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Hakhel Email Community Awareness Bulletin




Sent March 23:



The following exceptional excerpt from Love Your Neighbor (by Rabbi Zelig Pliskin, Shlita), is based upon tomorrow’s Parsha, and is absolutely imperative in our every day life.


The Parsha begins “VaYikra El Moshe…”--and He [Hashem] called to Moshe, and [Hashem] spoke to him from the Ohel Moed--the Tent of Meeting--saying (Vayikra 1:1).


The Gemara (Yoma 4B) states from the last word “saying” which denotes “say to others”, we learn that a person has no right to repeat what someone tells him, unless given explicit permission to do so.  Following is basic Jewish law pertaining to secrets:


  1. If someone tells you private information about his business or any personal matter, you are forbidden to disclose it to others.  Your doing so could cause the person who confided in you financial loss, embarrassment, or other damage.  Even if the speaker did not request that the matter remain secret, you are not allowed to repeat it.  It is self-evident that the speaker does not want such information to be divulged.  However, if the person related information concerning himself in the presence of three or more people and did not request secrecy, you are permitted to relate it to others.  Since the speaker related it to a group of three or more people, we can assume that he does not mind if the information will be known.  If, however, someone tells you about his wrongdoings, you are forbidden to spread that information to belittle him, even if he related it in the presence of three.  Although the speaker has shown that he does not mind if others know about his misbehavior, it is nonetheless forbidden for anyone to deliberately publicize someone else’s actions to harm or embarrass him (Chofetz Chaim, Chapter 2).


  1. When someone reveals to you seemingly harmless information in a manner which shows that he would like it to be kept secret, you are forbidden to repeat it to others even if he did not explicitly tell you to keep it secret.  In the Pasuk quoted above, Hashem related information to Moshe in the Ohel Moed (Tent of Meeting), and the Torah teaches that it was permissible for Moshe to repeat the information only because of ‘Laymor’--Saying--i.e., because Hashem gave him explicit permission to relate it to others (Be’er Mayim Chaim 2:27).


  1. The Chofetz Chaim writes that it is a good habit never to repeat what people tell you unless they give you permission to do so.  In this way you will never relate information that might cause harm (ibid.).


  1. You have no right to repeat someone’s secret just because you add the phrase “Don’t repeat this to anyone else.”  The person to whom you related the secret might pass on the secret, also adding, “…and don’t repeat this to anyone else.”  In a very short time, the secret could become public knowledge and cause harm or embarrassment to the person who confided in you (Pele Yoetz, section on “Sod”).


  1. Husbands and wives have no right to tell each other secrets that someone told him or her in confidence (ibid.).


Finally, a person should be careful not to disclose his own secrets to others.  Before someone reveals a secret, he is the secret’s master.  But once someone reveals a secret, the secret is his master, for he lives in fear that it will become known to others (Menoras Hamaor 2:4).


Let us apply the Parsha’s great teaching in our everyday lives--for everyone’s benefit!!


Sent March 22:

Special Note One:  “My Zemanim” provides a text message service to cell phones with important daily Zemanim.  You may call 516-796-2646 at any time to obtain, within 60 seconds of your call, a text message of Zemanim for your zip code.


Special Note Two:  In response to the inquiries relating to our first Tefillin Awareness Project event held last Sunday, the attendance was overwhelming.  The Sofrim who viewed placement of the Tefillin Shel Rosh and Tefillin Shel Yad were actually required to adjust the placement in a significant majority of those who attended.  Many who came only to confirm their proper placement actually found that their Tefillin position needed real adjustment.  Among the factors that contributed to the problem are the stretching of retzuos (straps) in the course of regular use, and the loss of hair with age.  Many also needed their Tefillin blackened.  The assistance provided by the Sofrim helped to change a daily failure to properly perform the Mitzvah, and daily Brachos L’Vatolah into the great mitzvah of daily Tefillin performance.  Indeed, the Rambam (Hilchos Tefillin 4:4) writes that while the holy Tzitz (one of the eight garments of the Kohen Gadol) contained the name of Hashem only once, the Tefillin bear the name of Hashem twenty-one (21) times!!


Hakhel would like to bring this program to other communities.  If you can help organize a Tefillin Awareness Project in your Shul or community (wherever it may be), please contact us.  The mitzvah of Tefillin that you save may be your own!


Special Note Three: As a follow-up to yesterday’s note on Shaimos: the following “Letter to the Editor” appears in this week’s Hamodia newspaper:


“…At this time of year, many housewives collect shaimos and bring them to trucks, or other central collection locations, thinking that they will be disposed of in an halachically acceptable manner.


“Unfortunately, this is not always true.  As I worked on one of those “shaimos trucks,” I know that the bags you bring are open and sorted, and that most of what is found in them is dumped in the garbage.  Please ask the people who accept your shaimos who their Rav is, because the decision of what to discard and what requires proper burial is one that must be made by a Rav.


“When the Rav’s name is given to you, please take a few minutes to call him and verify that he actually supervises these decisions and that your shaimos will actually be buried according to Halacha.


“The sacred Seforim that served us so well deserve this final honor when they are no longer in usable condition.”


Special Note Four:  The Chicago Rabbinical Council (cRc)  issued the following Pesach Alert:


“The cRc Pesach cosmetic list mistakenly lists Tommy Hilfiger perfumes as being acceptable for Passover.  They are indeed NOT Kosher for Passover.  We regret the error.”


Special Note Five:  As the days of Pesach draw nearer, we should take special precaution, in the manner we best see fit, to limit our anger internally, and its expression externally.  Notwithstanding the high prices, difficulty in finding things to eat around the house, greater work pressure, and the difficulties encountered in time-consuming cleaning, it is likewise an important part of the Pesach preparation period to rid ourselves of our “spiritual chometz”--i.e., the Yetzer Hora which seeks to do its job of not only tempting us to do aveiros, but also of spoiling, or attempting to spoil, our mitzvos.  An important idea in this regard might be to keep a written record of successes in this area--when you overcame the feeling inside you, and expiate yourself with the happy thought that you would be credited with an elevated performance of Pesach preparation in its stead.  We especially note that we were just reminded that the term “V’Chamaso Bo’ara Bo--and his anger burned in him” (Esther 1:12) is to be attributed to Achashveirosh--and not to Mordechai!!


Sent March 21:


Special Note One:  As we have now entered the half of the year which is closer to Rosh Hashana, we are brought to a greater awareness not to take life for granted.  In this regard, we have available a very easy to use, interlineally-translated Asher Yatzar poster.  Our recitation of Asher Yatzar with inspiration is certainly a good starting point for showing our sincere appreciation to Hashem for the wonders He blesses us with daily.


Special Note Two:  The new cycle of Praying With Fire (by Rabbi Heshy Kleinman, Artscroll, 2005) began just yesterday. The Torah teaches that our redemption from Mitzraim began with our outcries (Shemos 2:23-24).  We can demonstrate our recognition of the power of Tefillah, and how important improving our Tefilla is by beginning the incredibly successful 5-minute a day program in this powerful Sefer (which is already in its sixth printing after being published just one and one-half years ago (!)).


Special Note Three:  The Halacha as recorded in Shulchan Aruch (Orach Chaim 429:2) is that we do not recite Tachanun during the entire month of Nissan.  The Mishne Berurah there (Seif Katan 2) explains that if we add the days of Pesach together with the first 12 days of the month, which are days in which the Nesiim (Princes) of each of the 12 Shevatim brought their Karbonos in the dedication of the Mishkan, we have in the aggregate a majority of the month which is sanctified “B’Kedusha”--which is immersed in holiness.


The great lesson here must not pass us by.  The first twelve days of the month are not simply days in which the Nesiim brought their personal Karbanos more than 3,300 years ago, but, instead, days which are imbued with Kedusha from those initial Karbanos even today!  Today’s Nassi is Nesanel Ben Tzuar, the Nasi of Shevet Yissachar.  What special Kedusha has been instilled in this day? The Luach Davar Be’ito notes that Shevet Yissachar was the symbol of Torah study.  Accordingly, the Luach suggests that one should pray today especially for success in Torah study, and for Hashem to do away with those things which disturb or hinder our studies--such as sickness, too much work, and too little pay.  Fascinatingly, the Luach points out that Shavuos, the very day we received the Torah will fall on this very same day of the week--exactly nine weeks from today. 


Special Note Four:  As we approach Pesach and intense cleaning will soon begin (or has already begun) all around, a frequently-encountered issue is which papers may be discarded, and what is considered Shaimos and must be disposed of properly.  We would like to thank “Halachically Speaking” (Volume 3, Issue 12) for providing important guidelines in this area.  We provide below relevant quotes excerpted from this Halachic Journal.  For space considerations, however, we have removed all footnotes, which are thorough and very extensive.  In order to receive Halachically Speaking directly by email (there is a small annual charge) contact mdl@thehalacha.com.  We note that the Halachic opinions below may not necessarily be those of your own Posek, but we hope that they provide you with important guidelines in this area.



“There are some poskim who wish to suggest that just as many hold that the printer’s drafts do not need to be placed in shaimos, so would be true regarding our journals and newspapers.  They reason that since they are normally thrown out after a short period of time one would be able to discard them.  Others say to wrap it in a bag first.  Nonetheless, most poskim maintain that one may not discard a newspaper containing Torah.  The publishers have intent for one to learn from the Torah in the newspaper.  Therefore, they are sanctified and a condition prior to the printing would not help to rid the newspaper of kedusha.


“Therefore, one should rip out the divrei Torah in the newspaper and place it in shaimos.  Although this may seem difficult with some papers whose Torah is spread throughout the newspaper one will get the hang of it eventually. 


“Many poskim took strong issue with the fact that newspapers contain divrei Torah and they say a newspaper is not a place for Torah since many treat the Torah in a newspaper with disrespect by throwing it out, etc.


“In conclusion, on this issue of newspapers, you see many people are not careful with this and throw out the newspapers with the divrei Torah in them.  If one is going to throw out a newspaper containing divrei Torah (without the name of Hashem or a posuk) he should wrap it in a bag and then put it outside together with the rest of the garbage and let the goyim take it away.


“Nonetheless, we are dealing with the honor of the Torah, and many poskim maintain that one should not throw out the divrei Torah, but rather one should place it in shaimos.  This being the case one should try to do whatever he can in order to place the divrei Torah in shaimos.  When putting the divrei Torah in shaimos you should cut it out of the paper.  It is disrespectful to the shaimos if the whole paper is placed in shaimos.  One should be careful that the divrei Torah part of the newspaper is not on the floor.”




“A story book that is meant for children and teaches something to them has kedusha and is required to be put into shaimos.  Some say tzadikim biographies that contain no pesukim or a mamer of chazal may be thrown into the garbage.


“Tests which have divrei Torah on them need to be placed in shaimos.


“A nusach that chazal established, even if it does not contain Hashem’s Name is required to be placed into shaimos.


“Therefore, a tefillas haderech card [should be] placed into shaimos.


“Pictures drawn in order to understand the parsha are not required [to be put in] shaimos if a posuk is not written on them.  The same would apply to Noach’s tent made from paper etc.


“A sefiras ha’omer chart which just say the day without a beracha may be thrown out.


“A chart which says the time of krias shema or tefilla should be put into shaimos.  A chart which just says when Shabbos comes in and when Shabbos is over, may be thrown out.


“Many times one is walking in the street and a poster of some sort of Yiddish relevance is on the street.  One does not have to throw this poster in shaimos if it does not contain a posuk or a halacha.  However, one should be careful not to step on it.


"[A booklet of] Zemiros Shabbos that does not contain halacha, name of Hashem or a posuk should still be placed in shaimos since it contains praises of Hashem.

The Shaimos Bag

“Every house should have a designated bag for shaimos.  One does not have to place shaimos in a bag in an orderly fashion.  One is permitted to place a chumash on top of a gemorah.  One should be careful not to step on the bag of shaimos.  One should not place a shaimos bag in a place where it may rain.  The minhag seems to be that there is no concern with placing the shaimos in a bag on the floor.”


The “Shaimos Box”


“Many times one refrains from placing items in shaimos because the accumulated amount of shaimos takes up a lot of room in one’s house.  However, this problem was solved with the innovation of the Shaimos Box.  One can pick up this box in any seforim store.  It is a box which measure 12” x 7” x 15” which is enough for twenty pounds of shaimos.  One can put it in a corner of his house let it fill up and when it is full one can mail it to the address on the box.  Once it is there the OU certifies that the shaimos will be buried according to halacha.  It is usually buried during Tisha B’av.  With this box one does not have to wait until Pesach to bring many heavy bags of shaimos to a drop off location.”


Sent March 19:

Special Note One:  The current issue of Kashrus Magazine consists of 92 pages, and contains 82 Pesach Consumer Alerts and 108 non-Pesach Consumer Alerts, in addition to an article entitled “How to Prepare for Pesach (and still enjoy the Seder!)” based upon the Halachic rulings of HaRav Chaim Pinchas Scheinburg, Shlita. To obtain a copy of Kashrus Magazine at this late date, you may call 718-336-8544.

An example of one of the Pesach alerts is: “F.M.V. Semi-Sweet Chocolate Chips (Inter-American Products, Cincinnati, OH), in 12 ounce bags, ONLY with the sell-by date of September 07, 2008, was erroneously labeled “OK-P.” In fact, the product is “OK-Pareve”, NOT Kosher for Passover.”

Special Note Two:  As the Pesach shopping season is in full swing, we continue to provide Shatnez Alerts.  We received a notice from the Lakewood Shatnez Laboratory regarding a brand of ladies’ suit.  For more information, the Laboratory can be reached at (732) 364-7056 or by email to shatnezhedqtrs@yeshivanet.com.

A Douglas Hannant ladies’ suit, had no content label, but was found to contain linen in its trimming.  This instance shows that garments that have ornamentation, trimming or appliqué always must be checked for Shatnez.

Special Note Three:  Today is Erev Rosh Chodesh Nissan.  The Shelah HaKadosh writes that one should daven that his parnassah is from “mammon kasher”, from honest money, and that a special time to do so is **before** Rosh Chodesh Nissan.  The Shelah HaKadosh supplies an appropriate tefillah to recite, and we are attaching it for recitation today.  We all know that it is Hashem who provides us with our entire livelihood--let us conduct all our business and monetary affairs with a full measure of integrity and honesty in order to genuinely demonstrate our complete knowledge and belief of this fact.

Special Note Four: Today is the Yahrtzeit of HaRav Yaakov Kamenetsky, Z’TL.  Set forth below is a very brief excerpt from the splendid biography Reb Yaakov (by Rabbi Yonasan Rosenblum, based on the research of Rabbi Noson Kamenetsky, Artscroll, p. 248-249).

“Reb Yaakov’s remarkable care with respect to every aspect of all mitzvos between man and his fellow man--his courtesy, his willingness to extend himself on behalf of others, his sensitivity to others’ feelings, his hakaras hatov…had its source in his constant awareness that every human being is created “B’Tzelem Elokim [in Hashem’s Image]”.  It was the means by which an individual elevated and refined his own behavior and thoughts--by making them even more befitting someone bearing the Divine Image.  In a shmuess in Torah Vodaas, Reb Yaakov once imitated the bovine appearance of a person chewing gum to bring home to the bochurim that it was not an activity consonant with their own elevated status.  ‘When I first saw someone chewing gum,’ he said, ‘I thought it was some terrible disease of the jaw.’

“At the same time, the appreciation of the Divine spark inherent in others governed all one’s interactions with them.  Reb Yaakov was once talking to someone when a gentile funeral procession passed by.  He accompanied the funeral cortege the requisite four amos.  When the person who he had been talking to expressed surprise that one is also required to accompany the body of a Non-Jew, Reb Yaakov told him, ‘He, too, was created B’Tzelem Elokim.’

“There was nothing abstract about his love of people: it was individuals in all their infinite variety he enjoyed, not just humanity in general.  After one Daf Yomi shiur in Florida, the Rebbetzin interrupted the conversation with one of the men in the shiur to give Reb Yaakov a glass of fruit juice. ‘The pleasant taste of talking to this Jew,” he told her, “is sweeter to me than all the juices in the world.’”

In honor of Reb Yaakov, Z’TL, let us attempt to place a special emphasis today on the honor of our Tzelem Elokim which he held in such high regard--as well as paying special attention to the Tzelem Elokim of all those around us--which he perhaps held in even higher regard.

Sent March 15:


Special Note One:  The Shulchan Oruch in Orach Chaim 230:1 writes that “one should pray for the future, and give thanks for the past…”  The Sefer Piskei Teshuvos (Volume 2, p. 941) brings the opinion of several Seforim that rule that when one gives thanks to Hashem for something in the past, one should additionally immediately pray for future blessing, so that the happiness that one is now feeling is extended into the future.  As a counter-example of this, the Sefer cites our Matriarch Leah’s statement when she named Yehuda--“I thank Hashem this time,” without adding a prayer for future children.  The Torah then records that at that point she ceased to give birth to additional children.  Another example cited is in the Modim D’Rabanan in which we recite “Al She’Hecheyasanu v’Kiyamtunu, kayn…”--for You have given us life and sustained us---**so may You continue to give us life and sustain us**…


The lesson is clear--we must not only reflect upon our appreciation for past events, but we must also demonstrate our Bitachon that Hashem will take the current and future happenings in our lives and make them (or turn them, if need be) into sources of happiness for us in the future.


Special Note Two:  We are all familiar with the words of Chazal (Shabbos 127A) which we recite every morning immediately after Birchos HaTorah:  “These are the precepts whose fruit a person enjoys in this world, but whose principal remains intact for him in the World to Come.  They are the honor due to father and mother, acts of kindness…”  However, we may not be as familiar with the converse statement contained in the Rambam’s Mishne Torah (Hilchos Deos 7:3, based upon the Tosefta in Peah 1:2 and the Gemara in Erchin 15B), where the Rambam teaches us that there are some things “for which we will be punished in this world, but whose principal remains intact [for punishment] in the World to Come [!].”  What are these especially notorious iniquities?  They are “Gilui Arayos [immorality], Shefichas Domim [murder] Avodah Zarah [idolatry]--BUT LOSHON HORA IS EQUIVALENT TO THEM ALL.”


We must note that the Rambam’s Mishne Torah is a Sefer of Halacha (the above quote is from **Hilchos Deos**), and not simply a book about appropriate or proper conduct.  The Chofetz Chaim in Sefer Chofetz Chaim (1:4) (once again a Halacha Sefer, as compared to the Sefer Shmiras Halashon which is a Hashkafa work) quotes the Rambam’s ruling as Halacha L’Maaseh.  In the course of a day, we find ourselves in situations at home, at work, on the street, and even in Shul in which our appreciation of the severity of the iniquity of Loshon Hora is tested.  Even if you are only making a joke, talking about a good friend, revealing a secret to a close family member, speaking about someone else to your manager, co-worker, or assistant, or even sharing a passing word with an acquaintance on a bus or train, IT CAN STILL BE LOSHON HORA, AND EVERY WORD--EVERY WORD--EVERY SINGLE WORD--LITERALLY HAS RAMIFICATIONS IN THIS WORLD, AND EVEN GREATER RAMIFICATIONS IN THE NEXT!


Baruch Hashem, thanks to the Chofetz Chaim Heritage Foundation (845-352-3505) and those who assist it, the world at large now knows that making derogatory remarks about another person, even if true, is Loshon Hora, unless certain conditions are met.  They have learned the teaching of the Vilna Gaon that “the primary means of obtaining Olam Haba is guarding one’s tongue, and this is of greater value than the entire Torah and good deeds, for the mouth is a Holy of Holies.”  What is left for us is to study the specific laws of Shimras HaLashon and apply them.


As we go through the day today, let us also be extraordinarily careful in those sometimes tempting, sometimes sudden, sometimes inane, sometimes difficult, situations in which the choice of a fleeting temporal quip, remark or opinion must be weighed against eternal and all-encompassing purity and bliss.


For daily lessons in the Sefer Chofetz Chaim call (718) 906-6400.  For Shailos in actual Shmiras HaLashon situations with which you are faced (shidduchim, business, family relationship, etc.), you can call the Shmiras HaLashon Shaila Hotline between 9 and 10:30 p.m., Monday through Thursday and Motzei Shabbos.


Remember, the Kohen Gadol entered the Holy of Holies only on Yom Kippur…and you have the opportunity to use the Holy of Holies for good every day!




Learning and applying lessons from the Parsha in the week ahead should always be one of our primary goals for the week.  In last week’s Parsha, we learn of the horrific sin of the Golden Calf.  In its aftermath, Hashem tells Moshe Rabbeinu: “Say to Bnei Yisroel--you are stiff-necked people…” (Shemos 33:5).  In fact, this exact same description of our “stiff-neckedness” is repeated two other times in the Parsha (Shemos 33:3 and 34:9).  There is a very important message here for us.  The Torah is teaching that the heinous “Chait Haegel” is related to being obstinate and inflexible.  In our stubbornness, we must be careful to distinguish between fact and opinion, between “teaching lessons to others” and learning to control our self-interest or pride.  It is now a very auspicious time to deal with this middah, in order to indicate that we, on our own personal level and in our own private way, are looking to correct the stiff-neckedness within us--and our recognition that obstinacy could eventually result in something that is catastrophic, rachmana litzlan.  If our actions are “just because” or “because that is the way I do things” or because “I know I am right” or “because I don’t do it that way”… (you can fill in another phrase that better summarizes your own stiff-neckedness) then we may have to work on some adjustments in attitude.


Of course, being tough in some areas is good--such as not flinching from the requirements of Halacha or proper Hashkafa in spite of work, financial or even social pressures to do so.  However, Chazal advise specifically that “a person should be soft as a reed, and not hard as a cedar tree” (Taanis 20B).  Reeds are malleable and do not break--even in the face of a harsh wind or thunderous storm.  Incredibly, the mighty cedar may fall earlier than the thin little reed.  Let us take this lesson to heart as we practice acting with more pleasance than presence, the way Hashem would like us to.


Sent March 12:


Special Note 1:  We received the following important notes from the International Association of Professional Shatnez Laboratories.  For more information on Shatnez issues, the Association can be contacted at (732) 364-7056 or by email to shatnezhedqtrs@yeshivanet.com.


Sample Checking – Every few months another story emerges of Shatnez found in jackets that were “sample checked”.  We urge the public not to rely upon random checking in lieu of checking the very article that they will be wearing.

People lock the doors of their homes at night.  Have you ever heard anybody say, “I’ve made a random check around the house and some of the doors are locked, so there is no need to check the others”?  Yet when it comes to the severe issur from the Torah of Shatnez, many rely on a check that isn’t accepted in Halachah, because the factories constantly change the components, they use without having to report it to anybody.

In order to reinforce the issue that consumers should not rely upon “sample checking”, the Eidah Hachareidis upon the request of R’ Eliezer Assouline wrote an official letter signed by the following member of the Eidah Hachareidis:  HaRav HaGaon R’ Moshe Shternbuch, Shlita, HaRav Avrohom Yitzchok Ullman, Shlita, HaRav Yehoshua Rosenberger, Shlita, HaRav Meir Brandsdorfer, Shlita, HaRav Naftoli Frenkal, Shlita and HaRav Yakov Mendel Yarovitch Shlita.  These rabbonim are requiring checking of each individual article of clothing.

Costco Jumper – Even inexpensive items can contain Shatnez.  A gray tweed jumper sold under the label “Samantha Says” at Costco for $11.00 was found to contain both linen and wool.  Its content label lists 71% Polyester, 15% Wool, 7% Acrylic, 5% Rayon and 2% other fabrics.  This point also illustrates that garments made from tweed or textured fabrics can contain wool and linen, even though the label does not list them explicitly.

Special Note 2:  Instant Coffee During Pesach  Rabbi Shmuel Singer, Shlita, of the Orthodox Union published the following note:

“Our position in former years in regard to coffee had been similar to tea.  We maintained that all regular coffee, that is unflavored and not decaffeinated, is acceptable for Pesach without supervision.  This is **no longer true**. Some coffee companies add maltodextrin, which is either chametz or kitniyos, to instant coffee.  As a result this coffee is not kosher for Passover.  Only coffee bearing an OU-P symbol or brands listed in the gray area of the OU’s Passover Directory should be used.  Both Folger’s and Taster’s Choice instant coffee remain acceptable.  Other brands should be checked in the OU’s Passover Directory.  Ground coffee remains acceptable from any source as long as it is unflavored and not decaffeinated.”

A Hakhel reader later clarified the OU’s position on this point.  The OU’s position is that **even coffee from past years** should not be relied upon in the absence of the above guidelines, as coffee companies may have been adding maltodextrin in prior years, as well.

Special Note 3:  Hakhel Event – Tefillin Awareness Project.  Next Sunday morning, March 18, Adar 28, Hakhel is making available qualified Sofrim who will help ensure the proper placement of your Tefillin.  FREE OF CHARGE.  This is a serious matter that involves the actual fulfillment of the Mitzvah, as well as a daily Brocha L’Vatala, Rachman Litzlan!  Please bring your Tefillin to Agudath Israel Bais Binyomin, 2913 Avenue L between 9:30AM and noon on Sunday, March 18th, to ensure that the Tefillin you wear daily are being properly worn.  For more information, please call 718-253-5497, 718-258-2210, 718-377-6735, or email shelrosh@comcast.net.



In this week’s Parsha, we find that the Torah requires that: “Vishomru Bnei Yisroel Es HaShabbos--Bnei Yisroel shall observe the Shabbos,” to make the Shabbos an eternal covenant for their generations (Shemos 31:16).  This Pasuk, together with the Pasuk which follows it, are so essential to our understanding of the “Sabbath” that we repeat them both at Ma’ariv and in Shacharis on Shabbos.  What is the concept of “Shemiras Shabbos?”


HaRav Shlomo Mandel, Shlita, explained at a Hakhel shiur that a “shomer” is someone who guards, watches out for, is on the alert, and anticipates.  Indeed, the Torah uses the concept of “Shemira” when it describes how Yaakov Avinu responded to Yosef’s dreams.  The Torah states:  “V’Aviv Shamar Es HaDavar--and his father [Yaakov Avinu] was waiting and anticipating for [the dreams] to happen.” (Bereishis 37:11, and Rashi there)


This is an extremely important lesson for us.  The Torah requires us to be “Shomrei Shabbos”.  In order to fulfill this properly, we cannot start with candle lighting and/or “Lecha Dodi”.  Instead, we must appropriately prepare our thoughts and actions, so that, to the greatest extent possible, we can enter the Shabbos in a state of preparedness and equanimity--watching out and anticipating for the Shabbos the come.


There are many practical examples in which one can make strides towards this end.  For instance, one can, as much as possible, undertake Shabbos preparations on Thursday evening and Friday morning.  Additionally, business matters such as taking care of bills, or even going through the mail, when it does not require immediate attention, can become part of “Shemiras Shabbos” if they are put off until Sunday or Monday.  Interestingly, it was HaRav Aryeh Levin Z’TL’s custom not to open letters that arrived Friday afternoon, so that bothersome thoughts and worries should not trouble him on Shabbos (Growth Through Torah p. 220, quoting A Tzaddik In Our Time p. 100).


There are other activities which could help you become a superior “Shomer Shabbos”.  Making a list of the things that have to be done--and especially those things which you have had issues with in the past--making sure you have wine, candles, matches, open tissue boxes, clothes (without stains from the previous week), Torah thoughts for the Shabbos table--and accomplishing these, and many other items which could truly be taken care of, hours and hours and even a day before Shabbos.


If a man is more often late than on time for Mincha in shul on Friday afternoon, or if a woman customarily, or even usually, lights the neiros “just a minute or two” after the published Z’man, there is an indication of weakness in his/her anticipating, watching out for, guarding, longing for, the Shabbos that is coming.  If the scene is one in which the husband is still in the shower/bedroom area at candle lighting time, or the woman of the house has to choose between davening Mincha before candle lighting--or lighting neiros five minutes late, some corrections may be in order.


Indeed, the Shulchan Oruch, rather than requiring raised voices, anger, and tension, immediately prior to Shabbos, instead requires that a person “arise early” on Erev Shabbos to properly prepare (Shulchan Oruch, Orach Chaim 250:1).  In fact, the Mishna Berurah there **requires** that some Shabbos preparation be done after davening Shacharis (and, if necessary, even before Shacharis--see there).  Furthermore--the Shulchan Oruch (Orach Chaim 260:2) actually requires that one speak “B’Lashon Raka” (in a soft voice)--immediately before Shabbos--even as to those matters which require correction before Shabbos arrives.


In an ideal world, Shemira would include being ready a few minutes in advance and waiting for the Shabbos queen to come, by saying Tehillim, learning Torah, or the like--just as the watchman watches and anticipates.  For the men, there are undoubtedly great zechusim--merits--to be had when one is not dashing out the door to shul with suit jacket in hand, tie not made, and very wet hair.  For the women, there is very much to be gained lighting neiros two minutes **before the z’man**, instead of a minute or two after the z’man.  Each one of us should sit down and think about how we can improve our quest for a greater appreciation, a greater understanding, a greater accomplishment, in being a “Shomer Shabbos” Jew!




Special Note One:  Consider the following:  You have been told that you will be meeting with one of the Gedolei HaDor in fifteen minutes, and that you will have five to ten minutes to talk to him--and to ask for any Brachos that you would like.  What would you discuss with the Gadol? What Brachos would you ask him for?  These questions are truly invaluable, because, in addition to the fact that the situation may truly occur, you are given an even greater opportunity to accomplish the foregoing three times a day in your Shemone Esrei--in your encounter with the Shechina.  A little serious aforethought in this regard can go a very, very long way.


Special Note Two:  Last week, the Chofetz Chaim Heritage Foundation hosted its Inaugural Dinner. The Dinner was graced by the presence of HaRav Shmuel Kamenetzky, Shlita, HaRav Matisyahu Salomon, Shlita, and HaRav Yissocher Frand, Shlita, each of whom also spoke.  Rabbi Frand noted he once gave a drasha on Teshuva in which he emphasized how difficult--but how necessary--Teshuva really was.  After the drasha and while already in the parking lot, one of the attendees who identified himself as a “Baal Teshuva” came over to Rabbi Frand and told him that there was one very important message that he failed to emphasize in the course of his talk.  “Teshuva,” he asserted, “is not just a requirement--it is wonderful, liberating, emancipating, and empowering.  Teshuva means that one should not view himself as being bound by his own destiny--it means that a person is in charge of his own life!”


Indeed, Rabbi Frand noted, that the word “Odom”, or Man, comes from the word “adoma”--earth.  Just like a barren piece of earth can produce nourishing and beautiful fruits, we can transform our actions from dirt and mud into magnificent accomplishment.


As we begin the last two weeks of Adar, and complete the first half of the year since Rosh Hashanah, we look backwards--and forwards--with renewed hope and resolve.  Let us take a few moments out to review the Vidui we recited six months ago on Yom Kippur, and in the words of the man who approached Rabbi Frand, let us “liberate, emancipate, and empower” ourselves to be what we can and should be!


Special Note Three:  We provide the following important quote from the Kitzur Shulchan Aruch (26:22), which provides us with important guidance as to how we can truly honor our parents and ancestors:


“Though Kaddish and prayers are helpful to the departed, they are not of primary importance.  What is most essential is that their children proceed in the path of righteousness and, in this manner, bring merit to their parents.  The holy Zohar (Bechukosai) declares: [Malachi 1:6] states:  ‘A son honors his father,’ as [Shemos 20:12] commands:  ‘Honor your father and mother.’  This refers to food, drink, and clothes, which he is obligated to provide in their lifetime.


“When they die is one free of this obligation?  No.  After their passing, he is obligated to honor them more [for this is also included in the command:] ‘honor your father…’  If a son follows a disastrous path, he surely disgraces his father and brings him shame.  [In contrast,] a son who walks in the path of righteousness and corrects his deeds surely honors his father.  He brings honor to him in this world in the eyes of men, and brings honor to him in the world to come before the Holy One, blessed be He, who has compassion on him and seats him on a throne of glory.


“A person should command his children to be scrupulous in the observance of a particular Mitzvah.  Their practice of it will be considered more important than the recitation of Kaddish.  This is a valuable practice for someone who has been blessed with only daughters and has no sons.”


The message from the Kitzur Shulchan Aruch is clear.  Our actions, the Mitzvos we perform, are a reflection not only upon us, but upon our families, as well.  Additionally, if we and/or our family could be especially identified very strongly with a particular Mitzvah, it is viewed very positively, and is a great source of Nachas, in the Heavens above.  We should ponder these hallowed words of the Kitzur, and seriously consider how we can implement them.  Eternity Knocks!




Special Note One:  Imagine how you would feel the day you won the lottery!  It would make no difference whether it was $45 million, $161 million or $276 million.  A spirit of overflowing glee and insurmountable joy would exude from every part of your being.  Undoubtedly, the unquashed, exuberant feeling would last for at least a day or so, and would only slightly wane over the next several days and weeks.  In a more spiritual vein, the feeling of pristine spiritual purity attained after Yom Kippur likewise continues with us in the days that follow as we try to not let go of our elevated plane.  The days after Purim are unique in that they combine the thrill of our physical lives being spared together with the spiritual elevation attained from an understanding of the Megillah’s events, and the profound lessons to be learned from the Mitzvos performed on Purim day.  At the very least, we should now be experiencing the joy of being alive--and of having the zechus of making the most of our precious life through the study of Torah and performance of Mitzvos.


The Megillah relates that after Haman was advised that he was the only minister to be invited to an exclusive party with the King and Queen, he felt especially “Sameach V’Tov Lev” (Esther 5:9)--**happy and glad of heart**.  Why was he so happy and glad of heart?  Because there was no other person in the world like him--it was the King, the Queen…and him alone!


Rav Eliyahu Schneider, Shlita, explains that we, too, should feel this same elation in that we have been especially chosen--chosen like no other nation--to be Hashem’s standard bearers for the world by dutifully performing the Torah and Mitzvos.  He incredibly points to the words of the Tochacha (the reproof) in the Torah which unequivocally teaches, in an almost identical language, that the reason we will suffer the Tochacha’s fate, is “because you did not serve Hashem “**happy and a glad of heart**”--i.e., that we did not properly appreciate and bask in our own uniqueness (Devarim 28: 47)!  Furthermore, in contrast to Haman, however--who lived only for himself and for his position in this world--we live for infinitely greater purposes and for eternity.


Winning the state lottery compared to the enormity of what we can accomplish would be like telling a short joke at a four-hour long Purim Seudah!


Special Note Two:  It is fascinating to note that Rav Amram Goan writes that the Minhag in the two main yeshivos during the time of the Geonim, Sura and Pumbedisa, was to actually recite Tachanun on Purim--“for it is a day of miracles, and upon which we were redeemed, and so we must ask for mercy that we will be redeemed in the end in the same way that we were initially redeemed.”  As we enter the portal between the Geulah of Purim and the Geulah of Mitzraim, a time in which for the next two weeks we will all be reciting Tachanun and/or other prayers for Geulah, we should be very mindful to recite them with strong and special Kavannah because, without mincing words, it is, simply stated, a time of Geulah.  Everyone should try and keep a daily record, or at least a real mental note, of the special and sincere prayers he has made for the Geulah during this auspicious period.


Special Note Three:  Although we take leave of the Megillah for the time being, we must always remember the words of the Chovos HaLevavos (Shaar Cheshbon HaNefesh)--“Ki HaYamim Megillos--for each one of our days are scrolls,” we must write upon them that which we should [be proud to] remember about them.  Each one of us is important, and each page, each scroll, of the book of our life, is filled with potential that only we--and no one else--can achieve.


We should be as elated every day with the results of our own personal Megillah, as we are with the outcome of the Megillah on Purim!


Answers to Questions for Seudas Purim


1.  QUESTION:  In what year of the Jewish calendar did Purim occur?


ANSWER:  According to Yalkut Meam Loez, Achashveirosh came to power in the year 3392, and Haman was hung in 3404.


2.  QUESTION:  How many wars between Bnei Yisroel and Amalek are mentioned in Tanach?


ANSWER:  Actually, there were at least eleven (11) battles with Amalek in Tanach, in one form or another.


In the Torah--3 BATTLES: a) Shemos 17: 8 and Devorim 25:17; b) Bamidbar 14:45; and c) Bamidbar 21:1 and 33:40.


In Neviim--6 BATTLES : a) Shoftim 3:13; b) Shoftim 6:3;  c) Shoftim 6:33; d) Shmuel Aleph 14:48; e) Shmuel Aleph 15:3; f) Shmuel Aleph 30:1


In Kesuvim--2 BATTLES: a) Divrei HaYamim Aleph 4:43…and of course b) MEGILLAS ESTHER!


It is clear that this nation has really been out to get us--but in the end we will prevail!


3.  QUESTION:  How many mishtaos, or parties, are mentioned in the Megillah?

ANSWER:  Six--a) the Mishte of Achashveirosh for all of Perisa;  b) the additional Mishte which Achashveirosh made for seven days for just Shushan; c) the separate Mishte of Vashti; d) the Mishte made by Achashveirosh when Esther became queen; e) the first Mishte among Esther, Achashveirosh and Haman; f) the next day--the second Mishte among Esther, Achashveirosh and Haman.

If that isn’t enough, the Megillah separately records that Haman and Achashveirosh sat down separately simply “to drink” when the King’s initial order against the Jews was sent out (Esther 3:15)!


4.  QUESTION:  How many people were hanged in the course of the Megillah?


ANSWER:  13--Haman, his ten sons, Bigsan, and Seresh.


5.  QUESTION:  On what day did Haman make the “Pur”?


ANSWER:  The 13th day of Nisan (see Rashi to Mesechta Megillah 15A and Malbim to Esther 3:7).


6.  QUESTION:  If you rearrange the letters of “Shushan”, what does it spell?


ANSWER:  “Sasson”--or happiness!


7.  QUESTION:  What does the word “Pas-shegen” mean?


ANSWER:  Rashi and the Ibn Ezra write that Pas-shegen means: the text, the nussach, the content.  Artscroll translates it as “copies” (of the document containing the decree).


8.  QUESTION:  Why didn’t Esther tell Achashveirosh which nation she was from?


ANSWER:  The easy answer is, because Mordechai instructed her not to--as the Pasuk clearly states (Esther 2:20).  As to the reason for Mordechai’s instruction, various explanations are given--including a recognition by Mordechai that perhaps some disaster was going to threaten Klal Yisroel and her royal position would be the means of their salvation--identifying herself now as a Jew could mean an early end to her position.  The Gemara (Megillah 13B) additionally indicates that, even if there was not an absolute directive by Mordechai to hide her identity, Esther herself did not want to reveal to Achashveirosh her royal ancestry (she was a descendent of Shaul HaMelech)--because of her tznius and anava.


9.  QUESTION:  Instead of blatantly not bowing to him, why didn’t Mordechai simply avoid Haman and not go near him?


ANSWER:  There are various explanations for this.  The Chofetz Chaim learns that Mordechai was correcting the mistake of his ancestor Shaul HaMelech, who had compassion on Haman’s ancestor, the King of Amalek--Agag.  As a result of this misplaced pity, Haman was eventually born and issued his evil edicts.  Mordechai, therefore, was unyielding, and stood up to Haman like a pillar of iron  refusing to give even an inch for the sake of the honor of Heaven and the honor of Klal Yisroel.


10.  QUESTION:  In addition to his plan to kill all the Jews, what edicts did Haman immediately issue against them?


ANSWER:  Chazal (Megillah 16B) teach us what the other edicts were from the Pasuk “LaYehudim Hoysa Orah…” (Esther 8:16):  The additional decrees included prohibiting the study of Torah, the observance of Yom Tov, performing a Bris Mila and the wearing of Tefillin.


11.  QUESTION:  Agag and Haman each had a son with the same name--what was it?


ANSWER:  Veyzasa (see Esther 9:9 and Targum Sheni).


12.  QUESTION:  What is preferable—to increase the amount of Mishloach Manos you give or the Matanos Le’Evyonim that you give?


ANSWER:  According to the Rambam (Hilchos Megillah 2:17) it is preferable to increase the amount of  Matanos LeEvyonim that you give over the amount of Mishloach Manos. See the moving words of the Rambam there.


13.  QUESTION:  What famous American object has the same gematria as “Amalek”?  What can you learn from that?


ANSWER:  Amalek has the same gematria as “dollar”--both have the numerical equivalent of 240.  As far as the lesson, we will only point to Amalek’s grandfather--Esav--and his passion for money and worldly goods.  We leave other lessons up to you.


14.  QUESTION:  How many humps did the Achashdranim Bnei HaRamachim have?  How many legs did it have?


ANSWER:  According to HaRav Yaakov Emden, Z’TL (Megillah 18A), these were a unique type of camel with two humps and eight legs, and were accordingly, exceedingly fast.  Fascinatingly HaRav Emden notes that these camels were reportedly in existence in Persia even in his time.  According to others, the phrase refers to a special type of mule which was driven by expert riders. (See Ibn Ezra to Esther 8:11 and Rashash to Megillah 18A).


15.  QUESTION:  Why did Esther invite Haman to her party with Achashveirosh?  The Gemara gives 12 reasons and Eliyahu HaNavi (as quoted in the Gemara) confirms that Esther had all 12 of them in mind.  Can you name at least three?


ANSWER:  The Gemara may be found in Megillah 15B.  Here are several reasons: a) she wanted Achashveirosh to suspect that she and Haman were plotting together against him; b) she wanted the Jews not to be overconfident with her political abilities to get them out of their life threatening situation--by her inviting Haman to the party(!), they would daven with even greater intensity;  c) she wanted all the other ministers to be jealous of Haman and so unite against him; d) she wanted Haman to be available to trip himself up in some way ; e) so that Achashveirosh would not realize that she was Jewish prior to the party ; and f) so that Hashem would have special mercy on her--seeing that she, a Nevia and a Tzadekes, would have to be in the same room with this arch-enemy of the Jews.


16.  QUESTION:  What are the last five seforim in Tanach?


ANSWER:  According to the printed Tanach, the last five Seforim are the Megillos of Koheles and Esther, followed by Daniel, Ezra-Nechemia and Divrei HaYamim.  However, the Gemara in Bava Basra 14B-15A lists the following as the last Seforim of Tanach:  Eichah (describing the Churban), followed by Daniel, Megillas Esther, Ezra-Nechemia and Divrei HaYamim.  This second listing is, obviously, also chronological, as Sefer Daniel discusses periods prior to the events of Megillas Esther.


17.  QUESTION:  What was the sin committed by Bnei Yisroel that prompted the great gezaira against them?


ANSWER:  The Gemara (Megillah 11A and 12A) lists three reasons: a) a laxity in Torah study and Mitzvah observance; b) participating in Achashveirosh’s first party in which he used the Keilim of the Bais HaMikdash, and which he hosted in celebration of the Jews not being redeemed; and c) bowing down to the tzelem (idol) of Nevuchadnezzar and/or Haman--, which violated a prohibition of Avoda Zara.  

HAKHEL NOTE: We see how severe sin the first one really is, if it can be compared to such grievous sins as the second two!


18.  QUESTION:  Which cities in Eretz Yisroel (and outside it) today would read the Megillah on two days--the fourteenth and the fifteenth of Adar because of a doubt as to whether they were walled from the time of Yehoshua Bin Nun?


ANSWER:  Among the cities: In Eretz Yisroel:  Chevron, Yafo, Gush Chalav, Akko, Tzefas, Lod, Shechem and Teveria (which is a separate issue--See Megillah 5B).  In Chutz La’Aretz:  Damascus and Baghdad.  See Sefer Adar U’Purim by HaRav Yoel Schwartz, Shlita, for further discussion.


19.  QUESTION:  Name two evil people in the Megillah whose names rhyme.


ANSWER:  Zeresh and Seresh (Seresh, one of the infamous plotters whose plan was overheard by Mordechai)


20.  QUESTION:  True or false?  In order to fulfill the mitzvah of Mishloach Manos, you must give two different foods that have two different Brachos.


ANSWER:  False.  Mishloach Manos must just consist of two **different** portions of food--they can both be meat, or any other type of food or drink (See Shulchan Aruch, Orach Chaim 695:4 and Mishne Berura there).


21.  QUESTION:  Identify six instances of Middah K’neged Middah that appear in the Megillah.


ANSWER:  a) Vashti made Jewish girls who were her captives work for her unclothed--and so she was ordered to come before the king unclothed (Megillah 12B); b) Haman was hung on the tree that he prepared for Mordechai; c) Bigsan and Seresh wanted to kill the king, yet they were killed instead; d) The Jews ate and drank at Achashverosh’s party, so they were forced to fast for three days; e) Haman wanted everyone to bow to him--at the penalty of death, and in the end Achashverosh ordered him to be killed--because he fell before Esther; and f) Mordechai put on sackcloth and ashes on his head over what Haman had decreed, and in the end, took over Haman’s position, wearing the royal apparel and a large gold crown.





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