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24 Sivan


“A central part of all of our lives is overcoming the multitude of challenges that we will inevitably face. A formula that could bring positive results to these challenges and allow us tranquility and peace of mind in the process, would be a most coveted acquisition. Fortunately, we are blessed with such a formula to succeed. Bitachon. The Eliezer Institute, a project of Priority-1 and established by Westwood Realty Associates, is dedicated to strengthening Bitachon, and the underlying Emunah upon which it is based.


Please send in personal Hashgacha Pratis stories to theeliezerinstitute@gmail.com.


Email theeliezerinstitute@gmail.com to join the mailing list for inspiration in Bitachon.


Organize a Shiur in your Shul that will guide you in enhancing your relationship with Hashem.”



THIS PIVOTAL WEEK: During this pivotal week between the misdeed of Miriam and the cheit of the Meraglim, we continue with our thoughts on strengthening ourselves in Shemiras HaLashon.  The Chofetz Chaim calls the power of speech:  ‘Chaviv MiKol Chaviv’--the most precious of the precious, because with the power of speech Hashem’s creation of man was completed.  Accordingly, just as someone with silver, gold and precious jewels provides the greatest security possible for them--so too, must one provide the highest level of security for his speech.  HaRav Chaim Kanievsky, Shlita, notes that the Meraglim were held accountable even for speaking ‘Al Eitzim V’al Avanim’--even against the sticks and stones of Eretz Yisrael--so all the more so must we display the greatest of care when speaking about others.  There is a fascinating teaching brought in the Sefer Chovos HaLevavos, which teaches that one who speaks Lashon Hara forfeits his Mitzvos to the person he spoke against and assumes the aveiros of that very same person.  What happens, in the event that the offended is mochel the perpetrator for having spoken against him, or if the perpetrator actually does Teshuvah for having spoken Lashon Hara?  HaRav Kanievsky teaches that in the event Mechila is given to the transgressor, the situation will likely revert to what it was originally--with the Mitzvos returning to the speaker, and the aveiros returning to the offended party.  However, in the event the transgressor actually does Teshuvah--his Mitzvos will return to him--and once the aveiros have left the person who was spoken against, they will mistama not return!  Hakhel Note:  Do Teshuva--it benefits everyone!







A. In last week’s Parasha (Bamidbar 12:3), we learned that Moshe Rabbeinu was “Anav Me’od Mikol HaAdam. What is Anavah--the Torah’s definition of humility? It is the true and actual awareness that all of one’s wisdom, talents and possessions are not owned, but borrowed for a set period of time from Hashem--for one to use for free to the best of his abilities. Just as a poor person who borrows a wealthy person’s clothing for a simcha knows that they are not his--and that he must return them in excellent condition, so should a person’s real attitude be towards his abilities and acquisitions in this world. With this ‘humble’ realization--a person brings upon himself a Ruach Tahara. If one does not allow himself to develop this awareness--which, once again, we must remember, is the trait that Moshe Rabbeinu was praised for in the Torah, he will surely feel saddened by his inability to achieve this or that goal, and disappointed about his lack of possessions or other ‘successes’. If one needs guidance or assistance to reach the important goal of Anavah, he should study the classical Mussar Seforim which teach what a person is and what he should strive to be--and he should also daven to Hashem to achieve this awareness. Chazal teach that one who works on himself and attains Anavah: (i) will have his Tefillos answered; (ii) is considered on the level of one who has brought all of the different kinds of Karbanos possible[even without a Bais HaMikdash!], and (iii) will be zoche to have a Kiyum of his Torah. Hakhel Note: The effort is certainly worthwhile!


B. Even though Chazal teach that the sha’arei tefillah have been closed--this does not at all mean that one should not daven--for Chazal teach that if one sees that his Tefillos have not been answered, he should continue to daven and daven, again and again. Indeed, even if many days and even years have passed with one’s Tefillos seemingly not being answered, one should nevertheless not stop davening. In the end, one will see that his Tefillos Ho’ilu Lo Me’od--helped him very much! Even on the simplest level--one must realize that his situation could have been much worse--and his Tefillos allowed him to be in his current position. One should always remember that one of the ikarim of Tefillah is for one to be a Mevakesh Mamash--one who pleads with Hashem to grant his request--recognizing that the request is being made to the Only One Who Can Really Grant It!


C. Birds that walk on two legs are still bent over when they walk and look down. The reason that man’s head does not face downward, writes the Rabbeinu Ta’am (in the Sefer HaYashar) is because he has the ability to reach great levels in the service of Hashem, and he is the epitome of the world’s creation. All of the other creatures were created to help man achieve his goal. Man’s great asset of his Koach HaDibur enables him to serve Hashem by praising Him, pouring out his heart to Him, learning and teaching Torah, and to move others to Avodas Hashem with his words. As this is man’s great goal--he should be conscious of his daily opportunities to reach and maximize his potential!



A TREASURE FOR LIFE: We present several excerpts from A Treasure for Life by Rabbi Avraham Yachnes, Shlita (Feldheim Publishers) which provides an excellent translation, commentary, and insights into the classic Sefer Orchos Tzaddikim. Each of the following excerpts provides a real, practical, and poignant lesson which each one of us can use to grow from:


A. “It is told about HaRav Yehoshua Leib Diskin, Z’tl, that he was forever whispering to himself the words “Shivisi Hashem L’negdi Samid—I have set Hashem before me always”(Tehillim 16:8), to remind himself constantly that all of his actions and thoughts are always in the presence of Hashem.”


B. “If one were blindfolded and tried to walk through even the most familiar of rooms, he would certainly stumble and fall many times. Now imagine traveling through the unchartered waters of life, blindfolded by the desires and passions that have been allowed to rule over one’s wisdom. The more a person’s desires control him, the thicker the darkness--even to the point of being spiritually paralyzed.”


C. “People often say “I’m doing the best that I can.” What is considered doing the best that you can?  I remember  hearing from my Rebbi, HaRav Henoch Leibowitz, Z’tl, that on any  given day, when you feel that you have reached the level of doing the best that you can –that is you have invested all of your resources and every ounce of energy—then you should do a bit more . This way, when you begin the next day, your starting point is from that extra bit. Then there will be growth. Otherwise every day is a repeat performance of the day before with no real growth. This same concept was expressed differently by Rabbi Joseph Grunblatt, Z’tl, Rav of the Queens Jewish Center in New York. He said that when people work in a profession for ten years, they often claim to have ten years of experience. They need to understand that if they have been doing the exact same thing on the exact same level during those years, it does not mean that they have ten years of experience, it means they have one year of experience ten times. Only if there had been a broader commitment and a deeper level of responsibility every day during those ten years, can one say that he has ten years of experience.”


“A few years ago I had the opportunity to be a Kashrus supervisor at a soda bottling plant. Standing there in amazement, watching 3,200 soda cans filled and capped per minute, something interesting caught my eye. An inspector wearing a long, white coat, who was overseeing the operation, randomly plucked a can or bottle off of the speeding conveyer belt. I followed behind as he walked into a laboratory and began performing all kinds of experiments with the beverage. He placed some of the liquid in test tubes, poured some into a decoding machine, and also drank some to check the taste. Finally, I asked what all of these procedures were about. “I’m checking for the right amount of sweetener, the proper measure of syrup, and the correct balance of carbonation to flavor,” he said. “Quality control, Rabbi, quality control.” It struck me like a ton of bricks. So much research, so much checking; so much investigation, effort, and exactness for quality control of a can of soda. How much more so must one measure the exactness of his thoughts and actions for the quality control of his Middos!



23 Sivan

THE SIXTH BRACHA: As we especially dedicate ourselves to the Sixth Bracha of Shemone Esrei this week, we provide the following words of instruction: The Machzor Kol Bo teaches that this bracha begins with a Samech and ends with a Ches which in Gematria totals 68--the Gematria of Chaim, and this is to teach that one can be forgiven for his sins in the zechus of his Torah--which is called Chaim (“Toras Chaim”). How exact are the Brachos of Shemone Esrei--even the first and last letter of our Bracha is especially determined to convey a message!  We note that, just as in the prior Bracha of Hashiveinu in which the terms Avinu and Malkeinu were used in the first two phrases of the Bracha, so too, do we follow the same order again in the first two phrases of this Bracha--”Selach Lanu Avinu Ki Chatanu, Mechal Lanu Malkeinu Ki Fashanu”. We ask Hashem, as ‘Avinu’, to forgive us for our chataim--which are usually taken to mean unintentional sins.  By this, we ask Hashem to look upon our sins--no matter how they may have originated--as unintentional--just as a Father looks with a loving eye upon His children.



ONE WORD: The Chofetz Chaim (in the Sefer Chofetz Chai--Mitzvas Asei 11) teaches that all of the Mitzvos are not equal to one word of Torah. The phrase: “Talmud Torah K’neged Kulam” is not simply a special adage or an inspirational phrase--it is a remarkable fact which provides essential guidance for one’s conduct in life. If all of the Mitzvos can’t equal one word of Torah--the Chofetz Chaim writes, then how could one even think of wasting his time with chatter or matters of non-consequence--and all the more so how could one speak Lashon Hara or Ona’as Devarim?! The Chofetz Chaim continues that if a person loses some money--he can hope to either find it, or gain money from another source. If one loses time, however--he will never, ever find it again. Accordingly, the Chofetz Chaim concludes: “Ashrei Mi Sheyisbonein Bazeh VeOdo BeChaiav--fortunate is the person who thinks about this in his lifetime”.


Hakhel Note: Obviously, the Chofetz Chaim means not only thinking about it--but acting upon it!



‘STEALING’ SLEEP? Is there actually an aveirah of gezel sheinah--stealing someone’s sleep?  HaRav Chaim Kanievsky, Shlita, writes that since sleep is not tangible one cannot really be oveir stealing sleep, which requires something tangible.  Rabbi Dovid Castle, however, notes that the Lo Sa’aseh of Lo Sonu--not aggrieving our friend would include stealing his sleep as well, for by doing so one is hurting or at least disturbing his fellow. 



THE 23RD OF SIVAN:  Today, the 23rd day of Sivan, is one of those special days especially mentioned in Tanach.  Many of you may remember where.  In Megillas Esther (8:9), the Pasuk records that on the 23rd day of the 3rd month--”Hu Chodesh Sivan” (which is the month of Sivan)--the king’s scribes wrote all that Mordechai had dictated to them.  While we may not have the exact text of what was written other than that the Jews could destroy their enemies, we do know that Achashveirosh had permitted them to write in the letters--”Katov Be’eynechem--whatever is favorable in your eyes, in the name of the King...”


The Luach Davar B’Ito writes the following about this very special day:


One should try to recite the relevant Pesukim in Esther (Esther 8:3-17)


In the name of the Makover Rebbe, Zt’l, the day is Mesugal for nisim v’niflaos, as implied by the Pasuk referred to above--”Now, write [on this day] about the Jews what is favorable in your eyes in the name of the king”--which also refers to the King of the World.  Thus, just as Mordechai subsequently left the King with many royal garments (ibid., 8:15)…so can we!


In 1940, the Russian Government told thousands of Jewish refugees in Eastern Galicia that they could register as Russian citizens.  Rebbe Itzikel of Antwerp, Z’tl, advised them not to register.  On the night of the 23rd of Sivan, the Russians exiled to Siberia all those who had not registered as Russian citizens.  The exiled thought this to be a horrible decree, but the Rebbe told them that the 23rd of Sivan is “Muchan L’Tova--prepared for the good,” and that no bad would come out of their exile.  A year later, in Sivan 1941, the Nazi’s YM’S, invaded Eastern Galicia and killed the Jews who remained--the exiles to Siberia remained alive.


Let us harness the powers inherent in this day, through our own personal Torah, Teshuva, Tefillah and Tzedaka so that the King writes beautiful letters on our personal behalf, and on behalf of all of K’lal Yisrael!


Hakhel Note: Hakhel  Note:  One may question why it took 70 days--from the 13th of Nissan when the First Letters were issued, to the 23rd of Sivan--when the Second Letters which nullified them, to be issued.  After all, was not Haman hanged on the sixteenth of Nissan--just several days after the First Letters were issued.  What took so long?! Why were the Jews still subject to the scary decree for over two months after Haman and his sons was taken care of?!


 In fact, Chazal (Yerushalmi Sotah 8A) answer the question, somewhat enigmatically.  Chazal there explain that the 70-day period in which the First Letters were extant was Keneged--seemingly, in payment or exchange for--the 70 days that the Egyptians performed Chesed with Yaakov Avinu--from the time he was Niftar and all the way through the time they escorted him to his final burial in Meoras HaMachpaila.


This Chazal requires elucidation.  What do the Mitzriyim have to do with the decree by the Persians?  What does the Chesed of Yaakov Avinu have to do with our nation being in danger and fear for 70 days?  What is the significance of 70 days?  We welcome your insights and explanations!




IN PREPARATION FOR ROSH CHODESH:  Next week, we will celebrate Rosh Chodesh Tammuz, inaugurating the last three months, or final calendar quarter, of the year.  In a financial framework, the last quarter of the year is a time when people begin a review of the year, think about tax planning techniques, and consider what they can do to improve the year’s final quarter, so that it ends more successfully, and they can start the next year off on the right footing and in a positive mode and direction.  All the more so, of course, should we prepare ourselves for the last quarter of the pivotal year we are living in.  We have a week to ponder and reflect--what have we accomplished thus far; where our goals are; what can/should we attain in the coming months.  It is no coincidence (as it never is) that as the world slackens off in the summer, we energize ourselves and achieve--for our calendar--and our agenda, is simply very different!







A. K’lal Yisrael is blessed with a general assurance Shelo Tishtakach HaTorah--no individual, however, has this assurance. Rather, every person has to make the election of “U’Vacharta BaChaim--you shall choose life”!


B. A short Tefillah that every person should constantly request is Lehinatzeil MiKol Machshavos Ra’os--to be saved from bad thoughts. Purity of mind is essential to success in life.


C. Hashem created every creature with its own teva--rabbits are afraid, doves protect their mates, ants are always in a rush, the ox knows its master, and the donkey its feeding trough. They are born with all of their instincts in place. Man is different. When he is born, he has no body of knowledge or understanding--that he is responsible to attain during his lifetime. He can have the best character or the worst character--be arrogant or humble, merciful or cruel, loving or spiteful, bashful or brazen, angry or calm, generous or stingy, quick to act or lazy, jealous or happy at another’s success, afraid or courageous, empty-headed or always striving to learn. It is man’s choice, and it will center around his awareness that it is not this world that is the ikar--but the next world. The more one works on himself, the more he, quite literally, is a Ben Olam Haba.


D. Occurrences in the physical world can be viewed from a spiritual perspective. When one is thirsty or hungry, for instance, he should consider how thirsty or hungry he should likewise be for Torah knowledge and Avodas Hashem. One must live with a feeling of Ruchniyus--for however he expresses himself in this world will be how he conducts himself in the next. The Sefer Shomer Emunim brings that he became acquainted with a Ba’al Teshuvah who was originally very far from Judaism for many years. He became a Ba’al Teshuvah because he decided to join a cult practicing necromancy--and learned that the deceased who communicated could only speak in the language that they spoke in their lifetime. He thus realized that life in this world is meaningful forever and must be treated accordingly!


E. At first glance, it is almost unbelievable that--after Makkas Bechoros--K’lal Yisrael still found favor in the eyes of the Mitzriyim, and they were given silver and gold vessels and expensive clothing. However, upon reflection--the reason is very simple. The Pasuk records: “VaHashem Nassan Es Chein Ha’am B’Einei Mitzrayim--and Hashem made us graceful in the eyes of the Mitzriyim.” While a person can do his hishtadlus--ultimately everything--including finding favor in the eyes of a ruthless enemy--is in the hands of Hashem. The Chovos HaLevavos (Sha’ar HeBechina, Chapter 5) writes that if one would like to see how closely Hashem watches over us in our time--he need only consider how we are able to exist among the overly vast majority [Hakhel Note: billions!] of people in the world who do not want us here. Yet, in truth, we not only exist but Hodu LaShem--thrive because of His Hashgacha Pratis!


Hakhel Note: Imagine how much greater the Hashgacha Pratis will be felt upon the coming of Moshiach Tzidkeinu--let us pine for it in our Tefillos--and in our thoughts!



22 Sivan

BRACHOS QUESTION AND ANSWER: We were asked the following “Summer Brachos Question”, and in turn we posed it to Rabbi Yisroel Pinchos Bodner, Shlita, author of Halachos of Brochos:


Q: Someone who bikes for a couple of hours and drinks from a water bottle every so often while biking, does he recite a bracha rishona and achrona every time he drinks.


A: Yes. He should make a new brocha rishona every time he drinks, and a brocha achrona (if he drinks a revi’is within the appropriate time span) after each drink. See Shulchan Aruch Orach Chaim 190, seif katan 8 and Halachos of Brochos, p. 162-163.



THE THOUGHT DOES COUNT! The Sefer Ahavas Chesed (Chapter 21) writes that by hiring Torah Jews to perform tasks in and about one’s home or business, or for any other service, one fulfills the Mitzvah DeOraysa of ‘VeHeChezakta Bo’.  Moreover, the Chofetz Chaim adds, that one with Bitachon in Hashem should realize that Hashem will give him special Hatzlacha in the house that he is building or fixing, or in the trip that he is taking, utilizing this worker, which is far over and above the Olam Haba that he will earn for this thoughtful and care-filled deed!



QUESTION OF THE WEEK:  In this week’s Parasha, we learn of the Menachos and Nesachim--the meal and wine offerings that must accompany every Korban.  The Seforno (Bamidbar 15:3) explains why the Halachos of the meal and wine offerings are placed in the Parasha--it is because after the Cheit HaEgel, every Korban Tzibbur was required to have these offerings accompany them, and after the Cheit HaMeraglim every Korban Yachid was required to have the meal and wine accompaniments.  What is the connection between the meal and wine offerings and these two great sins--how do the Menachos and Nesachim of a Korban Tzibbur help to effect a Kappara for the Cheit HaEgel and how do the Menachos and Nesachim of a Korban Yachid help to effect a Kappara for the Cheit HaMeraglim?



GETTING READY FOR THIS WEEK’S PARASHA:  As we quiver from the details of this week’s Parasha, we provide several additional questions, and would very much welcome your responses: 


1.  Rashi brings that Moshe Rabbeinu changed Yehoshua’s name from Hoshea to Yehoshua davening for him “Kah Yoshiacha Mai’Atzas Meraglim--Hashem should save you from the Meraglim’s plot.”  If Moshe Rabbeinu knew of the plot--why did he send the Meraglim out?  Also, why did he only daven for Yehoshua--and apparently not even for Kalev or anyone else?


2.  The people admitted that they sinned with the word “chatanu”-and even were apparently ready to be moser nefesh and battle their way into Eretz Yisrael, going up the mountain to do so.  Why was their Teshuva not accepted?


3.  Why do Chazal learn out that for a Davar She’Bikedusha we need a Minyan of 10 men from the 10 Meraglim--who are called an Aida Ra’ah--an evil congregation?  Why do we learn good from evil?


4.  Why did Yehoshua send out Meraglim to Yericho after the horrific result of the first Meraglim--especially since he was so directly familiar with what happened?


5.  Chazal teach that one who is careful in the Mitzvah of Tzitzis will have 700 servants on each corner of his beged--for a total of 2,800.  Why does one need so many servants?


6.  Why was Rochov zocha to house the Meraglim, save herself and her family and even eventually marry Yehoshua Bin Nun?







A. HaRav Yecheskel Levenstein, Z’tl, would often say that reciting the bracha of Asher Yatzar with Kavannah is a Segulah for Briyus HaGuf. He would teach his students how important it was to realize that the health of the body was a nes like Yetziyas Mitzrayim. It is important to make others aware of just how important the proper recitation of Asher Yatzar really is.


B. HaRav Chaim Friedlander, Z’tl, once visited his Rebbi, HaRav Eliyahu Dessler, Z’tl, at lunchtime. HaRav Friedlander reported that after HaRav Dessler finished lunch, he turned to his wife and said: “Thank you so much for the delicious meal that you provided to me.” HaRav Friedlander pointed out that he learned from this that a person cannot rely on an intermittent ‘thank you’, but must show HaKaras Hatov on a constant basis. On another occasion HaRav Dessler entered a bus and a child stood up for him and gave him his seat. HaRav Dessler turned to him and said: “Ani Me’od Modeh Lecha MiKerev HaLev--I thank you from the depths of my heart.” Those accompanying HaRav Dessler asked him why he needed to express such strong words of thanks. HaRav Dessler responded: “Vechi Atem Rotzim She’ehiyeh c’v Mushchas B’Middos Ra’os--do you want me c’v to be a mushchas in Middos Ra’os?!”


C. The Chofetz Chaim once traveled to the home of the Rav of another city. The Rebbetzin was very excited with such an honored guest, and together with her maid prepared a very special meal. Unbeknownst to her, the maid had already salted the soup, and so she salted it as well. The Rav tasted the soup, winced, and was about to go into the kitchen to tell the Rebbetzin how oversalted it was. The Chofetz Chaim took the Rav’s hand and asked him to finish the soup together with him--”What is the point of making her upset, let her take pleasure in having served us delicious soup!”


D. The following are practical suggestions for Chesed B’Ruchniyus:


1. Try to make sure that not even one day passes without the conscious performance of an act of Chesed.


2. Say a Perek of Tehillim for those who are not well.


3. Learn Mishnayos for Neshamos (especially those who have no known relatives).


4. For one taking a trip together with others--to bring along some additional small Chumashim or Tehillim for the trip, and to prepare some Divrei Torah so that all can perform the Mitzvah of U’V’lechtecha Vaderech.


5. Helping others with Mitzvos--letting them know about Shiurim, pointing out to another that his Tefillin moved out of place, etc.


6. If one is the last one in Shul or in another public place, making sure that all the lights are out and the doors are locked--for safety and to save the Tzibbur’s money. Hakhel Note: How many paper towels does one really need to use outside of the Shul’s restroom or in the Shul’s kitchen?


7. The Chofetz Chaim would place a sign in his Yeshiva on Erev Yom Kippur that a way to make the fast easier was to drink a glass of tea composed of a half a cup of sugar and half a cup of water and tea, and then to drink a regular cup of tea--as sugar helps alleviate weakness from the fast. One should give eitzos to people to help make their lives easier!


E. One should attempt to provide helpful advice to others--especially advice that has worked for oneself. A bachur once went to a Rav and told him that he did not really feel a ta’am in his Tefillos. The Rav told him that he should first try to have Kavannah in short brachos (such as Birchos HaNehenin--having in mind to thank Hashem for providing this need and that need, and so many benefits). He also told him that he should accustom himself to feel that he was talking to Hashem (see Test Question 2 above). With these words, the Rav attempted to provide ‘tried and true’ ways to help the young man advance in Tefillah. 


F. When HaRav Shach, Z’tl, would pass in between benches in the Beis Midrash, he would pick up Seforim to his right and to his left and reshelve them. Others understood from his conduct that Chacham Lev Yikach Mitzvos--one should not let the obvious Mitzvah opportunities get by....


G. The Chofetz Chaim once sent a student of his to be a Ba’al Tefillah for the Yomim Noraim in a town close to Radin which had no Chazzan. The student told the Chofetz Chaim that he preferred to daven in Yeshiva for the Yomim Noraim. The Chofetz Chaim responded that a person is not born to take care of his selfish needs--but to do as much good as he could to others. [This was the determination of the Chofetz Chaim for this particular bochur; one would, of course, have to ask a Shailah on a case-by-case basis.]


H. In his Sefer Ahavas Chesed, the Chofetz Chaim points out that one who has a Gemach of any kind should not feel burdened by the constant phone calls and ‘knocks at the door’. Just as a store owner would not be upset on someone coming to make a purchase or to otherwise inquire as to a particular product--so too, should the person providing his Gemach realize that with every knock, with every call, he fulfills a Mitzvas Asei D’Oraysah.


I. The Alter of Kelm, Z’tl, asks what Nochum Ish Gamzu’s fault was in telling the poor person that he would have to take a moment to alight from his donkey in order to give him some food--after all, what more could he do? He certainly was acting with alacrity! The Alter answers that Nochum realized that he should have had some food more readily available. One should think about others--before they ask!



21 Sivan

NINETEEN WEEKS!  We are now in the sixth of the nineteen week period prior to Rosh Hashana. In past years, we have proceeded weekly, Bracha by Bracha, through Shemone Esrei with a special emphasis on Kavannah on that week’s Bracha. This week’s Bracha is Selicha In this bracha, we ask Hashem for selicha (Selach Lanu) and mechila (Mechal Lanu).  HaRav Yonasan Eibeschutz, Z’tl, explains that selicha refers to the complete extinguishment of the sin, while mechila still requires yissurim.  Accordingly, HaRav Eibeschutz continues, one should sincerely plead for selicha in this bracha--so that his sins are forgiven without having to suffer through difficult yissurim which would cause bitul Torah or Tefillah.  As in the bracha of Hashiveinu discussed last week, we plead with the words Selach Lanu Avinu--asking Hashem as our Father to mercifully wipe away our iniquity entirely so that we can begin our lives again without the hurt of yissurim and with fresh resolve and new dedication.  This bracha contains very powerful requests--and the Kavannah that we have should match the inherent potency of the bracha! We provide by the following link our additional notes to the Nineteen Brachos for the years 5771 and 5772 http://www.hakhel.info/TefillahArchive.html May we highly recommend the Nineteen Week Program again this year--either based upon your own study (such as by utilizing the magnificent Rav Schwab on Prayer, the Tefillah tapes of Rabbi Berel Wein, Shlita, or other wonderful resources), or by utilizing the link provided on a daily basis throughout the week.



BARUCH HAGEVER!  HaRav Chaim Kanievsky, Shlita, importantly explains the apparent redundancy in the Pasuk in Yirmiyah (17:7): “Baruch HaGever Asher Yivtach Bashem--Vehaya Hashem Mivtacho” to mean that the person who believes in Hashem--and that only Hashem can bring any and all Yeshuos--is the person who is blessed!



HOW WE MUST LEARN THE LESSON!: Chazal give the reason that last week’s Parasha, Parashas Beha’alosecha concludes with the Chait of Miriam speaking against Moshe Rabbeinu and Parashas Shelach begins with the Chait of the Meraglim.  It is to teach us that “Reshaim Halalu Ra’u Veloh Lakchu Mussar--these Reshaim saw what happened to Miriam and did not take the Mussar lesson from it.”  HaRav Yeruchem Levovitz, Z’tl, points out that although the key Aveira of the Meraglim was Lashon Hara--it all began to roll downhill for the Meraglim (and for K’lal Yisrael) because they did not take the Mussar that they should have from the event.  It all starts with the proper study of Mussar….


When the colossal Aveira was concluded, it was ultimately one of Lashon Hara.  In order to better perceive and understand the  pervasive and encompassing nature of this Aveira, we provide by the following link -- http://tinyurl.com/22tuarx  -- a one-page listing of the 17 Mitzvohs Lo Sa’aseh, 14 Mitzvohs Aseh, 4 Arurrim--and their applicability to the speaker and the listener.  This chart may serve a person best if placed near a phone, framed near a table or otherwise put in a position where it could otherwise help save a person (especially you!) from a wrong remark once or even several times a day!


Additional Note One: The Chofetz Chaim (Sefer Shemiras HaLashon II, end of Chapter 6) writes that when a person watches his words, he profits continuously--for each time that he wants to speak, he considers for a moment whether what he is about to say is or includes Lashon Hara, Ona’as Devarim, Leitzanus and the like, and he quashes his desire to so speak.  When this happens, in Shomayim it is considered as if he fulfilled a Mitzvah with his actions, as Chazal (Makkos 23B) specifically teach:  “Yashav Adam V’Lo Avar Aveirah Ke’sheh Bah L’Yado, Nosnin Lo Sachar Ke’Oseh Mitzvah--when one has the opportunity to do an aveirah and does not do so, Hashem credits him with having fulfilled a Mitzvah by his inaction!  The Chofetz Chaim concludes:  over the year, by inaction, one will amass several thousand more Mitzvos to his credit!


Additional Note Two: One must certainly take leave of the lesson from Miriam with some real and practical method of improvement. For those who do not yet recite the short Tefillah on Shemiras HaLashon composed by the Chofetz Chaim--we once again provide the Tefillah by the following link  http://tinyurl.com/pvtdjsd  for your recital at the beginning of the day!



CHESED AT ITS FINEST! We continue our short series from the Sefer Kuntres Chaim V’Chesed by HaRav Kolodetsky, Shlita, of Bnei Brak.




A. Chazal (Shabbos 67A) bring that the custom was for someone whose tree was sick and whose fruits were prematurely falling would be for him to hang a red string on the tree, as a sign for all to understand that the tree had a problem. When passersby would see the red string they would then stop and pray for the health of the tree. Similarly Chazal (Mesechta Semachos, Chapter 6) teach that if one had lost an object in Yerushalayim--he would stand in a certain, designated spot in the Beis HaMikdash, so that all who pass-by would give him a bracha that Hashem return the item to him. The Mabit concludes that one who has the ability to daven for another and does not do so can be compared to one who has a storehouse full of grain in a time of famine--and leaves it locked, rather than opening it for others to benefit from its plenty.


B. HaRav Boruch Ber Lebowitz, Z’tl, once said: “When I come to the Olam HaEmes, and they ask me if I have Torah V’Yirah--then if I say I have Torah, the Beis Din Shel Ma’alah will respond--’Is this Torah?’ If I say that I have Yirah--they will say--’Is this considered Yirah?’ However, I will be able to make one legitimate claim--that I have Ahavas Yisrael. When I walk and see a Yid on the street, I have feelings of love and hope that brachos will be heaped upon him!”


C. When one passes by a sign or a notice, or reads an advertisement, relating to someone who needs a refuah or yeshuah, one should take the moment to stop and daven for that person--after all, if someone has gone to the extent of publicizing the situation, the person is probably in a hospital bed attached to different kinds of equipment or taking various serious medications. Most certainly, if one was asked to go to the pharmacy to help a sick person--he would run to do so even if he didn’t know the person. All the more so, when he can help with a Tefillah directly to the Rofeh Cholei Amo Yisrael.


D. Similarly, HaRav Eliyahu Lopian, Z’tl, teaches that when one passes by a hospital or hears an ambulance, one must daven for the sick. HaRav Yecheskel Sarna, Z’tl, adds that if Tehillim was said B’Tzibur for one who was ill, one should remain in Shul until after the Mishabeirach is concluded, in order to answer “Amen!”.


  E. The Tur in Hilchos Brachos brings that in the time of Dovid HaMelech 100 bochurim were dying every day, and so Dovid HaMelech instituted that 100 brachos be recited daily--and the mageifah ended. We are to derive from this that reciting 100 brachos every day with Kavannah is a segulah nifla’ah to annul gezeiros ra’os.



18 Sivan

REMINDER! In tomorrow’s Parasha, we learn much about the importance of the Levi’im. We know that one of their essential avodos in the Beis HaMikdash was their Shir and musical accompaniment. In preparation for the Binyan Beis Hamikdash why isn’t every Levi actively involved in improving his musical talents?



ON THE EIGHTIETH YAHRZEIT OF HARAV YERUCHAM LEVOVITZ, Z’TL:  Today is the Yahrzeit of HaRav Yerucham Levovitz, Z’tl, the renowned Mashgiach of the Mirrer Yeshiva from 1910 until his passing in 1936. His talmidim included HaRav Chaim Shmulevitz, Z’tl, HaRav Dovid Povarsky, Z’tl, HaRav Shlomo Volbe, Z’tl, HaRav Nosson Wachtfogel, Z’tl, and HaRav Shimon Schwab, Z’tl. HaRav Levovitz was known for his great seder—organization. He taught that “if a knot that ties a string of pearls falls apart, the entire necklace falls apart with it—and the pearls are lost!” If a person is organized (or makes himself organized), his Torah study, his Tefillah, and his Mitzvos are performed in a timely manner and with care, and are safely guarded and secured.


HaRav Nosson Wachtfogel, Z’tl, related that when he first met HaRav Levovitz, he studied how the Mashgiach ate a meal--not because he wanted to be rude or intrusive--but simply in order to understand how a Mashgiach treats the entire eating process. For a short while, he was puzzled. There was something that was different about the way the Mashgiach ate, but the young R’ Nosson could not put his finger on it. The physical motions appeared a bit different, but the food did enter the mouth and was swallowed. What was it that the Mashgiach was doing different? Then, it dawned on him--he realized what was singular and special about the manner of eating! When HaRav Levovitz ate, it appeared as if he was not feeding himself--but that a third person was feeding him. It was as if his soul was the party in action-- doing the Chesed of feeding his body, to which it was so connected, and in appreciation of the dedicated lodging provided to the soul in this world.


While we obviously cannot approach the great thought processes and levels of accomplishment inherent in HaRav Levovitz’ daily meals, we should at least from time to time recognize that our act of eating, which to most of the world is unfortunately only a ‘same-action-as-animal’ time, can be lifted to a more exalted plane, simply by putting some thought into what one is doing before and while he is doing it.  The recital of Kepitel 23 before the meal, slow and caring brachos on foods, a dignified rather than ravenous approach, a brief thought as to what you are eating and why, can raise the bar for you and those around you. You may not be a Mashgiach, but you certainly can distinguish yourself as a noble human being!





Today, we conclude our discussion on practical situations which could involve the Melacha of Lisha, or combining substances to form a new mass.  There are two types of possible combinations, which depends upon the thickness and consistency of the mass. 


A.  The first is known as a Belilah Rakah, or a relatively loose mixture.  The Poskim write that a Belilah Rakah is evidenced by the easy pouring of the mixture from one container to another.  In layman’s terms it is not as liquidy as a drink would be, but it is not a thick mixture.  Although a combination of this kind is not Lisha Mid’Oraysa, the Poskim nonetheless require two Shinuyim if one intends to combine such items on Shabbos, as follows:  (1) when mixing the two items, they should be mixed in the reverse order that they would be mixed during the week (if during the week, one would usually put in a liquid item and then put in the solid item and mix the two together, he should switch the order on Shabbos).  Moreover, at whatever stage the liquid is put in (first or second, whatever the opposite of one’s weekday practice would be) it should quickly be poured in all at once--so that the mixture is always a loose one; and (2) the mixing itself should be done with a shinuy (for instance, with a finger instead of with a spoon or a fork, or by merely shaking the objects together in a container, or if a utensil is needed--by mixing only a crisscross motion, taking the utensil out between each horizontal and vertical move)  (Shemiras Shabbos KeHilchasa 8:9). 


B.  A Belilah Avah, or a thick mixture is not generally permissible, but may be created under certain circumstances--where the mixture is necessary for a child, for a sick person, or there is some special need for this food, and one did not prepare it on Erev Shabbos.  In such event, the food could be prepared with the two shinuyim described in the previous paragraph (ibid. 8:11).


C.  If one wanted to mix one Belilah Rakah with another Belilah Rakah, he may do so if the two shinuyim above are met--as the two mixtures together are not deemed to constitute a Belilah Avah (ibid. 8:14).


D.  Very practical situations arise in a Shabbos home relating to Lisha--making a child’s bottle of formula; preparing baby cereal; making salad dressing; mixing chrain, mayonnaise or ketchup with another item, are just a few of the more common examples.  We must remember that if improperly executed, c’v, Lisha is a Melacha D’Oraysa.  Accordingly, the practical weekly situations that arise in mixing substances (whether in the kitchen or at the Shabbos table), should be carefully reviewed with one’s Rav or Posek.  We are careful for ourselves, for our guest and for our children with Bishul, Borer and Tochein--Lisha deserves the very same scruples and attention. 



ON THIS WEEK’S PARASHA:  In this week’s Parasha, Beha’alosecha, we are taught that Aharon HaKohen performed the Hadlakas Haneiros of the Menorah’ ‘KaAsher Tzivah Hashem Es Moshe’ (Bamidbar 8:3) --as Hashem had commanded Moshe Rabbeinu that it should be done. Rashi, quoting the Sifri, writes that this constitutes a praise of Aharon, who did not change or deviate from Moshe’s instructions.  Upon reading this Rashi, everyone asks--I myself wouldn’t change what Moshe Rabbeinu told me that  which Hashem had commanded---why would--how could--the great Aharon do otherwise—why would he even consider such a thing?


We suggest the following:


Aharon HaKohen, although older than Moshe Rabbeinu, and the leader of Bnei Yisrael prior to Moshe coming back from Midyan (See Rashi to Shemos 4:13), initially greeted Moshe upon his return to Mitzrayim with joy of heart (ibid, 14).  However, after two years with his younger brother, Moshe Rabbeinu, as the ultimate leader and in charge of Kriyas Yam Suf and Kabbalas HaTorah, and after finally getting the opportunity to be a leader on his own as the Kohen Gadol, Aharon might have wanted to demonstrate that he was a somebody, too--by lighting the Menorah in some special or distinctive way (which would not even have contradicted any of the specific instructions of Moshe).  Nonetheless, Aharon followed the instructions of Moshe to the letter--without adding, subtracting, modifying or deviating from his word.


There is a great lesson here for us. We may have accustomed ourselves to act and speak properly and/or with patience with a particular person, understanding either that the person has his own idiosyncrasies, or that the person is a close relative, and that peaceful family relations, calmness and breaking one’s middos is of paramount importance. Every once in a while, however, a person may have a feeling that it would be appropriate to ‘let loose’--after all, I have controlled myself dozens, scores, even hundreds of times--now it’s my turn! An infrequent indulgence, a brief ‘lesson’ to him, a rare demonstration of what you are otherwise capable of…. Aharon HaKohen, who was the role model for us in Ohaiv Shalom VeRodeph Shalom--in perfection of human relations—teaches us not to let it happen --even once.


It is interesting to note that the Torah gives us no temporary dispensation for any aveira. One could make the argument that if he was given one day a year to do any and all aveiros that he wanted to for the year to get it out of his system—that he would have 364 days of real control and to greater success in Kiyum HaMitzvos.  Even if all aveiros weren’t permitted—maybe a day without Kashrus or without Lashon Hara restrictions would take care of the animal within him, and allow the vast majority of the year to be celebrated in Ruchniyus. Yet, in fact, the Torah makes no such allowance. Quite to the contrary, the Torah provides for one day a year of greater Ruchniyus--Yom Kippur--to raise our level for the coming year. What a perspective! We are not to look down for the one-time capitulation—but to look up for those special one-time opportunities for growth.


The Torah goes out of its way to praise Aharon HaKohen—not deviating even for a good purpose, a real reason, just that one time….. By doing so, the Torah teaches how we can, and should, follow in his footsteps consistently and at all times in those circumstances, situations, relationships and challenges that give us the good opportunity to do so!



A POTENT LESSON FROM THE PARASHA:  At the end of this week’s Parasha, we learn of the incident of Miriam and Aharon speaking about Moshe Rabbeinu.  It is obviously the time to inspire ourselves in the area of Shemiras HaLashon--for our reading this Parasha now is obviously with great Hashgacha.  Accordingly, we provide a few simple, but important points:


A.  Firstly, it is important for us to review and review again that which we have previously learned. The Sefer Chofetz Chaim (Asei 1), notes at least ten defenses and strong mitigating factors in Miriam’s situation, but concludes that none alone, nor even all together, could save her--and Bnei Yisrael--from their difficult punishment.  The defenses and mitigating factors included:


1.                  Moshe was her younger brother;

2.                  She loved him dearly;

3.                  She actually raised him;

4.                  She endangered her life waiting to see what would happen to him as a baby at the Nile River, and spoke to Paroh’s daughter as to how he could best be saved and raised;

5.                  When speaking of him, it was not in a degrading fashion, as she simply compared him to all other Nevi’im (including herself and Aharon);

6.                  She did not speak in front of him to embarrass him, nor did she speak about him in public;

7.                  Instead, she spoke to her Holy brother, the Kohen Gadol, privately;

8.                  Moshe Rabbeinu was not makpid--i.e., he did not care;

9.                  Her intention was for Kinas HaEmes--for the sake of what was proper; and

10.             Likewise, her intention was for Binyan HaOlam--for Moshe Rabbeinu to have more children.


The Chofetz Chaim concludes that it is for this reason that we have a Mitzvas Asei of the Torah to remember what happened to Miriam--in order to remind ourselves to do our utmost to avoid and greatly distance ourselves from the far baser acts of Lashon Hara which involve no such justifications or defenses.


B.  Lashon Hara can easily arise because one feels that the other party has hurt him physically, emotionally, monetarily, or in some other manner.  One must always remember that one’s offender is not different than Shimi Ben Geira--whom Dovid HaMelech recognized was simply Hashem’s agent, and not the true perpetrator against him.  We should not think and react like dogs--who believe that it is the stick hitting them--while, of course, in truth it is the person holding the stick who is doing so.  Chazal teach that an important Middah is ‘Nosei BeOhl Im Chaveiro--to carry a yoke with one’s friend.’  What yoke are we referring to?  We suggest that the Ohl may be ‘Ohl Malchus Shomayim’--realizing and recognizing that whatever burdens or demands one’s friend is placing upon him--is really Min HaShomayim.  One should thus demonstrate his Ohl Malchus Shomayim--by working with and for, and being especially content and understanding with one’s friend--no matter what the situation, no matter what the circumstance!


C.  An immediate way to rectify an act of Kabbolas Lashon Hara is to reverse the kabbalah by being Dan LeChaf Zechus.  This means that one must change his understanding of the facts, of the words, of the event--so that what had previously been Lashon Hara is redirected to an unpainful and perhaps even positive direction.  If the damage had not yet been done--you can still undo it!


Hakhel Note:  We urge you to make good use of the Chofetz Chaim’s Heritage Foundation’s Shemiras HaLashon Shaila Hotline, in which expert Poskim answer your real-life Shailos relating to Shidduchim, business, neighbor relations, etc.  The phone number is 718-951-3696 between the hours of 9:00 PM to 10:30 PM Eastern Standard Time, and on Sunday mornings from 10:30 am till 12:00 noon, EST.  





A. Sunday (the 20th of Sivan) is the very day, described in Parashas Beha’alosecha, that the 30-day stay at Kivros HaTa’ava 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 Tosafos 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 which we have repeated in the past, and which should trouble us every time we read it:  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 Tosafos 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 HaTa’ava 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 Adam and Chava did not fall prey to the one temptation of the Eitz Hadaas.


B. A reader has made us aware of the following: “The 20th of Sivan is 100 days before Rosh Hashana. It is known that 15th day of Av is 45 days before Rosh Hashana, which is alluded in the Posuk “Ve’ata, Mah (45) Hashem Shoel Mimcha”. However, Chazal say, Al Tikra “Mah” elah “Mei’ah” (100), which is a remez to commence preparation of Rosh Hashana on the 20th day of Sivan!”



17 Sivan

QUESTION OF THE WEEK:  In this week’s Parasha, Moshe Rabbeinu is described as “Anav Me’od MeKol HaAdam” (Bamidbar 12:3)--Moshe was very humble, more than any person on the face of the earth.  In Avos, however, teaches that:  “Me’od, Me’od Hevei Shefal Ruach--one should be very, very humble.  Why was Moshe only very humble, while Chazal implore everyone to be very, very humble? 



COMPOUNDED FOR ETERNITY: This week’s Parasha especially highlights the Mitzvah of Shemiras HaLashon with the ma’aseh of Miriam and Aharon. In the Sefer Shemiras HaLashon, the Chofetz Chaim spends much time pointing out that the Mitzvah of Shemiras HaLashon is found in many Parashios of the Torah. The Chofetz Chaim notes that after 120 years a person will be asked: “Did you observe the Torah?” If he responds in the affirmative, and then is made to review lesson after lesson in Shemiras HaLashon on a Parasha after Parasha basis--he will be more than shame-faced, but shocked and dumbfounded by how unsuccessful his life had been. On the other hand, if in fact one was superbly careful in Shemiras HaLashon--those very same Parashios--Parasha after Parasha after Parasha--will stand in his great stead!


Hakhel Note: The choice is ours--compounded for eternity!



IT’S NOT TOO LATE FOR US!  Although the Internet and cell phones have been years in the running, and many of us realize that we have occasionally overstepped our bounds in the past (whether intentionally, recklessly, negligently, or innocently), we can take all of our negative experiences over the years and rebound from them through our proper actions now.  As we focus on the bracha of Teshuvah this week, we emphasize that Hashem is a Rotzeh BisShuvah.  He anticipates and awaits our corrections and, if necessary, our turn-arounds.  Rabbi Ephraim Wachsman, Shlita, quotes the Satmar Rav, Z”tl, who explained the statement “Shuvu Bonim Shovavim Chutz MeiAcheir--everyone can do Teshuvah except for Acheir” to mean that everyone can do Teshuvah except for someone who considers himself someone else--too far gone--a different person.  Heaven forbid for anyone of us to consider ourselves too far gone--a different person than the person we were before the technology explosion began.  We should learn from a contractor’s dumpster, placed in front of a home that is being renovated.  Perhaps thousands of pounds of rubbish and undesired material are thrown in, and the carting company truck comes and with powerful but sure effort lifts the thousands of pounds up and carts it away.  It is each and every person’s turn to renovate his home!



TANGIBLE EMUNAH:  The Navi (Hosheiah 2:22) brings a touching Pasuk:  “Vieirastich Li BeEmumah VeYada’at Es Hashem…[Hashem says:] I will betroth you to Me with Emunah, and you will know Hashem.”  Rabbi Yosef Eisen, Shlita, brings a fantastic Malbim on this Pasuk.  The Malbim explains that as a result of the Emunah that we demonstrate in this world, we will be zoche to ‘know Hashem’--He will reveal to us signs and wonders, and will cause the Shechina to dwell amongst us, so that we will no longer believe in Hashem, but rather will have a yedi’ah berurah--a tangible knowledge--felt and understood by our senses--of Hashem.  We will no longer have a Kabbalah, a tradition, regarding Hashem’s existence.  Instead, we will have a personal, clear, and direct awareness of His presence at all times.  Let us daven that we need not wait much longer! 



TEFILLAH REMINDERS: We provide the following important reminders relating to Tefillah, as excerpted from the Dirshu Edition of the Mishna Berura:


1.  Whenever reciting the Posuk “Pose’ach Es Yadecha”, one should have in mind that Hashem is the ‘Mashgiach Al Briosav U’Mefarnisam’ (M.B. 51:sk15).  The Dirshu commentary brings from Rabbeinu Bachya that one should recognize the Niflaos HaBorei and his Chassadim when reciting these words.


2.  It is more important to recite Kriyas Shema and Shemone Esrei with Tefillin on than to Daven BeTzibbur without Tefillin (M.B. 66:sk40).


3.  If two Chazzanim are otherwise equal, than a Kohen comes before a Levi, a Levi before a Yisrael, and a Talmid Chochom comes before an Am HaAretz, even if the Am HaAretz is a Kohein (M.B. 53:sk36).


4.  If there is a Machlokes as to who should be the Sheliach Tzibbur, one should not Daven, even if someone who is not haggun will Daven instead (M.B. 581:sk 11).  Hakhel Note: !!


5.  We pronounce the last two words of Yishtabach as ‘Chai HaOlamim’.  The Tosfos Yom Tov (at the end of Masechta Tamid) writes that the word ‘Chai’ means that Hashem not only lives in the world, but He is MeChayeh--He instills life--into all worlds.



PUTTING CHESED INTO PERSPECTIVE: Remarkably, the Rabbeinu Yonah (Sha’arei Teshuvah 3:15) writes that the cheit of not performing Gemilas Chesed is worse than stealing as is demonstrated by the Pasuk (Yecheskel 16:49): “Hinei Zeh Haya Avon Sedom Achoseich…VeYad Ani V’Evyon Lo Hichzikah”. According to Yecheskel--Sedom’s sin was not theft--but rather was not helping those in need. The clear message to us is that just as we daven and learn every day, we must be sure to perform Chesed every day as well. As we learned in last week’s Perek (Avos 1:2) Shimon HaTzaddik teaches that the world stands on three things: Torah, Avodah and Gemilas Chasodim. We daven every morning thereby touching upon Avodah. We then learn for at least a few minutes after davening to fulfill the words of the Shulchan Aruch (Orach Chaim 155). After such a successful beginning to the day--Torah and Avodah, we once again emphasize that it should behoove us as well to perform an act of Chesed before one partakes of breakfast or otherwise gets involved in his regular day-to-day activities. That act of Chesed could simply be a Kepitel Tehillim for one designated person, a special gift of Tzedaka, a short conversation with someone who needs Chizuk or taking care of something for someone else. In order to strengthen our Chesed--in anticipation of the summer months when there is a tendency in the world-at-large to become more self-centered, we will be providing a short series from the Sefer Kuntres Chaim V’Chesed by HaRav Kolodetsky, Shlita, of Bnei Brak.




A. If one has a child in another city who he knows is having some difficulties, he would certainly want someone in that city to assist his child through his situation. Hashem is our Father--and His children are here walking, working and living side-by-side. It gives great Nachas Ruach to Hashem when He sees you trying to quell the distress of another, and certainly when you bring him into a more joyful mood!


B. Hashem did not need to create the world with some in-need and some not in-need. The world exists in this form in order for Chesed to be performed--which in turn will arouse Hashem’s Chesed from the heavens--certainly infinitely greater than the Chesed we provide!


C. When a person comes over to others in the morning with a hearty “Boker Tov/Good Morning!” and a smiling face--especially in his own home--he promotes harmony and happiness among his family and/or among his people, and helps provide a positive direction to the day for others.


D. When one makes it a goal to conduct himself pleasantly and happily with his family, he fulfills a separate Mitzvah of U’MeBesarecha Lo Tisaleim. Accordingly, Chesed to one’s family takes precedence over all other Chesed.


E. When a person gives the bracha of “Shalom” to his friend, he is blessing him with the name of Hashem which is “Shalom” (Gittin 61A, Rashi d’h V’Sho’alin)--enabling the Beis Din Shel Ma’alah to agree to the blessing. Additionally, when a person sees somebody engaged in work or in some other activity--he should give him a bracha of “Titzlach Melachtecha”--or the like. These words of direction were, in fact, given by Hashem to Moshe Rabbeinu when he came to Shomayim to receive the Torah! (Shabbos 89A, Rashi d’h L’Azreini)



16 Sivan

SEU MAROM: When one leaves Shul (or his/her home) in the morning, it is a time of transition, and especially in the summer months in the Northern Hemisphere a time of r’l potential downfall. We accordingly suggest that as one leaves Shul or his home in the morning, he lift his eyes to the heavens, thanking Hashem for His wonders (as the Pasuk teaches (Yeshaya 40:26): “Seu Marom Eineichem U’re’u Mi Vara Eileh”)--and davening to Hashem that his day is a successful one both spiritually and materially!



FROM A MASHGIACH RUCHNI IN ERETZ YISRAEL: “To help further our appreciation of Matan Torah, try and express both at the start and close of your Torah study: ‘I am learning the Toras Hashem and this is Dveikus in HaKadosh Baruch Hu.’ The world at large instinctively attempts to connect and identify with their heroes whom they hope to emulate--we want to fulfill our spiritual selves, and feel close proximity to Hashem. For further study, see Sefer Nefesh HaChaim, Sha’ar Daled, Perek Vav. We may not reach exalted levels with fire swirling over our heads, but it is certainly still worthwhile to constantly alert ourselves that the Torah connects us with Hashem--it is as if we are learning B’Chavrusah with the Borei Olam!”



AHAVA RABBA: It is said that the Ba’al Shem Tov advised the Toldos Yaakov Yosef that it was revealed to him Min HaShomayim that the reason Moshiach was delayed was that K’lal Yisrael was not spending enough time on the Bracha of Ahava Rabba. Let us re-focus and re-energize ourselves on this bracha--if not now--then when?!



LEHODOS LECHA!  In the Bracha before Shema every morning, very close to the end of the bracha and immediately prior to Shema we recite the words “Lehodos Lecha--to offer praiseful thanks to You “(Artscroll translation).  The Magen Avraham (Shulchan Aruch Orach Chaim 60) brings from the Sefer Kavanos that “HaPeh Lo Nivra Rak Lehodos Velo LeDaber Lashon Hora VeZehu Zechiras Ma’aseh Miriam--the mouth was created only to give thanks and not to speak Lashon Hora”--so with these words we remind ourselves --right before our recitation of Kriyas Shema that we are to keep our mouths Lashon Hora free--and use our mouth only for its truly intended, real purpose!  The Chofetz Chaim similarly writes that on Yom Kippur--prior to the Kohen Gadol doing the great Avodos HaYom in the Kodesh HaKodoshim and in the Kodesh--he first had to bring the ketores in the Kodesh HaKodoshim to attain Kapara for Lashon Hora--and only then begin the Avodos HaYom.  The unified message is clear--we must first be clear, very clear about the role of our mouths in our lives--and we can then take the next step on the road to greatness.  As we move towards the Ma’aseh Miriam in Parashas BeHa’alosecha, and its poignant message, let us jump ahead and remind ourselves--Lehodos Lecha!



DEBT COLLECTION, DEFAULTS, AND HALACHA: We are privileged to provide by the following link -- http://www.shtaros.com/4301.html   an outstanding article on Debt Collection, Defaults, and Halacha; A Practical Guide To Hilchos G’vias Chov, By Rabbi Ari Marburger, Shlita, Dayan in Lakewood.  We have permission for our readers to distribute this important article further.



NINETEEN WEEKS! We continue with our focus on the Fifth Bracha of Teshuvah.  We continue with the phrase “VeHachzireinu BiSeshuvah Shleimah Lefanecha--and help us return in complete repentance before You.”  HaRav Chaim Friedlander, Z’tl, notes that the term Hachzireinu is similar to the term HaMachazir in the bracha of HaMachazir Shechinaso L’Tzion.  In both cases, we are asking Hashem to bring something back to where it was originally.  In our Bracha, we acknowledge that we have distanced ourselves from Hashem through sin--and that Teshuvah will bring us back--close to Hashem--to where we were before the chait.  Indeed, the Mabit writes that Teshuvah means: ‘Kreiva LeHashem Mei’richuk Hachait--coming closer to Hashem after having been distanced because of a sin.’  Moreover, we do not ask that Hashem assist us with minimal Teshuvah--which one may do simply to free himself of punishment--but rather we ask Hashem to help us with Teshuvah Shleimah--which is Teshuvah so complete that he will not fall backwards again.  This level of Teshuvah reaches the category of ‘Lefanecha’--i.e., a Teshuvah in which Hashem Himself can testify that a person will not revert to his previous sins.   This is especially powerful for us, for Chazal teach:  ”Habah L’Taheir MeSayin Oso--if one wants to purify himself, he is assisted in doing so.”  With these words of VeHachzireinu BiShuvah Shleimah Lefanecha recited sincerely and meaningfully, we are exclaiming:  ”We want to purify ourselves!”  Hakhel Note:  Rabbosai--Kavannah!



THE TORAH’S VIEW OF YOUR SENSES!  We remind everyone of the following powerful and practical guidance provided by HaRav Moshe Cordovero, Z’tl, in Chapter 2 of the Sefer Tomer Devorah.  The English translation is by Rabbi Dov Fink and Rabbi Shimon Finkelman (Tomer Publications): 


1.  Ears.  One’s ears should always turn to hear good, while false or despicable reports should not enter them at all.  Just as in the essence of Supernal “listening”, any cry for strict judgment or any blemish of evil gossip does not enter there; so, too, one should not listen to anything other than good or of practical use.  To other things, which intensify anger, he should not listen at all.  Just as the  words and speech of the Nachash have no entry Above, so, too, no despicable thing should have any entry in him (in his ears).  This is the meaning of the phrase Lo Sisah Sheima Shav--you shall not accept a false report” (Shemos 23:1).  How much more so, does this apply to other despicable things, which should not enter one’s ears at all; as one should turn his ear only to good things.


2.  Eyes.  One’s eyes should not gaze at all at anything despicable.  Rather, they should always be open to watch over unfortunates and have as much mercy on them as possible.  When one sees the suffering of the poor, he should not close his eyes at all.  Rather, he should give as much thought to their predicament as possible, arousing the mercy of both Heaven and man upon them.  He should distance himself from noticing evil, just like the Supernal Eye which is open, and forever sees only good.


3.  Nose.  Regarding the nose, a breath of wrath should never be found in it.  Rather, it should constantly contain the breath of life, good will and patience, even toward those who are unworthy.  One should always want to fulfill the desire of others, to satisfy every request, and to revive the broken-spirited.  One should always breathe forth from his nose forgiveness of iniquity and pardon of transgression.  One should not be angry with those who offend him; rather, he should constantly be willing to be appeased, and he should be desirous of kindness, pleasing everyone.


4.  Face.   One’s face should always shine, and he should receive all people with a cheerful countenance.  For regarding the Supernal keser, it says, Be’Ohr Pnei Melech Chaim--the light of the King’s countenance is life.” (Mishlei 16:15).  Just as no flush of anger or strict judgment enters there at all; so too, the light of his countenance should be unchanging, and all who look into his face should find nothing but joy and cheerfulness.  No factor should distract him from this at all.


5. Mouth.  One’s mouth should express nothing but good, and the content of his words should be Torah and constant expression of good will.  No despicable words, curses, rage, anger, or frivolous talk should escape his mouth.  Rather, it should resemble the Supernal ‘Mouth’ which is never sealed and never refrains from speaking good at all times.  Therefore, one must not silence himself from speaking well of everyone, expressing good words and blessings constantly.


Hakhel Note:  Perhaps we can print out these guides, and keep them near us throughout the day!



15 Sivan

D’VEIKUS! We have the great ability to connect and establish our deveikus with HaKadosh Baruch Hu through our Tefillos. May we suggest that each of our readers today make a greater effort to daven for everything--from the current turbulent Matzav in the world over, to acting properly towards one’s family and close friends, to reciting brachos in a respectful way, to learning Torah with greater clarity and success….We all know and acknowledge in our minds that everything, every single thing is in the hands of Hashem--why not absolutely and definitively directly express it to our Maker as well?!





A.  The Pasuk (Bamidbar 7:1) teaches:  “Vayehi BeYom Kalos Moshe LeHakim Es HaMishkan--on the day that Moshe Rabbeinu completed the Mishkan….”  Rashi points out that it was Betzalel, Ahaliyav, and the Chachmei Lev who actually effectuated the teachings of Moshe Rabbeinu--but Moshe Rabbeinu is nevertheless credited with the building of the Mishkan, because of his mesiras nefesh in making sure that what he learned from Hashem was properly conveyed to and implemented by those who were performing the work.  Similarly, Rashi (ibid.) points out that the Bais HaMikdash is named as ‘ Beis Dovid’ (Melochim I, 12:16), because of Dovid HaMelech’s great undertakings-- his mesiras nefesh in having the Bais HaMikdash built and completed--even though it did not happen in his lifetime.  We should take a great lesson from this--when we study a Torah topic, we should proceed with real zeal and drive to implement and effectuate that which we have learned--for ourselves and for others.  It is the mesiras nefesh which is necessary to complete the job.  After learning a Halacha which you did not know, or which you know others did not know--what steps will you take to ensure that the new knowledge is properly applied and bears fruits?  What will be your mesiras nefesh to bring the Mitzvah to a new level in your life, and in the lives of others?  We too, can be like Moshe Rabbeinu and like Dovid HaMelech--it is our own personal mesiras nefesh which can get us there! Hakhel Note: The term ‘mesirus’ should not be viewed as connoting that one is giving-up something—but rather that one is giving to the proper cause—reaching one’s purpose and potential in life!


B.  The Karbonos of the Nesi’im described at the end of the Parasha reached such a high level that they were able to each bring a ketores (which does not otherwise exist as a Korban Yachid), and they were even able to bring it on the outer Mizbe’ach, where the ketores is not otherwise brought.  Yet, these were the very same Nesi’im who ‘delayed’ in bringing their donations to the Mishkan.  Now, the Torah seemingly goes out of its way, to provide for us in great detail, the great Kavod afforded to the Nesi’im and their extraordinary Karbonos.  There is an extremely powerful lesson here.  The Nesi’im fell badly in delaying their donations, yet they did not allow themselves to ‘fall by the wayside’ and wait for another, different or later opportunity to pick themselves back up after they had learned their lesson.  Rather, as soon as possible in whatever way they could, they came back to the very Mishkan where they had fallen and glorified it in a manner which is recorded for eternity.  We must always take this lesson to heart as the Yetzer Hara tries to push our recovery to ‘next time’, ‘tomorrow’ or ‘next week’.  The key is to bounce back--as quickly and as powerfully as possible!


C.  By popular request, we provide a thought we had previously published on U’Mafli La’asos. Within the Haftarah of Parashas Naso, the Pasuk states that upon hearing the news from the angel that Shimshon would be born, Manoach brought a Korban.  The Pasuk continues “U’Mafli La’asos--and a wondrous thing happened,” as fire came out of a rock to consume the offering that Manoach had brought (Shoftim 13:19 ).  The Metsudos and other Meforshim there explain that the word Mafli is rooted in the word Peleh--an amazing and phenomenal event had just occurred--something shocking, astonishing and miraculous--fire out of a rock!!  Chazal then remarkably “borrow” this two word phrase “UMafli La’asos,” as the conclusion and climax of the Asher Yotzar Bracha, which we recite several times a day in recognition of Hashem giving us the capability to take care of our needs.  By using this phrase, Chazal may want us to understand that it is the same “Mafli La’asos” that Manoach and his wife witnessed as they saw fire coming out of a rock to consume a Karbon--as we witness every time we successfully take care of our bodily needs.  It is a Peleh--wondrous and extraordinary--like fire out of a rock!


We should not, chas veshalom, have to wait for an occasion when it is difficult or temporarily impossible for us to witness the daily Peleh we experience in ourselves in order for us to appreciate the miracles inherent in the Asher Yotzar.  Each and every time we conclude Asher Yotzar, it should not be with a feeling that we are just about ready to move on to something else….  Rather--it should be with a huge acknowledgment--with a climactic recognition and blissful declaration--”UMAFLI LA’ASOS!



THE BIRTH DATE OF YEHUDA:  Today is the birth day of Yehuda, the son of Yaakov Avinu.  We all know what his mother Leah exclaimed upon his birth--”Hapa’am Odeh Es Hashem (Bereishis 29:35)--this time I will gratefully praise Hashem!”  Rashi comments that Leah expressed this because she knew that she had received more than she was otherwise entitled to.  Today is an especially auspicious day for us to express our humble appreciation and gratitude to Hashem for that which we do not deserve as well.  Thank you Hashem! Thank You Hashem! should be an important hallmark of the day.  Additionally, if you have a moment, the Luach Davar B’Ito suggests that one take the favorable occasion to read the Brachos given to Yehuda in the Torah --in Parashas Vayechi and in Parashas Vezos HaBeracha--perhaps with the prayer that today be a special ‘Eis Ratzon’ for the brachos to take effect!



HALACHOS OF NETILAS YADAYIM:  We provide below several points and pointers relating to the Halachos of a meal--including Netilas Yadayim and HaMotzi, as excerpted from the Mishna Berurah, Dirshu Edition:


A.  If one intends to eat with only one hand, he nevertheless must wash with both hands, as this is the Takanas Chachomim (Chazon Ish, Orach Chaim 23 seif katan 13).


B.  Seltzer is kosher for Netilas Yadayim, because the appearance of the water has not changed, nor has the taste been ruined (S’u’T Ohr L’Tzion 46:4). 


C.  If one initially uses water to clean dirty hands--or even only one finger which is dirty, the water can no longer be used for Netilas Yadayim (Kitzur Shulchan Aruch 40:9).  Similarly, if a dog drank from the water, the Mishna Berurah rules that the water is pasul because it is ma’us.  However, b’sha’as hadechak one can rely on the opinions that permit it (Shulchan Aruch, Orach Chaim 160, Mishna Berurah seif katan 23). 


D.  Vaseline on one’s hand is considered to be a chatzizah and must be removed prior to washing.  Similarly, a clear glue which is otherwise unnoticeable is considered a chatzizah--for it too has substance (Chut HaShanim, Niddah p.279). 


E.  When washing Netilas Yadayim, it is extremely important that one pour at least a revi’is (approximately 3 ounces) at one time on each hand.  This avoids many issues of ‘yadayim temei’im’, and the revi’is, the Mishna Berurah writes then becomes a ‘mikvah metaheres’ for Netilas Yadayim purposes (Orach Chaim 162, Mishna Berurah seif katan 21).


F.  If one cannot wash his hands because he has no water, he can wrap his hands in a towel or cloth.  It is the hands that are wrapped--and not the bread, because if the bread is wrapped we are still concerned that the hands may touch the bread.  It is for this reason that eating the bread with a fork would not help as well (Avnei Yosphei 2:11 , anaf 6).


G.  One should ask a Shailas Chochom if he will be in a situation in which non-frum individuals will be offered bread or other food products, and they will not wash or make brachos upon them.  Even though one may believe that it is mutar for kiruv purposes, and in order to avoid a Chilul Hashem, different facts and circumstances may nevertheless require different responses (see, for example, Igros Moshe, Orach Chaim 5:13; Minchas Shlomo 1:35; and Shevet HaLevi 4:17). 


H.  The Zohar HaKadosh teaches that it is a Mitzvah for a person to daven for his Parnassah every day before eating.  By reciting Mizmor L’Dovid (Tehillim 23) after HaMotzi--one has both prayed for food, and learned Torah at the table (Shulchan Aruch, Orach Chaim 170, Mishna Berurah seif katan 1).  Hakhel Note:  It would certainly seem appropriate to know this chapter of Tehillim very well, as it is a mainstay of the Torah and Tefillah at our meals!


I.  One should cut the bread at the place where it is best baked (hardest), but not the place that it is burnt.  Cutting the bread in the best possible place is, the Mishna Berurah writes, Kavod for the bracha (ibid., 167, Mishna Berurah seif katan 1).  Hakhel Note:  Even when cutting bread--we can have the right Kavanos!  Ashreinu Mah Tov Chelkeinu!


J.  It is appropriate for a person to eat a Kezayis of bread at the time that HaMotzi is made (ibid. Mishna Berurah seif katan 15). 


K.  If one recited HaMotzi, he should not hum a tune before partaking of the bread, but BeDieved if he did, he does not need to make a new bracha (Minchas Yitzchak 7:9 and Shevet HaLevi 5:16).  Likewise, after making HaMotzi, one should not motion with his eyes or snap his fingers--and even answering ‘Amen’ to someone else’s HaMotzi is a matter of dispute.  HaRav Shlomo Zalmen Auerbach, Z’tl, rules that if one answers Amen to the HaMotzi of another, then it is not a hefsek Bedi’eved, but answering ‘Amen’ to any other bracha would be a hefsek (Shemiras Shabbos KeHilchasa 48:7 and footnotes 38-39). 


L.  Unlike other brachos over food, in which one holds the food in his right hand (or left hand, if he is a lefty), when making HaMotzi, he should hold the bread with both hands.  The Shulchan Aruch itself explains that by this his ten fingers are holding the bread, which represents the ten Mitzvos which could be performed in order to prepare bread, and the ten words in various apropos Pesukim, including “Einei Chol Eilecha Yesabeiru” and “VeYitein Lecha”--both relating to one’s Parnassah.  It is no small wonder then that the bracha of HaMotzi itself has ten words! (Shulchan Aruch, Orach Chaim 167:4). 


M.  The Mishna Berurah brings in the name of the Mekubalim that one should dip the piece he made HaMotzi on three times in salt (ibid. seif katan 33). 


N.  Although everyone is familiar with the requirement to feed his animal before he feeds himself, HaRav Moshe Feinstein, Z’tl, adds that one’s young children who cannot take food on their own do indeed come before one’s animals (Igros Moshe 2:52).


O.  If one makes a bracha and then realizes that there may even be a suspicion of the food not being permissible--he should not eat it even though he will have made a bracha levatalah--for it is forbidden for one to eat something that may be prohibited in order to save himself from a bracha levatalah.  However, if one made a bracha on a dairy product and it was more than four hours after he ate meat, he should eat a little bit of the dairy product to avoid the bracha levatalah, and rely on those who rule that four hours is a sufficient time period to wait between milk and meat.  The same would be true if one made a bracha on pas akum by mistake--he should eat a little bit, even though he is machmir the rest of the year (Shevet HaLevi 1: 205 and note to 206).


P.  A Ba’al HaBayis takes precedence even over a Kohen in making HaMotzi, because he will hand out the bread “BeAyin Yafeh--with a good eye” (Shulchan Aruch 167, Mishna Berurah seif katan 73).  Nevertheless, the Ba’al HaBayis should give the first piece of bread to the Kohen (ibid. 128, Mishna Berurah seif katan 175).


Q.  If there is no Ba’al HaBayis or Kohen present, it is appropriate to allow a Levi to recite the HaMotzi or lead Birkas HaMazon, if the Levi is equal to the Yisraelim present in Torah knowledge (ibid. 201, Mishna Berurah seif katan 13).


R.  The Rema writes that when one is being Motzi others, he states:  “B’Reshus Morai V’Rabosai” (ibid. 167, Mishna Berurah seif katan 14).


S.  An adult can make a bracha with the child of another (i.e., even not his own child), if they do not know how to make a bracha on their own--and even if the adult will not be eating (ibid. 167, Mishna Berurah seif katan 73).


T.  The Shelah HaKadosh writes that one should leave a little bit of bread from his HaMotzi to eat at the end of his meal so that he is left with the taste of the ‘HaMotzi’ in his mouth (ibid. 167, Mishna Berurah seif katan 97).  Hakhel Note:  On Pesach there is the taste of the Afikoman, the rest of the year there is the taste of the HaMotzi.  What a great lesson!  For the Torah Jew--the taste we are to be left with--is the taste of Mitzvos!



14 Sivan

NINETEEN WEEKS!  We are now in the fifth of the nineteen week period prior to Rosh Hashana. In past years, we have proceeded weekly, Bracha by Bracha, through Shemone Esrei with a special emphasis on Kavannah on that week’s Bracha.  This week’s Bracha is Teshuva.  How fortunate we are that we think of Teshuva every day --at least three times a day--and that we can actually ASK FOR HASHEM’S ASSISTANCE in doing Teshuva!  The Sefer Olas Tomid notes that both in this bracha and in the next bracha of Selach Lonu-we approach Hashem as Avinu--asking for that extra level of mercy that a Father can grant.  Accordingly, we should be sure not to skip over the words quickly--but instead stop and recite the bracha with the kavannah that it deserves!  Rebbi Yonasan Eibeschutz, Z’tl, in the Sefer Ya’aros Devash writes that when reciting this bracha, a person should ask Hashem to extend His hand--His sharvit hazahav to accept one’s Teshuva, and plead that even if one’s Teshuva is tested, Hashem will assist him the second time as well.  The Ya’aros Devash adds the Teshuva we are being mispallel for is not only our own--but that of all of K’lal Yisrael.  Let us think of our brethren--relatives and friends and those across the globe who have to be brought closer to Avinu--our Father--each in his own way. We provide by the following link our additional notes to the Nineteen Brachos for the years 5771 and 5772 http://www.hakhel.info/TefillahArchive.html May we highly recommend the Nineteen Week Program again this year--either based upon your own study (such as by utilizing the magnificent Rav Schwab on Prayer or another similar work), or by utilizing the link provided on a daily basis throughout the week. 


Additional Note: It is no coincidence, at it never is, that the Mitzvah of Vidui was found in last week’s Parasha. Let us implement last week’s Parasha in a measurable way this week! 



YOU’RE NOT GETTING OLDER YOU’RE GETTING BETTER! Rabbi David Ashear’s Emuna daily messages thrive and inspire. After hundreds of messages already recorded (which can be accessed), Rabbi Ashear continues to provide wonderful and meaningful essential Emuna lessons on a daily basis. To join and for further information contact:  emunadaily@gmail.com.  The recording is available via telephone as well:  Dial (605) 475-4799, access code 840886#.



BETWEEN SHAVUOS AND ROSH HASHANA: We are in the period between Shavuos and Rosh Hashana, which is our next Yom Tov, pending the Bais HaMikdash being rebuilt.  Fascinatingly, the Torah, in the Parashas HaMoadim (in Emor 23:22) presents the following singular Pasuk as the bridge Pasuk between Shavuos and Rosh Hashana:  “U’Vekutzrechem Es Ketzir Artzechem…LeAni VeLaGer Ta’azov Osam, Ani Hashem Elokeichem--when you reap the harvest…for the poor and the Ger shall you leave them, I am Hashem your G-d.”  Rashi (ibid.) brings Chazal who explain that the reason this Pasuk (which seemingly related to charity) is precisely placed here in the Parashas HaMoadim is to teach that if one gives gifts to the poor properly, it is considered as if he himself had built the Bais HaMikdash and brought Karbanos in it--he has in a sense made his own Mo’ed!  Let us take this great lesson from Chazal--and ensure that this period between Shavuos and Rosh Hashana is marked by proper Tzedaka giving--so that we will in all events build our own Bais HaMikdash and brought our Karbanos--well in advance of Rosh Hashana!



ON THE YAHRZEIT OF HARAV CHAIM VOLOZHINER: Today is the Yahrzeit of HaRav Chaim Volozhiner, Z’tl, the awesome founder of Yeshivas Volozhin, and Mechaber of the classic Sefer Nefesh HaChaim, among other works.  In honor of HaRav Chaim, we present several of his teachings below:


1.  A person must always know and appreciate that his deeds are not ‘shefalim’--low and unimportant.  Rather, every part of one’s life is consequential and important in this world and to this world, and has far-reaching consequences in the heavenly spheres as well.  A person is not ‘a world onto himself’ only in an allegorical sense-but in a literal way.  His heart, as the source and place of his thought, is the Kodesh HaKodoshim--the epicenter of his world, which acts in tandem with all of the other worlds around him.  Accordingly, if one allows anger or desire to enter his being even temporarily--it is as if he is, c’v, setting a fire, albeit only temporarily, in the center of his world--in the Holy of Holies.  On the other hand, of course, performance of Mitzvos and Ma’asim Tovim bring unimaginable (because it is not physical) Kedusha into oneself, which is his world at large--and actually raises the level of Kedusha of the heavens!  Indeed, even the Malochim benefit from a person’s proper actions through a ‘Tosefes Kedusha Ahl Kedushasom’-- their Kedusha actually becomes increased as well.  It is especially appropriate for a person to have in mind when learning Torah or performing a mitzvah that he intends to bring Kedusha into himself and into all worlds through his actions.  This teaching may not appear to be very light--but it is very real!


2.  Following from the previous point:  Some raise themselves up when reciting Kedusha.  The reason for this may be that one is in effect demonstrating that he is connecting to the upper worlds, and raising their level of Kedusha (which they themselves cannot do)--by and through his earthly words and actions of Kedusha!


3.  Through the recitation of Perek Shira, one enables the Malochim and the Sarim of these creatures to sing their respective Shiros, and these heavenly beings are thereby enabled to continue influencing the lives and continued existence of each of the creatures they were created to represent.  Hakhel Note:  It is perhaps for this reason that the Torah teaches us that the animals will fear us--for they may especially recognize that their survival is dependent on our actions!


4.  Chazal do not teach that everyone has a part “BaOlam” Haba--but rather “LaOlam” Haba.  BaOlam Haba would indicate that there is a set and designated place which one goes to if he earns it.  That is not the case, however.  One’s Olam Haba is ‘Ma’aseh Yedei Adam Atzmo’--the handiwork of the person himself--who actually constructs his own personalized Olam Haba through the quantity and quality of his individual and specific Ma’asim Tovim.


5.  Conversely, when one sins he creates a Ruach Hatumah which one does not sense but remains present with him until the aveira is completed.  If one does not undo what he has done in his lifetime, the Ruchos Hatumah will be fully sensed upon death, and their envelopment of him will be real punishment.  These Ruchos Hatumah will not exist eternally, however--whereas the Kedusha created by Ma’asim Tovim will benefit the person forever and ever.


6.  The word “Baruch” at the outset of a bracha is translated by many as a word of tribute or praise.  The word actually means ‘Tosefes Ve’ribui’--addition and increase.  Through our bracha, we express our awareness and appreciation that Hashem is the ultimate source of all influence and the absolute cause of all existence in all worlds. We do not understand His limitless powers or His infinite strength--but we know enough to recognize that the item or event upon which we are reciting the bracha emanates only from His utter graciousness and goodness to us.  Through our proper expression and recognition of this, we can hopefully bring more shefa--more of His Divine Influence into the world around us.


7.  When Chazal teach that Moshe Rabbeinu (Bamidbar 11:2, as explained in Brachos 31B), or Eliyahu, or Chana cast words ‘against the heavens’ when they davened to Hashem for a Yeshua--it does not mean that they complained or were even perplexed by Hashem’s actions.  Rather, it means that they davened to Hashem not out of concern for their own tza’ar-- but ‘against the heavens’--out of concern for the tza’ar of the Shechina which was suffering along with them.  One must look beyond himself when davening to the much broader picture of all that he is really davening for.  Moreover, one is mechuyav--obligated to find eitzos as to how he can fight the ‘Milchemes Mitzvah’ of having Kavannah while davening.  Our Tefillos take the place of Karbanos--the effectiveness of which were wholly dependent on the Kohen’s thoughts.  Through his thoughts--the Korban could become permanently disqualified as ‘pigul’--or rise-up gracefully as a ‘Reiach Nichoach’. We must also remember that each one of our Tefillos constitutes its own stand-alone Korban--creating its own benefits and tikunim which had previously not been brought into the world from the time of the institution of Tefillah --and will never be replicated again in the future.  Accordingly, we should treasure each irreplaceable Tefillah for what it really, truly is--something that is ‘Omed B’rumo Shel Olam--standing at the height of the world’--ready and able to bring holiness and light into the world through the proper recitation of its purified and refined words!


8.  As provided in the past, the following link http://www.hakhel.info/archivesPublicService/SegulahGedolah.pdf

is one of his most famous writings in the Sefer Nefesh HaChaim--a Segula Gedolah VeNifla’ah on the topic of Ain Od Milevado.  Try to go through the day today with a special emphasis on everything happening around you based only in Ain Od Milevado--it is all Hashem’s Will and no one else’s; no other consideration, no other force--not an army, not a dictator, not a pronouncement, not a decree is of any independent meaning or consequence!



11 Sivan

WILL YOU BRING A KARBON TODAY?  If the Bais HaMikdash is rebuilt, then one certainly would hope to!  We add, however, that there is still something we can attempt today--even without a Bais HaMikdash standing.  The Rema (Shulchan Aruch, Orach Chaim 167:5) writes as follows:  “It is a Mitzvah to bring salt to the table before one makes Hamotzi, because the table is like a Mizbe’ach and eating is like consuming a Karbon--and the Torah teaches that we should put salt on all of our Karbanos.”  The Mishna Berurah (ibid., seif katan 31) explains that the reason ‘eating is like consuming a Karbon’ is because a person eats to strengthen himself in order to be healthy and strong to serve Hashem.  We can well understand, then, why many have the custom of reciting the words:  “Hineni Rotzeh Le’echol V’Lishtos Kedei She’eheyeh Bari VeChazak LeAvodas Hashem Yisborach--I am about to eat and drink in order to be healthy and strong for the service of Hashem Yisborach.”(See also Shulchan Aruch, Orach Chaim 231, Mishna Berurah, seif katan 5 in which this exact nusach is brought)  Hakhel Note:  Remember--Achilah KeKarbon--today and every day!


We continue today enveloped in the Shivas Yemai Tashlumin--the Seven Days immediately succeeding Shavuos during which Korbonos which were not offered on Shavuos could still be brought before Hashem.  We must not lose sight of the fact that this period is especially charged now, as well.  Just because the Bais HaMikdash is not here, does not mean that the extra-special level of holiness imbued within these Days is not tangible and real.  If someone is in the hospital, it does not mean that the world does not continue to exist around him--his sense of reality is only temporarily distorted.  So too with us, while our immediate situation in Galus may not be normal, the sanctity of the Days we are in--in the true world around us--must be especially appreciated.  To mark these days, many communities do not recite Tachanun.  Whether or not one is a member of these communities (and perhaps especially if one is), one should elevate these days by choosing one item in Torah or Avoda and making it your week’s special project.



B’KOL! At the end of the first Perek of Mesechta Avos, the classic Mishnayos commentary Tiferes Yisrael provides general Kelalim for Hatzlacha in Torah study. One of the very important points he makes is that Kol--studying aloud causes foreign, side-tracking thoughts to disperse--focusing oneself entirely on the Torah before him.  Moreover, adds the Tiferes Yisrael, learning aloud makes a special Roshem B’Nefesh--which causes one to better remember his learning as well!


Additional Note:  The Mincha Chadasha  learns that because the Mishna (Avos 1:2) teaches that the world stands on three pillars--Torah, Avodah and Gemilas Chasodim--one should therefore try to accomplish all three as soon as possible every morning to do his/her part in keeping the world going!  One’s ‘Avodah’ can be accomplished by his/her Avodah of the heart--i.e., davening, the pillar of ‘Torah’ is accomplished by especially learning even if only for a few moments before or after davening--and the pillar of Chesed can be performed by making sure to perform some act of Chesed (for an individual or if you are in Shul for the Tzibbur) before you leave your ‘davening time’ or otherwise start your day.  Avos teaches us at its very outset that each and every person should keep the world going --and we can all easily do our part as we start the day ahead of us!



OBSERVATION!   In this week’s Parasha we find Mitzvah 364, the Mitzvah of Vidui--verbally confessing to Hashem that one has sinned. The Chidushei Harim points out that the Mitzvah of Vidui is found in the Parasha in the course of discussing a stolen item (Vehisvadu Es Chatasam--Bamidbar 5:7) because whatever the sin might be--when one sins he is stealing--stealing Hashem’s aspirations of him, and stealing from his own potential!  The Sefer HaChinuch writes that Vidui is a separate requirement in the Teshuvah process because through orally admitting his sin, one demonstrates that he believes that Hashem knows all of his thoughts and actions and one cannot hide from Hashem, or even pretend that Hashem does not see him. Additionally, when one verbally expresses his sin and his remorse, it will aid him to not return to his previous misdeeds. We are now less than four months…to Yom Kippur! If we know of a sin that we have committed, why wait until then, when we can purify ourselves today. Most certainly, whenever we realize we have sinned (whether it be Bein Adam LaMakom or Bein Adam LeChaveiro)--the order of the day…and the order of the hour should be the immediate Vidui!





A.  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 Motza’ei 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.


B. One practical, easy and important post-Shavuos recommendation is to think about the Ma’amad Har Sinai --in which we unfathomably ‘heard’ the lightening and ‘saw’ the thunder, the unrelenting Shofar blast, the literal shaking of the hills and mountains, the fearful and wondrous awe, the stillness of creation, the fire pillaring from Har Sinai into the heights of heaven--all so that we would forever realize and appreciate the moment of Hashem revealing Himself to man in this world--and the incomparable gift and inestimable privilege we thereby received forever.  Every morning--no matter how tired we are, how many things we have on our head, how much we have to do in the morning alone, and even if we are terribly late--we must remember that those few short moments of Birchos HaTorah are the moments that we have to testify that we realize that we are a precious and irreplaceable part of the most valuable chain that the world has ever known--conveying Hashem’s personal and direct message as to the purpose of man and the meaning of life.  We owe it to ourselves to treasure these few moments, in great appreciation and thanks, as we visualize the event, and dedicate ourselves to Torah and Mitzvos in the day ahead in a manner befitting the grandeur and glory--and sheer unparalleled importance--of the most precious of heavenly possessions that was gifted to us then--and is gifted to us anew every single day!


C.  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. [Please recall our point yesterday--that both Boaz and Rus were described in the Megillah with this term--Chayil!] 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.  Moreover, the number 48 (Mem Ches) spells Mo’ach, indicating the necessity of seriously putting one’s entire 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 than...


D.  As we approach the first Shabbos away from Shavuos, we note that the Parashas HaShavua is Parashas Naso.  Among other mitzvos, the Parasha contains some enormous lessons on why and how to control the Yetzer Hara, 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 Parasha is almost always read on the Shabbos after Shavuos, and that it is the longest Parasha in the Torah.  Part of the reason it is the longest Parasha is that each of the 12 Nesseim’s private donations to the Mishkan is separately detailed, notwithstanding that the donations 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 Midrash teaches that behind the otherwise identical and seemingly (c’v) 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 Parasha with Rashi weekly, or the thousands who learn two Halachos of Shemiras HaLashon every day, or part of the 15 people attending a local Daf Yomi shiur, there really is a difference, because the manner of study of no two are the same--and we need each and every one of them!  My Torah Study, your Torah Study, his Torah Study--it is all essential for oneself, and for K’lal Yisrael!


E.  HaRav Matisyahu Salomon, Shlita, [Matisyahu Chaim Ben Ettel, may he have a Refuah Sheleimah Bekarov] explains why the particularly moving Niggun for Mussar is different than the tune that we otherwise use when studying.  The Niggun for Mussar is intended to especially penetrate into one’s heart so that the Yiras Shomayim is deeply implanted there.  The Yiras Shomayim generated then serves to open one’s heart to his Torah studies. 


F.  The Yiras Shomayim so necessary for learning by no means detracts from the Simcha we are to experience over Torah Study--as the privilege of eternity. As we have recommended in the past, a wonderful way to inspire one’s learning Torah B’Simcha is to recite or sing the words “Ashreinu Mah Tov Chelkenu U’Mah Na’im Goraleinu--how fortunate is our portion, how fortunate is our lot!”--with sincerity and feeling, before beginning to learn!





A.  On Erev Shabbos, one of the most common aspects of preparation for Shabbos is cleansing oneself Lekavod Shabbos--as the Shulchan Aruch (Orach Chaim 260:1) writes:  “It is a Mitzvah (Shabbos 25B) to wash oneself with warm water [the Rema adds one’s entire body, and if one cannot, then his face, hands and legs], and it is also a Mitzvah (Shabbos 31A) to shampoo one’s head as well.”  When taking a shower on Erev Shabbos, there are several items that one can remember which would help to distinguish the shower of a Torah Jew--from the shower of others, and even of animals who find ways of cleaning themselves.  Beyond the Mitzvah of Kavod Shabbos, any time one takes a shower or bath, one is taking good care of his Tzelem Elokim--and is thus demonstrating Kavod Shomayim as well.  Moreover, one showering or bathing should remember his Ruchniyus in other areas as well:  (1) As the Mishna Berurah (Shulchan Aruch, Orach Chaim 2, seif katan 7) writes, one washes his head first as the melech or king of the other limbs of the body, and then his right side first, as the side that is more chashuv;  (2) One should appreciate the ability to become clean, and the pleasure of feeling clean--which are great gifts; (3) One should remember that just as we wash our bodies, we must cleanse our souls--as we should use the lessons of Olam Hazeh for everlasting purposes.  Indeed, the Sefer Tomer Devorah in commenting on the Pasuk Ki Imcha HaSelicha teaches that [with our Teshuvah] Hashem Himself washes away the filth of our sins; (4) It is a wonderful time for Hisbodedus--and need not as a matter of course and habit be frittered away with ‘waste of time’ thoughts.  Indeed, as we have noted in the past, HaRav Scheinberg, Z’tl, would urge his students to think Torah thoughts while taking a shower (if the shower room is clean), rather than allowing important time every day get wasted away.  If one thinks about it, 10 or some minutes a say in the shower amounts to approximately an hour a week--more than 50 hours (or two full days) a year!  Yes, to the Torah Jew--even a shower can and should be a Torah experience!


B.  We continue to discuss practical situations which could involve the Melacha of Lisha, or combining substances to form a new mass: 


1.  If combining the two items together simply results in a complete liquid, then it is considered to be a davar hanozel--a liquid substance, which is not a solid mass at all.  Accordingly, one can mix two drinks together. 


2. When one takes a drink while food is still in his mouth, the combination of the solid and liquid within the mouth is considered to be derech achilah--in the course of eating, and not a Lisha issue. Note:  There was a gum produced several years ago in which the object of the gum was to produce a type of Lisha in the mouth through its combination with one’s saliva.  The gum, which was especially produced in this way for this reason, did raise a Lisha MiD’oraysah issue according to some Poskim. 


3.  Although Borer and perhaps Tochen are permitted close to the Seudah, the Shemiras Shabbos K’Hilchasa (8:2) rules that there is no such Heter relating to Lisha. Thus, it would be prohibited to mix honey and cheese together, even if one intends to serve the mixture immediately.  (ibid., 8:16)


4.  It is permitted to mix cinnamon together with rice to make the food tastier--for this is not a new combination but just a better tasting rice dish. This is considered to just be only a tikun ochel--an improvement to the original food. (ibid., 8:25)


5.  If one had previously cooked potatoes and mashed them (mashed potatoes), one can pour gravy on them and mix the gravy with the potatoes--as this will have the effect of softening the mixture rather than turning it into a new mass, provided that one does so le’at, le’at--in small quantities at a time, so as to clearly distinguish it from an act of Lisha [one should consult with his Rav or Posek as to what a small quantity would be considered in this context]. (ibid, 8:24)





A.  Rebbi Tzadok HaKohen, Z’tl, asks a simple but perplexing question.  Why is it that in the Torah She’Bichsav, in the written Torah, the Parasha of Sotah is placed before the Parasha of Nazir, but that in the Torah She’b’al Peh, Mesechta Nazir precedes Mesechta Sotah--why the juxtaposition?  He beautifully answers that the written Torah teaches us that we must realize that the events that we witness or experience have occurred in front of (or to) us because of Hashgacha Pratis--with Hashem especially placing them there for us to learn from--because we simply need the lesson.  If someone sees the sad and difficult Sotah procedure--it will leave a real impact upon him, and he will learn to better quash and regulate his own desires going forward.  The Torah She’b’al Peh, however, which places the Nazir ahead of the Sotah teaches us that while indeed we must learn from the events around us--it is truly better to be in control before the event even happens--be a Nazir, so that you don’t have to get to the step in which Hashem must show you the Sotah to learn from.  In fact, this is what Chazal often look to accomplish with their Gezairos and Takanos--avoiding the temptation and keeping that extra step away from the Yetzer Hara’s stretching grasp.  Of course, it is our sacred duty to learn from our experiences, because it demonstrates our Bitachon in Hashem’s watchful eye and guiding hand --but it would be better yet if we taught ourselves the personal lessons we need to be successful in our own lives.  As Hillel teaches in Avos ( 1:14 )--”If I am not for myself--who is for me?!”  before taking that extra helping at the smorgasbord, before engaging in an extra indulgence or purchasing that item that you “really don’t need”--remember that Chazal recommend that you put yourself first--the Nazir staying one step ahead of the Sotah!


B.  Chazal teach that if a person undertakes to be a Nazir and does not provide a time frame for his nezirus--then “Stam Nezirus, Sheloshim Yom--a standard Nezirus is 30 days”.  After spending much effort in contemplating the source of this Halacha, Chazal conclude that the source is the term ‘ Kodosh Yiheye--he shall be holy’ (Bamidbar 6:5)--in which the gematria of ‘Yiheye--he shall be’ is 30.  How long ‘shall he be’ a Nazir unless he specifies otherwise--30 days.  The Chofetz Chaim points to how precious one word of Torah is--the mere numerical value of a word comprised of only four letters teaches us the laws of Nazir for all of time!  We must accordingly take and treat each and every word of Torah with the utmost consideration and regard--each and every word is a spiritual atom from which great kedusha can be infused and processed into our lives and being.  Look at a single word of Torah--think about it and contemplate it--there is absolutely nothing that can compare! 


C.  There is a wonderful lesson learned from the fact that Birkas Kohanim was first recited in the desert --before Aharon and his sons received Terumos, Bikkurim and the like as the Matanos Kehuna.  If they would have already been receiving these gifts, then in blessing the people they would also be blessing themselves--for when the people had more bounty, so would they.  This is not the optimum way of giving a bracha--blessing someone else with one’s own interests in mind as well.  Rather, the Torah teaches--when giving a bracha give it with a full and selfless heart--focusing exclusively and entirely on what is best for the recipient of the bracha, and not regarding for the moment how you could ‘also’ benefit from the very same blessing.  Be effusive in your bracha--but also make sure to make it wholesome, untainted and pure!





A.     The Mishna in Sotah (37B) provides a list of differences between the Birkas Kohanim as we know it today and the Birkas Kohanim in its pristine form in the Bais Hamikdash:


  1.  Outside of the Mikdash, they are three separate Brachos--whereas in the Bayis it is one uninterrupted bracha.


  2.  Outside of the Mikdash, the Shem Hashem is pronounced in the same manner as when we make all other brachos, whereas in the Mikdash the Ineffable Shem is used.


  3.  Outside of the Mikdash, Kohanim lift their hands to shoulder height, whereas in the Mikdash the hands are raised above their heads with the Shechinah above their fingers.


 Thus, even what we can do now will simply be performed on a more sublime and supernal level when the Bais Hamikdash returns.  We have much to look forward to!


B. The first word of Birkas Kohanim is Yevarechecha, which Rashi (quoting the Midrash) explains as referring to monetary blessing. As a primary matter, we must remember the Source of even all of our physical and worldly blessings. This very same bracha ends with VeYishmirecha--it is one thing to have a bracha--it is another thing to have it safeguarded and preserved. We must remember that this too comes from Hashem--and only from Hashem!


C. Finally, Rashi emphasizes that the word Emor--tell the Kohanim to give the bracha is spelled maleih--with a vav. This teaches that the bracha should not be given quickly and in haste--but B’Kavannah U’V’Lev Shaleim--with feeling and a complete heart. Oh, how we should remember these words when we give a bracha!



ONE FINAL POINT ON THE PARASHA.  In carefully following the Kriyas HaTorah, one may have recognized that the Nasi of Shevet Gad was Elyasaf ben Deu’el (Bamidbar 7:42).  Elsewhere, the Torah refers to his father’s name not as Deu’el, but as Reu’el (Bamidbar 2:14)--with the Raish and Daleth being interchanged.  If one follows this Raish-Daleth interchange elsewhere--then what word would one discover within the word Torah?  Todah—Thanks--for ultimately the Torah teaches us the great Thanks we owe to Hashem for each and every moment of opportunity in our lives--and for the Torah itself which guides us through each and every step of the way!



10 Sivan

NINETEEN WEEKS! As we forge through the Fourth Week of our Nineteen Weeks of Shemone Esrei Improvement, we focus on the fourth bracha of Atta Chonein. By the following link, we provide a wonderful review (in Hebrew) of the powerful fourth bracha by Rabbi Ronen Shaharabani, Shlita. http://tinyurl.com/j6xkoff





A.  The Bracha of Ahavas Olam is especially significant in that it movingly begins by describing Hashem’s love for us in giving us the Torah and the Mitzvos.  It continues by us, in turn, expressing our dedication to Torah as we exclaim:  “Ki Heim Chayeinu V’Orech Yameinu U’Vahem Ne’hegeh Yomam Valaylah--for they [Torah and Mitzvos] are our life and length of our days….  Because of the significance of this Bracha, HaRav Matisyahu Salomon, Shlita, gives a phrase-by-phrase explanation of it in his Sefer Matnas Chelko.  One important post-Shavuos Kabbalah (bli neder) would be to recite Ahavas Olam with feeling--no matter how tired or rushed one may be.  A Hiddur Mitzvah would certainly be to convince the Ma’ariv Minyan at which he davens at to do likewise--rather than rush through this beautiful bracha to get to Shema.  How many times a day do we have the opportunity to formally declare together with other members of K’lal Yisrael “Ki Heim Chayeinu”?!


B.  We had previously discussed the concept of Shavuos being only one day, to emphasize the importance of even one day of Torah study. A mashal provided by Rav Yaakov Neiman, Z’tl, in the Sefer Darchei Mussar, further enlightens us on the concept of Shavuos being one day.  Before navigation systems (and even street lights) were invented, a Jew once 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. Shavuos provides us with that incredible short-term illumination that was needed. 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!


C.  At a recent Hakhel Shiur,  Rabbi Jonathan Rietti, Shlita, beautifully explained what he believed to be Rebbi Akiva’s greatest legacy to us:  Looking back, what was it that turned around Rebbi Akiva’s life from being an am ha’aretz who ‘wanted to bite Talmidei Chachomim’ to a Talmid Chochom of such massive and world-changing proportions.   Rabbi Rietti teaches that when Rebbi Akiva saw the water dripping on the rock, and the cavity that had been dug by the drips, he came to the great realization that every drop--every single drop--made a perhaps unnoticeable--but real difference.  No drop was insignificant.  Although one could not tell what any particular drop had accomplished, nor the difference between one drop and another--it was clear that without every single drop, the large hole in that mighty rock would not have been carved out.  As a result of what he saw and understood, Chazal teach:  “MiYad Chazar Lilmod Torah--he immediately decided to leave his status as an am ha’aretz and go to study Torah.”  From the powerful sight and through his powerful vision, Rebbi Akiva understood for himself and taught the world forever after that every effort makes a difference--and that $1 million is not a gross number--but one million times one.  While a person in a real depression would say that nothing he ever does makes a difference, that nothing he ever does counts--Rebbi Akiva understood that to be the opposite of the real truth--for it all counts.  One should never, ever give up--for there is no such thing as a wasted smile, a wasted good word, or a wasted effort.  As we take leave of the Sefira period and will soon even conclude the Shivas Yemei Tashlumin after Shavuos--let us remember this great teaching of Rebbi Akiva--and drive ourselves forward with every additional Pasuk, every additional Mishna, every additional Dvar Torah, so that we can reach the depths of the wonderful and powerful natural spring within us--drop by drop by drop! 



MEGILAS RUS--PRACTICAL POINTS AND POINTERS: How can one not be overawed by the tremendous lessons contained in the short Megilah known as Megilas Rus? In only 85 Pesukim, one can glean so many practical and vibrant lessons. We provide below 15 short thoughts. We encourage our readers to make their own list of teachings and share them with us, for there are oh, so many! We note that we read Rus in public on Shavuos after having read Shir HaShirim on Pesach. Perhaps if we can take and apply that which we have learned--we will prevent the need for the next Megilah reading which would have otherwise been Eicha on Tisha B’Av.


1. Why does the Moshiach need to come from two unions which are so similar to Yibum: Yehuda and Tamar beget Peretz and Boaz and Rus beget Oved? HaRav Mattisyahu Salomon, Shlita, brings from the Chasid Ya’avitz that the Geulah will come from simple Chesed performed to family members. When Hashem sees Chesed performed because of one’s feelings of closeness and not necessarily based on another’s merits, Hashem too will provide His Chesed to us not based upon our zechusim--but based upon His feeling of closeness to us. The act of Yibum is the epitome of this kind of familial Chesed---when one knows that the progeny born will be attributed to the deceased, and is accordingly a selfless act of the one performing the Yibum on behalf of a family member.


2. Chazal teach that the name Rus was appropriate, for her descendant would be Dovid HaMelech who would provide so many Shiros V’Sishbachos to Hashem. We see two things. Firstly that one’s purpose in life, which is symbolized by his name can be fulfilled generations later, and secondly that the great accomplishment of Dovid HaMelech was his Shiros V’Sishbachos to Hashem.


3. What a difficult beginning Rus had--her husband passing away; leaving her native land penniless; accompanying an elderly woman who was also penniless and bereft of her family; starting off in a new land taking charity. Yet, there was never any inkling of despair at any point--only courage and determination. All beginnings are difficult. It is the end that counts.


4. Chesed pervades Megilas Rus. All of the Chesed that Rus performed to Na’ami and the Chesed that Na’ami performed towards Rus--directing her to the right husband and ultimately to Moshiach. Then there is the Chesed that Boaz performed to Rus in the course of her gleanings from his field, and directing his workers as to how to deal with her. There is also the Chesed of Rus to Boaz--as Boaz himself states ( 3:10 ): “Heitavt Chasdeich Ha’acharon Min HaRishon Levilti Leches Acharei HaBachurim--in not looking for a younger husband, but in taking him”. In contrast, there is the apparent lack of Chesed shown by Elimelech in leaving the land when the people seem to need him. All of this is codified in Megilas Rus. Perhaps this is to teach us that Chesed is not a social requirement, a social skill or a social ambiance to the Torah Jew, but is very much part of the Torah itself. As we recite in Eishes Chayil--it is Toras Chesed Ahl Leshona.


5. The Megilah spends time to teach us that Bo’az greeted his workers with the words (2:4): “Hashem Imachem”, and that his workers responded: “Yevarechecha Hashem”. We must take the time to bless others. It is not only a Chesed, but also has practical effects in bringing the bracha. Note that both Bo’az and the workers used the name Hashem in their bracha. The Rashbam in this week’s Parasha (on Birkas Kohanim) explains that one should bless another saying: “Hashem should bless you”--recognizing the Source of blessing--within the bracha itself.


6. While the name Rus indicated much about her, Orpah, who decided not to accompany Na’ami seems to have her name based in the name Oref--which means back of the neck. She turned her back on Na’ami. The consequences of what she did were disastrous--not only for herself, but for her descendant, Galyas. Before turning your back on anyone, for any reason--think twice or three times!


7. We know that Na’ami and Rus returned because the famine stopped, and the crops returned to Eretz Yisrael. What caused this to occur? The Targum to Rus emphasizes several times that it was the Tefillos of Bo’az. We see the incredible power of one person’s Tefillos. One person can leave a nation in a time of crisis, and one person can save the nation at the very same time.


8. The Megilah (3:8) records: “Vayehi Bachatzi HaLailah”--Bo’az realized Rus’s presence at midnight. This is identical to the Torah’s description of Makas Bechoros, which was also Vayehi Bachatzi HaLailah. Geulah begins to burgeon at the epitome of night. Let us be especially aware of this in our times--and conduct ourselves accordingly!


9. Upon Rus taking leave of Bo’az, he gives her food for Na’ami--explaining (3:17): “Ahl Tavo’i Reikam Ehl Chamoseich”. Although this was a tremendous moment--Bo’az was about to be involved in the geulah of his uncle, Elimelech’s Nachalah and the Yibum-like marriage of Rus--he did not forget about the needs of others.


10. We learn that Tov or Ploni Almoni told Bo’az that he could not marry Rus (4:6): “Pen Ashchis Es Nachalasi--lest I destroy my inheritance”. The Targum explains that he was worried that taking on a second wife would cause marital rife with his first wife. Rashi explains that he was unsure whether one could marry an Amonis. Either way, he lost one of the opportunities not only of a lifetime, but of the world’s entire existence. When making important decisions, one cannot rely on his own thinking and rationales--but must consult Da’as Torah. It is life-changing--and life-giving!


11. The Pasuk (4:13) records: “Vayitein Hashem Lah Heirayon--and Hashem gave her [Rus] conception”. In the Sefer Let There Be Rain, the story is brought of a young man who had a baby girl and went to tell HaRav Shach, Z’tl. HaRav Shach asked him if he had made a Kiddush and he responded that he had not yet thought about it. HaRav Shach told him that if a person had to wait eight years before having a child--he surely would have thought about it. All the more so should a person who did not have to wait, think about a Kiddush--giving appropriate prompt thanks and recognition to Hashem!


12. We are familiar with the naming of the baby with the words (4:14): “Veyikarei Shemo (or Shemah) B’Yisrael”. This does not simply mean that his or her name will be ‘called’--but is a bracha that the baby become great--as the Targum (ibid.) puts it--may his name become great-may he be known as one of the Tzaddikei Yisrael. Let us keep this in mind when responding Amen at a bris--or to the Mishabeirach upon the naming of a baby girl.


13. The baby born to Rus was named Oved (4:17). This would appear to be a surprise--after all was he not to be named after Rus’s first husband, Machalon? The Targum (4:21) explains that the word Oved means that he served Hashem with a full heart. For one to be called after the name of the deceased is not ultimately what is significant--it is to fulfill one’s purpose in life, which is to be an Oved.


14. The Megilah refers to Bo’az as a “Gibor Chayil” (2:1) and to Rus as an “Eishes Chayil” (3:11). The common denominator is, of course, Chayil--that they served Hashem with all of their strength and all of their capabilities. The effect of doing so not only turns them into great people-- but brings greatness to future generations and to all of K’lal Yisrael.


15. Na’ami provides us with a tremendous example of the Koach HaTeshuvah. From the lowest depths of an impoverished and embittered widow in a foreign land--she is brought to the heights of “Yulad Ben L’Na’ami”. The progenitor of Moshiach is named after her! Hakhel Note: Let us each have a Hirhur Teshuvah--and act upon it!



9 Sivan

NINETEEN WEEKS!  We are now in the fourth of the nineteen week period prior to Rosh Hashana.  In past years, we have proceeded weekly, Bracha by Bracha, through Shemone Esrei with a special emphasis on Kavannah on that week’s Bracha.  This week’s Bracha is Binah--Atta Chonein L’Adam Da’as (what an appropriate study for the week after Shavuos, as we plead with Hashem to grace us with insight, wisdom and understanding!). We provide by the following link our notes to the Nineteen Brachos for the years 5771 and 5772 http://www.hakhel.info/TefillahArchive.html   May we highly recommend the Nineteen Week Program again this year--either based upon your own study (such as by utilizing the magnificent Rav Schwab on Prayer or another similar work), or by utilizing the link provided on a daily basis throughout the week.


As we especially dedicate ourselves to the fourth Bracha of Shemone Esrei this week, we provide the following words of instruction from the great Praying with Passion Series (in order to go through this entire outstanding series on Tefillah, please visit http://prayingwithfire.org/archives.html ):


“This Bracha, which begins with “You graciously endow man with knowledge,” is the first of six blessings in Shemoneh Esrei in which we voice our requests for personal needs. Yet, Atta Chonein is the only request in Shemoneh Esrei that does not immediately begin with a request but rather, with a statement of praise Atta Chonein L’Adam Da’as: “You graciously endow man with knowledge.” The Meiri (on Avos) writes that the word Chonein which means that Hashem “grants favor” by giving us knowledge, refers to our innate ability to think which is granted at birth, and which is unrelated to our efforts. Whatever Hashem gives us in the way of knowledge is Chonein, a free gift (Sefer Baruch She’amar). At times we tend to view our ability to think and to reason as man-made, as thought is internal. We say it all the time. “Sure, I thought of that.” “That is my decision.” Or, “Hey, that was my idea.” Other functions, such as making a living, are external and therefore, it is more readily apparent that Hashem is involved. That is why this blessing must begin with a statement of praise Atta Chonein L’Adam Da’as--You graciously endow man with knowledge.” (Hasidur Ha’miforash Hashalem, Atta Chonein, note 9). In fact, the verb of Chonein is used three times in this short blessing in order to emphasize that all of our knowledge, insight, perception and understanding is an absolute gift from Hashem.”



DID YOU KNOW I STOPPED SMOKING?  Most of us are familiar with what HaRav Dessler, Z’tl, did when he learned that smoking was dangerous to one’s health.  He immediately stopped completely, although he had previously been a heavy smoker.  In order to assure that he would remain ‘smoke-free’, whenever he had an urge for a cigarette, he would approach someone and tell him:  “Do you know that I have stopped smoking?”  Saving himself the embarrassment in then lighting up a cigarette would overcome his urge to do so.  Here is our post-Shavuos application of this lesson.  Many of us felt inspired over Shavuos to improve or heighten our Torah studies or Torah observance in some way.  How can we help ourselves along after the initial inspiration and intention to improve?  One way may be to tell others--not out of haughtiness--but simply to help yourself stay committed bli neder to: [learn one Mishna a day until Rosh Hashana] [review the previous day’s daf once before learning the new daf] [be Ma’avir Sidra no later than Shabbos morning and preferably on or by Friday] [fill in here what you were inspired to do or what is appropriate for you].  In this way, not only will you have activated yourself by verbalizing a commitment to others--but you will also inspire them as well! Hakhel Note--remember the Mishnayos Bikkurim suggestion!



FROM A READER:  “Many are aware of Rav Chaim Volozhiner’s suggestion to work on one kinyan on each day of the Sefira, with review of all 48 on Erev Shavuos (cf. Mishnas Rav Aharon Vol. 1 p.65). I’ve found that beginning on Shavuos, working on one Kinyon throughout each week (which leaves us with 2 weeks in a shana p’shuta for review before the next Shavuos) is a fine alternative!” Hakhel Note: What a wonderful project!



SHIUR HOTLINE! The Pardes Shlomo Hotline (718-480-5222) provides many Shiurim by popular Maggidei Shiur--including Rabbi Noach Weinberg, Z’tl, Rabbi Shimshon Pincus, Z’tl, Rabbi Dovid Gottlieb, Shlita, Rabbi Dovid Orlofsky, Shlita.



REMINDER! Let us not forget to redeem any Yizkor pledges that were made, before thoughts of summer (and summer spending) come upon us. We especially note that in last week’s Pirkei Avos, Rebbi Yosi Ben Kisma reminded us all--Li HaKesef VeLi Hazahav--the silver and gold is Hashem’s…. By giving Tzedaka when we are supposed to--we are truly fulfilling our agency. For those who Boruch Hashem did not need to recite Yizkor--they may give Tzedaka for that alone! For an easy fulfillment, visit www.yadeliezer.org. In the comment section, if you so choose, you can write: For Amalei Torah--for those who toil in Torah!





A.  Something to keep in mind:  The Bartenura (Rus 3:13) writes that in every generation there is a person born from the zera of Yehuda who is ra’ui--perfectly fit--to be the Moshiach for K’lal Yisrael! 


Hakhel Note: The new outstanding Sefer on Tefillah VaTispallel Chana brings an essential thought from the Toldos Yaakov Yosef, a student of the Ba’al Shem Tov: The Ba’al Shem Tov related to The Toldos that the reason for Moshiach’s delay was revealed to him Min HaShomayim--and it is that K’lal Yisrael does not have sufficient Kavannah in Ahava Rabba when pleading to Hashem to bestow Torah knowledge upon us (V’Sein BiLibeinu Binah Lehavin U’Likhaskil Lishmo’ah Lilmod U’Lelameid…). Additional Note: This would appear to be relatively easy for us to do--bli neder let us take it up as a commitment!


B.  In his Sefer Matnas Chelko, HaRav Matisyahu Salomon, Shlita, points out that there are certain Mitzvos which appear to be absolutely counter-intuitive.  For instance, “Lo Sikom VeLo Sitor--do not take vengeance and do not harbor a grudge.”  Why not--this person did something so dastardly to me, it is natural and normal for me to dislike him?!  Similarly, “Es Kaspecha Lo Sitein B’Neshech--do not take ribis.  Why not, it is a simple and reasonable business technique--I rent cars, I rent boats, I rent houses…I rent money?!  HaRav Matisyahu explains that this is why the other nations of the world who were offered the Torah rejected it--when they heard that there were Mitzvos which went against their nature, they simply stated it could not be accepted.  We, Bnei Yisrael, on the other hand, exclaimed:  “Na’aseh V’Nishmah”--putting the word ‘we will do’ ahead of the word ‘we will hear’.  With this, we expressed our understanding that Hashem Who was giving us the Torah would also give us the strength to fulfill its words.  We did not act hastily at all--as the other nations of the world claimed we did.  Rather, we acted with the understanding that through our acceptance of the Torah, Hashem would give us the fortitude and ability to overcome our frail human instincts and humanity and abide by the Torah’s divine and eternal teachings and guidelines.  The strength for us not to hate, not to take revenge, not to take interest…would come from none other than Hashem Himself--imbued directly to us and instilled directly within us.  The Torah is the Gezeiras HaMelech--and Hashem Himself imparts us with the ability to adhere to and fulfill the very words that the Malochim fought for to remain in the Heavens--and that Moshe Rabbeinu struggled to be brought down to us--to elevate us back up to the Heavens!


C. Rabbi Yosef Eisen, Shlita, points out that at the end of Shemone Esrei we recite:  “Pisach Libi BeSorasecha--open my heart to Torah”.  What do we mean by this phrase?  Everyone’s heart ‘opens’ from time-to-time by different events in life, or perhaps by a piece of music that he has heard or work of art that he has seen.  We ask Hashem that our heart--which represents the core of our existence--be opened ‘for Torah’.  Indeed, we make this request three times a day--at the end of each Shemone Esrei--because we do not want to lose sight of the importance of our heart opening for this most premiere reason.  We need Hashem’s help here to make sure that we do not become distracted by the wiles of the Yetzer Hara as he waves Olam Hazeh in our path to eternity.  Each time we open our heart to Torah--we open it forever and ever!


D. Torah is compared to both gold (Hanechemadim Mipaz) and to pearls (Yikara Hi MiPeninim). The Sefer Otzros HaTorah explains the need for both comparisons. Gold is valuable even in incomplete form, such as in gold dust. Pearls are, however, valuable only as finished products. When one studies Torah, whether or not he completes a topic or fully understands it--he nevertheless experiences its preciousness as one appreciates gold even when in particle form. When one does complete a sugyah, a mesechta, or even a thought in Torah, he experiences the unique and special beauty of the finished pearl. When one does so many times--he can rejoice in the many ‘pearl necklaces’ that he has created!



8 Sivan

BIKKURIM! With the arrival of Shavuos, Bikkurim can now be brought in the Bais HaMikdash! Accordingly, it is a particularly propitious time for the daily study of Mishnayos Mesechta Bikkurim.  Mesechta Bikkurim is a short Mesechta, actually the last Mesechta in Seder Zeroim--and one can demonstrate his real will and desire to bring Bikkurim today (U’neshalma Parim Sefaseinu as well) by learning the Mesechta.  Moreover, since one has until Sukkos (or, the latest, Chanukah) to bring the Bikkurim--and we certainly hope the Bais HaMikdash will be here by then we will each know much more about what we have to do and how we have to do it--and it is always better to be learned than (unnecessarily) unlearned!  If you learn just two (2) Mishnayos a day of Bikkurim--you can still make a Siyum this month!  Let’s do it--Zerizin Makdimin!



DETERMINATION!  HaRav Tuvia Goldstein, Z’tl, teaches that there was one trait that brought about the Malchus Beis Dovid--which will lead us to Moshiach.  That trait is revealed in the Pasuk that we read in Rus over Shavuos:  “Vateireh Ki Misametzes…she was determined to go” (Rus 1:18). When Na’ami realized how determined Rus was to follow her, she let her come along…and Dovid HaMelech was born just a few generations later. On the other hand, Orpah was not as determined, and turned back, with her progeny to be Golias instead. A great lesson we are to take with us from Shavuos, then, is dedication, drive and determination in Torah and Mitzvos….For if it will bring about the Moshiach--it will certainly help each and every one of us in our daily lives! (Heard from Rabbi Yosef Eisen, Shlita)



A REFINED UNDERTAKING!  Sometimes when removing one Sefer another Sefer which is adjacent to or on top of it gently drops because it is no longer being held or supported in the same way.  Perhaps one can hold on to the second Sefer to ensure that it is properly placed or moved into its new position--rather than letting it fall or be moved on its own....



ISRU CHAG:  Isru Chag means that we are still tied to the Chag--that we simply don’t want to let go.  In fact, when it comes to Shavuos, we are blessed with Shivas Yemei Tashlumin--seven days after the Chag in which to bring the Karbanos that could not be brought on the Chag.  There are obviously very many great lessons here. To name but a few--(1) Shavuos is only one day and all of the effort to be Oleh Regel for a man and his family was worth it to come for one day if one could accomplish his tasks--but if he couldn’t or didn’t--Hashem understands and gives him the opportunity to make it up; (2) When it comes to the primacy of Torah in our lives, we need only one day to learn, appreciate and understand it--but we need the next seven days to solidify and bolster that knowledge--and bring it to ongoing reality; and (3) If one did, in fact, accomplish his tasks in the Bais HaMikdash on the day of Shavuos itself, he really only had to stay in Yerushalayim overnight and then could go home--and any remaining stay for the next several days or week was “voluntary” or “optional.”  A great secret of success in Torah study is learning not because you have to--but because you want to. You want to accomplish; you want to know; you want to bask in Hashem’s wisdom; you want to do what Hashem says is the right thing to do.  It is not only Shavuos night--but the week after Shavuos that is an important element in demonstrating the new and renewed verve and vitality that you have for Torah study.  You have just received your annual recharge at the power station--but must realize that every time you engage in Torah study--you are, in fact and in deed, re-charging your very life!


Additional Note:  The Chidushei HaRim explains that the reason Shavuos is called Z’man “Matan” Toraseinu, and not Z’man “Kabbalas” Toraseinu--the day that the Torah was “gifted” to us, and not the day that we “received” the Torah--is because this indicates that the gift began on that date--and the actual receipt of the gift continues to take place daily--day after day, every time we learn another perek, another daf, another pasuk, another word of Torah--the Streaming Heavenly Flow of Torah continues.





1.  Last week, we had mentioned that the term “Simcha” is used two times by the Torah relating to Shavuos, 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 Shavuos itself, and the other “Simcha” to the joy one should feel and experience when studying Torah daily.


2.  We had discussed the concept of Shavuos being only one day, to emphasize the importance of even one day of Torah study.  A mashal provided by HaRav Yaakov Neiman, Z’tl 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.  Shavuos 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 Hashem’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 Lashon Hara, 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?  HaRav Neiman, Z’tl, 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 Rebbi Shimon Bar Yochai visited Rebbi Akiva in jail and asked Rebbi Akiva to teach him Torah.  Rebbi Akiva refused to do so flagrantly in the presence of the Roman authorities, fearing for Rebbi Shimon’s well-being (Rebbi Akiva was already incarcerated for the very teaching of Torah).  Rebbi Shimon Bar Yochai, unbelievable as it may sound, threatened his Rebbi 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, Rebbi Akiva was only trying to protect Rebbi Shimon Bar Yochai from the authorities!  And how could Rebbe Shimon threaten his Rebbi in this gross way?!  The answer seems to be that Rebbi Shimon Bar Yochai was complaining to Rebbi 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 Rebbi!


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.



TORAH AND TEFILLLAH: HaRav Matisyahu Salomon (Matisyahu Chaim Ben Ettel L’Refuah Sheleimah), Shlita, points out that the ma’alah of Tefillah is not listed by Chazal as one of the 48 ways to acquire Torah (Avos 6:6).  He explains that this is because Tefillah is so vital to acquire Torah, that it is needed for, and is a part and parcel of, each and every one of the 48 ways.  In fact, the Mishna in Brachos (28b) provides that we are to recite a Tefillah every morning prior to study and a Tefillah in the evening after the conclusion of our studies.  This is brought L’Halacha in Shulchan Aruch, Orach Chaim (110:8).  One can likewise daven before any study session that his learning be as sweet and successful as possible.  In contrast, one can (and should) daven if he is having difficulty in studying, listening or understanding.  Indeed, it is said in the name of the Rav Chaim Sanzer that the reason the Ketzos HaChoshen became such a highly accepted Sefer in the Torah world, was because prior to learning, its author would go into a special room and cleanse himself with tears and Tefillah.  Torah is not a field of academics; as Chazal (Megillah 6B) teach:  Even after all the effort is put in, we require “Siyata D’Shmaya”--actual Heavenly assistance to retain our learning.  This is why a proper attitude--and heartfelt Tefillah--is so important in attaining what Shlomo HaMelech (the wisest of all men) called our most precious treasure (see Mishlei 3:15).



BIRKOS HATORAH INSPIRATION: The Ramban (Devorim 4:9) writes that the Torah provides such great detail as to Ma’amad Har Sinai (please review the vivid Pesukim referred to in yesterday’s bulletin) in order to impress upon us the absolute need to constantly visualize and envisage this unparalleled event in our minds--and permanently plant it in our hearts.


Indeed, just as we believe in the “Splitting of the Sea” in all of its detail, so, too, must we realize that, among all the other miracles that took place at the time the Torah was given, the mountains actually shook (“Heharim Rakdu K’Ailyim”, Tehillim 114:4), Har Sinai itself was literally burning with fire up to the heart of the heaven, and Hashem Himself spoke to us (which is otherwise unimaginable) from the midst of the fire.  It is so important for us to remember the Ma’amad that the Torah very unusually writes, “Rak Hishamer L’Cha U’Shimor Nafshecha Meod (Devorim 4:9)--only beware for yourself and greatly beware for your soul” lest you forget the things that your eyes have beheld and lest you remove them from your heart all the days of your life….


The Ramban writes that our recollection of the Revelation at Sinai as described in this Pasuk actually constitutes the fulfillment of a Mitzvas Asei (in remembering the Event) and a Mitzvas Lo Sa’asei (in not forgetting it).


How can we properly fulfill the Torah’s teaching here?  HaRav Matisyahu Salomon, Shlita, brings the words of the Tur and the Bach (Orach Chaim 47) to guide us.  The Tur writes that there are, unusually, two Brachos on the Mitzvah of Talmud Torah that we recite every morning.  This is because the first Bracha refers to the Mitzvah of learning Torah, while the second Bracha reflects upon the Ma’amad Har Sinai itself.  The Bach in explaining the Tur writes that the second Bracha is, in fact, not a Bracha on the Mitzvah of learning Torah, but a Brocha of praise and thanks to Hashem for giving us His special treasure in such a phenomenal fashion--no other nation ever claimed or could claim such a revelation from Hashem Himself, with the explicit details of the Event passed on from generation to generation.


Every day, then, when reciting “Asher Bochar Banu” in the morning, we should awaken ourselves from our slumber and put our heart and feeling into visualizing and appreciating the stature, the legacy, and the enormity of the relationship of Hashem, the Torah and Bnei Yisrael, as we re-experience Sinai!



4 Sivan

LEARN FROM ACHISOFEL!  In this week’s Pirkei Avos (6:3) we learn that Dovid HaMelech showed special respect to Achisofel because he taught him two things--the first being that when one walks into Shul, he should not enter in an upright position--but bowed --as Dovid HaMelech learned to exclaim (Tehillim 5:8):  “V’Ani Berov Chasdecha Avo Veisecha Eshtachaveh Ehl Heichal Kadshecha B’Yirasecha--as for me, because of Your abundant kindness I will enter Your House, I will prostrate myself toward Your holy sanctuary in awe of You.” It is certainly our turn to take this lesson now from Dovid HaMelech--reciting this Pasuk each and every time we enter our Mikdash Me’at in a contrite and meaningful way!





“Included among the apikorsim are those who say, “Of what use to us are the scholars with their studies?  Is there anything about which they say, ‘See this is new? They have never permitted us to eat raven, nor forbidden us to eat a dove.”  People such as these have not heard, nor known, nor opened their ears to the values that lie in occupation with Torah.  Because of this, occupation with Torah is lowly in their eyes; they have become rebels against the light of its nobility, and have no share in the World to Come.  We have, therefore, been obliged to teach the sons of Yehudah the values that lie in occupation with Torah….those who do not have the ability to learn--let them recognize the beauty of the honor of occupation with Torah, and let them acquire merit through this realization.”


This appears to be Rabbeinu Yonah’s 700 year old comment on those who disapprove of Kollel study.  We now present you with a more recent perspective.


An outstanding story is brought about Rebbe Yisroel Salanter, Z’TL, who spent significant time with a simple, elderly poor man advising him of all the merits of learning in Kollel.  Reb Yisroel was questioned by his students as to the necessity of talking to him about this--after all, the man was poor and could not support anyone in Kollel, and was simple and elderly and himself not prepared for Kollel study.  Reb Yisroel responded beautifully as follows:  ”I wanted this man to have a feeling and a desire, a longing, to learn in or support a Kollel.  Obviously, he does not have the actual means to do either, but to HaKadosh Boruch Hu, he has fulfilled whatever he could by his feelings, desires and longings.  It is for this reason that I spent the time I did with him.”


At this time of year, as we move closer to our receiving the Torah anew, let us give special consideration, thoughts, and appreciation for those who study Torah day and night, and who keep the world going with their Torah study.  Perhaps one way we can demonstrate our feelings is by providing some new or additional support or charity to an:  institution of Torah learning.  Why not write that special Kollel check, or check for a Talmid Chochom--today--!



LEKET YOSHER: The Leket Yosher writes in the name of the Terumas HaDeshen that one should make the effort to get a Sefer, rather than swing around his chair or swivel a table--for the extra effort exerted will bring about a greater Kiyum in the Torah one is learning. The effort invested in Torah--that is what it is all about!



RETAINING TORAH LEARNING: How can one retain his Torah learning? The following is based upon the Piskei Teshuvos (Volume 2, p. 305) who provides sources in detailed footnotes:


A.       Simply putting in the time to toil and review, as Shlomo HaMelech (the wisest of all men) teaches in Mishlei (16:26) “Nefesh Amel Amlo Lo--the soul of a laborer labors for his needs….”  Nothing, absolutely nothing, can replace one’s own efforts;


B.       Having Kavannah in “Ahava Raba/Ahavas Olam” every morning--especially as we recite the words “V’Sein B’libeinu…”--instill in our hearts [the ability] to understand and elucidate, to listen, learn, teach, safeguard, perform, and fulfill all the words of Your Torah’s teaching with love.  And enlighten our eyes in your Torah…(translation from the Complete Artscroll Siddur);


C.       Voicing the words of the Torah you are studying, rather than only reading them;


D.      Learning in a set or designated place especially in the Bais Midrash, and even in one’s home;


E.       As a Segulah, kissing the Sefer when opening and closing it; and


F.       Avoiding actions and items which Chazal/Halacha teach cause forgetfulness, which are enumerated in the Piskei Teshuvos (ibid. p. 486-487), and which include leaving a Sefer open on the table and walking out of the room.





1.   Rebbi Menachem Mendel of Vorki, Z’tl asked if Shabbos HaGadol is the Shabbos before Pesach and Shabbos Shuvah is the Shabbos before Yom Kippur, what is the Shabbos before Shavuos known as?  He answered that it is Shabbos Derech Eretz--a Shabbos in which one works on his Middos--because Derech Eretz is Kadma L Torah!


2.  There is a beautiful connection between Shabbos and the Mitzvah of Talmud Torah that is brought in the introduction of the Sefer Eglei Tal by the Sochotchover Rav.  The Rav brings the words of Chazal (Sotah 37A), who teach that for each Mitzvah four separate brisos, or covenants were made: one, Lilmod- to learn about it; two, Lilamed-to teach it to others; three, Lishmor-to observe it (guard against violating it); and four, La’asos-to practice it (actively performing it).  The Rav then explains that just as Shemiras Shabbos is equal to all of the Mitzvos--so too, is the Lilmod and Lilamed of Hilchos Shabbos equal to the Lilmod and Lilamed of all of the Mitzvos.  If we study and learn Hilchos Shabbos with others, we are accomplishing something oh so great--equivalent to that of all the other Mitzvos!  It behooves us this Shabbos, bli neder, to try to institute some Hilchos Shabbos study at each meal--at least relating a few Halachos of Shabbos.  What a great Kabbalah, bli neder--before the Matan Torah of the morrow!


3.  The Sefer Mincha Chadasha writes that the teaching in Avos: “Knei Lecha Chaver”--usually translated as acquire a friend for yourself, could be interpreted to mean “Purchase for yourself a Chibur, a Sefer.”  Today is an especially auspicious time to purchase a new Sefer or set of Sefarim for yourself--or for your Shul!  Hakhel Note:  If one has purchased new Seforim for use on Yom Tov, he should go through them on Erev Shabbos to make sure that the pages are not stuck together.


4. In one’s Shabbos preparations (haircut, nail cutting, shower, etc.), he should have in mind that he is also doing so LeKavod Yom Tov.  Even if one does not regularly do so on Erev Shabbos, he should go to the Mikvah after Chatzos in order to purify himself for the Regel (if he cannot or will not do so on Shabbos).


5.  Do not forget to buy wine for Simchas Yom Tov, and also those special last minute dainties and surprises, to make your immediate family members happy for Yom Tov!


6.  If you have not yet done so, please remember your Yom Tov donation to assist poor families in celebrating the Chag.  Please reach out to yadeliezer.org.


7.  Some have the custom of buying nice and beautiful candles for candle lighting on Shavuos corresponding to the Pasuk: “Ki Ner Mitzvah V’Torah Ohr”.


8.  For those who want to light Yizkor candles on the second day of Yom Tov, but are hesitant to do so because of the question of whether this is truly ‘Ochel Nefesh’, there are now three-day candles which are manufactured--so that one can light the Yizkor candle before Shabbos and it will remain lit until after the second day of Yom Tov.  One may want to light a second three-day candle so that he has a lit flame available throughout Yom Tov.


9.  At Birkos HaTorah on Shabbos, one can have in mind that he only wants to be Yotzei through Alos HaShachar of Sunday morning.  In this way, he will be able to recite his own Birkos HaTorah even if he stayed awake all night.  If one has any questions, he should consult with his Rav or Posek.


10.  One should be careful not to say that he is going to sleep on Shabbos ‘so that he can stay up on Motza’ei Shabbos (Shavuos night)’, as he would thus be preparing on Shabbos for after Shabbos.  Similarly, one should be careful not to tell his children or others to go to sleep in order to stay up as well.


11.  Shabbos Day, as the Fifth day of Sivan, is the day that we recited in unison:  “Kol Asher Diber Hashem Na’aseh VeNishma--all that Hashem says we will do and we will hear!” May these words joyfully reverberate within us throughout Shabbos and Yom Tov!


12.  On Motza’ei Shabbos/The First Night of Yom Tov, one should be careful not to do any Melacha until he/she has either recited Vatodi’enu in Ma’ariv, recited or heard Havdalah, or recited the words Baruch HaMavdil Bein Kodesh L’Kodesh.


13.  One should remember that the first day of Shavuos is the Yahrzeit of Dovid HaMelech--and the first meal of Yom Tov is also the Mitzvah of Melaveh Malka on Motza’ei Shabbos--which is known as the Seudas Dovid HaMelech!





A. Remember when making She’hechiyanu to have in mind that you are reciting it over the Mitzvah of Yom Tov, the Mitzvah of Simchas Yom Tov, and the completion of the Mitzvah of Sefira (which is like the building of the Sukkah before Sukkos!).  If you can, remember to focus on the difference between those three precious words--She’hechiyanu, Kyemanu and Higianu!


B. The Ya’avetz writes that the Mitzvah of Simchas Yom Tov on Shavuos is greater than on all the other Chagim, as it is the day that we received the world’s Prized Treasure--the Torah.  The Yesod V’Shoresh HaAvodah powerfully comments that it is fitting for every member of Klal Yisrael to bring “Simcha Atzumah--great Simcha” into his heart and mind, and to remember to give thanks to Hashem for giving us a portion and lot in the Holy Nation.


C. It is the custom among many to eat honey (such as Challah dipped in honey, or foods with honey) on Shavuos because the Torah is compared to honey, as the Pasuk in Shir HaShirim teaches, “D’vash VeCholov Tachas Leshoneich--honey and milk (the Torah) is under your tongue.”


D. Since we are judged on fruits of the tree on Shavuos, many have the custom to daven for a beautiful Esrog on the Chag.


E.  As for Ashkenazim in Chutz LaAretz, until the Moshiach comes, Shavuos is the last time Birchas Kohanim is recited in 5776.  We wish to remind our readers that the Bi’ur Halacha (Shulchan Aruch, Orach Chaim: 128, Introduction) brings from the Sefer Chareidim that just as the Kohanim fulfill a Mitzvas Aseh when they bless K’lal Yisrael, so, too, do the Bnei Yisrael have a part of the Mitzvah when they stand in silence and have Kavanna to receive the Bracha from the Kohanim!


F. Let us remember that just as the Aseres Hadibros were first heard in Fear and Awe, we, too, no matter how tired we may be should feel the awe and power of the occasion, for we are re-living through the moment once again!


G. Remember that those very issues involved with moving mail are no different on Yom Tov than on Shabbos.


H. For those who have trash pick-up over Yom Tov, please review with your Rav or Posek the permissibility of bringing trash cans out to the front of your home, or of bringing them back, on Yom Tov.


I. Chazal teach: “HaKol Modim BeShavuos DeBa’inan Nomi Lochem…”. Everyone agrees that on Shavuos one must partake of  the physical pleasures of the Yom Tov, and cannot engage only in 48 hours of Torah study, without an appropriate accompanying Seuda. Simply understood, the reason Shavuos especially requires this is because we must demonstrate that the Torah guides our lives not only in matters of Ruchniyus, but in matters of Gashmius as well—and that one’s physical existence can, and must, be sanctified. Accordingly, we provide the Halachos of the Brachos –on cheesecake!


HaRav Binyomin Forst, Shlita, in The Halachos of Brachos (Artscroll) writes that the bracha on cheesecake with a crust added for flavor “as is generally the case” is a Borei Minei Mezonos. However, if the crust is added solely to hold the cheese, then the bracha on the cheesecake is Shehakol. HaRav Yisroel Pinchos Bodner, Shlita in The Laws of Brochos (Feldheim) writes that if the cheesecake is made with a thin layer of dough which is being used merely to enhance the appearance of the cake, then the bracha is Shehakol. However, if the dough is being used for substance or flavor, the bracha is Borei Minei Mezonos. The after bracha on cheesecake will usually be Borei Nefashos and not Al HaMichya, as one can (and will!) eat a kezayis combination of cheese and flour within a kedai achilas peras of three minutes, but it is unlikely that one will consume a kezayis of Mezonos within the three minute span. Regarding Kubakim, the peanuts in the Kubakim do not count towards the shiur of kezayis for an Al HaMichya, and the same is true for the cheese in the cheesecake not being added to the flour layer to allow for an Al Hamichya. In sum, on cheesecake, one bracha rishona is recited, which may likely be a Shehakol, but even if a Borei Minei Mezonos is recited, the bracha achrona will in ordinary circumstances be a Borei Nefashos! We note further that the recitation of Shehakol on cheesecake will impact on it being served as dessert at a meal, since even one who does not make a Borei Minei Mezonos on cake at the end of a meal, will make a Shehakol at the end of a meal.


If you are in doubt as to the appropriate brachos on the cheesecake you will be consuming—why not bring two to your Rav—one for the Shaila—and one to him for Shavuos!






A.  REMINDER! We previously noted HaRav Elyashiv Z’tl’s, teaching that one should daven for a Refuah Sheleima when the Aseres HaDibros are read on Shavuos morning--as Bnei Yisrael were healed then and we are re-experiencing that very Mattan Torah anew!  A Rav advised us that he feels one can actually think about the Refuah Sheleima needed at the time the Aseres HaDibros are themselves being read.  If you would like to utilize the Eitzah of a Gadol HaDor, you may want to consult with your Rav or Posek in advance as to his opinion on the optimum time and method of accomplishing this great task!  Bracha VeHatzlacha!


B.  Let us make sure that we remember to have special Kavana when reciting Birchos HaTorah.  The Shulchan Aruch actually teaches (Orach Chaim 47:1): “One must be very careful with Birchos HaTorah.”  The Mishna Berurah explains that, according to many Rishonim, Birchos HaTorah is Mid’Oraysa, and that one must make the Brachos “BeSimcha Gedola--with great happiness,” recognizing that Torah is not just another study--and adds that we must be sure to express our special thanks to HaKadosh Baruch Hu in choosing us to be the recipient of His “Kli Chemdoso”--His treasured possession.


Additional Note:  Rabbi Yosef Eisen, Shlita, urges us all to pay attention in our daily davening for the times we ask Hashem for His assistance in learning Torah.  Clearly, we need Siyata DiShmaya to reach our life’s potential in Torah studies.  Accordingly, let us pay needed attention to these special requests found throughout Shacharis (starting with Birchas HaTorah)--and sincerely ask Hashem for His help--so that we can reach our own unique and individual chelek in Torah that we are supposed to.  Remember--”Ata Chonen LeOdom Da’as” is the VERY FIRST unique bracha in the weekday Shemone Esrei for good reason!


C.  Since the term “Bais Yaakov” is first mentioned right here at Kabalas HaTorah, women must also be astute to study that which they especially need to know as the Mitzvos of women.  We may add that one of these crucial areas--as learned from Rus on Shavuos--is Tznius.  Women may not realize this--but men, whether or not justifiably, may not know the Halcahos of Tznius--and rely upon women (including their wives and daughters) to be doing the right thing.  As all kinds of exercise garments worn under or with clothing become more prevalent, as shorter and closer fitting becomes more in secular vogue making it difficult to obtain other styles, and as the warmer summer months approach--every Jewish woman as a charter member of the Bais Yaakov--should view it as her responsibility to know what to do, and to help others that she is close to as well.  The Halachos that she knows and practices--(from age 5 to age 120) have an impact not only upon her--but LITERALLY on all of K’lal Yisrael--for as we know in the order of the Pasuk (Shemos 19:3), FIRST the Bais Yaakov is addressed...and only afterwards do we get to the Bais Yisrael!  It is the Bnos Yisrael who start the rest of us on the track of Kedusha and Kabalas HaTorah.  Accordingly, perhaps now is the special time to likewise be mekabel bli neder something new and special in the area of Tznius!  May the zechus stand by and for you, your family and K’lal Yisrael in its stead.


D.  We provide the following wonderful quote from this week’s Perek (6:2):  “VeChol Mi She’Osek BeSalmud Torah Harei Zeh MisAleh--and anyone who engages in the study of Torah becomes elevated.”  Let us remember these poignant words of the great Rebbi Yehoshua Ben Levi before we study or listen to a Shiur by really feeling elevated!  We certainly shouldn’t have our elbow on the table with our head perched in the cup of our hand anymore--for instead we are perched together with something the Malachim didn’t want to give up--right here in front of us!


E.  Chazal (once again, tomorrow’s Avos--6:9) bring the story of Rebbi Yosi ben Kisma who was asked to take a lucrative position in a city devoid of Torah scholarship.  The person making the offer was obviously doing so not because he wanted Rebbi Yosi to become mayor or chief of police--but because he wanted Rebbi Yosi to bring some level of Torah into the town.  Yet, Rebbe Yosi insisted that he would only live in a place of Torah.  Undoubtedly, Rebbi Yosi knew enough to learn and grow on his own in a distant city, and could have probably used the endowment he would have received to write dozens of seforim and learn on his own 24/7 for the rest of his life, yet none of this--none of this--could replace being in a Torah atmosphere.  Of course, Rabbonim, teachers and Kiruv professionals fulfill their roles and goals in far-flung places in fabulous and unfathomable ways, but there is a special lesson here from Rebbe Yosi for each and every one of us in our daily lives.  We must endeavor to the extent that we can to put ourselves in a Torah atmosphere.  We must make the effort to acquaint ourselves with those above us in Torah scholarship…to sit in the right locations, to stand among the right people in Shuls, at Simchas, where shopping, when commuting or traveling.  We must make sure we are “living” in a place of Torah when we have the choice between this block and that block, this friend or that friend, this conversation or that conversation, this situation or that situation.  A very important part of the Torah is our Torah atmosphere.  We should recognize the situations in life--and they come up often enough--where we have the choice--and make the right one.  At any such time or occasion, we need only think--what does the Rebbi Yosi ben Kisma within me say?!



3 Sivan

SHELOSHES YEMEI HAGBALAH: Today we begin the Sheloshes Yemei Hagbalah--the three days of more intense preparation for Kabalas HaTorah.  On the Third of Sivan itself, Moshe Rabbeinu comes back to Hashem and related to Him that the people have responded “Na’aseh--we will do!”  Hashem, in turn, told Moshe that He Himself will come to Moshe Rabbeinu in a thick cloud to give the Torah (Shemos 19:9):  Ba’avur Yishmah Ha’am BeDabri Imach VeGam Becha Ya’aminu LeOlam--so that the people will hear when I speak with you, so that they and their descendants will always believe in Toras Moshe.” The Luach Davar BeIto brings the following important points and pointers relating to this special period:


1.  Hasmadah in learning should be especially emphasized in final preparation for our new Kabbalas HaTorah on Shavuos.  [Practical Suggestion:  Try to learn at least one special hour every day through Shavuos without any interruption--even if the interruption is another matter of Torah.]


2.  The Chosid Ya’avetz writes that in the Sheloshes Yemei Hagbalah the Tahara that existed before Matan Torah sparks again--even in our times! 


3.  To mark the special level of Tahara of the period, the Kaf HaChaim writes that even if one does not attend the Mikvah daily, he should do so during these days.  [Hakhel Note:  Even if one does not find this possible--let him go back to No. 1 above!]





A. Especially for today and tomorrow, one should have Kavannah in the words: “Hashiveinu Avinu L’Sorasecha”--pleading with Hashem to allow him to grow in his learning, and be a source of Nachas to Hashem.


B. It is reported that the Rogotchover Gaon, Z’tl, said about HaRav Meir Simcha of D’vinsk (the Ohr Someiyach) that the reason he was so successful in his Torah studies was that whenever he learned it was with the energy and drive as if he had just been given a shot of adrenaline. He always had adrenaline flowing through his veins! Hakhel Note: We can try, at least to some extent, the same approach!


C.  When one sits down to study Torah he may feel anxious, nervous, or frazzled because of the events of the day until that point.  A person may have so many obligations and stresses that the times used for Torah study may be beset by personal, financial and other concerns. Imagine you had $1 billion in Tzedaka funds to give away (this is not as far-fetched a scenario as you think).  Imagine how much calmer and at ease you would be, how much more focused and directed.  Now, let’s think about it--you do have $1 billion in your Tzedaka fund to give.  Seriously.  How so?  Because just as the person in your neighborhood who has $1 billion in Tzedaka to give away has what Hashem determined are the needs and necessities of his life, so too, do you have all of the needs and necessities that Hashem has determined to be what is necessary in your life.  And who knows better than Hashem?   One should maximize the time spent learning--without perturbation or disturbance from the outside factors and pressures that the Yetzer Hara sends to adversely impact on his Torah Study.  Remember--you’re rich, very rich--when you are studying Torah!


D.  One should take the time to review the 48 ways in which Torah is acquired, as found in this week’s Pirkei Avos (6:6).  There is obviously great depth between each one of these qualities.  We mention only a few here as examples: 


The second quality needed to acquire Torah is Shemiyas HaOzen--attentive listening.  One must realize that a Chochom is one who learns from all others--Rebbeim, friends and students alike.  One should not and cannot dismiss their suggestions or explanations as mistaken, wrong or silly.  Rather, one should spend the time to listen and understand what they are saying.  Take what they say and work with it--not against it.  This will help both parties come to the truth quicker on the Torah topic being discussed.  Immediately following Shemiyas HaOzen is the third quality of Arichas Sefasayim--articulating the words of one’s Torah by speech.  The Sefer Orchos Tzaddikim actually refers to one who does not speak out the Torah as he is studying it as an atzel (a lazy person)--and describes him in the Sha’ar Ha’atzlus!  In his words:  “As to one who is lazy and does not articulate his words of Torah, he writes:  “Ain Lecha Atzlus Gedolah Meizuh--there is no greater laziness than this!”  This is why the Torah (Devarim 30:14) especially writes:  “Ki Karov Ailecha HaDavar Me’od Beficha U’Belevavecha La’asoso--the Torah is very near to you--in your mouth and in your heart--to perform it.”  Finally, the quality of Erech Apayim, or slowness to anger, is also crucial to one’s Torah.  Chazal teach that:  “Kol HaKoeis Chochmaso Mistalekes Mimenu--one who gets angry loses his wisdom’--and we know the examples of this that are provided in the Torah itself.  This very sorry result should be a means for a person to control his anger--knowing this his most precious commodity--the Torah in his possession--is at stake!  On the other hand, Divrei Chachomim BeNachas Neshmaim--when one is calm, not only will he be able to study and retain his Torah--but others will listen to it as well! 



TORAH IN THE DESERT:  Many are familiar with the question as to why the Torah was given in the Midbar.  HaRav Shimshon Pincus, Z’tl, however, looks at the question from a different perspective.  HaRav Pincus asks not why the Torah was actually given in the Midbar, but rather why the Torah was not given in Eretz Yisrael.  After all, does not the very air of Eretz Yisrael itself make one wise?  Wouldn’t the intense Kedusha of Eretz Yisrael per se have a unique and special effect on those receiving the Torah?  Is not the complete performance of the Mitzvos dependent on their performance in Eretz Yisrael in any event?!


HaRav Pincus answers that we must put the Giving of the Torah in its proper perspective.  On Pesach, HaKadosh Baruch Hu chose us as His Kallah, as His bride.  The Shidduch was made, and we celebrate our new relationship over Pesach.  The days of Sefirah are the equivalent of the engagement period--between the Vort and the Chasuna itself.  Shavuos is then, the Great Wedding, where Hashem came out to greet us as a Chasan steps forward to greet his Kallah.  The period after Shavuos is the time in which the newfound relationship was to be firmly and eternally established.


We can now understand why the Torah had to be given in the desert.  The proverbial Choson and Kallah needed time with each other, without any distractions whatsoever--not even holy or important ones--in order to form an eternal bond.  Giving the Torah in Eretz Yisrael would be the equivalent of getting married in a kitchen, even if it was Glatt Kosher LeMehadrin--As soon as the Chupa was over, the Choson would soon be learning how to use the Shabbos Clock, and the Kallah would start figuring out how to make cholent!  Just as the Yichud room follows immediately after the Chupa so that the newlyweds can focus on each other and only on each other, so, too, did we need our special time to be separated from everything else and unite with HaKadosh Baruch Hu.


Baruch Hashem our relationship started off properly.  We had the proper Yichud, our connection with Hashem was developed without interruption or disturbance.  As a result, our potential for dveiykus--for a close and tight bond--with Hashem is, and always will be, at a maximum level.


So, we are now like the Choson and Kallah several days before the Chupa.  The anticipation, the last minute preparations, the prayers that everything goes right…but we must also remember that the goal to be achieved when Shavuos arrives is not only the marvelous and incomparable moment of the Wedding itself, but also the raising of our own personal ever-special and eternally-lasting relationship that must follow, as expressed by the love that we have for Hashem, the improved way in which we study His Torah and the devoted manner and especially warm care in which we perform His Mitzvos!



PISKEI HALACHA OF HARAV ELYASHIV, Z’TL, RELATING TO SHAVUOS: We once again provide several Piskei Halacha of HaRav Elyashiv, Z’tl, relating to Shavuos, as provided in the three volume work of HaRav Elyashiv’s Pesakim, entitled Ashrei HaIsh authored by Rav Yechezkel Feinhandler:


1.  On Purim, we read Megillas Esther after Kriyas HaTorah, because of the principal “Tadir VeSheaino Tadir, Tadir Kodem--what occurs more often comes first.”  Nevertheless, we read Megillas Rus before Kriyas HaTorah because there is already a Maftir after the Torah reading, and we don’t want Megillas Rus to be confused with the Maftir.  If one did not hear the beginning of Megillas Rus, he need not go to another Shul, for the reading of the Megilla is an obligation on the Tzibur, and not on the Yachid.


2.  LeChatchila, one should eat meat both at night and for the day meal on Shavuos, and in the morning, one should eat dairy.  One should not forgo the Mitzvah to eat meat on Yom Tov.


3.  If one’s custom is to stand for the Aseres Hadibros, he should stand a few Pesukim before the Aseres HaDibros begin so that people should not think that one part of the Torah is more important than another.  Although some have the custom of standing for the Haftarah of the Ma’aseh Merkava, Rav Elyashiv himself sits.


4.  If one has a cheesecake which consists of significant amount of cheese on a layer of cake, one should make two separate Brachos, Mezonos on the cake and Shehakol on the cheese.


5.  If one wants to learn most of the night of Leil Shavuos and then go to sleep so that he can daven with Kavanna, he should be careful to go to sleep more than a half an hour before Amud HaShachar.  In fact, it is better to sleep all night than it is to learn and go to sleep prior to Shacharis.


6.  Some have the custom to stop learning at Alos because they understand that it is assur to learn without reciting Birchos HaTorah--and they cannot make Birchos HaTorah (if they did not sleep on Erev Yom Tov) misofek until someone who slept comes and recites the Birchos HaTorah for them.  This is a misconception--one can continue to learn.  The prohibition of learning before reciting Birchos HaTorah stems from the Mitzvah to recite Birchos HaTorah itself--and if someone cannot make the Birchos HaTorah for a legitimate reason (such as in this case, because of the sofek as to whether one who has not slept recites Birchos HaTorah the next day)--then there is absolutely no issur to learn.


7.  HaRav Elyashiv once visited a Talmid Chochom on Erev Shavuos, and reminded him that before Hashem gave the Torah on Har Sinai, all those who were sick were healed.  HaRav Elyashiv continued that every year when Shavuos arrives, this Hashpa’ah of Refuah is renewed, and one can ask Hashem for a Refuah Sheleima at this time for any illness.  When Rav Elyashiv was asked when this Special Segulah is effective, he responded that it is the time when the Aseres HaDibros are read in Shul (although obviously not during the Kriyas HaTorah itself!)  This great teaching of Rav Elyashiv is brought by Rav Elyashiv’s son-in-law, Rav Yitzchok Zilberstein, Shlita, in the renowned Sefer Aleinu LeShabeiach 5, p. 201).



2 Sivan

REMINDER--AHAVAS HASHEM! As we move closer to the great day of Kabalas HaTorah 5776, we remind our readers that at the end of the Sefer Shemiras HaLashon, the Chofetz Chaim provides outstanding practical advice as to how one can bring Ahavas Hashem into his daily life. We provide the Chofetz Chaim’s words of instruction by clicking here.  You will note that he recommends that this be undertaken as a matter of course as a pre-breakfast activity. What a wonderful few moments to add to your day!


THE SECOND DAY OF SIVAN!  Today, the second day of Sivan, is the Yom HaMeyuchas--the day upon which Hashem told Bnei Yisrael “V’Heyisem Li Segulah Mikol Ho’Amim (Shemos 19:5, and Rashi there)--you shall be to Me the most beloved treasure of all peoples.  What a great day--to be declared the greatest treasure of all peoples by the Creator of all!  Today, we should try to perform at least one Mitzvah with at least a little more preparation, Kavannah, and zeal…glowing--while knowing and showing that you are--literally--Hashem’s prized possession!


Hakhel Note:  Some say that the second day of Sivan is known as the Yom HaMeyuchas because it does not have its own Segulos, but rather because it views itself simply as being connected with the day before (Rosh Chodesh) and the days after (the Sheloshes Yemei Hagbalah).  This is a tremendous level--looking to and joining together with-- the maalos of others, and it is this that we must emulate!



THE TREE OF LIFE: Shlomo Hamelech, the wisest of all men, teaches us in Mishlei “Eitz Chaim Hi Lmachazikim Bah” (Mishlei 3:18)… it is a tree of life for those who grasp it.” Many raise the question-shouldn’t the phrase be Lmachazikim Osah--it is a tree of life to those who support it? One beautiful P’shat related is that we do not support the Torah—it is the Torah that supports us--if we grasp on to it. Just as the Aron is “Nosei Es Nosav”—the Kohanim were even carried over the Yarden River by the Aron (!)--, so too does the Torah carry us through our Olam Hazeh, if we are ‘Machazikim Bah’. Based upon this thought, it is very well understood why we recite this Pasuk as we put the Torah away into the Aron HaKodesh--for we indicate that although we may be putting the Torah back in the Aron, we continue to cling to it as we face our daily needs and challenges-- until the next time that we read from it again.



THE SHELOSHES YEMEI HAGBALA: Tonight will inaugurate the “Sheloshes Yemei Hagbala”--the three-day preparatory period before Shavuos in which we surrounded Har Sinai to begin to appreciate and inculcate within us the enormity of the Event we were about to experience.  We celebrate this very same period today.  Just as the days before Pesach and before Sukkos are full of their particular Pre-Yom Tov preparations, and the days before Rosh Hashana and then Yom Kippur have their special meaning, so too do we have the three designated days prior to Shavuos to “surround the mountain”, in order to ensure that when Shavuos arrives, we will absorb the Event in all of its holiness and meaning.


Indeed, Chazal (Shabbos 129B) teach that it is prohibited to be “makiz dam”--to let blood for healing purposes, on Erev Shavuos, lest the person put himself in sakana--in danger, by letting blood while not having properly prepared for his receiving of the Torah on Shavuos.  This is not homiletics--as the Rema in Shulchan Aruch Orach Chayim (468:10) brings this Chazal l’halacha--and the Mishna Berurah there even explains that it is forbidden to let blood on every Erev Yom Tov, so that one does not forget and let blood on Erev Shavuos.  (See Teshuvos V’Hanhagos 4:109 for a further discussion.)  While we may not let blood in our times as a matter of course, the importance that even the halacha attaches to proper preparation of each and every one of us to receive the Torah on Shavuos is self-evident.


HaRav Moshe Feinstein, Z’tl, likewise explains that it is no coincidence (as it never is) that the Parasha almost always read before Shavuos is Parashas Bamidbar, which counts the individual members of Bnei Yisrael.  The Torah is teaching us that each and every one us counts, and that no one can hide behind his Rabbi’s frock, his profession’s desk, or his living room sofa.  Furthermore, Rav Shimshon Dovid Pincus, Z’tl, explains the Pasuk which states that the Torah was given in front of “Kol Yisrael” teaches us that even if one member of K’lal Yisrael had been missing, the Torah would not have been given(!).


So what are we really to do?  We could try to review the 48 ways to acquire the Torah found in the last chapter of Pirkei Avos (6:6) which we will learn this week immediately prior to Shavuos, and select at least one way to work on.  HaRav Shmuel Berenbaum, Z’tl, suggests the following, as well:  Work on the honor due to Torah study itself.  He explains that the reason the Torah was given “B’Kolos U’Verokim”--with loud noise and thunder--is to forever instill within us the attitude and approach that one should not learn Torah with his face leaning on his elbow, or slouched over, head back, sefer on lap....you get the picture(s).  This could be a very significant Kabbala--resolution, for a person to monumentally increase the quality of his Torah study.


Over the next three days, let us remember that we too will be receiving the Torah this Shavuos.  We know that Hashem counts us and is counting on us.  Now, let us take the time to count ourselves in!



THE POWER OF ONE DAY:  The Sefer Kav HaYashar (Chapter 92) poses the question: If the Yomim Tovim of Pesach and Sukkos span seven days, why is it that Shavuos, over which there is so much to celebrate, is observed for only one day?  The Sefer brings an answer, ahl pi kabala, that Shavuos is rooted in Hashem’s oneness, and that our oneness as a “Goy Echad Ba’Aretz” then stems from Hashem’s oneness, all of which is symbolized by the oneness of Shavuos.  Of course, the profundity of this concept is enormous, and we are already ahead by just acknowledging its depth.  We may add an additional simple suggestion as to the one day nature of our beloved Zeman Matan Toraseinu:  It teaches us the power of One Day.  In just one day, one can go up to Shomayim and receive a Torah--in only one day one can accomplish so much in Torah study, and yes, just one day can mean the difference between you and billions of others on this planet--so how can we let even one day go by without some kind of meaningful Torah study?


Indeed, the Chofetz Chaim (Chomas HaDas, Chapter 8) writes that through Torah study, each person in accordance with his potential, one builds his palace in Olam Haba, day by day, brick by brick.  Have you ever noticed houses undergoing construction which stop and start, stop and start, stop and start, their construction?  Some days there are no workers there, some days just a few. The building process seems almost endless, and, in some cases does not get completed, or at least completed properly, because of all the inconsistency, the delays, the jumps and reversals, otherwise absent in the day-to-day consistency to completion.  You do not need 20 workers there, if everyone has his job, and knows what to do--DAILY, until completion.


A wise person once noted that the last posuk of the second Parasha of Shema states: “LeMa’an Yirbu Yemeichem....Kimei HaShomayim Al Ha’Aretz...--[In the merit of Mitzvah observance your days will be] increased like the days of the Heavens on the Earth” What do increased days have to do with Heavens on the Earth?  The answer may be that if we look up to the Heavens for our days, if we make each day heavenly, by learning and living what Moshe Rabbeinu was able to wrest away from the angels on high, then our days are literally Heaven here on Earth.


We must always remember that the Torah especially uses the word ‘Simcha’  in discussing the holiday of Shavuos.  Our joy is truly twofold, for we not only received the Torah on that great day more than 3,300 years ago, but we commit to take this remarkable gift, compared to water and fire, to bread and wine, to milk and honey, and use it as our daily guide to navigate the pathways of Heaven on Earth.  A real Shavuos inspiration should bring us to remember this primacy throughout the year--especially at those very times when the Heavens feel oh so distant.  A Torah ‘bite’ at lunch, a shiur on CD in the car between errands, a vort before going to sleep, sharing a Torah thought with a friend while exercising, all serve to remove those roadblocks, eliminate the weighty sandbags, and raise us up very high--as we see the Earth meeting our Heaven!



1 Sivan

NINETEEN WEEKS! As we forge through the Third Week of our Nineteen Weeks of Shemone Esrei Improvement, we focus on the third bracha of Attah Kadosh. By the following link, we provide a wonderful review (in Hebrew) of the powerful third bracha by Rabbi Ronen Shaharabani, Shlita. http://tinyurl.com/zjxfjdf



YEHI RATZON: By the following link we provide a beautiful, concise Tefillah to be recited (daily) by children on behalf of their parents http://tinyurl.com/jzyo54s.



ROSH CHODESH SIVAN!  Today is Rosh Chodesh Sivan, the day upon which Bnei Yisrael entered Midbar Sinai, and changed the history of the World.  This month’s mazal is Teumim (Gemini, or twins).  The Sefer HaTodaah by Rabbi Eliyahu Kitov, Z’tl, suggests that the reason for this is that both Moshe Rabbeinu and Aharon HaKohen were together essential in bringing the Torah to our people.


The following is excerpted from the sefer Let My Nation Serve Me by Rabbi Yosef Deutsch, Shlita, (Artscroll) a wonderful work which provides both depth and feeling to the events in the Midbar leading up to Mattan Torah, and to Mattan Torah itself, as culled from Chazal in the Midrash and Gemara, and from the Rishonim.  It is highly recommended for all in proper preparation for Shavuos.  Rabbi Deutsch writes as follows:


“There is a special significance to the Torah being given in the month of Sivan.  The astrological sign for Sivan is Gemini, twins.  The gentile nations would one day have to give an accounting for their rejection of the Torah when Hashem offered it to them, and Hashem wanted to anticipate the arguments they would offer in their own defense and refute them from the very beginning.  He knew that the gentile nations would say that they thought that the Torah did not relate to them. It was designed for the Jewish nation, a nation with which they have no kinship or connection.


Therefore, Hashem chose to give the Torah in the month of Sivan, a month characterized by the sign of twins, as if to say, “The Jewish people are not, from their origin, a nation apart.  They are descended from Yaakov, who had a twin brother Eisav, and the gentile nations, at least those descended from Eisav, cannot claim that the Torah is not destined for them.


The sign of twins is also especially propitious for the Giving of the Torah.  Hashem did not want to give it in Nissan, whose sign is Aries, the sheep, because the Egyptians worshipped sheep.  He did not give want to give the Torah during Iyar, whose sign is Taurus, the bull, because the Jewish people would worship the Golden Calf, a young bull.  Hashem did not want an everlasting association between the idol and the Torah.  Therefore, he chose to wait until Sivan, whose sign is the twins, a symbol of fraternal love and solidarity.  These are virtues that qualified the Jewish people to receive the Torah.


There is also a special symbolism in the Torah being given on the sixth of Sivan rather than any other day of the month.  The original creation of mankind took place on the sixth day of Creation.  The Giving of the Torah would be the act of national creation for the Jewish people, and therefore it, too, was to take place on the sixth day.  Furthermore, that year, 6 Sivan fell on a Shabbos, which was also significant.  Just as Shabbos provided the spiritual protection of the newly-created Adam, so did the Shabbos on which the Torah was given provide the spiritual protection for the newly created Jewish nation.”


Hakhel Note:  These thoughts help us focus on the profundity of Mattan Torah.  When one has an audience with the King, he prepares well in advance for the occasion. Unlike other audiences, where the commoner gives the King a gift, on Shavuos, Hashem will be giving us a remarkable, life-giving, infinite and irreplaceable gift.  We would do well to begin preparing for this incredible event--at least by studying about it from a beautiful sefer such as this--or from the original sources--today!




SEEDS OF A LIFETIME!  HaRav Shimshon Pincus, Z’tl, provides the following famous and fascinating Mashal:


A young man, eager to have a successful future, is advised to go to the local gardening store, and to purchase all kinds of fruit tree seeds.  Even though he may not see the benefits of his investment immediately, over the years those handfuls of seeds will produce many trees and a wonderful abundance of fruit for consumption and sale.  The young man eagerly purchases many different kinds of seeds. Upon realizing how easy and cheap they were to buy, and how the profits to be reaped are highly disproportional to the investment of time and physical effort, the young man was not as careful as he should have been.  He lost some seeds here, threw some seeds at some birds there, planted some seeds too close to each other, and then did not properly take care of the trees that did eventually begin to grow.


The easy, almost “sure” investment, was nearly squandered largely due to a lack of use of his intelligence, a simple failure of adequate care and an almost surprising degree of flippancy.  True, a small part of his final relative failure may have been due to bad weather, occasional illness and other factors, but they were minor compared to his carelessness, inattention and perhaps even negligence.


That is the Mashal.  The Nimshal cries out to us. Each one of us is given the incredible opportunity to harness our unique and individual portion in Torah during our lifetime.  The little seedlings with which we begin--”Torah Tziva Lanu Moshe”, “Shema Yisrael”, “Bereishis Bora”--must be wisely planted and nurtured.  Even when they grow into full-sized trees, they must be properly watered, pruned and harvested.


Yet, many unfortunately do not follow the road to personal success.  A person drops seeds here, needlessly throws away seeds there, and does not take care of the tree when planted--by failing to keep his daily study commitment; not buying or reading a new Torah book or Sefer even if it is of interest to him; not joining a new shiur in Shul or watching a Shiur on www.torahanytime.com when he has some time at his computer and not progressing (or feeling advancement) on a yearly basis in the Parashas HaShavua or in other topics of Torah study.  There are other examples--a five-minute chevrusa, a telephone shiur (718-906-6400, is one example), Shmiras Halashon HaYomi, etc.  The possibilities are almost endless.  So much of our opportunities are free, and much of our learning can be done in a group setting, which also makes it easier.  We just have to be diligent, and care.


We are at the threshold of Shavuos, where we must evaluate and re-evaluate Torah’s place in our life.  Chazal (Chagiga 3A) actually provide one definition of a “shoteh” (an insane person) as one who loses what is given to him.  We should not, c’v, place ourselves anywhere near that category--squandering those seedlings which can be nurtured into such big and beautiful fruit-bearing trees.


Rabbi Pincus actually teaches that we should view every five or ten minutes as one seed.  That is literally how powerful and meaningful every short period of Torah study can be.  If one throws away a “seed” of his time, then he has discarded not only the seed, but all of the neutrons, protons and electrons within it, the entire DNA , all of the life-filled potential bound within.


We have made the Cheshbon in the past: Five minutes a day is 1,825 minutes a year.  Over twenty years, this amounts to 36,500 minutes, which is more than 600 hours.  According to the Vilna Gaon’s calculation, as explained by the Chofetz Chaim (see Shenos Eliyahu to P’eah 1:1), if one would have been learning during these five minutes every day, he would have accumulated over 7 million mitzvos!  We now can appreciate how taking care of that seedling could produce such a beautiful and glorious tree!



BUT--WHY THE THUNDER AND LIGHTNING?: HaRav Matisyahu Salomon, Shlita (Matisyahu Chaim Ben Ettel, may he have a Refuah Sheleimah B’Karov), 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 thunder and lightning--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 Pasuk 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 Gemara, even though Mussar seder had begun.  He approached them and asked that they now study Yiras Shomayim.  “Rebbi,” they asked, “if the study of Mussar is so important, why do we study Gemara 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!



29 Iyar

NINETEEN WEEKS!  We are now in the third of the nineteen week period prior to Rosh Hashana. In past years, we have proceeded weekly, Bracha by Bracha, through Shemone Esrei with a special emphasis on Kavannah on that week’s Bracha.  This week’s Bracha is Kedusha--Attah Kadosh (how appropriate in the week of Matan Torah). We provide by the following link our notes to the Nineteen Brachos for the years 5771 and 5772 http://www.hakhel.info/TefillahArchive.html  May we highly recommend the Nineteen Week Program again this year--either based upon your own study (such as by utilizing the magnificent Rav Schwab on Prayer or another similar work), or by utilizing the link provided on a daily basis throughout the week?



THE LINK TO PROPER SPEECH:  We provide by the following link -  http://tinyurl.com/l9b42zd  -- an easy-to-print comparison of that which we had previously published on What To Say, and What Not To Say! Please feel free to post in an important place and share with others!



YOM KIPPUR KOTON FOR ROSH CHODESH SIVAN: Today is the Yom Kippur Koton for Rosh Chodesh Sivan. The Shelah HaKadosh composed a Tefillah to be recited by parents for their children—especially on Erev Rosh Chodesh Sivan. Of course, the Tefillah can be recited any time as well.  The Tefillah is available at the following link  http://tinyurl.com/4u6epl 



LESS THAN ONE WEEK AWAY! It is now less than one week to Shavuos…and counting (Baruch Hashem)!  We should remember that in addition to our commemoration of receiving the Torah, there are other mitzvos associated with Shavuos.


Firstly, although Shavuos is only one or two days, the Mitzvah of Simcha is no different on Shavuos than on Pesach or Succos.  To properly prepare for this Mitzvah, we must make sure that everyone has what they need to be in the proper state of Simcha on Yom Tov (including sleep!).  This especially means that meat, wine, new clothing and special treats must be purchased as needed.  Indeed, the Mishna Berurah (Shulchan Aruch, Orach Chaim, Siman 529, seif koton 2) quoting Chazal (Baitza, 16A), writes that a person’s exact income is determined on Rosh Hashana, except that if one expends additional monies on certain designated Mitzvos, his income will be increased “dollar for dollar” for the additional monies spent on these Mitzvos.  One of these Mitzvos is additional money spent for the sake of Yom Tov. [One should consult with his Rav or Posek if he is already in credit card or other debt, or cannot pay his bills in the ordinary course, for Halachic instruction on Yom Tov purchases.]


Secondly, the Shulchan Aruch (ibid.) writes that one must make sure that the “Ger, Yasom, Almanah, together with other poor people, are taken care of on Yom Tov, as well.”  Accordingly, we must give Tzedaka now (i.e., today!) to make sure that others less fortunate than ourselves have the opportunity to celebrate Simchas Yom Tov in Eretz Yisrael and abroad.  Tzedaka organizations in Eretz Yisrael are especially hurting—hurting--for funds to feed the poor.  You can go to www.YadEliezer.org right now to help a family in the Holy Land smile and be happy on Shavuos together with you, to fulfill Chazal’s teaching--”I was happy, and I made others happy too.”


Thirdly, we should remember that there are certain mitzvos relating to the Yom Tov--actually, essential to the Yom Tov--which we will be unable to perform this Shavuos unless the Moshiach arrives first.  The Mitzvos of Aliyah L’Regel to the Bais HaMikdash--yes, even for only the one day of Shavuos; the various Karbonos, including the one-time-a-year Kivsei Atzeres and Shtai Halechem, the Olas Re’iya, Shalmei Chagiga and Korbanos Musaf are all physically and spiritually, shatteringly and irreplaceably, lost from us if the Moshiach does not come. At the very least, we should attempt to study these Mitzvos as a preparation for or at least on Yom Tov itself, so that we are not totally forsaken of them.  For starters, one can study the Sefer HaChinuch, the Siddur Bais Yaakov of HaRav Yaakov Emden, or even easier, the Parashios of the Torah relating to these many Mitzvos. We should also purposefully daven over the next week that we fully and finally celebrate this Shavuos with the Shechina in Yerushalayim Ir Hakodesh!



PLAN OF ACTION: In just a few days, we will celebrate Matan Torah with Shavuos.  Much in the same way as we get closer and closer to Yom Kippur do we feel a need to do Teshuva, or as we get closer and closer to Pesach do we feel a need to rid ourselves of our Chometz, so too, should we demonstrate our recognition of the advent and approach of Matan Torah.  One should not take lightly the need to ready himself for receiving the Torah.  Indeed, Chazal (Pesikta D’Rav Cahana, Piska 12) teach:


“HaKadosh Baruch Hu said to Klal Yisrael--when you read this Parasha [of Ma’amad Har Sinai] to Me every year, I will consider it as if you were standing before Me on Har Sinai and receiving the Torah.”


So, we must do something.  Just as Klal Yisrael were conscious that they were traveling directly from Egypt to Har Sinai, and that they required several days of further preparation upon their arrival at Har Sinai, so, too, must we begin to sense the need to draw near and experience and inspire ourselves with Torah anew.


One easy method to accomplish this is to simply take the time out in the week before Shavuos to learn an extra ten to fifteen minutes a day.  If one were told that he was going to be receiving the Crown Jewels as a gift in less than a week, he would most certainly begin to demonstrate a newfound special love and care, a unique concern and appreciation--and a desire to learn more about it!


A second, more difficult, but likewise more rewarding and lasting, manner of demonstrating awareness of the time period that we are now in, is a point we have touched on in the past--properly fulfilling what Chazal describe as one of our important purposes in life--setting aside time for Torah study (Shabbos 31A).  Indeed, every night in Maariv we recite “Ki Heym Chayeinu--for they are our life”…  Likewise, Shlomo HaMelech (the wisest of all men) writes in Mishlei (3:18) “Eitz Chaim Hi…”--it is the Tree of Life for those who grab hold of it.  So, just as one may need, on a daily basis, to imbibe oxygen, to take a particular treatment, to ingest a particular medication, in order to remain alive, we, too, must be sure--very sure--that we, too, are dutifully taking our daily dosage of Torah study, as well.  There are several important points made by the Mishna Berurah (Shulchan Aruch, Orach Chaim 155) relating to Kevius Itim--designating those special times during the day.  Below are the Mishna Berurah’s recommendations. Please consider how you can apply them to your own Torah study, or to help others in their Torah study.


A.       One should set aside time for Torah Study immediately after davening in the morning and in the evening so that he is not sidetracked (or hoodwinked) by the Yetzer Hara and his emissaries;


B.      One must be sure in addition to any daily study of Tanach/Mishna/Gemara, to study books of Halacha.  In fact, if one does not learn several hours a day, it is proper for one’s “Ikar Limud”--primary study--to be in Halacha L’Ma’aseh, in a way that he will understand and practically apply his studies;


C.       If something happened which prevented him from his regular designated time of study, he should make it up as soon as possible, but the latest before going to sleep.  Even if one cannot study at all, because of some event beyond his control, he should not depart from his place after davening until he has at least learned one Pasuk or one Halacha;


D.      It is recommended that the set time for Torah study, if at all possible, be in a particular, designated place, and that the place should preferably be in Shul;


E.       If one learns as part of a group of people, it brings greater Kavod Shamayim (Bei’ur Halacha there); and


F.       The Mechaber (Shulchan Aruch, Orach Chaim 238) writes that one should be even more careful with this set time for Torah study at night than by day (see Mishna Berurah there for a detailed explanation).


Let us take the time out to rededicate and reinvigorate ourselves with our Tree of Life, as we properly utilize this wonderful preparatory period for our very own, our very personal, Kabalas HaTorah!



26 Iyar

BRACHOS ALERT! We asked the OU, which gives the Hashgacha on Popinsanity popcorn, which has pieces of graham cracker mixed with the popcorn, what the appropriate bracha is. The OU advised that it is Mezonos (the label states that the package is ‘Pas Yisroel’). Hakhel Note: The after-bracha would obviously be a question. We would in any event suggest that if one has purchased this product, he shows it to his Rav or Posek for a final determination as to how to best use it.



ON THE YAHRZEIT OF THE RAMCHAL, Z’TL--TODAY:  Today is the Yahrzeit of HaRav Moshe Chaim Luzzato, Z’tl (the Ramchal).  We recall that the first word of the Sefer Mesilas Yesharim is Yesod--and his Yahrzeit falls out on Yesod SheB’Yesod.  We provide below several notes from HaRav Mattisyahu Salomon, Shlita (may he have a Refuah Sheleima BeKarov) from his Sefer Matnas Chelko, which contain his notes on the Sefer Mesilas Yesharim:


A.  HaRav Zundel Salanter, Z’tl, asked HaRav Chaim Volozhiner, Z’tl, what Sefer Mussar to study.  HaRav Chaim responded:  “All of the Sifrei Mussar are good to learn, but the Sefer Mesilas Yesharim should be your guide.”  HaRav Mattisyahu explains this to mean that one does not only get aroused by the Mesilas Yesharim, but that one can use this Sefer as a handbook to lead one’s life--in order to attain Ma’alos in Avodas Hashem.  In fact, HaRav Mattisyahu teaches, the Sefer is uniquely appropriate for everyone to find his way in Hashem’s service. 


B.  The G’ra, Z’tl, would say that if the Ramchal had lived in his times, he would have traveled 50 mil (100,000 amos!) to hear Mussar from him.  HaRav Mattisyahu teaches that this is not an exaggeration--and that with all of the Hasmada and Hakpada on time that the G’ra had--this is what he actually would have done! HaRav Shach, Z’tl, on commenting on the statement of the G’ra, explained that we see from here how important the study of Mussar really is! 


C.  The Mesilas Yesharim is based upon the Beraisa of Rebbi Pinchas Ben Ya’ir in which he teaches that Torah leads to Zehirus, Zehirus leads to Zerizus, Zerizus lead to Nekiyus….  There is a Chapter on each one of the Middos mentioned in the Beraisa--except for Torah.  HaRav Mattisyahu explains that the Ramchal does not begin with Torah, because Torah is the beginning, the middle and the end--for each Madreigah that one attains must be accompanied by Torah in order to grow in Avodas Hashem. 


D.  The Mesilas Yesharim begins with the phrase:  “Yesod HaChassidus--the foundation of Chassidus.  What is Chassidus?  HaRav Mattisyahu teaches that at the root of Chassidus is the teaching of Chazal:  “Ashrei Adam She’amalo BaTorah VeOseh Nachas Ruach LeYotzro--a Chassid is one who toils in Torah and gives Nachas Ruach to Hashem.  Just as true Nachas to a parent is when his child does more than what is otherwise expected--so too, our Nachas to Hashem is to go beyond our ‘technical requirements’, and to demonstrate by our deeds our desire to give Him Nachas.  In this regard every person is different-- for every person has his own Olam, his own world in which he relates to Hashem based upon his own facts, his own situations and his own circumstances.  Hakhel Note:  Each person gives his own personal Nachas to Hashem--in his very own way!


E.  Just as a businessman has a plan on how he intends to become wealthy, so too, should one have a ‘plan’ as to how he is going to advance in Ruchniyus.  A person who intends to learn Shas will show greater determination and dedication than someone without this goal.  Likewise, a person with a drive towards the ultimate goal of Ruach HaKodesh (the highest level we can reach before Techiyas HaMeisim), will have a greater success than the person who takes matters as they come along. 


F.  An uninformed person may think:  What purpose is there to this world, in which he has finite years of life, and during which time he may be beset with various and sundry difficulties?  What does he have to thank Hashem for--should a person love a king because he puts him into a beautiful jail?  We know better-- we know that there is a Olam Haba, which is the true and everlasting world.  Based upon this, we can appreciate that Hashem has taken this temporary world and has made it as comfortable for us as He deems and knows to be within our best interests.  Picture one who is traveling to his son’s wedding who needs to run at full speed in order to catch the train, and then has to stand for hours sandwiched between people on the train--does he not realize that his destination is the great Simcha, which will put everything in its proper perspective?  We thus owe Hakaras HaTov to Hashem for making our ‘ride’ in Olam Hazeh as doable as He can for us--in order to get to the final destination of Eternity!


G.  HaRav Eliyahu Lopian, Z’tl, taught HaRav Mattisyahu (HaRav Mattisyahu refers to HaRav Lopian as his Rebbi), that whatever Middos a person has in this world, he will have in the next world.  If, for example, a person is jealous in this world, he will feel jealousy in the next world--to those who are on a higher Madreiga than him.  The Middos that one establishes and develops here are, literally, the Middos that will be with him forever.  Accordingly, one must undertake all appropriate action to develop Middos Tovos now.  Accordingly, one should not view the concept of ‘remembering the day of death’ as something fearful, but should view it as a Hisorerus to repair and grow while one can.  This can be compared to one who is working in the fields being told by his friend:  “It will soon be dark outside, do whatever you can now.”  Will his response to his friend be: “Don’t tell me that?!” Not at all, for his friend does not want to scare him--but to give him good advice for his betterment and benefit!


H.  Since Torah is the Tavlin (the antidote) for the Yetzer Hara, if one properly studies Torah, why would he ever have to do a Cheshbon HaNefesh?  Should not the study of Torah itself be enough, without one having to spend specific time on Yiras Shomayim and on learning Mussar?  HaRav Yisroel Salanter, Z’tl, answers that Torah study itself can serve as the exclusive antidote if certain conditions are met--i.e., that one demonstrates his Chashivus HaTorah and Hasmadas HaTorah, and also additionally learns Torah Lishmah.  HaRav Yisroel adds that when Torah study acts as the exclusive antidote to the Yetzer Hara it does so as a Segulah, and for a Segulah to work, it has to be undertaken completely, with all conditions fulfilled.  For instance, if one knows of a Segulah for Parnassah in which one must do something three days in a row, and he only does it two day in a row, it will simply not work.  Since it is difficult for us to fulfill all of these conditions completely, we must also undertake acts of Yiras Shomayim, including Cheshbon HaNefesh and the study of Mussar, in order to fight the Yetzer Hara and reach our full potential.  HaRav Mattisyahu adds that, in fact, if one engages in Cheshbon HaNefesh in order to supplement his Torah studies and fight the Yetzer Hara--then the act of Cheshbon HaNefesh is considered as part of one’s involvement in Torah as well!  He brings a Ma’aseh with his Rebbi who once found many Talmidei Chachomim who were studying a piece of leather very intently.  His Rebbi asked them what they were doing--and they responded:  “We are trying to ascertain how to make a Chalitzah shoe out of this leather.”  His Rebbi was enlightened and exclaimed:  “If when studying a piece of leather one can fulfill the Mitzvah of Talmud Torah--so too when we contemplate words of Mussar (such as thinking about the Mitzvah of VeAhavta LeRei’acha Kamocha), do we also fulfill the Mitzvah of Talmud Torah!”





A.  Last week, we mentioned that we would begin to discuss practical situations which could involve the Melacha, of Lisha, or combining substances to form a new mass.  Because of the limited space available today, we will mention only three practical examples:


1. One may mix large pieces of potato with mayonnaise to make potato salad on Shabbos, as this is not considered to be a new combined mass--because the potatoes were and remain ‘Chatichos Gedolos’, separate and identifiable, and accordingly there is no new combination of any foods. 


2. One cannot mix peanut butter and jelly together into a peanut butter and jelly mass.  One may, however, spread peanut butter on piece of bread, spread jelly on top of that, and then put another piece of bread on top to make a sandwich, as one is not mixing the two items together but is simply putting one item on top of the other. 


3. Any item which melts or dissolves into the other is not considered a new combination.  Thus, sugar dissolving in a liquid or a pill dissolving in water does not create a Lisha issue.


B. Moving flowers from place to place:  Practical Halachos from Rabbi Yisroel Dov Webster, Shlita (for Shabbos and Yom Tov):


1. There are a number of issues that come into play regarding moving cut flowers from one place to another. The first issue is whether or not there is a problem of muktza on such flowers. The Shulchan Aruch states clearly that branches of a tree are muktza unless designated for a function on Shabbos. The Mishna Berurah rules that branches that were cut to enhance and beautify one’s home are not muktza. The fact that they were designed to decorate and beautify one’s home is in itself a function, which precludes it from being muktza. A second issue relates to moving flowers that have not yet fully opened. As we will see, one of the issues of placing flowers in water on Shabbos or Yom Tov is the fact that doing so causes the flowers to open. Although zoreya [planting or facilitating growth] is limited to items attached to the ground, nonetheless the Rabbanan forbade placing flowers in water as it can be perceived as facilitating growth. The issue arises as to whether moving flowers and causing the water level to rise would in fact cause them to open sooner and be included in this Issur D’Rabbanan. The Poskim rule that one may move even unopened flowers on Shabbos or Yom Tov (HaGaon HaRav Y.S. Elyashiv Z’tl). There are, however, Poskim who maintain that one should be stringent and move the vase slowly to avoid causing the water level to rise (See Sefer Shalmei Yehuda 3-10)


2. Once a flower is detached from the ground it is no longer a living plant. Consequently, there can no longer be an issue of planting with detached flowers. However, as mentioned above, the Rabbanan forbid the placing of flowers in water on Shabbos for the following reasons: For flowers that have not yet fully opened, placing them in water would cause them to fully open which can be perceived as planting because of its similarity(O.C. 336:11). Additionally, the Rabbanan forbid the actual filling up or adding of water to a vase of flowers since they felt this involves undue exertion which can detract from the aura of Shabbos and resembles weekday activities (M.B. 336-53). Based on the second reason, one may not fill up a vase even for flowers that are fully opened. There is a dispute among the Poskim whether one may place fully opened flowers into a vase that was filled before Shabbos began. If one forgot to place his flowers in a vase that was filled before Shabbos, he may rely on the lenient opinion and do so on Shabbos (Sha’ar Hatziyon 336-48). According to all opinions, one may return fully opened flowers into water where they had been and were subsequently removed (M.B. 336-53). There is a slight difference between Shabbos and Yom Tov in this matter. As mentioned above, one may not even add water to a vase with flowers on Shabbos. On Yom Tov, however, one may add water to a vase containing opened flowers (Neshamas Shabbos 3-242). Nevertheless, one may not empty out and refill the vase with fresh water (see O.H. 654).


We are familiar with the concept that one may not take pleasure from this world without first reciting a blessing and thanking Hashem for the item. This rule applies to smell as well. However, the Halacha is that one only recites a blessing when the item was placed in that location for the purpose of giving off a scent. If there was a different motive, even though the item may emit a pleasant fragrance no blessing is required (Based on O.H. 217-1, M.B. 1). However, if one takes it into their hands to smell it then a blessing is required. (See however Chazon Ish O.H. 35-1) Flowers generally are placed in the home for their pleasing appearance, rather than for their scent. Hence, unless one took the flower into his hand with the intention of smelling it, no blessing is required. If one did take hold of the flower to smell it, the following blessing would be recited. On leaves or flowers of trees the blessing is Borei Atzvei Besomim. This would include roses, carnations, jasmine and honeysuckle. On grasses, herbs or flowers that grow from the ground the blessing are Borei Isvei Besamim.





A. The Parasha begins with the words: “Im Bechukosai Teileichu”--which Rashi defines as our requirement to seriously study Torah--to be Ameilim BaTorah. Why does the Pasuk refer to the study of Torah as a chok--as a law without obvious reason? After all, we all know how precious a gift the Torah is--and what it contains?! It is our guidebook and guideline to life! Rabbi Eliyahu Schneider, Shlita, brings the Ohr HaChaim HaKadosh, who, in one of his explanations, teaches that we must study the Torah as a ‘Chok Velo Ya’avor’--in a steadfast manner without leaving room for breaching a Torah study time or session for this ‘good’ reason, or for that ‘very important purpose’. Another aspect of the chok of Torah, Rabbi Schneider explains, is presented by the Kli Yakar. The Kli Yakar teaches that the chok, the ameilus, that the Pasuk is referring to is chazara--reviewing one’s learning time and time again, so that it becomes more and more a part of you. This is difficult--for especially in our fast-paced society, it is difficult for us to allot time to reinforce the same teachings within us, notwithstanding that we will find new sweetness and discover special nuances if we seriously apply ourselves in each review. Practical and meaningful thoughts that we all can apply...on the great avodah of Im Bechukosai Teileichu.


B. The Torah teaches that the reward for Ameilus BaTorah and Shemiras HaMitzvos is Venasati Gishmeichem B’Itam--that rain will fall in its proper time. At first glance, this may be a bit puzzling. Why is rain, which is viewed to someone who is not a farmer--whether one is young or old--as somewhat of a burden and have-to-live-with type of event, listed here in the Torah as a primary bracha? The Ramban explains that the Torah is teaching us that rain is truly an incomparable gift--for through its waters we remain healthy and strong  and live longer lives. HaRav Ezriel Erlanger, Shlita, in quoting this Ramban, adds that perhaps the Torah is instructing us not to look at the world in a myopic manner--considering only whether the matter or item in front of you is immediately pleasurable. Rather, one should take a step back and understand the source of the wood used to build his home, the fruits and vegetables that he eats, the meat that he consumes, the wool that he wears…. Once one can appreciate this, then he can take the next important step--which is realizing, and better yet appreciating the Source of each and everything...including the water!


C. In a related vein, at the outset of the Parasha, the Meshech Chochma magnificently explains that Hashem created the world in a way so that extraordinary miracles are simply not necessary. In lieu of special events, Hashem created a natural order or nature, which together constitutes  nissim retzufim--a series of ongoing miracles. If we fulfill our task-- Im Bechukosai Teileichu, then the heavens and the earth will continue to function in their ‘natural’ way--to shower bracha on the world. When we do in fact experience extraordinary miracles, then it is only to remind us of the everyday, continuing miracles, which constitute Hashem’s constant, enduring and unending Hashgacha Pratis over us. The greatness of Avraham Avinu was that he understood Hashem’s Mastery over every moment of our ‘natural’ existence--and tried his utmost to teach this to the people of his--and all future--generations. Indeed, Chazal (Brachos 4B) teach that if someone recites the Kepitel of Ashrei every day, then he is a Ben Olam Habah. Why? The Mesech Chochma concludes that it is because the pesukim of this Kepitel affirm this very great lesson: Hashem’s Hashgacha Pratis over every aspect of all of nature--and of each and every detail of each and every one of our lives!



KAVOD HATORAH! As we approach Shavuos, one must undertake, as we have noted in previous years to show greater respect to Rabbanim and Talmidei Chachomim by standing up when they are in your proximity; and, similarly, trying to reshelve Seforim that may be strewn about in Shul, even if he was not responsible for their state.  At home, we once again remind everyone to make sure that Siddurim and Bentschers/Zemiros books are properly treated and placed in their proper position; and if any Sefer page or binding is ripped, or torn, to promptly repair them with tape that you have handy.  It is interesting to note that the Hebrew word for honor, “kavod”, is also used as a synonym for the Neshama--soul, as Dovid HaMelech pleads in Tehillim: “Lem’aan yezamercha kavod...”--so that my soul praises You.  Yet, the gematria of kavod is 32, which corresponds to “Lev”--the heart, symbolizing feeling.  Thus, the term kavod uniquely combines both Neshama, symbolizing our superior intellect, and Lev, demonstrating our unique humane feeling.  When we properly show kavod, we unite our powerful intellect and unparalleled feeling, to display true respect, whether due or earned.  


Hakhel Note: When one walks into a Shul or Bais Midrash and notices that there are one or more Siddurim or Chumashim or other Seforim which are on tables and not put back in their place--should one take the time to find their place and re-shelve them--or are you taking away the Gabbai’s job-- for it is his duty and his zechus? A Rosh Yeshiva answered as follows:  “The Steipeler says that if one leaves Seforim out when he can put them back, then he is demonstrating a measure of achzarius-cruelty.  One should not leave it all to the Gabbai (especially if the Gabbai is a Talmid Chochom himself) --and if one does so he violates the Torah commands of “Lo Sirda Bo Beforech--do not subject someone to hard labor (actually found in this week’s Parasha-Vayikrah 25;43) and he also violates the vital mitzvah of “Veahavta LeRayacha Kamocha--loving your fellow man as yourself.”  Moreover, one who leaves Seforim on the table could cause Bitul Torah for another who cannot find the Sefer (or even the kind of Siddur) that he is looking for.  Finally, there is an element of bizayon to the Seforim--especially if they are dispersed here and there in a disorganized fashion.


HaRav Chaim Kanievsky, Shlita, relates that when he was younger the Chazon Ish noticed that he was studying Torah with his elbows on the Gemara, but that he was careful not to put any other Sefer on top of his Gemara.  The Chazon Ish advised him that he acted incorrectly--no elbows were allowed on his Gemara, but another Sefer being used in connection with this study, even that of a later commentary, was.


Many of us were trained as children that when a Sefer falls, you pick it up and kiss it.  What if two Seforim fall?  The Bais Lechem Yehuda, one of the classic meforshim found in the Shulchan Aruch itself (ibid.) writes that both Seforim should be picked up as quickly as possible--and then kissed together.


Some common examples where we can show Kavod HaTorah are, which we have mentioned in the past and which require our renewal and rededication before Shavuos, are:


·         Not permitting children’s books with Torah content to be placed, or remain, on the floor

·         Not tossing Seforim (Hebrew or English) even from short distances or onto the table

·         Not placing Seforim on your lap or sitting on the same level that Seforim are placed

·         Not holding a Sefer below you waist, or letting it bang against your leg

·         Not keeping Seforim unlocked in your car, as they are truly your honored treasure, or on the car seat where someone will sit down near or upon them

·         Kissing a Sefer before and after use (and perhaps even during use--if you learn something from it that really excites you--as we had previously pointed out--according to HaRav Pam, Z’tl, one should also try to learn from the Sefer that he had dropped showing true kavod for it!)

·         Taking a Sefer with you when traveling--as Rav Quinn, Z’tl, was known to always remark “You’re always safer with a Sefer!”


The above is only a brief and summary listing of improvements in Torah, but is certainly a start for any of us to get moving with.  We more than welcome your suggestions. We especially note that the first three words of this week’s Parasha are “Im Bechukosai Teileichu” (Vayikra 26:3).  Chazal (quoted by Rashi) teach that this refers to “walking, moving, in the study of Torah.”  This is our opportunity to demonstrate that we are taking the clear lesson from the Parasha, and that we are on the move to improve in Torah! 



THIS SUNDAY: Sunday is the Yahrzeit of Shmuel Hanavi. Dovid Hamelech wrote about Shmuel Hanavi as follows: “Moshe V’Aaron BeChohanav U’Shmuel B’Korei Shemo (Tehillim 99:6)… Moshe and Aaron are among His leaders, and Shmuel is among those who call out His name—they called out to Hashem and He answered them.” We see from here that Shmuel was contrasted to Moshe and Aaron together- -with Shmuel being answered by Hashem in the same manner as Moshe and Aharon! There is a great lesson here. Shmuel Hanavi teaches us how a person can raise himself up to new heights-- and be literally included together with others of great stature in the service of Hashem. What an inspiration this should serve for us all. Think of your Rav, Posek, or Rosh Yeshiva, and truly endeavor to reach his middah or madreiga—at least in some way!



25 Iyar

NINETEEN WEEKS! As we forge through the Second Week of our Nineteen Weeks of Shemone Esrei Improvement, we focus on the second bracha of Gevuros--Techiyas HaMeisim. By the following link, we provide a wonderful review (in Hebrew) of the powerful second bracha by Rabbi Ronen Shaharabani, Shlita.   




KOSHER ICE CREAM TRUCK REMINDER!  As the summer months approach, frum neighborhoods have now begun to hear the musical sounds of “Kosher Ice Cream” trucks moving slowly through the streets. One must be careful not to allow his amazement at this new phenomenon to overcome his common sense. When it comes to any new food store or establishment, one should determine the Hashgacha and its standards--the ice cream truck should be no different.

  • Is there a Kashrus certificate?

  • If there is one--is it for this truck (or a photocopy)?

  • Is it current?

  • Are there crossouts and smudges?

  • Is the operator’s name stated? 

  • What is being certified?


One most certainly cannot think of simply relying on the unknown driver of the truck to answer your questions in a responsible manner. It would make sense for the Hashgacha to be called and asked:

  • Do you actually spot check the trucks--or do you just supervise the warehouse that they depart from?

  • Whose soft ice cream or yogurt mix is it?

  • When it comes to slush--what is its source?

  • What is the source of the fruits in the smoothies? Note that some fruits definitely require bedika.


ADDITIONAL POINT: Good Humor and similar trucks selling packaged ices and other packaged items with hashgachos are also attempting to sell soft, unpackaged ice cream in various forms by showing a hashgacha stamped on the side or bottom of ice cream tubs on the truck.


One should definitely allow his intellect to overcome his desire before purchase...advise your neighbors and friends!



HOW WAS YOUR WALK? Many trying to improve their Torah study during this now short period before Shavuos may be attempting to ‘think in learning’ while walking or travelling (rather than, for example, being in or on their cellphone).  A good measure of success would be noting whether one realizes he has to look up something in a Chumash, Gemara or other Sefer as a result of his thoughts, and when he arrives in Shul or at home--has a new short project to take care of!



MORE SALIENT POINTS ON TORAH FROM HARAV CHAIM KANIEVSKY, SHLITA!:  In keeping with our spirit of Talmud Torah enhancement, we provide addition points and pointers from HaRav Chaim Kanievsky, Shlita, relating to Talmud Torah (Derech Sicha):


1.  HaRav Chaim brings from the Chazon Ish that even when one sits in his corner and studies privately--and is not even known to others--the Torah study will nevertheless have a real influence on the entire environment.  Hakhel Note:  In the physical world there are sound waves, radio waves, and the like--in the Torah world, there are, literally, Torah waves! 


2.  HaRav Chaim was told about a Maggid Shiur who ran to Shul rather than take a bus in order not to be late to give his Shiur, and was saved from a terrorist bomb on the bus.  He responded:  “The zechus of Torah protected him, and since he cannot bring a Korban Todah at this moment, he should learn Perek HaTodah (Menachos Chapter 8), with Rashi and Tosfos!


3.  HaRav Chaim was asked that if a Malach learns with a fetus so that he will properly understand Torah after he is born (Niddah 31A), how does a Ger study Torah after he converts--after all he had no Malach learning with him?  He responded that it is enough that the Ger was at Ma’amad Har Sinai, and it is possible that Geirim have their own special Siyata DiShmaya in this area.


4.  Dovid HaMelech teaches in Tehillim (119:72):  “Tov Li Toras Picha MeiAlphei Zahav V’Chesef--Torah study is better to me than thousands in silver and gold.”  What is the Chidush in this Pasuk--how can one compare ephemeral silver and gold to an everlasting word of Torah?!  HaRav Chaim answers that the silver and gold here refers to money used to purchase Mitzvos--and even if through much money one can build many Yeshivos--it is still better to sit and learn!  HaRav Chaim adds that the Toras Picha--the Torah from the mouth of Hashem refers to the fact that the Torah that we are zoche to learn comes to us directly from Hashem’s ‘mouth’, as the Pasuk (see Niddah 70B) states “MiPiv Da’as U’Sevunah--from His ‘mouth’ is knowledge and understanding.”  Think about it--Torah--directly from Hashem’s ‘mouth’--to yours!


5.  Chazal (Yevamos 62B) teach that:  “Lamad Torah Beyalduso, Yilmad BeZaknuso--one who learns Torah when a child, should also learn when he is older.”  What is the Chiddush of this Pasuk--most certainly an older person knows even more than a child how important it is to learn?!  HaRav Chaim explains that an older person may believe that he should continuously learn new things as his time becomes more limited in this world, and not review that which he has already learned.  This is not so--as one must take time to review what he has learned--even at the expense of learning areas of Torah that he may not have yet achieved.


6.  The Pasuk (Devarim 4:9) states:  “VeHodatem Levanecha V’Livnei Vanecha--and you should relate it [Ma’amad Har Sinai and the Torah] to your sons and your son’s sons”.  HaRav Chaim explains that this Pasuk instructs us that there is a separate Mitzvah on a grandfather to teach not only his son, but his grandson as well.  In fact, Chazal teach that, since this Pasuk refers to Ma’amad Har Sinai, the Torah is teaching us that one who teaches his grandson Torah is considered as if he received it at Har Sinai (see Kiddushin 30A).  Additional Note:  HaRav Chaim adds that the ikar Mitzvah of VeLimadetem Osam Es Beneichem, is for a father to teach his son the Chamisha Chumshei Torah (see Rambam Hilchos Talmud Torah 1:7).  In fact, HaRav Chaim recalls how his father would study with him once a week, even when HaRav Chaim was much older, for this very reason.  There is a different Mitzvah to learn Torah SheBe’al Peh with a son which is based on the Pasuk VeShinantam Levanecha. (Shulchan Aruch, Yoreh De’ah 245:6)


7.  HaRav Chaim advised that his father, the Steipeler, Z’tl, wanted him to prepare his own Bar Mitzvah Drasha, but he could not--so the Steipeler helped him with it, and the Steipeler eventually published it as well, for it was the Steipeler’s Chiddush.  Hakhel Note: What a great lesson--there is truly hope for us all!


8.  HaRav Chaim brings Rabbeinu Yonah to Avos (2:7), who teaches that Marbeh Torah Marbeh Chaim (the more Torah one learns, the more life one has) is a Chiddush--because one would think that the worries associated with study could c’v shorten a person’s life--after all, one realizes that he does not know this, he still has to learn that, he still does not understand this, he cannot find someone to learn that with….  Nevertheless, we still have the special bracha and havtacha here that the more Torah--the more life!


9.  Chazal (Shavuos 15B) teach that one cannot heal himself with Divrei Torah.  If that is the case, why is it the custom of many to recite the ‘Pitum HaKetores’ in order to become wealthy?  HaRav Chaim answers that, indeed, one’s Kavannah should not be for the sake of wealth, but rather for the sake of the Mitzvah--and in that zechus may he become wealthy.  In any event, by reciting the Pitum HaKetores--even if it is done expressly for the sake of attaining wealth--it is not prohibited as a Lachash (as a charm or incantation) which would otherwise be a bizayon HaTorah.  Rather, one essentially means that in the Zechus of reciting the Parashas HaKetores, he will attain wealth.  


10.  What is the age range of our Tinokos Shel Beis Rabban--the precious lot of children who we cannot and will not stop from learning even to build the Beis HaMikdash?  HaRav Chaim responded that it would appear to be between the ages of 5 (Ben Chameish LaMikrah) and 13.  Hakhel Note:  May we soon be zoche not to have to stop the Tinokos Shel Beis Rabban from learning--as we build the Beis HaMikdash speedily and in our day.  As the Daf Yomi concludes Seder Kodshim with the Mesechtos which describe the Beis HaMikdash and the Avodah therein, let us put a special effort into our Tefillos and our Torah study--so that the next Seder of Taharos will be studied Halacha LeMa’aseh!  


11.  HaRav Chaim was asked how long one could delay a Siyum on a Mesechta in order to wait for a Simcha or other event?  HaRav Chaim answered:  “Kamah Yamim VeLo Yoser--only a few days and not more.”  However, if one left over an entire Perek of the Mesechta until close to the Simcha, and completed it within the few days before, he could then make the Siyum. 


12.  With respect to the smaller Mesechtos:  HaRav Chaim ruled that B’Sha’as HaDechak one could make a Siyum on Mesechta Tomid (the current Daf Yomi Mesechta) for Tanis Bechorim on Erev Pesach.  HaRav Chaim was once seen learning Mesechta Kinim in several minutes and then drank wine and said the Hadran.  When he was asked why he had done so--after all, would he make a Siyum on the Mishnayos of Mesechta Pe’ah as well--he responded that Mesechta Kinnim is different because it is located (and printed) between two Gemaros. 


13.  As we have noted in the past, HaRav Chaim is of the opinion that if someone does not make a Siyum on the Mishnayos of Seder Zeraim and Seder Taharos together with all the Mesechtos of Gemara that he has studied, then it is not called a Siyum HaShas.  He explained that the reason HaRav Meir Schapiro, Z’tl, did not include Zeraim and Taharos as part of Daf Yomi study, was because the printed Gemaros at that time were not the same as to their presentation of the Mishnayos of Zeraim and Taharos.  HaRav Chaim therefore advises that one learn these Mishnayos in order to accomplish a complete Siyum HaShas.


14. A student once saw HaRav Chaim making a Siyum on the four Chalakim of Shulchan Aruch, at which he recited the Hadran that is recited at the end of a Mesechta.  He explained that the Shulchan Aruch is Halacha LeMa’aseh to the Torah for us today, and is accordingly very worthy of a Siyum. 


15.  HaRav Chaim explained that the reason we especially express a “Mazal Tov!” at a Siyum--even though we usually do not say Mazal Tov to someone when he performs another Mitzvah, is because by making a Siyum one performs a special Mitzvah which he is not obligated in, and it is accordingly a Zeman Mesugal for the bracha of Mazal Tov to be fulfilled.  Moreover, once, when HaRav Chaim made a Siyum on Mesechta Menachos, he drank some wine.  There was a man present who had come to ask for a bracha for Shidduchim for his children.  HaRav Chaim gave him some wine to drink, advising him that to drink from a Seudas Mitzvah is also a Segulah. 


16.  HaRav Chaim explains that when one is helping to support another in Torah study, the zechusim he attains as a result cannot be greater than that of the person who studied.  This means that if Zevulun is supporting Yissocher, but Yissocher does not have sufficient Yiras Shomayim or Middos Tovos, the lack of which impede his Torah study, then Zevulun’s merits will be limited by this as well.  So too, the merits of a woman who sends her husband out to Torah study are bound up in what her husband actually accomplishes.  If he ‘schmoozes’, or wastes time--he is doing so for the both of them.  On the other hand, of course, if he values his time--the value will be doubled!   Note:  HaRav Chaim also adds that if the Yissocher does his job well, but the Zevulun is lacking Yiras Shomayim and Middos Tovos, then he will be impeding the levels he could have otherwise achieved in Olam Habba from the zechusim he would have otherwise had.


17.  HaRav Chaim advised a well-to-do individual to spend more time learning.  The g’vir followed HaRav Chaim’s advice, and studied in the morning and went to his business in the afternoon.  He then realized that he had become even more successful in his business affairs.  When advised of this, HaRav Chaim responded--”Of course, it is an express Chazal:  ‘Kol Me SheOsek BaTorah Nechasav Matzlichin--one who learns Torah will be blessed monetarily!”


18.  There was a situation in which a Kollel’s budget was $90,000 per month, and the Kollel had only $50,000.  HaRav Chaim was asked whether one who would give the $40,000 needed could be considered as if he gave the entire $90,000--for without the $40,000, there would be no Kollel.  HaRav Chaim responded in the affirmative--and that one could rightfully apply the phrase:  “Ain HaMitzvah Nikreis Ela Al Sheim Gomra--a Mitzvah is regarded as having been accomplished by the person who completed it.”  HaRav Chaim added that one could tell the $40,000 benefactor--”Yesh Koneh Olamo B’Chodesh Echad…one can acquire his Chelek in Olam Habah--because of one month!”  


19.  A person took upon himself to learn LeIluyi Nishmas a Niftar, but forgot his name, would it be sufficient for a person to learn and think that he is learning for the “sake of the person who he committed to learn for?”  HaRav Chaim answered:  “Klapei Shamayah Galyah--Hashem knows”, and that is sufficient. 


20.  A reader conveyed to us that he asked HaRav Chaim what he should learn.  HaRav Chaim answered:  “Mah Shelibo Chafetz”--that which he felt a particular affinity to.  In fact, HaRav Chaim stated that while in Yeshiva he learned another Mesechta, besides for the Mesechta the Yeshiva was learning--as it was a Mesechta that he wanted to study at that time.  As we continuously progress from study-to-study--may all of Torah fall within our personal Mah Shelibo Chafetz!



24 Iyar

THE SECOND BRACHA: As we especially dedicate ourselves to the second Bracha of Shemone Esrei this week, we provide the following words of instruction from the great Praying with Passion Series (in order to go through this entire outstanding series on Tefillah, please visit http://prayingwithfire.org/archives.html ):


U’Matzmi’ach Yeshua:and He makes salvation sprout” is included in this blessing of Mechayeh Meisim--”He resuscitates the dead,” because of the connection between bringing the dead to life and bringing a seed to sprout. Just as a planted seed first disintegrates in the ground and then a sprout emerges, so does a person’s body decompose in the ground prior to being recreated in a more spiritually elevated form. We observe that when things in our world die, they appear to end. Yet, death is actually the groundwork for a more spiritual life (Dovair Shalom in Siddur Otzar Ha’Tefillos). Alternatively, U’Matzmi’ach Yeshua refers to the salvation of the Jewish nation. It is called sprouting, because the process happens gradually, like the growth of a plant. (Midrash Tehillim, Mizmor 18). A person who continuously watches a plant grow will not notice the plant changing. Yet, over time, it’s obvious that the plant grew. Similarly, we cannot see how each period of Jewish history contributes to the final redemption; only when we look back from the vantage point of a redeemed world will we perceive these developments.



A SPECIAL INSIGHT INTO SEFIRA: HaRav Matisyahu Salomon, Shlita (Matisyahu Chaim Ben Ettel--may he have a Refuah Sheleimah BeKarov Mamash) provides a special insight into the Avodah of the Sefira Period based upon the words of the Sefer Avudraham.  The Avudraham brings the words of Yirmiyahu Hanavi (5:20-25) specifically referring to Shavuos: “Shavuos Chukos Kotzir Yishmor Lanu...”--in which Yirmiyahu reproves the people for “having eyes but not seeing” and for “having a heart that turns away” --for “failing to say in their hearts let us fear Hashem ...”.  What do these words of reproof have to do particularly with Shavuos--what is this Nevua teaching us? 


The Avudraham explains that Hashem actually commanded us to count during the Sefira so that we would feel the ‘tza’ar ha’olam’--the pain of the world in desperate need of food and livelihood during these days of judgment and harvest of crops of the field and crops of the tree--and to turn to Hashem in Teshuva with a full heart, and beseech Hashem to have mercy on us, on the earth and on all of creation--”so that the crops will be as they should be, for if there is no kemach there is no Torah.”  In short, Rav Salomon explains, the days of Sefira are really like a second Elul--days in which we are to recognize the Awe and Majesty of HaKadosh Baruch Hu, tremble before His awesome might, and straighten out our ways.  These weeks are oh so critical--our gashmius and our ruchniyus depend on their outcome! It is for this reason that Chazal (Megillah 31B) teach that we read the Tochacha of Bechukosai (in Chutz La’aretz) this Shabbos --in advance of Shavuos--just as we read the Tochacha of Parashas Ki Savo in advance of Rosh Hashana--the two are very much related--for we demonstrate that we want to rid ourselves of any vestige of sin and any iota of curse--and instead be successful going forward with our Shavuos and Rosh Hashana.


To this end, the Radvaz explains that we do not make a bracha of She’hechiyanu on Sefiras Ha’omer because it is the pre-requisite Mitzvah to the Ikar Mitzvah of Shavuos.  The analogy is to Sukkos--where although building the Sukkah is a Mitzvah (Chag HaSukkos Ta’aseh Lecha)--we wait to make the She’hechiyanu until we actually dwell in the Sukkah--and then the She’hechiyanu is made on both Mitzvos.  We are now accomplishing the equivalent of building the Sukkah--just like there is no Chag HaSukkos without a Sukkah, we must build ourselves up, make ourselves ready with the pre-requisite Mitzvah of Sefira  for the Ikar Mitzvah---Chag HaShavuos.  The Navi teaches us how--”let us fear Hashem, Who supplies rain...in its proper time, and Who preserves for us the weeks appointed for the harvest!”  We are to prepare with Yiras Shomayim!


We now have a week and a half to hear the words of Yirmiyahu Hanavi.  In years gone by, we have experienced many Tisha B’Avs in wonderment--how could they not have listened to Yirmiyahu--a Tzaddik, a Kohen,. a Navi, who was so exceedingly  Moser Nefesh --risking his life time and time again in order to save us from a long and bitter galus, and the Bais Hamikdash from devastation and destruction.  Now, it is our turn to test ourselves--will we listen to his cries, to his heart wrenching pleading, to his prophetic appeal -- and do what we are supposed to do during these essential days before Shavuos?!   We can begin, suggested Rav Salomon, to demonstrate our Yiras Shomayim--our Awe for our Creator--our recognition that He is the One and Only source of our ruchniyus and gashmius-by taking the instruction of the Chofetz Chaim:  At points during the day simply stop what are you doing and think about the Ribono Shel Olam:  Realize that you have to watch yourself because it is Hashem Himself Who is watching you. 



PROPERLY APPRECIATING THE KIRUV OPPORTUNITY!  From a publication issued by Hidabroot:


“The Zohar says: ‘…two angels are invited to testify, and they say, “We testify that so-and-so brought people close to their Father in Heaven.”  The Shechinah is then filled with joy that her distant son was brought close to her.  At that time, Hashem signals to an official, who brings the figure who brings merit to Hashem’s children… [who] is [then] given: 70 keys, containing all his Master’s treasures, entry to 70 hidden worlds, and all the blessings that Hashem blessed Avraham Avinu, who also brought people close to Hashem.


Come and see, whoever has a part in bringing people close to their Father in Heaven:  Overrides the Sitra Achra, elevates Hashem’s Name, supports This World and the Next…in the World to Come, the. twelve gates of Gan Eden are opened to him, so that he may rejoice with those who dwell there.


If people knew how many benefits and merits are held for one who draws Jews closer to Hashem, they would pursue Jews in order to bring them merit, as one pursues life.  One who gives charity to the poor merits many things, but one who brings merit to fellow Jews, and draws near to those who are estranged, merits much more because he repairs the soul and causes the submission of the Sitra Achra in the world.’  (Zohar, Terumah 128-129).”



A STELLAR MIDDAH:  The Chofetz Chaim writes that: “One who wishes to truly guard his mouth and tongue--lest it lead him to Machlokes, Lashon Hara, curses, and embarrassment of others--should acquire for money the Middah of Savlanus--which is to overcome one’s personal Middah in any given situation, and acquiesce or accede to the other person.”  How does one ‘acquire this with money’?  The Chofetz Chaim teaches that one should actually penalize himself monetarily if he realizes that he was not Ma’avir Al Midosav, and let himself get away. He notes that usually the Issurim of Machlokes, Lashon Hara, and Rechilus arise out of a small matter, which a person blows out of proportion, and turns it into something for which he cannot not give in.  However, if one knows in his mind that he will have to pay a monetary penalty for having done so [suggestion: perhaps to an institution or cause which he would not otherwise support], he will begin to realize that it is just not worth it.  The Chofetz Chaim concludes that: “One should not think that being Ma’avir Al HaMiddos is simply a nice Middah--rather it is the direct cause for saving a person from many aveiros, including Machlokes, Lashon Hara, and Rechilus….” 


Hakhel Note:  We add that in the Sefer Orchos Tzaddikim (Sha’ar HaRatzon), the Mechaber specifically writes:  “U’Me SheMa’avir Al Midosav Tefillosav Nishma’as--one who overcomes his personal affront, his personal hakpados and his personal opinions--will have his Tefillos answered!  Thus, by practicing Savlanus--Ma’avir Al HaMiddos in a dedicated way--one will not only save money, and prevent aveiros from occurring--but will have his Tefillos answered!



CAREFUL WORDS:  HaRav Pam, Z’tl, as quoted in the wonderful work Careful Words, by Rabbi Sholom Smith, Shlita, brings the following important lessons:


1.  Every Jew should speak favorably about his fellow man, despite the fact that K’lal Yisrael and ‘Reb Yisrael’ have their faults and weaknesses. It is not hard to criticize others and highlight their shortcomings. But that causes deep distress to Hashem. No father wants to hear a bad report about his child, even if it is true. Vice versa, a father is extremely appreciative of a person who can find good things to say about his child. So, too, is Hashem grateful when a person defends his children before Him even if they are lacking in merits. Jews must look for opportunities to praise the accomplishments of their man. Who can estimate the far-reaching effect this advocacy will have in Heaven and the blessings it will bring upon the Jewish people?!


2. A talmid chacham controls his power of speech because, as the Vilna Gaon writes in his Igeres HaGra,  ”HaPeh Kodesh Kedoshim--the mouth is holy of holies” and, as such, should not be sullied with improper speech. In fact, the Gaon adds that, “Winged creatures (heavenly angels) follow a person around wherever he goes and record every word he speaks.” On the Day of Judgment there will be an entire, unimpeachable stenographic record of all the words each person spoke during his lifetime and he will certify with his own signature that everything is recorded accurately.


3. The Rambam (Moreh Nevuchim 3 8) writes that our language is called Lashon HaKodesh, the holy tongue, because it does not contain any indecent words or expressions. Even when it must refer to something of a delicate nature, it uses a euphemism (see also Ramban to Shemos 30:13). This refined manner of speech is not limited to the greatest scholars of the nation. It is expected of every member of our people. It is for this reason that a pig is very often referred to as a davar acheir (lit., another thing) and not with its proper name, chazir (see Shabbos 129b). A blind person is not called an iveir, blind, but a sagi nahor, which means full of light (see Yerushalmi Peah 5:5), so as not to denigrate him because of his handicap. There are many other examples of this meticulous care in using a refined manner of speech, even by those who are not scholars. Similarly, the Yiddish language is full of expressions that have become ingrained into the speech patterns of Jews, and avoids the use of words that are immodest or, simply, inappropriate.


4. The sefer, Erech Apayim, by Rabbi Avrohom Yellin, Z’tl, is the classic work on uprooting the harmful trait of anger. Among the many excellent practical suggestions on how to rid oneself of this bad middah is an insight based on the Mishnah (Avos 1:15), Say little and do much. Here is one example: A father needs something done in the home and asks his teenage son to take care of it. The boy grunts and mumbles something under his breath, and a half hour later it is still not done. Another example: A mother asks her daughter to run an errand and it gets done only partially. Yet another example: A husband asks his wife to take care of something, and, with her many responsibilities in the home, she forgets all about it. The reaction to all these situations follows a familiar pattern. There is an outburst of anger which quickly escalates into a “shouting match,” or worse. “Why do you always ask me? How come you never ask my brother (sister) to do anything?” Or, “Can’t you see how busy and overworked I am? I can’t take care of everything in one minute!” What can be done to minimize and mitigate these common, daily situations which are the source of explosions of anger and recriminations and often threaten the fragile Shalom Bayis of the home? The solution can be Say little and do much. The parent or the spouse should try to minimize his (or her) requests and give fewer instructions while doing as much as he can himself. The fewer requests one makes of others, the fewer opportunities there are for outbursts of anger. In one of his letters, the Chazon Ish writes that a person should avoid asking favors of others if he knows that they may refuse or grudgingly comply. This often leads to hard feelings if and when they decline to help. One should not say, “I’ll ask him and see what he says. If he says ‘no’ I won’t be upset...” This is not what usually happens and is the cause of much ill-will and resentment. One will spare himself these problems…by saying little and doing much!


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