or exciting to you, from becoming a Partner In Torah mentor to a thirsty brother, from gently teaching a fellow worker some of the basics of their heritage (such as the Rambam’s Thirteen Principles Of Faith).  About sharing wisdom, the Orchos Tzaddikim concludes “...And this is the greatest form of all Nedivus-the greatest of all gifts you can give a person--to bring him to the eternal life of Olam Haba.


Rav Dessler Z’TL (Michtav M’Eliyahu, volume I pages 32-51) writes that there are two basic kinds of people in the world--givers and takers.  If we strive to emulate the way of Hashem, who is All-Giving--if we can bli neder in some way commit to ourselves to make sure that on a daily basis we have been Givers of Money, Givers of Effort, Givers of Wisdom, then we will be blessed with the bracha of Shlomo HaMelech, the wisest of all men, who shared the following wisdom with us (Mishlei 18:16): “Matan Odom Yarchiv Leebo, Veleefnei Gedolim Yanchenu--the gifts that a person bestows will broaden his heart”--and actually place him before the Gedolim of his generation!




Chazal (Bava Kamma 16B) teach that Yirmiyahu HaNavi prayed to Hashem regarding those who were after him to kill him (because of his prophecies relating to the Churban).  Indeed, tour guides today take you to the place outside the Old City walls where Yirmiyahu was said to have been jailed in the horrible “Be’er Teet”--the well of mortar.  So what was his prayer concerning those so viciously acting against him and against the word of Hashem?


The Gemara teaches it was that--“even when they give Tzedaka, let it be to unworthy individuals [deceivers], so that they would not receive any credit for having given charity”.  This seems incredible--of all the things to pray for--that they not give proper charity!?


We can begin to appreciate this comment when we realize that the wisest of all men, Shlomo HaMelech, states **two times** in Mishlei “...U’Tzedaka Tazil MiMavess”--and charity saves from death (Mishlei 10:2 and Mishlei 11:4).  Chazal thereby teach that charity not only saves one from an unnatural death, but from death itself.  In fact, the acts of charity actually walk in front of the person to protect him from harm, as the Navi (Yeshaya 58:8) explicitly states “VeHalach Lefanecha Tzidkecha--your charitable deeds shall walk in front of you.”


The Shulchan Aruch (Orach Chayim 92:10) suggests that one should give Tzedaka before davening.  The Mishne Berurah there explains that by doing so, one fulfills the words of Dovid HaMelech (Tehillim 17:15 ) “Ani Betzedek Echeze Ponecha--I will greet Hashem after giving Tzedaka.”  Thus, of all the other actions you might take, or things you might think of doing, before meeting the King, the Shulchan Aruch’s suggestion is--Tzedaka!  We can now well understand the words of the Shulchan Aruch.


For, when we pray, we ask that Hashem give us life, and we give Tzedaka first in order to demonstrate our desire for life--and our recognition as to Who gives it to us.  Indeed, the Shach (Yoreh Deah 247, Note2) writes that Tzedaka not only saves lives, but actually adds on “length of days”.  Moreover, the Pasuk writes that the end result of one giving is “Lema’an Yevorechecha...--so that [Hashem will] bless you....”  So, as we are about to approach Hashem to ask for blessing, we demonstrate that we are worthy of the very blessing that we ask for.  Finally, the Shulchan Aruch itself, in Hilchos Tzedaka (Yoreh Deah 247:3), explicitly writes as a stand alone Halacha: “Anyone who has mercy on the poor, Hashem will have mercy on him.”


It is not very well known that Hilchos Tzedaka spans 13 simanim in Shulchan Aruch.  What may be even less well-known is that Hilchos Tzedaka is found immediately after Hilchos Talmud Torah.  Chazal teach that the Mitzvah of Talmud Torah is greater than any other Mitzvah, because it brings you to the proper performance of all the other Mitzvos.  Without Torah study, we would be unable to properly perform any Mitzvah.  It is, then, quite telling that the first Mitzvah we are taught after the Mitzvah of Talmud Torah--the first Mitzvah to perform--is Tzedaka.


We should not let a day go by without at least “putting something in the Pushka.”  A special and meaningful way to remember the importance of our daily Tzedaka is to this is to give before davening.  And remember... “Tzion B’Mishpat Tipadeh--VeShoveha B’Tzedaka-- Zion will be redeemed through justice, and those who return with charity”--so do it for all of us!




Shlomo HaMelech, the wisest of all men, teaches us (Koheles 7:9) that “Ka’as B’chaik K’silim Yonuach”--anger lies in the bosom of fools.


Here is a story which could be true:  There was once a boy who had a temper.  His father gave him a bag of nails and told him that every time he lost his temper, he must hammer a nail into their backyard fence.


By the end of the first day, the boy had driven 21 nails into the poor fence.  Over the next few weeks, as he made an effort to control his anger, the number of nails the young man hammered into the fence gradually dwindled.  As time went on, he discovered that it had become easier to hold his temper than to drive nails into the fence.


Finally, the great day came when he didn’t lose his temper at all.  Overjoyed, he related his success to his father--and his father requested that they celebrate by going to dinner together.  At dinner, the boy’s father cautioned him that bad middos, especially one as devastating as anger, could readily reappear.  Accordingly, the father suggested that the boy now pull out one nail from the fence for each day that he was able to continue to control his anger.  After many weeks, the boy, who had blossomed into a young man through this process, told his father that all the nails were gone.  Elated, the father took the young man by the hand and went with him to the fence.  He hugged and kissed his wonderful child.  The loving father then asked him to look at all of the jagged holes in the fence that had been previously bored when the young man was a “boy”.  “My son, this fence has been permanently marred.  When you say things in anger, they leave scars much deeper and more permanent than the ones on the fence.  You can put a knife in a man and draw it out.  It won’t matter how many times you say you are sorry, the wound is still there.  A verbal wound can be much more penetrating than a physical one.  The closer the relationship, the deeper the wound.”


Our loving Father cautions us time and time again that anger is likened to Avodah Zarah (Shabbos 105B), that one who angers causes all kinds of Gehonim to rule over him (Nedarim 22A) and that one who gets angry certainly has more sins than merits (See Mishlei 29:22).  He has further taught us through Chazal that to prevent anger from occurring and reoccurring, we must do all that we can--drive nails in, pull nails out and study and restudy the raw jagged holes in the wall.  For real, lasting guidance in controlling anger, we can refer to Sefer Erech Apayim (we understand that this Sefer was a favorite of HaRav Pam, Z’TL), Sefer Hosai Ka’as MeLeebecha, Sefer Orchos Tzaddikim--Sh’ar HaKa’as, and Anger by Rabbi Zelig Pliskin, Shlita.


One need not be thoroughly steeped in anger to appreciate its truly damaging effects.  Expressed anger even one time a day is one time too many--and when one feels a bit weak in this area (even if due to stress, fatigue or the ill will or rudeness of others), he should remember to avoid making everlasting holes in his very own backyard fence.




Imagine that your boss gave you until 10AM to get a project done, or that you had one-half hour from the time the supermarket opened to have purchased everything you need and to be back home to start cooking.  Or, imagine that your employee would not be in today to open the store at 8AM, and you usually get in at around 9AM.  What do you have to do?  You have to plan in advance.


In all situations, if you need to go somewhere or get something done, you've got to plan ahead.  If you do not, you are the one who loses out.  It is your job, it is your store, it is your cooking… it is your life.


Now, let’s say your Shacharis minyan starts at 6:45AM, or, if you are a woman, you have to leave the house by 8AM.  Should the quality of your davening be solely determined by the time davening must be over, or by who the shliach tzibur is--should the Tefillah education (or lack of it) of  the Shatz, or the fact that the next minyan has to start on time, determine how much you must skip, how many breaths you can take between words, or whether you will start davening Shemone Esrei (which is the crucial aspect of Tefillah B’Tzibbur)?  If you believe the answer is no, why is it that you take the lifeline to the Shechinah, your davening--out of your own hands?  Shouldn’t you spend a few moments to think about how long it really takes it (or should take you) to daven--how much time it takes you to recite the words--without skipping--normally until Yishtabach, how long it takes to be mekabel Ol Malchus Shomayim in Shema like a mentsch, how long it takes to daven with respect from Birchas HaShachar to Shemone Esrei--and work backwards.  As with anything important to you, you must plan ahead.  You cannot simply rely upon the fact that you have “fifteen minutes” to get to Shemone Esrei from when the shul-designated davening is to start.  You must make the time by planning ahead, giving yourself the time to accord davening the importance it deserves.


Remember, if your boss needed a good job done by 10AM, you would not give him a half-a-job.  If your employee could not make it in on time, you would get up a little earlier to open the store, when business is usually brisk in the morning.


Tefillah is business, your business, and your very important business.  To assist you with your Tefillos, we provide the following questions.  All of the answers may be found in Praying With Fire (Artscroll 2005, produced by Hakhel’s affiliate, The V’Ani Tefillah Foundation):


1)  What is the main purpose of davening?  Answer:  See Praying With Fire, pages 72-80




2)  If Hashem has decreed difficulties for me, how can my Tefillah change it?  Answer:  See Praying With Fire, pages 40-55.


3)  If the Shechinah is present in shul during Tefillah, why do I so seldom feel it?  Answer:  See Praying With Fire, pages 126-138.


4)  What are some effective practical strategies to enable me to daven with kavanah?  Answer:  See Praying With Fire, pages 160-221.


5)  Hashem knows my thoughts, why must I verbalize them through Tefillah?  Answer:  See Praying With Fire, pages 96-97.


6)  Sometimes it appears my Tefillos are not answered.  If Tefillah is so powerful, how can that happen?  Answer:  See Praying With Fire, pages 224-251.


Praying With Fire, is available at your local Jewish bookstore, or by contacting the V’Ani Tefillah Foundation, by phone at 718-258-2210, or by email at vanitefillah@yeshivah.net


There is nothing more valuable you can do for yourself and your family than to Pray with Fire!  Join the literally tens of thousands who have been inspired--and moved to action--by this incredible Sefer!




Our Kohanim perform at least one Mitzvas Aseh D’Oraysa, one positive commandment, when they convey the Birchas Kohanim upon us.  Interestingly and importantly, the Biur Halacha (Shulchan Aruch, Orach Chaim 128:1) writes that the Sefer Chareidim, followed by Achronim, rule that if you have Kavana, intent, to receive the brachos of the Kohanim, you, too, have fulfilled the Torah Commandment, for every brocha that Hashem wants to give us through the Kohanim needs a recipient!


Based upon this, let us try to determine what the hugest Segula, the largest possible hope, remedy or treasure that a person can have, would be.  As we all know, the place to look for our answers is the Torah--and the Torah, immediately preceding Matan Torah, explicitly states (Shemos 19:5) that if we properly listen to, learn and observe the Torah, “Vee’HeYeesem Lee Segula Meekol HoAmim”--And you shall be a treasure to me from all the other nations.”  This is truly remarkable! If we follow the Torah, WE OURSELVES (yes, you and I) become the most incredible Segula ever imaginable or possible, because we are no less than Hashem’s very own Segula.  We do not need to do this or say that, go here or stay there--for the greatest Segula imaginable is, quite literally, embodied within us.  Now, just as the recipients of the Kohanim’s brachos--the regular, plain Yisroelim--fulfill the Mitzvah by receiving the brachos, we can very reasonably and sensibly similarly suggest that if we give Hashem the opportunity to have His Segula, we become our own greatest Segula as well.  We need not look without--but within.


In this connection, we relate the following true story.  Someone who felt down and out in Shidduchim came to a Rav’s son, and poured out his heart.  The Rav’s son listened with true care and concern, but really knew of no shadchan, or anyone else for that matter, who could help him.  He further realized that the despair was affecting the single’s Torah learning and his previous “Mitzvah gedola leeheyos b’simcha” attitude, so he came up with the following suggestion: “Reuven--it is time for a real Segula for you--and I want to help.  Here is my idea.  It is now the summer, and we study, and review week after week after week, Pirkei Avos, which is so full of how our Fathers want us to behave that it is called Avos, and so full of how Hashem wants us to be that it is the only one of more than 60 Mesechtos in Shas that begins with its connection to Hashem--‘Moshe received the Torah at Sinai and....’  Indeed, it is so pure and purifying that HaRav Chaim Kanievsky, Shlita, reports (Derech Sicha, page 485) that the Steipeler told his daughters (Rav Chaim’s sisters) to learn these Mishnayos l’iluy nishmas, in memory of, their mother, in the year after her petira.  So my suggestion is that we each perform a SEGULA for you-- we each study Mesechta Avos over the summer, separately, and I will give you all of my zechusim, every ounce of my merit, for studying this Mesechta as a SEGULA for Hashem to bless you with your bashert.  You will have a double SEGULA OF THE HIGHEST ORDER--my Torah study, and your Torah study.  And, I’ll take it a step further.  The Chofetz Chaim (in his Sefer Torah Ohr) emphatically writes that everyone should try to learn something very well, so that he will have something to think about or learn during what would otherwise be wasted time, when you has no book to refer to.  Moreover, learning something very well makes it more and more part of you.  As a GREAT SEGULA for you, if YOU will agree to learn Pirkei Avos by heart, I will do so too.  Let’s complete our goal by Rosh Hashanah!”


Not all stories have an immediately happy ending--the single person has not yet taken the leap and agreed to the SEGULA-FILLED undertaking.  But now, how about us?  This Shabbos, we will begin a new cycle of Pirkei Avos--we should take this truly amazing opportunity to be Hashem’s Segula--the ultimate Segula--by studying, reviewing and internalizing its powerful messages to us each and every week throughout the summer!




As we approach the first Shabbos away from Shavuos, we note that the Parshas HaShavua is Parshas Naso.  Among other mitzvos, the Parsha contains some enormous lessons on why and how to control the Yetzer Hora, and the kinds of brachos we should look to give and to receive.  We would like here to only point to the fact that this Parsha is almost always read on the Shabbos after Shavuos, and that it is the longest Parsha in the Torah.  Part of the reason it is the longest Parsha is that each of the 12 Nesseim’s private donations to the Mishkan is separately detailed, notwithstanding that the donation are otherwise fully identical in object, kind and amount.  Chazal (at length in Bamidbar Rabba on these Pesukim) teach that this individualized detail was not done so that we can simply stay more attached to Yom Tov by reading more and more Pesukim of Torah right after Shavuos (although this, in and of itself, would be a sufficient reason).  Rather, the Medrash teaches that behind the otherwise identical and seemingly (Chas V’Shalom) repetitive Pesukim is a lesson for eternity--that they all looked the same, but that they were all very different, because each Nassi had his own Kavanos, his personal thoughts, when he brought his korban.


We can derive a very important lesson from this relating to the study of Torah itself.  While many people may appear to learn similar Torah topics, as they may be among the tens of thousands who study the Parsha with Rashi weekly, or who the thousands who learn two Halachos of Shmiras HaLashon every day, or part of the 15 people attending a local Daf Yomi shiur, there really is a difference between each and every one of them, because the manner of study of no two are the same.


Shlomo HaMelech, the wisest of all men, teaches us in the last, ultimate, chapter of Mishlei, known to us as Aishes Chayil, that the key, perhaps concomitantly most elusive and elevating, element of Torah study, the aspect that brings one to the height of service, is “Chayil”, valor or strength, in Torah learning.  We must put our efforts, our strengths, our wherewithal into Torah study in no less measure than into our business goals, monetary objectives and anything else in life that is very important to us.  It is no coincidence (as we know, there is never a “coincidence”, and there never can be one) that the Gematria of Chayil is equal to 48, symbolizing the need to strive for all 48 Ways we briefly alluded to yesterday.  Moreover, the number 48 (Mem Ches) spells Moach, indicating the necessity of seriously putting all of one’s mind to attaining Torah knowledge and practice.  Chazal teach that “Torah weakens the strength of a person”.  In truth, most activity weakens a person, whose soul is housed in flesh and blood.  If something is to weaken a person, it is certainly much more preferred that it be Torah then...


The Chofetz Chaim (Chomas HaDas, Chapter 4) teaches us that there is a common mistake made by many, and he explains with a mashal.  A man took a serious fall into a deep pit, suffered severe bruises and injuries, and could barely breathe.  Sincere passersby hurriedly lowered themselves into the pit, and began trying all kinds of methods to bandage the wounds with the little that they had.  A doctor, hearing the commotion climbed into the pit.  Assessing the situation, he exclaimed “This man does not need bandages now--he can barely breathe!  Give me room!”  After reviving him, the doctor was able to bring him out of danger, and the man successfully recovered.  The Chofetz Chaim taught--we, too, are in the deep pit of Galus--and we desperately need help.  But bandages simply will not do, for we must first get to the breathing--and our breath is Torah.  (See Avos 6:6, 7)  We must, as the doctor, recognize and emphasize its absolute need to be the first and vital step of our cure.  And the more, and the harder, the breathing is worked at, the quicker and better, the cure.


One can help his breathing in many ways--putting in the effort and taking the precautionary steps necessary to better concentrate when studying, finding the time to accomplish, one step at a time, that which one otherwise planned or would plan for retirement, getting involved in community Torah study projects, and spending good money to support Torah study.  Let us do our part.  For us, discretion is not the better part of valor.  Torah is!




It is reported that the Gerrer Rebbe provided a remarkable contrast between Pesach and Succos, on the one hand, and Shavuos on the other.  At the conclusion of Pesach, we immediately begin to eat Chometz again (although, contrary to popular opinion, the Halacha does not require that pizza be consumed on Motzoai Pesach).  When Succos ends, we promptly leave the temporary booths and snuggle-up in our homes for the Winter.  When it comes to Shavuos, however, we do not conclude, end, or terminate anything.  Quite to the contrary, we all know that we are ** TO CONTINUE** that which we began on Shavuos, which is to dedicate and rededicate ourselves to Torah study and a refined Torah lifestyle.


Happily, we were recently apprised of a grouping of individuals who undertook a wonderful objective.  Commencing this week (i.e., the week after Shavuos), they agreed to join together on a weekly basis, bli neder, until next Shavuos, to consecutively work on one of the “48 Ways” in which Torah is acquired (see Avos 6:5).  This week’s method, the first of the 48 “Ways” listed in Avos, is “Talmud”, which, the commentaries explain, refers to activity which evinces a sincere desire to study Torah.  Accordingly, as this week’s goal, the individuals of the group have undertaken not to allow themselves to be disturbed by any diversions (such as a phone call, “Gotta moment?”, or even a need for advice, etc.) during the first 15 minutes of a designated Torah study program during the day (all of which represents the will to improve quality Torah time).  As a second, related objective for the week, the individual members of the group have undertaken to study Torah (any topic) for five minutes before going to sleep (which represents the desire to improve the quantity of Torah study).


We were extremely impressed with the sincerity of this undertaking--to span the year until Shavuos 5767 with an extended trip through the 48 Ways, which Rav Noach Weinberg, Shlita (Aish HaTorah), otherwise refers to as the “48 Ways To Wisdom” in his world-famous lecture series.  Of extremely important note is that the individuals comprising this group are not all members of the Moetzes Gedolei HaTorah.  In fact, none of them are!  The chabura consists of individuals who are workers, professionals, self employed, store owners, Rabbis and teachers.  While the year-long traverse may seem beyond your reach (although Daf HaYomi is more than 7 years, and people less capable than you may have completed it), it would certainly be appropriate to at least span the distance between now and the Three Weeks with some real level of either qualitative or quantitative increased Torah appreciation.  If you would like to follow the grouping’s weekly kabbalos (they intend to meet on Sundays after having reviewed the commentaries on the “Way” of the week coming up), please write us.  In the alternative, you may come up with your own thoughts of growth.  Perhaps Chumash with Rashi every week, or Chumash-Artscroll, or Kitzur Shulchan Aruch Yomi, or Chofetz Chaim, or that Sefer that you keep on meaning to get to.  Chazal teach (Nedarim 81A) that a key reason that the Bais Hamikdash was destroyed was a failure to appreciate our Torah gift.  It most certainly behooves us to demonstrate that very appreciation in the coming weeks, and bring back the Bais HaMikdash--so that we can truly achieve not only our ultimate goals and purpose, but the entire world’s as well.  We all know that but a few terror-filled moments was the difference between a world without an atomic bomb and a world of nuclear destruction.  Our own few, deliberate, precious Torah moments can and will make a much greater and eternal difference--for Hashem and for mankind, as his dedicated and rededicated creations.




We constantly refer to the Torah as “Toras Emes.”  Indeed, we thank Hashem in the Birchas HaTorah (after the Torah reading) for giving us a “Toras Emes,” and we plead to Hashem daily that He give “Emes L’Yaakov”--the Truth to Yaakov, and his descendants (see Micha 7:20).


What does this really mean?  Does Hashem need our confirmation of the Torah’s truth?  Why is it that we ask that the “Truth”, and not the Torah itself be given to Yaakov?  The following story may shed some light for us:


An affluent Jew once came to the Alter of Kelm with a strange request.  He had been offered a potentially enormously rewarding tract of real estate in Czarist Russia for a very large sum, but for a fraction of its true worth.  There was one hitch.  Jews were not allowed to own any real estate there.  However, this wealthy Jew had a solution:  He would pay for the land but have its legal ownership written under the name of a non-Jewish Poritz (land baron) with whom he was on good terms.  The Poritz had told him that in return for a small partnership interest, this transaction would be no problem.  However, the Jew would have to put up all of the money required.  The money required was a small fortune and would almost totally deplete the Jew’s resources, but the money to be made could make the Jew one of the wealthiest people in Russia.


Now, he had come to the Alter for advice. Should he go ahead with the transaction?  Should he risk his small fortune for a much greater fortune?  Could he trust the Poritz?


The Alter responded that in all life situations, one is to look to the Torah for **true guidance.**  The Alter noted that that week’s Parshas HaShavua was Parshas Chaye Sora, in which Avraham Avinu asked Eliezer, his trusted servant, to find a wife for his son Yitzchok.  Although Eliezer was so loyal that he bowed down to Hashem (while not even in Avraham Avinu’s presence) when he realized that he had found Yitzchock’s “Bashert”, and although Avraham made Eliezer swear to him that he would not go elsewhere for a shidduch for Yitzchok, we are taught that if Avraham could have gone to Charan himself, he would never have sent, nor relied upon, his “trusted” servant.  The lesson from this, the Alter concluded, was that one could not take something of primary importance to him, and entrust it to someone who, albeit close, was not of his ilk.


Needless to say, the ambitious and aspiring individual did not follow the Torah-true guidance provided by the Alter.  The Poritz took the land in more than name only, and the once wealthy individual became groshenless.


So, the Torah is called Toras Emes, the Torah of Truth, not simply because it is true, because Hashem, who is Absolute Truth, does not need us to opine as to what truth really is.  Rather, when we call the Torah true, we acknowledge and affirm that we will look to the Torah for true guidance in all of our affairs and concerns.  It is said in the name of the Chazon Ish that one who named his newborn child after a person in the upcoming week’s Parsha was zoche to a special brocha for that child, for he showed that he looked to the Torah for guidance in the life of his new, precious possession.


Unlike Pesach and Succos which are seven days of Yom Tov, followed by one day of Isru Chag, Shavuos is one day, followed by seven days in which the Karbanos, the sacrifices, which could not be brought in the short one day, were permitted to be offered in the Bais HaMikdosh.  Thus, we have seven, and not one, day to attempt to draw as much as we can out of the Holy Day.  One very important lesson is that we look and listen to the Toras Emes--so that the truth so inherent in Torah, as explained to us by our Rabbonim and teachers, overflows from the Torah into our everyday lives and situations!




We provide the following post-Shavuous notes to our readers:


1)  In a pre-Shavuous Bulletin, we had mentioned that the term “Simcha” is used two times by the Torah relating to Shavuous, and suggested an explanation.  A reader noted a related explanation.  He writes that Rav Pam Z’TL would always emphasize that Limud HaTorah was always to be B’Simcha, with appreciation and joy for the opportunity.  Accordingly, one “Simcha” in the Torah could refer to the joy of Torah study on Shavuous itself, and the other “Simcha” to the joy one should feel and experience when studying Torah daily.


2)  We had discussed the concept of Shavuous being only one day, to emphasize the importance of even **one day** of Torah study.  A mashal provided by Rav Yakov Neiman Z’TL (Petach Tikva) further enlightens us in this area.  Before navigation systems (and even street lights) were invented, a Jew traveled at night along a dark highway, hoping to reach his important destination peacefully.  He came upon a fork in the road, and a sign in front of it.  However, because it was the middle of the night and rain clouds blocked the light of the moon, he could not even read the sign.  Suddenly, a bolt of lightning shot forth and illuminated the sign for a very brief moment.  Success!!  He now knew where he was going.  The road to the right was his path.  He needed no further instruction.  Shavuous provides us with that incredible illumination.  All we need to do now is keep ourselves on the road.  Hashem has done what He had to do--it’s now up to us.


3)  Chazal (Shabbos 88B) teach that the Malochim protested Hahsem’s gift of the Torah to mankind, for the Torah was so divine, it belonged only in Heaven.  Moshe Rabbeinu was able to best them by showing that the Torah’s Mitzvos and prohibitions were (at least on a simple level) directed to human beings--do not steal, do not kill, do not speak Loshon Hora, etc…  The Malochim knew this, but they still believed that there was no place for the holy among the profane.  So how was Moshe Rabbeinu able to win his debate?  The Darchei Mussar (page 332) explains that Moshe Rabbeinu was able to convince them that while the Torah remaining in Heaven would make Heavenly life more beautiful, the Torah on Earth was much more than that--for it was as essential to life on this planet as the very air we breathe.


In fact, the Gemara (Pesachim 112A) relates that Rebbe Shimon Bar Yochai visited Rebbe Akiva in jail and asked Rebbe Akiva to teach him Torah.  Rebbe Akiva refused to do so flagrantly in the presence of the Roman authorities, fearing for Rebbe Shimon’s well-being (Rebbe Akiva was already incarcerated for the very teaching of Torah).  Rebbe Shimon Bar Yochai, unbelievable as it may sound, threatened his Rebbe with trumped-up charges against him to the government (apparently even worse charges than he had been jailed for)--unless he would teach him Torah!  What was this all about?  After all, Rebbe Akiva was only trying to protect Rebbe Shimon Bar Yochai from the authorities!  And how could Rebbe Shimon threaten his Rebbe in this gross way?!  The answer seems to be that Rebbe Shimon Bar Yochai was complaining to Rebbe Akiva that, without Torah to breathe, he faced such lowliness, such decadence, such a meaningless life, that he could actually become the lowest of lows-a moser--an informer--against his very own Rebbe!


Moshe Rabbeinu gave the Malochim an understanding of how the Earth--whose creation was also Hashem’s will--simply could not function without the life breath of Torah.  As we study Torah daily, we should really take a moment before, and/or during and/or after our study to recall Moshe Rabbeinu’s debate with the Malochim--and realize that we have Torah's precious words because it is our air, our joy, and because it put us on the road to our glorious destination!




Rav Matisyahu Salomon, Shlita, notes that the Torah expends many infinitely valuable words on describing the scene at Har Sinai as the Torah was being given.  Indeed, while the Event may not now be in the forefront of our short term memory, the Torah teaches that the covenant was made with us all there (See Devorim 5:3).  What was the scene like?  Rather than obtaining some third party account, we urge you to refresh your recollection, either before or on Shavuos, by reviewing the Pesukim describing the Ma’amad, which powerfully describe the surroundings.  Specifically, we refer you to Shemos 19: 9, 16, 18, 19, and 20:15 , and then to Devorim 5:19 -26.  The world never before, and never again, would witness such awe, as the Torah itself testifies (Devorim 4:32 -34).  Moreover, Rashi (Devorim 4:35) brings Chazal who describe that the seven heavens, and the deepest depths, all opened wide on this day--specifically in order for us to get a once-in-a-worldtime full view!


The opening of the Heavens and the Earth--the resounding noises and thunder--the blasting Shofar-- the great fiery fire--the fearsome darkness!!!  And then, as Dovid HaMelech writes in Tehillim (114:4--part of the Hallel we will recite on Shavuos)--even [the mighty] "mountains trembled like rams, the hills like young lambs."  It is no small wonder, then, that the millions of people present recoiled a great distance.  Why is the giving of the Torah a day of such literally unparalleled trepidation?


Rav Salomon answers that, when we receive the Torah, it is not a stand alone.  It is not simply "lamdus", or a body of halacha, a guidebook to success in life, a set of eternal instruction, an inspired and meaningful life outlook, an all-encompassing world philosophy, or any one more of the myriad aspects of its Divine wisdom--a wisdom so beyond us that Chazal teach that there are 600,000 explanations to each Posuk in the Torah (!) (cited by the Chofetz Chaim in the introduction to Etz Pri).  So, what is it that must stand side-by-side with the Torah--it is Yiras Shomayim--the enveloping, inspired awe of Hashem that must accompany the study and observance of Torah if one is to succeed (Shabbos 31A-B).  As the Navi teaches (Yeshaya 33:6)--"Yiras Hashem HE OTZARO"--it is the fear of Hashem that precedes and is the storehouse of Torah, for without a treasure house, there is no treasure--at least for very long.


With this we can understand why the bracha one makes over a Torah Scholar is "...Who gave of His wisdom to **THOSE WHO FEAR HIM** (L'YEREIOV)".  For it is a profound and powerful awareness of Hashem that must accompany our Torah study and our Torah observance.  Indeed, the Torah itself commands us (Devorim 4:9-10) that we MUST REMEMBER ALL THE DAYS OF OUR LIVES the day that we stood before Hashem at Har Sinai.


Rav Salomon therefore concludes that it would be a mistake to think that the proper observance of Shavuos is limited to total immersion in Torah study, without a rededication to the ever-necessary Yiras Shomayim that is the Torah's special partner in our life.  The Shofar, the thunder, the fire--they must all accompany our Torah study daily.


It is told that HaRav Chaim Shmuelevitz Z’TL, Rosh Yeshivah-Mir Yerushalayim, once noticed two chavrusos who continued to learn Gemora, even though Mussar seder had begun.  He approached them and asked that they now study Yiras Shomayim.  “Rebbe,” they asked, “if the study of Mussar is so important, why do we study Gemora for ten hours a day, and Mussar for only twenty minutes during the same day?”  He responded--“The study of Mussar may be likened to the Kadosh HaKadoshim.  One need only enter for a few moments for it to have a very lasting impact upon him.  So, too, if we study the Mesilas Yeshorim, or the Orchos Tzaddikim, or the Shaarei Teshuva, or other similar classic works for only a few minutes a day, it will leave an indelible impact upon our Torah study, and raise us to new heights, as we not only observe what happened at Sinai, but actually climb the mountain ourselves!



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