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14 Nissan

FROM A READER!  Rav Gamliel Rabanovitch, Shlita, teaches that Erev Pesach is the time to be Misgaber on the Kelipos Paroh which is represented by the challenges of Anger and Ga'ava.



QUESTION OF THE DAY :  When is it that on Erev Pesach we blow Tekiah Teruah Tekiah three separate times i.e., nine Kolos all together, as on Rosh HaShana!?  Hint: See Mesechta Pesachim, Perek 5, Mishna 5.



QUESTION OF THE WEEK:  We will soon be reciting the Hallel many times over Yom Tov.  One of the last pesukim of Hallel (Tehillim 118:25) is “Ana Hashem Hoshia Na, Ana Hashem Hatzlicha Na--Please Hashem Save Us Now, Please Hashem Bring Us Success Now”.  Although this is one complete Pasuk, when reciting Hallel, we take the first half and repeat it twice (being led to do so, many times mellifluously, by the Shaliach Tzibbur), and then take the second half of the Pasuk and repeat it twice.  Since there is a principle in Halacha which generally disallows taking parts of Pesukim (Kol Pasuk Delo Posak Moshe Anan Lo Paskinan), why do both the Shatz and the Tzibbur publicly do so--when a simple and effective alternative would be for the Shaliach Tzibbur to recite the entire Pasuk twice and for us to repeat it either after each recitation or twice after both recitations?  Why do we break up the “Hoshia Na” aspect of the Pasuk from the seemingly very-much-related “Hatzlicha Na” which succeeds it in the second half of the Pasuk?   We look forward to your thoughts.




Special Note One:  The Dirshu Edition of the Mishna Berurah provides the following important points and pointers relating to Hilchos Pesach (Shulchan Aruch, Orach Chaim 475, et al.):




1.  The Bach rules that with each achilah of a kezayis of Matzah on the Leil HaSeder, we accomplish a separate Mitzvas Asei Min HaTorah. 


2.  For the Afikoman, Lechatchila one should eat two kezaysim--one Zecher LaPesach, and the second Zecher to the Matzah that was eaten together with the Pesach. HaRav Shlomo Zalmen Auerbach, Z’tl, writes that based upon the Bach’s opinion that every kezayis of Matzah is a Mitzvah, it is certainly befitting that we eat Matzah (and not another food) Zecher LaPesach.


3.  The Shelah HaKadosh writes that he has seen bnei aliyah who would kiss the Matzos and the Marror (just as they would kiss the Sukkah upon entry and upon exit) to show affection for the Mitzvah.  The Shelah HaKadosh concludes:  VeAshrei Me She’oved Hashem BeSimcha--fortunate is the one who serves Hashem with joy!”


4.  Some have the custom of only dipping twice at the Seder--with no additional dippings during the meal--in order to show that the dippings of the evening are L’Sheim Mitzvah. 


5.  It is proper to wash the kos before pouring wine into it for the kos on Birkas HaMazon, so that it is fresh and clean. 


6.  If some at the table only eat hand Matzah and some only eat machine Matzah, they should consult with a Rav as to whether they can recite zimun before bentsching together.


7.  The Pasuk in Shir HaShirim of “Hashme’ini Es Koleich”--in which Hashem says to Bnei Yisrael “Let Me hear your voice”--refers to us reciting Hallel in a beautiful niggun!


8.  There are different minhagim as to when the Kos Shel Eliyahu is poured.  Some pour it when pouring the fourth cup.  From the Kitzur Shulchan Aruch (119:1), it would appear that it is already poured when pouring the wine for the first kos at Kadeish [some have the  custom of then adding a little bit of wine to the kos Shel Eliyahu every time an additional kos is poured for the participants]. 


9.  The Chok Yaakov teaches that we open the door at Shefoch Chamosecha so that if Eliyahu is coming--he will find an open door--and we will be able to run out to greet him.  For more on Shefoch Chamosecha and its powerful lessons of Emunah, please see Special Note Eight below.



Special Note Two:  As in the past, we provide: LET’S TALK HAGGADAH


Below are some practical Haggadah notes, which we have culled from Ba’alei Mussar and Maggidei Shiur:


1.  Since it is of the essence of the Seder to feel that YOU PERSONALLY left Mitzrayim, you and those around you should consider closing your eyes, putting yourself there,


  • and thinking about/describing the “Avodas Perech” and the pain of enslavement--YOU ARE THERE


  • and thinking about/describing the Makkos, and its effect on the Mitzri’im and on B’nei Yisroel--YOU ARE THERE


  • and talking about the miracles, other than the Makkos, that YOU witnessed in Egypt --YOU ARE THERE


  • As you prepare for the Geulah--describe what you took (would take), how you reacted (would react) to the news that the time had come (as you would for Moshiach) and picture and discuss the events of the night and day of the Geulah.  How could three million people gather together so quickly?  What was the scene like?


2.  The night should be emotional.  Everyone can provide their own personal reflections of miracles and/or Hashgacha Pratis stories that happened to them or that they personally know about.


3.  Our focus should be on the salvations commencing with “Arami Oved Avi” through “Rabban Gamliel Haya Omer”--rather than getting caught up in nuances.  We should focus on the order of the Makkos and the Middah K’Neged Middah--How all was according to Hashem’s complete design and control.  Remember, we are becoming Avdei Hashem tonight and we should spend time on recognizing the opportunity of “Cheirus Olam”--the eternal, incredibly incredible position we have claimed tonight.


4.  It is important not be critical or short-tempered.  Remember, the Yetzer Hora is working overtime (past midnight !) to put a wrench into our precious Mitzvos D’Oraysa, Mitzvos D’Rabbanim and Minhagim of the Night.


5.  You may also want to prepare some discussion questions and answers.  Examples include:

  • Why were the Mitzriim told we would only be leaving for three days?

  • Why were items only “borrowed” from the Egyptian homes?

  • Why did we not leave when Paroh told us to--why did the process of redemption start at night and continue on through the day?

  • Why does the first of the Aseres Hadibros say that I am Hashem Who took you out of Egypt , and not I am Hashem Who created the world?


6.  Rav Moshe Feinstein, Z’TL, in the Sefer Kol Ram explains “Pesach, Matzah and Maror” in a unique way.  The Korban Pesach represents how we--in Goshen , many miles away from the Makkas Bechoros in Mitzrayim Proper--still appreciated how it was the Hand of Hashem watching over us, notwithstanding that the danger did not appear to be imminently upon us.  In all situations, we realize that it is Hashem who is watching and protecting us, even if we sense no immediate danger or concern.  Further, explains Rav Feinstein, Matzah, symbolizes how things can suddenly change.  Hashem needs no preparation time.  Therefore, though a person might be in the depths of despair, his situation can suddenly change, and he can go from the forty-ninth level of impurity to complete redemption.  The reverse may also be true, and therefore, a person cannot rely on the good by which he is surrounded and expect that it will be there tomorrow.  We must always pray to, and rely upon, Hashem to be our “Ozer, Moshea and U’Magen”--to come to our aid, save us and shield us--at all times.  Finally, Maror teaches us that we cannot rely upon any government, notwithstanding that the current situation may be sweet and good.  The Mitzriim turned upon us, as did the Germans and many others of their predecessors (the Spanish, the English, and the French to name a few).  Once again, we see a great lesson of Leil HaSeder is that we are now privileged to look to, and pray to, Hashem for all of our salvations in every step of our lives.



Special Note Three: The following is a famous observation of HaRav Yisroel Salanter, Z’tl:  Young non-Jewish farmer boys were drafted into the Russian Army for 20 years.  Prior to their induction, they were care-free, not orderly and not particularly concerned with their cleanliness.  During their stay in the Army, they were drilled with discipline, hygiene and orderliness.  Nevertheless, on their return home many years later, they almost immediately reverted to their old habits.  After 20 years of constant, professionally supervised drilling and training--how could this happen so easily?  He said that the answer was very simple:  The farmer boys had no interest in internalizing what they were taught--even though they lived it for 20 years.  There had to be a yearning, a sincere desire, to change, to improve their way of life.  This was absent.  What they accomplished was only a temporary, external habit.


There is a great lesson here.  When we perform the Mitzvos on the Leil HaSeder we must overcome our satisfaction with only external performance of the Mitzvos, and be Me’orer (arouse) ourselves internally to appreciate that when performing these Mitzvos, we rise to the heights of human existence in this world.  Moshe Rabbeinu (who David HaMelech in Tehillim teaches us was one step away from being an angel--Tehillim 8:6) was called an “Eved Hashem” (See Bamidbar 12:7 and Devarim 34:5).  And on the Leil HaSeder we, too, have stepped away from being servants of this world--Avdei Paro--and have instead became Avdei Hashem!  Your appreciation and utter exuberance over this new-found incredible, boundless and eternal gain should run over and flow through to those around you.  For additional elaboration, see Sefer HaChinuch, Mitzva 16.



Special Note Four:  One important point to remember as we talk about the astounding Makkos is that they did not occur in one neighborhood or in one city--but across an entire country, and exactly within the boundaries of that country.  If we consider a flood or Tsunami affecting one city, or the recent earthquakes in a particular city or area and the devastation they wreaked in seconds--consider a Makka lasting seven days (168 hours, or 604,800 seconds!)  Multiply that by numerous Makkos and the fact that the Bnei Yisroel living in and among the people of Mitzrayim were unaffected--and we can begin to fathom the enormity of the miracles--and the great Emunah we are to imbibe on the Seder night!



Special Note Five:   What can we think about while we are dedicatedly eating our Matzoh at the Seder, and we cannot talk?  Of course, we should reflect that we are doing the Mitzvah as Hashem commanded and to give Him Nachas Ruach.  To further “taste” the Matzoh, you may also reflect upon the following teaching of Rav Chaim Friedlander, Z’tl, (Sifsei Chaim 2:342):  Chometz represents a process by which “naturally” (i.e., without the assistance of outside forces) fermentation will occur--hiding Hashem’s hand in the dough.  To the contrary, the quick preparation of the Matzoh--its sudden production and completion--shows that Hashem’s hand overrides “nature.”  We therefore do not eat Chometz on Pesach in order to distill any notion of “mother nature,” “the laws of nature,” and the concepts of “coincidental,” “by chance,” “as luck would have it” and the like, and in order to enrich us with the appreciation that it is the Yad Hashem, and the Yad Hashem only, that is conducting and directing--as the Master of all masters--all of our affairs, every minute of the day--notwithstanding the “chometz” of nature apparently occurring every day by itself anyway.  In turn, Matzoh is referred to by the Zohar as the food of healing, for it cures us of all of these false notions which are harmful to our existence in this world, and which then perforce harm our existence in the eternal World-to-Come.



Special Note Six:  The Ritva in his Haggadah (on the words “Vayehi Shum L’Goi), writes that our pe’rud, our lack of unity and friendship, is the “ikar gezeiras hagalus--the main reason that Galus is decreed” upon us(!).  Today and every day, even with and in spite of with the possible tension and pressure that one may feel, let us do what we can to abrogate this decree by keeping our focus on helping our “reyim: in any reasonable way that we can--whether it be with an offer to get an item for someone else during a shopping trip or “How can I help you, I know that….?”--you can fill in the rest, depending on the status and situation of your neighbors and friends.  Hashem wants people who think, and certainly those who think about others.



Special Note Seven:  Chazal teach that we needed the Mitzvos of Dam Pesach and Dam Milah--the blood of the Korban Pesach and the blood of Bris Milah in order to be redeemed.


HaRav Shlomo Zalman Auerbach, Zt’l (brought in the Haggadas Arzei Halevanon) asks why it was that these two Mitzvos were chosen specifically by Hashem to give us that final Zechus that we needed for redemption.  He answers that we know that the entire creation is dependent upon our kiyum hamitzvos, our fulfillment of mitzvos.  If we fulfill a mitzvah in a natural way, such as walking to Shul, eating kosher food, or lighting candles for Shabbos, then we keep the world going in an otherwise natural way.  However, if we fulfill a mitzvah by going against our nature, then Hashem in turn will conduct the world in a manner which is beyond its nature as well.


Since we needed something beyond nature, something miraculous, for us to leave Egypt, Hashem gave us two mitzvos which were extremely difficult to perform:  The mitzvah of Milah which involved making a wound in one’s own body, or in the body of a small child or infant, and the Mitzvah of Korban Pesach which involved taking the Egyptian god in front of them (at that time, our masters and tormentors) and slaughtering it, both certainly defy human instinct and reason.  The Torah even records that the Bnei Yisroel wondered, “How can we take their god from in front of them [for the purpose of slaughtering it] without their stoning us?!” (Shemos, 8:22 ).


Thus, through these two mitzvos which we performed with dedication and perseverance, the miracles that we so desperately needed for Geulah occurred.


There is a great lesson to be derived here.  We are all looking for Geulah.  There is a time that it will come naturally, by itself, no matter what.  However, if we want to change that nature and bring it closer, we have to try to perform mitzvos at a time or in a manner which may be considered against our nature.  Hashem’s message here is yet another one in the manner of middah k’neged middah--if you break your nature, I will break the nature of My World!


Each one of us can try to do his part in overcoming his teva--natural inclination--and producing that Dam Milah or Dam Pesach, those very specially-performed Mitzvos--to bring nachas and Simcha to Hashem, to us all, and to the world, with that so-yearned after Geulah.  Please, please pick that special Mitzvah right now--and may we be truly zoche to the Geulah!!



Special Note Eight:  The Otzar Meforshei Haggadah presents the following insights regarding the “Shefoch Chamosecha” Tefillah which we recite after Birkas HaMazon at the Seder:


a.       When opening the door for Eliyahu HaNavi, some have the custom of reciting “Baruch HaBa!”

b.      There are four Pesukim which comprise this Tefillah, three of which are from Tehillim, and the last is from Eicha.  These four Pesukim represent the “Four Cups of Punishment” that will be meted out against the Four Nations which subjugated us in the Four Galios.

c.       The opening of the door signifies that unlike the redemption from Egypt in which we could not leave our houses during Makas Bechoros, and which was only immediately realized in its entirety by Bnei Yisroel and not by the other nations of the World, at the time of our final Geulah we will witness the punishment of the wicked, and all the nations of the world will openly and immediately appreciate our Redemption.  Additionally, our opening of the door reminds us of the opening of the gate of the Bais HaMikdash exactly at Chatzos on the Seder night.  Even when we open doors, it has great significance!



Special Note Nine:  In the past, we have made reference to the Tenai of the Avnei Nezer for one

who realizes that he may be unable to complete the Achilas Afikoman before Chatzos.  Readers have asked for background and information relating to this Tenai.  Rabbi Yisroel Dov Webster, Shlita, provides this for us: 


Chazal (Pesachim 119B) teach that "Ain Maftirin Acher Hapesach Afikomon" which loosely translated means "don't eat anything after the Karbon Pesach".  The same Halacha is mentioned regarding the Matzah we eat at the end of the Seder.

The question is--What the reason is for this Halacha?


Shittas Rashbam/Rosh

You have to eat the Karbon Pesach when you are full.  If we allow you to eat after the Karbon Pesach there is a concern that you will eat the Karbon Pesach on an empty stomach and eat the rest of the meal afterwards.  Therefore, a Takanah was made that you can't eat after the Karban Pesach and this will ensure you are full when you eat the Karbon.   BiZman HaZeh, we eat the Afikoman Matzah as a Zecher to what they did when they had a Karbon Pesach.

There is one difference between the Rosh and the Rashbam. The Rashbam holds that BiZman HaZeh the Matzah we eat is a Zecher to the Matzah that was eaten with the Karbon and the Rosh holds it is a Zecher to the Karbon that was eaten. (The difference is whether the Afikoman Matzah is the ikkar mitzvah of Matzah, or is only representative of the Karbon Pesach).

Shittas Tosfos/Rambam

Tosfos and the Rambam seem to understand the reason is so that the taste of the Matzah/Karbon will last. The Rambam seems to learn that it is a din in the Achilas HaMatza. Since eating the Matzah is a mitzvah we want the taste of the Matzah to last the night.
The Brisker Rav held that this Yesod should apply to all Mitzvas Achila.

Nafka Mina

1) If one eats after the Afikoman does one need to eat the Afikoman again?

Rashbam/Rosh: No. It is only an Issur/Gezeirah in the first place so if you were oveir the Gezeirah what can you do?

Rambam/Tosfos: Yes. You need to have Ta’am Matzah in your mouth.

2) Can one eat just one piece of Matzah the whole night by Motzi Matzah and nothing else or do you need to eat a piece at the end of the Seder also.

Rashbam/Rosh: No. Since the Gezeirah is so you eat the Karbon when full, you would need to be full when you eat the Afikoman. When you eat the first piece of Matzah you ate it on an empty stomach so you would have to eat again.

Rambam/Tosfos: Yes. As long as you have Ta’am Matzah in your mouth it is sufficient

3) Tenai of the Avnei Nezer: If one has not eaten the Afikoman by Chatzos, the Avnei Nezer says eat the Afikoman with a Tenai, finish your meal and eat another piece of Matzah. The Tenai is if the Halacha is like R' Eliezer Ben Azaria and the Mitzva is until Chatzos so this piece is the Afikoman and then you can eat after Chatzos--for the time period for eating the Afikoman has passed. If we Pasken that you have until Alos HaShachar--then this piece is not the Afikoman and the last piece you eat after the meal is the Afikoman.


Hakhel Note:  One should consult with his Rav or Posek at to utilizing this Tenai LeChatchila, BeDieved, or at all.



Special Note Ten: We once again provide our CHOL HAMOED REVIEW HIGHLIGHTS


Chol HaMoed are days designated--set aside--for holiness.  We can therefore understand why someone who disgraces these days “has no share” in the World to Come (Avos 3:15 ).  According to the Bartenura (ibid.), disgracing the Moados means doing unnecessary work on them, and eating and drinking in the same manner as one would on a regular weekday.


The following highlights are from a recent Hakhel Shiur, given by HaRav Dovid Zucker, Shlita, author of the Sefer Chol HaMoed (Artscroll 2005), and Rosh Kollel of the Chicago Community Kollel.  This Shiur was broadcast via satellite to 13 locations in the United States and Canada by the Torah Conferencing Network.


1.                  The Avnei Nezer teaches (based upon the Zohar) that the Kedusha of Chol HaMoed may be likened to the light of the Moon--reflecting the Kedusha of Yom Tov itself.  Chol HaMoed is indeed enveloped by the Kedusha of the First Days and the Last Days of Yom Tov.


2.                  One should wear nicer clothes on Chol HaMoed than on a regular weekday.  The mitzvah of Simchas Yom Tov applies to Chol HaMoed as well.


3.                  Rabbi Zucker stated that he felt that just as Kedushas Shabbos was the nisayon (the test) of 75 to 100 years ago, Kedushas Chol HaMoed is the nisayon of Galus Jewry today.


4.                  The laws of working on Chol HaMoed for a salaried employee depend upon whether the employee: (a) has vacation coming to him; (b) has no vacation coming to him, but can take time off without pay; (c) asking for time off will cause him to lose his job; or (d) asking for time off will not cause him to lose his job, but will have undesired effects.  Our notes here are intended to highlight these distinctions, but not provide the halachic parameters, which are detailed and often require consultation with a Rav.  For further information, you may study the Sefer itself, or obtain a copy of the Shiur on cassette tape or CD by calling (718) 252-5274.


5.                  Self-employed individuals and employers must consult with their Rav as to how/when to remain open on Chol HaMoed.  One should not rely on “everybody does it” or “ignorance is bliss”--remember, we are talking about the World to Come, and that is true bliss--and infinity.  The story is told of a factory owner who refused, despite the Chofetz Chaim’s pleadings, to close his factory on Shabbos--he told the Chofetz Chaim, “Rebbe, you don’t make money from a posuk in the Torah.”  When the Bolsheviks confiscated all of his property a few years later, he wrote a letter of contrition and apology to the Chofetz Chaim.


6.                  Unskilled work is permitted for the sake of the Moed or the Last Days of Yom Tov.  Therefore, if necessary, one may sew a button on in an unskilled manner.


7.                  A non-Jew cannot do work for you that you yourself cannot perform.  For example, your lawn cannot be mowed or landscaped--and your gardener must be sent away if he comes to perform work for you.


8.                  Skilled work is generally prohibited--even for the sake of the Moed or the Last Days of Yom Tov.  Once again, anything prohibited for a Jew to do is prohibited for a non-Jew to do for you.  There are certain exceptions in which skilled labor is permitted, which relate to “Tzorchei HaGuf,” such as a serious roof leak or a necessary oven or air conditioner repair. With respect to car repairs, it would depend on the type of repair necessary, the need for the repair, and other factors, and a Rav must be consulted.


9.                  Laundering clothing can only be done for young children who have soiled their clothing and have nothing else to wear.  You cannot add other clothing into the washing machine once their clothes are being washed.  Once again, a non-Jewish housekeeper cannot do for you what you yourself cannot do.  Spot cleaning, if necessary, is permitted.  Drying clothing is permitted.


10.              Going shopping is only permissible (even if you otherwise enjoy shopping) if needed for Chol HaMoed or the Last Days of Yom Tov, or if it would constitute a “davar ha’avad” (See paragraph 13 below).  One cannot “trick” the Halacha (and yourself) by “wearing it on Chol HaMoed too.  Similarly, one should not push off buying a pair of shoes to Chol HaMoed if he can do so before Yom Tov (unless he simply ran out of time).  Rav Moshe Feinstein Z’TL once told a Yeshiva bochur to come back to Yeshiva a day later in order to go shopping for clothing after Yom Tov, rather than shop on Chol HaMoed.


11.              One cannot schedule a “routine” medical or dental checkup or exam for Chol HaMoed.


12.              One cannot put off to Chol HaMoed filling up the car with gas, going to the bank, etc., when he has time or an opportunity to do so before Chol HaMoed.


13.              In specific “davar ha’avad” situations where an actual loss will occur, if work (even if skilled) is not performed on Chol HaMoed, it may very well be permissible, and your Rav should be consulted.


14.              Cutting nails/manicure is permitted for Sefardim (if needed), and prohibited to Ashkenazim (unless needed, and one had previously cut nails on Erev Yom Tov as well).


15.              Rav Moshe Feinstein Z’TL ruled that setting/cutting a sheitel is considered skilled work and therefore is prohibited even for the sake of the Moed or the Last Days of Yom Tov.


16.              Standard writing (not calligraphy) is considered unskilled work and is permitted for the sake of the Moed.  One can type, send e-mails, e-faxes and text messages, but not print them out (unless permitted as a “davar ha’avad”).  Similarly, one can utilize a digital camera as long as the pictures are not printed out, and a standard camera, as long as the pictures are not developed.


The above, obviously, only briefly highlights some common Halachos.  In fact, Hilchos Chol HaMoed encompasses 20 chapters in Shulchan Aruch (Orach Chaim 530-549).  We additionally refer you to Rabbi Zucker’s wonderful sefer.  You may want to ask your Rav to give a Shiur this Yom Tov on the Halachos and Hashkafos of Chol HaMoed for everyone’s benefit.  Remember, with any question, or difficult or special situation, please consult your Rav--and have Simchas HaMoed!






13 Nissan

QUESTION OF THE DAY ONE :  When did the Geulah take place--on the night of the fifteenth, or the day of the fifteenth? Hint: See Ramban on Ibn Ezra to Shemos 12:31,



QUESTION OF THE DAY TWO:  Who was the first person to say “Halleluka Hallelu Avdei Hashem”?



QUESTION OF THE DAY THREE:  If a majority of the Tzibbur was not Tamei Mais, and if the Kohanim were not Tamei--but the K’li Shareis were Tamei--would the Korban Pesach be brought?  Hint-see Rambam, Hilchos Korban Pesach 7:1.





Special Note One:  Notes on Bedikas Chometz:


A.  By clicking on this link we provide practical guidance from Rav Yisroel Dov Webster, Shlita, on the Mitzvah of Bedikas Chometz.  Do it Right--not only on Pesach Night--but on the Night Before, as well!


B.  Bedikas Chometz is truly an activity of the body and soul--as we are to simultaneously rid ourselves of the leavened products in our homes, and the “Yetzer Hora B’libeinu”--the leaven that exists within us.  The pre-Pesach toil, sweat, fatigue and enormous costs and expenses indicate our sincerity and dedication to both of these tasks.  At Bedikas Chometz, we are nearing the epitome of our achievement--can we let it go with a perfunctory search of our homes because everything “has already been cleaned ten times anyway?”  How could a serious bedika take less than half hour or an hour--depending on the size of your home?  Indeed, if you merely go around to collect the 10 pieces, your bracha is considered a bracha l’vatala (Kitzur Shulchan Aruch 111:8).  Picture yourself waiting on line for two hours to get to the observation deck in the Empire State Building --as soon as you got up, would you ask the attendant where the line was for the down elevators?


C.  The Sefer Darchei Mussar likens falling prey to the Chometz of the Yetzer Hara to a thoughtless individual who elects to warm himself up on a cold day by rolling in freshly laid hot tar.  He certainly will warm himself up and feel good for the moment--but will most certainly be left with an awful lot of sticky and smelly tar to contend with, which will require much time and effort to remove.  He also likens a person’s relationship with his Yetzer Hora to the relationship between a Cossack and his horse--the Cossack must feed, bathe, and properly take care of his horse--but, has absolutely no ownership rights over it.  That being the case, who is really in control--the Cossack or the horse?  So, too, if we “feed and support” our Yetzer Hora--Who, then, is really in control of our lives?  This is the unique purpose of the time we are in--not only to finish up the macaroni, and carefully eliminate the challah crumbs from underneath the radiator--but to ALSO rid ourselves of the wretched Cossack’s plight--and to ensure that we do not act like the careless fool who jumped into the tar!  Let us complete the cleaning--without--and within!


D.  With the riddance of Chometz, we should also be striving to do away with our spiritual Chometz-baggage as well.  It is fascinating to note that the Sefer Mesilas Yesharim in the Sha’ar Nekiyus (coming clean!) provides the four major Middos for one to work on--as all other Middos Ra’os stem from them.  Here is the important List of Four to remove from our lives:  (i) Ga’avah, (ii) Ka’as, (iii) Kinna, and (iv) Ta’avah.  Especially at this time of year, one may theoretically be more jealous than at other times of the year--as others have money to buy new clothes, better foods, “go-away”, take far-away Chol HaMoed trips, or because they have a large family or extended family for the Seder or over Yom Tov.  However, the Pasuk goes out of its way to teach us:  Rekev Atzamos Kinna”--what will cause the bones to rot (after 120 years) is jealousy.  The Maharal explains that this is so, Middah K’Negged Middah, because if a person feels that he is lacking, then his body in fact is or will be lacking as well.  Each of us must recognize that we have our own role on Pesach (and otherwise!)--whether it be in Eretz Yisroel, in a hotel, with friends, with children….  Pesach is a time to enjoy all of the Mitzvos, to regale in the fact that Hashem molded us into His Chosen Nation, and to individually inspire ourselves for the entire year.  Putting ourselves in the proper (true) state of mind is an essential preparation for a wonderfully successful Pesach!



Special Note Two:  Several points made by Rabbi Moshe Tuvia Lieff, Shlita, which relate to the Seder: 


A.  The tone of the Seder must be emotional, inspirational, ‘geshmake’, and one of celebration.  One’s language should be the language of the heart, and one should personalize and connect everyone to Hashem. 


B.  Ke’ilu Yatzah MiMitzrayim’ means that one must project to others that he himself has left Egypt .


C.  According to the Rosh, the Matzos are Lachmei Todah, intended to express our thanks for our freedom, our family, our friends, our possessions.  With this, we can understand why we do not make a bracha before we start the Seder--after all, how can we say ‘VeTzivanu--and He commanded us’ on sincere feelings of pure thanks?!


D.  The Shulchan Orech part of the Seder is like a Seudas Hoda’ah (see Rambam, Hilchos Chometz U’Matzah 7:8).  The ultimate way to serve Hashem is through Hakaras HaTov and Hoda’ah!


E.  The Birchas HaMazon on  the Leil HaSeder is very important--do not ‘gulp it down’ because you may feel momentarily weary or fatigued.  Wake up, meet the challenge, and regal in the experience!


F.  The family and minhagim should be kept--even if there may be nicer or other ‘up-to-date’ tunes. 


G.  One should be sure to practice savlanus--to be extremely patient, and not be angered--during the course of testy moments at the Seder.  Fascinatingly, Rabbi Lieff related that HaRav Shlomo Zalmen Auerbach, Z’tl, used Halperin machine Matzas, which he felt were the best choice, while each of his sons and sons in-law, had their own different kind of Matzas next to him at the Seder. 


H.  Tzafun teaches us that a lot of good things are hidden away for us--we just have to put the Matzah away…until it is revealed!



Special Note Three:  One must come into the Seder stocked with help to hopefully help to hopefully enhance and in-trance.  To get us started, we provide the following Mashal of the Dubno Maggid as present in The Maggid of Dubno and his Parables by Benno Heinemann (Feldheim): 


“Hashem had given Avraham Avinu a glimpse of the future of the nation which would be descended from him.  He told Avraham that Bnei Yisroel would be enslaved and know great suffering, but that, in the end, they would “go forth with great abundance” as free men.  Now what was this great abundance?  Chazal tell us that it was the Torah that the Bnei Yisroel received in the wilderness on Har Sinai.  But, if this is indeed true, why were we, before leaving Mitzrayim, actually commanded to ask the Mitzriyim for money and goods?  The Maggid of Dubno would reconcile this contradiction with one of his famous Mesholim:  A young man had hired himself out to a wealthy merchant to serve him for six years, for which he would be paid with a bag of silver coins.  When the six years were over and the time came for the servant to leave, it occurred to the master that a bag of silver was much too small a reward for the splendid services the boy had rendered him.  He therefore put the silver aside and instead wrote out a check in an amount many times that of the total value of the silver coins.  But the servant, instead of thanking his master for his generosity, sullenly stuffed the piece of paper into his pocket and went home weeping.  The next day his father called at the merchant’s house and said to the wealthy man, “You have been most generous to my son and I want to thank you.  But the boy is still a child and does not comprehend the value of a check. All he knew was that he expected to receive a bag filled with shiny new coins and that instead he got a plain sheet of paper.  I should be most grateful, therefore, if you would let him have at least part of his wages in solid silver.”


In the same manner did Avraham Avinu come to Hashem, saying, “You have been generous indeed in promising the Torah to my descendants.  But the nation will be young and not mature enough to understand the value of the Torah, and if they will have to leave the slavery of Mitzrayim with empty hands they will say ‘Indeed, Hashem has fulfilled part of His promise.  We did become slaves.  But what about the great abundance which we were to receive at the hour of our deliverance?’ “ It is for this reason, that Bnei Yisroel were clearly commanded to take gold and silver vessels from the Mitzriyim.  This would be tangible wealth which they could appreciate at that time.  In this manner, the Bnei Yisroel would see immediately that the promise given by Hashem to their righteous forbearer had retained its validity.  It was only as Bnei Yisroel grew in wisdom that it came to understand that its true wealth lay not in the coins and trinkets gathered in Mitzrayim but in the Divine gift of the Torah, which has stood by our side to this very day.”


Hakhel Note:  In addition to this outstanding work on the Dubno Maggid, there is also a Haggadah which is comprised entirely of Mesholim related by different Gedolim (including the Dubno Maggid), entitled The Palace Gates Haggadah (translated from the Hebrew--Feldheim).



Special Note Four:  The Dirshu Edition of the Mishna Berurah provides the following important points and pointers relating to Hilchos Pesach (Shulchan Aruch, Orach Chaim 473, et al.):




1.  HaRav Nissim Karelitz, Shlita, writes that the Sippur Yetzias Mitzrayim should be related on the Leil HaSeder in the manner in which all gathered understand, feel and are moved by what happened to us in Egypt --bringing them to give hoda’ah to Hashem for what has occurred.  Any other pilpulim, drashos and kushiyos are unrelated to Sippur Yetziyas Mitzrayim and to the reading of the Haggadah. 


2.  Women are obligate to recite Hallel just as men are at the Seder.


3.  The use of the term ‘stealing’ the Afikomen is objectionable--as Jewish children do not steal.  In fact, HaRav Shlomo Zalmen Auerbach, Z’tl, did not allow the children to take the Afikoman, for it is colloquially known as stealing--and how can we allow children to steal and get rewarded for it?  Accordingly, HaRav Shlomo Zalmen rules that if one does have the Minhag in his family, he should not use the negative verb of ‘stealing’ but rather ‘chatifa’--or grabbing, which is more palatable (forgive the pun).  HaRav Chaim Soloveitchik, Z’tl, objected to the practice as well, because the afikoman needed to be guarded--as all Matzos Mitzvah, based upon the Pasuk “U’Shemartem Es HaMatzos”.  It was also not a custom in the Steipeler’s home for the child to take the Afikoman. 


4.  The Brisker Rav writes that everyone at the Seder should eat their first kezayis from Matzos that were on the table when the Haggadah was being recited--properly fulfilling the term Lechem Oni--bread over which the Haggadah was recited. 


5.  When using ground chrain for Maror, HaRav Chaim Kanievsky, Shlita, rules that because it is difficult to dip in Charoses, one can simply place a little bit of Charoses on top of the Maror. 


6.  The Tur writes that reason that we do not make a bracha over Charoses, is because it is tafel to the Maror. 


7.  Although we do not eat the Maror B’heseiba because it is zecher L’avdus, the Mishna Berurah rules that one may nevertheless eat it B’heseiba. 


8.  One should be sure to drink a Reviis of the fourth cup--as he is making a bracha achrona of Al Hagefen after this cup.




11 Nissan


HAGGADOS AVAILABLE!  A reader pointed us to the following link - http://www.hebrewbooks.org/hagada  which provides a huge number of Haggados available online for free download or study by HebrewBooks.org.  The available Haggados include among others, the Haggados of the Chida, the Dubno Maggid and Aruch HaShulchan, Roedelheim and Otzer Perushim….--what a tremendous resource!



QUOTABLE QUOTE:  HaRav Eliya Lopian, Z’tl, teaches:  “A free man is not a person who does what he wants--he is a person who does not do what he wants!”




Special Note One:  In this week’s Parsha, Parshas Tzav, we learn of the Korban Minchas Chavitin--a Korban that the Kohen Gadol brought every day.  Rabbi Moshe Scheinerman, Shlita, explains (based upon a teaching of HaRav Moshe Feinstein, Z’tl) why the Kohen Gadol brought this Korban every day--while all other Kohanim brought this Korban Mincha only once in their lifetime--on the day that they were inaugurated into the Avodas Bais HaMikdash.  The Kohen Gadol’s bringing it every day--one half in the morning and one half on the afternoon especially symbolized the need for a person of spirit and aspiration to be constantly renewing his energies, being aware and alert that each new morning and each new afternoon was OPPORTUNITY, NEW OPPORTUNITY that was presenting itself especially to him, and would not be available again on the morrow.  Each one of us, without actually having to bring the Minchas Chavittin, can alert ourselves to the invaluable and irreplaceable treasures that await us each morning and each afternoon in Torah, Tefillah, Chesed, and Middos Development.  Every day, we have our own OPPORTUNITIES, NEW OPPORTUNITIES--and we too can come before Hashem as a Kohen Gadol in his loyal, sincere and elevated service!



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


A.  In Kiddush on Leil Shabbos we recite the words “Zecher LeYetzias Mitzrayim--a remembrance of our leaving Egypt .”  What does Kiddush on Leil Shabbos have to do with leaving Egypt?  HaRav Yonasan Eibishitz, Z’tl, in Sefer Ya’aros Devash 2:8 provides an incredible explanation-- see there.  Tosfos (Pesachim 117B) writes that in Mitzrayim the Jews were forced to perform the 39 prohibited Melachos on Shabbos, as the term “Bepharech” is equal to the 39 Melachos based upon the Att-Bash formulation.  We thus celebrate our freedom from Bepharech by not performing these Melachos on Shabbos! 


B.  One beautiful thought from Rabban Gamliel in his Sefer on the Haggadah:  The Shabbos before Pesach is not just another day before Pesach --it is still Shabbos.  It should not be put into a back position merely because it comes a few days before Pesach.  In fact--this may be one reason that it is called Shabbos HaGadol--to remind us that notwithstanding its position in the year--it must be given the great respect that it deserves, and we should not take away from its kavod or oneg with any inferior meals or zemiros, by missing usual Shabbos guests, or in any way be lacking Divrei Torah relating to the Parsha.


C.  In Nishmas that we will recite tomorrow, we state that there are “Rivei Revavos--tens of thousands” of things to thank Hashem for. We then begin with a short and poignant list. What is the first one listed there....from this we see how foundational and fundamental Pesach is to our lives!


D.  On Shabbos HaGadol in Mitzrayim (which fell out on the tenth day of Nissan), the Bnei Yisrael took the Egyptian gods--the sheep--and tied them to their bedposts.  The Pri Chadash (to Shulchan Aruch Orach Chaim 230) writes that the reason it is known as Shabbos HaGadol, it because it is when we began to perform Mitzvos-with the first Mitzvah being the taking of the Korban Pesach.


E.  The Mabit teaches that after this Shabbos, Bnei Yisrael no longer returned to work for the Mitzriyim.


F.  The Sefer HaToda’a writes that it is referred to as Shabbos HaGadol because it is on this day that the Shabbos which is an odd number day that has no partner finally obtained its partner--Bnei Yisroel!


G.  The Bnei Yissaschar writes that the reason the Rav gives a special Drasha on Shabbos HaGadol is because Moshe Rabbeinu also gave a Drasha on Hilchos Pesach to Bnei Yisrael on the Shabbos before their leaving Egypt.


H.  The last Pasuk in Shemone Esrei is also the first Pasuk of the Haftara for Shabbos HaGadol--VeArva LeHashem Minchas Yehuda VeYerushalyim Kiymei Olam U’Cheshanim Kadmonios--then the offering of Yehuda and Yerushalayim will be pleasing to Hashem as in days of old and former years (Malachi 3:4).  Why is the Karbon Mincha used as the ultimate example of Nachas to Hashem?  HaRav Moshe Feinstein, Z’tl, answers that when a person brings an animal as a Karbon, he may be essentially bringing something that he put little effort into.  The animal can feed itself, clean itself, and otherwise take care of its needs.  However, in order to make something into bread or Matzah, ten to fifteen Melachos may be involved, and a person may perceive that it his own efforts and skills that are producing the end result.  By bringing this object as a Mincha to Hashem, he acknowledges that it is not Kochi VeOtzem Yadi--his own power and prowess--that produce this result but that Hashem is the true source of anything and everything--including all of what is otherwise perceived to be human effort.  Perhaps we can go into Pesach with a goal to recite this final Pasuk of Shemone Esrei three times a day with a special yearning to bring a Karbon Mincha in the Beis HaMikdash--fully and finally demonstrating one’s closeness and recognition of Hashem as the source of life and all of the blessing that comes with it!


Additional Note One:  The Gematria of Yeiush--despair is 317.  The Gematria of Eliezer--Hashem helps me-- is 318.  Let us always remember that in any and all events Yeiush should be overridden by the realization of Eliezer!  


Additional Note Two:  The Levush writes that the reason we read the Haftara of “VeArva” on Shabbos HaGadol is because it relates to the future Geulah, just as Moshe Rabbeinu advised the Bnei Yisrael of their imminent Geulah.  May this year’s Shabbos HaGadol Drasha lead directly to our Geulah Shleima as well!



Special Note Three:  We continue our Pre-Pesach points and pointers: 


A.  In Makkas Choshech--those members of K’lal Yisrael who were not inspired and actually stayed in the dark--r’l ended their lives there in galus. The tragic results were that neither they nor the hundreds of generations that would have succeeded them were zoche to live in this world with the Torah and bask in the reality of eternity.  As we look at our brethren immediately around us, we must realize that this is Hatzalas Nefashos--not only for their lives-but for all of their future generations as well.  You don’t have to be in Hatzalah for this--nor do you have to take any special training--you just have to stretch out your hand with a desire to save--as did Bisya bas Paroh--and we know the results for her, and for all of K’lal Yisrael!


B.  As we continue our preparations for Pesach, we note that one aspect  which is me’akev--an absolute requirement--for men [and some women]at the Seder is the act of Heseibah (translated as reclining) while eating Matzah, drinking the Daled Kosos, and possibly when fulfilling other Mitzvos during the evening.  As we have recently noted, in order to accomplish Heseibah it is insufficient for one merely to tilt his body to the left.  What should one actually do---besides asking someone to bring a pillow to put on your chair?  May we recommend that you ask your Rav or Posek for a visual demonstration.  Don’t wait until you get home on the Seder night--realizing that you are not exactly sure how to do this... 


Additional Note:  As a starting point, we provide the following excerpt from the outstanding work Guidelines to Pesach--which is part of the outstanding Guidelines Halacha Series, by Rabbi Elozor Barclay, Shlita, and Rabbi Yitzchok Jaeger, Shlita.


“Question 323:  How should a person recline?  Answer:  Ideally, he should sit on an armchair or on a chair with armrests, and lean to the left side.  Preferably, a pillow or a cushion shall also be placed on the left side of the chair to support the body while reclining.  This adds to the feeling of comfort and freedom.

Question 324:  What if the has only a regular chair?  Answer:  He should recline on the table or on a second chair placed to his left.  Alternatively, he may sit sideways and recline on the back of the chair.  If possible, he should use a pillow or a cushion to create a comfortable position.  A person does not fulfill the Mitzvah by leaning to the left in midair without supporting his body on anything, since this is not the way of a free man.”


C.  At a Hakhel Shiur, HaRav Belsky, Shlita, suggested that one search for chometz as if he were searching for a valuable coin or piece of jewelry--would you shrug your shoulder and not look here or there, or not make the extra effort when you realize how much is at stake?  Go for the gold!


D.  At the same Shiur, HaRav Belsky ruled that one could simply  place his stove top grates into the self-cleaning oven to kasher them, rather than subjecting them to intense heat via placement of a blech on top of the stove.


E.  We present the following additional rulings of HaRav Belsky, relating to Hilchos Pesach, as presented in Piskei Halacha of Rav Belsky, as compiled by Rabbi Moishe Dovid Lebovits, Shlita (this excellent Sefer is divided into 54 chapters, so that one chapter a week can be studied every Shabbos at a Seudah).  The Sefer is available in Seforim stores or by emailing piskeihvol1@gmail.com or by calling:  1-718-744-4360:


SIYUM BECHORIM--One  must eat some food at the siyum in order to be able to eat later.


DEODORANT--Some say that liquid deodorant is nifsal me’achilas kelev and may be kept in one’s house on Pesach.  Thus far no one has demonstrated that this is so; no test as to whether this substance is potable has been conducted.  Others argue that this is similar to kufas se’or l’yeshiva (Shulchan Aruch, Orach Chaim 452:9), meaning that once it is permanently designated for a non-food use it is considered to be batel, and is no longer a Chametz item.  This opinion has appeared in some recent halachic works and it is a total misconception.  Kufas se’or loses its status as Chametz because the Chametz does not contribute to its functionality.  In the case of the deodorant, the alcohol contributes to its functionality.  Whether it’s designated as a food or non-food is irrelevant.


SHAMPOO--The alcohol that shampoo in America contains is almost certainly not chametz since most of the alcohol in the United States is derived from corn.  Wheat extract in the shampoo is batel in more than 1/60.  However, it is still better not to use any products on Pesach without checking to see whether it’s permitted.


STARCHED SHIRTS--According to the basic premise of the law, one may wear starched shirts on Pesach as long as the starch was applied before Pesach.  It is customary to refrain from wearing them in case the starch might fall into the food during meals.


LICKING ENVELOPES--Glue which is on the back of envelopes should not be licked on Pesach because the glue might contain wheat starch which would be Chametz.


TUMS--When there are no Tums available, the best remedy for treating heartburn is to consume a combination of baking soda and water.  The baking soda eliminates the heartburn immediately.


F.  At the Seder, two out of the 15 Simanim (more than 10%) are comprised of washing of the hands--U’Rchatz and Rachtza.  Clearly, this is a meaningful and significant activity, and should be viewed as much more than a ministerial or perfunctory act that we do daily. To get ready for the Seder (if you wash Mayim Achronim you will actually wash a third time), may we suggest that rather than thinking about nothing too important or letting your mind wander when washing over the next several days, that with each pour of water over each hand you think--”Thank you Hashem! Thank You Hashem!” and think of something else you are thankful to Hashem for with each pour!  Having difficulty starting?  You can start as far back as Yetzias Mitzrayim, and as close by as having the ability to pick up the cup and pour... and there is much--very much--in between to be thankful for!


G.  A “heads up” for Monday morning:  For special reasons, Erev Pesach afternoon is unique--we are generally not permitted to perform any melacha that we would not do on Chol HaMoed.  We must, therefore, cut our nails, shave and take haircuts before Chatzos (midday) on Erev Pesach.  If however, one forgot to do so, he may cut his nails in the afternoon.  If one was not able to take a haircut before Chatzos, the Halacha permits it to be given by a non-Jew only.  It does not help to be “already waiting” in the Jewish barber shop as Chatzos arrives.  Please plan your morning accordingly!


H.  The Mitzvah of Chinuch on the Leil HaSeder is perhaps at its peak for the entire year.  For those who have children below the age of Bar/Bas Mitzvah, one should be careful to review his responsibility and his child’s responsibility, as to the different aspects of the Seder--eating of the Matzah, the drinking of each one of the Four Cups, Heseiba (reclining), Hallel, Marror, and the other Mitzvos, minhagim and halachos of the night.  See The Halachos of Pesach (by Rabbi Shimon Eider, Z’tl) and Children in Halacha (by Rabbi Simcha Bunim Cohen, Shlita) for further elaboration in these areas.


I.  All are in agreement that a major theme of the Seder is Hakaras Hatov.  Indeed, we uniquely and especially read from the Parsha of Bikurim at the Seder--in which a person specifically expresses his thanks to Hashem for enabling him to fulfill the Mitzvah of Bikurim.  HaRav Mattisyahu Salomon, Shlita, points to the language of the Targum Yonasan Ben Uziel on the key words “Higadeti HaYom LaHashem Elokecha”, contained in the Parsha of Bikurim.  The Targum explains that the word Higadeti (related to Haggadah) means to thank and praise Hashem.  In our Haggadah too, then, this must be a main focus.  Over the next several days, in order to properly prepare, we should especially emphasize words of Hakaras HaTov--expressing sincere thanks for the hard work and important thoughts of others, as well as words of praise and compliment wherever there is even the slightest doubt as to whether they should be given!


J.  An additional, essential theme of the Leil HaSeder is, of course, Emunah, and its transmission from generation to generation.  One should seek out stories of Emunah, and should now think about and jot down situations and events personally and globally over the past year, which clearly evidenced the Yad Hashem.  The relating of these stories on the Leil HaSeder should be especially mesugal to strengthen the Emunah of all those present. 


K.  We asked Rabbi Yisroel Pinchas Bodner, Shlita, if he could provide us with some guidance on checking Matzos (as he is an expert in this area as well).  He provided the following two basic rules: 


1.  With regard to bugs, if the Matzah has been saved from a previous year, one should check it for bugs by holding the Matzah and observing if there are any webbing strings hanging from the Matzah.  If not, then the Matzah is fine.


2.  With regard to Kefulos, examine the Matzah to see if there are any folds, i.e., there is a part which folded and two layers are stuck together.  Also check for a bubble where the inside of the bubble remained not fully baked.  Break off the piece in question and discard.  When in doubt, one should throw out.

Hakhel Note:  For more detail, one can study the specially written Pesach books, and can also see  http://star-k.org/kashrus/kk-passover-matzoh.htm


L.  If one had not already begun, it should be a time to go through the Haggadah--especially noting those words and terms which are a bit more difficult.  For instance, the word ‘Misboseses’ or the term ‘Ba’adi Adayim’, may not be familiar--and there may be important meanings, translations and explanations which are lost because one skips over the word.  In fact, this year, perhaps one should make a special effort to explain those precious words of the Haggadah, which he may have glossed over in the past.  As an example, Rabbi Moshe Tuvia Lieff, Shlita, explains that even though the blood we are referring to with the word Misboseses is the blood of the Karbon Pesach and the blood of Milah--really not too much blood--the word Misboseses would seem to indicate a great amount of blood that is flowing.  Why, then, would we use this word here?  Rabbi Lieff explains that if a king or a prince cuts his finger, the people in the palace rush around, the royal physician is called and there is much more commotion than there would otherwise be if this was ‘only’ the cut finger of a commoner.  On the night of the Seder, we must appreciate that for us--our blood is Misboseses--every drop is royal blood!


M.  The following is excerpted from the Laws of the Seder by Rabbi Dovid Feinstein, Shlita (Artscroll), and it relates directly to those who wish to drink a glass of water or a cup of coffee after Kiddush on the Leil HaSeder:  “It is permitted to drink anything, including wine, between the first two cups (Rashbam, based on Pesachim 10:7, Orach Chaim 473:3).  To do so, however, one must be sure to have had these additional drinks in mind when he recited the bracha of Borei Pri HaGafen over wine during Kiddush [which would then include these additional drinks as well, without the need to make a further bracha].  Otherwise, one would have to recite another bracha before drinking, and this would create the problem of ‘apparently adding onto the number of cups’, a prohibition mentioned by Rema (472:7), although we are not aware of a Talmudic source for this stricture…Nevertheless, the Shulchan Aruch [because of the opinion of the Kol Bo] rules that one should refrain from drinking between the first two cups.”  Hakhel Note:  Accordingly, it would appear that whether one could drink between the first two cups may be a matter of difference between Ashkenazim and Sefardim, and accordingly, one should consult with his Rav or Posek for a final ruling in one’s particular situation. 


N.  The following is the start of a sampling of questions which should perhaps be addressed as the Seder progresses. Please feel free to add to the list, and to share your thoughts with us on additional points as well!


1.      Why were we exiled?

2.      If we had to be exiled, why couldn’t it be to Lavan’s area?

3.      Why were we taken out of Mitzrayim--and what can we do today to achieve a similar result?

4.      How many time is Moshe Rabbeinu’s name mentioned in the Haggadah?

5.      Lehavdil, how many times is Paroh’s name mentioned in the Haggadah?

6.      What is the Middah K’Neged Middah of each Makkah?

7.      Why did Hashem let the Chartumim mimic the first two Makkos?

8.      You are a witness of Makkas _____________--describe it!

9.      What Nissim happened in Mitzrayim besides for the Makkos?

10.  Give three reasons why Matzah is called Lechem Oni.

11.  Why is the Seder not in the daytime, if we left in the daytime?

12.  What Pasuk is recited three times in a row in the Haggadah, and why?

13.   Can [each participant] give five things that he has Hakaras Hatov to Hakadosh Baruch Hu for?


Hakhel Note:  Remember--if you were told that you had won the $640 million lottery, oh what inspiration and excitement you would feel!  You are gaining a lot more on the Seder Night!




10 Nissan

NON-GEBROKTS ALERT:  Please remember that many cake-like products being served even in this Pre-Pesach time are non-Gebrokts, and that the appropriate bracha is Shehakol and Borei Nefashos. Even if you know it--you may be used to making a Mezonos on the cake and Shehakol on the coffee--so extra special care is required. Pesach is a time for enriching our Emunah--a wonderful place to begin is with enriched and carefully-made brachos.



ADDITIONAL CHOMETZ REMOVAL:  As we rush to rid ourselves of our Chometz items, let us not forget that this is an appropriate time of year to rid ourselves of other ‘kinds’ of Chometz--videos, DVD ’s, CD’s, periodicals and papers which are simply not befitting the home of a people that experience Geulas Mitzrayim, and separated and distinguished themselves from the Umos HaOlam.  A Jewish Home should be sure to have Jewish content!



QUESTION OF THE DAY :  After Bedikas Chametz and Biur Chametz, we will recite the words Kol Chamira.  As we refer to Chametz, why don’t we refer to Lechem, bread directly--but only indirectly with the term “Chamira”?!  Hint: See Shulchan Aruch, Orach Chaim, 434 Ba’air Haitaiv, seif katan 5.




Special Note One: We B’EH continue our Monday/Thursday study of the Sefer Mitzvos HaKatzar, with the Mitzvos Lo Sa’asei which the Chofetz Chaim writes are applicable in our times. Today, we present Mitzvos Lo Sa’aseh 104 and 105:


104.  Lo Le’echol Chametz Erev Pesach Achar Chatzos:  This is the Mitzvas Lo Sa’aseh which prohibits one from eating Chometz after Chatzos, or midday . If one does so, he receives makkos. Chazal added that it is also prohibited to eat or derive benefit from Chametz in the hour preceding Chatzos; and that in the hour preceding that (the fifth hour of the day), eating Chametz is prohibited, but other benefit from Chametz is permitted. This Mitzvah applies in all places and at all times and to men and women alike.


105. Lo Le’echol Orlah:  This is the Mitzvas Lo Sa’aseh which prohibits one from eating fruits of a tree which grow in the first three years after the tree is planted in Eretz Yisrael.  Even if one is unsure (sofek) whether the fruit is orlah, in Eretz Yisrael it is forbidden.  If it is definitely orlah, then in Eretz Yisrael he would receive makkos, and in Chutz La’Aretz he would receive makkas mardus. This mitzvah applies to men and women alike.



Special Note Two: Today is the tenth day of Nissan, which is marked by at least three great milestones:

  1. It is the day that the Bnei Yisroel took the Egyptian gods--their sheep--away and tied them to bedposts in order to inspect them for blemishes before Shechita four days later.  This was an act of tremendous faith by Bnei Yisroel, not only in taking them for slaughter, but also in holding them this way for four days.  In fact, the Egyptians ended up being powerless to stop Bnei Yisroel or harm them.

  1. Towards the end of our stay in the desert, Miriam HaNevia passed away.  Miriam was so great that even as a young girl, her suggestion to her father Amram, the Gadol HaDor, was accepted and the decree he had made to have the husbands and wives of Bnei Yisroel separate was annulled.

  1. Just one year after Miriam’s passing on this date, Yehoshua Bin Nun and Bnei Yisroel crossed over the Yarden River which had dried up through a miracle.  Some recommend reading from Sefer Yehoshua, Chapters 3 and 4, and reciting Tehillim Chapter 114 in honor of the occasion.



Special Note Three:  Rabbi Yosef Eisen, Shlita, (in the name of HaRav Avrohom Schorr, Shlita) brought an EXTREMELY POWERFUL Kedushas Levi relating to this time of year. The heilige Kedushas Levi studied Jews scurrying about with so many Mitzvos before Pesach, and wondered to himself HOW IT COULD REALLY BE that the Moshiach did not arrive.  He was left with one conclusion--it must be due to our Ungetzoigenkeit--our being too on-edge, too tense, too irritable, too obviously sleep deprived, too reaction-filled, too short-fused, make the Millions of Mitzvos performed at this time of year as pure and pristine as they needed to be to turn the tide and bring us the Geulah Sheleima.  This week, as our To-Do list gets longer and our time to accomplish it gets shorter, as there is legitimate basis for concern that there is so much to get done with the clock ticking, as not everyone around seems to be ‘pulling their weight’ the way they should, as the food prices seem to match the gas prices--let us remember that--at least according to the Kedushas Levi, we can do our part in finally BRINGING US HOME by not losing ourselves, by keeping a perspective, by the judicious uses of a Kepitel Tehillim before doing this errand and a Kepitel Tehillim before speaking to that person, by maintaining a soft tone and sharing thoughtful and kind words or compliments, by not responding to a shout or a sarcasm with something in kind, by helping to calm another, all of which will serve to project our Mitzvos on the very special, direct and precise course to Geulah.  Let’s try to keep a record (or at least a mental note) over the next week of all our Geulah-bringing actions and reactions that would make the Kedushas Levi so proud.  The time is not next week or the following one--the Time is Now!



Special Note Four:  As Pesach approaches, we provide the following important notes:


1.         We once again recall the story of the man who looked around for “Kulos”, for leniencies, his whole life.  After 120 years, the Heavenly Court reviewed his records, noted that he followed the laws, and advised him that he would be going to “Gan Eden.”  The angels escorted him to his final place, which turned out to be a dark, dingy and rather damp cell. “This is Gan Eden?!” “Yes,” they replied, “according to some opinions.”


2.         Pesach is a time when we are machmir, where we follow stringencies because of the force the Torah puts into Pesach itself, with 8 Mitzvos D’Oraisa in our time (and 24 in the times of the Bais Hamikdash--may it be rebuilt for this Pesach).  Its tremendous significance is underscored by Yetzias Mitzraim being referred to 50 times in the Torah.  For further elaboration on its relevance to our daily lives, please review the famous last Ramban in Parshas Bo.


3.         As noted above, Bedikas Chometz is truly an activity of the body and soul--as we are to simultaneously rid ourselves of the leavened products in our homes, and the “Yetzer Hora B’libeinu”--the leaven that exists within us.  The pre-Pesach toil, sweat, fatigue and enormous costs and expenses indicate our sincerity and dedication to both of these tasks.  At Bedikas Chometz, we are nearing the epitome of our achievement--can we let it go with a perfunctory search of our homes because everything “has already been cleaned ten times anyway?”  How could a serious bedika take less than half hour or an hour--depending on the size of your home?  Indeed, if you merely go around to collect the 10 pieces, your bracha is considered a bracha l’vatala (Kitzur Shulchan Aruch 111:8).  Picture yourself waiting on line for two hours to get to the observation deck in the Empire State Building --as soon as you got up, would you ask the attendant where the line was for the down elevators?


4.        The word “Mah” is traditionally translated simply as “what.”  However, Rabbi Meir Schuck, Z’tl, offers a more penetrating and insightful definition of the word.  Rabbi Schuck cites three well-known uses of the word “Mah.”  Yaakov Avinu, upon reaching the place of the future Beis Hamikdash  exclaimed:  ”Mah Nora Hamakom Hazeh--What an awesome place this is!”  Similarly, on the night of the Seder the young child calls out “Mah Nishtana Halayla Hazeh--what is so different about this night?”  Indeed, Bila’am himself, who initially recited the Pasuk of “Mah Tovu,” also did so because he was stunned by the difference between the homes of the Bnei Yisroel and those of the world at large.  The word “Mah,” then, indicates something strikingly new--a remarkable realization, an awareness and appreciation of a place or event that did not previously exist.  There are other moments at the Seder where you will use the word “Mah”--make a mental note to try and find them and see how wonderfully this new definition of the word can be applied in each instance.


Additional Note:  The word “Mah” itself is indicative of how refreshed we should be, no matter how tired we are, when we participate in the Seder.  Rabbi Moshe Tuvia Lieff, Shlita, at a Hakhel Shiur, mentioned the story of the man whose torn Haggadah was repaired on Erev Pesach by someone who could not read Hebrew.  Regrettably, he mixed in pages from a Machzor as well, and finished his job right before Pesach. As the newly-bound Haggadah was read that night, without reflection and with hunger, the head of the household hurriedly read “Dam, Tzefardeiah, Kinnim, Ashamnu, Bagadnu, Gazalnu…”  For no reason or at any time should one lose his appreciation of the heightened sense of the evening--and of the great importance of every word of the Haggadah.


5.        There is one positive commandment that pervades and invigorates every day of Yom Tov--the Mitzvah of Simchas Yom Tov.  Every day--including each day of Chol HaMoed--is a separate Mitzvas Aseh!  Let us *now* consider how to actually best fulfill this daily Mitzvah for ourselves and for others--and act upon it.  Pesach is a Chag in which the preparation far surpasses the length of the Chag itself--providing a great lesson for us in the importance of aforethought and planning--the need for “hachana” in Mitzvah observance.  It may be a pair of shoes, rainbow ices, different kinds of wine or a silver brooch...but please remember that we should take the lesson from the Nesi’im and not wait until the last moment--diving into Tom Tov with cherry ices because the mango was sold out!


  6.        It could never, ever hurt--and may help in ways we will never know about--to sincerely daven over the next few days that we have a “Chag Kasher V’Sameach”.  Each one of these requests--Kasher and Sameach--is a mouthful (once again, pun intended).  People have reported, for instance, that they have found non-Kosher L’Pesach items on Kosher L’Pesach shelves in supermarkets.  Others may be fooled by a lot of Hebrew lettering on a label which is not meaningful, or perhaps, not even true.  The word “Sameach” is also loaded, as it is such an essential element of the Yom Tov, and may be challenged at any moment by any number of situations or events.  In addition to our earnest prayers for ourselves in this regard, when extending this wish to someone else over the next several days, we should likewise express it with sincerity and feeling.


7.        At the Seder, we will be reciting the word “Dayenu” fifteen times, multiplied by the number of times we sing the word.  Dayenu means “it would be enough for us”.  What “would be enough” for us?  Let us look at the first passage of Dayenu:  “If Hashem had taken us out of Mitzrayim…it would have been enough…”  Clearly, just leaving Egypt , in and of itself, would not have been enough. We would not have received the Torah, we would not have entered Eretz Yisroel and we would not have had the Bais HaMikdash, for starters so what would “have been enough?”  The Siach Yitzchak therefore explains that it would have been enough in and of itself to thank Hashem from the bottom of our hearts for that one thing he had done for us.  We then go through an additional fourteen items and realize that it would have been enough to thank Hashem for each and every one of them because he gave us such great gifts, and we did not deserve that which we received.  Thus, the springboard of all the Dayenus--of all of the realization of the enormous and eternal thanks that we owe Hashem is His taking us out of Egypt --the first of the Dayenus.  This is then the blastoff on the Seder night for us to express and discuss the great and unlimited thanks and gratitude that we owe to Hashem for each and every item that he provides us with.  Now, sing along--Day- Dayenu, Day-, Dayenu, Day-Dayenu, Day-Dayenu.  This is what we ought to be talking--and singing--about!


8.        Finally, on the matter of speech, it is important to note that after having thanked Hashem, and recited Hallel with true sentiment and emotion, we conclude the Hallel with the words “Ana Hashem Hoshea Nah--please Hashem save us.”  The Haggadas Seder HaAruch points out that after thanking Hashem, which demonstrates our recognition for what He has done, we must, as a matter of faith, immediately thereafter plead with Hashem to do more, which demonstrates our continuing faith in Him.  Thus, as conclude the Hagaddah, we verbally affirm that our Emunah is complete.



Special Note Five:  The Vilna Gaon and the Maaseh Nissim Haggadah teach that the Geulah from Egypt was called “Chairus Olam--eternal freedom”--because the Geulah of Egypt was the root of, and source for, all future Redemptions.  When one does Teshuva, he must always look back to the source, to the beginnings, of the avaira in order to uproot and destroy his connection to it.  Similarly, when yearning for our own final Geulah, we must study and review how our initial Geulah came about and what happened--in order to properly connect to it.  This being the case, one can never learn enough of the Haggadah, its discussions and its teachings.  While intellectually one may know the ten Makkos by heart (including details from the Midrashim), shoot off the four reasons that we were redeemed, or list in perfect chronological order the Mitzvos we have on the Seder night, this is simply not enough.  Even if we “know it all”, we must come back year after year to the same concepts, the same lessons, and even to the same words, so that we continue to emotionally internalize Geulah through continuously developing a greater spirit of faith and belief in Hashem within us (See Michtav M’Eliyahu, Volume 4, Page 249).  The night of the Seder, with the uplifting four kosos, the Matzoh, the paradoxical Korech, the amazing Haggadah, and the unrestrained Hallel, is given to us by Hashem to continuously expand this spirit of Cheirus Olam within us.


As we move closer towards the Seder, our heightened feelings and awareness of Geulah should move us towards a greater appreciation of Cheirus Olam.  As we study the Haggadah and its various interpretations, we should literally feel energized, elevated and uplifted.  One should be ever on the real alert to apply the Haggadah’s teachings to our current Golus, and to our anxiously anticipated and awaited Geulah--may it come speedily and in our days.  Remember this key phrase as we steadily rise to the occasion of Pesach--it is Cheirus Olam!!




9 Nissan

The Sefer Kovetz Halachos of Pesach contains the Piskei Halachos of HaRav Shmuel Kamenetsky, Shlita, as wonderfully compiled (with extensive footnotes) by a close Talmid, Rabbi Doniel Kleinman, Shlita.  We once again provide below a sampling of the important P’sokim relating to Pesach contained in this exceptional Sefer.  We note, of course, that with respect to any particular p’sak or circumstance, one should consult with his own Rav for guidance: 

1.      Every person is obligated to study the Halachos of Pesach within the thirty day time period before Pesach.  Some even say that it is an obligation Min HaTorah.  It is, in any event, an obligation--and not only a meritorious act.

2.       Being involved in the baking of Matzah is a Mitzvah in and of itself, and not only a Hechsher Mitzvah.  One can appoint a Shaliach to bake Matzos for him, and this is why “Chaburah Matzos” are preferred.

3.      A person who checks to see whether the Matzos are Kefulos fulfills the separate Mitzvah of “U’Shemartem Es HaMatzos  [Hakhel Note:  We must be sure that our Matzos are checked against being Kefulos or Nefuchos.  Many of the contemporary Pesach Seforim and publications provide clear guidelines as to what to look out for when inspecting your Matzos before Pesach. See our Erev Pesach Checklist above].  

4.      The correct Nusach in the Bracha over fruit trees is “Sheloh Chisar BaOlamo K’lum” (not Davar).  Women should also make the Bracha.  Rabbi Kleinman brings in his footnote that the Aruch HaShulchan writes that Yirei Hashem are careful to make this Bracha, and that HaRav Shlomo Zalmen Auerbach, Z’tl, was very careful with this Bracha and remarked that from the time he became Bar Mitzvah, he never once missed making the Bracha.

5.      Women’s rings do not require Haga’ala, but they should be cleaned very well, and preferably not be worn for 24 hours prior to the time of Issur Chametz.

6.      One need not Kasher braces, but should be careful not to eat hot or sharp Chametz for 24 hours prior to time of Issur Chametz.

7.      If one did not Kasher the expensive utensils in his breakfront, one should cover the glass on the breakfront, rather than leave them exposed to view over Pesach.

8.      When performing Bedikas Chometz, one need not turn off the electric light in the room.

9.      If one will not be able to perform Bedikas Chometz on the night of the fourteenth, it appears to be better to check on the night of the thirteenth than the fourteenth by day.

10.  If one must take care of his bodily needs during the Bedika, he should make an Asher Yatzar immediately.  Similarly, if he heard a Bracha from someone else, he should answer Amen.

11.  Pockets of clothing need not be checked by candle light; it is enough if they are shaken out.  One may check his pockets at any time, and one need not necessarily check them the night of the fourteenth.  However, even if one did check his pockets on the night of the fourteenth, one should shake out the pockets of the clothing he is wearing when burning the Chametz on Erev Pesach in the morning.  When checking clothing, one should also check cuffs.

12.  One need not check suitcases, as one does not typically put food in them, and even if one does, he usually empties out a suitcase upon arriving home.  Accordingly, it has a Chazaka of being checked.

13.  One is obligated to check Seforim that he brought to the table while eating during the year, if he will use them on Pesach, for even if the Seforim contain only crumbs, the crumbs could get stuck to his hands, and he can inadvertently touch Pesach food with them.  When checking Seforim, it need not be by candle light, and one need not check every page, but only shake out the Sefer and its pages.  Even after checking, it is still best not to bring back any Sefer to the table, as there still may be crumbs stuck in the Sefer.

14.  On the night of the Bedika, one should check areas even though he will still be eating Chametz there in the morning--and he should then check the area again in the morning.

15.  If one has already put his Pesach items into the refrigerator and cabinets, he need not check them on the night of the Bedika, as they are no longer considered a place in which Chametz would enter.

16.  When searching for Chametz, one need not move any item which is difficult to move [such as underneath a refrigerator]; however, if it has wheels, one should move it and check underneath it and in back of it.

17.  One must check an open porch or patio, and cannot rely on the fact that birds or squirrels would eat any leftover Chametz.

18.  In an apartment building or multi-family dwelling, all of the residents have a joint obligation to check the stairwell and the laundry room.

19.  One should check his car on the night of the Bedika with a flashlight.

20.  A garbage can belongs to its owner, and one is not permitted to put Chametz directly into a garbage can, as it will remain it his possession.  One should put any leftover Chametz into a bag and leave it in the street.

21.  If one finds Chametz in his home after the Bedika--even if he knows that this Chametz was not there at the time of the Bedika--he need not check his whole dwelling again based upon the notion that Chametz was brought into other areas, as well.

22.  If one will be selling an area of his home to a non-Jew on the day of the fourteenth, one should still check it on the night of the fourteenth, as the area is still in his possession at the time of the Bedika.  One may enter the area that was sold on Pesach even though it has been sold, for a purchaser would not be makpid if one did so.

23.  Even if one’s custom is not to sell Chametz Gamur to a non-Jew, one may Lechatchila purchase Chametz after Pesach from a grocery or supermarket which properly sold its Chametz Gamur to a non-Jew before Pesach.

24.  One need not burn the Chametz on his own property, but it is best that one burn his Chametz on his own, and not give it to someone else to burn for him.

25.  It is permissible to pass by a non-Jewish bakery on Pesach even though a smell emanates from the store.  However, it is forbidden to intentionally inhale the smell of the Chametz.

26.  The prohibition to do work on Erev Pesach after Chatzos is less stringent than to do work on Chol HaMoed, and therefore any work that can be done on Chol HaMoed (such as a Dovor Ha’Aved) is permissible on Erev Pesach after Chatzos.

27.   If it is one’s custom not to recite Hallel in shul on the Leil Seder and he is davening at a Shul which is reciting Hallel, he should not recite Hallel with them (even without a Bracha), but rather leave the Shul in a manner which is not evident that he is being poresh from the rest of the Tzibbur.

28.  One should strive to set the table for the Leil HaSeder with nice utensils.  Even though one could fulfill the 4 Kosos with a plastic cup, one should nevertheless use a nice cup.  It is preferable to use a silver becher over a glass [the Sefer Kaf HaChaim writes that silver alludes to the Middah of Chessed.]

29.  When one makes the Shehechiyanu at Kiddush, he should have in mind all of the Mitzvos of the evening.

30.  If someone is strict to eat only hand Shemura Matzah, he may nevertheless Lechatchila be Yotzei with Machine Shemura if there is a reason for it, and he does not need to be Matir Neder.

31.  Lechatchila guests who are using their host’s Matzah should have Kavanna to be zoche to the Matzah (or the Ba’al HaBayis should have Kavannah to give the Matzah to them)--so there is no issue of it not belonging to them (‘Lachem’).

32.  The Ke’ara does not have to remain complete until the end of the Seder; rather, one can take all of the Karpas at the time of Karpas without leaving anything in the Ke’ara...and the same is true for Maror and the other items on the Ke’ara.

33.  One is permitted to eat the roasted egg at the Seudah, but one should not eat the roasted zero’ah at night.  One should also be careful not to throw the zero’ah into the garbage in a derech bizayon (as this is bizuy Mitzvah).  Instead, it is a Mitzvah to eat the zero’ah at the seudah during the day.

34.  If one uses a large Kos which holds more than Revi’is, one is only required to drink a Rov Revi’is.  Some, however, rule that one must drink a Rov Kos, a majority of the cup--whatever its size.  Therefore, if one only wants to drink a Rov Revi’is, it is best that he use a cup which only holds a Revi’is.

35.  The Ba’al HaBayis should not pour the Kosos for himself.  Instead, another should pour for him as this is Derech Cheirus.

36.  The age at which a child is “Hig’ia LeChinuch” for the Daled Kosos is when he understands the concept of servitude and freedom.  There is no set age, as it depends on each child’s understanding and awareness.   

37.  Although males must eat Matzah and drink the Kosos BeHeseiba, one need not make the Bracha on the Kos BeHeseiba.

38.  The Mitzvah of Heseiba is to move one’s body to the left; it is not enough that one tilt his head to the left.  It is likewise not Heseiba if one is merely leaning into the air, rather than leaning on something.  One can, for instance, move his chair so that the back of the chair is to his left and lean on that.  [Hakhel Note:  If one has questions as to how to properly perform Heseiba--especially if he does not have an armchair--he should consult with his Rav or Posek.]  Boys who have reached the age of Chinuch for eating Matzah or drinking the Kosos should also be taught to eat and drink BeHeseiba.

39.  With respect to Karpas, one should wash his hands with all the stringencies he uses for washing his hands for Matzah, without making the bracha.  One should dip the Karpas into the salt water with his hands and not with a fork, because if one dips the Karpas with a fork, he does not really require Netilas Yadayim.

40.  Lechatchila a woman should read or listen to the entire Haggada and recite the entire Hallel at the Seder.  If, however, she is busy with her children or other matters, she should at least read or listen to ‘Avadim Hayinu’ and ‘Rabban Gamliel Haya Omer’ through the drinking of the second cup.

41.  It is a Mitzvah to tell over the story of Yetzias Mitzrayim to children who can understand the exodus.  The Mitzvah does not only apply to boys and girls who are Ketanim, but also to children who are gedolim--even if they are married.

42. Children who have reached the age of Chinuch should be taught to recite the Haggadah as well.

43. When asking the Ma Nishtana, the youngest child should ask the questions first.

44. If one forgot to remind everyone to have Kavannah to fulfill the Mitzvah of Achilas Matzah before washing--then bedieved he may do so even after making the bracha of Al Netilas Yodaim, and it is not considered a hefsek.

45. With respect to placing Charoses on Maror, the minhag is not to dip the entire piece of Maror into Charoses, but only a small portion of Maror into the Charoses, and then to shake it off so that the taste of the Maror is not lost.

46. After eating the Afikoman and for the rest of the evening, one should not rinse his mouth out with mouthwash so as not to lose the Ta’am Matzah.

47. If there is a mezuman at the Seder, then at the first Seder the Ba’al Habayis should lead the mezuman, and on the second night, he may invite a guest to do so.

48. One should recite Parshas Shema and Birchas Hamapil before going to sleep, but need not recite the other Pesukim of Kriyas Shema Al Hamittah, as it is a Leil Shimurim.

49. Shir HaShirim is recited BeSimcha at the conclusion of the Seder, until sleep overcomes him. This does not mean that one must fall asleep at the table--but that one is at the point of tiredness that would otherwise cause him to go to sleep.

50.  For the 50th level--May we all be zoche to Chasal Siddur Pesach Kehilchaso!




8 Nissan


NEW YORK CITY WATER UPDATE:  For those who live in the Five Boroughs of New York City, we are pleased to provide by clicking here the most up-to-date Water Filters Guide as published by the Vaad Hamayim.  The Vaad may be reached at 718-301-9032.


FROM A READER:  While at the Seder, think of those who for health reasons cannot drink wine, eat Matzah, or partake of a regular Yom Tov meal.  Also think of those who do not know enough about Yiddishkeit to drink the wine, eat the Matzah or enjoy the Yom Tov.  In addition to thinking about them--thank Hashem then and there for all that you have!”



MAKE COPIES!  If one has a Sefer which he commonly uses at the table (such as Chofetz Chaim A Lesson A Day, Praying with Fire, etc.), he may want to make copies of the pages that he will need for use on Pesach for personal use, so that all issues of Chometz stuck to or in or about the Sefer are resolved. 

We received much feedback from readers relating to making copies of a sefer that one already owns for his own personal use. One reader took the time during this busy period and related the following to us:  I called ArtScroll and they said as long as the original and copy are not in use at the same time and it’s a few pages, there’s no problem”.  Hakhel Note: For non-ArtScroll Seforim, one can call the publisher, or consult with his own Rav or Posek.



A WORD OF CAUTION:  A reader reported that he found not Kosher For Pesach Chrain mixed into the “Kosher For Passover” section in his supermarket--this could innocently happen when a product is reshelved by a worker not so familiar with the English language.  Every label should be checked when putting it in your basket--at this time of year it not only has to be Kosher, it has to be....  We also caution about brands that you are not familiar with during the year--that is not to say they are not fine--it is to say that if you want to use an unfamiliar brand, even if it may have an ostensibly good hashgacha for you--just check to make sure that the product is in fact certified by checking with the certifying agency.  “U’Shemartem Es Hamatzos---be careful about the Matzos”--and everything else you will bring into your home--and into your body (to sustain your soul) during these uplifting and uplifted days !



FROM EMUNA DAILY:  The Chasam Sofer teaches that every brick that we laid in Egypt as slaves, each and every bitter event that occurred--all added up to the Cheshbon of our redemption!  Hakhel Note:  HaRav Gedaliah Schorr, Z’tl, in the Sefer Ohr Gedalyahu teaches that the Galus we are in is very much in and of itself a part of our Geulah.  Based upon this, he explains that Hashem had to redeem us when we had sunk to the 49th level of tumah--and before we sank to the 50th level--because at the 50th level we would have reached a nadir from which Geulah would not have been possible--Hashem of course could have redeemed us even then--but we literally would simply have been a different people.  The brilliant Mashal he gives is to a seed planted in the ground which, while in the process of dissolving becomes a growth and bears fruit.  If the seed had totally disintegrated, no fruit could be attributed to that seed.  The lesson to us is as we feel the pangs of Galus--even within the trying period that Torah Jewry is now experiencing in Eretz Yisrael--we must recognize that if we act and react properly, the last brick we had to place will have been laid--and the Geulah will have come sooner, instead of later.  Let us feel for the Roshei Yeshiva and the Yeshiva students, let us do good deeds for them…and let us daven to Hashem with fervor, remembering:  Shelo Echad Bilvad…VeHakadosh Baruch Hu Matzileinu Miyadam!”




Special Note One:  The first letters of “Yismichu HaShomayim VeSogel Ha’Aretz--the heavens will be glad and the earth will rejoice”, a Pasuk that we recite twice in Shacharis every day, actually spells out the name of Hashem (Yud Keh Vov Keh).  In fact, al pi kabala, when we recited the name of Hashem on Rosh Chodesh Nissan in the special (fourth) bracha of the mussaf of Rosh Chodesh--we were to have this phrase in mind.  It is no small wonder why --it is, after all, a month that demonstrates the Yismichu HaShomayim VeSogel Ha’Aretz--spring blossoms everywhere (in the Northern Hemisphere, anyways), our faith is renewed--and the opportunity of Hischadshus is tangibly evident in everything around us.  Let us not squander the message and the opportunity --by actually taking the time to change.  We must really try to get through the next few days in situations where things would have gotten out of hand in the past--and instead move through them without anger, without despair, with calmness, and with the sense that all that I am doing--all of the minutiae, the shopping, the hustle and bustle, the hassle and multi-tasking --is all for a great and noble goal and an incomparable, supernal purpose.  The Mitzvah will most certainly be elevated and purified--and Pesach itself will have thereby attained a new level in Avodas Hashem!


Additional Note:  As we have noted in the past, the last Chapter (150) of Tehillim has twelve phrases, corresponding to the twelve months of the year (with the last phrase of Kol HaNeshama being repeated for the thirteenth month of Adar Sheni). The first phrase of the Kepitel is for the month of Nissan as the first month of the year-- it is ‘HalleluKa--Praise Hashem!’  The Artscroll Siddur, in its usual manner, has a wonderful and succinct commentary on this phrase--this time quoting HaRav Avigdor Miller, Z’tl.  “HalleluKa is a contraction of two words.  ‘Hallelu’ denotes crying out in happy excitement, while the unique meaning implied by the name ‘Ka’ means ‘the One Who is forever’.  The Psalmist addresses everyone, saying: Use your energy to be excited over Hashem...[for that is the ultimate purpose of life, and all else pales in significance].  


Yismichu HaShomayim VeSogel Ha’Aretz--and Halleluka -messages of renewal for the month...which should invigorate us --and take with us for the year as well!



Special Note Two:  Rabbi Eliyahu Schneider, Shlita points out that Tosfos reconciles the fact that according to Rebbi Eliezer the world was created in Tishrei, and according to Rebbi Yehoshua the world was created in Nissan as follows:  In fact, there is no disagreement, Hashem’s ‘Machshava’, His thought to create the world originated in Tishrei--but the Ma’aseh, the creation itself,  was actualized in Tishrei.. Based upon the teaching of HaRav Yitzchak Hutner, Z’tl, Rabbi Schneider explains that in Tishrei we follow the lead of Hashem and work upon our Machshavos--our thoughts.  We are busy with Hirhurei Teshuva, with thoughts of self-improvement, and intent to change over the coming year.  Nissan, on the other hand, is the time that the world was actually created--it is the time of Ma’aseh, of deed, of action.  All of the Chometz removal, all of the pre-Yom Tov preparation--the Matzah, the shopping, kitchen, the Seder preparation , the Yom Tov foods--this is exactly the Avodah of this time of year!  We are fulfilling the map and direction established by Hashem at the time of creation itself.  So as you toil, as you work, as you prepare and perform the Mitzvos--recognize and appreciate--be glad of heart and regale--in your fulfilling the LeMa’aseh of creation--exactly at the right time of year!



Special Note Three:  The Dirshu Edition of the Mishna Berurah provides the following important points and pointers relating to Hilchos Pesach (Shulchan Aruch, Orach Chaim 431, et al.):




1.  On Erev Pesach, the Chasam Sofer, Z’tl, would himself prepare the Seder table with a zriyzus nifla’ah and simcha atzumah.  The Michtav Sofer, based upon this, writes that every Yirei Shomayim should begin to set the Seder table after Chatzos on Erev Pesach, and make sure that everyone’s kos has a proper shiur and is fit for use. 


2.  The Mishna Berurah defines heseibah as one’s head leaning to the left while seated, with a pillow placed underneath the head.  HaRav Elyashiv, Z’tl, explains that in addition to one’s head, most of one’s body should be leaning as well.  However, the leaning should not be to the extent that one feels uncomfortable in the position he is in.  The Ohr LeTzion writes that the position is one somewhere between lying and sitting--at least at a 45 degree angle.  Additionally, one must be leaning on something--if he is leaning in the air, HaRav Elyashiv rules that this is not heseibah. 


3.  The Mishna Berurah writes that the Haggadah itself is not recited b’heseibah, but instead B’Eimah U’V’Yirah--in awe.  Likewise, HaRav Shlomo Zalmen Auerbach, Z’tl, rules that the brachos over the wine and the Matzah should not be recited b’heseibah--as a bracha requires awe as well. 


4.  Although it is brought that the Yom Tov meal at the Seder be eaten b’heseibah as well (see Mishna Berurah, Orach Chaim 472, seif katan 23), the Chazon Ish, Z’tl, the Steipeler, Z’tl, and HaRav Shlomo Zalmen Auerbach ruled that if one feels uncomfortable eating b’heseibah, he need not do so, and they in fact did not do so.


5.  In a similar vein, HaRav Elyashiv rules that the drinking of wine at the Seder to demonstrate cheirus should not be overbearing--and that one could use eitzos to make the drinking more pleasant--for instance adding grape juice to some extent--as long as the taste of the wine is still felt, so that derech cheirus remains.  The Chazon Ish, the Brisker Rav, Z’tl, the Chobiner Rav, Z’tl and HaRav Shlomo Zalmen Auerbach, all rule that one can be yotzei cheirus with grape juice.  HaRav Moshe Feinstein, Z’tl and Rav Elyashiv require wine.  One who follows the latter p’sak should consult with his Rav or Posek in the event of any health or other issue regarding the intake of wine. 


6.  The Steipeler would give treats to the children before the Seder began, so the children would get excited and begin to ask questions as to what was happening. 


7.  Before Kiddush, HaRav Shlomo Zalmen Auerbach would especially advise all those at the Seder that they should have in mind that the bracha of Shehechiyanu covers all of the Mitzvos of the night. 


8.  The Mishna Berurah rules that if one does not have zero’ah for the ke’arah, he can take any type of meat.  If one does take the zero’ah, it should have some meat on it, as it is zecher l’korban Pesach.  The Chayei Adam writes that it is a bizuy mitzvah to throw out the zero’ah; instead, it should be eaten on the morning of the second day (or in Eretz Yisrael, on the first day) as part of the Seudas Yom Tov.


9.  The egg for the ke’arah need not be roasted; it can be cooked as well, for it is zecher l’korban Chagigah which could be roasted or cooked.


10.  The Mishna Berurah rules that when drinking each one of the four kosos, one should drink a rov revi’is from the kos at one time. 


11.  There is a dispute among authorities as to whether one can combine two different kinds of maror together to make up the Shiur.  The Orach HaShulchan brings that some do have the Minhag to do so, whereas HaRav Shlomo Zalmen Auerbach and the Minchas Yitzchak are concerned that one may take away from the taste of the other.  In all events, if one expels the Maror without swallowing it, he is not yotzei the Mitzvah. 


12.  The Steipeler would leave pieces of cinnamon which were not ground in the charoses so that it resembled straw--zecher l’teven.


13.  When dipping must be done, such as the karpas in salt water, HaRav Chaim Kanievsky, Shlita, rules that the dipping should be done before the bracha is recited. There is a Machlokes Haposkim as to whether one should eat the karpas b’heseibah.  HaRav Chaim Kanievsky and HaRav Nissim Karelitz, Shlita, for instance, rule that it is not eaten b’heseibah.  On the other hand, the Kitzur Shulchan Aruch, as well as the Brisker Rav and others, require heseibah. 


14.  The Maharil writes that when the Mah Nishtanah is recited, it should be done in a beautiful tune, with the intent of praising Hashem.  The one asking the Mah Nishtanah need not be a child--it can be an adult as well. HaRav Shlomo Zalmen Auerbach rules that the person leading the Seder is obligated to specifically explain the answer to each one of the four questions of the Mah Nishtanah--and how through the Parsha of Avadim Hayinu all of the questions are resolved.  One should not simply rely upon the “Rabban Gamliel Omer” at the end of the Haggadah. 


15.  HaRav Shlomo Zalmen Auerbach rules that if parents and grandparents are present at the Seder, a father can rely on the grandfather’s teachings, for  the Mitzvah of Vehigadeta Levincha simply requires the son to hear the Sippur Yetziyas Mitzrayim on the Leil HaSeder--not that the father specifically be the one to relate it.  If one has no children present, one nevertheless has a duty to himself to view in detail the Sippur Yetziyas Mitzrayim.  The Kaf HaChaim adds that when reviews the Sippur to himself, he should do so in a loud voice. 


Hakhel Note:  At the Hakhel Pre-Pesach gathering, HaRav Moshe Tuvia Lieff, Shlita, emphasized that one must experience the Leil HaSeder as a Derhobiner Nacht--personally feeling a level of Kedusha, together with a Simcha Atzumah--the personal euphoria of Yetziyas Mitzrayim.  We may add that one who truly feels and is elevated and uplifted by the experience of our previous Geulah--will be well trained and ready to experience the Kedusha and Simcha of our Geulah Sheleimah--BeMiHeirah V’Yameinu!




7 Nissan

VE’ES LACHATZEINU--ZEH HADECHAK--We will recite these words in the Haggadah very shortly.  The commentators explain that the Mitzriyim kept us oppressed and pressured so that we would not have time to think, and to daven to Hashem.  We must keep in mind over the coming week that we cannot let the tremendous amount that needs to be done adversely impact upon our state of mind, our davening (which, if anything, should be enhanced!), or our learning, to the greatest extent possible.  We should not impose upon ourselves that which the Mitzriyim consciously inflicted upon us.  The words of the Rosh that we have noted in the past--Ahl Tevahel Ma’asecha should be kept in mind and on one’s lips, in order to avoid any feelings of anxiety, consternation or perturbance--which are in all events counterproductive.  Let us do our utmost to greet Pesach with a joy it so richly deserves!



SHEDDING THE SHIBUD!  One Rav remarked to us that every person should go into Pesach with one less complete shibud upon him--and that a prime area for tikun should be in the cell phone area.  Many cannot go for more than a few minutes--and certainly a few hours without looking at the cell phone for calls, emails or texts.  Many are seen typing on the streets; others read or type as family members talk to them; others walk into shul; and other public places with gadgets affixed to their ears; and some talk in stores and on elevators. In truth, every person who owns a cell phone has at least one aspect of a shibud that he can release and relieve himself of.  Now, in the week before Pesach would be a wonderful time to drop at least that shibud--to more properly celebrate the Zeman Cheiruseinu!



FROM A READER:  “With reference to the custom of the G’ra and other Gedolim to eat Shalosh Seudos on the last day of Pesach you wrote that HaRav Elyashiv, Z’tl, ruled that this should be done on the seventh day of Pesach, meaning the last day.  I want to clarify that for those who live in Chutz La’aretz, this would be on the eighth day of Pesach.”

Hakhel Note:  Thank you for the clarification, but we are sure that you, as well as all of our readers, hope and intend that we will be keeping only seven days of Pesach this year!




Special Note Two:  We B’EH continue our Monday/Thursday study of the Sefer Mitzvos HaKatzar, with the Mitzvos Lo Sa’asei which the Chofetz Chaim writes are applicable in our times. Today, we present Mitzvos Lo Sa’aseh 100 through 103:


100.  Shelo Le’echol Remasim--this is the Mitzvas Lo Sa’aseh which prohibits one from eating certain creatures which creep along the ground. If one eats a kezayis of any of these creatures, he receives makkos. This Mitzvah applies in all places and at all times and to men and women alike.


101, 102 and 103.  Shelo Le’echol Meitevuah Chadasha Kodem LaOmer--these are three separate Mitzvos Lo Sa’aseh which prohibit one from eating ‘new’ grains: (i) lechem (bread); (ii) kali (roasted kernels); or (iii) karmel (plump kernels) [Artscroll translation], until the day the Korban Omer is brought--i.e., the Sixteenth of Nissan. If one eats a kezayis of all three, he violates three separate prohibitions.  When the Beis HaMikdash is standing, one violates the relevant prohibition until the actual time that the Korban Omer is brought; whereas when the Beis HaMikdash is not standing the prohibition continues throughout the Sixteenth Day of Nissan, until the Seventeenth, and in Chutz La’aretz it would continue throughout the Seventeenth as well (sefeikah d’yoma--although the Seventeenth would be midivrei sofrim).  If a planted grain took root before the Omer, the day of the Omer will permit it to be consumed even if its growth is completed after the Omer.  The prohibitions against ‘chadash’ applies in all places and at all times and to men and women alike.  There are Rishonim who hold that chadash in Chutz La’aretz is prohibited MiD’Rabanan, and even then the Rabbanan made it applicable only in the lands close to Eretz Yisrael, and this is the reason many are not careful with this prohibition.  The Chofetz Chaim, however, adds that although we cannot give reproof to those who are lenient based upon these Rishonim, a ba’al nefesh should be stringent as much as possible, because according to many of the Gedolei Rishonim, it is an Issur D’Oraysah in all events.


Hakhel Note:  It is no coincidence, as it never is, that the prohibitions against chadash listed above came up in the order of the Sefer Mitzvos HaKatzar, as we have been following it.  In fact, this coming Thursday, the Mitzvah not to eat Chometz will come up!  What beautifully obvious Hashgacha Pratis!



Special Note Two:  The Dirshu Edition of the Mishna Berurah provides the following important points and pointers relating to Hilchos Pesach (Shulchan Aruch, Orach Chaim 431, et al.):





1.  The Shulchan Aruch HaRav rules that the reason that we do not make a bracha of Shehechiyanu on Bedikas Chometz, is because the Shehechiyanu on the Leil HaSeder covers the preparation for the Yom Tov, in the same way as the bracha of Shehechiyanu on Leil Sukkos covers the building of the Sukkah.


2.  The Rosh rules that Lechatchila, the time for one to perform Bedikas Chometz is the beginning of the evening (tzeis hakochavim), and if one tarries in beginning the Bedika at the beginning of the evening, he violates a Takanas Chazal. 


3.  The Pri Megadim rules that the proper bracha is Ahl Bi’ur Chometz.  If one recites Ahl Bedikas Chometz, he is not yotzei with the bracha. 


4.  HaRav Elyashiv, Z’tl, rules that if one takes care of his needs during the Bedika, he recites an Asher Yatzar.  HaRav Vosner, Shlita, adds that one can answer Amein and Baruch U’Varuch Shemo to the brachos of others, and can additionally recite the brachos over lightning and thunder.


5.  The Shulchan Aruch HaRav rules that the obligation to check in places where it is common for Chometz to be is MeiD’Oryasah if he has not been mevatel the Chometz, but in places where it is not common to bring Chometz, but it is possible for Chometz to have been brought there in some way, the obligation to check is MiD’Rabanan. 


6.  HaRav Elyashiv, Z’tl, rules that in a condominium building (such as those in Eretz Yisrael), every resident is obligated to check the common area stairwell until the area that leads to his apartment--but does not have an obligation to check higher floors, even though he pays his portion of the va’ad bayit and sometimes takes the stairs up. 


7.  HaRav Nissim Karelitz, Shlita, rules that although adults do not bring Chometz to the bathroom, children may, and that accordingly, where children are present, one must check the bathroom and even the bathtub. 


8.  HaRav Karelitz, Shlita, also rules that if one cannot extend his hand in back of or under a bookcase or cabinet, then he does not have to check there and even if there is Chometz there he need not remove it--with bitul alone being sufficient.  This is true even though if one lost a precious item behind or underneath the bookcase or cabinet he would move it.  [Hakhel Note:  We assume that if there was a child in the home whose smaller hand could reach behind and pull out the Chometz, then the area would have to checked according to HaRav Karelitz.]  In a similar vein, Chometz found in a mixer which would require an uman to open and close it need not be removed--and bitul alone would likewise be sufficient.  Also in a similar vein, HaRav Elyashiv, Z’tl, rules that in the event Chometz is found between the stove and the sink and it cannot be reached, one need not remove the stove, and bitul is sufficient.  It should be noted, however, that if one intended after Pesach to remove the Chometz and use it (let us say it is within a package), he would not be able to do so--for his bitul would be invalid--and it would be Chometz She’avar Alav HaPesach. 


9.  The Mishna Berurah writes that if one appoints another to check for Chometz, this does not mean that the representative has the authority to be mevatel the Chometz, and in fact in such event he does not have the authority to do so.


10.  There is a dispute among authorities as to one who is leaving his home before the night of the fourteenth, and performs the Bedikas Chometz earlier--should he or should he not put out ten pieces of bread (for those who have the minhag).  The Minchas Yitzchok rules that he does not, as the reason for putting the pieces down is so that the bracha would not be levatalah if he found no other Chometz, and one who performs the Bedika before the night of the fourteenth does not make a bracha on the Bedika.  HaRav Elyashiv, Z’tl, rules that because there are other reasons for placing the ten pieces of bread, one can put them down even if he performs the Bedika at an earlier time than the fourteenth. 


11.  The use of a flashlight during the Bedika is a matter of dispute among the authorities.  HaRav Elyashiv, Z’tl, HaRav Aharon Kotler, Z’tl and HaRav Moshe Feinstein, Z’tl, permit it; whereas HaRav Shlomo Zalmen Auerbach, Z’tl, rules that in the first instance it should not be used because the Takanas Chazal was to use a candle.  The Poskim write that if the lighting in the room will aid the Bedika, one should leave on the lights in the room to supplement the light of the candle.  When checking Seforim for crumbs, the Chazon Ish rules that one should not use a candle, but instead daylight or electric light. 


12.  In the Nusach of Bitul Chometz, we recite the words “Debiyartei U’delah Biyartei--which I have burned/destroyed and which I have not burned/destroyed.”  If it has been destroyed--why does one need to nullify it?  There are many reasons:  (i) perhaps the subject Chometz has not been completely burned or destroyed; (ii) one intends with these words to include Chometz upon which something has fallen and which one does not intend to uncover, but still requires bitul; and (iii) the words also cover Chometz which has been removed by being sold to a non-Jew, and the possibility exists that the sale did not properly take place.


Hakhel Note:  The following is from the Sefer Otzros HaTorah on the Haggadah Shel Pesach:  All of the chumros and dikdukim that we undertake in cleaning our homes and utensils for Pesach are certainly me’orer great zechuyos for K’lal Yisrael, and are mevatel [as in bitul Chometz!] the machshavos ra’os of our enemies against us.  It is said that when HaRav Levi Yitzchak of Berditchov would see women cleaning and preparing their homes, rinsing, washing, scrubbing and the like before Pesach, he recited the following: “Yehi Ratzon She’eilu HaMalochim HaYotzim Meima’asei Yedeihen Ya’alu Lifnei Kisei Kevodecha VeYamlitzu Tov Ba’adeinu--May this be an Eis Ratzon before You, Hashem, and may the Malochim that are created by their holy activities come before Your Holy Throne and serve as melitzei tov for all of K’lal Yisrael.”  Let us not lose sight of, and remember, that all of our holy activities in these days are creating Malochim Kedoshim!  Rebbi Levi Yitzchak recited a Yehi Ratzon--so can we! 




4 Nissan

CONSUMER ALERT!  We remind everyone that several Hashgachos can appear on one ‘Kosher for Passover’ item, but not all of the Hashgachos are given on its Passover use.  We have particularly noticed this with certain products which have the CRC (Central Rabbinical Congress) on one place on the label--but which have other Hashgachos in close proximity to the words ‘Kosher for Passover’ in another area of the label.  In this event, the CRC is not affirmatively stating that it can be used for Passover, as they are not certifying a special run of the product.  If one has any questions, he should consult with his Rav, Posek, or the subject Kashrus agency.


KEEPING THE MIDDOS!  As our good character is tested in the time constraints that are ahead of us, we present a scenario:  One walks into his home (or into his Shul’s coatroom), and as he is taking out a hanger to hang up his coat, another hanger falls on the floor.  Is one required to pick up the other hanger? Is it a Mitzvah MiD’oraysa to pick up the other hanger?  Is one a ‘ba’al middos’ if he picks up the other hanger? Can he allow another person to pick up the hanger--and ‘get the Mitzvah’ for doing so?  A related scenario:  One walks into his home (or into his Shul’s coatroom), and as he is about to hang up his coat notices that there is another hanger on the floor.  Is one required to pick up the other hanger? Is it a Mitzvah MiD’oraysa to pick up the other hanger?  Is one a ‘ba’al middos’ if he picks up the other hanger? Can he allow another person to pick up the hanger--and ‘get the Mitzvah’ for doing so? In both cases, does it make a difference how harried or busy a person is?

Hakhel Note:  Let us remember that Hashem took us out of Mitzrayim--for a reason!


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


As for many this Shabbos will be the last ‘truly Chometz’ Shabbos before Pesach, we provide Halachos  relating to cutting or decorating  food (especially cake!) on Shabbos and whether the same falls into the melacha of Mochek or Kosaiv.  The Halachos  are excerpted from the major, multi-volume Sefer Orchos Shabbos (Hebrew): 


1. One can cut a cake  (or other food item) into simple shapes, but  one may not cut pieces into special  shapes such as  flowers, animals or the like.


2.  It is preferable not to pre-cut a cake with lettering on it before Shabbos in order to then separate the pieces on Shabbos, thereby breaking the letters.  It follows that, on Shabbos itself, one should not cut or break the letters or specific designs on a cake.    


3. One can make lines on the cake with a knife in order to cut straight or equal-sized pieces, just as we make  a mark in the Challah prior to cutting it, as there is no melacha of sirtut on foods.


4. One may use a whip topping provided that you do not  make a specific shape with the topping.


5.   If the cake was already in the shape of a flower, animal, number, letter or the like before Shabbos, one may cut it--and it is not considered mochek because this was the pre-existing structure of the cake. Likewise, If words or designs  are imprinted into cookies or the like--such as animal crackers, or the brand on  a tea biscuit, the Mishna Berurah  rules that it is permissible to break them and eat them, as they are considered part of the original  cookie itself.



Special Note Two:  The Ohr HaChaim HaKadosh highlights for us how important the Torah considers this month, the month of Nissan.  The Torah uses the words (Shemos 12:2):  HaChodesh HaZeh Lachem Rosh Chadashim”, and then continues:  Rishon Hu Lachem LeChadshei HaShana”--this month to you is the first of the months, the first of the months is it to you…. There is, the Ohr HaChaim HaKadosh teaches, no redundancy here.  The Torah is emphasizing that the inherent powers of this month are so great that it was intentionally made the first month of the year.  It is up to us, then--Lachem--to unleash these powers.  If we begin to characterize our Pesach work as a ‘mitch’, or a bother; if we express our frustration and cynicism at high prices, or complain of other Pesach-related ‘hardships’, then we are defeating the Lachem which the Torah reminds us about twice in the same Pasuk.  It is with a sense of joy and privilege that we should approach the next 11 days leading us to Pesach--a Chag upon which our souls became eternally free, even if our bodies may otherwise be bound in a temporary (perhaps very temporary) Galus Edom.  There is a related point, as well.  This year, there appear to be so many individuals and organizations in need--many more than in previous years.  There are those who are making a yeoman’s effort to keep their Ma’os Chitim and Tzedaka donations on par with previous years.  Others, may, however, fall short because of the financial position they are in.  If one finds himself in a better economic position this year than last, he should realize that Hashem is empowering and directing him to give more than in previous years--to help make up the slack of others.  Especially in these times in which we look to HaKadosh Baruch Hu’s Tzedaka and Chesed to save us in Eretz Yisroel and the world over, we should view the extra Tzedaka collectors and needy organizations as a means given to us by Hashem for us to exercise Tzedaka and Chesed.  Why?  The Pasuk states:  VeNassan Lecha Rachamim VeRichamcha VeHirbecha.”  HaRav Pam, Z’tl, explains that this Pasuk teaches that Hashem will give us opportunities for Rachamim and that if we exercise them, He will, Middah K’Neged Middah shower Rachamim upon us.  Let us do what we can-- over the next two weeks--giving of ourselves and of our money--with Simcha, and with trust!  Let us rise to the occasion!


Additional Note:  In this regard, there are two very important lessons from this week’s Parsha which ostensibly related only to Karbanos:  (1) In describing many of the Karbanos the Pasuk states:  Re’ach Nicho’ach--it shall be a satisfying aroma to Hashem.”  Rashi notes that obviously Hashem does not need to smell aromas.  Accordingly, Rashi teaches that the words mean that they will give Nachas to Hashem because we fulfilled His will.  With our actions over the coming days, we too, can give Nachas to our Father in Heaven; and (2) The Pasuk teaches “Kol Chelev LaHashem--the fatty portion is sacrificed on the alter to Hashem.”  These words are actually brought in Shulchan Aruch, Yoreh De’ah (Hilchos Tzedaka) to teach that we must put our ‘best foot forward’ and ‘give the fattiest portion’ when giving Tzedaka.  As we all know, nothing is by coincidence, and the Parsha is giving us messages for the here and now.  Let us, then, take these messages of Re’ach Nicho’ach and Kol Chelev LaHashem in a real and personal way!



Special Note Three:  As we stand so close to Pesach, it becomes incumbent upon us to begin our study of the Haggadah.  The Vilna Gaon and the Maaseh Nissim Haggadah teach that the Geulah from Egypt was called “Chairus Olam--eternal freedom”--because the Geulah of Egypt was the root of, and source for, all future Redemptions.  When one does Teshuva, he must always look back to the source, to the beginnings, of the aveira in order to uproot and destroy his connection to it.  Similarly, when yearning for our own final Geulah, we must study and review how our initial Geulah came about and what happened in order to properly connect to it.  This being the case, one can never learn enough of the Haggadah, its discussions and its teachings.  While intellectually one may know the ten makos by heart (including details from the Midrashim), shoot off the four reasons that we were redeemed, or list in perfect chronological order the Mitzvos we have on the Seder night, this is simply not enough.  Even if we “know it all,” we must come back year after year to the same concepts, the same lessons, and even to the same words, so that we continue to emotionally internalize Geulah through continuously developing a greater spirit of faith and belief in Hashem within us (See Michtav M’Eliyahu, Volume 4, Page 249).  The night of the Seder, with the uplifting four kosos, the Matzoh, the paradoxical Korech, the amazing Haggadah, and the unrestrained Hallel, is given to us by Hashem to continuously expand this spirit of Cheirus Olam within us.



Special Note Four:  We once again present pertinent rulings of HaRav Elyashiv, Z’tl, relating to Hilchos Pesach, as excerpted from the monumental Sefer Ashrei HaIsh (Orach Chaim, Volume III ):



A.     It is best to recite the Birkas Ha’Ilanos over a minimum of two trees, as the bracha itself refers to ‘Ilanos’ in the plural.  The bracha may be recited on Shabbos and on Yom Tov.


B.     Ma’os Chittim may be given from Ma’aser money; however, at least a small amount should not be from Ma’aser funds. 


C.     When a Jewish store sells its Chometz, and then continues to sell Chometz on Pesach it is a chucha u’telula.  Accordingly, one should not purchase from a store like this after Pesach, as it may be Chometz Sheavar Alav HaPesach.  It is better to purchase pre-Pesach Chometz from a store which sold its Chometz properly before Pesach, than to rely on the other store selling Chometz from ‘after Pesach’.


D.     If one lives in a building in which the tenants or unit owners are not interested in selling the Chometz in the common areas, one should be mafkir his Chelek in the common areas before the time of Issur Chometz sets in.  [ Hakhel Note:  One should consult with his Rav as to how one is mafkir.]


E.      According to the Ikar HaDin, one need not check his Seforim before Pesach, as any miniscule crumbs would be batel.  However, a Sefer which was not cleaned page by page, should not in any event be placed on the table, for a crumb from the Sefer may fall on the food, and all of the food would become assur, as the Chometz is not batel in the food.


F.      If one checks his pockets well by hand, he need not check them by candle light.


G.     Our Minhag is to burn the Chometz.  Thus, one should not pour kerosene on the Chometz before it burns, because this will ruin the Chometz before he has successfully burned it.  Rather, the Chometz should be substantially burned by fire, and then one can pour kerosene over it, so that in the end it is completely burnt.


H.     On Erev Pesach, one should LeChatchila complete laundering, pressing, sewing, haircutting, nail cutting, and shoe shining before Chatzos.  However, if one was not able to do so, he may still cut his nails and shine his shoes after Chatzos, but a hair cut after Chatzos may only be performed by a non-Jew.


I.         One can measure a Revi’is, a Kezayis and a Kebeitzah on Yom Tov, for the shiur of the four Kosos, Matzah and Maror, but one may not weigh the Matzos in this regard.


J.       The fact that one eats food in a Kittel on the Leil HaSeder does not derogate the Kittel’s status, for the Leil HaSeder is a Layla Shel Mitzvah.  Accordingly, one may not enter the restroom wearing a Kittel. 


K.    One should prepare the Kezaiysim of Matzah for all participants in plastic bags before Yom Tov, so when it comes time to partake of the Matzah, there is no significant lapse between the bracha and the eating of the Matzah.  [Hakhel Note:  The same would seem to apply for Maror.]


L.      One should pay for the Matzos before Yom Tov, so that it is legally his, both MiD’Oraysah and MiD’Rabanan.


M.   On Shabbos, one should not remove a piece of Matzah which is possibly Kefulah, because of the Issur of Borer.  One must instead remove the possible Kefulah together with some Kosher Matzah.  If the Matzah is actually (Mitsad HaDin) Kefulah, then it is Muktzah on Pesach and on Shabbos as well.


N.    LeChatchila, men and women should use wine for the four Kosos.  However, one may dilute the wine with grape juice, provided that the taste of alcohol significantly remains.  For children, one can be maikil and give them grape juice.  It is better for an adult to drink a smaller shiur of wine than a large shiur of grape juice.  If one is repulsed by wine and cannot drink it, he is patur from drinking it, as it is ma’us to him.  He should try to mix wine and grape juice in a manner in which the wine is still tasted.  If he cannot tolerate this, he can drink grape juice. It is also better to drink an entire smaller cup than the majority of a larger cup.


O.    Heseibah requires Derech Cheirus--which means in a royal and enjoyable manner, as kings eat.  This includes a person not bending his body towards the food, but bringing the food to the body.  Heseibah involves leaning most of one’s body and one’s head to the left side, and leaning on the arm rest or a pillow.  One should feel comfortable as royalty would feel.  If one leans without actually leaning on something, this is not considered Heseibah.  [Hakhel Note:  If one is unsure how to perform Heseibah, he should consult with his Rav or Posek.] 


P.      Although before performing a Mitzvah, one should state that he is about to perform it, one should not say “Hineni Muchan U’Mezuman LeKayeim Mitzvas Asei”, if in fact it is a Mitzvah DeRabanan.  HaRav Elyashiv himself recites “Hineni Muchan U’Mezuman LeKayeim…”, but does not say the “LeSheim Yichud….”


Q.    The Sefer Chayei Adam strongly objects to the partition which separates the Matzos in a Matzah cover.  The places that are noheig like the Chayei Adam should keep their Minhag.


R.     The Yesod of Sippur Yetzias Mitzrayim is to relate the story--it is not Me’akev for it to be to a son.  This is why a son does not necessarily have to come to his father for the Seder.  If a child is only three years old or so, and could only understand this story on a kindergarten level, the father should relate it to the child on that level.  There is no inyan, however, for the three year old to relate the story to the father based upon what he knows from kindergarten.


S.      One should throw the wine from his cup at the designated points in the Haggadah with his Etzbah (pointer finger as opposed to pinky), because the Pasuk says “Etzbah Elokim He”.


T.        If one is in the midst of eating Matzah, he can answer “Amen” to another’s bracha if he has swallowed a bit.


U.     It is permissible to change a parent’s Minhag, and eat Romaine Lettuce instead of chrain for Maror. 


V.     White reciting Hallel at the Seder, it is permissible to sing and repeat Pesukim, and to say Divrei Torah--for this is not like the regular reading of Hallel which cannot be interrupted, but instead has a Halacha of Shira. 


W.   If in davening one said “Es Yom Chag HaPesach HaZeh”, instead of “Es Yom Chag HaMatzos HaZeh”, he is Yotzei BeDieved.


X.     If one finds Chometz on Chol HaMoed that was sold to a non-Jew, it is permissible for him to burn it on the condition that he will pay the non-Jew for its value.


Y.     If one sees Chometz in the dirt on the street, he need not pick it up and move it away, for it is not fit to be eaten on Pesach. 


Z.      Although on Yom Tov, the custom is not to eat Shalosh Seudos, on the seventh day of Pesach, one should eat Shalosh Seudos, because of the Chavivus of the Mitzvah of eating Matzah, as was the Minhag of the G’ra.


AA.           Chazal (Yoma 21A) teach that a great Neis occurred weekly with the Lechem HaPanim and they remained as hot when they were removed from the Shulchan a week later, as they were when they were placed on the Shulchan.  The people who came to be Oleh LeRegel were shown the steaming hot Lechem HaPanim and were told:  “See how precious you are to Hashem!”  Rav Elyashiv explains that what we are supposed to take with us from the Chag is the warmth, the feeling of how cherished we are by Hashem--and this warmth should not cool off or cool down after the Chag when the weekdays begin!  [Hakhel Note:  It’s time to start getting excited!]





3 Nissan

Special Note One:  We B’EH continue our Monday/Thursday study of the Sefer Mitzvos HaKatzar, with the Mitzvos Lo Sa’asei which the Chofetz Chaim writes are applicable in our times. Today, we present Mitzvos Lo Sa’aseh 98 and 99:


98.  Shelo Le’echol Tola’as HaPeiros VeHazeraim--this is the Mitzvas Lo Sa’aseh which prohibits one from eating creeping creatures which are found in fruits and planted items.  This Mitzvah applies in all places and at all times and to men and women alike.


99.  Shelo Le’echol Sheretz HaMayim--this is the Mitzvas Lo Sa’aseh which prohibits one from eating creeping creatures which are found in water such as frogs, water worms and other small sea creatures.  If one eats a kezayis of any of them, he receives makkos.  This Mitzvah applies in all places and at all times and to men and women alike.



Special Note Two:  Yesterday, the second day of Nissan, the Parah Aduma was burned under the auspices of Moshe Rabbeinu and Aharon HaKohein.  Today, the third day of Nissan, is the first day that the unparalleled and purifying Parah Aduma waters were first sprinkled on anyone ever!  Accordingly, it is a day that holds special tahara capability, individually and for our nation, and we should be sure to use that capability by purifying ourselves in some way.  Is there anything that you can think of that could use some tahara--or do you not even need the Mai Parah?  Perhaps you can rethink it, because the time is auspicious, and the opportunity is great.  For some on-point ideas, we refer you to Chapters 16 and 17 of the Sefer Mesilas Yeshorim (which is on the topic of tahara).  You may think that if so few know about this, can it really be that effective?  Please consider, on the other hand, that when there are fewer customers purchasing, there will be much greater selection, and much better pricing!



Special Note Three:  Which Makka was going on today--the third day of Nissan in Mitzrayim--and accordingly, which Makka were we--the Bnei Yisrael--saved from today?  As Rav Dessler, Z’tl, teaches, we go through cycles in time which recur--perhaps we can think about today--and thank Hashem--for saving us from this devastating Makka we were miraculously saved from...!  One of the key aspects of Emunah we touch upon (actually grab hold of) during Pesach is Sechar Ve’Onesh.  As we prepare for the Seder, we should develop an appreciation and awareness of this in our everyday life.  It is no secret to anyone that the second Parsha of Shema focuses on Reward and Punishment.  This concept teaches us that Hashem cares about what we do, and that, our own actions determine our own outcome.  We are wholly and utterly powerless compared to Hashem--yet Hashem allows us to determine our own destiny.  What an important and far-reaching lesson!  If only the Mitzri’im had not done this, perpetrated that, or gone this far or that far.  We can well imagine that there would be much more left of them than some chariot spokes at the bottom of the Red Sea and some other ancient artifacts.  Take their devastating punishment, and multiply it by the converse--the eternity of spiritual reward, and we can begin to understand the teaching of the Ba’alei Mussar who plead with us to rid ourselves of the Yetzer Hara in every which way that we can as we rid ourselves of the Chometz.  Cleaning closets, scrubbing walls and emptying refrigerators are not perfunctory acts for the sleepy and overworked--but are lessons in cleansing and purification--as we thoughtfully work on our Emunah in Sechar Ve’Onesh--ridding ourselves of the causes of Onesh, and bringing ourselves to eternal and everlasting reward.



Special Note Four:  We have already reached the third Nasi today--the Nasi of Zevulun, Eliav ben Chailon.  Although Zevulun was the tenth son of Yaakov Avinu, he merited to bring the third Korban as Nasi.  Chazal (Bamidbar Rabbah 13:17) teach that the “tenth” son became the “third” son here--a 300% plus prioritization--for one reason alone:  It was because “Shechibav Es HaTorah VeHirchiv Yodov Lefazer Es Mamono LeYissocher--his cherishing of Torah caused him to open his hand wide and support his brother Yissocher in his Torah studies.”  With this wise and generous act, he fulfilled the words of the wisest of all men, Shlomo Hamelech, who teaches in Mishlei (18:16), “Matan Adam Yarchiv Lo, Velifnei Gedolim Yanchenu--A man’s gift will make room for him, and it will lead him before the great.”  In fact, Chazal (Bamidbar Rabbah, ibid.) even conclude with respect to Zevulun that “Godol Hame’aseh Yoser Min Ha’oseh--he was greater than Yissocher because, but for him, Yissocher would not have been able to study, and would not have produced 200 leaders of the Sanhedrin.  It would appear to be especially auspicious to write a check to a Kollel member or to a Kollel today.  Remember Yad Eliezer’s plea for the Torah residents of Kiryat Sefer (see above)! Additional Note:  The Navi teaches that ‘VeShaveha B’Tzedaka--those who return will be redeemed with the giving of Tzedaka.  In this season of Geulah we should try to give whatever we can!



Special Note Five:  We most definitely should not let these Emunah-filled days go by without some Bli Neder attempt, commitment, or improvement in our daily Tefillah or brachos recitation.  Even if one would take just one Bracha in Shemone Esrei (such as Re’ai VeAnyeinu or Tekah BeShofar Gadol LeCheiruseinu) with attention to the specific meaning of each word, or stop and think for one moment before making a bracha on a food item about the nourishing and meaningful gift Hashem is about to bestow upon him, he will have demonstrated an elevated and TIMELY level of Emunah.  It is important to note that just as a caring woman cannot afford to wait until the last moment to rid her home of Chometz and begin her Pesach preparations, so too must we all--men and women alike--now move meaningfully and powerfully in the direction of true faith, belief and trust.  We note that the Mishna Berurah (Orach Chaim 429, seif katan 7) explains that the reason we do not recite Tachanun at all this month is that because most of the month--the first twelve days (because of the Nesi’im Dedications) and then Yom Tov itself--have kedusha associated with them, the entire month is made ‘KULO KODESH’ (these are the words of the Mishna Berurah--not ours!).  Let us utilize this Kedusha, which infuses even a weekday like today to its fullest--by truly enhancing our lives with Emunah-filled days!




2 Nissan

The Dirshu Edition of the Mishna Berurah provides the following points and pointers relating to Ma’os Chittim (Shulchan Aruch, Orach Chaim 429):


A.  HaRav Shlomo Zalmen Auerbach, Z’tl, rules that one can utilize his ma’aser money for Ma’os Chittim, and that this is not considered to be paying one’s debts with ma’aser money.  HaRav Nissim Karelitz, Shlita, rules that it is a hiddur in the Mitzvah if one provides one in need not only with money for matzos, but for his other needs of the Holiday .  In a similar vein, HaRav Shlomo Zalmen Auerbach rules that Gabbaim who collect for Ma’os Chittim can use the money not only for all food needs--but for clothing for the Holiday as well. 


B.  The Mishnas Ya’avetz (Orach Chaim 7) rules that if one does not have enough funds of his own, he should borrow money in order to give Ma’os Chittim--even though he is otherwise exempt from giving Tzedakah.  The reason for this is that in addition to Tzedakah, one fulfills a separate Mitzvah of Simchas Yom Tov--causing others to rejoice on Yom Tov.  As the Rambam (Hilchos Yom Tov 6:17 -18) emphatically rules: one who does not give to the destitute and is mesameiach his family does not fulfill the Mitzvah of Simchas Yom Tov--but instead “fulfills the Simcha of his stomach”.  Because the Mitzvah of giving Ma’os Chittim is inextricably bound to Simchas Yom Tov, continues the Mishnas Ya’avetz, the Shulchan Aruch records it not in Hilchos Tzedakah--but in Hilchos Pesach itself!




Special Note One:  The Nasi whose portion we read today is Nesanel Ben Tzu’ar, the Nasi of Shevet Yissocher.  The Luach Davar B’Ito writes that the symbol of the Shevet Yissocher is the study of Torah.  Accordingly, the Luach writes that one should especially daven today for hatzlacha in Torah studies, and for Hashem to remove the impediments (including the Yetzer Hara’s guile) which distract him in any way from Torah study.



Special Note Two:  As what some have called a culture war continues to rage in Eretz Yisrael over the attempt to draft Yeshiva Bochurim in the army, HaRav Ezriel Erlanger, Shlita, points out that clearly the first item on each person’s agenda is a Cheshbon HaNefesh--for each of us makes up an important part of a greater whole.  Something that has not happened in more than 65 years with even apparently more hostile Israeli government members is now occurring. Indeed, the story is told that when HaRav Isser Zalmen Meltzer, Z’tl, met with Ben Gurion about a similar situation, HaRav Isser Zalmen began to plead and beg and cry before him.  Ben Gurion became incensed--”what do you think I am--a poritz (a non-Jewish landowner in whose province the Jews lived and who harshly lorded over them) that you have to beg before me like this?!”  The approach worked--but it does not appear to be working at this time. Perhaps there is another lesson, then, HaRav Erlanger continued. In addition to each individual person’s Cheshbon HaNefesh--we should focus on the issue of ‘Who is a Jew?’  After all, the soldiers on the battlefront are protecting someone--if everyone is a soldier, then who is left to protect?  It cannot only be the elderly, the very young and the infirm, nor can it be only the home and garden that the soldier will return to. It must be that he is faced with the duty of protecting the Jewish people.  How we define who a Jew is will guide our response to life’s events. We are faced with challenges to our Torah existence daily.   Is a Jew someone who believes and acts on the principle of Ki Heim Chayeinu--for the Torah is our life, or is he someone who views the Torah and its teachings as issues that he must deal with in the course of his activities?  Is a Jew someone who lives by the Torah as he lives with every breath of air--or is he someone who asks what the Torah requires of him?  How can he get around the situation?  How can he overcome the Torah teaching has been placed in front of him?  The latter view puts the Torah in a non-primary position in the person’s life; yes, it may definitely play a role, and perhaps even has a priority--davening three times a day, studying and searching for an acceptable restaurant--but it is not really life itself.  Indeed, as one of the ‘religious’ government officials basically puts it --”I am religious, I went to the army, so should they.”  His mistake, HaRav Erlanger teaches, is that we are not human beings that practice religion; rather, we are the Ahm Hashem. We do not believe that we simply left Egypt --we believe that Keil Hotzi’am MiMitzrayim--that Hashem took us out of Egypt--and that our very essence is to be bound to Him by doing His Will.  The current claims against the Torah students in a sense echoes the claims of those ‘enlightened’ by the enlightenment--be a nation among the nations.  In the Sefer HaKuzari, Rabbi Yehuda HaLevi teaches that this is not possible--for, in the order of creation is that after the medaber comes another level, another standard--the Yisrael.  We are not better than other human beings, we are different. This is highlighted by the month of Nissan which we have just begun.  The rest of the world looks to Tishrei as its basis for creation. Yet, as the first Mitzvah in the Torah to all of K’lal Yisrael, Hashem told us “HaChodesh Hazeh Lachem Rosh Chadoshim”--you have a different month, you are guided by a different set of rules. Accordingly, this is an auspicious time for each and every one of us to define within ourselves and for ourselves ‘Who is a Jew?’--who we really are.  Is the Torah something that we must contend with, because of all of the situations that it creates for us--or does it fuse us in deveikus to Hashem--thereby  infusing within us the privilege and joy of life itself?  Now is the time to do a Cheshbon HaNefesh--to help Acheinu Bnei Yisrael in Eretz Yisrael, and also to define the ‘Who is a Jew?’ within ourselves--in all aspects of our daily lives--at home, at work and literally each and every place that we go.




1 Nissan

PESACH 5773--LET THE CONSUMER BEWARE! As the Pesach shopping season begins, we alert our readers to Kashrus labels and symbols on products with which they may not otherwise be familiar--especially Hebrew words and stamps from other countries.  As an example of how confusing things can be for the unfamiliar consumer, there are two Hashgachos in Eretz Yisrael (whose products are marketed abroad) with the same name--Chug Chasam Sofer.  Yet, one has its name in a circular seal, and the other has more of a rectangular seal.  One is located in Bnei Brak, and the other is located in Petach Tikvah.  These are just examples.  Moreover, the standard of a national organization here may not be the same when you find its stamp on a product from overseas.  Accordingly, one must ask his Rav or Posek which Hashgachos are acceptable both for Pesach and year-round use, in which out-of-the country Hashgachos are acceptable on their own.  One must additionally be especially cautious for ‘stickers’ on products, and check to make sure that, even if purchased in a ‘Passover Store’, that each individual container or object purchased is, in fact, Kosher L’Pesach, as misdirecting and misshelving occurs--and our vigilance in U’Shemartem Es HaMatzos is required!



GEULAH!  This entire month we will not be reciting Tachanun, because it is an uplifting period of Geulah--let us, then, recite the Tefillos of Geulah with which our Shemone Esrei is so replete with especial Kavannah throughout the month!




Special Note One:  Welcome to Chodesh Nissan!  As we have noted in the past, the Mazel for the month of Nissan is a ram.  The Egyptians, who were the most professional of astrologers, worshipped this particular Mazel, because it is the first, the bechor, of all of the Mazelos.  Accordingly, they believed they could draw the strength and power from this Mazel which was necessary for them to rule the world.


Hashem therefore specifically took B’nei Yisrael out of Egypt during the height of this Mazel’s governance--on the 15th day--in the middle of Nissan.  Moreover, the lamb (ram) which was the earthly symbol of this Mazel, was restrained by being tied to bedposts--and then even shechted during the Mazel’s very governance.  Had B’nei Yisrael been taken out in any other month, the Mitzri’im could have claimed that its Mazel was simply not ruling that month, but had it been…


What is Mazel?  HaRav Chaim Friedlander, Z’tl, (Sifsei Chaim 2:268) explains that Mazel is the method of controlling the creation from heaven to earth, which is wholly independent of man’s conduct (Mazel is connected with the word “Nozel”--to flow from heaven to earth).  The Egyptians were right--Mazelos were effective--until Rosh Chodesh Nissan--the day upon which Hashem taught us that WE, B’nei Yisrael, would now supersede and govern over all creation by our actions.  As the Pasuk states: “This month is TO YOU the first month.”  Hashem, in the first mitzvah given to K’lal Yisrael as a people, teaches them that their actions will simply override all Mazelos.  As Rav Friedlander explains, the term “Ain Mazel L’Yisrael” (Shabbos 156A) means that the Mazelos have no uncontrollable power over us--just the opposite, our actions now control the creation!


This obviously puts us in a very responsible position.  On that first day of Nissan in the year 2448, we lost the status of commoners, and, in effect, became ranking high officers, because all of our actions, even the smaller ones, impact the world in its entirety.


In fact, our actions are so profound, that we can bring the Shechina into this world by building a Mishkan, and we can, Chas V’Shalom, drive the Shechina away with seemingly something as trivial as the Sinas Chinam--the senseless hatred--shown in the Kamtza-Bar Kamtza incident.


So what are we to do--is this simply teaching us about “feeling guilty”?  No, quite to the contrary.  Does a king’s son say, “Forget this, I would rather carry water”??  Or does a colonel say, “I’d rather be on all-night guard duty??”  No, or at least, they should not.  Instead, they will recognize the importance of their position and learn how to help themselves--and the many others whose lives they now affect.  How?  By taking instruction from the King, and by learning from the generals, what to do and how to do it.


Indeed, Rav Chaim Voloziner, Z’tl, in the Nefesh HaChaim (Sha’ar 1, Chapter 4) teaches that the acts of sacrilege of Titus HaRasha in the Holy of Holies were less than meaningless trifle and had no bearing on this world--but our smallest deeds shake the cosmos.


As we begin our Pesach preparations, where we spend our valuable time searching for even crumbs of Chometz, scrubbing walls and turning pockets inside out, when some men become homemakers--kneading dough, baking matzos, or perhaps grinding marror, where world class athletes would envy women’s adrenaline levels, when we spend so much money on potatoes and eggs and figuring out different ways to prepare them, we should keep in mind--or least when the going gets rough, remind ourselves--when performing any and all of our actions that we are the star colonels, we are sons of the King--whatever we do is truly very, very important and how we do it impacts not only on our family, friends or neighbors, but actually governs the world and all of its hosts.  Geulah is a reality!



Special Note Two:  The first day of Nissan, is one of the most renowned days in the Torah, as we read last Shabbos in Parshas HaChodesh, Hashem taught Moshe Rabbeinu on this day-- “HaChodesh HaZeh Lachem Rosh Chadashim…This month is the first month of the year…” (Shemos 12:2).


The Gemara (Shabbos 87B) teaches that Rosh Chodesh Nissan took “Eser Ataros”--ten separate and distinct crowns--for ten unique events that happened on this day, which include the first day of the Avodah--the complete service in the Mishkan, with Aharon and his descendents to serve everlastingly as Kohanim Gedolim and Kohanim.  It was also the first day ever of the Shechina descending into the Mishkan, and of fire coming from Heaven to consume the Karbanos.


Additionally, not one or two, but eight different parshios of the Torah were taught to K’lal Yisrael on this day (See Gittin 60A).


The Navi in Yechezkel (45:18) teaches that on THIS DAY the “Miluim”--the consecration of the THIRD BAIS HAMIKDASH will commence.  Accordingly, the Siddur Bais Yaakov writes that all who are “Mitzapim L’Yeshua”--await the redemption--should recite today the Pesukim related to the dedication of the Third Beis HaMikdash in Yechezkel, 43:18-27 and 45:18-20.


Indeed, the first 12 days of Nissan, the days of the dedication offerings of the Nesi’im (the princes of the tribes) in the Mishkan, are so powerful that Reb Menachem Mendel of Rimanov taught that in each of these days are inherent an entire month of the year.  With true clarity of vision, on each of these 12 days, one can understand what the entire corresponding month will be like.  The first day of Nissan provides the clarity for the entire month of Nissan, the time of Redemption.


Today’s Nasi, i.e., the first one to bring Karbonos in the Mishkan, was Nachshon ben Aminadov, who was the same Nasi who jumped into the stormy sea for Geulah.  Perhaps the lesson is not to be ashamed or hesitant--but to jump in--to give it all that we have, to prepare for--and to bring--the Geulah!


Today is also the first day we can recite the Birchas Ha’Ilanos, upon seeing a blossoming fruit tree (See Shulchan Aruch, Orach Chayim 226 for further details on the proper performance of this Mitzvah).  One can show his/her zerizus and chavivus--alacrity and dearness--for this once-a-year Brocha by reciting it as early in the month as possible. 


Finally, Rosh Chodesh Nissan is the Rosh Hashana for Shekalim (Rosh Hashana 7A)--the day new contributions were required to be used to purchase the daily sacrifices for the Beis HaMikdash (no matter how full the Temple treasury already was).  This teaches us that today is the day to start again, with a fresh and new commitment, to utilize the coming days to personally spring and blossom!




29 Adar

PESACH FOOD PURCHASING ALERT 5773:  As the saying goes, a fool learns from his own mistakes--a wise person learns from the mistakes of others!  Last year, some may have fallen prey to the Cocoa ordeal in which there were three Hashgachos on the label of one Cocoa (Heimishe) product, but only one of the Hashgachos was actually certifying its use for Pesach, the other two meaning only to indicate that it was Kosher for during the year.  The consumer was supposed to realize that the "Kosher LePesach"  symbol next to only one of the Hashgachos was meant to indicate that only that Hashgacha was certifying it for Pesach use.  You may recall that the product was made in China, and that the agency that certified it as Kosher for Pesach apparently did not undertake any special run or caution, but assumed that since the regular ingredients were not "Chometzdik", the product was ok, and that any possible Kitniyos issue was batel.  The other Hashgachos felt that a more careful attendance or review was necessary, and accordingly would not certify the product for Pesach.  THIS YEAR:  When you notice two or three Hashgachos on a product--look to make sure that the Hashgacha that you know or are relying upon is actually certifying it for Pesach near its insignia.  An extra moment of purchasing caution--can save hours of kashering issues  (or at least moments of consternation or concern) later!  As Chazal teach Aizehu Chacham HaRo'eh Es HaNolad--the wise person looks into his actions and understands their ramifications.  We will be reading about the Chacham on the Leil HaSeder--let's start practicing now!



Special Note One:  We B’EH continue our Monday/Thursday study of the Sefer Mitzvos HaKatzar, with the Mitzvos Lo Sa’asei which the Chofetz Chaim writes are applicable in our times. Today, we present Mitzvos Lo Sa’aseh 96 and 97:


96.  Lo Le’echol Sheretz Ha’of--this is the Mitzvas Lo Sa’aseh which prohibits one from eating unkosher flying insects (such as flies, bees, wasps, etc.).  If one eats a kezayis of any of them, or eats an entire insect even if it is less than a kezayis, he receives makkos.  This Mitzvah applies in all places and at all times and to men and women alike.


97.  Lo Le’echol Sheretz Ha’aretz-- this is the Mitzvas Lo Sa’aseh which prohibits one from eating unkosher ground insects (such as snakes, scorpions, worms, etc.).  If one eats a kezayis of any of them, or eats an entire insect even if it is less than a kezayis, he receives makkos. This Mitzvah applies in all places and at all times and to men and women alike.



Special Note Two:  TWO FOR ONE --EARNING 200% ON YOUR MONEY IN A DAY --IT IS POSSIBLE!  We provide below one of the most important messages we have ever sent. It is a letter to Hakhel from Mrs. Sori Tropper of Yad Eliezer, the volunteer head of Yad Eliezer in America.


Ma’os Chittim is always a challenging time.  So many people literally cannot buy food for Yom Tov and depend on us to help.  We concentrate, as always, on chickens, because that is beyond the budget of Yad Eliezer families.  These are families who rarely buy chicken during the year.

Kiryat Sefer is literally a city of Talmidei Chachamim, living in utter simplicity and with an incredible amount of Mesiras Nefesh.  For most of the year, they make do, and do not receive Tzedaka funds, but on Pesach, it is crucial to help them.


We have a donor who will provide a Two for One match up to $150,000 in Maos Chittim that is given specifically for Kiryat Sefer (there is a tremendous need there).  This means that he will give $300,000--if we can raise $150,000!


Just to give you an idea of what things costs:  $6,000 buys a ton of chicken which feeds approximately 80 families for the whole Yom Tov.  Again, since this is going to be matched, it will cost us $2,000.


If you’d like to donate on the website (www.yadeliezer.org), please indicate that this is for the Kiryat Sefer match.  You can donate via credit card by calling 718-258-1580 or you can send a check to 1102 East 26th Street, Brooklyn, New York 11210 and indicate that it is for the Kiryat Sefer match.


And may this Pesach be the last that we need to ask for help.


Chag Kasher V’Sameach!




Hakhel Response:  Let us all contribute whatever we can to this fund--we are helping to support a City in Israel.  Let us remember that Amri, the wicked Achav's father, was rewarded for building the City of Shomron in Israel (although it housed much avodah zara)--imagine the reward that we will have for helping to maintain a City of Torah in Israel.  Then add to that your contribution is doubly matched--which effectively triples it--and then add further that we are undertaking this project as part of a Tzibbur together--which gives us each a part in the entire contribution!  So, let's try as much as we can, with as many 0's after a number as we can, to help put food on the table for a City for Pesach!



Special Note Three :  We can stop the Bulletin right here, as the utter power of your contribution surely moves the Heavens and the Earth.  We will simply share once again a story told by HaRav Yitzchok Scheiner, Shlita, Rosh HaYeshiva of the Kaminetzer Yeshiva in Yerushalayim during a visit of chizuk in America.  In fact, he is returning today to Eretz Yisroel.  Rav Scheiner related the following account:  There was a bachur in the Ponovezh Yeshiva who was among the worst bachurim in the Yeshiva.  He did not sit in one place for long, did not possess particularly good skills, and did not possess sterling character traits either.  He did, however, sit in the same row as one of the best bachurim in the Yeshiva--a serious and dedicated student who was friendly with all.  The successful student was studying Mussar one day--specifically the topic of Chesed.  As he closed his Sefer, he thought to himself--"Do I really do chesed--what good is studying if I do not apply what I learn--I need to help others!"  He turned and almost immediately saw the problem student daydreaming.  He thanked Hashem for the message and the opportunity, and asked his regular chavrusa to please go off and talk-in-learning with someone else for an hour.  He then approached the distressed bachur, and asked him if he could learn with him for an hour--as he had no chavrusa. Stunned, the bachur consented. This same encounter happened for two weeks in a row, until the previously distraught bachur became an 'up and coming' person in the Yeshiva.  His attitude, his existence--his life--had been transformed in the course of a two-week investment.  All this, because a student realized the importance to act upon his learning, the value of even a short period of time in helping someone, and the Hashgacha Pratis of the bachur 'learning' in his row of seats.  Actually, the story does not end here.  The thoughtful bachur continued to learn in his Mussar Seder about Chesed, and continued his aspirations of growth.  He decided to walk to the 'up and coming's'  parents apartment-and tell them about the wonderful son they had. He took the time out to go their apartment (a few blocks away from the yeshiva in Bnei Brak), rang the bell and told the father at the door that he had been blessed with an outstanding son.  The father remained standing at the door astonished at the news about his only child, as until this point he had understood that his son was not a pre-eminent personage by any means--and that his situation in the Yeshiva was tenuous.  A few days later, the father came to the Yeshiva, and approached the  Ba'al Chesed--" You saved my marriage. Because of our tzoros with our son, and the economic situation at home--my wife and I had taken to bickering over anything and everything--and had actually opened a 'Tik' for a Get with the Rabbanut.  Once you told me what a nachas we had for a son--we were both able to think clearly again, put everything in perspective, and our Shalom Bayis has literally been restored.  Thank you from the bottom of our hearts!"


Can we imagine the effects of the Chesed that we can do--like how far reaching some chicken, some potatoes and vegetables can go?  Do we realize how a few minutes dedicated to helping someone can save their lives--not figuratively--but literally!  Let us take the time to act now, and over the next several weeks until Pesach on the Middah of Chesed--since so many people have needs.  Even if you need your own help--that doesn't absolve you from thoughtful Chesed  with others.  Did you ever drive on a highway where the signs read "Work-Zone--Fines Tripled".  During this next little while until Pesach--we are also in a Work Zone--but with us--if we exercise that extra special thoughtfulness, effort, care and concern for Chesed--the rewards, benefits and after effects for ourselves--and all of K'lal Yisroel will not merely be tripled--but really and truly UNFATHOMABLE.  You may ask--will the next person really do his part?  In actuality, you don't know--but all you have to do is yours!




26 Adar

THE ANSWER! We had posed the question earlier in the week as to whether one fulfills the Mitzvah if he is vigilant with Chometz in the 30 day period before Pesach. The Mishna Berurah (Orach Chaim 445, seif katan 8) rules that if one does so he fulfills the Mitzvas Asei of Tashbisu, for within 30 days prior to Pesach one has an obligation of Bi’ur Chometz. See also the Mishna Berurah, ibid.336 seif katan 32, who rules in the name of the Acharonim: “In this 30 day period, one should be careful with all Chometz that he handles, so that there is no Chometz that remains in a manner in which it cannot easily be removed.”



MASTER A MAKKAH! An interesting thought for getting others actively involved in preparing for the Seder is having different participants prepare and in a sense becoming the ‘experts’ of certain events and experiences at the Seder. For instance, one person may be in charge of providing the reasons of each one of the 15 Simanim, another may be in charge of the tunes, and others may each be assigned or asked to choose a Makkah in which they may describe the details from the Midrashim, the Middah KeNeged Middah, and the Makkah’s aftermath. Just as we clean the dwelling, buy the Matzahs, bake the food…we should prepare for the tremendous number of grand Mitzvos that we will soon be privileged to experience!


Hakhel Note One: We are told that the 10 Makkos with which the Mitzriyim were smitten will also befall the Malchus of Edom at the end of this Galus that we are in. If we become experts in the Makkos, we will have a greater understanding when the Makkos befall those who have harmed us and wish to do us harm--and a greater experience as we are saved and brought to the Geulah Sheleimah!


Hakhel Note Two: As we conclude Sefer Shemos, which is the Sefer HaGeulah--and we immediately enter the month of Nissan, which is the month of Geulah (B’Nissan Nigalu U’V’Nissan Asidin Liga’el) we realize that the time is ripe. It is up to us to ‘pick Geulah off the tree’ through our Tefillos and our actions! Commit, bli neder, to daven hard for Geulah in the coming month!



FASCINATING! HaRav Shlomo Zalmen Auerbach, Z’tl, rules in the Sefer Halichos Shlomo (Hilchos Pesach), that one cannot fulfill the Mitzvah of eating Matzah on the Leil HaSeder by standing up because “Ain Zeh Derech Cheirus Elah Derech Achilas Avadim--this is not the way that free people eat, but the way servants eat [walking around as they continue their chores and tasks].” What a great lesson for us--every day of the year! If we stand and walk around while we eat or drink--we are simply not acting as free men, but as servants. To whom? We leave that up to you to decide…but it is not to something positive!



QUESTION OF THE DAY: Chazal teach that Moshe Rabbeinu was ten amos tall, and we know that the Mishkan was also ten amos high. That being so--how did Moshe enter and remain in the Mishkan?



QUESTION FOR SHABBOS: As the leining proceeds, can you count how many times the Pesukim records the words Ka’asher Tzivah Hashem Es Moshe? Oh--if this would be our guiding light in our daily activities as well! Keep the words with you--Ka’asher Tzivah Hashem Es Moshe!



YOM KIPPUR KOTON! Customs differ as to whether Yom Kippur Koton is recited this Monday, Erev Rosh Chodesh Nissan. Accordingly, it would be best to check now with one’s Rav or Posek in order to properly plan ahead!




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



A. The Shulchan Aruch (Orach Chaim 252:7) rules that one should check his pockets on Erev Shabbos. What if one lives in a neighborhood where there is an Eruv, or is in a hotel for Shabbos--does he still have to check his pockets? The Kitzur Shulchan Aruch (73:23) and the Mishna Berurah (O. C. 252; seif katan 55) rule that he does--because there may be Muktza in one's pockets. Our vigilance for Muktza begins...even before Hadlakas Neiros!


B. Shabbos is the first Yahrzeit of HaRav Chaim Pinchos Scheinberg, Z’tl, a Gadol of our generation. HaRav Scheinberg’s outstanding dedication to Torah study was once explained by his son, yblch’t, HaRav Simcha, Shlita, who told of the time that his father went to the dentist, who wanted to inject Novacaine into HaRav Scheinberg’s mouth in order to perform a procedure. “Give me ten minutes to get into a sugya and I will not need any Novacaine,” replied HaRav Scheinberg. The dentist gave him ten minutes and HaRav Scheinberg remained in the dentist’s chair throughout the procedure unflinching--to the dentist’s astonishment! We had, indeed, once reported that HaRav Scheinberg taught his students that if they were taking a shower and the room was clean they should think Torah thoughts so as not to waste valuable time. It would certainly be befitting if one would learn just a few extra minutes this Shabbos L’Iluy Nishmaso--he had such an effect on the world, we should show our appreciation!


C. In this week’s Parsha (Shemos 35:3), we find the Torah’s teaching relating to Shabbos--“Lo Seva’aru Eish--do not kindle a fire.” The Shelah HaKadosh, and others, teach how the Torah highlights this particular Melacha in order to teach us how the fire of anger is the antithesis of Shabbos. Shabbos is a day in which we demonstrate our Avodah to Hashem--not our shibud to our Yetzer Hara. Accordingly, as in the past, we designate this Shabbos as the No-Anger Shabbos. Most assuredly the Yetzer Hara will be working overtime in order for us to ignore the obvious lesson from the Parsha--so we must overcome and prevail--and enjoy a Shabbos of peace and tranquility!


D. The Luach Davar B’Ito brings that as we are continuing through the Six Days of Creation (according to Rebbi Yehoshua), we should experience a special exhilaration when beginning Kiddush with the words “Yom HaShishi”.



Special Note Two: Points and pointers on this week’s Parshios:


A. In Parshas Vayakhel, we find the term Lev mentioned in various contexts--Asher Nisa’o Libo, Kol Nediv Lev, Chacham Lev, U’Lehoros Nasan BeLibo, etc. It is a time to remind ourselves of the precious words of the Mesilas Yesharim (end of Chapter 16): “Chazal teach that Rachmana Liba Ba’i--Hashem wants us to serve Him with our hearts--for it is not enough for Hashem to see our deeds alone, such as our Ma’asei Mitzvah. Rather, it is most important to Him that our hearts be pure to serve Him in truth. The heart is the king of all the other parts of the body and leads them, so if the heart is not focused on the service of Hashem, then the service of the other limbs and organs is not worth anything, for they will just follow the errant heart. This thought is expressed clearly by Shlomo HaMelech (the wisest of all men) in Mishlei ( 23:26 ) “Tena Beni Libcha Li…my son give me your heart!”


We can now well understand why the Pesukim in discussing the construction of the Mishkan emphasizes the need not only for the physical and mechanical building of the Mishkan--but that our hearts be first dedicated to the task!


Additional Note: The story is told of a g’vir in Flatbush who would open his door to all, giving to all with a generous heart. Once, he sat down for dinner and his wife had prepared a soup for him. There was a knock on the door, and he got up to answer. His wife pleaded with him: “I will let him in and he can sit a few moments, at least eat the soup while it is hot.” He turned to his wife and said: “This is my opportunity to give something of myself. When I give money--I am simply distributing that which belongs to Hashem, hopefully in a manner which Hashem sees fit. Now, however, I have the chance to give up my hot soup for this person. Let me rejoice in the opportunity!”


B. In Parshas Vayakhel, the Torah records that the people brought donations to the Mishkan “BaBoker BaBoker” (Shemos 36:3). The Sefas Emes interprets the repetition of the word ‘Boker’ to mean that the people brought their gifts early in the morning, and explains that there is special power in doing something early, or first, in the morning. It is for this reason, the Sefer Talelei Oros explains, that the Vilna Gaon, Z’tl, would exclaim BeLev Shaleim U’VeSimcha when he rose from bed: Hareini MeKabel Alai Ohl Torah HaYom!” Likewise, the Siddur Siach Yitzchak (Siddur HaGra) notes that in the Bracha of HaMa’avir Sheina early each morning the first two requests we make following the Yehi Ratzon are “Shetargileinu BeSorasecha VeDabekeinu BeMitzvosecha--please accustom us to study Your Torah and attach us to Your commandments”--for the first efforts, the first requests of the day, have a special status and bearing. In special fact, the Tefillah presented by the Zohar upon arising in the morning is “Yehi Ratzon…Sheyiheyeh Libi Nachon U’Masur BeYadi Shelo Eshkachecha--May it be Your Will that I be upright, and in control of my heart today, so that I don’t forget You.” The Siddur Siach Yitzchak concludes that when one has a Haschala Tova in the morning, then “Az Yiheyeh HaKol Tov--everything will be good.”


As we arise in the morning and begin to ready ourselves for the day, all kinds of new ideas and reminders bombard us--everything we have to do and even the order we have to do it in. If we can take those first precious moments and focus them properly--”Shetargileinu BeSorasecha VeDabikeinu BeMitzvosecha”, “Sheyihiyeh Libi Nachon U’Masur BeYadi Shelo Eshkachecha”, and the Gra’s thought B’Lev Shaleim U’VeSimcha to accept upon oneself the Torah and the Mitzvos--then we have the express assurance of the Siddur Siach Yitzchak that Az Yiheyeh HaKol Tov!


C. The Pasuk teaches regarding Betzalel “U’Lehoros Nassan BeLibo--and the ability to teach was placed in his heart. The Mefarshim explain that with these words we are taught the difference between Lilmod and LeLameid--to learn and to teach. It is a great level to learn, and an even greater one to be able to teach. It is for this reason that we request of Hashem in Ahava Rabba/Ahavas Olam that he please give us the ability Lilmod U’LeLameid--to learn and to teach. Everyone really has to be a teacher--chavrusos one to the other, husband and wife, parent and child. We must therefore be careful to daven daily to Hashem that He give us the ability not only to learn--but to be a good teacher as well!


D. HaRav Yaakov Kamenetzky, Z’tl, whose Yahrzeit is on Monday, provides a great question and a remarkable insight on the Parsha. The Torah goes to great lengths to describe the Mishkan and its Keilim--both the instructions to build it, and the actual details as to its construction. We know the Mishkan was precious to Hashem, and that we gain special insight into the Dor HaMidbar with all of the detail. However, all of this detail is for a temporary structure that is supposed to be standing for only a short while--until the Bais HaMikdash is built. Remember that the Chait HaMeraglim had not yet taken place, so Bnei Yisroel were due to soon (within weeks or months) enter Eretz Yisroel and build the Bais HaMikdash shortly thereafter. Thus, the Mishkan was intended to function for perhaps a year or two (although ultimately it remained standing for 479 years). Yet, we see the detail which the eternal Torah provides for it--and the zeal, dedication, and effusiveness of the people towards a very short-term construction. The important and special lesson here is that our goal must be to accomplish. A Mitzvah may look to the eye as if it is fleeting--so why put in so much time, such difficult effort, and significant expense? This is absolutely not an appropriate cheshbon. Our preparations can, and in many cases should, take longer than the Mitzvah performance itself--for in reality the Mitzvah lasts for eternity! Time is a physical concept--and we must transcend it in order to attain our spiritual goals.


So, the next time you feel like you are spending so much time--whether it is trying to figure out what Bracha to make on a particular food or whether you can eat a particular item, waiting on a line long for a few “last-minute” Shabbos items, davening or saying Tehillim for someone who is having surgery today, or talking with someone on the phone who always seems to need chizuk, remember…the ‘short-termeverlasting and eternal Mishkan!




25 Adar

EXCELLENT RESOURCES FOR WOMEN! We provide by clicking here a wonderful and thought-through list of Kabbalos in Tznius which one can choose to take upon herself.  Additionally, by clicking here, we provide a poster of the Halachos of Tznius, as approved by Rabbi P.E. Falk, Shlita, which one can use to ensure that the Halachos of Tzinus are complied with.  Spread the word!





A. Blueberries. (Va’ad HaKashrus of the Five Towns) Thrips can be found on the top of the berry near the hole.  Until recently, cultivated premium blueberries (Grade A) were able to be used without any special preparation. However, blueberries have been found, both in the U.S. and in Eretz Yisrael, to have thrips on the top of the blueberry near the hole. Therefore, the following simple process should be followed.  Note: The following steps are for premium blueberries (Grade A) and to the exclusion of wild blueberries that can be found in the country or other similar areas which can be infested with insects.


Steps for Cleaning Blueberries

1. Fill up a large receptacle with water and a soapy solution. The receptacle should be large enough to accommodate the amount of product you are using and still enable you to vigorously agitate the berries as described below. The amount of soapy solution should be enough to make the water feel slippery and be “sudsy”.

2. The product should be completely submerged in the water and allowed to soak for three minutes.

3. Vigorously agitate the berries in the soapy solution.

4. Remove the blueberries from the receptacle, place them in a colander and rinse them very thoroughly, making sure the stream of water reaches all the berries.

5. No further inspection is necessary.


B. Grapes. (Kehilah Kashrus-- Brooklyn , New York )


Steps for Cleaning Grapes

1.  Place cluster of grapes in a large receptacle or sink filled with water. Larger clusters should be broken down to manageable sizes.

2.  Hold cluster firmly and thoroughly agitate in a circular motion, first in one direction and then in the other direction. 

3.  Refill or fill another large receptacle or sink with very soapy water, then fully submerge and soak grapes for 5 minutes.

4.  Repeat step #2 in the soapy water.

5. Under a heavy stream of water rinse grapes very well. (Please be sure water pressure is very strong)

6.  No further inspection is necessary.

C.  Cherries. We are advised by Bedikas Tolaim experts that at this time whole cherries do not need to be checked.

Hakhel Note:  One should consult with his own Rav or Posek, as other Rabbonim (or Kosher certifying agencies) may have a different standard. --------------------------------------------


RESPONDING PROPERLY TO THE TIMES! As we sense the aura of Pesach coming closer, some might feel additional time constraints and pressures, much of which may very well be the Yetzer Hara’s approach of weakening our Simcha Shel Mitzvah.  Accordingly, to assist in this regard, we present the following:


A.  The Rosh in the Orchos Chaim provides three potent words of instruction:  Ahl Tevahel Ma’asecha”--do not act in a perturbed, an uneasy, a somewhat uncontrolled fashion.  As we have noted in the past, in the Talmud Torah of Kelm, they would have a niggun for the Orchos Chaim as they recited each paragraph.  However, it is reported that for this three word instruction there was a special, moving niggun--as it seems to be the highlight of the entire Sefer.  Oh, how important it is for us to take-in and apply these three words each and every day--at home, at work…and everywhere! Ahl Tevahel Ma’asecha!


B.  When it comes to the home, matters may become especially tense as the cleaning and purging process intensifies.  Accordingly, we provide by clicking here an outstanding Shiur on Shalom Bayis FOR MEN (Kosher for Passover and Year-Round use), given just last week by Rabbi Yosef Eisen, Shlita, Rav of Kollel Bnei Torah in Brooklyn.




Special Note One:  We B’EH continue our Monday/Thursday study of the Sefer Mitzvos HaKatzar, with the Mitzvos Lo Sa’asei which the Chofetz Chaim writes are applicable in our times. Today, we present Mitzvos Lo Sa’aseh 94 and 95:


94.  Lo Le’echol Ohf Tamei--this is the Mitzvas Lo Sa’aseh which prohibits one from eating unkosher birds.  If one is unsure whether a bird is unkosher, some of the tell-tale signs are its grabbing food from the air, eating in the air, and its dwelling with unkosher birds.  One who eats a kezayis of an unkosher bird receives malkos, and the eggs of an unkosher bird are forbidden to be eaten Min HaTorah as well.  This Mitzvah applies in all places and at all times and to men and women alike.


95.  Lo Le’echol Dag Tamei--this is the Mitzvas Lo Sa’aseh which prohibits one from eating a fish which does not have fins and scales.  One who eats a kezayis of such a fish receives malkos.  This Mitzvah applies in all places and at all times and to men and women alike.



Special Note Two:  There is a disagreement between Rebbi Yehoshua and Rebbi Eliezer as to the date on the calendar upon which man was created.  Tosfos explains that according to Rebbi Yehoshua, who holds that man was created on Rosh Chodesh Nissan, it would mean that the first day of Ma’aseh Bereishis--the day the world began--is today, the 25th of Adar!  What a great day it is to start something new.  A new Mitzvah, a new project, a new goal, a new accomplishment.  Each and every one of us has the ability to--and should strive to do so.  In this regard, we provide the following insights--from Dovid HaMelech himself in the extremely poignant and instructive Chapter 119 of Tehillim:


A.  Dovid exclaims (Tehillim 119:164):  ’Sheva Bayom Hillalticha Ahl Mishpetei Tzidkecha...Seven Times a Day I have praised You for Your righteous ordinances’.  Rashi (ibid.) explains that these Seven Times are in fact the Seven Brachos that we recite every day which relate directly to Kriyas Shema--Three Brachos in Shacharis (two before Kriyas Shema and one after), and Four Brachos in Ma’ariv (two before Kriyas Shema and two after).  What a great new goal it would be if we would especially recognize the tremendous importance and significance of these Brachos--rather than viewing them only as portals to Kriyas Shema or Shemone Esrei--and put some real Kavannah into their recitation.  Seven focused Brachos a day--revolving around our fundamental daily Kriyas Shema--truly a phenomenal accomplishment.  Dovid Hamelech expressed it clearly--Sheva BaYom Hillalticha--and this is what he meant!


B.  Dovid pleads (Tehillim 119:18)  ‘Gal Ainai Ve’Abita Niflaos MiTorasecha--unveil my eyes that I may perceive wonders from Your Torah.’  The Torah is so deep and there is so much for us to know.  One may dejectedly ask:  Is the task really possible?  However, this is definitely not the appropriate question--a more telling query for oneself is--what am I really doing to gain as much Divine Knowledge as I can?  Beyond my set or daily Torah study, am I steadfastly and actively seeking Hashem’s guidance--am I asking Hashem for help daily--for eye-opening understanding in what to study, how to study--and in the study itself?  When stuck or stymied on a point, when tired or unclear, when unsure how to next proceed--do I ‘turn off’--or instead do I recite this very Pasuk that Dovid Hamelech recited when he was in his own similar situation (on his level)?!  Hashem as the Source of all Torah can most certainly assist you to acquire more and more of it.  Commit the Pasuk to memory--and use it very sincerely--and very freely! [See Special Note Three below, as well!]


C.  Dovid Hamelech teaches (Tehillim 119:129)  Pela’os Eidvosecha Al Kain Netzarasam Nafshi--Your testimonies are wonders, therefore my soul has guarded them.  Rashi (ibid.) comments that the enormity of Mitzvah accomplishment is hidden from us--as an example, he cites the Mitzvah of Shi’luach HaKan--which appears so simple, quick and costless--yet has Arichus Yomim attached to it in and of itself.  With this in mind, no Mitzvah should be downplayed, underrated, skipped, or skimped upon.  Chazal teach that HaYom La’Asosam--our Mitzvah performance is limited to our time in this world, and so no G-d given opportunity should be forsaken.  


D.  Moreover, one should actively seek to perform Mitzvos that he has not had the opportunity to perform before.  Dovid (Tehillim 119:19) actually expresses it clearly with the words :  Ger Anochi Va’Aretz Al Taster Mimeni Mitzvosecha--I am a sojourner in the world, hide not Your Mitzvos from me’.  If one views each day as a fountainhead of burgeoning opportunities--if he sees the events in his life as true occasions for eternity, if one actively looks to uncover and achieve new sources for his soul’s satisfaction--then he is taking the teachings of Dovid HaMelech to heart.  The Chayei Adam devotes an entire Chapter (Chapter 68) to appreciating and accomplishing Mitzvos.  If possible, one should study it, and even review it again from time to time.   Hashem has given and continues to give us gifts of immense proportions daily--let us try hard to appreciate, to rejoice in, and make the most of these heavenly gifts.  We can than ask for more and more--which He will be happy to give--and which will give Him nachas!  A new, devoted effort to appreciate and strive for Mitzvos daily-- What opportunity!  Thank you--25 Adar!



Special Note Three:  Chazal teach that “Yitzro Shel Adam Misgaber Alav BeChol VeIlmalei HaKadosh Baruch Hu Ozro Lo Yachol Lo…the Yetzer Hara rises up against a person every day, and without Hashem’s help he could not defeat him.”  HaRav Eliyah Lopian, Z’tl (in the Sefer Lev Eliyahu, Vol. II, p. 230), poses the following stark question:  “Why, in fact, is this really so?”  After all, is it not the purpose of man to work to serve Hashem, to overcome nisayon and to perform the Mitzvos in the face of adversity?!  Isn’t man supposed to do this on his own--isn’t this his role in life?!  HaRav Lopian answers that there is even a greater purpose in life--it is that man is Mechaven Es Libo LaShomayim--that man constantly looks to heaven with his entire life and being.  As HaRav Lopian teaches:  Vechol Magamaso U’Vechol Machshavto Yihiyeh Nifhneh Tomid Ehl Aviv SheBaShomayim--the focus and thoughts of one’s day should be towards one’s Father in heaven, as He is Source and essence of life.  Indeed, the Navi (Yeshaya 11:9) teaches that the end of days will be a time of “Male’ah Ha’aretz De’ah Es Hashem KaMayim LaYom Mechasim--when the earth will be filled with the knowledge of Hashem as the sea is filled with water.”  This is the end-goal, this is the aspiration of man.  How crucial it is, how pivotal it is, how incredibly significant it is to begin this process now--keeping our hearts set, our minds focused in all events, in all circumstances towards the Source of life, the Source of bracha, the Source of everything…our Father--Avinu SheBaShomayim!




24 Adar

Special Note One:  The following is excerpted from the always timely and relevant Sefer HaToda’ah by Rabbi Eliyahu Kitov, Z’tl, as translated and known as The Book of Our Heritage (Feldheim Publishers--available in pocket size as well!).  “The last Seven Days of Adar, from the Twenty-Third until Rosh Chodesh Nisan, are called the Yemei HaMiluim--the ‘days of dedication.’  It was then that Moshe Rabbeinu consecrated the Mishkan after its construction.   These days of dedication of the first Mishkan are destined to be repeated when the Moshiach comes.  It is said that his coming and the rebuilding of the Bais HaMikdash will take place in the month of Nisan.  Thus, the days of dedication serve as a memorial to the Mishkan made by Moshe, as well as a time of prayer for the final redemption and the rebuilding of the Beis HaMikdash in which the Shechina will dwell eternally.” 

Hakhel Note:  It is extremely important that we understand the timely message--that we appreciate the times--and that we utilize them to their utmost, to their fullest.  The choice is now ours as to whether we will be busy with 100 other things--or whether we will not be satisfied with the status quo, and will be proactive--yearning for the Geulah with especially dedicated Tefillos.  To personalize and apply the thought with an Olam HaZeh analogy:  It is as if the lottery is about to be drawn, and you have been awarded four out of the five numbers for good behavior an hour before the drawing--you have only to successfully choose the fifth number.  Would you bother taking the time and making the effort to select it?!  Each and every one of us must take this incredible time period as seriously and as wonderfully as it really is!  It is the time of Miluim--the time of fulfillment!



Special Note Two:  The following is based on a Shiur given by HaRav Mattisyahu Salomon, Shlita:  Rabbeinu Yonah in the Shaarei Teshuvah (2:5) writes that a Botei’ach BaShem--one who trusts in Hashem--who is in the midst of a t’zara, a difficulty, or even only a challenge, must view the situation differently than the millions of people surrounding him.


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


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


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


In this uplifting period between Purim and Pesach, we can understand this lesson both on an individual and a communal level.


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


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


As we have noted in the past, HaRav Salomon points to the wine we drink on both Purim and Pesach.  Why is wine so crucial on these special days and why is wine the only food over which we recite the brocha “Hatov V’HaMativ”--Hashem is good and does good?


If we study the wine-making process, we note that luscious, edible grapes are stomped on or crushed before they would otherwise have been eaten.  Then, instead of drinking the resulting liquid, we watch in amazement as it ferments and becomes moldy and terrible tasting.  Are these people sadistic--spoiling such good grapes?  But then--after the wine ages and matures, it is filtered and what is produced is not a thirst-quencher, but an honorable beverage, which lifts up a person’s spirits.


To the Botei’ach BaShem, Rav Salomon continues, this is a microcosm of the Ribono Shel Olam’s Hanhaga--behavior--in this world.  Without the fermentation process--without the years of repulsive mold which seems irreversible--we could not have the brand, kind and taste of wine which a connoisseur could appreciate and savor.  We can now understand why we make “Hatov V’HaMativ” specifically on wine--because we realize that the process was necessary and intended by the world’s Creator and we acknowledge that it is for good--notwithstanding our original misconceptions.  The cup of wine that we drink has gone through an entire process and represents how we are to understand the Hashgachas Hashem in our world.


As we go through these days of Purim to Pesach, a time that is surrounded by intense suffering that led to sparkling redemption--as symbolized by the wine of which we partake--we, too, should become connoisseurs and remember that Hashem will take us out of all of our current t’zaros, individual and collective, just as the horribly soured wine is ultimately whiffed and savored by the most discerning of experts.  We can perhaps do this best through constantly reminding ourselves of Hashem’s Hashgacha in our everyday lives--to the smallest detail--and our Bitachon can be especially reinforced by the dedicated way in which we recite our brachos--no matter how harried, time-pressured or distracted one may otherwise be!




23 Adar

QUESTION OF THE DAY :  What is three weeks from today?  This is a real example of Gilu Bira’ada! Experience it!



QUESTION OF THE WEEK:  Over the course of the next three weeks until Erev Pesach, if one takes Chometz out of his pocket or out of his drawer in preparation for Pesach--has he fulfilled a Mitzvas Asei of Bi’ur Chometz? 




Special Note One:  Today, 23 Adar is the first day of the Shivas Yemei HaMiluim before the Mishkan was finally consecrated on Rosh Chodesh Nissan.  The Luach Davar B’Ito writes that for seven days the Mishkan was erected and taken down daily, and then was left standing on Rosh Chodesh Nissan--to demonstrate that Beis HaMikdash HaShelishi will remain forever!  The Luach suggests that one read/review the Torah’s instructions relating to the Yemei HaMiluim (Parshas Tetzaveh, revi’i through shishi) and Karbanos HaMiluim in Parshas Tzav (from revi’i until the end).



Special Note Two:  Having just completed Parshas Parah, we know that the time is ripe for taharah--for purifying ourselves.  Even if we cannot at this moment purify ourselves with the Parah Adumah in order to enter the Beis HaMikdash, we can still do our utmost to purify ourselves in preparation for the Chag.  Chazal teach us that at any time and at all times--Haba LeTaheir Mesayin Oso--if one wants to attain purity, Hashem will assist and guide him to accomplish his task.  Most certainly, then--today and every day for the next 21 days until Pesach, Teshuvah Bechol Yom should take on great importance each and every day! 



Special Note Three:  A Geulah Thought for the Time of Geulah: The following potent words are excerpted With Hearts Full of Love, by Rabbi Yaakov Yosef Reinman, Shlita, based on a series of talks on chinuch by Rabbi Mattisyahu Salomon, Shlita:  “…the Rambam writes that a person who does not await the imminent arrival of Mashiach with anticipation is considered to have denied that Mashiach will ever come.  [Yet, without real detail of any kind at all]  all the Torah tells us is that the Ribono Shel Olam will one day gather in our exiles and bring us back to Eretz Yisrael.  [With such a lack of detail, how can we held so accountable for not anticipating the Geulah ?]  Perhaps we can resolve this important question with a parable.  Let us imagine there is a poor man, a pauper who does not know from one moment to the next where he will find his next crust of bread.  He has no friends or supporters who can help him out in his dire need, but he does have a wife and a house full of little children who are always on the verge of starvation. He has no prospects and no hope of finding a decent livelihood in the foreseeable future. He is depressed and despondent, and every day, he walks around-in a cloud of darkness.  One day, a Tzaddik who lives in the same town appears on his doorstep. Everyone knows that an untrue word never crosses the lips of this holy man and that if he makes a promise it is invariably fulfilled.  The poor man invites the Tzaddik into his house and they sit down together.  “I had a dream about you last night,” says the Tzaddik. “In my dream, I received a message from Heaven that I was to deliver to you.”  The poor man shrinks back in fright.  No, no,” said the Tzaddik. “There is no need to be frightened.  It was a good message. I am to tell you that you should not give up hope. Although your life is bleak and harsh right now, it will become much better. One day you will wake up in the morning and right there on your kitchen table you will find a large treasure, more than enough to support you and your family in comfort for the rest of your lives. Better times are on their way.


The poor man is breathless with excitement. “When will this happen?”  “I don’t know,” says the tzaddik. “I was not told when it would be, but I was assured that it would happen.”  The Tzaddik leaves, and the poor man is beside himself with joy. Because of the reputation of the Tzaddik, the poor man has no doubt that the message is genuine and that his fortunes will change. He just does not know when it will happen.  The next morning, the poor man wakes up and immediately runs to the kitchen table to check if the treasure has appeared.  There is no treasure. He is disappointed but not discouraged, because he knows without a doubt that it will come to pass one day. He just has to be patient. Days and months go by, and still he finds no treasure. But it does not matter. His life has been transformed, and although he is forced to live with privation and hardship, the cloud of darkness has gone. His life is now illuminated with hope.  It does not matter how long it takes for the promise of the Tzaddik to come true. Every day without fail, when he gets up in the morning, the poor man checks to see if his treasure has arrived, because he knows beyond the shadow of a doubt that it will be there one day.  It is the same with the belief in the coming of Mashiach. It is not just that we believe Mashiach will come one day and redeem us. We also believe that the times of Mashiach will be more wonderful for K’lal Yisrael than any time that existed in the history of the world. It will be as if a treasure has appeared on our table.  All our worries, concerns and problems will come to an end, and we will live in utter bliss. This is what the Ribono Shel Olam has promised us, and there can be no greater assurance than the divine promise. So if we really believe this, how is it possible that we do not wake up every morning and wonder if Mashiach has already arrived or at least if this is the day that it will finally come to pass? If we gave more than lip service to the coming of Mashiach, if it was a reality for us rooted deep in our hearts, we would surely await his imminent arrival with eager anticipation. And if it takes time, if days go by, even months, years and centuries, and Mashiach is still not here, we are disappointed but not discouraged. Because we know it will happen. The Ribono Shel Olam has promised it to us. So we live with hope and the knowledge that this long and bitter exile will one day come to an end.  This is how it must be. It can be no other way. If someone truly believes that Mashiach is coming and that the redemption will be the end to all out troubles, how is it possible that he does not think about it all the time?! How is it possible that he does not await that blessed day with eager anticipation?! That is why the Rambam writes that if someone does not await the arrival of Mashiach with eager anticipation he is considered to have denied the prophecies of Moshe and the Neviim.” 


Hakhel Note: As we recite the words Ki Lishuasecha Kivinu Kol Hayom--we should think about our dream--and yearn and long for it---for it will arrive for the one who awaits it!



22 Adar

QUESTION OF THE WEEK:  Last week’s Parsha ends with the radiance of Moshe Rabbeinu’s face being so great, that he had to put a mask on it--and this week’s Parsha begins with the Mitzvah of Shabbos--what is the connection between these two Parshios?



A COMMON SCENARIO!  Someone you know is not particularly careful with the laws of Shemiras HaLashon approaches you and starts relating information about a common acquaintance which is at least borderline derogatory, and which you already believed to be true before this person came over to you.  In this situation, one must nevertheless battle the “I know this already” feeling, and still judge the one being spoken about lechaf zechus.  One should not allow the fact that the negative words are being stated or reiterated by another to enter his mind and validate his prior belief or knowledge.  Rather--he should deny the pleasure of the one relating to the Lashon Hara by saying something like:  “Sorry, I don’t listen to/accept Lashon Hara”--and should simultaneously rejudge the victim lechaf zechus.  Look at the situation from a bird’s eye view--you are being tested on an advanced level--pass with flying colors!




Special Note One:  We B’EH continue our Monday/Thursday study of the Sefer Mitzvos HaKatzar, with the Mitzvos Lo Sa’asei which the Chofetz Chaim writes are applicable in our times. Today, we present Mitzvos Lo Sa’aseh 92 and 93:


92.  Lo Le’echol Basar Shenisbashel BeChalav-- this is the Mitzvas Lo Sa’aseh which prohibits one from eating meat cooked in milk.  If one eats a kezayis of the milk or the meat he receives malkos, even if he did not receive hana’ah because it was very hot, or because some other taste made it bitter.  If the two items were not cooked, but were instead soaked or salted together, it is forbidden MiD’Rabanan to eat, but it is permissible to derive benefit from the mixture.  One may cook and eat fish or Kosher grasshoppers together with milk.  This Mitzvah applies in all places and at all times and to men and women alike. 


93.  Lo Le’echol Basar Beheima V’Chaya HaTemeiyim--this is the Mitzvas Lo Sa’aseh which prohibits one from eating the meat of an unkosher animal--i.e., an animal which does not chew its cud and does not have split hooves.  If one eats a kezayis of an unkosher animal he receives malkos.  The milk of an unkosher animal is forbidden Mi’D’Oraysah.  Honey from a bee is not forbidden, based upon the derivation of Chazal.  The milk derived from a human being, and milk of a Kosher animal which has been obtained by an akum without Hashgacha have their own Halachos, separate from this Lo Sa’aseh.  This Mitzvah applies in all places and at all times and to men and women alike. 



Special Note Two:  One final push on Kiymu V’Kiblu.  Based upon the Sefer Ma’alos HaTorah, the Chofetz Chaim brings the following powerful Mashal:  If the king promoted a commoner to the royal service, to a position otherwise performed by senior officials, the commoner would most certainly feel a great joy--even if he would not be paid for his work.  After all, he need only consider where he was before and where he is today.  All the more so, must one rejoice when he realizes that he has been promoted above the level of the common man to study and practice the words of the Torah HaKedosha--words which the Malachei HaShareis themselves regale in--and words which the Tzaddikim in Gan Eden spend all of their time with!  If this is not enough, continues the Chofetz Chaim, one should remember the words of Chazal who teach:  “When one studies Torah the angels created by his words surround him for as far as he can see--and he is in their midst!”  Hakhel Note:  What new commitment (bli neder) can one make to this incredible, unparalleled and eternity-creating royal privilege?!  It is most definitely very well worth it to spend the time and make the effort! 



Special Note Three:  Some final points and pointers on Parshas Ki Sisa:


A.  In the Beis HaMikdash, the Kohanim were required to wash their hands and their feet prior to performing the Avodah.  Before we daven, we are only required to wash our hands, although our Beis HaKnesses is a Mikdash Me’at.  We can appreciate from this, in a small way, how especially holy the Beis HaMikdash was.  The feet are farthest away from the person’s Lev and Moach--his thought process and his Neshama.  Yet, the great Kedusha of the Beis HaMikdash ‘got through’ even to the most distant organs of the body, penetrating and elevating them.  Oh, how, we should strive for BeShuvcha L’Tzion B’Rachamim!   Hakhel Note:  The Karbon Pesach is still very much within our reach--let us reach out!  At this time of year, as we bridge the Geulah of Purim and the Geulah of Pesach, let us once again put special effort into the recitation of the Tefillah Ahl HaGeulah available by clicking here (Hebrew version) and by clicking here (English version).


B.  Of the spices included in the Ketores, we find the chelbena, which does not have a pleasant fragrance.  Chazal teach that we derive from this that we are to include the poshei Yisrael--the sinners--together with us in our Shuls.  The Sifsei Chachomim (explaining Rashi to Shemos 30:34) writes that this does not mean that we are enjoined to simply daven together with the sinners.  Rather--it means that they must do Teshuvah together with us--and it is for this reason that Hashem will have mercy on us--for even they are doing Teshuvah.  We should keep this in mind when helping the uneducated in Torah Judaism--when they do Teshuvah, Hashem has mercy on us all! 


C.  HaRav Yaakov Galinsky, Shlita, teaches that the Cheit HaEigel is found in the aliyah of Levi in order to teach us great sensitivity.  Hashem does not want to offend a Yisrael, who would otherwise receive the aliyah, because of his great-great grandfather’s actions.  We owe a high degree of feeling and sensitivity to every member of K’lal Yisrael, no matter how dastardly their deeds, or the deeds of their ancestors. 


D.  HaRav Galinsky also teaches that when Hashem advised Moshe that Bnei Yisrael had made the Eigel, he told Moshe:  Saru Maheir--they have removed themselves quickly from the path that I have commanded them.”   HaRav Galinsky derives from this that when one must make a decision he must pause.  If K’lal Yisrael would have stopped to reconsider, would have hesitated just a bit to rethink matters--we would have been in the Yemos HaMashiach--thousands of years ago!


E.  After Hashem heeded Moshe Rabbeinu’s cries to save K’lal Yisrael after the Cheit HaEigel, Moshe continued to make new and additional requests.  Rashi (Shemos 34:18) enlightens us all with the reason why:  “Moshe saw that it was an eis ratzon and his words were accepted, so he continued to ask….”  Rashi is teaching us that we should apply this lesson…and continue to ask at an eis ratzon--when we see that things are going well! 


F.  In response to one of Moshe Rabbeinu’s additional requests, Hashem told Moshe  (Shemos 33:23) “VeRa’isah Es Achorai U’Panai Lo Yeira’u--you will see My ‘back’, but not My ‘face”.”  The Chasam Sofer explained that one of the meanings of this Pasuk is that, as humans, we can truly understand history only after an event has occurred.  As an example, the Chasam Sofer  provided a stirring episode in his own life.  When he was a young man, he studied in Yeshiva in Mintz, and was housed in the home of a Ba’al HaBayis who was forced to quarter French soldiers from time-to-time.  On one occasion, a French soldier took a liking to the brilliant young man and asked if he could stay in this house a little while longer so that he could learn from the young man.  He spent some time there, and the Chasam Sofer shared some of his intellect with him.  More than 30 years later, when the Chasam Sofer was Rav of Pressburg and the French took hold of the city, he was brought up on trumped up charges of espionage for the enemy.  He was brought before a French military tribunal.  As he stood before the judges, the chief judge immediately ordered him to come into a private room.  After the door was closed, the chief judge gently advised the Chasam Sofer that he was the soldier that the Chasam Sofer had taught more than 30 years earlier in Mintz.  The chief judge continued:  “I know these charges must be trumped up, and you will be acquitted of them all!”  Hakhel Note:  To Hashem, time knows no bounds--we can always rest assured that we are in His loving hands.  The more we act with the 13 Attributes of Mercy as found in the Parsha, that He expects of us (see Sefer Tomer Devorah, Chapter 1 for practical applications)--the more mercy He will shower upon us today…tomorrow…30 years hence…and forever and ever!




19 Adar

EVEN A MISTAKE!  By clicking here, you will see a page with Divrei Torah written by the Steipeler.  The Steipeler decided that he made a mistake in what he wrote, but even though he made a mistake, what he wrote was still Torah--so he did not cross out the words, he just made lines in between the words.  This shows the gadlus of Torah.  As long as you are learning and trying--even if you make a mistake or have a wrong answer, it is still Hashem’s Torah and nothing will erase it!  Don’t lose out on your rededication of Kiymu V’Kiblu this week--make a commitment (bli neder) in some way, and try to stick to it!





1.  Chazal teach that our Machatzis HaShekel (required at the beginning of this week’s Parsha) won out over Haman’s 10,000 talents that he offered to Achashveirosh to destroy K’lal Yisrael.  Where is Haman’s name alluded to in the Parsha of Machatzis HaShekel? 


Hakhel Note:  In the Sefer Orchos Rabbeinu, which provides many teachings of the Steipeler Gaon, Z’tl, it is brought that the Steipeler recalled that on Purim there would be skits in the Yeshiva in which one person acted as Mordechai, another as Achashveirosh, and a third as Haman.  Inevitably, the Steipeler commented, the person who acted as Haman did not continue with his studies and left his Yeshiva within the year.  What a powerful lesson--one must not even pretend to be someone he should not be!


2.  We find that Yehoshua, Moshe Rabbeinu’s top student and successor, is uniquely referred to as Yehoshua Bin Nun, rather than Ben Nun.  Why is this so? 




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


A.  The Mishna Berurah (Orach Chaim seif katan 6) brings from the Mogen Avraham that some rule that one should not cut his fingernails and toenails on the same day, and also that one should cut his nails on Erev Shabbos and Erev Yom Tov.  Accordingly, the Mishna Berurah continues, one should cut his toenails on Thursday, and his fingernails on Friday.


B.  The Sefas Emes (Megillah 4A) writes that just as it is a Mitzvah to learn the Halachos of Yom Tov on Yom Tov, the same is true for Shabbos as well--it is a Mitzvah to learn the Halachos of Shabbos on Shabbos.  This takana was instituted by Moshe Rabbeinu himself (Megillah 32A)--based upon the express Pasuk of Vayedaber Moshe Es Mo’adei Hashem El Bnei Yisrael [see Dirshu Edition of the Mishna Berurah, 429, note 2].  Before you begin learning Hilchos Shabbos this Shabbos and every Shabbos--have your fulfillment of this in mind!


C.  The Dirshu Edition [see ibid., note 4] also brings the words of the Shelah HaKadosh who teaches that it is appropriate to learn the Mesechta in Shas relating to the time period one is in at that time, so that on Pesach one should learn Mesechta Pesachim, on Sukkos one should learn Mesechta Sukkah--and on the Shabbos in which we read Parshas Parah--Mesechta Parah.  Tomorrow we will read Parshas Parah--seize the opportunity!  Hakhel Note:  Parshas Parah teaches us Taharas Yisrael--how we purify ourselves.  Fascinatingly, HaRav Chaim Kanievsky, Shlita, was asked for an eitzah as to how one could attain Yiras Shomayim.  He advised that one should learn the Mishnayos of Seder Taharos--for the Pasuk (Tehillim 19:9) states:  “Yiras Hashem Tehorah Omedes La’ad”.


D.  In this week’s Parsha, we find the Pasuk (31:16) of VeShamru Bnei Yisrael Es HaShabbos La’asos Es HaShabbos.  What does La’asos Es HaShabbos--to make the Shabbos mean?  After all--it is Hashem Who makes the Shabbos, not us!  The Ohr HaChaim explains that we too can make the Shabbos by bringing it in earlier and taking it out later--i.e., by being Mosif Mei’chol Ahl Hakodesh.  When we take away from the weekday and make it part of Shabbos we are producing our own Kedushas Shabbos! Accordingly, we should strive for this goal on both ends of Shabbos.  There is a fantastic story in this regard related in the Sefer Otzros HaTorah in which a woman came to the Chofetz Chaim and was pleading with the Chofetz Chaim to help save her son’s life.  The Chofetz Chaim told her to have the Shabbos tablecloth and leichter on the table by midday on Erev Shabbos, and to be careful not to do work once the time for Shabbos had arrived.  She committed to do so--and the child’s life was saved!  Although we cannot compare circumstances, we may definitely note how the Chofetz Chaim associated the saving of a life--with bringing in the Shabbos properly! 


E.    One final point on ‘Maharu Es Haman La’asos Es D’var Esther’. We received the following comment from a Rav as to how Purim finds its way into our Shabbos Zemiros:  “It could be, as we see from the continuation of the piyut, a lesson regarding one’s attitude to the Seudos of Shabbos. Just like Esther, when she ordered a royal banquet, did not sit down to calculate the expenses--so too we should do the same. Our Shabbos meals are a royal banquet no less than Esther’s was!”



Special Note Two:  Points and Pointers on this week’s Parsha:


A.  The Parsha begins with the Zechus of giving money to the right causes--with one’s Shekalim being used for great and lofty purposes.  Chazal (Bava Basra 9B) teach that one who gives charity to a person in need is blessed with six brachos--as rooted and demonstrated by the Pesukim in Sefer Yeshaya.  What an incredible rate of return! It really is much better, however, not to stop there, but also to be Mefayso BiDevarim, for one who appeases the poor person with kind words and an uplifting spirit receives an additional eleven brachos.  Accordingly, if one gives money--and on top of that provides words of support and encouragement--he is zoche to seventeen brachos!  With this, we should begin to appreciate what our “Shekalim” do--not only for the Ani--but for our very own Ruchniyus.  Our giving to others--is a gift to us from Hashem.  So let us be careful to give--and always with the right attitude!


B.  We find that the Mitzvah of Machatzis HaShekel applies equally to the rich and the poor--one cannot give more, the other less.  The Sefer HaChinuch, in explaining the Mitzvah, writes that the lesson of the Torah is everyone joining equally together to participate, rather than the Mitzvah being left to the more knowledgeable, more sensitive, or even more worthy, few.

 There is usually no reason why one should ‘know better’ or ‘do better’ than the other person.  In the Bracha of Hashivenu in Shemone Esrei, we ask “and bring us back to Teshuvah Shleimah before You.”  The commentaries on the Siddur explain that this is a Tefillah not only for oneself, but for all of K’lal Yisrael--and that we should think about all of our brethren when saying these words (see Sefer Avodas HaTefillah).  Our lives are in so many ways joint projects--we should do our part in encouraging others to join with us to reach our deeply-meaningful goals.


C.  One other important point on Machatzis HaShekel.  The Chida teaches that term VeNas’nu Ish Kofer Nafsho seems to indicate that the person has already given--although it is enjoining him to now give.  How could that be?  The Chida answers that when a person accepts upon himself to give tzedakah, in Shomayim he is immediately credited with having given and receives the appropriate bracha in Shomayim for it--as if it had already been completely given! 


D.  The Pasuk (31:6) teaches :  U’v’lev Kol Chochom Lev Nasati Chochma--and I have endowed the heart of every wise-hearted person with wisdom….”  The question is obvious--if one needs to be wise to begin with in order to attain wisdom--then how does he obtain the initial wisdom?  HaRav Chaim Volozhiner, Z’tl, in the Sefer Nefesh HaChaim (Sha’ar Daled) teaches that Yiras Hashem is the initial trait that one must have upon which Chochma will rest [as the Pasuk teaches:  Raishis Chochma Yiras Hashem”].  HaRav Chaim Shmuelevitz, Z’tl, and yblch’t HaRav Chaim Kanievsky, Shlita, in a different vein both teach that one’s desire, striving and yearning for Chochma is the ‘Chochma’ that is initially necessary for further Chochma upon which to rest.  With these two teachings of HaRav Chaim Volozhiner and HaRav Chaim Shmuelevitz--we have the basis upon which our Chochma can be built!  Let us use it!


E. The Pasuk teaches that the letters on the Luchos were engraved through and through, and that, by miracle, they could be read from both sides although the writing was not reversed.  HaRav Pam, Z’tl, as quoted in the wonderful work A Vort From Rav Pam, by Rabbi Sholom Smith, Shlita, brings the following important lesson relating to this miracle:  HaRav Chaim Elazar Wachs (the ‘Nefesh Chayah’) was a partner in a paper factory.  His partner came to him with an idea that would bring him a great deal of profit in a short amount of time. When the partner presented all of the details, HaRav Wachs concluded that the idea involved some degree of impropriety, and  bordered on geneiva.  His partner still wanted to go ahead with the ‘get-rich-quick’ scheme.  HaRav Wachs exclaimed--”Don’t you realize why the Luchos had to be readable from either side?!  Because no matter which way you turn the Luchos--you have to see the Lo Signov!” [In Yiddish--”Az men dreit a hin, oder men dreit a heir, es shteit noch ales Lo Signov!”]  We may all be faced with the temptations of improprieties--some bigger and some smaller.  We must, however, realize that the Luchos preceded these temptations and manipulations --and covers them from whatever angle they may be coming!


F.  HaRav Moshe Rosenshein, Z’tl, approached his great Rebbi, the Mashgiach of Mir, HaRav Yeruchem Levovitz, Z’tl, and asked him to explain the Chait HaEigel to him.  After much study of the topic, HaRav Rosenshein was expecting a greatly detailed and long explanation of what had transpired here from his Rebbi.  HaRav Yeruchem answered with two words.  The Two Words....Yetzer Hara!  After all, could it make any sense that a people who owed so much to Moshe Rabbeinu would believe that he died --and almost immediately start to wildly party?!  As we say in the Lechu Neranena at the outset of Kabbalas Shabbos (Tehillem 95) “Va’Omar Am To’ei Levev Haim...and I said they are a people who are mistaken of heart...”.  The Yetzer Hara’s effects were so devastating--the sin of the golden calf burdens us to this very day.  There is a great lesson for us all here.  If we could remind ourselves when making any daily decision that we must realize which side of the decision  the Yetzer Hara is on--we can take  a great step --on a daily basis-- to overcoming,  overriding and overruling the Chait HaEigel itself.  What an accomplishment!  What a great and enormous potential every day brings with it!


G.  In the aftermath of the Chait HaEigel, Hashem tells Moshe Rabbeinu: “Say to Bnei Yisrael --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).   Likewise, in the Viduy we recite “Kishinu Oref--we have been stiff-necked.”  There is a very important message here for us.  The neck, as opposed to the front, symbolizes the back of the person and shows that the person is turned away from someone, rather than facing him.  It is our job not to turn away from what we have done, and certainly not to turn away from Hashem.  Instead, we must face that which we have done with a plan to improve, and face Hashem asking Him for nothing less than Divine assistance going forward.  We believe that there is also a vital second lesson:  The Torah is teaching that the heinous “Chait HaEigel” 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.  The events of the Parsha are teaching us that 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, r’l.  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” (Ta’anis 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!



Special Note Three:  In this week’s Parsha, Moshe Rabbeinu was taught by Hashem to invoke the Thirteen Middos of Mercy (Shemos 34:6, 7) because of the danger facing the Bnai Yisrael .  Remarkably, the first four of these Attributes relate directly, as you may have guessed, to Hashem’s Compassion.  We present below the basic meaning of each one of these four Attributes--which are “Hashem,” “Hashem,” “Kel” and “Rachum,” as published by the Irgun Harbotzas HaTorah of Lakewood , New Jersey :


1. “Hashem--Compassionate before one has sinned.  Even before a person has sinned he still needs Heavenly compassion, for Hashem owes us nothing; all that we have is only due to His grace and compassion.  Also, even when Hashem sees that a person will sin in the future, His compassion for him at present remains, since the person has not yet sinned.


2. “Hashem--Compassionate after one has sinned and repented.  Even after a person has sinned, after repentance, Hashem’s compassion is immediately rekindled towards him.  This is unlike the behavior of a human being, who will distance himself from a person who has wronged him, and will often never accept him back.  Hashem’s being, however, is unchanging (as hinted in this word), and therefore even after a person sinned (even seriously) His Compassion still remains.


3. “Kel--This, too, is an attribute of compassion.  There are different levels of compassion.  This is not the same type of compassion as is denoted in the name Hashem.  Some explain that the two letters of this Attribute--Alef and Lamed--denote total mercy.


4. “Rachum--Compassionate to ease even the punishment of sinners when they call out to Him.”


Hakhel Note:  If we can back up our Tefillos for Hashem’s mercy with our own personal empathy and feeling for others--and with kind words and quiet actions which stave off their need to ask us for Chesed--we will be in a better position, a much better position, to beg Hashem to shower His Compassion upon us and all around us!  Let us make this a prime goal in our lives--living with compassion in all areas of life--especially in a world that needs  so much compassion!


Additional Note One:  Chazal (Rosh Hashanah 17B) teach of the great power of the Thirteen Middos of Rachamim found in the Parsha (Shemos 34:6,7), which are first introduced to us after the Chait HaEigel.  Indeed, their introduction to us after the Eigel indicates their great potency--as we are kept going as a nation after such a devastating aveira.  The Netziv makes an amazing point as to one of these Middos .  He writes that it is not correct to read the Middah as “Rav Chesed” and then simply continue with “Emes”, as the next Middah. Instead and in fact, the word “Rav” modifies both Chesed and Emes--for Hashem not only provides abundant chesed but also abundant truth.  It is this Middah that we must emulate--not to allow ourselves into the singular comfort of Rav Chesed which we are so incredibly blessed with in K’lal Yisrael --but also to be the Rav Emes--being an overflowing source of truth as well! 


Additional Note Two:  The Taz asks--what is the attribute of mercy contained in the word “Lo Yinakeh”?  We know that Yinakeh means that Hashem cleanses the sin of one who does Teshuva--but how is the Lo Yinakeh--not cleansing the sin--helpful to us?  The Taz answers that it means that Hashem will not eliminate the sin and will in fact punish the sinner somewhat--but still waits for him to do Teshuva, and in the interim does not give him the punishment that he truly otherwise deserves.  There are thirteen different levels of mercy--it is up to us to determine which levels of mercy we will be zoche to--we do not have to be at the bottom of the class--so why should we put ourselves there... Teshuva is a much better alterative!


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